Triple-dog-dare prompted: "the story behind the picture"


A Picture's Worth, or, One Thousand Words She Doesn't Understand

Gold/Belle


Rain sleets down on Storybrooke, a messy, bone-chilling mist of a storm that creeps through the cracks in any clothing and settles for the long haul. Regina is on her way to her office, the supple leather briefcase Henry picked out for her birthday tucked well within the protective confines of her vast black umbrella.

She passes Gold outside the bakery and smiles, because she knows he loathes the chill with a passion, and because she knows it will settle in his bad leg and keep him from meddling much further than his pawnshop door for at least the rest of the week.

"What brings you out in this weather?" she calls when she is close enough for him to hear her over the pattering of rain on their umbrellas. "I seem to remember you melt when wet, Mr. Gold."

Always, Gold can be counted on for a nasty argument in this sort of weather. Or a foul and irredeemable mood full of threats and sharp teeth, at the very least. But today, when she speaks, he glances up and out and seems surprised to find it raining at all.

"Hmm? Oh, no, mayor. You have me confused with the man behind the curtain. Pay no attention, and all that."

And easy as that, they pass. Both heading on about their business, not an angry word between them.

When Regina reaches her office, she calls Sidney Glass immediately. It takes three days, but the man does what he does best, returns to her with a folder full of glossy nine-by-elevens. Most of them are pedantic, maddening, idiotic photos of Gold paying a parking meter, speaking with a waitress at the diner, or collecting the rent from an untold number of different, half-frightened faces.

But there is one picture, stained at the edges with the shadows of leaves.

It is middling afternoon, the sun slanting down onto the pavement and creeping under the parked cars scattered between timed-out meters. Gold stands in the open doorway of his shop, keys forgotten in one limp hand, his cane hovering in midair.

Outside the shop, to one side, stands a woman. She is wearing a yellow dress. Polka dots. Entirely unsuited to a woman of her age. Her hair is slipping from a messy bun held in place with two ink pens. Her face is half turned from the camera, but her shoulders are cast back. She is unafraid, and she is smiling.

It takes another moment, but then, yes—Gold, too, is smiling. Dumbstruck and unguarded. He looks... different. Smaller, somehow, though he has never been especially tall; vulnerable in a way she had not thought the man capable.

Happy.

Regina closes the folder and buries it in a drawer.

There is a story behind this picture, but it is not one she understands.

"Shut up," she says again. "You walked into a fire. On purpose. For dramatic effect."

He glares at her. She wields a threatening washcloth.

He glares at his flask instead.

Belle stifles a smile and sets to work.