A/N: Hello, all! Today I participated (and still am) in a day long Writing Sprint! Here's a little bit of comedic relief for you. Accio-firewhiskey prompted: "One of them is sick" and "Snowball fight." Cyprith prompted: "Gold has a man-cold, he's sure he's dying" and "Avocado rainbow unicorn showed up." I'm still stunned I could fill that last one.
Take Only As Directed
His last meal was not exactly what he would have chosen before death. In fact, he was quite sure it would have at least been more complex for one's palate, perhaps something braised with exotic vegetables, slow cooked and wood smoked, but the steaming bowl of chicken noodle and the dry saltines sat in front of him mockingly as if they'd won some sort of victory. Had he had an appetite to begin with, he might have put up a fight with the warden, but as it stood, he knew he wouldn't have won anyway. His jailor was made of steel, all cold glare and iron grip, and he didn't possess the energy, let alone the strength to try to fight anyway.
His first attempt at escape was met with a sharp smack and a pinch of his ear.
"You are determined, aren't you?" Belle asked exasperatedly, pinching his ear and pulling him down to her eye level before he could even reach the front door. The mere incline sent his sinuses throbbing and he was vaguely aware of making a muffled groan of pain.
His little wife rolled her eyes and released him, turning him around with her petite hands as she whisked his black coat back off him and onto the coat rack before he could leave the warm confines of their home. "I told you that you're staying in bed," she said with a click of her talented tongue, her blue eyes accusing. "The shop will keep."
"There's too much to be done," Gold said, hating the way his stuffed nose made him sound so pathetic. His words, thick in his accent, became warbled like he was talking around marbles. "The nuns' rent is-"
"Those holy cows will pay you your money, Rum, but it won't do you any good if you're dead," Belle snapped, yanking his black leather gloves roughly off his hands. He winced as she took hold of his tie and pulled him after her like a puppy on a leash that'd been denied play time in the sunshine. She had promptly gotten him back into his plaid flannel pants and plain cotton shirt, setting him up in bed.
"How's your leg?"
"Fine." It wasn't. It hurt more than his face, and seeing as how he'd like nothing more than a barbed wired baseball bat to knock him in the head to clear his sinuses, that was saying something.
Belle had always been good at reading him though, no matter what garbage fell from his mouth. She was back in a moment with a tray of equipment. Armed with a heating pad, hot tea, and a suspicious brown bottle of syrup, she set about her work. She propped his leg up just a tad to take the pressure off his joint, which he had to admit felt infinitely better, and wrapped the heating pad around it deftly.
The next step was the battle. She took up the syrup bottle before glaring at him with steadfast resolution. "Now are you going to take this, or do I have to force you?"
And he knew she knew what he was going to say, but he said it anyway. "I don't need it. It's not that bad." With deft fingers, she poured the thick as molasses syrup in a spoon roughly the size of an egg and set him with a look. He met it with a tight purse of his lips.
"Forcing it is then."
Gold would never get used to how lithe his little Belle was. Of course he admired that about her on the hot nights spent in their bed and elsewhere, but she had an uncanny way of moving so quickly that it never failed to unnerve him. He recalled the days when surprise had always been in his favor, appearing out of thin air to jar his victims. Belle didn't do that, though. She let her prey see her coming, letting them know they stood no chance of escape. She slid up in one swift movement and pinched his nose- hard. He made a sound of alarm and Belle took her chance and shoved the spoon in his mouth.
If the illness didn't kill him, Gold knew the taste of that God-awful concoction would. It tasted worse than anything he could remember, and that covered a wide range of animals, insects, and other unholy substances. It was like someone had melted down a pot of dirty pennies, and he ended up gagging before swallowing it down. "Jesus Christ, Belle!" he coughed, his chest rumbling with congestion.
Belle's smile could not have been brighter if it was made of sunshine. She handed him a glass of water, which he gulped down like nectar, and was left panting and spent. She set his tea at the bedside, squeezing the lemon slice she'd cut from their garden before leaning over and kissing his forehead.
