Author: Bad Faery PM
After her husband sacrifices himself to break the curse, a widowed Belle Gold struggles to pick up the pieces of her life and move forward, this time with someone new.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Angst - Dr. N. Rush & Belle - Words: 3,219 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 32 - Follows: 4 - Published: 05-05-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8087873
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"His last words were about you," her forty-two year old stepson tells her helplessly on the day the curse breaks. "He said, 'Tell Belle'..."
She waits for the rest of it for a moment, then realizes there isn't any more. Tell Belle. She knows Bae desperately wants to make something up to complete the thought but doesn't quite dare. He assumes his father died mid-sentence. Belle knows there was never anything else to the message. Tell Belle. He'd leave it to her to fill in the blank for herself with everything he was never good at saying but she could hear as plainly as a shout. That he loved her. That he needed her. That he was so sorry for everything he'd done. That she was his world, and if one of them had to go, he was glad it was him. Tell Belle.
She doesn't go back to the Enchanted Forest. Bae has Emma and his son; he doesn't need her. She cannot face the Dark Castle again, not alone. Instead she stays in Storybrooke and tries to find the strength to start over for the fifth time in her life. She cries for hours the day she wakes up to discover the lovebite he left on her neck the morning the curse broke has healed, leaving not a mark. She cannot stay in that house.
She thinks she might go to college.
0 0 0 0 0
She keeps her married name, although Belle Gold has always sounded ridiculous to her ears. Rumpelstiltskin always looked so pleased when someone addressed her like that though, and she doesn't have the heart to change it back to Belle French. She has so little of him left that she can't bear to lose his name too, even if it never really was his name.
She moves as far from Storybrooke as she can get, and winds up enrolling at Berkeley where she discovers a love of science. It's more like magic than anything else in this world, and it fits perfectly into the somewhat misshapen pathways in her head. She's good at it.
The first time she sees Doctor Nicholas Rush, she wants to scream. She wants to vomit. She wants to hit him, because what right does he have to wear that face? What right does he have to look like her husband? What right does he have to be alive when Rumpelstiltskin is not?
She does none of those things. Instead, she sits through his opening lecture, takes careful notes, and does not attend that class again for the next three weeks. He catches up to her on the quad one day and rips her a new one for skipping, and she doesn't even think about it before yelling back. He calls her lazy. and she tells him he's an overbearing ass, and they scream at each other for ten straight minutes before they get tired of it and he buys her a drink.
It takes less than the length of that drink to notice he has the same tic she does: they both touch their wedding bands like they're afraid to find the ring has gone missing. He has the same haunted look in his eyes that she sees in her own every morning, and although they don't talk about it, she knows she's met someone who knows what it's like to share a bed with a ghost.
She stops skipping his class and earns an A for the course.
0 0 0 0 0
She's in her third year of graduate work when Nick reappears. They've kept in touch, his mysterious letters piquing her interest even as he failed to tell her anything concrete. Now he has a proposition for her. He even makes some unholy deal with the university overlords that if she completes the assignment, she'll have earned her doctorate. He looks wickedly pleased when he tells her that, reminding her so much of another man that it makes her chest ache.
The details are vague, but the gist is that he has to go away somewhere and wants her to come along as his assistant. He seems to expect her to be more surprised than she is with Icarus, but really it's just another kind of magic. Belle is used to magic.
They've been there three hours when Belle realizes he didn't bring her along to be his assistant. She's supposed to be his buffer. She isn't entirely sure if she's supposed to be keeping the military away from him or him away from them, but she turns on her best smile and tries to keep everyone getting along. Or at least from killing each other.
Then they wind up stranded halfway across the universe, and she toys with the idea of killing him herself.
0 0 0 0 0
Out of everybody, Belle adapts best to being on Destiny. She's used to starting over, after all, and she grew up somewhere without things like hot showers and coffee. It isn't so bad.
Nick, on the other hand, is losing his mind. He's a bundle of stress on a normal basis, but that compounded with nicotine and caffeine withdrawal, and being responsible for the entire group's lives is making things a million times worse. He snarls, he threatens, he alienates everyone in the group. He does his level best to alienate Belle too, but she's been screamed at and threatened by much scarier people than Nick Rush, so she just plants herself in the same room and waits for her opening.
When Nick falls apart, he does it in her lap. Belle holds him while he shakes so hard he's nearly convulsing. She rubs his back, massages his twitching muscles, tells him stories and sings him every song she knows and a few she makes up. She strokes his hair and kisses his forehead while he sobs and raves, and she cries for him when she hears Gloria's name. She cries for herself when she hears her own.
