The Brave Thing

Author's Note: This is my first Once Upon A Time fic and I hope you enjoy it. No lemons except in the last chapter but plenty of romance. Anyone who's read my other fics knows I'm a hopeful romantic. Anyway, it picks up where the episode 'Skin Deep' left off and tells what I think should be the continuing tale of Beauty and the Beast.

I've had a couple of people leave comments attempting to correct me on the color of Belle's eyes. As the episode was clearly based on Disney's Beauty and the Beast I went with the eye color of that character. I was a LOST fan for years I know what color Emilie de Ravin's eyes actually are.

My love is like a storybook story.
But it's as real as the feelings I feel;
it's as real as the feelings I feel.

"I thought, do the brave thing and bravery will follow," She'd said that to him once, the one time he asked her why she'd allowed herself to become his prisoner. She'd had so many things to talk about, things she asked him about, stories she wanted to hear, she'd been like light streaming through his windows. She'd made him live, become interested in the world rather than how he could bend it to his will.

He could remember every word she'd spoken to him. Even, or perhaps especially, when she'd called him a coward who'd turned his back on love, afraid to fight for it. Afraid to take what was offered. Worse, he could remember every word he'd spoken to her, the cruelty, the mockery, and he could hear the affection in his voice when he'd spoken to her. She'd heard it too, or she'd never have had the courage to kiss him, to grasp love with both hands and cling to it even in the face of his cruelty and cowardice.

And because she'd loved him, she'd paid the price. He could make himself the most hated man in the town, in the world even and still no one would ever hate him as much as he hated himself.

So he sat in a jail cell for punishing someone else when he wished someone would punish him. At least he'd gotten Belle's cup back. The sheriff regarded him thoughtfully. "Mr. Gold, you didn't have a cup when I left."

"No, I did not," Mr. Gold shook his head. "It had been stolen."

"But after the Mayor came in it's been returned?" The Sheriff regarded the man in the cell and shook her head. "As long as you don't break it so you can use the shards to slit your wrists."

"With this cup Sheriff Swan?" He shook his head. "No, I would rather die in prison than break this cup."

The evening passed with very little to show for it. Emma had indeed brought him a cone, and thoughtfully included a bowl in which he could place it if he wished to use the spoon to consume the treat. He smiled faintly, the Sheriff had courage, and she had heart, and brains but it would take more than that to outwit the queen.

"Tell me Sheriff," Rumplestiltskin looked at the pretty woman sitting behind the desk. "What is it you dislike about...the Mayor?"

"You mean apart from the fact that she's a psycho?" Emma rolled her eyes. "And she has my son and every say regarding when I get to see him? And she thrives on making everyone else miserable?"

"Besides that." He couldn't bring himself to put Belle's cup down, but he did look away from it so he could meet the Sheriff's gaze.

"She's a liar." Her voice was flat. "The worst kind. She lies with the truth. She makes my skin crawl."

"Ahh..." He smiled. "Very few have noticed Regina's ability to...misdirect, as it were."

"Don't notice or are too afraid to do anything about it?" Her voice was dry as dust.

"No, there are a great many brave people in this town, but most of them are too...unhappy to really realize where it comes from." The trickster smiled. "I'm not a nice man Sheriff, but I make no claim otherwise."

"Smile and smile and be a villain?" Emma tilted her head at him.

"If someone comes to me, I'm very clear on what is required to fulfill the terms of a bargain." He said quietly. "And while I may smile, I don't lie. I don't need to. I may withhold information, but I draw the line at lying."

"Mr. Gold, why are you talking to me?" The sheriff rose from her desk and took a seat on the visitor's bench. "We don't particularly like each other. I owe you a favor, which you won't allow to be repaid with an excellent pastrami sandwich, and I don't trust you."

"And yet I find you enviably trustworthy." Rumplestiltskin smiled slightly and shook his head. "You are an interesting person, and such people are rare. Truly good people who are interesting are even more rare."

"Well I guess fifty percent isn't bad." She shook her head.

