Rumpelstiltskin felt it the moment the curse was enacted, the bitter taste of ozone and the cold snap of a broken bone before the pain begins indicating some dark magic had come into the world. This was magic he knew very well indeed. He leaned back against the wall of his cell with a smirk of pleasure. She actually did it, sacrificed the thing she loved best, all for her obsessive revenge. Lifting an imaginary flask, he toasted her. "Enjoy your twenty-eight years," he cackled into the darkness. Twenty-eight years of vengeance and then the savior would end her. He was planning to enjoy every minute.
Already he could feel the minds of those of the Enchanted Forest being wiped clean. If he concentrated, he could even make out identities: the woodcarver, a handful of dwarves, the hedgehog prince. The great and small all fell before the curse's power.
Then he felt it- a flash of golden flame just on the edge of his awareness- and his breath caught. No magic could bring back the dead, but there had never been magic greater than this. He'd hoped so desperately...
Reaching out with his senses, he tried to draw it closer but the ridiculous fairy curse bound him where he was. The curse was buffeting the golden flame, and he could see it flickering, guttering. In a handful of moments he would lose Belle again without ever really getting her back to begin with.
It was not to be borne. He grabbed the curse in both hands and shook, making his demands. 'Put her back the way she was: healthy, unharmed. Give her back to me.'
The curse fought him. He was the maker but not the caster, and he had no real power here. Belle's flame was dying, turning into a mere ember, and in desperation Rumpelstiltskin attempted to make a deal. 'Restore her. Give her back. I'll do anything.'
It was a clumsy bargain, possibly the worst he'd ever made, but he felt nothing but triumph when he felt the frisson of acceptance. Belle would be whole and restored to him. The twenty-eight years would fly by as they rediscovered each other. Regina would dance to the tune of his 'please,' and they'd hold each other while the world ended and returned them to their proper place.
The curse sniggered, reminding him that word choice was important and that promising 'anything' to the dark magic was rarely a safe idea. Then Rumpelstiltskin's mind went blank.
0 0 0 0 0
"Good afternoon, Mr. Gold!"
Really, the girl didn't have to say anything at all. The peal of the bell over the pawnshop door heralded her arrival every day at exactly three thirty-five when her classes were over for the day. Where the other teenagers would be going to the diner or the corner store, Isabelle French made the five minute walk to Mr. Gold's shop every day of her life.
He knew a desperate soul when he saw one, and they didn't come much more desperate than Izzy French. Between the mother who died to give her life and the father who couldn't hold onto a dollar to save his life, she'd never stood a chance. Yet, she had a good head on her shoulders and a smile for everyone, even- especially- for her cranky old boss.
"In the back, Izzy," he called, glancing up at her with a smile no one else in town would have believed him capable of. She'd more than earned it. At the ripe old age of twelve she'd talked her way into a job with him, and nothing in four years had managed to scare her off. "You're late."
She rolled her eyes at him, stowing her backpack beneath the chair she'd claimed as hers. "The bell rings at three-thirty. The bell has always rung at three-thirty. It's not my fault you think I can teleport."
"Learn," he advised, smirking into the innards of the clock he was trying to repair, "Or walk faster."
"Be nice or you won't get your treat," she chided, hopping up on the table carefully so as not to disturb any of the various springs and cogs. Satisfied she had his attention again, she held out a tupperware container. "Moroccan chicken salad. I made it in FCS."
"In what?" he asked, taking the container from her with a nod of thanks. Despite the fact that her paycheck barely stretched to cover groceries for her and her father, Izzy occasionally took it into her head to feed him. She wasn't much of a cook, but it was still a damned sight better than he could manage, and Gold couldn't say he wasn't grateful.
"FCS," she repeated, then elaborated at his blank look, "Family and consumer sciences? You know, home ec?"
"I'm an old man and can't keep up with these newfangled names, pet," he informed her, mostly to see her glower of displeasure when he described himself as old. "And I thought we agreed you'd take business."
"It's a requirement for graduation," she admitted, before registering what he'd said and smacking his arm, "And you're not old. You're forty-seven."
He mimed shock, "Is that all? You must have forgotten a few years somewhere."
Her eyes narrowed, "I know how old you are. Who do you think baked your damn cake last birthday?"
"Pastry elves," he deadpanned.
Izzy raised an eyebrow. ”Pastry elves,” she said in the overly-patient tone of someone who’d spent the better part of her life humoring him and who certainly wasn’t going to blink now.
”Well, it can't have been my long-suffering protege. She’s far too busy for such silliness, especially because she knows I pay her to work, not to bake.” Deliberately, he turned his attention back to the clock, watching out of the corner of his eye to see her reaction to the word ’protege.’ Her face brightened, her lips curving into a delighted smile at this rare acknowledgement that he saw her as more than the hired help. Really, she should be well aware of that by now. Within a year of her employment, she’d had control of the shop’s displays as well as a say in pricing. By the end of her second year, he’d trusted her to keep the books, and since then he’d been teaching her everything he knew about contract law, which was an impressive amount if he did say so himself. Izzy was at the top of her class, and he liked to think it was his influence that had helped get her there. Even so, she was a woman, and women liked words.
Gold paused, a miniature gear in his hand, and wondered when he’d started thinking of his sixteen year old assistant as a woman.
The moment stretched out, becoming uncomfortable, until Izzy finally said with false cheer, "Pay me? You barely pay me at all. I'll bake if I like." It was true enough. He'd been very careful with her salary. She made exactly enough that leaving to take another job would mean taking a pay cut. Her paycheck covered rent on the apartment she shared with her father, food for the month, and maybe a movie if she was careful. It did not stretch to paying down her father's debts, buying pretty clothes for going out, or putting away savings to use for college. There was exactly enough room in Izzy's life for her schooling and her job, and there wasn't room for anything else. He'd made sure of that.
As he watched her hop off the table and gather her supplies (It was Tuesday, which meant it was window day, so she needed the blue microfiber cloth. Each cleaning task had a different color rag associated with it, and he knew them all.), he realized just how carefully he had arranged things to make certain the shop was her only outlet. He'd created a very comfortable, very insular world for the two of them, and for the first time he wondered if he'd done it deliberately.
Surely, he hadn't. Surely, he hadn't. Izzy was sixteen, for God's sake. She was a child (a child he'd just caught himself referring to as a woman). It had just happened to come about that every moment when she wasn't in school or asleep she was with him. It was pure coincidence. And yet... And yet.
Once the thought entered his mind, he couldn't get it back out again. Morbidly, he watched his every interaction with her over the next days, trying to see himself from an outsider's point of view. Had he always stared like this when she wasn't paying attention to him? Had he always known the exact shade of rose that tinted her cheeks when he said something that made her laugh? It was no crime to look; she was lovely, decorative, and he was a connoisseur of beautiful things. In their little shop of wonders, she was the most wondrous thing of all.
He had to accept it then. Yes, he'd squirreled her away for himself very adroitly, but she'd come along willingly. Izzy didn't protest the hours. She didn't ask for more pay. She didn't mention college plans or dreams of moving away, and she'd tell him if her mind was tending in those directions. She'd once spent ten minutes telling him about everything she'd found stashed in her pockets at the end of the day. She'd tell him if she wanted to go away to school.
Izzy, then, was content, and he was doing no harm. It was no crime to look, to admire her blue eyes or the curve of her backside when she leaned over to pick up something she'd dropped. It was no crime to wing a silent prayer of thanksgiving heavenward when she wore the green top with the low neckline on days she was going to help him with repairs requiring plenty of bending over. He was just appreciating the view. It was fine to look as long as he didn't touch.
It was, however, a crime when other men looked. When Dr. Whale had come in looking for antique fishing lures and spent most of his visit instead looking at Izzy's chest, Gold's hand had tightened on the handle of his cane hard enough to bruise, wanting nothing more than to smash it into the man's face. Instead, he'd made a point of steering him repeatedly away from the display case that actually had what he wanted, maneuvering the man out the door with a flash of his most unpleasant smile. He shut the door behind the doctor with a bit more force than was absolutely necessary, turning to see Izzy looking at him in bemusement. "That was somewhat unhelpful. Even for you."
He raised an eyebrow, "Even for me? I'm hurt, pet. Truly."
She folded her arms in front of her, giving him her best challenging look. After a moment, he relented, "The good doctor is not one of my favorite people."
That earned him a most unladylike snort. "You don't have any favorite people. Besides, you liked him well enough last time he was in here and dropped five hundred bucks."
"Today he bored me." That was not a complete untruth. He had found the man's staring quite tiresome.
"Today he leered at me like I was a hunk of meat," she countered, and his heart sank. He'd been caught out. Shaking her head, she approached him slowly, and he wondered if she'd slap him first or just go ahead and quit.
"Honestly, I don't know why you try to hide it." She was inches in front of him, looking up in exasperation. "You were looking out for me. Thank you." Leaning up, she pressed a quick kiss to his cheek, shaking her head at him one final time before wandering off to reorganize the display of swords.
He had to clench his jaw to keep his mouth from falling open. She'd appreciated his defense of her? Somehow, the possibility of that had never crossed his mind. He could still feel the phantom warmth of her lips on his face, and the darker parts of him were happily considering where else it would be pleasant to feel those lips. Before he could reconsider, he found himself calling after her, "I do have one favorite person." The dazzling smile she shot him was more than ample reward for his honesty.
Feeling lighter than he had in years, he found his way to the back room and selected a trinket to tinker with, something it wouldn't matter if he damaged. Izzy was fond of him; she didn't mind his interference in her life, and she wouldn't be sixteen forever. He wasn't a patient man, but for her he could learn to be. He could wait two years. His sprawling house was far too big for just him, but her presence would fill it up nicely.
Pleased with his decision, he took another look at the trinket in his hands, realizing he'd only managed to snarl the necklace's delicate gold chain more. It was a lovely piece, a filagree rose with opal accents, and he could almost see it gracing Izzy's throat. Tucking it away where she wouldn't find it, he made a mental note to fix it for her. It would do nicely for a seventeenth birthday gift.
0 0 0 0 0
Although he'd felt confident he would be able to learn patience with Izzy as the reward for his efforts, the habits of a lifetime were hard to break. The seasons bled together, time seeming to stand still as he waited. It felt sometimes like she'd been sixteen forever.
Most days, her constant presence was comfort enough. He had her smiles, her laugh, her attention. On good days, he even had her touch when she patted his arm or rested her forehead on his shoulder as she giggled. They were thick as thieves, and if his hands ached to touch her and his house felt even more lonely than ever, that was the price of patience. Still, he willed time to pass faster.
Time stopped abruptly one spring Tuesday when the golden bell over the door didn't chime at three thirty-five. Nor did it ring at three forty or three forty-five. By three forty-eight he was ready to close the shop and go looking for her, visions of kidnapping and car accidents dancing in his head, and he was reaching for the door handle to do just that when she barreled through it, nearly knocking him to the ground.
"Oh! Mr. Gold, I'm so sorry. Are you all right? I know I'm very late, and I'm sorry. I need to work on my teleporting, but I did try to walk fast. I'll stay late tonight to make up for it-" Izzy was a chatterbox under normal circumstances, but she never babbled, and something was clearly very wrong.
Catching her by her upper arm, he walked her over to the hideous purple velvet fainting couch that they were never going to sell and gently pushed her down before taking a seat beside her. "What's happened, pet?"
Izzy covered her face with her hands and laughed breathlessly, somehow managing not to sound happy at all. "Nothing. Absolutely nothing."
He kept his mouth shut, not bothering to call her attention to the obvious lie. Instead, he let the silence stretch and waited for her to fill it. After a minute or so, she obliged him, "It's just... Greg Phillips? He plays lacrosse? He asked me to go to the Spring Fling."
"Ah." While that was certainly problematic for him, he wasn't sure why it seemed to be upsetting her so much. Swallowing down his first response ("I'll kill him.") and his second ("I'll take you anywhere you want to go."), he settled for prompting, "And you said...?"
"I said no, of course!" she exclaimed, "I can't afford a dress. And besides, you need me to work Friday. Don't you?" Her face was alight with hope as she asked that.
He glanced down at his hands where they grasped the handle of his cane and smiled bitterly to himself. So that was it. Izzy wanted to dance, and her ogre of a boss wouldn't give her the night off. His possessive instincts urged him to agree. Of course he'd need her that night. He needed her every night.
But Izzy was sixteen, and she wanted to dance. And he was an old fool who should know better.
"Fridays are quiet. I could do without you one night. If you don't make it a habit." He forced the words out through a throat that felt like it was coated in broken glass, telling himself that at least he'd get to see her smile as he gave her what she wanted.
Instead she looked at him like he'd struck her. "You don't... want me?"
His knuckles turned white on the cane at her unfortunate word choice. "I did run the shop without you, once upon a time. I can manage for a night. Go dance, pet."
Izzy just looked at him for a moment, before forcing a laugh that sounded more like a sob. "Doesn't matter. I can't afford a dress anyway."
God, she was simply determined to flay him alive, wasn't she? With a sigh, he pulled his keys from his pocket and selected one, handing it to her. "Go down to the dungeon and bring up the wooden trunk in space eighteen." Although Izzy had nicknamed the basement the Dungeon of Lost Things, he knew exactly where everything was. He just had no use for anything that was down there. Except one thing. Except now.
She looked at him strangely but didn't argue, leaving and coming back a few minutes later with the afore-mentioned chest. He nodded for her to place it on the counter. "Open it."
She worked the latches, wincing at the squeal of metal that hadn't been operated in far too long. He'd have to oil that, he thought, trying to distract himself from what he was about to do. She lifted the lid, brushing aside a layer of tissue paper and cedar chips to reveal bright fabric. "They're old, but you're clever, pet. I'm sure you can make something out of them."
With careful hands she pulled out the first bundle of fabric, shaking it out to reveal a 1930's cocktail dress in gold. The demure skirt and high neckline were sweetened by the plunging back, and his breath caught as he envisioned her in it.
"Where did you get these?" Izzy asked reverently, staring at the dress in wonder. After a moment she seemed to realize she had more options and draped it over the counter before pulling out a frothy blue frock comprised mostly of lace that would cling tightly through her hips before billowing out in tiered layers of skirt.
He shrugged. "I've had them as long as I can remember. They're hopelessly out of style of course, no market for them in this town, but they're yours if you want them."
"They're not out of style; they're vintage. Retro," she explained, "You know, everything old is new again? They're wonderful!"
Briefly he wondered if she was including him in her enthusiasm for old things then told his subconscious to shut up. "Wear them in health then."
"Thank you, Mr. Gold," she whispered, her eyes curiously bright. She looked at him fondly for a moment then pressed a kiss to his cheek, and if this was the reaction he was going to get, he'd have to give her presents more often.
Izzy floated through the rest of the evening in good humor, but her melancholy mood was back the next day, albeit in a less manic way. ”Didn’t the frocks suit you, pet?” he hazarded as he watched her rearrange their kitchenware display for the third time since her arrival. She’d barely spoken to him that afternoon, and by the time dusk fell he’d had enough of watching her fidget like a frightened rabbit.
”Hmm? Oh, no. No, they’re lovely. I’m going to wear the blue one, I just have to take it in a little.” Unbidden, his mind conjured a picture of her in the filmy dress, the lacy bodice hugging her body in a lover’s embrace. His breath caught at the image before a wave of sick jealousy washed over him. She’d be wearing his dress, but she wouldn't be wearing it for him.
”Then what seems to be the problem?” he asked, forcing himself back to reality with an almost physical effort.
Izzy stared at her feet for a moment before she told him, ”The Spring Fling... It’s a dance.”
”Yes.” He tried to keep the hint of impatience out of his voice. He was well aware of where she was going, had in fact spent half the night seething at the thought of some callow boy holding her in his arms as he twirled her around the dance floor.
”So... I don’t dance,” she confessed, a flush tinting her cheeks.
He couldn’t help his smile at her words. Izzy sounded like she was revealing a major character flaw. ”It’s just dancing, pet. I think you’ll find it comes naturally. Just follow your partner’s lead.”
”See? That’s it,” she exclaimed with some of her customary spark as she pointed at him, ”I don’t even know what that means. And you know me; I’m not exactly graceful.
That was certainly true. She’d broken more than one of their objects d’art over the years, and yet he’d always found her clumsiness more endearing than annoying. That really should have been his first hint that he was in over his head with Izzy: if anyone else had come into the shop and broken something, they’d still be paying for it. ”Your partner will show you what to do by the way he touches you. All you have to do is follow along.”
”Do you know how to dance?” There was hope in her eyes as she looked at him, and he knew where this was going as certainly as if he’d suddenly become clairvoyant. The temptation was almost more than he could bear. He could have her in his arms, hold her, breathe her in all under the guise of helping her. She’d even thank him for it.
And she was still sixteen, and he still had two years to wait.
He held up his cane and gave her a look, asking sardonically, ”What do you think?”
She put her hands on her hips and glared back, ”I think you didn’t say no.”
She knew him entirely too bloody well. ”Fine,” he conceded with a sigh, mentally cursing himself for a fool the entire time. This was a bad idea, and he would have no one to blame but himself when it all went wrong, but he wouldn’t lie to her, and he couldn’t say no to her, and he didn’t seem to have any other options. ”Not in here though.”
Izzy looked around the crowded shop like she’d never seen it before then nodded. ”All right. Where then?”
An empty lot butted up behind the shop, well-tended and recently mowed. It wasn't a dance floor, but for their purposes it would do. "Come with me."
Izzy followed him through the back room, opening the back door when he gestured to it. Music, he assumed, would be helpful. They had an ancient record player wedged in the corner that occasionally worked, and after a minimal amount of prodding it came to life. He traded out Izzy's Cab Calloway record for something classical they could waltz to. If she could get the hang of the waltz, the rest would fall into place.
"All right, pet," he left his cane leaning in the open doorway as the music filled the air, and his limp was more pronounced as he led her deeper into the vacant lot. The uneven ground was going to play hell on his knee; he'd be lucky to be able to walk tomorrow. It would be more than worth it. He turned to face her, one hand correctly on her waist, the other catching hers and holding it out to the side. "Put your other hand on my shoulder."
She did as requested, and he wished he'd had the foresight to take off his jacket before they'd started this so he could feel the warmth of her fingers. "I'm going to step forward. Step back with your left foot when I do." She took a large step back when he moved forward, throwing both of them off balance. Automatically, he pulled her closer, needing her support to keep from falling since he didn’t have his cane.
”Oops!” Izzy giggled, her nose pressed against his collar, ”Sorry, Mr. Gold.”
