This is the story of how I almost—oh, wait, what? I can’t use that line?? It’s already taken? Man…okay. Okay.
How about this?
Once upon a time, there was a happy blue mailbox sitting on the street…when it got mauled by a truck, knocked down the curb, and flung across the street.
And then another car careened into it, smashed it into a crumpled piece of metal, and then laid to rest in a garbage dumpster. (Then a very nice lady with birds flittering around her took me back and fixed me up, but I have not been the same happy blue mailbox ever since. Now I’m a lot more dented, bent, and scratched up. But everybody still puts their mail in me. They all must like me or something. Anyway, that’s not the point, and I’m not really supposed to be talking about me…)
Well, anyway, that mailbox is dented, bent, and scratched up for three very important reasons. The first is because a grandfather and a grandmother wanted to spend quality time with their only beloved grandson while his mother went on a mission.
The second is because no one should ever be driving if he has a hook for a hand. Ever. At least the cocky idiot got a bruise on his brow in return for breaking one of my legs and ripping apart my mail slot hinges.
The third is because, apparently, a very, very powerful and very, very scary sorcerer can’t say no to his pretty maid. I mean librarian. I mean wife. (I hear it’s the last two.)
And I’m here to tell you more about that story.
He scrunched up his face slightly, wiggling his nose and then burrowing deeper under the covers, but his hand slowly crept up to hold her hand.
Giggle. “Rumple, wake up.” He felt her squeeze his hand and then pull away to poke his face again. Does she do that to me just because I like to do that to her?? He sighed, but not irritated at all. He was just hoping to sleep in this morning. “Yes?” He mumbled, opening his eyes to gaze into his beautiful Belle’s bright blue eyes.
“Hi,” she whispered gently. “Guess what?”
“Uh…it’s Sunday, and we’re sleeping in together?” Rumple answered, noticing she was leaning up on her elbow. He reached over to pull her down against his chest, but she pulled back and giggled again. “No, silly. You’re teaching me how to drive today. Remember?”
Rumple sighed, trepidation trickling through his veins. He’d heard about Henry’s misfortune in the charming prince’s truck and the bumbling pirate’s mishap with Miss Swan’s bug. The first had only resulted in the damage of a mailbox and a dent in the truck. The second had gotten the mailbox nearly thrown out if it weren’t for Mary Margaret, and the pirate found himself working at Granny’s to pay for damages on his girlfriend’s cherished bug.
He might be overly optimistic if he thought he could get Belle, himself, his car, and anything else out of the lesson unscathed today.
Rumple pasted the best I’m-really-sleepy-because-I-was-working-way-too-late-last-night smile on his face, hoping to get Belle to give up on her plans for today and just cuddle with her husband in bed. “Let’s do that next week, my love.” He stroked her cheek lovingly. “I think I’m too tired to focus on anything else today. It’s Sunday.”
A petulant pout crossed Belle’s face. “You said that to me last week. And the week before that. Robin, Killian, and I are in a race to get our licenses first. The losers buys drinks. Yesterday Regina was bragging that Robin would be going down to Boston ‘to celebrate’ with her sometime this month if he passes the road test this month. If he passes first and then Killian, I’ll be buying us drinks at Granny’s!”
Rumple snorted softly, smiling in amusement. “You will never lose to that pirate, my darling. And Regina should stop gloating so much; it hardly suits her anymore. She’ll eat her own words when you pass first.”
Belle glared at him, but it was in all good fun. “Then let’s go practice. Now. Today.”
Sighing loudly, Rumple swept an arm across his eyes. Don’t be a coward, Rumple. Be a good husband ad teach your wife how to drive. You can’t drive her around forever…
“…If you ride in our car today and let me drive…I’ll gladly ride something else tonight in bed.” Suddenly, Belle’s seductive voice and hot breath was against his ear, and like a teenage boy, Rumple leaped out of the bed and rushed into the bathroom to change, sheepishly ignoring Belle’s mischievous cackle behind him.
