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Storybrooke\'s Tale of Beauty and the Beast, Part 23
Continuing Tales

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 23 of 37

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Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

~: Emma :~

Mary Margret was going to be mad when she got home, but Emma was already making flyers, and posting them around town. It wasn't much so far, but so far it was going good. Well, she'd posted at least six, so far that was.

"Hey sister," said a grumbly voice from behind her.

Emma rotated to find Leroy in front of her, holding one of the few flyers she'd posted. "Go put that back," she told him.

"Mary Margret's running in the race against Regina?" Leroy wanted to know, not following her orders.

"Yeah," Emma said, leaning back to look at all of him.

"Alright, how can I help?" he asked gruffly.

"Why?" she wanted to know, folding her arms, pursing her lips.

"Because, I like her," the town drunk responded. "Not like that," he waved his hands at her when she eyed him skeptically, "No, she just was … helpful once. That's all."

"You called her the town whore," Emma reminded him resentfully.

"Yeah. And I'm not proud of it. But now I just want to help too," he said, sounding apologetic. He meant it. She could tell. "She's a good person you know?" he looked up at her with a shrug.

"Yeah, I know," Emma said, looking hum up and down, before splitting her stack of flyers in the middle and handing him half. "Here, you start taping these around the other side of town."

He half smiled, "Can do," he told her, before walking in the opposite direction.

"And put that one back!" she called to him. He waved her off.

She continued, feeling a little bit better about posting flyers as she went. She posted them everywhere, on signs, on shop doors, on lamp posts and on telephone poles. It was tedious work, and her flyers were kind of boring. They had Mary Margret's black and white picture on them, with Mary Margret Blanchard for Spring Queen. Vote Now. She tilted her head at one of them. It kinda looked like she was wanted by the police or something.

Henry came riding up to her on his bike, startling her. "Hey Emma! You signed up Miss Blanchard for Spring Queen?" he asked, skidding to a stop next to her, holding a brightly colored flyer in his hand.

"Yup," Emma nodded.

"Brilliant!" he exclaimed, "It's the perfect plan! Reinstall her as the True Queen over the Evil Que-," Henry began to rant.

"Whaho whoa whoa, slow down, Kid," Emma cut him off. "This doesn't have anything to do with Operation: Cobra. I'm just trying to get Mary Margret's face off of the bad press and into good graces again."

"Exactly," Henry grinned, holding up the flyer that Emma hadn't seen before.

"Where did you get that?" she asked, peering at it. It was a picture of Mary Margret in color, with a bright smile on her face.

"Ruby gave me one. She and Ashley have been designing it for hours. They just started putting them up everywhere," Henry explained.

The flyer read, "Mary Margret Blanchard for this year's Spring Queen!" Under that there was, "She's one of the best teachers in Storybrooke, devoting her time and energy to charities when she's not busy with your child's schoolwork. Vote her for Spring Queen today!" and then it gave the address on where to vote at. On the sides were cute frills and designs that Emma wouldn't have thought of. She frowned at it, reminded of her own poster.

"They do a hel-heck," she changed, quickly, "Um, wow they do a good job."

"Yours are – good, too, Emma," Henry said politely, tilting his head at the poster just like she had earlier, "And she needs all the help she can get."

"I think she'd like Ruby's help better." Emma trashed her flyers, and ruffled Henry's hair. "I'm gonna go get some of their help instead."

"Can I come?" Henry asked eagerly, dismounting from his bike.

"Sure- wait, where's your mom?" Emma wanted to know first as they walked along the sidewalk together.

"The Evil Queen? Plotting the ball," Henry shrugged dismissively.

Emma grinned at him, "You make it sound like a trap or something."

"With Miss Blanchard running against her? I'm sure it will be," Henry said, meaning every word. Emma chuckled, before Henry added hastily, "Just promise me you won't eat anything with apples in it."

She ruffled his hair again, pulling his head into the crook of her arm, "I won't, Kid, I won't."

~: Belle :~

Running the cash register was the hardest thing she had to deal with, she decided as she took over a tray of food to a couple at the back. There were far too many buttons to deal with, and she didn't like that it didn't even make sense half of the time. Ruby had told her that it was an old piece of junk and not to worry about not getting the hang of it at first. Apparently nobody did.

