Continuing Tales

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 24 of 37

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Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

~: Henry :~

He left early enough on his bike to get to Granny's Diner before school, posting spare flyers on posts when he had to wait to cross the street. This was great!

Reinstalling Miss Blanchard as Queen- brilliant! Even if Emma didn't believe him, she was helping to break the curse, he was sure of it! Henry grinned, looking at the clock tower as he waited for the light to turn red.

It was working still. He remembered being younger and sneaking into the library to try to find the lost entrance to the second story. He hadn't been able to. It had been too messy, and he hadn't gotten enough time. Ever since the clock had started to work again, though, he hadn't thought about it as more than just a good omen. It was a sign that things were moving, changing, that the curse was unraveling. It had already begun to unravel. Hansel and Gretel had been reunited with their family, for one. Ruby and Granny were getting along better. Ashley and Sean were getting married. Most importantly Rumpelstiltskin was back in action. If the Evil Queen couldn't see all this happening, then she was blind.

The light turned red, and he peddled to get to Granny's.

The diner was buzzing this morning. Henry had to shove his way into the place, looking for Belle. She had sent him a message, saying to come get the book. It'd been way too long since he'd read it, but apparently she had now made two copies, one she was storing at her place, and the other was hidden at Emma's. It was brilliant.

He saw Emma and Ruby, at the front of the crowd. He saw Mr. Gold- no, Rumpelstiltskin, sitting in the only available booth. Everyone else had been crammed into all the other nooks and crannies.

"What's going on?" Henry demanded, slinging his book bag off and sitting down across from him.

Rumpelstiltskin's gaze rest lightly on him, "It's a gathering."

He shoulda known he wasn't going to get a direct answer from him, "Yeah, but why?"

He merely pointed one long finger at the front where Ruby was trying to calm everyone down at the front.

"Hey!" Emma shouted, and everyone stopped talking, "Listen up!" Everyone was listening. Henry smiled proudly. That was his mom alright. Henry sat up on his knees, head resting on his hands on the back of the booth seat. Emma looked to Ruby, who stepped forward.

"Wow, you guys, I wasn't expecting this much of a turn out, but, um-," Ruby gathered herself, "We're here today because we're starting up a campaign, and I know the Mayor already has a lot of the advantage, but, we all know Mary Margret. We know how much she does for the community, and she's always quiet about it. She teaches your children, she volunteers her service to people in the hospital, people at the shelter, to you. All of you know Mary Margret's helped you in some way, been there for you when you needed a friend. So let's give back." Ruby stepped forward, her eyes bright and wide, "Let's get her elected. She deserves this chance, and we can give it to her!"

Cheers erupted from the crowd, leaving Henry buffeted backwards by the noise.

"Alright! I need people to divide up into sections! We need creative people, and people who are willing to-," Ruby went on, delegating jobs to people over the noise of the diner.

"Wow," Henry grinned, turning to plop down in front of Mr. Gold, "I knew Red was cool, but not this cool!"

"Such a speech for such a frivolous competition," Rumpelstiltskin shook his head, though he looked pleased. "I've heard kings give poorer to go into battle."

"What's war like?" Henry turned to face him.

Rumpelstiltskin's eyes darkened, "Not something to discuss with you, princeling."

Henry wasn't going to let that faze him. "You fought in the Ogre Wars. Were they really all that terrible?"

"Henry! You made it!" Belle interrupted, leaving Henry's question unanswered. She smiled warmly at Rumpelstiltskin.

"Hey, Belle," Henry greeted her, sitting up on his knees to lean towards her more, "Do you have my book?"

"I surely do! Let me retrieve it," she grinned, and then turned back to look at Rumpelstiltskin, "Is there anything you want to drink?"

He was standing though, grabbing his cane. He wasn't looking at her. "I was leaving," he grumbled as he shouldered past her.

"Oh," her voice was sorrowful, though Henry watched his hand brush along her arm as he left. Adults were weird.

"He's just making sure the Queen doesn't find out," Henry told her when her gaze followed him out of the diner.

"Find out about what?" Emma inquired, hands on hips as she stepped up to the booth next to Belle.

Henry tried to invent, "Find out about -," he stuttered, failing to think of anything.

"About Mary Margret entering the contest," Belle inserted quickly.

"Yeah…" Emma looked at her, and Henry knew that she could tell that Belle was lying to her, but she let it drop. "Pretty intense speech, right?" she nodded at them.

