A/N: Tumblr prompt from ddagent, who asked for 'Rumbelle - a trip to the seaside'. She got seven for her troubles: how's that for value? Enjoy your fluffy angst, people! Read and review!

A/N2: Song used is 'We Are Stars' by The Pierces


Seven Beaches

One

We are oceans,
Being controlled by the pull of another

Rumpelstiltskin's son loves the beach, especially the rock-pools. The boy is only seven years old, young enough and small enough to come to great harm if he slips or falls. Rum wishes he were more agile, able to catch Baelfire if he hurts himself, but all he can do is shout warnings and hope for the best.

This is their first outing alone, without Bael's mother. Rum doesn't want to think about the last time they were here, as a family, just before the war. Back when he was a soon-to-be soldier, and she was so very proud.

Bael cries out, and Rum's heart skips. But he's just found a starfish, larger than any before, and brings it over to his father with wide, shining eyes.

Rum looks down into his son's beaming face, and knows he'll truly die if anything were to tear them apart.

Two

We are dreamers,
Wishing upon what we were born from

Sir Maurice's kingdom is not close to the ocean, but sometimes they visit the Sea King.

Belle likes the Sea King. She likes his long foamy beard and the way his daughters coo over her, braiding her hair with seaweed and decorating her dress with shells.

Gaston doesn't like the beach. He likes to stay where his feet are dry, and there's something to hunt.

But Gaston won't be her husband for another twenty years, and until then Belle is allowed to paddle and swim as much as she pleases thank-you-very-much.

One day, she swims out with the Sea King's youngest daughter, Ariel. Belle is very proud of herself: she's been out of her depth for ages, and isn't tired at all, and she's not scared even when a big fish brushes her leg and she remembers warnings about sharks and jellyfish.

But then it's getting dark, and Ariel is late for dinner, and suddenly the rock doesn't seem so safe and fun anymore.

She starts to swim back, but the tide is going out and she can't beat the current.

When her head slips beneath the waves, she tries to scream but only bubbles come out. She can't breathe, and when she tries all she achieves is inhaling a huge mouthful of water that goes right to her lungs, choking her.

And everything goes dark.

When she wakes up, her father is there with a strange, bluish man with dreadlocks. Papa is handing over the special shell-thing he traded so hard for yesterday to the blue man, who shoots a smile at her before disappearing.

Papa tells her later that the shell was the price the selkie demanded for saving her. He promises that he'll always pay any price to keep her safe, warm and happy.

Three

We are islands,
Excuses to remain alone

The nymphs are cunning, and cruel, and can almost give Rumpelstiltskin a run for his money. He must be getting old, he thinks, as he kicks a watery hand absently from where it clutches his boot, and sneers down at them.

"Now, now, dearies, you knew our deal when you made it."

"We promised you riches," they hiss back with one sibilant voice, "You take our magic."

"Magic is the richest thing of all," he lets out a little giggle, "Enjoy life as paupers!"

He strides away, onto the land where the tides don't reach. "Enjoy your solitude, Rumpelstiltskin…" the ocean's voice slides through the air and reaches him, but he doesn't turn.

The sea has moved a thousand times since he last stood beside it; these young, angry things know nothing more than what they say.

The Dark One is a tautology: One. With a world of magic at his fingertips, lifetimes worth of riches and advantages to amass, and his name whispered as a curse in the highest houses in all the lands, no one can pity Rumpelstiltskin.

An accomplice would only be a distraction.

An accomplice would only be a target for enemies.

An accomplice would only be a potential threat, like the last apprentice he'd taken in.

Millers' daughters looked so innocent when they were barely out of childhood. A few years of dark magic training and a moment of betrayal had shattered that illusion.

His last companion would only target the new one.

And Rumpelstiltskin had nothing but contempt for most living things, not to mention plenty who were technically dead.

Of course he wasn't lonely.

Rumpelstiltskin's smile was wide and wicked as he looked down at the little bag of stolen magic in his palm. It glowed faintly, greenish blue, and moved of its own accord on his palm. The energy hummed and almost vibrated through the leather purse; raw power harnessed and contained.

