It was a sunny, warm day, and Belle was singing quietly while putting new books on the shelves in her library. In a few hours she would be on a date with her husband - Rumple told her that he prepared something special for their first anniversary.
The cheerful mood wasn’t gone even when Emma and Henry came in with a troubled, embarrassed faces.
‘What can I do for you?’ Belle asked with a smile. ‘Do you look for some specific books?’
‘Well, no, we’re not here for the books,’ Emma stammered, looking uncharacteristically flushed. She was holding a shoebox with a few holes in it. The lid was fastened with a duck tape. The box was shaking.
‘What do you have in here?’
From the box came furious scratching.
‘Look, Belle... Gold had an... accident.’
‘What?!’ Belle exclaimed, books forgotten. ‘How is he? Where is he? I need to go to him!’
‘No, no, Grandpa is here!’
‘Here?’ Belle repeated dumbly.
‘In a box...’ Emma explained faintly. ‘I was practicing magic with him and...’
‘You miniaturized him?!’
‘You can say that,’ Henry chimed in. ‘But that’s not the crux of the matter.’
‘Open that box, then!’ Belle demanded. ‘Why did you put him there in the first place?’
‘Because he’s a rabbit!’ Henry exclaimed impatiently.
‘But I called Regina,’ Emma added. ‘She said it’s only temporary.’
Belle already got mental image of Regina who couldn’t stop laughing into the phone, demanding that pictures must be taken.
‘Right, until I kiss him. Open it.’
‘She mentioned also that it might not work if he’s changed too deeply to remember you.’
‘And is he?!’
Emma had a good sense to look at her shoes rather than Belle.
‘I don’t know. Regina said it might take a few days for him to be back to normal.’
Belle flailed her hands in a helpless fury. Then she marched to the shelf in the corner and retrieved two books about pet rabbits. One of them she put there not even twenty minutes ago.
‘Fine,’ Belle looked at Emma sternly. ‘Then I think you should drive me and Rumple home, and then go to the pet store for an errand. I expect you to buy everything Rumple might need.’
Meanwhile, in the dark and narrow space inside the weird burrow, Gold was slowly calming down. He had a few very terrifying moments when he suddenly found himself on the dusty, wooden ground, even if the place itself felt familiar. He had no memory of anything prior to that and a pair of human hands grabbing him without warning surely didn’t help.
But now he was in that small, funny burrow for some time and a closed space was always better than open one. The burrow was shaking and he heard human voices, but after a while he got accustomed to them too. Besides, he wasn’t able to escape anyway, any possible exits were well shut.
Suddenly he felt new smells flooding his nose. Better smells that he immediately associated with being safe. Then another human voice that made him try to get out of the burrow again and check it out. No such luck, but at least the smell and voice didn’t go away. It made the terrible roar and more shaking bearable.
Then he smelled another familiar place. Before soon, the entrance to the burrow was opened.
After some consideration, Belle took the shoebox to the bedroom. Of all rooms it was probably the one in which Rumple would feel the safest. If he remembered anything, that is.
Briefly checking for the instruction in one of her books, she placed the shoebox on the floor, opened it carefully and then lied on the floor herself, to be on the eye level with her poor, enchanted husband. Then she waited impatiently for his move.
First thing to be seen was the tiny nose, busily sniffing the air. Then, slowly, the rest of the head emerged. Her Rumple was a miniature lop with light brown fur. When he stood up, placing front paws on the box’s rim, Belle saw the white fur on his chest and tummy.
He looked in her direction and she fell in love with him all over again. Maybe after regaining human form he could be persuaded to turn back into a bunny from time to time.
She waited patiently for him to hop out of the box and come closer. Poor thing was limping again, but it seems that it affected him much less in this form, he was just dragging his right hind foot a little. Rumple stopped in some distance in front of her and carefully stretched his neck toward her face, still sniffing. Finally he felt safe enough to made one hop more and touch his nose to her.
‘Oh, Rumple! Will you let me kiss you too? It might help.’
Rumple however ignored her words in favor of hopping on her back. She sighed.
‘Okay, sweetheart, no problem. Stay there as long as you want to.’
The doorbell rang exactly in this moment and the bunny jumped up and sprinted under the bed.
‘Or maybe not,’ Belle muttered. ‘Don’t worry sweetheart, it’s only Emma, with things for you. I won’t be long, precious, be a good boy and don’t chew on anything.’
Belle shook her head. Five minutes and she’s already taken to talk to Rumple like she would to a pet.
Emma waited on the doorstep with several large packs. She dumped it all on the carpet in the corridor.
‘I didn’t think that you’d want a cage, but I bought him a tent.’ Emma unpacked the big, green thing, with grass painted on the outside. The tent had walls and especially floor thick almost like an armchair, covered with soft, plushy material, and looked very comfortable. ‘So he’d have his own place.’
