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Tales of Gold

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Gold hobbled miserably up the walkway to Granny’s diner. He winced as the chilly air amplified the constant ache in his bad leg. He muttered curses under his breath, wishing misery on the truant tenants. If it hadn't been for them he wouldn't be out this night. Rent had been due on all of his properties three days ago. Most of his tenants paid promptly, too scared to incur his wrath to be late, however “Granny” had failed to pay on time yet again. Gold was determined to make her understand he wasn’t going to let it happen again.

Supporting himself fully with his gold-handled cane, Gold moved unsteadily up the stairs. Furiously, he pushed the door open with such power, he scared the waitress and the few patrons inside.

Not giving a thought to their discomfort, his amber eyes scanned the perimeter for his targets. “Shite,” he swore, his anger fueled further upon not seeing the old widow or her scantily clad granddaughter in the restaurant. Gold meandered around the tables and past the terrified employees towards the back; the expensive custom designed cane thumped grumpily with each step he took through the tiny hallway linking the diner to the inn.

Gold’s fury had reached a boiling point. Peering around the corner, his cold eyes spotted the old lady standing behind a battered antique desk, assisting some curly blonde. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Ruby nearby adjusting a red scarf around her dark hair. She hadn’t made any inkling she had seen him.

Gold stayed in the shadows, waiting for the moment he could jump down the crone’s throat. Leaning heavily on his cane for support, he watched the unfamiliar woman with a puzzled expression. He had prided himself on knowing everyone in town but he did not know her.

“Swan. Emma Swan.”

‘Emma Swan…’ Her name replayed in his head like a witch casting a spell. Suddenly his identity came crashing down around him as if someone had just inserted a key into locked door buried deep inside his psyche. Three centuries of memories instantly flooded through his mind, conflicting with the ones of Mr. Gold. A ‘missing wife’ and a never-ending search for her… these were NOT the memories he had created for himself and Belle. ‘Belle?? Where is Belle,’ he thought and stepped out into the light.

“Emma.” He repeated, pleased that his predictions were on point. The blonde jerked around quickly, caught off guard by his sudden appearance. Her striking blue eyes locked with his as they both silently sized up each other. “What a lovely name,” he joked, although his amusement was lost on her for now.

“Thanks…” Emma replied with a slight uneasiness in her tone. She turned her back to him and faced Granny once more to finish registering for her room.

Granny was frozen in place. Her eyes wide with terror, the color gone from her usually rosy cheeks. She dropped the pen immediately and fumbled inside a drawer. “It’s all here,” Granny had stammered and held out a roll of bills.

Until she had spoken, Rumplestiltskin had forgotten what his cursed self had been doing. He was anxious to find Belle and enact his plans, but for now he had to keep the Mr. Gold charade going for a little longer.

“Yes. Yes. Of course it is, dear. Thank you.” He limped forward and plucked the money from her trembling hands with a greedy smile. With a fluid motion he deposited the bundle of bills into his front pocket. Turning to Emma once more, he studied her carefully before speaking. “You enjoy your stay… Emma.”

Rumplestiltskin could feel three pairs of eyes on him as he lumbered to the exit. He smirked and gave Ruby an all knowing look as he departed. Down the stairs and to the street he wobbled, growling at the ancient injury. He had forgotten how much of hinderance his leg had been before magic. It was a painful reminder of his poor choices throughout his long life.

Still trying to come to grips with a cursed reality he had not planned, he arrived at his car and unlocked the door. His head burned from the memory overload. Having two separate realities existing in his mind was very confusing. Nowhere in Gold’s memories could he recall ever seeing Belle in Storybrooke. Rumple sagged into the seat with a new rage roaring inside him. He slammed his cane on the passenger seat and closed the door.

Rumple gripped the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles turned white. For a moment he imagined it was Regina’s throat within his grasp. “Regina…” He growled. He hadn’t anticipated she would be ballsy enough to screw him over.

Rumple stared at his dash while his brain carefully calculated his next move. His initial reaction was to storm over to Regina’s mansion and demand the truth about Belle’s whereabouts, but doing so would put Belle, if she was still alive, in further danger and jeopardize the curse ever being broken. No. He knew if he wanted to win he would have to play the long game. An impish smirk spread across his face as a plan began to form in his devious mind.

 “Heh heh. Long live the Evil Queen.”

Chapter Text

Rumplestiltskin lay on his side on the hard stone floor of his dingy cell. His chin rested in the palm of his hand, propped up by his elbow. Rumple’s mouth formed syllables silently while he studied a scrap of parchment.

'Emma. Emma. Emma. Emma.’ He repeatedly thought the name over and over, burning it deep in his mind. Regina now had everything she needed to cast the curse. He had expected her to enact it immediately after her visit. However, three days had since passed with no sign of his dark curse anywhere. He assumed she was still mulling over procuring the most important ingredient. Afterall, Rumplestiltskin did tell her she would have to kill her father.

The dark one lifted his head when he heard the quiet shuffling sounds of footsteps approaching. Rumplestiltskin quickly rolled up the paper and stuck in a small fissure in the stone wall. He sunk into the shadows waiting for the creeper to make their presence known. Prepared to play with whomever dared to come, he put on his most impish face. He watched with crazed eyes as his visitor stepped into the light.

“Rumple?” He heard her sweet voice question in a whisper.

“Belle,” he inquired, stepping out of the darkness. There she stood in all her beauty, the most loving woman he had ever met. Her blue eyes locked with his. She cautiously kept her distance as she did every week when first arriving. After Regina had tricked them once by impersonating another, they agreed they needed a code word. Together they created their own word.

“Rumbelle,” they said in harmony, the code word formed by a perfect union of their names. Upon hearing their expression, she leapt over the few steps that separated them. His arms reached out to her through the small gap in the bars.

Belle’s hands grasped at his needingly. From the depressed expression on her face he could see the time apart was affecting her just as badly as it did him. He watched her sapphire eyes glisten with tears. “Please come back home.”

‘Home,’ he thought with a pang. The request was simple enough, but the stakes were higher than ever. “Oh Belle. I can’t,” he replied, his tone absent its usual shrill. “This is where I need to be.”

Belle sniffled and hung her head. She knew that already. Being in the cage made him more approachable. Since his imprisonment he had made dozens of deals, all to benefit their lives in the new land. “Then I will stay with you until the curse hits. I don’t want to go back to the castle. It’s so empty without you.”

“Actually my sweet, that is exactly what I need you to do.” Rumple pulled away from her and ignored her exasperated sputtering. He fished around inside the crack where he hid the paper, and pulled out a tiny bottle. Returning to her, he placed the vial in her hand and closed her fist around it.

Belle furrowed her brow in confusion, feeling the tiny bottle pressing into her flesh under his tender grip. “What is this?”

“Let’s call it a backup plan. Just in case. I need you to take it back to the castle and hide it somewhere. Hide it inside something personal to you or me. Somewhere no one would think to look.”

Silent tears flowed freely down her cheeks. Her plump bottom lip trembled from a sob threatening to erupt. She didn’t want to leave him. She had told him numerous times she wanted to meet the curse headon, with her lips pressed against his. Not miles away at the dark castle.

Rumplestiltskin caressed her damp cheek. “I’m sorry, Belle. But there is no one else I trust enough to do this. I know I can count on you.”

Belle sniffled miserably, somehow knowing this would be the last time she would see him. She wept against the bars. His hand slid from her cheek and to her shoulders, rubbing her in a soothing motion. “It will be ok. As you know, the curse won’t be much of a bother to us. We may not remember who we really are, but we will still be happily together.”

His true love smiled at him through her tears. Together they had picked out a life, and he fashioned it into the dark curse before giving it to Regina. She took a deep breath and wiped her tears away with her sleeve. She nodded, tucking the teeny bottle into her pocket. “I will go," she answered.

“Thank you.” He replied with a sigh of relief. Rumplestiltskin leaned down and kissed her deeply. The wooden bars dug into his cheeks but he did not care. He was getting his fill of her. The moment their lips touched he felt the chilling sensation of true love’s kiss wash over him. Luckily for them, he had found a way to neutralize the power of her kiss. She pulled away for a moment and gazed into his swirling eyes.

“I love you, Rumplestiltskin.” She said the words and meant them with every beat of her heart.

Rumple felt his own eyes burn from holding back the tears. He was undeserving of her love. He tried to deny it, but her love for him awakened a part of him he thought was lost forever. No matter what happened, he would always treasure her.

“Goodbye, Belle,” he replied and engaged her in another searing kiss. With his lips pressed against hers, felt the sting of regret at not saying it back. In truth he loved her very much. So much so, it scared the crap out of him. But he knew villains don't get happy endings. One way or another she would be gone. But Belle never pressed him to return the sentiments, for she knew he loved her without him having to say it.

Belle slowly turned away and began to walk back down the hallway, with her hands balled into fists at her sides. Try as she might, he could see her shaking, trying to be brave and to go complete his request. He knew had she stayed, there would be nothing he could do to stop her. He caught her eyes gazing at him over her shoulder. “Goodbye, Rumple,” she choked out with a teary-eyed smile.

“Until we meet again...” He said sadly and watched her vanish into the darkness.

 

Rumplestiltskin’s amber eyes shot open. His chest heaved rapidly. Gasping for air, he tried to steady his pounding heart. The first night having his memories back was proving to be a nightmare unto its’ own. His dreams were not the blissful ones most experienced. Instead, they were filled with vivid recollections of days long gone. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Giving up on slumber, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

Rumplestiltskin winced and groaned while pain shot up his lame leg, reminding him of his very mortal body. He snarled beastly and snatched the cane propped against the nightstand. He ignored the ache and arose from the bed slowly. He had a Savior to nudge and a vial to find. He wasn’t going to let a thing like mortality get in the way of his plan.

Chapter Text

The Thoroughbred streaked down the road at full speed. Its hooves kicked up snow and dirt as they raced across the crumbling terrain. Chaos erupted around them. Trees uprooted. Mountains trembled. Lightning fiercely flashed in the sky, followed by crashes of tumultuous thunder. The sound of the world ending was deafening.

Belle choked back the terror filling her. She had always prided herself on being brave, but now she could feel that courage dissipating. The trip to the dark castle had taken much longer than Belle had expected. Shortly after leaving Rumple, she almost had a run in with the Queen’s army. She avoided them by taking the mountain pass. The detour was much longer and cost her precious time. Had she been able to take the direct route, she would been at the Dark Castle before Regina cast the curse. Now she was trying to outrun it.

Belle’s heart pounded. The fear of not being able accomplish Rumple’s last request caused her very soul to tremble. He was counting on her and she might fail.

Rumplestiltskin.

The radiant beauty fought the tears that threatened to spill for her love. She had felt his aura vanish from this world hours earlier. No matter how temporary that loss was, the thought of him being gone hurt as if the queen tore her heart out.

 'Soon we will be reunited as a normal husband and wife.’ She had to keep that hopeful thought in her mind. It was the only thing that kept her going.

 Belle peered over her shoulder. The curse was gaining ground. Just when she feared they would be swallowed up, the dark castle’s gate came into view. A small beacon of hope in the surrounding darkness. Rumple’s castle sat just beyond.

 “Come on!” Belle shouted and applied more pressure with her heels into the horse’s ribs. She shook the reins forcefully, trying anything to get the beast to move faster. Deep down, she felt bad for working the animal so hard. They were so close! She couldn’t give up now. She WOULD not give up.

 The gate magically flung open as they approached, recognizing the mistress of the manor. The iron wrought bars slammed shut in their wake with a clang. The horse galloped up the long winding lane. Arriving at the castle doors, the stallion reared up and kicked the front door in. Belle leapt off the creature’s back and ran through the darkened foyer. She threw open the doors to the great room. Reaching into her pocket, she removed a small cloth bundle. Wrapped safely inside was small vial Rumple gave her. Belle darted her head around. Her petrified eyes searched the room for an appropriate hiding place.

‘Hide it inside something personal to you or me. Somewhere no one would think to look.’ She heard Rumple’s words in her head. Once more, Belle battled the ache in her heart at the thought of him gone.

 Suddenly, the ornate, oversized windows lining the room exploded. Jagged shards flew everywhere. A tornado of wind filled the great hall. Belle winced as a few shards caught in the wind sliced at her exposed skin. Purple smoke poured into the room. 

 Out of time, Belle rushed over to the only space the curse hadn’t touch. The far corner that was home to Rumplestiltskin’s spinning wheel.

 Visibly shaking, she searched the spinning wheel for any crevice where she could stash the package. As the smoke whipped at her feet, she unscrewed a knob holding the drive wheel in place...

The curse engulfed her.

 

Sapphire eyes shot open. Belle sat up quietly. She hugged her knees tightly to her chest and buried her face against them. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks.

Every night had been the same for 28 years. The past haunted her, reminding her of everything that was gone. Regina leaving her memories intact was a fate worse than death. Worse than the curse itself. At least cursed, she would be oblivious to what she had lost instead of spending everyday with only the Severe Nurse and her thoughts for company.

The truth was taking a toll on her. The bravery she had was reduced to a mere flicker.

This was NOT the life they planned together. This was supposed to be Rumple’s redemption. To be a better person without the darkness or his past crimes weighing him down. She had intended to be by his side. By the time the curse broke in 28 years, Rumple would have proven to himself and all of his previous victims that he wasn’t a monster. On that day he would be the kind of man his son wanted him to be.

Unfortunately, the Evil Queen discovered Rumple’s sweet life embedded in her curse, undoing it somehow. And now, instead of being by his cursed self’s side, she was locked away. Hidden from view of the outside world with no one but a select few of Regina’s pawns knowing she existed.

CLACK! CLACK!

Belle lifted her head when she heard the unfamiliar sound of stilettos pounding the pavement. The footsteps drew closer. Their owner stopped just outside her door. Belle scrambled to her feet and hastily wiped the tears from her face. She jutted her chin out and glared at the door. Whoever it was, she wasn’t going to let them intimidate her.

A key turned in the latch. The mechanism snapping open created an eerie sound, muted by the padded room. The Evil Queen turned Mayor marched regally into the small space. Her long, flowing dresses and high collars were a thing of the past, replaced by a much shorter plum colored skirt and matching jacket. The modern attire was tailored perfectly Regina's frame, hugging her body in all the right places. Had they been friends, Belle would have complimented her on how the new world fashion suited her.

They were not friends, so Belle only frowned.

Regina stopped in front of her. Belle could see anger flash like lightning in Regina's dark eyes.

“He’s awake, isn’t he? How did he do it,” she raged. “I know you know something.”

Belle blinked as her brain processes the information. Was she possibly referring to Rumple? Had he regained his memories? If he was awake, the Savior must be in town. She knew it would only be a matter of time before they would be reunited. Belle cocked her head to the side, feigning confusion.

Feeling a renewed surge of bravery at the knowledge that Rumple was back, she shrugged and folded her arms over her chest.

“He who?”

“You know who,” Regina snapped. She paced the length of the cell.

“I wouldn’t know. In case the curse has affected your memories,” Belle began, her tone laced with sarcasm. “You have kept me locked up for almost three decades,” Belle argued, the sass evident in her voice.

“And you expect me to believe he didn’t tell you about his plan before?”

Belle shrugged not caring if she was uncooperative.  “Even if he did, I wouldn’t tell you.”

Regina’s fury turned into a sinister sneer. “You think this means he is going to swoop on in and rescue you, don’t you?” She leaned in close, her face just a mere inch from Belle’s. “He will never find you,” she replied. “And do you know why?”

Belle felt the wave of bravery falter. She knew she couldn’t let Regina see weakness. “Because we are cursed and you designed it that way.”  

“Exactly! My sheriff planted clues all over Storybrooke. Each one leading to a dead end. Tell me, Belle… How much longer do you think he will keep looking for you before he gives up?”

“He won’t give up," Belle answered confident Rumple will see through Regina's terrible clues now that he was awake.

“You sound so sure your True Love will succeed." Regina laughed as if Belle's words were a joke. "Clearly you know him better than I do. I guess time will tell.” Regina poked her head out the door, signaling to someone waiting in the hall. “But until then..." 

Nurse Ratched appeared in the door frame. A terrifying syringe eagerly waited in her hand.

Belle’s eyes widened at the sight of the needle. “No…”

“Tell me his plan.”

Belle’s nostrils flared with every heavy breath. She would never betray him, no matter what Regina had planned. Belle shook her head and glared at Regina defiantly. “Never.”

Unsurprised by her answer, Regina mock pouted at her. “Such a shame. I was hoping we could be friends,” she teased as the nurse advanced on her.

Chapter Text

(Storybrooke 1983. Day 1 under The Dark Curse)

 

A disorientated Belle looked around the room as the purple smoke evaporated. The spinning wheel she had just been standing next to was gone. The majestic stone walls and antique furniture were nowhere to be found. She wasn't in the dark castle anymore.

Belle’s face twisted in confusion at her surroundings. She studied every object. She recognized a few items. A bed, a sofa, a wardrobe, and a battered dining set were all crammed into the small room. However, there were many things scattered about she did not understand. Her brain searched her vernacular to describe the odd items, but failed. Some contraptions appeared to be attached to the walls by thick black ropes.

Nothing in this room was familiar to her. She did not see a single personal effect of hers. Nor did she see Rumplestiltskin.

Searching the room for answers, Belle caught sight of herself in a full length mirror. Her appearance was not anything she was accustomed to, nor did it fit the description of a distinguished man’s wife.

Belle touched her cheek. The small cuts caused by the shattering of the windows in the castle had vanished. The riding cloak and matching blue gown, with its frilly skirts, were gone. Instead, her body was clad in a shorter and revealing black velvet dress. The neckline plunged deeply between her boobs, showing off more cleavage then her previous world’s outfits. The hem of the dress stopped just below her thigh, exposing her shapely legs. The figure hugging material molded around her round bottom. Her usually small frame had been propelled several inches taller by the height of her heeled shoes.

She shook her head at her reflection. The heavy makeup and poofy hair appalled her. “This isn’t right,” she mumbled and strolled over to a window. Peering through the dewy glass, she could see a street lined with brick buildings. There were familiar faces roaming the walkway below, all wearing strange clothes.

‘So this is The Land Without Magic,’ Belle thought while watching the people scatter about their cursed lives.

But if this was the curse, why did she not have the fake memories they created? Where was Rumplestiltskin? Had his aura vanished from the Enchanted Forest for another reason? Belle shook the disturbing thought from her head.

No! He was not dead. He was out there somewhere. Something had gone awry. She had to find Rumple.

Feeling naked, Belle searched through the small closet for attire that was more to her taste. Disappointment flowed through her when she discovered the other clothes were just as inappropriate. Groaning, she pulled a long length coat from a hanger and plucked a pair of flat shoes with laces from the closet floor.

Minutes later, Belle exited the tiny studio. Inquisitive blue eyes gazed up and down the street. With no cursed memories to guide her through the town, Belle was on her own. She took several minutes to process everything around her. Strange ‘horseless carriages’ raced through the roads. The sound created by these machines was loud. Having only read about such devices in fantasy books, she marveled at how they seemingly moved without magic. Most of the carriages headed left down the road. Deciding the center of town must be in that direction, Belle followed.

Arriving in the heart of the town she found it bustling with life. The Land Without Magic was proving how vastly different it was from the Enchanted Forest. More ‘carriages’ moved up and down the strip. They would stop at flashing lights hanging above the crossroads. There were dozens of shops. They too, were lit up. The bookworm in her wondered how this was possible without magic. She assumed the naked trees with wires, spread down the street had something to do with it.

“Good morning,” a warm, familiar voice called from behind her. She turned around to see Jiminy Cricket in his human form. She remembered the first time he came to Rumplestiltskin for help. The cricket had fallen in love and wanted to return to his human form. Through a lucrative deal, Rumple reversed the Blue Fairy’s magic. She wondered if his true love was still around. Belle hoped Regina's curse hadn't turned them into the dog walking beside him.

“Lacey... I hope you stayed out of trouble last night.” Belle frowned. Rumple and her had decided to keep their real names. So why was her name Lacey?

He continued to ramble on while the friendly pup sniffed at her shoes. “I can only write so many character references for you before the judge decides to give you serious jail time.”

Belle was extremely perplexed. She had no idea what he was talking about. Luckily, before she had to lie her way through the conversation, the woodcarver interrupted.

“Archie, my friend,” he greeted. The old man propped his wooden ladder against the front of the building. He smiled and patted the dog on its head.

“Good Morning, Marco,” Archie replied. Belle noticed, even cursed, the two were still friends. It made her hold onto hope not all relationships were lost. She repeated their names silently, committing the new information to memory.

“Hello, Lacey. Avoided getting arrested for a night?” Marco remarked.

Belle was dismayed by his distasteful tone. His question stumped her further.

‘What kind of person do they think I am?’

Not having any idea what she should say, she simply nodded. Her reaction clearly wasn't the response he expected. Marco’s wrinkled eyes were puzzled. Assuming he had expected her to make some wise cracking remark, Belle winced inwardly. Before the conversation could get more awkward, she quickly excused herself and left the bewildered men.

The out of place beauty wandered the streets of Storybrooke; the name she had learned from the many storefront signs. It felt like hours had passed. She looked up at large clock above a boarded up building.

“8:15?” Belle stared up at the broken clock. Just below it hung a dilapidated sign. The letters were almost worn off, but she could see the words ‘Storybrooke Library.’ The structure was shut up tight. A thick chain and lock bound the doors shut. Another sign Rumple’s addendum had gone wrong. The library was supposed to be hers in this world. A continuation of Rumple’s gift from the Enchanted Forest.

Where was Rumple?

Belle wandered down the street, along the side of the library. She kept a careful eye out, looking for any sign of her beloved imp. Sadly, she had yet to spot him. The town was far bigger than she initially thought. Belle assumed he must be holed up in a building somewhere.

Halfway down the busy road, across the street, she spotted a peculiar shop. Blue eyes stared intently at the trinkets in the window. Recognizing a few of the pieces from the dark castle, her heart beat faster. Turning her attention to the sign, she read it out loud. “Mr. Gold. Pawnbroker and Antiquities Dealer.”

The name ‘Mr. Gold’ sounded like it could be Rumple. Belle ran across the street, ignoring the machines that blared obnoxious sounds at her. One operator swerved sharply to avoid her. He shouted some rude obscenity but she didn't care.

Arriving at the little store, she jiggled the gold handle on the red door. She groaned inwardly upon discovering it was locked. Squinting her eyes, she peered through the little gap in the blinds. Inside she could see the many treasures from Rumple’s castle littered on every surface.

