Continuing Tales

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 8 of 17

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Civilised Existence

Belle's door was locked.

She was sitting with her back against it, her hands pressed over her mouth, and she was shaking with silent, helpless giggles. She wasn't sure whether it was because he'd done it, or because she had, or because they were both blushing like schoolchildren all the while. The look on his face!

Then, of course, came the recollection of the feeling of his skin under her palms.

Whether it was the rain and the cold night that had left him cool to the touch, or whether he was naturally so, she didn't know. Not yet, anyway. His skin wasn't smooth, but it wasn't as coarse as she had imagined, more like the delicate scales of a lizard's hide than anything.

He had been naked, right there before her, only a blanket for his dignity.

She was not an innocent as he probably liked to imagine. She was a curious child, almost from the moment she could walk, and naturally, curiosity had led to wide-spread explorations of her father's castle and outbuildings, and down to the river's edge, where people often swam in the water. If she was there early enough in the morning, she always got an educational view from her hiding place, as the boys ran into the clear waters.

Once, she had seen Gaston, all broad shoulders, muscled legs and narrow hips. He was the prize-specimen of the village, everyone agreed. Handsome as could be in all the right ways, but unfortunately, he was also dull as a rock and twice as charming.

Rumpelstiltskin, by comparison, was small and thin, but not unpleasantly so. There was a leanness about him, like a coiled spring, compact energy. She knew how he moved, how he carried himself, and it suited him. No great strides for her wicked little imp, but he was quick and deft, and…

She felt her cheeks going pink again at the thought of how that deftness might best be put to good use.

The desire to touch him had only been growing after that night by the fire.

It was the first time he had shown that he might not be so adverse to human contact as he had previously indicated. She knew that she loved him, him and his silly ways, his habits, his careful courtesy, even that little laugh. Even if he wasn't a man again, she would still love him, and that knowledge was making the thought of being close to him even more intriguing.

With effort, she got up and straightened her skirt.

She said she would be by the fire, and so, she would be. She might be blushing again, but that was not the point of the matter.

She hurried down to the kitchen, fetching some of the stew which had been bubbling for hours. It might not be much, but it was warm, and it meant that her hands were full so she couldn't cover her face to hide her blushes when she entered the room.

To her surprise, he wasn't at his wheel, but some tangled and lumpy knots of half-turned straw suggested that his hands weren't steady enough. She glanced around, and almost signed with relief at the sight of his - oh thank goodness, fully-clothed - legs emerging from the chair by the fire.

"Dinner!" she said, her voice sounding more shrill than bright. She set the tray down on the table. "I thought you'd like something warm."

"Yes." His voice was low, unusually so. "The hall was rather… chilly, dearie."

Belle couldn't help the giggle that escaped her, and the damned blush was back, rising steadily. She approached the chair, peeking around the wing so he could only see her eyes. "I gave you a blanket."

He was gazing at the fire, his fingertips steepled before him, and he slanted a glance towards her. "Yes. You did."

She stepped sideways, from behind the wing, resting her forearm on it, her thighs resting against the arm of the chair. "And you're clean and dry," she said, as he tilted his head back to look up at her, the fire casting odd, dancing shadows over his face.

"I'm still cold."

Belle stared at him, and he moved his head just slightly to one side, half his face in darkness, half in light. He might have been smiling, she could see a glimpse of his teeth, and his eyebrows rose.

So that was to be the way of it? Well, anything he could do, she could do.

She gathered up her skirts, and without hesitation, deposited herself into his lap, settling against him. She felt rather than heard the sharp, in-drawn breath. "Complain, complain, complain," she said, trying to ignore the heat in her cheeks. "That's all you do these days."

"Yes," he said. She couldn't help noticing the catch in his voice. One arm settled across her waist, cautiously, as if he expected it to be pushed away. "It's the staff. They're impossible."

She poked him in the ribs. "Hey!"

"And violent," he added, his eyes searching her face.

She avoided them, shrugging with a small smile. "Sometimes, we all need a good poke," she said.

He made a small, strangled sound and her mind caught up with her mouth a moment later. With the directions her brain had been going in for days, she could quite imagine what he was thinking. Her eyes widened as she looked at him, and he stared back. His cheeks were an interesting brownish-gold. So that's what a real blush looked like on him? Interesting.

"Dinner?" she said, ignoring the squeak in her voice.

He nodded, swallowing hard, his hand moving from her waist. It just was unfortunate that he chose to slide it across the front of her stomach, so she felt every inch that he touched.

Damn it all, she thought, and nuzzled under his ear before getting up.

By the time he finally bothered to get out the chair and join her at the table, her blush was almost gone. Almost.

Civilised Existence

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Fyrie

Part 8 of 17

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