Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://download.archiveofourown.org/works/1327750.Rating:Teen And Up AudiencesArchive Warning:Graphic Depictions Of ViolenceCategory:GenFandom:Once Upon a Time (TV)Relationship:Belle/Rumplestiltskin | Mr. GoldCharacter:Mr. Gold, Belle (Once Upon a Time), Captain Hook | Killian Jones, Gaston (Once Upon a Time), Emma SwanAdditional Tags:Very AUStats: Published: 2014-03-17 Completed: 2014-09-04 Chapters: 32/32 Words: 48688 The Lawyer by Strummer_Pinks
Mr. Gold is a divorce lawyer, estranged from his own family and Belle is a client with a case against her vengeful husband Gaston LaRoux. What happens when Gaston takes matters into his own hands with tragic consequences?Chapter 1: The Lawyer
Mr. Gold had seen many divorce cases in his time in divorce and family law with SBG and Associates. He’d represented both women and men and usually found that when the divorce was acrimonious there was usually enough fault to go around with both parties. However French vs. LaRoux wasn’t like the others.
First of all, Belle French was a lovely woman and he genuinely felt sorry for what she’d gone through from her husband Gaston LaRoux. There were documents from the police indicating there had been physical and mental abuse. Sometimes he got the feeling that there had been a sexual side to it as well that she didn’t feel comfortable telling him and it made him feel incensed and queasy. No matter how many times he’d seen abuse in divorce cases he’d never grown immune to the fury it gave him, that someone could turn something so precious and naturally beautiful as love and partnership and distort it into some kind of cruel prison like this Mr. LaRoux had done.
Gold liked to joke to put his clients at ease. Divorce and custody battles were stressful and his clients often arrived so nervous and wound up ahead of time, it helped to get them to relax just to be able to have a sensible conversation.
“How do I know you’re the best lawyer for this?" Ms. French had asked him when they first met.
“Because not only am I the president of the law firm, but I’m also a client,” he’d quipped, imitating the old Hair club for Men infomercials from TV.
She’d looked perplexed, not quite getting the joke. He’d have to think of something new, he admitted, the reference was getting old. He wondered if she was old enough to remember Chia Pets, he wondered.
“I’m divorced myself, so I know a bit about it,” he explained, making a face.
She smiled a little at his grimace, and the small smile seemed to light up her face like a bulb. He wondered if she had a nice laugh, before bringing his focus back to the task at hand. It didn’t do to mix business with pleasure and hitting on her was no way to help her with her current problems.
For her part, she had been worried about going to a lawyer, even though her family had encouraged her. She knew she deserved money for the house as she had helped pay for it with part of her wages from the flowershop originally, but she still couldn’t shake her fear of her ex-husband. Anything that might drive him to anger was still so hard for her to do, and it made her feel ashamed of herself. What had happened to the undergrad, with all her beliefs in feminism and equality and desire for higher education? Instead, when it’d come to her private life, she’d gone straight from the shitty home situation she’d been born into, to one she’d created herself that was even worse. It’s just at first it had seemed so different, something resembling the love she’d read about in storybooks, not the animosity and fighting her parents engaged in at home. But it had all been an illusion, a combination of Gaston not showing his full hand at first, and her trying to hold onto the illusions in her mind even when reality began to resemble something else entirely. And now she was paying the price for the bad deal.
She’d thought dealing with a lawyer might be part of this unpleasantness. She’d seen enough Saul Goodman types on TV and she was all ready to expect someone fast talking, insincere and sleazy, but she was amazed to see that Gold genuinely cared, that he sympathized with her situation and wanted to help her and not just for a fat pay check or a love of verbal sparring with some other lawyer.
In his office Mr. Gold noticed Ms. French was sweet and funny, with a caustic sense of humour and a wit and intelligence to her that he hadn’t noticed when he first took her on as a client. Then she had seemed so scared, as if her ex-husband might pop out of at her from every passing shadow.
She’d changed since she’d gone back to university to pursue a degree in library science. She held herself with confidence, looked him in the eye when they talked and was no longer afraid to disagree with him on certain points. He had to say that student life agreed with her. While everyone talked about lawyers being scammers, few people outside the trade talked about the legion of clients who tried to pull the wool of their lawyers’ eyes about what the other party legitimately owed them. Mr. Gold knew just what lake to tell those folks to jump into. He hadn’t been born yesterday. While plenty of his clients with far less to complain about than Ms. French liked to play the victim card or hide their own transgressions from their lawyer, she had always been straightforward with him and in a profession such as his, that was a thing to be treasured.
What Ms. French wanted from Mr. LaRoux seemed right and fair to Mr. Gold, and not just because he was her lawyer. Her claim was for half the money from the house she and LaRoux had once lived in, the house he’d thrown her out of, and then sold, keeping all the profits for himself, when the house had been bought and paid for by the two of them together, with her wages as well as his.
Belle really only cared about the money in so far as it would go to pay for her to finish school, as she was already in enough student debt to begin with. Even this fairly innocuous settlement was something she was afraid to engage LaRoux in.
When Mr. Gold asked her once exactly what she was afraid of, she only looked back sadly at him. “Maybe I’m just a coward,” she said her voice husky with pent up emotion, shame.
“No you’re, not,” he insisted his voice taking on just an edge of anger. Sensitive to any indication of this particular emotion, she seemed to shrink back in her seat, away from him.
Couldn’t she see, Gold thought, that he wasn’t angry with her, but with the kind of pathetic excuse for a human being that would take such a fine, spirited woman and try to squeeze her essence down into something he could bully and control? How had LaRoux gotten away with treating her that way? Gold thought. Had she been with him, he knew he’d have loved her as an equal, not like a carelessly treated possession.
“Listen, anybody would be afraid, after what’s happened to you,” he said evenly. “Courage doesn’t come from an absence of fear.” Feeling emboldened by his words himself, Gold touched her hand. “Courage comes from being afraid, but doing what you know is right anyway.”
That day when she left the office, she thought that if the world had been different, if she’d finished school the first time around like she wanted to, maybe Gold was the sort of man she would have met and married, not someone large, blunt and physically cruel, but someone small and sharp and clever and kind. But it was too late for that now, she thought wistfully. Still, she cautioned Gold to look out for Gaston. She knew he didn’t fully understand how her ex-husband could be, the lengths he could go to retain the things he thought he owned or revenge himself on those who angered him, lengths that could include violence at times.
Things went surprisingly well at the trial, all things considered, thought Belle. Gold brought up the “anonymous” threats she’d received through the mail and harassing letters stuck on her car windshield to the judge and Gaston didn’t run across the room and throttle him. Most embarrassing for her were the large number of threatening e-mails (sent anonymously of course), to the law firm itself, including ones that featured specifically nasty things Gaston planned to do to Mr. Gold himself. Gold for his part, seemed completely unruffled by the threats as he read them out to the court room in as flat a tone as if he was reading some simple piece of legislature, although Belle did notice a slight blip in his voice when he read the line about castration, even Gold wasn’t that cool of a cucumber.
None of these things did anything to shore up Gaston’s case, even though it was difficult to link them directly to him without full proof and an admission of guilt. But when the evidence was all over the judge awarded her all they had asked for and then some for additional pain and suffering and a restraining order against Gaston.
As they walked out of the courtroom, Gold put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “You did great in there,” he whispered. “Knew you had it in you kid,” he said and she beamed because she had been so nervous and also he sounded a bit like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.
And now it was all over and she could have a life and keep on with her studies at school and finally get the job she’d always wanted at the library and who knows, maybe later get someone new in her life who treated her like she should be treated and maybe if the whole lawyer/client thing was over by then and they were back to being regular citizens they could date or something. Her mind spun with new thoughts and feelings. It was a ridiculous fantasy she knew, but theoretically possible. Possible. She liked the taste of that word. So much was possible now. Now that she was free at last.
They emerged from the courthouse out into the parking lot and the afternoon sun was warm on their formal courtroom clothes. When they had arrived at court the sky had been full of grey clouds and spitting rain, but now it was bright blue and glowing like an omen of good things to come.
Gold loosened his tie. “Where are you parked?” she asked him.
“Nowhere,” he said, lifting his umbrella. “I walked here earlier. The office isn’t too far from the court.”
“Well then, let me drive you back,” she said with a smile. “It’s the least I can do.” Belle bent over the car to unlock it with her key. Someday she hoped she hoped to be able to afford a car with automatic keyless entry. Big dreams French, she thought to herself, big dreams.
Just then Belle heard the sound of car tires coming to a halt nearby. She hadn’t been looking in the direction of the arriving car, instead busy getting the key in the fussy front door lock.
“You gold-digging bitch!” yelled a voice and her body froze in fear. It was Gaston. She looked up to see him leaning out the window of his car, with a gun pointed right at them.
“Run!” hissed Gold.
She turned, grabbed Gold’s hand and they both started to move, but not before Gaston had a chance to squeeze the trigger. She was behind Gold, pinned against the side of her car as the first bullets hit. She felt them slam into his body, making it jump, the force of it knocking her head back into the car. A bullet grazed her leg and she felt a blinding pain. Then Gold was sagging off her, sinking to the ground, lying at her feet.
“How’d you like your slimy little lawyer now?” he smirked.
She looked down at Gold, his neat pinstripe suit all covered in blood, limbs awkwardly posed like a broken puppet.
Then Gaston fired the last bullet in the clip, hitting her in what she initially thought to be her chest. Pain again. She put her hand to her shirt and took it away covered in blood.
He’s killed me, she thought desperately as she sunk to the ground, distantly aware of screams in the parking lot. He’s won after all. And she was filled with fury.
There were other sounds, car tires on asphalt, screams, shouts, more shots being fired, but she heard it all from a distance as if it was all miles away. Everything felt strange and slow as she sank down, to lie on the ground across from Gold. The black tarmac was hot against her ear and cheek.
She stared at Gold’s torn suit and bloody pants. There was something white that shouldn’t be there she thought distantly, poking out from the fabric of the leg closest to her, with the sharp white edges of a recently broken tree branch. A wave of nausea assailed her, but she still could not look away.
Please, please, be alive, she begged, not sure if she said it out loud or only in her head. Then, as the shouts grew closer to her and the sound of feet thumping on the ground near her ear increased in volume, she heard, or thought she heard, a pained gasp, and then, a word spoken desperately into the asphalt.
“Belle,” she heard Gold sigh, before she blacked out completely.
But it was only in her mind that she responded back to him, I’m here.
Mr. Gold wakes up in the hospital.
He woke up in a white room with blue tiles on the floor. The lights were bright and hurt his eyes. And then he went under again.
He wasn’t really fully asleep. Somehow he knew he was dreaming, but he liked the dream and didn’t want to wake.
Belle French was there in a blue dress floating over him, her lips brushing against his in the barest whisper of a kiss. They were in his bed. The light was buttery yellow on her naked arms and the sheets were crisp and powder blue. Now she lay on her side, her head propped up on one elbow and stared at him, eyes sleepy and half-mast, an amused smile playing along her features as his hand trailed through her tousled hair. She stroked his cheek with her fingers, half-spoke, half-purred his name.
Ian, Ian Gold. Wake up. The stroking was no longer so gentle. Someone was tapping him firmly on the cheek. Someone not Belle. He closed his eyes and held onto the dream, her smile as she looked across at him, a stray auburn curl trailing down between her…
That annoying tapping again, more insistent, on his cheek and arm now, forcing his eyes open.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” said a woman, face only, hair completely covered by a green surgical cap. Not Belle.
He closed his eyes and sought sleep once more. The woman went away. He fell asleep for a few moments again, seeking her again, but Belle was not there.
He knew he was in the hospital now. His body hurt all over.
He remembered being shot, bleeding on the ground near the car, Belle somewhere close by, mute and unconscious. Hurt? Dead?
He hadn’t been able to protect her. Not her, not himself either. Pathetic. He closed his eyes.
Tears trickled freely down the side of his face wetting the pillow.
A nurse’s face appeared, a man this time, concern in his eyes. “Are you in pain?”
He stared at the man, not having the energy to explain that the worst of it wasn’t physical. The nurse did something to a tube coming off his arm and he felt sleepy again. “Wait…” he slurred his words, “can you tell me—can you tell me…” But he couldn’t remember what he needed so desperately to know. He struggled towards consciousness, but sleep came again, for which he felt absurdly grateful.
Sherriff Swan and Deputy Nolan stood awkwardly in the doorway of the hospital room looking down at the man in the bed.
Gold faced the other way. He wasn’t asleep, but they couldn't tell. It was the first time in his life he’d ever felt too tired to talk. He pretended to be asleep and stared at the wall. It was easier that way.
“Emergency contacts?” asked the orderly.
“We haven’t been able to check his phone, still waiting on the password,” said Deputy Sheriff Shepard.
“I talked to a Mr. Jefferson Hatfield, one of the partners at the law firm,” said Sherrif Swan, “he gave me a few numbers.” She flipped through her notebook.
“This one is Milah Cassidy his ex-wife, lives in Australia. I left a message but couldn’t get through. There’s also the elderly father, lives in Glasgow, Scotland in a home. We tried to talk to him, but he seemed confused. Couldn’t get much more about that. There’s a son, as well.”
“Yeah, you mentioned something about him before.”
“Neal Cassidy. Hatfield said Gold and his son used to talk and Neal used to come around the firm when he was younger, apparently Gold had primary custody after Milah split to Australia. Then Hatfield said Neal got involved in drugs, started stealing cars asked his father to bail him out one too many times. Gold got pissed and decided to let his son cool his heels in prison for a while, teach him a lesson. Neal refused to talk to him after that. Hatfield says he hasn’t seen him for three or four years. Gold never speaks of him.”
“Well, if he’s still in the system it shouldn’t be too hard to track him down.”
“I looked him up, but he’s out now.”
“Talk to the parole officer then, see what you can come up with. There’s got to be some leads. He’s his son, he should know.”
“What about Gold, do the doctors think he’ll pull through?
“Should do, Dr. Whale told me, though he’d already lost a lot of blood by the time the ambulance arrived, and his leg’s shot to shit, they almost couldn’t save it. Probably won’t walk straight again, at any rate. Still, he’s lucky it didn’t strike anything vital."
Nothing vital? Gold closed his eyes.
“Shame, not a bad guy, for a lawyer, you know, always worked well with the police,” said Sheriff Swan.
I’m not dead, thought Gold desperately. Stop, please! He’d never felt so small and alone in all his life. He opened his mouth to speak, unable to take it any longer.
And then they started to talk about Belle.
“What about the girl?” asked the female one called Swan.
Gold lay quiet now, his heart hammering away in his chest. He had to hear this.
“Oh, they think she’ll probably be all right,” said Shepard breezily. “Two bullets wounds, one just grazed her leg and the other went in her shoulder. They got it out quick enough, patched her up. Say it missed her heart by this much.”
“Really? No shit”.
“Poor thing, feels terrible about what happened.”
“They get an autopsy on the ex-husband yet?”
“Nah, but what’s the point? We all know he went down in a hail of bullets anyway. Graham said Chief Mills was going on about excessive force and wasting ammunition again. Then there’s the mandatory 'congrats you shot a guy' appointment with Dr. Hopper at psych.”
“Fuck that, I’m glad he shot the bastard,” said Swan vehemently.
“Listen, you wanna try and wake Gold up, see if we can ask him anything?”
“Have a heart, Shepard. Leave the poor guy alone. He’ll wake up soon enough.”
“Whatever you say Swan, I’m just the deputy,” said Shepard with a shrug in his voice and the two police officers departed, leaving Gold’s mind torn in several emotional directions at once.
Belle was alive! That’s the most important thing, the thing to cling onto, he told himself. If all this had been for nothing… well it didn’t bear thinking about.
And he was fucking glad Gaston LaRoux was dead. Even though a part of him thought that that too was unfair, it had been too easy, too painless. LaRoux deserved to be the one in the hospital instead of him, wracked with pain, and tortured by dark thoughts, not knowing what was really going on. He imagined LaRoux suffering through what he’d gone through and only then dying. That would’ve been fair. But at least Gaston was gone out of the world now and would never hurt Belle or any other person again. For that at least, Gold was glad.
Not that he’d not done enough damage as is. Gold tried not to think about the other thing the cops had said.
Gaston hadn’t been too good a shot, even at point blank range and he’d been moving, probably the only reason Gold was alive now.
His ribs were broken and taped up, so he couldn’t move freely. His right wrist he could see was in a cast, but it wasn’t very big and didn’t hurt so much.
There was no cast on his leg, although he wished there was, just so he didn’t have to look at the thing. Instead they’d raised it up on some kind of padding, and there were metal things sticking out of the raw skin in a way that made him feel queasy to look at and a black cage-like apparatus going through his ankle that looked like some kind of medieval torture device. He’d been told they’d had to replace one of the bones completely with a titanium rod and he remembered the doctor making a joke about airport metal detectors which hadn’t struck him as very funny at the time.
He thought about the Law Society picnic, coming up in May and the annual charity soccer tournament that went with it. He was always captain of the SBC team and their best player. His university education was courtesy of a soccer scholarship, so he knew what he was about on the field. He’d led the SBC Law team to victory for ten years straight. Next weekend they were supposed to start training in the park behind the law office to get ready. He had a whole sequence of drills prepared to put everyone through their paces. They always teased him about taking the whole thing so seriously and now just like that… it was all gone.
It didn’t seem real.Chapter 3
Thanks for your kudos!
PART III- Belle
Belle didn’t feel lucky. She felt like the worst person who’d ever lived.
The shot had gone into her shoulder near the clavicle, pushing the bone out of place, before exiting on its merry way to bury itself inside the metal of the car door. Despite what movies may tell you, Belle who’d read plenty of books in her day, knew that in reality a shot to the shoulder could still be fatal if it hit an artery. There were no lack of major blood vessels in the area, but she had been very fortunate, the doctors said.
After fainting beside Mr. Gold near the car Belle had woken up again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. And now she found herself in a white room with a few other patients, being kept overnight for observation. They’d stitched up the wound in her thigh, with ugly black-purple surgical threads and immobilized her arm in a special sling so her shoulder would stay in place and heal. There was no cast for it and the nurse said she’d probably be left with a slight deformity, a bump where the bone mended and there might be some restriction in movement even after. It would take eight weeks time to heal give or take, they said. It hurt like hell and there were painkillers, which turned her mind all fuzzy.
She was aware of her parents coming to see her at one point and arguing by her bedside, always arguing.
She tried to focus on the physical pain. It kept her from thinking of Gold’s broken body on the ground in front of her, his immaculate suit all covered with blood.
No matter how often she asked the attendants about him, all they said was that they didn’t know, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew they were keeping something back from her and it frightened her.
It tore her up inside knowing that Mr. Gold would still be all right if it wasn’t for her. After so much pain, she’d finally been able to trust someone, let someone be kind to her and open herself up to the possibility of something more and this was where it had gotten her. She was glad Gaston was dead, or else she would have killed him herself, no matter the broken shoulder and in the most painful way possible.
Mr. Gold, the lawyer had been the only one to help her, to be kind to her. Not even her own parents had supported her when she broke up with Gaston and tried to go back to school. She’d had to do it all on her own. Yet surprisingly, Gold seemed to believe in her, seemed confident that she could do it and stand on her own two feet again, get back to the person she felt she was always meant to be. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had actively encouraged her like that.
They were such little sips of happiness, their meetings with each other, talking about films or books when law matters were finished. And even that small bit of joy in her life, Gaston had sought to crush and kill.
She was so stupid for having not seen the threat earlier, for not realizing the lengths Gaston would go to keep her from breaking free. And now Gold had paid for her ignorance, paid with his life perhaps.
And even if Gold survived, she knew he’d probably never forgive her. Why would he, when she knew she’d never forgive herself?Chapter 5
He asked for an articling student and they sent him her.
Ruby Lucas, the grand-daughter of Greta Lucas, one of the firm’s founding members. He’d tried to veto her application as an articling student for the firm, citing her poor grades and scanty references, but everyone was too scared of Greta to turn her grand-daughter down. Personally, he hated nepotism and all these people surfing through life thanks on the strength of family connections. He’d come up from poverty and worked for every perk he’d ever got. Ruby might have been a nice enough person on her own, but to Gold, she was just another spoiled trust fund baby. She tried his patience on the best of days, but being cooped up in his hospital room and still in pain despite the medication had done nothing to improve his temper.
“Oh hey Mr. Gold!” Ruby Lucas waved at him with black fingerless fishnet gloves, completely oblivious to his antipathy. She juggled a large coffee in one hand, a laptop bag and an accordion file in her hands as she crossed the room on tottering high heels that made her look even taller than she actually was.
Practical as always. Mr. Gold glowered up at Ruby from where he sat, propped up on the hospital bed. He looked pointedly at the Bulova watch on his unbandaged arm. “You’re late. Half an hour late to be precise.”
“Oh, sorry,” she said and unloaded the computer bag onto the bed. She only jostled his leg slightly, but the pain shot through him like a lightning bolt.
“Watch it!” he hissed at her through clenched teeth.
“Oh, right,” she said.
As if it was possible to miss.
He unzipped the laptop awkwardly with his left hand and removed the computer as she opened up the accordion file to hunt down the contracts he needed.
Of all the stupid…“This is the wrong laptop, Miss Lucas,” Gold pronounced, in disgust.
“What?” Ruby asked, eyes wide.
“This is the wrong laptop. Which laptop did Mr. Jefferson tell you to bring?”
“The one on your desk?”
“And which one is my desk?”
“The brown one?”
Gold closed his eyes and counted silently to five. “They’re all brown,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Forget it, just forget. Let’s see those contracts.”
She picked out a contract. The words were small and blurry in front of his eyes.
He pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I need my spectacles.”
“Where are they?”
“Just in the drawer of the nightstand there.”
She opened the drawer, pulled out the eyeglass case and handed it over to him. He tried to open the catch, but found it difficult with one hand. “Here, I can’t get it open, the catch is sticky.
Ruby accepted the eyeglasses case and tried to open the catch. All of a sudden it sprung open and Gold’s spectacles sprang out and flew under the bed.
“Ooops! Oh, gosh, I’m sorry Mr. Gold. Let me just get those!”
Before he knew it Ruby was down on her knees crawling under the bed
and had somehow knocked over her coffee in the process. He watched
incredulously as the brown puddle spread towards the edge of the
accordion file containing the contracts, unable to halt its progression.
“Miss Lucas! The file!” he cried out.
“Oh, got it!” She swept it away before the coffee fully invaded the cardboard shell.
Gold honestly hadn’t thought it was possible. How had a single person managed to mess up so profoundly in such a short time?
Eventually Ruby calmed down enough to hand him his glasses and retrieve the files he asked for. He relished the time studying the contracts. It was so pleasant to have something else to think about, to give his mind something to do other than ruminate about all that had happened and what the future would hold. He enjoyed feeling like his old professional self again, though he hated not taking notes, and didn’t trust Ruby to be accurate. Luckily, Mary Margaret had found an old mini-casette recorder in the office allowing Gold to dictate necessary changes and they had Jefferson on the cell phone to reference back as needed.
He still missed the laptop. Surfing the net would have provided some distraction from boredom when all work was exhausted. Maybe tomorrow.
After the contracts were done there were still the papers he needed to sign off on. He was beginning to grow pained and tired.
He tried to get through the papers with Ruby as quickly as possible. He had a stamp with his signature on it so he didn’t actually have to physically sign anything. It had seemed a waste of money at the time, but now he was glad the office had invested in those stamps, as his left handed signature looked nothing like his regular one.
Finally, the time came for the last paper and Gold was growing wistful already, not looking forward to an afternoon of cable-less TV talk shows, the long hours stretching by until Jefferson came from the office to bring his proper laptop, assuming he would come by at all and he didn’t forget or get too busy.
Gold looked down at the last sheet of paper.
It was addressed to Harvard Law School, with the SGC logo in the corner.
“It is my pleasure to fully endorse Ruby Lucas as an excellent candidate for admission into Harvard Law. It is my experience that she is a personable, articulate and punctual…”
He glanced up at Ruby, sitting on the edge of her chair, hands folded expectantly in her lap.
“Excuse me, but what the hell is this?”
“Oh, it’s my reference letter for school!” Her head bobbed eagerly. “I have to get my references in with my admission packages for early decision. Since you were injured, I reckoned you wouldn’t be able to compose it yourself, so I thought I’d save you the hassle, write it up and just leave it to you to sign. Less stress for you that way.”
“Less… stress…for me?” he said softly. “Reeeeeeaaaaaaally?”
“Because if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were trying to take
advantage of my situation to weasel your way into a favourable
reference, assuming I’d be so whacked out on painkillers I’d be willing
to sign off on your ridiculous claims! Or maybe you just misheard and
thought I’d taken some of those bullets straight to the head, because
otherwise I don’t see how you’d ever think I’d sign off on these
egregious lies? I mean punctual? And they say I twist words!”
He laughed mirthlessly.
Ruby looked down, on the verge of tears. “I’m- I’m sorry Mr. Gold. I’ll take it back and revise it.”
“Oh, don’t bother,” he said with a crocodile’s smile and gripped the paper between his good hand and his bandaged one. He could still move it well enough to tear her ridiculous paper in half.
Her eyes went wide as he threw the torn page back at her with a smirk.
“Consider it revised.”
Ruby began to cry. “Oh please, Mr. Gold, I’m so sorry, I know I shouldn’t have done that, I embellished too much. It’s just Mr. Jefferson said it’d save you time for me to write it myself and I just wanted to sound good, you know. I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t get into law school, please!”
“Well, maybe you should have thought of that before you developed such inefficient work habits.”
“Please, please let me try again!”
“I don’t think so dearie. No, this time I’m writing your reference myself and it’s going to be honest. Let’s see what the admissions committee thinks of that!”
Ruby ran out sobbing, the half closed accordion file banging against her knees.
Gold allowed himself a small, tight smile. It was nice to know that even in such reduced circumstances he could still inspire fear in the underlings. But was it so wrong to have some basic standards?
Ruby ran out the room, eyes blurry, not paying attention to where she was going and nearly collided with a young woman wearing a sling coming at her around the hospital corridor.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Ruby muttered.
“I’m fine--“ began the woman and suddenly, Ruby realized who it was.
“Belle? Belle French?”Chapter 6
Belle sees Gold again in the hospital.
Part 5- Belle and Ruby
“Belle French?” Ruby seemed surprised to see her up and about.
“Yes,” Belle smiled at Ruby. She didn’t really feel like talking to anyone much right now, but suddenly she felt glad to see a familiar, sympathetic face. Belle genuinely liked Ruby and her free spirited ways. She gathered from Gold that Ruby wasn’t always the most conscientious about timing or filing briefs, but there was another side to the articling student that Belle wondered if Gold ever let himself see. Sometimes when Belle was waiting in the hall for her appointment Ruby would talk to her.
She was always infallibly friendly and she’d talk your ear off about the different civil rights causes she was involved in if you’d let her. Belle saw that there was a lot of passion in Ruby. Law hadn’t yet turned her sarcastic and cynical. It could be an easy thing to make fun of. Belle knew her own father would’ve probably laughed at Ruby as just another rich bleeding heart liberal full of naïve idealistic notions. But Belle had seen enough in her life of “good people” content to stand by on the sidelines when injustice was committed, too afraid of another’s approbation to stand up and do something. Wasn’t it the way her friends and parents had been when she’d tried to tell them about Gaston? Everyone was so eager to mind their own back, to look away and pretend it wasn’t going on. She was certain Ruby wouldn’t have been one of those people. Ruby was a breath of fresh air.
She knew Ruby would not be there if not for Mr. Gold. Was there a reason she was crying? Was his condition so bad that it brought her to tears?
“How—how is Mr. Gold?” Belle asked, terrified of Ruby’s response.
“Really, really cranky,” replied Ruby, dabbing her eyes with a Kleenex, oblivious to her running mascara. “But how are you Belle? Is your arm alright?”
“It’s not my arm, it’s my shoulder. It has to stay immobilized like this for two months they said. It hurts quite a lot, but otherwise the doctors say I’ll be okay… eventually. I can go home tomorrow. They’re only keeping me because they’re worried about my- my mental state I think.”
