Belle resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Gaston. Gaston. Gaston, Gaston, Gaston Gaston GastonGastonGaston…. That’s all it ever was. With a ride like this it was going to be all Belle could do to not strangle the lad. She looked out the window feeling bored. She had begged not to go out today. Her head hurt and the weather was almost scalding. She would much rather be inside, in the shade, reading a book. Here she could do no such thing.
“Belle, are you even listening?” Her future fiancé commanded. She looked over at him without looking at him.
“Hmm?” He put a hand on his head for a moment before leaning forwards and taking her hands despite her protests. Her body was tense in his hands.
“You know how I hate repeating myself,” She snorted unladylike. “But for you I’ll do anything.” She finally managed to take her hands out of his grip and resist from rubbing them on her dress. “I was just wondering since you and I are to be wed,” He must have seen his reflection in the mirror above her or the shiny pendent around her necklace because he paused to fix his hair. “I figure I should stare showering you with gifts.” He looked at her finally. “Is there anything you would like?” She perked up, slightly.
“Well I would like to get some more books.” She leaned forward ever so slightly. He made a face of disgust.
“Books? Cooking books? That would help with your cooking for sure. What with all the mouths you are going to have to feed.” He made a cheeky grin and she sat back against the carriage cushions. As she looked over at the small town something caught her eye. Up ahead a small girl with something tied around her was squealing and running straight for the road. She noticed that the driver was oblivious to the fact.
“Stop!” Belle screeched and jumped out of the halting carriage. The mud made it near impossible to run as she tried to get to the girl. Her shoes were no doubt ruined and the bottom of her dress, but since Gaston was so willing to buy her new things. She ran past the horses and scooped the young girl up in her arms. The driver was muttering curses and apologizing at the same time. Belle walked out of the way of the road as she shushed the now crying babe.
“Belle! What are you doing? Your dress is filthy!” Gaston stepped out of the carriage and walked over. Belle softly spun back and forth and began to remove whatever it was that covered the small child. Whatever it was it was soft. Almost as soft as if Belle had touched a cloud. As she looked closer she saw it was yarn. She gathered it up and rolled it into a ball with some difficulty. The babe was bawling and crying for her papa.
“Hush now, shh, shh. Belle’s here. You’re papa will be here soon.” She looked around for the parents of the child. She began to quiet down, but she continued to softly ask where her papa was. Gaston was romping around like a cow stuck in the mud and went back into the carriage. The driver dismounted and walked over to her.
“Princess we need to go now before the sun sets.” He wrung his hat out in his hands.
“I am not leaving this child un-“ She was interrupted by a very worried voice.
“Mabel?” A man with a walking stick limped through the mud. Belle turned around and the little girl – Mabel – reached out nearly falling out of Belle’s arms.
“Papa!” The man stopped once he realized who held his only child. “Papa!” Belle let the child down and she stumble her way to her father. She hugged his leg and rubbed her face in his ripped pant leg. He looked down at her with tears in his eyes. Belle stepped forward until she was standing a foot away from the father. He looked up with fear in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry for Mabel. She got away from me. Please don’t take her away from me.” His grip on his walking stick tightened and he tried to make himself smaller. Belle shook her head.
“I wouldn’t take away a child. And it’s fine really.” She held out the yarn. “Did you spin this?” He nodded.
“Yes ma’am. I was on my way to sell it when she must have gotten a hold of some.” Belle rubbed it between her fingers feeling the softness again and looking down at her tattered and ruined dress. He looked down as well. “Oh no.” He looked up at her. “I am so sorry. Please, you can take the rest.” He shoved a satchel forward. She held her hand out and shook her head.
“No,” His breath caught in his throat knowing something worse was to be obtained. “Since you seem so bent as to giving me your product that is probably going to feed Mabel why don’t you just come with me? You could become my new spinner. I have been looking for one for a fort night and it has become a position, none of the candidates my father has offered, that can be filled. You will be paid, you will have a room, and you will be fed as with my other staff. Do you accept?” He stared wide eyed at her offer. The princess was offering him the job that would make sure Mabel grew up with a full stomach, or at least live without going to go hungry for as long as he could spin. He unconsciously pets the small girls head as she clung to his good leg.
