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You Were My Happily Ever After

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Lucy Desrosiers led an incredibly repetitive life. Every day, just as school was getting in across town, she unlocked the doors to Storybrooke’s library. Very few people actually used it, which meant that she mainly got paid to just sit at the front desk and read, but she manned the fort just the same.

At the same time that Lucy opened the library each day, Matthew Fitzroy called his first period English class to order. He worked at Storybrooke High School, and every day he did his best to instill a passion for reading and for classic literature in the young minds that sat in his classroom.

Despite having incredibly similar interests and being roughly the same age, Lucy and Matthew never met. Lucy’s shift at the library ended promptly at 3:30pm every weekday, meaning that she was already at home by the time that Matthew walked across town to do some reading of his own there after school got out. They each spent 50% of their time in the library but they never, ever crossed paths.

Maybe that was why they both always felt as if they were missing something. They were content with their lives but they never truly felt whole, no matter how hard they tried. Both Lucy and Matthew filled their free time with books in an effort to block out the strange, melancholy feeling that always seemed to linger, but books, love them as they did, could only do so much.

You see, Lucy Desrosiers and Matthew Fitzroy were meant to be together – they just couldn’t remember that they were.

It had nearly been a year since the Enchantress’s spell was broken. Things had finally calmed down at the castle, and Adam was… content, for what he felt may have been the first time in his life. He and Belle had married in December, just before the holiday celebrations were set to begin; it simply made travelling easier for everyone.

The celebrations that followed, both of their marriage and the holidays, had lasted well into January, and then February, March and April had been busy on both of their parts; Adam had a million and one diplomatic things to attend to, and Belle had resigned herself to handling things that required royal attention in Villeneuve. That had included taking the names of any and all children who wished to attend the small school that she had convinced her husband they ought to operate out of the castle’s library.

There were more books in there than they could ever read on their own, and thus Belle had felt that the wealth of knowledge should be shared with anyone who desired to learn. Adam hadn’t even attempted to argue with her. He wasn’t particularly fond of how the schoolmaster in Villeneuve was running things – only partially because he was all-too-aware that he had frequently called Belle “strange”. She wasn’t strange. She was remarkable.

Thus, most of May had been spent readying the castle for the arrival of the children in June, when they all had a break from the spring planting season until the harvest arrived in late August. Belle was positively ecstatic, and the absolute happiness that she radiated as she helped out was contagious. Whenever she was happy, Adam was happy.

He was feeling particularly so on one evening near the end of May as he watched Belle working furiously on one of her many sketches. What sort of invention it was he couldn’t make heads-nor-tails, but he adored very little more than watching her when she got this way. It didn’t matter if she was wearing her ordinary day dresses or an elaborate evening gown; she would always hunch over the table in the dining room, her hair falling into her face if it wasn’t pulled back, while she worked intently.

They’d finished dinner nearly an hour ago and the wax of the candles perched atop the table was beginning to burn low, but Adam didn’t have the heart to suggest that they move to the library. Doing so could break her concentration and he’d been on the receiving end of one of her crankier moods the last time he did so. Instead, he leaned his cheek against his palm and gazed with a fond grin and an adoring twinkle in his eyes at his wife, sat just a few inches to his left.

He knew it was a far cry from royal custom, the way that they ate dinner together; his father would roll over in his grave if he knew, and the thought gave Adam a tremendous sense of satisfaction. No, married couples of their stature were supposed to sit at opposite ends of the long table, with their dinner courses individually portioned at their respective ends. Adam simply couldn’t stand the thought of it. Belle being all the way down there when she could be directly at his side, close enough for him to hear and smell and touch her? He preferred it this way with all of his heart. What with how busy the past few months had been, the evenings really were the only time that they had allotted just for being together. It was important to him to be close to her during whatever time their schedules allowed.

Finally, seeming to sense his eyes on her in the idea-driven trance that she had been in, Belle glanced up at Adam with a soft smile.

“How long have you been staring?”

“I haven’t been staring,” he disagreed, lifting a hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, “I’ve been gazing. There’s quite a difference.”

“Well, how long have you been gazing, then?” she teased him, her smile growing as she lifted a hand to take his after he tucked her hair behind her ear.

“An appropriate amount of time for a husband to gaze adoringly at his wife,” he stated simply, toying with her fingers when she took his hand, and her grin grew even more. He was positively ridiculous.

“You’ve been doing it the whole time, haven’t you?”

“I have.”

Laughing, she leaned forward and captured his lips in a soft kiss, getting to her feet and taking both of his hands in hers afterward to pull him up with her.

“I’m sorry; I know I probably seem terribly distracted lately. I just have so many ideas for the school, and I don’t want to forget any of them, and-”

Letting go of Belle’s hands, Adam cupped her cheeks and pulled her to him for another, longer kiss, her smaller hands coming up to rest at his wrists. When they finally broke apart, Adam nuzzled her nose before speaking.

“Don’t apologize, my sweet. All of the marvelous ideas rattling around in your brilliant brain happen to be one of the many reasons that I am madly in love with you,” he all but purred and Belle grinned, holding onto his wrists slightly tighter than before.

“You’re madly in love with me, are you?” she breathed and he smirked, moving at astonishing speed so that his hands were at her waist, lifting her up and twirling her around.

“I’m positively raving mad for you!” he declared over the sound of her laughter, tugging her close once he sat her back on her feet. “Utterly bonkers. Off my rocker. Loony, all for you.”

“Well,” Belle cooed, grinning softly as she pulled him backward toward the open balcony doors. “I’m quite mad for you, as well. The maddest of all, I’d wager, and I think the vast majority of the village would back me up on it.”

Smiling faintly at her newfound ability to joke about her past insecurities, Adam let Belle pull him outside into the warm spring night air. Turning her around in his arms, he hugged her from behind when they reached the balcony’s edge, pressing a tender kiss to her cheek.

“You’d have to be mad to have fallen in love with me,” he joked, nuzzling his nose against her cheek, and she laughed quietly, resting her arms over his around her waist.

It was reaching that point in the season where the weather couldn’t decide if it wanted to be spring or summer; instead of dampness or a dry heat, the air felt dreadfully sticky. Heavier than usual, almost. Adam found it strange, but he felt he was hardly one to properly judge weather after living in an endless winter for so long.

“I wasn’t mad,” Belle whispered, resting her head back against his shoulder as he held her close. “Once we found common ground, falling in love with your heart and your humor and your kindness was the easiest thing that I’ve ever done…”

Her expression softening, she tilted her head up to press her lips against his. Smiling into her kiss, Adam returned it, squeezing his arms around her. There were still moments when he truly couldn’t believe that any of this was real – that someone so wonderful could ever love him in return. Thankfully, the rings on their fingers, warm and solid, were a blissful reminder that not only did she love him – she was his wife.  

“Are you happy, my love…?” he asked her quietly when they broke apart. It was a question he asked her frequently, but he couldn’t help it. He was sure a lingering bit of insecurity would always cause him to be afraid that she was truly unhappy and just good at hiding it, as ridiculous as such a concern would seem to anyone else. Belle, however, always put his worries at ease with her kind, loving smiles and softly spoken words.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” she assured him, leaning up to kiss his scruffy jaw. Much to her pleasure, he had grown a beard after she requested that he do so, and it suited him tremendously. It somehow made him look even more dignified.

“Do you swear it?” he whispered in her ear and she grinned, turning around in his arms to face him, resting both hands on his chest. Almost instinctively, Adam lifted his to rest atop them, tenderly brushing his thumb over her wedding ring.

“I swear,” she confirmed, leaning up on her toes to press a kiss to his lips. The peacefulness of the moment was shattered, however, when thunder rolled in the distance and a sharp gust of wind made them both stumble and rattled the balcony’s doors on their hinges. Frowning, Belle turned toward the sound, still holding onto both of Adam’s hands.

“There’s not supposed to be a storm tonight,” she stated, squinting through the darkness. The stars were still shining in the sky directly above their heads; it wasn’t nearly overcast enough for a thunderstorm. It had been lovely all day. But the heaviness of the air did suggest that something was coming.

“Perhaps we should go back in?” Adam suggested, following her line of sight. It was the usual view; stars shining over the royal rose gardens, followed by miles of forest and then the wall of mountains. He still distinctly remembered when it had all been covered by a thick sheet of ice and snow.

But Belle wasn’t listening. The wheels in her head were turning vigorously – he could tell from the way her lips were pursed and her brow was furrowed. It was an expression he knew very well.

“My love? Did you hear me?”

“There isn’t a cloud in the sky, Adam. There shouldn’t be-”

Belle’s words were cut off by another roll of thunder, closer this time – it sounded as if it was just past the mountain range. When the force of the next gust of wind shook the rose bushes below so harshly that several petals fell, Adam tightened his hold on Belle’s hands, beginning to urge her back toward the balcony doors.

“Belle, I really must insist that we go in-”

The look on her face mere seconds after he spoke made him pause. It was a look of sheer horror and panic – one that even he at his most beastly had never garnered. He wasn’t even sure she’d looked so taken aback when he’d been about to die.

Turning around to see what had caused such a look, Adam felt his own heart plunge downward and his breath catch in his throat.

