Bent over his book by candlelight, Rumpelstiltskin didn't hear Belle's barefooted climb up the turret stairs. Just for once, she was the one to catch him unawares and see him startled from what he was doing.
"Belle." He'd been leaning over the page to read, frowning with the effort. He might look as he had before the curse broke, like the Dark One, but Belle supposed he no longer had the night vision that went with the mask. "Sweetheart?"
"It's late. I've been waiting for you." She'd made sure to change into her nightdress before coming to find him; the one of thin blue silk that left nothing to the imagination if she stood in front of a bright light. She stood with candlelight at her back now and watched her husband blink away his tired eyes, eager to see her.
"Oh yes?" Once more, Rumple carefully laid a ribbon across the page and closed his book. "And you became impatient?"
"Desperately," Belle agreed, deadpan, and held out her hand. "Husband?"
He reached nonchalantly for his cane, sliding from his stool with something of his old ease and grace.
"As you wish." Rumple paused a few paces from her, drinking in the sight of her silhouette, then came and took her hand. "To bed, madam?"
"No, I have a surprise for you." Belle drew him with her towards the stairs, trying to hide her smile. She let him go before her on the stairs, where he needed one hand against the stone wall to keep steady. The stairs were so narrow that it was difficult for him to use the cane, but once at the bottom he turned and waited for her, expression bright with interest.
"Will I like it, this surprise?"
"I hope so." Belle had chosen the gossamer nightgown for its effect on Rumple rather than for comfort, and was beginning to regret it. Her arms were covered in goose-pimples and her feet were freezing. Capturing Rumple's hand again, she towed him towards their bedroom.
"Is it something wanton and debauched?"
She laughed, and the laughter was a release after such a fraught day as this.
"It's something we can only do behind a locked door, certainly. And must never mention to anyone."
"Really?" His thumb caressed her hand as they paused at the bedroom door. "Have you been looking at your new book?"
Belle had almost forgotten about that; the pictures of the two smiling figures, contorted into every imaginable position, and a few that she could not imagine at all. She laughed again and drew him over the threshold, closing and locking the door behind them and then leaning her back against it as though to prevent him escaping.
"I like this surprise already," Rumple said, attempting to close in and kiss her. Belle dodged to her right, towards the fire, her laughter bubbling over when he theatrically closed his grasping hand on empty air and looked at it, crestfallen.
"Come here. By the fire."
She'd put the chair ready for him, facing a little away from the golden flames. She'd built up the fire and brought candles there, and spread pillows across the floor at the foot of the chair. Rumple looked at it all, at the copper basin and stack of cloths, and sniffed the air, which was fragrant with sweet spices.
"Cake? Have you been committing cookery again, my dear?"
Shaking her head, Belle grasped his belt and began to unbuckle it.
"Off with these," she ordered, giving his breeches a tug in the direction of his thighs.
"The boots." Rumple pointed downwards, pretending to be apologetic. He wore his tallest boots, the ones that laced all the way to his thighs, and Belle sighed. She hadn't thought of that, and being sidetracked in her plan made it all seem suddenly very silly. But Rumple's expression hadn't changed; curious, eager, his eyes dark with desire and warm with adoration.
Oh well. She'd taken them off him in more awkward circumstances; his dead weight when he lay injured, so immobile that it had been all she could do to slice through the laces with a knife, and again with him uncooperative on a bed. This time Belle knelt, making sure to drift her hands down his body as she sank onto the pillows at his feet. He fought not to react, but she heard the effort in his breathing as her face became level with his cock. Quite probably quelling his anticipation, she studied it for a moment, curious.
"It was hard this morning. Did you see to it by yourself?" she asked, squeezing him lightly through the leather. Weighing him in her palm, heavy and pliant and seeming no more sensitive to her touch than usual. "Or did it go away?"
"Which would you rather?"
Belle didn't know, but as she gave her attention to the top of his left boot she did think about last night, about how much he had wanted to watch her while she pleasured herself. What would it be like to watch him do it? To sit back, restraining herself so that she could see... what? He'd shown her how to stroke him, grasp him, and seemed content thereafter with her efforts to please him with her hand. He liked her mouth better, and her only regret about that was that she could not pleasure him and see his face at the same time. But Wren had said it so matter of factly, He's got two good hands, don't he?, as if it was something men did all the time, or should do.