“Yes I accept.” He leaned on his walking stick as she gave him a radiant smile.
“What is your name?” He gulped despite how dry his throat was.
“Rumpelstiltskin. And this is Mabel, as you’ve met.” He looked down and cupped her cheek as she hid in his leg, now shy.
“Well Rumpelstiltskin,” She was still smiling, glad that she had made her own decision. “You may go get your wife and whatever it is you need and we may leave now.” His face fell and she faltered slightly.
“My wife left and I don’t have much that I would take besides these clothes.” He looked down at the ground feeling lower than dirt. Belle took in the Rumpelstiltskin and Mabel’s clothes. They were torn and dirt and Mabel’s dress was too short.
“I’m sorry.” Rumple looked up and she looked genuinely sorry. She gave a sad smile. “Then shall we go?” He nodded trying not to speak around the knot in his throat. He pats Mabel’s head to get her to move, but she only hugged his leg tighter. “May I?” Belle offered and he shook his head. Belle squatted down – in the mud no less – and looked at the girl. “Hello, Princess.” Mabel moved to hide behind his leg now.
“You Princess.” She said peeking around. Belle shook her head.
“No, didn’t you hear? I have to give my crown to the prettiest girl in the whole world. I didn’t think I was ever going to find her. Then you came along and I found the perfect person to give my crown to.” Mabel walked out from behind him now.
“Really?” She brightened. “I’m a princess.” Belle nodded.
“You and your papa have to come with me so I can tell the king. He has to see the most beautiful girl in all the lands, for if he does he’ll have a heart attack and have no other option but to give you the crown and crown you princess.” Belle gently held out her hand. Mabel looked excitedly as she jumped forward and grabbed Belle. She climbed in her lap and wrapped her arms around Belle. She looked over at her father.
“Papa, I’m princess!” Her father nodded still afraid to speak. Belle stood up and carried the girl to the carriage. Gaston looked over seeming frustrated.
“What is she doing here?” He made a face of disgust. Mabel was too busy playing with Belle’s hair to notice. Belle was glad.
“Ride back to the castle on your stead,” Belle said in a commanding voice. “And tell my father I have solved our spinner problem.” Gaston huffed.
“And what about you?” He picked his teeth with his tongue noticing something shiny again.
“I am taking our new spinner to the kingdom.” She carefully bounced the small girl. Gaston laughed.
“What that small girl? Really Belle, I knew women weren’t all that bright, but gods.” He continued to laugh. Belle remained calm, used to the bashing of her intelligence.
“You will do as I say if you don’t want my father to know about what happened with the maid.” He silenced immediately. After a second of silence he groaned and stepped out of the carriage. He disappeared around the side. After a few moments she heard the sound of hooves in the mud and the neigh of Corbeau. Belle turned to see Rumpelstiltskin standing a few feet away from her. She stepped up in the carriage with Mabel and motioned for him to get in. He looked weary before struggling in. He laid the walking stick on his lap as the carriage began to turn around. He looked at his feet as the bumped around on the uneven road way and Mabel yawned. She crawled from Belle’s lap to her papa’s and curled up so her head was on his chest and she promptly fell asleep. Belle smiled softly and chuckled. “Long day?” He looked up from his daughter with fear in his eyes.
“Uh, yea, it’s been rough.” Crestfallen, she leaned forward.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to her mother?” His eyes darted around her face as if searching for anger or mock.
“She,” He shut his mouth and Belle nodded solemnly.
“It’s alright. My mother died when I was young.” She looked down at the side.
“I remember.” His voice was soft as if he was afraid she would lose her temper and make him do something that would ruin his pride. Belle looked at Mabel and smiled.
“How long has she been gone?” She said in a soft voice to match his. She removed a speck of mud out of her falling curls.
“Since Mabel was born.” Belle looked in shock at the small girl. “Two years.” After the shock, sympathy washed over her expression.
“You’ve done well.” She leaned back and watched him the rest of the way as he willed his heart to stop beating so fast.
