The storm takes them by surprise. One moment they had been in the forest, having a talk that couldn't possibly wait- stories of sons and imprisonment, of love and revenge pouring out of them- and the next they feel the wind pick up. Belle, already cold, starts shivering, a sort of light-headedness settling on the pit of her stomach once the discussion has died down. The sky darkens next, and Rumplestiltskin mutters something about magic acting strange in the new land they finds themselves in, stating that staying outdoors is no longer safe. He ushers her to his car (or at least that is what he had called the strange metal contraption), and they drive away, leaving the woods behind.
"You're pale," he observes, concern lacing his voice. He brushes the back of his right hand against her left one "And icy cold. We'll need to take care of that."
He wants badly to take her to his house- well, their house as far as he's concerned- but all the important artefacts he's stored for almost thirty years are in the pawnshop, and they need to be secured, not only for the safety of his plan but for everyone else's sake. In the wrong hands Regina or anyone else could do some serious harm. He has a change of clothes or two at the shop, and some vintage dresses and such he has had the good sense to keep laundered and well-preserved, as well as a sewing kit. He's very sure he can fashion something for Belle in a pinch.
The thought sends him reeling. Belle. Alive. A Beauty still in love with a Beast, unapologetically so. He sees how thin she is, the dark circles beneath her eyes and the ashen tone to her skin and feels rage, hot and white, wash over him. The things he'll do to Regina when he gets his hands on her will be so horrifying even Prince Charming and his darling Snow will feel pity for the Queen. He doesn't let his mind wonder down those dark paths, however, because the increasingly-strong gusts of wind and random bursts of lightning demand his full attention. The magic in the air tastes wild and fresh, but spooked. It'll need time to settle, to grow into its new surroundings.
By the time the first tremors begin they've made it to the shop. He ushers Belle inside quickly, shutting the door behind him before he notices her sway on the spot.
"Belle!" he catches her just as her knees buckle, cradling her close as he looks for a seat. Finally he settles for helping her climb onto the counter, her feet dangling a few feet above the floor. Belle gives him a grateful smile, trying to let him know she's okay, then toes off her shoes. They are not hers, not really, and they're at least two sizes too big.
"Just a bit dizzy, that's all," she assures him, noticing how his human face conveys emotions much more than his previous one. Though she, strangely, finds herself missing the golden skin and the bigger-than-average eyes, there are advantages to an easier-to-read True Love.
"When was the last time you ate?" he enquires, pressing his cheek against her forehead to check for a fever. Thirty years of separation make even that innocent, mundane gesture into a lover's caress and the brunette fights not to sigh. She tries to focus instead on the question and on how to phrase her answer in a way that won't make him storm outside to go hunt the Queen and, in all probability, disembowel her.
"I can't recall. A day, perhaps," she frowns, trying to recollect "Keeping track of time in that place was rather difficult sometimes."
He grunts in response, a noncommittal sound that Belle guesses is mean to conceal a rather indelicate swear.
"You need food, and warmth," he murmurs, his hands rubbing her arms up and down and even that practical contact feels delicious and overwhelming. After thirty years of no Rumplestiltskin he's everywhere. The smell of him, so foreign yet familiar, is making it very difficult to think. She tries to distract herself, which seems rather impossible when he's tugging her coat off her shoulders.
"Better get out of this filthy thing, love," he tells her, trying not to pay attention as the threadbare cardigan she's wearing beneath the coat catches on the fabric, sliding off as well. He sees no obvious bruises on her arms, only soft, creamy skin, sparking memories of longing, of nights spent on his bed, acutely aware of the virginal beauty sleeping a few feet away, wanting anything and everything, eager to fall at her feet, declare her the mistress and he the slave and beg her for whatever scrap of affection she might toss his way. Those dangerous thoughts, those insidious desires, had once upon a time led him far from the path towards his son, and he had lashed out at her for that. Now, with nothing but regret where his previous mistrust had been, there was little keeping his inappropriate urges in check. He finds a dusky rose cashmere throw and wraps it around her shoulders, both to provide her with some warmth and to avoid temptation.
"You need tea, dearie," he withdraws from her as if her touch burns him and it sinks in her that, with magic back, so must be his curse, and their one firm barrier. Her kisses must now be as unwelcomed as before, and even the knowledge that he only holds on to his magic in order to find his son doesn't help alleviate the sudden pressure in her chest. She feels tired, all of a sudden, and deflated. It's silly, really. This is the best day she's ever had in thirty years, apparently, and she's moping over the fact that she can't snog Rumplestiltskin senseless. Her eyes roam around the shop, taking in what seems familiar and what she cannot recognize till the glimmer of white porcelain catches her eye. She knows it as soon as she spots it: the cup she'd chipped when she had first set foot in the Dark Castle. He kept it. All those years, all those plans and events, and he kept it.
