|The Tune of Bullets
Author: Bad Faery PM
Western AU- Everyone in town is afraid of the notorious gunslinger Mr. Gold. Saloon-worker Belle sees things differently.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Belle & Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold - Chapters: 12 - Words: 86,651 - Reviews: 493 - Favs: 336 - Follows: 189 - Updated: 07-27-12 - Published: 04-14-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8023507
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Belle French swept through the closely-set tables, her ruffled skirts brushing the backs of rough-hewn chairs as she balanced a tray of dirty glasses in one hand, her other tight around the neck of a whiskey bottle as she circulated, keeping the regulars' drinks coming. She traded a smile with Ruby who was working the other side of the room, shaking her head as she noticed the other girl's bodice had slipped even lower than her usual wont, displaying a precarious amount of cleavage. If she knew her friend, the slippage had been completely intentional seeing how Pastor Hopper had just entered the busy saloon. Belle wouldn't have thought displaying skin was the way to a man of the cloth's heart, but he certainly couldn't take his eyes off of her.
Nearly every table was full except for a small oasis of calm near the back of the room in Ruby's domain. There Mr. Gold sat with his back to the wall, clad in his customary black, hat tilted low over his eyes as he surveyed the room. The trio of tables surrounding him stood empty although nearly every other table in the saloon held at least three patrons. It was a testament to how feared the notorious gunfighter was that no one would come closer.
Even Ruby, who wasn't afraid of anything, wouldn't get near him, so Belle included his table in her own rounds, approaching the man with a smile. Gold's reputation was terrifying, but in the months she'd worked at the saloon he'd never been less than gentlemanly with her. "More whiskey, Mr. Gold?"
He nodded slowly, watching with the unwavering focus of a natural-born predator as she refilled his glass, careful not to spill a drop. "Thank you, Miss Belle," he murmured, saluting her with it before downing the burning liquid in one go. She poured again before resuming her rounds, chatting with the farmhands and ranchers that comprised their little town.
Reluctantly she made her way to a shadowed table in the corner, the only other table beside Mr. Gold's that held only one patron, a man face down on the unfinished wood, seemingly asleep. Quietly, she tried to take his glass, flinching when a large hand caught her wrist. "Leave the bottle, girl."
Belle licked her lips nervously, flexing her fingers to keep him from cutting off her circulation, "Papa, don't you think you've had enough?"
Moe French looked up at her blearily, only now seeming to register that he knew her. "Belle, be a dear and bring your papa another drink." He released his grip on her, watching greedily as she poured the whiskey into his dirty glass.
It was hard to believe this man had once been the town doctor, a man as respected as the pastor. No one now would trust him even to treat a case of saddle sores, his drunken state responsible for their greatly-reduced straits. Belle had heard the laughs that she'd taken this job so she could keep an eye on her father in his real home. In truth, it had more to do with the fact that Ruby's grandmother fed her while her father drank her wages.
"Looks like the old man's had too much, Belle!" George Clary chuckled as she refilled his glass.
She manufactured a polite smile, neatly sidestepping his groping hand. "When are you going to leave this behind and come be my wife? You'll only have to pour drinks for one then."
"Now, George..." she chided, but this time she wasn't quite fast enough to get out of the way, and he caught her around the waist, yanking her down onto his lap and sending her tray crashing to the floor.
The shot glasses were thick and heavy, making them hard to carry but it meant none of them broke in the ensuing tumult that brought every head in the saloon swiveling to watch them.
Belle blushed to the roots of her hair and shoved against his chest, "George, let me up!"
He tightened his grip on her and leaned closer until she could smell the whiskey on his breath, "Not until you pay the forfeit."
She arched her neck, trying to get away from his searching mouth, tears stinging her eyes as the room erupted into hoots and catcalls. "Stop it!" She struggled ineffectually in his arms as she considered the heft of the half-full bottle in her hand. She was tempted to swing but the fear that she'd kill him stayed her hand. Sheriff Swan was known for showing no mercy to criminals.
"You're a wildcat!" George shouted with evident pleasure, grinding his hips up and letting her feel his hardness against her behind. Belle was ready to take her chances with the sheriff when the matter was settled for her.
