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All Through the Night

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 “I don’t mind if we sleep in the same bed tonight,” Baeley asserted, holding up a corner of his quilt to welcome her under it.  

Belle bit back a smile at his earnest little face, completely unaware of dimensions and how she’d never possibly fit in the nook he occupied. A growing boy of six and a half, he’d be too small, himself, in a year or so.

“Well that’s very sweet of you but I’ll be just fine on the couch.” She smoothed the blanket up under his chin.

“Oh. Are you sure? It’s kinda lumpy.” The boy’s expression twisted with distaste.

Belle cocked her head to one side, “Are you worried about my comfort or does someone not want to sleep alone like a big boy? Is it because of the storm?”

Bae’s lips pursed. “Nuh-uhh. I am a big boy! I’m just being nice. You can sleep wherever you want.” he grumped, sounding oddly like his father in his rush of obstinate defensiveness.

Accustomed to her young charge growing more mercurial at bedtime, Belle gentled her tone. “I know you are, Bae. You’re growing up so fast! But even big boys can dislike big scary sounds like thunder. Even I get scared of it sometimes, you know.”

He wrinkled his nose at her. “You don’t get scared of nothing.”

“Anything,” she corrected automatically.

“Anything,” Bae echoed dutifully. “Right?”

“It’s alright to be afraid, sometimes,” she assured him, rather than face more questions. If only he knew…

Sure, she was lying about the thunder. That hadn’t frightened her since she was younger than Bae. But Belle definitely lived with a large and overarching fear. One that consumed her thoughts and left her more than her share of sleepless nights. It was as adult a fear as she had ever felt: the fear of revealing her most secret heart to one who would surely reject it. Belle lived in the shadow of an undeniable and overwhelming attachment to the most unsuitable and indifferent man she knew  - her employer and Bae’s father, Mr. Gold.

Loving Bae was easy. Most days, when he wasn’t cranky from staying up too late, he was an absolute delight; sweet, intelligent, and highly inquisitive. He kept her on her toes and she treasured the way his eyes lit up whenever she helped him to discover new facts about salamanders or satellites or whatever new subject had caught his fancy that week. They went to the library every weekend so he could stock up on books for them to read together. Now that he was on chapter books, he would even insist on reading to her, at times. Bae was her little darling and she loved him unequivocally.

His enigmatic father, on the other hand, was another story. He should have been nothing more to her than the father of her charge, the man who signed her checks. He should have been a glorified roommate, since she’d finally agreed to move into their guest room after that messy break-up with Garrett left her homeless. He should have been a friend, co-parent, or mentor. He should have been anything but the object of her increasingly embarrassing fantasies, the one person in town whose very silhouette could make her heart jump into her throat, the man she couldn’t stop picturing as the quintessential part of her someday Happy Ever After.  

Belle had been raised on fairy tales. Or rather she raised herself once her mother passed away and her negligent father stopped even trying to be a parent. Belle had wanted that knight on a white horse so badly as a girl, as a teen, even into early adulthood. Unfortunately, in Storybrooke, there had only been Garrett and his gas guzzling car, and his possessive grasp, and his wandering eye.

Mr. Edmund Gold was certainly no Prince Charming but he had rescued her anyway, in her time of need. And his brusque manners weren’t so off-putting once she’d gotten to know him. He could be surprisingly funny, even charismatic when his guard was down. And the way he was with Bae these days was so alien from the way she’d first seen him (the way the whole rest of town still saw him), all warm affection and playful teasing. Belle liked to think she’d been an influence for the better in that regard.

It was just about three weeks ago, while Gold and Bae were playing, that Belle had first realized she was falling in love. In a moment of weakness, she’d let herself imagine what it would be like to have Mr. Gold look at her with the kind of affection he only ever bestowed on his son.

“Bae?”

The velvety voice of the man himself, broke Belle’s reverie. He stood in the doorway of the tiny room dressed in flannel pajama bottoms and a shaggy robe, his long hair still damp at the very ends. He had a battery powered lantern slung around his wrist on a cord, the blueish light throwing his already striking features into a deep, shadowy bas relief.  

