A/N: So, eleven months, 236 followers and 191 favs (thank you for those), 1,252 reviews (double thank you for those) and one 667-page Word document. This is the end. If you need more, please check out the one-shot series or the remix I've started, 'Bound For All Eternity', in which they meet in this life when Belle is 16 (as they should have done). This chapter has a fairly high fluff content, just to warn you. The marriage ceremony is adapted from a fairly traditional handfasting.
Thank you so, so much for all your support, encouragement, prompts etc. It has been an absolute privilege to write this and to share it with you.
And I STILL don't own Once Upon a Time! If I did, important scenes would not be cut out of the actual episodes (that's a dig at YOU, producers) Sigh!
Belle stood in the hallway for a moment and took a deep, calming breath. She let it out, her breath whooshing out from between her lips twice as slowly as it had gone in, but felt no calmer whatsoever.
"She's not going away, dearest," said Gold unhelpfully, from behind her, and Belle sighed again, reaching up to open the front door.
"Hello darling." Her mother leant forward to kiss her, then breezed past, favouring Gold with a frosty look and stalking into the hallway. Belle shut the door.
"Good journey?" she asked, and Jeanette shrugged, lifting one shoulder of her dark grey suit and letting it drop.
"Nightmare, but nothing that a strong gin and tonic won't fix. I brought a bottle of Tanqueray. Why don't I make us one?"
"Not for me, thanks," said Belle quickly. A look of curiosity flitted across her mother's face, and Belle hastily changed the subject. "Are you all settled in at Granny's?"
"Yes." Jeanette frowned, dropping her purse on the hall table. "What sort of a town doesn't even have a decent hotel?" She looked Belle over critically. "You've put on a little weight, dear. Not letting yourself go already, I hope." She giggled and waved a hand to let Belle know she was joking. Belle rolled her eyes. Hilarious. At three months along she was just starting to notice the changes in her body; her breasts were growing and there was a slight curve to her stomach, all of which Gold found incredibly sexy. He was grinning at her now, wiggling his eyebrows, and she gave him a quelling look as her belly tightened. Now was not the time.
"Let me fix you that drink," said Gold, and winked at Belle as they wandered through to the kitchen.
"Hey, Mrs French," chirped Ruby, from her position at the table.
"Hello Ruby. I take it you knew about this months ago, am I right?" Jeanette looked put out, and Belle supposed she had a right to be. It wasn't every day your only daughter got married, and most mothers appreciated more than three weeks' notice.
"It was kind of sudden, actually," said Ruby diplomatically, lying through her teeth, and Jeanette frowned.
"It's taken all my time to find a decent outfit," she complained. "I haven't had a chance to get involved in any of the arrangements."
"Wow, Belle, it's almost like you planned it that way," said Ruby, with a grin, and Belle shot her a look. Gold was busying himself making gin and tonics, but she could sense he was amused. Jeanette was pacing the kitchen slowly, eyes running over everything.
"Really darling, if you'd given me more notice we could have done this at the country club in Boston," she went on, and Belle rolled her eyes again. "I would have liked my friends to be there, you know."
"It is our wedding," said Belle patiently. "We just wanted a quiet affair with close friends and – you."
"It's not as though you couldn't afford a decent wedding, though," persisted Jeanette. "From what you've told me, this looks more like some sort of pagan ceremony! You're not even having a minister!"
Belle threw up her hands in frustration. "Mum, when was the last time you went to church?"
Jeanette opened her mouth briefly, then closed it again. "Well, that's not the point, dear, it's the look of the thing."
"Actually, it's not," interrupted Gold, slicing a lemon. "It's about the two of us pledging our love before the people we care about. That's it."
Jeanette ignored him, focusing on Belle. "And who is this man who's giving you away?" she demanded. "I've never even met him!"
"I told you," said Belle patiently. "He's my PhD professor. He's been a kind of surrogate father to me since Dad died."
"Well, it's all very rushed," sniffed Jeanette, taking her gin and tonic from Gold with a nod. He handed the other to Ruby, who grinned at him. "I don't see why you have to get married all of a sudden."
"Because we love one another," sighed Belle. They had had this conversation three weeks ago when she had telephoned her mother to tell her the news, and she really didn't feel like going over it again. Pregnancy made her tired and irritable, and in no condition to have a successful argument with her mother.
