[A/N] It's dooone! Good thing this is AU. Anyway, I'm thinking of writing some pairing drabbles. Should I?
Belle woke up to a pleasant surprise.
Sunlight filtered through the frosted window, making her sit up. She gasped, utterly delighted, and slipped out of bed, running to the window.
Snow sparkled on the ground below. It was everywhere—on the trees, on the house, and it was still falling in thick, lazy flakes.
"Finally," she whispered, breath fogging up the glass. She giggled and turned to her wardrobe, saying, "Do you happen to have any winter clothes in case someone wanted to go outside?"
The armoire's door creaked open to reveal a red-and-pink dress and robe set, complete with matching gloves and boots. She changed quickly, too ready to get out of the house and do something outside, and pulled the fur-lined red hood over her head.
Rumpelstiltskin caught her running down the steps. "Belle? What're ya doin'?"
Belle beamed and rested her hand on the front door. "It's nearly Christmas and this is the first snowfall we've gotten. I'm not going to just sit idly by!"
She got an idea and ran back up the steps, reaching for his hands. "Come with me."
He stepped away from her. "Why?"
"Well . . . I don't know, I was hoping we could do something outside? My father and I always had snowball fights and built snowmen and made snow angels whenever it snowed."
He shook his head and gave her a disdainful frown. "I have better things to do."
She shrugged and forced a smile, turning back around and heading to the door again. "Suit yourself."
She opened the door and headed to the backyard. Her boots sank ankle-deep in the snow with a small crunching sound and she tilted her head back, sticking her tongue out to catch a snowflake.
When she reached the backyard, she knelt down and started clumping handfuls of snow together. Soon she had a large ball of snow and rolled it over, turning around to begin the snowman's middle.
Suddenly her skin started prickling and she looked up. Rumpelstiltskin was staring at her through a second-story window. She beamed and straightened, waving at him slightly.
The drape he had been holding back fell into place again.
She frowned and turned back to her snowman, trying to ignore the growing disappointment inside her.
Dinner was a quiet affair.
"I'm leaving tomorrow," said Rumpelstiltskin suddenly. Belle stopped chasing her peas with her fork and glanced up.
"Tomorrow? But . . ." she bit her lip and trailed off, her appetite suddenly gone.
"Christmas is in three days. Will you be back for Christmas?"
Rumpelstiltskin blinked and looked away. "I don't know. It depends on the deal."
"What's the deal?" she asked, genuinely curious. He tilted his head and grinned, raising his eyebrows.
"Curious now, are we?" he asked.
Belle shrank back into her chair. "I was just wondering," she defended slightly.
"Ah, well, deals are personal, you see. I don't think I can just give 'em to ya without something in return." His grin got wider.
"It's always about your benefit, isn't it?" she said flatly, putting her silverware on her plate. His smile vanished and he sat up a little straighter.
"It's how the world works, dearie. Why would I do something without a reward? It's simply not logical."
"It's doing the right thing, and being kind," she retorted, throwing her napkin on her plate and standing up. "Now, if you don't mind, I'll be—"
"I'm going to a southern country," he hurried, cutting her off. "A fairy there has something I want. I'll be meeting her at the prince of the country's ball. I've heard the place very beautiful." He closed his eyes.
Belle wasn't sure how to reply to that. "Well, that's wonderful, and I hope you have a good time at the ball—"
"Do ya want anything while I'm there, dearie?" he asked, opening his eyes. Belle swallowed and stared at him.
"Do you mean it?"
His expression soured. "Or maybe not."
A smile tugged at her lips. "A rose, please," she requested. "Just a rose."
He didn't acknowledge her, and after a few minutes, she turned and headed to the library.
Well. It was a step in the right direction.
Afterwards, he found her in the library, reading an adventure book. A wax-wrapped paper object was in his hands. She shut the book and straightened as he sat down across from her. Carefully, slowly, as if he was afraid of her rejecting him, he took her fists and opened them, placing the object in her hands.
