The sky was moody and grey. It hadn’t yet determined if that was because the sun hadn’t fully risen, or if it was a sign of rain. It didn’t matter to Mr. Gold, who parked his Cadillac behind his shop. He parked there everyday, after all. And every day he took his cane and his keys in hand, and opened his shop. Mr. Gold had a strict schedule, a strict routine. That was how he liked it.
At the back door, key out and ready to be slotted into the lock, Gold paused. There were boots sticking out of the bottom of his shop. Boots attached to two squirming legs, the toes digging into the ground for leverage. If he strained his ears, he could make out faint muttering, followed by a psspsspss.
Gold stared, baffled. The boots were old, but not shabby, and along the lines of what he’d seen the dock-workers wear. He didn’t think any of the men who worked there would have the nerve to—what, exactly? Was this a robbery? If it were, he’d give points for creativity.
Whatever he was doing, he was an unwelcome change to Gold’s routine. He had a shop to open. Gold lifted his cane, knocking the handle against the wood paneling of his shop, firm and loud. As he hoped, the man startled, a muffled thud accompanied with what was now cursing as his head hit the floor above him.
The man scrambled out, his limbs kicking up dirt as he backtracked.
Mr. Gold almost smiled. This was the most excitement he had seen in months.
“And just what do you think you’re doing underneath my shop, dearie?”
The man now stood on his knees. His eyes, widened in surprise, snapped to Gold’s face.
“Glasgo’!” he exclaimed. “Isnae this a shock! ”
Gold raised an eyebrow. Not many people in town much cared where he’d come from, and a good amount of them swore it was somewhere much warmer than Scotland. Glasgow was a dreary place full of nothing of value to him, and he couldn’t say he missed his homeland.
“From Scotland yourself?” Gold found himself asking.
“Aye, I grew up in the highlands in a wee toon near Inverness.” He brushed off the front of his jacket, dusty from crawling around in the dirt. “I thooght I was stuck wi' these Americans, ye ken.” His smile widened, thrilled at the chance meeting.
That still didn't give him the answer he wanted. “What are you doing under my shop?" he asked again. What was he doing in Storybrooke, for that matter? It was still too early in the season for tourists.
The man’s eyes were too wide for his face, and very expressive. They darted away, to the library across the street, and for just a moment he looked like a kid who’d been sent home with a note from the teacher. The library. Of course.
Gold had heard the new librarian arrived last week, having come all the way from—London, was it? The UK, at least. He remembered the name he’d read when he filed the contracts with the city council: Isabelle French. He had seen a second visa for the husband, though Gold couldn't recall reading the name. He would bet his current inventory he was looking at him.
“Mr. French,” Gold said, deciding he didn’t much care what the man’s name was. He relished the look of surprise that appeared on his face for the second time that morning. It made Gold feel more on balance, knowing things people didn’t expect him to. Much more regular, keeping the townsfolk on their toes.
“Och aye, that’s reit.” A smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. He half shrugged. “That’s me, innit.” His shoulders straightened with—pride, was it?
The man was thin, and the baggy clothes he wore only made him look smaller. Even on his knees, Gold could tell he wouldn’t stand any taller than himself, and tall was certainly not a word he could claim. His hair was shaggy but not quite to the point of being unkempt, and he needed a shave.
He also needed to know how things worked around here.
“Mr. French,” he said again, digging his cane into the ground. It was quite easy to look down his nose at him, when the man was already so far below him. “Just what were you doing under my shop?”
“Ah,” French blinked. “I havenae adjusted tae bein' haur yit. Jet lag, I’spose.” At Gold’s unamused expression, he hastened to add, “Sae, I was oot walkin' thes morn when I saw a moggie athwart th' causey. Puir hin' was injured. When I tried tae approach it, it ran under yer shop an' noo won’t come it.”
Gold was viscerally aware he hadn’t set foot in Scotland in nearly thirty years.
“There is a cat under my shop,” he surmised.
“Aye.” He stared up at him, brown eyes wide and waiting.
“What?“ Gold asked impatiently.
“You sound almost American,” French said around a half-smile.
That’s where they were, isn’t it? He pursed his lips. “How are you going to get the cat out, then?”
“If I had something tae wrap her in, I could pull her out safely, I think.” His eyes trailed to Gold’s throat and he knew what he was going to ask the moment before he did. “Do you mind if I knick your scarf?”
Yes, I absolutely do, Gold thought. He pulled the scarf from his throat, the cold air biting at his neck and collar bone, now bare. It was soft and wide, perfect for the early spring, and long enough to wrap around his neck twice and still dangle nicely. It annoyed him, probably more than it should, that it technically was perfect to wrap a cat in.
He held it out to French wordlessly.
“Cheers,” French said, disappearing under the wooden base, leaving Gold to stare at the heel of his boots once again.
Cane in hand, Gold waited.
French spoke in a low, even voice. Gold couldn’t make out what he was saying but it sounded comforting. Hopefully the cat agreed. After a few silent moments, Gold heard a terrible yowling, like a broken siren.
Making much slower progress than before, French inched his way from under the shop, the yowling becoming louder and louder.
“I suppose the noise is a good sign,” Gold said, voice raised over the beastie.
“She’s got a pair of lungs on her,” French agreed. He was smothered in dirt again, the knees of his jeans particularly dark.
He eased himself to his knees, rearranging the bundle in his arms so he had a much firmer grip before he carefully moved to his feet. The cat was wrapped quite securely in the scarf, enough so that Gold could only see a small tuft of dark fur peak through. He took it as further good news that he couldn’t see any obvious wet spots seeping into the fabric. Mr. Gold didn’t like blood.
