Fic: Rumour Has It - Chapter 3
AU: Because of one little lie, everyone at Storybrooke University now thinks that Belle Charmin is sleeping around, and Professor Gold, the only guy who seems to believe her innocence, is totally off limits. Easy A!AU.
Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8
Rumour Has It
Regina had heard of me: I was famous, and in some ways I still am. And this was even before the real acceleration started, when I was just one of many girls on campus known for somewhat… easy virtue.
I was, I think the first girl she’d ever spoken to like that who gave the same kind of treatment right back. I just refuse to be spoken to like I’m nothing, especially from judgemental bitches who don’t know a thing about me, my life, or what I do in my free time.
I didn’t think before I spoke.
Spoiler alert: a recurring theme in this story.
I found out (much, much later) what Professor Gold and Regina discussed in their meeting that day. Apparently, it was about me. Better: Gold was playing back up for everything I did, and Regina left looking like she’d sucked a lemon.
I had no idea at the time that he gave a damn beyond me swearing in class and being a bit blunt in my essays. But that was about the time when I started wishing I really was a total skank, just because I thought that being a bit promiscuous would make it okay to flirt openly with a teacher. Even though it couldn’t come to anything, I would have traded almost anything to have him smile like that again.
Still, after the incident with Ashley, I thought I needed to go talk to Ruby.
“So I heard you launched yourself over a table and full body-tackled Ashley Boyd, and called her a fucking whore.”
Ruby grinned expectantly, practically bouncing with excitement. They were sat on a blanket on the grass outside the building where they’d had their last class, ostensibly studying. Their books were certainly laid out as if to indicate study, at any rate.
Instead, Ruby was eating ice cream out of a little pot, and Belle was sprawled across the blanket, arm over her forehead, staring at the grey sky.
Belle turned her head to stare at her friend, frowning, “No, I’ve never full body-tackled anyone. Well, except Emma, but I was seven.”
“Yeah right,” Ruby snickered, not believing a word, “That girl deserved anything you gave her. Did she really throw a crucifix at you and threaten to add holy water?”
“No, she just called me a slut.”
“While throwing holy water?”
“No!” Belle groaned, and returned her eyes to the clouds above them. It felt like rain was coming, although it was unseasonably warm for Maine in October.
“You’re such a freaking badass these days.” Ruby said, “It’s awesome. Who knew all you needed was to fuck around a bit?”
“I told you, I didn’t ‘fuck around’, okay? I slept with one guy, one weekend, one time.”
“Yeah, sure, of course,” Ruby nodded, and winked, as if promising to keep a secret, “Keep up that line, honey.”
“That was what I told you the first time!” Belle protested, “Are you listening to me at all?”
“Alright, fine, you slept with this Cameron guy once. This random friend of Abigail Midason’s who you’d never met before, and you spent a whole weekend in bed with him. Shouldn’t you be going all apeshit wanting to hook up with him again?”
“No, not really,” Belle shook her head, “It was a nice enough time, I guess. Nothing special.”
“But he was your first since Greg, right?” Ruby took another spoonful of her ice-cream, “Shouldn’t you be projecting a whole load of sexual frustration and angst onto him?”
“Maybe, if I was the kind to eat Ben and Jerry’s and watch Love Actually and wonder if he was going to call me today. But I’m not. So it was a nice weekend and now it’s over and I don’t care if I see him again.”
She just needed Ruby to drop it: she’d invented the guy, for God’s sake, but her lie had gone too far, now, and there was no going back.
“Wow, that’s… wow.”
“Yeah, well.” She shifted uncomfortably, desperate to change the subject, “Do you know Jefferson Madden, by any chance?”
“Wait, the gay guy who always hangs out in the art rooms?”
“He’s not gay.”
“I hope you haven’t got a thing for him, Belle, cause no straight guy wears a scarf that well.”
“He’s not gay, Ruby.” She snapped.