She opened it slightly to reveal the jagged dagger and looked up at him. "What—"
He shook his head, cutting her off, and said, "Will you protect it while I'm gone?"
Belle wrapped the paper around the dagger and held it to her heart. "With my life," she whispered.
Rumpelstiltskin grinned and watched the newly transformed maid hurry off to the castle where her darling prince was. He'd complete the bargain soon enough.
He twirled the fairy godmother's wand in his hands, humming a tuneless song to himself, and turned to go when a bright bush caught his eye.
A bright red rose bush, unaffected from the mild temperatures of the southern country, towered over the rest of the plants in the garden.
A rose, please, said Belle in his mind.
"Aha!" he said, smirking, and stalked toward the bush. This family was so snotty; it would be fun to spite them. Of course, they would probably blame it on that poor little maid girl, but who was he to care about her fate? The only thing important about that Cinderella was her end of the bargain.
As soon as he plucked the rose from the bush and made its thorns disappear, a vision flashed before him.
A small mob of people, some holding torches, others knives, were standing in a clearing—and Regina was in front of them, an arrogant smirk on her lips.
"He avoided us!" shouted one man, raising his fist angrily.
"He could still be with Belle!"
Regina held up her hand, effectively silencing the crowd. "Yes, Rumpelstiltskin has avoided our little trap. He safely hides in his manor, fast asleep and dreaming of gold. But don't fear, my dears. I have a plan. I'll go in and rescue Belle—once she's safe, we can give him a Christmas present he'll never forget."
Images of the manor burning and Belle's piercing screams plagued his mind and he shook his head. "No!" he hissed, turning and breaking out into a run.
He had to get to Belle.
"We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year," sang Belle, twirling around and placing yet another present on the ground. The house, she had discovered, was enchanted—whenever you wished for something that you needed, like when she was thinking about what to get Rumpelstiltskin for Christmas, it just appeared, similar to the dinners and her armoire back in her room.
She set the present down underneath the tree and the window next to the door shattered. She gasped and stood up, gathering the skirts of her yellow gown, and was horrified to see a lit torch lying on the ground.
Within seconds, the whole room was ablaze, and she could've sworn that she heard someone laughing upstairs.
The dagger! They wanted the dagger!
She inhaled sharply and spun around, running up the stairs to her bedroom. Smoke stung the air and her eyes.
She ran into her bedroom and slammed the door shut, going to her armoire and opening the doors. The dagger was right where she had left it, wax paper untouched and undisturbed.
She grabbed its hilt and coughed as smoke started pouring in from underneath the door. Grabbing a half-read book from her end table, she braced both items against her chest and flung open the door.
The fire had already crept up to the second story, much to her horror. Tears were now streaming down her cheeks and she coughed, shielding herself as she ran through the flames for the library. The library had windows, windows that could break—
Just as she entered the as-of-yet untouched room, an unseen force knocked into her, sending her flying. She landed on in front of the second landing. A sickening snap sliced through the air and white-hot pain shot across her arm.
"Not so fast, dear," said a voice. "You have something I want."
Rumpelstiltskin dismounted the heaving horse and ran into the forest. He could already hear the snapping and cackling of flames.
When he reached the manor, he started and backtracked. The house was engulfed in flames. A crowd of men were loitering about in front of it, muttering amongst themselves anxiously. Amongst them was Belle, dressed in a beautiful yellow ball gown, staring at the flames.
Someone grabbed his arm, making him start. "You coward," hissed Maurice. Rumpelstiltskin turned to him and frowned. "You ran out here without getting Belle first?"
He glanced back at Belle's silhouette, confused. "That is not my daughter," said Maurice, trembling. "She was never a fan of bloodlust. That is an elaborate trick."
Rumpelstiltskin barely kept himself from killing the man on the spot. "She's still in there?"
