|All the Bright Pieces
Author: Bad Faery PM
AU- She marries him to pay off her father's debt.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance - Belle & Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold - Chapters: 4 - Words: 27,279 - Reviews: 122 - Favs: 340 - Follows: 97 - Updated: 04-14-13 - Published: 05-06-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8091064
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
For the first several months, Isabelle just thought he had a bad memory. She'd even found it funny that Mr. Gold, who everyone in town seemed so frightened of, had trouble with details. The first time he'd come to collect the rent, he'd arrived a full half an hour before her father's usual return home. She'd explained and invited him in to wait, fully expecting him to make his excuses. After all, no sane person would want to be alone with a girl fresh out of the asylum.
Instead, he'd accepted her invitation, and they'd had a lovely chat. She'd actually done most of the talking, with him providing regular prompts for her to tell him more about the books she was reading and her hopes for her future. Izzy quite liked him. He was a good listener, and he didn't stare at her the way other people did. He stared at her in a different way. Everyone else watched her to see if she was going to do something crazy. Mr. Gold watched her because it seemed to give him pleasure if his small smile was anything to judge by.
"That man gives me the creeps," her father had informed her after handing over the rent money and unceremoniously showing Mr. Gold the door.
Izzy frowned at his words. "He was a perfect gentleman." She knew what Mr. Gold had done to her father, but somehow it was hard to reconcile the two images of him. She couldn't envision her polite afternoon companion attempting to beat her father to death. Not without a very, very good reason anyway.
Even though her father made it clear he didn't arrive home until five, the next month Mr. Gold was a full hour ahead of schedule. Izzy had a hard time hiding her smile; everyone in town spoke of Mr. Gold in hushed tones, but he was just as human and drifty as anyone else. This time she made him tea, and he told her a story about the old mine on the outskirts of town.
He forgot again the next month and then the next. Five minutes before her father was due home, he glanced down at the handle of his cane for a long moment before returning his attention to her. "Would you permit me to take you out to dinner this weekend?"
That was the first time she realized he hadn't actually forgotten what time her father got home.
0 0 0 0 0
He took her to the nicest restaurant in town, a little Italian place run by the rarely-seen Chef Remy where Izzy was confronted by more forks than she'd ever had to deal with at one time. Although the staff was perfectly polite, she couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. The lunatic and Mr. Gold out on what was very obviously a date? Of course everyone was staring. She sat quietly in her nicest dress which was woefully dowdy in comparison to everyone else and watched his hands like a hawk, trying not to be caught out using the wrong utensils. She couldn't even taste what she was eating.
The conversation didn't flow easily like it did when they were in her living room. Izzy was too distracted to follow his comments, and the quieter she got, the more stilted and awkward his responses became until dessert found them sitting in silence, staring at each other.
He led her wordlessly to the car, opening her door for her like a true gentleman, and Izzy was struck by how rude she was being. "I'm sorry," she blurted as soon as he took his place in the driver's seat.
Mr. Gold's mouth quirked humorlessly. "Expecting you to bear my company twice in a week was too much to ask. It was good of you to try."
He turned the key smoothly in the ignition, not even looking hurt, just resigned, and Izzy's heart clenched. "That's not it at all!" she protested.
"Of course," he agreed, clearly not believing a word. He was using politeness like a shield, and Izzy realized that nothing she said would convince him. She clenched her hands together in her lap, feeling miserable. This was not going well at all.
They completed the drive in silence, Izzy struggling for some way to prove that it wasn't his company she'd found so difficult, but she could think of no way to do it that wouldn't remind him of where she'd spent the past few years. He didn't seem to mind that she'd been in the asylum, but she didn't want to call attention to it either.
He walked her to her front door, and she hoped he'd try for a kiss. At least that would give her the chance to show she didn't find him unpleasant like he seemed to think. Unfortunately, she didn't have the faintest idea how to go about signaling her interest. There hadn't been much need for seductive body language where she'd been. Hoping for the best, she stepped a little closer to him, keeping her face tilted up and her expression soft. He gazed down at her unsmiling, but she was willing to swear his eyes were trying to stray to her lips.
At that moment, she caught the twitch of the curtains out of the corner of her eye and knew her father was lurking. Mr. Gold had clearly seen the same thing because he stepped back out of her personal space, inclining his head formally. "Good night, Miss French."
Izzy sighed. "Good night, Mr. Gold." Letting herself into the house, she decided she needed to have a talk with her father about privacy.
0 0 0 0 0
After their disastrous date, Izzy knew she'd have to take matters into her own hands if she ever wanted to see Mr. Gold again. No doubt he'd arrive to collect the rent faithfully each month, but odds were he'd be sure to do it when her father was home. He was the only person in town who didn't look at her like she was an oddity, and she wasn't about to let that relationship go so easily.
She waited until Monday when her father was at work to implement her plan. After spending a morning in the kitchen, she got out a canvas bag and filled it with a thermos of lemonade, a container of potato salad, and turkey and swiss sandwiches with chocolate chips cookies for dessert. All simple foods where she wouldn't have to think about utensils or how to keep her napkin from falling off her lap. Shouldering the bag, she started off toward the pawn shop, hoping she'd catch him before he had lunch.
The bell on the door jangled brightly at her entrance, but she didn't see him when she walked in. She was relieved not to see anyone else either. If he rejected her invitation, she didn't want witnesses. "Mr. Gold?"
"Miss French." He couldn't quite hide the surprise on his face when he stepped out of the back room to see her standing in the shop. Izzy wondered if he'd been expecting her to avoid him after Saturday night. He covered it quickly with a polite smile, looking at her like they'd never spent afternoons chatting in her living room. "What can I do for you?"
Stepping further into the shop, Izzy forced herself to be brave. "I'm looking for a picnic basket," she announced, then held up the bag she carried, "And a picnic companion."
He just looked at her for so long she was tempted to turn tail and run, but she held her ground, willing him to agree. Finally his lips quirked in an approximation of a smile, "I believe I have just the thing."
The picnic basket he found was exactly the right size, and Izzy decided that was a good omen as they found a shaded bench in the park. No doubt a blanket on the ground would be more authentic, but she didn't want to take chances with his knee. Lunch was a quiet affair, but it was a comfortable quiet, not like the unpleasant dinner they'd shared. Hands brushed as they passed the container of potato salad back and forth, and Izzy took a bite then held up her fork to look at it in the sun. "I wasn't allowed forks in the asylum," she admitted, suddenly unafraid of how he'd react to the reminder, "Spoons only."
He looked nonplussed, as though he had no idea how to respond to her comment, but not disturbed. Izzy went a step further, "There were a lot of forks at the restaurant."
Understanding dawned in his eyes, and the line of his shoulders relaxed, releasing a tension she hadn't realized was there. "I made a poor choice, didn't I?"
"It was very beautiful," she assured him, hearing the apology in his words even if it went unsaid, "But there was too much silverware."
He nodded, taking back the potato salad. "I won't make the same mistake again."
"We'll start small," she agreed, "Maybe ice cream?"
Gold nodded, giving her a small smile, "I'll endeavor to be patient."
Izzy wasn't quite sure what that meant, but the look on Mr. Gold's face was the closest to happy she'd ever seen him, and that seemed like an excellent place to start.
0 0 0 0 0
She noticed that her father watched her closely for the next week, and Izzy wondered if gossip about her picnic in the park had reached his ears. She hadn't made any effort to keep it a secret, and someone was certain to want to share the news that they'd seen his daughter enjoying a picnic with the man who'd tried to cripple him.
He didn't say anything though, and Izzy relaxed a little, hoping he wasn't upset. She continued to visit Mr. Gold at his shop a few times a week, and the look on his face when she arrived warmed her each time. His smile was small but genuine and always undercut by an air of surprise as if every time she left he expected never to see her again.
They took tea together in the back room of his shop, and he told her stories about the objects there just as she'd told him about her books when they were in her domain. Each day when she left the shop, Izzy was conscious of eyes following her, and she wondered if the rest of the town was assuming her relationship with Mr. Gold was another manifestation of her madness.
It took nearly a month for her father to broach the subject with her, and when he did, his words were not what she expected. "Izzy, Mr. Gold is... fond of you, isn't he?"
Choosing her words carefully, she said, "I think so." He'd never told her so in as many words. He'd never touched her or given her so much as a longing look, but he smiled at her, and he didn't smile at anyone else in town.
Face reddening, her father continued, "Yes, well... the rent's due tomorrow."
She hadn't forgotten. She'd been planning to do some baking the next morning in hopes Mr. Gold would come for their usual chat. Her father was watching her closely, shifting his weight from foot to foot, and Izzy suddenly realized he wasn't just making conversation. "What is it?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing!" he said far too quickly, "It's just... Money's a little tight this month."
Izzy closed her eyes and counted to five. "You do have the rent money, don't you?"
He shifted uncomfortably. "Not... exactly." At her look, he hastily continued, "I will. The mayor's office just needs to cut me a check for the flowers they wanted for the meeting tonight. Then I'll be able to pay."
