Fic: Rabbits on the Run - Chapter 3
Calonari prompted this picture
AU: Belle trades away her unborn child to Rumpelstiltskin in return for her freedom.
Rabbits on the Run
She smiled at him.
He can’t comprehend why she would: they’re not friends, not even acquaintances, and he didn’t say anything amusing or profound.
But Isobel smiled at him, and oh, does she have a lovely smile.
He wouldn’t mind seeing it more often, he thinks. Then he shakes his head, and resists the urge to bang it against a wall. Because one smile in the middle of the night is no reason to think that she might be willing to speak to him tomorrow.
But he still feels… hopeful.
He doesn’t overanalyse it, passes it off as the knowledge that, if one is going to be stuck living with someone for a while, having them be a thundercloud dripping around the hallways is a little inconvenient. He’d like them to be civil, at least.
So the next day, he doesn’t open the shop and stays home.
He has accounts to catch up on anyway: business has taken quite a spike since the Saviour came to town and things started moving again.
So he settles himself at the dining room table, and pretends not to notice when Isobel appears at 9am, bright and fresh as he’s never seen her. She stops dead when she sees him.
“Good morning, dear, did you sleep well?”
And she’s back to glaring at him, as if he’s stepped over their invisible borderlines and is tap-dancing on her territory. Which, he supposes, he is. But they’re adults, and this was his home first, and they’re going to make peace: one way or the other.
“Yes, fine.” She grinds out.
“Good. Did you want some breakfast? There’s still some pancake batter in the kitchen.”
He figures that if he just treats her like a friend and not an enemy, perhaps she’ll respond in kind.
This woman traded away a child for freedom, but she also tricked him into trading herself in with the deal. He’s not sure she wasn’t a little bit clever, a little bit brave back in that tower room.
And here, now, she is willing to live with a man known only for his darkness, a stranger who is feared and loathed by everyone she knows, and does so without a moment’s hesitation. Just to stay close to her daughter.
And he’s a man who murdered and took on the darkest of all curses to save his son. He can understand desperation, and it’s hard to remain angry, to maintain his disgust, when she hasn’t left Rose’s side for more than five minutes in near-on three months.
It’s strange to see her now, with her arms empty, alone in the doorway.
So he smiles at her suspicious frown as she crosses to the kitchen, and watches through the doorway as she dips a finger in the batter and tastes it, as if it might be poisoned.
She hums as she cooks her breakfast, and he notes it down as another thing he didn’t know about her before. Along with how she’s a bit fussy about cleanliness, and how she’s willing to tell him off if he’s annoying her.
She comes and sits on the opposite end of the long wooden table, and keeps her eyes on her food.
“Did you have any plans for the day, Miss French?” he asks after a long stretch of silence.
She looks up, eyes wide and mouth full of pancakes, and swallows her food down in one large gulp; “I was going to take a walk, then start work on the study.”
“Ah.” He nods, smiles, “You don’t have to clean if you don’t want to, you know.”
He doesn’t know if he’s going to offend her; the woman is covered in landmines and pitfalls. She frowns, and he can see ambivalence play across her lovely face, before she finally answers, “I know, I just wanted to help.”
He takes that as a positive sign: she’s trying to settle in, trying to feel at home. But he doesn’t want her to feel like a prisoner or a servant, although she would have been in the old world. Rumpelstiltskin would have demanded that she clean the Dark Castle, and sleep in a dungeon.
But the game is different, in this new world, and Isobel is not a maid from a country village, and he is not a powerful sorcerer, and the old power dynamics cannot and should not be at work. Coexistence is the aim here.
“And your help is very much appreciated, I assure you. I was just making sure that you know it’s not mandatory: this is your home.”
He doesn’t want her around. In principal, she is an unwelcome guest in this house, and he should be working overtime to trick her out of it, to throw her back to the wolves. He has to wonder what the Mother Superior would do, if he managed to circumvent the arrangement and cast this girl back out onto the streets.
The nun sold a child. Blame where blame is due, in this world, Isobel didn’t make that choice.