"Here you go," she smiled at them. They nodded their appreciation, before turning back to their conversation.

She sighed, looking back at the clock on the wall. It was almost eleven, and she worked until closing, which was at one. She rubbed her eyes. At that moment she felt solar powered, just like Emma had said.

She hadn't understood why people kept accidentally leaving their money on the table, finally running to Ruby to exclaim, "I give them their change and they leave part of it- why?"

"It's called a tip, sweetheart. They do it because they liked you, and it is part of your paycheck," Ruby smiled at her, assuring, before looking back at the books of inventory that the diner kept.

"Oh- right," Belle nodded her understanding.

"And pull your skirt up. It'll look cuter that way," Ruby told her, gesturing at her with her pen. Belle didn't know how Ruby connected more bare skin to cute.

"Order up!" came the call from the back, jarring Belle back to reality.

Belle stepped to get it, and came back to see Ruby, Ashley, Emma and Mary Margret coming into the restaurant the first two laughing loudly. She smiled as they sat around down in a booth, tugging at her really short skirt as she went to get the order. She hoped Rumpelstiltskin wasn't watching too closely. She was so embarrassed by it, had tugged it as far down as she could without revealing her stomach. She was worried that if she bent over even an inch it would reveal more of her than she'd ever revealed to anyone willingly, well, besides the years spent in the asylum.

"For table ten," he told her, and she nodded her thanks.

She took it over to the lone stranger who was sipping his coffee contentedly and reading a book in a booth next to Mary Margret's and Emma's.

"Here you are," she smiled at him.

He nodded his thanks absently.

"What are you reading?" she wondered as she put his food down in front of him.

"A book of poems- I'm reading The Stolen Child," he asked, in the familiar daze she knew all too well. He was in a different world, and she was intruding on it.

"O come away o human child

To the waters and the wild

With a fairy hand in hand

For the world's more full of weeping, than you can understand – I like it," she decided as she stepped back.

"You know W.B. Yeats?" he asked her, looking up at her for the first time.

Belle shook her head, "No, I read it over your shoulder just now, but I do like it."

"Thanks, me too," he grinned brightly. She knew the recognition there, a fellow booklover.

"I'll let you get back to your book," Belle said, excusing herself, and walked behind him to the booth with her friends all seated around it. She'd met Ashley earlier when she'd come in to take Ruby's shift, and she'd immediately liked her. "Hi, everyone, can I take your orders?"

"Cup of coffee," Emma said, looking thoroughly as fatigued as Belle felt.

"Isabelle, honey, you look tired," Ashley said, her voice full of concern.

"I'm fine," Belle smiled at her kindly.

"You're wearing the uniform wrong," Ruby informed her, standing up to adjust it. She hiked her skirt up and tucked her shirt under it, Belle left shaking and a little embarrassed after she was done. Then again, she had been forced to change in front of a nurse for 28 years. "There," Ruby grinned, stepping away to admire her handiwork, "You look hot."

On the contrary Belle felt cold. There was no cloth to cover her up and she swore they were pumping chilly air into the room on purpose. She just smiled as best she could as Ashley agreed, reaching from behind and tugging at the hem.

"Hey, Isabelle, could I get a hot chocolate?" Mary Margret asked politely. "With a ting of cinnamon in it?"

"Of course," Belle smiled, scrawling hot chocolate with cinnamon on her notepad, along with COFFEE in bold. Emma looked like she needed it. "How goes the campaign?"

"It's great," Ashley grinned, putting both of her hands on the table eagerly. "It's almost as fun as planning a wedding."

"Planning a wedding is fun?" Emma groaned in disbelief, rubbing her head.

"Sure it is. And we have to go dress shopping with you tomorrow, Mary Margret," Ashley told her, looking at Mary Margret, who just smiled under all the attention. She handled it like a queen.

"Make sure it's white," Belle inserted pointedly, wielding her pencil around to Ruby and Ashley. If she was going to try and make everyone else in the town remember that Mary Margret was indeed Snow White, then she was going to have to work at it.

"White?" Ashley sounded surprised.

"White's kind of a marriage color," Ruby's tone was doubtful.

"I think she'd look really pretty in white," Belle wasn't fazed by their qualms.

