Title: A harmony of life
Fandom: Once Upon a Time
Pairing/Characters: Belle/Mr Gold (Rumpelstiltskin)
Series: And west of the moon
Rating: PG-13 for mild language and sexual situations
Word Count: 11,000
Spoilers: For episode 1.12
Disclaimer: Not mine! The title comes from the classic song East of the Sun (and West of the Moon). I personally love the Billie Holiday version, but the Diana Krall one is stunning, too.
I also use excerpts from Swann's Way by Marcel Proust and And You Smiled, You Spoke, and I Believed by Walter Savage Landor. All of the towns and roadside attractions do exist and I have taken what is probably extreme license using them in this story.
I've also taken liberties with how Rumpelstiltskin became injured which I'm sure will be Jossed (Kitsis'd? Horowitz'd?) in the future.
Thank you to the fabulous fringedweller for the beta!
A/N: This is the last of a three story series, the sequel to Near to the sun and Near to the moon.
Summary: Belle and Mr Gold go on a road trip. No, really. It's very cathartic.
The Catskills, New York
"Why?" he asked as they leant against their car staring at the structure in front of them.
"I think the question is more: why not?" Belle said tilting her head to the side.
"Ah, well in that case," he said. "It's very ambitious."
"That's definitely a word for it," she said nodding.
They peered up at what was supposedly the world's largest kaleidoscope situated in the middle of the Catskills in New York.
Belle shrugged and started to walk towards it.
"You're going in?" he asked.
"You're not?" she threw back at him over her shoulder.
She heard a sigh and then the familiar thump of his cane as he followed her inside.
So far their road trip had gone pretty much as Belle had expected. They drove until they found someplace they wanted to see, ate when they wanted to, and stayed wherever they wanted to. They didn't even drive every day. There had already been a few quiet days where they stayed in one place so he could rest his leg and Belle could read and write. She was halfway towards filling up the notebook Henry had given her and she'd already picked up another in a gift shop in Vermont.
Strangely enough, there had been no major fights or disagreements. Belle suspected that he was just as relieved to be away from Storybrooke as she was and that to say anything negative would, well, break the spell.
So to speak, of course.
In fact, entire days would go by and they wouldn't have said more than a few words to each other. Which should have felt uncomfortable, but in truth felt peaceful.
There were the little things though. Belle couldn't bear to be in the car without her window cracked to let air in, even when it was raining; whereas he took an inordinate amount of time in the mornings getting ready.
But on the whole, things were moving along.
"Well, that was interesting," Belle said as they left the kaleidoscope. "What did you think?"
"I think that I've have better trips after ingesting a handful of mushrooms from the forest behind the dark castle," he said. "But the construction of the scope itself was remarkable."
Belle elbowed him. "High praise, indeed."
He smirked at her and she slipped her hand through the crook of his arm.
After small lunch of sandwiches, they moved on.
St. Mary's, Pennsylvania
They checked in to a small hotel somewhere in Pennsylvania where Belle caught sight of his credit card and raised her eyebrows at the name on the bottom. After he'd signed the slip and they walked out towards their rooms, did she comment, "Richard H. Gold? Richard? Really?"
"And what is wrong with Richard?" he asked.
"Well, nothing," she said with a shrug. "But it's so…unassuming. Boring, even."
"Precisely the point, love," he said. "Richard H. Gold is but a mere businessman, nothing more."
"Ha!" she said. "As if you could be anything that could be labelled as 'mere'."
"Careful, dearie," he said wryly. "I may blush."
They got to their rooms and Belle shoved the card into the key slot. Her door clicked open but before she disappeared into the room she paused to ask, "What does the 'H' stand for?"
"It stands for 'Humble', of course." The grin he gave her was wicked and cheeky and she loved it
Belle was still laughing long after she'd finished unpacking.
Belle let her fingertips trail over the spine of the books in the used bookstore (the third in a week). They tended to avoid most of the larger cities, partly because of traffic, but mostly because they didn't want to bother with crowds.
She tapped the top of a faded copy of Chaucer, but wrinkled her nose and moved on. She'd had enough of that, she wanted something else.
He was nearby looking through the hobbies section. Belle glanced over and didn't bother to suppress the smile when she saw him leafing through a book on gardening.
After a few minutes, she wandered over to him.
"You've been aware for much longer than I have," she said quietly. "What have you enjoyed reading?"
"I've been too busy to read," he said not looking up from his book.
"Yeah, right," Belle countered. "Come on. What's a good novel?"
He sighed and looked up. "I rather enjoyed Hemingway. And Dostoevsky. I liked reading about the foibles of humanity."
"Knowing that you were as beholden to them as the rest of us?" Belle asked.
The smile he gave her was sharp and appreciative. "Very good. And yes. I always enjoyed hearing about the lengths a person would go for what they wanted," he said. His smile turned almost rueful. "When I was feeling particularly melancholy, I'd read Kafka."
"Is that the fellow who wrote about the man who turns into a bug?" Belle asked. "Goodness. You really needed to get out more."
He snorted and returned to his book. "That goes without saying, dearest."
Belle remained calm and simply rolled her eyes at him, but inside her heart began to beat just that much faster at his endearment. She turned away and wandered back towards the poetry section to hide her smile that she knew projected all her hopes.
Progress? she wondered idly picking up an anthology. Does a casual 'dearest' count as progress?
She looked down at the page that the book had fallen open to:
You smiled, you spoke, and I believed,
By every word and smile deceived.
Another man would hope no more;
Nor hope I what I hoped before:
But let not this last wish be vain;
Deceive, deceive me once again!
"Hunh," she said under her breath. She put the anthology back on the shelf and went back to the fiction section.
Belle frowned at the road in front of her as she drove, then glanced quickly down at the map sitting precariously on the gearshift.
"Are we lost?" he asked looking over at her.
"Well, considering we're not really heading for anywhere in particular," Belle said, "um, no?"
"Right," he said and shifted in his seat, cringing a little.
"Leg?" she asked carefully not looking at him knowing he really wouldn't appreciate it.
"A bit," he said. "The beds in our establishment last night were not of good quality."
Belle snickered. "I wondered if they'd shoved corn husks into the mattresses. You know, like they used to."
"I would not have put it past them," he said. "They'll win no one over with the quality of their coffee."
"I've already drafted a strongly worded letter," she said only half-kidding.
His chuckle turned into another grimace and he grasped at his thigh.
"Right," Belle said decisively spotting a restaurant. "Here looks good."
