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Rating: 3-3-3

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RPF* Real Person Fiction; IE Apping an actual celebrity

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Thread Contributor: Pete WisdomClosing Time Tag: Belle
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#1
The days since the ignominious end to their first date had grated on Pete for a number of reasons. The first and foremost was that the poor lass had run away from the date in a right state, and it had been more or less his fault. Okay, he hadn’t been the tosser who’d given her those abandonment isues, that much was true, but he’d somehow brought their conversations around to a place where it had reminded her of it, and then he hadn’t helped push the conversation away from it, which had been just bloody daft.

Since then, he hadn’t been able to bring himself to go over to her place, since he was fairly sure that he’d outlasted his welcome with her in that date, and he foolishly had never gotten her mobile number, which just stank of amateur mistake. Oh, sure, he could get her number easily enough, he was a bloody spy after all, but it would look more than a little bit creepy if he essentially stalked her until he had her contact information… all because he couldn’t work up the nerve to go over. There was, in the end, only one solution to the situation: He stopped at the bar, fortified himself with a sufficient blood alcohol level in the bar next door, then slipped into her little shop after the last customer left, but before she’d had a chance to come around and lock the door. Neither of them needed any witnesses to this.

And so it was that when Belle came back out from the kitchen, Pete had locked the door for her and taken down the ‘open’ sign, and was sitting at one of the tables. “I’m sorry about the other night,” he said, preemptively. “And I’m sorry it took me four days and three drinks to come say that.” He paused, considering what he’d just said, then admitted, “Unless you count the drinks I started with at lunch. Then it’s more like six, but it’s still been too many days.”

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#2
‘Closing time’ for Belle was actually two different hours- one at about 1pm which was her actual closing when she slept, and 3am when she closed for a few hours to set up for breakfast and lunch. The second was more of a ‘soft’ close if anyone was still inside she kept the cafe open, her whole reason for starting this business was to give the people who needed a little bit of comfort, a sense of home a place to be.

She wasn’t going to lie though- it was with a sigh of relief that she took the last tray into the kitchen, wishing her last customer on his way. Maybe tonight she’d get in a little nap, for once she was ahead of her prep and what remained could be knocked out easily.

She really tried not to wince when the little bell over her front door chimes but one could hope - “Did ya forget something hun-“ Belle came out of the kitchen, dying her hands on a towel, hair disheveled, tendrils curling over her cheeks and neck, her smile was tried but real-

“Pete? Ah…” belle blinked in surprise, embarrassment sending hot flashes up her neck. She’s not expected to see him again not after how she’d shamed herself on their first date.

“Ya have nothing to be sorry for-“ Belle’s eyes narrowed slightly in thought wait he’d been drinking? “Ya weren’t next door where ya?” Because while Hub didn’t allow a man to get poisoned it seemed to not care if a man got shitfaced on deceptively strong liquor, and the mostly alien clientele next door seemed to have a MUCH higher tolerance.

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#3
"Next door? Aye," he confirmed, nodding a little. "Waited there for your place to clear out. Didn't think either one of us wanted anyone else watching us try to stumble through this." He paused, then added, in the interest of honesty, "And I don't know what sort of gin they have there, but it's bloody marvelous. That's beside the point, though. Aye, I've got enough to be sorry for. I said something daft, put you into a right state, and like the tosser I am, I just let you run away, standin' there like an addled deer looking into the express lane." He shook his head, looking at his hand like he expected (or hoped) to find a drink there, then looked back up at her. "And no, luv, I'm not drunk, if that's why you were asking. Just feeling like a complete bloody fool."

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#4
Belle huffed out a long sigh at his answer, he was drunk, and Belle knew well enough that a drunk man could say anything and mean it...till he sobered up. “Common lets get you home.” she didn’t want to hear a rehash of what was arguably the most embarrassing date of her life. Snagging her coat Belle moved to lead him out -

“Its fine, ah’m fine. Lets just get you back home to sober up.”