He'd just conned the ocean itself out of a taste of its power; he was the happiest creature in the Realms.

Four

When we met,
I was pulling an angel out of a liar

Belle is just so glad just to be out of the Estate, she barely even notices that Rumpelstiltskin hasn't come any closer than his seat on the softest sand near the dunes.

She wanders out, her shoes long discarded, and dips a toe in the water. It's cold, but she barely flinches as she plunges her whole foot in, squealing as the water laps at her skin, turning it numb in seconds.

"Alright down there, dear?" His voice is mocking, and she turns and childishly sticks her tongue out at him.

"It's great, come see!" She calls, her freedom making her giddy.

She'd said she knew the selkies from her childhood, and Rumpelstiltskin decided she could be an asset on this journey. She hasn't been to the beach since she was a little girl, and she'd forgotten how happy the ocean could make her.

He stands stock-still for a moment, as if she's just thrown something at him. Then, slowly, he shakes his head.

"Oh, come on! Scared of some cold water?"

"I'd rather not risk it," he says, his face scrunching in distaste.

"Risk what?" she comes over to join him, hot sand sticking to the wet soles of her feet, "I know you bathe, Rumpelstiltskin. Can't you swim?"

"As a matter of fact, no." he looks up at her as if he thinks that's the end of it. He's wrong.

"Have you ever even paddled?" she presses, wondering if she's going to have to teach the basics of the seaside to a man a hundred years her senior.

"A long time ago," his face is suddenly, and briefly, so sad she wants to cry for him, wrap her arms around him and rock him like a child. It's a look she's learnt to expect every once in a while, but he never explains it, and she's too afraid to ask.

"Then I think you're overdue." She drops to her knees, so they're level, and tries not to notice his quick intake of breath.

She glances at him and smiles, and he's staring at her with another look altogether. A look that gives her shivers from the roots of her hair to the tips of her toes.

She turns to the task in hand, and starts to untie his boots. They're complicated (how long must it take him to tie these up in the morning?) and in the end, she resorts to loosening them just enough and then pulling really hard. It's ages, and a lot of somewhat embarrassing effort, before he's barefoot, and smirking at her.

"Now what?" he asks, but he's smiling.

"Now," she rises to her feet and grabs his hand, "We go paddling."

Five

We are dreamers,
Wishing upon what we were born from

Rumpelstiltskin likes to make his companion happy.

It's a weakness he has, this need to make her smile. He can categorise it as something precious, something worth bartering for, but he runs into difficulties. Like how it only has sentimental value, and as far as he knows has power over none but him.

He brings her out with him, sometimes. When it's not going to be arduous or dangerous, or when it's a long way and he needs company. Or when he needs someone with him who can appear sympathetic and empathise with wretches and beggars, and make them trust him.

He uses her kindness shamelessly, and she's so happy to be out in the world that she doesn't care.

He calls that, at least, an even trade: she told him, once, that she wanted to see the world. He can give to her the best tour money can't buy, and in return her obvious goodness is an asset in some negotiations.

Phrased like that, he can ignore how he can't stand to be apart from her for long, or how much he loves her smile when he tells her they're going on an adventure.

He can also ignore his tendency, these days, to include a beach somewhere in their trips.

Like this time: they were going to the mountains, to the Gnome King, to barter away a sacred potato Rumpelstiltskin had liberated. There was no need to go anywhere near the coast, and yet here they were.

By the beach, with Belle swimming happily in the cove while he watches from the shore, his feet in a rock pool.

Baelfire also loved the rock pools. But somehow, with his eyes on Belle's chestnut hair, shining in the sunlight, and the sound of her laughter and calls for him to join her carried on the wind, he can look back in fondness and dull the pain that comes with it.

He never joins Belle in the water, self-control and survival instinct being what they are, but it's still the highlight of his voyage.