Moving at a terrifyingly quick speed past the mountains and over the trees was a thick cloud of smoke – purple smoke. It was unlike any storm that he had ever seen in all of his years living in the secluded castle and he knew instantly what it was.

It was magic. Dark magic, undoubtedly, from the way it seemed to demolish everything in its path, thunder continuing to roll within the cloud. Clinging to Belle’s hands, only one thought resonated in his brain: Agatha.

She was the only person for miles capable of casting such a spell – he of all people would know. But why? Why would she cast another curse upon them all? Had he done something to displease her? He’d been so sure that she would be content with how he was running things these days; he was kind, and generous, and always put others before himself. Should the entire village come to his door requesting shelter from the bitter cold, he would have welcomed them in with open arms.

So why?

“Get inside. Now, Belle – now!” he urged her, all but picking her up and carrying her back into the dining room, shutting the doors and locking them before urging her quickly down the hall. They had to find the servants and warn them all.

“What was that?” Belle finally gasped out and Adam shook his head, his voice thick when he spoke.

“A curse.”

Her heart beating faster as they ran, their hands clasped tightly, Belle gasped out, “…Agatha?

“It has to be. No one else has that sort of magic. Believe me, I looked.”

“But why?” Belle asked, shaking her head as they hurried down the stairs, darting down the hall toward the kitchen where their servants would all surely be congregated for their own dinner.

“I don’t know,” Adam croaked, trying to fight back his anxiety. He had to get everyone out; get them to run, as far away as possible. He wouldn’t let them be cursed again, he just wouldn’t. “I must have done something to displease her-”

“But you’ve done nothing!” Belle cried with disbelief, unable to accept that Agatha would ever be so cruel. She knew her. She was kind enough to save her father when Gaston trussed him up in the woods, and she’d brought Adam back to her from the brink of death. This couldn’t be Agatha’s doing. It just couldn’t be!

“I have to have done something!” Adam disagreed, swallowing roughly as he shoved open the kitchen doors. Instantly, everyone was on their feet.

“Master! Did you need something?” Cogsworth was the first to ask but Adam just shook his head, still clinging to Belle’s hand.

Run. I need you all to run. Now! There isn’t a moment to lose!”

“But whatever for?” Mrs. Potts asked, instantly clutching Chip to her skirts, and Adam felt his stomach churn. Chip. Innocent little Chip who deserved a wonderful life. Chip, who had always tried to make him smile even in the ghastliest of times. He couldn’t do this to him. Not again.

“There’s something coming. A curse, from over the mountains. It’s engulfing everything in its wake and I know it has to be something that I’ve done to anger Agatha that’s caused it. I won’t condemn you all to suffer with me. Not again. Never again. Go, please! Before it’s too late!”

There was a long stretch of silence in the kitchen and nobody moved. Finally, Lumiere spoke up.

“We won’t leave, Master.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Adam disagreed, speaking in a rush. “There’s no time to waste! Please, you must go! All of you!”

“We won’t leave,” Mrs. Potts repeated Lumiere’s words, gently squeezing Chip’s shoulders. To his absolute horror, all of the servants stayed exactly where they were as the thunder outside grew louder. The curse was almost upon them all.

“This is madness,” Adam bemoaned, looking pleadingly down at Belle. Surely if they would listen to anyone, it would be her.

But she didn’t leap to urge everyone out. Instead, she squeezed his hand tightly, ignoring the increasing sound of rattling china as the force of the curse’s power began to make the castle tremble.

“Whatever this is, it’s not your doing,” she stated firmly, and everyone in the room nodded. “I don’t know what’s happening, or why, but it’s not because of you. You’ve changed, Adam – you have done nothing to be condemned again. We won’t leave you. None of us will.”

Leaning in, she whispered, “I promised to never leave you again, and I intend to keep that promise.”

Swallowing roughly, Adam wound his arms around her and held her tightly. He couldn’t bear the thought of becoming a beast again because it meant that something dreadful would undoubtedly happen to her, as well. What would she be turned into? More importantly, how would he break this curse? How would he save her?

There wasn’t much time for deliberation. Seconds later, the purple smoke smashed through the castle, crumbling the walls and shattering windows, destroying everything in its wake as it swept over them all. But they weren’t transformed into hideous beasts or household objects. When the smoke dissipated, leaving behind only ruin, they were all gone.

Lucy Desrosiers led a very repetitive life, but that was all about to change. She should have guessed as much when she noticed, upon arriving at work, that the tower clock that rose up out of the library was actually working. In all of her life, she had never once seen the hands of that old clock move.

As always, Lucy was spending her morning reorganizing the library from the night before. She wasn’t sure who closed up after the evening shift, but they always left such a mess in their wake. Books would be strewn about everywhere imaginable, and from every possible field of study. There was no sense of order at all and it nearly drove her mad. Considering hardly anyone used the library during the day, who could possibly be making such a mess of it at night?

Truthfully, she hadn’t expected anyone at all to show up today. It was horribly dreary outside – a rainstorm bordering on a hurricane. So, when the door swung open and Regina Mills, of all people, swept in with fire in her eyes, Lucy was a bit taken aback.

“Madame Mayor! This is quite a surprise,” she greeted her, hugging the remaining books she had yet to shelf to her chest, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear that had fallen loose from the twist at the back of her head.

Regina didn’t even attempt her usual charm. Instead, she swept forward and furiously held up a book in front of Lucy’s face – a picture book bearing the title Once Upon a Time.

“Do you mind explaining why you gave this to my son?” she snapped and Lucy blinked, taking a small step backward so that she could properly examine the book.

“Well, it’s a book,” she began, setting aside the ones in her arms, “and I am a librarian.”

“Oh, don’t get lippy with me,” Regina snapped, shoving the book into Lucy’s arms. If looks could kill, the latter was sure she’d be lying on the floor. “You gave this book to him for a reason. Whatever that reason was, Henry is now convinced that I’m some sort of evil queen! He’s a troubled boy, Miss Desrosiers; this was the last thing that we needed.”

“It’s just a storybook, Madame Mayor,” Lucy stated apprehensively, flipping through the pages and shaking her head, “Filled with old fairytales. You said it yourself; Henry is troubled. I thought they might make him feel better.”

“Well, all you’ve done is make things worse,” Regina stated venomously. “Are you aware that this book inspired him to run away in search of his birth mother? To jump on a bus, all by himself, and travel to a city unsupervised where anything could have happened to him?”

Lucy’s eyes widened with horror and she quickly shook her head. “No! No, of course not! But I don’t see how the book could ever have inspired him to-”

“I don’t care!” Regina stated, scowling. “What matters is that it did! He is not to go near that book, or any others like it in this place, ever again. I want you to stop filling my son’s head with nonsense, or you will regret it. Don’t test me.”

Honestly, it’s just a book! What do you intend to do? Ban Henry from reading because he might pick up a copy of Dracula and accuse you of being a vampire? He’s coping, Madame Mayor! More than that, he’s lonely. That happens to be something that I can relate to - and perhaps, if you would show him a bit of kindness, he wouldn’t be inclined to think that you’re a villain!”

“I am not a villain!” Regina shouted, pointing a threatening finger in Lucy’s direction. “I am his mother. That happens to be something that you know nothing about, no matter how many of these books you’ve read.”

Turning on her heel, Regina stalked out of the library and put her umbrella up, slamming the door behind her. Cringing, Lucy squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, taking a wavering breath. All that she had wanted to do was help Henry. She knew that he had a difficult life; aside from his mother being a terror, Henry didn’t… fit in their small town. The other children at school thought that he was strange. That was a feeling that Lucy herself knew all too well. She’d always found solace in books – she thought that he might, too.

Walking over to the front desk, she sat Once Upon a Time down on its surface and flipped the book open. It was a beautiful storybook, really; immaculately illustrated and featuring all of the very best fairytales. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Little Red Riding Hood; they were all there. They gave readers hope that good would always rise victorious in the end. On days like this one, Lucy wondered if maybe that wasn’t so true, after all.

Closing the book, she’d been about to return to her task of shelving the books that the nightshift left strewn carelessly about when the library door opened again and someone strolled in. Two people in a single hour, and in weather like this? This never, ever happened.

The newest patron was a young man, who she assumed to be around her age, clad in khakis, a white button-down with a blue and white striped tie, a black raincoat and glasses. His blonde hair was plastered to his forehead, soaked from the rain, and Lucy knew instantly that she’d never met this person before.

“Can I help you?” she asked, stepping forward, and he didn’t look at her at first, his gaze too busy flitting around in search of something.

“I was here last night, and I’m afraid I left my umbrella behind. Aha!”

He crossed the front of the library and walked over to the tables on the other side of the room, mindless of the fact that he was sopping wet and tracking water and mud all over the place. Wrinkling her nose slightly, Lucy shook her head and hugged her books closer to her chest as she watched him retrieve his umbrella from where it hung on the back of one of the many wooden chairs.

“You walked here in the middle of a rainstorm, getting yourself entirely soaked in the process, just to fetch your umbrella?” she questioned, raising an eyebrow. “That seems quite counterproductive, if you ask me.”

Glancing over at her properly for the first time, the young man blinked. A moment later, he began to smile, and then he laughed.