"Thank you," he said quietly.
"As if this just for your benefit," she said. "I've had to go to the bathroom for the last fifty miles."
"Well, if you will persist in drinking such large quantities of beverage, I'm afraid you'll have to pay the consequences," he said.
Belle rolled her eyes as she pulled into a parking space.
They went inside, him to purchase some coffee to go and stretch his legs, while Belle headed straight for the ladies' room.
Once she was finished and had washed her hands and splashed some cool water on her face, she exited and took a left out of the restaurant, instead of a right that would have taken her into the restaurant.
Belle wandered along the path behind the building and stopped. The city just ahead of her was small and peaceful-looking, with an expansive green forest surrounding it
She didn't know how long she stood there looking at the view, but eventually he joined her. She glanced at him and saw a look of appreciation as he gazed out at the valley.
"We could stop for a while," Belle said. "Rent a cottage. Rest."
He eyed her. "You just want to read all the books you've bought."
"And is that so very wrong?" she asked elbowing him in the side. "Come on. We've got the time, you know. There's no big rush to get there."
"Well, the Pacific should still be there by the time we get around to it," he said.
I'm not talking about the ocean, she thought, but she just said, "See? Let's take a break."
Their cottage was small and had two small bedrooms off of a living room and a small kitchen. Their first night, Belle did precisely what she'd said she was going to do, which was curl up in one of the armchairs and read. Gold did the same. However, her choice was Anne of Green Gables while his choice was Proust.
Belle had frowned when she saw it. "I feel like I should mock you for choosing something that's considered to be pretentious."
"But then you remember who you're talking to and decide not to bother?" he'd said calmly turning a page.
"Something like that," she said before grinning at him and going back to Anne Shirley breaking her slate over Gilbert Blythe's head.
The next day, Gold stayed at the cottage to do some much needed maintenance on the car, an oil change and the like, while Belle headed out to try one of the nature walks.
She came back with a slight sunburn on her nose. He just shook his head and handed her some aloe. Dinner that night was an omelet that he made with lots of black pepper and cheese.
Afterwards, they sat out on the deck and watched the sun go down.
"I'd like to go to Phelps Park tomorrow," she said resting her head on his shoulder. "It's supposed to be lovely."
"Okay," he said his hand falling to rest on her thigh while he turned his head to sit on top of hers.
"Read to me?" she asked poking at the book he had on his other side.
She felt his jaw form a smile. "So very demanding, you are," he said before picking up his book. He cleared his throat and began, " No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me…"
The next morning after getting out of the shower, Belle wrapped her towel around herself and groaned when she realized she'd left her trousers in the dryer the night before. Before going out into the living room her hand hesitated over the doorknob, but knew he'd still be out getting the morning paper, so she opened the door.
Just as she grabbed her capris and turned to go back to her room, the door to the cottage opened and he walked in.
If she had been watching the same scene on television, she probably would have considered it hilarious: the way his jaw went slack while the rest of his body froze and how he couldn't help the way his gaze raked (and she'd never really understood that verb until now) over her.
But, it was her and it was him and this wasn't on television and when a water droplet fell from her very wet hair to land on her collarbone and then travel downwards, as did his eyes, she shivered.
And the spell was broken and they started to speak at once.
"I'm so sorry," they said at the same time.
"Ah," he said wincing.
"I forgot my clothes," she said holding up her pants awkwardly.
"I can see that," he said, he winced again. "I'll just go. Outside."
"No, it's okay," she said but he was already turning and walking out the door. She stood, dripping, still holding her pants and stared at the door. There was a thump on the other side that resembled the sound a head makes when thudding against a door.
Belle bit her lip to hold in laughter that verged on hysterical. Then she turned and went back into the bathroom to get dressed.
The drive to the park was awkward to say the least, but the views from the summit and their slow walk underneath stone archways covered with wildflowers and ivy soon brought things back to normal.
On their last day, Belle impatiently sat waiting in the living room, her bags already re-packed and ready to go.
"Are you ready yet?" she called into his room.
"Almost," he called back.
Feeling bold, Belle walked in. She stared at the cracked door to his bathroom. "Dare I ask what it is that you do every morning?" she asked.
"Come and find out," he said his voice smug and teasing. She narrowed her eyes. Oh, didn't he know better than to dare her to do anything? She walked into his bathroom and immediately felt warm all over at the sight of him.
He was mostly dressed, but his shirt wasn't buttoned yet and something deep inside of her actually quivered at the visible line of his chest. But what really made her knees go weak was the fact that the lower half of his face was covered with a thin layer of white foam and he was quite obviously in the midst of shaving with a silver straight razor.
His eyes met hers in the mirror and he paused the razor just under his chin. "See something interesting, dearie?" he asked, his lips quirking upwards.
"Why don't you use an electric shaver?" she asked quietly, her system still processing what she saw.
"Well, you know me," he said, dipping the blade in the sinkful of water and tapping it lightly on the side. "I like to be precise."
"I've noticed," she said. She blinked and swallowed hard and the words came out of her mouth before she could stop them, "May I… May I watch?"
He studied her for a moment, keeping his expression blank which usually meant he was experiencing a mixture of emotions, but said, "Of course, you may."
On rather unsteady feet, Belle sat down on the edge of the bathtub. He gave her one last look and then raised the razor to his face. With a slow, careful hand, he slid the metal up his throat to the edge of his jaw. He repeated the motion once more, cleaned off the razor, then started again.
Belle watched the as each strip of skin was slowly exposed to the air and could hardly breathe. She'd always known that she was attracted to him. But she hadn't realized that she really, truly wanted him. She wanted him in a way that she'd never felt before and it both excited and frightened her. Her hands felt empty and clumsy and she had to grab the side of the tub to give them something to hold onto.
He finished the last section of his neck and moved onto his jaw and face, this time shaving downwards. He was very studiously not looking at her and she figured that was best, because she knew that if gave her any kind of invitation at all, she'd pounce.
And in that very practical part of her brain, Belle knew they weren't ready for it. Not when they still had too fresh memories of distrust and rejection between them.
Knowing that, however, did not stop her from rising from her seat on the bathtub when he finally finished and said, "There. Shall I pass muster, do you think?"
Her feet felt heavy and her steps echoed in the small bathroom as she approached him. He turned to face her, his expression still impassive, but his eyes darted nervously over her face.
She settled for simply reaching her hand up and wiping away a stray bit of foam next to his ear and said, "Very dapper, as always."
