"I brought cake!" a female voice says. It comes muffled from the other side of Noah Gold's front door. The ongoing chiming of the door-bell, however, rings loud in his ear. It's Christmas Eve and there's only one person Gold could think of that would come to him of all people and bring cake. He suppresses a smile and puts on his best You shall fear me-face, before he opens the door. The ringing stops.
With one eyebrow raised he scans his peculiar visitor. And indeed, the beautiful Belle French is carrying a jello cake with cool whip on top on a plate with her mitten-protected hands. He loves jello cake. But even more than the cake, he loves it when she pays him one of her surprise visits.
"It's jello cake," she explains.
"Good for you," he says dryly. Just because he's happy to see her, doesn't mean he has to rub it in her face. And besides, this is their thing. He tries to do the smart thing and keep away from her and she always comes and overwhelms him.
As always, she seems unimpressed by his cold attitude and flashes him a smile. "Let me in and I'll share."
"I'm not hungry." That's a lie. He's hungry, but not for cake.
"More cake for me, then." Her smile widens.
He sighs. "You're not going away, are you?"
"It's Christmas Eve, Mr. Gold," she says, like it explains everything.
"Exactly." He shakes his head and frowns. "Shouldn't you be with your family?"
She tilts her head. "You look grumpy," she concludes.
He isn't grumpy, he's stuck between wanting what's best for her and wanting to be near her. "Don't you listen to the gossip in town? I'm a dangerous man, Belle."
"Know what would lighten your mood?" she asks with her chin held high. "A piece of cake." With these words she just strides past him. The nerve of that woman! He knows he should kick her out before he does something as stupid as kissing her, but he enjoys their banter too much. And it's Christmas Eve, after all. He will count that as his present. Besides, as long as he keeps his distance, she'll be safe.
So he just sighs again, a loud sigh of frustration that he is sure she must've heard, and follows her to his kitchen. She's already moving around like she owns the place. She only had a five second head start and yet, the cake is standing on the table, her coat as well as her scarf and her mittens are splashed over one of his kitchen chairs and now she's switching the kettle on. And she's humming, for God's sake. She's roaming around the kitchen of the beast and still has the nerve to hum!
All I want for Christmas is you …
He recognizes the melody immediately. The whole situation is more than surreal.
"With you it's like I'm trapped in a Sitcom sometimes," he grumbles.
"That's a brilliant idea!" Belle glances at him over her shoulder, while she opens up a cupboard. "You'd make a great quirky neighbor."
"I'm not quirky!"
She chuckles. "But adorable when flustered."
She is adorable. And sweet. He should get rid of her, but instead he throws caution to the wind and sits down on one of the still free chairs. He has a good look at the room from there and he watches her as she takes two cups with fitting saucers and two dessert plates out of the cupboard and puts them on the counter, before she opens the cupboard next to it and takes out two tea bags, which she then puts into the cups. The profile of her face is beautiful and that relaxed look of concentration on her face almost brings him to his knees. He sighs again, a sigh of resignation this time. He's just not strong enough to send her away.
"Messing with me isn't smart, dearie," he warns her.
"But it's entertaining, clearly." She shoots him another smile before she pulls open a drawer.
"You're unbelievable." And precious and wonderful. Since she has her back towards him, he gives into his own smile, but keeps it out of his voice.
"I just figured I'd do the brave thing and bravery would follow." She pulls open three more drawers, before she turns to him. He quickly hides his smile, but he's not sure if he's fast enough.
"Where do you keep your knives?" she asks, looking oddly suspicious of him.
Slowly he shakes his head. "I'm not giving you a knife."
"You broke into my house with nothing but a cake," he explains. "I'm afraid of what you might do if somebody hands you an actual weapon." He can see on her face how much she likes his answer. Her eyes twinkle with mischief and she's practically beaming at him.
"First off, I didn't break into your house. You let me in."
He snorts. "That's your version."
She giggles. "Second, I like that you're scared of me." She looks way too pleased with herself now. "I think I'd make a good villain."
"No, you wouldn't. You're too nice."
"I'm not!" she pouts. The water boils and the kettle switches itself off. Belle takes it and pours water in the cups. "I'm dangerous and you're afraid of me, remember?"
He gestures at the table. "You brought me cake."
"Could be poisoned," she quips, taking the plates and carrying them to the table. She sets the table for him and her. And because she's too brave for her own good, she sets the place beside him instead of across from him.
It gets harder and harder for him to stay serious. "Did you bake it?"
"Yes, indeed." There's pride in her voice and they probably both remember the cookie-disaster from three weeks earlier.
"Then it actually could be." If he'd thrown one of those cookie-things, if would've stuck to the walls like a ninja star.