Six

We make plans,
Kill them ourselves,
And then we mourn them

She'd planned, in the hours and days after she left the Dark Castle, to see the world for herself. Without anyone cowering in fear from her and her love. Without Rumpelstiltskin lumping her with all the heavy carrying, while he strolled on ahead, burden-free.

Okay, he'd only done that once, but he was still a bastard about it.

She's still thinking about him in the present tense. She needs to stop doing that.

Rumpelstiltskin is her past: the very definition of a troubled history. His face flashes into her mind, mouth set in a hard line, eyes cold and unforgiving. It makes her stomach hurt and her head spin.

Pathetic fallacy being what it is, the beach is overcast and windy. Her hair whips around her and tugs at her dress, as if prompting her to go into the water fully dressed and end this stupid, goddamned grief once and for all.

But Belle is brave, and strong, and she's better than that.

One day, it won't hurt anymore.

She just has to hope that the pain will be replaced by joy and warmth, by a full and happy heart, and not by the emptiness she prophesised for him.

Although truth be told, numbness is has a lot to recommend it right now.

She'd planned to spend the rest of her life in that castle. She'd planned to love him from afar, to be his best friend and confidante, to never leave his side and live out her days in his company.

She'd wanted that. Even when he was letting her go, even when she was running away, she'd wanted to be with him, in their castle, with their chipped tea set and scorched kitchen and torn-down curtains neither of them knew how to fix.

Her kiss had destroyed that. She'd let herself believe that all they needed was a push, that he wanted her as much as she needed him.

The memories hurt, and that one is the worst. Not his curses and accusations, or his face twisted into an uglier, harsher, more hateful expression than she'd ever seen there before, but the moments before that. The ghost of his lips against hers, soft and warm and so incredulous, so innocent, was the most awful thing in her universe.

So now Belle has new plans.

She just has to regain the feeling in her bones, straighten her spine, and get off this rock.

She just has to remember what they are, remember what it was she wanted before it all got tangled up in gold-green skin and leather and magic.

Or she could just stay on that rock, staring at the blue-grey line where the slate sea meets the silver sky, and wait for her the tide to wash her away.

Seven

I just want to be loved by you,
I see nothing worse than to sail this universe without you

He'd asked her to meet him here, but now he thinks it was a bad idea.

Not because she doesn't come, but because when she does her face is cold, shutdown, like thunder and ice all at once.

His fiery, warm, bright Belle should never look this cold.

But she isn't his Belle: she's Isobel French, and she hates him with everything that she is.

And yet, she meets him.

"What do you want, Mr Gold?" she asks. She doesn't sit, even though there's room on this windblasted bench for two. He just rests his weight on his hands on the top of his cane, and watches her.

She's cut her hair. Since Regina handed her back to her father, and implanted the memories of Storybrooke he knows are lies, her hair has been cut. It now hangs in dark brown curls around her face, and doesn't even brush her shoulders.

She looks beautiful, and furious.

"I want to apologise, Miss French." He says, and allows none of the pain in his chest to show on his face.

"You couldn't say that over the phone?"

"I thought you deserved it in person."

"Fine." They watch each other for a moment, and she chews her lip, "Why did you do it?"

"What?"

She surprises him when she slumps down next to him, and stares out at the sea, "Decided to go medieval on my father. I'm trying to understand…" she sighs, "Why?"

"He stole from me."

"The Sheriff was looking for him. It's no excuse for grievous bodily harm."

"He stole something very… special." It's strange, describing Belle to this girl who is her and yet is anything but.

"What?" that look, that exact same look she had a hundred times in their past, when she was caring and so curious.

"He stole the last thing I have left of someone I loved very much."

"Oh." She nods, as if satisfied, and stands. He hopes she won't leave. He hopes she'll come back.

But when she turns back, just seconds later, her expression is no more forgiving, "I'm sorry for what he did. But if you come near either of us ever again, you'll regret it."

"And what will you do to me?" he asks, low and threatening and dangerous. Because she's Belle, and she can take it, and no one is allowed to threaten him.

She shrugs, "You look to me like someone who belongs behind bars."

I see nothing worse than to sail this universe without you