A/N: Thanks to everyone!
Happily ever after. To Mr. Gold that had once been a horrendous phrase to be used as a curse. He scowled at the very mention of it; it tasted like frothing bile swilling in his mouth when he even though about such a thing as happily ever after. Such hopes and ideals were for fools, day dreamers, and cloud watchers; those who had nothing better to do but wish upon stars that slowly burnt out into the endless expanse of space.
What he used to hate most about it was that it was in fact obtainable; not some silly children's tale told to wide eyed, innocent little ones at bed time. People could actually have something as disgusting as a happy ending…
At one time it would have delighted him to watch a happily ever after become a happily never after and let the pain he felt always roiling in his heart catch on to them like some emotional plague that gripped and killed the heart and made it broken as it had done to him.
He had almost achieved that with a certain Snow and Prince James, but that annoying little thing called true love always seemed to break into their hearts defeating any other magic put in place to halt their happiness and make them miserable.
Yes, at one time, Rum would have been disgusted to even give the thought of happily ever after his time of day, but for the sake of trying to find a way to ruin it of course.
Now however, he was beginning to see that maybe it wasn't so horrid after all. If happily ever after meant waking every morning with his love nestled in his arms, a smile on her lovely face, her musical laughter ringing softly through his ears, the gentle, wonderful press of her lips against his own as she bid him good morning; then there just might be something to happily ever after after all…
Granny's diner hummed quietly with its usual activity in the morning hours as Emma clambered numbly inside. A few tables and booths where occupied; one in particular with Mary Margaret, who cast a glance at the blonde in worry, and sitting with her, Ashley rocking her baby. The sheriff stifled as sigh, trying to ignore Mary's concerned looks, as she sidled up to the bar, and offered Ruby a half hearted smile as she picked up a menu.
"Wow, Emma, you look terrible." Ruby commented in concern, pouring the usual cup of Joe to the former bail bondswoman. "You okay, Hun?"
Nodding unconvincingly, the flaxen haired sheriff sipped the hot liquid with gusto. "I couldn't sleep again last night. I've been feeling weird for the past couple days."
In fact, she'd been feeling strange since that day where Mr. Gold had cuffed her and held her at gun point. The best way she could described the new feeling bubbling inside her was being immersed in water or some sort of syrupy liquid substance, all around her. Liquid that seemed to mold over her body no less!
In bed at Mary Margaret's, she almost felt akin to drowning under the fluffy decorated quilts and pillows the school teacher piled upon the beds. Once she'd woken with a start and swore there was some sort of golden glow floating around her.
"You should take a break, Emma." The scarlet clad waitress suggested with a large grin as she put a gaily sprinkled doughnut on a saucer for the 'out-of-it' sheriff to devour. "It's going to be a beautiful day out. The heat wave finally broke."
The blonde snorted in derision as she took a large mouthful of the doughnut, chewing it furtively. "Yeah, last time I wasn't on my job, Mr. Gold got cornered by an angry mob. Anyway, I can't afford to be taking breaks with that dragon of a mayor breathing fire down my back." She replied, although her voice was muffled by vengefully chomping down on the doughnut.
"Speak of the devil." The waitress spat suddenly like a curse as her glance happened by the door. Mr. Gold himself, as usual, first of the month like clock work coming to collect his rents and dues and make every one feel miserable knowing that they were under his thumb. "Well, it was going to be a nice day." Ruby grimaced as she rubbed the counter clean with a rag.
"Good morning, Ruby. Sheriff." Mr. Gold gave them both a small tilt of his head in acknowledgement as he limped up towards the bar. He made a slight welcoming motion to Mary Margaret and the new mother Ashley who were sitting at a table chatting in low tones.
The scarlet server lips down turned into a tight frown as she wordlessly yanked out the packet of their hard earned money from the old register to pay the miserable miser of a man. "It's all there." She promised, almost sneering at him as she turned to pour Emma another cup of coffee and watch him leave from the corner of her eye.
"Actually…" Gold cleared his throat nervously, before sliding the packet back across the bar. "I have a deal I'd like to discuss."
"No deals, no tricks, just take your money and leave us alone for another month." Ruby deadpanned; somewhat emboldened it seemed with Emma sitting there, glowering at the beast of Storybrooke.
