TITLE: Something a Bit More Special
FANDOM: Once Upon A Time
CHARACTERS: Rumplestiltskin (Mr. Gold) / Belle
WARNINGS: Spoilers for all Season 1 and Ep. 1 of Season 2
DISCLAIMER: Owned by ABC, Disney, the brothers Grimm, Mother Goose and many others. I own nothing.
TIMELINE: set after 2.01 Broken
SUMMARY: He, who so prided himself on controlling every situation, on having considered every potential outcome to any interaction, found himself in uncharted territory. Belle was a lady, raised in a time and tradition of rigid social rules and a strict definition of Happily Ever After. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Happily Ever After did not include him. Much less sharing a bed with him, unwed, unpromised and half at odds. He would ruin her.
NOTES: This is an edited version of this story to meet content standards. If you want the Full Monty version, please see my posting at An Archive Of Our Own.
NOTE2: This is the first in an ongoing Rumbelle series.
All magic came at a price. Rumplestiltskin had always known that - always leveraged that particular caveat to his own nefarious ends. He understood magic's price was always specific. And personal. And regardless of what anyone did to try and outwit the price, it never failed to completely take them by surprise. How many desperate souls on the wrong end of one of his deals truly believed they had nothing to lose only to find their entire worlds ripped away?
So how had he known this fact, lived by this fact, and still had the hubris to think that because he had willfully, knowingly, purposefully sacrificed his entire (literally) world, the cost of magic would be paid? Or rather, if there was another cost to pay, it would be Regina making the payment - preferably with her life.
And truth be told, it had actually never occurred to him that there might be a price for bringing magic to this forsaken land.
But magic, as always, found a way to get her pound of flesh. Human flesh this time. Far more tender than imp.
As difficult as it had been to orchestrate his manipulations without the aid of magic, Rumplestiltskin had found certain pleasures in this brave new world. Certain pleasures in living life as a man. He hadn't expected the pleasures. Creature comforts to be certain - he had expected, nay demanded, those. But the pleasure was a surprise. And of course, magic exacted her price.
First and foremost among his pleasures was learning that he didn't need to be a literal monster to bend the residents of Storybrooke to his will. No, he accomplished that quite effectively in purely human form. As a man he could wield all the influence he had possessed as the Dark One, something he had never dreamed possible. And as it turned out, power was just as seductive in this land as the last. It sustained him when little else did.
But magic's price, while significantly less spectacular and theatrical in this world, was nonetheless just as real as it was in his homeland. Human form, it turned out, was more than just skin deep. Whatever shield his impish form had provided in his previous life, he learned that now he was just a man. He learned when he was unable to look at himself in the mirror, it was neither because he feared Regina's watchful eye, nor his own demonic guise. It was simply shame that kept him from looking.
And the fact that he didn't care to recognize the desperate soul staring back at him with oh so human eyes.
A thick human skin, while not quite as effective as imp flesh, could be built up. It just took time and effort and he had both of those in spades. So thicken his skin he did, callous by callous, carefully crafting his emotional armour with every deceitful manipulation, every hateful act until he believed himself well and truly insulated from the price of his actions.
There were chinks in his armour to be certain. Bae being the deepest, cutting right to the bone. Even moreso now in this world devoid of magic, because there was always the hope that he could find Bae again.
But Rumplestiltskin knew better than most the seductive trap of hope. The wound of Bae's loss was such a constant, such a persistent companion, that deep as it was, even it no longer held the power to decimate all of his armour. No, that particular trick lay with her and her alone.
As he looked at her, he longed for his impish form. Not that it would have done any good, she had seen through that guise. But sitting here, staring at her, human to human, he felt excruciatingly vulnerable and exposed.
"Do you want some tea?" she asked, lifting the teapot, one delicate eyebrow arched in question.
"Uh, yes," he stammered, turning away, rummaging through a stack of papers on the desk, trying desperately to seem distracted and busy.
Everyone feared him. In this world and the last.
Everyone except Belle.
He considered for a moment that the downside of being feared was that when one was so thoroughly feared, one never had to work on any interpersonal skills. The power imbalance in his interactions was always so pronounced that he could simply manipulate or bully or cow everyone as he pleased.
Everyone except Belle.
Not that he wanted to manipulate or bully or cow her, but even if he did, it would have been pointless. Those exercises - so effective on everyone else - had always been futile on her. They didn't work. She saw right through the lies he told her, but more importantly, she saw right through the lies he told himself.
