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A Blade For Belfrey

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Jim Francis is pissed.

Usually that doesn’t bode well, especially when - like now - Melanie isn’t around to talk him down; to remind him of who he is, and who he is not.

He hadn’t wanted to come to Seattle in the first fucking place, but his agent had told him it might be a good idea and that even if it wasn’t, it would be worth a few days in the rain and the wind, to fleece the stuck up bitch who’d seen his work and wanted one of her own. Rich cunt by all accounts, owned most of a district of the god-forsaken piss hole - so he’d come to call Seattle on account of the constant rain - a quaint wee place with a community garden and everything. Hyperion Heights.

As if that isn’t enough to get his blood flowing toward a full on moment of regression, some fucking detective that bust in on him while he’s having a nip or three at the local place is giving him the third degree. ‘Haven’t seen you around here,’ ‘who are you?’ ‘what brings you to Hyperion Heights?’ ‘oh, really, how long will ye be staying?’ pally pally. The usual shite.

Weaver, the cunt is called, and it seems that if you bandy the name about enough, everyone gets really quiet, or else fucks off and keeps their heads down. Does their own thing, like. Fancies himself a bit of a hard fucker, this Weaver, so it seems.

Anyway, after the good detective leaves, he decides to bevvy it up a bit and gets a tad wasted in the end, and the bird that owns the bar, some doll named Rona or Toni or some such other name tosses him out into the rain and tells him to go sleep it off if he knows what’s good for him. Hence, he’s pissed.

If he knows what’s good for him? Fucking cheeky bitch. He’ll show her ‘sleep it off.’

His phone rings, and he fishes it out of his jeans, ducking into the nearest doorway to try and stop it from getting any more waterlogged than it already is from just sitting in his fucking pocket.

When he sees the number though, and the smiling face of the picture the number pulls up, he softens, and all the irritating fucking crap of the last few hours melts away.

“Mel,” he says with a sigh as he hits answer and the call connects.

Jim she says, and her voice is all soft caresses and hot wet lips, and wide mouthed swallowing and the sticky sweet taste of home, if you catch the drift. I just wanted to give a quick call before bed time, see how you’re getting on.

“Aye, fine,” he says, as softly as he’s ever spoken to another person. “Girls go down all right?”

They miss their daddy, but yeah. They’re both asleep now.

“I’m gonnae miss ye,” he says.

You too, Jim. You have a place yet?

“Nah,” he says, shaking his head though she can’t see it. “Just stopped in for a wee nip. Heading for ma hotel now.”


“I’ll gi’ ye a call when I’ve finished with the client tomorrow, a’right?”

Do. she agrees, a soft command, but there’s a tone of warning in there somewhere. I want to hear all about it.

“You will,” he tells her. “I love you.”

Love you too, Jim.

Rumple, who was Weaver and had a feeling he should take a back seat in this particular ride and therefore settle into a quiet little corner in the back of the detective’s mind - a mind he recognized all too well… just like last time, so he tried not to poke around too much in the man’s memories.  It had disturbed him when he’d caught sight of Weaver’s reflection as they passed a shop window. There was something not quite right here - and after the last fiasco, when he’d ventured into his past - not deliberately of course. If he could control the Blue Fairy’s Curse, he would already have won the battle - he definitely didn’t want to go… messing around with his future, if that was what this was - so he decided to leave well alone, unless and until something came up that demanded his attention. Thus he left Weaver to it.

Weaver stomped into his office in the precinct, and tossed a bundle of case notes down on the desk. Paperwork. He loathed it, but it had been a quiet week in the Heights and there wasn’t much else for him to do except catch up on it.

Until now.

Rogers looked up from his own paperwork as Weaver threw himself into his chair, and gave him a cheery smile. Weaver gave him a sneer in return.

“If I wanted all sunshine and roses, I’d go work in a fucking florist,” he said by way of greeting, then before Rogers could protest, as Weaver knew he was about to by the way he put down his pen, he said, “Do me a favor. Run a search for me. Just bumped into a guy at Roni’s and I didn’t at all like the look of him. Name’s Francis. Jim Francis. Artist out of Santa Barbara in California.”

“What’s he like, this artist?” Rogers asked, frowning.

“Piss artist as far as I can tell,” Weaver huffed. “About my height, my build… come to think of it he has my hair color too.”

“Oooh,” Rogers teased. “Did you meet your doppleganger, and that’s why you’re all wigged out?”

“I am not. ‘Wigged out.’” He said, “He’s just a stranger in my town, and I want to know who we’re dealing with. By all accounts he’s here on business, on a commission for Belfrey, as if I didn’t already not trust him, that’s another great reason, don’t you think?”

“Hmm,” Rogers answered non-comittally, though he raised an eyebrow in the way he usually did when he, at least in part, agreed with Weaver.

“So you dig deep,” Weaver said. “I want to know everything there is to know about Jim Francis.”

Francis can hardly believe it the next morning. His mouth is like a badger’s arse end, but at least it’s not fucking raining. The wind makes up for that though. Cutting as one of his blades and twice as sharp. Slices right through the leather jacket he wears with the collar turned up like some nonce. He really fucking hates this place. Give him back the sea and sunshine of home. This place is too much like home home, and the ghosts are stirring. Not good. Not good at all.

Inside Belfrey Towers is at least warm enough that he can forget, for a little while, how pretentious it is. He tells the wanker at the front desk that he’s here to see Victoria Belfrey, and he gets the run around until some leggy bird comes down from upstairs and gives the cunt a cuff behind the ear. Not so much with her hand but with her tongue and that’s for sure.

