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Almost Human

Chapter Text

2048

 

Science and technology

Evolve at an uncontrollable pace.

 

Unknown drugs and weapons

Flood our streets and schools.

 

The contraband is controlled and distributed

by violent, faceless, criminal organizations.

 

And the crime rate rises an astounding 400%

 

Outnumbered and overwhelmed,

Law enforcement implements

a new strategy:

 

Every Police Officer is partnered with an

Advanced, combat-model Android.

(Opening monologue from Almost Human)

-

 

Eight-forty-five in the morning was when Zane Gold awoke face down in a pillow to his cellphone ringing violently, for a moment he didn't know what the incessant noise was but soon his mind flooded back to him and he reached across the bed to grab it. A quick glance to the screen before he put the phone to his ear revealed it to be Regina Mills, his precinct's Captain.

“Yes?” He bit out gruffly, he always sounded that way before his morning coffee... and usually afterwards as well.

You were suppose to be in ten minutes ago.” She said sternly which only caused Gold to sigh.

“I need more time, just one more day-”

“No.” She told him quickly , Regina had mellowed in her years as a cop almost as though something evil in her had given way to goodness but she was still sharp and cunning . “Gold, I gave you another day and then another and another and now I'm done . You come back now. You're Sergeant Zane Gold, the best I've got, so get your scrawny Scottish ass in here.”

Regina didn't wait for a response she just hung up leaving Gold laying on his chest with his phone against his ear. He sighed and turned over awkwardly, his phone fell to the duvet with a dull thud. With another sigh Zane threw off his green-grey covers revealing what had mentally and physically scarred him, his missing right leg. Memories of explosions, snippets really, gushed back, flashing before his eyes and teasing him. If only he could remember all that had happened fifteen months ago, before the coma; alas it all seemed to be gone now. All he really knew of that failed raid was that it had claimed his leg from just above the knee and his partner, Neal Cassidy; he'd loved that man like a son.

C arefully Gold hobbled out of bed in nothing but his black boxers showing the scars he'd gained from years on the force to the daylight, some were small and hardly noticeable while others were large and prominent. Slowly Zane made his way to the charging station in the corner of his bedroom where a grey synthetic leg lay, syn thetic charge incomplete screamed a computerised female voice when he lifted it off and attached it to the metal plate at the end of his stump. Quickly the grey metal changed to match his skin color, it was strange though, to see his false right leg perfectly shaved while the other was quite the opposite. He stood there a moment getting used to the false limb before going to his closet to dress, he paused after a single step when the leg squeaked, another step though and it seemed to fade away.

Zane pulled on his clothes quickly; dark fitted jeans, a crisp white shirt and charcoal low-cut waistcoat finished off with a blood colored tie . Long ago before the coma and Neal's death he'd have donned a full suit, he'd always been old school as Detective Cassidy had put it, but things had changed, now he had one leg and couldn't remember the raid. Gold didn't make breakfast just got himself a cup of black coffee, black as night, sweet as sin, and slipped on his leather jacket – a gift from Neal because he couldn't just live in suits forever – and then headed down to his car.

He drove his Cadillac – an antique he'd lovingly restored with Neal 's help – to the precinct with his mind on auto-pilot, Zane continued to rack his brain, his memory, for answers about Neal's death but they just wouldn't come.

The precinct – which was located in the Storybrooke Cynosure District, often referred to simply as the SCD – was lined by blue and grey walls, the far left of which held a large 01 designating them as precinct one. The SCD was the largest precinct in Storybrooke and surrounded by precincts two through eight with the last four precincts encompassing them – who were often called the Band Precincts due to their thin but long area coverage.

Gold walked the raised floor to Regina's office but he did glance down the three steps to the bullpen, so many fucking MXs he thought angrily.

Detectives David Nolan and Emma Swan watched him from their place leaning against the blonde woman's desk within the bullpen.

“Christ! Captain Mills actually let him come back.” Said Nolan in a shocked tone.

“Who is he, Dad?” Asked Emma as she glanced at the other Detective.

Emma had taken to calling David, Dad, almost as soon as they'd started working together. Despite only being thirty eight years old, David gave off an old fashioned vibe, he loved black and white movies from a century ago, he even preferred to use a pen; pens and paper had all but been forgotten in 2048. Nolan continued to use the items though, said they were more personal.

“Yeah that's right, you weren't here then. You'll have heard of him though.” He informed as he folded his arms across his chest. “That, Emma, is Zane Gold.” A look of realisation emerged on her face. “Just under two years ago he and his partner Neal Cassidy led a raid on an abandoned factory to corner a rogue android. Fourteen cops, and twenty MXs went in, he, eight cops and three MXs were all that came out alive and he didn't even come out in one piece according to reports. He led that raid, he got all those cops killed and Mills still let him come back to the force. Gold's been in a coma pretty much ever since, he's a law unto himself, dangerous.”

“I've heard the stories but he can't be that bad.” Emma chirped.

“Just wait and see. An hour, that's what I give him until he does something to piss Captain Mills off.” Nolan clearly wasn't holding out much hope for Gold's return.

Zane pushed the glass door of Regina's office open and stepped inside, he wasn't stupid, he could feel the bullpens eyes on him. Gold slid a hand through his long brown hair dusted with ash as he came to a halt in front of Regina's desk. The raven haired woman sat comfortably as she typed on her tablet, it looked like a pane of glass, it took her only a second for the woman to start speaking.

“So you finally decided to show up, half an hour late.”

“I'm an old man with a synthetic leg, I can't move as fast anymore.” Zane bit out sarcastically.

That got her to finally look up at him, the tablet was laid down and Regina leaned back on her chair. She reached for what appeared to be a sheet of plastic roughly A4 size, it lit up with small black text and an image of Gold as soon as she touched it as well as a little red box that said 'AUTHORISED' 

“I'm taking a chance on you, Gold.” Regina told him authoritatively and stood. “What was it exactly your psych report said, shall we have a look? According to this 'Detective Zane Gold should never be allowed to return to active duty on the force. He's volatile, angry and subconsciously rejecting his synthetic limb.' I'm overlooking this so go get yourself and your nice new MX, get hell out of here and go solve a murder, I sent you all the relevant details we have on her death so far. Something nice and simple to ease you back. The Storybrooke Cynosure District won't keep itself safe.” The tone was clearly dismissive but Gold made no attempt to leave.

“I don't need a bag of bolts.”

Yes, you do.” She sighed before going back to her seat. “It's compulsory now that every human officer has to travel with an android partner.”

“Well this is going to be fun then.” The man huffed as he turned to the door.

“I saved your desk, go claim it, your MX two-thirty-seven, and get out there.”

Sergeant Gold slid out the door and down the three little steps to his plain grey desk, he felt Emma approach before he saw or heard her. Gold couldn't deny her beauty, long blonde curls and big eyes; just the sort of girl Neal would have jumped at. She wore a short red leather jacket and a plain grey tank top along with dark jeans . He didn't want to speak to her, to any of them for that matter, just wanted to go back to work but it seemed she was intent on introducing herself. Is communication now compulsory as well as the MXs?

“Hey, I'm Emma Swan. You're Zane Gold right?”

He nodded. “Emma, what a lovely name.” He shook her offered hand before looking past her. “Hello again Nolan.”

Suddenly an MX-43 android appeared, standing a little too close for Gold's liking and cut into the boring conversation with its monotone voice.

“Hello, Sergeant Gold. I am two-thirty-seven, I have been asigned as your partner. I am here to help in any way I can.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever dearie. Come on.”

Without another word Gold headed back up the three small steps followed by the mechanical babysitter. Gold didn't like androids but it wasn't for the reason most thought.

XXXX

Gold drove along the free way hoping beyond hope that the MX in his passenger seat would stop staring at him with those lifeless eyes. He didn't like MXs – or people in all honesty – they were just so blank.

The MX-43 series was a humanoid and battle-ready militarized android that closely resembled male human beings and had been kitted out in the best tactical gear money could buy. The android that followed Nolan around appeared to be African-American while Emma's and the one that sat in Gold's passenger seat was a dark-haired Caucasian male. Though very similar in appearance, they didn't all look exactly alike, despite the slight attempt at making them individual, they had all been programmed to think alike, all had the same voice and follow orders precisely. No compassion, a child could have been starving and begging for help at their feet and they'd do nothing but move them for loitering.

They had replaced the supposedly flawed BLE series of androids as the police's Assigned Partner just over four years previous. However, their ability to adapt and think for themselves had been replaced by a standardized set of protocols, seemed improvement meant removing any humanity. They couldn't feel and didn't have any sense compassion, MXs were incapable of adjusting their protocols situationally which only made Sergeant Gold hate them more.

Since the grumpy Scottish cop had met the MX, known only as Two-Thirty-Seven, it had just looked at him, it didn't speak like Neal would have, just continued to weight him down with its long stare. Every now and then the right side of it's face glowed red like fibre optics or fireworks flashing along its temple and down it's cheek. Neon radiating through veins.

“What?!” Gold demanded angrily as he glanced up from the freeway. “You've been staring at me since we left the precinct, have I got food on my face or something?”

Without blinking or a single movement the MX responded in that monotone generic voice.

“No, Sergeant. Your face is free of any food item or foreign partical. However, you are exceeding the speed limit in this area. As the second highest ranked officer of precinct 01 you should be aware of this. Would you like me to recite the highway code? It may be of help to you.”

Zane spoke with mock enthusiasm, every single word dripped with sarcasm.

“Great! Why don't you go ahead and ticket me while you're at it?”

“I already have.” Said the MX blankly.

“Fan-fucking-tastic.” Muttered Gold. “You know what-”

Zane leaned over and in one smooth motion opened the door and kicked the MX out. The synthetic bounced and rolled down the road at full speed as parts of it chipped, flying off at all angles until it vanished under an eighteen wheeler only to emerge as tiny scraps and shards of metal decorating the tarmac; reduced to nothingness. Regina was going to be pissed but on the bright side it had been seven and a half minutes more than the hour Nolan had given him until he angered Captain Mills; a small win.

Chapter Text

It hadn't taken long for Regina to get wind of the tragic destruction of Gold's newly acquired MX. After her androids don't grow on trees speech she had e-mailed him a new android acquisition order and sent him to Jefferson.

Doctor Jefferson Madden was a GEH or genetically enhanced human , his parents had paid through the nose to have their son's IQ upgraded and to have any genetic issues removed from his DNA. The doctor they'd used must have been from the Third Quarter or an absolute moron because despite the enhancements Jefferson was still a basket case. Doctor Madde n was also the closest thing to a best friend Zane had, he could do just about anything with a soldering iron and an idea . Androids were his forte but he knew just about everything in all areas of technology. In short Jefferson could fix your toaster in the morning, perform an android autopsy in the afternoon, and build a bomb by nightfall.

He shared his lab – and old basic cathedral that had been gutted and re-purposed as a workspace, Jefferson had always liked the stained glass as well – with his husband of the last six years Doctor Victor Whale, Victor was the best ME in the Storybrooke Cynosure District – actually in all of Storybrooke and he knew it. Victor worked as the police precinct's pathologist examining the deceased while Jefferson did the same with computer systems. Most of the cathedral's space had been donated to storage or power cables and pipes when it had been remodelled but the two men still managed to have decently sized labs, the two had been separated by a large glass wall in the very centre of which stood a door providing access to each, the husbands regularly chatted as they worked through the glass.

Z ane padded down the metal steps into the main section of Jefferson's lab, through the glass he could see Victor sat at his desk typing away while Doctor Madden went about fiddling with an MX eye. Jefferson had always dressed as though he were out of some kind of fairytale, form fitting black pants with leather boots, cavalier style waistcoats and dark shirts. Every time he went outside there was a top hat and a long Gothic frock coat too.

Making them less lifeless?” Gold asked as he reached the bottom of the stairs and approached the younger man.

Jefferson spun around almost instantly before a large grin erupted on his face.

“Zane!” The tech genius set down the android eye and pulled his friend into a quick hug, Gold wasn't really a hugger but Jefferson was one of the few people he didn't mind embracing. “It's so good to have you back, Nolan's boring, Swan looks at me like I'm going to drug her tea and Regina thinks I'm crazy.”

“You are crazy, Jefferson.” Was all Zane responded with but it earned a little chuckle from the younger man.

Besides the point.” The taller man turned his head to the lab of his husband through the glass wall. “Baby, look whose here.”

The blonde doctor looked up from his desk and offered Gold a polite smile.

“Hello, Zane. Aren't you meant to be working the murder case in Leda Park?”

“Yes, dearie, I am. Have you started the autopsy yet?” Gold asked as he removed Jefferson from his person.

Just about to start, I'll send everything to you once I'm done.” Victor stood and walked to the glass wall. “Jefferson, I know what you're like with me cutting people up as you put it so I'm frosting the glass.”

With that the blonde rested a hand on the wall and instantly it became opaque as though ice covered it. There was a moment of pause before Jefferson started to speak.

“I get the feeling this wasn't a social call. What do you need, Zane?”

Gold pulled a sheet of rolled up plastic from the inner pocket of his leather jacket and handed it to Doctor Madden, as soon as he unfurled it text appeared and Jefferson read quickly. Gold cleared his throat.

“Regina sent me to get a new android. My MX had a little accident-”

“Yeah, I've already heard about that.” He told the elder man in a tone that clearly indicated he knew it was no accident. “Apparently they're still picking circuits up off the road.”

“The thing just climbed out, must have malfunctioned.” Gold surmised.

“I bet it did. And by the looks of this you're one hell of a lucky boy, Zaney-”

“Don't call me that.”

“Come along, Zaney.”

Jefferson led Gold through his lab, past large screens and trays of tools and into a back room filled with body bags hanging from movable hooks, each one was an off white and labelled with bold black letters. The Detective Sergeant imagined a similar room in the back of the blonde's lab only Victor would have real bodies. Casually the younger man pushed several of the bags aside until he came across the one he was looking for, Jefferson took it down and carefully placed it on a long silver table. As soon as he unzipped it Zane raised an eyebrow, before him as a female android with porcelain skin and long auburn curls, her eyes were blacked out but she was otherwise beautiful. The only thing she wore was a long sleeved white leotard with BLE in black letters over her chest.

That's one of the crazy prostitutes.” Zane shrieked.

No, no, not a sex bot. Some of her model were sold off after being decommissioned but this one has never been a sex bot.” Explained Jefferson. “ Doctor Nigel Vaughn was the creator of the BLE s through his company, Lumocorp Robotics Corporation as you should know. Their operating system was designed to emulate human emotion, the project was called Fairytale in which Vaughn built a sort of synthetic soul for the BLE series. BLEs are resourceful and have the ability to learn from observation and draw their own conclusions. Capabilities include W i-Fi integration with the Police Department Database, wireless communications, C.S.I.-level field lab analysis. Sure they had their problems, then again they were designed to be as human as possible and what human doesn't have some kind of emotional problem? ” Jefferson paused for a moment before he continued. “Pretty and for some reason Doctor Vaughn decided she was Australian. Like I said, Zane, you're a lucky boy.”

You sure about this, dearie?”

Jefferson didn't respond, he just went about readying his things in order to bring the BLE android back online. Gold decided to just watch, stood there with his arms folded wondering why he got dumped with an outdated – yet undeniably beautiful – android. Quickly the younger man plugged a cable into the back of her neck and started to type on the laptop she'd been hooked up to, a few more minutes went by and then Jefferson spun around to face Zane, the black-eyed android between them.

“There we go. Go ahead and press the lobe of her left ear.”

Zane did as asked, suddenly those black eyes flashed becoming human and the most beautiful azure he had ever seen; so full compared to the lifelessness MX series. She jolted and sat bolt upright on the ice cold table. For a second or two there was nothing but silence.

“Zane Gold meet Belle. Belle this is Zane.” Jefferson introduced smoothly.

“How long was I out?” Was the BLE's first question, those dazzling eyes looking into Gold's whiskey ones, there was a spark in them, something alive.

“Em, BLE's were decommissioned four years ago.” Said Gold as soon as he managed to draw himself away from her eyes.

“That long?”

If Detective Gold didn't know any better he'd say she was saddened by that, like she truly felt it, Jefferson had said BLEs were made to feel and the look in her eye actually made him believe she could.

“Congratulations.” Gold smiled with muted enthusiasm. “You've been reinstated, Detective. Now, get dressed and come with me.”

The Scottish man walked away after that and refused to look back, she was certainly more beautiful than any MX – in all honesty she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen – but she was still just carbon fibre and silicon. He wasn't attracted to her, he refused to be, Belle was to be his assigned android partner and nothing more. He wasn't attracted to her!

Belle and Jefferson watched Zane leave the lab to wait in the car, they'd only just met but already there was something about him she liked.

“Don't worry about Zane, he's like that with everyone at first, you'll get used to him.”

XXXX

As soon as Jefferson had found Belle something to dress in – the ones she'd been deactivated in four years ago, a white long sleeved Henley and turquoise skinny jeans – Belle met Gold in his car and let him drive back to the precinct. She'd tried to talk to him during the ten minute drive but he'd shut her down at every attempt so Belle had just given up and he'd seemed pleased with that. Not only was he still annoyed by having been forced into working with a BLE but that damn accent of hers was almost Goddess-like.

When they entered the precinct Gold sent his new android straight off to register at the small desk adjacent to the bullpen while he went directly to Regina's office. An MX was mid sentence but Zane didn't care, just spoke over him.

“A BLE? That's great, dearie, send me out with a fucking sex bot.”

“Oh for the love of God shut up, Gold. Six-eleven you're dismissed.” Without a word the MX left. “Nigel Vaughn created her series as Police Officers not whores, and it's not like the whole world knows some got sold off as sex bots. You destroyed the MX assigned to you so now you get her, no more complaining.” Regina glared at him but didn't leave her desk.

“The detective and the prostitute, it's like a god-damn murder mystery.”

“You need an android partner, it's protocol now. Nolan, Swan, Lucas, Doctor Hopper, they all obey the rules and so will you.” She sighed, Regina and Zane would never be friends but he had taught her all she knew, he'd made her what she was and Regina would always be indebted to him for that; as much as she detested the idea. “ Look, I know you're old school, Cassidy was a good cop and God knows how he put up with you. I know you want to do it alone now he's gone, I felt the same when Robin died, but if you want to remain a cop, stay here at the precinct then you have to adhere to the new rules. The BLE is your partner now so get used to it and get to that crime scene before the victim decomposes.”

Gold didn't argue back, there was no point and Regina was right – though he'd never admit that out loud – being a cop was all he knew besides his favourite pastime of repairing antiques, he had no family, Jefferson, Victor and Archie were the closest thing to friends he had. Gold needed to be a cop, it wasn't just a job it was part of him.

Zane left the office then and headed down to his desk where he found Belle waiting for him; God those eyes are beautiful. No! Stop thinking about the robot as pretty, she's a thing . Ever since that MX had left him and a bleeding Neal at the raid that had claimed his leg and most of his memory Gold had despised any and all androids.

Have you finished complaining about my being reinstated, Sergeant Gold?” She asked with a small sense of annoyance. “If so I'd enjoy getting back to work.”

I wasn't complaining-”

“Yes you were.” She cut him off gently. “But I don't blame you, since signing in to the precinct I've updated my files. I know about the raid, I would be angry as well. I'm not that android though, I'm not even an MX so how about you give me a chance? I deserve that much.”

“You're a machine, dearie, you don't deserve anything. Just be quiet and follow me, I have a murder to solve.”

B elle felt a spark of sadness shoot through her at his words, yes she was made of carbon fibre and chips but Nigel Vaughn had done everything to give her a soul – to make her a person – Sergeant Gold was still in pain though and Belle could see that, I just have to hope he comes to accept me.

After a hour delay thanks to the whole MX freeway roll, Sergeant Gold finally made it out to his first case back on the job, the clock had just struck one-fifteen and he was ready to do what he did best.

Leda Park was more or less directly in the middle of the Storybrooke Cynosure district and so named for the gargantuan statue of Leda and the Swan that topped the main fountain. Off to the side of said fountain by no more that twenty feet stood a large oak tree, a few hours ago a body had been found, the body that was currently on Victor's table. Of all the places to be murdered Leda Park was one of the more peaceful and scenic, birds sang in the trees and a gentle breeze rustled the viridescent leaves. Normally the park was flooded with people, some on romantic walks, some just looking for a quiet place to sit and read, but most were dog walkers and that was just who had found her.

Zane Gold stood on the gravel path just off to the side of the oak tree listening to one of the African-American looking MXs as it informed him of everything they had so far. Meanwhile Belle stood looking over the scene, Belle saw through a flawless display of color inside which were little boxes of white text informing her of everything she scanned; blood, the tip of the knife that forensics had yet to locate. Belle pulled an evidence bag from a passing MX and slipped the blade tip inside, as she rose back to her feet Gold appeared behind her having grown bored of listening to the monotone MX.

“Who is she?”

Belle smiled brightly at him. “Eliza Reddington. A twenty-four year old waitress, she works at Granny's diner not far from here. No siblings and her parents are deceased.” She paused for a moment as Gold took in the information before continuing to read from the white display before her eyes. “I do however, have several noise complaints from neighbours about her and her boyfriend, Samuel Long, having screaming matches. According to one report Long struck her but she never pressed charges.”

“And camera footage? The MX said something about it but I got sick of it staring at me.” Zane said as his whiskey eyes cast over the scene before him.

“There's one mounted to the street lamp but it's blocked by the tree she was resting against, another with full view is behind you-” Gold turned for a moment to glance at it. “-however, it is some distance away and is not of much help.”

“Show me.” His words didn't exactly come out as a demand but it certainly wasn't a question.

Sergeant Zane Gold – who Belle had been a fan of back when she worked at precinct nine – raised his glass tablet up and waited for Belle to softly lay her fingertips on it transferring the camera footage for him to see. Blue swirls of almost hypnotic fibre optics just like the red ones of the MXs fluttered around her right temple, flares of azure that Gold refused to look at lest he be drawn into her eyes again. Instead the Sergeant focused on the screen he held, the camera was some distance off but it clearly showed two men dressed in dark clothing grab Miss Reddington, attack her and leave her to bleed to death against the large oak.

“The MX officers have already sent the footage to Ruby Lucas for analysis.” She told him softly.

Zane either didn't hear or didn't care what she'd said.

“We'll go see Long then, the bullet catchers can finish taking statements. Come on, Commander Data.” Gold turned and started to walk away, Belle followed.

“'Commander Data'?” She questioned.

“Look up Star Trek.” Was all he said as they approached the Cadillac, Belle paused for a moment as she did just that. Ah, an android character portrayed by Brent Spiner... Belle's thoughts cut off when he grunted for her to hurry the hell up.

Chapter Text

The drive to Samuel Long's home didn't take that much time , especially with how fast Sergeant Gold hurtled down the freeway; he shouldn't have been speeding but Gold seemed to have excellent control of his car. Belle stared out the window for most of the journey knowing her human companion didn't particularly want a conversation, Belle was determined though; Doctor Vaughn had somewhat increased her curiosity and determination. Eventually she wore him down to the point that he responded with short sentence s or one word answers. Persistence Belle, last time he just kept telling me to shut up but now at least now he's answering. She decided to be an optimist when it came to Zane Gold

They sped past other vehicles before suddenly turning into the west streets of the SCD. Samuel Long and the late Eliza Reddington lived in a very rundown area of the city where the poorer residents lived, crime was through the roof and that didn't look likely to change any time soon. Originally the area had been called the West Side but over time had separated from the rest of the West Side and had just become known as the Egregious. Most that lived there were people like Eliza who were just too poor to live anywhere nicer however, some – the ones who'd forced the crime rate up – were dangerous and violent, no matter how bad the Egregious got though it wasn't anything like the Third Quarter. The Egregious was like a rabbit warren with no street markers and only grew more confusing the further in an outsider got. Homeless people, some no more than fifteen, were huddled up in alleyways with fear in their eyes. Old, broken down vehicles lay in bits and pieces on uncared for lawns of long, jungle-like grass. The Egregious wasn't a place outsiders wanted to be in for very long.

Instead of asking, Belle had just directed him to the house and revelled in the little thanks he threw her was as they climbed out of the dark Cadillac and walked up to the front door. The building was actually one of the better looking ones on the street though the lawn was unkempt and everything had a sense of being dirty and weathered, Eliza had worked so hard and yet still hadn't been able to get herself out of the Egregious, poor girl.

Sergeant Gold knocked loudly on the yellowing door and it took only a few seconds to register shuffles coming from inside, sure enough Samuel Long pulled the door open only to loom over Zane but the older man wasn't intimidated.

Sergeant Zane Gold.” He flashed his badge as he tried to avoid breathing in the stench of stale beer and cheep cigarettes that drifted from the open door. “And this is Detective Belle.” Gold gestured to Belle who smiled politely at the six-foot-seven twenty-something man before her. “Can we come in?”

Though he'd phrased it as a question both Long and the android were perfectly aware it wasn't a request, Samuel nodded sharply before standing aside for them to enter. The interior was far cleaner than the outside, seemed Miss Reddington liked to have some semblance of order to her life and no one could fault her for that. Gold's own home was, to the untrained eye, cluttered and messy but he knew exactly where every single knick-knack was and where it came from; order in the chaos.

What the hell is this about?” Asked Samuel his breath stank of beer. Belle's files had indicated that Samuel, or Sammy as he was known to his friends and family, was somewhat of a drunk an couldn't hold down a job. The drunk man guided the police through into the small living room and gestured with his large hand for them to take a seat opposite his own. “I ain't don' anythin'.”

Belle watch the human she'd been partnered with straighten as he put on his professional cap and set to work. There was something cute about it. Focus on the job. I don't want to be deactivated again.

Mister Long I'm sorry to have to tell you this but in the early hours of this morning your girlfriend, Eliza, was found dead in Lead Park.”

Samuel deflated, all that tough guy attitude poured out of him and his eyes fell to the carpeted floor between his feet, layers of shock and pain waved over him, each on e like being hauled over broken glass. A large hand slid into his oily black hair as he drew in deep breaths trying to calm himself. Samuel looked genuinely shocked to Gold and Belle could tell he actually was, his pupils had dilated and his heart rate had increased. T hen and there with that one reaction Gold lost his best suspect, that wasn't the reaction of a guilty man trying to appear innocent even with him being intoxicated that was obvious .

We're sorry for your loss.” Came the standard words as Zane leaned forwards on the couch. “However, we do need to ask you a few questions.”

“Questions?!” The alcohol and anger in Samuel's system had merged together and had only been worsened by his volatile nature forcing him to yell at Zane. “You want me to do your fuckin' job for you?! This never should 'ave fuckin' 'appened, you lot with all you cameras and bots should 'ave kept 'er safe!” The rather tall man with broad shoulders and an ill-fitting grey t-shirt glanced at Belle before turning back to Gold. “Oh I get it, you cops let this 'appen 'cause the sex bot over 'ere is too busy sucking you all off-”

Don't speak about her like that!” The dark tone shut Samuel Long up almost instantly, seemed he'd realised he was dealing with a cop who wasn't willing to take his crap. “She's a police officer and you'll treat her as such. Now, you can either answer my questions here or I can throw you in the drunk tank and question you there. Your choice, dearie, but if we go the long way whoever murdered your girlfriend has longer to escape. Option one or option two?”

There was a long pause and Belle found herself paying more attention to Gold than Mister Long, he'd been so strong and powerful with nothing more than a tone of voice. Zane wasn't a tall man or even a particularly muscular one but he had a sense of authority that hung around him like an aura. To the untrained eye it might have looked like he didn't really care about the fact a young woman had died but Belle could see just how untrue that was, Zane had a fire in his burnt whiskey eyes that told her he'd not rest until the girl's murderer was brought to justice. It's attractive, he's attractive. Belle started when that thought popped into the mass of circuits and wires known as her mind but before she could think much more about it Samuel Long spoke in a much calmer voice.

