[Guys! Look! I didn't make you wait a month this time! Two chapters in two days—kaboom! And it's a monster of a chapter!]

Mr. Gold peered around the corner, checking to see if a certain blue-eyed dearie was in the hallway. She wasn't. No one was. Satisfied, he quickly ducked forward to the staircase, hoping that the distinctive sound of his limp and cane wouldn't draw attention to himself. Canes weren't exactly adequate partners in subterfuge.

Peering at each landing before taking the next flight, he eventually made it to the third floor, his breath coming quicker from the exertion. Canes were also not adequate partners in stair climbing, he wryly thought.

Once an older professor with wind-swept hair and the bushiest eyebrows he had ever seen disappeared into an office, Mr. Gold traveled the final hallway to the teacher's lounge. Seeing no one through the glass window, he slipped inside and pulled the porcelain tea cup Jefferson had spent $9000.09 and thirty-four hours searching for out of his pocket. He opened the cupboard, placed the cup next to its eight identical sisters, and smiled.

There. Now he couldn't be accused of stealing a cup from Storybrooke State University. Because there was no way heaven or earth or hell was going to take his Belle's chipped cup from him. They'd have to pry it out of his dead, cold hands.


He slammed the cupboard shut and spun around. It was his Aussie lass. And had she always looked that perfect? He could find nothing quantifiably different in her appearance (same rich brown hair framing her face in loose curls, same striking blue eyes and slightly rouged lips—lips he had to force his eyes to pass over), but he felt as though everything that was him was being dissolved by everything that was her. It was her face, her voice, her smile now dawning over her lips and in her eyes that his every sense was attuned to.

"Yes, Ms. French?" he asked, hating himself for the hoarseness of his voice.

"That's Belle to you, Mr. Gold," she teasingly said then she gestured to the cupboard. "Did you want some tea?"

"Tea? No."


Silence. Mr. Gold realized that he was clenching the handle of his cane so tightly it hurt while he stupidly tried to think of what to say to explain why he'd be in the cupboard. Why couldn't he think of something witty or daring like the texts they'd shared? And what was his problem anyway? He'd destroyed companies and men's lives with his words. Could he not think of anything?

Maybe the problem was that he wanted to say too much. That too much wanted and needed to explode out of his mouth, none of which he could put into words. Their…relationship? (That didn't sound quite right.) Friendship? (Even worse, he thought with a cringe.) Their whatever-it-was-they-had (adequate for now, he supposed) had changed so much since the last time that they'd been in the lounge, and especially after the string of admittedly flirtatious texts they'd exchanged, that he wasn't sure at all where they stood. He couldn't remember any of the fluid conversation they'd had over the weekend. He couldn't seem to remember anything. His siren was dismantling him. But, thankfully, that same siren saved him.

"Still up for some extra spinning after class?" she asked, a faint blush at her cheeks.

His hands tightened. "Yes. If you are."

Then her smile disappeared. "But I'm afraid I'm going to have to cancel tomorrow's dinner."

He felt a spiked claw of panic in his gut.

"Our keynote speaker is arriving tomorrow and Dr. Blanchard has invited Ruby and me to the welcome dinner. We're the only grad students going and he's a very imminent scholar and since Ruby and I have been involved in—"

"It's fine," he coolly said, interrupting her. "I understand."

Of course she would cancel. He should have seen it coming…

She bit her lip. "Do you?"

"Yes I do." He steeled himself further to push the wailing in his chest deeper out of sight. "And besides, dearie—"

He thought he caught her flinch at the word.

"—I have a significant amount of work I've fallen behind on, due to our distractions this weekend, so I could use the time."

"Distractions?" The word was spoken so quietly that he barely caught it limply falling from her lips. She cleared her throat and smiled, but it was the wrong smile. "Of course. I understand as well." She paused. "And tonight? After class?"

She left the question hanging.

Five days. Three spinning classes. That's all he had left before his enslavement here ended. Five days before he lost an excuse to see her any more.