The noise a gun made being cocked was soft, but it had the ability to cut through every other sound. Every shouting voice went silent when they heard it; even George froze where he was, not releasing her but no longer molesting her. She risked a glance around, the gun pointed at her filling her world. No, not at her, she realized a second later, at George.
Mr. Gold hadn't even stood up, merely drawn his gun and aimed it directly at George's head, and if Belle hadn't served the man eight shots of whiskey, she'd believe he was completely sober because his arm was unwavering, his eyes glittering mercilessly under the brim of his hat. "Let. Her. Go."
Mr. Gold never raised his voice. He didn't have to. When he spoke, people would strain their ears to listen and jump to obey. George was no exception. He shoved Belle off his lap so fast she nearly followed her tray to the floor, and Gold's eyes narrowed. She smoothed out her skirts, trying to avoid meeting anyone's eyes, hating being the center of attention. In an effort to get things back to normal, she knelt on the floor, reaching to gather the fallen glasses. Gold was having none of it.
Gun still trained on George, he gave another order, "Pick those up for her."
George scrambled to obey, and Belle hastened to get out of his way as he flailed, piling the glasses haphazardly on her tray. She'd have to rearrange them unless she wanted to drop everything again, but that wasn't going to be her problem to deal with, as Gold continued, "Take those to the bar. And take yourself somewhere else."
George nearly ran the tray to the bar, flinging it down before disappearing through the swinging doors. Gold holstered his weapon, turning his attention back to his drink like nothing had happened, and seeing that the drama had ended, the patrons went back to their own business.
Belle fetched herself a new tray from the back, taking advantage of being out of the public eye for a moment to wrap her arms around herself, shivering. She nearly shrieked when another set of arms came around her, then she realized it was Ruby offering her comfort.
"You okay, sweetie?" her friend asked, hugging Belle tightly, "Did he hurt you?"
"No," Belle leaned into the embrace, trying to soak up some of her friend's strength. "He didn't hurt me. I'm all right."
"I can't believe Gold bailed you out like that. Maybe he's not such a bastard after all." She squeezed harder, then released her, picking her own tray back up.
"He's not," Belle protested, "He's always been nice to me."
"That makes you the only one," Ruby said ruefully, then she looked closer at Belle, "You're not getting ideas about Gold, are you?"
"Of course not!" she denied immediately, "I just don't think he's as bad as everyone says he is."
"He's a killer," Ruby said flatly, "You know the stories as well as I do. Gold is not a good man, whether he's nice to you or not."
Belle scrubbed her hands over her face, trying to pull herself back together. "I know, I know. Don't worry, Ruby, I'm not getting ideas."
"Good." Ruby looked at her hard for a moment, then gave her another quick hug, "Back to work for us before Granny sends in a posse looking for us."
Belle managed a genuine smile as she followed her friend back out into the saloon. Now that the excitement had passed, she was again part of the scenery as she moved among the tables. However, she was uncomfortably aware of one pair of eyes following her as she made her rounds, and she couldn't put off going to his table indefinitely.
"More whiskey, Mr. Gold?" she asked, struggling to keep her voice from shaking. At his gesture, she refilled his glass, staying close even when he made no move to drink it. "Thank you," she said fervently, hoping her tone conveyed her gratitude better than the insufficient words.
He nodded, his eyes never leaving her face. When it became clear he wasn't going to say anything in reply, Belle smiled awkwardly and darted away, losing herself in the familiar rhythm of service to settle her nerves. By the time things had started to thin out at one in the morning, she was feeling almost normal.
"You can go home, Belle," Ruby called across the room, gesturing to the few remaining patrons. "I can handle this mob."
Smiling gratefully, Belle approached her father's table and shook his shoulder. "It's time to go home, Papa."
A snore was the only answer she got, and she shook him harder, speaking a little louder, "Papa, wake up."
"He can sleep it off here, Belle," Granny called drily from behind the bar, "It won't be the first time."
After one more effort to rouse her father, Belle yielded to the older woman's wisdom. She took off her apron and hung it behind the bar, automatically straightening her hair as if anyone would be out and about this late to see her.
