Fic: All In A Row (2/2)
Title: All In A Row (2/2)
Rating: PG-13 for language
Summary: Belle listens to the same song ten times in a row (or how Belle and Mr Gold spent their two Christmases in Storybrooke)
A/N: Both a further contribution to the Rumbelle War, and a gift to you all for the Skin Deep Six Month Anniversary.
Marchie prompted: she listens to the same song ten times in a row.
Wherethewildthingsarenowadays prompted for the Six Months of Rumbelle Anniversary: Picnic: he wants to propose, she wants to snog him on the grass, misunderstanding.
The song used is Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty McColl.
Chapter 1 - Chapter 2
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
He showed up on her doorway on Christmas Day. Well, night, really, since she and her father had eaten their dinner, and he was already asleep on the couch. She was tempted to slam the door in Rumpelstiltskin’s face, but that had never been her role.
In their little tragedy, Belle knew, she was the one on the receiving end of a door slammed. Her own would always be open for him, and she hated that that would never change
“What’re you doing here, Rum?” she asked, sighing and leaning on the door jamb, arms folded. If she had to hear him out - if she had to be with him, because true love didn’t like being sighed at and shunted aside - then at least she could make a show of her displeasure first.
Fate was a bastard sometimes.
“I came to… apologise.” He seemed to have trouble getting the word out. Belle would have laughed if it wasn’t so sad.
“For what?” she asked, curiously, “Oh wait, let me guess!” she made a show of thinking, one finger on her chin, lips pursed, “How about taking my freedom away through emotional blackmail? Or, hmmm, how about not warning me that there might be evil Queens out to get me when I left the castle? Better still, there’s the whole assuming I was trying to hurt you just because you don’t know the first thing about women, and throwing me in a dungeon and snarling at me. You know, that time when I kissed you and it was working, and then you went postal and refused to listen. Any of these ringing a bell?”
“I owe you more than one apology,” he said, head bowed, “This would be the first.”
“So what’s this one for? We working chronologically or in order of how badly you fucked up?”
He winced, “You never used to speak like that.” It sounded almost like a complaint, and almost like a self-recrimination. Either way, she wanted to smack him.
Instead, she smiled cooly, “And you never used to wear suits and walk with a cane. Times change. Most of that’d be your fault, wouldn’t it?”
He grimaced, “I’m sorry for that too, if it helps.”
“It doesn’t, but thanks.” She sighed, rolled her head back, “I should make a list. Because we also have the fact that you woke me up too early. You can’t handle having someone not hate you, can you?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” she said, leaning in close, practically spitting with her anger, “That you’re so certain that no-one can ever love you, that you make sure that it comes true. Izzy French worshiped at your feet, you know that? She was innocent and happy, and you couldn’t handle that. Not knowing that I wouldn’t be so kind. You didn’t wake me up because you missed me, Rumpelstiltskin, you did it to punish yourself.”
“I’ve been missing you since the day you left.” He said, and she closed the door, finally. She couldn’t keep letting the cold into her father’s home, after all.
“I didn’t leave, Rum.” She corrected, “You threw me out. I came back in and gave you every chance to ask me to stay. I would have said yes in a heartbeat. You were the one telling me I was unwanted, that fucking power was more important than I was.”
She didn’t know if she was letting her language slip out of pure rage, or whether it was because she could see that this reminder of change, of how she wasn’t his pretty maid anymore, hurt him.
She didn’t want him anything less than happy and whole and warm. She wanted him to burn and scream and perish.
The two desires lay side by side, and she was damned if she could see where the one ended and the other began.
“I know.” He nodded, and she’d never seen him so bowed, so weak. She’d done that to him. She brought a monster to his knees, and proceeded to kick him in the gut. Maybe he was right: maybe power did have its advantages. “And I’m sorry for that, too. Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy.”
“Oh, good.” She nodded, with a bitter, snarling smile, “I’d hate to think you had somehow enjoyed it.”
“I had to do it. I had to keep you safe.”
