Disclaimer: I do not own anything concerning OUAT…if I did, I'd be sipping a Bahama Mama from my freakin' beach chaise! This is purely for my entertainment and the entertainment of my readers. Not for profit. This disclaimer is meant to encompass the entire fic and I will not be repeating it.

CHAPTER ONE

COMPLICATIONS

"How could this have happened, Hugh? She was to have an armed escort home," The king bellowed angrily, his voice carrying throughout the cavernous war room to bounce along the walls and high vaulted ceiling. "You were responsible for her safety," he accused.

Sir Hugh Beaumont bowed to his brother, his king in deference, his failure to protect his niece weighing heavily upon his broad shoulders. His niece, his brother's only child, Belle. It wasn't her fault that she had been caught in the middle of all this. Milhorn, the kingdom to the north, led by the ruthless King Edward, had struck out against all of Avonlea by taking their treasure, for the princess was indeed a treasure. She didn't deserve to be ripped away from her family because of something her father had done. For centuries, there had been peace between the kingdoms, friendship and prosperity shared. It wasn't until Edward had convinced himself that Belle would suit him as his queen.

King Edward had been enraged when Maurice had refused to even consider it. She was to finish her schooling that year, her eighteenth birthday to be celebrated upon her homecoming. She would not be forced to wed the aging king of Milhorn. Maurice had cut all ties to the kingdom of the north, including the profitable trade routes that would severely hurt the smitten king's domain. Barring all advice from his most trusted advisors, Maurice plowed ahead and did what he must to assure his daughter's safety and well-being. He believed her to be safe and secure at the posh boarding school and awaited for her to return home to her family, her schooling done for good. He'd sent a carriage for the princess with an entire garrison of soldiers to escort her home. All should have gone smoothly, but Maurice had underestimated Edward's avarice and greed and an unwavering determination to have the girl.

The escort had been easily overpowered and outmanned, the princess falling victim to the king from the north. She was now his prisoner, his unwilling bride. And if something wasn't done soon, there would be no escaping her fate. Desperate times called for even more desperate measures, no matter how much the king was opposed to using him.

"Brother, you know it is the only way," Hugh said tightly, his voice low in the empty chamber. The very thought was making him perspire.

"I swore I would never call upon him again. Let him continue to rot in the dungeon, the tricky bastard." Maurice swore again under his breath. "Belle doesn't even know the lengths I have gone to to protect our kingdom. If I send that monster to retrieve her…" His voice trailed away as a shudder racked his aging body. "I don't want to expose her to his evil."

"We no longer have a choice. Belle is your heir. One day she will rule all of Avonlea. She will be forced to choose a consort to rule by her side. Do you really want him to be Edward? Because these are your only options," Hugh said, the harshness of his words making Maurice pale before him.

The king had no choice. He would not let his precious daughter be subject to such a cruel fate. Doomed to a loveless marriage to a tyrant king who would crush her beneath his boot and leave her a lifeless shell of her former self. No, he would not leave her to misery. "Bring me the chest."

How had it come to this? How had he become desperate enough to call upon the beast once more, he thought as he watched his brother leave the room. Hugh was the only other living soul to know about the chest, an enchanted chest holding a mystical dagger. So many years had passed since their youth, so many years since they'd drunkenly stumbled upon the crumbling keep where the dagger had been hidden. If only they had known then of the trouble it would cause. This dagger was bound to the most powerful mage in the world, and in the entire realm. The Dark One, they called him. No other being they had ever heard of possessed such magic…and evil. And he was theirs to control, or rather, Maurice's. Hugh had wanted nothing to do with the imp, claiming that he wasn't comfortable having power over one so evil. No, the burden fell to the king.

He'd had a special cell built in the dungeon for his prisoner, bound with fairy magic from the fairy that patronized his family. The only possible escape was if the Dark One was summoned to his master. The fairy had even placed a special enchantment on the dagger so that no one other than Maurice's blood line would ever be able to wield its power over the imp. That left a precious few with such a privilege, including only Maurice, Hugh, and…Belle. Maurice prayed that he would never have to tell her that dark secret.

Hugh returned, two of his most trusted knights following, the chest held tightly between them. They placed the chest at the king's feet and bowed, retreating silently and leaving the brothers alone with the mysterious chest. "Do you wish me to leave as well, brother?" Hugh asked solemnly, eyeing the chest as though it were a poisonous snake.

Maurice stared at the old chest in disdain. The wood and braces looked as though they would fall apart at any moment, but he knew there was no stronger vessel in the known realms. The enchantment shimmered as he pressed his hand to the very center of the lid and spoke. "patefacio." The lid of the chest swung open with a groan, revealing the mystical blade nestled on a bed of velvet, sparkling ominously in the light of the torches.

