This fic is a crossover between Once upon a time and Final Fantasy XV. It was a suggestion by a great friend and sounded like fun, so I decided to give it a try. There are hints of other FFs here, mainly VII.
Pairings: SilverGold, Belle x ?a big surprise?
Summary: AU where Cindy and Belle work as partners for the LPD forces. During the Assassin's festival, something goes horribly wrong and a famous picture hunter is found dead. The crime scene is devoid of conclusive clues and it's up to the Belles' duo to shed light on this tragedy. But in a town filled with cosplaying assassins, can they find the real culprit?
Enjoy your read!
Belle and Beller
Chapter 1 – Straw corpse
The Assassin's festival was going to mean extra security and extra work. Detective Cindy Aurum didn't mind putting out a few extra hours. Heck, she was mostly married to her job. Anything to get away from her scrappy apartment and her senile grandfather. Her uniform fitted snugly against every curve, but for once, her two conspicuously missing buttons and unregulated laced boots were nothing compared to the cosplays every civilian was wearing. Hoods were pulled up, but the city was still warm and the men were showing off just as much as the ladies.
Cindy sat in her good old Pontiac firebird, one hand on the wheel, humming a song to herself as she scrolled through Prompto's latest messages. He was an over-glorified secretary and was always on their radio, giving the calls and alerts at the oddest hour. In a city populated by highly skilled, trained, and well-paid women, Prompto was likely the only man in Lestallum with an actual job. After crumbling apart for years, the Lucis Kingdom had abdicated any ruling rights and each city still standing developed their own system, leaving Lestallum as the City of Sisterly Love.
I might have just found a place for your gramps… the message started.
The guy didn't know when to mind his own business. With a grumble, Cindy deleted it, forcing down the mix of feelings welling up. Anger, frustration, a tad of gratitude too.
"Have you been here for a long time?" asked Belle French, Cindy's partner, as she slipped into the passenger seat.
"What took ya?"
Belle just smiled, that gentle, nearly coy smile that might have been glued to her face by some spell from the fairy godmother or some other crazy folks from her old Storybrooke town.
"Not som' puppy again?"
"I found a lost kid on my way," Belle objected, not taking the least bit of offense. "I was only doing my duty."
"Ya should have called. I could have given this kid the ride o' his life."
"In style, huh? I don't think he would have liked the attent..."
The firebird's engine was already kicking and Cindy put the pedal to the metal, cutting off her partner as she took a sharp turn around their office's block and down narrower streets. Kids waved at them, knowing the fire decals on that particular modified police car by heart. Everyone felt a lot safer with them around and Cindy was glad she could inspire something good. She'd never admit it though.
"Good thing I always strap in before talking to you." Belle sighed, turning on their radio. "Hey, Prom, unit 13 is on duty as of right now, anything going on?"
"If it isn't my favorite ladies!" Prompto crackled from the other side of the radio. "I was just about to call you. We've got some panic around the Square Enix cafe. A guy nearly killed himself taking the leap of faith. Ambulance is on the way."
They heard sirens and Cindy smirked as she spotted the red lights.
"Belle, darling, ya'd better hang on. I think I can catch up with our colleagues."
Their car swerved before it dove into an alleyway that no sane driver would approach. Belle steadied herself and took out her notebook to quickly scribble down a few notes. She'd never been around sane people, and Cindy's quirks had always made it possible for them to help people faster, so she didn't mind the regular crazy rides.
"Careful of the… cosplayers."
"Whoa, check out that crowd!" Cindy marveled.
Thankfully, the ambulance had cleared a way down to the scene. Cindy parked their car, tires barely screeching despite the sudden shift in speed. Belle stepped out first, one hand on her holster as she hurried to catch up with the paramedic. Her partner was hot on her heels, face darkening as she noticed who had answered the call. Emma Swan was there, with her own partner, Ardyn Izunia. Those two were efficient healers—Ardyn, an expert in magic; Swan, his apprentice, already sporting incredible skills when it came to dress a wound. Belle and Swan came from the same town and had never gotten along.
"Miss French," said Swan in her usual stiff manner.
"Swan," Belle nodded. "Can we interrogate the victim while you check him for wounds?" she retorted, voice cold, eyes distant.
Her smile was nearly gone and Cindy wondered if she'd ever learn what could fuel any hatred from someone as gentle as her partner. Said victim was sitting down, waiters from the SE cafe trying to keep the curious bystanders from crowding him. The man had blood trickling down his temple, blue eyes and teeth whiter than a summer's cloud. His assassin's clothes were covered with straws and a few blood stains that made Belle frown with worry.
"Cin, can you take care of clearing the crowd?" she asked her partner.
