Fic: The Greatest Part Of Me
Title: The Greatest Part Of Me
Rating: PG-13 highest
Summary: Belle is gone, and Rumpelstiltskin mourns, and yet even as Mr Gold she is everpresent.
A/N: Lyrics from Paramore’s ‘In The Mourning/Landslide’
Marchie prompted: “She finds a chest of dresses”; “Perfume collection.”; “Belle plants a fruit tree”; “Belle wants an orchard”; “First snow of the season”
lolaveri prompted: the rest of Gold’s night after being tricked by August
Now it seems like the whole world’s waiting
Can you hear the echoes fading?
She’s been gone a month, and still she’s everywhere .
In his hallways, by the windows, perched on the dining table waiting for him when he comes to fetch his tea in the morning. And she’s smiling: she always smiles. The girl who ran free and got away: the little bird who escaped her cage.
She flits through his halls, and with every beat of her wings reminds him of his cowardice, of her betrayal. Of her innocence, when all was said and done, and what kind of cruel and twisted world is it where a man must choose between his lost son and his dearest love? She is better off gone, better off in her father’s home, better off without him.
He’ll come for her. He doesn’t normally let people get away.
He’ll write her a chapter in his curse, and bring her back to him. They will be together in the next world, even as his bloody sodding magic keeps them apart here.
He keeps that thought in his heart when he hears the echo of her laughter, when he thinks he sees a slip of blue skirts and instead it’s just a curtain in the wind, when he walks past her old room and is suddenly wrapped in her floral perfume.
They will be together soon. And then he won’t have to dream of her: he’ll have the real thing by his side for thirty years and thirty more.
And my heart’s beating like a steamboat tugging
All your burden, on my shoulder
It’s impossible: he knows King Maurice’s character, knows his lands. They do not beat women, nor purge their souls with scourges and flaying. They don’t lock up their daughters and let them fall from high towers. Maurice had begged for his daughter’s freedom when it was taken away: the first man he’d met in a hundred years to refuse a deal point-blank.
And yet he can find no trace of her: a Belle-shaped hole has appeared in the world, and there is no trace of rose-scented perfume nor periwinkle-blue skirts to be found in any castle from here to Agrabah.
She died, she died, she died.
And it takes all my strength
Not to dig you up, from the ground in which you lay
He doesn’t visit the grave. Of course he doesn’t: to do so would be to tear at the soil with his bare hands, take her bruised and broken body back to his castle and do all he can to reanimate her, to create a zombie or a golem out of her bones to keep him company, to trick himself into thinking she’s not gone for good.
So he doesn’t visit the grave.
He’s told there is one, is even brought a flower from it by Queen Regina herself. But he doesn’t visit, and Belle never comes through the doors, whole and strong and smiling, and why wouldn’t she have died? He loved her, therefore he lost her. This is the way of villains and cowards. Were he handsome, powerful, brave, a prince with a shining sword and cloak, she would be his.
But he is a spinner with a demon’s skin, and so the world forgets his happy ending with the rest of the wretches.
He doesn’t visit the grave: it doesn’t mean he doesn’t create a little shrine to her memory. Her chipped teacup rests in his hallway, and her ghost doesn’t visit him anymore.
Even in dreams, Belle can never be anything but dead and gone.
Where landslide brought me down,
Your landslide brought me down
Mr Gold was never married.
And he certainly never had a daughter or a sister, long lost. He remembers women, hazy and indistinct, from a youth that was definitely misspent. But no real names, and the experiences come back to him in flashes at appropriate times only.
But he recognises her when his eyes close.
A woman in blue, with long chocolate curls and a wide, tempting, laughing mouth. She runs like a sprite through his house, his wife and lover and centre of gravity. Sometimes she is pregnant, belly swollen with his child, and he places his hands over her stomach, feels the baby kick beneath his palms; sometimes she is young and maidenly, and she lies on the floor of his bedroom, draws him close and allows him to make love to her for hours.
Every night, there she is.
He’s sure it isn’t normal, to have a wife in dreams and be celibate in waking hours. To know her eyes and the taste of her mouth and yet not her name.
