′Aww, Rumple, thank you!′ Belle exclaimed for the tenth time in ten minutes.
‘Anything that pleases you, my dear,’ Rumple replied with a charming smile. Belle smiled even wider, because it took her a better part of the week to convince Rumple that this is a good idea and the very best present for her birthday.
’Remember to take pictures and movies, Rumple, I really want to see myself as a bunny.′
‘Yes, dear,’ Rumple gathered her closer. ’And you remember to be careful when I turn you into a rabbit, okay?′
Belle smiled and nodded, even if they both knew that she wouldn’t have her human memories, just like he hadn’t had them.
’I wrote you all necessary instructions and here are the books.′
It was his turn to nod solemnly. Belle made sure that he knew how to take care of a bunny. She wasn’t about to unnecessarily endanger herself. She also considered briefly asking him for some time when both of them would be rabbits, supervised by Henry perhaps, but quickly abandoned the idea. Rabbits were supposed to breed and with both of them relying on their instincts, she would end up pregnant in no time. And she certainly didn’t plan on having, for example, eight children at once, rabbit or human all the same.
′So, I’m ready,′ she announced standing tall and proud and unbelievably excited in the middle of their bedroom.
′Alright’, Rumple smiled softly. ‘Happy birthday, my dear.’
With a wave of his hand Belle’s world changed completely.
Gold was for a few moments simply floored by the sweetness and beauty before him. Belle became a chocolate-colored dwarf bunny, without as much as a spot of other colors on her rich fur. Her tiny ears were pointed up, moving slightly as she listened, and her tiny nose was busily sniffing the air. She was looking at him with her blue, bright eyes and, remembering what she taught him, he hastily knelt down and then lied on his belly before her.
She didn’t waste any time in hopping on his back and starting to chew on his hair.
’Ow, sweetheart, don’t, please!′ Gold wriggled to pull his hair away. Fortunately, she understood and instead hopped in the other direction, stopping precisely on his butt and standing on her hind legs. Oh yes, the highest place to observe the terrain.
This wasn’t how he envisioned the whole thing. What’s more, he couldn’t move without making her fall, he could only wriggle his neck to observe her. She looked comfortable there. Gold tried to decide if they should talk about it afterward, or if he should just take is as a compliment.
After something that felt like an hour Belle mercifully hopped down and in few strides was at the so called ‘bunny corner’, where the green tent was located along with all rabbit facilities and toys.
She tried to hop on the tent’s roof, succeeding on her third try when she figured out how to not slide back down when the tent was caving in on the side. Then she looked expectantly at him and at the bunch of hay which lied on the ground in a bowl.
Gold hastily stood up and rushed to her, taking the hay and putting it close to her. He quite liked the idea of Belle nibbling the hay directly from his hands, it was so sweet.
Right up to the moment when she wrestled the whole bunch from his grasp in one sharp motion and shoveled it under herself. At least she looked happy. And pretty smug if someone asked Gold.
Well, it was her birthday and she could be doing whatever she wanted. Sighing, Gold took out his cell phone and started taking pictures.
Belle curiously looked at the noisy thing in her human’s hand. She stretched her neck, sniffing. He understood her interest and moved closer.
’It’s just a cell phone, sweetheart. You are such a beauty. I need to take many pictures of you.′
Belle bit the thing curiously, but no, it wasn’t edible. It wasn’t even fit to chew, too slick and hard, with almost no smell. Plus, her human quickly took it back.
‘I guess I should have known better than to put it so close... ’ Her human surely was sighing a lot. Belle decided that he needed some cheering up. She promptly hopped down on the fluffy ground.
’What do you want to do now, sweetheart?′
Belle happily butted her head into his leg and quickly run away towards the opening in the wall. Her human hastily went after her. Oh, that was fun, she’d love to explore the place with her human in tow. The ground on the other side of the wall was less fluffy and comfortably coarse, allowing her to move at a fast pace. She couldn’t wait to look everywhere!
Gold followed his wife everywhere, trying to think ahead and predict all possible dangers for Belle, even if they went through it together before the change. He didn’t allow her into bathroom despite her sniffing and scratching at the door, the vision of deadly bacteria and poisonous cleaning supplies being too much. Yes, he probably was overcautious, but she was worse than quick silver. The last time he had to be so watchful was probably Bae’s childhood.