The business man shook his head slightly, a chuckle escaping his lips, continuing anyway. "I'll overlook this months rent if you help me with a certain problem I find myself unable to solve."
That made Ruby pause. Mr. Gold never altered his deals unless he was getting something better out of the bargain! she should have said flat out no, but inflamed curiosity and the delightful prospect of overlooking this months rent made her turn back to him, her brow perched and arms crossed, not agreeing just yet, but listening.
"In fact it's a problem I'm hoping you, Miss Swann, Mary Margaret, and Miss Ashley can help me with." He finished, beckoning to the women who were now looking at him from their tables.
Instantly he found himself surrounded by what would be queens and princesses in the other world that he once been known as Rumpelstiltskin. All of them were suddenly very intrigued that he was asking them for aid.
As he relayed his…conundrum to the women. He found it surprising that grown women, hardened by life and trials that had been unmerciful to them, could still giggle like school girls.
The day was glorious, just as Ruby had predicted. Tiny puffy cotton ball clouds drifted aimlessly into the azure firmament, almost like meandering sheep, having lost their Sheppard; straying to and fro about the sky with a care. Spring was slowly transforming into summer and the whole of Storybrooke was draped in the greenery of the coming season as if in the midst of some sort of lovely enchantment of life.
It was mid evening when Rum suggested he and Belle go out for a little stroll to stretch their legs from being cooped up in the packed dimly lit pawn shop.
There was a bit of suspicion in Belle's eyes directed at the usually recluse pawn broker, but she readily agreed to accompany him on a little wandering; wanting to spend as much free time with him as she could. After the shop had been closed and locked up, they had started out walking hand in hand in a comforting silence; simply enjoying the others company.
To Belle's surprise the 'little stroll' had turned into a walk straight out of the town proper and unto the clear world where land met sea and sparkling teal blue waters met rich soft grass that danced freely in the salty breezes.
Shrieking gulls of startling white played upon the gentle waters, diving and soaring low in good fun as they too enjoyed the wonderful day with the waters swirling below and the golden orb on their backs.
Waves shimmered in the gleam of the sun as they lapped languidly at the breaking rocks that slowly gave way to their sway.
To Rum the waves and the rocks reminded him of himself and Belle. He, ugly crumbling rocks, hard and broken and jagged and treacherous to any who dare tread him. While she, the waters; lovely and gentle and embracing and kind, smoothing out his jagged sides into something that could become... different given time.
"It's beautiful out here." Belle stated as she watched the waves roll gently inland, their crashing almost musical.
She wore a simple blue dress that didn't have sleeves but trailed all the way down to her ankles and had a modest V neck line. Her maple hair tumbled down her bare shoulders, shimmering with the suns radiance. The wind tousled her amber locks gently, as if playing with her tresses making them flutter about her face. She'd forgone her shoes and laid them upon a rock to walk barefoot upon the lush carpet of green.
To Rum, Belle was the very definition of simplicity mixed with a sheer beauty that she didn't even try to obtain, it came naturally and all perfectly mingled as one. He was certain that he'd seen nothing or anyone quite so beautiful or lovely as his Belle.
With all that she had done, how wonderful she was; that truly had to make him wonder what she saw in him-a beast.
"Quite." He replied simply to her words, hoping his voice didn't sound as wavering as he thought it did. His palms felt sweaty, his heart was crashing like the waves, and he was feeling rather dizzy by the wafting scent of sea salt mingled with her perfume.
She turned to him slightly from her view of the scenic sea, a brow arching as she wrinkled her nose slightly in mirth. "So, Rumpelstiltskin what have you brought me out here for, hmm?"
Always perceptive, his Belle; he fought the urge to chuckle at her insightfulness. Of course she'd have known something was up for the beast of Storybrooke to veer away from his usually trodden path to somewhere so isolated, so gorgeous instead of lurking about the streets like some phantom that terrified the populace.
A frown marbled into his face as he looked away from her. The moment was here but how could he break it to her after all they had been through together after all he had done?
He swallowed hard, wanting to open his mouth but the words seemed not to properly form and refused to come. "Do you remember the night we talked of my price for…pulling you back?" He asked lowly. Both hands gripped the cane in front of him as he peered out into the endless expanse of wave and sky mingled in the misty distance.