"Yes, yes it was," Belle agreed with surprised fervor.

"Red is so cool!" Henry declared with a broad grin.

Emma bobbed her head in agreement, before saying, "It's just for a stupid ball, though. I feel like I'm back in high school."

Henry couldn't believe what she was saying, "It's not just some stupid ball, Emma!" he exclaimed, sitting up on his knees again. "This is serious! It could set everything in motion for Operation: Cobra!" He threw his hands up in the air.

"How so Kid?" Emma wanted to know.

"If Mary Margret beats the Mayor, then that means that she'll be in charge of all the charitable committees that Storybrooke has, and on the City Council," Henry grinned. Mary Margret and Emma (because she was the town's sheriff) on the City Council. It was going to be hard to overthrow that kind of team, even for the Evil Queen. "Oh, and she'll be in charge of next year's ball," he added flippantly.

"What? Whoa, why does winning this crown put her on City Council?" Emma demanded, leaning in to hear Henry's response.

"It's kind of like an election, to see who the nicest person is, because it means that they're thinking about everyone's needs," Henry explained to her.

"And you're telling me that Regina has won this for how many years?" Emma wanted to know, her voice dripping with sarcastic incredulity.

"I know, right? So if Mary Margret wins-," Henry continued.

"You mean when Mary Margret wins," Ruby inserted, coming up from behind.

"Right, when Mary Margret wins," Henry grinned, "she'll have a say on stuff that happens in town. She can help with the budgets, and kind of take away some of the power Regina has." Too much power for the Evil Queen's liking. He couldn't wait.

Emma looked somewhat abashed, folding her arms, "Geez, I had no idea we were attacking her so directly."

"Yep," Ruby grinned wolfishly, "so get your as- butt, in gear, Sheriff, because we're gonna need all the help we can get," and she slapped Emma on the bum to prove her point, before stalking away into the crowd with a whoop.

Emma turned to glare in disbelief after her. Henry hid a giggle behind his hand.

"I'll be back with the book," Belle said, patting the table in front of him, wisely excusing herself.

"And can I have a hot chocolate?" Henry called after her. Belle nodded before she was elbowed out of view.

"Shouldn't you be getting to school?" Emma wanted to know, and Henry smiled sheepishly.

"Not for another seven minutes," he said through his smile. Emma narrowed her eyes, trying to keep her mouth from smiling, so Henry smiled wider, hoping to encourage her nicer course of action – letting him stay until he got his book back.

"Emma, I need your help!" Ruby called over the hullabaloo. "You're in charge of the-!"

"In charge of the what?" Emma shouted back.

"Just get over here!" Ruby commanded.

Emma rolled her eyes, before looking back at Henry, whose smile got even wider. "You. Go to school. Mary Margret's nice- it doesn't mean you get to skip, ok?"

"I wasn't going to skip!" Henry countered.

"Yeah, but you skip all the time!" Emma shouted as she began to leave him. Henry made a face, tilting his head back and forth. It was true, he skipped school a lot. But who needed to learn how to spell "majorette" and "curmudgeon" when he could be fighting on troll bridges and battling ogres in less than a year?

"This is crazy!" he heard Emma say to Belle as they switched places.

"Taking down a dictatorship always is," Belle smiled to Henry, handing Henry his book, which he promptly stuffed in his bag. She leaned towards him, "Hey. I need to know how we can help Emma break the curse."

"I'm not sure- I mean, I know, but it's kinda vague," Henry said, making a face.

"As it should be. Aren't all curses?" she smiled teasingly.

"Could you talk to Rumpelstiltskin about it?" Henry suggested.

Belle shook her head automatically, "No- he won't say anything he doesn't want to."

"Doesn't he want to break the curse?" Henry frowned in confusion. He'd said as much back at the cabin.

Belle shrugged, "I'm not sure. I think he does, but right now he's kind of happy," her smile grew at her last words.

"Well, who can blame him?" Henry wondered in all honesty.

Belle laughed happily, "There was something-." She leaned in closer, her blue eyes keen, "I found my way to the second story of the library yesterday."

Henry blinked in surprise, and then gasped, "You did?"

She nodded, continuing, with a conspiratorial smile on her face, "and there was another door, but it was locked tight. Rumpelstiltskin wouldn't open it. He told me to leave it alone."

