First of all, rating change. This is now M for mature. Here there be sex and swearing. I'm going to be roughly following the timeline of the show, and since Gold's not in episode 3 my brain said 'well obviously he's having sex.'

Trigger warning: While there's not as big of an age difference as usual, I do need to caution that Belle is 16 when they first start dating and 17 when they have sex, while Gold is 20. Four years isn't much, but we are talking, technically, about a minor and an adult.

Ruby had a thing for bad boys, and in Storybrooke you didn't get any badder than Caden Gold. He rode a wicked motorbike, dressed in black leather, and delighted in flashing his middle finger at the mayor when she drove past. He rolled his own cigarettes, drank from a hip flask in public and had been dragged off to the jail cell thirteen times in the past year, for intoxication or fighting. Maybe she should resent the fact that he owned her home and the diner, but it barely crossed her mind.

Sex with Gold was mindblowing, the best she'd ever had. Not that she'd had as much as some people assumed, but still. Three times, one night, and she hadn't even known she could, in the space of two hours. What's more she liked spending time with him. She even thought he might like her, in the sense of not hating her like he did most of the town. She knew where they stood, though; he'd drop her like a hot potato if it ever became something more than sex laced with friendship. He was in love with her best friend. Her dead best friend.

It probably should have weirded her out, but it didn't. Gold didn't talk about Belle, but then neither did anyone else in town. Even without words, though, she was always there when Ruby and Gold were together. It was like some part of her clung to the man she'd loved so much. Ruby had only seen one person more in love than Belle French, and that was Caden Gold. She didn't even pretend to herself that anyone would ever feel for her like Gold had, and still did, feel for Belle. So the way Ruby saw it, if she could make Gold a little less unhappy, a little less angry, even if it only lasted an hour she was sure that her friend would approve.

The first time, for them, had been two nights after the memorial service. She'd been taking out the trash, the first time ever that she'd volunteered for the task. It was either that or hit the next person who tried to say something sympathetic about 'a better place' or 'at least she wasn't in pain.' Or cry, and that was even worse. Instead she'd taken the trash, snagging Hugo's smokes and lighter on her way through the kitchen. Granny had told her off the one and only time she'd caught Ruby smoking, and she'd been careful since then. That night she hadn't given a damn.

She'd been halfway through the second cigarette when a door two buildings down flung open. Usually that meant someone else was taking out the trash. That night it was a drunk, being forcibly ejected from the bar. A very loud drunk with a very recognizable accent. He stumbled and she, for some reason, had stubbed out the cigarette and had gone to help him. To this day it wasn't clear how offering to help him home had, instead, turned into his body covering hers and a hard brick wall to her back. Neither of them had spoken as they fumbled to remove the minimal amount of clothing. He, somehow, had still possessed enough presence of mind to stroke her with a finger and make sure she was ready for him before taking her, hard and fast. She'd bit her tongue to stop from screaming as she came; it was the first time in two days she hadn't felt gray.

He'd been gone before she even had a chance to smooth down her skirt and find her panties.

It'd been a month before she saw him again, unless you counted watching his bike race down the street, or the one time he'd come to collect rent. He hadn't even looked at her; she almost felt like she'd imagined the ally. After a month, though, her car had broken down - again - on the side of the road. He'd been the first to drive past, and had stopped to fix it for her. Somehow they'd ended up fucking in the back seat, and she knew that the first time hadn't been a memory, not a dream.

There was no rhyme or reason to it, but after that second time she saw him more often. Sometimes they fucked. Sometimes she just asked him to look under the hood of her car and promised repayment in Granny's pies. A few times she brought him meals, because for all that he didn't look frail there wasn't much meat between his skin and bones. His lean muscles reminded her of a half hungry wild dog. Or wolf.

He thanked her, when she brought food, and always offered to pay, but never let her in the house. So far as Ruby knew no one had been in the house for almost a year, not since Sheriff Graham had brought the news that Belle French was dead. The gazebo in the backyard, where they were currently sprawled on a cushion yanked off a lounge chair, was as close to spending time at his house as she'd gotten.

"I love this time of year." Her clothes littered the floor of the gazebo, mostly in reaching distance, but she didn't bother with them right away. The yard was completely fenced in, and it wasn't like Gold had regular company popping by. It was warm for October, and she wanted to enjoy the feel against her skin; any day now it would be time for sweaters and scarves.