"Tea, sweetheart?" asked Gold mildly, and Belle nodded her thanks. Jeanette eyed her shrewdly, taking a sip of her gin and tonic. Looked at Ruby's drink. Looked at Belle's stomach. Her eyes widened.
"Are you having to get married?" she asked suddenly, and Belle blushed.
"We're not getting married because we have to!" she snapped. "It's because we want to." She hesitated, knowing it would have to come out sooner or later. Quite literally. "And I'm pregnant," she muttered.
"Oh, Belle!" whined her mother, an expression of eye-rolling incredulity on her face. "How could you? I thought you had the sense to be careful about these things!"
"I was careful!" protested Belle indignantly. "I was on the pill! Not my fault it didn't bloody work!"
"I see," nodded Jeanette, tight-lipped and holding her arm with her free hand, the toe of one immaculate burgundy shoe tapping in irritation. "So you didn't 'forget' to take it one day?"
Belle spluttered, red-faced, and Gold came to her rescue.
"We prefer to think that it was meant to be," he said, shrugging. "There was clearly some magic at work, there." He showed his teeth. "Or perhaps it's just that I'm so incredibly virile."
Ruby snorted quietly into her hand, shooting him an amused look as Jeanette's lips thinned even further.
"So, I'm to be a grandmother," she said icily. "Were you planning on giving me three weeks' notice of this, too?"
"Of course not," sighed Belle, feeling suddenly weary. God, how was she going to cope with three days of this? Gold appeared to notice, and slipped an arm around her waist, pulling her against him. She leaned into him with a sigh, and Jeanette sat down, crossing her legs and setting her drink on the table.
"How far along are you?" she asked, and Belle hesitated.
"Three months," she said.
"Hmm." Jeanette took a sip of her drink. "Are you seeing the doctor? Getting enough rest?"
"She's receiving the very best care, I assure you, Mrs French," said Gold smoothly, and Jeanette eyed him.
"I believe we ought to be on first name terms, as you've impregnated my daughter," she said coolly, and Ruby snorted again at the look on Gold's face.
"Mum, you're making me sound like a prize cow," said Belle, annoyed. "It's a happy accident, okay?"
"I thought you would have waited to finish your PhD before you started having children," pointed out Jeanette, and Belle shrugged.
"Well, these things happen," she said. "I'll take six months off and start up again next year, Doc says that's fine."
"Hmm." She took another drink. "Well, I suppose we'll have to make the best of it."
"No doubt you'll be happy to bestow your extensive knowledge of life on the next generation," said Gold smoothly, and Jeanette eyed him with a slight frown, clearly wondering whether he was making fun of her. His face was impassive, and she finally looked away.
"Is everything ready for the big day?" asked Ruby, changing the subject, and Belle gave her a grateful look.
"Almost. We need to pick up the flowers, and we need to get to the beauty parlour tomorrow. Mum, I told them the treatments you wanted, and it looks as though it'll take most of the day, so we'll get there around ten in the morning, okay?"
"You can make yourself scarce," put in Ruby, looking at Gold. "We're getting waxed and buffed and manicured within an inch of our lives. No boys allowed."
"Hmm, I'll try to temper my angst at missing out on this female bonding session," he said dryly, and Ruby grinned.
"Don't get snarky just because you have to go for a drink with Archie, Doc, Jefferson and David. No way we're getting in the way of that bromance."
"And don't stay out all night," added Belle, at which Gold looked highly affronted, making her giggle.
"We're having a quiet night at home," Ruby added. "All the girls, plus you of course, Mrs French."
"Well, you obviously won't be drinking anything, I assume," said Jeanette, looking at Belle. "This isn't going to be completely teetotal, is it?"
"Me and Emma'll be there," said Ruby, and grinned. "If you pour it, we'll drink it." She eyed Gold craftily. "Maybe we'll get August to give us a striptease, what d'you say Belle?"
"I think not," said Gold firmly, as Belle giggled.
Having her mother over was an exercise in keeping calm, and Belle was eternally grateful that her small house didn't have another bedroom. Jeanette left for Granny's around eleven, having complained about the venue, the ceremony, the choice of food and the guest list. The wedding was to take place in the gardens of the town hall, as Belle had not wanted it to be held indoors.
"We've been married outside among the trees every time," she insisted, when Emma had suggested it might rain. Emma had shrugged, and Ruby had promised to arrange chairs for the guests. There were precious few of those; the girls and their respective partners, of course, Dover, Doc, Belle's mother, Granny, Mei-Ling and Aurora, Regina, Jefferson and Ariel, and August and his father Marco. Gold had wanted it to be just the two of them with the girls as witnesses, but had grudgingly agreed to the others. Archie was to perform the ceremony, which Belle was delighted about.
