A/N: This happened in a firestorm of inspiration and a serious lack of Rum/Belle that attacked me like a lightening storm of bricks upside the head. And of course it is AU. Any how enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own OUaT

~8~8~

Mist that rose from dewed woodland thickly wreathed the dead boughs of horridly twisted trees through the infamous Dead Mans Forest. Gnarled trees leaned and curved and contorted in wretched forms like malformed human corpses set in morbid display through the haunted glades and coppices of the accursed woods. Silvery moss hung in sparse hag's tatters from the branches, doing little to garland their rotten persons. Long limbs and spindly branches thrust out like serrated demon claws waiting to grab a person unawares or shot to the sky in pleading to end the misery of their sorry state.

The land undulated like some giant serpent that moved replete though the dirt. Upraised roots puckered out of the moist, loamy ground like an array of bony legs all tossed as one upon the dense forest floor. Ugly, putrid green moss spread a moldy carpet upon the forest land. Where falls leaves should have lain sat porous green moss and toxic bile yellow mushrooms nestled in the joints of decayed trees

Living things barely prowled the forest, and those that did, no one wished to meet even in the light of day, much less the horrid night where hags and demons were said to roam at their leisure and beast of fable made their home in hollowed oaks and mossy knolls and tossed the yellowed bones of their kills about the forest like strewn decorations.

Cora thought the place had charm.

Standing in a wretched glade, the sorceress breathed in the delicate aromas of dead moss and rotting hunks of timber petrifying upon the forest floor. The smell was akin to fresh mulch only more robust and with the slight hint of moist earth from a night's rain.

The moon with above her head was a pallid clipped coin of unhappiness, beaming down upon the straggly tresses of moss and the vaporous fog. Ribbons of thin clouds cloaked the gibbous moon in a gray diaphanous veil. Moon motes transformed the hoary mist into a bluish tint that came with a bitter chill.

Liquid silver danced through her locks from the smiling moon transforming her raven hair into gilt celestial beams. Her body paled even greater than she preferred making her seem akin to a haughty phantom roaming a long cursed haunt.

A dark blue dress, not for forest travel by any means graced her slender form. Wide cuffs that dipped into a point were intricately embroidered with swirls of gold and so was the edge of her dress. Blue shoes peeped from the very bottom of the exquisite gown. A silver pendant, her only jewelry upon her figure, hung in the hollow of her throat. From a distance she was a gorgeous mirage, the epitome of womanly grace, but up close she was a viper, a banshee, a carcass bloated with malice and hate and misery.

Here stood Cora the cruel.

Impatience graced her face as she stared about the wretched grove with disinterest to the wicked past. Though the forest was terrible, nothing in the glade could compare to her cruelty or her power. The malice shrank away from her, reverent and awed, the ghosts of the long dead hide from her in fear, even the haunted spirit that evoked the copses namesake bowed to her darkness.

A sigh fled her lips as she tapped a foot against a mossy boil along an upraised root. A large black beetle scuttled away from the disruption only to be carefully squished under her foot. "Where is he?" The witch muttered beneath her breath sending a plume of vapor into the air. Arms crossed she turned upon her heel like some insulted bride. "He should be here by now."

"With a name like 'Dead Man's Forest' how could I possibly resist the invitation?" Rumpelstiltskin trilled in maniacal delight. The quiet filled with dangerous laughter that pealed maliciously about the forest. Insane chuckles echoed from the trees like some crazed murders last breath.

Steeping from the mist the Dark One melted from the foggy darkness like some horrendous apparition. His usual brown leather garb tightly donned his figure making him seem even more the crazed beast of legends old.

Satisfaction wove upon her mouth as she looked the fiend up and down. "Always one to make an entrance Rumpel."

Slowly the giggles tapered away from his mouth to contemplative silence in the eerier gloom. His lips curved into an impressed flicker of a smile. His eyes inspected the proud, stately woman before him, confident and unafraid. She had always been such but now with the power to back up her pride. Dangerous, conniving, hateful, Cora had always been a vicious wolf hiding under her beauty.

To see her again thrilled him. "You look good Cora." He commented in an impish purr of attraction and took a nimbly graceful step forward. "Been quite a while since I've seen you. The last time we met you were…" He paused and flourished a spindly, black nailed finger across his neck. "Beheading some weeping noblemen." A cruel cackle erupted from his smiling mouth showing rows of dappled teeth. "The years have treated you well."

In truth she had aged little. The magic she wielded as her own provided the needed halt in age. Wrinkles smooth, age faded away, and the calluses she had gained from her hard, bitter toil as a miller's daughter were vanished, but she still looked the woman he had met in the tower pondering her fate when morning came and she would have no gold. She still looked the same, hateful woman with just a few pinched lines around her mouth from all the time holding back her tongue in front of those she loathed. Those marks, no matter the magic, would ever leave.

A small self assured smile that rivaled on a cocky smirk of flattery painted her crimson lips. "The same can be said for you, Rumpel. It's been quite a while since our trysts."