They’d been just coming back from the lake, the sun sinking fast toward the horizon, when they got caught in a sudden downpour. A streak of lightning lit the sky, followed in seconds by a roll of thunder. The raindrops felt sharp as needles against Belle’s skin, blown hard by the rising wind. Returning to town on foot, as had been the original plan, would be impossible. They made a snap decision to head to Gold’s cabin, instead. All three were soaked and shivering by the time they arrived. For a day that had dawned quite warm and sunny for fall, it had come to a rather miserable end.

Belle had ushered Bae into a hot shower to warm his numbed fingers and toes while Gold attempted to build a fire. Unfortunately, the wood was all damp and refused to catch. There was a single electric space heater that helped a little, but was useless once the electricity went out. Bae’s room wasn’t too chilly, small as it was, and the boy was packed in with as many blankets as he could tolerate.

“Papa!” Bae threw back the quilts and blankets to extend his arms toward his father.

Gold looked askance at Belle. “He’s still up?”

Belle blushed and rose from the edge of the bed where she’d been sitting. “We were… just talking about the storm.”

“Is that so, son?” Gold perched on Belle’s abandoned seat, bracing one side with his cane as he hugged Bae back thoroughly with his free arm. “I hope it’s not too loud out there for you to get some sleep.”

Bae shook his head, his eyes already drooping with exhaustion. “Belle is scared of the thunder so I said she could sleep here with me. Is that okay?”

Gold chuckled and ran his fingers over a cowlick in Bae’s dark curls. “Well, I don’t quite think there’s room for her here, but I’ll make sure she stays safe and dry, alright?”

“Okay. So she can sleep with you, tonight?” Bae asked, settling drowsily back against his pillow.

Gold made an indecipherable sound at the back of his throat before turning his head to cough politely into his forearm. Belle’s cheeks burned, the air suddenly thick in her throat. There was a moment of stark hesitation before Gold leaned in to kiss Bae’s forehead.

“I know you’ll sleep like the dead once you settle down. Just all this excitement keeping you up. Close your eyes,” Gold ordered softly.

Bae obeyed.

Belle could tell him something a thousand times, cajoling and convincing, occasionally even bribing him to do it. His father need say it only once. Such was the kind of quiet power Mr. Gold could exude.

Belle would never admit it aloud but she’d had more than one little fantasy feature Gold giving her orders of an entirely different nature. She closed her eyes and rubbed the spot just between them, above her nose. It was an entirely inappropriate thought to be having at this time. Gold was probably a little peeved at her for not getting Bae properly settled. This was the third time father and son were saying good night, Bae having bounced up and out of bed twice to ask Belle for another story.

They hadn’t brought his reading material for a day by the lake and the only book Belle had on her was definitely not child friendly. Instead, she’d told him variations on fairy tales that her mother used to tell her, personalizing lead characters with traits Bae would recognize as his own.

Two such stories in, Belle had felt herself being watched. She’d looked up to find Mr. Gold’s eyes fixed on her, his expression intense and unreadable. Bae had also noticed his father and gotten so excited to share Belle’s stories that he leapt out of his blanket nest and it took several minutes to ease him back into it.

Third time, it seemed, was indeed the charm. Bae’s face had gone slack, his breathing even, as his father rose slowly from the bedside. 

Gold inclined his head back toward the living room and the two of them adjourned, shutting the door to Bae’s room to just a sliver. He hated when his door was fully latched.

Belle shivered in the main room of the cabin, the higher ceiling and poorly insulated windows making it much draftier than either bedroom. She didn’t have a change of clothes, but luckily Gold had found a spare pair of fleece pajama pants and a sweater. The clothes smelled musty and were comically long in both arms and legs, but she was grateful enough to be dry that she didn’t complain. Gold was similarly outfitted in his spare pajama pants and a T-shirt with that ugly, tattered bathrobe thrown atop it for warmth.

