Fic: Shoot The Messenger
Title: Shoot The Messenger
Rating: PG-13 for swearing and mentions of drug use
Summary: Belle gets a call from her dealer ex-boyfriend, and winds up bargaining with a drug lord known only as Mr Gold for forgiven debts. He needs collateral, and she needs a job.
AN: Written as a reward for my Spice Girls!AU challenge for someontellted, (who wrote a hilarious AU). Yes, it’s twice as long as expected. No, you shouldn’t be surprised.
Belle has never met the man they call Mr Gold, but she’s sure as hell heard the rumours.
Queen did business with him: Gold was her supplier, and she passed the goods along to the customers. The man on top doesn’t deal with the trash at the bottom: rumour has it he’s got a son in high school and a life in the suburbs, a nice little set-up, all legit and businesslike.
Belle’s never met the man, but the idea of doing so terrifies her.
‘Gold’ probably isn’t even his real name - although for a wealthy drug lord and a mobster, a loanshark and a murderer, it’s certainly apt. After all, ‘Queen’ is certainly an alias.
But Gold’s the name she’s got, so Gold’s the man she’s looked up.
At least, in with his reputation as a ruthless killer, his total disregard for humanity, there is the tale that he never breaks his deals. His own word is law: a twisted kind of honour.
If he promised not to kill a man, he could break every bone in his body, but the man would not die. He didn’t break his deals, not ever: that was law in his underground. Killers and dealers but never liars, never cheats.
It’s not her fault she’s here: she’d begged Greg to quit at the same time she did. But he’s a waster, always has been: he got her hooked in the first place, after all, when her dad was gone and high school was a lost cause, and anything was better than that apartment and that empty flower shop. But Belle’s smart, and Belle quit before she did herself permanent damage.
Greg was never the brains of the outfit, but he still has her phone number.
They broke up when she found him on the floor a year ago, overdosed and half-dead, even after he’d sworn for the third time that if she was going clean then so was he.
She can’t go through that again.
But he has her phone number, and his trouble this time isn’t with the shit he’s still shooting into his bloodstream. It’s with money, and it’s with Gold.
Belle is going straight, finally, enrolled in a community college and getting by. Barely. But at least she’s clean and honest.
But now she’s stood outside the office where Gold does the worst of his business, fiddling with her shirt and trying not to be scared shitless.
Queen got busted a month back, and instead of just finding a new dealer like the rest of the junkies Greg decided to take her place.
He called Belle from his jail cell, begged her to settle his payments with Gold. Apparently Greg hadn’t realised that Police Chief Swan was watching Queen’s old turf, and he hadn’t managed to sell enough to cover his debts to Gold before he got caught.
So now Belle stands with what money he could get to her, and a hope that Gold would be merciful about making up the rest.
“Come in.” A low voice - she hadn’t expected him to be Scottish, but why shouldn’t he be? - comes from within.
She swallows hard, and pushes the door open.
The man behind the expensive desk that dominated the room is smaller than she expected, slight and dark. He looks up at the noise, raises an eyebrow “And you would be?”
“Rose,” she says, after only a moment - knowing her name will lead only to trouble, better to cover her tracks before she gets in deep - “Rose Spencer. I’m here about Greg Aston?”
“Ah,” Gold nods, and the malicious gleam in his eyes and the glint of his smile are more intimidating than five men twice his size. He could kill with just a word, Belle knows, and that is more terrifying than any physical stature, “Yes, the wretch who got himself booked in Regina’s old territory.”
“Yes,” Belle nods, not even surprised by the use of Queen’s real name. “That’s him, I have… about two thirds of what he owes you. He can get you the rest but-“
“But he needs time, he needs to get out first, he needs to make a final deal, yes, Miss Spencer, I have heard all of this from every desperate soul who walks through that door. And you’ll get the same answer: if he can’t pay on time, I’m in my rights to collect by any means necessary.”
“Fine.” She says, calling his bluff, and pocketing the money, “I’ll be keeping this, then.”
Because Belle is scared, yes, but she’s also survived two years as a homeless junkie and another in a rehab clinic her father’s inheritance could barely afford, and she hasn’t worked this hard for this long and come out fragile.
And Greg did this to himself. Much as she might once have fancied herself in love with him, she’s not going to beg for his life.
“I’m sorry, dear, I’m not sure I follow.”
“You’ll either kill him or hurt him whether you get this money or not,” she said, with entirely false carelessness, “And a girl has to eat.”
“You’re a brave little thing, aren’t you?” he rests his chin on the backs of his hands, elbows on the desk, and smiles at her, intrigued.
“I just don’t believe in holding out for a lost cause,” she tells him, “There’s nothing I can say or do to save him, after all, is there?”
“You’re clearly a smart woman, Miss Spencer,” he drawls, “You tell me. Why should I spare the poor bastard’s kneecaps?”