Izunia let Swan take the lead, inspecting the haystack waiting below the tower attraction from which people could jump off. He knew better than to touch anything no matter how curious he felt. Belle walked up to the wounded man, who looked a lot more familiar as she knelt next to him.
"Where did you hit your head?" Emma asked him.
"There was something in that stupid haystack," he groaned. "Ouch!"
"I need to disinfect the wound, sir."
"Give a man some warning," the victim said with a wince.
Belle cleared her throat. "Sir, I'm detective French. I need to ask you a few questions. Let's start with your name."
"David Charming," he shot back.
Belle struggled to remember why that name even felt familiar. Sadly, there were a lot of things she'd forgotten from her past. She had him to blame for it, of course. Repressing memories and losing a few was almost a gift, but she didn't want it to backfire.
"Charming? Really?" Emma repeated.
"Do your job, Swan," Belle ordered her before turning her full attention to David. "That blood on your shirt—it isn't yours?"
There wasn't enough for it to be his, but the detective wanted to see his reaction. Charming looked down at himself and grimaced.
"I knew we shouldn't have come here. I really need to go find my girlfriend, lady. She has to be worried sick about me..."
"You're going to stay here until you're patched up and my colleague and I have inspected this haystack."
Cindy was done with dispatching the bystanders and had ordered the cafe staff to keep the place quiet until further notice. Both detectives met up by the haystack and it was the blond woman who carefully tossed aside a handful of hay. And three more. The straws of hay turned red by the fourth handful and a pointy dagger's handle became visible, deeply embedded inside a human body.
"No curses on the job," Belle warned.
"I was goin' ta say fudgy cakes."
Belle brushed more hay aside, revealing a livid face with puffy cheeks and skin still covered in a cold sweat.
"Ain't this the worst place to hide a body?" Cindy commented.
"But isn't this the best time to play assassin? I knew I should have taken my day off."
The festival was going to last a dozen more days yet, so having a day off or not wouldn't change anything about their investigation.
"You think we can get him out of there?" Belle asked.
"With his size?! Better knock down his haystack first. I don't know how these things even cushion a fall."
"Not stacked high enough to your liking, huh?"
"I dare ya ta say ya'd take that leap o' faith," Cindy insisted.
"To land on this hilt?"
After a half hour, they had extracted the man's wallet and cellphone from his pant pockets. It was around then that reinforcements joined them on the scene to cordon off the area. Charming had made his statement and would provide a follow-up next morning at the precinct. Ardyn had voiced his opinion about the cause of death, but Belle preferred to wait for the coroner's report.
"Vyv Giancarlo Labata: 33 years old, Lucional Geographic's manager," Belle stated as she scribbled in her notepad.
"Never read that thing," said Cindy. "Bunch of pictures ain't it? I think Argentum sold him some shots from his own collection las' month."
"No cash left in his wallet, not a single debit or credit card either," Belle noted.
To make matters worse, his phone screen was cracked and the thing refused to work no matter what Cindy tried. Their clues so far consisted of a stabbed man, the hilt of a dagger that could have been sold by any itinerant weapon vendor, lots of hay, and no witness. Belle had started interrogating the café workers, hoping she'd gather a list of any recent clients. Knowing the whereabouts or even the identity of anyone during this festival was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
"Not funny, Aurum," Cindy warned herself, dismissing the curious Ardyn and cautioning her team to carefully handle the haystack. "I want the content of this wooden crate entirely examined. Anything could help us here."
"Anything" turned out to be a small piece of green plastic, a few watches, one earring and an assassin hood. The last item was in pretty bad shape. First inspection revealed nothing conclusive. The Chief had ordered every haystack checked around the city and the same lost items turned up most of the time. Except for one hiding a frolicking couple. Prompto hadn't stopped jabbering about it for the entire lunch period, while Belle went over their potential witness list. Cindy had spent an hour on the phone trying to get something on the Lucional Geographic's magazine.
Since he was a tech wiz, Prompto was tasked with collecting information on the broken phone. Despite the theft theory Chief Jasmine had voiced when both detectives reported their first findings, both women had a suspicion this case was deeper.
Giancarlo had been standing in the middle of the street, his back to the SE café one instant. The manager answered a customer and couldn't see the gelatinous man when he looked back in his direction. He'd guessed the guy had gone for a walk or a bounce elsewhere. But according to Giancarlo's distressed fiancée, the man didn't like to move unnecessarily. He would sweat bullets quite easily and he was fearful of losing his adorable little love handles. Their only contact with the fiancée was a phone call. They would see her in the afternoon at the morgue.
"Iggy's autopsy will be done in two hours," Cindy sighed. "The LG's office is downtown. Feel up for some more investigation, pardner?"
Belle nodded. They couldn't believe in a simple robbery gone wrong. Vyv wasn't the type to carry much cash on him, and the assailant couldn't have dragged him all the way to the crime scene. There was no trace of blood and the bottom hay was stained scarlet red.