A hour later, Rumple’s silent panic mode set back in. He sat stiff and erect, in the seat Belle always sat in, while Belle sat in his seat, the driver’s seat. Unlike her husband, she was beaming and overly enthusiastic about the whole thing.
“Well?” She chirped, glancing at him expectantly.
Oh. Rumple fished his pocket for his—their—keys. “Here.” He cleared his throat, glancing back at his wife, sending her an unconvincing smile of reassurance.
A mistake. Belle’s smile disappeared as she realized how truly nervous Rumple was. “…If you…if you really don’t want me to do this, then—“ her eyes lowered to her lap, which had been bouncing slightly with excitement mere seconds ago.
Rumple quickly leaned over and held her hands in his own. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I promise you, you can do this, and I want you to do this. I’m letting my fears of all possible outcomes of this lesson control me…I shouldn’t. Belle…” One hand lifted to touch her chin and turn her face to gently make her look at him. “I believe in you. And I do want you to do this.” And he knew that just looking at his beloved’s face made his fears fade away. Belle always had a special way of bringing out the best in him, just like his son had.
Belle’s mouth curved in that adorable half-smile Rumple adored, and she cupped his face with her hands and pecked him lightly on the mouth. “Thank you, Rumple.” She whispered tenderly, and then took the keys, sitting in the cup holder between them, and lifted it up between their faces. “Now…where were we?” She grinned, the heavy mood in the car suddenly light once again.
Rumple couldn’t help but smile back, his heart stirring, the wheels going about in his head, and his stomach flip-flopping. Only three months in their marriage and it still felt like a beautiful dream he couldn’t get out of. Not that he wanted to, anyway. “See the ignition engine, Belle? Just push the keys in there, and turn it forward. Feel the engine. Now, my love, I am sure you’ve done your research on everything there is about cars and driving?”
“Yes,” Belle nodded, “I’ve been reading nothing but automobile books at the library for the past month. But I know that knowing about driving is different from actually doing it.”
“That’s quite correct, my love,” Rumple nodded, “But at least knowing about it makes it easier. I don’t suppose I’ll need to tell you about ‘P-R-D-D3-N-L’?”
“Park, Reverse, Drive, Drive 3, Neutral, and Left? Yes, I already know.” Belle beamed, understandably proud of her own intellect that Rumple was sure surpassed his own.
“Very good.” Rumple motioned at the driveway. Their car was facing the street, so Belle wouldn’t have to reverse drive just yet.
The engine started with a rumble, and Rumple’s nerves began to tense up, but he forced himself to appear cool and nonchalant. No need to make Belle nervous. Nervous drivers always learned harder than confident drivers.
Belle already knew that the brake was left, and the gas pedal was right, but the best foot to use on both was only the right foot. She moved her foot (tucked in a sneaker; Rumple had suggested she wear flat shoes for first-time driving) to the gas pedal, hovered over it, and reminded herself to pull P to D first. Wild glee rushed through her veins, and then she promptly forgot one of the cardinal rules of using the brake and gas pedal. Slam!
“BELLE!” Rumple’s squawk of panic rang in her ears as the car flew off their driveway and nearly crashed into the other side of the street they resided on. Belle’s excitement, at the moment, was a weakness, but her quick wit in using the brake right after abusing the gas pedal had saved them. “Oops! Sorry!” Belle cringed.
Rumple only exhaled in relief, one hand already touching his temple in distress. “It’s all right. Reverse to pull back so you can safely turn right and then drive to Main Street.”
“Yes, sir.” Belle replied, focusing intently on pulling back slowly, and then turning the steering wheel all the way round. Then the car was going slowly down the road.
“You can go a little faster; this street is almost always empty.” Rumple assured her, relaxing when he noticed that Belle’s steering skills were well-adept. Belle pushed the gas pedal—gently—and the speedometer lifted from10 to 30 MPH.
“Everything look so pretty while I’m driving,” Belle gushed, looking about at the bright green trees and multicolored flowers surrounding them. Rumple’s house had found itself in a quite secluded part of the town, but he liked it. Wonder if Regina did this out of the rare goodness of her heart at the time or if she thought I’d be lonelier this way?