And the result was that he had nowhere to hide. Nowhere to hide from her. And increasingly, nowhere to hide from himself.
He had been a man - most recently - for twenty-eight years. If you wanted to combine that with his pre-dagger days, (which he generally did not) he amassed a not-inconsiderable sevently-two years in human form.
He was a human, with base human needs. He enjoyed a rare steak, a fine whiskey and, on occasion, a willing woman. He harbored no illusions about his physical attractiveness, but he also didn't martyr himself. He wasn't an imp, just a man. And power, he knew, was more than enough incentive for the right type of woman.
So it wasn't like he was some virginal lad tripping over his own feet at his first village dance.
So why did he feel like one?
He had no idea what to do or what to say to Belle. And when he fell back into his default mode of lashing out, she either chose to ignore him or oh so helpfully pointed out all the ways he was deceiving himself. He'd finally just stopped talking. A human ego could only take so much.
He glanced up, watching her pour the tea. Her eyes were downcast, intent on her task, but a small, gentle smile curved her lips. She was amused. With him. He was not unaccustomed to people reacting to him. People never failed to have a reaction to him. Rage. Fear. Usually both. But amusement. No one had been amused with him since …
Point of fact, he didn't think anyone had ever been amused with him. Part of his oh so human brain recognized that he should be angered by this. His ego should demand appeasement. But it didn't. Because right hand to a God that did not exist, the sight of her smile literally took his breath away.
He had to consider that perhaps this was magic exacting her most recent toll. Maybe his price to pay for resurrecting his ability to perform his tricks was the cost of his personal illusions. Because power was the only thing he had ever wanted. And staring at Belle he knew, power was the one thing he would never have over her.
He tried to take comfort in the knowledge that she was a patient and gentle mistress. But it was of little use. Every dark thing in him wanted to shove her away, to run from her presence, to put enough distance between them that he would never again be at her mercy.
But it was pointless. Because he was human. And this weak human form that he had so despised turned out to be far stronger than he could have imagined. This human form wanted her - more to the point, this human form could not live without her. Not again. Not ever.
He watched as she carefully took the cups from the table and walked to the lovely antique couch in his formal sitting room, gently placing the cups on the coffee table. She sat down, pulling her bare feet under her body, curling into the arm of the couch as she reached for her cup. Delicately, she blew on her tea before taking a tentative sip. Eventually she glanced over at him and smiled. "Join me," she said, patting the cushion.
He nodded mutely, using his cane to push himself up from the desk. This was becoming routine for them in the days since she stumbled into his shop asking for his protection. She stayed with him in his home that had never felt like a home until she arrived. This house was not so sprawling as the Dark Castle they had previously shared, but it still should have afforded both of them a modicum of privacy.
That first night, he had shown her to one of the extra rooms, light and airy - if unused - with a view of the gardens. Or at least it would once the sun rose.
Belle had merely pursed her lips together and walked past him and back into the hall. She was as unimpressed with these accommodations as she had been with her dungeon in his castle. He watched as she went room to room turning on lights, searching until she found the room where he slept.
She walked to the heavy curtains and gave them a questioning tug. Glancing over her shoulder at him, she asked, "Nail them down again?"
He smiled uncomfortably. "Old habits, sweetheart."
Shaking her head sadly, she sat down on the edge of the bed. Their bed, he mentally corrected. He was forced to reach for the doorframe to steady himself, rocked by the potent mix of anticipation and terror that thought conjured.
He, who so prided himself on controlling every situation, on having considered every potential outcome to any interaction, found himself in uncharted territory. Belle was a lady, raised in a time and tradition of rigid social rules and a strict definition of Happily Ever After. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Happily Ever After did not include him. Much less sharing a bed with him, unwed, unpromised and half at odds. He would ruin her.
But Belle was a woman, not a child. And considering she had spent the last three decades as Regina's prisoner, he was in no mood to lecture her on what she could and could not do with her life, heart and body.
In the end, Belle took pity on them both and simply curled up at his side, both of them fully clothed. They laid there in the dark, fingers twined together until their frustratingly frail human forms finally succumbed to the exhaustion of the day.
And so their routine began, though he did procure a proper nightgown for her. Their nights together were still frustratingly chaste. To have her so close, to feel the heat of her body, to smell her perfume was exquisite torture. He waited, night after night. That was all he could do. To reach for her, to initiate contact was beyond him. It would have implied that he in any way considered himself worthy of touching her and that simply was not true. He would protect her - with his own paltry life if necessary. But he was not worthy of her. They both knew that though Belle often chose to ignore it.
