She won't stop waiting up for him.
Whenever he comes back from a deal, she is waiting in the Great Hall for him, always ready with a cup of tea and a warm smile, no matter how late he arrives. Once, he had entered the castle just as dawn was breaking, and found her barely awake but still downstairs.
Today, he is determined to make sure that doesn't happen. For one thing, the deal is a tricky one, and there is no telling whether he will even come back that night or not.
She is in the library, completely absorbed in a book when he finds her, and she looks up as he enters.
He moves to stand beside the chair she is curled up in.
"Dearie, I'm going deal-making today."
He is always surprised that she doesn't show the happiness she must feel at the news, when she is so transparent in her emotions otherwise.
She looks at him with thoughtful sapphire eyes.
"You'll be back soon?"
He is taken aback by the question but supposes that she would want to know when her relative freedom from him ended and she had to bear the company of the monster once again.
He decides to get to the point.
"I'm not sure. Tonight, maybe tomorrow. Anyhow, you needn't wait up."
She nods, and if he didn't know better, he would have thought she looked sad. Perhaps she wishes he would stay away longer.
She wants to be awake when he comes back, but then she has another idea.
"I'll make you a deal. You tell me whenever you're going to be away, and I won't wait for you this time if you don't want me to."
She is tired of finding him gone and not knowing when he'll be back.
Hmm..she should know better than to escape, by now.
"Deal! I expect to see all your chores done when I come back."
Might as well keep her out of mischief while he's gone.
"Alright. Be safe, Rumpelstiltskin."
"Don't worry, dearie. I always come back in one piece! "
After he is gone, she wanders aimlessly through the castle. Her mind will not stay on the book she's trying to read and her thoughts keep straying to Rumpelstiltskin, and when he will be back. She always feels this way when he is gone, tired and sad and missing his company. Idly, she wonders if this is part of his enchantments, the restlessness she feels whenever he is away.
She keeps busy instead, cooking and cleaning and generally completing the work left undone, as the day slowly passes.
After having something to eat in the kitchen rather than the Great Hall, she goes upstairs to try to get some sleep.
Rumpelstiltskin ends up in a good mood. The deal has gone well, hardly any problems at all. Looks like he'll be back home sometime tonight after all.
The thought somewhat spoils his good mood. He has told Belle not to wait for him, and she will not be expecting him until tomorrow. Probably celebrating having the castle to herself for a change, content that he is safely away.
Whatever he might say, he does want her to be content. He only wishes she could be so when he is around. But for centuries, people have screamed and cried at his appearance and made motions to ward off evil behind his back. He is a monster, and he'd do well to remember that.
With a small sigh, he teleports back to the castle where, he is sure, his beauty is sleeping contentedly in the knowledge that he is far away.
She tosses and turns late into the night before finally accepting the fact that sleep will not come to her tonight. Unable to remain in one place a second longer, she dresses, and wanders through the now-familiar halls and passages until she reaches a part of the castle she hasn't explored yet.
The rooms are the usual collection scattered throughout the castle; she opens doors to storerooms and spare bedrooms, some doors open onto empty hallways, other times she sees rooms filled with enough gold to finance her whole kingdom for a year or ancient and valuable artifacts, all but forgotten by their owner.
And then she opens the last door in the corridor and her eyes widen. She's suddenly glad that he isn't here, because explaining her presence here might be a little awkward.
She has wandered to his bedroom.
The room is not as large as she would have expected, and simply but elegantly decorated in a theme of burgundy and gold. She has never entered someone's bedroom before, and the thought makes her blush. She cannot shake the feeling that, by entering his sanctuary, she is crossing a line..but the room is so him, and she is so tired now, in a way she cannot explain.
She sits down on the bed, and it there, surrounded by his scent, a mixture of leather and woodsmoke and magic, that she falls asleep like a child curled on top of the coverlet.
He watches her as she sleeps. She looks so innocent and peaceful, lying there, and an ironic smile makes his lips curl as he imagines her expression were she to wake up right now and see him standing there beside her in the dead of night. He wonders just how she ended up here. How tired she must have been to fall asleep in the beast's lair.
Slowly, gently, he tucks away a loose curl behind her ear, and notices how the dirty mottled green tint of his scales contrasts against her porcelain skin.
Her voice is soft, but the murmur startles him, "Rumpelstiltskin?"
She is still asleep, he notes. And calling his name. Without fear.. but something sad does tinge her voice. Not understanding, not wanting to understand, he turns away.
The night is cold, and he conjures up a blanket over her sleeping form before disappearing from the room, leaving behind the sight he feels he does not deserve to witness.
Belle opens her eyes slowly, still half-asleep. She feels warm and content, covered by a blanket, while the morning sunlight dances on her cheek.
Wait. Morning sunlight?
She sits up suddenly, the blanket falling away, unable to get her bearings for a moment until the events of the previous night come flooding back to her and a blush colors her cheeks as she looks around.
She's still in Rumpelstiltskin's room where she fell asleep, but someone has covered her with a blanket, and opened the curtains to let in the light. The room is otherwise much the same, except Rumpelstiltskin is perched on the windowsill.
"Ah! So sleeping beauty is awake!"
He drops down to the burgundy carpet, and she clambers out from under the blanket and stands up.
"I'm sorry! I shouldn't have.."
He looks more amused than anything else.
"Quite alright, dearie. Perhaps you could get us some breakfast. It's a little late.."
He doesn't get the chance to say anything more, before she is hugging him. Tightly, as if she never means to let go.
Her voice is muffled as she mutters.
"I missed you."
And then she is gone, and he notices the few tear-marks on his silk shirt.
That night, he falls asleep to the scent of roses.