She was pressed full length against him, her warmth and softness a nearly-unbearable temptation. With difficulty, he managed to force himself to take a half step back so they were once again in the proper form. ”Perhaps a smaller step this time?” he suggested, his voice trembling slightly.
”Smaller steps, got it.” Izzy looked down, watching his feet in the dim light as he stepped forward, this time matching him perfectly. She did admirably as he talked her through the basic box step in one-quarter time, and by the time they’d completed the pattern a few times he decided they were ready to move things along.
Without warning her, he started moving faster, gradually picking up the pace until they were actually on the beat of the music. Izzy yelped softly, her fingers clinging to his shoulder as she held on for dear life, but she kept up, and soon they were spinning around the vacant lot like old pros.
Well, not quite. ”Izzy?” he murmured to the top of her head. Too busy concentrating on watching his feet to answer, she managed a distracted hum of inquiry. ”One of the joys of dancing is being able to look at and talk to your partner.”
”Hmm,” the noise she made was one of vague agreement, and he wondered if she’d even registered what he said, ”Look at me, pet.”
She glanced up, startled, her eyes locking with his. ”That’s better, love. That’s much better,” he whispered hoarsely, barely aware of what he’d called her. ”Keep looking at me.”
Her lips parted a little, and she darted her tongue out to moisten them, forcing him to bite back a moan. God, she had no idea what she was doing to him. She’d run a mile if she did.
Now that she wasn't looking down, she seemed to be having more trouble following him, their feet occasionally scraping together as she missed a step. ”Don’t think, just listen to the music. Trust me, Izzy. Follow my lead.”
”I do,” she whispered, her eyes dark in the twilight. Without thinking, he pulled her closer, his hand moving from its very correct position to slide around her waist and hold her more tightly against him.
Their other hands dropped closer to their bodies as Izzy’s eyes slid closed, and he could hear her humming along with the record, her steps matching his as perfectly as if they’d been dancing together for years. A stab of pain shot through his bad knee, and he ground his teeth, ignoring the warning sign. Not now. Not when he had Izzy in his arms at last. He tightened his grip on her, telling himself he needed her support, and she sighed, her head dropping forward to rest on his shoulder. Unable to resist, he lay his cheek on her hair, inhaling the sweet rose scent of her shampoo.
Desperately, he tried to pay attention to every sensation from the warmth of her breath against his throat to the softness of her curls, trying to commit every bit of it to memory, something to dream about while he waited for her.
Slowly, a new sensation filtered in, breaking through his fixation on the girl in his arms. They were being watched. He opened his eyes, trying not to alarm Izzy as they continued their circuit until he could see the mayor standing on the grass next to the shop, her face sharp.
He stiffened, gently easing Izzy away from him as she spoke. ”Mr. Gold, I saw that you closed early, but I heard the music. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
For someone who hadn’t meant to interrupt, she was showing no inclination to leave. With a sigh, he released Izzy. ”Run and turn off the record, pet, and bring me my cane.”
She nodded, keeping her eyes averted from the mayor as she fetched his cane, then disappeared into the shop, the music dying in the air a moment later. ”Pretty girl,” Regina commented, looking after her, ”She’s- what?- fifteen now?”
”Sixteen,” he corrected through gritted teeth, not liking the amusement in her tone.
”Of course, sixteen,” she purred, letting her gaze linger a moment longer.
The mayor had always set his teeth on edge but never more than now when she was taking such apparent interest in Izzy. They'd done nothing wrong, but he couldn't help but feel it wouldn't save them if she decided to press the issue. "Was there something you wanted, Mayor Mills?" he prompted, attempting to sound civil.
"Oh, no, I just wanted to browse," she bestowed a smile on him that would have looked more at home on a shark, "See what I could see."
From the gleam in her eye, she seemed to think she'd seen plenty. "Perhaps another time then," he said cooly, wanting nothing more than to see the back of her, "As you said, we're closed."
"Quite," the mayor nodded, then moved off into the darkness, leaving him staring after her, disquieted. Once satisfied that she'd truly gone, he made his way back into the shop, leaning heavily on the cane, feeling like shards of broken glass were moving in his knee. He'd be done up for the next week, but he wouldn't have traded a single moment of their dance.
"I hate that woman," Izzy's voice greeted him as soon as he shut the door behind him.
He couldn't argue the sentiment, but he couldn't remember Izzy ever voicing a negative opinion about anyone. "Why's that, pet?"
"It's the way she swans around." Izzy stuck her nose up in the air, and did a passable job at imitating Regina's rigid posture, "She acts like she's a queen, and we're her peasants."
The comparison was an apt one. Regina certainly did seem to think herself ruler of their world. "I see you more as the dragon-slaying type, not a peasant. Heaven knows, you don't have a green thumb." It was perhaps the only thing Izzy couldn't do. She'd made a few attempts at bringing plants into the shop over the years, and they'd all gone out with the trash within a month.
She chuckled, "I thought you'd say I was the court jester."
"I do believe that's my department." With an extravagant gesture, he picked up three bits of wood from the workbench and managed a quick and clumsy juggle before bowing to her.
Izzy applauded like he'd done a full routine, then shook her head, "No, you'd be the court magician. You'd have a tower where you did all sorts of mysterious spells, and everyone would come to you for help."
It was a pretty fantasy, and he found himself charmed. "And what would you ask me for?"
"Magic lessons, of course!" she exclaimed, "I'd be your apprentice."
Even in their fantasy world she saw herself at his side. Swallowing down hope, he pressed, "You don't want a kingdom of your own? Or a prince?"
She laughed a little at the question, but it was an odd sound. "Magic lessons," she said firmly, before smirking at him, "Besides, you need an assistant. You wouldn't last a day without me."
"Quite right," he agreed softly, meaning the words more than she could possibly know, "Good night, pet."
"Good night, Mr. Gold." It was past her usual quitting time, but Izzy didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave, gathering her bag slowly and looking around the back room like she'd never see it again. "Thanks for the dance lesson."
"My pleasure." The smile she gave him was incandescent, and then she was gone.
What he wanted more than anything was to sit down and just relive the evening, solidify it in his mind to ensure he never forgot a single detail, but if he did that with the state his knee was in, he'd never get back up. Instead, he gathered his things and locked up, making his lonely way home.
In two years it wouldn't be a lonely walk. He'd have Izzy at his side clinging to his arm or holding his hand as they made their way back to their home. Even if all he could talk her into was taking one of the guest rooms as her own, it would be enough to simply not have to send her back to her father each night. She belonged with him.
He went to bed early, hoping the added rest would mean his knee would be at least somewhat functional the next day. As he closed his eyes, his mind returned to their dance, remembering the feel of her body pressed against his, the way their steps matched so perfectly, the scent of her hair and the softness of her curls.
Memory slipped into dream, and he was back with her again, twirling around the vacant lot only this time she was clad in the gold dress she'd found in the chest instead of her usual jeans and casual shirt. She looked like a princess, and he took a step back, conjuring a crown for her as if he truly was the magician she'd made him in their fantasy land. Before he could place it on her head, the mayor was suddenly there, dressed in a ridiculous feathered coat and wagging a reproving finger at him. "Not just yet," she smirked, putting an arm around Izzy's shoulders and in the time it took him to blink, both of them were gone. He looked around frantically, tore through the shop, and ran into the street, but there was no trace of Izzy. She was gone as thoroughly as if she'd never been there at all, leaving him with an unclaimed crown in his shaking hands.
He came awake with a jerk, shaking his head to clear it. Despite his best efforts, he lay awake for the next hour, trying to forget the gleeful smile on the mayor's face as she took Izzy away from him. Even when he finally dropped off again, his slumber was uneasy for the rest of the night.
0 0 0 0 0
Although he rarely remembered dreams, this one stuck with him the entire following day, leaving him unsettled and out of sorts. People gave him a wide berth as he made his rounds through the town, collecting rent and watching the clock impatiently, willing it to be three thirty-five. It had just been a dream brought on by the unpleasant surprise of having the mayor intrude on what up until that point had been the best hour of his life, but he couldn't shake the feeling that Izzy was in danger.
He was acting like a paranoid old fool, but it wasn't until he heard her cheery, "Good afternoon, Mr. Gold!" that he felt like he could draw a full breath. She was back where she belonged, smiling and chattering and bearing a batch of shortbread cookies to thank him for the dance lesson, and all was right with his universe again.
Trying to salvage something out of this waste of a day, he went back to work on the clock, listening to her hum as she dusted (The red cloth was for dusting). He lost track of time, only glancing up when the bell chimed and he didn't hear Izzy greet the customer. He waited a moment, then dragged himself out of his chair, knee protesting after yesterday's exertions.
There was no one in the shop, but when he limped closer to the door, he caught sight of Izzy standing on the sidewalk talking to a dark-haired boy who he knew without being introduced was Greg Phillips.
His jaw tightened as he sized up his competition. The boy was tall, well-built, handsome, and most importantly- her age. Really, he couldn't be expected to tolerate this; he was willingly parting with her so she could go to her dance, but it wasn't Friday yet. This was his time with her, and he wasn't inclined to share. Even so, he gave her a moment, hoping she'd end the conversation herself and send the boy on his way. It wasn't until she reached out to put her hand on the side of his face that he lost control.
Refraining from slamming the door open, he instead opened it with deliberate calm and stepped onto the sidewalk. The tall boy smiled politely at the sight of him, obviously attempting to make a good first impression, not knowing that he was already far too late for that. "Mr. Gold-"
"I have a strict no loitering policy," he cut the boy off, rapping the sign stating as much with his cane. Turning to Izzy who was looking at him in disbelief, he added, "I don't pay you to flirt." He held the door open for her, not moving until she proceeded him into the shop.
As soon as the door shut behind them, Izzy's finger stabbed him in the chest. "That was humiliating," she hissed, genuine anger in her eyes.
"You left the shop unattended," he counted, leaning harder on his cane and staring her down.
"I was two feet from the door. Do you really think anyone was getting in without me noticing? What is thematter with you?" Not giving him a chance to respond, she threw her hands in the air, "You know what? Never mind. I don't care. I don't want to talk to you for awhile."
A vague sense of shame was stealing over him. He was a bastard on a good day, and jealousy didn't bring out his best qualities. "Pet-"
"No!" she snapped, giving him a look that could have cut glass, "I'm going to dust. You go do whatever you were doing. I do not want to talk to you right now." She turned on her heel, yanked her cloth out of her pocket, and made her way to the furthest corner of the shop, keeping her back firmly toward him.
It might have been a blessing that she refused to talk to him, because Gold didn't know what he'd say if she did. There was no acceptable explanation for his behavior, and he didn't think, 'You shouldn't talk to other men, because you're mine' would go over particularly well. After their dance yesterday, this was not at all how he'd wanted the afternoon to go.
Perhaps a gesture would help. Limping into the back, he put the kettle on, preparing a pot of the anise tea she loved and he hated. Tea should taste like tea, not licorice. While it steeped, he made his way back into the shop, relieved she was still staying as far from him as she could get. That gave him the chance to locate the handsome volume of Chaucer she'd been admiring for months. He placed the book on the counter with a cup of tea on top of it and sat down in the back to wait.
A few minutes later, Izzy joined him, her cup of tea in one hand and the book in the other. "You're still a bastard, you know," she told him conversationally as she took the opposite chair.
"But I'm a bastard who make an excellent cup of tea," he pointed out, lifting his own cup in a toast.
"You're drinking it too?" she asked in surprise as she took a sip, "You are sorry."
He took a long swallow of the revoltingly astringent liquid and let that serve as confirmation of her words. "Greg wanted to know what color my dress was, so he could get me a corsage," she told him, "If you'd given me two more minutes, I would have gotten rid of him."
He liked her choice of words. Hopefully she'd be promptly getting rid of him tomorrow night after she went to her dance. "Tell him you want orchids," he advised, "They'll go with your frock, and it's a high profit margin for your father."
Izzy snorted, the last tension in her body relaxing, and he knew he had her forgiveness. "If we live to be a thousand, I will never understand what goes on in your head."
"Constant strategizing." 'Half of which is about you,' he added silently. "Any situation can be turned to your advantage, pet."
Izzy's smile was enigmatic as she finished off her tea. "Back to work for me," she announced, depositing her cup in the sink and the book into her backpack, flicking his shoulder with her cloth as she passed him. He smiled to himself at the teasing gesture, relieved to have their fight over with so easily. He occasionally thought that the real reason for the success of his association with Izzy was her complete and total inability to hold a grudge. It came in handy considering his own tendency to snarl.
She was quiet for the rest of the evening in a pensive way, no longer shutting him out. While he would have dearly loved to know what she was thinking, he opted not to push his luck by asking. If she wanted him to know, she’d tell him; Izzy wasn’t one to keep things to herself.
At the end of the day, she leaned in the shop doorway, watching as he got things together for the next day. It felt strange knowing she wouldn’t be in the next afternoon. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone a full day without seeing her. It wasn’t a situation that he relished.
”Don’t forget that Mary-Margaret’s coming in tomorrow to pick up those finger puppets,” she reminded him, ”And Dr. Hopper wanted to know if we had any books on entomology.”
He gestured to the wrapped packages on the counter that she couldn’t have missed. ”Done and done.”
Still she lingered, the street lights hiding her face from him. ”Are you sure you won’t need me tomorrow night?”
Her voice was so hopeful, as though she couldn’t believe her luck that he’d actually given her the evening off. ”Go dance, pet,” he said softly, pleased that he could make her happy even if it meant letting her go, ”Have fun.”
”Thank you, Mr. Gold,” she murmured, not sounding as pleased as he’d expected. She disappeared into the night without another word, leaving him gazing after her, disquieted.
He slept fitfully again that night, his sleep once again interrupted by vivid dreams. This time, however, he would have been quite happy to remain asleep. He was alone in the shop, just closing up, when the bell jingled and Izzy floated in, a vision of loveliness in her lacy blue dress.
In his dream, he wasn’t at all surprised to see her. When he stepped from behind the counter to greet her, she walked into his arms without a word. Soft music was playing and they waltzed through the shop, the closely-lined shelves staying out of their way. ”I missed you,” Izzy murmured, hiding her face against his throat.
”You’re back now, love,” he assured her, feeling her smile against his skin when he dropped a kiss on her hair.
”I won’t leave again,” she promised as she lifted her head to look at him with eyes that were earnest and filled with love.
”And why not?” he whispered, needing to hear her say it.
”Because I love you.” Her smile was breathtaking, and she wound her fingers through his hair when he dropped his head to finally, finally kiss her. She parted her lips for him with no hesitation, letting him devour her and moaning happily into his mouth as he did.
She tasted like raspberries and roses, and he’d never get enough of her. With desperate hands, he pulled her more tightly against him, needing to be closer. Izzy loved him, and she was still too far away. Together they fell onto the fainting couch, Izzy beneath him as they kissed endlessly, eternally. Clothes disappeared in the way of dreams, leaving them twined around each other, as close as any two people could get, and it still wasn’t enough-
He woke with a cry, reaching frantically for his dream-Izzy. The shock of finding only tangled sheets hit him like a punch to the gut, and he rolled onto his side with a whimper, clinging to the dream. Reaching down, he took hold of himself, teeth bared as he brought himself off with a few rough strokes, trying to pretend it was Izzy’s sweet body bringing him such pleasure.
When it was over he lay gasping, knowing he’d crossed a line. Looking and daydreaming was one thing, but acting on his desires- even in his own head- was very different. Perhaps it was for the best that she wouldn’t be in that day. He couldn’t imagine how he’d ever be able to meet her eyes.
Even worse, it was as though the dream had signaled the breaking of a dam. Suddenly he couldn't stop fantasizing about her, his mind obsessively providing vivid images of how she'd look in the grip of passion, her lips swollen from his kisses, chestnut hair tangled by his hands. Every flat surface in his house seemed a perfect place to make love to her from against the broad stained glass front doors to on his kitchen table. Would she be loud and vocal in her pleasure, or quiet and shy, making him listen for changes in her breathing to know when he was pleasing her? What would please her? Slow and sweet and gentle or rough and desperate?
Christ, he was losing his mind.
He started his day with thirty minutes in a frigid shower that did little for his mood but a great deal for his sanity. Izzy was wise beyond her years, his dearest- indeed only- friend in Storybrooke, and she was sixteen. He couldn't have these thoughts yet. It was wrong even by his own low standards. She'd be eighteen in two years; he just had to be patient.
He never thought he'd be grateful that he wouldn't be seeing her, but that was the position he found himself in. He needed a day to get his head back on straight, to try to shove her back into the neat box labeled 'friend and companion' and put all the other boxes into storage for two more years. He never should have danced with her.
The day dragged without Izzy's presence to distract him. He fixed the clock he'd been toying with for a week and made some real progress on her necklace, and when he looked at the time, he still had three hours to go before closing. Leaning on the counter, he stared blankly out the window, wondering what she was doing. Getting dressed, he assumed, maybe fixing her hair in a different style. He couldn't remember ever seeing her dressed up. When he realized he was thinking about her again he rolled his eyes at himself. Clearly some kind of aversion therapy was in order. Perhaps a shock collar.
Then again, what harm would it really do to fantasize? Touching her was the real crime. She never had to know what he was thinking; it couldn't hurt her. Someday he'd tell her- say, on their twentieth anniversary- and maybe she'd even be flattered he'd been so preoccupied with her.
There were no customers, but he kept the shop open late anyway, not relishing the thought of returning to his empty house. As long as he was here, he could pretend his dream was prophetic and Izzy would come skipping in to tell him about her evening and ask him to dance with her, and then they could put that fainting couch to better use than just being an eyesore. He closed his eyes, reliving the dream, and when the bell jangled and he heard "Good evening, Mr. Gold," he assumed he was hallucinating.
"Izzy?" he whispered, his brain feeling sluggish. Surely she couldn't be here, yet there she was, standing before him in her blue frock, hair twisted up in a chignon, looking even lovelier than she had in his dream. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question," she pointed out with a smile, coming further into the shop and flipping the sign to 'Closed.' "You're open awfully late, aren't you?"
"Busy night," he lied, trying not to notice the way the filmy layers of lace clung to her body.
"Oh, really? What'd you sell?" She glanced around, trying to see if anything was out of place.
Giving up on misdirection, he went back to his initial question. "What are you doing here, pet?" He could feel his heart beating as she got closer, but instead of stepping into his arms like she did in the dream, she hopped up to sit on the counter, her skirt bunching around her legs.
"Your dance lessons weren't particularly helpful," she informed him, swinging her legs and cheerfully ignoring his question, "Apparently not much waltzing happens at school dances."
He probably should have realized that, but it didn't seem like she was here to scold him. "No?"
"No," she shook her head and pulled a face, "Most of it was more like combat with some groping thrown in."