Belle turned to face Mr. Gold, hoping he wouldn’t be too upset at having to put his son to bed a third time that night. She had no real defense for not putting her foot down. The truth was, she spoiled little Bae like he was her own. She’d never really been a nanny before this, and now she was starting to understand that perhaps she ought to have stayed a babysitter and part time librarian instead. It was easier when there were dozens of children to mind. With just one to focus on - and one she already adored - her judgement could get a little clouded. Then again, Belle could see such a world of difference from the unhappy child Bae had been a year ago. It was little wonder that she couldn’t help but indulge him.

Mr. Gold had been rather stiff with his son when she first met them both, as though he feared the child would break if he handled him too often. Mrs. Gold had only recently left and it was clearly a sore spot for both father and son. Bae was pale and entirely too serious for a five year old child. Gold was distant and uncertain in his attempts at showing affection. He’d apparently only hired a nanny to provide supervision and enforce the house rules, seeming genuinely confused the first time he came home to find the two of them crawling around on all fours, pretending to be dinosaurs.

Early on, he had even reprimanded Belle for letting Bae “take advantage” of her “tender nature.” She’d have taken the latter part as a compliment if it weren’t for the way he frowned when he said the word “tender,” almost like it was a dirty word. It was one of the few times Gold had really gotten her goat. Children needed tenderness, she told him, emphatically, to be reassured that even when they were naughty, they were loved. She’d let everything she’d been holding back up until that point pour out of her: how lonely Bae was, how he longed to spend time with his father, how difficult it was to be a child expected to behave like a small adult. Gold had listened to every word she’d said with a grave expression. Belle feared for her job by the time she was through, but she could not have stayed mum if her life depended on it. She should have known even then that she was already too far gone. Gold had been silent a long time before simply nodding and dismissing her from the room.

She’d spent a week on tenterhooks, flinching every time he addressed her. Yet he never reproached her for her tirade, or even mentioned how inappropriate she had been to lecture him in his own home. That weekend, however, was the very first time Gold stayed home from work and went with them to the park on Sunday. Bae had been overjoyed for the chance to play with his father and it quickly became a new part of their routine. Gold could still be prickly at times and Belle had learned to read when he was getting overwhelmed so she could step in and distract Bae with another activity. Overall though, the relationship between Bae and his father had grown in leaps and bounds - much like the youngster himself, who seemed to shoot up like a weed in the sunshine.

After that, Belle had also been a lot less afraid to speak her mind, when it counted.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Gold,” Belle began, noting how heavily Gold leaned on his cane, his shoulders slumped with weariness after such a long day.

He waved his free hand. “It’s no matter. He’s had a lot of excitement today, it’s only natural he’d have trouble settling down.” He limped to the couch and lowered himself gingerly. “I, on the other hand, may need to sleep through the next century just to recover,” he smiled thinly.

Belle returned the smile with a tired one of her own. “Well, Rip Van Winkle, I have a feeling a certain human alarm clock won’t let that happen any time soon.”

He gave a short huff of amusement. “Just as well, not really sure I’d like having a long, white beard just yet.” Gold ran a hand down his very clean shaven face.

“It was good enough for Gandalf,” she shrugged, wrapping her arms around herself and rubbing her forearms for warmth.

“Ah, now there’s a fashion icon worth emulating,” he replied dryly. His brow creased. “You must be freezing. My apologies. Let’s get you to bed.”

Belle blushed again at his words but he didn’t seem to notice as he was focused on standing up. He inhaled sharply, swearing under his breath as he heaved himself to his feet. Belle flew to his side, attempting to help support his bad side but he waved her away.

“I’m not an invalid,” he snapped, wincing again as he tried to take a step forward.

Belle frowned. “I know… but, it’s been a long day and I thought…”

“I don’t need a nurse, Miss French.”

Belle sighed. She was exhausted too but it wasn’t in her nature to stand by and let someone suffer. Even if they were being a pratt about it. “Well that’s good because you’d be a terrible patient. Now, do you want a hand or would you rather be stubborn and suffer?”