Mei-Ling had offered to get some friends of hers to play after the ceremony, and Belle had been grateful. She had discovered that planning a wedding, even one as small as theirs, was difficult in three months. Granny and Marco had offered to do the catering, and Belle had been grateful for it. Ruby joked that Granny and Marco were now spending so much time together they might be involved in a hot and steamy affair, which had caused much hilarity and rampant speculation amongst the girls.
Having shown her mother to the door and kissed her goodnight, Belle returned to the lounge and fell onto the couch with a sigh, Gold stroking the back of her neck soothingly.
"Two more days," she said wearily, and Ruby giggled.
"I don't know, she seemed to perk up when I suggested August stripping," she said. "I reckon your Mom's secretly a wild and wanton woman when she lets her hair down. We should take her to the Rabbit Hole, see if we can get her to dance on some tables and molest Leroy, or something."
"Thank you for that unwanted mental image, Miss Lucas," said Gold dryly.
"I'm beginning to wish we'd only given her a week's notice," grumbled Belle. "Still, at least I managed to avoid her inviting her obnoxious friends over. Small mercies, I guess."
Ruby chuckled. "Yeah. You know she's going to be staying at your house when the baby comes, Gold."
He winced, and she laughed harder.
Belle had decided against a traditional bachelorette party, as she couldn't drink anyway, in favour of a quiet evening with the girls…and her mother. She had invited Regina and Ariel, although she wasn't surprised when the two sent their apologies. Regina had quit her job at the university and was working full-time at the casino. Jefferson had remarked that she was in her element, and Ariel was, rather more surprisingly, enjoying her new role as manager.
"I'll be happy to talk to Regina again," remarked her mother, sipping delicately at her drink, while Snow passed around a plate of chips and dips. Belle took a handful, thinking ruefully that if she carried on eating she might not get into her dress the next day, but needing the comfort food.
"She is coming to the wedding, isn't she?" Jeanette added, and Belle nodded.
"She's coming up tomorrow with Ariel, Jefferson's girlfriend," she explained, and her mother frowned.
"The young man who came here earlier to collect your fiancé? He was dressed very oddly, Belle."
Belle giggled. Jefferson had arrived on the doorstep in his usual flamboyant garb, his top hat tipped back on his head, arms spread wide as he loudly proclaimed the beauty of all the women within. Gold had told him to shut up and had gone off with him with a bad grace, not liking to be away from Belle for even one night. He had been ridiculously overprotective since she had become pregnant.
"Jefferson teaches fashion design," said Emma helpfully, and Jeanette shrugged as though it now made perfect sense to her.
"So, how come Graham didn't get dragged along to this boy's night out?" asked Snow, and Emma pulled a face.
"New job, new responsibilities. I've hardly seen him this week. I think he's starting to regret taking the promotion."
"He'll be fine once he gets a replacement for his old post," said Snow soothingly. "Remember how much of the slack Graham used to pick up for Regina?"
Emma nodded. "True, but he's not as much of a hardass. I don't see him having her tendency to delegate everything to lesser mortals."
"Well." Belle's mother drained her glass and held it up, waggling it between her fingertips. "I appear to be in need of a refill. Girls?"
They shook their heads, and Jeanette got up from the chair with her empty glass and made her way through to the kitchen. The girls watched her go, before turning back to Belle, voices softened to escape her mother's hearing.
"So, how come Doc didn't apply for the Dean's job?" asked Ruby, lounging on the sofa with her gin and tonic. "I would have thought he'd want it."
Belle shook her head. "He's happy buried in his old books," she said fondly. "Besides, if things get – interesting – again, he wants the freedom to just pick up and go wherever we're needed."
"That makes sense, I suppose," nodded Emma. "How are you gonna manage that with a kid in tow, Belle?"
"We always managed it before," said Belle with a shrug. "I once sneaked into a walled town with twins strapped to my back to steal an amulet from a necromancer. Easier getting in than getting out, let me tell you."
Ruby chortled. "I bet Gold was livid."
Belle bit her lip. "Incandescent with rage," she admitted, and gave them a sudden, wicked grin. "The sex was fantastic," she added, and the others giggled.