“You’re quite right,” he agreed, sighing and examining his umbrella, shaking his head. “To be honest, I’m not sure what motivated me to come and fetch it. What with the storm being so bad that school was cancelled, by all logic I just should have stayed home.”

“You seem a bit old for school,” Lucy quipped, smirking just a little, and the stranger shook his head, pulling off his dripping leather gloves and stuffing them into his jacket pockets.

“I teach English over at the high school.” Extending his hand, he walked forward to properly introduce himself. Given that he spent every evening here pouring through as many books as he possibly could, it only seemed proper to introduce himself to who he assumed had to be one of the librarians. Why else would she be here in this storm? “Matthew Fitzroy? You may have had students coming in here, complaining about me from time to time.”

Taking his hand, Lucy shook it and noticed that, up close, his eyes were shockingly blue. They were like something out of a dream – a dream she was certain she’d had hundreds of times.

“Lucy Desrosiers,” she followed his lead, offering him a small smile, “I’m the day librarian – but no, I’ve never had students complain about you. Although, I’m sure that’s a good thing.”

Matthew stared at her curiously, not letting go of her hand for a long moment.

“It’s the strangest thing,” he murmured, gazing at her intently. “I feel as though we’ve met before.”

Blushing, Lucy shook her head, gently dislodging her fingers from his.

“I assure you, Mr. Fitzroy, we haven’t. I think I’d remember.”

She was certain she would remember. How could she forget eyes as blue as the Aegean Sea and a voice that sounded like silken velvet? He made a subtle shiver run down her spine and she was sure he wasn’t even trying to do so. The charming smile he offered her after the fact certainly didn’t help matters. Pushing his wet hair back from his forehead, he adjusted his glasses on his nose before saying, “Matthew. Please, call me Matthew. Only my students call me Mr. Fitzroy.”

Still blushing, Lucy nodded, diverting her gaze from him and returning to putting her books away so that she wouldn’t entirely melt into a puddle on the floor. Why did he have this effect on her? She didn’t even know him, and she’d never been one to swoon before. A moment later, however, she paused.

“Hold on a moment. Did you say you were in here last night?”

“I was, yes,” he confirmed, running his fingertips over the stubble lining his jawline, and Lucy pursed her lips. “I come here every night. Why do you ask?”

Stepping forward, she held the books in her arms accusatorily in his direction.

You’re the one who always leaves my library a complete and utter disaster? It takes me an hour and a half, at least, every morning to put all of your books away in their proper spots! To make things worse, the books that you do put away are never in the right places!”

Taking the books from her, Matthew glanced at the titles, chuckling quietly as she bristled. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, Great Expectations – all titles he had been pouring through last night, while debating what to introduce his class to next. They were just three of many.

“I hadn’t realized I was such a bother,” he hummed, looking up at her again, tucking the books beneath his arm. “You see, I have this dreadful habit of staying here until closing, and the night librarian never gives me any time to clean up after myself. He always insists that he’ll do it, but I suppose he’s a liar, if this serves as evidence.”

Pausing, feeling a bit sheepish when he provided her with a perfectly fair explanation, Lucy quietly cleared her throat.

“I… I apologize. I didn’t mean to accuse you-”

“No, no; it’s quite alright. Perfectly fair, in fact. I’ll have to start cleaning up earlier to ensure I save you the extra work.”

Slightly flustered by the charming lilt of his voice and his smile, Lucy nodded, exhaling a slow breath.

“Right. I, um… Thank you.”

She had begun to turn away again when his voice made her stop.

“Would you mind showing me the proper place to put these back? I’ve always been dreadful at figuring out how the Dewy Decimal System works. My personal library is a bit of a mess.”

“I… Of course. Yes. Follow me,” Lucy agreed, gesturing for him to come with her, adjusting her white cardigan. An English teacher. It all made sense now – the diversity of the content, the sheer amount of it every evening, the fact that all of the books smelled faintly of cologne every morning…

…well, perhaps that last one wasn’t a universal English teacher thing.

Frankenstein belongs in the science fiction section, under S for Shelley. Great Expectations should be in general fiction, and The Picture of Dorian Gray-”

“-in science fiction, as well?” Matthew guessed and Lucy offered him a small smile, shaking her head.

“Gothic, actually. Although, I suppose it could fit into science fiction, too. I never really thought about it that way before…”

“Truly?” Matthew chuckled, walking around to put the books back where she instructed. He was still dripping rain water all over the place, but Lucy found she didn’t mind quite as much as she did before. In fact, she found herself following him around while he shelved the books. “It’s the only genre I ever considered for it up until now. A cursed painting that keeps Dorian young and beautiful forever, but becomes mutilated with each of his sinful actions? That positively screams science fiction to me, much like Shelley’s works do. Although, now that you’ve mentioned it, Frankenstein could be considered gothic, as well…”

“But those are precisely the reasons why Dorian Gray fits into the gothic genre, as well,” Lucy countered, picking up a few more misplaced books to shelve them as she spoke. “Some people have argued that the painting is demonic, and horrific elements such as demonology directly fit into the gothic scene. There’s also the elements of individuality and heightened emotion; Dorian is trying to find himself for much of the book’s beginning, and the tale is very emotionally driven. While lust is what keeps him young, it’s love that ends up being his undoing. That entirely parallels the normal Romantic notions of the time. Wilde truly was a revolutionary.”

Blinking, Matthew turned to look at her properly as she spoke, finding himself enraptured by both her knowledge and her voice. He’d never met anyone even half as passionate about literature as he was in all of the time he’d spent in Storybrooke, and he’d lived there for as long as he could remember.

“Where have you been all my life?” he asked suddenly, blushing slightly when he realized he’d said it aloud, hurrying to correct himself. “That is… I’ve never met anyone like you before. You’re so…” He wanted to say ‘marvellous’, but instead he opted for, “…wise.”

Laughing slightly, Lucy turned her head to look at him and Matthew found himself utterly enchanted by her smile. He was so used to being melancholy and, for the first time in his life, he just… didn’t. Maybe it was because he’d finally found someone to share his passion with. Someone bright, and opinionated, and…

completely beautiful. It was impossible not to notice. She was beautiful in the most literary sense of the word, like a heroine out of an Arthurian romance. Her brown eyes were the most expressive he had ever seen, the smattering of freckles on her nose were charmingly adorable, and her smile seemed as if it could light up the whole world. Lucy Desrosiers was the type of woman that people wrote sonnets about; blazons depicting her beauty, and not just her outward beauty but what lied within, as well. She could put Shakespeare’s beloveds to shame. Maybe he was just a hopeless romantic, but there was something… very different about Lucy that he’d never found in anyone else in Storybrooke.

“I’m wise, am I?” she asked, finally shaking him from his romantic reverie and Matthew nodded, quietly clearing his throat.

“No one has ever discussed books with me before – at least, not willingly,” he added as an afterthought with a small, wry smile. His students, as smart as they may be, were not the sort of teenagers who fancied sticking around and talking about literature when they could be doing other things.

“Well, this is a library,” Lucy told him, returning his smile with a soft one of her own before she resumed shelving books. “You’re more than welcome to come here and discuss books any time. In fact, I’d encourage you to do so. I get dreadfully lonely here all day. As much as I love my books, they can’t always substitute true companionship.”

“I imagine not,” Matthew agreed, for that was a sentiment to which he related greatly. His blue eyes following her as she moved about, shelving books, he finally made himself ask, “Would you mind if I stayed a while? Today, I mean? It’s raining dogs and cats out there and I’ve got no place else to go but home, and home is…”

“…lonely,” Lucy guessed, pausing and looking over at him, and he nodded. It didn’t matter that he spent his days surrounded by people; he still craved having someone with him in the evenings, or on weekends; anytime, really, when he was alone. He lived in his family’s old gothic house across town, having inherited it when his parents died, and it was a dreadful place at times. Creaky, poorly lit, and drafty. He couldn’t afford a proper housekeeper on his teaching salary, but most of the issues were beyond a simple cleaning, anyway. Most nights he ended up huddled in the library in front of the fireplace, reading with a string of classical music playing as background noise in an attempt to push back the fact that, when it came down to it, he was entirely alone in the world.

Lucy could understand that. While she lived with her father in a small house not far from the library, and she loved him dearly, he was often off in his own world, either wrapped up in a painting or a tinkering job that he was working on. Her father read, of course, but not nearly as much as his librarian daughter. More than anything in the world, she craved someone to share her passion for stories with.

“Of course you can stay,” she told Matthew, offering him a soft smile. “You really don’t have to ask; it is a public library, after all…”

“I suppose not,” he agreed, shrugging off his jacket, crossing the room to drape it and his umbrella over the back of a chair once again. While he was at the front of the library, he noticed Once Upon a Time lying on the front desk. Finding his interest to be peaked, he walked over and opened it up, leafing through the pages.

“What’s this?” he called back to Lucy, finding the fairytales within to be a bit strange. They were unlike any he had ever read. While the beginning traces of all of the stories appeared to be the same as usual, they all seemed to be entwined somehow.

 Walking back up front, Lucy smiled when she realized what he had found.

“It’s a book of fairytales that I gave to Henry Mills,” she explained and Matthew furrowed his brow, looking over at her when she came to stand beside him. Above their heads, the lights flickered. The storm outside sounded as if it were getting worse.