She scooped up the tray and smiled at him lovingly before leaving, calling over her shoulder. "I'll be back in four hours to give you the second dose."
So this is hell.
The next day, he woke up with his hair matted and sticking to his neck between sweaty sheets. His entire body ached, and he couldn't breathe through one nostril. Belle said he had a cold, but there was no way on earth (or elsewhere) that this was a simple virus. No, this kind of misery was only reserved for those who were truly villainous, and Gold wondered briefly if Dante had conjured tortures so dark. Being ripped apart by demons seemed favorable to this agony.
Rolling over and pushing himself up, Gold groaned out loud, putting his face in his hands. He felt the bed shift and heard a click. "Rum?" Belle asked from her side, before padding around the bed. She lifted his face and he winced, the pressure in his sinuses nigh unbearable. "Oh my God, you're burning up," Belle gasped, feeling his forehead with the back of her hand.
"I'm dying," he croaked.
Belle's worry melted instantly with a roll of her eyes. "Stay here," she muttered, her long silk night gown outlining her figure as she floated into their adjoining bath. He could hear her rattling in the medicine cabinet above the sink, but Gold couldn't just sit anymore. He grabbed his cane, using it to push himself up for a moment. His ears popped painfully, and he sighed as he was able to breathe through his nose again, if for a moment.
Belle had returned. "Sit."
"I can't breathe when I sit." The Dark One was whining, and it was not flattering.
"You will soon," she said, wielding that dreaded brown bottle.
"Oh no, no," Gold suddenly threw his cane up, keeping his wife at a safe distance. "You just wheel your pretty rump back in there and dump that down the sink. I am not taking any more of that."
"Do you want to be sick?" Belle snapped, her hip popping to the side.
Battle stations engaged.
"No, but I'd like to keep the remainder of my stomach lining if it's all the same to you, dearest."
Belle huffed, and before Gold could react she grabbed the cane that was so ardently blocking her and yanked hard. He stumbled a step, his weakness dulling his reflexes, and the familiar gold inlaid handle slipped from his grip. His wife rested his cane in the hook of her elbow, as he so often did himself, before she cornered him against the bed. His equilibrium was already dangerously scarce, so when he did fall back onto the comforter, he at least had the mind to angle his leg so he couldn't harm his knee.
"For an all-powerful Dark One," Belle muttered, scooting him over into a position of recline. He'd lost the battle before it had even had a chance to begin, watching her as she spooned the medicine out. "You are the biggest baby I have ever met."
No, this was no accident. He refused to believe that such an inconsequential turn of events could incapacitate him so egregiously. Of course Belle's lack of enthusiasm for it all had simply cemented his theory that it was much more serious than first believed. His now rattling, disgusting cough had sapped his voice, turning it from a rich Scottish brogue to a rasping garbled croak. Furthermore, there was an incessant itch at the back of his throat that had him clawing his windpipe and knowing what real madness truly was. Belle had bought him a shiny bag of little candies she said would help to soothe his aching throat, but he had scoffed and not even bothered to open them.
His little Belle was sweet and bright, but she was naïve.
Because this was obviously one of Regina's curses.
When he'd voiced his theory to Belle, she had laughed, the snide little wench, grinning at him saucily. "You think that Regina would honestly take time out of her day to curse you with a cold?"
Gold glared at his wife, disapproving of her blatant negligence. "She knows I'm Emma's best artillery, and as I've said before, dearest, this is not a cold. It's a curse."
Belle snorted in derision, brushing his hair back before picking up his empty teacup and soup bowl. "Let's wait for your fever to break before we call the hounds, hm?"
It never occurred to Gold that Regina might try to blind Belle from the truth, but since she was his first priority as well as his first defense, it would make sense. But the witch-bitch had obviously already gotten to his wife, and there was nothing he could do to save her except break this curse. He idly wondered if true love's kiss would work, but the chances of Belle putting her lips to his in his current state were slim to none. Not that he could blame her.
