A/N: Yes that's right, the plot bunnies ambushed me. A few people asked if I might do a sequel to 'Tale as Old as Time', and you know what that got me thinking. I wanted so much more from the last episode and beyond concerning Gold and Belle. Also, I can't wait for next season; so here we are! There might be some references to my previous tale, but its not the type of story where you'll have to read the fist one in order to get it. Furthermore, this story springs from the 'offical ending' of my pervious story and not the Alternate ending. Note: I probably wont finish this until 'The Beast Within' is complete, but I'm not certain my mind has a tendency to be everywhere at once. Thanks for taking the time to read and review and enjoy!
"Do you think he still loves you!" A hard, feminine voice snapped through the voided darkness like the bite of a wolf's fangs. Her vile tone was laced with utterly sordid and cruel amusement as she wailed torment upon a chained figure unable to protect itself from the hard kicks against her body and the pain that materialized seemingly from midair.
"Do you think he still cares? Why hasn't he come for you if he returns your vaunted love?" The voice leered as another crackling pain seized the fettered form in its icy talons of agony.
"He does love me; I know he does!" The captured figure wailed in the darkness to the shrouded figure as she struggled against the thick iron collar digging viciously around her scraped, raw neck that intermittently oozed driblets blood.
The captive figure couldn't see the foul harpy that was wracking havoc upon her, but she felt her presence surrounding her like a physical weight burdening her; a malicious force that suppressed her will and hope as if she were the blackness incarnate trying to strangle what little faith that she clung to desperately in her ever aching heart.
The black figure barked a harsh, grating laugh that stung more than the torment laced upon the chained figures body. "Call him then. Scream his name and see if your master comes to save his precious little slave girl."
The chained female opened her mouth to scream his name into the darkness that pounded about her only to pause suddenly in horror, her mind frantically working for the moniker she sought to cry. What was it? What had her love been called? His lovely, yet strange name?
Her cobalt orbs clamped shut as she tried to imagine his face to mind; anything to bring back his name to her lips, but even the memory of his image was blurry leaving only what looked like gray-gold dust floating upon the voided dark and the faint shimmer of scales swirling about her thoughts.
She knew who he was, but she couldn't say it or bring his title to her tongue no matter how diligently she searched the recesses of her battered mind.
Balling up her bloodied, tear stained fists determinedly, the tortured woman bashed them at the taunting blackness as if she might strike the figure layered in its shroud, wanting to scream in abject frustration.
Why could she never recall his name-. And then she had it, memories of cloaks and fireplaces and reading and kindness and a kitchen filled with smoke and an ancient spinners wheel paused from its fastidious cycle and…and…her lips met with his own in a sweet bliss that was so painfully torn asunder far to soon.
A joyous cry burst from the chained woman's lips as she strained against her bonds towards the darkness, that for the first time seemed to recoil back in surprise. "His name is R-"
A rough hand that shook the beauty on her right shoulder was the first thing that awoke Annabelle French from the throes of the usually horrid dream that was strangely about to take a rather odd turn that had never occurred before. It was one of her usual nightmares she endured through her pill educed dozes, but never had it ended as though she had pushed the misty wisps of onyx midnight back. That was new and…strange.
The young woman muttered a throaty tired groan once as her azure eyes fluttered open to meet the thick drab off-white padding of the cell that she detested more than anything else in her secluded little world that was more suited to an ancient crypt rather than a cell.
The dirty, threadbare clothes that haggardly clung to her thin form and the dull and dazed emptiness she felt all over brought her back to harsh reality of incarceration quickly as she curled up miserably upon the padded cement ledge that served as her bed.
"I…I already took my pills today." Anna stated timidly, not turning over to see the sharp faced nurse in white that no doubt held another tiny paper cup filled with meds for her to shove down her throat.
If she was never to get out of her tiny prison of padded cement and one tiny squat window that showed nothing but the asphalt to the usually deserted back parking lot, why give her medicine at all? Better to be lost in the throes of wandering delusion and blissful hallucination than stuck in a tedious monotonous reality where nothing changed but the light and varying degrees of chill in the room.
"I'm not here to bring you pills." A steady male voice replied smoothly, startling Anna out of her blank nothingness like a jolt of lightening had struck her.
The beauty's azure eyes widened at the male voice she never in her wildest fancies deemed to hear as she turned around; her brow furrowed in thin lines of curiosity.
The man standing before her was tall and clean shaven with short cropped slick black hair. Yet despite his fine grooming he seemed a trifle worn with a wallowing sadness in his dark sunken eyes that belayed a desperate cunning simmering under the calm surface of his neutral features. He was garbed in a white nurse's uniform, but the beauty got a precipitous little feeling he wasn't one of the staff.
