Summary: The evening of the Miner’s Day Festival, there’s a knock on his door. He expects candle-bearing solicitors; what he finds is something rather different.
A/N: Crocus—often purple, the flower is known to survive even during winter. It can grow up through light snow, due to it’s waxy exterior, and is often thought a signifier of the changing seasons.
"this is the time of year that’s apt to put
a hammerlock on a healthy appetite,
old anxieties back into the night,
insomnia and nightmares into play;
when things in need of doing go undone
and things that can’t be undone come to call,
muttering recriminations at the door,
and buried ambitions rise up through the floor
and pin your wriggling shoulders to the wall;
and hope’s a reptile waiting for the sun.”
—February by Bill Christophersen”
Mr. Gold sits inside his house, counting, as he does many nights, while sipping on a cup of Earl Grey tea, decaffinated—this life does have its few advantages.-->
Sleep is hard enough to come by as it is; he doesn’t need to exacerbate the problem, just for the simple comfort of a nightcap.
The balancing of the books is a weekly nonnegotiable. Down to the penny. So tonight, as he tracks down the two cents he’s lost somewhere along the way, Gold’s temper is already at its boiling point, when at the sounding of the doorbell, he loses count.
Setting down his pend with a tense arm, he makes to stand, livid. Who the hell is at his door as this time of night? The whole damn town is at the Miner’s Day Festival, so that rules out the largest possibility of Regina. The mayor couldn’t be absent from such a prominent, if inane event. Sheriff Swann, then? Also, unlikely.
Perhaps French is back to exact some sort of revenge. Gold smirks, as he limps to the door—Moe French too is unlikely, seeing as how he is still on crutches himself.
Then Gold realizes, it was probably the damn dwarf back, about the nuns and their candles. He opens the door, with a hand to the bridge of his nose. “I though I made myself more than clear, earlier today. If you’re here to sell me one of those bloody candles, I can save you the trouble right now—” Then he actually sees the person to whom he is speaking.
It is a French, but not the one he had been expecting.
"I’m sorry," she says, but there’s an edge to the phrase. "I don’t happen to have candles. I just need to use your telephone."
This is a dream. Belle is standing on his front porch. Which means it is a dream.
He’s going to wake up any second now, drenched in sweat and regret, in his four-poster bed up too many stairs, with too many memories. He must have nodded off during that search for the last two cents. He says nothing. He doesn’t move, doesn’t breath, trying to make it last, because these dreams never do.
She looks at him strangely. “You see, my car,” she gestures behind her to the street, where true to form, there’s a beat-up junker pulled over to the side up the road a bit, “broke down and I need to call for a tow truck.”
He blinks and finds all he can do is open the door a bit wider. Gold clears his throat and gestures for her to enter, “Come inside.”
"Thank you," she says, eyeing him closely, but once past the threshold, her eyes find many, many other objects to entrance them.
Dream or reality (well, as real as his reality gets these days)? The better question: does it matter?
She’s wearing jeans and a button down oxford, in light blue—she’s always in blue in his dreams. Point for Dream. “My dear, where’s your coat?”
She’s examining one of his many curio cabinets in the entryway foyer, touching this trinket and that. Not a scared bone in her body, that one. She doesn’t look up to answer, instead turning an object over in her palm, a tiny figurine of a mounted horseman. “Didn’t think I’d be outside at all today.”
Unafraid and Impetuous, at least she was acting real—point for Reality. “You weren’t planning on going to the Festival then, I take it?”
She scoffs, setting down the glass figurine, just as it had been, “No. Where can I find the phone?”
He motions with his cane, “Just around that corner, on the right; it’s in the kitchen.” Gold follows her with his halting steps. He’s standing in the kitchen entrance, watching her flip through his phone book, though where she got it, he has no idea—point for Dream. She picks up the phone and dials on his outdated landline, when it comes to him, an idea for a proper litmus test in the case of Dream vs. Reality. “Why don’t you just use your cell phone?”
Belle turns, “I don’t have one yet. I’m still just settling in and all. It’s a long story, I—” she cuts off as the recording presumably begins.
"Hello, you’re reached Tillman’s Autobody; sorry we can’t come to the phone right now. Leave your name and number and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Press 1 to leave a voicemail. Press 2 for hours of operation…
"This is Isabelle French," she pauses however, shaking her head, and continues with a sigh, "without a number to be reached at." She hangs up, clearly frustrated. She groans, pressing redial with an unnecessary amount of force.
All the while, he’s been standing there contemplating whether or not to ask a very pointed question, curse be damned. It’s now or never—because he’s been alone for so long, and to hear his name from her mouth is just too tempting. She’s got a hand to her forehead, as he asks, “Do you know who I am?”
Belle looks at him straight on, never wavering, “Of course I know who you are.”
He takes in a small gasp—she knows—and waits the agonizing minute for her to continue.
"You’re the man who bludgeoned my father week before last."
Match point for Reality; painful, ruddy Reality.
Either that, or it’s one of those dreams, where she lists and catalogues all of his sins—those always last the longest.
She taps her foot impatiently. “No, you’re not sorry and I will not leave my name and number because you’re all at that stupid fundraiser. Goddamnit!” Suddenly with a growl, Belle hangs up the phone with a bang that startles even Mr. Gold.
She continues to grumble, unintelligible mutterings that he can’t make out—point to Dream and Reality. She closes the phone book and puts it back (presumably) from the cabinet from whence it came, shutting the door a little too sharply for Gold’s liking. He bites his tongue to keep from censuring her.
She pastes on a large and insincere smile. “Thank you, Mr. Gold. I’ll just be leaving now.”
Because it’s a dream (possibly), and because she’s acting in a way that he’s never seen before and has no corresponding response prepared, he questions her further, “If you know what I did to your father, why did you come to my house for help?”
Belle crosses her arms over her chest, leaning back on his kitchen counter—her actions are reminiscent or his favorite type of dream, the kind that are supposed to stop once you reach a certain age, which surely he’s reached it by now, if the color of his hair is any indicator, but her attitude tells him it’s not that kind. "Because yours was the only house with a light on. Much like Mr. Tillman," she gestures to the telephone, "everyone seems to be at the Nun’s party tonight, which should have been entirely expected, because that’s just the way my luck goes." She shakes her head and pushes herself away from the countertop. She turns to go, slipping past him, into the entryway, close enough that he can smell her perfume (and by God he thinks he just might faint).
She’s almost to the door when she turns back, “All I ask is that you don’t have the car towed tomorrow morning, before I can do it myself. I really don’t have the time or the flexible income to be making a trip down to the impound station.” When he doesn’t say anything, she just shakes her head. “Okay. Goodnight, Mr. Gold.”
Then he knows it’s real, because dreams are either altogether too happy or entirely tragic, but this—this stunted, monotonous reality—well it just screams real, as well as torturous. So it’s not quite so terrifying for him to say what he’s wanted to for the past decade.