Title: Not Unhappy
Word Count: 813
Summary: Written for the prompt: Happiness. Rumpelstiltskin wasn’t looking for love, but sometimes emotions have a way of sneaking up on us.
When Rumpelstiltskin had informed Maurice he was not looking for love, he’d spoken the absolutely truth. He had much more important things to think about – like finding his son – and love would be nothing but a distraction. Neither, however, was he precisely in need of a caretaker. His estate might be “rather large” indeed, but magic was the only servant he truly required. No, he selected Maurice’s daughter as his price for the simple reason that she was clearly the most precious thing in his life, and he always went after what would hurt the most.
He expected to be refused at first, though he was a trifle surprised at the lord’s vehemence. After all, no matter how important his daughter was, she was only one, and he ruled over thousands. Leaders made hard decisions every day for the sake of their people, and Maurice could be no different in the end.
And besides, Maurice had clearly been more than willing to pawn her off to the foppish little knigtling with the toothpick he called a sword in exchange for an army. Was this truly all that different? At least she would be buying the lives of per people with the sweat of her brow, not by spreading her legs.
When Maurice ordered him out of the castle, Rumpelstiltskin snickered inwardly as he obediently turned to leave. Now would come the begging, most likely from the other council members present. They’d remind their lord that his daughter, though of course irreplaceable and beautiful and blah blah blah, was a small price to pay if it meant the salvation of their entire kingdom (not to mention their own daughters). The clerics would pray for her soul, the town would weep for her loss, but how could he sleep at night knowing he was selfish enough to place his own family above those he ruled?
Instead, the girl shocked everyone by offering to go herself. He masked his surprise well, of course, but it was there nonetheless. He smelled her fear as clearly as the scent of her rose perfume, but she stood her ground in spite of it. A true princess indeed, he had to admit.
Perhaps, just perhaps, he’d be getting even more out of this deal than he’d first imagined.
Belle continued to surprise him during her time as his caretaker, a feat practically unheard of for a being who’d lived nearly three centuries. Even after tossing her in the dungeon for her first night, after scaring her with threats of child mutilation and ordering her to perform tasks no doubt demeaning for a noble lady, she still rose every morning with a smile on her face and the offer of warm, sweet tea.
At first, the smile was determined. She took her duties very seriously, no doubt believing that if she failed to please him, he might void their deal and leave her people at the mercy of the ogres. His basket of straw was always filled to the brim, his tea was served punctually every afternoon, and his castle practically sparkled from her cleaning efforts. Never let it be said that Belle did not uphold her end of the bargain!
But soon, her smile became more relaxed. She began hopping up on his table while he drank his tea from her chipped cup. She asked him to tell her of his deals while he ate supper. And she occasionally joined him in the Great Hall in the evening, reading by a roaring fire while he spun.
She actually seemed…content. He had not expected that. Not in the slightest.
But what he expected even less was the softening of his own feelings.
While at first he simply filed her presence away as a necessity, he soon began to notice how little he minded having her around. She was unobtrusive, she was dedicated in her work, and she brought him more benefit than harm. Before he knew it, “not minding her” had somehow moved its way into a sort of contentment. He refused to admit that he looked forward to seeing her, but if she became engrossed in her tasks (or his library) and failed to appear at her normal time, he grew restless. If he was out of the castle for more than an afternoon, he found his mind wandering toward her, judging where she was and what she was doing by the time of day.
Rumpelstiltskin was not looking for love when he took Belle into his service, and love was still a long way off, no matter how brightly her light shone in his Dark Castle. But she was part of his life now, and no matter how loud the Dark One howled in his mind, he could not bring himself to shatter the small measure of pleasure he took from her presence.
She made him…not unhappy.