Not part of the moments series...but it was supposed to be. I wrote this and was saving it for season three Moments, thinking that with a few minor tweaks I'd be able to make it work no matter what, but recent spoiler pictures have caused me to think it will be a long time before something like this happens. I'm not saying something like this won't ever show up in the Moments Series, but not now. In the meantime I figured it would be nice to let everyone read it, since we're all needing a little Rumbelle before the big reunion.
In other news, I had to push back the date of Moments Missed to December 17th. It's only a few days but it's because of the hiatus we had this week. And hey, for anyone whose never heard of my Moments series check it out! I love new readers. Peace, happy reading, and I hope to see you on the 17th! Oh and Happy Thanksgiving, I always forget that one.
She hadn't given the cabin nearly this much credit when they'd been here last time. But now that they were here, together, after being separated for so long it was the perfect place for them: their own little private paradise that no one could intrude upon.
During the day they found odd things to do. While before he had let her go out on her own, he couldn't seem to stand it this time around. It was as though the idea of losing sight of her in this time was a waste, or maybe he just feared what would happen if he was left alone again. It wasn't much of a problem. It was far too cold out to really leave the cabin, so they spent their time indoors. He spun. She read. He tinkered. She dusted. He slept. She watched, staying by his side, guarding him against any unseen forces, or nightmares, which had only gotten worse in his return. It snowed on the second day, and by all accounts they were snowed in, but it was too perfect to complain. They had nowhere to go. No one would come looking. They'd sat against the couch together in the silence, simply watching the snow drift from the heavens and fall against the ground, gathering. The only sound was the fire crackling, warming them against the chill.
At night was when he would finally open up to her. Maybe it was the wine, or the firelight, or the closeness, no matter the reason, she always listened until one of them made a move toward the other and they retired to the bedroom before they went to sleep. Tonight was no different. She made herself tea, he poured himself a glass of wine, and they perched across the couch staring at the fire, happy just to be together again.
They had nothing but time, and stories. Lots and lots of stories. She told him first about town, because it was easier on her side, there was much less to drag out. She let him tell her about Neverland on his own time. It was remarkable to her just how much he seemed to want talk about it, to need to talk about it. She was certain that before she'd been Lacey, pulling the truth out of him would have taken a lot more energy. Now he willingly told her everything she wanted to know, and sometimes he even did it without prompting. In fact, he almost looked lighter after he told her a new tale, though during he usually looked tired, like the memories themselves took more energy than he could spare. When he unexpectedly began tonight's saga, she expected more stories of shadows and treachery, but she didn't expect to be in it. Well, not her, but a vision one sent to torment him, one that looked like her, and talked like her, but wasn't her.
Tears filled her eyes as he explained the circumstances to her, letting his eyes drift shut and his head hit the cushion as he talked. He felt foolish in the wake of it. He should have known better. The image looked like her but there were differences: her hair was wrong, her cheeks too rosy, her smile not quiet right, and she said things, spoke about ideas that she had promoted in him, but the words weren't ones she'd used before. There had been an air of false reality about the creature, but whether on purpose or by accident, he hadn't seen it. It was a good trick for someone who'd been desperate for a kind word.
Suddenly a lot of the conversations they'd had since he'd come home to her made sense, the way he sometimes looked at her and did a double take, the way he wouldn't let her leave his sight if it could be helped, and how he'd begun to make comments about children, and happy endings, futures she didn't think he would ever be ready or willing to consider. Yes, knowing this part of the story, it made a lot more sense. When he seemed to be finished, when she could see the outline of a tear against the crease in his eye she leaned forward. She let her legs stretch out over his. He held the small mountain they made against him, content to brush his finger tips over her knees and calves, proof she was really there.
"I love you," she whispered, stroking his hair back into place. "And I know that no matter what anyone tells you, you can have more than one happy ending."
"What if you're it," he whispered. She could see the panic in his eyes as he looked at her. It wasn't as insulting as it sounded. He wasn't implying that she was what he'd settle for, she knew better. He was just afraid that things would never be good between him and his son. She had the same fears, there had been conflict at every turn, and she couldn't really blame Neal for not wanting to trust him, especially now that he had his own son to worry about. And she knew, as she watched the firelight cast his face into dancing shadows, that he not only knew as well, but he understood, too. It wasn't an easy realization for him to come too. But just because there was good reason and scars from past experience, that didn't mean that reconciliation between the two was impossible. "You're already more than I deserve," he muttered, as if he had to correct his earlier statement. He didn't.
"Things that happen properly take time, Rumple. We just have to be patient. He'll see it eventually."
"And if he doesn't?" he questioned immediately. "The world isn't as understanding as you, Belle. What if he comes to believe that I haven't-" his words trailed off as he stared into the fire, but despite the sadness of the conversation she found herself smiling.
