Author's note: Thanks for reading! This is my third oneshot for Rumpelstiltskin/Belle (the second to take place in the fairytale world). I hope you enjoy it. Please review!


In little over a month after Belle's move into the castle, Rumpelstiltskin's true colors began to show; at least, that's how Belle perceived it. It was at this time that he gave her a real bedroom to replace the dungeon which she had been occupying.

Her room was of a decent size and equipped with all the reasonable furnishings. The bed was plush with satin blue sheets and a canopy hanging overhead. There was a wardrobe already full of various outfits for Belle to wear. She had a full-length mirror resting against one wall, and a small bookcase completely full with books. Belle wondered whether the bookcase had already held all these books or if Rumpelstiltskin had placed them there specifically for her. For some reason, she found herself smiling at the thought of her master going to any sort of trouble for her.

In fact, she had found herself smiling much more often as of late. And when she went to bed that night, reveling in her new surroundings, the smile continued to grace her cheeks as she mused over how wrong her expectations of living in Rumpelstiltskin's castle had been, especially now that he was deciding to show her even more courtesies. That first night in her new room was by far the happiest and most comfortable night of Belle's stay at the castle thus far.

The next day Rumpelstiltskin sat at his spinning wheel, going through all the usual motions. He took pleasure in the feeling of the straw scraping across his fingers, and of the solid wooden spokes turning under his hand. The steady repetition was soothing, affording him some peace of mind which evaded him at almost any other time.

Suddenly his head cocked sharply upwards and he brought the wheel to a slow halt. By the look of him one might think that he had heard a strange noise and this is what had confused him and caught his attention. Quite the opposite was true. In fact, the room was strangely silent. The silence prickled Rumpelstiltskin, and he wished to swat it away like an annoying bug. He even waved his hands about briefly, attempting to banish the uncomfortable feelings, but of course, this did no good. It took Rumpelstiltskin a moment to realize why the silence even bothered him at all, but only a moment.

Belle should be at work by this time. It was already late morning, and yet he had not heard a peep from her. Normally, even if she busied herself working in other parts of the castle, she always came to check in with him first.

Perhaps she merely overslept... he thought, even as he rose from his stool. He quickly made his way across the room and shoved open the doors, strutting through them. After all, it was her first night in her new accommodations. Perhaps the softness of the bed kept her from waking.

Nevertheless, Rumpelstiltskin could not deny the frantic worry growing inside his chest. She certainly could not have run away. That would, after all, break the deal, and Belle would never do that. And yet, he did not peg Belle as the type to simply sleep in. Belle was always full of energy and life: every day without fail she would rise with the sun and meet him in the dining room, before dutifully performing her chores with a teasing smile and a spark of vivacity dancing in her bright blue eyes. And yet, this morning she had not done so. What could be the trouble? And for goodness sake, why did he care so much?

His boots clicked on the stone floor as he walked speedily down the corridor, making his way to the staircase leading up to the second floor where her bedroom was located. As he got further down the hall, and closer to the stairs, he spotted her. There she was, sitting on the bottom step, leaning up against the railing nonchalantly. Her eyes were closed but she calmly opened them as she heard his footsteps approaching.

Stopping only a few feet away from her, Rumpelstiltskin's nerves sizzled. She'd gotten him all worked up and concerned—though he intentionally chose not to ponder why her absence had affected him in this way—and here she was, simply loafing at the bottom of the stairs. The emotions raged loudly inside of him, each fighting to be heard over the others. There was irritation that she'd caused him unnecessary worry. There was relief that his worry had been unneeded after all. There was anger that she was shirking her duties.

He did not even pause to think how unlike her it was; he simply observed the situation for what it was and allowed his anger to roil. Part of the anger was directed at the young woman, but more of it was aimed at himself. Had he been too soft with her, giving her a nice room? Perhaps this mistake was what had caused her to think—entirely incorrectly, as she would soon learn—that she didn't need to fear his punishment if she chose to slack off.

Raising his eyebrows at her and keeping a mockingly innocent expression on his face, Rumpelstiltskin threw his hands up questioningly and asked,

"And what... do you think you're doing?"

"I just thought I'd rest for a moment," she replied vaguely.

"Well that sounds simply... charming!" He giggled in his normal manic way. "Is there anything I could do to make your rest more enjoyable, princess?" exclaimed Rumpelstiltskin, bowing dramatically. His sarcasm thinly veiled his true frustration: he was merely holding back momentarily before he released his honest feelings and dragged her back to the dungeon for her insolence.

"Since you asked, I'd be very grateful if you could hand me that book. Otherwise its pages might get permanently bent."

Rumpelstiltskin spun around to face the direction in which she had nodded. A few steps higher on the staircase a book was sprawled open, looking like it had been dropped there inconsiderately. Rumpelstiltskin stared at the book in surprise, and then looked up and down the stone staircase several times. Finally, he understood. His anger gone now, Rumpelstiltskin crouched beside Belle, ignoring her evident surprise that he was so spatially close to her.

