Fic: Saturday, Midnight
Title: Saturday, Midnight (Time of Day)
Rating: surprisingly, PG-13
Summary: Belle, fed up of being kept at arms length by Mr Gold, decides to stay away and spend the night with girlfriends. Gold has other ideas.
And so, a first! A non-smutty Time of Day, and the first part of a two-parter. Follows on from Monday Evening, and reading that first is advised to understand what happens here.
“Alright,” Ruby sat back against the headboard, and brandished two DVD cases, “Are we drunk enough yet for Legally Blonde? Or should we go for 27 Dresses?
Belle knocked back the last of her drink, “Neither. Can’t we watch something cool, Rubes? Something not pink?”
“I like the pink.” Ashley protested, quietly, “I mean, Sean won’t watch them with me and the baby-“
“You want to watch The Full Monty again, don’t you?” Ruby narrowed her eyes at Belle accusingly, “Are you drunk enough yet to tell the truth?”
“Ugh,” Belle threw up her hands, “Fine, let’s go for Legally Blonde. At least that’s funny.”
“Oh, no,” Ruby shook her head, and switched off the TV entirely. The room was silent for a moment, the three of them sprawled on the Inn’s largest suite’s double bed, with Ruby and Ashley against the head and Belle horizontal at their feet. Belle’d thought - fool that she was - that a girl’s night with lots of booze would cheer her up: she’d been wrong.
She kept staring at her phone. He never called, never texted - he acted like he was from the dark ages or something - and yet she couldn’t help it. It was that or go and see him, and that she wasn’t willing to do.
“We’re doing this now.” Ruby sat up, stared down at her, and Belle rolled her eyes.
“Uh, doing what?”
“Talking about it. You. Gold. Whatever sexy thing is between you.”
“Oh, gross!” Ashley cried.
“What?” Belle looked at her, frowning, and then it hit her, “Oh, shit, yeah, that thing with Alexandra and the contract and everything.”
“The bastard tried to steal my baby.” Ashley stared at her, “So I really hope you’re not…” Belle tried to prevent the guilt from flashing across her face, but it was too late, “Oh, EW!” Ashley shook her head, looking as if she might be sick, “Please, please spare me the details!”
“Spare her,” Ruby grinned, wide and wicked, “Tell me everything.”
“There’s nothing to tell.”
“There’s totally something to tell.”
“I’m going to go call Sean.” Ashley decided, standing and swinging her legs over the side of the bed, “Check on Alex. Call me back when it’s safe.”
“Wimp!” Ruby called after her retreating back, but Ashley didn’t even turn.
“Can we just call her back and watch the movie, please?” Belle pleaded, “There’s honestly nothing to tell you. Mr Gold and I are friends, I guess, and that one time he was only getting my books for me because he hates everyone and likes to mess with people. I was an excuse. Nothing more.”
She didn’t have to feign the little dismissive, almost bitter note in her voice. Nothing more was right.
It’d been less than a week since she got over her cold and cried for him all night. Luckily, her streaming eyes and clogged nose could be blamed on the bug and not heartache - her heart should never have become involved; she saw that now - and so still no-one was any the wiser. Not even Gold. Especially not Gold.
She didn’t even think of him as ‘Rum’ anymore, and wouldn’t call him that even to his face. He was Mr Gold, and to think differently would only lead to more crying. Belle was sick of crying already.
“Uh huh,” Ruby raised an eyebrow, “Sure. Okay.”
“Why would you even think that?” Belle’s anger seemed to be projecting itself elsewhere, and she couldn’t care less, “I mean, really?”
Ruby shrugged, “He didn’t look evil when I saw you together. I assumed you’d sexed the bad right out of him.”
“No one could do that.” Belle muttered, and Ruby crowed with victory.
“I knew it!” She bounced and clapped her hands, and Belle ran a hand over her face in defeat. A week ago, she could have lied through her teeth: apparently alcohol and misery were enough to break even the careful little lies she’d held for so long. “Now I want details!”