A smile tugged at her lips. In the far corner she spotted the shadow of a large spinning wheel. This was clearly his cursed self’s space. She banged on the door in hope that maybe he had locked himself in. Minutes passed but he never answered. Frustrated, she kicked the door.

“Lacey!”

The name that was not hers again. She turned around to address whoever it was. The Evil Queen’s huntsman stood behind her. He was just as scruffy as she remembered. On his uniform was the name “Graham.”

“It would be unwise to break into Mr. Gold’s shop. Especially with it being your third offense.”

“I wasn’t…” she tried to protest. She could feel Graham stood with his hands on his hips, eyeing her down.

“Loitering to lure in johns is illegal too.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“Don't play dumb. This wouldn't be your first arrest for prostitution either.”

Belle’s jaw dropped. ‘Prostitution? They all think I am a thieving prostitute?! Is that what Rumple’s cursed self thinks? What the hell happened to the memories Rumple and I created?’

“I’m not-”

Graham reached to his utility belt and removed a pair of handcuffs. “You already know the drill.” He spoke as he advanced on her. He fastened the restraint to one wrist and turned her around, pulling her arm behind her. While still keeping her one hand securely in his grasp, he reached around to grab her other hand and bound them together.

“Please. This is a misunderstanding!” She pleaded as he lead her to his brown carriage. Painted on the side was “Storybrooke Sheriff.” The only sheriff she ever met was a pig of man from Nottingham. She hoped Storybrooke’s sheriff was nothing like that pervert.

Graham regarded her with pity. “Enough with the excuses Lacey.”

The sheriff eased her into the back seat and slammed the door. Belle struggled to find a comfortable position. Her bound arms pressed into her back. The metal shackles pinched her wrists. The combined discomforts made sitting difficult.

Graham entered the front of the machina. A gated partition separated them. Had she not been so lost, she would have taken pleasure in her first ride in a horseless carriage. She peered out the window at the shop, memorizing the building to find it later.

The machine revved to life, surprising Belle by the sound. Suddenly, something caught her eye. She gasped loudly. “He’s alive,” she whispered with relief and pressed her face to the glass for a better look.

Rumplestiltskin was hobbling down the sidewalk. He clutched a gold-handled cane in his hand. She could see he was leaning heavily upon it to maintain balance, favoring his right leg. Rumple's appearance was a stark contrast to his Enchanted Forest self. His customary dragonhide vests and leather pants had been replaced with finely tailored clothes. They reminded her of a more subtle version of the neatly cut uniforms the men wore to parties back home. She guessed his style was this world’s idea of dress wear. She caught a glimmer of gold on his fingers.

With the golden skin gone and his wild hair tamed, he looked like an ordinary middle aged man. Belle could also see the cold, hard expression worn upon his face. It would seem his persona had been altered too.

She wanted to beat on the window to get his attention as Graham drove away but couldn't. ‘What good would it do if he doesn't know me,’ she thought, crestfallen as they passed him.

Belle turned abruptly to watch him through the back window. He arrived at Gold's shop and entered, confirming her suspicion that he was indeed Mr. Gold.

“You need to sit properly while the car is in motion.”

‘Car. The First three letters of carriage. That makes sense.’

Returning to a seated position, Belle made a mental note of the turns the car made. Searing the directions into her brain. She wanted to be sure she could find her way back. She was determined to get back to Rumple.

She didn't know how much time passed when the car pulled into an empty lot. Belle peered out the window at the tan building. Storybrooke Sheriff Station, a clunky sign read. The car made a loud, rumbling noise before stopping. She jerked her head back to watch Graham remove a key from a slot. Regina’s former henchman exited the car. With a stealthy stride belonging to a hunter, he was at her door.

“Come on out, Lacey.” Graham wretched the door open. With a firm but gentle touch he hoisted her from the back seat by her arm.

Belle hoped by obliging she could get this charade over with quicker. To her knowledge she committed no crime. If she didn't give him a reason to find fault she should be able to convince him to let her go free. ‘I have to get back to that shop!’

Graham lead her into the station. Down a long window-lined hallway and to a fork. The sheriff didn't stop in his stride and immediately lead her right. They entered a large room cluttered with desks, chairs, and paperwork. Along one wall were two cells. One was occupied by a grumpy looking bald fellow with a greying beard.

“Welcome back, sister,” he gruffed and grinned sideways. “What did you do this time? Steal money out of Granny’s till?”

Belle assumed ‘till’ was this realm's slang for coffers. “No! I didn't steal anything,” she protested with a frown. The picture these people were painting of her Storybrooke self was dreadful. And yet she had no memories of any of it.

Graham dragged her over to the other cell. Without warning, he spun her around. He moved about her as if this was a standard routine for him. With a turn of a key her hands were released from the shackles.

Belle sighed with relief. Having her hands restrained behind her back for the long ride to the station made her arms sore. She rubbed her wrists as the doors clanged shut. He shuffled over to the next cell and let the grumpy man out.

“No more urinating on city hall property, Leroy.”

The short man faked a smile. “Of course, Sheriff.” Leroy winked at Belle and lumbered out of the sight.

“Hang tight. I’ll start processing you,” the sheriff said and plopped down at a far desk. He picked up some wired device and held it to the side of his head. She watched him twirl his finger on the base. There was silence as he sat with the thing against his ear. Then he started talking.

‘An invention that allows you to communicate with someone not near?’ The device reminded her of the mirror Rumple had used once to rage at Regina after the Evil Queen put Belle’s life in danger. Once again she was marveled by this world's contraptions to circumvent the absense of magic. She watched him for a moment more before growing weary.

Belle sunk on to the cot. The hard surface pressed into her back. She ignored it and stared up at the ceiling. Her thoughts drifted to a happier bed.

They had a long conversation, after love making, about how different his life may have been had she been born two centuries ago. That particular conversation had given the dark one an impish idea. While she slept he stole the curse back from Maleficent. When he returned late the next morning he shared his plan with her. Together, they altered the original curse with a magical amendment; creating a perfect life where Rumple would know he was more than a coward and a beast. A life filled with the one thing that was always missing before Belle’s existence. A life full of acceptance and love.

Once the changes had been complete, he pretended to barter it back to the dragon queen, knowing from his visions Regina would come for it eventually.

Belle knew Rumple’s power was supreme. So why did the magic not work? Footsteps echoing down the hallway dragged her from her thoughts. The heavy clacking sounded like they belonged to someone in charge. “Graham!”

Trying not to draw attention to herself, Belle sat up quietly. The Evil Queen stood in a trenchcoat beside the sheriff, still looking as menacing as ever. “I’ve been calling the station for the last hour.”

“I was out patrolling. Hard to answer your call if I'm not here. Now if you excuse me Mayor, I have a prisoner to process.”

Regina turned her cold gaze towards the cells. Her eyes found Belle. Painted red lips twisted upwards into a cruel smile. “The infamous town slut,” the Evil Queen remarked triumphantly.

Belle had had enough. “I am not a slut,” she retorted and glared defiantly. It was the same icy stare she gave the woman every time they met.

Regina’s brow furrowed. Her dark eyes narrowed. Ignoring Graham, she stormed over to the bars. They stared each other down for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, Regina stepped back. “I am tired of this cretin working the system. Jail clearly hasn't helped her.”

Graham dropped his pen and leaned back in his swivel chair. “-And what do you propose, Madam Mayor?”

Regina’s miserable expression changed instantly. She smiled wickedly. “Something much harsher.”

Belle didn't think her luck could get worse until she found herself being marched down a windowless corridor in the back of the station and down a flight of stairs. Graham and Regina lead her through a series of old mining tunnels. Belle presumed the passages ran conveniently under the town. Miles it felt like they walked, turning left, then right, and left again. on the other side of a musty boiler room, they arrived at a door. Graham opened it.

They led her down a pukish green painted hallway to her new prison. It was a simple padded room, no bigger than the jail cell. A tiny window with tinted glass acted as the only source of light. An uncomfortable looking cot was bolted to the floor.

“Leave us,” Regina ordered. Her tone leaving no room for discussion. Graham readily obeyed like a well trained dog. 

The Evil Queen smiled, But her cold eyes were still fathomless. “What is your name?”

“Lacey,” she lied.

Regina leaned closer. Belle could feel her hot breath upon her face.  “Your full name.”

Belle had no idea. Everyone who had greeted her never used a surname. Knowing it was pointless to lie, Belle stared back at her. “Belle of Avon de garden.”

“Perfect.” Regina paced the room leisurely as if planning something diabolical.

Belle huffed and folded her arms over her chest. No matter how many times Regina came after her she refused to be intimidated.

“So this is how it will work. You can rot in here and call the cockroaches your friends, or…” she paused for dramatic effect and smirked.

Belle rolled her eyes knowing whatever Regina offered she wouldn’t take it. “Or?”

“-Or you can work for me. You will be able to move freely around town. As long as you be my eyes and ears.”

“I would never help you inflict misery on others.”

Regina’s face fell. If there was one thing Regina hated more than Snow White, it was defiance. “This is a one time offer. Don’t take it and you can sit here. Forever.” Belle could feel the malice dripping from her words.

“28 years is not forever. You and I both know the clock on your evil reign started ticking down the moment you cast that curse. After all, your Majesty… All curses can be broken,” Belle added with a hint of mischief in her eye, throwing Regina’s own words in her face.

Regina snarled, baring teeth like rabid animal. Anger flashed in her ebony eyes.

“So, I will wait. Unless you want to take the chance in killing me. But we all know that will not end well for you... dearie.” Belle smiled as Rumple’s little nickname for all his pawns, slipped from her tongue.

Regina leaned in close again. A threatening aura exalted from her. Her eyes locked in a fiery embrace with Belle's. “Then rot.” With those two words Regina stormed out. The heavy green door slammed shut behind her.

Belle stood melancholy in the dark. Now that she was alone, her eyes crystalized over with tears. “How am I supposed to get to that shop now?"

Chapter Text

(Storybrooke Present day)

 

After spending all day carefully combing through all the artifacts in his shop in search for the vial Belle had hidden, Rumplestiltskin surrendered to the late hour and began closing down. He moved about his shop, flicking switches, and ensuring locks were turned. He passed an old spinning wheel and shuffled around the glass display cases. Another switch by the door was pressed and a final light dimmed. He stepped over the threshold and into the night. Rumple lingered while locking the door. Even though all his magic was gone, his senses were still heightened from being a dark one. There were definitely a pair of eyes watching him. Assuming it was one of Regina’s spies, he shrugged it off and walked away. Out of eye shot of his business, he ducked into the darkness and waited.  

SMASH

A very pregnant woman broke the window on his side door with a brick.

“What the hell is going on…” he grumbled and hobbled back to the store. Slipping in from the back entrance, he walked quietly, knowing which spots in the floor to avoid to keep his presence unknown. Peeking through the curtain hanging over the archway to the backroom, he spotted her. She was staring at a scenic painting hanging just behind the main counter.  

“ASHLEY!” The girl jumped backwards. Her eyes were wide with fear.

“What are you doing?” His tone was a warning to her. He stepped closer, and stopped a few feet away.  

The scared blonde swallowed hard. Fiddling with something in her purse she looked at him. “Changing my life.”

Rumplestiltskin furrowed his brow, puzzled. Before he could question her further, she whipped out an aerosol can and pressed the trigger. He yelped as the substance sprayed directly into his amber eyes. Stumbling backwards, he crashed into a mahogany case. Glass shattered behind him. His hands flew up in a feeble attempt to wipe the capsicum from his face. His cane clattered to the floor. Rumplestiltskin felt his crippled leg wobble and finally give out from underneath him. He crashed head first into the glass counter, and onto the floor. As consciousness drifted away, he felt Ashley’s hands fumbling in his pockets. Then there was darkness...




(Dark Castle… several months before the dark curse is cast.)

 

Laying in an enormous golden four poster bed, the dark one couldn’t stop himself from gazing upon the beauty sleeping beside him. Her striking blue eyes were shut; the tips of her long lashes kissed her cheeks as she slumbered. Rumplestiltskin was still in awe over the fact that this woman, this kind caring beautiful woman, wanted him. He thought it was a waste that for such a wonderful person to be with him. He did try to send her away, but the pull for either of them was too great. He had offered her a chance to go through with her father’s plan or be his. She chose him. Belle had said it easy enough. Her choice stunned him.

With the gentlest of touches, he caressed her cheek, still rosy from their earlier love making. He feared one day she would recoil from his touch. He expected her to suddenly hate him for the heinous things he had and will continue to do. But she didn't. Although Belle was not afraid to make her opinions known if she did not like his methods. A couple of times at her request he arranged deals to be a little more fair.

She had him wrapped around her finger. He knew he would try to appease her. As long as it did not get in the way of his goal. When it did he would tell her so. Still he had made a better habit of giving his victims a chance to back out.

Without warning Belle turned her head, her mouth brushed his palm. He felt her lips pucker and place butterfly kisses upon its surface. She was still able to make him feel like an adolescent boy learning about women for the first time. Her hand snaked up and caught his. “Does your curse make you insatiable,” she joked and gave his hand a squeeze.

He grinned mischievously. “Even if it did… I wouldn’t be able to keep up with you.” He tapped her nose and giggled like a child. Belle was dismayed when he hopped from the bed already fully dressed.

Belle sat up, the sheet covering her chest fell, exposing her breasts to the chilly castle air. “I had this wonderful dream of meeting you before you were cursed. Ever since I saw a glimpse of your mortal face that time…” she paused, “I have wondered what your life was like.”

Rumplestiltskin came to her side and tucked the covers around her distracting curves. He could tell she wasn’t going to drop the subject. Knowing it was time to share more personal details, he sat on the edge of the bed.

Belle reached out and touched his hand. “You know I won't tell anyone. Your secrets will always be safe with me.”

“I know.” He found himself smiling at her. He brought her hand to his lips. Cherishing her touch with a kiss. When he spoke again, the childish tones were absent. His words flowed through on a softened tongue. A more human sounding speech pattern. His normal voice. “It wasn’t a good life. I was… a useless poor excuse of a man.”

Belle frowned. She hated to hear him talk so dark about himself. To be beaten down by the world so much to believe you are worthless. Her heart went out to him. “Tell me.”

He had previously shared some small facts from his mortal life with her. Like being a lame sheep farmer. How his wife left him and he had raised their son alone. He never told his boy the truth behind Milan leaving. It had been much easier to tell Baelfire she was dead.  

Belle sat thoughtfully. Dozens of questions flew across her face. “So this infliction you had… what was it? Were you born with it?”

Rumplestiltskin’s face grew dark. For a moment he almost wasn’t going to tell her. Milah turned on him in disgust over what he had done. What if Belle did the same?

A firm but loving squeeze of her hand made his mind up for him. After another careful moment contemplating his words he finally spoke, once again using the same hushed tone. “I did it to myself.”

“Why?”

Surprising to him, he heard no hint of disgust in her question. But he couldn’t meet her eyes. He didn’t want to see her face when he told her the truth. Rumplestiltskin chose to stare at their hands, still clasped; his thumb caressed the back of hers subconsciously. “There was this Seer the army was keeping prisoner. They used her sight to plan out battle strategies against the ogres. She told me my wife was pregnant and my son would grow up fatherless because of my actions.” He paused, fighting the urge to flee and end this impromptu storytime. The only thing that kept him seated was her hand, still clinging to his.

“Prophecies are a fickle thing and can be interpreted many ways. I took her vision as a death warning. If I went into battle, I would die. My wife would be a widow, raising a child alone in a world designed for men. The only option to her would have been to find a husband. But men aren't too eager raising another man's bairn.”

Belle heaved a sigh. “In my old village, after the first ogre's fight the widows struggled to survive. Because of an archaic law they couldn't work. Only noble women can own property and that was only if they are married or betrothed.”  Belle frowned at the lack of women's rights. “I hope those laws are different in ‘The Land Without Magic.’”

Realizing she maybe taking them off topic she steered the conversation back to him.  “What did you do after?”

“I found a blacksmith’s hammer. Then, before I could lose my nerve, I swung it and shattered my right shin.”

Belle gasped loudly. He expected a scathing insult to come flying towards him, but nothing.

He felt her fingers under his chin, urging his head up to meet her eyes. Rumplestiltskin was stunned to see the sapphire orbs were brimming with tears. “Why are you so ashamed of that? You made such a noble sacrifice. Choosing to be there for your wife and son over some imaginary thing as honor. She must have been grateful. To spare her the life of widow.”

“She despised me.”

“For returning home?”

“For not dying. In her eyes I was a coward. And I was-”

Belle’s eyes teared up in empathy for him. Each time spoke about the past it made her realize more and more why he struggled to believe in her love for him. “But why? Her life would have been wretched!”

“According to her it already was.”

“I don’t understand. Wh-?”

“She never loved me.”

That revelation made the tears flow. She threw herself at him, sheets and all, and wrapped her arms around him. He cradled her close, the personal anecdote he shared made him feel lost. Rumplestiltskin enjoyed the peaceful serene that came with her embrace. Her warmth always calmed him. When her cries had become soft sniffles she raised her head. Her eyes found his.

“I would have been grateful to have someone love us so much.”

The love in her eyes made it difficult to deny but he was so full of self loathing he couldn't believe her. No matter how sincere she sounded. “You say that now. But you did not know me then. She had every right to hate me.”

“I may not have known you but I don't believe that. I never would have seen you as a coward.”

“You can't be sure of that unless you were there.”

“I wish I was. Everything would have been different.” Belle rested her head upon his shoulder.

A confused Rumplestiltskin buried his face in her hair, inhaling the scent of sunkissed strawberries. An idea began to form in his mind as he took in her words.

“Odd, isn’t it. We are true love, and yet, if you never became the dark one, we never would have met.”

“Destiny is funny like that. We don't know it at the time but things happen for a reason.” He replied. Staring intently at the floor as bits of a plan took shape.

Moments passed as they sat curled up in each other's arms. Alerted by a soft purring sound, he lifted his head and peered down at her. Belle had fallen asleep nestled in his arms. The thought filled his dark heart with warmth. Carefully, he shifted her around and placed her head gently on the pillow.

Rumplestiltskin placed a kiss on her forehead and tucked the covers around her again. He watched her for another moment, wondering what good thing he did in his life to deserve her. He left the room with a childish grin, and giggled while he skipped down the stairs.

Shrugging into his most hideous of dragon hide vests, he was about to leave but stopped. Rumplestiltskin grumbled to himself, wondering what his enemies would think about the fearsome dark one leaving a note for his lover, like some lovesick dog. Dutifully, he scratched out a quick message and left it on the table in the great hall. A hot meal was magically prepared and waiting for her to consume once she woke. Beside it sat a single red rosebud.

 

(Storybrooke Present day)

 

An insistent buzzing vibrated against his chest. His hand slowly reached up to press the silencer on his phone.

“Dammit.” Rumplestiltskin groaned as he dragged himself up to a sitting position. Wincing and cursing again at the pain flowing through his mortal body. His head pounded. He touched his temple, feeling a sticky ooze coat his fingers. Digging the pocket square out of his jacket he pressed it against his wound.

Fumbling in the dark with his free hand for his cane, he growled, thoroughly pissed about being toppled so easily. He hated how weak he felt without magic. Finally his fingers touched the handle. Snatching it, he leaned against it and the counter, pulling himself up to his feet with great effort.

Rumplestiltskin swore and hobbled painfully to his backroom. Grabbing a first aid kit he tossed it onto his workbench grumpily and rested his battered body upon a stool. He removed his cellphone and played the voicemail out loud. Busying himself with cleaning his head wound, he half listened to his messages.

“Mr. Gold. Sheriff Graham here. When you had Sydney Glass run the story with artist’s sketch, we had a couple witnesses claim to have seen her.”

Rumplestiltskin paused and stared at his phone. ‘Witnesses?’

“Give me a ring in the morning. We can arrange a time to meet with them. Oh and I took your advice about Ms. Swan being a candidate for deputy. I’m still waiting to hear back. Anyway, good night.”

‘Someone had seen Belle?’ Rumplestiltskin wanted to immediately call the Sheriff back and interrogate whoever the witnesses were. But the dizziness brought on by his very evident concussion restrained his movement for the time being. It would not aid his search for Belle if he passed out. No. He would have to wait until the symptoms subsided.

And there was Ashley to deal with. If the stupid girl thought he was going to let her get away with stealing from him, he had news for her. But he had no time to deal with her. Figuring it would be a good time to test Emma Swan's police abilities, he continued performing first aid as he thought carefully as to what he would say to her.



@>~~;~~~~

 

With his phone held to his ear, Rumplestiltskin balanced himself with his cane while he jaywalked through the street. “Good morning, Sheriff. It is Mr. Gold. I got your message.”

Strolling along, he listened intently while the Sheriff spoke. The man on the other line repeated the same information from his message and offered apologies for not contacting him sooner.

“No no. I understand. When did the witnesses want to meet? 9 am? Yeah. I'll be at the shop.”

Ending the conversation he gazed over at the clock tower. 8:15. Hopefully Ms. Swan didn't need a lot of convincing. Rumplestiltskin ducked inside a door and laboured up two flights of stairs. He took a moment to compose himself. Listening to the occupants inside the apartment shuffling about.

One last time he went over his carefully calculated responses as he rapped on the door. Upon awakening, Rumplestiltskin discovered pretty quick he could make his normal voice sound just as menacing as that of the dark one. Choosing to lean heavily on his old world accent, the brogue would catch people off guard. Lull them into whatever emotion he was spinning. Today he would make sure to fill his tone with remorse and sympathy for the girl. Knowing Emma would be more likely to help if she thought he was really trying to help the runaway teen.

Moments later he was face to face with the savior, explaining his problem. His cold heart tugged at the vibrance of her blue eyes as she sized him up just like the first time. The hue reminded him of Belle’s.

Rumplestiltskin pushed the thought away. He had a part to play if he had any hope of finding her. “I have a photo,” he stated and removed a folded bit of paper from his pocket. Without waiting for an invite, he bypassed Emma and strolled inside. He could feel the blonde watching him skeptically as she unfolded the paper.

“Her name is, uh, Ashley Boyd, and she's taken something quite valuable of mine.”

“So why don't you just call the police,” she asked point blank.

Prepared for her loaded question he turned on his heel to face her. His brow furrowed with concern. “Because uh... she's a confused young woman. She's pregnant, alone, and scared. I don't want to ruin this young girl's life, but I just want my property returned.” Rumplestiltskin smirked inside, as his accent added a tone of despair to his statement. He could see Emma was pondering his answer.

“And what is it?”

Mr. Gold looks over his shoulder sheepishly, “Ah-Well. One of the advantages of you not being the police is discretion. Let's just say it's a precious object and leave it at that.”

“When did you see her last?”

