Fic: Rabbits on the Run - Chapter 5
Calonari prompted this picture
AU: Belle trades away her unborn child to Rumpelstiltskin in return for her freedom.
Rabbits on the Run
Two weeks into their new arrangement, Isobel is woken in the middle of the night by an almighty crash, which echoes through the house and has her bolted upright in her bed.
Rose is awake, screaming as loudly as her tiny little lungs can manage, and Isobel hurries to her side to gather her in her arms, tries to soothe her, rocking her slowly and whispering reassurances in her ear.
But Rose is a perceptive child, and she can feel the trembling tension in her mama’s limbs, the sense the fear in her voice. She wails for two or three minutes before Isobel’s heart stops racing, before she relaxes enough to convince her daughter that everything really is alright, that she can go back to sleep now.
Isobel is relieved when she can settle Rose back in her crib, still whimpering a little but at nowhere near full-throttle, and turn her attention to the source of the noise that woke them in the first place.
She grabs the largest book she has, some kind of encyclopaedia, to use as a weapon as she creeps down the stairs.
She’s comforted, when her slipper-clad feet hit the floor of the hallway, to hear someone cursing violently in a familiar Scottish accent: if Mr Gold is around, and swearing, and not unconscious on a floor someplace, then there is less reason to be scared.
She’s not sure at what point she stopped considering him a threat unto himself.
Probably about the time she looked a real monster in the eye, and he was right by her side, defending her to the last.
She enters the front room, and understands immediately what caused the commotion. There’s a brick lying in the centre of the floor, and the rug is littered with glittering shards of shattered glass.
And there’s Gold, a dark figure against the streetlight blaring through the broken window, his face like thunder.
“What happened?” she gasps, even though the answer is obvious.
“Someone decided to take their frustrations out on the double-glazing.” He replies, fury evident in his tone, but it’s not directed at her.
In that moment, Isobel feels sorry for whomever it was who threw the brick.
Even stood in a ruined living room, in the dead of a Thursday night, in his pyjamas, Mr Gold still radiates the ability to reduce any person he chooses to a pile of ashes, with just a look and a harsh word.
Which used to terrify her, but now is comforting: because she knows that that power is on her side, that she is counted as a friend rather than an enemy.
He turns to properly face her, and a perplexed frown replaces the anger for a moment, “Why are you holding the American Encyclopaedia of Birds?”
“Oh, um…” she smiles, a little ashamed of herself, “I thought we were being robbed.”
“And that was your weapon of choice?” he’s mocking her, and she should be annoyed, but the laughter in his eyes is infectious. He crosses the room, picking his way across the broken glass, to stand close enough that she can see the details of his face.
“Yes!” she protests, but she’s trying not to giggle, “It was the heaviest thing close to hand.”
“Dearie, my house is full of heavy, sharp things perfect for murdering trespassers. Why ever did you choose a book?”
She doesn’t answer that, another thought having sprung into her head, “Oh, shit, you’re right. We’re going to have to do so much baby-proofing before Rose learns to crawl.”
She’s sure she imagined the soft, tender, almost mournful look in his eyes at that. Because it’s gone in a moment, and he’s shaking his head, “Oh, no dear, you’ll have to baby-proof. I don’t do anything that involves my arse and the floor.”
He gestures to his bad leg, and she nods, smiling, “Oh, yeah, sorry. You could still hide things like knives and spinning wheels.”
He goes completely still, and she wonders what she’s said wrong.
“You know, because her name is Rose and… sleeping beauty? The spinning wheel in the garage?” she shakes her head, “Man, have you read a single fairy tale in your entire life?”
She doesn’t understand his little smile, the shake of his head, but she figures she probably doesn’t want to know, “I don’t expect baby Rose will be venturing to the shed anytime soon, do you?” he raises an eyebrow.
“No, I suppose not.”
“Well then, I suppose she’s safe from Evil Queens and curses for the time being.” He says, as he brushes past her to go back to bed, “And by the way, Sleeping Beauty had it coming.”
She spins, frowning despite her smile, “How do you figure?”
He turns at the doorway, gives that amused little half-smile she’s come to equate with his wicked sense of humour, “She was warned. In fact, someone tried to warn her several times. Stupid girl couldn’t find it in her to stay away from a spindle for one day?” he shrugs, “She deserved everything she got.”
