Title: The Apology
Author: Demelza
Disclaimer: Once Upon A Time and its characters belong to ABC, I'm just borrowing them for a bit.
Fandom: Once Upon A Time
Pairing: Rumplestiltskin/Belle
Rating: U12
Warnings: None
Spoilers: For everything up to and including Broken - (2x01).
Summary: Set directly after the season two premiere, Rumplestiltskin apologizes.

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Hugging her knees to her chest, Belle sat on the armchair beside the bed in Rumplestiltskin's spare room. A single bedside lamp illuminated the room with a warm glow, and she let her gaze drift from the bookshelf pressed against the wall on the other side of the bed, to the closed door alongside of it, then the dresser along from her, in the opposite corner.

Her thoughts drifted and she thought of Rumplestiltskin. Of the way her heart had ached when he asked her, "What, in the hour that you've known me?"

Even after her return from a walk in the storm, which she was the first to admit hadn't been the smartest of ideas given the circumstances, Rumplestiltskin hadn't spoken much. He was different to the man he was when she'd last seen him; he seemed broken, and far more jaded.

Had sending her away really had that much affect on him?

No, she thought. That's not it. That's not the reason why.

For twenty-eight years all she had known was inescapable silence and her own thoughts. She could only imagine the hell Rumplestiltskin's thoughts, the Dark One's thoughts, had done to him.

Belle heard a floorboard creak on the other side of her door, and her heart froze for a moment. Underneath the door, a shadow moved ā€“ almost as if apprehensively.

Lowering her feet to the cold wooden floor, Belle stood and took careful steps toward the door. The shadow moved, and her breath hitched in her throat. Thoughts that she might find Regina on the opposite side of the door caused her heart to race with fear.

Steeling herself, she reached for the door handle and pulled the door open. Rumplestiltskin stood in the dark, dressed in the same attire she'd seen him in some hours ago. His eyebrows were furrowed with anguish, his gaze fixed to the floor.

"Rumplestiltskin?" she asked, feeling her heart begin to race.

"I couldn't sleep," he said, and his eyes finally met hers. "I couldn't stop thinking about all the things I said. All the cruel and venomous words Iā€“I am truly sorry, Belle."

Belle felt her eyes well with tears. "I know."

They stood there for a long minute, both silent, when she said, "I'm sorry too."

His eyes widened, and she could see the shock on his face. "Sweetheart, what have you to apologize for?"

"Causing you so much pain."

Rumplestiltskin took a hobbled step toward her, his cane supporting him. "You never were the cause of my pain, Belle. I'm the one who kept you at arm's length." He closed the distance between them with a few more steps, his face crumpling with sadness. "Rather than admit the truth, I drove you away and then you were ā€“ you were gone."

Tears streaking her cheeks, Belle stepped up to Rumplestiltskin and placed her hands against his warm chest. "I'm here now," she promised.

"Yes. Yes you are," he cried, "My Belle."

More tears welled in her eyes, and she whispered, "My Rumplestiltskin."

Rumplestiltskin brought her into his arms then, hugging her tight and Belle relished the warmth of his body against hers. The road ahead wasn't going to be easy, but whatever came to pass she wasn't going anywhere.