He glowered at the thought of her date trying to grope her. If he used his cane, he could probably take the tall boy down, and he'd deserve it if he'd upset her. "Didn't have a good time, pet?" he asked, cursing himself for sounding hopeful.
"Oh no," she assured him, "It was fun." Despite her words, her smile didn't quite reach her eyes.
Not convinced, he pressed, "Then shouldn't you still be out with your friends?"
Izzy traced a pattern on the wood with her index finger. "I don't have friends," she said, her voice oddly stifled, but she wasn't crying and her face was serene, "I have books. And you."
Guilt twisted in his stomach. He'd ruined her somehow by keeping her locked away with him. She couldn't relate to her own age group anymore, and even the dance she'd been so looking forward to had clearly been a disappointment because of it. "I'm sorry," he rasped.
"Don't be silly," she scolded, a faint smile playing at her mouth. Then she abruptly changed the subject, "Do you want to know why I was upset on Tuesday?"
He thought back to earlier in the week and answered her question for her. "Because you wanted to go to the dance, and you didn't think you could."
"No," she snapped, looking affronted, "Is that what you thought? That wasn't it at all."
Resolutely, he strangled the spark of hope that was trying to flutter to life in his chest. Whatever she was about to say was not going to be what he longed to hear. "Then why?" he asked, feeling like a masochist.
She leaned closer, looking him directly in the eye. "I was upset because I didn't want to go to the dance! Greg's cute, and he asked me, and any other girl would have been thrilled, but I wasn't, because I just wanted to be at the shop with you. And I realized I was never going to be normal because I'm not supposed to want that. But I do. So much."
Sniffling, she looked away as her nerve seemed to break. "And you couldn't shove me out the door fast enough."
He was dreaming again, he realized, dismay filling him. This wasn't real, couldn't be real. Even so, he couldn't bear to see her unhappy, and if it was a dream, he was allowed to touch. He placed his hands on top of hers where they rested on the counter, the gesture bringing him close enough to her that he could feel her warmth. "I thought you wanted to go. I was trying to make you happy."
"You make me happy," she half-sobbed, and his mouth twitched a little at the irony.
"I can tell." She lifted her head to look at him, her mouth inches from his and he froze, sucking in an involuntary breath.
"Don't laugh at me," she pleaded softly.
Nothing could be further from his mind. "I'm laughing at us. I didn't want you to go to that damned dance. I wanted you here with me." And now she was. If he was dreaming, he didn't want to wake up, and if he wasn't, they were in a world of trouble.
"Really?" her eyes searched his face, all sign of tears gone now.
"I don't like to share," he rumbled, leaning closer until he could feel her breath against his lips. She smelled like cinnamon, and that decided him. She always smelled like raspberries and roses in his dreams. This was real.
He needed to step back. They were entirely too close, and she was far too tempting. Even if she wanted him, she was still sixteen. "You don't have to," she whispered, her blue eyes turning dark, "If you want me, I'm yours."
Gold gave up. Releasing her hands, he plunged his fingers into her hair, destroying her neat chignon as he brought his mouth down on hers. Izzy made a muffled sound of surprise against his lips, but before he had time to panic, she was grabbing the lapels of his suit jacket and yanking him closer until their upper bodies were plastered together. He sucked her bottom lip into his mouth, running his tongue over the tempting bit of flesh before gently nibbling, and she arched into him, wrapping her arms around his neck to hold him against her.
He was standing between her legs, and he had just enough time to be grateful that the height of the counter meant she couldn't feel how hard he already was when Izzy opened her mouth for him, freely offering what he'd been dreaming about. With a choked groan he thrust his tongue into her mouth, trying to taste her everywhere at once. In his fantasies, he’d never imagined the hint of spice he discovered, but it was so perfectly Izzy that he knew he was never going to be able to live without it. She was soft and warm and delicious andhis, and he’d never get enough of her.
Izzy moaned into his mouth, and he swallowed the sound, wrapping his arms around her to pull her closer yet. He could feel her heart pounding in her chest, and he fancied that the rhythm perfectly matched his own heartbeat. When she stroked her tongue against his, he had to pull back to keep from biting her, the sheer animal drive to claim her nearly overwhelming him. He trailed kisses down her throat, sucking greedily at her pulse point as Izzy sighed and tangled her fingers in his hair to hold him in place. She smelled like heaven, all musk and sweetness, and if he could just breathe her in, he’d never need oxygen. Her nails scratched gently at his scalp, the sensation turning his bones to taffy. She yelped when he nipped at her throat, and he forced himself to back off, convinced he’d hurt her. ”Sorry, love,” he apologized, struggling to control his breathing.
It was all he could do to keep that control when he got his first look at her since they’d started. Izzy’s face was flushed, her eyes huge and dark. A tiny smile played about her lips, reassuring him that he hadn’t hurt or frightened her. ”You should be,” she scolded, her voice breathless, ”I didn’t tell you you were allowed to stop.”
Of course she’d tease him about this; why would he have ever thought differently? She wouldn’t be Izzy if she didn’t challenge him, and if she wasn't Izzy, he wouldn’t be doing this.
Doing it in the still-lit shop where anyone walking by could clearly see what they were up to, he realized with some dismay. The door wasn’t even locked, despite the closed sign. ”We should-” he started, meaning to say that they should stop this. She was still too young, and they really needed to talk about that.
Before he could get any further, Izzy ran her fingers through his hair, stroking him like a treasured pet. ”I always wondered if it was as soft as it looked,” she mused.
Bloody hell, the woman did not play fair. He took her mouth again, fast and hard, before wrenching himself away from her, his entire body protesting. ”Lock the door,” he managed, retrieving his keys from his pocket and handing them to her.
She slid off the counter, letting her body brush against his, and her eyes widened when she came in contact with the part of him that was begging for her touch. ”The back?” she suggested, arching her spine to press herself against him, and he couldn’t remember why he’d thought to stop this.
It was only once she’d darted off to lock up and he’d managed to drag himself into the back room that sanity intruded. He lowered himself into his chair and rested his elbows on the table, burying his face in his hands as he struggled to regain some control.
”You want to stop,” Izzy’s voice pulled him back into the moment as she curled up in her own chair opposite him, looking disappointed but unsurprised.
”Stopping-” he had to pause and clear his throat, his voice so gravely he was barely comprehensible, ”Stopping is the last thing I want to do.”
”Then why are you all the way over there?” Izzy leaned across the table, her eyes pleading. Being patient had been well-nigh impossible when he thought the attraction was one-sided. Having to wait when he knew it was mutual might well kill him.
”You’re sixteen, pet.” He met her eyes, willing her to understand.
Izzy’s brow furrowed, ”But that’s the age of consent.”
”Not for us.” His mouth twisted in a bitter smile, cursing the law. ”As your employer, I have authority over you. In those cases, it’s eighteen.”
”It’s illegal for you to touch me,” Izzy said slowly, as she processed the situation, ”But that’s the only reason? It’s not that you don’t... want me?”
He should say no. He should tell her that he’d just been caught up in the moment when he kissed her. If he hurt her feelings now, he could spare her the pain of wishing her life away until they could be together. It would be the mature and responsible thing to do, but he couldn’t stand the thought of seeing hurt in her eyes that he’d put there. ”I want you desperately, love,” he confessed instead, ”Have done for an eternity.”
Izzy’s eyes fluttered closed, and she breathed in sharply. ”It’s the same for me,” she whispered, ”I’ve always wanted you.”
There was something unbearably erotic about hearing those longed-for words from Izzy’s sweet lips. He sighed and covered her hand with his, fighting the urge to pull her into his lap. She smiled sadly and squeezed his fingers, ”So, what do we do?”
”We wait,” he rasped, not liking the words any more now that they'd been spoken out loud instead of just recited in his head, ”You won’t be sixteen forever.”
Izzy nodded, her eyes huge in her pale face, ”Will you still want me? If we wait?"
”Try to stop me." She blushed at his fervent growl, a shy smile lighting her face.
"Okay," she breathed, lifting his hand to her mouth and pressing a kiss to his knuckles, "We wait."
"The day you turn eighteen..." he started, trailing off when he realized that anything he said would only torture them both.
Izzy smirked at him, her customary sangfroid slowly returning, "You'll make it worth my while?"
"Oh, yeah," he vowed, unable to suppress a wicked smile of his own. He had two years to plan her seduction; his precious Izzy was going to think she'd died and gone to heaven.
Her face flushed as she held his gaze, and he could almost see the wheels turning in her head. Belatedly, he realized that she'd have two years to plan too, and he'd be lucky to survive the experience. He couldn't imagine a better way to go. She broke the eye contact and glanced down, biting her lower lip. "And... there won't be anyone else? Two years is a long time."
"There's no one for me but you, pet," he assured her, her smile warming his heart. He raised his eyebrows in mock concern, "You're the one running about with other men."
Her eyes narrowed playfully, "Greg is hardly a man. Besides I only agreed to go out with him because someone seemed to be shoving me at him."
She had a fair point. He still couldn't believe how badly he'd misread her when it came to the dance. "Whoever that fool was, I'm sure he won't make the same mistake twice."
"He'd better not," she threatened, and they spent a few minutes just gazing at each other in silence before she sighed, "I suppose I should go home."
She was right, and he knew it, but that still didn't make it any easier. He'd be content to just spend the rest of the night staring at her and knowing that she wanted him. Of course, if they did that, the staring was certain to progress to other things that it was still too early for. "I hate it when you're right."
Izzy giggled. "Unfortunately, I always am." She stood up and pressed a kiss to his temple, kindly not mentioning the way he grabbed the edge of the table to keep himself from reaching for her. "Good night."
"Good night, pet," he murmured, unable to resist adding, "You look beautiful."
She hesitated in the doorway, turning back with a faint smile playing at her lips, "You do not play fair," she scolded, blowing him another kiss before making her way out of the shop, the ringing of the bell sounding mournful as it announced her departure.
Gold watched her go, torn between lust and hope. They were going to be all right. Izzy could still smile and tease despite the tension between them. She wasn't revolted by his desire for her, instead she returned it. It was going to be a hard two years, but the reward would be worth every second of denial and frustration. They'd make it.
0 0 0 0 0
Not long after he found himself rethinking his earlier assessment. Izzy still came to work every day, still laughed and teased, but there was a wall between them now that had never been there before. It had started innocently enough. They'd been chatting as she dusted one of the higher shelves. Once she'd finished, she climbed down off the ottoman she'd been standing on, using his shoulder for balance as she had a thousand times before.
The touch of her hand had nearly seared his skin through his jacket. He'd lost track of whatever he'd been saying, his focus narrowing to her soft lips. He knew how they felt now, how sweet they were, and he just wanted one taste to get him through the rest of the day. He just needed a taste, but he knew damned well he'd never be satisfied with one kiss. One kiss would lead to more, and their pact would be forgotten.
Izzy gazed up at him wordlessly, then her tongue darted out to moisten her lips, and suddenly their agreement didn't seem so important. He'd been leaning down to take her mouth when the bell jangled, leaving them to jerk apart. He hadn't been able to catch his breath, feeling like all the oxygen in the shop had been stolen away, and he'd been even more surly than usual with poor Marco Waxtern who really didn't deserve it.
She'd been very careful not to touch him after that. Until she stopped, he hadn't realized just how often they'd made that contact, and losing it was physically painful. His fingers ached to touch her warm skin, twitching with the need to reach out whenever they weren't occupied with some small repair. He was tearing through the backlog of broken things at a terrifying rate solely to give himself something to do with his hands other than put them on Izzy.
They'd never been careful with each other. Izzy had never feared him like everyone else in town did. She'd exploded into his life in a shower of smiles and touches and teasing, neatly filling up every empty space in his world. Now she was holding herself apart from him, and the chill of loneliness was creeping back in. It was more than he could bear.
He planted himself in the doorway, watching her putting the kettle on for their afternoon tea and humming to herself. Her smile didn't falter when she looked up to see him watching her, but she edged around him cautiously, her back against the doorframe, instead of brushing past him as she would have in the past, and he couldn't take it anymore.
Reaching out, he caught her around the waist and pulled her into the back with him, her back to his chest as he tightened his grip on her and breathed in the scent of her hair. Izzy froze in his arms, her body stiff for a long moment before he felt her exhale and tentatively cover his hands with her own where they rested on her stomach.
"You're killing me, pet," he rumbled, his accent coloring his words more than he usually allowed. He pressed his forehead into the curve where her neck met her shoulder, careful to not kiss her because if he started, he wouldn't stop.
"I'm sorry," Izzy whispered, squeezing his hands, "I was trying to make it easier. Touching you when we can't do anything... it hurts."
He flinched, cursing himself. He'd been so busy thinking about what he needed that he'd never considered how the waiting was affecting her. A bloody poor excuse for a lover he was turning out to be. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to let her go.
"No, don't," Izzy gasped, turning around to throw herself back into his arms, her face buried against his chest, "It hurts more not to touch you."
They clung to each other like shipwreck victims to the last spar of wood that could save them. She was trembling in his arms and he stroked her hair, hoping he was soothing her instead of making it worse. "It's only two years," he reminded himself as much as her, but the words were cold comfort when his soul was screaming that he had to have her now.
She hugged him tighter, then let him go and backed away, her face flushed but free of tears. "We'll make it," she said, managing to sound more confident than he felt.
After that it was a constant dance. They walked a razor-thin line. Too little touching felt like drowning, too much would start something they couldn't yet finish. They found an outlet of sorts in words, establishing exactly what their future would look like. She'd move in with him on her eighteenth birthday. Cooking would be her responsibility; the dishes were his domain. Marriage was never mentioned, but he already knew which ring was going to grace her finger. All he had to do was wait.
So they waited. Time passed. The seasons changed and changed again. And gradually his patience started to fray. Still, he was managing even though sending her home to her father at the end of each evening grew more torturous by the day.
That all changed when they were once again graced by the unwelcome presence of Greg Phillips. Apparently he hadn't tried hard enough to scare the boy off.
He told himself not to interfere. Izzy had made her feelings on the boy clear; she wasn't interested. Besides, they were talking right outside the shop's window; he'd be able to see if the boy was upsetting her.
She had her arms crossed in front of her, and although she didn't look happy, the boy didn't seem to be bothering her too much. He seemed to be asking her something, because Izzy was shaking her head repeatedly, staring down at her sneakers. Her downward gaze meant she didn't see the boy reach out to touch her arm, but Gold did, and he was just about to go outside and politely suggest the boy leave his assistant alone when the boy caught sight of him through the glass and let his hand drop. He excused himself a moment later, and Izzy came back inside, slumping back against the door as soon as it closed behind her.
"He asked me out again," she said miserably, "Since we had such a good time at the dance."
A sickening rush of jealousy flared in his gut, turning his blood into something corrosive. "And you said-?" he tried not to snarl.
She didn't roll her eyes at him, but he could tell it was a near-miss which made him feel a little better. If the idea was eye-rolling, that meant she hadn't been tempted. "I said no." Peeling herself away from the door, she stormed into the back, dropping into her chair and covering her eyes with her hands, "I hate this. I hate it."
He watched her from the doorway, anxiety replacing the jealousy. "Hate what?"
"This!" She gestured wildly between the two of them, "I hate having to wait. I hate having to keep this a secret. I hate having to make something up when guys ask me out instead of being able to tell them that I'm seeing someone. I hate it."
"It's only two years, pet," he said weakly, repeating the words that had become their mantra although they'd long since stopped bringing comfort.
She stared down at her hands. "It feels like forever."
"What-" He cleared his throat and forced the question out, certain he wouldn't like her answer, "What do you want?"
She'd tell him that she wanted to put a stop to whatever it was between them. She'd want to find someone her own age she didn't have to hide. She'd no doubt never want to see him again. Izzy laughed bitterly, "I want things I can't have. I want to go to the diner with you and hold your hand in front of the whole town. I want to go home with you at night instead of back to my father. I want to be able to kiss the man I love without worrying you'll be arrested for it."
Gold's breath caught, his heart racing so hard he briefly feared he was going into cardiac arrest. For all the words they'd shared about this, neither had ever mentioned love. He hadn't dared hope Izzy might feel more for him than affection and desire, and he could have lived quite contentedly with just that. It was more than he'd ever had the right to hope for. As for himself, he hadn't wanted to scare her off. He'd told himself he would tell her some day once he was certain she wouldn't leave.
Izzy loved him and wanted him, and his resolve crumbled in that instant, his determination to do this right helpless in the face of Izzy's love. It was foolish, needlessly risky, and he couldn't possibly care less. What Izzy wanted, Izzy would have, and since by some miracle she wanted him, he'd count his blessings.
"I'm sorry," she stared to say, her face paling as he approached her. Gold leaned his cane against the table and lowered himself to kneel before her chair, his right leg extended awkwardly as his knee refused to cooperate. Taking her hand in both of his, he lifted it to his mouth, his eyes sliding shut as he pressed a fervent kiss to her fingers. Izzy loved him. He was crippled and old enough to be her father and she loved him. Perhaps he could do magic after all.
The fingers of her free hand carded through his hair, her voice soft and surprised as she said, "I thought you might be mad. That I- We never talked about that."
Pressing her hand against his cheek, he smirked at the very idea. "Oh, I'm irate. Say it again." He opened his eyes, wanting to see her face as she said it properly.
A warm flush had overwritten her earlier paleness, and her eyes were soft and bluer than he'd ever seen them as she told him, "I love you."
He inhaled sharply, unprepared for what hearing those words did to him. His entire body was trembling, his bones vibrating like an electrical current was running through him. She loved him. Izzy loved him. "Again," he rasped, pressing his lips to her palm without taking his eyes away from hers.
"I love you," she whispered, and he could drown in her beautiful eyes, "I've always loved you."
He braceleted her wrist with kisses, pushing up the sleeve of her loose button-down shirt, wanting nothing more than to wrench the fabric off her body and leave her clad only in the thin white camisole she wore beneath so he could kiss his way up her arm and over her shoulder until he reached her sweet mouth and tasted the words on her lips. The tattered edges of his self-control allowed for no such thing. If he undressed her at all, even to remove one unnecessary layer, he'd yank her down with him and take her on the floor of the shop. Izzy deserved better.
He forced himself to release her hand and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her forward in her chair so he could bury his face in her throat and beg, "Keep saying it."
"I love you. I love you," Izzy crooned, gently massaging his scalp as he kissed every bit of her he could reach, feeling the vibration of those perfect words against his lips as she said it over and over. "I love you."