"And when will they be doing that?" she asked, already knowing she wouldn't like the answer.
If anything, he looked more uncomfortable at her direct question. "Next billing cycle's in two weeks."
"You won't have the rent for two weeks?" she exclaimed, horrified. They'd be evicted; Mr. Gold did not appreciate being made to wait, and they had nowhere to go.
"Gold likes you," her father said desperately, and his intentions suddenly became clear.
"You want me to ask for an extension," Izzy's stomach curdled at the thought. She wasn't afraid of him- she sometimes thought she was the only person in town who wasn't- but using their relationship to get a favor made her feel like she was using him.
Her father's eyes begged her, and she realized she had no choice. Grabbing her purse, she left without a word to him. She'd go to the shop instead of hoping he'd come to her, approach him on his own territory like anyone else would. That, at least, felt more fair.
There was more surprise than smile on his face when she arrived, thankful that the shop was deserted, but the smile was still there. After this, Izzy thought it doubtful she would see it again. "Miss French," he greeted her, rising at once, "A bit late for tea, isn't it?"
She wanted to lead up to it, but she couldn't seem to find the words. "I'm here to ask a favor," she said miserably. Just like everyone else in town, she wanted something from him.
His body tensed at her statement, but his words weren't what she'd expected. "What's wrong?" he nearly barked, limping closer to look her over like he was checking for signs of injury. "Did she speak to you?"
"What? Who?" she asked, feeling foolish for not following him.
"The mayor," he pressed, standing closer to her than he'd ever been, and it felt more comforting than intimidating, even with the scowl on his face. Somehow she knew it wasn't directed at her. "Did the mayor approach you?"
This question at least was comprehensible, but Izzy still didn't understand where it was coming from. Why would the mayor waste time on her? She couldn't possibly be that much of a threat to the public. She would never have been released if she was. "Of course not," she denied, then reluctantly admitted, "My father asked me to come. About the rent?"
"Ah," he visibly relaxed, stepping back out of her personal space. Izzy immediately felt the loss. "This is about money."
"I'm sorry," she whispered, feeling wretched, "The mayor's office owes money for flowers, but we won't get the check until next cycle. That's two weeks from now-"
"And you want a two week extension," he finished for her, "I see."
"I know you don't give extensions, but my father thought..." Izzy trailed off, realizing she was doing this all wrong. Her father had no doubt wanted her to beg for herself, maybe bat her eyes.
"That I'd listen to you. So he offered you up like a sacrifice." His voice was dark with anger, and Izzy winced. Although his words seemed a bit dramatic- he made her sound like a virgin being offered to a dragon- she couldn't argue with his grasp of the situation.
"I'm afraid you were right, Miss French, I don't give extensions." Izzy's heart sank. She hadn't wanted to take advantage of her relationship with him, whatever it was, but some part of her had still hoped he might value her enough to grant the favor. Clearly, the money was more important than she was, and she really shouldn't be disappointed, but she was.
"I don't give extensions," he repeated, and she thought she saw a hint of apprehension in his face, "But I could be persuaded to make a deal."
"A deal?" she repeated, wondering what she could have that he would possibly want. Her mother's necklace was gold, maybe he'd take that. It would hurt to lose it, but better to lose her necklace than her home.
"Your father owes me quite a lot of money, Miss French. I'm not sure he's told you just how much." The figure he quoted her made her gasp and her cheeks burn. No, she'd certainly had no idea her father was that far in debt, and she felt a moment's rage that he'd kept it from her.
There was no way a gold necklace was going to make up for that, not even one with sentimental value. "I don't have anything of value," she admitted, although he was probably already familiar with her family finances.
"I wouldn't say that," he murmured, looking at her intently.
Izzy flushed, wondering if he was propositioning her. It seemed ridiculous; Mr. Gold was so formal he wouldn't even call her by her first name, but there was something about the look on his face that made her wonder. "What do you want?"
"You," he answered, nearly stopping her heart. A moment later he continued, "For my wife."
She was convinced she'd misheard him. "What?"
She couldn't even look at his face, her gaze focusing on his hands where they rested on the handle of his cane, his knuckles white. This small detail did wonders for her state of mind; he was nervous too. "I would very much like you to be my wife."
"You... I..." Izzy floundered for a moment before she fixed on a single fact, "You won't even call me by my first name and you want to marry me?"
He nodded, rocking a little on his heels, "If you'll have me."
This moment didn't feel at all like a marriage proposal, so she didn't feel guilty for not responding to it like one. "Why?"
A slight shrug met her words. "I'm a lonely man, Miss French. I would like a companion."
That didn't quite answer her question, but it was a start. "So, you're picking the town lunatic?"
This time the scowl on his face was definitely aimed at her, but Izzy didn't blanch. "Don't ever call yourself that again."
"It's true," she muttered, irritated by his rebuke.
Gold strode forward, hooking his cane over his elbow to take her by the arms, pulling her closer to him than she'd ever been before. "You're not mad," he hissed, and she could feel his warm breath on her face, the sensation making her stomach flutter. A heartbeat later, he released her, stepping back like he hadn't just been growling in her face. "Do we have a deal?" he asked calmly.
"What- exactly- are you offering me?" Izzy asked. She couldn't shake the feeling that she had completely misunderstood something somewhere. Mr. Gold couldn't really be proposing to her, could he?
"If you agree to be my wife, I will forgive your father's debt, allow him to remain in his apartment rent-free, and finance any reasonable business propositions he brings to me. I will also provide for you and ensure you want for nothing." He sounded like he was outlining the terms of a legal contract, and she blinked, wondering when she was going to wake up. And to think all she'd wanted when she came here was a two-week grace period.
"Is this just a business arrangement then?" she asked hesitantly. Feelings didn't seem to enter into it at all on his end, and hers were such a jumble Izzy wasn't sure how she wanted him to answer.
"Oh no," his voice deepened, taking on a rough note that made her shiver, "I want a wife, Miss French, not a paid companion."
Izzy pressed a hand to her stomach, feeling unsteady. "Let me... Let me think about it?" she managed.
"Of course." Gold agreed like he had no vested interest in her answer. They stood for a moment, staring at each other, then he took a step closer, "But first, if I may-?"
He lowered his head, mouth slanting over hers in a sweet, soft kiss that was totally at odds with his reputation for cruelty. Only their lips were touching, but Izzy's entire body felt uncommonly warm. One of his hands lifted to cradle her face, and she sighed into his mouth. Mr. Gold kissed her like he was expecting her to vanish at any moment.
He drew back, dark eyes searching hers like he was looking for the answer to a very important puzzle. "Belle?" he murmured.
Her stomach fluttered at the sweet nickname. "No one calls me that."
He pulled away, his expression carefully controlled, revealing nothing. "Ah."
Reaching out she caught his hand, realizing he thought she was rejecting the nickname. "No! No, it's okay. I like it. You can call me Belle."
His smile didn't quite reach his eyes, but he stopped moving away from her. "Shall I come by the apartment tomorrow? For your answer?"
She nodded, wondering what on earth she'd tell her father when he asked how it went. "I'll tell you tomorrow."
"Until then." Izzy felt his eyes on her all the way down the street as she headed for home, her mind replaying the interlude over and over again. He wanted to marry her. Mr. Gold wanted to marry her.
Her father was in the shop when she got home, and she went straight for her bedroom, locking herself in. This was, perhaps, the most important decision she'd ever make in her life, and she needed to concentrate.
Now that she thought about it, the proposal wasn't quite as out of the blue as it seemed to be. In a way, they'd been dating for months if she counted their monthly meetings when he came to collect the rent. She had to do something with her life, and working in her father's shop wasn't going to be enough to occupy her time. With her history, no one else in town would hire her. Nor did she imagine any other men would be offering for her hand.
The assumption that she'd never get a better offer was no reason to marry Mr. Gold though. It smacked of taking advantage of him. Neither would she marry him for her father's sake. If she said yes, it had to be because she wanted to.
Did she? She couldn't deny she'd enjoyed the kiss they'd shared at the shop. And seeing him was generally the highlight of her day. She enjoyed talking to him and spending time with him. Marrying him would ensure she had that on a permanent basis.
In the end, the decision wasn't nearly as hard to make as she'd thought it would be.
0 0 0 0 0
Izzy took extra care with her appearance the next afternoon, changing her outfit three times before deciding on a blue sundress that was neither too casual nor too fancy. She had no idea how one was supposed to dress in order to receive a marriage proposal. Then again, she already had received it, now she was going to provide her half of the exchange.
When the doorbell rang promptly at four, she nearly tripped over her own feet, stifling a scream. There was no reason to be nervous. She was ready; she knew what she was going to say. Yet opening the door felt like jumping off a cliff.
Maybe if she pretended to be brave, eventually she'd actually feel brave. Gritting her teeth, Izzy forced her trembling hand to grip the doorknob and turn, revealing Mr. Gold on the other side. He seemed to have taken pains with his own appearance that day, and his blue tie and pocket square were nearly an exact match for the blue of her dress. The coincidence made her grin, the knot in her stomach loosening as she invited him in.