They arrived at the castle within the next few hours. Gaston stood waiting at the door for Belle. Her father beside him. She made sure the father and daughter got out first before she made her grand appearance.
“Belle.” Her father cried as she stood next to Rumpelstiltskin. He walked forward, shooting Rumple a nasty glare which made him try to turn invisible by growing smaller. Belle put an arm on his shoulder to face her father and give him reassurance.
“Papa,” She tried to start, but was interrupted.
“See my king, that man has ruined her clothes and the child too. She has obviously brought him here to be punished.” Rumpelstiltskin tensed in her hand.
“Gaston.” Her father said giving him another nasty look. He looked at Belle with soft eyes. Eyes that understood. Eyes that listened. “Tell me.” Belle took a deep breath.
“Mabel,” She gestured to the now sleeping child in Rumpelstiltskin’s arms. “Ran in front of the carriage and I ran out to get her to safety. In the process, yes my dress was ruined, but I saved this man’s daughter.” Belle stood straight against his scrutiny. “And,” She held out the yarn that she balled up. He took it in his hand and tried to hide the approving look, but Belle noticed it. “He spun this. The deal was to spin enough yarn to fix my dress, and at the same time prove his worth.” Her father reached out to tuck a stray strand behind her ear. “If he is worthy of being our spinner than he can stay. If not,” She regretted saying this. “I know what town I found him in.” King Maurice looked at his daughter for a long time before looking over at Rumpelstiltskin.
“You agreed to these terms?” Rumple was too scared to say anything, so he simply nodded. After a short moment of scrutiny Maurice smiled and put his hand around the older man. “Then welcome to the kingdom, spinner.” Gaston’s jaw dropped and he stomped back inside. Maurice looked at his daughter with pride and warning. “But remember Belle if he does not prove his worth….” He trailed off looking from Belle to the Rumple and the small babe in his arms. His serious tone was short lived. “Let me get a cradle for that babe.” He whistled and Mrs. Potts was soon making her way over with a carrier. Rumpelstiltskin looked weary as to putting his daughter in it, but after Belle soothed away his worries he reluctantly put the sleeping child in the carrier. Mrs. Potts went into the castle and they soon followed her, glad to be out of the darkening weather. Once inside Rumpelstiltskin looked around in awe. Never before had he been in a castle. He never, in all the years that he lived, would have thought he would be found walking the halls of the fortress. Belle looked at him and smiled.
“You’ll get used to it.” She was trying to hint that he was staying, but he only barely managed to hear the words that fell from the beauty’s lips.
“Oh, I very much doubt that, Princess.” She continued to smile as he confessed. Belle looked around at the granite walls and the purple and gold tapestries. “Where are they taking Mabel?” She looked back over at him.
“To the nursery. It was meant for my child, but since the doctor announced the news I won’t need it. Ever.” She looked longingly at a door that was up ahead and Rumple followed her gaze. He heard shushing from the room and Mabel’s soft voice.
“Where will I be sleeping?” His walking stick clicked against the floor and echoed in the hallways.
“Right here,” Maurice opened the door and there was a large room full of bunk beds. Despite being made of wood they were better than the bed he and Mabel slept in on a regular basis. Belle kept walking through the hallway and Rumple watched her go. “You will work in the old spinner’s room. If you need anything ask Mrs. Potts and she will gladly help you get it.” The king walked away as well. Rumple looked around the king to search for the fair beauty, but she was too far gone for him to see her.
Belle walked down the hall to get to the stairs. She needed to change and she felt like a bath was in store. When she got to her room Ruby was there waiting for her. The Lady’s Maid jumped the princess the moment she stepped inside her room.
“I heard Gaston ranting in the hall about what you did.” She smirked and began to take off Belle’s dress.
“I need that taken down to Rumpelstiltskin, so he may know what yarn he must spin.” Ruby stopped as she was beginning to undo the petticoat.
“Who?” She continued her work, carefully laying the dress on the bed.
“Rumpelstiltskin.” Ruby looked over Belle’s shoulder.