Half of him was trying to claw itself out and tell her he'd give her free spinning lessons tonight and forever more, if she'd have him. The other half clawed itself deep down and demanded he refuse, prove to her that he didn't need her, prove to himself that it was all just a silly, one-sided (his side, obviously), temporary obsession. His mouth opened, but before it could decide what to say, the door opened.

"Dr. Clark is on the office phone," a woman with brown hair pinned in a bun said, popping her head in. "He says he's lost his iPad again, and I can't find Dr. Blanchard anywhere."

"Okay, I'll be right there," Belle said.

After the woman nodded and left, Belle turned toward him. She was holding her hands together, slightly wringing them. Then, after a moment's hesitation, she took a small step forward and laid her hand on his arm. He tensed.

"I might be a bit late to class, Mr. G—" she changed the name halfway through "—Rum." And then she smiled, a weaker version of the one he'd come to live on, but a true smile all the same. "See you soon?"

All he could do was stiffly nod.

And then she left.

Five days. Three classes…


Belle felt like crying and there were only two things keeping herself from doing just that.

The first: she was too busy searching every office, room, and garbage can for Dr. Clark's ever disappearing iPad. The last time he'd lost it, it had been found in a recycling bin in a dark corner on the second floor. This time, it appeared to have truly flown the coop. She felt every second past 6:00 tick by with growing exasperation.

The second: ninety per cent of her realized that Mr. Gold had been lashing out like a cornered animal. He hadn't truly meant what he'd said.

Of course, that still left ten per cent to wonder if he really did view her as a distraction and nothing more…

She shook her head. No. He cared. There had been too many moments to doubt that, not to mention the way he'd looked at her when she'd entered the lounge a mere ten minutes ago, all slack-jawed and awed. But what could make someone that distrusting? It was a quality she'd been quick to see in him, and it made her heart cry out to think of what in his past could have turned him into such a man. She was desperately hoping that the way she'd left him—touching his arm, calling him by his first name—would pry its way under his metal shutters, but she couldn't be sure. Not until she saw him.

And right now, she wasn't sure if she'd even make it to the class.

When a very confused fifth-year grad student asked if anyone had left their iPad in the faculty fridge, Belle could have kissed the man. Instead, she thanked him profusely, delivered the chilled iPad into Dr. Clark's hands (turning her head quickly when he sneezed), and trekked back up to the third floor. When she reached the door to the spinning class, she waited just outside, listening to the whir-hum of the wheels inside. She caught a faint Scottish burr haranguing a student for creating the lumpiest wool he'd ever seen, and her stomach clenched. She took a deep breath, smoothed her dress, and walked in.

His eyes immediately found hers. And she smiled.

But then he completely ignored her.

She was used to him not coming to her side of the room during the spinning classes. Before, she had thought it somewhat endearing how studiously he would avoid her. Today, she thought it anything but endearing.

"Are you sure you went on a date with the vampire on Saturday?" Ruby whispered, having sensed the tension. They were sharing a wheel like they usually did, and Ruby was sitting next to her as Belle tried to work out the treadle and the threading by herself. "This isn't exactly the reunion I had anticipated." Ruby was eyeing Mr. Gold's back as he leaned down to help a student with a tangled line.

"Yes we did, and it was the best bloody date I've ever had in my life," Belle said, much louder than was necessary and she struggled to conceal a smirk when Mr. Gold's back jerked upright.

After that, Belle was pleased by the number of times she could sense his eyes wandering over to her. But he came no closer. And it was nearing 7:15's break time.

Commence last ditch maneuver, Belle thought to herself as she purposefully treadled out of synch, purposefully held her right hand too far away from the sheep's triangle, and purposefully let the wool come out all lumpy and ugly. She hated to disrupt the gentle whirring sound of the wheel she'd come to love so deeply since the first day she'd watched Mr. Gold spin, but if a wheezing wheel was what she needed to get his attention, a wheezing wheel she'd have.