He hesitated in the middle of the living room, leaning on his cane with both hands. "I'll get down on one knee if you'd like, but I may need help getting back up."
Izzy smiled, the self-deprecating joke further putting her at her ease. This would work. They could be happy together. Stepping closer, she was certain he could see her answer in her eyes as she said, "I don't think that will be necessary."
His lips twitched like he wanted to smile but couldn't quite manage it. "Will you marry me, Belle?"
Even though she'd known they were coming, the words still made her blood effervesce in her veins, tickling her from the inside out and giving her the unseemly urge to giggle. She swallowed the laugh, fearing he wouldn't take it in the spirit she intended. "Yes. I will."
He froze, looking at her like he couldn't believe what she'd said. In fact, he was so stone-faced that she wondered if he regretted proposing in the first place. Mr. Gold licked his lips, looking intently into her eyes. "It's forever, dear."
The words sounded like a warning, and Izzy couldn't understand the emphasis. Weren't all marriages supposed to last forever? Perhaps he just wanted to ensure she wouldn't divorce him as soon as he discharged her father's debt. She put her hand over his on the handle of his cane and squeezed. "Forever."
He sucked in an unsteady breath, then his arm went around her waist, pulling her against his chest and he was kissing her again- kissing her like he meant it, like they were a perfectly normal couple who'd just become engaged and she'd made him the happiest of men. Without thinking about it, her hands had found her way into his hair, burying themselves in the soft, warm strands, and he made a little noise against her lips like she'd done something miraculous.
"I have something for you," he said when he pulled back to let her catch her breath. His face was flushed, his eyes darker than normal, and Izzy thrilled at this sign that he wanted her for her, not just because she was the only woman in town who wasn't terrified of him. "If it meets with your approval."
Dipping his hand into his pocket, he came out with a ring he offered for her inspection. Izzy beamed as she took it, slanting a teasing look upward, "Confident?"
He smiled a little at that, the first genuine smile she'd seen from him since he proposed. "Hopeful," he retorted.
Izzy loved the ring at first sight. The diamond was modestly-sized so as not to overwhelm her small hand but cut so perfectly that it seemed to sparkle with some inner light. The band was even better: antique gold delicately etched with tiny roses all the way around. "It's perfect," she breathed, handing it back to him and then offering her left hand.
Mr. Gold slid the ring home, gazing down at it for a long moment before he said softly, "The deal is struck," and he sounded almost light-hearted.
Izzy snickered, "That's a terrible thing to say to your fiancee."
"What sort of wedding would you like?" he asked, deliberately changing the subject. Instead of taking his usual chair, he opted for the sofa, and Izzy curled up next to him, not touching but still sharing the same personal space.
"A small one," she said emphatically, trying to picture herself standing in front of a church marrying Mr. Gold. She couldn't. "Do we have to have a wedding? Can't we just... you know... get married?"
"Ashamed of me?" The question was trying to be a joke, but his eyes were serious.
"I've been in an insane asylum since I got out of high school. If anything, you should be ashamed of me," she countered.
Mr. Gold flinched like she'd struck him. "You're not mad, Belle," he told her, voice strangely earnest.
Izzy sighed, "I've got a medical file a foot thick that says otherwise." Not to mention the vague sense of unreality that stole over her sometimes telling her that the world was just a cardboard cutout or a picture from a pop-up book. She really hoped that was just stress-related and not an omen of things to come.
"Yes, one of these days I'd like to see that," he muttered, glaring down at his hands before returning his attention to her and bringing them back to the subject at hand. "I thought women dreamed about their weddings. I want to make you happy, Belle."
He meant it too. Izzy knew that as well as she knew her own name. Mr. Gold genuinely wanted to make her happy, and that already put him head and shoulders above every other man she'd ever had in her life. She'd made the right decision. "I don't want people to stare at me," she confessed. There had always been eyes on her while she was in the asylum, and being out in Storybrooke was no different. It was just that the eyes now were more covert. The thought of being on display, even during her own wedding, was more than she could stand.
"As you wish," he agreed, "Tell me what you want, and that's what we shall do."
He nodded encouragingly at her, apparently willing to follow wherever she led. It was both heady and terrifying to think about how much control he was ceding to her. Her father barely trusted her to make change at the shop.
Her father... he wouldn't take this news well. All she'd told him yesterday was that Mr. Gold had offered an extension, and he'd been too grateful to question her more deeply. Izzy wondered if it would be possible for them to simply marry that afternoon without mentioning it to him.
As though her thoughts had conjured him, Izzy heard the front door open and close, Moe French's heavy tread announcing his presence before he ducked into the living room. "Izzy?" He hesitated at the sight of their guest, shooting Izzy a look of betrayal. "Mr. Gold, I- ah- thank you for the extra time."
Now both men were looking at her, and Izzy closed her eyes, gathering what little courage she had. "Dad, Mr. Gold and I need to tell you something."
Her father went white, something Izzy thought only happened in books. "Oh God, you're pregnant, aren't you?" He shot Gold a murderous look, taking a step forward, "You son of a bitch-"
"Dad!" Izzy exclaimed, wondering if it was possible to die from sheer embarrassment, "I'm not-"
"Your daughter has graciously consented to be my wife," Mr. Gold smoothly overrode her.
Her father froze like Gold's words had turned him into stone. "What?" the word was torn out through bloodless lips, "Izzy, you can't do this. Why would you do this?"
He might accept it if she explained what Mr. Gold had offered her. He had much to gain from this marriage, much more than he was losing. It wasn't as though Mr. Gold was planning on locking her in his attic; they'd still see each other. Then again, this marriage wasn't going through for his sake. "Because I want to, Dad."
Although he looked sick, Moe French stopped arguing and swallowed hard. "And when is... this going to take place?"
Gold looked to her for an answer, and she shrugged helplessly. "Saturday," he replied, watching her carefully, "Izzy wanted something simple."
"Five days?" Moe wheezed, "That's a bit fast, don't you think?"
"Why wait?" The words were light enough, but undercut with a thread of steel.
"Right..." her father said weakly, wandering out of the room with the unsteady gait of a drunken man.
Once he was out of earshot, Mr. Gold turned to her. "You didn't want to tell him the truth?"
Izzy raised her chin. "That was the truth."
He looked surprised, but didn't argue. "And does the date meet with your approval?"
A five day engagement seemed sudden, but Izzy didn't see the point in extending it. There was no wedding for her to plan; she wouldn't change her mind, and drawing it out would just give her father more time to argue. Better to have it over and done with. "Yes."
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and offered her his credit card. "Here. Buy yourself whatever you need, whatever you want."
She glanced down at it warily, not moving to take it. "I don't think I need anything."
He looked a bit helpless at that. "A dress? If you won't let me give you a wedding, at least permit me to give you a wedding dress." He pressed the bit of plastic into her hand, and Izzy looked down at the name on it, realizing that she was set to marry Mr. Gold in five days and she didn't even know his first name.
"A. Gold?" she asked, curious.
He nodded, then seemed to realize what she was asking. "Anthony. You may call me that, of course."
Izzy mouthed the name, trying it out. Anthony Gold. It was a strong name, simple and direct, and it didn't suit him at all. Looking at him more closely, she couldn't imagine what name would suit him. She certainly couldn't fathom calling him anything except Mr. Gold.
She supposed she'd have to get over that.
0 0 0 0 0
In the end, Izzy discovered that getting married was slightly less complicated than registering for the SAT. They attracted attention walking into the town office that Saturday afternoon with her clad in the silver silk gown he'd persuaded her to let him buy. It wasn't a real wedding dress- Izzy wasn't about to spend five thousand dollars on a gown she'd wear once no matter what Mr. Gold said- but it was pretty: long and straight with a gathered top that emphasized the few curves she had. It was also totally inappropriate for their surroundings.
She clung to his hand, trying to ignore the eyes on them as they filled out the necessary paperwork, the little bespectacled clerk handing over the marriage license with alacrity. "Congratulations," he murmured, looking at her with something like pity, and it was a relief when they could finally leave.
Her father and Sheriff Swan met them at the judicial office, the only witnesses to the civil ceremony, and in a shockingly-brief period of time, they'd promised to love, honor, and cherish each other for as long as they both would live. It was surreal.
The only thing that felt real was the moment Mr. Gold brushed his lips over hers after the Justice of the Peace told him that he could kiss his bride. His mouth was warm and gentle, and he squeezed her hand reassuringly, letting her feel the cool metal of his wedding ring against the palm of her hand, a perfect match for the one she now wore.
He held her gaze as they broke apart, the corners of his eyes crinkling with a smile that made him look years younger. He was happy, she realized, happy they'd done this, and seeing that made her feel happy about it too.
"Congratulations," a female voice purred from the back of the room, and Izzy tore her eyes away from her new husband to see Mayor Mills standing just inside the door, watching the pair of them with sharp eyes. Mr. Gold's hand tightened on hers almost painfully, then he stepped half in front of her like he was trying to shield her from the other woman. "I just thought I'd drop by and give my best to the happy couple."
