Title: Mr Gold and the Librarian
Disclaimer: Once Upon A Time and its characters belong to ABC, I’m just borrowing them for a bit.
Fandom: Once Upon A Time
Summary: Mr Gold has loved the town’s librarian, Isabelle French, since the first moment he saw her.
Author’s Notes: Mery Christmas to lordbrillador! Who prompted ‘Marion the Librarian’ as part of the Tumblr Rumbelle Secret Santa.
A light flurry of snow fell on Storybrooke as Robert Gold was about to leave his antiquities shop for the day. He had just turned back to lock the door, when scuffed feet sounded on the wet pavement. “Mr Gold, wait up!” came the cry of young Henry Mills, and when Gold glanced around to look at the boy, he could see he was carrying a large book in his arms. “Please, don’t close yet!”
Gold let go of the door handle, his key still in the lock. “Can I help you with something, Henry?”
When the dark haired boy stopped in front of him, Gold could see tear stains on his red cheeks. “I really need your help, Mr Gold.”
“Okay,” Gold replied, and he held onto his cane with both hands and leaned onto his good leg. “How can I be of assistance?”
“I… I sort of fell and, well, I damaged this book that I got out of the library.”
“I’m fairly certain the librarian will have the right equipment to fix it,” Gold answered, but Henry shook his head.
“She said I had to takespecial care of it, and I promised I would but then I fell over when I left Doctor Hopper’s office and I… I damaged it!”
Gold looked at the book again. “It doesn’t look so bad,” he said, meeting Henry’s gaze. “Why don’t we wander down to the library together and get it seen to?”
“No, we can’t,” Henry protested. “Once she sees what I’ve done to the book she’ll be so mad at me!”
“The librarian?” Gold asked, and the boy nodded. “Henry, Miss French won’t get mad at you, I promise.”
“She told Lucy and Edmund off the other day.” Henry stared at him, pleading, “Please, Mr Gold! I don’t want to be told off.”
Gold turned back to lock his door, then removed the key and stuffed it in his coat pocket. “Well, that’s probably because Lucy and Edmund spend their half their days fighting with one another,” he said, turning back to Henry. “That kind of nonsense can drive the calmest of people mad.” He placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and started them walking toward the road. “I really don’t think Miss French will be as mad as you think.”
“I don’t know, Mr Gold. The book is really old.”
“And it is just a book,” Gold reminded him, in a gentle tone. “Besides, I’ll be there to back you up.”
A quiet smile curved Gold’s lips. His concern for the boy was sincere, but walking him to the library gave him an honest reason for visiting there for the fourth time that week. It wasn’t like him to usually visit the library so often, but ever since Isabelle French – with her chestnut brown hair and beautiful blue eyes – had taken charge of the library, he’d felt strangely drawn to it.
When Gold and Henry reached the other side of the road, and made their way down the sidewalk towards the library, Gold wondered at what perfume Miss French would be wearing today. She wore an assortment of scents, mostly all floral, and he quietly hoped she might be wearing her sweet Jasmine perfume today.
“Mr Gold?” he heard Henry ask then.
Gold glanced sideways at the boy, his thoughts about Miss French’s perfume disappearing to the back of his mind. “Yes?”
They walked a while more in silence, when Henry said, “Do you think Miss French has a boyfriend?”
“I… well, no. I don’t believe she does,” he soon replied.
“But she had a boyfriend, didn’t she?”
“A fiancé. One Richard Eisler,” Gold said, “But yes. She did.”
Henry stopped them, and turned to face Gold. “What happened to him?”
“He died, I’m told.”
In that moment, Gold was sure he saw a twinkle of relief in the boy’s eyes. Could it be that young Henry Mills had a crush on the librarian?
The thought amused Gold, and when Henry resumed walking he followed alongside him.
A short time passed with the two wandering down the sidewalk, when they finally reached the final crossing and found their way over to the main entrance of the library. As soon as Henry pulled the door open, warmth and the smell of old books rushed to meet them both. For a long few seconds it took Gold’s breath away.
Steeling himself for the reception he knew he was going to get from Miss French for today’s visit, he set his free hand on Henry’s shoulder and carefully approached the main desk, where Miss French was busy serving David Nolan.
Henry shifted nervously, and Gold gave the boy’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
“Thank you, Isabelle,” David said, “I’ll let you know what I think.”
“I hope you enjoy it!” she called after him as he walked past Gold.
