A/N: This is just a little scene that popped into my head today. Chronologically, it would fit just after the Thanksgiving dinner, or chapter 14, of Love and Superheroes. It's kind of a cute scene and I wish I could have fit it in but the plot bunny only just now chewed on me. Oh well. Enjoy!
"I could practically feel your happiness oozing from the email," her father said. "I'm glad this Richard fellow makes you so happy."
Belle waited. "I can sense a 'but' coming," she said into the phone.
Moe sighed. "It's just... Well, you two seem serious. It's not been that long, and you're all gooey-"
"I am not gooey!"
"Honey, I'm two oceans and several timezones away and I can smell the goo."
Belle huffed. She wasn't gooey, she was happy. What was so wrong with being happy? Richard was a good man, devoted, and Belle was lucky to have him. Everyone said so.
Well, everyone that mattered. Those who had other opinions could kiss off.
"Always knew you'd settle down with someone older," Moe was saying. "So serious for someone your age. No one in their twenties ever had a prayer."
Her own father barely batted an eye at the age gap. Why the hell should anyone else care? It wasn't any of their damn business anyways. So what if Richard was forty-one? So what if he was divorced, a single father, and worked all the time? That wasn't all he was. That didn't mean he was just a father, just a business man, just a lawyer.
And he certainly wasn't his bank account, nor his age.
He was Richard Gold.
And she was Belle French.
If people didn't like that, that was their own damn problem.
Moe laughed loud and long when she said as much. "Got your mother's patience with people. Never could resist putting others in their place, even if it was her boss. You're sneaky about it though, all polite and disapproving through silent glares and such."
Belle gaped. "I am not!" she protested. "I'm not disapproving, Dad, I'm-"
"Call it whatever you want, but you're too much like your mother to deny it."
"You sound like Richard," Belle grumbled. The bus wheezed to a stop, coughing when it parked. Belle gathered her purse and stood. "He's such a lawyer sometimes."
She could practically hear her father's grin.
"You say that with such fondness," he said. "Like a girl over the moon." Like a woman in love, he thought to himself. Properly in love, knowing the faults and loving the imperfections. "Though, you dating a hardass is surprising."
Belle shivered in the Boston wind. As she shrugged into her coat, she wondered just how much to tell Moe. She'd always been open with her father, and he with her. Their relationship had been strained a few times, her deciding to move to America the biggest strain, but their bond had always been strong.
"It's... it's more than fondness, Dad."
With the mix of happiness, sadness, and fear only a father with a daughter in love could feel, Moe sat back in his chair, wishing he were thousands of miles closer to his daughter.
"And Richard is not a hardass. Not all the time. He's shy around people when he's himself, not Lawyer Richard or Business Man Richard. He won't give people extra time on rent no matter what, and he'd rather kick a customer out than give them a refund, but he's so sweet. Oh god, Dad, you should see him with Bae and Emma. His whole face lights up, and he just grins at them. He looks at them like they're the best thing in the world."
And when she was really lucky, Belle would catch him looking at her like that.
"You love him."
It wasn't a question, not when he already knew the answer.
Love made her feel a thousand feet tall. Big and grown, a real woman now, putting her heart in someone's hands. She felt so big, so important. "I don't know what to do, Daddy." She felt small, and so, so young. "I've never felt like this before."
"It's fast, my Belle." But he'd known, hadn't he. The first time he'd laid eyes on his Christie, he'd known. "But if it scares you, it's real. And you know that no matter what, I'll always love you, don't you?"
Belle crammed her hand into her pocket, cursing herself for forgetting her gloves. "I know," she smiled. "It's your something."
Belle laughed. "Nothing. I'll call you later, Dad, okay? I've got get home and change. Richard wants me to meet him at his tailoring store and I'm already late."
"You work too much."
"You always say that."
"Well, it's true. You go see your man, my Belle. And call your old father later."
"I will," she promised. Belle stopped on the sidewalk, staring at Ruby, who stood in front of their apartment, staring into the window. "As soon as I find out why Ruby is outside." And wearing a jacket that looked suspiciously like Whale's.
Ruby whipped around. "Don't go in there," she warned her. "I saw a mouse- no, not a mouse, a rat. Freaking huge. Like the size of a cat, swear to god." She shuddered visibly. "It's in there, in our apartment, with its tail and its legs and long ass tail and- gah!"
Both women backed rapidly away from the door when it opened.
Whale held a garbage bag at arm's length with just his fingertips. Ruby squealed when he dropped it into the garbage can at the curb, slamming the lid firmly. "No more mouse," he promised.
