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Storybrooke\'s Tale of Beauty and the Beast, Part 28
Continuing Tales

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 28 of 37

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Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

~: Belle :~

It was all light and the sounds of an orchestra when she materialized out of nowhere. It was a fancy room, beautiful white marble columns, and shining orbs of light that she would have mistaken for fairies if she hadn't given them a second look. The room was large, with two spiraling staircases that joined one another as they descended to the floor, and yet it was full. It was full of people dancing to waltz music, dressed in gowns befitted for queens, and men dressed in sharp suits like the one Rumpelstiltskin had been wearing. The room was so like something out of the Enchanted Forest, that it took Belle a little too long to realize that it wasn't.

She thought she began to understand what Rumpelstiltskin had been doing.

She turned to look at him in amazement, only to find him gone.

She called out his false name into the crowd, but nobody heard. There was too much chatter, and she wasn't able to see him in the masses of dancing bodies and people along the walls smiling and laughing with one another.

They had appeared in a corner of the room, and Belle was now stuck behind several layers of people, so she could only see a few people's heads turn as they danced. She tried to bounce up on her toes, but she saw nothing, only managing to bump into a grumpy looking man, his friend apologizing for him.

She turned to look out of the dark window next to her, wondering where on Earth Rumpelstiltskin might have gone to, and saw something so beautiful it made her breathe catch.

Mary Margret stepped out of David's truck, and David offered her an arm with a gallant smile. Belle had never seen anyone so beautiful in her life. Her dress was brilliantly white, dazzling, and showed how fair her skin was, how red her lips were, how ebony haired she was- Snow White in the flesh. She and David stepped through the doors together just as the music died, and everyone turned to see the late arrivals. She heard everyone gasp as Mary Margret walked through the parting crowds, and again Belle couldn't see but watched as everyone stared in absolute amazement. The true royalty had returned, and even with their memories clouded, they could see their true forms.

Belle smiled brilliantly as she understood what Rumpelstiltskin had been preparing.

~: Mary Margret :~

Everyone was staring. Everyone was staring and she didn't know what to do about it. She could only take Ruby's advice, hold her head high and continue to walk towards the stairs, searching desperately for someone, anyone, to go to, instead of walking in this straight line between all of these people.

She looked up at David, who glanced back. He seemed just as surprised as she was, just as startled, and just as nervous, though they both wore smiles. He hid it better than her. It wasn't fair.

And then, praise the heavens, there was Emma, standing near the stairs, her arms folded across her chest. Same, wonderful, aggressive looking Emma, that had scared away all bystanders with that glare of hers. Mary Margret felt herself quickening her pace to get to her, half dragging David along until he caught up.

Words began to fill the air again as they neared Emma, and Mary Margret, letting go of David's arm, outright hugged her. Emma, baffled, stood motionless for a few seconds before patting her back, and then holding her.

Emma was such a support. Despite everything, Kathryn's murder, her arrest, Regina's wrath, Emma had always believed in her, had always had faith that she would be there for her when she needed her. Emma was wonderful, a light in a dark room.

"Hey, you ok?" Emma asked as Mary Margret held her for a far bit too long.

"Yeah," Mary Margret said, and for some reason she felt tearful. "Yeah, I am."

"Good- because they're going to announce the winner soon," Emma said, pursing her lips.

Mary Margret's eyes widened, "Already?"

"Yeah, you do realize you're late, right?" Emma demanded, folding her arms again as she stared at the pair of them.

"That was my fault," David admitted guiltily. "I, um, I made a stop by our spot at the toll bridge…" he trailed off.

Emma put up a hand to stop him, "Alright- I got it. No need for the gory details," she smiled at Mary Margret, who smiled back.

"So where is Regina?" David asked Emma, stepping closer.

"Madam Mayor? She hasn't shown her ugly mug yet," Emma glowered at the staircase, "Though I'm sure she's up there somewhere."

"Well, until then, Mary Margret, would you do me the honor of dancing with me?" David asked, offering a chivalrous hand.