His curiosity was immediately peaked. "What do you think is up there?" he wondered.

"I don't know, but it might be important," Belle said furtively.

"I've been looking for a way into that clock tower for ages. I wanted to start the clock again, but then I realized Emma had to come back first, and ever since then it's been working. I never thought that there might be something else," he told her truthfully.

Belle nodded in acknowledgement. "We should go find out."

"When?" Henry asked eagerly.

Belle bit her lip, "I don't know. I'm really busy."

Henry made an annoyed face, "That's a grown up excuse for I don't want to."

"No, that's a grown up truth for I wish I could but I don't know when," Belle smiled, putting her hands on her hips, "Look, I've got driving lessons tonight, but maybe tomorrow night?"

"Driving lessons?" Henry asked in surprise.

"Yep!" she smiled proudly.

Henry didn't get it. "Why do you need to learn how to drive?"

"Why is everyone questioning my motives?" Belle said with an exasperated smile, throwing her hands theatrically up.

"Because at this rate we'll only be here a few more months," Henry beamed.

"What?" Belle wondered, a crease in her brow.

"You know, if we keep restoring memories and reuniting people, then the curse should be broken soon. I think," Henry told her.

"Well, until then, I am going to learn to drive, and that's that," Belle said, and Henry was surprised that she wasn't as excited as he thought she'd be. Didn't she want to be a princess again? She snapped to attention, focusing on Henry. "And shouldn't you be getting to school?"

Henry glanced at the clock, "Aw, shoot, I'm late!" he yelped, flinging his now much heavier book bag on his back and shoving his way to the door.

"See you later, Henry!" Belle called to him.

"Bye Belle!" he shouted back, lifting a hand so she could see him wave, before squeezing out of the door and down the diner's steps.

~: David :~

David had parked his car, and was waiting to cross the street. He planned on going to Granny's to get coffee before work, going about his usual morning routine a little later than usual today. Mary Margret had said she wouldn't be there due to the fact that she had a teacher's meeting with the other fourth grade teachers. It happened about once a month, sometimes twice, but this was the third time this month. He wondered what they were talking about that took up so much time in the mornings? He was sad he was going to miss her again, especially during their morning ritual. He hoped he'd see her around sometime today. No. He'd make sure he'd see her sometime today.

The ball was next Wednesday, a week away. He knew because he was counting down the days until he was going to ask Mary Margret if they could be official. The ball was already doing that, but he couldn't wait to ask her- he had it all planned, all planned for her. Because she deserved a night with a happy ending.

"Hi David!" Henry yelled as he peddled by on the sidewalk.

"Hey Kid! Shouldn't you be heading to school?" David wondered after him, cupping a hand to his face.

"Yeah!" Henry called over his shoulder, before concentrating on forward motion.

David shook his head at the kid with a smile, and made to cross the street.

Something bright caught his eye. He turned to see the lamppost with a flyer on it.

"Mary Margret Blanchard for Spring Queen!" read the caption. There she was, a beautiful smile on her face, a smile that lit her green eyes. He took the flyer off the lamppost, getting a closer look at what it said, before it hit him.

He blinked in astonishment. Mary Margret was running for Spring Queen? What did that mean, exactly? Had she been planning on doing this? Did she need help with it?

She would need help. It sounded like a large project to him. He could help her. Apparently the Mayor had been Spring Queen for years now. He could see to it that Mary Margret was chosen this year. He would see to it.

Mary Margret deserved it. She deserved it after every minute of torment he'd caused her, because of Kathryn, because of their affair, because of her arrest, because of everything. She deserved it, more than anyone. To prove to everyone that she was the most wonderful, the most right person in all the land.

He smiled slowly, brightly, reaching into his pocket for his cell phone.

~: Rumpelstiltskin :~

He had been looking forward to visiting her during her lunch break.

That was, until he discovered that she was asleep.

She was curled up in the red armchair he'd occupied just yesterday when she'd beaten him at chess, a paperback book barely dangling from her hand. She was so tired from working until one in the morning, and then getting up at 5:40 to get to Granny's to open up. He didn't know how she was going to manage it. It was good that she had night shifts off on Sundays and Mondays, and on Fridays and Saturdays she had the morning shift off. Not to mention that the library was closed on Sundays. She would be able to catch up on sleep at those times if nothing else. But Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays were going to be hard on her.