“Henry Mills?” he asked, looking back at her, “The mayor’s son?”

Nodding, Lucy exhaled a soft sigh, flipping the book’s pages.

“He’s a lonely little boy. When I was his age, I always found comfort in stories like these; I thought it might help. Madame Mayor felt differently.”

Frowning, Matthew shook his head, returning his attention to the strange text in front of them. Finally, he said, “There’s no author.”

“Well, obviously there is an author,” Lucy countered, smiling teasingly up at him, “But they chose to stay anonymous, I suppose. Strange, really. It’s a marvellous story.”

“It’s a strange story,” Matthew disagreed, leafing through the pages. “It’s unlike any that I’ve ever read before. They’re all connected by the same plot; some dreadful curse cast by an evil queen.” Looking down at her, he asked, “Where did you find it?”

Shrugging, Lucy tucked a stubborn strand of hair behind her ear. “I found it out back a few weeks ago while I was going through a box of donations,” she explained, opening her mouth to tell him that the box had also arrived anonymously when the door flew open, making them both jump. As if out of some inherent instinct, Matthew grabbed Lucy’s hand.

“It must be the wind-” she began to say, but at that moment a young boy, utterly soaked from the rain, stumbled inside against the wind, pushing the door closed. Lucy’s eyes flew wide.

“Henry!” she gasped, hurrying over to him, letting go of Matthew’s hand in the process. “What on earth are you doing here? It’s not safe to be outside right now!”

But Henry’s eyes had fallen on the book that Matthew had been examining, and he quickly ran across the room, snatching it off of the desk.

“I knew it! I knew she took it!” he shouted, turning to look at Lucy. “She doesn’t want me to know the truth about her and all of the bad things that she’s done, so she took it!”

“Henry, sweetheart, what are you talking about?” Lucy asked, crouching down in front of him and Henry frowned.

“Don’t you see? She’s the evil queen!”

“Henry, it’s just a storybook. It isn’t real. Your mother may not be the nicest woman all of the time, but I’m sure she’s not an evil witch.”

“Yes, she is! She’s the reason that everyone is here! She cursed everybody!”

Frowning faintly, Lucy felt a twinge of guilt in her stomach. She’d been hoping the mayor was exaggerating about how deeply Henry was convinced that the stories in Once Upon a Time were true. She still wasn’t sure how his birth mother tied into all of this, but it was incredibly troubling either way.

“None of us are cursed, Henry. It’s just a story. It’s all pretend,” she tried to assure him and he took a step backward from her.

“I thought you would believe me,” he stated, frowning and shaking his head. “You’re her. You’re supposed to see past appearances! You should know that all of this is a lie!”

Furrowing her brow, Lucy shook her head.

“I’m who?” she asked, a bit baffled by his statement, and Henry emphatically declared, “You’re Belle! You fell in love with the Beast even though he looked like a monster, and you broke his curse! You have to do it again – you have to see that all of this is just a curse, and that things aren’t supposed to be this way! You’ve gotta believe me!”

“Oh, Henry…”

Frowning weakly, Lucy pushed his wet hair away from his eyes. He was shivering and clearly upset, but she didn’t know what to say. The mayor had been very adamant about not “filling his head with nonsense” and, hate it as she may, this… was nonsense. Regina Mills wasn’t an evil queen, they weren’t all under a curse, and Lucy certainly wasn’t a fairytale character who married a prince and lived happily ever after. She was quite sure that she would remember that.

“I love books, I do, but… I’m not Belle. I’m Lucy, remember?” she prompted and he frowned.

“No; you’re the one who needs to remember!”

Frowning weakly, unsure of what to do, Lucy looked up when Matthew walked over and crouched beside them.

“Why do you think we’re cursed, Henry?” he asked, and the young boy frowned, hesitating for a moment before giving his answer.

“Because nobody in Storybrooke is happy. That’s what she wanted – to take away everybody’s happy endings.”

“Well,” Matthew mused, rubbing his beard with his index finger, “I’d say you’re right there. Storybrooke isn’t a happy place for a great many people. But what can we do about it?”

Hugging the book to his chest, Henry blew out a breath, seemingly relaxing at the fact that Matthew was, at the very least, humoring him.

“My mom – my real mom. She’s the savior, and she’s supposed to break the curse, but she doesn’t believe me, either.”

“I suppose you’ll just have to convince her, then, won’t you? That way she can break the curse, and we can all be happy again,” Matthew stated, looking at the book in Henry’s arms. “Now, you’re never going to convince her if that book gets ruined in the rain. It’s your evidence, is it not?”

Nodding, Henry glanced down at his book with a frown. A moment later, he looked up at Matthew again only to repeat the gesture and open his book, flipping through to a story close to the end. Seemingly out of nowhere he asked, “Can you take off your glasses?”

Grinning curiously, Matthew did so, asking, “Why? Am I in that book, as well?”

After a moment of deliberation, Henry nodded.

“You’re him.”

“I’m who?”

“You’re the Beast!”

“I’m…” Chuckling, Matthew asked, “I’m what?

“The Beast,” Henry repeated and Matthew blinked several times. Of all the fairytale characters he’d expected, that wasn’t one of them.

“But I’m… I’m not…”

“Hairy?” Lucy guessed and he spluttered a bit before nodding.

“…yes. That. I’m not… that.”

“Well, you weren’t hairy when you got cursed. You were a prince again. You and Belle got married and were living happily ever after.”

Frowning slightly, Henry looked between the two of them.

“Don’t you remember each other?”

Lucy couldn’t help but blush at the implication that she’d married the man currently sitting next to her. They’d only just met! Thankfully, Matthew appeared to have a quick answer for everything. She expected it had something to do with his articulate English teacher’s nature.

“We don’t, I’m afraid,” he supplied, “But that’s all the more reason to break the curse, isn’t it?”

Frowning faintly, Henry nodded. Finally, he extended the book back toward Lucy.

“Will you keep it safe for me? Until I can come back and get it?”

“Of course,” she assured him and Matthew gave him a pointed stare.

“Now, let’s get you home, shall we? We can’t have you walking home alone in this mess, but you can’t stay here. Your mother would have a fit, I’m sure.”

“Oh, she would. She probably already is,” Henry agreed, and they all rose to stand up straight. Lucy followed Matthew with her gaze as he walked over to fetch his jacket and umbrella, and she couldn’t help the small twinge of worry that she felt about him going out in the storm again. It made no sense; she didn’t know him, no matter what Henry had convinced himself of.

But still, as he shrugged on his jacket and put up his umbrella, she found herself saying, “You’ll be careful?”

Pausing, a small smile pulled at Matthew’s lips.

“Of course. You needn’t worry about me,” he assured her, resting a hand on Henry’s shoulder to urge him out of the library.

She was sat behind the front desk, skimming curiously through the pages of Once Upon a Time when he returned. She quickly closed the book upon realizing who had come in, not wanting to be caught reading the section on Beauty and the Beast.

“You’re back,” she voiced aloud, admittedly surprised by his return, watching as he took off his jacket and shook the water droplets off of his umbrella.

“Of course I’m back,” he remarked, a teasing lilt to his tone, “I told you that I’ve got nothing else to do today. I do spend all of my evenings here, after all; why not the day, too?”

“No, of course; you’re more than welcome,” she quickly agreed, pausing before she asked, “Is Henry alright?”

“Oh, yes, he’s fine,” Matthew assured her, walking over and leaning up against the front desk. “I told Madame Mayor that I found him on my walk home from work. I kept where I found him vague.”

“You didn’t tell her the truth?” Lucy asked, baffled, and he offered up a small smile.

“What good would that do? It would only get both you and Henry in a trouble, I imagine. Besides, you promised to keep his book safe. You can’t do that if she knows he’s been sniffing around here for it.”

Blinking, Lucy looking at him with a surprised expression.

“Do you… Do you actually believe him? About the curse and… all of us being fairytale characters?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Matthew sighed, drumming his fingers on the surface of her desk. “I think that he believes it, and that’s all that matters – and it doesn’t sound so terrible, does it? A world where everyone gets a happy ending?”

“Well, no,” Lucy agreed, “No, it doesn’t. But… it’s worrisome, don’t you think? How convinced he is that all of these stories are true?”

“I think he needs them to be true,” Matthew supplied, frowning faintly. “He’s not… happy. He says that none of us are, but deep down I think he’s troubled by his own unhappiness more than anything else. He’s trying to escape from it in a way that you and I know very well – with a book. He’s just taken it a step further. But he’s young; his imagination is wild. I truly don’t think there’s anything to worry about.”

Matthew could relate all too well to an absent, at times cruel, parental figure.

After a moment, he chuckled, looking down at Lucy.

“So… Belle and the Beast?” he joked, his grin only growing when she blushed. She’d ended up staring at one of the illustrations near the back of the book; one of the pairing in question. She couldn’t deny that there was a slight resemblance between her new friend and the story’s prince, but it was all just the product of a childish fantasy.

“Evidently so,” she sighed, only blushing more at his next comment.

“He’s not reaching, you know. You remind me of the character down to nearly every detail. Me, on the other hand…”

Cracking a small grin, Lucy asked, “You’re not hairy?”

Taking a breath, Matthew responded with, “Not quite that hairy.”

Getting to her feet, Lucy laughed and Matthew rapidly shook his head.

