Fic: Rabbits on the Run - Chapter 7
Calonari prompted this picture
AU: Belle trades away her unborn child to Rumpelstiltskin in return for her freedom.
Rabbits on the Run
He stands outside Archie Hopper’s practice, with the taste of Belle still fresh on his lips, and his self-restraint hanging by a thread.
He has to keep reminding himself that she is most definitely off limits.
She’s alone, and hurting, and needs to be left to figure her life out on her own. And he certainly doesn’t need anything in his life for Regina to smash and burn in her wake. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to.
And the damned woman is making it hard to keep turning her down.
It’s not as if this is anything more than a natural, human reaction to having a beautiful young woman living in his home. No matter that he didn’t think anything of this until a few weeks ago. No matter that the idea of anyone hurting a hair on her head makes him want to kill things with his bare hands.
Speaking of which: George Gaston has been stalking them for the past two blocks, and Gold’s had just about enough of it. He can see him from across the street, watching from an alleyway, trying his very hardest to look menacing.
Gold supposes that kittens and small children – the weak kind, who are easily frightened and cowed into obedience – might be a little put off by George’s glower.
But Gold is an old dragon, recently awakened from a deep and eternal slumber, and he will not be glared at by a stupid whelp with a nasty temper. There is a natural order of things, and George belongs nowhere near the top.
He belongs somewhere far below, among the bottom-feeders and dung beetles.
Gold smiles with all his teeth, and starts to walk.
He wonders if the boy will allow him to stroll on past. If he has any sense, he will let the fight go, leave well enough alone, and keep all of his teeth intact.
Gold would happily rip every last one of them from the boy’s jawbone, one by one.
He passes the mouth of the alley, and is ready for the hand that reaches to grab him. He stops the arm with his cane as he used to stop swords with his bare hands, slaps it aside, and turns to face his would-be attacker.
“Do you have a problem, Mr Gaston?” he asks, pleasantly, as if he’s just been tapped on the shoulder and not almost manhandled. But he presses his cane horizontally across the boy’s throat, and slowly compresses his windpipe.
“Stay the fuck away from Isobel,” George gasps, “She’s mine.”
“Actually,” Gold replies, dragon smile in full force, fire behind his eyes, “I think you’ll find that the lady would disagree. So why don’t you back off, and leave her alone, hmm?”
The thought of what this cretin did to the mother of his own child twists Gold’s stomach. He wants to combust the boy where he stands, burn him slowly, skin then muscle then bone, and leave only charred and painful ashes behind as evidence. It takes all he has not to hex him on the spot; he only refrains because Storybrooke is a Magic Free Zone, and he’s not going to be the first to break that little stalemate.
Still, the memory of those scars on Belle’s soft, pale skin hangs behind his eyes.
“Is she fucking you?” Such a limited vocabulary he has. Gold would sneer if he weren’t so angry, “Huh? That why she’s all shacked up with the crypt keeper?” he has the nerve to laugh, even as it’s getting harder to breathe, “Can’t keep her legs closed, banging for roof?”
“Oh, dearie,” Gold feels Rumpelstiltskin rising beneath his skin, ready to attack, bleeding through the fault lines, desperate to tear the boy’s bones from his flesh and have them dance on the grave. He presses harder, and George clutches the sides of the cane with both hands, trying to shake free, “I wouldn’t say such things, if I were you.”
“What, you gonna smack me with your cane again, huh grandpa?” George smirks; Gold contemplates where to hide the body, “Saw what happened last time. Hot cop lady got you and carted you off. And Isobel doesn’t like shit like that, does she?”
“What would you do to her? If you had her back?” he needs a direct quote, something he can’t wriggle out of.
“She’s mine,” George hisses, “Always has been. She won’t get away again: you have to train unfaithful bitches not to run.”
The spell that slips through is minor compared to what could have happened. The murderous rage in Gold’s bones could have crushed mountains into dust, and made the skies bleed, and torn whole continents into archipelagos. He would have ripped the bastard’s heart out and shown it to him, crushed it in his palm, allowed Regina to find the corpse and draw her own conclusions.
But all it does is knock the boy unconscious.
It wouldn’t even brain damage him. Pity.
But no one had seen their little altercation, so he can brush himself down, give the boy a good kick in the ribs for good measure, and walk away. He could have fallen and slipped. He seemed the type.
This, Gold promises himself, will be his last act of violence: until the final battle, when everyone would be hacking and slashing.
He can’t keep beating the same man into unconsciousness.
But he also can’t see a way to have the boy gone for good: neither one of them can leave Storybrooke. Even if they could, George seems the type to hang over a person like an oafish shadow.
But this is the second confrontation the boy has started, and added to a brick through the front window: this has become a serious threat.
He can’t risk it being Belle and Rose pulled into the alleyway next time, instead of him.