“I apologize, Mister Francis,” she says as she offers her hand, which he shakes. Has to be professional after all. “He’s a new hire, and it’s so hard to find the right associates these days. Shall we go up? I know Mother is anxious to meet you.”

Mother, the rich bitch he’s here to meet, is quite obviously as far up her own arse as six foot pole, could probably do with a good pole of a different kind, loosen her up a bit. She waves her hand toward a small couch in the window, by a glass coffee table. Easy for him to understand where the company gets it pretentious image from, but he smiles and is all professional artist meeting about a commission. He sits down nearby where she perches on the edge of a chair that matches the couch as if she needs one of they rubber rings they give you at the doctors when you’ve got ‘troubles.’

“So,” he says to break his line of thought. Wouldn’t do to be thinking of the state of the woman’s arse when she’s trying to discuss business. “My agent says you seen my work and want to commission a piece of your own. Is that right?”

“A gift for a business… associate, yes,” she says, taking a sip of the tea her daughter brings in. “We had a bit of a rocky start, but… I wanted to make a show of my intentions - bury the hatchet, as it were. You understand?”

She catches his eye, and for a moment Francis isn’t quite sure that she’s not driving at something a bit… suspect, so he says the first thing that comes to mind that might help clear up his suspicions. “Aye, I’ve known a few in my time who I’d’ve been happy to bury a hatchet or two.” He leaves a pause before adding, “In the top of their heads, some of em.”

She sets down her tea cup and covers her mouth with her fingertips for a moment before she agrees in that posh, put on voice she’s been using since he walked his wet and muddy boots all over her carpeted marble floor. “Quite,” she says, cocking an eyebrow.

It’s then that she leans forward and slides the photograph, face down, in his direction. Takes him a moment before he glances at it, because he’s still looking into those cold eyes, looking for answers to questions he doesn’t really want to ask.

“I don’t usually work from photographs,” he says, “My work is life casts, made in plaster and clay so as I can manipulate the medium - do the subject justice.”

“Well, that’s exactly why you’re here, isn’t it Francis,” and she says it like a first name, not a surname, and he has his fucking answer. She knows, clever bitch. No clue how she fucking knows, or what cunt spilled his guts, but Victoria Belfrey knows. “To… ‘do the subject justice.’”

“I think,” he answers slowly, all polite, like, “that you’ve been… misinformed, Ms Belfrey. As I said, I don’t work from photographs.”

“Oh, I rather think you do,” she purred, though with all the warmth of a fucking iceberg, as her leggy daughter brings in an overlarge briefcase, and opens it up, letting him see the bundles of bills inside. All Benjamins. “Or at least, you’ll make an exception.”

He raises an eyebrow then, siting back against the couch, toying with the photograph he now has in his hands. “What do you have in mind?”

“Where are we going exactly?”

Weaver glanced over at Rogers as he turned the corner, and said, “You… are going to find Tilly and tell her to keep the kids off the streets as much as possible for the next few days. Tell her… environmental hazard of something.”

“Yeah, like she’ll really believe that,” Rogers shot back.

“I don’t care what you think she’ll believe,” Weaver snapped, “I want her and those kids safe and off the streets.”

“You really think he’s that dangerous, don’t you?”

“You tell me.” Weaver shot back. “You’re the one supposed to be investigating his background.” He shrugged then, thinking perhaps he was being too hard on Rogers. “Call it a hunch.”

“All right.  And you?”

“Hmm?” Weaver’s mind was running in many directions at once and had already tuned out his partner.

“What will you be doing while I’m out there chasing our favorite street rat?” Rogers answered, bringing a frown to Weaver’s face.

“Tilly. Her name is Tilly.”

“All right, all right, keep y’hair on,” Rogers said. “Question still stands though.”

“I have to see a man…”

“About a dog? Seriously?” Rogers protested. “You expect me to let you get away with that?”

“What you expect doesn’t really matter now, does it?” Weaver half whispered. “You do your job, and I’ll do mine.  All right… Detective?”

Weaver pulled the car into the side of the road within side of the Fremont Troll, and looked at Rogers expectantly until the man unfastened his seat belt and opened the door.

“Guess I’ll see you back at the precinct,” Rogers said as he leaned back into the car. Weaver just grunted, waiting for him to shut the door so that he could get on about the business of finding the CI that had called him with what he’d said was ‘important information.’ He suspected it would turn out to be nothing, but he wasn’t going to leave anything to chance.

He found the man loitering in an alley between the hardware store and the local Good Will. He looked cold, gaunt and, Weaver noted, had more of a wild look in his eyes than usual.

“Thought you were never coming,” he said by way of a greeting.

“Busy man, Michael, busy man,” Weaver answered. What do you have?”

“Some guy… saw some guy loitering in the hardware store.” Weaver strongly suspected that it was Michael that had been loitering and not the other way around. People did not spend time ‘loitering’ in hardware stores… unless they were trying to stay warm and dry - then all bets were off.

“And?” he prompted.

“Well, when he eventually came out, he had all kinds of knives and buckets - a lot of wraps of clay and plaster. Seemed fishy to me - especially the tarp,” Michael said.

“Doesn’t necessarily mean that a crime is bring committed, or even planned,” Weaver pointed out lazily. “Might just be doing a little bit of redecorating.”

“Didn’t look that way,” Michael countered. “Not in his eyes.”

“So what did he look like, this ‘guy.’?” Weaver asked.

“That’s the thing,” Michael shifted uncomfortably, still hugging the wall of the alley. “He looked like you, only meaner.” 

