Fic: Rabbits on the Run - Chapter 9
Calonari prompted this picture
AU: Belle trades away her unborn child to Rumpelstiltskin in return for her freedom.
Rabbits on the Run
The call comes after another two days of inching and skirting around the edges.
Belle doesn’t like not being friends with Mr Gold; not at all. But he was still wrong, and she’s still right, and until the git stands up and apologises there’s nothing she can do.
They revert to their old ways, eating breakfast in silence, edging around each other in the hallways. But where once he was invisible, a possible inconvenience, more a theory than an actual man, he is now inescapable. He’s always right where she needs to be, stood in the way, and it’s awkward.
Two days stretch like two years, and Belle had forgotten how it felt to be lonely.
It had been hard to be lonely when he was sweet, when he was staying up late nights with her daughter held between them, and wrapping an arm around her when she was cold, and making stupid, wicked little jokes that made her laugh even despite herself.
A world without that, without those little wonders that make up her closest friend, is dark, bleak and icy cold.
But then, nine pm on Friday night, the phone rings.
Gold answers: Belle still isn’t comfortable answering the phone in this house when he’s here. Mainly because it’s never, ever for her – even Astrid calls her cell - and his calls sometimes upset her.
“I see. Well, thank you, Sheriff. We’ll be by in the morning.”
He hangs up the phone, and just stands there a moment, leaning heavily on his cane. Belle watches out of the corner of her eye, hoping against hope that he’ll explain without her having to ask, and then vanish somewhere.
But, of course, he doesn’t, and the curiosity breaks her before the silence can him. “What was that about?”
“That was the Sheriff,” he says, stating the obvious, and Belle rolls her eyes.
“Yes, what about?”
“She’s tracked down George Gaston. Hauled him in for questioning: he’s locked in a holding cell right now.” His voice is carefully calm, neutral, obviously trying not to crow ‘I told you so’.
“Oh.” She nods, not sure how to feel. She didn’t want this – doesn’t want this – she needs him to be free so he can forget about her.
But she knows he’ll never leave Storybrooke, because for a rebellious, brooding bad-boy type he’s remarkably scared of the unknown. Perhaps, if they’re all stuck here anyway, it’s better for him to be behind bars.
“He can’t come after us.” She whispers, and the words taste like sunshine on her tongue, “We’re safe.”
Because she’s told the Mother Superior to back off, and the Mayor’s left them alone for the past week or so, and George is in prison, and Gold is…
Gold is smiling at her with the warmest eyes she’s ever seen. She could drown in that warmth, in this fondness and affection, and die happy. She rises from the sofa, carefully, slowly, and crosses to him, her grin widening to match his own with every step.
“We’re safe.” She says it again, louder, and then again, until she’s whooping and laughing and unable to keep it in, giggling like a child.
She throws her arms around him, holding him close, and then they’re dancing around the room in a strange little waltz, mindful of his leg, trying not to hit anything because neither of them know what they’re doing.
She knows that she’s the first one to lean up, to kiss him full on the lips and damn the consequences.
Love doesn’t mean that no one has to apologise. Love doesn’t mean that he had a right to do what he did, or that she won’t worry and fret and scream about it later, when they all go to Hell in a wicker hand basket.
But it does mean that there are no more words needed, that his hands are in her hair and she’s kissing him like the world is ending, with every scrap of hope and joy and relief she has in her.
She runs her tongue along his bottom lip; sweeps it into his mouth and drinks in his flavour, the spicy familiarity she’s come to need so much.
She feels him groan as he opens for her, as his hands slip from her hair and come to her hips, dragging her against him. She holds him as close as she can, hands cupping his face, body pressed as hard against him as is possible.
They have to break apart for air, and she’s gasping, but her breath catches again as his lips meet the corner of her jaw, as they move down her neck, spreading delicate butterfly kisses on sensitive flesh. He seems to have lost whatever restraint, whatever self-control, has been holding him back all this time.
They fall down onto the couch, and she’s somehow beneath him, and he’s grinning down at her smugly, proud of how this has turned out.