“Alright take dress to Rumsmelillshin.” Ruby shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Who is he?” She began to remove the frock. Ruby muttered something under her breath.
“He’s the new spinner.” Belle gasped as she was able to breathe again. “And it’s Rumpelstiltskin.” Belle clarified. Ruby rolled her shoulders unaffected by the news. As Belle urged Ruby to get her out of her clothes she began to day dream. After a few minutes she was finally undone and standing naked in her room. Ruby was talking to herself as she got her bath ready. Belle grabbed a robe and wrapped herself up in it. She sat on the edge of her bed and played idly with the lace edge of the ruined dress. “He has a daughter.” There was a course of splashing and what Belle could decipher as mumbled cursing.
“What?” Ruby popped out of the water closet wringing out her hair and wet from her waist up.
“Rumpelstiltskin. He has a daughter.” Ruby hummed.
“So what happened? I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” Ruby walked over grabbing Belle and leading her to the, now prepared, tub.
“Well we were driving into town remember?” Belle shrugged off the coat and slipped into the water. It pricked at her skin and she waited as her skin adjusted to the temperature. “Well his daughter – Mabel –“
“Mabel.” Ruby hummed. “That’s a cute name.” Belle continued.
“And can you believe that Gaston wanted to run her over instead of go out and save her. The nerve of that man.” Belle flipped her hand out and nearly growled. “I’m glad I won’t have to raise a batch of his spawn.” She was dunked with water.
“Don’t say that!” Ruby vigorously began to wash Belle’s hair. “Have you told him yet?” Belle shook her head and slunk under the water. Her nose was above and her hair snaked around her. “Well come on I want to hear the rest of the story.” Belle lifted her head out of the water as Ruby calmed down enough to gently pour the water over her head this time.
“Well I ran out. Scooped up the little girl and after a minute of wailing for her papa she calmed down. She was covered in thread and I wanted to know the man or woman responsible for it and when Rumpelstiltskin came to take back the girl I asked him to be my new spinner. He said yes and we are here.” Ruby sniffed.
“Well what did his wife have to say about it?” Belle shrugged, the water sloshed around her shoulders.
“Nothing I hope, since she’s gone.” Ruby stopped.
“Oh.” Belle wiped her eyes clear of water. They finished up in silence. As Belle got changed into something less showy Ruby gathered up the dress.
“I am going down to the library meet me there when you are done.” Ruby nodded and Belle headed to the library. On her way there she saw something huddled in the corner of her eye. The figure had their knees drawn up close to their chest and their head on their knees. Their arms were wrapped around their lowered head. Belle walked over and crouched down next to them. “Excuse me?” He looked up and Belle put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you alright?” Rumple shook his head.
“No, I don’t know where the spin room is.” She smiled and if he were standing he would have felt weak at the knees and might have fallen. She grabbed his hand and helped him up. He shivered at the contact. She looked stunned, but continued smiling.
“You were almost there.” She tugged him along and a few doors down she opened one. He looked in to see spools of yarn on a rack and the spinning wheel in the middle of the room. She let him go and the warmth on her hand was missed. “If you need anything don’t be afraid to call.” She walked over to a contraption on the wall. There was a set of bells and tags. He walked to stand a few feet behind her. “Ring the bell to which room you need to get a hold of and someone will be here in a short while.” She turned back and smiled. If he kept getting those smiles he wasn’t going to last long here in the castle. “I’ll be in the library, so if you need any measurements or help just call.” She pointed to the bells and he nodded.
“I’ll make sure.” He sputtered out. She walked out of the spin room and made her way back on track to the library. Five doors down and she was grabbed. A hand was over her mouth before she could call out. A body pressed her against the wall. The shadowy hallway made it hard to make out the two entities. Before Belle’s eyes could adjust she recognized the voice instantly.
“Belle,” His voice was slick against her ear. She squirmed to try and get out of his hold. “Don’t squirm and this will not hurt.” Belle opened her mouth and managed to get her teeth into his flesh. He howled as blood began to dribble down his hand. He raised his hand to hit her. She flinched to avoid his hand when someone cleared their throat. Belle opened one eye at a time as she looked over at the culprit. Maurice stood with his hands clasped behind his back. Belle ducked underneath Gaston’s arm and ran past her father to the library. She picked up her skirts and thrust herself through the door. She wiped tears from her eyes and slammed the door shut. Ruby looked over and ran to her side.