"What, the part where snow is eminent and will do its damndest to cut us off from everything, or the part where the streets are going to be filled with snot nosed brats tomorrow, ignoring cars on the road and demanding sugar?" He was on his back, staring at the ceiling of the gazebo, one hand idly stroking his chest. He was barely on the cushion, far enough that he wasn't touching her. He rarely did, once the sex was over, but at least he didn't run away anymore.

"All of it. The apple pies and pumpkin spice lattes, the smell of leaves in the air and getting to dress up for a night." She loved smells; there was something so comforting about them. In another month it would be evergreen, which she loved but for some reason made her a little sad too. "Vartan's parents are gone for the night and he's throwing a party; it's going to be huge."

"My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail," Gold snarked, rolling to his side to get his shirt. Ruby cursed silently; it had been stupid to mention the boy's name.

"We could crash. Really mess with his head." It wasn't like she cared what Vartan Gaston thought. She went to his parties because they meant loud music and free booze, nothing else. She'd never slept with him or anything. He'd tried to date Belle, rather persistently their junior year, but to Ruby who was the only one in Belle's confidence when it came to her thing with Gold, his attempts were a mix of funny and pathetic. Gaston was a pompous ass who thought too much of himself and needed to be taken down a peg or twelve.

"Not in the mood for a ride in the sharif's back seat. If I see the little punk again, without his daddy standing by to protect him, I will break his fucking jaw." One of the strange things about Gold was the way that, sometimes, he spoke of violence and death in the same tone that she used to make a grocery list.

"Oh." She hadn't known that things between them were that bad. She was going to have to do a little scooping to find out what all had happened between them that she hadn't heard about.

"We could always egg his house. It's a classic for a reason. Belle and I did it once." The memory for a moment was so vivid that she hadn't thought of what she'd said. In the seconds afterwards she wished the words back. The were greeted with complete stillness. Gold didn't move, speak, and barely seemed to breathe. He did nothing but stare at her, and she wasn't sure if the look meant to share or to shut up. She, of course, chose to speak. "She was twelve, I was thirteen. Granny thought we were at her house and Moe thought we were at mine. Instead we went trick or treating, getting candy first before we made it to the Gaston house. He was a prick even back then. I forget what he'd done that week, but out of twelve eggs we managed to hit his window twice. Belle, being Belle, wanted to go back afterwards and wash the walls and window. I wouldn't let her."

"That's my Bella." It was said so quietly that Ruby couldn't be sure, but it sounded like he spoke in present tense.

"So what do you say?" They'd be able to make a fast getaway and everything, with his bike. Could be fun. If nothing else it meant a ride on his bike and the potential of post adrenalin rush sex. And time with him, but she tried not to think too much about why she wanted that.

"Sorry, dearie. I have plans for tomorrow night." Which probably wasn't a lie, since he never bothered with them. But she'd bet money on his plans involving hiding in his house with the lights off, or riding around on his bike. Either way it was pointless to try and get him to change his mind.

"Okay." She sat up and started gathering her clothes.

"I'm closing at the diner tonight so I should get going. There'll be loads of pumpkin pies tomorrow, if you stop by at all." She never would have guessed it, before he and Belle got together, but the man had quite a sweet tooth.

"Yeah, maybe." Which again, wasn't a lie but there wasn't a whole lot of conviction to it.

"See you around, Gold." She dressed as fast as she could without making it look like she was hurrying, and left with a wave and a smile she didn't quite feel.

Half a block from his house Ruby ran into Archie Hopper, walking Pongo. She wasn't in the most chatty mood, but she managed a smile for him too.

"Are you alright?" As usual he didn't ask the easy 'how are you?' that most people did, with the expectation of a 'good' or 'fine.' Archie spent far more time observing than most people.

"Do you ever wish you could go back and be a kid for a little bit, Doc?" She shook her head. She'd known going in that things with Gold were just about being fuck-buddies. Anything more would be stupid even without the white elephant of Belle in the room. "Guess Halloween just makes me nostalgic."

