Belle held on to the doorframe to keep herself from sinking to her knees. The shelves of Rumplestiltskin's cabin were empty. The whole room looked so much emptier. Two bundles lay on the small table beneath the only window. They were preparing to leave her.
Rumplestiltskin was about to fold a shirt on the table. He sat on the only chair and from where she stood, she could see his black eye, the bruise on his cheek. First he froze completely, when he noticed her. Then he dropped the shirt and stood up, reaching for his cane, and her heart skipped a beat, because some irrational part was actually expecting him to come towards her, like he would've done before. But he didn't come towards her. He hobbled around the table until the small piece of furniture stood between them. She could only imagine how much pain his leg was causing him after all she had put him through yesterday, but he moved as quick as she had ever seen him. He was fleeing from her, she realized. She wanted to beg and plead with him, but she had no right. Even coming here had been selfish. She should leave.
She was about to turn around on her heel, when a hand held on to her arm.
"Belle." Bae stood right next to her. She had been so concentrated on Rumplestiltskin, she hadn't even noticed him. To her relief, there was no bruising on his face, so at least Gaston had the decency not to hit the child.
She covered Bae's hand with hers. "Are you okay?"
"Papa said we have to leave," he said.
"I'll miss you," Belle said, glancing over to Rumplestiltskin. But he stood facing the window, his cane in one hand, leaning against the wall with the other.
"I don't want to leave," Bae said. "We have friends here." He turned his head to look at Rumplestiltskin. "We have a home here."
Rumplestiltskin flinched. Belle couldn't see his face, but she was sure he was crying. Two days ago, she would've pulled him into an embrace without hesitation. Yesterday morning it would've been possible for them to find comfort with each other. How much had changed in less than a few hours …
Belle swallowed and focused on Bae.
"Gaston died this morning," she said. From the corner of her eyes she saw Rumplestiltskin swinging around. Tears were running down his cheeks and his mouth stood open. Belle squeezed Bae's hand again. "The king had a hunting accident this morning. He won't hurt you again. You're safe here," she added. "You could stay."
A smile formed on Bae's face. This must've been the lowest point in her life, manipulating a child to get what she wanted … What a coward she had become. How desperate.
"We'll find a new home," Rumplestiltskin said quietly, staring out the window again.
Bae turned to his father. "But we're safe now!"
Rumplestiltskin shook his head without looking at them. "We're not staying."
"Why not?" Belle asked, unable to bite back her words. The king, her husband, had died today and she had felt nothing but relief. Now the spinner she only had known for four months was leaving, and she felt like dying herself.
Rumplestiltskin didn't react.
"Why not?" she asked again. "Why not?"
"Because I can't make you look at me!" He swirled around. His cane dropped and he supported himself on the table. "How could I make you look at me again after what I did?" He shook his head so forcefully, his whole body was moving.
"I could look at you all day." Her voice was shaking and she couldn't hold back her own tears any longer. She hadn't thought it possible, but her heart broke again.
Bae's gaze jumped back and forth between Rumplestiltskin and her.
"What happened to you," Bae asked and Belle loved him for his choice of words. Bae was so wise for his age. So smart and gentle just like his father. Belle couldn't imagine living without either of them.
Inhaling deeply, Belle forced herself to let go of Bae's hand.
"Could you leave us alone for a moment?" she asked him. Bae frowned. He looked so afraid. She wished he could take away his fears and his confusion. She wished she could tell him everything would be fine. "Please," she begged quietly.
And finally, Bae released her arm. Belle stepped into the cabin to clear the doorway and Bae left. After the door closed behind him, Belle smoothed down the front of her dress, before she walked over to Rumplestiltskin, leaving the small table between them, because she feared, he'd flee from her again if she tried to get closer. But if she reached over the table, she could touch him.
"I'm so sorry," Belle whispered. "I'm so very sorry about what happened to you and your son. It was never my intention to cause you and your son any harm." She should've stayed away. She was a queen, she never had had any business befriending a peasant. She could've spared them pain if she could have been just a little stronger.
He stared at her in bewilderment. "You are so brave," he muttered, "so kind." And he looked at her like he couldn't believe she existed, like he witnessed a miracle. So she relapsed and reached out to touch the hand he used to support himself on the table. A mistake, of course. He pulled away immediately, and his back crashed against the wall. For a moment she was afraid, he'd fall, but he didn't. He just sank against the wall, bending forward and hiding his face in his hands.
"What I did to you is unforgivable," he said.
"I love you."
His head snapped back. "I raped you!"
She could see in his eyes that he believed his own words, she could see his self- loathing. Sweet magic, what had happened to them? She sobbed, unable to form words. She was losing the man she loved and she had no idea how to save him.
"Is it true?" a small voice came from the entrance.
Belle swirled around and to her utter horror, she found Bae standing in the opened cabin door. She should've known he would eavesdrop on them. His face was an expression of shocked disbelief.