From the corner of his eye he saw her immediately become concerned, her brow furrowing, as she caught on to his melancholy.
"I remember." She replied warily, now turning to face him. The same feeling she had then at his lugubrious demeanor now came back almost like a sinking feeling in her gut. "What of it?"
He sighed heavily, a glint flashing in his eyes that Belle didn't catch. "The time is come to repay what is left of my price."
No! It couldn't be, not so soon since she finally broken through his shell and they were together, Belle thought agonizingly; pain ripping through her. What price could have been asked of him? His soul, power once wielded, the rest of his life spent away from her? To trade his life for hers? The last made her heart clench to the point she thought it might shrivel inside her body. Not that, anything but that. Better he live and she die one thousand times over than he sacrifice his place for her!
Her hand trembled as she reached out for his shoulder, her throat tightening and eyes stinging as the thought swirled through her mind. She couldn't let him. "Rum-"
She literally stopped in her tracks, a gasp escaping her lips as he fully turned to her; a ring glimmering in between his fingers. It was simple, ring, small but gorgeous, the diamond taking off flecks of light from the sun and the unadorned golden band to go across her finger.
For a moment she simply stood there blinking numbly at the sudden surprise; the revelation finally becoming clear. Was he truly…
He would have gotten on one knee, but the ladies at the diner had talked him out of that, being that it wouldn't be very romantic if he was cringing in pain as he offered her the engagement ring. It seemed they had been spot on. Who knew a restaurant filled with women could be so helpful when it came to these sorts of matters.
"The final price, if you'll have it…I mean me, rather." He revealed awkwardly with a nervous smile.
The magic had wanted to make sure its powers wouldn't be needlessly wasted. It in some way needed to know that the powers it conjured would be put to a good use. After all, what was the point of brining back a true love if they never got their happy ending?
The last price, had been the most wanted and yet terrifying. Never in his life, in all his endless centuries, had he felt so nervous as he did at this moment. Even as his days as a simple spinner there was less trepidation compared to the gut clenching, heart twisting nervousness he was feeling now.
He couldn't even force himself to look her in the eyes fearful there wouldn't be the same emotion that was roiling inside him that he felt for her. Was she not prepared for such a step, was she as completely petrified as he, was she to come to a sudden conclusion that she in fact didn't love him like this?
The price, in all simplicity, was him to be hers if she so accepted, of course. The bargain said nothing if she so refused his proposal to wed although some bit of him believed he might truly die from heart break. There was no wall he could build up now to protect him from the flames of hurt if they came. He laid his bare heart at her feet, and hoped with all his soul she wouldn't walk from it.
At part of him still felt unworthy of her; she was a kind beauty, and he a recluse beast. She the light and loved, he the dark and hated. What chance did he have to claim such loveliness as she? He was beginning to feel rather stupid about brining her out and asking her such a foolish request until a gentle hand laid against his cheek making him look up to her.
Belle's eyes shimmered with tears, a large warm smile that seemed like it was radiating brighter than the sun beaming down upon them. "It's forever, Dearie." She breathed in a whisper, taking his words he'd spoken to her so long ago in her father's war-room.
His heart melted for her all over again as the phrase passed her lips. He could remember that memory so vividly; the first moment they had talked, having no clue such love between them would bloom.
"And if I give you my love, my heart, my soul; you will keep it?" He asked; entwining his hand with her own.
She dipped slightly in a bow as he had once done, before she neared closer to him so that they were only inches apart. Her cobalt orbs danced in a joy that spread infectiously to Rumpelstiltskin, making him break out into a grin. "You have my word." She promised solemnly, her lips nearing his.
Letting the feel of her warm body wrapped inside his arms permeate every inch of him, Rum let Belle's beauty and offered love wash over him with the knowledge that they had found their happy ending.
His lips hovered inches from hers, committing the moment to his memory for all eternity as he whispered gently into the kiss, replying as she had those long years ago. "And you have mine."
A/N: I couldn't bear not giving them a nice fluffy happy ending :3 Thanks everyone who read, reviewed, put me on alert and favorite lists. I've never gotten so many reviews before! I try to reply back to everyone who reviews but if I missed you, just thanks for the awesome support! This was a complete blast to write and I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I loved writing it.