“I’m not! I swear it!” he laughed in return, following her as she began doing her rounds to ensure that everything was in order. “There’s no possible way I could have gone from being a beast in the fairytale world to being a mild-mannered teacher with a reasonable quantity of body hair in Storybrooke.”

“Henry did say you were a prince when everyone was cursed, not a beast,” she reminded him with a teasing tone and he hummed thoughtfully.

“A prince’s fortune would certainly be nice,” he mused, hands in his pockets as he walked. “Perhaps I could finally fix up my house.”

“Oh?” Lucy asked, unable to help being curious. “Why does it need fixing?”

Smiling wryly, he supplied, “It’s the old nineteeth century gothic across town. My father told me that it’s been in the family for generations. I’m sure you know the one; chipped paint, rose bushes, -”

“-and gargoyles?” Lucy supplied, knowing right away which house he meant, and Matthew blushed. Those blasted gargoyles. They had terrified him as a child, which had only incentivised his father to add more, as a way of desensitizing him to his fear. It hadn’t worked.

“Yes. The one with the gargoyles,” he confirmed, clearing his throat and rubbing the back of his neck. “It could use a bit of work. Removing the gargoyles, for example,” he told her with a faint smile and she returned it with a soft one of her own.

“Chipped paint or not, I’ve always thought it was a lovely house. Almost like a castle, in a way.”

Although, after Henry’s ‘revelation’, that felt a bit ironic.

“It’s alright. A bit too big, in my opinion, for only me; it gets quite lonely,” he supplied, and Lucy offered him a small smile.

“Is that why you’re here every night until closing time?”

Remaining quiet, Matthew simply nodded. Her heart going out to him, she opted to make him an offer that she was sure would benefit them both. If they were lonely, why not attempt solving the issue with each other’s company?

“My shift here ends everyday at 3:30,” she explained, “and I always go straight home afterward, usually just to do more reading. If you’d like, I could… well, I could stay. We could read together, instead of reading alone.”  

His lips pulling upward into a small smile, Matthew nodded.

“I would like that very much,” he assured her, and she nodded decisively, taking a breath and smiling in return before resuming her work. Having a friend would be good for her, she was sure. It would be good for both of them, and she highly doubted she was ever going to find a more suitable reading companion in Storybrooke than Matthew Fitzroy.

... . ... . ... . ... . ... . …

“Oh, you can’t be serious! It’s the worst play of all time!”

“It most certainly is not!”

Scowling at Matthew from over the rim of her milkshake glass, Lucy narrowed her eyes. For the past three weeks they had gotten along swimmingly, staying until closing nearly every night at the library and pouring through classics, modern adaptations, poetry volumes, plays and non-fiction periodicals. For a while, she’d begun to think he was her literary soulmate.

But now, over milkshakes and burgers at Granny’s Diner, he had just told her that he hates Romeo and Juliet - her favourite Shakespeare play! People were staring at them as they bickered, mostly because, up until this very moment, both Lucy Desrosiers and Matthew Fitzroy had been quiet and reserved individuals. They were polite if you spoke to them, but always had their noses in a book and were far too busy off in another world to engage in the present one.

So, watching them fight loudly over the very thing that usually kept them so quiet – books – was very bizarre indeed.

“It is! I’m telling you, Lucy, I’m the leading authority on how bad that play is! I’m a high school English teacher! I read over a hundred essays about it every single year!”

“Just because it’s popular doesn’t make it bad!” she objected, resisting the urge to lob a french fry in his direction, and Matthew rolled his eyes.

“It’s not bad because it’s popular, it’s bad because it’s dreadful! All the heartache and pining, and what for? Because they were terrible at communicating! If they had acted like logical human beings, nobody would have needed to die!”

He made a face as if he had tasted something incredibly sour as he spoke about the play and Lucy scowled, clenching her jaw.

All of Shakespeare’s plays feature characters who are dreadful at communicating! It’s called conflict, Matthew! You ought to know that – you’re an English teacher!

“Oh, that is such a cop out!” he protested, pointing a finger in her direction. “Conflict arises from far more than just poor communication and you know it. Don’t make me break out my lecture notes, Lucy, because I will.”

Seething, she angrily took a sip of her strawberry milkshake, accidentally swallowing it improperly. When she choked on it and began coughing, all of Matthew’s previous debate-driven irritation melted away and was replaced with an instant look of concern. He all but flew over to her side of the table, sliding into her booth bench and resting a hand on her back.

“Lucy? Are you alright?”

Continuing to cough, she brought a hand up to cover her mouth, feeling horribly embarrassed. If everyone hadn’t been staring before, they certainly were now. But Matthew wasn’t paying any attention to the restaurant’s other patrons; he was too busy making sure she was alright.

“Come on, darling. Just breathe,” he urged her, tenderly rubbing her back, and relief washed through him when her coughing broke up enough that she could get a few breaths of air in. Grabbing a napkin from the table, Matthew gently used it to wipe her cheeks dry where her eyes had watered.

“Are you alright?” he repeated once she had caught her breath and Lucy nodded, briefly noticing his close proximity. His arm had gone from rubbing her back to wrapping entirely around her shoulders, and his hand was lingering close to her face even after he finished dabbing the moisture from her cheeks.

Breathing shakily, she whispered, “Yes, I’m fine…”

After a moment, she added, “I’m sorry. Everyone’s probably staring at us now…”

Shaking his head, Matthew offered her a soft smile, gently brushing his fingers over her cheek.

“Nonsense. You needn’t apologize. I don’t care what they think.”

In an action that felt entirely natural, he leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead, chuckling quietly before he said, “I’m sorry for riling you up so much that you choked. You’re never going to want to have dinner with me ever again.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that…” Lucy whispered, offering him a soft smile, “But I’m certainly never discussing Shakespeare with you ever again.”

Making an indignant noise, Matthew pouted.

... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ...

He soon found, however, that her feelings regarding discussing Shakespeare didn’t extend toward his famous sonnets. When he pulled a volume of the bard’s poetry from a shelf in the Renaissance section and carried it back to their table, where Lucy had been pouring through a thick copy of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, she had made an obvious noise of delight.

“Oh! The sonnets! We haven’t read those yet, have we?” she asked, closing her own book as Matthew sat down, and he flashed her a grin and shook his head.

“No, we haven’t. If I remember correctly, you said you never wanted to discuss Shakespeare with me ever again.”

“Well, there are no milkshakes around,” she’d mused in response, leaning her cheek against her palm and offering him a smile. “What’s the harm?”

Chuckling, Matthew had shaken his head, proceeding to go about their usual ritual for reading poetry volumes: opening to a random page and reading the first poem that caught his eye.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments; love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken… It is the star to every wand’ring bark whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Lucy couldn’t help the slightly dreamy, far-off look her eyes took on as she listened to Matthew read; his voice was utterly captivating, emphasizing all of the sweetest words and pausing deliciously, always leaving her wanting more. She’d never thought she could love poetry more than she already did before meeting the English teacher extraordinaire, but he’d instilled a newfound appreciation within her for being read aloud to. The experience, with Matthew Fitzroy, was utterly magical.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. It this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Lifting his blue gaze from the page, Matthew’s lips pulled up into a grin when he noticed her expression; it was a familiar one, of course. He gleaned it from several of his students every time that he read aloud, but there was something… different about seeing that look in Lucy’s eyes and that soft smile on her lips. It made him want to keep going, if only to ensure she kept looking at him like that – like he was the most wonderful thing she’d ever listened to.

“Shall I read another?” he asked, arching an eyebrow, chuckling when Lucy nodded eagerly, her smile only growing.

“Oh, yes – please do.”

Grinning, he closed the book and reopened it to another random page, beginning to read from the first sonnet that caught his eye.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate…”

... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ...

When the holidays rolled around, Matthew found himself relatively surprised on the final day of classes to see Lucy standing outside of his classroom door when the bell rang to dismiss his students for lunch. As usual, a few stragglers remained behind in the classroom, but he paid them no mind as he beckoned for Lucy to come in.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, chuckling softly as she bustled inside, her yellow jacket buttoned up to her neck and her arms laden down with bags. There was a light dusting of snow in her hair. “Are we not meeting at the library this afternoon?”

“Oh, we are,” she assured him, dropping the bags onto his desk with an audible thud. “But I was decorating this morning and it got me thinking – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single Christmas decoration up outside of your house.”

“We used to, when I was young,” Matthew countered, shaking his head, frowning faintly. “Decorating was always something my mother loved to do. When she passed on, we… Well, my father and I, we just never bothered with it again.”

“Do you think that’s what she would want?” Lucy asked skeptically and Matthew blinked for a long moment. Finally, he responded with, “…no. No, I suppose not.”

“Exactly. Which is why I brought all of this!”

Matthew shifting his gaze as she gestured to everything on his desk, walking over and peering into the bags.

“Christmas decorations? Lucy, you didn’t have to do all of this. It must have cost you a fortune-”

“It didn’t cost me a cent,” she assured him, smiling fondly. “I brought over some of our extras from at home, and found more than I could ever use in the back of the library. Nobody will miss them.”

Noticing his clear skepticism, she gently nudged his side, grinning and pulling out a tin container from one of the bags.

