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Never Too Late

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Queen Belle of Avonlea smiled as her lady in waiting adjusted her son’s clothes. Gideon was sleeping peacefully, unaware of the importance of today, unaware of his own importance for that matter.

Today was his baptism, his official welcoming to the world. And yet here he was, sleeping soundly with no care about politics, war and the state of Avonlea.

There was a knock on the door and Gaston’s trusted Musketeers entered. She frowned when she noticed their captain absent.

“Everything is all set, Your Majesty,” began Baelfire. “The king is a bit under the weather but he assures us he will not miss his son’s baptism.”

“Thank you,” replied Belle. “I’m a little surprised to see your father absent, Baelfire.”

“He is with the king, Your Majesty,” replied David with a bow.

“Of course,” replied Belle, her tone neutral but the four men could note her disappointment. “We will be along shortly. Please be ready to leave for the cathedral in a while.”

The four men bowed and headed out the room. Belle took Gideon from her lady in waiting and told her to wait with the Musketeers.

As she was left alone in the room with her son, Belle couldn’t help but tear up as she stroked Gideon’s forehead. “Looks like your father might not see you today, my Gideon.”

She sighed and headed over to the window, looking over the palace garden.

Does she dare? She could waltz up to him right know and demand his presence. She could have Gaston order his captain to be present.

But she knew that would only arise suspicion in an already dangerous game of politics. Gaston may be a fool but he was not blind.

There was no denying the attraction she felt to the Captain of the Musketeers. There was no denying that the feeling was mutual and yet there they were, on two different sides of a society where class and social status meant more than happiness and life itself.

She sighed as her gazed moved farther ahead to the outskirts of the palace were the edge of the Dark Forest could be seen. The Dark Forest seemed ominous but to her it had a special place in her heart.

After all, without the threat on her life and that fateful night, Gideon wouldn’t be in their midsts. But deep inside Belle was still an incredible sense of regret. Regret, not for how the night had turned out. But regret that she made a choice to stay as Queen Belle instead of--

A knock on the door startled her and she called for the person to enter. Her heart skipped a beat as a familiar set of brown eyes locked with her blue ones.

“The king said my services to the country was better spent guarding Prince Gideon,” began Captain Rumplestiltskin of the Musketeers. “I fear he might not be strong enough to attend the baptism, Your Majesty. I suggest visiting his quarters before we head out.”

“You and I both know the king will do what he wants, whether or not it is good for him,” replied Belle with a sad smile. “Is this the only means for me to be in the same room with you Captain? Have my husband order you to be?”

“I have not been avoiding you, Your Majesty,” replied Rumplestiltskin, not meeting her eye. “The king’s safety takes precedence in my duty as the captain of the Musketeers. With his failing health, I’m afraid constant guard is needed.”

“Yes, of course,” replied Queen Belle just as Gideon fidgeted in her arms. “It looks like someone has finally decided to grace Avonlea with his presence.”

Rumplestiltskin smiled as he walked closer to mother and son just as the little boy opened his eyes, warm brown ones similar to his. “Good morning, Your Majesty.”

Gideon saw the man and reached his short arms towards him. “It looks like he wants you to hold him.” began Queen Belle with a smile.

“I don’t--”

“You’ve done this before with Baelfire,” cut off the queen. “You won’t drop him.”

Rumplestiltskin opened his mouth to reply but found he had no words to even begin to argue so he just sighed and took the boy.

Gideon was awake now and was regarding the captain with big curious brown eyes. Suddenly Gideon’s hand came up and bumped Rumplestiltskin’s nose, much to the other man’s surprise and Belle was soon looking at a teary eyed captain of the Musketeers holding her son.

“Rumple…”

“I apologise Your Majesty,” replied Rumplestiltskin with a smile as tears gathered in his eyes. “Umm, you see...Baelfire did the same thing when I first held him in my arms.”

Belle felt her own eyes tear up at the confession. It was one thing for his first son to do that and then for Gideon to do exactly the same thing.

“It looks like Gideon--” began Belle.

“Please, no,” cut off Rumple, his demeanor changing completely as he quickly gave Gideon back to his mother. “I must get back to the king. It is almost time for us to leave. I have to make sure he is able to--”

“Rumple--”

“Your Majesty it is--”

“It is your son’s baptism!”

Rumple froze, his hand already on the doorknob. He sighed and turned to glare at her. “A little louder, Your Majesty. I’m pretty sure nobody heard you.”

“Do you honestly expect me to believe you do not care about--” challenged Belle, walking up to him.

“You took away my right to care when you decided to tell the king that you were pregnant with his child,” hissed Rumple.

“What did you expect me to do?” argued Belle. “Did you expect me to tell him the truth? Did you expect me to commit suicide by doing that and to drag our unborn child with me? Did you expect me to--”

“I expected you to tell me the truth,” fired back Rumple. “Instead I find out through an official announcement? Heavens, Belle! We could have come up with a plan. We could have had an actual happy ending. Something from one of those damn books you insist we always bring when you travel.” He paused and bowed his head before meeting her eye once again. “Instead you chose to still be a prisoner to Gaston’s politics and leave me nothing, not your love nor a family.”

Belle opened her mouth to reply but no words could be formed in her mind. Did he say love? No---it couldn’t be? He didn’t...

Rumplestiltskin shook his head at her silence. He turned and left the room without another word.

Belle hugged Gideon closer to her as the small boy fidgeted in her mother’s arms. Soon he was crying and Belle felt her heart break once more, something she though impossible as she had already shattered it a few months ago.

Many attempts were made on her life the year prior and Gaston wanted his trusted Musketeers to protect her and get to the bottom of the whole conspiracy as soon as possible. Gaston made it Rumple’s task to protect the Queen at all cost. Her husband had even agreed to have her away from public eye with all the recent attempts.

Rumple had gotten them away from Avonlea and deep into the Dark Forest, almost near the borders of the Frontands. She was surprised to find a quaint cottage there.

Rumple had explained that this was his home back during the first war where he first enlisted. Baelfire had been born in the same home but it was also the same home where Rumple’s first wife had met her demise. He had kept it as a refuge in case any of his men needed shelter or a good safe house.

A week in his presence was something Belle thought she could do. But alas, with the many times Rumple had personally escorted her and the times Rumple had been the one to rescue her...living with the man just made the feelings she tried to smother all the more real.

At the final night of their voluntary exile, Belle couldn’t stand it anymore and made her move. That night had resulted into Gideon. The morning after, they had received word that it was still unsafe to return to Avonlea and Belle felt her heart burst into joy at having more time by Rumple’s side.

That had lasted for a month until one morning Gaston himself arrived to say that the people who had tried to kill her were now dead. Apparently, it was Rumple, even from the depths of the forest, who had figured it out. He had sent word out to his trusted men and they were able to find the traitors’ hideout and put a stop to the attempts on the queen’s life once and for all.

To say the she had felt a little hurt was an understatement. She thought that they were both happy living in their own space in the forest, free from everyone else. But apparently, it had been one-sided (or so she believed).

Rumple did not love her. He ended the happy life they had in the forest. They could have disappeared and led a life away from Avonlea. Instead, he basically gave her back to Gaston. There was no other explanation...Rumple did not return her feelings. So when she found out she was pregnant she had decided to say it was Gaston’s heir.

She had thought Rumple did not love her and she did what she did to protect herself and her child…

But she had been wrong...he did love her.

“Oh Gideon,” began Belle as she cradled her son closer to her chest. “What have I done?”