"You're right," Emma said, actually joining in, and was surprised by herself that she was joining in. "We'll get you a white dress."

"Good, because I already had one in mind," Mary Margret smiled easily.

"So can I get you guys anything else?" she asked the table before they moved on to conversation.

"No I've got to get home," Ashley said, glancing guiltily at the clock.

"And I have a party to get to," Ruby stood up, and pulled Belle's skirt up high again. "Leave it that way. Trust me it's sexy." She winked at her, before following Ashley out of the door of the diner. Sexy? She felt herself blushing in shame.

Mary Margret shared a knowing smile with her before Belle went to go place their orders.

Someone else came in- did people in Storybrooke sleep? She wondered as she turned to her horror to find a Doctor- the Doctor from her dungeon. She felt herself stop as he sat down at a booth opposite the stranger's. Doctor- Doctor Whale. That had been his name. She felt Rumpelstiltskin at her back, felt him lance anger at the Doctor, but she shook her head slightly. She could deal with this. She swallowed her fear, taking the coffee and the hot chocolate over to her friends.

She half stalked over to him. "Hi, what can I get for you?" she said automatically.

"Where's Ruby?" he asked, surprised.

"I took over her night shift so she could start working on learning how to do the books with Granny," Belle informed him.

"Oh," he seemed deflated, but looked at her for the first time. And smiled jarringly, "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

"No, sorry," she lied easily. People had been asking that all day, and she assumed it was because of the flyers that had once had been posted around town a while ago. She was glad nobody recognized her from those yet. "Is there anything I can get you?"

"The regular, please," he said flippantly.

"Regular?" she inquired, feeling dumb for asking. She hated feeling dumb.

"Oh, right, sorry, you're new huh? What's your name again?" the Doctor gestured vaguely. She hadn't given it.

"It's B- Isabelle," she said, correcting herself quickly.

"Well, Isabelle," he smiled, it slithering across his face. She repressed the urge to shudder. "I like number three on the menu. And a pint of whatever's on tap."

"A pint of what?" she asked, thinking that everything came in ounces in this world.

"Beer," he told her, obviously pegging her to be stupid.

"Alright," Belle twisted her mouth at him. She turned to go get his food, and he caught her hand. She turned back, the gesture feeling a little too intimate. "Yes?" she asked.

"Get me an extra side of potatoes, please?" he smiled again.

"Of course," she told him curtly, tugging her hand away and walking quickly to the other side of the room. She gave the order to the cook, who nodded and pulled the food right out, as though he'd expected it. She grimaced, looking at the plate and then looking back at the table. She didn't want to go back to him already.

Taking a breath, she steadied herself.

She got him his beer, and took it over to him without a word, before going back to Emma and Mary Margret again. They and the strange poem reader were the only other people in the restaurant. "Anything else you guys need?"

"No, we're ok," Mary Margret smiled kindly. "We're just about to go, actually."

"Mhmm," Emma groaned, pointing at Mary Margret, who patted her back.

"I think that the girls tired her out a little," Mary Margret made a face, and Belle hid a smile.

"Can I help tomorrow? With posting flyers and with your campaign?" Belle asked, wanting to help.

Mary Margret nodded with a smile, "Of course, the more the merrier!"

"I call being Isabelle's partner. You three can go gab about dresses without me," Emma grumbled, rubbing her forehead.

Belle smiled, "We can put up flyers together."

"Emma," said a voice that startled all three of them. It was the poem reader, standing behind her with the book in his hand. "Might I have a word?"

"As long as we can walk towards my apartment while we go," Emma said, standing, but looking much more alert. She eyed the man with appreciation.

"Who is that?" Belle whispered to Mary Margret as Emma walked out of the diner with the strange man.

"I think it might be the Mr. August W. Booth," Mary Margret grinned hopefully. "I'll explain later. I'll see you tomorrow, Isabelle," she smiled, before hurrying after them out of the door, leaving Belle alone with the Doctor.

"Can I get another pint?" he asked her.

"Coming right up," she said hesitantly, going around the counter, and wished that Rumpelstiltskin was there with her.

~: Emma :~

"So what's up?" Emma wanted to know, sticking her hands in her pockets.

