A/N: Wow, this fic has been nominated for Best AU and Best Fic on Tumblr! Many thanks to ShipperQueen93 for nominating and for telling me about it (and explaining Tumblr to me, which I then had to join to see for myself). My one-shot Cabin Fever has also been nominated in the Smut: Comedy category, and I've been nominated for Best Author, so huge thanks to all who support me and I would really appreciate your votes – there's some pretty stiff competition out there. I'm absolutely blown away by your reactions and I wish I could hug you all *grins hugely while wiping away an emotional tear or two*. Ahem! On with the story.
Valrie: yes, I look forward to writing that particular scene!
Orthankg1, OneMagician, RaFire, jewel415, ecinspired, MyraValhallah, RumbelleWedding, Kiri Huo Ziv, JosephineM, Twyla Mercedes, crazykat77, Lattelady, spacecats, Erik'sTrueAngel, AngelOfMusic44, deweymay, karolprado, AquaJasmine23, Grace5231973, AquaJasmine23 (x9): thank you so much for all your comments and support.
There's a bit of violence in this chapter, but nothing too bad (compared to what's gone previously)
Jefferson soon had Ruby put some music on, and began mixing his drinks. Belle lost count of what was going into the mix after the third bottle of spirits, and resolved never to taste the results. It was looking as though it would be as bad as Ruby's Christmas punch. He finally added lemonade, making the drink look innocuous, and lime wedges, handing the first two to Ruby and Regina.
"So, what's in this?" asked Regina suspiciously, and he shrugged.
"Oh, a little of this, a little of that," he said airily. "Tell me what you think."
She took a sip, watching him uncertainly over the rim of the glass, and pursed her lips.
"Okay, that's not bad," she allowed. "I could choke it down, I suppose."
Emma snorted, and tried to cover it with a slurp of her gin.
The evening passed pleasantly enough; Gold excused himself after a while to go and take a shower, with a burning look for Belle which she suspected meant that he wanted her upstairs when he was done. For the moment, however, she was content to sit with her glass of wine and watch Regina getting steadily drunker on a succession of Mad Hatters. Belle couldn't blame her; the Dean clearly had pain in her past she was trying to forget. She sipped her wine slowly, and nudged Snow, who was sitting beside her and staring into her lemonade. Belle nudged her.
"Are you worried?" she asked, and Snow sighed.
"About the baby?" she said, and pulled a face. "If there is a baby. I won't think about it being real until I've done a test."
Belle turned slightly to face her. "He can tell, you know," she said gently. "He – I mean the former Dark One – he knew that I was pregnant, even though it was only a couple of months. If he says you are, you are."
Snow sighed, and Belle looked curious.
"You're worried how David will react," she said knowingly, and the dark-haired woman nodded.
"It's just – our relationship is still so new," she said glumly. "We're still finding stuff out about each other. He's still married, technically, although the divorce should come through fairly quickly. I just – I don't want this to freak him out."
"I'm sure he'll be thrilled," Belle assured her, taking her hand, and Snow squeezed it briefly, the ghost of a smile on her face.
"It's not great timing," she admitted, and Belle shrugged.
"Children come along when they want to, it seems to me," she said dryly, and Snow looked curious.
"Do you want kids again? With Gold?"
"Of course!" Belle didn't hesitate. "It's – I know what you're saying. Now is not the best time."
Snow smirked at her. "And yet they come along when they want to."
Belle huffed in amusement, and looked around the room. "Where's Jefferson?" she asked thoughtfully. Snow looked around, opened her mouth, and closed it in puzzlement. Doc had already asked Dover to take him back to the university, Emma and Snow were talking quietly by the stereo, and Regina was pouring herself another drink. Belle really hoped she wouldn't have to carry her to bed.
Just then there was a thump from upstairs, followed by the pounding of feet and loud swearing, and Jefferson ran into the kitchen with a look of panic on his face. Gold was not far behind him, a towel around his waist and his hair and body dripping water. Regina's mouth fell open at the sight of him, and Emma and Ruby were chuckling into their glasses, while noticeably looking him up and down. Jefferson was holding up his hands pleadingly, backing away.
"I'm sorry, Gold, like I said, I wanted the bathroom, and…"
Gold waved a hand, a look of fury on his face, and Jefferson disappeared, to be replaced by a small white rabbit. It sat up on its hind legs, twitching its nose rapidly and looking very nervous.
"Marcus!" said Belle severely. "What's that for?"