And she laughs, because for some reason it’s a little bit hilarious, and her laughter echoes through the house, and follows him up the stairs.
He fell asleep on the couch.
He’s never done that.
But last night there was a thunderstorm, and Rose was inconsolable, and he’d ended up on this very sofa next to Isobel with the Nickelodeon channel going through the night, waiting for the storm to pass.
It wasn’t like he could have slept through that lot anyway.
It had nothing to do with enjoying her proximity, or the close presence of a child who did – admittedly – calm a little when her mama passed her to him.
It’s not at all charming or wonderful or heart-warming how baby Rose has taken to him. Because Gold’s heart is cold and hard and cast in stone, so nothing can warm it.
Certainly not a child that isn’t even his, and her mother who spent the first three months of their relationship hating his guts.
He’d made them popcorn, because Isobel’s stomach had rumbled and Rose was unimpressed, and it hadn’t been the worst night of his life. He hadn’t been unhappy.
But still, last night had been tiring, and Rose at full volume is at least as loud as Bae was at her age, and now he’s catching up on some rest. Accidentally, on the sofa, where he knows he’ll have a painfully stiff spine and leg when he wakes.
He’s awoken by a chirruping voice in his ear, and a sudden change in his balance on the couch, and he looks up blearily to see Isobel’s face beaming at him, and cradling a – blissfully – sleeping baby in her other arm. She’s settled back, relaxed and cross-legged, tired but contented.
He doesn’t know what to say.
Until a few weeks ago, they had an hour each day when they sat in the dining room and talked as friends.
No more, no less.
But an evening in his study, with truth and deals and moonlight, had broken their glacier.
And an unknown midnight assailant – who Gold is closing in on, after a week of trying to leave it be – had brought them to the point of alliance.
And now she cooks their breakfast, and he stays up with her on the rare nights when Rose can’t sleep and the house is full of crying, and he hasn’t called her ‘Miss French’ in weeks.
And now it’s evening, and dark outside, and the light inside is soft and golden, and she’s smiling at him. On purpose, and with her daughter in her arms, and no fear that he might spirit her away in a moment.
He just has to take stock of that for a moment.
His heart beats, and for the first time in eternity it feels healthy and warm and human.
“Your hair’s sticking up funny.” She says, and suddenly he’s certain she’s laughing at him. And for a man so heavily invested in his own pride, he feels strangely okay with that. At least if she’s laughing at him, she’s not crying or trembling or staring out into the night, alone and terrified.
He reaches behind his head and smooths the errant strands back into their proper place.
“It does that. I’m sure yours does too, after a nap.”
“I just thought you should know,” she smiles, “Thanks for staying up last night.”
“Well, you’re very welcome, dear. It was my pleasure.”
“Why do you do that?” she asks, and he frowns in confusion.
“Call me ‘dear’ all the time?”
“Well, what else should I call you?” he has a feeling this has a deeper meaning than random terms of endearment, but he’s at a loss to see what it is.
“I have a name, you know. But at least ‘dear’ is better than ‘Miss French’. I feel like an old maid when people call me that.”
She’s working herself around to something, he can tell, but that doesn’t mean he has to make it easy for her, “Well, technically, you are my maid.” He says, and she waists no time in reaching over and smacking his arm with her free hand.
“But I’m not old. Which is more than I can say for some people.”
“Oh, ouch.” He clutches his chest, mouth open in a dramatic parody of shock, and she giggles.
“Just saying. Anyway, I just… could you do me a favour?”
“Depends what it is.”
“Could you… God, this sounds stupid… but it feels important and names matter, you know? And I just-“
“What’s the favour?” her rambling is more adorable than it should be, and he feels the need to force her around to the point of this little diatribe.
“Could you… call me Belle?”
He goes still, wonders what she might have started remembering. She’ll never forgive him if she remembers the past, remembers their deal and his willingness to steal her child.
He’d only done it to save the poor thing from inevitable shame and poverty.
He’d only done it to provoke her, to test her and see if she’d go through with it.
But she’s chewing her lip, and she’s still Isobel French, the downtrodden single mother from Storybrooke, Maine. There’s no sign of a shamed, ruined and iron-strong knight’s daughter in her eyes.
So he nods, and smiles and says, “Alright, if it’ll make you happy, Belle.” She smiles happily at her new name, and he feels it’s acceptable to ask, “Why the change?”