“Come on, Matthew; it’ll be fun! I even made cookies,” she emphasized, pulling off the lid, and he made a small noise of surprised delight. He honestly couldn’t remember the last time he’d had holiday cookies. Stealing one from the tin, he took a bite, some of the shimmering red sprinkles lingering on his lip even after he swallowed.

“You really want to do this?” he asked her and she nodded, lifting her pinkie to wipe at his lip before responding.

“I really do. You’re always talking about how dark and dreary you find that old house; Christmas might be just what you need to brighten it up.”

Unable to argue with her logic, Matthew sighed as if she was putting him out greatly, offering her a small smile.

“Alright, then. But only because you made me cookies,” he joked, earning a giddy little sound from Lucy who kissed his cheek before hurrying toward the classroom door again.

“Perfect! Pick me up at the library at 3:30 and we’ll head over straight away!” she called before disappearing to get back to work before the end of her lunchbreak. As he watched her go, Matthew absently touched the spot on his cheek that she had kissed, a soft grin pulling at his lips. Across the room, the group of girls lingering at their desks whispered, “Is that his girlfriend?

All of them looked terribly disappointed.

... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ...

In Matthew’s opinion, they had done a splendid job. Chipped paint or not, the house hadn’t looked nearly so bright in decades. They’d strung Christmas lights and tinsel as high as they could reach using the ladder that they found upstairs in the attic, and when they could get no higher Matthew nearly gave Lucy a heart attack by climbing the roof to string up the rest of the lights. When she’d shouted at him to “get down this instant, before you kill yourself!” he had merely chuckled, assuring her that he’d done it hundreds of times before.

Now it seemed as if the entire house was aglow. The white lights shimmered in the semi-darkness that had begun to creep up on them while they worked, and the tinsel sparkled. Matthew had been admiring their handiwork, hands on his hips and a satisfied look on his face, when something cold collided with the back of his head and nearly made him jump out of his skin. Shouting with surprise, he lifted his gloved hands to the back of his head to swipe the snow from his blond hair, whirling around on his heel just in time to catch Lucy all but cackling a few feet away.

“Did you just throw a snowball at me?” he asked and she flashed him an innocent smile, fluttering her eyelashes.

“You did,” he practically growled, pointing at her. “You did throw a snowball at me!”

Lucy responded only with a giggle, but the sound turned into a squeal when Matthew moved quickly, lobbing a snowball of his own in her direction. It hit her right between the eyes, causing her to splutter, and he snorted out a hysterical laugh.

Wiping the snow from her face with her mitten, Lucy huffed.

“Oh, you are going to regret that, Mr. Fitzroy,” she stated and all that Matthew could do was laugh even harder. She looked positively adorable when she was angry.

“Am I? Am I really?” he teased her, bending to make another snowball, his eyes never once leaving her, and Lucy hurried to beat him to the punch. Scrambling to make another, she shrieked when he tossed his and it hit her in the back of the head, the snow dribbling down the collar of her jacket and tricking down her spine, causing her squealing to escalate. Of course, Matthew only found that all the more amusing.

Seconds later, Lucy began lobbing snowball after snowball at him in attempt at revenge but poor Matthew was laughing far too hard to bother retaliating. Making a cranky noise when none of her attacks seemed to sway him, she opted for a different tactic.

Getting to her feet, the small librarian positively lunged at the cackling teacher, tackling him to the ground and causing them both to land heavily in the snow. Gasping with surprise, Matthew gaped up at Lucy when they hit the ground, making a horrified noise when the next thing she chose to do while he was too stunned to move was take an armful of snow and drop it on his face.

“I told you that you were going down,” she quipped, snickering as he made a quiet noise of displeasure, shaking the snow from his face and pouting up at her.

“I didn’t think you meant it literally,” he complained as she giggled.

Wiping away the snow on his face with her mitten, Lucy grinned softly and rose to her feet, helping him up and tutting when she realized the back of his khakis and his jacket were completely soaked from falling in the snow. Squeezing his hand, she began pulling him toward the front door.

“Come on, then. We need to finish decorating your Christmas tree, and you need to change into something dry.”

“No thanks to you,” Matthew muttered and Lucy nudged him with her elbow. Smirking, he nudged her right back, ushering her up the front steps and into the house.

They had already finished decorating most of the house’s expansive interior; the grand staircase was lined with twinkle lights and holly, and Lucy had brought enough lights to string them up throughout most of the house. She hadn’t been exaggerating; Christmas really had brightened it up more than it had been in years. Although, he was convinced that part of the reason it felt so bright was because of her, not the decorations.

“I’ll only be a moment,” Matthew promised before hurrying upstairs to change and Lucy smiled, shrugging off her jacket and toeing off her boots, setting them by the coatrack with her mittens before she walked down the hallway to the parlor. They’d already put the lights on the Christmas tree that they had picked up before driving across town; all that was left to do now was to actually put the ornaments on.

It had taken some digging, but they had managed to find all of his mother’s old Christmas decorations; crystal baubles and blown-glass ornaments, all that seemed to sparkle with a sort of elegance that Lucy had never seen before. They all twinkled in the light as she examined them, sat on the floor among the boxes while the fireplace roared a few feet away. When Matthew returned, clad in a warm sweater and a pair of jeans rather than his usual, more formal school attire, Lucy offered him a soft smile.

“You certainly look cozy,” she mused and he hummed, looking at her for a long moment among the ornaments that had been dormant upstairs for such a terribly long time. It was astonishing, how much things had changed just since he met her. He had someone to confide in, to laugh with, to read with and talk with and share things that he’d never shared with anyone else before. His home, for example. Storybrooke’s residents had taken to calling him a bit of a recluse; he never invited anyone over, ever.

All of that had changed in one fell swoop. Lucy changed… well, she changed everything. A small smile pulling at his lips, he stepped into the parlor and walked over to crouch down with her, looking through the boxes with a warm expression in place.

“She loved this time of year, you know – my mother,” he found himself saying, holding one of the crystal ornaments up to the light. It cast rainbow tinted shadows all around the room. “She used to sing carols all the time, and bake cookies, and the house always felt… warm, no matter how big it was or how cold the weather outside. Christmas with her was always happy.”

Smiling faintly, Matthew rose to his feet to hang the ornament – a crystal rose – on the tree. Lucy followed his lead, beginning to add the shimmering gold baubles, offering him a soft smile.

“For what it’s worth, I think she would be happy to know that you’re bringing back her traditions,” she said and he smiled even more, nodding in agreement.

“I know she would,” he agreed, looking over at Lucy with a soft twinkle in his eyes. “I also know that she would have adored you.”

Her cheeks turning a soft shade of pink, Lucy smiled at the sentiment, one thing in particular resonating in her mind of which he said his mother used to do at Christmas. With a small, soft smile in place, she continued to hang up ornaments and, quietly at first, began to sing.

There’s more to this time of year… than sleigh bells and holly, mistletoe and snow… those things come and go – much deeper than snow, stronger than the strongest love we’ll know… we’ll ever know…

Perking up at the sound of her voice wafting through the room, Matthew couldn’t help it – he chuckled. The carol was a familiar one – one that his mother herself used to sing to him, but no one else ever seemed to know. How did she know it…?

As long as there’s Christmas, I truly believe… that hope is the greatest of the gifts we’ll receive…

Hanging another crystal ornament on the tree, Matthew smiled, peeking over at Lucy before he softly began to sing along with her, absently realizing that this very moment was the happiest he could ever remember being in the decades that he’d spent alone.

As long as there’s Christmas, we’ll all be just fine… the star shines above us lighting your way and mine…

The longer that they sang, putting the antique ornaments on the tree, the more fun Matthew found himself having with it all – it was almost as if he were a child again. He could practically smell the gingerbread baking in the galley. On his way to fetch more ornaments from the boxes, he took Lucy by the hand and twirled her around, continuing to sing as her giggles floated through the massive house.

Just as long as there’s Christmas, there will be Christmas pud’- lots of turkey, and cranberry sauce, and minced pies if we’re good. Lots of logs on the fire, lots of gifts on the tree-

“-all wrapped up in red ribbons!” Lucy chimed, squealing with laughter when he dipped her and playfully sang, “I wonder if there’s one for me?

The decorating partially forgotten, the two began waltzing around the parlor with shocking coordination, their laughter and singing echoing through the house in ways that those sounds hadn’t in a dreadfully long time.

After dinner we’ll play games-” Matthew sang, lifting Lucy off of her feet and spinning her around before sweeping her back into his arms. She giggled giddily before singing, “-until the morning breaks through!

Then we’ll meet in the garden, this is what we shall do!” they chimed in unison, grinning from ear-to-ear as they returned to hanging balls and baubles and trinkets on the tree, their voices still gliding through the house at a much louder volume than they had begun with.

We’ll build a snowman!” Matthew sang passionately, beaming at Lucy, “and it’ll reach to the sky!

It’ll stay up until July!” she sang afterward, beaming and kissing his cheek as she passed to fetch the angel from its box on the mantle, and their voices rose in perfect harmony as they reached the final chorus, Matthew winding his arms around Lucy’s waist so he could lift her up and help her put the angel – his mother’s favourite – on the tallest bow of the tree.