"Do you think a person who does things that are bad, is always a bad person? Or are they a good person who makes mistakes, or chooses the best option in a bad situation?" He posed the question at her. "People who make mistakes are interesting."

"Well I agree, perfection is pretty boring." Emma rolled her eyes. "So tell me, what's so special about that cup? You were willing to beat a guy nearly into unconsciousness to get it, so it's something besides a chipped cup."

"No, it is a chipped cup." He shook his head. "But...I lost the girl who chipped it, and I have nothing else that she changed. So this is more valuable to me than anything else in my house."

"Lost?" Emma sent him a sharp look. "People never say died around here do they?" She scowled in the direction of the door. "People are always lost, or gone or disappeared..."

"Well perhaps we simply cling to the memory of what was." He told her. "I..." He shook his head. "It was my fault you see," he found himself confessing. "I didn't trust her, didn't believe in what she..." He looked at the sheriff and sighed. "The brave and courageous rarely understand cowardice."

"You were afraid to take what she offered because what if it was too good to be true." Emma sounded sympathetic. "Been there."

"Did the person you love die because of it?" His voice was bitter. "My wife, gone because of my cowardice. My son lost for the same reason. And then her... I had power, wealth, everything that should make a man happy. But I couldn't trust her."

"Because if no one else loved you, how could she?" Emma's voice was rueful.

"You sound as if you know the feeling." He looked at her thoughtfully.

"Well, when your own parents abandon you at the side of a road, they couldn't have loved you much right?" She shrugged. "Tends to make you think no one else ever will either. You end up driving away the people you should keep close."

"Like Henry?" He wondered softly.

"I...wanted to give Henry his best chance at a good life, at...happiness I guess." She looked at him thoughtfully. "Probably the same as you wanted for your son." Her lips curved in a grim smile. "Henry ended up with Regina, the 'Evil Queen'," even her finger quotes were sardonic. "And he's miserable because she doesn't love him. I know she doesn't."

"How do you know?" Rumplestiltskin leaned forward curiosity taking fire in his eyes. "You seem so very certain."

"I grew up in more foster homes...dealt with more...scum of the earth before I'd turned fourteen than most people deal with in a lifetime." Emma sighed. "I can always tell when someone is lying. It's like a superpower."

"A very handy one for a sheriff." He nodded with a smile.

"Yeah, except people lie every day," she rolled her eyes. "How are you? Oh I'm fine. No, you're not, I know you're not. But you aren't going to tell me that you feel like crap. That's not the right response."

"I was right," He smiled slightly. "You are a very interesting woman."

"Well you're not boring either." She looked at the clock. "You'd better get some sleep. I'll make sure you get to talk to your lawyer in the morning before we go in front of the judge." She pushed herself off the bench. "That cell can get chilly, and I doubt it'll do your bad leg any good. I'll find you some more blankets."

"You're too kind." He nearly chuckled when she turned to look at him and rolled her eyes.

"You're lying." She nearly smiled as she said it, going to a storage locker and pulling out several thick blankets. She regarded him with a thoughtful expression. "You didn't want the sandwich, but you ate the ice cream. I've got frozen diet dinners if you aren't too picky. Or I can dip into the petty cash and get you something from the fast food joints."

"I don't have much appetite I'm afraid." He looked for a place to set the cup and found no where he felt it would be safe.

"Promise not to attack me if I go in there and I'll bring these in for you, I'll even help you get the cot made up with them." She nearly sighed in exasperation but her eyes were still sympathetic.

"I promise I will not attack you in this cell tonight or tomorrow," he replied with a twinkle in his eye. Her raised eyebrow had him shrugging. "I won't make an open ended promise Sheriff Swan."

"You should be one of the Fae with promise parsing like that." Emma unlocked the cell and began to make up the cot. She watched as he sat down on it and stretched his legs out before laying two of the blankets over him. "I hope that's better." She told him. "I'm going to crash over there, but if something happens, like Regina suddenly falling in a bloody heap, don't be afraid to wake me."

