It takes Rumpelstiltskin about five seconds after Belle is no longer there to distract him to realize that she is unable to teleport and thus cannot travel from his citadel in the mountains to the seaside kingdom he took her from without considerable difficulty.
It takes ten to appear beside her, take her by the arm, and deposit her in her room, with a few protection charms just in case. Just because she tried to take away his power doesn't mean he'll allow her to be harmed.
When he returns, he resolutely does not look at the open book on the couch, the set for two on the table, or the mirror that will show him how she is doing.
Belle is received among her Papa's tears of joy, anxious queries, and warm embraces (too tight, she thinks, but says nothing), and the news of her fiance's disappearance.
She resolutely does not grin at the last piece of news, but it reminds her that, after Sir Gaston's tragic sacrifice is mourned, a new suitor will be found for her. (personally, she doubts the appearance of any candidates, and the thought drags her out of the melancholy that's been surrounding her for days, if only for a moment.)
She notices the change in people around her before she has been in the castle for a week. Her father and friends treat her as if she is either explosive or breakable (there are moments when she thinks they have just cause). Their attempts to cheer her up drive her to a cliff-side walk or a book in the garden. Some stay away from her altogether. She can no longer quite remember how to address a Duke and which fork is used for an entree. She weeps silently for hours without cause, turns to make quips to someone who is miles away.
She never belonged in this world. Now, she is a stranger to it.
When his resolve breaks for the first time, he appears beside her as she watches the ocean from a high cliff. Her dress, though made for a princess, is almost his shade of blue. It makes it easier to pretend.
Neither of them feel the need to face each other or acknowledge each other's presence. This is a dance too well-practiced to require formalities.
"That's a long way to fall, dearie,"
"You'd catch me if I fell."
"Why did you stay here?"he asks. "I thought you wanted to see the world."
"I do," she says, and as she turns towards him, the wind blows her curls into her face.
She turns back to the infinite expanse of blue. "My father needs me. Even more so with Gaston gone."
Saying it aloud makes something click, and her eyes widen.
He smirks. "And if I could guarantee Gaston's return?"
Belle nods. "Perhaps."
"I see," is his only reply.
The next day, her very bewildered and somewhat disheveled fiance appears in the middle of the dining hall table at supper.
Belle shakes her head and fetches a handkerchief to strange looks.
The next time he appears, she is setting flowers on a grave. She wears pale pink, the colour of dawn and roses and innocence.
She calmly arranges the last of the snow-white roses, then stands. Places her arms around him, her head on his chest. Breathes, and holds on tight.
"My mother," she whispers into his leather vest.
He strokes her back gently, a soothing motion, afraid to squeeze too hard.
An eternity later, she lets go, and picks up an old volume, the pages frayed from continuous use.
"She adored this story," Belle explains. "She read to me every night."
They end up sitting on the grass, her head on his lap, as for once, he is the one reading her a story. His hand gently, hesitantly, strokes her chestnut curls.
The third time, Rumpelstiltskin visits Avonlea in the middle of a ball.
It is a masquerade (part of the reason he chooses to attend. He would spoil no ball of hers), and his face is hidden by a crimson and black mask. Few notice him alone by the drinks (by now, he has had more than one).
His princess (no longer his, but he has given up trying to remember that) is the star of the night, and he realises her father wishes for her to choose a husband. She dances and smiles, though it never reaches her eyes, and excuses herself as soon as possible.
When she sees him, her eyes behind the gold mask widen. He realizes he is not the only one capable of recognizing someone he has spent months with.
She approaches him in that way only she can. Makes small talk, asks after what details of his deals she knows. Then she grabs his hand, leads him onto the balcony nearby, there she takes off her mask and reaches for his.
"I'm not going to kiss you." she says, when he attempts to resist, and has her way.
The gold of her gown reminds him almost unpleasantly of their first encounter.
They stand in the cool air for a few moments, facing the night, before she breaks the silence.
"Why do you keep coming back, Rumpelstiltskin?"
He should have realized. He released her from the deal, and that also means his company She may have loved him once, for the kiss to work, but no doubt she has changed her mind, here in the life of luxury she deserves. He is being unfair to her.
"I'm sorry."he assures her. "This will be my last visit."
Spells have ripped trough his flesh, leaving him helpless for days, and hurt less than this promise he so freely gives her.
To his surprise, she bursts into tears.
"You made it quite clear that you do not love me back. You couldn't stand the sight of me after I kissed you! And yet every time I try to distract myself, you appear, and it hurts all over again!"
"I never meant to hurt you," is all he can think of to say. He has a feeling anything else might not be well-received at the moment. "And I came today, because, if your feelings haven't changed..I do. Love you. Belle, I love you so much."
Belle quirks an eyebrow (because, yes, she is escastic, but fair is fair and he made her wait three weeks).
"Why were you apologizing?"
He tries to hide his expression in his curls in that lovely, exasperating way of his. She place a finger against his cheek, effectively freezing him in place.
"I thought you were tired of my interfering in your life. "
"Oh, too late for that. " she says, airily. "I'm tired of you interfering in my life -and not staying in it, you silly man. Now, tonight, I am to choose a husband."
He grimaces slightly.
Belle is grinning, and, in that moment, isn't sure if she can ever stop.
"You get to ask my Papa to let you spirit me away again. And this time, you're not getting any help from me! "
What can I say, I'm a sucker for happy endings. And yes,maybe I'm a little angry at the way obvious things are ignored, and Rumple's character is mauled almost every chance they get.
Might become a two-shot.
Belle is adamant that, no Runplestiltskin could not just pretend to deal for her again. She was going with him of her own free will, and her father, as well as everyone else who cared about her, was going to be reassured of the fact. After all, her one regret, last time had been the worry she had caused.