"Thank you, my dear," he said finally giving her small smile that verged on wicked.
She smiled back.
"Shall we?" he asked, gesturing towards the door behind her.
"We most certainly shall," she said giving a small curtsey and grinning.
"She's the Madonna of the Highway," Belle said. "They put up several of her along the way to California."
They both looked up at the large stone statue of a woman holding a baby in one arm, wearing thick boots on her feet and a very determined expression.
She frowned as something occurred to her. "Do you remember your mother?"
"I don't think so," he said after thinking for a moment. "I don't remember much before the wars. The only thing I remember was there was a small hole in the thatching and the rain would come down through it into a pot." He stared off into middle distance. "I remember hands picking up the pot and emptying it and then putting it back."
Belle tucked her arm through his without taking her eyes off the Madonna. He pressed his arm against hers, bringing it closer to his body.
"Do you remember your mother?" he asked her.
"Just flashes really," she said. "She died when I was so young. I remember someone with a nice voice reading to me and the smell of rose water."
When he turned to press his lips to the top of her head, Belle did her best to hold in her pleased gasp. "You smell of oranges," he murmured into her hair.
"It's my shampoo," she said turning her head towards him just enough to brush her nose against his chin.
"You smelled of them back then, too," he said. "It's not just your shampoo."
Somewhere outside St. Louis, Missouri
"I liked seeing the Mississippi," Belle said as she moved her hands from the table so the waiter could deposit their drinks in front of them.
"So did I," he said picking up his Scotch. "Cheers."
"Cheers, indeed," she said picking up her rum and Coke, something she'd never tried before. Their glasses clinked together.
"Ooh, hey," she said before drinking. "Rum!"
He shook his head. "Yes. No one has ever drawn that particular similarity before."
"Stop grumbling," she said before taking a drink. She made a face as she swallowed. "Ugh. I don't know. The similarity stops at the name."
"How is that exactly?" he asked.
"Well, this is much sweeter than you are," she said smirking.
"You wound me terribly, my lady," he said. "And after I made sure you got the room with the windows that actually open."
"Your brave sacrifice will not be squandered," she said leaning over the table. "I promise you."
She took another sip, this one longer than the previous.
"Careful, dearie," he said. "Wouldn't want you to get drunk."
She shrugged. "I've done it before."
"Have you?" he asked sounding surprised. "When?"
"Oh, ages ago," she said waving a hand in the air. "Shortly after someone kicked me out."
He grimaced and took a long belt of his drink. "Ah. Your answer to that was to drink?"
"You broke my heart, it seemed like a good idea at the time," she said tempering the words with a smile. "I met some lovely gentlemen, actually."
"What?" he asked loudly, his glass clinking on the table.
She giggled. "The dwarves. They were very nice."
He shook his head. "Dwarves. Well, it isn't as though I didn't do similar."
Belle's eyes widened. "Did you really?"
"Gods yes," he said grimly. "I soaked myself to the gills very thoroughly over the next however many years. I had thrown away something very precious, you see?"
"When did you stop?" she asked rubbing a finger along the lip of her glass.
"Oh, around the time that something very precious came back into my life," he said giving her a look that could only be described as heated.
Her jaw dropped. "You can be terribly charming when you want to be, Rumplestiltskin."
He smirked at her over his drink.
A couple of hours, and three more rum and Cokes for Belle, later they walked back to their motel, Belle leaning heavily on him. She wasn't drunk, but felt tipsy and wonderfully off balance. The air outside was muggy and damp on her skin and she stared at the haze of city lights in the distance.
"Can I kiss you?" she asked as she stared at the horizon.
His body jerked in surprise and he looked over at her, startled.
"Not now," she said patting his arm. "I just meant in general. Do you think something will happen if I kiss you now?"
"I…don't know," he said. "The curse, as it were, is broken and the Dark One is something different in this realm, so no. I don't think anything will happen."
"Oh, that's good to know," she said.
He opened his mouth to say something, but must have thought better of it and shut it again.
"You could though," she said feeling as though she was saying something terribly important. "If you wanted to. Kiss me, I mean. I'd like it if you did."
"I imagine I'd like it if I did," he said his voice dropping into a register she hadn't heard before and she really wanted to hear more of.
"Oh, I like your voice," she said leaning into him.
"I like yours, too," he said. "And here we are. Home again."
Belle sighed as they walked up the concrete steps to their rooms on the second floor. He opened the door to his room, and led her through to hers using the connecting door that they always kept unlocked and slightly cracked. Belle sat down on the bed and tried to undo the straps of her sandals, whimpering when her fingers wouldn't cooperate.
"Let me," he said quietly and his fingers deftly undid the tiny buckles and she shivered as his fingers brushed her ankles.
"I meant it," she said once he'd finished, drowsily crawling up the bed to curl up on her pillow. "Any time. Just go for it. If you want to. Please."
"We'll see," he said running a hand over her hair.
Belle hummed happily and fell asleep to the sound of him moving about the room.
The next morning Belle woke up to a peculiar taste in her mouth, gnomes tap-dancing on her skull and the sun shining obnoxiously into her room.
"Ugh," she said squinting in the bright light.
"And how are we feeling this morning?" he asked standing in the connecting door of their rooms, looking incredibly smug and well, patronizing, if one wanted to get specific.
"Bleh," she told him and stumbled into the bathroom.
A long shower later and she felt much better, apart from the persistent sensitivity to light.
"Are we approaching normality?" he asked having seated himself in the armchair in her room, sipping a cup of motel coffee.
"I'm as close as I'm ever going to get," she said, twisting up her still wet hair to the top of her head. "Let's go."
"We can stay a bit longer, if you'd prefer," he said. He smirked. "Until you recover."
"Oh, hush," she said crossly. "I'm fine. The sun is just too bright, that's all."
"Ah, I had a feeling that might be the case," he said. He reached down and pulled up a small white bag, which he threw to her. "You might find these help."
Belle opened the bag and pulled out a pair of cats-eye sunglasses that had tiny little sparkles on the corners. She laughed. "Thank you! I love them."
She put them on and sighed in relief at the dimming of the room. "How do I look?" she asked, striking a pose.
"The epitome of glamour," he said.
They got on the road, Belle prepping her map and pointing at the highway they needed to look out for.
"How much do you remember, by the way?" he asked as he pulled out onto the Main Street. "Of last night."
"Oh, all of it," she said. She snickered when he looked over at her startled. "What? I wasn't that drunk."
