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.

Well this is part two - thank you to everyone who read/commented/left pretty things for part one! Major kudos go to Chibidarxel, EarthGurdian, anon, Sheherazade's Fable, TheSavior, prttykitty7728, Condiotti, katdemon18, TrueLove'sMiss and Marquesa de Santos.

This chapter was hard to write, mostly because I just wanted to hug poor Belle. Anyway, hope you enjoy! :D

Part Two

Belle LeFay wrapped her arms around herself as she walked through the streets of Storybrooke, unhappy with the looks she was receiving from the fellow townsfolk. It felt too much like when she had returned to her home after staying with Rumpelstiltskin. She had been spat on there; shunned from the people she had grown up with, from the friends she had played with. They had shouted things at her, called her the devil's whore. Belle closed her eyes as she remembered seeing her father's face above the hate, remembered how she had fallen into his arms like a child.

She had been sleeping in her old bed, crying over a man who had pushed her away, when the Clerics came for her.

Belle continued to walk on to her love's shop, passing by a diner in the process. There were some curious looks in her direction, but when a young man that Belle remembered from her own town whispered something to them, they immediately turned their heads away.

She had never walked so fast.

Her feet seemed to know the way to Gold's Pawn Shop better than she did, and she was happy for it. She didn't want to have to ask for directions, although it was doubtful anyone would give them to her anyway. As she turned another corner on the street, a man in overalls bumped into her shoulder, knocking her round. He glared at her for a moment before putting his arm around a blonde carrying a child. She had never met them before, and yet they hated her. It had been the same last night when several members from her old town had visited her father. He had asked her to stay in her room.

She had never felt so alone.

Eventually she found the door to the pawn shop and wrenched it open, pushing it back just as quickly. Belle tried to calm herself against the doorframe, knowing that if her love saw her in this state then he would do something drastic in penance for upsetting her. Brushing tears away with the back of her hand, she breathed in and out twice quickly.

She would be fine. She had to be.

Gathering up her courage, Belle moved away from the door and went in search of her love. She examined the shop in greater detail now, looked over the items for sale. Some were beautiful, ornate little things. Others seemed to be more modern things that those in Storybrooke had come to pawn rather than what had slipped through from the other world. Belle ran a finger down one counter and it came back covered in dust. It seemed that even in this world Rumpelstiltskin was incapable of using a duster.

Being in his space calmed her. She could feel his energy wrapping around her, soothing her. Unlike the coldness of her home, or the viciousness of the outside world, in this space she felt safe. "Rumpelstiltskin?" Belle called out, not wanting to waste another moment not seeing him.

There was a crash from the back room and Belle could hear cursing and fast feet as her love seemingly ran to greet her. And then he was there in the doorway, her Rumpelstiltskin. His dark suit looked so good on his slender frame, and the blue of his tie matched the blue of the blouse she wore. He placed a hand on the back of his neck, nervous. How could anyone be scared of him when he could be like this? Like a teenage boy with his first crush.

"You're here."

Belle smiled. "I'm here."

There was a pause before both of them reacted at the same time and collapsed against each other. His arms went around her waist, holding her close. She clung to his shoulders, face buried in the crook of his neck. Eventually they broke apart, Rumpelstiltskin's hands clasping her face. She nuzzled his fingers, enjoying his touch more than she should.

They needed to talk, and Belle looked to see if there was a chair around her love could rest his leg on. But Rumpelstiltskin had misinterpreted her gesture and she felt her love's hands on her waist. Automatically, she slid her own hands onto his shoulders and giggled as her love picked her up and deposited her on the glass counter next to his till and accounts book. His hands moved up her sides, his eyes gazing over her jeans, blouse and smiling face to see if there were any marks on her. When he found none, he rested his forehead against hers again.

"How was it at your fathers?" Rumpelstiltskin asked, holding her face gently. His other hand lingered next to her thigh on the counter and Belle could tell that he wanted to place it on her skin. A rush of warmth hit her stomach and Belle was overcome with the idea that she would like his hands all over her.