His lips thinned as he gave her a hard look. When she returned it, flatly, the corner of his mouth quirked upward for just a moment before he looked away. He cleared his throat. “There’s, ah, there are some extra blankets in the chest at the foot of the bed. I was… going to fetch them.”

“Okay then. I’ll be right back.” Using her phone’s torch function, she went to the aforementioned chest and threw it open. Inside was a mess of fabric, tarnished silver, and and what she really, really hoped was not a giant spider web. She tried not to think about that last part as she reached in and fished around for something that felt blanket-y. She pulled out two swaths of scratchy wool, grimacing at the way they felt in her hand. After a few more minutes, she determined they were the only passably blanket-like things in the pile and closed the trunk.

She returned to the living room to find Gold on the sofa, bent double to massage his calf. She held up the hunks of tartan patterned wool. “Did you mean these?”

He looked up, quickly pulling his hands from his leg, fingers flexing in the open air before settling in his lap. “Yes. Those would be the ones.

Belle bit back a face of disgust. She didn’t fancy sleeping under these harsh, dusty things but beggars couldn’t be choosers and at least she was dry. She set one down to shake out the first.

“Ahhh, Mr. Gold?”

“Hm?”

She held up the blanket - what was left of it. “I think you might have a moth problem.” There was a gaping hole in one side and several smaller ones dotting the rest like Swiss cheese.

Gold’s face fell. “How about the other? Let me see…” He started to stand and reach for it, grunting and swearing again, then muttering an apology for swearing as he regained his seat. Belle handed him the first blanket and picked up the second. Unfurled, the second was almost worse than the first; nearly as much hole as blanket.

Gold’s jaw went still and tight as he stared at the woolly remains, nostrils flaring.

“Mr. Gold?” Belle eased onto the seat beside him.

He swallowed audibly and spoke without turning to look at her. “Mothballs. They told me I’d need mothballs. When I put the blankets in the trunk, I forgot.” He ran his hand over the tattered cloth in his lap. He looked at at her, almost unseeing. “They’d be very disappointed.”

“Who?” she asked, softly.

Gold’s mouth fashioned the tremulous ghost of a smile. “My aunts.”

He looked smaller than usual and rather lost in the thin, pale light of the lantern. Belle was overwhelmed with the urge to pull him to her, to rest his head against her breast and stroke his hair. Instead she gripped his upper arm, very lightly, just a little touch to know she was there, that she cared. Gold looked at her hand on his arm as though he’d forgotten he was capable of being touched.

Belle leaned in just as a flash of lightning illuminated his face. He was oddly beautiful in his sorrow and she was immediately ashamed for thinking so.

“They… they meant a lot to you,” she surmised.

Gold met her eyes, again, his own dark and fathomless. He nodded. “They were all I had,” he stated simply. “And these,” he indicated the blankets, “were all I had left.”

Belle knew it was just the storm and the quiet dark, just the exhaustion setting in and tearing down both their walls, but she didn’t care. She was fully and brilliantly alive in this moment, only inches from the man she loved, and he was being more candid with her than he’d ever been before. She might never get another chance to be with him like this, again.

“I know what that’s like,” she admitted.

“Do you?”

Belle nodded. “When my mother died, I was left on my own. All I really had were her books. They became like friends, cold comfort for a lonely little girl.” She huffed a small laugh at her own self pity. “When we moved, my father made me choose only one favorite to bring with us. He said we wouldn’t have room in the new place. One out of a whole library. I thought he was so cruel for that.”

“He was.” Gold agreed solemnly. “Monstrous.”

Belle paused, uncertain if she was being mocked, but Gold’s frank expression didn’t change. She allowed herself a small smile. “The joke was on him, though. Rather than work in his flower shop like he wanted, I got a job at the library after school. So I could read all my favorites as many times as I liked.”

Gold gave a low little chuckle. “I always knew there was something of a rebel in you, Belle French.” His voice was a low rumble, accent deliciously thick, the ‘r’ rolling off his tongue in a way that made her want to chase it with her own.

