Author's Note: Written for comment_fic on LiveJournal from a prompt by mahm_fic, who asked for: Once Upon A Time, Belle/Rumpelstiltskin, She reads books about zoos, animals and other things that she can't see in Storybrooke. It makes her want to help Rumpelstiltskin break the curse more. First time publishing something for Once Upon a Time, although I have various incomplete works for various pairings on my hard drive. Title taken from "Wrapped Up in Books" by Belle & Sebastian. Enjoy!
Belle had always loved reading books - there was something about losing yourself in the fantasy of a good story that was like no other feeling in the world. She could read about all the things that she could never find anywhere else; she could read about ancient civilizations and colonizing outer space and anything else that had been written down in words, all without leaving the comforts of Storybrooke - not that she could, but she didn't have to go anywhere to travel the world.
She could just curl up in an easy chair, her feet tucked under her, and read until the darkness outside turned into light, words and pictures swirling in front of her like poetry in motion.
Her latest obsession was reading about things that other people got to see on a regular basis, but that she never would; Storybrooke was like an one-way mirror. They could look out, but the world couldn't look back, and it was always a matter of "you can look, but you can never touch." She could see the sky stretch on endlessly above her, but she couldn't see what lands lay beyond the town borders.
Her books would have to fill in the gaps for her.
So she read about fantastic trips to foreign lands with names like Greece and Morocco and India - she could only imagine the adventures that she could have, if only she could tred in the same footsteps of those adventurers who came before her. Her dreams were filled with the visions of cruises around the Mediterranean and hiking the Australian Outback. Even the thought of seeing what this New York City she had read so many books about was a new and exciting thought.
But her favorite thing to read about in these long, lonely stretches of solitude and reflection were the animals. She was familiar with animals, of course, but only those that dared to enter the sanctity of their realm; the thought of an animal with a neck that reached up into the sky - a giraffe, her books said - or an animal with a long snout that dragged near to the ground - an elephant - and all the others that populated the animal kingdom. They seemed far too fantastical to be real; she thought they must be figments of the imagination of one of her fantasy writers, despite the photorealism present in the pictures. She traced the mane of a lion and the horn of a rhinoceros with the tips of her fingers and wondered what it would be like to see one of these for herself.
She'd never get to see one of these things they called hippopotamuses for herself, she thought, closing a book entitled Animals of Africa and exhaling with a sad sigh. Not as long as they remained stuck here.
Her books talked about something called a zoo, where people could go to see the animals from behind a barrier, like that of a fence or a pane of glass - and she wondered if that was anything like an asylum for animals. Did the animals beg to find a way out, plotting their escape as crowds of people flocked by on a daily basis? Were their calls and cries more of a way of crying out for help? Most major cities had one of these zoos - Storybrooke didn't, that was for sure. And that would be the closest thing she could probably ever have to seeing these majestic creatures for herself. Regardless of how inhumane she found the practice, she doubted that she would ever get the chance to go to all these different countries and see the animals in their natural habitats. And maybe some of them were, in fact, happy. Maybe it was different than how she was envisioning it after all.
She heard a rustling noise from behind the bookshelves, and she turned to face the source of the noise - and then Mr. Gold - Rumplestiltskin, she amended, who was the whole reason she even had this sanctuary all to herself - popped out from around the corner. "Is everything alright, dearie?" he asked, looking at her with something akin to concern lining his face, as he moved next to her.
She shrugged her shoulders. "Yes. I was just reading about these animals, and realizing that I'll never get to see them as long as I live. I can read all about them, but I can never see them."
"How is that any different than when you spent a week devouring every book this library has on ancient Egypt? You can't go back in time and see what their lives were like firsthand." He stroked his hand along the upper part of her arm in what she supposed was supposed to be a comforting gesture; she felt tiny little goosebumps raise up where his fingers traced her skin.
"Because I could. If I wasn't here. If I was anywhere else but here, basically." She looked up at him and forced a smile, even though she felt like frowning all the same. "I want this curse broken. I want to help you do it."
"Are you sure?" His smile stretched into a broad grin and he tightened his grip on her arm. "Because you know - if you say you want to, and then go back on it -"
"It won't be pleasant, I know." She knew his reputation, and she knew what he had done both here and in the past, but she doubted that he would ever consciously do something to harm her in any way. Not now. "But I still want to."
"If you so wish."
Her heart fluttered ever-so-slightly at his pronouncement. Maybe there was a way out of this - a way to see the world around them, see where else the sun shined. And maybe see some of the places and animals that she had only ever read about. And it would be through him - all the roads in her life led to, and through, him.
One of these days, she'd get to see her giraffes and lions and maybe even those panda bears she'd read about in a different book. One of these days.