He wrapped his hands around his back, holding onto the book, "You're very direct, Sheriff."

"It gets my job done," she shrugged.

"Well, you could circumvent things, bring them up slowly. I hear it helps in questioning," he smiled, sounding obliging. She eyed him again. She barely knew the man, and yet she'd gotten on the back of his motorcycle on a whim. She didn't know if she could trust herself around him.

"Uh huh. I hear tangents are good too," she mentioned pointedly.

He chuckled. "Tangents are good too," he repeated, fondly.

"So, what do you want?" Emma didn't know how much more direct she could be. She wanted to get whatever this was out of the way. The man was too mysterious for his own good.

"I know we've only been on one, well, shall we say, drink?" he said, sensing that the word "date" would not have gone over well with Emma. He tilted his head, and continued, "But I feel rather, um, compelled to go to this Charity Ball. I'm sure you feel the same?"

"I do, actually," she said, straightening at the thought as it surprised her. She felt a strange need to attend. It was really weird, now that she thought about it.

"I didn't want to go alone," he said quickly, bringing her back to the present, "and I was wondering-."

"No," she cut him off.

He blinked his surprise, obviously taken aback by her reply, "I think that was the fastest rejection I've ever gotten," he said, a small forced smile on his face.

"Yeah, well," Emma said, trying not to feel guilty, "That's me." She scuffed the sole of her boot against the sidewalk. She didn't need someone in her life, and especially not one that she didn't even know that well. If he was going to be enigmatic he should know how frank she was going to be in return.

He stopped to look at her, his gaze penetrating, "I know."

"She didn't mean that!" Mary Margret said quickly from behind, startling both of them.

Emma turned to look at her, confusion clear, "I think I did mean that."

"No, no she didn't," Mary Margret explained, rushing up to them, staring at August. "She'll think about it." She took Emma by the arm, who was looking at her incredulously. What did she think she was doing, messing around in Emma's business?

"Are you sure she will?" he asked, raising his eyebrows as he glanced at Emma.

"Yes- yes I'm sure," Mary Margret nodded, her face eager, open.

"I'm not," Emma stated blankly, glaring at her roommate pointedly.

Mary Margret elbowed her, and smiled at August encouragingly.

"Alright, then I will bid both you ado," he half bowed, before walking pleasantly away in the opposite direction.

"Goodnight!" Mary Margret waved after him.

"What was that?" Emma demanded, breaking away from Mary Margret and stalking away angrily.

Mary Margret jogged to catch up, "What do you mean what was that? I can't believe you said no! He's totally into you!" she sounded exasperated and giddy at the same time. It was head achingly familiar.

"Uh huh. You're starting to sound like Ashley," Emma growled.

Mary Margret sighed, her breath a puff of smoke, "Well, just think about it, Emma."

She didn't have to think about it, "I don't even know him," Emma pointed out fiercely.

"Well, try," Mary Margret said, looking determined to make this work.

It wasn't going to happen, "I don't want to," Emma barked, walking faster and ducking her head.

"Why?" Mary Margret questioned, getting in her face.

Emma whirled on her, "Because! It's too soon!" she shouted.

Mary Margret knew her too well to be affronted, "Too soon since what?" she asked gingerly.

"Since Gra-." Emma stopped herself abruptly, stopped herself from saying his name aloud. She couldn't believe herself. She pursed her lips into a thin line, jutting her jaw forward.

"Since-? Graham?" Mary Margret finished, and Emma jerked her head away at the name. "Oh Emma, I'm sorry…" Mary Margret stepped forward timidly, but Emma just backed away, as though the name were a whip and Mary Margret was wielding it. Mary Margret's voice was soft, "But I think, I think Graham would want you to move on."

"How would you know?" Emma spat.

"Because he liked you a lot," she said gently, her eyes powerful as they looked into Emma's, "and I like you a lot, and when you like someone, you want them to be happy. He wants you to be happy, Emma," she stated, determination in her voice. When she saw that Emma wasn't going to say anything, that she was going to wait out in the cold until Mary Margret left alone, Mary Margret tried to smile, tried to heal the wound she'd reopened, "Just, think about it, ok?" she prompted, and walked away slowly.