"Thank you," he intoned, the words glacial, "But I'm afraid my wife is a little shy. Please respect our privacy."
The mayor nodded, inclining her head in a regal nod of farewell. The encounter lasted less than a minute, but it left Izzy feeling cold and unsettled. Leaving the office helped, as did getting away from her father who looked so miserable he'd might as well have been attending a funeral instead of a wedding. Sheriff Swan just looked bemused.
"I'll call you tomorrow, Dad," Izzy promised as Mr. Gold opened the door of his Cadillac for her. He managed a sketchy wave, looking at her like he assumed he'd never see her again. Then Mr. Gold took his place next to her, and she was alone with her new husband.
"Not a very festive occasion, I'm afraid," he murmured as he started the car. Her bags were already in the trunk, all her worldly possessions fitting into two suitcases to find a place in her new home- his home.
"I'm just glad it's over," Izzy said emphatically, and his eyes slid to her, his face carefully blank, "Oh, I didn't mean it like that! I'm just- I don't like being the center of attention."
She put her hand on his leg and patted, feeling the way he tensed under her touch, and she hoped she hadn't insulted him. That wouldn't be a promising start for their marriage. He took one hand off the wheel for a moment to squeeze her hand in reassurance, and Izzy heaved a sigh of relief. "You look very beautiful. I should have told you that earlier."
Shy pleasure filled her at the compliment, and Izzy smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Gold."
His lips twitched, and Izzy realized what she'd said, flushing with embarrassment. "Sorry!"
"No matter... Mrs. Gold," he said deliberately, amusement coloring his voice, "This is new for us both."
"Have you ever been married before?" she asked curiously as he turned into the driveway. Izzy knew the lovely pink house was his, but she'd never been inside of it. She didn't know of anyone who had.
"Once," he said softly as he turned the car off, "A very long time ago."
His face was shuttered, voice distant, and Izzy didn't press, feeling guilty that she'd ruined his good mood. Whatever had happened, clearly the memories were bad ones. "Isabelle Gold," she said thoughtfully, trying to change the subject, "It's going to take a while to get used to that."
"I think it suits you well," he murmured, his eyes intent on her face, and for a moment she thought he'd kiss her again. Instead he got out of the car, opening her door for her like a true gentleman before retrieving her bags from the trunk. "Come, let's get you settled."
He had one bag over his shoulder, the other in his left hand, and Izzy reached out instinctively, "I can carry that."
With a sardonic look, he waved her away. "I can't carry my bride over the threshold, allow me to be useful in some way."
There didn't seem to be a correct response to that, so she followed him in silence up the front steps, resisting the urge to help as he struggled to juggle both his cane and his key. Soon enough, he got the door open and stepped back, gesturing for her to proceed him.
Izzy stepped into the dimly lit hall, looking around in wonder. It was like walking into Aladdin's cave, wonders greeting her eyes on all sides with no rhyme or reason to their placement. She could look for hours and still miss things, and this was just the foyer. "This is amazing," she breathed, and his hand pressed her elbow.
"Welcome home, Mrs. Gold."
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He took her first to the master bedroom, which was just as cluttered as the rest of the house seemed to be, but he'd cleared out a dresser for her and a good chunk of the wardrobe. Her few clothes wouldn't even begin to fill the space, and her thrift shop dresses looked ridiculous beside his hand-tailored suits. He leaned in the doorway, watching silently as she unpacked. It didn't take long, and she was careful not to snoop despite her curiosity about the man she'd married. Mr. Gold was her husband now, but she still knew so little about him.
After putting away her clothes, she placed the books she'd brought with her on the nightstand and stood hesitantly in the middle of the room, not sure what to do next. He approached her, hooking his cane over his arm as he took her hands in his. "This is your home now, Belle. You may go anywhere. You may look at anything. You may change anything that doesn't suit you. I want you to be happy here."
She squeezed his hands, reassured by his words. This wasn't her home, but in time it could be. "Thank you."
He dropped one of her hands and kept the other, coaxing her to follow him down the stairs into the dining room. The table was set exquisitely with candles and roses, the meal a replica of the one they'd shared on their first date. As he held her chair for her, Izzy glanced down at her place setting and burst into giggles. She had exactly one fork, one spoon, and one knife to contend with.
"I thought we could try again," he suggested, taking his place at the head of the table just to her left, and Izzy wanted to hug him. Mr. Gold wasn't the sort of man to whom comfort came easily, but he was trying, trying so hard to put her at her ease.
"It's perfect," she assured him, and he sat a little straighter, clearly pleased to have pleased her.
They spoke idly during the meal, carefully avoiding difficult topics like his previous marriage, their current one, or her confinement in the asylum. Instead, she got him to tell her stories about some of the objects she'd seen in the house- she was particularly curious about the carousel horse and the cello- and more than anything it felt like the afternoons they'd taken tea together in his shop, familiar and comfortable.
There was champagne and the world's tiniest wedding cake beautifully decorated with sugar roses, and even though there was nothing traditional about any of this, Mr. Gold had somehow managed to make their wedding day into something magical. Izzy knew she would look back on this memory fondly in the years to come.
Two glasses of champagne had relaxed her, and even the thought of what he would surely want to do later held no fear. Mr. Gold had been so incredibly kind, she was certain he would be careful with her. She liked the thought that she could show how grateful she was for everything he'd done.
Instead of leading her back upstairs after dinner as she'd half-expected, Mr. Gold took her on a tour of the house, and Izzy was charmed by the sprawling structure. Her favorite spot was the balcony off the second floor, private and shaded with a view of the woods, and she was already planning to bring a chair out so she could read there. The house was so big, she couldn't imagine how he'd lived in it all alone for so long. Perhaps that was why he had so many trinkets scattered around; they were an attempt to fill the empty space.
They ended up back in the bedroom, a fact she was grateful for. This was the only room that contained any trace of her, and that made it feel more homey than the rest of the house, charming as it was. She sat down on the edge of the bed, and he took a seat beside her, pressing a few things into her hand. "Here." She looked down to find herself holding three keys and another credit card. He went through each one, "For the car and the house. The third one should unlock any room you want to see. Nowhere is forbidden to you."
Izzy nodded, memorizing which key served which purpose. Blinking, she took a closer look at the credit card, seeing her new name inscribed on it- Isabelle Gold. She shook her head, trying to hand it back. Despite all appearances, she hadn't married him for his money. He folded her fingers over it instead. "You're my wife, Belle. What's mine is yours. If there is anything that you need, anything you desire, I want you to have it."
"But I don't need anything," she protested, not that it had done her any good last time. She was still wearing the silk dress he'd bought for her after all.
"You must want something. New clothes? Books?" he hazarded, and he looked a little desperate. This mattered to him, for some reason. It bothered him that she didn't want to take what he was trying to give.
Izzy thought back to his marriage proposal- money and protection in exchange for her hand. It couldn't be possible, but did he think he had nothing else to offer? He certainly hadn't looked like he believed her when she'd told him she was marrying him because she wanted to.
Staring sightlessly at the contents of her hand, Izzy tried to find holes in her theory and couldn't; it all fit. "Why did you deal for me?"
He was quiet for so long that she thought he'd ignore her question. Then finally he replied, "I thought you'd make a fine companion. I was right."
Not letting the compliment distract her, she pressed, "But why make a deal? Why not just ask me?"
She felt him move more than saw him, and she looked up, suddenly conscious of his intent eyes focused on her. "And what would you have said?" There was a wealth of bitterness in his tone. "I'm old enough to be your father and crippled as well. This way, we both got what we wanted."
"You might have been surprised," Izzy said, stung that he would think so little of her and of himself.
He huffed a humorless laugh. "That's easy for you to say now. I would rather have the truth than a kind lie."
"I gave you truth," she protested, "I didn't marry you for your money or to save my father. I married you because I wanted to."
He bared his teeth at her in a mockery of a smile, "Oh, yes? Shall I call in your father's marker then? Let you prove it?"
Izzy took a deep breath. "No. That would be unkind when we've told him the debt was forgiven."
"I'm not a kind man," he snarled, and he'd never used that tone with her before, never. This was the Mr. Gold the rest of Storybrooke saw- all mocking sneer and cruel words. And pained eyes. He was hurting, she realized although she didn't know why. He was hurting badly and lashing out because of it.
She dropped the keys and the credit card onto the bed and caught his hand in hers, seeing shock flare in his eyes. "You've been very kind to me, Anthony." It was the first time she'd ever said his name.
He stared at their clasped hands like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. "Monsters will do anything to lure a damsel into their dens." That one didn't sound like a taunt.
Holding his gaze, Izzy said deliberately, "Then it's a good thing you're not a monster, my husband."
Somehow it was the right thing to say. "Belle," her name was a choked gasp, then his hands were in her hair and he was kissing her- slow and deep. Izzy moaned into his mouth, and he pulled her closer, holding her so tightly she could scarcely breathe. His tongue brushed against her lips, begging for entrance, and she instinctively granted it. Had she ever been kissed like this before? Desperate and hopeful and so full of longing that it left her dizzy? He left her dizzy.