"Uh, Belle?" Ruby said, voice cautious as she helplessly pointed at all of the errors Belle was making. "I think your hand is in the wrong place and—"

"I know," she whispered.

"But I don't—" Ruby stopped mid-sentence, a light flickering in her eyes. "Oh." She glanced at Mr. Gold. "Oh." She looked between Belle and Mr. Gold, and Belle wasn't liking the look coming over her face. "Oh! Mr. Gold!" Ruby nearly shouted, leaping upright and almost upsetting Belle who was sitting on the same bench. "I demand a new partner. Belle is a terrible spinner! She needs more help from you."

Mr. Gold stopped his prowling down the aisles to look with some confusion at Ruby (though Belle was pleased to see that his eyes jumped to her own first), as did the rest of the class. Belle's face flamed red.

"Then by all means, dearie, choose a different partner," Mr. Gold said after a pause.

With great show, Ruby gathered her things and made her way to the clear other side of the room, sitting next to a perplexed-looking Gustav. Behind Mr. Gold's back, she flashed Belle a double thumbs-up sign, and Belle just wanted to die.

But, hesitantly at first and then more surely, Mr. Gold was making his way over to Belle's wheel.

Well, that was one way to get his attention.

He finally came to a stop behind her, and Belle couldn't have tried to spin well if she'd wanted to.

"She's right," he quietly said after a moment. "You're a terrible spinner."

Belle smiled. "Well, I've been trying to arrange some extra lessons from this spinner guy I know," she nonchalantly said, "but he's not interested in…distractions."

She could feel him tense up even without seeing him. Then he leaned forward and helped position her hands in the correct places, his fingers lingering on her skin. She stopped the treadle.

"Well, then," he whispered, his voice uneven, "your spinner is a very, very unwise man to turn down lessons with such a beautiful woman."

Belle looked up. Their faces were inches apart, and she could see the apology—and, was it hope?—in his eyes. "Maybe I could hire you, then," she said.

His eyes sparked with the wit she'd come to love. "Ah, well, there is the matter of payment."

She bit her lip. "I'm sure we could think of something."

And Mr. Gold stood back up and walked away rather hastily.

Well, Belle thought with a flicker of disappointment as she watched him flee, that wasn't exactly the reaction I'd been hoping for.

But then…

"All right, everyone," Mr. Gold barked once he'd reached the front of the classroom. "I may have been a little too harsh on day one when I said none of you would become passable spinners by the end of this course. Some of you—"

He left it clear that he didn't consider everyone as part of his next statement.

"—are actually on track to becoming…satisfactory spinners, shall we say. So I'm calling it a night. Stay if you want to practice longer on your own without sharing a wheel. And—" he stared a few of the attendees down mercilessly "—there are a few of you whom I would highly encourage to stay. I trust those who need the practice will know who you are and find it within yourselves to practice longer. Right?"

Not a peep.

"Excellent. See you Wednesday."

The program kept everyone busy almost from dawn to dusk every day, so there were several people who were relieved to have been let out early. Others settled in for more practice and chatting. Others yet were clearly compelled to stay lest they suffer the wrath of Mr. Gold's cane and tongue come Wednesday.

And then there was Belle who didn't know where she fit in.

Had he done this for her? And what did he intend to do next? She lingered at her wheel for a bit longer, pretending to practice as she glanced at Mr. Gold picking up his briefcase. When he started for the door, she felt her heart sink, but it buoyed back up when he looked over at her.

"Ms. French. A word?" he quietly said. Then he disappeared out the room.

Heart pounding, Belle picked up her things and caught in the corner of her eye a very happy, very smug Ruby.

Mr. Gold was waiting around the corner, away from prying eyes, and he held both of his hands in front of him on his cane. A defensive stance, Belle thought.

"Belle, I—" he started to say, but she interrupted him.

"Have you had dinner?"


"Yes, you know, where two people eat and talk together over the consumption of solid and liquid substances. Dinner."