"He came into the bathroom just as I got out of the shower!" said Gold indignantly, and Ruby hid her snort behind her hand, earning a glare from him. Belle sighed.
"Change him back," she said firmly. "I'm sure he didn't mean it."
"I'm sure he bloody well did!" snapped Gold. "He certainly got a fucking great eyeful!"
"Really?" drawled Regina, sipping her drink. "Don't flatter yourself, Gold, I doubt it's that great."
Gold growled, turning back to the rabbit. "Do we know any recipes for rabbit, Belle?" he asked menacingly, and Jefferson shrank down onto the floor, as though he was trying to disappear.
"Ew!" protested Emma. "You'd seriously eat Jefferson? Even in rabbit form, that's gross!"
"Although, change him back to his human form and I'm sure he'd be only too happy to let you eat him, if you know what I'm saying," smirked Ruby, winking at him. Emma shot her a flat look.
"Rubes, we always know what you're saying," she said dryly. "And thanks for that mental picture, by the way. As if I didn't have enough in my head after seeing Gold naked in his shop."
Regina spluttered with amusement, and Belle was astonished to hear her giggle. Regina never giggled.
"I locked the door, I'm sure of it," said Gold crossly, twisting the towel into a knot around his waist and folding his arms. "Why couldn't he use the guest bathroom like a normal person?"
"Well, I'm certain he's learnt his lesson and won't do anything so foolish again," said Belle gently. "Will you?" she added, turning to the rabbit with a stern expression. He bobbed up and down on his hind legs, lifting his paws up to his chin and twitching his nose again. Gold growled, unimpressed.
"Plus, he can probably see up your towel from down there," added Emma slyly, and Gold's eyes narrowed. He stepped back, waving his hand again, and Jefferson reappeared, squatting on his heels, hands tucked under his chin and eyes wide.
"Final warning, Milliner!" snapped Gold. "Or I save Midas a job, understand!" He stalked off with as much dignity as he could muster wearing only a towel. The girls burst out laughing, even Regina joining in.
"You have a death wish, Jeff," chuckled Emma, and he recovered quickly, standing up and rolling his shoulders once or twice.
"What can I say?" he shrugged. "I was curious. I wanted to see how far the scales went down." He turned to Belle. "Your boyfriend has very pretty skin, Belle."
"I know." Belle sipped her wine, raising an eyebrow at him. "You'd better not let him catch you in future, that's all I can say."
Regina looked down at Jefferson with amusement.
"What will it take for you to walk in on Gold again tomorrow?" she asked sweetly, and he brushed himself off before reaching for the mixer jug.
"Let's have a drink and talk it over," he said smoothly, and refilled her glass.
Belle left them to it, Snow following her upstairs and going into the room she shared with Emma. Belle said goodnight, hoping Snow would be alright after her surprising news, and entered Gold's bedroom. He was drying his hair with a towel, still looking cross, and she bit her lip so as not to giggle.
"I'm locking the door with magic next time," he grumbled, and she wrapped her arms around him, resting her cheek between his shoulder blades.
"I'm sure it was an accident," she lied gently. "Besides, you should be proud of yourself. You have a great body. Jeff says you have very pretty skin, and I agree."
His hands stilled, and he turned slowly to face her. "Do you think so?" he said uncertainly, and she tutted.
"Yes! Why won't you believe me?" she chided. "Now, stop being silly and come to bed."
She went into the bathroom to wash up and clean her teeth, and by the time she got back into the bedroom he was already in bed, his chest bare above the sheets and his hair still slightly damp. She undressed, feeling his eyes on her, and slipped on her blue silk nightdress. He made a sound of contentment from behind her, making her smile as she brushed out her hair.
"Poor Snow doesn't know what to do with herself," she said ruefully. "She's worried David won't be pleased."
He snorted. "That boy'll have a ring on her finger as soon as he's divorced from the other one," he said dismissively. "She has nothing to worry about. Now come here, my sweet."
Smirking, Belle put down the brush and turned off the main light, just the bedside lamps sending a soft glow across the bedroom. She crawled into bed beside him, planting a kiss on his cheek, and rolled onto her side to face him.
"We got a little closer to breaking the curse today," she said happily, and he hesitated slightly.
"Yes," he said neutrally. "I hope it works. I hope I can…" He trailed off, frowning, and she looked puzzled.
"What is it?" she asked softly, and he shook his head, snuggling down beside her.
