Sevysev prompted: "Do you believe in fairy tales?"
So I thought about this prompt, and I thought about the show.
And I thought about Belle locked in a tower (by a witch). And princesses locked in towers (by a witch).
And I thought, if Mr. Gold is both Rumpelstiltskin and the Beast—then it is possible, judging by her tower and her witch, that Belle is also Rapunzel.
And if Belle is also Rapunzel, then she's alive, but she's been rescued by somebody else.
The Thorns Behind Our Eyes
Belle doesn't remember much from before the Break.
Her Break—that's what they call it at the hospital. The time she stopped... well, being, for awhile. When the word falls from ruby red lips behind a heavy metal door, it smells of apples, carries warning menace in two harsh, fast stops.
But when Brian says it, it sounds nice. Like a vacation. Or a good book.
Brian is her prince. He noticed that her medications were all wrong, and when his supervisor wouldn't listen, went all the way to the director. Just like that. Belle doesn't understand how the hospital hierarchy works, but she knows that there is one, and that Director is actually quite a lot higher than Mayor.
("The director," Brian tells her, "takes shit from no one.")
Belle is really feeling much better now, though it worries her how little she remembers. She thinks she might have known Brian, before. She and Brian are about the same age (her papers say so) and they both grew up here (her papers say so) so they must have gone to Storybrooke High together. But she can't remember, and if she has papers that would say so—a diploma or a transcript—she can't find them.
Brian says she should ask her father. She tried once, on the telephone. But the buttons all seemed strange to her, and when a man picked up and said, "Game of Thorns—take your pick, we ship quick. Moe French speaking," she did not recognize the voice.
Brian says sometimes medication can do that. That the wrong medicine, at the wrong strength for too long, can warp like a pine bough left in the rain. His eyes go so dark. They slide away from her like water down the gutter, and he says, "It'll make a different person out of you."
Belle has these dreams.
(She knows they're not real. It is only the medicine that had her so confused.)
In her dreams, she knows who she is. Knows it, like she has never been anyone else. Like there aren't still cracks where the hospital glued her back together.
In her dreams, Belle made a very big, very important decision. And now she is trying to help a lonely man who thinks he does not love her. And in this dream, Belle knows that he loves her and that is why she will not leave, even though he shouts and sparks and smashes strange, wicked spells into the furniture. Because in her dreams, Belle knows this is only a powerful curse fighting to keep its host.
And in her dreams, Belle is brave.
So when Brian says, "It'll make a different person out of you," with his eyes so dark and raining, Belle pretends she doesn't hear. Because she wants so badly to be the person she is in her dreams. And if that was who she was before, even a little, she doesn't want to believe she has changed. Because changing means breaking—and holy mother of fuck, she hates that word.
(Belle is not supposed to say fuck or hate. Bad words make bad thoughts.)
She wishes Brian would stop saying it. (Break) She asked him once, and he apologized. He said he would try, but that it woke him in the night sometimes. Felt like thorns behind his eyes.
Not that it matters. It doesn't matter. They're happy. They're so happy.
She has an apartment now, and yesterday, Brian proposed.
Today, he takes her to the pawnshop to pick out a ring.
"So you'll have something no other woman has," he says. "Something antique, maybe. That they just can't pump out of a factory somewhere, you know?"
Belle doesn't care very much about rings, but Brian smiles so bright, her empty places fill up with sunlight and she is happy, too.
(Belle is afraid of being unhappy. Unhappy comes with pills.)
So instead she says, "I'd like that." And she smiles, and Brian smiles, and he opens up the door.
Inside the little blue building smells like a place she almost remembers. A place that is not the hospital. A memory! At last! And this time, her smile is a real thing, not fear in sheep's clothing.
Belle does not like new places, but here, she walks inside, right up to the man behind the counter. His back is to her, but she sees he is older, smallish, wears a very nice suit. She likes his hair (not quite right; where is the curl?) where it brushes the top of his collar. He turns when she places her hands on the counter. He is smiling.
And then, very suddenly, he is not.
Brian doesn't notice. He grins his sunshine smile and sticks out a hand. "Brian Hawthorn. We're here to pick out an engagement ring."
The man behind the counter is not breathing, Belle sees. He swallows. Swallows again. His eyes are on her (the color's all wrong) and she recognizes panic and pain.