A small attempt of a smile that utterly failed smeared briefly across his lips before falling away as he proffered his hand for her to grasp. "Come with me." He ordered mildly, if not with a touch of impatience flitting his even tone.
Go? What was it he meant? Anna pondered in shock as she slid from the padded bench numbly and scuffled a few wary steps towards him. Her russet curls tumbled in a veil of lanky wayward strands about her face, but she shoved them back hurriedly; her dull cobalt orbs sparking with a forgotten life as she searched him frantically. "Go? Where? Who are you?" The beauty stammered in confusion; attempting to put something…anything together.
In all her years being locked up, a small part of her noted that she had never spoken so much in one day. Even standing there talking to a complete stranger sent a thrill through her that washed a renewed freshness through the dullness of her fogged mind that mugged every thought in a morose of confusion.
The man grabbed her shoulders gently, making sure she stared him straight in the eyes as he spoke slowly as to a child. "My name is Jefferson and although you don't know it yet we are on the same side in this war. I know you have a lot of questions but I can't explain everything right now. We need to hurry."
"W-war?" Anna echoed unsurely trying to figure his words. What war? What had happened to the world as she was confined in her square cell of creeping madness?
Grinning faintly the onyx haired man shook his head slightly, a ghost of a crazed chuckle muttering as a whisper from his lips. "Never mind that. I'm here to get you out of here. There is a man; his name is Mr. Gold. You have to find him and tell him Regina locked you up. It's very important; he's very powerful and he'll know what to do and protect you. But, you have to tell him specifically that Regina. Locked. You. Up."
Even though her mind was awhirl in a vibrant myriad of inquires with the sudden change of events that was beginning to send Anna into a pernicious tailspin of thoughts, the beauty nodded vigorously as she branded the names to memory. "Yes, I must find Mr. Gold…tell him Regina locked me up."
"That's right." Jefferson assured her with a small satisfied pat on her shoulder, and for the first time he smiled, yet there was a bitterness and loathing rippling under the malice filled upturn of the lips that made Anna want to cringe.
He said nothing more as he grabbed her gently by the arm and for the first time in 30 years Annabelle French tremulously walked out of the cell she had known for so long.
The pair traversed the dim halls between the stalwart iron cast boilers, coated in thick gray grime as they wedged their way through the crevices of dirty tarnished steel and scurried under the harsh flickering lights towards a forgotten emergency exit.
"How long will it take us to reach this Mr. Gold?" Anna inquired in a whisper that echoed around the ugly squat boilers in a sound that made her flinch.
"I can't accompany you." Jefferson revealed tonelessly without looking back, as he led the way though the cobwebbed strewn under halls. "I have much to do in the coming hours…very much. Storybook is not a big place; I'll give you a few directions though I doubt that will help you much."
Anna pawed away a stagnate filmy web of dust as her body shook in a hacked, racking cough, her lungs filling with particles of grime as they finally reached the old exit, though she all but balked at his words. He was leaving a woman who had been institutionalized for years to wander across a town she didn't even recall? "Why are you doing this, what's going on. Tell me." The beauty demanded anxiously as she grabbed Jefferson's sleeve in near desperation.
"You'll know soon enough." The strange fellow replied cryptically in a powerful grunt as he kicked open the forgotten rusted door that for Anna led to the freedom she craved with all her being. "Everyone will." He finished dryly before bolting away into the sudden brightness of day, leaving Anna all by her lonesome to find a man name Mr. Gold.
Storybrooke was a very big place, Anna was quickly coming to realize, despite Jefferson's claims to the contrary. Compared to the 5 by 5 cell that had been mostly the only home she had ever known, the tiny shire was massive and frightening in every conceivable way. It might has well have been the Taj Mahal to her cramped senses that didn't seem to recall any landmark or road sign.
It had stormed the day before, casting a glossed liquid sheen on the road and sidewalks. The sky was awash in a drab, sullen gray that promised more rain in the night or late evening as Anna steadily wandered aimlessly about in the soggy inclement weather.
The beauty jumped in fright every time a car zoomed past and she scurried away from people lest anyone off duty from the hospital might spot her and drag her back or worse. She wasn't going back, the beauty had told herself determinedly as she trekked through the back way alleys away from the main thoroughfares that flowed with people.
Years holed up in a tiny cell without companionship, or one visitor, or even more than a few words; cast away from the world as broken and forgotten and useless steeled a desperation in her that hardened a resolve past anything she had ever known. She would die before suffering that terrible fate again; that was a promise.
Shaking her head sagely, the beauty shook off that particular desperate measure as she carefully picked her way down another litter and rain splattered alleyway. No, if what Jefferson said was true then this Mr. Gold could protect her from ever going back to that wretched place or the woman he said had played a hand in locking her away for so long.