There was always hope. The fact that he'd come that close to admitting to himself, out loud, that he'd changed was proof of that. If he could see himself as changed then Neal could come around. It might be a while. Years. Maybe even decades. But he'd see it eventually. If Lacey had taught her anything it was that she was uniquely understanding. Having no compassion for him or the world around her had forced her to admit just how much she did have as herself. Before she had been irritated that the world hadn't seen him as he was, now she found she gave them the benefit of the doubt, and in the meantime she got to be here with him. She got to love him. She got to teach by example.
Her alternate personality might not have had much to benefit her, but she had shown her the beauty and art of distracting and relaxing when his thoughts turned too dark even for him. She pulled her legs out of his grasp and repositioned herself so that she was straddling his lap. He allowed her to get comfortable before settling his hands against her hips, unquestioning. Then, without needing another word, she leaned down and kissed him deeply, letting her fingers tangle in his hair, and their bodies meld together. She held his mouth to hers until his eyes closed, his tense muscles eased, and his lungs heaved a sigh. It was only when she knew that she held his attention completely that she pulled away from him and let her forehead lean against his.
"If I'm it, then we'll still be happy," she told him. "If I'm it we will live a long and happy life, knowing that two people are rarely ever as happy as we are together. And one day many years from now when your son sees just as I do how much you've changed, we will be just as happy as we are tonight."
He didn't believe her, she could feel it in the weak nod of acknowledgement that he gave her. But he did trust her, and that was really all that she could ask for. "I love you," he breathed against her after a quiet moment.
She smiled and kissed his forehead, more than happy to move away from the nightmares that tragic place had created for them. "Show me," she muttered against skin before kissing his mouth again just as tenderly as before.
Maybe Lacey wasn't only good for the distraction. Sex had changed since she'd invaded their lives. It wasn't worse and it wasn't better, it was just different. But it wasn't something she attributed, completely, to her alternate self either. She thought this was how it was supposed to be, she thought this was how it would have been even if she'd never been the girl. Couples were supposed to grow with each other, get a little bolder, more experienced in the arms of their partners. Lacey might have sped up the process, thanks to the false "experiences" she now kept locked away in her mind, but they would have arrived at this place eventually all on their own. And she knew, deep down, that it wasn't just the girls memories, she wouldn't have been the same way with anyone other than him.
No one could make her heart pound the way he could, or her skin flush, or her head swim. And no one could ever make her as happy either. There were still times he frustrated her to no end, but she knew: no one would ever compare. In fact, if someone came up to her tomorrow and told her that they could give her the worlds perfect man: one that would tell her everything without being asked, would never raise their voice, and might be so drop dead gorgeous Lacey wouldn't have bothered taking a shot, she would turn them down. In some strange way, she liked his quirks, irritating as they were. She didn't even mind those increasingly rare times when she had to pry information out of him. At the end of the day he told her what she needed to know and the rest followed soon after. And, selfishly, she liked knowing that she was the only one that knew about his life and his secrets. No. They were perfect right now. Just as they were. Just with each other. Problems, changes, quirks, and all.
It took time to regain their composure after they finished. Neither said anything. He picked himself up briefly to lay another kiss against her lips before collapsing against her again. She ran her fingers through his hair and over his back as their breath slowed. The chill in the air finally got to her and she reached up for the blanket against the back of the couch, and proudly managed to drape it over them despite the fact that he hadn't moved. "Are you still with me?" she whispered after a few moments, wondering if maybe he'd fallen asleep.
"Well, I'll certainly never be against you," his voice was muffled against her neck and when he finally picked himself up off of her she smiled as she met his gaze.
"Hi," she whispered.
"Hi," he mimicked happily, brushing another small kiss across her lips before settling his head under her chin and staring into the fire. He let her hold him, she knew the meaning behind it. He only ever really let her do it when he needed comfort, when he was feeling so downtrodden that he none to give. But she did and she was happy to give it. It evened the playing field. He held her. She held him. They belonged to each other. They were equals in their relationship now. He was…her husband!
She fought the urge to gasp surprised at the sudden realization. When had that happened?! How long had she had that thought? How long had she felt that way before putting words to it? A while that was for certain. She moved his hair as she stared into the fire, hoping he wasn't startled by the change in her thoughts as she tried to trace the feeling back. When had she first felt it? Before he'd returned. Before Ariel. Before Lacey even! When she'd been Lacey, when she'd been no one, he hadn't given up, he'd stayed by her side. When she didn't know if she'd ever see him again, she refused to move on.
How could she? From him? There was nothing without him. He liked to tell her that he would be lost without her, but if anything ever happened to him! Then who would be the lost one. He was everything she ever wanted and more importantly everything she ever needed. Partner. Friend. Lover. Husband. So she couldn't pinpoint the moment that she'd become his wife. That didn't matter. What mattered was that she was.