Besides, she admits to herself, she wants the world to know she loves him.
Rumplestiltskin plans on protecting her too well for her enemies to find, but there are still precautions to take. The ceremony (his marriage ceremony, Rumplestiltskin thinks, and resists the urge to giggle hysterically) must be a small one, only those Belle considers trustworthy invited.
They decide to appear before her father when the ball is over, everyone gone home. Everything is settled some time before then.
"I do believe we have time for a dance, my lady?" he offers, and still so shy and hesitant, it almost breaks her heart.
She hooks her arm through his. The tune is a slow waltz, and Belle finds she has an excellent partner.
Her father stares in horror. To him, Rumplestiltskin still the sorcerer who took his only child and sent her back sullen and inconsolable.
He looks to Belle instead.
"Petal, you said the deal, it was over. What is he doing here?"
Belle nudges him forward. Her part comes later.
"Sir," Rumplestiltskin says, and Belle stifles a laugh. "I wish to ask for her daughter's hand in marriage."
Her Papa branches "Is this some kind of joke?!"
Belle thinks she has put both the men she loves through enough torture for one night. "I love him, Papa."
The completely opposite expressions on their faces might have been comical in another situation.
Her father places a hand on her shoulder, "Belle, Belle, if he's put some enchantment on you.."
And she knows he wishes the best for her, wants her happiness, but why must it be so hard?
"No, no enchantments, Papa."
"And if I were to say no?"
Rumplestiltskin steps forward at that point, and she is grateful for it.
"You would sacrifice your daughter's happiness for your pride?"
Belle remembers the story he still owes her, and the emotion behind the words makes even Maurice uncertain.
"Why do you want to marry Belle?" he asks the most feared sorcerer of his time.
And Rumplestiltskin responds, "I love her."
Belle wonders if she will ever get used to the words.
There are still so many secrets left untold. There are rifts to mend, a father to convince,(and a dress to pick). But for now, they are together-and that is enough.
Sir Maurice reluctantly agrees to bless the ceremony. Whether this is from his fear of Rumplestiltskin or love for her is something Belle chooses not to contemplate.
Belle looks stunning in white satin and tulle.
And the ring he presents her with is woven with his gold and all the promises that are meaningless in words and the sincerity of true love.
Twenty -nine years later, as a blonde in a red leather jacket shakes hands with Mr. Gold, she recieves a smile from the brunette with startling blue eyes at his side. She's heard that the woman married the town monster to save her father's buisness, a trophy wife for the pawnbroker and has already made up her mind to ask her-Belle, as she introduces herself-if she needs any help. But as she walks away after introducing herself, she looks back-and intuition tells her Belle is fine where she is.
Unknown to her, it is her arrival (and the effects of a curse centuries in the making) that allows them to share their first true kiss.
"No way. " Rumple insists, as Belle tries to interrupt. "No way at all."
"I'm fine, Runplestiltskin." Belle huffs. "I'm not an invalid."
"Its too much a risk. You're going to stay home for a while. The library can wait, and I'm sure Charming and the rest of them can take care of any monsters that may decide to attack the town."
Belle slides off the couch he seems intent on keeping her on ever since she told him the news.
For all her nervousness, he seems overjoyed at the thought of a child-if a little over-protective. And Belle hates staying in one place.
She joins her husband in the kitchen and place her arms around his waist, her chin on his shoulder.
"I'm just fine..."
It had taken half a century for Rumplestiltskin the spinner to become the Dark One whose name was feared across the Enchanted Forest and beyond.
And it hadn't all been deed, either. The time had been for him to learn to giggle and mock where he'd stared at his boots and waited to be addressed, to dance and create flamboyant gestures where he'd limped with a humble spinner's gait, and to adopt leather as a second skin (as much protection as intimidation, but no one need know that) instead of the peasant's rags he'd always worn.
In Storybrooke, he had learned that madness was not expected of him, that here power came as leases and contracts and deals, a calm, controlled demeanor was more terrifying than a menacing hiss, and a limp was not a sign of weakness- so he'd become Mr Gold, as feared in this world as Rumplestiltskin had been in theirs.
It is almost frightening how a single movement from a child not yet even born can unwind all those facades and reveal the man who had, once upon a time, crippled himself so he could have the chance to hold his son in his arms.
Belle places both her hands on top of his.
"He likes you." she tells him, smiling softly.
"How do you know it's a he?" Rumplestiltskin asks.
She shrugs "I just do."
That night, Belle turns to him as he lies on his back , staring at the ceiling.
"What is it?"
Runplestiltskin looks more vulnerable than he has in a long time.
"What if I..I let our child down the way I disappointed Bae?"
"Oh, Rumple.. Neal forgave you. And you won't make the same mistake twice."
He wishes he could be just as sure.
They take Belle away and all that is left for him to do is pace. Pace, and consider all the ways things could go wrong. Belle is not fragile-but she is mortal. And when has fate ever hesitated before stealing away everything he holds dear?
As he looks into his son's eyes, Rumplestiltskin feels himself being lost all over again.
Because yes, perhaps it would have been easier with a girl. Perhaps he wouldn't have been so painfully aware of the precious fragility of this moment if it had been blue eyes looking into his with this trusting innocence he's only ever seen once before.
But Alain, as Belle is intent on naming him, has Belle's laugh, and his hair is straighter and his eyes are lighter, and Rumplestiltskin discovers this unique little boy, so unlike Bae, now he looks closely, has him wrapped around his finger.
But then, there is room enough in his heart for both.
I'm 15. Please keep that in mind.
That said, thank you so much for the comments, kudos and bookmarks. It means a lot. Oh, Belle's dress,