Happy birthday to bad-faery and all my fellow Leos! Trigger warning: She's a high school senior (18, but still a student. Also a virgin) and he's her much older teacher. Also, minor references of parental neglect. Oh, also as a side note 'Carabosse' is my personal headcanon for Maleficent in AU stories I write. It's what the evil fairy is called in the ballet version of Sleeping Beauty.

"And then a fairy flew out of the wall and offered to grant me any wish I liked."

"That's… what?" Gold looked up from his plate, staring in confusion at his dinner partner.

"Just checking to see if you were still awake, Nicodemus. You've been somewhere else for a good five minutes at least. A woman could get a complex." Mal, however, was not that kind of woman. He'd rarely known anyone more self-confident then the art teacher. They'd known each other over ten years now, since she'd started and Storybrooke High, and had been friends almost since then start. He couldn't recall ever seeing her flustered, not even around Regina, who was generally regarded as being nearly as frightening as he was.

Friend with benefits, their students would label their relationship if they knew. There wasn't, and had never been, anything romantic between them, but they had fun scratching each other's itches upon occasion. He'd been particularly itchy the last couple of weeks, but for the first time ever with Mal he'd been imagining someone else as he came.

"Sorry, dear. I'm more tired than I thought, apparently. Perhaps we should make this an early night." She'd invited him back to her place, after dinner. He suddenly couldn't stomach the thought; it wasn't fair to Mal.

Or Belle, a small voice in his head whispered.

"You've been distracted for a couple of weeks now, you know. Are you sure there's nothing you would feel better for talking about? Someone, perhaps, who has gotten under your skin?" Mal smiled at him like a satisfied feral cat; she was far too clever.

"The only one under my skin these days is Regina and her eternal thirst for power. She had three news reporters lined up to do pieces on the science fair, and insisted that I do interviews with all of them." He'd pawned off as much of that on Belle as he could, which was a mistake since it meant they'd posed for pictures in one paper and she'd been interviewed on camera for the local news show. He'd made the foolish decision of TiVoing the damn thing, and couldn't make himself erase it. He'd cut out the articles as well, and though he'd buried them inside the pages of a book they still mocked him. He couldn't escape her even in his own house. He hadn't been able to stop thinking of her since that kiss.

"I think, if you don't mind, I'll skip dessert." He reached for his wallet, as it was his turn to pay, but she shook her head.

"I've got the bill. Consider it your birthday gift." She motioned for the waiter, and ordered another glass of wine. Gold noticed her eyes flicking towards a dark haired man at the bar, and figured she wouldn't miss him for long.

"Thank you for the present, then."

Please don't say you're sorry. It was my birthday present.

He wiped his mouth and tossed the napkin on the table. His cane was hooked over the edge of the chair; he freed it and used the familiar grip to pull himself up. He was beginning to hate the ideas of birthdays, and presents.

"Have a nice night, sir, and drive careful. The sky opened up just a few minutes ago." The doorman walked ahead of him, opening the door. Neither he nor Mal were in the habit of scrimping when it came to their choice in restaurants, so the courtesy was something he expected and therefore barely noticed.

It was pouring, a hard rain that drove into the skin like nails made of ice. Maine in March was a delightful place; it was times like these that he didn't know what was stopping him from moving back to Scotland. He didn't dare hurry, though; the embarrassment of tripping and falling in the parking lot was not worth being a little less soaked. He'd be home soon enough; a hot shower and a whiskey would clear away any chill.

He was halfway home and had yet to see anyone on the streets when something red caught his eye. The red was broken up with white; even without a closer look he could guess that it was a Storybrooke High jacket. Many of the kids, especially the upper classman, wore them. It begged the question which one of them was stupid enough to be out in the storm. The rain was bad enough, but it was dark and from the slightness of the figure it was more than likely a girl. Unpleasant things happened to girls in the dark; he'd read too many nasty headlines to just drive past. Instead he rolled down the window and slowed the car as he neared the nocturnal walker.

"What are you…" He slammed on the breaks, recognizing the sodden brunette hair just a moment before she turned to look over at him. A brief look of fear flickered over Belle's features before recognition flashed and her face became a mask of calm. It was the look she'd been wearing around him for more than a week now. He told himself that it was better than the way she'd been worriedly nibbling her lower lip when ever she didn't know he was looking, but the truth was that he missed her smiles. She hadn't smiled, at least not around him, since two days after her birthday. Two days after the kiss.

