~~~~Storybrooke, Sheriff's Office~~~~
Mr. Gold sat in the cell cradling his cup in his hands.
He'd almost lost it today, he couldn't believe how close he'd got. It meant everything to him and that…that woman knew it would cut him deeply. That's all she ever did was cut deep gaping gashes into his soul. Both her and her mother.
He shook his head; he didn't want to think about either of them at this moment. He was going to spend the rest of this miserable holiday thinking of her.
She would've loved Valentine's Day. The flowers, the chocolates, the cards, it would all be enchanting to her, and being with her would be good enough for him. He would've picked her roses out of his own garden early in the morning and set one for her on her pillow for when she woke up. The fresh flowery scent stirring her from sleep she would yawn and stretch, slipping on her fuzzy slippers and coming downstairs where he'd have her tea and breakfast warm and waiting with another rose, but he'd be nowhere to be seen. Another rose would be taped to the front door, with a note requesting her to meet him at his shop. She would dress in a beautiful, tasteful outfit with her hair done to perfection – even in the Dark Castle when she would spend all day scrubbing floors and cooking, not one hair was out of place. She would come down to his shop, that curious smile would be on her face. On the counter would be a book, with a card, her name scrawled across the front of it in his handwriting. The rest of the card would be blank save for a page number. She'd flip the book open and there would be an illustration of a rose and a note taped to the pages, enticing her into the back room. He wouldn't be there, oh no, that would make the game to easy. She would find yet another rose and an invitation to dinner found inside a box of chocolate covered cherries - those were his favorite so he just pretended those were hers too. The invitation would be for Le Poisson's at eight o'clock, and for her to dress formally. On the back would be a note telling her that she should look inside the trunk of his car. It would be parked in its space behind the shop. She'd pop the trunk and inside would be a wrapped present. She'd open it and her face would light up at the beautiful sapphire blue gown lying inside. She would wear that this evening. Underneath the dress are shoes and earrings to match. They would bring out the azure in her eyes.
"Hey Gold," barked Emma, snapping him out of his fantasy. "I've been calling you for like five minutes."
"I heard you…I just preferred ignoring you," he grumbled, his hands coming tighter over the cup.
"What's the china for?" teased Emma.
"It's mine," he growled protectively.
"I figured, but why do you have it?" she asked slowly and with just a hint of condescension.
"It was the stolen property taking from me by Mr. French that you didn't retrieve," he bit back impatiently.
"Hey, I got all your other stuff back, didn't I?" Emma cried indignantly.
"I don't care about all that other stuff, damn all that other stuff! I care about this!" he snarled.
"Yeesh," Emma mumbled. "I know a lot of people who hate Valentine's Day but you sir take the cake."
"I don't hate Valentine's Day, I don't even hate what it represents, I just…don't like it when my property is stolen from me," Gold clutched the cup in his hand more protectively.
"Dude, it's just a cup…it's even chipped, how much value can it possibly hold?" Emma shrugged.
"It's not just a cup. Stop saying that! It's not just a cup!" Gold barked. "Is it so hard for everyone in this puny town to fathom that not everything is about money to me?"
"Well, you do give off that impression," Emma teased.
"That's what they think, they think everything I do is motivated by greed, or by some monetary advancement. You know nothing!" he spat and shuffled to the furthest corner of the bed. "I've gained and lost more than any of you pathetic whiners. That's why I don't give any leniency in my deals, if something is worth keeping you fight for it, you can't throw it away and hope it comes back because it won't!"
Emma had a feeling he was talking about more than just his work policy.
"Who was she?" she asked.
She saw him tense, right in the shoulders.
"She is none of you business," he seethed.
"She has something to do with the fact that you tried to kill Moe French tonight," Emma said inquisitively. "You said it was his fault…what was his fault? What did he do to her?"
Gold shuffled more to the shadows, hiding his face.
"Gold!" Emma demanded more forcefully.