Before she knew what was happening, they were sprawled together across the width of the bed, her husband half on top of her and something digging painfully into her hip. Izzy let him go long enough to reach down and yank the keys that were stabbing her out from under her and toss them to the floor before wrapping her arms around him again.
His hands moved over her restlessly, sweeping over her sides, and although he wasn't touching her anywhere he couldn't in public, the sensation left her feeling breathless and shaky. "Please," she murmured, not sure what she was asking for, and his hands clutched at her like he feared she'd vanish.
He trailed kisses down her throat, gasping her name with every one. "Belle... Belle..." and she hadn't known he could sound like this- hadn't known any man could sound like this- so frantic and joyful all at once. His long fingers curled over her breast, cupping her through the silk, and Izzy gasped, arching into his touch shamelessly. "Yes," he gasped, face alight, and she'd never seen him look so happy.
He put his arms around her again, fumbling beneath her until Izzy figured out what he was trying to do. "Side zip," she told him, letting her arm fall onto the bed above her head to give him access.
"Complicated bloody dress," he muttered, his color heightened, and she realized he was embarrassed by the mistake. Smiling fondly, she grabbed his tie and used it like a leash to pull him down into another of those wonderful, melting kisses. His hands were all over her, every touch making her blood sing in her veins, and all she was doing was clinging to him like a limpet. She had to tell him.
She eased him back from her, holding on to his tie to keep him from going too far as she bit her lip and summoned her courage, forcing herself to look at him when she shyly confessed, "I've never... done this."
Something dark and hungry flared in his eyes like she'd told him something wonderful instead of confessing her inexperience. Then he moved as far away from her as he could get with her holding his tie, swallowing hard, "We... we don't have to, Belle. I won't force you."
Any lingering nervousness fled at his words. "You wanted a wife," she reminded him, running the silk through her fingers.
"I wanted you," he admitted roughly, and her husband looked like he wanted to eat her alive.
Izzy smiled, "Then have me."
He groaned like she was killing him, then his mouth was on hers again in a fierce kiss that wiped every thought out of her mind. She plunged her fingers into his hair to hold him against her, but she needn't have bothered. He was plastered against her, holding her so tightly she could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he plundered her mouth. Izzy snaked her hands between them, blindly attempting to undo his tie and succeeding more out of dumb luck than any skill. Pulling it loose, she went to work on the buttons of his shirt, and he didn't seem to notice until she ran her hand across his bare chest, brushing her fingers against his nipple which immediately shrank into a tiny, hard nub at her touch.
He released her with a shuddering gasp, looking down at her in disbelief, and that gave her the perfect opening to actually participate in this instead of just clinging to him for dear life. Ducking her head, she put her lips where her fingers were, flicking her tongue against the tight bud.
His response was electric. Izzy thrilled at his broken cry and the way his entire body shuddered, then he was catching her by the shoulders and easing her away, his chest heaving like he'd run a marathon. "Belle, no," he gasped, his voice ragged, "Don't touch me."
The words were like a slap in the face, and she dropped her hands at once, rolling away from him to hide her look of mortification. She didn't know what she'd done wrong, but she'd clearly done something, and she cursed her lack of experience. She should have gone all the way with George back in high school. Maybe then she'd know how to please her husband. "Sorry."
She heard him swear, then he was wrapping himself around her from behind, arms tight around her, his leg around both of hers. He kissed her throat, whispering against her skin, "Belle, love, no. I didn't mean it like that. That's not what I meant. I'm sorry, Belle. Don't be upset, please."
"I didn't mean to do it wrong," she said in a tiny voice, her eyes stinging.
"Wrong?" his husky, disbelieving laugh made her shiver, "You did nothing wrong. Nothing."
He was being nice. She should appreciate that, but she couldn't stop herself from poking at the wound. "They why did you stop me?"
"Belle, it's your first time," he said like he thought she'd forgotten, "It has to be gentle, slow, perfect. If you touch me... It's not going to be any of those things."
He pressed a trembling kiss to the sensitive place just below her ear, then traced the curve of her ear with his tongue. "I have wanted you so much for so long that just touching you is driving me mad. Belle, if you touch me, I'll lose control. I'll hurt you. I don't want to do that." He rocked his hips against her, and Izzy gasped as she felt his hard length against her behind, proof of his desire for her.
He pulled away and eased her onto her back, hovering over her. "Will you trust me, love? Let me take care of you. Next time, you can do whatever you want to me, but this time just... let me."
His eyes were fraught, like he expected her to slap him or run, and Izzy had to admit that it felt wrong to just lie back and take instead of trying to please him too, but if that was what he wanted from her, she would oblige him. "All right."
"Yes?" he asked breathlessly, and at her answering nod, he lowered his head to kiss her again. "Thank you, love," he murmured as their lips parted, then he was touching her again, gentle and careful. In a way it was almost a relief she wasn't allowed to do anything, because that left her free to concentrate on the amazing things her body was feeling as he touched and kissed, slowly baring every inch of her, his eyes darker than she'd ever seen them. "Oh, my beautiful Belle."
"You too?" she requested, biting her lower lip, and he made a stifled noise before he swept his tongue over the place she'd bitten. Somewhat reluctantly, he pulled back, unfastening his cufflinks before shrugging off his jacket and shirt in one movement and tossing them carelessly to the floor. He didn't quite meet her eyes, and Izzy couldn't understand why. He was a slender man, but there was a wiry strength to him, and her stomach fluttered when she thought about how his arms felt wrapped around her. "Can I? Just for a second?" she asked, stretching out a hand to him but not yet touching.
He made a strangled noise, catching her wrist to bring her hand to his mouth and kiss her palm, then he was guiding her hand to his chest. "Just for a minute, love," he whispered hoarsely, "I'm only a man."
Curiously, she combed her fingers over his chest, sliding them through the sparse hair there before tracing small circles around each nipple in turn, seeing the way he shuddered at her touch. He crouched beside her, eyes closed and lips parted, breathing heavily, then he moved with the speed of a striking snake, pinning her to the bed again as he lowered his mouth to her breasts, showing her what she was doing to him.
Izzy moaned and squirmed beneath him, her husband's hands holding her in place for his mouth. He kissed and sucked, and her hips twitched, the sensation running like an electrical current to the place between her thighs. When he scraped his teeth gently against her nipple, she cried out, the sensation almost more than she could handle. He jerked back, shamefaced, "Sorry, love. I didn't mean to-"
"It felt wonderful," she assured him, running her fingers through his hair to pull him back down to her. After that, everything was a blur of pleasure and pressure as he kissed every inch of her body, all but bathing her with his tongue. She clutched at the bedclothes to keep from grabbing him as he buried his face between her legs, his fingers and clever tongue bringing her pleasure she'd never imagined existed.
Her body sang with her climax, but Izzy still felt unsatisfied, empty. "Please," she begged, and he pulled away from her to shed the remainder of his clothes, not giving her a chance to look before he was lying between her legs, pressing hot and hard against her. Eagerly, she arched against him, and he rubbed against her for a blissful moment before pulling back with a hoarse chuckle.
"You're killing me, love." He dipped his head to kiss her, strangely sweet for the intensity of his voice. "Don't let me hurt you, Belle. If you need me to stop, I will stop. No matter what. Tell me if it hurts."
She nodded, "I promise." Cradling his serious face in her hands, she pulled him in for another kiss, spreading her legs a little wider and wrapping her feet around his calves in encouragement.
She gasped as she felt him push against her, his body breaching hers for the first time. He froze at the sound, not pulling back, but not pushing forward again. "Belle?"
"I'm okay," she assured him at once. It felt strange, invasive, but not unpleasant, and she tried to remind herself that it was her husband inside of her. It was just another part of him. When he hesitated she brushed a kiss against his lips and murmured, "Keep going."
He did- carefully, slowly- his dark eyes intent on her face. It didn't hurt, exactly, but there was pressure and strain as her body struggled to accommodate him, stretching in ways it had never stretched before. "I'll stop," he breathed, seeing something in her face that he didn't like.
When he moved to withdraw, Izzy wrapped her legs around him and pulled, forcing him deeper until his hips were flush against her. He cried out, a hoarse, broken sound, his entire body jerking against her. "Oh gods, Belle!"
He clutched her against him, and she clung to his shoulders, her face buried against his neck as she tried to control her breathing. There was pain of a sort, a dull ache that permeated her entire body, making her tense up when she just wanted to move against him and hear him make that noise again.
"Belle, love," he murmured against her hair, pressing frantic kisses to the crown of her head. "I'm sorry."
She loosened her grip on him to rub his back, offering him the comfort it sounded like he needed as much as she did. It was her husband within her. It was her husband she was holding deep inside her body. The thought helped.
"Just breathe, love," he crooned, taking one arm from around her and sliding his hand between their bodies to gently rub at her right above the place where their bodies were joined. "Just breathe and hold on to me."