She left the saloon, taking a deep breath of the crisp night air, relieved to no longer be smelling smoke. It clung to her hair and clothes even outside of work, but she pretended the cool breeze would blow it all away, leaving her fresh and clean.
A shadow detached itself from a nearby building, and Belle's heart leapt into her throat, half-expecting George to be lying in wait for her to make her pay for his humiliation at Mr. Gold's hands. A moment later, she realized her mistake. The figure was too slight to be the burly ranch hand, and she'd recognize that distinctive limp anywhere, the one nobody had ever had the nerve to ask the cause of. "Mr. Gold?"
"Miss Belle," he tipped his hat to her as he approached, stopping when he reached her side, "I'll walk you home."
It didn't seem to be a question, and Belle fell into step with him wordlessly, allowing him to escort her down the creaking wooden sidewalk toward the clapboard house she shared with her father. It was a mercy the doctor had bought it before his problems had cropped up. It might be run down now, but at least they would always have a roof over their heads. She sighed at the thought of how far her father had fallen, distracted even from Mr. Gold's odd behavior.
"Thank you," she said at last, shaking her head at her own rudeness, "For looking out for me."
It was a modicum better than what she'd managed in the saloon, but he still didn't really acknowledge her gratitude. "The streets are dangerous for a lady," he said gruffly.
A lady. Belle smiled a little. She'd been a lady once with fine dresses and a parasol before her father's fall from grace. No man in town would have dared lay a hand on her. Now her pretty clothes were gone- even her mother's necklace had been pawned to pay for her father's liquor- and the only man who treated her like a lady was the most feared man in town.
A feared man who knew exactly where she lived, Belle noticed with some discomfort as he led her home. Then she dismissed her misgivings. Of course he knew where she lived; Storybrooke was tiny. She could no doubt find his own cabin past the town's outskirts if she needed to.
She couldn't imagine why she ever would, but the thought still gave her a feeling of comfort. George had been more insistent of late, and although she'd never have the nerve to approach Gold for help, it was nice to think that she could.
He walked her to her door, waiting as she unlatched it and pulled it open. Hesitating in the open door, Belle struggled for something to say. She wasn't afraid of him- sometimes she thought she was the only person in town who wasn't- but she had to admit that he was an intimidating man. Any of her usual remarks about the stars or the night air would surely have met with a condescending smirk so she'd stayed silent during their walk, but unfortunately now words were expected. "Thank you again," she tried, "So much."
His mouth curved at her words, but in the dim light it looked more like a small smile than a smirk. "That's three times now, dear," and there was no mistaking the amusement in his tone, "I consider myself sufficiently thanked."
Belle was torn between embarrassment and laughter, wondering if the fearsome Mr. Gold was actually teasing her. The sheer strangeness of the night tipped the scales to laughter, and she giggled, feeling more at ease with the man than she ever had before as she beamed up at him. He was holding himself very still, watching her like a snake would eye a mouse, yet she felt no fear. If he could tease, he couldn't possibly be the monster everyone called him.
If he wouldn't let her thank him in words, she'd have to find another way. Feeling like she was taking her life into her hands, she mustered all the bravery she could and leaned up to peck his cheek.
Her lips brushed coarse stubble, and Belle jerked back, wondering if he'd kill her now. Instead he seemed to grow even stiller to the point where she wondered if he was even breathing. "Good- goodnight, Mr. Gold," she managed, ducking through the door and pulling it shut behind her as she slumped against it, her heart racing. What had she been thinking to do such a thing? Mr. Gold was no boy, no pet that she was free to fuss over. She was lucky he hadn't snapped her neck for taking such a liberty!
Yet, he hadn't snapped her neck, or shot her, or growled or done any of the hundred things he might have done. Belle put her fingers to her lips, her heart still pounding as she thought about how warm his skin had been beneath the prickly whiskers. What would it feel like to kiss him when he was clean shaven?
She blushed and lit the lantern, readying the breakfast things for the next day in a fluster and wondering if she'd suddenly gone mad. Oh, Ruby would be horrified with her. She'd recognized the signs before Belle had, warned her not to get ideas, and now Belle was most certainly having ideas.
