A/N: This is for the Wenches Fairy Tale Challenge. The guidelines were to use a fairytale as a basis for a CSI NY fic. I chose the Mexican folk tale "La Reina Mora" ("The Gipsy Queen") as inspiration.
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Flack had been pretending to work for the past ten minutes. He knew Stella had noticed his sideway glances, and that she was probably wondering by now what it was that he wanted, and that it'd probably be best if he concentrated on the report in front of him, but he simply couldn't do it. It was a cozy Sunday evening, he was sitting at the table of her dining room, and they had spent the whole weekend… their "off-duty" weekend… going over all the evidence in their latest case in order to write the final report. There was a reason Flack hated working cases for over two weeks, and it had nothing to do with the amount of hours they spent on the trail of a killer, but with the amount of hours they had to spend doing paperwork, expense report included.
But right then and there, neither the report nor the three-time murderer they had finally collared, had his attention. No. What had caught his fancy was a large fruit bowl that sat in the middle of the table. Or rather, the four plump, vibrant oranges that lay there. He wasn't hungry, not really, but something about those oranges was getting to him. And now that Stella had noticed, it wasn't long before she'd start asking questions.
"You keep eyeing those oranges as if you expect the maidens to come out of them" she said, after a while.
Maidens? Had Stella said maidens? Who used such old-fashioned word these days? Besides, last time he checked, one got juice out of oranges, not females.
"Beg your pardon?" he asked, trying to make it look as though the oranges had been the farthest thing from his mind.
"Those", she said, pointing to the fruit bowl. "You keep looking at them like the prince who wanted to marry the most beautiful woman in the whole world…"
"And he found her inside an orange?"
"According to the fairy tale, he did"
"You're not really quoting a fairy tale to me now, are you?" he asked, not really certain that she wasn't pulling his leg. When he saw her nod in response, he decided to investigate the matter deeper. "And what fairy tale might that be? I've heard of ogres and beanstalks, and girls with hoods and princesses who were clumsy around needles and even a chick who had issues with apples. But I've never heard of oranges and maidens before. You sure you got your facts straight, Detective?"
Stella smiled at his checklist. She hadn't expected him to know about that particular fairy tale; she wouldn't have heard of it herself had it not been for the Mexican cleaning lady that came once a week to one of her foster homes. Señora Alicia loved telling the kids in the house all sorts of stories from her homeland, folk tales and legends and fairy tales, keeping alive the rich oral tradition of her people, and Stella had fallen in love with the story of "The Gipsy Queen".
"Trust me, I do. And it has all the elements of a good romance fairy tale, too."
"Lemme guess. Dashing handsome prince, most probably sole heir to his kingdom, in search for his bride?"
Stella couldn't help but smile. Sitting there, dressed casually in jeans and a dress shirt, five o'clock shadow running all the way down to his neck, and sparkling blue eyes focused solely on her, Don Flack looked every bit the prince part.
"Liked fairy tales much, didn't you?"
Flack shrugged it off. "Grew up with three older sisters… didn't have much say in what kind of stories got told at bed time or on road trips."
"Bet the prince always had black hair and blue eyes…"
"Casting the prince part wasn't a problem. It was the princess' bit that was hard to settle… my sisters come in all sorts of coloring combinations… Eileen and Deidre both have blue eyes, but Dee has reddish hair, the same color as Bridget, except Bibi has green eyes…"
"What color hair does Eileen have?" Stella asked, curious. She's never heard so much information on the Flacks before.
"Black like me. Leen is the oldest, I'm the youngest and we're the only ones that actually look related. We take after my dad. Bibi and Dee also look very similar; except for the eye color… they took after Mom…"
Stella noticed the usage of the past tense and had to resist the urge of putting her hand on top of his and lightly squeezing it. Flack seemed lost in his memories, and she allowed him a moment of intimate remembrances, busing herself with adding up the figures in their expense report.
It didn't take Flack long to come back from his trip down memory lane.