As long as there’s Christmas, I truly believe… that hope is the greatest of the gifts we’ll receive. As long as there’s Christmas, we’ll all be just fine… There’ll always be Christmas…

Once the angel was positioned carefully atop the tree and plugged in so that she would glow with the rest of the lights, Matthew gently lowered Lucy back down to her feet but kept his arms wound around her waist. When she turned in his arms to face him, their voices mingled as a softer volume, her hands gently clutching at the soft fabric of his sweater.

So there always will be a time when the world is filled with peace… and love…

His heart swelling, Matthew couldn’t resist any longer; he leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to Lucy’s, holding her closer as the Christmas tree shimmered and the fire crackled behind them. The past few months of knowing her had been more wonderful than he had ever imagined possible; that ever present feeling that he was missing something was finally gone. She’d filled the hole in his heart that had left him feeling dreadfully so melancholy all of the time and, little did he know, he’d done the exact same thing for her.

Winding her arms around his neck, Lucy kissed Matthew deeply in return, carding her fingers through his blond hair and staying right where she was, their lips pressed firmly together until they both desperately needed to breathe. Even then she was reluctant to pull away, settling for resting her forehead against his. It was the strangest thing, but they both felt a bizarre sense of déjà vu about the entire moment - as if they had kissed before, but they were certain that they hadn’t. That wasn’t just something that you forgot about.

“You have a lovely voice,” she finally said aloud, unsure of what else to say but to compliment his singing, and he laughed, pressing another brief kiss to her lips before he spoke.

“And you have a lovely heart,” he told her, lifting his lips to kiss her nose and her forehead, smiling softly against her skin. “Thank you… For all of this…”

Tipping her head back, she returned his smile, still gently clutching his sweater as she spoke.

“I just wanted to make you happy…”

“And you have. More than you could possibly know,” he assured her, kissing her forehead again before asking, “Have I… Are you happy?”

Her expression softening, she whispered, “I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been.”

And, strange though it may be, she got the feeling that she had said those exact words once before.

… . … . … . … . …

When Christmas Day finally rolled around, Lucy had decided that it would be the perfect time to finally introduce her father to Matthew – who just happened to have become her boyfriend as of a week ago. It was a recent development, but kissing in the library and snuggling with books in front of the fireplace in his parlor, the Christmas tree glittering beside them, was a development that she was extremely fond of. They had been practically inseparable since their day of decorating. With no classes to teach, Matthew had spent all of his free time, unsurprisingly, at the library, and Lucy spent all of her free time with Matthew, either at Granny’s Diner or in his now much cozier home.

She had been walking to Matthew’s house that morning to wish him a merry Christmas and give him his gift when she saw him a few houses down from his own, helping a little boy build a snowman. She recognized the child as Charles Potter; he was a year or two younger than Henry Mills and had come to the library with his mother many times. Grinning curiously, Lucy paused on the sidewalk to watch them, her eyes twinkling at the sight.

“I don’t think it’s gonna reach the sky, Mr. Fitzroy,” Charles stated as they rolled a large snowball to use for the head and Matthew chuckled, giving his own head a small shake.

“I think that’s quite a big job for only the two of us. But he’ll still be a nice snowman just the same. Can you help me put his head on?”

“Yeah!” Charles exclaimed and Lucy’s expression softened as she watched them both lift the snowball up, Matthew being mindful that it didn’t fall as they placed it atop the base and the body. As they finished doing so, Charles caught sight of Lucy across the street and called, “Hi, Miss Desrosiers! Do you wanna help us build our snowman?”

Chuckling quietly, she nodded, crossing the street and offering Matthew a soft smile before she turned her attention to Charles.

“I’d love to! How can I help?”

“We need sticks for his arms. The best sticks ever!” he instructed and Lucy nodded, taking her task very seriously.

“How about Mr. Fitzroy and I go find some sticks, and you go and ask your Mama for a carrot to use as his nose?” Lucy suggested, to which Matthew added, “And perhaps a pair of buttons for his eyes.”

“Got it!” Charles chirped, hurrying through the snow toward the front door, and Matthew smiled, turning to Lucy. Taking her mitten-clad hand, he bent to press a kiss to her lips, whispering, “Merry Christmas, darling,” when he pulled away.

Her own expression warm and fond, Lucy nodded, kissing his jaw as she said, “Merry Christmas to you,” in response.

Walking hand-in-hand, they began searching the yard for the perfect sticks for Charles’ snowman, Lucy’s expression curious as they did so.

“I had no idea that you and Charles were such good friends,” she mused, gently nudging him, and he hummed, offering her a grin.

“I was on my way to see you and give you your Christmas present when I saw him having a hard time. He couldn’t roll a big enough snowball all on his own, so I offered to help.”

Admiring his big heart tremendously, Lucy pressed a kiss to his cheek, bending down to grab a long enough stick that could pass for an arm. Releasing her hand, Matthew took a few steps to the right and did the same just as Charles came hurrying back outside, his mother smiling brightly from the doorway.

“Merry Christmas to you both!” she called out and they returned the sentiment before following Charles back over to the partially completed snowman.

“Do you think these will suffice?” Matthew asked as he and Lucy showed Charles their sticks, and the little boy smiled brightly and nodded.

“They’re perfect!” he declared, reaching up to stick the carrot nose into the head, and both adults chuckled before adding their sticks to either side for the arms. Once they had added the button eyes and several stones for the mouth, Lucy made a thoughtful noise.

“He’s still missing something,” she stated and, a moment later, she unwound her scarf from around her neck, draping it instead around Charles’ snowman. He positively beamed.

“Oh, wow! This has gotta be the best snowman ever!” he cheered and Matthew smiled, resting his hands on Lucy’s shoulders.

“He’s certainly the best snowman that I’ve ever seen,” he declared and Lucy nodded in agreement.

“I’d say he even puts Frosty to shame.”

… . … . … . … . …

Down the street, after returning to Matthew’s house, he and Lucy were sitting beneath the Christmas tree, both grinning as they exchanged gifts. They were small, really, given that their relationship was still very new, but they were meaningful gifts just the same.

“You go first,” she had told him eagerly after handing him her small box, tucking her hair behind her ear, and he’d grinned at her before tearing off the paper and opening it, his eyes widening as he lifted the present from its box.

It was a crystal tree ornament, just like the ones his mother had collected, in the shape of an elaborate castle with high towers and sloping ramparts. It glittered in the glow emanating from the fireplace.

“It’s… wonderful,” he breathed, certain that his mother would have adored it, lifting his gaze to meet Lucy’s with a soft smile. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to hers before reaching up to hang the ornament on the tree with all of the others.

“I hoped you would like it…” she whispered, watching as he took her own gift out from beneath the tree. It was a slim white box, adorned with pink ribbon, and he smirked as he handed it to her.

“You have Henry to thank for this one,” he stated and Lucy grinned curiously as she pulled at the ribbon, unknotting its bow and letting it slide off of the box.

“Henry? Why?” she chuckled and his eyes twinkled with mirth as he shrugged.

“Let’s just say, he provided me with a bit of… inspiration.”

Her grin only growing, Lucy lifted the lid off of the box, exhaling a tiny laugh with a bright smile when she saw the gift’s contents: a single red rose from the flower show downtown. It must have been dreadfully hard for him to get this time of year.

“It only seemed fitting,” he hummed, returning her bright smile. “If we truly are Beauty and the Beast, we should have a rose, shouldn’t we?”

Grinning, Lucy sniffed the petals before leaning in close, whispering, “Is it enchanted?”

“Alas, it isn’t,” Matthew sighed, tilting her chin up and pecking her lips before he finished speaking. “Enchanted roses cost extra, and you know what my salary is like.”

Exhaling a loud, giddy laugh at his reply, Lucy placed the rose back in its box before taking his face in her hands and kissing him deeply, smiling against his lips as he pulled her into his lap.

… . … . … . … . …

“Papa! We’re here!” Lucy called as she and Matthew walked into the much smaller house that she shared with her father, her rose box clutched in her hand. Pulling him to the kitchen to fetch a vase, Lucy smiled brightly when they found her father in there, working on Christmas dinner.

“Oh! You’re back!” he tittered, shutting the oven before turning to face them both.

Smiling, Lucy got straight to the introductions.

“Papa, this is Matthew Fitzroy – my boyfriend.” Grinning softly, she turned to Matthew before adding, “And Matthew, this is my father, Mo Desrosiers.”

“Boyfriend?” her father asked, grinning curiously between the pair of them. “My, my – that’s certainly a new development.”

“It’s quite new,” Matthew agreed, shaking his hand with a warm smile. “And it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. Lucy has told me so much about you – all good things.”

“Likewise,” her father stated, returning his handshake. “She tells me you’re a schoolteacher?”

“High school English, yes,” Matthew confirmed, taking off his jacket, and Mo laughed with just a trace of sympathy behind the sound.

“Teenagers. That must be quite the task. I had it easy, but I’ve heard most of them don’t have an inherent fondness for Shakespeare and Spenser.”

“Unfortunately not,” Matthew sighed, grinning and shaking his head, watching as Lucy fluttered about in search of a vase for her rose. Catching sight of the flower in his daughter’s hands, Mo grinned fondly.

“Ah, roses. Her favourite,” he mused and Matthew repressed a quiet chuckle, offering Lucy a knowing grin as she placed the flower in a vase filled with water.