"What did you hurt?" he asked quietly, his manner serious now. Belle grimaced, though in pain or shame, he could not tell.

"Only my leg."

"May I?" he asked, a tiny bit of his natural gaiety creeping back into his voice. Belle nodded her consent. Rumpelstiltskin reached out and gently brushed the hem of her dress out of the way so that her calf was exposed.

"How did it happen?" he asked quietly as he examined the swollen and bruising leg.

"I forgot that my bedroom was on the second floor now," she replied, "I may have been... distracted by the book and failed to notice the staircase." Belle cried out softly in pain as he pressed tenderly against the flesh, trying to determine the severity of the injury.

"And what were you doing reading while you walked in the first place?" he asked teasingly. Belle made a face at him, but he could see the small smile on her lips and the laughter behind her eyes.

"Well I didn't say it was the wisest thing I've ever done," she replied, using a sassy tone right back at him. "But... there was one poem that I wanted to memorize. That's why."

Rumpelstiltskin drew back his hands from her leg but remained in his crouch.

"Which poem would that be, dearie?" Belle smiled at him then looked away, her eyes gaining a dreamer's haze. Rumpelstiltskin's heart flipped to see the sweet, innocent longing in her eyes. He could see that she was envisioning some far off place, whether it was a real place or something of her imagination created by the words of the poem; either way, its beauty was reflected in her hopeful eyes.

"The mem'ries keep as clear in me As one soft night of starry skies. The night that first I met with thee And angels sang my lullabies. The way that your blue orbs did shine Your gaze sent shivers down my spine... My dreams recalled thy gentle smile 'Till once again I saw it there. You stayed with me a perfect while And spoke with me upon the stair. And as our fingers then did twine Your touch sent shivers down my spine... We stood as one before the man Our vows conveyed with tender breaths. Together then our lives began To love so true until our deaths. My heart did then sing it was thine. Your love sent shivers down my spine."

Belle broke from her dreamy trance and turned her attention back to Rumpelstiltskin. The sweetness in his eyes made her stomach flutter nervously, but she didn't break their eye contact. Rumpelstiltskin smiled gently.

"That was lovely."

"Yes, I liked it as well."

But it was your beautiful, delicate voice that entranced me... The words tickled the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed them, refusing to speak them aloud. Composing himself in a more suitable manner, Rumpelstiltskin reached out and put one arm under her legs, one behind her back.

"Wha-"

"Put your arms around my neck."

"You really don't have to, I-"

"The sooner you heal dearie, the sooner I have my helpful little duster back again!" Rumpelstiltskin interrupted loudly, grinning mischievously.

Belle was surprised that he had switched so quickly back to his usual mocking self, but it made her smile fondly all the same, and she did as she was bid. As he lifted her from the stair, his hand brushed down her back lightly before it came to rest on the small of her back. Belle felt a pleasant tingle run down her spine at his soft touch. Her breath caught briefly as she absorbed this fact, but she brushed it aside, staring obstinately at his collar as he picked her up and began to carry her off.

After a moment, she spoke up.

"Where are you taking me?"

"My bedroom. You can rest there until you're well again. I don't particularly fancy carrying you up the stairs."

Belle's heart began to pound once more. His bedroom? She didn't know why, but that felt so... personal. She was very grateful to him for his care, but she did not know what to make of these strange reactions that she kept having. Why was it that his gaze had stirred up butterflies inside of her? Why did his hand grazing the small of her back send a shiver down her spine? Why did his gentle treatment of her cause her heart to race anxiously?

Rumpelstiltskin reached his room and carefully nudged the door open with his shoulder, trying his best not to jostle Belle. Still, he saw her wince as he did so, though she remained silent. It saddened him to see her in pain, but he also found himself admiring her for her considerable toughness of character.

Gently, he set her down on his bed.

"I'll get some ice for that leg. Rest for now." Rumpelstiltskin turned to leave, but suddenly he felt Belle's soft hand grabbing his own. He was stunned to feel a delightful little spark extend up through his arm, sending a happy jolt to his heart. Trying to mask this inexplicable response, he turned back to her. Belle smiled gently up at him and gave his hand a light squeeze.

"Thank you." Rumpelstiltskin's eyebrows rose in surprise. She was thanking him? No one ever thanked him. Of course, no one ever had a reason to. But the experience was still entirely strange and... wonderful.

He gave her a tight smile and withdrew his hand, ignoring the way that his heart protested. He gave Belle a small nod of the head before turning on his heel and strutting quickly from the room. From her spot on his bed Belle watched the funny man leave, as she was left alone to ponder the meaning behind the feelings which Rumpelstiltskin had somehow stirred up within her.