His thoughts were interrupted when he noticed their car heading directly towards a white Toyota, and Belle was completely distracted by Geppetto and Pinocchio walking up the sidewalk. “Belle, focus!” He barked, more sharply than intended. This is just like the times when she was my maid and reading away rather than cleaning the castle, he groaned inwardly.
“Sorry,” Belle winced, slouching slightly as the car jerked slower and she yanked the steering wheel a little hard to maneuver around the Toyota.
“I didn’t mean to sound so sharp, darling,” Rumple apologized as well, “I know you want to sightsee and wave at people and such, but that all is best done when you’re a more experienced driver. For now, you just need to pay attention to the road, look around for other cars and people and animals, yes, and also look at the rearview mirror and side mirrors for anyone behind us.”
Rumple chuckled lightly, “I’m not your teacher, just your husband, dearie.”
Belle looked as if she wanted to quip back, but she thought better of it and just smiled, focusing on driving instead.
They reached a crossroads with a stop sign, which Belle dutifully noted and stopped, then turned left, directly headed for Main Street. “Main Street, Rumple, do I go right or left at there?” Belle queried.
“Hmm. Go right. And then head for Mifflin Street.” A wily idea crossed his mind. “I want you to stop by at Regina’s house and honk the horn. We need to see her face when she sees that my wife is about to beat her husband at driving lessons.”
Belle chuckled. “As much as I relish the idea, I doubt Robin would appreciate that. As animated as he was when he told me about his driving experiences last week, he certainly isn’t competitive, and I think Regina really wants him to get the license soon just because she wants a private rendezvous of her own with her new husband. It’s not about competition to her, Rumple. She just wants a break from this town, just like we had one in New York City.”
“That is most likely,” Rumple nodded, “At least let’s just swing by; I want to see if I can catch a glimpse of Henry, say hi to him.”
Belle couldn’t help but smile affectionately at her husband sudden and rare childlike excitement about seeing his grandson, but it was also very understandable. Her mood sobered slightly as her mind drifted off to a gravestone that bore Neal Cassidy’s name.
“Belle, wait,” Rumple’s voice pulled her back to the present, and Belle felt very fortunate that they were still in a safe position as she had been daydreaming for a minute once again. “Yes?” She replied quickly, hoping Rumple hasn’t noticed her distracted manner.
“Pull over behind that Honda and in front of that golf cart. Let’s practice the K-turn and parallel parking before we go on Main Street.”
“Oh, okay.” Belle obeyed promptly and proceeded to do what she heard were the hardest parts of driving: K-turns and parallel parking.
After about ten minutes of awkward turning and pulling in and out, Rumple nodded his approval and told her to head onto Main Street. “Very good, Belle. You’re doing excellently so far.” He smiled proudly at her, bolstering her confidence.
“Thanks,” Belle replied, but even under her heightened confidence, she was still nervous about crossing the busiest street of Storybrooke.
And that’s when I come into the story. So, how did I get brutally whacked around by a pretty librarian whose husband told her she was a great driver, you ask me, then? Hmm? Well, as much of a good driver the librarian is, she has the attention span of fifteen Dalmatian puppies.
They were driving at a steady, straight pace down the street, not as busy as usual, but it was only Sunday morning. Belle made sure to watch the street for pedestrians and animals, make sure she wasn’t speeding, and that nothing was behind her. So far, so good. I could get my license this week! She thought excitedly.
And then a sight before her crossing 3rd Street caught her attention.
Archie and Pongo strode cheerily across the street, just a hundred feet away, accompanied by what appeared to be a female Dalmatian, slightly smaller than Pongo, and a line of fifteen Dalmatian puppies. Fifteen, tiny, black-and-white, roly-poly Dalmatian puppies, all barking happily amongst themselves and tumbling around in a very crooked line, all distracted by each other rather than following their parents and owner.
“Rumple, PUPPIES!” Belle squealed.
“Belle, MAILBOX!” Rumple shouted.
Archie, Pongo, his mate, and their litter of puppies all came to an abrupt stop and turned to see the commotion on 3rd Street. Mr. Gold’s expensive, fancy car founds itself stuck across the curb.