"I love you, Izzy," he rasped in her ear, and she burrowed against him with a breathless little moan that was suddenly the only noise he wanted to hear. He lifted his head to look into her rapt face, their lips only millimeters apart. Her eyes sparkled with tears, but there was such joy in them that it soothed any fear that his words might not be welcome.
In hindsight, he was never sure which one of them moved first, but they were suddenly kissing, mouths moving desperately against each other as he pulled her closer. He sat up straighter, ignoring the pain in his knee as he thrust his tongue into her mouth, feeling like he wanted to eat her alive. He was kneeling between her legs, and when Izzy arched into him it brought his straining erection into contact with that part of her he'd scarcely allowed himself to dream about.
Izzy broke the kiss with a stuttered gasp, her eyes wide and shocked, but she didn't jerk away from him. She seemed frozen, and he couldn't move either, knowing he should pull away from her and helpless to do so. They were in love. There shouldn't be any distance between them.
They hovered in that moment for an eternity, gazes locked, before Izzy gave a tiny, almost imperceptible nod. His body was responding before his mind even registered what he'd seen, his hips moving instinctively to rub himself against her, and he was willing to swear he could feel her heat even through his wool trousers and the denim of her jeans.
With a whimper, Izzy wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pulling him closer as her legs went around his hips to hold him against her. He slid his hands under her button-down, tracing her sides through the thin cotton camisole, half-afraid to touch her breasts despite what their lower halves were already doing. Instead he slid his arms around her, holding her as tightly as he could as he ground against her, trying to mold them together into one being so he never had to watch her walk away from him again.
He took her mouth, muffling the truly ridiculous noises he was making against her lips. Izzy was digging her nails into his shoulder, her breath coming in frantic gasps, and he'd been two seconds from orgasm practically since the moment he'd kissed her, but he didn't want this to end. He just wanted to stay in this perfect moment where he could touch Izzy and kiss her and know she loved him.
Then Izzy cried out against his lips, pressing herself impossibly closer, and he changed his mind. This was the moment he wanted to live in with Izzy clinging to him like he was the only thing holding her together. His own climax, although staggering, was nearly an afterthought.
He tore his mouth from hers to kiss her throat, feeling her chest heaving for breath as he kept her crushed against him, unwilling to let even the slightest distance intrude on them. Izzy was his, and he'd never let her go.
Her hand traced the side of his face, and he looked up to see the beatific smile playing at her lips when the shop bell rang out, and reality came crashing back. Izzy shoved him away, gasping out an appalled, "Sorry!" when he landed on his arse, his bad knee giving out at last.
A hesitant "Hello?" followed by a sneeze announced the arrival of the town pharmacist.
"Be right there, Mr. Clark!" Izzy called, her voice shaking as they looked at each other in horror. Moving jerkily, she smoothed her hair and stood up, rearranging her clothes with hands that trembled. "Am I-?"
She was flushed, her lips kiss-swollen, but she'd pass muster. He nodded, and she darted out to deal with the customer, leaving him to try to pull himself together. Gritting his teeth, he straightened his leg then pulled out a handkerchief to clean up some of the mess. His trousers were almost certainly a loss, and what the bloody hell had he been thinking? Izzy deserved tenderness, candlelight, a bed, and he'd forced himself on her in the back room of the shop like some kind of animal.
Finally, he dragged himself off the floor and collapsed into his chair, the pain in his leg barely registering through the maelstrom of emotion as he listened to Izzy dealing with Mr. Clark, her voice artificially bright. She certainly hadn't been able to shove him away from her fast enough. God, what had he done?
What seemed like hours later the bell rang again, and Izzy rejoined him in the back, looking drained. "That was too close," she muttered, ignoring her own chair in favor of sitting on the floor at his feet, resting her head against his good knee. "When I heard the bell, I was convinced it was the mayor."
Some of the tension seemed to bleed out of her once they were in contact again, and he hesitantly lifted his hand to thread it through her curls, her eyes slipping shut as she made a small, pleased sound. Perhaps he'd overreacted, because she certainly didn't seem to mind him touching her. Had she really not minded what he'd done to her?
"That was wonderful," Izzy purred, her hand slipping up his trouser leg to caress his hair-roughened calf. She blinked her eyes open, looking up at him ruefully, "But next time we'd better make sure we lock the door."
Next time? She wanted there to be a next time? The relief made him dizzy. He hadn't shocked her or disgusted her; she'd said it was wonderful. She wanted to do it again.
They weren't waiting anymore. The time for that had long since passed, and the mayor could go fuck herself. This was only illegal if they got caught, and they'd be careful. Even so, next time they were going to do it right. "We're never going to sell some of this junk," he said finally, the first words he'd spoken since 'I love you,' and Izzy glanced up at him, taken aback by his apparent change of subject, "Why don't we take a load out to the cabin on Sunday?"
For a moment she looked hurt, then his meaning registered. A slow smile spread across her face, "Sounds like a big job."
"Could take all day," he agreed, tugging gently on her hair. A secluded location, a door that locked, a bed... Izzy deserved better than a quick fumble in the back room of the shop, and he was going to treat her like a princess.
"Count me in," she purred, resting her chin on his knee to beam up at him, and he was more certain than ever that he wasn't worthy of her, but he was never going to let her go.
0 0 0 0 0
Sunday morning dawned clear and bright, the sun shining as if it too was celebrating. This was hardly the first time they'd spent the day moving things around between his house, the shop, and the cabin, but he still felt like they were all but advertising their plans. It wasn't until Izzy was next to him in the cadillac, a few boxes stowed in the truck for verisimilitude, that he started to relax.
She rolled the window down, the cool spring breeze playing with her curls, and a feeling of unreality stole over him. This astonishing creature couldn't possibly be real. This whole thing was some kind of dream or hallucination, and for one moment he thought about the fantasy world Izzy had concocted for them. Maybe he really was some kind of wizard who'd knocked himself flat with one of his own spells and was having the dream of a lifetime about his pretty little apprentice. It was hardly less believable than thinking Izzy loved him.
"What?" she asked, catching him looking at her out of the corner of his eye.
"Just thinking," he dismissed, not wanting to tell her about his silly flight of fancy.
Izzy smirked at him, "Bad things happen when you do that."
"That I'm a very lucky man," he continued as if he'd planned to, his voice arch, and he enjoyed the way her pale skin flushed at the compliment. They made the rest of the drive in silence, Izzy gazing out the window while he tried desperately not to think about what they were about to do. If he allowed himself to think about that, he'd drive them into a ditch, or give in to his urge to pull off the road so he could take her in the damned car. If they were going to do this, they were going to do it right.
Izzy had visited the cabin before, albeit not regularly, but once they arrived, she hesitated, looking around like she was a first-time guest. Her posture was awkward, and she looked so heartbreakingly young in that moment that Gold cursed himself. What the hell was he doing? He was more than thirty years her senior. Izzy should be running around with her friends and laughing and getting into trouble, not locked up here with him.
He licked his lips nervously, trying to find the right words. "We- we don't have to, pet," he offered, hating himself for the rush of disappointment he felt at the words. "I won't force you."
Blue eyes flew to meet his. "No! No, that's not it. I'm just-" She hesitated, wringing her hands in front of her.
She was nervous, he realized, and maybe that was a sign that they shouldn't do this, but he'd offered once to let her go. He couldn't bring himself to do it again. Crossing the room, he took her in his arms, feeling the way she was trembling. "I'll be gentle, I promise. I'll be so gentle. I'll not hurt you, pet, I swear it."
"I know you won't," she whispered, "I'm not scared, not really. I've just been thinking about this for so long, and now it's real. It's overwhelming."
He could relate quite easily to that. Dreaming about Izzy was one thing, but having her in his arms was something completely different. It was easy to say he'd be careful with her, bring her nothing but pleasure and joy, but living up to that vow was the trick.
There had been women before her, Gold knew, although it felt more like a memorized fact than actual memories, those encounters so far in the past they'd might as well have happened to someone else. Every time he touched Izzy, his body reacted like he'd never been near a woman before, and his greatest fear was that she'd give herself to him and live to regret it because he couldn't control himself.
"Come on," he encouraged softly, pulling away just enough to take her hand. He led her up the stairs into the cabin's small bedroom. Abandoning his cane, he locked the door behind them for an extra layer of protection from prying eyes and caught her close. "We'll do whatever you want, pet. We can go slow."
He found her mouth with his own, trying to pour as much reassurance into the kiss as he could, and she sighed when it ended, nestling against him. "I have something for you," he enticed, "I was going to wait until your birthday, but I want you to have it now."
Reaching into his coat pocket, he withdrew the necklace he'd been working on, now fully repaired and polished to a mirrored shine. Izzy gasped at the sight of it, reaching up to touch it with reverent fingers. "It's lovely. Thank you," she whispered, and he claimed another kiss as his prize as he carefully fastened it around her neck.
"It looks beautiful on you," he said roughly, admiring the way the pendant lay against her creamy skin. Maybe they couldn't be a couple publicly yet, but seeing her wearing something he'd given her felt like he was staking a claim. It felt good.
"I'll think of you when I wear it," she promised, reaching up for another kiss, and the tension in the room bled away as she took the lead this time, her hands sliding under his suit jacket, warm against his thin dress shirt. He shrugged off the jacket when she pushed it off his shoulders, hating to release her even long enough to do that.
She sighed and rested her head against his chest, relaxing into his embrace, and Gold smiled to himself as he coaxed her into a few steps of a waltz. Izzy giggled, matching his steps like they'd been practicing every day. "I wanted to kiss you that night," she admitted, "I was afraid you'd be able to tell."
He pressed his lips against her hair, charmed by her confession, "I was a little distracted by how much I wanted to kiss you."
She looked up at him with dark eyes and whispered roughly, "You should have."
Yes, he should have. He should have kissed her that night and every day since and never even considered the waiting that had nearly driven both of them mad. This was right. This was forever, and their forever was starting now.
He cradled her face in his hands, kissing her with fierce tenderness. Izzy moaned into his mouth and clutched at his shoulders, pressing herself as close to him as she could get. "I love you," he said as they broke apart, needing her to hear those words in this moment. Izzy was the sunlight of his world, his greatest treasure and his valiant champion. Izzy was everything, and although he'd never been good at soft words, the way she looked at him seemed to say that she already knew.
"I love you too," she vowed. Her smile made her eyes sparkle, and suddenly this became okay. He wasn't a lecherous old man taking advantage of his innocent young assistant. He was a man in love giving his dearest what they both wanted.
With a teasing smile Izzy shrugged off her plaid shirt and pulled her white camisole off over her head. Gold only had a moment to admire the sight of her sweet curves before her mouth was against his again, and she went to work on his tie. He wasn't quite sure where to put his hands, the expanse of pale skin suddenly available to him unnerving him slightly, but Izzy sighed when he hesitantly rested them on her back. She felt soft and smooth and perfect beneath his calloused hands as he ran them up her spine, feeling her arch into him.
"You're overdressed," she chided.
He yanked off the tie she'd loosened, her long fingers helping with the buttons of his shirt, and for a moment Gold was nervous. He was so much older than her. Would she be disgusted by his body? Izzy seemed eager to look at what she'd unveiled, tugging his shirttails loose to push the fabric wide open, and Gold swallowed hard, closing his eyes.
Gentle fingers traced the planes of his chest, combing through the sparse hair she found there, and even so, he couldn't quite bring himself to look at her. It wasn't until she pressed a kiss just over his heart that he dared open his eyes.
She was gazing at him with pure affection, and he could detect no revulsion in her face as she beamed up at him. "Much better," she praised, tugging playfully at the shirt, "Now take it off."
He did as commanded, catching her by her upper arms when she would have stepped closer. "You got to look; I should too." He ran his eyes hungrily over her, taking in her flat stomach and perfect breasts, just the right size to fill his hands. More than anything, he wanted to rid her of the lacy bra that was keeping him from seeing all of her, but a flush was spreading over her pale skin, and she couldn't quite meet his eyes when he eventually managed to take them off her breasts.
"Don't be shy, pet. You don't ever have to be shy with me." He rubbed her arms like he was trying to warm her, relieved when her smile returned.
"I bought this to wear for you," she admitted shyly, indicating her lacy bra, and somehow that was the most arousing thing he'd ever heard.
"It's very pretty," he praised, letting his hands slip to her hips as he leaned down to press a kiss to each of her breasts through the lace.
Her fingers tangled in his hair as she sucked in a breath. "I'd like you to take it off me now," she said boldly, and he couldn't suppress his grin.
"Great minds think alike, pet." He fumbled with the clasp for a moment, then the lacy fabric was falling away, leaving her standing in front of him naked to the waist. Gold could no more have stopped himself from kissing her than he could really do magic. He wrapped his arms around her waist, bending over her and forcing her to arch back as he kissed every centimeter of silky-soft skin, loving the sweet little noises she made and the way her hands tugged at his hair as he lavished her with attention.
Her knees buckled a little, and he tightened his hold on her, nearly overbalancing himself. "Bed," Izzy laughed breathlessly, "Before we both end up on the floor."
The idea held plenty of appeal but not for this time. Not when he needed to be careful and go slowly. Someday he'd take her on the floor- of the cabin, of the shop, all of the above, it hardly mattered- but this time he was going to treat her like the princess she was.
Gold wished he could simply sweep her up in his arms and carry her to the bed, play the gallant prince for her, but his leg wouldn't allow it. Instead they leaned on each other, hands still exploring, before sitting down on the edge of the bed and mutually deciding their shoes had to go. Izzy snickered when they both started to toe off their footwear. "Great minds indeed."
He rid himself of his shoes and socks as quickly as possible, then tackled her to the bed, Izzy screaming with laughter under him. "I feel like you're mocking me, pet."
She struggled beneath him, making no real effort to get away, and he suddenly found himself lying between her legs, his hardness pressed against her with only the fabric of her jeans and his trousers keeping him from where he longed to be. "Oh," Izzy gasped, sounding stunned, then she rocked her hips against his, and it was like their encounter in the shop all over again. He caught her lips in a bruising kiss, then wrenched himself away from her, wanting more.
"May I?" He stroked his fingers over the fly of her jeans, and Izzy nodded, biting her lip. Carefully, he undid the fastenings, and she lifted her hips to help him as he slid the jeans down her legs and off, his breath going ragged as he revealed more of her pale skin. "Lovely," he managed, running his hands up her legs from ankle to hip, his eyes fixated on the pretty blue knickers she wore, the only thing keeping him from seeing all of her.
"You're next," she insisted, and he reluctantly pulled back, unfastening his belt and removing his trousers with brisk efficiency before tossing them carelessly onto the floor. She eyed him hungrily, and he resisted the urge to try to cover himself with his hands, a bit embarrassed by the way his erection was tenting the front of his black boxers in a most unsubtle way.
"You want me," she said softly in wonder as she stared at the bulge, and he gave up on the idea of trying to hide his arousal. If she liked seeing it, he'd be as unsubtle as she wanted.
"More than I want to breathe," he answered honestly, and she sat up to kiss him again, pressing their nearly-naked bodies together. Gold groaned and yanked her closer, his hands running greedily over her. He wanted to touch every bit of her all at once, wanted to lick her from head to toe, wanted to worship her.
So he did.
Easing Izzy back down on the bed, he set about his self-appointed task, kissing and licking every inch of her gorgeous body, making mental notes of the places that made her moan or shiver. The spicy, salty taste of her skin was instantly addicting, and if he couldn't touch her like this every day of his life, he'd lose his mind. She was as necessary to him as air and a great deal more enticing.
Finally, when he'd bathed her with his lips and tongue, he rested his head on her stomach and played with the waistband of her knickers. "Let me take these off you?"
She nodded in silent agreement, and he tugged them off, revealing the one part of Izzy he hadn't yet seen. She was gorgeous, all soft curls and sweet pink layers, and his mouth watered as he inhaled deeply, catching the scent of her arousal.
He pressed a hesitant kiss to that nest of curls. "Can I, Izzy? Will you let me?"
She parted her legs for him in invitation, and he nuzzled at her, resisting the urge to simply bury his face in her and drink her down. He had to be careful; he couldn't scare her. With gentle licks and tiny kisses, he eased into her, lapping up her sweet juices like a man dying of thirst. She tasted delicious, all spice and musk, and he couldn't get enough of her.
Above him, Izzy was moaning, her voice breaking as he gave her pleasure, and he pressed a little deeper, rubbing his nose against the sensitive bud he found. "Yes," she gasped, stroking her hands over his hair, "Oh, yes."
He traced his tongue over her, drawing patterns, searching out the places that made her keen and tense up and going back to them again and again, coaxing her higher until she was rocking her hips instinctively, her moans turning into soft cries, then louder ones. He pressed his tongue deep, and she cried out.
"Mr. Gold!" her cry filled the room as her body tensed, then dissolved into delicious tremors. He kept lapping at her, trying to draw out her pleasure as long as he could, somewhat taken aback when she started to laugh.
"Izzy?" he asked, lifting himself off her, briefly concerned she was going into hysterics, but her eyes were sparkling with genuine mirth. She tugged him up to her and kissed him, sharing her own flavor for a moment.
"I'm sorry. I really am," she apologized when she released him, her giggles slowly dying away.
"Care to share the joke?" he raised an eyebrow, relieved that she at least didn't seem to be laughing at his performance.
Izzy blushed, then closed her eyes and threw her head back, moaning lustily, "Oh, Mr. Gold!"
He blinked at her, still not getting it, and she laughed harder at his bemused expression. "I sound like something out of a fetish movie!" she exclaimed, "How have I worked for you forever, and I still don't know your first name?"
Now that she mentioned it, it was kind of funny. He prodded her in the ribs, "What do you know about fetish movies?"
Giving him a dry look, Izzy pointed out, "You do know that boys go to my school, right? And you're trying to change the subject."
"I'm not... entirely," he denied. It wasn't that he minded telling her so much, but it wasn't like calling out his given name would be much better. Izzy stared at him expectantly, and he gave in, whispering it in her ear.
Gold hadn't know she could lift her eyebrows that high. "Are you serious?"
"I'm afraid so, pet." He watched her process the new information.
"So... your initials are actually AU Gold? That's terrible. Did your parents hate you or something?" She was teasing him, and he tweaked her breast in punishment.
"Everybody else does, why shouldn't they?" Izzy pouted at him, pulling him down for another kiss.
"Not everybody," she reminded him, and as long as she didn't hate him, the rest of the world could go bugger itself. "That's a serious mouthful though. I think I'm going to keep calling you Mr. Gold."
"Call me whatever you'd like, pet." He shifted uncomfortably, distracted by the idea of giving her a mouthful of something else, and he hadn't even been this randy when he was a boy. Really, Izzy had to have some kind of magic powers.