"Are you alright?" she asks. Brian looks at her strangely, but the man behind the counter tries to smile again.
"Fine, dear. It's just… you… look very like someone I used to know." Belle understands that this means dead and makes the appropriate nod. The man swallows again. His throat bobs. His eyes slide to Brian, but do not find a home there. To her, he says, "My name's Mr. Gold. Have we met?"
Brian knows this is a question she does not like. He is her prince and he does what princes do. He rescues her again.
"Not likely," he says and this time his lovely smile is a distraction. "Belle's been away for some time. Do you have any of those antique rings that open up to little boxes?"
This Mr. Gold cuts his eyes at Brian and speaks knives. "A poison ring? You're certain? For an rival, perhaps, but for your… happiest ofoccasions?"
(He should speak faster, higher. He should laugh. He should be terrifying, but she should not be afraid.)
Brian bristles. He shoves his hands into his pockets, which means he wants to argue, but Belle knows…
Something. Something old. She knows.
"I like little boxes," she says, feeling so many threads of history whisper against her face and disappear. "And I think we must have met before, yes."
Mr. Gold softens. His voice goes hoarse. "We certainly must have," he says. He clears his throat, turns his eyes away. He opens up the counter, and places out three velvet trays of rings.
When Belle chooses (and Brian buys) a dark copper ring with tangled teeth like thorns, she is almost certain Mr. Gold has undercharged. But she knows there are questions sleeping here that cannot be asked, so she says nothing, only smiles, and slips on her ring.
It is too big. Immediately, Mr. Gold sees. (He is staring at her hands; his eyes are wet.) He says, "I can fix that, if you like? Won't take a moment."
And he smiles.
But he is not smiling, not really. Oh, the corners are there and turned up in the right ways, but it's three shades of agony, and Belle understands. She sees. She knows. Certain pains run deep and old.
So Belle is brave. She slips off the ring and drops it in his hand (shaking; this is familiar) and asks, "may I watch?"
For a long time, Mr. Gold looks for something in her eyes. Whatever it is, she thinks he does not find it.
"Of course," he says, and his voice sounds tired.
From the counter full of toys, Brian looks up. He offers her a new smile, slow and sweet. A promise.
"Would you like me to come, too?" he murmurs. He is her prince. He knows she is scared to be alone with strangers—and if she asks him, he will come—but he wants her to be brave.
He is so beautiful, Belle thinks. His inside, and his outside, too.
"No," she smiles. "I'll be alright."
Mr. Gold lifts the counter. She steps behind and follows his halting steps (where does it hurt? Why? When?) into the back room. He does not look at her, but sits down at a table in front of a strange (wrong) spinning machine.
He starts the wheel. For awhile, he works.
"Might I ask a question?" he says. She knows his throat is tight. She hears that it hurts.
His wheel slows. Stops. He looks up. The ring hangs suspended between his forefinger and thumb.
"Are you happy, love?"
The agony bleeds his smile, into his eyes, into the slump of his shoulders and back. He hurts, everywhere. "Indulge an old man," he whispers, and she does.
"Do you believe in fairy tales?" she asks.
Belle smiles. "Brian is my prince. My happily ever after. It took a long time coming, but I think he's worth the wait."
The corners of Mr. Gold's mouth tighten like the sky when a storm comes. This time, he does not smile. He does not even try. But he lifts her hand and gently, so gently, slips the ring back on her finger.
At his touch, the feeling of knowing him dissipates. His fingers are long and clever. She would have remembered these (around a broken teacup). She would have known his name before he'd told her (Rumpelstitskin). She would not now be looking for a different color in his eyes.
No. That is a story. It is only the medicine that has her so confused.
(It'll do that. It'll make a different person out of you.)
And then Mr. Gold pulls away. And Belle sees the ring on her finger, fitting her finger, here and real and hers. Her engagement ring. Her engagement.
Soon, when the paperwork goes through, she will be married. And it won't matter—not ever—what she does and does not remember.
"It fits," she breathes and touches a finger to the tangled thorns. It looks brighter. When the light hits, it writhes like a living thing. As a rule, Belle touches no one, but she breaks the rule for him—two fingers, gently, on the hem of his sleeve.
"Thank you," she whispers. "It's beautiful."
"Of course," he says and his voice is hoarse and hurting, but the history in his broken eyes does not belong to her. "Every happy ending needs a memorable detail."