The Gold's were an anomaly. Rumforde was the most hated man in town. He owned more than 90% of Storybrooke and he made sure that everyone knew it. He was cruel and ruthless to everyone and everything. Except for his wife.
Belle Gold-the most loved woman in town. She was his sickly, much younger wife. Born over three months early, little Belle had multiple health concerns with a weight of less than two pounds, such as asthma and weak bones. The most serious affliction had been the retinopathy, which resulted in complete loss of vision before she had reached her third birthday.
Despite her countless conditions, Little Belle French had been the town sweetheart. She was constantly skipping around town-with only an old cane to guide her-with a big smile on her face and a friendly greeting for everyone.
It was three months before her eighth birthday when she'd officially met Mr. Gold.
She'd been running home from school-her mother had promised to take her to get ice cream if she helped her with inventory at the flower shop, so she wanted to get there as soon as possible.
When she came to the crosswalk, she waited for the sound of cars to stop as she always did.
What she hadn't taken into account was Doc Barton's new engine in his sports car. The vehicle's quiet approach had almost proved deadly for the tiny child who began to cross the street as it silently sped towards her. A strong grip on the back of her collar, yanked her backwards just in time.
Belle let out a small cry as she fell back on the concrete-scraping both of her hands in the process. "You should try to be more careful little one." A soft-accented voice warned as he helped her to her feet and brushed the dust of her wool pea coat.
"Y-yes sir." Belle sniffled stoically. She refused to cry in front of a stranger. "Thank you." She knelt back down and ran her bleeding hands across the sidewalk.
"What are you looking for?" The man's voice held a slight note of impatience.
"My stick." Belle told him. "I had it just a moment ago!"
She heard him let out a small hiss as the gravel on the road shifted beneath his shoes. "I believe I've found it dearie." He handed her the two splintered pieces that used to be her cane.
"Oh...oh no." Her bottom lip quivered as she ran her tiny fingers over the broken pieces. She only panicked for a moment, before rounding her shoulders and nodding.
"I guess this is why they make super glue." She let out a half-hearted laugh. "Thank you again for saving me." She began to step off the curb again, but he stopped her.
"Now wait just a moment." His voice was stern, but he treated her with care. "Just how do you plan on getting home with a broken cane?"
"I'm sure I can manage." She brushed off his concern. "I know this town better than anyone!"
"But as owner of the town you know so well, I can't have you running around clueless."
Her sightless eyes widened, "Oh, Mr. Gold...I-" He cut her off as he took the broken cane from her.
"Why don't you take mine?" He handed her the much taller stick. "I have plenty of spares."
"Oh no I couldn't possibly-"
"Take it child." He sighed placing her small hands over the handle. The cold metal soothed her injured palms. "Now, I'll help you across the street, just in case that stupid man comes barreling through here again."
Belle giggled and grabbed onto his arm as she awkwardly stumbled across the street with the tall cane. "Thank you so much Mr. Gold." She smiled up at him once they got to the other side. "I'm so glad you were there."
He chuckled lightly as he pat her head. "So am I." He murmured before turning and walking off.
The next day, Gold had cross-walks with lights and sounds to alert pedestrians when to cross installed. All for one clumsy little princess.
Through the years, little Belle was Mr. Gold's shadow. She was at his shop nearly every day after school and when he went to the diner for dinner, she was hot on his heels.
To the citizens of Storybrookes' surprise, the man didn't seem to mind one bit. He actually enjoyed listening to the little child's accounts of the stories her father read to her at night and what she took from them.
She also told him about the kids at school and how they treated her. What she took as harmless fun, he took as cruel bullying and he made sure that the principal was notified promptly.
When she was old enough, he hired her to work in the shop after school. She was incredibly organized, despite her lack of sight. He made sure to get an air purifier after her first asthma attack while dusting. He'd be damned if something happened to her on his watch.
Their attraction to one another began when she was in her junior year of high school. Belle had just turned sixteen, and Gold had been fighting off feelings for the blossoming teen for months. Her charm and calming presence had brought light into his life and he couldn't stop the warm feeling that welled up inside of him every time he saw her.
She had been nearly an hour late one rainy day in November, and Gold had been beside himself with worry. He locked up the shop and rushed into the rain, grabbing his coat off of the rack as an afterthought.
He'd driven all over Main Street and when he didn't find his tiny employee, he moved to the outskirts near the high school. And that's when he saw her.
A tiny form in a blue dress sitting on the curb in front of the school. He stopped his car in the middle of the street and jumped out, not even bothering to grab his cane.
"Belle! Belle! What are you doing?" He demanded, limping over and squatting down next to her. When she turned her beautiful, sightless eyes up to him, they were red and full of tears. "Sweetheart what's wrong?"
He didn't care if anyone who may have been passing by saw, he quickly pulled her into an embrace. He'd never been able to handle her tears, though she rarely cried.
"I don't get to come back!" She whimpered gripping his arms.
"Don't get to come back?" He pulled back slightly and brushed her soaking hair back from her forehead.
"I can't further my education." Her tone was mocking, as though she were repeating someone else's words. "Mrs. Wells retired, and she was the only one willing to teach me. I'm going to have to go to a gifted school." She whimpered burying her face in his neck and continued sobbing.
