Title: My Four Walls Transformed
A/N: This is the closest thing to a songfic I've written in a long time (and it's not really a songfic, honest), but the lyrics - 'Recessional' by Vienna Teng - fit so well, so I built a whole fic around them. Because everyone's done a Gold/Belle fix-it fic, and I couldn't resist.
A/N 2: Someone said on another fic that, once you start writing Rumpel/Gold, it's impossible to stop. This being the third fic I wrote for him in one weekend, I wholeheartedly concur with that person. He chatters in your ears and makes you do his bidding. I want my life back, but writing for him is so much fun!
A/N 3: Okay, last one before I shut up and go away: thank you so much to everyone who's favourited my work or added me to 'author alert', and especially to those who review! I'm so stunned by how wonderful and supportive all of you guys are!
He doesn't want to talk to her. She's watching him, her blood red lips bared in a mock-civil smile that's visible even in the nighttime darkness. He wants to just walk on by, but that's not how this game is played.
Not here, not now.
He hopes he can walk on by, but of course he has no such luck.
"I need to speak with you. In private."
"I believe we've already said all we need to say." He smiles, baring his teeth, a small reminder that this human façade is just that. He brushes past her and keeps walking, but she doesn't give in.
"I disagree. I believe you might be interested in a trade."
He stops, turns to look at her, eyebrows raised in scorn. "You have nothing I want, Mayor Mills."
"Not even a girl I met on the road?" that tone of voice, that expression, cooing and patronising and cruel, almost transports him back to another conversation. In a vast, lavish hallway instead of a cold, grey street, when he was a monster and she a wicked Queen.
(And the words: they're everything and nothing,
I want to search for her in the offhand remarks.)
He doesn't respond; the knuckles wrapped around his cane turn white.
Regina just smiles her poisonous, apple-red smile.
Belle is out of place in Regina's black and white nightmare of an office.
She huddles in an armchair, her arms wrapped around her shaking body, dressed in hospital pyjamas, her hair limp and skin pale.
She's lifeless, her eyes empty and haunted, but he can't take his eyes off her.
(Who are you, the stranger in the shell of a lover?
Dark curtains drawn by the passage of time? )
"I found her wandering in the woods." Regina stands behind her desk, watching the pain on Gold's face with a sadistic smile, "I tried to get her some help, of course…"
"Of course." Gold's voice is shaking, anger snarling and churning in his stomach. He wants to beat the smile off her serpentine face with the butt of his cane; his fingers hunger to squeeze the life from her throat.
"But now that I'm aware of your… history," she smirks, "I felt it appropriate to arrange a trade."
"A trade." He nods, "Of course." One day, he thinks, he'll find Belle and she'll come to him willingly. One day he won't have to bargain just to be around her. "What do you suggest?"
Her smile, if it's even possible, becomes wider, "It's simple, really. You must grant my every request, so long as I say… please."
His own words are thrown back in his face: words spoken a lifetime ago, intending to maintain his grip on his power even when the magic was supposedly gone. He's almost impressed.
He needs to say no.
If only to maintain something resembling a balance of power in this place until the Saviour can get her act together and end the curse once and for all.
For the sake of everyone Regina wants to hurt, because he knows that, after Mary Margaret Blanchard, he tops that list.
Her reign has to end soon, and that can't be done with him at her mercy
He can't concede an inch of ground to her.
But then, he glances back at Belle. Her eyes are fixed on him, and he thinks he can see the tiniest glimmer of light in them, hidden behind the cobwebs and shadows has Regina placed there.
It's just enough to make him believe that she's still in there, somewhere, if only he could make her remember. And it's enough to prove that this world is a cruel, sadistic place.
(And I know I don't want this
Oh I know I don't want this
There's a reason not to want this, but I forgot)
"And then she can come… home, with me, for good?" he asks, trying to hold his emotions in check. He's better at this than Regina is, this much he knows. He's been making bargains since she was just a miller's daughter. He's forgotten more finesse than she'll ever learn.
"And you'll do nothing to try to take her from me?"
