Three and a half months later
Ever since the night in the library, a sort of friendship blossomed between the dark imp and the beautiful princess.
Doubtless he would still tease her, just to see her laugh or blush, but no longer was the dark side of him able to control his emotions and feelings.
These new feelings grew even more as the two chatted in the Great Hall.
Rumpelstiltskin was spinning and, secretly, admiring Belle in her new dress. When it became too hard to breathe, he’d turn back to the wheel and spin again…
Forget… forget… forget…
Belle watched him for a while, trying to pretend she was working, she really was, but he was just so much more interesting and mysterious.
She wondered why he spun. What was his fascination with straw and gold? How did he make it?
Questions... questions… gulp. Steady now… If her father’s head maid could see her now, she’d have a heart attack!
Trying to keep the nausea at bay and avert her mind from the height of the ladder, Belle addressed her master.
“Why do you spin so much?” she asked. He didn’t’ answer at first, but his head turned. She knew he’d heard her.
“Sorry… it’s um” easy girl… “It’s just that you’ve spun more straw into gold than you could ever spend”
Not having expected her question, he turned, giving thought to his answer.
“I like to watch the wheel” he mused. Among other things… “It helps me forget”
Belle was puzzled. “Forget what?”
Baelfire, the fact I lost him, my broken promise, Milah, the fact I killed her with my own hands, You, this conversation, the fact I’m falling madly in love with you…
“Well I guess it worked” he giggled then turned.
Belle giggled with him, closing her eyes as she turned. For goodness’ sake don’t look down!
Rumpelstiltskin for his part looked appalled.
What is she…?
“What are you doing?” he asked, trying to stay calm.
He noticed the muscle tremor in her left arm, holding the rung.
Dear Lord, don't let her fall!
“Opening these… it’s almost spring. You should let some light in” Do the brave thing and bravery will follow…
“What did you do?! Nail them down?!” she asked, looking at him crossly.
“Yes” he said, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world.
For God’s sake Belle, get down!
Those words never passed his lips.
He watched in horror as Belle leaned over to a farther curtain and tugged.
Belle braced herself, but never hit the ground.
She looked up, and noticed not only that Rumpelstiltskin was starting at her as if he’d never seen her before, but he was holding her… in his arms… not letting go…
He seemed stuck in a trance, somehow.
“Erm- thank you” Belle smiled sheepishly, cursing herself for her clumsiness.
Coming to his senses, Rumple put her down on her feet, but not as gently as he would have liked.
I told you this would happen, weakling! I told you she’s no good! Get rid of her, now!
Furiously shaking his head, and telling the voice to shut-the-heck-up, Rumple turned to face Belle as she addressed him.
“I’ll um.. put the curtains back up.”
Taking a deep breath, Rumple shook his head. “There’s no need…” looking at her again, “I’ll get used to it”
Belle nodded, smiling and blushing. Right… stupid-clumsy-little… ugh!
Rumpelstiltskin walked away, wondering what the heck had just happened.
She felt so warm and soft in my arms… he thought. I’ve never felt this way before about anyone!
Turning his head, he continued on his way, his steps leading him toward his workroom.
This was a moment he’d not soon forget…
A couple of weeks passed, and both Rumpelstiltskin and Belle weren’t as awkward as they had been the day of the accident.
For his part, the imp felt like a new man, despite what he felt, was his hideous skin condition, Rumpelstiltskin was slowly changing for the better.
His dark side still demanded to make deals, but when it came to Belle, Rumple himself was able to draw a barrier, as if to protect the princess from himself.
His dark side would growl and groan, complaining that he was getting worse, and she would do nothing but destroy him, but the imp kept careful watch over himself, taking care to make sure he was away from Belle if the knife ever sought to control him in her presence.
One day, while riding out of town on a deal, the imp was marveling over a wheel and some thread, reminding him of his days as a spinner.
