Courting Magic by DD Agent
I do not own Once Upon a Time or any of its characters, or its settings - all belongs to the lovely folks at ABC.
Finally, my post finale fic! *phew* It's in three parts, but considering this fic is a chestburster I'm likely to get them done over the next two days. Hope you enjoy it, and thanks to 3pirouette for helping me out.
Rumpelstiltskin walked through the streets of Storybrooke without his cane for the first time in twenty eight years. He watched the former citizens of a world without magic walk in a daze, no one quite sure what was going on. The Mayor had fled; the purple cloud that had engulfed the town had produced no obvious results. But they all looked at his leg and watched him stride without his cane and they knew.
Magic had come to Storybrooke, and the spinning imp had returned.
Soon, once Emma became used to her role as Saviour and now leader, she would explain what was happening and maybe try to institute order. There was no looting thankfully, everyone just milled on with their daily activities. Everyone was too stunned not to.
But people did dash out of his way, not wanting to confront him. The dwarves ducked their heads, the fairies shied away from his gleaming grin.
Across from Granny's, Charming watched him. The prince nodded his head in his direction, an attempt at respect. Rumpelstiltskin gave a slight tilt of his head, somewhat returning the gesture. After all, it had been Charming that had helped Cinderella lock him up. It was a good thing that that deal had been sorted out already or little Ashley would be waking up without her fiancé. As it was, the princess shied her daughter's head away from him.
It felt good to have power.
He turned down a side street and decided to head for home. The walk had been good, he had made his presence known and from the large amount of calls to his answer machine, the shop would be busy tomorrow with people wanting to get their belongings back. For a reasonable price, of course. No one would dare try and steal from him, not from Rumpelstiltskin. Not from the Dark One. He finally reached his house and walked up the steps. Things were slowly slipping into place.
Inside his house, away from the world, Rumpelstiltskin let himself crumple to the floor, his leg screaming in agony.
Magic had indeed come to Storybrooke. But it had not come to him.
The bath water scorched his skin, but that was how he liked it. Rumpelstiltskin soaked under the water, letting his knee feel some semblance of relief. The painkillers he had taken to numb the burning pain of a protesting leg had helped but now it needed rest. As painful as it was, the charade was necessary for protection - if the townsfolk believed he had his magic back then they would not go after him. He had honestly hoped that as purple smoke swallowed the town he would be soaked in his power once again.
But magic was strange here, and it seemed to be settling within the cracks of Storybrooke before revealing itself. Rumpelstiltskin only hoped that happened before he did irreparable damage to his leg.
He leant back in the bath tub, enjoying the feel of the hot water and the bath salts surrounding his form. Despite the pain, he felt relaxed.
Then his bathroom door burst open and in came the love of his life. Belle. Soft curls spilled down the dark blue shirt she wore. His blue shirt. They had spent the last three days since their reunion wrapped up tightly under his sheets, telling each other everything and indulging in the company of the other person. It had been the greatest three days he had experienced in so many years. Of course, this meant that Belle had spent most of her time in his blue shirt and nothing else. Honestly, he was quite happy to never introduce her to clothes again.
She was smirking at him, a glint in her eye. He was likely looking a fool, staring at her like she was something precious. Which she was. Eventually he turned back to his bath, thankful that the bath salts made the water cloudy. No need to scare the poor lass.
"I didn't realise you were in here. I can come back?" Belle said. "I was only brushing my teeth." She held up her toothbrush and watched him, looked over his still form in the tub. "Love, is your leg hurting?"
She crossed over to his side of the bathroom in seconds and knelt down by the tub. Her arms rested on the edge, her mouth curled in worry. Sighing to himself, Rumpelstiltskin brushed a hand against Belles' face. She was beautiful.
"I'm fine, love. Just sore from doing the rounds."
The worry was replaced by a glare. "I don't think this is a good idea. I know the magic will help you find Bae, and I'm all for that but this is hurting you." One hand trailed along his arm, reassuring him with her touch. After she had walked away from him in the forest, cursing him and his reliance on magic, he had explained about Bae and the curse. She had allowed him some breathing room then to explain why bringing the magic back was a good thing. However, like most things in his life, it hadn't worked out as planned. He had expected to return to his powerful state. But instead he was just as weak as before.