"Did you?" she asked, pulling patiently at the criss-crossed laces.
"No." He nudged a strand of hair away from her forehead. "Why, did you?"
"No." Belle turned her attention to the other boot, reflecting that this was far easier while he remained standing. Below the knee, she found that he had taken her advice and stiffened the leather somehow. Not some makeshift splint, this time, but some magic in the leather itself, turning it almost solid without adding undue weight. "Did this help?" She tapped the side of his boot.
But not with the pain, she thought, unlacing this boot right to the bottom to free him without a struggle. He wore thin stockings of silk beneath, but even through that and past his disguised flesh, she could see that the skin was not a good colour. Stiffening his boot had only helped him to keep his balance. She thought back to Odstone, when he'd handed her his cane and turned to face the assembly with his usual showmanship. Had he tested that out at home when she wasn't looking, or simply trusted to luck and magic on the spur of the moment?
"There." She reached up and grasped his breeches again, easing them down his slender legs as far as his knees. "Sit."
Rumple let her take his cane and sat, restoring their smiles by doing so with the air of a king taking his throne, in spite of the ungainly tangle of boots and breeches about his knees. He laid his palms on the wooden arms of the chair, grasping the curved ends and watching her tug off one boot with its stocking, ease off the other, then drag his breeches after them.
"I made a poultice," she said, although he must have guessed as much from what he could see of her preparations. "To ease your pain." She felt flustered saying it, no longer sure of herself, or sure that this would be welcome. "If we can keep it from tightening so badly..." She bit her lip, lifting her gaze to see his face.
"Yes." His reply was a murmur, nothing on his face but curiosity. He let Belle settle his foot on her lap, on a thickly folded towel.
Keenly aware that her hands were clumsy with the unfamiliar task, Belle fished the two bundles of muslin from the basin of steaming water. The heat of them stung her hands, just the right side of being painful, and she realised that Rumple was right; the combination of ingredients did smell like a fruit cake. Nervous, wishing that she hadn't begun this, Belle wrung out the hot water and quickly brought the steaming bundles of cloth to Rumple's foot. She pressed one to the sole of his foot, the other to the front of his ankle, and held them there while looking up to see if the heat made him flinch. Other than a slight grimace, Rumple didn't react at all. He'd closed his eyes, but when Belle began to wrap his foot up in strips of linen, she could feel him watching her. Lastly, she draped another folded towel over the whole thing to better preserve the heat.
Stupid, she thought. He must already have tried this—tried every remedy rather than be crippled by the injury, less able to support his family.
"It might have healed," he said, just as Belle was on the verge of blurting out an apology. "But I walked home as best I could. Home to my boy. I cut a stout branch and just walked. Day after day. That never seemed real, later. Never seemed like a thing I'd go and do, but I did."
Staring past her shoulder and into the flames, Rumple was blank-faced, lost in his memory.
"The pain must have been unimaginable."
"Seems worse now." Rumple put his hand to his mouth, rubbed at his chin, as though he half wished he could take back those words. "Being the Dark One, it's... It isn't just the absence of pain. You can imagine that." Belle nodded, although he still stared straight past her. "It takes all the pain, takes everything you have, and turns it into power. You can't imagine the pleasure of it, how alive that feels. Feels like you can fly."
"Can you?" He focused on her with a slow blink. "I mean," she stumbled, apologetic, "could you?" How easy it was to forget where they really stood when Rumple looked back at her with those peculiar eyes.
"Probably," he admitted, softening as if he'd noticed her, remembered where and when he was and that the woman at his feet cherished him. "I never tried. Thank you, Belle." His voice all but broke on her name. To say more would see him overcome, but he reached for her, a pleading hand. Leaving a stack of pillows to do the work of supporting his bound foot, Belle eased closer to him. She'd meant to snuggle against his legs, but he beckoned her further, so she climbed into his lap instead. Rumple squeezed her there, gratefully, his eyes closed.
