Word count: 2500
Characters/Pairings: Rumplestiltskin, Belle, Rumplestiltskin/Belle, David, mention of Ruby, Henry, Snow and Regina.
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognise belongs to me, including characters and borrowed storylines.
Notes: Child of the Moon episode tag, which has haunted me for weeks, and I've finally been able to write it. David's POV.
Summary: He wishes Ruby hadn't chained Belle up – or that she'd come herself to release her friend. He understands why she did it, and why she'd needed to run free after everything that had happened, but Belle shouldn't have to suffer like this.
David knows he isn't clear on the phone to Gold, knows his message is garbled, his words too hurried, but in the end it doesn't matter. All he really has to say is one word. One name.
"Where?" Gold demands, barking the question at him. David can hear movement on the other end of the line – Gold preparing to leave wherever he is, preparing to come to wherever Belle is.
"We're at the library," he says. "Get here as quickly as you can." He hangs up before Gold can; there's nothing more to say, not until Gold gets here, and he doubts Gold would want him to waste time explaining when Belle is –
She's curled up on the floor, her arms around her bent knees, her face hidden from view. Her wrist is red and raw from her struggles against the chain that had been meant to hold Ruby. She's not crying any longer. She's silent and still – too still, unnaturally so, he can hardly even see her breathing. She makes not a sound. She hasn't spoken to him at all, not when he arrived, not when he freed her – she'd pulled away from him as soon as the manacle was gone from her wrist, her eyes blank and unseeing.
It had made him uncomfortable, that unnerving gaze. As if she has gone to a place where nobody can find her – where nobody can hurt her. He wonders about her, about what fate had been hers for those years of the curse when they'd all forgotten themselves. She had been Regina's prisoner, even before the curse, and David doesn't want to think about that – names himself a coward even as he flinches away from the thought of the tortures that Regina must have visited upon this woman whose only crime was to love Rumplestiltskin.
It's a little of David Nolan bleeding into him, he thinks, but perhaps that's just taking the easy way out.
He misses Snow. She would know just what to do now, just how to talk to Belle. But Snow isn't here; he has to do the best he can without her.
David steps a little closer to Belle, and then he crouches down so he's at her eye level, if she decides to lift her head and look at him, so he won't seem so threatening.
"Belle," he says, trying to keep his voice gentle, "I called Mr Gold. He's on his way over." She doesn't move, doesn't speak, and he shakes his head, grimaces at himself. "Rumplestiltskin, I mean," he says. He knows she calls him that, because unlike the rest of them, she's never known him as Mr Gold. Unlike the rest of them, she's unafraid of him. While everyone else can never forget how powerful Rumplestiltskin is – and how powerful his name can be, in the right circumstances – Belle doesn't ever seem to remember that power. Or perhaps, David thinks absently, perhaps Gold hides it from her.
"He's coming," he repeats firmly, because even if David isn't sure Gold is what Belle deserves, he knows his own feelings are irrelevant here. Gold is probably the only person Belle really trusts, and he's who she needs right now. "He won't be long, I promise."
Belle's breath hitches audibly, and David watches, waits. Her hand twitches, as if she can still feel the manacle on her skin. Her wrist is so sore; there's blood in a couple of places, where the cold metal had rubbed through the skin, and David knows it needs cleaning but she flinches away from him whenever he comes too near, so it will have to wait.
He wishes Ruby hadn't chained Belle up – or that she'd come herself to release her friend. He understands why she did it, and why she'd needed to run free after everything that had happened, but Belle shouldn't have to suffer like this.
Nobody should have to suffer like this.
The library door opens suddenly, swinging wide and hitting the wall with a thump. Belle jumps visibly, jarred into awkward movement, and she lifts a hand as if to ward off a blow. David grimaces, and doesn't think about the blows she's likely received during her imprisonment.
"Belle?" Gold calls, and David rises, turns to greet him. Gold looks at him for barely a moment before dismissing him as unimportant, irrelevant. David supposes he's the same, sometimes, when he's with Snow. "Belle?" Gold repeats, and David steps aside and gestures to the woman still curled into a tight ball on the floor.