"Nothing. It's nothing. Worries, that's all. Natural, I'm sure."
"Of course." She stroked his hair back from his face, enjoying the light playing across the tiny golden scales of his skin. He kissed her palm affectionately, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her close. She giggled, and he raised an eyebrow at her.
"I was thinking about breakfast," she confided. "I watched you licking maple syrup off your fingers this morning, and I just wanted to drag you up here and pour it all over you."
"Hmm." He grinned, bending his head to her breasts and sliding his tongue between them. "I could see myself learning to love maple syrup, sweetheart. Particularly if it tasted of you." His tongue slid across her breast, pushing beneath the lace trim and finding her nipple. Belle gasped, fingers digging into his shoulders.
"Snow's next door," she whispered, and he growled and flicked a hand towards the wall.
"That should last us an hour," he said with satisfaction, and rolled her onto her back, kissing her thoroughly. She was panting when he pulled back, her eyes bright and her lips full and red. He drew a thumb over her lower lip, pulling it down and kissing the moist inner wall, sucking it in between his lips.
"Now," he said softly. "Shall we see what else my fingers can do?"
The soundproofing spell had worn off long before they stopped kissing each other, wrapped in a hot and sticky embrace, fingers running across soft skin and lips trailing over breasts and naked shoulders. Belle fell asleep when they were done, and Gold lay beside her, arms folded behind his head, thinking. After a time, he got up quietly, dressed himself, and listened to the others downstairs. They were clearly still talking and playing music, and he decided to leave them to it. He teleported outside the house and cast a protection spell over it, to keep them safe. Watching the dark red bubble of magic surround the house and disappear, he nodded in satisfaction, and immediately took himself off to Boston.
This time, he decided just to appear in Midas's rooms, his invisibility glamour in place. For once, Midas was not 'entertaining' some girl. He was dressed in tan pants and a cream silk shirt, his curling golden hair shining in the light from the lamps. He was seated behind his heavy teak table, rubbing his hands together in the way that made Gold sure he was worried. Lance was in the place on his right, the large white man whose name Gold didn't know to his left. There were three others opposite: a short white man with a barrel chest and a nose that had been broken several times, a slim black man with dreadlocks who looked uncomfortable in the tight suit he was wearing, and a thin, young man with glasses and a shirt that was too big for him, who looked decidedly out of place.
"So it's certain, then?" demanded Midas, glaring at the men opposite. "A man is flayed alive, hanged with his own skin, disembowelled and dismembered, and you incompetent fools can't find so much as a fingerprint?" He trained his glare on the thin man with the glasses, who gulped nervously.
"I swear to you, Mr King, sir, forensics couldn't even find a hair out of place," he said.
Gold nodded thoughtfully. Police. Midas is approaching the younger ones, now. Easier and cheaper to turn, then his for life.
Midas was drumming his fingers on the table top. "I swear Gold had something to do with this," he muttered.
"There's no record of his car being seen anywhere in Boston," offered the young man.
"None of my guys report seeing Gold anywhere near here, boss," added the black man, and Midas grunted.
"The bastard's tricky. However, so am I. Take yourself off to Storybrooke, Parker, and keep an eye on the little snake for me. I'm getting close to something, and I don't want him screwing it up. Kill his girl, or at the very least give her a good beating – that should keep him out of my hair."
Gold growled under his breath, his fists clenching, rage coursing through him. Such a shame he'd promised Belle no more torture. He didn't have to kill Midas, after all… Images flashed through his mind of what he could do to the bastard, and he had to hold back a chuckle.
Midas was oblivious to the danger in his private rooms. He continued speaking. "Kill him if you can, but above all I want you to inform me whenever he leaves town."
"Understood," said Parker, standing up and hitching at his belt. "I'll go tonight."
Gold grinned to himself. Well, dealing with that should take all of five minutes.
"What about me?" grunted the short man, and Midas waved an impatient hand.
"I need you to arrange some transportation and accommodation for me," he said. "I intend to take a trip fairly soon, and I want you to pack me all the essentials I'll need for a few days." He stood up, looking at the two men beside him. "Lance, Hugo, I need you stationed in my rooms unless I tell you to wait outside, understand? Someone's trying to screw with me. We still have no idea who put that box in here, and how." He scowled, and Gold immediately thought of what he'd do next to freak Midas out. He rubbed his hands together with glee.
