Belle was curled up in the beat up – but outlandishly comfortable – old arm chair in her office with a steaming mug of tea beside her, and had just started reading an enchanting tale about a young boy who lived in a cupboard under the stairs, when a thumping sound began to drift towards her through the stacks.
At one point in time, hearing such a sound so late at night when she was alone in the library would have alarmed her, but as the arrhythmic thumps sounded again, a large smile spread across Belle's face and she carefully marked the page she had been reading in her book before practically hopping to her feet and making her way towards the door.
Knocks like that only ever sounded at the library door so late at night when there was a full moon so Belle knew exactly who was making the racket.
As Belle neared the front door, the thumping noise ceased and Belle's ear could just make out the faint sound of high pitched whining coming from behind the door. As she drew closer the thumping stopped, but the whining continued and the sound of paws and claws scratching impatiently at the door soon joined the vocals.
Smile widening, Belle shook her head faintly, amused and completely charmed by Ruby's wolfstime eagerness.
Finally having reached the door, Belle flung it open and immediately Ruby's large, hulking wolf form stepped forward and shoved its fury head at Belle, nuzzling her as it continued to release high pitch little whines.
"Oh, there's no need for that," Belle said good-naturedly, closing the door to the library before she reached out and began to sweetly stroke Ruby's furry face, making sure to pay close attention to the snout and behind the ears which seemed to be Ruby's favorite places to have scratched. "See," Belle continued, kneeling down so that she was eye level with Ruby. "It's okay," she breathed out softly, laughing a few seconds later when Ruby tried to lick her face. "What do you say we save that for humanstime," Belle joked as she angled her face away from Ruby's tongue, though she made sure to give the wolf a few more pets and scratches behind the ears before she rose to her feet so that there were no hard feelings. "Do you feel like a little story?" Belle asked Ruby, looking down at her as she started to walk back towards her office.
She didn't expect Ruby to respond to her in her wolf form of course, but the wolf seemed to have a certain understanding of her words even if it couldn't reciprocate. When Belle said, "Come along," the wolf always followed after her, and last full moon when the wolf had eaten half of the hamburger Belle had gotten from Granny's for dinner, Belle had turned her disapprovingly and asked, "Did you enjoy that?" And the wolf had licked its chops and wagged its tail happily.
In truth, the wolf was probably just responding to changes in Belle's tone of voice and simply following her lead, walking when she walked and stopping when she stopped, but fantasy had always been more interesting to Belle than reality, and she liked to think that the wolf, that Ruby, really was hearing her and that she could in some small way understand what Belle was saying.
"What's this?" Belle asked a few moments later when she realized that she was walking alone.
She turned to look behind her to see Ruby sitting on the floor, watching her as she walked away.
"Come on," Belle said, nodding her head towards the office, but Ruby didn't move a muscle.
"Well, well," Belle breathed out thoughtfully, walking back over to where Ruby was sitting. "This is new."
Since Ruby had started coming to visit her on her full moon nights, Ruby had always taken to following Belle around once she had been let into the library. Sometimes Belle stacked books with Ruby trailing behind her, something they just went for little walks through the stacks, and sometimes they went into Belle's cozy little office and Ruby would lie on the soft shag rug as Belle read to her in low, gentle tones from storybooks. Occasionally, the wolfy part of Ruby would rare its head and she would try to chew on a book, or climb onto something like Belle's swivel chair – which always had hilariously disastrous results – but Ruby had never really resisted Belle before during their time together on full moon nights.
"Is this a game?" Belle asked curiously as Ruby watched her with her, head turned slightly to the side. "Are you playing a game with me?" Belle inquired, certain that she could see a teasing little glint in Ruby's dark wolf eyes.
Ruby's tail began to wag, thumping against the ground softly in response to Belle's words and a sweet, airy laugh tumbled from Belle's lips in response.
"How delightful," Belle exclaimed happily, surprised but delighted by the night's turn of events. "But how am I going to know what to do?" she asked thoughtfully, looking down at Ruby as she pondered how she was supposed to figure out how to play Ruby's game.
Ruby was still for a moment, a contemplative look coming into her eyes as she stared at Belle, and then she stood up and turned from Belle and started walking back towards the front door.
"Oh," Belle whispered softly, her good cheer fading a little as she saw Ruby head towards the door.
