[A/N] Rumelle may or may not have just become my OTP based on that promo. Anyway, my sequence of events with the classic fairy tale. I'm pretty sure the show's version will be 10x better, which is why I intend on keeping this short.
A wheezing cough broke the silence of the house, and Belle Deschamps closed her book and slipped it into her basket. "Papa, the doctor said that your medicine will be ready any day now," she called to the empty house. "I'll go and get it, all right?"
A weak sneeze answered her. She grabbed her green cloak from the rack and put it on, reaching for her basket and slipping her book in it as well. She could return the rental to the library in the town while she was there.
She gave the room one last look and slipped outside, taking the book from the basket and beginning to read.
"Good morning, Belle!" called someone, making her look up. Gaston Bouchard—the most sought-after man in her village himself—sidled up to her side and took her basket. "Let me take that."
Belle blinked and forced a smile. "Hello, Gaston. How are you?"
"Better, now that I've seen you this morning," he said, wrapping an arm around her and kissing her head. "Where are you off to?"
"The library. I need to drop off my book and then pick up my papa's medicine."
"Ah, poor Maurice. Still sick, eh?" He shook his head and frowned. "Why don't you go to the library and drop your book off, and I'll go pick up your father's medicine?"
She fought to keep the smile on her face. He really wanted her to marry him, didn't he? "I don't know, Gaston," she began. "I'm perfectly capable of doing it myself."
"Ah, Belle, I know you. You'll be too lost in a book to remember the medicine yourself. I'll be saving you the hassle!"
He looked at her with an earnest expression and she noticed the blonde triplets glaring at her from the water pump. "Okay," she said with a bright smile. "You go do that. I'll see you later. Bye!"
She turned on her heel and wove through the crowd, the library in her sights. When the little bell rang above the door, signaling her arrival, the librarian looked up and beamed. "Belle? Back already?"
"Yes! It was wonderful. I fell even more in love with it the second time," she said, handing the book to him. "I'm going to go and try and find something new, if you don't mind, sir."
The librarian chuckled and started browsing the shelves. "I wish you luck."
She headed straight for the fantasy shelves. Just as she'd decided to pick an interesting-looking red-covered book, she heard the words "miracle worker" and fell still. Two women were gossiping in the row in front of her.
"Well, he's certainly the devil's miracle worker, Fiona. Elise was a fool getting caught up with the likes of him. Everyone knows there are more than enough orphans going around this town!"
"Aye! And she still refuses to tell anyone what she gave him in return for being able to bear a son!"
Belle fell still and slowly put the book in her basket. Elise Garnier was a well-known villager who had been barren all her life. Anyone who had been able to make sure she could have children must've been very powerful.
Anyone who had been able to fix her barrenness must be able to fix a simple stubborn illness as well.
Belle rushed around the shelves and came at the end of the aisle, heading straight to the two women. They eyed her warily.
"Belle. What can I help you with?" asked Fiona, the bald aristocratic lady who changed her wig every other day.
Belle bit her lip and said, "I'm sorry to bother you, but I heard you talking about a devil's miracle worker . . . would you mind telling me who this man is?"
The other woman patted her shoulder sympathetically. "You're a smart girl, Belle. Don't be getting caught up in the likes of him."
"Who is this man? Please, tell me," she pleaded. Fiona flipped her red sausage curls over her shoulder and sniffed.
"Ah, what does it matter? The devil miracle worker, child, is Rumpelstiltskin."
After gathering more details about this mysterious Rumpelstiltskin, Belle thanked her and left the library after checking out. Gaston was waiting for her, her basket full of medicine in hand. "Gaston! Thank you," she said, taking the basket from his hands. His gaze focused on her and he frowned.
"The duke has requested all villagers report to the main square at once. Come, Belle." Gaston grabbed her arm and started leading her to the center of the village. Belle's heart started thumping erratically—the duke was a cruel man, and the village had been lucky to have little contact with him. If he was at their village, his news couldn't be good.
The duke had just started talking when they arrived. "Greetings, everyone," he said, raising a hand in acknowledgement. "I welcome you all and I come bearing news. As you know, our country is engaged in a terrible war with those foul beasts the ogres."
Belle dug her nails into Gaston's arms. The Ogre Wars had been the worst conflict in her country's history—re-engaged at different times by different dukes. This was getting worse and worse.
"Sadly, we are losing. Badly. And I have decided to do something about it. This village has remained unused by the duke for far too long. Now, I shall put it to use. Starting in a week, every able-bodied person from the age of fourteen to twenty-three will be sent to the battlefields in the north. Failure to comply, or to run away from battle, will result in death."
The duke's eyes landed on Belle. His expression changed from stern to hungry so quickly it made her shudder. "Unless, however, the duke decides to give you another job to perform in this war."
He nodded, signaling the end of his little speech, and his guards quickly made haste to usher the villagers out. Belle pulled away from Gaston and turned on her heel, heading toward her house with a kind of vacant awareness.
"Belle? Belle!" shouted Gaston, quickly catching up with her. "Belle, do you want to go to the tavern with me to . . . share a drink? I think we have a lot to talk about."
She resisted rolling her eyes—the last thing she wanted to do was go to the tavern with Gaston and share a drink. Stepping out of his attempted casual embrace, she said, "I'm sorry, Gaston, but maybe another time. My father is expecting me."
He looked disappointed, but he let her go. After she'd crossed the stream, she glanced over her shoulder and broke out into a run.
"Papa? I'm home!" she called, opening the door.
"Belle?" a hoarse voice replied. She shut the door with her foot and put the basket on the table, filling a glass with water from the pump and grabbing a bag of medicine.
"I'm here, Papa," she said, sitting at his bedside and withdrawing a vial of green liquid from the pouch. "I have your medicine here. Open your mouth."