Izzy breathed and held him, and soon she felt a shimmering pleasure. Some of the tension flowed out of her, and she could hold him more easily now, her body opening for him instead of fighting him off. He sighed and pressed a little harder, coaxing her to new heights. She rocked against him instinctively, her body somehow knowing how to move with his and bring him pleasure. Nuzzling her face against his throat, she pressed tiny kisses there as he groaned and shivered.
It was different this time with him inside of her, the pleasure somehow fuller and more complete as she clenched around him. It felt good to have him so deep. It felt like he was touching her everywhere, and she'd never be alone again.
Her climax swept through her in a rush, and she bit down at the height of it, hearing his throaty groan. As soon as she could think again, she laved the bite mark with her tongue, feeling guilty. "Sorry."
"Belle," he sounded dazed, like even saying her name was a struggle. He gasped a little, then rocked his hips against her, pulling out a little before pushing back in. "Do it again."
Surprised, she nipped at his throat just above the mark she'd made, and he moaned, his body quivering in her arms. "Again. Harder."
She tried to be careful, but every bite made him groan louder and his hips move faster, his thrusts growing hard and demanding. Pleased she could make him feel like this but concerned she'd wind up chewing a hole in his neck, she alternated the bites with scrapes from her teeth and drags of her tongue, soothing the red marks she was raising on his skin. She was marking him, she realized with a kind of fierce animal pleasure, the idea filling her with heat. These marks branded him as hers as surely as the ring he now wore.
She sunk her teeth into his neck and tugged a little, growling playfully, and he shouted, an incoherent noise of pleasure. His hips jerked against hers erratically, and she felt a rush of heat as he finished within her. Izzy wrapped her arms around him, holding him as he shuddered and running her tongue over the bite soothingly.
He collapsed against her, breathless and boneless and practically glowing with happiness as he lifted his head to meet her eyes. Izzy stroked his hair, cuddling him closer, and he snuggled into her, resting his head on her chest as he struggled to catch his breath. "You didn't hurt me," she assured him before he could ask, her eyes crinkling, "I think I might have hurt you though."
He grinned at her, looking younger than she'd ever seen him. "Feel free to hurt me like that any time." He brushed his lips over hers. "You, my wife, are a vixen."
Izzy giggled at the admiration in his eyes. "So, am I allowed to touch you next time?"
He groaned, and she could feel him twitch inside of her. "Only if you're prepared for the consequences."
Raking her fingers through his hair, she dragged his mouth to hers for another kiss, deciding that she'd quite happily face those consequences.
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It took her three weeks to start feeling at home in his house, and it was the dusting that helped. Izzy liked handling all the different knickknacks and trinkets he had scattered everywhere, and cleaning them gave her a feeling of ownership too. It was one thing to admire the elaborately-carved wooden box, but spending half an hour cleaning its various crevices made it familiar in a way one of her own possessions would be.
Her husband looked somewhat stricken the first time he came home from the shop to find her cleaning. "You..." he cleared his throat and nervously licked his lips, "You don't have to do that, you know. I wanted a wife, not a maid."
Izzy shrugged, looking down at the vase she was currently dusting. "I like doing it."
He nodded and left the matter at that, although he still didn't look appeased. Izzy didn't stop cleaning after that, but she did go out the next day to buy herself some new clothes. He hadn't said a word about her wardrobe other than to reiterate she should buy herself whatever she liked, but Izzy was conscious of how shabby she looked beside him whenever they went anywhere looking like separate halves of two different couples. Although she tried to show restraint at the upscale boutique, she still spent a small fortune, and he looked delighted when he saw the bags. His favorite seemed to be the blue linen dress that had been the first thing to catch her own eye, and she wore it often, liking the way his face softened when he saw her in it.
It took considerably less than three weeks to realize that she'd married a magpie. There were things literally everywhere in the house, from the boxes in the basement to the ornaments in the bathrooms, and he brought home something new for her every day. He liked to give her jewelry, always in gold which made her smile. There were tiny puzzle boxes and gorgeous old books, all things aimed at pleasing and amusing her.
One day not long after their wedding he brought home something quite different. He looked almost nervous as he handed it to her, and it took her a moment to realize what the manilla folder was: her medical file. "I liberated it from the hospital," he admitted, "I thought you might like to see it."
He'd asked her about the asylum one night while they were cuddled together in bed, and he'd seemed troubled that she remembered so little about her time there. Her memory had more holes in it than a piece of swiss cheese. She remembered her life before the asylum clearly, but those lost years were a blur of concrete walls and cold and bland food eaten with spoons.
In truth, it worried her. She knew she was mad, and her greatest fear was that the madness would resurface one day. Although she tried to stay alert to her own mental state, asking a madwoman to evaluate her sanity was like trying to get gum off your fingers with your fingers- messy and doomed to failure. In this file she would find her warnings signs so she would know what to look for.
They sat side by side in bed and poured over the file together. Izzy discovered her episodes always started with hallucinations before she would lapse into violent outbursts. At least now she knew what to look for. It was comforting to know that the strange ideas that sometimes came to her were unrelated.
The ideas usually passed quickly- just a vague sense of unreality, the thought that the people she was speaking to weren't really there at all. It rarely lasted, and it never happened with her husband, which she found comforting. Maybe it was just because she didn't know anyone else very well. When the thoughts came, she tried to ignore them, and when that didn't work, she stuffed them into little mental boxes she'd constructed for that very purpose and locked them away where they couldn't hurt anything.
Still, she couldn't help but worry. Once they'd finished reading her file, she rested her head on his shoulder, feeling more tired than the relatively early hour justified. "Anthony?" She still had to think about it before she said his name, her lips wanting to shape into 'Mr. Gold'. Sometimes she felt like a character in a regency novel. "Will you keep an eye on me? On my behavior, I mean. I think I'll be able to tell if I start seeing things again, but I'm not sure."
He kissed her hair, his arm coming around her comfortingly. "You're not mad, Belle," he told her again despite the proof that was currently resting on his nightstand.
Izzy didn't understand why he denied it if she didn't. He'd known she was mad when he married her. "But if I do?" she prompted, and he sighed.
"But if you do, I'll tell you," he promised, and she nestled against him, satisfied. If Mr. Gold promised to do something, it was done. She was proof enough of that. He'd promised to treat her well, and he'd more than lived up to his half of the bargain: he treated her like a princess, and she had a feeling that if she asked for the moon, he'd make a concentrated effort to bring it down for her.
Still, she was a little nervous to bring up her idea two months into their marriage when she'd finished cleaning the house from top to bottom and didn't have anything else to do. Her husband was old-fashioned, traditional. She wasn't sure how he'd feel about the idea of her holding a job. Izzy wasn't entirely sure how she felt about the idea either, but she thought it might help her feel like part of the town in a positive way. It really wouldn't take much to improve her reputation from 'town lunatic.'
She brought it up at breakfast one morning as they lingered over their tea before he left for the shop and she sought out a way to occupy herself for the day. "I had an idea," she found herself saying, wishing she sounded more confident. She might have to sell him on this. "It'll probably cost a fortune, and you can say no if you want to. I'll understand, and I won't be mad..."
She trailed off to find him staring at her, looking confused and slightly worried. "Belle?"
Taking a deep breath, she soldiered on, "I'm really happy; I don't want you to think I'm not. I just don't really have anything to do all day, and I thought it might be nice..."
She stopped again, gathering her courage, and noticed that her husband appeared to have stopped breathing. He put down his favorite teacup- the one with the chip- very carefully, never taking his eyes off her. "Belle, do you want to have-" he began at the same moment she blurted out, "I want to reopen the library."
"Ah," he said after a moment, as she tried to figure out what he'd started to say. "Of course, love. I think that would be a fine occupation for you."
The words were exactly what she'd wanted to hear, but he delivered them in a monotone. "Is something wrong?" she pressed, not wanting him to agree if he didn't really believe it would work, "I mean it; I won't be mad if you say no. And what were you saying?"
He shook his head and took another sip of his tea. "Nothing important," he dismissed. "I think opening the library is a wonderful idea, truly."
Izzy still wasn't convinced, but he immediately started talking about the logistics of the project, jotting down a list of people for her to contact to get things moving. "Just mention you're my wife. I think you'll be quite high on their list of priorities."
That turned out to be an understatement. Half the people she called offered to come that day to begin work, and the other half probably would have shown up to if their expertise wasn't limited to putting on finishing touches. Izzy quickly discovered that her husband's fearsome reputation was seriously handy when it came to getting things done. It took less than a month to get the library overhauled, redecorated, and restocked.
What they ended up with was a cheerful, well-lit, and plant-filled space that made Izzy feel instantly at home. She ran her hands over the shelves, fancying that she could hear the books murmuring to her, telling her that they were happy too.
"Satisfied, love?" her husband rumbled, his arms coming around her from behind.
"It's perfect," she sighed, covering his hands with her own, "Absolutely perfect. Thank you so much."
He chuckled and kissed her hair. "You won't thank me when your many patrons are driving you to distraction."