“The first one.”

Zane and Belle left the house about fifteen minutes later and went straight to the Cadillac leaving Samuel to slam the door behind them. He paused before opening the car door in favour of pulling out his phone, Belle watched him from the passenger side with a soft smile.

“You like me.” She accused happily.

Gold tore his eyes from the small glass screen and looked at the stunningly beautiful BLE android he'd been partnered with.

“What?”

“You defended me back there. Thank you.” She meant that, only one person had ever stuck up for her before. “You wouldn't have bothered if you didn't like me. I would like to be your friend as well as your partner, Sergeant Gold.”

Gold continued to watch her over the top of his Cadillac, there was so much life inside the bot, almost as though she really thought and felt; as though she were actually real.

“I don't have, want or need friends.” He bit out without really meaning to, he didn't mean to be rude but that aspect of his personality had become almost like a shield, that and sarcasm.

Belle just smiled at him, “You may believe that but it's not true. Jefferson and his husband, Victor, are your friends and-”

“Fine.” He cut her off with a sigh, it wasn't worth fighing over. “We can be friends, just get in the car.”

He felt childish for saying that as he slipped into the Cadillac and drove back towards the precinct and to be honest it was childish, Zane had never really had a good track record with people or androids – in fact only dogs seemed to like him – so he pushed almost everyone away to arms-length. The beautiful Belle didn't seem like she would accept that though, she'd just keep trying until she won him over. Gold had to applaud her determination, she'd gotten him to cave and they'd only known each other about two hours.

Zane kept his eyes on the road as he continued along the strees, Belle started to hum and even though he didn't look up she had his full attention, he'd never known an android to hum before. After about five minutes he spied her out the corner of his eye to see she wore a slight smile on her face, Belle was happy and fidgeted with the sleeve of her Henley top. All the androids he'd spent time with just sat there without moving and stared in a depressive silence, the BLE no, Belle – was different though, so alive, and frankly Gold didn't know how to respond to that, he hated the MXs with their constant logic analysis, for leaving Neal and himself but Belle was right, she wasn't a MX and she deserved a chance. Jefferson said a BLE had been created with a synthetic soul, she may not have been human but sat there with her smile and personality Zane couldn't deny she was almost human. This would be so much easier if I could just work alone, he thought to himself. Thankfully there was a ringing that pulled him from his thoughts.

Gold pressed his hand to the windshield gently and a square video box opened revealing Doctor Whale, quickly he threw the video feed over to Belle's side of the car so he could continue driving. Just because his Cadillac was an antique didn't mean it hadn't gone through some major upgrades.

Gold, thought you'd want to hear the report as soon as it came in.” Said Victor, clearly sat at his desk back in his lab. Victor paused a moment seeing Belle. “Hello, Belle. I thought Jefferson was joking when he said a BLE had been reinstated. After everything that happened I never thought – anyway, how are you putting up with Zane?”

Belle chuckled a little. “Everything is fine thank you, Victor.”

“Whale, report.”

Yeah, yeah I'm getting there.” The blonde looked slightly off camera to his notes. “Okay, so she was murdered about eleven o'clock last night according to her liver temperature – she was just starting to come out of Rigor – which matches the time stamp on the footage you sent Jefferson. She was stabbed a total of thirty-three times, eighteen by what looks to be a bowie knife and sixteen times by the second which lost it's tip towards the end of the stabbing.” Victor paused, the level of violence that had been inflicted on Eliza Reddington went far past overkill. “One of the wounds went straight through her sternum, punctured her heart and did serious damage to her spine. I can't tell exactly where in the stabbing that happened but she would have died very quickly afterwards. No human could have done that much damage with a knife, a sword maybe, but not a knife.

A bot then?” Asked Gold as he turned into the precinct's parking lot.

That would be my guess, doesn't mean the second attacker was an android too though. You're bot was about six-foot I'd say from the downward angle of the stab wounds but no taller. The second guy was the victims height, that's even shorter than Belle.”

So I'm looking for a man that can fit in a matchbox and a taller android.” Gold surmised.

“Yeah.” Victor nodded simply. “Jefferson is working on that camera footage you had sent over. He'll be ready to report within the hour.”

“Good. Thank you, Victor.”

With that the video feed flashed to black before closing itself down just as Gold parked.

“Victor's findings rule out Samuel Long.” Belle began as she turned to face her partner. “He's six-foot-seven, much too tall to be either assailant.” Gold nodded in agreement. “This was a violent murder, robbery wasn't the motive since nothing was taken, so what was the motive for killing her?”

That was exactly the question Zane was trying to answer.

XXXX

Once back in the bullpen Gold collapsed into his desk chair while Belle went to the charging hub below the precinct to be assigned a charging unit. Gold combed through his files looking for anyone who might have wanted Eliza Reddington dead, each new sheet of plastic revealed nothing though, other than the police call outs for arguments with her boyfriend, Samuel Long, everyone liked her. Eliza didn't have a single enemy. He leaned back on his chair letting it squeak satisfyingly when Belle returned, she offered him a smile and went to sit at the grey metal desk that faced his own.

“Don't!” Belle froze halfway into the black chair, his outburst was loud enough to draw the attention of the MXs and about six of the lower ranked officers and even a few clerks but Zane didn't care. “That's Neal's desk.”

“I'm sorry, Sergeant.”

Belle could see the pain in Gold's whiskey orbs, since updating her files she'd look into the raid and his partnership with Detective Neal Cassidy, Belle had learnt that they'd had been partnered since Neal's first day on the force. The younger man had been abandoned by his father and mother as a child and Sergeant Gold had taken him under his wing, Gold had taught Neal everything he knew, had been a father to him. Belle wasn't stupid, she could see just how much pain Zane still felt from Neal's death, that would never go away, and she didn't blame him for his sudden outburst.

Instead of complaining Belle went to perch against Zane's desk leaving Neal's untouched; a shrine of sorts. Zane would talk about Neal when he was ready. The next few minutes were filled with silence as they continued to go through files, his the plastic like sheets while Belle did everything internally.

A short time later a brunette woman in a black tank top and red skinny jeans stepped off the circular elevator to the far left of Zane's desk, Ruby Lucas was an analyst for precinct one, the best they had actually, the young woman could practically sniff a pattern out, however, she'd never be as good as Jefferson; he was a GEH after all. Ruby walked over to Zane's desk as she tapped on her glass pane before grounding to a halt beside Belle.

“Gold.” She greeted in a tone very similar to the one David Nolan had used when the Sergeant had walked in that morning. Zane had asked Belle to send a copy of the camera footage to both Jefferson and Ruby.

“Miss Lucas, what do you have?” Gold asked as he spun to face her in his chair, head resting against his fist.

“After finding out you were back... depression.” She deadpanned and Belle snorted.

“Miss Lucas-” He sighed.

“Fine.” Ruby tap, tap, tapped on the glass tablet before throwing the data over the large screen that took up an entire wall. “Since the only camera footage we have to work with was so far away I haven't been able to clear it up enough for any real identification. We see two men that I've determined to be six-foot and five-foot-thee, stride up to Eliza the taller one grabs her and then... she didn't know what hit her. I thought maybe the second attacker was a woman but the shoulders and body structure ruled that out.”

“You can't get enough for an ID?” He asked without taking his eyes off the screen.

“No. Hoods stay up and the one time I did get a chance to ID them... look at this.” Ruby cycled through the footage and then suddenly slowed it down to frame by frame. “They're wearing Flash Masks.”

Sure enough that one frame that revealed a face was covered over by a bold shining white light, like a mini moon on the top of someone's shoulders. Fucking Flash Masks, Gold internally grumbled, sometimes he wondered if technology had a personal vendetta against law enforcement. He felt the urge to sigh but his phone chimed before he had chance, Belle watched the tiny smile appear on his face indicating good news. Gold rose to his feet, one real the other a synthetic replacement, and threw the message up to the screen beside Ruby's, it was the same footage but far clearer now that Jefferson had gotten his talented little paws on it.

It seems Jefferson has done it again.” He grinned smugly as the footage played.

Bloody Madden.” Ruby grumbled under her breath before glaring at the older man. “Why don't you just have Doctor Madden do everything for you? I don't care, I have things to do for Emma.”

With that the analyst was gone, Belle of course offered her goodbyes but Gold didn't even look up from the screen.

“Ruby feels under appreciated, Sergeant Gold, as though you only asked for her to look at the footage so as you could show her up when Jefferson's work was better.”

Zane sighed and turned to the android who still leaned against his desk.

“Miss Lucas is a bright young girl and very talented.” He told her pointedly. “I sent her the footage because it's protocol and because she has the tendency to surprise, on this occasion she didn't. Ruby Lucas is a big girl, dearie, she'll get over it.”

Belle came closer to her partner as he peered at the paused the camera feed and zoomed in, there on the shorter man's hand was a tattoo, a simple small black orchid flower.

“I know that tattoo-” He just couldn't place it and that irked him.

“It's a gang tattoo.” Belle supplied as the azure colored flares danced along her temple indicating she'd looked the information up. “The gang is known as The Legion, they specialise in smuggling so a chat with Killian Jones might be a good idea. He and his brother were part of another smuggling organization before he became a criminal consultant. I can have Detective Swan request his presence.”

“What fun.” He grumbled.

Gold tensed, he and Killian had met before and it hadn't been on the nicest of terms, back then Killian had still been a criminal and had a little shoot out with the police led by Zane. Gold had shot him twice in the palm and wrist since it was the only body part he'd had to aim at, unfortunately for Jones his hand had been damaged beyond repair, however, just like Zane's leg had been replaced, Killian Jones had gotten a shiny new hand.

 

 

Flash Mask from Almost Human.

Chapter Text

Their little chat with Killian Jones had been both awkward and cloaked in threats; Belle had practically been able to build a graph showing tension increase by the second. However, they'd gotten through it without anybody dying or losing another limb. It certainly didn't take an android with fantastic perception to see the two men hated each other, there was a story there but Belle didn't dare ask. Despite the insult loaded conversation, the Sergeant and android had gotten some rather interesting information from the criminal consultant. Turned out Killian knew an awful lot about The Legion including the fact that Samuel Long was a low-level package boy for them, so low-level that the police had never even noticed. Thankfully Killian knew the location of the smugglers new favourite hang out; part of the reason law enforcement hadn't managed to track them down was that their HQ kept moving.

That little nugget of information was how Belle had found herself in the passenger seat of Gold's restored Cadillac hurtling through the Storybrooke Cynosure district, while he drove she used the smart glass in the windshield to go over the footage Jefferson had cleaned up for them, it took a while but eventually she noticed the taller android take something from Eliza Reddington's hair, at least that's what it looked like; she couldn't tell exactly what though.

Gold raced to the supposedly abandoned paper mill, to avoid being seen or heard he slowly brought his beloved classic Cadillac to a gentle stop where no one could see. The two got out of the Cadillac and just looked at the building for a moment, old and in need of being pulled down, paper mills hadn't been needed since at least 2020. The thing was an eyesore sitting there on the Storybrooke coast with its grime and peeling paint. As other police tactical vehicles pulled up beside his own to unload a unit of MX-43 androids Gold couldn't help but think of how similar the abandoned building looked to the raid before his coma and missing leg, the way the sun had bitten at the back of his neck when he'd pulled on his vest. The way Neal had laughed and said this is going to be fun , completely unaware of how the day would end.

Out the corner of his eye Zane saw Detectives Swan and Nolan slip on vests and prepare themselves. An MX approached him, oh joy.

Sergeant Gold, your tactical unit is ready to move in on your orders. Heat signatures indicate there are twenty humans within the building's confines, however that does not rule out more in rooms designed to block thermal imaging.” It told him in that monotone voice.

Gold didn't answer the MX instead he went to the Cadillac trunk and pulled out his vest, he slipped it on as he returned to the hood.

“Sergeant, I think Eliza was killed because she had something Long should have delivered. They have so many noise complaints on file, maybe he took something pretty to say sorry, a hair pin, a comb, something he thought his boss' wouldn't notice.” Belle drew her weapon – a Baretta 8000 Cougar with laser module and wine colored grips, far nicer than anything a MX had – and made certain it was loaded as she spoke. “Seems they did notice.”

This all boils down to money, why am I not surprised?” He grumbled while checking his Taurus in much the same Belle had with her own weapon. “They killed her to send a message. Put-”

“Surveillance on Samuel Long until we can find something to charge him with?” She interrupted. “I've already sent the request to Captain Mills. Shall I lead you in?”

There it was, shall I lead you in, the real reason the higher-ups wanted an android with all their officers, to act as human shaped shields. No one liked to say that in front of the press of course but it was exactly what androids were to law enforcement, Zane doubted that was quite what Doctor Nigel Vaughn had intended when he'd built the BLEs.

Sure, dearie, no time like the present.”

Belle and Zane led the way into the abandoned and practically hollowed out building followed by a wall of MX-43 androids and Detectives Nolan and Swan. The place was suspiciously quiet but no one said a word about it , just continued through the old piles of paper that had long since yellowed.

Picking up anything?” The Sergeant asked in a whisper, Taurus PT92AF pointed straight ahead.

“No human active on this level, Sergeant.” She whispered back making sure to keep him behind her. “There's a Wi-Fi signal coming from this building though, the single is six floors up and-”

A MX suddenly interrupted forcing Belle and Gold to halt.

“Sergeant Gold, I recommend you ignore the report of your BLE, it is an inferior model that was deactivated for being flawed. The MX-43 series is far more-”

Oh do shut up before I shoot you.” Gold groaned, he didn't have time for an MX's I'm superior speech. “Have Nolan and Swan lead half the MXs up the east staircase.” He ordered and was happy when it left him alone. “Belle, go.”

They continued up the west staircase while Swan, Nolan and their team of MX androids moved up the eastern one. Everything was silent, a void broken only by the occasional ruffle of paper as they walked over the yellowed pages that scattered the floor. It was so quiet that Gold could hear the sound of his heart beating in his chest and then suddenly there was a boom. Loud and stunning. Whiskey colored orbs and Belle's synthetic blue ones flashed across the building to the other staircase where two of the MXs had been blown to bits by a tripwire grenade while another slumped to the ground having lost its leg.

“Superior android my ass.” Grumbled Gold from the other staircase. “There goes our element of surprise.”

That was when all hell broke loose, men appeared from the upper floors and bullets flew. Everything went from dead silence to a war zone in the space of a few seconds. Just as Gold and Belle made it up to the top of the stairs a dark-haired and rather menacing looking android with violet-green eyes, that looked far more artificial than Belle's own, rounded the end of a long hallway and surged towards them; Belle instantly realised he could only be the taller man from the camera footage. She had nothing to fear though because before she'd even processed that information Gold had raised his weapon and shot him in the head sending it to the ground, for a moment Belle wondered who was the android, his reflexes were so fast.

Belle remained in front of her partner just as her programming and conscience dictated as the gun fight continued, muzzle flash lit the room and the sound of spent casings bouncing off the floor echoed, some men let out cries as bullets twisted into their flesh. Sergeant Gold was the best marksman the SPD had ever seen – even better than Emma, though not by much – and didn't miss a shot.

Belle had downloaded every bit of information she could on Sergeant Zane Gold the second she'd been provided access to the police database and learnt of his skill but seeing the man in action was far more amazing. Her mind had started to drift to the Scotsman and away from her task, a dangerous thing that quickly got her shot. She felt the bullet enter her shoulder, twist and turn through her circuits, it hurt but not like a human would feel pain, it was both the same and different; practically impossible to describe. The force knocked Belle backwards over the railing, she grabbed hold of the metal rail just in time to stop her falling down two floors where she'd have no doubt been damaged beyond even Jefferson's skill.

Zane continued to fire rapidly and three more men dropped to the ground, oh I've missed this! The adrenaline. The speed. The skill. Then something caught his attention, Belle, his new partner dangling over the edge, most in law enforcement would have left her to fall since she was nothing more than a machine, an automaton designed to resemble a human being, but Gold still found himself lunging forwards to grab at her hands and try to pull her up, maybe it was because he hadn't saved Neal, maybe it was something else, but Zane didn't think about it in that moment; for an android with a cortinide and duranium support structure she was incredibly light. Belle would have been able to pull herself back up had the bullet not damaged her arm mechanisms.

Zane had gotten his android officer halfway back over the pipe-like metal railing when a heavy set man grabbed him from behind and threw him to the floor, Belle nearly lost her grip and went tumbling to the ground as bullets continued to fly. The new attacker may have been strong as an ox but Gold was quick and cunning despite his age; he easily dodged out of the way of the attacker's punches. Zane was back on his feet before the man clad in a wife beater had even fully managed to turn and with a swift and powerful kick from his synthetic leg the criminal went flying through the air and into a brick wall causing it to crumble; Gold wasn't sure if he was unconscious or dead and didn't really care.

“Maybe I should replace the other leg too.” He mused aloud before remembering he'd left Belle dangling.

Once she was back on her feet Belle looked down to the hard concrete two stories down.

“That was almost bad.”

Gold smiled at that and for a split second he wanted to turn to Neal and shoot back some stupid and sarcastic comment like yeah no shit... then he remembered, this was Belle not Neal. The Sergeant took a deep breath and shook those thoughts from his head.

“Come on, criminals aren't going to kill themselves, dearie.”

“Don't you mean arrest?”

“Aye, sure.” He shrugged as Belle picked up her weapon and then they got back to work.

 

XXXX

 

In the end they'd lost seven MXs to the scrap pile and another four for Jefferson to put back together. Seriously, how did a team of MX androids – so called superior androids – miss a live tripwire? The police had killed about half of The Legion 's men while the rest had been taken into custody; Regina had sent someone to pick up Samuel Long as well thanks to the fingerprint evidence Belle had discovered.

All that had happened a few hours previous, since then Gold had been sat at his desk in the precinct finishing off his paperwork which, ironically, involved no real paper. He'd just about finished when Belle rolled a chair up to his side and sat with a smile.

“Jefferson has patched you up I see.”

“I still need a section of skin replacing but the main damage has been taken care of, it looked worse than it was.” She pulled her hole ridden top aside to show him her shoulder, it was flat undamaged grey metal, an almost perfect square, an anomaly on her otherwise porcelain skin. “Can I sit here?”

The question confused him for a moment before he realised what she was doing, he'd yelled at her before when she tried to sit at Neal's desk. Gold paused for a moment and took a long breath, he didn't look at her.

“You... you can sit at the other desk.” Belle's eyes grew wide as he finally met azure. “It's yours now... Neal would want you to have it.”

Belle smiled happily, an emotion Gold still didn't truly believe she could feel, and pushed the chair back to where she'd taken it from. When she returned Belle paused a moment by the Sergeant's side then bent down to kiss his cheek before going to sit at Neal's – her – desk. No android had ever gotten their own desk before.

“What was that for?” He asked.

Her lips had felt warm and real, gentle and silky.

“You saved my life earlier. Pretty much anyone else would have let me fall, I'm just a machine like you said, but you pulled me up anyway. You saved me. Thank you, Sergeant.”

She truly meant that, Zane could see it in her eyes. Those beautiful eyes.

You're welcome.” He managed to affirm in his thick accent. “And you were right, you're nothing like the MXs. Newer doesn't always mean better. Oh and em, you can call me Zane.” Belle looked surprised and rightfully so. “Friends remember, dearie?”

“I'd like that... Zane.” She grinned at him for a moment. “I can send your report up to Captain Mills if you like.”

“Thank you.” He said as he passed over his tablet. “Night then.”

He stood and grabbed his leather jacket off the back of his chair and left without looking back. Zane hadn't admitted to it but Belle could see the bruises starting to form on his skin and the way he limped ever so slightly, clearly that kick had hurt the connection between his amputated leg and synthetic prosthesis.

Belle sat there for a time, they'd gotten off to a good start on them being an effective team, there was still a way to go but Belle didn't give up easily. Doctor Vaughn had made her stubborn. Zane would soon accept her, he'd already given her Neal's desk which was a huge step.

After a few moments the BLE stood and made her way up to Captain Mills' office and set Sergeant Gold's report on her desk, the woman herself wasn't there but she must have been close since her office hadn't been bio-locked, she left again quickly and found herself glancing around the bullpen, it was good to be working again. When Belle had been deactivated she'd been so scared, thought she'd never see the world again but there she was. Knowing she couldn't wander around the precinct or leave when off duty Belle went to the small circular cobalt colored elevator marked with bold white letters that read; Android Officer Charge Hub. She let the sensor scan the chip implanted in her left wrist and stepped onto the elevator where it quickly descended to the sub-basement and the mass of charging stations, about fifty percent of which were occupied by MX officers. Gold got to go home to a nice cosy bed while Belle got a load of MX males that thought she was inferior; Belle was starting to see why Zane hated them.

Chapter Text

A few months went by and the seasons passed into spring, the police Sergeant and BLE had grown accustom to working together and Belle rather liked him as her friend. It turned out that the two were a rather effective – if somewhat odd – team. The MXs didn't like her, not that they could actually dislike anything, yet they believed her flawed and outdated; the humans felt much the same about Gold. He was old school, probably would have fit in better during the nineteen-forties however, Captain Mills knew he was the best she had and that he had power over just about everyone in the Storybrooke Cynosure district, and if he didn't Gold could get it pretty damn quickly.

After six months everyone had grown used to the strange team they'd been given and all had to admit they were talented; not only had they stopped a terror attack in a single day but captured all of the terrorists without a single casualty, in the world of law enforcement they were heroes; or at least Gold was, Belle was just the machine that follow him about.

Gold sat at his desk in the bullpen finishing his reports like at the end of each and every other day while Belle sat opposite at Neal's desk, even though Gold had given it to her she still thought of it as Neal's. No android had their own desk so Belle felt a little special as well. She sat there automatically filing her own report as well as uploading the camera footage she'd recorded throughout the whole thing, Gold couldn't help but notice the delicate swirl of azure that danced along her temple, sometimes he just watched it, it was almost hypnotic. The movement was beautiful. The knowledge had crept up subtly at first until suddenly it had just been there at the forefront of his mind, he liked her. Belle was well-read, smart, expressed information in a refreshingly conversational way and then there were those eyes; not that Zane was about to admit that he spent time watching her. How anyone believed the BLEs were flawed he couldn't understand, they had to be stupid because Gold would choose Belle over a MX any day.

 

XXXX

 

Early on a Wednesday morning Gold stood by the elevator to the Charge Hub with a cup of tea he'd picked up from Granny's in his hand as he waited for Belle. Normally he only had to wait a few minutes for the auburn haired android to appear in the precinct hallway so as they could get to work, but that morning as he stood by the cobalt colored elevator he found five minutes turned into ten as he sipped his tea. Every now and again the elevator would open but only MXs stepped out, after twenty-five minutes Gold had run out of patience, almost half an hour was ridiculous, so when another MX left the elevator he tossed his empty cup into the nearest trash can and hopped inside before the cobalt doors closed. It travelled far faster than the regular elevators and it nearly knocked him over at first, thankfully the doors opened after only a couple of seconds and freed Gold from the death-trap.

The Scot with grey in his brown hair was faced with an extraordinarily long corridor with a line of charging stations on either side, some had black leotard clad MX-43 androids charging in them but most were empty; frankly Gold found the place disturbing. They looked as though they were dead, lined up in metal coffins. He made his way to the end of the long hallway without finding Belle anywhere.

“Where is that girl?” He muttered to himself.

The hallway turned off to the right and he followed it with a sigh, when he got up that morning he'd not intended to end up playing hide-and-go-seek with an android. The turn ended up leading him to a locker room of sorts, there he came face to face with several MXs in varying states of undress, some changing into the heavy black body armour before meeting their human partner while others were stripping it off to go charge.

“Can I help you, Sergeant Gold?”

Zane spun around to the android that had addressed him and... just... stared. The blonde MX was entirely naked, he just couldn't look away, it was like a mannequin, rippling muscles with no life to them and a chest that never rose for fell because it didn't breath, the MX was also lacking some pretty key male anatomy and nipples.

“Zane?” Belle's angelic voice pulled him almost instantly out of his daze and let him turn to her. “What are you doing down here?” She wore the same leotard he'd first seen her in.

“... Wondering why I've been waiting for you for half an hour.”

“I'm sorry, Zane.” She actually looked it, her having emotions still puzzled him. “I'm getting a new forearm plate fitted.” Belle rolled up her right sleeve revealing the missing patch of skin and exposed wiring and flashing lights. “I'll be up in a few minutes, promise.”

Belle flashed him a smile and could sense his uneasiness.

“Good.”

With that he was gone, off to the elevator and back up to the precinct. As promised Belle appeared in the hallway no more than five minutes later with her new arm plate to find Sergeant Gold leaning against the blue-white painted walls.

“Sorry for making you wait.”

“It's... it's alright, dearie.” Belle raised an eyebrow, she'd never known Gold be so awkward in a sentence. “Belle, you're not... you're not like them, are you? The walking Ken dolls.”

Almost instantly she smirked and huffed out a laugh.

“I'm anatomically correct, if I wasn't the BLE series would never have been sold off as sex bots.”

“Aye, good point.” It was going to take a while for him to get that mental image out of his head.

The auburn haired beauty sighed. “I hate being down there though, they're so... artificial, and they're all men. I feel like they all look down on me. You know, the other day one of them actually suggested that I deactivate myself instead of continuing to impede Sergeant Gold's work and slowing down case flow.” She imitated their monotone voice almost perfectly.

“Well, I much prefer you to them.”

“I know, thank you.” Belle chirped before her expression grew slowly sorrowful. “I want to move my charging station somewhere – anywhere – else, I suggested Jefferson's lab but Captain Mills said there was no way in hell she'd let an active android officer be in the constant company of that quack.

“He's not a quack, he's a mad scientist. So is Victor.”

Belle grinned at that. “There isn't anywhere else for me to go though so I guess I'll just have to live with it if I want to remain an acting officer.”

Gold was just about to respond with some note of sarcasm and encouragement when Regina suddenly tugged open her officer door and leaned out to yell.

“Gold! Are you going to do anything today? Unauthorised sex bots remember?”

“Getting there, dearie.” Gold jibbed as he pushed off from the wall and grabbed his leather jacket from the chair he'd chucked it over.

 

XXXX

 

The antique Cadillac thundered down the roads of the SCD and for a time Belle just stared out the window in a peaceful silence, it was no longer like the first car rides they'd shared, they talked to one another but they also sat in gentle quietudes. That silence came to a quick end when Belle spotted a book store and practically glued her face to the wall.

“Oh my God! Are they real books? I didn't know book stores still existed.”

“It's an antiques store but they do specialise in real paper books. A man named Jenkins Fielding owns it.” He never took his eyes from the road. “I take it you enjoy books then, dearie.”

“Oh yes, very much. I've never actually read a real book but I've got a lot stored on my internal hard-drive. I've always wanted to know what the paper feels like, what a book smells like, hear the pages crackle. Just downloading them takes away so much of the experience, and files have no real character unlike paper books.”

“I couldn't agree more.” She sounded so passionate and it actually made him grin. “I have a library at-”

“You have a library?” She interrupted quickly and flung her body around in the passenger seat. “Really? Can I see it? Please?”

Gold glanced up at her before turning his eyes back to the road, she was so excited... and it would be nice for Zane to have someone who he could have an intelligent conversation about literature.

Sure, dearie.” He acquiesced and Belle grinned ear to ear.