And it’s just so much harder, in this new human skin, to play the villain and dance on broken glass. It’s harder to drown out the empathy he feels for her, one broken-hearted parent to another.
And her cleaning makes his home smell of pine-scented floor polish and lavender soap. It feels brighter, warmer and cheerier for a little care and attention: on a purely materialistic level, a level upon which he is in his element, this can be appreciated.
There is something about her that makes him want to be sweet, kind and comforting: everything he has always scorned and never been.
That’s not true: he was all of those things before, when he was a powerless spinner without a penny to his name. The poor and downtrodden can afford to play nice.
Isobel almost makes him wish he were that person again.
And with that realisation, he looks back down at his work, and tries to forget the glimpse of a second smile he drew from her, the sight of something resembling life appearing in her eyes.
They don’t mention it again; they don’t even see each other for the rest of the day. She takes Rose out on a long walk, and he buries himself in his work, and the world spins the same as it always has.
But the next morning she’s up earlier, and they eat breakfast together, and she even brings Rose down with her, seating her on the table in a ridiculous little chair she found somewhere. The child coos and laughs as her mother feeds her, and even smiles at Gold when he risks a look, flashes a grin.
Isobel glances between the two of them, frowning, and for a moment he believes that she’ll take her daughter back to their room, that their progress will be undone.
The child is sacrosanct, the one and only thing Isobel can truly cling to, and call her own. If anything were to send her scurrying back to her room, ears down and heart racing, it would be the implication that he had any interest in her daughter at all.
Even just because the baby’s smiling anyway, and it’s the purest thing he’s seen in a long while; just because there isn’t a jaded, bitter adult on the planet who can resist such joy.
He holds his breath, and waits for an accusation.
But then she smiles, and goes back to fussing over her baby, and he breathes a little sigh of relief.
She invites Astrid over, to help her with the garage. She’s finished most of the house in the past month, and now it’s time to start on the massive mess he’s left in his storage unit in the back yard.
She’s set herself to this task, and when Isobel is set on something she intends to see it through.
But she also hasn’t seen Astrid in over a week, and she’s desperate for some female company. Gold is surprisingly sweet when they eat breakfast together, each and every morning, and has begun to inquire about her day when they bump into each other in the afternoons and evenings sometimes, but it’s nothing close to real conversation.
She’d like it to be: she doesn’t deny that.
Gold is a dragon but his smile is warm, and he hasn’t done a thing to hurt her in the three months since she moved in.
Astrid worries her lips when Isobel tells her this, as they begin to sort through the absurd mess he’s left behind. “He was going to sell a child, Isobel.”
“I never said he was a good man. I said I wanted to get to know him better. I mean… I live with the man, Astrid.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t exactly choose to.”
“I didn’t choose to get pregnant, either,” she points out, as they lift a heavy rug between them and throw it out on the grass, causing a massive dust cloud to rise into the air, “But I don’t regret that.”
“I guess…” Astrid still looks nervous, and she glances down at Rose where she’s sat in her little seat on the grass, asleep, “I don’t know. People aren’t exactly nice about him around town.”
“The Mother Superior was going to let him take Rose away,” Isobel injects some firmness into her tone, “So how bad can he actually be?”
That soothes Astrid a little, the summoning of her Superior’s influence. Isobel never told her about the Mother Superior’s visit the week after she arrived, and didn’t intend to. Nothing could hurt her friend more than the idea that the woman she’d followed for her entire adult life could be anything less than pure and holy light.
Isobel is a realist, and she’s seen darker things than nuns with ulterior motives. The Mother Superior’s grin in the hospital flashes into her memory. It wasn’t a gentle, reassuring smile; it was a smirk of triumph, a predatory flash of teeth.
But Astrid is her sweet, innocent, chosen sister, and she has a beautifully soft, safe little world. Isobel’s world has never been soft, never been safe, and she’d be a monster for dragging someone new into it.
Astrid’s world couldn’t cope with the concept of morally corrupt abbess and an almost chivalrous loan shark.