She'd cleaned the windows. The sun now radiated into the room, making it warm, shining on her face, illuminating her skin. There were dark rings under her eyes. While he was unhappy with them, he knew Belle wouldn't have it any other way. She was doing things she loved to do, loved to learn, to be busy. He was not going to take that from her, even if she slept through lunch breaks.

The book was about to slip- it would wake her if it fell. He took it from her fingers before it could, setting it on the rickety table next to her.

It'd been silly for him to come. He had known she was asleep, but before she'd drifted off, she had wished very strongly, very purposefully, that he would come. He'd only been a minute too late. It was well enough. She would have been dropping off while they spoke, and he had a few errands to run in the meantime.

However, she would kill him if he left the book open on its spine. She'd gotten angry once at Dark Castle, he remembered with a snicker, about him leaving the books open all around. It damaged them, apparently. At first he hadn't bothered with her scolding, and then he had begun leaving books open everywhere, if only to have Belle storm around collecting them all and cradling them to her while he laughed behind curtains and through doorways. Finally she had barred him from the library, telling him that his own library was off limits if he didn't stop mistreating the treasures. Not that he couldn't have gotten around her, but it wouldn't have been quite as amusing anymore.

So, he conjured a bookmark, and shut the book over it, leaving her to her sleep.

He refrained from touching her. He knew she would wake, and despite how tempting it was, she needed this rest.

So he left her, just happy he could see that small smile on her face, even when she slept, and knowing that he would see her again in a few short hours. Well, he amended with a grimace, a few very agonizingly long hours.

Until then, he had business to attend to.

~: Mary Margret :~

"The nunnery agreed!" beamed Ashley, Alexandria strapped to her chest as they walked along the sidewalk, Mary Margret's examples of her perfect dress printed out in Ashley's free hand. "They said they'll give you their full support."

"Wow, um," Mary Margret said. It was thankfully almost the evening, and she was torn between thinking about how to go about her spelling test for class tomorrow and what to do for this campaign, which was spinning wildly out of hand. Henry today in class had told the entire class to tell their parents to vote for her as the Spring Queen. Ruby had begun working on a poster. Ashley was coming with her to find a dress. Leroy and company seemed to be all on board to posting and handing out flyers. And now the nuns were going to help.

To Mary Margret, though, it felt very high school-esque. She hadn't run for Prom Queen or Homecoming Queen for this reason- that and she didn't know if she could pull it off. Not that being Spring Queen meant that she had to sit on floats, or anything, but it meant that next year if she won, which she wouldn't, she would have to be in charge of the Spring Queen Charity Ball council, and run the other charity events in town. Not to mention being on the City Council. The task in and of itself sounded terribly time consuming, and she didn't really have that much time to spare… but if it was for charity- she waved it off. She wasn't going to win anyways. Regina would win. She always won. And Mary Margret's name had been drug through the mud recently. A lot of mud.

"Would you quit worrying for a second, Mary Margret, and pay attention to more important things," Ashley demanded, grabbing Mary Margret's shoulder and forcing her to turn, almost bumping her into a window pane. "Like this."

The dress in the window was absolutely perfect. She gasped, pressing her hands to the glass as she stared at it. It had a sweetheart neckline, falling all the way to the ground, cascading a little through the back, ruffles making it either a very eccentric wedding dress or a perfect ball gown.

"Let's go see if it comes in your size," Ashley grinned, peeling Mary Margret away from the glass window and pulling her inside.

~: Belle :~

Why was the time passing by more slowly? She didn't understand it. She swore that ten minutes had gone by at least, but the clock only read four minutes. It was 6:09, and Belle had had a long day of cleaning. She'd finally cleared off most of the shelves, had delegated which shelves were to be fiction, and which were to be nonfiction. Now, after dusting, she had started on the As in the fiction section, and was beginning to figure out how the Dewey decimal system worked for the nonfiction.

The librarian was helpful, and he explained things to her politely when she asked. He did take naps often though, and she couldn't blame him. He was nearly 80.

She did have a problem with the receptionist though. A middle aged, single lady she was vain and liked to shirk work in whatever way she could. She had been hired to help the old librarian out. Instead she made more work. She often took smoking breaks.

Belle, trying to gain her friendship, had joined her the first time the receptionist had said she was going on one of these smoking breaks, wondering what smoking meant. Was she part dragon? The woman had offered her a cigarette, and Belle had thought she looked a little malicious when she lit the end of Belle's odd cylindrical wrapping.