At that very moment, Gold was sitting at a table in the Rabbit Hole, Archie, David and Doc clustered around him, as they waited for Jefferson to get back from the bar. The music made him want to beat himself over the head with his own cane, but he had been banned from Belle's side until the wedding, and Jefferson was best man, so this was where they had ended up. The best man was currently gesturing extravagantly to the barman, and Gold groaned inwardly as he saw a number of bottles of spirits being lined up on the bar. He made a mental note not to drink more than a sip of anything that Jefferson set in front of him.
Archie shuffled towards him, looking a little nervous. He and Ruby had recently started dating, and Gold had been amused to see Archie leaving Belle's house early one morning with a look of utter shock on his face. He was pleased that Ruby had gotten her man; Belle's roommate had come down to breakfast looking like the cat that got the cream, and Gold hadn't had the heart to tease her about it.
"Has Belle's mother said anything about the ceremony?" asked Archie, and Gold snorted.
"She doesn't like the idea of the handfasting, or that it's not in a church, or that it's in Storybrooke, or that Belle's marrying me, but apart from that she's ecstatic," he said dryly. "However, as the wedding is for Belle and myself, and the rest of you are only there on sufferance, I really don't care."
"Drink up," announced Jefferson, setting down a tall glass filled with a virulent pink concoction topped with an umbrella. Gold eyed it warily.
"What the hell is this, and why would you think I would ever drink it?" he asked suspiciously, and Jefferson grinned.
"Relax, I'm the best man! No way I'd get you so drunk you couldn't stand up. You have to be on top form for the wedding night."
"And drinking this will do that, will it?" asked Gold sceptically.
"Of course not!" Jefferson rolled his eyes. "It just tastes good, that's all. Go ahead." He flapped his hands at Gold, who shot him a look, and took a sip.
"It's tolerable, I suppose," he allowed. "Can't I just get what passes for whisky in this God-awful dive?"
"Jeez, you're a ray of sunshine," huffed Jefferson. "You're getting married to a stunningly beautiful woman who actually wants to have sex with you, and you act like it's your last night on this earth."
Gold snorted. "If it were, I can assure you I would be with Belle, not sitting here with you lot. No offence," he added, looking around. David waved a hand as he took a slurp of his beer.
"None taken. I'd rather be with Snow, too. Sorry, fellas."
Jefferson snorted again. "You guys are so whipped! I don't know why I bother trying to show you a good time."
"As I recall, I wanted a quiet evening," pointed out Gold, stirring his drink and tossing the umbrella aside. "You rather insisted on bringing me to this…cockroach-infested fire hazard of a meat market."
"You're getting married tomorrow!" said Jefferson loudly. "Drain that damn drink, Gold, or I'll tell Belle you flatly refused to have fun!"
Gold picked up the headache-in-a-glass Jefferson had ordered for him and dutifully took a mouthful, curling his lip at the other man and trying not to smile.
"Seriously, she's marrying you?" A new voice cut through their conversation, and Gold stood up, a small grin forming on his face as Belle's enormous ex-boyfriend swaggered into view, flanked by his equally large friends. A trio of young girls trailed behind them, whispering and giggling as they looked them over with expressions of adoration. Gary was aware of their attention, and drew himself up to his full height, trying and failing to intimidate the man in front of him.
"Kinda sudden, isn't it?" said Gary belligerently. "We only broke up a few months ago, and now she's marrying you?"
"Indeed," said Gold, folding his hands over the handle of his cane, and assessing the relative weak spots of each of the men in front of him, just in case the evening turned violent. Part of him hoped it would.
Gary sniffed, folding his huge arms across his chest.
"Well, it's obviously rebound," he said to his buddies. "We were together for three years and she wouldn't even move in with me. Now she's marrying this old guy. What's that about?"
"True love," said Gold mildly, and Gary brayed with laughter, slapping one of his friends on the shoulder and almost knocking him over.
"Yeah, right! Look, Gold, I know Belle. She doesn't believe in all that crap. Not the settling-down type. If she was she'd have chosen me." He jabbed a thumb at his chest, preening.
"Guess you didn't have enough to offer her," suggested Jefferson, alcohol making him bolder than usual in the face of unrestrained testosterone. Gary sneered at him.
"What, and he does? Give me a break! He's got money, that's it."
Gold smirked, looking at his fingernails.
"Would it be very inappropriate if I mentioned the screaming orgasms?" he asked mildly.
"Yes," said Doc quietly, putting his head in his hands, but Gary rolled his eyes.