"So I gather," he said drily. "I assume that your request still stands in that case?"
"It most certainly does," she said. "Take the next left. In fact, I'm considering putting a deadline on it. You know, to move things along."
"Perhaps I'm not ready," he said taking the next left and smoothly merging with the traffic.
"Then you won't do it," she said adjusting her sunglasses and lowering the window an inch. She tilted her head to catch some of the breeze.
"But I might feel compelled if you give me a deadline," he said shifting the gears. Belle sighed at the sight of his fingers, remembering how they'd felt on her feet the night before.
"As if you would ever do anything you didn't truly want to do," she said. "I doubt I have that much power over you."
"You'd be surprised," he said under his breath.
"Wow," Belle said her eyes wide.
"Indeed," Gold agreed.
They stood in front of caravan that held The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things.
"This is awesome," Belle said pulling out her phone. "Oh, Henry is going to love this. Emma has to bring him here."
"It's certainly an accomplishment of…something," he said.
"It reminds me of your shop," she said taking a picture of the objects in the window. "You know, little things that mean a great deal to someone but mostly mean next to nothing to everyone else."
"That is the general definition of a pawn shop, dearie," he said peering at a replication of the largest ball of twine in the world.
"Do you miss it?" she asked grinning at a display of water towers.
"No," he said quickly. "I don't miss it."
Belle looked over at him. "You don't?"
He shook his head. "Not in the slightest." He looked at her and smiled, almost sadly. "I miss the antiques and the repairs, working with my hands to fix something. But the rest? The bargaining? Looking someone in the eyes to seek out that sliver of desperation and then use it to my own advantage? No. I don't miss it."
Belle didn't know what to say, other than, "Good?"
"Yes," he said leaning forward to kiss her cheek. "It is."
Then he walked inside the caravan to get a closer look at the models, leaving Belle feeling confused and hopeful. She cocked her head to the side and followed him inside.
Somewhere in Kansas
"Stop the car," she said putting her hand on his thigh. "Look at that."
He pulled the Rover over to the small parking lot and they got out. She took his hand as they wandered into the strange field.
Someone had erected large metal frames and attached bottles of every shape and color to them. Some of the bottles were stuck on little spikes, others dangled in the breeze, clinking cheerfully.
Belle couldn't stop the smile from spreading on her face and the sun shone through the glass creating little prisms on the ground and on their skin. She held out a hand and made as if to catch the little rainbow as it danced in her palm. When she made to walk on, he tightened his grip on her hand.
"Wait," he said tugging gently at her hand. She stopped and faced him. He looked up. "Listen."
The wind blew through the yard, making all the bottles whistle at different pitches. Low hums were interspersed with higher whistles.
Belle closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of the bottles and the rustle of the wind in the trees.
She smiled and said, "I will never tire of how…" She trailed off when she felt his hand on her face.
Opening her eyes, she saw him move in closer. He was so focused on her and she felt a surge of anticipation begin in her stomach and move throughout her body.
His hand cupped her cheek and he bent his head.
Her eyes closed.
It was almost as hesitant and gentle as their first kiss had been all those years ago, but this time when he pulled away, she followed him, rising up on to her toes to capture his lips again with hers.
This time, she felt his lips curve into a grin against hers before he slid those nimble fingers through her hair to cup the back of her head. Belle allowed herself a quick grin as well then she carded her own fingers through his hair and kissed him.
The slightest press of his tongue to her lips and she parted them, a small sound escaping from her throat, which he swallowed with a groan of his own.
His cane knocked awkwardly against the back of her legs as his arm wound around her waist and she moved in as close as she could, until she could feel the buttons on his shirt pressing against her through the thin material of her dress. She could feel the weight of his tongue next to hers, the tenderness of his fingers as they cradled her skull and the warmth of the sun on her shoulders was nothing compared to the warmth of his mouth.
They broke apart at the sound of other tourists making their way through the field. Belle blinked in the dazzling sun and smiled when she saw how red his lips were and how wide-eyed he'd become.
"Well," he said hoarsely, "so that's what would happen if we kissed."
"No apocalypse in sight," Belle said still pressed against him.
The other group of tourists came in sight and it was with weak knees that Belle followed him out of the field and back towards their car, her hand still held tightly in his.
"Perhaps we should try again, though," he said hesitantly. "To make absolutely certain there are no ill effects."
Belle nodded. "Oh, I agree. Definitely a few more kisses to make sure."
She had only a moment before she was spun around and pulled in close to him, his mouth on her direct and intense and there was not even a trace of hesitation when his tongue deliberately slipped between her lips and she fisted her hands in his shirt, in part to steady herself, in part to pull him closer.
Belle gave back just as good as she got and when they finally had the sense to stop, they were both breathless and Belle was shoved up against the side of their very warmed-by-the-sun Rover.
"Still no earthquakes," she managed.
"True," he said, running a finger along her cheek and over her lips. "We should do this more often, however."
"To thoroughly explore all the possibilities that there could be a delayed reaction," she said nodding. "Right."
He grinned and she grinned and had only a moment to think that she was incredibly lucky before he kissed her again.
She didn't think rationally until several hours later when they finally fell asleep in the same bed, fully clothed, mind you. Belle was ready for him, but she wasn't that ready.
Near Kit Carson, Colorado
Belle leaned against the car, while he paid for their gas and stared out at the rows of wheat that glinted in the sun. It was another hot day and Belle lifted her face to the sun, breathing in deeply while a breeze teased her bare legs beneath her shorts. She lowered her head to see him staring at her from inside the convenience store. The line was a bit long and there were a few men in front of him shoving and laughing at each other. He rolled his eyes. Belle winked at him and he shook his head.
"Hi," a young voice said cheerfully.
Belle looked to the side and then down at a small girl with blonde curls wearing jean shorts and a red t-shirt. "Hi," Belle said smiling.
"Would you like a Coke?" the little girl said holding out a can of soda, condensation dripping down the side. "The machine gave it to me along with my Sprite, but I'm not allowed to have it 'cause of the caffeine and mom doesn't like it, so she said I could try to give it back to the store, but they won't take it, will you?"
Belle blinked trying to parse out the request and settled on, "Sure. How much is it?"
"Fifty cents," the girl said holding out her hand.
"Okay," Belle dug into her pocket and pulled out two quarters. "Here you go."
"Thanks!" She looked at the quarters. "Oh, cool. The Florida one and the Connecticut one. I like the tree."
Belle grinned. "So do I."