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#5
Oh bloody hell. She really did think he was drunk. “Luv, it takes more than a few drinks at the pub to get me pissed. I’ve carried out missions with more booze in my system than this. That’s not what this is.” This was bloody ridiculous, but what could he say? That he woke up with more booze in his system than most people went to bed with? Aye, that’d make her change her mind right quick, wouldn’t it? There was no winning this one, really. Besides, he knew a brush-off when he heard one. The lady was making sure he got the hell out of her shop, and that was her right, wasn’t it?

“Fine, fine, I’m going,” he said, holding up his hands in surrender as he stood up. “Sorry, luv. I didn’t want it to end like that. Didn’t want it to end at all. Just… had to try.” He nodded, considering arguing, but realized in that moment just how this might look. She’d run off on him on a date, and her he was, sneaking into her place as soon as he realized that she was alone. Yeah, creepy stalker wasn’t a look he liked to wear, so surrendering and retreating was probably his best bet.

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#6
She wasn’t brushing him off...she just didn’t want to get into it with a drunk man that wasn’t to be held to what ever slipped off his tongue. Or his actions for that matter.

Belle actually held a very low opinion of drunkards, it was one thing to unwind a little bit, it was a whole other kettle of fish to get constantly drunk enough that your BAC didn’t drop under .05. She’d seen enough as a kid growing up in a depressed town to have much patience with them now.

“What ‘all’?” Belle was embarrassed as hell, feeling slightly stalked, honestly why did folk that did the super hero or spy as the case may be think it was just perfectly natural to corner her alone? Did they not know regular women?

Hugging herself, fingering the material of her sleeves in nervous habit; she didn’t distrust Pete, she just had enough bad experiences with men on the drink that she didn’t trust that she was dealing with just Pete.

“There ain’t no end ta it ‘all’-” her teeth bit down on her lower lip, “Ah just...na sure what ya want?” oh hell now Belle was making goose noises.

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#7
Pete shifted on his feet at the questions. He might have gotten warmed up with a few drinks, but not enough by far that he wasn’t going to feel off balance at this question. Pete Wisdom hated indecision and insecurity, and the sad truth was? He had no idea what it was between them. The idea of making it sound like anything was between them just felt horribly naïve and presumptuous. They’d had… what, tea and one afternoon date that ended horribly? That wasn’t a basis for anything now, was it? No, it wasn’t, and he bloody well knew it.

“I want to know what I bloody did wrong,” he blurted out before he could think about it. Oh, Pete, you bloody prat… Because the truth of it was that everything ended, and sometimes before they even had a chance to start. Sometimes, they ended without you even realizing anything was happening, your life was just going on like normal until suddenly…

“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head and starting for the door. “This was bloody stupid of me. You wanted to be shot of me, and that’s your bloody right.”
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#8
Belle’s natural cream and peaches complexion paled at his pained question, the blunt honesty and need in it forced her to respond - “It wasn’t you.” biting her lip Belle reached out, snagging his jacket sleeve - “You asked me somthin’ an’ ah wasn’t prepared for mah own answer.” Belle swallowed thickly, pushing past her own embarrassment to reach out to him. “Ah didn’t think ya’d want to deal with that mess on a first date...an’ thought it sorta ruined the idea for a second.”

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#9
Pete’s reaction was, probably, the most unfair that he could have toward her: He didn’t believe her. Oh, he didn’t think there was any malice in it, and he didn’t think that she naturally had an insincere bone in her body, but her answer just couldn’t mesh with what he knew about himself. Maybe she didn’t see it as his fault, but he knew that for her to be upset, he had to have inspired it somehow. Now, he did have the presence of mind to not argue that, moving right along to her next point instead. “Sometimes all you have is one,” he said. “Tomorrow…” He paused, knowing he was about to sound like a whiney little prat. “I said I wanted to spend the day with you, luv.”
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#10
Pete probably wouldn’t like the comparison that he sounded just like every morose drunk that plopped on to her bar stools, every guy that had lamented into his cups and into her ear about the one he let get away. Belle sighed tugging his sleeve guiding him towards a table that she’d not put the chairs up on yet.