"It may hurt, but it will be worth it. You should have seen them, Belle. They were scared."
She didn't look impressed. "I wonder how scared they would be if I told them that you need a human teddy bear to sleep at night."
He narrowed his eyes at her and watched her giggle. "You wouldn't dare, dearie. And I believe I acted like a gentleman and put us in separate bedrooms until you snuck in."
Belle leaned in closer. "Hmm. Well when I crept in you were wearing your slippers." He flushed: an obvious product of the scalding water and not his love's teasing. He had woken up that first night, afraid it had all been a dream. He had been preparing to go see Belle when she had beat him to it. She had never left his bed.
Her hand brushed hair away from his face. "If you keep hurting yourself to prove a point, I will either tie you to your bed or tell everyone that the scariest man in town sleeps in silk pyjamas."
Rumpelstiltskin couldn't allow that. He shifted forward and had a staring contest with his true love. Her blue eyes flared as they met his brown ones. They were well matched in their 'discussions', and Rumpelstiltskin had to admit that since she had come back to him he had only fallen in love with her more.
His fingers trailed down her cheek, leaving them a little wet. She shivered at his touch. "You are so beautiful."
Rouge flared under his fingers and he watched her close her eyes at the feel of his fingertips upon her skin. "Rumpelstiltskin." He had been careful not to jump on her, had been so careful to take it slow. Every single touch was agony. He wanted to worship her.
"Let an old man indulge, Belle," his thumb brushed over her lips. Her eyes shot open - the blue orbs wanted to swallow him whole. "I've dreamt about your face for more years than I've seen it."
"You're not the only one who's spent time dreaming."
Belle's small hands ran over his face, stroking over his cheekbones, running down his lips. He watched with eagerness as those hands moved down to stroke his chest. His love bit her lower lip as she caressed his hot, wet skin. He thought about pulling her hand away, diving under the scalding water to shy his body from her eyes. Just because he was aroused by the sight of her did not mean that she felt the same about him. But she was curious, and the flush over her skin suggested that she liked what she saw. Her hands ran over his arms and then back onto his torso, stroking muscle. The pads of her fingers grazed his nipples and he let out a groan.
"Shouldn't do that, dearie. Bad things happen to those who play with monsters."
Her hands returned to the lip of the bath tub, but her flushed skin remained. "You're not a monster. And even if you are, you're my monster."
Rumpelstiltskin chuckled and shifted forward in the bath. He took her hands from the edge of the tub and pressed his mouth to the knuckles. "I love you, Belle."
"I love you too, Rumpelstiltskin."
He watched her stand up and walk to the sink. He had spent ten minutes trying to clean the mirror after her first attempt at brushing her teeth, but she had got the hang of it eventually. Her memories of Storybrooke were hazy - she knew that her father lived and she had a rough idea of the name of things and how to do others. But apart from that, it was as if she had lived a waking dream for twenty eight years. But they were creating memories together, and that was the important thing.
They could have a life together, now. Once he found Bae, they could even have a family together. She had promised him forever, and he would promise her the world.
When he came out of the bath tub in a white shirt and loose pyjama bottoms, he found Belle curled up in his bed reading one of his books. She had got through half his bottom shelf in three days and if it wasn't for him determined to apologise and share every sin, every scar, she would no doubt be onto the second shelf. But it was worth it to see her face light up.
"Are you happy, Belle?" Rumpelstiltskin asked as he slid next to her on the bed, resting his head on the pillows.
She put the book down and crawled onto his body, resting her head on his shoulder. "I'm not unhappy," Belle teased, running a hand down his chest again. They had never been this close - they had boundaries. But Rumpelstiltskin couldn't deny that he loved touching her. His head grew dizzy as he indulged in the weight of her on his form. Belle just snuggled closer to him, and Rumpelstiltskin risked slithering out an arm to wrap around her waist. "This feels nice."
"Yes, indeed it does," he mused, leaning back on the pillows. He was holding Belle in his arms, and it wasn't a dream. For the last three days he had been tempted to giggle manically round his home, unsure how else to celebrate her return being real. His hand gently trailed up Belle's spine, not wanting to frighten her out of his arms. He ran her curls through his fingers, almost groaning at how soft it felt.