"It was alright - he wasn't very impressed that you're courting me, but..." Belle shrugged. She had made her ultimatum to her father. He was the one who owed her, who needed to make it up to her. She wanted to be a family again, but she would not hesitate to start a new one with the man in front of her if it came down to that. "I told him that if he doesn't get used to the idea then I'll move into your bed and let you have your wicked way with me."

Rumpelstiltskin stated coughing and Belle had to pat him on the back. Her sense of humour needed a little work. But he returned to holding her. "Did you sleep okay last night?" Belle asked, trying to shift the subject to something more innocent.

She could see that he was trying to build a lie, but in the end he indulged her with the truth. "Not very. I think I missed my human teddy bear."

Belle snorted and leaned over to press her lips lightly against his. He trembled underneath her, and Belle felt a little dizzy with the power she had over the man in front of her. She pressed forward, taking his mouth for herself. He groaned and buried his hands in her hair, dragging her closer. The pressure of his mouth and the taste of him made her unsteady. She hoped this would happen every time they kissed. It was a good feeling, one she wanted to fully explore.

"Gold?" a voice called out and Rumpelstiltskin immediately moved his mouth away from hers. She ran her fingers over her lips - they were swollen again. "Is everything okay here?"

Belle slid off of the counter and pressed herself into Rumpelstiltskin's side. The intruder was a striking blonde wearing a leather jacket and tight jeans. She seemed to have a relationship with her love, but neither of them was particularly happy to see the other. Belle reached down and tightened her hand around Rumpelstiltskin's. He seemed glad of her touch.

"Sheriff Swan, this is Belle LeFay. Moe French's daughter."

A flicker of recognition ran over the Sheriff's face, and Belle wondered if she had been involved in the altercation her love had had with her father. "Are you okay?" the Sheriff asked her, obviously believing the same as the rest of the town that she was in danger or mentally ill.

Belle looked up at her love, watched him beam at her. She tightened her grip on his hands, sharing his smile. "Never better."

The blonde nodded at her. "Okay. Gold, we still need to talk about you stealing that egg and whatever the hell you did to bring about that purple cloud."

Her love bobbed his head and took one hand out of her grasp to wrap tight around her waist. She was being shown off a little, and Belle felt torn. Gaston had always done this, paraded her around like a trophy and she had hated it. But Rumpelstiltskin wasn't showing her off as a prize he had won. He was showing her off because he was proud of her.

"All in good time, Sheriff. All in good time. Tell Henry I said hello - I had every faith that his mother would come through for him."

Whatever his words meant, the Sheriff didn't seem too impressed with them. She left the shop, slamming the door behind her. But it didn't matter to Rumpelstiltskin, and it didn't matter to Belle either. The shop felt safe again, it felt warm and loving. Her love wrapped his arms around her and bent his head to hers.

"Now, where we were?"


After the Sheriff's departure they had kissed for a while, their mouths pressed hungrily against one another in the back room until someone else had come enquiring into the shop. Her love had given up after that, and had begun serving the few people brave enough to come in. Of those few brave souls, only one argued with her love about the possessions from the old world that now lay on the shelves in Rumpelstiltskin's shop. He had made quite a tidy profit when the man had given up and paid anything to just take the paintings home with him.

Belle had been cleaning the shelves, giggling to herself as her lover argued with the man. They had exchanged looks several times, and Belle couldn't help the warm feeling that ran over her skin when he looked at her. She ended up blushing when, after the man had started another speech about possessions and rights, Rumpelstiltskin had waggled his eyebrows at her. Her love, her Rumpelstiltskin. He was quite a man.

She was still dusting some of the ornate trinkets in a glass shelf when she felt hands wrap around her waist and pull her up from the floor. Her love nuzzled his mouth against her neck and Belle let out a low moan. He cradled her, taking the time to caress her neck and jaw with his lips.

"Have I told you today how much I love you?" Rumpelstiltskin whispered against her neck, pressing one last kiss there before breaking away. She felt the loss instantly, and Belle was unsure whether they were doing the right thing.