“Last night. That's how I got this.” Mr. Gold flicks a hand up and brushes back his sandy bangs exposing the angry gash.  

Emma’s eyebrows raised, slightly impressed by the mark left by the girl in the photo. Mr. Gold frowned and shrug his shoulders. “It's so unlike her. She was quite wound up, rambling on and on about changing her life.”

It was the first time her eyes averted from him. Rumplestiltskin smiled inwardly, catching sight of guilt on her face. Just as he had predicted, the savior had entwined herself with Cinderella’s plight. Now all he had to do was shift the debt onto her. Having the savior owe him a favor would be as handy as having magic. At least he knew Emma Swan wouldn’t be scared of Regina.  “I have no idea what got into her. Ms. Swan, please just help me find her. My only other choice is the police, and I don't think anyone wants to see that baby born in jail, now, do they.”

Emma frowned, a fleeting hint of sadness in her eyes vanished quickly. “No, of course not,” She replied matter of factly. Emma folded her arms over her chest defensively.

“So you'll help me then,” he asked, his tone pleading with her.

“I will help her.”

Mr. Gold nodded his approval. “Grand.” Pleased that his plan was beginning to fall into place. Suddenly Henry burst through the door, his voice carrying ahead of him. “Hey Emma, I was thinking we…” He stopped and stared awkwardly at Mr. Gold.

Sensing that Emma had all she needed from him, Mr. Gold smiled at the boy. “Hey Henry, how are you?”

Henry’s eyes were wide. The boy attempted to grin his uneasiness away, but the smile came across as fake. Clearly, Regina had warned him about Mr. Gold’s wrath. “Okay.”

“Good. Give my regards to your mother, and um... good luck Ms. Swan.” He nodded his goodbye and limped to the door.  He could hear the boy question Emma about who she thought his counterpart was, as he closed the door behind him. Rumplestiltskin smiled and left for his shop.

 

(Enchanted Forest… several months before the dark curse is cast.)

 

Rumplestiltskin appeared upon a snowy hill. Maleficent’s castle sat a mile away. His crazed eyes gazed about and assessed his surroundings. The Forbidden Fortress was tucked away in the mountains on the northern peninsula of the Enchanted Forest. Many years ago, an agreement had been made between the most powerful rulers in the realm. Everyone would keep to their territory and to stay out of the other’s affairs. Rumple owned the entire south, the Dark Castle’s village being the origin of his birthplace. Maleficent had been banished to the eternal wintery mountains after cursing Briar Rose. She had since claimed the land as her domain. After growing sick of their fighting, Rumplestiltskin gave the ogres land in the east. They remained peaceful for the most part, except for a couple rogue tribes.

Lastly, King Leopold ruled the pacifist kingdom in the west. It’s peaceful ways ceased to exist when Regina became Queen. The country was now in constant turmoil over Snow White and Regina’s strife. Their feud had interrupted the peace of the other territories.

The fierce winds whipped at him, blowing his hair and cloak in all directions. But he didn’t feel the cold. His dark curse made him impenetrable to the elements.

A flash of purple caught his eye. Turning his head in the direction to the highest tower he spotted the violet colored dragon flapping about. Her scaly wings reflected in the moonlight. With a sideways grin and a high shrill cackle, he vanished once more, this time reappearing on the bailey she was flying around.

Plopping himself on the battlement, he crossed his legs and haphazardly kicked his feet, not caring he was precariously balancing over a 30 foot drop. Rumplestiltskin made himself right at home, patting Maleficent's pet mini unicorn and summoning himself a cup of tea. He sipped and peered around, not spying her staff.

‘Of course she wouldn’t be naive enough to leave it lying around,’ Rumplestiltskin thought and silently drank while the dragon queen soared through the air. On her third lap about, he spotted the staff hanging from a chain about her neck.

Smirking smugly, he tossed back the rest of the brew and threw the cup over his shoulder. The chinaware vanished before it hit the ground. Growing bored of waiting, he finally made his presence known.

“I would join you, dearie. But I seem to have left my wings in hell,” he quipped, knowing the wind would carry his shrilling voice to her.

A trumpeting roar answered him. The dragon opened its maw. Fire flowed from its mouth and swirled around its metallic body until the dragon was encased in flames. The raging fireball soared from the sky and crashed onto the tower. Like a fire being stoked, ambers burned and popped as the dragon’s form burned away until all that was left was a curly blond haired woman. Scales had merged together to form a layered purple chiffon dress. The material wrapped around her body like a second skin.

Maleficent huffed at him. Her fathomless ocean eyes watched him with disdain. She clutched the staff. “What do you want?”

“To offer you a deal.”

“I'm done making deals with you. That sleeping curse you gave me backfired. Undone by a simple kiss.”

“Don't give me that. You knew true love could break the curse when you signed the contract.”

Maleficent pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. Her body language proved he was right.

“Besides, you made up for it. Cursing Briar Rose’s daughter and her true love at the same time was ingenious,” he complimented, knowing full well he was stroking her ego.

Rumplestiltskin saw a smirk appear at the corner of Maleficent’s full lips while she caressed her pet.

“So don’t you want to hear my deal?” He asked and flicked his wrist. A bottle of a pink glittering potion appeared in his hand.

Maleficent raised an eyebrow, not amused by the dark one’s antics. “Why would I want that?”

Rumplestiltskin’s lips stretched into a toothy impish grin. “It’s an antidote, dearie.”

He watched the dragon queen’s face fall. Her face ashen. She looked down at her precious pet with fear in her eyes. “You wouldn't,” she whispered, horrified.

He shrugged indifferent. “Somedays I don’t even know what I will do,” he trilled, positively gleeful. “So…” Rumplestiltskin danced around her. “I will give you this...” he theatrically flourished his hand as if presenting a price, “for that curse.”

The blonde’s nostrils flared, fire boiled in her blue eyes. Rumplestiltskin giggled at her discomfort. Defeated, she ripped the glass orb from the top of her staff and held it to out to him.

“Deal,” Maleficent spoke, not hesitating in her decision. Her eyes shot flames at him. As a mortal, he may have feared her death threat gaze, but instead he laughed at her like a mischievous child.

He nonchalantly tossed the bottle to her. She fumbled for it. Once secure in her grasp she growled at him. Maleficent uncorked the bottle and poured the shimmering liquid into the animal’s mouth, whispering fondly into its ear.

Rumplestiltskin smashed the orb against the battlement and unfurled the velvet lined scroll. Once satisfied it was his curse, he smirked sinisterly at her. “I was just kidding. There was no poison.”

Maleficent gasped loudly. Her fear immediately switched to rage.

“You shouldn’t be so flippant with something like this,” he teased and held up the scroll triumphantly.

“What?!” Maleficent regained her wits and swung her staff at him. He cackled and dodged her attack easily. Rumplestiltskin smirked and teleported from sight.



(Storybrooke Present day)

 

Rumplestiltskin returned to his shop with only minutes to spare. The callers to the hotline would be here soon to meet with him. As much as he tried not to be, he was anxious. Nearly a week had passed after he combed through Gold’s file on his missing wife. There was nothing in his notes regarding any witnesses. Every clue had come directly from the Sheriff.

After discovering there was no description of her anywhere, he hired an artist to draw Belle. It had been a painful hour, describing every little detail to the illustrator. But the end result was a splitting image of her. Rumplestiltskin took a copy of her picture to the local newspaper, hoping a missing person's story would be able to shed some light on Belle’s disappearance.

A bell rang, notifying him of his door opening. The hopeful expression vanished when he saw the old woodcarver and his friend, the former cricket turned doctor, Archie Hopper walk into his shop.

“Ah. Good Morning, Mr. Gold,” the old man stammered and held his golfing cap in his hands.  Archie grinned and directed his dog to sit with a motion of his hand.

“You are the callers?”

“Yes, sir. I didn’t realize she was your wife,” Marco replied.

“Neither did I,” Archie added.

“Why didn’t you say something before?”

Marco stared at a pair of creepy marionettes. “I didn’t remember it.”

“I only just realized when I saw the artist sketch in the Daily Mirror,” Archie piped up.

“Me too,” Marco began. “Strange as it sounds, after meeting Miss Swan, my memory has been sparking. Things I had forgotten about have come back! Like reverse Alzheimer's. Did you know I’ve fixed that store front sign 37 times?”

Rumplestiltskin was intrigued. He was glad to learn Emma’s presence was weakening the curse. “Where and when did you see her?”

“I was out in front of the clock store. Getting ready to fix that blasted sign. She was talking to Archie. I don’t recall what she said her name was. Or what we even talked about. It was so long ago. Afterwards, she walked towards the library. That was the last I saw of her.”

Rumplestiltskin growled inwardly. Nothing the men said was useful. Their confessions could have easily been crafted by Regina. He knew being the caster of the curse granted her a unique power. Like an author, she could change the wills and thoughts of the people under the curse with a stroke of a pen. “You are wasting my time.”

“No, I really saw her! She has these eyes… like jeweled sapphires.”

“And hair like chocolate. Oh and an accent…” the doctor chimed in. “I’ve never heard anyone else speak like that around here.”

Rumplestiltskin was truly puzzled. The men were describing her in ways that hadn’t been addressed in the paper. Specific qualities. But those were all traits Regina knew Belle possessed. She could have easily manipulated their memories. This was just another dead end. “Thanks for your time. You know where the door is.” He said and turned his back. He gripped the cane tightly, his knuckles turning white.

“Sorry we can't be more helpful,” Marco replied.

Archie frowned. He too, seemed to realize how useless their statements were. He tugged gently on Pongo’s leash and shuffled to the door. Marco followed. They both muttered a parting comment and left quickly.

Rumplestiltskin shook visibly. Fury flowed through him. His first instinct was to go after the men and throttle them for filling him with false hope.

“Hey hey! Look at me,” her voice would say, whenever he found himself succumbing to the darkness. Belle would grab his face between her warm hands and make him look her in the eyes. Somehow, her piercing gaze would calm the rage boiling inside. But she wasn’t here.

Rumplestiltskin balanced against the counter. He swung his cane with such force he smashed the glass counter. The sound of objects shattering around him artificially calmed his rage. He roared and swung again, his cane destroying more glassware.

His chest heaved and his nostrils flared as he fought off sobs. Rumplestiltskin stared at the broken bits of glass, watching the shattered pieces of his life fall around him.

Chapter Text

(Enchanted Forest… several months before the Dark Curse is cast.)

 

It was nearly evening and Rumplestiltskin had yet to return. A wintry wind howled bitterly outside the full length windows, rattling the panes of glass with a force threatening to shatter them. The cups on the tray Belle carried shook as she shuddered from the chill. She placed the white china tea set on the mahogany table and shuffled over to the fire. In the hearth, the fire roared but it struggled to heat the large room with the arctic temperatures just outside the stone walls. Belle held her cold hands over the flames, absorbing the heat.

Once warm, Belle dragged a red velvet chair closer to the heat source. There, she curled up with a down filled quilt and opened her new favorite book, entitled Skin Deep. Rumplestiltskin had recently brought the thoughtful gift back from Wonderland. She placed her hand on the inside cover and smiled warmly at the sweet message Rumple had written that lay underneath her palm. Belle fell in love with the book immediately after reading the first chapter.

Skin Deep was a sweet and tear jerking tale of a poor spinner named Beau, who gets lost on his way to sell his wares. He stumbles upon a dark fortress deep in the woods. Not finding anyone inside, he helps himself to food and warmth. The dark mistress of the castle discovers him and punishes him by locking him in the dungeon for trespassing and stealing. He offers to work for her to pay his debt. During his time there he learns the mistress is not the monster she pretends to be, but a broken woman who was cursed by a jealous and malevolent queen. Decades of loneliness had taken its toll on her. She had grown cold and hard. Beau shows her a selfless act of kindness which melts her frozen heart. They fall in love and eventually her curse is broken.

To Belle, the book was more than a uniquely written novel. It was a gender-swapped version of their own story; the two shared many similar details. She secretly wondered if that was the reason why he bought it for her. Belle flipped to the page she left off and quickly became engrossed in the book, losing track of all time.

The sound of the doors opening, signified the master of the castle had returned.

Rumplestiltskin strutted into the great hall with an added spring to his step. Belle watched him over her book. He plucked his favorite chipped cup from the tray and poured himself a brew. His eyes turned to her. She smiled warmly.

“Yes, please,” she answered, anticipating his question.

He grinned, lovestruck for a moment. Rumplestiltskin visibly shook off the haze her presence caused and busied himself with preparing her tea the way she liked it. Belle chuckled. The thought of the fearsome dark one preparing his lover's tea was so domestic. She wondered what his enemies would think if they saw him. He would most likely skewer them if they knew.

Rumplestiltskin came to her side and held a cup out to her.

“Thank you.” Smiling, she closed her book and took the hot drink from him.

Awkwardly, he smiled back and rested his bottom on her armrest. He looked down at his cup and methodically turned it until the chip faced away from him. Once satisfied, he brought the drink to his lips and drank.

Spying her book, he grinned mischievously. “Skin Deep again? I give you a library full of books… and you keep reading the same ones,” he teased in his high childish voice, a twinkle in his wild gaze.

Belle shot a playful look at him. “It is your own fault for bringing it home,” she replied with an equal sparkle in her stare. “How did your business go?”

A grin tugged at the corner of his lips. “It went as I expected it would.” An exaggerated sipping sound resounded from his cup, purposely enticing her to ask more.

Imitating the look of a mother scolding a child, she wagged her finger. “I hope you behaved.”

“About as well as you clean,” he snarked.

“Besides…” Rumplestiltskin theatrically jumped to his feet. “- I have a ‘beastly’ reputation to uphold.”

Still smiling, she rolled her eyes at his antics.  “Oh well... We can't have people think you are human.” Belle drank deeper and finished her tea.

Before she could make her body move, Rumplestiltskin was in front of her. Anticipating her actions, he took her empty cup and placed it on the tea tray. He finished his brew and placed his cup beside hers. “I had thought you made up a reason to be gone. You do have an annoying tendency to shut me out after revealing personal details.”

Rumplestiltskin strolled back to her. He held a hand out, offering to help her up.  Belle’s hand was in his. With a gentle tug he pulled her to her feet. His arms snaked around her waist. He spoke huskily as he gazed deep into her eyes. “No. I wasn't avoiding you.”

A quiet minute passed with them exchanging smoldering gazes. Rumplestiltskin bent down and feasted upon her lips. Belle could feel the tingling of magic in the kiss, just like their first time. Back then his curse had begun to broke. Now, the power of her kiss had been nullified by a potion of his own creation.  

Breaking away, he smiled. His dark features softened considerably in her presence. “Quite the opposite, in fact. Our little conversation last night gave me an idea,” he added and strutted over to the table. He greedily snatched a fruit tart and popped the entire thing into his mouth.

Belle followed him and hopped up onto the table. She arranged her skirts about her while he chewed. “What idea?”

Rumplestiltskin continued noshing, dragging out the motion to raise her intrigue. “Well. As you are aware… I was crafting something quite special months ago.”

“The Dark Curse,” she answered.

“Indeed. Originally, my desires were simple. I just wanted to get to that world. So I didn't consider much about my life other than the basics. Immensely Rich. Powerful. A man to be feared.”

Belle watched him, curious as to what the dark curse could have to do with their talk. “Go on.”

“When you said you wish you knew me then, it made me think. We can't go back in time, but we can create a happy life in the new land. I can reset my persona to the man I was before meeting my first wife. We can see how much of an effect you have on me with my past out of the way.” He held up the small scroll and waved it around.

“Is that the dark curse? But you traded that away to Regina months ago.”

“I did.” Rumplestiltskin shrugged.  “For whatever reason she traded it to Maleficent. It worked out in my favor. Maleficent was easier to reclaim it from.”

Belle eyes were wide, her mouth parted with intrigue. Her tongue peeked out, wetting her lips. “How do we... uh... create this life?”

“The only way it can be done,” he smirked and pulled her into his arms. “Together,” he whispered huskily and captured her lips in a searing kiss.

Soon after, they occupied his study. Belle sat at his desk, scrawling ideas for their next life across a parchment.

Finished, she turned her gaze to Rumplestiltskin. He stood beside her. Having abandoned his travel clothes, he had stripped down to a simple blue silk shirt and leather pants. Rumplestiltskin unfurled the curse. Unfastening the paper from the dollies, he laid the six-inch strip of paper flat upon the desk. He held a small bottle and poured out the single drop of magic from inside.

The curse flashed with light and floated upwards until it hovered a foot above the desk. With a flick of his wrist, the curse unraveled like a rope, splitting into hundreds of sections resembling paper. He touched the papyrus material and swiped through layers of the magic, each one a different color on the spectrum. Further and further he thumbed through, looking for a specific section in the curse. When he reached the correct spot, it sparkled like gold. He waved his hands about, manipulating the magic embedded in the curse.

“What is that?”

“My cursed persona in the new world.” He peered over at her list twisting the magic to her specifications. “I'm adjusting my characteristics a bit. And adding what you want.” He paused and frowned.

Belle’s head tilted to the side, her brow furrowed. “What’s wrong?”

Rumplestiltskin sneered, more annoyed at himself. “I forgot something. Can you hold your finger here?” he asked.

Without replying, Belle gave him her hand. He positioned her finger on the ripple of magic as if holding his place in a book. She squirmed. The curse felt like she was touching frigid water.

“Stay like that,” he commanded and popped from the room.

Taking her mind off the frosty feeling in her fingertips, she read over the details she grafted for her cursed self. They were simplistic. Truthfully, it was hard to plan a life in ‘The Land Without Magic’ without knowing much about the realm. The world had been cut off from all others prior to Rumplestiltskin’s existence, without any explanation as to why. The distant world, as far as anyone knew, was only reachable by beans. With it being so hard to get to, and to return from, literature about the isolated land was scarce.

The small knowledge Rumplestiltskin passed onto her had been what he learned either from word of mouth or had gleaned from his visions. All they knew was that the world was far more modernized and advanced in ways that could not be comprehended in comparison to the primitive technology in the Enchanted Forest.

As customary, when he returned, opting to not reappear in the room to spare scaring her, she heard his steps on the stairs. When his form came into view, she spied a freshly spun strand of gold clutched in his grasp. As he meandered over to her he flicked his free hand, summoning a pair of magical scissors. Reaching the desk, he evenly divided the string and snipped it half. The severed end floated down to the desk.

“Hold it steady…” he muttered. As if tying a shoe, he wrapped the string around the magic and formed a bow. Once tied, the gold string melted, absorbed by the magic around it. Shimmering one final time, it vanished.

Belle was glad to remove her hand. The coldness in her finger disappeared instantly.

Rumplestiltskin returned to swiping through the various layers. Tireless minutes passed as he sifted through layer after layer of colored magic.

“Are all those colors all the people of this land?” A confirmation to her theory rumbled in his throat. He paused in his movements and stopped on a baby blue hued layer.  “Here you are. Do have your list ready?”

“I think so.”

Keeping one hand on the curse, Rumple dragged the paper closer. Wild eyes scanned over her persona suggestions. “You don’t have a purpose listed.”

“I wasn’t really sure what I could do in this new land.”

Rumple appeared to be in deep thought for a moment. A sweet smile crept across his face. “How about owning a library?”

Belle's eyes lit up. This would be the second time he gave her a room full of books. “Really?”

“If it is what you want, I can make it happen.”

“Yes please,” she squealed, barely containing her excitement. Belle stepped up on her toes to give him a kiss on his golden cheek.

Gobsmacked by her kiss, he blinked stupidly as if he had forgotten for a moment what he was doing. Regaining his wits, Rumplestiltskin waved his hands about and tweaked her cursed persona. “There is a needle there. I need you to prick your finger and let a drop of blood fall onto the gold thread.”

Belle again followed his instruction, knowing he wouldn't ask her to spill her own blood if it wasn't necessary. She bit her lip and jabbed the tip of her finger. A wince escaped her lips as a small amount of blood pooled from the small pin prick. She turned her hand over and pressed her finger against the string. Making contact with the string caused it erupt with magic. The red mark from her blood changed to blue. It spread until the entire strand of Rumple's spun gold changed color; now matching the hue of herself in the curse.

With one hand on the curse, he grabbed her hand. He brought the bloody digit to his lips. The heat from his breath healed the small wound. The blood vanished. Kissing the tip, he smiled at her. “Now… tie it around.”

Rumple’s healing made her cheeks flush with arousal. Steadying her breath, she focused on the task at hand. Mimicking Rumple from before, she looped the blue-gold strand around and pulled it tight. Just like with his, the thread became one with the magic of the curse.

With their alterations complete, Rumplestiltskin crushed the layers of magic within his tight grasp. The curse bound back together. He opened his fist, letting it fall. The restored paper fluttered to the table. Deftly, he reattached it to the dolles and rolled it up.

“And now, to return it to the dragon. Be back shortly.” He cackled childishly. With the newly amended dark curse tucked safely away, he kissed her cheek and vanished from sight.

Belle smiled and giggled to herself. When the curse did come, they would be happily together.

 

 

(Storybrooke, Asylum)

 

Blue eyes struggled to open. Belle sat up and clutched her head. Every part of her felt weak. The temptation to fall back asleep was great. Whatever drugs Regina had Nurse Ratched give her were strong. The hazy after effects reminded her of the cursed tea the evil queen tricked her into drinking once. That particular brew had inebriated her. Just like then, her brain struggled to make connections.

Belle furrowed her brow. Her eyes tried to focus on the door. She waited quietly, sure she had heard something. The small flap on the door opened slowly and silently. Belle assumed the person on the other side didn't want to be heard. She threw the thin blanket off and slid her legs over the bed. A small bundle was pushed through the slot. It landed with a soft thump onto the floor.

A pair of steely blue eyes watched her, but she couldn't place who they belonged to. A hand reached through the slot. Clutched in its grasp was a strange looking gadget. Confused, Belle looked directly at the circle on the back. After a moment of holding the flat black rectangle steady, the person removed their hand. The slot closed without a word.

Belle willed herself out of bed. She dropped to her knees when she reached the package. Cautiously, she unwrapped it and gasped when she saw it was a book. She clutched the tome in her hands, tears grew in her eyes.

“Skin Deep.” The book's reappearance filled her with renewed energy. Her head felt less cloudy now that she had something new to focus on. Belle opened the book and held back a sob at the sight of Rumple's neat handwriting on the inside cover.

 

Belle,

Just like the heroine of this novel, you have shown me that even the most heinous of monsters can be loved. Thank you for being the light in a dark world. And for giving me hope for a future.

Yours… R.

 

Tears flowed down her cheeks. She cradled the book against her breast as if she were hugging him. The words Rumple had written years ago was the closest he had ever come to admitting his love for her.