“I don’t know: something about fresh starts, maybe?”
“A new name, a new life?”
“I guess… I don’t know: Isobel was my father’s mother’s name, and George has always called me ‘Is’, and everything’s kind of… new and shiny, right now, you know? I have a daughter, and a job and a home. And friends. You know, happy, good-influence friends.”
“Like the little nun who comes by sometimes?”
“Astrid? Yeah, she’s probably the best influence a person could hope for.” She sighs, glances at him sideways under her devastating eyelashes “And there’s you.”
His eyes widen, unsure of how to react.
He’s a cold, hard, monster with an aged and rotting soul. He’s not a good influence on anybody. But here she is, and she’s stopped running, and she’s smiling at him on purpose.
“Your old friends must have been river trolls, for that to be true.”
“You make me brave,” she smiles, “I never stood up to George before. I just ran and ran and ran, both to and from.”
He’s the coward who fled as fast as his little, hobbling feet could carry him from the Ogre War, whose wife left him because all he did was run and hide. But somehow this brave, trembling phoenix-woman makes him want to believe that half of what she says is true.
“What did he do to you?” he asks, because the air is soft and she’s relaxed and Rose is sleeping in her arms, and now, now he has to know.
And he hopes she lies, hopes she sugar-coats the truth. Because if it’s half as bad as he fears, there’s little that could stop him from getting up right here and now, crossing town and finishing his job mangling the bastard.
“He…” she looks down, smiles as if she’s embarrassed, “He was my boyfriend, and my father didn’t approve. We were together for six… no, more on seven years, on and off. He’s the reason I dropped out of high school.”
That’s a surprise: he’s seen this girl read, seen her care dusting his books. He expected her to have had big collegiate dreams before the Curse intervened, top of her class. “How did he manage that?”
“Parties, late nights, whole days… weeks skipped off school. He was… I don’t know, a destructive influence, I guess. Wild and crazy and mean enough to be interesting. And I was seventeen, and stupid, and I decided that I didn’t care what papa thought. I didn’t expect him to disown me and kick me out of the house.”
Mr Gold adds Moe French to his growing list of people to beat senseless.
He’d cast her out. She’d ended up destitute and alone, running away from everyone who should have cared for her, looked after her, because the man couldn’t deal with a little teenage rebellion?
He’d known her circumstances back in that tower: he hadn’t expected this new world, this false Storybrooke history, to mirror the true past so faithfully.
“I lived with George for a while, then Ruby and Granny took me in when we broke up, and I thought that was that. I was trying to get my life together, you know? Then a year later he showed back up again, sober and begging for a second chance.” She looks down, lets out a bitter little huff of a laugh, “Ruby told me not to go with him; I haven’t really even spoken to her since I marched out of her house to go back to him.”
She looks him in the eyes, and he hopes that it’s not just trauma that’s prompted this truth-telling session, this trust in her eyes. “But… you have to understand that it was good again, for a while. It took a year for the fighting to start, and-”
“Belle,” he says her new name as gently as he can, hoping he won’t break the spell, hoping she’ll stay and not run off like some frightened woodland creature, “What did he do?”
And with a small, sad smile, she shrugs and shifts Rose so she lies across her lap. Belle pulls up the hem of her t-shirt, and Gold sits up straighter so he can see properly.
There’s a long scar over her hip, and a small, circular burn just above it. She points to each in turn, “Belt; cigarette.”
Her voice is a little bit choked, like she’s trying not to cry, and she busies herself with Rose’s blankets, soothing her as if the child weren’t fast asleep already, gathering her back in her arms like a tiny little shield.
And how in seven fucking hells is Gold supposed to feel an ounce of guilt or remorse towards this man? The utter monster who left his painful and disfiguring mark on this strong and lovely girl?
He should have killed him on that sidewalk.
“That was the night I left.” She says, finally, when she can look at him and speak with a clear, unwavering voice, “After he did that. I snuck out and ran to the convent.”
And there’s nothing more to say, nothing Gold can think to do to begin to comfort her. So he swings his leg around so it’s stretched out off the end of the sofa, and inches across so he can wrap his arms around her, with Rose between them.
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- ddagent said: Most of my thought processes through this were AWWWW GOLD AND BABIES! Great chapter!
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