Word count: 1083
Characters/Pairings: Rumplestiltskin, Belle, mention of Baelfire and Prince Charming.
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognise belongs to me, including characters and borrowed storylines.
Notes: Spoilers for episode 2.02, 'We Are Both'. Includes reference to this letter: fuckyeahbelleandrumpelstilts kin . com . tumblr post/31222112132/danceswithsummer-rumples-new-letter (remove spaces!)
Summary: "Life is full of setbacks. You'll figure it out."
"I'm in here," Belle calls, putting down her book and draining the last, cold dregs from her cup of tea. She hears the front door close, hears his footsteps and the tap of his cane as he approaches, but she doesn't get up, too comfortable curled up in the armchair that smells of him. She waits, and smiles when Rumplestiltskin appears in the doorway. "Hello," she says, and he exhales, steps into the room and comes straight to her. He reaches out for her, and she takes his hand, lets him squeeze it tight. He's relieved, she sees. She's not quite sure why.
"Belle," he murmurs. He clears his throat, glances around. "I see you managed to navigate the kitchen," he says, and Belle nods.
"Your instructions were very clear," she says. She'd woken alone, and for moments she'd been afraid, so terribly afraid, that he had left her. Then she'd reached out her hand and found the letter left on the pillow beside her. The letter he'd written her, his words making her smile. His declaration of love, the idea that he couldn't wait to tell her again that he loves her.
He's smiling now, just a small thing, the corners of his mouth turned upwards just a little. "I'm glad," he says.
"And," Belle says softly, "I love you too." He exhales, some tension leaving him, and bends over her hand, kisses her knuckles. Belle looks at him closely, sees the way he's holding himself, the slight paleness to his face. "What is it?" she asks him then. "What's wrong? Has something happened?"
"No," Rumplestiltskin denies at once. "No, nothing's happened." Belle lifts an eyebrow, shakes her head at him. He'd promised no more lies, and she knows he's lying now. Perhaps he's trying to protect her, but she's a big girl. She won't break. "It's…an unforeseen complication," he says after a moment, acquiescing to her silent demand. "I'll find a way around it. Eventually."
Belle purses her lips and looks up at him. His expression is tightly controlled, his gaze skittering away from her, and she doesn't like it. Whatever has happened to hurt him – for she's sure he's hurting, sure there's something pained beneath the controlled exterior – she doesn't like it.
"Tell me?" she asks him, and he closes his eyes, grips her hand tightly. Belle waits, counts her breathing while she waits, and then changes approach. "Alright," she says, "sit down." He opens his eyes and frowns down at her, but Belle doesn't let his confusion stop her. She stands up and uses their joined hands to manoeuvre him down into the chair. His cane falls to the floor, but they both ignore it. "Am I going to hurt you if I sit too?" she asks him, and Rumplestiltskin shakes his head, bemused, his mouth open as if he means to ask a question. Belle ignores it, and carefully seats herself in his lap. His arms come around her, supporting her as well as embracing her, and Belle leans against him. "You'll tell me if I hurt your leg," she says, not quite a question.
"I think I could quite happily put up with a bit of pain for this, sweetheart," Rumplestiltskin murmurs, and Belle smiles, turns her face to his and kisses him. He lifts a hand to her face, strokes his fingers across her cheek. "I'll tell you," he says when they part, and she nods, satisfied. The last thing she wants is to hurt him – although she likes to know that he would put up with it, for the sake of having her close to him like this. She doesn't want to cause him pain, of course, but she likes these little things that let her know how much she means to him.
He sighs then, a long exhalation, and she curls into him and plays with the buttons of his waistcoat. She can wait for him to tell her; he will, now. Patience is a virtue she's had to learn, not a natural inclination, but it's a lesson she's learned well.
"It's not going to be as easy as I had hoped," he says at last. "According to Prince Charming, anyone who crosses the town border forgets their true self." He sneers at the name, but she lets it go. She doesn't know the prince, doesn't know how he came by that name, but it's not important right now.
"So what does that mean, exactly?" she asks, keeping her voice soft, gentle. "If you leave, you'll forget who you are? You'd forget about your son?"
"Yes." He bites the word off, angry and full of bitterness. "I had assumed that once the curse was broken…" He grimaces, and Belle lifts a hand to his face, strokes away the scowl. "Magic doesn't work the same way here," he says. "I should have anticipated it, but…"
Belle bites her lip for a moment, shakes her head. "Even you can't foresee everything," she reminds him, and his mouth twists; he wants to deny it. "All it means is you have to find another way," she says, and when he tries to speak she puts two fingers to his mouth to stop him. "You're smart," she says, "you'll figure out a way."
Rumplestiltskin sighs again, and he kisses her fingertips. "You have so much faith," he says, and he seems almost sad about it. "You're so sure."
Belle smiles, and shrugs her shoulders. "Maybe I am," she says. "But I know you, Rumplestiltskin. You won't let something like this stop you from finding your son." Warmth creeps into his expression then, the lines of his face softening as he looks at her. Her fingers are still at his face, resting against his cheek, and he lifts a hand to hold hers, turns his head and kisses her fingertips again.
"You're right," he says. "But it's a setback."
"Yes," Belle agrees. "But life is full of setbacks. You'll figure it out." She leans closer and kisses him again, soft and warm and full of reassurance. When they part she touches her lips, still so surprised that she can do this, that she is allowed to kiss him, that he welcomes it. His expression as he looks at her is awed; he feels the same, she knows. Barely able to believe that this is real.
"I love you," he says, dazedly. "Have I said so yet today?"
"Not out loud," she says, and she kisses him again, just because she can.