I Will Not Kiss You
Category: AU post -ep
Spoilers: through 1.12
Disclaimer: They're not mine.
Word Count: 4383
Distribution: my , LJ, and my AO3. Anyone else please ask first :)
Summary: '"Then you must never kiss me," he commands, his tone strong and the words sincere. These words are law. They create definition where there was none, solid walls where they had once tip-toed over invisible lines.'
Starts during 'Skin Deep' when she sits beside him at the spinning wheel right BEFORE they kiss and goes AU from there.
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Thank you to Lj's linguology for the beta! I changed a few things after the fact, so all errors are sadly mine.
AN: Based on a line I wrote in a ficlet I was playing with that may or may not get posted. This was going to be a five times, but I just like this one time a lot... and it grew. My first real OUAT fic. Rumpel is such a wonderful, deep character, I fear I did not do him justice. Any thoughts or constructive criticism is welcome.
"Tell me about your son," Belle says, sitting patiently beside him. She does not press further, and waits through the silence for him to speak.
His hands grip into fists as he searches for the right words. His fingers long for the feel of straw between them, his ears for the calming repetitive noise of the wheel that truly did help him forget. "They were going to take him," he whispers. Her face betrays no reaction, all he gets is her soft breathing and the warmth of her beside him. "I'd seen war, and death, and had my own leg chewed on and spat out by ogres." She gasps, but he does not look at her; he can not stand to see the pity in her eyes. "He was so young, I would have done anything...I did."
"That's how you came to posses the Dark Magic? To try to save him?" She is so perceptive and the tone of her voice softer than he thinks he deserves.
He finds he cannot lie, not to her trusting eyes. "I ran first. But when that did not work: yes. I took the dark magic so they could not force him to go."
Her hand strays close to his, but she does not touch him. Her voice is soft and small when she speaks. "Why did you still lose him?"
Rumpelstiltskin looks up at her: his eyes dark and dangerous, his voice low and grating. "He ran from me when he saw what I had become."
Her hand slips up to cover her mouth, not in fear but in sadness, and her eyes well with tears. This is not the reaction he had expected. Her free hand grasps his tightly and he finds he cannot shy away from the softness of her skin or the warmth of the blood pulsing through her veins. "I'm sorry," she whispers, her hand drifting from her lips to fist at her chin.
"I'm not." He tries to shake away the emotion with the comment, tries to force the impish qualities back into his smile, but they both know how much he is faking. "He may have fled from me, but he also fled from the war. He lived a full life."
"But not with you." She squeezes his hand; lifts it into her lap so she can cradle the gnarled digits tightly.
He looks at their hands in wonder. Even his own wife had not been so tender with him, and he was a man back then. "No."
"So why do you keep it? The Dark Magic?" He's often wondered that himself, but he knows there is only one true answer. He tries to make it slip past his lips, but all he can see is the way she looks at him: the plain openness and soft eyes that tell him she truly wants to understand his story. As she waits her fingertip rubs over the thick claw that was once his thumbnail. He doesn't know if she is conscious of the small movement, but it is the most intimate thing he has felt in decades.
The words drip from his lips, contempt and shame coloring them. "All magic comes with consequences- especially the Dark Magic. I have lived lifetimes taming it and understanding it; learning how to wield it and bend it to my will. There are others who will not do that, others who will use it without thought to the repercussions. Others who will use it because they are filled with rage or jealousy." He takes a deep breath, casts his eyes down, and pulls his hand from her lap. "It is my penance to live with the Dark Magic, to wield it with discretion where others would not, and to be hated for it."
Her breath shakes as she tries to keep her composure. He expects her to run from him at any second, but she does not. Silence hangs between them like a physical barrier. When he thinks he can nearly stand it no more, she shifts and stands. "Tea, then." Belle reaches over and grabs the golden thread, lacing it through the fingers in his lap. "You should be able to get some spinning in before it is ready."