His hand hesitated over the handle, loathe to touch it, abhorring the idea that he had no other choice than to align himself with the Dark One once more. The weight of the cold steel in his palm caused his stomach to roil painfully, but the image of his daughter in the hands of a vile tyrant strengthened his resolve. He held the dagger aloft and spoke, his voice ringing through the chamber.

"O Dark One, your master summons thee."

XOOOX

Rumpelstiltskin, the Dark One, the Evil Imp, the Trickster, the Dealmaker, sniffed the air, ignoring the familiar smells of his dungeon prison and smiled. A new aroma permeated the air, one of fear, of desperation. It had been so long since he had seen the night sky or felt the clean breeze wafting through the great trees of the Enchanted forest. But nothing could stir his senses, so long denied, as much as a desperate soul. And it was not just any desperate soul, oh no. It was his master. His master who let him sit year after year in a fetid cell to rot. What could have possibly happened to make the old bastard desperate enough to call on the Dark One, he wondered idly. The king had called on him no more than four times in two decades and each time he had found a loophole to make the deal backfire on his master. The king would never make a deal with him and come out on top.

Fools, all! No one would ever best him at his own game. Contracts were his specialty, after all. Pain seared through his brain in white hot streaks, his master's call burning into him painfully, the only thing that could free him from the wretched cell. His magic heeded the call, propelling him through space in a wisp of purple and black smoke to land him on bended knee in the king's odious presence. His coal black eyes raised to meet the king's gaze, rage boiling in their depths.

"Master," he hissed. "How may I be of service?" He wished he could cut his own tongue out rather than be forced to speak those words.

Maurice left the mage on his knees out of spite. "I have need of you, slave." Rumpelstiltskin ground his teeth together in vexation, looking forward to the day when he would be free of the king's possession and he could take pleasure in gutting him. He would string his entrails from the palace gate as a warning to others that the Dark One was no one's slave. "My daughter has been abducted by the King of Milhorn and I want her back…safely returned to me…without a scratch on her…unharmed." Maurice glanced at Hugh in askance. "Did I forget anything?" Hugh shook his head, certain the order couldn't be twisted.

Damn! No fun to be had from that quarter. His mind whirled with possibilities of what he could have done to the little princess. All done to bring pain and suffering to the king. But Maurice, in his advancing age was becoming clever and had worded his request in such a way that he had no other choice but to obey. "What of the royal? Her abductors? What might you want me to do with them, dearie?" he asked, sarcasm dripping from his lips.

"I have no care what you do with the king. Edward is slowly letting his mind slip into madness as is proven from this latest stunt. Do with him as you wish. His son, Prince Evan, can assume the throne and bring peace back to his kingdom. Just bring me my daughter with all haste," Maurice replied, his voice shaken as he dropped heavily upon his throne-like chair.

Rumpelstiltskin smiled with pure satisfaction, reveling in the promise of violence to come and vanishing before Maurice could issue a retraction of his command.

XOOOX

Belle tossed the broken wine bottle onto the stone floor and studied the man sprawled across the rug at her feet. Lech! "As if I would ever marry such a fiend," she said to the room at large. She'd been abducted from the road, dragged from her carriage and brought to Milhorn to learn that another arrogant ass was trying to command her fate. She snorted and stepped on the unconscious king's fingers as she moved to the window to look below. No escape that way. She strode angrily to the door and pulled on the handle. Locked. "I wonder if I could possibly lift him and toss him from the tower window. Problem solved. Women everywhere across the kingdom would thank me."

Frankly, she was tired of fending off the fiend's advances. She had been afforded every luxury in the tower room, including a lavish bed, silk hangings, plush furniture, and servants to bow and scrape to her every whim. She wanted no part of it, especially a marriage to the king. She wanted love and would settle for nothing less. Maybe she could find something to pick the lock, she thought hurriedly. She needed to do something before the lech woke and made another pass at her.

Rumpelstiltskin clung to the shadows of the tower room, his gaze taking in the girl. He admired the way her gown of robin's egg blue clung to her curves. Curves in all the right places, he had to admit. Her eyes were full of blue fury, her hair the deep rich color of chestnuts, and her lips… He shook himself mentally. There was no way he was going to let himself feel an attraction for the lovely creature before him who was fighting rather valiantly to free herself from her gilded cage. He was taken aback by her remark about the king. He supposed he might be able to grant that wish for her and let her deal with the consequences. She was just another spoiled, vain, vapid little royal and beneath his consideration. And what was worse was the blood of his master ran in her veins. She was no better and was beneath his consideration.

Belle started as a new voice rang chillingly through the chamber. "My, my, you're a bloodthirsty little wench. Aren't you, pet?" he asked with a rather childish giggle.

