"What about this one?" Belle asked wilst holding out a green dress with white and pink roses.

"Too floral." Jefferson relplied from his upside down position on Belle's bed. "You're going to dinner, not a nursing home."

Belle threw the clothing at him and he swept it off his face into the pile of other rejects. He watched her shuffle through her closet for what seemed like the millionth time.

"I have nothing to wear!" Belle moaned.

Jefferson chuckled before throwing his legs over the bed to stand beside his friend. At least that's what he felt like they were. Since he released Belle from the asylum well over two months ago, they had talked on and off via "the box of voice communications" as Belle labeled it. However, with the custody battle he was fighting with Grace's adoptive parents, and Belle's exploration of the great town that was Storybrook, their talks had been limited. At least they were until the day he had to prevent a dizzy brunette from bashing her head in during an attempt to rip boards off the library windows in heels.

She, after a huge hug and a billion-plus thank yous, told him about her tragic temporary breakup with Rumpelstiltskin and how she would be occupying the library for who knew how long. He kept her company with afternoon tea (which Belle's darling-dearest DID NOT know about) while Grace kept herself busy in the children's section reading to her stuffed rabbit during her rare visits. They had developed a close relationship, so close in fact that Belle took it upon herself to summon Jefferson's oh so needed assistance in helping her choose an outfit for her hamburger date with her beloved. He didn't mind really. After all, he was a hatter who finished what he started.

He picked through her few dresses, skirts and pants and hummed. "You have a lot of pretty outfits what's the problem?"

Belle growled and flopped back on the bed. "The goal here isn't to look "pretty" Jefferson. I have to look.." She paused as she searched her heavy vocabulary for a word.

Jefferson snapped his fingers. "Spectacular?"

"Phenomenal!" Belle shrieked as she attempted to smother herself with a pillow.

Jefferson chuckled before nudging her over and flicking the pillow away. "Trying to tame the beast with short skirts and pluging necklines?"

"He is not a beast." Belle stated sternly. She smirked a bit. "But reminding him what he tried to walk away from does involve the "plunging necklines", as you say."

Jefferson clapped his hands. "I'm so proud of you."

Belle laughed and gave a bow. Her laughter halted when she returned to her wardrobe. She flicked an unwanted dress aside and sighed miserably. "What am I going to do?"

The Hatter bit the inside of his mouth in thought. "Didn't the wolf girl pick out most of your clothes in the first place? Just ask her for an outfit." Belle seemed to freeze at that comment and Jefferson wished he could immediately take it back.

"We haven't spoken much since..." Belle swallowed. "the library incident."

Jefferson placed a hand on her shoulder in comfort. She had told him briefly about how the she-wolf Lucas had chained her to a shelf during her metamorphosis. The stand-in sheriff had freed her eventually, but it still left an impression on their friendship as well as Belle's state of mind. To be imprisoned in the place she once felt the safest sucked pretty bad. It explained now why she now why she carried around a skeleton key with her wherever she went.

"Maybe I'll just call and reschedule" Belle sighed disapointedly. "Drat."

Jefferson tsked. "Come now. Where's the strongwilled, determined Belle I know and love?"

Belle slapped her hand down on the dresser. "Well what am I going to do Jefferson, wear your hat?"

Jefferson was ready to make a comment about the extinction of his once beloved hat, but a light bulb crashed down on his head and pained him with a brilliant idea.

"Paper!" Jefferson shrilled in a way that was almost Rumpelstiltskin-like.

"Eh?" Belle watched her friend circle the room, lifting books and boxes in search for a notepad and a pen. "Jefferson what are you-"

"Aha!" He shrieked as he yanked out a yellowing notepad and a pencil. He jumped back to Belle and began to circle her, pokeing her unpleasantly with the eraser of his pencil in between scribbling down something.

"What are you-"

"To the car!" he announced with the pencil pointing to the door. "Come Belle-fashion emergency!"

"Jefferson what are you up to?" she called after him.

Jefferson shot around, smirking a bit more wildly than what she may have not been used to. "I got an idea that will make old gold scales hungry for more than a hamburger."

-'-'-'-'-'-

Belle gripped the teacup in her hand tightly. She had been banished from entering Jefferson's "sowing" (for lack of manlier terms) room so that she couldn't see what he was up to, but the almost maniac laughter mingling in with the sound of machinery coming from the other side of the door was enough to rattle her.

She sipped the now lukewarm tea Jefferson had let her help herself to upon arrival; it was starting to taste like ashes. Was this one of the breakdowns Grace said her Papa had time to time? No wonder Grace's foster parents were fighting tooth and claw for custody; Jefferson sounded like a bloody hyena!

Belle placed her teacup down and stood quietly. Perhaps she could sneak out before he-

"Belle!" Jefferson shrilled when the door burst open.

"H-hey!" Belle greeted with a guilty smile.