So Isobel just smiles, and hides her fear behind her eyes, and turns back to the garage.
There was something underneath the rug that completely flummoxes her. “Is that… a spinning wheel?”
“Yeah…” Astrid frowns and stares at it a moment, “Maybe he had an elderly relative?”
“What? Old Grandma Gold?” Isobel can’t help but giggle at the idea of Gold having any kind of family, particularly an ancient and cranky grandmother.
“It could have happened!” Astrid protests, “Or maybe he just… makes his own clothes? Likes to spin thread to strangle people with…”
Isobel smacks her friend’s arm absently, and then shakes her head “His suits are too well-tailored for him to make them himself.” She shrugs, “Old family heirloom?”
“Maybe it’s valuable; something for the shop?” Astrid’s wandered off inside the garage, started hauling out stacks of old books. Isobel’s still hung up on that spinning wheel: she gives it a go, pushes the wheel around and watches it spin.
There’s something hypnotic about the motion, soothing and rhythmic.
She moves it carefully out of her way and puts it under a tarpaulin to keep it dry. She kneels, checks on Rose’s sleeping little form, as she’s learnt to do at least every ten minutes whenever she’s doing anything at all.
She’s heard of young mothers being tired all the time from their new children: there’s something to be said for being an unemployed houseguest, in a house filled with everything anyone could need in the world. And it helps that her daughter is a good-natured and quiet child.
This is a baby who has a smile even for Mr Gold, whose teeth are dragon-fangs.
Isobel loves her so much she feels she might die from it.
Gold enjoys Storybrooke.
Regina’s little grey nightmare of a town is terrified of him, but they don’t know why. Back in the old world, everyone knew who he was, and everyone had a different reaction. Here, it’s different. Here, he feels he wears an aura of darkness, or foreboding, without anyone being able to properly see it.
Regina probably designed it that way to force him to be forever alone.
That’s always been her problem: she assumes that everyone else feels exactly the way she does. Regina’s deepest, darkest fear is loneliness, and therefore her enemies must be alone also.
That was why she was insistent upon dragging a child into her mess: she couldn’t bear the solitude of victory any longer.
But Gold enjoys his infamy, his notoriety. Loneliness is a small price to pay for the raw fear on the waitress’ face when he enters Granny’s Diner, and smiles like he’s just killed somebody.
He’s got a twisted sense of humour, but it amuses him.
He leaves with his lunch, ready to go back and eat in the shop, when something catches his eye: a tall man, dark haired and hulking, in a rather heated argument with a startlingly familiar brunette.
And he wants to just walk on past.
Isobel can handle her own affairs, and it’s healthy for her to do so. He’s not her father, nor her husband, she is no blood of his to keep and protect. She is capable of dealing with her own problems in her own way, and he knows her well enough by now to know she’d rather do so.
She doesn’t trust a soul in the world. If she wanted his help, she would ask for it.
So he’d like just walk on past, and enquire politely about it at breakfast the next morning.
Except for the fact that she’s holding Rose, and the man is looming over both of them, all brutish menace and intimidation, and things like this are not acceptable.
Through unbreakable bonds of blood-agreements and magic ties, that baby is as much his to protect as she is her mother’s. If demons and twisted souls come to cause her harm, it will be on his head.
So he walks over to them, all casual and calm, and smiles his darkest smile, and says as pleasantly as he can, “Is something the matter, Miss French?”
She stares at him in shock, but there’s something behind her eyes, something softer and sweeter, almost like relief. “Um, no, Mr Gold. It’s all okay. George was just leaving.” She shoots a look at the man, as if he’s no more than an insect obsessed with her floral-scented hair, and the intent is obvious: she wants him gone.
“The hell I am!” the man, George, is glancing between the two of them with unconcealed anger and confusion, “What the fuck is this, Is? I don’t see you for a year and you show up with a fucking baby?”
“You didn’t see me because I didn’t want to be seen.”
“The kid is as much mine as yours, Is. You know that: you can’t fucking keep her from me.”