"I'm DJ," she said. "Which is short for Daphne Jane, but I hate it. What's your name?"
"Belle," she said.
DJ's eyes widened. "Like in Beauty and the Beast?"
Belle laughed and nodded. "Amazingly like Beauty and the Beast."
"Cool," DJ said grinning.
"DJ! Let's go!" a woman with blonde curls like DJ's called from an old Ford Taurus. She caught Belle's eye and smiled and waved. Belle waved back.
"Gotta go," DJ said. Her eyes focused on something over Belle's shoulder. She whispered, "Is that your boyfriend?"
Belle looked over and saw Gold coming towards the car, his expression oddly blank. The two men who had been ahead of him in line spilled out the door of the store still laughing.
"Yes. Well, sort of," Belle told DJ.
DJ nodded. "It's complicated. That's what my sister says about all her boyfriends too."
"It's a very good word," Belle said seriously.
"DJ! Now, young lady!" DJ's mom called again.
DJ made a face. "Better go before she calls me Daphne Jane. Bye!"
"Bye!" Belle said. "Thanks for the Coke!"
Belle watched as DJ got into the car and both her and her mom waved at Belle as they drove off. Belle waved, too.
"Making friends?" he asked tightly as they got into the Land Rover.
"And getting a Coke," she said popping the top and taking a sip.
She offered it to him and he shook his head.
They drove along in silence for a couple of miles, Belle looking out at the scenery and feeling waves of tension just pouring off of him.
"You realize that probably won't happen," he said after a while.
"What won't?" she asked.
Belle felt her stomach churn.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"I mean that I highly doubt that I'm able to produce one," he said. "What with the Dark One still lurking about."
Belle stared at him. "Well, we'll just—"
"What?" he asked his lips turning up into a sneer. "We'll what?"
"Deal with that if it ever comes up," Belle said slowly. "What's going on here?"
"Nothing," he said. "Nothing at all. I'm just being a proper salesman, that's all. Letting the buyer beware of any potential damage in their purchase."
"No," Belle said tears burning in her throat. "Why are you being such a bastard?"
His grin was awful as he said, "It's my default setting, dearie. I thought you liked that about my personality."
"Stop the car," she said quietly.
"I said stop the damn car!" she shouted.
With a sharp jerk of the steering wheel, he pulled off the road onto the gravel and stopped the car. Belle stared at his profile while the dust swirled in the air from their abrupt stop. He didn't look at her.
Without a word, Belle got out of the car, slamming the door behind her. The gravel beneath her feet kicked up tiny pebbles that slipped into her sandals as she strode away from the car. She stared at the empty road ahead of her, before she turned around to face the car. Her hands were clenched into fists by her side. She couldn't see his face through the glare reflecting off the windshield, but she could feel him staring at her.
Belle lifted her chin.
He got out of the car.
The crunch of his cane on the gravel was loud and measured as he walked towards her, but she didn't flinch. He stopped a foot away. She stepped up close, remembering another time she dared to confront him in such a fashion.
"What is going on?" she asked quietly. "Why are you striking out at me?"
He didn't answer, so she went on, "And don't tell me that you're angry, because this isn't anger, is it? You're scared. And I want to know why."
"You know why," he said evenly.
"Do I?" she asked her eyes flickering over his face trying to find a clue, a hint to what he was thinking.
"I am not a changed man, Belle," he said biting the words out. "I went from being a coward to a demon. And now that the magic is gone, it's back to the natural order of things." He grinned hatefully. "Which for me? Is cowardice."
"How is helping to defeat evil a return to cowardice?" Belle asked.
"What? Helping to destroy Regina? I did it for my own self-preservation," he said his eyes narrowing. "Not for anything noble, I promise you."
"I don't believe you," she said shaking her head. "If that were true, you wouldn't be here with me now."
"Belle, don't expect good things from me," he said, an undercurrent of desperation seeping into his voice. "I don't have them in me."
"Yes, you do," she said. "I've seen them. You can be anything you want."
"Do you think it's easy to forget a lifetime of wretchedness?" he asked loudly looming over her. "Do you?"
"Don't you dare talk to me about wretchedness and forgetting," she shouted stabbing a finger at his chest. "Do you think that I don't wake up every day expecting to see gray walls? That every time I step outside, my heart starts beating so fast because what if she finds me again? That sometimes the world is so big and so bright that it hurts my eyes?" She glared at him. "I know wretchedness, Rumpelstiltskin." He flinched. "I also know that this is my chance to do something, to see the world, to be myself and I'm not squandering it in self-pity."
They glared at each other by the side of the road. Eventually a car went past, whipping Belle's hair into her face.
He gave first, just by taking a deep breath and shaking his head. "You are a force to be reckoned with, Belle."
"Oh, yeah," she said nodding. "Especially when I know I'm right."
He actually laughed and said, "And you're sure you're right in my case?"
"I really do," she said. "But you're going to have to give a little, you know. I'm not doing this on my own."
He took a step towards her and lifted his hand. Belle's eyes never left his as he let the pads of his fingers trace the curve of her cheek.
"I can try," he said. "But old habits die very, very hard you know."
"Oh, believe me, I know," she said, but she turned her head and pressed a quick kiss to his palm. "You daft man."
"Silly, brave girl," he countered. "I'm sorry I snapped just now."
"I'm not," she said honestly. "I've kind of been expecting it for some time now."
He raised his eyebrows. "I'm that predictable, am I?"
"Well, sort of," she said making a face. "Did you truly believe we could drive across the country without at least once yelling at each other?"
"When you put it that way… No," he said shaking his head. "It's a miracle we've held out as long as we have."
Belle slipped her arms around his waist and hugged him. He only hesitated for a second before hugging her back, and pressing his lips to the top of her head.
"Right, so what brought all this on?" she asked once they'd gotten back in the Rover and started to drive again.
"It's incredibly stupid," he said with a sigh.
"No doubt," she said. "But what was it?"
"Someone made a remark about you in the store," he said.
"A baseless remark regarding you and I and my abilities to…please you," he said with a moue of distaste.
"And this person is still breathing?" she asked drily.
"Yes," he said. He took something out of his pocket. "However, he may find paying for things a bit difficult for the near future."
Belle saw the flash of a credit card as it flew out of the window.
"Do you feel better now?" she asked.
A motel near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
They'd spent the day exploring the park, walking on parts of the dunes, even wading in one of the lakes. After getting some food from a diner just down the road from their motel, they settled in for the evening, the window cracked open, letting in the cool mountain air.
