Belle has been changing. After an outburst at Granny's, Rumpelstiltskin, her devoted husband, decides to investigate. What he discovers will change his life forever. Read on!
Dynamite and Gasoline
After she got a handle on her shock, she approached the bar, the look on her face one of irritated disbelief. “Dark One. What brings you here?”
She was an attractive woman, probably Belle’s age or close to it, with dark hair and eyes and a take-no-shit attitude. She had been cruelly cursed by the Charmings in their effort to keep evil away from their baby daughter, an act of evil itself that rivaled the worst he had ever done to anyone.
He had had only the occasional run-in with her. The few that required they speak to each other, she was deferential and courteous, if very circumspect of his person—something he was quite used to from just about everybody, and so found unremarkable.
As the music loudly thumped, he smiled wistfully. “Honestly, I have no idea. Trying new things, getting out a little. That sort of thing.”
She didn’t hesitate. “I heard about Belle.” Before he could respond, she shrugged. “Sorry. Everyone in this fucking town knows. Just wanted to get it out of the way so that you wouldn’t wonder. What’ll ya have?”
“Guinness. On tap if you’ve got it.”
“We do,” she said, and went to fetch his drink. A few moments later she returned with a tall glass full of the dark liquid, a nice foam head on top. He took it with a nod of thanks and took a sip and put the glass down.
“I’d’a figured you a Scotch man,” she remarked after refreshing a few nearby customers and taking the fifty he’d laid on the bar.
He didn’t respond, but took another sip. The beer was excellent and smooth and quenched not only his thirst but put a cool damper on his rage-spiced melancholy as well.
“I’ve never seen her here, in case that’s the reason,” she said as she dried shot glasses.
“It isn’t,” he replied.
She threw him a glance that told him she didn’t believe him, but one that changed when she let herself study his expression for a moment longer.
“How’s your mother?” he asked, setting down his glass.
“I don’t see her all that often.”
“She’s a very private person. She’s not fond of people.”
“I understand she bought the estate just down the road from me.”
“She like it?”
“Very much. It’s beautiful. I moved in with her.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“She and I have so much catching up to do, and I just didn’t feel it was right to let anymore time go by.”
“Please tell her hello for me,” he offered politely.
“Tell her yourself. She should be here anytime.”
“Does she come to see you, or to go dancing?”
“Mostly to see me. But she likes the atmosphere, and she’ll sit and have a few drinks, usually by herself, and the occasional dance when the mood strikes and the person asking has ginned up enough courage—or stupidity.” She chuckled. “Whatever works, I suppose. I’m sure she’ll be surprised to see you.”
Rumpel took another sip, and that’s when he caught the slightly darker motion out the corner of his eye. Maleficent was walking directly towards him, but still hadn’t seen him.
She looked great. Like him, she usually liked to wear darker outfits. This one—a black leather skirt and silvery blouse (he couldn’t tell in the ever-shifting light of the bar), seemed to pull light to itself, but not to reflect it back out, but to gather it completely in, where she could claim it.
Ten feet away and pushing through the crowd, her gaze settled on him. An eyebrow lifted at the same time and rate as her smile, which was cautious and sideways.
The music settled from a fast, deep thump to a much slower, quieter one. The couples came together, silhouettes in a dream.
Within talking distance, her smile blossomed into a full, close-lipped one, her eyes narrowing, telling him that she didn’t trust his motives for being there.
She glanced over his shoulder. “Are you okay, Lily?”
Lily’s face had filled with dread. “He ... he made me sell my soul to him, Mom!”
Rumpel jerked his head around in time to see a big grin crack her face. “I’m fine. The Dark One and I have been catching up.”
The look of outrage that descended over Maleficent’s countenance dissolved, though its darkness didn’t go completely away. She gazed into his eyes. Before she could say, “Fancy seeing you here,” or some socially acceptable variant which he was very tired of hearing, he offered, “Old dogs, new tricks.”