But evil often presents itself in the most innocent of ways, and the day he'd walked home from the shop with Belle was no doubt the cause of his cursed condition. It had snowed, and the town had been blanketed in white. When he'd felt the explosion of frigid wetness across the back of his head, he'd whirled around, ready to take his cane and put it to good use, but Henry Mills had already been darting away behind the trees. Belle had giggled the rest of the afternoon as the children of their street had made it a game to see who could hit Mr. Gold with the most snowballs.
The little girl, Paige, had won with a stunning hand of four. One from over their fence when he'd gone into the back yard to cover the roses, another time when he'd left his wallet in the car, and to and from the diner where he and Belle had taken their dinner that night (suspiciously upon her request, now that he mulled it over).
They're only children, she'd said.
It's just a bit of fun, she'd said.
Had Belle not hidden his cane or climbed into the steaming bath with him that night, he might have gone back to helping the kingdom's children to inauspiciously disappear. As it stood, Gold didn't spend a lot of time out in the snow, or the wet, or the cold, even though they did live in Maine, so the result was him writhing in sweaty sheets and praying for death. But he could only take so much of that before he'd grabbed his robe and hobbled down stairs. He could hear Belle in the kitchen, humming as she cooked. He realized that whatever it was she was preparing had the whole house warm and no doubt smelling delicious.
Unfortunately, with his sense of taste, he couldn't smell anything either.
A moment later, he was leaning against the door frame of the kitchen, his mind foggy and his whole body aching, but he still found the will to smile as he watched his wife stirring something at the stove, her creamy sweater dress hugging her curves as she danced barefoot on the tiled floor. He was content to simply watch her, listen to that sweet soprano's voice that he adored so much, but the tickle at the back of his throat saw fit to return, and his cough was wet and rough.
"Oh, for God's sake!"
Belle was on him before he saw her, her hands fluttering everywhere, checking his temperature, thrusting a Kleenex at him, and bustling him out of the kitchen. "This is the last place you're allowed- get out! Do you want to make me sick too, Rum?"
"You can't catch a curse," Rumpelstiltskin supplied helpfully as she prodded him up the stairs.
"I certainly caught you."
"Archie said that these would help," Belle told him that night, her voice no louder than a coo as she tapped two pills into her palm from a little orange bottle. "They're really strong, though, but he said they'll help you sleep."
A blessed thought. His head was pounding something fierce, hurting so much that even his pillow was uncomfortable, and he could no longer walk without getting dizzy. He had never been so helpless.
It was driving him mad.
Belle sighed with pity at the look on his face, laying her hand over his chest that shuttered with every cough. She smiled sadly. "Take them for me?" she pleaded, before dropping them in his hand and passing him his glass of water.
Gold watched her with trepidation, but the pressure in his skull was too much for his pride to bear. He tossed the pills back without water, closing his eyes as he kneaded his temples with his knuckles.
"It'll be over soon," Belle comforted, stroking his damp hair.
No, it wouldn't, not before Regina would win. But, the pills had worked. That night, he'd gotten the first bout of restful sleep he'd had in days, but he woke up to a chest full of congestion and a raw throat he swore was bleeding. But they still had helped.
Perhaps the cricket had been onto something with his prescription. Gold rolled over, finding the little orange bottle on the night stand and picked it up, squinting at the small printed label.
The dosage read two pills every five hours as directed.
But, he was also Rumpel-fucking-stiltskin.
And he was made of stronger stuff.
Belle should've followed her instincts. She had thought, for a passing moment, to take the tray that she normally served tea on with her after she'd left her husband in his fever ridden sleep, but the kettle downstairs was whistling and she'd just have to bring it up again later anyway. She needed to remember to listen to her instincts more often, because they were always, always right when concerning Rumpelstiltskin.