"Alright, you're dismissed," said Midas, waving them off, and the men left the room except Lance and Hugo. Gold waited for a moment, as Midas moved to his drinks cabinet and poured himself a whisky.
"I'll be turning in, now," he said to his two bodyguards. "I take it you've done a sweep of these rooms?"
"All checked, boss," said Lance, in his deep voice. "No bugs, no cameras, nothing out of place."
"Excellent." Midas took a drink, and headed towards the door that led to his bedroom. "Then I wish you goodnight, gentlemen."
The door clicked shut behind him, and Gold tapped his fingertips together, frowning as he pondered his next move. He considered revealing himself, just to scare the pants off Lance and Hugo, but decided that would be a waste. He had something more enjoyable in mind. He disappeared, taking himself down to the staff car park at the back of the casino, and frowned as he located the security cameras. Having found them, it was the work of a moment to use magic to scramble the signals. Then he waited. Sure enough, within a couple of minutes, the man that Midas had called Parker emerged with a large hold-all. Gold suspected it contained an array of weapons. Weapons with which he intends to kill Belle, he thought, allowing his wrath to course though him. But no torture. He'd promised. Such a pity. He watched as the man loaded the hold-all into the back of his car. As soon as he slammed the trunk and walked to the driver's door, Gold shed his invisibility and sneaked up behind him.
"I understand you wish to kill me," he said pleasantly, and Parker jumped and turned, a knife in his hand that Gold hadn't even seen flashing in the dim light. It plunged into Gold's chest, and he looked down at it almost curiously, before raising his eyes to the other man's. Parker's own eyes widened as Gold shook his head with a tutting sound, and pulled the knife free.
"Killing me's going to take a lot more than that, dearie!" he said smugly.
"Who the…" Parker simply stared at him, then shook his head as though he was trying to clear it. "Who..?"
"Difficulty forming sentences, I see," drawled Gold, shaking his head sadly. "Typical side-effect of being a hired goon. The name's Gold." He grinned, showing discoloured teeth, aware that his skin would be shining in the streetlights.
"So you're Gold." The man's voice was neutral, and Gold had to admire his courage. "What the hell happened to you? That some kind of mask?"
"This is my true form," said Gold, and tossed the knife up and down in his hand. "Now, about this mission of yours…"
Without warning, Parker tried to ram his knee into Gold's crotch, which certainly would have hurt him, had it connected. Quicker than a whip, magic bound the man, twisting around his thighs and arms like snakes, immobilising him. His eyes widened further as he struggled against the invisible bonds, and Gold grinned widely.
"Well, that was rude," he almost crooned. "I was speaking. Now, what was I saying? Your pathetic bid for freedom quite distracted me."
"Fuck you, you freak!" spat Parker, and Gold tutted, his expression disappointed.
"I can see we're unlikely to have a meeting of intellects in this little encounter, dearie, so why don't I just cut to the chase," he said dryly. "You see, I really dislike it when people threaten the woman I love. So I'm afraid I'll be sending a message to dear Mr King. With your help, of course." He looked at the knife, and the blade suddenly grew to five times its original length, so that it looked more like a short sword. Parker made a strange choking sound as his struggles increased, and Gold's grin became decidedly unpleasant.
"Ah. I can see that I should have explained myself more clearly," he said, in a conversational tone. You see, you are the message. I find that subtlety is somewhat lost on Midas. He's the sort of man that appreciates a grand display." He stepped back and spread his arms wide, making a duplicate of the long blade he carried appear in his other hand, twirling both with an elegant twist of his wrists, and sweeping a bow before straightening back up with a grin
"What the fuck are you?" whispered Parker, and Gold's good humour disappeared as he shoved his face up close to the other man's, his large eyes glinting with malice.
"I'm the Dark One," he growled. "And you, my friend, are a dead man."
He drew back, crossing his arms in front of him and turning the blades in on either side of Parker's neck. He whipped his arms out to the sides once more and the man barely had time to scream before his head left his shoulders, dreadlocks twirling like the blades of a helicopter as it fell. Gold watched dispassionately as the body slumped to the ground, and made the knives he had used disappear. Bending, and grasping the man's hair, he made himself invisible once more before appearing in Midas's rooms. He looked around himself, pondering his next move. Blood was dripping onto the carpet from the severed head, and Gold was aware that he needed to put it somewhere – memorable – fairly soon.