She nodded approvingly, approaching and reaching out to caress his lapel. “So dapper, Dark One. You are far too old to look so good in a young person’s place like this.”
Her blonde hair caught the dance floor’s rotating lights and framed her high cheeks very nicely.
“Most everyone here is at least a century old.”
“Quite true,” she replied with a short laugh. “Quite true.”
He held out his hand. “Care to dance while the music is a little less, shall we say, tribal?”
She appeared surprised. “I would love to.” She gazed over his shoulder at Lily, who was blinking with shock, presumably at both of them. “Whatever he’s drinking, my sweet child. We’ll be back in a bit.”
She took his hand as he led her out to the dance floor, where they came together. Her perfume was subtle and spicy, a perfect fit. Her form too, more slender than Belle’s, felt good beneath the palm of his hand against her lower back.
The crowd, staring rudely, noticed who was dancing next to them, and quickly gave them extra room. Rumpel heard “Whoa!” and “Look at that!” and even “That’s like mixing dynamite and gasoline!” to which Maleficent laughed and snapped her fingers, creating a momentary blue flame over her and Rumpel’s head. The crowd gasped and gave them even more room.
She turned her attention back to him, her face drawing close to his. “She was never your type,” she whispered in his ear. She pulled back and gazed into his eyes. “All the same, I can see how hurt you are.”
“There was a time when you’d celebrate me being hurt,” he replied, plumbing the depths in her blue-gray eyes.
“There was a time when hurting you was the right thing to do,” she retorted sweetly.
He chuckled silently. “Granted. And you?”
She smiled sadly. “Oh, I’ve earned more than my share of comeuppances.”
“That wasn’t what I was asking.”
She studied him for a long time. The song ended, and another slow one began in its place. They hadn’t released each other.
“I’ve heard you’ve changed. Mellowed. Closed your shop. I have no interest in hurting you, Dark One.”
She leaned into him, her cheek once again against his. The music went on, and they danced.
They hadn’t noticed that the entire dance floor had cleared except for them.
They drank and danced well into the night (the crowd having since decided that neither would harm them, and so crowded cautiously around them again); and when it came time to go, he offered to drive her home after Lily leaned over the bar and kissed her cheek. The bar was closing in half an hour, but was still quite full.
The attendant appeared at the front door just as they got there. “She’s all ready to go, Mister ... uh ...”
“No scratches?” he demanded.
The attendant’s eyes, unable to hide his fear, told Rumpel the truth. “Excellent,” he said, and tipped the kid a twenty.
The attendant, gawking at the small bounty, quickly pocketed it and got out of his and Maleficent’s way. Another attendant opened the car door for her as the owner, Morgan Adams, came out.
“This was a real treat!” she said as Maleficent got in. “Please do come back!”
Rumpel turned to face her. “Call me if another of those petitions begins circulating. I would like to be of help.”
“Most kind, Dark One. You have a good night, now.”
She held out her hand, and Rumpel shook it.
He walked Maleficent up the stairs of her palatial home to the covered porch. A light rain had begun falling. He took her hand and brought it to his lips.
“This has been a surprising evening,” he said, lowering it.
“Most,” she said with a perplexed smile whose suspicious edge had blunted considerably through the night. Her light and playful mood had gone.
She took a step forward and kissed his cheek. Withdrawing slightly, she gazed into his eyes. “You most definitely have changed.”
He thought of the curse, and how he could still be under its influence, as could she, as could everyone in this town, including his wayward wife. But it didn’t really matter right now. He liked how he felt standing there, and how Maleficent was looking at him. If this was part of the curse, he didn’t want it to be eradicated once he located its authors and eradicated them.
“I’m glad you approve.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” she offered, “but ... can we do this again sometime soon?”
He smiled, and thought of kissing her lips, but held himself off. “I would like that.”
He released her hand, and watched as she opened the door and went inside. She gave him a last smile and closed it.