"I just hope I have patrons," she sighed. Her biggest fear was that her reputation would keep people away and all the trouble and expense would be for nothing.
"I can exert some influence, if you'd like," he said lightly, "Drop some hints to people that their lives would be much happier if they came to check out a book."
Izzy burst out laughing at that, turning in his arms to bury her nose in his collar at the mental image of her husband threatening the good people of Storybrooke with a fate worse than death if they didn't come to her library. "That's one way to improve literacy rates," she managed, struggling to catch her breath, "Let's wait and see what happens tomorrow, okay?"
"All right," he agreed with mock disappointment, then waved his finger teasingly in her face, "Just remember that I'm happy to threaten if need be."
In the end, he didn't need to threaten. Opening day attracted a modest crowd of people eager to gawk at the new library and its infamous librarian. Once Izzy proved she wasn't going to start speaking in tongues, declare herself empress of the universe, or tear off her clothes and run around naked, a few of them even checked out books. The last went to her husband right before he took her out for a celebratory dinner.
"See?" she said as she tucked into her pasta, "No threatening required."
He grinned at her wolfishly, "We'll save that for when they have overdue books."
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A few weeks later, Izzy came downstairs to start her day and paused in the kitchen doorway, enjoying the rare opportunity to watch her husband without him being aware of her presence. He had his back to her as he leaned on the countertop, fussing with the pot of tea it was his job to prepare in the mornings. He retrieved both their cups from the cabinet, running his thumb carefully over the chipped rim of his own before pouring her cup, adding sugar and lemon with a far more careful hand than she ever used, making certain it was perfectly prepared. When he turned to place the cups on the table, he caught sight of her, his face lighting with the small smile she thought of as being just for her. "Good morning."
She smiled back, feeling her heart beat a little faster at how handsome he looked in the morning sunlight. "Good morning, husband." It was the closest thing to an endearment she ever had the nerve to use with him, and his smile broadened at the address, clearly pleased by it.
It was a minor enough thing, but he looked more content than she'd ever seen him before their marriage, his posture open and relaxed, and knowing she'd done that for him warmed her. It felt good to make him happy, this man who treated her so kindly, so much better than anyone would have dreamed him capable of, and her heart swelled with the love she felt for him.
She loved him.
The epiphany left her breathless, and she stepped closer to him to catch his shoulder and tug his head down for a kiss that he returned with flattering urgency. Parting her lips for him, she wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing as close as she could get. 'I love you,' she thought at him as he caressed her tongue with his, drawing her so close she could feel his heart beat. Her body tingled, electric sparks dancing along her skin and bursting behind her closed eyelids, coalescing into images.
Her father, dressed in velvet and ermine, stands frowning over a detailed map. "The ogres are approaching faster than we thought."
A gray-skinned creature with sharp teeth points a claw at her without even looking. "My price is her."
The mayor- but she is not the mayor, not garbed in those outlandish clothes- leans over her, purring about curses.
The creature waves a claw in her face, taunting her, but she feels no fear, and he's looking at her just like her husband does when she's confused him.
She leans into a gentle kiss, and she knows that soft sigh, knows those lips.
He's shaking her and shouting, and this is exactly what her husband would sound like if she ever made him furious enough to yell.
She's sitting against the dungeon wall (she's always sitting against a dungeon wall) trying to use her nail to scratch a tally mark for the day. It joins well over a hundred other scratches.
She jerked back with a gasp, her eyes bolting open, and for a moment she was convinced she was going to find herself in the arms of the creature- not a monster, never a monster- but all she saw was her husband blinking at her in surprise and something that looked a lot like hurt. "Belle?" His voice was low and a little rough, and she shook her head, wanting it to be higher-pitched, and her name sounded all wrong on his lips. He should have called her 'dearie'.
"No," she moaned, shaking her head in denial, as she realized what was happening. It wasn't fair, not now that she finally had her life in order. She had a job, a husband, a place in this town, and none of it was real.
She was going mad again.
Turning on her heel, she fled the kitchen and raced for the stairs, easily shaking off the fingers that brushed her upper arm. She blessed his bad knee because he'd be unable to catch her. She couldn't let him catch her.
She'd read her file a dozen times, needing the words to tell her what to watch out for, what the warning signs were. Hallucinations were the first stage. Her episodes always started with hallucinations. After that, she'd become violent.
Tripping over her own feet, she hurled herself into the smallest room in the house: the master bedroom's en-suite bath. She locked the door behind her, aware of him following behind her, calling her name. He sounded worried, so worried for her when he was the one in danger. Double-checking the lock, she sat down on the closed toilet lid on her hands, looking around the room for anything that could be used as a weapon.
His razor, hers, the silver scissors she used to trim his hair, she wrapped all of them in a hand towel and cracked the window just enough to toss the bundle out, getting all the sharp objects out of her reach. She couldn't be trusted with them.
"Belle!" His abrupt knock on the door caught her by surprise and she stifled a scream, wedging herself in on the floor next to the toilet, as far from the door as she could get. "What happened? What's wrong?"
"You- you have to call the hospital," she answered, barely able to get the words out. The thought of going back into her cell made her want to vomit, but she had to be locked away. She'd hurt somebody. She'd hurt him.
The doorknob jerked frantically as he tried to get in, "Why? What happened? Are you hurt? What's going on?" His voice was steadily gaining in pitch and volume, and a part of her thrilled to hear it. He almost sounded right. "Let me in."
"No!" she shouted back, horrified at the thought. The locked door was his only protection from her. She wouldn't take that away.
Outside, she heard him curse, then the door shuddered as something crashed into it. She bit her lip, whimpering as she realized he was trying to break it down bodily. There was another crash, and Izzy could envision him on the other side of the door, slamming his shoulder into it and cursing her name, and he was going to hurt himself if he kept this up. "Stop it!"
"Isabelle Rose Gold, open this door right now!" He'd worked himself into a truly impressive bellow, sounding exactly like he had in her hallucination, and Izzy had a feeling that wasn't a good sign. Desperately, she wracked her memory for any mention of auditory hallucinations in her file.
The doorframe shuddered again, then there was another muffled curse and a thump. Izzy moaned, lunging for the door as she realized what had happened. Dammit, she'd told him to stop. Throwing the door open, she scrambled to his side where he'd fallen, crouching beside him. "Are you all right? Are you hurt? You shouldn't have done that!" He was breathing hard but seemingly uninjured, looking more angry than anything else, and he looked all wrong. His hair was too dark and too straight. His skin was too... normal. 'No, no, no nonono.' She tried to quash the sense of unreality, mentally stuffing it into a little box and sitting on it. This was real. Everything else was a hallucination.
"Belle!" He grabbed her wrists, keeping her from running as soon as she ascertained he wasn't seriously injured, "What the hell is going on?"
She twisted her wrists in his grasp, trying to get away before she could slip any further off the deep end, but he just held on tighter. "Dammit, Belle, tell me if you're hurt!"
She shook her head, breathing fast through her nose in an effort to keep from keening. He didn't understand how much danger he was in right now. He released his hold on her wrists, but before she could flee, he wrapped his arm around her waist and bore her to the floor with his own body, trapping her beneath him, one arm wrapped around her while his free hand tangled in her hair, trying to force her to look at him. "Belle, Belle, stop. Stop, dearie, you have to stop. You're safe. I'll not hurt you; you know that. Just stop."
The breath left her in a whoosh, and she stopped struggling. "What did you call me?"
His eyes searched her face, warm and so very, very worried. "I called you dearie. I won't, if you'd rather."
She shuddered, feeling terror battering at the edges of what remained of her sanity. This wasn't happening, couldn't be happening, shouldn't be happening. "What's going on?"
His breath was warm against her temple as he huffed a humorless laugh, relaxing his hold on her now that she wasn't fighting him anymore. "I wish you'd tell me. What happened? We were kissing- Did I hurt you?"
"Of course not," she assured him at once, vaguely aware that he didn't look like he believed her. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to say the words she'd hoped never to say, "You have to send me back to the asylum."
"No." The flat denial was out of his mouth practically before she'd finished speaking.
"Anthony..." His name felt wrong on her lips although she didn't want to replace it with Mr. Gold this time. Another name, longer and stranger, lurked on the tip of her tongue, and she swallowed it down with effort. "I have to go back. I'm going mad again."
"You're not." His voice was hard, his face utterly implacable. "You're not mad, Belle, and even if you were, I wouldn't take you back to that place. I'd care for you myself."
Tears flooded her eyes at his statement. He was willing to sacrifice so much for her, his wife of four months, but it would never be possible. She couldn't risk hurting him. "You can't. You read my file; I'm violent."
"I don't care," he gritted out, staring directly into her eyes, "You are my wife, and I will not be parted from you."
She couldn't hold back her sob as she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him down until she could embrace him properly. He pressed a long kiss to her forehead, and for the first time she realized that he was trembling as much as she was. "Tell me what happened," he demanded in a low voice, and she finally felt calm enough to do so. He'd see the necessity of taking her back then. He'd be safe from her.
