Continuing Tales

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 3 of 17

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Civilised Existence

There was a tension there that wasn't there before.

Even when Belle first arrived, there was no animosity. She had agreed to come, so the only agitation came from the delight he took in terrorising her. It had been a delight as well. Everyone knew the stories of the monster in the castle, and even if most of them weren't true, there was enough mischief in him to want to see just what she would believe.

She should have left.

She had tried.

He watched her from the shadows when she tried again. He could taste the crackle of power as she tried to cross the boundaries of his estate, and saw it sweep her from the edge back to the heart of his domain. He was sure it was not his doing, and yet, he could find no trace of another's magic on the fringes of his lands.

He returned to the castle, and made sure to keep out of her way as much as possible. After his peace-offering of breakfast was rejected, he was afraid that she would be out for blood. The occasional glimpse of her told him she was still furious, and from the beating she gave her clothing in the laundry, he had a feeling it was better that the fabric took the brunt of her temper rather than him.

It was all ridiculous, hiding in his own castle from a slip of a girl in a temper.

Still, it felt far safer than confronting her.

To feel more himself, rather than the more formal attire he had taken to wearing in her presence, he wrapped himself in the dragon-hide coat, trying to remember what it was not to care, to make him that creature again.

The clothes, it seemed, did not make the man.

The moment she entered his spinning chamber, his body unfolded automatically to stand and acknowledge the lady's arrival, even if she completely ignored him.

And so, then tension lingered.

He tried to spin, but the thread knotted and tangled. He could feel her ire, even though she was hidden by him by the broad back of his own grand chair. The only sound was the creak of the wheel and the crackle of the flames.

Another sound eventually overlapped them both: the sound of a young woman snoring.

He slowed the wheel and rose on light feet to approach the chair.

Belle, while gracious and delicate in many respects, lost all inhibitions in sleep. She was curled up like a lazy cat, limbs draped this way and that, her dark curls tumbling around her pink cheeks. Rumpelstiltskin put his head to one side, watching as one of the strand that had fallen across her lips moved, rising and falling with every noisy breath.

He had no doubt that if he left her there, she would have stiffness and aching bones within hours, and at the present moment, she really didn't need any more reasons to be annoyed with him. He glanced at his hands, wondering how hard she would throw something at him, if he ventured using magic to transport her to her room.

After all, magic was an untamed creature, even if it sometimes curled to your will.

If he tried to send her anywhere, she was quite likely to bounce straight back to him, twice as hard, and that would result in more anger and frustration.

Gingerly, he bent and slipped her arms under her legs and her back. He had held her before. It was not as if this was breaking into new and forbidden territory. She was as small, soft and warm as he remembered, and when she shifted, leaning into him, he realised that it was a terrible, terrible idea.

He closed his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to imagine something mundane and dull. A sack of wool, ready for market. Even if a sack of wool didn't snort quietly in its sleep and murmur some nonsense or other.

Her room. His intention was to take her to her room.

It took some time. Partly because he did not want to jar her, and partly because she curled against him like a demanding pet and her breath was warm on his neck, and for a moment, he forgot where he was standing. Several times. It didn't help that the castle was large, and that she was not conscious enough to point him in the right direction.

Love really was the biggest deception in the world.

A source of happiness? Ha! Distraction, hurt, and confusion was all that came of it.

The door of her room was ajar, and the moonlight lit an obliging path to the bed. He hesitated at the threshold. It was his castle, but their unspoken rules dictated that this was the one place that was hers.

He forced himself to enter the room, not to look around to see what little tokens she had. It was her place, and he had already upset her enough. It would be fine to lay her on her bed, cover her, then leave as quickly as he had entered.

He set her down as gently as he could and reached for the covers to wrap them around her, to save her from the evening's chill. To his surprise, a small hand touched his wrist, sending a peculiar spark of something that wasn't magic through him. He tilted his head to see blue eyes - misty with sleep - gazing at him through thick lashes.

"Your coat is spiky," she murmured. "I don't like it."

He barely had time to register the words when her fingers slipped from his wrist and she rolled over, curling into an impossibly small ball under the blankets. The snoring started up again, muffled by the warm fabric.

Rumpelstiltskin stared at her blankly and touched the point on his wrist where her fingers had touched.

Women made no sense at all.

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 3 of 17

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