Title: A route to childhaving.
written for the Rumpel_Belle exchange, for Mirime_vy.
Chapter One: The road less taken in a woods.
Summary: Belle and Ruby meet - but then the angry villagers catch up to them.
Chapter Two: In the Dungeon.
Summary: Belle and Ruby explore the dungeon of Dark Ones' collections. And Rumplestiltskin has company over, to discuss an upcoming war.
Chapter Three: Split.
Summary: Red makes her deal. And, in what I think is the end, we meet Ruby.
Author’s Note: For the most part, I’ve tended to assume (as backstory) that the baby-deal with Ella was made so Belle wouldn’t be alone…but then I read a different fable with Rumplestiltskin, which sparked this. (and so did my thought of "Belle and Ruby are friends now - could they have become friends sooner, had things gone differently?")
Granny had told her to run, and Red had done exactly that, leaving Granny to handle the approaching villagers however she saw fit. But there is never a single path to follow in any woodland, and Red would not always take the same path.
When she felt it was safe to do so, Snow parted company with Red, saying there was a lot left to do in terms of fighting the Evil Queen her Stepmother. Red nodded and kept moving, always keeping one ear perked and listening to what anyone else would call background noise – what Red quipped was “where angry mobs are noticed first.”
A day and a half later, Red caught herself in time to avoid falling down a hill with the loose stones she had stepped on – but too late to stop that handful of rocks from tumbling down to the road which cut through this part of the forest.
‘I tell you what. I’ll make you a deal,’ Rumplestiltskin had said to her. Belle mused that, But he never said what he wanted in return. Can he do that – refuse to give a price or an exchange? The question worried Belle more than Rumplestiltskin himself had, which got Belle smiling, at the idea that, for all his shouts and possessions and dungeon basements, Rumplestiltskin had been out-scaried by an offhand question.
A clattering of rocks caught Belle’s attention, and her blood ran cold for a moment, thinking Rumplestiltskin knew, somehow, of what had caused such amusement in her thoughts. Belle dismissed that as ridiculous, then walked across the width of the road in the hopes of seeing who or what had sent the stones down. “Hello?” Belle called.
No response. “Hello?” Belle repeated. “Its okay.”
After a minute, a girl of about her own age emerged from the woods, wearing a cloak so vividly red that Belle first thought she had ties to nobility. “Hi,” she said to Belle.
“Its nice to meet you,” Belle said.
“Thanks. Same to you,” Red said.
“The road’s safe,” Belle said. I’m using it, and I’m…I’m not entirely sure what I am at the moment.
Ruby made a noncommittal sound.
“Are you okay?” she asked Red. “Do you need help? Shelter?”
‘I’m fine’ had been on the tip of Red’s tongue til those last words. “I don’t want to impose,” Red said.
“It’s not a problem,” Belle assured her. “I’d love to have you over.”
“Where do you live?”
“Top of the hill.”
Ruby looked uphill, though the trees obscured all but the tips of the castle. She was sure she knew what direction she had gone in, but she also knew she rarely looked at this corner of Granny’s maps. “Your castle?”
“Not exactly.” Back home, we let our maids and butlers use the possessive when they talked about the ducal residence…but I doubt everyone is that tolerant.
“Ah. Your husband’s.”
“Wife’s?” Ruby asked.
I should explain, Belle knew. “You should know I’m –“ but was interrupted by the shouts of an approaching mob.
Baying and howling dogs answered Red’s question of how they’d found her again. She looked at Belle and said, “I’ll understand if the offer’s gone now.”
“Nonsense,” Belle said, and said something which has echoed down the halls of time and space: “Let’s run!” And run they did, all the way to the bridge, when an arrow struck the ground next to them. They froze.
“Hand over the monster, Miss,” one of the mobmen said.
Belle very nearly laughed at that. “That’s what you want?” Belle asked.
“Okay,” Belle said; and while Red was looking at her, Belle thought, I don’t expect I’ll hear the end of this, but… “Rumplestiltskin!” Please.
“You rang?” Rumplestiltskin asked, appearing to the side of the mob. To the mob, he said, “You are trespassing.”
“Lord Rumplestiltskin, this need not concern you. We’re just here for the monster –“
Rumplestiltskin looked at Belle. “And what makes you so sure I’m not the monster you should be concerned about?”
“Everyone knows you do nothing without a deal,” another in the crowd said.
“Careful with that hearsay, dearie, you’ll put an eye out. And I accept.”
“You asked for a deal.” And with one of his trademark grins, “Now, what would you like?”
Belle blinked. Rumplestiltskin’s face gave nothing away.
But the Dark One said, “In exchange for – ooh, I know – all of you become deer. Mind you, this time of year, you wouldn’t have antlers.”
“Rumplestiltskin,” Belle said, trying to get his attention.
“Busy now,” he replied. To the mob, “Well? Or perhaps the power of Midas is more your speed. What say you?”
“Deal,” the leader of the mob said, stunned at the good fortune: a monster to slay, and so much gold!
Rumplestiltskin giggled. “I’m glad,” and snapped his fingers.
The mob turned to gold. No-one in the group was left breathing.
They were all close together.
“Now,” Rumplestiltskin asked, turning to face Belle, “What did you want to tell me ?”
After you got rid of the problem? “Nothing,” Belle said.
“A shame. So, who’s your friend?”
“This is Red. She needs a place to stay – overnight, and I said she could stay with me. You… don’t mind, do you?”
“Don’t mind at all. No, no, any guest of Belle’s,” and smiled. Perhaps I don’t have to pay Ella that ballroom visit after all.
“Thank you,” Red said.
As the girls went inside, Rumplestiltskin asked, “Will you be sharing your room?”
“That’s fine,” Red said.
“My room,” Belle said to her, sheepishly, “is a jail cell in the dungeon.”
“In a castle this size?”
“That’s what I meant to tell you – I’m the help.”
“So was I all my life,” Red commiserated. “Me for my granny, you for him.” Whopping big brush strokes there, but still. After what she did for me, it’s the least I can do – she could’ve handed me over to that bunch at any point.
“I’ll try to get you better accommodations,” Belle offered. “The cells are rather small.” You’re very calm. How could anyone think you a monster?
“No rush. I’ve been on my feet for at least a week now – I need to keep busy.” ’Cause if I close my eyes, I see what I did to Peter, and what I might’ve – could’ve – done to Snow and Granny. “Got any chores you’d rather not do?”
“Can you cook?” Belle asked. Faced with Red’s look of astonishment and ‘wait, didn’t you just say you are the maid?’ Belle said, “Before I came here, I was a dukesdottir. Never allowed to cook anything.”
Oh, and wondered how a noblewoman had ended up here, as a servant. Like me, seeing sanctuary? Or… “Is Rumplestiltskin your –“
“No,” Belle answered swiftly. “I made a deal to protect my lands from the encroaching ogres, and the price was to be a custodian on Rumplestiltskin’s estates,” and remembered once again his ‘it’s forever, dearie.’
“Estates, plural?” Red asked.
“I suppose so. I’ve only seen the one, though.”
to be continued.
in Part Two: the dungeons of the Dark Ones