Disclaimer: As you can probably tell from the fact I'm writing fanfiction, I don't own Once Upon a Time or any of its characters.
Guarding the most important prisoner in the kingdom wasn't a prestigious job. It required long hours underground in a damp mine with minimal light and nowhere to sit. Still, it went to the most prestigious guards, ones that had proven themselves in battle or duty, and even on them it was taxing. They had to remain constantly alert, always on their game, in case the little man in his solitary cell decided to cause mischief.
They claimed he couldn't escape, but Kingsley had seen enough of magic not to put anything past a loophole, and here was the best loophole shark in the world. On the best of days, he was restless, pacing around his cell and muttering to himself. On the worst of days, he pestered the pair of guards, trying to weasel information of any sort out of them. A previous guard had let his name slip, and was mercilessly tormented with every gruesome detail of his future. The guard had gone mad, and all the little man did was giggle as he sobbed.
Rumplestiltskin was a sick monster, and Kingsley was glad he was locked up.
Today, he was different. He perched on the wall as easily as if it were a chair, completely still except for the occasional movement of his head or flick of his eyes. He watched the ground as if there was a play being performed in the dust, one he was eager to see the end of. He was silent. He looked calm.
Porter clamped a hand down on Kingsley's shoulder, looking the fellow guard in the eye. A look that said he shouldn't dwell on this, lest Rumplestiltskin pull him into a trap. Kingsley turned away, still apprehensive.
Rumplestiltskin's head jerked up as he stared out of his cell. His lips slowly peeled back to reveal a rotting smile.
"She's coming," he announced.
A chill coursed up their collective spines as they exchanged a glance. She could've referenced anyone; the Evil Queen, Snow White, even Cinderella… Rumplestiltskin slipped down from his perch and started running his fingers through his hair, smoothing down his clothes as if trying to look his best.
Kingsley's blood ran cold. It was none of them. It was someone far more sinister and bloodthirsty, the kind of monster who would call the Dark One her husband (the kind of monster who the Dark One would obey without cause). The Caretaker. The Devil's Bride. The Harlot of Hell. The Chosen One. She was called plenty of names, and she answered to them all.
Heels thudded dully against the ground, announcing her arrival. They drew their swords and raised them as a hooded figure approached quickly, a basket on her hip.
"Stop!" Kingsley thundered, his voice an octave higher than usual.
She paused in the torchlight, her cloak a bright shade of blue with intricate golden details. It was parted down the center to reveal a simple maid's dress, also in blue, and a pair of simple shoes. She lifted her gaze, revealing silken brown curls and a comely face. Startling blue eyes peered at them as though she was amazed to see anyone down this dark corridor.
It had to be her, coming down to visit Rumplestiltskin unannounced, but she didn't strike him as being particularly…bloodthirsty. Pretty yes, innocent maybe… It could just be a mask.
"What are you two still doing down here?" She asked, paying no mind to the swords drawn at her, "You should be at home, with your families and loved ones, while you still have them."
She tried to brush past them, but they blocked her way.
"Miss, you can't be down here." The woman sighed impatiently.
"The curse to end all curses is on its way to the kingdom. I'd like to spend my last few moments of freedom and happiness with my husband."
"What am I going to do? Spring him free for five minutes? Please," she gently brushed the sword aside and continued towards the prisoner.
The guards stared after her as Rumplestiltskin grinned, hands clasped together.
"She's right," he said, "You might be wasting the last moment you'll ever have with your dearies again just watching the pair of us do…" He paused dramatically, "…nothing at all."
They looked at the pair one more time, before turning tail.
Rumplestiltskin waited until they were gone before moving to the spikes of bars. Belle reached with her free hand inside and he took it as delicately as porcelain.
"You took your time in coming to visit, dearie," he lightly chided.
"I would've come sooner, but I had to work through your honey-do list," she countered.
She rested her head against a bar as his fingers slowly laced in hers. She closed her eyes, while his flicked over her face, memorizing her.
"Everything's in order," she said, grasping the handle of the basket tighter.
"Packed… Ready to go…"
He raised his other hand to her cheek, pushing curls back and tucking them behind her ear. Her eyes opened to meet his.
"It's going to be alright," he murmured, "I've made sure it will be."
"When, though?" He shrugged.
"In about…twenty-eight years." Belle grimaced.
His hand traced down to her chin, keeping it firmly up.
"We won't even realize our prison…one day we'll wake up and it'll be like we just got there."
"It's easy for you to say. Twenty-eight years is just an eye-blink to you," she grumbled. He smiled.
"I'll wake you up the minute I come to," he leaned against the spikes, his body as close as he could manage to hers, "I promise."
She leaned forward, letting the bars and Rumplestiltskin support her. His promise was as good as a deal, and it eased her anxiety somewhat. Still, the unknown loomed before her, the only certainty that there would be some form of unhappiness waiting for them. They were not the main antagonists, but Regina wouldn't make things easy for them. She didn't want to go to sleep, to fade into some horrid limbo where she might not even recognize Rumplestiltskin. Even if her life wasn't perfect, she enjoyed it.