"Mr. Gold." She tugged the jacket around herself a little tighter, not that it could possibly do much to keep out the rain.

"Let me give you a ride home." He would have made the same offer to any student; he was often called a bastard but wasn't heartless. It was Belle, though, and there was no way he was letting her out of his sight until he knew she was someplace safe. He'd never be able to live with himself if something happened.

"I'm only a couple blocks from here. I'll be fine." As if to prove the point she started walking again. He eased off the break, letting the car coast to keep up with her.

"You can accept the ride and enjoy the heater for the few minutes it will take to get to your home, or I can follow along and you can explain to anyone who happens to pass why you refused the ride." It certainly would be interesting, if one of the local rubes from the sheriff's department were to drive by.

"Fine." The single syllable word, when heard through the rain and the squeak of his windshield wipers, had no detectible emotion. If there was sarcasm, ire, or gratitude it was impossible to tell.

"Good." He unlocked the door with the touch of a button, rolling up the window just as easily. As she closed the door behind her and fastened the seat belt, always the responsible one despite the fact that they only had blocks to go, he nudged the heater to maximum. She shivered; he hoped it was the cold leaving her slender body, replaced by heat.

"You're out late." He tried to sound casual, just idle chatter like he would make with any friend. He'd never thought of a student as 'friend' before but then he'd never thought of a student as much as he thought about Belle.

"You can take the next right." She looked straight ahead, and used the same tone of voice she did when answering her lab partner's idiotic questions. He'd always figured Gaston deserved it.

"Belle…" He wanted, at least, for her to look at him. He also wanted to stop glancing over to see the drops of water run down her jaw to the side of her neck. He knew what her mouth tasted like, but not her skin.

"Don't." For the first time in more than a week there was obvious emotion in her voice. It wasn't quite anger, but there was no pleasure in it. "You don't get to ask me anything, Mr. Gold, unless you want to talk about the paper that's due on Thursday. You've made it clear that you're my teacher and I'm your student, and that's all that's between us."

"You are my student, Belle." It was a fact that he couldn't escape. She was eighteen but that didn't change the fact that she was a student, and even if student faculty relations weren't strictly forbidden by the code of conduct for the school there was the fact that he was in a position of authority and would be taking advantage of her.

"You kissed me." Her voice was pitched so low that he could barely hear it over the hum of the heater.

"If you remember correctly you'll find it was the other way around." He still remembered the shock when he'd found her mouth pressed to his, her lips excruciatingly soft and pliant. It had been hard enough not staring at her in that dress for two hours; her mouth had been impossible to resist.

"I'm not denying that I kissed you. What I'm saying is that you kissed me back, and then the next day you pretended it didn't happen and made sure to have Ms. Carabosse come pick you up from our planning session for your date. You've been my teacher for almost two years, Mr. Gold, and never once have you mentioned a date let alone had one show up in your classroom. I know I'm a student, but you could have talked to me instead of rubbing my face in your blatant refusal." Like smoke dissipating her outburst seemed to take everything from her. She sagged against the back of the seat and rolled her head to look out the side window. "It's a left at the next stop sign."

"I thought it would be easier. The answer couldn't be anything other than no." The fact that he dreamed about that kiss was irrelevant. In his dreams they'd shared far more than a kiss; for three weeks he'd had a hard time looking at the counter they'd stood next to that night and not daydream about what it would have been like to press her against its solid wood and kiss her until she couldn't stand on her own, her arms around his neck and his hands exploring the secrets hidden under her skirt. It didn't change anything, except to make one particular class a trial as he couldn't get up from his desk until everyone had left and he'd been able to calm himself.

"I thought after all this time you would have understood me better than that. I'd rather have the true answer than a false placation. God, even 'sorry, but that was a rubbish kiss' would have been easier to take. At least then I would know what the problem was and work on fixing it. There's plenty of guys who would be glad to help."

Whether she meant it or not the last bit found its mark like an arrow fired by a marksman. Gold's hands clenched the wheel, hard enough to turn his knuckles white. He didn't need to hear about the boys like Gaston that were more than willing to take the place he couldn't accept. "Next time, I'm sure, I'll handle it better."

"I'm sure it will be awhile before you have another student quite so stupid." They were only a couple of streets away from her home, but he turned the steering wheel sharply and stopped next to a curb.