"I have eaten, if that's what you're asking," Mr. Gold said with an amused smile. "But your definition of dinner? Not since Saturday."

"You must be famished then," Belle brightly concluded.

"Always," he lowly said.

"Good. I know just the place."

"And that would be…?"

She smiled teasingly. "You'll see."

A half smile crossed his lips. "Then I am in your hands, Ms. French."

As she led him down the stairs, giving him her arm for support without comment and grateful when he took it, they were silent until Mr. Gold finally broke the silence.

"I apologize about what I said." His voice was quiet and so near her ear as she helped him down. "This weekend was not a distraction. You are…It was far more than that."

Their eyes met for a moment, and Belle could see the sincerity on his face. "I know," she whispered. "And thank you."

They didn't speak again until they were outside.

"Dover is right over here with the Bentley," Mr. Gold said, gesturing to the black car in the distance.

"Could we walk instead of drive?"

"Is it close?"

"More or less. I love walking in the evening, right as it's starting to get dark." She drew in a deep breath of the cooling air.

Mr. Gold arched his brow. "Belle, please don't tell me you walk around at night a lot."

"I don't have a car so…" She shrugged. "But when it gets too dark, I take the bus."

"The bus?" Mr. Gold coughed.

"Yes, silly," Belle said, smiling. "That's how the peasant folk get around when they don't have personal chauffeurs to drive them around."

Mr. Gold gave her a steely look before grabbing a business card and pen from his inner pocket. He flipped it to the blank side, wrote down a number, and handed it to Belle.

"This is Dover's cell phone number. You may call him at any time for a ride, night or day, and he will come get you," Mr. Gold said in a serious voice.

Belle laughed, grabbing his arm and starting to lead him down the sidewalk as she slipped the card into her bag. "Especially since Storybrooke's buses are by far the most dangerous thing since Shetland ponies."

"Considerably more dangerous, I would wager," he said, face still completely serious.

Belle mellowed her humor to a smile and sighed. "I really do like you, Mr. Gold."

He said nothing, and when Belle peeked up at his face, she caught just how blank his expression had turned. Smiling again, a secret smile this time, she rested her head on his shoulder, tightened her grip around his arm, and walked alongside her gentle, kind spinner at his slow, limping pace.

Mr. Gold had never been in such a low-end establishment. At least not for the past two decades. There was a napkin dispenser to his right with the flimsiest napkins he'd seen in years, and his eyes were fixated on a smudge of ketchup on the side of the metal. And the ketchup bottle itself, good heavens! He could see the greasy handprint of whatever customer had been there before them. Tearing his eyes away from the table, he took in the rest of the diner. Booths. He'd been required to slide into a booth! Most irksome. The wallpaper was a hideous display of dark green trees on pale green background and the lights over the tables were clearly made of cheap plastic. And don't even get him started on the people. There was a grizzled short man wearing a stained red fishing jacket slumped over a steaming cup of coffee at the table. A group of teenagers shooting straw wrappers at each other. A white-haired, bespectacled woman at the cash register eyeing him with less care for her personal safety than any person who had ever dared look at him like that before. He shot her an equally chilling glare, and then felt his insides melt when she didn't budge.

What was wrong with these people?


"Yes?" he said, whipping his head back to Belle and seeing her trying yet miserably failing to hide an amused smile.

"I promise you'll make it out of here alive."

"How very reassuring," he muttered.

"So, Belle. Who's the grandpa?" a rough voice asked, and Mr. Gold looked up to see the grizzled man with the red fishing jacket.

And wait. Had that miniature dwarf of a man just called him grandpa? Did he need to be reminded of his age while sitting next to someone as young and beautiful as Belle? He tightened his grip on his cane.

"Leroy, this is Rum. Rum, Leroy," Belle introduced, lips twitching.

"Pleased to meet you, Rum," Leroy said, thrusting out a somewhat grimy hand.