Yet how was she to locate him; this auspicious Mr. Gold? Jefferson had other secretive matters to attended to, leaving her to fend for herself in finding the shop of one Mr. Gold in a town that she had no clue where to begin her search!
A frustrated cry burst angrily from Anna lips as she hunkered down on a set of cement stairs at the back of a business. She ran a hand halfway through her tangled mess of rich maple brown hair that hadn't seen a comb in years and stifled a dark curse from spitting vilely from her mouth.
Three hours of wandering about and she didn't even know if she was close to his shop! The one person she had deigned to ask, a small, surly man with a scruffy black beard who reeked heavily of cheep spirits had only scowled at the name, like he had been insulted, as he stared at Anna strangely as if he might have recognized her; causing the beauty to run off in sheer fright.
There was no way she was going to take another chance like that again, but what could she do?
"Hey, you alright?" A curious voice asked behind Anna startling her from her dire reprieve.
The escaped beauty scrambled frantically from the steps and turned about all in the same motion to see a tall, black haired woman with bright streaks of crimson mingling in her onyx tresses and wearing a small apron around her waist staring at her in concern and surprise.
"S-s-s-sorry, I was only resting…I didn't know I wasn't allowed back here." The beauty stuttered apologetically, slowly backing away as though the woman before her was a ravenous wolf.
Ruby smiled disarmingly as she made a calming motion with her hands as if she could smell the fear radiating from the ragged woman. "Take it easy, I'm not going to hurt you. No offense, but you look a little worse for wear. Everything alright?"
"Sort of." Anna dodged timidly as she twisted her fingers nervously. The young lady before her seemed kind enough, but she wasn't about to start trusting everyone she ran into.
A small, pitying smile pecked at Ruby's glossy crimson lips as she fully opened the back door to the restaurant. "I'm Ruby. Don't look so scared; I don't bite. It's just the last time I found someone back here it kind of freaked me out." She admitted with a roll of her eyes and uttering a gentle laugh that slightly calmed the beauty.
"Annabelle. I'm Annabelle." The escaped woman replied mildly as she still peered at Ruby cautiously. It felt so strange, yet in a mildly pleasant way to speak her name that hadn't passed from her lips in a very long time.
The scarlet clad waitress suddenly turned her head around back inside the building. "Hey Granny, come here for a second." She hollered, startling Anna all over again.
At the words the beauty visibly flinched, her eyes looking for a quick escape down the narrow wet and muck filled alleyways to flee from the woman before her.
The scarlet server laughed disarmingly as she made a stopping gesture towards the beauty. "No don't be scared, my Granny's is the owner. She sweet and she'll no what to do for you. No offense but by the looks of you…" The crimson clad waitress kindly let the words drops though proffered her hand to Anna's scraggly form as echoing footsteps neared.
In moments another woman, short and plump but with a warm homey face of a grandmother and silver hair wrapped up in a neat graying bun appeared next to Ruby. Her mouth was pursed shrewdly, as if she looked about to chastise her red garbed ward when she spotted Anna all but trembling.
Immediately her stern façade shifted when she saw Anna standing like a deer caught by hunters in the back of the diner. "Oh hello there, where'd you come from?"
"I…I can't tell you." Anna admitted in a soft whisper that only Ruby, with her oddly extra ordinary hearing, could catch.
The elderly woman smiled tenderly and jerked her head back into the diner. "Well if'n you're hunger we serve some of the best grub in town. You can get something to eat and calm down a bit." The hoary haired woman offered graciously.
"I don't have any money for food." The beauty revealed embarrassedly with a hint of pink blush glowing upon her cheeks. Now that that little fact was in the open, the escaped inmate fully expecting them to shoo her away.
"I didn't expect you to pay, dear." Granny replied with a small laugh as she beckoned to the straggly threadbare Anna who blinked at the kind pair owlishly as if not comprehending.
Once inside and halfway through a cheeseburger and a healthy heaping of fries, that was by far superior in every way to the unidentified gray mush of the hospital that she devoured day in and day out without a hint of change, the beauty began opening up to the kind pair as they slowly pried her shields of fear away.
"So let me see if this is right." Ruby began as she absently wiped off the counter. "You have lived in Storybrooke for a long time but don't know you're way around very well. You're running from some one or something, so you're just wandering about?"
Anna nodded as she swallowed another bite of food. "That about sums it up." She replied.
Even though she immediately had taken a liking to Ruby and her granny, she was still too wary to relate any of the major details to them, but merely tiptoed and skirted along the facts to give them a general idea of her situation.
"So you don't have a home or anything?" Granny inquired as she passed the ragged figure a white mug of steaming coffee.
Anna merely shook her head as she picked absently at the meal. She vaguely remembered her father, but she hadn't seen him in years, and besides he had been the one to admit her.
The pair of workers shared a knowing glance towards one another when they assumed Anna wasn't looking, before excusing themselves into the kitchen.
