lotus0kid: (dancer)
[personal profile] lotus0kid
Rating: PG (some language and later references to wartime violence)
Word Count: 1,591
Disclaimer: Recognize anything? Then it ain't mine.
A/N: This came out of a desire to see Belle as FTL's version of a field biologist. Yeah. Chapters posted every other day.
Summary: Canon!AU re-telling of "Skin Deep." The ogre threat has been destroyed without Rumpelstiltskin's help. However, he still manages to stumble across Belle, in extremely different circumstances.

Chapter Three

His name is not unknown, but it has slipped from collective memory somewhat in the last few decades. It’s obscure enough to hold more power over him than “the Dark One,” provoking that much quicker a response when it’s called. Happily those who know it often have interesting things to say.

Or they’re just Regina, clapping her hands together with a delighted grin, “I love being right!”

“This is news, your majesty?” he responds sourly. His deal is twanging at him, one question shy of satisfaction. He should have made... Belle... ask it before he left.

The queen has called him to a neutral space, which is curious. A large, somewhat anonymous room of white-washed walls and creaky wooden floors. A town hall meeting room perhaps, in one of her kingdom’s villages.

“I’ll tell you what is news,” she says, “That pretty girl they say you’ve got running around the Dark Castle.”

“Oh, my caretaker? Yes, I suppose she is a pretty thing. What of her?”

Her smile is all poisoned sunshine as she says, “Nothing, I was just wondering what Belle is up to these days.”

Panic grips him- A spy, she’s a spy, in your own house! He clamps down hard on it. He needs more information. “Are you acquainted?”

“Mm, we are. She’s such a special girl. It’s quite shocking, her doing your housework like a common maid. Hardly a fitting reward for the service she’s done for the realms.”

He can’t hide his confusion before she catches it.

“Did you not know? Oh Belle, always so modest. Ogresbane, you have heard of it, yes?”

Of course he has. Everyone has. Rumpelstiltskin’s guts feel as if he’s going over a cliff while standing perfectly still. “She... what has she...?”

“I know it’s been said that Sir Maurice’s war council invented it, but that was just for the sake of appearances. No, it was his daughter, Belle, with her books and experiments. She ended the ogre wars. For now, and forever.”

“What was your part in this?”

“I supplied the troops to take the ogresbane to the front lines. It was my civic duty, after all.”

His mind is reeling, and the deal is still twanging, but formalities remain. “Am I correct in assuming there’s nothing you require from me today?”

“You are. I just wanted to share some information. Colleague to colleague.” She waves a hand, “Please don’t let me keep you.”

By the end of her sentence he’s in the front hall of the Dark Castle, letting his shed coat fall to the floor. He must find her. His Belle.

She’s in the main hall, standing at his spinning wheel, watching the spokes turn and jotting something in one of her journals. She looks up at him with a smile, “Oh, you’re back already.” She holds up her occupied hands, “I promise I didn’t break anything. I was just looking.”

“I believe you,” he says as he crosses the room. Looking at her he feels like he’s seeing a completed painting of what used to be a rough sketch. “You said you had something to talk to me about.” He holds out a hand, “At your leisure, Belle.”

Shyness comes over her features. She tucks her pencil behind her ear and wraps a hand around the wheel, nudging it back and forth, “I did say that.”

He takes another step forward, covers her hand with his. Her gasp isn’t quite tiny enough to escape notice. “Tell me.”

She turns her freckled face up to his, eyes so wide and blue he could lose himself in them. “I’m Sir Maurice’s daughter,” she murmurs, “From- from where they make-”

“Ogresbane, yes, I know.”

She shakes her head slightly, “You don’t, you... I created ogresbane.”

There’s so much fear in her eyes Rumpelstiltskin can hardly believe it. Does she think him the ogres’ ally? That he would punish her for what she did? Surely not, but she still has no idea... “When I first heard about ogresbane, do you know what I did?”

“No.”

“I swore an oath to myself that, should I ever come across the person responsible... I would give them whatever they asked for. No deal required.”

Somehow Belle’s eyes get bigger. Maybe he’s just taken another step closer.

“What do you want, Belle?” Anything- he’ll give her anything. Ogres and their endless violence are the core of all his misfortune. If they never came roaring across the land, he could have lived an ordinary life, with his wife and child. To know that no one will endure his agony again is a greater blessing than he could ever imagine. And here is the source of that blessing- a beautiful, intelligent, high-spirited woman who makes him feel... who makes him feel like he hasn’t in so very long.

And he can see in her eyes, she knows what she wants. Him. Impossibly, him. She can have him.

His eyes close, and he leans down as she leans up, and her lips touch his for the sweetest of seconds, and something stirs in his heart- before she shrinks away, mumbling, “No- no, no, I can’t... I can’t, oh gods...”

