|The Tune of Bullets
Author: Bad Faery PM
Western AU- Everyone in town is afraid of the notorious gunslinger Mr. Gold. Saloon-worker Belle sees things differently.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Belle & Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold - Chapters: 12 - Words: 86,651 - Reviews: 493 - Favs: 336 - Follows: 189 - Updated: 07-27-12 - Published: 04-14-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8023507
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ten years later...
"There you go," Belle said as she dabbed at the stitches she'd just finished putting in little Ethan Nolan's temple. "And remember that climbing trees is one thing. Getting out of them is something else."
The little boy nodded, abashed, as his mother, the proprietress of Storybrooke's schoolhouse thanked Belle profusely. She escorted the boy out with confusing promises of treats for being good for Doctor Gold and threats of punishment for climbing a forbidden tree in the first place, having to pick their way around the tea party currently occurring just inside the door of the cabin.
Rose was presiding over the the proceedings, her chestnut curls neatly tied back and cascading over her shoulders. The years had fulfilled their promise of turning her into a miniature version of her mother with the exception of the sharp nose she'd inherited from him. Seven year old Lydia who favored him with her dark hair and eyes was doing her best to mimic her older sister, both of them trying futilely to involve Eleanor in the game. At two, Ellie seemed far more interested in gnawing on Beauty, the prized rag doll that had been passed down the line and was now looking somewhat worse for wear.
Gold had attempted to replace the doll twice over the years. The girls had thanked him prettily for the new dolls and promptly ignored them. They preferred their Beauty. By this point, he'd given up. No matter how much time he spent with his wife and three daughters, he would never understand how the female mind worked.
With a sigh, Belle took a seat next to him at the table, picking up the cup of tea he'd made for her while she put the Nolan boy back together. She swallowed with a moan of bliss that still made his heart quicken, then leaned over to kiss his cheek and ruffle William's hair. The four year old was a carbon copy of Belle in everything but gender and far easier for Gold to understand than his precious girls. At the moment, he had the boy on his lap and was attempting to teach him to shuffle a deck of cards, a task not going particularly well due to William's clumsy little hands. Still, the boy seemed to be enjoying himself.
"Isn't he a little young to gamble?" Belle asked with a raised eyebrow, and he grinned at her.
"Every man needs to know how to play poker. It certainly served me well," he reminded her. thinking back on their unusual courtship. It seemed like only yesterday he'd been facing down George Clary over one last hand with Belle as the prize. So much had changed since that night: the one-room cabin he'd brought his new bride home to had tripled in size with the help of Archie Hopper and Moe French, and while the residents of Storybrooke still didn't seek out his company, no one seemed particularly interested in avoiding him anymore either. It was difficult to be intimidated by a man who constantly had a toddler clinging to his leg as all of their four had been wont to do.
Four soon to be five, he allowed as he admired his wife. Belle wasn't showing yet, but it wouldn't be long now until her body blossomed into the soft curves he found it impossible to keep his hands off of. Not that he had much luck keeping his hands to himself under normal circumstances. That was one thing that hadn't changed.
Gold would never be the sort of man who could rest easily when his wife was expecting, but Belle had come through each delivery unscathed, never suffering so much as a fever. She'd vowed to stay with him forever, and as the years passed, it looked more and more like she'd keep her promise. His little Belle would be at his side always, and no matter what the future held, they would face it together.
Belle smiled back then turned to look at their children. The tea party had turned into a tower-building competition using teacups as building blocks. The game was brought to a swift halt when Ellie decided she wanted to play too and brought the whole thing crashing down. "Mama!" Lydia's voice was affronted as she and Rose picked up the detritus, "Ellie chipped a cup!"
Gold had always been under the impression that little girls were sweet and shy, but their three had a positive knack for destruction. The only surprise was that only one cup had chipped. "It's just a cup," he assured Lydia, releasing William who wanted to investigate the crash.
"Were you expecting this when you won me?" Belle teased, taking William's place on his lap. He pulled her closer, pressing his lips to the curve of her throat.
"I thought it would take you a decade or two just to forgive me for that," he admitted. He would have been content just to have her in the same house and smiling at him. What she'd given him was so much more. He had a family again. He'd never stop missing Bae, but he'd finally found a measure of peace with his loss and what had happened afterward. He wasn't that man anymore.
When Gold looked in his shaving mirror, a monster no longer stared back at him. Instead he met the eyes of a husband and father, rather weather-beaten and with more gray in his hair than he liked to see, but no more or less than that.
Belle pouted at his answer, her eyes dancing. "Should I have held out longer? Made you court me for a year or two first?"
With a groan, he buried his face against her neck. "Courting you for two weeks nearly drove me mad. If you'd made me wait a year, you'd have been visiting me in the asylum."
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. "True. And you did have a nine year head start."
Gold had worshipped the woman in his arms for two decades and still couldn't believe his good fortune when he opened his eyes each morning to see her beside him. Belle was his world and their children treasures he'd never expected to have, the greatest gifts any man could be given whether he was worthy of them or not. Privately, he still thought Belle could have done better than marry him, but he'd learned to keep that thought to himself. He made her happy, and if she was satisfied with him, he wasn't about to argue with her.
He slid his fingers into his wife's chestnut curls, pulling her down for a kiss that was interrupted far too soon by Lydia's stage-whisper. "They're kissing. Again."
Neither William nor Ellie seemed interested, but Rose sighed with happiness, still too young to be embarrassed by her parents' shows of affection. "Tell us the story," she pleaded.
Belle eased out of the kiss but stayed where she was, regarding their eldest with amused tolerance. "You've heard it a hundred times." Rose was nearly as bookish as her mother, but nothing made her happier than to have a story told to her, and her favorite had always been the story about how her mama saved her papa's life, and he saved her from a beast.
"Please," Rose pleaded, and Belle rubbed her nose against his as their children drew closer. There was no getting out of it now. Not that he really wanted to.
When his wife nodded at him to start the tale, he brushed his lips against hers and took a deep breath, beginning, "Once upon a time..."
I want to thank everyone who's come along on this journey with Belle and Mr. Gold. It's thanks to your support and good wishes that this story grew from a silly little one shot to the novel you have before you. I hope you came to love these characters as much as I did. I'm going to take a break from the Old West to concentrate on other projects, but I hope you'll join me later for the sequel "A Symphony of Vengeance." Whereas "Bullets" took a look at the inner conflicts in Belle and Gold's relationship, "Symphony" will widen the canvas a bit and let some external forces wreak havoc. After all, Mr. Gold is not a well-loved man, and the past sometimes comes calling. Until then- cheers!