She stares at him, eyes wide for a moment. He’d be attractive, she muses absently, if it weren’t for the evil, the vice and sin, that clings to his immaculate dark suit. She has no illusions: for all that his smile is gorgeous, it’s a pleasing face to hide the snarl of a bloodthirsty monster.
“Because it’ll gain you nothing if you harm him.” She says, calmly, “Leaving aside all the moral implications of crippling someone for the sake of it, of course.”
“You disapprove of me,” he smiles, leans back in his chair, fingers tented before him, “How quaint.”
“I don’t know you,” she says, carefully, “I was merely disapproving of the action of breaking Greg Aston’s kneecaps.”
“An action I would take in this circumstance.” He points out, and she nods her head, conceding the point, “I like to get what I want, Miss Spencer, and I find squeamishness to be a hindrance to that.”
“What I’m asking you for is not squeamishness. It’s leniency. Mercy.” She counters, “Understanding that Greg is deeply stupid and shouldn’t have made this deal in the first place, and that you’ll get your money faster if he remains unharmed.”
He laughs at her, but there is a hint of steel in his eyes, a loaded pistol in his smile, “My dear, I don’t care if he was barely capable of speech, a deal is a deal. Very rarely is a deal wise in this city, but that doesn’t mean they should not be kept.” He looks at her closely, “I don’t offer extensions, Miss Spencer. Not without collateral, and a very good reason.”
“Tell me what would suffice. He doesn’t own anything: his scumbag friends made off with anything the cops left in tact. How can he keep his skin?”
“Simple,” Gold smiles, a Cheshire smile, “You.”
“What?” It catches her off guard, and she feels she might faint, “I’m… I’m here as a messenger. A one off. I have no part in this. We haven’t spoken in over a year, save yesterday morning. He wouldn’t care.”
He stands, shaking his head, smiling indulgently, “I do not mean to hold you hostage, dear, don’t tremble so. And you’re right: a man who would send a blameless woman to beg for him is unlikely to care if she winds up the worse for it.”
“Then what do you mean?” she asks, her head high even as he comes to meet her, in front of the desk. He is not a tall man but he still feels looming, a shadow cast over her.
“I mean, Miss Spencer, that I am in need of an assistant, for various areas of my rather large business. And you are both brave and intelligent, qualified. Aston’s debts will be forgiven.”
“No.” She says, immediately. The idea is appalling: she’s clean, legal, safe. She won’t be dragged into this world again, “You can have what money he gave me, and know that more will come. That’s the only deal on the table here.”
“You do not wish to save the poor bastard’s life?” he smirks, head on one side, “Why, and here I thought we had a true heroine on our hands.” He smirks at his own joke: Belle is not so amused.
“I won’t break the law for him, or risk my own skin. He’s a good guy, weak and dumb but good. He doesn’t deserve this, but he brought it on himself.”
“And when did I imply your duties would be either illegal or dangerous?” Gold asks, spreading his hands, “I only meant that I own a small antiques shop, a family place… not my family, but respectable, and mine now. It needs a keeper, and I need someone to handle my holdings up there.”
“Up… where?” she frowns, a little more interested now that it sounds more legitimate. After all, she is barely scraping by on what her father left her, and college is getting her nowhere.
He smiles: he knows he’s got her. “Storybrooke, Maine. The tenants need someone to pay every month, and the pawnshop needs an owner.”
“And it has to be me?”
“I’d like it to be someone with a mind, who is not terrified silly of her employer. You seem the type.” He smirks, “And if you were to say… cross me. Your little friend would be seeing the inside of a wooden box, and your debt to me would only grow.”
“I owe you nothing.” She whispers.
“Yet.” He whispers back, smirking.
“Aston’s debts… they vanish? For good?” she checks, and his smile is victorious.
“As if they had never been.” He promises.
“And the moment I see or hear anything illegal or immoral, I can quit, with no repercussions.” She stipulates, “As if this were a normal employment contract.”
“So long as you say nothing to anyone that could harm myself or my associates,” he nods, “Then fear not.” He leans in close, his next words tinged with menace, “But breathe a word of anything remotely dangerous, and Aston won’t be the only one out of his depth.”
Belle swallows, hard, “That seems fair. Yes.”
Because Greg’s an idiot, but he trusts her, and she needs a job. Only fools get caught up with men like Gold, but he won’t know her name, and she only needs a paycheque and a promise of Greg’s safety. She can steal the rest for herself.
“Do we have a deal?” he asks, carefully. “You tend my Storybrooke office, and hold your tongue, and Gregory Aston’s debts are forgiven.”
“I will be safe?” she checks, “Comfortable? Free to leave the moment I wish so long as I stay silent?”
“You have my word.” He says, and nods his head.
“Then you have mine.”
They shake hands, and the deal is struck.
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