And his son was still much more controllable, Gold thought following Belle down the stairs. When he was a rabbit, he descended stairs carefully. Belle was running as if she were at an amusement park. The next step would be her sliding down on her fuzzy rump like a child on sled.
Once downstairs, Belle happily hopped on the sofa and buried herself headfirst in today’s newspaper. He sat down beside her, watching. She clearly had so much fun ripping it to shreds and Gold couldn’t help but smile widely. He even managed to record the best part of the play. Human Belle would love this movie. Though he also made the definitive decision that bunny Belle would be denied access to their library. She would be devastated when back in human form she’d discover what she’d done to her precious books. Probably she’d be also angry with him for not preventing it. He couldn’t believe that she didn’t warn him beforehand that her books were in danger, though he noted that she at least removed the ones lying all around the house in various, not always appropriate, places.
This moment Belle hopped closer to him and placed her front paws on his thigh.
’Do you want me to pet you? Or hold you?′ Gold asked hopefully. He loved being petted, cuddled and held when he was a bunny. But apparently his wife had other needs.
She hopped down and went straight for the kitchen. Of course, Gold sighed, a place smelling of food had to be more attractive than being petted by him.
But Belle didn’t look at food. When Gold started preparing her lunch portion of greens and vegetables, Belle was busy exploring the rest of the kitchen. And then, when he had her meal ready, he looked around and she wasn’t there.
Cold dread washed over him.
‘Belle?’ he squeaked, sounding pitifully to his own ears. ‘Belle, sweetheart, where are you?’
Realizing that rabbits aren’t like dogs and that she probably wouldn’t come to him if she had something more fascinating to do, he started to look for her. She wasn’t under the table. She wasn’t either under or on chairs. She wasn’t squeezed between the fridge and cupboard. She wasn’t behind the doors and she wasn’t visible in the corridor or under the corridor’s furniture. She wasn’t even in the plant pot in the corridor nor in the trash can next to it.
He had to face it - she could have been anywhere in the house.
Meanwhile Belle happily squeezed herself through the cool, moving maze inside the dark, wooden smelling burrow. It was completely dark here, moving wall closed itself after she entered. She already loved this place, shaped so unpredictably and rattling slightly when she squeezed forward. She finally found herself a cozy, round hollow to lie inside. It trembled a little, but if she didn’t move too much it remained stable enough.
There was however the matter of her human’s voice. She could hear he was distressed. At first she just assumed that he’d want her to stay in a safe place while he would deal with whatever was wrong. That thought however didn’t last long. If he was in distress, she had to check it out and help.
She decisively moved forward and in that moment everything moved with her.
Loud rumble made Gold jump up just as he wanted to move from kitchen door to other rooms in search of Belle. He turned around just in time to see the cupboard with pots and big, aluminium bowls open and the whole avalanche of items spill on the floor. Belle, sitting in the bowl with paws sprawled around her was riding the top of the wave, turning around two times before swiftly landing at his feet.
The sight was so unexpected and unpredictable that for a few moments Gold was just standing, still and silent.
Then, as if he heard the voice of human Belle, he grabbed his phone and took the picture.
Then he realized what he was doing and dropped the phone like a burning coal, kneeling next to his wife in panic.
‘Belle!’ he cried loudly. ’Oh gods, are you alright? Are you hurt? Are you frightened?′
Belle hopped out of the bowl, looking at it like it has personally offended her. With her hind legs she sent the bowl crashing into cupboard’s door. Then she hopped into Gold’s lap and butted her head into his stomach.
Gold carefully scooped Belle up, trying to hold her exactly the way she taught him. He sat with her on the kitchen chair. He positioned her carefully on his lap. Books said that he shouldn’t put any rabbit on his or hers back, no matter how cuddly it seems, unless the rabbit him- or herself decides so. So despite the overwhelming need to cuddle Belle like a small child, like he would do with Bae once, he decided to pet her with both hands, repeating how much he loved her.
He deliberately turned his eyes from the mess on the floor, especially seeing that she apparently used some of the pots and bowls as litter boxes.
Her human petted her, crooning lovingly, and then feed her the most delicious cucumber and dandelions. Belle happily relaxed into him, felling her human’s stomach and chest moving with each breath. What’s even better, her human was okay. Her wild ride out of the burrow must have scared away whatever it was that was making troubles. And so everything was alright with the world again.