Since their reunion they had been afraid of each other, very conscious of their new status and their last conversation that hadn't ended well. But since the bridge of their first kiss had been crossed, Belle had been incredibly aware of his hands, his mouth and how her body reacted to him. There were some moments when he just looked at her that Belle wanted to lock the damn shop door and let him have his way with her.

Blushing, Belle looked down at the glass shelf. Her love was watching her. "Are you alright, Belle?"

She nodded, smiling. "I'm perfect."

"You can say that again." She smacked him on the shoulder as she made her way round to join him by the counter. Every time he said that, she flushed. She wanted to return the favour, tell him how handsome he was, how just looking at him made her stomach flutter - and that it wasn't a recent development either. His eyes were rich, dark and utterly addictive. She had to clench her fingers tight to stop herself from delving into his hair or run down his chest.

When Belle looked up she saw her love was watching her, trembling. She bit her lip, tried to not let her obvious attraction come through. But his hands were on her shoulders and he was looking at her like he had in the forest, like he couldn't quite believe she was real.

"Belle, I..." he started before the phone began to ring.

Belle sighed, hands wrapping around each other. "Bet you a kiss it's the Sheriff," she said, trying to defuse the tension she felt building. Not bad tension - but if they didn't get it under control then they would spend the rest of the week exploring each other's bodies. And as much as her body was seemingly craving him, they were two steps behind that. They needed to explore each other emotionally before they could do so physically.

Rumpelstiltskin eventually answered the phone, his mouth fixed in a grimace. "Hello? Ah, Sheriff Swan. So lovely to hear from you again." He reached over and pressed his mouth lightly to Belle's. "Yes I'm still here. Are you sure this is important, Sheriff?" He paused, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Fine. I'll be there as soon as I can."

Putting the phone down in its cradle, he turned to her. "The Sheriff has requested my presence at her office. Will you be okay here?"

She kissed him on the nose, causing him to smile. Belle loved watching him smile. "I'll be fine, Rumpelstiltskin. Just come back in one piece."

"I promise."

Belle watched him gather his jacket. His hand brushed his cane automatically, but he left it behind as he walked through the shop. He nodded to her at the doorway before leaving. Then suddenly she was alone. She knew she should feel sad, isolated, but the shop comforted her. The place tingled a little, like the magic was coming back into the items on her love's shelves.

It was nice to have some time to herself in a place she felt safe in. The night before had been awful, so lonely. Lying on her bed in a room that didn't feel hers was like being back at the asylum. Her father had only spoken to her last night to banish her to her bedroom or to tell her that dinner was ready. They had eaten spaghetti in silence. She had hoped that she could go to the library or maybe to the diner and meet some new people. But the library was a boarded up wreck and it seemed everyone in town reviled her.

She only felt at home with Rumpelstiltskin.

Sighing to herself, Belle wondered if she had been too hasty in returning to her father. Perhaps it would have been easier on them both if she had merely organised weekly dinners or breakfast or something less pressured while she stayed with Rumpelstiltskin. But that only created more problems. Her father wouldn't be happy with their joining if Rumpelstiltskin had already bedded her, and with every touch that grew more and more likely. She wanted to be close to him, wanted it to be like the last few days when it had just been the two of them. Her desire for him was slowly winning over propriety carried over from the old world.

The door of the shop opened and Belle looked up to see the bell ring over a tall brunette. She seemed uncomfortable in the shop, seemed uncomfortable in her own skin. Belle reckoned that was a natural part of the curse being broken, no one knowing who they were. Once again, Belle thanked that her memories of this world were hazy. The woman came over to the counter, shaking her brown hair over a red checked shirt.

She gave a little wave at Belle. "Is Mister Gold in?"

Gold. Rumpelstiltskin's alter ego. "No, he just stepped out." The woman nodded, but she didn't seem to want to leave. Belle believed that the brunette's presence was a perfect opportunity to introduce herself, to maybe make herself a new friend. So Belle LeFay of the Front Lands held out her hand for the brunette to shake. "I'm Belle, Belle LeFay."