"Please don't tell me this is where the whole Minute Maid thing comes from…"
Stella laughed heartily and he joined her. The chances they had to laugh were few and far apart, and truth be told, Flack loved to hear her laugh. She had been through so much, one would expect her to be sour and grumpy, but her smile still held the ability to light up a whole room and warm up his heart in ways few people did. Flack would be the first to admit he had a slightly-more-than-mild crush on the Greek detective sitting across from him, and he liked to think she had one on him as well, or at the very least, that she found him attractive and his companion desirable enough. So what if they never actually acted on it? Innocent flirting never hurt anyone, did it? Quite the opposite, he liked the way it kept him on his feet and how it made him look forward to working with her… so what if he had had to work on his weekend off? He had spent it with her, in her place, not exactly in the sense minds with a permanent zip code in the gutter would love to envision, but that was enough for him right then and there.
"So…" he said after their laughter had died down, "Prince goes out in search of his bride… and?"
"And he stopped to drink by a lake and he saw the reflection of three tasty-looking oranges and cut them down. When he cut the first one in half, a beautiful maiden came out of it…"
"Did she ask for something to drink?" he asked, mischievous smirk on his face.
"Actually, no. She asked him for a piece of bread. And since he wasn't carrying any, she went back into her orange. Then he decided to cut open the second orange…"
"Maiden number two in there? Same request? Same results?" he prompted her. He'd heard enough of those types of tales to know how things worked.
"Pretty much, yes. Except maid number two was even prettier than maid number one. So he assumed, correctly if I may add, that orange number three had inside an even more beautiful maid and he began pondering what to do…"
"I'm betting no chance of a French boulangerie or a Chinese coffee shop anywhere nearby, huh?"
Stella gave him a pointed look that clearly meant he'd better keep quiet or else, so he made a gesture that he was going to behave and keep his mouth shut, allowing her to continue.
"NO… but a gipsy happened to be driving his cart on the nearby road, and the prince intercepted him, offering to buy whatever bread he had with him. The gipsy was curious as to what the prince was doing, so he hung around and watched as he cut the third orange in half."
"Even more beautiful girl came out?" he asked and she nodded. "Asked for bread as well?" Stella nodded once again. "What did she do after he'd given it to her?"
"She told him that she was now his and he could do as he pleased with her…" Flack blinked and his eyes grew darker for a second, and Stella blushed a bit, but neither one of them said anything about it.
"Did he ask her to marry him?" Flack asked, his voice slightly hoarser. Fairy tales, oranges, maidens and bread be all damned, he could feel a familiar tingling in his spine and Stella better hurry up and finish the story without much description of the first kiss or he'd have to seriously restrain himself from following suit.
"He did, but you see… the maiden was naked and neither the prince nor the gipsy had anything that she could wear, so the prince asked the gipsy to look after the maiden while he went and brought some garments for her..." Stella's speech had increased its speed, partly because she felt the imperious need to be over with the story and partly because she hoped that by doing so she wouldn't blush as much. It wasn't as if they had never talked about relationships or sex before, but somehow tonight seemed different, as if the fairy tale was about them, even if it actually wasn't. Stella hoped her narrative made more sense than her own train of thoughts.
"If there was ever a cue for the antagonist to show up…" Flack murmured.
"What?" Stella asked, momentarily confused.
"Nothing… just that it seemed like the right moment for the witch, or the stepmother, or the jealous princess, or whoever wants the prince to herself to show up and wreck havoc with their happiness…"
"Well, yes. Inside the cart was the gypsy's daughter, who looked outside just in time to see the prince riding away and fell in love with him. When his father told her the whole story, she decided to take the place of the maiden. Offering to comb her hair, she stuck a pin in her head and transformed the maiden into a dove. She then undressed and stood by her father, waiting for the prince's return."
"Don't tell me the moron didn't notice anything!" Flack asked, incredulously. He'd always hated how stupid princes were usually depicted. And not noticing the switch in women was definitively stupid. Not that wanting to marry with maidens that came out of oranges solely because of their beauty was a bright move, either. True love had nothing to do with looks, but with how your heart seemed to warm when you were near the person you loved… pretty much the way he felt whenever he spent time with Stella.