‘Thank you, Emma.’ Belle smiled at her for the first time since getting the news.
‘And I bought a few chew toys, litterboxes, bowls and food of course. Hay,’ she handed Belle two big packs, ‘to be given unlimited. And pellets. And Vet wrote me down some guidelines about feeding him and proper rabbit care in general.’
Vet the Dwarf was the resident veterinarian in Storybrooke and also the owner of a small pet store.
‘Thank you, Emma.’
‘Uh, do you need me to go to grocery store? Apparently he needs lots of greens too.’
‘Oh, sure,’ Belle beamed at her. ‘Here, I’ll write you a list. When you’re done, just leave the bags on the porch, I’ll retrieve them later.’
Under the human’s sleeping place was dark and quiet. Gold, squished in the furthest corner, wondered dimly why that sound scared him so much. For now the scarier thought was that he was left alone. Forever.
But no. The human intended to go back. Right? He missed her. Maybe he should stop hiding. He wouldn’t want her to return only to think that he was not here or that he didn’t like her. Soon, he stood on the fluffy ground, bathed in the sunlight. There was something very safe and familiar about that place in general. It smelled right, like home, even if he couldn’t remember any previous home of his. Maybe that was it? Maybe he was home, not knowing about it. And the human felt so familiar, she must have been living with him before. Perhaps she would be angry with him for getting lost and ending up in that dusty place, where another human caught him. Maybe he was visiting that place, it didn’t feel strange, and then... something must have happened, even if he couldn’t remember what exactly. He needed to be extra nice now to make up for it to his human.
He hopped to the moving part of the wall and listened. She wasn’t returning. Maybe she really was angry. Gold didn’t want her to be angry with him. She surely was more powerful than him, and even if she just left him, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive on his own. And he already missed her.
He lied down on his belly, pressing his right side to the moving part of the wall. This way his human would know that he waited for her. He felt very tired now, drained even. His eyelids felt heavy and his eyes closed themselves. Soon he was drifting off...
...until the moving wall moved away suddenly, making him thump loudly in panic and run away back under the human’s sleeping place.
‘Oh, sweetheart, ’ he heard his human’s cooing voice. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t want to scary you. Come out, I have something for you. Here, come look.’
His human knelt down and reached a hand full of hay in his direction. Gold slowly moved towards it. Only now he realized how hungry he really is. His human slowly moved back her hand, so he was forced to come out from under the human’s sleeping place completely, but he didn’t really mind. Soon he was completely absorbed in munching on the delicious, aromatic hay.
‘There, sweetheart. Eat all you want. You must have been hungry, my poor, precious thing. And here you have water.’
Heavy, stone shape appeared next to him, full of cool, clean water and he drank gratefully. Then he returned to nibbling hay.
‘Can I touch you, sweetheart?’
Warm fingers touched gently his back, and though he stiffened at first, he was able to relax soon. Gentle petting proved to be very pleasant and his human felt more and more familiar and safe. Gold stretched on the fluffy ground in the relaxed, melted position on his side, hoping to coax her to pet him some more and to show her that he felt comfortable with that. She cooed in a happy, loving voice and started to rub his back, head and belly with both hands, exactly where it felt best. Truly, he was as happy as it gets in this moment.
Belle devotedly petted, stroked and scratched her bunny husband for as long as he seemed to enjoy it. She squealed with awe when he flopped over to his other side for another share of caresses. But finally he stood up and looked around attentively, as if looking for something.
‘What do you need, sweetheart? Rumple? What is it?’ She couldn’t help asking aloud, even if he couldn’t talk back and most probably didn’t even understand her words. Still, he was looking anxious and uncomfortable and she started to panic, thinking furiously what could be wrong.
Finally, Rumple hopped to the open door and carefully stuck his head out. She followed him to the corridor, puzzled. But then he squeezed through the ajar bathroom door and she suddenly understood.
Her ever-polite bunny husband needed to tend to personal needs, but while any other rabbit would probably do in on the carpet, he didn’t feel exonerated by not knowing where his litter box should be. Or how it looked like for that matter.
Belle rushed back to retrieve said litter box from Emma’s purchases. She would have to remember to install another one in a quiet corner in the bedroom.
Rumple understood immediately what he’s supposed to do and Belle felt hopeful. He surely was more well-behaved than any untrained rabbit could be and was much more friendly towards her than he would be if he completely forgot her. When he was done with the litter box and started to hop back towards corridor, she gently put her hand beneath his chest and lifted him a little, putting the other palm beneath his bottom, just like it was shown in the books. She felt him stiffen up, but when she stood up straight and cradled him to her chest, he relaxed again. He didn’t protest being carried back to bedroom, he even pressed himself further into her bosom. So the first thing she did after getting there, was to sit on the bed and kiss his furry nose with all the love she felt for him.