But she comes to him like a piece of summer, on the days when he needs her most, and she is everything he ever wanted. He dreams an entire life with this woman, with his stained glass clean and clear, his bed warm and built for two. She plants a fruit tree in the back garden, and aspires to grow an entire orchard; they dance in the first snow of the season.
But he wakes, and every morning he is alone again.
And people wonder why he’s surly.
The biggest part of me
You were the greatest thing
And now you’re just a memory to let go of
The second name that comes to him, after Emma leaves the inn and he looks to Ruby Lucas - Little Red Riding Hood, and suddenly all he sees is a wolf and he smirks, because she doesn’t know and her fear of him during a full moon is suddenly incredibly funny - and the memories come in floods and starts.
A whole world slips into his head, and it’s like it was always there.
Mr Gold looks down, and Rumpelstiltskin looks back up again, a new man in the same tired, old skin.
It is worse, so much worse , having a name to put to that face. To the woman he sees every night, who is gone by daybreak. The nymph who haunts his halls and kisses his wounds when he closes his eyes.
He needs to forget her. Her grave, the broken pieces of her body are lost to the space between the universes, and that is that.
But she’s in his head, his blood and soul and every little thought, and so she cannot be truly gone. He holds the cup in his hands and remembers every dream, every thought he created for himself in the past thirty years of nothing, and he doesn’t know if he’s a masochist or a genius, that even when he didn’t know his own name he remembered the lights in her eyes.
He puts Baelfire back into the little box in his mind, where Rumpelstiltskin always stored those memories. Three hundred years is long enough to learn to squash down a particular feeling, and he hurts for his son even more than he hurts for her.
Bae is a possibility: Belle is not.
Bae he can keep at bay simply through the hope of rediscovery: Belle’s grave was torn apart by this very curse.
And yet he still sees her in his dreams. She reaches out to him, every night, and he lies still, eyes closed, and doesn’t even move. Finally she stops coming altogether, and he stops dreaming altogether, to his absurd relief. Better to never see her, he reasons, than know her and miss her when she’s gone.
In the mourning, I’ll rise
In the mourning, I’ll let you die
He slips up: his control was never a work of art.
But he’d been so close, so very very close to everything, and he’s hurting, and wounded animals are not known for their restraint and good judgement. Pinnochio fooled him, and what irony that he did, and Bae is still lost to the cold and the wilds, and he’s so fucking tired of everything.
So he sleeps, and she appears, and it’s like the old days
Rumpelstiltskin misses Mr Gold. His existence was untroubled, perhaps a tad bewildered, and he was left in peace from bad memories.
Better to not believe in magic, than to remember it and miss it. He supposes the same applies to love, family, friendship and home. Things best left undiscovered and undesired, than known and loved and lost. Shakespeare was a moron, by his estimation.
Mr Gold had no problem with frolicking with his dream-wife in the wee small hours of the night. Rumpelstiltskin misses that innocence, and so when she comes to him he rises from the bed, and holds her in his arms and kisses her sweetly, gently, like an old and newly-returned lover. She sighs, clings to him, and he is amazed at his own mind: in this dream, he knows she isn’t real.
And in this dream, she feels as warm as he remembers from all those years ago, and he welcomes such comfort as memories can provide. His imagination is formidable, feeding off the echoes of magic left in his body, and their dream embrace, the sensation of being held in such warm and loving arms, is so potent it hurts his bones. He mourns the loss of his boy afresh, and chooses to forget that this woman is further gone even than he, that Bae is lost while Belle is simply gone.
Lost things can be found: nothing can haul his love back from the dead.
But he lies in his dreams, and allows her to shoulder the burden of that suffering. Just for tonight, just for a little while, Rumpelstiltskin becomes Mr Gold once more, and allows the regret and the pain to fade and wither as the sadness of another man, in another time and place.
You escape like a runaway train
Off the tracks and down again
He thinks he must have fallen asleep again.
He’s dreamed her before, in his shop: when he was Mr Gold really and truly, and in dreams she came to him. She danced between the shelves: stroked and brushed at the fine china, found a chest of dresses on the floor with a wide and wicked grin, played with the old perfume collection that had collected dust forever.
But she’d never had to ask his name, and never looked so lost. Her hair is matted, her clothes ill-fitting and utilitarian, like hospital scrubs.