“We’re. Just. Friends.” Belle enunciated, “Not even that, anymore.”
“Yeah, naked friends.” Ruby muttered, and then caught something, “Wait, anymore? What happened?”
“I told you: he’s an evil bastard. I thought… oh god, I don’t even know what I thought.”
“Did he turn you down?” Ruby made a face, “Oh, honey, did you not even make it to naked?”
That was the perfect lie, presented on a silver platter, and Belle so desperately wanted to reject it. To tell Ruby everything, the whole miserable, wonderful story, and let it go. To have someone else understand why she was becoming such a mess.
But she wasn’t brave enough for that. It would be easier to keep the pain - stupid, insubstantial, shadowy thing that it was - at bay by keeping it silent. If she didn’t say it out loud, didn’t have someone else confirm it, then things could stay as they were. And she could get over whatever emotional crap this was, and go back to smiling as she had her meaningless way with him.
“Yeah,” she nodded, lying through her teeth and horribly good at it, “I… we’ve been hanging out for the past few months months - he was teaching me to cook, actually - and Monday night…”
“You told me you were sick Monday.” Ruby’s eyes narrowed, “You could’ve told me the truth!”
“I didn’t want to jinx it.” Belle smiled, because it was a little true. Monday she had tested him by seeing if he’d come to her even if she wasn’t willing to fuck him. And, wonderful bastard that he was, he’d passed, and for the almost the first time since they’d started their little arrangement, when the clothes had come off they’d been tender and sweet to each other.
And then he left without so much as a ‘thank you. She’d half expected him to throw money at her, she’d felt like such a stupid, easily-lead little whore.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I invited him over and we chatted for a bit…” it had been lovely, the part before the sex, when he’d been so nice to her, “And then…” she swallowed, the lie so much more embarrassing than the truth, because honestly, when she’d thrown herself at him that first night, he’d been more than willing to fuck her senseless against a pool table, “Then I climbed on his lap and started kissing him, and he pushed me away and left. He wasn’t too nice about it, either.”
“Bastard.” Ruby muttered, swallowing the story hook, line and sinker. Belle sometimes hated herself for taking advantage of being the ‘clever one’ of her friends (although none of them made it out of this blasted little town, now did they?) but at least it came in handy sometimes. “Have you seen him since?”
“I… no.” She had missed their Wednesday meeting. Not just missed, but actively avoided: she’d gone to the park (to the place she went when her mama died, as a matter of fact) and curled up in her secret place behind the bandstand. He didn’t find her, because how could he?
He wouldn’t have been looking, anyway. If he missed her outside the library, if he waited for her to burst into his home or his shop, if he’d come by her house and found her gone, then he’d given no indication to her afterward.
She couldn’t go along with him, this week. Next week she would (she missed him too much not to) but on Wednesday she’d worn her thickest wool cardigan and hardest boots, jeans and a long t-shirt, no make up. She’d gone out of her way to show herself - and anyone who cared to look - that things were different that day.
He hadn’t seen her, so far as she could tell, but she’d felt less like running to him when she looked and felt so unsexy and plain.
“Jeez…” Ruby sat back, “Who’d have thought Gold was a gentleman?”
Belle gave an odd little laugh, bitter and sharp, “Oh, he’s not that. I never said he was kind about it.”
“Still, not taking advantage. Maybe you should marry him or something, then he’d do the business?”
“He wouldn’t have been taking advantage!” Belle almost shouted (it was a lie, no need to get so het up, but she couldn’t help it) “I started it.”
She had, at that. And somehow, even with the pains in her chest when she thought about him, the knowledge that he didn’t love her and never would, and the uncertainty over what would happen the next time they met up, she didn’t regret a moment of it.
“Is it safe to come back in?” Ashley called, and Belle rolled her eyes.