"May I have something to drink, Sheriff?" the softness in his voice took Emma by surprise. She was starting to feel like she was encroaching on to territory no one had dared tread before her and she didn't know if she should proceed. He was right, there was more to Mr. Gold than just a money-grubbing opportunist. Something about that cup was tearing a hole inside him and a part of him was leaking out, and as much as she wanted it to come out, she could see how much he was fighting to keep it all in. He was scared…or at least brought to the edge because of this cup.
"Sure," she muttered, finding her voice.
She grabbed a paper cup and filled it from the water cooler. She handed it to him through the bars. He did not turn to accept it, just sat and faced the wall, rolling his cup in his hands.
After a moment she sighed and set it down on the metal frame of the bed.
She turned to head back to her office.
"Thank you, Miss Swan," he said softly. The tone in his voice made her freeze, her heart clenching slightly at the sound of his gruff brogue, barely containing all the emotions going through him.
"Y-you're welcome," she said.
"You are…" he stopped. "You remind me of someone I knew once…in almost the exact situation…he'd be proud of you."
"Oh…ok, thank," she turned and headed to her office.
Gold closed his eyes at the sound of her door closing, moisture brimmed them but he choked them back.
She would've been proud of him for that. He went back into his mind at the elaborate fantasy he had created earlier and erased it all. He wouldn't need all of that. For them, Valentine's Day would be a special day, not for anything fancy. He would take the day off and sleep in with her, they'd cook brunch together and eat together. Then got out into the garden, choose the best rose from his selection and put it in a vase on the dining room table. All day, no one else, just them. That would be the perfect Valentine's Day. Just to have her back, that's all he'd need.
A rose for my lady, haroo haroo…
The tune mumbled in his brain, the old song sailors used to sing at taverns where Milah used to frequent to forget about him. He'd caught them singing it once when he'd gone to lovingly take her back home and nurse her back to sobriety, she was laughing and cavorting with a group of dingy sailors but there was this one fellow and his mate with this fiddle. His mate pulled the bow across the strings like it pained him. The man's voice was gruff from the alcohol, his other mates laughed their drunken encouragements. Rumple had been entranced, the lyrics pinging a chord inside him. He had memorized the tune to heart. His lyrics may have changed over the century but the haunting melody continued to roll around in his brain.
He only ever heard it when he thought of her.
~~~~FTL, The Dark Castle~~~~
Rumplestiltskin sat at his spinning wheel, humming to himself softly as the magic turned the twined straw into a long gold chain around his fingers.
A long time ago it was rage that fueled his magic, but nowadays he found himself sitting at the wheel and not being angry at all. His thoughts were filled with…her. The smile grew on his face. The wheel turned gently under his hand, his heart pumped slightly in his chest, and he would hum. Hours would go by and he'd barely realize how much gold he'd been spinning.
It was kind of funny.
Belle entered, his little housemaid…no that didn't seem appropriate any more…he had certainly stopped seeing her as his maid…sure she cleaned and maintained and brightened up this castle, but she was not a maid…this was her home as well…at least in his mind. She was the life and spirit of this castle, breathing sunshine and happiness into every room she walked into. No, she was not a maid…she was…
"I brought you tea," she announced.
Rumple grinned and stopped his spinning.
"Good…I was starting to get bored," he mumbled…he was far from bored, if anything he was perfectly content.
He hopped over his stool and met her at the table.
His cup was on the tray and he snatched it possessively, just catching the hint of a smile on Belle's face.
"Niieehehe," he giggled, hopping on to his chair.
"My, you're in a mood today," teased Belle. "Kill something this morning?"
Rumple pressed a hand to his chest and opened his mouth wide as if he was shocked that she'd ever suggest such a thing.
"My, my, my, don't you just have quite the sense of humor," he teased.
Belle chuckled and blushed, lowering her eyes slightly. He loved it when she did that.
"I'm sorry, you just aren't usually this cheery unless one of your deals came through, and from what I recall you haven't made any deals this past week, so I assumed you went hunting…hunting makes you giggly," she chuckled with the observation. "But since there's no elk carcass lying in the kitchen for me to skin and clean…you must be just in a good mood…it's nice to see," she filled his cup for him as she spoke.
