Title: Bathtime (Boltholes and Safe Spaces ‘verse)
Rating: G - safe for small children, even
Summary: Rose has a knack for dirt, and her parents are long-suffering
A/N: Dedicated to Chip, who’s day keeps sucking and needs some cheering up (everyone send her nice messages and hugs, she needs and deserves them).
Chip prompted: Bathtime with Rumbelle
Rose has a knack for finding the muddiest part of the park, and rolling in it.
Gold has no idea where she gets it from: Belle is never anything but neat and clean, even when she’s tired. She’s pristine, but Rose is usually anything but. Her dresses became dungarees very, very quickly: this is not a child who can be trusted with pretty floral cotton and white ankle-socks.
She has a downright talent for trouble, which makes it hard to believe she has none of Gold’s own DNA.
Nature vs. Nurture, he supposes, and he’s been with her since she was a baby. Babysitting while her mother’s out, teaching her chubby little child hands to pickpocket and spin, to hide secrets. He shouldn’t, but he supposes someone has to learn the family business, and he is her father – in law, at least, if not in blood.
He knows how she operates, now, all of five and with a perfect strategy.
He knows she must scope out the most inconveniently muddy place in the whole green, and then just wait for her moment. She’s wily, his daughter.
He holds her hand for ninety nine per cent of time they’re in the park. But then he’ll let go for a moment to tie his shoelace, or to pick up a quarter from the ground, or throw her ice cream in the trashcan. As soon as her hand leaves his, she’s off, and he’ll look up a moment later to see her halfway across the grass, covered in brown and green and beaming like the sun.
Every damn time.
Never happens to Belle, of course. For her mama, Rose is angelic and well behaved, and arrives home unspoiled and perfect. But Gold has taught her mischief, and so it is what he receives.
The worst day by far, though, is the day when she falls in the Pit.
Storybrooke’s main park, the one with the swings and the ducks, has a massive pond – almost a lake, but not quite, and since it’s muddy brown and shallow ‘pit’ suits it well – right in the centre, and Rose is entranced.
She cannot be a character from the old world: she was born here.
And yet she seems convinced that she is a mermaid, and is obsessed with the Pit, with its fish and ducks and lily pads.
She’s holding Gold’s hand, but when she sees Sean and Ashley with Alexandra in tow, she breaks free to go and chatter excitedly with her friend.
The encounter between their parents is, predictably, far more awkward. How exactly do you arrange play-dates and movie nights and sleepovers with the parents of the child you tried to steal away and sell one state over?
Belle gets along with everyone swimmingly, and appears to have adopted Ashley as a dim younger sister: they went through similar motions, once upon a time.
That doesn’t mean that the young couple trust her husband as far as they could throw him.
He’s trying to be good these days, trying not to enjoy inspiring fear and, as Belle put it, ‘troll’ the neighbours. But Ashley looks ready to snarl and spit like a frightened cat, and Sean has that ridiculously princely ‘noble’ look that Gold knows means trouble from any former royal. One of those days.
“Well, isn’t it nice to see you, Mr and Mrs Herman,” he smiles, his sly smile, the one that would make his wife smack him and tell him to behave. What Belle doesn’t know can’t hurt her.
“Yes,” Ashley replies, uncomfortable and clutching her cardigan about her, as if a thin barrier of wool will protect her from him, “How are you, Mr Gold?”
“Oh, fine dear, just enjoying the weather,” he smiled again, glinted his teeth at the pair, and oh, Sean would be pulling out a sword if he still could. It was hilarious, and Gold didn’t feel the least bit sorry for it.
Until there he hears a loud splash, and a scream, and he spins to look at the water, where his little girl has just disappeared beneath the water.
His heart stops.
Literally, it stops beating in his chest for a moment, a million nightmare scenarios flooding his mind as he hurries to the shore, where Alexandra is staring in horror. Ashley and Sean are right beside him, and suddenly the tension is gone, everyone focussed solely on the place where Rose should be and isn’t.
Gold is about ready to jump in after her, suit and bad leg be damned, when her little head appears, beaming and rubbing water from her eyes.
She bursts from the water, yelling something along the lines of “I’m King NEPTUNE!” and Ashley breathes a sigh of relief, hiding her head in Sean’s shoulder and giggling helplessly.
Sean hauls Alexandra back from following her friend’s example, and the three of them leave quickly with a few muttered words of support to Gold.
He’s not sure if he’s angry or just sick with relief. He settles for both, and glares at his daughter, “Rose, what in the name of seven hells were you doing?”
“I was a mer-king!” she replies, happily, and he pinches the bridge of his nose.
“You’re a muddy little goblin, is what you are.” He sighs, incapable of being mad when he’s just insanely glad she’s alive and smiling, and holds out his hand. She takes it and lets him pull her from the water, covered from head to toe in mud and sludge. “Come on, bugalugs, let’s get you home. Mama’s going to have words.”
“Daddy,” she starts, as they walk home through the park gates. She looks up, all wide blue eyes, and he’s sure he’d murder a dragon with his bare hands just to protect her.
“Is mama going to be very angry?”
“No,” Gold replies, and sighs again, but the smile stays on, “She’s used to this by now. You have a knack for mud, sweetheart.”
He was right: Belle does nothing but sigh at her muddy little daughter and tell her to wait at the door. Rose is shivering, now, and regretting her decision to dive into the pit, but it is too late: Belle has just mopped, and not even a cold, bedraggled five year old will change her mind.
She returns with a large towel, and gets Rose out of her dripping clothes and wrapped in it before she crosses the threshold.
Gold had been instructed to go and run a bath. The steaming water is already waiting when Belle gets Rose upstairs, and she squeals a little when her icy skin touches the water. “Well,” Gold mutters, entirely unsympathetically, “That’s what you get for freezing yourself.”
Rose just sticks her tongue out.
She also manages to get hold of the bubble bath while Belle is out and Gold is distracted, so the tub is soon a mess of brownish water and fluffy white soap bubbles.
“You’re a troublemaker, little goblin.” He growls, but he taps her nose affectionately anyway, and she giggles and doesn’t apologise.
“You’re too nice to her,” Belle murmurs as she returns with the shampoo, “isn’t he?” she looks to her daughter, who just smiles and examines a handful of bubbles.
“Rose?” Rose looks up at the quiet, serious tone of her mama’s voice, “You owe your papa an apology.”
“Why?” she asks, frowning, unsure of what she did wrong.
“You made him very worried today,” she explains, “And that was silly.”
“Oh.” Rose looks back at her father, and looks so sad he wants to hug her and let everything go. But funnily enough, Belle’s more of a disciplinarian than he will ever be, and so if she tells Rose to do something he doesn’t interfere, “Sorry, daddy.”
“It’s okay, goblin.” He smiles, and she follows cautiously, “Just don’t scare me like that again.”
“Right,” Belle has been watching the whole exchange with that warm smile he loves so much, the ‘my family’ smile she’s grown just for them. They’re all the only family any of them has ever really had, and their smiles are shared between them and them alone, “Lets get you all cleaned up.”
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