Belle studied his face in the firelight. The disguise was flawless; he looked exactly as he had the day she met him. He'd seemed unstoppable, a force of nature, fearless because he had no need to fear anything. It fooled the eye, like the card tricks he'd spoken off, and it worked because the onlooker helped it to work. It was difficult even for Belle to remember that it wasn't real any more; that beneath the scaly skin, Rumpelstiltskin was as frail as anybody else, and with much more reason to be afraid. She supposed that the disguise must help Rumple to fool himself as well. Perhaps most of all.
Resting her forehead against his temple, Belle touched his face and tried to compare it to how he looked as an ordinary man. Couldn't hold the two images in her mind at the same time, only glimpses of his brown eyes, expressive and so much less severe than these inhuman ones.
More relaxed now, his breathing slow and shallow, Rumple began to return her close scrutiny. She'd brushed her hair to a shine before going to him and his free hand found it now, exploring how it moved across his hand and slid between his fingers.
"No ribbon?" he murmured, feigning a pout.
"Oh, I'm wearing a ribbon," Belle assured him, delighted that he'd noticed. "It's just not in my hair."
"Ah." Smirking, Rumple brushed his thumb across her lips. "Such a clever wife. Such a naughty wife."
It wasn't that much of a game, Belle had to admit. Bare beneath flimsy silk, the choice of places to tie a pretty bow was limited. But Rumple entered into the spirit of the game, hooking two fingers at the neckline of her gown and drawing the silk away from her to peer beneath.
"Not there," he observed, gaze lingering on her breasts before he let the fabric fall back. They shared a smile at the silliness of the game, the deliciousness of it being their game. "We sat like this before." He cupped her breast, thumb sliding against silk to tease her nipple. "I didn't dare tell you how beautiful you were in case you remembered in whose lap you were sitting and ran away. How perfect it was to be the one to touch you, show you what could be."
Belle nodded. The memory had inspired her to bring them to the fireside tonight and to have Rumple sit in that chair. Hearing that the memory was equally alive and special for him made her glow with simple happiness.
"I felt like a fool, not knowing what to do or what I wanted. I didn't feel beautiful."
That puzzled him. His forehead wrinkled, the lines emphasised by the roughness of the skin there. He simply couldn't imagine it, Belle realised; couldn't fathom that she ever felt less than beautiful, whether bathed in sweat, contorted with lust or sobbing in his lap at the shock of her first release. To Rumple, she was always beautiful.
Wordless, they agreed on a repeat of that night's endeavour. Belle marvelled at it, at how easy it could be, as Rumple returned his hand to her breast and teased her until the nipple peaked beneath his thumb. Everything was still new, but they had this understanding; every step on the road that brought them here was remembered, significant and cherished. When they acted as one, thought as one, Belle felt that she had known him forever.
"You don't need to be quite so gentle this time," she whispered, and at his lopsided smile of agreement, she remembered how restrained he had been too; all but panting with desire, he'd not even kissed her until afterwards, until he could be sure of her willingness to respond in kind. He hadn't been gentle then, and her body tightened deliciously at the memory of how he'd taken her so hastily the moment he was sure. How he must have wanted her the whole time he was patiently teasing her to a satisfaction she hadn't thought possible. "And you know now that I like it when we kiss."
"You do?" Pretending astonishment, Rumple tickled her ribs. "Hadn't noticed. About this ribbon..." Relenting just before Belle broke down in giggles at the tickling, he reached down and yanked up her nightgown instead, baring her knees. She laughed anyway, then, watching his hand slide beneath the blue silk and onward up her outer thigh. He came to her hip without making any discoveries and pulled a face of exaggerated surprise. "How deeply is it buried? You didn't stick it up y--"
Belle kissed him on the mouth before he could spoil things, and his momentary surprise became a wicked grin against her lips. Beneath her gown, Rumple moved his hand up to her belly, fingers exploring her waist in search of the prize.
"No," she said, barely breaking the kiss.
"No?" His voice made a vibration against her lips, tickling. "Let's see then." He pushed his tongue into her mouth at the same moment that he pushed his hand between her thighs, midway down but creeping upwards. Belle squirmed, delighted and torn between the two sensations; she didn't seem able to fix her mind on both at once, but didn't want to miss a moment of either.
Just as his fingernail met her curls, he felt the ribbon and slid his hand away to follow it. She'd tied it tightly at the crease of her left thigh, a pretty bow of wide silk that was now crushed between her thigh and Rumple's flank.