Now she'd hurt Mary Margret. It was painful, the way she kept hurting her best friend over and over again. Why couldn't she just be kind to her, like Mary Margret was kind to Emma? She was so unconditional. How could Emma learn to be like that? How was she going to say sorry to her?

Well one thing was for sure, Emma decided as she stalked in a third direction, away from both August's and Mary Margret's and right into the open road. She could tell she wasn't sleeping tonight.

~: Belle :~

He kept wanting more beer.

Belle was exhausted. It was 12:19. She'd never really thought about 12 o'clock rolling around twice in one day, but here it was, twice, in one day. The music in the back ground on the radio was lulling her to sleep. It was much better than the song that sang of International Love, and then spoke of three national cities, New York, Los Angles, and Miami, in the chorus. Didn't singers in this country know anything?

"You only know, what I want you to…" a man's voice sung.

"I know everything you don't want me to…" a woman's voice countered.

She smiled as she thought about the lyrics, half swaying as she wondered what she would have to do to get Rumpelstiltskin to dance with her. She'd always loved to dance.

"Your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine…" his voice sounded once more, and the phrase struck her. She listened more keenly.

"You think your dreams are the same as mine…" her voice echoed again. She bit her lip at that. She hoped his dreams were the same as hers…

"Hey, I'm gonna take a break," the cook told her. "You gonna be ok by yourself?" he asked, startling her from her listening stupor.

"I'll be fine," she smiled easily. He'd been really kind to her, showing her how the tap worked and how the cash register worked multiple times now. He was more patient than the customers were, at least. "Thank you."

"Must've been a hard day at work," the man said, shaking his head at the Doctor who was still drinking to his heart's content. That was true. Belle hadn't thought of that. He probably had had a hard day at work, and just needed to forget. She understood that feeling all too well.

"Hey- Belle- I- ha, I rang," the Doctor laughed to himself in the corner.

He hadn't done anything to hurt her- he didn't even recognize her. She shouldn't be so harsh on him… She waved away the feeling of Rumpelstiltskin's, the need for her to stay away, which had increased since the cook had left.

"What can I get for you?" she smiled at him carefully.

"More beer?" he asked, holding his fifth glass.

"Does it help?" she wanted to know, making a face.

"Beer?" he paused before he drank the last swallow to look at her. "Yup, yup it helps."

"What happened?" she asked, her expression a calculated amount of sad.

"Lost- Lost a patient today," he hiccupped, waving his glass around.

Belle bit her lip, not knowing how to respond. "I'm sor-."

"And then oh so powerful Miss Mayor lady is still mad that I lost that psyche ward girl- it wasn't even my fault, ok? It – it was – and I tried to get – but then Mr. Gold tripped me," Belle felt her heart stop. Rumpelstiltskin had tripped him that night? No wonder they hadn't been able to catch up to her and Henry! "– he tripped me, alright? I didn't- it wasn't -," he stopped himself, blinking, probably forgetting his train of thought. She remembered all too well how Gaston had been when he was drunk. This man wasn't much different. He looked at his empty glass, "More, please."

"Maybe you've had enough," Belle smiled at him tentatively, folding her hands in front of her.

"No!" the Doctor slammed the glass on the table, "No, bring more."

Belle shook her head, "Dr. Whale, I don't think it's such a good idea."

"Here- money, I've got money," he said, pulling out green bills that were the currency in this country.

Belle bit her lip. "I really don't think I should."

He looked angry, "I'm a paying customer! The customer is always right!"

Belle nodded, remembering that Granny had told her that earlier today when she'd been training her, turning to go, when something caught on her skirt. She peered around to see what it had caught on.

"I like your- your skirt," Dr. Whale hiccupped, feeling the hem between his fingers. "Ruby- wears shorts. So- let's see what's-."

Belle got over her shock, and immediately slapped him across the face. He looked flabbergasted, staggered by what she had done, but she felt no sympathy as the red mark brightened on his cheekbone. She inhaled angrily, and then felt a pulse of energy next to her-

Suddenly, something swift and black whacked Dr. Whale over the head. He collapsed, head knocking into the table before his body began to sag onto the floor. Belle gasped, and turned right into Rumpelstiltskin, who grabbed her arms, staring her up and down, his cane in one hand, pressing into her arm.