After a long moment, French coughed. “Where tae now then?” He was cradling the cat like it was a child, holding it firmly to his chest. His hand rubbed circles against it’s back, which did nothing to silence the shrieking.
“You’re not bringing that mongrel inside,” Gold said.
“You dinnae look like much of a veterinarian,” French fired back.
Gold narrowed his eyes. Yes, it would be a vet he’d want. “Marian Hood owns a clinic that’s across the street from the elementary school.” She was known to be quite an early riser herself; chances were she was already inside her building, getting ready for the day.
French looked at him expectantly.
Sighing, he said, “Go north a few blocks and then take a left at the movie theatre. Once you reach Marco’s Woodworking, take another left. You’ll find it eventually.”
“Right. Thanks for the help, Mr. Gold.”
With that, the man turned to leave. Gold looked to the sky. It seemed to be settling on rain, after all. Hm. Gold wasn’t going to offer him a ride; the man had just been rolling around in the dirt. Besides, he had a shop to open.
“Mr. French,” he called, just as the man reached the sidewalk. “It’s too long to walk.”
“Oh,” he said, frowning. “But I don’t have a—”
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Gold started to limp to his caddy. “Get in before I change my mind, Mr. French,” he said, opening the passenger side door with no small amount of sarcastic grandeur.
The ride was broken only by the pathetic wailing of the poor creature, and the quieting shushing of the man who held her.
Gold would open his shop as soon as he dropped them off. Then his routine would be back to normal, and he’d again be ignorant to the existence of Mr. and Mrs. French.
The sunshine was bright through the windows of the pawn shop. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when Mr. Gold opened for the day. Only blue skies could be seen through his shop windows when he heard the bell signal someone had opened his door.
Gold didn’t look up from his ledger. An air of aloof casualness always worked best as a starting point. They were the ones encroaching on his day, after all.
“I’ll be with you in a moment,” he said, making a mark that he would erase later as the sound of heels clicked across his floor. He didn’t look up when the clicking stopped in front of him at the counter. After a pause, a plastic bag was set down on the glass.
Something to pawn, then. Shame. He was almost in the mood to argue about rent. Gold’s eyes flickered up. Standing before him was a woman he’d never seen before. She was quite pretty. At least her profile was; she was currently scanning the shelves of their various glassware and bits and bobs.
“Do you have many books here?” She turned in a slow circle to take it all in.
The woman looked at him. “There’s antiques here, too, right? It’s not just a pawn shop?”
“Books aren’t really what most people think of when they think of antiques.”
“No, because then they’re usually called first editions.”
The corner of his mouth lifted, and nodded his head slightly, conceding her point. “All the same. My apologies.” His regular buyers weren’t interested in books, and certainly no one in town was either.
“I suppose I’m surrounded by enough books, as it is,” she said, sighing.
Gold had a feeling he knew who this newcomer was. He should leave it alone. He had enough work to keep him busy.
“If you’re interested, I can ask my contacts. I know a person or two in the rare books trade.” He knew exactly no one but they’d be easy enough to track down.
She smiled, delighted surprise brightening her eyes. He had been mistaken before, calling her pretty.
“That’s so kind of you to offer. I’ll let you know.”
Mrs. Isabelle French, new head librarian of the Storybrooke Library, was beautiful.
He nodded, not trusting anything he could say to her. She smiled again. It felt like a bullet straight to his chest.
“Yes, well.” Her hand went to the bag, almost forgotten on the counter. “I’m afraid I’m actually here about a different matter. You no doubt know who I am already, but all the same: hello. My name is Belle French, and it’s nice to meet you.” She opened the bag, taking out a familiar scarf.
“I know it’s rude to return something without having it cleaned, especially over a week later and especially with how my husband absconded with it in the first place, but it’s a very fine material? And hand dyed, which of course you would already know.” She bit her lip. The previous surprise on her face had long since evaporated, leaving nothing but worry.
The scarf had been a gift from his son from when the lad had taken a school trip to Europe. Neal had bought it from a boutique he probably shouldn't have been in, proud to present his papa with something that met his high standards. The silk was lovely and soft. It was his favorite; the final thing he reached for when he left the house on chilly days. His son had given it to him, after all, which made it irreplaceable.
“It’s just a scarf, Mrs. French.”
He shook the fabric, wanting to see the full extent of the damage. Near the center were two dark patches, clotting the silk. And there, at the end of one side, was two more.
“The thing is, the lady at the dry cleaners wasn’t sure if it could be saved. We’re on a strict budget until I get paid, and with the surprise expense of emergency vet bills,” she risked a slightly ironic smile, “I can’t justify paying for a service that might not even work.”
“I was the one who gave it to your husband,” he reminded her. “He didn’t snatch it from me. I was under the impression the cat wasn’t yours.”
“She wasn’t.” Shrugging, she said, “She at least hasn’t been chipped nor reported missing. Rum can’t bear the thought of leaving her at the pound, and so it would seem we have a new roommate. And honestly, if we were going to pay for the cost of fixing her up, we might as well take her in. Rum always said he was a dog person through and through, but he’s thrilled we have her now. Honestly it’s worth the bill to see him this happy.”
Mrs. French shook her head, blushing at her rambling. “My point was, if you took the scarf to the dry cleaners yourself, or just bought a replacement, we’ll pay you back for it as soon as my first paycheck comes in.”
“That won’t be for two months, at least.” Government jobs were notoriously finicky when it came to billing cycles, and the town having what could be considered a minuscule government didn’t make the paperwork any less annoying.
“I’m happy to sign something.”
“It’s just a scarf,” Gold heard himself say again. “Don’t worry yourself.”
The woman opened and closed her hands, confused about the lifeline placed in front of her. No doubt she’d been regaled with stories of the cruel, evil landlord from the townsfolk. On a different day he’d be more than happy to meet her expectations. Perhaps he merely wanted to make a good first impression.