Mr. Gold looked at the hand, looked up at Leroy, and back at the hand. When he felt Belle kick him under the table, he clenched his jaw and shook the man's hand. "The pleasure is all mine, I assure you," he ground out with a stiff, forced smile.

"Great name, by the way," Leroy said, and Mr. Gold wondered if he was imagining the faint smell of liquor on the man's breath.

"How very kind, dearie," Mr. Gold forced out.

Leroy turned his attention to Belle. "If you need anything, Belle—" he cast a suspicious glance at Mr. Gold "—you just holler."

"Thanks, Leroy," Belle said, leaning up to kiss the man's grizzled cheek, and Mr. Gold almost lost it right there.

It was a miracle—a bloody miracle—that he didn't bash Mr. Grizzly Leroy over the head with his cane.

When Leroy left, he was replaced by the white-haired, bespectacled woman who had been glaring at Mr. Gold.

"Mr. Gold," she said, looking straight at him. "I never thought I'd be serving you here."

"Do we know each other, dearie?" he asked as he desperately tried to keep the surprise from his face. Emotions symbolized weakness in business dealings. Apathy gave you the upper hand.

"Oh, not personally, but I've read my fair share of newspapers," she replied.

"And hopefully enough not to trust everything the newspaper says, right Granny?" Belle intruded, and Granny (was that the formidable woman's only name?) turned her attention to Belle.

"Perhaps" was Granny's only response. "So how's the program going?" she asked.

"It's going pretty smoothly thus far," Belle replied. "This is the last week."

"And thank goodness for that," Granny said. "I've hardly seen hide nor hair of Ruby for weeks."

"It's kept us pretty busy," Belle agreed.

"I'd say it has," Granny said. "So what will you be ordering today?"

"Two iced teas and one special burger plate to share," Belle said.

Mr. Gold wasn't about to complain that Belle had decided to order for the both of them. Besides, he was thinking that it might be safer to eat one of the flimsy napkins than the food from this establishment and, especially, from this Granny woman who apparently had some rather forceful opinions about his work. Not that that was a surprise. Most people did. He just hadn't expected it from the owner of a small subpar diner like this.

"Coming right up, Belle," Granny said, shooting Mr. Gold a final glare before disappearing.

"She's Ruby's grandmother," Belle said.

"That fierce old woman?" He could see the family resemblance. The both of them seemed more like wolves than women. As he watched Granny's every move and caught the frequent glowers she threw his way, he added, "I do believe she's planning on poisoning my iced tea."

Belle laughed again. "Well, if it makes you feel better, we can switch drinks once she brings them. And trust me." She leaned forward. "The food's much better than you expect."

"It could taste like sawdust and that statement would still be true."

Yet another laugh, and a small smile broke from his own lips. In all truth, he didn't care where he was as long as it was with that smile, that laugh, those blue eyes…

"So Mr. Gold," Belle said, straightening up all business-like. "Does this mean that I was not one of the students to whom you were referring as those needing extra practice? Am I a satisfactory spinner?"

"Certainly not," he scoffed. "You're a terrible spinner."

"Then why'd you let me get out of the extra practice?"

"I never did," he said. "You chose to leave."

"So what's my punishment for not practicing?"

"You get to have dinner with me here," he said, gesturing at the room.

"Come now, just wait until you try the food," Belle said, eyes twinkling. "But there is something else I'm curious about."


"Why are you teaching this spinning class to begin with?"

He placed a hand over his heart in mock offense. "You doubt that I'd do it out of the goodness of my heart?"

"No, of course not," she said.

He snorted, and she laid a hand on his arm.

"Of course not," she firmly repeated, smiling kindly. "You are far kinder than you give yourself credit for."

He said nothing, just stared at her hand on his arm. She let go of him after a moment and he could feel the emptiness rush back over his skin.

"It just doesn't seem like you want to be there," she said. "Especially on the first day."

"Oh, you are mistaken, Ms. French. I take great pleasure in tormenting those little ducklings."

"Now that, I believe. But why teach the class in the first place?"