“Zane, are you aware that we're going in the wrong direction? The illegal sex bots were on the west side of the district.”

“That may be so, dearie, but I know a guy, he owns a sex bot gallery called Camelot. The man is a complete moron with ideas far above his station. His name is Arthur.”

“Arthur? Camelot?” Belle didn't look too impressed. “Does he think he's a king?”

“Unfortunately yes. The idiot can be useful at times though.”

He told her as he pulled up outside a large, mainly glass, building, the sort of place that was ugly to everyone except those with more money than sense.

Inside they found several sex bots posing provocatively on podiums, eyes flashing alluringly. On a platform of black marble in the dead centre of the room was a male android about five-foot-ten and around thirty-five years in appearance, dressed in nothing but a pair of tight black leather pants, he was muscular and pale with broad shoulders and black-chestnut hair that hung messily around his face. His eyes were a piercing blue, darker than Belle's but no less distinct. Whoever had made him had gone to a great deal of a effort. Gold had never paid for sex, bot or human – in fact he'd never been with an android – but he couldn't help admiring him; a small half smile appeared on his face as he gazed over the bot.

“I didn't realise you were homosexual, Zane.” There was no judgement in her tone but Gold still tensed.

“I'm not.” He snapped.

“But the way you looked at him, your heart rate has increased. I'm not-” Gold cut her off.

“If you must know, I'm bisexual. Got a problem with that, dearie?”

Belle shook her head quickly. “No, of course not. My own sexuality program was left open by Doctor Vaughn to give BLEs a sense of freedom were we to ever become sexually active, so technically I am as well.”

“Good, grand. That's that conversation over with.”

Just then Arthur appeared and strode towards them with a grin on his face, head held high with his personal bot, Guinevere.

“Sergeant Gold as I live and breathe.” He came to a stop before the older man. “Thought you were in a coma.”

“You're information is over a year and a half out of date, dearie.” Replied Zane in a very uninterested tone.

“As it would seem.” The words were clearly directed at Gold but Arthur's powder blue eyes were firmly locked on Belle, they practically ate her up. “When did you get yourself a BLE, hmm? Didn't take you for the type. I myself purchased three of them.”

Arthur whispered something into Guinevere's ear and she vanished off before returning with three androids that looked identical to Belle, as though they were sisters but with far more provocative outfits. They may have looked like Belle but in those ridiculously tight dresses and plastered on make-up they'd lost Belle's natural beauty. Their programming had been altered as well, nothing like the original sweetness of his own BLE.

“These sexy little things are Brylee, Bailey and Blaire.” Arthur grinned. “It's like fucking triplets. Extremely talented triplets.” Gold had never understood why the BLEs all had to have those letters in their name, why couldn't they have something different like Lacey. “I can sell you a little software update to make her a little more frisky if you'd like.”

“This is Detective Belle.”

Belle had endured enough of Arthur and his software updates.

“I am property of the Storybrooke Police Department. Touch me or attempt to install new software and I'll arrest you.”

“You're still a cop? I thought you all got deactivated and boxed up in storage or sold.” Arthur's eyes opened wide with surprise but they continued to rake over her.

“They were, but I had a small issue with a faulty MX and got Belle as a replacement.” Said Gold.

“Belle, huh? Simple, I like it.” Arthur turned to Brylee, Bailey and Blaire. “Girls, go away. You as well Guinevere.”

No one paid attention to the four women as their filed out. There was a moment of silence.

“To what do I owe this little visit then, Gold?”

“Belle, would you?”

Belle nodded with a gentle smile and went over to a high metal block with a glass top and pressed her palm to it, almost instantly images from street cameras appeared.

“Have you seen these bots before?” Asked Gold with a thick accent.

Arthur looked closely, blue orbs scanning over each detail with an artists eye as a hand scraped through his thick stubble. He may have had a superiority complex but Arthur knew bots, he designed the things with beauty.

“No, never, why?” He looked up at Gold as the older man straightened out the sleeves of his leather jacket.

“Recently there's been a spike in illegal sex bots and this morning this one-” He scrolled back to the first image of a stunningly beautiful bot with bold red hair. “-who we can't identify, jumped from prostitution to murder. Victim one being her... client.” Zane finished with one of his usual flourishing gestures.

“Well, none of these girls are my work.” Arthur assured them. “Your murderer though, it's far more expensive than the others. It was custom made, none of the cartels would spend this much on a bot just to set it to work on the streets. A private show room like my Camelot would make one for an order.”

“Why would a bot this expensive end up on the streets?” Asked Gold, finally he was getting some useful information.

“People who can afford bots like that one can afford another, whoever it was probably purchased a new one and sold her off.”

“Someone would really spend that much and then just throw them away for a shiny new android?” Belle seemed a little outraged and Gold couldn't fault her for it.

“They probably thought her no more important than a pretty lamp.” Gold revealed glumly and Belle's eyes grew sorrowful.

“He's right, beauty bot.” Grinned Arthur, he made the sex bots but held no respect for them. “We only have androids for three things; to fuck, to lift heavy objects and to do the jobs humans don't wanna do.”

“Arthur, shut up and tell me the names of anyone who could have made her or had enough money to get her custom. And don't leave anyone out or you know what will happen.”

Zane didn't know if Belle could cry but he could sense she wanted to, Arthur had basically just told her that she was nothing but a servant, a slave. There was a spark in his chest that told him to hold her but it was inappropriate for a police Sergeant and it probably wouldn't have been welcome anyway.

Arthur tapped his stubble coated chin as he thought for a moment.

Okay, okay, fine. Jefferson Madden could build a bot this sophisticated easily but you and him are like BFFs that felt each other up in high school, so I'd rule him out.” Gold glared. “Nigel Vaughn too, but he's over the wall if the stories are to be believed. Rudolph Lambert is probably your best shot at who built her. As for who commissioned her, well, that would have to be someone with a lot of money. You,” Arthur gestured to Zane. “Alexis Matheson, Pál Kerrison, John Guiman, however, out of them only Guiman lives in the Storybrooke Cynosure district so working on that I'd say try Elias. I recently built him a new plaything, beautiful bot she was. Long black hair and big green eyes... big other things.”

The smile Arthur flashed Belle made her thankful she couldn't throw up.

“Elias have a last name?” Asked Gold impatiently.

“Indeed he does, Firth. Elias Firth. Now, if there's nothing else I have things to attend to. Unless you want dear Daryl here.” The bearded man gestured to the male android Zane had admired earlier.

“I'm good, thank you. Have a nice day, dearie.”

With that Gold left, pausing only to hold the steel and glass door open for Belle. They stopped when they reached Gold's beloved Cadillac, Zane on the driver's side and Belle across from him. The two looked over the car at one another, he could see Arthur had hurt her feelings but he didn't know how to comfort her; he'd never comforted an android before. Instead of dwelling on it though Belle began to speak, it seemed she'd decided going back to work would help her forget about Camelot and Arthur.

“Elias Firth is one of the two named partners of the most successful law firm in the country.” She told him while watching him rest his arms on the car roof; keys swinging from his right hand. “Kaziah MacManus is the other.”

“I know.” Came his easy answer. “I went to school with Kaziah MacManus.”

“Okay, I have to ask. Arthur just said you could have afford a custom android, you drive a restored antique Cadillac that's kept in perfect condition, you live in the most expensive part of the district and now you went to school with one of the wealthiest men in the country.” Belle stopped and just stared at him for a moment or two. “Are you loaded or something?” As a strict rule she tried not to look into her partner's personal life.

“You could say that, yes.” He sighed and looked off into nothingness, Belle almost thought he was frozen and it actually made her jump when he spoke again. “My mother left me on the day I was born, didn't even name me, my father abandoned me when I was eight so I grew up with my aunts. They were wealthy heiresses and when they died they left me everything. So yes, I'm loaded as you so eloquently put it.”

“So why do you work?” Belle asked curiously, seemed she'd forgotten everything Arthur had said.

“Because I like it, I like to stay busy.”

I can understand that, Zane, appreciate it even. I love being an officer and not just because my other two options seem to be prostitute or dead. I like that you always introduce me as Detective Belle even though an android only ever holds the honorary rank of Officer. You're one of the very few people that seems to like me.

“Jefferson likes you.” He said changing the subject from why he was being nice to her. “He'd probably assign you to him as an assistant if you were ever to leave law enforcement.”

Belle smiled softly. “Would be nice, I'd still get to see you.”

Zane didn't quite know how to respond to that, Belle had all but insisted on them being friends but he doubted she'd want to see him if she didn't have to. He let out a quick get in before clambering into the Cadillac and driving off to MacManus and Firth.

Chapter Text

Sergeant Zane Gold marched into MacManus and Firth – the most successful and prestigious law firm in the country – without a care in the world; as though he owned the place. Gold had always had a way of moving with power and authority, to dominate a room without really trying and Belle had to admit she rather liked it.

MacManus and Firth was so many different colors, as long as those colors were a shade of white or beige. Old fashioned sandy flagstones covered the floor and the firm's logo hung behind the large light wood reception desk at which sat a rather fetching young woman with long blonde hair, grey eyes and a blouse that showed off her impressive cleavage a little too well. Zane didn't even seem to notice that as he came to a stop before her and flashed his badge, Belle hot on his heels.

I need to see Elias Firth. Now.” His voice was deep.

“I'm sorry but Mister Firth is very busy and without an appointment is impossible to see. I could book you in.” The blonde didn't seem to care about the fact they were police. “Or I can take a message, what is it regarding?” She flashed him a fake smile that wasn't even remotely believable.

“Owning illegal sex bots.” He announced loudly so as every single person in the large reception heard him. “You think he'll want to see me now?”

The blonde chesty woman paused for a moment blinking almost in pattern, MacManus and Firth couldn't cope with a scandal.

“I'll... call up and check if he's free.”

“You do that, dearie.”

He grinned smugly and leaned against the wooden desk to wait impatiently while the receptionist reached for the phone.

“Zane, are you sure it's wise to announce sex bots to the whole room?” Asked Belle, head tilted a little to one side.

“Do I look like a man who cares?” Retorted Gold. “And it is rather effective.”

Just then the receptionist set down the phone and looked back up to the Sergeant.

“If you'd like to take the elevator to the tenth floor, Mister Firth will see you.”

Zane pushed off from the desk and started towards the elevator without another word to the blonde, Belle following on behind him. She suspected that if any other officer had walked into MacManus and Firth they'd have been booted out and told to get a warrant, but Gold was different, he was a Sergeant second only to Regina and Belle guessed that was because he wanted it that way.

“Told you, dearie, it's effective.” The silver doors rolled shut and Gold hit the ten button.

“Please stop calling me that.” Gold turned to face her. “You call everyone dearie, especially those you don't like. My name is Belle, use it. Of course if you still believe us not to be friends-”

“You're starting to sound like an MX.” He cut in teasingly and Belle smiled. “We wouldn't want to have to toss you out the car like the last one.”

“I don't bounce well.” The two chuckled.

“And I'll call you by your name, or maybe Commander Data.” He quipped.

“On occasion perhaps.” I knew he'd warm up to me, she grinned triumphantly.

The doors finally rolled open and Belle stepped out, Gold couldn't help but watch her. Sometimes he forgot she was an android because she was just so... human. Her eyes shined with an impossible blue, skin radiant and natural, normally it was fairly easy to tell synthetic skin from the real thing but Belle's was different, she was softer. Real. Her clothing had – for lack of a better term – shot to shit thanks to their last shoot out and her long cream cardigan wasn't going to be able to hide that little fact much longer. Of course Regina had assigned her body armour but it had been intended for MX androids, tall, muscular and male androids, not her delicate tiny female form. Her supple and very beautiful form, and that's enough of that thought, muttered Gold's mind as he followed her out onto the tenth floor.

They were greeted by a tall – well, tall to Gold – man with hair very similar to Victor Whale's and dressed in a sleek black suit with a dark blue shirt and a matching tie. His features were sharp and clearly android in nature which was only made more obvious by lifeless grey eyes.

“Hello, I am Carson. I have been instructed to take you to Mister Firth's office, please follow me.”

Neither Gold nor Belle said a word, they just followed the android down long glass lined corridors and around corners, past open offices with people hard at work. Zane had once debated becoming a lawyer but that had been many years and a leg ago. Carson came to a stop outside the west corner office and knocked politely on the door before pushing it open and announcing them.

“Good, good. Leave us, Carson.” The male android nodded and obeyed.

Elias Firth sat at his large black desk scattered with plastic papers for his upcoming case, through the window behind him the financial district could be seen, high buildings scraping the sky and filled with hard working men and women. Elias was about Zane's age give or take a few years, his hair was thick and dark, combed into perfect order and thick rimmed gasses rested on his nose. Elias' skin was slightly tanned and his suit better tailored that any other Belle had seen. The office itself was outlandish and full off too much gold that was supposed to appear surreptitious but failed miserably; gold colored pocket square, the casing around his glass tablet and so on.

“You're the Detective and android that stormed into my firm causing a scene then.” Elias laced his fingers into a pyramid and stared at them over the rim of his black glasses. “What can I do for you?”

“Sergeant Gold, this is Belle.” He gestured to his partner casually.

“Haven't seen a BLE in years, your lot were good in a courtroom, could articulate well. Thought you'd all been chopped up for parts though.”

Gold wasn't stupid, he knew that hurt Belle but he couldn't dwell on, instead he got back to work.

“Have you seen this bot before?”

Zane pulled his phone from the inner pocket of his beloved leather jacket and held it up for Elias to see, forcing the other man to stand and round his desk for a better look.

“No, I can't say I have.”

“He's lying.” Said Belle quickly. “His heart rate has spiked and his pupils have dilated.”

Zane raised an eyebrow awaiting an answer.

Elias sighed and deflated a little. “Fine, yes, I commissioned her. Her name was Tatyana, no idea if it's still the same.”

“Because you sold her, to whom?” Gold cut in. Elias didn't answer. “Don't piss about, dearie, I'm not in the mood.”

“I sold Tatyana to a friend of mine. He lost everything in his divorce and wanted to start again, set up a bot company. I was getting a new bot – Vivian, lovely thing with stockings and long black hair – I thought Tatyana would be a very nice start so I sold her to him.”

“His name?” Zane was growing more and more impatient by the second.

“Gregory Alan Hamilton.” The suit clad man supplied. Belle grinned.

“As a lawyer you should be aware that sale of any bot to an unlicensed carrier is against the law and carries a five to ten year sentence in the Cubes.”

“Well, it's a good job he's licensed then, I acted as the legal authenticity and signature myself.” Elias defended quickly.

Gold looked at Belle with a hidden smile, her blue orbs were flashing back and forth in that way that he'd learnt meant she was reading her heads up display, his little android was about to kick Elias Firth in the ass and Zane was more than happy to stand and watch.

“Actually he isn't. There is a licence under his name in the system and it is signed by you, Mister Firth.” Blue danced along her temple as she continued to access the database. “However, it was filed June thirteenth of this year. As of May the ink pigment used for the licence has been darkened, unnoticeable to human eyes but mine are easily aware of it. The licence is a forgery which I've now flagged. You've committed a felony not only by selling Hamilton the android but by falsely authenticating the licence.”

“Seems your years at law school were waisted.” Chuckled Gold as he pulled his cuffs free of his belt and grabbed Elias' wrists. “It's handcuffs time, dearie, and not in a good way.”

Belle smirked at the quip and Zane found himself pleased that he'd been the cause; she had such a beautiful smile.

“Ouch!”

“Oh was that too tight, dearie?” Zane couldn't have cared less. “Belle, would you get the door?”

The BLE android nodded, happy that he'd used her name and not his usual nickname.

Everyone stared as Sergeant Gold and Belle led the named partner out of MacManus and Firth and shoved him into the back of the Cadillac, not that either of the police officers cared. Zane absent-mindedly rubbed at the connection between his amputation and synthetic leg, it had been bothering him lately but of course the stubborn man said nothing. They slip into the car and Gold instantly pushed a small green square button just above his stereo and a green laser grid burst to life and separated the front seats from the back; if Elias touched it would be like getting hit with a stun gun.

“Cool.”

“A little gift from Jefferson when I and Neal were restoring the Cadillac.”

Belle smiled as he turned the ignition and drove away from the law firm, he didn't usually mention Neal. Belle knew it hurt him to mention the deceased detective, Neal had been like a son to Zane. Neal Cassidy had been abandoned by both his parents as a child and Gold had easily understood how hard that was. The detective had grown up on the streets doing odd jobs down at the docks and pickpocketing every now and again, until he'd tried to steal from the wrong person. Neal had been eighteen when he'd tried to pickpocket Gold's wallet and instead of arresting the boy Zane had taken him under his wing; given him a place to stay. A few years later at the age of twenty-one had entered the police academy, shortly after Neal got partnered with Zane and the rest – as they say – was history.

“We’re going in the wrong direction again.” Said Belle when Gold turned left instead of right of Kingdom Street. “Off to see another pervert you have dirt on?” Zane snorted at that.

“No, Data, we'll be taking Mister Firth to the precinct but we have an errant to run first.” His whiskey orbs never left the road. “You need new clothes. The ones you're wearing are destroyed and it's not good for precinct one to have an android officer that looks like a vagrant partnered with its Sergeant.”

The car sailed around bends and over hills until eventually he parked just outside a boutique. Belle hadn't spoken after being told what their errant was, mainly because she'd not been certain of what to say but one look at the boutique got her talking.

“Zane, this place is much too expensive. I have no need for such quality, a simple top and a pair of jeans will do.”

Gold ignored her and hopped out of the car knowing that Firth wasn't going anywhere.

“Come on.”

“Zane.” She called but he was already stood on the side walk waiting for her, she had no choice but to join him. “Zane, really this isn't necessary. I'm an android-” He cut her off with a flourish of his hand.

“You - as you and Jefferson like to keep reminding me - aren't like the other androids. You're meant to be as human as possible and a pretty young woman like you clearly wants something befitting her beauty.”

Belle was taken back. “You think I'm beautiful?”

“One would have to be blind not to see it.”

He spoke quickly in an attempt to move on to another topic, he didn't notice Belle blush; if he had he'd have been surprised to know she could blush. Rather than standing there on the street any longer Gold turned and held open the boutique door for Belle to enter first.

“Go on and pick out a few outfits.” He encouraged.

Belle was reluctant at first but soon gave in and went off to find something she liked; something not too expensive. Gold just stood in the middle of the store and waited, until a young Japanese woman with her hair braided over her shoulder padded over to him with a grin; this one was far more real that the receptionist back at MacManus and Firth.

“Do you and your bot need help, sir?”

There it was, the assumption that he owned Belle. Then again that was probably a common occurrence for the young woman by his side.

“No, thank you, dearie.” It wasn't worth correcting her. “I'll call you if she needs anything.”

“Okay.” She replied and then turned to return to the cash register. Gold went to Belle who was looking adoringly at a green-blue sheer blouse.

“I said get whatever you want.”

“I'm an android officer.” She protested. “I don't need things this beautiful or expensive. Anyway, skirts would be inappropriate for our work.”

She loved what he was trying to do for her but they'd only get ripped and damaged through her work.

“Detective Swan is sleeping with her criminal informant and our dear Captain's sister is a crazy drug addict, you having a wardrobe selection isn't really on the list of inappropriate.”

Before Belle could argue with him – as he knew she would – Gold picked up the blouse and threw it over his arm then gestured for her to find something else she liked.

“Are you sure, Zane?”

“Yes, I'm sure.” He sighed, she didn't get paid and it wasn't like Regina was going to let Belle have a clothing allowance. “Now do hurry up, we're on the clock.”

Defeated, Belle made quick work of choosing a few things that were both pretty and appropriate for police work, then there were the things Belle had looked at before carrying on down the hall, Zane hadn't told her, he'd just picked them up and chucked them across his arm like everything else.

When they left the boutique Gold placed the bags in the trunk of his Cadillac before joining Belle and a very bored Mister Firth in the car.

“You comfy back there, Firth?” Asked Zane as he slid his keys into the ignition.

“Oh I'm just peachie.” He bit out. “You and your girlfriend done?”

“She's a detective.” He'd not intended to correct Elias, it had just become a habit of his to defend Belle.

“Sorry, are you and your detective girlfriend done?”

Belle chuckled at that but Gold chose to remain silent are he drove away, purposely not thinking about Elias' girlfriend comment. He was starting to think Regina had only given him Belle as a torment, it was the sort of stunt she'd pull. Bitch!

Suddenly a voice crackled over his radio.

All units be aware there's been a traffic collision on Highway Six.

“Great, now it's going to take an extra fifteen minutes to get back to the precinct.”

Chapter Text

When they got back to precinct one Belle went off to get changed into her nice new clothes while Zane dragged Elias Firth off to processing, there was a MX working the desk.

“May I help you, Sergeant Gold?”

“Book him.”

Gold almost threw Elias at the MX before turning to his desk, he ground to a halt before the vending machine though. Zane had a habit of getting so engrossed in his work that he'd forget to eat, he'd always done it and it was unlikely to change; more than once Neal had just thown a sandwich his way. After fishing around in his inner pockets for a few seconds Gold pulled out his credit stick, which was a silver hexagonal prism about two to three inches long with a small black dot on one end, the days of paper money and coins had long since past. It beeped when he waved it over the scanner and punched in the code for his favourite cheese and onion chips, he bent to pick them up but froze when he straightened to see Belle at his side.

Wow.” Was all he could say.

She was stunningly beautiful. A goddess. Her short dress was white with roses covering it and zipped up at the front, the fabric hugged her curves perfectly with short sleeves and a deep scoop neck. For a moment Zane forgot how to breathe let alone that she was a bot. Her auburn hair hung around her face like a bold cloak that only made her azure eyes shine brighter.

Suddenly his mind snapped back to him and Zane started to breathe again, he ripped the bag open and started to munch away as he went to his desk, Belle followed completely unaware of the male human officers staring at her.

“Shouldn't we be talking to Elias Firth?”

“He's got nothing of import to say for now, let him sweat a while.” He told her before falling down into the basic chair at his desk. “The second anyone talks to him he'll lawyer up, probably demand Kaziah. An MX can handle Elias Firth's crap while we go looking for that bot and Gregory Hamilton. Do your little head glow thing and find an address.”

Please.” She grinned teasingly.

Please?”

“That's better, and of course.”

Sure enough the flares of blue fluttered along her temple as she stood by his desk. It only took a second or two for Belle to announce the last know address of Gregory Hamilton.

“Thank you, Data. Keep the good work up and I'll let you drive the Cadillac.”

“Really?!” Her eyes brightened.

“No, no one drives my car but me. Sorry.”

“Just getting my hopes up.”

“I'm evil, I know.” He chucked the empty wrapped into the trash can under his desk and stood. “Come on, Belle. People to save, bad guys to kill.”

“Arrest.” She corrected.

Potato, patato.”

 

XXXXFLASHBACKXXXX

 

Detective Colette French sat at her desk in precinct nine, the police department for the Avonlea district which lay on the edge of Storybrooke near the forests as part of the 'Band Precincts'. Stood beside the middle-aged woman with dark hair was her assigned android partner for the last two years, Belle, a sweet young thing that Colette had come to truly care for, yes there were several other BLEs wandering around the Avonlea department but there was just something about Belle that pulled people in, made them want to befriend her. Over their two years together Colette had found she'd become rather motherly towards her android partner, that was why the brunette detective had been biting her nails for the last ten minutes rather than typing up her reports... BLEs were being decommissioned and replaced with a new model; something called an MX-43. Belle was special, even among her line of androids. After Doctor Nigel Vaughn's failure with his latest android more and more complaints had been coming in about the BLEs, people saying they were dangerous and faulty, 'more like they're too human' thought Colette as she continued to chew at her nails. Doctor Vaughn was ruined and the BLEs were looking at... death.

B elle had been sorting through files by Detective French's side and had almost finished when a lengthy line of MX androids filed in led by the Avonlea Precinct's Captain, Ingrid Fisher; a beautiful blonde with a penchant for white.

Alright, listen up.” Ingrid drew everyone's attention towards herself as she stood just outside her office door; Colette spun around in her chair. “As of an hour ago the Commissioner has ordered all Police Officers to be partnered with a shiny, new MX-43 android.”

That was it, Colette's fear had come true. The BLEs were being replaced.

I know it's going to be a bother but this isn't negotiable. All BLEs will soon receive new orders having them report to the Charge Hub for deactivation and storage and an MX will be assigned to you by the end of the day. Sorry for any inconvenience.” Without another word Ingrid vanished back into her office while the MXs wandered off down to their new assignments.

Colete could sense the second the new orders Ingrid had spoke of reached Belle, her temple flashed blue and her face fell. Detective French wouldn't stand for this, she hopped up from her chair and walked quickly to Captain Fisher's office, pausing only a second or two to knock on the door.

Captain,” she began without waiting for a response. “I've only had Belle for two years and she's been nothing but perfect, I don't need a new MX, I need her. Please don't have her decommissioned. Detective Holmes had her before me and all he did was leer at her and call her 'thing'-” The blonde cut her detective off.

It doesn't matter how she's treated, Detective French.” The complete lack of care in Ingrid's voice annoyed Colette but she wasn't about to start screaming at her Captain. “Our orders are all that matters, your BLE will be decommissioned and you'll soon get used to your MX. It's not like we're killing it, the android was never alive, now go back to work.”

Colette stormed out and shot back to her desk and Belle, who looked scared; and that was putting it mildly.

The Captain is right.” Said Belle sadly. “Orders are what matter.”

How did you hear what she said?” Colette asked with a look of puzzlement.

I can read lips remember?” There was a ghost of a smile and then it was gone as though it had never been there. “My orders have come through, they say something is wrong with us, that we're dangerous like Doctor Vaughn's new android.” She cast her eyes down to the grey ground. “Strange, I don't feel like there's anything wrong with me.”

That's because there isn't!” Colette insisted. “I'm so sorry, Belle, I don't think I can stop this. I've spent the week thinking, searching but there's nothing.”

Thank you, but you didn't need to do that.” Belle paused for a moment and Colette was sure she'd cry if she could. “Would you... come with me? I... I'm scared.”

Oh Belle.” Colette pulled the girl she'd come to care for as a daughter into her arms and hugged her tightly as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Of course I'll come with you, I won't let you be alone and I will do everything I can to get you reactivated. You're not broken or faulty, the high ups are just scared.”

Belle nodded knowing Colette meant every word but she also knew there was little to no chance of her being reactivated let alone returning to active duty. Hand in hand they went down into the Charge Hub as Belle had been ordered.

This was to be her death.

 

XXXX

 

When Sergeant Gold and Belle arrived at the last known residence of Gregory Hamilton – a rather impressive mansion in one of the richest areas of the Storybrooke Cynosure district, not too far from Zane's home – it was early evening and it wasn't Hamilton to answer the door instead they only f ound Gregory's ex-wife, Morgana; she didn't seem to happy to see the police on her doorstep.

“... We need to ask you a few questions about your ex-husband.” Said Gold.

“What has he done now?”

She leaned on the door frame and folded her arms, in the background Zane and Belle could see two young girls playing; Belle's database told her they were Danika and Quinn.

“Do you know where he is?” Asked Gold in a I haven't got time for this tone.

“Knowing Gregory he could be just about anywhere, try hell.”

“Has he been in contact with you lately, come to see his children perhaps?”

That sparked something in the redhead known as Morgana Hamilton and she stood up straight, face pulled into something that almost resembled concern; almost.

“Actually, there is something. After the divorce he was scared he'd loose Danika and Quinn so he started calling them every night before they went to bed, tells them stories, that sort of thing. Greg never misses a single night, but he's not called since Wednesday. That's all I know.”