"Is it true?" Bae asked again, his eyes fixed on Belle. "Did papa rape you?"
All she wanted to do was break down and cry. She didn't have the strength to deal with this. She didn't have the power to heal them. But Bae looked like his heart was breaking and Rumplestiltskin sank to the floor like he had no bones, so she couldn't give up. She felt hopeless and sad and so very tired, but she couldn't stop fighting.
Again she inhaled deeply to calm herself, then she rushed over to Bae and pulled him into an embrace.
"Your papa didn't rape me," she said with certainty and loud enough so she could be sure, Rumplestiltskin would hear her too. "Your papa's a good man, you hear me?"
Bae nodded against the crock of her neck. His tears soaked through her dress.
"Your papa's just scared and confused but he's the best man I ever met," Belle added. "And I'm a queen, I should know."
Bae's arms wrapped around her waist. "What happened yesterday?" He still sounded confused, he still sounded scared, but he had stopped crying and his voice sounded steady.
"I can't tell you, my sweet." Belle ran her hands over his back. "But I'll fix us, I promise." She needed to fix them. There needed to be hope for them. "So I need you to leave us alone and go visit Martha and stay with her for the night." Belle swallowed. Martha was the baker's wife and she loved Bae, she would take good care of him. "Can you do that, Bae?"
He nodded again. She pulled him close once more, before she took him by the shoulders and took a step back. She wanted to kiss his forehead, but he was already too tall for that, so she settled for his cheek. After she released him, she waited until she saw him go up the stairs to the bakery where Martha greeted him with open arms and a little treat for him in one hand.
Then she closed the cabin door and went around the table to kneel next to Rumplestiltskin. It was so quiet now. He sat hunched over, his knees pulled up and his face covered in his hands.
She probably shouldn't touch him, but she couldn't resist the urge any longer and placed her hand on his knee. Of course he flinched. But he also looked up to her. His eyes were red, probably just like her own. They must have projected such an image of misery as they sat here on the floor.
"I was willing. I wanted to be with you, have wanted it for some time," she said, her voice full of sadness. "I brought so much pain and suffering on you and your son because I couldn't stay away from you even though I knew Gaston would punish you for it."
"Being married to an abusive husband isn't your fault," he said. He sounded exhausted.
"No it isn't." She was exhausted too. "But it was my burden to carry and I pulled you into it."
He shook his head. "I should've fought him. A better man would've fought for you, would've protected you."
"You saved me."
"Don't say that."
And Belle's heart broke again. He had saved her so often and he wasn't even aware of it.
"You remember the first time I came here?" she asked.
"Of course." He frowned as if she had just insulted him. "You were so kind and brought us some bread."
"Because I wanted to see you again."
"Me?" He sounded so genuinely surprised, it almost made her laugh.
"Before you came here I felt trapped and lost but you looked at me like you really saw me, not just Gaston's wife." She shrugged, trying to fight back fresh tears and she felt silly. But meeting Rumplestiltskin had meant so much to her. He had changed so much. He had reminded her of whom she had been before and every time she had met with him, she had felt a little more like herself when she left. He had saved her.
"I love you," she said and squeezed his knee. She wished he would believe her. She wished he would tell her how he felt.
"I'm nothing," he said and something inside her snapped. Enough, already!
"Stop it," she said sharply. "Stop doubting my emotions, stop doubting my judgement. Say you don't want me, say you will never love me, but don't throw my words back into my face like I don't know what I'm saying."
For a moment he just stared at her, his mouth opening and closing once or twice.
"I love you," he whispered eventually. "I love you so much and that's why I have to leave you, can't you see that?"
Sweet magic, this man was frustrating! She took his face into her hands and kissed him gently. Since her words seemed to have failed them so far, she hoped her actions would get through to him. Because she had to get through to him, because he loved her and she wouldn't let him leave.
And thankfully, he relaxed under her affections. His lips softened and he opened his mouth to her when she ran her tongue along the seam of his lips. He tasted like tea and bread. He tasted like home.
He stretched his legs while she moved above him until she straddled his lap. She held her weight with her legs. Her knees starting to complain about the hard ground quickly, but they were kissing and his hair felt so soft between her fingers and his gentle hands ran over her back, setting her on fire and this already felt so much better than anything they had done last night on her comfortable bed. This was them. This was love.
She smiled when he moaned against her mouth as she pressed her hips into him. His lips trailed down her chin and kissed her throat, while his hands cupped her ass and held her against him, his hips bucking into hers. And suddenly she wanted to feel him moving inside her, to be as close to him as she possibly could. There were too many layers of fabric between them, she could barely feel him. But when she started pulling on his shirt, he caught her wrists with his hands.
"Not like that," he whispered against her throat, panting.
"You're right." She inhaled to pull herself together. With shaky legs, she stood up and smoothed down her dress, while he stared at her. When she offered him her hand, his eyes widened.