A pencil slipped out from the book’s spine. Puzzled, Belle picked it up. She sniffled and swayed to her feet. Still clutching the book tightly, she returned to her bed. Fingers flipped through the familiar pages. She frowned when she spied someone had marked her treasured book up! Random words and letters were circled.

Studying the circled letters on one page, she realized combined they formed a word. Belle took ahold of the pencil and began writing the letters down in the back of the book. Several minutes passed as she flipped back and forth between the pages and jotted each clue. Once she was sure she found all the words, she read the message.

“I know who you are and that you are ‘awake.’ I will help you. However, your escape will have to be handled carefully to not alert the queen. Be patient and don’t lose hope.”

Belle smiled through her tears. Flipping the pencil around she carefully erased all traces of the message until it was gone. She tucked the pencil back inside the spine. Belle returned to the first chapter and smiled, grateful for the welcome distraction while she waited.

“Chapter One: The Lame Spinner. Beau was not very handsome… but his kind nature made up for what he lacked in charisma...”

Chapter Text

(Storybrooke, Present day)

 

Rumplestiltskin tapped his fingers anxiously as he sat in his Lincoln town car. Every couple of minutes his amber eyes darted across the street to the police station parking lot, keeping a careful watch for Storybrooke’s sheriff. He suspected the man was working for Regina and figured it would be best to wait for him to be gone. While he staked out, Rumplestiltskin attempted to plan his words carefully just as he had done when addressing the savior previously. However, his usually sharp mind was scattered by a bombshell of a text. The message contained no words. Just a crystal clear image of a very familiar beauty.

Rumplestiltskin’s heart seized in his chest when he first saw Belle's picture; the pain mimicked a heart attack. Once the initial shock had vanished and his heart returned to a normal rhythm, he held his phone close to his heart, as if holding her. Even after all these years, the sight of Belle still filled him with hope.

He tried to reach out to the unnamed sender but all of his messages failed. Whoever they were, they did not want to be known. Was this another lead created by Regina's lapdog? Or was someone secretly working against her?

Rumplestiltskin peered across the street again. He stiffened when he spotted the sheriff exit the building. Graham quickly hopped into his cruiser and pulled away.

Satisfied he was gone, Rumplestiltskin pulled into the station and parked. Hastily, he grabbed his cane and climbed from the vehicle. He lumbered up the walkway and inside the station. Down a long windowed hallway and a right turn, he arrived in the main room of the station.

Emma Swan was moving about, performing her job with ease. Just yesterday she had daringly rescued Dr. Hopper and Henry from a collapsed mine shaft. He heard from the doctor that Emma had stood her ground against Regina, resulting with the mayor backing down for Henry's benefit. The woman was fearless, just like his Belle.

The no-nonsense blonde paid him no mind as she released Leroy from his cell.

Mr. Gold ignored him and looked about, disinterested as he waited for a moment alone with the new deputy.

“Should I leave the key under the mat for you to let yourself in? It would save me a lot of time arresting you later,” Emma commented dryly and hooked the cell keys onto her belt.

“Real funny, sister,” Leroy replied sarcastically and left the station.

Emma turned to Mr. Gold. Hands folded firmly over her chest and chin tilted slightly upwards, she eyed him down. The bravery in her manner was strongly reminiscent of her parents. Snow White’s defiance burned in her eyes, and Charming's arrogant posture was ingrained in her stance. He could see from her body language she was still pissed about their last arrangement.

Choosing to go with an ice breaker, Mr. Gold grinned. “You know that was the first earthquake I have ever felt here in Storybrooke. Oh! Great work by the way... Saving your boy from the dangerous mines.”

Emma’s blue gaze flashed at him. “I doubt you came all the way down here to compliment me on my job performance.”

“And why wouldn't I? I am, after all, responsible for getting you the job.”

Emma scoffed at him. “I got this job myself. Graham offered it to me.”

Mr. Gold grinned smugly and chuckled lightly. “Tell me, Ms. Swan. Don’t you think it was odd for him to offer a law enforcement position to an outsider of our quaint town?”

The blonde’s stoic stance faltered for a second. “No. I don't. He wouldn’t have asked me if he didn't think I was capable.”

Mr. Gold snickered. “Actually, he wouldn't have pursued you without my word. I… reminded him about the budget surplus and I... told him to hire you.”

Emma's jaw dropped. “No way.”

“You will find out, Ms. Swan I have a way with people.” Mr. Gold smirked.

The fury was evident in her eyes, but absent elsewhere. Ms. Swan was more like her father than she knew. Charming was good at internalizing his emotions. “What do you want, Gold?”

He removed a folded paper from his pocket and tossed it on the desk. Recognizing the scenario from their exchange days earlier, Emma’s eyebrow lifted. “If you think you got me this job to track down your truant lessees, think again.”

“This has nothing to do with my business associates,” Gold hissed, his anger getting the better of him for a moment. Emma rolled her eyes.

Before his ire could disillusion her, he changed tactics, choosing honesty. “This is about my wife, Belle...” he began, fighting to keep his voice devoid of the emotion brewing inside. “I have been chasing false leads on her for years.”

“False leads?”

“I believe her captor has someone planting clues for me to follow; each leading to dead ends.”

Emma’s forehead wrinkled. He could see her curiosity winning over as she retrieved the paper. Her guarded gaze skimmed it over. “And how is this lead different from the others?”

“This is the first photo evidence I have of her in captivity.”

Emma frowned and studied the picture more thoroughly. “It is good quality. Where did the photo come from?”

“A text message.”

“Do you still have the message?”

Leaning heavily on his cane, Gold removed his phone from his pocket. With a flick of his thumb he unlocked the screen. A couple taps of his finger and the message appeared. Gold turned the phone around for Emma to see.

“May I?” she asked.

He nodded and relinquished his hold on the cellphone. Emma carried the device over to a very modernized computer. The new technology was out of place among the jurassic PCs around the room. Emma plopped into a chair. She plugged his phone into a USB and fired up her laptop. Without a word, she typed furiously. Her actions pulled up several programs and various screens.

Mr. Gold followed her and leaned in for a closer look, curious about the methods people devised in ‘The Land Without Magic’. “What is that?”

“A handy software program I altered to assist in tracking down runners.” Emma smiled half heartedly. She seemed to be proud of herself for her accomplishment.

“What does it do?”

“It will scan every detail in the code of the message and photo. With any luck, the scans should reveal who sent the photo,” she explained and began thumbing through the data. Silent minutes passed as her blue eyes skimmed through the technical information.

“Ugh…” she groaned.

“What is it?”

Emma turned to Gold with a defeated look. “Whoever took this photo used a burner phone. The sender is untrackable. The only information I can see are the details about the file itself. The photo was taken yesterday morning.”

“So the photo is real then... and not a forgery.”

Emma shook her head. “It is real. My program would have detected any anomalies.”

“What are you going to do now?”

Emma unhooked his phone and returned it to him. He could see she was deep in thought as she glanced over at the photo, then back at him. “How do I know Belle is actually your wife and not some clever scheme you invented?”

“Check your filing cabinet,” he gritted out.

Emma shot him a “you better not be screwing with me look.” Gold returned her doubtful gaze with an equally fierce “try me.”

The deputy rolled her eyes and rose from her chair. His eyes followed her as she busied herself at the filing cabinet. She flicked through the files and removed two thick folders filed under “Mrs. Gold.” She carried the bundles over to the desk and deposited them.

“Case number: 02-122-012. Mrs. Gold.” Emma looked over at him. Gold inhaled a deep breath and tightened his hold on his cane. He said nothing and looked down at the file. Returning to the chair, Emma opened the file and began reading. “Did she really vanish the day after your wedding?”

Knowing he had to stick with the curse explanation for her disappearance, he nodded, choosing not to set off her superpower with words.

“Are you sure she just didn't run away?”

Gold’s nose twitched in annoyance at her joking tone. “No…” he seethed. “She did not run away,” he gritted, squeezing the handle on his cane tightly. “And contrary to what this town thinks… I have had no hand in her demise.”

“Sorry,” she offered, her voice a little kinder. “It's just…you are a dick.”

Gold rolled his eyes. “I know what this town thinks about me and I don’t give a damn. Belle's opinion is the only one that matters,” he snapped, baring his teeth. Belle’s sweet voice echoed in his head, reminding him to keep his temper in check. He took a couple deep breaths, Emma's eyes were studying him.

“Do you love her?”

Gold licked his lips nervously, her honest question caught him off guard. He knew she was testing him. How he answered would determine if she would help. Meeting Emma's eyes, he dropped his own guards. He placed his hand over his heart.

“Yes.” His voice cracked as he regretted not yet saying the words to Belle. “More than she even knows… so, please.” Gold paused and patted his hand over his heart, and begged her with his eyes. “Help her.”  

They stared each other down as he waited for her to answer. “I want it clear… I am doing this for her... NOT you. Got it?”

Gold held his hand up in a mea culpa gesture. “Whatever motivates you to find her.”

Emma gazed at the photo. “We could start checking basements.”

“Basements? What makes you think she is being held underground?”

Emma pointed to the small rectangular window near the ceiling, behind Belle. “You see here, the way the light shines in at that angle? This room must be below ground level.”

Gold growled. “Dammit. Nearly every building in this forsaken town has a basement.”

“Let's start with the station’s basement.”


@>~~~;~~~~~

 

(Enchanted Forest: 3 months after Rumplestiltskin threw Belle out)


Rumplestiltskin waited upon a shadowy ledge high above the congregation in the Espenson Chapel. Wide, wild eyes darted around the room, assessing the situation. Down below, late arriving guests shuffled in. They scurried to their seats, tongues wagging gleefully.

Spread around the room were armed guards. Rumplestiltskin assumed the extra security was for Lord Maurice’s ego and not the Valencian King’s protection. The dark one’s swirling amber gaze locked upon the groom to be. King Gareth did not need a guardian. Once a high ranking knight, he was immensely skilled in several forms of combat. His large size and bulging muscles were enough to make the average mortal fear him.

Rumplestiltskin’s nose wrinkled in disgust. The burly King was not Belle's type. ‘This marriage could not her own choice! That cretin of father of hers must be behind this,’ he thought as he peered around the hall for any sight of her.

‘No Belle,’ he scowled. Perhaps it was a good thing he hadn't seen her yet. There was still time to run. But he could not run. What was he doing here?! All these thoughts run rampant through his mind, driving him to insanity.

Rumplestiltskin wished he had thrashed Prince Charming for unsettling him. The Prince’s words yesterday had irked him enough for him to abandon his plan for the day and check on her.  

 

“What do you know about true love?” Charming asked after losing in a sword fight to the Dark One. The defeated prince folded his arms over his chest and tipped his chin upwards.

Rumplestiltskin knew Charming would have to take his deal if he wanted to escape Regina's Infinite Forest. But the prince was rather thick at times, usually choosing to gain answers with his sword over exchanging words.  

“Not so much as you perhaps, but not as little as you may think.” The pain of being reminded of Belle was evident in his sneer. Dangling from Rumplestiltskin’s hand was the true love potion.

“You? You love someone?” Charming asked, not even attempting to disguise the disbelief in his tone.

Rumplestiltskin heaved a sigh. The former shepherd struck deep with his question, proving he had a few brain cells circling around in his head. He had hoped he could get through a day without thinking about Belle, but that was impossible. Even now, her absence haunted him.

Hoping to steer this dialogue back to the potion, he answered honestly in a heavily accented tone, emphasizing syllables. “It was a brief flicker of light amidst an ocean of darkness.”

Charming's brow furrowed curiously. “What happened?”

“I let her go,” Rumplestiltskin said more softly, taking a moment to carefully chose his words. With his voice more even and less theatric, he continued, “Here's the thing about true love, dearie. Not all of us are good people like yourself.  We don't deserve to have it. Monsters like me…” the dark one paused and looked off in the distance. “...we end up destroying the people that love us. She is better off.”

Charming frowned. Rumplestiltskin watched his handsome features shift to empathy. “Is that what she wanted?”

The Dark One shook his head. “Probably not. But that doesn't matter.”

“Does she love you?”

Rumplestiltskin knew the answer but shrugged, hoping his standoffish nature would steer the conversation back to his goal.

The prince appeared to not believe him. “She will never find love with anyone else. Once you have true love, no one else will ever compare.”

 

He just had to see she was happy. If he did, he could convince himself to walk away forever, knowing he made the best choice. The sound of the guests below shifting around in their seats alerted him that the object of his desire had finally arrived.

Belle was breathtaking. His heart sped up in his chest. There it was again. The feeling of hope she aroused in him. She was a beautiful bride. Brunette tendrils were piled high on top of her head like a grecian goddess. A few hairs framed her sweet face. His eyes fell upon her plump, painted red lips.  The thought of her velvety mouth pressed against his popped into his mind. He shut out the memory. He did not want to relive the biggest mistake of his life again. He had spent months agonizing over her.

The woman walking down the aisle was not an image of a nervous bride. There was no happiness in her body language. Duty was the only emotion accompanying her down the aisle.

Once Belle reached the pulpit, her father kissed her cheek. Rumple couldn't hear what the man said as he took her hand and offered it to King Gareth. Maurice took a few steps aside. The King kissed her hand, as was customary, and dropped it.  

The Dark One could see her more clearly from his perch now. Belle wore the same determined “do or die” look she had the first time they met. This was not his Belle. She was no longer carefree. Her eyes lost their adventurous luster. Rumplestiltskin stole a gaze at Maurice. The man looked as if he just met King Midas.

Rumplestiltskin had to stop this wedding, but for the first time in his immortal life, he was at a loss for words. How could he illicit fear in people if he was a fumbling buffoon? His nose twitched while his brain searched for answers. His seer-like powers did not provide even a hint as to what he should say.

King Gareth’s priest stepped forward with the virgin’s flame; an ivory white candle that was lit by the bride to symbolize her innocence and to begin the ritual. Belle picked up the long match and brought it to the wick.

It was now or never.

A loud, childish cackle resounded around the chapel. Belle turned abruptly and dropped the match. She gasped, flabbergasted by his sudden appearance. They were all stunned to see Rumplestiltskin standing just at the foot of the steps. Decked in scaly leather and a tattered, fur lined nobleman's cloak. The chapel grew fearfully silent and he grinned wickedly. He could feel Belle staring at him in disbelief; mouth agape and eyes wide.

King Gareth held his hand over his sword, awaiting the Dark One to make a move. Evidently, he did not know about his soon-to-be bride's connection to Rumplestlitskin.

However, Maurice and his guards had no such patience and withdrew their swords immediately. Upon Maurice's order, they surrounded Belle.

“Oh no you don't!” her father hissed. “You released her from the deal! She is under no further obligation to you,” he challenged and jabbed his sword at Rumplestiltskin.

With a snap of his fingers, their weapons transformed into snakes. The men recoiled and dropped the slithering creatures. With a gentleness betraying his size, Gareth pulled Belle back a few steps. He looked determined to protect her if necessary.

Rumplestiltskin smiled inwardly, silently grateful someone else could see her for the treasure she was. “Everything you said... is true.”  The Dark One strolled around the altar and plucked a gift from a table. He held it to his ear and gave it an exaggerated shake. Upon guessing what was inside, he wrinkled his nose in disgust and tossed the present back. “However, I did not release her so she could be placed in a new prison.” His eyes locked with hers. That blue gaze had come to life. The dutiful Belle was gone. Her eyes were once again filled with intrigue and hope.

Maurice stood defiantly, drawing Rumplestiltskin’s attention away from his daughter. “An entire Kingdom at her beck and call is not what I call a prison.” The Dark One glared at him, wishing he could end the man's life. Maurice was a selfish man and cared about nothing but his own comfort. But Rumplestiltskin knew, no matter how much he detested the portly man, he would not harm him, because of Belle… Unless she wanted him to.

“Is that what you want, Belle...” even though he spoke to her, his menacing glare never left Maurice. The nobleman stood his ground, glaring back. “To marry a king and rule the people?”

He could feel Belle’s eyes as they stared at him. He stole a glance at her from the corner of his eye, and saw the confusion in her expression. Just three months ago he had cast her out, and now he was offering her a lifeline.

“Of course it is!” Maurice protested.

“No.” A soft word carried over to his ears. Ending his pissing contest with her father, Rumplestiltskin’s eyes found hers once more. With an embrace of their gazes, he watched a smile creep across her lips. “No. I don't want to marry King Gareth. No one should be made to marry someone they don’t love.”

Maurice jerked around. “Belle… you can't mean that.”

Belle ignored her father and turned to Gareth. Taking his saucer-sized hand in her own, she smiled hopefully at him. “Go find Magdalena. Show her the love in your heart. True love can vanquish any darkness.”

Gareth bent down and placed a kiss on her hand. “Thanks for restoring my hope.”

Belle smiled and added, “Good luck.” With a final glance at the King, she pushed her way through the throng of guards and to the edge of the steps. Belle placed a hand on her father’s arm as King Gareth quietly exited the hall. Maurice sputtered at his retreating form.

“Let him go. He doesn't love me and I don't love him.”

“Love? Love is just a myth. This isn't a book! Marriage isn't about love! It is about commitment. A duty to the people.”

“Love does exist. I know because I have felt it.” Belle's eyes fell upon Rumplestiltskin again.

The Dark One could hear the congregation whispering behind him. He ignored their buzzing and focused on Belle.

Maurice’s face dropped. He turned a horrified look to the Dark One. “No… Belle. You couldn't possibly…”

“It is true.”

Maurice took a couple steps down, leaving just a foot between him and Rumplestiltskin. “What is this? Is this your idea of a joke? Bewitching her and sending her back to us?”

Rumplestiltskin stood stoically. An impish grin tugged at his lips.

“Father.” Her voice commanded the man to look at her. “Magic can't create love.”

Maurice looked as if his aorta would rupture at her confession. The wedding guests muttered amongst themselves as the scene unfolded.

Rumplestiltskin scowled silently. Dammit! He would have to do something quite evil to reinstate their fear in him. No matter. His reputation could take a hit if it meant she was free from this new hell.

“I have a new offer,” he paused, knowing every ear was listening.

Belle was watching him intently. Her bottom lip was trapped between her teeth, waiting for him to continue.

“Stay here and live out your life based on your father's choices-” Rumple’s hands flourished toward Maurice, “-Or you can leave with me!”

More shocked reactions rumbled from the crowd. Hastily, he added “With the promise of finding you a more suitable match, of course.”

Without a single moment of hesitation, Belle answered. “I want to leave with you.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, giving her a chance to change her mind.

Before she could reply, her father grabbed her arm and forced her to face him. A muscle twitched in Rumplestiltskin’s cheek. It took all of his restraint to not turn the man into a snail.

“Belle!” Maurice shook her. “This madness!”

Belle wasn't deterred by Maurice's fury. Bravely she reached up and loosened his grip on her. “Father, please understand…”

Maurice glared coldly at her. “No! You understand this: if you leave this chapel with…” he paused and shot a disgusted look at Rumplestiltskin. The Dark One smiled mischievously back.  Maurice turned his rage back to Belle and continued, “-with him...you are NEVER allowed to return. You will be dead to me,” he threatened.

“You don't mean that…” Belle pleaded, holding his hands in her own.

Maurice snatched his hands from her grasp, as if he had just touched a leper. “I do!” He hissed nastily. “If you choose to be his… his whore, then I have no daughter.”

Rumplestiltskin’s hands were balled tightly at his sides. He was sorely pressed to burn the man alive for insulting her. The last man who had insinuated she was a harlot had his tongue magically ripped from his mouth. But Belle was unmoved by his threats and insults.  

“Then I guess I am not your daughter,” she replied with no regret in her tone. “Goodbye, Maurice.” Belle added and gathered her skirts. Descending the stairs, she joined Rumplestiltskin at his side.

Rumplestiltskin snaked an arm around her just like their first encounter. He giggled wildly, like a child winning their favorite game. With a wave of his hands, they vanished from sight.

Chapter Text

(Enchanted Forest)

 

Arriving at the front doors, they creaked open, admitting the master and his guest inside. Rumplestiltskin strolled quickly ahead of her. He heard the rustling of her skirts joined by the gentle clicking of her shoes as she tried keeping up with his speedy stride. Without ceasing his steps, he unfastened his cloak and tossed it onto the round table centered in foyer, nearly knocking over the large rose arrangement sitting upon its gleaming surface.

“Oh!” he heard her squeak. Belle had gotten her heel tangled in the material of her skirts and teetered precariously forward.

Instantly his arms were around her waist, catching her before her face met the floor. Not a word fell from his lips. With his hands about her tiny waist, he steadied her and inched her backwards against the table. Blue orbs gazed bewildered at him. His eyes locked with hers. Their faces so close, he could feel her breath ragged and hot. Her tongue peeked out, moistening her dry lips.

As if his will wasn't his own, one hand had snaked around to the small of her back, pulling her tighter to him, while the other caressed her cheek. His pent up desire for her pulsed like fire through his veins and to his loins.

Belle closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. Her simple action knocked him out of his loved-induced daze.

‘What the hell am I doing?’ Rumplestiltskin thought and suddenly pulled away.

Her eyes snapped open. He could see the disappointment in their depths. Ignoring her hurt gaze, he dropped down to one knee. Reaching under the hem of her skirt, he tugged at the fabric until it released from her heel. Rumplestiltskin stood and took a few steps back. Trying to diffuse the intimacy of the atmosphere about them, he smirked.

“You remember where the kitchens are, right? I'm a bit peckish,” he stated and giggled maniacally like nothing had changed. Rumplestiltskin strolled away from her, putting distance between them. Their close proximity had reminded him of a reason why leather pants were not always a good choice. He just hoped Belle did not notice. He leaned over the dining table and pretended to be engrossed in research. Hiding his stiffening phallus under the table, he willed it to go away.

With skirts balled in her fists, Belle stormed over to his side. “What the hell was that?”

Rumplestiltskin feigned stupidity, which was a feat for the all-knowing being. “What? I untangled your dress. You are welcome.”

“Not my dress. The new deal. Why? The last I checked, you didn't care.”

That line struck like a knife at his heart, infuriating him. His lip turned up in a sneer. “I never said I didn’t care,” he hissed through clenched teeth.

Belle rolled her eyes and folded her arms over her chest. Blue eyes flashed in defiance. It was the same look she gave him whenever she stood her ground. With every bit of sass she could muster, she retorted. “Well, you never said you did either! I have made it abundantly clear how I feel... why can’t you?”

Rumplestiltskin’s nostrils flared. She was backing him into a corner and he did not like it. Belle had been back in his castle for a miniscule amount of time and yet she was already shaking him to his very core.