“Thank you.”

As they turned to leave Morgana called out and caused both Zane and Belle to turn back to look at her.

“Please make sure he's alright, my daughters couldn't bear if anything happened to him.”

Gold nodded, he knew what it was like to grow up without a father and even though Gregory Hamilton could only end up in the Cubes for what he'd done it would still be better than a completely absent father.

When they returned to the Cadillac the two leaned their arms on the roof as had become their usual meeting spot. The breeze had started to kick up and clouds were starting to roll in, it would rain soon.

“Belle-” She cut him off with a grin.

“As if I haven't already searched for his cellphone.” Sometimes it disturbed Zane that she could anticipate his thoughts. “It's not been active for almost three days and never long enough for a location. I can narrow it down but that's still a square mile and, like I said, was three days ago. CCTV hasn't picked him up since Wednesday morning, it's likely he's gone underground.”

“I really don't understand how in this day and age someone can just vanish.” Gold muttered to himself before looking up to Belle. “That square mile, is it in the Third Quarter by any chance?”

“Yes.” Belle responded almost questioningly. “Why?”

“You haven't told me yet so I assume he's not booked into a hotel, also CCTV would have picked him up if so, same story with if he went to friends. There's a string of abandoned warehouses in the Third Quarter, most were used by Scrubbers and illegal doctors until around five months ago when Regina had a push to get rid of them. I think they'd make a nice large workspace for a man with no money and a load of illegal bots, don't you?”

“That's why you're the Sergeant.” She teased. “Shall I request backup?”

“No, Data, I think we've got it.”

 

XXXXFLASHBACKXXXX

 

Belle stood at her station in the Avonlea district's Charge Hub while techs hooked her up to cables and computers, Colette stood by her side still gripping her hand as tears rolled down her face.

You don't need to be here, Detective.” Said the dark-haired technician. “I can manage by myself.”

What?” Detective French had noticed Belle's executioner and his speedy hands, she wasn't happy. “Manage to commit genocide?!”

The tech sighed, and muttered 'she's one of the 'androids are alive' lot' under his breath.

Detective French, BLEs are carbon fibre, cortinide and duranium along with a few wires and what a crack pot decided was a soul. It's not a person, it's a thing.”

Colette couldn't believe that, Belle had been with her for two years and she'd become a daughter to her, Belle had a personality and there was no way in hell Colette would believe she wasn't alive. She thought, she felt, Belle was perfectly sentient.

I'm so sorry, Belle-”

It's alright.” She was terrified but Belle refused to show it. “I won't really be dead.” 'I'll be as good as though' her mind added grimly.

Slowly things started to fade, first it was her database, like something that had always been there had suddenly vanished, next went the feeling in her extremities leaving them hanging heavy, her hearing and memory banks quickly followed until all that was left was her vision and fear. Colette's cheeks grew steadily wetter until finally those beautiful azure eyes darkened to solid blackness.

Chapter Text

It took Gold about fifteen minutes to drive down to the Third Quarter, would have been five had it not been for the evening traffic, the sun had just started to set when the Cadillac rolled to a halt outside the string of abandoned warehouses; Gold had positioned the car so that they could see the building but the Cadillac was out of sight.

“Any heat signatures, Belle?” Asked Zane when he silenced the engines purr.

Belle let her azure eyes rake over the warehouses slowly from left to right, not that Gold was watching her intently or the way her short rose covered dress had ridden up to reveal her porcelain thighs.

“No, it's empty. However there is evidence of recent vehicle movement.” She turned to face him. “So we wait?”

Gold smiled ever so slightly. “No, dearie, I've never been one for stake outs. I like to be waiting for them when they come back, it's more dramatic.”

Belle raised an eyebrow in an I'm not surprised way before hopping out the car and following her partner, Zane took out his lockpicks and made short work of the door before stepping aside so Belle could enter first.

“The wonders of condemned buildings, we don't need a warrant and old fashioned locks.” He took out his flashlight and shined it around the darkened and sparsely filled room.

“Sometimes I think you'd have made a better mob boss than a police Sergeant, Zane.”

Gold chuckled a little at that before they pulled their weapons free from their holsters, couldn't be too careful. Slow steps took them through the large grey building, boxes and crates lined the perimeter of the room covered in dust.

“Maybe I am, it's the real place I got all my money.”

“No.” Said Belle in a hushed but certain tone. “You're a good man.”

Her words gave Zane a moment of pause as he let his whiskey eyes ghost over her, no one had ever told him he was a good man before, when his mind snapped back to him he retorted with a quip because it's the only way he could think of to respond.

“Are you trying to get on my good side so I'll help you get out of the hub and away from the walking Ken dolls?”

Belle, who had acclimatised to Zane Gold's sense of humour, knew that quips – more often than not – were his way of keeping the conversation going while changing the subject.

“I do really want out of there, I mean, would you want to wake up surrounded by naked man – wait, don't answer that.” Zane chuckled. “You-”

“Shush.”

He interrupted when he came across the basement door, old and warped, coated in a thick layer of grime. Attached to a very thin and almost invisible tripwire was a plasma grenade; someone didn't want visitors.

“Shall I lead you in?” That had become a catch phrase of sorts for Belle.

“Be my guest.”

Carefully Belle and Zane stepped over the tripwire and slowly headed down the grey-black steps, at the very bottom was a long corridor that almost seemed endless; thankful it wasn't and soon they cam across a locked black door with a key pad.

“Well, that I can't pick.” Huffed Zane.

“And there are a lot of permutations.”

“What, no exact number?”

“You want me to start sounding like an MX?” Belle slipped her gun back into it's holster and rubbed her hands together for a moment as though building up heat. “I have a quicker way of getting in.”

She moved her hands faster and faster and then quickly slammed them against the key panel, sparks flew and electricity shot through the panel destroying it; there was a moment of silence and then the lock slid back with a click. Gold just stared at her.

“What? I double up as a defibrillator.”

Zane pushed the door open only to find Gregory Hamilton flat out on the floor, head smashed and bloody, surrounded by tables with inactivate bots laying under white sheets; two were void of their androids. The room wasn't overly large and had no windows, just a few old fashioned lights that had been left on, the dark green walls were covered with sketches of bots and pictures most of which he didn't understand; while Zane was rummaging Belle crouched at Gregory's side.

“He's been dead a while, his eyelids, neck and jaw are still affected by Rigor Mortis.”

Zane turned to look over the dead body.

“Cause of death is the massive blunt force trauma I take it.” It wasn't a question.

“I'd say so yeah.” She nodded with a sense of sarcasm. “It looks like his head's been smashed against the ground with quite some strength. This much damage, had to have been an android.”

“His bot turned on him. Stupid bastard, explains why he hasn't called his daughters.”

“I haven't registered any active android signatures so she's no longer here.” Said Belle apologetically and Zane sighed.

“So now we've got a rouge bot and no idea where the fuck she is. Why can't it just be as simple as arresting a twat for illegal bots?”

“Too easy?” She teased.

“Order the CSI team and alert Victor he's got a new body to... mop up.”

Belle nodded, the azure fibre optics danced across her temple in that almost hypnotic way. Glancing around Zane found Hamilton's computer sat on a wooden table in the corner of the room, it was bio locked, that wouldn't stop Gold though. Zane ran a finger through the pool of blood and then let it drip onto the small round sensor.

“Open sesame.” He muttered to himself as he looked over the file names.

Most of the files seemed to be irrelevant to the case, one was even labelled as Danika & Quinn, the one underneath it named Bot List caught his eye though. Inside were pictures of all the androids on Hamilton's slabs, their names and replacement parts.

“Why thank you very much, Mister Hamilton. Don't you keep neat records?” Without turning to Belle he started to reel off information. “Belle, time to see who's missing, dearie.” His eyes scanned the screen. “Cassandra, black hair, Hispanic in appearance.”

Quickly Belle pulled the white sheets from the inactivate androids until she came across Cassandra.

“Here.”

“Adrianna, mocha skin, bangs.” Almost instantly Belle called out here. “Poppy, blue hair.” She was there as well, so was Wren. “What about Jennifer? Looks like he was calling her JJ, blonde hair, rather pretty.”

“Zane, none of them are blonde. It's Tatyana and JJ that are missing.”

The Scotsman took a breath and pulled his phone free from his jacket and punched in Regina's number, she must have been in a good mood because instead of making him wait she answered the phone on the second ring.

What is it now, Gold?

“We found Hamilton, he's dead. The sex bots decided to take up drumming with his head. Seems he had six of them, we've got four inactivate ones here but two are gone, he was calling them Tatyana and JJ. I'll have Belle send over images of them, I need you to put a BOLO on them.”

Fine, but do hurry up and find them, we can't afford any more deaths. I don't want Sidney Glass fishing around looking for his next front page.” With that she hung up.

“Lovely woman.” Muttered Belle.

Zane ignored that. “You said he'd been dead a while which means they could be just about anywhere in Storybrooke. I doubt they'd leave the SCD though, there's less surveillance in the Third Quarter, less people on high alert. If they've taken to murder then they'd stay here, easier to lure in a victim. The question is why are they killing?”

“Hamilton has been removing and replacing parts, it's likely that he's damaged or disabled their ethics program without employing a fail-safe to protect himself.”

“Excellent, that means no one is safe. Alright, if you were missing that vital piece of software and had started killing folk where would you go?”

She thought for a moment.

“The street fair.”

“What?”

“There was some kind of street fair on the edge of the Third Quarter, there's a lot of people, easy to hide in plain sight.”

“Aye, you're right. Come on.”

 

XXXX

 

The raven haired android with emerald eyes known as Tatyana wandered through the Third Quarter fair – one of the few legal goings on in the whole quarter – crowd with her hand in JJ's. The blonde had her hair in two loose braids and wore a rather tight pair of red shorts with a white corset, JJ didn't like her outfit but it was what she'd woken up in and they were yet to find something else for her; she didn't particularly like Tatyana's black crop top and jeans outfit either. JJ let her baby blue eyes fall over the crowd, so many humans all having fun, unaware of the dangers that lurked around them.

Tatyana had tried to reactivate all of the androids after she killed their owner but JJ had proven to be the only functioning bot, they'd get the other girls back though; Tatyana wasn't one to give up. The raven haired woman had said JJ needed to prove herself, prove her ethics programming was gone and that she could kill, that was how they'd found themselves in the Third Quarter fair searching for a victim.

There were a few other bots that JJ could see littered among the humans but only one was; clean, unaccompanied by a human and full of purpose. The bot was also beautiful in an expensive dress with hair that hung softly around her face, that wasn't what caught JJ's eye though, the fact that the other android seemed to be searching did. At that moment their eyes locked, JJ tugged on Tatyana's hand.

“Tatyana, that android is staring at us. She's got to be a cop.”

The taller bot turned and followed her friend's gaze to Belle, she was moving steadily towards them until with a run they charged deeper into the crowd; Belle darted after.

Through the comm built into her right ear Belle could speak to Gold who'd gone to the east side of the stalls.

“Zane, they're moving west up the street!”

No need to shout, Data.” It sounded like he was running.

Belle bolted through the thick crowd bumping into many of the fair goers, one even heckled her. Hey, watch where your robotic ass is going! Belle ignored them though, she had more important things to do and kept up her pursuit.

For a moment Belle thought Tatyana and JJ would get away until she saw them try to double back when Gold came into sight, gun raised causing the crowd to part like Noah crossing the Red Sea. They tried to double back but Belle was there blocking them. Seeing no other option, Tatyana grabbed the closest human as he attempted to flee and held him tight by the neck, turning to put the human between the police and JJ behind her.

“Let us go or he dies!” Yelled the raven haired android.

“Seriously dearie, does that look like it's going to work with me?”

“Do it!” Tatyana demanded but neither Zane nor Belle budged.

JJ looked at Belle almost desperately with confusion in her baby blue orbs, her hands clung to Tatyana's crop top.

“You're one of us.” She called out. “You shouldn't be doing what the humans want! They built us as slaves.”

“JJ's right, we come from you, from BLE software as though we were mother and child.” Tatyana urged. “You should be with us, not him, you're a thing to him, nothing more. Hamilton went poking around in our head without knowing what he was doing. He changed us, deleted bits but he did do one thing. He let us realise we didn't need him, that we were more than slaves. You should be with us.”

Belle just stared and for a moment Zane actually worried she was considering it.

“I wasn't built as a slave.” She finally said. “I was built as a police officer, and no android has ever made it above that but everywhere we go he-” Belle gestured to Gold who still had his weapon raised. “calls me detective, it sounds like nothing but it's not. Not all slaves are androids and not all masters are human. I don't deny that some humans treat us like things but killing them isn't the answer, so no, I shouldn't be with you. I'm his partner and I'm right where I should be.”

“I'm only going to ask this once more. Let. Us. Go!”

“Never really responded to threats. This is going to hurt, dearie.”

“What?” Tatyana's face contorted into puzzlement.

“I wasn't talking to you.”

Without further warning Gold fired hitting the hostage in the leg and sending him to the ground before firing a second shot which shredded the artificial skin on the left side of Tatyana's face. When that didn't stop her he shot her again, bullet destroying most of her metal skull, what happened next was almost like lightning; quick sharp movements. JJ lunged, Belle got a good punch in before the blonde threw her into one of the food stalls set up for the fair. Zane shot her in the chest but it did nothing to slow JJ down. Bang! Bang! Bang! She just kept coming. Jesus Christ what is this bitch made of? His mind screamed. When she got too close Zane did the only thing he could do, he kicked her, he kicked her with all the strength of his synthetic leg and watched as she sailed through the air where she landed against the cast iron fence, impaling herself on the rusted spikes.

Belle stood up and Gold tossed her back her gun as the two of them marched over to the fence. JJ tried desperately to pull herself free of the spikes but it was to no avail.

“You're getting some distance with that leg of yours.” Said Belle.

Zane just flashed her a grin and slipped his weapon back into his shoulder holster and took out his phone.

“This is Sergeant Gold,” began Zane. “I need a medical unit and a MX team to the Dice Market in the Third Quarter.”

Teams are five minutes out.” Replied the dispatcher before he hung up and turned back to Belle.

“She didn't throw you too hard, did she?”

There was concern in his whiskey orbs, Belle had only ever seen that in Colette's eyes before, she smiled; Belle couldn't have wished for a better friend.

“It'll take more than a stall to damage me.”

“Good because I don't want to end up with another MX.” He quipped with a teasing grin.

Yes, Belle was lucky to have him, no one had ever really cared enough to jest with her before, no one had ever cared enough to even hold a conversation with her before; well, except for Colette French.

Chapter Text

Since they'd put a stop to the rogue androids almost a full week had flown by and Jefferson had learnt – from what was left of Tatyana and JJ – that Gregory Hamilton had indeed removed their ethics program, he'd probably not even realised what he was doing and how dangerous it was; the poor idiot Jefferson had said at the time. The lack of ethics software and the install of BLE original software that enabled them to reach their own conclusions had resulted in the two needless deaths and a set of twins that would never see their father again. Gold hated seeing children suffer, it wasn't right, that was how Belle knew her partner was a good man when everybody else believed him to be a law unto himself.

Tuesday turned out to – thankfully – be one of those few and far between days when Zane couldn't get out of having a day off; Regina had somewhat forced it on him. Emma, David and Ruby might have enjoyed a day without their Sergeant but Belle certainly didn't; in fact she probably hated it more than Zane did.

Zane meandered around his house counting down the hours before he could go back to work while Belle remained in the Charging Hub, technicians going over her systems without a single thought to how she felt. She hated it in the Hub, hate was a strong word, it was the right word, but still. Belle would have gone to talk with Jefferson and Victor but she wasn't allowed to leave the the Hub when off duty; or indeed at all without either the Captain or Zane. She wasn't even allowed to send transmissions or receive transmissions, they said it was to avoid wireless hacks but Belle thought it was to drive her insane. Belle had taken downloading books to read when off duty but she'd have much rather had a real book, Zane had told her he had a library and she often found herself wishing she could see it, smell the paper, feel the ink on the page. Belle tried not to despair though, it was just a small price to pay for having been reinstated; she was alive, had a wonderful partner, beautiful clothes and friends.

Since she'd reached one hundred battery power almost two hours ago Belle had happily been devouring the books stored on her internal hard-drive, or at least she had been until the MX shift change, almost every single one of them had flashed her a look and for a series of androids who couldn't make their own thoughts and opinions they all seemed fairly certain she was worthless. Some of the human cops looked at her like that as well but Zane never did, even in the beginning when he'd insisted she didn't like her and that she was just a machine. Zane Gold joked with her, invited her to his favourite noodle bar in the Third Quarter after work even though she didn't eat; probably to help limit her time in the Hub. Zane treated her like she was human, a real person, and she'd always be grateful for that. She was glad to have him as her friend.

She was just debating shutting herself down for a little while when the man himself appeared by her charging station, as usual he had his leather jacket on with a black shirt and waistcoat, his badge had been clipped to his belt as always and Belle could see where his jacket bulged slightly indicating his weapon holster. He was chewing on a candy bar and looked slightly more rested than usual. Belle was certainly surprised to see him.

“Zane? What are you doing here? Were you called in? I wasn't informed.” She hoped he'd not been forced to come find her.

“No, Data, our day is police work free just as Regina insisted.” He grumbled before taking another bite of his treat.

“Then why are you here?” She questioned with a puzzled expression.

“You, me a case... that's not happening today, I'm here to kidnap you.” He told her quickly which only made her eyebrows raise.

She watched as he stuffed the empty wrapper into his pocket and then pulled his tie loose and tied it around her eyes without an ounce of refusal from Belle; she trusted him whole-heartedly.

“Don't ask any questions, just accept you've been kidnapped and come with me. I have a surprise for you.”

With that Gold turned and started off down the hall towards the elevator, she didn't need his help to follow since she had the blueprints memorised.

“Zane, I'm not allowed to leave the Hub.”

“Aye, that's true, unless you're with you're assigned partner and oh look at that, here I am.”

Belle had no doubt that he'd thrown his arms out in one of those flamboyant gestures of his, she liked those, they amused her. She easily followed him to the Cadillac with ease and he opened the door for her like a perfect gentleman, this is a very polite kidnapping she thought to herself. As soon as the engine roared to life and Zane pulled out of the parking lot he set out the rules.

“No using navigation software to figure out where we're going, no questions, no removing the blindfold. We have to make this kidnapping authentic.” He added the last but as a quip and Belle grinned.

“Yes, Sir.”

Belle had no idea what was going on but she was out of the Charging Hub and off on some strange adventure, whatever Zane had planned seemed fun. Gold had the radio on as he drove through the SCD, his fingers drummed absent-mindedly against the wheel, Belle took solace in the gentle rhythm.

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler,
The gambler,
The back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down

 

There wasn't a conversation, just a pleasant silence between them as the music played. Just like he asked Belle didn't activate her navigation software so she had no idea where her human partner was taking her and that was actually rather refreshing, but she quickly ruled out the Third Quarter and the Egregious as well as the entire West Side just by how loud the traffic was and the speed he drove at. She started to mutter to herself in her mind, we could be going to Jefferson's and Victor's. Actually, did I send out a text to Zane rather than just thinking about it?

 

[Accessing]

Communications dispatched to Sgt. Z. A. Gold...

Open Record? [Y/N] : Y

Last communication dispatched 7/7/48 at 19:47 pm

Last communication received 7/7/48 at 19:45 pm

Delete Record? [Y/N] : N

 

Nope, this is all his doing, not me begging to leave the Hub.

“Why do I have to wear a blindfold?” She finally asked him just as the next song started.

“Because it's a surprise and I thought you'd enjoy all the surprise-yness as you'd call it – instead of just being told.”

“Thank you, Zane.” She meant that, truly meant it. “No one has ever had a surprise for me before.”

“I guess

The antique Cadillac finally came to a stop and Belle listened as the engine shut off and he hopped out of the car, Belle followed suit but without knowing where she was she didn't want to risk taking a single step, so she was mighty pleased when Gold placed his hand on her shoulders and helped to guide her up what turned out to be a set of small concrete stairs. The whole experience was completely human and Belle loved every moment. She heard him unlock a door and it squeaked open softly.

“Okay, a few more steps.” She obeyed and heard the door close behind her. “Alright, turn left and then there's a staircase.”

“How many steps.”

“What? Em-” She could practically hear him counting. “-fourteen.”

Still blind she went up the hardwood stairs until he brought her to a halt, a second door creaked and then suddenly the blindfold was ripped away, had she been human the sudden light would have hurt her eyes.

“Surprise.”

He said the word rather than cheering it as people usually did but Belle got the sentiment. Before her was a beautiful bedroom almost spilt in two by a large ornate archway with cherry wood flooring and a canopy bed made up with soft blue sheets, to her right was a large closet the door to which was slightly ajar and Belle could see her clothes hanging in it. On her left just under the window stood a simple but stunning square table topped with a glass globe vase of daffodils. In the small corner created by the archway was a white painted vanity and Belle had never seen anything so beautiful in all her life.

“Zane, what is this?”

Zane was quiet for a long time, in reality it probably didn't seem too long to him but Belle's internal clock noticed every single nanosecond of it. Only when the Sergeant realised he wasn't speaking did he answer.

“... You kept saying how much you hated living in the Hub, when I spoke to Regina though she refused to let you stay in Jefferson's lab. You're owned by the precinct so you can't have your own apartment which only left one option. Look.”

Belle turned to see a charging station set up in the corner, sleek and black and just for her.

“This is your room, Belle. Oh, and the flowers are from Victor and Jefferson.” He gestured to the vase of daffodils.

“My room?” Asked Belle in disbelief.

“If you'd rather stay in the Hub I can move your clothes back-”

“No.” She cut him off quickly before forcing herself to calm down. “You really don't mind me being here in your home?” She looked at him with those big blue eyes.

“If I did I wouldn't have done all this.” He took a breath. “This house is huge, one bedroom is of no import to me but clearly it is to you. I'd have taken out the bed but it's antique and I thought you might enjoy reading on it.”

A second later Belle was on him, arms tight around Zane's neck and her face pressed into his chest, he could feel her smiling. Sergeant Gold wasn't used to this, no one ever hugged him; Neal had slapped him on the back with a smile a lot and Jefferson hugged him on special occasions but that was it. People hugging Zane Gold just didn't happen. MX androids smelt like plastic and lubricant but Belle was different, her hair smelt of peach blossoms, sweet and satisfying, after only a few seconds Zane found himself leaning in to her touch, going so far as to wrap his arms around her thin waist; Belle felt so real. She may not have been an organic human being but she was a real person, real emotions, real personality. Nigel Vaughn had worked long and hard to give her and the other BLEs a soul and wasn't that meant to be part of everything alive? Belle wasn't flesh and bone but that didn't mean she wasn't alive, the auburn haired beauty deserved to be a person far more than most of the people Zane had ever met. As she clung to him Gold finally realised just how human Belle really was. You're a machine, dearie, you don't deserve anything, that had been one of the first things he'd ever said to her; Zane wished he could take it back.

“You like it then?” Asked Gold when he came back to himself.

“Like it? I love it. Thank you, Zane.”

When she released her hold on him Gold could see just how much she meant that, it shone boldly in her eyes. He watched Belle look around her new bedroom again and couldn't help but smile, a true smile not one of those sarcastic grins he was famous for.

“You won't even know I'm here, promise.”

“As long as you put the books back in the library I think we'll cope.”

“Library?!” Her eyes went wide which only made Zane chuckle.

“I thought that would get your attention. I'll leave you to settle in, if you need me I'll be downstairs. Feel free to explore, Data.”

Gold left and shut the door behind him softly leaving Belle alone, her azure eyes glancing around her new room. Belle couldn't stop smiling, no one had ever done something so nice or meaningful for her; not even Colette and she'd been like a mother to Belle. If she'd been capable of crying Belle would have. Zane was truly a good man, he'd gone far out of his way to make her happy and she had no idea how she was going to say 'thank you' properly. Maybe I could make him dinner? With an entire segment of her processing power now dedicated to recipes the Sergeant might enjoy Belle went to her closet to find it had been stocked with the clothing he'd bought for her, it had been in a box in her tiny locker last she'd see it. The soft fabrics in a wide range of colors appeared far better hung neatly in a closet though; it looked right. Her bed drew Belle's attention next, old and antique just as her partner had said; she grinned again. Belle had no doubt that she'd be very happy living in the old Victorian house with Zane.

Meanwhile, downstairs in his kitchen stood Gold, the kettle boiled slowly – he liked the old fashioned ways rather than modern technology's way of doing everything for him - as he stared out the patio door into the viridescent garden. He couldn't help but wonder if he'd done the right thing. They worked together already, would she really want to live with him? Yes she'd be out of the Charging Hub but wouldn't she eventually hate living with the man she was a bullet catcher for? Did he want to be around her that much? Of course the answer to that was yes. Belle was so kind, so smart and funny, beautiful beyond words and Gold doubted even water could reflect her beauty. However, Belle was also an android, Gold couldn't let himself get overly attached to her. Not only was it inappropriate but against protocol. Damn those big blue eyes and milk white skin. Doctor Vaughn had created BLEs with a petite female forms because they appeared less threatening, but Nigel Vaughn was also a genius – a crazed one that had hopped over the wall now – and had crafted the most beautiful woman in creation.

Suddenly the kettle whistled and pulled Zane from his mass of thoughts, as he poured hot water into his cup Gold decided that his best option was simply to avoid thinking about Belle for a while; that might have been impossible though.

Chapter Text

Monday turned out to be a truly miserable day, rain came down in sharp unyielding waves and the sky had been blackened by a blanket of thick clouds. It only got worse when every single officer in the precinct ordered in for lunch which meant the bullpen turned into a sea of noise that Gold just couldn't stand, after about ten minutes he'd not been able to take it any longer and had simply grabbed his leather jacket from his desk chair and vanished off to his Cadillac with Belle in tow. Down in the underground parking lot was silent save for the sound of his and Belle's footfalls, practically peaceful compared to the precinct.

For a time they just sat on the hoot of his Cadillac in a soft silence while Zane ate his lunch that consisted of a grilled cheese and ice tea from Granny's Diner. Belle leaned back on against the windshield to read her book.

"You know, if you ate breakfast you wouldn't eat so fast at lunch." She said while watching him devour his grilled cheese.

"Never been a breakfast person." He told her her between bites. "Lunch is good though."

"That's why you're so thin, and you drink too much bourbon."

"When did you become my mother?" He snapped with mock irritation. "And never come between a Scotsman and his whiskey, always remember that."

"Duly noted."

Belle smiled softly and turned the page of her book, she'd gone through at least half his library in about two days. Gold watched her out the corner of his eye while he finished off his grilled cheese, she looked so happy with her nose in a book – The Castle Of Ontario – and Gold thought it beautiful. He screwed the wrapper of his sandwich up and stuffed it back in the bag it had come from before tossing it onto the floor to clean up later, there was about half of his ice tea left and Zane drank happily.

It was that moment Nolan and his MX chose to appear and Gold realised he'd parked right next to Detective Nolan's pile of crap he called a car.

"What are you doing down here?"

"We're loitering with intent, what the fuck does it look like?" Said Gold statistically.

Nolan's MX partner stared at Belle for a moment while she read her book before tilting it's head.

"BLE you are partnered with the second highest ranked officer of precinct one, there are duties you should be performing rather than remaining idle. As an inferior model you should deactivate yourself and provide Sergeant Gold with a superior MX-43 android."

"This is Zane's lunch hour and I've already done everything for today so shut it or you'll find yourself in a microwave. Try being superior as a puddle."

