Anonymous prompted: A promise. Something about forever...?
Something About Forever
Rumpelstiltskin watches the wall, the slotted windows showing barren wisps of grass, and he thinks of war. He thinks of the hundred ways he might torment the queen. He thinks of lost children, and what he will have for supper, and where he can find a magic sheep.
Rumpelstiltskin does not think of her. He does not feel. He does not see her. He will not, cannot turn around. He keeps his eyes on the wall, thinks of nothing, and simply says, "Go."
And he cannot see her, but he hears in her voice she had expected something different, and her surprise damn near breaks him. Had she thought…? A beast, yes. Now she knows he is a beast. Now she expects him to curse and maim. She sits here—she sits here in his dungeon—prepared for scourges and flame. And she thinks he will be cruel to her.
Rumpelstiltskin smiles. Swallows. Smiles wide again.
He has taken knives to the ribs that hurt less than this.
"I don't want you anymore, dearie."
He hears her breathing, so loud in the tiny cell. He still feels her mouth on his, still tastes her, still needs her in a way that warps and terrifies him.
Go, he thinks, Run.
But Belle draws her legs up under her on the bed, and does not move.
"Well," she snaps. "I suppose you should have thought of that earlier."
This—no. This he did not expect. He spins and stares—he wants to fight; show claw and fang—but she stares him down. She simply sits, her back to the wall, her feet tucked beneath her skirt, her pretty face a war. (She isn't running—dear god, please go)
Belle stares him down. She stares him down. And he can feel his ramparts crumble.
"We had a deal. You promised. Something about forever?" Her eyes are so sharp, her mouth a blade. She will destroy him. One day, she will be the death of him. "Remember?"
Rumpelstiltskin is drowning and he knows he must be quick.
"Then consider this a… renegotiation. You will leave this castle at once, and I won't kill everyone you hold dear." He grins, all teeth and pain and shattered stone. "Deal?"
But still, Belle does not move. She does not move. She is sitting in a dungeon, a snarling monster in her lap, and this fool, this wretch—this precious, beautiful, lovely creature—simply folds her hands and eyes him like he's been a naughty child.
"I promised I'd go with you forever. You promised the continued safety of my friends and family forever. The deal, as you've said, is struck."
"So we'll make another."
And Belle—she smiles. A tiny thing, as though she believes she is winning—winning her way into a dungeon, a lifetime as a monster's sick little pet and oh, congratulations dearie, what a terrific idea.
"Promises," she says, as if explaining, "contracts, deals—they're the very foundation of all civilized existence. We can no more break our accord than we can reorder time."
She's fighting, he realizes. She's fighting to stay.
Rumpelstiltskin feels the world shift beneath his feet. There is a woman in his dungeon and she says she will not leave.
He thinks his hands are shaking, feels them trembling at his sides. And Belle sees. Of course she sees. She watches as he tries to hide, to fold this bewildering new weakness out of sight, and it is as though he has given her some kind of sign. She breathes again. She breathes.
And Rumpelstiltskin had not noticed when she'd stopped.
Gently, she whispers, "You're stuck with me, Rum."
He wants, so badly, to kiss her again. He wants to offer her his heart in his hands, however bruised the pulp. He wants to snarl and spit and fight and hurt. He wants to run—he wants to hide, he wants to bury his head and wait for this to pass in his fraying, familiar misery. He wants to be lonely. He—he likes being lonely. Whoever heard of a monster cursed with domestic bliss?
But he does not run. He hardly thinks. His heart pounds at his throat. His ribs feel vast and empty.
"I'm letting you go," he shouts. "I release you!"
Belle shakes her head, still smiling. She stands.
"You little idiot! You're free." He throws the door wider with a spell, points, demands, "Rejoin the world of the living. Go! Run!"
She comes close—so close, so blisteringly close. She wraps her arms around his sides. She tucks her head beneath his chin.
And she breathes.
Slowly, shaking, Rumpelstiltskin holds her. He rests his hands on her back, finds places fashioned for them there. He feels her breath tickling the hair of his chest, her heat, her heartbeat through the fabric of his vest.
"You're running the wrong way," he whispers.
"I love you," she says.
He worries he might squeeze too tightly.
He worries he might drag her into a war she cannot fight. Might make a target of her. Might make her a witch or a monster, a creature reviled for her place at his side.
"I won't kiss you again, if you'd rather," Belle says, her voice low and so sweet. "But we made a deal, Rumpelstiltskin."
Her hair smells of straw and sunlight. He wonders, is this what love is like?
"I could break it," he offers, barely above a croak.
"No." He feels her smile. He feels her. "That's not what you do."