“Why am I here?” she persisted, her vibrant eyes locked with his in a battle.

“I made you an offer and you chose to come,” he replied, knowing full well his answer was flippant and not the one she sought.

“Quit avoiding the topic!”

Rumplestiltskin leaned in close, their noses touching. “Then ask the right question,” he snipped back, challenging her to go on. His eyes flashed with anger. Had she been anyone else, he would have incinerated her for making him feel so vulnerable. The emotions she brought up in him frightened him. Love was a very unfamiliar territory. The one time he thought he had it, he was crushed to learn it was a lie.

Breaking their gaze, he turned on his heel and removed himself to his spinning wheel. With his back to her, he picked up a bundle of straw. He should have known she wasn’t going to drop it that easily.

Belle rushed over and wretched the hay from his hand, tossing it aside. His hand lingered in the air for a moment before seceding to his lap. He stared forward as he always did when she demanded answers.

“You didn’t want me here before. What changed?”

Rumplestiltskin grew quiet. The masque of the dark one slipped from his face, replaced by an epic pain. He was a very broken man. With the childish theatrics absent from his voice, he spoke. The sound was a low, heavily accented brogue that was pleasing to the ears; a stark contrast from his impish trill. “It is not because... I don’t want you here. I admit… I…uh- ‘enjoy’ your… company. But…” Rumplestiltskin frowned as he scrambled for words. Frustrated he was reduced to bumbling idiocy, he snapped. “I’m the Dark One! It’s impossible for you to be happy here with a monster.”

Belle spoke softly, her eyes never leaving his. “But I was. Perfectly content in fact. Until you threw me out…”

Rumplestiltskin winced at her biting accusation. He deserved that. He regretted that terrible moment every day. He tried to convince himself she would be happier elsewhere, but even the somewhat thick Prince Charming caught on to that lie. Rumplestiltskin was at an utter loss for words. Years of carefully guarding his secrets, building a terrifying facade to block the pain, had made it difficult to be honest with anyone. “Eventually you won’t be. I can’t give you want you want…”

“Why?”

‘Why indeed?’ He had no idea what he was doing with her. Every decision he made today was on a whim. In all the years with his psychic powers, he never once foresaw Belle coming into his life. She was an anomaly to his sight. Every second with her was a complete unknown. If he wasn't too careful, she could unintentionally bring him down.

“I need my power to find my son,” he began and stared at the floor. Belle stood patiently, waiting for him to continue. “My power is tied to my curse. Your kiss will take that all away.” He shook his head and finally met her gaze. “And I can't lose it. Not yet.”

“I can wait.”

‘I can wait.’ Those were not the words he expected her to say. But she never did anything he expected. Like now, Belle’s hands were on each side of his face, holding him gently. Her eyes bore into his.

“I love you, Rumplestiltskin. And I will wait for you to find your son.”

The darkness in his heart melted under her gaze. His lips moved but no words formed on his tongue. Suddenly his throat felt dry. He swallowed hard and licked his lips. There was no denying the emotion exalting from her. Belle's eyes shimmered with love for him.

Finding his voice, he cleared his throat. His mortal voice cracked. “You may never live that long. No sense in wasting your time on something that may never happen.”

Without giving him any indication as to what she was doing, Belle sat across his lap. His demonic eyes widened. This situation was too unpredictable and it made him feel a hundred degrees awkward. Belle’s gaze glistened with admiration and desire for him. The jeweled orbs stared into his as she lovingly caressed his cheeks.

“You have ruined me for all men.”

He was puzzled. Her statement was an accusation but there was no hint of despair in her voice or manner. She sounded glad.  “Did your association with me make it hard to readjust?”

“No. Every man I met at court treated me the same as before. Like a quiet, beautiful statue, to admire and show off. They didn't want to hear me speak unless it was to flatter their egos. And whenever they spoke to me, I would find my thoughts drifting to you…”

As she spoke, he tried to maintain his composure, but he was finding it extremely difficult. Every one of his senses was being assaulted by her. The scent of her perfume and the softness of her touch aroused him. “Wondering how much of a beast they aren't in comparison?”

Belle shook her head and smiled. “They don't fill me with the same feeling as you do. I can't be myself with them. If I had married that King my life would be forever wasted as an obedient wife to a man who loved someone else.”

Rumplestiltskin nodded. Indeed, her life would be wasted on such fools. They had no idea what kind of treasure she truly was. Nor did they know how to nurture her thirst for knowledge.

Belle smiled mischievously. “Besides. There are plenty of other things we could do besides kissing.”

Rumplestiltskin kept his face blank, but inside he was lost in an abyss of confusion. She loved him and now she had just suggested sex. A rampant thought of her moaning while he took her right there at the spinning wheel ran through his mind. He squashed it, but not before the salacious desire added to his telltale bulge. He silently prayed her skirts were full enough for her to not notice. “Unfortunately, that too is not possible.”

“If you are just trying to be a gentleman to ‘maintain my virtue until I come to my senses,’ I won't be put off so easily.” She snickered wickedly. “You can't deny you don't want to.”

Rumplestiltskin shook his head and did his best to ignore his rising desire. “Do you think the power of true love stops at a kiss? If a couple are indeed true love, even their... um... love making would be able to expel a curse. It's not the kiss that the power comes from, but the souls.”

“Oh…” Seductive as she might be, Belle's cheeks still flushed at the thought of carnal relations. Her reaction was evidence of her virgin innocence. He assumed her only experience came from books or late nights of self-exploration.

A long moment quietly passed with them still sitting in each other’s arms. Rumplestiltskin rested his cheek upon the top of her head while she lay hers on his shoulder. The heady smell of bathing soaps still lingered on her scalp. He closed his eyes and lost himself in her embrace. The feeling filled him with a homey warmth.  A sweetness he had never experienced in his long life. It was comforting. Peaceful. Full of hope.

He wanted so much to tell her he loved her too. But he couldn't say the words. Villians do not get happy endings. He was too frightened the fates would snatch her away if he admitted the truth in his heart. If only he could show her his love through sex. But that too wasn't an option at this time. They were trapped together. In love with each other. A love neither of them could fully realize.

“I'm sorry.” His arms tightened around her. “It was a terrible thing for me to do… to throw you out.”

Belle stiffened with surprise in his arms. “Thank you,” she replied, seemingly stunned by his apology. Hearing the words come from his own mouth astounded him.

‘There must be a way to block the power of her love,’ Rumplestiltskin thought as he clung to her, relishing in the warmth of her body pressed against his.

 

@>~~~;~~~~~




(Storybrooke: Present time)

 

Emma and Mr. Gold never did get a chance to check the basement. Gold chose to abort the mission once Graham returned to the station. The Sheriff was in a state of agitation. He was delirious and rambling about his heart being gone. The poor man did not know how right he was. Rumplestiltskin knew Regina had his heart, allowing her the power to control the man's every move. The fact that Graham was unhinged could only mean he was awakening. Regina would be on the warpath. Not wanting anything to do with that mess, Gold left Emma to deal with him.

Later that night tragic news flew through the town. Sheriff Graham suffered a fatal heart attack and died in Emma’s arms. Rumplestiltskin assumed Regina must have crushed his heart. Emma's latent Savior powers had broken Regina's hold over Graham. No longer useful, Regina ended his life in a fit of jealousy.

Graham's death had shaken the savior to her core. Shortly afterwards, Regina delivered another devastating blow to the savior’s confidence. She fired Emma from the force. Graham’s replacement was yet another one of her spies, Sidney Glass. Regina was once again trying to rig the game in her favor. However, the Evil Queen hadn't counted on Rumplestiltskin memorizing the town charter. Reading the legislative piece was a dull, boring, and tedious task. He combed through the 100-page document and learned every loophole he could exploit.  

With a thick binder tucked under his arm, he knocked on Ms. Blanchard’s apartment door. An obviously tipsy Emma greeted him just moments later. The remnants of a broken toaster were clutched in her hand. Her roommate, Mary Margaret, was standing in the kitchen. Her expression was that of a spooked deer. She held a jar of cocoa in her grasp, seemingly forgetting about it. Mr. Gold smiled amiably at them. “Good evening, Miss Blanchard. Sorry for the intrusion. There’s something I’d like to discuss with Miss Swan.”

His amber gaze shifted to Emma. Emma looked over her shoulder at her friend, who took her cue to give them privacy.

“Come on in,” Emma offered and stepped back, allowing Gold to enter their shared living space.
“Thank you.” Mr. Gold hobbled around her and towards the table. He turned to face her. “I, uh… I heard about what happened. Such an injustice.”
The savior shrugged and tossed the broken appliance in the garbage. “Yeah, well, what’s done is done.”

Mr. Gold furrowed his brow. “Spoken like a true fighter,” he replied with a hint of sarcasm.

Emma rolled her eyes, exasperated by his manner. “I don’t know what chance I have. She’s Mayor. And I’m, well, me.”

The irony was not lost on him. Here he was, trying to restore hope in the savior, even though at times he was just as hopeless. He needed her to fight. If he had any chance of saving Belle, he had to restore her confidence.

“Miss Swan, two people with a common goal can accomplish many things. Two people with a common enemy can accomplish even more. How would you like a benefactor?” Emma wore the same vacant expression as her father's. It seemed she was as slow to catch on as he was.

“A benefactor?”

Mr. Gold gestured to the table and both he and Emma sat down. He placed the binder on the table and opened it. “You know, it really is quite shocking how few people study the town charter.”

Emma still looked bewildered. “The town charter?”

Mr. Gold smiled smugly and turned to the page regarding the Sheriff elections. “Well, it’s quite comprehensive. And the Mayor’s authority? Well, maybe she’s not quite as powerful as she seems.” He flipped the binder around and pushed it across the table to her. Gold waited silently as Emma read through the article.

Emma lifted her head and studied him carefully. “Why are you helping me? If you think you can get me elected to do your dirty work-”

“You are misunderstanding my motivations,” he countered.

“Am I?” She narrowed her eyes.

Mr. Gold backpedaled. He reminded himself of her lying super power. “In a way, yes. My only chance at finding my wife is with you in the department,” he insisted. Motioning to her with his hand, he continued, “You... are the only one who can’t be controlled by the mayor. It would be in everyone’s best interest if Emma Swan was Sheriff.”

Gold could see she was still skeptical. “Besides. Regina wins if you do nothing.”

Mentioning Regina securing a possible victory lit a fire in Emma’s eyes. The fierceness returned. “Over my dead body.”

 

@>~~~;~~~~~

 

(Enchanted Forest: Shortly after Belle returns to the dark castle)

 

Rumplestiltskin waited silently in the shadows of the forbidden tower for his prey to arrive. Held at his side was a magnificent black and gold blade he fashioned specifically for this particular creature. Being a sucker for details, he named the weapon Vorpal Blade.

The door creaked open. A strange looking woman with white and black two toned hair entered. Her eyes swirled like gold dust caught in an ocean tempest. Before he could get a better look at her features she shut the door, snuffing out the only source of light.

“Rumplestiltskin.” A sultry voice carried through the air. “I know it is you. Come out of the darkness and play,” she cooed. He could hear her boots grinding against the stone floor as she moved around in the darkness.  Not to be put off by his silence, she continued, “Mmm. Your fears are intoxicating. They taste like… tea…”

The Dark One fought to keep his mind blank. But it was impossible against the Jabberwocky's fearsome mind reading power. Before he realized it, his thoughts drifted to Belle.

“They smell like the pages of a new book. Sound like your name uttered by a sweetly accented voice. They smell like rose petals caught in the wind. And they feel like the soft caress of a beauty…”

Rumplestiltskin silently winced as the Jabberwocky assaulted his mind with her power. Various images of Belle meeting her demise in numerous ways flowed through his head. His nostrils flared and his heart pounded, as each scenario became more gruesome. If he were human he would have died then from fear alone.  

Enraged by the tormentuous thoughts, Rumplestiltskin snapped. He leaped out the darkness with the Vorpal Blade poised and closed the distance between them.

The Jabberwocky had no time to react before he rammed the blade through her abdomen. With all of his strength, he slammed her into the wall and buried the sword to the hilt, effectively pinning her to the stone.

“That is enough out of you, dearie…” he whispered menacingly. His hot breath slapped her face. “And I thought Wonderland's Dark One would put up more of a fight.”  

The Jabberwocky snarled and screamed like a banshee. She struggled to free herself but to no avail. Ignoring her screams, Rumplestiltskin slammed the door shut. With a wave of his hand he placed a strong barrier spell around the tower.  Satisfied she was no longer a threat, he strolled across the narrow footbridge and past the deaf guard.

A peculiar man waited for him just a few feet away. Dressed in what was once an expensive traveling coat, the attire now had several mismatched patches. His clothes had clearly seen better days. His black top hat was no better. Due to years of use the hat had lost its luster and the brim was frayed in places. “Can we leave now? I hate this place.” Jefferson complained, swatting at a biting butterfly with his hat.

“My business is done.” Rumplestiltskin removed a pouch from his pocket. “A gold skein as promised.”

Jefferson gratefully took the payment and tucked it safely away. With a flick of his wrist he tossed his hat into the air. The headwear hit the ground spinning like a child’s toy top. A magical whirlwind appeared from within its depths.

Rumplestiltskin and Jefferson jumped into the portal and returned to the Hall of Realms through a mirror. Surrounding them were many doors leading to other worlds. Jefferson flipped off Wonderland’s doorway. “You would have to be fucking mad to live there.”

“I concur.” The Dark One replied and swaggered through the circular hall.

Jefferson walked just a step behind him. They strided across the room to a marble archway. Stepping through they popped out of the hat and landed in the Enchanted Forest.

“Thanks for the portal.” Rumplestiltskin said while Jefferson recovered his hat.

Jefferson smiled and headed home to his beloved daughter.

Moments later, Rumplestiltskin walked through his village and was ecstatic to discover the news of the Jabberwocky's defeat flew through the realms at unprecedented speed. He was once again greeted with averted gazes and trembling silence. No more wagging tongues. The effect made the imp inside very happy. No one would dare utter a word about Belle’s declaration of love for Rumplestiltskin again. Pleased, he teleported to his castle.

Rumplestiltskin chuckled as he marched into the great hall. His fabulously dark mood vanished instantaneously when his wild eyes fell upon Belle. The beauty lay across the love seat with a blanket tucked tightly around her shivering body. Beads of sweat sprinkled across her brow. Her cheeks were flushed with fever.

“Dammit…” he muttered and dashed over to her. The poor girl had been exposed to illness during her short stay in Avon de Garden. Thinking it was a severe cold, he had given her a potion before he left, confident it would do the trick. He was wrong. Whatever it was, it was more serious than the average illness.

“Belle?” He dropped to his knees beside her and watched her carefully. Rumplestiltskin could see her eyes fight to open. “Belle…”

Groaning, her blue orbs revealed themselves through slits framed with heavy lashes. “Rum...ple?”

“I'm here,” he replied, squeezing her hand.

“It...hurts,” she whimpered.

“Rest darling. I'll fix this,” he coaxed. His voice cracked as her eyes fluttered shut. Rumplestiltskin tried to keep a clear head but inside he was twisted with fear for her life. This was too similar to one of the Jabberwocky’s visions. Was Belle’s life the price he would have to be pay for imprisoning her? Scared, he gathered her in his arms, blankets and all, and transported them to his tower. There, he laid her down upon a small bed that appeared out of nothingness.

Determined to beat this sickness and put his fear to rest, Rumplestiltskin straightened to his full height and closed his eyes. With his hands held out, hovering just above her frame, he moved them slowly up and down her body. Gold fingers glowed with magic as he searched for an answer to her ailment.

Minutes passed. His magic eventually revealed what he was dealing with. Rumplestiltskin walked around a work table, littered with his newest project and over to his storage cabinet. There he frantically raided the shelfs and summoned several vials of ingredients. He deposited the bottles onto the only empty space available, mindful to not disturb his research.With years of expertise guiding him, he added the correct amount of each ingredient into a mortar. Wasting no time, he crushed them together with the pestle until well blended and finally added them to an awaiting teapot to brew. A peek at her confirmed she was still breathing. Once ready, Rumplestiltskin transferred the medicine into the chipped cup and returned to her side.

“Belle..” he called to her gently. She didn't stir. Leaving the cup to float mid air, he sat on the bed and cradled her in his arms.

“Belle?” He tried again as he arranged her body in an easier position, her neck rested in the crook of his arm. Rumplestiltskin eased her head back and pried her lips open with a finger. He poured the liquid into her mouth slowly, mindful to not cause her to choke.

Belle's body glowed with a bluish hue as the potion spread through her veins. Rumplestiltskin touched her face. A sigh of relief escaped his lips. Her body temperature was dropping to a normal rate. The sweat disappeared from her brow. Grateful she would still be here with him for a little longer, he held her close. Belle's head laid against his shoulder. His chin rested in her hair.

Rumple did not know how long he held her before she finally awakened. He lifted his head and peered down at her. Eyes like jewels glistened at him. A smile  crept across her lips. “The Dark One isn't afraid of a cold, is he?” she teased.

“That, my dear, was far beyond a common cold. Valencian flu. The illness can turn particularly unpleasant if left untreated. You were just a few hours away from finding out how terrible it is. So none of your lip.”

Belle grinned with merriment. “Admit it. You were worried about me.”

“Nae. I just didn't want to have to train a new maid.” He retorted playfully, earning him a dubious look. Smiling awkwardly he waved his hand and summoned a book. “Besides... Who’s going to read this?” he asked and deposited the leather bound novel into her lap.

Belle picked up the book and examined the cover. “Skin Deep. By Celestina Divergence. I’ve never heard of it. Will you read it to me?” she requested, making herself cozy in his arms before he could say no. “My head still hurts too much to read.”

Rumplestiltskin’s lip twitched. Why was he still here? She was better now, he did not have to stay. However, he didn't want to leave her. He felt content holding her in his arms. Sheepishly, he grinned. He flicked his wrist and the book floated from her hands and into the air, hovering in front of him at a perfect reading level. Magic moved the pages to open to the first chapter.

In his old world brogue, absent all the impish charades, he read to her. “Chapter One: The Lame Spinner. Beau was not very handsome, but his kind nature made up for what he lacked in charisma. If you asked anyone in Herstown about the spinner, they would all agree, Beau was the most gentlest of souls. He had a way about him that made all who knew him feel at peace. And those who felt lost… once in his presence, they were filled with hope. Hope for a better life.”

 

@>~~~;~~~~~

 

(Storybrooke: Present Time)

 

Getting Emma elected was far easier than he thought. And the priceless look of Regina admitting defeat made him smile. There was nothing she could do but hand over the Sheriff’s badge to Emma. Winning had restored the savior’s hope. Having an entire town support her had boosted her confidence.

On Emma’s first day as Sheriff, Gold greeted her outside the station. The blonde glared at him for a moment, still annoyed at the pull he had around town.

“Don’t you have a store to run?” she remarked and unlocked the doors.

“I will be heading there soon enough.” He reached beyond her and pulled it open, holding it in place for her to enter.

Emma frowned but didn’t argue. She stepped over the threshold with him hobbling closely behind.

When they reached the fork in the hall, Emma made to turn right but Gold called out to her. “I want to check the basement here… like we had discussed.”

The new sheriff regarded his request. “Right. Sorry, I had forgotten about that.”

“Good thing my memory is astounding,” he quipped and turned left. The sound of Emma’s footsteps followed him. They walked down a long, windowless hallway and arrived at the entrance to the basement. Emma lead the way down with Gold’s voice calling to her. “Watch for pipes.”  

Barely any time passed when he heard the unmistakable sound of a forehead meeting metal. “Ow,” Emma grumbled, rubbing a growing bump on her head.

“Can’t say I didn't warn you,” Gold replied dryly from a few steps behind. He easily ducked under the plumbing as he meandered down the stairs.

The blonde muttered something under her breath he did not catch. Arriving at the bottom, Emma looked around. The police station was an average basement piled with old furniture, musty files, and abandoned technology.

“I don't see any holding cells down here…” She remarked and walked about the room, stopping in front of an old cigarette vending machine. Boxes were piled awkwardly on top of it.

Gold watched her curiously. “What is it?”

“I think there is something behind here.” She replied and pushed one of the boxes aside to reveal the top of a doorframe. Emma didn't wait for him to comment. Immediately she cleared the junk off the top and tossed it carelessly aside.

Gold cringed as the heavy clunky machine scraped against the concrete in protest as she pushed it out of the way to reveal a door. Emma turned the handle but found it sealed shut. “I definitely do not have a key for this.”

Gold shuffled over to a box labeled ‘old paperwork.’ He wretched the lid off.

“What are you doing?” Emma questioned as he sifted through the contents. After a moment he held up two paper clips.

God's hands twisted and bent the clips until they were usable tools to jimmy the lock open. Before he could take a step to the door, Emma took the makeshift tools and returned to the door. Gold watched amused as Emma went to work on the tumblers. Less than a minute ticked by when the lock clicked open.

Gold shuffled past her and pushed the door open. It lead down a dark hallway. Emma unsheathed her flashlight and shined it down the passage. The flashlight’s bright rays did not reveal the end of the tunnel.

Emma took a step back and looked up at the ceiling. “Does that lead under the road?”

“There are a series of passages that run all under the town, connecting many of the buildings. I didn't know the Sheriff's department had one.”

“And why is there a system of tunnels under the town?”

Rumplestiltskin poured through Gold's memories for a logical explanation in this realm’s terms. “You have heard about prohibition, right, Ms. Swan?” Emma nodded. He could see she hadn't quite connected the dots.

He continued, “During prohibition, alcohol had to be smuggled in from the Canadian border. The alcohol was brought in by ship under guise of ‘hair tonic’. From there, it was transported underground through the tunnels and into people's businesses and some residences.”

“That is quite a security flaw in this structure.”

“Nae. Most of the tunnels have been sealed off. Only a few remain in tact. If anyone does use them, they better hope they know where they're going. It is easy to get lost.”

Gold's phone buzzed in his pocket. “Excuse me.” He said to her and took a few steps back for privacy.  Emma shrugged and walked further down the tunnel and out of sight.

Rumplestiltskin leaned against the cigarette machine thumbing through his phone. The blood drained from his face when he saw he had a new message from the same mystery sender. This time it was an audio file. His heart pounded in his chest.

‘Please… don’t be her screaming.’ Rumplestiltskin prayed to whatever gods that might still be listening. He wouldn't know what to do if he heard her being tortured.

Holding the phone to his ear, he listened with bated breath. “I promise I'll get your message to him.” A hushed male spoke purposefully low. Even terribly disguised the voice sounded familiar, but he could not quite place it.