She finally seemed to settle on a smile, small and relieved. “As soon as I get the library open, be sure to come visit, alright? I’ll get you signed up for a card, free of charge.”
Was that a wink? Gold had always thought library cards were already free, but then again, the town had been without a library for as long as he’d lived in it.
“Perhaps.” With careful hands, he folded Neal’s scarf into an orderly rectangle. He knew a few tricks for cleaning silk. “Good day, Mrs. French.”
After only a moment of hesitation, the sound of her heels clicked out his door.
Gold decided the best thing to do was put the Frenchs out of his mind. Better yet, avoid them entirely, as it was clear he couldn’t be trusted around either of them.
That didn’t stop him from hearing things. For instance, Belle had moved to the UK from Australia with her father when she was in primary school. She’d met her husband when she was finishing up her master’s degree and coming off a particularly nasty breakup. As Gold heard it, things were fine until her husband was laid off and they had to move in with her father in London. Unhappy, she went looking for any job that would get them out. A head librarian position in middle of nowhere, Maine? Fine. Perfect. And wasn’t that something else, that they only officially married so he could come with her to her new job in America.
Most interestingly, Gold heard they would sometimes go to the diner for breakfast. The morning Gold walked into Granny’s, it wasn’t like he was expecting to see them, or anything. He just thought it was high time he became a patron of the most popular Storybrooke establishment. Support small business, that kind of thing.
“Glasgow,” he heard before the door had even closed behind him.
Mr. French was waving him over to the booth he shared with his wife, a wide grin on his face.
Gold was going to ignore him, of course. He was going to stare straight ahead and pretend he hadn’t heard.
“Mr. French,” he said, walking slowly over to them. “Good morning.”
“Mr. French?” his wife repeated slowly, raising an eyebrow.
A bashful smile Gold couldn’t explain appeared on French’s face. He shrugged at his wife helplessly.
“Join us for a wee bite, Glasgow? We huvnae ordered yet.” He gestured to the menus spread before them, as if Gold needed proof.
He frowned. He already let them off the hook for the scarf. It was mostly his own fault, after all, and he was nothing if not fair. They didn’t pay rent to him, either, since they were residing in the caretaker’s apartment. Moving across continents was expensive; perhaps they hadn’t budgeted enough for it, especially considering the paycheck problem. If that were the case, they could come to his shop and ask like everyone else.
“I only came in for a cup of coffee,” he demurred.
“Oh.” His face fell, like he was actually disappointed. “You can sit here with it, if you want.”
“If he doesn’t want to join us, we can’t make him, Mr. French.” The look on Belle’s face was unreadable as she stared at him over her mug.
“I liked the sound of it, alright?” His mouth pulled up at the corner. “If that’s what he wants to call me, I’m nae gonna stop him.”
She snorted, her own grin breaking free as she laughed.
Gold looked towards the counter forlornly. He was finding he did not have enough caffeine in his system yet. He supposed he could walk away and wait by the counter like everyone else did, but something kept him by the French’s table. Belle had a pretty laugh. Maybe that was it.
“Mr. French is my father,” she finally explained with an eye roll and shake of her head. “This ridiculous man is Robert McWeaver.”
“Nice tae meet you.”
“Apologies for assuming.” He should have paid more attention to the paperwork. It wasn’t like him, not to pay attention.
“You couldnae have known.” Robert McWeaver took a sip from his own mug. “What would you recommend, then?”
“To eat. What’s good?”
Gold wouldn’t know. This was his first time stepping inside for anything other than rent.
“I’m getting the pancakes,” Belle said, eyes on the menu. “Rum’s leaning towards the full breakfast.”
“As close tae an English breakfast as I can get. They got one thing right, eh, the English?” He laughed at his own joke, mouth wide, the crows feet at his eyes giving him a distinguished, friendly look. Gold’s own just made him look old. With his loose clothes and easy smile, McWeaver was the definition of laid back, almost—cool. Someone people gravitated towards. Not that Gold knew anything about it.
But that was the most constant thing he’d heard, wasn’t it? With their wide smiles and kind eyes, it was no wonder how the townsfolk had adopted them so readily. Anyone would be lucky to be their friend, to share in their warmth.
“Take a seat,” Belle said, smiling. “We’ll put an order in, get you your coffee.”
God help him, he almost did just that.
What was with these two?
“Some other day,” he said, turning on his heel. “Ms. French, Mr. McWeaver.”
“We'll hold you to—“ the door latched shut cut off what they were about to say.
Brooding, Gold walked to his shop. Whatever those two were after, they weren’t getting it from him. Besides, there was no room in their happy lives for the heartless, asshole landlord. It was better for everyone if he left them alone. He had held himself apart from the rest of the town for years. That was how he liked it.
Not bothering to flip the sign, Gold went straight to the back, deciding to bury himself in polishing every piece of jewelry in the shop until the lot of it could power a solar panel.
He was working through his collection of wedding rings when the front door opened, bell jangling. A quick look at the clock told him he was supposed to have opened twenty minutes ago. Whatever happened to his routine?
Not bothering with his cane, he stood up and pushed the curtain aside. He promptly froze.
“Mr. McWeaver,” Gold said, frowning at the nickname. He needed to say something before it became permanent. “Ms. French.”
“Call me Rum.” His smile was back, broad and open as ever.
Gold said nothing, just stood in between the doorway. He had expected to have more time before they came to deal. After his retreat that morning, perhaps they thought it best to get it over with.
“You, uh, left before ordering anything.” Belle placed a to-go cup and a bag down in front of him. “We got you a muffin, too, in case you get peckish.”
They stared at him expectantly. Only when their smiles started to dim did Gold manage to clear his throat.