“We’re safe.” She beams, and he leans down to nip her bottom lip, rub his nose against hers in a gesture that’s so innocent, so childish and sweet, that it melts her further than anything else he’s done so far.
She giggles, strokes his hair with her hand and smiles as he leans into her palm.
Then he’s leaning down, and kissing her again, but softer this time, tender and gently teasing, nibbling the edges of her mouth and stroking her tongue with his.
His hands are all over her, working down her torso and under her shirt to explore the skin beneath. Her stomach muscles clench as his fingertips ghost over her belly, as they pull back to the hem of her t-shirt and pull up, revealing her midriff.
She’s breathing hard as he pulls back and looks down at her, as their eyes meet.
And she’s nervous, of course she is, she can barely breathe at all for butterflies going insane in her stomach, her skin unbearably hot and tight, humming with something not unlike electricity, like magic.
Because Mr Gold is looking at her like she’s the moon and the stars, and then he’s glancing down, eyes widening as he takes in her scars.
She wonders if now is the moment when he stops. Perhaps this reminder, this eternal memento from her life before, will prompt him to pull back and away, go back to small touches around the very edges of who she is.
Perhaps they will disgust him, and he will be unable to desire someone who is so clearly marked as someone else’s victim.
His eyes, when they meet hers again, are full of questions, of doubts. But when he speaks, it is not to push her away, but to ask, “Are you sure about this, love?”
It’s a stupid question, really, when she’s spread out beneath him, smiling like her face is going to split in two; when his thumbs are rubbing absent little circles into the flesh of her hips, and she’s forgetting how to keep pulling air into her lungs, how to survive without his lips on her skin.
She nods, touched somewhere deep and warm and important by his concern.
He grins to match her own, and leans down to kiss her smiling mouth, before breaking away and moving down her body, running his lips across her exposed belly and kissing every scar, every little stretch mark, every ugly blemish to her pale skin.
She feels like crying, though she doesn’t know why. She hasn’t been so happy in what feels like a lifetime.
She doesn’t understand how he can see those scars, those reminders of how damaged she truly is, and still look at her like she’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. She can feel tears rolling down her cheeks, slow and sweet, tears of joy and relief and a kind of love she has no idea of how to contain.
She has to pull him back up, has to kiss him long and deep, show him exactly what he’s doing to her, exactly how perfect he makes her feel.
She wraps her arms around his torso, holds him against her as hard as she possibly can. She never wants an inch of distance between them, never again.
But then there’s a noise from the table, and she tears her mouth from his to stare at the baby monitor, as the sound of Rose crying bursts through the moment.
She laughs, even as she’s still weeping, and feels his rumble of laughter vibrate from his chest, through her body.
“That girl of yours, she has some timing,” he mutters, as she pushes him up and swings her legs over the side of the sofa.
“Yes, she does.” She agrees, as she tidies herself up a bit and pulls her shirt down.
She smiles at him, giggling like a teenager caught necking on the sofa, like someone with a special little secret, and leans over to press a soft kiss to his cheek. She places her palm there, rubs his cheekbone softly with her thumb, and then rises to go attend to her daughter.
Rose is hungry, and Belle gathers her in her arms for her nightly feed, lightly stroking the top of her dark little head as she suckles.
She can sense another presence in the room; feel him even as he stands in the doorway, watching this moment between her and her daughter. It feels right, having him here, as a part of their strange little family.
She pretends not to see him, to see what he will do.
It’s all very well her imagining him as Rose’s father, wishing that he were more than just employer and housemate, friend and almost-lover. He needs to see it for himself, understand how closely entwined he is with the pair of them, how firmly he is theirs and they are his.
She almost holds her breath; convinced for just a second that he’ll move on, leave her to it. That she’ll crawl into bed, with Rose settled once more, and lie awake all night alone and remembering his mouth on her skin, soothing all her scars.
But then the floorboards creak, and his cane taps on the bare floor, and there are a pair of strong arms around her waist, pulling her and her daughter gently back against his chest.
“Is she alright, love?” his voice is quiet, deep in her ear, and she shivers.
“Yes, just hungry,” she replies, as Rose stops feeding and moves back, yawning and opening her wide blue eyes.