A warm hand suddenly gripped at his shirt. Rumpelstiltskin looked down at Belle, watched her tremor. "Love, what is it? What's wrong?"
"I've been doing some thinking, Rumpelstiltskin," Belle whispered, licking her lips. He tried not to cling to her, but he knew that she wanted to leave him. He would have to gather up the meagre courage he possessed - the strength she gave him - to let her out of his sight again.
"Oh, dearie?" He was surprised at how calm his tone was.
She was playing with the collar of his shirt, teasing the opening. Her fingers danced on bare skin. He bit down the urge to take her fingers in his mouth. "I miss my father, and I think it would be a good idea to repair our relationship."
"You want to stay with him."
He tried to move out of her embrace, to get some space between them. But she pressed her hand flat against his body and kept him to the sheets. She paused for a moment before nuzzling his neck. His arm moved tighter over her. He never wanted to let her go.
"Just for a little while, love." She smiled up at him. "Just up to the point where we're a family again. And then I may find somewhere on my own, or maybe move back here."
Rumpelstiltskin nodded and held her close. Going to her father wasn't such a big deal. Of course he had beaten him half to death with his cane over a tea cup but they could work through that. Belle living on her own...that was a scary thought. But she was independent; she could do anything she wanted to do. He had been lucky these three days that she had acquiesced to his wish of her staying with him. He had no claim on her; all he had was his love for her. He had never even tried to romance his fair lady, apart from a single rose.
It was time to change that. He would earn the love she gave him freely. "While you're at your fathers, Belle, am I free to...court you?" Rumpelstiltskin asked timidly.
She beamed at him. Despite her independence, she wanted to be romanced. "I would very much like to be courted by you, Rumpelstiltskin," Belle laughed. "I've never been properly courted. Gaston was an arranged marriage from the age of twelve and you and I just fell in love...I like the idea of being romanced, of sometimes being the one doing the romancing."
Her look was one of trouble, and Rumpelstiltskin could only imagine what she would do. The idea excited him, and despite his initial reservations, he liked the idea of properly courting her. It would make their relationship something proper, decent. It would strengthen them.
By his side, Belle continued to talk. "Plus it's not as if we won't see each other every day, what with me working with you in the shop and everything."
Rumpelstiltskin looked down at his love and watched her try to act nonchalant whilst pressed against his body. It didn't work well and she just ended up smirking against his skin. He licked his lips and stared at her. "Working in the shop, dearie?"
"You said you were busy, and this way I can still see you every day. It'll just be like being back at the Dark Castle except you won't be spinning or scaly." She smirked. "And you can't put me in the dungeon."
"And I can kiss you whenever I like." When he felt Belle shift out of his arms he realised he had said the words out loud. It had been a thought; just a thought but it had changed everything.
Belle knelt by his body, hands wringing in her lap. She looked so nervous. "I can kiss you?"
Shifting up, Rumpelstiltskin lay haphazardly by her side. He reached over to cup her face between his hands. "Belle, I am yours. Here, now...you can kiss me whenever you feel the desire to. And I hope that is a courtesy extended to me as well."
Belle nodded, immediately wrapping her arms around his shoulders. He could feel the heat of her body, could feel her tremble. His hands stroked her back, calming her. He couldn't deny her anything now. After a few moments of clinging to each other, Belle pulled away. She grinned at him, thrumming in front of him, so excited with the prospect of kissing him. He reached for her hands, pulling them between their bodies.
He needed to make the first move; it was his right considering how he had ruined their first kiss. If it hadn't been for Bae, if he hadn't been so cowardly over his own affections, he believed he would have taken her to bed. But now he had a second chance to do things right - to court his love, to start a family. To get his happy ending.
"May I kiss you, Belle?"
She bit her lip. "Gods yes."
He watched her close her eyes, waiting for his touch. Lifting one hand out of their tangled dance above their knees, Rumpelstiltskin tilted Belle's chin up to his. His bottom lip slid between hers, kissing her top one softly. She moaned as he pulled away but he soon went back for her. Her lips parted for him as he continued to caress her mouth. She was soft, warm, inviting. He nibbled a little on her bottom lip, teeth running over soft skin. Belle moaned his name.
"I love you," Rumpelstiltskin whispered.
