rodlox (rodlox) wrote,
rodlox
rodlox

OUAT: "The monster of Storybrooke" for Mirime_Vy

apologies; my computer was being a bastard last night & wouldn't let me on.



Title: The monster of Storybrooke.
To: mirime_vy .
From: Rodlox.
Medium: Fanfiction.
Crossposted to my LJ, to the Rumplestiltskin/Belle comm, and to my AO3.
Rating: PG-13.
Warnings: Ignores anything after Talahasse & The Crocodile & Child of the Moon.

Summary: In addition to wanting to improve things with Rumplestiltskin, Belle knows of many amazing things - and knows who the monsters are.
Author’s Note: When capitalized in mid-sentence, Here & There refer to, respectively, our world and Storybrooke & to the world of Belle and Rumplestiltskin and Regina.
Characters: Belle, Rumplestiltskin, Granny, Ruby, Hyde, Mina Harker, Actaeon, Henry Mills.
The Director’s Cut ending, I suspect, may change the whole story - so I kept it separate.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Location: Granny’s, Storybrooke:

“What in the good name of the gods is that?” Granny asked, looking hard at the page in Belle’s library book.

“Is that a no?” Belle asked, hoping it wasn’t.

“More a, I don’t think anyone in town’s *ever* had one of those, Here or There.” She shrugged. “What the hell, I’ll do it.”

The café’s bell rang for Mr. Gold’s arrival, who said, “Here, as you requested, Belle,” wondering if this was going to be the date she had mentioned in the library.

This brought a big smile to Belle’s face, and she excused herself from Granny, and took Mr. Gold’s hand and led him back to the car. “It’s a surprise,” Belle said when he inquired what was going on. “It’s at home,” she specified.

Once they arrived at his house, the car had barely been put into park before Belle had jumped out and was pulling Gold out as well.

“Calm down, Belle,” Mr. Gold urged. “Whatever’s the matter?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Belle said. “But I want you to see this,” as she pulled him through the house and to the back yard.

In the middle of the yard, Mr. Gold now had a telescope. One which Belle was peering into without relinquishing her hold on his hand.

“Belle?” Rumplestiltskin asked.

“It’s okay. It’s a loan - to me, not to you. Still, look, look!”

He looked. “Fascinating.”

“There’s no need to be patronizing.”

Mr. Gold straightened. “I’m not,” he said.

“I know you’ve seen the Moon hundreds, maybe millions of times. I was…”

“You were excited. Your first telescope. You wanted to share it - and as it happens, you did…with a man who has never seen anything through a telescope.”

“Really?” Belle asked, rich in skepticism.

“Truly,” Rumplestiltskin confirmed. “Under the Curse, I wasn’t that way inclined; before and after the Curse, I never really looked up.”

Belle’s jaw dropped, forming the very pretty smile half of laughter. “You mean - there’s something you don’t - I mean, there’s something I can te- show you!” Granted, what I learned of the night sky Over There would qualify Over Here as astrology… but I was already making headway in the Storybrooke Library’s astronomy section when Princess Abigail loaned me her telescope.

Mr. Gold smiled back. “I would like that very much.”

“Oh…I know you said you never looked at the Moon, but that doesn’t mean y- Were you ever involved in the exploration of space, the Moon, or…well, anywhere else?” Belle asked.

“Not in our world or anywhere else,” Mr. Gold said. I did hear a rumor involving Captain Jones, though.

** The Next Day:
Belle and Mr. Gold were out enjoying a quiet walk together, when -

“Flamingoes!” Belle exclaimed, and took a few steps toward the lawn ornament in question, only to stop. “Those aren’t flamingoes,” she said with audible disappointment.

“You’ve seen flamingoes, before, Belle?” Rumplestiltskin asked.

Belle nodded. “A Pygmy Flamingo when I was a little girl. And I had a Common Flamingo for a pet. And I was very good.”

“I don’t doubt that.”

She smiled at him. “Care for a game?”

“I’d love one. Unfortunately, the lawn ornament before us, it doesn’t lie about the stature of flamingoes on this world.

Belle looked at it with its too-skinny legs, the floppy neck, scrap-thin beak. “Oh.”

** A few hours later:
Sitting at home, Belle turned the pages steadily, her eyes beholding all manner of new things. Viperfish. Sixgill sharks. Whales. Giraffe beatles. Oxpeckers. Polecats. Black smokers. Seamounts. Abyssal… And then she saw something that was not new.