And the very unfortunate mailbox was sprawled across the road, lying in a miserable position, its mail slot hinge hanging out.
Pain…so much pain. I never was so miserable during the Curse. The weird thing is, everyone else was. Now I’m the one who’s suffering, all because too many people here have medieval minds rather than modern minds!!
“Belle! Mr. Gold!” Archie rushed over them, his puppies yipping and racing around his feet. Completely unhurt, Belle and Rumple leaned back from their hunched positions and glanced out of the window to see Archie heading for them. They were surprised the puppies hadn’t tripped him yet, or that he hadn’t stepped on them.
“Are you all right?!” Archie asked frantically as Belle rolled down her window. Rumple ignored him and quickly swept a hand across her body, checking for injuries. “I’m fine,” Belle looked back at him in concern, “And you?”
“I’m fine…just…” Rumple breathed heavily, relieved that Belle was alright. His car didn’t really matter at all. And certainly not that mailbox.
Hey! Thanks a lot!
Splotches of red appeared on Belle’s cheeks, and she felt hot with humiliation. “I’m really sorry, Rumple.” She choked out, trying desperately not to cry. She pulled away from his gentle touch and crept out of the car. Archie faced her, his hand outstretched to her. “Belle, I’m sure your husband isn’t angry with you.” Pongo, standing at his heels, yipped, as if agreeing with his master.
“I’m not,” Rumple shook his head, ducking out of his side of the car and going around to meet her, pulling her against his side. “You matter, Belle. Not my car. Not the curb, and not that mailbox.”
Great. So nice to know that someone cares.
Rumple darted a grudgingly grateful glance at Archie for his help, “And…you definitely didn’t hurt any dogs or Dr. Hopper here.”
“That’s right,” Archie beamed brightly down at her. “See? All of my dogs are fine.” He stepped back a few feet and looked down to examine the front of Rumple’s car. “And it looks like your husband won’t have to pay much for auto damages.”
Uhh, what about me? Poor blue mailbox, lying on the middle of 3rd Street?? Other car could hit me here, now. But, oh, no. Go on and pay attention to those cute polka dotted pugs and the cricket and the librarian and the very, very powerful and very, very scary sorcerer. I’m just fine, thanks.
Rumple’s surprising nonchalance and Archie’s optimism was very helpful, but Belle still couldn’t help feeling a cloud of despair cross her. How am I ever going to get my license soon if I’m this inattentive of a driver? She pulled on a brave face and smiled at her husband and her favorite other man in town, the same man who’d brought her and Rumple’s hands in marriage not more than three months ago.
Rumple, as intuitive and sensitive to her needs as he ever was, wasn’t convinced by her wobbly smile, and a new idea crossed his mind. “Archie?” He inquired. The doctor jumped, slightly startled by the cold pawnbroker’s use of first-name terms. “Are you planning to keep those charming puppies?”
“Oh,” the permanent chipmunk smile spread across Archie’s face, “Why, I was actually on my way to Granny’s to have them given away for free to anyone who wants them! Would you like to be the first adopter, Mr. Gold?”
“My wife and I would,” Rumple smiled slightly and glanced down at Belle for approval. “Do you want a puppy?” If I can’t make her happy, a puppy will.
Belle was hard-pressed to say no at first, not wanting to inconvenience Rumple to having a rambunctious, untrained puppy in their home, but when she saw his adoring brown eyes, so full of approval and love and pride, her spirits lifted, and she grabbed his hand. “Yes!” She nodded, bouncing slightly on her heels.
“Wonderful!” Archie cried in delight and gestured over to the grassy lawn next to the car, where Pongo and his mate lay about, lazily watching their children play about, unusually well-kept at saying close to their parents rather than wandering off. “Take your pick, Mr. and Mrs. Gold,” Archie waved them over, delighted at uttering their names. Rumple would never forget how delighted Archie was on their wedding evening.