Unfortunately, nothing happened, except now he was butting his head into her neck and jaw, presumably to return the caresses or to demand more. She cuddled and kissed him obligingly, but sighed inwardly. True Love’s Kiss didn’t work.
‘But don’t worry, Rumple. With time you’ll start to remember more and more, I’m sure, and then the Kiss will work, you’ll see.’
At least he remember that she’s someone safe and seemed to be bonded to her already. And it was such a luck that he liked to cuddle with her, the books said that many bunnies don’t. She would miss touching him so much if that was the case!
His human put him on the fluffy ground and Gold stretched reflexively after being held and cuddled for so long. He was relieved that she wasn’t angry with him after he hid under her sleeping place twice and that she seemed to be equally fond of giving cuddles as he was to receive them. The place for private business was also very appreciated, he truly would feel awful to make a mess anywhere else. He wasn’t sure why, but keeping the place they lived in clean was important.
‘Hey, Rumple,’ his human called, ‘do you want to see your new tent?’
She was kneeling next to something that looked like a shallow burrow dug in oddly shaped rock. When he carefully hopped closer and sniffed it, the smell wasn’t very welcoming, rather strange and unidentifiable. This thing must have been completely new in their home. His human, seeing Gold’s hesitation, put a handful of hay inside the burrow.
That was much better and Gold peaked inside, inhaling tasty smell. The thing was soft and inviting under his paws and soon he hopped inside altogether, turning around to be able to observe anything outside. With all his sides but front covered, he felt safe, safer than under the bed where the space was so much bigger. Gold lied down on the hay and nibbled some. His human giggled in delight.
‘I’m so glad you like it! Emma really had a very good idea. This is your own space now, Rumple. You can hide here whenever you need to rest or be alone.’
The burrow was placed so he had a good view on most of the surroundings, including his human’s sleeping place. He already enjoyed observing her. But he hoped very much that she’s not expecting him to sit in here the whole time and that she still would be willing to pet and cuddle him.
Rumple was looking so unbelievably cute with his flopped ears and tiny, fuzzy paws that she truly couldn’t help but to reach for her phone and document it all. The spell would end finally and while she waited impatiently for that, there was no reason why shouldn’t she have some mementos from the whole adventure.
At first he seemed startled by the camera noise, staring at her curiously. By the fifth picture he seemed much less alert and by the tenth he lost the interest altogether, returning to nibbling hay which she promptly recorded on video. Not small part of her couldn’t help but wait for the moment when she could show it to the human Rumple, of course after making several backup copies and hiding some of them in the library and the library apartment, just in case.
Belle sighed contently and got up to prepare a supper for herself and her bunny husband. While hers was simple as she didn’t want to leave Rumple alone for too long or have him trying to find her and getting lost in the house, she made a point of arranging greens, vegetables and rabbit food pellets into something resembling a small cake. It was their anniversary after all.
Rumple ate it all with enthusiasm, seeming especially fond of carrots and she filed that away for future notice. It probably wasn’t that surprising seeing as human Rumple was fond of them as well, albeit without the tops.
‘Happy anniversary, my love,’ she murmured, raising the glass with ice tea and fighting tears. When he’s back to normal they must repeat the celebration. Though she had to admit that whatever surprise Rumple had prepared it surely couldn’t compare to have him turned into little bunny.
It was night and his human was asleep, but Gold couldn’t sleep himself. It wasn’t good. He didn’t want to be active, he was in fact very tired and he’d much rather relax and sleep but no amount of effort seemed to work in his favor and it didn’t matter how safe he felt in his burrow.
No, apparently there was only one thing to do. He got out of the burrow and hopped to his human’s sleeping place. His right leg felt weak and hurt a little but he hoped it would be alright anyway. It had to be, he didn’t know what else to do. He also hoped his human wouldn’t mind having him in her sleeping place.
He even used his second private place beforehand to not make a mess later. He didn’t want her to be angry at him.
Mustering all his courage and strength, he jumped up aiming for the top surface. He made it, barely, his bad leg slipping over the rim, but after quick, panicked struggle he managed to get his balance back, mostly by catching the soft lining beneath him with his claws. He made it. Gold already felt better, this was just the right place to sleep. The smell was exactly as it should be and his human was sleeping here where he could always snuggle up to her. Ignoring his bad leg, he limped to her on the exquisitely soft, uneven ground and lied down, pressing his side to her bare arm.
She sleepily raised her heard...
‘Whaaa... Oh... Oh, Rumple...’ She gently rubbed his back. ‘You couldn’t sleep? Of course, this is your, our bed. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it earlier.’ She paused for a moment. ‘I hope I won’t squish you though... I won’t, right...? Oh, my poor, poor Rumple.’ She lowered her voice to the soft murmur. ‘Maybe tomorrow you’ll be yourself again? Sleep now, sleep, here. Shh. There, there, I’m here, your Belle will look after you.’
