Continuing Tales

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 22 of 37

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Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

~: Regina :~

She decided that she was going to go see him tonight. It had been more than a week now, since their little bargain had been struck. He'd been quiet, too quiet.

She had expected him to buy the apartment complex. It was obnoxious that it was considered his property, unlike the nuns' deal with him, because of certain legal technicalities that he'd installed in the contract. But, well played.

What she hadn't expected was his paying all of the medical bills and all the bank loans for the French family. What a soft little man he was after it all.

She drove quickly, exceeding the speed limit, daring that stupid Sheriff to pull her over. She almost hit someone crossing the street reading, but the stumbled out of the way in time, almost like they were pushed to the side. Annoyed she sped on by vindictively.

She pulled up next to Mr. Gold's house. Now here was the problem. Getting him out of his cave and into the open.

Stepping on the grass alone made her feel weak. Gritting her teeth, she ground out the pain and stomped her way forcibly to the door. She pounded on it with more force than she meant to.

"No need to break down the door," Mr. Gold said, his voice chipper as he opened the door. "What's the matter dearie? You look a little weak at the knees."

She swallowed her nausea. "I need to speak with you."

"No, I'm a little bit preoccupied at the moment," he said, his eyes hollow. He was still grieving that little girl's loss. He sneered at her, "Come back later when you're feeling more up to it." He made to close the door in her face, but she planted a hand on it to keep it from shutting.

She clung to the doorframe, her muscles shaking, rattling her bones in their joints. "There- has been a spike in the curse. Have you felt it?"

"Of course," he said, sarcastically, "I know my magic."

"You, know what's going on?" she panted, staring into his face.

"No," his face was blank, surprisingly so. She had expected a flicker in his dark eyes, his regular tell. Now his eyes were a little astonished, "I thought it was you, Your Majesty. Now if you don't mind, would you get off my porch, please?" her knees buckled under the reinforcement of the demand, "I think I've asked you before to stay off my property."

With a look of pure loathing she staggered off the porch, stumbling to her car. The minute she stepped off his lawn her symptoms stopped. She glowered back at the house, still feeling uneasy about it all. There had to be something going on. The curse could not be unraveling. She refused to believe it. It had to be something else. But what?

~: Belle :~

"This is the kid's section."

Belle nodded, following the wizened head librarian around the dim room. Some of the windows were boarded up, others were covered by newspaper. The room was entirely dusty and there appeared to be no one there but herself and the librarian. The receptionist was out for breakfast. Something along those lines.

There were books- books everywhere. That was the problem. They were stacked in corners, piled on tables, left open so the spines were cracking. Belle touched one tenderly as she passed, the open page dry and dusty.

"It just got too much for me to handle alone," he was saying, looking at her through thick glasses. "We didn't have enough money in the budget for new shelves to stack them in, and the systems changed."

Belle nodded, looking to the battered books in the room, like wounded soldiers.

Claustiphobia was setting in. It was something she had dealt with since she left the asylum. Normally there were windows, and doors, to be left open, but with the windows closed, she felt herself begin to shake. She felt the pressure behind her neck, meaning that Rumpelstiltskin was trying to comfort her. She leaned back a bit, straightening as though his hand were at the small of her back.

"If you don't mind my asking," she said hesitantly, "Can you tell me why the windows are all covered up?"

"Well, my late wife had a problem with the light…" the librarian bent his head, removing his rather large glasses and rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. "When she came here she complained about it until the cows came home, so…"

She felt her heart pang at the sadness in his voice, "Oh, I'm- I'm truly sorry to hear that," Belle put her hand on the man's shoulder.

"It was a while ago now," he smiled bleakly, placing his glasses back on his nose and sniffing. He looked to the windows for a distraction, "I suppose that we should open them now, eh?"

"Would you mind that terribly?" she said, feeling completely guilty for even asking.

"No, no, of course not!" he patted her on the back, "It is rather gloomy in here, isn't it?" he grinned at her toothily.

"A bit," she smiled kindly. "I'll- go do it now- if you don't mind."

"No, not at all!" he waved her away.