"I am…thank you for noticing!" he said dramatically with his usual flare that made her laugh. He liked making her laugh.
"Is today a special day?" she asked.
"Does it have to be?" he leaned his face close to hers, trying to be intimidating but ultimately failing as she just batted her eyelashes at him.
"No, just asking," she shrugged, dumping a spoonful of sugar into his cup.
"Good," he said pointedly, turning back to his tea.
She poured in his milk and stirred gently, then pushed the cup over to him.
He clapped his hands in excitement. She laughed. She loved how goofy and childish he was sometimes.
"Though it does make me wonder," Belle scooted into the chair next to him.
"Wonder what, dearie?" Rumple teased.
"Well, if you don't mind me asking…when is your birthday?" Belle asked with genuine interest. "I figured…since I'll be staying here awhile I could…make something special for your birthday, a cake, or lamb stew, your favorite."
The gesture warmed his heart a little but it fell quickly.
Rumple's mother had died when he was young and his father had fled shortly after leaving him under the care of spinsters in the village, the only people who would take the son of a coward in.
He had celebrated Milah's birthday and Bae's, but he had no idea what day he was born on, not to mention what month. He knew his age, because he would count the years. The spinsters said when he was young that at the end of the Year End festival he was a year older, like the world, give or take, that was how he kept track, but there was never a celebration for him.
He looked down, not wanting her to see his eyes at the moment. Belle's smile faded slightly as he fingered his cup.
"No. I don't have a birthday," he muttered. "No matter, I have plenty of unbirthdays."
He sniggered and drank a sip of his tea.
"Have you never had a birthday party?" Belle gasped.
"Most people don't come to parties for monsters," Rumple kept his gaze low, his tone was casual but it was only a thin veil to the deep emotions swimming inside.
"Not even before, when you were…"
"Never!" Rumple barked.
"I…I'm sorry," Belle retreated, a tense silence cutting in between them.
Rumple felt bad for snapping at her.
"It…it's all right, you don't need to go through the trouble," he leaned over and patted her hand slightly. "It's just a number."
Belle met his gaze and smiled softly.
"I…I want to, Rumple…I mean, we're going to be stuck in this castle together for a long time...who else am I going to cook for?" she chuckled.
"When's your birthday?" Rumple teased.
"What? Are you going to bake me a cake?" she smirked at him.
"Maybe not…but maybe I'll get you some flowers…as a present," he shrugged.
"Roses," Belle said with a smile.
"What?" Rumple blinked.
"I like roses," Belle blushed slightly.
"Roses?" he muttered.
"Yes, a single rose would be all I need," she chuckled. "That or a book."
"You still haven't told me a date," he prodded, poking her arm with one of his jagged nails.
"Fine, its...the fourteenth day of the 2nd month," she sighed.
"Well that's in a few days time," cried Rumplestiltskin.
"You don't have to do anything fancy…I'd be happy enough just with the flower," she shrugged.
"So treat it like any normal day except with a rose?"
Rumple mulled it over.
"Well…that sounds easy, niahahaha!" he giggled and finished off his tea.
Belle laughed again and took his cup from him, placing it on the tray.
"Even monsters have birthdays," she whispered to him before picking up the tray and waltzing out into the kitchen, humming softly as she went.
Rumple sat in his chair, feeling rather stunned by her statement.
She was an odd one, that Belle, always saying things to confuse him. Who was the spellcaster here anyway?
He shrugged and hopped off his chair. He decided he was going to go find a rosebush…he had some preparations he needed to see to and quickly.
~~~~A few days later~~~~
He hadn't seen her all day, which was unusual for him. Belle seemed to fill the castle wherever she was, so to not see her, hear her, or smell her, in any part of the castle for a full day was…disconcerting.
Rumple had spent most of the day to himself in the west wing tower, pretending to conduct spells and potions, should Belle come in with tea or something. She didn't…that was when he first noticed it.