His human attention and murmuring made Gold feel safe and warm. Soon, he completely melted under his human’s hand’s delicate strokes and finally his eyelids began to drop.
He dreamed of being human.
Belle woke up sprawled across the bed (no one prevented her to claim it whole in her sleep) with a sleeping bunny sprawled on her stomach. For a moment she wondered if the animal is a gift from Rumple (and where did Rumple go?) before she remembered that this small, cute bunny is her Rumple.
‘Oh, sweetheart...’ She reached her hand and gently stroked his back. He moved slowly and lazy, not opening his eyes. Belle gently sat up, cradling him in her arms. He was practically melted and obviously didn’t want to be moved anywhere.
‘Okay, but I’ll have to go to the bathroom at some point. And I’m sure that you’ll need it as well.’
He tried to burrow himself in her pajama top at that, nuzzling into her stomach., so Belle reached for the book about bunnies lying on the nightstand and relaxed with her head supported by the biggest pillow.
‘Well then, I wonder if there is anything else I’m supposed to do for you,’ she wondered aloud after about ten minutes of reading. ‘I’m obviously taking a few days off until you’re himself again. I wonder how much do you understand from what I’m telling, Rumple.’ She sighed, but suddenly sat up straight. ‘Oh, wait, maybe I’ll check the books about magic, we have some at home. Maybe I’ll be able to figure out what to do.’
With the newfound enthusiasm she lifted the bunny from her lap and put him on her pillow. Then she run to the bathroom because some things have to go first.
All sleepiness completely fled from him the moment he was deposited on his human’s fluffy bedding. She was gone and in quite a hurry. Should he follow her? Or would she be angry if he did so?
To do something useful while he mused on it, Gold decided to hop down and make use of his private place, as well as nibble some hay. He was hungry and something was telling him that he should eat while the food was there, there’s no guarantee that it will be the case later.
This somewhat reminded him of someone else who should have been with them, someone important, though he didn’t know if that person was a bunny or a human. He couldn’t pin it down however he tried, so he decided not to dwell on that for now. Somehow that seemed to be something sad and maybe it was better to not remember.
His human’s sleeping place was high, Gold decided, looking down on the fluffy ground beneath him. In the dark, when he hopped up, it didn’t look that scary. Of course, if his hind leg was alright, it wouldn’t be scary at all, but that was sadly not the case. He didn’t have a choice though, and he jumped down.
His leg hurt on the impact, but not as terrible as he’d feared, so feeling relieved he slowly hopped to his place. By the time he felt almost sated with hay, his human was still nowhere in sight. Did she forget about him? Or maybe something bad happened to her? Was he really allowed to go look for her? And would he dare go alone? Yesterday she was with him when he went to the other side of moving wall.
Sitting here was proving to be unbearable though, so he cautiously hopped to the moving part of the wall. He butted it with his head and scratched with front paws, but it didn’t budge. He was trapped here and panicking quickly.
This moment however he heard steps and the wall moved. His human’s scent wafted in followed by her in person. She was smiling and carried bowl of greens, pellets and wonderfully smelling strawberries. He jumped in the air with joy, not too high because of his leg, but it still elicited sweet giggle from his human. He must remember to do it more often.
Then she put the bowl in front of him and his world shrunk to the three strawberries.
‘Oh yes, I thought so,’ she said. ‘You were always so fond of strawberries. But it’s only a treat, remember that. You will be given a healthy food, mister.’
She was petting him gently, but it didn’t distract him from devouring the fruits. Probably nothing could.
After the meal she petted and cuddled him and being sate and relaxed quickly made him fall asleep on the soft, fluffy ground with both sunlight and his human’s hands caressing his back and side.
He wasn’t sure how long he slept, but when he woke up, he was alone again.
It’s okay, he tried to reassure himself. She returned the last time, she’d return now as well. But as the time was passing, he was getting more and more nervous. Nibbling hay didn’t distract him for long and neither did exploring the room. Chewing on weird, inedible things that his human put into his burrow didn’t cheer him up. He lied down in the burrow, facing away from exit. But after a few moment even moping didn’t seem sustainable.
He needed to find his human. He was sure that they were meant to be together forever and if she wasn’t there with him it might mean that something bad happened. Or that she’s angry at him and might leave him, but she wasn’t angry last time he’s seen her. Or maybe she was angry that he fell asleep? Maybe she thought that he thought her boring. He had to find her and make up to her for this. He had no idea how exactly could he make up for anything, but decided to worry about it later. Now he had to find her.