His breath was warm as it wafted across her face, still smelling sweet from the lemonade she’d brought to the lake. She tilted her face toward his just a fraction more and his gaze flicked from her eyes to her mouth and then back. A crack of thunder sounded, so close it may have well been in the room, and Belle shivered.

Gold pulled back, blinking rapidly, “I… I think I ought to get some rest.”

Belle deflated against the couch cushion. “Oh. Oh, right. Well, uh, at least let me help you.”

His brow furrowed. “Help me what? I’m already here.” He indicated the couch. He hoisted the holey blankets over his lap. “These are… less than expected but they will suffice for the night.”

Belle crossed her arms over her chest. “You are not sleeping on this lumpy couch with barely enough blanket to cover one limb at a time.”

He pursed his lips, “Miss French….”

“Mr. Gold….”

“Well, where on earth should I sleep, in your expert opinion?”

Belle rolled her eyes. “In the bed.” She stood, grabbing his cane from where it had fallen to the floor. “Don’t be such a fussbudget. Come on, I’ll help you into the bedroom.”

Gold made a blunted noise of outrage. “Do you think I’d be such a negligent employer - nay gentleman - as to let you freeze to death out here on the couch?”

“So, what? You’d rather martyr yourself for my comfort?”

“Yes!” he splayed his hands in exasperation.

Belle paused in her efforts to get him to take his cane and stand. “That’s… sweet. In a misguided sort of way.”

Gold’s eyes scrunched closed and he pinched the bridge of his nose, just between his eyes, with his forefinger and thumb.

Belle sighed. “Look, I know the mattress isn’t huge but it’s bigger than Bae’s bed so I think there’s plenty of room for the two of us to share.”

Without moving, Gold made the same strangled sound as he had before at Bae’s similar suggestion that they share the bed. He took a deep breath, exhaling slowly through his nose before opening his eyes and removing his hand. “I hardly think that is… appropriate,” he said, without much conviction.

“Appropriate is in the eye of the beholder and the only one to behold it would be the six year old who suggested it in the first place. I think we’re on safe territory, Mr. Gold.”

It rankled her just a little that he was being so dense about this. In a little over a year, he’d barely just begun to treat her as a human being, let alone any kind of companion. Tonight he’d been so open, almost easygoing, or as easygoing as the Town Misanthrope got. She’d started to think maybe there was a chance… the way he had leaned toward her, the way he’d looked at her just moments before… that perhaps her attraction was not wholly one-sided. If that was the case, why wouldn’t he want to share a bed?

He licked his lips and, without a word, held out his hand. Belle placed his cane into it. He leaned on the cane, but did not object again as she came around to his bad side and helped him rise. Leaning on her and the cane, he limped into the bedroom.

She helped him get situated before crossing to the other side and sliding under the heavy quilt. The bed was chilly and also covered in a layer of dust (Belle made a mental note to send a cleaning service out once they got home). The blankets were unevenly distributed and sheets twisted down at the foot so she found herself sitting up and running her hands along the edges to try and fix them.

Gold shifted uncomfortably beside her as her wandering hands brushed his legs once, and then a second time. “What are you doing?” he demanded.

“They’re uneven,” Belle groused, tugging at a sheet.

“Good God, woman, relax. You are off the clock. I am not Bae and I can fix my own blanket,” Gold snatched it out of her hands, rolling onto his side, away from her.

“Well, at least Bae knows how to share properly,” she replied, snaking an arm over his shoulder to pull the blanket back. “You’ve got the long end and if I don’t flip it, we’ll both have cold feet!”

He resisted for a moment before releasing it with a grumble. Belle set them to rights, smoothing the sheets up and blanket down. Gold was curled in a tight, unmoving ball and she made a face at his back.

At last she sank into the mattress, her body relaxing. She closed her eyes and let her mind meander through her day. It had been a beautiful day at the start. Gold had taken them out in a rented motorboat and shown Bae how to fish. They didn’t catch anything but that hadn’t been the point of the exercise. Bae had happily listed every fish fact he knew while his Papa listened attentively, and Belle had wished she could take a surreptitious photo. Gold looked ten years younger, lounging in the sun with his boy, relaxed and thoroughly happy. He’d even smiled at her a few times, in the brisk distracted sort of way he occasionally did these days.