"You're not stupid." Nothing else he could do could be worse than making her think that. She was one of the most brilliant students he'd ever taught, and it wasn't just that she had a sharp mind. She had vision, imagination, and an awareness of her surroundings that few people her age possessed.

"I threw myself at my teacher. That's the kind of thing they write about in Cosmo, not the kind of thing smart people do." She was resolutely not looking at him. The waiver in her voice had him tugging at her shoulder to try and get her to turn. When she did, finally, not even the dim light hid the tears that welled in her eyes. It might have been wrong but he couldn't stop himself from cupping one cheek with his hand and brushing away the tears before they fell.

"You're not stupid, Belle, and you're not a bad kisser. Everything that has happened from that moment to this has been my mistake, not yours." He needed to move his hand, but her cheek was freezing and he couldn't seem to pull himself away from her touch.

"I just didn't want it to be a regret." She shivered, her jacket gapping open to show an equally soaked shirt. He needed to get her home so she could dry.

"The kiss?" It shouldn't bother him to have her think of it as a regret. He should be glad; it would make things easier if she already wished it undone.

"Before that. Not kissing you. I didn't want that to be my big regret. I've thought about it for so long, ever since last June when I realized I wouldn't see you for three months and I'd miss you."

Nine months. She'd been thinking about him for nine months? "Sometimes students…"

"Damn you, Mr. Gold. Don't you fucking dare tell me about students and crushes and how I'm nothing more than a child. I haven't been a child for years, not since my mom died and my dad all but went with her. I make sure the rent is paid and there's food on the table. I make my own decisions and that includes who I kiss and who I spend time with. I'm sure it will comes as a relief, Mr. Gold, that right now neither of those choices involve you." She had the car door open before he knew what she was going to do, and was out in the rain again in seconds.

"Fuck." If there was a way to make a bigger blunder he didn't know what it was. He'd tried to protect her, and instead it felt as if he'd purposely dragged her through burning coals. He knew things weren't great at home, but he hadn't realized just how bad it was. He was certain she'd hate it when she calmed down and realized how much she'd let out. It was enough to get CPS called, except for the fact that she'd just turned of age. Even then it was too much weight for such a young girl to carry.

He didn't move as quickly as she did, fumbling for his cane, and she was already a dozen feet away by the time he got out of the car. "Belle."

"I don't need your help anymore. I live just around the corner." She stopped, but did not turn around. The closest street light was ten yards away; she was almost enshrouded in shadow.

"I know you're not a child, Belle. You're a young woman, a beautiful young woman, deserving of far more than something sordid with an old man. I turned forty-three today." Rain soaked into his collar and blew against his face hard enough that he was having trouble seeing her clearly. He didn't dare close the distance between them, not wanting the risk her running. He'd never be able to catch her.

"Happy birthday." Even with the rain he could hear the wistfulness in her voice. He was just relieved that she turned around; he didn't want her to hate him, even if that might solve things. She certainly wouldn't want to kiss him again if she was sitting in class and thinking black thoughts about him. And yet for a man who didn't give a damn what most people thought about him, and enjoyed the rumors he heard whispered about him, the idea of Belle hating him twisted his guts.

"Forty-three. That's a quarter of a century I lived before you were even born." Hell, he'd been almost done with grad school before she'd taken her first steps.

"Thanks. I didn't know how to manage simple subtraction." Belle, normally sweet and patient, apparently got snide when she was upset. It wasn't something he'd ever had a reason to know before. He didn't need to know now, but he still made a mental note. "It's a number, and not a particularly important one. You're an adult. I'm an adult. We had a moment, it ended, and now like adults we can both move on. The science fair's over, so all we have to do is get through classes for the next two and a half months and then you don't ever have to see me again."

Two and a half months. In two and a half months she'd graduate, and he was sure she'd be gone as fast as she could. He remembered what she'd said about realizing how much she'd miss him over the summer. His breath came in a gasp as he realized that he would miss her too, and this time there was no start of school to look forward to. With her grades she'd probably be hundreds or thousands of miles away come fall, in Boston or California or even England.

"There's no point both of us continuing to get wet, Mr. Gold. You can go home." Perhaps the idea of less than three months in his presence had calmed her. This time as she turned to walk away her mouth curved in a wan smile. It wasn't happy, but at least it wasn't hate.

"What was it?" He followed her, rather than return to the car. He told himself he just wanted to see her get home safely, but his question labeled him a liar.


