OUaT: What If This Storm Ends

((I don’t think anything I write will be angst-free at least until the next season starts.  I’m too worried about our dearies.  Anywho, for the six-month Rumbelle anniversary using bottledspirits’ prompt: They fix something together, preferably in his work room in the shop. There’s a nice table in there, you know what I’m saying?  I didn’t actually know what you were saying, but here you go!))

They’ve holed up in the pawnshop for now.  It’s as close as they can get to the Dark Castle, the flecks of magic scattered about the place now silently humming with power.  Outside is the chaos of a tiny town realizing it’s actually an entire world, but as long as Belle knows her father is safe, she chooses not to worry about it for the moment.  She’s barely gained a sense of order in her own head, and she doesn’t have half the troubles others have.  Regina left her empty of all memories, the better to keep her docile in the cell.

She drifts among the artifacts of two worlds while Rumpelstiltskin checks their defenses.  She knows he’s watching her more often than not, and she’d be flattered if not for the big magic elephant sitting between them.  Belle’s found him again, her true love, she should be ecstatic.  She was, for the briefest of moments out in the woods.  Then Rumpelstiltskin brought magic stampeding into this unsuspecting place, and now Belle can’t for the life of her figure out where she’s supposed to fit in.

She’s a danger to Rumpelstiltskin, a weapon to use against him.  The terrible privilege of being the Dark One’s true love.  If she was brave she would walk out the door once again, take her chances in the world of Storybrooke while she’s still somewhat anonymous.  She could find her father, hide until the worst of this mess is over.  If they survive that long.  Belle hugs herself.  She is not brave.  She stays in the shop.

“Are you cold?”

She turns to Rumpelstiltskin, her smile ready if small.  “No, I’m fine, thanks.”

He nods, obviously still terrified of her.  Belle can’t imagine what it must be like in his head right now.  As lost and frustrated and scared as she feels, she’s trying to be unobtrusive.  Meanwhile he has gone still, standing straight.  “I have a chore to do in the backroom.  It shouldn’t take very long.”

Belle isn’t certain how she’s supposed to respond, so she gives a nod of her own and another smile.

It seems to be enough, as Rumpelstiltskin stalks to the doorway, flicks the curtain aside and disappears behind it.  Belle has a moment to glance around the suddenly large, empty shop before he leans back out, “You may join me, if you wish.”

“Oh, ah- yes, all right.”  The curtain falls again.  Belle lays a weary hand on her cheek, fights off a surge of grief for a friendship so cruelly warped, and ventures into the backroom.

It’s just as crowded a space as the front, but more utilitarian.  By the time Belle has arrived, Rumpelstiltskin is already sitting in a corner, attention completely focused on what’s in front of him.  Belle can’t really see what it is, but she’s a little grateful he’s so absorbed by it.  Now she has an opportunity to do some watching of her own.

He still wears the skin of the ordinary man she’d glimpsed so long ago, though power thrums with more and more intensity just beneath.  His unexpected limp is gone, forced out in the woods when he wrapped his hands around the damaged area and filled it with magic.  “Just a test,” he called it.  His choked scream and harsh gasps echo in Belle’s head.  She desperately doesn’t want to think about what that could mean for later, for the possibility of ending the Dark curse.

“Belle?”

He pulls her from her awful thoughts, “Yes?”

He nods toward a row of shelves to his left, “There’s a small round container labeled borax, could you fetch it for me?”

Perhaps she should resist a return to the servant’s role, but it’s such a tantalizing glimmer of normalcy Belle jumps at it, “Of course.”

Their hands meet over the plastic cup, and it’s enough to make her heart stutter, her hands itch to grab his lapels and haul him close and…  She quickly packs the feeling away, saves it for a time it might be welcome.  She occupies herself again with watching, as Rumpelstiltskin takes a measure of the borax and mixes it with a few drops of water, forming a paste.  Belle lets her eyes wander over his workspace.  He appears to be repairing a simple gold chain.  “What are you working on?”

“This broke, some time ago.  I must fix it, it’s very important.”

Something magical then, Belle assumes.  Some talisman to protect them.  She stands by, as close as she dares when he brings out a torch that emits an intensely focused blue flame.  After a few moments, he puts out the flame and sets the torch aside, then bends over the chain with a pair of impossibly delicate tweezers in hand, making minute adjustments to the new joints.

“Is it fixed?” Belle inquires.

He looks up at her, with his ordinary eyes.  “Yes, as good as it was.  It just needs to rest a bit.”  There’s a glass coffee pot sitting on a hot plate nearby, shallowly filled with a faint green-brown liquid.  Rumpelstiltskin gently lays the chain in it.  “That’s a mild acid solution, to get rid of any borax left behind.”

“I see.”

They could be in his tower again, him delivering an impromptu alchemical lesson while she’s supposed to be cleaning.  Her fingers twitched to brush through his hair then, and they do now.  She very nearly works up the nerve before he retrieves the chain from the solution, rinses it with water, and pats it dry.  Then he turns away, pulling something out of a trouser pocket and threading it onto the chain.  He turns to face Belle, holding up…  Her necklace.  The thin chain and tiny diamond pendant she’d worn every day since she was a child.

All she can do is murmur, “Oh.”

When she can tear her eyes off of the glittering miracle and focus on Rumpelstiltskin, her heart melts at the simple joy on his face, so much easier to read like this.  “I thought you might be missing it.”

Honestly, through the tumult of her capture and the oblivion of her imprisonment, she hadn’t much.  Belle is a child of war, she knows better than to get overly attached to fragile things.  But as she carefully takes hold of the necklace, smoothly clasps it around her neck, tucks it safely under her shirt- she can almost claim an ounce of hope.

Rumpelstiltskin stands up, and he’s so close Belle’s new hope flutters in her chest like a bird.  His hands, those clever hands that restored her necklace without a hint of magic, just barely touch her cheeks.  He lets out a sigh, and presses his forehead to hers.  Belle’s eyes slide shut and her own hands wrap around his wrists, just to keep him this close for a moment longer.

He slips away, muttering something about food.  He’s scared of her again.  Belle lets her fingers run along the chain, already warming against her skin.