Charming stormed into the castle, too angry and upset to even worry about the fact that the castle he was storming was, in fact, the Dark Castle. Home to one of the most feared beings in the realms, it wasn’t a place to be trifled with. The magic could easily repel him. It had before. Yet this time he was able to stride right past the defenses and into the main hall.
“What have you done to Snow?” The words were out of his mouth before he even had a chance to look closely at the imp. He was, as he usually was found, sitting at his spinning wheel, one hand resting gracefully on the still wheel. It seemed he did little else besides create potions and spin at his wheel. But this time everything was different. Seated on the bench next to him, perhaps a little closer than Charming felt comfortable with, was a beautiful young woman. His eyebrows shot up as he realized her hand rested on the imp’s thigh and the two were leaning close together. Tension hung in the air, a sort of thick strange uncomfortable feeling he wasn’t used to feeling in the imp’s presence. Oh he definitely felt uncomfortable around him in general, but that was more due to the strange quicksilver movements and the often oddly flirtatious bent to the imp's gestures and facial expressions. He had once questioned Ella, the only other person he knew personally who had had some contact with him, on that and she was quick to assure him that she had found him much the same way.
Charming leapt into action as quickly as he could, pulling out his sword and nearly leaping the table in his rush to get to the imp. “Leave her alone, Dark One!” The beauty in question leapt back from the imp with a slight squeak. Were her cheeks actually turning red? No, that was not possible. “Am I interrupting something…” His sword lowered slightly.
“Oh do be careful with that sword, dearie. Wouldn’t want you to injure anything precious.” The imp didn’t take his eyes off the woman who still sat so close to him, though he reached up a hand to bat playfully at the sword. Charming dropped it to his side as if it was suddenly too heavy to continue holding up. Deflated, he simply stared. “Belle, darling,” the imp continued. “Would you please get us a spot of tea. I suspect the prince will be quite parched after all that foaming at the mouth he’s been doing.”
Finally Rumplestiltskin turned his strange eerie eyes on his unexpected guest. “Well, Prince, what can I possibly do for you?”
“Rumplestiltskin!” He had done this before, just simply walked into the castle and demanded answers. Charming was nothing if not brave…and perhaps slightly obtuse. Snow had disappeared and he had heard rumors that the last place she’d been seen was at Rumplestiltskin’s abode. She had struck some sort of deal with the imp and now she was no doubt paying for that deal. He had to stop her and he knew exactly where to begin.
He walked into the next room of the castle, intending to tear the place down around them if he needed to. He would find him. And he would find his way back to Snow.
“Oh Rumple…” He heard the voice before he saw the woman it belonged to. The same one, the one who had been leaning so close to the Dark One on his last visit was with him again. Just who was she…
The imp had lifted her onto the table and stood between her spread legs. She was leaning back slightly and he stood over her, bent forward slightly from the waist. From the angle Charming stood at he could see little more than the imp’s head resting in the crook of her neck. Most of his unruly mop of curly hair hung over her, blocking things from view. One of the imp’s hands rested to the side of her and the woman’s arms were thrown around his neck, her head tilted back, hair askew.
He couldn’t see the imp’s other hand at first, but then realized it had disappeared up the woman’s skirts and was moving up her thigh, lazily tracing patterns on her skin as he moved higher and higher up her leg.
Transfixed, he could do nothing more than stand helpless and stare.
“Oh Rumple…yes…right there…” The woman’s voice was breathless and her hands tangled deep into the imp’s hair, tugging hard on fistfuls of it. “Faster…” Her voice broke off on a moan and the imp gave a giggle that was slightly lower, slightly throatier than the usual high-pitched one Charming was used to.
The woman pulled hard on the imp’s hair, shoving it back and away from his face and Charming could see the way he was alternately biting at her neck and laving the bruised area with his tongue. The imp trailed kisses down over the woman’s collarbone and came to rest somewhere in the midst of her cleavage.
And then the woman simply broke apart, sobbing the imp’s name and clutching him tight to her breast. As she came down from the high she had achieved, the imp held her close. Charming thought he heard him murmur Oh Belle…
Then suddenly he spoke. “Enjoy the show, did we Prince? I can see why Snow calls you ‘charming.’”
The woman shoved the imp away and scrambled off the table. This time her face was definitely red, though whether or not it was from her exertions or embarrassment he wasn’t sure. She rushed past him, head down.
“Belle, dear,” Rumplestiltskin called out to her.