The other woman grinned and shook her hand. She had quite a grip on her. "I'm Ruby. Well...I was." She shrugged; that uncomfortable shifting under her skin still present. "I guess I can still be. I'm Ruby Howell."

Belle grinned enthusiastically. So far this was going well. "So what can I do for you, Ruby? A pretty necklace, perhaps an antique vase?" she suggested, trying to act the saleswoman. Rumpelstiltskin would be impressed if she made a sale whilst he was out dealing with the Sheriff. She really wanted him to be proud of her in this new world. She wanted to be proud of herself.

Ruby looked around, digging her hands into her jean pockets. "Do you have any cloaks or any clothing? I...I was wondering if Gold had my red cloak from the other world. It's kind of important."

"I think there's an old trunk of clothes at the back. Want to help me look?"

Ruby beamed and joined Belle on the other side of the counter. The two women moved into the back room where Belle managed to locate the trunk. "So how do you know Mister Gold?" Ruby asked.

Finally, a chance to share their story instead of no doubt whatever lies her father was spreading. "Rumpelstiltskin took me on as his housekeeper, and over the months I was there I fell in love with him, and he fell in love with me."

Ruby smiled at her. "Sounds kinda romantic. Wouldn't have expected that from Gold." Her eyes went up in alarm. "No offence! He just didn't seem like the romantic type."

"None taken," Belle smiled. She hadn't thought he was either until he had presented her with that rose. "He's been more romantic since we were reunited. He's been the only one who's even been nice to me. The Queen stuck me in the basement of the hospital. No records, nothing. My life here is hazy so no one would go looking for me - no one remembers me from this world at all."

Ruby made a noise and reached over for Belle's arm. "I think I remember you! Well, your alternate self. We've never actually met, but I think we went to high school together. The curse says we went to high school together." Ruby groaned. "I hate this damn curse."

Belle nodded as they shifted the trunk into the main shop floor. Grabbing Rumpelstiltskin's keys, Belle found the one that went with the lock and pushed it inside. The contents of the trunk were open to them, and from what Belle could see it was mostly dresses. Still, they tried searching for Ruby's cloak.

"So were you with Gold when the purple cloud engulfed the place?" Ruby asked, searching through dresses of gold, blue and silver. "Pretty scary stuff. I was with my grandmother; she nearly had a heart attack."

Belle didn't know what to say to that. As much as she liked talking to Ruby, she didn't feel right talking about Rumpelstiltskin's role in bringing back the magic. The curse yes, their relationship perhaps. But something felt off about Ruby's tone when she asked her about the purple cloud. Belle took a good look at Ruby. Her back was tense, as if she was concentrating very hard on something. It wasn't just the search for the cloak, it was something else.

"Henry, the Sheriff's son, said that magic's come back to Storybrooke." There it was. The same dead tone, far from the bounce when they had been talking moments before. The town wanted to know to what extent magic had come back to Storybrooke; to what extent her love had magic and whether he was at fault for it. And whether he was a threat. "Can you imagine what it's going to be like with the Queen having her powers again? I mean..."

"You're not very good at this, are you?" Belle said, stopping the search for the cloak. She looked at Ruby, her heart twisting.

Ruby's mouth gaped open before closing again. She watched the woman form a lie, but in the end she gave up. "They just want to know how much of his magic he has back. Snow and Charming say he's dangerous, and that if he has magic again then we're all in trouble." She bowed her head. "They say you don't realise what he's capable of."

"I think you should leave."

Belle stood up, and Ruby followed suit. The other woman seemed sincerely upset by her dismissal. "I'm sorry, Belle. I really am. The people in this town have to be protected..."

"Then I suggest you leave us alone," Belle hissed back, making sure she stood behind the counter to provide a distinct barrier between her standing in her love's territory and the rest of the town. "For one moment, Ruby, I actually thought someone had come in here to talk to me and not about Rumpelstiltskin. You can protect the people all you want, but I am tired of being collateral damage."