“Oh, yeah, nice job with that. The cell was pretty comfy really, to tell the truth. I even had a cushion to sit on after a while. Safe and sound, I was, with just the added complication of Regina breezing by every day to remind me how I couldn’t leave, and you wouldn’t want me if I did.”
“This world… this world holds something very important to me.” He told her, in a voice that was both exasperated and pleading, “The only person other than you who ever had the misfortune to love me. I had to come and find him, I had to.”
“Who?” Belle asked, her voice small and fragile all of a sudden, but she already knew. Of course she knew. He owed her this story.
“My son.” He replied, and she nodded, “He… I lost him to this world. I had to come and save him, and I’m sorry that I couldn’t protect you from the curse in the first place.”
“The Queen might not have liked you coming and liberating her prisoners from their cells.” She commented, “No wonder you didn’t try. You needed her on side, right? For the Curse?
“Belle,” he sighed, and it was the first time since she’d awoken that he’d used her name and she hadn’t wanted to be sick, “Belle, if I’d have known… the wards around you were strong. I thought you were gone… she told me you died and I couldn’t find an inch of proof that she was wrong. I tore the world apart and didn’t find a trace.”
“You… you looked for me?” her voice was trembling, quiet and so very lost, and she felt like a small child and a very old woman all at once. He confused her, here, where he never had before: she wondered if he’d felt this way about her all those years ago.
“Of course I did.” He stepped forward a little, and she fell into his arms. She wasn’t forgiving him, the anger was still simmering inside her, but this was what she needed. Her cheek against his shoulder and his arms around her waist, and the warmth and scent of him all around her. This was what she’d needed, and she hated it for all that it was true. “My Belle, I would have destroyed every kingdom in that world if it had brought you back.”
“Didn’t you?” she said, her voice cracking with tears, and she heard him huff a broken little laugh into her hair.
“I suppose I did, yes.” He held her closer, and they were freezing and the snow was still falling, but neither wished to move.
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Belle spent her Christmas night in her own bed, safe and warm, and sent Rumpelstiltskin on his way. Izzy French would have invited him inside, probably with some cliched and transparent offer of coffee, and fallen into bed with him easy as anything. Moe wouldn’t wake until morning - Belle had a false memory of him sleeping on the couch from dinner until breakfast every Christmas of her life.
But Belle was a lady, for all that she had never been a princess, and while hugging Rumpelstiltskin had made her warmer than any blankets could have, she couldn’t bear the idea of being any closer right then.
He woke her up because he missed her, and because Izzy French was nothing more than a sweet little lie, and because, perhaps, he wished to bear her anger rather than forestall it.
It had been a brave thing to do, braver than anything she’d ever seen him do before. That didn’t make it right, but at least it meant he was finally learning.
They met for breakfast the next morning, and held hands across the table. Emma saw them and smiled to Izzy, pleased for her even though there was a crease between her eyebrows, a lack of understanding, there the whole time.
No one would ever understand - Belle included - how she’d ended up in love with someone as truly awful as Rumpelstiltskin. Perhaps, once, she had been a little blinder to his flaws. Perhaps she’d been a silly child, freed from her cage of good behaviour and duty for the first time and free to be who she wished - for Rumpelstiltskin never prescribed manners or made her hold her tongue, for all that he strove for a masterly tone with his maid - and she’d imagined him some tortured, innocent soul in need of rescue.
Tortured was certainly correct, but innocent he was far from. Three hundred years had turned her lover cruel, and no amount of soft kisses or smiles across a dinner table would change that.
But she loved him, for his sweetness and his darkness, for the lost child in his soul and the wicked monster in his skin.
And so she smiled to the Sheriff, and held Rumpelstiltskin’s hand, and ate her pancakes while that song played on the radio. She was starting to equate it to him: but then, she was realising from small exposures to the world beyond with Emma’s arrival, she supposed that it made sense that most of the common songs in Storybrooke were from the eighties.
After all, the whole town had crash landed here as the rest of the world lived through 1984. While some changes might have seeped in to keep the people placid, the cars and the music, the books, were all a little dated.