There was a long, quiet pause then he heard her unmistakable accent. “Beau touched his spinning wheel fondly. He unscrewed the knob holding the wheel in place. Beau unfastened the pendant, given to him by Roselle, from his neck and tucked the keepsake inside the crevice.”

The clip ended. Rumplestiltskin stared dumbstruck at his phone. It had been so long since he had last heard her speak, the sound caused tears to pool in his eyes. He was glad Emma was out of sight as struggled to get his emotions in check, battling between despair, hope, and rage. In the distance he could hear Emma's footfalls come closer. Hastily, he wiped his face and cleared his throat but he had been unable to banish the painful emotions from his expression.

The savior’s eyes fell upon him. “Are you okay?”

A trembling hand held up his phone. “It- uh… It just… came through.”

“From the same sender?” Emma asked.

Mr. Gold nodded tensely. His throat was still constricted. Emma snatched his phone and darted up the stairs. Rumplestiltskin instantly realized she was going to scan his phone again. Taking advantage of the minutes of solitude, he gathered himself. Hearing Belle's voice after all this time ripped his heart apart. She was trapped somewhere in this town. Waiting for him.

If only he still had his power. A locator spell and a teleport and she would be safe with him. Neither were possible in the Land Without Magic. If only he knew where that damn vial was!

The pawnbroker returned upstairs to find Emma hard at work. Just as he assumed, she had hooked his phone up to her personal computer.

Emma’s voice carried over the heavy clicking of her typing. “So my first theory about a burner phone was wrong. Whoever is sending these messages is removing the sim card when they’re done, making it difficult to track.”

Mr. Gold stared down at his widower's ring. Belle's voice from the message echoed in his head. She had read a passage from her beloved book. She remembered Skin Deep. Regina couldn’t have planted that memory. As far as he was aware, she did not know of the book’s existence. Which could only mean Belle was awake too.

The sound of Emma’s fingers dancing across the keys drew his attention back to the screen. The laptop scrolled through data gleaned from the file.

Once more, the man’s disguised voice spoke. This time louder through Emma's speakers. “I promise I'll get your message to him.”

A long pause and her voice played through the computer. “Beau touched his spinning wheel fondly. He unscrewed the knob holding the wheel in place. Beau unfastened the pendant, given to him by Roselle, from his neck and tucked the keepsake inside the crevice.”

Mr. Gold frowned. So unnerved at the sound of her voice, he hadn't really processed what she said. Hearing it again sent his mind racing. Rumplestiltskin prided himself on his impeccable memory. He absorbed everything he read, and could remember the most finest of details. He had read the book to her the first time. He did not recall any passage in the book referring to Beau hiding anything.

“Looks like it was recorded about an hour ago…” Emma muttered, browsing through the data.

Without a word Mr. Gold unplugged his phone roughly and turned on his heel.

“Hey!” Emma protested.

“You got what you needed. I have a business to run,” he snarled nastily and limped away quickly. Returning to his car, he pulled out of the station parking lot erratically.

It was a ten minute drive to his shop and all he could think about was Belle's message.

‘He unscrewed the knob holding the wheel in place…. tucked the keepsake inside the crevice.’ He was almost certain she had just given him a huge clue. After all he did ask her to hide the vial inside something personal. Somewhere no one would think to look.

Once back at his shop, he immediately headed for his spinning wheel. Hastily unscrewing the knob, he removed it and reached inside.

He sucked in his breath. In his grasp, he clutched a small bundle. He unwrapped it to reveal the small vial he gave Belle twenty-eight years ago. He grinned triumphantly and eyed the drop of magic with glee.

“Clever girl.”

Chapter Text

A warm ray of morning sun peeked through the baby blue curtains. It shone against her back and stirred the sleeping beauty from a deep rest. Belle’s eyes dragged lazily open and spied a slumbering Dark One an arm's length away. Careful to not disturb him, she arose into a sitting position.

Through blurred vision she skimmed around the familiar surroundings of her bedroom. Shelves lined the walls, packed full with books on various subjects. Spread throughout the chamber were more books. They covered nearly every surface in her room. Rumple's gift, ‘Skin Deep, sat upon the pile on her bedside table.

Bewildered, Belle tried to remember when they ended up here. The last she recalled was the soothing sound of his old world brogue as it lulled through the words and eased her into a serene dreamscape. Rumplestiltskin must have transported them to her chambers once she had fallen asleep.

Rumplestiltskin slept on his side, facing her direction, still clad in his leathers. In all the months they had spent together she couldn't recall ever seeing him sleep. No matter how early she rose, Belle would find him already dressed and at his spinning wheel. She assumed his curse gave him an infinite source of energy. To him hours spent sleeping must be a waste of time.

With a small smile she laid back down silently and admired his sleeping form. In this state he was far from fearsome. The monstrous mask he showed the rest of the world was gone. Absent were the hard lines. His face was softer, but still a far stretch from relaxed. His golden features were etched with the years of pain from his long, tragic life. Lips tilted downwards into a pitiful pout. Dark eyebrows were curved along the edge of his closed eyes as if he was on the verge of falling apart.

“...Forgive me…son,” his mortal voice whimpered in his sleep.

Belle's forehead furrowed as she studied him. He clearly was caught up in an awful dream reminiscent of a regretful memory. Deciding to end his torment, Belle reached out and touch his cheek fondly. “Rumple?”

Golden swirling ambers shot open instantly. The vulnerability vanished, quickly replaced with concern. “Are you all right?”

A gentle smile formed along her lips. “Thanks to you.”

To her surprise his arms wrapped around her and pulled her closer. A heavy sigh of relief escaped his lips as he gazed into her jeweled orbs. “Good.” His arms tightened around her waist with the statement.

Belle snuggled closer and rested her cheek upon his silk-covered chest. Neither knew how much time had passed as they basked in the rare tender moment. The world outside her bedroom didn't matter to either of them.

“You were talking in your sleep. You said ‘Forgive me, son.’”

Rumplestiltskin heaved a great sigh and rested his chin on her head. He spoke softly. “When I sleep, I see him…”

“Your son?”

“Mmm. Usually the moment I lost him.”

Belle swallowed an ugly sob. Her heart shattered for him, like a cup hitting the floor. She couldn't begin to imagine the pain he felt reliving such a gut wrenching moment, whatever it was. He had yet to fill her in completely on the tale. No wonder he never slept!

“I'm sorry.”

The beauty felt his body stiffen in her arms at the sound of her apology, but he said nothing. Belle nuzzled the flesh of his neck with her nose. “You never have to bare your pain alone anymore. I'm here now. I want you to share it with me.”

Rumplestiltskin pulled back from her just enough so he could meet her eyes. Staring at her with a mystified look he removed his hand from her waist to caress her cheek. “You are too pure to be burdened with my endless list of regrets.”

“Your regrets became mine the moment I fell in love with you,” she stated firmly.

Again, his face softened to the man underneath the darkness.  His thumb rubbed sensually against her cheek. “I don't deserve you.”

Belle clicked her tongue in disagreement. “Why do you keep saying that?”

“Because it is the truth. Villains don't get happy endings.”

“Well they should. Maybe they would stop being villains,” Belle retorted playfully.

Rumplestiltskin chuckled. “You would think that.”


@>~~~;~~~~~

 

Belle hoped after their touching conversation Rumplestiltskin would be closer, but her hopes were unfulfilled. In the weeks since the sweet moment they shared in her bed, Belle saw very little of him. The Dark One spent all of his spare time sequestered in his study. He continued to join her for meals and tea, but even then he was distant.

Fed up with his avoidance, Belle tiptoed up the stairs to the tower under guise of serving tea. Clutched in her arms was a silver tray laden with two cups, matching tea service, and a plate of his favorite strawberry jam filled pastries. Before she could reach the crest of the stairs she was enveloped in purple smoke. When it evaporated, Belle found herself in the great hall.

Bursting through the doors Rumplestiltskin trilled mischievously, “That was sneaky, dearie.”

Belle glared at Rumplestiltskin as he stopped just a few feet away from her. “I wish you wouldn't creep up on me with magic,” she sassed and dropped the tray on the table with a loud clang. The china rattled in protest to her fury.

“What do you expect when you are poking around in places you shouldn't be?” he snarked. Long gold fingers dramatically snatched at the teapot and a cup.

Belle rolled her eyes while he prepared her tea. Rather than sit in a chair, she leaned back against the table and braced herself with her hands. A short hop and her bottom eased up over the the slick surface. Sliding herself into a comfortable position, Belle smoothed her hands down her skirts; the motion shifted the material back in place to properly cover her legs.

“Thank you,” she said and took the cup Rumple held out to her.  

Again, he plucked a cup from the tray. This one had a sharp chip on the gold lined rim. Anyone else would have thrown it away. But not Rumple. That cup had become his favorite the moment she dropped it. Steaming, hot tea poured from the teapot and into the damaged cup. Once filled to his liking he returned the teapot to the tray.

Cup clutched tightly in her grasp, she turned her gaze to him. Mercurial eyes found hers as drank deeply from his cup. “You've been so distant since we laid together. I only ever see you at meals and even then you are avoiding me. Too busy writing to carry a simple conversation. It feels like you are pushing me away.”

Rumple drew closer to her until he was standing in front of her. She could feel his knee pressed gently against the tips of her shoes. Amber eyes sparked with a queerness while he regarded her. Brow furrowed, Rumplestiltskin appeared to be in deep thought, until he finally spoke. Once more his tone was soft and gentle. This voice had become more familiar since her return to the castle. It warmed her soul to know he felt at ease to be himself around her. “Aye. I can see why you would think that.” He placed his cup down on the tea tray beside her. “But my intention is not to avoid you.”

Belle raised an eyebrow. The simple gesture urged him to continue. Rumplestiltskin licked his lips nervously. “I'm-uh… working on an important project. One that requires as much of my attention as possible for the time being.”

“Oh…” Irked at herself for acting like an ignored housewife, Belle averted her gaze.

‘What is wrong with you!?’ she chastised herself. ‘Of course he is busy with his work. He is the Dark One after all.’

“I don't even know if it is possible…” she heard him say. His gentle tone drew her attention away from her mental tongue-lashing and back to face him. “-but I promise... you will be the first one to know if I succeed.” There was a twinkle in his wild gaze that was a mixture of mischief and hope.

Belle raised an eyebrow at him. Skeptical, she asked, “succeed at what?”

Rumple sheepishly grinned at her and leaned forward. Belle waited with anticipation as he drew closer, only to be disappointed when he suddenly changed course and grabbed a strawberry tart from the tray. Belle groaned audibly, annoyed he was toying with her. She knew that would be all the answers he would be giving her for now. “I hope it isn't anything dark…”

Answering her dry comment with an all-knowing smirk, he popped the pastry into his mouth and chewed like an ill-mannered child.

Rumplestiltskin suddenly shuddered as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice water over him. The swirls in his eyes spun like vortexes. Belle recognized the scenario. Someone just invoked his name.

“Duty calls,” he said, his shrill voice returned. Quickly he downed the rest of his tea and placed his empty cup on the table. A flick of his wrist and the ugly dragon hide coat and vest appeared over his ruffled silk shirt. “Don't wait up.” Rumplestiltskin added and headed towards the door.

“Wait!” Belle called after him. Her request stopped him in his tracks. He turned on his heel and eyed her curiously.

Belle hopped down from the table, her hand grabbed a linen napkin. Sauntering over to him, she could feel his bewildered gaze upon her the entire time. When she reached him, she cradled his chin in one hand. She heard his breath stop. The pulse at his throat throb faster as Belle dabbed at the corners of his mouth with the cloth, wiping away the sticky red residue from the tarts. “That’s better.”

Releasing his chin, she captured his eyes in an intimate gaze. Belle whispered sweetly, “don't be too late.”

Rumplestiltskin released the breath he had been holding and stared at her as if Cupid just walloped him upside his head. “I will try…” he replied dazed. Jaw slacked, eyes glazed over with wonder, he took a few steps backwards in a feeble attempt to shake off the effect she had on him.

A moment passed while he gathered himself. He smirked, his face awash with the devious facade he wore for the rest of the world. Before she could shatter his mask again, Rumplestiltskin turned abruptly and swaggered from the room.

Belle sighed and stared at the red stained napkin. His mysterious non-answers only piqued her interest more. Returning to the table, she tossed the used napkin onto the silver tray. Absentmindedly, she cleared the remains of their tea.

‘What could he possibly be doing?’ She gnawed on her lip as she balanced on the precipice of two decisions. She knew she should respect his space and trust he will clue her when he was ready.

But… she couldn't shake off her curiosity. It was his fault for being so vague! Making up her mind, Belle untied her apron and tossed it carelessly onto the table.

Fueled by inquisitive determination, she returned to the tower for the first time since she had taken sick with Valencian flu. Rumple had always warded her off, usually meeting her at the middle of the stairs, before she could make it to the top step.

“Oh my,” she exclaimed, surprised to find the normally organized room in a state of disarray! Rumplestiltskin was meticulous about his things. To see various items thrown about and not in their cupboards where they belonged, further proved he was deep into some research.

Belle bent down and scooped up a few stray pages of parchment from the floor and placed them on his desk in a tidy pile. She walked around the work tables littered with bottles of ingredients, scrolls, quills and colored inks. Large magic tomes were haphazardly piled open on top of each other. On another work surface beakers of liquid bubbled. The contents flowed through a series of tubes connected to several more bottles of colored liquids. The last tube wrapped around a few times, the end dripped slowly into an awaiting vial. The contents inside churned magically like an ocean before a tempest.

Mystified by the oceanic potion, Belle browsed through his notes for an answer. “What are you up to?” she muttered under her breath. Belle prided herself on being bright, however she struggled to make sense of his experiment.

Even his notes were a disorganized mess! Multiple lines had been scribbled out hastily. Some appeared to be abandoned in mid-thought. The pages were in no specific order that she could discern. Splashes of ink dotted the paper, making some words illegible.

Not one to shy from a challenge, Belle dragged a stool over to his desk and made herself cozy upon it. The curious beauty thumbed through the sheets of parchment until the words “attempt number forty seven,” caught her eye.

‘I have yet to find a successful potion to block its power. Every test subject’s curse was broken with true love’s kiss,’  she read silently. ‘Attempt number forty six was close! The subject's curse did hold up for a longer period after being administered a kiss. However the curse broke the next morning.’

Belle gasped as she realized what her troublemaking imp was up to. ‘An elixir to block true love from breaking curses?’ she smiled warmly at the thought. ‘He’s looking for a way to be with me now.’

A cheesy grin beamed across her face. Enthralled by his creation, Belle dove deeper into his research with the intention of helping him him succeed.

‘I quadrupled the amount of crystalized tears from a pure maiden and substituted the crushed dragon talon for unicorn hairs. The resulting potion is less volatile than previous attempts.’

Time passed in an instant as she became lost among the pages of research. Before she knew it, the sun had set. Growing too dark to see by natural light, Belle paused in her reading to light a few candles. Finally able to see the words once more, she returned to her seat. Eyes squinted into slits as she tried to decipher the next line regarding an earlier attempt. His usually neat scrawl was erratic, some of his thoughts were jotted down wherever he had room. There was even one written sideways on the edge of the paper.

Head cocked to one side Belle could make out the words, ‘If I am successful, there is the price to consider. Negating the power of true love risks-’

A clicking of a tongue jerked her attention away from the research papers. Rumplestiltskin was watching her from the stairs. A playful grin crept across his face.

Caught off guard by his sudden appearance, Belle almost fell backwards off the stool. She steadied herself with a vise like grip on the desk.

“Naughty naughty girl.” He wagged his finger at her. “That is dangerous stuff to be poking about.”

Belle shook off her startled expression and stood bravely. “You failed to satisfy my questions earlier so I took it upon myself to learn what has you so occupied up here.”

The dark one stared at her. His powerful gaze unnerved her for some reason. “I've been reading through your notes. I'm no alchemist but I’m sure I can be useful in some way. Afterall, my mother always said two minds can accomplish so much more.”

Belle knew she was babbling, but there was something about his crooked smile that sent shivers up her spine. The merriment from the playful gesture did not reach his eyes.

‘Perhaps his deal went bad,’ she reasoned with herself to ease the butterflies in her stomach.

“Sure. We can discuss it over tea. Since ours was so rudely interrupted earlier.” He pulled a cylinder shaped canister from thin air. “A special blend…” he explained, the words rolling off his tongue dramatically, “...from the west.”

Belle came to him. Her hands reached out for the tin. However, her actions were stopped at the sound of his fingers snapping. A clatter responded behind her. She jerked around in surprised. Their tea set sat upon his desk, covering the notes she had just been reading. It was steaming and ready to be consumed.

Belle was puzzled. Never before had he summoned the tea fully ready! Rumple claimed magic gave the drink a funny taste and insisted the beverage be prepared by hand.

He strutted over to his desk and grabbed their already full cups and handed one to her.

“Thank you,” she replied skeptically.

Rumplestiltskin leaned against the desk. He stared quietly at his cup.

Belle brought the cup closer to her face for a closer observation; the sweet scent of vanilla bean assaulted her nose.

‘A sweet tea? How unusual.’ She knew very well Rumplestiltskin had preferred bitter teas to contrast the flavor of the sweet tarts he enjoyed so much.

‘Something isn't right,’ she thought as the aromatic tea made her feel intoxicated. The smell was irresistible. Hypnotic. Without realizing it, she brought the rim of the cup to her mouth. The sugary beverage passed through her lips and down her throat. The heat of the tea filled her to the core, setting something aflame deep inside her. She looked over her cup at him, her eyes narrowed suspiciously.

Rumplestiltskin had yet to take a drink. He instead fiddled aimlessly with the cup in his grasp as if contemplating something. Her eyes widened as she noticed the teacup in his hands was a normal cup. Panic sent her gaze flying to the tray where his beloved chipped cup still sat, untouched. This wasn’t Rumplestiltskin! This was definitely an imposter!

She gasped as raging desire coursed through her veins. The cup she had been clutching crashed to the floor and shattered. Powerful erotic sensations wracked through her.

Belle steeled herself against a table. Her brain felt foggy.

“Who...are… you?” she questioned, fighting to keep herself in check while under threat.

The Rumplestiltskin imposter laughed sinisterly at her. A swirl of red smoke enveloped him then vanished, revealing a still cackling Evil Queen.

“Surprise!” Regina's red lips smirked at her suffering. She flung her long hair over her shoulder and strutted around the room. The long train of her dress rustled as it dragged along the stone floor.

“Well, your precious true love…” she mocked the last two words and rolled her eyes in disgust, “-had better hurry with his deal or he may not be able to save you.” Regina fake pouted and chuckled. She picked up one of Rumple’s tarts and took a hearty bite, clearly pleased by her evil plan.

“How did you know he would be gone?”

The Evil Queen's lips twisted into a satisfied grin. “Some people will do anything for a price.”

Arms clenched tightly to her chest, Belle gritted out, “what did you do to me?”

Regina polished off the pastry and pretended to be engrossed in Rumple’s objects. Purposely making Belle wait for an answer. Red tipped fingers plucked a random bottle from the cluttered workbench and carried it to her nose. She sniffed at its contents, disinterested. “Nothing a little tumble in the hay won't cure. Hmm… I wonder if it would turn gold.” She laughed at her own joke.

Belle groaned. Pressure was building throughout her body. So much so it made her ache between her legs.

“Poor thing. To think if you had just married that Valencian King, you wouldn't have to suffer now.”

“Why?” Belle gasped again. Her cheeks flushed with ecstasy.

Regina sauntered over to her. She tucked a sweaty lock of Belle's hair behind her ear. Her hand stayed on Belle's cheek. Ebony eyes bore into hers. Regina drew close and whispered menacingly in her ear.

“Because it is what he deserves.” A cloud of red magic wrapped around the evil queen and she vanished.

Belle shook violently. Her body was on fire! There was something building up in her. Something that was commanding release. She knew she was in a dire situation. Confident he would be able to reverse whatever Regina did to her, Belle’s lips parted. Her lips trembled as she formed the syllables of his name.

“Rumple...stilt...skin,” she moaned and dropped to her knees. Pearls of sweat dripped down her exposed skin and down the valley between her breasts.

Through her addled state she heard him on the stairs. His footsteps were pounding against the stone.

“Belle!” His frantic voice called to her when he entered the room.

Instantly arms were around her, assisting her to stand. Belle wavered. His touch sent electricity through her veins and intensified the ache below.

“Ahhh…” she winced and clung to his forearms for support.

Rumplestiltskin’s eyes darted around the room for any sign of what mischief she got into. “What happened?!” he shouted, his harsh tone more petrified for her than anger.

Belle could barely speak. Her eyes were glazed with sex. Shakingly, she pointed a finger to the shattered teacup on the floor.

“Regina… ohhh.” She fell into his arms as lust continued to wrack through her. His presence amplified her sensations, fueled by the desire she already fostered for him.

Rumplestiltskin steadied her with one arm and summoned the remains of the cup with his free hand. The pieces floated in midair. With a swish of his hand the broken china reformed into a cup, the spilled liquid refilled. Snarling he snatched the cup from the air and immediately brought it to his nose.

Belle watched as his face went from fury to horror in a series of seconds.

“Dammit!” he swore loudly. Without another word he scooped her up into his arms and carried her over to the chaise. He eased her onto it.

Belle bit her lip hard, drawing blood as she tried to fight against the fire burning in her… But it kept growing. “What did she… do… to me?” She whimpered, her entire being throbbed with need.

“Don’t worry about it. I can fix this…” he said in a soft tone, although his voice sounded more frantic than gentle.  He summoned a purple colored vial and uncorked it.

Bringing it to her lips he commanded, “drink.”

Belle willingly downed the liquid, hoping anything he had would ease her discomfort. She felt her eyes grow heavy. “Rumple...?”

“Rest darling. Everything is going to be okay.” His voice was the last thing she heard as a darkness surrounded her senses and sleep took her.

 

@>~~~;~~~~

 

Rumplestiltskin burst into the great hall. Ferociously, he ripped the shroud from the full length mirror.

“You have some nerve!” he shouted at his reflection.

Regina appeared in the distance and smiled wickedly. “Oh I see you found my gift! You've been so grumpy lately, I figured I'd help you get laid. You're welcome.” She laughed merrily.

Sauntering closer, she sat at her vanity. She went about her nightly ritual as usual and removed her jewelry. Nowhere in her appearance did she seem worried about his wrath. He had let her get away with too much for too long. He swore to himself he would make her suffer as soon as he saved Belle.

Teeth bared like a caged lion, Rumplestiltskin snapped,“Are you trying to ruin that girl from ever having a future outside this castle?!”