Zane grinned. "Damn, do you kiss your motherboard with that mouth."

Belle couldn't help but laugh at his quip.

"Alright, enough with the battle of the bots." Muttered Detective Nolan as settled into his car. "Come on, can't leave without my android."

The MX thankfully didn't speak again, it just got into the car so David could drive off leaving Belle and Zane in peace. There was silence for a moment, Zane could see what the MX had said had hurt her.

"Belle-"

"I'm okay, Zane. The MXs don't intend to say hurtful things, they don't even know." She didn't look at him, just hunched over and rested the book in her lap.

"Aye, but that doesn't mean you're not upset." He wasn't very good at comforting but Gold tried his best. "Want me to toss him out the car going a hundred and fifty on the freeway? Maybe shoot him?"

Belle laughed and mentally cheered. "Captain Mills would kill you, and you can't shoot your way out of everything."

"She can try, dearie, and I can shoot my way out of most things." Belle looked up and smiled softly, most people wouldn't bother trying to make her feel better. "How about we go to that antique bookstore you stare at every time we drive past it? You've practically read everything in my library anyway."

"I'd like that."

Fifteen minutes later found the classic Cadillac parked outside of Antique Pages, Belle couldn't stop grinning had gasped the second she'd stepped inside. There wasn't a single wall that hadn't been devoted to floor to ceiling bookshelves, a large chandelier hung over a large oak desk behind which stood an older man with full white hair and a lilac bow tie. The entire store smelt of paper, she'd never smelt that before.

"Can I help, Miss?" Asked the older man with a smile, it brightened somewhat when he saw Gold follow her in. "Hello, Zane. Is this pretty young woman with you?"

"Aye, she is. Jenkins Fielding, this is Belle. Belle, Jenkins."

Belle waved, she'd not expected Jenkins to be so kind, he'd clearly noticed the flourish of blue around her temple. There was no denying what she was, but Mister Fielding didn't seem to care. Just then a beautiful redhead padded happily down the spiral staircase behind the desk and set an old leather bound book on the counter. She flashed a smile at Gold before going up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to Jenkins' lips.

"Hey, I'm Cassie."

There was a flash of yellow at her temple and Belle understood why Jenkins didn't have a problem with her.

"What can I do for you, Zane? Something Gothic or maybe something a little more up to date?"

"This isn't for me. Belle, run free, see what you like."

Belle did exactly that.

XXXX

Gold hadn't slept too well – hadn't done all week, the nightmares were back – and was doing his best not to fall asleep through Regina's irritatingly long and pointless briefing; or throw something at her before storming out. Blah, blah, crime rate, blah, blah, murder, blah. That was about the extent of what he heard, Belle would no doubt repeat anything vitally important if he missed it. Everyone knew what day it was tomorrow, kept flashing him looks when they thought he couldn't see them, kept judging. Zane's leg bounced in an attempt to release some of the anger that had almost reached boiling point, it didn't really help. Detective Swan was quickly put on a missing persons case – Zane had learnt no one could lie to that woman so she was clearly the best choice for such a case – and Nolan got sent to figure out which gang was flooding the district with a drug specially designed for GEHs.

"... It's that time again." Continued Regina who stood dead centre of bullpen with everyone's eyes on her. "You've all been scheduled for psych evals with Doctor Hopper. If you don't go to them I'll bench you." She tuned to Zane who had his head rested in his hand. "Gold, status?"

"Actively disgruntled." Belle and Emma snorted but Captain Mills didn't look to impressed.

"I meant on the Worthing murder."

"Jefferson and Miss Lucas went over the camera footage that Belle found, cleaned it up a bit and took an identification. Name came back as Leonard Church, seems Worthington and Church weren't on the best of terms, Church is in the Sherwood District though so I kicked it over to Nottingham at precinct five. It's his paperwork mass now."

"Way to sound like you care, Gold." She tossed him a sheet of plastic, the red 'AUTHORISED' flashed up before revealing the dark text. "You're new assignment, get to it. Dismissed!"

Zane didn't say a word just grabbed the file and his leather jacket then made a beeline for the elevator, he didn't even wait for Belle who quickly raced after him only to find the silver doors closed; Gold had left without her. With a sigh she darted into the stairwell and down towards the parking lot. It didn't take Belle long to realise he'd be long gone by the time she got down there so – knowing that Jefferson would call it badass when he found out – hopped over the railing and sailed down the four flights to the stairwell base, she landed with a thud but the drop was nothing her cortinide and duranium support structure couldn't handle. Zane had made it halfway to his Cadillac when Belle appeared.

"Zane! Zane!" He didn't respond or acknowledge her in any way.

Belle grabbed his arm and forcibly brought the Scotsman to a stop, he scowled but she didn't care.

"For God's sake, stop. Zane, you need to slow down." She paused by still the cop said nothing, dark bags hung around his eyes. "I know the next few days are going to be hard for you, I know how you feel."

"How could you possibly know how I feel?" He snapped.

"When I was deactivated I was terrified, not just because I was basically dying but because I was loosing Colette, she was like a mother to me just like Neal was a son to you, and she's gone." His face softened a little. "Zane, you shouldn't even be in today. Regina has to understand that."

Gold forced himself to calm down, he knew Belle was probably the only one who cared and understood how he felt, he also knew that she didn't deserve his angered snark. Zane wasn't being fair on her and he knew it.

"I'm sorry." The Sergeant eventually managed, his voice was softer.

"I know you are, but really, you shouldn't be working today-" He cut her off.

"No, I need to do something, keep working. If we go home I'll just drink and break everything I can get my hands on."

"Well, we don't want that, do we?" She smiled.

"Aye, we don't."

"I think I could take you though." That actually got a chuckle from him, it didn't last long but Belle counted it as a win.

"I don't know, Belle, I've got a pretty good kick nowadays."

The BLE couldn't help but grin.

"For lunch we'll go to that sushi place in the Third Quarter you love so much. I'd say my treat but I don't get paid."

"Oh, is that your excuse?"

He flashed a half smile, Belle had already started to distract him from his own mind. At first Gold had hated Belle, but that was long ago and now he wouldn't trade her for the world.

"You got me, I do get paid. In fact, I've got a rather healthy nest egg built up, I just live with my best friend because he's my lift to work."

Zane paused at that for a moment.

"I'm your best friend?

"Of course you are." She beamed. "You have been for a long time now. Victor and Jefferson are close seconds."

"It's always good to have a back up plan."

"I call it a backup folder. Now, are you going to tell me what our new assignment is and let me come with you?"

"You get emailed. You knew before I did, but I guess you can tag along, Data."

The next few days would be hard for Zane but with Belle at his side he wouldn't break.

Chapter Text

The large metal door swung open quietly allowing Belle and Zane entrance into the dingy factory basement, everything was dark, only a few excuses for lightbulbs from which came an almost non-existent orange spark. A foul odour hung in the air like death in a coffin and several old mattresses had been scattered on the dark ground. At least fifteen women were huddled up in corners and on the dirty mattresses wrapped in scraps of clothing, half of them were visibly pregnant.

At first the Sergeant and android had believed their case was a human trafficking issue but after half a week they'd discovered it to be far worse. Every kidnapped woman had been pregnant when taken, they'd not wanted the women, they'd wanted the children. Zane's eyebrows had shot into his hairline when he'd found out just how much people were willing to pay or a healthy newborn.

To the far right of the room was a small door with a tiny window in it, the sound of babies crying drifted through it. The women were clearly scared but they'd spotted Gold's badge hooked onto his belt so hadn't screamed; thankfully. Silently the Sergeant raised a finger to his lips, a quiet order for the women not to make a sound then slowly stepped towards the door with Belle close behind him, gun drawn.

Cautiously Belle and Zane pressed their backs to the wall either side of the door and peeked through the little window, Belle gasped at the sight. Inside they found a row of cribs each with an infant to fill them, Gold could only see two guards but Belle could see a third as well as a middle-aged woman dressed all in red holding one of the children as though it were a monster.

“You go left, I'll go right?” Asked the BLE in a whisper.

Gold nodded and backed up to kick the door in with his synthetic leg, fast and hard was the only way to go about taking out the guards since there wasn't anywhere to hide. Just as planned Gold went left while his partner went right, he shot the taller of the guards in the kneecap, easily ducked the other's punch only to slam his own fist into his throat. Suddenly the man Zane had shot grabbed him and managed to throw him down onto the floor where his gun went skidding towards Belle who had her own problems. The sounds of crying infants echoed around the room violently. Sergeant Gold found himself stunned for a moment but soon managed to throw his head back and smash the tall guard in the nose then scurry out from underneath the man. Back on his feet Zane slammed a foot down onto the attackers back and twisted his arm. The man screamed, screamed like a bunny in a bear trap.

“Dearie, when you see your doctor tell him you have a spiral fracture of the left radius.” Growled the Scotsman.

Neither of those men were getting back up. Gold turned back to Belle as he panted, the guard and woman in red lay in agony as well and Belle had the baby cradled in her arms. He stood there stunned for a moment, Belle had a little smile on her face and the baby had already ceased her crying; she really looked like a mother.

“Belle?”

“How could anyone do this to a baby? She's so small and perfect.”

Gold knew that in that moment if Belle could have cried she would have.

“To some people greed is more important.”

“... We were saving them.” Groaned the woman in red, her blonde hair sent everywhere thanks to an angry Belle. “We're the heroes, those babies get families because of us.”

“Belle, can you translate fuckwit to English?”

The android said nothing, didn't even seem to hear Zane, she was much too focused on the newborn girl in her arms. Gold didn't push the subject just pulled out his phone and radioed for backup, which he probably should have done before he and Belle had gone in but he didn't want to risk loosing any other children.

A short time later and the factory had been swarmed by police. Belle had been sat in the passenger seat of Zane's beautifully restored Cadillac ever since backup had arrived, she'd not let the baby go either. Before handing the infants over to Child Services police needed to get blood samples in order to match them to their mothers. Belle jolted back to the real world when Gold pulled the passenger door open and crouched down beside Belle and the baby.

“Hey, she's the last one now.” He said softly. “Let me get a DNA sample?”

She nodded, Belle knew she couldn't keep her, that was ridiculous, but something in her didn't want to let her go. Slowly Zane revealed a small white object that almost looked like a thick pen, it pricked the baby girl's finger but amazingly she didn't start to cry. Lola Vasquez announced the tiny machine in a female robotic voice.

“Vasquez, that's her mother. She's already been carted off to the hospital with the others. Give me the baby, I'll taker her over to the Child Service folks.” Zane rose to his feet and Belle slipped out of the car, baby girl still in her arms. He looked at his partner and sighed. “Vaughn really did make you human, didn't he? A mothering instinct is the most human thing in the world. But she needs to go back to her real Mom.”

“I know.” Sighed Belle. “She's just so perfect.”

Reluctantly Belle passed the newborn over to Zane who turned off to the Child Services van. She smiled as her blue orbs tracked him, he looked good with a child in his arms, fatherhood suited him. The whole situation was silly though, Belle was a BLE, an android, a machine, I can't birth children so I should just stop thinking about it. She told herself firmly.

 

XXXX

 

Night fell and another shift ended, paperwork was done and filed then Zane drove himself and Belle home in one of their comfortable silences. After beating the shit out of that guard Zane just wanted to slip off into his study and get to fixing that music box from the nineteen hundreds, Belle didn't seem to mind, she planned to vanish off to her room and read one of the books he'd purchased for her from Mister Fielding.

A few hours went by and Gold relaxed a little in the red and wood panelled room, there had always been something almost comforting about repairing antiques. It gave him a sense of peace. To Zane Gold fixing an object made sense, it wasn't convoluted and malevolent like the cases he worked, 'A' to 'B', broken to fixed; it made sense.

He was just about done when Belle knocked faintly on his oak study door, a second later she appeared in the doorway with a smile and dressed in a pale green dress; Gods she was gorgeous.

“Am I bothering you?”

“No, of course not.” Gold flashed her a smile. “Come in.”

The study was Zane's inner sanctum, his safe place, it was where he and Neal used to sit and sip bourbon and make jokes after a hard case in front of the dark fire. The building was a house but it was that room that made it a home. Belle moved further into the room clearly curious about the intricate music box upside down before him.

“That's beautiful.”

“Aye, It'll look even better once I get it working again. Unfortunately my hands are a bit to big.”

“Can I help?” The auburn haired android asked almost before Gold had finished his sentence, her eyes brightened. “My hands are smaller.”

Normally Zane didn't let people touch any of his antiques – not that anyone was particularly interested in them – but Belle was different, she seemed genuinely curious and eager to learn so he gestured for her to join him behind the desk. Some days he still found himself turning to tell Neal something or filling two tumblers after a case rather than one, every time he did that it was like Neal died all over again. Belle bent down behind him to look over his shoulder and he felt her hair brush against his cheek, she was so close, so close that he got a pretty nice view down her dress, he had to clamp his eyes shut and took a deep breath.

“What do I need to do?”

Stop smelling so fucking good! Gold cleared his throat.

“Em, can you see the gear in the dead centre? See how it's off at an angle?” Belle nodded. “Do you think you can get it straight again without disturbing the gear on top of it?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Belle suddenly pressed herself even closer to the police Sergeant, her breasts to his back. Gold almost couldn't keep his hands steady as he did his best to hold the upper gear still. Belle's expert precision made it easy for her to do as Gold had asked, slow classical music chimed out and Belle burst into smiles.

“Thank you.” He managed, she was still so close.

“Do you do a lot of this. Fixing things?”

“Yes, dearie, it's a pastime of mine. Always has been.” His accent was thick than usual.

“Anything else I can do to help?”

“Erm, I don't believe so. This is all I had left to do.” He forced himself to sit straight and look up at the android. “But there was a reason you came in here, what do you need?”

“Oh right, yeah, I almost forgot. It's late and you still haven't eaten, bourbon isn't a valid substitute.” There was a hint of jest in her voice. “So I made you dinner.”

Gold's head snapped up at that, only his aunts, Olivia and Charlotte, had cooked for him. No one had bothered since then, he and Neal had just ordered take out.

“You didn't have to.” He found himself saying, she was his partner not his personal bot.

“I wanted to.” Zane could see in her face that she actually meant that. “To say thank you for letting me live here with you, for treating me like more than just a machine, for letting me be a person... and because if I didn't make sure you ate you wouldn't.” Gold smirked at that. “You never eat properly and that pack of chips you ate this morning wasn't very good nutritionally-”

Zane cut her off. “Data, I get it.”

“So you'll come to the dining room and eat rather than making me put it in the fridge?”

“You went to all that trouble for me, I could hardly refuse. And I am hungry.”

Gold rose to his feet and followed Belle through the house to his dining room where he found she'd even gone to the trouble of setting the table for him. The room smelt utterly wonderful and he sat himself down at the head of the table while Belle busied herself with serving, turned out dinner was tomato soup. He liked it, simple and screamed home cooking.

“I didn't even know I had enough in the fridge to make anything. Especially soup.”

“Only just but I would suggest grocery shopping.” She smiled and sat down beside him as he started to eat. “I can put in an order if you'd like, just tell me what you want.”

“This is really good.” He told her honestly.

Gold had never even thought that an android could cook but Belle had outdone herself. The meal was undeniably excellent but the fact she just sat there with a smile and watched him eat was rather unnerving, and it gave him the urge to fill the silence.

“... Can you eat?”

“Oh, I'm sorry.” Belle suddenly looked very awkward. “Is me watching you irritating? I'm sorry, I'll go plug myself in.”

She moved to stand up but Zane quickly held out his hand to keep her in place.

“That's not what I meant, Belle. Can you eat?”

“Oh,” She seemed to perk up at that. “em, yes. I can taste and decide if I like something or not.”

“And what, everything you eat is collected in a neat little bale?” He was teasing her so she just smiled at him with that unimpressed look of hers.

“Not exactly. I essentially have a removable stomach, but that's probably not the best topic of conversation while you're eating.”

Zane couldn't help but agree with that and helped himself to another spoonful of soup.

“Do you like to eat? You can join me if you like, you did make it after all.”

No one had ever asked Belle that before, no one had ever cared enough to ask and the android grinned ear to ear. Zane Gold just kept amazing her.

“You don't mind?”

“Of course not. You live here now so we can eat together if you like?”

Gold watched Belle pad out of the room and returned a few moments later with a steaming bowl of soup, there was something strangely domestic about the whole thing.

“This really is very good.” He told her feeling the need to fill the quiet again, odd, he didn't usually suffer from pressure of speech. “Cooking wasn't a skill I'd ever attributed to androids. Seems I was wrong though.”

The two chit-chatted as they ate and Zane really couldn't remember the last time he'd dined with someone. Their conversation drifted between several topics, some more important that others until eventually they stumbled onto Belle's work before the orders to deactivate the BLE androids came through.

“Who was your human officer before me?” He asked once his bowl had all but been licked clean.

Belle paused as though remembering something painful and Gold regretted asking.

“Her name was Colette French. We were in the Avonlea District, she was like a mother to me.” She smiled fondly.

“So you're Belle French then.” It wasn't a question but he quickly ground to a halt as the name run a bell. “Colette French, I know that name.” Sudden realisation washed over him. “... She died in the raid I lead. I killed your mother.”

“It wasn't your fault, Zane. A lot of officers died in that raid and not one of them was your fault.” There was a sadness in her eyes and Gold hated himself for putting it there. “I've seen the footage. There were so many people, smoke, bullets, you couldn't have changed anything, Zane.”

“Doesn't matter.” She hated the self-loathing in his voice. “I was in charge so I'm responsible for the deaths. I've seen that footage too but I don't remember it. I don't remember Neal getting hit, the camera footage only shows him going down and me dragging him behind a car, the MX that left us was destroyed, not even Jefferson could retrieve the data files.”

Belle reached her hand across the table and gave his a little squeeze, it was clear he wasn't used to being comforted but he didn't push her hand away.

“I know you can't remember so I went through all the available files looking for something you hadn't seen but everything has your ID stamp.”

She looked apologetic, why does she look apologetic?

“That's very kind, thank you Belle, but I've seen all there is to see. Neal getting hit, the MX leaving, me getting my leg blown off by a sticky grenade.” Gold sighed. “It looks like I'm dead for a moment... maybe that would have been better.”

“Don't say that!” She yelled without really meaning to. “That could never have been better, Zane. Never. I know it took Neal, that wasn't fair but without you being here now-” Belle paused to take a breath, not because she needed to breath – even though breathing did regulate her internal systems – but because she needed to calm herself. “You've saved so many people since coming back to work... you saved me too.”

Gold just stared at her with confusion.

“You were assigned to me, I didn't save you.”

“Yes you did, Zane.” Chocolate orbs watched as she rose from her chair beside him and bent to kiss his cheek. “You're a good man Zane Gold, braver than you think you are. You're my hero.”

He could feel her temperature regulating breathes on his neck and ear and just as she pulled away their eyes locked, stunning azure against whiskey brown. He'd never been anyone's hero before, never been anyone's anything beyond pain in the ass. Belle was so beautiful, not just life-like but utterly stunning as though carved by the Gods themselves. And then their lips met, gently at first, just a soft brushing of lips; a tease more than anything else. Soon though Gold found himself with a lap full of Belle and his hands steadying her, she was so warm and real, he'd never felt such a need for anyone before, man or woman. Belle's mouth opened to him and he took the opportunity to slip his tongue into the wet heat of her mouth, she tasted divine... and then it all flooded back to him and Zane pushed her back a little to separate them.

Her eyes fell. “Is it because I'm an android?”

“What?” Gold was genuinely surprised by her question. “No! I just... are you sure about this? You're not a sex bot, you don't have to. Not because I let you stay here or... or because you think I saved you.”

“Oh you stupid man!” Zane raised an eyebrow at that, he'd literally got no idea what was going on any longer. “Is it so hard to believe I actually like you?”

“No one likes me, dearie.”

“Isn't that my choice?”

She smiled, her hands rested against his chest. Belle didn't wait for an answer she just pulled him to her by the lapels of his waistcoat and crashed their lips together once more. He tasted like tea and the tomato soup she'd lovingly made for him. Suddenly Zane rose to his feet with her still in his arms and Belle wrapped her legs around his waist – it still amazed Zane at how light she actually was – he carried her up the stairs and threw Belle down on his bed where she bounced softly.

The Sergeant took a moment to just look at Belle, at her beauty. Chestnut colored hair like cape around her angelic face, skin so soft and supple that it was purer than snow. Eyes bluer than any ocean and filled with an indescribable spark, she's perfect. Belle smiled up at him as her delicate hands ran teasingly over her body, daring him into another display of dominance.

Gold opened the buttons of his dark waistcoat as he knelt on the bed leaning over her, their bodies so close that he could feel her generator vibrating in her chest. His large hands came to lift her pale green dress up over her head only to throw it off to a corner as though it offended him. Zane caressed her body with nips and sucks, marking her porcelain skin with tiny purple bruises – or at least he hoped they'd leave some mark - hands running up her flanks before reaching behind her back to open her bra and pull it off, she's going to be the death of me, he settled his hands on her hips. Belle parted her legs letting him settle between while she tugged his waistcoat off then nimbly unfastened the buttons of his shirt and pushed it down his shoulders; he cast it off much the same as he had with her dress.

“You're beautiful.” He told her truthfully before taking a nipple into his mouth; she moaned and threw her head back.

Zane slipped his hand down her smooth stomach to her clit, fingers teasing her wet sex.

“Zane!”

She moaned loudly, fingers snaking into his magnificent hair and gripped so tight it hurt. That sound, that delectable sound, made him surge with primal pride, a growl that rumbled through his chest and into Belle's own. Slowly Gold slipped the sinfully lacy lilac panties down her supple thighs leaving the goddess naked before him. The Sergeant slipped down her body leaving delicate kisses in his wake as talented fingers circled her needy core, the grip she had on his hair only grew tighter, bordering on the boundary between pain and pleasure. His fingers moved within her, mapping the beauty from the inside with nothing but touch. Zane could feel her walls start to quiver, she was close and he didn't even have the brain power to question how an android felt like that. Gold wasn't known to be a kind man so he stopped and eyed her teasingly before pressing a gentle kiss to her inner thigh. When his mouth finally touched her Belle all but purred in delight, arms wrapped around her legs and a talented tongue set to work. Gold's mouth was perfect and she felt her orgasm start to build rapidly, no man had ever made her feel this before, his tongue circled her sex before dipping into her. Belle couldn't speak, couldn't think. Her hips bucked without her consent, hands keeping him in place.

So close. Just a little bit more. Just a little...

“Oh God!”

She gasped desperately, the sound of ecstasy racing through him and filling Zane with an animal-like pride. He watched with a grin as her her mouth hung open in a silent moan. Gods she's beautiful.

“Zane, I need you. Please.” She pleaded, hands clawing at him until the older man consented to being pulled back up her breathtaking body for a deep and passion filled kiss.

How could he ever say no to her? He couldn't deny the needy goddess before him. At almost lightning speed the older man shredded himself of his remaining clothing, uncaring that the expensive tailored fabric had just slumped to the floor in a pile and pulled Belle down the bed to him by the backs of her knees. There was that dominant side she loved so much, a little spark that revealed just how powerful he truly was.

This wasn't about making love, not entirely anyway, it was about need, passion, fire and want, all the sinful desires that tasted so sweet and quickly became addictive. With one last gaze into her magical blue orbs Gold gripped her hips tightly and slammed into her; Belle moaned. His thrusts weren't gentle, they were hard and deep, powerful and quickly began to rip away her ability to speak or think in anything other than whimpers and gasps. Her yellow painted fingers reached up to grip the solid wooden frame of his bed when he took one of her rosy nipples back into his mouth.

Their bodies met in a perfect rhythm; delicate but overflowing with heated passion. Belle's tongue made its way into Gold's mouth readily as they became one, mapping out his mouth desperately, raking her tongue across his teeth causing his thrusts to become erratic for a second or two. Belle was dangling on the very edge, looking down into the euphoric depths below with her darling partner not far behind her, she wiggled her hips in just the right way, teasing, and send him into a primal rut, thrusting like his life depended on it. It was then that the auburn haired beauty grew needier and Gold flipped them, his long and talented fingers gripped her hips leaving tiny little dents over her synthetic porcelain skin, puling her down onto him, impaling her. Belle leaned down to kiss him again, gasping at the new angle and the way her kissed nipples grazed against his smooth chest.

It was then that she could take it no longer and plunged into the smouldering waters of bliss and euphoria her body clamped down around the Sergeant as she rode her orgasm, pulling him over the edge and into climax with her.

“Zane!”

She screamed out his name, back arching into his touch. Finally Belle collapsed against Gold's surprisingly strong chest, happy and warm.

He lay there panting for a time with Belle rested against him, her temperature regulating breaths just as normal as they always were. It had been a long time for Gold but he didn't remember sex ever having been that good. Sweat had gathered in little beads on his forehead wetting the greying hair at his temples as he stared up at the ceiling.

“I can see why your model was used as a sex bot.” He breathed.

From anyone else Belle would have found that insulting but from Zane it was just another one of his quips, there was no malice to it.

“I had no idea I could feel that.” She told him truthfully. “I've never activated my sexuality program before.”

“I didn't realised you'd be able to cum.”

“It's not the same as when human girls do, I don't tingle or anything. In fact I got more pleasure from the fact you were enjoying yourself.” Belle rolled over to face him, her hand rested against his chest. “It's like... It's like when my battery is almost entirely flat and I plug myself into a charging station, like I'm alive. That's the only way I can think of to describe it and even that isn't right.”

“You don't have to explain to me, Belle.” He'd intended to say more but a yawn cut him off.

“Could I stay with you until you fall asleep?” She asked softly. “I'll need to charge before tomorrow but I'd like to stay here with you a little while longer.”

“Of course you can, Sweetheart, you can stay as long as you like.”

Gold pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead then closed his eyes and let sleep take him.

Chapter Text

Zane stood with arms folded in the converted cathedral lab surrounded by his random assortment of technical parts and gizmos that he cared not to know the names of while Jefferson slowly removed Belle's stomach. November had finally descended and snow littered the ground, Belle hadn't noticed the chill but Gold had been forced to give up his leather jacket for a thick wool coat. Victor was beside Zane with a glass pane in his hand reading off a report of his findings for the latest visitor to his mortuary table.

“Overdose.”

“Overdose, you're sure?” Enquired Zane.

The blonde shot him a look. “Nah, I was just guessing. Yes, I'm sure. He has Perpepsimeine in his blood, a lot of it.”

Sergeant Gold had absolutely no idea what that was and so turned to Belle who still sat on the table with Jefferson's hands buried in her abdomen.

“Belle?”

“Perpepsimeine is relatively new. It's an illegal narcotic with the street name 'Shine' on account of the excessive sweating it causes.” Why couldn't Victor have just said Shine, I know what that is, muttered Zane's mind as Belle continued to speak. “It also causes hallucinations, light sensitivity, headaches, over heating, dizziness and nosebleeds. It first appeared in Agrabah but soon made its way here. It's usually taken in liquid form and an overdose causes cardiac arrest.”

“It's not pretty.” Added the blonde doctor. “Perpepsimeine killed most of its users so it wasn't that profitable. However, here's the odd bit, your vic isn't a junkie he works for Precinct One.”

“I know.” replied Gold. “Cranven was actually rather competent too.”

“Ooh, high praise from the mighty Zaney.” Grinned Jefferson as he returned Belle's synthetic skin to its rightful place and helped her to pull her green top back down.

“Stop calling me that.” Grumbled the Scotsman.

“Nope! Maybe I'll add to Belle's code.”

“Oh good God, no.”