From washing dishes in the castle kitchen, to standing behind a tall bar, wiping the inside of a glass with  a cloth of some kind didn’t seem much of a jump. Belle glanced to her side and saw that there was a tray that had a stack of them on it, which she seemed to be refilling with the ones that were damp and warm on her own tray. She glanced around, and it wasn’t difficult to recognize that she was in a tavern of some kind. After she finished with the last of the glasses she turned around to look out into the tavern room at the tables and chairs, and the patrons occupying them, catching sight of a round item that had the word, “Roni’s” emblazoned on it.

“Roni’s,” she whispered to herself, guessing that was the name of the tavern. She jumped as the familiar voice spoke softly just behind her ear, as the speaker shuffled past her.

“Look lively, Dolly Daydream. Those glasses aren’t going to bus themselves.”

She glanced across and almost gasped as she set eyes on the queen, “R—” she cut herself off, some inner warning telling her she shouldn’t speak that name.

“Roni,” Regina said patiently. “I get that you’re new Isabel, sorry… Bel,” she held up a hand as the host that Belle inhabited opened her mouth to speak. “But please, try and keep up.”

“Sorry, Roni,” she murmured, feeling a very strange, dizzying sense of dislocation as all the facts began swimming around in her mind. Then she picked up her tray, and started toward the tables, and began to pick up the empty cups and glasses. That, at least, was familiar.

It didn’t take long after that for her to settle into the life she had been joined with. Isabel was kept busy by patrons and busing tables and restocking the glasses behind the bar. Belle still found herself a little uncomfortable working so close with the queen, but evidently this was some kind of life in which she was not the queen, but a bar owner. It seemed very strange. However, nothing caught her so off guard than the moment that Rumplestiltskin entered the bar.

At least, she thought it was Rumplestiltskin. Remove the sparkling scales, the long, slightly curled hair and the flamboyant clothing, and the man that just walked in, in denim clothing and a short jacket made of leather was the spitting image of the Dark One that she knew.

“Detective Weaver,” Roni greeted him, and almost sounded happy to do so. “What can I get you?”

Now that he was closer, Belle took in everything about him and found herself growing warmer the more she saw. Feelings that had lingered from jump to jump, to jump only making that warmth more noticeable, more intense.

“No, thanks Roni. This isn’t a social call,” he said, and Belle, who had heard so many of the Dark One’s playful voices during her stay at the Dark Castle wondered at his choice for this one, but also strangely thought that it suited him. Then she realized she was making assumptions that it was Rumplestiltskin after all. Where in their experience did it say they had to look like themselves? She couldn’t help but turn enough to see her own reflection in the mirror behind the bar.

Short - check. Chestnut hair - check, but there the similarity ended. This Bel was thinner of features, all angles and sharp lines. Her eyes were also a quieter shade of blue, muted somehow. If her assumption were correct, and Rumplestiltskin were in the good detective’s shoes, so to speak, he would not necessarily recognize her.

“I’m looking for someone.”

At his words, she turned back and all but drank in the sight of him again, just as Roni gestured to her.

“Have you met my new employee?” she asked him. He gave her a chilly smile.

“Didn’t quite mean it that way,” he said, and then looked in her direction and added, “Pleased to meet you.”

“Her name is Isabel,” Roni supplied helpfully, before Belle could open her mouth to introduce herself.

She cursed inwardly. Trying to get who she was across to Rumplestiltskin, if indeed he was a part of Weaver, without being horribly obvious about it was impossible, so she said, “Call me Bel. Everyone does.”

“Interesting,” Weaver said in a voice that suggested he was was anything but interested. “Maybe you both can help me with my inquiries then. The man I’m looking for was in here last night, Roni. Short, graying brown hair, brown eyes. Looks a bit like me, by all accounts.”

“That loser?” Roni said, and Belle scrunched her nose in concentration, trying to see if she could find anything in the mind she occupied to give her any information about the man in question, or how she might let Rumplestiltskin know she was there, as Roni went on, “Last I saw of him was when I threw him out yesterday. Far too much partaking of libations, if you catch my drift.”

“Drunk and disorderly?” Weaver asked, turning his attention from Belle as she was still trying to wrack her brains. “You should have called it in.”

“Well, thank you for your concern, Detective Weaver, but I’m more than capable of handling one inebriated Scotsman.”

Weaver shook his head. “I don’t think so, Roni,” he said.

Roni frowned, but didn’t say anything, giving Belle the chance to ask, “And he’s… dangerous is he? This man you’re looking for?”

Weaver looked over at her, an expression of confusion on his face, “I’d say so. Yes.” Then with a frown he added, “Why? Is there something you aren’t telling me.”

Roni leaned across the bar and gave a push to Weaver’s shoulder as Belle was sure he was about to interrogate her. 

“Don’t be such a dick, Weaver,” Roni said, and Belle almost choked on her own spittle. Rumplestiltskin would have flown into a rage if Queen Regina had spoken to him like that. It made her begin to doubt her own deductions. “She doesn’t know anything.”

“Then why did she ask the question quite that way?” he snapped, without taking his eyes off Belle, and she began to feel just a little bit… undressed.

“A girl needs to know these things, Detective,” she said at last, “Especially as we don’t all have a knight in shining armor to save us from the ogres and trolls of the world.”

Weaver’s eyes narrowed for a moment before he answered. “The only troll you’ll find around here, is the one under Aurora Bridge,” he told her. “And I wouldn’t recommend going there at this time of night.”

