Rating: PG-13 max
Summary: Belle knows magic when she sees it, and she’s there to stop him before he does something dangerous. Finale fix-it fic.
Marchie prompted: “She rides in his Cadillac for the first time”
(reposted because the sodding tags don’t work)
The bottle in his hands is glowing, an eerily familiar shade of purple.
And Belle is tired, so very tired, and his hand is in hers, warm and strong and home again: it would be so very easy just to let it go, to trust that he knows what he’s doing, to stay silent and watch on in awe.
She loves him; with everything that she is, every tangled hair on her aching head, every bruised and stiff muscle in her body. She loves him.
But she also knows him.
And so she can’t believe that what he’s doing is a good idea. Magic brought them here, magic ripped them apart: magic is all she ever needed to save him from. And now he holds a bottle of it in his hands, and she can feel it crackle and spark through the air.
She sees him hold it over the well, his grip weakening, ready to drop.
Her hand darts out almost without conscious thought, a reflex: save Rumpelstiltskin from himself. “What’re you doing?”
He stares at her, half-smiling, half-stunned. He hasn’t seemed truly present since she woke up, since she remembered. He’s almost sleepwalking, set on some pre-planned routine, and Belle isn’t having that. Whatever he planned, she’s certain it’s not the best idea.
Rumpelstiltskin does have a knack for burning down castles, and taking everyone with him.
“This is a world without magic, Belle,” he smiles, and it’s a smile she remembers, the smile of an old dragon conning a merchant-King out of his only daughter. It’s a smile of cunning daggers and selfish intent. And Belle is not having that, “I’m calling it back.”
“No.” she grips his wrist, hard, and his surprise renders him weak enough for her to push his hand away entirely, so there’s no chance for whatever nasty little spell he has trapped in that bottle to escape. “We don’t need it.”
He’s staring at her, incredulous and frowning, “Yes, we do.”
“No,” she shakes her head, smiling because he’s Rumpelstiltskin and after all this time he still doesn’t understand. Three hundred years and more gold spun from straw than he could ever hope to spend, and he still doesn’t understand that all magic comes with too high a price to pay. “We don’t. Believe me this time, please? Whatever needs doing, we can do with our own hands.”
“This is true love, dearie,” he lifts the bottle, waves it in her face, “Most powerful magic of all. And I have something still left to be found.”
“It’ll still be there tomorrow.” She counters, staring at him hard. She spent two years of her life trapped in a tower in the Queen’s castle, beaten and left to rot. Even without the other twenty-eight the overdressed bitch stole from her, Belle has had enough time to think. Whatever Rumpelstiltskin seeks, whatever has brought him to this well, with magic still shaking in his hands even in this magic-less realm, he has been seeking for near-on three centuries.
So it can wait another day or two.
It can wait for his shock to recede, and the bright lights in his eyes to shine again, and for long-missed words and apologies to be spoken. It can wait for her to turn him human one more time, and hope to everything Holy that this time it sticks.
He’s still staring at her, angrier now, and if he yells at her or screams denials in her face then this time she will not be so calm and forgiving. Not this time.
This time, she will slap his twisted face and shake him till his teeth rattle.
“No, it cannot. They’ll be amassing a lynch mob down there, dear, coming to kill the beast. Without magic to defend us-”
“We’ll have to run instead.” She nods, and he’s nodding with her, staring like she’s insane.
Well, if the hospital scrubs fit…
“I will not run again.” He says, and he’s struggling, trying to wrench his hand from hers so he can throw the goddamn potion into the well and unleash whatever hell he seems so desperate for, “Not again.”
And Belle is brave; always has been. She walked into the lair of a monster with nothing but a golden dress and some hairpins, and never dropped a single tear.
But Belle is also smart, far smarter than she ever was brave, and picking your battles is always a winning strategy. Strangely enough, he taught her that. They cannot fight an entire angry town with their bare hands, and she will not allow him to taint another world with magic that should and must be left well enough alone.
“Yes you will.” She smiles, tries to look as strong and encouraging as he seems weak and desperate, “We will. Together. I only just got you back, Rumpelstiltskin, please don’t leave me again.”
