lotus0kid: (dancer)
[personal profile] lotus0kid
Rating: PG-13? Maybe R? I'm really not sure.
Word Count: 1,925
Disclaimer: Recognize anything? Then it ain't mine.
A/N: I got in a bit of a horror mood, so I decided to break my new toy.
Summary: AU from the end of "Skin Deep." Everything happened exactly as Regina told Rumpelstiltskin it did. He sets out to fix it. Which goes about as well as these things tend to.
Contains: Character death, medical ickiness, supernatural ickiness... look, Frankenstein, okay? Think Frankenstein.

Chapter One

He didn’t think one of the new favors he owes would be used so quickly. But there it is- that subtle magic anyone can wield that demands he go, because he’s been called. However, he hates to leave her when she’s still so... uncertain.

“I’ll be back by evening, dearie, I swear to you,” he tells her. His hands are on Belle’s shoulders again, guiding her down the castle halls. “Until then, I’m certain you can occupy yourself. You never had trouble before, when you were supposed to be cleaning.”

She doesn’t respond to the tease. She still hasn’t spoken. Or slept. Or drank. Or ate. Rumpelstiltskin has turned a very strange spell indeed.

He opens the door to the library and leads her to the twenty-volume stack which stands proudly next to the most comfortable chair. “There you are, just as you left it. I didn’t change the order in the slightest.” He meant to, before he knew. Every day he resolved to rid the castle of her presence. Thank the gods he never did.

He positions her to sit in the chair. He passes her the book that tops the stack, after brushing the dust off. She turns it over in her hands. Holds it by the edge of its front cover, letting the pages flap open. Eventually she seems to notice the printed words within, though it’s difficult to say if she’s actually reading them.

Rumpelstiltskin banishes a nervous churn from his stomach. “If you... wish to eat, there is plenty of food in the kitchen. You... recall where it is, yes?”

Her eyes flick up to him and back down.

“Very well, then. I’ll be as quick as I can, dearie. Back by sunset, at the very latest.” Though something that isn’t really virtue makes him hesitate, he bends at the waist, brushes aside one of her few remaining curls, and presses a swift kiss to her forehead.

He thinks he spots a tiny smile glance across her lips as he pulls back. It must sustain him, as he ventures out into the horrible world. He might have expected this deal would be a trial- a favor from the Dark One is a thing to be treasured and saved until the very last. No wonder the fool was so quick to part with his ulna.

It’s well after dark by the time Rumpelstiltskin is clear of it all. He’s tired and sore. More in mind than in body, but it’s enough to make him wistfully picture Belle wearing her knowing smile. The tea she would have prepared, hot and sweet and timed perfectly for his arrival. He would tell her all about it, and she would laugh, and joke, and remind him that there are fine things in this world. Some within arm’s reach, if only...

He shakes his head, What are you dreaming of? She’s here, you brought her back yourself. His stomach churns again, but he remains firm- Go to her. She’s waiting, probably angry you’ve been gone so long. Digging up the strength to believe that, he strides through the now dark halls to the library. He opens the door, and finds it dark inside as well.

He leans in, calling, “Dearie?” No one answers, but among the near-opaque shadows he hears a sound, almost like waves on a distant shore. He steps into the library, and moves toward where he put her.

As his eyes adjust to the deep gloom, the chair materializes, as well as the figure sitting in it. Rumpelstiltskin hears the sound again, and he can just barely see its origin- Belle’s slender fingers ripping a page from the book she holds. The stack is gone, converted to one pile of empty covers and one pile of loose pages.

“What did you-?” Rumpelstiltskin starts, repulsed by the desecration taking place.

Belle’s head darts up, and her glowing eyes fix on him like a cat’s. Fear he hasn’t felt since he was cursed chases up his spine. He swallows, and forces himself to kneel before her, rescue the book from further disembowelment. “Come, dearie, it’s very late. Perhaps you’d like to sleep now?”

Neither of them do, lying side by side in their bed.

***

Rumpelstiltskin must have blinked, because it’s daylight and he’s alone. Another gray morning- has there been any other kind since he brought her back? He climbs to his feet, goes to the window, takes in the thick fog shrouding his estate. He has to find her, he knows. Keep her safe, maybe talk her into eating something at last. Maybe today... maybe today he’ll recognize something in her eyes.

He searches the halls, peeks in every room, but doesn’t find her. He even checks his tower- the new lock on the door is still bolted shut, the key in his pocket. She must have gone outside. The thought makes him more tired than alarmed.

He steps into the soup the fog has made of his grounds. Everything outside of ten feet fades from sight in the mist. Rumpelstiltskin raises his arm and slices through it, allowing a little weak sunshine to light his path. He has only serendipity to guide him. Well, serendipity, and the knot in his gut that knows the worst and therefore only place she could’ve gone. The tiny grave, for the tiny body that gave the tiny soul. The memorial stone is much more than she would’ve gotten at home, though not nearly what he felt she deserved at the time. He never intended his Belle to find out about it.