She retreats slowly, but when she is just past the doorway he can hear the hurried clack of her shoes on the stone and the hitch of her breath. He pushes the wheel into motion, and watches the fibers run through his fingers.
He is surprised to see her come back with the tea service, but says nothing in the strained silence while they take tea together.
"I came back because of a woman," Belle says one day as she's dusting the shelves in the library.
His attention has been on the delicate way she shifts each piece of his collection to clean out the cobwebs, not the book in his hands, but he shakes his head and grumbles as if she had interrupted him. "Oh?" he asks, injecting a lightness into his voice that he does not feel regarding this particular subject.
"On the road into town," she continues without looking at him, never straying from the dusting. "A woman in dark robes with a carriage as black as night. I did not wish to speak with her, but she gave me very little choice."
She jumps slightly when the book he was holding drops to the floor as he stands, but Belle pushes the feather duster over the woodwork without pause. He knows it was the Queen without even having to ask. "Please, continue."
Belle clears her throat and dusts the same shelf for the third time. "She could sense my... confusion. She starting talking about curses and lifting them. Is it... is it true that a kiss can lift a curse?"
She has stilled with her head turned toward him over her shoulder but she is still not quite looking at him. His chin juts out and he narrows his eyes at her question; she's never shown any interest in these matters before. "Yes," he says carefully. "But not always. It is true that any and every curse can be broken. The manner is always different. True Love's Kiss can break curses intent on keeping lovers apart as well as a handful of others." He stands and takes a few long strides towards her, lifting the duster from her hands, twirling it swiftly between his fingers. His lips smack distastefully, "Certainly not every one." Her eyes follow the way he nimbly spins the handle around, her hands clasped together tightly. He stops the duster and reaches out with it to tickle her nose. "This is more than just simple curiosity," he twitters at her, hoping to lighten her mood.
Belle flinches away with a laugh, but her smile disappears quickly. She looks down, a blush coloring her cheeks. "She said that you were cursed. That because you had let me go, you loved me and that I could..."
Emotions well up and spiral thorough him that he hasn't felt in years. With a roar he turns and hurls the duster at a covered mirror across the room, shattering the glass beneath the tapestry. She jumps back in surprise as slivers fall to the floor, pooling and reflecting in a million directions: a million eyes watching them both. His chest heaves. He cannot look at her.
Her voice shakes in a way he has never heard, even on her first day with him. "I'm sorry for-"
"Please, do not kiss me." His interruption is clipped and harsh.
She continues to try to apologize in a breathless manner, "I shouldn't have- I..."
He lets her regretful mumbling go no further. "Because I do love you." Her words fall away into a deep, inhaled breath. Small pieces of mirror still slipping from beneath the tapestry shatter on the floor; tiny twinklings of sound that interrupt the silence. He can only force the next words out in a croak, "And if you love me in return-"
"I do." Her voice is barely more than a whisper but she does not hesitate.
His heart soars and his stomach drops. "Then you must never kiss me," he commands, his tone strong and the words sincere. These words are law. They create definition where there was none, solid walls where they had once tip-toed over invisible lines.
He feels her take a small step toward him, a shining sun of warmth where there was once only cold. There is sorrow and confusion in her whispered words, "But to be free of your burden-"
He turns sharply and pulls her close by the shoulders, his monstrous eyes meeting her soulful stare. "There is a war coming, a battle between good and evil and good has no chance of winning without help. There is no one else who can wield the power like I can, no one else who can foretell the future and know how to manipulate it. The woman in the carriage? She means to end us all. She has been trying to trick me out of my magic for years, because she knows that only I am more powerful than she." He sighs, stepping back and dropping his hands, his chest heaving with emotion. "If you understand nothing else of me, you must understand this: when the time comes, I must be prepared to sacrifice everything to save us all. And I am."
Her shaking hands slowly reach out and though he recoils at the contact Belle takes his hands in hers. "You would sacrifice your own happiness for that of others?" She looks away, but does not drop his hands. Instead she squeezes them tightly. "And yet, you delight in the deceitful games you play..."