They continued to kiss, lips sliding over one another. Then he felt the pressure of Belle's tongue against his lips and his eyes opened to find her staring at him hungrily. Closing his eyes again, he felt her hand rest against his neck, her tongue slowly sliding into his mouth. It ran down the length of his before his Belle started exploring him. The roof of his mouth, the back of his teeth, back to tangle with his tongue again...she was all over him.
When Rumpelstiltskin next opened his eyes, he found himself flat on his bed, Belle resting over him. Her lips were swollen, her eyes eager. He swallowed before stroking her face. "I love you."
Belle giggled and slid down to lie next to him again. He kissed the top of her head. He had never been happier.
For the first time in three days, Belle was walking outside in Storybrooke and Rumpelstiltskin was watching her take everything in. Their joined hands acted like a leash, keeping Belle from going off and exploring something that would no doubt get her into trouble until she knew more about the world. More importantly, it kept her close for the last few moments he would be seeing her that day. He was acting clingy, he knew that. But dammit he was so used to not having her that the novelty of seeing her and touching her and now holding her was addictive.
"This place is incredible," Belle whispered, looking up at the sky. It was a bright day. "It's been so long since I've seen the sun." Eventually her gaze dropped back to him. "Everything is beautiful here."
"Well I'll agree to some of that," Rumpelstiltskin whispered. He had asked his lackey to pick him up a selection of women's dresses for Belle before they left. She had picked out a beautiful blue dress that brushed her knees. There was a separation between bodice and skirt, and the almost knitted texture of the dress appealed to his love. She currently wore his jacket over her bare shoulders to soothe her chilly skin. Despite the sun, it was not overly warm in Storybrooke.
Belle blushed as he looked her over. He honestly couldn't get enough of looking at her. She was alive, and real and his. They continued to walk down the streets of Storybrooke. His leg pained him, but being able to walk beside Belle was too tempting to give up. She had offered to say goodbye to him at his door, but he needed more time with her. He needed all the time in the world with her.
Just as they pulled onto a street in the suburbia of Storybrooke, Rumpelstiltskin held Belle back. At the end of that street was the house that Moe French - or Maurice LeFay - lived in. Belle had no memory of the house, just fuzzy thoughts of a yellow kitchen and a stuffed monkey. Because of the curse, it was likely there would be clothes in her size, memories and photographs of a life she had never lived. He wanted to be there to help her sort through it all, to make some sense of the half life Regina had subjected her to. But she needed to go on alone, and Rumpelstiltskin doubted whether Maurice would even let him near his daughter.
"I'm sure if I talk to Papa he'll let you have a cup of tea," Belle whispered, taking both his hands in hers. She was so brave, and she believed the absolute best in him. He didn't deserve her.
He leaned forward and rested his forehead against Belle's. He needed to tell her, needed to share his story before her father got his claws in. He broke her grasp on him and clutched her face. "Belle, I need to tell you something."
"I love you too," she teased, but her eyes betrayed her worry. He was worried too. But the fact that she reinforced their love gave him hope. Hope that after he told her she would stay with him.
"Belle...I had an altercation with your father a few months back. I leant him a considerable sum of money which he wasn't able to repay, so I took a van he used for his flower business as collateral. Regina persuaded him to steal some things of mine as payback."
His love nodded, not sure where he was heading. Belle rested her hands above his, helping him to steady himself. He was shaking - he was so sure that she would run screaming when she realised what her monster had done to her father.
"You have to understand, Belle. I thought he was responsible for your death, and when he took that tea cup of yours, that little chipped tea cup... I needed to do something." He rested his head against her forehead, trying to contain the sobs that he felt racking up in his body. He was already a step ahead of her, knowing that when she left him, when she decided he was truly a monster that it would break his heart, however well deserved it was.
She used her hand to tilt his chin up so she could look in his eyes. He dove into those deep pools of blue to see the forgiveness there he hadn't earned. "Rumpelstiltskin, tell me what happened."
"I beat him. I beat him with my cane. I was so angry that he was trying to take you away again and I kept beating him." He collapsed against her, waiting for her to push him away, to scream and run to her father. But instead she held him closer. She cradled him against her body. "I put him in the hospital for two weeks."
