Queen of the Castle by DD Agent

I do not own Once Upon a Time or any of its characters, or its settings - all belongs to the lovely folks at ABC.

This turned out sadder than I had intended if I'm perfectly honest. But I'm quite proud of it as I've been meaning to write a longer OUAT fic for two weeks now. Anyway - hope you enjoy!


"Do I have to go?"

Rumpelstiltskin looked at Belle with a grin, watching as his love flounced in the mirror. The party dress he had bought her was very becoming. The light blue fabric floated around her knees, and the wide straps left her shoulders mostly bare. The dress matched her eyes, and the brown of her curls made the ensemble dance. Looking at her took his breath away.

"I'm afraid you do, dearie." He chuckled at his pouting lover. "Wouldn't look good at all if my fiancée didn't accompany me to the Mayor's Halloween Ball."

Belle smiled and moved over to him, sliding her arms around his neck. His own shirt covered ones held her at her waist. The playfulness went a little from her eyes as she looked up at him, her fingers toying with the small diamond ring set on one of her fingers. She was worried. She always worried.

"But we're only going so Regina sees that we're happy."

"But we are, aren't we?"

She pressed her lips to his cheek lightly, still holding on tight. "We will be when we'll be home."

"And where is home, dearie?" He teased. He knew the answer.

"Our castle."

With Belle distracted with daydreams of large stone corridors, Rumpel took the chance to throw his fiancée on the bed. She squealed with laughter as he pinned her to the sheets, the most perfect sound he had ever heard. He nipped gently at her collarbone. "Since when is it 'our' Castle, dearie?"

She twisted her calf around his own and brought his back down on the sheets. His laughter was rich as she lay over him, stroking the long strands of hair away from his face. Rumpel took her hand in his own - the hand he had placed a promise on - and kissed her palm. He moved down over her wrist, pressing light kisses all the way down her skin until she was flush against him.

"Tonight, love. Tonight is when we go home."

She couldn't keep her mouth away from him, couldn't help her lips sliding over his. There was a passion to their embrace that almost made him stop breathing altogether. Belle had never belonged in this world; she had always belonged in the fairytales. The fact that they were returning - that the curse would end at Regina's Halloween party where she was so unsuspecting - was the best news he could give her.

Away from Regina, away from this hell...they could finally be together. Locked away in their castle with all the magic they could possess. They could finally have the happy ever after they deserved.

"I love you Belle."

With her now against the sheets, his hand pinned hers above her head and toyed with the small silver band there. He did love her, and he would do anything to make her happy. Leave this world, stay as Mister Gold and Miss Rosen forever...he would do anything. He would kill, die for her.

"I love you too Rumpelstiltskin."

"My Lady? Your carriage awaits."

Belle was shaken out of her memory as her guard spoke to her. She turned away from the window, tossing limp brown curls over her shoulder. The black dress she wore almost seemed to make them disappear from sight.

"You don't have to come, Leo."

The man who used to work night shift at Storybrooke Movie Theatre chuckled faintly before offering her his arm. She took it, slowly exhaling as she moved away from the window and onto their current journey. It would be a few hours before they would arrive at Queen Snow and King James' palace for their re-coronation. It would give Belle plenty of time to think about the evening that lay ahead.

"Like I would stay home in this drafty old castle while you danced the night away," Leo sighed. "Come along my Lady, we don't want to be late."

Belle sighed as they walked the length of the great hall to where her carriage was waiting. The re-coronation would be the final of such events after the fall of Queen Regina, and the birth of the second age of the Fairy Tale Kingdoms. Last week Queen Cinderella and King Thomas had celebrated with their daughter Alexandra. In the future there would be celebrations of more births, more weddings. But no more war. The last one had taken so many.

Leo handed Belle her green cloak, the same one she had worn when she had first met Regina all those years ago. It would keep her warm; the hood would keep her hidden. The Gold Cap Mountains where she currently resided was blisteringly cold in the winter, but Ice Wind Falls surprisingly brought warmth in the summer. Despite her being the current owner, she would always remember the castle as the home of Rumpelstiltskin.

