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Title: Sucking Up Sand
Fandom: Once Upon A Time
Pairing: Belle/Ariel
Rating: G
Words: 1231
Notes: For [community profile] ladiesbingo, prompt "androids and robots", and Femslash Friday.
Summary: In which Belle finds herself with a curious mermaid for a girlfriend and her very own pet Roomba.



“Oh my goodness!” Ariel gasps, hands clutched in front of her chest and her eyes wide. “What is that?”

There are all sorts of things in the pawnshop that could inspire such a reaction, strange treasures and magical items and objects that appear completely ordinary but could probably destroy the entire town if they fell into the wrong hands.

But when Belle glances over to see what’s caught Ariel’s eye, she finds her looking at the floor.

“That’s the Roomba,” Belle says with a smile.

Ariel looks at her like she’s speaking a foreign language.

“It’s a machine,” Belle clarifies. “It cleans floors.” Honestly, she’d been perfectly happy with a broom, but Rumple had insisted on buying one to make things easier.

“So it’s a tiny round maid?” Ariel asks excitedly.

Belle can’t help her grin. “I suppose so.”

She leaves Ariel pottering around the shop while Belle focuses on the always unending task of cleaning and cataloguing the backroom. A good hour has gone by before Belle realises it, and she feels terrible that she’s left Ariel alone for so long.

But when she steps back into the shop front, she finds Ariel happily watching the Roomba as if it’s the most interesting thing she’s ever seen.

*

“Good morning, Belle,” Ariel calls, the bell over the door merrily announcing her presence. “Good morning, Roomba.”

“Ah, the Roomba’s actually turned off right now,” Belle tells her. The floor is clean enough, and Ariel is the first visitor of the day so there’s been nobody to track dirt inside.

Belle’s sure she’s not imagining things when a flash of disappointment crosses over Ariel’s face. But Ariel quickly shakes it off, being her usually bubbly self. Today’s round of questions is about cars - last night Ariel heard somebody referring to engine horsepower and she’s confused about how the horses hide under the car’s bonnet.

Belle answers every question as best she can. Ariel’s curiosity for the human world is endlessly charming, and Belle’s had lots of fun finding books for Ariel to read that can help her learn more.

They eat brunch over the counter together, sharing finger sandwiches that Ariel picks apart, asking about the fillings and where they come from. On a whim, Belle sets down the Roomba, and Ariel’s whole face lights up as it glides around their feet.

*

“It’s not actually sentient,” Belle says with a giggle, and Ariel looks up at her guiltily. “The Roomba, I mean.”

Ariel’s kneeling on the floor, fidgeting with the hem of her dress. “Sentient?”

“It’s like a clock,” Belle tells her. “It has metal parts that move together, that propel it forward. But it doesn’t have a mind.”

“Oh,” Ariel says, looking down at the Roomba like she doesn’t entirely believe Belle’s words.

“My point is,” Belle continues, “that you don’t need to feed it.”

Ariel gives her a sheepish smile and dusts crumbs off her fingers.

The Roomba dutifully sweeps up the little pile she’s left for it.

*

They’ve both fallen into an easy routine. Every morning Belle opens the shop, and Ariel is her first customer of the day. They share stories together, and Belle tells Ariel about the human world, and about the differences between the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke.

The Roomba shuffles around the floor, even though it’s already perfectly clean.

They spend so much of the day together and yet Belle never tires of Ariel’s company.

She invites Ariel over to her place for dinner one night, and Ariel beams at her and readily accepts.

It’s probably a little strange that Belle feels nervous as she waits for Ariel to arrive, considering she’s spent so many hours with her already. But her heart is fluttering and she opens the oven to check the pasta bake so many times she’s lucky the whole thing doesn’t dry out.

Belle rushes to answer the door as soon as she hears Ariel’s knock, and from the shy grin Ariel gives her Belle can guess she’s not the only one who feels nervous.

But the evening is as fun as their days are, their easy chatter as comfortable as ever.

Even when Ariel takes Belle’s hand, when she looks into Belle’s eyes and smiles at her in a way she’s never smiled at her before, it feels right.

At the end of the evening, that nervousness starts to skitter through Belle’s body again. She wants to kiss Ariel goodnight, wants it so badly that her palms feel damp and her pulse is racing beneath her skin, but she’s not sure if she should.

She asked Ariel to dinner, yes, but she never said this was a date. She’s not sure Ariel even knows what a date is.

Belle walks Ariel back to Granny’s, and they hold hands the entire time, and Belle wants to kiss her more and more. But they’re soon at the door to Ariel’s room, and Belle doesn’t know what to do.

“It’s a shame I didn’t see Roomba tonight,” Ariel muses with a twinkle in her eye. “Was he asleep?”

“I don’t take it home with me,” Belle replies.

Ariel’s eyes fly wide open. “You leave him alone all night?!”

Belle can’t help it - she dissolves into giggles at the pure shock on Ariel’s face. And then Ariel starts laughing too, and soon they’re both leaning on each other and gasping for air, and Belle isn’t thinking when she presses their lips together.

Ariel blinks at her, the laughter fading, but then she grins and pulls Belle close and their second kiss is deeper and warmer and even better than the first.

*

The next morning when the bell over the shop door tinkles, Ariel greets Belle with a sweet kiss to her cheek and a bouquet of wildflowers. Together they pour over one of Belle’s books, learning the names of each blossom, and then Belle explains the concept of a date.

“So last night, that was a date?” Ariel asks.

“I think it was,” Belle admits. “I mean, I hope it was.”

“I hope so too,” Ariel says.

“Would you like to come over again tonight?” Belle suggests. “For a second date?”

“I’d love to,” Ariel tells her, and she kisses Belle’s cheek again, her skin smelling like jasmine and the ocean.

When Ariel arrives that evening, the Roomba is gliding around Belle’s house, and Ariel laughs delightedly at the sight.

*

Soon they have a new routine. Ariel still joins Belle at the pawnshop, but she also joins her at home every night. They go out to dinner, and spend time at the library, and go for walks together. On nice days they go to the beach, and Belle takes a good book and a blanket to sprawl upon while Ariel goes swimming.

“We’re home, Roomba!” Ariel likes to call when they return to the house.

“It’s not sentient,” Belle reminds her fondly, and Ariel just smiles and shakes her head like she knows something Belle doesn’t.

The strange thing is that Belle’s read the instruction manual back-to-front, and there’s nothing in there about the Roomba responding to voice commands. Yet it always seems to appear when Ariel calls for it, gleefully sucking up the sand the two of them walk in.

Then again, Belle does have a mermaid for a girlfriend. Maybe a sentient Roomba isn’t so strange after all.
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