Belle's hands gripped the edge of the glass counter as she heard the bell ring, signalling the closing of the door. She hated this world. She hated it.


The end of her first day in the shop and Belle couldn't wait to get home to just collapse on her bed. She would rather lie in Rumpelstiltskin's bed and read while she felt his arms around her, but she honestly wanted to be alone. Her heart felt hard, and she didn't know what she could do to fix it.

"Belle, I picked up something for you while I was coming back from the Sheriff's," Rumpelstiltskin said in her ear. He delved into his jacket and produced a single red rose for her. It was beautiful, a stunning red. A love token from her love.

"Oh," she sighed as he handed her the rose. She stroked the petals, letting her fingertips run over the silky texture. She wondered what Rumpelstiltskin's skin would feel like under her hands, whether he would be like silk or whether he would be calloused in places. Belle flushed as she pressed the rose to her lips, almost imagining it to be him.

"I love you, Belle." Rumpelstiltskin whispered, leaning on the edge of the counter. "And I intend to spend the rest of our lives showing you how much."

She wrapped her arms tight around his body, needing to cling to him. He was the only thing that felt right and she needed him to hold her. Of course he held her back, tight like a vice and she welcomed such pressure around her. Everything was building up inside her - the looks from others in the town, her father's rejection, Ruby's deception. Belle found herself sobbing against her love's chest. Why did everyone consider him a monster when he was the only good thing in her world?

"Belle, Belle my love?" He tilted her chin up so he could see her. He looked so pained as he gazed over her face, taking his soft handkerchief to wipe her tears away. "Why so upset? Has something happened?"

She shook her head, curls flying everywhere. She couldn't tell him, he would storm into their homes and turn them into snails. Well, if he had magic. She didn't need him to fight her battles, she just needed his love. Belle licked her lips and clutched his hand. "I'm fine, love. Just tired."

"Belle," Rumpelstiltskin said softly, his hands running up and down her arms. "I don't know what to say, I don't know what to do. Please tell me what's wrong."

She clung to his chest, pulling at his shirt and tie. "Everything is just so overwhelming."

He kissed her head. "I know, Belle, I know. It's a lot to take in."

She knew she shouldn't be angry at him, but she needed to be angry at something. Belle pushed him away, making him stumble back. He looked crestfallen at her rejection. "It's too much! My father rejects me; the people I grew up with revile me. Even here I'm treated like some demon whore who should be shunned and I've only been out of that hospital for a few days!"

Belle couldn't stop. She could see that she was upsetting him but she couldn't hold it in. She wasn't that strong. "And then there is you. Who everyone says is a beast and a monster who only wants to steal my innocence. But you're not any of those things. You're kind, and you're smart and you would never hurt me and I just don't know how to place you in this world."

He moved forward, brushing his hand lightly against her arm. She relaxed slightly as he tried to calm her. "Belle, it's okay. The town won't understand, but we love each other. That's the main thing. As for us, if we're going too fast, we can slow down. I'm sorry if I've been a bit forward. It's just...being able to touch you is intoxicating."

Belle nodded. "I know the feeling. You're addictive. I don't think I could ask you to stop holding me even if it was something I wanted." She sighed, resting a hand on the back of her neck. "I think I'm going to head back to my fathers, Rumpelstiltskin. It's been a long day and I just need to think."

He accepted her request, even though she knew he wanted her to stay and talk things out with him. But she really needed to walk, to clear her head. She came from a world of chaperones and loveless marriages, of supposedly good knights and wicked beasts. But her father would not choose her husband now, no chaperone would watch her and Rumpelstiltskin and the wicked beast was her knight more than Gaston could ever be. It was confusing. Belle needed to get some understanding of this new world and her and their place in it before she could continue on.