"He did notice that her skin was darker, but she told him that it had been the sun burning her skin and he bought it…"
"Idiot…" Flack murmured. "Please tell me they didn't actually live happily ever after!"
"Not really. And the maiden turned dove sensed it, for every day she flew into their garden and asked the gardener if the prince was doing fine, which, by the way, he wasn't. After she'd done this for a couple of months, the gardener told the prince about the inquiring dove and the prince asked him to capture the dove and bring it to him. The gardener did as told and soon the prince met the dove and he fell in love with it. He took the dove in his hands and stroked its head…"
"Where he found the pin, which he removed and the dove transformed back into the maiden from the orange who told him everything and the prince was so angry he got rid of the gypsy and married the maiden and they lived happily ever after…" Flack recited, rather monotonously.
"I thought you didn't know this particular fairy tale…" Stella commented, feeling as though she'd wasted his time and hers.
"I didn't. It's just that the ending is a bit predictable. A lot predictable. Good beats bad, true love prevails, virtue is rewarded and evil is punished…" Flack sighed. "Too bad twenty-first century New York City isn't that much like fairy tales…" he added with a wishful tone in his voice, before grabbing the expense report again.
"Maybe it's not a fairy tale, but we adhere to the same principles" Stella said, emphatically.
"What do you mean?" he asked, curious.
"Well… take us and this case, for example. We're the good guys, right? And we managed to beat the bad guy, right?"
"His evil is going to be punished; therefore, our patience and perseverance was rewarded in the end" she explained, perfectly, and painfully, aware that she'd left out the part of the true love.
She looked up at Flack, only to find him looking at her intensely, his blue eyes almost piercing her, and she quickly dropped her sight to the report in front of her.
"I'm thirsty, would you like something?" she asked, wanting to divert his attention.
Flack stood up before she did. "Stay there. I'll bring it to you. What would you like?"
"Soda would be fine" she murmured, feeling embarrassed once more. It was her place, and yet he was the one rummaging through the cabinets of her kitchen. She was about to call him and ask if everything was okay when she saw him coming back, and quickly went back to the report in an attempt to avoid looking at him.
Flack stood behind her, placing the soda on the table, next to her hand. But he didn't move back. Instead, he pulled the fruit bowl towards them, until it was sitting right in front of Stella, and he kneeled behind her, so his face was right next to hers, his arms still surrounding her.
"If you and I are this fairy tale", he said, his warm breath blowing softly on her ear, "why do you think there's a fourth orange in the bowl?"
"I don't know" Stella's voice was barely above a whisper, her arms covered in goosebumps, her throat dry as million different thoughts ran amuck inside her head. She barely restrained herself from yelping when she felt Flack twirling her chair so she was now sitting sideways, and she couldn't help the shiver when he placed himself right in front of her.
"The prince, that fool, chose to marry the girl in the third orange because he was sure she was the most beautiful one of them all."
Flack took the fourth orange in his hand, gently caressing it before bringing it slowly to his lips. "Lucky me, he was unaware of a fourth orange…"
"A fourth orange?" she breathed, as Flack languorously rubbed the fruit against her cheek. She halfway closed her eyes, giving in to the sensations, and sighed.
"The one holding the most beautiful maiden of them all… the one that looks slightly like a gypsy, but is really a queen…" Flack's voice was but a murmur, but his words rang loud in her ears, loud enough for her to hear them over the thunderous beating of her heart.
Stella's eyes flew open when she realized Flack no longer held an orange, but something entirely different, against her face. She looked at him, straight into his eyes, seemingly for the first time, and leaned forward to meet his lips halfway.
"True love prevails" Flack murmured in between their fourth and fifth kiss, and Stella responded by opening her mouth underneath his. Neither one of them seemed to remember the orange that lay discarded on the table.
Nor the loaf of bread that Flack had brought from the kitchen.
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A/N: If you aren't too comatose after this heaping serving of unadulterated sugary stuff, I'd really like to know what you think of this. Have any of your heard this story before? You can find this and other Mexican fairy tales at triple w, g-world dot org slash magictales.