Ruby nodded, eyes wide with concern. She reached out to touch Belle gently on her arm and suddenly, much to Belle’s shock and embarrassment, at Ruby’s slight touch she began to sob uncontrollably.
Ruby pulled back her hand as quickly as if she’d touched a hot stove, eyes full of concern. “Belle, Belle did I hurt you?”
“No, no, it’s not that at all, it’s just—just--“
Ruby nodded. Gently, she put her arms around Belle, careful not to touch her shoulder. Belle sobbed into Ruby’s silk shirt, but Ruby didn’t care. She couldn’t help but think about how small Belle was, almost like a little girl. The top of her head was nearly level with Ruby’s chin.
“Uh- what are you doing?” Belle asked breaking off her sobs.
“Um, seeing if I could put my chin on your head?” confessed Ruby, embarrassed.
Belle laughed and looked down at her feet. “I think I forgot how short I am without my heels!” She was wearing the pink plastic crocs her parents had bought her in the gift shop downstairs.
“Or how ridiculously tall I am in mine,” Ruby chimed in.
“Do you think it’s okay if I go in to talk to him?” Belle asked nervously. “He’s not—he’s not too sick to have visitors is he?”
“Afraid he’ll bite your head off like he did mine?” asked Ruby.
“No, I just—I feel so horrible about what happened. It’s all my fault!”
“Don’t say that!” said Ruby severely. “You know it’s not true and Gold does too if he’s got any smarts left in him!”
Belle looked up gratefully. “Thank you, Ruby. I- I needed to hear that.”
“Pssh, it’s the truth!” exclaimed Ruby. “Now just don’t try to get him to sign anything reference letters and you should be all right.”
At that, Belle rewarded her with a little smile. Ruby waved good-bye and felt the weight of Gold’s rant against her recede away as she walked down the hall towards the elevators.
Now it was just Belle and the door. Despite Ruby’s words, she was afraid to see Gold, worried about what he would say to her and her reaction. Her frantic mind spun the coming meeting a dozens ways to Sunday. She wanted to run desperately, to as far as her those stupid pink clogs would carry her. But she knew she owed him this much at least—to thank him for saving her life. She’d never be able to look herself in the eye again if she didn’t do that.
She thought about what Gold had said to her: Courage doesn’t come from an absence of fear. Courage comes from feeling afraid, but doing what you know is right anyway.
She closed her eyes. She could almost see him as he’d looked that day in the office when he said it to her, brown eyes serious for once, hand reaching out across the table to touch hers and give her strength.
Belle opened her eyes to stare at the door. Then she opened it and walked through.
Part 6- Belle visits Gold
The last person Belle visited in the hospital was her dying grandmother. After not seeing her elderly relative for so long, she was disturbed by the wasted spectre of the woman who’d taken care of her as a young child, grown tiny and confused. She hadn’t even remembered who Belle was. The prospect of everything that made Gold Gold just being gone like that, was on the top of the list of things Belle feared most.
She entered Gold’s room noticing how bland and antiseptic looking it was. Still, there was a Puccini opera playing at a high volume from the fancy DAB radio she’d noticed before in his office, now pleasantly ensconced on the radiator, giving the dour place a little culture. There was no window in the room, just a rolling plastic desk type table between the door and the bed, a tired looking padded chair for a visitor to sit in and a few monitor machines on wheels clustered around.
Belle wasn’t sure what to expect, but she breathed a sigh of relief to see him, sitting up stiffly in the hospital bed, looking extremely Gold. He seemed quite himself, despite a large cut on his eyebrow stitched with ugly purple thread, a cut on his lip and a cast on his wrist. He’d replace his pin-striped suit with a crisp cotton pajama top, (also in pin-stripes), but that seemed the only concession to his current state she could see in his demeanor. He was even, she smiled a little now as she stood in the doorway, organizing a sheaf of legal contracts from his hospital bed.
He didn’t seem particularly cranky to her. In fact he was even whistling a bit as he sorted his papers. She could now see a bit of white bandage poking up from under his pajama top, but his eyes were as clear and intelligent as ever.
She knocked gently on the door to alert him to her presence. “Hello? Mr. Gold?” she said shyly.
His brown eyes flicked up at her and his hands twitched, nearly dropping his papers over the side of the bed. “Belle- I mean Ms. French?”
Still afraid, she forced herself to walk over past the monitoring machine.
She followed the motion of Gold’s hands as he put the papers down on
the rolling table and pulled up the sheet that covered his legs, as if
to reassure himself it was still in place. His fingers played nervously
with the seam along its edge as he felt Belle’s gaze travel downward.
He knew the sheet didn’t do much to hide the unnatural, angular shapes
of the metal scaffolding holding his leg together. He adjusted the
glasses on his nose and scratched the back of his head, suddenly nervous
about what to do with his hands.
When Belle saw what they’d had to do to put him back together and how nervous he seemed about her seeing it, and felt her heart nearly burst in sympathy for him. I should be the nervous one, not you, she thought, but all she did was ask, “How are you feeling?”
“Oh, I’ve been better,” he said carelessly. He shifted a little to set his glasses on the table and winced at even this slight movement.
Belle looked away, too upset to see him in so much pain. She wanted to reach out and kiss him and take all the hurt away, but all she could do was stand there, stupidly looking at the floor.
An emotion of distaste flicked across Gold’s at the way she avoided his eyes. When he found his voice it came out abruptly, harsher than he’d intended. “Why are you here?”Why are you here?
“Why are you here?”
His skin felt like it was crawling under her gaze. He wanted to hide desperately, answer all her question behind a couch or something. He was torn by two dispirate emotions; his desire not to let her see him this way, so weak and ugly looking, and his desire to just be near her, to let all his gladness that she was alive and well and here to visit him (!) shine out of his very soul and fill this dingy room with light.
“Why am I here?” she laughed shakily. “I—you saved my life Mr. Gold and at so great—“ there was a catch in her throat- “so great a cost to yourself. I wanted to thank you. To tell you how grateful I am and that I know I can never repay the favour I owe you, but that I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you lack for nothing.”
“I have all I need. I’m fine,” he said crisply. “I’m just glad you’re all right,” he said. It was the stock response, the gentlemanly thing to say that he’d prepared for himself just in case she came to see him. It wasn’t strictly true of course. He wasn’t just glad that she was all right. He hated feeling so dependent and helpless and every fibre of his being revolted against it, but he knew it wasn’t Belle’s fault.
Belle held her breath. There was one more thing she had to say even if it killed her. “Mr. Gold, I just wanted to tell you that for my part in this I’m so-- I’m so sorry. I never thought he’d do this to you!” She put her hand over her mouth now and the only sound that came out was ugly choking sobs. Even now she felt guilty, not just for him being shot, but because she knew her crying now was just making him feel worse, as if he wasn’t already devastated.
Gold shut his eyes very tightly. It was a trick he’d learned as a child when the bigger boys at school beat him. He could almost pinch his tear ducts shut this way. More than anything he didn’t want Belle to see him cry.
“Belle,” he said thickly, before he lost it completely. “I can see—I can see I’m making you upset—“
“Making me upset?” she laughed shakily taking a small, rough tissue from the box on the table.
“I think it’d be best for you to leave.”
Belle nodded suddenly formal. “Okay. I’m sorry for disturbing you Mr. Gold. I hope you get well soon.”
Then she left, her shoulders sagging as she passed through the door, barely ten minutes after she’d entered.
Only when he was sure that Belle was completely gone did Gold really let himself cry.Belle's Second Visit
The second time Belle came to visit was better. This was odd, because really it shouldn’t have been a good time for him. When Ruby had come before to bring the briefs from work, he’d had himself cleaned up and prepared, to look as professional in his current state as he could manage.
But today they’d come to clean out the wounds and flush out some excess fluid build-up from out around the metal posts in his leg. They’d given him more pain medication which they claimed would make the cleaning procedure more bearable. It hadn’t had enough time to kick in, though, before they started and the only thing that had kept him from screaming out loud or kicking a nurse in the face was counting the ceiling tiles. Now they said he had to leave off the blanket off to air out the wounds.
They left him in peace, at least, to contemplate the whole nasty mess. Then, as the medication finally kicked in, he felt himself wing in and out sleep, half-awake and somnolent. The TV was on and the voices of people talking from the set infiltrated his dreams. Phrases morphed into characters there, complete with odd plotlines of the kind that only make sense in dreams. Slipping in and out of sleep as he was, he wasn’t entirely sure that when Belle came in, she wasn’t just another dream character.
It was odd, but even with the wounds on his leg exposed as they were now, he didn’t feel self-conscious. Instead, he felt like he was floating, observing things with a detached fascination, devoid of the usual accompanying emotions.
She’d brought muffins from a real bakery and soup in a styrofoam container which put the hospital food to shame, but he didn’t feel much like eating. He felt like his mind was a noodle floating through a bowl of minestrone, small and lost in the thickness of the broth.
“I thought you might like some company,” she said.
She had a book with her from school.
His tongue felt funny and he didn’t feel much like talking, pleased to let her chatter on nervously about arrangements with her professors to extend due dates for her assignments and photocopying her friends’ notes. She was hopeful that she’d still manage to pass the semester despite the break in her studies the attempted murder had caused. For the exams she’d got a doctor’s note to allow her to type her work out on a school computer because she couldn’t write and to give her a little extra time.
To Gold’s eyes, it was obvious, even in his current drugged state, that she looked overtired and worn out. He wondered if she should really be back yet. She’d gone through so much, didn’t she deserve a break?
“I know I should take time off,” she muttered. “They would’ve let me get away with it, but I just can’t. The schoolwork and classes and my friends there—they keep me from thinking too much, they keep me sane. It would all eat up my mind if I just stayed at home, not doing anything or going anywhere with just my thoughts for company.”
“Tell me about it,” muttered Gold. “I feel like I’m pickled in brine here.”
“Is there anything I can do about it?” asked Belle.
Gold thought for a bit, letting his memory of things he had to do slowing float to the surface in the river of his sluggish thoughts. There was something he’d been thinking about since the shooting, something he needed to do… Ah, there it was. How could he forget?
“I think I would like you to place a call for me,” he said slowly, trying to hang on to what he needed to say next. “My cell phone is in the drawer of that table,” he pointed, with an arm that seemed to move in slow motion.
Belle found the phone with no trouble.
“Scroll down the contacts,” said Gold. “Look for the name Baelfire.”
“Here it is.”
“Now phone the number,” he said before he could chicken out and quit again, with the phone number only half dialed in his hand, like every time before.
“It’s ringing,” said Belle. “Someone’s picking up. “ She thrust the phone at him.
He took it carefully. The hot little screen pressed itself against his ear as his hand began to sweat.
Jefferson didn’t know the full truth about Gold and his son. He was correct in stating that Gold’s son, Neal, had severed contact with his father after he failed to bail him out of prison. He was correct, too, in guessing that after Neal’s release Gold had hired detectives to find his son. What Jefferson was wrong about was assuming they’d never found him.
Gold in fact had an address for Neal—had had one for five months now. It was a place in Boston- the Baelfire Apartments. He even had a phone number. But Gold couldn’t bring himself to call. Every time he picked up the phone or looked at that word “Baelfire” in his contacts it was like every speck of courage and energy just left his body.
Gold told himself he’d build up to it, but every time he tried to call he failed. Once he’d got as far as actually letting the phone ring, before jabbing the “end” button and throwing the thing across the room. He was certain that whatever he said, his son would reject him. At least if he didn’t call he could hold onto the illusion that his son didn’t hate him.
And now, in his current altered state all the old inhibitions had fled and there was Neal on the other line. Gold tried to bring himself back from his detached point of view.
“Hello?” he heard Neal’s voice on the other end of the line now and despite his chemically induced courage, Gold’s throat wen dry. Really, he should’ve thought this out more clearly before, waited until the pain medication was gone from his system and he was more coherent.
“Hello?” asked the voice again.
“N-Neal--?” croaked out Gold.
“Yes, it’s me,” Gold looked over at Belle. She smiled encouragingly. “Um are you busy? Because you know I could call back another time,” said Gold, “if you’re busy.
“No Dad, it’s fine,” he heard Neal say and he could swear there was a smile in his voice at the other end. “I’m glad you called. I’ve been thinking about you. I’ve dreamed of you calling for so long. I wanted to call you for ages, but-- I guess I was just kind of angry and then embarrassed and then afraid you’d still be mad at me about what I did.” There was a pause. “You’re not still mad are you?”
“Because I’m doing okay now. I’m clean. I’ve got steady work, all above board. I’m living in Boston, in Brookline of all places!”
“So you finally got out there,” said Gold slowly.
“Yeah, I’m in this other band now, too. We’re not half bad. You should come out and see us some time, ya know.”
“Of course,” said Gold, though he realized he probably wouldn’t be seeing anything other the four dull walls of this in room for a while. He wasn’t sure, now that he was talking to Neal, exactly how to bring that up.
“But what about you, Dad? How’ve you been? How’s the firm and everything?”
Gold had been searching for an opening and here it was. This was as good as he’d get. “Um, Neal I’m not at the firm right now.”
“What? Seriously? You transferred to another firm?”
“Uh, no, I’m still with SGC, only I’m in the hospital.”
“You’re sick? What’s wrong Dad?” asked Neal, his voice quick with concern.
“Neal, I was shot.”
Belle bit her lip as Gold said it.
“Yes,” said Gold from far away. He still had trouble believing it himself. He’d always feared this fate occurring to Neal, what with the people he associated with in his junkie days. He’d never thought it would happen to him.
“My God! Who shot you? What happened? Are you all right?”
“My condition is—“ he thought about what the police had said when they thought he was sleeping, probably won’t walk straight again, and pushed it down deep inside. “My condition is stable,” he said. “I’m not—I’m not going to die or anything.”
Belle looked away.
“But they said I’m probably not going anywhere for a while and I’ve just been thinking about how I wanted to see you. “
“Oh my God, yes, Dad of course! I’ll drive out there this afternoon.”
“What about your work? You have work, right? I don’t want you to lose your job.”
“It’s Friday, they’ll give me off today and I’ll have the weekend free. I think this is a pretty good excuse, it’s not every day I go in and say my Dad’s been—shit Dad, how’d this even happen?”
Belle looked away and Gold could see she was getting uncomfortable.
“Uh, Neal, is it okay if I call you back? There’s a nurse here to give me some medicine now.”
“Sure Dad, but let me call you, it’ll be easier. I have your number in my phone now. Say fifteen minutes?”
“Okay. Thanks Neal.”
“Answering the phone.”
“C’mon Dad, it’s you! I love you.”
“I love you too Neal,” said Gold and hug up the phone.
Belle turned to look at him. His eyes looked large and moist as he leaned back against the pillow.
“That was your son?” Belle asked.
“Yes,” said Gold, letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in all this time.
“How long’s it been since you last talked to him?”
“Three years,” said Gold.
“Three years!” exclaimed Belle.
“Three years!” exclaimed Gold and he began to laugh uncontrollably.Father and Child Reunion
Gold and son reunited!
Father and Child Reunion
Gold was so excited to see Neal he
could barely stand it. He wanted to run around the room and shout for
joy, but was content to settle for the moment with giving Belle a high
five, both of them making sure to use their uninjured arms.
Belle hadn’t known he had a son, let alone one who’d had enough time to grow up, become a junkie and go to jail! Sometimes it was easy to forget that he was older than she was, especially when he was nearly bouncing up and down with excitement on the bed. He hardly seemed like the same sarcastic, worldly wise lawyer she knew.
“Neal is coming here!” Gold laughed. “I can’t believe it! He’s coming here to see me!”
“Well, he’s not coming for their coffee, that’s for sure,” said Belle.
half hour before Neal’s actual arrive Gold didn’t feel so sanguine.
Belle had left and he was by himself again, debating whether he should
take more pain medicine. Did he want to be cranky and short tempered
when Neal came, or groggy and incoherent? It wasn’t much of a choice.
Eventually he thought groggy and incoherent, while somewhat embarrassing
would at least be more forgiveable. More importantly the pain in his
leg was starting to get to him. He took the pill and was soon out like
a light, asleep for far longer than he’d wanted to be.
When he woke up someone was sitting in the chair across from his bed staring at him.
“Dad? You’re awake!”
Gold sat up quickly, not caring about his leg and reached out to Neal to touch him on the arm and hold his hand, just wanting to confirm for himself that his son wasn’t another dream.
“Is it really you Neal?”
“I’m here Dad. It’s okay.”
“Sorry to fall asleep on you like that,” said Gold sheepishly.
“I’m the one who should be sorry,” said Neal, his voice choking with emotion.
“Dad, there’s so much I have to tell you and it kills me to say this, but you were right about most of what you said back then, before I went to jail. Just- finding out you were hurt like this, and if you died I would’ve never had the chance to tell you- I just kept thinking about it as I was driving here and I have to explain what happened. You need to know all of it and then you can decide if you still want to see me or not.”
“Please Dad, just don’t. Let me finish, or I don’t know if I’ll be able to start again.”
“Okay,” said Gold cautiously.
“Right, so three years ago, when we last spoke I was arrested for stealing a bunch of Rolex watches for drug money. And the police knew I had an accomplice helping me on the job. They offered to reduce my sentence if I gave up her name. You came to visit me and told me to give up her name too. I begged you for bail money, but you refused, at least that’s how I remember it.”
Gold said nothing. It was true, no point denying it. He assumed the woman in the robbery was Neal’s girlfriend and if he got out of jail, Neal would skip town and join her somewhere out of state.
“I never told you why I needed to be out on bail so badly or why I wouldn’t give up my accomplice’s name. I couldn’t when I was talking to you in jail. They had people watching me all the time, surveillance 24/7. If they found out about her through me telling you any sacrifice I made in taking the fall would be for nothing.”
“Why did you do it, though? Why did you go to jail for that girl?”
“That girl’s name was- - is Tamara and I was in love with her.”
Gold nodded. People did crazy things for love. He could relate.
“And something else too,” Neal gulped, because this was the hard part. “Tamara was pregnant…with my child.”
“What! When did you find out?”
“A friend got word to me just after I was put in holding. That’s why I was so desperate to get out on bail, I wanted to know for sure. Also, I wanted to make sure she’d stopped using- that she was alright.”
“Oh God, she didn’t—with the baby inside?”
Neal’s eyes gaze slid away. “She didn’t know at first, but yes, once she found out she made it her business to stop. I- I didn’t want her to go to prison. I didn’t want my little boy born in a cell. They’d take him away into foster care if his mum was in jail.”
“Better that than life with a junkie—“
“Tamara got clean and she’s stayed that way since.”
“And the boy?”
Neal smiled a little. “His name is Killian. Your grandson.”
“And you never told me?”
“Things—things were- are a little complicated,” said Neal looking down.
“How so?” asked Gold.
“Even though Tamara was off the drugs by the time Killian was born, there were still problems, possibly because she was on them in the early days, before she realized, but the doctor said this kind of thing—it can happen to people not on them too, no can say why. I don’t blame her,” said Neal quickly.
“What sort of problems are there?”
“Birth defects. He was born premature with a hole in his heart. It’s been corrected through surgery, but it was kind of touch and go there in the beginning. Also, his left hand never developed in the womb. We don’t know why. It doesn’t slow him down though, in fact he’s kind of hyperactive. He’s small for his age, but I know I was too, so maybe it just runs in the family. Anyway, he’s been through a lot for a little kid.”
Neal ran his hands through his hair and Gold noticed it was graying at the temples, much more than when he’d last seen him. “I don’t get to see him much. I’ve only been outside six months and don’t have my own place yet. I share with a flatmate.”
“So he lives with Tamara?”
“Yeah, she’s got a new partner now. His name is Greg. He’s a good guy, has a decent job. Seems to care for Killian too. Tamara’s turned over a new leaf. She’s trying to do the best for our boy. We both are. She’s open to me being involved in his life, it’s just with my record and known drug history, they’ve only just let me have unsupervised time with him. But if I stay clean and working and get my own place eventually, maybe I’ll be able to have him over some weekends. I know he had a rough start, but I really want to make things as good as I can for him for here on out. I never realized what it would be like to be a father. All those times I criticized you—I certainly haven’t done a better job. If I hadn’t introduced Tamara to that shit, got her using with me, maybe- maybe Killian wouldn’t have had to go through-“ his voice broke and he began to cry—“go through all this crap. My poor boy. Oh Dad, you don’t know how I feel.”
And then Neal began to cry, really cry like when he was a little boy, loud choking sobs. Gold did his best to hold him without getting his bandaged arm wet.
So many emotions cycled through Gold’s tired brain, that he could barely hold onto a single thought as he held Neal in his arms; anger at Neal for hiding this from him all this time, fury at Tamara for carelessly poisoning her womb, worry for little Killian, starting out life with so many strikes already against him, his heart nearly breaking for Neal, for all he’d gone through all alone without anyone to stand by his side, and guilt for having placed his son in such an untenable position.
And then at the end of it there was another emotion…Resolve. He was Ian Gold. And he would help his son and grandson. He knew he could find a way.
Gold meets August, Neal's flatmate.
Thanks to a judicious combination of ativan
and codeine, Gold managed to sleep through the entire car trip sitting
sideways in the back seat of Neal’s car, his injured leg stretched out
on the other two seats as they headed down the I-90.
Gold woke just as they were going through the Williams Tunnel. For a moment he thought he was having an out of body experience and then Neal cranked up the radio on a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song and he realized it wasn’t an out of body experience, he was just in Boston.
Neal pulled up to a low rise red brick building in Brookline that looked like a large school house. Gold wondered at its unique appearance until Neal explained that it actually had been a 19th century red brick school house, only just recently converted into apartments. Luckily the conversion had included an elevator, albeit a narrow one that took forever to come up or go down.
Neal unfolded the rented wheelchair from the trunk and helped his father in. He was feeling slightly nervous. His father had never visited him at home before. The last time they had seen each other before the hospital, Neal had been in prison. On one hand, he guessed Gold wouldn’t have very high expectations, but on the other he really wanted to impress his father with how he’d gotten his life back together. It was one of the reasons Neal hadn’t contacted him in the first place. He wanted to show up on his doorstep one day as a success just to prove Gold wrong, to show he could do it all on his own and that he wasn’t as useless as his father thought.
“The place seems nice,” said Gold cautiously.
“Better than the old one, eh?” laughed Neal.
“The old one was a crack den,” said Gold and Neal laughed.
“You said you had a roommate?” asked Gold as Neal pushed him across the parking lot. “Does he know I’m coming to stay for a bit?”
“Oh don’t worry, August is out of town. He’s a travel writer for Lonely Planet. He spends months at a time away. He’s not supposed to be back from Thailand until the 21st.”
“Thank you Neal,” said Gold as his son pushed the chair to the main doors. “It’s very kind of you to open your home like this to me, especially after everything.”
“C’mon, you’re my Dad,” said Neal. “I wouldn’t leave you in your house all alone like this.”
“I can still get a nurse you know.”
“It’d have to be private. Jefferson told me the firm’s plan didn’t cover it.”
“I can afford it.”
“Just stay here for a bit. Get a little better, then we’ll talk okay?”
“All right,” said Gold. Secretly, Gold was certain it was a ridiculous plan and that he’d been on too many painkillers when he’d agreed to it with Neal, but now he was here and he might as well make the best of it.
As it turned out, when not playing with his band, or spending time with Killian, Neal taught swimming and English as a Second Language at a rec centre just down the street, supplementing his income giving guitar lessons at a local music shop. Depending on what he was teaching on what day, his hours varied, but he usually came home for lunch. It was convenient so he could make some food for both him and his Dad. However, despite them spending more time together, things remained slightly awkward. There were plenty of subjects both of them were still worried about discussing. In a way it was like getting to know a whole new person. Gold kept on pestering Neal to meet Killian. Neal didn’t want to bring his son to the apartment and it was still hard for his dad to go out.
At least, Gold had his proper computer with him now. He had Ruby and Mary Margaret scanning the contracts or fed-exing them to him in the mail. The first day he spent several hours Skyping with Jefferson and Greta Lucas who were helping him who would be representing some of his cases in court. Once he figured out how to turn off the video feature on Skype it also was very convenient talking to his clients through this medium, so they wouldn’t know he was talking to them in sweat pants and a t-shirt from his son’s sofa bed with the computer in front of him on a TV tray.
Then one morning he wheeled himself into the living room to discover a young man sitting in what he now considered his spot on the couch with a spliff in one hand and a game controller in the other and an open carton of orange juice in front of him.
“Hey!” waved the young man. He was ridiculously tanned and cheerful for someone who had just used up all the toothpaste in the bathroom, thought Gold in disgust. “You must be Neal’s Dad! He told me you were shot! Glad to see you’re doing better Ian!”
“Ian?” Okay, so his name was Ian, but no one ever called him that. At work he was always Mr. Gold and in his personal life—well he hadn’t exactly had much personal life to speak of since Mila left and that had been years ago. She had probably been the last person to actually call him Ian to his face.
“And who are you?”
“August W. Booth, Neal’s housemate. I’m a writer,” said August and waved at an old fashioned typewriter, now taking up all the space at the kitchen table.
“You use a typewriter?” asked Gold, intrigued despite himself.
“Ah but not just any typewriter. I got this beauty from an antique dealer in Key West. It used to belong to none other than Ernest Hemmingway himself!”
“Hemmingway is vastly over-rated,” pronounced Gold, still unimpressed. August seemed to wilt a little at this, and Gold suppressed a smile.
“Well, I actually only use it for my rough drafts,” August confessed.
“Hmmm, where’s the cereal?” asked Gold, glancing around for his customary breakfast.
“Oh, uh, I ate it all, sorry, I’ve just—I’ve just been so hungry-- you know since I got back from Bangkok.”
Gold eyed the roach in August’s hand and favoured him with a thin smile. “I’m sorry but I can’t exactly run out to the shops in my condition, but perhaps we could make a deal.”
“There’s a supermarket just around the corner,” offered August. “I’ll get you more cereal, Ian, no problem.”
“Great, now I’m going to make you a list and give you some money and you’re going to buy every item on that list, all right?”
“Sure, but what’s the deal exactly? What can I give you in return?”
“Roll me one of those,” said Gold, nodding at the cigarette in August’s hand.
“What? Don’t look at me like that. It’s medicinal! And I’m clearly not faking it as you can see. Just don’t tell Neal, okay?”
“And don’t ever give this shit to him, all right? I don’t have a problem with it personally, but I don’t want him getting back to his old ways. We’ll have to air the place out when you get back and when I say we, I mean--”
“Me, yeah, got it,” said August.
“And one more thing,” said Gold, taking a pleasurable draw on the marijuana cigarette August passed him. It was true, it did seem to make the pain in his leg more bearable. Or maybe that was just the initial buzz kicking in.
“When you’re out, could you buy me stuffed toy?”
“You know, like a teddy bear or dinosaur or whatever. Something for a kid. I’m meeting my grandson tomorrow and I don’t want to go empty handed.”
Gold handed August a crisp $100 bill from his wallet. “This should cover you. Don’t bother with the change.”
August looked at the bill impressed “Th-th-thanks Ian.”
“No worries, just don’t forget the stuffed toy.”
Gold narrowed his eyes at the large stuffed toy August plunked triumphantly in his lap.
“This is what you got? An alligator?”
“Not an alligator,” August rolled his eyes. “A crocodile. Just look at the snout. There’s a huge difference. Alligators only live in North and South America. Crocodiles inhabit the Eastern hemisphere. Generally alligators are quite passive creatures, but crocodiles, especially salt water ones are know to consume humans. There are ones I heard about, on the Ganges in India that have even developed a preference for human flesh, or so they used to say in Goa,” he nodded proudly.
Gold put the goofy looking crocodile or whatever it was on the coffee table and rolled his wheelchair back to have a better look at it. “Charming,” he said stiffly. “Well, I guess it’ll have to do.”
Neal, Gold and Killian go to the park.
One day later, Gold found himself sitting on a picnic bench in the
park across the street from Tamara’s apartment, where she lived with
Greg and Killian. He was waiting for Neal to return with Killian. The
stuffed crocodile sat on the picnic table in front of him, clumsily
wrapped in red and green Christmas paper because Gold’s right hand was
still in the cast and Christmas wrapping was all August had been able to
find in the apartment. It would have to do.
