A/N: Forphoenixfeatherquill's Belle Fic Challenge on tumblr!

Summary: Things had been difficult for the Storybrooke Mirror recently, so when an advert appeared announcing a new space for short stories by local people, the town was awash with curiosity.

Hot Off the Presses:

Things had been difficult for the Storybrooke Mirror recently. When Sydney Glass had been arrested for arranging Katherine Nolan's abduction, Sheriff Swan had searched his office for evidence and uncovered hundreds, thousands of photographs of the townsfolk engaged in various dubious activities. So far no one had actually admitted that they had been featured, but a steady stream of otherwise respectable citizens visiting the sheriff's station indicated otherwise.

The new editorial staff of the paper, headed by Jeanie Ringwald, was determined to restore the paper's reputation. S o when an advert appeared announcing a new, ongoing space for short stories by local people, the town was awash with curiosity. Knowing the townsfolk the way she did, Ms Ringwald had wisely decided that all entries would stay anonymous. Her readers, however, had decided otherwise and a popular new sport had developed from trying to guess who had written the story featured that week.

It hadn't taken 5 minutes for people to start pointing the finger for a disturbingly gory action story at Gavin Knight-Green, who hadn't denied it. A lot of people thought he had gone too far, but the married woman who had previously been chasing him seemed to have been scared off by it, and since he'd promised never to write anything like it again the matter had been dropped.

The widespread suspicion that a torrid romance had been produced by Miss Ginger had raised eyebrows. Her flustered reaction to her sudden notoriety had only served to confirm it for most of the town, and the rumour was she'd been offered a multiple book deal by a romantic fiction publishing house meant some of the younger inhabitants were suddenly looking at her in a whole new light.

The idea that the rather touching and poignant poem had been written by the mute girl, Melody Seaford had taken longer to grow, but even though she refused to confirm it the discovery that she had been producing beautiful art from flotsam and jetsam for years without anyone's knowledge had put a stop to any doubts. One of the galleries in town had started selling her work, and she had commissions from as far afield as Boston already.

The story in today's edition had everyone stumped. For starters, it was good. Really good. Just a small piece about seeing people for who they were inside, in spite of their past actions, but everyone who read it felt different afterwards, somehow. The eloquent words seemed to lodge in the brain and soften any harsh thoughts.

To begin with many people thought it must have been produced by a professional writer, but the only one of those that anyone knew was August Booth and he hadn't been seen since the curse broke, though his bike was still parked outside Granny's. Still, that didn't stop people from dropping into the diner all morning, either trying to wheedle information or eavesdropping on those doing the asking.

By the time Belle dropped in for a mid morning tea break, Granny and Ruby were in full swing. 'Sorry Mr Schumacher, you know we don't give out our guests information!' said Ruby, flashing a slightly harassed smile at Belle as she rushed past, jug of coffee in one hand, plate of eggs in the other. Smiling in return, Belle slid hastily into the nearest seat, still a little uneasy in such a noisy crowd. All around her the diner buzzed with conversation about the mysterious author.

"Maybe it's just someone one the staff at the Mirror, trying to make a point about how they've changed?"

"How do we even know that it hasn't just been copied from somewhere?"

"...can't possibly be someone I know, it's far too well written!" That one was accompanied by a raucous burst of laughter from a corner.

"...just someone trying to show off..."

"...airs and graces..."

"...think they're better than us?"

"...pretentious..."

Granny's voice cut through the hubbub. "Alright, that's enough! It's just a story in the local paper. None of the others have bothered you, so take my advice and don't let this one. If you ask me, you're all making a work of nonsense out of the whole thing! Those of you who are here to eat, we're going as fast as we can. Those of you who are here to gossip and see what you can nose out can go and find somewhere else to be spiteful, because I won't stand for it here!" With a brusque nod, she gathered her skirts and climbed down off the chair she was stood on.

Ruby used the flow of suddenly departing customers as cover to collapse into the now empty chair opposite her friend. "Phew!" she said, with an expressive roll of her eyes. "We haven't been this busy in a long time!"

"Were they all here just to talk about the piece in the paper?" asked Belle.

"Not all. Some of them actually were here for breakfast, or coffee, but yeah, most of them wanted to know if we'd heard anything from August since the curse broke."

"Who's August?"

