Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Once Upon A Time
Character/Pairing: RumBelle (Rumplestiltskin/Belle)
Challenge/Prompt: abc_onceupon: Do Over and 1_million_words A to Z: N
Warning(s): SPOILERS for Season 4
Word Count: 1,276
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
There are a million things he would do differently if only he could, and he dreams of them all as he lays unconscious after his dark power leaves him. He would have been the father Baelfire deserved and the dashing, heroic husband Milah didn't want to leave. He would have been the hero rather than villain, saving lives instead of condemning every one's happiness, including his own and his precious Belle's. He would have been the leader who united worlds instead of separating them.
He never would have started the curse. Regina may have cast the actual curse, but if he had not manipulated her, if he had not trained in the dark arts, she never would have cast them all into a different world wherein eventually his Belle cast him away from her like the garbage he sometimes thinks he is. He would have been different. He would have not been garbage. He would have been a better man. He would have deserved her love.
Of all the things he would have done differently, never, ever would he have chosen not to have Belle in his life. Even if he had been the father Bae deserved and had never lost his child, he would have gladly lost his mother regardless so that his heart would be free to find true love. True love would have been his in any world in which things worked the way he wanted, and he would not have cast away. He would never have cast Belle away, never would have doubted her, never would have hurt her.
He would have been the man she deserved, the husband who loved her too dearly, tenderly, and greatly for her to ever send him away. He would never hurt her, never lied to her, never deceived her. He would have never made her cry or fear him or hate him. Most of all, he would have never made her want to stop loving him.
He dreams of a thousand different worlds, each started with one choice made differently, but in each dream, she is there. She is there holding his hand, dancing in his arms, kissing his lips. She is there loving him truly and being proud to be his wife. She is there, sharing in his worlds and basking in the love they share. She is there beside him, with him, where she belongs.
But as consciousness sets in and Rumple remembers, he realizes again that none of these things he has dreamed have come to pass. He is not brave. Beneath all his layers of magic and bravado, he is still a coward, and it is his cowardice which has cost him the most important thing to him in all the realms. He is not a man of strength and power. His so-called strength has left him, abandoning him, almost killing him, and leaving him bereft of having anything in his life.
But he was already bereft. He was already lost. He was already weak. He was already a fool, because he'd been too stupid to believe that such a wonderful lady as Belle could truly love him. She had loved him, but he had killed that love. He had destroyed that which he cherished the most, and the one person whose love, trust, and respect mattered most of all had sent him away from her into a world without magic, a world where, with all reason, he should have died.
He shouldn't have been able to crawl away. He shouldn't have been able to rebuild his life, but he had. He had done it all with one purpose in mind. He had claimed that purpose was revenge, but that had never been true. It had been just another lie he had told, another facade he had lived as much to convince those around him whose aid he needed as it was to persuade himself into believing the falsehoods. The entire time he'd been building his plan, the entire time he'd been clinging to his idea of returning to Storybrooke, it had never been for revenge.
Revenge no longer mattered. Living didn't really. There was only one thing that still mattered to Rumplestiltskin, and it was the one thing that should have mattered all along. He only wanted to get his beloved Belle back. He yearned for her to smile kindly upon him just once more. He would spend the rest of his life begging if he thought it might somehow earn him her love again. He would do anything to have her love once more, and he would change anything about his life, about himself, about this or any other world to have her back in his arms again.
He would gladly change anything except to never have her in his life again. She was always the light in his darkness, and he needs that light now more than ever. He aches for her to touch him with gentility once more. He yearns for her smile, for her laugh. He would die for her love, just as he always should have before.
But as Rumplestiltskin's mind returns slowly to the world around him, he feels a presence behind him that has been missing from his life for far too long. He feels the tiny pressure of a small and delicate hand within his. He's scared to open his eyes, but he knows his cowardice is part of what cost him his treasured love in the first place. So he dares to open his eyes.
He dares to look first at the hand in his and then, with his heart tightening in his throat, up at the face of the woman to whom that tender belongs. There are stains on her beautiful face from all the tears she has cried and dark bags underneath her eyes from days and nights spent without sleep. Her hair is a mess, and she's lost weight. His heart aches to know that he has brought these changes in her, but at the same time, its beat quickens with hope for it is to him, to his hand to which she has chosen to cling.
"B-Belle?" He breathes her name on shaking lips.
Her blue eyes flash open, and fresh tears spring into them. "Rumple, you're awake!"
"I am." And then she's in his arms and her lips are on his. Her tears are falling onto him. He knows this is no dream even though, in the end, it's all he's been dreaming of for so long now. His beloved wife is crying in his arms, and it's crystal clear despite everything he's done, she still loves him. She's pleading now for his forgiveness, babbling on about how she never should have cast him away.
He strokes her long hair and makes shushing noises, and finally he makes his own apologizes. "Hush, my love. It is not you but I who was at fault." Never has there been harder words to say, but he knows they are truth. "Can you forgive me, Belle?"
"Oh, Rumple, of course I forgive you!" She sobs and kisses him again. "I love you!"
Still stroking her hair with the gentleness he should always have shown her, he breathes into her ear, "I love you too, my dearest," and silently promises them both that from this moment on for the rest of this life whose continuance he has been granted, he'll always show her. He'll always live up to those words. In this realm and any other, in whatever time they have left, he'll always love her, and he'll never stop showing her that their love means the most to him forever.