Belle had coughed up a storm with her first puff.

The woman had laughed at her, telling her she was supposed to, "Inhale it, don't eat it!" Belle vowed never to taste another cigarette again, her stomach churning, nauseous. She hadn't been able to eat the lunch she'd packed from home.

She shouldn't judge the receptionist too harshly, but the woman kept leaving, and when she wasn't gone she was on the phone, and then when she wasn't on the phone, she was reading a novel with a cover that made Belle blush every time she saw it, which she left open face down when she wasn't reading it. She didn't like the fact that every time Belle passed by she either said, "That's not where that goes," or, "this is not how we do things around here." How did she know what they did around there, when she obviously did nothing? Leaving books open on their spines – Belle shuddered angrily.

Speaking of books- the book she had picked up earlier to read for a moment until Rumpelstiltskin came for lunch had been closed on the table next to her when she'd awakened, a delicate rose rested between its pages where she'd left off. She couldn't believe she'd missed him. She was furious with herself for falling asleep.

She had taken the rose, and put it in a cup of water, leaving it upstairs on the table.

Another stack of books down, organized. Another opportunity to glance at the clock. She sighed. It was 6:11.

On the upside, only 19 minutes until she got to see him.

"Isabelle?" It was the librarian, putting his jacket on. Belle turned to face him, "I'm closing up a little early today. You can leave if you want to."

Heaven sent! "Yes, thank you!" she beamed, and remembered the rose upstairs. "I'll be right down."

"I'm going to lock the doors behind me, alright?" he told her as she made for the stairs.

"Alright, goodnight!" she called to him.

She smelled the magic before she saw him, like after a thunderstorm, the air still crackling with electricity and the rain having left earth fresh- but there was something more chemical to it, darker, more sinister. Then again, he always had been sinister.

She felt her heart soar when she saw him, both hands on his cane, the low sunlight making his skin golden, watching the smile spread across his face ignited her own smile.

"What're you doing here?" she wanted to know, stepping onto the landing, and resisted the childlike urge to run right into his arms.

"We have a driving lesson, do we not?" he cocked his head to the side.

"Of course, I mean, we do but-." But she hadn't expected to find him here. She'd expected that she would have to hunt him down at his shop, or at his house. But here he was-

"Then let's go," he said, extending his hand to her. She understood immediately what he meant. He was going to take her by magic. She smiled at him, her eyes skeptical. He rolled his eyes, having read her emotion on her face with ease, knowing that she was worried he wouldn't actually take her to a car, but to somewhere else. He gestured forward with his hand again, "C'mon love, we only have forty seven minutes."

The endearment was enough, as he knew, to get her to come with him, wherever they went. She stepped forward, and took his outstretched hand.

The room was gone, and an instant later, they sparked into being before a parked car on an empty road that led to a large, empty parking lot.

"I was worried for a moment that we would end up elsewhere," Belle said, touching the high tech machine with her middle finger.

"I noticed," he raised his eyebrows at her, "Still don't trust me?"

"Not a wit," she told him evenly, and untruthfully. She trusted almost everything about him. "Can I have the keys?"

He dangled them before her momentarily, before dropping them into her cupped hands.

Eagerly she jumped into the car as he walked around the front to the passenger side door.

She knew exactly what to do. She'd watched Emma do it. She stuck the key in the ignition, and turned it as Rumpelstiltskin sat down next to her, setting his cane in the back seat. The car revved to life, music playing as the radio hummed on.

His hand darted around her, and something clicked into place over her, a belt that held her to her seat. She looked over to meet his eyes. "Wouldn't want to cause unnecessary damage," he smiled quickly, kissing her temple before fastening his own belt around himself.

"Alright," she said, feeling the car rumbling underneath her and suddenly feel a little anxious. "What next?"

He took a deep breath, staring out of the windshield. "Gods have mercy."

He then explained the mechanics of driving, the two pedals, the four main gears that she could switch to, the way to use the three mirrors to see behind her. She listened intently, keeping everything he said in mind, as she studied his face, listened the lilt in his voice, the deeper brogue when he was reinforcing a statement. She wouldn't mind listening to him forever.

After twelve minutes though, Belle realized something. "You're stalling."

"What?" he swiveled his head to look at her baffled.

"You're stalling!" she accused.

He made an unconvincingly denying face, "I am not."