She sits in the now open grave, smudged and stained with dirt, cradling the reeking bundle to her chest. Belle’s face radiates perfect serenity. And in that moment, Rumpelstiltskin knows the creature in the grave is not Belle, and he hates her for it, and knows it must end. He plunges into the grave, rips the rotten infant out of her embrace, grabs her arm and drags her out. She stumbles along at his side while he marches them back into the castle, up the tower’s winding staircase. He paws at his pockets for the key to unlock the door. She offers that very same key to him, one corner of Belle’s mouth curling. He snatches it from her and lets them inside, tugging her behind him until he can throw her in the general direction of a chair that stands by his desk.

“Sit,” he commands.

She does nothing.

“Have you understood a single thing I’ve said, in all this time?” he snaps. The turmoil swirling in him crashes against her indifferent silence. Her empty expression. Forever empty, just as Belle promised.

He pushes her down into the chair and looms over her. “My little dearie,” he croons in a desperate imitation of his standard arrogance, “Whatever shall I do with you?”

She says nothing.

He grabs Belle’s chin in his hand, gazes into that beloved face for a sign of anything. Did a trace of her soul make it into this pile of parts? Or has it become nothing more than a puppet for this strange mad thing? He figures he might as well ask, “Who are you, dearie?”

She stares up at him, face remaining a perfect mask of inscrutability. Then her arm shoots toward his crowded desk, snatches something up, and smashes it against his head before he can flinch. He lurches to the side, gasping at the fiercely stinging pain. Warm blood paints his palms as he clutches at the gouges carved in his temple and cheekbone by broken glass. He only hears her unfamiliar footsteps dash around and behind him, down the stairs and away.

Rumpelstiltskin calls up some quick magic to knit his torn flesh, at least slow the bleeding. It calms him somewhat, lets the tormented lover cower while the wicked sorcerer takes control. As he should’ve from the start, if he was ever in his right mind where she was concerned. He wraps his power around him and that’s a comfort too, the only one he has left. He’s insulated from the sickness of all this, numb and still. He draws a steadying breath, “I’m coming to get you, dearie.”

The castle has never seemed emptier as he searches for her. He lets his power roll through the halls as he walks, lets it scout ahead to find that twisted spark of life. He never wanted to use magic on her, not again. Part of him rails in protest, but it’s small and distant. Where could she be? He extends his grasp to the grounds, thinking it probable she fled the castle entirely. But no, standing at his front door, he knows she’s not loose in the forest beyond.

It’s a testament to the stupidity love inspires that it takes so long to occur to him. There is one place in his entire estate that is all but impervious to any kind of magic. He laid the spells on thick, layer over layer, almost managing to separate it from reality. If he ever had to hide, it’s where he would go. To protect himself, and to protect his most valuable possession, which it holds. How she knows about this place he can’t guess, unless she plucked it from his brain while he slept, or being a product of his magic herself she senses more of the same. Regardless, the knot in his gut says it’s the worst and therefore only place she can be.

So he stalks down, down, down past the dungeon where Belle once read out loud the contents of his coward’s heart and then walked away forever. Grief wells up like fresh blood in an old wound and weighs upon his steps. When he comes to the locked door that no one but him should even be able to detect, it’s ajar. “Dearie,” he growls, “I never gave you permission to come here...”

She stands in the center of the room carved from naked stone, hiding his dagger from sight. She spins around, and fixes Belle’s beautiful eyes on him. She smiles, and this time it is small and timid and so familiar it burns. Belle wore the very same one bare seconds before they shared their only kiss. She pads closer, hands tucked demurely behind her back. Rumpelstiltskin’s heart pounds just as it did then, the same war of disbelief and hope striking him mute. Could it be-? Could she really-? His mind claws for explanations- perhaps the multitude of wards on this place expelled the demon from her and left only Belle behind. Hope dies when the dagger appears in her hands.

The blade slips in almost gently, like his dragon hide, his skin, his bones aren’t even there. Straight to his heart. He finally understands. His eyes fill with tears. “I see. I made a deal. A life for a life, yes? Time to pay up.”

She gazes at him, makes him watch the curse take hold. Her eyes glow, then shine, then burn with the searing blue of a bleached summer sky. He falters as his old bum knee gives out- she eases him to the ground. A kind of detached curiosity brings his dimming gaze to the blade. There is no name on it. She leans close, cradling his head in her hands. “Thank you,” she breathes in a voice soft as wind, and lays the sweetest kiss on his numb lips.

Rumpelstiltskin’s last thought is to pity the world that’s had this monster unleashed upon it.

***

Bonus drawing of the little dearie, done on a post-it at work and stuck to my laptop screen:

Date: 2012-04-17 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imzadi-gumdrop.livejournal.com
Ouch, that hurts. But in the beautiful, complete, great tradegy kind of way. A brilliant piece of work and an awesome drawing taboot. My post it not scribbles require labels and arrows lol.

Date: 2012-04-18 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lotus0kid.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I wish I could do the neat art stuff I see online, but that's about the best I can do.

Date: 2012-04-17 12:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raissad.livejournal.com
Spot on. :)

Date: 2012-04-18 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lotus0kid.livejournal.com
Thanks, and thanks for reading!

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July 2012

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