"I think we were in the middle of something," she prompted, and she didn't have to ask him twice. He dragged himself back down her body, resuming his position between her legs. "Again?" she squeaked, not sounding opposed to the idea.
"I'm a greedy man," he reminded her, leaning in for another lick, getting happily reacquainted with his new favorite place in the universe. Izzy was the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted, and even if this was all she allowed him, he'd be perfectly content.
He licked her into a frenzy and was just getting ready to go for a third round when she tugged on his hair, pulling him up to her. "I want to touch you too," she insisted, and what man could argue with that? He did as she bade him, lying down at her side and nobly keeping his hands to himself as Izzy looked him up and down, then followed her eyes with her hands, touching him lightly.
Her fingers roamed his chest and arms as she acquainted herself with his body, following a similar path to the way he'd touched her. He didn't bear it nearly as well as she had, especially once her lips started to explore as well.
She kissed his nipple, then licked curiously, delighted when it hardened into a tiny nub at her touch. She laved the bud with her tongue until she had him grinding the back of his head into the mattress, grunting through clenched teeth. "You are driving me out of my mind."
"Turnabout's fair play," she said archly, cheerfully turning her attention to his other nipple, and he gave up on sanity as he fisted his hands in the bedclothes, struggling only to survive this blissful torture.
It seemed to go on for hours as she played with his body, her every touch bringing him closer and closer to the brink. Sweat beaded along his forehead as she tugged his boxers off, and her eyes went wide as she got her first look at him.
She traced one finger over his length, then mopped up the drop of moisture beading on the head and brought her finger to her mouth to taste. "Good Christ!" He was so hard he was throbbing, and he nearly came just from watching her do that. Izzy lowered her head, clearly meaning to take him in her mouth, and he groaned, catching her shoulder to stop her. "Oh no, pet. No, no, no."
"No?" she repeated, looking hurt, but all he could do was shake his head, his eyes wild.
"No. Not this time. Izzy you have no idea what you're doing to me." He was panting, growling at her like some kind of animal. "Unless you want me to come in your mouth, you have to stop."
Her eyes widened as she caught his meaning, then a slow smile spread over her face, the look of a woman who had just discovered how much power she has. A moment later the look was gone, and she was his sweet, innocent Izzy again, leaning in for a gentle kiss.
"Okay, no more touching. But... will you take me now?” she murmured, stroking her fingers maddeningly over his chest, ”I want you to.”
With that invitation in his ears, how could he resist? He cradled her face in his hands, trying to pour every ounce of love he felt for her into the kiss, then eased her away from him, arranging her in his arms so he was spooned up behind her. He kept one arm tightly around her waist holding her against him in what he hoped was a comforting embrace as he ran his other hand over her, revisiting the sensitive places he’d learned before. Izzy gasped as he moved lower, raking his fingers through her damp curls and pressing deeper, the feel of her as intoxicating against his hand as it had been on his tongue.
She was soaking wet for him, and the two orgasms he’d given her might have been enough to ease his way, but Gold wasn’t willing to take the chance. He was her first- a thought that filled him with both pride and apprehension- and if there was any way to make this easier for her, he’d do it.
He stroked the sweet bud of nerves until she was moaning with pleasure, then pressed one long finger into her. Izzy whimpered at the penetration, tensing a bit, and he kissed the side of her face. ”Just relax, pet.”
She was tight even around his finger, and Gold ground his teeth as his erection twitched, wanting to be inside of her immediately. Taking a long breath he forced himself to calm down as he slowly circled his finger, coaxing her to open for him.
When Izzy groaned and rocked her hips into his touch, he withdrew his finger and replaced it with two, scissoring them gently in her depths. He didn't trust himself with her; if she let him inside and he hurt her because he couldn’t be patient, he’d never forgive himself.
A third finger joined the two already inside of her, opening her up as slowly and carefully as he could until Izzy reached down to grab his wrist, stopping him. "Enough," she gasped, "I want you."
He buried his face in the back of her neck, feeling like he could climax from her words alone. "Roll over then, love," he rasped once he found his voice, and she did as he bade, turning in his arms until she was facing him, both of them on their sides.
This was good, he decided. He wouldn't be able to thrust too hard in this position. He'd be less likely to hurt her. Reaching down, he grasped her thigh, tugging gently, and she got the idea at once. She draped her leg over his hip, her lips parting on a silent sigh as he rubbed himself against her, letting her get used to having him there. "Yes," she whispered before he could say a word, and he brushed his lips against hers before taking himself in hand, pressing into her.
She tensed as he eased just the head inside, and he stopped immediately, his body trembling with the effort of doing so. Massaging the back of her neck in reassurance, he crooned nonsense, trying to distract himself from the blissful heat of her body, "It's all right, pet. It's just me. It's me inside you. I won't hurt you. I'll stop if you want me to."
Drawing in a breath, Izzy relaxed, her body once again pliant against him and he pushed a little deeper, gaining a few more inches before stopping again to let her adjust. Her inner walls were fluttering around him, and his hips twitched, the urge to plunge into her almost unbearable.
Slowly, he rocked against her, entering her in tiny increments, gradually sheathing himself deeper and deeper until he was finally buried in her, her body almost painfully tight. "That's it, Izzy, I'm all the way in. Breathe for me, love."
Her nails dug into his shoulders, her breath coming hard, and he pressed tiny kisses to her face, trying to distract her from her discomfort. She nestled against him, clinging desperately, and he wrapped his arms around her, trying to protect her from himself. "We can still stop if you want to," he offered, and pulling out of her might well kill him, but if she wanted to stop, he'd stop.
"No," she whispered, her voice thick with unshed tears, "Just give me a minute."
"Take all the time you need." Her inner muscles were clenching around him, the sweet pressure nearly sending him through the ceiling, but he held himself completely still as she struggled to adjust to his invasion. "You feel wonderful, pet."
"I do?" She looked shyly pleased at the compliment, and he couldn't resist the urge to kiss her, one hand tangling in her hair as his other rubbed her back, trying to offer her comfort.
"Oh, yeah," he moaned as she arched into him instinctively, and it was getting harder and harder to hold himself still when he just wanted to move. "You're so hot, so tight around me... You feel like heaven."
She lifted her leg a little higher, trying to curl around him more tightly, and her eyes went wide as the angle of their bodies changed. "Izzy?"
Her breathing quickened as she wriggled against him, her body moving maddeningly. "That's good... that's really good," she gasped, sounding surprised.
Carefully, he pulled out a little bit before nudging back in, and she moaned, arching into him. "That's right, pet," he encouraged her, "Let it feel good. It's supposed to feel good."
He set up a gentle rhythm, just rocking against her, slow and easy, never pulling out more than an inch or two. Izzy wrapped herself around him, her body moving instinctively to meet his thrusts, and he was glad he'd chosen this position because if he'd been on top of her, he would have already lost control. Hesitantly, he thrust a little harder, and Izzy yelped, jerking against him. "Good?" he asked, hoping that had been a noise of pleasure.
"Yeah," she nodded eagerly, her face flushing, any sign of her earlier discomfort completely gone.
"You want more?" he pressed, fighting the urge to push her into the mattress and pound into her, show her how badly he wanted her. She whimpered and pressed closer, and he found another alternative.
"Then take it," he hissed, rolling onto his back and bringing her with him, putting her on top. "You know what to do, Izzy. Go ahead. Make yourself feel good."
"But you-" she protested, and he cut her off with a desperate chuckle.
"Oh, don't worry about me." He shifted beneath her, his hands going to her hips as he helped her find a rhythm she liked, coaxing her to lift herself up and thrusting up to meet her. Izzy groaned, her head falling back as she started to move a little faster, and Gold could come just from the sight of Izzy riding him, her lovely face tight with pleasure and concentration.
His eyes kept straying to the place where their bodies were joined, the sheer erotic beauty of it nearly undoing him. His hard length disappeared into her with each downward stroke, Izzy's body taking all of him, united at last. A warm hand stroked his face, and he turned his head to kiss her palm, slightly embarrassed that she'd caught him looking, but Izzy just smiled, her eyes filled with adoration.
He let it go on for as long as he could, letting her take the lead and discover what she liked. He was only human though, and finally he couldn't take it anymore, his own need for release building painfully. Taking one hand off her hip, he reached between her legs, rubbing that sweet little bud with his thumb until Izzy trembled and shouted, grinding down on him like a woman possessed. This too was beautiful, his rough hands against her most fragile and delicate places giving her pleasure, and when he heard a hoarse cry, he thought at first that it was his own.
He realized his mistake at once. Above him, Izzy moaned and keened like he was killing her, but the look of awed joy on her face reassured him. Her body quivered as she lost her rhythm, moving against him frantically and he kept stroking, encouraging the delicious little convulsions, feeling her clenching around him in a vice grip. "That's it, Izzy. That's it, pet. I'm here. I've got you. Come for me, love."
She sank down on him, taking him as deep as she could, and cried out, her face contorting with pleasure. Gold reached up to pull her against his chest as she collapsed, burying his face in her hair as he rubbed her back. He held her for long moments as she trembled in his arms.
Once her breathing had evened out a little, Izzy pressed an open-mouthed kiss to his throat. "Now you," she pleaded, "I want you to enjoy this too."
"Already am," he assured her, but he wasn't about to turn down her invitation. Giving into temptation he rolled her over, her legs automatically going around his waist as he settled on top of her, trying to keep his weight off his bad knee. He started off slow- deep, powerful thrusts as he tried to get as close as he could to his precious girl. Reaching down, he caught her knee, coaxing her to put her leg over his shoulder so he could go deeper.
Izzy moaned, reaching down to grab his arse, and he picked up his pace, moving faster and harder within her. She held him close, whispering words of praise and encouragement as he panted and groaned, aroused to the point of insanity. His mouth found her neck, sucking and biting as he pounded into her, slamming into her over and over again. He could taste her, feel her all around him. She was everywhere, and she was Izzy- Izzy who he'd wanted so much for so long that he couldn't remember a time when he hadn't needed her. He'd dreamed about this, fantasized about it and now it was real and it was so good, better than he'd ever imagined, and she was hot and tight and telling him to come for her and he was so there.
He muffled his wild cry against her throat as he exploded within her, shoving himself as deep as he could get. Izzy held him tightly, stroking his hair as he came down from his high, feeling vaguely like he was watching himself from outside his own body as he groaned and pushed his hips against her, wanting only to stay inside of her for the rest of eternity.
Sanity slowly filtered back, and Gold realized he must be crushing her. He rolled onto his side, keeping her tight against him, not willing to break their connection yet. He tried for a kiss, but they were both out of breath, their lips slipping apart as they panted, and Izzy giggled through her nose. He pulled back a little bit to look at her, blanching at the memory of how rough he'd been. "Are you all right, pet? Did I hurt you?"
"I'm perfect," she purred, putting his fears to rest immediately. "That was... amazing."
He grinned at her, "Was it everything you hoped it would be?"
She flicked his nose, scolding him for fishing for compliments, and he kissed her hard, wordlessly telling her how transcendent the experience had been for him.
"It felt different- coming with you inside me," she said thoughtfully, then blushed, and he stroked his thumb over her cheek, charmed that she could still be shy after everything they'd done, "I didn't realize how intense it would be."
"So, you wouldn't be adverse to a repeat performance?" he asked, confident he knew her answer, but wanting to hear it anyway.
She wriggled against him enticingly. "I could be persuaded."
He groaned, feeling himself twitch inside of her, his body clearly on board with the plan. "No more today, pet," he said regretfully, "You'll be sore. You'll be sore anyway, but you need to give yourself time."
She pouted at him, but he was immoveable on this point, refusing to take the risk of hurting her. Instead, he sucked on her lower lip and whispered filthy suggestions about what they'd do next time until she smacked his chest and called him a tease.
They didn't move from the bed for the rest of the afternoon, staying curled around each other, talking and caressing now that they had the freedom to do so. It was with a heavy heart that he saw the light dying outside, indicating that their magical interlude was coming to an end.
"I should shower," Izzy said, and he growled at the thought. He liked how he smelled on her. He wanted to smell himself on her, a primitive way of staking his claim. Yet, sending her home to her father reeking of sex was not the best way to keep their secret. Sensing his dark mood, she nipped at his lips, "I expect company while I do."
In the end he brought her off with his fingers underneath the flow of hot water, rubbing himself against her backside until he found his own release, the water washing away all evidence of their dalliance. They redressed, once again assuming the roles of Mr. Gold and his faithful assistant like nothing had changed.
Just inside the door to the cabin, Izzy froze and caught his hand, guiding it to the necklace that lay against her throat, the necklace he'd given her. "Every time you see me wear this, you'll know I'm thinking about you," she told him, leaning up for one last kiss, "And I'll never take it off."
It was exactly what he'd needed to hear, her words giving him the strength to lead them back out into the real world of Storybrooke where they would be once again surrounded by people who would neither understand nor approve of their relationship. This day they'd formed a connection between them that could never be broken, and it was only a matter of time until they could let the world in on their secret.
0 0 0 0 0
What surprised him most was how little anything changed now that they'd made love. Izzy continued to come to work five minutes late each day, cleaning and running the shop with her usual efficiency. She took tea with him, told him about the books she read, brought him food, and teased him out of his dark moods. It was just like before, only now he was allowed to stare at her without worrying she'd catch him at it. He could kiss the soft lips he'd only dreamed about before. Gold had never been happier in his life.
They were very, very careful not to get caught. Even when they were on their own, kisses were for after hours and behind locked doors. Even so, Gold felt like the words 'I'm shagging Izzy French' were emblazoned on his forehead. He stared too often and too long, tensed up when she got close as he reminded himself not to touch, and gravitated toward her whenever they were in the same room like a planet in orbit around its sun. He was insanely, blindingly obvious, and not a soul noticed.
Even the mayor stopped popping by at irregular intervals, and maybe she'd just been wanting to browse, but he'd felt like he was being silently interrogated. The pleasure of having Izzy for his own had been tempered by his fear of losing her, but that fear was starting to look more like paranoia. It wasn't until he was limping home one night, leaning heavily on Izzy that he realized just how self-involved the people of Storybrooke were. They were walking to his house wrapped around each other in the dusky gloom, and no one was paying any attention to Mr. Gold and his shop assistant.
In truth, there was nothing at all untoward about their plans for once. His knee had been throbbing all day, the shifting weather patterns playing hell with it, and he'd gritted his teeth and soldiered through it, until Izzy had thrown up her hands in disgust and kicked him out of his own store. "You've been growling like a hungry bear for four hours. Go home. I'll lock up."
It was a testament to how bad he felt that he hadn't even argued with her, just gathered his cane and attempted to leave. He'd made it approximately ten steps before the joint had threatened seriously to give out, and only Izzy's quick reflexes kept him from falling.
She caught him around the waist and wedged herself against his side, offering herself as support. He clung to her, too grateful to be embarrassed by his body's weakness. He would be later, but for now Izzy was holding him, her hair soft against his cheek, and the burning pain in his knee was almost bearable.
"Poor baby..." she murmured, her voice rich with sympathy and not a trace of pity, and he nodded, rubbing his cheek against her curls. "Come on," she said at last, shifting her grip on him so her arm was around his waist and he could hold on to her shoulder.
It was a slow and awkward walk back to the house, and this wasn't quite what he'd pictured when he'd envisioned them together, but it was still comforting to know that Izzy loved all of him, even the broken bits. She'd spent plenty of time over the years on the first floor of his home, but she'd never seen the rest, so he was surprised when she headed for the stairs instead of helping him into the living room to collapse. "Where are you taking me, pet?"
"Bed," she said succinctly, and although there was no seduction in her tone, a few parts of his anatomy perked up anyway.
"You're a mess," she cut him off, her eyes flashing a challenge as they started up the stairs. In response to his raised eyebrow, she continued, "I'm serious. You're really pale. I'm putting you to bed, and you're going to stay there."
"Yes, mother," he muttered, not sure how he felt about this side of her. Izzy had never had a problem bossing him around, but he didn't relish being treated like a child.
She grinned up at him, her tongue poking out between her teeth, "Be good or I'll spank you."
He missed a step, grinding his teeth more from the rush of arousal than the pain that shot through his leg. Izzy giggled as she steadied him, "Well, now. I'll have to file that one away for later."
Desperately, he tried to will away the mental image of Izzy sprawled face down across his lap, crying out and wriggling with pleasure as he brought his hand down on her rump, punishing her for teasing him, and he was in no condition to do anything about this right now, which was grossly unfair. He couldn't imagine what kind of look he had on his face, but Izzy ducked away from him as soon as she had him sitting down on the edge of the bed in the master suite. "Can you get yourself undressed?" she asked. He was tempted to say no just to get her to help him out of his clothes- which would hopefully lead to getting her out of hers so he could see how lovely she'd look spread out on his navy blue comforter- but she was already edging toward the door. Apparently seeing how crippled her lover was wasn't a turn-on for her.
He sighed and waved her off, stripping to his boxers and undershirt before dragging himself fully onto the bed, using his hands to help straighten his leg and leaning back against the wooden headboard.
To his surprise, Izzy bounded back in a moment later, her hands full. "Here," she handed him two of his pain pills and a glass of water, watching like a hawk to make sure he drank the entire thing as the dosage instructions demanded and he usually ignored. Once she was satisfied, she took the glass back and found a small throw pillow to elevate his leg, Moving carefully, she slid it under his calf, taking some of the pressure off the joint.
He caught his breath when she leaned down to press a kiss to his knee, smiling sadly before arranging an ice pack over the afflicted area. "Is that better?" she murmured, and he nodded dumbly as she moved to sit next to him, her head on his shoulder.
"I wish I could fix it," she said in a low voice, her hair tickling his chin, "If you were really teaching me magic, that's the spell I'd want to learn."
With a sigh, he kissed her hair, tugging her a little closer, "You're the only magic I need, pet." It was a disgustingly soppy thing to say, but he meant it, and it was worth it to see the way her eyes lit up. She didn't get much sweet talk out of him. Perhaps he should work on that.
Izzy leaned up for a proper kiss, the melancholy mood in the room popping like a soap bubble when she snuggled back into his side, looking around the room with unabashed interest. "I've never been in here before." Gold followed her gaze, trying to see the room through her eyes.
The room was large but cluttered, just like everything else he called his own. Compared to the spread of random trinkets, the cream-colored walls and wood floor provided a very plain backdrop, as did the navy cotton comforter. No doubt she'd find it dull. "It's just like I imagined it," she pronounced at last, bouncing a little where she sat and giggling, "And I love the bed."
The navy fabric would do wonderful things to her eyes, he decided, then groaned to himself. "I find it incredibly unfair that the first time I get you in my bed, I can't do anything about it."