"I thought you'd leave," he said.
Silly man. "I'm not going anywhere," she said. He still didn't understand, but she would make him see. She wriggled the fingers of her outstretched hand until he grabbed it and she could help him to his feet.
He tried to hide the pain when he had to put weight on his bad leg, but she could read his face too well. Offering him support with one hand, she cupped his face with her other, running her thumb over his cheek.
"Don't hide from me," she said and kissed him briefly. "I love you so much."
He smiled so shyly and so sweetly, she had to steal another kiss, before she led him to his small bed. They stood in front of it, just holding each other and kissing, until it wasn't enough any more and Belle had to pull away. She turned around, smiling at him over her shoulder.
"Could you please loosen my dress for me?" she asked and he had trouble keeping his balance.
Clearing his throat, he nodded before he reached for the laces of her dress and pulled at them. After he opened it completely, she slipped out of it and let it fall on the floor. She turned around so she could watch his face while she efficiently took off the rest of her clothes. Then she stood naked in front of him, wearing nothing but a smile. The expression on his face made her shiver and his wandering gaze set her on fire just like his hands had done before. He looked at her like she was a fine piece of art, so much adoration and pure wonder in his eyes. He flexed his hands like he was dying to touch her and part of her wanted to push him on the bed and give him everything she had and take all of him at once. But the stronger part of her knew that this time she had to be patient and tender with him, so as not to scare him off. He wasn't running away from her now, so that was progress. And he didn't try to send her away either. She hoped he had finally started to believe her.
"I love your hands," Belle said gently and took his right one in hers, running her fingers over his knuckles, before she lifted it to her lips and kissed it.
He swallowed hard, turning his hand in her palms, so he could cradle her face. There were tears in his eyes again, but a smile on his lips. Without hesitation she closed the gap between them until she felt the fabric of his shirt on her skin and kissed him, her arms wrapping around his neck.
He placed his left hand gently on her shoulder, squeezing gently, while his other hand still cradled her face, but it wasn't enough for Belle.
"Please touch me," she begged and rubbed herself against him. "Please, Rumplestiltskin, I need you."
He groaned and his hands wandered over her body, caressing the sides of her breasts, downwards until he cupped her buttocks and massaged her whilst kissing her passionately.
She was already wet for him, could feel his erection poking her through the layers of his clothes. She needed more. She needed to feel him skin on skin.
Again she started tearing at his clothes. A gasp escaped her when his hands left her body as he lifted his arms so she could pull his shirt over his head. He helped her getting rid of his woolen pants before she guided him to lean down on the bed. Now she had time. She sat next to him, drinking in his sight, fighting back fresh tears in face of his bruises. No sorrow this time, she reminded herself. Love. He would heal. They would heal.
She bend down and kissed a bruise above his hip along his right side. He shivered.
"Belle," he breathed, his erection twitching.
She ran her hands up his legs, stopping at his bad knee. She kissed the deformed joint. "I love you."
She kissed his knee again, she kissed the bruises on his thighs. She kissed the broken skin on his left arm. She traced his ribs with kisses, assuring herself that none of his bones were broken. She kissed the bruise on his cheek. His black eye. And he let her, lying still for her on his bed, his hands clutching to the covers. From time to time her name fell from his lips. She had never felt more love or more tenderness in her life. And she had never felt more desire.
She straddled him before she kissed his mouth. Their tongues played with each other while she guided his erection to her entrance. They both shivered when he made contact with her wet opening. His hands came up to her hips, caressing her skin without applying any pressure or direction while she slowly sank onto him. They both sighed when he was fully inside her. He felt so good. She loved the gentle way he touched her, how his thumbs stroked over her hip-bones. She loved how he moaned as she started moving, setting an almost painfully slow rhythm. She loved the look in his eyes and how his mouth twitched into a smile when she kissed him. Eventually the tension build up inside her and she quickened up. She keened and he gave her a smirk, so proud, so pleased with himself, that she did it again. He was bucking against her now, his hands holding her hips steady, so she wouldn't lose him. He shifted, changing the angle and everything was bliss and stars. Her eyes fell shut and she yelped his name while her inner walls tightened around him as she came. Then one of his hands was in her hair, pulling her down for a hot, messy kiss, and she felt how he spent himself inside her.
She all but collapsed upon him. First she was afraid of hurting him, with her weight pressing down on him like that, but then he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her even closer against him.
"I love you," he whispered into her ear. "I love you so much."
She pulled back enough to look in his face. "I love you too."
He smiled, teary-eyed but happy, so she kissed him again, unable to resist. Her legs hurt from the awkward position, but she didn't care. She felt loved and happy. She felt whole. She felt like she had a future she wanted to live.
Thanks to Lily Moonlight for editing this. And thanks to all of you for commenting and such. You're great! If you made it through all the angst and could spare the time, please leave a review?