What was he supposed to tell her? That he'd agreed with Dr. Hopper to teach the class as part of a master plan to take over Regina's company? He wasn't sure how Belle would take a confession like that. And it wasn't something he wanted anyone to know. He was playing a delicate little game with Regina, and the faintest misstep could lead to failure. He'd spent much too long putting the pieces in play to let it all unravel now. He decided on a half-truth.

"Let's just say that Dr. Hopper—do you remember him?"

Belle nodded.

"Let's just say he thought it would be beneficial for me to associate with people outside of my line of work," Mr. Gold carefully said.

"So he's your shrink or something?" Belle asked and then blinked when she realized how personal the question sounded. "I'm sorry, you don't have to answer that or—"

"Yes. He is. I had some, ah, anger management issues at work, so I was assigned to him for evaluation."

Last chance to warn her to stay away from me…

"Oh." Belle said it just right so that her "oh" could be a "the end" or an "explain." Mr. Gold chose the latter.

"Belle," he quietly said, leaning forward and catching her eyes, "I'm not a good man."

Part of him desperately wanted her to listen to him. The other part wanted to take back the words.

"But you are," she said. So trusting. So perfect.

"Belle," he murmured—half exasperation, half desire to believe it.

"You are," she repeated, placing her hand on his arm again. "And I'll keep reminding you of it as long as you need to hear it."

Five days. Three spinning classes…

Granny brought their order out after that, and Belle, true to her word, switched their iced teas just to make sure he wouldn't die of poison. After that, she cut the one burger in half and pushed the plate to the middle of the table.

"Okay. Try it." She looked like a little child then, all excited and expectant, and he couldn't bear to disappoint her. So, ignoring the way he could feel the grease already saturating his fingers, he picked up one of the halves and took a bite.

His first thought: I will finance anything Granny ever plans to do.

"So?" Belle asked, eyes bright.

"Absolutely terrible," he said with just enough spark in his eyes that Belle was batting his hand and laughing at the quip.

The rest of the meal—date?—went just as smoothly as their weekend. Gone was the awkwardness of earlier in the lounge or the tension that had followed. It was just…them. She talked about some of her research interests, and Mr. Gold found that she was remarkably intelligent. He had always assumed as such, but listening to her speak proved it in the clearest of ways. He told her of some of his experiences back in Scotland (though he was very, very cautious about which stories he chose), and he loved the way she gasped in all the right places when he told her about the motorcycle crash he'd had in Glasgow that left him in crutches and bandages all over.

"That's not how you hurt your leg is it?" she asked, caught up in the story.

He felt the question like a punch to the gut. Would it always be like this? Would he ever heal? No, he sourly thought. His leg would heal long before the internal scars would.

"That was a different accident," he quietly said.

Belle opened her mouth, closed it, then tried again. "Is that something you'd like to talk about?"

He looked at her, really looked at her, tracing her jaw, her forehead, her nose, and ending with her eyes.

"Yes, Belle," he heard himself say. "I think I would. But…" He swallowed. "Maybe not tonight?"

It came out as a question. She understood.

"When you're ready, Rum," she whispered, closing her hand around his, "I'll be here."

After a moment of just staring at their conjoined hands, he dared to run his thumb in circles over her skin. It took another timeless moment for him to get up the courage to look her in the eyes. And when he did, when he saw the care and acceptance in her eyes, he nearly stopped breathing.

I hope you will be there, he thought to himself as the track record of "five days, three spinning classes" ran through his head.

Perhaps she would still be there. Perhaps she wouldn't leave. Perhaps this time, someone would stay.

After a rather turbulent fight over who got to pay the bill for the three burger plates they ended up eating and the one they ordered to go for Dover per Belle's suggestion (they finally compromised by having Belle use the pre-paid debit card he'd given her), she wrapped her arm around his like before and they left the diner.

"Can I offer you a ride home?" he asked, wondering how it'd gotten so late. The sky was black outside, and they'd been the last to leave the restaurant under Granny's watchful eyes.