She stopped and turned to face him, cutting the imp off mid-sentence. “No Rumple. I’m not getting tea.” And then she was gone.
Rumplestiltskin sighed and turned to look at his uninvited guest. “Now see what you’ve done, Charming. You ruined a perfectly lovely moment and I don’t get my afternoon tea.”
David Nolan tried to follow her directions. That lady…he thinks they called her the Mayor but he can't quite remember her name. Reg….something. But he gets turned around and somehow ends up standing in front of Mr. Gold's Pawnshop. He remembered that was part of her directions. Something about going past it, a trail into the woods? His brain was mush lately. But he supposed waking up after being in a coma for…how many years was it again?…One? Two? Well, whatever it was, he supposed that would make thinking properly rather difficult.
David paused for only a moment at the door to the pawnshop, noting the sign was turned to "closed." But the door was partially open, the wind having blown it just slightly away from the door frame. And so he assumed this Mr. Gold was in the shop somewhere. Perhaps he could help him with the directions he didn't quite understand.
He stepped into the semi-dark pawn shop and looked around. The place is packed with all sorts of things. For a moment, he almost thought he recognized a unicorn mobile, a fuzzy memory of its hanging above an empty old-style bassinet. He almost remembered looking down and imagining a child there. Does he have children? He doesn't know.
He shook his head of those thoughts and headed back toward the light in the back room, somewhere behind the curtain beyond the cash register. He didn’t know if he should go further than that, if this Mr. Gold (someone he has gathered the town is wary of, though he doesn't know why as the man seems unassuming enough and who could really be scared of a slight man with a cane anyway?) will be angry at his intrusion to his closed store.
But he went anyway. Because he needed to know. Because he needed to find the Toll Bridge. Because he has to find the angel who woke him from his too long slumber, the same one he had seen countless times in drug-laced dreams.
He stepped past the counter with the register on it and approached the curtains. A strange noise greeted his ears and he wasn’t sure exactly what it was he's hearing. But it sounded like it was somewhere between a grunt and a moan and he was suddenly concerned that this Mr. Gold had been injured.
Peeking through the curtains, he was stopped in his tracks when he realized that no, indeed, the man was not injured. And he also realized that perhaps there's more to meets the eye about the man. He had a woman pressed up against the wall. She looked young from where he's standing, much younger than Mr. Gold appears to be. His hands were tangled in her hair and his mouth was slanted tightly across hers. One of her hands had loosened his tie (he is always so impeccably dressed) and had undone a few buttons. That same hand now slipped inside his shirt to caress his chest.
David backed away. "Oh God…sorry…" And he turned, darting back out by the register, hitting his knee hard against the counter in his rush to leave the place. For a moment he spied a windmill and he thought he saw it somewhere before, maybe it even belonged to him. But then he was out the door and away from the pawn shop and he pushed thoughts of windmills and beautiful young women in compromising positions with older pawnbrokers out of his head.
He'll find his way to the Toll Bridge some other way.
Back inside the pawn shop, Rumplestiltskin paused for a moment and stared into the eyes of the woman he loves. She didn’t know him, not really. She thought he was Mr. Gold. But she was still drawn to him and when they had found themselves alone in the back of the shop, hunting for some trinket she remembered seeing on a previous visit, she had suddenly ended up in his arms, kissing him like she would die if she didn't.
And who was he to deny her, really?
"What was that?" she whispered.
"Charming," he muttered. It had to be. Even in this incarnation, even as amnesiac former coma patient David Nolan, he still was walking into his world and interrupting them during their more pleasurable pursuits.
"Nevermind, sweetheart. It must have just been the wind." And he led her to the small cot he kept in the back area for just those times when he didn't wish to go home and needed a place to sleep.
The curse has been broken and after a short period of reconciliation, of acknowledging memories and who people really are, the town has suddenly remembered who brought them there and why. Led by an angry Dr. Whale, most of the townsfolk were walking the streets, heading to the Mayor’s mansion. A bit of a lynch mob, David knew they would be calling for either her death or for her to be locked up. He was afraid most would want the former.
But David doesn’t have time to worry about that mob. He has another person to worry about. He had known the Queen longer than anyone in town and while there was no doubt she had a lot of power, he had a sense the true power behind the curse came from a different source. Nowhere in the mob did he see the reclusive pawnbroker. He suspected the man (or was he imp again?) was hiding out in his shop, no doubt keeping out of the way in case anyone should suddenly remember that they have had the Dark One in human form in their midst all these years. David had never known how much time had passed, but his daughter (he has a daughter!) says she’s 28 and so while he hasn’t aged, it appears much more time had passed by when he was in the coma than he had thought.