At lunch time he moseyed down to the dining hall, his meal was already there, waiting for him, but no Belle. He had looked in the kitchen and it was empty. Now he was getting a little concerned, but he decided not to think much on it and returned to his tower to work on his preparations.
He had no rose for her because he had thought of something better, though he kept it in the back of his mind should the opportunity arise again.
Sitting on his desk was a meticulously wrapped present, about the size of a decent novel. He smiled to himself; she would love it. He had spent all of last night making sure it was ready for her so when she opened it her eyes would bulge right out of their sockets.
By early evening he was frightfully worried. He began searching the entire castle for his Belle.
A whistling, a shuffle, a hum, a scent, a swift dash of blue skirt, anything!
He burst into the dining hall and froze.
The room was decorated slightly, more than usual anyways, with colorful ribbon curled and dangling off of the windows and draped over the tops of the mantel at the fireplace and the chairs and even his cabinet. A present lay in the middle of the table, wrapped in red cloth with gold lace.
The door to the kitchen opened and Belle stepped out.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Poo!"
Rumple blinked with disbelief.
"I was hoping you wouldn't come down until supper…" she sighed coming up to him. "I wanted to surprise you."
"You…you did," Rumple mumbled. "What is this?"
"This…this is a party, our party," Belle beamed a brilliant smile in his direction. "I thought since you've never had a birthday before, I thought you could share mine," she fought a small blush. "Happy birthday Rumple."
Rumple swallowed dryly, unable to form words.
"I made your favorite, lamb stew. I've been in the back all day slaving over it, trying so hard not to let you notice it…I wanted it to be special."
"It…it is…" Rumple managed to say.
"And I actually think I found you something you'd actually like," she chuckled, gesturing over to the gift on the table. "But that's for later."
She took his hand and led him over to the table.
"First stew, then for dessert I made us a cake, we'll blow out the candles together," Belle sat him down as she skipped back to the servants entrance. "It'll be fun."
Rumple nodded dumbly. No one had ever done something so…sweet for him before. No one in his village had cared enough to give him a birthday, not even the spinsters or is own family. No one had ever wrapped a gift for him or decorated a room for him. He was visibly stunned by the gesture, even more stunned by the fact that she genuinely wanted to share this day with him.
Belle came in soon after with a pot of stew that smelt like heaven. There were fresh bread rolls and he conjured up a bottle of wine for the two of them to share. They ate and drank, and laughed, he'd never heard such a beautiful sound as Belle laughing.
After their meal Belle brought out a beautiful cake with three candles on top of it.
"One for you, one for me, and one for us," she'd explained.
He looked up at her with awe as she said those words. "Us." He liked the sound of that word.
Together they blew out the candles and he cut the cake into appropriate slices.
Three slices later they sat in front of the fireplace drinking tea, sated and happy.
"Will we do this every year?" Rumple asked, looking over at Belle.
Belle smiled at him.
"Of course," she chuckled. "Why wouldn't we?"
"No reason…just wondering," he fingered the chip in his cup. "I rather enjoyed celebrating with you."
Belle's smile grew slightly.
"I'm glad, I liked sharing it with you as well."
He distracted himself with his tea, trying not to get lost in her eyes…if her looked to long at her right now he would do something foolish.
"Speaking of which!" Belle exclaimed, springing up from the settee and running over to grab the gift she'd left out for him. "I think it's time you opened your present."
She skipped over to him and placed the gift in his lap.
"I'm pretty sure this is something you won't be able to conjure up with that magic of yours," she grinned smugly.
"What is it?" he looked at her curiously.
"Well, open it silly," she teased, coming to sit next to him…awfully close to him.
He fingered the golden ribbon tied on the top. It was almost too pretty to open, he just wanted to keep it, all wrapped up and perfect.
"It's not going to unwrap itself," she prodded.
"I will just…just let me enjoy it," he sighed, letting his handed slide over the gift's deep red covering.
With a slight tug the gold bow came free and Rumple gingerly peeled back the cloth to reveal the present inside. It was a box of…
"What is it?" Rumple propped the lid open. "Ashes?"