Ten hours later her throat is sore and her legs are numb, but Nick is himself again. He's more himself than he's ever been because he's calmer now. There's a peace in his eyes that wasn't there before, and Belle just hugs him before she staggers off to find her own bed.
0 0 0 0 0
He doesn't put his name in for the lottery and neither does she. The Destiny is her world now; there's little enough left for her on Earth. It's better that those chances go to people with families who need them. They sit side by side and read and wait for an end that doesn't come.
0 0 0 0 0
More than anything, Belle is glad she had her purse when they wound up here. She'll never forget Gold's face, but it's a tremendous comfort to have the picture she keeps in her wallet, one of the few pictures of him that exist. They'd had plenty of her, but he was a master of distraction when she tried to snap a shot of him.
Ruby took the one that lives in her wallet. It's of both of them at Bae and Emma's wedding. He's in one of his usual impeccable suits, and she's wearing the blue dress he loved so much. They're looking at each other, oblivious to the rest of the world. They're happy and in love and at peace, and the picture makes her want to cry because it's so beautiful and it makes her want to cry because he's not there.
Nick knocks at the door; he has something he wants to show her, and Belle gathers her composure and goes off with him. As she does, she wonders when he stopped looking like Gold to her and started looking like just Nick.
0 0 0 0 0
Belle feels like the air has gone out of her world when Young comes back alone with only four words for her: he didn't make it. She wonders if Nick had any last words for her and what they would have been. Tell Belle. He'd probably tell her to get off her ass and get back to work because she has things to do and she doesn't have time to mourn.
Instead she works and mourns. She'd had plenty of practice at both over the last seven years; she can multitask. There's a fresh hole in her soul now, right beside the still-bleeding wound that is Rumpelstiltskin's absence. People might have an endless capacity for love, but it seems they also have an endless capacity for pain.
Belle works. Belle mourns. And she misses both of them so badly she wishes she could go mad.
0 0 0 0 0
She wakes up to someone sitting down on the bed beside her, and when she opens her eyes, she assumes she's dreaming. "Nick?"
He looks like hell. He's thinner and scruffier, and he looks exhausted, but he's beaming like she's the best thing he's seen in years. He's definitely the best thing she has. She sits up and more or less throws herself into his arms, and he hugs her back just as fiercely. Her hands roam over him, reassuring herself of his reality, and she can count his ribs, feel every vertebra. He rakes his hands through her hair again and again, and it feels like he's breathing her in.
They collapse onto the bed, clinging to each other in fear of being torn apart again. She buries her face against his chest, and he wraps his leg around hers, tangling them together so completely that Belle isn't sure where she ends and he begins. It feels good.
They're still wrapped up in each other when they wake up the next morning, and it takes a few moments for them to untangle themselves. He's filthy, still wearing the clothes he wore when he disappeared, and she's going to be sneaking him her rations until he loses that gaunt look, but he's back, and that's all that matters.
There's been one other change to his appearance. His wedding ring is missing. When he notices her noticing, he shrugs. "I had some time to think while I was on my own. I realized a few things."
"Like what?" she asks, not sure if she wants to hear the answer. He's never looked at her like this before.
He just smiles. "I'll tell you later."
0 0 0 0 0
After what happened, Nick doesn't like to be alone. He gives her the same story he gave everyone else, but she reads between the lines of his tale about a rockslide and makes an educated guess that Young had something to do with this. Belle wants to hurt him for that. She's lost her husband, and the man tried to take Nick away from her too. She wants to kill him.
Instead she puts her head down and concentrates on work. There's still far more to do than the two of them can manage, but some of the pressure is off her now that Nick's back. She's grateful for that.
Every time he actually decides to sleep, he crawls into her bed and wraps himself around her. She doesn't mind. Belle knows what it's like to have nightmares, and his presence is a comfort to her as well. Snuggled in bed beside him is the only time she feels warm.
He's slowly regaining some of the weight he lost, and she's glad to see it. Nick's resilient, and seeing him bounce back from this gives her hope that he'll be able to bounce back from anything else the universe throws at them.
Belle doesn't want to be alone again.
0 0 0 0 0
One by one his belongings make their way from his quarters to hers. It makes sense. They share a bed and there's no point in him having to run down the corridor to grab clothing or a notebook every time he wakes up and needs something.
Sharing a room is somehow more intimate than sharing a bed. There's the unvoiced sentiment of 'whatever I'm doing, it's okay that you're here too.' Belle likes her privacy, and Rumpelstiltskin was the only person she never minded sharing it with.