Once they got back to shore, Belle had taught Bae how to recognize edible berries and they’d collected handfuls to add to the picnic lunch she’d packed. Belle kept stealing glances at Mr. Gold over Bae’s curly head. It was just so rare to see him out of a suit, dressed as he was in jeans and long sleeved shirt. The suits were always lovely and well tailored, and gave her plenty of thoughts about slowly unwrapping him like a present. Dressed down he seemed… human, like his sharp edges had been filed down. He’d caught her looking more than once, and they’d both quickly looked away.

Now she could feel the warmth of his body beside her, seeping into the sheets. She breathed out heavily through her mouth, fighting down the urge to snuggle up behind him. It was ridiculous, feeling this way for a man who could be so infuriatingly opaque. One minute they were swapping childhood stories and he looked very much like he wanted to kiss her. The next he was a human boulder, shutting her out in every way possible.

She must have drifted off at some point but a crack of thunder jolted her awake. She and Gold had rolled closer in their sleep, he on his back with an arm flung over his head and she on her side, facing him. He must also have shed the bathrobe at some point because he was only in the T-shirt now. There was barely enough light to make out his facial features but it occurred to her that he was smiling softly, unselfconsciously. She pulled herself up onto her elbow, cupping her cheek in her hand.

What would it be like to wake up like this and belong in a bed together? To lean in and kiss him awake? To have a playful little tussle before stripping each other bare and making love ‘til morning?

He made a soft little sound and Belle fancied that he was agreeing with her fantasy.

“What do you dream about, Mr. Gold?” she whispered, lowering her head back to the pillow.

Another little sound, low and masculine, greeted her query but then he fell silent and Belle fell back asleep.

The second time she woke, the rain had stopped and the moonlight shone strongly through the window. Belle had curled into Gold’s side, one arm slung over his waist. She held very, very still, listening to the thud of his heart beneath her ear. Despite the rain and the dust and the old fusty clothes, she swore she could still smell a hint of his cologne and she inhaled it deeply, trying to commit this moment to memory. The arm beneath her had fallen asleep but she couldn’t bring herself to move just yet.

She felt a rush of warm breath against the top of her head.

“Belle.”

His voice was more air than sound but it was loud enough in the now-quiet early morning.

Feeling guilty of trespassing, Belle began to shrink in on herself. Until she realized he’d used her first name. Gold had never called her anything but “Miss French” or, rarely, “Belle French”,” never just Belle. She loved the way it sounded on his lips.

“Yes?”

He released another, shakier, breath. “You’re awake.”

“Yes.”

“I… I need you to move.”

Disappointed, Belle began to slide her arm away when she realized that it had not been, as she thought, at his waist. Her arm had extended across his belly at an angle toward his hips. So as she began to roll away, her hand skimmed across… oh. Oh.

They both froze.

Belle moved first, lifting her hand away and pulling herself up on her other arm, tingling with pins and needles, to look at his face. Gold was wide eyed and slack jawed, his lips parted as he seemed to be taking one very deliberate breath after another. He studied her with an expression that bordered on fear.

Belle gathered all her courage, though her mind was sluggish with sleep and foggy with pent up desire.

“Is that… Is it because of me?” She lay her hand on his chest, noting how his heartbeat had accelerated.  

“Belle,” he whispered again, almost a whimper as he added, “Belle, please…” His eyes roved her face in the moonlight, asking a question he could not seem to form with words.

“Please, what?” Tentatively, ready to pull back at any sign she was unwelcome, she slid her hand downward, toward where she’d felt him hard and straining beneath the sheet. “Is it… I want to touch you, Edmund. May I?” Her heartbeat was thudding in her ears and her pulse seemed to have relocated itself to the apex of her legs. She’d wanted him so badly for so long and it seemed like she must be imagining this happening, even now. It took every effort to keep her hand from shaking.

He shuddered just slightly as she said his name, his eyes closing briefly before reopening on her face. “Why?” His tone was incredulous.