No, of course they weren't legally married. They had no rings. There had been no dress. No guests. No Holy Man to make a promise eternal. He'd never agree to a marriage. At least not a formal one. Him? Standing up in front of people? Declaring feelings? It was laughable. But she was surprised to find that she wasn't hurt by it. She'd accepted it so easily that she'd never even had to think over it. In fact, she understood it. Why did a Holy Person need to hear his words? Or a large crowd? Why did they need to hear her words? The only ones in the universe that needed to hear them were in this room right now. Why did the rest matter?
"Rumple," she muttered. He gave a small sound of acknowledgement that he'd heard her, that he was awake and paying attention. "I don't want to be with anyone else but you."
He planted a kiss over her heart and gave an overwhelmed sigh. She didn't need to see his face to know there was a smile on it. "I'm happy to hear it."
"No," she muttered. He didn't understand. She thought hard, trying to find the words to correct herself and express what she was really feeling, what she wanted to say to him, and he to her. "I mean ever. I want you to be the only man I share my life with. Forever. Until time runs out." It wasn't as if he could be stiller than he already was, but she could have sworn that he stopped breathing for a moment as he picked over her words. For that matter, she was certain she'd stopped breathing as she waited for him to respond. Finally, he picked his head up off her chest and gazed at her again.
"What are you saying?" he asked with a head shake. He knew, or rather, he suspected, he just couldn't believe it enough without hearing the words.
She sighed, realizing that she was suddenly tempted to burst into tears at the overwhelming thoughts and emotions running through her head. This wasn't the time or the place, it wasn't a conventional declaration of love, but then when would they get another opportunity like this. When would things in town be quiet? When would they be alone together without worrying about others? When would everything be perfect for them? It was perfect now, right here. Why should they be hindered because it was abnormal? When had they ever done anything normally to begin with?
"I want you to know that I'm yours, forever, for the rest of my life," she whispered still playing with the bit of graying hair at his ear. "I don't want to belong to anyone else. I don't want to be with anyone else. I've never needed anything more than you and I never will."
"You," he shook his head, still trying to fathom her words, "you don't know how you'll feel in five years, in ten years-"
"Don't I?" she questioned "we talk about the future all the time and in every scenario we're always together." He didn't rebuke her, or argue. He knew it was true. Hadn't they just been talking about the decades to come before they'd started all this? "I don't know how I'll feel in fifty years but I know I'll still be with you. I wouldn't be complete if I wasn't. I know you feel the same."
"I know," she cut him off before he could even begin to try and change her mind. He'd already taken on the "let-me-talk-some-sense-into-you" voice she hated. "I know you feel the same."
She saw the fight go out of his eyes in a rush as she watched him look into her soul, and the last of his resistance disappeared all too easily with a heavy sigh. "My life," he began "is only complete with you in it," he finally admitted in a slow voice. "What do you want? Name it and it's yours."
She reached between them and twined their fingers together so that they were a tangled mess there under her chin. "I want you. You have all of me. Forever. I only ask the same."
He smiled and she knew that she wasn't the only one to have thought of how deep their connection went. At some point he'd thought of it himself, only he'd felt too guilty act upon it. "You own parts of me that I didn't even know I had, and I will never be able to steal them away from you," he commented. "I can't promise perfection-"
"I'm not asking for perfection, Rumple, I'm asking for you. Just you. Just as you are," no matter what, she was here to stay, and she wanted him to know that more than anyone else in the world.
He placed another kiss over the place her heart pounded, waiting to hear his response. Finally, after pondering something to himself for a while, he nodded and raised his head to look her dead in the eye. "I pledge to you my loyalty and my faithfulness, my protection and my comfort, my hand and my heart, my body and my soul for an eternity. My darling Belle, they've never belonged to anyone but you and they never will."
Her eyes watered. She'd been expecting a promise. She hadn't expected him to make that promise with the traditional marriage vows from her kingdom! All except the last part. He'd added it in on his own, and it was perfect. The entire thing was a surprise she hadn't been prepared for. She hadn't expected it, but that didn't mean she wasn't prepared to accept it…or make it herself. She'd dreamt of saying those words to someone she loved as a little girl. She'd feared it would only ever be Gaston that heard them. But she didn't know just how much she'd longed to say them to him until he'd used them.
She swallowed as she continued to stare into his eyes, just as he had, both very much aware that this relationship would probably never face any moments as serious as this one was. "I pledge to you my loyalty and my faithfulness, my protection and my comfort, my hand and my heart, my body and my soul for an eternity. Wherever you go, wherever you are, I will go, with you, forever."
Her words seemed to shock him just as much as his had her. He hadn't planned on her using the promise she'd made him the first time they met, but she imagined it was just as powerful a promise, if not more, now than it was then. He reached up to kiss her, slowly, gently, making their private deal a permanent one. In fact, if she didn't know any better, she'd say she could practically feel a flutter against her heart binding them to each other even now. It wasn't magic. It was something far stronger, far more mystical, for more lasting. When he finally released her he glanced around them, as if suddenly aware that they were still laying there on the couch in the dying firelight. "It's not much of a marriage bed."
"It's perfect," she insisted, nowhere would ever be more perfect, so long as they were together.