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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?”

Chapter Text

Rumple used his arm to brush the sweat on his forehead. The chores in the little land he owned and had transformed into a farm weren’t going to do themselves and so he pushed on.

Sure he had men help him from time to time but many were at the festivities in Avonlea and he didn’t want to dampen the mood.

It was King Gideon’s twentieth birthday.

The young king had proven that he was just as smart as his mother and equally stubborn and resourceful as his father...his real, biological one.

When King Gaston had died, Belle had asked him to be the First Minister and he reluctantly accepted it. Baelfire had been the one to convince him to take up the post because not only would he be able to protect his second son but he would be able to watch Gideon grow and, in a sense, he would actually be able to raise Gideon as well.

He had promoted Baelfire as Captain of the Musketeers soon after.

Life had been...well it wasn’t unhappy as Rumple reminisced. Sure there were ups and downs but he had somehow raised Gideon with Belle. Yes, they weren’t officially a couple. Yes, he wasn’t technically Gideon’s father but in all other things that mattered--

Rumple shook his head and tried to focus on the tasks he wanted to finish by sunset. There was no use on dwelling on that now. He had retired from his First Minister duties roughly 4 years ago and passed on the duties to another of his trusted Musketeers, David.

He was better off spending his last few years in a quiet, undisturbed life somewhere in the country.

Gideon wasn’t pleased when he gave his notice, and Belle just kept quiet. But what was he to do?

Gideon was on the borders of adulthood. He was about to be king. The young man was intelligent and cunning but had his mother’s heart and compassion. He was going to be a great king...and yet Rumple wanted to be able to gather the tall man in his arms, hug him for dear life and shout to the entire world how proud he was to be Gideon’s father--

But he couldn’t. The only thing Rumplestiltskin could do was stand to one side and be proud in silence. Be Gideon’s father in the shadows and love him from afar…

Just as he loved Belle from afar.

He knew it was his fault. If he had only explained why--yes, one could argue that it was obvious what he had to do all those years ago in the forest. As much as he wanted them to be forgotten by Avonlea, they couldn’t run anywhere when there were still people set out to harm Belle. So when he found information that lead to stop those who aimed to kill his love, he acted upon it.

He could still remember the look on Belle’s face that morning when Gaston had arrived. He wanted to tell her why he did it...and yet he couldn’t face her. He had seen the look of betrayal that Belle had shot his way. How were mere words enough to ask for forgiveness, let alone give an excuse for his behaviour.

He was still pondering how to approach her when the garrison had received word of the announcement...the king and queen were finally expecting an heir.

It had been like a bullet through his gut. It was a greater pain than his old war injury. It was pain he thought he would never get past or move on from.

There had been no doubt in Rumple’s mind what had happened--Belle chose to stay with Gaston.

Rumple vowed to stay away from then on. Only ever going to the palace when the king asked for his presence. He had been Belle’s personal guard prior but he had asked Killian and Robin to take over those duties.

Then the king had fallen ill and Rumple was glued to Gaston’s side. Always an arm away in case the worst could happen (depends on which people’s definition of worst case scenario that is).

And it did not long after Belle had given birth.

Gideon had just celebrated his first birthday when Gaston’s health took a turn for the worst and soon Avonlea was mourning the loss of its king. (Again, depends on who you ask. Gaston was only king by marriage. It was Belle who was the true heir of the country anyway.)

Belle took on the responsibilities to ruling her kingdom and established a group of advisors and loyal men and women who will help her until Gideon was old enough to inherit his throne.

And Rumple had stayed until Gideon did not need him anymore. Sure the young man had protested at first but everyone would agree that it was time for Rumplestiltskin, once Captain of the Musketeers then First Minister of Avonlea to step aside and let the next generation take the lead.

Belle had not protested ofcourse and who was he to even assume that she would ask him to stay.

Rumple sighed and continued with the chores. There was no use in getting nostalgic. Those won’t get the chores done.

Then he heard the familiar sound of a horse running through the field and looked up just as as a women arrived on his land. A woman with familiar brown hair and blue eyes…

“Hello, Rumplestiltskin.”

 

xXx

 

“Mother I know you don’t want to be here any longer, so what’s stopping you?”