So when he arrives at the shop and sees the closed sign, he’s not entirely surprised. He reaches out a hand and when he grabs the handle, he sways just for a second. He senses a memory buried somewhere there in his psyche, of another time he did this with perhaps less than stellar results. But he brushes that off and walks in anyway.
There’s no sign of the pawnbroker in the main part of the shop and so he takes large strides to reach the back room, the place the man tends to hide from the world in. He pushes aside the curtain and steps into the room. “Rumplestiltskin…”
The name dies on his lips and he remembers a bit more of his last time in this room. And he remembers why he should have come back later. Or at the very least, why he should have knocked.
There spread out across the work table that is usually strewn with various antiques in need of repair was a woman. He realizes it’s the same woman he saw the last time he was in this shop, the one that was in this very backroom kissing the pawnbroker. This time though she’s completely naked and spread out on that table like she’s a sacrifice to some sort of Pagan God
Her head is hanging slightly off the table, her back arched, so that he has a clear view of her pert breasts and hardened nipples. Her face is flushed, her eyes shut tight and her mouth formed into an “O” of pleasure. One of her hands anchors herself on the table and he would think she was using it to keep herself from slipping off if it weren’t for the two long-fingered hands that gripped her hard on each side of her hips.
The man in question, for he can see from the pinkish tone to the hands and the lack of blackened nails that he is still yet a man, is crouched between her spread thighs. He can see little of him other than those hands and the top of his head and he blushes, knowing from the woman’s moans of pleasure and the man’s slight movements exactly what he was doing to her. He could well imagine the man’s tongue sliding through her slick folds, nibbling on sensitive areas, causing the shudders of pleasure that wracked the woman’s body.
He tries to back quietly out of the room. He doesn’t think this would be difficult, as the woman’s moans are getting louder. But it’s near impossible. Somewhere near the curtain he simply stops and stares. He cannot take his eyes off the scene in front of him and he desperately tries to ignore the fact that he is finding the sight strangely arousing. As David Nolan he has memories of viewing pornography with his college drinking buddies and it’s like having those porn flicks come to life right in front of him.
And so he nearly hides behind the curtain as he watches, transfixed, half horrified and half aroused, a strange mixture of emotions he never thought he’d feel.
The woman arches nearly off the table and both hands come down to land in the man’s hair, tugging at it, as she moans in near desperation. “Oh Rumple…yes!” Her words turn nearly incoherent as the man in question growls against her, removing one of his hands from her hip and plunging fingers into her. David watches as his hand moves in and out of her and though he cannot see the slide of long fingers into her slick core, he can well imagine it.
Finally with one last moaning of the man’s name, the woman comes apart, murmuring incoherent phrases as she comes down from her orgasm. Her head comes to rest hanging slightly off the table and she laughs lightly, the final release of what seemed to be intense pleasure.
As all calms down around him, David again tries to sneak away, but the pawnbroker’s face suddenly appears from between the woman’s thighs. His eyes are dark, his mouth and chin glisten with the woman’s juices. He looks positively feral as his lips draw into a smirk.
“Ah, Charming. I should have known I’d never get to enjoy myself without having to endure your company. I’m starting to think you’re enjoying these little shows you keep stumbling into.” He quirks one eyebrow and David has the good grace to at least look embarrassed. The woman looks even more so. Her eyes open wide and she covers her chest with her hands as she suddenly sits up, leaning into Rumplestiltskin’s chest to hide herself from David’s eyes.
David just stares. He had come here for something, for some purpose, but that was lost somewhere in the midst of his embarrassment over being caught watching the Dark One and his lover in such close quarters. It takes him a moment to realize that Rumplestiltskin is staring right back, eyebrows raised and even the woman (what was her name again? he seems to remember him calling her it at some point?) has turned her head to watch him.
He can't think of a thing to say though. And so he turns and beats a hasty retreat out of the shop, taking in great gulps of fresh air as soon as he's outside.
Archie is there, the therapist in him noticing David's red face and hard breathing. He asks him if he's ok and David just sort of nods. He glances briefly at the door to Gold's Pawnshop before stumbling away. Archie shrugs and puts a hand out to grasp the doorknob of the shop. David turns around quickly and puts a hand on his arm.
"I wouldn't go in there if I were you."
Archie looks more closely at him and wonders what exactly went on in that shop. But he shrugs and disengages David's hand from his arm. "I need to talk to Gold. There have been some…rumors…going around that need to be addressed." And he turns and steps through the door.