"My Lady."

Her footman, one of the handful of staff Belle employed in the castle, helped her into the carriage. It sported the red and green of her coat of arms she possessed now she was of nobility. Something she had earned rather than what she had been born into. While she had never wanted anything as a child, she had never been more than the daughter of a poor man's prince.

Now she was somebody.

Now she ruled over several villages and towns - including the one she was born in. She had a staff of ten. She was a personal friend to both Queen Snow and King James after saving their grandson from the Troll King during the final battle.

But she wore black, did not venture outside her home unless for some great reason.

She was in mourning.

X

"Belle!"

A few seconds after she and Leo arrived, Henry ran across the ballroom to them and buried himself in her stomach. The young boy was getting taller and surprisingly was fitting in well with his new role as prince. She ran a hand over his hair and smiled for the first time in a long while. Her cheeks hurt.

"How are you then, Prince Henry?" He smirked at the title. "Keeping out of trouble?"

"Trying to, Belle. Are you okay?"

Leo coughed then, trying to make it very clear that he didn't think she was. But then she had known Leo since her first week in Storybrooke, when Rumpel had taken her to see a moving picture. She had watched the fairy tale on the screen - their fairytale - and kissed him when the animated Belle did the same to her own prince.

Now she had no prince to kiss, or to hold. But always to love.

"I'm fine, thank you Henry. I think Peter wants you."

The boy in green was waving urgently to the young prince. Henry ran off with a grin, waving his arms over his head. Belle looked around to see that they had already missed the crowning, but the party was in full swing. Snow and James were dancing in the centre of the ballroom, their love evident to anyone who could bear to look at them. Thomas and Ella were watching Alexandra, making sure she didn't wander off. Ruby was dancing with a great number of men, even some of the Royal Guards dressed in their white and black.

Belle couldn't bear it. So she looked for one of the few who would understand her pain. Frederick was sharing a dance with a young Ariel and she didn't have the heart to disturb him. Emma, however, was tucked away in a corner of the ballroom, nursing a tumbler of alcohol.

"Hey Emma."

She raised her glass in the direction of Belle. "Hey Belle. Pull up a pew."

Princess Emma, the saviour of Storybrooke and now head of the Royal Guard, had had the worst ending of them all. She had made her true love weak, made it so Belle's own could triumph. She remembered watching the blonde cradle the brunette's head in her hands, trying to wake her up as the world shifted into mirrors.

"Enjoying the party?" Belle hissed sarcastically as she sat down next to her.

Emma snorted and brushed her blonde hair off of her face. "No. But they look happy, and that is all that matters." She watched her son with bright eyes, the happiness there sincere. As was the happiness aimed at her parents. Everyone else she treated with distaste, and Belle knew exactly how she felt. "Drink?"

Belle nodded, but before Emma could reach over for it, her fingers had twitched. The bottle shot across the table and into Belle's open hand. The blonde's eyes twisted to hers, confused.

"Belle?"

The brunette bowed her head. "A gift. I can't do much beside bewitch my stone guards and slide drinks over." She could feel her blue eyes growing damp. "It's the only part of him I have left."

The ballroom's music washed over the pair of them, neither could gather up the energy to dance or even bring a smile to their face. They had lost so much over their lives, lost so many years of their lives because of the curse. Now they had nothing left but to keep on going through the motions in a different world.

"Wake up, please wake up."

Belle couldn't hear anything but the beat of her own heart. The town she had been part of for twelve months was now brought down to the ground. The curse had been ended with a kiss, and the magic had awakened between the mortal bricks and mortar. Blood ran down the streets, bodies were trying to be cleansed.

Everyone was crying.

Belle looked over to see Henry with his mother and Regina, both of them trying to awake some goodness in the wicked queen. But it was no good, her soul was gone.