Listening at the bedroom door, and hearing silence on the other side, he shifted so that he was inside the bedroom. Midas was in the large canopied bed, surprisingly alone, his eyes closed and his breathing even. Gold looked around thoughtfully, then grinned to himself. He turned the head upside down, and stuck his finger in the torn flesh, coating it with the man's blood. Then he began to write on the wall above Midas's bed. When he had finished, he set the head carefully on the pillow next to Midas, the sightless eyes staring at him. Gold cleaned himself up with magic, and took a step back, so that he was off to the side and well out of the way of the door. Then he flicked his fingers, turning on all the lights at once.
Midas woke up with a start, his eyes springing open, and screamed as he saw the dead eyes looking back at him. He bolted upright, scrabbling backwards out of bed, and thudded to the floor on his rump, scuttling back as the doorknob rattled and the bedroom door flew open, Lance and Hugo shouldering their way though, guns in hand. They stopped at the sight of Midas cowering by the window and the dead man's head still lolling against the pillow.
"Boss, get away from the window," said Hugo sharply, and Midas seemed to be spurred into action, getting to his feet and making a dash for the door. He got behind his two men, and Gold was highly amused to see that he was visibly shaking.
"Who the fuck is doing this?" asked Lance, almost to himself, as he noticed what was written in blood on the wall above the bed. THESE TOYS OF YOURS KEEP BREAKING. SEND ME ANOTHER.
"It's Gold," said Midas, his voice unsteady. "How the hell is he doing this?" He ran his hands though his hair, agitated beyond measure. "It must be someone on my team. Someone is feeding him my secrets! He has someone on the inside!" He thrust his face up close to Hugo's. "And if you two don't find out who, I'll assume it's you, understand?"
The two men swallowed, and Lance hurriedly went to check the window.
"Maybe you should think about changing rooms for a while, sir," suggested Hugo. "Just until we catch them. There could be some sort of surveillance equipment in here that we haven't seen."
"Yes." Midas tried to catch his breath, his chest heaving. He wiped his face with a shaking hand. "Yes. See to it. I'll take the second guest room for now." He spun on his heel and marched from the room. Gold followed him just long enough to see where the second guest room was, then took himself back to Storybrooke. He appeared in the bedroom, which was dark and silent, except for the sound of Belle's gentle breathing. Belle didn't stir as he climbed into bed beside her with a wide, contented grin on his face. He spooned up against her, enjoying her warmth, and happy that he had dealt with another threat to them. Midas would have to be disposed of soon, though, he was beginning to be a problem. Perhaps he should have spoken to the Seer, although he supposed he could always consult her tomorrow. He breathed in the scent of Belle's hair, still grinning to himself.
Suddenly, a noise made him frown and push himself up on his elbow. Yes, there it was again. A sort of – moaning. He slid out of bed curiously, going to the door.
"Marcus?" Belle's voice was slurred with sleep.
"Go back to sleep, sweetheart," he said soothingly, but she was already sitting up, yawning and rubbing her eyes. The sounds were growing louder, cries and moans, building, quickening. He shook his head ruefully.
"What is that?" she asked drowsily, and he chuckled.
"Not what, dearest, who," he said smugly. "It appears our friend Jefferson's charms are not entirely without effect."
Belle put a hand to her mouth, stifling a giggle as the cries became screams.
"I don't want to know," she said, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "Come back to bed and soundproof the room again. We'll deal with the fallout in the morning."
He readily agreed, and slipped back under the covers, pulling her against him. A mildly satisfying kill, a threat to Belle vanquished, his enemy terrified, and the love of his life in his arms. He slept better than he had in days.
The next morning, Gold was up with the dawn, and took Belle tea in bed before going back downstairs to look over the notes they had scribbled about the spell. He had agreed to cast the aging spell on Ruby that day, and he pondered how best to do it, deciding that a potion would be the most effective and easiest to control in terms of dosage. Looking around the kitchen with a frown, he started getting together things he would need, and quickly decided that he was woefully short of both ingredients and equipment. A call to Dover took care of that (he considered giving the man a raise; Dover had agreed to drive to Boston with no complaint about the early hour), but this would delay the spell casting until that evening. Gold decided that it couldn't be helped.
Preparations having gone as far as they could, he made another pot of tea and waited for the rest of the household to emerge from their beds. Belle was first, beaming at him and lifting herself up on her toes to kiss him. She was followed by Snow, who looked a little hollow-eyed despite her early night. Belle gave her a sympathetic squeeze, and Snow hugged her back, whispering that she was going to pop to the Dark Star Pharmacy just as soon as it opened. Belle offered to go with her, and Snow gave her a wobbly smile, sinking into a chair and taking a cup of tea from Gold. He started cooking breakfast: eggs, bacon and sausage, while Belle made toast and a pot of coffee.