Slowly, he lowered himself onto the opposite end of the couch from her. He set his cane aside so he could reach for the cup of tea. He sat there mutely, concentrating on the feel of the cup warming the tips of his fingers.
"Are you hungry?" she asked. "I can make you something to eat."
"Oh," he said, looking at her for a moment, as if trying to process her words. Then he smiled tightly and shook his head. "No. No I'm fine. Thank you."
She smiled and an ache settled somewhere in the part of his chest that might have once contained a heart.
"You know," she said, scooting closer to him, "you originally wanted me as a caretaker and you're not letting me take much care of you."
He frowned at her in mock severity. "That was a lifetime ago, sweetheart. And it is now my turn to take care of you." He contemplated the cup again. "It's the least I can do."
"Your penance, you mean," she offered, watching him carefully. He looked away, delicately setting down his cup. She scooted closer until her toes brushed against his thigh. "Regina imprisoned me," she said firmly. "Not you."
A surprised bark of laughter erupted from him and Belle's brow furrowed into a scowl.
"It's true," she said, sounding surprisingly petulant.
He looked at her, his mouth hard, but his eyes gentle. "Sweetheart, the only reason Regina paid you any attention at all was because of me. Her Majesty does not make a habit of taking an interest in the chamber maids."
"Rumplestiltskin," Belle countered firmly, pushing herself onto her knees and facing him. "I have no doubt that you have numerous sins to atone for, but this one is Regina's, not yours."
He stared at her, awed as much by her loyalty as her naivete. He swallowed thickly. "As you wish, Belle," he answered lightly, his gaze falling from hers and fixing somewhere in the distance.
She frowned at him, knowing that her words had done nothing to change his mind. She sighed, irritated with this line of conversation and searching for some way to connect to him. She stared at his profile, astounded by both the similarities and differences between his human and imp forms. He was not an unattractive man, though he certainly was no Prince Charming. Not that she wanted Prince Charming. Belle had long found that a pleasing face was no substitute for an agile mind. And Rumplestiltskin's mind - and morality - were nothing if not agile. Too agile by far.
Her eyes narrowed as her gaze traced the perimeter of his stubble covered jaw, the sinewy line of his neck, following it until his swarthy skin disappeared from view beneath the exquisitely tailored navy blue shirt.
He turned his head toward hers, putting his face in uncomfortably close proximity to hers. He could feel the warm puff of her breath against his skin.
Playfully, she cocked her head to the side, locking her gaze with his. "So," she said slowly, drawing out the word. "Is it time?" She licked her lips, watching as his gaze reflectively dropped to the movement.
"I …. uh," he stammered. His gaze snapped back to hers and he gave a little flick of his head as if trying to clear his thoughts. "I don't know what you mean."
"Time," she repeated - slowly, deliberately. "You said there would be time for … everything."
She watched the movement of his throat as he swallowed. "Oh," he said quietly, his voice hoarse. "That."
"Yes," she replied, lips curving into a wide smile. "That."
He took a deep breath and opened his mouth, but got no farther. Belle knew. She knew what he was going to do. He was going to retreat again, to come up with some excuse to leave, some errand of vital importance and she simply was not having it. Not this time. Not tonight. She had more than enough courage for both of them.
Springing up, she planted her palms, one against each of his shoulders, and pushed him back into the cushions of the couch. He raised his hands though she knew he wasn't sure if he wanted to push her away or pull her close. She solved the dilemma for him, straddling his hips and sinking down into his lap, face to face.
His hands reflexively found her hips and she could hear his breath catch in his throat. She leaned in close, her breasts brushing against his chest, her lips grazing the shell of his ear. "I don't know if you remember," she said quietly. "But I promised to stay with you forever."
For a moment, his fingers bit into her hips, but she could feel him force himself to relax. "I remember you leaving," he said, attempting to sound flippant and mostly failing.
Ignoring the way he was trying to twist the events of their past, she pressed on. "I won't be without you," she said. "Not tonight." She pulled back just far enough to look into his eyes and then very deliberately pushed her lips to his. She could feel him fight it for a heartbeat, then another. But his resolve was weak and as her lips parted, his tongue tangled with her own. She pulled him closer, one hand threading through his hair as the other gripped his shoulder.
He breathed her name against her lips like a prayer, his fingers biting into her hips, pulling her closer. She groaned, her eyes twisting shut as her head fell back, overcome with sensation.