Belle kicked her legs whilst perched on the picnic table in a now empty park. When she had arrived, the few inhabitants that had been playing immediately left the area. Belle was slightly grateful; she wanted time to herself. Her brain kept racing, her heart kept thundering in her chest. She had no clue where she belonged. She had a half life of this world, and a broken life in the last one. She was lost, and she didn't know how to recover herself.

"You look like you could use a drink."

Belle looked up to see Ruby standing there. She still looked uncomfortable in her skin, but this time she was holding two cans of cola on top of a Tupperware container. "I swear I'm here on my own merits. I felt bad about earlier, and wanted to make it up to you."

Belle didn't know what to do. But considering she was giving out second chances to people who had done a lot worse, Belle held her hand out for a can of cola. Ruby gave her one and then sat down next to her on the table. The container was opened next, revealing thick brownies.

"Don't worry, they're not poisoned. But considering I made them..." Ruby shrugged. "I am sorry about earlier. Snow and Charming are trying so hard to put their family back together; they don't want anything to prevent that. They had to know whether Rumpelstiltskin was a threat."

Belle nodded, taking a brownie between her fingers. She had had a rather paltry lunch and the smell of chocolate was beckoning. "Rumpelstiltskin wouldn't do anything to hurt your friends. He's too worried that the Queen is going to come after me again."

"I'm sure he'll protect you!" Ruby said eagerly, as if in reassurance.

Belle smiled. "He loves me, Ruby. He'll protect me to the end of days, and I would do the same for him. You tell your friends that if he anyone lays a hand on him then I will give them a reason to fear me."

Ruby stilled at that, but when the brunette looked at her, Belle gave her a smile. She was strong, she was brave. She had survived the Queen's dungeons; she had survived the Clerics brought in by her own father. She had won the love of a man who many feared, a love that many would only dream about. She was young, but she wasn't to be underestimated.

After a pause, Ruby grinned. "I don't doubt it;" They continued to eat brownies."I am sorry about earlier. No one is thinking straight, especially me. When I'm Ruby, I'm seen as just a skirt, you know?" Belle didn't, and thankfully Ruby went onto explain. "All the men want to do is bang...sleep with me. That's all I'm good for. When I'm Red, I'm a badass werewolf."

Belle's eyes went up in delight. A werewolf? That was fascinating. Belle immediately had a million and one questions about what it was like, how it worked. But seeing Ruby's awkward posture made Belle unwilling to question her.

"Snow and Charming know. Granny does, as do the dwarves. But no one else." Ruby bowed her head. "I volunteered to talk to you. I saw what they were like with you this morning; saw how they are with Gold. When they find out, that's going to be me. If I hurt anyone here then they'll burn me," Ruby let out a sob. "Granny said that I just need to stay indoors, that I can control it like I did before. But my head buzzes constantly between two different people and I don't want to stay indoors and keep that part of me locked away. I hate it, but it's who I am. As stupid as it was, I thought talking to you would help. I thought you would understand."

Belle wrapped an arm around Ruby, pulling her close. The brunette smiled gratefully at the contact. "I do, believe me. My father thought that Rumpelstiltskin had defiled me, that I was no longer pure. So did everyone else. When I came back home, everyone had turned on me. I remember going inside my childhood bedroom after being embraced by my father and thinking that I was safe. But he brought the Clerics in, and they whipped me, and beat me, and burned me. But I wouldn't give up Rumpelstiltskin, I loved him too much."

Ruby clung to her this time, wrapping both arms around her neck. Like Ruby's thoughts that morning, Belle was grateful that someone understood. As they pulled away, Ruby grimaced at her. "They're still here, the Clerics. There's a monastery on the edge of town; it's...not a good place."

Belle nodded, shivering at the thought of seeing them again. "Please don't tell Rumpelstiltskin about the Clerics. I just want to put it behind me."

Ruby placed her hand over her heart. "You have my word. As long as you promise not to tell anyone about my furry situation."

Belle giggled and mimicked Ruby, placing her hand over her heart. "I promise. Like I would tell anyone, anyway. I prefer the company of so called monsters with good hearts."