"A man this size wouldn't be easy to carry around," Belle commented as the car sped down the street.
"And I doubt there was a struggle," Cindy noted. "Although this Charming guy has tampered with our crime scene."
"Do you think Giancarlo could have been pushed down from the tower after getting stabbed?" Belle suggested.
Cindy snickered. She liked her partner, but sometimes, the girl had crazy theories. "And no one saw it? No one reported it before another guy jumped? This leap o' faith is the biggest attraction around."
Belle pursed her lips as she mused at the many possible explanations. Lestallum's streets slowly changed, bright neon lights switching to crude colors, fumes and vapors filtering the view. Cindy was forced to slow down. The first notes of some corny, old love song chimed in their car prompting Belle to quickly check her texts.
"Prompto's salvaged our vic's phone. Want the intel?" Belle asked, even though she knew the answer.
Belle scrolled down the mail. "Contacts data were wiped out, but there are hundreds of pictures in there. It might take a few days to sort through them."
"Our desk boy might as well check those pics. What else does he do except making coffee for Jaz?" Cindy kidded around.
"You should give him more credit. He makes coffee for you too. And…"
Cindy cut her off, parking their patrol car so close to the sidewalk, Belle was nearly afraid of opening her door and having it grazing the concrete.
"Let's focus on this case, Belle. Anything else?"
"Well, Giancarlo has no relatives outside of his fiancée. Who, by the way, seems far too young for him."
"Sugar daddy," Cindy clicked her tongue.
"I hope we can find something at his office. Prompto says the contact number he had for Giancarlo was the same as the broken phone."
Belle's hopes collapsed with the first look at the office. It sat between two metal structures, a haphazard mix of glass and concrete. Every block on this street had strips in its materials, likely squished closer together with Lestallum's development. Ever-growing, the city's heart was slowly falling apart, bleeding out into his numerous arteries.
A single sign with a bold L and a shier G confirmed they'd found the right place. The front door was unlocked and the lobby littered with pieces of paper and notebooks. The paintings and posters were ripped off the walls or left askew. Someone had been searching the place, running through it like a cyclone.
"So I guess our killer was after his keys, not his money," Bell stated, keeping her voice low.
The small office was dead quiet and the single room past the lobby was void of movement. A side door led to the bathroom, which reeked of a foul, sour odor despite a dozen scenting herbs tied to its ceiling.
"Did we miss something? Any way out?" Cindy asked her partner.
Belle was already focusing on the missing computers and lonely screens on the two desks. She noticed a single frame where a sexy barmaid posed, dressed like a bee and holding a platter of cocktails.
"I can't believe this guy. If this is his fiancée…" she uttered, eying the picture.
Cindy took a long hard look at their surroundings, assessing what the place looked like before the "break in".
Pins used to keep a few checklists to the walls. She picked one up, reading the "Items of Interest". It seemed their dead guy had been looking for new pictures:
-Cat hanging in front of the Leville sign
-That guy looking down on people
-The legendary Malboro leaving down the sewers of Lestallum
-Red chocobo, wild and mystic creature spotted recently by the farms
-Two other cats
And the list went on with the reasonable and less reasonable prices the guy was willing to pay.
"Shit, that man had some heavy money to throw around!" Cindy declared with a whistle.
"And it seems he worked alone. Or maybe all his contacts and associates were stored on his phone. There's nothing in any of these..."
Belle was interrupted by a violent crash and both women looked up to the back window, which was the only current source of light in the office. A shadow went up the window, followed by a larger one letting out a loud curse. At that point, Cindy noticed that the window served as a fire escape. A wire hit the window and left a scratch.
"How much are you ready to bet these are our computer thieves?"
It was a race between the two partners to get at the window first—a race Belle won, much to Cindy's shock. It was a matter of seconds for the glass to lift, Belle jumping onto the shaky railing and immediately spotting two cosplayers running up the ladder to escape via the roof. They were slowed down by heavy equipment, suspiciously similar to a pair of computers. Belle went over the lader two bars at a time. The presumed thieves were already crossing over some pipes to the building across the street, in pure assassin's festival fashion. Belle was hot on their trail—Cindy keeping up, never one to back down on a challenge.
"Running from us is no use, guys!" Belle called after them.
"LPD! We only have a few questions," Cindy added, accentuating the badge that was pinned to her low collar as she walked over the pipes.
Knowing they were three stories high was enough for Cindy's stomach to tumble and protest as she focused on Belle's wavy hair in front of her. She was starting to regret her burritos' lunch. If only Belle didn't bring some every two days! When her feet hit the other roof, she fell into a run, noticing how the guys were taking longer steps and gaining distance.