She enjoyed exploring, playing and even the final ride, even if surprise (in the moment of rescuing her human!) made her a little angry. Now, however, she closed her eyes in bliss, letting her human touch her. He felt so nice and he smelled so nice too. The whole place was full of his sweet scent, making it safe and simply home. In some places, like the small burrow on top of which she hopped earlier, his smell was a bit different, more rabbit-y and it drove her wild.
Yes, she would like to go back to this place, she decided. Earlier she was too full of energy to enjoy it properly, but now she just wanted to burrow herself in this smell.
Before she could try to hop on the ground from her human’s lap, he took her in his hands and gently set her down. Unnecessarily, but she enjoyed his touch anyway. She hopped on, towards the slope, glad that he’s following her. When she reached the small burrow, she didn’t waste time and rushed inside, barely aware that her human is sitting close on the fluffy ground and watching her. She rolled and rubbed herself on the burrow’s floor and walls. The scent, albeit a bit faint, was marvelous.
The scent wasn’t enough though. She stopped moving and looked at her human. He didn’t smell exactly that good, but at least he was there.
Gold curiously observed Belle hopping into the tent and rolling in the hay he put there, though she threw most of the hay out anyway. She enjoyed her play for a while, then calmed down and begun to look at him.
He might have been imagining things, but she was looking with a similar gleam in her eyes as, for example, the previous evening.
She hopped out of the tent hopping in circle around him and making little noises, somewhere between squeaking and cooing. Then she hopped onto his lap, nuzzling her head into his hands and demanding petting. He was only happy to oblige, and soon she melted, moving only to remind him of his duties when he slowed down.
Maybe turning Belle into a bunny wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Belle spent the entire afternoon alternating between being petted and being fed the best cucumbers, carrots and fresh dandelions. Her human was perfect. The only problem was the very fact that he was human. Especially after the mysterious smell of bunny-him in the burrow.
She settled for clinging close to him as he was. At some point he lied on their sleeping place and put her on his chest. It took some time but she managed to worm her way just under the lining he was permanently carrying on him, cuddling on his chest just beneath his collarbones. Belle was extra careful to not scratch his skin with her claws. He was warm and smelled sweet. He petted her head softly with tips of his hand and she could smell, feel, that he was just as content as she was.
Then some shrill sound disrupted their peace. Her human reached his hand and took the weird thing that was making the noise - the same one she bit much earlier - and the sound disappeared.
‘It’s time, sweetheart.’
To her indignation he took her in both hands and removed her from her hiding place o his chest. She wriggled, trying to get back there, but he deposited her on their sleeping place anyway.
She was on the verge of throwing tantrum, when something weird started to happening with her body.
For a few moments the dizzying feeling made her not sure if she even existed in the first place. Then she blinked and looked around. Everything was smaller than it should be and the smells were dulled. And the colors!
Then she realized that she is thinking with words - and that she can properly name everything around her. Including her husband.
‘How do you feel, Belle?’
’That was amazing! Oh my gods! I’ve never thought I’ll be able to experience the world like this! Oh, Rumple, thank you so much!′
She threw herself in his arms and kissed him properly. That was the down part of being a rabbit - no way of decent kissing or really anything decent, well, indecent too, in that matter. She remembered her attraction to ‘her human’ and blushed slightly.
’You were a very sweet bunny,′ Rumple said shyly. ‘I was worried at first that I wouldn’t keep up with you, but then you were so cuddly. It was so nice.’
’Of course!′ Belle grinned. ‘In any form I would be in love with my husband!’
Rumple beamed at the words.
’Me too, my wife.′
‘Well,’ Belle grinned again. ‘Let’s go to kitchen, we have that birthday little party planned, right? I can’t wait. You need to show me all pictures and movies too, I’m so curious! And then we could return here...’ She noticed his distracted and slightly distressed look. ‘Rumple?’
‘Well, the kitchen... I need to clean there first.’
‘Clean? Oh...’ Belle cringed as she remembered her activities there. ‘No, I’ll clean.’
‘No, no, it’s your birthday and really, no problem for me.’
‘Yes, but it’s my mess.’
’I turned you into a bunny. I can clean it. With magic it’ll take only a second.′
Belle nodded finally.
’Okay. And then we’ll have that birthday dinner. I need to eat something other than greens.′
‘Like cake.’ Rumple grinned. ’Your birthday cake is still waiting.′
‘Absolutely, Rumple’ she smiled. And then they’d be able to think of that kind of pleasant activities that couldn’t work between bunny and human.