“I was told to find you, and to tell you that Regina locked me up.”
She isn’t real. Of course she isn’t, she can’t be. Regina has played a trick on his mind, or worse, the Curse is re-exerting itself with the cure so close and making his fantasies flesh.
He reaches out and touches her, his hand on her arm.
She’s so close, and she smells wrong, and she’s looking at him like she doesn’t know him, like a stranger, with none of the knowing smile or bright eyes his dream-Belle bestowed upon him. She doesn’t know who he is.
“You’re real.” he says, astounded, “You’re alive.”
It’s impossible, and yet here she is.
And he never visited her grave. Regina locked her up - “She did this to you?” - and he never thought to check.
All these years he’s dreamt of her, and when he holds her he’s crying and she’s still, and reeks of hospital disinfectant and lifetimes of neglect. Of course he’ll protect her: to the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.
And now there’s nothing but time that’s wasted
And words that have no backbone
Somehow it hurts more, as they wait, as he sits her on the couch in the back of the shop and he stares at her, always reaching and pulling back. Nothing he says can be right: apologising makes no sense to her; smalltalk is a waste of time. He can’t tell her that he never forgot her, although he screams it in his mind.
“How do you know me?” she asks, after a long pause, and he stares at her, dumbfounded.
She is someone from long ago and faraway, and how do you explain to the woman you once held captive that she is still everything that matters?
“We were friends… before.” he answers, lamely, “A long time ago.”
“Oh.” she stares at her hands, and he wonders how much she actually has to piece together her past.
“Do you know your name?”
She breathes, “No. Do you?”
“Yes.” he nods, “Belle. When we knew each other, your name was Belle.”
It’s the first time he’s said her name since the day of the Queen’s visit, and it falls from his tongue choked and lost, an echo through the ages. But she doesn’t seem to notice, and why would she? She doesn’t even know who he is.
“Oh.” she looks entirely lost, speechless, and so unlike herself he wants to shake her, throw her to the floor, murder Regina and Emma both, just to force her to wake up and see him. “And… I worked here?”
“No.” he mutters, and even had he had his way, she wouldn’t have had to clean for him in this life as well. She would have been his wife, and his love, and all she sees around her would have been hers for the asking, “You worked for me, but not here.” He clarifies, and strangely she looks a little comforted by that.
He supposes that having a strange old man cry and hug you without explanation - having just been released from an asylum, and oh the violence he would do to Regina when he got his hands on her - must be somewhat off-putting. A legitimate explanation for his knowing her so well would be nothing less than a comfort to her, right now.
So he keeps going, fabricating details in the hopes that she will understand everything soon, “You worked as my housekeeper for a long time, but I’d thought… the Mayor, Regina , informed me that you died in a car crash.”
“Oh, right.” she stares at him, fidgets, and he can see her trying to be brave, trying not to look like the terrified little rabbit she is.
“That was why…” he looks down, he can’t look at her with his first apology, although all he’s done for her since the moment she left is apologise again and again. This one she will hear, and it’s not even close to what she’s owed, “That was why I was so surprised to see you. I’m sorry if I… frightened you. I apologise, I was just startled.”
She nods, and even cursed and lost and confused, Belle is understanding.
He’ll never love anything as much as he loves her, right in this moment. She’s shaking, and it’s not cold but he imagines that the outside world is not her concern. She must have been so cold, and so very alone, and for so long, wherever she has been. She shivers because she hasn’t been warm for decades.
And she doesn’t shrink away, when he cautiously wraps an arm around her shoulders. She leans in for warmth, starved for touch after thirty years of isolation, and True Love is a transcendent thing. She can feel how right they are together even when she barely knows his name.
She falls asleep on his shoulder, and he stares down at her in amazement. She will vanish when the morning comes, and then he’ll let her just be dead. After all these years, there is no way he can close his eyes and let her go.
And yet, his head drifts to rest on top of hers, and his eyes close of their own accord.
He wakes bleary eyed, and expects to be entirely alone. And yet there is still a warm, dark head beneath his own, even though he glances at the window, and sees the first lights of dawn on the horizon.
And there is work to do, and a day to be won, and havoc to wreak.
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