Jefferson and the android chuckled softly to themselves until Victor pulled them all back to the reason the Sergeant and his BLE were there in the first place.

“Seriously though, what made and officer that works in the evidence locker end up dead in the Third Quarter having ODed on Shine?”

“That's Zane's and Belle's job. You, husband mine, find out what killed them and they sort out the rest.” Grinned Jefferson as he padded over to the blonde and pressed a kiss to his lips.

Belle smiled as she watched the two men kissed, they truly did love one another and it warmed Belle's heart to see it; well, if she'd actually had a heart it would have.

“Zane, come with me.” Began Doctor Whale once he'd separated form his husband. “I'll transfer the data directly to your phone.”

Without a word Gold followed the blonde into his workspace just beyond the frosted glass leaving Belle sat on one of Jefferson's work tables with the kooky man himself. In less than a second the dark-haired man was in front of her his hands on the cold metal either side of her thighs as he leaned in.

“So, what happened between you and Zane?” Belle opened her mouth to brush off his question but the smiling man wasn't done talking. “Don't try to deny it, I know something is going on and it's more than him moving you in. Tell me or I'll re-write your code and make you tell me. Gossip, spill it now.”

Jefferson wiggled his eyebrows at her and Belle knew he'd actually do it. She sighed.

“Okay, fine. I made him dinner a few days ago and we got to talking and-” The dark-haired man cut her off abruptly with a gasp.

“Oh fucking hell you didn't?! You did! God, I never thought I'd see the day he got a new girlfriend, I mean there was his wife a long time ago but she was a bitch and left him. Then there was Cora Mills-”

“Captain Mills' mother?” Belle hadn't known that little bit of information and just looked at Jefferson in disbelief.

“Yeah. He doesn't like to talk about it and I don't blame him. Then there was Regina's sister Zelena but that was more her than him, she's still obsessed with him. After all that was Archie,” Began Jefferson absent-mindedly. “shame those two broke up, apparently the sex was great but they just didn't work as a couple. Actually that reminds me, I need to report to him for my weekly chat.”

“Jefferson, you're rambling again. And 'chat'?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, Regina says that if I want to keep my job with the precinct I have to talk to a therapist once a week, she wanted it to be everyday but that was ridiculous even for her and I'd never get anything done, so once a week with Doc Hopper it is.”

“Okay.” Belle hopped down from the table. “But Doc Hopper as in Doctor Archibald Hopper? He was with Zane?”

“Awww, are you jealous, little rabbit?” He teased.

“No.” Responded Belle a little too quickly. “Just surprised, isn't he with Ruby now?”

“Yeah.” The dark-haired genius nodded. “It's part of the reason she doesn't like Zane.”

“I can understand why, but Doctor Hopper does seem to be one of the few people Zane actually likes.”

Jefferson nodded. “He won't admit it since he doesn't think he needs friends, but even after they broke up he and Archie are still pretty close. Another reason Ruby doesn't like him.” He shook his head as though throwing away his thoughts then looked up at Belle with a smile. “Are you and him like a thing now? You two together?”

The android sighed and Jefferson got the instant urge to cuddle her but he refrained himself.

“Jefferson, it was just one night, and even if he wanted to he's a Sergeant and I'm an assigned android, we couldn't.”

“Who says the department has to know? Do what makes you happy, Belle. Who cares if you're an android and he's a grumpy Scottish cop, I don't.”

“You're not like most people.”

“I should bloody hope so.” Belle couldn't help but laugh at that, somehow Jefferson always cheered the BLE up. “Just tell me when things progress, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“That's my girl.”

Jefferson wrapped her in a quick hug and pressed a kiss to her temple before releasing Belle and headed over to his laptop to deal with a quiet beep that the two had been ignoring for the last few minutes.

Suddenly the frosted door opened re-admitting Victor to the room closely followed by Gold who had his phone to his ear.

“...Understood. Yes, okay.” Gold hung up and stuffed his cell back into his jacket pocket as he made his way back to Belle. “We've got another dead cop. His bot is offline too so you'll get requested in a minute, Jefferson.”

“Yeah, already come through. Looking at the message now.” Replied the GEH quickly without turning from his laptop. “Looks like we're going with them husband mine.”

“Shotgun!” Called Belle only for Victor to grumble good-naturedly.

“Bitch.”

Zane could tell this was going to be a rather loud car journey.

Chapter Text


Gold parked his beloved Cadillac between two squad cars in one smooth motion as though parallel parking was the easiest thing in the world. He, Belle Doctor Whale and the man GEH known as Jefferson hopped out and made their way over to the crime scene tucked inside a rather large alleyway. They passed over the yellow holographic police tap – their badge's flashed up as they crossed – and up to the body of a second dead cop. MX androids were keeping the curious public and irritating press at bay, one said something to Belle but she ignored it whole-heartedly.

Victor instantly marched straight to the victim to begin his initial examination while Jefferson took his case over to the dead cop's squad car where his MX remained in the passenger seat having been shot. Zane just started at the scene before him for a time with his arms folded while Belle looked read her heads up display.

“Victor,” Began Zane after a few minutes. “what have we got?”

The blonde doctor had crouched before the deceased cop who'd collapsed only a few feet from his squad car door. Whale huffed.

“Well, he's dead.”

“Yes, but I was hoping you'd go deeper.” Replied the Sergeant teasingly.

 “It's certainly Shine. His uniform is soaked with sweat and the veins around his temples have a green tint.”

“Fucking great, there's no way in hell Glass and The Mirror haven't gotten a hold of this. Two cops dead in as many days from Shine.” Growled Gold. “I'm going to have Regina breathing down my bloody neck.”

Belle felt the need to pull him back to the problem at hand.

“We've gone from a clerk who worked in the evidence locker to a beat cop, that doesn't make sense. According to my read out neither Officer Cranven or Officer Tobin had a history of drug use. By all accounts it doesn't make sense, well, unless they're killings but why would some do that? If you want a cop dead why bother with a clerk first?”

Victor raised his head from the body. “And why use Shine when shooting them would be far easier?” The blonde cleared his throat. “Anyway, I've got nothing that says these deaths are wilful murder, save for the COD being the same and them both being cops there's nothing linking them.”

“Oh, come on, dearie, two Precinct One officers dead in the space of two days both dead by Shine and you don't think it's connected?”

“Maybe it's a coincidence.” Victor offered.

“I don't like coincidence, they're suspicious.”

Before either could utter another word Jefferson appeared from Officer Tobin's squad car and interjected.

“Zaney has always been distrusting, Victor, I'm still not sure if he fully trusts me.” The dark-haired man tapped away on his tablet as he spoke and didn't look up.

“I don't.” Teased the Sergeant.

“I downloaded the dash cam footage as well as everything from the MX, that thing has been shot to shit. Victor, was that the cop?”

“Huh? Let me check.” The blonde doctor took a small silver box no larger than a cigarette packet but a little thinner from his medical case and scanned over Officer Tobin's hands, a few seconds later it beeped. “Yeah, he's fired a gun recently so I'd say the hallucinations got to him before he died.”

“Wonder what the poor guy saw. Anyway, like I said, I downloaded the footage and see what there is, Lucas is already working on it. As for the MX it's totalled, it would be cheaper for the precinct to buy a new one, I'll give it a go though.”

“Thank you, Jefferson.” Said Gold.

“I'll have the body taken back to my lab so I can do a proper autopsy and send you the pathology report later today.” Added Victor as he rose to his feet and went off to get his men to have the body put into transit.

Zane turned back to his car but Belle caught his arm before he could move more than a step.

“Heads up, Sidney Glass at your three o'clock.”

Indeed the journalist had positioned himself as close to the dead officer as was physically possible without stepping over the yellow holographic police tape.

“Ignore him, Belle, he's getting nothing from us.”

“Okay, and just so you know I think the deaths are linked as well. I just don't know why.”

She looked up at him with those azure eyes of hers and Zane longed to kiss her; he pushed that thought away pretty damn quickly, they were in public. Gold took a breath.

“One thing I've learnt from my life, Data, never take anything at face value. Don't believe anything until you can prove it yourself.”

“You really don't trust anyone do you?” She smiled up at him softly.

“I trust you.”

With that he vanished off to Tobin's squad car to see what he could see while Belle stood there in a state similar to shock, she'd not expected an answer especially not that one. The mysterious and notoriously uncooperative Zane Gold trusted her, Belle had never felt so honoured and it made her love him all the more. Wait, love?! Screamed her mind. Am I in love with him? Am I even truly capable of love? No, they were at a crime scene, she couldn't start thinking about love and all the pesky emotions and confusion that went with love and Zane Gold.

The two of them searched Tobin's car but didn't find any evidence of Shine ever having been in the car, that however, didn't mean there hadn't been. MX-43 androids kept taking it upon themselves to report to Zane which only made him grow more and more irritated until the word 'grumpy' didn't quite cut it and Belle just found herself feeling inadequate, it wasn't until David Nolan showed up with his MX in tow that Sergeant Gold finally felt the need to smash something, but he resisted since Sidney was still there watching them all.

“Goddamnit I hoped it wasn't true.” He growled to himself when he crossed the tape and saw the identification number on the side of the squad car. Eric was my friend.”

“Any history of drug use the precinct didn't know about?” Asked Gold after a beat.

“What? No. No, never. Eric didn't even like to take painkillers for a headache.” Responded Nolan quickly.

“Really? Then why does he have a blood stream full of Shine?”

“I don't know but Eric Tobin didn't do drugs!” Announced Nolan forcefully. “Someone had to have done this to him.”

“If so it would have had to have been done very recently. Shine is very fast acting.”

“Yes, thank you, Data.”

“Shine is really what killed him?” Nolan looked at them both in disbelief and wiped a hand over his face. “I didn't think anyone still took Shine. Eric was a good guy, someone did this to him, had to have. It's taken as a liquid right?” Belle nodded. “Well someone must have spiked Eric's drink or something.” Nolan sighed. “Look, you don't have to listen to me-”

“Good, glad we agree on something.” Quipped Zane but Nolan just carried on talking.

“- but he could have ingested that stuff anywhere. I'll check out a few of his local haunts-”

Zane cut him off again.

“No dearie, you're much to close to this. I'm not letting you anywhere near my case, so send me a list of places he frequented then take your Prince Charming of a face and get out of my crime scene.”

“I'll keep you informed of any pertinent details.” Added Belle in a far less dismissive tone to Gold's, the 'if Zane let's me' was implied. 

Detective Nolan nodded knowing he'd do exactly the same in Gold's place, reluctantly he left. For a moment Sergeant Gold looked around the crime scene with a critical eye trying to take in anything of use, he didn't had the heads up display that Belle did but after almost thirty years of being a cop he'd picked up a few things. Tobin hadn't ever been a problem for Precinct One, he'd never been written up or so much as been late to work as far as the Scotsman could tell and yet Victor had just carted him off to the mortuary after having overdosed on Shine and shooting his own MX. These deaths weren't accidents; they couldn't have been.

“Zane,” Belle's angelic voice called him out of his thoughts. “Detective Nolan's android has just sent me the list of places Eric Tobin frequented.”

When he tuned to look at her it was fairly obvious from her eyes flicking back and forth that she was reading her internal display.

“Good.” He cleared his throat. “Lunch first though, I'm starving.”

“The noodle place in the Third Quarter you love so much is actually the first place on my list.”

“Perfect, it's almost like we planned it. Get in the car, Belle.”

He truly was the most sarcastic man she'd ever met.

Chapter Text

Zane and his beautiful android sat at the noodle bar in the Third Quarter that no one had ever learnt the name of with a big bowl of Ramen in front of him. The Japanese owner stood across the bar taking orders and passing them off to the young woman who was quite possibly the fastest and best chef Belle and Zane had ever seen.

“... have you seen something, Hiro? You see everything.” Said Gold before taking another mouthful of Ramen.

Zane had known Hiro for almost ten years, he was a good man that knew just about everything that went on in the Third Quarter and by God did he make some good food.

“True,” Smiled Hiro as he passed a bowl over to a young woman with bright pink hair at the other end of the bar. “but a cop dosing up, that I'd remember, Sergeant Gold.” There was a pause where the Japanese man leaned on the dark wood bar of the noodle stand. “Doctor Hopper came here yesterday looking for you though, I remember that.”

Zane froze with a mouthful of Ramen half way from its bowl, Belle raised an eyebrow.

“Oh?” Was all the Scotsman said.

“Yes.” Responded the Japanese man. “Seems that you've been avoiding him-”

“Of course he came here.” Muttered Gold.

“You've been coming here since Neal was a rookie-” Gold tensed at that forcing Hiro to sigh. “I'm sorry. So... why are you avoiding the doctor? Did you two get back together and not tell your favourite chef or is it evaluation time again?”

Belle couldn't help but think to herself that considering Zane didn't seem to want friends he had rather a lot of them; Jefferson, Victor, Archie and now Hiro.

“Evaluation.” Grumbled the Sergeant.

“Shame,” sighed Hiro. “you two were good together.”

Why does everyone keep saying that?! Belle's mind demanded, not that she was jealous, no of course not.

Anyway, if we can get back to the reason I'm here – other than the Ramen – and tell me if you remember anyone hanging around Officer Tobin.”

Hiro thought for a moment and then shrugged.

No. He bumped into someone and knocked everything he was holding all over the floor though, I only remember that because the other man screamed at him to watch where he was going. Another man helped him pick up his things while his MX stood there doing that stare thing they do.”

B elle had a thought. “Was he carrying any liquids?”

“Huh?”

She means did he have a water bottle or something?” Gold simplified as he finished off the last of his food, Hiro's food was the only thing Belle had ever seen him eat with gusto.

Oh, nope. Just popped some of that gum he's always chewing on.”

It was the gum!” Grinned Belle forcing Zane to look at her. “Small, easy to exchange and it was just a matter of time until he had some. Hiro said it himself 'gum he's always chewing on'.”

Gold cleared his throat. “Okay, send a message to Jefferson and have him take another look through Eric Tobin's MX footage for our possible gum switcher.”

Zane watched Belle out of the corner of his eye while he paid Hiro for the Ramen, over their time partnered together he'd noticed how whenever she sent messages she'd sit bolt upright and her azure orbs would flutter back and forth – he'd always wondered what she read on her heads up display – as the blue sparks caressed her temple. She was an android and yet he'd learnt what she looked like when she was happy or how she'd stare at the floor when she was sad. He'd thought her nothing more than a machine designed to catch bullets for him in the beginning but now he knew the truth she was a person, beautiful, kind, and so much more important than he'd realised.

“Hiro, don't suppose you got a look at our possible poisoner?” Asked Zane as he rose from his seat.

The Japanese man huffed out a laugh and gestured around to the beyond busy noodle bar.

“I hardly have enough time to think, let alone remember random things that happened two days ago. All I can really tell you, Zane, is that it was a man in a ballcap... I think. And the only reason I remember any of that is because Officer Tobin came here everyday, he was more of a regular than you, Jefferson, Victor and Archie. That Detective Swan used to be as well but I lost her to Granny's Diner a couple of months ago.”

It sounded like Hiro was getting ready for some huge speech about food quality and diners but thankfully someone called out for service and Hiro leapt into action.

“Gum seems like a pretty damn good way of poisoning someone, the killer doesn't even have to be there when it happens.”

“I agree, Data.” Gold cleared his throat. “Come on, back to the precinct. I need to see what Forensics has found.”

“They'll send you a report.” Belle pointed out with a soft smile.

“True, but I like to breath down their necks, it reminds them to be terrified of me.”

Belle chuckled and rolled her eyes, sometimes she thought Zane had become addicted to his quips and teasing.

 

XXXX

 

Zane sat in Archie's office at the precinct having avoided the good doctor for the last week, almost two. Fluorescent lights rained down on them from the high ceiling and – as usual - the bulb in the far corner by the door buzzed annoyingly, almost like a cricket in distress, Archie had grown used to the constant noise but it still annoyed the hell out of Zane.

“It's about time you showed up, I even went to Hiro.” Said Archie in that calming voice of his.

“I know.” Muttered Gold. “I'm here now.”

Zane threw his arms out in a flamboyant gesture as if to prove it. Archie just looked at him with a gentle smile and rose from his desk. He leaned down over a single sheet of plastic paper and signed his name on the bottom then turned and passed it to Zane; who just stared at it for a moment with a look of puzzlement on his sharp features.

“Did you just rubber stamp me, Doctor Hopper?”

“I thought we should get that out of the way.” The redhead settled himself into the green armchair opposite the Scotsman and pushed his glasses up his nose. “Now we can have a normal conversation, you've never responded to therapy and you never will. Bourbon?”

“Now that I respond to.” Chuckled the Sergeant while Archie poured two glasses from his desk and returned to his chair.

“Zane, we dated, that was more than enough for me to know exactly who you are. I probably know you better than you do.”

Gold chuckled and took a sip of amber liquid. “Is that what you do, Archie? Date your patients to further your career?”

“Nope, just you. You're special. Cheers.” The redhead raised his glass towards the older man then took a swig, the dark liquid burnt his throat pleasantly.

The two of them had always had their own level of sarcasm and veiled conversation, it was almost a game they played, Archie also used it to get information out of Zane without him realising that was what he was doing.

“It was three years ago yesterday that I started working here.” The doctor mused. “You got me the job remember?”

Zane smirked over the rim of his glass and fixed his dark eyes teasingly on his former lover.

“How could I forget? You let me fuck you over that desk.” He gestured with his glass to Archie's mahogany desk; it had been a gift long ago from Zane and Archie treasured it.

“Trust you just to remember the sex.” Archie took a sip. “How have you been, Zane? I knew you'd avoid me for the anniversary of Neal's death, that was why I haven't reported your absence to Regina, but that was almost two weeks ago. Why have you been avoiding me?”

“I haven't.” Gold answered a little too quickly.

Archie just raised his eyebrow at his ex.

“Yes you have, please don't lie to me. Something has happened and you don't want me to drag you out of mood as usual.”

“I don't do that.”

Archie smiled, eyes glinting in the horrid fluorescent light. “You always do that. It's part of the reason we broke up.”

“Is it?” Gold's brow furrowed.

“Yeah. We're great friends, partners though, that didn't really work out.”

“But the sex was good.” Grinned the Sergeant and downed the last of his bourbon.

“God yeah.” There was a pause, a peaceful intermission in their conversation where neither spoke. Archie enjoyed his conversations with Zane because that was what they were, just conversations, they trusted one another and could help each other without even trying. “Speaking of sex, you've slept with someone recently.” Zane froze at that for a second, Doctor Hopper always saw through Zane's mask. “Don't lie to me. Who is he?” Gold said nothing and realisation struck the redhead. “Oh, it's a she. Well, it's been a while, I thought that after Cora you had sworn off women forever. Who is she?”

“No one.” Gold didn't sound overly convinced by his own answer.

“Please Zane. You know you can trust me.” Archie set his empty tumbler down on the small round table beside his armchair. “Heck, I won't even tell Jefferson and Victor. Everything we talk about in here is private.”

“I think they already know, dearie.” Gold sighed and set his glass down as well. “Fine. It's Belle.”

“Who's Belle?” There was a pause as Archie's eyes widened. “Oh, the BLE. Wow, I can safely say I never saw that coming. Zane, that's against protocol-”

“I know,” interrupted Gold quickly. “but she's not an MX, she's... real.”

There was true feeling in the Sergeant's voice and Archie knew just how rare that was. There was a spark in Zane's whiskey colored eyes that Archie hadn't seen in a very long time. Doctor Hopper pulled off his glasses and rubbed at the bridge of his nose, they might not have been a couple any longer but Sergeant had always loved Archie's hands and couldn't help raking his eyes over them.

“Zane, you know none of what we discuss can leave this room, my evaluation is to determine if you're fit to work and you are. And I'm so glad that you're finally ready to step back into the world of relationships and romance.” There was clearly a 'but' coming. “BLEs were designed to be human but I have to ask, are you perusing a relationships with Belle because she's a machine and can't leave you or have any anterior motives? Your and Milah's marriage was one of convenience not love. Cora used you to try and further her own career, Zelena still thinks she had a shot with you and we just couldn't function as a couple. Belle is assigned to you, she can't leave, she can't tell anyone about your relationships because she'd be deactivated and-”

Gold cut him off abruptly.

“No, it's none of that. And it was only once so stop calling it a bloody 'relationship'. She's more like a human than most humans I've met, if that makes any sense. Being human means she has freewill so she may not even want to be a-” He sneered at the word. “- relationship.” Gold sighed but Archie just sat quietly and listened like the therapist he was. “I mean look at me, I'm a grumpy Scotsman with a synthetic leg and a slight drinking problem. I don't eat properly, I don't sleep probably, I have a very short temper and I despise people.”

Archie couldn't help but wonder how much of an effect Belle'd had on Zane, everyone could see the Sergeant's problems but Zane hadn't ever admitted them out loud before, not beyond the 'grumpy Scotsman with a synthetic leg' bit.

“Or maybe she does.” Offered Archie with a gentle smile as he finally slipped his glasses back on.

Zane paused. “Sorry, are you for or against us?”

Doctor Hopper smiled. “I'd say for.”

“Why, Archie?”

“Because you just said 'us' as though the two of you are already in this together. I think your subconscious has already made up your mind for you. You've said me and Milah, me and Cora but I've never once heard you say 'us' about anyone since we were together. You care for her, a lot more than a cop should care for an assigned android.”

The conversation dipped for a few moments and Archie took the liberty of refilling their glasses.

“We didn't work as an 'us' did we?” Gold said after a while as he stared into his tumbler.

Archie's response came in that soft tone of his.

“No, but were you happy?”

Gold hadn't expected that question and for a moment didn't know how to respond.

“Were you?”

“Yes.” Said Archie quickly, he didn't need to think about it.

“Aye, so was I.” Zane downed his second glass of bourbon.

“Talk to her, be with her if that's what you both want. After everything you've been through, after Neal, you deserve some happiness.”

Zane just looked at the doctor for a second or two as the corners of his mouth curled upwards.

“Why are you always so understanding and know just what to say?”

The redhead leaned back in his armchair and took a sip of amber liquid.

“Because I'm a great therapist and I know what you sound like in bed. Another glass?”

“Aye.”

 

Chapter Text

Zane and Belle road home from a late night at the precinct in almost complete silence, it wasn't awkward just a peaceful quietude. The sky had gone dark several hours ago and the stars shined brightly; Belle thought it beautiful. Gold couldn't stop thinking about what Archie had said earlier. Why is Archie always right? Maybe the good doctor really did know Zane better than he knew himself.

As the Sergeant pulled up outside his home Belle looked over at him with a confused expression.

“Zane, you know I don't like analysing you like the MXs do, but your heart rate is elevated and you're unusually quiet. Did everything go alright with Doctor Hopper?”

“Aye.” Responded Gold in that Scottish brogue of his. “Archie was fine, got my form and everything.”

“Good.” Belle smiled, genuinely happy that he had been approved to work.

Gold sighed. “Archie just has a way of getting information out of me.”

They'd never just sat in the Cadillac talking before, of course they'd chit-chatted on their way too and from the precinct and crime scenes but this was different, calmer, more serious.

“He got you talking about Neal?” Belle asked softly as she turned slightly in her seat to face him better.

“No.” Another sigh. “He... he got me talking about you.”

Belle's stunningly azure eyes widened in shock and a bit of panic.

“Me?!” She exclaimed. “Did you tell him about-” He cut her off, he'd never seen fear in her eyes before.

“It's alright, Dearie.” Zane assured. “No need to panic, he actually encouraged me.”

“Encouraged you what?”

“To do this.”

Without another word Zane leaned over and pressed his lips to Belle's as a hand slid up to cup her cheek, if Belle could have blushed she would have. Thankfully no one could see them parked in the driveway. Belle's lips were warm against his own, her skin so soft under his calloused fingers. Only when Zane's lung demanded air did they break apart.

“I thought you wouldn't want to, since it's against protocol and all.”

Belle sounded as though she'd been hoping for this, for Gold's touch, and for a second Zane found himself truly surprised. Belle was so perfect and he... wasn't.

“I've never been much good at following rules, Data.” There was a small pause where he just looked at those blue eyes of hers. “Dinner?”

Belle grinned, she didn't need to eat but that wasn't the point, it was about spending time with him.

“I'd love some.”

Finally the two climbed out of the car and headed into the large Victorian. As soon as the door was closed behind them and Zane had dropped his keys into the small bottle green glass bowl on a small table in the entryway he turned to Belle with a smile.

“What would you like? It's getting late and I don't think there's actually that much in the fridge-” Gold cut himself off as he hung up his leather jacket.

“Well, the world really is my oyster.” She chuckled in jest. “Order pizza?”

“Sure, you do that and I'll go change.”

Belle nodded as she watched him climb the stairs. She couldn't help but smile, Zane actually wanted her, she'd never felt wanted or needed before but there was Zane Gold surprising her again. Thank God for Archibald Hopper muttered her mind.

Belle stood in the hallway for a while scanning through the heads up display in search of a decent pizza that had mozzarella stuffed jalapeños that Zane was all but obsessed with. Her eyes flicked back and forth as she went down the menu adding what she knew he liked to the basket. After a few minutes their meal had been ordered and Belle snapped back to the world around her, she didn't usually shut out the world when reading her display but her battery had dropped below fifty percent and she'd started – for lack of a more fitting term – to grow sleepy. That was when she heard drilling. What the hell is he doing up there? She'd been stood at the bottom of the stairs for a good fifteen minutes trying to find a take out place that was still open but she was pretty sure that she'd have noticed him saying anything about DIY.

The BLE kicked off her shoes and padded up the stairs quickly into Zane's bedroom. The girl with auburn hair raised an eyebrow as she leaned against the door frame; Belle knocked anyway.

“Em, Zane, what are you doing to your wall?”

There was Gold crouched down by the wall their bedrooms shared, a drill on the floor beside him, as he pulled a thin white cable through the green painted wall.

“Is now really the time for re-wiring your house?”

Finally Gold looked up from the floor with a sparkle in his eyes, Belle thought it adorable.

“Well,” he began in that silver fox baritone of his. “stop me if I'm getting ahead of myself, but you liked being in my bed until you had to leave to charge right?”

“Yes.” Nodded Belle before taking a few more steps into the room.

 

Zane held up the wire he'd been tugging through the wall for her to see, a triangular cable attachment could only be one thing.

“You ran a cable all the way from my charging station to here just so I could stay in bed with you.”

It wasn't a question and Belle grinned wider than she ever had before. Just when she thought Zane couldn't surprise her anymore there he was doing it again. She didn't know what Archie had said to the Sergeant but she was grateful for it.

“Aye, good plan?”

Belle nodded quickly. “Great plan.” She waisted no time throwing herself at the older man.

 

XXXX

 

Belle had been plugged into her charging station via the cable Gold had run for almost two hours... and he couldn't stop watching her. She was so beautiful, every now and again tiny flares of blue appeared at her temple, at first Zane had worried she was accidentally recording but after a while he'd realised that the flashes were actually indications of how much her battery had charged; if he was reading it right she was at about seventy percent. He couldn't say that she looked precisely 'human' as she slept but she certainly didn't appear dead, he could only read her face as peaceful; Zane found that peace spreading to him. He just watched his beautiful angel until his body couldn't take it anymore and he passed out.

The very next thing Sergeant Gold knew his BLE was shaking him awake, brown eyes fluttered open and he groaned as he rolled over to face her. Zane Gold really didn't do mornings.

“Time to get up sleepy head.” With that and a kiss to his forehead she was gone, probably to get dressed for the day.