"Found it," he breathed, rubbing fingertips over it and tracing it back towards her centre. Between her legs, the silk was already slick and he teased it, forgetting their kiss for a few moments without drawing away. "How do I earn it?"
"It's yours," Belle protested, barely getting the words out before they were kissing again, Rumple sliding the edge of his hand against her responsive flesh. He smiled slowly at her little, involuntary gasps and twitches, pleased to find her ready. Just as on that night when he'd first pleasured her, Belle hadn't known how ready she was until his hand went there and found her slippery, the touch almost more than she could bear.
"Then wear it," he urged, dragging his mouth away from hers and hitching her more tightly against him. "Wear it until we're done."
"Yes..." Gulping for air, Belle felt that she'd agree to anything he said. She hadn't meant it to happen this way, to risk undoing her work with the poultice, but he seemed so happy, her Rumple; how could she protest? Besides, he'd only moved his hands. She was the one who lacked the patience to wait.
"I thought I'd get used to it," she confessed to him, almost pitifully. Rumple had scarcely touched her and she couldn't keep still! "To how this feels. To wanting you."
"You're a passionate woman. There's no shame in that." He crooned to her while one fingertip sought out the tender bud of flesh and made her shudder to her bones. "No harm done." Nuzzling her cheek, he stilled his hand and gave her the chance to uncurl her toes. "Do you think I don't love that you want me so? That I've only to touch you to see you melt like this? Let me please you, sweetheart."
Swallowing hard, trying to slow her excited breathing, Belle eased her legs apart to admit his hand. Aware that he no longer had endless reserves of strength, she curled her arm around his neck rather than lean entirely on his supporting arm. Settled like that, she could kiss his cheek, his temple, and look down at her lap to see his hand moving beneath her nightgown. Unhurried, Rumple stroked her inner thigh and toyed with the tight ribbon.
She could hardly bear it; she kept waiting for the moment when he began in earnest, driving her towards the heights of pleasure, but the moment never came. Rumple teased her with dreamy concentration, closing his eyes whenever they kissed and letting his naughty hand go still, distracted by her lips.
Belle became aware, slowly, that she was being savoured. Her every sigh and wriggle, the taste of her mouth and the growing slickness between her legs; he was lingering over everything to better appreciate it. Appreciate her.
He opened his eyes when she buried her fingers in his hair, almost overcome with a passion for him that had little to do with his teasing down below.
"Sweetheart." He barely gave voice to the word, shaping it with his lips just before she kissed him. This time, deep in their kiss, he pushed two fingers up inside her and savoured her groan against his lips. "Belle."
As her world shrank until nothing in it mattered but his busy hand, the bliss of kissing him, Belle's thoughts flew back to that other night beside this fire. He'd whispered in her ear, encouraging her to let go of her reserve and take what she needed from him, and he hadn't kissed her. She'd almost been able to feel the yearning, the nearness of his lips to her ear, but he hadn't kissed her. Then and now, side by side, while his hand moved deftly and his fingers found the magic spot inside her. She'd been sitting the other way, that first time; it had been his right hand doing its magic, strong and sure. Now he used his left, slightly awkward, and she didn't know if he denied her a satisfying rhythm on purpose or because he was doing the best he could with his less-favoured hand. Either way, he kept her at the very edge of release rather than give it to her, and Belle's whole body began to shake with need.
Just when she could bear it no more, he relented and returned his hand to her thigh; rested his had against the chair back and peered at her, eyes hooded and expression knowing.
"You are doing this on purpose!" Belle gasped, her teeth wanting to chatter.
Rumple took a moment to realise her meaning; to catch up with his frantic wife's unspoken thoughts. Then he smiled, amusement without cruelty.
"Don't you like it?"
She did. The frustration that built in her alongside the pleasure was barely familiar to her, he'd been so generous; no sooner arriving than quenched. But this unsatisfied want was a pleasure all its own, the knot of heat inside her bigger than ever before. "Wait with me?" For a moment, Rumple put his hand down between them, catching hold of his cock through the silk of his shirt and adjusting himself so that she could see how hard he was, the thick shape lying easily against his belly.