“Belle...”

Her arms are banded around her midsection. Her breath comes in shaky gasps. “You knew. Before I told you, you knew. How?”

The relief of the completed deal makes him speak without thinking, “The queen. Regina told me.”

Rage he wouldn’t have believed Belle capable of fills her frame. Her journal smacks heavily against the floor where she throws it. “Regina! Of course, Regina! That evil soul- she could never leave me be!”

Rumpelstiltskin attempts to approach her, arms held open, “Belle, please, I-”

“Shut up!”

“Please listen, I-”

“Shut the hell up! You know nothing! Ogresbane is evil, Rumpelstiltskin. I am evil. I’m a monster.” She drags in ragged breaths, shaking her head, trembling all over, “I have to leave.”

She runs past him, out of the room. He feels like he’s moving through water while she stuffs what possessions her haste allows into that old travel sack and bolts from the castle. “I love you,” he tells her shrinking form.

***

When she can’t run anymore, she walks. When she can’t do that, she sits, and lets her pain surround her like flood water. It takes her into another day, and some vague thought that starving to death would be unpleasant leads her to dig through her sack for food. She finds half a loaf of bread- more than she expected. Apparently the gods want her to live just a little while longer. She also finds a chipped teacup. Apparently the gods want her to suffer just a little more.

She walks, on and on, trying to plan, trying to remember where she was before. Konoye. Yes. She’s just another traveler, on the road to Konoye. Rumor has it there’s a phoenix in those parts. Maybe it has something to tell her.

When the sun dips she makes camp. She scoops water from a stream with the chipped cup. She stares into the fire. Numbs her heart. She’s so far along she only blinks when the sorcerer appears. He doesn’t look good, but then that’s not saying much. His inhuman eyes have a wildness to them, almost a hunger.

“You shouldn’t have come after me,” Belle remarks.

“Our deal is not concluded.”

“Then conclude it.”

“I don’t know how.”

“That’s your trouble, not mine.”

He snarls, and drops to his knees at her side, claws digging into the dirt. “You must ask your questions.”

“I ‘must’ do nothing. We’re done.”

“Why won’t you ask?!”

She looks at his twisted face and feels a drop of pity. “Do you know what ogresbane does?”

He sighs as if she’s removed a thumbscrew, “I’ve heard it’s akin to acid, though harmless to men.”

“Yes. It melts ogres. Skin, bone, organs- it doesn’t matter. They’re reduced to soup, in minutes. We always thought them so invincible...” She turns back to the fire, “They began retreating almost as soon as it reached the front. And that would’ve been enough, if it weren’t for the queen... She convinced the generals to follow the ogres across the borders. To take the ogresbane and use it, on the sick and injured, the old, the children. You won’t find a single ogre within ten thousand miles of the realms. They’re all dead.”

Wind whistles through the trees above them. Belle brings her knees to her chest and cradles the chipped teacup. Decides she might as well let it all out.

“I was so happy when I discovered the recipe for ogresbane. I hated them so much. I wanted them all to die. I lost my soul to hate.” Hot tears well up and drip down her cheeks. “Will you please leave me?”

The bastard actually comes closer. “You aren’t the only person to act out of hate.”

Belle grimaces, “Oh, certainly. And how many genocides have you been party to?”

His forehead rests on her hunched shoulder. His hair brushes her cheek.

“Go. Please. I don’t want you anymore.”

He lifts his head. “I would’ve given you a home. We might have saved each other.”

“There’s nothing here worth saving.”

“That’s your opinion. But you’ve made your choice. And, believe me when I say, you will regret it. All you’ll have is an empty heart, and a chipped cup.”

Rumpelstiltskin stands, and vanishes like all her other ghosts. It occurs to Belle to throw the cup into the fire. But she only grips it tighter.

Chapter Five

Date: 2012-05-04 12:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrssnape13.livejournal.com
Oh, I still love the parallels, heartbreaking though they may be! :) I truly didn't expect you to reverse their positions, and have Belle be the one to turn him away. Very well done!

Date: 2012-05-05 01:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lotus0kid.livejournal.com
Thanks very much! I wasn't sure if I'd really earned the reversal, but I'm glad it worked for you.

Date: 2012-05-04 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raissad.livejournal.com
Yes. Great role reversal. :)

Date: 2012-05-05 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lotus0kid.livejournal.com
Thanks kindly! It was an interesting challenge.

Date: 2012-05-05 08:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imzadi-gumdrop.livejournal.com
Love the role reversal, facsinating, great work!

Date: 2012-05-05 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lotus0kid.livejournal.com
Thank you! It was fun to attempt- we've seen Belle as Rumpel, with the curse, I decided to try making Rumpel like Belle, willing to open his heart to her, if partly out of gratitude.

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