Izzy raked her gaze over him, a saucy smile gracing her lips, "Oh, I don't know about that."
His body was taking a decided interest in her words, but as soon as he shifted his knee spasmed again, the ice pack starting to slip. "Now, stop that," she chided, replacing it, "You have to sit still."
"I can hardly take advantage of you if I do that," he pointed out, deciding that some things were far more important than a little bit of pain.
Izzy slapped his hand away from her breast and waved her finger in his face, "I said stop." She grinned at him mischievously as she slid off the bed, "Sit still or I'll stop."
"Stop what? Oh," The noise he made was a breathless sigh as she rolled her shoulders and let the loose button down shirt slip off her shoulders, leaving her clad in her jeans and camisole. She played with the hem of the camisole as she swayed her hips, teasing him. Although her movements were slightly awkward, she never took her eyes off of him, and the smile in her eyes was more of a turn-on than a thousand strip teases. "Very nice, pet," he said huskily, as she dragged the camisole off over her head, leaving him to admire her figure in her simple white bra.
By the time she'd gotten herself out of the rest of her clothes, he was panting, his fingers clenching and unclenching in the comforter to keep himself from reaching for her. She'd threatened to stop if he moved, and that was the last thing he wanted her to do. Enthralled, he watched as she climbed onto the bed, curling up unselfconsciously at the foot looking like an elf maiden poised on a mushroom. He was certainly under her spell.
He watched in disbelief as she sat up on her knees and ran her hands over her body, sweeping them over her chest and down her thighs as he stared at her with his mouth hanging open. "Izzy!"
With a mischievous smile she cupped her breasts in her hands, and he nearly bit through his tongue. "You like to watch, don't you?" she purred, and he'd never heard her sound like that. He'd never heard any woman sound like that.
He nodded, swallowing hard, "Yeah."
Her sweet smile was at odds with her next actions as she brushed her thumbs over her nipples, her head falling back with a soft moan. "Watch me."
If she'd threatened him with hellfire and the mayor, he couldn't have taken his eyes off of her as she fondled herself, making the same little noises he'd become so addicted to during their first time together. The pain in his knee vanished, his world narrowing to include only the woman before him, touching herself in his bed. "Izzy..."
She shushed him, then gasped as she pinched her nipple between thumb and forefinger, and Gold was ready to climb out of his skin. "Please, pet."
"Please, what?" she asked, her eyes fluttering open to look at him. Her smile was wicked as she slid one hand down her body to run her fingers through her delicate curls. "Please do this?"
A truly pathetic whimper escaped his throat as she dipped her hand lower, her eyes sliding shut again as she brushed the sweet bud between her thighs. Gold clawed at the bed, wanting only to pounce on her, claim her, make her his again.
"That's good," she whispered, leaning back a little to give him a better view as she slid a finger into her hot depths.
His agonized growl was barely human. "Please," he begged again, teeth bared, "Please let me do it."
Izzy ignored him, adding another fingers to her ministrations, and it was all he could do to keep from lunging at her. "Izzy. Let me do that for you, love. Let me touch you."
"I'd rather touch you," she replied, pulling her fingers out of herself and crawling up the bed toward him, carefully not touching him. She held her fingers out toward him, and he took them in his mouth at once, lapping and sucking, determined not to miss any bit of her sweetness.
Before he was ready to release her, Izzy reclaimed her hand and reached down, easing his boxers down over his throbbing length. She licked her lips as she looked down at him with nervous eyes, and he suddenly realized what she was planning. "Pet, you don't- don't have to," he tried to say, but she just rolled her eyes, then lowered her head to trace her tongue over him.
He groaned like she was killing him and dropped his head back against the headboard with an audible crack. Izzy glanced up, startled, then went back to what she'd been doing, licking him like an ice cream cone. Gold tangled his fingers in her hair, not guiding, not forcing, just needing the weight of her curls to remind him that this was real, not just another dream that would leave him panting and aching for her when he awoke all too soon.
Her licks and touches were experimental, and he tried to reward her with noises of pleasure when she did something particularly wonderful, butIzzy was sucking his fucking cock, and everything was blurring together into a haze of bliss. He had enough sanity left to tug on her hair and try to get her off of him before he came in her mouth, but she just dug her fingers into his hip and sucked harder, and he was lost.
He came with a hoarse shout, hips jerking uncontrollably despite his best efforts not to choke her, and Izzy rode out the spasms with him, her mouth never leaving him as she gentled her touch into long, languid strokes with her tongue. Once he'd stopped shaking, she lifted her head, blushing to the roots of her hair as she admitted, "I've been wanting to try that."
Gold yanked her into his arms, kissing her forehead, her hair, anything he could reach as she buried her face against his shoulder. "I guess I did okay?" she squeaked, and he groaned.
"Damn near killed me, pet." She lifted her head for a kiss, and he seized her lips, the taste of himself in her mouth leaving him light-headed.
She grinned, looking proud at her achievement, and he couldn't help but laugh at her enthusiasm. With a scolding shake of her head, she replaced the ice pack that had been knocked aside during the proceedings. "How's your knee?"
"I could run a marathon," he informed her, and he meant every word. Izzy was far more effective than any pain medication. He smirked as he wondered if he could get Dr. Whale to just prescribe her for his bad days.
From that point on, their carefully-constructed barriers started to break down. He stole kisses in the back room of the shop while customers milled in the front. She caressed his leg under the counter while he made deals. On slow nights they closed up early and carted a load of unwanted merchandise to his house, abandoning the boxes in the foyer in favor of a few precious hours in his bed. No one noticed a thing.
He wondered about the mayor sometimes. Her sharp eyes missed little, but she never said a word about Izzy during their always-tense conversations. There was never so much as a hint that she was suspicious, and since he'd never considered her subtle, he could only assume she was as oblivious as the rest of the town.
Izzy took their game to a dangerous new level one afternoon when she walked into the shop clad in her usual jeans and camisole, a black button down shirt replacing her traditional plaid. She looked lovely in black, the harsh shade setting off her porcelain skin to perfection, and he assumed that was responsible for the flutter in his stomach until she got a little closer, and he realized that the shirt she was wearing looked awfully familiar.
Izzy was dressed in his black dress shirt, the one he'd worn two days ago and she'd taken to be dry-cleaned like she'd been doing for as long as she'd been working for him. Apparently, she'd gotten sidetracked. The shirt was too big for her but not dramatically bigger than her usual shirts. Izzy was a tiny thing, but he was slenderly-built too. No one would think it odd. No one would even notice.
Gold noticed though, and it was like she was wearing a sign proclaiming herself his. Catching her wrist, he dragged her into the back room, crowding her with his body until she was pressed up against the wall, looking up at him coyly through her eyelashes. "It smells like you," she said huskily, "I wanted to smell you on me today."
He groaned, crushing her mouth under his as he ran his hands over her, feeling her warm curves through his shirt. He pressed his leg between hers, and Izzy rocked her hips, careful not to put pressure on his bad knee as she rode his thigh, arching into him, her hands buried in his hair.
Seeing his necklace on her was wonderful, but seeing her in his clothes was something else entirely. She should always wear his clothes, displaying his claim on her to the universe. Izzy should wear nothing but his clothes.
He wanted to yank off her jeans and camisole, leaving her standing before him in nothing but his shirt. He wanted to pin her against the wall and feel her legs wrapped around his waist as he fucked her to within an inch of her life, leaving her without a thought in her head except for his name. He cursed his leg, but Izzy didn't give him time to come up with another option before she was shoving him away from her just long enough to reverse their positions, and now it was his turn to be trapped.
She rubbed him through his trousers, and his hips bucked shamelessly, demanding her attention. Clever fingers went to work on his fly as he strained his neck to kiss her, but she evaded his mouth and dropped to her knees, a wicked smile on her face.
His mouth went dry at the sight of her, wearing his shirt, on her knees in front of him. "I've been wanting to do this all day," she purred as she freed him, then licked him from root to tip, her tongue fluttering over the head in the way she knew drove him mad. She dipped her head, taking him as deep as she could, her hand squeezing the base of him as she hollowed her cheeks, and the sight alone was enough to drive him out of his mind.
He scrabbled at the wall with his short nails to keep from grabbing at her hair, knowing that as worked up as he was he was sure to pull too hard. Izzy might have been on her knees, but she was the one with all the power here. She held his sanity in the palm of her hand, and he would give her the world if she'd just promise to always look at him with those happy, lust-filled eyes.
The blissful torture seemed to last for hours as she licked and sucked, bringing him to the brink of ecstasy before pulling back and teasing him with short little licks that just fanned the flames more. Finally, she took mercy on him, swirling her tongue around the head before sucking hard, and he came with a hoarse shout he barely had the presence of mind to muffle behind his hand. She drank him down, and the dazed look of pleasure in her eyes made him quake, his body doing its damnedest to orgasm twice in as many seconds.
He didn't quite manage it, nor did he manage to stay upright as her little pink tongue darted out to clean him off. His knees gave out, sending him sliding down the wall to collapse in her arms, caressing her with reverent hands. They remained in their blissful cocoon, trading kisses until the bell rang and Izzy went to deal with a customer, leaving him gazing after her in wonder and trying to remember where he'd put the ring he'd selected for her.
He didn't give it to her, not yet, but having the box in his pocket felt like a talisman, a reminder that she’d be eighteen soon, and then he'd never have to watch her walk away from him again.
Letting her go home to her father got harder every evening, and he longed for the day she'd be his to keep. In the meantime there were kisses and stolen moments and more happiness than Gold had ever expected to experience in his life all tied up in a perfect bundle crowned with bright blue eyes and chestnut curls. He loved her so much it made his throat ache.
The seasons changed and changed again as life moved along at its slow pace. He had his Izzy and his shop, and everything else was a blur until one day as he was returning from his rounds he bumped into a blond woman he'd never seen before. She was beautiful, if stand-offish, and he would have remembered her if she'd visited Storybrooke before. It was strange to see an unfamiliar face.
He watched the blond woman go, repeating her name to himself: Emma Swan. There was something familiar there as if he was remembering her across years, but the woman wasn't old enough for him to have known at any point in his murky past. Deja vu, he diagnosed, but he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it.
"Who was that?" Izzy's voice came from behind him as she came out of the shop, craning her neck to get a look at the woman.
"Emma Swan," he repeated for her, watching her face carefully for any flash of recognition, but Izzy didn't seem any more familiar with her than he was.
"I thought I knew everyone in town," she said curiously, "I don't remember her though."
"She's new. Henry went to get her; she's his biological mother." This was the woman who'd provided the child he'd found for Regina. Maybe that was why she seemed familiar, but he couldn't remember ever learning her name.
Izzy's eyes widened, "Oh, really? I bet our lady mayor doesn't like that." She couldn't hide the glee in her voice at the thought.
He thumped her lightly on the nose, "Be nice," he scolded, lowering his voice, "At least in public."
With a wicked grin, she said in her most innocent tone, "Yes, Mr. Gold." The contrast between her voice and the naughty look in her eye drove any thought of Emma Swan out of his head, and he followed her into the shop with an eager step.
0 0 0 0 0
Izzy wasn't quite as fond of the woman the next time she saw her. After the Ashley Boyd fiasco that had led him to be maced and knocked out in his own shop, she'd been more than slightly irate that he was still being seen as the villain of the piece. "They came to you," she seethed, fussing over the jagged cut on his temple as she sat in his lap, "You had a wonderful home picked out for that little girl, and they're acting like you're some kind of baby-napper."
His heart warmed at her defense of him. Izzy looked like a small, angry kitten spitting at the world, and he couldn't bring himself to care what the rest of the town thought as long as she remained on his side. "I don't mind it, pet."
"Well, I do!" she snapped, her blue eyes flashing. Then the anger seemed to flow out of her, and she relaxed in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder, "I wish they could see you like I do."
He chuckled as he twined his fingers through her curls. "Well, I've certainly no desire to snuggle up to anyone else in this town, so you're just going to have to live without that."
"Not even Emma?" she asked quietly, and he frowned.
"Of course not," he denied, not certain what she was thinking.
"She's very pretty," Izzy murmured, her voice mostly lost against his chest.
She was jealous, he realized after a moment of pure incomprehension. Unbelievable as it seemed, Izzy was jealous over him, and he couldn't hold back the satisfied smirk. Even so, he couldn't let her keep thinking whatever she was thinking. "She doesn't have blue eyes and chestnut curls and a smile that lights up a room. She doesn't make me laugh."
She giggled a little, "I thought you said I wasn't the court jester."
"No, you’re my apprentice,” he smiled, ”I wouldn't teach her magic, pet.”
Miraculously, it seemed to be the right thing to say. Izzy relaxed in his arms, leaning up for a kiss he was more than happy to bestow.
The now-deputy continued to not endear herself the next time they had cause to interact. She slammed into the shop one afternoon, calling his name before the door had even closed, "Hey, Gold?" Her eyes lit on Izzy who was in the process of dusting, and she gave a little nod of greeting.
"Izzy." Reaching into her pocket, she withdrew her wallet, "Do me a favor and run down to Granny's and get me a coffee, would you? Get something for yourself too if you want."
Izzy looked from Emma to him, her face carefully composed, but he could read her offended posture clearly. He inclined his head, and her eyes narrowed at him, but she took the wallet and left the shop without a word. "I believe she's my assistant, not yours, Miss Swan," he said calmly, concealing his own irritation.
The deputy shrugged, "This is private. I want to show you something."
There was no hint of seduction in her voice, but he was still relieved when she pulled a compass out of her pocket and held it out to him, "What can you tell me about this?"
He examined the compass, recognizing it as a piece they'd sold to MIchael Tillman some time ago. Although he knew what she wanted, he couldn't bring himself to give it to her so easily. It was immature payback for her dismissal of Izzy, but he couldn't argue that it was satisfying to see the frustration in her eyes as he described the workmanship in excruciating detail.
"So, it's a piece you're familiar with," she cut him off while he was pausing for breath, "Who'd you sell it to?"
He pulled out the box of cards that would give him that information, taking his time finding the appropriate one. "My assistant keeps the records," he chided her, "It's a shame you sent her off."
"You sold it a decade ago. Unless she's worked for you since she was in kindergarten, she wouldn't have kept this one," Emma told him flatly just as he withdrew the appropriate card written in Izzy's looping hand.
"Michael Tillman," he gave her the name she wanted, followed up by the address as he frowned down at the card. That was definitely Izzy's handwriting noting the buyer and purchase price. There was no date on the card, no dates on any of them, but it couldn't possibly have been that long ago. Maybe she'd gone through and recopied the records at some point. She'd certainly complained enough about his illegible handwriting to do so. Yet, he seemed to remember her being there when the sale was made.
Izzy made it back just in time to hand off Emma's coffee before the deputy took her leave of them, leaving him unsettled. She placed a pastry on the counter in front of him before shooting a glare at the woman's departing back. "What'd she want?"
"Do you remember us selling a compass?" he answered her question with one of his own.
She glanced down, searching her memory for a moment before her expression brightened, "To Michael Tillman? The pretty one?"
"She wanted to know about that. Didn't say why." Her interest in the compass didn't seem overly important. "How long ago was that?"
She shrugged, "A while ago. Does it matter?"
"No," he tried to shake off the confusion, but something was nagging at him, "How long have you worked here, pet?"
Izzy shot him a look full of concern, perhaps worrying that he was going senile. "Four years. Since I was twelve. You know that."
He nodded slowly, "Right. I just.... can't remember a time you didn't work here." He'd had the shop for years, yet he couldn't picture a time when he'd run it without her. Was that normal?
Her expression cleared, affection filling her eyes, "Can't imagine life without me?" she teased.
Perhaps that was it. She was such an integral part of his life that he couldn't fathom a time she wasn't. "Don't want to," he shot back, leaning down to steal a quick kiss after checking no one was walking by. She tweaked his tie with a smile before she went back to dusting, and he shook his head, dismissing the nagging feeling that something odd was happening. Odd things had been happening ever since Emma Swan showed up. As long as he didn't wind up getting maced again, there was no point in concerning himself with this one.
0 0 0 0 0
"So, they've been living on their own since their mom died. Mr. Tillman didn't even know they existed, but he's taking them in. I think that's nice. Kids need a dad," Izzy filled him in on the latest gossip during their tea time the following day, explaining Deputy Swan's interest in the compass.
A strange expression flitted over her face as though an unsettling thought had just occurred to her. "What, pet?" he prompted, but she shook her head.
"Nothing. Just thinking," she dismissed, draining her cup and placing it in the sink. "I'd better get back to work."
He didn't press her, going back to his own repairs, but his eyes kept straying toward the main room of the shop which was strangely silent. Izzy usually hummed as she worked, but she was quiet today, lending fuel to his theory that something was bothering her.
It wasn't until they were cleaning up for the night, the sign flipped to 'Closed', most of the lights extinguished, and she was still barely talking to him that he finally pushed. "Pet," he put his hands on her hips, holding her in place before she could dart away from him again, "What is it?"
"I was just... thinking," she said softly, sounding miserable.
"So, I gathered," he pointed out, kissing the back of her neck just to remind her that he loved her. She sounded unhappy, but it didn't seem to be aimed at him.
"Do you... want kids?" she asked in the silence, turning around to face him, her face hidden by the shadows. "Or even- I don't know- do you have kids?"
His heart ached at her question although he didn't know why. He'd never given any thought to it before. When he'd pictured their future, he'd always just seen the two of them, but of course Izzy would want children. "No. I don't," he told her, twining a lock of her hair around his index finger.
Izzy dropped her head, breathing in sharply, "Okay," she whispered, her voice strangely muffled, and he realized she thought he'd answered her first question.
"No, I don't have children," he elaborated, "As for wanting them... Do you, pet?"
It was a blatant stall for time. Everything about her posture and tone answered the question for her, but she still nodded, "Yeah."
He looked down at her crown of chestnut hair, trying to picture her with a swollen belly, and his heart nearly stopped when he succeeded. She'd glow with happiness, the curve of her body telling everyone who looked at her that she was his- his wife, the mother of his children, his Izzy.
And the children... a daughter who looked just like her mother, all flyaway curls and bright blue eyes. A son with his reserve and Izzy's smile. He could see them so clearly it seemed impossible that they didn't yet exist. "I'll give you anything you want," he vowed, voice hoarse, "If you want children, we'll have a dozen."
She laughed at that, finally meeting his eyes again, "A dozen might be overkill," she pointed out, "We're not starting our own soccer league."
"Football," he correctly automatically, leaning down to claim her mouth in a kiss full of promise. One day they'd be a family.