Belle looked at the fifteen puppies, all nearly similar but their spots on different parts of their bodies. Some were rounder than others, some had big blotches, some had nearly symmetrical dots, some had patches around their eyes or ears, and some had mittens for paws. And some puppies were bigger than others, some smaller. And all of them were perfectly adorable. Belle looked up at Rumple anxiously, “Which one do you like the best, Rumple?”
Rumple was enjoying watching the puppies as well, almost distracted from his wife’s question. “Oh,” he answered a few seconds later, “I like the one with the patch on his eye. Wait, I think that one’s a girl.”
“It is,” Archie confirmed from behind them.
“I want that one,” Belle decided, pointing at the girl puppy with one big black blotch around her eye, panting and lying down near her mother after a tussle with one of her siblings. “She looks so cute and feisty.”
“And that one,” Rumple surprised her as he pointed at a puppy with mittens as paws, yelping and pulling at a bigger sibling’s ears. “A boy?” He questioned Archie, who responded with an enthusiastic nod.
“We’ll take both, if Belle wants. Belle?” Rumple turned to her, and it took a moment for Belle to register his words. “Rumple…” she answered cautiously, “You don’t have to do this if you’re just hoping to make me feel better—“
“Oh, no,” Rumple shook his head, smiling at her encouragingly, “I do want this as well. We need something more in our lives, Belle, something fun, don’t you think? And I’m sure Archie would be happy to see those puppies get homes of their own.”
The idea of having two beautiful dogs in their home was too much for Belle to imagine, but, oh, how she really wanted this… “Okay!” She shook her head, grinning as Rumple smirked in satisfaction and bent to pick up the two puppies, who were surprisingly very receptive to being picked up by a treacherous dark wizard. They must have the same feeling as I do about Rumple—that he’s not as dark and dangerous as people make him out to be. She thought to herself, her heart melting at the sight of her husband holding two baby Dalmatians, both tiny and wriggling in either arm.
“Thank you,” they both thanked Archie, who only thanked them in return and remarked that if Rumple would be as receptive in adopting two puppies, then hopefully Regina would be as well—for Henry and Roland. Belle had a feeling Robin would be very persuasive in doing that.
Rumple drove the slightly banged-up car while Belle was content to snuggle with the puppies in the passenger seats. They stopped by at the animal shelter and visited David, setting two vet appointments for the puppies and buying dog food, two cushions, food and water bowls, two leashes, and a few toys for their new dog children. On the way home, Belle internally figured out names for their dogs. She didn’t want anything too common, but she didn’t want anything too fancy. Rumple gladly agreed.
That night, two exhausted puppies slept sprawled across each other in one of their cushions instead of sleeping separately, but Rumple and Belle didn’t mind as they lay in their own bed, pressed against each other.
“So, any name ideas yet?” Belle murmured, pressing light kisses on his chest.
“Mm. I’m not sure about the boy yet, but for the girl, I was thinking of: Polly, Rosie, or Regina.”
“Regina?!” Belle retorted incredulously, giggling against his shoulder. “I’m sure she’d love to be named after a dog.”
“Kidding about that one,” Rumple smirked, his chest rumbling softly with his own chuckles. “But, yeah, Polly or Rosie.”
“I like them,” Belle nodded thoughtfully, “I also like, for the boy, Rollie or Pugsy. I don’t know why, but the boy Dalmatian we have kind of looks like a little black-and-white pug to me.”
Smiling, Rumple bent his head slightly to press a kiss on her temple, reveling in the sweet rose scent that seemed to stay on her no matter what. “I think I like Pugsy.”
“I like Polly.”
“Pugsy and Polly. A perfect match.” Rumple repeated, and pulled back to gaze into his wife’s eyes tenderly.
“Just like us,” Belle breathed, her wide blue eyes shining in adoration. Rumple smiled, almost sadly, at her. “How did you ever end up with someone like me, my Belle? How much you deserve better than this.” His hand reached over to rub her smooth cheek, wondering briefly about his son. Without his son, he almost had no happy ending…Rumple was absolutely sure that there would be no happy endings for him at all if it weren’t for his Belle.
“Fate,” Belle shrugged, awkwardly because of the position they were in, “And True Love. We are True Love, Rumple, and True Love always finds it way to each other. Just like Charming and Snow.”
