Author's note: Happy 6 month anniversary, Rumbellers! It's six months ago today that Skin Deep aired and a fandom inside a fandom was born. This comes from a prompt about Regina creating an AU history for Belle and Gold, as well as my mind getting fixated on a gif from Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (Bobby, swagger, black leather jacket and a wink.)
Storybrooke was clean. Freakishly Disney-style all but eat off the streets clean. Emma was starting to have flashbacks of watching Stepford Wives in the theatre and being creeped out by robotic Bette Midler (and non-robotic Bette Midler too, honestly.) It was almost a relief, then, when she turned the corner and found a guy leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette. He was the first person she'd seen smoking, the first person with ripped clothing, his jeans having more holes than fabric, and the first thing that had made this town seem a little bit normal.
"You look a little lost, dearie." He was obviously younger than her, by a good six or ten years. Out of high school she was sure, but she wouldn't bet on whether or not he was legal to drink despite the flask she could see poking out of the pocket of his leather jacket. He certainly wasn't old enough for the condescending tone of voice or the smirk he tossed in her direction.
"There isn't really enough town here to get lost in." She was from Boston, after all. And Phoenix. And a couple dozen other places, some of which had neighborhoods bigger than Storybrooke.
"It's not on the top of anyone's tourist destination list." He took another drag on his cigarette, exhaling the smoke through the corner of his mouth. "But you're here. There must be some draw."
"I have my reasons." Some people might think the Scottish accent he spoke with was a turn on. She found it, and his cockyness, rubbed her the wrong way. She also didn't feel the need to share her story with yet another person; too much of the town was talking about her already.
"If those reasons involve staying the night you're headed in the right direction." He tossed his spent cigarette on the ground, stomping it out with the toe of his boot. His movements were oddly controlled, as if he thought about each one, which seemed at odds with his appearance.
"Pardon?" She didn't figure there was any reason to point out that he was littering, or to care that he did. A cigarette butt on the sidewalk looked more normal than the clean cement that was devoid of even dirt or weeds in the cracks.
"Widow Lucas lives down this street. She runs the only B and B in town, and since there's no hotel that's pretty much your one option." He pointed, a hand motion so smooth she hadn't seen him moving until his finger was outstretched.
"Maybe I don't need a place to stay. I could have an apartment, or a friend to stay with." The bed and breakfast was exactly what she was looking for, but he didn't need to know that.
"You don't have an apartment or house, and I'll bet you a pitcher of Guinness that you aren't staying with friends." He gestured again towards the street that she would have probably picked on her own. "I'm going there anyway, might as well show you where it is."
"I don't make bets." She also didn't want to know just why some punk kid was so certain that she didn't have other arrangements. It was one more creepy thing in this weird town. The weird town where her son had lived for the past ten years with a woman she didn't trust or like, which was why she was staying in nowheresville. She'd just stick around for one week to make sure everything was kosher, and then she was back to her life in Boston.
Not that she had much of a life, but that wasn't the point.
"Doesn't matter, anyway. You're following me, which is answer enough. Don't worry, love, she always has rooms to spare. Like I said, we don't get many tourists around here." He kicked a rock as they walked the sidewalk, not quite shoulder to shoulder. He didn't look at her or say anything until they turned up a curved path that led to a two story building that would have looked strange in most American towns, but fit right in to a place called Storybrooke.
He didn't hold the door open for her, not that she expected that kind of thing. They walked into an argument, something he found amusing if you noted the upturn at the corner of his mouth, but did not comment on.
"Lucas," he said with a nod in the direction of the older woman, who had quieted the moment they'd stepped inside. She seemed to fit the title of 'Granny' pretty well in Emma's estimation. She wondered if the girl was her actually granddaughter, or just an employee.
"Gold." The woman, Lucas, looked back and forth between the new arrivals briefly before her eyes flicked over to the young woman with the streaks or bright red in her hair. They seemed to be communicating without speaking. They had to be related, Emma decided. That kind of communication to time to develop. "We'll be right with you miss…"
"Emma Swan," she answered to fill the expectant pause when she briefly had the woman's attention again.
"It's all there." Emma blinked when, without anything else being said, the woman held out a roll of bills that was not unsizable. The man who had walked in with her, Gold, took the cash without even glancing at it and stuffed it in his pocket.
"Of course it is, love. Pleasure doing business with you." He winked as he turned, right at her as if they were co-conspirators. She only barely resisted rolling her eyes. "Enjoy your stay, Emma Swan. I'll see you around."
"Who's that?" Emma waited until the door was shut and the guy was out of hearing distance, presumably, before asking.
"Gold. He owns this place." The girl looked out the window; Emma took it as a sign that she was making sure the unwanted company was gone.
"The inn?" He seemed ridiculously young to own anything, let alone rental property. She'd never owned anything bigger than her car, personally.
"No." Mrs. Lucas shook her head. "The town."