The kiss didn't remain sweet and chaste for long. Izzy parted her lips for him in invitation, and he couldn't resist, pushing her deeper into the shop until they reached the fainting couch that had played a leading role in the dream he still thought back on with regularity.
She used his tie to pull him down beside her, and their clothes had disappeared much more easily in the dream, but they managed. She got his jacket and shirt off of him with practiced ease although he had trouble taking his hands off her long enough to rid her of her blouse. "I dreamed about this," he confessed, filling his hands with her breasts and brushing his thumbs over her nipples. "The night before your dance, I dreamed about us here like this."
Izzy whimpered, then kissed him fiercely, her tongue plunging deeply into his mouth as he fondled her. "Is it as good as you dreamed?" she panted when she had to pull back to breathe.
"Better," he grunted, hands tearing at the fly of her jeans before he finally managed to get them off her, taking her knickers with them. Izzy kicked her feet to get her shoes off, leaving her gloriously bare beneath him, her eyes shining in the dim light. He bent his head to kiss her breasts, muttering against her skin, "I don't want to sell this damned thing anymore."
She giggled, her fingers weaving themselves through his hair to hold him in place, "You never will; it's hideous."
"You make it look good," he said salaciously. Indeed, the purple velvet set off her skin to great advantage, heightening its porcelain glow.
"Flirt," she laughed breathlessly, parting her legs for him in shameless invitation, and he took the hint and slid his fingers deep, feeling how wet she already was for him. He wanted to take his time, to taste her everywhere and make her scream his name, but Izzy was already moving against him impatiently, reaching out to cup him through his trousers, and slow would have to wait until next time.
She undid his belt and helped him shove his trousers and boxers down past his knees, then he thrust into her, nearly wild with the need to make her his again. She threw her head back with a cry, and he buried his face against her throat, sucking at the place where her neck met her shoulder and her shirt would cover up a love bite.
He was being rough, moving harder and faster than he should, but he couldn't seem to stop, and Izzy didn't seem to care, moaning happily with each deep thrust. He grabbed her leg, coaxing her to wrap it around his hip so she could take him deeper, grinding against her at the height of each thrust.
It was too intense to last long, and when he tore himself away from her throat to gasp, "I love you, Izzy," she shuddered and cried out, her climax tearing his own out of him as he poured himself into her with a deep groan.
Izzy's eyes met his, wide with terror, and that wasn't her voice he'd heard. He tightened his grip on her, holding her protectively against him and making sure the intruder couldn't see her body before risking a glance back over his shoulder to see Emma Swan standing less than ten feet away, her body angled away from them as she stole glances over her shoulder, her face a picture of disgust.
They'd never gotten around to locking the door.
"Someone called in a tip- Goddamn it, I thought Regina was full of shit. She's sixteen, you son of a bitch!" The deputy's voice was steadily rising, her body quivering with rage. "I knew you were an asshole, but this- you fucking pervert!"
Beneath him, Izzy was sobbing, hiding her face against his shoulder and he stroked her hair, trying to offer whatever comfort he could. "It's all right, pet. It's going to be all right," he whispered. Looking back to Emma, he tried to sound as dignified as he could with his trousers around his ankles, "Would you give us a moment please?"
She hesitated for a full minute, clearly not wanting to leave Izzy alone with him. Then with a guttural noise of disgust, she walked back towards the door, leaving them with the illusion of privacy. He sat up, pulling Izzy into his lap as she trembled, sobbing apologies with every breath, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. It's my fault."
"No," he kissed her forehead, holding her as tightly as he could, "Don't be sorry. I'm not."
He cradled her face, forcing her to meet his eyes, "This doesn't change anything. No matter what happens, I love you, and we are going to be together." It was agony to let go of her, but they didn't have much time. He helped her gather her clothes before getting back into his own.
Wiping her eyes, Izzy pulled herself together, reaching up to knot his tie for him. "I love you," she whispered, holding his gaze with her own, "No matter what."
Bending down, he claimed her mouth, trying to memorize her taste. When they broke apart, he adjusted the chain of her necklace, hoping that having it would be a comfort during whatever was coming. Then he caught her hand in his and together they went to face Emma.
The deputy's face was pained when she saw them hand in hand. "Go home. Now," she ordered Izzy, never taking her eyes off of Gold. He squeezed her fingers in reassurance, feeling her trembling as she let go and stepped away, disappearing through the door of the shop into the night.
He watched until she was out of sight, then gave his attention back to Emma who was looking at him like something she'd like to crush under her heel. "You're under arrest for statutory rape. You have the right to remain silent-" The rest of her words bled together as she cuffed his hands behind him, taking his cane away as she did so, unwilling to grant him even that much dignity. "Come on."
0 0 0 0 0
Sheriff Graham looked horrified when Emma marched Gold into the office, locking him in a holding cell before telling him to turn around so she could release the handcuffs. "Um... Emma?"
"He's sleeping with Izzy French!" she snarled, rounding on him with almost as much anger as she'd shown Gold himself.
"Oh God." The sheriff's eyes darted back and forth between the two of them, and the man looked sick, "Is that true?" he asked Gold.
"I caught them together!" Emma hissed, "I don't care how backward the laws in this town are; I'm not letting a child molester walk free."
The description made him grind his teeth as he sat down on the narrow cot, wishing he had something to do with his hands. He didn't particularly like his chances of getting his cane back while she was here either. The sheriff would be an easier mark.
Inexorably, his mind turned to Izzy. The memory of the despair in her eyes curdled his stomach. He hoped she wasn't blaming herself. There was only one person at fault here if Emma's words were to be believed; Regina had set them up.
Locking the damned door would no doubt have helped, but with her putting a bug in Emma's ear about them, it would only have bought them time. That was the sole reason he hadn't called in his favor to send Emma on her way. It wouldn't have ended this, just postponed it. He clasped his hands in front of him, staring fixedly at his own fingers as he let the argument between the sheriff and his deputy fade into background noise. Somehow that bitch was going to pay for what she'd done.
He honed that thought obsessively for the rest of the night as he submitted to the degrading fingerprinting and mugshots apparently involved in being a criminal. It was either think about his revenge or worry about Izzy, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to keep his composure if he did that. He wouldn't give them the satisfaction of seeing him break down. Izzy was strong and sensible. He had to trust that she'd be all right until he could get himself out of here.
Even so, he was not at his best the next morning when Regina swept into the sheriff's office, a gleeful smile on her face as she dismissed Graham, leaving the pair of them alone. "I heard about your little misadventure," she cooed, taking a seat on the sofa next to his cell.
"Yeah, you did more than just hear about it, didn't you?" he growled, unable to find his usual cool detachment.
Her eyes widened in mock innocence. "Whatever do you mean, Mr. Gold?"
"You know exactly what I mean. Miss Swan wasn't at the shop because she wanted to browse. You sent her."
"If a citizen of my town is in danger, it's my duty to help," she smirked.
The thought of Izzy being in any danger at his hands was laughable. She was the one with the real power in their relationship. She held his heart in her hands, could destroy him with a word, and from the satisfied expression on her face, Regina was well aware of that.
"Why don't we make a deal?" she suggested when it became obvious he wasn't going to respond to her taunt. "I could make these charges go away."
She dangled the bait in front of him, and he did as she wished and sniffed at it, "And in exchange?"
She shrugged, "All I want is the answer to one very simple question. What's your name?"
The question was so bizarre, he was convinced he'd misheard her. "My name?"
"What is it?" she leaned forward, her eyes hungry.
"It's Mr. Gold," he replied, knowing it couldn't be that easy.
She didn't move, her mouth twisting in irritation. "Your real name," she prompted.
"What are you asking me?" he demanded, already frustrated with the nonsensical conversation. He didn't much care for the thought of telling her his first name- that was Izzy's secret- but he had a feeling she was looking for something more than just that ridiculous moniker. "My name has always been Mr. Gold."
"Always," she repeated, and it didn't sound like a question, "It's always been Mr. Gold."
"Yes," he bit out, waiting for an explanation.
It didn't come. The mayor's eyes lit up like he'd handed her the greatest present she ever could have asked for. "You don't remember," she whispered, her voice ringing with joy, "You actually don't remember."
"Remember what?" he demanded, and she ignored him, her eyes narrowing with suspicion.
"Maybe you need more incentive to be honest." A malicious smile crossed her face, "Maybe that girl of yours will be good for something after all."
He was on his feet before he realized he'd decided to move, clutching the bars of his cell in bloodless fingers, his teeth bared. "You will leave her alone," he snarled.
"Or you'll do what?" she mocked, her voice high and childish, "You're behind bars in case you didn't notice."
She was just out of reach, which might have been for the best because if he could get his hands on her, Gold was reasonably sure he'd snap her neck. He'd stew in jail for the rest of his life before he let her lay a finger on Izzy. "I won't be for long," he threatened, "Or have you forgotten that I own this town?"
"These things take time," Regina pointed out, "Who knows what could happen while you're calling in your favors?"
That was the crux of the problem. His imprisonment might be temporary, but Regina was walking the streets now, and he was powerless to protect Izzy from whatever she had in mind. "Why are you doing this?" he asked, stalling for time.
"I don't like to share power." She folded her hands neatly in her lap, one eyebrow raised.
She was threatening Izzy because she wanted control of this insignificant little town? The woman was insane. "Then this is between us. Leave her out of it." He inhaled deeply, hating what he was about to do. He lowered his head, deliberately taking a submissive posture. If the woman wanted power, let her think she had it over him. Swallowing a mouthful of bile, he added, "Please." It was as close as he could bring himself to begging, but perhaps she'd be satisfied.
The mayor inhaled, her eyes going curiously blank for a moment, her face waxy, "Fine."
Gold blinked, thinking that had been far too easy. "You'll not hurt Izzy?" he pressed, wanting to be sure she was agreeing to what he'd asked.
"I won't hurt her," Regina replied, a hollow note in her voice.
"Then I believe this conversation is over," he pointed out, waving a languid hand at the door before reclaiming his seat on the cot, dismissing her. She left without another word, leaving him to try to make sense of the bizarre interview. She'd gotten him to beg, and she hadn't lorded it over him. It went against everything he knew about her. She'd almost acted like he'd bespelled her. Maybe he was a sorcerer after all.
If he was, he doubted bars would hold him, and he was still firmly stuck here, at least for the time being. Even so, something very strange was happening in Storybrooke.
0 0 0 0 0
It took two days before he was finally allowed to post bail, and by that time he was ready to climb out of his skin. He'd heard nothing about Izzy, but Deputy Swan was very careful never to mention her within earshot. Surely if the mayor had moved against her, word would have reached him even in here. Even so, he was counting the minutes until he could see her again and verify for himself that she was unharmed.
Emma stood in front of his cell, a thick sheathe of papers in one hand, the key in the other. "Here," she thrust the papers at him, "You'll want to read these before you go anywhere."
He took the packet, quickly skimming the words. "It's a restraining order," she informed him like he was incapable of reading, "If you get within two hundred yards of Izzy French, I'll have your ass locked up so fast you won't have time to smirk. No phone calls. No emails. No texts. No contact."
He thumbed through the packet, looking for the effective dates, his heart sinking. He didn't know how she'd done it, but Miss Swan had made sure he wouldn't be allowed near Izzy until her eighteenth birthday. She handed him the key through the bars, and he realized it wasn't the key to his cell as he'd thought. Instead it was Izzy's shop key. "She doesn't work for you anymore."
His hand tightened around the key as he clenched his jaw, refusing to give her the satisfaction of seeing him react. Resentfully he wondered if she'd given any thought to how Izzy was supposed to survive without her income from working at the shop. God knew her father couldn't support her.
The deputy unlocked the cell and handed him his cane, every inch of her posture screaming that she'd rather beat him over the head with it. He took it and walked out of the station without a backward glance, ignoring the people milling around outside. There was only one face he wanted to see, and he couldn't imagine she'd been allowed to be there. Even so, he stole glances at every brunette he saw on the walk home, willing her to have found some way to let him see her.
Her presence was denied him, and as soon as he'd locked himself in his house, his shoulders slumped. There had to be a way out of this, but he felt so beaten down he couldn't think of anything. He made a few phone calls, reminding a few key individuals just who owned their land, then went to clean himself up, carefully not looking at his bed.
He closed his eyes and leaned against the shower wall, letting the scalding water wash away some of the grinding unpleasantness of the last few days and trying to pretend this was all some kind of nightmare. He'd walk into the bedroom to find Izzy curled up and pouting at him for taking so long, and they could get back to enjoying their life together and counting down the four hundred and twelve days until they didn't have to keep their relationship a secret.
Now it was four hundred and twelve days until he was allowed to speak to her. It might as well have been an eternity.
He shaved and dressed, unable to spend another moment in the empty house. The shop was equally unthinkable. He didn't even want to imagine having to be there without Izzy's constant presence. That left only the cabin, which wasn't much better. No matter where he went, he'd be inundated by memories of her. Once he'd loved the fact that he could feel her everywhere he went. Now that she'd been taken from him, those images were nothing but torture.
Still, he had to go somewhere, and he wasn't about to show his face in town. The loss was still too raw, and he didn't need the local gossips calling attention to it. Instead, he drove.
The air in the cabin felt different as soon as he walked in, Izzy's presence an almost tangible thing. It seemed that if he just turned his head fast enough, he'd catch sight of her, ready to throw herself into his arms and make a fuss over his sojourn in jail.
He avoided the stairs and headed straight for the kitchen, taking down the teapot in hope that the tannins would settle his nerves. As he took off the lid to fill it, a flash of white caught his attention. Reaching down, he pulled out an envelope, his fingers trembling.
Tea forgotten, he sat down at the table, turning the envelope over in his hands. It was from her; it had to be. A faint smile crossed his face as his brain finally started working again. Izzy had handed over her shop key to Emma, but she clearly hadn't volunteered her keys to the cabin or the house. They could make this work for them.
Unable to wait another moment, he ran his finger under the seal, withdrawing a letter written in Izzy's looping script.
I tried to talk my father out of the restraining order, but Deputy Swan was very insistent. I told her that was our first time, and I seduced you, but I don't think she believed me. I'm sorry I wasn't more help.
He brushed his fingers over the words, unable to help his affectionate smile. Even after all this, she was still trying to protect him.
Dad's watching me like a hawk, but I'll be able to get away sometimes, even if it's just to exchange letters. I hate the thought of not being able to talk to you for a year. I'll miss everything else too, but I think I'll mostly miss the talking. This doesn't change anything for me. I'll wait for you. Once I'm eighteen, no one will be able to get in the way again.
Such a clever girl, he thought with pride. She'd thought of a way around the no-contact order that had never occurred to him. A letter was small comfort when he wanted to hear her voice and see her smile, but it was a thousand times better than no contact at all.
I keep getting these pitying looks from everyone, and it makes me want to scream. I don't regret anything we did. I never will. I am so, so sorry this happened to you though. I love you. I always have, and I always will. As soon as I'm eighteen, we'll prove it to everyone.
He reread the letter twice more, relieved she wasn't being treated as a social pariah because of what they'd done. He was perfectly happy to be the villain of the piece if it meant no one was shaming Izzy. Even better, she hadn't mentioned a word about the mayor bothering her. Strange as it seemed, Regina was honoring his request.
He folded the letter and tucked it into his breast pocket, knowing he should destroy it but helpless to do so. He'd put it somewhere safe in the house where he could look back over it when he needed her comfort. Then he dug through the kitchen drawer in search of the tablet he knew was there somewhere and sat down to pen his reply.
0 0 0 0 0
With Deputy Swan trailing him like a bloodhound, he couldn't get to the cabin as often as he would have liked, meaning he was lucky if he and Izzy managed to exchange two letters a month. Emma was irate that he'd avoided jail time, the markers he'd called in leaving him with a year of probation instead. He'd failed utterly at getting the restraining order dismissed, but Izzy was safe, her letters hopeful, and things could have been a great deal worse.
Still, he hoped that something would happen to distract Emma's attention from him, preferably with Regina since the mayor seemed to be the one person in this town she hated even more than she hated him. It was a shame she loathed him, as her willingness to go after Regina would make her a fine ally once he decided what he was going to do to the mayor.
He obsessed over his pending revenge, needing the distraction to keep him from fixating on Izzy. The restraining order was little more than a piece of paper, and there were days when ignoring it felt like the smartest thing he could have done, days when spending a year in jail seemed like a small price to pay for having Izzy in his arms, her mouth under his.
He caught sight of her sometimes, Storybrooke not big enough to hide her from him completely. She looked well even if her smile didn't shine as brightly as he was accustomed to. She still wore his necklace, still met his eyes whenever she felt him watching her, her blue eyes showing the love she wasn't allowed to express.
Therefore it came as a bit of a surprise when he spotted her walking hand in hand with Greg Phillips.
They were ahead of him on the sidewalk, their backs to him, but he'd recognize those chestnuts curls anywhere. He froze where he was as they continued on their way, forcing people to swerve around him. He was oblivious to the glares shot his way, (The town was walking a fine line between disgust and fear now. He might be a pedophile, but he was a pedophile who still owned their homes.) blind to anything but Izzy walking away from him with another man.
He watched as they turned a corner, apparently on their way to the flower shop. The sickening rush of jealousy blurred his vision, and he wanted to kill the boy, kill Regina, kill everyone responsible for taking her away from him. Izzy was his, was meant to be his, and being without her made him feel like he was losing his mind.
Perhaps he was, he thought as he bypassed the shop and kept walking. With his knee the cabin was too far away to reach on foot, but he couldn't seem to stop. The physical pain of the damaged joint was a distraction he needed, because if he let himself process the fact that he'd lost Izzy, he was going to go completely off the rails.
It took nearly three hours, and by the time he got there Gold was convinced the few remaining tendons in his knee had burst, but he made it at last, firmly locking the door behind him to shut out the rest of reality. He went to the teapot more out of habit than hope, surprised when he found a letter nestled inside.
The temptation to simply burn it unread was nearly irresistible. The last thing he wanted was to read that she didn't love him anymore, that she'd given up on him. Yet, these were her words, perhaps the last ones she'd ever have for him, and he couldn't bring himself to destroy them.
His fingers twitched, wishing they were wrapped around a bottle. There was a nearly-full bottle of scotch back at the house, but in the state he was in he'd never make it. Nor did he think he could wait that long to read her letter. Bad news or not, he had to know. Instead the schedule would have to be: have his heart broken now, then drink himself blind whenever he made it home.
Reluctantly, he withdrew the folded paper from the envelope, his heart in his throat.
The mayor has been sniffing around my father. She's very concerned that I've been damaged by my 'association' with you since I'm not interested in guys my own age. Did you know there's an insane asylum in town? She didn't call it that, but she's mentioned on three separate occasions that I might need professional help and that Storybrooke has "resources" for that.