"You have my word."
With this in mind, he allows his desperation for the empty girl in the corner to overwhelm his good sense. He leans down, and signs the contract Regina has pushed before him.
He signs his real name alongside his assumed one. He knows the contract won't work without it.
"Then you have mine."
He walks her home, her slim, bony hand tucked in his, his long coat wrapped around her shoulders. He speaks quietly, slowly, trying not to scare her.
"My name is Mr Gold." He says, and she finally glances up at him.
"Gold…" she tests out the word, rolling it on her tongue, testing for sharp edges and hidden meanings.
"Has Regina told you anything, dear?"
She flinches at the name, her face twisting into such horror, such distress that Gold finds it hard to conceal the depths of his anger at the Queen.
They walk in silence on the dark streets, until they reach his home. He lets them inside, and she takes a few steps in front of him.
She's still shaking, eying the walls with wide, fearful eyes. This tiny girl standing in his hallway seems so much smaller, so much more afraid than the Belle he remembers: the woman who accepted forever without a second thought. He's painfully aware of how she's broken, perhaps beyond repair. He knows very little of what Regina might have put her through, of where she's been all these years that he never even knew to look for her.
The guilt, a constant companion since the moment he cast her out, spirals through him once more.
So he tries to make this introduction the antithesis of their first meeting: her room is the brightest, warmest one in the house.
The farthest thing from a dungeon, and yet she still looks so small.
She stands in the centre, drowning in the folds of his coat, and stares at him.
(But she's looking at me
Straight to centre
No room at all for any other thought)
"Can we go… outside?"
He smiles, and it feels like his first genuine smile in years. "Of course, dear."
He takes her hand and leads her out into the back garden. His house borders on the forest, with just a wooden porch and some steps leading into the woods. She breathes easier, here, and even wraps the coat further around herself for warmth.
She even smiles at him, as she takes a seat on the steps.
He sits beside her, looks at her, and he has to know, "What's your name, dear?"
She chews her lip, and suddenly looks so unhappy that he can hardly bear it.
"I don't know." She looks up at him, eyes wide, terrified and trusting all at the same time, "Do you?"
"You're Belle." He says, "When we knew each other, your name was Belle."
She nods, and turns her eyes back to the stars.
He becomes used to it: she sleeps in her room, but spends the rest of her time on the porch outside. She sits on the wooden steps and stares at the sky.
When he can, he joins her. He sits beside her, and tells her about the world. Sometimes he keeps quiet, and simply revels in the simple fact that she's there, beside him. That he can reach out and touch her, hear her voice and see her smile, however rare it is.
He thinks she enjoys his company: every day, she says a little more. When he makes her laugh, unexpectedly one morning, it lights up his world.
("It's so beautiful here," she says,
"This moment now and this moment, now.")
Sometimes he looks out of a window, and sees her spinning in the centre of the garden.
He supposes that she needs the sky, after being locked up for so long.
Word gets around about the girl now living with Mr Gold, about the strange creature who can be seen in the window, who greets him on the front porch every night.
For all that it contains a whole world, Storybrooke is still a very small town.
Gold knows people will talk, and hopes that Moe French doesn't come knocking. But then, no one should recognise a girl who's been lost for so long, and Moe knows better than to involve himself with Mr Gold ever again.
A few days after Belle's arrival, there comes a knock at the door. Gold opens it with some trepidation: he doesn't trust Regina not to come and steal her away, or alert Mr French: anything to ruin this chance they have.
But the woman at the door is blonde, with a very hesitant-looking brunette in tow. They have stacks of clothing in their arms.
Emma smiles, "Hello, Mr Gold."
"Ah- hi." His eyes are narrowed against the morning sun, and he hopes it hides his puzzlement, "What can I do for you, Sheriff Swan?"
"I heard you had a guest, and all anyone's seen her in is pyjamas. We wondered if we could help." Mary Margaret Blanchard looks deeply uncomfortable with the whole situation, but Emma doesn't seem to care.