Tearing down the newspaper was easy. It was the stupid boards that she had trouble with. Outside she wrenched at the pieces of plywood with aching fingers. Huffing, she stepped back, glowering at the particularly annoying wood.

Something suddenly popped in her face- a large metal object. She gasped, stumbling right into someone.

"It looked like you needed this," David grinned at her.

"Oh! Hello," Belle smiled at him. "I'm just trying-."

"I noticed. Here," David said, stepping towards the windows. He stuck the piece of metal between the window's rim and the board, and levered it away from the window. The piece of board fell to the ground. Belle beamed.

David helped her conquer the rest of the windows, busting the wood free to reveal the glass. Several people stopped to watch as they did so. Belle learned about the pry bar, which was not a recently discovered tool, but the electric drill was. He promised to show her his tool box later. They stacked the wood sideways against the side of the library as they worked, keeping them off the sidewalk and out of people's way as they walked.

They stared together at the windows above.

"Is there even a second story?" he wondered as they looked at them.

"Well," Belle said thoughtfully, "Even if there isn't, I want them off."

"They are kind of an eye sore," David agreed.

"My question is how he got them up there," Belle said aloud, and from her peripheral vision she saw David nod.

"I'll get a ladder," he said, stepping backwards.

She looked at him in surprise, "Isn't your break over?"

He shrugged with a smile, "They don't really need me today anyways."

"Thanks David," she grinned brightly, taking the pry bar from him. He really was Prince Charming.

This time he brought a hammer with him, something she recognized, and hauled a ladder over and up to the side of the library, the ledge flat enough that once they were up there they could walk along it. David went first, and Belle held the ladder steadily, before beginning to join him.

There was a pressure on her shoulders, pushing her to the ground. She bent under the sudden surge of weight. "You're cheating," she mumbled, grasping the ladder with her hands. "I'm going to do it," she told him under her breath. More weight fell on her shoulders, and she forced herself to take a step on the first rung. "I'm getting up there whether you like it or not," she snapped. "I don't fall off ladders all the time, and you crushing me into dirt is not going to help your cause."

The pressure stopped, and she felt him retreat, obviously annoyed with her. She grinned determinedly at the sky before half running up the ladder. It was so much easier to do in jeans and converse. She felt him steady the ladder, ground it so it didn't shake a hair, and she whispered her thanks to the wind, before taking David's offered hand at the top.

"What were you saying down there? I couldn't hear you," David asked, handing her her pry bar with a curious expression.

"Oh- that- um, oh nothing. Absolutely nothing at all," she grinned falsely, holding up her tool. "Let's get to it, shall we?"

"Right," David said, sounding uncertain.

Belle shot a sarcastic look at the sky before setting to her task.

She did slip twice, the first time scarier than the second since she almost fell off the ledge. David had gone down to say hi to a passing Mary Margret, and she was working on the second to last window. She made to step back to figure out what would be the best way to get that top board off, when her foot landed wrong- she felt her stomach plummet as she waved around wildly, trying to regain her balance. Two strong hands practically shoved her into the wall, pinning her there as she gasped.

"I told you that this was a idiotic venture, dear, " he whispered angrily in her ear.

"Thank you," she smiled at the wind, where it sounded like he was coming from. She saw the ghost of an outline, "That could have been a little bit painful."

"Mm, yes. A pathetic way to die if you ask me, splattered across the street because you lost your balance." He sounded sarcastic, but a bit better.

"Boring, too," she agreed, "I'd much rather die doing something heroic."

"You would." And he withdrew again.

"Thank you!" she whispered again.

"Are you ok?" David called, Mary Margret running up after him.

"Oh, I'm fine!" she waved down to them. "Sorry about that!"

"Why're you sorry? You're the one that almost fell off a rooftop!" Mary Margret sounded terrified. Little did she know she had someone watching out for her.

It was almost eleven by the time she and David had completed their task. They hurried through the last hour, because the clock tower had been overpoweringly deafening when they'd been up there at ten. They laughed as they scrambled down with the last load of wood with five minutes to spare.

