Fic: Rumour Has It - Chapter 4
AU: Because of one little lie, everyone at Storybrooke University now thinks that Belle Charmin is sleeping around, and Professor Gold, the only guy who seems to believe her innocence, is totally off limits. Easy A!AU.
Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8
Rumour Has It
It was, by the way. Worst idea ever. I’d gone from fake-slut to fake-prostitute in one moment of weakness, and even now I’m willing to blame Jefferson Madden’s puppy-eyes for everything that happened next. Bastard.
Abbie was having a party at her boyfriend’s place that weekend, and I’d been invited along with pretty much everyone else she knew. Abbie is still quiet, kind, blonde and bright in that way you can’t even dislike. She’s popular, and always will be, because she’s someone you genuinely want good things for. You can’t help it.
So she was having a party, her first co-hosting with Fred, and suddenly I had a date.
I’d never had a date to a party, not since Greg. And he’d spend more time with his guy friends, or passed out on the sofa, drunk from trying not to eye up his guy friends, than hanging with me.
And see, there’s a reason everyone always assumed Jefferson was gay. He’s genuinely very good, respectful, and well-meaning to girls. He doesn’t flirt without intention or provocation, and understands emotional boundaries, even if he does tend to get rather up-close-and-personal in conversation. He’s well-dressed. He smells nice. He can hold a conversation about America’s Next Top Model.
He once took me shoe-shopping, and I swear I’ve never done better for high heels in my life. Come to think of it, that shopping trip was the one before Abbie’s party. We bought a very short red dress, and some very tall stilettos, and I wasn’t allowed to do more than try things on and trust him.
I mentioned a few times that this wouldn’t help his image as a rampant homosexual. He didn’t seem to care.
Jefferson never really did give a shit what people thought. He genuinely did just want to get himself a girlfriend he actually liked, and not get thrown in any more rosebushes by frat guys.
He was one of my closest friends: that’s why I let him buy a night of fake-sex with me.
I can’t explain the rest of this story with any real justification, but that I can honestly say was about friendship, far more than personal gain.
The house was already heaving when Belle and Jefferson arrived. Someone at the door, already slurring and stumbling, warned very seriously about how Abbie had invited adults as well as students: Regina Mills and her gang were there, as well as some of the TAs and younger professors.
So the underage students were mostly almost-sober, with the threat of being caught by their lecturers hanging over their heads. It was, therefore, a little easier for Belle and Jefferson to pretend to have been drinking earlier: most of those who were hammered had done it through pre-drinking.
“Hey, Abs?” Belle slurred, and thanked her high school acting classes, “Abbbieeeee?”
“Belle?” Abbie gave her a hug, then pulled back, “Have you been drinking already? You look a little out of it.”
“Yeah, we might’ve had a few pre-party drinks. And then a few more for you know… well, we had it lying around. Anyway, this is Jefferson.” She pushed Jefferson forward, and he swayed a little as he shook Abbie’s hand.
“Yeah, we had an art class together last year, I think.” Abbie smiled, “Is he okay?”
“Jeff was just wondering if he ah… could go lie down someplace… private? With me? If you know what I mean?”
She hoped to God that Abbie, Ethics Committee member that she was, would find it in her to just let the sinners sin. “Ah… yeah, alright. There’s a spare room down the hall and to the left.”
“Thank you so very much, good lady.” Jefferson bowed and kissed Abbie’s hand, and then reeled away, his arm around Belle’s shoulders.
Belle could feel the tremors of scandal already rushing through the people around them. August Booth muttered something to one of his hipster buddies, and left and right Belle could feel barely-concealed eyes watching them as they headed for the bedroom.
She was a little nervous: as if this was going to be her actual first time, with actual nakedness and touching and things.
Instead, she simply took her underwear off as they closed the door, and hug them over the keyhole. So no one could see them jumping on the bed and shouting at each other, instead of frantically kissing and grinding between the sheets.
Jefferson watched her a little wide-eyed, “This’d be somehow less awkward if the rumours were true.” He muttered.
She laughed, “Yep. But unless you want to call this off and announce to the world that you’re too gay to function, I think it’s time to get with the screwing.”
And so the next fifteen minutes were filled with bed-bouncing, screaming, and thumping on the wall. Belle did have to punch him in the balls at one point, though for shouting something not only obscene but faintly sexist and offensive.
“Heat of the moment, sorry.” He apologised, and held up his palms in surrender.
“Oh, whatever,” she whispered back, and then yelled, “Oh god, please don’t STOP!”