"No, silly, I made you tea," she took the box from him and lifted it up to his nose. "I found some rose briars at the far end of the castle's estate. I don't know how it was growing with this winter but I picked off one of the roses and decided to make you a rose tea, like my mother used to make."
The smell of the tea was…unique. It was aromatic and flowery with just a hint of sweetness at the end.
"You made me tea," he said in wonder.
"I couldn't think of any thing else, what do you get for the man who can conjure anything? But I've seen how much you favor that cup of yours lately and I thought, tea, not even the Dark One could say no to a bag of tea."
Rumple smirked slightly, staring up at her.
"It's perfect," he said earnestly.
Belle blushed slightly.
Rumple lifted a finger.
"I happen to have something for you too," he lifted a scraggly finger, before twirling his hand around in a languid circle, calling his neatly wrapped present to him.
The gift appeared in his hand and he gently placed it in her lap.
"Happy birthday, Belle," he muttered.
Belle beamed again, the firelight catching her eyes in such a way that they just seemed to dazzle brilliantly.
Without haste she tore the present open, not bothering to be as careful as he had been. He snickered at her child-like antics.
"Open it," he encouraged softly.
She excitedly opened the book to its dedication.
"To my darling love Juarhala…may the devil be cast out of you…" Belle looked up at him skeptically.
"You mean that's not you?" Rumple teased, Belle gave him a look. "Try opening it to the middle of the book."
Belle eyed him for a long second but her curiosity finally overcame her skepticism.
The book had been hollowed out and a golden key on a chain placed inside.
"A key?" Belle's eyes widened. "A key for what?"
Rumple smirked, taking the red cloth she had used to wrap his gift in and tying it over her eyes as a blindfold.
"Come with me," Rumple whispered, sending a shiver down her spine. "Do you trust me?"
"Of course," she whispered back.
He took her soft porcelain hands in his and magicked her to another part of the castle. She shivered at the sensation. They were in front of a set of large double doors. Rumple took the key from her hand and slipped it into the lock turning it slowly.
"Where are you taking me Rumple?" Belle said jokingly.
"Patience, Belle, patience," he said condescendingly.
She bit her lip to hold back a remark.
He pushed the doors open and grasped her hand again, leading her inside.
"Almost there," he giggled impishly.
"I swear Rumple, if you push me into the lake again I'll…"
"No, no, nothing like that," he shook his head, stopping her in the center of the room. "I'm going to take your blindfold off…but you have to keep your eyes closed till I tell you to open them."
Belle made a whining noise.
"Ah, ah, ah!" Rumple chastised, waggling his finger.
"Fine," Belle sighed.
Rumple snapped his fingers and music filled the room. Belle instantly smiled.
"Music…" she sighed.
Rumple circled behind her and gently undid the knot on her blindfold, letting it slip away.
"Keep them closed," he warned.
Belle impatiently tapped her foot.
"Just a second longer," he snapped his fingers again, filling the entire room with beautiful light.
Rumple smirked. Perfect.
Belle opened her eyes slowly. Her mouth dropped as she took in the sight before her.
"It's a library!" she cried.
Rumple hopped and giggled in triumph.
It was gorgeous. It had a tall domed roof with high windows and a magnificent mural covering the ceiling. The bookshelves went nearly all the way up, filled with books, a collection made over 300 years. Gold edging outlined the stunning oak of the interior, with tiny gold cherub statues adorning the crowning. A grand staircase wove around the center acting making it easier to gain access to the books. Soft, downey filled sofa chairs sat in the corner with candelabras as far as the eye could see.
Belle, didn't know where to look first, or even if she was seeing things right, or dreaming.
"Do you like it?" Rumple asked shyly. "It's yours…if you want it."
Belle turned to him, her beaming smile brighter than ever before. Wordlessly she ran over and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly.
Rumple froze under her embrace, afraid to move, afraid to breathe…yet all too happy to be exactly where he was.