"We can put this stuff in my truck and I'll take it to the woodpile," David said, taking her wood from her before making his way into the street to cross it.

"Alright," Belle smiled, "Hey David?"

"Yeah?" he asked, turning back to her.

"Thanks!" she nodded.

"Not a problem, Isabelle," he waved, "If you want you can get back to your job. This shouldn't take me long."

"Ok," Belle said, retreating. "I've got a lot more to do."

He made a face, "Yeah you do. I've been in there once."

She exaggerated biting her lip, before laughing, and backed into the library.

She sighed as she turned around, the door swinging closed behind her, and faced the mess. Opening the windows had been the easy part. At least it was a whole lot brighter. Of course, she'd dealt with worse. She smiled as she remembered tackling Dark Castle. She'd done it then, she could definitely do it now.

~: Emma :~

Emma was tapping her foot at the flyer in front of her.

Stupid Spring Queen Charity Ball. Why did she have to go again? She couldn't remember, but she knew she had to. She hated big fancy parties, with their fancy dresses and fancy drinks. She never knew how to handle that sort of environment. So far in Storybrooke she'd been comfortable with everything dealt to her so far. This? This was totally different.

"Come to the Spring Queen Charity Ball, join the cause," she harrumphed to herself.

"You're going to that?" Ruby asked, walking into the office with two coffee cups.

"Apparently I have to," Emma grumbled, setting the paper down on her desk.

"Me too," Ruby sighed, handing Emma a cup, "You gonna run?"

Emma cocked her head at her, "Run for what?" she asked, taking a sip.

"Run for Spring Queen?" Ruby explained.

Emma spluttered, choking on her coffee. "What?"

"Well no one else runs against Regina. I think you could pull it off," Ruby tilted her head at her.

"Not me," Emma shook her head sharply, thinking in horror of what being a Queen would involve. She'd much rather fight to the death than be forced to smile through functions.

"I get it," Ruby nodded, half sitting on Emma's desk and taking a swig of her own drink, "You know who should run though? I keep telling her every year that she needs to."

"Who?" Emma asked.

"Mary Margret," Ruby said matter-of-factly, leaning closer, "She's so pretty, she's probably the most beautiful girl in town if you think about it. Well, besides me," Ruby teased, flipping her streaked hair out of her face as Emma rolled her eyes, "And she'd definitely the kindest."

Emma thought about it, "You think she'd go for it?"

"Na," Ruby shook her head, crossing her legs and pursing her lips to a side, "She always says no."

"Hey," Emma said, thinking through it, a smile slowly spreading across her face, "you know that gives me an idea."

"What?" Ruby asked, taking the coffee cup from her lips.

Emma flickered her eyes to Ruby, her smirk more and more pronounced, "We should submit her name anyways."

"What?" Ruby's eyes went wide, her voice clearly making her opinion known.

"Well, think about it. She deserves it," Emma thought about how she'd falsely accused Mary Margret of being Kathryn's killer, arresting her. She still felt so terrible about the whole thing, even though she had forgiven Emma entirely. Mary Margret really was the kindest of them all. "It could help clear up her name."

"We have to find a charity that will back her," Ruby looked doubtful. Emma didn't really pay attention to the charities around Storybrooke so she was at a loss for what to suggest. They sat in silent pondering for a moment, "The nuns!" Ruby exclaimed, gesturing her coffee cup at Emma, "they totally love her, and they'd be a big help. They give to all the charities."

"Who backs Regina?" Emma wondered, her brows furrowing.

"Oh, she backs herself through the City. She gives the money they raise to help fund things, like the school or the public health system," Ruby shrugged, waving her coffee around to show the obscurity.

Emma made a distrusting face, "Right." She turned to her desk computer, opening her web browser.

"So are we going to do it?" Ruby leaned in, her dark eyes wide and excited.

"Yes," Emma smiled determinedly at the computer. "On it as we speak."

"Wooo!" Ruby grinned, chugging the last of her drink and chucking it in the trash. "Nobody ever runs against the Mayor. I can't wait to see what's gonna happen!" Ruby stood up, making to leave.