“Belle? Are you alright?” She shook her head and climbed up the spiral case in the library. It led to the third floor and she didn’t stop until there were no stairs left. Ruby called after her the whole way. She collapsed in her lounge chair in a bumbling mess of tears. Her hair was wild and wisped around her face. Ruby took a breath and made her way over. “Belle…” She trailed off coming closer. She removed the princess’s hands from her face. Her face was red and her eyes bloodshot from crying. Her lip trembled and tears silently spilled down her face. Ruby grabbed a handkerchief and wiped her face. “What’s wrong?” Belle hiccupped, but stopped crying.
“Gaston.” Ruby clenched a fist and exhaled.
“If that monster did anything – “ Belle looked away as her face flushed a deep red. Ruby made a sound of anger and looked around for something to hit. “What happened?” She managed to calm down and sit in front of Belle on the floor. It was a long time before Belle answered. Ruby was worried she would keep it to herself like she habitually did. Finally her mouth opened to answer.
“I was walking back from the spin room because Rum got lost –“
“Rum?” Belle shrugged off her question as she stared at the wall of books in front of her.
“ – and I help him get back, well Gaston grabbed me from the hallway and forced me against the wall. If it hadn’t been for my father I –“ She broke off as tears spilled over her cinched eye lids.
“Shh, Belle. I’m sure your father will – “ The sound of the library door closed and there were hitched footsteps. Belle got up and walked down the stairs. She stopped at the top of the stairs on the first floor. She wouldn’t come down any further than that. She cleared her throat and Rumpelstiltskin looked up. He took a deep breath momentarily forgetting why he had come in the first place. His mouth felt dry as he gazed up at her. He felt the urge to bow as if she was an angel fallen from heaven to grace upon him. Her face was stone and her hands were tense in front of her. A weeping angel as it seems.
“Princess,” He started and bowed his head. “Your services are required by the king.” Belle tilted her head and stared in confusion.
“Why did he send you?” She asked genuinely curious. She had many footmen who could do the job.
“I was passing by to see the seamstress when he called to me. It was far easier than searching for the nearest footman. He said he would be in the drawing room.” Rumpelstiltskin turned to leave feeling an ache in his chest.
“Wait!” She called from the top of the stairs. He stopped and looked over his shoulder. She picked up her skirts and took the stairs two at a time. As she got closer he could see her eyes were puffy from crying.
“Princess, what has the beauty crying so?” He turned around and leaned on his walking stick. “No beauty should be tried to tears.” She looked away at the floor.
“Nothing. Did my father tell you why he wanted to see me?” Rumple shook his head.
“No, Princess.” She bit her bottom lip and her hand clenched behind her back. “What’s caused such distress?” She looked up at him and her eyes shone with unshed tears. She didn’t reply.
“Would you mind walking with me?” Belle didn’t know what would become of Gaston, but she didn’t want to be alone when they confronted again. She was wise enough to avoid that. He shook his head.
“Anything for you, Princess.” Her nickname felt like a caress to her battered soul. She walked and he followed beside her. Ruby sat staring at the top of the stairs. She looked on uneasily as the two exited the library. Belle looked around trying to compose herself, but being unable to get passed the overwhelming fear that Gaston could be anywhere.
“How do you like it here so far, Rumple?” She looked at him with a faint smile.
“It’s large. Much larger than where I lived before.” She felt a pain of sadness shoot through her. She eyed his walking stick.
“You don’t have to answer,” She lowered her voice. “But how did you hurt your leg?” She looked at him for a long time. After they turned a corner to the last hallway she fingered he wasn’t going to answer and looked forward.
“I was in the Ogre Wars.” He avoided her gaze. Her face fell even more.
“I’m so sorry.” He looked at her with a spark of bravery.
“What for? You didn’t crush my ankle.” He winced now remembering the injury. His eyes got hazy with the memory.