"Are you sure?" Ruby demanded. "Are you absolutely positive? There could be more than one. What if there are more? Or baby mice?"
Belle pictured small rodents scurrying around the kitchen, one right after the other. She had to swallow the very girly squeal that threatened to escape her.
"I'm going to Rumpled Lace now," she announced, turning to head back to the bus stop. She could always change later. After Whale checked the rest of the apartment.
"I didn't see any more," Whale said, running a hand through his messy hair. "You could put some traps down-"
"Of course!" Ruby grabbed Whale's arm, dragging him towards his car. "Come on, let's go get some. I'm not setting foot back into that place until I know every last rodent in there is gone for good. Oh, you're a lifesaver, Victor." She planted a noisy kiss on his cheek.
Whale turned red, all the way from his ears to his neck. "I, uh. Well."
Ruby pinned back the streak of hair that had escaped from her ponytail. "Get that cute butt in gear. Some of us have dances to dance. And mice to catch. Go see your boyfriend. I'm putting your boss on Mouse Patrol." She wiggled her eyebrows at Belle, who laughed the rest of the way to the bus stop.
"You're tickling me."
Gold held the tape measure at Belle's side. "Not on purpose," he muttered, jotting down the numbers. "Hold still."
Belle bit her lip and squirmed as Richard looped the tape around her waist. God, she really did not want to see that number. "How many women do you measure in a day?" she asked suddenly, as he took the measurements of her chest.
Gold's hands stilled. "Ah, I'm not sure. I don't do too many custom designs, but occasionally I'll have to tailor, and I have to get measurements for that." He adjusted his hold on the tape. "Why do you ask?"
"I'm wondering how many of them were up here, bumbling and blushing and trying to ignore the horrible numbers just like me."
Gold glanced up, catching her reflection in the three way mirror. Her face was bright red. She had her bottom lip between her teeth, her eyes screwed shut as he moved around her, measuring and taking notes.
Belle shrugged one shoulder. "Well, I know my hips are too big, and I should lose about ten pounds. And my chest is flat. I'm short, and my stomach sticks out too much for me to be a cute kind of curvy."
Gold could only gape at her. Did she not see? Did she not know how beautiful she was, standing there in her scrubs and ponytail?
"You," he sputtered, trying to make his words form, "do not need to lose any weight. Your hips are not too big, and neither is your stomach." He dropped the tape, watching her reflection as her eyes opened. "What is it with women and obsessing over numbers on a scale?"
"Easy for you to say. You're all handsome wiry and thin without being scrawny, and your hair is to die for."
Gold flicked a glance at his graying head. "My hair?"
"It's thick and wavy, and you wear it long, but not too long. And those flashes of gray we get every once in a while? Totally hot."
"Uh-huh." His tone had her turning from her own reflection to study his. "And the wrinkles sprouting on my face, and my limp? Are those hot too?"
"They're part of you," Belle said simply, eyes on his. "Everything about you makes you who you are. And you're handsome, Richard. Handsome and strong. How can you not see that?"
There wasn't anything to see. There were scars on his back from the shrapnel, going all the way up to his shoulder. Where his heel was supposed to be was an indent of pink and scarred skin. His eyes were hooded, shadowed by their own lids. His nose was long, pointy, and had been broken long ago.
Next to Belle, he looked like a beast.
"Belle, I know ugliness. I see it every day when I look in the mirror. Trust me, sweetheart. You're beautiful."
She took his hand, stepping down from the stool to stand before him.
"Thank you, but-"
Gold kissed her cheek. "No buts."
"Oh, there's a big one, and it's not mine." Belle framed his face with her hands, fingertips diving into his hair. "How can you look in that mirror, see what I see, and call yourself ugly?"
"No. Listen to me. You're so beautiful, Richard. Everything about you that you don't like, everything you see and want to change, it's all part of you, and it's all so wonderfully handsome I almost can't stand it. I wouldn't change a thing about you."
Because his throat was suddenly dry, Gold swallowed.
"I still can't believe you would rather have me over some young, muscle-bound handsome lad."
"Don't start with the age thing again. I've had it with that. I want you, Richard. Age and limp and gray hairs and all. Is that so damn hard to understand?"
Yes. Yes, it was. It was impossible to understand how this beautiful young woman before him could ever possibly choose him over anyone. How anyone could. Belle accepted him, his faults, his temper and equal shyness, his ex and all the problems she brought. Nine months after that first kiss and she was still standing beside him.