Fortunately, the moving part of wall was ajar and he was able to widen the slit even further and squeeze himself through it. Here the ground wasn’t so fluffy, but still coarse enough for him to not slip. Gold began to sniff and listen for his human and after a few moments he was practically sure that she is somewhere below.
The only way was down the slope made from regular steps and fortunately covered by the same coarse ground. Slipping there might have been dangerous.
He began painstakingly slow trek down the slope, but his human’s scent was stronger now, and he heard shuffling noises. When Gold finally landed on a flat ground, he knew exactly which way to go. He passed another moving wall, then another, only slightly ajar and he was barely able to squeeze through, and finally he saw his human.
She was sitting on the floor, surrounded by things smelling of dust and made shuffling noises playing with one of these things. He hopped to her and happily joined her in the play, butting his nose into another dusty-smelling thing and then chewing on in, making even more sounds to gain her attention.
Oh, in that he succeeded. His human raised her head and looked at him, but instead of smile, he saw angry frown that nearly stopped his poor heart.
She thumped her palm on the floor.
‘Rumple! Leave that! Don’t chew on books!’
Hearing her furious voice triggered something in him and he bolted, running the same way he came in, squeezing through the moving wall, but moving past the slope and running straight ahead, not really looking where. He finally stopped in some dark, narrow place, after squeezing through another slit. It was damp and smelled rotten, not a place he would choose willingly but right now he welcomed the opportunity to hide in the deepest corner possible and just wish that his heart really had stopped back then. His human was angry, his human didn’t want him, his human didn’t love him. He wished he could disappear completely, so she wouldn’t have to put up with him. He supposed if he stayed here long enough without food or water he would finally perish. He curled up in a tight ball and waited for it.
‘Rumple? Rumple, where are you? Please, come out, don’t hide. Rumple, please, I’m sorry I yelled at you. But these are magic books, you might have gotten hurt if you chewed them. Rumple...’
Belle felt bad. To be honest, she would have yelled about non-magical books as well, but that wasn’t the point now. Her poor Rumple was frightened of her and if he retained enough of his memories and experiences, he probably was convinced by now that he’s a despicable creature that no one would want, especially her. She needed to find him, the quicker the better. She didn’t suppose he went up the stairs with his limp (how did he go down? His leg must be hurting so much by now!), so she impatiently but methodically combed through all the rooms on the first floor, calling him and cooing and apologizing. She was getting more and more scared by the minute. Her annoyingly unhelpful imagination flashed behind her eyes parts of the books about possible dire consequences of stress in bunnies.
But then she noticed that the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink was slightly ajar. With desperate hope she dashed there and fell to her knees, frantically peeking inside.
She let out the sigh of relief. There! She spotted familiar fuzzy rump with adorably fluffy tail just behind the rubbish bin.
‘Rumple, Rumple, my sweetheart, I’m so sorry,’ she cooed. ‘Please, forgive me. Can I take you from this nasty place?’ She carefully moved the bin away. Rumple, squeezed into the corner, didn’t bolt, but watched her intently. ‘Can I touch you?’ She stroked his side, then very slowly slid her hand beneath his chest. His heart was beating wildly and he was practically vibrating. ‘Rumple, sweetheart, I don’t want to hurt you. Come here?’ She put her other hand beneath his bottom and lifted him gently. It was a good sign, that he didn’t protest, right?
She placed him in her lap and cradled him against her stomach, feeling tears on her cheeks. Her heart broke when Rumple tentatively butted her forearm, and curled up against her, hiding his head in the crook of her elbow.
‘It’s alright now, Rumple. It’s alright. I’m sorry I’ve yelled. Were you lonely when you woke up? Did you come down looking for me? Such a long way, my brave Rumple! Were you afraid? I’m sorry that I frightened you even more, I’m sorry. I meant to come back earlier but I got caught up in that book. But I didn’t find the solution just yet, my precious bun. And I think it’s time for a break and some cuddling with my husband, what do you think? What do you think, my bun bun?’
She got up, cradling him carefully and went to the living room, settling on the sofa half-lying, putting Rumple on her chest. He seemed more relaxed finally, his heartbeat almost back to normal. She’d give him some more strawberries as an apology. Belle looked at the tiny, furry body, currently melted on her breasts. Rumple half closed his eyes and was nuzzling his head into her palm each time she slowed down her stroking. He was alright. He didn’t have heart attack, he didn’t hurt himself, and she’d be checking if he’s still eating normally. They were alright.
Belle looked at her husband-turned-bunny with teary eyes. Never in their mutual history had she seen Rumple more unguarded than now, when he was just a little bunny, completely depending on her for his very survival. It was touching and endearing and Belle felt honored to be trusted so much with something so precious: her little bunny, munching on whatever she’d gave him and butting his nose into her hand with hope of more cuddles and snuggles. Belle kissed his sweet, furry nose and his silky, soft forehead.