He cocked his finger towards his self with a teasing smirks. "Come my dear friend! Come see the garment Cleopatra herself wore when she seduced the braising Anthony upon a sail with silver oars, purple sails whilst Erotes fanned her and the Nereid handmaids steered her into his heart forever!"

Belle couldn't help but laugh at his speech. "It must be quite the outfit if you were willing to slave an hour over it, laughing like Rumpelstiltskin does after a deal gone right."

Jefferson did a bow that was a bit too Rumpelstiltskin-like but it had Belle struggling to stand from the laughter. He extended a hand, smirking wildly. "Come on."

Belle took his hand, still wary but unconditionally curious as she tried to still a peek into the room. Just as she got one foot in the doorway, he stopped her with a protective arm around her shoulders.

"What is it?" Belle questioned.

Jefferson bit his lip, his eyes shifting to the wall and her.

Belle gulped. Was this the part where he went off his hat?

He smiled again before any questions could be stated. "Cover your eyes." he more or less demanded.

Belle loosened her grip in his hand. "Is it...necessary?"

His smile was more gentle then. "It's a surprise."

Belle's eyebrow lifted in question. "I hope there's not leather or dragon skin in there."

Jefferson chuckled. "Couldn't find Maleificent anywhere."

That name shot off warning signals in Belle's mind but Jefferson cupped his hands over her eyes before she could question him.

"No peeking." he whispered in her ear, his hands brushing her waist.

Belle blushed as he led her into the room. "Keep them closed!" he called as he left her side. The sound of ruffling fabric filled the room instantly.

Belle stood there with her eyes obediently closed, chewing her in anticipation. Jefferson began to whistle a comforting tune and Belle eased some. "Can I...open them now?"

There was the final snip of the scissors and Jefferson stopped whistling. "Okay...now!"

Belle opened her baby blues to find Jefferson standing beside a beautiful yellow dress.

"Ta-da!" he shrilled.

Belle gaped at the sundress poised on the sewing mannequin. The material was thin enough for a sundress but had a thickness that was effective for the nip in the spring air. She fingered the neckline with a coy smirk. "Not exactly "plunging" Jefferson."

He chuckled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "We want him to love you, not throw you over the dinner table and fuck you in front of-"

"Jefferson!" Belle exclaimed as she slapped his arm away. "Shame on you! What would Grace say?"

"What does 'fuck' mean Papa?"

Belle doubled over with laughter and Jefferson could just barely hold her up from the racks coursing through his own. He recovered a bit more quickly though and managed to maneuver to a couch so that they wouldn't end up falling face-first into the floor.

Belle wiped a tear from her eye and looked up to meet the Hatter. His playful grin was gone and replaced with a rather intense stare. "Jefferson..."

He was begging for trouble right now. The need to touch her, show her what she meant to him, was raging inside stronger than any storm. However he knew it would never, could never, be anything outside a beautiful fantasy. She was deeply in love with the imp, a man who didn't deserve her patience and smiles (he didn't either; he had helped once or twice in the beast's plots) but would fight for until her dying breathe.

He stood slowly, taking a few appropriate steps back. "There's a closet in the back; why don't you go try it on?"

Belle, still a bit uneasy, nodded and removed the dress from the mannequin. She was out a moment later and twirled around for the hatter; she was beautiful, just as he knew she would be.

He drove her to the diner, receiving a tight thank you hug and a promise for tea sometime during the week, both of which were more than he could ask for. He had to grip the wheel when he watched her embrace the imp, kiss his cheek with an inaudible apology for her lateness, and twirl around so that he could admire her dress.

Jefferson couldn't really be angry at the Dark One. He had started this. He had freed Belle and reunited her with her beast. And despite how it clawed at his soul to know that Rumpelstiltskin would hurt her again, there was nothing much he could do but offer her a cup of tea.

After all he was a hatter who finished what he started.

.,.,.,.

His "box of communications" rang less than an hour later. He expected it to be Grace with news of her day but was a little taken back to hear Belle's voice on the other end.

"Too much neckline?" Jefferson chuckled. She answered right away and Jefferson can hear the sobs from the other end.

"Regina...came into the diner."

He was already pulling out of the driveway. "Am I kicking her ass or his."

She chuckled weakly. "Rumpelstiltskin handled her. She needed his help with someone named Cora."

Jefferson slammed on brakes hard enough to hit his head on the steering wheel. "What did he say?" he groaned through the pain.

"Just to stay in the library until he gave the all clear. I was going to ask Ruby to come over but..."

"I'm on my way." he said. He could hear her smile.

"I'll have a pot of tea ready."

"See you there kid."

"Wait."

Jefferson waited, even slowing down just to wait for her response.

"Thank you...for being a good friend."

Friend. What a terrible word.

"Any time Belle. I'll be there in a few." he hung up the phone and slammed it against the seat. Damn Rumpelstiltskin! If Belle didn't chew him out he would. He blamed himself partially though-

He started this and now he had to be patient, grit teeth, and make tea to finish it.