Gold presses a soft kiss to the back of Belle’s neck, murmurs “You’re so beautiful when you’re motherly.” And kisses her again, follows it with another and another, until Belle is leaning on him for support, cradling Rose close against her to remind herself not to fall.
“Not in front of the baby,” she murmurs, but she’s smiling, and leaning into his kisses.
“Baby doesn’t mind,” he replies, and she feels his smirk against her skin as he lifts one hand from her waist and gently strokes Rose’s cheek, “Do you, sweet?”
Rose sighs and settles, her little fist settling around Gold’s finger.
She pretends not to notice the way he stills completely, the look of complete astonishment she can see in her peripheral vision. Because this is a moment between almost-father and baby girl, and she’s just a vessel, a conveyance, something needed but somewhat in the way.
She doesn’t mind at all.
Then Rose’s hand relaxes as she slips into sleep, and Belle breaks away from Gold to lean down and place her in her cradle.
Then she turns, smiling through the darkness, and takes his hand in hers as she presses her mouth to his, just once, just softly. He’s smiling a kind of stunned, incredulous smile as he leads her from the room, and along the twelve steps – she’s counted them, the silly little girl in her unable to resist knowing how far apart they truly are – into his bedroom.
For the first time in three centuries, Gold wakes up in a shared bed.
And for the first minute or so, he doubts that there can be a happier creature in this world or the last. Even though her weight is cutting off the circulation to his hand, even though her hair is tickling his face: he wakes up with his arms around Isobel French, and the world is a bright and cheerful place.
Then his mind starts working again, and a heavy lump of something that’s not quite guilt settles in his stomach.
He lost control.
It had been inevitable, really: he had never been brave enough to hold himself back, never been capable of real nobility or honour. And in the end, that always was his downfall.
And so now she would wake up, and look at him and try to smile while she ran from his sight and hid in shame.
He’d probably just destroyed the best thing in his life, and all because he couldn’t resist her when she was beaming and dancing in his arms.
But she hadn’t left in the night; she had slept by his side.
So that was something.
He feels her stirring, beginning to wake, and he waits for the consternation and horror.
She rolls over, shifts so that she’s facing him, and he’s a little surprised that her eyes are already open, heavy-lidded but bright. She’s smiling a sleepy kind of smile, and he feels her muscles stretching as she makes herself more comfortable, “Morning.”
“Good morning, dear,” he smiles to cover his astonishment, but he doesn’t think he’s doing a great job of it, “Did you sleep well?”
“Hmmm,” she thinks about it, “No, not really. Not for long enough, anyway,” she smirks at him, “Someone kept me awake.”
He feels a mild amount of guilt over that: they’d been up hideously late, and she was sleep-deprived enough as it was. But then, he’d finally had her in his bed, and she was so warm and sweet and willing, and he’d wanted her for longer than he could even believe. There was no way he was sacrificing one moment of that for mere sleep.
“You could sleep for a while longer, you know,” he moves his arm from under her, uses it to prop his head up so he can see her properly, and oh, she’s beautiful when she’s all sleep-tousled and satisfied, “I can leave you in peace.”
He expects her to nod, gratefully, and roll back away from him.
But instead, she shakes her head, hums reproachfully and wraps her arms firmly around his shoulders, “Or not?” he asks, eyebrows high in surprise.
“No, I don’t like that plan.” She pulls him down to her and kisses him slowly, languidly, her movements still sluggish with sleep.
He laughs against her lips, a laugh of pure joy and relief that she isn’t running, that he didn’t make a massive mistake last night, that as completely insane as it seems, she wants to be here as much as he wants her here.
“Is the bed uncomfortable, dear?” he asks, with teasing concern, “Do you not want to sleep here?”
“The bed’s fine: I could sleep here all day.”
“Then is it the light? We could draw the curtains better.”
“I don’t want to sleep,” she smiles, “Done enough of that. You’re staying where I can see you.”
“Oh, alright then,” he grins as wide as he ever has, and covers her mouth with his, his kiss deep and thorough, leaving her breathless and beaming, “I don’t have any problems with that.”
“Good,” she purrs, stroking his hair with her slim little fingers, the small motions turning him to something soft and malleable in her hands.