Much to her horror.
Her first tip had been that afternoon when she'd opened their fridge to find the condiments holding a waltz on the top shelf, a perfect avocado she'd been planning on using carved into a unicorn, dancing on rainbow popsicle skis, and a little troll had been birthed in the head of lettuce in the crisper.
"What did you do?"
Rumpelstiltskin's study, which was normally efficiently described as "ordered chaos" with his random assortment of books, files, papers, foreign trinkets, exotic pieces of art all cohesively encased within the four walls in the back corner of their home, was now a disaster.
"Hush now, Belle, you'll frighten them," her husband tutted, before whirling back around to face the hoard of mice that were staged along the network of intricate paper buildings on top of his desk. The mice were coordinating in patterns, hopping and leaping over the spines of books, sliding down the length of the desk lamp, and cartwheeling down one of the portrait frames that hung on the wall.
It was a circus. A mice circus.
Her husband had lost his mind.
"Rum, I don't-"
Mrs. Gold jumped as her husband did a double take, as if he hadn't just been talking to her a moment before, completely thrilled to see her standing in the door way. He scooped up a long piece of string that he'd been toying with a few moments before, taking her hand and coiling it in her palm. "Tie this to the headlight."
"I… I beg your pardon."
"The headlight, Belle. Specifically the right one."
"Rum, you're not making any sense."
"That's still up to the jury, love, now off with you before the sun sets," Rumpelstiltskin twittered. She had never seen him so manic before-it was nine in the morning for Christ's sake. His eyes had never been quite so feverish, but then he giggled at her shock.
And Belle knew then, she knew exactly what had happened. Magic was thick in the air, but it smelled too medicinally sweet. "You… You're high!"
Gold grinned lecherously. "And you're sexy."
"Oh my God."
"'Rum' is fine, dear," he said with a flourishing air of pomp and circumstance against the backdrop of the squealing mice that had begun a synchronized dance along the back of his leather desk chair.
Belle grabbed the collar of his robe, yanking him down so his eyes focused on her. "Rumpelstiltskin, you tell me now," she hissed. "How many of those pills did you take?"
He puckered his lips like a duck in thought, tilting his head. "Enough to make my headache fly away with those homing pigeons I sent out."
Belle stared at him for a very long moment, before she released her hold on him. She turned and walked out, determined to drown herself in a cup of tea spiced with Scotch.
She turned, glaring at her husband, who flitted back over to her, dropping the string back into her palm. "Remember," he said darkly, setting her with his most serious of looks. "Right headlight."
Belle knew that his fever would break soon, and her many hours spent reading various articles and useless bits of knowledge on the internet proved her right again when her husband's cold cleared after the predicted five days the horrible little virus lasted. And he'd come down stairs, dressed sharply in one of his black suits with a fetching violet tie. She greeted him with warm toast, tea, and a kiss to sweeten it.
Because she was quite sure he would need the little boost in his step to survive the shock that would follow when he realized what his drug-induced magic had caused that left them with a Mary Kay pink Cadillac. She was also quite sure that she would have to remind him later to fix the fact that now everyone in town owned only left footed shoes, and as much as she and the rest of the town had enjoyed it, he would have to get rid of the lizard's tail that he'd graced Regina with in a series of badly aimed hexes from a fever fogged frenzy.
"I had the most bizarre dreams," Gold said after a moment, chewing his toast thoughtfully.
Belle realized, as she kissed the top of his head while he drank his tea, that she could correct him, that none of those things were dreams, that in fact he had stayed up the entire night giggling and salting the town of Storybrooke with utter mayhem. She realized that he would have to deal with it all, even if it was his own stupid fault. She also realized that coming from her; it would probably make it easier on him.
But then again, she had spent three hours shooing mice out of their house with a broom.
And that's why Belle simply smiled into her teacup, humming. And stayed quiet.
A/N: Thank you for reading, reviews are always appreciated.