Gold wasn't expecting any visitors for the night, but nevertheless his doorbell rang at a quarter til midnight. It was unexpected, of course, yet entirely unsurprising. He imagined it was probably Regina, more than ready to accuse him of something, or perhaps the newly returned sheriff with more problems to be solved.
The surprising bit was when he opened his front door, a quip on the tip of his tongue, to find none other than Prince Charming standing on his porch with his arms weighed down. Face flushed from the cold, the man wore a sheepish expression as the woman in his arms snored softly, "Special delivery."
Gold stared, his eyes in the midst of widening before he narrowed his gaze at his darling. "Belle?"
“She fell asleep at the party," the prince spoke softly, his sheepish look turning into one of uncertainty as he shifted on his feet, "Ruby couldn't find the key to her apartment, so I thought it'd be okay to bring her here for the night."
The pawnbroker jerked into action then, stepping back to allow the prince entrance into the pink house. Shutting the door he cleared his throat, eyes flickering to Belle momentarily, “There’s a guest room upstairs, if you would be so kind.”
Looking around at all the objects cluttered in the foyer, Charming nodded. “Lead the way.”
Gold took him upstairs, past the first cracked doorway to a second. This one was firmly shut, hadn’t seen light since Belle’s recent departure, and the room was the same as she’d left it when he opened the door and let the prince in. The bed in the middle of the room was perfectly made with silk sheets of cream and a dark purple duvet with many a pillow propped up against the headboard that rested against the wall.
Charming laid Belle on top of the purple duvet, placing her head gently on one of the matching pillows with care. as though she were his own queen. He cleared his throat as he straightened, "You might want to leave her some aspirin and a glass of water for when she wakes up. To curb the hangover. ”
Frowning, his brow furrowed in confusion. Gold flexed his hands atop the golden handle of his cane, feeling his cheek twitch. “Hangover?”
Looking sheepish once again, the prince shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “I forgot to mention that, didn't I?"
“Yeah,” Gold nodded his head once, “you might have.”
The once king stepped away from the bed and the sleeping woman, making his way to the door but stopping shoulder to shoulder with Rumpelstiltskin. “Just trust me on this one, Gold. You don’t outdrink Leroy without some consequences.”
There was a moment’s pause. “I’ll just, you know, let myself out.”
Charming was standing on the top step when he heard Gold clear his throat and when he looked back the pawnbroker was standing just outside the door, his gaze aimed somewhere over the prince’s shoulder. “One or two?” At the blonde’s quizzical look he sighed, “Aspirin, Mr. Nolan.”
“Ah,” smiling, nervously at that, Charming rested his hand on the wooden rail of the stairs. “Two would be for the best.”
There was aspirin in the guest bathroom and he went there first, filling a small plastic cup with cold water. With two of the blue pills pressed between his palm and the cup he limped back into the quiet bedroom, smiling softly. She hadn’t moved since being laid down and while he was content to leave her to sleep, he doubt that Belle would be entirely comfortable with such bulky shoes on her feet.
Putting down the water and pills on the nightstand he rested his cane on the handle of a drawer and then perched himself on the edge of the bed near Belle’s hip, speaking in soft undertones to the sleeping woman as he deftly untied the laces on her boots and slipped first one then the other from her feet to be deposited carefully and quietly on the floor. He then took the utmost care with dislodging the blanket from beneath her as much as he could to draw it up around her shoulders, tucking her in as he made soft, crooning sounds to meant to soothe. Belle sighed in her sleep and stretched out, her legs pressing against his hip as she curled up around her pillow.
Years of practice, of sneaking and intimidation tactics, ensured that he stood without jostling the bed or making a sound. Even the sound of his cane tapping intermittently against the wooden floor was muffled as he made his way to the door, intent on letting his beauty sleep.
There was a rustling behind him, the unmistakable sound of sheets being tangled and twisted together.
“... Stay?” the single word was a soft slur, uncertain in the quiet voice he knew so well. Gold paused with his hand against the door and turned to see Belle blinking open heavy eyes to stare at him from her bed of pillows and blankets, her head barely raised. She was still swept away by whatever drinks she had consumed at the diner, half asleep and as smashed as she had perhaps ever been, but her expression was soft as she looked at him.
He went to her without a word.
Gold stretched out alongside Belle on top of the covers with his head near to hers, on the very edge of his pillow. She wriggled closer to his side, close enough to lay her head on his shoulder and stretch out against him. Her expression was dreamy as she nuzzled her cheek against the soft fabric of his deep purple button up, breathing out deeply.
“Go back to sleep, Belle,” he whispered the words against the crown of her head, smiling softly into the nest of chestnut curls as she shimmied just a bit closer, trying to slip her arms around him with some difficulty. Gold shifted himself in an effort to help, tangling Belle in the sheets even further as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders to get comfortable. She didn’t seem to mind, already in the midst of falling back to sleep.
Despite how awake he'd been not even a half hour before, Gold found himself dozing lightly, content and warm beside Belle. He was well on his way to a deeper sleep when she stirred, pressing her face against his shoulder.
"I missed you," the words were muffled against his suit, slurred from too much drink, but no less genuine for it.
He found himself smiling as he kissed her hair, his own voice rough with more than sleep, "And I you, sweetheart. And I you."