Gold's breath came faster as he realized the game the mayor was playing. She was sticking to the letter of her agreement to not harm Izzy. Instead, she was trying to manipulate Moe French into doing it for her.
Please don't be mad, but Greg asked me out again. If I'm dating him, Dad can't say that I'm damaged. This isn't what I want, but I'm scared.
He closed his eyes, dizzy with a mixture of relief and nausea. His clever girl was protecting herself since he wasn't able to defend her. Yet in all the years he'd known her, Izzy had never verbalized fear of anything. That the mayor was frightening her now... The bitch would pay.
He read the rest of her letter, treasuring her words of affection all the more for how unexpected they were. She was still his. He hadn't lost her. As soon as he finished, he took up his own pen and began a reply.
Do whatever you need to do, pet. I could never be angry that you're keeping yourself safe. I think it's high time the mayor stopped interfering in our lives, don't you?
0 0 0 0 0
He spent the night at the cabin, his knee well beyond being able to carry him another step. To his surprise, Deputy Swan didn't come looking for him that night or the next day either. He'd been counting on her vigilance to garner him a ride back into town. Instead, he called a cab, learning almost immediately what had distracted the deputy.
Gold might be an outcast, but the juicy gossip was too much for his driver not to share. The news of a fistfight at the cemetery combined with Sheriff Graham's untimely death was enough to break through even Gold's self-absorption. This left the town without a major power player, giving him the golden opportunity to replace Regina's lapdog with someone more appropriate. Emma Swan might hate him, but if she was willing to punch out the mayor, he wanted the woman on his side. If he was planning to cut Regina’s legs out from under her, getting rid of her support network would be a powerful first step.
Time seemed to be passing differently now. When he thought back on the glorious time he’d spent with Izzy, the days bled together in a blissful eternity of contentment. It felt like they’d been together for a thousand years. Now, the days kicked along at a relentless pace, weeks piling up like someone had hit the fast-forward button on all their lives.
For once he was almost glad he and Izzy had been separated, because there was no way she’d approve of his plan to get Emma elected. Arresting him had been an excellent first step in her campaign, but denouncing him publicly would serve her even better. There was also the outside possibility she’d simply let Regina die which would suit his purpose even more admirably.
He settled himself near the back of the auditorium before the debate between Sidney Glass and Deputy Swan began, watching the crowd out of the corner of his eye, his face carefully blasé. People gave him a wide berth, but it wasn’t until he spotted Izzy near the front of the room that it bothered him, because there was no one nearby to block his view of the way the Phillips boy wrapped his arm around her shoulders, guiding her as far away from Gold as they could get.
He stared at the back of her head, running his eyes over her hungrily as he slipped his hand into his pocket, stroking his fingers over the velvet ring box he’d never stopped carrying. They’d elope the day she turned eighteen, and no one would ever be able to take her away from him again.
Emma’s unease was obvious, but she held out longer than he expected before she blurted out the full story behind the mysterious fire that had made her a local hero. He was aware of the rumbling in the crowd as people turned to stare at him, but he had eyes only for Izzy who rose shakily from her seat as the deputy continued, shaking off the tall boy’s grip as she fled the room.
He clenched his fingers on the handle of his cane, fighting the urge to go after her. It was an impossibility with Emma itching to throw him back in jail at the slightest hint he wasn’t abiding by the restraining order, but her obvious distress was more than he could bear.
He slipped away as soon as he could after making some effort to look appropriately villainous, trusting the people of Storybrooke to make the right decision in the upcoming election. After arresting him and calling him out publicly, they should be ready to elect her queen.
Although he’d intended to go back to the house, something was drawing him to the cabin. There was no way Izzy would be able to sneak away from such a public meeting, but he couldn’t suppress the hope that she’d been able to do just that.
There was no letter waiting for him this time, but he sat down at the table to compose another one anyway, wondering if she’d be able to understand why he’d done what he had. Her approval was too much to hope for, but he’d settle for understanding. It took him three drafts to come up with something he thought she might accept, and he was just folding it into the teapot when the door behind him opened.
It felt like an eternity since he’d heard her voice, and he could scarcely believe his good fortune that they’d actually ended up in the same place at the same time. She hesitated in the doorway, not coming closer, and he glanced down, wondering if he’d damaged her trust beyond repair. ”Do you hate me, pet?”
”Never,” she said solidly, moving to kneel at his side, her hand on his good knee. She looked up at him, her inner conflict written clearly on her face, ”Did you really set that fire?”
”I did. I made sure Emma knew I did. I wanted her to denounce me.” He ran his fingers through her hair, wondering how he could have forgotten how soft it was to the touch.
Izzy nodded slightly, trying to follow his reasoning. ”But why?”
”Because she needed to win. This town hates me, and the enemy of their enemy is their friend.” He watched her face carefully as he spoke, looking for any hint of fear. She was seeing him at his most ruthless, a side of him she’d never experienced before, and if it cost him her love, it would destroy him.
”Okay,” she breathed, rubbing her cheek against his knee, ”Okay. I understand. I want the mayor to go down too. Just... don’t make a habit of it?”
He chuckled, leaning down to press a kiss to her hair, ”I promise.”
Izzy looked up at him, her lips slightly parted, and he claimed the offered kiss, catching her upper arms to pull her up to him. He groaned as he thrust his tongue into her mouth, seeking to memorize her flavor after going far too long without it. "How long can you stay?" he whispered between kisses, his hands sliding over her thin blouse, relearning the curves of her body.
"Long enough for this," she said fiercely, her arms tightening around his neck to pull him into a kiss that she dominated this time, her tongue hungrily searching his mouth as though she was starving for him. "I missed you," she moaned when they had to pull apart to breathe.
"I missed you more." He'd been jealous of her friends and her father even when they'd been together, wanting every moment of her time for himself. Now that they'd been separated, it seemed grossly unfair that those people who didn't- couldn't possibly- love her like he did were entitled to spend time with her when he was not. Izzy was all he had, and as long as she was with him he didn't mind at all. She was all he needed, but he needed her with a desperation that nearly frightened him.
Nearly, but not quite, because she was Izzy and she'd proven over and over again that she loved him, needed him just as much. He wanted to take her upstairs or at least to the sofa and make love to her for hours, relearn every bit of her skin, see if she still tasted the same, whisper promises against her throat and kiss away the memory of every hour they'd been forced apart. But her father would be wondering where she was, and it was only a matter of time before Emma came after him, and there was no time for any of it.
Instead, they tore at each others' clothes, not even bothering to undress fully before she was straddling his lap and lowering herself onto him. He clutched her hips, trying not to thrust up, trying to give her time, but she was so hot and so tight and he wanted her so badly that it was a lost cause.
Izzy cried out as he thrust into her, her head falling back to bare her throat to him, and he attacked her neck with biting kisses as she ground down against him. She clenched around him, squeezing him in a vice of pleasure as he lapped at her throat, wanting only to bite and suck, to leave marks, to tell all of Storybrooke that she was his, and the town would never succeed in tearing them apart.
When he'd imagined their reunion, he'd envisioned something slow and gentle- long kisses and soft words and the fulfillment of knowing she'd never be taken away from him again. This was fast and hard and desperate, but no less beautiful for it, Izzy sobbing against his mouth, murmuring broken words of love between kisses as he frantically tried to touch her everywhere, knowing this was only a brief reprieve until they were wrenched apart again.
He swallowed her scream, holding her tightly as his hips jerked with his own climax. She was his again, his Izzy, but it was only a matter of minutes before she was pulling away from him to gather her clothes. "My father-"
"I know." He got himself back together, never taking his eyes off her. "Marry me, Izzy."
She threw herself into his arms with a sob, kissing him for all she was worth. "Yes. Of course. Of course," she gasped against his lips. He reached into his pocket, then took her hand without breaking their kiss, sliding the ring onto her finger.
When they finally had to break apart to breathe, he brushed his thumb against her cheek to wipe away tears before tugging on her hand. "Izzy." She looked down and gasped, her lips trembling as they both looked down at his ring on her finger. It was simple, classic. The diamond was modestly-sized but shone like it had its own source of inner light, and it was flanked by two small sapphires that nearly matched the color of her eyes.
"It's so beautiful," she murmured in awe, "How did-?"
"I've been carrying it for awhile," he admitted, lifting her hand to his mouth so he could kiss her fingers and admire how perfectly the ring suited her, just like he knew it would. "It helped keep you close."
She rested her head on his shoulder, gazing at the ring. "I can't wear it yet though, can I?" she asked sadly, "People will know."
"I don't care," he hissed, pulling her closer, "Let them know."
"You are not going back to jail because of me," she said, voice firm, and he'd so missed having her around to scold him. With a reluctant sigh, she slid the ring off her finger and offered it to him. "Keep it for me. Until I can wear it."
He wanted to take the ring and put it right back on her finger, put it back where it belonged, but she'd never stand for it. He took it, sliding it back into his pocket before cradling her face and looking fiercely into her eyes, "The day you turn eighteen, pet."
"I'm yours," she agreed, her face clear, "Two hundred and eighty-one days to go."
"We'll make it," he agreed, leaning down for one last kiss before she tore herself away from him, darting out the cabin door without a backward glance.
0 0 0 0 0
The days bled together, moving at a breakneck pace as he did everything in his power to erode Regina's. Even her staunchest allies needed somewhere to live, and he owned every inch of this town. A few choice words murmured in the right ears and another bit of her control slipped, leaving her frayed and desperate and in a position to make mistakes.
Emma lacked his finesse, but she had the persistency of a bulldozer, and she kept plowing away at Regina's foundations. By all rights, they were winning, but Gold couldn't shake the feeling that something dreadful was looming on the horizon. His dreams grew vivid and dark, filled with fire and blood and hideous specters that he tried to forget upon waking the next morning. He wondered where those lovely dreams about Izzy had gone, but he didn't have too much time to wonder, because he constantly felt like something was looking over his shoulder, watching his every move, and it was getting harder and harder to concentrate.
Things came to a head one sunny afternoon as a clamor broke out in the town square. He limped over to see Emma and Regina facing off, the air crackling as before a violent storm although the sky was a cloudless blue. A crowd was gathering, and he automatically sought out Izzy across the square her hair blowing in the absence of breeze.
Something horrible was about to happen; he knew that as clearly as he knew his own name. Keeping one eye on the sheriff and the mayor, he worked his way around the perimeter in her direction, restraining order be damned.
He was within ten paces of her when thunder crashed, drowning out whatever the sheriff was saying. Lightening split the sky as the earth shook, and he lunged forward, dropping his cane to catch her around the waist, bearing her to the ground and shielding her with his own body as the sky fell.
The adrenaline coursing through him meant he didn’t even feel the hit as his knees struck stone instead of grass, his arms covering her face as he waited to feel hail or lava or toads rain down upon them.
The air was still and quiet, the crowd surrounding them seeming to have disappeared. Gold lifted his head to verify that Izzy was unhurt and started. The woman beneath him both was Izzy and was not. He’d know those blue eyes and soft lips anywhere, but her face was slimmer; the blurred prettiness of girlhood having crystalized into a woman's porcelain beauty in a matter of moments.
Those familiar blue eyes were staring up at him, fear in their depths. Izzy was looking at him like she’d never seen him before. ”Izzy?” he stammered, his voice cracking.
As soon as her name was out of his mouth, a flood of memories crashed into him with the force of a tidal wave. He dropped his forehead to her shoulder as images tore through his mind, making him feel like his head was on the verge of shattering. Beneath him, Izzy shuddered and gasped, whatever was happening to him apparently affecting her as well.
Rumpelstiltskin sucked in a breath, the images settling back into all the places he hadn’t realized were empty, inhaling a sweetly familiar scent, ”Belle!”
”Rumpelstiltskin,” she breathed, her arms coming around his shoulders to hold him against her as he buried his face in her neck, tears stinging his eyes in sheer relief.
”You’re back. You’re really back. It worked. Oh gods, Belle...!” he lifted his head so he could look at her, brushing her hair away from her face with trembling fingers.
She smiled up at him tremulously, then glanced around, trying to see where they were. In his peripheral vision he could make out the familiar outlines of the spinning room. ”How did we get back to the Dark Castle?” she asked, and it really shouldn’t surprise him that the first words out of her mouth after her return were a question. ”And why were we in Maine?”
”The curse,” he thought out loud, still putting the pieces together, ”Regina cursed everyone, sent us all to Maine for the last twenty-eight years. When Emma broke it, it sent us back where we belong.”
It was the only explanation that made sense, but that didn’t explain why the curse had wiped his memory like it had everyone else’s. He’d been careful to put in a loophole to make sure that wouldn’t happen. Belle had a more immediate concern to distract him though, ”Twenty-eight years? Well, that explains why it felt like I was sixteen forever.” Her brow furrowed, ”Why was I sixteen? Everyone else was the same age they are here.”
’Restore her. Put her back the way she was,’ his own words came back to haunt him, and he winced. ”That may have been my fault.” In the back of his mind, he could feel the dark magic sniggering at him.
”Oh?” she looked up at him, challenge in her eyes. Releasing her grasp on his shoulders, she shifted beneath him, ”Are you planning to get off me?”
He moved to take some of his weight off of her, his knee between her thighs as he rested his forearms on the floor. He’d just gotten her back; he wasn’t letting her go. ”No, I don’t think I am,” he told her, fighting the urge to drop his head and kiss her. ”I wrote the curse after you died, but Regina was the one who cast it. I put every kind of magic I could into it- dark magic, fairy magic, anything I could get my hands on. I thought it might be enough to bring you back, and it did.”
”After I died?” Belle was looking at him like he had two heads.
”I could feel you when the curse was enacted. It brought you back, but it wasn’t going to last. I made a deal with the dark magic and perhaps didn’t word it as well as I should have.” He hoped she’d let him off the hook with that much explanation. He didn’t relish the idea of letting her know what an idiot he’d been.
”So you made a deal with the dark magic. To bring me back to life. And make me sixteen?” Her voice rose at the end of the question, and she was clearly not going to settle for the partial explanation he'd offered her.
”I asked it to restore you,” he clarified, ”Traded my memories to do it. I wasn’t specific enough.”
”So it restored me to age sixteen,” Belle nodded, understanding at last. Her lips curved in a rueful smile, ”It must have enjoyed that, especially since I wasn’t dead.”
”Pet-” he started, the endearment more comfortable on his tongue than dearie even though it sounded strange without the brogue.
”Don’t use that patient tone with me,” she chided, cutting him off, ”I wasn’t dead. Regina locked me up shortly after I left you.”
”After I threw you out,” he corrected her bitterly before her words registered. ”Wait. She did what?”
”She captured me less than a week after I left,” she reiterated, ”Kept me locked in a room with all these runes painted on the walls. She said you’d never be able to find me.”
”Wards,” he diagnosed, realizing just how effectively Regina had played him. ”That's why I couldn’t sense you until the curse started breaking down all the magic in the realm.”
He dropped his head back onto her shoulder, too mortified to face her. Belle had needed him to rescue her, and he hadn’t even known she’d been captured. A fine excuse for a prince she had in him.
Belle’s fingers carded through his hair, and to his surprise she giggled, ”I guess thinking I was dead is an acceptable excuse for not rescuing me. And you did give up your memories to try to bring me back...”
She trailed off, and he mumbled against her shoulder, ”I’m sorry.”
Warm lips brushed his temple, ”I forgive you. For all of it.”
”Belle...” The only word he could find was her name, but when he lifted his head to see her smile, it didn’t seem to matter. To hell with magic and power. Mr. Gold had lived happily without either with Izzy at his side. Now that his Belle had been returned to him, Rumpelstiltskin would do the same.
Belle turned her head at the last moment, denying him her mouth, and his lips brushed her cheek instead. ”What about your power?” she breathed, not pushing him away but not letting him kiss her either.
”Lived without it for twenty-eight years, dearie,” he answered her, reaching up to cradle her face and turn it back to him, ”Living without you nearly drove me mad.”
Tears flooded her eyes at his declaration, and this time she didn’t pull away when he brushed his lips against hers. His skin tingled as he pressed deeper, the curse slipping away as easily as breath. With a sigh he pulled away, watching as Belle’s eyes fluttered open. ”You look like Mr. Gold again,” she murmured.
"Hope that suits," he said carelessly, looking at the very human hand that was now touching her face before he was distracted by the feel of her breath against his lips. Kissing Izzy had been heaven, but having Belle’s mouth under his own was transcendent. She’d been stolen from him twice now; there would not be a third time even if that meant he had to keep her tied to the bed.
That thought held more than a little appeal, and he was just lowering his head to kiss her again, when Belle chuckled, ”I know that look. That’s your ’Have I got plans for you’ look.”
He grinned and captured her lips again, needing to taste her, the familiar spice of her mouth filling his senses. ”I do have plans for you.” A thought struck him and he pulled back slightly so she couldn’t feel how much he liked his idea. Izzy had desired him when he was Mr. Gold, but Belle might have other ideas now that she had her memories back, ”If you’re willing.”
”If I’m willing?” she asked in disbelief, ”We’ve been lovers for twenty-eight years, and you’re asking that now?”
He dragged himself off of her and extended a hand to help her to her feet, relieved that his old injury seemed to be gone for good, magic or no. ”You might not want what Izzy wanted.”
”Izzy is me,” Belle said firmly as she regained her feet, somehow looking perfect in the gothically styled room even in her jeans, ”And we’re going to make her very happy tonight.” Her smile was wicked as she slid her arms around his waist, pressing herself against her.
”Oh?” he managed, running his hands down the length of her spine just for the sheer luxury of being able to touch her.
”Oh yeah,” she nodded, her voice dark with promise, ”For twenty-eight years all she wanted was to spend the entire night in your bed.”
He stole a kiss, unable to resist the temptation to do so. ”Why don’t we spend it in our bed instead?” A thought struck him and he felt in the pocket of the wool trousers that he was still wearing, pleased to find what he wanted. "And I think I have something that belongs to you."
He proffered the engagement ring, and Belle's eyes flooded with tears as she held her left hand out for him to slide it back into place. Rumpelstiltskin admired the sparkle of the ring on her finger. It belonged to a different world, but it somehow looked exactly right on her.
Belle’s smile was incandescent as she whirled away from him and caught him by the hand. Giggling like a pair of teenagers, they made their way through the halls of the Dark Castle, and although they didn’t quite make it to the bedroom to start off, it couldn’t have mattered less to Rumpelstiltskin. They had all the time in the world now. There was no one left to take Belle away from him, and he'd never be fool enough to push her away again. Their happily ever after was beginning today.