"Are you alright?" his voice was low, a growl deep in his throat.

"I'm- I'm fine," she said, her voice shaking a bit, but not from what had happened with Dr. Whale, but at his appearance, and his expression. It was black, roiling, more frightening than anything the now unconscious Doctor could fathom.

He seethed at the poor Doctor, turning to face him. "Let's see if Storybrooke can lose another patient, Doct-."

"Rumpelstiltskin, no," Belle interrupted, trying to sound calm, stepping in front of him.

He glowered past her, "He shouldn't have come here," he fumed.

"He didn't mean any harm," Belle said, trying to apologize for the unconscious man, because the face that Rumpelstiltskin was wearing was one to murder. He had only been drinking, and I can take care of myself, she wanted to add, opened her mouth to do so.

"Do you realize what he could have done?" Rumpelstiltskin snarled, his cane in hand, looking to be used as a weapon.

"Please! Stop!" Belle said, planting herself in front of the booth, blocking the Doctor from view.

"Get out! Of the way," his voice was livid, barely contained. If she hadn't been who she was to him, she might have been terrified out of her mind, but she knew Rumpelstiltskin, loved him. He would not harm her.

"No!" she shouted, spreading her arms wide, staring into his face.

He stopped then, looking back at her, and his eyes softened, his features slowly taming themselves. He stepped away, bowing his head, seemingly abashed. His shoulders were still stiff, shaking with rage.

"You're too good to people," he spat, and she smiled fondly, before placing both of her hands gently on his face. His free hand pressed one of her hands closer to him, closing his eyes.

"Thank you, for coming," she said as sweetly as she knew, staring at him through her eyelashes. "I've been wishing you were here all night."

"I know," he said softly. "You're not meant to be up late."

"I never was a night owl," she looked away, and then amended, "Unless it came to books."

"Unless it came to books," he agreed with a small smile.

She kissed him quickly, pressing her mouth to his gently, before pulling away, and pushed the hair from his eyes.

"Belle," he said, and his eyes were full of an emotion that made her feel like she was flying, and then a sarcastic thought must have passed through him, because it lanced through his expression, "That's the second time I've hit that man with my cane. If it happens a third time, I'm going to kill him," he gestured to him with that cane.

"Killing never was the answer," she reminded him with a sarcastic smile of her own.

"Ah, I must have missed that in school as lad. I just know the answer to everything is 42," he teased. She didn't quite get the joke.

"42?" she questioned.

He chuckled, "You'll have to read it to find out, my dear," he pulled her hand from his face, "For now, however, I must bid thee farewell."

"Farewell, it is then…" she said, feeling his hand still in hers. He didn't move to go, and neither did she. Breaking the silence and the melody of a song that crooned, "These are the scars that words have carved, on me," she said, "I could have handled him on my own, you know." She put a hand on her hip.

"I know," he told her.

Her eyebrows raised, "Then why did you come?"

"Your punishment was nowhere near harsh enough." His smirk was as dark as his voice, his eyes flashing dangerously.

She made a face at him, "It really isn't his fault though. It's this ridiculous outfit. I feel like I'm in a brothel," she tugged on the skirt, trying to make it at least cover 1/3 of her legs. She was so embarrassed to be standing here, with him, dressed so immodestly.

He was staring pointedly behind her. "We'll see what we can do to get you more appropriate attire. Here comes Granny."

Belle straightened up just as Granny came through the door to the opposite "Belle, it's about time to start closing- oh, Mr. Gold. Here to collect?" Her voice hardened.

"Not today, no. I came for a slice of pie, when I spied our good Doctor here, -," he halted there, Belle sensing he was too angry at the memory to continue, so she filled in.

"He stopped Dr. Whale from touching me," she said, watching Rumpelstiltskin's hand turn into a fist around his cane. "He, um, he was trying to see up my, um,-," she paused too, pulling down at the hem of her skirt with both of her hands.

"He does get a little frisky when he's had too much to drink. Poor fellow, must have been a hard day at work. He doesn't lose many, but when he does-," Granny shook her head, and then looked past them both. "So why is he passed out on the bench?"

"I felt it appropriate to stop a fight before it started," Mr. Gold inserted smoothly.