“No, but we can’t stop the wars.” She stopped and looked at him with indignation. “You’ll never have to go back to the Frontlands. You work for me and I will never let a young girl go fatherless. She already lost her mother.” Belle’s eyes shone with tears remembering what it was like without her mother. There was silence between them for a long time before Belle thanked him for walking her and finished walking the rest of the way to the drawing room. Rumple continued to look where she was once standing before turning slowly and hobbling back the way they came.
Belle walked in with her head held high. Gaston was behind her father and the king sat down in the chair. “Please sit Belle.” He commanded and Belle walked over to the window and sat down on the hidey couch there. “Gaston has something he would like to say to you.” Belle was stiff as he approached. He kneeled in front of her and took her hands rather roughly. Belle tensed in his grip. Gaston looked up at her with pleading eyes.
“Belle, darling, my future wife,” He emphasized on the wife part and Belle wanted to cry. She resisted pulling her hands out of his and boiling them in a vat of scalding water. “I am sorry if anything I did earlier hurt you. I didn’t hear you when you said ‘no’. I was simply glad you were alright after what happened earlier. That horrible man could have hurt you and then I don’t know what I would have done.” Belle stared at him in shock and couldn’t believe her father believe this. “Do you accept my apology?” Belle stood up and wrenched her hands out of his grasp.
“No Gaston, now I suggest you leave before I have you escorted out for lying to an authority figure.” His face scrunched up in an ugly way as he got up. He fixed his shirt to hide his anger.
“Belle.” Her father said, but she silenced him with a glare. Gaston nodded his head and left the drawing room, slamming the door. Her father stood up and walked over to her. “Belle the man was trying to apologize.” She shook her head.
“It was all lies. Rumple would never hurt me.” She cried. She sat down again and looked out the window. Thunder rolled in the distance and Belle prayed for rain.
“Rumple?” He sounded curious.
“What do you think he’ll do when he finds out, Papa?” Belle looked over with sad eyes and Maurice crouched down to take one of her hands in his.
“I’m not sure, ma petite.” He looked up at her, meeting her sorrowful gaze. The windows rattled as more thunder broke the sky.
“Don’t make me marry him, Papa. I do not love him.” She pleaded. “I’d rather die than marry him!” Silent tears rolled down her face. “You’re the king! Change the rules!” She knew she sounded pathetic, but she would not live a loveless life knowing that if she married Gaston she was just a plaything. “Is it so much to ask for that I want someone to look at me the way you used to look at mom?” Maurice looked at her sadly. The silence stretched between them.
“You have four months. I will change the laws. Four months to find someone you love and it will be your choice. Gaston or your choice.” Belle chuckled softly through the tears. She reached forward and hugged her father.
“Thank you, Papa.” She mumbled into his neck. They stayed that way until someone rapped on the door. Maurice let her go as Jefferson, the hatter, came in. He stopped when he saw Belle.
“I’m sorry ma’am I need the king for a moment.” Belle nodded and her papa gave her one last look before leaving with Jefferson. He gave a wide grin and shut the door. Belle chuckled. She looked out the window and could see small raindrops gather on the panes.
Belle tossed and turned restlessly. Rain pounded on the window. Lightning and thunder fought for attention in the stormy sky. Belle was covered in sweat as invisible hands covered her body and violated her. She cried out causing her to awaken from the dream. She shot up and held the blanket close to her chest. She looked around nervously as her hair stuck up at odd angles. The room lit up as lightning struck the castle. No one was here. She calmed down a bit, but got out of bed. She ghosted out of her room and made absolutely no noise as she made her way to the kitchen. She heard the shuffling of small feet and stopped. She looked out into the dark for the culprit. As she got closer the perpetrator jumped out with a yowl. Belle took a step back as Lucifer stalked out of the shadows.
