I'm doing this thing on Tumblr where every now and then, I open up the floor to five-word-and-under prompts from the people lurking me. Then, I take the prompts, and write heartbreaking Rumpelstiltskin things.
This prompt was: "I'd kill for you, love"
He had not meant to yell and shake and squeeze too tightly, but this is little comfort now. Not with Belle hidden and tucked in the corner of the library, wide-eyed and wary. Safe, she'd said once. She felt safe here. With him and his books, and she'd laughed.
She is not laughing now.
She watches. Rumpelstiltskin approaches with shoulders turned, as dogs do, an apology written in the line of his body. If she reads it, if she understands, she gives no sign.
He wants to touch her. He wants to place a hand against her cheek where the color is still high. He wants to press his forehead to hers and whisper a new story, the story of a man with a leg crushed between the teeth of ogres. The story of a crippled, broken man who'd do anything to save his child. The story of an idiot, not clever enough to see the trap before he'd hobbled into the thick of it.
He wants to tell her that he is so, so much less than whatever it is she sees when she looks at him. That he is monstrous and unredeemable. He thinks she will believe him now, finally, so very many months and days and weeks after a contract signed over a table full of war.
He tries to explain. But, like everything about him, these words, too, are crooked.
"You don't want me," he says. He has heard marsh frogs croak more eloquently. "I'll find you a prince, sweet. A king, if you like. Emperor, duke, dignitary. You take your pick, dearie. Anyone your heart desires. I'll bend the world for you."
Belle is bent, her knees to her chest. The toe of a silk slipper peeks from the hem of her dress. Scuffed. Bootblack, looks like. He must have stepped too close.
"You don't understand." She shakes her head and meets his eyes and she is not afraid. "It wouldn't be love."
She is not afraid.
Rumpelstiltskin feels the iron thorns balled in his chest ease ever so slightly. Oh, he will lose her still. Tomorrow, she will run from him. She will return to her father and her gallant buffoon, still meeting saviors with swords to faces. Tomorrow, she will creep away with little more to her name than a basket and the two books inside. One she came with, the other a gift from him.
He will take this as a small comfort, tomorrow, when his heart is broken.
"Of course they'll love you. Just one look at you—" he says and suddenly she is sharp, all bitter, broken edges and her heart in her voice.
"You don't understand," she growls and now she is the one with a hand on his shoulder, shaking, squeezing too tightly. "That's why you're different. Don't you see? Princes look at me and they love me, because I am pretty. Because what more could I be, besides pretty?"
"No. Listen to me!"
And he does, he is. He listens, but it is hard to hear her over the roar in his ears, the swell of old battles and magic and grief.
"Rumpelstiltskin, I have been to those ball and those parties," she says, "And to them, because I am pretty, I am empty. Won't I look good with the flowers and children? Such a shame though, all that nonsense with the books. There is nothing but death with those men—in their eyes, in their hands. They would end me. Rum…" her voice softens, her hand gentles. Her eyes are wet. "I am more than pretty. You see that. You know me."
"I'd kill for you, love," he chokes, a frog with one last golden bauble.
Belle's hand on his shoulder is a prison, a question, a plea.
"Killing is easy. Kiss me."
His hands are mottled and crooked and worn. She has seen these, but she will not see the rest of him, so much the same. There is no prince waiting behind his kiss. He cannot.
He tries to smile. Something breaks.
"Better that we don't, dear," he pats her hand, tries to laugh, pulls an envelope from his breast pocket and drops it in her lap, already backing away. "Almost forgot. Letter from your father today."
And he turns.
And he does not look at her.
And he does not see her shoulders bow.
And he does not see her break.
The man who ran.
Away from the library, from her, from the house, from the promise of a kiss, Rumpelstiltskin clenches his hands, balls two fists full of power and fear. That fucking crippled coward of a shepherd, not quite dead yet, is he?
That's alright, he thinks. That's fine. There's a courtyard full of fairy three kingdoms over—and she has just the perfect wand.