Slap. Push. Scream. It happened in his mind, but this wasn't a fantasy. It was reality. And real Belle stood him up, clutching his face in her hands. "I love you, Rumpelstiltskin."
"Belle, I don't think you understand..."
She pressed her hand over his heart. "You were protecting your memory of me. As long as you don't hurt my father again, and you never hurt me...we'll be okay."
Rumpelstiltskin shook his head vehemently. "Never, Belle. I'd never lay a hand on you." But his eyes strayed to her arms where he still felt his fingers dig into her skin.
She followed his eyes and shook her head, clutching tighter at his face. "I know you would never hurt me. The one time you almost did, you came and checked to make sure you hadn't bruised me. And you brought me tea. I forgave you long ago for that." She brushed his hair, kept it away from his face. Why wasn't she screaming at him? Why wasn't she pushing him away? His Belle just pulled him closer. "I love you, Rumpelstiltskin."
"I love you too, Belle." He breathed her in. She was still his, although how he did not know.
She pulled back gently and kissed him on his nose. "I better go see my father. We'll talk tomorrow, yes? I'll be at the shop early on."
He kissed Belle's hand as she left his side. He would see her tomorrow, and she would still be his. Standing at the edge of the street, he watched his little Belle walk to her house. Just as she reached her new home, she turned and blew him a kiss. He watched her gather up her courage and walk up the steps, then knock on her front door. It took a moment for the door to open and for Maurice to appear. Seeing Belle, the old knight gathered his child up in his arms and held her as close as he physically could.
Rumpelstiltskin drifted into the wind, missing his own child desperately.
Belle LeFay sat on a bed she had never laid in before, but for all intents and purposes had been her bed since she had been nine years old. Taking a moment, she laid down on the sheets. Her father was happy to have her home, had held her so tight in his arms. Belle had found herself caught up in the emotion of being reunited with her father, in the joy of having the last member of her blood wrapping his arms around her like he would protect her from anything.
If only that was the truth.
Shifting up on the bed, Belle looked around to see what the curse had created for her. Regina had wanted her to be a distant memory, a fog in the back of everyone's minds. So much so that her room was really the bare shell of the person that Belle could have been had Regina decided not to hide her in the asylum. She didn't even know if she had another name in Storybrooke, it was all so fuzzy.
There was the monkey she remembered lying next to her on the pillows. He was a chocolate coloured thing with soft paws. She took him into her arms, padded him along her sheets. She smiled bitterly. It felt so cold here, so alien. At least at Rumpelstiltskin's place there was him - the smell of him, the feel of him. Teasingly, Belle licked her lips. They still felt swollen.
She looked up to see her father come through her bedroom door carrying a tea tray. He looked so nervous, but he did smile at her. He was happy to have her back, and Belle was happy to be with her father again. If they could return to the relationship they had had before she left with Rumpelstiltskin then she would be happy.
"Here you go sweetheart," her father said as he handed her a cup. Belle swung her legs underneath her body and took a sip. Vanilla. Good choice. "I know this is incredibly overwhelming, I can't get my head around it myself. I suppose I need to pick a person to be. Maurice or Moe French. Merchant or florist."
Belle nodded. "I'm grateful that the Queen decided to make everything fuzzy...I don't know how everyone is coping with this."
Maurice nodded, taking a sip of his own tea. Where to begin in dealing with nearly thirty years of absence? After a few moments of careful tea drinking, her father spoke. "I met with everyone I could find from our town last night. Gaston is alive, Stanley is well. Esme and Tabitha are around too. Rye is still working with books."
Belle smiled at the thought of her old friends. Well, mostly friends. She had known Esme and Tabitha since she was a child, and until her departure from her home they had been close. Stanley was a loyal knight of her fathers, and had been trusted to be her and Gaston's chaperone on several occasions, even though Gaston and he were close. Belle wondered how Gaston was - when she had returned home to her father he had not been there. As for Rye...well now that she was with Rumpelstiltskin she should definitely put away all her adolescent fantasies of her favourite librarian.
"And, um..." Her father paused, disturbing her memories as he set his tea cup on the tray. "Belle, I don't know how to tell you this, but Rumpelstiltskin is in town."
Belle's hands stilled around the cup of tea. She could tell that her father was watching her reaction. So she composed her features and simply said, "I know."