Tears came to his eyes as Rumpelstiltskin thought of Bae. It would be his fifteenth year soon… sadly he was no closer to finding Bae than he had been last year.
Suddenly, the imp’s attention was drawn to a small bottle of dye. The color was red as blood.
As if on impulse he picked it up and stared at it, having a strange feeling that he needed it for some reason.
“Fancy some dye sir- er… oh… i-i-its you”
The imp stared at the seller, a woman and her young son. The boy looked no older than five, both were skin and bone.
Moved, the imp took the bottle and five sheaves of wool, placing a small sack of coins in the woman’s hand.
“Mind you feed your boy well” he said, keeping his voice steady.
The woman’s eyes filled with tears. “Bless you sir… bless you”
He attempted to pay extra for the wool, but she waved him off.
Rumple nodded awkwardly and was off.
He hoped he hadn’t been seen, but he was wrong. A certain hag had been watching the whole scene, and grinned wickedly.
So… the Dark One did have a heart…
It would be her pleasure to crush it!
Later that day, Rumpelstiltskin was in a bit of a hurry to get home. He was hungry, and part of him was angry that a candle maker had tried to cheat him on a deal.
Unfortunately, the candle maker had insulted his intelligence and Rumple’s anger had gotten the best of him turning him into that of his own making...
Onward he rode home to the castle, eager to see Belle, and eager to hear her voice, either chatting happily away, or reading to him from one of her many books.
Their friendship had gotten close even within the last couple of weeks, Rumple wondered if he should really tell Belle how he felt, or…not.
He shook his head. She’d never see him as more than a monster; especially after the way he had treated Robin Hood.
He needn’t have worried, Belle couldn’t have been happier, he realized especially after her surprise last week.
Belle, finding several new gowns on her bed as an early Christmas present, thanked him profusely and had thrown her arms around his neck.
He had nervously returned her embrace, rubbing her back gently. He wasn’t used to such sudden affection…
In his study, the day after, Rumple had found something slightly changed. There was a leather bound book on his table, with a bookmark.
He opened the front cover.
To Rumple with Love from Belle. Merry Christmas
Tears came to his eyes as he noticed the colored pages of beautiful artwork.
The bookmark was placed on a picture of a pasture scene with men, a woman, and animals around a small baby.- The Nativity Scene
The book was a bible- his very own. Rumple felt joy and happiness rise in his chest as two tears slid down his cheeks.
He had to go and thank her… personally.
Opening her door, he noticed she was still asleep, having tossed the covers aside during the night. She was shivering.
“Merci Beaucoup mon amour” he whispered as he’d snuck into Belle’s room, placing a kiss on her forehead.
Rumple smiled as he was reminded of Bae. Gently he placed the blankets over his sleeping love.
Next- spin: forget forget forget.
Rumpelstiltskin blushed, glad to feel the wind in his hair as he rode. It had a calming effect on him.
Maybe someday soon he would give Belle the day off and perhaps they could go riding together…
Perhaps even have a picnic…?
Mmm what he would give for a piping hot meat pie right now.
As his darker side cursed and muttered about his being weak, Rumpelstiltskin lifted his head above the wind, listening.
It was snowing in this region of land, so close to home.
Was that a child’s cry?
Nudging the horse on, Rumpelstiltskin rode in the direction of the wail.
Are you mad? Get back on the horse and go home! There is nothing out here! It hissed.
Silence, dearie! The spinner snapped.
There is a child out here without its mother, and I as a father cannot stand by and let it freeze, due to my beastly countenance!
There to his right on a small mound of snow, was a baby girl with black hair.
She was naked, alone, and near blue with cold, screaming and wailing her lungs out.
Heartbroken, Rumpelstiltskin knelt, gathering the child to his breast; in doing so, the small wet cloth around her sizzled like electricity.
Rumpelstiltskin was surprised. There was magic in the child’s blood?
Doing his best to wrap her in the warmth of his cloak, he got on his horse and rode the rest of the way to the Dark Castle.
He had to get home!