"Did you hear the noise last night?" asked Belle, and Snow looked curious.
"Yes – I assumed it was you. It wasn't, then?"
"We soundproofed the room," explained Belle, pouring coffee for herself. "I never thought it was you." She was grinning as she said it, but Snow pulled a face anyway.
"God, no! Who do you..?"
"Not me," said Emma brusquely, marching into the kitchen. "Oh my God, is that coffee? I love you, Belle, I hope you know that." She took a cup from Belle with reverent hands, wrapping her fingers around the hot porcelain and breathing in the fragrant steam. "I feel like death," she announced, slumping into a chair and rubbing her eyes, her blond hair falling around her face.
"Hardly surprising," said Belle dryly. "I saw what's left in the gin bottle."
"That wasn't all me!" protested Emma, and winced at the volume of her own voice. "It was mostly Jefferson. I may have been led astray. I think he changes the recipe of that damned drink of his to suit what's to hand."
"Hardly a ringing endorsement to drink it, then dearie, wouldn't you agree?" said Gold snidely, from his place at the stove. Emma shot him a venomous look.
"Shouldn't the Dark One be wearing an apron when he cooks breakfast for the women of the house?" she taunted. "Belle, see if you can find him a nice frilly one."
Gold glared at her, although the effect was spoiled somewhat by him flipping eggs, bacon and sausage onto a plate and handing it to her. She quickly put down her coffee and took the plate, digging into the food with a sound of enjoyment.
"I take it back, Gold, I love you too," she said, with a mouthful of bacon, and he smirked, setting another plate in front of Snow.
"Hey," said Ruby, yawning widely as she entered in the red football jersey she often wore to bed, dark hair tousled and eyes barely open.
"Hey yourself," said Snow, looking her over. "Was that you caterwauling last night?"
Ruby's eyes widened. "Me? I assumed it was Belle."
Belle let out an exasperated sigh as she put a large plate of toast and the coffee pot in the middle of the table and sat down.
"Why does everyone automatically assume it was me?" she said indignantly.
"Prior history," shrugged Ruby. "You gonna tell me you guys just cuddled last night?"
Belle reddened. "Okay, shut up," she muttered, and Ruby chuckled.
"It was whoever was abed with Mr Milliner," said Gold tersely, putting plates in front of Ruby and Belle. "And if his oh-so-willing partner wasn't one of you three, that leaves…"
"Regina!" breathed Snow, her eyes wide. "Oh my God! How awkward is this going to be?"
Emma shrugged, spearing a piece of egg on her fork and gesturing with it. "I don't know, maybe they really hit it off. Maybe she fell for his good looks and charm."
"Maybe she's gonna be so chilled out today after the hot sex, she'll cut him a break when they get back to work," added Ruby, with a grin.
"Is there a reason you're all up clattering about like elephants on amphetamine?" snarled Regina, stomping into the kitchen and looking decidedly worse for wear, despite her immaculate black dress and high heels.
"Maybe not," said Belle, under her breath.
"Regina, dear," said Gold mildly, gesturing with a spatula. "Why not take a seat? I have some lovely greasy eggs and bacon here. Best way to deal with a hangover."
"I'm not hungover!" she snapped, folding her arms and tossing her dark hair. "I appear to have eaten something that disagrees with me. It was clearly your girlfriend's shoddy cooking."
"The food which we all ate," nodded Snow. "And which hasn't affected us in the slightest."
"Couldn't possibly have anything to do with all those drinks you threw down your throat," agreed Emma. "There has to be another explanation."
Regina slid into a chair with a groan, pressing the heel of her hand to her forehead. "Could everyone just stop talking? I feel as though my brain's about to leak out through my ears."
"Well, I know a cure for that!" Jefferson appeared in the kitchen doorway, clapping his hands together and making Regina and Emma wince. Gold carried the final plates to the table and sat down between Belle and Regina, taking a piece of toast from the pile and pouring himself some coffee.
"If your cure is an early morning Mad Hatter, you can go and stick your head up your ass," said Emma bluntly, and he grinned.
"You're no fun, Swan."
"Clearly not," she retorted, eyeing Regina with a smirk.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Regina coldly.