“Pete-“ she began compassionately; this wasn’t about her right now, he was clearly feeling abandoned and with the history he’d shared that was more than fair and took priority over her own issues. “The day was near done.” She touched his hand lightly. “An’ if ah’d stayed longer I would have likely regretted it in the morning.” She fought the flush coloring her cheeks at the blunt speaking. “And than when I embarrassed my self-“ she half shrugged settling at the table “ah don’t like ta be shamed.”

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#11
Pete took a moment to center himself as the conversation took an unexpected turn (that is to say: it didn’t go absolutely horribly). She said it wasn’t his fault. She wasn’t actively throwing him out of the bar to distance herself from him. Maybe, just maybe, he really had read this one wrong, and needed to stop (as he had just realized he was doing) being such a whiney little prat. The question here, then, was where to go from this that would be moving in an actually positive direction.

“All right,” Pete said, taking a deep breath and pinching the bridge of his nose as he focused. Bloody hell, he could use a spot of tea right now. “First of all, though, luv? No, you wouldn’t have regretted it in the morning. I might not be a perfect gentleman, but I do know how to not be a complete arse.” He thought about going on, but that would just be belaboring the point. If the lady didn’t want that sort of thing, she didn’t want that sort of thing, simple as that. He knew how to behave himself, he just usually didn’t have to. “Second, it’s pretty obvious I got this all wound up in my head and just made a complete arse of myself, so… how about this. I’ll help you clean up, I’ll make us a spot of tea, here or my place or wherever you want, and… maybe let’s talk? Pretty sure there are things I was avoiding like mad that you want to know and vice versa, and we both have some pretty… off ideas about how that went.” Of course, he was making a pretty big assumption here, he had to realize, so there was another option he had to put out there. “Or I could bugger off and let you get on with your night. Bloody hell, I didn’t even think about whether or not you had plans. I’m sorry, luv, I’m a bit rubbish at this.”

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#12
Belle knew better than to argue with someone that believed they were right on this; he might be a gentleman, but she didn’t believe he’d restrain himself if she lost control of her own self and encouraged him. Regardless of seduction Belle would still have regrets, it was simply who she was; her body awakened to how delightful it was to have a man in her bed missed it. Like pandora she’d opened the box and there was no going back, only the thin thread of the morals her momma taught her kept her from having a different beautiful man in her bed every night.

She also knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Help me reset the tables.” she ordered softly, gesturing to the chairs that were already half stacked so the cleaning woman? Could more easily maneuver around the floor.

The task was done in a few minutes with two, Belle’s mouth turned down in a thoughtful frown at the reminder that she really needed to hire more help. There was always someone that could and would do the work for enough for a place to stay and all they could eat. Keeping workers seemed to be the harder part, most folk here were just passing through.

“No..its my inbetween break.” normally she took a shower, relaxed and slept depending on how much time she left herself.

“I have a few hours.” and if needed...well wouldn’t be the first time coffee had pulled her through. “You hungry?” Belle offered heading towards the kitchen since he had offered to make tea. “Got plenty from the dinner service.”

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#13
“Yes ma’am,” Pete said, setting to whatever task she put him to. Menial labor was good to focus on. It got him out of his head, got him moving, broke up the previous tone of the conversation. It also helped prove that no, he wasn’t drunk, or if he had been he was sobering up. By the time they were done (quick as the job had been), he wasn’t sure whether he was relieved or alarmed that the little buzz he’d had going on before he came in was gone

Her ‘in between’ break. That’s right, she’d open again in a few hours, courtesy of the Hub’s unnatural schedules. “Long as you’re sure,” he said. “I don’t want to make problems for you later.” He rummaged a little for what he needed to make tea. Was he hungry? He paused, considering the question before he put the kettle on. “Maybe a little bite, if you were going to eat? Not a lot. My schedule’s a bit off right now. Made a little stop by New Albion to make sure the kingdom’s settling in, and that place has a thirty-hour day.” A little more rummaging (and a few pointed nods from Belle) had him finding the cups, which he set out on the table.