He slept badly. Normally sleep wasn't a problem for him; most people in town would say it was because he didn't have a conscious so there was nothing to bother him while he slept. They just hated the fact that his dad had bought up and developed most of the property in this town, and that when he'd died everything had been left to his barely out of high school son. That in and of itself wasn't the trouble; it was the fact that Gold junior actually knew how to read accounts payable, and not so much as a month's rent had gone uncollected. They were pissed they didn't get a free ride, and had to pay money to someone they viewed as a kid.
He wasn't a kid, and hadn't been one for years.
It wasn't business that kept him awake. It wasn't the fact that most of the town he'd spent his whole life in was full of people that hated or feared him. It was dreams. Not nightmares; those he could explain to himself as being owed to the last pint of beer or the book he'd been reading before bed. Nightmares would have been preferable.
There had been no blood in these dreams. No warfare. Nothing more than a room with a table, a spinning wheel, and odd curios like the ones in his dad's shop. Everything in the room had been so real, but nothing more so than the woman. He could see each curl of her hair, the amused quirk of her lips, the spark in her blue eyes. When he woke, heart pounding, he could almost feel her in his arms, her small body pressed to his chest. She'd fallen, and in the dream he'd almost stopped breathing until he knew she was safe, her clean scent overwhelming his senses.
"Just a dream," he muttered to himself as he rolled out of the bed, pulling on a pair of boxers but not bothering with even an undershirt; it wasn't like there was anyone else in the house to see him.
"Fucking meaningless dream." He didn't bother to turn on a light as he made his way down the stairs and into the kitchen. The darkness made even the refrigerator light blinding as he opened the door and pulled out a bottle of beer. He tried to think of something other than the dream, but not even speculating about the stranger he'd met earlier was enough to cleanse his thoughts. When he tried to remember blond hair all he saw was brunette curls.
The woman in his dream looked just like his Bella.
She'd been older, in his dream, more woman than girl. The blue dress wasn't anything he'd ever seen his girl in, though in a strange way it suited her. But it had been her. She'd looked just as Bella might, in five or six years.
Bella was dead.
He downed the beer in three hard gulps, tossing the bottle in the trash and taking a perverse pleasure in not sorting it out for recycling per the city council's mandates. If Mayor Mills had a problem with it she could dig through his rubbish and sort it herself.
He moved from the kitchen to the study, this time needing the light of a single lamp. The lower right drawer of the desk that had been his dad's held only a plain wooden box, not much different in size than one that might hold shoes. It, however, held his most precious things. Things that were not just too precious but too painful to leave out where they could be seen daily. Like a drug addict that knows it's dangerous but can't resist the call of one more high he rested the box on his lap and opened the lid.
There were three photos in the box. First was the school pic, taken the first week of her junior year and stolen from the floor of Granny's Diner. He'd been watching her for weeks when she'd dropped it after showing her friend Ruby. He'd waited until they were gone before picking it up and sliding it into his wallet. At the time he didn't know she was even aware of his existence as anything more than the guy that collected the rent on her home and her father's shop.
The second picture was more grainy, but captured her far better than a posed shot taken by some soulless photographer. He'd run into her at the ice cream parlor, and when he'd offered to pay she'd not only agreed, but suggested that they take their cones to the park. Together. He'd somehow teased her into letting him take a picture with his cell phone contact list, just in case she ever wanted to text him or anything. She'd insisted on posing with the ice cream cone, the tip of her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth. He'd saved the picture and her number to his contact list, but also printed it out as irrefutable proof that he'd spent time with her.
The third picture was the only one in the box that had both of them in it. There was one other, but that was in the drawer beside his bed, in a frame that she'd picked out. The one in the box was one of those novelty pictures, in sepia tones, from the fair. They'd spent the day there, playing rigged games until he'd won her a red rose that lit up, feeding each other kettle corn and funnel cakes, riding roller coasters. She'd laughed as they walked past the fake bar scene, and whispered promises in his ear until he had no problem dressing up as a cowboy to her saloon girl. In the picture he was looking at her while she looked at the camera. He wondered if anyone looking at the picture could tell how much he loved her, or if it was just him.
There were other mementos in the box; stubs from movie tickets, a barrette he'd stolen from her so he could run his fingers through her hair, notes she'd written him over the course of a year of secretly dating. It was the cup he sought tonight. It was always the cup, because she'd made it for him. It wasn't perfectly round, and there was a chip along the rim where it had cracked in the kiln, but he didn't care. Pottery class, she'd said when she gave it to him, was not going to last past the semester. He'd teased that he'd buy anything she made, and would use them all. He'd proved it by always drinking out of the cup. Now, though, he didn't dare risk it. It could so easily slip through his fingers and shatter. He'd already lost her, he couldn't stand to lose the last few pieces of her he had.
"I miss you like hell, Bella." It was almost a year, since her father had found out about them and sent Bella to stay with cousins in Boston to keep her 'out of that bastard's claws. A year since she'd died in a strange place, away from home. Away from him. A year, but it still felt like yesterday.
Sometimes he felt like tearing apart the whole world, either to get to her or to stop everyone else from living when she didn't. If he had the power to do it he just might. He'd start with Storybrooke, and everyone in this goddamn town.