“Is it your birthday Mister?” piped up a little voice nearby.
“No it is not my birthday,” he said to the little scarf-wearing boy who’d asked the question. The child looked about five years old.
“Then why do you have a present?” asked the boy.
“I just do, that’s all,” said Gold, glowering at the young boy.
“Can I have it?” asked the boy.
“Certainly not,” grumped Mr. Gold, hoping the boy would go away.
The boy came closer and cocked his head to one side, staring curiously. “Why does your leg have metal sticks coming out of it?”
“Because I’m really a robot,” sneered Gold. “Satisfied?”
“No you’re not,” said the boy. “You’re lying. Were you run over by a bus?”
“Didn’t your mum ever tell you not to speak to strangers?”
“Strangers like you? Are you strange?”
“Yes,” said Gold with the nasty grin he only reserved for other lawyers he attacked in court. “And getting stranger by the minute. Now please leave.”
But the boy just stood there staring at him in the same exasperating fashion.
“Don’t you have a mother or a babysitter somewhere…”
“Hey Dad!” Neal shouted at Gold from across the park and waved. Gold waved back. He squinted and saw that Neal was pushing a little dark haired boy in a stroller. As soon as they were on the grass, he unbuckled the boy and who bounded up and sprinted across the grass in the direction of the picnic table.
“Henry!” shouted a woman’s voice across the park. “Henry where are you?”
“Over here Mom!” called the boy.
“Henry,” said a tall, blonde haired woman in ared leather jacket who came from the swingsets. “How many times have I told you not to wander off. I stop for one second to check my phone and then poof you’re just gone. Do you know how frightened I was?”
“But Mom, I met a robot! A robot!”
“Henry what are you talking about?”
Henry pointed at Gold.
The blonde blushed beet red as she caught his eye. “Oh sir, I’m so, so sorry. P-p-please don’t take offense. He’s just a little boy and doesn’t really—“
“Then you ought to teach him better manners,” said Gold stiffly.
“Oh hi, Anna,” Neal greeted her as he jogged up. “Hi Henry.”
“You know each other?” asked Gold suspiciously.
“Yes, Anna is my neighbor.”
“That’s great,” said Gold, unenthusiastically. He pulled the present closer to him, not trusting this Henry or Anna one bit.
“Anna, this is my father, Ian Gold.”
Gold gave her a small, unenthusiastic wave and she blushed an even darker red.
“Your- your father?”
“Killian? Killian? What the—he was just behind me--“ Neal spun around frantically trying to find his son.
A high pitched child’s giggle rang out from behind a tree. A small light brown face with a mop of black curly hair peeped out from behind the trunk.
“Oh, Killian there you are! I told you not to run away. Come here! I want you to meet someone.”
“Like herding cats sometimes,” Anna smiled sympathetically at Neal as she walked away holding Henry’s hand.
Killian walked up to his Neal, dragging his feet shyly now that he saw the strange man sitting at the picnic table.
Neal put his hand around Killian’s small shoulders. “I want you to meet my daddy, your grandfather, Ian Gold. Say hello, Killian.”
Killian’s eyes went wide for a second, before he darted behind his father’s legs.
“Uh, hello Killian,” said Gold nervously, clutching the present in front of him like a shield. “I’m, uh, Grandpa Gold.” He felt like a ridiculous fraud calling himself anyone’s grandpa. Suddenly, he realized how strange and foreign his accent might sound to the boy. No wonder he remained hidden. He probably couldn’t understand a word he said. Gold forced himself to calm down, without further intimidating the boy. “I got you a present,” he added in a sing song voice.
This piqued young Killian’s interest. The boy peeked out cautiously from behind his father. Neal gave him a gentle nudge forward as Gold held out the gift.
Then Gold got a good look at his very first grandson for the very first time in his life. Although he was indeed small for his age, he didn’t appear as fragile as Gold thought he would be. He had intelligent brown eyes just like Neal’s and there was a definite touch of impish mischief in those eyes, Gold could tell. Neal had looked the same when he was younger, although Gold just hoped Killian didn’t put Neal through as many paces as Neal had put him through in his teenage years.
Hesitating no more, Killian pounced on the present and sat down to tear the paper apart.
Had he not known to look for it, Gold doubted he would have noticed Killian’s missing left hand right away. It just looked like the sleeve of his jacket was a little long on one side.
Gold had apparently done a more thorough job of taping the paper than he’d thought, because now Killian had the gift in his mouth, biting at the tape trying to get it off.
“Here, Killian, let me help you with that,” suggested Neal.
“No!” cried Killian moving out of his father’s reach. “I do it myself!”
“He can’t break it that way can he?” Neal whispered to Gold.
“What? No, it’s just a stuffed toy,” said Gold. “He can do whatever he wants to it.”
“He has a prosthesis Tamara is trying to get him to wear, but I usually let him leave it off,” admitted Neal as Killian finally wrestled the toy from the wrapper. “He doesn’t complain, but I think it’s uncomfortable for him.”
The small boy sat back on his haunches to regard his new stuffed animal. It was an awesome sight to his eyes, about half the size he was. He’d never had anything like it before. He had plenty of bears and a dog and a blue rabbit, but never this kind of animal, never anything so large. “What—what is it?” he asked in awe.
“A crocodile,” said Gold. “See?” he pointed to the stuff toy’s triangular felt teeth.
Killian looked up solemnly at Gold and nodded. “Cro-ca-doll.”
“Crocodile,” said Gold gently. “Can you say it like me?”
“Croco- dile,” repeated Killian. “Like you?”
“That’s right,” said Gold, trying to be encouraging. “Like me.”
“CROCODILE! Yah!” yelled Killian, pleased to get the hang of it. Then Killian jumped on top of the stuffed animal and proceeded to ride it around the picnic area like a pony.
“Wait! Killian, what do you say?” asked Neal.
“Thanks Crocodile!” yelled Killian over his shoulder.
Gold caught Neal’s eye. His son was making a funny expression like he’d burst out laughing at any moment.
“What’s so funny?” Gold asked him.
“Dad, I think he thinks that’s your name!” said Neal and exploded with laughter.
After lunch Neal helped Gold down to the grass where he could lie out
on a picnic blanket and read a book. Gold brushed the grass with his
fingers, delighting in the way it smelled and the simple sensation of
unfiltered sunlight on his face. He reached over to twist a blade of
grass in his hand.
He watched Neal and Killian playing. They were kicking around a miniature soccer ball. Now Neal had stuck two sticks in the ground as goal posts and was trying to get Killian to aim the ball and kick it between them. When Killian aimed correctly and got a goal Neal picked him up and spun him around triumphantly. And suddenly, Gold felt ridiculously happy. I’ll get better, suddenly Gold felt sure of it. And we’ll all play together. He pictured it in his mind and the scene felt perfect. No, not quite perfect yet. He added another person to the image in his mind—him, Neal, Killian and Belle. Now it was perfect.
Belle remembered it like it was yesterday, the day she’d waved good-bye to Gold at the hospital. He would be leaving the next day to go with his son, Neal to Boston. There was an excellent outpatient rehabilitation program Dr. Whale had got him into in Boston, which was considered the best in North America and the staff at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston would be able to help him mend better than they could at the small, nonspecialized hospital in Storybrooke.
It was his best chance to get at least some use out of his leg again and, though he didn’t say it, she knew he was eager to spend time with Neal, his son, after such a long time apart. She had sent him a few e-mails after he left, mostly just to thank him again, for saving her life and to tell him how she was doing.
She made sure to tell him when she finally got her arm out of the sling and her shoulder was mostly back to normal. He never responded, other than that first time, which was just a line to tell her he’d arrived alright in Boston, but she supposed that was his prerogative.
Why should she be insulted anyway, she wondered? It was thanks to her that he was probably crippled for life. Why in the world would he want to remain in contact with her of all people? He was probably just eager for her to get out of his life and stop reminding him of what happened. Wasn’t it enough that he’d saved her life, now she wanted him to pay attention to her stupid little triumphs at school learning library science? Meanwhile he couldn’t practice his own trade due to injuries he’d sustained because of her.
Eventually she stopped e-mailing him altogether. Catching up in school was challenging enough. She was happy to be back living with her flatmates without worrying about waking up her parents. It seemed at home she was always leaving her light on for studying late at night or having to listen to their arguing.
Still, it was difficult taking care of everything herself while still coping with her healing shoulder and residual mental trauma from Gaston’s attack and subsequent death. A part of her still didn’t really believe he was dead. He came back to her in her dreams, sometimes chasing her, trying to hurt her and she’d wake up crying. The more puzzling and perhaps more disturbing dreams were of him in the days when she felt like she loved him, when he had shown some kindness and caring for her, when she woke up and actually felt sad that he was dead, before quickly remembering all the horrors he’d put her through and what he did to poor Mr. Gold.
She dreamed of Mr. Gold often. Sometimes they were horrible dreams, where she saw his broken body again on the ground, the blood seeping out of his pinstriped suit. And then there were the good dreams, dreams where they snuggled in bed together, kissing and cuddling. She dreamed they went to a ball and danced together in old fashion clothes like people from a fairytale. She woke up with mixed emotions after that one. After what happened could Gold even dance anymore? She thought about him in the hospital and realized she really had no idea. She only hoped that wherever he was he was happy, and that he realized what a precious gift he’d given her by saving her life. Belle didn’t want to let a single day go by where she didn’t enjoy something of beauty in the world, where she wasn’t aware that everything she experienced now was special because it could have so easily been taken away.
She loved learning and she loved school. Every word and book she read she lapped up happily. By the end of the semester, with much work behind her she was near the top of her class.
She didn’t regret the fact that all that studying gave her little time for a dating life. To be honest, she didn’t really want to complicate things for herself a while anyway. It was hard enough just surviving as things were now. She was still afraid that any man she tried to date would just end up like Gaston. She decided she’d steer clear of the whole romance thing for a while if she could. Survival was more important.
With the semester done she had just one more challenge left before she completed her library science degree and that was her practicum at a local library. Frankly, she was excited to bust out of the ivory tower of academia and tackle the day to day business of a real live library. She was especially looking forward to the fact that this particular library was renowned in town for its extensive children’s books section and innovative afternoon programs for the under-5 set. She’d be taking a hand in leading these herself, she’d been told.
“Yes, I have most certainly put my past behind well and truly behind me,” thought Belle as she drove to the library for her first day of practicum, glancing briefly at the print out from Google maps resting on the passenger side seat.
“Children’s section of Gladstone Library here I come!”Chatper 13
Part of being on practicum meant working on Saturdays. Belle had Mondays off which was a slow day for the library. Saturdays were usually busy because parents had off and brought their children in for the afternoon children’s program. Belle actually didn’t mind working on the weekend. The weekends often went too slowly for her liking. Two days in a row only interacting with her computer in her room in the apartment, always made her a little depressed. It was hard to keep certain thoughts from her mind, no matter how much distracting studying she had, and the library manuals she’d been forced to read lately hadn’t been the most diverting.
Today it was her turn to do storytime for the afternoon. She’d seen her friend Mary Margaret read to the kids before and lead them in the craft activity and it didn’t look too hard. Today they were doing fairy tales and would be making their own fairy tale book out of cardboard and paper.
Parents starting showing up with their kids around 1:45 pm. Although the event was supposed to start at 2, Belle waited until 2:10 when most of the seats in the semi-circle were full. Then, wearing a fairy princess crown and holding a wooden wand with a star on top, Belle emerged from behind the circulation desk with a extra-large picture book. The story was “the Tale of the Three Little Pigs.” It had nice big illustrations so that even the kids at the back would be able to see.
Five minutes into her reading, parents with kids were still arriving. She took note of a young father who squeezed in by the side door with a small boy in tow. There was something oddly familiar about him, but she just couldn’t place it. She wondered if he was in one of her classes. Yes, maybe that was it.
When the story was finished and she led the children into the craft room at the back. Mary Margaret was just finishing putting the glue pots and sparkles in piles in front of all the places at the plastic covered table.
The little boy she’d noticed earlier was the first to tear into the room. Although he was small he seemed possessed with ferocious energy. “Hurry Dad!” he shouted. “I wanna make a book!”
“Somebody’s eager to get started,” said Belle with a smile as the father helped the boy up onto the tall bench and pulled the glue pot closer so he could grab a brush. The rest of the children soon took up their own seats at the table.
“Now we take the construction paper and use the brush to put the glue on the back,” Belle explained and demonstrated the process.
“Wait, Killian, no sparkles yet,” murmured the father as the boy reached for the sparkles. “We have to get the paste on first.”
“Sparkles now!” insisted Killian.
The young father caught Belle’s eyes and grimaced. “Sorry, he’s just a little impatient.”
“It’s okay,” she said with a grin. “It’s all right to use the sparkles now.”
“Yes!” Killian grinned as he grabbed an entire cup of green sparkles. Then he clutched the precious cup to his chest as if it was stolen pirate gold.
“Killian,” said Neal, trying to get the cup out of his son’s grasp, “remember you have to share.”
“Nooo!” shouted Killian and squeezed the cup, causing the green sparkles to expode upwards. Suddenly, there were sparkles everywhere.
The children’s activity was over at 3, but Neal left early to take Killian to the bathroom to get cleaned up.
Neal gave his son the once over in the bathroom mirror.
The boy was covered in sticky green sparkles from head to toe. There were sparkles in his hair and on his cheeks. Even the child sized hook he wore for a left hand was covered in glue and sparkles. “Hmmm, let me take this off and give it a good scrub,” said Neal. Killian stood still as his father unfastened it, fascinated by his reflection in the mirror.
“Look at me Dad!” said Killian studying his newly sparkly self in the mirror with a grin. “I’m all magical now!”
“Well, you’re something, that’s for sure,” said Neal as he wet a paper towel. “Now stand still, so I can the rest of this out.”
The activity was over, but there was still a lot to clean up. The children had gone to town with the sparkles, spangles and glue, not mention that half the marker caps seemed to be missing from the markers. Belle went under the table to see if she could hunt some of the stray ones down.
She heard the sound of a knock on the door of the craft room and Mary Margaret went to answer it.
“I’m sorry sir, but this room is closed to visitors now. The children’s activity is over for the day,” she told the person at the door.
“Sorry to trouble you,” said a familiar voice, “I was just looking for someone. I was supposed to meet my son and grandson here but it seems they—“
Belle gave a start, completely forgetting she was under a table and hit her head. She swore as she rubbed the spot with her hand.
“Excuse me, Miss” said the amused sounding voice, “but are you aware that there’s someone under your table?”
Belle looked out from beneath the plastic table cloth to see a pair of black leather shoes and the end tip of a cane.
“Mr. Gold?” asked Belle popping up from under the table.
Gold stumbled backwards in shock and grabbed the table for support. “Belle French?”
“Hello dearie!” she said with a grin and gave him a big hug.
“Careful, you don’t give a man a heart attack,” he laughed and embraced her right back.
he let go and held her out at arm’s length. “Good Lord, look at you!”
he said as she spun out from him, her blue skirt swirling slightly
around her. “What a sight for sore eyes!”
“And you,” she said. She fingered the lapel of his suit black suit jacket, “very dapper.”
“Well, I was at the office this morning. Didn’t have time to change,” he said and caught her eyes looking at him.
Belle found herself thinking about Gold getting changed. Did he wear boxers or briefs?
“Got to keep up appearances, you know,” he said with a blush as he broke eye contact.
Belle laughed and it was like notes of beautiful music to Gold’s ears.
“Belle,” broke in Mary Margaret, “won’t you introduce me to your handsome friend?”
Gold snorted. Handsome friend indeed.
“Mary Margaret,” said Belle, “this is Ian Gold, my lawyer. He’s the man who saved my life.”
“Saved your life?” said Mary Margaret, eyeing Gold with renewed interest.
“Regular knight in shining armour, that’s me,” said Gold sarcastically.
“Um, Ian- Mr. Gold, this is Mary Margaret, children’s librarian here at Gladstone and my practicum supervisor,” said Belle.
Gold and Mary Margaret shook hands awkwardly, but all he could think was how much he wished Mary Margaret would go away so he could be with Belle alone. There were so many questions he wanted to ask her. He hadn’t heard anything from her since she wrote to ask if he’d arrived in Boston all right and that had been five months ago.
He didn’t blame her for not writing. He was sure she was busy with school and getting back to herself again. Why would she want to hear back from him anyway? What could he tell her that wouldn’t remind her of the horrible experience they’d been through? He didn’t want to write to her about his recovery process and all he’d had to go through at the clinic. He didn’t want her to feel guilt or pity for him. She deserved to be as free from negative emotions as she could be after all that had happened to her. He could get by on his own. He always had before.
But then a little voice piped up to remind me him, that he wasn’t really on his own anymore, even without Belle.
“Crocodile!?” asked the little voice. A small, dark haired boy, half covered in sparkles was tugging at the cuff of his sleeve.
“Belle, Mary Margaret,” said Gold with a wave. “This is Killian.”
“Crocodile!” said Killian.
“What?” asked Belle.
“Um, it’s what he calls me instead of grandpa. Don’t ask me why,” said Gold, with a shrug, “it’s just his thing.”
“You’re a grandfather?” asked Mary Margaret, eyes going wide. “You don’t look old enough to—“
“Oh, hey dad,” said Neal, walking up to them. “Well done finding them Killian,” he said with a nod to Killian.
Gold noticed Neal was squeezing out the corner of his T-shirt which had somehow gotten soaked in the process of trying to clean Killian up. Some of Killian’s green sparkles had migrated to Neal’s hands and T-shirt.
“This is a great program you have here,” he said to the two librarians. “I’ll have to tell my friend Anna about it. Her son is five already, I think it would be more his speed actually. It’s still a bit hard for this little monkey here to focus for a full hour,” he said and picked Kilian up in his arms. The small boy squirmed joyfully and reached out for Gold’s face, which was now close at hand.
Killian grabbed Gold’s nose. “Got your nose!” he cried out triumphantly.
“Ow! Oh, let go!” cried out Gold, swatting Killian’s hand away. He realized with a sinking heart that he was failing miserably at trying to appear all cool and unflustered for Belle, not with a three year old was literally leading him by the nose and the two librarians now snickering into their hands. “Killian, why in blazes did I teach you that?” snarled Gold. Killian hid his face in his father’s shoulder and giggled.
Gold leaned his cane on the table and straightened his tie in his customary fussy manner. He liked it to be perfectly even. He glanced over at Belle, but oddly enough, sensed no disdain on her part for his lack of cool in having his nose pulled by a three year old. She hadn’t even batted an eyelash at the grandson thing, even though it made him feel positively ancient next to her. Really, she was a remarkable woman.
“Hey,” said Mary Margaret to Belle “I’m almost finished here and there’s nothing really left to do. You’re off the clock in ten anyway. Why don’t you get an early start and catch up with your friends here. “
“Really? Oh thanks, Mary,” said Belle with a smile.
“Walk you to your car m’lady?” asked Gold and held out the crook of his arm to Belle.
“Why I’d be delighted, kind sir,” she said and favoured him with a curtsey like a princess in a book. Then she laced her hands over Gold’s elbow and walked with him out of the library.Parking Lot Walk
Gold walks Belle to her car and they talk about the missing e-mails.
Parking Lot Walk
Belle laced her fingers over the crook of Gold’s arm and they walked out of the library together. She made sure to take the arm that wasn’t holding the cane. She could see he still needed to lean on it quite a bit, but considering what shape he’d been in when she’d last seen him, he was the picture of health.
“It’s good to see you up and about,” she said to him.
He favoured her with a tight half smile, “You as well.”
“All this time, I was wondering how you were. I sent e-mails for months.”
“What? You were e-mailing me?” he asked incredulously. “Are you sure?”
“But all I got was that one e-mail from you. It said you’d sent it right before I went to Neal’s house in Boston and I e-mailed you right back once I got there. Then I heard nothing else. Please don’t tease me, it can’t be right! I read that one e-mail over and over and over again!”
“Yes, of course. It meant a lot to me.”
“It- it did?” Belle’s mind was whirling. It meant a lot to him. He’d read it over and over. He’d actually said those very words!
“Oh shit! Oh Belle, now I get it!” Suddenly, Gold was livid. “Damn that August W. Booth!”
“August W. what?”
“Oh, how could I be so stupid? It was August, my son’s flatmate. When he arrived I asked him to fix my Hotmail inbox. I kept on getting these crazy solicitations to help Nigerian princes with their ink stained money and offers for penis enlargement pills and breast implants in a can! He said he’d get rid of them all so they all went into the junk folder if they came from those addresses, but maybe, by mistake he checked off your contact address as going automatically to the junk mail folder as well! Oh Belle, I’m so sorry. Never fear. He won’t escape justice for this. Oh no! As soon as he gets back from Australia he’s getting impaled on my cane Game of Thrones style!”
“But I- I sent you dozens of e-mails,” protested Belle, ignoring his joking tone. “You never wrote me anything, but still I kept on sending stuff. I thought maybe you would just spontaneously write to me too.”
“I- I didn’t want to bother you,” said Gold and was disturbed that Belle didn’t look like she believed him.
“You know you could never be a bother to me. You saved my life!”
“Not really. I was just in the right place at the right time. Anyway, what news did I have to tell you that wouldn’t just make you feel worse about everything? C’mon, like you really wanted to hear about me doing stupid rehab exercises or my exciting adventures watching day time TV as I tried to smoke my way through August’s newest stash of B.C. weed?”
“B.C. weed? You? You’ve got to be kidding me—“
“Medicinal purposes only! I was in pain. And also, really, really, really bored! I mean I even watched Dr. Phil! I was that bored.”
“Whatever,” she shrugged. “Anyway, I wouldn’t have cared. I just wanted to hear from you. I was so worried. I didn’t know what would happen to you, if you’d ever be okay again.”
He touched her arm. “I’m sorry if I made you worry. No need to now. I’m right here with you and I’m fine.” And strangely enough, as he said that to her he felt that way too, for the first time in ages. It was just like that old Beatles song, I’m in love with her and I feel fine.
“I’m just so glad that you’re doing better,” said Belle.
Neal couldn’t help but notice the way his father and the librarian looked at each other. Not the librarian, he amended in his head, but Belle, the one who’d been there when his father was shot, and had gotten shot herself. If he recalled correctly it was her ex-husband, enraged by the divorce settlement his father was trying to get for Belle that had shot the both of them as they left the court house parking lot.
When Killian found some exciting sticks to play swords with, Neal was happy to oblige his son for a few minutes as they fought with trees and bushes. He wanted to give his father some time to talk to his friend undisturbed.
Although his father had dated other women since his mother left them, Neal couldn’t remember his voice ever turning soft when he talked about them, the way it did when he spoke to Neal of Belle. His admiration for her shone through as he’d told Neal about her courage in leaving her abusive husband and her resourcefulness and determination to fight for what was hers, along with her intelligence and her humour. It amused Neal that his father never thought to apply these attributes to himself, for these qualities fit him as well. But that was his father all over, Neal knew, he never saw himself for how fine he truly was. Still, despite his father’s lack of confidence, Neal was sure that if it hadn’t had been for those well placed bullets, Ian Gold would have found some way to take Belle out on a date, once the case was won and he was no longer her lawyer.
Now Neal wasn’t sure if his father could rise to the occasion. Recently, he’d noticed his father had seemed a little depressed. At first Gold’s sheer joy at freely being able to go out to the shops or in to work was intoxicating to him. He’d been living on his own again at his old house for months now, back to his usual routines for the most part, pin-striped suits and all. Neal had been pleased to see Gold so happy and proud to be back at work, getting better and stronger and more mobile every day. But just last week, he’d confessed to Neal that the physiotherapist had opined to him that this was about as good as he was going to get and he should just be thankful that he’d got this far.
All along Gold had been telling himself that his injuries were just temporary; that even if took a very long time he just had to be patient and work as hard as could and eventually he’d be back to his old self. But now it looked like he was stuck as he was.
And he knew that there were lots of people far worse off than him. He’d definitely seen folks in the rehab place who would’ve traded with him in a heartbeat. Having a permanent limp and using a cane wasn’t really that bad, he tried to make himself think. After all, he could still do most of everything he had before. Except play football, his mind spat back bitterly. He was being a total whinger and stupid, he told himself. Just look at Killian for example, he had only one hand and seemed to get along just fine. Killian seemed blessedly free from the scourge of self-consciousness about his disability. He basked in the glow of others’ attention and was quite pleased to show off his little hook hand and all he could do with it to anyone who was the least bit curious. But Killian was a child who’d always been as he was now and Gold was a man who’d gone to university on a soccer scholarship, who’d had fifty years of knowing his old body before he’d been broken and reassembled. Of course, it would be hard to adjust, even to such a little change, he thought, and tried to cut himself some slack. Still, why did he have the odd sensation now and again that he was wearing the skin of another person? Why didn’t his form match the picture of himself he had in his own head? Sometimes when he caught his reflection in a window as he did now, walking down the path with Belle by the grassy turf of the library he felt like he was looking at the image of some other fellow who resembled him, an older brother perhaps, but not himself. It was quite disconcerting.
As Belle talked about her work at the library the wheels in his head wouldn’t stop turning. He desperately wanted to ask her out, to a movie, or a meal or anywhere at all, but he just didn’t feel like himself. What would a movie or a meal or a coffee lead to? It had been a long time since he’d had sex with anyone. He knew the one essential body part required was still in good nick, however the other aspects of the act were somewhat of a concern. He wasn’t exactly sure how he’d manage without being able to bend his knee or put any pressure on one leg. He didn’t need to be a seer to anticipate it being very awkward and embarrassing for them both. But then, came the horny little imp in his mind, when is sex not awkward and a wee bit embarrassing the first time around with someone new? Weird and silly things always seem to happen. You’ll get used to each other. The imp did have a point, he conceded, but he pushed the thought away. Just because she was willing to walk with him to the car did not mean she was willing to go to bed with him. Ah Gold, he told himself, all that enforced solitude has finally done your nut in.
As these thoughts swirled through his mind, Belle continued talking a mile a minute. He tried to maintain a hold on the flow of her conversation with half his mind, while the other half coped unsuccessfully with the task of pushing down all the doubts and fears so rapidly trying to overtake him.
“Where’s your car?” he mumbled just to get something in and let her know he was still paying attention.
She pointed to a silvery gray sedan parked snuggly between two yellow painted lines. The car was instantly familiar.
“My God,” said Gold.
Belle’s hair swept down over her face. “Yeah, it’s the same car. I hate driving it, but I can’t afford anything new,” she said softly, “and this library is too far away from where I live to take the bus.”
Gold stumbled forward saying, nothing. He touched the passenger side door, the memory of that fateful day singing through him; that same metal, made hot by the sun, burning his fingers as he slid down the door to the ground after the first slug went in. In a clumsy half bend he went down to touch the bottom of the door where one particular bullet must have gone into the metal after slicing through his calf muscle like a knife through butter. And now the door was completely smooth, with no indication of bullet impacts at all. Everything had been erased like it had never happened at all.
“It looks like new,” he said, in shock.
“Body shop,” said Belle, with a sad bit of a laugh. “I don’t know how they do it.”
Gold nodded and flexed his bad leg. “I wish they had them for people, too. Body shops, I mean.”
“I’ve read a few science fiction books about stuff like that,” said Belle, pressing on nervously. “There was this series by Scott Westerfeld where…” but then she realized she really didn’t want to waste her time with Gold, talking nervously about dystopian science fiction series for teens. She was just stalling because she knew exactly what she wanted to ask him, but she was afraid. Just do it! she shouted inside herself. Ask him!
And she did.
“Mr. Gold—Ian, I mean, I know you’re with your son right now, but afterwards- afterwards…do you want to go for a coffee?”
“To go for a coffee with me--you’d like that?” he asked feeling elated and surprised all at once.
“Yes,” she nodded, “I really think I would.”Preparing for the Coffee Date
Neal helps Gold prepare for his big date with Belle.
Gold’s Coffee Date: Step 1: Preparation
“Hello, I’m Ian Gold. How are you?” said Gold to the mirror. No, no good. He sounded like a robot. Why was he practicing introducing himself anyway? She already knew his bloody name
“Are you completely satisfied with your mobile long distance plan?” he asked Neal in a smooth salesman’s voice.