"Insulting my baking abilities. That's mean," she says as she gets the cups of tea from the counter.
"I'm a mean, old man, I tried to warn you."
"You're not old and you're just cranky." She hands him a cup. Their fingers briefly touch. She's close enough for him to smell her perfume. She smells like oranges and cinnamon and he's almost certain that she'd taste better than the cake.
He must've stared at her, because she frowns.
"Now will you tell me where your silverware is," she asks, "or would you prefer to stir your tea with your pinkie?"
He covers his chuckle with a sigh then he gets up and opens a drawer and takes out two spoons, two dessert forks and a cake knife. Sighing again, he hobbles back to his chair. Life is tough. And he loves every minute of it. She sits down and watches him closely as he spreads out the silverware and cuts the cake. He makes sure to give her a big slice and only takes a small slice himself. Seeing as he's told her that he's not hungry, he'd better follow it up.
He waits until she takes the first bite and observes her closely. She chews, swallows and takes the next bite. The look on her face is adorable. And sexy. Gosh, that must be one hell of a cake! He looks at his watch and she raises an eyebrow.
He shrugs. "Three seconds and you haven't dropped dead yet. I should be safe then."
She swats his arm lightly. "Cute."
"Not a word that comes to mind to describe me." He chuckles and she swats him again. No respect, that woman.
"Stop being a smart ass and eat your cake," she says. No respect whatsoever.
They smile at each other for a moment but then her tongue sneaks out to lick away a crumb just above her lip and lust rushes through him. He stares at her mouth and swallows. He needs to stop this. He needs to distract himself. Smirking she licks her lips again. Oh shit.
He clears his throat. "Why are you here, Belle?" he asks, remembering that she avoided that question earlier.
She looks away and focuses on her cake.
"Moe and you had a fight," he guesses. He should've seen this coming. He should've known that she wouldn't show up at his place on Christmas Eve if she could've just stayed with her father.
"Is he pressuring you about the Game of Thorns again?" he asks. It's usually the shop that Belle and her father fight about. "If you want to work as a librarian, you should. You're in no debt to your father," he adds then growls, "I should just let his lease expire and open that damn bookshop there myself."
She raises her gaze and looks at him again.
"We didn't fight," she says softly, "Dad and I get along just great. I'm here because …" She nibbles at her bottom lip. Sometimes she does that when she struggles to find words, but in this moment he believes she knows full well what she wants to say, she just doesn't dare to speak the words out loud.
And he draws the only possible conclusion., "You're moving away." He nods slowly and starts to tear apart the cake with his fork. Maybe she got a job somewhere. Maybe she just wants to see the world like she told him so often. He doesn't want the cake any longer. This is goodbye, making it taste sweet won't help.
Then he feels her hand covering his. "I'm not moving away," she says. "Christmas is about being with the people you," she hesitates for a moment, "care about. And I care about you."
He stares at her. She's blushing. It's the sweetest thing he's ever seen. Belle French cares about him. Unfortunately he is in love with her so the imbalance of their relationship stays intact.
He has no idea how to react to this, so he falls into old habits.
"Maybe you should leave now," he suggests. Such a cowardly thing to do and such an unworthy response, but he can't help himself.
"I don't think you want me to leave." Belle squeezes his hand and bends forward. "You always say that I should leave, but you never once said that you'd want me to."
Good God, why does she have to be so smart? He swallows hard, trying to pull himself together.
"Look at you, fiddling with words …" he says in the most condescending tone he can manage. She can't stand it to be patronized. If he's lucky it'll piss her off enough to leave before he loses the last bit of his control and kisses her.
She lets go of his hand and he takes that as a good sign. Maybe she'll leave before he embarrasses himself by doing something as foolish as declaring his love for her. But then she cups his cheek with her hand and suddenly her lips are on his. It's a gentle kiss, just a touch, almost no pressure, like she'd be afraid to break him.
She pulls away before he even registers what is happening.
He inhales deeply once to avoid hyperventilation. "Why did you do that?"
"Mistle toe." She nods at the flower on the table. Her hand is caressing his cheek and he may be distracted by that, but he's not stupid.
"That's a rose," he corrects her.
She grins again. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Gold."
"Belle?" He clears his throat and she's so close and he is barely able to articulate himself but he has to say that. "Call me Noah."
Her grin blossoms into a full blown smile. Not a teasing smile, but a happy smile.
"Merry Christmas, Noah," she whispers against his lips, before she kisses him again. And it is.
THANKS to lily moonlight who beta-proofed this story for me, even though she doesn't even watch OUAT.
If you have the time, please review! I always love to hear from you!