Rating/Warnings: PG/T / no warnings

Spoilers/Timeline: Up to the scene described at the beginning of this fic, near the end of 1x12 - Skin Deep, though depending on how long this goes, I may incorporate a few details from future eps into it. After that, AU.

Disclaimer: Once Upon a Time belongs to ABC, which is convenient, so that they get all the details of the Disney movies correct. Being a native of Orlando is the closest I come to Disney and ABC, et al, and unless I get a job or sell one of my two original novels, I won't be making any money anytime soon. So, yeah, this (as with any of my fanfiction stories) is just for my entertainment and hopefully yours. The title is from the song "The Rose" by Bette Midler, which also doesn't belong to me.

Summary: What if Belle had refused to leave Rumpel's castle, knowing she'd be rejected at home? (Regardless of the veracity of Regina's story - I'm assuming it to be only partly true, if at all.) Going AU from the starting point at the end of "Skin Deep." (The beginning of the conversation from that ep obviously belongs to ABC as well.)

A/N: Don't get me wrong - I like where they went in this story in the show, mostly because there is a purpose and an endgame (at least, I hope so) to Rumpel and Belle's separation in both worlds, but…I still wanted my Beauty and the Beast story to have a happy ending. Hopefully you'll like it too.

Many thanks to my beta, TrueLove'sMiss, for her awesome constructive criticism. She truly does make me think about how to write better. :)



It was a simple, two-letter word that was spoken and granted her freedom, only Belle hadn't been expecting it when Rumpelstiltskin opened her cell door. Once voicing his short command for her to leave, he pointed his finger toward the door and turned his back on her, obviously believing she'd take the freedom and run for it. But she was puzzled.

"Go?" she questioned, having assumed the worst kind of punishment imaginable in the many hours she'd spent in that dungeon. That's it? went unvoiced, afraid he might change his mind. Still, the sudden change of heart from the monster who'd thrown her in there was confusing, and she felt like she needed answers.

He kept his back to her, staring at the opposite wall, speaking callously toward her. "I don't want you anymore, dearie," he replied lightly, as easily as plucking a petal from a daisy.

It pained her to hear those disinterested words so soon after having shared a kiss that almost transformed him, proof that what they had was true love. It was clear now that whatever was between them before had all been destroyed. She doubted he'd let go of the hold he had on his power to ever try again.

Crushed, she made it to the door, focusing instead to the warm welcome she'd have at home, when it hit her that she'd been gone for months. Months spent with a strange man - well, a former man, anyway - that would tarnish her reputation. Even though their interactions had been completely at arms' length until that kiss, living alone with a man that wasn't your husband for months at a time was simply not done. Gaston would surely repel her as well as every other possible suitor. In fact, that explained why Gaston hadn't even bothered to come and fight for her - he didn't want a tainted wife.

Belle spun on her heel and faced the imp, who was still standing in the same position, staring at the wall, waiting for her to leave. "Where am I to go?"

"Wherever you'd like," he lashed, enunciating each syllable with fury.

She took a bold step forward, his anger only compounding her own. "No. I mean, I can't go home. No one will want me after I've been here."

His eyes darted slightly to her side as he answered, "That's not my problem."

Belle stomped over to stand in front of him. "Since you made a deal with me and my father to keep me forever, yes, it is. You can't just throw me out whenever you'd like."

He finally met her eyes. "I don't want you here," he grit his teeth, "doing the queen's bidding."

"I don't know what you're talking about," she emphasized each word. "And I have no interest in being a pawn in whatever game of power the two of you are playing. I simply cannot go home and shame my father's house. And you cannot dishonor your own agreement to keep me here by forcing me to leave."

Rumpelstiltskin knew he was beat. Belle was definitely smarter than he'd thought any woman could be.

"I won't touch you," Belle was promising, though it pained her to say so. Tears of hurt and anger began to form in her eyes. "I won't even talk to you, if you'd like. I'll just continue with my cleaning and cooking duties as long as you allow me to stay."

His lips quivered with frustration, the anger still evident and full-force in his hardened gaze. He'd never once gone back on his part of any of his deals, and he couldn't start now, even if it wasn't working out like he'd thought it would. He peered deep into her eyes as if trying to read her thoughts. "And what about your…love?" he practically sneered, his nose and top lip twitching in a sort of disgust.

Belle rocked in her shoes, not allowing herself to tear her gaze away from his, but matching his stubbornness with her own. "I was obviously mistaken. I will have no trouble keeping my distance from you."

"Fine," he forced out through his clenched teeth, and she could clearly see the pain in his eyes he was trying so hard to fight. He moved away from her quickly, stopping at the door to toss over his shoulder, "Make up a bedroom for yourself in the east wing, and help yourself to the kitchen for your meals. I have some errands to run. I'll be gone a…couple of weeks."

He took off just as she opened her mouth to ask why so long. But his loud, echoing footsteps taking him away from her answered her question. He was running from her.


I'll try to update every few days or so. I'm a few chapters ahead, so as long as I don't get blocked, that should be a doable goal. :) Reviews, comments, questions, quotes are all welcomed!