“Da-ad! What are you talking about?”
“I feel like one of those guys who accosts people at the mall in this,” grumbled Gold. “Why can’t I just wear my suit and tie?”
“Because you don’t go on a coffee date in pinstripes. It’s just not done,” said Neal in an authoritative tone. “Just humour me okay?” With that Neal handed his father a charcoal gray blazer to put over the plain black V-necked T-shirt he was wearing.
“Now the trousers,” said Neal patiently, with a nod towards Gold’s perfectly pleated pinstriped trousers.
“Never!” said Gold defiantly. “Do you have any idea how long it took me to get these on without snagging them?”
“You should wear jeans with that top,” said Neal as he opened his father’s closet. “C’mon Dad, I know you have a pair in here somewhere.”
“Doesn’t matter. No way they’ll fit over this,” said Gold smugly and tapped his leg brace through the trousers.
Neal rubbed his chin, as he stepped back to study his father better. “Hmm, I think you’re right, but I might have just the thing. You just wait there for a second,” said Neal.
Gold sat down on the bed to watch Killian as he waited for his son to return.
The small boy lay on his stomach on the carpet, concentrating intensely on colouring in his colouring book.
“Your father’s a loony, you know that, right?” said Gold to Killian as he tried to struggle his way out of the pinstriped trousers.
Killian just looked up from his work and nodded, “Uh-huh.”
Gold looked over at Killian’s colouring. He was working on a picture of a panda with his green crayon.
“It’s supposed to be black and white,” said Gold.
“Green,” said Killian.
“But it’s a panda.”
“Crocodile!” insisted Killian, as Gold turned back to his war against his trousers. “See Gran’pa,” said Killian, holding up the picture, “he’s green so he’s a crocodile!”
“You’re not making sense, Killian,” Gold explained to the boy as he finally got the trousers off his bad leg. “Come now, being green isn’t what makes a creature a crocodile. If I painted you green would that make you a crocodile?”
“Yes!” said Killian, very pleased with this idea. “Paint me green! I want to be a crocodile!”
“Ugh!” Gold put facepalmed himself. “Trust me to try to argue logic with a three year old!”
“All ready?” asked Neal.
“Yeah, yeah,” groused Gold, looking down at his black silk boxer shorts.
Neal entered the room wearing only boxers and a top, holding his jeans in his hands. “Here you go Dad!”
Gold eyed the proffered jeans with a raised eyebrow. “You can’t be serious. I will not go on a date wearing my son’s trousers.”
“Of course you will,” Neal coaxed him. “Killian, don’t you think your grandfather will look handsome in these?” Neal prompted his son.
“Uh-huh,” answered Killian.
“Disloyal little –“
“See, we’ve voted and it’s two to one!”
“He doesn’t get a vote! He’s a child!” protested Gold.
Killian stuck out his tongue at Gold and giggled.
Gold took the jeans from Neal. “They’ll probably be too big,” he complained. “You’re taller than me.”
“We’ll just turn up the cuffs,” said Neal, “and it’s good they’re big, you’ll need room for your leg brace.”
Gold regarded the leg brace with a moody expression. It allowed him to put some weight on his damaged leg again so he could walk, but it was bulky and ugly. He resented that it would have to be part of his daily attire from now on, and he could do nothing but just get used to it.
Gold stroked the small scar on his upper lip, which was another souvenir from the shooting that he was growing accustomed to. Strangely, he actually didn’t mind it—the small smooth bump of a line in his stubble was a little comforting to touch.
“What are you going to wear then?” Gold asked Neal. “I hardly think showing up without trousers will impress Tamara into trusting you more time with Killian.”
“It’s okay,” Neal reassured him. “I have my workout sweats in my gym bag to wear.”
Gold shrugged and began to pull on the jeans.
Step 2: Anticipation and Reward
Twenty minutes later Gold found himself sitting in the living room watching Thomas the Tank Engine with Killian, while Neal prepared some cut-up apples in the kitchen.
Gold was waiting for Belle and he didn’t like it.
“Stupid posh trains,” he mumbled.
“Ssssh!” said Killian waving his hand at the screen. “Thomas!”
She was five minutes late. What if she decided not to come? No, no, don’t think like that. He hated waiting, feeling like some silly girl waiting on a prom date.
Once again he wished his car wasn’t in the shop. He hadn’t been able to drive it all winter due to his injuries. Then when he was finally well enough to give it a try, he’d gotten in and tried to start it and the engine turned over once and then completely conked out. Poor old girl. Neal had told him not to buy another Cadillac, but he was a sucker for a badass car.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. He rose and grabbed his cane, but Neal was at the door first, wiping his we hands on his sweatpants.
“Dad! Belle’s here!”
“Hang on a second,” called Gold. He checked himself in the mirror in the living room and noticed the vase on the mantelpiece. It held a bunch of carved wooden roses to go with the living room’s folk-art countryish décor theme. The interior designer he hired for the house had bought them ages ago and he’d never really noticed them much before, but now he plucked one from the bunch. Secreting the rose behind his back he limped to the door, a mischievous smile on his face.
Neal receded to allow his father some space, leaning on the doorjamb of the living room, pretending to watch TV with Killian.
“Well, don’t you just look like the cat who swallowed the canary,” said Belle, noting his little smirk and a lot more besides. She liked the new outfit on him and how it made his shoulders look so square and his waist so narrow.
“For you m’dear,” he said and extended the rose with a little theatrical flourish.
She took it with a smile and held it up to her nose, breathing in deeply, as if she could smell it. “Thank you!”
“We are such things as wood and water make us,” he murmured spontaneously.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked softly.
He blushed. “I don’t know. Just some line I remember from a poem, don’t even remember the name of it anymore. It just—you remind me of it.”
“Of wood and water?”
“Of a poem. Musical. Beautiful.”
“Oh,” she said as for a brief moment her mind emptied of all thoughts save for the glow of his brown eyes as they looked at her.
He looked at her and her face bloomed like a flower in his heart and he felt her take up residence in his mind, a talisman against whatever darkness was to come.
Gold takes a ride in Belle's messy car.
Chapter NotesSee the end of the chapter for notes
Chapter 18: Back Seat Driver
The date had started inauspiciously enough. Carrying her little wooden rose Belle showed Gold to where she was parked on the street by his house. He turned back just once to see Neal, holding Killian in his arms, wave at him from the window. And then they were at the car.
Belle opened the door the passenger door and went around to the other side. Gold held the car door, but did not get inside. Belle looked up, a slight flutter in her stomach, wondering what was wrong, if for some reason he’d changed his mind and didn’t want to go with her after all.
“Um,” her date cleared his throat. “Belle?”
“Yes Ian?” She looked at him over the top of the car.
“I- I can’t get in,” Gold blushed furiously, feeling embarrassed and a little bit angry.
Belle came around to his side of the car and instantly saw the problem. She cursed herself for her stupidity. The passenger seat was pushed up fairly close to the dash. It had never presented a problem for other passengers she’d given a lift to before, but for someone who couldn’t sit with his leg bent, it was impossible.
“Oh, shit Ian, I’m sorry. I’m so stupid, I should have fixed it before—“
She bent down to adjust the lever at the side of the passenger seat to try to push it back, careful not to wrench her shoulder.
Gold shifted awkwardly back up to the curb. This was not how he intended to make a good impression. It was bad enough that he needed Belle to drive, he thought sourly.
Belle grunted, trying to get the lever on the seat to move, but it appeared stuck. At least this angle gave Gold an opportunity to watch her bottom as it strained against that extremely tight blue skirt. It seemed the more she tried to adjust the seat, the higher the skirt hiked up her thighs, he noticed. Maybe some clouds really had a silver lining after all.
“Oh Ian, I’m so sorry,” said Belle as she stood up again. She honestly felt like she was going to cry. Making Ian feel bad was the last thing on Earth she wanted to do tonight! The date had only just started and already she could feel a horrid sinking sensation of failure tugging at her.
“It’s okay, really,” said Gold. “I’ll just sit in the back.” And before she could protest, he opened the back door and went in. The backseat was cluttered, but by moving a few things around, he managed to stretch himself out quite comfortably with his foot on the seat, propping it up on a small stack of books and Kleenex boxes. “See, plenty of room. Don’t worry, my shoe’s clean.”
“Oh that’s fine. Nothing there I’m worried about breaking or getting dirty. Anything you find in the way, just toss it to the floor, okay? I’m sorry, I should have cleared it out before.”
“Stop apologizing. It’s more comfortable like this, anyway,” he said honestly, “Now come on.”
She took her place on the driver’s side and glanced at him through the rear view mirror.
He gave her a small wave.
She put the key in the ignition, biting back her feelings of guilt. What kind of jerk was she? Now everything felt strained and awkward. Nervously, she looked in the rear view mirror again, trying to gage how much space she had to back up and was distracted by Gold making a weird face and sticking out his tongue.
“What the--? Ian!”
She looked at the back again, but now he was looking out the window and whistling nonchalantly. He caught her eye for a second and they both burst out laughing.
Gold looked about curiously in the back seat of Belle’s car as she drove. He’d never seen someone with so many books in their vehicle before. They littered the floor like newpaper on the bottom of a bird cage.
“Belle, you have a bloody library in here!” he marveled.
“Keeps me from getting bored in parking lots,” she shrugged.
He picked up one gigantic hardback tome and read the title, “The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge including Biographica Literaria.”
“I had a course on Romantic Poetry and Prose last semester,” she said. “He was my favourite.”
“Ah, well that fits.” Gold picked up a biography of Lord Byron and a collected edition of the letters by Dorothy Wordsworth.
Next he unearthed a well thumbed paperback of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “Oh, I loved this when I was younger!” he exclaimed.
“You should read it again. Seriously, borrow it! You can never read it too many times. I have another copy at home. Always cracks me up when I’m feeling blue.”
Then Gold noticed there was something sticking into his back as he sat. He felt under the blanket that covered part of the back seat and discovered an gorgeously illustrated book of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales.
“Do you have a favourite one?” he asked holding up the book.
“Of, definitely the Nightingale and the Rose,” she answered without hesitation.
“Oh, but that one has such a sad ending.”
“Some of the best fairy tales do,” she said. “Ever read the Steadfast Tin Soldier?”
“Is that Oscar Wilde too?”
“Hans Christian Andersen, but I think he’s in the trunk.”
Gold laughed, as he placed the Oscar Wilde book aside on top of the blanket. He picked out another book shaped lump from under his back. From the outside it looked like a perfectly ordinary women’s Japanese manga comic, featuring two large eyed, beautiful men in French Revolution-era period clothing on the cover and the ho-hum title of “Gerard and Jacques.”
The book seemed to open of its own accord on a set of panels featuring an artistic depiction of fellatio between the two men from the cover, one of whom was in a butler’s uniform. What the--?
Belle noticed that Ian had gone usually quiet for a bit. She thought she heard the distinct sound of a stifled chuckle from the backseat. What was he up to? She glanced back in the rear view mirror and saw him flipping through the pages of a book with a strange expression on his face, somewhere between shock and amusement. And then she caught the cover of the book he was reading. That book was in her car, too?
“Gah! Ian, put that away!”
“What in the world is this?” he looked up, amusement dancing in his eyes.
“Uh, it’s called yaoi,” she said in a small voice. “It’s- it’s a Japanese thing.”
“Oh?” he raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Do tell.”
Chapter End Notes
All the books mentioned in this are books I have actually read or owned, (except for the Dorothy Wordsworth collected letters, though I have read some of those). They all exist if you're curious.
I picked "The Nightingale and the Rose" as Belle's favourite Wilde story because roses are always associated with her, back to the original Beauty and the Beast story. It is one of my favourites too, although I probably like "The Happy Prince" better.
I got the idea for the Steadfast Tin Soldier mention, from all the
amazing fan fics on this board featuring Rumple/Belle versions of
Andersen's "the Steadfast Tin Soldier." Some of these are really great!
Check out: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1031975/chapters/2056073
Good reads both!
I love OUAT, but one thing they do get wrong about fairy tales is that the whole "happy ending" thing is more of a modern invention. Many fairy tales end pretty tragically in the original versions. When I was little and only familiar with the Disney versions of fairy tale I was completely shocked when I read the Andersen stories and disliked them. Years have gone by and I have come to appreciate them. The Oscar Wilde fairy tales in the original versions I think are best appreciated when one is old enough to understand and enjoy the gorgeous language he employs. I highly recommend reading his stories. Each one is like unwrapping some new kind of rich decadent, expensive chocolate!Brunch: Part 1
So here we are. Gold and Belle have gotten over Belle's love of yaoi and are now on their way to Boston to visit Neal and Killian. Most of this next bit is about Gold having brunch with Neal and son at a restaurant at Faneuil Hall Markeplace. All the locations in the next part, (except the specific brunch restaurant which is actually based on one in Brookline, a different part of Boston), are real locations in Boston that you can visit. I have family members who live in the city and have visited numerous times. It's a great town. I highly recommend the Aquarium!
Chapter NotesSee the end of the chapter for notes
Despite a bumpy start, the rest of the coffee date bwent quite well and was soon followed by many more. Gold found Belle to be an intriguing companion.
He had known many people from many walks of life in his trade. Though he wasn’t always the most talkative man, he liked to think he had a keen appreciation of a person with a quick wit and an interesting vocabulary. Belle was widely read, it was true, and her reading gave her conversation a beguiling flavor she seemed touchingly unaware of. It was peppered with words one rarely heard in ordinary 21st century speech and changed with whatever she was reading at the time.
Gold remembered her describing coming into the library late for her practicum one morning finishing off with: “And then Mary Margaret gets all sore with me!”
“Angry,” she said and blushed. “Damn, I’ve got to cut it out with the Hemmingway or I’ll start saying ‘tight’ when I mean ‘drunk’ again.”
And then there was her description of the time he found an unexpected pickle in his sandwich, (he hated pickles). Belle burst out laughing at him as he stared at his food, rendered wholly unappetizing by this single unwelcome addition.
“What? What’s so funny?”
“My God, your expression! You opened up the bun and got this whole supersad moue of disappointment—“
“A moo of disappointment? What? Do I look a cow to you?”
“No silly, like, like, a pout like this!” she said and gave him the most ridiculous pouty face with her lower lip stuck out and her eyes all big and puppy dog looking.
Gold snorted, “I do not look like that!”
She pouted some more and batted her long eyelashes fetchingly. “On no? Seriously, you could just break my heart with those eyes. Here, I’ll switch with you. I don’t care about the pickle.”
“You sure?” he asked, but she’d already swiped his burger for hers.
Then there was the time she caught a cold a cancelled one of their dates. She texted him at work saying she was experiencing a “spot of mild ill-health.” She was fine, thank goodness, but it did crack him up a little, it seemed so incongruous a phrase to go on a mobile phone.
Their best date so far, had been to Boston. She came with him to do some shopping and sightseeing while he visited with Neal and Killian. She talked about so many things as they drove and sometimes he laughed so hard, he had a hard time focusing on the road. He’d never thought the long drive could be so amusing. Even with Neal it got to be a pretty boring slog. He couldn’t believe how all of a sudden he didn’t want the drive to end. But end it did, and he dropped Belle off at the Museum of Fine Arts, with a promise to meet later at the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Boston Public Garden nearby.
Gold parked his car in the parking structure at Faneuil Hall Marketplace and walked over to the brunch restaurant inside to meet Neal and Killian. There were all sorts of interesting things to see in the market, but he was yearning for a coffee after the long drive into town, so he entered the restaurant and got a booth for the three of them with plenty of room for him to stretch out his leg under the table.
“Black, no sugar,” he told the waitress.
Neal entered with Killian just as Gold was ordering his coffee. Gold watched them through the window of the café, Killian pulling ahead of Neal, eager to get to the restaurant.
“Probably hungry for these chocolate chip pancakes,” thought Gold as he scanned the menu. They did look quite appetizing. But what he heard as they approached was Killian’s high piping voice saying, “C’mon Dad, hurry! I want to see Gran’pa!”
Suddenly, unexpectedly, Gold felt his eyes water. He quickly dipped into his coffee for a sip, eyes darting around to make sure no one at any of the tables nearby had noticed. How very strange.
Killian had stopped calling him Crocodile only just recently. Sure being called Grandpa made him feel a bit old, but it also made him feel quite warm and fuzzy inside in a way he would never, ever confess to anyone who knew him in his business life. It was almost like he’d swallowed some warm pie and mash and it was all toasty and cozy inside him, warming his body and soul from the inside out. No, no, he was just hungry, that was it. This getting all mushy and sentimental was completely out of character.
He was not and had never been an optimists and much as he’d dreamed of being close with Neal and Neal having a child someday who’d called him grandfather, he’d put all those paternal fantasies away years ago, what with Neal into drugs and in and out of police custody. Then Neal stopped talking to him and even the simplest fantasy he had of being a family again evaporated completely. All those dreams they tell you to keep in your heart, that adults tell children they can make real someday-- Gold knew, he’d seen that other side of life as a kid and it was like his Papa told him—just a sucker’s game. Life was just out to trick you, to make you think you could have things, only to swipe them away at the last moment. It was like the card tricks his father played, making you think you had the ace, when it was the two of clubs all along.
He supposed this was why just being with his son and grandson like this sometimes felt like a surreal dream. He’d just sit there listening to the sound of Neal talking sensibly about jam sessions and teaching Killian the backstroke at the local pool and sometimes he just couldn’t focus. The contrast between Neal before and Neal now seemed almost too great. For three years he’d tried to make himself strong against the pain of missing Neal. He’d armour up every morning to face the day alone, clad in his shield of cynicism and disdain, resigned to the prospect of never seeing his boy again, proclaiming himself “happy” he’d never have to sit up another night worrying if the boy was back on the junk or shived by some dealer in a South-side back alley, every false hope kept firmly in check. He’d been doing it so long, refusing to give in to a hope he knew to be false, that all this barely felt real. He kept expecting some man behind a curtain, to pop up and show him it was all just an illusion.
Why couldn’t he just go with it and trust this? Sipping his coffee he watched Killian playing with the sugar packets, sorting them into pink and blue piles, trying to stack them up like oddly shaped blocks, swinging his short little legs under the table below his booster seat, just happy to be with him.
Gold wondered if his cynical old heart could actually hold so much genuine good feeling and happiness inside. He was certain he wasn’t designed for it. Perhaps he would shatter and blow clean away on the breeze, a scattering of gray cinders that had once been the dusty heart of small, gloomy man, floating freely at last under the sun of a bright blue sky.
“GAH!” he gasped as he realized Killian had kicked him in the knee and he was tumbling back down to Earth as sharp pain radiated out through his injured leg, an instantaneous reminder that this was very much the real world. For a second he thought he’d throw up.
“Ya fooking wee cunt! What the fook yeh do that for?” he rasped, once he regained the power of speech. With shaking hands he tapped a codeine tablet out of the pill bottle he kept on hand and knocked it back with a quick slug of coffee. He knew it was too early for the pill to be working yet, but he already thought he sensed the pain abating as he closed his eyes and tipped his head back to rest it against the wall.
“Grandpa ouch?” asked Killian shyly.
“Yes, Grandpa very much fucking ouch!” snapped Gold rubbing his wounded leg through his trousers.
“Sorry, Grandpa,” said Killian quietly. He looked like he was on the verge of tears.
“Dad,” said Neal his eyes full of concern, “are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Why?” grumbled Gold as he opened his eyes.
“Uh, you just called your grandson a… ‘small vagina’ in public, you know that right?”
Great, the people at the next table were fucking staring, fantastic. Gold snorted. “Come on, son, it’s just that—“
“You get all weird and Scottish when you’re angry, I know.”
“What? No! I was going to say, that it’s just that your Killian there, kicked me in the leg and I do not get all ‘weird and Scottish’ when I’m angry!”
Neal sputtered into his coffee. “You’ve gotta be kidding me! Next thing I know you’ll be calling him a wee ballbag like you used to call me!”
“Shows what you know,” Gold grinned slyly, “that’s actually a term of endearment.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, until Mom explained to me it actually meant nutsack!”
“I fail to see your point,” sniffed Gold as the waitress brought the pancakes.
“Wait Killian, let me cut those up for you,” said Neal, as his son eyed his recently arrived pancakes. He picked up a fork, waving it in Gold’s direction for emphasis. “Okay, remember that time you cornered me in the garage years ago to ask me if I was on the gear?”
Gold bent over to loosen his brace, not because it actually needed much loosening, but because he didn’t want to look Neal in the eye. That was not one of his favourite memories of their past together, Neal lying to him again about his drug use.
“Yeah,” Gold said gruffly. “You said you didn’t know what I was talking about, if I remember correctly. Look, it’s okay. I’m past it now and it doesn’t matter any—“
“Of course I said I had no idea what you were talking about-- I thought you were referring to the gears on my bike!”
“C’mon! You can’t be serious!”
“My bike was right there in the garage in front of us—the blue Raleigh mountain with the 12 speed gear, remember? Why wouldn’t I think you were talking about the bike? I mean gears? Seriously? ”
Gold’s thin lips twisted into a wry smile. “Right, you really didn’t know what gear was? Don’t tell me you never saw Trainspotting. You used to have that poster up in your bedroom—“
“Dad, just because I saw Trainspotting, doesn’t mean I ever caught more’n half what those guys were saying!”
“Ah, fair point.” Gold looked over at Killian, who, impatient for his father to get on with the task of cutting up his pancakes for him, had improvised and speared one with his hook, which was now imbedded halfway through the pancake. The boy took a small bite from the edge, nibbling away in a surprisingly tidy manner. “Oh, wait, Neal- should Killian be doing that?”
“Doing what?” Neal looked over. “Killian, what are you doing?”
“Eating,” said the boy innocently as he took another bite.
“But we’re in a nice restaurant! You’re supposed to use a fork!”
“But you took it,” said Killian, pointing to the fork Neal held in his hand. Neal looked over at Killian’s place setting and realized he had indeed taken his son’s fork.
“Just let him be,” suggested Gold. “It won’t hurt him.”
“Dad, honestly, you have no idea where that thing’s been.”
Chapter End Notes
Please send comments: I'd love to hear what you think.
PS. Gold's swearing is authentic Scottish swearing, (or at least it was a few years back when I was up there). The emotional register for certain words (i.e. "cunt") is different there than it is in North America, so please take that into consideration when you hear what he has to say to Killian;)
P.P.S. Note on Belle's vocab. I actually do the same thing, pick up
odd words from books I read, unaware I've dropped them into normal
"sore" and "tight" are from Hemmingway
"moue of distaste" from Wilde
"spot of ill-health" anything Victorian
Neal pinched the bridge of his nose. He had no more energy left for another battle of wills with a hungry three year old on a mission.
Gold had forgotten how stubborn and frustrating little kids could be sometimes. Neal looked so tired. He was, after all working three part-time jobs, none with any benefits, just trying to raise enough money to get his own apartment so he might be able to have Killian over for a full weekend. Neal was desperate to have a relationship with the son he hadn’t known for the first two years of his life, to live down his past and assuage his guilt for leaving his son in a less than ideal situation and Gold could relate.
“I just wish I hadn’t screwed things up so badly back then,” Neal confessed. “I’m trying my best now, but it’s just no enough. I work and work, but it’s never enough. I’ll always be behind. And all the important stuff in his life that I missed!” Neal sighed as he watched Killian continue to eat his pancake, oblivious to his father’s worries. “I can’t give him a proper place to sleepover on weekends, even. If I have him over and August gets up to his shenanigans again, it won’t be good for either of us.”
“Why can’t you tell August to move out then?” Gold suggested.
“I can’t, it’s his place. I’m the tenant and he lets me have the room for cheap because I take care of his stuff for him when he’s away. Sometimes, you know, he brings stuff back from his travels that maybe he shouldn’t. He knows he can trust me not to blab about it to anyone.”
Gold shook his head sadly. This wasn’t the life he wanted for Neal, but he knew Neal might be too proud to take his assistance now. What he wanted to say would have to be done delicately or not at all.
“I’m going to make a suggestion and I just want you to hear me out, okay?”
“Okay,” said Neal cautiously.
“I’ve been thinking if maybe I could help you with your living situation. You know I own some condos in Storybrooke, right? Well, I’ve been meaning to get another property here in Boston. The economy is good here and I can see the rents keep going up. It’s a desirable location right now and there’s this small, five unit apartment building, right off Harvard Square that I saw advertised online that I was thinking of purchasing. Only thing is, I can’t very well be driving out here whenever a tenant has a problem or is behind on their rent. I can’t exactly be fixing their pipes either and I have no clue who to hire to do service repairs around here. What would you think about being my superintendent and fix-it guy? You could still keep your other jobs, do your music, plus you could live rent free for helping me with the tenants and upkeep. The place I was thinking of, the apartments all have two bedrooms. The second bedroom is really small, but Killian isn’t so big and at least he could have his own private space. Maybe you could save up a bit, if you didn’t have to give such a big chunk of your wages over to the rent. You could even go back to school if that’s what you wanted.”
Neal looked at his father. Gold could see his son was wavering, wanting to accept the offer, yet at the same time, still cautious and holding back.
“I can’t Dad and I’m way too old to go back to school.”
“Don’t let Belle hear you say that. She’s older than you, though not by much. Neal, I’ll help you get what you want, for yourself and for Killian. We can work together at this. I know you feel badly about what happened when he was little, but you’ve turned yourself around now. You are a great father and you’re really trying. Give yourself some credit. I have faith in you.”
“Why?” Neal looked back at Gold, his expression bleak. “I’ve failed you so many times in the past. What makes you believe I’ve really changed?”
Gold shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe I’ve changed too. You came out to see me in the hospital, took me into your home and cared for me when I was low. I know I’m no picnic and I can be demanding and hard to please. You gave me a second chance. Now let me return the favour.”
“But Dad it’s so much money to buy a building like that.”
“It’ll turn a profit, I have no doubt of it and the price isn’t beyond what I can comfortably pay. Anyway, what’s the point of having money if you can’t use it to help the ones you love? So, is it a deal?”
Neal stuck out his hand. “All right Dad, you drive a hard bargain.”
They shook hands formally and Gold announced, “A deal is struck.”
“Me too Grandpa! I want a deal too!” cried Killian and stuck out his little hand to Gold.
Gold took Killian’s hand in his, “All right my wee man. How about I never use the c-word in your presence again and you resist the temptation to kick me in the leg, what say you to that?”
“Deal!” enthused Killian and they shook.
“Now, are you planning on eating that slice of cantaloupe?” Gold asked Killian.
Killian shook his head no. Gold ate the cataloupe down to the skin and then showed Killian how he could flip the rind back and make a weird bracelet for himself.
Neal just shook his head. “Does your girlfriend know she may someday be marrying into a family of complete and utter weirdos?”
“Don’t be daft son,” said Gold with a self-satisfied air. “It’s what she likes best about us.”
Neal laughed and speared himself another pancake.
“How do you feel about her anyway?” asked Gold cautiously. Did he really want to know? Too bad, he’d asked the question already without thinking.
“She’s not my girlfriend, my opinion shouldn’t matter,” said Neal.
“C’mon, Neal, you know it does.”
“Well, as long as she doesn’t have any more crazy gun-toting ex-husbands in the closet—“
“Ha ha,” said Gold sourly.
“What? Too soon?”
“Damn straight, too soon. Come on, be honest with me, Neal. What do you think about me and her?”
“I actually think you guys are really good together.”
“She’s not like anyone I’ve seen you out with before.”
“How’s that? Because she’s younger?”
“No, that’s not it. It’s just, even with all this shit that’s happened this past while, you’ve just seemed so much more—you know—“
“Cheerful?” asked Gold disdainfully. “Less snarky and sarcastic and pissed off about everything that’s shite in the world?”
“Heaven forbid, let’s not go crazy here,” Neal chuckled holding up his hands. “Anyway that wasn’t what I was going to say at all. You just seem more…more like yourself, you know. Funny, the way you used to be, before all this crap messed things up between us. You always used to do that whole deadpan thing—tell me some insane story with a completely straight face and see how long it took for me to figure out you were putting me on. Used to crack me up and make me laugh every time. I never knew how you could do it so well, completely stonefaced.”