She ascended the stairs to her small bedroom, quickly splashing water over her flushed face and changing into her chemise, feeling warmer than the spring night justified. She wouldn't think about it anymore, she told herself strictly. It was late, and she was tired, and that was all there was to it.
Even so, as she extinguished the lantern and climbed into bed, her fingers strayed back to her lips, wondering if his mouth was as warm as his cheek, if he'd taste of whiskey or the leather he smelled like. Would he kiss her back? Perhaps his mouth would even leave hers as he kissed his way lower. Belle stroked her neck with trembling fingers, remembering one of Ruby's stories. Maybe he'd leave a love mark on her like the one Ruby had had to hide from Granny.
Heat flooded her body at the thought, and Belle whimpered, wrapping her arms around the pillow as she imagined his lips on her throat, his stubble scratching at her skin. Knowing she shouldn't, she cuddled the image closer as she drifted into sleep.
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Gold stood outside the French house until he saw the light go out in one of the upstairs bedrooms- Belle's room. He'd often wondered which of the windows was hers. The clapboard siding had seen better days; its dilapidated state offering plenty of handholds for a man willing to climb.
Bad leg or not, Gold was willing.
He would enter her bedroom soundlessly, kneel at her bedside to watch her lovely face as she slept in the moonlight, then cover her mouth with his own, drinking in her soft sighs of pleasure as he kissed her awake, her lips curving in a smile when she saw her uninvited guest.
It was a pretty fantasy, and he clenched his hand into a fist, mocking himself for it. Belle wouldn't smile and sigh if he intruded on her. She'd scream and slap him and never look at him again without fear in her eyes.
She was beautiful, but he'd seen beautiful women before. It was that lack of fear that had intrigued him years ago when she was the doctor's fine young daughter, clothed in embroidered gowns, her chestnut curls gleaming in the sunlight. He'd passed her on the street one day, and not only had she not crossed the street to get away from him like everyone else did, she'd looked him in the eye and smiled.
He could only assume she didn't have the faintest idea who he was, but she smiled again the next time they met, and the next, and all the times after that, of which there were many because he wanted to see how long it would take for her to stop smiling. She never did, even going so far as to greet him by name when they passed on the street.
Then the doctor had taken refuge in a bottle, and her fine clothes had become less fine as the years passed. Her smile remained undimmed, even when she was reduced to working in the saloon to support both of them. She lived in Gold's world now, but she was still as untouchable as the stars; it was obvious to anyone with a brain that Miss Belle was far too good for the likes of Storybrooke.
George Clary had never had much by way of brains. He'd been sniffing around Belle for months, and Gold had been itching to shoot him for that alone, but to go so far as to lay his hands on her... The whelp had been lucky to have Belle so close. Gold never missed a shot, but he wouldn't risk getting blood on her dress. The next time the boy wouldn't be so fortunate.
He'd never planned to let her know that he looked out for her, that he shadowed her footsteps home on nights her father was too drunk to leave the saloon. Yet when he'd seen Clary putting his hands on her, the rage and jealousy had curdled in his stomach, and instinct had taken over. No doubt Ruby would have rescued her from the man's grasp eventually, but Gold had wanted to. He'd wanted to be her hero if only for a moment.
He touched his cheek as he ambled off into the night, still feeling her lips pressed to his weathered skin. He'd been dreaming for years about how her lips might feel, and they were every bit as soft as his fantasies had made them. Her eyes had shone with gratitude, and she'd kissed him like a child would kiss a parent, and he hadn't been able to move because if he had, he would have crushed her up against the wall and shown her how to thank him properly. Even now, it was taking all his self-control to keep from making the climb to her window.
Belle was an innocent, and he burned for her. He'd murdered, thieved, done things no good man would ever consider, but he'd never felt more like a monster than he did this night with Belle tucked up in bed sleeping the sleep of angels while he prowled the streets of Storybrooke like a beast, thinking only of defiling her.
His feet guided him away from his cabin, seeking a more tawdry destination. The cathouse was an open secret in town, and he wasn't a stranger to it. His likes were well-known, his favorite girl making herself visible the moment he stepped through the door.