‘Don’t worry, my little one, I’ll keep you safe, I promise.’
Gold felt the anxiety and tension abating with the gentle strokes of his human’s hand and steady sound of her heartbeat beneath him. She still loved him! He didn’t want anything more than to melt into her and stay like that forever.
To his joy, even when she got up, she was still holding him. She carried him to the place smelling of food (and containing that dark, damp burrow she’d found him in earlier but it didn’t matter now). Then she sat down, and still holding him fed him three more strawberries, making happy, cooing sounds when he was digging into each fruit with gusto. He cleaned his face after that, eliciting even more giggling from her and loving that. He’d be the cleanest bunny in the world if it made her so happy.
She didn’t let him out of her sight all day, and he reveled in her attention. She was sitting with him on the floor, petted and stroked him, she fed him by hand his greens and even shared with him some of her own.
It was perfect.
‘Don’t worry sweetheart. I’ll take care of you, and for those few days you’ll be the happiest bun in the world. Okay, my precious? I wonder if you remember this after changing back into human. I wish so. Well, maybe except the book incident. And speaking about books, today before sleep I’ll read you something, okay? Last night it wasn’t fair to leave you to sleep alone, but at least I’ve read on how to take care of you. But now I will concentrate on you.’
She left him briefly, but he got used to the fact that she wanted to be in her private place alone. He liked to go discreetly to his own too. And she never was long in there. In the meantime he could clean himself (though he planned to repeat that later to hear her giggling) and even nibble some hay.
She returned to their (their!) sleeping place slightly damp and smelling funny but it wasn’t unpleasant. She seemed to be comfortable and that was all he needed. She nested herself in their bedding and called to him. He hopped closer but only now realized his mistake. He should have jump up on the bedding earlier. Now she would see that he can’t do it the proper way, she would see his undignified struggling, maybe even a complete failure because his leg hurt some more than the previous evening.
Unable to decide what to do he stopped in the place from which he was supposed to jump up and rested front paws on the soft lining trailing down from top surface and mimicked weak digging motion.
His human was already surprised that he’s not jumping! Panicking, he took a step back, then jumped up anyway, because somewhere in his head he was sure that she wouldn’t like a bunny that is a coward. Her bunny must be brave!
‘Rumple!’ she cried and of course, he miscalculated. He hit the side of their sleeping place and landed in pathetic heap back on the fluffy ground. He would bolt, at least for his burrow, were he not stunned by the impact and fall. He managed to stand up at least before his human untangled herself and knelt down beside him.
‘Rumple! Oh, Rumple, sweetheart, are you alright? Are you hurt? Can I pick you up? I’ll be careful.’ She put her hands beneath his chest and bottom gently as if he was so fragile that might break from the touch alone. To be honest, for a moment he felt so. She lifted him and deposited on the soft lining at top surface. She sat next to him, looking at him worriedly and anxiously.
‘Okay, maybe I’m overreacting, but please let me check you up, just to be sure that nothing’s broken, okay? It would be just a bit more purposeful cuddling, you know? Will you allow me do it, precious?’
She put her hand on his back, a steady gesture that grounded him. Then she started to touch his head, massaging gently, moving her fingers down his neck and back. She gently pressed and rolled his shoulders and hips. It was very nice and he relaxed into her touch. She made relieved sound, then slip her fingers under his chest, feeling his ribcage. That tickled a bit, but felt good and sweet as well, and he also didn’t mind her pressing gently on his tummy. But then she took his right front paw, then left, then left hind leg, and from the order alone he realized that she knew about his bad leg. She knew and she still wanted him! His little bunny heart quickened and swelled with love for his human.
However, this surge of affection didn’t stop him from jumping away when she pressed her fingers to his bad leg. The jolt of pain it sent up his bones was the worst so far since... since... His mind felt fuzzy as he tried to remember what happened to his leg in the first place. But nothing fit. It had something to do with that important someone who wasn’t there. Maybe tomorrow he should search for that someone around their place? That someone should be here with them, right? Why was he hiding?
‘Shh, shh, Rumple, I’m sorry.’ Warm, gentle hands stroked his back carefully and he realized he was trembling. ‘My poor Rumple. You’ve been overtaxing your leg today, right? I should have realized earlier. I guess both your human experience and your new rabbit instincts made you hide it as much as you could. I thought it’s just a slight limp. I’m sorry. I wonder if I should take you to Vet tomorrow. But I know it would be so stressful for you and is there really something he could do about your leg?’
His human looked at him sadly, so he limped closer to her. He might be lame and weak, and not as fit as he should be, but he was going to do all he could to cheer her up. He was going to show her how much he loved her and that he isn’t useless at all.