Isabelle French, her dark locks framing her face and her lips painted red like usual, met Gold’s gaze and her smile quickly faded. “Out,” she said.
Gold gaped at her. “You don’t know why I’m here.”
“To frighten everyone away most like, now go.”
He smiled at her. There was no anger in her voice, simply annoyance laced with a hint of playfulness. He liked that about her. He liked a lot of things about her, in actual fact. He took a step towards the desk, prompting Henry to step forward with him. “Young Henry and I have come to return a book that’s… in need of a little tender loving care.”
Miss French’s eyes remained locked on his for a long moment, when she let out a breath and glanced down at Henry. “Oh?”
Henry’s head dropped and he let out a distraught sigh that caused a pang of sympathy to rise in Gold’s chest. “I… I tripped and fell, Miss French. I… I dropped the book in the snow.”
Miss French stood still for a moment, when she moved out from behind her desk. Gold felt his breath catch when he saw that she was dressed in her white cardigan and a long red dress that met her ankles.
Her voice soft, she asked Henry, “May I see the book?”
Henry, however, was reluctant, and clutched the book tight.
“You’re okay, son,” Gold said with a softness that he could see surprised Miss French.
She knelt before Henry and Gold watched as she tilted her head to the side. “I promise I won’t bite,” she said.
With a little more reluctance, the boy took a step closer and extended the book to Miss French. She took the book with a reassuring smile, and then turned it this way and that. “Well,” she started, meeting young Henry’s gaze. “It’s only a little damp,” she told him, “And believe me when I say it’s nothing compared to the damage Sheriff Humbert tends to do to his books.” She leaned forward then, lowering her voice, “His last book had donut jelly stuck between the pages.”
“Gross,” Henry replied with a laugh, and Gold couldn’t help but chuckle too.
Miss French stood up, and placed her right hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Thank you for bringing the book back, Henry.”
“So, I’m not in trouble?”
She laughed sweetly. “No, of course not.”
“You can go pick out another book while you wait for your mom, if you like.”
“Thank you, Miss French!” Henry threw his arms around her waist and hugged her tight, before pulling back and taking off toward the back shelves.
A warm smile adorned Miss French’s lips, and when she turned and came face to face with Gold her breath hitched. The same serious expression she’d worn before returned.
“Miss French,” Gold said, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
“I thought I told you to go.”
“But the book-”
“You’ve helped Henry return it, now you can leave.”
She turned away from him again and headed back around her desk. When she bent to retrieve something from one of the cabinets, likely something to help with the care of the damp book, he wondered why she was so determined to see him leave.
Then, a possibility hit him, and he thought back to the discussion he’d overheard between she and Ruby Lucas the other week.
“Is this about that Mr Eisler?” he asked. “You were probably very young. Anyone can make a mistake.”
Miss French stood up quickly, her eyes wide. “What?”
Gold grinned at her. “The sadder but wiser girl for me,” he said, and she promptly turned her back on him.
“Would you please make your selection and leave?” she demanded, and he could swear he heard a hint of something in her voice. Something unexpected. Something that sounded almost like… amusement?
She faced him again. “What do you want to take out?”
His grin widened, “The librarian!”
Gold’s proclamation was met with a ‘shh!’ from young Henry, and a stern look from Miss French.
“You, Mr Gold,” she began, “Are no Music Man.”
“No. No I’m not,” he said with a sigh, “But I would like to take you out for coffee.”
“I’m afraid I can’t,” Miss French replied with a shrug. “I have other plans.”
“I see. ” When she began walking out from behind the desk again, he asked, “Plans such as…?”
She stopped before him. “Dinner at Granny’s,” she paused, searching his eyes. “Followed by a movie at the cinema.”
“I see.” Deflated, he was about to step away, when Miss French placed her hand on his arm. Even through his coat, her touch made his heart race.
“Would you… care to join me, Mr Gold?”
“I…” Gold’s throat felt dry all of a sudden, and all he could do was nod.
“Great, we can meet at Granny’s in an hour, and we’ll go to the cinema right aft-”
The sound of someone clearing their throat interrupted Miss French mid-speech, and both she and Gold turned toward the entrance of the library. Neither had heard the door open, or noticed the chill that drifted into the library from outside.
“My son,” Mayor Regina Mills said in a demanding tone. “Where is he?”
“Here, Mom!” came young Henry’s response, and he raced around Miss French and Gold, stopping only to say, “I’ll have to choose a new book tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow then,” Miss French replied as he darted towards his waiting mother.