“Are you trying to scare the girl senseless?” Roni cut in, and giving Belle a somewhat motherly squeeze she said, “Pay no attention to him, dear. He can be so dramatic.” As she released her, Belle realized that she must have the most stricken expression on her face, and tried to school it into something more neutral, watching as Roni set a glass in front of Weaver and poured him a shot from the top shelf.

“One for the road,” she said. “It’s cold out there.”

One for the road turned into two or three, when Weaver checked his watch, and then his phone and found that it was long past his official quitting time, and that the buzzing in his pocket was a message from Rogers telling him not to bother going back to the precinct. Suited him just fine. He could get on with the job without any interference.

Something was nagging at his him, something in the back of his mind that was telling him that something more than just the arrival of this artist, that had been commissioned by Belfrey, and who looked, to all intents and purposes, disturbingly like him - except for the fact that he wouldn’t be seen dead with a mustache like the one Francis wore.

Thanking Roni, and tossing another few twenties onto the top of the bar, he pulled his leather jacket back on and headed out into the frigid night. Maybe he’d find the answers if he paid a visit to his ‘old friend’ the antagonist herself. He had no doubt that someone would be there, if she wasn’t.

It wasn’t that long of a walk to Belfrey Towers - Let’s face it, nowhere is that long of a walk in Hyperion Heights - but his route took him past a couple of all night diners, and something made him turn his head to look in through the window of the second.

There, larger than life, was the object of his current inquiry, the artist Mister Jim Francis… if that was really even his name. He thought he might go in, slip into the seat opposite the man in the booth he occupied, and challenging him then and there, but all things considered, and with that nagging feeling still in the back of his head, he thought better of it. Much more becoming of his reputation as a cop to wait it out and follow the perp - and he had no doubt that was what Francis was - and catch him red handed at… whatever it was he was up to.

It was a fair wait, and Weaver was forced to seek shelter inside the drug store opposite, peering through the none-too-clean glass pane of the front window to avoid getting his extremities frozen off as his mark ate and drank his fill, and flashing his badge at the store manager when the upstanding citizen of Hyperion Heights came to challenge his presence.

As such, he almost missed the moment when Jim Francis left the diner, and was forced, somewhat clumsily to hurry after him, or risk losing him in the seedier side of the city.

Jim Francis - formerly Francis Begbie - Franco to his ‘mates’ - didn’t survive the diamond hard streets of Edinburgh, dodging the local fuzz only to fall foul of this pathetic cunt, Weaver. The man’s reputation is obviously greatly exaggerated.

He doesn’t know the streets of this town the same way he does Edinburgh but he still leads the detective a merry dance, and he’s impressed by some of the narrow alleys between the taller building of Hyperion Heights. Nice and dark, perfect for his kind of skulduggery.

Despite his best efforts, however, he doesn’t lose fucker like he’d expected. Maybe no so exaggerated after all. So he decides the only way to get rid of the cunt is to find one of the nice dark alley’s and wait for Weaver to poke his nose in where it isn’t wanted. He’d be more than happy to break it for him.

Finding a place to his liking he practically melds with the walls in the shadow of some kind of rain collector. There, he waits, listening to the sound of Weaver’s booted feet. He scoffs inside. Always the same with the filth. They’re never subtle.

The footsteps come closer, and he tenses, ready to act, choosing where best to land his fist on the detective’s face. For a minute or two he regrets not bringing his brass knuckles, but then decides that the cunt is bound to be soft, and he doesn’t want to break him too fast. He likes to take his time.

As soon as the other man steps into the alley, Franco pounces with his characteristic cry - like he’s some bollock naked, blue clad Celt out of the past, fist raised and aiming right for the detective’s puss. He’s more than a bit surprised when the cunt not only sidesteps, but slips under his outstretched arm to grab his jacket and turn him, give him a push toward the opposite wall. Franco just manages to pull his punch before the bricks do too much harm.

“Oooh,” he mocks, turning to find the pig on the defensive, with his arms up, looks like he’s ready for anything, so Franco goes in with the verbal. “Hard man, eh? Well that’s very interestin’, seeing as mah client said ye was the one tae watch fer, but yet I’ve seen nae evidence of anything… extraordinary. Cannae even follae some cunt wi’out bein’ seen.”

“Is that so,” Weaver growls, and it seems that talking with Franco is bringing out the native in him too. “I grew up in streets where we’d eat neds like you fae breakfast, ye wanker!”

Franco makes a face, a mocking shocked and hurt face, before he laughs with an accompanying hand gesture, then points Weaver’s way. “Seems like all the years sniffin up barmaids’ skirts instead a sniffin’ out the bawbags an ye’ve gone soft.”

“Soft?” Weaver half turns away, laughing bitterly, but then turns back with a very strange expression on his coupon. “Get tae fuck,” he says at first, but then his voice drops, all gravelly and clipped and like the worst threat ye’ve ever suffered all rolled into a single word. “Dearie.”

Sniffin’ up barmaids’ skirts… we don’t all have a knight in shining armor to save us from the ogres…

The words rolled together, like a fog, seeping into Rumplestiltskin’s resting awareness, and the pieces dropped into place, waking him up. He knew exactly who the miscreant in front of Weaver truly was, and what he was capable of, and he could not - would not allow him to get anywhere near to Belle if he had anything to say about it, but he had already been too  quiet and too acquiescent for too long, and even with the mental fortitude he possessed, he knew in that moment, without a doubt, that Weaver was him… a future him… an older, wiser and more powerful him.