"You are so!" she exclaimed in exasperation.

"Stalling happens with a stick shift- we're in an automatic-," he tried to start up on it.

"You're doing it again!" she cut him off, and then narrowed her eyes at him. "Are you really that nervous about my driving capabilities?"

"No," he said flatly, "I'm nervous that my magic and technology don't mix well."

Belle grinned determinedly, putting both of her hands on the steering wheel, "Excellent- you won't be able to tamper with the wheel or anything."

"Not excellent. I can't stop something from happening without it being explosive," he countered darkly.

She looked at him, confused, "But you put out all of those lights in town -."

"Yes, but that was merely stopping one route of power," he explained, "With a car it would have to be a lot more complicated."

"Nothing is going to happen," she assured him.

He snorted, "I bought this car for the particular purpose of you driving it."

"Well, won't you be miffed when there isn't a single scratch on it," she told him, holding her head high.

"Belle," he sighed, "these people in Storybrooke have memories on how to operate these vehicles, installed into their brain like they had been watching their parents do it, and then taking lessons. You've not had more than a handful of examples-."

She was tired of excuses. "I'm a fast learner," she said, putting the car in driving gear, and easing off the brake pedal until they were slowly moving into the road. The speed limit was 35. She accelerated slowly until they were moving at 34 down the road. She smiled confidently, staring straight ahead. When Rumpelstiltskin didn't say anything, she glanced over at him.

"Look at the road!" he scolded sharply.

She faced forwards again, both of her hands on the wheel as she looked out of the windshield and on her route towards the empty parking lot. She braked to a stop at the stop sign, where there was a four way intersection.

"How am I doing so far?" she asked as she looked from right, to left, to right again. She saw her road was clear, and continued forward.

"Very well." His voice was tight. He was anxious- she could feel it palpitate through the car. She twisted her mouth, and then realized she was annoyed. She was annoyed at him for not having more faith in her. She had listened, she understood the rules. Why was he still worrying?

"Well, we've made it to the parking lot. Now what?" she wanted to know, accidently letting how irritated she was show.

"We're going to practice turning."

It was a little bit harder to control, turning, but she learned how to turn as the car circled the parking lot, once, twice, before he told her to go in the opposite direction.

With every task he gave her, he became more at ease with her skill. She reversed her way around the parking lot without hitting the lamp posts. She parked, forwards, backwards, parallel. He began to conjure other cars, testing her abilities. They weren't real cars, she learned though. They were images, mirages, he called them, just helping her practice, teaching her to stay on her side of the road, to fear huge semi trucks that came her way. Finally she was confidently driving up and down the short road, pulling u-turns quickly, and heading into the parking lot to park in "narrow" spaces between image cars.

"Alright," he smiled when she looked to him for her next instructions, "Do it backwards, and then we'll be done."

Belle beamed, "Do I pass?"

He smirked at her, "Do it backwards."

"Fine," she smiled, and shifted gears, turning in her seat to look behind her. He turned the volume on the radio to distract her. He'd been doing it periodically.

"You cast a spell on me, spell on me," the radio sang at her, the upbeat rhythm fueling her movements instead of disabling her thinking.

She wove through the now image car filled parking lot to find the single parking space left.

"You hit me like the sky fell on me, fell on me."

She backed into it swiftly, until she judged she was perfectly in the lines and that she wasn't jutting out in the middle of the road.

"And I've decided you look well on me, well on me."

She put the car in park. "Do I pass?" she repeated over the music.

"So let's go somewhere no one else can see, you and me."

"You did well," he smirked.

"Turn the lights out now."

"I did well?" she rolled her eyes, turning the volume down, completely exasperated at this point, "I totally exceeded expectations! Admit it, you're impressed!"

"No," he said impassively, but something was there, dancing distantly in his eyes.

She could only fume, "Admit it! I passed!"

He cracked a smile at her fury, "You did well," he told her, the dancing finally surfacing, "Very well." He was trying to keep his lips from parting, still trying to hide his impish glee.

And she understood in the moment of silence where the song hummed, "I'm glad you came, I'm glad you came."

"You're trying to upset me on purpose!" she gasped, infuriated, wrenching around in her seat to face him more fully, eyes wide in shock, "You weren't worried at all!"

The smile became a full-fledged mocking grin that he wore all too often, "Ah, you caught that."