“Thank you,” he offered.
“We weren’t sure how you liked your coffee, so we just got it black,” Belle said helpfully. “I hope that’s all right.”
Gold liked it with enough sugar to make his auntie's teeth pop out.
“Black is fine.”
He was rewarded with a smile.
“Well,” she said, rocking back on her heels. “We have a shipment of new books coming that I need to sign for, so we’ll get out of your hair. Have a great day, Mr. Gold.”
Before he could do more than nod a goodbye, they were out the door, the bell ringing after them. He watched as Rum reached out to take Belle’s hand. Gold watched as they reached the library doors and she dug through her purse one handed for the keys. Rum kissed her neck, and he couldn’t hear the squeal as she batted him away, but he could imagine it. They were like teenagers; blissfully happy and seemingly untouched by the real world.
Gold looked at his coffee, and saw the heat guard had fallen down. He opened the bag. The muffin was blueberry, his favorite.
Staying away from them would be best.
Gold soon developed a new routine. Every morning he’d stand by the front counter of his shop and wait for Belle and Rum to make their way to the diner. He never wanted to go himself, but something always convinced him; maybe if Belle’s dress was blue, or if Rum had his arm around her waist rather than looped through her own. Gold would watch until they were out of sight, then finish up whatever busy work he was doing. After locking the door to his shop he’d make his own way down the street.
When he got to Granny’s, he waited at the front so he could order coffee to go. At least he would, if he ever got that far. As soon as Gold was through the door, Rum would call out to him and insist he join their table. Belle and Rum were never ready to order anyway, which was just as well, as he liked to rest his leg before making the short walk back to his shop. And Gold was finding he quite liked the breakfast spread.
So it went in the mornings. Gold knew sometimes they ate dinner there as well, but there was no pattern to when they went and Gold hadn’t run into them on the night’s he popped in, for rent or otherwise.
Currently, Gold had already walked through the door. He was waiting at the front, by the register. Rum usually noticed him by now. He tapped the handle of his cane. The front bar was white and shiny, as it always was. The glasses behind, stacked and waiting for the waitresses to fill them up, all glistened.
Gold shot a glance at their table. Rum was facing him, his elbows on the table, head in his hands, his face rapt as he listened to whatever Belle was saying. He nodded once or twice.
Gold frowned. He wondered what she was saying. Last week, after stumbling on a story about World War I soldiers and how they bonded over their trauma, she had gone on a tangent of medics and the first studies of shell shock. The time before, how cigars were made. It was no wonder Rum hadn't noticed his entrance if Belle was talking about her current passion. She could have anyone riveted with as little as a sigh.
He stepped aside as one of the tables finished up and left, passing him on their way out. This wasn’t part of the routine. Gold was never supposed to actually order coffee to go.
He had overstepped, that was it. They had likely seen him walk in, but hadn’t said anything in the hopes he left without intruding. He could leave them alone for a single morning to enjoy breakfast as a married couple, for once. Did that mean they didn’t want him there anymore? Maybe they were both too nice to say it to his face, and were waiting for him to take the hint instead.
Gold glared at the cups, standing pristine along the wall, as if he could intimidate them into giving him answers.
That was how Ruby found him when she came out of the kitchen, finally.
“Mr. Gold,” she greeted. “Are you going to sit down?”
He ignored her.
From the corner of his eye, he saw her look at Rum and Belle’s table, then back at him. She rolled her eyes.
“Granny,” she bellowed behind her, causing Gold to jump. “Has the special been updated? Like, on the board?”
“I wrote it last night,” Granny yelled back, muffled by the distance.
“Alright.” Ruby’s eyes were on him, something smug and knowing in their depths.
Attention grabbed by Ruby, Rum finally looked up toward the counter to where Gold was brooding.
“You’re late today,” he called with a frown. “Everything all right?”
Ruby snorted. Gold shot her a glare which she promptly ignored.
“Take a seat, Mr. Gold,” she said with a bright smile. “I’ll get started on drinks.”
Rum was still staring at him, eyes overwide and welcoming. He had such an expressive face, so open, so telling, so. Gold wondered what he’d look like below him, panting and wanton.
When Gold continued to stand there, Belle turned as well, looking over her shoulder. Her hair was down today, the sheek brown curls cascading down her back. His fingers itched with his want to bury them in her hair, cradle her head while he kissed her.
These were not new thoughts; they had always been there, just below the surface. He swallowed, trying to bury his feelings deep in his stomach, keeping them from sight.
With numb feet, he limped to the table. Belle scooted to the side, making room for him to slide next to her. He liked the mornings he sat next to Belle; he could smell her perfume, light and floral like roses. And Gold liked when he was facing Rum; half the fun of listening to Belle was watching her husband.
“We havenae ordered yet,” he was saying now, folding his arms on the table and leaning forward. “Just waitin’ for you.”
They were too sweet for him. All this time, Gold was pretending it was just good timing on his part. Oh, but it hurt his heart, to be expected.
“Sorry for the delay,” he said quietly.
“It’s no problem at all.” Belle bumped him with her shoulder. The heat of her burned. “I was just regaling Rum about a new book Ariel recommended, about Octopuses, of all things.”
“Calling them ‘octopi’ is wrong, apparently,” Rum said. “And they have three hearts. And,” he sat up straighter, taking his arms off the table when he spotted Ruby approaching from the kitchen. “And, they remember their handlers, and especially the grudges they hold against each of them.”
“How about we order, and then we’ll catch you up to speed,” she teased.
“I would love nothing more,” he said. He meant every word, from the bottom of his decrepit heart.
When Gold told himself he had to stay away from them, he meant it. It was Belle and Rum who didn’t seem to get the memo. And okay, maybe he had developed a taste for Granny’s coffee.