“Are you…” he started, stopped, and tried again, “Are you alright?”
The question came in the middle of a discussion of the weather, and Belle should have been more willing to reassure him. But she couldn’t lie, and she wasn’t about to do so to spare his feelings: any pain she was in was mostly of his making, after all. “No.” She replied, honestly, “But I’m better than I was.”
He nodded, squeezed her hand, and really the last thing she’d expected from him was understanding. It should have been the first thing, she knew, if she’d thought about it for more than five seconds: if she’d thought about him as well as herself.
But then in the other world, she had been the selfless one. How many parts of her life, of herself, had she given up for this man? How little had she asked for in return?
Belle had learned her lesson with selflessness, and her education had come from his hands.
He reached down into his pocket with his free hand, and brought out a small box. He placed it down next to her plate, and broke their contact to fiddle nervously, his hands knotting in front of him, “Open it.”
She had a lump in her throat as she snicked open the catch, and looked inside.
A rose lay on a fine golden chain, sculpted in such detailed relief that she felt she could almost smell its perfume. The rose he’d given her, so long ago, immortalised in gold.
“We have too many words,” he said, by way of explanation, “And I thought… actions are important. So this is apology number two.”
“And what is this for?” she asked, her voice a little hoarse. She hadn’t expected gifts, or for him to remember her complaints. She’d thought he’d sweep them slowly and almost unnoticeably under the carpet, so she’d never think of them again.
“Well, my first apology - last night, in the snow - was for taking you from your family. This is for the dungeon. The first time around.”
“We’re ah-“ she smiled, she couldn’t help it, “Working chronologically, then?”
He inclined his head, “How terrible the offence is a relative and subjective term. Time is a little more stable, I find, if not by much.”
“I see.” She nodded, and brought the necklace from the box, clasping it about her neck. “How does it look?”
“Beautiful.” He smiled, almost his old smirk, “Necklace is pretty too.”
She giggled, “That was a horrible line.”
“The truth often is.” He shrugged, but here was mischief in his eyes, a sweetly wicked gleam she’d missed so very much.
“And you’re sure you’re not trying to buy your way out of the doghouse?” she checked, although truth be told the delicacy, the perfection and truly personal feel of the gift he’d given her said he hadn’t just found something shiny to buy her off with.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, dearie,” he assured her, “I just understand how little value words hold in this world.”
“They’re more powerful than you’d think.” She said, but she knew what he meant. A gift such as this - made with his own craftsman’s hands, although he wouldn’t admit it if asked - took time, patience, and care. It took thought, and a devotion to seeing it through. The words ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I love you’ could be said in a moment, as insubstantial as mountain air: the metal gave them weight, meaning, substance, even without the words themselves being spoken.
“Even so.” He said, “You deserve better. You deserve the world.”
“And yet,” she smiled, put her hand back on his, “I have you and a necklace. Sometimes a girl has to make do.”
“Indeed.” He squeezed her hand, and seemed as unsure as she as to how sincere her teasing barb had been.
I can’t make it out alone
I built my dreams around you
He did his own little version of the Twelve Days of Christmas with his apologies: a dinner for the lie about Gaston; a set of vintage books she’d had her eye on for the screaming after the kiss; one secret, freely told, for the second dungeon and the lie about his power’s relative importance.
They worked through until the word ‘sorry’ was a private joke between them. It became a recurring theme that, when one upset the other, they were given recompense instead of that insignificant little word.
And the world kept turning, and their smiles grew more frequent, and Belle settled into Izzy French’s skin.
Belle had grown used to being an oddity: the only person in Storybrooke, it seemed, who remembered and had yet gained nothing from doing so. She spent most of her days in Rumpelstiltskin’s home, where things were quiet and safe, or in the Library. Storybrooke gave her a headache, these days, with the image of what should have been overlaid by the reality of what was.
Of course she forgave him: she’d never be able to do anything else, and his reasons for his actions were understandable, if not capable of excusing half of what he’d done. Rumpelstiltskin needed one person who didn’t blame him anymore, and who couldn’t truly hate him. Belle seemed destined to fill that void.