When he stood to throw their trash away, he hissed painfully and bent down to clutch at his leg.
"Oh, gods," she said scrambling off the bed to help him ease back down. "We pushed it today, didn't we?"
"Perhaps a bit," he said through clenched teeth. "It'll pass."
"What can I do?" she asked, placing her hand over his.
"Nothing," he said shaking his head. "There's nothing for it, I'm afraid."
"Not even massaging it?" she asked, moving her hand off of his to the tense muscle of his thigh.
"You don't have to," he said squeezing his eyes shut. "I'm not asking-"
"Of course you're not asking," she said kneeling on the floor. "I'm doing. Deal with it. Enjoy it, even." She glanced up to see him glaring at her. She shrugged. "Or glare at me, whichever you prefer."
"Stubborn," he muttered.
"Said the pot to the kettle," she countered. "Now, shut up and let me see what I can do."
She brought both her hand to his thigh and gently, but firmly pressed small, tight circles into his muscles. Every now and then, she'd find a spot that made him suck in a breath. She'd ease back the pressure of her hands, but continue to massage.
"I might be able to do a better job if I could see what I'm touching," she said softly, her cheeks heating up.
"Trying to take advantage of me, are you?" he said, his voice lower than usual.
"Always," she said giving him a smile.
A corner of his mouth lifted and then he sighed. "Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later," he said.
His hands went to his belt and Belle sat back on her heels. He undid his belt and zip, then with a wince, lifted up just enough to pull his trousers down over his hips. Belle helped him take them off the rest of the way. She folded them carefully and set them on the bed beside him and then looked at him.
He was still in his button down, the top three buttons undone, and a pair of black boxers. Belle felt her breath speed up when she realized this was the most unclothed she'd ever seen him. She glanced down at his leg and even though she desperately wanted to, she didn't gasp at the sight of what had been done to him.
Instead, she placed her hands back on his thigh, ignoring his startled jump, and resumed massaging.
He had tensed up during the exchange, but after a few minutes, he relaxed and Belle could feel the knots in the scar tissue under the twisted muscle relax. The damage wasn't limited to his thigh, it went all the way down over his knee to his calf.
"Tell me about it?" she asked quietly.
There was only the slightest tremor under her hands, before he started to speak, "Do you remember the machines the ogres built? The large wooden ones with the spokes?"
"Yes," she said immediately picturing the monstrosities that could roll into a village and destroy buildings in a heartbeat.
"I was the smallest of the group, the platoon of wretches, the other soldiers called us," he said evenly. "Being the smallest, I was asked to go and sabotage one of the machines in the night, shove a bit of wood in the gears." He sighed. "It didn't go very well. My leg got caught and, try as I might, I couldn't get it free. It was only when the ogres started their attack the next morning, was it loosened. However, it was twisted and broken."
Belle bit down hard on her lip and told herself not to cry, she just continued to rub her hands over his skin, paying attention to the cartilage of his knee.
"When I finally made it back to the base, my leg was too far gone to ever be set right and I was branded a failure for not getting the machine to break properly," he said. "They set the leg, but only barely. There wasn't what you'd call proper medical care then anyways and certainly none for a boy who hadn't succeeded in his mission.
"After that, I was called a coward and a fool and useless. After a while, you stop arguing and start to believe it yourself. And it is so very easy to simply run and hide than it is to stand up and fight."
There was silence in the room while Belle kept moving her fingers over his twisted skin. When she was satisfied that she'd loosened the muscles, she stopped and dropped her hands in her lap.
"I want to say 'I'm sorry'," she said eventually staring at her hands. "But I don't think the phrase quite covers it."
"It doesn't," he said reaching down and slipping a finger under her chin, tilting her face up. "But I appreciate the need to say it." He sighed. "This is me, Belle. This is how ugly and broken it is. Can you-? Do you-?" He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. "Belle…"
Belle leaned forward and kissed his knee. His eyes flew open.
"Yes," she said. "I can. And I do. So, let me. All right?"
"All right," he said looking mystified. Belle shook her head and got to her feet.
"Your turn," she said crawling onto the bed. She sat up against the headboard and propped her bare feet in his lap. He looked down at them blankly and then back up to her. She rolled her eyes. "What? You thought that was a freebie? I would have thought you'd have known about this little thing called reciprocation."
She wiggled her toes.
He blinked and then with a cunning grin, he settled his hands on her feet.
Later, Belle would feel completely mortified at the sounds that had come from her mouth as he'd massaged and rubbed every single inch of her feet.
Belle was back in the cell, with the nurse who always smiled too much and gave her injections that always left a bruise and tore at her skin just enough to draw the smallest bead of blood that would well up and Belle couldn't move, could put her finger on the tiny puncture in her skin and she was standing there in the doorway, her lips as red as the blood on Belle's arm and then she smiled, she smiled, she smiled.
Belle cried out, and struck out, but the arms around her were warm and strong but not painful and someone with a voice she loved and trusted said, "Open your eyes, love! Open them!"
Belle opened her eyes.
Her mind immediately took stock and listed everything she knew to be true. Just like Dr. Hopper had taught her.
She was in a bed.
It was a bed in a motel room.
She lay on her side looking towards the window currently covered by the curtains and someone had their arms wrapped around her waist from behind.
She was not in the hospital.
And it was not the nurse who held her.
It was Rumpelstiltskin and it was he who was murmuring, pleading with her to wake up and that it was okay, it was all right.
She woke up fully and gasped for breath. Then she turned around and pressed her face to his shoulder. She catalogued all the real sensations one by one: the warmth of his skin beneath his shirt, the press of his hand on her back, the tenderness of his fingers as they combed through her hair, the way her bare legs brushed against his pyjama pants.
The way he said, "It's okay, it's all right, you're safe, you're here, I love you, I love you, I love you," over and over.
She took one last shuddery, watery breath and lifted her head. He pulled his head back to meet her eyes and she tried to give him a smile.
"I hate that nightmare," she whispered.
"So do I," he whispered back. "Can I get you anything?"
She shook her head and laid it on his shoulder again. "Just be here."
"I can do that," he said.
Belle fell back to sleep in his arms.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
"We've got to stop," he said his voice tense.
A flash of lightening lit up the sky and the crack of thunder that followed sounded as though it was inside the car with them.
"I think you may be right," Belle said with a wince. "I can't see anything."
Biting her lip, she slowly pulled the car over onto the paved overlook over the canyon, not that the view was actually visible. The storm had followed them from the moment they left their last motel and had caught up with them.