There's something dangerous in Gold's eyes as he takes her in, but it's not directed towards Belle, so David says nothing. He still isn't sure how capable Rumplestiltskin is of truly loving anybody, but it's obvious he cares for Belle more than he cares for anyone else.
"Belle," says Gold again, softer this time, a gentle note in his voice that's never there when he speaks to others. He limps towards her, the cane thumping on the tiled floor, but Belle doesn't flinch at the sound. Instead, for the first time in long, agonising minutes, she lifts her head so she can look at him.
Her face is pale, her eyes are red. She's been crying – her cheeks are still damp. Crying silently, the way abused children learn to cry. Silent because she has learned that nobody will come to comfort her.
"I'm here," Gold murmurs. He leans his cane against the table and slowly eases himself down to the ground. It must hurt – there's a grimace of pain, hidden after only a moment – but David doesn't offer to help him. Gold settles himself on the floor next to Belle, and reaches a hand out, palm up. He doesn't touch her, just waits, and after a moment Belle puts her hand in his. The unmarked hand – the damaged wrist is hidden away from him, tucked against her side so he can't see.
She does know how powerful he is, David realises. She knows, and she cares. She doesn't want Rumplestiltskin to let loose bloody vengeance. He's wondered why Gold hasn't gone after Regina, for locking Belle up; now he knows why.
He needs to learn to stop underestimating Belle, he tells himself. She's won Rumplestiltskin's heart, after all. She isn't the fragile maiden she appears.
"Here," says Gold, and he produces a handkerchief, offers it to Belle. She doesn't take it; David can see her clutching his hand tightly, as if she doesn't want to let go. Gold smiles a tight smile, and lifts the cloth, dries her face carefully, tenderly.
David almost wants to look away, but he's fascinated despite himself.
"Let me see your hand?" Gold asks then, a question rather than a demand. He's seen what Belle is trying to hide, and she looks away from him, biting her lower lip. She doesn't speak, but her hesitation is clear. Gold tilts his head and puts his damp handkerchief away. "Will you let me see?" he asks. "I could heal it, if you wanted."
He's offering, not insisting. David thinks there's an important difference there, somehow – and certainly Belle seems to appreciate the difference. She exhales, a slow, shaking breath, and then she nods and lifts her hand up so Gold can see it.
"Thank you," says Gold. It's heartfelt, and this time David does look away, just for a moment. There's something very vulnerable about Gold, when he's with Belle like this. Belle could hurt him; that's not something David has ever thought about Rumplestiltskin before. Rumplestiltskin is so very powerful, so very ancient.
But he remembers that day in the forest, when David had been trying to reach Snow before it was too late. Rumplestiltskin had spoken of Belle then, although he'd never mentioned her name. It had been the first time – the only time, if David is honest – that he'd thought of Rumplestiltskin as more than just an evil being. More than just the Dark One.
Belle makes him more human. David hopes she realises just how much power that gives her.
"Nasty," Gold murmurs. "May I?" David looks back in time to see Belle give a brief nod, and Gold passes his hand across Belle's wrist, covering it with dark coils of magic. In a moment the power has faded, leaving Belle's wrist smooth and unblemished once more. "Much better," says Gold.
"Thank you," says Belle, her voice hoarse and raspy. She leans into Gold then, lets him put his arm around her. "I'm sorry," she says then, and David wants to stop her, to tell her that of all of them, she has the least reason to be apologetic. But he doesn't; it's not his place. "I know you were busy tonight."
"Don't apologise," says Gold. There's something fierce in his voice, and he glances up at David, his expression grim. "You know you only have to ask and I'm here, Belle."
"I know," she murmurs. "I just…I just panicked a little. I'm fine."
"You're not fine," says Gold flatly. "What happened?" But Belle shakes her head, her lips pressed firmly together. She won't answer. She's protecting her friend, even when her friend was the one who did this to her. It's brave, and loyal, and it makes David like her even more.
"Belle," says Gold, "please, tell me."
She sighs, shakes her head again. "I don't like being locked up," she says, and that's all she says, even when Gold asks her once more what happened. Gold looks up at David then, a snarl on his mouth and ice in his eyes, and demands answers.
