Continuing Tales

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 13 of 17

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Civilised Existence

He would have heard her cry if she was on the other side of the Kingdoms.

The deal he was brokering forgotten, he let the winds catch him without a second thought, faster than light, carrying him to the place where her heart beat. No matter where she was, he could always find her.

The boundaries of his lands were in place, but it was close to the edge, and just on the very lip of it, his enemy, the Queen. She was wearing a ragged cloak, but beneath it, her jewelled dress gleamed, and she was examining her features in a mirror.

"You," he hissed, his hands curling, magic crackling around his fingertips.

She looked across the stream at him, as she neatened the bloody red of her lips. "My," she said. "Aren't you quick on your feet today." She smiled at him, bright and brilliant and cold as ice. "Running to find your little plaything?"

His lips pulled back from his teeth. "Where is she?" he snarled.

The Queen smirked, then glanced down at the stream.

He followed her gaze and cursed savagely. He lunged down into the water, falling onto his knees and pulling Belle from beneath the surface. Her face was white as bone, and she was cold and limp.

"Her dear daddy asked me to find her," the Queen said innocently. "He didn't specify that I had to bring her home alive. He was very helpful too. It's amazing how easy it was to find her, when I had some of her hair. A little summoning charm and she came right to me."

"You…" His fury crackled around him, searing the air, and he dragged Belle from the water onto his side of the stream. She was barely breathing, and her heartbeat was faint, fading. He tore off his coat, wrapping her in it, tucking her icy arms into the thick sleeves, as if it could warm her enough. His hand brushed her hair, catching on something there.

Trembling fingers found a comb, so thick with malevolent power that he hissed as if burned. He tore it from Belle's hair, hurling it away. It rattled on the rocks, bouncing out of sight.

"That's the trouble with pretty girls, Rumpel," the Queen said, patting her own hair into a neater arrangement. "They're all so vain."

"What have you done?" he whispered furiously, cradling Belle in his arms. The coldness was more than just the water, and he could see ripples of the dark magic crawling beneath her skin.

The Queen laughed. "Isn't it obvious?" she said. "Only you can save her."

Rumpelstiltskin lifted his head, staring at her blankly. He was breathing raggedly, in and out. Save her. She was cursed, then. The comb was cursed. Curses could only truly be broken by true love's kiss. But if he kissed her, saved her, then his power would be gone, and the Queen would slaughter them both where they lay.

"You witch," he whispered, his fingers trembling on Belle's cheek. "You vicious witch."

The Queen spread her hands, and mocked a curtsey. "Your girl isn't getting any less dead, dearie."

He bared his teeth, rocking Belle close to him. He could see the last of the colour leeching from her lips, from her cheeks. There was frost forming there, delicate crystals, sparkling like diamonds. She would become his ice-maid, frozen forever, dead and gone.

"Never thought I'd see the day, Rumpel," she interrupted the frantic whirl of his thoughts, sitting down on the opposite bank of the stream. "Love is weakness, you know. If only you hadn't locked her up with you. Forever, wasn't it? Such a nice, permanent word. No wonder she couldn't leave you, even if she wanted to. She must have been desperate to crawl into your arms."

He tried to ignore her, his mind racing, wild, frantic. It didn't matter what she was saying. It didn't. Not even if she might be right. None of that mattered, not how repulsive he was, not the deal he struck with Belle, nothing. There had to be some other way, something that would retain his power, but save Belle, before it was too late.

"Do you want a deal?" he asked, his voice ragged and hoarse.

"What could you possibly have that I want?" she sneered, her hands on her hips.

He looked at Belle, his fingertips ghosting across her lips, as if he could feel the breath escaping from them. Then he knew that he had the only thing that the Queen could want.

He looked up at her. "Me."

She burst out laughing, mockingly. "You? What woman in their right mind would want you?"

The woman in his arms was the answer, the woman who loved him, stayed with him, cared for him. He forced himself to smile, baring all of his teeth. "You know you want me, dearie." He rolled his head. "You know what you want. You want what I have and you could never get."

She stared across the stream at him, and he could see the moment she understood what he was offering. "Your power," she breathed.

He wrinkled his nose and grinned unpleasantly at her. "Better than wasting it in a kiss, wouldn't you say?"

Her lips were parted, and he could see the greed and hunger in her eyes. Oh, this was a dance he knew well. The desperate ones were always the easiest. "You'll give me your heart?"

"If you can take it, dearie," he murmured, "but don't be fooled. It's not an easy thing to hang on to." He rolled his head again and drew a breath between his teeth. "Do we have a deal?"

"Deal." The Queen's smile returned. "Now?"

"Her first," he said, unfurling one hand to gesture to Belle. "The curse. Break it."

The Queen's teeth flashed white in a grimace, but a series of gestures and a muttered incantation made the air spark and crackle. The dark power mottling Belle's skin faded, vanishing, and colour rushed back to her cheeks. She breathed in, and her eyelids fluttered softly, half-opening.

"Good," Rumpelstiltskin whispered, tracing her lips. "Time to wake up, Belle. Lots to do." He laid her down on the grass and unfolded onto his feet. "Now, dearie, we have business to be doing."

The Queen's eyes were shining. "Yes," she whispered. She curled a hand in a beckoning gesture. "Give me what's mine."

Rumpelstiltskin loosened the buttons of his waistcoat as he stepped down into the brook. "It's not yours yet, dear," he warned her. "Don't forget what I said. Take it if you can, but it's a dangerous thing."

The Queen leaned forward hungrily, stretching out her hand.

Rumpelstiltskin glanced back, just once, at Belle. She was alive and she was waking, and that was good enough for now. He stepped closer to the Queen and pulled open the stays of his shirt, baring his chest.

"Your Majesty," he said, bowing his head.

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 13 of 17

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