Belle hiccuped a giddy little giggle. “Because I’ve wanted to for months? Because if I’m just dreaming again, I don’t want to waste it? Because… because you’re finally letting me? Pick your reason, Mr. Gold.” Seeing the look on his face, she self-corrected, “Edmund.”

He made a needy little sound at that and lifted the hand that lay between them to stroke the side of her face. “And how do I know I’m not the one dreaming?”

Belle smiled gently, leaning toward him until her mouth just barely hovered over his. “Only one way to find out,” she breathed. Her eyes shut, she made a silent wish before closing that infinitesimal space and kissing him. For half a second she feared he’d push her away but then the hand at her cheek slid into her messy curls, his fingers tangling between them as he held her fast. His other arm came up to wrap around her shoulders, lips parting to allow the tip of his tongue to dart between them.

Belle met that volley with a flick of her own tongue and Gold moaned into her mouth, tightening his grip. She slid down the bed, needing to be even closer, flinging a careless leg over his hips. And oh yes, there he was, pressing hot and insistent against her inner thigh. He ground himself against her as he devoured her mouth, the hand not buried in her hair tracing her waist and hip like he was learning every curve by heart.

She snaked a hand upward, running her fingertips through the baby-soft silver hair at his temples. She’d always wondered if it would feel as good as it looked and it absolutely did. They broke apart from kissing only to gasp for air, Gold breathing half a swear word into her shoulder as she moved to straddle him completely. Belle nipped at his earlobe as she centered herself on the rigid line of his cock, bringing both knees forward to gain friction where she needed it most.

His lips found purchase along the long column of her neck, trailing biting kisses up and down its length as she shivered with pleasure and shimmied her hips against his. His hands traveled down to grasp her arse and squeeze. Belle hummed her approval and he did it again, the tips of his fingers sliding to the crease at the back of each thigh, agonizingly close to her heated core. She was embarrassingly wet already, her panties sticky and clinging, twisting with her increasingly desperate undulations.

Growing frustrated with the many layers between them, Belle sat up.

Gold’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he looked up at her. “Is, ah, is everything….?”

“Oh God yes,” she nodded. “Just... too many clothes, don’t you think?”

Gold made a low sound of agreement, a smile on his kiss-swollen lips. “Whatever you say, Miss French.”

“Mm, can I get that in writing?” she teased. “And I thought we were on first name basis, now.”

He looked down. “I’ve never been fond of my first name.”

“Oh.” Belle bit back a frown.

“But I like it when you say it.” He met her eyes again, his tone the quiet, confessional one he’d had on the couch earlier that night. “I… like a lot of things when you say them.”

Belle felt herself melt a little inside and dipped down to press her lips to his. He kissed back hungrily and it was all she could do to pull away long enough to tug off the loose sweater. They teased and tasted one another until they were both breathless and she touched her forehead to his.

“I’d like to see you,” he murmured.

Happy to oblige, Belle kissed the tip of his nose and sat up again, feeling his cock twitch against her.

He inhaled deeply, “Fuck. You’re…” His hands shaped her waist, gliding over her ribs to cup each small breast, the nipples already pert with arousal and the chill air. She trembled as he flicked his thumbs simultaneously under their sensitive undersides before then running a thumb over each nipple. He shook his head, hair fanning on the pillow below him. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life.”

Belle blushed deeply, the color running from cheeks to chest.

Gold continued caressing her nipples with his thumbs until she was squirming, little mewling noises escaping her involuntarily. With a hand at her waist, he wordlessly directed her to lower one breast over his mouth, using his lips and tongue tease her as his other hand moved down toward the juncture of her thighs. She shifted her hips to allow him better access and he slid his hand beneath the elastic band of her borrowed pants, finding the soaking gusset of her knickers with his fingertips. He groaned at this discovery, the sound reverberating against her breast. Belle turned to allow him access to the other breast and gasped as one knuckle slid deftly along her cleft.

“Less clothes,” she mumbled, moving off of Gold to shuck her pants and underwear. Before she regained her place atop him, she tugged at the hem of his T-shirt, giving him a meaningful look.