Finally, to get the sheets sufficiently rumpled, Belle decided to find all the ticklish spots between Jefferson’s ribs, and they ended up mock-wrestling all over the bed. She was, in that moment, very glad that she was crushing so hard on her Lit professor. If she’d had any attraction at all to Jefferson, it might’ve been hard to not exploit the situation.
As it was, they finally collapsed next to each other, breathing hard and giggling hysterically, trying to mask their laughs as moans of pleasure.
“I feel like a should be smoking something right now.” Belle murmured, and Jefferson snickered.
“You can be the first girl on your block to say you giggled all the way through your first time.”
She groaned, covered her face with her hands, “Not my first time. Acting. Different.”
“Yeah… so, did I make the fake-earth move?”
“Oh, totally,” she nodded, “Best fuck I’ll ever have, pleasure like I’ve never known, etcetera etcetera. No arguments here.” She sighed, dropped her hands to the messed up sheets and pushed herself upright, “Ready to face the mob?”
“After you, Beauty.” He gestured toward the door, and she giggled. She reached for her underwear and uncovered the keyhole.
“Here,” she said, quietly, “So all the world knows you’re straight as an arrow.”
“Thank you.” He took them, and stuffed them in his jeans pocket, “I mean it.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she rolled her eyes, “Say that when I’m coming for your firstborn.”
He laughed, and pressed a kiss to her forehead, before walking past her to the door and throwing it open, swaggering out.
She heard some shouts of approval, some kind of reception for a conquering hero, and for the first time she wondered at the truth of sexual double-standard. This would confirm her reputation as a campus slut, and yet Jefferson would just be accepted, even lauded, as the guy who banged Belle Charmin.
Suddenly, she just wanted to go home and lie down. Possibly take a long, hot shower. As if she really had just had random, meaningless sex, and was now regretting it.
She was near-stumbling once she put the ridiculous stilettos back on, but she was getting better and better at walking in them. One upside to this dressing-sexy thing was that her balance was improving.
Still, she near on crashed into someone coming around a corner, and backed up quickly, “Woah, sorry, I didn’t- Professor Gold?”
For there, before her, grim-faced in his shirtsleeves and clutching a bottle of Heineken like his life depended on it, was her English Lit professor. At a campus party. Where she’d just pretended to have wild sex with an old friend.
A part of her, reckless and cynical, silently begged the universe to make the day any worse. She figured it impossible outside of actual death or disease.
“Belle, how lovely to see you.” His voice suggested the exact opposite, but she was too stunned and awkward to say a word.
“What’re you-“ she stopped, remembered her manners, “Sorry, I mean, why’re you at a student party?”
“I believe in weights and counterweights. If Regina Mills decides to bring her dark clouds to rain on parades, I feel I need to be here before it gets out of hand.”
“Professor Mills is really here?” Belle swallowed hard, the knot clenching tighter in her stomach. Dealing with Regina again was the very last thing she needed.
“Over there, talking with Graham Hunter by the drinks table.” He nodded, and she turned. The pair were in deep conversation about something, although from what Belle knew of Graham, Regina would be talking and he’d be nodding blindly. Not the sharpest arrow in the quiver, that boy.
“Damn.” She muttered, and Gold’s eyes narrowed, but he remained silent. “What?”
“Nothing, dearie, nothing at all.”
“No, you were looking at me strangely.”
“I’m a strange man,” he replied, dryly, with a little crooked smile that almost stopped her thoughts dead. Almost.
“If you have something to say to me, professor, then please say it.” She sighed, exhausted: lying and being lied about was surprisingly waring, and right now she didn’t give a damn if he was her professor. He was still a human being, and could be spoken to like one, and expected to respond in kind.
“I was simply wondering about the rumours people seem to be so fond of.” He replied, his mild tone belied by the sharpness of his eyes, “Particularly ones about you.”
“And why would you care about idle campus gossip, professor?” she asked, her eyes narrowed just as his were, “About me or anyone else?”
“I care if they are related to outbursts in my class. Really, dearie, you cannot expect me to stop people from harassing you if you refuse to at least be discreet in your proclivities.”
“I can expect you to stop people from being assholes in class because you’re a teacher and it’s your job!” she bit back, hotly.
She glanced around and then grabbed his arm - his muscles clenched under his shirt, hard and strong and warm, but she was too far gone to care that she was breaking a lot of social rules right now - and hauled him to the side, into a deserted side corridor and around a corner where they wouldn’t be seen or easily heard. “And for your information, my ‘proclivities’ as you call them - not that my sex life or lack thereof is any of your business - are not only entirely discreet but also non-existent.”
“Oh, then I suppose that Mr Madden didn’t have a pair of women’s underwear in his back pocket, and a story about you and a nearby bedroom not five minutes ago?” the amusement that had been in his eyes when she grabbed him was gone, and he regarded her cooly, his arms folded where he leaned against the wall.