"Thanks for the coffee Ruby," Emma held her own still half full cup out to her. Ruby nodded, and Emma added with an uneasy expression. "I'm sorry it couldn't work out."

"It's ok," Ruby motioned nonchalantly, figuring that Emma was talking about Ruby saying she couldn't work with her at the station, "Granny really needs my help anyways. She thinks she might retire soon." Ruby made a face.

"Granny? Retire?" the idea was mind boggling, "You've got to be kidding me."

"I know, super farfetched, right?" Ruby grinned, "Anyways, see you later, Emma! I'll call you." She waved.

"Bye Ruby," Emma waved back.

Two friends in Storybrooke. Two real friends. She'd never really had friends before, didn't have time for them, so it was odd that suddenly there were two of them. And here she was being sentimental when she had work to do.

~: Belle :~

She discovered the second story entrance by accident. Both the librarian and the receptionist were out to lunch when it happened. Belle had been lifting books off of the shelves and stacking them in one corner, and the entrance happened to be behind a rather decrepit book shelf.

She pulled a book off of it, to see a gaping black hole instead of old, faded yellow painted wall. She leaned closer, pulling off another book, and another to get a better view, her smile growing as she did so, not hearing the old creak of the shelf as she did so, bending farther and farther forward to peer onto the landing of what looked like a staircase.

It collapsed on her while she had the books in her arms. With a yelp she found herself crushed under a heap of books and wooden splinters. She coughed on the dust that had poofed up all around her from the old volumes.

"You're clumsier than usual, today," growled a muffled voice.

The weight was lifted off her chest as books were sent flying to the corner off of her, and the wood stacked itself neatly into a pile, leaving her strewn across the floor looking absolutely ridiculous. He was staring down at her, both hands resting on his cane. She smiled meekly up at him, scrambling to her feet. He offered her a hand up.

She took it, "I'm an accident waiting to happen," she smiled as she straightened, letting go of his hand and brushing dust from her jeans. "But look!" she grinned, gesturing to the now half exposed doorway. "The way upstairs."

"It would be you who found their way into the clock tower," he grinned fondly.

"Why?" she asked, making her way onto the landing, and stepping up the first stair. "Was it lost before?"

"It was, actually," he told her, following her casually, the cane more for show than for actual purpose as they walked up the stairs, Belle's curiosity overflowing.

Belle hadn't been able to see through the dirty windows when she and David had been clambering up on the ledge earlier, but now she peered into an almost empty room. There were a couple of chairs, and a table, with a chess game half played on it. She cocked her head at it, interested. As she stepped farther into the room, she noticed there was another door. She went to it almost immediately, but it was bolted shut. She looked to Rumpelstiltskin, gesturing at it.

"Best not, my dear," he said easily, leaning away.

Belle's curiosity was ignited immediately. "What's up there?"

"Absolutely nothing at all interesting," he told her, his voice edgy, though he tried to mask it. Something terribly interesting then, she thought to herself.

Her gaze flickered from the door to Rumpelstiltskin and back again, wondering if she should press her luck. When she met his eyes again, she decided against it. His answer would be no.

Sighing, she decided later that when she borrowed David's tool box that she would try and get it open by herself. She went to the chess board instead, eyeing the pieces with fondness. "Do you play?" she asked him. "I remember you had a set at Dark Castle. I always wanted to ask if we could have a match."

"Why didn't you?" he asked, stepping closer.

She took a seat in one of the mismatched chairs, small and wooden. "I planned on it. You just always were busy, or very tired," she smiled warmly at the memory of their contented, sunlit afternoons of spinning and tea.

"Well then, let's see how well you play," he grinned impishly, taking a seat in the red high backed chair.

"Should we continue their game?" she asked, gesturing to the board as it was. It had barely been started, and she was missing two pawns and a rook. He was only missing a knight. He nodded his consent, studying the board, leaning his cane against one of the arm rests of his chair. "And no cheating," she added, eyeing him pointedly.

"I wouldn't dream of it, dearest," his gaze didn't leave the board, but his smile was unmistakably mischievous.