It’s a bit underhanded, admittedly, playing that particular card. But some things are more important than chivalry, and there is no time to waste.
Plus, it happens to be true. She could not stand to lose him a second time, to have him choose power over a future together. Some wounds are too deep and painful for even time to heal, and this time she needs a different ending.
“Belle…” his voice is so small, so lost and hopeless, and she sees it, the moment everything sinks in, the moment his lights come on and he remembers. The moment he believes her more than just a cruel trick of the light.
His arms are back around her, harder and stronger than before, his cane dropped to the side. She’s essentially holding him up, and she’s leaning against the well, clinging to him as he tries not to sob into her hair. Rumpelstiltskin is dissembling, falling apart around her, and it’s all Belle can do to hold him upright and hope to God that he can put himself back together sometime soon.
“Shh, shh,” she breathes into his ear, rocking him and stroking his back, trying for soothing, “It’s okay, I’m here, and everything’s alright, and we’re going to be okay. Just keep breathing, alright?”
He huffs a broken little laugh into her hair, and clenches his arms tighter for just a moment before letting go.
He’s back on his feet, and she wordlessly hands him his cane.
She takes his hand, strokes the back with her thumb in light little circles, smiles at him, “You can bring it with you, if you want.”
“The magic. Maybe it will be useful one day. Not today, but one day.”
“Where’re we going?” he asks, and he looks so very young, a child lost in the woods to be lead home by the hand.
“To find what you’ve lost. Together.”
He squeezes her hand, and he’s looking at her like she’s the moon and the stars. And she wants to fall apart, so very badly, to be the one who crumbles and falls and needs someone else to catch her.
But she was always brave, and he is a coward no matter how fiercely he promises to protect her, and she can be strong for him for just a little while longer.
She leads them back to his car, hand firmly clasped around his, and it’s mostly about comfort, about needing him to be near her, touching her, all the time. Only a small part is about keeping him moving forward, about keeping him from going back to the well and finishing what he tried to start.
The car is still a bit of a shock for her, even after getting there before. Months in an asylum and a lifetime in another world will tend to make one a bit prone to fear in horseless metal carriages.
But she has some kind of curse-memory still present in her mind, that tells her this is normal.
And Gold directs the thing like it’s second nature, even manages to glance and smile at her occasionally as he does.
They pass the ‘Storybrooke’ sign, and she sees a little tension leave his shoulders, as if they just won a very long race, as if he’s been holding his breath for the past hundred years and finally let it go.
He’s easier, after that, and she starts to ask little questions.
“How did this even happen?”
Maybe not so little.
He glances at her, and looks for a moment like he won’t tell her. But they’ve crossed worlds and eluded Evil Queens; they’ve broken curses and torn down dusty, heavy curtains. They’ve let the light in, and they did it together, and so now he is not allowed to hide from her.
“That was me, love.” He says, after a moment, “It’s about the thing we’re looking for. I needed –” he stops, breathes, and she’s afraid he might not continue, “I needed to get to this world. To the next one over, the non-magical one that balanced ours.”
“And what are we looking for?”
To her surprise, he actually laughs, a tiny and weak thing, but a laugh none the less. “We made a deal, a long time ago, you and I. You would return, and I would share my tale.” He looks at her, and then back at the road, long enough for her to see the sadness in his eyes, “My son. When I lost him, he fell through a portal and landed in this world.”
“And so you made this curse… to find him?” her heart hurts, because who knew something so corrupt and ugly, so terrible, as this curse could come from something so pure?
“Yes. Essentially, yes.”
“And yet you never even looked for me.” It’s an ache she’s carried since the woods, but she can’t bear it anymore. He was so happy to see her, so very, very happy, but she had screamed for him a thousand times and he never came.
“I thought you’d gone home, dearie, I thought you were free. Happy. Normal.”
“I was in a cage, suspended over the Queen’s dining hall some nights,” she says, and there is no emotion left to express, “With some of her other prisoners. Then came the tower, with symbols on the walls, and no windows at all. The asylum, at least, had windows.”
“Oh, Belle.” He says, soft as a song, just that, just her name.
“They were what stopped you, weren’t they? The runes on the walls?”