David shrugs and walks away, muttering to himself. "I'd bet anything those rumors are true."
You would think he had learned by now. But no, David never seems to learn. Or maybe he thinks that by now Gold would have learned. Lock the damned door. The closed sign is clearly not enough to keep out interlopers. And so while the sign has been turned to "closed" the door isn't even locked. Maybe the man thinks no one would even consider robbing him.
Except that this time when David walks into the store, he sees the place is in shambles. His eyes widen. What on earth happened here? Gold's precious antiques are strewn across the floor, glass everywhere. Pieces of china and wood, remnants of various objects are everywhere. It seems almost no counter was untouched, no glass left unbroken. What could have caused such destruction?
He hears a loud thud coming from the office, followed by a low moan, and rushes into the back. Was Gold injured? He couldn’t imagine all of this happening unless something had first happened to Gold. The man seemed to be entirely impervious to such things. No one had wanted to cross him before the curse broke, when he was just Mr. Gold the guy who owned most of the town. But once everyone realized who he really was, that he was the Dark One, they were even less inclined to cross him. Most simply avoided him as best they could. Most were smart enough to stay away unless they absolutely needed him.
David was not one of these people.
And so he rushed to the back room, hoping he wouldn’t find the Dark One half dead and angry over what had been done to him. He could handle Gold. He had been doing so for as long as he could remember. Longer even. But he didn’t deal so well with an angry Dark One. Not many who had had lived to tell about it (he realizes some must have lived to tell the tales; David may be dense at times, but some things were obvious after all).
He flings the curtain aside and in his haste to get into the back room, knocks some strange piece of ancient material to the ground. He hops over it and turns the corner. “Are you…” The last word dies on his lips and he smacks his forehead.
The woman, and he’s sure she’s the same one he saw here the last time he strode so carelessly into the backroom, is laying on the cot that Gold has always kept in his office. He never really thought about why the cot was there, just that whenever he came in the back for something, it was there, pillow and sheets sitting on top of it.
Rumplestiltskin is on top of her, tie gone, jacket gone. In fact, the only thing he’s wearing is his dress shirt, which is wide open. But it’s not long enough to hide his bare arse as he pumps his hips into the woman’s center. From his vantage point, David can’t see him actually entering the woman, but he can tell from the motion and the moans from the couple exactly what’s going on.
His mind goes blank and all he can think of is the most ridiculous thing. “You let Henry sleep on that cot!” The words are out of his mouth before he can take them back and he’s suddenly faced with not only Rumplestiltskin’s blistering look, but also the glare of the woman underneath him. Her clear blue eyes bore into his and for a moment all three are frozen.
Then the woman speaks. “We washed the sheets!”
And Rumplestiltskin laughs. Not that high-pitched weird and unnerving giggle. But a full-throated laugh. His head even moves back and for a moment David can see through the hair that tends to fall into his eyes. He is staring into the woman’s eyes and one hand comes up to cup her chin gently. “That’s my girl.” The words are quiet, but easily understood in the silence. And as the woman stares back at the man above her, she smiles. They are so focused on each other that David appears to be forgotten. And he realizes in that moment that this is somehow more than a tryst. That there are real emotions involved. And then he knows who the woman is. Oh, he doesn’t know her really. But he remembers suddenly that he saw her back home, at the Dark Castle.
He staggers out into the main part of the shop and tries to catch his breath. How could he have forgotten her so easily? He had thought, at the time, that she had been under some sort of thrall, or that maybe she had been bought and paid for as a consort from one of his deals. He hadn’t ever contemplated that perhaps she had been in love with the imp and he in love with her.
But the look they shared in that back room was far more than just lust. The woman’s eyes had been shining with emotion. The pawnbroker’s had gone soft, a look he never thought to see on the man’s face. He remembers a conversation he had with the imp long ago, when he was trapped in a forest that had no end. He had been in love once. What did he call it? Ah yes…a brief flicker of light amidst an ocean of darkness. It was the most poetic and romantic thing the imp had ever said. He remembers being surprised at the sincerity in his voice when he spoke of her.
He was too lost in his contemplations, in his memories of another life that seems so long ago that he never hears the pawnbroker approach. It’s not until he clears his throat that David becomes aware of his presence. He swings around and gives the man a sheepish look. How many times would he catch him in this sort of act before the man finally turned him into a toad or a snail or some other small disgusting creature?