“I found it,” Belle said to Rumplestiltskin with relief as she brought over a book of birds. “The legs are a little short, but I think some were bred for that -- like the Pygmy I saw.”

“And extinct, I’m afraid,” Rumplestiltskin said of the picture Belle was pointing to: that of the Dodo.

Belle tried not to pout - for one, she had always been told it was unattractive; for another, it had probably…hopefully…happened before the Curse. “What are you watching?” she asked him, looking at the active television.

Game of Thrones. We may not get basic cable out here, but nobody can say Storybrooke lacks the more realistic channels.”

“Medievalism does not mean realism,” Belle said, narrowly avoiding an eye roll.

“I was referring to the politics and fauna, Belle,” Mr. Gold said. “Not to the level of technology.”

“Good to know,” Belle said, taking a seat beside him. “Ugh,” she said, watching the politicking onscreen.

“I’d have thought you’d be a SanSan fan,” Rumplestiltskin said. One half of the pair is onscreen right now.

“Most days, I am,” Belle said. “But I commiserate with Danaerys.”

“I see. Making the most of her straits, adaptable. Yes, I can certainly see whats to cheer for. But you’ve done better.”

Belle just looked at him and asked deadpan, “Which time?”

Touche. “Danaerys was loyal to her family, which married her off to their advantage.” And if I had a penny for every time that happened in my lifetime, or for every parent who thought I could bend marriages to their will… “You left your family by your own choice.”

To the advantage of the duchy and everyone in it, including my family. “And we both stayed,” Belle said.

“Aye, that you did,” Mr. Gold said. “Like I said, adaptable.” Have to be, to keep from going insane in the town sanitarium.

“We kept our word,” Belle said.

“By choice, in your case. The Khaleesi doesn’t really have that option anymore.”

“God!” Ruby said, coming in from the kitchen, bringing a big bowl of popcorn for everyone. “They’re fictional people! It’s a story - they aren’t real.”

“Thus sayeth little red riding hood,” he said under his breath.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ruby asked as she sat down.

“Have you been to the library as yet?”

“Not to read, no. Why?”

“No reason.”

“You’re evil,” Belle said quietly to him.

“Hellllo, he’s the devil,” Ruby said.

“Actually, he’s someone else,” Mr. Gold said.

“Who is the devil?” Belle asked.

“If I had to guess,” Red started to say.

“No, I mean who or what is the ‘devil’ the two of you are talking about?”

** That evening, at Granny’s:
This town has a faster gossip vine than any royal court back There, Belle knew. She had been reading one of her library books when young Henry Mills had come over and sat across from her and said, “I wish I’d known about you before,” Henry had said. “That way, I wouldn’t have thought I was the only one who wasn’t touched by the curse.”

“I was still cursed,” Belle said.

“But you weren’t - you didn’t think you were somebody else,” Henry said.

“That’s true. Unfortunately.“

“What? Unfortunately?”

“The spell touched neither of us, but I wish it hadn’t exempted me,” Belle said.

“What?” Henry asked. “Why? This way, you knew -”

“I spent those twenty-eight years alone and locked in a room. For all it mattered, everyone I knew was dead; even my guard in the asylum didn’t know who I was - and she had been nanny and tutor to me.”

“But you knew who you were.”

Belle nodded. “That many years is a good time to do some soul-searching and carry out self-discovery. Unfortunately, that’s what I had been doing before the curse was cast.” After the curse was cast, I needed to recover.

“I know - when you were my mom’s prisoner,” Henry said.

Before Belle could deny it, Regina said, “Before that, Henry.”

Henry got up and made his excuses, and left.

“Is this seat available?” Regina asked.

“It is, your Majesty,” Belle said. Granny’s is crowded this time of day. But I wouldn’t mind sharing my booth even if it weren’t.

Regina sat across from her. They sat in not uncomfortable silence until Ruby came by and asked -

“Don’t you have babies to claim?”

“That’s Rumplestiltskin,” Belle said. I’m not willfully blind. And then, I’m just glad we got it sorted out.

“Your burger’ll be ready in a minute,” Ruby told her. To Regina, “What do you want?”

Regina placed an order.

Ruby nodded and, seeing what Belle had been reading, “Wizard of Oz, huh? Good book?”

“Moderately,” Belle said.

Once Ruby had left to get Belle’s lunch, Regina confided, “I agree. The reality was far superior.”

Belle nodded. “Though the getting there was rather…”

“Hairy, I believe Graham would say.”

********************* IN BELLE’S HOMELAND:
Belle stepped out from a darkroom and shut the door behind her groggily, sitting down before she dozed off, then abruptly feeling awake. All a dream, she knew, but drew no comfort from that fact.