Of course, that’s the moment – right when he’s leaning back over her, right when his hands are starting to stray downwards, to touch much more interesting places than just her shoulders, the sides of her collarbone – when Rose decides to start crying.
Gold loves that child as if she were his own – stupid as it seems, impossible as it truly is for him to love anything half as much as he will always love Bae – but Gods, in this moment she is the most annoying creature to ever be born.
Belle looks up at his entirely pissed-off face, and bursts out laughing.
“It’s not funny, dear,” he argues, sighing in frustration, slumping down and burying his face in the curve of her neck.
“It is, a little bit,” she counters, petting his hair with a strangely familiar kind of affection, “Come on, it’s time to get back to real life.”
He groans into her skin, clutches her tighter against him, “Real life involves you and clothing. Not a fan.”
“There’s a baby in the next room who needs her mama to feed her,” she reminds, gently, as Rose’s cries grow to wails, “You could make us breakfast?”
He concedes that Rose doesn’t appear to intend to stop any time soon, so he rolls over, onto his back, and lets Belle shift away and sit up, pulling on some kind of clothing before padding out of the room.
He stares at the ceiling for a long minute, remembering how to breathe, how to function with Belle anywhere but right next to him.
Unfortunately, the real world still exists, complete with dangers and sharp teeth. More happened last night than just her falling into his arms, and kissing him until he couldn’t see, and the feeling of every inch of her skin mapped beneath his fingers.
Last night, he gained something valuable, something infinitely precious.
And who knew better than Mr Gold, who had once been Rumpelstiltskin, how much harsher, colder, and crueller the world could be once you had something to lose?
He suddenly doesn’t want her out of his sight for any longer than is absolutely necessary: he rises quickly, finds his pyjamas and robe scattered on the floor and dresses as rapidly as possible. He grabs his cane and follows her down the hallway, glances into her room just to check, just to make sure that she hasn’t somehow vanished into thin air.
But no, there she is, cradling her daughter in her arms, feeding her in the morning light.
Wearing only the red dress shirt he’d worn the night before, hair wild and long around her shoulders.
But much as he’d love to stage a repeat performance of last night – and oh, how he’d love to do just that – he leaves her to it. Because this is an important thing, here, something small and fragile and personal to mother and daughter, and Belle must be starving anyway.
So he backs away quietly, and goes downstairs to make pancakes and relive every moment of the last nine hours in his mind.
He files away every memory, every gasp and whisper and moan, every slide of her skin against his, for the day when he’ll need them most. He’s not naïve enough to believe that this beautiful little reprieve can ever last. Nothing lasts, not even skies and worlds and castle walls.
He’s just serving up when she comes to lean in the doorway, watching him with a fond smile and one hand in her soft, tangled hair.
“You look miserable,” she notes, “What’s wrong?”
He flashes the best smile he can manage, which is a pretty decent effort considering how she’s smiling like a lover and wrapped in only one of his shirts. “Nothing, dear. Breakfast?”
She narrows her eyes, but her smile doesn’t waver and she accepts her food, watching him carefully. She doesn’t believe him, and why would she, when she knows him so well and he’s clearly not telling the whole truth.
“Rose alright?” he asks, as they settle themselves: she at the end, him right beside her, the first time they’ve ever eaten without a whole damn table between them.
“Yeah, she took a moment but she’s okay.”
“Not suffering from sleeping a night alone?” he asks, teasingly, digging into his pancakes as he discovers all of a sudden that he’s ravenous.
She sticks her tongue out at him, giggling, and he’s almost glad they’re both eating, and he can’t lean across and kiss her, because he knows he’d never be able to stop.
He’d have to have her right here, on the table, and they have things to do this morning.
They actually manage to make it through breakfast without anything untoward happening – although it’s impossible not to kiss her long and deep when she has chocolate sauce all around her mouth, and her lips taste like strawberries and syrup – and he lets her go back to her own room to dress rather than insisting upon helping.
One day, he thinks, they’ll be able to spend whole weeks with no clothing at all.