"You said it wasn't a crush." Or perhaps she'd said 'fucking crush.' It was hard to remember anything but her yelling at him with so much passion. "What else could it be?"

"You don't really want that answer, Mr. Gold." Her hand almost brushed his as he fell in step beside her.

"Yes, I do. Please." The harsh whisper was, perhaps, as honest as he'd been with anyone in the long time. And as foolish.

"You're a scientist; based on your observations what's your hypothesis?" They were getting closer to the halo of light coming from the streetlight; she stopped when they were still in the dark. Protection, he assumed, from letting him see too much, just as her questions was a way of protecting her from answering his. She'd already given so much; it wasn't fair to make her give him this too.

"You should go home." She deserved more than tying herself to him with the words that all but floated between them. He leaned too heavily on his cane, trying to restrain the need to touch her; she didn't deserve more mixed signals.

"If I wasn't a student…"

"I still wouldn't be good for you." Eighteen, he kept reminding himself. She was eighteen, and sweet, and didn't deserve a cynical bastard like him. He'd spent three weeks keeping away from her as much as he could; he just needed to hold onto that resolve for a few more minutes.

"I think you're scared, Mr. Gold, that you might be wrong. You want to think you wouldn't be good for me, because it's safer than finding out that you could be." Her hand covered his on the cane; somehow the touch was more intimate than the kiss had been. "Maybe I'd be good for you too."

"Belle." It was a plea, but for her to leave or stay he wasn't sure.

"Two and a half months isn't very long." It was a promise. And a warning.

"It's too long." If he was a stronger man he could wait until she wasn't his student anymore. If he was a stronger man he could give her up completely.

It was too late.

With all of the force of a rainstorm he ravaged her mouth, backing her into the trunk of a tree and pressing his body against hers. Even through the layers of wet clothes he swore he could feel the heat of her skin. He was afraid of burning her, but her heat only warmed him. The rain was all but forgotten as his tongue swept over the roof of her mouth, finding the same place as before that made her moan. Last time it was a sign that he'd stepped over a line and needed to retreat; this time he knew there was no going back. He wanted more, and for some amazing reason she did too.

"Mr. Gold." She was panting by the time the kiss ended, drawing in great breaths of air. She was also smiling, something he hadn't seen since her birthday; he traced the curve of her mouth with one finger.

"Nick." Mr. Gold was a teacher. Nick was a man. He didn't want any confusion between the two.

"Nick," she repeated, testing out the word. "Will you take me home, Nick?"

"What?" Two kisses in three weeks; he was just learning to accept the idea of them and she wanted to come home with him? To his bed?

"Dad's at the bar still or passed out on the couch. Either way I'm alone tonight and I don't want to be alone." She couldn't quite look him in the eye. "We don't even have to do anything, though I wouldn't be adverse to more kissing."

Gold thought of his empty house, and of her having just as little to go home to. His lips brushed against her forehead before he wrapped his arms around her. "I'll take you home on one condition; you can not mock the color of the house."

"The color?" Her laugh tickled his neck.

"You'll see."


"Pink?" Half an hour and a hot shower later, and Belle was finally feeling warm. She entered the kitchen wearing pajama pants that were almost long enough to work as slippers as well, a t-shirt that proclaimed her support for the Warriors - Glasgow, not Los Angeles - and an unbuttoned flannel shirt that hit her at mid thigh and covered all but the longest of her fingers. It was a good thing she was too tired to think about trying to be sexy; she was sure she looked like a five year old in big brother's clothes.

"I believe we discussed a condition." Nick stood at the counter; when he turned she could see that he was holding two mugs, steam rising from them. He'd taken a shower as well, or at least changed into slacks and a sweater of burgundy. As much as she liked guessing what shirt and tie combination he would wear each day, and admired his suits, it was nice to see him dressed so casually. It was like he'd taken off his normal armor because it was just her around.

"I didn't mock." The casual banter was familiar and comforting, relaxing Belle as much as the shower had. He had a dry sense of humor, and she'd often found his offhanded remarks amusing. When she laughed in class no one else ever seemed to, and in her mind it had felt like the two of them had a secret moment no one else was privy to.

"It's a historic building; I'm not allowed to change the colors without a petition to the city council, and that's more bother than it's worth." He held out one of the mugs to her; his own was a solid black, hers a marbled white. For a moment she was reminded of chess pieces; she hoped that was the only kind of game between them now. The last three weeks had been wearing her down. "It's cocoa, with a shot of whiskey. I hope that's alright?"