She did, however, make it clear that this was the last time. If ever he did something as stupid and blind and unexplained as his last several screw-ups, she would not be so forgiving.
He understood what a blessing it was that she was still there, with him, that she hadn’t turned her back or run away. She had every right to.
He did his best, and his trying was enough for her.
So New Year came and went, and the snow melted into spring, and things were suddenly rushing by at a whirring speed. Regina found out - Belle had no idea how, but she did - that Rumpelstiltskin remembered. Kathryn Nolan - a sweet woman who Izzy had been quite close to, once upon a time, and a princess before who Belle had heard wonderful things about - went missing. Her heart was found in a box in the forest. Snow White took the blame.
Rumpelstiltskin tried his hardest to save her - after all, this was clearly a plan of Regina’s making, and he was revelling in watching the Sheriff and the Queen come to blows at last. It seemed that family would always be their sticking point.
Belle began to pay less and less attention to the world beyond the house and the library. After all, she had her careful truce with her true love - even if they hadn’t even kissed since he woke her up: she wasn’t ready for that quite yet - and the oddity of the not-people around her was almost frightening.
Finally, the Curse broke, but still no one could leave.
Rumpelstiltskin had believed, truly, that throwing the magic down a wishing well - which he had discussed with her beforehand: the man was learning his lessons, slowly but surely - would allow them to leave, to find his lost son. But all it did was further cut the town off, an island of magic in a world fiercely rejecting it, and suddenly Storybrooke and everyone in it was claustrophobic.
Before they had been silent, terrified but passive: now they screamed and beat at the walls.
Except for Belle. Belle was comfortable here, now, knowing that Rumpelstiltskin could not leave her. He would bust them out eventually, she knew that, but it seemed that the cursebreak and the acknowledgement of their entrapment had forced a truce between all old enemies.
Snow White and the Evil Queen, unable to kill or avoid each other, took coffee together once a week.
Rumpelstiltskin sat down and discussed plans for liberation with the Blue Fairy, because both agreed that this mess was as much their own fault as the others’.
Belle felt the world truly changing, the people around her growing, for the first time in decades. And she smiled.
And every night, Rumpelstiltskin came home and kissed her, and she was ready now. Everything was poised on a knife’s edge, everything was kindling ready for the fire, and they were consumed by the flames before it even began.
Everything in the daytime was preparation, alliance, camaraderie and careful humour to mask the panic, the terror, that everyone felt here and now.
At night, though, the world around Belle constricted to that one bedroom, with her lover all around her and their skin sparking between them. A lifetime of missing and months of holding back made them desperate every time: every kiss was another drop into oblivion, and one day it would swallow them whole.
I´ve got a feeling
This year´s for me and you
It was nearly winter again, October in Maine already sharp and crisp, but he took her for a picnic in the park anyway. Belle preferred the cold, and knew that Rumpelstiltskin did too: Izzy had loved to bare skin and be daring, but Belle and Rumpelstiltskin were people who liked their armour, and heavy clothes had a tangible element of that.
She met him from work, turned the song off on her mp3 when she saw him - she had grown fond of it, after last year, and the combination of bitterness and acceptance made her feel less strange for forgiving him.
They sat on a blanket amongst the leaves, the basket between them. His lips were stained red with strawberries he must have conjured from thin air, and as had been the way for months now all she wanted was to kiss him breathless.
So she did. In fact, she full-body tackled him to the ground, and crushed her lips against his. The magic had healed his knee, although he still carried the cane anyway, and his arms came around her instantly.
She lapped every drop of strawberry juice from his mouth, and felt him groan as she did so, one hand tangling in her hair to hold her close.
He finally broke their kiss, and stroked the side of her face as he smiled, “Was hoping that’d come later, dear,” he said, fondly.
“Oh?” she smirked, “Because I think I’d like to continue now, thanks.” She leaned back down and nipped at his lips, scraping down the side of his throat and leaving a mark to the side with lips and tongue and teeth. He groaned, let her do as she would, and she loved this part of their new relationship. They were equals here, and she was as much in control as he.