Mayor Mills’ glare lingered on Gold for a long minute, before she finally walked away and let the library door close after her.
“So, my dear little librarian,” Gold began with smile. Miss French returned his gaze. “I shall see you at Granny’s in an hour?”
“Actually,” she murmured, looking at the library door then back to him. “I’ve changed my mind.”
He arched an eyebrow, wondering what he’d done to cause that. “Oh?”
“A light meal, a bottle of red wine and a DVD copy of Music Man back at my apartment.”
Gold swallowed as Miss French bit her lower lip. “That… that sounds wonderful,” he said. “Mind if I ask why the change in plans?”
“Well,” she started, taking a small step closer to him. “Two days ago, Ruby and Archie were enjoying milkshakes together when Sheriff Humbert came in and closed Granny’s down because someone at the Mayor’s office falsely reported a cockroach infestation. Something similar happened when Mary Margaret and David were having lunch together the week before.”
Gold cleared his throat at Miss French’s sudden nearness to him, “I see.”
“And,” she continued, taking yet another step towards him. The gap between them was small now, and her Jasmine scented perfume danced in his nostrils. “Seeing as Mayor Mills has a propensity for sabotaging dates, I didn’t want her to ruin our evening.” She tilted her head to the side with a playful smile, “That’s my job.”
At that, Gold laughed. Nervously. “How could you possibly ruin our evening, Miss French?”
“I have a habit of somehow managing to burn every dish I attempt,” she said, scrunching her nose in disgust. “Cooking and I aren’t exactly friends.”
“I-I’m sure you’re not as bad as you think,” Gold replied, feeling more than a little flustered at the closeness between them.
“We shall see. My apartment; two hours time?”
He swallowed again. “I’ll be there.”
Miss French gave him a small smile and took a step back. “Great. I will see you then.”
As she moved away, back to the waiting book on her desk, Gold started towards the door. Dinner, wine and a movie with Miss French? With the woman he had loved from the very moment he had laid eyes on her? The very thought brought a silly, practically drunken smile to his face.
Two hours later, Gold stood outside Miss French’s apartment door, worried by the lack of lights and any kind of aroma that would have indicated a successful, or burnt, meal. As he stood there, fussing over his tie once more, he wondered if she’d perhaps changed her mind about having dinner with him.
He let out a sigh and was about to turn and leave, when he heard the click of a lock and a slow, whining creak as Miss French’s door opened. There before him, she stood dressed in the same long red dress she had been wearing earlier, along with her winter coat.
“My power’s been shut off,” she explained with a hint of sadness, “Which means dinner and the movie are off. Sorry, Mr Gold.”
Regina. He was sure it was her fault. Most things were.
“Robert,” he said, and she smiled. “Maybe I could take a look at the fuse box?”
“It uh…” She sighed, and he could see she was disappointed in herself. “It turned out, I missed the payment on my last electrical bill.”
“Oh. Well… maybe we could have a raincheck, then?”
Miss French nodded. “Unless…” Her breath caught in her throat. “I… I’ve got a tub of ice cream and some Oreo cookies with our name on them, if you’d like to join me?”
Gold couldn’t help but laugh. “That, my dear little librarian, would be nice.”
A warm smiled curved her lips as she stepped aside to let him in.
Gold closed the door behind him, and was about to remove his coat, when Miss French grabbed him by the lapels of his coat and pressed her mouth to his with an unexpected kiss.
Her lips glided over his, and when she captured his bottom lip with hers, he slipped his arms around her back and pulled her body closer to his. His heart beating faster, he deepened the kiss and tasted peppermint candy cane on her warm breath. Her fingers curled in his hair and he couldn’t help the groan that escaped.
Miss French broke the kiss then and Gold felt her shuddered breath against his skin. “I’m sorry, Robert,” she whispered, causing him to open his eyes to hers. “I couldn’t risk the chance something else would go wrong and we wouldn’t get to…” She let out a soft sigh. “…to do that.”
“That’s quite okay, Isabelle,” he murmured. His gaze dropped to her swollen lips. “Maybe we should… forego the ice cream and cookies?”
Her eyes remained locked on his lips too. “The ice cream will melt.”
“Right.” Her eyes met his then, “I’ll… I’ll pour us the wine.”
Gold nodded. “Okay.”
Only, Miss French’s lips met his with another, hungered kiss and the wine, like the ice cream, was forgotten about.