Author's Note: I'm not much of a fan fiction writer, but Belle and Rumpelstiltskin have inspired me ridiculous amounts, and I've loved reading the fanfics of other authors about them, and this is my endeavor to write my own. The chapters will alternate between fairy tale land and Storybrooke. Please review, particularly with any comments as to what you'd like to see in the future or any critiques. I hope you enjoy!
"Won't you take a break from spinning for a while? You haven't eaten all day." Belle's little hard shoes echoed on the wood floor as she walked into the room, balancing tea, a meal, plates, and cups all in two arms. She gently set her load on the table, and cocked her head at Rumpelstiltskin, in his ordinary position at his wheel.
He squinted at her through the sunlight that streamed in through the windows. Since all the curtains had finally been taken down, his eyes had only begun to adjust to the new lighting. "I see you've gotten less clumsy, dearie. Didn't even drop a thing on your way here from the kitchen?" His voice was a trill of giggles.
"Oh hush." Despite her words, Belle joined in with his laughter anyway. She pulled out a chair for him at the extravagantly-large dining table. "Now come eat."
"Only because you insist." He abandoned his wheel and took the offered chair, while Belle sat across from him. "Though I'm not sure who you are to be giving me orders in my own castle."
"Apparently I'm your nanny," Belle wore a mischievous half-smile. "I'm to clean up after you, fetch you straw, tell you stories, and cook for you, after all. Someone needs to look after you, I suppose. You're too skinny!" she chided.
As the last statement left her lips, Rumpelstiltskin watched Belle's arm reach across the table, her long, ivory fingers encircle his wrist. His mouth opened slightly, unable to think of a coherent response to her words; his eyes fixated themselves on her hand holding his wrist.
Belle did not seem to notice. She shook his wrist. "See? Too thin." Staring at Rumpelstiltskin, waiting for one of his "quips" about the lack of children eat or something, she did not let go of him.
After another moment, realizing that she expected some sort of reaction from him, Rumpelstiltskin met Belle's inquisitive blue eyes, and only managed to produce a weak smile. In return, Belle smiled back, one full of warmth. Reluctantly, she released his wrist and picked up her fork. Rumpelstiltskin did the same, doing his best not to betray the emotions that her touch tended to bring to the surface.
After the quiet dinner, Rumpelstiltskin returned to his spinning wheel, while Belle lit a few candles throughout the room, watching the sunset wistfully out of the window.
"No deals to make this evening?" Belle asked, perching herself on the wide window-seat nearest to the wheel. She picked up a few strands of thread, glimmering in the candlelight, and begun to idly braid them together.
"No deals." Rumpelstiltskin's voice is reserved, pensive, trying to focus entirely on the pursuit in front of him, rather than the girl beside him.
"Good. I like it better when you're here. This big castle gets lonely when there's no one else around." She curled up in the seat, wrapped her arms around her knees and leaned against the window. As her chest rose and fell with her breathing, the glass pane turned white and warm in front of her.
Rumpelstiltskin did not-could not-respond. Belle stared out of the window, at the slowly brightening half-moon in the sky, and Rumpelstiltskin stared at Belle. He fumbled for his old cockiness. "Oh dearie, your lies aren't making you any prettier. We both this place is far pleasant without the beast prowling about." When he said beast, he made his hands into teasing claws and bared his teeth.
To his disappointment, Belle just tittered with laughter. "Oh quit it with the beast stuff already. I might've been a tad afraid of you when you first brought me here-you know, all the tales of terrifying, baby-stealing Rumpelstiltskin-but I am certainly not afraid any longer." She held her head high, looking him directly in the eye with a small half-smile, as if daring him to challenge her.
"Apparently I've been treating you a little too nicely, haven't I, dearie?"
Belle just shook her head at him, smile never faltering. "Well then, continue on ignoring me." From underneath the rose-patterned cushion she was snuggling into, she pulled out a thick navy-colored book. Opening it near the middle, Belle inhaled the scent of the creamy, dusty pages. "I love the smell of old books," she sighed.