Ruby laughed. The two of them sat for a while in the silence of the park, looking out onto the trees. Belle hadn't felt at ease with anyone other than Rumpelstiltskin in such a long time. She had had friends, but they had never shared the same interests. Esme had been obsessed with finding a husband and Tabitha practiced dancing until her feet bled. The two young women delved into the box of brownies again after a while, Belle commenting on how wonderful they were and Ruby actually surprised that they were edible.

"So what do you do when you're not baking delicious brownies?" Belle asked.

Ruby shrugged. "Work for Granny. Go out to the bars. I like making things in the kitchen, but I nearly burnt down the kitchen once so I stopped doing it. Today was the first time since we had to call the fire department. What about you?"


"Book worm, huh?" Ruby grinned. "You'll have to recommend me something; I haven't read anything that hasn't been a menu order in years."

It was Belle's turn to grin. "Only if you bake me more of these brownies."

Ruby offered her hand and Belle shook it readily. "It's a deal. We should hang out some time, like properly hang out. You should come to the diner!"

"Probably not a good idea considering the town dislikes me on principle."

The brunette shrugged. "This town is full of it, trust me. I may not be willing to stand up and announce who I am for fear of getting burnt at the stake, but they already know your situation. You're in love with a guy who loves you back - you should be shouting it from the rooftops." They shared a grin. "And to be honest, even with this second set of memories, as soon as I'm sure we can leave Storybrooke, I'm going. There is a huge world here to explore, and I want to see it all."

Belle leaned forward, interested. She had been reading about the world - Rumpelstiltskin had several books on America trying to find where his son would be - and she had become fascinated with this world's geography. "Where would you go?"

"Somewhere where they didn't believe in fairytales."

They continued to talk about the world, about where they would travel to. Belle recalled an adolescent desire to see Europe, although she recognised that as fake. She and Ruby exchanged stories from both worlds, filling in details about fake pasts and real futures. There was no strict posture from Ruby, no worming questions. Belle believed the young woman to be genuine. As they finished off the container of brownies with the promise that Ruby would teach her how to make them, Belle believed she had made a new friend, a good friend.

Her mind and heart started to feel clear once more.


Rumpelstiltskin needed to keep his hands to himself. It was obvious that his affections were confusing Belle - a young woman who had grown up thinking that men kept their hands and mouths to the bedrooms only, instead of letting them run rampant on shop floors. She wanted him back - her expression in the shop had nearly made his already weak knees slide from under him. But they had to keep things appropriate or Belle would never reconcile with her father. Of course, that was only until they were wed. Then he was pretty sure neither he nor Belle would be leaving his bedroom for a month.

Belle would need time to get used to this world and he was willing to give her that. After all, he had spent six days lying in his darkened bedroom trying to sort through the memories of his past life and his old one. But, unlike him, Belle didn't have to take all the confusion on herself. He was her true love, her partner in all things. He would stand by her side while the sky burned and he would help her understand.

A well placed call to the LeFay residence had revealed that Belle had not come home. Thoughts of Regina had danced through his mind, but thankfully after an hour of searching he found her in the park, sitting on a picnic bench with the Lucas girl talking. He watched her smile and laugh and hug Ruby. His Belle had found a friend. A day or so ago that would have caused him to break out in jealousy. But his Belle was happy, and she was finally creating her own place in this world.

"Ms Lucas, good to see you again," he called from the bushes as he made his way over to the two girls. Ruby looked worried, his Belle brightened.

When he reached them on the bench, Belle pressed a kiss to his cheek. The wolf girl nodded at the two of them and decided to leave them alone, for which he was grateful. His tact could only go so far. She packed up an empty plastic container and two cola cans. "I'll see you tomorrow for lunch, Belle. Nice to see you Mister Gold."

Ruby jogged away from them, eager to let them have their moment. Belle patted the space Ruby had vacated, and Gold took it willingly. As he took her offered hand. "So. Ruby."

Belle nodded, unable to keep the smile off of her face. "I have a friend."