“The Queen’s magic wrapped thick around you, Belle, and I didn’t know to look. She said you died, and I tried for a while, I did, but finding a you-shaped hole in the world didn’t help prove her wrong.”
She gulps, tries not to cry. She can’t cry, not here: one of them has to be strong.
“Okay.” She smiles, and it grows into a genuine grin because none of it matters, not really, not when he’s right here and they have a cage of steel to protect them and a lost son to find, and he loves her.
He loves her, he loves her.
She plays the memory on a loop in her mind, his arms around her, his voice in her ear – lower and accented, but still distinctly him – and it helps.
They drive until its dark, until the moon is high and Rumpelstiltskin has muttered something about crossing state boundaries. She assumes they’re in a different Realm now, with a different King to whoever had ruled Storybrooke’s lands. There is so much he will have to teach her.
Finally, he stops them outside a tall building, taller than some castles she’s seen, with lights on the sides and inside as well.
She won’t appear ignorant, she won’t.
So she remains silent, and holds her coat around her as they go inside, as Rumpelstiltskin asks for a room and Belle assumes that this is some kind of an inn, although nothing like any she saw in the old world. But this is not the old world, not even close, and part of that is her fault for stopping him at the well.
She can learn a new way of living for the sake of an entire world.
In their room, he shows her how to use the shower in the bathroom – and how wonderful, hot water on demand! – and she sighs in pleasure as she washes thirty years of dirt and grime from her body. The soap smells of roses, and she uses it liberally, scrubbing until her skin is red and almost sore in her desperation to be clean.
When she emerges a long time later, there is food waiting on the bed and Rumpelstiltskin is already eating. She knows this: flatbreads from the Southlands, but it smells better than any she’d had at home.
She comments on this as she takes a slice and devours it, her first real meal in an eternity. Rumpelstiltskin smirks, “Artificial flavourings will do that.”
More new words. She files them away, promises to find a bookshop soon and teach herself this new world.
The soft robe she found in the bathroom is warmer and comfier than the scrubs she’d worn before – she threw them in the bin, there was no way she was staying a moment longer in those awful things – and she finds herself lying back, skin clean and belly full, drifting into sleep.
He laughs, settles beside her, wraps an arm around her shoulders to keep her almost upright, “Your hair will dry in knots, dear,” he murmurs.
He’s right: she couldn’t come close to taming it in the shower, and it will be a haystack by morning.
“Come, I’ll comb it out for you.” He gets up, and returns later with a hair comb from the bathroom, gestures for her to sit with her back to him on the bed. He comes behind her, pulls her so she’s as close as she can be without making his work impossible, and he takes a handful of her locks, holding them up so they won’t pull when he runs the comb through them.
The water makes it easier, but it’s still twenty minutes or more before it feels like he’s come close to brushing it out properly, and she’s shaking and trying not to show it.
There’s something unbearably sensual about this, about his fingers soothing her scalp when the comb pulls, about his hands in her hair, brushing her neck every now and then, and his legs lain on either side of hers. They’re close enough to hold on and never let go, close enough for him to snap her neck or heal every wound she has.
And yet all he does is take another handful of sodden strands, and run the comb through gently, slowly, easing out the snarls and tangles of thirty years of neglect.
When he’s done, he lays one hand against the back of her head for a moment, and she leans back into his palm, the warmth radiating through her skin.
She shifts around to look at him, and he brings his legs together under her so she’s sat sideways on his lap, curled up as close as they can be on the bed, like lost children or old lovers, it’s hard to tell.
This time, it’s he who kisses her first. Just a little brush of lips, a decision made, true love’s kiss in a land without magic, and yet filled with more hope than anywhere she’s been before.
She presses back, deepens it, wraps her arms around his shoulders to hold him still, so she can kiss him properly, mold her mouth to his and pour a lifetime of loss and hurt and broken-hearted sobs into this one gesture.
His tongue runs along her lips, and she allows him in willingly, basks in his flavour of woodlands and tea, of gold dust and the magic that will always cling to him.
Because she loves him, her Rumpelstiltskin, and he loves her, the lion-hearted girl who came into his castle and tore down the curtains, who came back to him when she should by rights have fled, who lets him hold her in his arms despite his demons.
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