In the Land of Love and Gold

Promises

Rumple stared at Belle for a moment before blinking owlishly. His mind racked for some how to respond. It seemed like a simple question, but his lust addled mind couldn't think of proper way to formulate an answer. Belle smiled slowly and laughed softly. She reached out and pats his hand. He laced his fingers into hers and she smiled wider. Rumple felt his heart squeeze when he saw her smile. Belle felt bad for cutting him off and tilted her head to let him continue. He sat looking at her for a moment before her question was brought to the forefront of his mind. "October 8th." Belle smiled. She stood up ready to make sure that all things were clear of that day, then she remembered that Rumple had wanted to speak with her. She sat back down and put her hands in her lap. "Why might you ask?" He winced as he took a deep breath. His pain medicine was wearing off; he would have to get more from the doctor. Belle blushed and looked away.

"It's a surprise." She smiled and reached for his hand. The one closest to her was under the sheets, so he removed the blanket and grabbed her seeking fingers. She gave him a reassuring squeeze. "I'll have the doctor –" A loud crack of thunder shook the castle. Heavy rain pounded on the old stone walls and Belle put her hand on her heart. The window above Rumple was open and he was quickly getting drenched. Belle hurried to the side of his bed and reached up to close it. Her fingers were just short of the rim and she huffed. Rumple looked up and decided that if anyone were to walk in and see him staring he could be tossed out in the rain, so he looked back at his interlocked fingers. Belle groaned and hit the stone wall. She quickly toed out of her shoes and looked at Rumple. "Hold my legs." He did as he was commanded and Belle stood on the edge of his bed and shut the window and locked it. She closed the drapes as lightening struck somewhere off in the distance. It was followed shortly by a clap of thunder. Belle slowly slid down on the bed. Rumple held her legs as she slowly sat down and once she was settled they rested on her knees. She was looking at him with a worry filled countenance. "I didn't hurt you, did I?" He chuckled and shook his head.

"No, dearie," He went to finish his sentence, but the door to the infirmary opened to reveal the hatter. Belle and Rumple looked over quickly as Jefferson stopped mid-step. He shielded his eyes with his hand and a smile slowly grew on his face.

"If I'm interrupting something say 'oh Rumple'." His voice took on a high note and Belle blushed crimson. Rumple bit the inside of his cheek to refrain from showing he was affected by the comment. Rumple took his hands from Belle's knees and addressed his sopping wet hair.

"You're not interrupting anything, Jefferson." He uncovered his eyes and gave a sly smirk. He shut the door and took a few steps into the infirmary.

"Then can I join?" His eyes sparkled with amusement and Rumple took the liberty of throwing a pillow at him. Jefferson caught it and laughed. Belle got off of the spinner's bed. She moved to get a towel from the cupboard. When she returned Jefferson was sitting in the chair next to Rumple's bed. Belle unfolded the towel and placed it carefully on Rumple's head, she didn't want to hurt him anymore than he already was. She began to carefully dry from the back of his neck to his crown. She stopped when his hands were on hers and she removed the towel to look in his eyes.

"Belle, it's alright. I can do it." He didn't want to tell her the real reason. He was glad he was sitting down, but from Jefferson's amused look Rumple could tell that the hatter wasn't oblivious. She smiled and handed him the towel. He began to dry his own hair. Jefferson looked between Belle and Rumple. He grabbed his chest and fell back in his chair, causing it to topple over onto the floor.

"Oh, Belle, I think I might need mouth to mouth. I'm dying." He reached out dramatically with the hand that wasn't clutching his chest. When she didn't run to his side he gasp and put his head on the floor, sticking his tongue out the side of his mouth. Belle put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. She leaned down and whispered in his ear,

"You get enough of that from Ruby." His eyes popped open and he staggered to stand and fix the chair. Belle laughed and he took off his hat, putting it over his chest.

"H-how did you know that?" He shuffled his feet and Rumple began to wipe his face.

"Mabel."

"Why that little –" Rumple glared at Jefferson and the hatter cleared his throat. "Ball of sunshine." He put his hat back on and stomped out of the infirmary. Belle laughed and Rumple handed her back the towel. His chest constricted and he coughed. He closed his eyes and groaned. Belle took the towel and put it on the foot rail to dry.