Now her quarters have become their quarters, and she doesn't mind that either.
0 0 0 0 0
The first time he kisses her it feels so natural that she barely notices. They're crawling into bed after another long day, no longer needing to think about how to arrange themselves for greatest comfort. He settles on his back, his arms around her, and she rests her head on his chest to listen to his heart beat and remind herself that he's really here.
Rumpelstiltskin used to spoon up behind her like he was protecting her from the world, but this is nice too.
This night she sits up for a moment, brushing back her wayward curls so they don't wind up in her face or his mouth during the night, and he props himself up on his elbows to watch. Once she's satisfied, he reaches up to slide his own fingers through her hair, then he's holding the back of her neck and tugging her down to his mouth for a sweet, warm good night kiss. She kisses back and settles her head on his chest, almost immediately drifting into sleep.
It isn't until the next morning that she registers what he did, and she's tempted to dismiss it as a sleepy accident, but he kisses her good night again the following evening and the one after that.
0 0 0 0 0
She locks herself in the viewing room with her picture of her husband and divides her attention between the stars and his face. If Rumpelstiltskin was here, he'd be irate that Nick had kissed his wife; he'd always tended to jealousy.
Of course, Rumpelstiltskin is not here. He hasn't been here for seven years.
Oh, that thought hurts, but it doesn't hurt quite as much as it used to. At some point the open wound his death left on her soul has healed. It's still tender and if she pokes at it, it will ache, but she no longer feels like she's bleeding out.
She slides off her wedding ring and tucks it into her pocket, looking down at her bare hand. Without the slight weight she feels naked and exposed. She feels like she's denying everything they were to each other. With a gasp, she slides it home again, immediately relieved to have it back where it belongs.
She's not ready for this, not yet.
Instead, she brushes her fingers over the picture of her husband's face and goes to find a box. She comes up with something small and tucks the picture inside, leaving the box out but closed. It's a gesture, a first step.
If Nick notices he doesn't say anything, but he holds her a little closer that night, his ringless hand burying itself in her hair.
0 0 0 0 0
Nick starts to kiss her hello when he sees her instead of just good night. He does it even when other people are around, and they become the talk of the ship. No one seems surprised.
A few weeks later he starts to hold her hand when they're walking together. Belle laces her fingers through his and squeezes, and he looks happier than she's ever seen him.
0 0 0 0 0
They both take an immediate liking to Amanda Perry, although Nick does his best to hide it. He's fascinated by her mind, and Belle is humbled by it. She's bright, but Mandy is brilliant.
She's a far better match for Nick than Belle herself, and the other woman knows it. She never says anything to either of them, but when she looks at Nick, the expression on her face reminds her of how Rumpelstiltskin used to look at her- all wonder and hope.
Belle wonders if she should be jealous and wonders what it means that she isn't. Maybe it's a sign that she doesn't really want him, that whatever they have isn't that important to her. Then one day she walks into the lab to see them with their heads together laughing, and she falters for a second. Nick looks up as she comes in and his face changes, his eyes going soft and warm as he beckons her over, eager to share the joke. Mandy's smile turns rueful as she includes Belle in the conversation, and Belle realizes why she was never jealous: she never needed to be.
0 0 0 0 0
It's a morning like any other, nothing special about it at all, but something tells Belle that it's the morning. She slides her ring off and tucks it into the box with his picture, leaving both on her dresser when she goes off to the lab.
She feels off balance without it, like the missing weight has completely changed how she holds her body. She feels like everyone is looking at her naked left hand. She feels like she wants to race back to her room and slide it back on and pretend she never took it off to begin with.
Do the brave thing and bravery will follow, she reminds herself. Rumpelstiltskin is gone, and taking off a ring won't make that more true. It's not like she loves him less without it. It's not like she'll forget.
Rumpelstiltskin is gone, but Nick is here, and when he sees her hand, he sucks in a breath, his eyes bright and hopeful. He's clumsy that day, something that's usually her job, but he doesn't say a word until they're curled up in bed that night. He plays with her hair, and she can feel how fast his heart is beating beneath her cheek.
"Is it okay for me to tell you I love you now?" he asks, his voice ragged.
The stories never say anything about the possibility of having two true loves. They don't mention that your heart can keep growing until there's enough love for everyone. They don't say you can love two people in different ways, and both ways will be deep and true and right. Belle learns that lesson on her own.
She rests her chin on Nick's chest and smiles up into his worried eyes. "I love you too."