Belle turned the ignition off and sound of rain was deafening. Her right arm was wet from the rain that spattered in from her slightly cracked window. A part of her wanted to close it fully, but the rest of her liked to have the tendrils of air present.
She sighed. "So much for the view."
"I don't know," he said. "From here it's quite lovely."
She looked over at him to see him looking at her. Belle laughed and rolled her eyes. "Flattery will get you everywhere, sir."
"Will it indeed?" he asked with a proper leer worthy of his trickster days.
She giggled and swatted at his arm. Then she stared happily out the window, watching the rain run down in one thick rivulet over the windshield. The sky was illuminated again with lightning, one flash after another, the thunder cracking and rolling into one sustained outburst.
"I don't think I've ever seen a storm like this," she said quietly.
"I have," he said. "Once."
"The curse?" she asked rolling her head on the headrest to look at him.
"No, no," he said shaking his head, making the shadows of the rain dance on his face. "It was when I visited the outer realms. They had storms like this."
"I always wanted to see the outer realms," Belle said. She made a face. "But everyone always said they were no place for a lady."
"They were no place for anyone," he said. "Not even I."
"Oh, no," he said. "I came back covered in midge bites and mold growing in places that mold has no business to grow on a person."
Belle laughed again. "I can only imagine. Actually," she made another face, "I think I'll skip imagining that."
"Wise choice," he said smiling at her.
They stared out the window for a few minutes in comfortable silence.
"So," Belle said. "What shall we do? A game? Name that tune? Try to recite as much bad poetry as we can?"
"Those are all fine options," he said. "Or…"
"Or?" she asked looking over at him. He stared steadily back. Her eyes widened. "Oh! Or. Oh, I'm in favor of or."
"Oh, are you?" he asked.
Belle slowly unbuckled her seatbelt and smiled as she carefully climbed over the gearshift. He sucked in a breath and his hands came to rest on her waist as she straddled his lap.
"Oh, yes," she said framing his face and settled fully astride him. "Definitely in favor."
The kiss started out soft and careful and slow, but steadily increased in fervor and soon Belle couldn't keep track of where his hands were on her body and she couldn't seem to stop her hips from rocking persistently against him.
"I remember once watching your fingers," Belle said shakily as his mouth moved over the length of her throat.
"When was this?" he asked against the sensitive skin just beneath her ear.
"At your castle. You were holding that cup," she said as her head fell back and she stared up at the roof of the car, "and tracing the rim of it, dipping down into the chip." She moaned when he nipped at her earlobe. "I'd never felt what watching you do that made me feel before."
"How did it make you feel, love?" he asked.
"Like my insides were being churned up," she said digging her fingers into his shoulders. "Like there was something inside of me that needed to escape and I didn't know how to free it. And I liked it."
"Do you still?" he asked lifting his mouth to hers and giving her the briefest of kisses. "Do you still like it?"
"Oh, yes," she said grasping his head so she could kiss him properly. When she'd gotten, not her fill, but as close as, she said, "I still love to watch your hands, too."
"Do you?" he asked a corner of his mouth lifting and his tone hopeful.
She met his eyes and the corner of her own mouth quirked up. "Oh, yes. Constantly, it seems these days."
"Oh, Belle," he said capturing her mouth again and again. "I want you, love. In a bed. In my bed."
"Then I suggest we find a place to stay as soon as this storm passes," she said in between frantic kisses.
He stilled and held her face steady in his hands. "Belle. Do you know what it is you're saying?"
"I think I'm saying that I wish to make love with you," she told him. She scrunched up her nose. "Have sex with you? Intercourse? Ick. Why do none of those phrases sound right?"
He chuckled and pressed his forehead to hers. "Because it's hard to find something that encompasses all that the act can mean."
"You're so clever," she said rubbing her nose against his. "Almost as clever as me."
He grinned and kissed her again.
Once the worst of the storm passed (and Belle had a sizable lovebite on her neck that she couldn't stop touching), they headed off towards the main highway, Belle driving carefully in the rain that continued to come steadily down. A small motel was found easily and they dashed inside.
The man at the front desk grinned. "Coming down, isn't it? 'Course, we've been needing it," he said not waiting for an answer. "Be needing a room? I've got one on the third floor, if that'll suit you?'
"Anything," Gold said quickly and Belle had to bite her lip and turn away before she burst into giggles.
The key was obtained after only a few more minutes of hearing how badly the rain was needed and oh, we've got room service, in case you get the munchies and anything you need, you just ask for Dale. Then they practically ran to the elevator and down the hall to their room.
However, once they were inside, everything slowed down.
"Are you absolutely sure?" he asked his hands cupping her shoulders, keeping her arm's length, she thought wildly.
"Yes," she said stepping into his arms and looping her own arms around his waist. "And that's the last time you get to ask me that. I know my own mind, you know."
"Oh, if I know anything in this world, that I know," he said.
"Beast," she said happily.
"Always," he said before dipping his head down and kissing her.
When Belle would try to remember those hours in that motel in the middle of nowhere, it would only come to her in flashes.
His hands on her face, her hair, her waist.
Her hands pressing along each bump of his spine, tracing the line of his jaw, his elbows, the jut of his hipbones.
His mouth on her neck, her collarbone, her breasts, her stomach.
She remembered her back arching and feeling like she might be stretched apart and then there was nothing but electricity in her veins and her eyes filled with tears because nothing could be this incredible and then she was…she was…she was…
"I hurt you," he said later.
"Yes, but only briefly," she said honestly, watching her hand move over his chest from where her head rested on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he said pressing a kiss to the crown of her head.
"I'm not," she said lifting her head and grinning at him. "But if you're dead set on making it up to me, I suggest we try it again. Practice makes perfect and all that."
"Practice?" he asked angling his head to look at her.
She nodded and leaned up to press her lips to his. "Lots and lots of practice."
"Mmm, I have always been an advocate of perfection," he said rubbing tiny circles on her upper arm. "How do you feel?"
"Oooh, warm," she said. "Warm and languid and loved and there are a lot of muscles in the human body that I was not aware of until now."
"I do, you know," he said.
"You know about the muscles?" she asked looking at him in surprise. He smiled.
"No, well, yes, I know about the muscles," he said. "I meant that I do love you."
Belle smiled back. "I knew that already."
"Oh, did you now?" he raised an eyebrow.
"Yep. But I like hearing it," she said. "I love you, too."