She was calculating it up in her head, adding fuel to the flames, "The fake stalling, the nervousness, everything! You made it a whole lot harder than it had to be!" she couldn't believe his impudence! He'd done all of that on purpose?

"I was surprised you didn't figure it out earlier," he said airily, before throwing her a pointed look, "If I had been this nervous, I wouldn't have agreed to this in the first place," he tilted his head at her, a familiar chortle trickling from his lips.

She felt her jaw drop, "You're absolutely terrible!" she turned away from him, folding her arms across her chest, tight mouthed and resolute.

"You're right," he nodded, trying to smother a laugh that reached his eyes as he leaned to look into her face, "I'm absolutely terrible."

"I'm not forgiving you," she warned him, keeping herself from smiling.

"Ah, ah," he said, holding up a finger and looking at his watch, "- I'm timing this."

She shook her head in disbelief, her curls bouncing around her face to see him still staring at his watch, timing to see how long it took until she forgave him. "Was the whole part about the technology made up too?" she wondered.

He raised his eyebrows as he peered at her, "Are you forgiving me yet?"

"No," she answered curtly, turning to look out of the windshield again, "I'm just asking a question."

He chuckled, "I'm not lying about the technology. Magic is another form of energy, while technology is normally used with electricity or gasoline. The energy doesn't mix well."

She looked at him through the side of her eyes, "I suppose that makes sense," she kept her traitorous lips under control, making certain that she wouldn't smile. They sat there in silence, while his chuckles waned and waxed by the moment. "What did you do today?" she wanted to know as the scent of magic caught her nose again.

"I was at the shop," he said without inflection.

"No, you did something today. The magic on you smells stronger than normal," she told him. It was almost metallic up close.

"I've merely been setting plans in motion," he stated simply, but the tone of his voice knew he'd sparked curiosity in her. He was waiting for her to ask, but she didn't want to play into his hands. But the curiosity was killing her. What plans? she wanted to know. She hadn't even known he had been planning- but of course he had been planning. He was Rumpelstiltskin.

"What plans?" she finally asked, trying not to sound curious and failing miserably.

He had her pegged, "Have you forgiven me yet?" he wanted to know.


He sighed as though depressed by the thought, "Then I'm afraid I can't tell you."

She gave an exasperated sigh, letting her arms unfold, "Fine, I forgive you."

"Alas, it's not that simple, my dear," he shook his head. She looked at him disbelievingly, and he cocked his head mischievously, "A kiss to seal the deal?"

She made a face, leaned over and kissed him square on the lips quickly, before pulling away, "Now will you tell me?"

He frowned falsely, as though considering her passionless kiss depressing, "I think true forgiveness requires a better kiss than that. That wasn't even heartfelt."

She smiled at him, rolling her eyes, before unbuckling the seatbelt and sliding closer to him across the car. She took his face in her hands, and closed the distance between them. She felt his eyelids close, and she deepened the kiss, moving more slowly than she could tell he wanted to. He grabbed her, pulling her closer to him, while she moved by his force, wrapped an arm around his head, and began to do what he had done to her yesterday in the library, kissing, probably much less expertly, along his jaw line, but it had the desired effect. She felt him shudder underneath her, and she smiled, pausing. She really was a quick learner.

"How about now?" she whispered in his ear.

"I think that will suffice," his voice quavered.

She sat back, scooting away, and folded her hands promptly in her lap as she stared at him, waiting for an explanation. "Will you tell me?"

He was catching his breath, but his smile turned wicked in a flash, "My my, look at the time." She glanced at the digital clock on the radio that was now humming, "I want to hold you high and steal your pain." "It's been exactly forty seven minutes, my dear."

Before she understood, before she could even breathe, he disappeared from before her. She felt herself falling, like she was in a bad dream, and then, without warning, she collapsed abruptly and haphazardly in a booth. A booth at Granny's Diner.

"Rumpelstiltskin, you cheat!" she cursed at him, straightening up, removing her leg from the table. There really was no forgiving him after this.

A few people turned to stare at her, and she ducked her head, standing dizzily.

"Hey, Isabelle, when did you get here?" Ruby wanted to know, bustling out from behind the counter, "Hurry up and get in uniform! We've got another meeting tonight, and people will be hungry."

Belle glowered at the ceiling, "Right."

Storybrooke's Tale of Beauty and the Beast

A Once Upon a Time Story
by Teddy's Twin

Part 24 of 37

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