The music thumped away in the background, the people shouting and talking and getting steadily more drunk serving as background noise.
“You know nothing about me or Jefferson,” she hissed back, and she was tempted to leave it there. To let him think she really had just fucked a guy who, for all he knew, was a complete stranger, and walk away.
He was her Professor, and she shouldn’t be discussing her sex life with him in a dark corner at a party. It was too personal, too unprofessional, and dangerous on far too many levels.
But despite the perks of people thinking of her like this, despite how strongly she felt that, even if she was sleeping around, no one should think less of her for it, she couldn’t leave him like that.
Because he could so easily retreat back behind he mask of Professor Gold, and she could be just another student. Because she liked how they could argue as two equal people, outside of class, and not as a teacher and student. She liked how he looked at her, and didn’t want him to hate her and never speak to her again, for any reason at all.
“And, even though it is none of your business,” she continued, “We did not have sex. Jefferson is an old friend of mine, and he’s being bullied. We figured that giving him a fake sex life with someone like me would stop the Deltas from throwing him in dumpsters twice a week.”
“So all that show back there…”
“Oh lord, you heard that?” she groaned, leaned sideways to hit her head on the wall with a dull thump.
“Dearie, most of the house heard that.” He teased her, a smile forming at the corners of his lips. His voice was warmer, now, his posture more relaxed and his eyes soft. She shouldn’t be glancing at his mouth, but she simply couldn’t help it. Either his eyes or his lips drew her attention, and she could make a valid argument for avoiding both.
She smiled, eyebrows raised “We were jumping on the bed and pretending to be in a porno.” She confided, “Really, did you think that ‘Oh god, yes, please, take me nowwww! Harder harder harder!’ sounded in any way realistic?”
Her mimicry had, admittedly, strayed into When Harry Met Sally territory. But even so, she hadn’t expected the darkening in his eyes, or his lips to part ever so slightly as he stared at her. “Indeed, not.” He murmured, and she frowned, shook her head.
“At any rate, ninety percent of clothing stayed on, and the most action I got was a kiss on the forehead at the end. He’s not even into me: he’s like a brother. Possibly a future brother-in-law, if my sister gets her way.”
“Oh.” He nodded, swallowed, and she watched him try to regroup. She was stone-cold sober and not high on anything, if exhaustion wasn’t factored in. And yet she could swear that Gold was… relieved, that she wasn’t involved with anyone. That some of his ire could even have come from jealousy.
He was certainly looking at her oddly. The way Archie had looked at Ruby, that day on the grass. The way Greg had never looked at her, but had definitely looked at Josh, boy he’d mooned over the whole last semester of Freshman year.
But she was reading him wrong, because he didn’t see her that way.
He couldn’t: she was a nineteen-year-old student, with a quick temper and blunt opinions, and a tendency to use profanity inappropriately.
“Yeah.” She breathed, incapable of other words. She would follow where he lead: the ball was in his court. She just needed to see how he planned to throw it. He would undoubtedly disentangle himself from this whole conversation, any moment now, and it would be wiped away as the result of an unplanned meeting and the beer in his hand.
But he didn’t move, except perhaps to lean just a little closer to her.
“Well, you’re a beautiful young woman,” he reasoned, softly, “No one should begrudge you to sleep with whoever you please, if you choose to.”
“Says the man who not five minutes ago was accusing me of being indiscreet, and threatening to let the haters do their worst,” she countered, but she couldn’t keep from smiling.
“That was before I knew you were pretending.” He said, “Now this can be viewed academically and logically.”
“Whereas before it was viewed…”
His dark eyes pinned her in place, as he licked his lips, and then said, slowly and deliberately, “Emotionally and thoughtlessly. I apologise.” He was so close, close enough that she could count the eyelashes around his dark, warm eyes. She was warm all over, and suddenly not tired at all, heart racing and voice quieted to a soft whisper.
“Emotionally?” she frowned, “Why would that be, professor?“
For a moment, everything was quiet and still, warm and close and soft. He stared at her as if he wished to devour her whole. As if she was something special and precious and unexplainable. She could hardly breathe under the weight of that stare.
And then he seemed to come to his senses, and the spell broke, “No matter, dearie,” he replied, almost too quickly, and backed away from her as if she’d set him on fire, “Just concern for your welfare. I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Oh, well, me too.” She flashed a smile, but his return was awkward and too-bright.
“I’d best be off.” He didn’t even give an explanation, just vanished into the crowd, until Belle couldn’t be certain he’d ever been there in the first place.
