A Unique Perspective
In the past…before… Rumplestiltskin had always moved through his castle in near perfect silence. He would slip in and out of rooms with the cat-like grace of a practiced (if manic) dancer, watching Belle clean, drawing up behind her and smiling when he startled her… and she'd find herself glancing over her shoulder just to keep track of him. And then, as time passed and she grew more comfortable with his tricks and teasing, she'd search for him for the thrill of it. She loved to watch his mischievous smile evaporate when she'd catch an unexpected glimpse and ruin his little game. She loved how he'd clap his hands together and point his finger when he'd get the best of her.
But here, sitting on his floor in this tiny American town, it was different. There was no guess work involved. No silent sneakery or clever games. In this new place, there was something about his gait… a certain rhythm that she could feel in the floorboards. She could hear his pacing, all the time, and she wondered if she would ever get used to it. There was still a grace to it, of course. Even with a limp, the man oozed power and charm from every pore. He walked with a sort of back-and-forth step, and even without looking she could track him through the house, following the swing of his bad leg and the pinpoint thud of his cane tapping its way across the floor.
She was half-way through the tenth chapter of Gone With the Wind when she first noticed the noise had stopped.
She looked up.
He stood in the hallway with one hand on the doorframe, looking oddly out of place in a black suit jacket against a backdrop of rose paint and light gold wood. He had evidently been standing there for some time; a self-satisfied little smile pulled at the corner of his mouth when he noticed she'd spotted him.
Without thinking, she set her book face-down on the floor and climbed to her feet.
He started to protest, pulling his hand from the door frame to hold out to her, saying, "Please, don't get up…" but she had already succumbed to old, too-familiar habits, and stood with her hands crossed in front of her, at a sort of attention.
He had never really asked her to—even when he had first brought her to the Dark Castle, he had been a remarkably informal master. But he was her master, once upon a time, and it hadn't ever felt right respond to his arrival in any other way.
At first, she had fretted over propriety. She had tried to remember how her servants treated her back home, and as the fate of her beloved town rested solely in the hands of the notoriously capricious Rumplestiltskin, she had done everything she could to avoid his displeasure. But, as time went by, she found her reasons changing. She wanted to look at him—to look into his huge, glass-like eyes and see her own reflection staring back. To see him smile. She found herself craving more than the absence of disappointment. She wanted his full approval.
And though he was no longer her master, though they were worlds away from the Dark Castle and his eyes were common brown, her motivations had not changed overly much.
After a long moment of silence, when neither of them moved and he looked to her with his eyebrows raised in an expectant expression on his face, she stepped forward and grabbed him gently by the hand, leading him inside. "You are allowed to come in, you know. It is your house."
"Not here it isn't," he said. "The library," he gestured around to the book-lined shelves, matching tan leather armchairs, the fireplace, "is yours."
She wrinkled her forehead in thought. "Since when?"
He lifted her hand, fingers still entwined with his, to his lips. "Since forever."
He gave an expression of mock injury, pulling both their hands to rest against his heart. "Forgive me for trying to be gallant," he said. "The truth could use a little embellishing."
"When," she demanded.
"Since the day you came back to me, my dear."
She laughed. "So, since Wednesday, then."
He smiled—the depth of his expression condensed into the heat of his eyes and the gentle curve of his thinly pressed mouth. It was so different from the toothy, mischievous grin she had come to love. And for some reason, so much more valuable in its subtlety. He lifted his hand and pulled it free from hers long enough to push a curl of hair from her face. "And a fine Wednesday it was."
Linking her arm through his, leaning feather-light against his the side opposite to his cane, she led him to the first of the armchairs. He looked almost regal as he settled himself, with his hands folded over hers and his hair gently dusting his collar.
"Is there something you wanted to talk to me about?" She dragged a worn velvet footstool out from the corner and sat by his feet, face upturned. "Or just visiting?
His fingers shifted position against the back of her hand—a telltale sign something was on his mind—but otherwise he gave no indication of intent or concern. It was funny how she could always tell. He was so different… new and exciting, quiet in all the ways he was once loud, subdued in all the ways he was flamboyant, calm and calculating and so very thrifty with his every expression… and yet sometimes it seemed like nothing had changed. Like she had spent every day of these twenty-eight years at his side, instead of spending of locked up in a box while he forged himself into a new man.
"I was thinking of taking a little road trip soon, now that the curse is broken." He said it in a very conversational tone, keeping hold of his small smile.
She studied him, tracing every line of his face in the revealing light of the bay window. "Go on."
"Perhaps not so little. In fact, I don't intend to be back for some time."
What was he getting at?
Not too long ago, she would have stood up, hands on her hips. She would have given voice to the questions shouting in her mind, without a second thought. Caving to her impatience, she would have ridden the wave of careening emotion (fear that he would leave her, frustration at having to decipher his little word-games, hope at the idea of leaving Storybrooke Hospital far behind like a distant unwanted memory, excitement because perhaps it could just be the two of them and finally, once again, they could be alone) and demand he explain.
She chose her words carefully, studying every tiny twitch in his mouth or flicker of light in his eyes. "And what do you intend to do with me?"
For a moment, she thought he might be flippant—perhaps smile and twitch his head to the side and list a whole realm of possibilities (skin the children he hunted for their pelts), but the times had changed that too, and he looked into her eyes with a very endearing softness and said, "I'd like you to come along, of course. You told me once you wanted to see the world. I'd be happy to show you."
Her chest constricted, heart doing tiny flips in her chest, and she had to remind herself to speak. "Rumplestiltskin…" she narrowed her eyes and looked carefully up into his face, "…are you asking me to run away with you?"
He smiled a crooked little smile and leaned forward, very slightly. His voice seemed a little higher than she'd heard it these past few days. A little lighter. A little more jaunty. "That depends. Are you accepting?"
"Because if you are… that's very romantic of you, you know."
"What do you say, Belle? Come with me. Please."
Just as twenty-eight years had taught him to be subtle and supposedly unreadable, time had taught her the value of silence. And patience.
She waited until he began to worry. Just a little, mind. It wouldn't do to push him too far. She could feel the enthusiasm draining from him, the nervous disappointment settling in like lead, making it ever harder for him to keep still and straight-faced. He took a breath, looked around. "Surely you can't have any love lost on this place."
"You're right about that," she said. She slid her hand onto his knee, and he placed his hand over hers. His palm was dry and warm. "Well, Mister Gold, you've persuaded me. You argue a convincing case."
"I should hope so. I am a lawyer." His relief was evident—though she imagined he thought he was hiding it very well. He moved to stand, offering her a hand up once he had gotten to his feet.
"You're a sweetheart."
He gave a quiet chuckle through his nose. "And you," he said, giving her hand an almost imperceptibly tiny squeeze as he pulled her up, "have a very unique perspective."
She shook her head. "Not really," she said. "I just try a little harder than most people to see what's already there."
He held her at arm's length and looked at her—long and hard, like eternity wouldn't have been long enough to get his fill— and said, "I'll see you tonight, love." He headed back upstairs to get ready to leave for his shop.
She settled back into tan leather armchair with her book, curled against the lingering warmth of his body, and listened to the pinpoint thud of his cane tapping its way across the floor.
A/N: Thanks so much to Anti-Kryptonite for giving me a hand with editing this! I really appreciate it. She's been great to talk to and help me figure out the characters better, and she was very encouraging and patient when I climbed all over her going "will you please look at my story please please please I beg you please". Thanks again. :)
And, of course, reviews are very very welcome.