Belle sighed as she turned to meet the concerned gaze of her son. “Gideon, today is your birthday and--

“And I’ve gotten everything I could ever asked for, mother,” replied the young man as he sat down beside her in the library and took her hands into his own. “I have seen you sacrifice so many, especially your heart multiple times. Don’t you think it’s time to finally go after what you want?”

Belle eyed her son for a moment and Gideon chuckled. “My parents are two of the most intelligent people on this world...I don’t think anything will get past me.”

Belle gasped. “Gideon I---”

“Mother I hardly remember anything about the king,” replied Gideon in all seriousness. “If there’s one man I would consider my father, it’s the man who was always there when I grew up. Who taught me how to handle a sword, to ride a horse, to rule with an intelligent mind and a compassionate heart...that man is my father.”

Belle just stared at him in awe and Gideon had to chuckle. “Besides, you two weren’t exactly subtle with the way you looked at each other when the other was preoccupied. I’m pretty sure the entire kingdom has a bet going on when you two will finally see sense and marry one another.”

“That is--”

“Gaston has been dead for 19 years, mother,” pointed out Gideon. “There’s nothing stopping the both of you from getting your happy ending.” He paused and smiled. “Baelfire wanted to lock the two of you in the dungeon when it was father’s last day in the palace. He had almost won me over as a conspirator but Emma whacked us both behind the head, saying it was none of our business and we should let our parents realize how idiotic they were. She sure is a scary sister-in-law and my brother thinks he can handle himself when it’s clear who the actual head of the family is.”

Belle’s heart swelled as tears gathered in her eyes at how her son spoke. She gathered him in her arms. Gideon had known all along and had accepted the fact. He had called Rumple, his father, Baelfire his brother and apparently the entire kingdom was rooting for them to get together...how could neither of them had seen that for the last two decades?

“Oh Gideon,” began Belle as she let her son go and wiped the tears that had fallen. “As much as I want to, I’m afraid it’s too late--”

“Nonsense,” replied Gideon. “I’m pretty sure I can ask Baelfire where father is.”

“You most definitely can,” came the voice and both turned to see the Captain of the Musketeers enter the library with a broad smile. “Finally took the plunge dear brother?”

“What? You weren’t going anywhere with Papa, at least I had deep brown eyes that could get away with anything,” remarked Gideon with a smile.

Baelfire barked with laughter and Belle shook her head. Trust Rumple’s sons to bond over their scheming. “I have a horse ready for you, Your Majesty. Robin and Killian will escort you to the land Papa had inherited from his aunts.”

Belle turned from one man to another. “I…”

“You’ve raised me well, mother.” began Gideon with a broad smile. “Now is time for you two to have your happy ending. Didn’t you always want to travel? Go. Live your life.” He’s smile widened. “You don’t have to worry about me or Avonlea.”

“I’ll watch over him and Avonlea,” promised Baelfire with a smile. “Gid won’t be alone. He has all of us.”

Belle met the eyes of each man, one her son and one who was just as much as her son as the other. Both pair of eyes the same deep brown ones that had always captivated her.

“Take me to him.”

 

xXx

 

“Your Majesty?” asked Rumple in surprise, confusion and awe. “What are you---it’s his majesty's’ birthday.”

“Yes, it is,” replied Belle with a small smile as she dismounted Philippe. “What better to celebrate our son’s birthday than with a new beginning?”

“I--”

Belle didn’t give any more time to argue. She marched up to him, grabbed him by the lapels of his shirt and swallowed whatever words he could muster with a kiss.

They’ve been dancing around each other for 2 decades. She was tired of it and she knew he was tired of it as well. Words hadn’t gotten them anywhere...well what can you say with mere words when a kiss could suffice?

“I love you,” whispered Belle as they parted. “I loved you then and I still love you to this day. I’m sorry I ever doubted that. I’m sorry for the way I acted and we’ve lost so man years...but I’m here now.” She paused as she felt tears fall down her face. “I love you Rumplestiltskin.”

Rumple smiled as he wiped away the tears on her face. “Better late than never, I suppose.” He leaned his forehead against hers. “I love you too Belle.”