Gold pushed back a growl as he rubbed her back comfortingly. Belle was probably the only teen in the whole damn town who adored school and now they were all but throwing her out because of her impairment. How was that fair?
"We'll think of something dearest." He told her with a kiss to the top of her head and helped her stand and walk towards the car. He had to get her out of this rain.
"I can't go to a gifted school Mr. Gold. I don't want to leave Storybrooke. And even if I did, my father would never allow it!"
Gold rolled his eyes. Her good for nothing father-who had been all but neglecting his only child since her mother died when she was nine-would deprive her of her only chance of a good life. "Then we'll just have to bring someone to you." He kept his voice calm as he tapped her little red nose with his finger before opening the passenger side door and helped her into the car.
He drove her home in silence, not knowing how else to comfort the devastated teen. When they finally arrived at the tiny cottage, the rain had gotten even heavier. He had wrapped her up in his jacket and turned the heat on high, but she was still shivering as he put the car in park.
"Belle, I will get this straightened out." He promised her, unbuckling his seatbelt so he could turn to fully face her. Belle nodded mutely as she ran her fingers anxiously over the golden handle of her cane—the cane that had once been his own. "Call me if you need anything?" He reached over and brushed her hair off of her shoulder.
"Ye-yes sir." She sniffled and turned towards him. "Thank you Mr. Gold." She leaned forward to kiss his cheek, but her aim was slightly off and she ended up pressing her soft lips against the corner of his mouth.
Gold pulled back quickly when he felt a familiar stirring in his abdomen. "Belle, darling—" He tried to explain, even though he wasn't at fault, but she interrupted him with a complete kiss. This one wasn't a mistake.
He tried to resist at first, but who was he kidding? This brilliant girl was old enough to know what she was doing and he wasn't about to insult her by insinuating otherwise.
When they broke apart, he was elated to see a bright smile on her face. He smiled back, even though she couldn't see it, he made sure she heard it in his voice. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that." He whispered, leaning forward to press his forehead to hers.
"Me too." She replied with a nervous chuckle. They sat there for a few moments, simply enjoying each other's presence before she cleared her throat. "I should go in. Father will be worried."
"Okay dearest." He kissed her eyelids gently, before pulling back and cupping her face in his hands. "Sweet dreams." He watched her as she climbed out of the car and carefully made her way up the walkway to her house.
Once she was safely inside, he drove home with the same ridiculous smile on his face.
For months they saw each other in private. They both knew she was at the age of consent, but Storybrooke was a small (and sometimes terrible) town. People there were always speculating and making something out of nothing. He shuddered to think of what they would do if they found out that the old pawnbroker was actually shacking up with the blind teenager. He had to spare Belle that pain for as long as possible.
But soon, it became inevitable.
He had her in his shop morning until night, teaching her how to read in Braille. The school hadn't provided the special reading material for her-they simply read to her and had her speak answers aloud rather than teach her to write. He was livid when he found out how limited she had been. So instead of finding someone else to teach her, he took matters into his own hands.
He purchased hundreds of Braille novels and textbooks online and set her up with her own area in the back of the shop. He spent weeks memorizing the language of touch and when people weren't coming in the shop, he was seated next to her and teaching her how to read each letter and word.
When she finished her first book, 'Black Beauty' he nearly cried with joy. She was going to be okay.
Soon word got out about their relationship. Soon her father knew. And Moe French may have neglected his child, but he certainly didn't want anyone else giving her the time of day. He was waiting for Belle when she came home one night with his leather strap and an empty bottle of whiskey.
Weak and battered, little Belle French basically crawled across town to her employer's house. When he opened the door to see her bloodied form huddled on the doormat, he nearly lost his mind.
He brought her inside and cleaned her wounds. Once he was satisfied that she had no internal injuries, he sent her to bed with one of his stronger pain pills. He sat with her until she was in a deep sleep before going to the station to report this crime to Sheriff Humbert.
Normally, he would have handled mattered himself, but he couldn't risk being injured or hauled off to jail with a terrified Belle hurting in his bed.
Graham had helped little Belle many times over the years, and as he had expected, he'd been enraged over what had happened. He was climbing into patrol car before Gold had even put his coat on. "Bastard just earned himself a solid ten if I have anything to do with it." The younger man promised.
It took months for Belle to recover both mentally and physically from her ordeal. He had moved all of her belongings into one of his spare bedrooms but she spent nights in his room, curled around him.
After that, they didn't give a damn about the rumors. Belle French was his and he didn't care who knew about it. They didn't get married until she was eighteen, and only then did they consummate their relationship—he had every intention of allowing her her innocence for as long as possible.
Soon the scandal died down, as it normally would in a small town. Belle French was no longer the victim of the evil and conniving Mr. Gold, but she was his charming and devoted wife of two years. They were happy. And though the town was utterly bewildered by them, they let them be. Why anger the beast by questioning his love life?
It was on a chilly night that things began to change. Gold left his sweet wife at home with her Kindle-that he'd loaded up with audiobooks that she could browse through with voice command-so that he could go collect the first of the month rent. She had her large noise reducing headphones on as she leaned back on the sofa and listened to her latest tale. He kissed her forehead before heading out into the night.
First stop, Granny's Inn.