“No. Dearie . You already did that.” Regina's gaze pierced him.

“Taking her away from her family and making her live with you... People talk, Rumple. They already thought she was your whore. Moreso after you crashed her wedding! A pauper wouldn't even look her way now. Speaking of the little wench…” The queen paused dramatically and craned her neck to appear around him. “Shouldn't you be satisfying her right now?”

“She will be fine. Aphrodisiacs wear off.”

Regina laughed heartily. “You fool. I would think the all-powerful Dark One would recognize the effects of Guadensbane. This isn’t any standard aphrodisiac…” she grabbed a brush and smuggly dragged it through her long locks. “It’s a curse,” she finally added. Her ruby shaded lips twisted into a cruel smile.

Rumplestiltskin stiffened. “What…?”

Guardensbane had become a favorite of scorned women. Referred to as ‘the bitter wife's tea.’ The ladies would pick the plant and trick their cheating lovers into drinking it. Unless their partners found true love’s release within a few hours, they would die.

“Yes. A curse. One that acts very quickly. And we all know what breaks curses…”

“...True love.”

The Evil Queen cackled. “Well in this case you will have to go much deeper than a kiss…” Regina snickered at her own pun and continued dragging the brush through her hair.

Rumplestiltskin growled, thoroughly enraged by Regina's tricks. By using Belle as a pawn in her game, she had him cornered.

Like a child getting a present, Regina couldn’t contain her victorious expression. “So what will it be Rumple? Will you let her die? Or will you surrender your power for a little mortal girl ?”

“There is always a loophole.”  

Regina burst out laughing. “Silly Rumple. There is no loophole with true love.”

“We shall see,” Rumplestiltskin hissed. Done dealing with her, he snapped his fingers. The shroud covering the mirror magically returned to its place, shutting Regina out of his personal space.

The Dark One stood for a moment. His mind raced through different solutions, each one he shot down. With the frustration of the precarious situation mauling at him like an unhinged animal, he popped out of the room and reappeared on the stairs in his tower.

Walking up the last few he saw Belle was still asleep on the chaise. Her face was contorted with discomfort. Limbs constantly moved about fitfully. Sweat dripped down her forehead.

“Dammit,” he swore, conflicted over what to do. With the thought of letting her die not an option, he marched over to his research and poured through the notes on his latest attempt. Since her return to his home, he had been developing a potion to negate the power of her love. Attempt forty seven sat swirling in a bottle, waiting to be tested. He had no idea if the potion would be successful.  

Moaning sounds from Belle's direction alerted him to her growing sexual desire. Her breath ragged to his ears. He was running out of time!

“Rumple?” she groaned.

Rumplestiltskin stared at his creation, teetering on the edge of two decisions. The cursed part of himself tried to convince him to let her go. A mortal girl wasn't worth risking all of his power. But the man behind the beast, the gentle spinner who Belle had reached out to behind the darkness, wanted to save her. With her there was hope. Hope for a future he never imagined.

“Rumple…” her voice struggled.

Coming to a decision, Rumplestiltskin snatched the stormy potion and returned to her side.

“I’m here,” he said in a hushed tone and waved a hand over her. The sleeping spell lifted.

Belle's eyes shot open. She sat up instantly and hugged herself as the strong desire kicked in again. She gasped.

Quickly Rumplestiltskin summoned a small brown leaf, similar in shape and size to the bay leaf used in cooking. He held his palm under her nose.

“Breathe,” he instructed.

Belle quickly obeyed. Her nostrils expanded as she inhaled the bitter horseradish scent from the plant.

“How do you feel,” he asked after a moment, knowing full well the leaf’s mystical properties had restored her senses temporarily.  

“My head was foggy... now I feel fine. Was that the cure?” Belle asked hopefully.

Rumplestiltskin shook his head and dropped his hand still cradling the leaf. “No. Just a little plant to numb the curse. But I do know how to help you.”

“I figured you would.” Belle answered relieved. “Regina had made a crude joke about rolling around in the hay.”

“She wasn't joking.”

A virgin's blush glowed across her cheeks. “You mean… we have to have sex… to break this?”

Rumplestiltskin bit his lip, frustrated by the turn of events. Belle was still a maiden. She needed proper attending before. But there wasn't enough time for that. “Yes.”

“But you will lose your power,” Belle protested, showing more concern for him than herself. “I can't let you risk losing a chance at being reunited with your son.”

Rumplestiltskin gazed into her eyes.  “I have many regrets in my life... Your death is not going to be another one,” he replied and held up the potion she had been admiring earlier.

“Rumple… According to your notes you've been unsuccessful.  What happ-” her words were cut off sharply. The leaf’s effects had worn off. An intense wave of desire hit her.

“Ahh!” she cried out and doubled over.

Rumplestiltskin held her steady. Her cheeks flushed and sweat appeared on her brow again. The feeling subsided when he brought the leaf back to her nose.

“We don't have time to discuss this! I just need to know if this is what you want.”  

“I would be lying if I said I didn't,” she replied. “I’ve thought about it more times than you realize…. but what happens if-”

“Shh…” Rumplestiltskin’s thumb stroked her cheek tenderly. Before the coward in him could talk him out of his reckless choice, he made the first selfless decision in centuries and downed the potion in one swig.

As soon as the liquid passed his lips a warm rippling sensation flowed through his veins. He could feel Belle's fearful gaze upon him as his skin glowed. A minute passed and his body returned to its usual luster.

The Dark One was screaming in his mind to stop before it was too late but he wasn’t listening. Rumplestiltskin took her hand in his own and gently pulled her to her feet and into his arms. Holding her against him he leaned in close, his breath hot against her face. “Not what I had in mind for our first time, but at least we will have an interesting story.” He said before swooping her up into his arms.

Belle wrapped her arms around his neck, her eyes gazed at him lustifully.

Rumplestiltskin couldn't resist the urge. He dipped his head to capture her lips in a searing kiss. He felt the power of her kiss try to break his curse, but it was successfully blocked.

‘for now…’ He thought. Pushing his fear to the back of his mind, he carried Belle down the stairs, lead on by the carnal desire to save her.

Chapter Text

Ch. 10: Rumbelle

 


(Storybrooke: present day)

 

Rumplestiltskin took a few cautious steps and carefully set the small vial down on the counter. Turning on his heel, he pulled back a nautical painting to reveal a hidden safe. After Ashley had broken into his shop and jimmied open his old safe, he had a more secure one installed. Long fingers punched the numbers 04260212; Bae's and Belle’s birthdays combined.

A dull click and the door popped open. Rumplestiltskin reached inside and removed a small velvet box. Clutching it tightly, he nudged the safe closed with his shoulder and brought the box to the counter. Reaching over his shoulder he swatted the painting back in place, concealing the safe from view.

Flipping the box open revealed an ornate wedding band. Rumplestiltskin remembered the moment he gave it to her. A large teardrop shaped lapis lazuli sat in the center, surrounded in over two carats of diamonds. The gems were set in a beautiful yellow and platinum gold band.

The little bell that hung above his door chimed, alerting him to a potential customer’s presence. Cursing himself for not locking the door, Rumplestiltskin folded the burlap around the little bottle and quickly stashed it out of sight. He closed the tiny jewelry box as Regina Mills marched towards him.

Being the master of masks, he switched to Mr. Gold mode faster than a victim could utter ‘deal.’

“Madam Mayor?” he greeted as she stopped in front of the counter. He could feel the rage radiating from her. “What can I do for you?”

Regina pursed her lips and glared at him.  “Why did you do it?”

“Do what?” he asked, pretending like he didn’t know what she was talking about.

Clearly annoyed by his vacant expression, Regina stomped her foot. “Getting Emma the position of sheriff,” she answered menacingly.

Playing it off as if it was nothing, Gold shrugged. “She seemed like a more suitable option over the news editor, Sidney Glass. Everyone saw through your clear abuse of power and voted fairly. Not my fault you didn't like the results.

Next time back a better horse ,”  he sneered, throwing her own words from a previous exchange back in her face.

Regina’s ruby red lips twisted into a snarl. “I thought we were working together. This is your curse, after all.”

Gold blinked stupidly at her. “Curse? What are you talking about? Did you have one too many appletinis drowning your sorrows?”

“Cut the crap!” Regina shouted and slammed her fist against the counter. “We both know you are awake. So tell me, Rumple… Why are you helping her?!”

Rumplestiltskin snorted and smiled crookedly at her. In a mocking trill, similar to the imp of the Enchanted Forest, he replied sinisterly, “I'm not going to answer you right now, dearie. Please . Go home and please stay there until morning.”

Regina’s dark eyes flashed in fury. She screamed with outrage. Rumplestiltskin could see she was thoroughly pissed, but she had no other choice but to obey his command. She made the deal after all. It was her own fault for not thinking it through.

The mayor stood determinedly in a feeble attempt to fight the power; but the magic of the deal made in the Enchanted Forest was absolute.

Without volition, she turned on her heel and stormed to the door. Regina was furious over the lack of control she had whenever he said ‘please.’

Rumplestiltskin followed closely behind as the invisible force of their deal pushed her over the threshold of the shop door and outside. He watched her sneer.

“We will be continuing this tomorrow!” she shouted and opened her car door.

“Game on!” he replied, knowing he will have the upper hand again once the sun rose.

Regina shot him a death glare as she dipped down into her car and drove away.  

Swaggering inside, he locked the door, shutting out any other unwanted visitors.

Confident he had Regina out of his way, Rumplestiltskin sped around his shop and gathered supplies. Pulling on a pair of black leather gloves, he opened a wooden chest and pulled out a custom white gold glock 9mm.

Hobbling to the front counter, he dropped the items he carried in the crook of his arm onto its surface. Throwing his coat on, he tucked a flashlight, a small pouch with a set of hand tools, and the gun into his pockets.

Ready to spring into action, he retrieved the vial from its hiding spot and held it up to the light to inspect the drop of magic for any irregularities. Satisfied the droplet still had its power in tact after all the years spent in a land without, he uncorked the bottle and concentrated on casting a locator spell.

Holding it over Belle’s ring, he tipped the bottle and poured the drop out. It instantly vanished the moment it touched the ring. A silent minute passed while he waited with bated breath.

“Please… please… work…”

But the ring sat dormant. Crestfallen the magic wasn’t strong enough, Rumplestiltskin turned away in despair. All hope of finding Belle was—

An explosion of light caught his eye. He turned around and watched the ring float up from the box. Tiny iridescent butterfly wings sprouted from the setting. The wedding band flapped and fluttered around his head. Little jetstreams of sparkling blue magic followed in its wake. Rumplestiltskin smiled queerly as the ring flew towards the backroom of the shop and out of sight.

Rumplestiltskin grabbed his cane and lumbered around the corner to find the ring waiting. It hovered over a small area rug on the floor in front of his work bench. Hidden beneath was a hatchway door that lead to the basement.

Maintaining his balance with his cane, he bent down and wretched the rug aside. With a hard yank on the iron ring handle the hatch door opened. The enchanted ring fluttered inside.

Rumplestiltskin carefully hobbled down the stairs, making sure to lead with his better leg. Arriving at the bottom, he was surprised to find the ring waiting for him again. It circled his head once more before flittering towards a locked wrought iron gate. Behind it were the prohibition tunnels. The ring hovered beside him as he sifted through a set of keys attached to a gold chain at his hip.

Unlocking the gate, he tossed it open. The ring fluttered past him and down the darkened hall. Flashlight at the ready, he locked the gate behind him and followed the enchanted gem, mystified by how it acted.

In all his centuries, he had never seen a locator spell react how this one did. Usually tracking spells worked quickly and went directly to the source. They did not wait for the caster to keep up. But not the butterfly ring. It would pause and circle in the air, waiting for him to catch up, then it would fly away again; as if Belle herself was guiding him.

Down a series of passages the ring led him, making sharp turns left and right. Nearly an hour had passed. With each step, Rumplestiltskin grew further bewildered. If he had his bearings correct, the ring was leading him in the direction of the hospital.

The hallway opened up into large boiler room. The ring flew between the tanks, with Rumple barely squeezing through, and to a door.

Cautiously, he opened the door and peered in. The ring floated beside him as if waiting for his permission to proceed. He nodded at the object and it sparkled past him.

Pushing the door open, he wrinkled his nose. Before him was the ugliest hallway he had ever seen. The walls were painted a putrid green, with a contrasting lime-tinted floor.

The ring spread its wings and lead him around the corner and down another corridor lined with heavy green metal doors. It stopped flying in front of the last one on the right. The ring shined one last time and clattered to the floor.

Rumplestiltskin scooped the jewelry up and placed it gingerly into his pocket. Staring at the sealed door, Rumple removed a little pouch from his other pocket.

Dropping to his knee, he pulled back the zipper and plucked two little angled tools from inside. Positioning the tools in the locks, he worked with precision. Maneuvering the little picks in his hand, he placed his ear to the door and listened intently for each tumbler to be tripped.

“Hello?” a female voice called through the door.

Rumplestiltskin stopped. The blood rushed to his head. Belle was really here. He was so close. He licked his lips and swallowed the hard lump in his throat.

“Hang on Belle. I'm going to get you out,” he answered. Willing his hands to be steady, he returned to manipulating the tumblers.

A minute or two passed before he heard the telltale sound of the lock surrendering to his ministrations. Successful, he grabbed his tools and awkwardly arose from the floor. His heart pounded as he turned the handle. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside…



@>~~~~;~~~~~~



(Enchanted Forest: immediately after Regina cursed Belle)

 

Rumplestiltkin carried Belle over the threshold of her bedroom door and gently propped her into a sitting position upon her four post bed. Candles, spread throughout the chambers, sparked to life at their presence. The cold hearth instantly became ablaze, basking the room in a warm glow.

The uncomfortable ache inside her stopped growing the moment his lips touched hers. But it hadn't gone away. It yearned for more… So much more.

Lust-filled eyes followed Rumplestiltskin as he moved about the room. Removing his travel attire, he stripped down to a peach colored silk shirt with ruffles, and leathers. He discarded the heavy dragonhide coat and matching vest onto the back of an armchair.

Returning to her, he genuflected and grabbed her hand. He placed light kisses against her palm. Lips dragged slowly along. His mouth paused to nip playfully at the throbbing pulse in her wrist.

“Oh!” Belle gasped and watched the top of his head move up the length of her arm, leaving a trail of kisses in his wake.

Closing her eyes, she bit her bottom lip. Her body quaked with need. Numerous times she had imagined this moment, but her thoughts didn't hold a candle to reality. His kisses and touch were more erotic than she dreamed possible.

Perhaps it was the effect of Regina's curse, but Belle swore she could feel power coming from him with each caress of his lips. It rippled through her and chiseled at the cursed ache deep inside of her. What began as a painful curse was turning into pleasure beyond her imagination.

With lips at her neck, she felt his hand touch her cheek. It flittered along her exposed skin and down to the ties in the front of her dress. A thumb and pointer finger grasped one of the strings and tugged.

Belle felt the front of her dress give easily. She assumed he must have used magic to hasten the process. With her dress loose, his hands pushed the top down.  

Suddenly, he sprung to his feet. Before Belle could question him, he tugged her to stand and captured her mouth in a deep kiss. Her arms wrapped around his neck. Fingers tangled in his greying hair. Hands glided up her body sensually while he drank deeply from her mouth.

Belle moaned. Kissing him back harder, she felt his touch at her shoulders. Gold fingers pushed the sleeves along her arms. The feel of his fingernails gently scraping her skin while his hands traveled lower was delightful.

Rumple reached behind him and unraveled her hands from his neck. He broke away from her for just a moment to remove her dress. The blue material fluttered to the floor. With hands firmly pressed on her shoulders, he spun her around.

Brushing her long brown curls out of the way, he tucked them over her shoulder. Belle shivered at the feel of the back of his hand as it traced down the nape of her neck, along her spine and to the top of her corset. His lips found her neck again. His hooked nose tickled her earlobe as he rained kisses upon her skin.

Magical hands tugged at the laces. They submitted to his will with a flick of his wrist. The string unraveled and whipped through each eyelet with incredible speed. He dropped the ties to the floor, forgotten.

At the feel of her corset loosening, virgin jitters took over. Belle hugged the garment in place, overcome with nerves. Rumplestiltskin continued to be gentle and didn't pry the stays away from her grasp.

Instead, his arms wrapped around her waist, holding her firmly against him. Belle's cheeks flushed as she felt the proof of his desire pressed against the small of her back. He nibbled and kissed at the flesh in the tiny valley where her neck and shoulder met.

A hand flew backwards and grasped the back of his head, forcing his mouth to stay in the spot she wanted. A low moan escaped her parted lips while her fingers pressed into his scalp.

Fueled by her urgent desire, he gave her what she sought and applied more pressure, biting her harder.

Belle stopped breathing for a second. Lost in the feelings his mouth brought, her nerves melted away. The corset fell from her hold to join the rest of her clothes.

“Rumple…” she moaned out.

Her hand still held his head in place while he kissed her neck. Teeth bit down firmer and longer, but not unbearably painful.

His tongue lapped at the flesh trapped in his mouth. He suckled on it until her moans vibrated off the castle walls. Releasing it, he kissed along her jawline.

Without warning, Belle took a few steps forward. She found Rumple’s arms slacked without much effort on her part. Clad in only a camisole, she gazed over her shoulder at him. With a wanton look that was the polar opposite of the virgin that she was, she slid the flimsy material over her shoulders. Dropping her arms, she let the shift waver to the floor. Fully nude, she faced him.

Rumplestiltskin stood rooted to his spot. Caught up in the sight of her naked body for the first time, he appeared to have forgotten what he was supposed to do next.

Belle took the initiative and closed the gap between them. She reached up and began to unfasten his shirt; her eyes never leaving his. One by one she popped the buttons from their holes, revealing more shimmering skin.

Anyone who ever saw Rumplestiltskin would think he was covered in scales. But it was an optical illusion brought on by his curse. To the touch, his skin felt as soft as her own. Belle's hand slowly glided down his shimmering torso, mesmerized by the glittering smoothness.

‘Definitely no scales here,’ she thought, her hand ventured lower and over the front of his pants.

‘Oh my.’ Belle's hand brushed against him through the material. Her eyes widened with surprise at how large he felt.

“Does it really fit in... there?” she asked innocently.

Reminded of her virgin status, Rumple caught her hand. Bringing it to his lips, he kissed it lovingly.

“Mmm hmm. If done right,” he answered huskily.

He swooped her up in his arms and kissed her soundly, silencing her before she could ask more questions.

Without breaking their kiss, he carried her over to the bed. Cradling her in his arms, he engaged her mouth in a sexual dance while he lowered her onto the mattress.

In her aroused state Belle vaguely felt the bed sag beside her as Rumple joined her. Breaking from her lips, his hands traveled down her body. His mouth followed suit and kissed every inch of her curves.

“Ahh,” she cried out when his hand cupped her breast, soon followed by his lips encircling her hard nipple.

Belle never realized how such a simple action could drive her mad. She writhed while he suckled her, switching back and forth between near painful nips and tender caresses of his tongue. Her mind was so focused on the attention he lavished upon her breasts, she hadn't realized his hand had traveled lower until it touched the nest of curls between her legs.

She gasped as his fingers slid through the soft nest of hair and touched the source of her torment. She pleaded with him for more, not really understanding what she was yearning for.

But Rumplestiltskin knew. His mouth claimed hers again while his fingers parted her dewy lips and entered her. Belle tried to moan but found the sound was devoured by Rumple's mouth. Another finger slipped inside her, stroking the fire lit by Regina's curse.

Rumplestiltskin pumped his fingers in a gentle rhythm, sending her consciousness soaring to heights beyond understanding. Her mind exploded. Her vaginal walls clamped around his fingers, coating his hand in her virgin essence.

When the fog of her orgasm faded, Rumple sat back in his heels. He was staring at her glimmering juices, dripping down his hand. Belle moaned as she watched him bring the fingers he had inside her to his mouth. Like a child sucking the juices from a sweet fruit, he licked his fingers.

“Rumple…” she called to him, her body still recovering from her first orgasm.

Smiling impishly down at her, he crawled between her spread legs and kissed her senseless. Once more she could feel his fingers penetrating her, stroking her. But she didn't want them anymore. She wanted something more filling.

Belle reached down and unfastened his pants. He pulled away for a second, seemingly caught off guard by her boldness. Her eyes pleaded with him, while her hand still clutched the waistband of his pants.

Taking her hand, he kissed it. “Soon.”

Belle groaned in frustration. She wanted him. All of him. She didn't know how much longer she could be patient.

Still, he made her wait.

With a flourish of his wrist he summoned a bottle filled with a transparent liquid. “Please drink this…” He proffered the potion.

Confused, Belle took the bottle from him and studied it.

“To prevent pregnancy,” he explained simply.

Belle blinked at the revelation. She hadn't thought about what would happen if she ended up pregnant. Knowing this was not the time for a child, Belle willingly drank the potion. She felt a coldness spread through her womb.

Satisfied she wouldn't be birthing a bairn in nine months, Rumple vanished the bottle and returned to her.

Kissing her fervently, he stroked her to the point of ecstasy, only to remove his hand before she found nirvana again.

About ready to protest, her words died when she felt him rubbing against her wet entrance. Belle bucked her hips upwards, wanting to take it all. But Rumple's strong hold on her hips held her firmly down. He began sliding into her agonizingly slow.

She thrashed her head back and forth. Again, she tried to lift herself to meet him, but to no avail. She was no match for his god-like strength.

Rumple leaned down and kissed her ear. “Slowly, my sweet.”

Belle could feel his length spreading her wider, filling her more than his fingers. His manhood paused when met with the barrier of her maidenhood.

“This will hurt for a moment…” she heard him say before he thrust into her, breaking through her hymen.

Belle cried out. Tears burned her eyes. Rumple hadn't lied when he said it would hurt. But he was tender with her. Barely moving to let her body grow accustomed to his size, he trailed kisses along her neck.

Belle quickly forgot the pain as Rumple's mouth distracted her. His hands had ceased holding her down and now roamed her body. His lips caressed her skin.

Now that she was relaxed, Rumple propped himself up with his arms.

Once their eyes were locked, he moved his hips and withdrew until just the tip remained inside her. Belle whimpered at the loss of him. The sound died instantly when he buried himself deeply inside her again.

Belle wrapped her legs around his waist and met his thrusts with equal vigor. The pressure was beginning to build inside her once more. With each stroke of his throbbing member she grew more wild.

“Please…” she begged and locked her arms around his neck.

Rumplestiltskin turned his head, kissing her forearm. At her request his thrusts increased. Faster he drove into her. She cried out louder. Deliriously she pleaded for him to give her relief, which he answered with more relentless, hard strokes.

