#2 in the Exclamations series. (sequel to Without Exclamation)
Summary: What the FTL world has lost. And Rumplestiltskin opens up to Belle about vulnerabilities.
Disclaimer: I own none of it.
Character: Rumplestiltskin, Belle,
category: what if.
Belle's actions rippled through time, culling away those potential futures which could have occured, but now would never happen.
For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost.
For Belle’s silence, she was not cast out.
Without her cast out, she would not have stopped in a bar.
Without her being in a bar, Dreamy did not receive help in his struggle.
Without Belle’s help, Dreamy did not see Nova again.
Without Dreamy seeing Nova, the fairies had no reason to offer him anything.
Without the fairies’ promise, Snow White’s rescue was more difficult.
With greater difficulty, the conflict grew and grew.
With the civil war growing, there was neither time nor opportunity to recover the Terrible Curse.
Without recovering the Curse, it could not be cast.
Without the casting, there would be no Storybrooke.
Without Storybrooke, there would be no Henry.
Without Henry, Baelfire would not be saved.
Belle took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference: for want of a word, all was lost. So it was in that moment.
Within his castle, Rumplestiltskin waited for the waves of euphoria to stop washing over Belle - he liked watching her laugh, it was uncontestably true; but he also waited because of the importance of what he had to say to her.
"All this is yours now, Belle," Rumplestiltskin said, his fingertips waggling in all directions, denoting everything within the castle walls.
"No, it's yours," Belle said. "Ours, if you like."
"For a time, perhaps. Tell me, are you afraid of anything?"
Before, Belle may have backed away at a question like that. But now, now she stayed exactly where she was, and even leaned a little closer so they were more face to face once more. "No," she said confidently.
"No, you're not afraid of anything. Neither was I, when I got the job."
"So I am...?"
"Oh yes," Rumplestiltskin nodded. "You are the Dark One. All but immortal. All but invulnerable. All but omnipotent," saying that last one with the faintest air of defeat. Bae...
Belle had a feeling she understood what he was feeling. "And you're worried that, now that you're not the Dark One, that people will come for revenge."
Fortunately, most of them are long since dead. "I admit, I'm not comforted by the prospect of torch-bearing mobs of pitchfork-wielding angry people coming towards me."
"Nobody would be," Belle said. "And if anyone wants to hurt you, they have to go through me."
"You needn't do that," Rumplestiltskin said.
"True. But I want to help you."
Rumplestiltskin bore a rueful smile. "You could scour entire kingdoms from the landscape with a snap of your fingers."
"Why would I -- How do you know that?" Belle asked.
"How do you think I ended the Ogre Wars?" he answered.
Belle chose to interpret that as a rhetorical question. "I think you're trying to scare me away, still. But you should know that I'm not going anywhere."
"And were I to run away, you could find me with ease."
"I would respect your privacy."
Doesn't ask how much of that statement was borne of personal experience on my part. In return, I won't haunt her conscience with a remark about how much privacy there is at the end of a noose. "You are entitled to your own missions and goals."
Belle made a face. "That was always true."
"The moreso now, Belle," Rumplestiltskin said. "You could, for instance, take your uncle's dukedom, and guide it into a kingdom which rules the world, or at least the human part of it. "You could teach chimeras how to read." Now *there's* a task which would take centuries.
A different face now. "But what about all your plans? Everything you've been working on?"
"As relevant now as were Zoso's after I slew him."
"Zoso?" Belle asked.
"My predecessor. Your grand-predecessor, I suppose you could say," Rumplestiltskin said, easing himself to a standing position, and extending his hands to help Belle up.
"And before Zoso?"
Rumplestiltskin shrugged. "That's a matter for archaeologists - and the historians of the elder nations. You could ask them." Escorting her to the table, he sat down on the bench, and gestured for her to sit at the head of the table.
"But that's your chair," Belle said.
"On the contrary - the chair only permits the Dark One to sit upon it."
Belle hesitated more than once as she made her way to the chair.
Once Belle was seated, "To understand what I've done, the entirety and enormity of it, I need to tell you a story," Rumplestiltskin said. "You won't like it, I fear, Belle."
"Why wouldn't I like it?" she asked.
"There's no bravery. In fact, you could say it all started when I was hobbling my way back to my village. I had fled the Ogre War - not the one fought in your grandfather's time, but much much earlier - because I had become the only surviving member of my regiment. So I ran...as well as anyone could run with an apt descriptive nickname such as Hobblefoot. I went home to my wife and son - Milah and Bae......"