But today, they have to go and give witness statements against George Gaston, and try to organise their lives into some semblance of safety and order. He has to be sure that no one can come after them and tear them apart, even if it means sacrificing a few hours of domestic bliss.
Belle calls Astrid to come over and babysit. She doesn’t want to ask again, but she can’t stand the idea of having Rose in the same room as her biological father, and Gold can understand that.
So the little nun comes over, and gives him a smile on the way in that tells him that it’s true what people say: women tell each other everything.
He’d thought that, maybe, since Sister Astrid is a woman of God, Belle would keep her thoughts to herself: apparently not. He wonders exactly what is going through her head, then Belle shoots him an amused little look and he realises that he probably doesn’t want to know.
They hold hands all the way to the Sheriff’s office, a small and simple sign that everything in the whole world has shifted and changed.
They talk about silly, meaningless, trivial things: her plans for baby-proofing, and intention to force him to help; his work, and her belief that he needs someone to sort through the chaos of his storerooms and make some sense of the mess.
They arrive laughing and teasing, the world falling and settling itself to rights.
Perhaps things would have been different, he muses as they walk, had they met before. If he had known her for longer than five minutes before the Curse, if they had had time to get to know each other as they do now.
But there is something to be said for knowing her only now, for meeting and dancing around and making love on human terms, as something closer to equals.
Being Dark One had been the necessary thing – the only thing – for centuries. But it was never something he would miss.
The Dark One would have seen his pounding heart and singing nerves, his inability to deny his Belle a thing, his affection for her child sleeping soundly in his home, and roared and screamed, driven her from his home.
But Mr Gold is not Rumpelstiltskin, not anymore, not really, not since Belle came along and made him behave like a human man once more.
He wouldn’t let the Dark One drive her and Rose away the way he did Baelfire.
He promises that with every step, as he opens the door for her and ushers her inside, as she sweeps a mocking little curtsey and he bows like a knight of old.
But the thought dies in his head when they cross the corridor and enters the Sheriff’s office, and he sees Regina and Emma standing there, staring into an empty cell with its door swinging open, arguing in hushed tones.
They spin to face Belle and Mr Gold as they enter, and Emma’s face is a picture of shock and guilt. Regina’s, however, is calm, her Mayor-in-a-crisis face. The face that tells him unequivocally that the crisis is of her design.
“We’re here to give our statements?” Belle says, in a small voice, because anyone can tell what has happened here.
“I’m afraid, Miss French, that that will have to wait.” Regina folds her arms, and Gold can see her resisting the urge to smirk.
“Why, what happened?”
“He escaped.” Emma’s voice is tight, apologetic, worried, “Isobel, George escaped. We’re going to look for him as soon as we know how he did it.”
And oh, Gold knows how he did it. Of course he does: he’s looking right at the woman who gave him the key.
Regina just stands, wishes Emma good luck, and has the nerve to pat Belle on the shoulder as she sidles on past.
“I’ll be back in a moment, love.” He tells Belle, leaving her to talk to Emma as he chases after Regina and tries not to look like it. “Wait a moment, Madame Mayor.”
She turns, looks completely delighted to see him, eyes dark and dancing merry, a predator with a wounded kill, “Mr Gold. Whatever is the matter?”
“Oh, I think you know.”
“I’m sure I don’t. There is a criminal on the loose, Mr Gold, perhaps you should be attending to your… friend.”
“She’s rather distraught,” he tries not to grit his teeth, keep his tone light and mild, “But there’re more important matters.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“I wonder what George Gaston will say when he’s asked who gave him the key.”
“As do I: law enforcement is clearly rather lax around here these days, such a pity.”
He smiles a tight, threatening little smile, “When he confesses, how long are you planning to let the boy live?”
“Well, that’s quite an accusation, Mr Gold.” She folds her arms, “what kind of a monster do you think I am?”
“I know exactly what kind of monster you are, Mayor Mills. And don’t ever doubt it.”
“Well,” she smiles, “I’ll tell you what. If you really think I would do something so terrible, why don’t you prove it?”
She smiles her poison-apple smile, all teeth and violent menace. Then she laughs, turns, and sweeps out like the Evil Queen she truly is, hidden oh so poorly behind her business suit.
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