"I can appreciate the freedom and ease of a normal childhood but no, that's not something I've ever wished for." There was something, just the slightest inflection on the word 'normal' that made her tilt her head to the side and look at him. She'd never heard word one about his childhood. Hell, she barely knew anything about him as an adult, other than the fact that he drank too much coffee and seemed to work way more hours than was necessary. "Can Pongo and I walk you somewhere?"

"Just going home to change for work, if you're heading that way." COmpany might now be such a bad idea. "If you wanted to wait a minute and walk me to the diner as well I might be able to sneak you a piece of pie."

"I'd like that," he said with a smile that was completely genuine. He was about as far from a bad boy as it was possible to get, and a smile was just a smile, but for the first time Ruby had just a moment where she thought that maybe she should rethink some things.

"Let's go then."

Gold didn't bother getting dressed the rest of the way. He gathered his things and carried them upstairs, tossing them on the floor of his bedroom and stripping off his shirt again to join the rest of the pile. He needed a shower. Once upon a time sex had been about nothing more complicated than feeling good, physically. Then he'd fallen in love with Bella, and sex had been so much more.

The only person he'd been with since Bella was Ruby; he hadn't meant it to happen but she was willing, and eager, and did this thing with her tongue that was very distracting. She was also Bella's friend, which made things easier and more complicated and fucked up and harder. The release from orgasm lasted, if he was lucky, ten minutes before he felt like he'd betrayed Bella and taken advantage of Ruby. He'd resolve to stay away from her, and it would last for days or even weeks, but then he was back again, telling himself that this time he wouldn't allow himself even an instant of pretending that she was someone else.

He lied to himself every damn time. He was just glad he hadn't said her name out loud.

He was going to have to end things soon, though, he thought as he turned on the shower. More and more she was asking him about coming over for pie, or going out for a ride, or other things that were more than just 'let's fuck each other's brain out.' Using her for sex was wrong, but letting her get attached to him would be worse. There was barely a present for them, and never a future.

It was, more than the physical release, the little stories Ruby sometimes told that kept him coming back to her. She and Bella had been friends for most their lives, and unlike the rest of the town she wasn't reluctant to mention his girl's name. Egging Gaston's house, she'd told him this time, and he tucked it away in his mind like a treasure. He could almost see the look of concentration on her face, the way she sometimes bit her lower lip, and the follow through as she flung the egg. Considering that he'd seen her miss a bowl from a foot away, with an egg, he was pretty sure it would have taken a few tries to actually hit the window.

"It's not funny, Caden Gold. If we run out of eggs this whole batch will be ruined." She knelt down to wipe up the egg and he, standing behind her, got a nice view of the way the knit material of the sweater dress clung to her ass.

"I promise, Bella, that if we run out of eggs I will run right down and pick up some more." He picked up three three eggs then, to distract himself from touching her. She was intent on making her cookies, and just having her in his kitchen and laughing was more than he'd dreamed of when she'd yes to ice cream three months ago. With careful hands he started juggling them. Bella, though looking worried at first at the prospect of three more broken eggs, applauded.

"Oh! Do it again, Cade!" She clasped her hands together, and he was helpless to do anything else. He even bowed a little, at the end, as he presented her the eggs with a teasing flourish.

"Will you teach me?" she asked, once the cookies were in the oven.

"Anything you want." Dishes could wait, despite her tidy need to get them taken care of right away. He tugged her around to face him, his hands settling on her hips and his nose nuzzling the place just behind her ear that he'd discovered during a movie marathon. It never failed to make her laugh. It also, if he added his mouth and the gentlest scraping of his teeth, made her moan.

"I want to know how to juggle like that. You look so peaceful when you do it, like there's nothing in the world except what you're focusing on." She relaxed against him, her slight frame fitting against his so perfectly.

"There's you. Always and forever, Bella, there's you." She'd snuck bits of cookie dough while she'd baked; even if he hadn't seen her he would have known from the sugar on her tongue and the cinnamon flavor he chased around her mouth. There was a bit of vanilla, too, at the roof of her mouth. He found it all, exploring every bit of her mouth, luring her into his, letting his hands join into the exploration a little. He could spend all of his time, all his life, just touching and tasting her.