"I'm starting to hallucinate again," she admitted as he sat up, pulling her up with him and keeping her tucked possessively against his side, "When you kissed me... I started to see things."
His hold on her tightened, but she couldn't bring herself to look up at him, not wanting to see the disappointment on his face when he accepted she was giving in to the madness again. "What- what did you see?" he rasped, and she closed her eyes, hating the thought that she was letting him down.
She couldn't stop now though. Trying to put her thoughts in order, she attempted to describe what she'd seen. "They were like memories, but I was remembering things that never happened. There were people I knew, but they looked different- like the Wizard of Oz.". She couldn't bring herself to tell him what her twisted mind had made of him.
"Belle," her name was stifled and broken like he was having trouble breathing.
"So you have to take me back. You read my file. You know what comes next. Don't let me hurt you." He was holding her so tightly she was afraid he wouldn't agree, wouldn't let her go, but his next words still caught her off guard.
"Kiss me again."
"What?" she asked in disbelief. Perhaps he wanted a goodbye kiss, but she'd never heard him sound so desperate.
"Kiss me again, Belle. Don't pull away this time no matter what you see." Her face flushed as she tried to figure out what he was doing. Was her madness a turn-on for him? A fetish? It would certainly explain why he'd sought her out over all the other normal girls in town.
He caught her face in his hands, forcing her to meet his eyes. They were dark and frantic like his life depended on her kiss. "Kiss me again," he demanded, pausing for a moment before adding breathlessly, "It's working."
The words didn't make any sense, but something in Izzy responded to them like a royal command. She lifted her face to his, letting him seize her mouth again. He groaned in relief, but the kiss itself remained gentle and chaste. After only a moment she felt her sanity slip again, images flooding her mind. She whimpered, trying to pull back, but he just tightened his hold on her, keeping their mouths pressed together as he ran his hand soothingly over her back.
She tried to stem the tide and force the images into the little boxes where she kept all her not-right thoughts, but they were coming too fast. They swamped her, filling her mind, drowning everything she knew about reality under their onslaught, and through it all he kept kissing her and kissing her and kissing her until-
The woman who had been Isabelle Gold wrenched herself out of his arms, breathing hard. "Rumpelstiltskin."
"Belle." He'd never said her name in quite that tone before, almost reverently. "You're back at last." He lifted his hand to cradle her face, leaning in for another kiss, and Belle flinched away.
"What have you done?" Izzy's memories were still there, only now they existed in a fog, like something she'd read about but never actually experienced. Belle raked through them, seeing her rescue from the asylum, their courtship and marriage through her own eyes for the first time.
"It's a curse, Belle," he told her, clutching at her hands. "The queen cursed everyone; that's why we're here."
There was more to it, there had to be. She knew him too well to think he could be caught by one of the queen's plots. She of all people knew how unlikely that was. "The queen?" she repeated, arching an eyebrow.
He looked down at their clasped hands, face abashed. "She may have gotten the curse from me."
"So the queen has cursed everyone with more than a little help from you," she spelled it out, suddenly feeling very tired. No matter what world she was in, she seemed destined to be little more than a pawn in this ridiculous chess game they were playing. "Oh, well done."
"Belle," he protested, having the nerve to sound hurt, "There's a way to break it. That's what Emma is for."
"And have you told her that?" she demanded, looking back through Izzy's memories for any interactions she'd seen between Mr. Gold and the sheriff.
"Not... yet," he allowed, rallying slightly, "She's not ready for it yet, but I've been guiding her. Now that I have you back-"
Belle yanked her hands out of his tight grip. "Am I supposed to pretend that I'm an integral part of this plan? When you left me locked up in the queen's dungeon for years and left me in that asylum for who knows how long? Now I'm supposed to pretend you were just waiting for me to remember so you could-"
"You were dead." He didn't speak loudly, but the words were filled with such intense bitterness that they stopped her mid-rant.
"What?" she whispered.
"You were dead," he hissed, pinning her with a desperate gaze, "She told me your father tortured you to cleanse you of me until you threw yourself off a tower to free yourself. I found your grave."
Belle slumped back against the bedroom wall, feeling light-headed. "That's why you didn't come for me."
"If I'd known..." He reached hesitantly for her hand, and this time she didn't jerk away from his touch. "Belle, I swear on everything I hold dear that I would have torn the world apart to find you."
He meant it, she realized and her heart ached for him. He'd really thought her dead. The anger she'd nursed for years fled in the face of his pain. At least she'd had the comfort of knowing he was alive and well for her to rage at. He'd had nothing but his memories and a grave. Suddenly she recognized the chipped cup she'd watched him drink out of every time they took tea and blushed. After all this time, he'd kept it. "On everything you hold dear?" she murmured, mostly to fill up the silence.
His mouth quirked, some of his old humor returning. "Which is mostly you, dearie. Convenient."
Belle smiled, tugging on his hand until he was sitting next to her, then she rested her head on his shoulder. "Why do I remember now when I didn't before?"
Rumpelstiltskin pressed a kiss to the crown of her head. "You should know the answer to that. True love's kiss."
"That doesn't make sense though. We're married. We've kissed a thousand times." Suddenly a memory of their first kiss- their first Storybrooke kiss- flashed through her mind, and she remembered how intently Mr. Gold had looked at her after they parted, like he was expecting something to happen. He'd been expecting her to remember him, she realized. How it must have hurt when she didn't.
"And did you love me when you married me?" he asked lightly, reaching up to tug on a lock of her hair.
"No," she admitted softly, knowing there was no point in denying it when the proof was staring both of them in the face.
"That's why it didn't work," he confirmed, "You didn't love me until this morning."
"I'm sorry," she said, feeling wretched. It must have been awful for him to have her sharing his house and his bed with no memory of their previous life together.
He rested his chin on her hair. "Well... better late than never."
"I can't believe I forgot you," she murmured, pressing closer, "How could I forget you?"
"It's a very well-made curse," he teased, but she could tell his heart wasn't in it.
"Still," she kissed his jaw, "I'm sorry I forgot you."
"Dearie, I can't believe you fell in love with me once, much less twice," he admitted, playing with her hair, "I'm content that you remembered me at all."
"Isn't that why you married me?" Belle asked, "To get me to fall in love with you?"
Rumpelstiltskin shook his head. "I just wanted you close," he said softly, and Belle took his free hand in her own to kiss it, "Seeing you once a month wasn't enough. I wanted you with me whether you remembered me or not."
He tensed a little, and Belle braced herself for something she didn't want to hear. To her surprise he said, "Of course now that you remember all of it, I owe you an apology."
She shook her head at once. She'd had plenty of time to reflect on her own behavior while she was languishing in the queen's dungeon, in between bouts of cursing his name for not rescuing her. "I should have asked before I kissed you. I was presumptuous."
"And I was an ass," he said candidly, "You were right to call me a coward. I was scared to death, and I couldn't have behaved worse if I'd tried."
His honesty caught her by surprise, and she gaped at him. Rumpelstiltskin chucked at her expression and closed her mouth with one finger. "See? I've learned a few things in three decades."
Belle nodded dumbly before the rest of his words registered, "Three decades? Is that how long we've been here?"
"Can we have this conversation somewhere else?" he asked plaintively, stretching out his leg with a wince. She helped him up, and they stumbled their way to the bed, sprawling together on it like they'd done it a hundred times before. Which they had, Belle realized, or at least he and Izzy had, and she still had Izzy's memories. Curiously, she flipped through a few of them and blushed.
His eyes darkened as he saw the look on her face, and she pulled him down for the kiss she'd denied him earlier, his mouth hungry against hers. When his hands went to her blouse, she pulled away, giving him a scolding slap when he tried to follow. "Talking first, lovemaking later."
He brightened at that. "Really?"
"We're married," she reminded him, then frowned, "Actually, are we married? You married Izzy French-"
"I married you," he cut her off firmly, "You have promised me forever twice now. I'm holding you to it."
That more than anything showed her how much the years had changed him. He was open with her now, no longer trying to hide his feelings, and while she'd loved the man he used to be, this new version seemed to have fewer sharp edges for her to cut herself against.
She listened as he gave her the two stories he'd promised her- one so long ago- two stories that were really one: the story of the curse and the son he'd lost. Belle was in tears by the end of it.
"We'll find him," she vowed, clutching him close as he buried his wet face against her neck. "We'll find Bae, and we'll be a family."
"He might hate me," he mumbled against her skin, and Belle hugged him harder, "I've done so many things wrong."
"And now you're making up for them," she said fiercely. "If he hates you, we'll teach him not to."
He kissed her then, a kiss that said thank you and I'm sorry and forever, and she returned it with one that said forgiven and always.
Rumpelstiltskin had broken everything he touched- his son, her, the world- but he'd learned from his past, and now they were going to fix things. They were going to pick up all the bright pieces that had shattered and scattered and put them back together into one solid whole. They would have their happily ever after cobbled together from lifetimes of mistakes and broken things, and it would be even more beautiful because of it.
It wouldn't take magic to put the pieces together again- just love- and they had plenty of that. In this world without magic, it was all they needed.