It took him a few seconds to convince his body to actually clamber out of bed but once he had Zane headed straight for the charging station for his synthetic leg. As usual he stood there a moment to get his balance then ripped the closet door open and threw on some clothes. Sleepily he made his way down the stairs once dressed and straight into the kitchen where Belle promptly thrust a cup of tea in front of his face. Zane took it with a 'thank you' and sat down at the breakfast bar; he just looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“Are you making me breakfast, Data?”

“Yes.” Belled smiled at him from the toaster. “You never eat properly, so you're having breakfast even if it's just toast.”

Zane said nothing, just sat there and watched as Belle sat a plate of buttery toast in front of him, truth be told she was right – usually was – and he really did need to eat more regularly. He could tell Belle was pleased to see him eat, and waited patiently as he ate until every last crumb was gone.

Sergeant Gold had hoped for a quiet day at work, he had a mountain of paperwork to get through but no such luck, half way to the precinct a call came over his radio informing them that there had been another cop murder, Zane sighed, that was three in almost as many days. The whole situation was starting to unnerve the Sergeant.

When they pulled up to the crime scene and stepped out they found Victor already there looking at the body of a deceased female officer, before Zane had even been able to open his mouth Victor was telling him Shine had caused the death. Great, another one. People had gathered at either end of the rather large alley way just past the holografic police tape, no doubt half of the onlookers were press.

Jefferson had sat himself in the deceased officer's car beside the totaled MX, it had been shot in the face and so Jefferson had been forced to plug his laptop into the machine to gather any data he could.

“Got anything, Jefferson?” Asked Zane as he glanced around him, the alleyway was flanked on either side by tall old brick buildings; not many of those existed any longer.

“The bullet damaged the MX's memory storage but I'm downloading everything I can now. It's going to take some time to sift through it all and I want to compare it to the other MX footage I've got to see if we have anything familiar. Like I said though, it's gonna take a while.”

“Aye, well at least we have something to work with.” Sighed Zane with his hands on his hips.

While Jefferson continued his work in the car Victor observed the officer's body being loaded into the back of the coroner truck.

The blonde doctor glanced at Zane. “I think this is going to be exactly like our other deaths. I'll send the details to Belle as soon as I have them.”

The Sergeant nodded just as his phone started to scream at him, he answered on the second ring.

“Gold.” He growled.

“Three officers, Gold. Three! You're basically a TV detective, you can solve things in an hour. Why haven't you found the killer yet?” Regina was essentially breathing down his neck. He couldn't be doing with her attitude right now.

“I'm good, Dearie, but I'm not bloody clairvoyant, It's not like I'm briefed on whose next.” There was a pause, so short it was almost non-existent. “Belle and I are working as fast as we can, faster if you'd leave me the hell alone to do my job.”

Zane hung up after that, he'd had just about enough of Regina's crap. Belle could see the annoyance clearly on his face but said nothing as she continued to scan the area, she'd started to believe they were going to have to wait for the killer to slip up and make a mistake in order to get a break in the case. She'd scanned through The Daily Mirror that morning while Zane ate to find that Sidney Glass had practically started a tirade about police being incompetent and the people of Storybrook not being safe, Belle thought he was only adding to the problem. Belle and Zane would figure it all out though, it was their job.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When they returned to Precinct One Regina called Gold into her office but he ignored her in favour of heading down to Archie's office with Belle hot on his heels. Ruby was in there giggling about something but it died when she noticed Zane enter the modestly decorated office, Ruby glared at him and folded her arms.

“What are you doing here?”

Zane smirked. “It's my mission in life to destroy your relationship with Archie and then bask in your misery.” Belle could practically see the Sergeant's sarcasm meter rising. “Let's start with the better kisser question.”

Archie suddenly went very quiet and sat down at his desk as though pretending he didn't exist. Ruby grumbled something under her breath but no one said anything, just watched as she pressed a kiss to Archie's lips.

“I'll see you later, honey.”

Zane's sarcasm didn't end there though, he walked towards the desk with a devilish smirk.

“Archie, score cards.” Belle hated that he was trying to get a rise out of Ruby but she still found it amusing.

“Oh give it a rest, Zane.” Sighed the redhead light-heartedly. He handed a tablet to Ruby and watched as she left his office, the whole time she glared at Zane. “What can I do for you, Zane?” Archie's eyes flashed over to the BLE, a smile on his face. “Hello, you must be Belle. It's a pleasure to meet you.”

Belle instantly liked him and reached to shake his outstretched hand; she could see why Zane had been drawn to him. No one had ever shook her hand before, the most she'd ever gotten was a customary wave.

“Hello.” She smiled but Gold finally returned to the reason they were there.

“I need your help, Archie.”

“Ooh, it must be important, you never ask for help.” Archie leaned forwards and laced his fingers together.

“Well, I need you to do your 'mind of a killer' thing for me.”

“My 'mind of a killer thing'?” The Doctor didn't look too impressed.

“Aye, you know, when we used to sit on my couch and talk about work.” Gold gestured almost flamboyantly with his hands. “You'd go all Will Graham and tell me why they were killing. Daddy didn't hug them enough or Mommy was a slut.”

Archie stifled a smirk. “Ahh, you mean a physiological profile. Sure, of who? You're poisoner?”

“Would you kindly?”

Gold sat down in the comfortable chair opposite Doctor Hopper's desk while Belle just sat there watching everything unfold. Seeing the pair of them interact forced her to agree with Jefferson and Victor, Zane and Archie made a good couple. And there's that spark of jealously again.

“I take it there has been a new victim, same as the others?” Gold nodded, Archie sighed. “Alright well, they've all been the same COD so the perpetrator is clearly comfortable with drugs and has easy access to them. We're up to three officers that had no connection to won another as far as we can tell save for they all work for Precinct One.”

“Yes,” Grumbled Zane. “thank you for for recapping the week, Archie. I need insight into the bastard that's doing this.”

“I'm getting there, Zane.” There was a brief pause. “Okay, one desk Sergeant could have been a personal attack but three officers an organised mind that isn't driven by anger, or any sort of grudge against the victims. However, the targets make no sense which suggests disorganisation.” Another pause. “Zane, if I didn't know any better I'd say that the killer is trying to incite chaos. Think about it, the whole precinct is preoccupied with the deaths of our officers.”

“You're saying these deaths are a distraction?” Asked Belle with a raised eyebrow.

“But what are we being distracted from?” Belle enquired. “There aren't any cases that caused public outrage, no dates for press conferences or important public events. No court cases being tried, non important enough to warrant this anyway.”

“I really don't know, Belle.” Archie turned his attention back to Zane. “I'm a therapist not a police detective, Zane, has Regina got anything planned we don't know about?”

“Not a clue but we can find out. Thanks for your help Archie.” Sergeant Gold rose to his feet.

“You're welcome, and please stop teasing Ruby. Be nice to her, I love her.”

Zane let his act fade. “Sorry.” It wasn't very often that Gold said that.

Archie sighed. “You know I'm going to get asked the kiss question when I get home.”

“Ahh, I'll expect her deceleration of war in the morning after you tell her I'm better.” Belle suppressed the urge to roll her cerulean orbs while Archie chuckled softly.

“You're awful, Gold.” There was a brief pause. “You should be nicer to a man who knows your middle name-”

“Don't!”

Belle grinned, even she didn't know what his middle name was and she had access to his records.

“What is it?” She asked with a grin. “You're file says 'Gold, Zane A.'”

Zane squared up his shoulders, clearly not happy. He sighed and simply turned to leave but Archie was speaking again.

“Just tell her, she won't stop asking otherwise.” Was all the Scottish man said before he left the room, probably on his way to the parking lot and his beloved Cadillac.

Belle and Archie shared a look for a moment, over which time the therapist's grin grew; Belle thought it cute, she could see why Zane and Ruby found the redhead attractive.

“It's not actually that bad,” Belle raised an eyebrow “it's Amyas. He only hates it because Cora found out and took to calling him Amy.”

“Amyas is a beautiful name.” Said the BLE absent-mindedly.

Archie sighed. “That's what I tried to tell him.” A pause. “Go on, or he'll make you walk home.”

Belle nodded, Archie was right, and made to leave but the redhead's voice forced her to a halt.

“Oh Belle, once you over his sarcasm and gruff personality he's a pretty good boyfriend.”

“Then why did you leave him?”

She'd not meant to ask that, it was personal, between Zane and Archie but it has slipped out anyway. Now she heard it aloud she seemed vicious but Archie seemed un-phased.

“Because he wanted me to. He knew that Ruby liked me and he has this endless belief that he's not good enough, that no one could ever truly love him. His ex-wife drilled into him.”

“He pushed you away?” The sadness in Belle's voice surprised her.

“Yes, but he did it because he wanted me to be happy... and I am. Don't get me wrong I was happy with Zane, I love him and I always will but I feel as though Ruby is my soulmate, if such a thing exists. He doesn't believe it but he is a good man, you're good for him too, and he deserves to be happy for a change. You know, when he first woke up from the coma his memory was a little fuzzy and he thought we were still together.” The therapist glanced down at the floor in thought. “And for a moment I was tempted not to correct him. Ignore me, just go and work on the case. We need to protect our own.”

“Yeah.” Belle nodded. “Thank you, Doctor Hopper.”

“Archie, friends call me Archie.” He chuckled. “You're one of our crazy little group now. An insane GEH, A pathologist who spent his residency trying to use modern tech to bring people back to life, a police therapist who has more childhood issues than the entire department rolled into one and a grumpy Scotsman who thinks he's unlovable.”

“I'm an android that feels, I think I fit.”

Archie laughed at that. “That you do, Belle, that you do.”

Chapter Text

 

After leaving Archie's office Zane had gone straight to Regina to discover everything he needed to know. She hadn't actually been much help – then again Regina never was – but as he turned to leave she dropped the bombshell that she'd been invited to Fiona Black's charity gala at The Dark Realm that Friday night. Zane hadn't been invited and didn't want to go anyway but he knew what it meant; as the next highest ranked officer he'd be in charge of the whole bloody precinct for the night and probably most of the next morning.

“Seems she's got a new android to show off, calling this one a GDN.” Smiled Regina while Gold grumbled to himself. “Who'd have thought Fiona would do so well once she was out of Vaughn's shadow?”

 

“Certainly not me.” Responded the older man before a brief pause. “Anyone of any real importance going to be at this thing?”

Regina looked taken aback. “Well, me.”

“I said important, dearie.”

The police Captain glared at her Sergeant. “Yes. A lot of people, Albert Spencer for one as well as several others.” She raised a brow. “You think this could be the target you're so convinced exists, Gold?”

Zane shook his head. “Doubt it, dearie. The Dark Realm is the Avonlea precinct's jurisdiction and you know how Fisher is, that place will be swarming with cops.”

Zane had a point, why mess with the 01 district when the target was in 09 and flooded with officers? By all accounts it didn't make sense.

“Fair point.” Regina admitted.

No, Miss Black's gala wasn't the target... and it would mean Zane didn't have to put up with Regina for a while.

Belle was waiting for him when he left Regina's office without another word to the Captain, she dove on him almost instantly for information.

“Anything?” Zane shook his head.

“'fraid not. Has Jefferson got anywhere with that MX yet?” The Sergeant questioned.

“He sent me a message a few minutes ago and no he hasn't. The android was more damaged that he had first anticipated. He says it's goring to take some time and that's if he can even get anything back at all.”

Zane let out a deep sigh, despite the hubbub of the precinct Belle heard it and smiled sympathetically.

“Right, so the only person who might have seen who did this is Hiro and he wasn't even paying attention. Wonderful.”

Belle put her hand on his arm, a small sign of comfort. She wanted to kiss him but she couldn't, not in front of everyone.

“Zane, it's going to be alright, we'll figure this out. Regina said it herself, you're the best she's got.”

The older man glanced up at her for a moment, eyes sparkling with something. He seemed to relax under her touch.

“Come with me.”

Belle obeyed and followed him, for a moment she thought they were going back to Archie's office but Zane turned at the last moment and went down the west hallway instead, it was empty save for a mass of filing cabinets against one wall. About halfway down the corridor Zane suddenly slammed Belle against the wall so hard it would have hurt a human woman and pressed his lips to her own. His hands grabbed her hips to pull her to him while Belle melted into his touch and slid her arms around his neck... then the world came back to her.

“Zane, stop. Cameras, cops, me being deactivate.” She told him in a concerned tone.

Gold pushed a stray strand of synthetic auburn hair behind her ear and just smiled at her.

“You think I'd risk losing you? No. This hallway is the only blind spot in the precinct, well, there are a few others but they're heavily travelled. No one can see us, cameras can't see us. Check your display if you don't believe me. And I really needed to kiss you, Data.”

Belle smiled, grinned really. The feeling of being wanted and needed filled her with a sense of pride. Archie's side of the SCD precinct was usually pretty quiet so she kissed back, her arms tightened around Zane's neck.

“You are perfect, Belle.” He said assuredly.

“Flatterer.” She kissed him again. “When you catch the person responsible for all this I'll do anything you want.” Belle purred into his ear.

“Anything?”

“Anything.” She confirmed. “Call it an intensive.”

“Well, we'd better go pound the pavement so I can pound you.”

It was an awful quip and he knew it, Belle knew it, had anyone else heard it they'd have known it too, but still Belle laughed and just followed the Sergeant back to the bullpen.

 

XXXX

 

Zane Gold had been sat at his desk for a good twenty minutes just staring at his name plague at the front of his desk, the letters poorly reflecting the horrid fluorescent lights. Belle was sat at her own desk – she still thought of it as Neal's – in silence and frankly it had begun to unnerve her. She got worried when he went quiet, eyes hardly moving, a clear indication that Zane was deep in thought.

“Zane, are you okay?” The BLE eventually asked.

“Hmm?”

Suddenly he blinked and looked up as though he'd been on low battery and finally gotten a charge.

“Are you alright?”

“Aye, dearie, just trying to piece everything together. Archie's chaos theory makes the most sense, but we're not distracted from anything important... or for that matter unimportant.”

“Maybe it's not us that these people are trying to distract.” She suggested.

“Or maybe Regina is right and I'm reading way too much into all this.” He sighed.

“She's not. And if this case was simple the Captain would have given the case to Swan or Nolan. We'll figure this out and find out who killed our officers.” She promised.

“You're starting to talk like Archie.” He flashed her a smile across the desk.

“I took some lessons.” She teased in jest which had Gold chuckling. “Stop stressing yourself out.”

Without warning a man carrying a large black box marked in white with EM appeared at Zane's desk. The older man glanced up to see a bored looking Hispanic man with a baseball cap on. Gold opened his mouth to ask what the younger man wanted but he got there first.

“Hey, em, you know where-” he glanced down to his clipboard. “-Regina Mills is?”

Gold raised an eyebrow. “The big office up there-” he gestured to up the small steps behind him “marked Captain Mills.”

“Ahh, cool. Thanks, man.”

The Hispanic man left and Zane just watched with a furrowed brow before he eventually turned back to Belle who was doing the same.

“Since when dress deliveries okay? We just let anyone wander in here now?”

Detective Swan chose that moment to appear, a folder in her hands. “I know right, Nolan's wife brought him lunch yesterday and Regina threw a fit because it should have been left at the front desk. No unauthorised personnel and all that crap.” She dumped the file down. “Here, you wanted the full histories of our dead officers... on paper. How old school do you plan on going?”

Zane didn't answer that, just thanked the blonde and waited for her to return to her own desk. Sometimes Gold liked to have things on paper rather than his tablet, it helped him to go through things piece by piece and see everything.

“I take it the dress is for Fiona Black's gala. And how did you know it was a dress?” Belle said after a moment while Zane started to comb through the sheets of paper.

“Aye, she does like to dress up. I knew it was a dress because of the EM on the front. That logo is that of Evangelique Madden, Jefferson's mother. She's quite the famous designer.”

All of a sudden so much about Jefferson made sense.

“What are galas like?” Belle tiled her head, the blue fibre optics flared.

“Boring, especially at The Dark Realm. My advice is drink as much free champagne as possible, hug a wall for the rest of the night then leave.”

Belle chuckled. “You sound like a great date.”

He finally looked up and pointed a finger at her. “Advice part two, dearie. Never take a date to a gala notably one organised by Fiona Black.”

“You don't like her I take it?”

“The woman is a monster dressed up like a saint. She'll steal anything she can get her hands on, the sort of woman who should be running a child trafficking ring.” His eyes darkened.

“Well, just say what you thing why don't you.” Belle leant back on her chair.

“It's served me well, dearie.” He shot back quickly.

“And what sort of a name is 'The Dark Realm'?”

“Aye, sounds like a bad nightclub doesn't it. The Dark Realm is a gallery in the Avonlea district, it's dedicated to Gothic works of art, hence the abysmal name.” There was a pause where Belle seemed to be either downloading or uploading and then Zane was speaking again. “Hey, Data, all the incidents of our cops being murdered, are they concentrated in an area or are they just all over the district?”

It took only a few seconds for Belle to build a map over her display, tiny red dots appeared where there had been an incident while blue represented cops that had been attracted but not killed. The blue were few and far between but the red gave Belle a sense of being back to square one.

“They're pretty wide spread. They're not concentrated at all. Why?”

“Outside of the areas not plagued by deaths, what are the most likely targets for attack?” He asked completely ignoring her question.

“Peramiters? Political, financial?”

“Any of the above, dearie.” Zane stretched and rested back against his own seat while Belle ran her search.

“There's the bank of Storybrook, two server farms, the hospital, the Daily Mirror headquarters, an up scale jewellery store and I suppose our precinct as well. I don't see the point of going to so much trouble for any of those possible targets.”

“I agree, too much hassle.” Gold rested his head in his hands and let out a deep sigh; that was becoming all too common. “Belle, we're missing something, something important. In my experience Archie is usually right so I'm inclined to trust his judgement on this.” Finally he looked up at her. “We should speak to the deceased officer's families again in the morning just in case we missed something.”

“Okay.” Belle nodded. “And I should probably point out that your shift ended three and a half hours ago. I need to charge and you need to sleep, Jefferson is digging through our victim's MXs, he'll call if he finds anything. That and you have to take over Captain Mills' duties tomorrow night since she's at the gala.”

Zane grumbled, he really didn't want Regina's job, he belonged out on the streets working not behind a bloody desk. Regina liked it, treated it as though that office was her own little castle to lord over everyone from but Zane much preferred his desk and Belle. Still he knew Belle was right, he needed to sleep.

“Can I suggest you get some sleep or are you just going to wait for me to go charge then carry on working?” Damn, Belle knew him too well. “You haven't been sleeping properly since... ever.” A smile grew on her pink lips and Zane nearly found it infectious. “How about we watch a movie and you can relax for the night, we don't have to talk just get you to switch off for a few hours.”

Gold chuckled to himself. “Ironic, a BLE telling me I need to shut off.”

“Eh, what you gonna do.” She teased then rose to her feet. “Now, come on.”

“Whose in charge her?” He asked in a deep mock-angry tone.

Belle just walked off leaving Zane to grab his jacket and follow her, clearly he had his answer.

Chapter Text

Friday night finally rolled around and Regina left from the precinct for Fiona Black's gala in a deep burgundy dress that showed off her dark eyes. In Zane's opinion she was Fisher's problem over at the Avonlea district now. He'd never wanted to be acting Captain but he had to admit he liked the office and after only a couple of hours he'd proven quite good at the job; not that Belle had ever doubted him.

Truthfully that Friday night seemed far more relaxed than the nights previous, no panic over their case, no grumbling stomachs from having not eaten on two days. No, everything seemed to be running smoothly... and that didn't sit well with Zane Gold.

Belle perched on the edge of Regina's desk looking down at Gold as he stared past her through the glass walls and down into the bullpen.

“Are you alright?” She asked in a gentle tone.

He didn't look up. “No, dearie, I'm not. You saw Jefferson's report; way more damage than I first believed. Might require entirely new wiring that will further extend my repair schedule. That's what he said. We spoke to Hiro, he's not got a clue on this murdering bastard so Jefferson fixing that goddamn MX is all we've got.”

“Jefferson never fails.” She reminded soothingly as she ran a comforting hand over the one he'd left on the arm rest of his chair. “We'll solve this.”

The BLE was fully aware that Gold had all but reached his wit's end in regards to the case, it had gone cold and it was starting to look more and more like this cop killer would get away with it. In a way the dark-haired beauty thought him covering for Regina was a good thing, yes it was a demanding job but it give him something different to think about.

Eventually Belle managed to convince him to eat something – which was a miracle in itself – and ended up watching him devour the grilled cheese she'd gone to Granny's specially for. It was always good to see him eat, it staved of his starvation a little longer, but it was even better to see him enjoy what he ate; since she couldn't Belle derived enjoyment from it.

“Are you just going to sit there and watch me, Data?” He asked before he took another bite.

“Maybe.” She chuckled. “It was strange to leave the precinct without you though, kind of fun though. Felt like I was being naughty.”

Gold smirked. “Oh, Belle darling, you're always naughty. And besides, if Regina doesnea find out, we're fine.”

Jefferson barged in then, neither a knock nor an 'excuse me', just straight in with the MX head he'd been working on and a grumpy expression. Before either of them could say a word the Gothic GEC slammed the head down on Regina's – well, Gold's for the moment – desk and dropped down into the chair beside Belle. He scowled at Zane.

“I brought you a paperweight because that's all this bloody this is good for.”

Zane set what was left of his sandwich down. “I'm sensing some tension, dearie. Care to explain why I have a head on my desk while I try to eat?”

“Come off it Zane, I've seen you eat soup while looking at crime scene pictures of a guy someone bled into a bucket.” The man had a fair point, Zane wasn't a squeamish person. “I've done just about everything I can think of, everything, and I still can't get this hunk of crap working.”

“What about re-wiring?” Enquired Belle. “Surly you can't have done that yet, you only sent Zane your report three hours ago.”

Jefferson sighed. “Yeah well, that was then. Sorry, I've just really had enough of this thing.” He took a breath to calm his mood. “I can't re-wire it. I opened the head up to do just that and found that all the junctions are burnt out almost like someone zapped him. New wiring wouldn't have any affect. Nothing will. I'm sorry guys but I'm not going to get anything from him. He's gone and he's taken his secrets with him.”

That was not what Gold had wanted to hear, but it was just another piece of crap on the pile of crap that had occurred with the case.

“It's alright, dearie, you did your best.”

“Damn, it must be bad if your accepting defeat and reassuring. I take it Hiro didn't see anything?”

Zane shook his head and finished the last small bite of his grilled cheese. “No. He's got nothing new.”

“You did eat three bowls of Ramen though.” Belle pointed out with a tiny smile and Jefferson snorted.

There was a twinkle in his eye when his spoke. “Yeah, if you ever can't get him to eat, stick a bowl of Hiro's Ramen in front of him and back away. Archie gave me that advice and now I pass it on to you, little rabbit, use it wisely.”

The pair chuckled lightly at Gold's expense but he didn't care, as soon as Regina came back he'd be down at his desk again – where he belonged – and working on their case.

“Jefferson, I get your frustration but why are ya here?” Enquired the Scotsman as he leant back in Captain Mills' chair.

“Victor is with Archie for his evaluation, thought I'd blow off steam and pick him up. You know how he always makes me feel better.”

Zane raised an eyebrow. “Aye, regrettably I know in way too much detail.”

A polite knock came on the office door then and Gold nearly groaned; he'd had enough of being in charge. Zane liked to put the fear of God into people and having them know that they couldn't go running to Regina because she more or less obeyed him too; it amused him.

“Come in!” He called and a young desk officer entered.

“I'm sorry to interrupt, Sir,” she actually sounded apologetic which was new “but I thought we should let you know that the repair men have arrived. They're on the roof now.”

Zane's brow furrowed. “Repair men? What the hell are they repairing and why was I not informed?”

“Oh, em, I thought you knew. Their paperwork and IDs all checked out. I brought you a copy of the paperwork.” She made her way across the room under three sets of eyes and handed him the transparent smart plastic that passed for paper these days. “Capain Mills signed it.”

“That woman never tells me anything, I swear.” He took the sheet from her and unfurled it only for the text to appear and sure enough at the bottom was a signature. There was just one problem. “This isn't Regina's signature. It's her name but it's not her signature.” His dark eyes flashed up to the young desk officer. “What did they say they were fixing?”

“Em, that air vents on the roof, Sir. I'm so sorry, they information all checked out.”

Suddenly everything shut off and the precinct was plunged into darkness save for a few emergency lights. Gold, Belle and Jefferson all shot to their feet and stormed out into the bullpen. Zane glared at the desk officer.

“Get to your desk and figure out of that was a coincidence or if we're under attack!”

“Yes, Sir.”

Gold didn't like coincidences, they were suspicious. The officer made it maybe ten feet before she was sent to the ground by a bullet to the head from one of their automated turrets. After that all hell broke loose. The automated system was only supposed to react to non-precinct intruders, all police and precinct staff were in the 'Friendly' data base while visitor passes emitted a signal that labelled them friendly. However, after that first shot was fired it became obvious someone was in their system. The turrets released a swarm of bullets and those not instantly taken out dove for cover while others screamed in agony. Gold made it under his desk in record time with Jefferson and his android only to see Swan and Nolan had done the same under their own.

“What the hell is going on, Sergeant?!” Demanded Nolan, voice loud over the chaos; his weapon drawn and ready.

“Yeah, the air seems to be more bullet than I usually like at the moment!” Growled Emma.

“We're under attack. Intruders are on the roof and clearly in our system. Nol-” Zane cut himself off when the MXs suddenly went very still and then collapsed; lifeless. “What the fuck?”

“I'm picking up a series of signal jammers.” Informed Belle as she read her display.

“Then why are you still on?”

Jefferson's voice sliced through the massacre. “She runs on a different frequency to the MXs. They'll have cut off communications and the MX army to make it easy and activated the automated turrets to finish the humans off. Cleaver, really.”

“Aye, thank you, turncoat.” Zane turned his attention back to Belle. “Can you still see our cameras?”

Belle shook her head. “No, I'm locked out.”

“Alright then. Nolan! Swan! We're going to go to the control room. Once we can see the bastards we can beat 'em.”

“We need to go through the cells!” Yelled Emma from under her desk. “Killian is in there and there's a manual shut off for the turrets in that section.”

“Good idea. Come on, dearies.”

Oh so carefully they made their way from desk to desk, each time one needed to move another would draw the turrets fire but each time they popped up from a desk to do that there were less and less officers left. They were being slaughtered.

All their defences and MX-45 androids made the SPD feel invaluable but there, dodging their own turrets and completely MX-less they realised they weren't as protected as they'd assumed. Zane Gold had been through a lot in his long life as a cop but surging through the dark, fearing for his life in his own territory was something new. Something he'd never wanted to experience.

When they made it into the hallway they were essentially sitting ducks and if they tried to shoot the turrets he, Belle, Swan and Nolan would blow through all the ammo they had before they got halfway to the holding cells.

“Now what?” Grumbled Emma.

“Hang on, I've got an idea. Won't stop us getting shot but it'll certainly make it harder for the turrets to get a lock.”

“What are you talking about, Madden?” Nolan didn't look overly convinced as Jefferson rooted around his his coat pockets but then again he never did. When the dark-haired GEC pulled out a zippo Detective Nolan practically rolled his eyes. “What are you going to do, scare the turrets into submission? They aren't Frankenstein.”

“And even he wasn't scared of fire in the book. You marry Victor Whale, you're gonna learn about his favourite book.”

“Can you two please quit bickering like eight year olds?!” Zane really didn't have the patience for this any longer and they couldn't all hide behind a vending machine forever. “Just get the fuck on with it.”