"Not worried that you're corrupting a minor, Nick?" It was, perhaps, too soon to joke about such a thing, but that had never stopped her before.

"I remember high school. If that's your first sip of alcohol then I'm a monkey's uncle." He raised an eyebrow, silently tempting her to disagree. After a moment he turned and led the way to the next room, where a fire was already blazing. They sat on the couch, not quite touching but close enough that they could.

"I didn't know you had nephews," she said with a laugh. The cocoa was hot, but she blew against the surface and took a tiny sip. The whisky burned more than the heated drink did.

"Two, but they're both human. You don't mind the alcohol? I should have asked, considering." For a moment his eyebrows drew together, and Belle remembered what she'd said half an hour ago about her dad.

"It doesn't run in my family. Dad just self medicates. I don't think he can cope with the idea of a world without my mom very well. It's easier to just forget everything." She shrugged, as if it didn't matter. As if she'd never wanted to shake her dad and remind him that he still had a daughter. "Besides, if you'd ever seen any of Ruby's parties you'd know that a cup of cocoa with whiskey is just for starters."

"To forget you?" He cupped his hand, warm from holding the mug, to her cheek. "There's no excuse for that. I think your mother would tell him that, if she could."

"I never understood, before, how he could be so completely lost without her." She was beginning to, though. She knew the love that she felt for Mr. Gold - Nick - wasn't as strong as what her parents had. But three weeks of watching him, knowing that she couldn't have him and that someone else could, had been a pain sharper than anything she'd felt since the months following her mother's death. His rejection stung too much for it to be pride or hurt feelings.

"I'm sorry. I should have..."

She silenced him with a kiss, tasting chocolate, whiskey, and for some reason cinnamon. "Just don't do it again, okay? If you don't want me then tell me."

"It was never a case of not wanting. I shouldn't..."

"I know." The cocoa, his and hers, was abandoned on the coffee table as they came closer. His hand was still on her cheek, but now her hand curled around his neck as well, her legs drawn up under her and knees against his thigh.

"I know this is against the rules, and I know how much trouble we could get into if anyone found out. I don't want to hurt you." She would have stayed away, if she could have. Maybe if she hadn't given into the need to kiss him she could have, but now it was too late. Just a hint of what it was like to have him was too much to turn her back on.

"We'll have to be careful." He spoke words of caution, but to her they were a benediction that fed her soul. He spoke of a future, for them.

"Thank you." She kissed him, lightly on the cheek, then the other cheek. She dared to lick him, just a little, along his jaw before kissing the soft skin behind his ear. "I promise that when we're at school I'll be the model student. You'll be Mr. Gold and I'll be Miss French. No one will have a reason to suspect anything."

"It's hard to think of you as Miss French when you're doing that, love." There was a barely suppressed moan hiding under his words as she nipped at his neck, confirming her hypothesis about the barest scrapping of her teeth to the fluttering skin just above his pulse.

"We're not at school. I don't have to be Miss French or a model student; or a model anything, really." It was a relief, and something she hadn't realized until she started to think about just who she was when she was alone with Nick. At home she was the perfect daughter, at school the perfect student. Even with her friends she was the responsible one. Nick, however, had no expectations of her other than the kisses they had shared. She wanted to learn the real him, the man not the teacher; she could grant the saw thing to him. "I'm just Belle."

"Never 'just' anything." With a ferociousness that she wasn't expecting he pulled her onto his lap, a knee on either side of them. Finding herself suddenly straddling him might have made her shy if his tongue wasn't so distracting. She didn't even remember opening her mouth, but his tongue drew hers into a dance and she soon forgot everything. Everything, that was, but the brush of fingertips against her abdomen. When his hand moved higher, barely grazing the underside of her breast, she gasped. It had been a long emotional day, and every nerve in her body seemed to be alert and responsive.

"Is this alright?" His voice, compared to the almost growl a moment ago, was gentle.

"God, yes." He had his hand under her shirt. His shirt, technically, because everything she'd been wearing was wet. That included the bra she hadn't but back on. "Please don't stop. Not yet."

"Not yet," he agreed. He didn't start kissing her again, though. Not right away. His fingers moved against her in small circles, tracing patterns again her skin. He ran a finger back and forth in the valley between her breasts, something that made her draw in another sharp breath, but still he just watched her. Nervously she chewed on her lower lip, not sure why he'd stopped.