But the pawnbroker doesn’t look terribly upset and it’s hard to take the man seriously when he looks so far removed from the normally impeccably dressed Mr. Gold. His pants were hastily done up, not held up by his customary belt. The shirt he is wearing is still undone and hangs open. David tries not to study the man, tries not to see what the woman sees in him, but fails miserably. Rumplestiltskin is small, much shorter than David’s own over six feet tall frame. He’s slight, but lean and wiry. There’s a strength there that’s bourn of more than magic. But he suspects, and rightly so, that her love for Rumplestiltskin runs deeper than something so superficial. The imp had put off everyone he met, his strange flirtations, his oddly cat-like body movement, the way he stalked his prey and often invaded body space simply to make them uncomfortable. How did this woman get past all of that to fall in love with him? He suspected those would be questions he had no answers to unless his wife or daughter were able to connect with the young woman in question. He tries so very hard to put all of that from his mind. Perhaps there are questions he does not want an answer to after all.
“Is there something I can help you with, Charming, or did you just come for the show?” The pawnbroker quirks an eyebrow at him and David is suitably embarrassed. He can feel his face reddening under the unblinking stare of the man.
It takes him a moment but he finally remembers why he came to see him in the first place. “Regina has gone missing.”
“And this concerns me…how?”
“Cora has also gone underground. We suspect they’re together.”
“Ah…and I suppose you want my help with this?” The pawnbroker sighs as he leans back against the counter.
“Well…” David pauses. “Can you…I don’t know…do up your shirt? I can’t think.” And he can’t, really. He doesn’t know why it’s so distracting, but for some reason the usually perfectly immaculate Rumplestiltskin has left his shirt undone, leaving far too much bare skin on display. David cannot stop thinking about what he had witnessed just a scant few minutes ago, the scene playing over and over in his mind like some sort of demented and broken video tape.
“Can’t.” And the man shrugs.
The look on the pawnbroker’s face is almost smug. “They’re on the floor of the back room somewhere.”
“They’re right here, Rumple.” The woman comes striding out from back room and David is again struck by how beautiful she is. She’s incredibly tiny and petite. Even the pawnbroker is quite a bit taller than her. In her bare feet there must be at least four inches between the two of them, which means David simply towers over her. She’s made herself presentable while they were carrying on with their conversation. In one tiny hand, she’s holding a handful of buttons.
“Belle, darling, you’ve met the Prince, I believe.” The pawnbroker’s voice is dripping with sarcasm. He takes the buttons from her and grins down at them before tucking them into the pocket of his pants. David is pretty sure he’s keeping them as some sort of souvenir.
Belle looks up at him, but doesn’t offer a hand or anything. “Yes. I think I’ve inadvertently met him countless times before.” She cocks her head slightly, biting her lip and shifting her eyes to the side to offer a lopsided grin to the man standing there.
The pawnbroker laughs and loops an arm around her waist. David feels his face turn hot and knows he must be bright red by now. How many times had he disturbed these two?
“Ok look…we’re having a meeting at Granny’s to discuss what to do. We need you there.”
“We’ll be there,” Belle says firmly and David finds himself sighing in relief.
“Half an hour?” He takes a step back, ready to leave as soon as he can.
Belle shakes her head. “Give us an hour.” And she looks up at the man David can only assume she loves. He shudders slightly.
“An hour…fine. We’ll…um…see you then.” And he retreats hastily from the pawnshop to the sound of their laughter.
They said to bring everyone to Granny’s and even though she didn’t relish the thought, Mary Margaret was pretty sure that “everyone” had to include Rumplestiltskin and Belle (or Lacey or whatever else she might be calling herself now). And so she found herself standing outside his pawn shop with a bit of trepidation.
The sign said “closed” but when she turned the handle of the door, it slid open easily. The door had opened only a couple inches when someone’s hand came down on her wrist.
Turning, she realizes her wrist has been gripped by David. “Charming…what are you doing?”
“Don’t go in there.” He’s afraid of what she’ll find. After all, he’s made that same mistake several times and has regretted it. The images are not so easy to put out of his mind.
“But you said…”
“I know.” He sticks his head in the door and shouts. “We’re all going to be at Granny’s if you want to join us.”
He hears a muffled curse and a high-pitched feminine laugh right before he locks the door and firmly shuts it.
“What was that about?” Mary Margaret asks.
“You don’t want to know.” And he steers her away from the horrors she might witness in the back room of that pawn shop. It may take David awhile to pick up on things, but he’s finally learned this particular lesson.