By Anna Humphrey
(Setting: the evening following “A Land Without Magic”)
He passes her room and sees her sitting before the mirror, struggling to run a brush through her tangled her. He sees the frown of frustration on her face, reflected in the glass, the tears of exhaustion trickling down her face.
Without thinking – if he thinks too much he might freeze – he limps into the room, comes to stand behind her. She meets his eyes in the mirror, wordlessly hands him the brush when he holds out his hand.
The feel of her hair between his fingertips, tangled and matted though it is, is a joy he never thought to have; warmth begins to seep into the cold and dark corners of his heart. His hands, so skilled at spinning and weaving spells, work the brush gently through the knots, teasing them until they loosen.
He sees her eyes close, feels her relax beneath his touch, and he cannot stop the smile that touches his mouth. Belle. His Belle. The rest of the world can go to hell for all he cares, for right now, in this moment, he has everything.
“All magic comes with a price, dearie.”
“You pay it, then!”
Her majesty’s voice, inside his head. His smile slips, his hand falters as he looks at Belle’s face in the mirror. A price…
He sets down the brush, finished, places his hands on her shoulders. She opens her eyes, meets his gaze again. The tears are falling once more.
“Rumpelstiltskin,” she says.
It is still strange to hear his name after so many years of going by another. He loves the way she says it, the way it rolls off her tongue, spoken as though he is someone worth loving.
“Don’t let her lock me up again.”
His hands tighten on her shoulders. No, no one – not Regina, not himself, not anyone – will ever lock her up again. Nor will she be the magic’s price. Not Belle. Not his Belle.
He bends down and kisses the top of her head, inhaling her scent: she smells of roses and cinnamon.
“You have my word, Belle.”
She falls asleep while he strokes her hair, curled up tightly, her face peaceful at last. Not dead, not locked away, but alive and free and by his side.
He watches her, knows he does not want to close his eyes, for right now, for the first time he can remember, he is where he wants to be: right beside her, listening to her breathing.
This small piece of fan fiction was inspired by the song Breathing by Lifehouse