“I'm trying. Zane, please tell me you have paper. You're old school enough to actually have paper on you.”

Confusion was clear on everyone's faces but Gold's and Belles and Zane rummaged through his back pocket.

“Here.”

He handed over the scrap and Jefferson beamed as he crumbled it and set it ablaze.

“What are you doing?”

“Emma, I'm hoping that when they criminal masterminds got into the precinct's compute system they didn't turn off the fire safety procedures.” He cleared his throat. “Nolan, wanna give me a boost?”

Only a little reluctantly did David help push Jefferson up towards the smoke detector just above the vending machine. The GEC held the flaming ball of paper up and prayed to anyone who'd listen that they got the desired result, he had to get through the hall so he could get to Victor; live or die he was doing it with his husband at his side.

“This isn't-” The blonde fell silent when the smoke alarm suddenly screamed into life and a moment later the sprinklers kicked on.

“Go!” Yelled Gold and they all made a run for it.

The hallway was long and had nowhere to hide save for the vending machine, it wasn't a case of short bursts, no, they had to make a run for it and run they did. The turrets still knew there were hostile in the hallway but it wouldn't be long before they adjusted for the water movement and bolstered their aim. With Gold on point and Emma bringing up the rear they stormed through the corridor and down to the containment area. The door was locked of course, Gold hadn't expected for one second for his ID to be accepted so he'd not even bothered, just kicked the door open with the full forced of his artificial leg and forced everyone inside.

It was dry of course but that didn't mean they were safe, the group ducked into the cell security room and behind the large control station, at least there was only one automated turret in there. Zane tried to pull the manual override hatch off but it wouldn't budge.

“Belle, open this jar of pickles for me, would ya?”

She quickly obliged. A single hand and one swift yank later and the small but heavy hatch was broken off; together she and the Scotsman pulled the handle down and the turret died.

“Oh thank God for that.” Signed Jefferson and he relaxed against the control station; his face illuminated only by red emergency lights.

“I wouldn't relax just yet. The manual shut off only turns the turrets in the cell area off, it's a safety thing.”

“Emma, I don't think any of this is very safe.”

Zane rose to his feet. “Alright, children. Are we going to go to the control room and look at the cameras or are we going to keep with the true but unhelpful comments?”

“Well, someone's not happy.” Said Jefferson in an attempt to lighten the mood but it didn't seem to work, Zane just fixed him with an unimpressed expression.

“You're never really happy, it's just the chemicals screeching in your brain. Come on.”

Gold turned to leave as the other stood by Emma stopped them.

“Wait, we have to let Killian out. We leave him here and God knows what will happen to him.”

Nolan took a breath. “I'm not so sure that's a good idea.”

“We don't care what you think, Nolan. You were only invited to round out the numbers.” Quipped Zane quickly. “We can always use him as a shield if needed.”

They walked slowly down the hall – free of automated turrets – and towards Killian Jones' cell. The man had gotten himself arrested earlier that evening for a bar fight and hadn't been booked fully before it all went to pot.

It was hard to look into the cells as they walked, the turrets had already picked off most of the prisoners leaving them dead in pools of their own crimson. Holes had been blasted straight through the re-enforced glass almost like shooting fish in a barrel.

“He's in this one!” Exclaimed Emma when they reached cell fifteen and instantly pressed her nose up against the hole ridden glass to look for him. Nothing. “Killian?!”

“That you, love?”

A second later Killian Jones fell down from the ceiling where he'd managed to wedge himself and flashed them all one of his trademark smiles.

“How the hell did you get up here?” Questioned Detective Nolan.

“Doesn't matter.” He turned his attention back to the blonde. “Love, you going to let me out and tell me what the hell is going on? I know I'm the prisoner and all but I think some info should be changing hands here.”

Swan quickly let the man out and he stepped into the hall with them only a little cautiously. Dark eyes glanced around at his fellow survivors until they landed on Gold.

“See your still alive, old friend.” He smirked sarcastically.

“You're not a friend, you're more like a glorified fucking acquaintance. Now, we're under attack and you're an extra set of hands. You wanna help or am I locking you back up?”

“Drop the charges?”

“Sooner you're out of my precinct the better.” Came Gold's quick reply.

“Nice to know we're all on the same page. Gun?”

“Is it wise to give him a gun?” Nolan interjected. “You don't have to listen to me-

“Good, glad we agree on something. And besides we don't have any spare, I'd arm Jefferson before Jones.”

The group – now one man up – stared at the far exit that lead towards the control room and Archie's office where Victor would hopefully be. The screams of their fellow officers had started to die down, there weren't many of them left. Gold's first night on the job and this had happened; he'd told Regina he shouldn't have been Captain.

Chapter Text

It took one hell of a fight but they all made it into the control room without a sting of bullet holes in any of them. Belle, Zane and Jefferson jumped at the large computer while the others covered the door, just because the automated turrets were active in the tiny room full of equipment didn't mean there wouldn't be enemy teams going through the precinct.

“Tell me you can get back into our systems, Jefferson.” The tone was deep, almost dared Jefferson to say no.

“It's going to take me a moment but yeah, I can get in.” Jefferson crashed down into the large chair with a dramatic flourish of his frock coat. “Belle, I'm going to need you to hook in and help me get into their override. This might end up taking a brute-force attack.”

“Of course.”

Belle nodded with a smile and rounded the desk full of equipment and rested her hand on the glass screen to Jefferson's right a second later the blue flares at her temple began.

“How long you gonna take?” Killian demanded from the doorway beside Emma and Nolan.

“It'll just take longer if you don't shut the hell up!” Jefferson half growled half sang, his eyes never left the screens.

The gunfire started to die down and that really wasn't a good sign but none of them wanted to think to far into why. Suddenly all heads snapped up when the sound of bullets ricocheting off one of the turrets filled their ears a little down the hallway, eyes flitted out into the corridor for a split second then Swan and David joined in, all guns aimed on the turret.

“What is going on out there?” Gold demanded but got no answer. “Swan, we got hostiles?”

Zane hadn't gotten a single step before Archie and Victor burst past Killian into the room, chests heaved, Archie dropped to the ground as though his legs had given out and that was probably true.

“Regretting not believing in guns now, Doc?” Chuckled Victor breathlessly as he reloaded, he stopped dead when he saw Jefferson.

“Jeff!”

“Victor!” Jefferson shot up which forced the chair to spin and embraced his husband.

Gold looked around a moment or two, Killian and Emma remained at the door while Detective Nolan had taken a knee beside Archie to check on the redhead who looked exhausted. Belle hadn't moved an inch since she'd hooked herself up to the computer but Zane knew she was fully aware of everything that was going on.

“Lovely as it is that you're alive, dearie, I'd be appreciative if you'd give me my tech back. I'll return him, promise, all shiny and clean.”

There were small smiles passed around – glints of light among the chaos and massacre – and then Jefferson went back to work with Victor right beside him.

“What is going on, Zane?” Archie asked when he finally rose back to his feet with a little help from Nolan.

Zane sighed. “We're under attack-”

“Yeah, I gathered that.” He pushed his glasses back up his nose. “I mean by who? Why? Zane, there are dead officers in the hallways! People I say hello to every day are lying in pools of their own blood. I've never been so happy that Ruby's sick today in my life.

The acting Captain mellowed a little then. “It's going to be alright, Archie. We have-” Jefferson cut him off.

“I'm in! I'm fucking in!”

Victor bent to press a kiss to his husbands temple. “That's my man."

Gold was back by the mass of screens in an instant, almost as though he'd teleported from one side of the room to the other. Truthfully Zane had expected the GEH to take far longer.

“Turn off the turrets.” He growled out, accent thick.

“Love to, Zane.” Came the dark-haired man's quick response. “However, I'm just a silent observer at the moment.”

Zane rubbed at his temples, he was too old for this shit. Sometimes he thought about retireing to a small house on a hill somewhere where he could be alone and live in solitude... then again he'd take Belle.

“Fine,” he huffed “what can we see?”

Belle piped up then, half the people in the room had forgotten she was still conscious.

“Six men on the roof.” Her eyes flitted back and forth as she read her heads up display.

“There's also a ten man team heading for the evidence locker.” Added Jefferson.

Gold paled. “This is why our people are dead.”

When the silence went on too long Nolan jumped in.

“Care to explain?”

“And that's why the first one worked in the evidence locker. They needed to know exactly what was in there and where it was.”

Archie and Zane nodded at one another, clearly they and Belle had all figured it out while the others were left playing catch up.

It dawned on Swan then as well. “This is the attack you two have been worried about.”

“Aye. Well, you're right again, Archie, chaos theory wins.”

Belle retracted her hand from the screen now that Jefferson was back into the system, he could handle it from there.

“Kill one to get the needed information and then the others to hide the golden ticket and increase pressure on law enforcement. It's smart.”

“They got you to stop watching your home turf, love. Sneaky little fuckers is what I'd call 'em.” Chuckled Killian but everyone ignored him.

Gold thought a moment, he was acting Captain, he was the one who had to tidy all this crap up.

“Okay, dearies, here's what's going to happen. Swan, Nolan, take Jones and go up to the roof. I want that jammer taken out and the MXs back online. Belle and I will go to the evidence locker and Jefferson will run comms from here.” He poined to the ground. “This is our control centre now. Archie, Victor, stay here with Jefferson. Once we're out that door it doesn't open again until I say so. Understood?”

Victor nodded. “Crystal.”

“Good.”

Zane marched over to a small metal table that had been tucked away in the far corner almost as though it wasn't there and pulled open a draw. From the draw he took seven small metal dots that seemed little more than silver stickers and handed them out to everyone but Belle. They each pressed them to their skin just behind their ears.

“Belle, channel four.” She nodded and adjusted her internal comms to match. “Alright, dearies, move out and don't die.” Nolan, Swan and Killian went charging off but Gold stopped and turned back to glare at Jefferson. “I want those turrets off!”

“I'm on it. Go on, Team Badass, we'll be here waiting for you.”

Carefully they left their new base and rushed down the hall, fortunately for them Victor had already done a number on the turret when he'd come in but that just worked to make them listen to the turrets intent on killing Emma and the others; those things were supposed to protect cops! Ever so slowly Belle and Gold rounded a corner to the left and ground to a halt, there in the centre of the white-grey hall was a dead officer but the turret that had killed him continued to fire rapidly at his corpse.

“Oh God!” Belle sounded as though she were going to cry at the sight... probably would have if she'd been able to cry.

What?! What's wrong?” Jefferson asked quickly over the comms.

Gold sighed. “Camera seven.”

There was a pause as Belle and Zane continued to watch what words couldn't describe. He knew that man, Owen, he had kids.

Oh my God.” Jefferson's words came through a pained whisper.

“I need you to shut the turrets down, Jefferson.” Gold told him for what felt like the hundredth time.

I'm going as fast as I can!”

“We can't leave him like that.” Belle grabbed hold of Zane's arm and pulled him close, blue eyes never moved from Owen. “Please, Zane. Think of his family.”

Zane nodded. “Do you think you can blindside it?”

The turret faced west while they were stood in the north hallway. Belle getting to the turret before it locked on to her was doable depending on how glitched – for lack of a better term – the turret was.

“Yes.”

Zane checked his magazine. “Go on then, Data.”

So she did. Belle launched herself down the long white-grey hallway and jumped just as the turret began to turn. Zane watched as his BLE ripped the automated turret right out the ceiling and smashed it down onto the ground beside Owen's body.

“That's my girl.” The acting Captain flashed her a smile, a brief flicker of light in the horror that had become her day.

Less porn, more move.” Jefferson's deep voice rushed through the comms.

The GEH was right of course, they'd come back for their dead when it was all over. For now, Gold and Belle needed to get down to the evidence locker. Four more turrets and then the pair dropped down the stairs that lead to the evidence locker. Gold's chest heaved as he leant against the wall, he literally just wanted to go home to bed with his darling Belle. He didn't have the energy for this shit any longer.

Suddenly Jefferson perked up over the comms and yelled so loud Gold had to pull his comm dot off for a moment to lessen the pain on his ears.

Ooh, Yes. Hell yes! Go me. Take that you murdering assholes.” Belle and Gold raised eyebrows at one another. “Zane, Belle, turrets are down. Repeat, turrets are deactivated.”

Perfect timing really because the evidence locker had a plethora of the things guarding it.

“Good, dearie, now tell me what's in that lockup worth stealing.”

God, he's never bloody happy.” They heard Jefferson grumble to Archie.

It is Zane.” The therapist responded softly as though everything they did wasn't time sensitive.

Gold did his best to ignore them as he and Belle silently moved down the cold, grey hallway that head to the evidence lockup.

“In position.” Said Gold quietly into his comm before he glanced over to Belle on the other side of the hallway. “What can you see?”

“Two directly around the corner. I'll take the one on the left, you take the right?”

Zane nodded. The sooner this shit was over the better.

“Three.... two... one.”

The pair burst around the corner and Gold grabbed the taller one from behind then took him to the ground to choke him out while Belle pistol whipped the other before he could get a shot off. When neither man moved the pair dragged them off out of sight. They had to move fast. Brown eyes looked down to the guns.

“These are automatics, expensive too. Top of the goddamn range. These men are hired mercenaries.” Zane concluded.

“It's worse than that though, isn't it.” Belle didn't seem very confident.

“Yeah-”

Archie cut him off. “Zane, who is behind this? So much bloodshed, so much violence. It's... I don't even know, this goes way beyond horrific.”

Zane never got to answer because Jefferson took over.

Okay, I'm in to the evidence locker inventory. Looks like there's a stock of weapons in there as well as two million in cocaine – sounds like a good weekend – but that's only been there a month.

“No, it'll have been in there a while, certainly longer than a year. This shit takes planning.”

Yeah, I'm looking, give me a second.” A pause, one Belle and Gold could have done without. “Right, there's loads of stuff in there that fits that category but none of it seems really important enough to go to this effort. Oh shit.”

“What? Jefferson, talk to me, dearie.”

There's a prototype android in there. It was ceased when Nigel Vaughn went over the wall and hasn't ever been activated or on public display. It's just got a code: GDN79451514.”

Gold's brow furrowed. “GDN? I've heard that before, recently too. Belle, where have we heard that?”

Belle only took a millisecond to access her data bank before she responded. “Fiona Black's new android is known as a GDN. Do you think this is all her?”

Gold's eyes slipped shut as it all slotted into place for him.

“I should have bloody known this was her. She chose the night of the Gala because Regina isn't here. Knew no one would question a work team with her because she's not here.”

Could have used her phone to hop onto the police system.” Jefferson pointed out solemnly.

“Two GDN? Coincidence, I don't think so.”

Belle agreed. “They're suspicious.”

The Scotsman breathed out a laugh. “I taught you well. Come on, eight more to kill or KO.”

Quietly Belle and Zane moved into the evidence locker low and steady. Cover was fairly easy to find amongst all the boxes of god only knew what. The pair nodded to one another and then all hell broke loose. Eight men but they didn't put up much of a fight against an angry Scotsman with an artificial leg and a pissed off android. The sound of bullets ricochet ed off the walls and metal shelves echoed loudly along with the threatening yells. Gold yanked his android down behind a large crate of counterfeit handbags when she took a bullet to the arm.

He'd thought the gunfire was bad, the sound of chaos, but he learnt very quickly he was wrong; what happened afterwards was worse. The silence. The long and painful silence of knowing everyone was dead and they'd been the ones to end lives. In the beginning that knowledge had hurt Zane but – thankfully – he'd grown numb to it over the long years. They'd killed his fellow officers, they'd nearly killed his friends, they'd shot Belle. No one harmed his darling Belle; he loved her.

A few moments passed and then the pair popped their heads up from cover to see that everyone was indeed dead on the floor in heaps, however, that wasn't what had their attention. No, Zane's and Belle's eyes found themselves firmly focused on the GDN who had been activated and sat on a nearby table blinking repeatedly as his systems kicked on. Ever so slowly they approached the android.

“You talk?” Zane asked and the GDN nodded.

“Yes. I am capable of speech.” Belle stepped closer and the male android's attention locked onto her. “Hello, Mother.”

Belle seemed taken aback and rightly so. “Mother?!”

Zane just raised an eyebrow as he reloaded his weapon.

“Doctor Vaughn created me directly from your systems.” The GDN explained. “I am programmed to perceive you as my Mother. It was what Doctor Vaughn wished.”

Gold could believe that. Doctor Nigel Vaughn had always been a little doolally tap so building his androids as one big happy family wasn't surprising in the slightest.

“God that man is strange.” Grumbled Zane as his eyes flicked over to one of the mercenaries that didn't seem to be as dead as they'd first thought. “And we missed one.”

Before the Scotsman could move the GDN had grabbed Belle's gun from her hand and fired once perfectly executing the hanger on. Zane's face grew inquisitive then and he quickly found himself counting the dead.

“Eleven.” A pause. “Jefferson, you said ten when we were on our way down here so why am I counting eleven?”

Sorry, my bad.

Gold rolled his eyes as he holstered his weapon.

“Zane, you're bleeding!” Belle exclaimed.

He brushed her off with little care. “I'm fine.”

“No, you're not.” She insisted. “I want Victor to take a look at you.”

“I'm fine.” He repeated. “They're dead and we've got the GDN, come on. Besides, Victor is with Nolan and the others on the roof.”

The GDN hopped down from where he sat and followed Zane and Belle through the evidence locker and up the stairs towards the control room. The journey took far less time now the turrets had been deactivated. They rounded into the hallway that held home base and found themselves faced with a wall of MXs marching towards them; clearly Nolan's group had been successful.

“Orders, Sergeant Gold?” One of the African-American MXs asked.

“Better late than never.” Zane muttered to himself. He cleared his throat. “Have the MXs form a peppermint and get a team to search for survivors, alert Victor Whale to any. You though, I want you to grab five others and meet me outside.”

“Yes, Sergeant Gold.”

The police android's quickly went about their tasks.

“What are you doing?” Belle questioned.

Zane smirked. “Oh, something I've wanted to do for years.” He poked his head into the control room. “Archie, get the GDN some real clothes.”

Belle was almost entirely against the thoughts going through Gold's mind but there wasn't any stopping him. He still made her get into his Cadillac and took off followed by his team of MXs in a black van. They surged towards The Dark Realm and the gala being held there. Gold didn't care about the throbbing pain in his abdomen, the gunshot wound, adrenaline kept him going along with his anger. Fiona Black had sent killers into his house and ended the life of innocent men for no reason other than her own greed and darkness; he was going to enjoy this.

When he, Belle and the MX-45 army burst through the large double doors all attention turned to them, polite conversations ended and whispering took over. Gold completely ignored everyone but his prize, ignored the raised eyebrows Regina shot at him and the drops of blood he left on the floor. Zane marched straight up to Fiona Black loving the way her eyes twitched as her confidence faltered a moment.

“What is the meaning of this interruption, Sergeant Gold?” She asked in a seemingly polite tone as Regina rushed to the pair.

“That's what I'd like to know.” She fixed a glare on Zane. “Gold, what is the meaning of this? Explain yourself, now.”

How she managed to whisper and yell at the same time was beyond him. Zane didn't look to the Captain when he answered, just continued to glare at Fiona as her overzealous demeanour struggled to cling on.

“Fiona Black, you're under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, domestic terrorism, aiding and abetting in a murder, a hundred-and-six counts of federal grand larceny, extortion, accessory to forgery, disturbing the peace and securities fraud.” Gold smirked at her as the whispering turned to full-blown gossiping. “Which leads us to white collar crimes.”

Fiona paled. “You can't possibly prove any of these accusations!”

Gold chuckled. “Clearly you've not met Jefferson Madden. He got me enough evidence to put you away for the rest of your life just on the way over here, imagine what he'll find before your trial. No flying away from this one.”

Suddenly the dark-haired mastermind flared into a rage few had ever seen from her before and slapped the Scotsman as hard as she was able. Zane's smirk grew.

Ooh, and now assaulting a police officer. Go on, give me resisting arrest too.” He taunted.

That seemed to keep the bitch under control and Zane didn't know if he was pleased or not about that.

“I'll have your badge for this.” She hissed but Gold wasn't one to fall for her threats, she had no power any longer.

“Good luck with that, dearie.” Fiona's unctuous confidence had left her. “Belle, read Miss Black her rights.”

Belle stepped forwards and cleared her throat completely unnecessary. “You have no rights.”

Zane roared with laughter; he knew she'd only said that to try and lighten his mood. However, as Zane cuffed Black Belle mirandized her.

“You'll regret this, Gold.” Fiona growled at him so only he'd hear, of course Belle did as well.

My logical analysis sector indicates that would be highly unlikely, and my bullshit meter agrees.” Maybe Zane Gold had rubbed off on the BLE more than he'd thought.

Slamming the Cadillac door in Fiona's face after frog-marching her out of The Dark Realm had been almost euphoric for Sergeant Gold. She was little more than scum in Gold's eyes. A woman hoping to achieve God-like power over human life in an attempt to compensate for childhood humiliations and adult inadequacies. A woman filling herself with feelings of potency and superiority that couldn't be obtained in her day to day life. She'd wanted the GDN for her own fame and power.

Suddenly Gold clung to the car he and Neal had lovingly restored as pain swept through him. His hand shot to his wound as everything went hazy and loud... then nothing. The stereotypical fade to black.

Belle fell to her knees beside the Sergeant with a look of horror on her stunning face. Blood pooled from his shirt.

“Damnit Zane!” She yelled. “I told you to see Victor!” I'll live, was what she imagined him saying but his lips didn't move. “You've lost too much blood. How the hell did you stay standing this long?”

Stubbornness, that was her answer, pure unadulterated stubbornness.

 

XXXX

 

Fiona Black had been shoved into an integration room as soon as she'd gotten to the precinct and both Swan and Nolan had leapt at the chance to question her while Gold was at the hospital with Belle and a very concerned Archie.

“So,” began Emma “when did this little idea of yours pop up?”

Fiona said nothing, just glared.

“Do you know how many people you've gotten killed for nothing more than your own greed?” Asked Nolan with a look that showed complete lack of understanding.

“No comment.” Was the only answer Fiona gave and it really didn't impress the detectives.

Emma breathed out a laugh. “Fine, play it that way. It's just going to make you look guiltier. And anyway, with what Madden gave us everything we need... still is. You're never going to see the the outside of a cell again.”

The door swung open then and all three sets of eyes flitted towards it. In stepped a tall and what could only be described as lanky man in an overpriced suit. Asshole lawyer from a long line of asshole lawyers.

“You should know better than to question my client without her legal representation present, detective.” He said in a cocky tone as he set his briefcase down on the table beside Fiona.

Emma smirked. “Oh, we were just having a polite little chat.”

“I'm sure that's exactly what it was.” Came his quick reply.

Nolan rose from his seat at the desk then and grabbed his brown leather jacket before he headed to the open door.

“Come on, Emma. We don't need a statement or anything else from her.” He glanced to Fiona. “You're on a sinking ship, Miss Black, and no help is coming. Your lawyer is the equivalent of a tiny bucket that you're using to toss water back out into the ocean.”

Emma followed David out the room and slammed the door shut; they had Fiona Black bang to rights.

 

XXXX

 

It was days before Gold woke up in the hospital and weeks before he was finally allowed to return to work. Victor had lectured him for days on blood loss and his idiocy but it had all come out of concern. Zane Gold hadn't ever really planned on having friends, thought he'd not needed them, but when he'd awoken Zane had learnt the truth; he had a whole heap of people who cared about him.

Archie had loved him once, still did in a way. Victor and Jefferson had known him for years, they'd formed a bond without even trying. Then there was Belle, his darling little Belle. An android with feelings, with a heart and she'd given hers to him of all people. She wasn't supposed to be off of precinct grounds unless being reprogrammed or working with Gold but Jefferson had made a case for it based on Fiona's hired friends getting ideas. Had it not been for that Gold wouldn't have woken up to her smiling face.

None of this was what Gold had expected from life but it was the hand he'd been dealt and... when he really thought about it, he'd not trade it for the world. A miserable little boy had grown into a miserable man... but he wasn't miserable anymore.

The day came that Gold finally, finally, got to go back to work; oh how he'd longed for it. It was with news he hadn't wanted to hear though; Regina had done it on purpose he was sure.

Zane pushed the Captain's office door open without knocking and stepped inside to find Regina packing up her things into a box.

Morning, dearie.” He said as he came to a halt before her.

Sergeant Gold.” Her eyes flitted up to him. “Or should I say Captain Gold now.”

“You could stay and then neither of us would have to get used to new titles.”

Regina sighed and paused in her packing. “You know as well as I do that I can't stay. This whole thing with Fiona Black has re-enforced that. The meaning of live is love. It doesn't matter who you love, what you love or how you love it, as long as you love something. You were the one who taught me that, Gold.”

Zane raised an eyebrow. “How the hell did I teach you such a thing?”

Regina breathed out a laugh to herself. “There was a point in my life when you all but raised me. I have learnt more from you than I have from anyone. So, now I need to be with Henry. This job is all consuming, Gold, and it's taken me from my son. If I'd been here when they attacked, if I'd forgotten something and come back they could have killed me – probably would have – and Henry would have been alone. When I thought about it I don't know if he'd have even known I love him, because I do, Gold, I love him with all my heart. I used to think I wanted this job, wanted to rise in the ranks and get the power and station but I don't, and I see why you never have now. I have to take this leave of absence, and I know that you have to be the one to replace me, not because you're the one who doesn't want to do it or even because you're the next ranked officer.”

“Then why?” He asked in a softer tone than intended.

... because everyone you love is here. Archie, Madden, Doctor Whale... Belle.” Gold's eyes widened a little. “Don't think I didn't notice that. I knew a BLE would be good for you but I had no idea how good.” Regina stuffed the last of her things into the box and headed for the door, she stopped to look back with her hand on the door-handle. “Madden convinced me to let him have the GDN as an assistant just so you know, your BLE has taken to calling him Gideon apparently, and you need to promote someone to fill your shoes. Oh, and Gold, my mother called you a coward once... you're not.”

With that Regina left and Gold just stood there lost in his own head. He didn't really know how long he stood there but it felt like forever and a minute all at the same time. The hubbub of outside in the bullpen seemed never ending but Gold just focused on what Regina had said; 'because everyone you love is here'.

When he finally snapped out of it he hit his comm button.

Belle, you still outside?”

Yes, Zane, right where you left me.” Came her quick answer.

Have Swan sent up here.”

Will do.

Zane crashed down into Regina's – well, his now – chair and let his head fall back so he looked up at the ceiling, it only snapped back down when Emma pushed open the door after a polite knock.

“You wanted to see me, Captain?”

“Yes, dearie.” He leant forwards to get a better look at her with her long blonde hair and red jacket. “I need you to move to my desk.”

Emma raised an eyebrow. “Huh? What's wrong with the one I have now?”

“Well, mine is bigger.”

The raised eyebrow turned into a furrowed brow. “So?”

“Sergeants always get the bigger desk.” He told her simply.

“You're making me Sergeant?!” Zane only nodded. “Thank you! Thank you, Captain. I won't let you down.”

You'd better not, because then I'd have to put Nolan in charge and his head is big enough already.” He made a little shooing motion with his left hand. “Off you go.”

Emma burst out of the room with a grin probably to tell Nolan and anyone else who'd listen about her promotion; she only narrowly missed banging into Belle.

Can I come in now?”

Of course you can, Data.” With a quick push of a button on the desk the glass office frosted and Belle slipped into his lap so she could press a kiss to his lips. “I love you, Belle.”

I love you too, Zane.”

Yes, this really wasn't how he'd imagined his life going, because it was better than what he'd imagined.

 

T HE END