"We put the chains in here to keep Ruby locked up," says David, and feels he's betraying Belle when she looks at him in disappointment, her eyes wide and her mouth pulled down in a frown. "In case she was – just in case. But Ruby locked Belle up instead, and went to face the mob."
"Ruby," Gold repeats, low and dangerous, and David knows that tone of voice – he knows that expression. The vulnerability is gone, and all that is left is the Dark One. "The werewolf."
"Stop it," says Belle, sharp and firm, and she lifts her healed hand and tugs at Gold's lapel. "Just – stop it!"
"Belle –" Gold begins, but Belle shakes her head and thumps her hand against his shoulder.
"No," she says. "It's not Ruby's fault. She was doing the best she could. She didn't know I'd – she couldn't know." Ruby hadn't known – David knows that. He knows that if Ruby had any idea of how badly Belle would react to being locked up, she would have found some other way, or at least would have remembered to send somebody to unlock her much sooner.
But Ruby hadn't known, and Belle had spent several hours chained up in the library. It must have been hell for her, but she's still defending her friend, still arguing with Rumplestiltskin. She is papering over the cracks, until the cracks are buried deep enough to be forgotten.
"And look," says Belle, drawing Gold's attention back to her wrist. "All healed. There's no harm done."
"Belle," says Gold, and the dangerous note has gone from his voice, leaving only helplessness behind. "Belle, you know I –" He doesn't finish his sentence, and David is left wondering what he was going to say. But Belle doesn't seem to wonder; she seems to understand without needing to hear the words. She smiles – a broken smile that fits badly onto her face but a smile nonetheless.
"I know," she says. "But I'll be alright."
"If you're sure," says Gold, still a little helpless, a little too vulnerable. David promises himself that he will try to forget all he's seen here, once they part ways. He doesn't need to see this, doesn't need to remember it. Neither Gold nor Belle will thank him for keeping the memory.
"I'm not," says Belle, and her smile is a little more real now, a little less jarring. "But you doing something stupid won't make me any better."
Gold sighs, a dramatic little huff that's a return to form. "Well, if you say so," he says, his tone light again, lilting and a little sarcastic. Back to normal. "It would make me feel better, though." He's teasing, David realises, and Belle responds to it, warmth in her eyes and her hand lifting to touch his cheek.
"Take me home," she entreats. "I just want to go home."
"Of course," says Gold at once. They part, and Belle gets up, holds her hands out to help him. He accepts the help from Belle, but once he's upright he takes his cane and stands independent. He kicks a foot against the chain lying on the floor. "Get rid of that, would you?" he says to David – not a request, although it's framed like one. It's an order, and David knows it as such.
"Of course," he says. "Will you be alright, Belle?" He thinks she will be – he thinks she will heal from this, and heal stronger than before. But he has to ask anyway, because it had shaken him, seeing her so unresponsive. She is so bright, so vivacious – so determined – that seeing her locked up inside herself had felt utterly wrong.
"I think so," says Belle. She tucks her arm through Gold's, a natural fit, and David sees the way Gold's mouth softens as he looks at her. "Thank you," she says to David. "For helping me."
"Anytime," says David, and he means it. Belle smiles, and she leans against Gold as they leave the library together. David watches them go, waits until the door swings shut behind them before he goes to pick up the chains.
He will try to forget this, he vows to himself. He will try to forget the way Gold looked at her, the vengeance in his eyes when he'd heard what had happened to his beloved, because there are far too many ways for this relationship to go wrong. Rumplestiltskin has far too many enemies, and David knows, now, that Belle is the only thing holding Rumplestiltskin back.
That's a terrifying thought, so David will try to forget all of this. Once the chains are gone, there will be no sign of what happened here in the library tonight. It will be as if it never happened.
If only everything could be washed away like this, David thinks, and he wraps the chains into a coil and lifts it over his shoulder. If only Snow were here. He misses talking to her, and this…he wishes he could talk to her about this. But she isn't here, and he cannot share this with anybody.
Forget it, he tells himself firmly. Forget it. Belle is fine, and Gold is restrained, and Ruby is not a murderer. Today is done. There will be enough problems tomorrow without holding onto today's.
He locks the library behind himself and goes home, to Mary Margaret's apartment – to Henry – and he tries to forget.