Mary Margret smiled at him, so happy despite the fact that in mere moments she could be publically humiliated when she lost. He was there. Why had she doubted coming? David was there, her David, her whole, wonderful shining David, his blue eyes bright and fixed on her face. How could she have even considered saying no to such a Prince Charming?

He led her onto the dance floor as the music started up.

"I'm a bad dancer," she admitted as he wrapped an arm around her waist.

"Don't worry," he grinned as he began to lead, "I'm a worse one."

~: Henry :~

He had to get there.

He was so glad the Evil Queen had fixed his bike, because else wise he'd have to be doing a LOT more running in life. He beat every kid racing during PE, and everyone wanted him on their team for kickball during recess. Well, he had run around town his whole life. He guessed it should be paying off.

This time, though, he was going to be too late for Miss Blanchard's coronation. He had dressed up in his Sunday best and everything, but his adoptive mother had gotten a babysitter. As though he needed a babysitter. He could take down a troll- he'd been practicing swordplay ever since he'd helped Belle escape from the asylum, and he'd been absolutely helpless against it. Well now, he carried pen and his pocket knife from scout camp. It wasn't a sword, but he'd get one sooner or later, especially when the curse was broken.

For now, he peddled his way across town, wondering how long it would take for the babysitter to break out of the living room. He'd propped up chairs against the door handles so she couldn't escape. Well, he'd made sure she had plenty of food- he'd stocked the room with enough potato chips and soda to last someone three days, and she had television. She hadn't stirred when he'd locked her in. Maybe she wouldn't even notice that he was gone.

With his luck? Yeah right.

~: Belle :~

She had danced three times now, each three different partners.

They all complimented her on her dress, on how unique the design was. They had then tried to ask her questions that meant almost nothing to her. What year had she graduated high school? What were her favorite pastimes? What was the color of her toothbrush- that was the oddest one of the lot, and she had smiled, and answered that it was clear. That was the only real time they had gotten her attention though.

The rest of the time she had been looking.

She couldn't find him anywhere.

She saw Snow White- er- Mary Margret dancing with David around the center of the ballroom, looking blissful and content. Everyone was staring at them, but they seemed oblivious. They looked truly happy. She'd seen Ashley, looking almost exactly like Cinderella, waltzing around with Sean, giggling at something he said. She had smiled when Ashley had waved to her. What was probably most surprising of all, was Ruby. Dancing with Archie.

She had to blink twice as awkward, yet confident Archie spun her around the room, to make sure she wasn't seeing things. And Ruby, looked happy- not just that wolfish smile she gave everyone, but a real smile. She couldn't believe it. She would not have thought- but then, true love came in all different forms. Who was she, of all people, to judge?

Ruby hadn't even acknowledged her, but Archie had, with a polite nod in her direction, before continuing to speak with Ruby about something to do with memory loss. Belle's ears tried to perk up, and then turned to find her father, standing and staring at her with a glass in his hand. She had known that he was coming, she just had forgotten. She smiled, and waved at him. He raised his wine glass to her, before they spun again and he was out of sight behind the man's shoulder she was dancing with. It was all the same. The dance had ended, and the man she had been dancing with told her in a hostile tone that it was nice to meet her. She extended the same courtesy, before going back to hide in the corner Rumpelstiltskin had put her in. She wanted so badly for him to find her. She did feel somewhat guilty though, for not being polite to the men who had taken time to dance with her. It was just, there was no one else she wanted to dance with. She had found her-.

"True love?"

Belle whirled to find him standing beside her.

He glanced at her through the sides of his eyes, and she couldn't help but smile at him, even if it was an incredulous one at that. He had been disappearing too much for her liking, and he knew it. He turned to face her with a theatrical flourish, "May I have this dance?" he asked her, his smile mischievous and tantalizing.

She curtsied, "Why- of course," she made to extend her hand, but snatched it back, uncertain, "Wait- you won't disappear out on the ballroom floor, will you?"