As if she could deny him anything he asked of her. Belle nodded, unable to tear her eyes away from the sight of him holding himself in a handful of black silk. She stroked her trembling hand over his and felt his arm go tight across her back when she moved the tentative touch to the head of his cock, tracing the shape of him under the cloth.
In the stories, a person could die of unrequited desire, but it seemed quite unlikely to happen in reality. Belle felt unsteady, light-headed, but Rumple was as relaxed as if he'd already come, except when she touched his cock like that. She could feel that go through him like lightning; a shock of pleasure, a hiss through clenched teeth that sounded almost like pain, his whole body stiffening until she relented.
With a sudden flash of guilt, Belle looked down at his bound foot, still resting on its stack of soft pillows. She'd had such good intentions. Rumple stroked her back, earning an echo of a shiver from her overstimulated body.
"That's gone cold," he said. "Why don't we—" Belle cried out as he spun magic all about them, and even that drove her senses mad. When she opened her eyes and let out her breath, disorientation took over until she understood that he had moved them both. Now he was beneath her, flat on his back, and she was astride his thighs, falling forwards for him to catch her by the shoulders. He laughed, holding her until she got her bearings and straightened up. They were still beside the fire, pillows and sheepskins and blankets beneath them. The fire burned low, no longer a scorching golden blaze but a comfortable orange glow on her right arm and thigh.
"We could just have got out of the chair," she said, exasperated with him. Her nerves felt frayed, her desire for him a throb inside her that was only just the right side of pleasant.
"We could." Rumple moved his hands to her breasts, and Belle's gaze followed. "The magic feels good." He tweaked her nipples between thumbs and forefingers, so pleased with himself. Belle bit her lip and tried not to groan aloud or squirm against his thigh.
He still wore the shirt and she the gown, but there was nothing between them; nothing to stop her slipping his cock inside her and satisfying this burning urge. As though reading her mind, Rumple nodded down at himself, hands gliding down her arms from silk-clad shoulder to bare wrist. "Go on," he urged, taking his cock in his hand and holding it ready for her. "Go on, sweetheart."
Thinking that he had relented, thought better of drawing out this game of half bliss and half torment, Belle scrambled gratefully to take him into her body. She was so ready, so wet that it needed no care at all; she let him guide it in and lowered her weight, shuddering with pleasure and looking forward to the climax that surely had to follow from such urgency. Rumple, too, tensed and pushed upward to meet her, a tremor going through his stiff limbs until he forced it away somehow and sagged back into the embrace of the sheepskins. For a second, Belle thought that he was coming, but he was anything but lost. He watched her with eager alertness as she began to rock her weight, to enjoy him inside her.
She understood then, and her body clenched greedily around his cock in answer to the realisation. He was going to stop her before either of them reached the pinnacle, and given how good he felt inside her, she was probably going to scream at him when he did.
"Are you planning to have me beg?" she asked, breathless, thrusting herself down harder and faster as if she could cheat him of his trick.
"No." The softness of his reply melted that spike of greedy resentment, that urge to thwart him and have her fill. Belle slowed, bending forward to watch him more closely. Rumple took her face in both hands and stroked her lips with his thumb in time with her faltering movements. "Remember how it feels," he urged her, deep-voiced and guileless. "How it feels to let go, helpless, your body crying out for joy. Then think how it feels if you wait a little. Deny it a little before you let it finish you." He'd become slightly breathless as he spoke, aroused by his own words, his body tightening again, and he hadn't even finished reaching for her hips when Belle went still of her own accord. She bit her lip, nodding her understanding as his tension subsided, his look of concentration smoothing back into one of such enjoyment that she couldn't possibly object. He'd asked her before to go slowly in touching him, in riding his cock. Was that why?
"I can't think when I'm close," she said. Whimpered. Shocked at the sound of it, Belle closed her eyes and tried to find the self-control that had always eluded her and which her husband, apparently, found almost as pleasurable as their shameless abandon. "I want to..."
Shameless or not, she still found the words a bad fit for the things they did together. Crude, clumsy words for when their bodies made perfect love. But Rumple liked to hear them, poured them into her ear when he was most excited, slipping newer and naughtier ones in with her pleasure so that she barely noticed their arrival.
"I want to move, feel you slide into me, feel our bodies meet."