“It was safe the whole time, Ash!” She called back, and a moment later the door creaked open and Ashley came back inside.
“Sean’s put Alex to sleep, he’s watching the game. The Indians are winning.”
“Belle’s in love with Gold and he’s an asshole.” Ruby informed her, as if she were reporting the weather.
“Oh ew!” Ashley shook her head and took a long slug of her drink, “You said it was safe!”
“It was.” Belle said, dully, “Ruby bullied me, we agreed that Gold is, in fact, a complete bastard, and then you came back. You want to disagree with any of that?
Ashley stared at her, and then sighed, “Nope, I guess not. That man gives me the creeps anyhow.”
“Belle’s in love with him.” Ruby added, helpfully, and Belle wondered if she could managed to murder her and make it look like an accident.
“I am not in love with him!” Belle cried, and she wondered how many lies it would take before her tongue turned black.
“Leave him, Belle.” Ruby said, gently, “When I saw you guys, he didn’t look like he wanted to hurt you… I mean, he always looks ready to smile while stabbing the shit out of someone, but not with you. But if he doesn’t want what you want, maybe it’s time to just drop it. Find someone who does?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Belle grumbled, but Ruby’d hit closer to home than she’d have liked.
“Of course I don’t.” She smiled, smugly, “Now, still in the mood for Legally Blonde?”
“You got Saving Private Ryan around here anyplace?” Belle asked, “Or maybe something with lots of blood and guts and dying?”
“What’s gotten into you all of a sudden?” Ashley asked.
Belle just gave her a look.
“Oh, right.” Ashley nodded, “Sorry.”
“I think I have some weird cannibal movie around here somewhere,” Ruby said, thoughtfully, “People leave the strangest stuff when they move on. I think it was Graham’s.”
“No!” Ashley shook her head, “Girl’s night means pink things, you promised! No cannibals or werewolves, thanks very much!”
“I thought you liked Twilight.” Belle sat up on her elbows and frowned at her.
“Jacob’s different.” Ashley replied, “He’s not scary.”
“His acting is.” Belle muttered, but Ruby smacked her with a pillow to shut her up.
They ended up with something Belle didn’t even recognise, but it started with bubblegum-pop music and starred someone from Grey’s Anatomy, so Ashley was in heaven. Belle spent more time staring at her phone, willing herself to put it down.
Of course, it was the moment she put it on the duvet and focused on the movie that it vibrated.
“Ooh!” Ruby beamed, “Who is it texting at this hour, Belle?”
Belle tried not to show anything on her face - Mr Gold didn’t text, he didn’t, but there it was - “It’s just… Mary Margaret.” She improvised, “She wants to know if we have any flowers in the shop she could use for some class project.”
Are you alright, dearie? He always used full grammar and vocabulary, even texting, and she could hear his voice in her head, Haven’t seen you around, lately.
Been busy, she sent back, sorry.
No kisses, no smiley faces. She wasn’t playing the cute and flirty game anymore: let him come for her, if he wanted her. Let him be the vulnerable one for a change.
She should turn off her phone, throw it in her handbag, and enjoy getting drunk and staring at random hot celebrity men.
She turned her phone onto ‘meeting’ mode, though, so it wouldn’t even vibrate. No point getting questions from the others if he decided to reply.
She glanced back a minute later: one new message.
Her heart was hammering, but she couldn’t explain why. She had been sleeping with this guy on a regular basis for months: she had no reason to be nervous now.
Where are you now?
A bolt of anger ran through her: why should he care where she was? She was just an ‘obliging young woman’, apparently. Someone he liked to screw when he felt bored. Maybe that was it: maybe he was bored.
But then, so was she. And she missed him, however horrified she was with herself to admit it. Why couldn’t she just let it go? Just accept that he was exactly the bastard she had started their relationship by denying, and move on with her life?
She knew the answer to that: she’d fallen in love with him, hard and fast and early on, and now she was paying the price.