“Lucifer.” She scolded. The black and white cat looked up with the smuggest look a cat could have. Belle continued on her way to the kitchen. Eventually she got there without any hassle. She grabbed out some biscuits and a teacup. She put the teapot on the kindling fire. She put some tea leaves in the cup as she heard more feet shuffles. “Lucifer. Come out here.” She turned around, but wasn’t met with a black and white face. Instead her legs were bombarded with a small body. Belle looked down and Mabel looked up at her with teary eyes and leaking nose. Belle reached down and picked up the small child. “Mabel?” She rocked her back and forth softly. “It’s okay, what’s wrong honey?” She lowered her voice to a whisper. She was still crying, but it wasn’t loud. Belle was grateful.
“Storm scary.” As she finished thunder rolled and lightning flashed. She screamed and dug deeper into Belle’s chest as if she could get close enough to be consumed by her and held safe next to her heart. The tea began to whistle and she hurried to take the pot off the fire. It stopped whistling and she set it on the counter. Next to it she set Mabel down with some resistance.
“Mabel its okay, you’re fine. A biscuit will help, won’t it?” Mabel wiped at her face and Belle grabbed a rag. She carefully cleaned the girl’s face. “Shh, shh, here darling.” She handed Mabel a biscuit and she began to nibble on the edges. Belle poured herself a cup of tea and poured in cream. She waited for it to steep. She grabbed herself a biscuit and began to mimic Mabel’s actions by slowly eating the cookie. “Did you get cookies often before coming here?” She shook her head and crumb fell on her night dress. Belle felt her heart seize for a moment. “Do you want to go see your papa?” Belle finished her cookie and took a sip of the tea. It hurt her tongue, but she resisted the urge to wince. Mabel shook her head. “No? Where do you want to go?” She pointed to Belle and put her hand on Belle’s chest. Belle held the small hand in her own and nodded. “Alright, after tea we can go to bed. Does that sound good?” The toddler nodded and grabbed another cookie hesitantly. Thunder clapped again and Mabel jumped. She hit her head on the cabinet and began to cry again. Belle set her tea down and grabbed the child. She shushed the small girl. Soon she was quiet and eating her cookie again. Belle left the unfinished teacup and decided to go back to bed. Mabel clutched to Belle, dropping to cookie, but unbothered by the loss. Belle took the stairs quickly, hurried to get to her room. Mabel was nearly asleep by the time Belle got to her bed. Thunder and lightning continued to duel in the night sky as Belle pulled back the sheets and laying Mabel in them. Belle curled herself around her, feeling cold. As her breathing evened out Mabel was asleep and Belle willed herself to stay up. Mabel mumbled in her sleep and moved closer to Belle. As Belle wrapped her arms around Mabel the last bit of fight in her fled and she was asleep before her arms stopped moving.
Morning came too early. Mabel was still asleep with her hair strew around her like a halo. Belle noticed how the shade was similar to hers. She could still hear the thunder and rain patter against the window. Ruby was walking around getting her stuff ready for the day. Belle sat up carefully not to wake the sleeping child. Ruby came by and halted when she saw Mabel.
“Who –“ Belle shushed her.
“Quiet.” She whispered and tucked in Mabel. She kissed the little girl’s head and got out of bed.
“Who’s that?” Ruby whispered back furiously.
“Mabel. Rumpelstiltskin’s daughter.” Ruby sucked in a breath and Belle shushed her again. She apologized softly. Ruby reached to take the little girl, but Belle waved her off. “No, let her sleep.” Belle whispered. They were silent until they got into the bathroom.
“Why is Rumelsmelsish’s daughter in your bed?” Ruby shut the door. And Belle began to undress for the bath.
“Rumpelstiltskin.” Belle corrected. Ruby, again, didn’t correct herself. “She is a child. She was afraid of the thunder and lightning.” Ruby looked at the door leading to Belle’s room. Belle stepped into the bath and closed her eyes as Ruby began to wash her hair. Without realizing it Belle fell into a nap with Ruby’s soft ministrations and the warm water. She was standing in a field covered in rich, green grass. Noises of spring could be heard all around her and just before she could take a step someone called her name.
“Belle!” They called as if they had been looking for her. Something glittered out of the corner of her eye. She turned, but she couldn’t catch it. Arms were around her and she sighed into them. Names didn’t come to mind, so she waited for them to speak. “Belle,” They kissed the top of her head, their voice soft with love. “I have searched a thousand years for you.” She turned in their arms, but still could not see their face. She began to get frustrated.