He again failed to properly focus on his spinning. "What are you reading?" he asked, trying to sound casual, uninterested.
"It's about dragons, I think. The different types, which ones are dangerous, how to kill them. It's really rather entertaining. Father never let me read books like this back home."
Rumpelstiltskin twisted his golden face into a mocking mask of shock. Eyes wide, mouth open, he exclaimed, "You mean he managed to order you around? And to think I, the menace of the kingdom, is unable to!"
She ignored his little outburst. "Father said books like this weren't proper reading for a lady of my station. He thought they would give me nightmares."
"And now to think you're living one!" he hissed, followed by a high-pitched chuckle. But all of a sudden, Belle's hand was on his knee, and his laughter stopped. She leaned in close to him.
"Stop trying to convince me of my unhappiness. It is no joy staying here, but as I've told you before, I find it better than being the wife of Gaston." After a little squeeze of his leg, she let go, refocusing her attention on the words in front of her. Rumpelstiltskin noticed she was using the little bit of braided gold thread as a place marker for whatever page she was on. He tried instead to watch his wheel, rather than Belle's delicate white hands occasionally moving with every turn of the page.
"Have you ever seen a dragon?" Belle asked, breaking the silence again.
"Constant conversation is not a part of our contract."
Belle peered at him over the top of her book, content to wait for an answer. Rumpelstiltskin looked back at her, doing his utmost to maintain an angry glare. Finally, he responded, "I have seen many a dragon, dearie. Eliminated a few, too, in exchange for the right price."
"Is it hard to do? It says here that dragons are impervious to magic."
"That is why deals are so important. When a brave young warrior begs me to save his ailing princess or help him find true love, I do it in exchange for him to kill the dragon. Even in those rare instances when my magic is not sufficient, I lack no method of completing a deal."
Belle bit her lip, looking thoughtful, and, Rumpelstiltskin thought, somewhat unsettled. "Is that what's going to happen to our deal? The next time someone comes to you, and they need a woman for something or other, will you trade me in exchange for something from them?"
The word left his mouth in a sharp growl before he could prevent it. "Never."
"Good." Belle grinned.
Silence finally settled between the pair. Rumpelstiltskin resumed his spinning, and Belle, her reading. Time passed, and Rumpelstiltskin's concentration was eventually broken by soft snoring. Belle was asleep, her book left open in her lap. Or, rather, his book, Rumpelstiltskin decided, considering that it had come from his library, after all. He sighed. She seemed uncomfortable, her body all contorted to squeeze against the window. It likely wasn't warm there, either; the cold glass made goosebumps evident across Belle's arms. Carefully, as though he was dealing with a figure of porcelain instead of flesh, he picked her up, one arm underneath her legs and one supporting her back. Her head lolled and the snoring stopped, but Belle did not awaken. Rumpelstiltskin remembered the last time-the only time-he had held her like this-when she had fallen from his ladder, tearing down the curtains. The light poured into the room, and he caught her. Like then, she felt as though she weighed nothing. Perhaps she is the one who should be eating more, he considered.
He carried her out of the dining room, the door swinging open as he approached. At first he headed in the direction of her room-the dungeon, as it was more informally referred to-but changed his mind. Instead, he took her up the stone stairway, careful not to knock her head against any of the narrow walls. The door to one of the first rooms hung open, undoubtedly from when she had cleaned it earlier that day. It was one of the more modest bedrooms-now dust free-with a forest-green carpet and matching bedspread. The curtains lay on the floor in front of the windows, which made Rumpelstiltskin smile in amusement. He turned to the bed, gently setting down Belle's sleeping form upon it. For a few minutes, he perched on the bed beside her and slowly reached out, his long-nailed fingertips brushed aside a few strands of hair.
Belle began to snore again, and Rumpelstiltskin left, closing the door quietly behind him.