By the time the alarm on the stove went off they were both panting, taking in deep breaths of air. Belle scrambled to take care of the cookies and put in the second batch. Her curls were hanging down over her face, and it took him a minute to notice that she was biting her lower lip. It was something she'd done a lot, the first few times they'd spent more than a few minutes together. He hadn't seen her do it in weeks, except for once two Saturdays before when she'd had to break their date to work in her dad's shop.

"Bella?" He tucked her curl behind one ear so he could see her better. He thought about asking her, straight out, what was wrong but decided on a less direct route. "Worried about the price of eggs going up if you keep dropping them during juggling practice?"

Belle shook her head, glanced up at him, then returned her attention to taking the last couple of cookies off the tray. Her cheeks, he was pretty sure, were redder than they'd been a minute ago. "I like kissing you."

"That's good to know, since the feeling is pretty mutual." She was so young. He forgot that, sometimes, because she was so smart and so much more mature than most people he knew. She wasn't even halfway through her junior year of high school, though and still had a couple of months until she was seventeen. He could probably get in trouble just for thinking some of the things he did about her, but he didn't give a damn.

"I haven't... things... I mean I... damnit." She stumbled over her words until the last, jumping backwards and waving her hand in the air. His swearing was a little more drawn out as he led her to the sink and turned on the cold water to run over her new burn. It wasn't the first time he'd seen her burn herself, but that didn't make it any easier to see the red mark on her skin, against her pale perfection. Nothing should hurt her or mar her skin. Except him, an impish voice in the back of his mind said, and he couldn't help imagining what it would be like to leave a hickey on her neck, high enough for anyone, including Vartan Gaston, could see it.

"Haven't done what love?" he asked to distract himself from the burn mark. Since she was turned away from him he thought she might find it easier to say what she needed to say.

"Haven't done any more than what we've already done. Kissing and... and a little touching. But I haven't... It's not that I don't want to, but there wasn't anyone before that I thought I would want to with, and now we're here and I know you have and I don't want to be a disappointment or anything." He could almost hear her working up her courage, trying to get everything out while she could. As she spoke her words got faster and more squished together.

"You could never be a disappointment. Never." He forgot about the running water as he turned her around, giving her one fierce but brief kiss. It had still never occurred to him, though it obviously should have, that she was a virgin. She was that innocent, and still chose to be with a beast like him. "If I got to do nothing more than hold you I would be happy."


"No." He covered her lips with his fingers. "I won't lie to you, Bella. I love kissing you and touching you, and I do hope that someday I get to show you what it's like to make love. But we won't go any faster than you're ready for. It doesn't matter what I've done before or what anyone else does; this is us. I love you, and want this to be right."

Her eyes shimmered with tears, and for all his struggling to say the right thing he was sure he'd messed up. Probably messed up big. Reflexively he lowered his hand and started to take a step back.

"You love me?" Somehow the tears only made her smile seem that much bigger.

"I do. I love you." He called her 'love' but considering his habit of calling most people, even those he hated, 'dearie' he could understand why it wouldn't seem to mean as much.

"I love you too, Caden." She threw her arms around him, sending him stumbling a few steps backwards. He'd returned the embrace just as enthusiastically after a moment. The second batch of cookies ended up being a little burnt, thank to their distraction.

They'd moved slowly, after that, touching each other a little more each time, learning what felt good, learning to listen to each other. It was two months later, just after her birthday, when she's made arrangements with Ruby to cover for her not being at home or at work. She'd made them a Valentine's dinner, worn his favorite dress of hers, the blue one, and when they'd finished eating she'd handed him his gift. She was blushing bright red when he'd opened the small box and had taken out a condom.

No single night of his life could compare to that one; not just because he'd made love to her for the first time, but because she'd trusted him that much. No one else in his life ever had given him that level of trust.

"Forever, Bella. We were supposed to be forever." He slammed his hand against the wall, which did nothing more than make his hand hurt. He'd had her, and now he'd lost her, and nothing could ever be right again.

Despite the fact that he'd just had sex he was already half hard thinking about his Bella. She'd been so shy, the first time she'd touched him, her fingers barely brushing his skin. She'd looked up at him every few seconds, as if worried that she was doing something wrong. As if anything that involved her touching him could ever be wrong.

He wrapped his own hand around his erection, stroking himself harder than she ever had, but it was her name he cried out when he came. It was always her name that he thought, even if he didn't speak it aloud.

He would never stop thinking about her.