One eyebrow shot up high; surprised that Belle would compare them to one of the greatest heroes of the Enchanted Forest. Oh, Belle was definitely a great hero…but, Rumple? He was still a villain. Once a villain, always a villain.
He sighed irritably, wishing he could easily let go of that old mentality he had in mind for hundreds of years. He was really trying. Really trying. No one seemed to believe it just yet, save for Belle, Henry, even Archie, and maybe even Regina (after all, she was working hard on her redemption as well), but Rumple truly hoped that one day, people like the Charmings would look at him like a hero, and not a villain.
“What’s wrong?” Belle’s eyes darkened with concern, her brow furrowing. She’d heard his distressed sigh.
“Nothing, I promise, sweetheart.” Rumple shook his head, pulling her closer to him. “I only wish I had the same faith as you.”
“Oh.” Belle’s voice fell a notch. “Rumple, do you not believe we are True Love?”
“I do,” Rumple replied firmly, his arm tightening around her bare, cool back, and he pulled the sheet up higher to make her warmer, “I just feel like you deserve better than me.”
Belle laughed softly. “Oh, Rumple. I don’t care about your past, or who you’ve been, what you’ve done. What matters is that you belong to me. I am yours, Rumple, and I just want you. Even if it means giving up every single other thing in the world.”
“Even books?” Rumple quipped lightly though his heart swelled at Belle’s words.
It took a second for her to reply, but she did. “…Even books.” She squeaked, obviously dismayed at the notion of a life without books.
But Rumple still mattered so much more.
“…Am I too late in replying?” Belle piped up, wondering at her husband’s sudden silence.
“Yes.” Rumple’s lovely brown eyes glared down at her. And then his hands were on her waist, tickling her. Belle squealed, jerking away from his hands. “No!” She shrieked, but trying not to be too loud so they wouldn’t wake up their furry babies. Rumple’s laugh was throaty as he lunged for her menacingly.
Before Belle thought she could escape by rolling off the bed and away from him, Rumple wrapped one arm around her and pulled her back, so she shut her eyes, anticipation coursing through her as she prepared to be tickled to death. But to her surprise, Rumple only rolled her slightly under him, cuddling her close and pulling the covers over them.
“Let’s sleep, my love.” He murmured into her ear and kissed it lightly, “I’ll need to be in the shop early tomorrow morning. How about you take Polly and Pugsy to the park and have them meet their siblings? Henry called and said that Robin and Regina got two, and the Charmings got one, and even the pirate has one. Archie’s brood of puppies certainly are popular with the town.”
“Oh, wow,” Belle remarked, relieved that the puppies were getting homes of their own, “That’s good news. I’ll go to the park tomorrow, then.”
They were silent for a few minutes, their chests moving up and down in perfect rhythm, sleepiness beginning to lull them.
“And, Belle?” Rumple whispered in her ear.
“Yes?” Belle whispered back, a content smile gracing her lips.
“We can do more driving lessons tomorrow after our work at our store and the library is done, if you’re interested. I’m sure no more puppies will be distracting you tomorrow, and you’re already a fine driver to begin with, my love. I’m proud of you, my True Love.”
Belle snuggled her back deeper into his chest, wrapping her arms around his, which were encircling her upper body. She stroked his arms lightly, slowly.
“I’d love that, Rumple, my True Love.” She murmured, and fell asleep smiling.
In the meantime, I’m just lying there on the middle of 3rd Street, watching the stars twinkle in the sky up above. Yes, indeed, it looks as if no one really cares about me. But I’m sure someone will notice tomorrow.
But you see, I’m a very important person—er—object in being integral with the lives of people in this strange town of magic. No one might realize it, but if it weren’t for me, that librarian and her magical imp wouldn’t have had welcomed two baby Dalmatians in their lives to add more fun and happiness to it.
I’m a huge fan of True Love, you know. And these two just happens to be one of the best examples of True Love I’ve ever seen.
But the librarian’s driving still scares me. Heck, everyone’s driving scares me. Whatever happened to horses?? Eech.