"Wh-Who are you?" she asked, cursing inwardly as her voice broke.

In less than a second, he was at her side, looming over her threateningly, his eyes wide and gleaming with a hint of madness. Oh, pet, I could have so much fun with you. His face was inches from hers, yet she didn't shrink with fear as so many others had in a similar predicament. No, this one has courage…and fire. His lips thinned into a line as he stepped back and dropped into a bow.

"Rumpelstiltskin, at your service…pet." He couldn't bring himself to use her title. She would have to earn that, he thought gleefully. No, he would call her pet knowing it would raise more of that fire he'd seen lurking beneath the surface.

"Am I supposed to know who you are?" Belle asked, her mouth curving into a smirk, her brow raised.

His eyes narrowed. "Surely, you jest."

"Actually, no."

He gave her a blank look. "You've never heard of the Dark One?"

Belle felt the blood drain from her face. He was a myth, a legend to scare little children, the boogeyman to frighten and befuddle mere mortals. He couldn't be real. She fought to maintain an outward calm. She would not give this…man control over her. "Oh, him I've heard of." Her eyes raked him from head to toe in a rather insulting manner. "I would have thought you would be taller… bigger to instill such fear in the masses."

A low growl rumbled in his chest as his lip curled back over his teeth into a sneer. She simply smiled. Did she not realize the danger she was in? But then he remembered his master's command. He was suddenly wishing more than ever that he was free and could whisk the little moppet back to his home in the Dark Castle. He would give her a quick lesson in who he really was. She would gain a new appreciation for him then. He pushed his fanciful thoughts away and leered at her.

"So, pet, what would you have me do with the king? Ah, yes…I believe you had expressed the desire to throw him from the tower window."

His maniacal laughter trilled shrilly as Belle stood frozen to the stones, a mask of horror on her lovely features as she watched the king hover for a moment and then fly directly out the tower window to crash on the rocks below. She ran to the window to see what had become of him, but was caught up quickly in the sorcerer's arms before she could reach the opening.

Her eyes were wide with fear as she struggled in his arms. "I didn't mean it," she cried, tears of frustration and remorse coursing down her face. "I didn't mean any harm. I was just angry." She slumped against him and buried her face in the stiff dragon-hide coat he wore.

For a moment he stood stock-still, unsure how to take the girl. His brow furrowed in a frown as a new, unknown emotion caught him in its grip. She was so soft and pliant in his arms and he wanted to gather her closer to him. Great flaming fairies! What the hell was wrong with him? And she was clinging to him in desperation, blaming herself for the king's demise. Oh, this does not bode well. Fuck! He dropped her weeping form into the nearest chair and backed hurriedly away, smoothing the front of his coat with anxious hands.

She looked down at the handkerchief he tossed into her lap and then up to meet his gaze. "Are you completely insane? This little stunt is going to start a war with my kingdom, you ass!" she shrieked, turning angrily away from him and blowing her nose.

His mouth gaped open before he could hide his surprise. "Tell me, dearie. Do you always blow hot and cold like this?"

"What?"

Rumpelstiltskin clasped his hands behind his back and circled around her, leaning close to inspect the treasure before him. There was no denying it, she was unique. He loved the strange and unique. Finally, he decided to let her off the hook, and where that spurt of charity came from he hadn't a clue. "Your father ordered the assassination. You provided the means. It isn't your fault."

Belle dried her tears and really looked at him for the first time since he'd stunned her with his sudden appearance. If he thought her unique, then it took one to know one. He was fascinating in every aspect of the word. His hair was a strange brown, wild and curly about his head to his shoulders. He was dressed in clothes she knew no one of her acquaintance would dare wear about in public, all leather and dragon-hide in muted tones of black and reddish brown. His mouth was wide, his lips thin, his nose had a subtle hook to it, but it was his eyes that drew her and she found herself wondering if they would change color according to his mood. She reached up to touch his face, his strange greenish-gray skin sparkling in the light of the window. He had a golden hue that was positively alluring and she liked what she saw. His hand, tipped with blackened nails gripped her hand before she could touch him.

"What do you think you're doing, pet?" he asked as he watched her warily, afraid of her rapid fire mood swings and wondering what she could be up to now.

Her eyes met his, alight with wonder. "Sorry. I just wanted to see if your skin was as different as it looks, is all," she explained. She shook herself mentally to break the spell he seemed to have over her. "How do you know my father, anyway?" She asked, rubbing her wrist where he'd held it a bit too tightly.

"Haven't you guessed? He's sent me to fetch you home," he said simply, stepping to the lone table in the chamber and conjuring a simple meal for them to share. "Hungry, pet?"

She huffed at him. "Stop calling me that. I am not your plaything."