He wants to scream, to take broom resting in the corner and sweep the books free of the shelves to hear their thuds as they hit the floor. He wants to tear the world apart for the injustice of it all. "There is evil within me, Belle," he spits out, "The Dark Magic comes with a painful price. One cannot wield the darkness without first embracing it." He clenches his jaw and forces his breathing to slow. He untangles a hand and lets it drift up to brush away a rogue strand of hair near her eyes, his words a vehement whisper. "I wish that you never truly understand the darkness I know." Her head tips slightly, just enough to let her cheek brush against the rough skin of his hand.
Her chin trembles. He sees that she is struggling for words, that the revelations are too much to process in so short a time. Rumpelstiltskin pulls away to give his beauty space. "Leave the mirror," he chokes on the emotion, struggling to make his words as calm and everyday as possible. "I will clean it up. You are, as always, free to go if you would like." He turns and leaves her, long loping strides deep into the bowels of the castle as the darkness in him swells.
He cannot bear to let Belle see it.
"Good morning." Belle's clear, bright voice rings through the kitchen. He is stunned to find her the next morning, stirring a porridge brewing over the fire. She smiles just as she ever did, her eyes alight with fanciful mischief as she wipes her hands on her apron.
"Yes, I suppose it is," he twitters back, and leaves her to the cooking. He wanders the castle aimlessly the rest of the morning, wondering why she has yet to leave.
Within a day the uncomfortable moments are tucked tight away in memory and familiarity settles back in with routine.
"More straw is in order," she says to him a week later as he pours over the wording of a contract, "and perhaps a new feather duster. Is there anything else you might need from town?" Her question is cautious, almost fearful, as she plays with the edge of the cloak draped over her arm. He shakes his head, barely looking up. He wonders if this will be how she leaves, under the guise of heading into town, but he can see from the corner of his eye the way she fidgets and is hesitating to leave. He pushes the contract he's been carefully writing to the side and folds his hands, waiting patiently for her to reveal her thoughts. He doesn't have to wait long, and he is surprised at how level she keeps her voice as she meets his gaze. "If I should see the Queen again... what should I tell her?"
"Nothing," he says sharply. "Avoid her if you can." He stands and moves to a basket of the thin gold he's spun. He plucks out a length and walks over to her. His voice takes on a high pitched quality as he lifts her left hand and gently wraps the golden length around it several times. "If she is unavoidable, which I know her to be, she will once again find you." She watches as the gold solidifies into itself, like liquid melting without the heat. His lips move for a moment as he holds the thread to her wrist, but no words come out. The gold glitters before falling limply to her wrist. When he takes his hands away, she's left with a delicate, unbroken chain just big enough to fit comfortably and small enough to not fall off. "Should you need me, for any reason, touch the bracelet and call my name. I will come."
Belle looks down at the bracelet, then up into his eyes again. "I will not kiss you," she whispers as she leans up, letting her lips hover just below his, "but I wish I could." The puff of breath from her lips sends a shiver down his spine.
He takes the cloak from her hands and arranges it over her shoulders. He steps back, straightening the cloth and sweeping away imaginary lint. "As do I," he whispers, lifting the hood over her hair. He claps his hands together, a smile on his lips and energy dancing up through his frame. "Now off you go!" His voice takes on a much lighter tone. "Big house, needs lots of dusting. The longer you wait, the more dust falls!"
Her smile is brighter than a million suns as she walks away.
He pretends he's simply watching the forest, observing his land. He's really watching for her, waiting to feel the pull of the magic if she needs to call for him.
Hours later he can see her just beyond the castle gate swinging a full basket at her side.
He doesn't understand why she returns, but wishes that some day he might.
They don't touch often, but each simple contact is heavy with meaning. She will often lean into his space whispering, "I won't kiss you," but getting close enough to feel the heat radiating from his skin. He lets his fingers wind through her hair or presses his hand to the small of her back before they part, returning to whatever mundane task the day has brought. What they have created is real, but fragile.
