Written for Cyprith's prompt and seriously, this is one of the lightest things I've ever written. I'd call it an insert to 'Unskilled But Caring Hands', but it can stand alone.
Now I'll get back to writing longer, darker stuff.
She knows he can't leave Storybrooke.
He knows she knows that, because he's told her at least half a dozen times. He can't go beyond the town sign, and neither can she, and this is the way things are when you're trapped in the wrong world.
But that doesn't seem to stop her.
Her demands start off deceptively small: cocktail sausages and bowls of tomato ketchup, tinned chicken soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and – one time – cream cheese and pickles.
She nearly kills him, the day he comes home to find her weeping in the kitchen, staring helplessly into a cupboard and clutching her stomach.
"What's wrong?" he's at her side in a moment, bad leg be damned, his arm around her shoulders. She just keeps sobbing, and there's such fear in his heart, such self-loathing and terror that he feels a little faint, "Belle, love, what's happened? Is it the baby?"
"We're out of cookies." She whimpers into his shoulder, and his heart almost stops in shock.
"All she wants is cookies and milk, and I can't even give her that!" she cries, and Gold takes a deep breath.
He settles his distraught wife into a chair, and tells her to sit tight. He's back in less than ten minutes with the entire store's supply of cookies, and her smile is worth every funny look he received along the way.
When she wakes him in the night, face flushed and eyes bright, to tell him that she knows just what their baby needs to sleep soundly, he is all ears.
She tosses and turns, used to sleeping on her stomach and forced onto her back. But now she's facing him, and pregnancy definitely suits her, and even sleepy as he is he doesn't mind the interruption.
"What would that be, love?"
"A New Zealand green lipped mussel." She says, proudly, and shows him the picture on her laptop.
"Right." He's looking at her like she's a crazy person; he can't help it. He loves his wife dearly – more than words can describe – but he's also a man to call a spade a spade. Belle is many things, beautiful and brave and fiercely intelligent… she's also entirely insane.
And now she's carrying a part of him inside her, and what common sense and reason the woman had seems to have cheerfully buggered off.
"I don't think they sell those at the 7-11, dear," he says, cautiously, wondering if there's some way of distracting her.
She just looks at him, in that way she has that makes him just a little bit afraid. Because she might be a little bit mad, but she also knows him better than anyone else in the Universe, and one day he'd love to know what she hears when he speaks.
He'd implied that it was impossible; she heard that he wasn't going to try.
And semantics matter a great deal.
"Rum, it's the first thing I've seen in days that actively makes me hungry. Baby likes the look of it, too."
She rubs her belly, and then takes his hand in the dark to cover hers. Together they feel the wee one kick, and Gold's resolve crumples like tissue paper.
He figures, the next morning when he leaves on his search, that this is necessary. Because Belle is a princess, even in her jeans and oversized t-shirts, even when she's reading mystery novels and yelling at the characters, even when she's online finding new pregnancy myths to flummox him with. Belle is a princess, and that makes him the poorest excuse for a prince he's ever seen, and princes quest for the women they love.
Granted, in the old days he was usually the one who prompted the questing (without him in the Realms, royal weddings would have been far easier) usually for his own sadistic amusement, but still. The point stands. He owes her a quest.
Of course the 7-11 doesn't stock New Zealand green lipped mussels, because this is a small town in Maine and no one wants them.
Even the bigger supermarket, on the edge of town, doesn't have anything close. He could get her suspicious-looking clams, but he feared for her safety, not to mention the health of the little one.
She wouldn't be satisfied, anyway.
But he still can't leave town, and it's noon already, and he finds himself at the docks.
With Leroy staring at him, and trying not to look like it.
"What do you want?" Gold snaps, finally, unable to stand being openly gawped at by an irate former-dwarf.
"I ah, heard about your inquiries." Leroy inches closer, and gods above, subtlety was not a dwarven strong suit, "Something about an Australian clam."
"A New Zealand green lipped mussel," Gold corrects, staring at the ocean because it's easier than having to look needy in front of an inferior, "they're somewhat hard to come by."
"Not when you're me, they're not." Gold turns to look at him, scorn written all over his face, and watches as Leroy does his – pitiful, but amusing – impression of him, "I can help you out… for a price."
"This isn't about the damn nuns again, is it?" Gold sighs, glares at Leroy, and is gratified when he hides a flinch. Badly. Again: subtlety is a virtue denied to dwarves.
"They're good women who ain't done nothing to you." Leroy grumps, "All I want is one month's free rent for them, that's all."
"I thought your act of petty vandalism dealt with their monetary problems?"
Leroy is taken aback, but recovers, "They still ain't exactly wealthy. C'mon Gold, one month's rent for the nuns, and I'll take you to your Aussie shrimp."
"How do I know you have one?" Gold asks, eyes narrowed, "You can't even get the name right."
"I'm a fisherman, Gold. I know what you're talking about, orange with green edges, right? Been getting more traders in recently, looking to buy in Maine lobster, and it looked pretty."
"The nuns know nothing of this." Gold warns, "As far as they know, you paid it for them."
"I sort of have. In rare shellfish."
"And this is a one time deal," he presses, "Understand?"
"Jeez, of course!" He leads Gold off the pier and onto his boat, "What do you even have against nuns, anyway?"
He doesn't answer. Fairies are always listening, and he doesn't need to restart that little fight. Not yet, anyway.
He presents his lady with her prize that evening. The mussel sits on one of his older plates – Belle was always a little accident-prone, but pregnancy seems to have taken her co-ordination and spun it around a few times – and seems a little out-of-place next to their entirely ordinary stainless-steel cutlery.
Still, she looks at him like he's presented her with the moon and the stars.
She beckons him around, to sit on the chair next to hers, and places his hand on her swollen belly while she eats. The baby kicks, and they might be cursed and trapped and forced to bargain with irate dwarves and oblivious fairies, but just for this moment, there's nothing wrong in this world or any other.