“Tell me your name.” She demanded. They chuckled. Their voice resounding off their chest and into her ears making a shiver run down her spine.
“All in good time.” She felt the water rise around her and she thrashed once before opening her eyes.
“Belle! I just cleaned this floor.” Ruby groaned and stood up. Belle looked around in surprise.
“Sorry Ruby.” She stated and got out of the tub. Ruby made a sigh of frustration, but didn’t say anything. Belle wrapped herself in a robe and walked out into her room. She could still feel their arms around her. She wanted to get changed quickly. She grabbed some clothes and stood behind the screen. She began to get dressed. Occasionally she would look over and check on Mabel. The girl hardly moved. Half way through there was rustling and Mabel walked off the bed. She walked over to Belle and grabbed her leg. Belle looked down and smiled. “Good morning, sleepy head. How did you sleep?”
“Good.” Her voice was muffled from Belle’s leggings. She rubbed her face in Belle’s legs and looked up. “Why up so early? Market day yesterday.” She looked up at Belle with sleepy eyes.
“I always get up this early.” Mabel screwed up her face in disgust.
“You’re crazy.” She let go and began to look around Belle’s room. Her night gown was falling off one shoulder and Belle hurried to fix it before she got out of reach. She giggled and ran away. Belle smirked and continued getting dressed. Mabel continued to look around until something caught her eye. She ran over, tripping once, but quickly recovering and running to the shelf. She grabbed the book taking the whole shelf with her. Belle looked around the screen as she put the rest of her dress on. The blue fabric hugged her frame.
“Mabel!” She ran over to the girl who had books littered around her. She squatted down and looked at the child. “Mabel, are you alright?” She nodded and held up the book. The Ugly Duckling. Belle looked at Mabel.
“Read?” She made a pouty face and Belle smirked.
“Alright.” She sat down, moving some of the other books out of the way, so she could sit down. She began to read. “Once there was a mother with six little ducklings…”
Rumple walked through the mess hall with his bowl. All of the smells were overwhelming his nose and he had to contain his hunger. He grabbed a little bit of oatmeal, honey, and fruit. He looked around for a seat to find everyone eating hurriedly, or chatting with their neighbor. A hand shot through the crowd.
“Hey, newbie, over here!” They called and soon Rumple saw a head that belonged to the hand. “Come on we got a seat.” He smiled and he looked earnest enough. Rumple made his way over, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Once he got to the table he sat down. “Hey, news says you’re the new spinner. Picked right off the street.” He leaned over the space and looked from side to side. “If it makes you feel any better, so was I, and that was six years ago.” Rumple looked up carefully. A hand was held in front of him. “Names Jefferson.” Rumple put his spoon down and shook his hand.
“Rumpelstiltskin.” He chewed on his lower lip. Jefferson smiled.
“Parents had a field day, uh? The doc over here is Victor.” He playfully hit a man’s back who wore a full length coat that had buttons up all the way to his neck. He looked frightening and Rumple reminded himself not to get injured any time soon. Victor gave him a once over and took in Rumple’s walking stick, but otherwise said nothing. “Not much of a talker this one. Well Rumple, where did you come from?” He blew on the oatmeal in his spoon.
“Lachlear.” He took another bite of his oatmeal, chewing on the fruit.
“Really? Didn’t know Maurice had jurisdiction there. I’m the hatter here, by the way.” Rumple nodded and looked into his bowl. “Not much of a talker either, eh?”
“Hard to talk when you have nothing to say.” He looked up at the hatter.
“Well, you have a way with words. Don’t get mixed up with any sorcerers, you’ll riddle them out of their magic.” He gave a sly grin. A bell rang and everyone began to clear out. “Come on, newbie, I’ll show you how it works here in the kingdom.” Rumple tagged along for the ride and hoped he wouldn’t crash. It was only his second day and he’d managed to get lost, make a friend, and do minimal spinning. Oh and another thing, fall in love with the princess.