"That's been driving me mad for weeks." The roughened pad of his finger flicked over her nipple for the first time. Her eyes involuntarily closed as a jolt passed through. She wasn't usually so sensitive. Then again she'd never had anyone pay such slow and deliberate attention to them before. The couple of guys she'd made out with before were usually more interested in trying to get farther than she was willing to allow, rather than being content with touching and kissing.

"What?" He'd said something, hadn't he? It was hard to remember when his fingers were still against her skin.

"This." Gold ran the edge of his fingernail the length of her lower lip, the side of his finger touching her teeth twice. "Even before you kissed me there was something about the way that you bite your lip when you're focusing or nervous that made me think entirely inappropriate things."

"You thought of me before?" She hadn't expected that, for some reason. He'd kissed her back, but somehow she'd always seen anything between them starting then, despite her feelings from before.

"A brilliant mind and a beautiful body is hard to ignore, no matter how wrong it might be. It's a killer combination, so far as I'm concerned."

"Beautiful?" Beautiful was for prom queens and cheerleaders like Ashley Boyd. Belle was a science geek who spent her lunches in the library unless Ruby or Mary Margaret dragged her to the quad instead. She was cute. She was, perhaps, pretty. But beautiful?

"How can you look in a mirror and not know how beautiful you are?" From someone else she might have thought it was a line, but Nick Gold didn't lie. If anything he was harshly honest even when a polit lie would have been acceptable.

"I'm not..." But he didn't allow for her protest, swallowing it whole before she could get it out, distracting her from the perceived truth with his hands and mouth. He kissed her until she was light headed. By the time she'd caught her breath his mouth had wandered to the breast he had, at some point, uncovered by pulling up the t-shirt faded and softened with many washings.

"Nick." Her hands clenched his shoulders, supporting herself as her back arched. Anything, to bare more of her breast to him and encourage the way he lathed his tongue against her nipple. She didn't let her head fall back, though, no matter how tempting it was to close her eyes and just feel. She'd fantasized about this too much to lose the chance to see him. With her eyes closed it would be like other nights when she'd touched herself and imagined that it was him. She wanted to see that it was him, making her feel the thousand explosions going off under her skin. His face, pressed against her skin, making her crave more.


She didn't realize, until he raised his head to look at her, that the moan of desperation was her own. She would have bitten it back if she could have, but her whole body shook. She'd never needed so completely before. It was as if everything she'd felt in the past three weeks, the longing, anger, pain, joy, hope and fear were all screaming, trying to escape. He was the only one that could set them free.

"Come here, Belle." He drew her to him, her bare and sensitive chest against his sweater, her mouth inches from his. "Trust me?"

She nodded, but when he didn't react right away she thought he might need something more concrete. "Forever."

The kiss was slow and strangely comforting. He soothed her with his mouth, calming the overwhelming need so that it no longer made her skin itch. It was more like the lapping waves against her skin, just as arousing but not quite threatening to overwhelm. She finally allowed her eyes to close, because she'd never imagined things just like this.

His hand was warm against her stomach, and so still that she almost didn't notice when it began to move. His fingers slipped under the waistband of the pajama pants, and she barely had the presence of mind to remember that she wasn't wearing underwear when his fingers tangled in her curls and he was just as aware of her nakedness. He had to be aware, too, of just how wet she was. It was nothing to be embarrassed about. Rationally she knew that, but she couldn't help but stiffen a little. No one had ever touched her there before, except herself and her gyno during exams.

"We can slow down, love. Or stop." He drew his fingers back, not quite touching her.

"No. I want this, really. I just have never... I mean self pleasure, plenty, but not... mutual pleasure." Perhaps it was something they should have discussed before, but she'd been honest when she said that they didn't have to do anything if she came over to sleep. She hadn't known things would escalate so quickly when kissing someone she was in love with, instead of someone she mildly tolerated.

"You've never..."

"Never cared about anyone enough to want to go past second base. It was my choice then, just like this is my choice now. Please don't freak out about it, okay?" She almost wished she wasn't a virgin, just so he wouldn't think this was too big of a step. It wasn't that she thought it was a big issue, she just had never considered sex to be that important until now. Now she understood Ruby and her frequent dating a little better. "I trust you. I need you to trust me, too."

"I do." This time when he touched her she was ready, her eyes closing as his fingers touched the bundle of nerves that made her whole body sing. She rocked against him as he eased a finger into her. God, she wasn't going to last long.