As if the universe imploded and the stars fell from the sky, Belle’s sanity shattered. Cries of pleasure escaped her lips as she clamped around him and poured her essence all over him.

Rumplestiltskin roared like a beast. His whole body stiffened. His hard member pulsated and filled her with his warm seed.

Rumple collapsed on top of her. He panted heavily in her ear. In the afterglow of their lovemaking, Belle felt the curse’s effects lift. Smiling, she tightened her arms around him and closed her eyes.

 

Belle awakened sometime later to find Rumplestiltskin lounging lazily beside her. He was playing with an orb of sapphire blue magic. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Belle watched him quietly as he molded the erratic sphere into a teardrop shape. He held the orb over a red stain on her sheets. Mortified at the proof of her virginity, Belle's cheeks flushed, but she couldn't stop herself from watching him.

He waved a hand over the blood stain, summoning the substance from the sheets. Little red droplets floated up and soared into the blue substance, converting the volatile magic into a hard stone with specks of gold spread throughout.

Next, he summoned the drips of her essence into his hand. He squeezed the droplets in his grasp. Loosening his hold revealed the liquid had been transformed into dozens of little diamonds. The white stones flew from his palm and surrounded the larger blue stone and created a white ring around the sparkling gem.

“What are you doing?” she asked and stared at the spot where her virgin blood had been. The sheets were now pristine as if freshly washed.

Rumplestiltskin banished his creation and smiled impishly. “Just passing the time.”

Belle shrugged. Too tired to ask more questions, she snuggled up to him and lay her head on his chest. “Will you read to me again?”

Rumplestiltskin chuckled. He flicked his wrist and her new favorite book appeared. Just as he had done so in the tower, he read to her. His gentle spinner voice relaxed her.

Sleep soon took her and everything was peaceful.



(Storybrooke: present day)

 

Belle sat on the cot with her knees hugged tightly to her chest. Her midday lunch consisting of a bologna sandwich sat untouched. Too disgusted by the same meal she had been served for twenty eight years, Belle ignored it.

Clink.

Belle straightened her legs and stared at her door, perplexed.

‘What was that?’ she thought. Ears perked, she focused carefully. Perhaps it was her lonely mind playing a trick on her, but she swore she heard someone on the other side.

Arising from her seated position, she curiously made her way across the length of the room and placed her ear to the door. She could hear someone on the other side. The lock to her door was jingling.

“Hello?” Belle called out. Her words were met with silence.

Then she heard his voice.

Twenty eight years since she last heard him speak. But the brogue accent she loved was unmistakable.

“Hang on, Belle. I'm going to get you out.”

Tears filled her eyes. Pleased Rumple had decoded her message and came for her, she took a couple paces back and waited anxiously.

The door unlatched and opened to reveal a very human looking Rumplestiltskin. His frizzy hair was tamed and smooth. Skin, the usual pale luster of a mortal, covered his body in lieu of the cursed golden skin she remembered.

Her eyes watched him as he limped into the room. His cane tapped against the hard floor. The newer fashion of this world suited him. The sharp suit amplified his darkness. Belle could see how anyone could be intimidated by him.

Stopping an arm's length away, his amber eyes, absent their wildness, gazed at her hopefully. Their depths pooled with tears. But he waited.

Belle smiled despite her own tears threatening to spill. Knowing exactly what he wanted to hear, she took a deep breath and spoke. “At the same time…”

Rumple nodded and watched her. Eyes locked, their thoughts in complete sync, they both spoke their word.

“Rumbelle.”

At the sound of the familiar codeword, they both fell apart. She threw arms around his neck and sobbed uncontrollably on his shoulder.

Rumplestiltskin held her tightly against him with his free arm cradled around her shoulders. He buried his face in her hair. Silent tears poured from his eyes and onto her head.

Belle didn't care. Feeling his tears upon her made their reunion feel less like a dream and more of a reality. She clung to him like a lost child. The feel of his hand sliding up to her hair comforted her.

“Everything's going to be alright. You're safe now.”

Belle held onto him tighter. She didn't want to let him go again. But he was withdrawing from her arms. Wide, pained eyes followed him. Lip trembling she captured it between her teeth to still its quaking.

Lovingly, he caressed her cheek with a gloved hand. Meeting her hurt gaze with a reassuring one, he reasoned, “there will be plenty of time for that. There will be time for everything. But first, let's get you out of here.”

Belle nodded and sniffled loudly. She wiped her wet cheeks with her sleeve.

Walking over to her bed, she picked up ‘Skin Deep’ and tucked it under her arm.

Rumplestiltskin studied her for a moment before removing his coat. “It is cold in the tunnels,” he said as he offered his coat to her.

As he held the coat in place with one hand, Belle turned around and slid an arm into one sleeve, then the other. When she faced him again, he tugged at the front of the coat. He deftly popped the buttons into their holes until the coat was fully fastened.  

Once satisfied she would be warm enough, he took her hand in his. Kissing the back of it warmly, he lead her out of the cell.

Rumple's grip felt tight but she didn't care. The minor discomfort made it all feel real as he led her down the hall towards the boiler room and to the entrance leading to the tunnels below the town.

Squeezing past the machines, she panicked when he let go of her hand. Rumple was searching the pockets of the coat she wore. He removed a small cylindrical object and turned its head.

Belle jumped when light sparked to life in his hand. Forgetting her anxiety for a moment, her quizzical nature kicked in. “What is that thing?”

Rumple looked at her oddly, as if confused by her question. “It is a flashlight.”

“Oh.” Belle pouted. She hated how sorely uneducated about this new world she was. Rumple's arm jutting out in front of her line of vision drew her mind from her self pity.

Belle gripped it greedily. If she grasped him too tightly, he did not complain as he lead the way through the maze of passages.

He moved much slower than she remembered. Belle tried to slow her gait to match his hampered one.

Twice Rumplestiltskin winced and muttered a swear under his breath.

“Are you okay?” Belle asked the second time, concerned for him. Never had she seen the look of physical pain on his face.

Balancing on his good leg and cane, Rumple flexed and wiggled his lame limb.

“Fine,” he answered grumpily. “Just the joys of being human.”

Rumple sneered. Belle could detect he was embarrassed by his old injury and said nothing more. She waited patiently for him to stretch the cramp out.

“How did you trigger your memories?” he asked and resumed their trek through the passages.

“What do you mean?” she asked. They turned a corner and were met with more darkness. Rumple aimed the light ahead of them.

“You remember. How? Was it the book?” he questioned, nudging his hooked nose in the direction of her beloved keepsake under her arm.

Finally understanding his question, Belle thought back to the day Storybrooke burst into existence.

“Well…no. I only just got the book. When the smoke lifted and we were brought here I still had all my real memories. For some reason I never got the ones we planned, nor the cursed memories Regina had created.”

Belle shuddered as she remembered her first day in town. “And I am grateful. When I was wandering through Storybrooke searching for you, I talked to Jiminy and the woodcarver. They’re cursed personas acted like I was a thieving, drunk harlot.”

So wrapped up in talking, Belle didn't realize until she tried to step forward and found she couldn't, that Rumplestiltskin stopped moving. Thinking it was his leg again, she turned to offer him support. Instead she found his hard gaze glued to the floor.

“You were out,” he said. It was more of a statement than a question.

Nodding, Belle moved closer to him. “Barely a day. Regina's trained dog picked me up outside your shop for loitering.”

Rumplestiltskin's head jerked up, eyes wide at her revelation.“You were at my shop?”

“I just saw it from the outside. You weren't there. I passed you in the police car to the station.”

Belle could see the anger arise in his eyes. His nostrils flared. “So you spent twenty eight years stuck here, completely aware of yourself?”

Belle nodded. “I did try to escape once… broke a rib trying to squeeze out the window. After that I didn't try again.”

Rumplestiltskin was always an emotional train wreck. The man could switch between emotions faster than a shooting star. The anger and fury over Belle's imprisonment faded from his face. She could see the effect the pain of her suffering had on him. His expression was full of regret; as if it was all his fault. “I’m sorry you suffered so much. If only our amendment worked.”

“Why didn't it?” she questioned.   

“My guess is Regina discovered it somehow and changed it. I knew there was a possibility that might happen when we did it, given she can control the memories of people under the curse. I thought I spelled it enough for it to override her power for us.”

He stiffened and raised his head, listening cautiously. His arm urged her to stand behind him. He passed her the flashlight and his hand shuffled in the front pocket for what she assumed was a modern version of a gun. She heard it click while he pointed it in front of them.

“Lurking is going to get you shot.” His sinister threat echoed down the hall.

Afraid Regina was just ahead of them, waiting to tear them apart again, Belle shrunk in fear. All the bravery she mustered in the Enchanted Forest was absent.

It wasn't Regina.

A tall, peculiar man turned the corner and stepped into the flashlight’s rays. Impeccably dressed with a matching scarf around his neck, he held his hands up in peace. “Please don't shoot. I'm wearing Armani.”

“Jefferson?” Rumple asked cautiously, still holding the gun.

“I’m glad you found her,” the man answered and took a few steps closer.

Recognizing his voice, Belle peered around Rumple’s protective stance and smiled gratefully, glad to finally see the face of the man responsible for aiding her. “You’re the one who got my message to Rumple.”

Jefferson nodded. Rumple lowered his weapon.

“I'm sorry I couldn't do more…” he began and frowned.  “but I feared for my daughter if Regina knew…” His blue eyes pleaded for them to understand.

“No need to explain more,” Rumplestiltskin replied. Lowering his arm, Belle stepped around him until she was at his side. Once more she hugged his arm.

“I owe you, Jefferson. Without your help I may not have ever found my wife,” he said and shot a loving gaze at her.

“You want to pay it back?” Jefferson questioned, pulling Rumple's attention from her and back towards him. “Take out Regina. And make sure it is very public so we can all enjoy the show.”

Belle watched Rumple carefully. Perhaps it was the shadows caused by the flashlight, but for a moment Belle thought she saw the twinkle of an imp return to his face.

Rumplestiltskin smirked and snickered ironically. “I would dearie, however... killing her would result in the curse becoming permanent. Everyone's Enchanted Forest personas will be gone... Forever .”

‘That would be just like Regina to get the last victory even in death,’ Belle thought bitterly.

“Please tell me you’re fucking joking,” Jefferson complained.

“Alas, I’m not... and I don't know about you but I do not want to spend the rest of my days as a cranky old man. The curse MUST be broken. Only then can Regina be defeated.”

“But you must have some plan for revenge…”

“Patience, dearie. Once the savior breaks the curse Regina will have an entire town thirsting for her blood. We won't have to do a thing.”

Jefferson frowned and folded his arms over his chest. Leaning back against the wall, he muttered bitterly, “that is if she ever does. That girl is so fucking thick. There is literal evidence slapping her in the face every way she turns and she is ignorant to it.”

“It is easy to ignore the truth when you haven't experienced it. I know it is frustrating but wait. Trust me when I say she will break it. I have seen it. I know how she does it. However, there are still a series of events that need to happen before she does.”

“How much longer? I need to know there is an end in sight.”

“A few months. Give or take.”

“Fine. I'll wait until the curse is broken. I just hope Regina's demise is worth all the anticipation.”

 

(Enchanted Forest: the following day)

 

Belle awakened in a daze. Her mind was still blown away by the events of the previous night. They had sex. Backed into a corner by Regina’s treachery, Rumplestiltskin had been faced with the choice of putting his power at stake to save her or let her die. Insistent she would not die, Rumplestiltskin surprised them both and chose to save her.

Rumplestiltskin!

Belle sat up in a panic. Her eyes darted around the room for any sight of him, but he was not there. Belle, worried about the state she would find Rumplestiltskin in, threw the covers off and leapt from the bed. She slipped into a robe, concealing her nudity, and tied it hastily.

If his curse was broken and his magic gone with it, would he suddenly hate her for his loss? Belle pushed the miserable thought from her mind and fled the room.

Bare feet pounded against the cold stone. She ran through the halls and down the stairs.

Standing outside the doors to the great hall she panted, winded from the distance from her chambers to the ground floor. She threw the doors open. Her eyes fell upon him sitting at his spinning wheel with his back towards her.

Strolling closer for a better view, she passed a large hourglass sitting upon the table. The sands from the top were over halfway depleted. Too concerned for him, she ignored the time piece and continued her pace to where he sat.

Belle sighed with relief when she saw his still golden hands feeding the straw through. The hay spun in his hands, transforming into gold tread.

“How do you feel,” he asked without looking at her.

“Back to normal.” Belle smiled and ducked under his upraised arm. She made herself comfortable across his lap. “What about you?”

Rumplestiltskin tilted his head in the hourglass direction. “Time will tell soon enough.”

“Can I help you pass the time in a more entertaining way?” Belle linked her arms around his neck and nuzzled the pulse beating in his throat with her nose.  

His pulse sped up at her touch. “Um… -you can do whatever.”

Taking that as invitation Belle lifted her head and shifted herself on his lap until she straddled him. The feel of the smooth leather of his pants against her naked sex, combined with the thought of only the small piece of material separating them, made her quiver.

She cupped his face in her hands. Gem eyes bore into flabbergasted ones. She leaned in and placed a kiss on the tip of his nose. He scrunched it at her, but it didn't deter her movements.

Ignoring his startled expression, Belle's lips moved down. She kissed every inch of his mouth. With her tongue, she traced the path her lips had taken before venturing inside. When she caressed his tongue with her own he groaned.

His hands dropped the hay he still clutched and pulled her tighter to him. Fingers tangled in her tresses, he tugged it gently but firmly. She pulled away and tilted her head back, exposing the tender flesh of her neck to his gaze. There was already a mark there from his earlier biting.

She could feel his eyes feasting upon her. Leaning in, his lips caressed her throat besides the existing love bite. She purred as teeth scraped playfully at her neck. The feeling was more erotic than painful.

A nip followed by his lips and tongue kissing the pain away. The sensation made her ache for him. More so when she felt him hardening underneath her. He continued to kiss downwards.

With his powerful arms supporting her, Belle arched her back, allowing him easier access to her flesh.

Fingers danced against her skin as he pulled the robe open, exposing her chest. His mouth trailed along her collarbone and to the top of her soft breasts.

While still supporting her with one arm, his hand traced down her curves. Finding her center tucked under a small mound of curls, long fingers teased the outside of her sex.

“Please...” Belle whimpered with need.

Capturing her nipple with his mouth, he trapped the little nub of flesh in between his teeth and applied a little pressure. Belle moaned and clutched at the back of his head.

“Tell me what you want,” he bated huskily, followed by his tongue flicking against her hardened nipple.

Belle groaned while he teased her mercilessly. His fingers traced the length of her outer lips waiting for an answer. “I...um...”

A finger slipped inside her and stroked her slowly. “Say it.”

Without warning, Belle straightened her back, trapping his hand against her sex. Rumplestiltskin lifted his head from her breasts and gazed lustfully at her. She was kissing him again. Her hands were between them, fumbling with the fastenings of his trousers. When she managed to open them her hand snaked inside and pulled him out.

“Belle...” He gasped as her hand encircled his hardened member.

Lips dragged down his jawline and to his ear. She bit his lobe harder than either expected.

He growled low in his throat and responded by sliding another finger inside her. A thumb flicked at the tender nub of flesh above her opening. He stroked her tenderly, his fingers becoming encased in her juices.

“I want you…” she replied into his ear, her hand slid up and down his shaft, further cementing her desire for him. He throbbed in her inexperienced grip.

“...inside me,” she added and squeezed his member, puncturing her salacious request.

Pushed over the edge by her vixen ways, Rumplestiltskin removed his fingers. His hands quickly gripped her bottom. Surprised by him, Belle let go of his engorged member. Taking back control, he hoisted her up enough to position himself at her entrance.

Her inner walls squeezed at his length as he slowly entered her. Belle clung to his shoulders. The feeling of him as he eased inside her was sensational. Her nails dug into his flesh. A heady moan escaped her lips once he was buried in her. Using his hands to guide her movements, he lifted her up and down his member.

Planting her feet on the floor, she caught onto his rhythm and matched it. Rising up on tiptoes, she lifted herself up, exposing most of his shaft before flattening her feet and taking him all in again. She repeated the process in a slow pattern, driving him wild with her teasing strokes.

Growling, his lips crushed hers and he stood abruptly with her in his arms.

Belle squealed into his mouth and instinctively wrapped her legs around his waist. He was still firmly inside her as he pinned her to the wall.

Breaking their kiss, his gold eyes, swirled dark with lust, gazed at her. “Looks like I need to teach my maid what happens to those who tease the dark one,” he warned and took her mouth again.

Unlike their earlier session, Rumple’s kisses were unhinged. He kissed her passionately while he drove into her. With each thrust Belle could feel the roughness of the stone against her back, but she didn't care.

Setting a faster pace, he thrust into her harder. His more forceful strokes sent her mind exploding. Shockwaves of pleasure rippled through her body and coated his member in juices. She could hear her essence dripping to floor. Her orgasm intensified his thrusts. Faster he pumped into her, driving her over the brink again and again.  

Belle wanted to scream in ecstasy, but Rumple’s mouth wasn't leaving hers. He swallowed her gasps and moans, stroking her harder.

One last intense thrust and she felt his body tense. Her insides pulsed as his member throbbed and spilled seed inside of her. The sensation brought on by his orgasm drove her to one final crescendo.

A galaxy of lights erupted inside her as her own juices flowed. Spent, Belle pulled away from his mouth. Resting her cheek on his shoulder, she stared, dazed at the hourglass. The sand was almost gone from the top.

“Rumple…” she called to him. His face was hidden against her neck. His chest still heaved from the exertion.

Belle became aware of the coolness of the wall against her back as he lowered her to her feet. His eyes met hers. He recovered his wits quicker than she did, although the passion in his gaze still lingered.

Before he could offer a silly apology for ravishing her, she kissed him sweetly and smiled. She pointed to the empty hourglass behind them.

Rumplestiltskin looked at it, stunned. Then he gazed at his own hands. He smiled victoriously and trilled, “Heh heh. And she said there wasn't a loophole!” Magic restored his clothes to proper order.

“Does that mean I can kiss you whenever I want?” Belle asked as he grabbed the ties of her robe. He pulled the material together and tied it around her waist.

Belle peered into his mischievous eyes. Rumplestiltskin leaned in and answered her question with a chaste kiss. She purred happily against him.

“And you had me thinking I would be waiting a hundred years…”

“Regina’s meddling did speed up things.”

“Should we send her a thank you gift?”

Rumplestiltskin snorted and turned abruptly. “No. But I will make sure she won't hurt you again,” he said menacingly.

Returning to his spinning wheel, he picked up a bundle of hay.

Belle followed him. Her eyes watched as he fed the hay through. “I didn't realize she could impersonate you.”

“I taught her how to transfigure her appearance... However, I didn't think she would be stupid enough to be me.”

“What happens if she tries again?”

“She wouldn't dare.”

“How can you be sure,”Belle pressed on.

Rumple paused in his spinning. “I'm not,” he replied, his voice coated with agitation. “All I can do is terrorize her enough to deter her from ever coming after you again.”

Not convinced Regina will give in so easily, Belle ventured further with her questions. “What if we created a codeword? Like Roselle and Beau did in chapter six. If we suspect each other we can ask for the code?”

Rumplestiltskin’s eyes darted back and forth in their sockets as his brain scrambled through words that could work. Minutes passed when he spoke again. “What about Rumbelle?”

“Rum-belle?”

Returning to his spinning, he explained, “a blend of our names. It's a word that doesn't exist. No chance of someone guessing it.”

Belle smiled. “Rumbelle it is,” she agreed and watched him silently spin bundle after bundle into gold.

“How do you do that?”

Again, he paused. She thought for sure he would give her some vague impish remark, but instead he smiled at her.

Standing, he turned the bench he had been sitting on long ways. Straddling it, he sat down then patted the empty space in front of him.

“Sit.”

Belle excitedly obeyed. She settled herself comfortably in front of him.

“Grab a bundle of hay,” Rumplestiltskin instructed. Leaning closer in, he snaked an arm around her waist. Belle bent over and grasped a swatch of hay from the basket. She held it, waiting for his next instruction.

His free hand glided up her arm. Covering her hand with his own, he linked their fingers together and moved hers into position.

“Magic is based on emotions. Whether you draw from the darkness or the light, that power is still fueled by your feelings.” Rumplestiltskin’s breath was hot against her ear as he explained the process to her.

“While you feed it through here…” he paused and guided her hand to a unique slot not found on a standard great wheel to put the hay in. “...I want you to think about the things you love. When you have that thought in mind, embrace it. Let it flow from your heart, through your veins, and into your fingertips.”

Belle closed her eyes. Imagining something she loved was easy enough when the object of her ardor sat behind her.

He removed his arm from her waist and took her other hand in his own. Linking it with his like he did previously, he spoke, “spin here…"

Rumplestiltskin guided her hands. One resting on the large wheel, the other poised to start pulling. Hands clasped, they spun the wheel.

Belle gasped with excitement as the hay left her fingers. The straw fibers sprouted out the other side transformed into a coarse thread. It looped around a pulley and through a hole. Normally the string would wrap around a spindle, but for the sake of practice it was disregarded. Belle instead felt the cool sensation of gold between her finger tips. Opening her eyes, she smiled at the shimmering rope of white gold.

Releasing her hands, Rumple leaned over and picked up a pair of scissors from the basket to cut the string.

“Hold that,” he said and dropped the white gold strand in her lap. Again, he reached in front of her. Snatching a bundle of hay, he repeated the process, spinning a strand of sparkling yellow gold. He cut that piece as well.

Taking the one she created with his new one, he stood and strolled away, twirling the gold in his fingers.

“What are you up to?”

Rumplestiltskin answered her with a thrilling laugh. “My, oh my. My little maid is so impatient today.”

Belle rolled her eyes. She watched him carefully for any sign of mischief. He was facing her now. She could see he had molded their two strands into an ornate band. Belle furrowed her brow but said nothing.

The blue gem he had been playing with earlier suddenly appeared in his hand. Holding the dual gold band in one hand and the stone in the other, he clasped his hands together and rolled them as if molding a ball.

When he opened his hands, the band and stone had formed a ring. Grinning crookedly, he came to her and took her hand. He slid the magically crafted ring onto her left ring finger. “Perfect.”

Belle’s eyes teared up. “It is lovely… but why?” she asked and turned her hand to different angles, admiring the light reflecting off the gems.

Rumplestiltskin studied her. “A symbol of the words I dare not say, lest I tempt fate.”

Smiling, Belle leaned in and kissed him lovingly. “I love you too.”