Is this the way my younger self felt? he asked himself, still trying to find some way to break through his ‘own’ mental defenses and exert even a modicum of control over Weaver, but there was nothing he could do.

Weaver reached to the side of his belt, popping open the clip and taking out the handcuffs that were there. He didn’t at all expect Francis to come quietly, but he wanted the cuffs ready for when he was able to use them. He let out a long suffering groan when the man in front of him reached into a back pocket and pulled out, and flicked open, the blade of a knife.

“You really don’t want to do that,” he warned.

“Oh, really, Detective Weaver,” Francis mocked. “And pray tell, why not?”

Franco watches, could have laughed as the aging detective pulls out the bracelets. It hadn’t taken him long to get over the weird feeling that had come over him, or it seemed for whatever had come over Weaver to back off, but the only response he has for the appearance of the fucker’s hardware is to pull out the hardware of his own, mocking when he’s told he doesn’t want to do that.

For a while the two circle each other, as much as it’s possible to do that in so narrow an alley, but somehow they manage it. Franco occasionally cutting the air in front of him with his flick knife, and Weaver periodically throwing out a fist that Franco dodges with, he has to say himself, expert ease.

He’s slow though. Slower than usual, and curses himself for eating so much in the diner, but he hadn’t had any decent scran since he’d left home, and Mel’s cooking. The thought of Mel, and not getting back to her and the girls spurs him on, and somewhere in the back of his mind he realizes that until he pulled the knife on the detective, they had nothing on him. Now they do, although if a push comes to shove he can claim self defense. It’ll be his word against Weaver’s after all, and with Weaver’s shite reputation, he might just get away with it.

Getting tired of dancing around like some love-sick bird at a wedding, Franco switches his blade from one hand to the other, finding his connection with it, he’s always had a connection with blades, the sharper the better. An artist they called him, even before he became Jim Francis.  He jabs once, twice, forcing Weaver to dodge aside, just as he wants. Then he swings, catching the tip of the blade against the detective’s white shirt, inside the open leather jacket. He’s rewarded by the spreading line of crimson  that begins to run in the fibers of the shirt, like some kind of splash painting. Weaver growls, and Franco grins ready to strike again.

He’s too cocksure though, and his second lunge falls sort and when he tries to over correct, he finds his wrist caught in a vice-like grip and propelled toward a jagged edge on the wall. Franco hisses as the point drives into the side of his wrist, not once, but several times, until he has no choice but to open his hand and let the knife fall. He hears the scuff of Weaver’s foot as he kicks it away.

Still, he doesn’t give in, not to Detective Weaver, not to any cunt. He fights like a rapid dog, snapping and snarling, and punching and kicking. He lands a few solid ones, but Weaver’s not for turning, and the man gives as good as he gets. Franco has to give him his dues. He’s stronger than he looks.

Franco finds himself grasped by the back of his jacket, at the neckline and is pushed, at a great rate of knots toward the wall, face first. It’s going to hurt, and he knows it; braces for it, closing his eyes. It doesn’t come. Far from it. He’s hauled back. It’s a sickening, dizzying sensation, the to and fro, and it’s the fro that causes the trouble, not the to as he expected, because the fro ends in the sharp knock of something hard against the back of his head, then a painful burst of stars, and then… nothing.

Breathing hard, Weaver leaned down on his knees to catch his breath and looked up at the newcomer to the alley - his partner.

“Good timing,” he said, his voice gravelly and strained with pain and exertion.

“I had you pinged. You didn’t answer your phone,” Rogers answered.

“Bit too busy,” Weaver explained with a huff of humorless laughter.

“I see that.” Rogers moved to take Weaver’s fallen cuffs, and fasten them around Francis’ wrists. Weaver was thankful that the man didn’t stir. Whatever Rogers had hit him with it had been hard enough to keep him out for more than a few seconds.

“So,” Weaver, finally able to stand up straight, nodded towards the prone figure. “What do we know about our friend here?”

“His name’s not Jim Francis,” Roger’s said, “Or it hadn’t used to be. His name is Francis Begbie, and he has a rap sheet longer than I am tall.”

“Figures,” Weaver interjected.

“Married his art therapist from prison, of all people, a woman called Melanie. They have two kids, girls. To all intents and purposes, he’s been clean since he moved to California, but I spoke with a detective at the Santa Barbara PD, and they seem to have their doubts.”

Weaver nodded. “We should probably take him in. He’s up to something, and I want to know what. Like I said, working for Belfrey…”

“Yeah, but that’s not a crime, is it?” Rogers protested.

“Bloody well ought to be,” Weaver murmured.

“What’s that?”

“I said, thanks for looking out for me,” Weaver lied.

“Thought that’s what partners are supposed to do.” Rogers gave him a pointed look then added, “Anyway, you better hope we find something on him, because I doubt we’ll be able to hold him for long.”

Smug has never been a good look on Franco, but just for once he decides to try it on for size, and it seems to work, because after barely an hour, some cunt comes in and tells him he’s free to go. It doesn’t help his temper though. If he was pissed before, now that’s not even the word for how he feels, and there isn’t one that fits… except maybe murderous. But no, maybe there’s a better way he can teach Weaver a lesson and one he’ll not soon forget. Sweet on the little barmaid as he is, Franco figures if he can have his fill of the bird before the detective even gets close, he’ll get the message all right, and it’ll be one he never forgets.

No cunt messes with Franco Begbie.

In no time at all he’s pushing inside Roni’s, and it’s going to be oh, so easy. Little Maid’s behind the bar, all smiles for the punters, and the bitch with the big britches is nowhere to be seen. He saunters up to the bar, and leans on it nonchalant like.