One finger became two, her world becoming nothing but bright colors as he moved against her. She fought to tug up his sweater, to touch him; it hardly seemed fair for her to feel like this and not return the favor "I..."

"Later, Belle. There will be time for that later." His free arm wrapped around her, holding her still as his hand moved ever faster.

It took less than a minute for her world to exploded.


He woke first, late in the morning with the sun streaming through the window. Belle was curled against his side, still dressed in his clothes. He wore his slacks, but his sweater had been tossed on the floor at Belle's sleepy request. He'd ushered her upstairs the night before once her orgasm had faded enough for her to walk. She'd stumbled almost like a drunk, with exhaustion and uncoordinated limbs; between her unsteadiness and his cane they had been quite the sight getting up the stairs. She'd fallen asleep almost immediately, after telling him that she should at least get to touch his skin and then promptly using his bared shoulder as her pillow.

Belle French was asleep in his bed. He stared at her, careful not to move, and let the truth of it sink in. He'd spent three weeks trying to ignore her and failing. Trying to forget her and instead thinking about her more than he should. She was his student. She didn't look like a student, her face relaxed and curly hair laid out on his pillow. She looked like a woman, and certainly had felt like one the night before when he'd had his mouth and hands all over her. Inside of her.

He'd never felt anything so perfect before as her body tightening around his finger, knowing the whole time that no one else had ever touched her like that before. She was his, and only his.

"Morning." Vivid blue eyes were suddenly watching him. They were clear, and free of shadows.

"Morning." He rolled to his side to better look at her.

"I'm glad this isn't a dream. I was afraid it might be." She yawned, and it was the more adorable thing he'd ever seen. Adorable enough to have him thinking the word 'adorable' even.

"I could pinch you, if it helps," he teased.

"Might be a hypothesis worth testing." The kiss she pressed to his shoulder distracted him enough that he didn't notice her hand moving until she'd tweaked his nipple.


"So what do you think? Are we awake?" She almost managed to look innocent as she looked at him, her fingers soothing the skin she'd just abused.

"Awake is one word for it." He glanced down, shifting uncomfortably at the sudden tightness of his pants. Last night by the time kissing had become something more his focus had been solely on taking care of her; she had badly needed it. This morning his body had no compunction in reminding him that he'd spent the night with a beautiful and willing woman in his bed.

"Can I?" Her hand moving to tug away the blankets left no question about what she was asking. He seemed to nod before he'd even taken the time to think about an answer.

The comforter was pulled down first, followed by the sheet. Her nimble fingers made easy work of the button and zipper; her fingers were just as nimble when they reached inside and wrapped around his hard length. He didn't bother biting back the groan.

"Is this because of me, or is it nocturnal penile tumescence?" His little scientist was looking at him with her 'I have a proposal for an experiment' face, which wasn't entirely objectionable except that academic study was the farthest thing from his mind at the moment.

"What do you think?" He pulled her to him, lining them up so his now bared erection rested between her thighs, separated from her by only a thin layer of material.

"I think I've waited long enough to know what it's like to make love, Nick. Will you show me?" Her question took his breath away and made him feel impossibly harder.

"Are you sure? I'm not going to shut you out again, Belle. There's no reason to try and do everything as fast as you can before I bolt." It was a dangerous decision to make, but nothing had ever felt more right.

"I'm in love with someone who cares for me for the first time in my life. I just want to celebrate that." Belle wrapped her arms around his neck, grinding her hips against him in a way that was far too perfect for someone who had never done it before.

"Loves," he said as he started to divest them both of their clothing, finding it easier to tug at her shirt then think about what he was saying.

"Nick?" Her voice was barely a whisper as she looked at him, the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen now sitting nude in his bed.

"You said that you're in love with someone who cares about you. That's not the whole truth." She deserved the truth. No matter what came of this he could at least give her that, and the most careful and gentle first time he could muster. "I love you."

"And I love you too." There were tears, hot against his shoulder as she clung to him. He kissed them away, then kissed the rest of her skin with an intense dedication that lasted until she'd tugged him back up to the head of the bed.

"Too far away," she murmured as she pulled him into a kiss. "Need you closer."

"As close as can be, love." He pulled away only long enough to get a condom from the bedside drawer.

"I love you." This time when he said the words there were no tears, not even happy ones. There was joyful laughter as he slowly entered her and, shortly after, screams of delight as each brought the other to the peak of pleasure and beyond.