None of ur bsns stalker. She replied, and then left the phone for five whole minutes before checking back.
I’m owed a meeting, dearie the reply read.
That decided it: it was time to just ignore him and let him be bored. Let him find another plaything, she was worth more than that.
But when she did look back - she was checking the time, of course she was - there was another text.
And I miss you. I hope you’re alright.
Her heart melted.
Im fine she replied, stayin over w/Ruby n Ash
She could almost hear him laughing at that; she didn’t set her phone down.
And how is Miss Boyd? Only Gold could smirk by text. It was a superpower.
Shes fine, so’s the baby. She replied, pointedly.
Good. You’re at the inn?
She was tempted not to answer that: she had no idea what he would do, but she had planned a night to get over him, not to go running back. Then again, hadn’t she been asking for him to come after her, for a change? Didn’t she miss him like a hacked-off limb, for all that it hurt being attached?
There was no reply, for a long time, and she was left to sit with a churning stomach and no interest at all in the movie. Not that she’d cared much to begin with, but still.
“Who was texting?” Ruby asked, after a little while longer.
“Still Mary Margaret.” Belle answered, the lie coming easily from her lips.
“It’s like, midnight,” Ruby said, “You’d think it could wait until morning.”
“I don’t mind.”
“Of course you don’t.” Ruby scoffed, “You’re too easy.”
“What’s up?” Ashley looked from the screen to her friends.
“Belle’s answering texts at midnight from someone other than a hot guy.”
No, she wasn’t. But she could hardly tell them that. It made her feel a little miserable, keeping such a secret from them, but she couldn’t trust that it wouldn’t get leaked. Neither of them would have anything to lose from telling, not like Belle or Gold, and so it’d be so easy to ruin everything.
No, better to lie. Better to keep her mouth shut.
“Fine, fine!” Belle put her phone down, “She’s done, I think, anyway.”
“Good.” Ruby nodded, and the matter seemed put to rest.
Until she glanced down, and there was another message.
Come out front.
Nothing else, no indication of why or when or how. Just the instruction.
’No’ was hovering on her fingertips.
But she missed him more with every word exchanged, and if she heard Ashley mention Sean one more time she would scream, and Ruby wasn’t always right. She needed to see him, if only to know if this was worth continuing.
“Guys,” she sighed, “I’m getting a headache, I’m just going to step outside and get some air.”
“At midnight?” Ashley asked, surprised.
“I just… yeah. I might be getting a migraine, and being outside at night helps.” She should get an honorary degree in bullshit, for all the lies she was spinning tonight.
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry!” Ashley nodded, “We’ll wait, take all the time you need.”
“Thanks.” Belle nodded, feeling only a little guilty as she grabbed her coat and shoes - March in Maine wasn’t exactly balmy - and slipped outside.
She padded down the hallway, the stairs, and out the door. She sat herself down on the doorstep, and stared at the sky. The air was crisp and cold, fresh, and she realised that this was what she needed, even if he didn’t show. She almost expected him not to, she was so fed up with him right then.
But then there was a whisper of cigarette smoke on the breeze, and a scent she knew far too well, and he sat down heavily next to her, his leg stretched out in front of him.
Wordlessly, he offered her the roll-up. She took it, and took a drag, the smoke filling her lungs calming her instantly. “Thanks.”
“No problem, dear.” He replied, and his voice rolled over her like waves, more calming even than the nicotine. She was hooked on him, some kind of wasted crack addict coming back for more, and she didn’t risk a look in his direction.
“What’re you doing here?” she asked, after a moment.
“You missed our meeting,” he said, “I was worried you’d been murdered by the flu.”
She made an odd little laughing, choking sound, and took another drag, “Well, my texting back should have soothed that concern.”
“Are you sure you’re alright, dearie?” he asked, and she could feel his concerned little frown even as she refused to look at it, “You seem a little… off.”