"Look, I know you're only saying that to try and wind me up, old man," said Gary witheringly. "I had Belle way before you did, and I know for a fact that she isn't a screamer."
"Yes, she is," said Doc, Jefferson and David, in unison. David shot Gold an apologetic look.
"Snow told me," he said, by way of explanation. Gold smirked at Gary.
"As I said, Mr Stone," he purred. "I assure you that our sex life is exceedingly satisfying. Thank you for your concern, I'll be sure to pass it along to Belle." He grinned wickedly. "If only so I can hear her hysterical laughter at the notion of choosing you over me."
Gary leant forwards, shoving his face close up to Gold's, his sneer menacing. Gold met his eyes impassively.
"I give it a month," said Gary softly, and Gold's grin widened.
"Would that be my marriage, or the time it takes you to form a sentence with multiple clauses?"
Gary scowled, and stormed off, David and Jefferson chuckling as he left.
"Well, that was fun," said Gold, still grinning as he turned to them. "What else do you idiots have planned?"
Belle awoke early and felt surprisingly refreshed, although she had to run to the bathroom to throw up before eating breakfast. She nibbled on a pastry and drank some tea before Ruby ordered her to get dressed. Her hair was tamed, curls held back from her face and cascading down her back, flowers woven into it and circling the back of her head. She had decided against a more traditional bride's dress, given the simplicity of the wedding, and had instead chosen a strapless white dress with a knee-length flared skirt, banded at the waist with a pale blue sash the colour of the stone in Gold's ring. It matched the single blue diamond that now adorned her third finger, the stone held in place with worked platinum in the shape of tiny leaves. She also wore her fire opal, despite her mother's complaint that it didn't go with the outfit. She had shared a brief, understanding glance with Ruby, Emma and Snow as she slid it onto her finger.
"Are you sure you'll be able to walk in those shoes, Belle?" asked her mother, and Belle shrugged, looking down at her ridiculously high white heels.
"I don't want him to have to bend down too far to kiss me," she said, and Ruby chuckled.
"I'm sure he could cope, honey," she said, and Belle grinned.
"I'm planning on kissing him a lot," she confided, and Ruby laughed again as she pulled up the zipper on Snow's dress.
The girls were in dresses of the same pale blue, and Ruby had even taken out the red streak in her hair for the occasion, although she announced that it would be back on show before Belle returned from honeymoon.
"Well, don't we look fantastic?" announced Snow, and the girls chuckled as Emma whipped out her camera.
Gold and Jefferson were waiting at a room above the town hall's main chamber, and it was Ruby's job to ensure they were ready to go when the ceremony needed them. Ruby also had the task of taking the peony buttonholes to the men, and fixing Archie's had taken longer than she had anticipated (she blushed when Emma, with a grin, had asked her why) but she was still on schedule when she trotted up the stairs with the ones for Gold and Jefferson. She had left Emma fixing Doc's, and Belle clutching Snow's hand a little nervously.
At precisely ten minutes to one Ruby knocked on the door, and a harassed-looking Gold answered it. His shirt was the palest she had ever seen on him, the same colour as the bridesmaids' dresses, and topped with a grey waistcoat and suit. She held up the buttonholes, and he waved her inside impatiently. Jefferson was sitting with his feet up on the table, reading a magazine, his jacket still on its hanger. Ruby gave him his buttonhole and then set about pinning Gold's to his lapel. She eyed it critically, making sure it was straight, and then adjusted his tie.
"You look good," she said. "Belle won't be able to keep her hands off you."
Gold nodded distractedly, and she put her head to one side.
"Are you okay?"
"Fine, I'm just…" He waved a hand. "Is everything ready?"
"Ready and waiting. You two can go down and wait, if you like."
"Is everyone there?" asked Jefferson, and Ruby nodded.
"All except Regina and Ariel. Does Regina intend to be fashionably late, or something?"
"She'd better bloody not!" said Gold, frowning, his voice snappish, free hand gesturing. "Jefferson, ring your girlfriend and find out where the fuck they are. If Regina thinks I'm postponing this bloody thing to wait on her and her narcissistic, wankish need to be fucking noticed, she can fuck right off." He puffed air into his cheeks, irritated.
"Language," said Ruby reprovingly. "D'you kiss Belle with that mouth?"
"Bollocks!" snapped Gold, and Ruby sniffed derisively.
"What, yours or a real pair?"
He glared at her, slapping her hands away as she tried to straighten his tie again.