Dimly, she was aware that Baelfire was back. He was an adult again. Sometimes he was mature, at other times he was the same age he had been when he and his father had parted company.

This time, he was carrying something in his arms.

"Go to your grandmother," Baelfire said to the bundled infant, handing it to her.
Belle knew there was no point in ignoring this hallucination - she had tried it before, and the falseness would try harder at getting her attention and her interaction, or would go away, to be replaced by something more insistent. Nothing had violated her, nothing had touched her, nothing had even tripped her; nothing had kissed her or held her hand, either.

"I'm not a grandmother," Belle said.

"You're my father's wife," Bae said. "And a better grandmother than my own mother would have been."

No, Belle knew.

An unseen hand clapped twice, and once more, everything fell apart. Sometimes it literally crumbled. This time, like a few other instances, the people and things around Belle, they all tore apart into constituent birds or fishes or waters and stones. The room around Belle was as it naturally was and returned to in appearance between hallucination-generatings.

The clapper was seated a few yards from Belle. “You’re not Mr. Hyde,” Belle said to him, her jailer.

“He’s unreachable right now. I’m Actaeon, his replacement.”

It seemed true: Belle’s bowl of meager food was laying on the ground between him and her. Part of Mr. Hyde’s job was to make me realize the error of my ways. But instead of me turning against Rumplestiltskin, I convinced Mr. Hyde to help me - I’m certain of it. “Are you here to hound me as well?” Belle asked.

Actaeon seemed to find this immensely hilarious, for some reason which escaped Belle. Once he had finished laughing, he said, “As you wish.

“My father had styled himself The Forest King,” Actaeon said. “But when the Integrum ended and the Imperial Chair which had once housed such luminaries as Medea and Doctor Moreau was occupied once more, he was punished for his overreach. My family has been climbing out of that shadowed pit ever since.”

“Is that how you ended up here?” Belle asked.

“It is,” he said. “I grew up and achieved my aim of being an elite soldier, ready to rend the flesh of any who trespassed against my Empress. My family and those close to us, we were once again prosperous and recovered from my grandfather’s deed.” He hung his head, and Belle somehow knew in advance what came next would be a reversal of fortunes. “I misstepped,” Actaeon said. “For my sin, I was punished. Because my Empress has a merciful bone, I was exiled,” and he removed his hat, revealing a small pair of razor antlers rising from his scalp.

“I did something similar,” Belle said. From saving my family and those who depend on us, to taking the wrong action with Rumplestiltskin.

Actaeon nodded. “And now you are a prisoner, hostage to plannings and plots.”

“I’m minor royalty - I was always hostage to that.”

And then the wall came down. Or at least a chunk thereof.

Rather than let them debate or fight when the dust cleared, Regina zapped Actaeon with a bolt of magic.

Hyde whistled low, impressed. “He’ll be out for a while,” seeing the younger man limp on the ground once the air had slightly cleared.

Hearing the voice she had conversed with earlier in her captivity, “Mr. Hyde?” Belle asked, seeing who was standing beside Regina when the air had cleared some more.

I was a General once, but some things don’t carry over well, Hyde knew. “Tis me,” he agreed. “Lets just say your words had an impact.” I couldn’t free you from the Captain on my own - he may not be an Emperor God, but one must always have reinforcements when betraying Captain Hook.

“I won’t be returning you to Rumplestiltskin,” Regina said, interrupting them. “I consider it tantamount to leaving you here with Captain Jones.”

“Not that you’ll be leaving here,” they were informed. Once they had turned around, she said, “Treason again, General Hyde? Or are you about to claim my uncle’s hand made you do it?”

“I did what I did for a reason I expect you can’t grasp, Mina Frankenstein,” Hyde said. “Not that its your fault - neither your father and your teacher bothered with that aspect of your education.”

“Speak however you will of my father, but never impugn Lord Dracula,” Mina snarled.

Really rather preferring to take Belle and leave, Regina shot another bolt of magic, this time at Mina.

But the bolt struck her, flowing around her, and passed behind her to some point in the distance over the ocean. Mina smiled. “And I see the fine-tuning works on things besides water.” The same means which permit mosquitos to not be downed by the larger raindrops, is exapted here to have magic slide off with equal ease.

Hyde had mentioned Mina, as had Victor. Piecing together what she knew, Regina knew this young woman was the most feral and bloodthirsty of Captain Hook’s crew; also one of the inner circle, the upper echelon of power on the ship. And Regina noted, not afraid of me walking right up to her.