Finally, Pete was pouring out the tea, then taking a seat with her, mindful to watch for indications that she wanted him to bugger off. “I’m sorry for all the to-do, luv,” he said, smiling ruefully as he added just a touch of sugar to his cup. “I’d like to say I haven’t been myself lately, but I’m pretty sure that ‘self-absorbed tosser’ is pretty exactly what most people would say I always am.”

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#14
This was...alot. In a small part of her brain Belle was almost amused at the ridiculousness of the situation, another larger part was worried that Pete was drunker than he wanted to admit to, and all the personal issues and safety issues surrounding that, but most of her was simply doing what she did every night for years; listening to a man unload his gripes.

“Ah have time.” her little smile implied that she would always for her friends, which was true.

“Ah was just going to make myself a sandwich.” she admitted; as much as Belle loved to cook, there was only so much the woman could do before simply wanting not to think about what she herself was eating. It was easy enough to pull out the leftovers and put together two club sandwiches along with a large bowl of vanilla pudding that was meant to be filling for a set of pies that had been canceled.

“You have a very stressful life.” belle commented demurely, “And I understand that.”

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#15
She had time. Pete laughed a little as he poured the tea out. “Luv, you barely give yourself time to sleep,” he pointed out. He didn’t need to get into how he knew her schedule. He was a spy, it was kind of obvious. “The Hub’s schedule can drive anyone mental. When I moved here, I went three days without sleeping because I didn’t think I had time. Ended up waking up in some oubliette after some rubbish I did while I was delirious that probably wasn’t exactly well-advised.” Of course, he wasn’t going to flat-out tell her that maybe she should take it easier… but he supposed he’d made it clear enough that it was pointless to try not to. Oops.

Pete made a little wave of assent when she spoke about the food, clearly not wanting to be picky about anything. The poor dear really did need someone to look after her, but as he was doing a marvelous job of proving, he wasn’t exactly the best choice here. He couldn’t even show up sober, now, could he? “Please, luv. Is there anyone in this place that doesn’t have a stressful life? We’re all outcasts or adventurers or some variety of lost people looking for something we’re not even sure how to find. Any stress I have? I put it all on myself. There’s not really any two ways around it, luv. If you look at it right, I’m as free as free can be.”

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#16
Belle Just smiles softly at his admonishment, her smile growing fractionally as he tried to downplay his own stresses in comparison to anyone else-

“Ah run a cafe. Ah don’t need ta, could take the gold and live a quiet little life that ah said ah always wanted.” Belle set the plates down, settling with a weary sigh. It was the first time she’d been off her feet in no few hours and even with her sensible tennis shoes her feet throbbed with built up pressure.

“Ah do this because ya are right.” Belle drew the mug of tea closer, blowing across the surface even though she’d bought them because they’d keep the tea the perfect temperature for drinking with out burning. “It’s a freedom, ah world that ah’ll remember when I’m old and grey as my great adventure.” Belle sighed taking a sip of her tea, eyelashes fluttering down, fanning out in a lightly tinted spray. “You? Ya are making a difference you did already. An ya work every dang day to make the sacrifices not in vain.” Belle’s hand closed over his, ocean blue eyes peaking out “You are a hero.” She murrumed softly.

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#17
And then she just whipped out the most ridiculous thing anyone had ever said about him. Pete’s eyes closed, his chest shaking in silent laughter as he tried not to spill his tea. “A hero. Ohhhh, luv, you sweet summer child. A hero.” He shook his head.