"Oh, but I already knew that," he said mocking her tone of voice and curling over her, so that she was spread out underneath him. "Although it is lovely to hear."
He leaned down and kissed her slowly and with such intent, Belle was soon gasping and writhing beneath him.
"You mentioned something about a lot of practice?" he whispered.
"Lots and lots of it," she whispered back.
He grinned and lowered his head.
And practice they did.
"It's not actually like it is in the books Ruby gave me," she said one early afternoon after an unsuccessful venture in the shower that led to a lovely interlude involving the bathroom counter.
"What books that Ruby gave you?" he asked while she ran her fingers through his hair while his head rested on her stomach.
"Oh, Ruby gave me some books to help me understand more about sex once," she said casually, trying very hard not to snicker. "They're rather…explicit, though. And unrealistic, I suspect."
He lifted his head to look at her. "Did Ruby give you pornography to read?"
"I think the preferred term is erotica," Belle said blinking innocently.
The dumbfounded look on his face was too much for her and she started to laugh.
"You utter minx," he said his hands coming up to tickle her ribs. She shrieked and flailed beneath him.
The tickle fight eventually dissolved into his body stretched out over hers, his pelvis resting in the cradle of her hips. She rocked beneath him and hummed.
"They're not so bad," she said while he pressed kisses to her jaw and throat.
"What aren't so bad?" he asked.
"The books," she said tilting her head to give him more skin to kiss. "They had some interesting sections."
"Mmm. Such as?" he asked before mouthing her pulse point.
"Well," she said before shifting their positions so that she was on top, her hair fell over one shoulder and drifted over his chest. "There was this one thing that sounded interesting."
She gave him a wink and then moved down his body.
"Oh," he said on a gasp. "Wait. Belle!"
Pacific Grove, California
They reached the Pacific three months after they left Storybrooke.
Belle breathed in and had to close her eyes when a strong wind blew off the ocean. She laughed and licked her lips, already tasting the salt.
"Is it everything you hoped?" he asked, coming to stand behind her, his arms winding around her waist.
She remembered another time in which he asked her the same question, but this time, as she leant back into his arms and wrapped her hands over his, she said, "It's even more than I hoped."
"So, what do you want to do?" he asked. "What's left on your itinerary?"
Belle breathed deeply and smiled. "Everything."
He smiled back.
Somewhere in Northern California
Something was ringing. Belle reached out her hand and fumbled for her phone. Gold grumbled next to her and readjusted his hold on her waist.
"Hello?" she answered sleepily.
"You have got to help me."
"Emma?" Belle asked cracking her eyes open.
"They want me to be mayor!"
"What?" Belle sat up a little. She peered at the clock. "Emma, it's five in the morning."
"Oh, right, time difference, sorry," Emma said. "But did you hear what I said? They want me to be mayor!"
"Who wants you to be mayor?"
"Everyone!" Emma shouted and Belle held the phone away from her ear. "They want me to run a campaign and do debates and all this, this, this stuff."
"So, tell them no," Belle said rubbing her eyes.
"I, ah, can't do that."
"And why not?"
"I already said yes?"
"Ugh! I know," Emma said with a groan. "But Henry looked so excited and I don't know, it could be cool. You have to help me out here."
"How on earth am I to help?" Belle asked.
"I need someone to run my campaign."
"What?" Belle asked loudly. Gold groaned and pressed his face against her stomach. Belle absently petted his head. "Emma, I don't know the first thing about running a campaign."
"Yeah, but you're super organized and smart and you've read everything and you hang with a master wheeler-dealer," Emma said.
"He doesn't actually do that stuff anymore you know?" Belle said.
"Tell the brat to rescue her own arse this time," Gold muttered into Belle's stomach.
"Shh," Belle said rubbing his neck.
"Um, Belle?" Emma said. "Is there something you should tell me?"
"I don't think so."
"I think there is."
"I think there isn't."
"Oh, for-" Gold grabbed Belle's phone. "We're sleeping together, Miss Swan, all night every night and on some nights, no sleeping actually occurs. Satisfied?"
He handed the phone back to a wide-eyed, laughing Belle. "You are a terrible, terrible man," she told him.
"Common knowledge, dearie," he said with a smirk, then he curled up against her once more.
Belle shook her head and held her phone up to her ear. "Emma?"
"That was either the funniest or most disturbing thing I've ever heard," Emma said. "You are a brave woman."
"So are you," Belle said. "You can be mayor if you want to. I didn't think you could though, you're sheriff."
"Actually, Ruby's sheriff now," Emma said.
"Ruby is sheriff?" Belle asked.
"See, this is what happens when you and your man leave town," Emma said.
"Belle, please," Emma said, turning serious. "I understand if you don't want to come back, but I honestly wouldn't ask if I didn't really want you here. And you wouldn't have to come right away. The election's at the beginning of the fall and campaigning would start in spring. You wouldn't have to get here until March. April, even."
"I don't know," Belle said softly. "Let me think about it?"
"Of course," Emma said. "Think all you want. Call me in a few days?"
"I will," Belle said.
"Thanks. I'll, uh, let you get back to sleeping," Emma said and Belle could hear the grin over the phone.
"Shut up," Belle said before hanging up.
She tossed her phone back onto the small bedside table and scooted back down under the covers and into his arms. She stared up at the ceiling in their rented apartment in a small town by the ocean.
"We could go back if you want," he said quietly.
"Do you want to go back?" she asked grabbing his hand and turning over so that she was on her side with him curled around her.
"It might be nice to take stock of the shop," he said. "Make sure the dwarf hasn't completely destroyed my property holdings."
"His name is Leroy," Belle said kicking him lightly with her foot. "Emma sounded kind of anxious. Oh, I don't know anything about campaigning though."
"No, but you have a very good, very honest moral compass," he said. "Which is a novelty in politics and may actually work in Storybrooke."
"Hmm," Belle said. She closed her eyes and listened to the waves crashing outside and the steady beat of his heart against her back. "We could take the scenic route back. See what the Gulf of Mexico looks like."
"See if Mardi Gras holds a candle to the fetes the fauns and the dryads used to throw," he said brushing his lips against her neck.
Belle smiled. "I always wanted to go to one of those."
"When does she need to know?" he asked.
"In a few days," Belle said sighing when his hand started to move across her stomach and down.
"Plenty of time," he said pressing a kiss to the juncture of her neck and shoulder.
"All the time in the world," Belle said, before turning to kiss him properly.