“Alright, jeez, fine. What about him?”
“He’s getting a load of trouble from some frat guys, doesn’t Pete have friends in the Delta Iota Kappa house?”
“Yeah, a couple. What they do?”
“Jumped him a few nights back. Now they keep throwing shit at him and shouting things.”
“Ugh, bastards,” Ruby rolled her eyes, and for some reason Belle felt like smacking her.
“Yeah, you think?”
Ruby looked at her, frowning in something like hurt, “I’ll mention it to Pete and the guys, don’t worry about it! They might be able to work some magic, I guess.”
“Thanks.” Her ire faded, and Belle was reminded - seeing the sincerity in her friend’s eyes - exactly why she was friends with Ruby. She could be loud, needlessly rebellious and demanding at times, but she was also a very good person, when she wanted to be.
“Archie’s always saying about altruism and helping people and shit anyway,” Ruby affected boredom, examining her crimson nails absently, “Better put some of that learning to good use.”
“I thought you were totally head over heels for Pete?” Belle sat up, rested on her elbows, “All sweetly dim and floppy-haired and ‘I would do anything for you, baby’?”
Ruby gaped at her, but she was grinning as she swatted her arm, “Shut up, Pete’s… Pete’s great, you know? But he’s kind of… talking to him is like being sixteen. Archie’s older. He knows about things.”
Unbidden, the image of another older man slipped through Belle’s mind. She’d say the same things about Gold, but while it was expected for girls to crush on hot professors, she didn’t think that it was right to start daydreaming about him right now. Not with yesterday’s encounter so fresh in her mind: she’d say or do something stupid.
“Things, huh? Things I’m supposed to be expert in?” she waggled her eyebrows, and Ruby giggled. That was something Belle did like about everyone, even her friends, believing these rumours: she could feel like the older sister for once during sex talks.
“Hello, ladies.” They were interrupted, and Belle looked up to see a very familiar face smiling down at her.
“Hey, Archie!” she greeted him with a friendly smile, and watched Ruby suddenly go as red as her namesake. “Wanna join us?”
“Uh, no thanks,” The TA brushed her off, his attention going straight to Ruby, “I just saw you and thought I’d ask if you’d read the next chapters yet, or if you needed a little more help with them?”
Belle raised her eyebrows at Ruby, who shot her a warning look before smiling, “No, not yet. It’s a bit confusing… is the usual time alright?”
“Sure!” Archie looked way too excited about a study session, and Belle’s suspicions deepened, “I’ll see you at eight.”
“It’s a date.” Ruby slipped her ice cream spoon between her lips and smiled, and Belle saw Archie nearly lose his composure. For a TA, older and supposedly wiser than they were, he was certainly easy to fluster.
He hurried away, and Belle turned back to Ruby, “Study sessions? With Archie Hopper? Bitch, you have a boyfriend!”
“I’m not married, and he’s not here.”
Belle was amazed at the gossip around the Storybrooke U campus: one declaration in a hallway labelled her a super-slut, and yet Ruby could flirt all she liked with barely a whisper.
It would be infuriating, if Belle didn’t enjoy just a little bit the feeling of being the one who was noticed, for a change.
I should make a mental note: whenever something feels good because it puts you above someone else, stop doing it.
Ruby’s still barely speaking to me. But then, she’s not alone in that.
That week went by fast, until it was Thursday and we had Friday off, for some reason I can’t remember anymore. I went home for the long weekend, not really wanting to put my new infamy to the test at any wild parties anytime soon.
My family should really come with a disclaimer. They’re simultaneously the most awesome and the strangest people I will ever have the honour to know.
I’m not kidding: my parents have different names for each other. And not just normal stuff like “baby” and “sweetheart”, oh no. Myy mama’s a snarky bitch, and she and papa met when he nearly hit her with his car, so she called his approach to catching women ‘Charming’. When she heard my dad’s surname is ‘Charmin’ (actually pronounced Shar-min), then the nickname stuck.