“I’m a lawyer, I’ve had a lot of practice,” said Gold, straightening his tie.
“What I mean is we could always just have a laugh together, you and me. And then we couldn’t and now we can again. I’m just really happy to hang out again like this together, that’s all.”
That’s all? Gold thought to himself with a smile. Because to him, that was everything.Chapter 20: Ducklings
Chapter NotesSee the end of the chapter for notes
They went over to the Public Gardens to meet Belle. She had a book bag with her.
“Check it out!” she said pulling a book out of the bag. “For you Killian. It’s Make Way for Ducklings! See! Just like the statues.” Belle pointed to the bronze statues of the mother duck and her ducklings walking in a line in the park. They looked exactly like the ducks on the cover of the book.
Killian took the book in his hand and his eyes went big. “You mean they’re real?”
“Uh, huh,” said Belle with a smile. “They were based on real ducks that lived in this very park!”
“Thank you,” said Killian without prompting and Neal beamed proudly.
“That was really nice of you Belle,” said Neal. “Totally unnecessary but super nice.”
“Hold this Daddy! I want to see the ducks!” said Killian. He gave his dad the book and ran out to pet the little bronze duck statues and climb onto them.
“Can you take our picture?” Belle asked, thrusting out her phone.
Gold went to take it, thinking she wanted a picture with Killian, who was indeed the cutest of the three Golds now assembled on view in the park.
“No silly,” said Belle to Gold. “I want you in the picture, not taking it!”
Gold handed the phone to Neal. “Yeah, just promise me this isn’t going on Facebook or Twithead or any of those other internet places, okay?”
“What, embarrassed to be seen with me?” cooed Belle.
“More like for you.”
“Aw shuddup,” said Belle and gave him a little thump with her purse.
“Come on, closer together,” said Neal waving his hand at them.
Belle bent down in front of the bronze mother duck in the front and Gold stood awkwardly behind her as Neal took the photo.
“Cool, oh let me see!” cried Belle and rushed over to Neal to look. “Thanks! This is great.”
Gold sidled up to her and tried to peek over her shoulder. “Can I see?”
“Sure,” said Belle and handed the phone over as Neal gave her his own camera so she could take a picture of him and Killian by the ducks.
Gold looked at the picture as Belle instructed a fidgeting Killian to hold his pose for just one more second.
“Belle! Belle!” exclaimed Gold frantically.
“What’s wrong?” she asked as she snapped off a few more pictures of Killian and Neal.
“Belle, you have to delete this! Where’s the delete button on this blasted thing?” “I am not deleting it. It’s a perfectly good photo. What’s your problem with it?”
“I look like a dork in it,” protested Gold.
Belle started to laugh. She had never heard Ian Gold use the word “dork” before. He sounded like an embarrassed teenager from the 1980s. “Oh tish and pish!” she exclaimed.
Where did she get these expressions from? he wondered.
“You do not look stupid and I’m not deleting it. It’s the only picture of you and me together that I have.”
“Then I’ll delete it myself, now give it to me so I can figure this infernal machine out.”
“No way!” she cried trying to hold it out of his reach.
“You are extremely vain man, do you know that?”
“I am not vain—I just—“
“In the picture—I have-- I have a weird expression on my face.”
“Really?” She zoomed in and scrutinized the image further. “No you don’t, you’re just smiling.”
“Yeah that’s it, that’s the--“
“Gold, that’s not a weird expression, that’s just what people do for pictures.”
“Uh… not all people.”
“Wait, do you mean to tell me…you don’t smile for pictures?”
“Um…maybe? I’m just not a super smiley person I guess?” he huffed feeling slightly freakish.
“Hmmm, well I think I know how to change that,” said Belle with a naughty grin. Then her hands leapt out at him, seemingly of their own volition and before he knew it he she was tickling him!
“What the--?” Then Gold started to giggle. It was strangely high pitched, which made Belle laugh all the more as she kept at it.
“Aaah! Stoppit! You are a crazy woman, you know that?” He was soon laughing so hard he could barely take a breath.
At last they both collapsed on a nearby park bench, still laughing breathlessly. Gold scooted over to the other side of the bench where Belle couldn’t reach him. “I’m filing for harassement! You’re crazy, you know that?”
“I know,” she said with lowered eyelids and turned to watch Neal taking more pictures of Killian.
With her attention diverted he took the opportunity to get some payback, as he poked her in the ribs with the tip of his cane.
“Hey, stop that,” she said and brushed it away.
He angled it out of the way and poked her again.
“Hey! That thing’s dirty! It’s been all over the streets of Boston with you and that’s just today!”
He ignored her pleas and poked her again, though paying attention not to touch her clothes with it, so they wouldn’t get dirty.
“Gah! Stop it you silly man!”
He grinned slyly at her, quite enjoying himself now. “Why don’t you come over here and make me,” he said and gave her another gentle poke for good measure.
This time she was too fast for him, although perhaps it was because he just held it there a little longer than he had before, just to see what she would do.
“Oh that’s it!” she shouted and grabbed the stick before he could withdraw it. She pulled him towards her along its length, until they were sitting beside each other on the bench.
“Help!” he cried theatrically.
“Ha, I’ve got you now!”
“Ah ha!” he grinned. “Little did you know, that was my evil scheme all along! Now the tables are turned!” he laughed as he pounced on her, launching an all out tickle attack that left Belle nearly horizontal on the bench and Gold gasping for breath through his laughter.
Minutes later they heard someone clear his throat. “Uh Dad, maybe not in front of the boy?”
“Oh, hey, Neal, sorry, uh, what was I thinking?” said Gold and sat up instantly from the position he’d been in which had been nearly on top of Belle. He scooted over to the other end of the bench and tried not to meet his son’s eyes.
Belle sat up and patted her hair back into place, blushing fiercely.
Gold glanced over at her, pointed and gave a slight cough.
Belle looked down to see that the buttons on her blouse had somehow popped open during the tickle fight exposing the top of her lacey blue bra and quite a lot of bosom. She blushed fiercely as she quickly did the buttons up.
“Yeah, thanks guys.” Neal smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. “C’mon Killian let’s go look at that tree over there.”
“I don’t want to look at a tree Daddy!” piped up little Killian, unaware of why all the adults seemed so embarrassed. “I wanna stay with Gran’pa!”
“Son, trust me, this is a very exciting tree,” said Neal as he put a hand on Killian’s shoulders to turn him away as they walked towards a very ordinary looking tree.
Once he saw that Neal and Killian had their backs turned, Gold glanced slyly over at Belle. She wasn’t looking at him, still busy fixing her top. With a smug little grin he poked her with his cane.
Chapter End Notes
"Make Way for Ducklings" is a real book. Check it out here:
Also there really are the statues of the ducklings in the park in Boston.
This chapter was very innocent and fluffy. Reader beware, the next chapters, not so much so... stay tuned...Cora
It was a beautiful morning. Gold lay in bed for a few minutes after the alarm went off, thinking about the trip to Boston the day before, of Belle stroking the back of his hair as he bent down to kiss her, then walking her up to her door and kissing some more, thirsty like two people in the desert, just eating each other up.
He had been secretly hoping she’d invite him in, but she had an early class the next day and he had work. He knew there’d be another time. He could see it in the way she lowered her lashes and let him glimpse the yellow glow of the porchlight dancing in her eyes. She was thinking about what they could do together when they were alone as she licked her lips and smiled.
He limped to the bathroom and took a nice warm shower, hoping it might work some of the stiffness out of his leg. He only realized now that he’d walked more yesterday then he had since before he’d been injured. He was proud that he’d managed without slowing anyone else down, but today he was feeling it a bit.
He made his coffee with the Tassimo, not adding any milk or sugar. He had been surprised to discover that Belle took her coffee the exact same way.
“Black, like my darkened soul—“ she’d added deepening her voice a few octaves and he’d laughed at her.
“What? I thought I was being mysterious!” she giggled back.
He smiled at the remembrance of her musical laugh as he walked with his traveller mug to the car.
A half hour later he pulled into the parking lot behind SGB Law to discover a cherry red Maserati in his spot. Not that the spot actually had his name on it or anything, but everyone at the firm knew it was his. Unfortunately, every other spot was taken, forcing him to park a few blocks away.
He made his way back to the law firm feeling increasingly more irritated as he went. The sun, so cheerful and warm peeking through his window that morning, was now making him sweat through his brace under his suit. The material stuck and chafed against his skin and his bad leg dragged a little more with every step. By the time he got up to the office, his hair was nearly plastered to his forehead with sweat and he was ready to eat that Maserati-driving scum for breakfast.
“All right,” he said, angrily pushing open the door to the waiting room area.
“Who the fuck stuck their bloody red car in my spot? Ruby, if it was you, I swear I’m going to—“
From an area out of the corner of his eye a sinuous feminine form unwound herself from a curved lounge chair. She deposited the magazine she was reading on the coffee table with languid grace.
That face was unmistakable, and somehow not a single year older than the time he’d last seen her. Not that he could say the same for his own battered mug after the past year. Of course the Maserati was hers. Who else would park their car in such a proprietary fashion right there in firm’s own lot? It was her way, now as it was before. Taking what she wanted, without a care for anyone else.
“Cora,” he nearly spat out her name.
“Iaaannnn,” she purred as she approached him, high heels clicking on the wooden floor. “You’re back at work? Strange, I heard you had been shot. I thought--”
“Apparently, rumours of my demise were greatly exaggerated,” he cut her off. “What are you doing here?”
“Ah, direct as always,” she thrummed. “No bullshit, no pretense, that’s what I always liked about you,” she said placing her carefully manicured nails on top of his hands, still resting on the cane. “Such a shame we had to give up our old arrangement. Not that I’d be adverse to revisiting the scene of that particular crime.”
“I-I have a girlfriend,” Gold sputtered, feeling like a child before her.
“And I had a husband back in the day. Never stopped you before, Gold. Or maybe it’s just this.” Her fingers played over the gold handle of his cane and danced freely down the wood. “Some kind of kink with this new girl of yours? Hmmm, no, just not feeling it. But hey, who am I to judge?” she shrugged. “I watched you come down the hall, you know. Sad, sad, sad,” she shook her head and stepped back to study him. “That’s quite the limp you’ve got. Seriously, you could stop a clock with that thing. Are you absolutely certain the doctors said it’s just in your leg?”
Gold bristled at her, teeth bared into a canine snarl. “Go fuck your—“
Just then Jefferson swanned out of his office running a hand nervously through his tousled brown curls.
“Oh, Ms. Mills I’m so sorry. I got caught up with a client on the phone and I just couldn’t get her off.”
At this Cora giggled. Jefferson grinned, apparently oblivious to the fact that his partner was nearly glowing with rage. “Ms. Mills, let me introduce you to Mr. Gold. In divorce and family law, Gold here is the real expert.”
“Oh, I’m sure he is,” said Cora sweetly, as Gold stared daggers at her and Jefferson.
“Wait,” said Jefferson, finally picking up on the vibes Gold was sending him.
“You two know each other?” And suddenly it was all clicking into place as Jefferson y realized the probable cause of their familiarity. “Oh. You’re that Cora.”
“Yes,” said Ms. Mills, grinning back at the flustered lawyer with even white teeth, never wrinkling her carefully botoxed brow. “I’m Cora Mills.”
“If you want me, Jefferson, I’ll be in my office,” said Gold stiffly. He limped furiously off to his office and slammed the door behind him.
Jefferson heard the sound of something falling and smashing to the floor within and the muffled voice of Gold swearing, accompanied by the sudden thud of some kind of blunt projectile hitting the back of the door.
“Goodness,” said Cora lazily as Jefferson led her into his office. “Your partner really is short tempered. Can’t possibly be good for his blood pressure. Now, where were we?”Joy and Disappointment
The rest of Gold’s day was apiece with the morning, continuing on in an absolutely awful way. And all because of that stupid bitch, Cora. He’d been so angry with her, he’d found his fuse growing short even with long time clients, who were of great value to the firm.
And when he finally dragged himself back to his ridiculously far off parking spot at the end of the day, what was there to greet him, but a bloody $45 ticket?
He was thankful Cora had left before lunch. If he’d seen that stupid candy apple red Mazerati driving on his way home past his parking spot he would’ve jumped out and gone to town with his keys all over that obnoxious paint job and maybe had a go at her side mirrors with the head of his cane for good measure.
But Cora’s car wasn’t there, so he drove straight to Belle’s. They had a date scheduled for tonight, but he didn’t have time to go home and change now. He’d lost too much time just making it back to his car. He sniffed himself and was very displeased to notice that he smelled faintly of sweat. His perfectly folded violet pocket square had gotten lost somehow during the day and he hadn’t even noticed. So unlike him. Further proof that the encounter with Cora had unbalanced his senses. If Belle ever found out about her… But he reassured himself Belle would never learn of his former indiscretions. After all, Belle and Cora orbited completely different worlds. Completely different solar systems, was more like it.
He arrived at Belle’s house early and decided to literally chill out in the car with the air conditioning on full blast. He was sitting in the car waiting, the point of his nose nearly stuck in the deliciously cool AC vent when he heard a knock on the window. He jumped in his seat. It was Belle of course. He rolled down the glass.
“Hey,” he waved casually.
“Hey yourself,” Belle smiled at him and he felt his anger melt away. There was nothing sinister hidden behind Belle’s smile, only genuine good feeling.
“Am I late?” she asked.
“No, no, I’m early.”
“Oh good, I don’t want to miss the movie. I just have to go in, go to the washroom and change out of these clothes and then I’ll be ready. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Why don’t you come inside and have a snack?”
“Okay,” said Gold and followed her into her building.
She unlocked the door to her apartment, seeming for all the world like she was genuinely nervous, as she fiddled with the key.
He put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I won’t judge if you’re a little messy.”
“I’m more than a little messy. Just a second. There, I’ve got it.”
He stepped inside behind her. The place was a tiny studio flat and well cluttered with books, papers and computer paraphernalia. Stray coffee cups and glasses seemed to occupy all available free surface space, not that there was much of that to begin with.
“I’ll just be a tic!” said Belle, grabbed an armful of clothes lying in a knot on the bed and skipped off to the bathroom.
“There’s orange juice in the fridge!” she called out through the door.
“The way young people live today,” Gold thought with a shake of his head and suddenly, felt unbelievably, indescribably old.
He found the orange juice in the fridge, but could not locate a single clean glass. The sink seemed full of dishes though, there might be one under there. He took up the dishes and began to wash them in the sink, putting each one carefully in the drying rack when he was done. Finally, at the bottom he discovered Belle’s small glassware section. He cleaned one of the three glasses visible, as thoroughly as he could with the dish soap and had a drink at last.
Belle emerged from the bathroom, freshly made up in a flowered dress of some light floaty material and a fuzzy blue cardigan. Her eyes widened when she noticed the freshly cleaned dishes in the rack.
“What?” asked Gold, still feeling rather testy from his difficult day.
“Wow,” breathed out Belle, her eyes wide. “No one’s every done that for me before. Remind me to invite you in more often!”
Gold smiled and followed her out.
The movie and the dinner afterwards were nice, but Gold couldn’t help feeling somewhat distant all night, half his mind still dwelling on his encounter with Cora earlier in the day.
Then things started looking up again as he walked Belle back to her apartment from the car and she invited him in. They had been discussing films and she began talking animatedly about a Lumiere brothers film she’d seen at school in Film History class. Apparently, it was the first movie ever made. When he confessed he’d never seen it before, she insisted he come in with her so she could find it on Youtube and show him.
There was a futon couch in the apartment he’d miss before, hidden under a mountain of books, stuffed animals and papers. She cleared the detritus away by dumping it unceremoniously on the floor and patted the cushion for him to sit down beside her. Carefully, he lowered himself down onto the couch to sit in the spot she’d cleared away specifically for him.
He was very aware of his thigh brushing up against hers as they squeezed in together. The sensation was nearly electric. She kicked off her high heels and placed her feet on a stack of magazines on the coffee table. She pulled her laptop out from under some papers, to hold it on her lap.
“Mmm… I love sitting like this,” she purred as she opened the top. “Always feels so warm and cozy with the computer in my lap. Don’t even need a cat.”
He looked over at her. The computer was humming away softly, sitting right on her crotch. He wondered if she was aware of how suggestive this was and felt something lift in his nether regions.
He quickly looked away and busied himself with taking off his shoes and propping his own feet up on the coffee table beside Belle’s. A grateful sigh escaped him at the sudden relief of tension in his leg, muscles relaxing that he hadn’t even realized he’d had tensed up.
Belle shot him an odd look.
“I dunno, you just sounded like you were doing something else!” she tittered.
“I can’t imagine what,” he replied with a foxy grin.
“Really? I bet your imagination goes a lot further than you think,” she said softly.
“Oh? You should know your coffee table is quite talented in the arts of exotic massage and seduction, that’s all.”
“No! Let’s just watch the film.”
So she showed him the film, which was an odd, jerky, sepia-toned thing called “Workers Leaving the Factory.” He was a little surprised to see that the film was literally just that, a bunch of 19th century workers leaving a factory without plot or anything resembling characters. Film had certainly come a long way.
He then insisted she shift the computer over to him and he showed her a Conan O’Brien clip of Triumph the Insult comic dog interviewing people. She laughed, occasionally breaking it off to say things like “Oh that’s terrible” or “what a jerk!” and then going back to laughing again.
Leaving Gold to the comforts of the “talented” coffee table, Belle got up and fetched a cheap bottle of wine from the fridge and the two remaining clean glasses from the drying rack.
With a glass of wine in him Gold, began feeling even more relaxed. Eyeing the books scattered within easy reach on the coffee table and the floor, he began preforming comic interviews of the authors based on their dust jackets photos.
Gold explained to Belle that his one truly great talent was in thinking up amusing way of insulting other people, cutting self-important bores down to size. Usually he practiced his skill for himself in his own head to keep himself entertained when faced with the many pompous idiots he faced in his line of work. It wasn’t something he usually let out, with the exception of the occasional bull session he had with Jefferson over drinks at the pub. He’d never really had an audience for his mirth before. It was a pleasure to cut loose for such a receptive crowd of one.
“So, do you find that turtleneck helps you get laid?” he addressed one serious looking doctor’s picture on the back of a psychology text. “Uh-huh,” he said thoughtfully. “Tell me more.”
“And do you often travel with your poodle on your head?” he asked a reproduction of an 18th century gentleman on the cover of a book of plays. “Saves carrier space on air planes, I see.”
He realized his wit was growing increasingly silly, but now Belle was nearly on the floor laughing and maybe she’d had a bit too much to drink, now that he thought about it, but he was so happy just to make her laugh and forget about his trying day that when she somehow ended up with her head in his lap, then sitting in his lap, then straddling him, he didn’t protest.
She sat with her bum in his lap and her legs on either side of his hips as they shared a long, languid kiss. His hands grasped her waist as she loosened his tie and rolled back his suit jacket to kiss his neck. His hands plunged down into the top of her dress and teased her nipples. Then his skillful hands felt their way around, down her back to the clasp of her bra. As he began to unhook the first of the tiny metal clasps, he gave a little giggle and she laughed with him, abandoning herself to the moment. Then she shivered and something went strange between them. Suddenly, her back went stiff and it was like something inside her caught, pulling her back just as she was about to release herself completely. She broke off the kiss and Gold shifted a little under her weight.
She latched onto this small motion of his, eager to find an occasion for conversation. “Ian, are you okay?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” he replied impatiently. “Why?”
Her eyes darted around the room as if she was looking desperately for something. Her gaze came to rest on his cane, left propped up by the door. “Sitting on you like this—I was just worried. You said your leg can’t take much weight on it. I don’t want to hurt you. I might be too heavy.”
“You’re not, so don’t worry. If it hurts, I’ll tell you,” he said, making a mental to himself that he sure as hell wouldn’t tell her if that was the case, not if it would interfere with him getting laid. He did have his priorities after all.
“Are you sure?”
Gold was growing increasingly irritated. First Cora, now Belle. They didn’t exactly make it easy for him to pretend he was the same man he’d always been, now did they? “I’m not a fucking invalid, you know!” he spat out angrily.
“I didn’t mean that! I just—I-- I have to go to the bathroom!”
“What? Oooh- kay,” said Gold, completely bewildered now, as she practically leapt off him and darted into the bathroom.
She was inside a long time. Gold sat on her couch, steeped in misery. Gradually, he came out of his own personal brand of gloom long enough to notice that the sounds coming from inside the washroom weren’t quite right.
He heard the sound of running the water and over it, soft sounds, like stifled sobs. Suddenly, Gold was worried. He scooted across the couch to seat closest to the bathroom door.
“Belle, are you okay?” he called through.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I just—I think the food was bad or something. I’m feeling kind of sick.”
“Oh. Sorry to hear that,” said Gold robotically as he sank back into the cushions. He picked up a magazine off the coffee table and pretended to read. Instead he stared with yearning eyes at the image of a woman on a page advertising contact lenses, who looked a bit like Belle. God, he was making himself sick, with his own stupid, soft behavior. He closed the magazine and tossed it aside.
It was some time more before Belle finally came out again. He studied her face. Was he imagining things or did her eyes look faintly red? All the energy seemed gone from her body and her face was pale as if she really had been sick in the bathroom, all her substance down the drain.
“I think I need to rest now Ian,” she said quietly.
“All right,” said Gold. He bent over and gave her a peck on the cheek. Was it just his imagination or did she nearly flinch away in fear? He wanted to ask her what was wrong, what had he done, but there were too many feelings inside him now roiling up inside him like cresting waves. He didn’t want to risk yelling at her, scaring her off even more. He felt unpredictable; sad and angry at Belle, memories of Cora and Reggie and some of the others mixed up in all of it, as well.
Why did Belle seem to long for intimacy, to lean into his touch one moment, then flee from him the next? Did his injured body disgust her? He knew it might be that way for someone else, like Cora maybe, who hadn’t seen him since before he’d been shot, but not with Belle. She’d seen him in the hospital, in much worse shape than he was now, and even then she’d never acted in this way. It seemed a quite out of character. Wait—Cora! Had Belle found out somehow about Cora and Reggie? Had Cora, not willing to leave well enough alone, gone and told her? No, it was impossible! But…
Belle was talking to him now, making excuses for her sudden detachment, but his mind had already left her apartment. She walked him out to the elevator and down into the lobby, the silence stretching out awkwardly between them.
He limped down the front steps of her building, across the visitor parking lot to his car. He could feel her eyes on his back, watching him as he went, achingly cognizant of the tap of his cane on the pavement and the unavoidable drag in his step. He couldn’t get into the car soon enough.
Inside he turned on the radio full blast, letting the Clash’s “Train in Vain” wash over him, trying to focus completely on the road and the music and press every other thought out of his mind until he got home. He pictured the glass of scotch on the sideboard in his office at home and the “night-time relief” painkillers in his desk drawer and the image soothed his shattered pride somewhat. Soon this awful day would be over. He could fix things tomorrow, once he’d had a good night’s sleep.
Belle held it together as she rode up in the elevator to her floor, though it seemed the afterimage of Ian Gold remained where he’d stood earlier on after they came back together from the movie, eyes sparkling, waving his hands around in wide, animated gestures as he talked about a particularly funny scene.
Inside her apartment Belle threw herself down on her bed and cried.What's Eating Belle?
Belle discusses the situation with Ian with Dr. Blau and some disturbing information is revealed about Belle's past relationship with Gaston.
What is going on with Belle? Clearly she’s interested in Gold, but…
A few notes on this chapter:
Okay, I know there are some questions about what was going on with Belle in the last scene. I am here to answer them. Some trigger warnings rape/non-com for the next chapter, nothing graphic, but Belle does bring up some things from her past. I did mention in Chapter 1, that there had been abuse previously in Belle’s relationship with Gaston. Something like that in a person’s past is bound to cause problems in a new relationship, even if it is with a caring and supportive partner. Part of sex, is opening yourself up and being vulnerable to another person both physically and emotionally. You have to be able to trust that other person. If, in the past, someone has betrayed that trust, it can be hard to trust again. I think the main thing is to try to be honest with each other, so feelings don’t get hurt and the other person doesn’t get the wrong idea about what is going on. However, it is not an easy thing to talk about, especially if it brings back bad memories, so Belle definitely has my sympathy on this one.
XXXXSee the end of the chapter for more notes
“Everybody thinks I read all the time because I’m so smart,” said Belle, “but that’s not the truth.”
Belle sat in Dr. Blau’s office playing with a straggling thread that came off the cuff of her jacket.
“What’s the truth then?” the psychiatrist asked.
“I read to escape,” said Belle. A tear leaked from her eye and fell directly into her coffee. “Black like my darkened soul, indeed,” she thought to herself. Right now it didn’t feel like a joke.
“What do you think you need to escape from?” Dr. Blau asked.
“Can you be more specific?”
“My parents, when I was kid. They used to fight all the time, well, not used to, they’re still at it now. I don’t live with them anymore, but as a kid, especially when it was cold and snowy outside, or on those long car trips to visit my aunts and uncles in Canada, where could I go to get away? When I discovered reading I realized I could go anywhere. It was like I could open up a door in the attic of my mind, a secret door that would let me escape all the yelling and shouting and take me to Narnia, Trantor, Whoville, Hogwart’s, New Earth, New York City, Victorian London, anywhere I wanted. All I had to do was concentrate and I could shut them all out. And not just my parents. Anyone who was mean, who teased me at school, or any situation that was boring, that I didn’t feel was worth my time or made me sad. I read under my desk at school during all the dull subjects. I hid from the bullies under the space behind the school steps at recess. I would read my way free of that place, straight out of my surroundings as if by magic, far away to Klickitat Street with Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins.”
“And do you still read for the same reason now? To escape?”
“Yes. Only now, it’s not to escape anything real, anything concrete. It’s to escape the ghosts, the memories, the bad thoughts and regrets. Things not specifically fixed to any one setting or time. Things that can come at you anywhere, wherever you are. Any moment your mind is at rest or idling and boom! They find you. I fill my head with other people’s dramas, their hopes and fears and triumphs and by doing that I can block out my own, some of the time at least. When it all get too much for me to handle, it’s my escape valve. What is it that artist once said? Humanity cannot bear too much reality. Honestly, I believe it to be true.”
“So? What’s wrong with reading to get away from it all now and again? I think we all do that.”
“No, not like me. I think—sometimes I use it to avoid the world. To be some place where the rules are fair, where things—things like what Gaston did to me and Ian—things like that, that are cruel and random and don’t make sense and aren’t deserved- things like that don’t happen! You know, like that quote by Oscar Wilde—‘The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That’s what fiction means.’”
“I think we all wish the world was that way sometimes.”
“But not all the time. Why can’t I just see the way things are right now? I have a wonderful man whom I love. Why can’t that be enough? Why do the memories have to keep on coming back, interfering? I don’t want to have to escape all the time. I want to stop running. I want to appreciate what I have here and now. I feel like I was given a second chance— and I don’t want to waste it. I want to enjoy this love, to experience it all. But it’s hard to be brave. Sometimes other people scare me. It’s good to have a book on hand sometimes, to put something between myself and other people.”
“Why is that?”
“I thin I’m afraid of what other people will think.”
“Just other people or any one person in particular?”
“Ian in particular, obviously.”
“What are you worried about him finding out?”
“About what Gaston did with me- things I really don’t like talking about, because when I talk about it I just think about it all over again, and then it’s like I’m back there and that whirlpool of the past is sucking me down, and I can’t stop thinking about it, you know?”
“It’s understandable Belle, you’ve been through a very rough time. I think you’re being too hard on yourself. Look at all you’ve done! Despite all the challenges of the past year you’re finishing up your schooling. You’re working at your practicum, making new friends, exploring a new relationship. You’re not hiding yourself away. You’re taking charge of your own future, your own destiny.”
“I know, but what’s the point, what’s the point of it all if I can’t love?”
“What do you mean you can’t love? I’ve known you how long now? You’ve told me how you feel about Ian and your friend Ruby, and your parents even if they fight a lot and frustrate you. Why would you say you can’t love? You seem like a very caring person. Just because you’re sometimes shy, or worried about sex after what happened with your ex-husband, doesn’t mean you can’t love. I’ve known you for nearly a year now and I can say with full confidence as a professional, that you have a lot of love inside you Belle. You are a warm and caring person. Don’t let a bad experience with one bad person make you forget who you are.”