He raised his eyebrows at her, "No," but when she still kept her hand from grasp he rolled his eyes, and spoke, "I promised you a dance, my dear, and you shall have it."

"Do we have a deal?" she wanted to know, still doubtful. He would do anything to tease her. She wasn't about to be dancing with thin air at the middle of the dance because he felt the urge to disappear.

"Only if you promise not to step on my toes," he warned.

She laughed at that, "Deal."

She offered her hand to shake, but he brought it to his lips, startling her. His eyes flickered up to dance at her, before he led her through the crowd, and into the people spinning around them.

He placed his hand around her waist, and pulled her very close, so their noses nearly touched, and Belle couldn't help but blush and look away, before he started gracefully into movement. She followed, letting her lead him, now staring shamelessly into his enigmatic, mischievous eyes.

Dancing with him was like floating. She felt as though they moved together seamlessly, and she never hesitated to follow him, whatever he did, whether he spun her around, or spun her away and drew her in again, she moved without flaw with his guidance. Her only other dancing partner that had tried to do these things with her had been her betrothed, Gaston. But he had been too tall, too strong, too commanding, and he hadn't known her. He'd thought he'd known her, but he'd misjudged, pulling her in too soon, or too slowly, spinning her too quickly. He'd even lifted her, which was something she was not comfortable with.

Rumpelstiltskin knew her, knew her movements, knew how and when she would respond. He knew her. He knew that she would twirl her leg out, so he paused to let her catch her balance and at just the right moment, he would whirl her in again, and smile, because they were at exactly the same distance as they had been before the venture away.

Her stomach was twisted in pleasant knots, the way he pulled her close, the way he smiled knowingly, as though he was the one putting the knots there on purpose. She loved the way his long fingers felt against her back, how his guiding hand's thumb caressed her finger tips. She loved the intense look in his eyes. She wished the dance would never end.

"I can't give you that one, my dear," he told her, his voice solemn.

She blinked in surprise, "Sorry- I didn't mean-."

He stopped her before she really began, "I know- I can normally tell the difference between the intended wishes and the haphazard ones."

She glanced away, biting her lip and stared down at her dress instead, "Do they- bother you?"

"No-," he smiled, his face right in hers, and he cocked his head to the side, his eyes staring dedicatedly at her features, "why feeling so self conscious tonight, dearest?"

"Because- I'm just- anxious," she admitted, glancing away again.

And she was. From the moment they arrived she'd felt anxious, and while some of it was good, was positive, most of it felt foreboding and ominous. Magic. She had smelled it, sensed it, but she hadn't really been able to pinpoint it until now. And it wasn't just Rumpelstiltskin's magic. No- it was something deeper and darker. It was the Queen's magic, mixed with the curse's. A flashback reminded her all too well how the Queen's magic worked, how it could scar and maim-.

She shuddered violently in his grasp, and he pulled her closer, making her head rest on his shoulder.

"Cold?" he breathed onto her neck.

She pushed closer, "No-," she breathed, staring out at the crowd, who all seemed faceless, like the colors of a giant cloud as they spun, "Just- remembering."

"Something I did?" he wanted to know, his voice a murmur in the midst of noise, but she would listen to him anywhere.

She smiled thinly, "Now who's self conscious?"

He chuckled, "Still you, my dear."

"It's the magic," she told him, She had felt like they had been dancing at the edge of a knife, and if they strayed but a little, they would lose themselves over the edge. It would suit that it was a magical knife.

"I assumed." His tone was grim.

"Was it you, who did all of this?" she asked, letting go of his shoulder to spread her arm wide across the hall, pulling back to look at his reaction.

"Who made it so alike our old world? Yes," he smiled at the almost magical scenery, his eyes darkening maliciously. "Her Majesty won't appreciate my intrusion. I also helped with the costuming too- it was hard, catching the eyes of those who are often too blind to pay attention to what's in front of their faces. It's part of what I was doing."

