Continuing Tales

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 11 of 17

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Civilised Existence

Rumpelstiltskin was happy.

It was a strange, new and terrifying experience.

His whole mortal life had been a depressing mess of fear and chaos, with those he loved abandoning him when he proved himself afraid. Gaining power hadn't changed a thing. It only took away one of the few things he had left, and he was completely alone, despised now as a monster by those who had never heard of Rumpelstiltskin the coward.

And then, there was Belle.

She claimed the left side of the bed, which he had no notion to protest. He couldn't remember the last time he had slept in a bed with someone, and was too distracted by the warm, soft, wicked creature in his arms to think about which side was better.

There could be no denying that she was wicked, but only in the very best ways.

More often than not, when he returned from checking the castle's defensive charms in the evening, he found her reading in bed, and sometimes, she would look over the top of the book with that particular gleam in her eye. On those occasions, he didn't need to be told what she was reading, or what she had in mind for the evening ahead.

He still left the castle to make deals, to seek defences, to find new and better powers, because he knew the Queen was only growing stronger. She was far more ruthless than he, and now, he had something that needed protection.

Sometimes, though not on purpose, he would be so late that she would already be halfway to sleep. She was charming then, drowsy and full of complaints and reproof about his absence, his waking her or anything that might come to mind.

Rumpelstiltskin crept into the grand bed. It had always been too big for him alone, but even now, it was still too big for both of them. It took him a moment to find her in the dark, under the expanse of blankets and sheets.

"Your feet are cold," Belle murmured sleepily.

"My feet are always cold, dearie," he murmured, as she rolled over to curl against him, one arm wrapping around his waist, and a leg doing the same about his leg.

She pressed a kiss to his collarbone. "Good deals?" she asked, as he drew the blankets around them. He knew she didn't like the deals any better than he did, but when they were all he could use to defend himself, his territory and her, they were a necessary evil.

"Nothing terrible," he murmured. "The fairies are being difficult again."

She sighed softly. "Was it bad?"

He curled his fingers into her soft, dark hair. "No casualties," he promised quietly. "I try, Belle. I don't want to be seen as a monster anymore."

She nodded, her cheek rubbing against his chest. "You're not a monster," she whispered, her hand over his heart. "You never were."

"I was," he demurred quietly. "I know I was."

In the darkness, he could make out the shape of her, silhouetted as she leaned up to seek out his face. "Don't talk like that," she said, her voice losing the soft edge of sleep. "We both know magic isn't like that. Magic is there, and it's what you do with it that makes it bad or good."

He laughed quietly, almost sadly. "Then I suppose that makes me a bad man, then."

She rapped him sharply on the chest. "A bad man?" She rolled away from him for a moment, and lit the candle that stood by the bed. By the buttery light, she glowed gold, her eyes shining and her cheeks flushed. "You are not a bad man, Rumpelstiltskin. A sad man, yes. A scared man, yes. A desperate man, yes. But you were never, ever bad."

"You don't know what I've done, before I knew you, dearie," he murmured, gazing at her.

"Who summoned you, oh mighty Rumpelstiltskin?" she said, kneeling up among the tangled sheets. She was glorious in her indignation. "Who had heard all of the tales of the things you accomplished? Who knew that you always had a price? Who counted on your reputation to know you would be able to save our town?"

"Who made you pay for it with servitude?" he countered.

She stared at him, then grabbed a pillow and smacked him over the head with it, catching him by surprise.

"You are stubborn as a mule!" she exclaimed, pummelling him. He swore, shielding his head with both arms, and reached blindly for her, trying to wrestle the pillow from her grasp. "You stupid, stupid man!"

"Belle," he growled, both of them tangling in the bedding, until he finally managed to toss the pillow aside, and pin her - still squirming - down. She grabbed a handful of his hair and tugged on it, her face creasing up in a glare.

"You're just determined to disagree with everything I say," she said indignantly.

"No, I'm not," he said.

They stared at each other for a moment. Her lips twitched and she tugged on his hair again, more gently. His own lips turned up, just a little.

She slid her hand over his shoulder and drew his head to rest on her chest. "You're the most stubborn idiot I ever met," she murmured, dragging her fingers through his hair. "Do you think I would care about you as much as I do, if you were as unpleasant as you think you are?"

He tilted his head to nuzzle her collarbone. "Well, you are a strange one, dearie."

She pinched his ear vengefully. "You're one to talk."

He smiled against her chest. "Put the candle out," he murmured. "It's late."

She stroked his hair again. "I'd have to move," she murmured.

He considered that option. "Let it burn out."

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 11 of 17

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