At least he could admit to himself now that he didn’t want to stay away. The chance that they felt as deeply for him as he did for them was impossible, the thought of them willingly taking him into their bed was unthinkable. But he could have their friendship. If their mornings together in the diner was all he had of them, he’d cherish that time fiercely.
Seeing one of them alone wasn’t something that happened often, though. Yet here Rum was, no sign of his wife in sight, fidgeting in his shop as if he were a stranger.
“What are you doing here?” Gold asked.
“What, am I not allowed?”
His accent had mellowed in the couple months he’d been in town, through necessity if nothing else. It was a continued source of amusement for Belle that their accents thickened whenever they talked to each other.
Gold put down his pen. He was going through a list of items from an estate sale down south, but that could wait. Spreading his arms across his counter, he gave Rum his full attention, patiently waiting for him to get to the point, or leave. He was used to these sorts of games. Usually he could guess what the other player wanted, though.
Gold would have thought if they wanted something from him they would have asked a long time ago, but situations changed. He hadn’t heard of Rum rescuing any more wayward animals.
Rum’s full attention was currently on the paintings that hung on the wall behind him. Perhaps it was about his pride.
“Do you need a job?” Gold asked.
That surprised Rum enough to make him look over. “A job?” he asked, frowning.
“You don’t work,” Gold pointed out. He knew what Belle’s salary was. It was enough to sustain a two person household, but barely. He couldn’t imagine there was any left at the end of the month to for savings.
“Legally, I can’t. Couldnae get a work visa. Figured it was lucky enough Belle wanted me to come with her at all.” He shrugged. “If it comes to it, I’ll wash dishes at Granny’s. Said she’d pay me under the table.”
“I like not working, to be honest. I’m good at being a house husband.” He flashed a crooked smile, but there something hesitant in it, like he expected derision.
Rum wandered closer, leaning his hip against the counter. “Yeah. I like being able to make a home for Belle. It’s a great feeling, when she comes back to a tidy apartment and a warm meal.”
An image of Rum in a retro house dress, makeup neat and apron pressed, flashed in his mind. Better to focus on that then the stab between his ribs, knowing he was going to a cold, empty house devoid of Rum and Belle’s warmth.
“Now that’s an idea, innit?” Rum perked up, eyes expectant.
For a second, Gold was worried he had spoken aloud. “What is?”
“Dinner. I’m a good cook. Come and try it.”
Gold barked a laugh. Of all the things for him to suggest.
Rum looked down, his smile fading quickly. “It was just an idea,” he mumbled.
Afraid he’d leave, Gold reached out, grabbing his hand where he lay on the counter.
“I thought you were going to ask me for money,” he tried to explain. “Or some other sort of deal.”
Rum looked at their hands. He flexed his, but didn’t pull away. “Uh, right. Makes sense.” He straightened. “So, dinner? You’ll come?”
“Of course. When were you thinking?”
He shrugged. “Tonight, tomorrow. When—Friday!” Rum shouted, tugging his hand like an electrical current had gone through them. “Come Friday.”
“Okay,” he agreed, bemused.
“Just, uh, you open later on Saturdays? And Belle does too, at the library. Friday is best.”
“Expecting a late night?”
His eyes widened, brows drawing together. “Maybe? You know, just in case.”
“I’ll bring the wine,” Gold said after a pause.
“That would be perfect.” This time when Rum smiled, it looked genuine. “It’s a date.”
He had chosen a rosé. He hadn’t asked much about what Rum was planning on serving, wanting to be surprised. And rosés paired nicely with all most things..
With one final brush down the front of his suit, he knocked on the apartment door. Seconds later it opened, revealing Belle wearing a bright dress and a brighter smile.
For a moment he was struck mute, words lost as he stared at her. She was so lovely.
“Come in, come in,” she said, not seeming to notice his state. She reached out for him, sliding her hand along his back as she guided him inside. “I’m so glad you could make it.”
The apartment was small, but cozy. The living room was big enough to accommodate a TV and a sofa, and to the left a dining table with four chairs, but not much else. Not that it kept Belle from piling books on every conceivable surface, including the floor along the walls. Gold couldn’t help but smile at that. Everything was neat and tidy, excepting the books. A perfect home, all things considered.
Rum poked his head out of the kitchen. “Hey, Glasgow,” he called. “Make yourself comfortable.”
He hadn’t been too far off when he imagined the apron. “Smells good,” he said, not having anything better to say. And it did, the heady aroma or sizzling meat and spices heavy in the air. It would seem Rum hadn’t been exaggerating when he said he was good at this.
“I hope you like it. Should be ready soon.” He disappeared into the kitchen.
Gold felt Belle’s arm tighten around him. When he looked, there was a small smile playing on her lips.
“Yes?” he asked.
“Nothing.” She gave him a final squeeze before letting go. She took the bottle of wine from him before walking to the table. “He wants to impress you. We both do.”
That warmed him up from the inside in a way he chose not to examine too closely right then. “That right? You cook, too?”
“God, no. But I am the master of doing dishes.”
They were interrupted by a meow, coming from the ground.
“Hello again,” he said to their roommate. “You’re looking well.” He had never gotten a good look at the cat when Rum rescued her from beneath his shop. She was a handsome creature, a long-haired tuxedo. She looked completely healed, and would have looked completely normal too, had it not been for a missing eye. The socket was closed, and almost unnoticeable if it weren’t for the brilliant blue of her other eye.
That one eye blinked up at him. She mewled again before turning around, and he expected her to stalk off. Instead, she sat on his shoes. She weighed as much as a sack of feathers.
“You can’t have him, too,” Belle said.
The cat started to purr. Apparently, she thought otherwise.