He frowned. “Are you certain?”

Belle raised both eyebrows. “You ask that, now? Maybe I should remind you what you do to me, Mr. Edmund Gold…” Kneeling on the bed, the cold causing gooseflesh on every exposed patch of skin, she pulled his hand between her parted thighs. His fingers just barely skimmed her nether lips, coming away glistening with her arousal. He stared at them, spellbound before returning his gaze to her face. The pure adoration in his eyes was enough to leave her momentarily stunned.

She choked back an unexpected lump in her throat before gingerly reaching for his shirt, again. “Yes?”

Gold nodded, allowing her to help him sit up and divest himself of both shirt and pants. The moment they were both nude, he hauled her atop him and fervidly captured her mouth. She kissed him back with equal exuberance, rolling her hips as her slickness coated his erection. The blunt head nudged her clit and she made a needy, throaty sound that Gold eagerly swallowed. He bucked his hips beneath her, hitting the same spot again and Belle pulled back with a swear on her lips.

“Please, no more teasing… I need you,” she pleaded, almost mindless with the steadily building ache at her core. She ground herself against his cock, the head nearly slipping inside her.

“I don’t have any…” He forced the words out with some difficulty, his thighs below her tense, the muscles strained and quivering.

“Protection? It’s ok. I’ve got an IUD. And I’m clean.” Raising herself up and wrapping a hand around his shaft, she bit her lip and looked down at his face. “Please, Edmund?”

“Fucking hell, Belle,” he rasped, gripping her hips with both hands, nearly hard enough to bruise. As he lowered her hips, she guided him inside her, both hissing with pleasure as flesh met flesh, wet and hot and oh so deliciously ready. Inch by inch he filled her, her inner muscles already clenching and fluttering, until he was fully seated.

“God, you feel fucking amazing.’ His voice was almost a growl, hands still at her hips as she adjusted to the feel of him inside her.

Belle leaned in to kiss her way up his jaw to his ear. “You do too.” She canted her hips, rising up just a little before sliding back down, then repeated the motion. He rolled up and into her downward movements, echoing and answering the language of her body. “So good…” she crooned, as they began to establish a rhythm of short, sharp thrusts.

Gold’s breathing was harsh and ragged, his parted lips brushing her neck, her shoulder, her ear, whatever they could reach. Belle ducked her head to kiss his cheek, his jaw, nipping playfully at his earlobe and at his voluptuous bottom lip as heat began to spiral up her spine and down her legs. Conscious of how quiet it was without the storm, Belle held back the moans and half formed words that kept bubbling up, bursting to escape in shuddering gasps. She was getting close, slipping a hand between them to press at her sensitive little nub and riding him faster. Every fiber of her being was focused on their joining, on the way their bodies seemed to fit perfectly together, his hands moulding to her flesh as he hit all the right spots within. Her peak hit her suddenly and with a blinding force. Gold’s dull nails dug into her skin as her pussy milked him hard. She felt his teeth sink into her shoulder to muffle his moans as he reached his own completion.

Belle grasped his face between both hands and kissed him soundly. “That was worth waiting for,” she murmured against his lips.

He made a sound of agreement, pulling out of her reluctantly as she moved to lay on her side. “I’m only sorry I ever made you wait, sweetheart.” His tone was half amused bewilderment, half pillow talk.

Pulling the blankets up, she tucked herself against his side again, his arm curling automatically over her shoulders - as though they’d done this a million times. “Apology accepted. Just don’t let it happen again.”

“I like when you say that word, too. Again.” He kissed the top of her head.

“I mean it.” Belle tightened her arm around him, kissing his chest, just over his heart, in reply. Cocooned in his warmth, she began to drift off, noting that they probably had very little time left before dawn. It wasn’t light yet but she could almost feel the morning coming on.

Drowsily, he added. “I did dream of you, by the way. Just like this.”

Her heart gave a powerful thump in her chest and she tilted her head up to share a sleepy, lingering kiss. “Me too.”