"Fool!" he hissed, turning on him. "Regina can't be trusted."
"I know!" replied Maurice. Tear tracks on his face shone in the firelight. "I know. I've made a terrible mistake. You need to go save her. Get my daughter out of that house, I beg you—she's all that I have left."
Rumpelstiltskin didn't even hesitate. "Keep them off my back," he hissed, nodding to the crowd of men in front of the house, and disappeared into the shadows. Maurice turned away and shouted, drawing the attention of the men, and they quickly went after the old man.
He avoided the mob and went straight for the house, kicking open the door
The fire avoided him like the plague, skirting around him in a wide circle that left him with fresh air and little blistering heat. "Belle!" he shouted, whirling around in a circle. "Belle, where are you?"
The Christmas tree was burning. A wooden beam splintered and fell, landing on the staircase and showering sparks—and blocking his way to her room. He turned to head to the kitchen when the fire suddenly roared to life in the hallway, blocking his exit.
Seeing no other way to go, he turned and ran toward the library. The door caved in on itself when he kicked it open. "Belle!" he cried, coughing in the smoke and moving toward the center of the library. "Belle, are you here?"
A figure stepped through the flames, but it was definitely not Belle.
Regina smirked at him, her hands clasped behind her back. "Hello, Rumpelstiltskin. How are you?"
His upper lip curled in disgust. "What did you do with Belle?"
The queen smiled and inspected her nails, paying absolutely no attention to him. "Belle? Oh, you mean that little sweetheart who gave me . . . this?"
She held out the magical dagger. Rumpelstiltskin closed his eyes and cursed himself. He knew he shouldn't have trusted that girl, and yet he'd done it anyway. And look how she'd repaid him.
Regina started stalking around him in circles. "Yes. I know her. She played right into my hands. She's quite pretty, but she's an airhead—she believed you were capable of love, did you know? Ha! You. A monster who cares nothing for anything but himself. Who could ever love a beast like you?"
He clenched his hands into fists, but otherwise said nothing. She had the dagger, and thus his life, in her hands. It would be suicide to talk back. "And what do you plan on doing with that, Regina?" he asked, nodding to the dagger in her hands. A bookshelf fell over, sending sparks everywhere. The fire seemed to grow bigger, devouring everything in its path, and he briefly wondered where the hell Belle was before Regina's words snapped him out of his thoughts.
"This? Oh. Simple. I'm not going to kill you, if that's what you're worried about. Well, maybe I'll manipulate some idiot to do it for me, but for now I plan on using your power for myself. I think I'll make you my own little messenger. How does that sound?"
"Tell me where Belle is," he said through his teeth.
Regina smiled. "I don't think you can be giving orders around here anymore, Rumpelstiltskin. But—to ease your mind—she's right here."
The queen flicked her wrist, and a shimmering outline of Belle coiled together to form a lifelike mirage. Belle smiled and lifted her arms to him. Regina sneered. "That is your precious Belle. I hope you're smarter than those buffoons outside waiting for you to come out. They think that Belle is perfectly safe and sound outside, cheering for your death just as much as they are."
Belle's mirage smiled again and disappeared. Rumpelstiltskin snarled and moved forward too quickly for the queen to react, grabbing her by the throat and lifting her up. "Where—is—she?"
Regina croaked, "Release me!" and his hand spasmed against his will, releasing its hold on her throat. She dropped to the floor and started laughing. "Well, well, well. It seems that the rumors were true. Let's try another thing. Give me that pretty little fairy godmother wand you have, Rumpelstiltskin."
His free hand, holding both the rose and the wand, took the wand and gave it to her. He gritted his teeth, focusing all his concentration on defying her. But it was no use—she snatched the wand away from him and inspected it in her hands.
A banner that had once decorated the walls fell off its hook and was soon reduced to ash. His eyes stung and his lungs burned, but he couldn't move. Regina didn't seem affected at all.