"God, you're an ass when you're nervous!" she sighed, and he frowned.
"I'm not nervous!"
"You're as nervous as a girl on her first date, you wuss," remarked Jefferson, and Gold sent him a glare.
"Are you ready?" he snapped, and the taller man shrugged as he pulled his phone from his pocket.
"Doesn't take much to make me gorgeous," he said, as his thumb worked the screen of his phone. "I still say you should have gone with the leather pants. I liked that look on you."
"Yeah, well, I'm not marrying you," grumbled Gold, straightening his shirtsleeves.
"Your loss," grinned Jefferson, and Gold rolled his eyes. Jefferson spoke into the phone for a moment, then nodded and hung up.
"When do they get here?" asked Ruby, and Jefferson put his phone down.
"They're right outside. Regina's just getting the presents. You know, those two get on pretty well. Weird."
"And you've slept with both of them," said Gold snidely. "Surprised you haven't tried to convince Ariel to have a threesome."
"What makes you think I haven't had one already?" said Jefferson, with a grin. Ruby shot him a look.
"How about I tell Ariel you said that?" she said innocently, and he immediately looked alarmed.
"Okay, okay, I haven't!" he said hastily, and Ruby smirked. She patted Gold on his chest.
"Okay, Gold, you're good to go," she announced. "See you in five, soon-to-be-married guy." She kissed his cheek, rubbed off the lipstick she left there, and left the room, leaving Gold touching his cheek and looking a little dazed.
"Come on, man," said Jefferson, standing up and picking up his jacket. "Stop looking as though you're about to face the firing squad."
"I never had to wait around like this," muttered Gold. "We always just went and got married, there was none of this ridiculous preparation."
Jefferson's brow furrowed. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Nothing." Gold waved a dismissive hand. "We'd better go down. If Belle gets there before me I'm a dead man."
Jefferson pulled on his jacket, shouldering it and fastening the button. Gold nodded.
"You look good," he said truthfully, and was surprised when Jefferson suddenly folded him into a hug.
"Okay," said Jefferson briskly, clapping him on the shoulders. "Let's get you married."
In the end the wedding went smoothly. Gold waited anxiously by Jefferson's side for Belle to appear, and when she did, clutching Doc's arm and smiling at him, he felt his mouth go dry. She was a vision in white and pale blue with wildflowers in her hair, and he was whisked back in time to every other occasion that they had done this, that they had stood outside beneath the trees and the sky with the scent of fresh flowers filling their heads, to speak the words that would bind them anew. She was beaming, radiant as she approached, and he felt tears prick the backs of his eyes as the guests and Archie and Jefferson seemed to fall away. He was so busy staring at her that he missed Archie's opening words concerning the reason for the guests being gathered there. Jefferson nudged him, making him start, and Belle tried to hide her amusement. It was all he could do to remember to take her hands, once she had given her bouquet to Ruby.
"Marcus Alexander Gold, do you give yourself freely to this woman?" asked Archie.
"I do." Remembering what he was supposed to be doing, he pushed the wedding band onto her finger, and Belle's smile almost made him weep. He heard her confirm that she would give herself to him freely, and smiled at her as she slipped a thick gold ring onto his third finger.
Archie took a strip of scarlet silk, winding it around their wrists to bind them together. This had been Belle's idea, her colour to match his, and if it looked incongruous to the rest of them, he didn't give a crap. She looked almost ethereal, her pale, translucent skin and her dark hair falling around her bare shoulders, the flowers in her hair sending out a heady scent. He wanted very badly to kiss her, and tried to concentrate on what was being said.
"Let the powers of the mind and of the intellect guide you in your marriage," announced Archie.
Fitting, my beautiful Scholar, he thought, lost in the depths of her eyes.
"Let the strength of your wills bind you together," Archie continued. "Let the power of love and desire make you happy, and the strength of your dedication make you inseparable."
Always. Let us never be parted again. Gold couldn't seem to stop grinning, and Belle was beaming up at him.
"Be close," Archie went on. "But not too close. Possess one another, yet be understanding. Have patience with one another, for storms will come, but they will pass quickly."
Belle gave him a wry look at that point; it appeared that she, too, was wondering when their first fight would be. Their current record was three days into the marriage. Of course, there's always the making up afterwards…
Belle squeezed his hands hard at that moment, and Gold started. Archie was looking at him expectantly. Crap. The bloody vows! Shitshitshit! Belle was biting her lip to keep from laughing, but Gold recovered quickly.