So he abandons his plans to go home, and heads instead in the direction of the Sheriff’s office. Gold has a feeling this problem is in need of a pure and incorruptible hero, and much as it pains him to say it, Emma’s probably his best chance.
“Do you mind leaving your daughter with my receptionist?” Dr Hopper asks, as he invites Belle into his office.
He sees her discomfort, smiles encouragingly. Belle can’t see any dishonesty in his green eyes, nothing to indicate an ulterior motive or malicious intent. She’s been lied to and admonished an awful lot recently by people who at first appeared the same.
But she wants to trust him; has to, for this to work.
So she nods, stiffly, and says “She’ll be alright out here?”
The receptionist pipes up, “She’ll be just fine, Miss French, don’t worry about it. If she so much as turns over in her sleep I’ll page Dr Hopper immediately, okay?”
Sooner or later, Belle is going to have to accept that not everyone in this whole town is out to steal her baby away and throw her out of her home. She figures that this is probably as good a place as any to start. So she wheels the pram around the back of the desk, and leans down to press a kiss to Rose’s forehead, before nodding once in thanks to the other woman and following Dr Hopper into his office.
She settles herself on the soft, slightly over-stuffed sofa, and waits for Dr Hopper to take his seat opposite her, “So, Isobel, why did you make this appointment with me today?”
“It’s Belle, actually,” She smiles, tries to look as stable as possible, “I changed it recently.”
“Oh, I’m sorry about that,” he smiles, a little embarrassed, “Belle it is, then. Does this name change have anything to do with what you wanted to talk about?”
“Um… a little, I guess. I need you to do something for me – I can pay you extra, if that’s what’s needed, but I needed an expert’s help with this.”
Dr Hopper nods, intrigued, “And what would that be?”
“I need a certificate or… I don’t know, some kind of legal document, saying that I’m sane and healthy and not, you know, psychotic or something.”
“Alright,” Dr Hopper smiles, “Can I ask why you would need such a thing? Sanity is a rather large ballpark to work in.”
She’s heard stories about Dr Archie Hopper, about things that happened when she was first out of the hospital and spent her days locked up in Gold’s house; when she went whole days just hiding with her daughter in their sunlit little room and reading like the world didn’t exist. She’s heard he helped to save the Mayor’s kid from down a well, and that people saw him take a stand against Regina. She’s heard that, since then, everyone in town has trusted him without question.
And Gold seems to agree with them, which counts for a lot these days.
My enemy’s enemy and all that.
“I think someone’s trying to take my daughter away. And this isn’t paranoia or something; I don’t think there are ninjas hiding behind the curtains or child-snatchers in the streets… I have real reason to think that.”
“And so why do you need my help?”
“The Mayor is trying to prove that I’m an unfit mother. She wants to put Rose up for adoption, and I think the Mother Superior from the convent outside of town is going to help her to do it.”
“I see,” Dr Hopper nods, and tips his head to one side, “Has she said anything explicit, to make you feel this way?”
“She visited me yesterday and all but spelt it out. She kept talking about choosing to be a mother and giving my daughter her best chance and she accused Mr Gold of being a violent criminal…” She trails off, the horror of the previous afternoon still fresh in her mind. She hasn’t been this scared since before Rose was born.
“You live with Mr Gold, don’t you?” she nods, and he makes a little note on his pad, “But I’m assuming he’s not Rose’s father?”
“He’s the closest thing she has to a real dad,” she replies, and tries not to feel the little sunburst of warmth in her chest at the idea of raising her daughter with him, not alone anymore, “But no. George Gaston is the father.”
“And is there any friction between them?”
“You haven’t heard already?”
Dr Hopper smiles, “I’d rather hear it from you. Gossip in this town can be a little sensationalised.”
“He doesn’t like that we’re not together anymore.” She chooses her words carefully, lines them up one after another, “Or that I don’t want him on the same planet as my daughter. He decided to express those feelings.”
“And I hear it was in public? On the street for all to hear? That must have been pretty difficult.”
“I’ve heard all of his shit before, many times. He threatened Rose as well as me, though, and Gold was there, and he kind of… lost it.” She reaches up, traces the faint red line on her cheek where George slapped her, “He was provoked.”
“And George had been violent with you before? When the two of you were a couple?”
“But you don’t feel like you want revenge on him for that?”
“Why would that help?”
“Catharsis?” he suggests, and she wonders what it is he wants to hear.
“All I want is for him to leave us alone, I don’t honestly care if he lives or dies. I have a daughter, and a home, and friends who care about me. That’s what matters.”
Dr Hopper smiles at her, a wonderfully friendly, crunched-up sort of smile that makes her want to follow suit, “That might be the sanest thing anyone’s ever said in here.”
“So you’ll help me?” He doesn’t say anything for a moment, and she wonders what he must think of her. “Dr Hopper-”
“Archie,” he corrects, “I’m Archie, not Dr Hopper, and yes. If someone is really trying to prove you’re unstable or deranged, then I will testify otherwise.”
