Author's note: I loved the Rumpelstiltskin/Belle episode. It may have been my favorite yet, I'm not sure. I absolutely love this twisted relationship, so I of course could not resist the temptation to write for it. Here is a oneshot. More may come later. Please review!

It was early in the morning, and Belle had just awoken to face the new day. Making her way downstairs, she knew that Rumpelstiltskin would already be up spinning gold, as he always was. Sometimes she wondered if the man—beast?—ever even slept.

Throwing open the doors to the main chamber, the coldness of the room smacked her with a bitter blast. Belle let out an involuntary gasp as she slammed the doors shut behind her and quickly rushed to the fireplace to get the fire started.

"My God, why is it so cold in here?" she cried, knowing full well that Rumpelstiltskin was watching her, probably very amused.

"Perhaps I like it that way," he replied sassily. Whirling around—now that the fire was roaring—Belle shot him a look of disbelief, even going so far as to roll her eyes at him.

"Yes, because who doesn't like a good bit of frostbite in the morning?" she responded. Rumpelstiltskin smirked but continued to spin, even as his eyes watched her rush about as she tried to find something warm to wrap up in.

"Over here dearie," he called out. Belle turned around and caught the blanket he'd thrown just before it reached her face.

"You're lucky I have good reflexes," she reprimanded teasingly as she wrapped the blanket as tight about her as it would go. Peering over at his captive, Rumpelstiltskin's eyes narrowed in concern.

"Are you... shivering?" he questioned, rising from his stool. Belle looked surprised.

"No, not at all," she replied after a moment, "I'm fine." Her master smirked, sitting back on his stool.

"Good, because the bookshelf needs dusting." Belle's jaw dropped slightly and she glared at him, resentful of his teasing manipulative behavior. "You seem to have stopped halfway yesterday. Now why would that be?"

"I got... distracted," she said vaguely, slowly crossing to the bookshelf to start her chores.

"With what?" he asked, his voice higher on the 'with' in a way that made him sound curious, but falsely curious, as if he already knew the answer.

"A book."

"And which book would that be?"

"Not one that you'd be interested in, I'm sure."

"You do realize that they're my books, don't you dearie?"

"Oh. Right."

"So? Which one is it then?"

"The Widow." Rumpelstiltskin looked over at her in surprise. He would have expected her to be reading a romance novel, or a story of grand adventure. The Widow was all about a woman who lost her husband, and her resulting family and psychological troubles. In the end, unable to care for her son or reconcile with her father, she committed suicide.

"Why that one?" he asked incredulously. He was so stunned that he'd ceased spinning, his attention focused wholly on the young woman. Turning to glance at him in the midst of her work, Belle noticed this, and she quickly turned back to the shelf.

"I don't know," she answered, "It caught my interest."

"But why?"

"It appealed to me I suppose. The woman, she... felt trapped. Like there was nothing to live for. Her family was gone, her hope vanished. I thought it was interesting to see how she chose to remedy the situation."

A frantic worry instantly began to prickle Rumpelstiltskin, quickly growing until it was a throbbing fear. Rushing over to her, Rumpelstiltskin grabbed the girl's arm roughly. Her body was stiff with nervous shock, and Rumpelstiltskin even fancied that he could hear her heart beating erratically.

"Is that how you feel?" he hissed at her, "Trapped? You feel as if suicide is your only option?"

"N- no! Of course not!" she exclaimed forcefully. Rumpelstiltskin's angry eyes flickered between hers, searching for the truth. She sounded honest enough, but how could he be sure? Before he could reach any conclusion, the man felt something through the tips of his fingers.

Glancing down at her, Rumpelstiltskin did not release his grip until he said,

"You lied to me."

"No! I didn't lie! I'm not going to kill myself, I swear."

"You lied... about shivering," he finished, his expression gentler now. Belle exhaled a nervous breath quickly, feeling incredibly lucky that he had either decided to believe her or to overlook it. Laughing slightly, she wrapped her arms around herself.

"Well I wouldn't be shivering if you would simply keep the room above freezing," she pointed out.

"Let me... make amends," he whispered, the words rolling off his tongue deliciously. Unsure of his intentions, Belle watched cautiously as he took a few steps so that he stood behind her. Slowly reaching out, Rumpelstiltskin settled his arms around Belle, holding her back against his chest so there was no space between them.

Belle felt enveloped by his warmth, something that surprised her greatly. Because of his sickly appearance, she had always somehow assumed that he would be cold and slimy to the touch, but clearly no such thing was true. In fact, his body seemed to carry even more heat than her own did, and his hands felt like normal human skin. Belle felt tense at first, distrusting his actions, but soon she melted into his embrace, savoring the rescue from the cold.

Rumpelstiltskin put his head down next to Belle's, his forehead resting against the side of her head.

"Better?" he whispered sharply in her ear. She shivered a bit at the touch of his breath in her ear, but she nodded affirmatively.

"Yes, thank you," she whispered back. The master and his captive stood there for some time, not moving an inch. Finally Belle broke the silence, deciding to voice her thoughts.

"Why is it that you had the room so cold?"

"We each have our own comfortable little habitat, dearie. Mine just so happens to be in the frigid cold! I like it that way."

"How can you say such a thing?" she asked in wonder. Her gaze became dreamy as she stared at the bookshelf but saw instead a faraway place full of beauty and light in her mind's eye. "Don't you like... sunny days? Blue skies? Green fields, stretching on and on forever in an endless sea of waving grass leaves... Surely these must please you more than a stone room cold enough to freeze Hell over."

Her light-hearted words sent a warm breeze soaring through his heart, one that he could feel beginning to melt the frozen icecaps that had grown there like crystals in a dark cave. There was something so sweet, so tantalizing in the visions created by the breath off her tongue, that he could not resist longing for them. Her words sent a thrill through his very bones, piercing his soul. He could hardly remember the last time he had felt such a way.

"Perhaps..." was his dejected, whispered reply. Belle suddenly seemed to snap out of it, and she pulled out of his embrace laughing awkwardly in an effort to diffuse the tension she had created.

"I'm just fine now, thank you. The room has warmed up considerably. I will return to dusting now." Rumpelstiltskin nodded sharply and made his way back over to the spinning wheel. Grabbing the straw, preparing to turn the wheel, Rumpelstiltskin could not help pausing to glance back over at the peculiar, dreamy young woman who was now humming a cheery tune as she worked. There was something about her that made him feel different than he'd ever felt before. This beautiful woman, this Belle, made him feel warmer than any fire ever could.