“Who I am? I’m not sure I really know. You know, every time it starts feeling really good and I want to be with him, you know, when I want him to hold me to cuddle me close and we start to kiss and I want to take it farther and I feel the urge to make love to him—then all of a sudden in mind it’s like he’s morphed into Gaston! Looming over me—not listening to me when I tell him to stop.”
Belle clenched a tissue and sobbed bitterly into it, grinding it down into little pieces.
“And it’s completely not his fault at all, but in those times he can’t help but remind me of Gaston, no matter what he does—those kind of touches—that feeling—it’s like there’s my ex-husband’s image superimposed over Ian’s! He’s still laughing at me even now even though he’s dead! He’s still here fucking up my life, ruining things for me—so I can never enjoy myself with another man. I feel—I feel like I’ll never be free.”
Belle’s head sagged as she looked into the depths of her coffee. There was no bottom to the darkness that she could see.
“And the worst—the worst of it,” she continued, “is that Ian is so sweet, so patient, willing to do anything for me—I mean he stopped a fucking bullet to protect me for fuck’s sake—and I love him and not just because I owe him my life—I want—I want more than anything to share myself with him—but when I try, even when I try to block all the other thoughts of Gaston out of my head, they just keep coming. I wish I could make him understand without him being disgusted by me.”
“Belle, he won’t be disgusted by you. None of this is your fault. From what you’ve told me about your discussions before the divorce case, Ian knows that there was abuse in your relationship with your ex-husband. He knows that’s why you left him. Certainly, he is well aware of Gaston’s cruelty and proclivity for violence, after what happened. I doubt it would be such a shock if you told him that Gaston ra—“
“Don’t say that word!”
“--Had nonconsensual sex with you. Just because you were married at the time, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.”
“I know, I know. I just, I can’t—I can’t tell him. He can’t know.” Her hair hung around her face as she looked down into her cup again.
“Why?” asked Dr. Blau gently.
“You don’t understand. He doesn’t think of me that way. He thinks I’m like this being of sweetness and light who always looks on the bright side of everything, who always sees the good side of human nature. I just, I want to make him happy. He’s been through so much and so much of it is my fault. He doesn’t know, about some of the weird bad things I think about.”
“Listen to me Belle, it is not your fault. You did not make Gaston pick up a gun and come to the courthouse to shoot two innocent people. I think you know that, too. Anyway, what kind of things do you think about that you believe are so bad, that Ian won’t want to see you anymore after finding out? We all think things that we would never do in real life.”
“No,” she shuddered. “Not like this. The first time I went with him, over to his house, and we were alone together I got scared. I—I haven’t been alone with a man since Gaston. I was afraid—of Ian! And he’s never done anything, but be kind to me.”
“It’s natural though. Considering what you’ve been through. No one would blame you for being afraid initially.”
“It wasn’t just initially. You see, we went into his house and then we were standing in the kitchen. And he went into the fridge and suddenly I became very, very scared. I remembered how once Gaston went to the fridge to get a can of beer. I said something that made him mad and then he threw the can at me and it hit me in the head.
Suddenly, in my mind I could see Ian doing the same thing. Before I knew it I was thinking about how I could close the fridge door on his head really hard, then kick his bad leg out from under him pretty easily and stomp on his foot with my stilettos where it had been broken and then once he was on the floor, grab one of the knives from the kitchen block so I could defend myself if he came to attack me again. Then I’d run away and he wouldn’t be able to catch me. And I pictured it all super clearly in my mind too, how I’d defend myself if he tried anything and the blood and the screams and I felt good and I felt strong just thinking that. And then I looked over at him and do you know what he was taking out of the fridge?”
“A little package of chocolate truffles all wrapped in a heart shaped
box. Each one was in a little pink individual tissue paper wrapper
from that expensive store in the mall!
He’d bought them for me—little heart shaped chocolates with cherry in the centre and he was looking at me with this goofy little smile on his face and blushing like a kid and here I was thinking of all the ways I could harm him and using his injuries against him and all that’s in his mind and his heart is that he loves me so much and thinks I’m some kind of great person and he wants to give me chocolate! And he has no idea of these awful, horrible disgusting thoughts going through my head and I feel like the filthiest, cruelest most wicked person that ever lived for even thinking of hurting him! All that was in him was kindness and goodwill and love, like a sun shining through his face and all that was in me was murder, torment and darkness! And even if I didn’t do anything to him, who’s to say I won’t one day? What if those thoughts, those feelings take over!”
“You won’t Belle. That’s not you. I know you wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“All I’ve ever done is cause Ian to get hurt,” cried Belle.
“But you didn’t actually do anything to him,” insisted Dr. Blau. “You didn’t hurt him. He was fine.”
“Last night, he wasn’t fine! He thought I didn’t like him. I could tell—he felt—he felt ugly in my eyes. And he’s never been that way to me. Never ever! He gets self-conscious sometimes.”
“He can’t walk so well since he was shot. But honestly I don’t care. And this is very screwed up you know, but I think I actually like it, because I know if he ever does anything I don’t like I can run away and he won’t be able to run after me like Gaston could. And that’s wrong too. I should really want Ian to get all better and be able to run again and play soccer. It makes him sad not to, he pretends it doesn’t, that he doesn’t care, but I know he does. Basically, I am a really horrible person.”
“I don’t believe that and I don’t think Ian would say that, either. I think you are just someone who experienced a great trauma in her life and are now being as strong and brave as you can, trying to get on with thing and realizing it’s not that easy, that these things take time to recover from. Honestly, I think you are doing fine.”
“This is doing fine? My mind is not fine. I couldn’t just enjoy the moment, and appreciate his love and enjoy the chocolates with him. I don’t deserve his love. I’m an asshole to feel the way I do. Why couldn’t I just be in the same place he was emotionally? I’ve become—I’ve become twisted up inside by what happened with Gaston. I know I shouldn’t be thinking these things. It’s messed up. I’m ruined inside and he has no idea, no idea at all!”
“I feel—I feel like a fraud,” said Belle.
“You’re not a fraud,” said Dr. Blau, but Belle looked down and said nothing.
Chapter End Notes
Shit, that was some grueling stuff to write. However, rest assured readers, Belle and Ian will figure things out.
In the next chapter we will find out some more things about Ian’s relationship with Cora and what exactly he’s been trying to hide. Stay tuned.Rakes of the Law Society
The Rakes of the Law Society
Gold lay on his back in his bed on top of black silk sheets thinking furiously, hought going over everything in his mind about what had happened with Belle and what, if anything he’d done to offend her. She’d advanced on him first, he was sure of it and when he’d reciprocated she’d seemed receptive, so what could it be? Was she really that worried about hurting him?
It seemed ridiculous. He’d been shot several times with a gun. If he’d lived through that, surely a quick shag on Belle’s messy bed wasn’t going to put him in the ground.
Then he began thinking about Cora. Her voice, her name, sometimes seemed to him to remind him of something breaking. Except the only one who was breaking was him. How had he ever gotten involved with someone like her to begin with?
Or maybe the correct question was how’d she gotten involved with someone like him? Or at least the him he used to be, back in the days of the Rakes of the Law Society. It was all so confusing.
“It was Jefferson’s fault, he’d started it,” thought Gold spitefully. “If it hadn’t been for him, Cora wouldn’t have--“ No it wasn’t Jefferson’s fault, he corrected himself as he pulled up a sheet against the chill. He was a grown man and any stupid decisions he’d made were on his own head.
Still, Jefferson had—
No, the truth was it’d all started with Mila. Mila, who left him for another man. Okay, so maybe he worked too much and neglected her a bit, but still, he’d never thought she’d go that far. After they broke up she moved in with her boyfriend and Gold worked even harder. Back in those days they shared joint custody of Neal and she still lived in town. Later on when, she ditched the man she’d cheated on him with and hooked up with an Australian guy she moved over there, leaving Neal, who’d refused to go with his mother and be uprooted from his life in town. But back in the day, while they’d shared joint custody, Gold had the occasional weekend free without Neal. Friends encouraged him to go online and seek out female company, but he preferred to be alone, rather than put himself out there and risk certain rejection. It was a lonely, sad time for him and he didn’t feel like doing anything other than mourn the life he’d lost.
Finally, Jefferson convinced him to go with him to one of those lawyer conferences he was always going on about. This particular conference was in California. Gold and Jefferson were taking the same flight over together. Unlike Jefferson, Gold didn’t fly a lot and was glad for the company. It was only in the airport, as they lined up to wait to enter the plane, that Jefferson explained the covert purpose of their trip.
“Gold,” said Jefferson, “stop walking around like you have a big black cloud over your head! Being single isn’t a curse—it’s a blessing! Look at me, I’m single and you don’t see me miserable and bemoaning my plight. Nope, I’m out there every day, fighting the good fight and getting laid!”
“I fail to see your point,” said Gold stiffly.
“You know who you remind me of Gold?”
“Whom?” asked Gold, correcting his friend’s grammar spitefully.
“You remind me of the man who’s given up on ice cream after just trying one flavor.”
“Well maybe it was a particularly crap flavor.”
“But there are at least 30 other flavours out there your tongue is just begging for a taste of! Fantastic delicious fun flavours and your problem is you’re just too scared to go back to the store and try another, depriving yourself in the process of all that tasty goodness!”
“I am not scared!” insisted Gold.
“All right, then prove it to me. Let me give you a little tuition at this conference we’re at. Try what I suggest and if you don’t dig it, then you can give the entire shop a pass with my seal of approval.”
“And what if I decline your tutelage?”
“Then I’ll just keep bugging you, won’t I? Because if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s someone too scared to take a chance on their own happiness,” said Jefferson piously.
“I am just going to this conference to learn more about international family law, not on some kind of pick up spree, thank you very much,” grumbled Gold. “However do you talk me into these things? It’s just like law school all over again.”
“Only with more sex!” grinned Jefferson. “And if you don’t listen to me, I promise, I will do just as I said. I will bug you to death.”
“Well, it’s a five hour flight to California. Let’s see how you do.”
True to his word Jefferson did not let up on Gold, chattering at him through the entire plane flight. At last, after several hours of this nonstop talk, Gold found himself consenting to his colleuge’s tutelage just to get Jefferson to shut the hell up, and let him take a nap.
The undesired lessons began at the luncheon for the guests of the conference. Gold sat drinking with Jefferson at a round table and once again, Jefferson began to talk as he raised his glass for a toast.
“Here’s to us—the Rakes of Law Society!”
“Prospective rakes,” amended Gold.
“Not for long my friend,” said Jeffferson slyly. “Not for long.”
“And how prey tell do you plan to ensure my success?” asked Gold. “So far no one’s even looked our way.”
“Heh, it’s a surprise you got Mila in bed in the first place with that attitude,” laughed Jefferson.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Gold crossly.
“It means you don’t wait for the chicks to come to you, stupid, you have to go to them.”
“Yeah and how does one go about doing that?”
“Easy, first you pick your target. You want someone a little older than yourself who’s got an expensive hand bag and pricey looking threads. A woman, unless you occasionally crave a change of pace now and again like I do—“
“Then a woman it is—in a nicely tailored suit, expensive, well groomed independent means, that sort of thing.”
Gold nodded as if preparing to take notes.
“Someone who is comfortable with sex, who isn’t embarrassed to admit her need,” continued Jefferson. “Preferably divorced and not looking for a replacement for a husband she was most likely quite pleased to see go after all. The kind of woman you’re looking for is ambitious, driven, ruthless—“ he purred the last word excitedly as if the thrill of the chase had already taken hold of him. “She knows exactly what she wants and how you’re going to give it to her. “And now she is free, independent, not looking for someone to tie her down or the complications or vulnerability of opening herself up to love. She isn’t looking for you to be her protector or her soulmate or the doting father of her children. But what she is looking for is—“
“—Sex,” finished Gold.
“Not just sex,” said Jefferson holding up a finger. “Amazing, fantastic mind blowing sex. Sex that you make her understand only you can possibly give to her. And as, for her, she isn’t embarrassed to tell you what she wants or exactly how she wants it.”
Despite himself Gold was beginning to find himself mildly aroused at the prospect.
Making love with Mila—they had been each other’s firsts, neither one knowing exactly what to do. He’d often felt confused when he was with her, constantly frustrated by her lack of direction to him. He’d do something and would ask her how she liked it, but all he’d get would be a noncommittal shrug or her saying “it’s okay.” He didn’t want to be just okay, like a sitcom one put on TV when there was nothing better on, just for the sound in the background. He wanted “Oh yes! Yes pound me harder!” or “No, a little to the left, oh yeah, that’s the spot, oh baby you’re so good!” or even “Stop it, that feels weird try it from the front instead!” Not “all right, not bad” and the occasional mild panting, when what he really wanted a firm hand on the tiller, someone to direct him to tell him exactly where to rub it and how hard.
He was willing to concede that maybe Jefferson knew what he was doing after all. Whatever it was, he needed to try something new.
“See those ladies over there,” said Jefferson with a wave at a table in the corner.
Gold looked over. Two women sat at a round table talking animatedly to each other—conference issued duotangs in front of them, name tags stuck to their chests.
“Let’s bring them some drinks,” suggested Jefferson.
Jefferson went up the bar and got some white wine spritzers and Gold had no recourse, but to trot along after his friend and accept a glass to bring to his prospective quarry.
“Now, just listen and follow what I do,” murmured Jefferson out of the corner of his mouth.
“And I’ll be okay?” asked Gold worriedly.
“Oh no mate, you’ll be fucking brilliant!” grinned Jefferson slyly.
Somehow Gold found himself a half hour later in the hotel room of a voluptuous raven haired forty-something law professor from Atlanta named Sondra having a rather excellent time.
It was a heady new experience for the young lawyer, especially the bit with the vibrator. Over the next few days Gold purchased his own arsenal of similar devices, whatever was available at the local drugstore. He didn’t care about the looks from the cashier. This wasn’t his town and he’d probably never see the cahsier again. Next time he seduced a woman, he’d be ready his own supply, fresh out of the packet.
As the conference wore on and he moved smoothly from Sondra from Atlanta, who left early to go home and attend her daughter’s kindergarten graduation, to Melisandre from Marseille, France, new possibilities opened up before him. The realms of pleasure were vaster than he’d ever imagined. They unfolded before his eyes in breathtaking waves of splendor.
He had never allowed himself to think of sex outside relationships when he was with Mila. He’d never really gone through that experimental phase a young college student is supposed to go through before settling down. He’d met Mila pretty much straight off. Now he was making up for lost time.
Sex for some women was like an itch they couldn’t scratch on their own or couldn’t scratch with the same pleasure it gave them, when he did it for them. As his skills began to improve he was frequently told he was “the best I ever had” or “my God how did you know how to do that?” or his favourite—“Your hands are magic.”
They were words he would’ve given anything to hear from Mila when they were together, even just a little bit and now they came pouring out of the women he bedded in a torrent, like a rush of water, breaking through a wall of stone onto ground long starved of even the most meager moisture. It was intoxicating. He couldn’t get enough.
Soon Gold found himself going to conferences every weekend he could spare. Jefferson claimed, only half joking that he’d created a monster and demanded to know the secret of Gold’s success.
Gold had to confess he really didn’t know. “Just treat her like she’s special,” he said. “Concentrate on her pleasure. Focus on making her happy—I think that’s the problem with some of these people, every other guy who wants to fuck them is just concentrating on getting his own rocks off, on what she can give him, not on what he can give her. I dunno, I just try to please them and when they’re happy, it gets me off somehow. I honestly like watching a woman in the throes of pleasure, it’s like making a masterpiece, knowing I was the one to make her feel that way, to unleash that beast inside the most buttoned down judge or strictest law professor.”
Jefferson nodded. It seemed so ridiculously obvious, and yet he’d never really thought of it that way before. That was the thing about Gold, Jefferson reflected, he wasn’t the tallest man in the room, the richest, most famous or strikingly handsome in any particular way. What he had was emotional intensity and a complete focus of purpose, that and a thirst for knowledge. Jefferson had seen it in law school, in preparation for a case, but he had never imagined this aspect of his friend’s personality would come to bear in this new world of romance and desire. Now he was seeing an entirely new side of Gold, he’d never suspected even existed.
At first it pleased him to see his friend finally cut loose at last and enjoy himself. But as time went on he began to worry slightly. After all there were only so many woman, in the law society. There was nothing wrong with having a reputation for being a rake, after all Jefferson himself had cultivated such a rep for years without ill effects. The issue was pacing. At the rate Gold was going he was sure to step on someone’s toes sooner rather than later. But Jefferson’s warnings fell on deaf ears.
“O,h don’t be daft Jeffy!” exclaimed Gold laughing. “Look at you turning into my prudish old auntie! Whatever happened to trying all the ice cream flavours?”
“But not all at once!” protested Jefferson. “Watch what you’re doing Gold, or you’ll make yourself sick.”
“Psssh!” Gold waved his friend’s remarks away. “The only thing that’s sick around here is that tie you’re wearing. Armani or Hugo Boss?”
Jefferson sighed. He really had created a monster.Reggie
FYI. Things are going to get a little smutty in this chapter, and Cora hasn’t even made an appearance yet! Not my fault, I assure you. Young Gold is just proving far too mischevious for both his own good and my own.
Everything was going great. Gold was pleased with his ongoing sexual
adventures and improving bedroom prowess. He had never felt more
confident in all his life. Despite Jefferson’s concerns he had no
worries about his ability to keep this side of his life completely
separate from his work with his clients at the firm and his home life
being a dad to Neal. He was as fastidious as he was about his new and
constantly improving wardrobe. He always used condoms, checked the
expiration dates and had himself tested regularly just in case, as well.
Despite his overly anxious friend’s concerns he might lose control,
Gold was confident he had everything in hand. He was master of his own
fate, he told himself. Without love and complicated emotions to mess
things up, no woman could ever get the best of him again.
Until the day his luck ran out.
They were in Las Vegas. Jefferson hadn’t been hanging around much. He was hitting the card tables big time with an old law school friend he’d met up with at the casino, Jack Knave, a British fellow Gold secretly couldn’t stand. He’d managed to sequester himself poolside at the first opportunity. The Nevada sun was achingly strong, and after lying out there for just fifteen minutes he was dying for a swim. The water in the infinity pool was cool and deliciously refreshing. He swam a few strokes along the lane, enjoying the pleasant gliding feeling of the chlorinated water along his body. After a while though, his eyes started to burn from keeping them open underwater in the strongly chlorinated pool. He began to swim with his eyes shut, believing he could stay in his lane. His confidence was misplaced though, and before long he had collided with someone coming in the opposite direction.
“Ah!” cried a female voice as his head struck her.
“Oh, crap, I’m terribly sorry,” he said, popping out of the water to make sure the woman he’d bumped into hadn’t been hurt. “Are you all right?”
She seemed all right. In fact more than all right. He gaped at the woman who met his eyes, a gorgeous Latina beauty in a black string bikini with generous lips, dark hair and flashing brown eyes.
She smiled, slightly sardonic. “I’m fine. You however are bleeding.”
He lifted a hand to where his head had hit her. He drew it back to see a little blood on his fingertips. He hadn’t felt the cut, but perhaps the water had numbed his skin. Suddenly, he felt dizzy.
She grabbed his hand. “C’mon, you should get cleaned up.”
“Do you know where the bathroom is?”
“None on this floor, but my room’s just down the hall. Come on. You can wash it out in my bathroom. I have some polysporin and band-aids, too,” she added.
“Uh, cool,” he replied and cringed inwardly. Not his smoothest of lines.
She stepped into a pair of flipflops and began walking towards the hotel. Not wanting this vision to escape him, he quickly wrapped a towel around his waist and padded after her barefoot down the soft carpeted corridor.
They stopped in front of a room and she waved her keycard in front of the sensor. The door clicked open and they were in a massive suite, all white cotton bedspreads and perfectly folded sheets, with a wide bay window overlooking the pool.
She led him into the bathroom and before he knew it, with only a few words exchanged between them she was dabbing antiseptic above his eyebrow, and places a ridiculously large band-aid over the cut. Her fingers smoothed the band-aid over to make sure it was stuck down properly. It was, of course, but she kept touching his face, hands tracing the line of his jaw, now moving over his back. He responded in kind, running his hands through her jet black hair. His fingers played along the back of her neck. Slowly he began to unknot the string that kept her bikini top in place at the nape of her neck, making sure to take his time, to stretch out her anticipation as well as give her a chance to back out if she wasn’t sure she wanted this.
Oh, but she did. She wanted this. The thrust of her bikini clad hips into his sealed it.
Somehow, and he wasn’t exactly sure how it all happened, they ended up entwined together lying down in the huge, empty bathtub. The porcelain was cold against his back, but she was warm on top of him, oh so warm, her skin smelling of coconut sunscreen, sunshine and chlorine. Before long she had one hand down his pants and the other rummaging around in a make-up bag on the floor beside the bath, urgently pulling out the little foil condom packet without even looking. Of all the women he had had in the past year, she was by far the most assertive. It might have unnerved him at any other time, but he was so turned on by her he didn’t care. She had his swim trunks off in a second and soon they were having sex; not making love, because this was lust, pure lust and love had nothing to do with it, which was fine by him.
It wasn’t long before they were done. How long can you fuck comfortably in an empty bathtub after all? The door shut with a slight click behind him and he realized he had left his towel inside.
He stood in a daze, the water from his wet swim trunks pooling at his feet, unwilling to spoil what seemed like some bizarre dream fantasy by knocking on the door again begging for his towel back, feeling like a tool.
He’d never even learned her name.
She was wearing a wedding ring. He wasn’t even thinking of picking her up. They were just talking. She was an intelligent redhead in charge of her own firm. He guessed that she’d had some work done, though you couldn’t tell, there was something about the way she dressed that made him think she was slightly older than him. He didn’t care. She was gorgeous and perfect in her russet coloured suit, her reddish brown eyes nearly matching the colour of her auburn hair.
And perhaps because he knew she was off limits, that she was married, maybe that’s why he wanted her so badly. Or maybe it was her sense of humour—biting and sarcastic, dry as his own. She carried herself like a queen, never seen without a string of frosted pink pearls around her neck, superior to everyone in every room she’d ever been in. They’d met a few conventions ago. The same people tended to show up at plenty of them he noticed. He’d talked with her about three times over the course of a couple months. One day when Jefferson wasn’t there she put her hand on his just as he reached for a pitcher of water.
“You know,” she said softly. I’m not married.”
He shifted, a little startled by the sudden change in conversation. “If that’s what worrying you.”
“W-What do you mean?”
“I’m- I’m sorry, but I thought you were interested. Maybe I was wrong.”
“No,” he replied quickly, groping for words. “You’re right. I’ve been thinking of you—since I saw you the first time—hoping to run into you again. Just wondering if—“
“I’m separated, but I still wear the ring to discourage the wrong type of man.”
“And what sort of man would be the wrong type?”
“Oh, you know, the kind who sleeps with every female in sight, that sort of man,” she said huskily, toying with her fork.
“Oh but I’m not like that not anymore, maybe once upon a time in my youth, but I’ve changed,” he confessed glibly.
“Really? As of when?”
“Why now of course, now that I’ve met you. Now I know what I must’ve been looking for all a long.”
“Really?” she asked with a thin little smile. “Does that line work with most of the women you take back to your hotel room.”
“It’s not a line I’ve ever used before,” he admitted honestly. “It’s not a line at all. It’s the truth.”
“Uh-huh?” She raised one perfectly slanted eyebrow in skepticism.
“Cross my heart,” he gestured and favoured her with his most roguish of smiles.
Five minutes later they were in his hotel room.
They roll across the sheets as he wound his fingers through her waves of auburn hair. Hair the colour of fire, he thought, hair like autumn leaves. She was so beautiful, so perfect. Cora was like no woman Gold had ever known before, perfectly self-possessed, contained within herself, needing nothing from anyone. Which made her desire for him, her need for him, all the more rare and delicious. He relished the urgency for sex in this self-possessed woman, how she’d let herself go, to dark places and animal instincts in their encounters, like no one he’d ever met.
It struck him as odd though, that even after sparks flew, she still didn’t want to share details of her life with him or learn more about his home or his relationship with his son. Certainly, she talked little enough about her own private affiars. And yet he couldn’t help talking about himself in the utter relaxation after sex, as she lay in his arms, sweaty and spent. His tongue just loosened and he found himself pouring it all out to her; his boyhood in Scotland, adjustment to life in America, concerns about his elderly father, about Neal living with Mila and picking up bad habits. Everything about himself came tumbling out in a way he’d never shared himself with anyone before. Maybe he thought by revealing himself so nakedly to her, by baring his own soul to her, she might be enticed into opening up to him at last as well. He so wanted to know her, to share in her life, her triumphs and disappointments the way two people who loved each other should. Still, she remained aloof from him outside the bedroom, a mystery to be uncovered.
Usually, when they were at a conference together they’d book separate rooms. Then when she was ready, Cora would call him up. But at one particular conference in Buffalo, New York he waited for her call for ages, without hearing a thing. Eager to get together with Cora after having not seen her for a month, he went down to the front desk and wrangled the clerk into giving him her room number. He purchased the biggest bouquet of flowers he could from the gift shop and took the elevator up to the Mills suite.
With a cheeky grin he knocked on the door and masking his voice with an American accent announced “Room service!”
High heels clicked on the otherside and a feminine hand opened the lock. The wrong feminine hand.
The woman standing in front of Gold wasn’t Cora. She was younger, dressed in a navy blue power suit. Her hair was dark and shoulder length and her eyes were luminous and brown. She looked familiar, but he couldn’t quite place her. Maybe, he thought, she was one of the other lawyers he’d seen at an earlier lecture.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said in his natural voice, feeling instantly embarrassed. “I thought this was Miss Mills’ suite.”
“I am Miss Mills,” said the dark haired woman in a surprisingly husky voice. There was something about her manner of speaking that was nearly identical to Cora’s, despite the lack of similarity in appearance. It was really rather strange.
And then, the other shoe dropped. “Wait a minute!” the woman exclaimed as he turned to leave. “I- I know you!”
And suddenly he recalled that he knew this woman too. Her hair looked different all brushed out and puffed out, not slick and wet against her skull like it had been at the pool. She had make-up on too, and the scent of coconuts and sunscreen was gone, replaced by designer perfume, but he still recognized her. She had “known” him, all the archaic sense of the word.
“But, I don’t understand. How did you know my last name and that I was staying here? I don’t remember ever telling y—“ and suddenly, her eyes went wide and her nostrils flared. She glanced down at the bouquet of flowers, he realized he was still holding in his hand. In the centre was a tiny florist’s card in a pink enveloped. On the envelope, written in his bold, neat hand was a single word: “Cora.”
“Oh, my God!” she backed away from him in shock. “You aren’t here for me! You’re here for my mother! You fucking pervert!” she screamed and slammed the door in his face.
Aroused by the sudden loud noise the door to the room next door opened cautiously and Cora poked her head out.
“Ian!” she exclaimed. “Ian what are you doing here? I didn’t call you!”
“I came to bring you flowers,” he said defensively. You said you’d be here. I didn’t think I’d have to wait on ceremony. Not after all this time. You didn’t tell me your daughter—“
Abruptly, her face fell and she went white as a sheet. She grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him into the room, then closed and bolted the door.
“Gold, you idiot! You introduced yourself to my daughter Regina?”
“Not on purpose. I asked for the suite of Miss Mills and they—“
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
“No, I don’t,” he answered grumpily. “What’s so bad about your daughter knowing her Mum has a boyfriend? Granted the way she found out wasn’t the best, but once she gets used to us being—“
Cora wasn’t paying attention to him. She sat on the edge of the bed laughing bitterly. “Oh Ian, you’re such a fool! Didn’t it ever occur to you? You’re supposed to be a divorce lawyer, after all! I’m still legally married to my husband, Regina’s father! When we met I wasn’t even fully separated from him. We haven’t even begun divorce proceedings yet! If my husband can prove I was unfaithful to him before we were truly separated I could lose my entire financial settlement. I need the judge to be sympathetic, to see me as the wronged party. And Regina absolutely adores her father. Don’t for a second imagine she won’t go to Daddy dearest with this exciting tidbit of news against me. Do you know how much money you’ve jeopardized by your rash actions?”