Gold enters the Sheriff’s office with a certain amount of purpose, and finds Emma in her office. He knocks on the glass door, not sure if he’s supposed to just walk right in or wait to be invited.
Usually, of course, he’d just waltz inside and wait for her to speak to him.
But this time pissing off the Sheriff isn’t going to help anything, fun though it might be. He actually needs her help, for once, and staying on her narrow little good side would be an asset.
She looks up from her lunch, mouth half-full of pastrami sandwich, and looks completely stunned to see him.
But then she recovers, and chews down her mouthful, and beckons him inside.
“Hey, Mr Gold,” she greets him, gestures for him to take a seat, radiating awkwardness and unease, “What can I do for you today?”
“I need to report a crime.” He says, and she nods, pulling out a sheet of file paper to take down the details.
“Uh huh, so what happened?”
“I was assaulted in the street, and my home was vandalised.”
“Okay…” she looks up at him, frowning, “I’m sorry, what?”
He sighs, and repeats himself, “The same person who through a brick through my window about a month back decided to attack me in the street today.”
“Who in town would try that on you?” she asks. It’s a fair question: when she arrived in town nine months ago, he’d been fairly well untouchable. Everyone was just instinctively afraid of him, or hated him, or a combination of both. At any rate, his double-glazing was secure.
That, of course, was pre-Belle. She was where the trouble started.
But he is where it ends. This town is still his, after all, and he was promised comfort. Regina is his next stop after this.
“I believe you’re already familiar with the story there, Sheriff Swan,” he replies, “His name is George Gaston, he has a little… disagreement with my houseguest. He likes to take out his frustrations with his fists.”
“Hmm, you don’t look bruised.”
He smiles, a lightning-flash of pointed, predatory teeth, “I never said he was successful.”
She groans, “Please don’t say he’s in the hospital again.”
“The boy is perfectly fine, I assure you. Sleeping off the ordeal.”
“Then what do you need me for?”
“He doesn’t respond to my usual… methods. What he wants, I have no intention of offering him. There is no deal to be struck.”
She frowns, unsure of what to do with that. For a magical curse-breaker, she really is phenomenally dense when it comes to the terms of magic.
“And this wasn’t the first attack?”
“He threw a brick through my window, sometime around Valentine’s day. Until today I thought that might be the end of it – an eye for an eye and all that – but this cannot continue.”
And she’s smiling at him, now, a sly and knowing smile he’s not at all comfortable with, “You’re afraid he’ll come after Isobel.”
“It had crossed my mind: she is the source of his problem with me, after all.”
“And you care enough not to just let it happen.” She’s properly smirking at him now, “That’s really kind of sweet.”
“You can be quiet now, Sheriff.”
“You’re not even here for yourself, you’re here for her! If it were just you you’d be able to handle it… you’re actually worried about her.”
“I’m concerned about my property,” he snarls, a dragon protecting his weak spots, “I don’t need to wake up with my bed on fire, thank you.”
He stands, makes to leave, but Emma lets out a small giggle and doesn’t let him escape, “Mr Gold, defender of single mothers and small children.” she says, “I never thought I’d see the day.”
He turns back, snaps, “Yes, well, I’d appreciate if you kept quiet, if it’s all the same.”
“Of course,” she nods, “My lips are sealed. I’ll look into it: the guy gave me trouble during the interview, too. He kept making passes at me and making stupid threats. Arresting him shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Good.” He gives a grim little smile, and leaves her to her work.
Belle is almost bouncy, the next few days, jogging Rose in her arms as she walks rather than using the pram. She’s sane. She’s sane, she’s sane, she’s sane.
Sane and happy and normal as the sunrise.
She hadn’t realised how little she really believed that until someone new, someone qualified and objective, decided to tell her so. Because how could she be whole and sane and real, when every moment of the last near-decade had been spent in pain and darkness?
She’d be lying if she claimed that Regina hadn’t struck several nerves.
Belle had had words buzzing and shrieking in her head for months: clinical, cold, terrifying phrases like post-natal depression, and unfit mother. Words designed to rip her child from her breast and place her in the hands of a faceless new mother.
But now she was free, loose-limbed and confident, dancing along sidewalks in the sunshine without fear or sorrow.
Now she was normal, and no word had ever sounded sweeter to her ears.
Mainly because she hadn’t felt it since she was seventeen, perhaps even younger.
Perhaps she’d believed herself damaged and broken, wrong on some deep and fundamental level, since the moment her mother died and everyone’s eyes became uncomfortable, closed and sad and far, far away.
But Belle is normal, and the sunshine has become warm and bright, soft and caressing on the bare skin of her arms, on the dark hair of her baby’s head.