No dungeons, not for them, not now.
“Belle…” he sighed, trying to push her away, “I had something… to give you..”
She looked up at him with a wicked smirk, eyes gleaming merry, “Oh, I should hope you would.” She smirked, shifting against him and feeling his reaction against her stomach.
“No, no, something else…” she cut him off with more kisses to his lips, back down to his jaw, nibbling lightly here and there. He growled, grabbed her hands, but she didn’t stop.
He flipped them over, so that he was holding her down, and pressed a harsh kiss to her mouth, and suddenly she was the one thoughtless and breathless.
“You have to stop for a moment, let me speak.”
She pouted, “But there’s no one around, and I always wanted to try this outside…” she bit her lip, gave him the look she knew turned his legs to butter. They’d been reunited a year, kissing and loving since the cursebreak in May, and she knew how to get what she wanted from him. Today there was electricity and ozone in the air, something on the horizon, close but not yet.
Belle could be carefree and make out with her lover in the park, or she could worry and fret and curl in a scared little ball in her favourite armchair.
It was a no brainer, really.
His eyes closed, and he swallowed hard. She giggled in victory, and he cracked an eyelid to scowl at her, “You’re not making this much easier, love.”
“Not trying to, sweetheart.” She replied, teasingly, and shifted beneath him just to prove the point.
They were too happy together, after the storm of their fighting and his apologies passed, and it couldn’t last. What they’d be when the dust settled, she had no idea, but the lull of Storybrooke was the kind of limbo that couldn’t last.
“Would you stop for a moment?” he sighed, exasperated, rolled his eyes, but she could see the joy in his eyes, “I need to ask you something.”
“Fine. But make it quick, someone might come and then I wouldn’t be able to debauch you in public.” She glanced around to make sure no one was around: everyone knew that true love was inconvenient, but the Sheriff was known for forcibly separating couples who were guilty of public lewdness. It happened a lot more since the cursebreak, with all the old lovers making up for lost time.
“Marry me.” He said, breaking through her distraction, and she stared at him.
“You said to make it quick. I had a whole speech prepared, but if you’ve not the patience…”
“You want… what?”
He looked at her, the tenderness in his eyes so deep and soft and tender that she wanted to die of happiness right then and there, “Marry me, Belle.”
She was beaming, but she frowned teasingly anyway, “Let me hear the speech, first.”
He sighed, rolled his eyes again, “No. Your decision to - what was it? “Debauch me in public”? That lost you your grand speech privileges.”
“Oh, really?” she smirked, kissed him again, slow and sweet and tender, “I think,” she murmured against his lips, “That you should tell me anyway. Early wedding present.”
“You’re saying yes?” he asked, and the fierce, stunned joy in his eyes made her heart sing.
“Nothing in the world could make me say no.” She whispered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat. Her tears splashed onto his face as they kissed, and she couldn’t tell if the wetness on her cheeks was hers or his when they parted.
You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing they yelled out for more
Their wedding was a small one, and soon after the proposal. Her father walked her down the aisle, and the Blue Fairy performed the ceremony. Even Regina smiled, and Belle couldn’t harbour any more hatred, not on that day. Captivity, magic, and mutual failure to secure happiness alone had brought the whole town to a point of alliance, and everyone smiled for Rumpelstiltskin and his bride.
Her new husband was gorgeous in his tuxedo, her dream come true, and he told her a hundred times that she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
He gave her another present - a final apology, he said, as she giggled at what had become a private joke between them - and she asked what this one was for. He said that he should have married her in the old world, and the rose he gave her should have been a diamond ring instead.
The notion was as fanciful as it was romantic, but Belle cried as he placed the tiara on her head, and called her his queen.
No one questioned it when the party ended at midnight. No one who had crossed magic wished to extend a dance past the stroke of twelve. The witching hour was one all knew to avoid.