"Well, you two put on quite the show last night," said Gold, his eyes glinting with amusement. "I had to soundproof our room to get some sleep."
Emma and Ruby put their forks down with looks of annoyance.
"Thanks a bunch!" complained Emma. "It didn't occur to you to soundproof their room so we could all get some sleep?"
Gold shrugged, biting his piece of toast with a smug look.
"Would you like some coffee, Regina?" offered Snow, in a clear attempt to change the subject, and the Dean relaxed slightly.
"Thank you," she said warily, and Snow beamed as she passed a steaming cup to her. Regina wrapped her hands around it, pointedly not looking at Jefferson as he sat across from her.
"If you two are going to play footsie under the table, do please let me know so that I can take myself off to vomit in private," said Gold dryly, and she scowled at him.
"It was a moment of weakness, Gold, that led to something I'd rather forget about. No doubt your girlfriend understands that all too well."
"Hmm." Gold flicked his eyes to hers, sipping his coffee. "Belle has clearly had many, many moments of weakness then." He grinned at her. "Besides, you certainly didn't sound as though you regretted it. Quite the screamer, it seems."
Regina flushed a deep shade of red and hid behind her coffee cup. Jefferson looked smug, and shared a grin with Gold.
"Would you all stop talking about it?" muttered Regina, and Jefferson gave her his most winning smile, making her scowl.
"Come now, Ms Mills, there's no need to get all prim and proper, you're amongst friends," he said soothingly. "You told me last night that you needed…"
"Not another word, Milliner!" she snapped, glaring at him furiously. "And if you tell anyone at work about this I will make your life hell, do you understand me?"
He lifted his hands up in a gesture of supplication, unable to hide his grin.
"What happens at Gold's house, stays at Gold's house," he confirmed, and her eyes narrowed.
"The same goes for the rest of you," she said shortly, and Belle shrugged.
"I have better things to talk about," she said indifferently, and Jefferson looked shocked, pressing his hand to his heart.
"Better than my obvious prowess, which I've been trying to prove to all of you for years and which you've never let me?" he said indignantly. Belle giggled. Gold frowned, dropping the crust of his toast and picking up a fresh piece.
"I don't give a crap about your prowess," remarked Emma. "But the fact that the Dean was crazy-ass drunk and screaming your name was hilarious!"
Regina glowered at her as Snow stifled a laugh. Jefferson spread his arms with a look of satisfaction on his face.
"My work here is done!" he said lightly, and tilted his head to the side as he eyed Regina. "What say you, Your Majesty?"
"Don't call me that!" she snapped, and he tutted.
"You didn't take issue with that last night," he said smugly.
Regina glared at him, dark eyes flashing.
"You are such a pain in my ass, Milliner!" she spat, and he pretended to look hurt.
"If it's a pain in the arse, dearie, you're doing it wrong," said Gold absently, and Emma and Ruby let out identical snorts of laughter, causing Regina to share her glare between the three of them.
"The sooner I'm out of here and away from you freaks, the better," she snapped. "Gold, tell me we're going to break this curse today and I can go back to plotting my revenge against that murdering bastard."
Gold sat back with a grimace. "Not today," he admitted. "I sent Dover to Boston. We need supplies for a potion I'm making for Miss Lucas."
Ruby looked nervous. "The aging potion?" she asked uncertainly, and he nodded.
"Worry not, you'll be restored to normal within the time I set," he said. "But the idea of a test run is a good one. Just in case, as you say."
Regina was looking thoughtful as she stirred her coffee cup.
"Do we have to worry about Midas coming here?" she asked. "Does he know about you? About – this?" She waved a hand up and down Gold's figure, and he shook his head.
"He doesn't. At the moment he's trying to figure out how I'm pre-empting his every move." His grin was malicious. "When I saw him last night he was on the verge of losing it, I'm sure."
Belle looked up sharply. "You went to Boston last night?"
"I didn't torture anyone," said Gold quickly, and somewhat defensively. Emma let her head fall back with a sigh.
"You know, I really never wanted to stay in a house where the owner's morning statement to his lady is 'I didn't torture anyone'," she remarked "What the hell happened to my life?"
"Welcome to my world," said Belle dryly, and kissed Gold's cheek.
A/N: Thanks to deweymay for giving me the idea for Jefferson walking in on Gold in the shower – that's so something he would do!
Next time: Potions, more bickering, and possibly some smut (can't say for sure, haven't written any of the chapter yet)