"Anxious to celebrate?" He smiled a bit wickedly.

"You have no idea." She told him before retreating to the couch near her desk and stretching out on it.

Thoughtfully he contemplated his much more comfortable cell. She was certainly an interesting woman. She wasn't his Belle, but then no one ever would be.

Morning brought with it coffee and pastries as well as sausage sandwiches. "Sorry that it isn't anything better tasting," The sheriff sighed. "I'm a lousy cook so this is the best I can do. At least this won't poison you. My cooking just might."

"Only if you used Regina's apples," He chuckled. "Are you ready to see the back of me Sheriff Swan?"

"I think you're more ready to see the back of me." She brought him his phone and waited while he called his lawyer and handed the phone back. "Sorry the hospitality sucks so bad."

"But the company does not." He shrugged.

"Well if your lawyer is going to meet us at the court house lets get going." Emma shrugged. "I don't know if your cup will make it through security. If you like we can swing by your house; you can lock it up somewhere safe."

"I would...greatly appreciate that." Rumplestiltskin nodded.

"Then we'll do that." She slanted a sly grin at him. "I don't suppose that would count as a favor would it?"

"A lesser one surely, but a favor all the same." He wasn't certain why he conceded that, perhaps because Emma seemed to understand what it was to do something awful for the best of reasons. "I cannot count the favor you owe as completely cleared, but I will say that the debt is smaller."

"Progress is good." She unlocked his cell and entered with his belongings. "I'm afraid your cane is evidence, but I'll help you to the car and into your house. I'm guessing you have a spare?"

He nodded and wondered that she was treating him so considerately. Respect for someone powerful who happened to be in trouble? An attempt at clearing her debt? He could dismiss the first thought as he had no doubt that if Regina was locked up Emma would spit in her soup before serving it. She knew he wouldn't clear the debt entirely, but she persisted. He took a deep breath before taking the hand she offered to help him. Truly an interesting woman.

The judge had obviously forgotten to whom he owed money. Mr. Gold leaned heavily on his cane as he and the Sheriff walked from the courtroom. In what he considered to be a futile and foolish gesture, a condition of his being released on his own recognizance was that he keep Sheriff Swan informed of his whereabouts. He chuckled, it could be interesting to pop in on Emma Swan now and then, she never did react in an entirely typical way. Even now as he chuckled to himself over the thought of surprising her, she was looking at him as if she was both amused and resigned.

"So who do you think the judge was more interested in punishing you or me?" She asked in her dry voice.

"I think he took some delight in making sure we were both discomfited." Mr. Gold shrugged as best he could while leaning on his second best cane. "He's a strange one."

"Oh well," She sighed and looked around. "Since I guess I'm partially responsible for you, I'll take you home. I'm certain you can figure out where you're going from there and call me to let me know."

"You don't think he meant I should inform you in person?" He nearly chuckled again.

"How you're supposed to tell me in person where you are when by definition you'd be with me is beyond my comprehension." Bright eyes rolled heavenward as if pleading for patience. "Just come by the office in the morning and afternoon and let me know where you plan to be, all right?"

"Your wish is my command." He shook his head. "Since I'm not under arrest anymore, might I sit in the front seat this time?"

She tilted her head but unlocked the front passenger door. "I would have thought you'd like the back, more room to stretch."

"I've never been fond of bars or restraints of any fashion." He admitted recalling with no small amount of fury the time he'd spent in the dungeon cell.

"Something we have in common." She pulled up in front of his house. "You planning on being home today, rest up? Or going out after you enjoy the delights of private bathrooms?" Her hair was messy under her cap, her mouth was twisted with sarcasm and she clearly wasn't happy with his company but she was still a very interesting woman.

"I'm not certain dear, perhaps I'll decide after I have my locks changed." He smiled politely and was not rewarded with a polite smile in return. "Thank you for your hospitality, Sheriff Swan."

"Oh anytime." She rolled her eyes as he got out of the vehicle.