Rumplestiltskin's lips were on her temple; not kissing, gods no. Just there, a comforting sensation for them both. He watched over the top of her head as a thick green mist started to slink its way down the corridor, coming ever closer to them. He didn't betray what he saw to Belle in any movement or noise.
He closed his eyes while she stared unblinkingly at his chest. The last thing he smelled was her. The last thing he tasted was her. The last thing he felt was her.
It was a jet plane slamming right into his chest, knocking him back. It was a bullet to the head, one that didn't kill him instantly but rather exploded once inside and smeared his brains against his skull. It was a shot to the groin of shock and pain, and a shot to the heart when it finally caught up with the rest of his body.
Mr. Gold kept his cool, even as another life violently asserted itself in his conscious. He smiled and nodded to her.
"What a lovely name."
In fact, it was probably his second favorite name right now. And what a lovely young woman the savior grew up to be.
The flash of sudden knowledge was ebbing thankfully and he tried to put himself back into the proper pair of shoes. He was standing here as Mr. Gold, a pawnbroker and business man with a limp, not the magic-wielding leather-clad Rumplestiltskin. Before him was Granny, not Widow Lucas, and behind him was Ruby, not Red. It was hard to tell whether the looks were normal, or if they suspected anything out of the ordinary. Both personas warranted the reactions he was receiving.
He sized the savior up. She had just arrived to their little town, so she couldn't've done much damage yet. How many realized the truth? Was it just old Regina ruling on her little suburban throne? Even Emma didn't seem too conscious.
"Enjoy your stay…Emma."
He turned to leave, glancing briefly at the not-so-big bad wolf and the bell next to the door.
He nearly tripped over the step as he was struck with another blow. This time, it wasn't knowledge, but urgency that unseated him. He had to go to her. He had to bring her back to him as he promised he'd do. Ignoring the throb in his bad leg, he hurried down the sidewalk, wishing he could run. That evil soul…
Rumplestiltskin had asked Regina for comfort, for a good life for him and his Belle. She had given him exactly what he asked for. They lived in a grand house and wanted for nothing; Regina had even kept their marital ties intact. But their relationship had dissolved into mere civility. They passed each other on their errands occasionally, talked business between their shifts at the pawnshop, told each other goodnight and slept in the same bed. They didn't fight or argue. They didn't do nonsensical romantic gestures or exchange anything more poetic than a tired "love you". The most physically intimate they ever got was a quick peck, and that was only on rare occasions.
It was a comfortable marriage, but stagnant as a glass of water, and he could not see the woman he fell in love with tolerating that.
He rounded the mailbox that proclaimed in calligraphic letters "The Golds", up the steps to pause briefly at the "Welcome" mat before swinging the front door open. He wanted to shout her true name, but stopped himself in the nick of time.
"In here," she called back, a siren to a tired sailor.
He entered the parlor to see that some things never changed. She was curled up in a deep seated chair, legs tucked underneath her and one arm supporting her head. "The Count of Monte Cristo" was unfolded in her lap, long curls cascading like a veil over her face. Twenty-eight years of suppressed passion suddenly bubbled to the surface and it was all he could do not to jump her. She glanced up from her book.
"How was Granny's?" She asked. She then started to take him in, his less-than-perfect appearance, his breathy voice, his wild lustful eyes. She furrowed her eyebrows in confusion, "What's-"
Mr. Gold started forward, closing the distance between them with long strides.
"It's time to wake up, Belle," he murmured. She stared at him.
He cradled her face in his hands and kissed her. Unfortunately he had no time for tenderness, immediately putting his all into it. Belle gave a squeak of surprise, at first unyielding to his advance. Her lips softened, kissing him back tentatively. They held the kiss for as long as Mr. Gold dared, then he slowly retreated.
She stared at him and, for a minute, he feared it hadn't worked after all. Then, she spoke.
"Rumplestiltskin?" She glanced around, bewildered, "Where are we?"
"In a land without magic."
She turned back to him and he restrained himself from kissing her again. Barely. She was processing the merge, two lives forming a similar hybrid to the one he had been experiencing. The dust was quick to settle and she laughed.
"I can kiss you." Her eyes lit up as though he had given her the world. Mr. Gold gave her a wolfish smile back.
"I can kiss you." He proved this fact by doing it again. Belle was only too eager to comply.
"The Count of Monte Cristo" fell to the ground as Mr. Gold continued his advance. Belle uncurled, positioning her legs on either side of him while her arms wrapped around his waist.
They spent the remainder of the night catching up on twenty-eight years of suppressed passion, and nearly three decades of avoiding true love's kiss. They kissed until their lips bled and their lungs burned, feeling as though they were reunited at long last, even if they had never left each other's side.
Just a fun little adventure in What-If Land. The characterization will be a bit off, due to changed past circumstances as well as author's desire to have a whole Bonnie and Clyde vibe added in. And, upon review of the series, there are actual episodes that Robert Carlyle isn't in. Blasphemy, yes, and I hope to somehow force scenes into episodes where he's absent. Care to join me on this wild ride?