His baser instincts finally overrode his good intentions and he took advantage of her position, his blunt teeth scraping against the the milky white flesh of her throat. He inhaled deeply. She smelled so damn good. Why was that? How as that? She was a human, just like the rest of them. The fact that this forsaken world failed to make Belle ordinary, enflamed his senses.
Her hand in his hair pulled him closer and he gently bit down on her neck, delighting in the feel of her shivering against him. One of his hands splayed against the soft sweater covering her rib cage, the tip of his thumb rubbing against the under side of her breast. She cupped his hand with her own, urging him to cradle her cashmere clad breast in his palm.
Her breath caught in her throat, encouraging him and he sealed his lips against her neck, sucking intently. It was going to bruise. He knew that and he didn't care. The idea of visibly marking her as his, however briefly, brought him unbelievable satisfaction. Human or not, he was a staggeringly selfish creature. It was not in his nature to deny himself anything and when all of his good intentions were otherwise engaged, he found that his only desire was to drag her to the floor and take her.
Belle was apparently of a like mind. She shifted, falling to the side, landing sprawled on her back on the sofa, pulling him with her, on top of her. He went gladly, covering her body with his own, their legs tangling, her hips cradling his. They both pushed impatiently at his suit jacket, shoving it off his shoulders and down his arms until he could fling it away. There was a crash of shattering porcelain and he considered for a split second that those shards might one day be as precious to him as her chipped cup, though for far less virtuous reasons.
Grabbing his tie, he yanked it free with two good tugs. Belle busied herself with the buttons of his shirt, managing to free only two of them before he growled impatiently, ripping the shirt open and sending buttons flying.
She giggled in delight, pulling him closer as she splayed her hands against the searing hot flesh of his chest. She circled her arms around him, her fingertips tracing his over his skin, mapping the sinew and bone and flesh of his human form.
He captured her lips again, kissing her deeply while his fingers gently stroked at the exposed flesh of her waist where her sweater and jeans failed to meet. She waited, kissing him eagerly as his fingers so tentatively ventured under her sweater, across the skin of her stomach and ribs. Together they pulled the sweater over her head and then he stared in blatant fascination as she contorted her arm behind herself and released the clasp on her bra.
She started to pull the bra away, but he stopped her, staring down at her, breathless. "Wait," he said.
She smiled up at him, doing as he asked. He looked at her for a long time before he finally raised one of his hands to toy gently with the lace edge of her undergarment. He laughed softly to himself in disbelief. "You are so precious to me," he said, looking up, meeting her gaze.
She smiled, her eyes pricking with tears. "I love you too."
He gazed into her eyes for several heartbeats and then nodded.
He pushed himself back, swallowing harshly as he looked away. "We, uh … We should go upstairs."
"Oh no," she countered quickly, tugging him back down. "We're not going anywhere."
He looked at her with confused amusement.
She shifted, wrapping her legs around his waist, causing them both to gasp in pleasure at the contact. He ducked his head, kissing her deeply as one of his hands ripped her bra away, tossing it over his shoulder to fall on the floor.
She broke the kiss, head falling back as she gasped for air. "We're not going anywhere," she said, her voice quavering, "until this deal is well and truly struck."
He chuckled. "Whatever you wish, Belle. I aim to please," he said, grinning.
She looked at him in mock censure. "You are a wicked creature, Rumplestiltskin."
"Are you complaining, sweetheart?" he asked deviously.
She smiled at him with unabashed joy. "Merely making an observation," she said, turning his words against him.
He stared at her again in wonder for a moment. Damn, he loved this woman. She pulled his head down for a kiss and he went eagerly. Their tongues tangled for long minutes and somewhere in the frantic discovering of new skin, they both managed to lose the rest of their clothing. And the other teacup. And possibly the teapot, but neither of them cared.
They were both quiet for a long time. They lay there, sated for the moment. Her legs were still wrapped around his hips and her fingers idly toyed with the sweat damp hair at the nape of his neck.
Gently he traced his fingertips across the creamy flesh of her chest, over her collarbone. "I'm still a coward," he said softly.
She tilted her head to look at him in question.
"I'm too weak to let you go," he said flatly. "You're stuck with me."
She smiled widely. "Love is not a weakness," she said, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips. "Love is our strength and I will make a believer out of you if it's the last thing I do."
He smiled at her, totally unconvinced.
"Come on," she said, urging him up off the couch.
"Where are we going?"
She took his hand in her own. "To bed."
The End - for now.