Again, he appeared before her, looming over her and unsettling her with his closeness. "Would you like to be, dearie?" he asked, his voice low and husky. He watched the heat rise once more to settle upon her face and he had to admit the color was quite becoming on her. He was finding it quite enjoyable to rattle her composure.

Disconcerted, her bravery reasserted itself. "You're just full of yourself, aren't you, O Dark One?" she asked sarcastically, stepping around him and ladling a good portion of lamb stew into one of the bowls he'd provided. She ate silently, the first meal she'd had in two days, savoring the simple fare and the warmth and comfort it instilled in her. She watched him from beneath her lashes as he joined her at the table and began to eat. "Thank you."

He regarded her warily as he chewed. "For what?"

"Thank you for the meal. I was starving," she replied, slipping the spoon back into her mouth.

"I was as well. I don't eat well languishing in your father's special dungeon," he remarked, bitterness coloring his tone.

Belle's eyes narrowed as she lowered the spoon. "Explain, please. I don't take well to lies against my family. Why would you be in my father's dungeon if you didn't deserve it?" she asked defensively.

In a flash, he gripped her wrist in his vise-like grip and jerked her forward until they were nose to nose. "Understand this, pet. I don't lie. I may withhold the truth occasionally and I may twist words to suit my purposes, but I. Do. Not. Lie," he hissed angrily. He held her until his anger cooled and thrust her back into her seat. "He and his brother stole an item from me long ago, the source of my power and have held me as their slave ever since."

For once, Belle held her tongue. Her mind reeled at the thought of her father keeping a slave, even one as powerful as Rumpelstiltskin. He had always protested fiercely against having slaves, had abolished the practice in their kingdom when he first inherited the throne. She couldn't understand why he would do this. "Why?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. If she hadn't been sitting so close to him, he wouldn't have heard her.

He placed one long finger beneath her chin and tipped her face up to meet his gaze, his coal-black eyes burning into hers. "Because he knows if he relinquishes the dagger to me, I will kill him," he said, his whispered words chilling her blood. She shivered under the ferocity in his gaze and quickly looked away.

She rubbed her wrist where his hand had gripped her so cruelly, noting that the skin held the faint hint of a bruise. But nothing about her person could distract her from the man before her. He was absolutely fascinating. He was better than a book she had yet to read and she was suddenly angry with her father that he had kept the sorcerer from her. What wonderful stories he must have to share, the knowledge to be gained from him. She could spend all her time with him and probably never grow bored with the conversation. But would he consent to it? Did he have a choice? The plan forming in her sharp mind had to be better than the dungeon.

Rumpelstiltskin sat back in his chair and regarded her with a practiced eye. Why was it that every female had that look about them? The one that foretold of dire trouble? "Whatever you happen to be plotting in that pretty head of yours…you can forget it."

"I wouldn't dream of plotting against you. You could squash me like a bug," she said, the picture of innocence.

"Then why are you looking at me like a cherry tart?"

She giggled. His mouth fell open in awe. She'd actually giggled at him, the Dark One. He looked deeply into her blue orbs, searching for a hint of madness and finding none. Very peculiar girl. "I take it you enjoy cherry tarts?"

He scowled at her. "Brilliant deduction, dearie." He sighed and took her hand, pulling her to her feet.

Her heart picked up in tempo at his innocent touch. "I-I have a name, you know?"

"I'm sure you do…pet."

She glowered at him and tried to pull away. "I don't like that term. My name is Belle. You may use that," she insisted. She gasped as he released her hand and pulled her struggling form flush with his body. The contact made heat rise to settle in the apples of her cheeks, giving her a lovely glow of innocence.

His eyes lightened to a warm bronze as he slipped his arms about her waist, preparing to transport her home to Avonlea. He would be returned to the dungeon once more to rot. No more warm lovely maidens with eyes the color of the sky to banter with. No more rosebud lips arguing with him. No more warm delicious curves pressed tightly to his touch-starved body. Maurice had said not a scratch on her. He'd left a light bruise on her wrist. Still not against the rules. What else could he do to her that wasn't against the rules?

He leaned in closer, his lips a scant few inches from hers. "Belle…" he whispered and felt the tension drain from her, her body becoming pliant and soft in his arms. His tongue snaked out to wet his suddenly dry lips, tempted to give in to the heady desire she was making him feel. As his magic swirled around them, she breached the distance between them and caught his lips with her own. Rumpelstiltskin shrugged and lost himself to the pleasure of her lips, thinking, Well, this isn't against the rules either.

A/N: I was thinking of maybe leaving it like this as a one shot, but if you guys want me to continue with it, let me know. You know what a review junkie I am. Let me know if it's worth a few more chapters.