Life feels, to Belle, supremely unfair.
When he returns he notices she's barely keeping herself straight, her eyes clouded and tired.
"I should've never taken you to the woods, not in the state you're in," he berates himself, tipping her chin up to study her face properly, being very careful to be as proper as possible. He wasn't about to pounce on her like some kind of animal when she was feeling weak and needed comfort "As soon as the magic settles, and I've managed to get things secure I'll take you home. A hot bath and some rest will do you wonders."
He stops himself from babbling, his hands idly combing through her hair or brushing against her forehead, pretending to be checking for injuries, hidden bruises or scratches. All a pretence to touch, to get what little he can to soothe him. He's practically shaking as it is, an insidious voice he wishes to strange telling him that she cannot be real, that he's just imagining her, like he's done countless times before. But when his fingers graze the cold pink shell of her ear, or brush against the side of her neck, silky smooth and warm, he can manage to keep his fear from getting the best of him. Now that all he has to do is sit and wait, ride the storm out, he doesn't know what to do with himself. Belle looks so fragile, wrapped up in the cashmere throw with her feet barely covered by the grey tights that he feels he'll break her is he crushes her against him, like every fibre of his being is begging him to do.
"So," her voice, husky and slightly accented, catches him by surprise and he looks into her eyes, willing her to continue "Magic is back but... you don't look like yourself," she shakes her head "I mean, you don't have your golden skin or claws back," with a frown she slips her fingers beneath his jacket and his sleeves, touching his pulse point and Rumplestiltskin fleetingly thinks that his might very well be the most erotic moment of his life and Belle is completely unaware of what she's doing to him "Is the curse somehow... beneath your skin? Is it going to resurface little by little?"
Distracted as he is by her touch he replies offhandedly that magic in this world will not work like it did back home.
"To grasp magic here, to work it, will be a difficult matter since this type of magic will not be constrained into people, so it will be necessary to pluck it from the air and force one's will into it. Quite tricky."
At first Belle's mind thinks strategy: what this will mean for their quarrel with Regina and that he seems little surprised by this turn of even, which likely means he anticipated it and has prepared for it, unlike others. Then, as if something clicks inside her, her brains jumps into a very different type of logical conclusion: magic has not returned to people. Magic has not returned to Rumplestiltskin.
He has no magic she can take away.
"Wait, wait," she grips his wrists, trying to find a semblance of calm before continuing "Does this mean that... You can't be un-cursed? There's no way to take magic away from you?"
"Oh, no, dearie. Magic is in the air and I have the proper tools to make it bend to my will, like I plan to do as soon as this blasted storm..."
The rest of the sentence dies on his lips as Belle moves her hands to the lapels of his suit, yanking him to her with a force a tiny, emaciated woman should not have. Her mouth is on his before he can blink warm and soft and real, so real he wants to weep. Something snaps inside him, the lasts shreds of his tattered self-control shredding to pieces as his arms snake inside the folds of the rose cashmere to wraps around the curves of the body it's hiding, pulling her as close to him as he can, making a rather undignified sound when she parts her legs so he can pull her flush against him.
There must be a kind of special Hell reserved for those who take advantage of distraught young maidens but at this point Rumplestiltskin is way past caring, and only interested in feeling. Thirty years with the memory of a mere brush of the lips now seems preposterous and silly, and thank God he hadn't known all those years what he had really been missing. Belle is inexperienced but assertive, sliding her arms around his shoulders, one remaining there for support while the other sinks into his hair, her nails scratching his scalp and sending tiny electrical shocks to all sorts of places in his body. She seems to love his bottom lip, instinctively sucking on it and, in her eagerness, biting it. She gasps, moving to pull away to check for damage but he makes a sort of desperate, needy sound and follows her lips as they retreat, all but bending her over on the counter. After a second she stops trying to break the kiss, settling for darting her tongue out to lick at the cut, trying to soothe. He groans at that opening his mouth to brush his own tongue against hers, hands fisting in her hair as he tilts her head to a side so he can kiss her deeper, exploring her mouth as soon as she grants him access.
The trust behind her quick responses humbles him and again all he wants to do is be her willing slave. He spent years as a poor spinner loathing the fact that so many people had power over him and his life while he remained helpless to have any sort of choice but with Belle it seems only natural, preferable even, to submit and let her lead him to the gates of Hell if she so wished. When she wraps her legs around his hips, cradling him, he whines, a sound he imagines doesn't sound very human escaping his lips and dying somewhere inside her mouth. He pushes forward then, clutching on one hand a fistful of her hospital gown and on the other a mass of her skull, his fingers digging into her scalp as if, if her pressed close enough, they'd merge together. Soon enough he feels her feet digging into his back and that tiny sign of her eagerness, her desperation, sends him reeling. Belle wants him just as much as he craves her.