"By the life that courses through my blood and the love that resides within my heart," he began. "I, Marcus Alexander Gold take you, Belle Marie French, to my hand, my heart, and my spirit to be my chosen one." My love, my only. "To desire and be desired by you, to possess you, and be possessed by you." Forever, my dearest love. "I promise to love you wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in this life and all our lives to come, where we shall meet, remember, and love again."
The tears were threatening to come again, and Belle's lip was wobbling, her eyes bright. He watched her as she spoke the words, as she pledged herself to him again, his heart swelling with love for her. Once the words were spoken and their promises made, Archie unwound the red silk, and Jefferson stepped up, handing him an antique goblet from Gold's shop, which had been filled with mead. Archie held it out to Gold.
"May you drink your fill from the cup of love," he said, and Gold took it, offering it to Belle. Her eyes darkened a little as she took a long drink of the sweet liquor, and he knew that she was thinking of previous marriages, of honeymoons that followed, long nights before crackling fires, naked beneath rugs and furs with their limbs entwined and the tastes of honey and their own passion in their mouths. She offered it to him in turn, and the flavour immediately whisked him back to those times, to her soft skin and her firm limbs and the way she cried out beneath him when she came. She was smiling at him knowingly as he swallowed. He mentally thanked Jefferson for finding the mead for him; it was not something that was available in Storybrooke and the taste was so evocative of their previous weddings.
"May your only hunger be for one another," said Archie, handing Gold a small round cake made of almonds and honey. Gold broke it in two, sweet stickiness on his fingers, and fed one half to Belle, her lips closing around his fingers as he placed it in her mouth. The tip of her tongue darted out to lick the crumbs from him, and he felt himself stir. He gave her a reproving look, and she wiggled her eyebrows in an attempt at innocence that wasn't fooling him one bit. He handed her the other half, and she fed him in turn, eyes widening as he, too, sucked the ends of her fingers. He smirked at her, and heard Jefferson stifle a chuckle from behind him. Archie cleared his throat, and they turned back to him, Belle blushing slightly.
"By the power vested in me by the state of Maine," announced Archie. "I now pronounce you husband and wife. May your love so endure that it remains a guiding light to you. In this life, and in all your lives to come." He smiled at them, and nodded to Gold. "You may kiss your bride."
Gold turned back to Belle, her eyes swallowing him, drinking his soul. He moved closer to her, reaching up to cup her cheeks with gentle hands, her skin as soft as silk, before bending his head and pressing his lips to hers. Her kiss was warmth, and passion, and love. Her kiss was home, and family, and the taste of all they had had, and all they had lost. Her kiss was the reminder of where he kept his heart. Her kiss was forever.
Dimly, he was aware of applause, and straightened up, Belle falling against his chest with a giggle and looking up at him adoringly. He grinned down at her.
"Ladies and gentleman!" Jefferson strode forward, flinging his arms wide. "I present Mr and Mrs Gold! Let's celebrate!"
The applause increased, and Belle pulled away from him, and suddenly Gold was surrounded by people who wanted to shake his hand (which he could handle) or kiss his cheek (which he wasn't too comfortable with). Ruby, Emma and Snow flung themselves on him in a group hug, which he had to admit he quite liked. Once they had pulled away, he watched Belle walk around the room and greet the guests, smiling slightly.
"She looks as beautiful as ever," remarked Doc, who had sidled up next to him.
"Indeed." Gold flicked his eyes over his wife as she pulled Ariel into a hug, Jefferson trying to join in.
"Well, I wish the both of you the very best, Marcus, you know that," went on Doc, and Gold turned to him with a frown.
"I do know that," he said tersely. "You don't even have to say it, so why are you? Have you seen something?"
Doc spluttered something, throwing up his hands, and Gold groaned.
"You have to be fucking kidding me!" he snapped, and Doc frowned.
"Well, I wasn't going to say anything until you got back from your honeymoon, but you just had to go and ask, didn't you?"
Gold groaned, raising his eyes to the ceiling. "Fine. Are passports required?"
Doc sniffed. "Well, I should think so, we're going to Avonleigh."
Gold turned to him, suddenly interested. "Oh yes? What...?" He shook his head, waving a hand. "Forget it. This is my wedding. We can talk about fighting evil tomorrow. Actually, not tomorrow. Possibly next week."