“Hey doll,” he says when Little Maid looks his way. “Pint of your best, and nae fucking around.”

Little Maid winces, then frowns. It’s obvious she doesn’t like the way he’s talking to her, but he doesn’t really give a fuck about that. So long as he has his way, and there’s no reason he can’t have a pint or two while he’s working his Beggar Boy magic. As he suspects, however she might feel personally, the punter’s always right, so she comes over with a smile, and a pint of the cat piss they call beer around these parts, and sets it down in front of him. He catches her wrist before she can pull it back, a wee slosh of drink splashing on the back of her hand.

“Looks like ye’ve a wee bit o’ the shakes there, doll,” he says. “Why not let old Franco help you clean it up.” And before she can free herself, or even really do very much at all he’s pulling her hand toward his face, his tongue flicking suggestively in his mouth, very little to do with cleaning up spilled beer.

“I can manage!” she snaps, and she’s stronger than he thinks, because she pulls her wrist free of his grasp, and fixes him with a stare that tells him she’s as tepid as the pint when it comes to the advances of a real man.

“Awww,” he croons in a capitulating kind of way, though he doesn’t mean any of it. “I was just having a wee bit o’ fun wi’ ye, doll.”

“That’ll be seven dollars,” she answers.

“Ah, put it on mah—”

“No tab.”

The voice comes from behind him, same bitch as threw him out the first night he was here. He turns a sneer her way, and then makes a show of fishing a twenty from his wallet, and sliding it across the top of the bar toward Little Maid, and tells her, “Keep the change.”

He frowns when she makes a point of making change from the register, and then putting his ‘tip’ into the charity box on the top of the bar.

“I think it’s pretty clear the lady doesn’t want anything to do with you,” Roni says, still right as his side with her unwelcome advice again, “So why don’t you take your pint, find a seat, and stop harassing my employees.”

He gives her a razor sharp, cold smile, and then picks up his beer, heading for a seat near the door. He doesn’t mean to stay long. Things to do, but he means to be back here by the time the Little Maid’s shift is done.

Bel gave Roni a grateful smile as Roni stepped back behind the bar.

“Finish up shelving those mixers, and then take yourself off home,” Roni said, and Bel blinked. “Seriously, I know that type, and he’ll only be back up here again, trying it on. You don’t need that your first week. So take yourself off home. I’ve already called you a Swyft.”

“Thanks Roni,” Bel said.

Belle, however guided her eyes across the bar to search among the patrons for the obnoxious little man. She was shaken as much as she was only because Bel was shaken by the experience. She had no doubt the man could be more than just bothersome, but she’d spent long enough dealing with the Dark One to know that every man had his weakness, even if it was just a swift kick between the legs.

Even so, Roni was right, and she’d probably be better off calling it a night.

After finishing shelving the mixers as Roni had asked, she retrieved her things, slipped on her coat, and headed out of the front door, into the cold Seattle night. The temperature had dropped considerably since she’d been a work, and the sky overhead was full with clouds that looked heavy, ready to burst. If it didn’t snow, then it was going to rain, and it would be a heavy, soaking rain, the kind that made you want to curl up in front of the fire with a good book.

She’d been standing outside, near the curb, waiting for her ride home, for only a few minutes when she heard his voice again. She hadn’t noticed him leaving the bar, but he was right behind her when he spoke.

“Somethin’ wrong wi mah money, doll?” She hated what he called her. It made her want to turn around and show him how very unlike a toy she really was. Not that she wasn’t intimidated. It would be a lie if she said she wasn’t, but she knew she couldn’t let him get under her skin. It would make her even more vulnerable.

She also knew she should just ignore him, but couldn’t help herself and asked in indignation, “Excuse me?”

“I gi’s ye a twelve buck tip, and ye just…” He trailed off with a shrug.

“What I choose to do with my money is my business,” she told him, taking a step to the side so that he was no longer behind her, and she wondered for just a moment, whether she should head back inside to wait for the Swyft.

“That’s as maybe,” he agrees, but steps closer, trapping her against a light pole. “But it was rude, all the same.” He leaned closer, his face barely an inch from hers as he rumbled, “And I don’t like rude,” right against her cheek.

She shivered, caught between the notion of a kick in the balls, or crying out for help. In the end, she needed to do neither.

The quiet hum of an engine pulling up along side the curb, and then the clunk of a door release, was quickly followed by a roar of pain, before her assailant stumbled away, right into the path of headlights that seemed suddenly very much brighter than they were a moment ago.

“Someone call for a Swyft?”

Belle felt a soft touch on her arm, and looked up into the concerned face of a young man, who nodded toward his car, that did, indeed, bear the identification of an official Swyft rideshare vehicle.

“Thank you, yes,” she said, and he gave her a smile, before seeing her safely inside the car.

As they pulled away from the curb, leaving - what had he called himself - Franco doubled over rubbing at his shins, she saw the driver glance into the rear view mirror, before he said, “My name’s Henry. Roni called. Where to?” She gave him her address, and he nodded and then said, “I know it’s none of my business, but it might be an idea for you to report what just happened. I know one of the detectives at the 42nd Precinct. If you like, I can give him a call.”

“Thanks,” she said, “I’ll… give it some thought.”

“Sure, no problem,” Henry said.

They didn’t speak for the rest of the short journey to her apartment, and once there, Henry got out of the car to walk her to her door.