She could no longer watch. She had her own love to find.

"Rumpel! RUMPEL!"

Belle ran down Main Street, still clutching the sword in her hands. It, and indeed she, were covered in troll blood. But it didn't matter now. The town was waking up, she could see the dimensions bleeding together, opening again. Soon they would be home, soon she and Rumpel could live in their castle and he could spin all day and she could read and they could get married.

But her ring wasn't on her finger, her promise was gone.

It must have left her when she had been saving Henry. She had left him with a kiss, a declaration of love and the promise of their happy ever after. Now she didn't have anything.

"Where are you?" Belle whispered to the air.

"Miss Rosen?"

Belle looked up to see Leo Carmichael cross the street. His blond hair was dark with blood; one of his eyes seemed to be almost welded shut. He was the man who took tickets for the moving pictures; he often let her in for free when her love was otherwise engaged. The axe he was carrying clattered to the floor.

"Do you know where he is?"

Leo bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Belle."

Those words made her collapse to her knees. She didn't really take in anything else he was saying. Those three words had been her undoing.

"He and Mayor Mills got into a tussle, something happened and...he gave up his magic to take hers." He moved forward and sat down on the ground beside her. "Back in the Fairy Tale world, I made a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to bring my wife good health. It worked, and all he asked was for a favour. Two days ago Gold came to me, asked that if anything happened to him then I must protect you. Then we would be even."

He was gone, he was gone. Rumpel was not coming back. "My wife passed two months ago, her illness came back and...I honour my promises, Belle. The promise I made two days ago will stand for as long as I am alive."

Two days ago her love had made a deal for her safety. Two days ago they had had a dinner in the forest and he had proposed to her, He had known, he had known. That bastard had known.

Belle didn't know whether it was cowardice not telling her, or strength by not pulling away. Either way, her Rumpel had died the hero she always knew he had been. But that didn't make it any easier to bear.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Belle."

X

The grounds of the White palace were beautiful and expansive. The three times she had visited her friends she had often spent a great deal of time in the gardens watching Emma play with Henry. She had a great deal of affection for the boy. He had sometimes joined her in the movie theatre, and of course she had rescued him when the Trolls had gone after the grandson of Snow White. But the sight of the young boy brought pain to her heart - the pain of something she would never have.

She had never found her engagement ring.

"Belle?"

The voice was familiar and as Belle stood up she shifted away. Gaston looked good, despite everything. He had been stuck in a wheelchair in Storybrooke, restricted to the hospital. But since the curse had ended and magic had restored him to his full self, he had been at her father's side in her hometown. And he was still trying to reclaim what he saw as his.

"Gaston." Her words were clipped. She didn't have much to say to the man who still worked for her father. The man who had let those men...the man who had let the Queen rescue her. "I didn't expect you here."

"I helped save Alexandra when the nursery caught on fire," Gaston smiled. "You're not the only hero here, Belle."

Belle snorted. Gaston was something alright. She could see him clutching something in his right hand and almost felt like producing the silver dagger she kept hidden in her corset to stop him from making a mistake. She wouldn't say yes. He wouldn't even accept her if she did. She wasn't 'pure' anymore. She had been taken by another man many times in Storybrooke, and she wouldn't let anyone spoil those memories.

"Belle, we were great friends once. I want to be again. Marry me."

Her former fiancée knelt to the ground and produced a gold engagement ring. Belle shook her head and moved away from him, not wanting to look at him anymore. She wasn't the same precious flower he had been promised years ago. She had grown up.

"I'm sorry Gaston, but I'm in love with someone else."

"Gold, right? Or is it Rumpelstiltskin?" Gaston's words turned harsh, and Belle flinched at the tone "Everyone knows the man who truly saved Storybrooke was Mister Gold but no one really knows who he was in the first place. Except for a few. The few who know that you were falling on your knees for a monster." He grabbed her shoulder and jerked her head back to meet his eyes. "Tell me, Belle. How would all your fancy new friends treat you when they realise that you're the devil's whore?"

