Summary: Done for a kinkmeme request. After the curse is broken, Ruby comes down to see Rumpelstiltzkin in his cell.
She thinks this place should smell like death. Or at the very least like something broken – the way curses smell when the sky blazes and falls, ripping away sheets that smell of him, the warm heartbeat beneath her sleeping cheek.
Ruby thinks this dank, filthy pit should reek, but it only smells of damp earth, legacy of the persistent drizzle above. Happily ever after.
When at last she reaches the bars, there are no guards. Not even fresh footprints in the clinging mud. She sees him huddled in the corner, slumped against the wall, and her first thought – her very first – is to notice his shoulders.
And, of course, they would be. His shoulders, that is. Wider. Goblins do have strange proportions. Which is what he is, isn't he? Goblin. He's not a man. He's not a man with a smile full of sharp teeth and a slow, wicked sense of humor. He's not a man with a bad knee (and she wonders how that happened). He's a monster, a wolf, a thing in the night – hungry and hurting. Dangerous. Timothy Gold. Hay – straw – into gold. A riddle.
(I'll spin you straw into gold, my dear, so long as you can guess my name.)
His face is turned away from her. Maybe that's why she only sees his shoulders, slumped, a handbreadth larger than they were last night.
"Gold." Her voice breaks. She winces, knowing he will catch it, like he catches everything, mistake the cause.
It's not you, she wants to say. It's your shoulders, one handbreadth different.
Ruby tries, but somehow, she cannot speak.
"You know that's not my name, dear heart."
"Yes," she whispers.
And yes. And yes. But she can't say it. She can't say the other, can't make this nightmare (happily ever after) real. Someone told her once, words she carried her whole life, words with such power they held her in the curse, through the forgetting.
It's not real until you believe in it.
Red stands with her hands on the bars. He sits against the wall, his (bad) knee crooked up under his elbow, shoulders bowed like a shield.
He had a lilt once—a singsong to drive a kingdom mad. She listens, but she can't hear it anymore. And suddenly, Ruby is furious.
"Fuck this," she snarls. The words burst out on accident, but they're true. True enough to bring his head around, in any case. He keeps his face low, away from the light her torch throws, but she sees the left hand corner of his mouth tilt, an eyebrow arch.
They're fighting a war – still fighting – together. Against a whole world that believes in eternal happiness and magic – but always for a price, and always, only for those who can pay.
"I said," she repeats, her eyes locked with his, "fuck this."
He smiles then. Really smiles, shaking his head at her with a click of the tongue, rising, one hand on the wall for balance.
"Such language, Ruby. Whatever would your grandmother say?"
But she feels his smirk like a bonfire, deep down past the cold in her bones from the rain. All at once the floodgates open and cannot be shut again.
"Who's happy?" she hisses, knuckles white on the bars, her eyes on his shoulders, his bad knee, this body she knows in a different shade of green. "Is Emma happy? Snow White? Prince Charming? Did they get their perfect little family back all neat again? Did they get what they wanted? Because I've got a moldy shack in the middle of nowhere, no car, no plumbing, and you're stuck in a damn hole in the ground. So they'd better be happy, or—or..."
He stops a handbreadth away, twines different hands – long, twiggy fingers, now – around the bars, over hers, matching her joint for joint.
"Or else what, sweet?" he purrs, leaning so close she feels his heat like a wall. "You'll do something… regrettable? Make a deal, perhaps?"
Ruby counts three gold teeth in the bottom right hand corner of his smile, just the place she left them when she kissed him goodnight. His breath still smells like mint. Toothpaste. It damn near breaks her.
(Yesterday, they had coffee at the diner before her shift. He read her horoscope—cloudy, with a chance of change—and she laughed, asking if he'd finally whisk her away to an island somewhere, put all his ill-gotten gold to good use. Yesterday, they had happily ever after.)
"First born child, maybe?" she wants desperately to touch him, but cannot bear to move her hands from under his. "I hear you're into that."
He shrugs, leans into the bars, into her. She can feel his chest against hers. Her whole body aches like a bruise.
"Not so much these days. Too much commitment. But feel free to make an offer, of course. I wouldn't want to discourage you right out of the gate." He shrugs again, eyes the bars between them with familiar mischief. "Or… into it, as the case may be."
"Alright, then," she says, "Here's the deal," and unwraps her hands from his long enough to pull a fat, golden key from her pocket. "How about I find somewhere useful to put this bad boy, you give me a kiss fit for a fucking curse-breaking princess, and we book? That sound like a deal to you?"
He grins, and yes, wolfish. All sharp teeth and wrong edges, but he's hers – still hers, even with these unfamiliar shoulders and strange hands. And the wonder in his eyes, the way he looks at her like she's something new and exotic – something precious—
"Now, wherever did you get that?"
He still feels like home.
"Swiped it off of Cinderella. Turns out a delinquent childhood is good for something, after all. Now, do we have a deal or what? Because if they figure out I took this, there's going to be a shit-ton of guards down here faster than Jiminy Cricket can start whining about feelings."
Lightning fast, he reaches through the bars, pulls her mouth to his in a flare of heat and need and awkward angles (the bars are in all the worst places), but she iknows him/i. He's wild. Mean. Has a tongue like a damn miracle. Bites.
She loves it. Loves him.
She's wearing a red cloak, but that doesn't mean she believes in fairy tales. Only that she believes in him. And fuck true love, anyway. Fuck happily ever after and princes and fairies. Fuck this shit. She'll make her own ending. Take him and the broom she rode in on all the way back to the goddamned real world where they'll fuck in the shower with the water as hot as it'll go, for as long as they want it, no magic required.
"Deal," he whispers against her lips. "And possibly the best I ever made."
Ruby grins, thumbs her lipstick from the corner of his mouth, and unlocks the door.