She wasn't an exact copy by any means. Her curves were too lush, her eyes the wrong color, her face too hard. But her hair was exactly the right shade of chestnut, and the rest he could work with. She led him to their usual room and got herself ready, familiar with his tastes by now. A plain white cotton chemise replaced her colorful underthings while he removed his hat and boots. She was careful to keep her back to him, and clothed in a modest gown with her chestnut curls tumbling down her back the illusion was nearly perfect.
"Where do you want me?" she asked softly, the only time she'd speak during their encounter. Earlier on, she'd put some effort into mimicking Belle's slight accent and high-class speech, but she couldn't get close enough to suit him. Silence was better.
"On the bed. You're asleep." Dimming the lantern, he took refuge in one of his favorite fantasies as the girl arranged herself on the bed, her hair obscuring her face as she feigned sleep. He was coming back to the cabin late to find Belle there, the girl having fallen asleep waiting for him. He sat down on the bed beside her, trailing his hand down the length of her spine, trying not to wake her but unable to keep from touching.
Bending his head, he kissed her shoulder, and Belle stirred in her sleep, pushing back against him like a cat seeking a caress. He tugged her chemise down, baring her shoulder to his biting kisses, no longer worried about waking her, because she'd like it if he did. Here in this room Belle wanted his kisses, his touch. She wanted him.
He nipped at her neck, frustrated as the fantasy kept skittering away. The girl smelled wrong; he'd never been close enough to Belle to notice that before. Belle smelled of roses. Raking his fingers through her hair, he focused his gaze on her chestnut curls and tried again, calling on a fantasy he rarely permitted himself. This time he wasn't surprised at all to see her because she spent every night in his bed. Belle was his wife. She knew every horrible thing he'd done and loved him anyway, and she'd vowed never to leave.
Gold inhaled sharply, spooning up behind her to rub himself against the curve of her ass. Belle gave a breathy little moan and laced her fingers with his, squeezing his hand in a silent plea for more. He rucked up her chemise, dipping his free hand between her thighs to see if she was ready for him.
Belle was dripping for him, and he pressed his fingers deeper, wanting to give her more pleasure, as much pleasure as she could stand as he kissed her neck and the side of her face, curling himself around her more. Belle was his, and no one was ever going to take her away from him.
Belle moaned again, louder this time, and her voice was all wrong. He grunted, shoving the girl onto her belly so her noises would be muffled by the pillow. Pulling himself off her, he unbuttoned his trousers and freed himself, his eyes running over her hungrily as the fantasy shifted again.
They weren't in his cabin anymore; this was her girlhood bedroom, and he'd climbed in the window like he'd wanted to find her sprawled out on her bed like some kind of sacrifice, waiting for him.
He slid an arm under her hips, yanking her back into him as he thrust into her, pushing as deep as he could go. His leg screamed at the pressure he was putting on it, but he was balls-deep in his sweet Belle, and nothing was going to stop him now. She squeezed her inner muscles and he saw stars, pulling out of her just to have the pleasure of plunging in again.
He'd wanted her for so fucking long that he couldn't be gentle, but Belle cried out into the pillow, pushing back greedily to take more of him as he ravaged her, hips pistoning. Growling, he slammed himself home again and again and again, fumbling between her legs for the place that would give her pleasure. He was losing his rhythm, his thrusts growing erratic as he neared the precipice, but he needed her to go over it first.
"Come for me, Belle," he begged, his voice ragged, and as if on cue she stiffened beneath him, her body quivering with her climax as he found his own in a glorious rush, pouring himself into her precious body.
He collapsed on top of her, mouth moving over her throat in apology for being so rough. She shifted beneath him happily as he buried his face in her neck, inhaling her lilac perfume.
Belle smelled like roses.
Gold yanked himself off of the girl, disgusted with himself as he always was afterward. He'd cheapened Belle by doing this and proved yet again he couldn't be trusted with her. He couldn't treat her as she deserved to be treated; he couldn't even keep control with a replica of her. If he ever laid a hand on the real Belle, he'd tear her apart.
Gritting his teeth, he tucked himself back into his pants and found his boots, tossing a handful of coins onto the mattress. She was a good girl, this whore whose name he could never remember. It was for the best she was as close as he'd ever get to the real thing