~: Mary Margret :~

"Hey," Ashley smiled at her as they happened to enter Granny's Diner together.

"Hi Ashley!" Mary Margret beamed.

They sat at the bar together, "You seem happy," Ashley pointed out, putting down a plastic bag in the seat next to her.

"Yes," Mary Margret smiled brightly, thinking of David, "How are you? Where is Alexandria?"

"I got a babysitter," Ashley smiled slightly, "I needed to go shopping for something to wear to this Charity event, and Jack's older sister offered to babysit for a while. She needs the money for a dress."

"Jack as in Jack from my class?" Mary Margret wondered, tilting her head.

"Yep," Ashley confirmed, her blonde curls bouncing around her pretty face, "And I can always help a girl with a few extra dollars to buy a dress."

"A dress for the Spring Queen Charity Ball?" Mary Margret wondered. More and more people seemed to be going to this thing this year. She was surprised by it all. How fast everyone grew up.

"Yep. I just picked mine up," she gestured to the plastic bag, "It's not much, but I think I can alter it."

"You always were a pretty good seamstress," Mary Margret remembered with admiration.

"Thanks," Ashley beamed, "Hey, if you need any help with your campaign I'd be so happy to help. I'm really good with designing posters and stuff."

"Posters?" Mary Margret made a face.

"You know, for your campaign to be Spring Queen?" Ashley said as though this were obvious to her.

"What?" blinked Mary Margret, completely confused.

"Yeah, Ruby was telling me all about it earlier," Ashley gestured to Ruby, who came over to them with a coffee pot.

"What's up?" Ruby wanted to know, leaning against the counter on the other side with her free hand.

"Ashley was saying that I'm running for Spring Queen?" Mary Margret made the sentence a question.

"Oh, right. Dang it, I was gonna let Emma tell you," Ruby said, both looking and sounding guilty.

Mary Margret tilted her head at her suspiciously, "What are you talking about?"

Ruby twisted her mouth, "You know how I've always said that you should run for Spring Queen?"

"Ruby, you didn't," Mary Margret said in horror.

"No, it was Emma's idea," Ruby explained quickly, gesturing at her to stay put with both the coffee pot and her free hand.

"Emma?" Mary Margret sat up, surprised.

Ruby nodded encouragingly, "Yeah, she said you deserve it, that it would help clear up your name."

"And I think you would make a perfect Spring Queen!" Ashley joined in.

"You guys, I can't-," Mary Margret tried.

"Seriously, Regina can get off her stupid throne for one night," Ruby stated rebelliously, hand on her hip.

Ashley put a hand on Mary Margret's shoulder, "Ruby's right, you totally deserve it."


"No buts. You are gonna be the best Spring Queen this town has seen in years," Ashley hugged her. Mary Margret felt staggered under the idea as Ashley giggled excitedly. She was still trying to process the sheer possibility.

"Guys I don't even have a dress yet," Mary Margret said truthfully, albeit a little abashed.

"Don't worry," Ruby told her, placing her hand over Mary Margret's.

"We've got it covered," Ashley smiled supportively.

The two conspirators high fived across the counter.

"Ruby!" Granny called from the back.

"Coming Granny," she shouted over her shoulder, and then turned to give them a small wave, "Bye guys."

"Bye," the two girls said in unison. "Oh, can you bring me a grilled cheese?" Mary Margret asked tentatively.

"Most def- you know what's weird?" Ruby said, pausing to look back at her, "You and Emma both love grilled cheese. And she puts cinnamon in her hot chocolate too."

"We are roommates," Mary Margret shrugged absently, before turning back to the task at hand, "Spring Queen?"

"Yes!" Ashley bubbled.

~: Rumpelstiltskin :~

How she was beating him he couldn't fathom. His eyebrow furrows were deepening with each of her moves. He had started off playing so confidently, his pieces practically waltzing around the chess board. Now she had just put him in check for the third time.

"Your move." Her voice was smug.

"I know," he grumbled from underneath his hand. He didn't know where to move his King. Any way he could move it, it would be in check a moment later. He moved it two spaces diagonally, his eyes darting to her face.