"I only live a few blocks that way," Belle said, pointing.

"May I walk you home, then?"

She smiled. "I'd like that."

They didn't talk the whole way. Just held each other and breathed in the cool night air. When they reached her apartment building (which, Mr. Gold thought, was thankfully more well-lit and not as run down as others they'd passed), they paused.

"Well, here I am," Belle said, looking down at her hands then shyly looking back up.

"Here you are."

They were much too close. Their faces mere breaths away, and Mr. Gold couldn't keep his hand still. It reached up and tucked one of her curls behind her ear. She leaned into his hand.


"Yes, Belle."

"There's an evening lecture and dinner I have to attend on Thursday, and Friday is the closing evening with the keynote speaker, but…" She swallowed. "Do you think I could come over on Saturday for that dinner I promised you?"

Five days. Three classes. And then more beyond that.

Instead of replying, Mr. Gold slipped his hand behind her neck, under her hair, and edged her forward with so little force she could easily pull back.

She didn't.

And their lips met. It was simple, but oh so perfect. He could feel her nose brushing the side of his. Her hair tickling his cheek, the hand she'd placed on his chest to steady herself. And the gentle pressure of her sweet lips against his. Her touch was inscribing itself upon his face, his skin, his heart, and he knew then and there that he had given that heart to her, that he had entrusted it to her. Whatever was left of his heart, it was now hers.

"Belle." Her name fell through his lips when she pulled away—a plea, a prayer—and when he opened his eyes, he saw her flushed cheeks and bright smile.

"Rum," she whispered back as she cupped his cheek with her hand, smoothing his hair back.

And their lips met for a second time.

"You did what?" Regina yelled.

"I, well, I told him I'd give him the positive evaluation if he taught the class," Archie stammered, now dreading that he'd mentioned it to her. He hadn't thought she'd take it this hard.

"So he's getting the positive evaluation?" she asked.

Archie nodded, not trusting his mouth.

"Get out," she snarled.

"Yes, ma'am," Archie quickly said, leaping up and away, umbrella in hand.

Regina paced her office, wanting to call Dr. Hopper back so that she could throttle the stupid, useless man. Mr. Gold's contract—the one her mother had tricked him into signing two decades ago—was coming to an end in thirteen days. Regina didn't know what trick Mr. Gold had up his sleeve for when he was free to do what he wanted to do, but she didn't want to find out. She had hoped that blackening his reputation with the board of trustees by pointing to his anger management issues would have given her a leg up in the game, but now the good doctor had turned it into a score for Mr. Gold.

She wouldn't lose her company because of that man. She couldn't.

Regina picked up the phone on her desk. "Glass?"

"Yes, Ms. Mills?" her secretary's voice asked, ever prompt.

"Find out when and where Mr. Gold's spinning class is. Immediately."

"As you wish," he said.

At least she had one man in her life who could be trusted to get things done properly.

She sat down at the desk, took a deep breath, smoothed out her skirt, and returned to the work she'd been completing before Dr. Hopper had arrived.

Maybe she'd plan a little visit to Storybrooke State University and see if she couldn't yet hang the master spinner.

He had to have a weakness.

All men did.

[btw - I DON'T OWN OUAT OR ITS CHARACTERS. Or a yacht. Such is life. btw#2 – Next chapter: the Evil Queen decides to visit SSU. Duh duh dum! Death to all fluff! (About time!)

Ever eternal thanks to my reviewers: anon (why thank you!), Just 2 Dream of You (and thanks to you as well!), tndyfe (I don't know if you've reviewed before, but this one made my day! so thanks!), PrincessYouKnow ("DAWWWWWWWWWWWW 3" right back to you!), jewel415 (hope this was good enough of a shopping trip into the romance department for you), CharlotteAshmore (she could always give them to me; I'd make absolutely no complaint – and they got their date anyway! so yay!), emospritelet (sigh indeed – it's the first kiss I've ever written, actually; I hope it was okay...).]