“It was quite the romantic gesture,” Lucy agreed, kissing Matthew’s cheek as she carried the flower out to rest it in the centre of the dining room table. The more that she thought about it, the more she really did have in common with the character in Henry’s storybook; she had always loved roses. But most people did; it didn’t mean anything. Henry’s fixation on them being fairytale characters was endearing, and it had its traces of accuracy, but… it was just fantasies produced by a child’s overactive imagination. To dwell on it as anything other than such would be…

…well, it would be crazy.

… . … . … . … . …

Gradually, winter turned to spring and the snow all melted away, taking with it the peace that the holidays always seemed to carry. In its wake followed several strange events, including a murder investigation, and more conflict between the mayor and Henry’s birth mother. It all had Lucy very worried. Matthew could tell that she was troubled, and it all only worsened when the poor little boy in question suddenly slipped into a coma for no reason that any of the doctors at the hospital could decipher.

Upon hearing the news, Lucy had been utterly crushed. She cared a great deal for Henry and had hoped that having Emma Swan in town might bring him the happiness that his life had been lacking, but now this had happened.

When she wasn’t at the library when Matthew arrived after leaving the high school, he’d headed for the only other place that she could be: the hospital.

He wasn’t surprised to find her sat in the ICU beside Henry’s bed, Once Upon a Time in her lap, quietly reading to the unconscious little boy. The sight broke Matthew’s heart. He couldn’t help but worry that perhaps she blamed herself for this – for giving that book to Henry to begin with.

Pulling open the door, he quietly slipped inside and listened as Lucy read the story aloud. Her voice was strained with unshed tears and the sound only made him feel worse.

“…and it seemed as if all hope had been lost,” she read, seemingly oblivious to Matthew’s presence for the moment, likely having grown accustomed to the door opening and closing as doctors and nurses filed in and out.

“But she didn’t realize that the Enchantress, who Belle knew as a woman named Agatha, had been watching. The scene before her, and the love that Belle and the Beast clearly shared, moved her beyond words. So, she decided to give them a gift.”

A tear dripping down onto her cheek, Lucy gently took Henry’s hand as she continued to read.

“Because only true love could break the curse, and their love was purely true, she knew that the greatest gift of all would be to give it back to them - to let them have that love that had been so cruelly snatched away. With a bit of magic, the Enchantress engulfed the Beast in a bright light; the light of life, as it would appear, for when it faded away and Belle was able to see again, the Beast was alive – but he was a beast no more. Instead, he’d been returned to his original form of a handsome prince and, although he looked the same as he had when he’d been cursed, he was inherently changed. It was clear in the softness lingering in his eyes – the very first thing that Belle noticed, and that which made her realize that the man before her, although much smaller and with reasonably less hair, was, in fact… her Beast.”

Smiling faintly at the comment about the Beast’s hairiness, which had come up more than once in conversations between Matthew and Henry, Lucy squeezed the latter’s hand.

“When the Prince realized that he was alive, and that he really was a prince again, he knew it could only mean one remarkable thing; that Belle loved him in return. Moments later, thrilled with being reunited when it seemed all hope had been lost, Belle and Prince Adam shared a kiss – the first of many to come.”

Closing the book, Lucy took a quivering breath and held tightly to Henry’s little hand, jumping slightly when Matthew stepped further into the room.

“It’s only me,” he assured her, resting a hand on her shoulder when he closed the distance fully, frowning faintly down at Henry’s small, sleeping figure. “How is he?”

“There’s been no change,” Lucy stated, sniffling and wiping the tears from her cheeks, drawing in a wavering breath. “Matthew, I… I gave him this book to give him hope. I wanted him to believe that, no matter how bad things seem, good people still always get a happy ending.”

Lifting a hand to rest over his on her shoulder, she tearfully whispered, “This isn’t a happy ending…”

“Oh, my darling…”

Frowning weakly, Matthew kissed the top of Lucy’s head, tenderly wrapping his arms around her from behind in an attempt at comforting her.

“This isn’t the end. The is just the conflict leading up to the happy ending,” he promised her, squeezing his arms around her shoulders, and Lucy nodded after a moment, sniffling again and leaning over to gently kiss Henry’s forehead before she got to her feet, leaving the book at his bedside.

“You are Storybrooke’s leading authority on conflict resolution in stories…” she agreed with a weak smile and he nodded, drying the rest of her tears.

“What say you we go to the library? We can pick up a few more books for Henry; some for you to read to him, and others for him to read himself when he wakes up.”

“Oh, that’s a lovely idea…” Lucy agreed quietly, still sniffling as she curled into his side, letting him lead her from the ICU. They both offered Mary-Margaret Blanchard, Henry’s schoolteacher, a faint smile as she walked into Henry’s room as they exited it. Her appearance made Lucy feel a little bit better; she didn’t like the thought of Henry being alone. As they left the hospital and headed downtown toward the library, they didn’t see Mary-Margaret pick up the book that Lucy had left behind, beginning to read aloud to Henry from Snow White’s story.

… . … . … . … . …

“Do you think he’d like Huckleberry Finn?” Lucy asked as she stood perched on one of the library’s many ladders, piling book after book into Matthew’s arms. He currently had a stack so tall within them that he had to keep them balanced with his chin.

“All young boys like Huckleberry Finn,” he confirmed with a small smile, adjusting his head so she could add the book to the pile. “What about-?”

But his question was cut off when an invisible force of some kind swept through the library and struck both of them, rustling the pages of the books on the shelves with a loud, yet brief, hum. Matthew stumbled forward a few steps, somehow managing not to drop his tower of books, and Lucy wavered on the ladder, gripping it tightly to keep from falling. For a long moment, neither of them said a word.

Then, softly and with a hint of confusion and obvious uncertainty, positive that he’d been in this exact position many times before, Matthew asked, “…Belle?

Still clutching the ladder’s rungs in a death-grip, Lucy drew in several shuddering breaths. She wasn’t sure what had just washed over them, but memories were spilling into her head at a mile a minute; memories of a place called Villeneuve, memories of a shining castle, memories of a wedding dress that shimmered and a white wedding suit with gold trim, of rings that shone in the candlelight of the West Wing, memories of…

Whirling on the ladder, she all but launched herself into the arms of the man behind her, books clattering to the ground as she cried, “Adam!

Catching her up in his arms, their lips met desperately, pressing kiss after tearful kiss to each other’s mouths and all over their faces. It didn’t matter that they’d been inseparable for the past several months; it felt as if they hadn’t seen each other, held each other, or kissed each other in years.

“Oh, my love,” Adam gasped, clutching her as tightly to him as he possibly could among the mess of books, firmly kissing her again with such force that they stumbled forward, Belle’s back hitting the bookshelf behind them. Try as he might, he just couldn’t get enough of her.

Somehow, for reasons unknown, the curse placed upon them all that had stripped them of their memories and trapped them in Storybrooke had been broken. They remembered who they were; they weren’t Lucy Desrosiers, local librarian, or Matthew Fitzroy, local English teacher; they were Belle and Adam, princess and prince royal.

And they had just lost nearly nine and a half years together. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t aged a day; that was a dreadfully long time.

“I can’t believe I forgot you,” Belle whispered, her voice cracking. “I promised I’d never leave, and I… I forgot you!”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Adam responded quickly, drying the tears threatening to slip from her eyelashes, kissing her again before whispering, “and… it wasn’t my fault.”

Despite being so sure that the curse that hit them had been a punishment meant for him, it wasn’t. Henry’s book proved that. By all rights of logic, the curse never should have even reached their land. It had taken them, their entire staff, and very likely the people of Villeneuve, entirely by accident.

It had been her doing. Regina. The Evil Queen. All this time they kept dismissing Henry’s theories, assuming they were nothing but childish fancy, but he’d been right. They had just gotten their happy ending, and she stole it away from them.

Catching sight of the fury in Adam’s eyes, certain his temper was about to reach his breaking point and that Madame Mayor likely wouldn’t live to see he light of another day, Belle held him back, shaking her head and making his blue eyes meet hers.

“We’re together now,” she whispered when she had his attention, “and that’s all that matters. We’re together, and we finally remember each other properly, and… I’d like to relish in that for a few moments, if you’ll let me.” Stroking his cheek, she smiled tearfully and whispered, “It’s been far too long since I’ve gazed at my husband.”

Her words breaking through his furious haze, Adam felt a broken laugh escape him and he slumped forward, resting his forehead against hers. If nothing else, at least one of the very last things he had done before being dropped into this horrid place was gaze at Belle. He’d let himself drink her in as if she might be the very last thing he saw – and, coincidentally, she was.

It had taken them a terribly long time, but they did eventually find each other here – and they’d fallen in love all over again, just as they had the first time. How many people could say they fell in love with the same person twice?

Quite honestly, Adam didn’t care how the curse came to be broken. All that he cared about was that Belle was there, in his arms, and that she was safe. They were together again and he would be damned if anything ever ripped them apart after this. Leaning in, he pressed another, deeper kiss to her lips, clutching her body to his. Belle eagerly responded, holding his face in her hands and kissing him until they were absolutely drunk on each other. This was far from their story’s ending, but at least if finally felt like they were on the road back to their happily ever after.