Belle shook her head. “She’s intent on stealing all the men in my life, I swear.”
Gold wasn’t sure what to say to that. “What’s her name?” He asked. That was safe.
“Oh you’ll like this,” Belle said with a conspiratorial smile. “We named her Forte, on account of her looking like a music sheet, and being quite loud when she wants to be.”
“Aye, I remember. Fortan means luck in Gaelic,” Gold offered.
“Yes! Rum was quite proud of that. He can’t usually think of puns.”
Gold shifted, lifting up a foot experimentally. Forte ignored the hint.
When he looked at Belle, she was staring at him, biting her lip.
She shook her head. “I’m happy you’re here.”
Gold managed a nod. “I’m happy I’m here, too.” He tried to flash a smile. He hoped she didn’t mistake it for a grimace.
“Good.” Her gaze was intense, scorching.
Unable to bear it, he looked down at the cat, still on his feet. Her tail brushed his legs. He heard a timer go off.
“Belle,” Rum called. “Can I have a hand?”
“Take a seat, if she’ll let you go, the little monster,” Belle said cheerfully.
“I’ll pour the wine,” he said.
She shot a smile over her shoulder, disappearing into the kitchen.
He lifted his foot again, and Forte accepted he was serious this time. She slunk over to the couch, jumping up to the cushion gracefully before plopping down.
Gold had just filled the final wine glass when Belle came back. She set a basket of dinner rolls on the table, along with a bowl of salad. “He wanted to make buttered cabbage,” Belle said. “Apparently it’s a good side dish for this in Scotland, but I put my foot down.”
“Thank God for you, Belle French.” He pulled her chair out for her, making sure she was quite settled before taking his own seat.
Rum chose that moment to appear, dish in hand. He set it proudly in the center of the table, removing the foil with a flourish. All Gold could see was a white top,even except where a fork had been run through to create a swirling effect. The peaks were a crispy, golden brown.
“Shepherd's pie,” Rum announced. “Though I couldn’t get lamb on such short notice, so it’s actually cottage pie.” He shrugged. “Still good, I hope.”
“Still good,” Gold agreed, feeling his mouth water. Sizzling ground beef, cooked with onions, peas and carrots, drenched in a rich brown gravy. Then topped with a thick layer of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. He hadn’t had it in years.
Rum was indeed a good cook. He scraped his plate clean, full from having second helpings.
“Was there something specific you had in mind for after dinner?” Gold asked, taking a sip of wine. The bottle was empty; an easy thing to do when split between three people.
Belle and Rum shared a look. “What do you mean?” Belle asked.
“Rum mentioned a late night. I assumed that meant board games. You seem the type,” he said warmly. Gold had been looking forward to it, honestly. He hadn’t played anything of the sort since before Neal moved out. “Something tells me you’d make a worthy opponent at Scrabble,” he said to Belle.
Belle shot her husband a look, who was looking intently at his wine glass. “He told me he had lost his nerve.”
“Sorry?” His heart stopped in his chest. This wasn’t supposed to be about a deal. That’s what Rum had said.
She seemed to read the disappointment in his face. “My husband and I owe you nothing of monetary value, Gold. We have no intention of changing this.”
“All I can offer are things of monetary value.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Rum muttered, staring at the legs of wine as they cascaded down his glass.
Belle cleared her throat. “I do actually have Scrabble, somewhere. And we have a deck of cards. If you’d like, we can certainly find a game to play. But we were thinking of a group activity of a different nature,” she said, licking her lips. His eyes followed the path of her tongue, and she smiled, wide and sultry.
“Ah?” His brain short-circuited. She couldn’t be implying what he thought she was. He looked to Rum for help, but he was staring at his wine as if trying to boil it with his mind.
Belle took pity on him. “Join us for a night.”
“Only one?” He asked before he could stop himself.
That got Rum’s attention. His head shot up, and he put his glass down with more force than necessary, almost knocking it over. The beginnings of a crooked smile played on his lips.
“Doesnae have to be.”
“Let’s see how we like it, first,” Belle said reasonably.
Gold didn’t ask why, out of every other sorry bastard in this town, they chose him. He didn’t question their taste or their eyesight. Instead, Gold nodded. Yes, a night with them was everything he had ever wanted.
Belle swallowed the last of her wine, head thrown back as she drained her glass. Gold followed the line of her throat as she swallowed, finally feeling like he was allowed to look.
“Leave the dishes,” she said to Rum. She scooted her chair back, holding out her hands to them. “And let’s go to bed.”
From there, it was easy.
Gold followed them into their bedroom, Rum being careful to shut the door behind them so Forte couldn’t get in to interrupt. The room was just as tidy as the rest of the apartment, with stacks of books on every conceivable surface. The bed was queen size, and he liked the thought of them three of them sharing the space. He hoped they’d let him stay for a while, after.
Rum cleared his throat, drawing Gold’s attention.
“Can I kiss you?” he asked, quiet, almost shy.
Gold licked his lips.
Before he could blink, Rum’s hands were on either side of his face, his thumbs brushing his cheek bones before his mouth collided with his. He started sucking on his bottom lip, causing Gold to whimper. Rum’s hand slid up, brushing through his short hair while the other ran along the back of his neck before settling in the space just above his collar bone.
Gold’s own hands were clutching the sides of Rum’s baggy shirt, pulling him closer and closer. As his tongue pushed past his lips, one hand cradled his jaw, turning his head slightly so he could push inside for a deeper kiss. Rum moaned happily, trying to suck on his tongue.
When they finally broke apart for air, Belle grabbed his head, turning it so she could kiss him deeply next. He leaned into her, almost stumbling before catching himself on her shoulder. Expecting the fabric of her dress, he was met with her bare skin. Gold broke the kiss so he could see.