Regina thrust her hand into Mina’s chest.

Mina smiled.

Regina frowned.

“I had heard tell of that custom,” Mina said. “Fortunate for me that when Lord Dracula saved my life, he removed my heart.”

“Told you,” Hyde said to Regina. “Did you think I meant figuratively?”

“You have to let us go,” Belle said to Mina.

Shoving Regina back a few steps, “And why would I do that?” Mina asked Belle.

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“Hunger. A respect for Hook has kept me from dining upon you thus far; a similar result also stemmed from Hyde’s fealty. Now that you are all escaping, I have no reason to seek a meal elsewhere.”

“What do you want?” Belle asked.

Now it was Mina who frowned. “I just told you.”

“The only thing you ever want is food?”

“An appetite can be a powerful thing,” Mina said.

“That can’t be all,” Belle said, certain of it.

“There…is one thing,” Mina said. “I want to see my father. Him brought before me, I before him, I do not care. Nor do I care if he is in one piece or in many, so long as he is alive.”

“We can’t find him unless you let us get away,” Belle said.

“You have sway over your rescuers?” Mina asked.

“No. But I’m giving you my word.”

“I don’t know you, nor do I know of you.”

Thank you, father, for all the lessons in diplomatic matters I had to sit through. Belle said, “You say so. But you know I was the prisoner. A prisoner important enough to capture.”

“This is true,” Mina said. “Very well, the three of you may go. But know that if you fail to uphold your ends, I will feast upon those whom are most dear to each of you.”

“Thank you,” Belle said as she left.

Mina watched them go, watched them vanish into the forest this mighty ship was parked alongside.

“It will be a good feast,” Mina said to herself.

******************* IN STORYBROOKE:
Mr. Gold had turned in for the evening, tucked himself into bed, and turned out the lights. He had almost fallen asleep when he began to feel he wasn’t alone anymore. "Few would come by the home of Mr. Gold or of Rumplestiltskin at this hour. So who could it be?"

In answer, almost an echo, "Who could it be? Believe it or not, its just me," Belle said.

Flicking on his bedside lamp, Mr. Gold said, “Why hello there,” to Belle standing half-illuminated in the middle of his room. So this is what its like when I appeared at odd hours.

“Too dramatic?” Belle asked.

“Know your audience,” Rumplestiltskin said. “Do I know what prompted this?”

“I wanted to apologize.”

“At night?”

“I… I have an appointment in the morning,” Belle said.

“Very well then.”

“I was a monster,” Belle said.

While some of your ancestors were a bit questionable, that doesn’t make you one. “No. You’re not. Call it expert testimony.”

“I was selfish. Greedy. I never thought about the feelings or reasons of you or anyone else.”

“That doesn’t make you a monster.”

“I was as callous as Milah.”

Rumplestiltskin’s blood ran cold. “Watch your step, dearie.”

I deserved that, Belle told herself after invoking his late wife. “I didn’t think.”

“Which time?” he asked in the same voice.

“Yes,” Belle said.

“Ambiguity is a poor shield to hide behind.”

“I’m not hiding, not anymore. I was angry and didn’t think things through when I yelled at you when you were yelling at me to leave.”

Gone like quicksilver was the chill, now replaced with curiosity which might dart away with equal rapidity: “It happened. We’ve both had to move on.”

I can‘t move on, not with things standing like that. “It should never have happened. I was a -”

“Beast?” Mr. Gold teased, a smile on his face. “Monster?”

“Unforgivable,” Belle said.

“People get emotional, Belle,” Mr. Gold said calmly. “You’re human.”

“Not an excuse.”

Gold leaned forward, forearms on his knees. “Samsa mentioned having met you. Did you find him such a paragon?” Because, if she doesn’t mean him, then who else does she know who is old enough to have learned how to sidestep impulse? Certainly not I.

“He tries. And that’s the point.”

“The point of what, again? It *is* late.”

Belle stood there a moment, her lips moving silently, before asking, “Is there any way we can start over?”

“Certainly. Though, my reputation in this town wouldn’t scare you away?” Mr. Gold asked.

Though I don’t think you owned most of the planet Over There, “No more than it did the first time,” Belle said.

“Touching,” Rumplestiltskin said. “Might I sleep now?”

Belle nodded.

“Alone?”

She looked at him.

“There’s something else you need to say, I take it,” Mr. Gold said.

“Rumplestiltskin…” Belle said.