He cannot stop his hands from roaming, nor does he want to when Belle's made it clear that she wants this. He moves his hands down her back, caressing her sides fleetingly as he coaxes her tongue into his mouth, coaching her and she timidly licks the roof of his mouth, finding a spot on the centre that makes his knees almost buckle. His fingers ghost over her ribs just beneath her breasts, and he feels her shiver and arch into his touch, an artless gesture that has him hard almost immediately. He's suddenly very glad the counter provides enough cover to keep himself from embarrassment, but just to be save settles his hands over her hips, kneading the flesh there, his thumb drawing circles over her hipbones. She's here, and real, and he wants to touch her all over, to make sure. For now he'll settle for snogging her senseless and letting, every now and then, his fingers slide from her hips to her thighs scraping his nails against her barely-covered skin, wishing nothing more than to rip the tights off her legs and feel her heat.
They pull apart out of necessity rather than desire, panting heavily as they pull as much air into their lungs as they can. Her hair is in disarray, his fingers mussing the locks she's painstakingly combed with her own fingers just half an hour or so ago. Her lips are slightly swollen and red, some of his blood still coating her bottom lip, which she licks away in one smooth motion, leaning forward to do the same to his bottom lip, where he imagines the cut continues to bleed slightly. The sight and feel of her sends a jolt of lust through him like lightning, leaving him trembling and yearning. Outside the storm rages on but inside the pawnshop neither person seems to care much. Soon enough his dipping his head down again, his teeth catching her bottom lip and tugging, prompting a surprised moan from her, and a tug on his hair that he took as positive signs. He slid his mouth away from hers, down the line of her jaw, over the elegant column of her neck, pausing to suck on a spot just beneath the beginning if her jawbone, feeling another tell-tale tightening of her hands in his hair, his new favourite reward.
"Rum..." her voice is slurred and dies out before she can form the rest of his name, and the needy breathiness behind it fills him with smug delight. He's never had a woman in his arms as responsive as Belle, who doesn't seem to need to hide her reactions to his touch or fake them. His late wife had left him with deeply-rooted feelings of inadequacy and inferiority which had followed him to every other aspect of her life for years, even as the Dark One. But now, alone in his little pawnshop, cradled in Belle's legs, he feels none of those things, Belle's subtle light chasing them away. He kisses down her throat, a part of her that had always fascinated him back in the Dark Castle, and when he reaches the juncture of his shoulder he draws the skin into his mouth, applying enough suction to leave a round, perfect mark. He intends to be gentle even in his passion but he's unprepared for the sensation of Belle's nimble fingers slipping inside the collar of his shirt, her nails leaving a trace of fire across his skin. In a moment of recklessness he loses sight of his gentleness and bites down, his teeth sinking into her soft flesh with something that feels a lot like relief. She lets out a cry that at first he mistakes for a sign of pain but that soon is followed by a strangled moan that clearly voices her pleasure. She tips her head back, baring her throat better for him, a willing offer.
"Oh, Belle..." he sighs into the crook of her shoulder, laving the bite he's just made with gentle, contrite strokes. The skin is red and angry to the eyes, and he cannot help but both love it and wish it away. His fingers dig into the skin of the inside of her thighs, fighting the urge to go higher, to explore more of her. They are oblivious to the various sounds of the room: the ticking of a clock, the whistle of a kettle, the jingling of the front door bell...
"Of course this ends up being the only store open on the fucking st... Oh, God."
Emma Swan's voice, to him now known as "the mood killer" breaks the couple out of their daze. Rumplestiltskin, reluctantly, rips his lips from her neck, moving his body to cover as much of Belle as he could. He glances over his shoulder to see the sheriff's completely horrified face, eyes wide and mouth inelegantly open. Behind her Snow White wears a much more subdued version of her daughter's expression, though she covers her mouth with her hand to contain a small squeak of surprise. Charming, while shocked, also looks faintly amused. Some sort of strange universal male camaraderie passes between them before he feels the fatherly need to shield his daughter's eyes from the sight currently in front of them. Gold, on the other hand, sighs and turns to rest his forehead against Belle's shoulder.
"I spend years painstakingly arranging their love life and they cannot grant me ten bloody minutes to enjoy mine," he mutters against her skin, nuzzling into her hair. Now that he knows that they are no threat he feels reluctant to give them any sort of attention. Perhaps, if he carries on with Belle for a while, they'll flee all by themselves.
"Hello, I'm Snow White" Snow's voice is polite and even friendly as she addresses Belle "Very nice to meet you. I hope you don't take this the wrong way but I feel compelled to ask... Are you willingly here?"