While Gold and Rum had been busy necking, Belle had taken the time to undress. All she wore now was her lingerie, the dark blue silk making her skin almost glow.
If Gold hadn’t been hard already, seeing her chest, her belly, her legs, would have undone him completely.
“Oh,” he breathed. He kissed her again, feeling her smile. She undid his tie, then started to unbutton his shirt, slowly leading him to the bed. Gold didn’t have his cane, he couldn’t remember where he had left it, but it didn’t matter with Belle and Rum there to guide him forward.
When he was laying down on the bed, Belle kissed him again, pushing his back into the comforter as her mouth ravaged him.
He lifted his hips so Rum could pull off his trousers, then socks, and Belle finally got him to shrug out of his shirt. She eyed his chest hungrily, like he was dessert.
Belle went for his throat then, sucking and licking the skin there. He moaned as she worked lower, nibbling across his collar bone. Gold’s hands reached for her, wanting to fill his hands with her creamy skin.
“No touching,” Belle decided, giggling as she grabbed his arms, pinning them to his sides. She lightly bit his nipple, the breath of her laugh skimming over his wet chest as he gave a jolt.
Rum kissed his hip bone, before taking off his boxers. Then he was bare and achingly hard. Now free of all his clothes, splayed on his back, there was no friction, no barrier, to keep him sane. Just consistent, blazing want.
“Rum,” he groaned as Belle continued to kiss, lick and bite his chest. “Please.”
Rum shrugged out of his own shirt, was undoing the zipper on his jeans. Gold watched them fall to the floor before he stepped out of them. His eyes came up to settle on Rum’s bulge.
“Please,” he said again, voice hoarse.
Rum made eye contact. His eyes jumped to Gold’s cock, bobbing and thick. Then his hands were on the inside of Gold’s thighs, pushing his legs apart so he could settle between them. Gold saw a flash of his pink tongue before his mouth had swallowed his cock whole.
Gold yelped, his hips jerking upwards sharply. Instead of gagging (Gold had an apology already at the ready), Rum groaned. He pulled back so he could suck the head, then swallowed him down again.
Rum moaned blissfully around him, hallowing his cheeks as he sucked. Gold whimpered, desperately trying to keep his hips still. But fuck, he was good at this. After a few minutes of bobbing on his cock, Rum swallowed, taking him deeper until he hit the back of his throat and his nose was pressed to his pubic bone.
Gold grit his teeth, not wanting to come yet. But it was hard, impossibly hard, when Rum’s mouth was so hot, so good. When Belle’s hands were skimming up and down his sides, tortiously slow.
She looked down at her husband, hungrily sucking Gold off. Her eyes were blown out completely, and she wet her lips. Almost absently, she pinched Gold’s nipple. He whined high in his throat.
“He’s so good with his mouth, isn’t he?” she said, voice low. “God, that tongue.”
Gold could only whine, and keep whining as Rum sucked harder.
“I’m there,” he tried to warn him. “Fuck, Rum, I’m—“
Rum pulled back, but he kept the head in his mouth and used his hand to wank him off. Gold came across his tongue, panting. Closing his eyes, he sunk further into the soft bed, trying to catch his breath.
“Save any for me?” He heard Belle ask.
“Sorry, love,” he said, and Gold heard a smacking of lips.
“No, you’re not.” They kissed. Belle moaned; she could taste Gold on his tongue. Fuck.
“You can have him for round two.” Rum rubbed his thighs, using them for balance as he leaned forward and gave another kiss to Gold’s hip bone.
“I’m holding you to that.”
There was the soft sound of fabric gliding against skin. Gold felt the bed shift as Belle straddled his hips, legs on either side of his thighs. He opened his eyes when Belle kissed him; she was gloriously bare. His arms wound around her shoulders, a hand burying in her hair, keeping her in place.
He expected Rum to come close, but instead he backed off. Instead, he moved behind Belle. Gold felt a wave of molten heat go through him at the thought of Belle being fucked by her husband while she lay over him, panting in his ear as she took it deep and hard.
Wanting to entice Rum, Gold ran his hands down her soft sides, over her rump. He gripped her where her arse cheeks met her leg, his pinky and ring finger over her cunt lips, and he held her open, on display. She was already so wet, he had to let go so he could get a better grip.
Belle hummed, pushing her breasts into his chest and sticking her arse up, giving her husband a better view.
“Like this, Gold?” she asked, sucking on his neck. He hoped she left a mark.
“Fuck,” Rum breathed, his eyes drawn to her open cunt. “Oh, Gold, if only you had this view.”
“Describe it to me,” Gold said.
“She’s so wet and pink. Fuck, Belle.”
Her breath caught, and she pushed her arse back. Gold guessed Rum was using his fingers on her.
“You’re so wet. Did you like that, watching us?”
“Of course.” She wiggled, spreading her legs wider, bringing her knees up as best she could. Gold spread his legs again, too, helping to keep her open. “You two look amazing together. So beautiful.”
“What else?” Gold asked. He felt fingers skim from Belle’s thighs to his. Rum cupped his balls. He gasped, feeling a thumb press into his perineum, then down to circle around his anus, before coming back up.
“And here’s you, all spent. I did that. You taste so good, Gold. I want to suck you again.”
Gold moaned as Rum pressed his soft cock against Belle’s heat. She was ready and wet and perfect.
“Fuck, I can’t wait for you to get hard.”
Belle whined, trying to get the angle right to move her clit against Gold’s pelvis. “You said I got him next.”
Rum laughed. He let go of Gold so he could run his hands over the back of Belle’s thighs. “I did. Do you want to fuck her, Gold?”
He hissed an affirmative, hands leaving imprints where they still held Belle open.
