Disclaimer: I don't own Once Upon a Time, the episode Skin Deep on which this is based, or the characters found within the show. If I could pick one, though, I wouldn't be writing this because I'd be too busy staring at Robert Carlyle.
Author's Note: This was originally a one shot, just a drabble thing because I was hit by the idea of Belle being a Southern belle, and there's lovely pics of Robert Carlyle in a Northern Army uniform from the movie Ravenous. Squish the two together and you get this. The response to this first part was so lovely and supportive that it's now turned into a chaptered fic.
He'd commandeered the library as his own, and thought that it was understood he was not to be bothered. He preferred his privacy, and certainly Maurice French, until now the owner of Marchlands plantation, did not need an audience when he was being told that he had one hour to vacate the home that had been his for generations. This was war, but it did not need to mean a complete lack of courtesy.
"Damn and blast, what is all this racket?" He threw open the doors, ready to afix a cold stare on whatever idiot of a soldier couldn't maintain order. It was a surprise to find that the noise came not from a man in uniform but a slip of a girl, barely a woman. She stood on the bottom step of the grand stairs and was throwing what looked to be teacups at his men. Lucky for them she either had bad aim or didn't really want to hurt anyone.
He hoped it was the former.
"We found her hiding in the kitchen, Captain Gold. We tried to catch her, but she started with the pots and pans and then moved onto the tea service."
"Don't you dare touch her." Mr. French, who had gone from shock to quiet acceptance was now a bright red, his hands bunched into fists. "Belle, sweetheart, go upstairs and pack. We're leaving in an hour. You're coming with me."
"No." Gold shook his head as he looked at the girl clutching her last teacup. Her eyes showed her fear but her back was straight and her chin was up. She intrigued him, like no woman in recent memory had.
"Gold, I swear…"
"Keep your vows to yourself, French, unless you want me to change my mind about letting you and all your household go free. I am within my rights to lock you all up, but chose to grant you your freedom. My price, however, is her. Miss Belle will stay; this house could use a caretaker, and none of my men can be spared."
"Please, Gold. She's all I have."
"Unless she agrees you'll have nothing. I will send all your men to dig trenches for the union and the women will be left to starve. I will use this house and then burn it to the ground when it no longer serves a purpose. Is that what you want?" He barely spared French a look; he was waiting for the girl's reaction.
"I'll do it." Her voice was soft, but not hesitant.
"I chose my own fate, papa. This is a good trade. You'll let them all go?" For the first time the girl looked at him. Her eyes were a starting shade of blue. "Your men will not harm them?"
"You have my word as a gentleman and a Captain." She knew nothing about him, but for all his misdeeds he was a man of his word.
"Then I will stay."