On a cold winter's night they sit in front of the fire together, their hands twined across the empty chasm between two high backed chairs.
"One day I shall tell the Queen that it worked." Belle's voice is wistful as she watches the flames lick up through the wood. "Then she will forget you. She will try to enact her curse, but it will not work, because you will save us. Then..." She looks over to him, the firelight giving his mottled skin just enough glow that she can imagine his human face, "then we can be happy."
He looks over at her, so trusting, so honest, and wishes that the world were that simple. To live in that world of optimism again- it is so much of why he loves her. "Yes, I imagine we could."
He squeezes her hand and turns his attention back to the flames. He feels the war coming, and knows that this is not how it will happen. He finds that he does not have the heart to take away her hope.
He leaves one morning for a "meeting" and promises he'll be back before dusk.
When he doesn't return by nightfall she watches from the top tower until dawn.
She sits at the window through the days for the next fortnight.
He doesn't come.
She keeps the house clean and amasses bales of straw for him to spin when he returns.
She drinks only out of the chipped cup.
On the road to town nearly a month later she hears the pounding of horses behind her. Out of habit she ducks into the trees, hiding in the underbrush as her hand falls reflexively to the gold wrapped around her wrist. She waits for the carriage to disappear -white, not black, not the Queen- then peers at her wrist.
Her heart pounds in her chest with the sudden feeling of renewed hope. "Rumpelstiltskin," she whispers, her eyes closed, her fingers wrapped around the metal tightly.
At first there is no answer, but then the wind winds around her like a caress, and she can hear his voice echoing in her ears.
"I cannot come to you, dearie."
She does not open her eyes, does not dare to think this isn't real. "Why ever not?"
"I am being held prisoner by the Queen."
She presses her lips tightly together, whispering harshly into the wind. "You said your magic was stronger!"
"It is. But the time has come for the war to begin. I must follow this path to its end."
"What shall I do?" she cries out, tears slipping from beneath her lashes. She feels the wind warm and wrap her tighter until she can almost imagine his spindly arms around her.
"What you must," his voice whispers intimately.
"I will not kiss you," she whispers back.
The wind slowly dies away, his last words like an echo. "But how I wish you could..."
It's just this side of too cool on a spring day to be wearing a sundress, which is why the woman in bright blue catches her eye. Emma stops Mary Margaret just before they walk into Granny's, "Who is that?"
Mary Margaret follows Emma's gaze across the street to where a beautiful brown haired woman is looking over the display of fresh fruit outside the grocery, filling a small wicker basket. She sighs. "Oh, that's Jolie Gold."
Emma wrinkles her forehead, watching the woman's grace as she gently slides her fingers over the fruit. "Gold's daughter?"
Mary Margaret clears her throat and takes the tone of a cautious gossip, "Wife."
They watch as she pays the stock boy and steps away from the stand, waiting when she sees her husband limping down the sidewalk towards her. The woman's smile brightens exponentially, her hand playing with a thin gold bracelet on the arm that holds the basket. Emma leans over and whispers, "Gold digger?" She tries not to laugh at the implied pun.
Mary Margaret smiles. "No, actually." She tries not to stare as Gold nears the woman, a sure smirk on his face. She knows what will happen next, it is one of the sureties of living in Storybrooke. Emma, however, is taken aback by the passionate kiss they share in public. "I'd say they're quite in love."
"Or lust," the younger woman says, turning away quickly. "How have I never seen her before?"
Mary Margret slides past Emma into the diner and holds the door for her. "She's the town librarian. She's the only one we have for the regular library and the school library so she's either at one of them or at home. Jolie keeps to herself, always has. She's Moe French's daughter." Mary Margaret leans in conspiratorially, "Some people say she married Gold to pay off her father's debt."
"Well that is..." Emma starts to say awful, but she knows better. She couldn't help but see how the woman's smile lit up when she saw Gold, the way her hand tangled in the hairs at the base of his neck when they kissed, the way her body leaned towards his instead of away. "That can't be true. Not with the way they act."