"I wonder . . ." she whispered, holding up the wand for her inspection. "I wonder if I'll become like you if I kill you with this. Yes, that seems like a much better idea. I already have what I want from you. I won't become cursed like you, and I won't have anyone else to challenge my power for my plans."
She smiled and faced him again. "Kneel before me, Rumpelstiltskin."
He glowered, furious, and stayed where he was. Suddenly his body twitched and he felt himself go down heavily on one knee. A crack was heard throughout the room and he bit back a cry. Regina started laughing. She raised the wand, opened her mouth—
—and a dark shape loomed out of the flames and collided with Regina. The queen's eyes widened and she went down, the dagger clattering away out of her reach. Rumpelstiltskin dived for the weapon and gripped its hilt before turning to see who had just sacked the queen.
Belle sat up on Regina's stomach—her body badly burned, her hair singed and her face bloody—pulled back her arm and socked the queen right in the face.
"You—will—never—ever—hurt—my family—again!" she screamed, accompanying each word with a punch and a beating with the book in her other arm. Rumpelstiltskin got up and nearly went down again as searing pain erupted in his knee.
He managed to hiss a painkilling spell and got to his feet, limping to Belle. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her off of the queen. Regina's nose was bleeding and one of her eyes was already becoming bruised—clearly unconscious.
Belle got up and reached for him. A book was tucked under an arm, and her other arm lay at an awkward angle by her side. Rumpelstiltskin saw red and turned back to the queen, ready to kill her, but Belle shook her head.
"No! We—we need to . . . get out of here," she gasped, holding her side. Tears ran down her cheeks. Rumpelstiltskin nodded and wrapped an arm around her waist, bringing her good arm around his neck. Together they hobbled toward the large window as the house came crashing down around them.
Suddenly Belle screamed and collapsed, sagging against him. Rumpelstiltskin lowered her to the ground and started when he saw red blooming across her stomach.
A dry laugh came from behind him and he whirled around to see Regina slowly getting to her feet, the wand in her hands.
Suddenly a bookcase groaned and swayed, splintering and collapsing on the queen. He snapped his fingers and the wand flew to his hands. "I hope you burn, witch," he hissed, kneeling down and picking Belle up. With a flick of his wrist, the window shattered, and he picked her up bridal-style. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he hobbled out of the house and into the snow outside.
They collapsed just at the edge of the backyard forest, a few feet away from Belle's half-melted snowman. "It hurts," gasped Belle, reaching out. "It hurts."
He grabbed her hand and closed his eyes. "I know, dearie, I know. It'll be better soon."
He waved the wand over her stomach, hoping against hope that it would work. She stopped panting and relaxed after a few moments, and squeezed his hand. He took a deep breath and handed her the rose. She managed a weak smile—one that he couldn't bring himself to return.
"Thank you," she breathed. "Rumpelstiltskin—I . . . I didn't give her the dagger. She—she took it from me."
"I know. I can't believe I wasn't here in time," he whispered, shaking his head. "I'm sorry."
Belle squeezed his hand almost too tightly and frowned. "It's not your fault. It's my . . . my idiotic father's."
He shook his head, frowning. She gave a shuddering sigh and reached up to cup his cheek. "You are a wonderful person, Rumpelstiltskin," she whispered, blinking hard. "You're good, even if you don't think so."
He leaned into her touch. "How can ya say that about me?" he hissed. "I'm a monster. Everyone knows it except you, dearie."
Her eyes turned sad. "Is that all you think you are? A hideous, terrible beast that everyone is afraid of?"
"That's precisely what I am, Belle. Ya—ya just don't seem to realize it."
She hiccupped and, with his help, sat up. Taking a deep breath, she murmured, "Is ugly the worst thing a person can be? Worse than jealous . . . or vindictive . . . or chauvinistic? Worse than bossy, boring, haughty? Worse than vain or pessimistic or shallow? Worse than—than cruel?"