For his part, he pointed out that her hair’s black, her skin’s unnaturally pale, and she always wears red lipstick. Also: random foodstuffs can make her sleepy. So he decided, after realising that ‘Charming’ would stick, that he’d call her his ‘Snow White’.
They’ve been married two decades. They refer to each other by Disney names.
This should sufficiently prepare you.
“Hey, honey,” Belle’s mother met her at the door, and within moments she was enveloped in a massive hug.
“Hey mama, you got a room free?” Belle asked over Mary Margaret’s shoulder, and the arms around her middle relaxed enough that she could be held at arms length.
“Of course! I think the shed’s free, if that’s acceptable? Or there’s always the basement, but we’ve had some rat problems…”
“Funny.” Belle nodded, hauling her suitcase across the threshold.
“No,” Mary Margaret corrected, “Just preparing you, sweetheart. One of these days your papa will’ve already done something with your room, and then the shed won’t look so unappealing.”
“The second my room stops being my room, you’re getting an angry letter.”
“That fancy college finally teaching you to read and write, then?” James appeared around the kitchen door, a mixing bowl and spoon in his arms, “I was wondering what we paid those fees for.”
“Readin’ ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmatic.” Belle drawled, giving her father a brief hug, “All the basics.”
Mary Margaret laughed, “Just take your suitcase upstairs, dinner’ll be in an hour.”
“Great,” Belle smiled, “Emma home?”
“In her room, I think, with one of her mentor kids.”
“Cool.” Belle picked up her suitcase and hauled it up the stairs to her old bedroom, parking it by her wardrobe. She would only be here two nights: it wasn’t worth the effort to unpack.
She went down the hall, and knocked on her sister’s door, and received a blank “What?” as reply.
“There’s no sock on the doorknob, so I’m assuming you’re decent?” Belle called.
“Just come in already, loser!” Emma called, and Belle threw the door open.
“Honey, I’m home!” Belle called, and Emma just raised an eyebrow.
“I can see that.” Emma looked her up and down, one eyebrow raised, and if Belle weren’t her sister she’d have completely missed the tiny smile, and the happiness in the girl’s eyes to see her home.
“Oh, good, at least you’re not blind.” She snarked back, “Who’s this?” Belle smiled at the small boy sat opposite Emma on the bed, holding a few playing cards to his chest. He was bird-thin and dark haired, frowning in concentration, cards clutched as if they contained the secrets of the universe.
“This is Henry. I’m trying to teach him poker, but he’s cheating.”
“I’m not cheating!” Henry protested, “I’m just winning.”
“At ten.” Emma frowned, “Kid, it’s not normal to be good at this at your age.”
“She used to say the same about me,” Belle confided, “I kicked her ass all over the place at Monopoly, and she accused me of moving her counter when she wasn’t looking.”
“But I saw you!”
Belle smirked, “Not even close to being the point.” She turned back to Henry, “I’m Belle, it’s lovely to meet you.”
To her surprise, Henry jumped to his feet, and swept a slightly clumsy little bow, “It’s nice to meet you too.”
She giggled, shot a look to Emma, who just smiled and shrugged. Belle curtseyed, tugging at the sides of her jeans, “Enchanted, I’m sure.”
“Okay, now you’re both acting crazy,” Emma rolled her eyes, “Are we stuck with you all weekend?”
“Afraid so.” Belle nodded, hands in her pockets now that her curtseying was behind her, “Long weekend at college, thought I’d pop home and make sure you were all still alive.”
She said the same thing to her parents, when the subject came up at dinner after Henry had gone home. Unfortunately, they were more interested in specifics than Emma had been.
“You were home two weekends back as well.” James said, “They not feeding you in Storybrooke?”
“No one makes pie the way you do, papa.” She smiled, and then looked at the others at the table, “And you’d all swear to that, if asked? I was here the whole time the weekend before last?”