"Quite." The fiend echoed the word appreciatively in a low rumble.

Oh those had been good days and deliciously long nights. The infidelity behind her betrothed had lasted all through the engagement and at the altar instead of saying "I do" she had taken his heart and crushed the poor prince's aorta in her delicate hands. Afterwards she had thrown the mystical sand like rice at the end of the wedding.

For Rumpelstiltskin the moment still provided him chuckles. Irony was the greatest of jesters.

"I've grown stronger you know." She coyly stepped out of his range like some dancing specter upon the mists. Her eyes searched him coyly. "Everyday I grow stronger."

He humored her. "I can see that, Dearie." The magical monster's eyes gazed at her up and down lasciviously once more. Why had he broken up their trysts again? Thinking back, he couldn't rightly recall, not when she looked so deliciously malevolent.

Perhaps their spark had burnt out, perhaps they had decided to go their separate ways, but they had not departed on bad terms. Their agreements had been for a child, but Cora, as fate would hold, when he arrived, he found to his disappointment Cora could not bear a child. He had planned to leave her in her fate in the tower, but he was intrigued and attracted and another deal was struck.

"Which is why I've called you here." She explained as though taking no notice of his lustful stare. Even when she had been magic-less peasant, Cora was no fool to her charms. Not only her beauty, but her darkness drew in the lonely Dark One like a moth to a biting flame. Such as their relationship had always been.

Not looking directly his way, she plucked at the fringes of her dress sleeves. "We make up the two most powerful sorcerers in this realm, Rumpel. I purpose an alliance."

In an instant the Dark One stood directly behind her. Tongues of cruel black magic crackled against the mist, swirling with the grayish vapors like foreign snakes in a pit full of vipers.

The sorceress steeled her nerve with such magic near. Her back stood stiff as she refused to budge.

His hot breath ghosted against her like dragon smoke, scalding the nape of her neck. "And what makes you think I need an alliance?" The fiend queried, his lips skirting near the bare flesh of her neck.

An intrepid smile braved her composed features. "You don't. You don't need my powers, but you need other things."

"Such as…?" The rumbling words rolled softly from his tongue.

"I know you're lonely all alone up there in your Dark Castle. You have nothing and no one will have you. I can offer you so much should you chose to dwell in my castle and aid me. Companionship… intellect… another way of seeing things. " She whispered out into the night.

Unable to resist the Dark One brushed his lips against her moon pale skin. His mouth slowly kissed the magic tainted flesh, savoring her dark bitterness beneath the skin so much like his own and reveling in the company of his misery with hers. "Sounds like you need those things, Dearie."

"And you don't?" Cora huffed and arched her back away from him. "You know as well as I business has been slow for years. Deals only come in trickles now."

In the days of peace as they were called, business was slow for those with ill intentions. The "Charming's" as they were so nauseatingly dubbed allied with other kingdoms and brought peace to the realms. Wealth and prosperity reigned over the land and the rulers were good and kind.

Deals only came by the rare unsatisfied simpleton now; farmers who wanted and extra cow for milk day or a maiden who wanted prettier eyes. Those things were beneath them but their presence showed their straits for deals.

His leather garb creaked as he heaved his shoulders in a shrug. "Maybe and maybe not." The beast kissed the words against her skin. He couldn't deny every word she said, but he was not a man who worked well with partners. "But you do have me curious. What would our alliance entail?" He drawled impishly in his caress.

"Aid in certain circumstances if needed, mutual respect, a promise to keep out of each others more… important business, and of course a legend of the two most powerful sorcerers living together that will keep every kingdom from the forest to sea worried and terrified." She hissed in pleasure to his ministrations.

Even after all the years apart he still knew how to coax every inch of pleasure from her.

Savoring the taste of her skin, he spoke in half a breath. "You're up to something." He trilled softly in accusation.

"Aren't I always?" She laughed sultrily. A low hum fell from her mouth as she craned her neck to receive his errant kisses. What point was there to hide that she indeed had some machination up her sleeves?

Well she did have a good argument, he deduced inwardly, and pleasantly offered temptations to swing in his vision. Some days he was lonely and seeing Cora again sparked a longing he had forgotten in their last passionate trysts.

Why had he severed their coupling? The thought nagged at the edges of his brain, but he couldn't decipher why, nor did he care. She was there now, and looking just as lovely as she had when she sat at the old spinning wheel trying to conjure gold from straw to save her life.

Cora brought the last bit of man out of him. The man that only possessed the bad, but the man still.

"Do we have a bargain Dark One?" She feigned pure innocence of a young maid.

The fiend bit back a cruel laugh at her coquettish tone. There was nothing maidenly about Cora!

Spinning her about, the monster pushed her back to the trunk of a hideously deformed beech tree. His eyes burned in a raging conflagration of primal lust and danced with the sparks of passions. There was so much she drew up in him, so many emotions that lay dormant that his body still craved.

"Oh yes." He replied in a panting growl, his voice heavy with want. "Yes indeed we have an accord."