"I'll get the doctor to give you some more medicine." The man on the bed nodded and coughed once more. Belle left the infirmary and went in search of Victor. As Belle was checking the staff dorms, a small hand reached out from under one of the bunks. Belle jumped, but calmed herself down when she saw a brown head follow the hand.

"Belle!" She smiled and let go of Belle's foot. Belle looked around to make sure no one was looking and got on all fours to see Mabel. She was dirty and her hair was matted to her head. Belle gasped and scowled. It was hard to distinguish that there was a girl under all the mud.

"What are you doing under there? And why are you so dirty?" Mabel giggled and crawled out from under the bed. Belle stood up and looked at Mabel. She was covered in head to toe with mud. "I just saw you!" Belle reprimanded. Mabel's smile faded. She looked ready to cry. "Don't cry, Mabel." Belle said in a stern voice. She sighed as Mabel sniffed and wiped at her face. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up." Belle lead Mabel to the bath house. On the way there she saw Chip. She flagged him down. She told him to find Victor and send him to the hospice. Chip nodded and left. Mabel was looking at the ground the whole time they walked to the baths.

"Mama, are you mad?" Belle sighed. She squat down in front of Mabel. She had tear streaks on her face. She looked like someone had drawn a sad clown on her face. A sad, muddy clown. Belle shook her head.

"No, Mabel, but you can't go playing in mud. You'll get the whole house dirty." Belle took the soiled dress off of Mabel and put her in one of the small baths. She cleaned Mabel and revealed the girl underneath. She lifted Mabel's head, but she didn't want Belle to see her crying, so the young girl firmly kept her face down. "Mabel, let me see you." She looked up with some hesitation. Belle kissed the young girl's nose and Mabel smiled, covering her face. Belle left kisses all over the girl's face and Mabel was her usual self again. She giggled and slashed in the tub. "Now come on, let's go shopping." Mabel tilted her head. She looked outside at the pouring rain.

"In the rain?" Belle picked up Mabel and wrapped a towel around her. She dried off the tot and set her down. Belle forgot to grab some extra clothes for Mabel. She was glad the nursery was only down the hall. Belle hurried to get the clothes then come back and get Mabel dressed.

"Well, I guess we can wait until the rain lets up." Belle tied up Mabel's dress and turned her around. Mabel smiled and grabbed Belle's hand. She dragged Belle to the library. She opened the door and ran to the bookshelf, letting go of Belle's hand. She ran her freshly cleaned fingers over the spines of the books and grabbed one at random. Belle walked to the love seat and sat down. "Do you want me to read it to you?" Mabel clutched the book close to her chest. She nodded and waddled to stand in front of Belle. Belle picked her up and put her on her lap. She grabbed the book, looking at the cover. Retellings of the Fairy Queen. Belle remembered this book as a child. She dusted off the cover and opened it up. Mabel looked at the artfully crafted pictures on the page. Belle smiled as Mabel ran her fingers over the words on the page. "Once, long ago, there lived a beautiful Queen…"

xXx

"….And they lived happily ever after." Belle closed the book and Mabel grabbed at it. She held it close to her chest and sighed. She put it on the bookstand next to her and Mabel stood up on Belle's lap. Belle held her hands, so she wouldn't fall.

"Mama, I wonder what it's like to be a fairy?" Mabel played with Belle's hands. Belle smiled up at her.

"I wouldn't know." Mabel puffed out her chest. She got off of Belle's lap and grabbed the book from the bookstand and put it back where she found it. She walked back with a scowl on your face. Belle tilted her head. "What's wrong Mabel?" She crossed her arms and jutted out her chin. Belle chuckled softly.

"You may not be a fairy, but you're definitely an angel, Mama." Belle's mouth fell open slightly. Her eyes got wide and she looked at Mabel. "It's not fair." Mabel huffed. Belle laughed lightly.

"Mabel, I'm no angel." Mabel nodded feverously. Belle tilted her head to the side. Mabel uncrossed her arms and instead put her hands on her hips.

"Papa says that you are." Belle concealed the emotions on her face. She wasn't sure if she should take the child to her word, but she kept her mouth shut anyways. After a minute Belle smiled and leaned forward.