“Should we wait, Belle? Let him have you first?”
“No, God! Rum! I need it now,” she begged, wiggling. “Fuck me now.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Yeah, I’ll fuck you.” He let go, eyes turning a bit more critical so he could figure out the position. “Close your legs, Gold, so I can fit,” he ordered, softly. Gold happily acquiesced, and he watched as Rum settled behind Belle, his knees pressing into the bed in between theirs.
Slowly, he guided his cock into his wife.
Gold let go of her arse, hand moving to tip her head up, searching for her eyes. “Look at me,” he murmured, wanting to see the moment she was filled up.
Belle bit her lip in bliss. Her eyes widened slightly when Rum bottomed out. He leaned forward so he could kiss her shoulder, giving them both time to adjust to the position.
“Good?” Rum asked.
She shuddered when she pushed her hips back into his, her clit sliding along Gold’s pelvis beautifully. “Oh, that’s perfect,” she breathed, eyes locked onto his.
“I’m not going to last,” her husband warned, pulling back before fucking into her.
Belle moaned, grinding onto Gold as she leaned into her husband’s thrusting hips. “Neither will I.”
One hand in her hair, the other gripping her upper arm, Gold held his breath as he watched her. She was stunning, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes clouded over with lust.
“Are you going to come, Belle?” Gold asked her. “Does he feel good inside you? Fuck, I bet he feels so good.”
Belle could barely nod. “Deep. Hard,” she panted. “Almost there.”
Her breath caught, and she clenched hard on Rum’s cock, slamming back against him, then stilling. Her orgasm triggered his, and with a grunt, he emptied inside her, hips stuttering.
Gold pulled her down for a kiss, and she went happily, boneless and sated. Once Rum caught his breath, he pulled out, flopping down beside Gold with a sigh.
Belle tucked herself against Gold’s chest, watching her husband cool down beside them.
The silence that fell on them was easy and soft, broken only by the occasional pawing of Forte at the door.
When she mewled, Rum looked up, and it seemed like he might let her in.
“Not yet,” Belle said. “I was promised round two.”
She pushed herself up, looking down so she could see where she had been rubbing herself against Gold’s pelvis. Rum’s spend seeped out of her, slicking her way.
“Fuck,” Gold breathed, unable to tear his eyes away.
It didn’t take much longer for Gold to harden again, helped by Belle’s skillful hand. She wasted no time in mounting him. She slid all the way down his shaft. She pumped her hips, delighted at feeling him so deep.
She was so wet; so hot and wet and already filled with cum and it was a good thing Gold had climaxed once already because he wasn’t sure how he would have lasted otherwise.
As it was, he was happy to watch as Belle took him for a ride. Gold’s attention was quickly drawn to her breasts, and he watched them bounce up and down. He wanted to suckle them, feel their weight in his hands. He hadn’t paid nearly enough attention to that part of her yet.
Rum moved so his head was laying on his chest, fingers circling one of Gold’s nipples as his eyes were glued to the area Belle and him were connected. As Belle moved up and down, Rum began to kiss and nip at Gold’s pecks, then his rib cage, his abdomen. He circled his tongue inside Gold’s belly button, making his stomach clench and his hips jolt. Belle’s moving hips kept him from being able to go down any further, and he sweetly got her attention.
“Lean back a little,” he requested.
That meant she stopped moving against him, and Gold moaned in protest.
“Like this?” She was spread open again, thighs wide, hands supporting her weight where they rested on either side of Gold’s legs.
“Exactly like that.” Rum latched onto her clit and sucked. She gasped, hips bucking hard against Gold’s cock.
“Fuck, Rum,” she said, clenching.
They set up a new rhythm. Belle worked herself up and down Gold’s cock while Rum sucked at the base of him, and Gold did his best not to utterly combust. Belle ground down when she got to the bottom, and Rum’s tongue flicked up to meet her.
The closer she got to finishing, the closer she stayed, and soon all she was doing was grinding back and forth on his cock, Rum latched to her clit.
Gold’s legs spread in answer to Rum’s searching hand; he felt it close around his balls and his hips jolted in response. Fuck, but that was heaven; Belle riding his cock while Rum played with him like he was a pair of ben wa balls. He moaned, low and deep and long, when Rum tugged them down, then up against the base of him, squeezing.
His hands gripped Belle’s hips tightly as he held her against him and emptied himself into her. He couldn't even moan; she’d taken the breath straight from his lungs.
With a final but heartfelt, “fuck,” Belle clenched, thighs shaking in aftershock. Gold would forever remember the blissful smile on her face as she came on his cock.
Before she could fall over, and it looked like she might, the poor lamb—Rum was there to wrap her in his arms, and help her down. Rum pulled down the comforter with no help from them, but soon enough, they settled into bed, curled into the sheets on either side of Gold. Rum kissed his neck below his ear, entwining their legs as Belle happily murmured into his chest.
“Do you need another one?” Gold asked into Rum’s hair.
He felt the smile against his neck. “I already have everything I need.”
Gold was still boneless when he finally looked at the clock; it was late but not terribly so.
“When do you want me to leave?” He didn’t want to ask, but felt he should. Besides, he didn’t think he could manage a round three. He could barely keep his eyes open, and he felt satisfied and content in a way he hadn’t in years.
Rum mumbled something unintelligible, legs tightening around Gold’s, face pressed harder against his shoulder.
“Don’t leave,” Belle murmured, moving closer herself. She blindly tried to kiss his cheek and missed. “In the morning, Rum will make tomato on toast.”
“Oh. Okay,” he said, not needing to be convinced.
In the morning, he’d wake to Forte’s tail flicking in his face and Belle wearing his shirt, Rum still curled into his side, but for now he was content to sink into sleep.