It was her father's turn to freeze. He looked at her, his face flooding with fear. "Belle...Belle, please do not tell me that you've been with that beast these last three days?"
She dropped her tea cup to the tray as well, upset that so soon after she had returned to her father that they were having this conversation again. "He is not a beast, Papa; he is the man that I love."
"He is a monster, and you have some...there's a special syndrome for innocent girls like you who fall in love with their captors," her father shot back, waving his hand in her direction.
Belle snorted, shifting off the bed and away from her father in anger. "Dear Gods, do you honestly expect me to still buy that line of yours?" Her fists clenched. "I have spent the last thirty years of my life in prisons - whether at the Queen's castle or in that damn asylum and the last time I checked I wasn't in love with any of them. The reason why I am in love with Rumpelstiltskin is because he is smart and he can be sweet and he treats me like a person, not a possession. He loves me, and I love him."
"It doesn't matter; as long as you live under this roof you will not see him." Her father stood steadfast in his idea that his daughter would be saved from the beast. But she loved that beast.
Belle stared at him, crossing over her arms. "Papa, I love him. He will be my husband and he will be the father of your grandchildren."
The noise that her father made in the back of his throat made her stomach turn. "You honestly think that beast will marry you, Belle? You honestly think that he will put a child in your belly and stay by your side? He's a monster Belle; he will not be shackled to you."
Her cheeks felt wet. "He loves me."
"Is that what he told you, Belle?" Her father stood up from her bed and turned his back on her. "I thought you would have stopped being so foolish. You act like a child with these ideals of love."
"You loved my mother, isn't it the same?"
Two sets of blue eyes met, like two storm fronts gathering to form a tornado. But Belle was unafraid - she was doing the brave thing in standing up to her father. And this time - this time - she had proof of Rumpelstiltskin's love for her. "Your mother was a kind, gentle soul. She was the love of my life, and she gave me the most precious gift - she gave me you. I don't want to squander you with some monster whose only thoughts of you are carnal."
"I want us to be family again, Papa. But if you refuse to accept that Rumpelstiltskin is courting me then I will leave this house and never come back." Her father looked surprised at her ultimatum. "I understand that you have your own opinions of him, and I will learn to accept that. Just, please, learn to accept the fact that your daughter is in love with a man who loves her dearly."
Her father moved back to perch on her bed. Belle dropped to the floor and clasped her father's hands. She smiled up at him. "I want us to be a family again, Papa, don't you?"
He nodded, smiling softly back at her. "I do, my girl, I really do."
"Then please, let me be happy. Believe me, I can handle him if he steps out of line," she teased. "Please accept that I love him."
Her father bristled under her touch. He wasn't saying anything; instead his mouth was fixed in a harsh line. He was thinking, planning. Belle had only seen that face once before and the results for her had been...unpleasant. But then it was gone and a smile was planted there instead as if to try and hide the scheming expression that had been there before.
"I can try and accept that, Belle."
"Good." She smiled and reached up to kiss her father on her cheek. She wouldn't go back to how they had been. She wouldn't let him do that. "You know, the Queen told Rumpelstiltskin that when I returned, you brought in the clerics to 'cleanse my soul'. I killed myself after a while - that was her story. Of course, what the Queen says is all lies."
Her father nodded, and Belle continued to smile at him. "Papa, please don't do anything foolish like running to the Blue Fairy or using your knights against Rumpelstiltskin. Don't try and poison our relationship. Because if you do, Papa," her grip on his hands tightened. "I will tell Rumpelstiltskin that the Queen did not lie, and I will show him the scars that you let the clerics give me."
Her father tried to move his hands out of her grasp but Belle clenched tight to his fingers. "I will let him finish what he started when you stole from him, and I will walk away like you did when your only child was screaming in pain. I will not stand in his way to protect the person he loves when you let me burn at their hands."
Belle pushed herself away from her father and walked towards the window. After a moment she heard her father get up and leave her bedroom. She wanted to reunite with her father; she wanted to have the happy ending she had been denied for thirty years. But she would never forget the crisscross of scars over her back and thighs, would never forget her father walking away as she begged him to save her.
Rumpelstiltskin had never laid a hand on her, he loved her. She thought her father was the same.
There was only one monster in her eyes.