"I knew it," she beamed, proud of her ability to guess, "Why do we have to go back so soon?" she wanted to know, but it was his turn not to look at her, to look down and away. She pressed further, "There is so much to learn here, so much to be and see, and do."

He looked up at her in all seriousness then, "And that's why we have to go back."

She furrowed her brows at him, "What do you mean?"

"Nothing. The sooner we get home, the better," his mouth was thin, and he looked away from her.

She leaned closer, trying to grasp the attention of his eyes, "You want to go back to Dark Castle, when you could go to Europe instead?" she was baffled by the thought.

"Dark Castle is my home, Belle. I – have wanted to go back for some time, but now that you're here-," he broke off. He was sounding sentimental, and he didn't like it.

"Now that I'm here, what?" she demanded.

He looked at her sharply, "There's so much here that you're in danger from-."

She rolled her eyes at that, "There aren't even dragons here, Rumpelstiltskin."

A couple next to them eyed them oddly, and Rumpelstiltskin lifted his brows at them threateningly. They circled away, nervously glancing back at him as he turned back to Belle.

He returned to his case, "But there are guns, nuclear weapons, diseases I can't cure-."

"Cancer doesn't scare me," she told him half truthfully, naming one of the odd diseases that she had learned about.

"What if your father contracted it?" he asked, and he knew he had a point there. She bit her lip, looking back at where she'd seen her father last. She didn't know what she would do if her father died. It would break her heart. And then- what if something happened to any of them? Henry, Emma- who fought people all the time if being a sheriff was anything like the television shows- Mary Margret and David, who were in danger from the Queen- they were all in danger of her, and she needed to end. Her reign, her hold over all of them. It was unjust, wrong. They were meant to live lives in harmony and joy and live happily ever after.

She shook her head, getting back on topic, wondering aloud, "Is that why you want to get home so quickly? You're worried I'll be hurt?"

When he looked away quickly she knew she had guessed it, and her heart warmed. She knew he would never admit it though. She rested her head on his shoulder once more, safe as she breathed in his scent. He broke the silence hesitant at first, but his voice grew determined as the sentence ended, "And- I don't intend on making your wishes come true here."

She pulled back from his shoulder again to peer at him curiously, "Wishes?" she asked, blinking away, trying to remember what he must have been- she paused, and then he twirled her away from him as her mind spun faster and faster, "You mean-?" and she stopped mid twirl. He pulled her in again, pulled her in tight, before the music began to come to a close. He dipped her gracefully.

"Yes. That is what I mean," he told her there, his eyes intense and focused. She'd never seen such eyes.

She Euphoria filled Belle, made her want to fly, but she had to ground herself as he led her off of the dance floor, into a different corner this time, one that led away down a corridor. "But, so soon?" she shook her head as he took her down the dark hallway.

"I've waited a few decades too long," he shrugged simply, "wouldn't you say the same?"

Her heart was in danger of pulling her off the ground, it felt so very light. She had to ground it with doubt, had to keep both feet on the floor, "Yes of course- but-."

He stopped, and faced her then, a lit window illuminating his outline, "I would have thought you'd been incandescently happy about all of this. I'm supposed to be the nervous one," he teased.

She hadn't wanted to hurt him- oh no, she had just wanted to be practical, to continue to be sane, because she was in serious danger of never touching the ground again, joy flowing freely and blissfully through her, "Oh- I just, can't -." She couldn't find words to describe- find words to even begin to explain, couldn't even think- She didn't know how to say- and those three words, she would have said too much, but not enough, never enough, to completely describe…

"What is this?" his voice was thick, but cheery, as he wrapped his arms around her, "My Belle, speechless?" he pressed his forehead to hers.

"It's not fair," she said breathlessly, her eyes finding his, and meeting the softness, the openness there that she had never seen in those eyes before. She could only smile incandescently, and loop her arms around his shoulders.

"I'm known to cheat," he grinned, but it wasn't malicious or mocking. It was truly him.