“I told you I did what I could. Aye, that’s true enough. It doesn’t mean I did it right, and it doesn’t mean I made the right choices. I’m the bloke who said that London was going to get evacuated, and sod the rest of the world. We didn’t think that people knowing about what was happening would help. We thought that it would just make chaos and sod everything up, and maybe we were right. We’ll never know, really, because I put a gag order on all of it, and threw anyone who was the least bit mutinous through that portal and never let them back in. I’ve got no one I can put any of this on. The Royal Family? I had them escorted out by the military the moment the evacuation began. They didn’t even know what was going on. Parliament? Please, they knew even less and probably wouldn’t have cared anyway. We didn’t even announce things to let people get their arses to London, because we didn’t think there’d be enough time.” Now, that part had been true, but it was still an ice cold decision. “We got most of London out, aye, but that leaves fifty-seven million people sitting at home, not knowing anything was wrong. Fifty-seven million people, fifty-seven million lives that were full, ready to be lived. People with plans, with dreams, people who were expecting to get up tomorrow, start another day of work. Maybe they’d go see family. Maybe they’d ask out that bloke they keep seeing at the pub. Maybe they’d go see a game and get pissed with their mates. Maybe they’d fall in love, maybe they’d do something spectacular. Fifty-seven million lives, just waiting to be lived.” He flicked one finger out, a hotknife appearing on his fingertip, then, dipped it into the tea, vaporizing the drink in a hiss of steam. “Gone. Just… gone. There were still people waiting to get out, too. I’d just told the next lot that I’d be back for them, fast as I could. They were waiting for me, ready to get out of there, thinking the big government man could do something for them.” He shook his head, picking up the tea pot and re-pouring his drink. “I’m no hero, luv. The people from my world have every reason to hate me, and they do.”

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#18
Belle wasn’t a woman that could easily hide her emotions, a woman whose empathy had and would cause her agony time and again.

But she refused to be the kind of person that could listen to that story and not have it rip apart her heart. “You did what you did. You saved who you could.” Tears slipped down her cheeks; oh she could all to easily imagine being one of those people he described. “The ones you couldn’t. The choices you made-“ her hand squeezed down on his. “It eats you up. Not all hero’s are made of gold, never tarnished.” She was an optimist, believed the best in people- but Belle had seen enough bad things, people, knew so many Heroes who had to make heart breaking calls-

Including the man next to her.

“Being a hero is accepting the pain with the glory.” Belle met his eyes- “How many people did you save? How many thousands of children woke up today because of your actions? How many get to grow up because you watch for any danger that threatens them?”

“You haven’t let those that hate you, that Grive for what was lost stop you. You still live to protect.” Belle tilted her head slightly, stray hair skimming across her shoulder “that is what makes you a hero, battered, scared, the mastiff that guards the gate.”

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#19
Belle really was a dear, and Pete desperately wished he could buy into her way of thinking, but it wasn’t going to happen. “No way to know, luv. Might have been better if I got off my arse and went to be a hero with the other prats who were trying to stop all this from happening instead of running like a rat off the sinking ship. They were the heroes.” Yes, he might think they were mostly meddling prats for the way that they had caused the problem to start with, but they’d gone on fighting it all the way that everyone expected when push came to shove. “When everyone’s home was about to be destroyed, what was the mighty Pete Wisdom doing? Heroically strong-arming people into another world without their lives, without any of their things, without their families sometimes. Yes, such glory.”

He took a long drink. “You want the truth? When everything was done, I spent two weeks drinking and trying to count all the people I hadn’t saved. Interesting fact, you can count until you fall asleep for two weeks straight and still not hit a million. At that point, I ran out of money, sobered up, and started trying to behave with some semblance of dignity. Tell me something… complete honesty. If you found out the world was ending and everyone had to be evacuated, what’s the first phone call you’d make?”

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#20
Belle turned slightly to wipe at the wetness leaking from her eyes; he was breaking her heart and she wished with all of it that she could find the right words to give him some measure of comfort. “My momma.” Belle took a shakeup breath because she knew damn well that her mother wouldn’t go, she’d work her hardest to get the rest of the town evacuated, but she’d be the last to go. Her illness making her a liability and too practical to but that burden on someone else.

Belle scrubbed at the tears with her Palm openly now, the thought of saying good bye to her mother-

“She wouldn’t -“ Belle hiccuped “She’d na go ya know. She’s sick. Wouldn’t take the space.”

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