She slapped him, splitting open his cheek. She would not accept that, she would not accept a word against him. But Gaston struck her back, her lips becoming even more ruby red. Before she could retaliate, a sword appeared and grazed Gaston's throat. It was Leo, her protector.

"I suggest you leave the lady be before I inform King James that you have just struck one of his council in the face."

Gaston looked at Leo, looked over his scarred face and the sword expertly pointed at his jugular. He decided to leave it be. "This isn't over, Belle. Your lover imprisoned me within a stem for years, and I will have my revenge."

Belle watched as her former betrothed stormed away, his cheek stinging. Her own mouth felt sore. She couldn't go back inside that party, watch everyone so happy when all she had was her books and a spinning wheel that she didn't even touch.

Displaying the only moment of weakness she had given to him since he had told her of Rumpel's end, Belle buried her face into Leo's shoulder and wept. He held her close, wishing he could remove his mistress' pain. But he couldn't. His own grief told him that.

When they returned to the party, there wasn't a single mark on her face.

X

The map was the same as before, the world melded together out of magic. The fairies and wizards had tried their hardest to bring back the world as it stood before the curse, and they had succeeded somewhat. New territory had been formed from dead kings, and there were darker places on the map than before. But so far things were looking rosy.

The mirrors between the worlds had been broken for good. Some had stayed behind, having got used to the world with electricity and automobiles and such. Others - a lot more than Belle would have thought - returned to their lives and their families. Staying behind would mean going out into the world as the only thing that remained of Storybrooke was the sign.

"Our castle," Belle whispered to herself as she opened the doors of the great hall and looked at the large wooden table and the spinning wheel in the corner. Trinkets would no doubt start appearing, all part of her lover's collection.

But he wouldn't appear. He was gone. There was no deal to bring him back, no magic that could.

She walked through the castle, hands running down doors, over walls. The castle shook under her touch. There was something new about her, something that felt off under her skin. But most of all she felt like she was still with him and she clung on to that.

"You still owe me a story."

Belle was still in her Storybrooke clothes. A battered pair of jeans - a reject from Emma's wardrobe she believed - and a white tunic that grazed her thighs. The castle was already collecting her clothes that she hadn't taken when she had left the castle, and the dresses she had worn when they had danced in the fog ridden town would soon join them. A mixture of the present and the past. Belle could only see black in her future.

"As you wish, dearie. What would you like your story to be about?"

Even as she walked down the halls back to the great hall, things started appearing. Works of art, random books shoved into dusty corners. A thin layer of dust seemed to accumulate with her footsteps. It was all going back to the way it was, before the curse. Just not him.

"True love. I would like a story about true love."

Belle smirked at her own words as she finally made it into the hall and was presented with all her love's treasures. Including the teacup. She had put it away in a cupboard when she had lived with him before, not wanting it out on display. But now she knew why he had kept it. She had lost the last little bit she had of him. She had lost his promise.

"All right then. There was once a man who...tried to do his best but never expected much from people. People left him, people treated him like dirt. So he did the same right back. Then, one day he met a beautiful nymph, perfection itself. But because he never expected anything more than disappointment, he turned the nymph away. However, the nymph promised him that he would regret his decision, and finally realise what he deserved."

It still had its little chip in it. She ran her fingers over the crack, a little damaged due to travelling. She should pack it in cotton wool; put it back in its cupboard. But she couldn't bear to put it away. She needed this reminder of their love, lest she forget in her loneliness.

"And what did he deserve?"

"He deserved to be loved, and she deserved a man who believed he could be what she needed."

Alone in their castle, drinking from his cup. She could hear his laughter in her ears, could see him walking around in those leather pants. She could see his smile on Sunday mornings when he read the paper to her. She could hear him whisper that he loved her. But it was all memories, numb call backs to a life she had only half lived.

She was a Princess without her Prince.

Not one damn story had prepared her for that.