They kissed, the dark corridor disappearing to bright flowing colors of illuminated joy as he lifted her up with a laugh and spun her around, and around until she could only laugh at how dizzy she was, how dizzy the world was, how wonderful being dizzy was, if they were dizzy together. And he kissed her again, short, briefly and beautifully, filling her with hope and happiness until she felt like bursting into brilliant blissful bits of shining colors.

He seemed just as happy, just as bright, just as wonderful. He was wonderful, all mystery and freedom in her eyes, tasting of life and vibrancy and a more vivid level of being.

He laughed with her, a free, unguarded sound that was more heartfelt than anything he'd ever spouted, before resting her on her feet. They had to cling to each other as they toppled into a wall, laughing even more.

It was so unlike him- and yet, so like him, she thought as they continued to laugh.

There was a clicking noise at the end of the hall that stopped his laugh short as his eyes snapped to peer through the darkness. She wouldn't have noticed it if his walls hadn't shot back up so quickly, though she knew she was behind them now, most of them at least, instead of in the middle and trying to barge her way in.

When he looked just as lost as she did, he turned to her. "I have to go."

She knew what he had been going to say before he said it, but it still stung. "I know."

He was gone in an instant, without a good bye or anything else but the lingering feeling that his eyes were on her.

She was left to wander back up the hallway, and back into the ball, glowing with joy, and waiting for his return.

That was- until the entrance of the Evil Queen.

~: Emma :~

"You look a little lost," a voice startled her from behind.

She swung around, glowering at her next victim, "Do I? I was merely admiring the scenery." She was pissed. She was in a dress, with heels and was being forced to be social. She didn't mind being social, she just minded being forced to be social. Fortunately enough her next victim was August W. Booth, looking very suave in a tuxedo.

"It looked like you were searching for someone," he commented, looking past her onto the swirling crowds of people.

"You're mistaken," she told him bluntly, but in fact she had been looking for him. She'd been watching for him all evening. It was half his fault she had decided to come. After turning him down so flatly she felt obligated to repay him with a measly dance.

"Ah, well, a man can dream," he smiled, clasping his hands behind his back and rocking on his feet. They watched for a while, and while she tried to find reasons to bite off his head, she couldn't manage to do it. She liked that he could just let her be in the same area and not have to find stupid ways to talk to her.

"Want to dance?" Emma asked him.

He blinked in surprise, "I thought you were opposed to dancing."

"Yeah I am, so you'd better take the opportunity while I'm still insane," she told him with a small smile.

He offered her his hand, and she took it, and they stepped into the dance. He was graceful, surprisingly so. But this man was all enigma. From the minute he had drove up to her in Storybrooke he had been. He carried around an ancient typewriter, he enjoyed wishing wells, he loved his motorcycle and he traveled the world without hesitation. Yet here he was, dashing and mystery rolled in one. She wondered if he was even called August.

"Just because you don't have proof doesn't mean it's not true," his words broke her concentration.

"What is that supposed the mean?" she wanted to know.

"However you want to take it," he told her.

Again with the puzzles?

The music stopped abruptly.

The pair of them stopped, and looked up as someone pointed.

It was Regina.

Dressed in a long slinky black lace covered dress, she walked down the staircase with all eyes on her. She smiled beatifically, but instead of silence like there had been at Mary Margret's entrance, there was murmuring, a hiss going up in the crowd. Emma herself scowled at the woman.

As she finally stepped onto their level, she raised her voice, "Thank you all for coming this evening to this year's Spring Queen Charity Ball. I hope you enjoy yourselves this evening. The announcement of the winner of the title of Spring Queen this year will be soon. Until then," she smiled, and the music slowly started up again.

"Well isn't she a piece of work," August muttered under his breath.

Emma smirked approvingly.

~: Regina :~

Her entrance had been perfect.

Or it would have been if she hadn't been so bewildered by the change in decoration. It must have been a last minute decision. She knew she should have gone to that last meeting, but she hadn't been able to make it. Now it looked akin to Snow White's castle, instead of her own. Ah well, se la vi, it mattered not.