“Something tells me this isn’t the usual service you give your Swyft customers,” Belle joked, but now that the adrenaline had worn off she was feeling a little shaken up, and was sure that she probably sounded a little fragile.

“Roni puts a lot of business my way,” he said by way of an answer, though she knew he wasn’t telling the whole truth. Then he handed her a scrap of paper, with a telephone number written on it. “I’m serious,” he said as he handed it over. “Rogers is a good guy. He’ll see you right.”

Belle nodded. “Thank you. I’ll think about it.”

Henry nodded again, and once she was safely in her apartment building, and the door had closed behind her, he returned to his car and drove away, leaving her alone. She knew she was safe there, though she didn’t feel it, and she found herself pulling out her phone, and dialing the number Henry had given her.

Weaver.” the voice on the other end of the telephone announced their identity.

“Oh,” Belle said, stammering a little, though she had no real idea why. “I… I was expecting Detective Rogers.”

Detective Rogers is busy right now,” Weaver said. ”Perhaps I can help?

Weaver perched on the edge of the couch as Belle returned to the living area of her apartment with a pot of tea and two tea cups on a tray - tea cups, not mugs, and he blinked a little, trying to remember the last time he’d seen anyone use a tea cup.

The sudden flash of a blue and white chipped porcelain cup flooded his mind and he blinked, wondering where the hell it had come from.

“Thank you, this is… very kind,” he said, and then trying to remember how Roni had introduced her, he added, “Bel, isn’t it? Short for Isabel?”

“Just Belle,” Belle said, and he sensed a strange kind of emphasis on the name, as though she thought he should know it.

The image of their chipped cup lodged in Detective Weaver’s immediate memory caught Rumplestiltskin’s attention, and hearing her name, spoken in the way she had, pulled him further to the front of the man’s mind. Suddenly, gone was the intention to just sit out this jump as a passenger, Belle was here, he had found her - or she had found him - and she was uncomfortable, unless he misread the tone in her voice, uncomfortable or afraid. He didn’t like that.

“Hardly ‘just’, dearie,” he said, and watched then as a rush of breath escaped from her.

“Rumplestiltskin,” she sighed.

“Weaver is just fine,” he said, “I don’t know quite what this is all about, but I think he’s me… again,” he waved his arm to indicate himself and then the area around him,  “and I’m not sure he or I should know too much about that just yet, so… we’ll stick with Weaver. I’m here though…”

“Right, just… I…” He shook his head to cut off her protest, as he released most of the control back to what he strongly suspected was his future self.

“Why not tell me what happened?” Rumple-Weaver said, and Belle nodded, recounting her whole, strange day, and the man - whom she pointed out looked a good deal like Weaver - that had bothered her, and seemed to be making some kind of threatening, unwelcome advances.

He wrote down what amounted to her statement in the small book from his jacket pocket, and then skimming through the detective’s recent memories, pushed at the detective’s mind to suggest, “Why don’t I… stick around… Just in case?”

“I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you, Detective,” she said, and Rumplestiltskin saw a small shiver of uncertainty in her eyes and guessed she wasn’t sure if she was talking to him or to Weaver at that point. Good, he concluded, thinking that maybe the man himself would be none the wiser either.

Belle watched as Weaver put his note book back in his jacket pocket, and then shrugged out of his jacket. Then, she gasped. She saw him frown as though in confusion - though his fingers automatically twitched to the weapon at his side.

“You’re hurt,” she said.

As if he had forgotten, Weaver glanced down at the red stain on his chest, then shook his head and gave her a smile that she was sure was meant to be reassuring.

“I’ve had worse,” he said, but Belle shook her head.

“And that’ll be worse if it doesn’t get the proper attention,” she insisted. “It needs cleaning at least.”

“Yes, well,” he said, cleared his throat. “If you show me where the bathroom is…” he stopped and frowned as she shook her head again. “What?”

“That shirt will need to be soaked off, or else you’ll start it bleeding again,” she told him.

“Some kind of nurse are you now?” Weaver snapped, then softened as she looked crestfallen, as though he’d slapped her.

“I’ve seen my fair share of cuts and bruises,” she said, “And I know one that’s deep when I see it.”

Weaver sighed. “Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend.”

“Let me see to that cut, and we’ll forget you were even crotchety,” she said.

Weaver’s eyebrow shot skyward. “Crotchety?” he parroted, then chuckled. “Can’t say I’ve ever been called that before.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Belle said as she stood up, and gave him a look that she hoped made it clear to him that if he moved, she would severely chastise him.

Wisely, he decided to stay put, and when she returned, with a bowl of water, and with a first aid kit tucked under her arm, was still perched exactly where she had left him on the edge of her couch.

“It doesn’t bite, you know,” she said wryly, and Weaver made a sound of query. “The couch,” she said. “You can sit back, make yourself comfortable.”

“Unless I miss my guess,” he said, nodding at the first aid kit she set down on the coffee table nearby, “You’re about to make me anything but comfortable.”

Belle pouted, “Only for a little while,” she said. “You’ll feel much better afterwards, I promise.” Weaver gave her a doubtful look, and she chuckled a bit. “Oh, sit back, Detective.”

After a moment he did as she told him, and she felt herself blushing slightly as she felt his eyes on her, watching her every move.

“Weaver,” he said. “We can skip the formalities, I think.”

She nodded, and then pulling the coffee table closer to the couch, perched on it so that her knees were touching his. Then she laid a towel over his lap. “To catch any drips,” she said, “As I said, this shirt will have to be soaked off.”