He pulled her close, kissing her hard.
He didn't understand it. He probably never would. But he had her. He cared about her.
And as his cane clattered to the floor, as they made their way to the padded bench in his workroom, Gold wondered when exactly he'd fallen so hard, and why it had taken him so long to realize it.
"Belle," he sighed, helping her out of her pants. "So beautiful. Sweetheart, you're so-"
She kissed him with wild abandon, mouth hungry on his. "Richard," she gasped. "So handsome. So amazing, and you don't even know it. You can't even see-"
She'd make him. She'd show him.
He slipped inside her gently, tenderly, and tried to tell her, to show her just how beautiful, how truly astounding she was. The pace was gentle, a little awkward with the wall at his back and her knees on either side of him, but no less loving. He focused on her, his world made up of nothing but slick, pale skin and a wild heartbeat under his palm.
The climax tore through her, intense and brutal. Belle shuddered, head thrown back, spine arched as she tried to get closer. She had to be closer to him.
When she cried out, garbled nonsense that seemed to have started out as his name, Richard pulled her down for a hard kiss, unrelenting in his steady, patient pace. Belle shuddered and moaned, pleasantly sore already.
"Richard," she sighed.
He held her tight. And let himself go.
When she got her breath back, Belle attempted to lift her head from his shoulder. Her bones seemed to have melted, and it took her two tries.
"Bae will be home from school soon," she murmured.
"Yes. I should- wait." He tangled his fingers in her hair, tugging gently on her curls. He kissed her gently, small sips of her mouth. It wouldn't quench his thirst, but it would sustain him long enough. "All right."
Belle giggled helplessly. "I feel like a teenager," she confessed, standing to gather her clothes.
"I don't." No, Gold was certainly feeling his age. Though it had been wonderful, their little interlude had left him worn out and ready to sleep for twelve hours.
Belle wiggled into her pants, bending to gather her socks. She hadn't put on her bra or shirt, and the view made him feel a bit younger.
Gold quickly gathered his clothing. He felt slightly ridiculous hobbling around the backroom naked with his cane in hand.
Ridiculous and incredulous.
He'd measured women back here before to be certain but that, that had never happened before. While wonderful, sex in his shop was very new.
Belle laughed when he told her. "I should hope so."
"I'd wondered if you'd meant 'measure' as a euphemism." Uneasy, he unlocked the door and ushered her outside, fumbling with his keys to lock the door back. "I mean, that is- I've actually measured, never-"
Belle took the keys from his clumsy hand, deftly locking the door. She planted a quick kiss on his mouth. "Has anyone ever told you you're really cute when you panic?"
"No one's ever mentioned it, no." But he smiled and kissed her again.
"That's disgusting," a man yelled. "Get someone your own age!"
"Get a life," Belle snapped, linking their hands. "People. Honestly." She tugged him forward, glaring at the man who'd yelled. "Let's go home. Bae will be there soon, and he'll deal with us kissing more maturely than a grown man will. Hear that? A six-year-old will handle our relationship better than you!"
"Slut," he muttered.
Gold's cane whipped out, cracking against the man's shin with enough force to send him to the ground.
"Don't you ever-"
Belle pulled hard on his arm, yanking him back. "Leave him. Just leave him! Richard, come on, let's go. It doesn't matter, okay? Hey." She grabbed his chin, turned him to face her. "Look at me. It's all right now. Let's just go. He's not worth it."
Gold cast one last glare at the man carefully getting to his feet.
"He doesn't matter, Richard."
Gold straightened. Planted his cane firmly on the ground. Took Belle's hand in his. "No," he said lowly. "He doesn't."
"See?" Belle squeezed his hand. "Let's go home. I bet Baelfire would love some hot chocolate when he gets off the bus. With marshmallows, right?"
Gold focused on the picture of his son sipping hot cocoa, smiling up at Belle while he sat between them on the couch. The image made him smile, let him relax inch by inch.
He brought Belle's hand to his mouth, brushing his lips over the knuckles. "Right. Thank you, sweetheart."
Belle's heart skipped at his smile, the shame in his eyes. "Come on. I have to tell you how Ruby saw a rat in our apartment and will probably make my boss search every inch of the place until she's convinced there aren't any more. I think she might have planted one in there just to get him to stay longer than five seconds. She's always had her eye on him. Have I told you that?"
Gold smiled. "No," he said. "But David did. Ruby is very tenacious."
"I know. Poor Whale. He doesn't stand a chance."