She and Mary Margret had been asked to go up the stairs for the announcement of the winner. They had gone up opposite sides of the staircase, and in the middle where they joined a pulpit was being set up. It wouldn't be long now until she could crush that little-

"Regina-," it was Sydney, running up to her from the staircase, buffeting a camera man out of the way. Regina rolled her eyes. The man was so eager to please it was exhausting.

"Not now Sydney," she told him irritably.

"It will only take a second-," he promised, huffing as he reached her.

She glowered at him, "This is not the time."

"But-."

"And now we will be announcing the Most Charitable of Them All, the winner of this year's Spring Queen Charity Ball!" an announcer Regina recognized vaguely from television boomed to the audience over a microphone. Everyone fell silent. "Will both canadits come down please?"

Both Regina and Mary Margret began their descent at the same time, Regina waving Sydney off as he tried to whisper something to her. Regina glowered at Mary Margret when that little ghost of a girl glanced her way, before turning back to smile at the crowd. They paused at the bottom of the staircase where they adjoined into one, staring at one another.

"May the two contestants please come forward?" encouraged the man. As Regina stepped forward, the man began to list off the awards, a spot on City Council, in charge of charitable events for the rest of the year, etcetera etcetera. She didn't listen, only smiled at the people. Her people. Everyone in this miserable little town was hers to do with as she liked. Hadn't she proved that yet with Kathryn? She snapped back to attention as the man began to wrap up his glorified speech, being cut short by someone running him an envelope. "Well here are the results, ladies and gentlemen," he waved the envelope at them, a cheesy grin across his face. He was enjoying the rapped attention he was getting. Regina just wanted him to get on with it already, "And," he said with batted breath, and he began to tear open the envelope, "the winner is-.".

Everyone was staring. In the crowd Regina spotted little prince charming, and red riding hood staring up in hopeful expectation, Cinderella smiling with her fingers crossed, and there was Emma, grimly looking up at her, not at Mary Margret. Regina smiled confidently. She had won this honor for 28 years in a row, there was no way she was going to-

"Mary Margret Blanchard!" he announced.

-lose?

She felt her mouth drop open in utter and complete disbelief as Mary Margret, looking stunned, stepped forward as a smile grew across her ugly face.

Regina looked into the crowd in panic, in horror-

How had they chosen Mary Margret-?

And she spotted Rumpelstiltskin's face in the crowd. His wicked grin was what had caught her furious gaze, but it was the little flourish of a wave that ignited her fury.

He was behind this. Behind the changed decorations, behind the dress that Mary Margret wore- behind everything! As usual. He had ensured Mary Margret's victory. It had been him.

She didn't know how she got back up the stairs- she couldn't see anything in her blind rage besides a thousand ways to torture Rumpelstiltskin's sorry, pathetic-

She barely missed running right into Sydney, who was still hovering in her face. She felt like flinging him out of the way, shattering him against a wall.

"What?" she demanded, seething.

"I saw them," he said simply, his dark eyes full of anticipation.

"Saw who?" she didn't want to play these idiotic games.

He read her well enough to know not to withhold anything else from her. "That French girl you have me follow sometimes. And Mr. Gold. They were having a rather intimate rendezvous in a back hallway earlier this evening. You told me to report-."

The noise in her ears was a deafening ringing as her body froze up, "You saw this?" she managed to ask.

"Yes. I have proof," and he drew a small digital camera from his pocket, and flipped it on. "The pictures are dark."

But that didn't matter. The picture was clear enough to see the girl's face. And she would know that other outline anywhere. No, it didn't matter. It meant that their deal was broken. That he, Rumpelstiltskin had broken it. That she now had every right to do as she pleased to the imp without his being able to object. A smile, sickeningly sweet and cynical slipped across her face as she looked up into the man's eager face, "Sydney, I have never been more impressed with you."

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 28 of 37

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