Still, they put one more song on after everyone went home, and danced in defiance of the hour. Perhaps that was what cursed it, she wondered later. Perhaps they stretched their luck too far that night, when he was a king in a tuxedo and she a queen in her wedding gown. Perhaps that was the night the spell truly shattered.
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day
It was a year to the day that Rumpelstiltskin had first come to her with his apologies, that Belle gave him hers.
Christmas Eve was different, that year, than the last. It was the night - coincidentally, for of course no one in Storybrooke celebrated this world’s holidays anymore - that the preparations were ready. It was the night when they would battle the magic keeping them from the world, and break free.
No one hoped, anymore, that they would go home to the last world. If they could have done that, Jefferson would have found a way already.
But the Hatter had gone through months back, and found nothing but a locked door where their world used to be.
Now all they wanted was to go out into this one, and be able to be people again rather than trapped creatures in a cracked and broken mockery of a town.
Rumpelstiltskin had promised always to tell Belle whenever he had a new plan, whenever he had to do something risky or important. Even if it was for her own good; especially if it was for her own good.
She had made no such promise.
All magic came at a price, after all, and the price for realigning the worlds, for allowing them to leave, would be high.
Regina and Blue both believed that simply the willingness to give up everything would be enough. The loss of Storybrooke and everything in it would pay the price, with any luck, but as Rumpelstiltskin’s wife Belle didn’t quite believe that.
She walked the streets for hours, her music on repeat, and the song was there with the rest.
Rumpelstiltskin had sacrificed her once for Bae, and it might have been the first truly brave thing he’d ever done. It would be all well and good for them to live together as man and wife, perhaps have children of their own, but without Bae his suffering - the suffering of everyone here, and the loss of their world - would have been for nothing.
No, they had to get out of there, and by the time Belle arrived home and kissed her husband as if she were dying, she’d made up her mind.
Even Blue and Regina couldn’t know for sure, but Belle was going into this with a willingness to truly sacrifice everything. She didn’t want to give her life, of course not, not when there was so much to live for. But if she wasn’t willing to, then someone else could have to, and it was her husband who started this. This was how it had to go.
She walked at a minute past midnight to the town boundary, and made her spells. She felt the magic pushing back, ready to take and take and reap its price from her very skin.
It was Christmas Day, and Belle knelt on the earth and waited for the town to vanish, and perhaps to take her with it.
Then there were hands hauling her back, away from the flaring purple flames, and a voice in her ear, harsh and angry, asking what she thought she was doing, how she could possibly want this.
Rumpelstiltskin was half-crazed, his hair wild and eyes bright, “Belle! Come on, come back, there’re other ways!”
“I’m sorry, Rum, but the price has to be paid!”
“But you don’t have to do this! There have to be other ways-“
“No,” she was half-sobbing, half calm, torn between two states as all the others were, “No there aren’t. Magic comes with a price, and you can dodge it once but not twice.”
“You shouldn’t have to pay it.”
She brushed his cheeks with her palms, and kissed him deep. He was wiping the tears from her face with his thumbs, kissing and kissing, and perhaps, perhaps they could go together. Perhaps the magic would take them both.
“I should.” He whispered, “Cowardice got us this far, now it’s time for some heroics.”
“No!” she held him to her, but his smile was resolute and manic. The Dark One indeed.
“Find Bae. Keep him safe.” He was nodding, “I mean, if I don’t come back.”
And then he was using all his strength to push her away from him, backward, and he walked past the town boundary as if it were nothing. As if they could just leave.
She felt it, the moment the spell broke.
A sound like a bell chiming in her head, a price paid and a deal confirmed, magic loosening its grip. The air was fresher, as if they had been trapped like insects under a massive glass bowl, and now they could breathe again. Like the sky was once more within reach.
They had one moment, her on the one side and he on the other; her in the town and him in the world, and kissed once more - softly, chastely, as they did the first time: their cursebreaking kiss - over the line.
“I love you.” She said, and kissed him one more time.
“Yes,” he nodded, fiercely, “And I love you too.”
There was a moment of silence, staring at each other and just holding on, as if it might be enough, as if true love could save them just one more time.