Mary Margaret nods and signals to Ruby for their usual order of coffees as they slip into a booth. "We should all be so lucky to have something that real. The words Stockholm Syndrome get tossed around quite a bit, but I've seen them together. She's such a wonderful person, I can't imagine her loving a monster. As much as that man scares me- he can't be all bad if he loves her that much."
Emma nods as Ruby places the cups in front of them before sauntering away. Before she can voice her next thought, Henry bursts through the door, his backpack tilted just enough so that she can tell he's run here from at least a block away. "Emma!" he tosses breathless at her as he skids to a halt at their table.
She leans back, smiling, "Henry! You're going to be late for school!"
He looks over at Mary Margaret and smiles. "Not if I get there before my teacher."
Mary Margaret laughs. "You'll make it, as long as you're quick."
Henry nods brightly. "Of course. Emma, can you meet me at the library after school?" He looks around then leans forward and whispers. "It's for Operation Cobra."
She nods and sips her coffee. "Of course. Do I get to know what it's about?"
His eyes light up, leaning even closer and whispering so quietly that the two women can barely hear him. "I just saw Mrs. Gold on the street. She said she found a new book to show me. It's like my old one with one important difference: it's all about the Evil Queen and how to break the curse."
Emma shares a sharp gaze with Mary Margaret. "Does she know about Operation Cobra, too?" Emma demands.
Henry smirks, shifting the backpack to sit squarely. "Of course she does! She's the one who told me about the curse in the first place. And her husband sold Miss Blanchard the book, so she could give it to me. It's all happening the way it's supposed to happen." He chuckles, stepping away from the table. "Right after school!" he calls back before disappearing out the door.
Emma and Mary Margaret stare at one another, neither quite sure how to voice what they're thinking. Mary Margaret breaks the silence. "If she's the beauty..."
Emma can't help but finish it, "...then he's the beast, who is really..."
"A misunderstood hero," Mrs. Gold's light tone finishes. She has a glint in her eye as Ruby hands her a paper bag of food to go over the counter. She steps closer, leaning over the booth. "Believe your boy, Miss Swan," she whispers as she turns to go, "You'll save us all."
She sweeps out of the restaurant as quietly and as swiftly as she came in, linking arms with her husband when she meets him on the sidewalk. Emma stands and rushes out of the diner, but there is no sign of them. Which store they had ducked into or side street they slipped down, she wasn't sure. What Emma was left with was a strange feeling inside- a feeling that the truth was about a break, that she was going to understand, by the end of this week, or maybe even the end of today, what was really going on around here.
Gold and his wife stand in the shadows of the ally, watching Emma scan the street for signs of them. "When we go back," she whispers, "will I be able to kiss you?"
"No," he chokes out, the word clipped and forced.
They watch as she takes a travel cup from Mary Margaret who heads off in the direction of the school. Young Henry is only a few blocks ahead, running to join the flock of students swarming through the doors. Emma continues to scan the square, but cannot see them in the shadows.
She squeezes her husband's hand tightly. "What will happen to them? To Emma and Henry?" She leans her head on his shoulder. "Will any of this have ever happened, or will we return to where we were when the curse took hold?"
"I don't know," he grips his cane tighter, but twists just enough to let his free hand caress down the side of her face. "That is the one thing I never knew. I created the curse to inspire fear. It was never meant to actually be used, and if it was used, never meant to be broken. That she used it only shows how evil she really is, and that evil will change how it works. The Dark Magic is by no means that precise."
She drops the take out bag to the ground and wraps her arms around her husband's waist, her head hiding beneath his chin. "I pray we remember, for when we go back, I will not kiss you."
"Perhaps," he whispers as he watches Emma turn and walk toward the police Station. His lips dip to kiss her forehead, lingering and slipping over her soft skin as he speaks. "And perhaps, if we can be saved, I will kiss you."
*Jolie – A french name meaning Beautiful.