Rumpelstiltskin nodded, smiling as he stroked Belle's temple. "You do indeed. How's your head, love?"

"Tangled," Belle sighed. "Everything makes my head hurt. Why can't it be simple? You and me are together; we love each other and want to be together forever." He nodded at that. Forever with Belle was an attractive concept. "I want my father to love me unconditionally, and I want him to accept that you will be his son in law."

He couldn't help but snort at that. Maurice LeFay would never accept him as his only daughter's choice of husband. He mused that he could try for Belle's sake, but if the man made one negative move towards his daughter then he would have to finish what he started in his cabin. "A difficult feat considering what I did to him, dearie."

"Justifiable," Belle whispered, lost in a world of her own. She didn't even seem to realise she was speaking. To his knowledge - which was from Belle's own lips - Regina had snatched her a day after she had left his castle. Rumpelstiltskin wondered if perhaps his love had made it home after all. It would explain why she didn't seem nearly as fond of her father as she had been back in the Dark Castle. The dutiful, respectful daughter now jaded after a run in with the Clerics.

If they had hurt her, he would rip them apart with his bare hands.

"What else do you wish, Belle?"

She grinned. He loved her smile, loved watching those blue eyes light up like fireworks. "I want to go through this town without feeling like dirt. I want to go shopping with Ruby and watch films and eat brownies with her. I want to kiss the man I love and not worry that it's inappropriate. I just want things to be simple, normal. I want this world to feel like home."

He could manage that. Ruby would help Belle integrate with the town in a way that he could not and would not do. It wasn't in his nature; he had become used to the stares over centuries, actually thrived on them. But his love didn't deserve them. Her father would come around or he would lose his daughter and the rest of his potential blood. But he could make their relationship simple.

"Belle, I love you. I intend to build a life with you. I can tone down the advances if you wish. But I think we both know that we're not a normal couple and this is not our world. This is no simple courtship and we should stop pretending that it is. We love each other; we've been denied each other for three decades. I can't think of any person who recognised our love who would continue to deny us each other. I'll continue to court you, dearie. And I will to continue to love you. The rest of the town will just have to deal with that, and they'll also have to deal with me kissing you in public. If, of course, that is what my lady desires."

"You are what this lady desires." Belle kissed him hard on the mouth, her fingers gripping his as tight as she could. He welcomed her mouth like he welcomed air - he couldn't live without either. She tasted like chocolate - obviously whatever Ruby had brought in that container - and Rumpelstiltskin immediately felt his tongue slipping into hers. She tasted good and he tried to taste every last part of her.

Eventually they broke away, Belle looking at him like he was the brightest thing in her universe. He could keep it a little chaste for Belle's sake, but when she kissed him like that he wanted to drag her to the nearest priest and make her his. But she deserved better - she deserved romance. "Tomorrow night, Belle, would you accompany me to dinner? I'm thinking a romantic candlelight supper for two at my place. We can talk more there. It'll be our first official...thing as a pair."

He didn't realise how nervous he was until Belle stroked his cheek, kissing his lips again. "I would love to, Rumpelstiltskin."

He grinned. "Then it's a date." Rumpelstiltskin held her close again, unwilling to let her move from his sight. But he had to; unfortunately he had to drop her at her fathers. They would get through to the man eventually, maybe when he saw how truly happy his daughter was. "Shall I escort you back to your fathers?"

"You may, Rumpelstiltskin," Belle answered, letting herself be pulled off the picnic table and into his arms again.

They walked, hands clasped within each others, through the streets of Storybrooke. He kept her amused with stories of his worst customers, and she kept laughing into his side. There were looks, snide and disgusting. But he kept Belle's eyes on him, kept her away from such hate. He would make sure there was no doubt in her mind over her love for him - he would try to be a good man, he would try to do the best he could for her, and he would try to keep her pretty little head simple and clear of any confusion his curse had brought.

Most of all, he tried to ignore the men he knew as Clerics watching them from the shadows.