In the Land of Love and Gold

The Ugly Duckling

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…"

xXx

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.


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