“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” - Kurt Vonnegut
Wow, this is Belle to a T!
“So if I cross this line…”
“You’ll be safe.” He stepped back and watched her hop across the line, as if she expected some strange magic to happen. Nothing did. Not anymore. The line had already done its worst to her. He breathed out unsteadily. “I know you don’t remember, but I made you a promise once, sweetheart. I promised I would protect you. And I mean that.”
She came back to the line, her toes on the very edge of it. “You could come with me.”
“No. No, my place is here. I’ve ruined enough lives. I brought this magic, this curse. It’s only right that I’m there when it ends.”
Her blue eyes searched his face. “You want me to go?”
“I…” The lie nearly choked him. He would never want her to go, not really, but she had to. “I want you to live. I want you to see the world. Have all the adventures that you never got to have because of… well, all of this. I want you to be happy. Take the car. Drive as fast and as far as you can. There’s money enough for you to live well. Can you do that? For both of us?”
Lacey shook her head. “Why are you doing this for me?”
Rumpelstiltskin looked at the woman who wore Belle’s face. “Because once,” he murmured, “a wise young woman told me there was still good in me. I won’t let you die, just because I don’t want to be alone.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to, love.” He held out the keys. “Here. Go. Live.” He smiled briefly. “Be happy.”
Her hand closed around his and the keys, her fingers so warm and soft. “Thank you,” she whispered, “Rumpel.”
Rumpelstiltskin looked up, and Lacey wasn’t the one looking back at him. “B-Belle?”
She didn’t say anything. She just stepped back across the line and into his arms and kissed him as if the world was ending.
And there is the reason Belle is now in charge: she has sat on a war council and I have no doubt she made it all of her business to take in everything about how a siege was carried out. She knows how to defend against outside incursion. Back up by a dwarf and ex-werewolf with sharp implements.