1. In Which Belle Learns the Trade: Part Three

    So, recently I attended this writing conference where there was a lot of emphasis on ensuring that a writer finds time to write EVERY DAY.  Fanfiction counts, right?  I mean, that’s a totally legitimate means of improving one’s literary skillz, right?


    In theory, I’m actually supposed to be working on my fucking book, but…gah.  Gah.  That’s all I have to say.  Rumplestiltskin, you’ve consumed my goddamn soul and I don’t even care.  In fact, I’m GLAD.  AND I’M NOT SORRY.

    ALSO…not entirely sure what this “war” is that’s been going on, but I prefer to stay—ahem—neutral.  So, if you like witty banter, humor, adventure, innuendo, and sexual tension, then read my shit. 


    The next morning, Rumplestiltskin sent Belle to the nearest town with a wad of gold thread.  She was to pick up provisions, along with changes of clothing.  They’d spent the night in the woods in their ball garb, and needless to say, frills, ruffles, and heavy embroidery were neither appropriate, nor comfortable for traveling.  While Belle was disappointed that her dress had been tarnished with swipes of muck, Rumplestiltskin was oblivious to the wreckage of his own attire.

    She hadn’t been gone long at all before she came hauling back to camp, out of breath and empty-handed.  He scowled.

    “Where are our supplies?”

    “I have news,” she huffed.

    He frowned at her worried expression.  She continued.

    “All over town there are wanted posters—of you.  The Queen is offering an enormous reward.”

    He snorted.  “Please.  No one can capture me.  Though they’re certainly welcome to try.”

    “That’s the other thing,” she fidgeted nervously.  “The villagers were in the process of forming ‘hunting’ parties.  I got out of there as fast as I could.  That’s why I didn’t buy anything—if I would have handed over gold thread for payment, they would have known it came from you.

    “Well, we can’t very well continue tromping about in formal wear, now can we?”

    “But I don’t—”

    “Give me the thread back.”  She handed it over.

    He hated wasting magic like this, but there didn’t seem to be an alternative.  With a wave of his hand, the thread transformed into a leather pouch full of gold coins.  He gave it back to her.

    “Now let’s give it another try, dearieI’ll go with you this time.”

    “But the whole place is swarming with—”

    “Fret, fret, fret!” he sang.  “Fret not.”

    She had forgotten, apparently, that he had more than just a few tricks up his sleeve.

    With a subtle gesture, his appearance began to change.  His skin brightened and his muddy irises condensed into a warm, glossy brown.  His cheeks filled out and his teeth shone like ivory.  His mess of wiry hair relaxed into fine, well-kept russet-colored locks, with hints of grey at his temples.

    He looked…human.

    Rumplestiltskin examined his once-gnarled hands, his fingers now fleshy and well-manicured.  The metamorphosis had been an unusual sensation; he hunched over and shook himself out like a dog after a bath.  Belle stood back, slack-jawed and speechless.

    “Now, come,” he said, smoothing over the front of his still-mussed clothing.  “I want to witness this nonsense for myself.

    Belle wouldn’t stop gaping at him.  She seemed utterly transfixed as they ambled up the dusty road toward town.  It was making him uncomfortable.

    “This is remarkable,” she breathed.  She reached up to touch his face, but he pulled his head away.

    “It’s a waste,” he snapped.  His snide voice had gone unchanged despite his new facade.

    “Is this what you looked like…before?  I mean, I saw a hint last time…but only for a moment.  And not this…complete.”

    He responded with an irate grumble.

    She sighed and skipped along beside him as though they were taking a mundane, leisurely stroll.  What a domestic pair they were.

    When they finally reached the edge of town, Rumplestiltskin lingered near the goat paddocks while Belle went to make their purchases.  Something tacked to a nearby tree caught his eye; it was a notice from the Queen, with conditions, terms, and a substantial reward offering.

    Very, very substantial.  It was impressive even by his standards.