"I'm all of those things!" he shouted, clutching her wrist so tightly his knuckles were white. She held the rose close to her chest and blinked back tears.
"You're hurting me," she pleaded. He let her go and closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Rumpelstiltskin, I think you're a good man. You've just let terrible events—ow! Terrible events shape your outlook on life." She winced and sucked in a breath through her nose.
He raised the wand, ready to put her back together, but she put her good hand on his arm. "Don't. Don't try to heal me."
"Dearie," he seethed, staring at her ripped and charred dress—the scarlet stain on her stomach—the trickle of blood on her chin—her singed hair—her skin, some places burnt to the bone—"you will die if I don't help ya."
"I know," she replied, voice so faint it scared him.
He seized her good hand, suddenly desperate to make her understand. "Don't do this, dearie. Don't do this. I'm not—" he cut himself off and frowned, looking away, unwilling to continue.
She merely smiled and pointed at the book lying by her side. "Read this to me, Rumpelstiltskin."
"I know you can. You've been learning for a year."
He picked up the book and opened to her bookmarked page with trembling hands. Slowly, he began to read, stumbling over the bigger words and needing her help pronouncing some of the other ones.
He drew Belle into his chest as he did so, showing her the pictures of Estella and Prince Charming. Even when the house collapsed in on itself, leaving nothing but soot-covered wood fragments and dying embers, he continued reading to her.
She sighed and leaned into his chest. "I love you," she breathed, so faint he thought he'd almost imagined it.
"And they lived hap-pil-y—ev-er—after," he finished, glancing down at Belle when he was done. "Belle . . . I read the book."
She didn't move.
His heart started hammering in his chest and he shut the book, tossing it into the snow. Snowflakes danced around them, dusting Belle's hair in a fine layer of white.
"Belle?" he whispered, brushing her arm with his hand. Her skin was so cold. So dreadfully cold.
He turned her over in his arms. Her eyes were closed and she held the rose tightly in her hands, pressed close to her heart. "Belle. Belle!"
She didn't move.
He started shaking as he drew her back into his arms, pressing his cheek against her snow-dusted hair. Slowly, he started rocking her back and forth, like a parent soothing their child to sleep.
Belle was gone.
Mr. Gold smiled as he handed Poppy the money for the flower.
"Is it for her, sir?" she asked, selecting the reddest rose she could find and handing it to him.
He nodded. "Yes."
Poppy fisted her hands in her apron. "Well, merry Christmas, sir!"
"Goodbye, Poppy," he said pleasantly, turning around and making his way to the cemetery. Who he found there surprised him quite a bit.
"Ah! Miss Swan. What are you doing this fine evening?" he asked, making his way toward her. Emma Swan jammed her hands in her jacket pockets and pressed her lips into a thin line. He glanced over her shoulder to see the name and continued on his way. "I see. Graham was a fine man."
"Graham was just an acquaintance," she replied, stepping around the graves and following him. "What are you doing here? It's Christmas. Shouldn't you, I don't know, be celebrating with friends and family or something?"
"I could be asking the same of you," he replied, turning down a row and making his way to a grave. "Christmas isn't exactly my favorite holiday, to be honest."
"Oh. Well. I was just wondering. I mean, Ruby just stays with her grandmother's, Mary Margaret spends Christmas alone, and no one ever has long-lost relatives over. Isn't that strange?"
"This is a strange town," he replied, coming to a stop in front of a particular grave. "But I think if you look hard enough, you'll find what you're searching for."
He knelt down and laid the rose on the grave. Emma frowned and tilted her head, staring at the grave with a peculiar expression on her face. Good. She was making the connections that she needed to.
"Rosabelle? Who's Rosabelle?" she asked.
Mr. Gold smiled at Emma and turned around, making his way down the hill. "Just an acquaintance," he said over his shoulder.
Rosabelle Miranda Gold
January 2, 1963 -
December 25, 1982
Always in our hearts