Her belly fluttered, just a little. She’d been fighting growing feelings for Rumplestiltskin since this whole sorry mess with the Fairy Curse began - probably before, if she were honest - and the thought of ministering to him now - even if in another incarnation made her whole being tighten with forbidden anticipation.

She saw Weaver take a breath as she stretched toward him with a soft looking cloth that she pulled out of the steaming bowl of water and wrung out. Even so, he hissed when she pressed the cloth to the bloodstained part of his shirt with one hand, and with the other scissored open the closest few buttons.

“I think I could probably manage that part,” he told her, his voice gravelly.

“You probably could,” she said, rinsing the cloth in the water, wringing it out again and pressing it back against his shirt where it was stuck to the cut. “But I thought this way it might distract you.”

“And is that something you think I need?” he challenged with a raised eyebrow, “Or maybe that you’d like to do?”

Without answering, she rinsed the cloth a third time, and after wringing out most of the water, pressed the cloth to his cut once more, squeezing out a little more of the water to wet the shirt, and sliding her fingers inside to gently try and free the fabric from the wound.

Weaver hissed again, and stifled a curse, before she chuckled and finally answered his question. “What do you think, Weaver.”

“I think you remind me of someone,” he said in that same gravelly voice, “And I think you’re also probably right.”  She raised an eyebrow in query, and he told her, “I do need a distraction.”

“Ah, well then,” she said, once more rinsing the cloth. “I think I can manage that.”

And before she pressed the hot, wet cloth to his wound again, she moved from the coffee table, to sit astride his lap.

Weaver all but marched into the precinct building, intent on getting a warrant and bringing ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Begbie’ in on charges, and he didn’t care if they had to be bogus. Roger’s met him in the foyer before he made it to their shared office and looked him up and down.

“Good night?” he said.

“What are you on about,” Weaver said, not without some small amount of irritation in his voice.

“Same pants… same shirt, only mended and clean,” Rogers teased. “I’d say it’s a fair bet you haven’t been home yet.”

“Make a detective of you yet, Rogers,” Weaver said sarcastically, “But I’ll have you know—”

“Save it,” Rogers interrupted, all hints of teasing gone from his voice, and Weaver noticed movement over his right shoulder; the doorway to his office. “We found a body. Head and upper torso bearing similar markings as on the images we found in Francis’ studio. The ones you took.”

“Mister Weaver, a moment of your time,” a new voice called out from the doorway of his office.

“That’s Detective Weaver,” he growled, turning on his heels to face the two ‘gentlemen’ in suits. “And if you have anything to say to me, go ahead… say it.” He spat the t at the end of the word through clenched teeth. He’d put together the pieces of the warning Rogers had given to him, and had come up with the usual bullshit formula.

Body, plus circumstantial evidence, multiplied by the wankers from IA, equals institutionalized Weaver bashing.

“We need to ask you a few questions in regards to a murder victim that homicide found this morning, evidence from a case that you and Detective Rogers had been working, and an… altercation you engaged in with a Mister Jim Francis.”

“If you’re accusing me of having anything to do with a homicide, Agent, I suggest you have the balls to say it - to my face - instead of dressing it up in the usual Internal Affairs bollocks.”

“No one is accusing you of anything, Detective,” the second agent said, “We just need to know where you were last night.”

Weaver took a few steps forward, squaring up to the man, somehow managing to get right in his face in spite of him being taller.

“As it happens, I spent last night with a potential witness to my case against Mister Francis.” He snarled. “She was directly threatened, and called into the station some time between 10:45 and 11pm last evening. I went over to take her statement, and felt what had happened warranted protection.” Then with a tilt of his head, still in the man’s face, he added, “You can check the phone records, if you’d like.”

The phone records would corroborate his statement, as - he was certain - would Isabel, if she were asked. He stepped back then, glancing at his partner, who raised an amused eyebrow as Weaver wiped a finger along the side of his mouth in a very self satisfied way. 

Alaska Airlines Flight 398 to Los Angeles International Airport is now boarding at gate B8, would all ticketed passenger please proceed immediately to gate B8

Jim Francis saunters along the causeway, from the men’s room he’s just left, in the direction of his boarding gate. He has a smile on his face, his ticket in one hand, and a carry on wheeling along beside him, in which, a whole stack of drawings of Benjamin Franklin are nestled beside yesterday’s jeans, a careworn paperback novel, and a couple of bags containing ‘My dad went to Seattle and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.’ Shirts, and a stack of comfortable looking Space Needle sweatshirt in three different sizes. He’s happy with his purchases, and he’s certain that Mel and the kids will be too.

The smile fades and is replaced with a snarling frown as he catches sight of the two detectives standing beside the flight attendant station at the gate. One of the bastards - the taller one, is smiling a wry little smile, with an eyebrow climbing up into his hairline, the other cunt, Weaver, is standing looking constipated, with his arms folded, his thumb playing with his bottom lip.

“Mister Francis,” the tall one greets him, the smile never falling from his puss. “Just wanted to have a word with you about—” 

“About what?” he interrupts, and he gets that smug feeling down low in his belly again. “You got nothing, otherwise you wouldn’t be here like this - casual like.”

Weaver steps forward, coming to stand nose to nose with him, like the cheeky cunt he is. Brown eyes meet brown eyes, filled with mutual loathing, and Weaver’s teeth are bared, as he says, low, so only he can hear, “That’s as may be… Franco…” Begbie’s jaw tightens at that, and the corner of his eye ticks with the effort of restraining himself, of keeping his hands off of the detective, but he does, and so Weaver goes on, “…but from now on, you better learn to sleep with one eye open.”