But then he gave a sickening, dying groan, and collapsed in a crumpled heap on the floor, and she was sobbing and crossing the line between worlds, and nothing happened at all.
They were not the Dark One and his maiden: they were simply a wife cradling the broken body of her husband in the middle of a road in Maine, with no one for miles and the shattered remains of the last of the magic scattered behind her.
Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
Belle kept her promise: she found Bae two years later, in Phoenix, downing the whiskey his father drank in a bar.
She’d driven crisscrossed patterns all over the country, looking for this one lost boy. He was only eighteen, using a fake ID to buy drink, and Belle was tempted to haul him out by his ear and scold him.
But she wasn’t his mother, and had only been married two months to his father, and so she just took a seat next to him at the bar and said, “Baelfire?”
His head spun to her before he could hide his reaction, but he covered it inexpertly a moment later. “You talking to me?”
“Well, yes,” she nodded, “I hope so. You are him, aren’t you?”
“My name’s Ben, ma’am.” He said, sullenly, “Always has been.”
His face was so much like his dad’s when he sulked that Belle wanted to cry. “You’re Bae. I know you are.”
He sighed, “Who wants to know?”
Belle sighed, her smile a little tearful despite trying to be strong. She’d found him, she’d found her true love’s baby, even if he wasn’t there to see it himself. She’d found him.
“I…” she smiled, and he looked at her oddly, “I guess I’m your stepmother. Belle… my name is Belle.”
“Step-“ he stared at her, “Papa is married?” his sullenness dropped away as if it had never been, and Belle glimpsed for the first time the boy her love had fought so hard to find.
“Was.” She felt the tears coming, she couldn’t help it, “He… he’s not here. He came as far as he could, Bae. He did his best.”
“Papa is…” Bae looked down at his hands, eyes wide with horror and grief, “Dead? Rumpelstiltskin, my papa, the spinner, the…” he swallowed hard, “The Dark One?”
She nodded, couldn’t trust her voice for a moment, “He came looking for you, dragged all our asses with him. But he paid the price for that magic. For saving us. For letting me find you.”
“Who are you? How did you know papa?”
“He was… it must have been hundreds of years after you… I was his maid. His curse broke when… when I kissed him. And we found each other again and we were married and-“
“Stop.” Bae held up a hand, and she stopped mid-sentence, “You… just stop.”
“What is it?”
“You had him? You got my papa’s… he was mine, and you had him instead.”
“He came to find you.”
“And you let him die before he managed it, didn’t you?” his fists curled on the bar, white knuckles showing, “Didn’t you? You were his wife? You couldn’t stop him from…”
“I tried.” She was crying openly now, she couldn’t stop, and Bae’s fury seemed to war with a look so lost and lonely it could have been her husband’s. “I was going to… he pulled me back. He did it himself. Said he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. You paid the first time, so he wasn’t going to let me do it the second.”
Bae’s arms came around her - a young stranger in the bar, rocking her like a child when he was the one in need of a mother - and they were clinging to each other, sobbing.
They took it in turns to drive to Maine. Bae wanted to say goodbye, and Belle had left before Snow could invite her to the funeral. The whole town had come to bury him in the meadow Storybrooke left behind when it fell, and Belle herself had just run and run. His last wish was more important than his grave.
They had their own private funeral when they got to the tombstone. Bae traced his father’s name on the stones, and Belle put the song on her iPod to drown out the boy’s goodbyes. It was a private moment, this one, and he’d feel better if she didn’t know what was said.
When it came her turn, she simply pressed a kiss to the symbol - an old one for magic, from the old world - above the name, and allowed a few tears to fall on the rose she left on the earth.
This ground was still steeped in magic: the soft, freshly-turned earth which covered her husband would never look anything but new.
Her jeans were dirty, but the air was warm, and it wasn’t Christmas Eve at this graveside, not anymore. It was summer, finally summer, and Bae even held her hand on the way back to the car.
I love you baby
I can see a better time
Where all our dreams come true
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