He obligingly did and she uncorked the medicine, pouring it down his throat, and handing him the water afterwards. Maurice broke into loud coughing and cleared his throat. "I'm sorry you have to listen to that all day, my dear," he said, sneezing.
She smiled and patted his hair with a damp cloth. "It's all right, Papa. I know someone who will make you feel better."
She winked and leaned forward, stage-whispering, "It's a secret. But you'll get better, Papa, I promise."
No need to tell him that she would be leaving his side in a few weeks. The Ogre Wars had ripped countless families apart, and the lucky few to remain intact often had done it by fleeing the duke.
Maurice smiled and cupped his daughter's face. "You look so like your mother. What would I ever have done without you two?"
Belle leaned into his hand and smiled. "I don't know, Papa. Get some rest. I'll start preparing dinner."
After nightfall, Belle slowly sat up and pushed the covers off of her. She was already dressed in her travelling clothes and was ready to go.
She put on her shoes when she reached the kitchen and put on her cloak, returning one last time to her father's bedroom doorway. Maurice was snoring, sound asleep, and the basket full of medicine was on his bedside table.
He'd be all right. She'd be back soon enough.
"I'm doing this for you, Papa," she whispered, before turning and exiting the house.
The two women in the library had said that Rumpelstiltskin lived in a large manor deep in the woods. Apparently a road branched off from the main one, and then forked in two. She merely had to follow the right road all the time and would reach the mansion quickly.
She was careful to stick to the side of the road, knowing that causing too much attention could draw the scrutiny of bandits. Owls hooted and the moon shone, full and bright, onto the dark forest before her.
True to the women's word, after about an hour, she came across a large gate in the middle of the woods. She couldn't see anything but trees past that, but the manor had to be in there somewhere.
The gate creaked open before she touched it. More than a little uneasy, Belle stepped inside the property and it groaned shut behind her. "He must be the devil's miracle worker," she whispered under her breath.
She'd come too far to give up now—and it would rain soon, she could smell it. Taking a deep breath, Belle pulled the cloak around herself tighter and hurried on.
A looming silhouette of a house burst out of the canopy of branches within a few minutes. It took her breath away.
When she reached the front door, it, too, swung open without her touching it. She stepped inside and swallowed hard. The door shut loudly, making a noise not unlike thunder echo throughout the dark entrance hall.
Belle groped around the hallway, hoping for some lamp that she could light. Her hands wrapped around something and a candelabrum flared to life in her hands. She gasped and jumped back, right into the hard chest of someone. She turned around to see a man staring at her.
His hair was dirty and unkempt, and his eyes were a crazed hazel color—and his skin was the strangest shade of bronze she'd ever seen. "Hello, dearie," he said, a slow smile spreading across his face. He drummed his fingers against each other and tilted his head. "What can I help you with?"
"Are . . . are you . . ." she whispered, not quite able to bring herself to finish.
He winked, his grin widening. "Rumpelstiltskin? Yes, dearie, I am. No one comes to me unless they want something. Isn't that why you're here?"
She set the candelabrum down on the table and wet her lips. "Well, yes. I want you to cure my father's sickness. And . . . I want you to spare my village from the Ogre Wars."
His smile vanished. "The Ogre Wars?" he asked, frowning. "Hasn't that been over for a while now?"
"It's been on and off. Now's an on day. The duke said that he would be sending soldiers to the battlefields in two weeks. Ages fourteen to twenty-three. He's sending children and I can't have that on my conscience, not when I have the chance to ask you."
"Well, I'll see what I can do—" he hesitated, grin fully reinstated, "—but it's gonna cost ya something."
She held her breath. This was the part the women had warned her about. Rumpelstiltskin was nothing if not greedy and he would always want something in return for a favor. And she was smarter than to say that she would give up anything—because she wouldn't.
She swallowed hard, her mouth strangely dry, and said, "What do you want?"
He smiled and shook his head. "Oh, I don't know. I'll let you know when I decide."
Belle blinked. "I'm sorry, but I don't have time for you to contemplate what you want. This is a matter of life and death—both for those children the duke will be sending on the front lines and my father!"
Rumpelstiltskin was unruffled by her remark. His smile turned into a sneer and he mocked, "Well, life is unfair sometimes."
Thunder boomed, shaking the house. Belle jumped instinctively. Her only source of light in this place was the candelabra—something that she felt would be put out soon. Rumpelstiltskin clasped his hands behind his back and turned around, humming a tuneless little song to himself.
Belle looked down. It had been nearly an hour's walk from the village to this manor, and from the sounds of it the rain would be pouring for quite a while. "Will I have to go back out there?" she asked. "I—I came all this way."
Rumpelstiltskin stopped and turned around, his expression so frightful she took a step back. "Do you want to stay the night here, dearie? Ya sure your beloved won't miss you?"
"My beloved—?" began Belle, but she stopped herself before she could go on further. She didn't want the devil's miracle worker to know too much about her. He could use it against her in an attempt at another bargain. "No."
"Well, the couple who had this place before won't be needing it any longer. Be my guest," he said, spreading his hands.
"Does it matter which room I take?" she asked, clenching her hands in her cloak. Rumpelstiltskin raised a hand and waved it before disappearing into the shadows. Belle blinked and picked the candelabra up with both hands.
"I'll take that as a no," she muttered, using the light of the candelabra to guide her up the rickety stairs and into a vacated room.
Lightning lit up the room every ten seconds and she set the candelabra on the end table, sitting down on the bed. She took a little time to examine her new room, noticed how yawning it was, and frowned.
"He must be so lonely here."
Behind the door, Rumpelstiltskin jerked away from her room like he'd been burned. "She's Maurice's daughter," he muttered, narrowing his eyes.