He stared at Cora without comprehension. What was she saying? “How much money? What are you talking about? What about us? What about our love? I’ve never felt like this about anyone before! Cora, no matter what happens I’ll take care of you. You must know that. I have enough to take care of both us and you’re doing well with your law practice. Why should it matter about the financial settlement? We could get married and live together, out in the open. Cora won’t you marry me?”
She glanced up at Gold and there was fire in her red-brown eyes. What he first took to mean excitement at his proposal, he quickly realized was anger.
“Marry you? Why the hell would I want to do that? I’m not even out of my last marriage and you want to tie me down again? And you’re asking what I want with the settlement money? Why I need it? Are you serious? Don’t you know with that money I could build this shitty little law firm into the most powerful firm in the state! I could expand and diversify. I already had an architect draw up plans and now you’re throwing a wrench at it because you think we’re in wuv. What, are you three years old? Gold, let me explain how this works in the real world. What we had wasn’t love, it was sex pure and simple. We provided each other with a service, that is all. Just like a contract. And now I believe this contract is over. Your services are no longer required. I would like you to leave my room, Ian Gold, and for the sake of my defense in court, I don’t want to hear from you ever again. If you’d like money to keep your silence, so my husband never finds out any more than Regina has told him, please know I’m willing to pay for it. Within reason.”
Gold watched in astonishment as she fished in her purse for her chequebook.
“What? No, no! Cora I don’t want your money! Why are you doing this? I love you!”
“No you don’t. You just love what I do to you in bed, nothing more. That’s all there is with men, all you need is sex and food. That’s all there is.”
“No, that’s not true! I love you! I need you!” he admitted desperately, the words dragged out of him in his desperation, humiliating him further.
“Honey, you barely even know me,” was all she said.
“You’re right,” he said wistfully as he looked down at her, for what he thought would be the last time. “I barely even know you.”
It wasn’t the last time though.
Three months later he got a call. It was from Cora. She wanted to meet at a discreet location, at a coffee shop on the other side of town. She was sitting at the very back, where she couldn’t be seen from the street.
He thought maybe she wanted to apologize for how harsh she’d been the last time they were together, but that wasn’t it at all.
There was little preamble to their meeting. No small talk. He asked frostily about her divorce proceedings. She confessed that they were going well. Possibly, due to her own embarrassment at having made love to the same man her mother had been going out with Regina never told her father what she’d discovered about her mother’s extramarital affair.
They were actually on better terms now than they’d been before, Cora admitted and then Cora admitted something else. She hadn’t gotten her period, for a few months. She’d initially believed the change was coming on and she was beginning to become menopausal. In fact, the opposite was true. She was pregnant. With Gold’s child.
“But that’s wonderful!” exclaimed Gold, grinning ear to ear. “I’m going to be a father again! Neal will have a little brother or sister at last! He’s going to be so excited.”
Cora’s mouth gaped open. “Are you serious?”
“What? You’re not happy about it?”
“Of course I’m not happy about it! I’m 45 years old. I don’t want to have another child at my age. Not to mention that’s surefire proof to my soon to be ex-husband that I was having an affair because I sure as hell wasn’t fucking him during that time. And I won’t be like Regina telling on me about you. Anyone can tell a story, and it’s her word against mine about it, but to have actually physical living proof in the form of a baby as evidence of what happened! I’m sorry Ian it just isn’t possible. I don’t want it.”
“But Cora, please, even if you don’t want the child, I do! It’s ours, a product of our love. It’s part me too! Don’t I deserve a say?”
“Yeah, you say that now, but I’m the one who has to carry the bloody thing for nine months and feed and clothe it the rest of its life.”
“Then let me offer you a deal. You carry the baby for the nine months and when it’s born give it to me. You don’t have to take care of it. I don’t mind. I pay for everything, raise it up to lack for nothing. You won’t have to see the child again after that. Please, I’ve always wanted more children.”
“Are you insane?” Suddenly, she seemed furious. “I can’t believe you’re reacting this way. It’s not normal! A normal man would not react this way! You should be glad I want to get rid of it, not trying to convince me not to! That’s not the way this is supposed to go!”
“Please, I’d make sure it was love and cared for. It would be wanted in my home, I promise you!”
“But I don’t want it and you don’t get to make this decision.”
“So if you don’t care what I think, then why am I here? If there’s nothing I can say to convince you to have it, then what did you come to me for?” he said bitterly. “Just to torment me some more? Haven’t you done enough of that?”
“I don’t know,” she said, honestly shaken, seeming strangely moved and unpolished for the first time he’d seen her. “I think I just wanted to tell somebody. It’s been weighing on my mind. I thought if I told you, I’d stop thinking about it maybe.”
“Then stop thinking about it! Don’t do it! I promise, I’ll take care of you. We can draw up a legal contract. I’ll sign my name. As soon as it’s born I’ll take the child off your hands and you won’t have to worry about it. I’ll sign the contract to take care of all your maternity expenses, no matter what you need. And you don’t have to tell your husband it’s mind,” he suddenly improvised. “You can say you’re a surrogate. Carrying it for a client who can’t give birth naturally. We’ll think of something. We’ll—“
“It’s too late,” she said sadly to him. “I already did it.”
“That’s why it’s been bothering me so much, thinking about it. I thought if I told you— and saw for myself how you wouldn’t have wanted it anyway it would make me feel better somehow. I didn’t expect you to react this way. Maybe—“
“What the fuck? I don’t understand,” he gasped.
“What’s to understand?” she said wistfully. “It’s done. I had the pregnancy terminated last week.”
He got up to leave, his chair pushing back. “I—I—I don’t know what to say to you. D-don’t ever call me again!”
“Don’t worry I won’t!”
“Just tell me one thing—was it a boy or a girl?” he asked, his features slipping into tears.
She shrugged. “I never bothered to ask.”Belle Returns
She smiled at him. “Let me in?” she asked. “I’ve forgotten my umbrella.”
Wordlessly, he let her in, uncertain whether to trust this apparition who seemed to have sprung from his own private wishes.
Belle stood there dripping on the mat.
“Towel?” Gold asked, not trusting himself to say anything else.
“Yeah, sure,” she said as she worked on tugging off her wet shoes.
He went to the linen closet and fetched a towel for her. “I’m surprised you didn’t bring one of your own with you,” he joked as he made his way over to her. “You’d think someone that enamored with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would never leave home without one.”
She smiled as she took the fluffy blue towel from him. “You know me far too well. I actually always keep a spare in the car. I just didn’t take the car over here today.”
“I don’t know. I needed to walk. To think. When I was little my room was right beside the backdoor to our garden. I used to move the sliding door, early mornings when I woke up and all the world was still asleep. I’d walk out into the garden by myself and do the rounds of the perimeter, just thinking and making up stories. It was all so peaceful, without anyone shouting or bothering me. It was the only time I could really think and be myself, you know what I mean?”
He nodded. “Sure. Would you like some tea, coffee?”
“Yeah, thanks, coffee would be great.”
He walked down the hall towards the kitchen and she followed.
“Well, look at you,” she said from behind him.
He glanced down as they entered the kitchen, noticing nothing untoward about his appearance. “What?” he asked, the word coming out a little more harshly than he intended.
“No cane,” she pointed out as she took a seat at the table.
“Oh right,” he said. “I’m okay for short distances without it, these days. I don’t need it at home.”
“Hey, that’s great.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he said, his mind miles away. He began making the coffee, turning his back to her so he wouldn’t feel so nervous.
“Belle, um, yesterday, when we were um—“
“Yeah, I wanted to tell you—“
“I wanted to ask you if a woman had come to talk to you about me, a woman with red hair. She might’ve given her name as Cora. She’s a lawyer. She might’ve told you some rather… unflattering things about me. Implied that I—“
“What are you talking about?” Belle asked him point blank.
“Cora didn’t come to talk to you yesterday?” he asked, turning towards her. “That wasn’t why you--”
“No! Who’s Cora?”
Gold sighed and leaned against the counter, feeling weary. “An ex-girlfriend of mine. Things…were complicated. At one point she was pregnant with our child--”
“But Neal said he’s an only—“
“Child, yeah. He still is.”
“There are things that happened in the past that I want you to know. I want to be honest with you, but I’m afraid if you knew certain things you might not like me anymore. You understand my dilemma?” he said as he handed her her coffee.
“Perfectly,” she said as she took the mug. “It’s the same as mine. The reason I couldn’t make love with you last night has nothing to do with this Cora person or anything you did with her, although I’m curious to find out exactly what that was and why you feel it to be so shameful. It has everything to do with my past, not with you. It’s my problem, but I’m afraid if we are together, it might end up being your problem too.”
“What is it, Belle?”
She took a deep breath. Whatever happened once she let it out of the bag, there was no turning back.
“When I was married to Gaston,” she began, with a slight quiver to her voice, “the sex was not always…consensual. It’s made me…afraid, sometimes…to be with someone…in that way, again.”
“Oh. Oh Belle.”
She looked over at Ian, afraid of what she might see. He looked like he’d just been punched in the gut and then he looked angry, furious in fact, and suddenly Belle felt very afraid.
“That bastard,” he growled.
Part of her knew she had nothing to fear, that he was mad at Gaston, not her, but another part, the part from long ago that only knew how to be afraid, recoiled with sudden terror. Her hands clenched so hard on the sides of the coffee cup she thought it would shatter with the force of the pressure.
And then she felt another hand on top of her own, stroking her own, comforting.
“Hey, it’s all right,” he said and kissed the top of her head.
“No, no it’s not,” she whispered, feeling ashamed. “I want to make love to you properly. I want to let go, to not be afraid. I think, in time—I’m working on things in therapy and it helps, but I’m still scared. I can’t help it. And when I get scared, it’s like that turned-on romantic part of my brain just turns right off and I just want to run and hide under the couch or something. It’s terrible. How can he still have a hold of me now, even when he’s dead?”
“Belle,” he said seriously, as her eyes met his, “he doesn’t have a hold of you. Not anymore. You have a hold of yourself. And it’s good you told me. I just want you to know, you never have to feel scared around me. I won’t pounce on you or try to coerce you into ever doing anything you don’t want to. I won’t do anything you don’t expressedly tell me you want me to do, okay? And if I ever, ever do anything you don’t want me to in bed, you just tell me to stop, and I’ll stop immediately, all right? I promise I won’t ever be mad, not about that. I promise and I always keep my word. The last thing in the world I’d ever want to do is hurt you.”
“Also,” he said and cleared his throat, feeling himself go a red as he thought about what he was going to say next. “I was probably going to save this for later, because I sort of thought it might be a dealbreaker, heh” he gave a nervous laugh, “but what the hell, it might set your mind at ease.”
“Even if I didn’t think what that man did to you was completely evil and something I’d never in a million years even consider doing to my worst enemy, physically it’s not something I’m really capable of doing right now anyway.”
“You mean you can’t—“ She looked down, unbidden at his bathrobe where it covered his crotch, realized what she was doing, blushed and looked away.
“No, no! The wedding tackle’s fine!” he put his face in his hands. “Gah! This all went so much better when I told you in my head!”
She smiled despite herself, and put her hand on his shoulder. “I don’t know, I think you’re doing fine, though I’ve never heard it called ‘wedding tackle’ before.”
“Yes, well, Scottish slang, keep up, eh? Anyway, even if I can walk better, it doesn’t matter, stupid leg’s bloody useless where it counts,” he looked down at it angrily. “Can’t fully bend or take a lot of weight or pressure without hurting. I’ve tried it out just to see what it’d be like and—“ he shook his head. “I was worried I’d have to call Jefferson or something to pull me up again. I think I’d have to be on my back for any proper shagging to occur, that’s basically what I’m saying.”
“Uh-huh. Well, I don’t see myself having a problem with that. If we decided to…well you know. If we decided to, when we decided…” she suddenly found herself looking his straight in the eyes. “…to.” She didn’t look people in the eyes often. The direct contact made her nervous somehow, the implied threat. Usually her gaze quickly scittered away, or the other person’s did. It was like playing chicken with your eyes. Not this time though. She didn’t look away and he didn’t either. Their gaze was locked, Belle and Gold falling into each other’s eyes, into each other souls. “…to make love.” Pulling the two of them together like a magnet and a file.
The attraction was unavoidable.
Across the table their lips met.Love is for Everyone
Chapter NotesSee the end of the chapter for notes
Belle would not call herself an expert on romantic love, but she knew that those movies, those so-called “chick flicks” and “romantic comedies” had it all wrong. They made it seem like love was only for perfect women, women who didn’t have scars and one shoulder slightly higher than the other from being shot,women who didn’t have scary, disturbing memories of ex-husbands and things they’d rather forget intruding on some of their happiest, most intimate times. Of course, Ian wasn’t exactly a movie poster love interest either. If he were ever in a movie, he was exactly the type they’d cast as the villain, thanks to his accent, limp and penchant for dark suits. Whatever, she’d always liked that type better than the bland hero anyway. Certainly, the two of them being shot by Gaston had to be the worst “meet cute” scenario she’d ever heard of.
And yet, despite all that, they were in love.
Sometimes she’d wait for him after work. They’d get ice cream, then go back to his house to fuck and fool around. Belle wasn’t given to liberal uses of the word “awesome,” believing it to be mainly for surfers, but being able to do this on a regular basis sure qualified as awesome in her book.
So now they were together. It wasn’t always perfect. They both had issues, but as yet, no one had come knocking on their door saying, “Hey you, you’re not allowed to do that, love’s not for you, it’s against the rules” like she’d been secretly scared they would.
It wasn’t like the amusement park they went to with the signs beside some of the rides showing the little disabled man symbol with a big “X” over him, right next to the similarly X-ed out symbol of a pregnant lady and a measuring stick saying “you have to be this tall to go on this ride.”
There were no restrictions on this ride. Love was for everyone.
And now that Belle knew that was possible, it was like the whole world seemed different, like she was in on a secret.
Suddenly, she saw the people who came to the library with new eyes. People of every kind and flavor, from the old man who always wore plaid and smelled faintly of cheese, to the chubby dredlocked mum with the baby in the hemp sling on her back— it was suddenly possible that they all had love and sex in their lives—that the old cheese smelling man went home to an old cheese smelling woman whom he’d loved since high school, their bodies cuddled up against the cold under a single quilt together at night—the dredlocked mum straddling her tribal tattooed artist partner while the baby took a nap in her environmentally friendly bamboo crib. How many of these perfectly ordinary people in boring glasses and sensible shoes were having sex when they got home from work, fantasizing in the bath or ogling their partner as they put on their pajamas? Hidden beneath this veneer of normalcy all this stuff was going on if you just had half an imagination to think about it and Belle certainly had the imagination.
So this was the secret that Belle knew now. You didn’t have to be perfect to be loved and adored by someone else. You just had to be brave enough to be ready take a chance and love someone else back.
And Belle was ready.
Chapter End Notes
So what did you think?
There's only a little bit more to the story left, a really nice epilogue that I've been working on that I'll put out as soon as it's done. I want to make it just right though! Thanks everyone for all your love and kudos and great comments. This story has been wonderful for me to write. I feel like I've gone on all the ups and downs with the characters here. If there's anything you're particularly longing to see in the epilogue drop me a line and I'll see if I can include it! All the best
PS. I do truly mean what I say in this chapter. Love is for everyone!I can't do this!
Gold contemplates playing soccer again. Belle experiences a crisis.
I can’t do this!
“I can’t do this,” thought Gold as he stared out at the field.
The green gass glowed in the early morning sunlight. New lines had been painted on the soccer field, all white and fresh. The nets had been newly strung with nylon rope. They dripped lightly with dew. Spider webs spanned the square spaces between the ropes. They swayed in the breeze, delicate strands of gossamer touched with water droplets, each one containing a tiny rainbow spectrum, all its own. He traced the sticky threads. His gaze looked out into the distance, his mind slowly catching up with itself as his heartbeat slowed from its previous frenzy. The temples of his forehead gradually stopped pulsating and he heard his breathing become quieter as he recovered from his run.
The world around him felt so beautiful, like something born anew after last night’s rain. Alas, Gold himself did not feel half so fresh and new. He was sweating buckets after loping from his house to the park where the law society picnic and annual soccer tournament was going to take place that afternoon. And he still had to make it, all the way back to his house.
He was getting faster though. He checked the time on his watch. Less than half that he’d done on his first time out, so that was something. He tired less easily too and felt less sore afterwards. The first time he had been so wiped he was barely able to drag himself to work an hour later.
He knew he’d never win points for smoothness and speed. It was more of an awkward kind of fast skip than a run, and he had to wear an athletic brace from heel to thigh just for his doctor to give him the go ahead. He told himself he wouldn’t have to be fast for this game, no deeking in and out trying to weave the ball around the defense to score. This time he was going to be the goalie, and he wouldn’t have to run much, just catch the ball when the time came and kick or throw it out to whoever was open.
Jefferson was encouraging. He’d been the team captain since Gold’s
injury, but didn’t seem too fussed about whether or not they actually
won. Instead he seemed more intent in talking up Ruby, who was playing
midfield. Gold had unofficially taken over coaching the team in
tactics. He got up with them early every morning to watch the practice
and with his doctor’s permission sometimes did a little light training
with them. He was worried at first he’d embarrass himself, but then
thought, screw it. He didn’t care, he just wanted to play. It didn’t
matter if he was good or not, he tried to tell himself it was just fun.
Jefferson sometimes missed practices, due to being hungover from late
nights and parties and Gold took over directing everyone in their
warm-ups. The law society soccer team had been his baby and he was
damned if he would let anyone, even Jefferson, his best friend run it
into the ground due to his lack of interest. He knew the drills they
needed to perform, even if he couldn’t do all of them anymore.
When it came time to plan the big game for the picnic, everybody seemed to think it made sense for him to play with them. They had asked him themselves and he had been so flattered he’d accepted on the spot. Privately, Gold was pretty sure having him in the goal might cost them the win, but he couldn’t stop himself, he just had to do it.
More than anything, after being shot, he wanted to play soccer again, to prove that Laroux hadn’t won, hadn’t taken everything from him like he’d wanted to. It was more than just a game it was part of who Gold was. Soccer was what had brought him all this way across the ocean in the first place. He would never even have been here if not for the beautiful game. He had loved it before he’d ever met Milah, before Neal, before Killian, even before Belle. And while a simple game couldn’t hold a candle to what he felt for the special people in his life, especially Belle, his love for playing hadn’t faded. The logistics of what was possible didn’t matter to his heart. Like a missing lover, he’d come to yearn for it only more strongly the longer he’d gone without playing.
“And that was how you let yourself get suckered into being goalie,” he told himself as he stood by the net, holding the post for support as his bad leg cramped up on him. Suddenly, he was certain he’d disappoint everyone, let down the team and humiliate himself in the bargain. Worse still, it would all be in front of Cora and Regina who were on the opposing team. Why had he let his dreams, his pride and arrogance rule the day?
No, he would just have to tell Jefferson he couldn’t play, that was all there was to it. What was he, crazy? It was only slightly over a year since he’d been shot. What business did he have even being here?
He kicked angrily at a loose piece of turf. Jefferson wouldn’t be up until ten on a weekend at the earliest. He’d have to wait until then to call him. He didn’t look forward to waiting, thinking of everything Jefferson would say, what everyone at the picnic would mutter when he showed up. Maybe he’d just stay at home this year. After all, he hadn’t made it last year. He could just say his leg was hurting him. Again. Coward.
He felt a vibration from his pocket and his phone began to ring. Belle’s ring. He picked up.
“Ian,” said Belle in a panic. “I can’t do this!”Deal
Belle and Gold help each other out.
“I can’t do this!” sobbed Belle.
“Can’t do what?” asked Gold.
“The speech?” he asked blankly, out of breath and staring at the soccer field, his mind still on the right way to break the news to Jefferson that he wouldn’t be playing today despite all his preparations.
“The speech?” he asked again, pulling his mind back to the present, back to Belle, his girlfriend.
“My valedictorian speech for the graduation! I can’t!”
“But you’ve got it all written out. You memorized it all and preformed it for me just fine. What’s the problem?”
“You don’t understand. I just can’t—I can’t anymore. I’m sorry Ian, but I can’t get up in front of all of them after they’ve all seen what that guy wrote in the paper!”
Gold gripped the goal post, his fingers slippery with sweat. “Wait a minute, what guy? What paper?”
“Please, maybe you could just come.”
Belle sat a the kitchen table with the Mirror spread out before her, a buttered croissant still untouched on her plate and her orange juice half sipped in its glass. The paper was turned to the local new section. The headline read:
FROM VICTIM TO VALEDICTORIAN:
LOCAL GIRL BOUNCES BACK AFTER EX-HUSBAND SHOOTS HER AND DIVORCE LAWYER PARAMOUR
Belle took one look at it and shuddered. The doorbell rang. Sluggishly she went to answer it, terrified it would be another reporter.
Instead, she found Gold on the doorstep, still clad in his jogging attire.
“Hey,” he said in a concerned tone and embraced her. “Where’s the fire?”
She held him, feeling his sweat through his clothes. “You’re damp.”
“I didn’t have time to change. Came straight from the park. Don’t worry I’m not going to your graduation like this. And you’re damp too, by the way. Why have you been crying?” he asked tenderly.
Belle brandished the newspaper at him in answer.
“That vile, horrible man!” Belle raged. “He—he pretended to be just another student in one of my bigger classes, studying journalism, blah blah blah. He was always asking me questions, acting concerned, nothing more, I thought. I didn’t realize he was looking for an in at the paper—a juicy exclusive so they’d give him a job after grad school. What am I going to do? I can’t go up in front of everyone when this is all they’ll be seeing in their minds!” She pointed to the photo in the paper, the one taken at the scene of the crime just after Gold and Belle had been removed to the hospital. Splashes of blood and police tape covered the car in the parking lot.
It gave Gold shivers to see it so matter of factly displayed in the paper, but he did his best to downplay his emotions for Belle. She upset enough already.
Squinting at the picture, Gold was surprised to notice a familiar black loafer in the corner of the frame. “So that’s what happened to my other shoe!” He tried to make her laugh without success. “It’s probably still in the police evidence locker downtown.”
“Ian!” she wailed. “It’s not funny. How am I going to show my face in front of the whole graduating class at university knowing everybody’ll be thinking oh poor dear, that Belle French, or thinking I’m some kind of slutty little wife running around with her divorce lawyer. I mean what the hell? We barely knew each other back then—making me sound like I cheated on Gaston—that somehow I was the one who caused him to crack—to become violent! Like they’d ever insinuate that if I was a man! That I deserved what happened—that you deserved to be hurt like that!” Her gaze trailed down to Gold’s leg brace, poking out from under his shorts. “Gah! I just want to kill that fucking Sydney Glass!”
Gold sat down, and patted his good leg for her to sit on his lap. “Come here, you need a cuddle.” She did and leaned her face against his shoulder.
“How do you think I feel?” he whispered into her hair. “I was demoted to second billing.”
“Lawyer paramour? It does make you sound a bit dashing though, don’t you think?”
“Divorce lawyer paramour? Hardly.”
Belle sighed. “When will my name stop being associated with that bloody sociopath Gaston Laroux. I thought—I thought I could let it go, forget the past—forget him and all his shit-- be a new person with you—“ she looked tenderly into his large brown eyes and he smiled. “But this taint—it’ll always be there, even in my proudest moment! What’s the use!” she groaned and threw her orange juice glass against the wall. It shattered and was still.
Gold couldn’t understand for the life of him how he could feel so calm now. Not when this sort of thing-- dragging his and Belle’s pasts up and revealing them in the most lurid, unflattering light, as tasty tidbits for a jaded public’s consumption would normally bring out the furious beast in him. But as bad as it was, it took his mind off his eminent embarrassment on the soccer field and into Belle’s perspective, rather than his own, into wanting to help her get over this silly man’s careless words.
Gently Gold nudged her up off his lap so that she was posed half-sitting on the table.
“Belle, stop, please,” he said and grasped her by the arms. “Listen to me, these words this man wrote down—they’re there in the paper and we can’t take them back or wipe them away now. Of course,” he said, one finger raised, always the lawyer, even now, “we can sue for libel, slander, etcetera, but that’s not going to affect the here and now of this day. There is nothing we can do about it this second other than ignore it and not let it spoil your triumph today.”
“Pfft, some triumph.”
“Don’t denigrate what you’ve done. A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to do what you did. I’m proud of you, your mum and dad are proud of you and I know you’re proud of yourself, too. Whatever this idiot writes he can’t take away the fact that you got your degree despite all this shit and you did it on your own. You could’ve folded, but you’re strong Belle, you came back. You’ve always held your head up high.”
“Not always,” she looked down.
“Say what you want, but what you’ve done— you made me think I could come back too. You’ve always made me feel stronger, Belle.”
“I made you get shot, Ian, that’s what I did.”
Gold shrugged. “Maybe it was worth it.”
Belle’s eyes went wide. “Ian, don’t joke about that.”
“I’m not joking, Belle, I mean it.”
She looked away, tears of a different sort clouding her vision. She, more than anyone else knew all that Ian had been through to get to where he was now, all the pain, embarrassment, loss and frustration he’d had to get through just to get back to work at full capacity, let alone to mend things with his son. She knew, despite the flippant words of the publication how you didn’t just “bounce back” all at once, how it took a lot of little steps and miniscule progressions, invisible to everyone else just to get to where you were today. How something as seemingly simple and effortless as playing a game of charity soccer could require a great deal of courage.
“Before you got here, Jefferson called,” she said softly.
“He was trying to get in touch with you, figured you had your ringer off.”
“Son of a bitch!” Gold checked. It was off. “What did he want?”
“He told me he thought you might try to pull out of the picnic this afternoon, that you’d been saying how my graduation might run overtime or something. He wanted to find out when it would be finished. He thought you might be fudging the times with him, trying to get out of your commitment—“
“It’s not a commitment, it’s just a fucking game!”
“Is it?” she asked innocently. “Because you’re acting like you’re going into the world cup or something. Jefferson thinks maybe you’re putting a little too pressure on yourself—“
“Jefferson thinks that?”
Belle spread her hands. “What can I say? The man knows you well.”
“Uh-huh,” said Gold, raising an eyebrow. He was pretty sure Jefferson had told Belle nothing of the sort and this intuition about why he wanted to cancel the game was pure Belle and nothing else. “Forget about it. It’s not important. It’s just a game. You’re doing your valedictorian speech in—“ he consulted his watch— “just under two hours! We have to get ready!” he jumped up. “Get showered and dressed and—“
“Mmm—hhmmmm.” Belle hadn’t got up off her seat on the edge of the table. “What would you say to a deal?”
“I go do my speech in front of everyone—“
“If you go through with playing the match today.”
She held out her pinky finger to him and he rolled his eyes.
“What, are we kindergarten here?”
“Swear to play the match?”
“If you swear to do your speech.”
“All right,” he sighed. He supposed it was too late to cancel with Jefferson by now anyway. “Deal.”The Graduation
Belle couldn’t believe she was finally graduating, not to mention speaking the valedictorian speech to boot.
The article in the paper had upset her, but after talking to Ian she had gained some perspective and, though not exactly able to laugh it off, at least she’d stopped caring enough about it to stop her from doing what she was determined to do. Returning to school after several year’s gap, getting shot, having to take time out for recovery and still getting all her work in on time, no extensions even though her arm was in a sling and she could only type with one hand and had to be on pain pills, all that had failed to knock her down. If a bullet couldn’t stop her, then why would she let some silly made-up news story do the job?
So she dried her eyes, brushed out her hair and put on her blue dress while Gold showered and changed into a suit. Then she drove herself and Gold to the graduation. They’d meet up with her parents at the gates. She glanced over at him tilting his head out the open window as they drove, trying to air dry his hair and laughed. Despite the heat he was dressed in his best going-to-trial suit.
They parted on the quadrangle and Gold’s chest swelled with love as he watched her walk away from him, her scholar’s gown folded over her arm, the skirt of her filmy blue dress floating along behind her in the breeze.