Though Belle is red from the tip of her head to her concealed toes, she nods her head and flashes the Queen a warm smile as she strokes Rumplestiltskin's hair.
"Very willing," she assures her and Emma shudders "I'm Belle."
She gathers the cashmere throw, which had ended up over the counter in the midst of their... activities, and drapes it around her shoulders. Charming introduces himself with a welcoming smile and Snow nudges Emma on the shoulder, prompting her to mutter her name and then frown.
"Is this some sort of extreme situation thing?" she asks, having heard about how extreme, dangerous situations can prompt several urges in people as they come to terms with the fact that they might not survive whatever it is happening.
"Oh, no. It's more of a true love thing."
There's no point in hiding it, and Belle knows it. The worst person to ever come across that information already knows it and soon enough it will be clear to everyone else. Regina lacks subtlety above all else. The king frowns, looking at Belle with new interest.
"I thought... He said you'd died."
Gold's arms tighten around the brunette, a little sound of pain passing his lips.
"I thought she had. For over thirty years."
His voice is muffled by her hair, but everyone can make out the words clearly. Finally he lifts his head, letting go of Belle to face the new arrivals.
"Ah, yes, the Saviour and her Charming family. No Henry, though."
"He's with Ruby," Emma snaps, remembering when Henry was dying and Gold had stolen what she thought was his only hope for survival "Safe at Granny's. We came out to look for more people to shelter there when the storm grew too strong to stay out."
"I hope we're not intruding," her mother adds, a tiny hint of amusement in her voice. Gold forces himself to smile.
"Of course not," he grounds out before the sound of the kettle reminds him of tea. He makes his excuses to everyone present and, reluctantly, leaves Belle in the company of royalty while he fetches something to drink. Snow attempts to make conversation, honestly curious by a woman who is, apparently, in love with Rumplestiltskin.
"I don't recall ever meeting you," she comments in a friendly tone "Wherever have you been hiding?"
"In a cell for the last twenty-eight years," Belle replies, going straight to the point "Before that I was the Queen's prisoner in her fortress. She kept me in a tower, very high above. Lovely view, but the accommodations left much to be desired."
Silence settles over them, uncomfortable and thick. No one can think of anything to say till Emma, in a desperate attempt to prompt a conversation and to not stare at the hickey blooming on the strange woman's neck, mutters something along the lines of "Oh, that blows."
"Indeed it does, Miss Swan," the pawnbroker's tone could cut through steel. He carries a tray into the room, depositing it first next to Belle in order to hand her one of the cups.
"It has indecent amounts of honey, so you will most likely love it."
He sets aside his own cup before, reluctantly offering the rest to his impromptu guests. He needs the Charmings alive to break the curse fully so he cannot very well kick them out before the worst of the storm passes. The ground shakes for a bit, the many artefacts in the room rattling. Belle holds onto the counter, Gold quickly adding his support till the tremor passes.
"You alright, my dear?" he mutters close to her ear, striving for some privacy in the middle of a crowded room. No such luck, of course.
"This is like some sort of freak dream," Emma whispers to herself, shaking her head and taking a sip of tea when she feels the dealmaker glare daggers in her direction. Charming and Snow make an effort to make polite small talk while resolutely pretending not to see the way the Dark One fusses discretely over the woman on his counter, offering her some butter cookies, instructing her to eat as much as she feels she can and, when Belle finally has enough, he offers the scraps to their guests. He refills her cup twice, encouraging her to drink every now and then.
Finally, blessedly, the storm clears, leaving a thinly-clouded sky in its place. The Charmings are comically fast getting up and making their goodbyes, the King mentioning to Rumplestiltskin he expects them to have a rather serious chat once the town is somehow organized.
"We seem to share a common enemy," he comments casually, but his eyes tell the imp otherwise.
"But of course, your Majesty," he mockingly bows.
As the family makes its way out Emma pauses, something puzzling her.
"Why did you think you were imprisoned here in Storybrooke?" she asks Belle "I mean, what did your... err, fake memories give as an excuse?"
A sad, small smile flits across the woman's face as she shakes her head.
"I had no memories, not the ones from home nor new ones from here," she explains in a soft voice. The horror behind her words is disturbing.
"So you just woke up day after day in a cell, without knowing who you were or why you were there, for twenty-eight years?" the Saviour's voice is incredulous and her father is quickly to usher her out as he spots the blatant disapproval in the pawnbroker's face.
"I thought she hated you," the blonde mutters to her mother, and it's the very first time Emma's initiated a conversation with her mother ever since the curse broke. It makes Snow smile despite the subject matter.
Twenty-eight years of separation will not mend quickly, but now she's confident they will, at least, mend.