“I’m fine.” She plastered a fake smile on her face, “Just peachy.”
She wasn’t. She was sat not two inches from the man she was hopelessly, helplessly, and agonisingly in love with, and she couldn’t say a word. But so what? He didn’t love her, but at least he wanted her. That had to count for something, had to be at least one small comfort.
“Then where were you on Wednesday?”
Was it possible that he had come looking for her? That he had missed her?
“Do you wish to call off our deal?” he asked, after a long moment.
And there, that was the million dollar question. Because yes, she did, she wanted to cancel every little part of their arrangement and go out on a date. She wanted to love him and be loved back. She wanted cuddling on Sunday mornings in bed and roses on her doorstep, as well as the harsh fucking in alleyways and kitchen counters.
She wanted both, and it hurt to want everything and nothing at the same time.
She turned to face him, finally, and there was nothing at all to read on his face. He was just looking at him, dark eyes boring into hers, and she felt he could probably move whole mountains with the force of that stare.
So she ran away, the way she always did, the brave question (would we still see each other? Could we be together?) stuck in her throat, a coward taking the wheel. She leaned in and kissed him, tabacco on her tongue and his, lips working against his mouth furiously, trying to dull every little pain she’d had since they parted in her bedroom almost a week ago with just this contact.
He tasted of whiskey, and she wondered if he’d been drinking. She probably reeked of cheap alcopops and white wine, and their kissing was a little messier, more desperate, as a result.
He groaned and took control of the kiss, his hands sliding into her hair and holding her against him.
There was no one around. Ashley and Ruby’s room faced the other direction, the inn never had guests and Granny was in bed hours ago. There was no one to see them.
She kissed him again and again, hot and deep, desperate to lose herself in him, in the fact that he came here for her, that he wanted her. She held onto him like he was the only thing keeping her alive, and he was holding her head so hard it almost hurt. The little scrapes of his blunt fingers against her scalp felt incredible.
“I missed you too.” She said, when they parted for air, her hand behind his neck, unable to tear her eyes from his face now that she’s had one look. The memory of him leaving, of his brush-offs and lack of care, ripped through her even then. But still she could not look away.
“Come with me.” He said, and there was an oddly reckless look in his eyes.
“Your father expects you gone for the night anyway, yes?” he asked, staring at her as hard as she did him.
“Yes.” She nodded, “Not until tomorrow evening.”
“Then… come back with me. Stay the night.”
Her heart pounded, hard and hot and fast in her ears, terrified and wonderful and excited all at once. “That’s not our deal.” She reminded him, but her smile was unstoppable, “That’s a little… couple-y.”
The alcohol was making her reckless too, it seemed, but it needed saying. If he was going to back out, he needed to do it now while she still had a heart to mend.
“All I offer is a bed and some company, Belle,” he reminded her, gently, “But tonight we can be together a little longer than usual. Or you can say no, and we can see each other tomorrow as normal or Wednesday, whatever suits, and you can go back to your friends.”
“You act as if I have a choice.” She giggled, a hollow, desperate little sound, and perhaps she was more drunk on his lips even than the vodka in her drink.
“Everyone has a choice, dearie. Just make sure it’s the right one.”
She looked at him as if he would tell her the answer then and there. As if he could let her know how much tomorrow would hurt if she said yes and then had to leave come daybreak.
She had never stayed at his home before, always gone before midnight.
But it was midnight already - the clock chimed then and there, as if to prove the point - and the rules had been crumbling for a while now.
She wanted to walk away with what was left of her heart.
She wanted to be with him all night and all the next day; to see him rumpled from sleep in the morning and know what he ate for breakfast, and every other silly little domestic thing her girlish heart wondered about.
She would keep in mind that this was all just sex, always just that and nothing more. That anything else was a private little fantasy to be kept within her head.
“Give me five minutes; wait in the car.” She said, and hurried back inside.
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