She moved her rook into position. "Check mate," she declared with a grin, folding her delicate hands in her lap.

"How-?" he studied the board, and found both the bishop and the rook cornering him. He looked to her face then.

"And you even cheated," her grin was growing as the glow from the dirty window made the room golden around her.

He threw her a scandalized look, "I did not-."

"You read my wishes," she smiled beatifically.

That made him pause, "What?"

"You read my wishes. Admit it," she leaned forward, her eyes bright and confident.

He stared back at her in admiration. She was good. Always had been, "How did you-?"

"Because I kept wishing for the opposite of what I wanted to happen," she explained easily, and then, for proof, he felt her wish. Wishes were his specialty. Normally desperation or loathing or fear made them loud, loud enough to be felt throughout the Enchanted Forest. That's when he would appear. However, they weren't a noise. They were a tug, a string inside him that he could unhook from himself, like he did with the person walking below wishing for a sandwich, and ignore, or he could connect with. He had perfected the art before, but ever since regaining his magic, he'd had been blown away by how much people wished for. They wanted everything, a new bike, a new car, a new house, a new boyfriend, a new phone, a new piece of gum. It was rather irritating. He drowned out a lot of them, his mind learning to sort them all again, though it was hard to drown out people who were desperate. Belle's wishes, on the other hand, were all connected to him, all of them drawn to him, even her very smallest wishes, wound together like golden thread. He kept them all, and now, as he sorted through the cords of them, found her exact game strategy. They had been quiet, discrete and he'd acted like he was king of the game. She was an excellent strategist. He was not playing poker with her.

He sat back, baffled, "And here you are accusing me of cheating."

"If you hadn't cheated I wouldn't have cheated," she pointed out with her finger, raising her eyebrows at him.

He grinned hugely, "Well, what a pair we are."

"You're mad I beat you at your own game?" she inquired aloud, smiling slightly.

"I was cheated out of my win," he reminded her.

"You are mad," her mouth twisted as that tell-tale crease in her forehead appeared.

"I'm not mad," he assured her with another smile, shaking his head slowly, "I'm defeated at my own game."

"How else am I supposed to keep up with you?" she demanded.

"Isabelle?" a voice from below interrupted his reply. It sounded like the old librarian. Rumpelstiltskin scowled in the general direction of the voice, wishing he would go away. He'd only had a half hour with her so far.

Belle stood up at the sound of her name being called, making to walk to the entrance of the staircase.

He grabbed her by her wrist, pulling her down on top of him. She gasped but he smothered her mouth with his to stifle it.

"What are you doing?" she gasped, breaking free. She wasn't angry though. No she was torn, torn between staying and going. Staying. He would make her stay.

"Claiming my victory," his smile was roguish, and it caught her breath.

"But I won," she reminded him a little too slowly.

He kissed her again, then, forcefully. We'll see about that, he thought as she inhaled sharply, hands around his neck. He chuckled when she broke away to breath, his mouth moving along her jaw line.

"Who won?" he asked again in her ear, his smile confident.

"I did," her voice was trembling.

Determined. He'd always liked to fight with her. Especially one where he didn't have to play fair. His lips continued their way down her neck and she clung to him, shaking gently.

"Who won?" he asked once more, pausing at the nape of her neck.


He chuckled breathily, looking to meet her blue eyes again. He liked her wish now as she leaned in to kiss him. Sadly there was an old man heading up the stairs looking for his new assistant librarian. Just five more minutes?

"Until later," he whispered to her, mischief laced in his voice.

Her look of shock when he disappeared was enough to keep him laughing through the bitterness of having to leave. He watched as her body, which had been on top of his, now fell unceremoniously into the armchair they'd been occupying, legs dangling off one side as she sunk into the cushion.

"Cheater!" she accused him in outrage. "If I say you win will you come back?"

"Isabelle?" the old man asked, stepping around the arm chair to look at her in confusion. "Who are you talking to?"

She blushed to her roots, and he was sure that his neighbors could hear him laughing at her mortified expression.

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 22 of 37

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