“Don’t say it,” he replied, recognizing the tone of voice which presaged the argument he hated.

“What? Don’t say what?”

“The ‘you’re a good man’ number you so enjoy wielding.”

“Because its true,” Belle said.

Rumplestiltskin got in her face. “You know, time was, you knew who you were dealing with.”

But Belle just smiled. “I do know exactly whom I’m dealing with. And exactly whom I kissed.”

Rumplestiltskin jerked back as though struck – or yanked back by a rope tied to a herd of horses.

“I’ll always love you,” Belle said. “Even in the asylum, I did.”

He wasn’t sure how to react to that. For the Dark One, faithfulness and loyalty were always and ever things to be rewarded. For Rumplestiltskin…

Belle stood very still. Life had taught her patience, and this struck her as the perfect occasion for it.

Eventually, he roared “I Am The Dark One!”

“I know,” Belle said.

He stared at her for an uncomfortable minute, during which the lights flickered, and Belle half expected to be hurled against a wall: Finally pushed him too far?

“What do you think, Belle? What is it that you believe I do? Back There, over Here, or anywhere, really. Here’s a hint: I don’t coddle.”

“I know,” Belle said again.

“I do what must be done,” Rumplestiltskin said.

“And everyone hates you for it. And you pretend it doesn’t bother you, and you’ve that for a long, long time.”

“Everyone,” Rumplestiltskin repeated, head tilted at that angle she knew he used to study lesser creatures like humans. Watching. Observing.

“I did for a long time,” Belle admitted. “I snapped at you and rationalized it as hating your cowardice.” And pretended it was only a matter of cowardice.

“Do go on.”

“I needed some time alone before I could face the truth. It did me some good.”

“What, being Regina’s prisoner?”

“And before that, Captain Jones’.”

Rumplestiltskin was quiet this time in what Belle suspected was for him dumbfounded. “I’m going to kill him,” he swore, then held up a finger. “No extracting promises, Belle. That’s my job. And as you’ve learned, you’re not very good at it.”

“Only with you,” Belle stated matter-of-factly.

Rumplestiltskin’s brows knit together, a rare occurance. “I beg your pardon?”

“I grant it,” Belle said.

“You toy… with the Dark One??”

Nobody‘s asked for my pardon since my days at my father‘s ducal court. “I’m simply replying. Nothing wrong with that.”

“Not wrong. But dangerous, yes; as anyone in town will attest,” Rumplestiltskin said.

“I’m sure they’re all cowed. But it doesn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t? Is that so?”

“That’s so,” she confirmed.

“And why, may tell, does it not matter?”

“Because you made a deal with me that you didn’t make with anyone else…in ever.”

The puckish smile returned. “I’ve made many one-of-a-kind deals. You weren’t and were unique in that regard.”

“I know.”

“I’m so pleased.”

Belle smiled.

But there are times when we cannot let sleeping dogs lie. “Perhaps you should not be hoping so heartily that I stop being a coward, love,” Rumplestiltskin said.

“There’s nothing wrong with bravery,” Belle said. Taking another risk, “Baelfire would be proud of you.”

“It is my fear which drives me to find him. I was never brave enough to admit that, in any likelihood, my son has been dead for at least a century. As would I.”

“No,” Belle said. “The Dark One lives forever.”

“Mmm, yes he does,” Rumplestiltskin said. “The Dark One is the power, the life, the… Zoso was the Dark One before I, and he was no more the first than I am.

“Were I brave, Belle, I’d have let another take the Dark One from me.”

“But that would kill you!” Belle objected.

“Who told you that?” Rumplestiltskin asked. Its not wrong, but it wasn’t me.

“The Wizard told me.”

“You met - when did you meet the Wizard?” Rumplestiltskin asked.

“Regina and I met him after she rescued me from Captain Jones,” Belle said.

Not only did I not know where she was, that she was held prisoner at all, Rumplestiltskin thought, but Belle was rescued by Regina in her hour of need.

Deciding to take his quiet as a sign the conversation was over, Belle said, “Sweet dreams, Rumplestiltskin,” and walked to the door.

“Aye, and you too, Belle,” Mr. Gold said.

** Midmorning, the next day:
Belle and Ruby were having a discussion when their conversation was cut short when they started to hear the lyrics of a song; lyrics which, based on her expression, rubbed Ruby the wrong way. So the two of them went over to the singer and Ruby told him, “Stop that.”

“Why?” he asked. “I like the song. But for you, friend of Belle, I’ll stop. What’s your name?”