Belle was mentally naming every detail she could gather about them. One tall and lean; one larger, with a definite limp to the right. These guys didn't need to exchange a single word to decide on their next step. They walked and ran with purpose, kicking at boxes and metal containers to slow down their pursuers. Luckily, the rooftops formed a maze, and civilians weren't allowed on these parts outside of the festival. Cindy had one or two complaints to file with security once they got back to the good old ground.
Belle was slowly catching up with them and managed to grab a cape, yanking back the larger runner. He coughed and nearly tripped on his feet, turning on himself in a desperate attempt to find his balance. A flurry of fur ran by, dark with white spots, scared by getting his card box kicked. Cindy didn't have time to warn her partner. For an instant, Belle could see with clarity a hairy torso and one muscled arm hit her across the waist. A cat meowed in pain, hitting her back legs. With another twirl, the hooded man was free from Belle's grasp, while she fell on the metal railing by the edge of the roof.
Metal cringed and bent, weakened by years of rain and being blown around by the strong wings. Time slowed down as Cindy saw the railing pulling at his hinges, Belle hanging precariously over the street. Cars were driving by—people enjoying the festival, ignorant of the danger right above their heads.
"Oh my…" Cindy started.
"Serves you right, …" the leaner guy called over his shoulder, using a word that didn't offend both detectives quite equally.
Belle saw the hesitation on Cindy's face. The metal cringed a little more. The concrete was starting to crack and the echoes of the thieves' footsteps grew fainter.
"Go after them, Cin."
"Ya can't be…"
"Go before we lose our biggest lead!"
Her hasty arm movement aimed to point after them was enough to send Belle and her lifeline of metal down. Cindy rushed to the edge of the roof, culprits and investigation nearly forgotten. The railing collided with the pavement, car tires screeching as drivers hit the brakes. Belle should have been lying on the concrete too, broken and bloodied, but Cindy couldn't find her. The scream stuck in her lungs was eating her alive and she tried to control her voice as she called out.
She was blinking madly, trying to analyze everything on the street, and spotted a lone haystack, its contents moving around. One hand parted the hay to wave at her.
"I'm here!" Belle called back.
Cindy threw a glance over her shoulder. The cosplaying thieves were out of sight. They needed to return to that magazine office to search for clues. She located a ladder and got back down, helping Belle out of her haystack.
"Nothing pointy in that one?" Cindy asked her.
"I'm fine as rain," Belle retorted, trying to get the hay out of her hair. Cindy helped her, holding back a sigh at the idea they could have sent one of those guys into the haystack if they'd checked the street a little closer.
"Ya know I can't let yar pretty face get hurt now. DP would get mad at me for not being extra careful with his sugarplum…"
Belle had the decency to blush and immediately tried to change the subject. "I noticed something on limp-guy. There was a tattoo on the inside of his wrist. Looked like a sword."
"Oh, now that's something interesting. Let's head back to Giancarlo's office, gather what we can and get to the morgue. We have a lil' less than an hour before Iggy calls us."
As though to prove her wrong, her phone rang then. It was the precinct.
"What is it, desk-boy?"
She could nearly picture Prompto blushing as he sat a bit straighter behind his desk. He hated when she called him that, but still got flustered from the small, personal attention hiding behind the nickname.
"We've got another corpse," he told her, sounding as detached as possible. "It was found in an abandoned apartment by some kids playing around. The Chief wants you to check on it now."
The news took away her brief elation at the idea they'd made some progress.
"Something wrong with this one?"
"It's a kid. And it's ugly," Prompto stated.
"What's the world coming to…" Cindy sighed.
"I'm on my way there actually. Jaz think I could help with the other kids. I've sent you the address by text earlier, but you never answered."
"I was busy running after thieves on a rooftop," Cindy defended herself.
"You always get all the fun."
She wasn't so sure about that, but being a cop wasn't supposed to be easy.
"I think for once, we'll have Iggy wait on us. We'll be bringing him more work before the end of the day," Cindy told Belle.
"Another one? Could they be related?"
"I don't know which option would be better. But this assassin's festival is starting to feel like a bad joke."
Belle stretched her limbs, making sure nothing was broken and observed with a forced smile. "At least, those haystacks aren't only useful to hide bodies…"
Poor attempt, but Cindy smiled back.
"Get in the car, hay-girl."
One more crime to solve. It was just another day in good ol' Lestallum for the Belles of the LPD forces.
To be continued…
This will be a short fic, focusing on one single investigation. I think we will have 7 to 8 chapters in total, but nothing is set in stone yet. There's only one more character from Once Upon A Time joining us for the ride, but you can expect more surprises along the way.
I would like to thank my beta for his help with this!
If you liked the story and are curious for more, be sure to let me know. As always, I work on feedback. 😉