"Agreed," said Doc, with a grin, and wandered over to the table near the path, where glasses of champagne were being set out.
As soon as the announcement was made, and the two of them were actually married, Regina got up from her chair and made her way back inside the town hall, snatching up a glass of champagne along the way. She had agreed to come to the wedding, and (although she'd never admit it) she actually wished Gold and Belle the very best, but that didn't mean that she had to suffer the inane comments of the rest of Storybrooke. She decided to wait until Belle's mother had stopped talking to her daughter and new son-in-law (she smirked at that) and then she could have a reasonable conversation. She marched into the main hall, which had been set up for dancing with a bar and tables of finger food. Eyes on the stage, where she could see several men setting up instruments, she didn't notice the man in front of her until she bumped into him.
"Watch where you're going!" she snapped, sweeping spilled droplets of champagne from the front of her suit. The man turned. He was handsome, in a rugged, unshaven way, clad in jeans and a nondescript jacket, and carrying a guitar. He looked her over with a somewhat insolent expression before dipping his head deferentially.
"Apologies, m'lady," he said, and Regina smirked. That was more like it.
"Not having eyes in the back of my head, I couldn't know to get out of the way when you so kindly barged into me," he added, and Regina's brows drew down. Sarcasm, was it?
"Well, make sure it doesn't happen again," she said coldly, pretending she hadn't noticed his tone. The man had the nerve to grin at her.
"If you tell me where you're going to be stalking around for the next few hours, I'll do my best not to let you run into me," he said kindly, and she glared at him.
"I did not run into you!"
"My mistake," he said, and looked her up and down insolently. "Perhaps you'd let me buy you a drink. At least that way we can keep an eye on one another and thereby avoid any further unexpected collisions."
Regina hesitated, gave him the once over herself, and nodded stiffly.
"Make it a double," she said loftily, and strode towards the bar. Robin watched her go, smiling slightly, and followed. This could be interesting.
It was much later, when dusk had fallen and everyone was dancing and talking, full of food and drink, that Gold and Belle finally had a moment to themselves. He led her to the floor, where Emma and Graham and Ruby and Archie were already slow-dancing.
"You hate all this ceremony, don't you?" she said knowingly, and he chuckled, turning her around slowly as the music rose and fell.
"It is a necessary evil of getting married in this day and age," he admitted, and pulled her close against him. His hand brushed her hair back from her face. "Did I tell you how incredibly beautiful you look?"
Belle pulled a face. "Maybe – twenty or thirty times," she teased, and kissed his nose. "I love you, Mr Gold."
"I love you, Mrs Gold." He pulled her closer still, and she laid her head on his shoulder with a contented sigh, breathing in the scent of him.
"Can we do this all night?" she murmured, and felt him smile against her hair.
"I did have other plans involving you, but they can wait for a while."
She grinned, squeezing him. "Not too long," she said softly, and raised her head, stretching up to kiss him. She settled back down onto her heels as he pressed his forehead to hers.
"When can we leave?" she whispered, her eyes glinting a little, and he smirked.
"The big party was your idea," he reminded her. "I'd have been happy to elope and tell everyone afterwards."
"I like the party!" protested Belle. She leaned closer to him, and he bent his head slightly so that she could speak into his ear. "But mostly I want you to take me to the cabin, tear off my clothes and make me forget my own name."
She grinned as he swallowed hard, his grip tightening on her.
"Let's just finish this dance," he said a little breathlessly, and she settled against his chest, her head on his shoulder. He breathed her in, her scent, her warmth, the feel of her skin against his. After all the centuries of loss and heartbreak she was his once more, as he was hers. Belle nuzzled his neck with a tiny sigh, her body moulding itself against his, and he rubbed his head against her affectionately. He had cursed the Seer many times in the years without Belle, had cursed their binding, the tether that doomed him to pain and misery without her, but this – this made it all worthwhile. She was his light, and his conscience, that lost part of his soul that returned to him each time. He foresaw years ahead of them, filled with their love and children, with magic and danger, with bitter arguments and sweet making-up. They would be together always, until the end of time, their lives one long adventure, and he couldn't wait to get started.
Well, supposedly everyone has one novel inside them, and this was mine. I had no idea how this story was going to pan out when I started it, and it ended up ballooning into something I didn't expect, but I have loved every minute of it. Thank you for reading.
This fic is dedicated to the wonderful Robert Carlyle and Emilie De Ravin, whose portrayals of Rumple and Belle have touched my heart in so many ways.