"Do you like it, Belle?" he whispered and she lifted her head up, tears brimming her eyes.
"I asked for a rose," she said, laughing, despite how she had tried to act stern.
"I'll remember that for next time," he chuckled.
She squeezed him tightly then took his hand.
"Come on you," she demanded. "You and I are going to dance."
She tugged him to the center of the room, giving him no room to protest.
The magical music drifted around them.
Belle took his hand and interlaced it with hers then placed his other on her waist and rested her free hand on his shoulder, gently coaxing him into a waltz. They moved gently to the melody. A beautiful, sad melody.
"I don't know this," Belle looked up into his eyes.
"It's an old song, a lullaby I think," Rumple explained. "Back during the first Ogre Wars, there was believed to be a mystical valley known as the Rose Fields. Legend had it that the very first princess this world has ever known went for a walk one day. On her walk a wolf attacked her, she survived but managed to cut her finger on one of the wolf's fangs. She had run away so fast from the wolf that she suddenly found herself in this field of white roses. Along came a wild man who found her lost and scared. He had never seen such a beautiful woman before, and she had never seen such a rugged man. He offered to help her stem the bleeding and picked up one of the white roses to catch the blood…but it wasn't enough, so he used another one, and then another one, until the entire field was turned red. When her finger finally stopped bleeding the two had fallen in love with each other and couldn't leave each other's side. So the wild man took his knife and split his own heart open so they could be together forever. The soil of the rose field was so soaked with the lover's blood that any rose that grew there was stained with it, making the red rose a symbol of undying love."
Belle smiled as he told her the story, continuing to dance.
"It was believed that if Rose Fields had ever existed its soil was now damp with the blood of the warriors who fought in the Ogre Wars. But the lullaby was written long before then, but sung in mourning for the children that died, their blood staining the ground of Rose Fields."
Belle looked down sadly.
"Sing it to me," she said.
"I'm not much of a singer, dearie," Rumple shook his head.
Belle shook hers.
"Sing it to me," she insisted.
Rumple drew in a deep breath.
"All right," he muttered. "A rose for my lady, haroo, haroo. A rose for my lady, haroo. One for the evening and one for the day, before all the petals have wilted away."
Rumple continued to sway her to the music.
"A rose for my lady, haroo, haroo. A rose for my lady, haroo. One for the princess, one for the queen, and one for the lady I see in my dreams."
Belle rested her head on his shoulder as he continued to sing the somber lullaby.
"A rose for my lady, haroo, haroo. A rose for my lady, haroo. One for her pillow and one for her grave, to remind me of that one rose that I couldn't save."
The music softly faded and Rumple stopped dancing, still holding Belle in his arms.
Belle lifted her head up and looked in his eyes.
"Why did you play that for me?" she asked, looking deep into his eyes.
"It's the only song I knew with the word rose in it," he shrugged impishly and giggled.
Belle rolled her eyes slightly but smiled.
"Thank you Rumple…for the story…for everything!" she gestured to the huge library. "This is really mine?"
"Every page," Rumple nodded. "You can come in here whenever you like…as long as you are mindful of your other duties around the castle."
Belle reached up…looking for a moment like she was about to kiss him before turning her head and planting the kiss on to her cheek.
"Thank you," she muttered.
They seemed to stare at each other for the longest time.
"I should…I should clean up…the kitchen..." Belle finally said, awkwardly shuffling towards the doors.
Rumple had lost the capacity for speech.
Belle turned to leave but halted.
"I really enjoyed tonight," she said, her eyes sparkling at him.
Rumple managed some sort of sound.
Belle smirked and then left.
He watched her leave, completely and utterly entranced by her, by the whole evening. He would give up a whole lot to relive it.
He looked up to the gorgeous library. A few days ago it had been nothing but a patch of dirty ground on the corner of his estate, with a bit of magic he had created something worthy of his beautiful caretaker, each detail thought of meticulously.
Rumple looked down, he still held the key in his hand. He'd meant to give it to her…it was meant for her.
He clutched the key tightly. He'd give it to her later.