And this is why she doesn’t shake when, on a Sunday of all days, she sees a very familiar little shape bustling toward her down the high street. The Mother Superior’s smile is like cut glass, eyes hard and narrowed and serpentine.
“Isobel!” she coos, as she pulls her in for the hardest little hug Belle has ever felt, “How good to see you, dear!”
“It’s nice to see you, too,” she lies, holding Rose just a little bit closer.
“And ooh!” she continues, eyes fixed on Rose’s dark little head, “She’s grown so much, hasn’t she? Why, I remember when she was small enough to fit on one forearm!”
“Yes, she’s all big and sturdy now,” Belle nods, hoping she can brush the woman off without barbs or shrapnel, “I’m actually taking her home: it’s time for a nap.”
“Yes home…” The Mother Superior’s eyes cloud with purpose, and Belle laments her misstep. She should have been visiting a friend, or going to the diner, anything else, “I need to speak with you about that, actually. Have you thought any more about what I said?”
It’s been over six months, and Belle has avoided this little woman in this miniscule town like the plague. Of course she’s thought about it. “No, actually.”
“Oh, well, that is a pity. I’d thought better of you, Isobel.” Her frown is motherly and disapproving, meaning to cow an errant and disobedient daughter into obedience. But Belle hasn’t been a daughter since she was seventeen, and she has since battled ogres with heavy fists and sharp claws, faced off a dragon in his own lair and made her home in the heart of a volcano.
Belle is no longer a daughter: Belle is a mother, and she will burn and smash and kill to keep her daughter safe.
But swords and flaming torches aren’t what’s needed here, for this is a war of women, a war of words and harsh opinions, of advice, and so she chooses her chess pieces with care “Yes, well, that’s what comes of saying things that are unthinkable.”
The nun rolls her eyes to cover her flash of surprise, “Oh, Isobel, always so dramatic.”
“You’re trying to make me give up my daughter,” Belle responds, voice flat and calm, “There’s nothing I could do that would be overly dramatic.”
“I’m trying to do what’s best for the child,” the Mother Superior hisses, “So there’s no need for selfish declarations. It’s time to grow up, Isobel. It’s time to do what’s best for her.”
“Oh, like you did what was best for me? Trading my baby away to a man you don’t even trust without even a word?” she plays her most powerful card as if it’s nothing, casts it down at her enemy’s feet and waits for her reaction.
The Mother Superior wears the look of a misunderstood friend, shocked and hurt and so wounded that Belle wants to smack her, “That you couldn’t keep to your commitment and forced an innocent into your corrupted little life is most definitely not my fault. And I’m surprised that you’ve sunk so low as to believe that it could be.”
Perhaps, a few months ago, when she was running and hiding and so very scared, Belle could have doubted herself. Perhaps she could have looked into that rounded, sweetly pretty face and sought to believe her honeyed lies.
But not now, and never again.
Belle is sane and strong and normal, and the pleas of an old enemy fall flat on her ears. She leans in, quiet and confidential, mimicking the Mr Gold’s solicitous tones, “We both know different, don’t we, dear?” she adds the endearment as a sign of authority, to put her in her place.
Belle is strong, now, and she’s not scared of anything.
“I beg your pardon?” the Mother Superior’s self-righteous feathers are ruffled, but her voice is curiously high, almost frightened.
“I know you forged my signature, and have evidence to prove it. So back the hell off, leave my daughter alone, and hold your tongue. Or would you rather the Sheriff got a hold of your little forgery?”
She summons every verbal trick she knows from Gold’s arsenal, imagines that he speaks with her tongue, and hides nervous little Isobel French in a deep well inside her mind. She inserts all the authority of his dark suit and cane and menace into her voice and lets the Mother Superior shrink before her very eyes.
And the nun says nothing, just stares up with a shocked defiance that poorly-conceals real fear.
“I thought as much. So,” her eyes glint, teeth bared, the accomplice of the town’s darkest feature, the town sorcerer, “Do we have a deal?”
There is a long pause, tension crackling in the air, as Belle watches her old nemesis fall and crumble and dissemble into dust right in front of her.
Then, with a stiff nod, and a muttered, “May God have mercy on your soul,” the Mother Superior nods in agreement, and bustles on past.
Belle practically runs home, but her spine feels like soft, pliable steel, and even as she follows an old routine of settling her daughter, and hiding under a blanket in front of the TV, and falling asleep on the couch, it doesn’t feel as it used to.
This is no longer her life, the whole sum total of everything she’s worth. This is just a comfort, another easy way to be, an option she has among a new array of differing paths and choices, of glittering ideas, and ways to walk the world without fear.
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- calonari said: ”(…)the taste of Belle still fresh on his lips(…)”…sorry, the sound I made.. ANYWAY! Awesome chapter bby, Mr.Gold being a BAMF ! And my hate for Gaston….god I hate him so much right now.
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