He sat on a
folding chair on the summery lawn along with over a thousand other
people. He knew it was too much to hope Belle could see him, but he
gave a little silent prayer for her, sending her any additional courage
she needed to face the crowd.
There wasn’t room for him to sit beside her parents. They’d come too late for that and the best seats were already gone, no three seats together available. He glanced down at the blue leaflet her father had given him before they went to their separate seats. It had “Storybrooke University Commencement” printed on the cover and inside the first page in larger writing than anyone else’s name was her name “Belle French” in big curly letters under the title “valedictorian.”
“I’m the only one, the only one among all these thousands of people watching, who knows, who truly, truly knows how much it took for her to get here, how much she had to fight through and how strong and determined she really is,” thought Ian Gold, glowing inside, feeling special because of that knowledge.
This amazing person had opened her heart to him, and him alone. Shown him her joy and her pain, too, shared herself with him, out of everyone. She had taken him inside herself, singled him out and took him by the hand, brought him in to dwell in her heart the way no one had ever taken him before. Sometimes it took his breath away, how unexpected the life he led would have seemed to him just two years ago when he believed no one could ever really love him, not even his own son.
Even though he was hot in his dark suit with his brace underneath, he felt anything less would have been unacceptable.
Belle’s speech was wonderful, though personally he was glad it wasn’t him up there having his face projected on big TV screens hanging over the platform so the people in the very back could see. Although perhaps it wasn’t to see her they’d put up the screens, but so they could see whatever celebrity former alum the college had flattered into appearing for the commencement this year.
When Belle’s speech was over and Gold pushed himself up to give her a standing ovation with the rest of the crowd. It was then that he noticed a man with a camera in the audience, not unusual in itself—this was a graduating ceremony after all and even he’d broken his old Minolta out of storage so he could get a few snaps of Belle in her big moment—but no, this man had his camera point at him— what in the world? He was taking pictures of Gold.
Then Gold noticed a bright lanyard around the man’s neck and dangling from it, a shiny laminated badge that read PRESS.
Press. He knew there would be a little press coverage there to capture the celebrity du jour’s speech giving advice to the graduating class, but why would such a person bother taking pictures of him—he wasn’t anybody remotely famous. And then the penny dropped. This was Belle’s reporter then. Sydney Glass. The one who wrote that awful article.
Divorce Lawyer Paramour indeed.
In the midst of all the clapping and cheering, Gold wove his way through the standing throngs of people across the aisle.
Glass was taking picture of the stage now as if he was just another proud parent.
Yeah right—a proud parent with a paparazzi style giant telephoto lens. Gold wasn’t fooled for a second. His hand twitched at his side. For once he actually missed his cane.
Ah well, time to improvise.
are you Sidney Glass?” he asked the man. The photographer lowered the
camera from his face and fixed Gold with a pair of large brown puppy-ish
eyes—eyes that would be easy for a soft-hearted person like Belle to
trust. He was older than Gold had reckoned, with greying curls at his
temples. Older, harmless looking. Just like he was.
Gold quickly closed the space between them and shot out a hand to grab the camera.
Ah, should’ve worn a strap, my friend.
“What?” gasped the affronted Glass. “Who are you? Give that back!”
“Like you don’t know,” snarled Gold. “Ye fucking cunt,” he swore at him and shoved the other man back a bit. Then he tried to open the flap in the back of the camera to pull out the film. Only—damn modern cameras!
“It’s digital, you fucking dinosaur!” Glass smirked back at Gold.
“Not extinct yet,” said Gold with gritted teeth and popped the flap for the memory card—only to find a few things that looked like a memory card and something that might’ve been either a memory card or a battery.
“Hey, hey, I have family photos on that!” whined Glass.
Gold cleaned out both slots and threw the camera on the ground. There was a sound of something cracking.
Glass’s face contorted in fury. “That’s a Zeiss lens! Do you know how much—“ he yelled over the sound of the cheering crowd and lunged for Gold without finishing his sentence.
Gold side-stepped his lunge. Soccer training had at least made him a little more agile, if nothing else. Glass slammed into someone’s cheering football-playing boyfriend, a man about the size of fridge. The affronted man swiveled on Glass as Gold slipped away into the crowd clutching the memory card and battery pack in his hand, a mischevious grin on his face.In the Car Again
In the Car Again
“You did what?”
Gold was in the back seat and Belle was in the front, so he didn’t get a good look at her face when he explained exactly what he did to the contents of Glass’s camera, however she was sipping from a bottle of water as he told her so he did get to see her spew water all over the steering wheel and the front of her dress as she tried to keep herself from laughing.
“Flushed the SD card and battery down the toilet in the men’s room, dear. No way it’s coming back from that, I should think,” he said as he continued to struggle with getting his suit off and his soccer kit on, as Belle drove them to the match. There had been a luncheon with Belle’s parents and some of her friends from school after the graduation and he hadn’t had the presence of mind to bring his soccer kit with him to get changed into in the university’s bathroom. The university parking lot was crowded with cars when they arrived and they’d had to park in the parking structure at the mall two blocks away. By the time they got to the car, there was no time for him to get back to the university to change in the bathroom, necessitating his current quick change maneuver.
“Actually, I’m surprised you showed that much restraint,” said Belle. “I think I would’ve wrapped that lens around his neck.”
“Well, you know, I have my practice to think of. Can’t go around sullying my reputation by acting impulsively or anything.”
“No, certainly not.”
There was a thump and a bump from the backseat.
“Bollocks!” muttered Gold from the back.
“Jeez Ian, what are you doing to yourself back there?”
“I am trying—“ a trouser leg flared briefly into view and a suit jacket popped up in the air—“I am trying to get this stupid football kit on!”
“You should’ve just used the bathroom.”
“So I’ve heard,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stop or anything?”
“I’m fine,” insisted Gold stubbornly. “Damn seat belt just got twisted round and—Gah!”
“You know you’re being very distracting.”
“So stop looking back.”
Belle came to a stop at the red and turned around to stare at him. He’d got his suit off now and was nearly naked. “But I like looking at you,” she crooned softly to him. “Especially when you’re just in your underwear like this.”
Gold snorted. “Uh-huh, while you’re up there staring, see if you can’t throw back my cleats okay?”
A pair of black Adidas flew back over the front seat as Belle accelerated down the street on the way to the park.
“Ow! Those hit me in the head!”
Eventually the noise in the back settled down somewhat and she dared a quick flick of her eyes to the rearview mirror.
Ian was sitting up again, no longer struggling with his clothing. Except for his hair, which now looked like a bird’s nest, he looked perfectly presentable.
He smiled and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze from behind her seat.
“So proud of you back there, love. I know it goes without saying, but with everything you’ve been through—well, you’re the strongest person I’ve ever known. I’m so glad you’re my girlfriend. God, that sounds like I’m fifteen or something,” he cringed.
But Belle’s heart just melted. “You silly man,” she said, tears springing to her eyes. She dabbed them away with the sleeve of her sweater. “Don’t make me cry when I’m driving. I love you Ian. You know I couldn’t’ve done it without you.”
“Sure you could,” he smiled. “You’re Belle, you can do anything.”
“You really think so?”
“Oh yeah, anything and anyone.”
“Shit, now I really want to get back there and help you get that kit off.”
“Too late, I’m dressed already. Like what you see?”
As they were at a red light again, she turned around to look at him again. “Mmmmhhmmm,” she said. “Shirt’s on backwards.”
He grabbed at the material. “Damn!”On the Field
On the Field
Gold stepped out of the car onto the black tar of the parking lot. He could see the park from where they were and the banner, strung between two trees that read “Law Society Charity Picnic and Soccer Tournament.”
His mouth gave a brief twist. He’d gone back to work and had tried a few major cases since he’d been shot, but he’d not been to any law conferences or big events since. People knew what had happened to him of course, the law society papers and professional grapevine made sure of that, but he hadn’t actually been seen by most of them.
Suddenly, he was acutely aware of every new scar on his body standing out uncomfortably in high relief. His right leg, in its new athletic brace suddenly felt heavy as brick.
He touched the palms of his hand to the hot metal of the car door behind him, trying to get a grip on himself, but his cruel mind only flashed back to another day in another parking lot and the same feel of hot metal under his hands as he slipped down this very car door, lying on the ground in shock, staring at all the jagged edges of bone protruding from his leg, wondering where Belle was and if she was alive before he blacked out…
Belle looked at Gold. His eyes were fixed on the innocuous black tar of the parking lot in front of him, but she quickly realized that wasn’t what he was seeing. His breath was coming in shallow gasps now, his mouth twisting into a much different expression to the one he’d worn mere moments before, laughing and joking with her about his backwards soccer jersey in the car. Now he was someplace else entirely.
“Ian? Ian? Ian what’s going on?” Belle’s voice came to Gold from far far away.
Belle was okay, he quickly remembered, with a flood of relief. Belle had survived. And not only Belle, Gold amended, he, Ian Gold was here too. He’d survived and found love and found his son and his grandson on top of that. He, Ian Gold, was doing okay.
Belle’s hand was reaching out to him, he saw now. He gripped it as he took a shaky breath, feeling reality return to him. “I’m okay,” he said as much to himself as to her.
Belle put her arm around him. “Are you sure, Ian? What’s wrong?”
“The car— parking lot-- flashbacks, you know.”
She nodded. She knew what it felt like. “You’re all right. Just keep telling yourself that. That’s what works for me, remembering that you’re here now. We both are,” she said softly.
He sighed. He never thought it’d be so hard just to get across a parking lot and that a person could feel so afraid of absolutely nothing. He felt so weak and ashamed.
“Belle, do you think it’s kind of cowardly, you know…to be afraid…that people will… that they’ll…” he waved his hand vaguely, not wanting to finish, to admit all the ways his mind could think of to finish that sentence: stare at me, laugh, think I look weird when I run and a half dozen other things that had him frozen to his spot by the car as if he’d grown roots.
“I don’t think it’s cowardly at all, but it’s not true, what you’re thinking. They’re your friends—“
“Competitors,” he said bitterly.
“Mostly friends,” she said. “You don’t see it, but lots of people like you. They care about you.”
He laughed. “Don’t you believe it. Bloody lawyers.”
“Look, if they don’t they’re fucking idiots, okay? Anyway, you have to see them sometime, Ian.”
“No I don’t. Not really. I could hide in the trunk.”
“Like that vampire guy in Forever Knight.”
“Seriously Ian, I don’t think there are airholes.”
“Nobody would be the wiser.”
“Really? Not even them?” Belle jerked her head at two forms coming across the parking lot towards them, one big, one small.
“Dad! Belle!” shouted Neal. “I thought that was your car!”
“Gran’pa Crocodile! They have hot dogs!” cried Killian and reached for Gold’s hand.
Without thinking Gold took Killian’s hand and let the small boy pull him away from the side of the car, moving across the parking lot to the park at last, with Neal and Belle close at his heels.
As soon as his feet touched the grass with Killian at his side he felt better, more like himself. Somehow he was no longer afraid. Belle and Neal and Killian were there. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought, he realized. Only them. Let everyone else say whatever they want.End Match
The first half of the match was over. Ruby would be taking over in goal for the second.
Gold picked up his water bottle and loped off the field towards Belle, Neal and Killian who were waiting offside by the picnic tables. Jefferson thumped him on the back as he ran past angling for the beer cooler. “Great job man. Not a single goal got in! Here’s to you-- the wall!”
Gold allowed himself a small smile and then a big one as Belle and Neal gave him a big group hug. Then he felt Killian’s small arms around his legs joining in.
“Gampa Cro’dile win!” cheered Killian, then detached himself and picked up his own small soccer ball. “You play with me now G’ampa! Yah! You be goalie and I’ll kick the ball at you!”
Gold smiled weakly at his grandson without the heart to tell the boy he needed to sit down. He was completely wiped.
“Hey there Buddy,” said Neal, coraling Killian by the shoulders. “Grandpa Crocodile’s probably a little too tired right now. Why don’t you play with me and let him sit down and rest for a second?”
“Oh, okay,” said Killian. “C’mon Dad!” he cried, kicking the ball down the grass with his little sneakered feet. He turned momentarily towards Gold. “Sorry can’t eat lunch right now, I gotta go practice, then I can play in the World Cup when I get big!”
Gold watched Killian deking around Neal’s purposely clumsy attempts to defend the goal they’d made out of sticks offside from the big field. Neal wasn’t really trying hard to keep Killian’s ball out, but still Gold could see the little kid had some moves on him. He was small, but quick and determined for his size.
“You watch, I bet he’ll do it, too,” said Gold proudly to Belle, “tenacious little guy.” He admired how Killian didn’t let his missing hand prevent him from doing anything, or make him self-conscious, he just did what he wanted to do. Sometimes, when Gold worried about not being able to do something because of his leg, or about other people noticing the way he walked, he thought about Killian and tried harder not to give a shit.
“Hmmmm…Remind you of anyone else we know?” murmured Belle.
“If you are going to call me a ‘little guy’ why I do believe I am going to have to go sit at another picnic table Miss French,” said Gold, with mock affrontory.
“Yes, a big wiseass is rather more like it,” said Belle and ruffled her fingers through his hair. It was wet with sweat. “Just wanted to say I’m proud of you love.”
“What, for not causing the team to lose entirely?”
“Psssh…have it your own way.”
“It was hardly my most stellar on field performance, is all I’m saying.”
“But it wasn’t terrible either. Come on, admit it. Wasn’t it nice to play again?”
“I guess it was okay and I wasn’t completely embarrassing. There. Happy?”
“Really?” She gave him a calculating look. “That’s it?”
“Alright I admit it,” Gold’s eyes lit up like a little kid on Christmas morning as he bounced a little in his seat. “It was bloody fantastic! Didn’t realize how much I’d missed it! Did you see how George from the other team tried to score a goal on Ruby—and then when Jeff passed to Peter and Mal got a red card and--”
“Uh-huh,” murmured Belle indulgently. “And you didn’t let in any goals.”
“They were taking it easy on me, I could tell,” huffed Gold, determined not to let his enthusiasm run away with him. He still didn’t want to get too invested in playing soccer again, afraid he’d just end up frustrated by his limitations, or worse yet, discover the others were just humouring him, because they felt bad for him. “Probably worried I’d sue the pants off them if they hit me,” he groused.
“Hmmm, I don’t know,” mused Belle. “It could’ve just been me, but Cora did look like she was aiming for your nutsack during that one attempt on goal... “
“Really? Shit! Good thing I caught the ball then!”
“I’ll say. I happen to be rather fond of your, what-do-you call it-- ‘wedding tackle,’” she said, supplying her own air quotes.
Gold snorted, laughing hard into his napkin.
“Sounds bloody ridiculous when you say it!”
“Oh, what? This sounds better? ‘Wedding tah-kell,’” she said, trying to imitate his accent.
“Gah! Stop it! Stop it! I do not sound like that!” Gold was laughing so hard he was practically falling over at Belle’s absurd accent. “Some day I gotta take you to meet my dad,” he said as soon as he could take a breath. “He’d think you were a real scream.”
“C’mon let’s get some food, I’m starved,” said Gold, but Belle put her hands on his shoulders.
“Sit tight you, I’ll get you something. Hamburgers are mainly what they have. Anything in particular you want on yours?”
“Toothpaste and bootpolish.”
“C’mon, be serious.”
Then he gave her his precise order down to exactly how many squeezes of ketchup he wanted on the bun. Halfway through he realized he was being a little ridiculous, but he couldn’t help it if he was a man of peculiarly precise tastes, now could he?
As Belle sauntered off towards the food table, Gold thought some more about the game.
There had been a few goals that had almost made it in, ones he knew he could have easily swatted away were he back in peak condition, but as it was, he knew Belle was right and he was proud he’d done a decent job of acquitting himself on the field. He had come such a long, long way.
He thought about how things had been just a year ago, sitting in a wheelchair with all those metal fixators sticking out of his leg and his arm in a cast, a badly wrapped toy crocodile on his lap, waiting to meet his grandson for the first time, having just made up with his son, still worried he might scare the boy off.
He’d always prized himself on degrees, awards and certificates earned to be put on a wall and cases to be mentioned as precedents in the annals of the law society, in legal briefs and court decisions. He’d always thought achievements needed to be of a certain kind to be deserving of recognition and celebration. But there was no way he knew of measuring today on that sort of scale, playing half a game of soccer for charity and feeling like he’d been elected to the supreme court or something. It really was quite remarkable.
He remembered lying in the park in the grass, on that other day that seemed so long ago now, how just feeling sunlight on his face and brushing the grass with his fingers had felt like heaven. He remembered convincing himself that he would get better, and that dream image in his mind of kicking a ball around with Neal and Killian, playing soccer together.
It was real now. He could play with them whenever he wanted. Not perfectly, but it was enough.
He remembered how he’d imagined Belle on the picnic blanket beside him, even though they hadn’t exchanged a single e-mail in months back then. Even then she was still the one he longed to have with him, running her gentle hands through his hair. It had seemed like such a preposterous fantasy, too ridiculous to hope for. And now… sometimes he felt like pinching himself.
Not that there weren’t other things around to remind him that no life, no matter how good, was ever perfect. He winced as he shifted in his seat. No question, he would definitely be feeling this in his leg tomorrow. But at least it was manageable for now. The future was uncertain, but wasn’t it always? According to what he’d read on the internet, (always a bad place to go for health advice if you’re the least bit worried), some day in the future he’d probably need more operations to replace the hardware inside when it wore out. Something to look forward to then, he thought with his usual black humour. But he couldn’t stay down today. Let the future take care of itself.
Earlier, when he took the field, he’d noticed the police liaison, David Sheppard, by the drinks table. It was the first time he’d seen the cop since hospital. He remembered silently listening to David talking to Emma about him as he lay in bed pretending to be asleep, facing the opposite wall, trying to hide the fact that he, a grown man, was crying over what they were saying. It had been very hard to hear about it that way. Leg’s shot to shit… probably never walk straight again. Shame not a bad guy. Not that David had been wrong, Gold had to admit, well except for the part about him not being a “bad guy.”
Gold could be plenty bad, especially when Belle put him up to it. He had been one of the Rakes of the Law Society, after all, and that did come with a certain dollop of carnal knowledge and kinked desire. Also, once Belle began to trust him more, he was pleasantly surprised at the things her imagination could whip up. Apparently, there were areas of knowledge, even in this subject, that could be gleaned from the books she read, (what were those books and how might he obtain them?) that he had hitherto been unaware of. Just thinking about their adventures in that particular realm, made him feel excited again.
Still, Gold thought about the future and wished he could know what would happen for sure. There were possibilities there, he was willing to admit now, for him and Belle, things he would never have dared dream about before. It wouldn’t be easy, but then, nothing ever was.
What would he do after the picnic then? Get in the car with Belle, let her drop him off at his house. Shrug off the brace which probably reeked of sweat now and need to go in the washing machine. Raid the freezer for ice packs and ice cream, bed down on the couch in front of the big screen TV, his ankle buried under a mountain of ice packs, take a few advil night-times washed down with the good scotch and fall asleep. Wake up in the morning, his mouth feeling like a dirty sock, brush teeth, shower, get dressed, go to work. What would he do at work? Get annoyed by Ruby, go across the street for lunch with Jefferson, their traditional Monday pub lunch which they’d been doing for years, then back to the office and tackle their new case, maybe see Belle for dinner after working all afternoon if he felt up to it, which might lead to a movie, her spending the night over at his place, sex and sleeping together, falling asleep holding her precious body in his arms, lying on their sides, his hand around her waist, her bottom nestled into his pelvis, his lips brushing the tips of her auburn tresses on the big shared pillow.
It was a pleasant enough future. And yet… he wanted to share so much more with her than the occasional night. Gold, being Gold was never quite satisfied. He always wanted more.
Still, after so much strife he really felt no desire to rock the boat. He’d become cautious and careful since his injury. Sometimes he was terrified that if he tried to change things, even in a way that might bring him and Belle closer than he’d ever hoped, he might accidentally cause everything to break apart. Wasn’t it better to be safe, to not take a chance on her refusal? We’re things okay the way they were now?
“Hey Ian! Got you that hamburger!” sang Belle as she walked up to him. There were actually two hamburgers on the plate he noticed. “Oh yeah that one’s for me.”
“And this,” she said. She handed him an ice pack, clearly pilfered from the beer cooler.
“Figured you might need one of these.”
“Thanks,” he replied, genuinely grateful for the ice pack.
They went off to sit down on the picnic blanket Neal and Killian had been using.
Gold lowered himself awkwardly down towards the blanket the now dripping ice pack in one hand and the plate with the burger in the other.
His process was clumsy and of course, the plate tilted, the burger sliding off.
He watched it start to fall—and then the strangest thing happened. Belle reached out and caught it.
And something clicked into place in his mind as he sat down heavily on the picnic blanket.
He had wanted to wait for the perfect moment, but if he’d learned anything this past year, it was how everything could get snatched from you in an instant without warning, and how important it was to make every moment you had count. And really, after all he’d gone through, he quite thought he deserved to be happy.
“Hey don’t worry,” said Belle. “My hands are clean. Five second rule right?”
Gold nodded and took the burger from her. Some of the ketchup had got on her hand.
“Let me help you with that,” he murmured and began cleaning her hand off with a napkin.
She was staring at him, he could feel it now, the heat and love in her eyes, pouring out over his head as he bent over her hand and gave it a kiss.
Screw your courage to the sticking place old man, he told himself, egging himself on to try and say what he wanted to say. He opened his mouth to speak…
“I don’t think it works that way,” Belle spoke instead.
She pointed at the ice pack. “You need to take the brace off before you put on the ice pack. It won’t work if you put the pack on top of your brace, you’ll just make the material cold,” she said sensibly. She pulled at ne of the Velcro straps to help him get it off.
“Just leave it on for now, okay?” he asked and took hold of her hand, preventing her from going to work on the rest of the Velcro.
Belle frowned and looked at him. She was trying to make him less self-conscious about his injury around other people, but she knew from personal experience that learning to feel comfortable with yourself didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t good to push someone else too hard, just so they would be where you thought they ought to be. People did things at their own rate.
Gold was attuned to her thoughts now, and realized that she was getting the wrong idea about his refusal to let her help. “No, no, it’s not that. It’s not because I’m shy about my leg—“
Belle raised an eyebrow at him. “Yes, there’s no particular reason at all why you haven’t worn shorts all summer.”
“Okay, maybe a little teensy bit shy,” he admitted, “but that’s not it, it’s just, before we get distracted there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
Gold licked his lips, tongue darting out to get at some mustard at the corner of his mouth. Belle watched his tongue go to work, thinking of him licking up other things than mustard. She blushed and felt something tighten inside her between her legs. She clenched the muscle again and concentrated on the feeling.
“So what do you think?” he asked, his eyes nervously searching her face for some kind of ascent to his proposal.
“What? I—I kind of spaced out there for a second.”
“Spaced out, yeah. You were doing that, that licking thing with your tongue and I started thinking about that time when you—“
Gold buried his head in his hands. “Aaaah!”
“What? C’mon you have my attention now. It’s alright,” she said putting her hand on his shoulder. “Just tell me what you wanted to ask.”
He looked into her eyes. They were as blue and bright as the sky above them. “I- I wanted to ask if you’d move in with me. I want—I want to live with you Belle.”
Belle breathed in and out slowly. “Cool,” she said at last.
“Cool? What does that mean? Do you want to live with me too or--?”
“Yes I do, I want to live with you Ian. If you’ll take me, in full knowledge of my messy habits, which let’s be realistic, are probably rather unlikely to change, then I think we’ve got a deal.”
“Oh, fuck it I’ll get a maid!” he said with a big sigh of relief, glad to have gotten it out of his system at least. “I’ll get two! It’s going to be great, Belle!” he grinned.
“Now,” said Belle, tapping him on the chest. “Let me ask you something, Mr. Ian Gold.”
“What? I’ll do anything for you except buy you a pony.”
“Would you Ian?”
“What, buy you a pony? If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times—those things shit everywhere.”
“No, no, not that,” Belle paused, before saying one single, quick stream of words, before she lost her courage, “Ian, would you marry me?”
“Marry?” Gold’s eyes grew wider. “Belle, Belle, you’re sure? You really want me?”
“Well, I certainly don’t want anyone else, so yes, I would say it looks like I do.”
“Really? Me and everything—everything that goes with being me.”
“What? The Cadillac, the crazy knickknacks, cute grandkid, flamingo pink house, wonky flush on your downstairs toilet and bedroom TV with unreliable cable? Yeah, I think I can handle them.”
He gave her a light shove. “You know what I mean.”
“Eh,” she shrugged her shoulders. “As long as you don’t mind me still going to all those raves I’m so accustomed to attending, you know with all that drug fuelled all night hard core dancing with glow sticks, I don’t see a problem.”
Gold gave her a look.
“Well, you’re ridiculous!”
“So are you. Like you’ve ever been to a rave!”
“Like you have?”
“What about me? You think you can handle all this?” she said with a smirk and a slight shimmy of her hips.
“Hmmmm, you know what?” said Gold cocking his head. “I really don’t know. Let’s see!” he said slyly, and launched himself at her, hugging and kissing her, filled with the most indescribable joy. She laughed, pulling him down on top of her on the picnic blanket as he gave her a nip on the neck and she pulled at his hair. He kissed her deeply, caressing her hair as he held her, rolling over so they were side by side, one ear each on the blanket, her hands snaking up under his soccer jersey to touch his chest.
Somewhere, a few feet away, unnoticed by the two lovers, Cora grabbed a cider and the burly arm of her newest boy toy and stalked off to nurse her drink in peace, the image of Belle nipping that asshole Gold lightly on the tip of his nose, forever burned into her aggravated brain.
“So, after the game,” said Belle. “You, me, city hall?”
“Can I bring Neal and Killian as witnesses?”
“Sounds good,” said Belle lifting her beer.
Gold lifted a completely unopened can of cider which someone seemed to have forgotten on the bench in their speed to be elsewhere and toasted his bride to be.
“To us!” said Belle.
“To us!” said Gold.
Wow! I never thought this would go on for so long! Thank you, thank you everybody who’s PM-ed me, followed and favourited this story! I am so grateful to you all! I hope you found the ending satisfying. I spent a long time on this last bit, because I do so hate movies and books that end in an unsatisfying and frustrating manner. I wanted this to be true to the desires of myself and you, the readers, and to follow the general arc of the characters.
I do believe what Orson Welles said is true: “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
The versions of Belle and Gold in my story, as I picture them moving on with their lives won’t always have happy times. There will be quite a few hurdles that they will probably have to face in the future, BUT what’s important is that they have the companionship of each other, someone to love and laugh with, a shield against whatever will come their way. Understanding and indulging in another person’s craziness and wonder, getting to truly know them, soul to soul, talking and sharing this complex world we live in together. And really, at the end of the day, that’s one of the best things I can think of in life, my experience of having that kind of friend, whether they are with you for a long time, or a short time. My hope is that every one of you will meet someone like that at some point, whether they are a friend, relation or lover and treasure them for what they are: Someone willing to get to really know you and your darkest corners, who loves you all the more for what you really are.
You may not realize this, but you have given me a huge gift—confidence in my writing—and the feeling that I can write something that other people actually WANT to read. (No small feat by the way!)
When I first started writing this, I was coming off a round of disappointment and depression, feeling like I had nothing to say that anyone wanted to hear. It is hard to keep on working, when you feel like no one will ever read what you write or that your words that you pour your heart and soul into as an artist are worth nothing to anyone else. For a while I stopped writing I was so disillusioned.
I started writing this piece completely without pressure and totally for kicks, just because I loved OUAT and the fan fiction I’d been reading concerning the show online.
Writing this has had the unexpected effect of unlocking my ability to find writing fun again and kickstarting my progress on a novel and a bunch of other stories! It’s so great to write on this forum, to have access to an audience that is open to reading something without its author being a famous name.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to entertain all you wonderful people!
that this story was read by people (*!* I still cannot f-ing believe
that, by the way) and all the kind people who bothered to leave comments
has helped restore some of my faith in myself. Thanks for helping me
from the bottom of my heart!
If you like this story I have another one called “Little Friends.” I hope you will enjoy it.
Much love to everyone!