The odd thing was: until he’d suddenly seemed to have caught hold of himself, and run off as if she were holding a loaded gun or something, she’d been certain that he was about to kiss her. Her imagination could be a total bitch sometimes.
To be honest, walking home from that party to my dorm room, I felt as if I’d actually done what everyone now believed that I had. But the regret, the exhaustion, had faded somewhat. Despite feeling entirely shellshocked and messed up, I was also… well, just a little bit happy.
Everyone thought that I’d had a drunken and exceedingly public one night stand.
Jefferson still claims he was nothing but nice about me after our supposed tryst, and I guess I believe him. But that didn’t stop the crude gestures the guys made at me walking back through the party, and on the short walk home. But I barely even noticed, to tell you the truth. But I can say that I fucking hate texting, facebook, twitter… really instant mass-communication of any sort, these days.
My mind was stuck on Gold, and this time it was more than just idle daydreaming: I was so certain that he had been about to kiss me. And even though the rational part of my brain knew that was total bullshit, I still couldn’t keep it out of my head.
Even when he was in the closet and trying to be my boyfriend, Greg’s kissing had always been a bit perfunctory, as if he was reading from a script. And I’d never minded much, not really: I’d rather be kissed sparingly by an old friend than slobbered on by some drunken football player.
I bet Gold would kiss like he meant it. Thoroughly, properly, you know? So you couldn’t even breathe after. Like I said: silly daydreaming. Even if… well, that’s getting ahead of myself again.
That was probably why I remember little of the rest of that night… well, beyond replaying that imaginary moment a hundred times in my head, and waiting for the awkward that Monday would bring.
I’d expected it to be difficult to go to my Lit group, and look in the eye the so-very-off-limits professor who had - not forty eight hours previous - cornered me at a party and acted like a jealous boyfriend. I’d expected to avoid eye contact, not know what to say, and have to leave as fast as my stilettos could carry me afterwards.
The worst, however, was not Gold at all.
“Okay, we’re talking now.” A set of crimson claws dug into Belle’s arm, and she felt herself hauled bodily into the ladies’ room.
“Woah, Ruby, what the hell?” she complained, rubbing the nail marks on her arm where she’d been grabbed.
“You know exactly what, you lying bitch,” Ruby spat, “You and Mr. Not Gay Just Looks It. You said you weren’t into him!”
“You lied to me. You totally hooked up with him at Abigail Midason’s party, and neglected to inform me of a word of it.”
“I… wait, is that what people are saying?” She felt a little bad about using her friend as a litmus test for how well a lie had taken root, but then, this whole situation was technically Ruby’s fault. So she didn’t feel that bad.
“You better fucking believe it,” Ruby looked furious, “I had to hear about it from August Booth, who let me tell you, is not someone I wanted to have to talk to today. He did that whole ‘I know something you don’t know’ shtick of his, until I threatened his future children. That got him talking.”
“Oh, um… sorry?”
“Belle, you’re one of my best friends. I should be told this shit.”
“I didn’t think it was important.”
That was the wrong thing to say. Ruby rocked back on her heels, arms folded in front of her, an expression of utter disapproval and disgust on her face, “So the rumours are true. You really are just fucking around, aren’t you?”
“What?” Belle had no idea where Ruby got the nerve to be angry at her at this moment, but it was pissing her off something rotten, “Ruby-“
“No, save it. I didn’t want to believe it, but Ashley Boyd and her lot were absolutely right about you. You’re a total skank.”
“Um, last I checked, Rubes, I wasn’t the one going off for lost weekends with whole groups of guys and a crate of liquor. That halo’s looking a bit rusty.”
“Oh, whatever, you know I’ve only slept with Pete.”
“Yeah, while thinking about Archie fucking Hopper.” Belle spat, “How hard is it, screwing one guy when you’re so crazy in love with someone else?”
“You’re going to want to back off,” Ruby warned, her voice deathly calm and furious, and Belle could see that she’d crossed a line somewhere. Good. If Ruby wanted her to be a skanky, shameless bitch, then that would be exactly what she got. “Before I decide to tear you a new one.”
“You’re just jealous,” Belle’s tone matched Ruby’s, her smile saccharine and poisonous, “Pete’s wasted or stoned half the time, and Archie’ll never make a move. All that flirting and not a thing to show for it. You can’t stand that I’m more popular than you are.”
“Yeah, the most popular whore on campus,” Ruby looked torn between smug and murderous, and Belle wanted to slap her so badly that her hand physically trembled, “Enjoy being infamous, bitch.”
And with that, she stormed past and slammed the door behind her, leaving Belle alone in the ladies’ room and caught between victory, and trying not to sob her heart out.
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