She smiled at him when he climbed in her lap and butted his head into her stomach. She giggled when he flopped on his back, wriggling his paws
‘Oh, you’re so precious, Rumple.’ She scratched his belly, still giggling. ‘My sweet, sweet bunny husband. Alright, tomorrow I’ll call Vet and see what can be done. For now... ’ she reached beside the sleeping place and after some shuffling in the hollow of oddly shaped wooden trunks next to it, she produced something shiny. She arranged them first, herself under the soft lining, with him in her lap, then squished the weird thing and when she put it on his bad leg it was pleasantly warm. He already felt the muscle relaxing and happily melted against her.
‘Aww, I see you like it then,’ she cooed and he closed his eyes in a bliss. ‘So now,’ she continued in warm, loving voice, ‘I will read you about Peter Rabbit.’
Next morning Belle faced the unavoidable problem of the lack of fresh groceries. Shopping was in order, but she didn’t dare to either leave Rumple alone or take him with her.
That was what friends were for, she decided and called Ruby. She didn’t even have to explain anything, apparently the whole town already knew. She just hoped that Emma kept her word and been working on keeping them safe. The house was magically protected, but with the amount of people angry at her Rumple, Belle preferred to be overcautious.
Ruby appeared in their house half an hour later with two heavy paper bags full of everything, but mainly vegetables and fruits. Belle smiled seeing box of strawberries on top, Rumple could use some cheering up. Today his leg seemed to be better, but he himself appeared to be looking for something in the house and she wasn’t sure yet what was that about.
For now however, it appeared they had more urgent problem, because the moment Rumple saw and sniffed Ruby, he completely panicked. At first, Belle thought he’s going to scratch and bite her, but he opted for wriggling out of Belle’s arms, almost falling on the floor if not for her quick reflex in putting him there herself. Then he run away, but stopped in the door, then went back to her butting his head into her leg, then run away again and returned again... Ruby looked at it with wide eyes and Belle needed a moment to understand.
‘Ruby, I think you should go,’ she said seriously. ‘He’s sensing the wolf in you, he’s scared. Thank you for shopping, but really, please go. I’m sorry for this...’
‘Yeah, no problem.’ Ruby finally flashed a bright smile. She put the groceries down. ‘In a few days I’ll be able to remind him how he was scared of me.’ She winked to Belle. ‘Bye! And good luck. He’s a really cute bunny, I must say!’
Then Ruby sent them both a kiss and closed the door behind her.
Belle finally allowed Rumple to led her away.
‘Oh my brave, brave Rumple!’ she exclaimed, kneeling on the carpet. ‘Come here. The wolf is gone, okay? No big, bad wolf, and she wouldn’t eat you or me anyway. But you were trying to protect me. I’m so proud of you, yes, I am.’ She stroked his back, scratching him behind his ears. ‘You’re so brave my Rumple. I believe this deserves carrots and strawberries, don’t you think?’
Rumple happily devoured both and she couldn’t stop smiling widely. He was so precious, only a small bundle of fluffy fur against what he perceived as a big, terrible wolf, but still didn’t run without her. She must remind him of this moment often after he became human again.
Presently however, Rumple went back to searching the house, looking for something. She followed him, more and more curious. He moved at the slow pace, saving his leg, but didn’t stop. He seemed sad when he managed to check out all the house (Belle carried him up and down the stairs) and still didn’t find whatever he was looking for.
‘Oh, sweetheart, don’t worry,’ she cooed, because the sight of her small bunny, sitting alone in the middle of corridor with his floppy ears and hunched shoulders was breaking her heart. She picked him up and cradled to her chest, rocking gently. ‘I wish I knew what are you looking for. I wish I could help.’
He snuggled his head into her neck and she smiled.
‘Oh, sweetheart. Maybe we’ll read a bit? It’s not our sleeping time yet, but there’s no rule we can read only then, right?’
She carried him to the bedroom and sat with him on the bed. With one hand she was turning the pages, with the other she was gently petting him.
Suddenly she looked at the picture on the far wall. Behind it was a safe. Rumple kept there a few things and maybe now, as a bunny, wanted to find one of them. He told her the combination, so why not check it.
‘Let’s see, Rumple.’ She lifted him and carried to the picture. She took it off from its hook with one hand and pressed the buttons in quick combination of digits. The door opened and immediately Rumple turned that way. She put him closer, peeking inside herself. He immediately caught something in his teeth, pulling it to himself.
‘Oh, Rumple...’ she cried. It was Bae’s shawl.
That was it! Gold immediately recognized the smell as belonging to the missing one. His human allowed him to take the lining from it’s hiding place and once on a bed, Gold didn’t waste any time in flopping and rolling, burrowing in it. It felt right, but it didn’t explain where the missing one was. The scent was human though, so at least that question has been answered.