“Of course, Belle,” Mary Margaret frowned, “Why? The mob finally catch up with you?”
“Are they fitting you for cement shoes?” James chimed in.
“You guys are weirdos, you know that, right?” Belle giggled, “Anyway, no. No, it’s just… some people may think that I was elsewhere, so at least you could set them straight?”
“Why?” Emma asked, “Where’d they think you were?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Belle brushed her off, “Just… I was here. Helping with homework and mowing the lawn and things. It has the benefit of being true.”
“As opposed to…” Mary Margaret was looking at her, hard, and Belle almost crumbled under her mother’s gaze. For someone so fond of cardigans and ballet flats, Mary Margaret Charmin was a force to be reckoned with when she wanted to be.
“Nowhere.” Belle said, quickly. There was no need for her family to know what people were saying, not yet anyway. She knew they’d believe her when she denied it, but she’d like it not to come to that.
“Hmm,” Mary Margaret kept frowning, and Belle wilted a little. Especially since Emma was mimicking her mother, and the pair of them together were almost too much to bear. “Charming,” she said, her eyes never leaving Belle, “I think our daughter is lying to us.”
“I think she’s hiding the truth, Snow,” James corrected, “It’s a little different.”
“Dishonesty doesn’t run in the family. I wonder where she learnt it…”
“…Probably on the streets, with all the cuss words and slang.”
“I’m adopted,” Belle pointed out, “Even if you were a pack of liars I wouldn’t have inherited it.”
“You’re also Australian,” Emma said, unwilling to be left out of the Belle-baiting, “So we don’t know what could have gone into making you.”
“We love you all the same, dear,” Mary Margaret assured her, seeming to have sensed a line in the sand somewhere, “Even if it turns out you’re descended from aliens, we’ll still love you.”
“That’s comforting,” Belle muttered.
“Also, we chose you.” James added, “Whereas this one just kind of happened.” He gestured to Emma, “God knows what we did to end up with her.”
Emma just stuck out her tongue, “I’m a miracle child, and you know it.”
“Of course, dear,” Mary Margaret patted her arm, comfortingly, “Of course.”
Belle snickered, “At what point did we start showing love through verbal abuse?”
“Oh, about when you started school.” Mary Margaret replied, “You do know that if you actually need to talk to us you can, right?”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks.”
And she did know: she could be sleeping around for real, could have done everything people speculated, and Mary Margaret would just smile and tell her she was maybe being a little silly, and give her a hug. James would then take the shotgun he’d bought at a garage sale once and go after anyone who’d made her miserable.
The fact that he’d never had any idea of how to use it was neither here nor there.
They ate the rest of the meal without incident, and Belle found it quite nice to go to sleep in her old bedroom, without Abbie wanting to talk about Fred, or Ruby texting at an obscene hour.
The next afternoon, she was merrily defeating Emma at Call of Duty when there was a knock on the door.
“Belle?” Mary Margaret’s voice came from the hallway, “There is a man here with his hat in his hands!”
Belle paused the game, and ran to the door, “Hatter?”
“Hey, Beauty, can I come in? Your mom seems a little less than keen.”
“The last time you came over, young man, I ended up passed out on my own sofa.” Mary Margaret objected.
“To be fair, mama,” Belle said, “He warned you not to make tea Irish.”
Mary Margaret just frowned at her, “I’m not a lightweight, you know.”
Belle snorted, “You and whiskey lead to sleepytimes. This we know.”
“I have my eye on you.” Mary Margaret warned Jefferson, and he nodded, solemnly.
“Good.” She gave one last warning glare, and disappeared back into the kitchen.
Jefferson came all the way inside, and closed the door, “Place hasn’t changed, has it?”
“Not really.” Belle stuck her hands in her pockets, “What do you want, Hatter? You could just see me on campus, you know.”
“I need to talk to you. Without listening walls.”