He wants to say he can take care of this for himself. But he knows he is entirely unsuited for caring for a girl who can't even clothe herself, so he nods his head and invites the women inside. He even tries not to smirk when Mary Margaret hides a shudder at crossing the threshold.
Belle always has everything she needs: he makes sure of that. He hopes that Emma doesn't take it as repayment of her debt that he keeps the clothes and toiletries she dropped off, and leaves them in Belle's room.
He becomes used to having to seek her out. He invites her to the shop every morning at breakfast, desperate to be by her side every moment that he can. But she always declines: she hates to be trapped inside for too long. Even more than she hates to be alone, he discovers.
But then, every evening, there she is. Waiting on the front porch steps, watching for him. Her sigh of relief when he takes her in his arms at the end of the day becomes an essential part of his routine.
They spend their evenings outside, under the veranda when it rains. She only sleeps inside when she's too tired to stay out any longer.
But then, one night, things change.
He is in his bedroom, at his desk, catching up on some paperwork for the shop because he can't sleep. Belle went to bed hours ago, having spent the whole day walking with him in the forest. She was exhausted: after five months of freedom, she is still not at her full strength.
Every time he notices something like that, some little part of her that's damaged or missing from the girl he remembers, he hates Regina a little more.
A little creak from the doorway startles him out of his thoughts.
He turns in his chair to see her, watching him intently from the door. She appears almost angelic in her white satin nightie; she shines in the moonlight streaming from the window, and he feels suddenly underdressed in his flannel pyjamas.
He's sure she's never even entered this room: any time she isn't outside she's in the kitchen or in her room, asleep. This room is warm, and a little dark, and covered in his things. It's his den, and she hates small spaces.
(And I never thought I would find her here,
Flannel and satin
My four walls transformed)
And yet she steps forward, hesitantly, inside.
He stands up and limps over to her, taking her hand and feeling it shake, "Are you alright, dear?"
"Yes. I just missed you."
"I'm right here," he reassures her, squeezing her hand and guiding her to sit on the edge of the bed. He takes his seat in his desk chair and spins to face her, taking her hands in his once more, "Did you have a nightmare?"
She shakes her head, uncertainly, and then starts to nod, "I… don't know. It didn't feel like the normal ones."
He nods: he knows about her nightmares. They involve unclimbable stone walls, being trapped forever in a cell with no escape. They're cold and dark, and she's so alone.
He winces whenever he thinks about it, the guilt almost unbearable.
Her first dungeon was of his design; the second he didn't even know about. He never seems to stop failing her.
Her hands are warm in his, and her grip is strong. She's stopped shaking, and he sighs in relief.
"What did it feel like, dear?"
"Like a… memory, I suppose. I don't have many of those." She smiles, trying to joke and failing miserably.
Truth be told, he's afraid to take her to the shop. He knows that she wants to know who she is, to remember more than her time in the psychiatric ward, but he needs her to be Belle. He's certain there must be some tiny thing, some trinket tucked away amongst all those useless things, that would make her Miss French, the florist's daughter, and cause her curse-memories to kick in.
And by allowing her to stay away, denying her that chance, he knows he's still failing her.
He's weak; an old dragon, hoarding what's dearest to him.
"What did you remember?"
"You…" she smiles, and it lights up the room, "You were working, but you didn't look like you. There was a massive spinning wheel, and gold coming out of the end."
"Like a fairy story." He smiles like he's humouring her, "Am I Rumpelstiltskin in this memory?"
Her eyes, which had been staring at their hands, fly to his at the sound of his real name.
"Yes." She nods, "You are."
"Dreams are funny things, dear," he says, gently.
She nods, "You were green!" she giggles, and he laughs with her.
"Was I manic?" he asks, "Insane?"
"Yes!" she's beaming at him, "And you laughed, more than you do in real life."
"I laugh when you're around." He reminds, and she gives him a look that sends his head reeling.
It's the look she gives him when she knows more than he's willing to tell her. When she sees through his half-truths and defensive wordplay and doesn't let him get away with it: her 'You're not a monster' look.