"Well he was staying at the inn, but we haven't seen him lately. He's Marco – Geppetto's – son, and he's a writer."

"And... everyone thinks that he wrote this morning's story?"

"Some do..." Ruby looked at Belle with narrowing eyes. "Why the sudden interest, Belle? Do you know something? If you know something, you have to tell me! The whole town is going nuts over that story!"

"No! No, not at all!" Belle exclaimed hastily, "I'm just excited that there's a real author around here, that's all. Do you know anything he's written? Maybe we have some of his books in the library!"

"If you do, you'll have to let me know if they're in the fiction or reference section!" said Ruby, with a laugh.

Belle looked at her, confused.

"Oh come on Belle, August is Pinocchio! You know, the kids story, 'every time you tell a lie, your nose grows', and fiction isn't exactly the truth, now, is it?!" She paused, seeing the blank look on Belle's face. "What is it?"

"But I don't know, Ruby. I don't know any of it. No memories, remember? How can I remember a child's story from this land, when I don't remember being a child here?" She looked down at the table. "I've been reading the books in the library to try and help me understand, but there's still so much I don't know. Sometimes I think I'm getting there, and then someone will make a reference to something that everyone else gets, and I feel awkward and out of place all over again. It's so frustrating!" She raised a hand to rub some of the sudden tension off her brow.

"I'm sorry, Belle." Ruby smiled sympathetically. "You just seem so... together all the time I guess I forget what they did to you."

"The Queen, Ruby, what the Queen did to me. No one else did anything I couldn't cope with, although my father certainly tried!" she said, ruefully.

"How's that going?" asked Ruby, curiously.

"It's difficult. He expects me to be the way I used to be, before... everything. And I'm just not that person anymore. He's my father, of course I love him, but if he can't accept who I am now, then..."

Ruby grimaced. "I know. Parents, huh? Why do they find it so hard to let us make our own choices? Why does it always have to be their way or nothing?" She hesitated for a moment, before asking "And... the other thing?"

Belle smiled privately for a moment. "It's... progressing. It's not easy, we've both been through so much, but it is worth it" she said.

Ruby shuddered. She didn't know what Belle could possibly see in the guy, they were as different as night and day, but like everyone else she'd read the story in the paper that morning, and maybe Belle saw something in him that no one else did. Ruby had never seen him act around anyone the way he did around Belle, that was for sure.

"Oh my goodness, I have to get back to the library!" exclaimed Belle, pulling herself back to the present and catching sight of the clock in the diner. "I have a class of 3rd graders coming shortly, and I just know that Mary Macdonald will be looking for veterinary textbooks again!"

"She's still into all that, huh"?

"Ever since she helped her grandfather out during lambing season on his farm, it's all she's been able to talk or read about!"

They hugged briefly, Ruby grabbing her pencil and pad, acknowledging Belle's parting wave with a smile before turning to her next customer.

Belle made her way down the street and across the intersection, resolutely not allowing her gaze to drift in the direction of a certain pawnbrokers and antiquities shop, the way it so often seemed to do. She greeting a couple of people on the way, pleased more by the fact that there were people she recognised than the people themselves. She saw a few more people deeply engrossed in the Mirror, and hurried towards the library, suddenly eager to be out of sight.

Once inside, she relaxed slightly. The smell of paper and books was something she had always found soothing. The rest of the day passed quietly enough. Apart from the visiting 3rd graders, a few other people drifted through, either browsing quietly among the shelves or occasionally checking books out. Some of them asked about the paper, and Belle either pointed them in the direction of the reference section, or towards the notice board in the entrance hall where she had a display of all the published stories in a bid to encourage people to have a go themselves. She couldn't help but notice that a lot more people seemed to have stopped to check it out today, not that she was keeping track.

She closed up at about 5:30; the routine of shutting down for the night now as soothing as it was automatic. Making her way upstairs to her small apartment, she was relieved to not have to face anyone else. She'd said to herself that only meant to do it as a way to practise some skills that had become a little rusty after so many years without use. She'd never meant for it to have any direct effect on anyone, but the subsequent events seemed to have taken on a life of their own, and everyone seemed so much happier. Bewildered, in some cases, but happier, and she was getting a kick out of watching it happen.

Still, she thought, as she sat down at her computer, at least nobody knewshe'd written all the pieces that had appeared in the Mirror so far...

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