Writer's note: This is a prompt from chippedcupsandsugarcubes on Tumblr. She asked for Belle crushing on Mr. Gold, and Ruby thinking she's crazy for it. This was supposed to be a one-shot, but as my luck would have it, it's not :-D
It all started with a $50 tip.
Ruby refused to take Mr. Gold's order after he so calmly threatened with a nasty smile to take Granny's diner and inn because they were short just $50 on the month's rent. It wasn't the first time he'd ever threatened them, but for the small amount of money they couldn't scrounge up just this once, made Ruby's blood boil to the point where she could have ripped his neck open with her bare teeth.
When Mr. Gold strolled into the diner the morning after, Ruby threw a malicious glare his way and said to her best friend, "Sorry to hand him over to you, but I am never serving Mr. Gold again."
Isabel glanced his way, his eyes boring holes into both of them as he waited for service. "Is it about the rent again?"
"Yes, and this time I've had enough. I can't believe he has the nerve to waltz in here and act like he's a normal costumer!"
Isabel touched Ruby's shoulder, smiling encouragingly. "Don't worry, I'll handle him."
"You're the best." Rudy gave her a squeeze.
She'd never taken Mr. Gold's order before. He always sat in one of the back booths, always alone. She guessed by his reputation that he had no friends. It seemed he liked threatening people more than keeping company with them. Even at her father's florist shop, she would always be asked by Maurice to go in the back or be sent for coffee whenever Mr. Gold would make his way into their shop. It was like everyone around her was trying to keep her from having any contact with him, not even a simple hello. He must have pissed Ruby off pretty far for her to let Isabel wait on him.
"Good morning, Mr. Gold! How may I help you?" She smiled her greeting as bright as she always was.
To her surprise, he smiled back. "Miss French, I finally have the privilege of you being my waitress." And that was a statement she never thought he would have said for really their first time ever speaking to one another.
"Well, Ruby is sort of tied up" she replied flatly, shrugging.
Mr. Gold flicked his gaze to the counter where Ruby was throwing invisible daggers his way. "Yes, I see she's very busy." He cleared his throat. "Coffee. Black, please. And two eggs, sunnyside-up."
Isabel nodded, scratching down the simple order on her pad. "Coming right up." As she walked behind the counter, she wondered why people were so afraid of Mr. Gold. He seemed friendly and very polite. She couldn't imagine him as the terror Ruby or even her father made him out to be.
When she went to clear his table after he paid the bill and nodded a goodbye to her, she found a $50 tip sitting neatly halfway under his empty cup of coffee. She started to run out to catch him figuring him may have left the large bill by accident, but Ruby called her over to help carry several plates out to a group of construction workers.
The money bothered her for the rest of her shift and she couldn't let it lie. She clocked out for the day, pulling her white sweater on as she pushed out the door and down the road to Mr. Gold's pawnshop. She'd never entered the shop before, and was surprised at how much stuff was crammed into the small place. The bell rang as she entered, and Mr. Gold appeared a moment later limping out of what she assumed was his office.
"Why, Miss French, what a pleasant surprise." He smiled warmly, and the question rose in her mind again how everyone could despise this man so much. "How may I help you?"
She stepped up to the counter, tucking her hand in her pocket and pulling out the money. "I think you may have left the wrong bill for a tip." She laid the $50 bill on the counter.
Mr. Gold glanced down, h'mphing lowly. "No, that is what I left for you."
"But, why?" she asked, even more confused than ever. "I only brought you coffee and eggs. It's not like I catered a party for you or anything."
"What can I say, you were a good waitress." And he said it so nonchalant that made Isabel even more adamant about not accepting the tip.
"Maybe, but I don't deserve $50! Ruby told me you and Granny were having differences again about their rent. Will you take this back and put it towards their debt?"
The silence in the room was deafening as Mr. Gold stared at her ominously. She now understood the fear he invoked. His cane connecting with the wooden floor rang like a gunshot through the still air. Mr. Gold walked around the counter to stand directly in front of Isabel. She stayed stock still, waiting for a tongue lashing.
"You're a good girl, Miss French." Isabel blinked, not sure how to take the compliment. "You're a good friend to Ruby. You work two jobs. Help your father at his shop. You deserve more than what you get."
"How do you know all this about me?"
"It's a small town, dearie. That makes it hard not to observe people. I see you around all the time. You're always on the go helping people, and the only time I see you doing anything for yourself is when you're in the park reading."
She hoped the shock she felt wasn't too obvious, though her gaping mouth most likely gave it away. This man who never spoke a word to her before this day knew more about her than even her friends did. The rumors of how he owned the town seemed true now. She glanced down at his offering hand. He wasn't going to give up.
"Mr. Gold," she started, accepting the ample bill. "Thank you. I am very grateful for your generous tip. I will spend it wisely." She smirked impishly and placed it back on the counter, Gold looking quite bemused. "I'm putting it toward Granny's payment to you, and any other tip you give me will go straight to my father's debt to you as well."
With that, she turned and strolled out the shop.