When they returned to the Dark Castle, Rumpelstiltskin moved quickly away from Belle, his sensitivity to her nearness at its peak.
Belle stood in the Great Hall, a confused expression on her face watching as Rumpelstiltskin paced the room erratically.
After what he’d said to her about him being the only one allowed to crush her heart, was it true that he cared about her?
Or had he been correct the first time in saying he did not care about her?
She had no idea of the inner argument that was taking place.
What the hell were you thinking you pitiful excuse for scum?! Do you realize you gave up the most priceless powerful object in all the realms?!
My daughter Ruby is priceless! Belle… is priceless! those two aside from my son are the most important things I have in this world!
The voice scoffed.
A wench and a bitch priceless.
Belle jumped at the sound of the imp snarling.
How dare you say that about them?!
Tell me spinner, do you want your son back or not?
Rumple’s voice caught in his throat.
The voice caught this and grinned. Hesitation was a big tell…
Rumpelstiltskin shook his head. In jumping through that portal, Bae had made his choice…
I would give almost anything to see my boy again.
For the greater good, sacrifices must be made…
Sacrifices? asked the imp nervously. What are you going to do?
Watch and learn… it hissed as the Dark One’s pacing ceased and he turned to the gauntlet of Camelot with a smirk.
Yes power was indeed everything…
“Why did you do that?” Belle asked nervously. Not noticing, nor realizing the Dark One had returned to retrieve that which he loved most…
Rumpelstiltskin turned to Belle confused, having forgotten she was standing there.
“Do what?” he snapped.
“S-save my life…” she stammered.
Rumpelstiltskin glared at her, his mouth twisting into a dreadful grin… slowly, he approached her.
“You think that I could…care for you, dearie?”
Gesturing grandly, he continued to walk around her, as he had paced her father’s palace so long ago…
“That- somehow… someway… I was the answer to your prayers… to whisk you away from that weed…er…your fiancé?“
At this Belle grew suspicious; she had often wondered whom had been at the door the day of the accident…
Who was that? she asked curiously.
Rumpelstiltskin turned to her, his newly acquired ‘rose’ in his hand.
Just an old woman selling flowers… he winked, looking at the rose.
He looked at her, then proffered it to her.
Here, if you’ll have it…
Belle, touched he would grant her a gift so beautiful, smelled the rose…it’s delicate fragrance tickling her nose.
Thank you she said with a curtsy.
He in turn gave her an extravagant bow, which she giggled.
Rumpelstiltskin had clapped his hands in success as he watched the girl walk away…
At her questioning gaze, Rumpelstiltskin kept his head down.
The part of him that did care for her flushed deeply in shame.
Still, she kept her distance, which both pleased and hurt the imp.
“You what?” the Dark One roared as the maid and spinner winced.
“You thought you could change the heart of a beast? That I would come to admit that I love you?!”
The Dark One spat the word out as if it disgusted him.
Belle’s telling grimace was all that he needed to know…
The good part of him was hopeful…
The other part was losing control…with love came loss of great and wonderful power!
This romance would have to be nipped in the bud…
Belle would have to go…
He would have to disarm her…
As he sent her away to fetch supper, Belle tried to reason within herself what was going on… was it her, or had something evil taken over her beloved master?
Belle blushed at her thoughts. Her and Rumpelstiltskin, in love?
It was a preposterous idea…absurd!
And yet, with the surge of her heart, it made sense…
Could she love him, even with as rude and crass as he had been to her just now?
There had been moments over the last near fourteen years she had been here, where he had been rude and near violent over not getting his way.
Yet he had always restrained from hurting her. She wondered if that were on behalf of the man… the spinner.
She thought again.
Could the spinner turned imp be falling in love with her?
It would indeed explain things: his gentility and kindness to her, that moment years ago when he had caught her safely in his surprisingly strong arms and holding her for so long, the rose he had given her still so red and vibrant placed upon the dining hall table.
It also could explain his reaction just moments ago when he mentioned he was the only one allowed to break her heart…
Not that he ever would if he could help it, Belle frowned, at least she hoped not…
Did he love her? Did she love him?
As her mouth turned into a smile, Belle realized, yes she did love Rumpelstiltskin.
She would prove to him just how much they did love each other, even if it took magic of true love to do so…
Before dawn the next morning, Rumpelstiltskin sneaked into Belle’s room and placed a light sleeping draft over her.
She sighed and rolled over, smiling. Rumpel wondered why. I’m so sorry my dear he thought, near tears.
Come, there is work to be done. the voice hissed.
Rumpelstiltskin walked into Ruby’s room, while she was still asleep.
Rumpel picked her up along with her cloak and magicked them a mile from her grandmother's cottage, next to the well.
“Ruby. Wake up, child.”
Ruby awoke cold, tired, and frightened. She did not know where she was, or whom the man looming over her was.
“Who are you?” she croaked.
She knew that she wasn’t where she was supposed to be.
She felt that there was something important she was supposed to do…
Rumpelstiltskin grinned maniacally “My name, dearie, is Rumpelstiltskin” he said slowly without warmth, love or feeling.
Next to the well surrounded by snow, the imp’s face seemed pale and icy. His eyes seemed dead.
Ruby screamed and ran to the cottage.
What have you done?! the spinner yelled.
Making things less painful, weakling… get used to it! the voice snapped.
Not another word out of you! the imp commanded. Do you hear me? Not. One. Word!
For once the voice was silent.
Rumpelstiltskin, feeling his emotions rise to the surface, shook his head and trudged on after his daughter.