“Ruby,” she said, not about to say ‘Red’ to a guy who’d been singing Werewolves of London. “You?”

“Lt. Actaeon, formerly of the Empress’ royal hound guards,” adding under his breath, “Before she had me edited and exiled.” To Belle, “I was given a message to present to you.”

“Okay,” Belle said.

Shaking his head like a deer rubbing off velvet, like a wolf ripping a deer, he said “My instructions are to bring you to her immediately after I give you the message.”

“So that wasn’t the message?”

“It was not.”

“Can it wait until after this party?” Belle asked.

Actaeon nodded.

“Edited?” Ruby asked him.

He said, “Like my parents, I was born a canine. In the guards, I earned human parts. Before she exiled me, my Empress added bits of deer.”

“Ow. Sounds like a nasty spell.”

“Surgery,” he corrected. “My world’s not yours.”

“I think the two of you will do fine without me hanging around,” Belle said.

“But -” they both objected.

“I’ll let you know when its time for the surprise,” Belle promised, and walked over to where Rumplestiltskin was enmeshed in an ethics discussion with an old blind woman. “Excuse me,” Belle said, “but could I borrow him a minute?”

“Go ahead, dear,” the old woman said, waving them off.

“Yes?” Mr. Gold asked Belle, fully attentive.

I would not be at all surprised if this violates the agreement we came to last night. “Ella came to the house a few days ago,” Belle said.

Not about to deny, “Ah. I see. And where is the little tyke?” Rumplestiltskin asked.

“Ella has it. And she’ll keep it.“

“Very well.”

Fully intending to return to that reply later, Belle said, “And she told me that the baby was the price of her attending a ball.”

He nodded. “And the baby was born here, and the presently-MIA Sheriff Swan returned the babe to Ella.”

“Ella told me that she recently learned that her baby was meant for me.”

“I hadn’t breathed a word of it,” Mr. Gold said. As I just said, there was my attempt to obtain the babe on its birth, but the aim there was to motivate Emma to step up to the plate.

“But why would you do that to begin with?” Belle asked.

Mr. Gold said, “Your exact words were ‘if I’m never to know another person’ - and I knew it was only a matter of time before you got lonely. I confess I did not anticipate you turning to me for conversation quite as quickly as you did.”

Belle wasn’t sure how to reply to that. She did realize that the ‘list of things to discuss later’ was growing ever-longer, but there was little choice. “In any event,“ Belle said, “I have relinquished any lingering claim anyone might have - call it my birthday present, that she would keep and raise the baby.”

“Birthday? I suppose that neatly explains why all the townspeople are in our house and yard today.”

Belle nodded.

“Your birthday? Are you sure?” Mr. Gold asked.

“I am,” Belle said. “It wasn’t easy, converting the calendar systems and their dates. But I think it is worth it. And it’s a good reason to have everyone over.” She ducked her head momentarily. “And one of those was a lie.”

No doubt the part about it not being easy for her. Still… “On the plus side, no fights have broken out.”

“Sheriff Nolan isn’t here,” Belle noticed.

“He and his wife are at the Sprat family grave,” Mr. Gold said. “I would say the visits to that plot of funerary ground, are one of the only two things left of their marriage.”

The other of two things, naturally, would be their marriage itself. “Speaking of which…” Belle said. “Where we’re concerned, I have found one thing,” Belle said, “a major way our world Here differs from our world There.”

“Is that so?” Rumplestiltskin asked.

“It is.”

“And what, may tell, is this distinction you’ve discovered?”

Belle smiled broadly. “The sheer number of variations to our story. Over There, it was only you and I.”

He opened his mouth, a silent ‘ah, I see.’

“I suppose you could say it was all brought on by a curiosity how they solved it.”

“No no, let me guess,” Rumplestiltskin said, one hand raised. “True love conquered all.”

“No,” Belle said.

“No??”

“No, sometimes they needed help from their friends.”

“Lucky them.”

Belle coughed. “I said, from their friends,” slightly louder.

Granny wheeled out a very large object, which swiftly ended any and all conversation in the room.

“Ooh, I definitely want one of that,” Ruby said. “What is it?”

“Emma had something like that,” Henry said. “Only hers had fewer torches on it.”

“It’s a birthday cake,” Belle said. “Happy birthday, Rumplestiltskin.”

“Thank you. Its lovely,” Mr. Gold said.
.===========.the end.
Tags: actaeon, belle, ficathon, gifts, hyde, mina harker, once upon a time, once upon a time fanfiction, ouat, regina, ruby, rumplestiltskin
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