“My room? It’s at least private in there-“ she was cut off mid-sentence by her sister.
“Hatter!” Emma cried from the living room door, and Jefferson was across the room in a moment, hugging her tight.
“My dearest Alice, how are you?” Emma was giggling and smiling like Belle rarely saw her, and she wondered if her sister had ever really gotten over her fifteen-year-old crush.
“School sucks, my friends suck, and I’m generally just waiting for High School to end.”
Jefferson laughed, and turned to Belle, his arm still wrapped around Emma’s shoulders, “She really is one of us, isn’t she?”
“I don’t know, I was fairly well-adjusted in high school.” Belle smirked, and Jefferson tightened his arm around her sister.
“She lies, little Alice: she never left the library.” He confided, and Emma giggled again. Emma never giggled: she was the most deadpan, sarcastic teenager Belle ever had met. And that was saying something.
“You came to talk to me, right?” Belle put her hand on her hip, “Speak now or get your impeccably well-tailored ass out of my childhood home.”
Jefferson bowed his head and gestured to the stairs, “Lead the way, Beauty dear.”
Belle was certain she didn’t imagine the odd frown on Emma’s face, the little sigh, when Jefferson broke away from her and followed Belle upstairs.
She sat herself down on her bed, as Jefferson shut the door behind him, “Alright, what’s up?”
“I was thinking about what you were saying. About what people think and everything.”
“Oh, about how everyone thinking I had a raunchy four-way down an alleyway has made my life easier?”
“What about it?”
“I was… fuck, this is awkward. I was… wondering if you’d help me do the same?”
“I could get Ruby to call you a super-slut in the hallway if you’d like?” Belle suggested, but Jefferson didn’t even smile.
“Come on, who would believe her? Everyone thinks I’m gay as the sunrise.”
“So? Tell them yourself.”
“No one is going to believe me either. Not without… proof?” he raised his eyebrows at her, willing her to catch on, and the moment that the penny dropped she jumped from her seat and stepped back.
“Oh no no no no no,” she shook her head, hard, not believing he could be suggesting this, “No way in hell, no. I’m not- no!”
“Well, thanks for that vote of confidence. Trust me that you’re not my type either.” He snarked back.
“You know, you know, that I haven’t…. That it’s all lies.”
“Yeah, I know, your only boyfriend really did play for the other team, and everything else is spun out of thin air. I know. I just need… something.”
“I’m not sleeping with you. If you’re suggesting that then you can get out right the hell now.”
“You’ve done it for real, though, right? You’ve pretended to be fucking someone to stop people thinking they’re gay. You did it for Greg.”
“You want more lies, then?” she sighed, and sat herself back down, “What? We make out in a corridor and ask Ruby to gossip some? Make sex noises in a closet?”
“Something like that.” He still had his hat in his hands, shifting the rim around and around through his fingers, “I just… I can’t be thrown into another dumpster. Something’s gotta give.”
“But why me? Why not get a real girlfriend?”
“No one ever crushes on me, come on.” Jefferson scoffed, taking a seat beside her, “I’m every girl’s gay best friend, and I’m not even into guys.”
She bit her lip to keep from mentioning Emma. Her sister was eighteen: she could confess her feelings all on her own.
“What do you want from me, Hatter?” She sighed, “I’m not interested in fake-dating again. I’d like a real boyfriend one of these days.”
“Just… no guy on campus can honestly claim to have hooked up with you. They all want to now, but… if you decided to fuck me, then that’d give me a boost. I can work from there.”
“Alright. Alright.” She rubbed her hands over her face, suddenly completely wiped, “Fine. But it’s got to be big, public. I’m not going halfway on this. And you will owe me so, so big for this. Like, you owe me your firstborn kid, if I ask for it.”
“Yes, yes, of course, thank you!” He caught her around the waist and hugged her, hard. She hugged him back, head on his shoulder, and wondered if this was the worst deal she’d ever struck.
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