He walked carefully after Ruby, who was now safely in the arms of her grandmother, weeping.
The elderly matron turned to the girl.
“Go inside girl. There’s breakfast on the table there.”
Ruby nodded, rushing inside, not once looking back at Rumpelstiltskin.
That made the imp feel even worse.
He cleared his throat as he turned to Widow Lucas.
Lois noticed that the stranger was cloaked, and had a vermilion hooded cloak in his scaly sharp talons.
“Who are you?” she asked and shivered.
“I am but a humble wizard come to offer you this bright red cloak. it repels wolves, you know…”
Lois nodded. It would be good for her granddaughter to have a cloak now that she was of age…“Go on…”
Rumpelstiltskin threw off his hood… and giggled.
Lois stiffened. What had her granddaughter been doing in the company of the Dark One? Unless…
“Yes” he hissed his natural voice strengthening.
“She does not know me, hence her display a moment ago. For all she knows, her mother and I are dead, killed by hunters at her birth.”
Lois nodded, noticing a tenderness and sadness in his eyes.
Legend had it that the Dark One, once a spinner, had a wife who resembled Widow Lucas’ daughter.
Perhaps a night of too much ale, while Anita was out on the prowl…?
Widow Lucas shivered.
“And if she desires to know?” she asked.
“I will send for her in time.” he said, replacing his hood.
Lois watched in unbelievable sympathy as the imp stroked the cloak tenderly.
“Today is her birthday” he murmured idly.
Lois nodded, taking note.
Tearing his eyes from the cloak, Rumpelstiltskin turned to the old woman.
“I hate to depart from her. Truly she has made our lives all the brighter” Lois noticed the glassy stare of unshed tears as one coursed its way down the imp’s cheek.
She wondered what he meant by ‘our lives’ but chose not to ask.
“I give this to you as her birthday present” the imp croaked. Lois felt a lump forming.
First the spinner lost his son, became the Dark One to find him, and now he loses his daughter…
“One of the finest I’ve ever spun.” he whispered.
It took great effort on his part to release his hold, but finally he did and stood back, clearing his throat.
“Remember, dearie, during the full moon of the wolf, she is never to take it off…”
“Results…could be…” he sighed remembering the dead Dalmatians, blood everywhere. Not just killed, but torn apart…
“Catastrophic.” he shivered.
Lois knew. It had begun. This was why Ruby was here… not because he wanted to, but because he had no idea of how to tame her, to help her…
He knew Widow Lucas could… perhaps he had always known, and yet couldn’t bear to part with his daughter…
“Farewell dearie,” he bowed and walked away.
Lois looked after the man who had both sired and cared for her granddaughter for the last thirteen years as he walked back to the Dark Castle.
What she did not witness were the tears that spilled over, evidence of his broken heart...
Belle woke up early ready for the morning when she headed to Ruby’s room.
“Ruby! Ruby dear, it’s Belle…are you up yet?”
Fully expecting her young charge to be perhaps buried in her covers, Belle smiled and opened the door.
“Come on, sleepyhead, you can’t sleep the day away… besides, who’s going to help me with breakfast…”
Belle gasped, dropping Ruby’s morning tea tray, glass shattering, and tea spilling everywhere.
It was mid afternoon when Rumpelstiltskin returned to the Misty Mountain.
Took you long enough… you could have magicked your way back to the castle.
Silence! Rumpel growled.
Hurry along! We have deals to make!
I really don’t need to do ANYTHING right now you worthless piece of shit, so shut up!
A moment passed.
You know, she’s going to blame you for this whole thing. You got rid of the one thing that truly meant something to her.
The imp sank to his knees. the Dark One was right.
Belle would never forgive him for taking Ruby away; her, their little girl.
For the past thirteen years the three of them had been a family; and Belle didn’t even get to wish Ruby a happy birthday.
He closed his mind off for a moment.
What would happen if Belle forgave him and gave him another chance?
Could he kiss her?
If they kissed would that rid him of the evil monster that tore his life apart and was responsible for his maid’s impending broken heart?
Dreading what awaited him, Rumpelstiltskin magicked his way into the dining hall, where Belle was finishing her morning tea.
When she saw him she sighed and shook her head.
“Breakfast is ready, Rumpelstiltskin. But um-”
The imp could feel the burning of his own tears as he watched Belle’s shoulders heave.
“R-Ruby is gone!” Belle sank to her knees, and sobbed, not caring how she looked. Her baby was gone, and she’d never see her again.
Don’t- began the voice
Shut it! growled the spinner, the voice of his mind strangled by tears.
Rumpelstiltskin went behind Belle, and placed a hand on her shoulder as she continued to weep.
“Belle… I’m so very sorry…”
Turning, the girl snuggled her head into his chest, tears streaming down her face.
Rumpel was right. She was heartbroken.
He hadn’t been expecting it, but he wrapped his arms around her tenderly, lightly kissing her hair and doing his best to calm her down, letting his own heart break quietly.
Now do you see what you’ve done? Do you see what heartbreak your lust for power has caused?
The voice who had taunted Rumpelstiltskin ever since he took the knife, in the next moment took the form of a man dressed in silk and leather.
His hair was straight and brownish grey, his mouth crooked and evil looking, his eyes, dark grey, scowling at the couple crying on the floor.
It was pitiful and disgusting.
“Mine or yours, Rumpelstiltskin,” he hissed with an evil grin. “Mine, or yours?”
Belle had to go. They were running out of time...