"You want to fuck yourself on my cock." He laid down the words slowly, like a card trick; sly, knowing, unbeatable. "And I..." He began to catch up the fabric of her nightdress, to lift it. Belle raised her arms and let him pull it away from her, feeling silk peel away from her hot, damp back. "I want to look at your breasts while you do."
Not just look, either. The moment she began to move again, Rumple took hold of them both, kneading and rubbing them with equal attention, another torment as a counterpoint to the building throb in her loins. She tried not to do the things that pleased her the most, not to move just so or think of how she loved him, only to realise that he wasn't asking that of her at all. He asked that she do all of it, devour all of it as she normally would, and then stop herself at the very edge.
"I can't," she moaned, meaning to voice a protest but hearing only a deep satisfaction in the words that spilled out of her. "Don't make me stop," she panted, arching her back and fighting the rising waves, trying to find how he did it. "Oh, Rumple, please..." And there she was, begging him after all, and basking in the revelation that she didn't mean a word of it. This was ecstasy, and when her words brought him too close, when he grabbed her hips and urged her to be still, bucking beneath her in a fight for self-mastery, Belle lifted herself off him with a moan of loss and joined him in the struggle. This was bliss, a panting, squirming, laughing bliss together as she flopped down beside him, her back to the flames, her whole body aglow.
"H-how long?" she managed, unable to keep still and loving how it felt to move with that burning excitement in her lower belly, dominating everything. Even breathing stirred it. The sight of Rumple slowly beginning to stroke himself gave her to wonder if she could actually come without a touch of any sort, just by being so excited that she had no choice but to come.
"A little longer?" It wasn't uncertainty, that question; just a cautious hope that he'd carried her along with this new game of his, this new pleasure. Belle nodded, hardly thinking about it when she touched her own breast, copying what he'd been doing to her before. Squeeze, rub, a pinch and pull at the nipple that felt like pulling on a blazing wire connected to her centre; made her bring her knees towards her chest and whimper aloud. Rumple had to shut his eyes at that, she was delighted to notice; he had to force himself not to finish it with his hand there and then.
"I've never wanted you so badly," she told him, wriggling up close and, hand in his hair, demanding kisses until they were rolling about on the sheepskins, clutching each other and frantic at one another's mouths.
Neither of them really decided that denial was over and fulfilment about to begin. A kiss that rolled her back on top of him for a moment, a long pause to savour the longing, Belle almost moaning at the expression on Rumple's face and the urgency of his nod. Then she had him inside her again, hands braced against his chest, and they couldn't have stopped for anything.
It was impossible to hold anything back, now; impossible to be gentle with one another, impossible to be silent with one another. They drove towards completion, urging one another on, faster, harder, until Belle could do nothing more than feel; nothing more than ride the waves of relief and release as her body convulsed for him, and his beneath her. Bliss consumed her, a white-hot pulse that came over and over, sweet agony, and it went on and on until she ran out of breath and slumped into Rumple's waiting arms, spent.
It felt like a long time before they could move again, Belle shifting her weight to one side and putting her head on his arm so that they could see one another.
Breathing as hard as she was, Rumple tidied her hair with an unsteady hand. Belle had a vision of herself riding atop him, hair flying wildly and sticking to skin damp with perspiration; she could only look a mess, while Rumple looked... happy. Having uncovered enough of her face to satisfy him, Rumple drifted the same hand down her arm, fingertips across her hip, and Belle shuddered head to toe at the touch, at the thought that he might try to make her come a second time. But his goal was a selfish one. His hand found the satin bow at her thigh, which had slipped down far enough to be loose. With a quiet 'mm' of approval, Rumple plucked the bow loose and dragged the ribbon slowly up her body, back along the path his fingertips had so recently traced.
Belle shuddered again at the tickle of the ribbon, as though her body wasn't entirely convinced that it was over. It had to be over. She couldn't even lift her head from Rumple's outstretched arm to smile at him and admire his prize.
"What colour?" he asked, dangling the long strip of satin in the deceptive red firelight.
"Yellow," Belle managed. Her lips were numb with kissing and her tongue was trying to go to sleep without the rest of her. "Golden."
"Ah," he sighed, relaxing beside her and closing his eyes, the ribbon clutched against his chest. He too struggled to speak, the words almost succumbing to a yawn. "My favourite colour.