“George,” she’s a picture of calm exasperation, but she holds Rose as if the combined armies of all seven Hells stand before them, armed to the teeth and ready to cut and slash and burn, “Back off. You don’t really want her, so why have the fight?”
“You can’t keep her from me.” He repeats, and he’s getting far too close to the child, and Gold won’t stand and watch this.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid she can.” He thrust his cane between the pair, and pushes George back. The man looks at him with a look of pure shock: he is entirely unable to believe he might be challenged. Gold feels a stab of sympathy for Isobel: if this is her daughter’s father, then what kind of life must the poor girl have lead?
“Back the fuck off, grandpa.” And oh, the stupid boy is trying to be threatening.
Isobel is shaking. She’s a warrior child, and she’s made of old leather and iron and she’s one of the strongest people he’s ever known. And she’ll come back from this; she’s the kind of person who bounces back harder. That doesn’t change the fact that this oafish peasant boy made her tremble in fear, and made Rose whimper in her mama’s arms.
Gold wants to become Rumpelstiltskin again, just so he can turn him into a toad.
But he can’t, because Regina’s best avoided by playing the innocent, and people would stare, and Isobel might be a little disturbed watching her housemate turn her former paramour into a wart-covered amphibian.
So he settles for a menacing smile with all his teeth, one that says back off boy, you don’t know what you’re messing with, and pushes him further back with the cane.
And that should be the end of it.
Except for the fact that Rose is crying properly, now, and Isobel is rocking her, trying to soothe her, and people are staring and George can’t just walk away and leave it be.
He spits at Isobel’s feet, and mutters, “Fucking whore. I’ll kill you for this.”
And Gold holds back, because he won’t let that happen, and that constitutes a threat, and he has the Sheriff’s office on speed dial.
Isobel looks up at George, with fire in her eyes and strength in her shoulders, and doesn’t concede an inch of ground, “Say that one more time in front of my daughter, and you’ll regret it,” she murmurs, “Forever.”
George’s smirk turns to fury in a moment, and he slaps Isobel clean across the face. The ring on his finger leaves a line of blood along her cheekbone.
That’s when Gold loses it.
Because somewhere it stopped being all about protecting what belongs to him. At some point he transformed into some faint and twisted approximation of a knight, defending his lady’s honour. And no one has the right to harm a hair on her head: to do so is sin epitomised.
She is the woman-child who crouched in a tower, dirty, rail-thin and sickly, and still outsmarted an ancient and wicked demon. Under her beige cardigan and denim jeans and trembling fingers, she is the princess in battle armour who agreed to spend her days with a dragon to protect her only family: the baby in her arms.
And here this asshole stands, degrading her and causing her even an ounce of genuine fear, causing her pain, and Gold isn’t willing to stand for that.
So he raises his cane, and brings it down on the bastard’s thick, overly inflated head.
Isobel cries out in horror; Rose is wailing something fierce; and George is still standing, albeit clutching his head. Gold sees none of it. Until the brute is on the floor, bleeding and grovelling at Isobel’s feet, the red mist will cover his eyes and the pain the bastard suffers will be legendary.
George isn’t worthy of breathing her air, but Gold can fix that.
He goes for the stomach next, winding him, then cracks it down across his back. The idiot’s on the floor, groaning, and Gold raises his cane for one final strike, to smack the git into unconsciousness where he belongs, before someone grabs his weapon from behind and stops him.
But Isobel’s off to his left, watching and rocking Rose in a kind of disbelieving stupor, blood trickling from the cut on her cheek.
It’s the cold handcuffs behind his back, the firm and entirely pissed-off voice in his ear, that alert him to the bastard’s real saviour. Sheriff Swan is reading Miranda rights in a shocked but steady tone, and Gold wonders what in seven sodding hells got into him.
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- calonari said: “Back the fuck off, grandpa.” , that crazy bitch doesn’t know who he’s messing with. GUUUUUURL ! Mr.Gold is a BAMF !
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- cyprith said: Every day this fic updates is a joyous day. <3
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