His human stroked him through thick lining and spoke in low, cooing voice. But this time Gold could hear sadness in his human loving crooning. Did that mean that the missing one wasn’t here and perhaps wouldn’t be returning? Why? Was he angry at him? Somehow this thought felt familiar. But the next one, that something bad happened to the missing one, felt awfully familiar too.
Unable to deal with that on his own, he butted his head into his human’s thigh. He has her. He wasn’t all alone. Even as sad as he was, he wasn’t alone. His human immediately picked him up and cradled to her chest. It was as good as it could have been with just the two of them. He would have to learn to be without the missing one. Gold regretted that he didn’t at least remember who exactly he was. But maybe, with time, he’ll remember.
For now he had to take care of his human. She was very sad and it was because he reminded her of the missing one. Gold needed to cheer her up. He started from butting his head into her neck, then proceeded to clean his face, and then to flop on his back and wiggle his paws. She started to smile gradually, and at the last one she finally giggled, rubbing his chest and tummy. He wriggled with pleasure at her caresses and her voice, light and happy again.
‘Oh, Rumple, you’re trying to cheer me up, right? Alright, let’s cheer up. Bae wouldn’t want us to cry forever. But I think we need to talk about him more, when you’re human again. To ensure he’s fully a part of our family.’
His human finally picked him up and carried him through the moving part of the wall, down the slope into the place with food. He sat extra obediently as she prepared meals for both of them and his patience was rewarded with fresh cucumber, carrot and two big strawberries.
‘Oh, of course you’d start with strawberries!’ She giggled. He wasn’t sure why, but it made him happy anyway. ‘I always suspected that as a human you want to start meals with desserts as well.’
She petted him before she started on her own meal. Gold curiously sniffed the air. Her food surely smelled weird, but he recognized at least cucumber and tomato in it.
‘Rumple, dear, eat your own meal,’ she chided him gently. But when he was still looking at her meal curiously, she took her cucumber and fed him, sighing dramatically. ‘Someone else’s food is always better than yours, eh?’
After dinner she carried him back upstairs and deposited on the floor by his tent.
‘I won’t be long, Rumple. Don’t try to hop on the bed alone, alright?’
She called Vet earlier, and he assured her that he always can make the house call if Rumple would appear hurt, and if need be, take Rumple for an X-ray in special carrier. But that might not be necessary after all. Warm compress and less strain on the leg seemed to help.
Soon they were both cuddled in bed and Belle read him another few chapters of Peter Rabbit until she noticed that he fell asleep, adorably flopped on his side and curled against her. She stayed awake for some more time, gently stroking his side as it rose and fell with each breath.
Gold woke up feeling a bit fuzzy, not sure what exactly woke him up. His human was snoring gently and the day was still young, the sun barely lit their sleeping place. He decided to go back to sleep and out of instinct made a digging motion with his front paws.
Then he woke up completely because something was terribly wrong.
Where were his paws?! And why was he so big, bigger than his human? Why the world was looking so... so funny, so...
He whimpered strangely and his human woke up at this.
‘Rumple!’ she exclaimed. ‘You’re human again!’
In this moment he realized that he can really understand her, word after word. Her. His Belle. His head swam with the return of memories and knowledge. Gold couldn’t help but just sink into Belle’s embrace, letting her caresses soothe him. He remembered now that he had lived through some bizarre transformation in his time, but this was one of the strangest.
‘Rumple? Are you back?’
‘Yes,’ he said in a small voice. ‘Just... it’s a bit weird.’
‘Oh, I suppose so. Do you remember what happened?’
‘I was a fluffy rabbit,’ he muttered into her shoulder, embarrassed.
She giggled of course, the insufferable creature.
‘Rumple, you were the sweetest bunny in the world.’ She petted his head as if he was still the furry animal. ‘Do you remember what was happening through that time?’
‘I...Yes. Belle, thank you. For all your care. Oh, I was so terribly absorbing, you didn’t have even one minute free...’
‘I enjoyed every moment with my fluffy bunny husband,’ she assured him with a smile. ‘I’m sorry for yelling at you, though.’
‘You were right, it might have been dangerous,’ he said simply.
‘Still, I feel bad. But also, you were so brave trying to save me from Ruby.’
‘She won’t let me forget it, ever!’
‘You should remember it. My tiny, brave husband, making sure I’ll be alright. I’m so proud and grateful, Rumple.’
He sighed, but didn’t argue further. Instead he shifted to look at his burrow - the green tent as he knew now.
‘What are you going to do with all these rabbit things, Belle?’
‘Oh,’ she smiled widely, ‘I’ll pack them up and hope that one day they will be of use again.’
His groan drowned in her cheerful laughter and when she kissed him, he was ready to promise to be changing back into bunny regularly just to please her.