Even while sloshing the last of her fries through a puddle of ketchup, the beauty had an ear out listening to the pair, even though they spoke in hushed tones, just in case she need to dash.
"What are we going to do about her?" Ruby asked in a mild whisper.
The griddle sizzling fiercely in the kitchen, muffled the words a bit, but Anna caught them without to much trouble.
Granny offered a gusty sigh which Anna imagined she put her hands on her hips in bewilderment. "What can we do, Ruby?"
"I don't know but we can't simply let her up and leave." The scarlet server protested. "She has no money, home, job, or any identification. I'm not even sure she could give us a last name if we asked!"
"She's scared; probably running too." Granny replied in a sagely wise tone to calm the vehement Ruby down. "That's to be expected."
Anna swore she nearly heard Ruby let out a feral growl as she banged her fist on some cutlery laden counter causing it to jangle. "Well we can't just let her go!" Ruby proclaimed before lowering her voice.
"I know. We can't make her stay if she doesn't want to; she's a grown woman, but I have a plan." Granny stated before her whispered grew sullen. "Poor thing she looks as though she's had it rough for a long time."
Years to be exact, Anna grimaced at the thought as she nibbled on the remaining bit of the hamburger laying in front of her before the pair walked back in.
Granny flashed the haggard beauty a knowing wink that she had already figured out Anna had caught most of the conversation as she leaned her elbows against the counter smiling amiably. "We're not prying folk, dear, but we cant help but notice your… complicated situation. We always have a spare room in the small hotel we keep and Ruby could always use another set of hands serving the customers; you know just in case you're looking for an adequate safe place to stay." Granny offered nonchalantly in a sly careless tone, but even so the words shocked the escaped beauty.
That was more than she had ever expected from anyone she had just met. Did she look so desperate and pathetic as to evoke that kind of pity from strangers?
The remnants of the burger clattered to the plate, jolting Anna out of her awed contemplations as she shook the surprise away and flashed a wane smile. "Thanks, but I have a little plan to straighten things out. I have to find a man named Mr. Gold."
At that, both Ruby and Granny froze like stone statues at the name as if struck across their faces. The air seemed to grow cold and untrustworthy around them at the mere mention of such a title.
"Gold?" Ruby spat the name like fetid bile even though it was a question.
"Is there something wrong about Mr. Gold?" Anna asked vexed as she looked at the pair peculiarly.
Granny and Ruby shot wary incorrigible glances at the other then back to Anna dourly. "He's not the nicest man in town, Hun." Ruby replied at length, her voice lowered. "I know you want your privacy, but if you're in deep enough trouble to go to Gold, maybe Emma needs to get involved."
Emma? The beauty pondered about the name, but tucked it away for later as her brow knit curiously. "Is he truly that bad, this Mr. Gold?"
"Let's put it this way, if I had to ride in a car with Mr. Gold or the devil I'd be halfway to hell by now." Ruby remarked with an angry snort that brimmed with distaste.
The words sent clanging alarm bells through the beauty's mind, even though her face remained stalwartly neutral. Ruby seemed like the person to get along with everyone; she was just that type of person, so what made her so wary…afraid even, about this Mr. Gold?
"I still have to find him. It's very important that I do." Anna replied determinedly though she would be lying if she didn't say the words of Ruby and the looks of fear and anger didn't frighten her in the least.
A defeated sigh echoed from Granny's lips as she shook her head pityingly as if Anna were about to do something extremely foolish. Ruby began to protest, but the elderly woman silenced her with a quick wave of the hand. "Alright, but just remember our offer still stands if you find yourself in a bind."
"Thank you. I will remember." Anna smiled faintly as she finished her meal yet much more anxiously.
Well there it was, Anna sighed as she stared at the run down pawn shop nestled all by its lonesome on a street corner as if the other shops leaned away from it. The sign, crafted with big bright yellow letter of 'Gold's Pawnshop' hesitantly swung overhead and creaked with the bitter wind as she stared ponderously at the door.
Granny's patient directions were spot on, along with the warning that rang in her ears about the 'not nice' Mr. Gold. Anna had a peculiar feeling they wanted to say far more than that, but refrained from speaking too ill of him as if he might have been hiding somewhere listening to their less than pleasant comments.
Jefferson had assured her that Mr. Gold would help, and keep her safe from harm, yet Granny had offered her safety and shelter and even a job.
One should have far outweighed the other, but here she stood as if drawn to the building and the man within like some intangible tether was drawing her to whoever resided inside the old building.
With a steadying breath, the beauty, put her hand on the latch and closed her azure eyes once as if praying to whatever deity deemed to listen. "Do the brave thing and bravery will follow." She recited calmly in some ancient mantra as she steeled her nerve and opened the door…