She looks so much like herself, like who she really is, that it nearly breaks his heart.
"Do you want to go back to bed now, dear?"
She shakes her head, "Can I…" she hesitates, chewing on her lip nervously, "Can I stay here a while?"
His heart jumps into his throat, but he covers his racing pulse with a simple nod, and she scoots back on the bed, resting her head on the wall, a pillow propped under her back.
He's ready to go back to his work at the desk when she pats the space beside her, silently asking him to join her.
He wants nothing more in the world.
He tentatively sits next to her, and takes the remote from the bedside table. He has a television up here, where no one can see it: he's one of the only awakened people in Storybrooke, and he's interested in what the world does as they sit in stasis.
He finds an old movie, and Belle – who, he belatedly realises, must never have seen television – watches enraptured.
(And she dreams through the noise,
Her weight against me)
When the movie ends, he looks down and finds her asleep on his shoulder. Her hair falls across her face, and he reaches without thinking to tuck it behind her ear.
He's a little uncomfortable, propped up as he is. During the film, his arm made its way around her waist, and her weight is now cutting off his circulation.
But she's curled into him, the warmth of her body radiating into his cold, old bones. He doesn't wake her up: he stays still, knowing that his muscles will cramp and not caring at all.
(Maybe it means nothing,
Maybe it means nothing,
But I'm afraid to move.)
Things change after that night. She starts going out with him more, learning the town and its people. She meets Sheriff Swan, and they bond instantly, both practical, honest, brave women.
He's almost scared of how quickly they take to each other. Belle is strong enough to match him on his best day, and Sheriff Swan is much the same. The pair of them together is clearly a force to be reckoned with, and Gold doesn't much like his chances.
The worry goes away, though, when they leave and she slips her fingers between his like it's the most natural thing in the world.
"Alright, dear?" she's almost bouncing along beside him, her smile wide, and it's like she's back from the dead. For the first time in forever, he looks at her and sees nothing but the woman he loved so much, and lost.
The woman he still loves, although he'd never burden her with it.
"Yes," she beams at him, "More than. Thank you."
"For making me alright again."
He's taken aback by that: through all of this, through all the guilt and penitence, he'd never expected gratitude.
Luckily, she doesn't seem to expect a response, "I owe you something in return."
"No. Trust me, dear, you truly don't."
"I do." there's a sparkle in her eyes that sets his pulse racing, a wicked and wonderful grin he remembers all too well, and has never known how to respond to. She looks at him for a moment longer, and were she anyone else he'd think she was gathering her strength. Then, without warning, she leans up on her tiptoes and presses her lips against his.
This kiss is as magical as its counterpart, their first kiss in his castle when the world turned off-balance. And, when she moves away, there is her smile: that beautiful, shining smile that, a lifetime ago, sent him into a rage.
But this isn't his castle, and he has no curse to be broken. And so he leans in, removing all traces of doubt that had crept into her face in his moment of hesitation, and counters her chaste kiss with something deeper, harder, and more desperate. He pours every moment he missed her, every hope he had on her return, every ounce of love and longing he has for her into that kiss, and she responds just as fiercely.
He knows they're making a scene, and that people are starting to stare. He doesn't give a damn.
"Gods above," he murmurs, almost without thinking, as they finally break apart, "I love you."
"Good." She nods, "Because otherwise my loving you would be very inconvenient."
(Oh, words, like rain, how sweet the sound.)
Only she can make him laugh even as his world is realigning.
He takes her to the diner, walks her through town so she knows her way around.
In every interaction with someone new, he sees a new side to her. She's all at once the brave, funny woman who sets Emma at ease; the bookworm who charms Henry Mills; the incisive, insightful student who strikes up a conversation with Archie Hopper when Gold's not looking.
(Who are you, taking coffee, no sugar?
Who are you, echoing street signs?)
He realises, as the world opens up to her, that he still doesn't know this girl at all.
But it's with some excitement – such a strange emotion for such an old dragon – that he realises he has the chance to discover every facet of her, every day of her life.