NOTES: This is for crankynerdgirl. She prompted "ugly sweaters & golden fleece". Merry Christmas from your Secret Secret Santa.

Big Thanks to lily moonlight for proofreading and suggestions. You're the best!

o0o

The horrid sight in front of him almost renders Gold speechless. "That's the ugliest thing I've ever seen," he says eventually.

"Found it in your closet," Belle replies deadpan, but he can see the corners of her mouth twitch. She's enjoying this!

Gold shakes his head. "I hid it there for a reason." They are standing in his living room and what Belle is wearing now must be the most ugly sweater human kind has ever produced. It's yellow, it has golden, sparkly threads woven into it and there's a giant reindeer on the front. In purple. It's too big, especially on Belle. She looks like she got swallowed by a gene-manipulated, angry muppet. He'd tell her that, but she wouldn't understand the reference. "It looks like somebody cut a few holes in a golden fleece blanket," he adds instead.

He almost forgot about it and never would have guessed that Belle would choose to wear that after her own clothes got soaked by the rain that had surprised her on her way to his mansion. He warned her, of course, told her that he could come over to the library, but there was no reasoning with her, she insisted on coming to his place tonight. She was very persistent, strangely so. The short, blue dress she arrived in suited her much better than this yellow … thing.

Belle tilts her head and crosses her arms in front of her, which is a plus, because now the creepy eyes of the reindeer are covered up by her arms. "Then why do you have it?" she asks.

"It was a Christmas gift from Henry a few years ago," he explains.

"And you kept it?" She comes up to him and places her hands gently on his chest, which is even better: because of the close distance he can barely see any of the sweater and as a bonus, she's touching him.

He smiles at her. "Henry's fashion-sense may be misguided but he's a good kid."

Her hands wander upwards, to his collar and she straightens his tie. Not that it needs straightening. Not that he minds anyway. She's so close. If he bent his head, he could steal a kiss.

"What did you tell him when he gave it to you?" she asks.

"That I was touched that he thought of me and that it is very soft to touch."

"You're so sweet!" She kisses the corner of his mouth and her smile brightens.

"It's fleece after all," he adds, "so I didn't have to lie about the soft-part. Now give me that sweater."

Smirking, she wraps her arms around his neck, before she kisses him. On the mouth this time. Fully on the mouth. She sucks in his bottom lip and his heartbeat quickens. He places his hand on the small of her back and pulls her closer as he tastes her. He has lost count of how many times they have kissed, yet still every time she leans into him he finds himself surprised.

"You just want to get me naked," Belle whispers against his lips.

Part of him registers that she's mocking him but he can't fight his own guilt and so he lets go of her, taking a step back.

"Belle, I meant go change into something else and then give me the sweater. I would never …"

Belle's arms tighten around him. "I know, Rumplestiltskin, relax" she interrupts, "I'm just messing with you." She smiles softly.

They've been dating for a few months now, not doing much more than holding hands kissing. The closest they ever got to sleeping together was the nights right after she came back to him, when they shared the same bed.

"I'd never pressure you into anything." He means it and she believes him and he's not sure who's more foolish.

She smiles and cradles his face in her hands. "I know." She tiptoes and kisses the tip of his nose. "But Rumplestiltskin? Underneath this soft but ugly sweeter, I'm naked."

Sweet magic, he must've misheard. "You are …?" He draws in a sharp breath.

She shrugs lightly. Mischief glints in her eyes. "My first instinct was just to pull the thing over my head and hand it to you but I didn't want to startle you."

"You didn't want to startle me."

She licked her lips. "I came here to seduce you tonight and after the weather ruined my dress and you wanted to change me into something comfortable, I took the opportunity and got rid of my soaked undergarments."

"You got rid of your soaked undergarments."

"And now you're just repeating my words."

"Consider me startled."

"I'm sorry, darling." She strokes his cheeks with her thumbs before she gives him a quick kiss. "Would it help if I'd give you your sweater back?"

He covers her hands with his and pulls them down to his chest. "And you're sure you're ready for this?"

"You sound doubtful." Belle dugs her fingers into his shirt.

He tries to smile, but all he manages is to pull up the corners of his mouth. "I'm still me, Belle."

"That's why I love you." She looks into his eyes and he doesn't doubt her.

"I'm still not what you deserve," he says.

She shakes her head. "Don't do that again."

"Protecting you?"

"Deciding that you're not good enough for me."

"But Belle …"

"Because you are," she interrupts him. "You're sweet and smart and you kept this monstrosity of a sweater just because Henry gave it to you. You're considerate. You're kind."

"I'm a coward. I'm a monster." He says it like he's asking for forgiveness, yet he can't forgive himself for what he always was. He feels like running away but she's holding on to him.

"Why do you keep insisting on that?" she asks.

"Because it's true."

She shakes her head again. "It's not …"

"You don't even know a third of all the horrible things I've done." He expects her to remember all the horrible things she knows he did and step away from him, but she doesn't.

"You were cursed," she says and her voice if full of understanding. "You're not anymore."

He wishes it would be that simple. "But I'm still …"

"Scared and lost and angry?" she asks. "That's human, Rumplestiltskin. Just don't push me away because of it."

He gives a helpless little laugh. "How are you so smart?"

"I read a lot of books, my boyfriend gave me a library."

"I love you." His eyes burn and he never has been more sure that she's too good for him.

"I love you too." She kisses him again. "Now help me out of that sweater."

His cane drops to the floor, when he uses both hands to pull the sweater over her head. This is her choice, he realizes. This is what she wants and who is he to deny her?

The END