    He stood with arms crossed, glowering critically at the wanted poster with his likeness scribbled on it.

    “Here.”  Belle had returned with their items, and slapped a large brown cloak over his shoulder.

    “This is an absolute horrid rendition of me,” he drawled in disappointment.

    “Yes, well…if we don’t get out of here soon, someone’s going to notice that you seem a little familiar.”  She tugged on his arm, and he followed along.  They both donned their cloaks before taking the road through town.  After only a few strides, Rumplestiltskin came to a halt outside a shabby, well-worn building.

    “We need to stop in here for a moment,” he insisted.

    “The pub?” she hissed.  “We don’t have time for a drink!”

    “The pub is always the best place to listen in on gossip, dearie.  Didn’t you know?”

    People loved to talk.  Especially drunk people.  This place would be a wealth of rumors—and he needed information.  Before she could insist otherwise, he sidled his way into the questionable establishment.  She followed, reluctantly, keeping her head low.

    “Now Belle, be a dear and get us a couple of pints.”  He caught her rolling her eyes as he wandered to a table near a large throng of belligerent gentlemen.  They were already loaded, he could tell, despite their ambition to go out and “hunt down that imp’s depraved, magical ass.”

    He took a seat nearby where he could watch the debacle, but was momentarily distracted when Belle plunked down a stein of ale in front of him.

    “Enjoy,” she said, her tone laced with sarcasm.  She sat across from him and nestled her own stein between her palms.

    She was partially blocking his view of the loud-mouthed ruffians behind her.  He craned his head to see around her, but an idea came to him suddenly.

    “Belle, dear…”


    “What’s that?”

    “I’m not doing it.”

    “I didn’t even ask—”

    “I’m not going to talk to them.  I’m not going to go sit on their laps and tell them how handsome and strong they are, and how they should give me all the details of their planned excursion.”


    “No.  I’m going to sit here and enjoy my ale and stare at your face, because I know you hate it.”

    Several hours and several pints later, Rumplestiltskin was in trouble.  Belle grabbed him by the cloak collar and hauled him out the door.

    “You idiot,” she hissed.  “You’re too drunk to even concentrate!  Your disguise is wearing off.”

    It was true; he’d been completely distracted by tavern talk, ale, rowdy drunks, whispers of the Queen—and, repeatedly, by Belle’s cleavage. 

    His hair was becoming matted and coiled once more, and the sickly copperish-grey color was returning to his skin.  He stuck his fingers in his mouth—even his teeth were beginning to feel ragged again.

    By the time they stumbled to the edge of town, he’d reverted entirely.  Belle made sure to keep his head covered, and she veered them off the road to avoid any unwelcome attention from passers-by.

    He couldn’t help but be annoyed.  “You seem to forget that I have no problems with confrontations, dearie.”

    “Yes, well.  There’s no need to attract unwanted interest.  Or else we’d never get anything done; we’d be spending all of our time fending off goons.”

    They had managed, however, to glean information in the tavern regarding the supposed manhunt.  Rumplestiltskin suspected that his house might soon be lost.  On any other occasion, the thought of townsfolk attempting to storm his castle would cause him to collapse into hysterics.

    But they had the Queen helping them.  And the queen knew how to get in.  He expected the next time he saw his home, it would be in ruins.

    “Looks like it’s another night in the woods,” Belle sighed.


    “At least we have a tent this time.”

    They looked at each other.

    “Who gets the tent?” Belle asked.

    Really, it seemed like they should have been beyond this point.  They were both mature adults, after all.  And yet.

    “The tent is yours,” Rumplestiltskin offered.  Belle planted her hands on her hips.

    “There’s no reason why we can’t share it, it’s big enough that we’ll each have plenty of space.”

    He knew this was a disaster waiting to happen.  He’d—they’d—been drinking, and if his will power hadn’t already been tested enough, it was certainly going to be a hellacious challenge at this point.

    He really hated this.

    But he consented.  Reluctantly.

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