"A fight?" Granny asked.

Belle winced, before answering, "I – um – I slapped him-."

Granny outright laughed at that. "Well, we might have one less customer to keep us up late, but at least he knows where we stand on that kind of nonsense here."

"I'm not- in trouble then?" Belle asked timidly.

"No, no," Granny waved it off, "But don't you go slapping every customer. Then we'll have a problem."

Belle smiled slightly, before continuing, "Also, um, I was wondering, would there be any way I could wear white pants, or maybe a longer skirt?"

"Oh, yes of course, sweetie, I get embarrassed just looking at Ruby in her outfit, so I understand where you're coming from. We'll get you a proper skirt in the morning," she waved at Belle to show how much it didn't matter to her.

"Thank you," Belle smiled broadly.

"Well, hurry up and get Mr. Gold his pie," Granny told her, and Belle snapped to it, walking towards the counter, "I'm going to head up to bed. Tell cook to show you how to close up. And get Dr. Whale someone to take him home."

"Alright," Belle nodded at her as she passed to go stand behind the counter. Granny left as Rumpelstiltskin sat on a bar stool. She leaned forward, smiling, "Now, what kind of pie would you like today, Mr. Gold?" she emphasized with teasing.

"I believe I want a slice of that blueberry," he told her, noting her sarcasm with a grim smirk of his own, leaning forward also on his forearm.

"I'll bring it right out," she promised, bounding back with a plate in a flash. She gave it to him, along with a fork. "Hey, I was wondering, tomorrow, between my jobs, could you teach me how to drive a car?"

"Teach you- to drive a car?" he repeated, stopping his process of cutting away at the tip of the pie to look at her skeptically.

"Yeah, I want to learn," she said blatantly.

"And you want me to teach you," he sounded surprised.

"Yep. I feel like I need to learn someday soon anyways," she smiled, walking around the counter to go get the leftover mess created by Dr. Whale.

"To drive," he repeated.

This concept shouldn't be so difficult, she thought, gathering the plate and the glasses from the table Dr. Whale was still unconsciously occupying. "What?"

"Picturing you driving is," he shook his head, a smile forming, before he looked back at her puzzled face with an amused expression. "Alright. I'll teach you to drive."

"Excellent, so around 6:30 tomorrow?" she said as she stepped closer, balancing the glasses and plate on a large round tray, remembering when the library closed. That gave her an hour until she had to be back here at the diner.

"As you wish," he smiled at her, amusement still dancing in his eyes.

"We can be sneaky about it, keep out of Regina's sight," she suggested, feeling as though he were still concerned about it.

"That's not it," he told her. When her questioning look took effect on him, he answered, "It took me years to step into the metal death traps without shaking. You're adapting so quickly."

She smiled proudly, "Yeah, because who knows? We might have hover crafts soon!"

He groaned, putting his hand over his face, "You got into the science fiction section, today, didn't you?"

"Only for fifteen minutes," she admitted guiltily.

He peered through his fingers at her, "Too long."

She grinned, "I have to take these to the kitchen," she gestured to the tray, "I'll be back in a moment."

When she did come back, which took longer than a moment, he was waiting for her, his pie almost completely eaten. He looked up at her sharply, piercingly, "Are you really alright?"

"I promise I'm fine," she vowed, leaning against the counter, "Thank you for coming though. I did want to see you."

"And I really have to leave now. Finish this for me, will you?" he asked, standing, and sliding the almost empty plate towards her. It was most of the crust that was left- he'd never liked the crust of anything. She smiled fondly, remembering how that had bothered her early on at Dark Castle, because he wouldn't eat the crust of her bread, only eating the insides of most things. Finally she had demanded if they tasted bad, and he'd laughed in her face, saying he just didn't like crusts. It was an odd concept to her, because she'd always loved crusts. He knew that about her too.

His hand caught hers, and then, just as he was bringing it to his lips, a smile sparked across his face and he vanished, without a trace of smoke.

She shook her head, lowering her head, to hide her smile in her hair, "You always did love your theatrics," she muttered, fiddling with the pie crust he'd left behind.

"What was that?" the cook had come back.

"Nothing," she told him, before smiling into her first bite. Granny made excellent blueberry pie.

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 23 of 37

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