"Well, I'm not always an angel." Belle jumped forward and tickled Mabel. Mabel squealed and slipped out of Belle's grasp. She ran off through the library with Belle in tow.

xXx

Belle had her skirts in hand and she was quietly walking through the bookshelves, looking at the lower rows. She could hear Mabel's small feet paddling around on the carpet. A soft thud sounded and a small 'oomph' followed. Shortly after the footsteps continued. Belle stopped and listened. She pressed herself to the end of the bookshelf and took even breaths. Just as she was going to look around the corner and get Mabel, something toddler sized grabbed her leg and hid in her skirts. Belle put a hand to her chest to calm her beating heart. Belle looked down and Mabel was pressing her face in Belle's skirts. "If you're there then who's…?" Belle slowly looked around the bookshelf and was met with a smug grin. Belle whipped her head back to the bookshelf and let go of the breath she had been holding. "Oh." She whispered under her breath. Belle put a hand on Mabel's head in comfort. She stepped out from behind the bookshelf, with Mabel still attached to her leg. Belle held her head high as she faced Gaston. She hadn't seen hide or hear of him since she left to Kelsis.

"Princess, it's per the king's request that I apologize to you for scaring you." He didn't look her in the eye the whole time. Mabel didn't move a muscle. Belle didn't blame her. "Therefore this is my apology." He leaned forward and Belle took a step back. "I'm sorry, Belle." The way he said it was nothing compared to the way Rumple said her name.

"Apology not accepted." Belle reached down and picked up Mabel. She kept her head down as she was being lifted and Belle hated Gaston for doing that to Mabel. Belle held Mabel close and briskly walked past Gaston. She nudged him with her shoulder and she was whirled around by the arm. It was all Belle could do to hold onto Mabel, so she wouldn't fall out of Belle's grip. Gaston pulled Belle close to him, squeezing Mabel. Mabel began to fuss and squirm.

"You know, you think you're so careful." Belle gasped as his grip tightened on her arm. Mabel started to breath heavily and the beginning of tears was forming. She couldn't move and with her position against Belle her breathing was cut off. "Don't think I don't know who she really is." Gaston shoved Belle and Belle hit her back on the bookshelf and she cried out in pain. "You will choose me at the end of four months or your little secret won't be a secret anymore." Gaston turned on his heel and Belle cringed as Mabel moved. She took a deep breath in pained intervals. Mabel looked up at Belle with tear streaked cheeks.

"Mama?" Belle took careful breaths and nodded. She regretted that decision. Her head hurt and she slammed her eyes closed. Belle made sure she wasn't crying for fear that Mabel would be upset. Belle opened her eyes and smiled.

"Yes, Mabel?" Belle straightened and carefully limped down the hallway. Mabel clung to Belle and rubbed her face in Belle's shoulder. Belle shushed her fussing and she reached the main hall of the library as Ruby was rushing down the stairs. She saw Belle and sighed in relief. She noticed Belle's battered look and picked up her skirts to hurry to Belle's side. She took Mabel and Belle was able to hide her limping better. Ruby saw the way her friend's face was shadowed with sadness. There were footsteps on the stairs and Belle looked up to see Jefferson. He was wiping at his cheek and Belle recognized Ruby's lipstick anywhere. She gave a weary smile, that did nothing for her headache, but she hoped she didn't look in as much pain as she really was. Jefferson noticed Belle and cleared his throat.

"Belle…" He trailed off when he looked at her face. Both Ruby and Jefferson shared an emotionless glance. Ruby took Mabel and left the library. Mabel continued to look at Belle until Ruby turned the corner. Jefferson carefully took Belle's hand in his. It was the same arm that Gaston had grabbed. He turned it over to give it a once over. There were the beginning signs of bruising. Jefferson's eyes blazed in anger. "Who did this Belle?" Belle was scared to tell him it was Gaston. He knew something about her and she wasn't sure what it was, but whatever it was could ruin any chance at her choosing the love of her life as a husband. She took her hand back and cradled it to her chest.

"I fell." She hurried to get away from him. She needed to be as far away from everyone as possible. She needed to be alone to let her mind settle on what Gaston had meant. 'Your little secret won't be a secret anymore.' What did he mean? 'Don't think I don't know who she really is?' Who? Mabel? Belle ran blindly to her room and locked her door. She was still cradling her arm to her chest. She went to the boudoir and exposed a small portion of her back, just where she hit the bookshelf. Her normally porcelain skin was stained with blue and black ink. The bruises were jagged and ugly. Marring her white flesh. She didn't know she was crying until the tear drops splashed on her shoulder from where she was looking over. She wiped at her face, but continued to cry. She changed into a shift and got into bed. She continued to cry silently until she drifted off into sleep.

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