She always supposed that it would happen one of these nights, that Ruby would get bored and want to head back to the woods, but Ruby had seemed so content on the other nights she'd come to visit that Belle had allowed it to lull her into a false sense of confidence on the matter. That pesky logical part of her brain warned her that it was inevitable, but fanciful part of her brain wanted to believe that all of the full moon nights with Ruby would be filled with nighttime strolls through the stacks and stories in her office.
Ruby stopped in front of the door and turned, looking back at Belle expectantly.
"Oh alright, I'm coming," Belle said, quickening her pace which had been rather slow since she was reluctant to let Ruby go. "I know the woods are calling you," she sighed, looking down at Ruby and giving her one more scratch behind the ears before she opened the door.
She supposed that she was lucky that Ruby had even taken any time out of her night to stop by, and comforted herself with the thought that Ruby had at least wanted to see her, even if she didn't want to stay.
Ruby stepped out of the library, but she didn't immediately take off into the night like Belle had expected her to. Instead, she turned around and looked at her expectantly again, waiting.
"What are you doing?" Belle wondered as flakes of snow fell down onto Ruby's dark coat of fur and then melted away to nothingness from the heat of her body.
It had been snowing on and off in Storybrooke all week, leaving most of the town covered in a romantic blanket of sparkling snow. The sidewalks and roads had been plowed of course and were safe to travel, but the playgrounds and parks and woodland areas were still snow-covered wonderlands.
Ruby whined as she looked at Belle, and when Belle's eyes focused on her, she jerked her head in the direction of town.
Belle's eyebrows creased in confusion, and Ruby whined and jerked her head towards town again.
"I don't," Belle began, wrapping her arms around herself to try and capture and contain some of her body's heat. Ruby had a fur coat on, but it was cold outside and all Belle had to keep her warm was a sweater. "Baby, I'm sorry," Belle sighed, freeing one of her hands to scratch at Ruby's head. "I don't know what you want."
Ruby sat then, and stared up at Belle, watching her for a little while, then her eyes flashed and she stood and circled behind Belle so that she could nudge Belle with its snout, pushing Belle in the direction she wanted her to go, pushing Belle towards town.
"Oh!" Belle said with suddenly clarity, her eyes lightening up and her lips curving up into a bright smile as she realized what Ruby wanted. "You want me to come with you," she said, looking down at Ruby who was staring up at her hopefully.
Ruby's tail started to wag again.
"Of course I'll come," Belle said immediately. "I just have to get my coat," she continued, rubbing her hands together.
In response to her words, Ruby turned to face the door of the library and then dutifully sat down on the ground to await Belle's return.
Belle laughed at that, charmed by Ruby as always, and she stroked the wolf's head murmured "Good girl," before she headed back into the library and quickly gathered her winter gear for their midnight stroll.
Between the snow and the late hour the streets of Storybrooke were deserted so Belle was free to followed Ruby without concern as Ruby ambled on, sometimes walking on the sidewalk and sometime wandering into the road, basically walking wherever she pleased as they made their way through town.
Beams from the street lamps glinted off of the snow falling around them, lightening up the tiny flakes and making them seem to glow. It made everything around them seem hazy and dreamlike, it made Storybrooke look the magical place the curse being broken had made it, and as they headed towards the outskirts of town, it felt to Belle like she and Ruby were the only two souls left in town and all of Storybrooke was their playground.
"What now?" Belle asked, looking down when they came to a stop at the edge of town.
In response, Ruby slid her front paws forward so that she was standing on an angle, and then she whined softly.
Belle looked at her for a few seconds, taking in Ruby's pose and then shook her head in disbelief.
"You can't be serious," she said, caught between amusement and exasperation.
Ruby wagged her tail.
"Ruby, you're a wolf not a horse," Belle said seriously, looking Ruby right in the eyes. "I can't ride on you."
Ruby whined again, and then wagged her tail, all the while looking at Belle hopefully.
"Fine," Belle sighed, completely unable to resist Ruby's sad puppy face. "But if I fall off, I'm going to be very cross with you," Belle warned before she moved to the side and climbed gingerly onto Ruby's back.
A second later a surprised gasp escaped from her as Ruby rose to her fully height, and Belle laughed as her heart beat madly beneath her layers of clothes. This is going to be interesting, she thought to herself, but she was sure that it would be alright as long as Ruby took her time.
"Okay," Belle said petting Ruby's head. "Now, let's just take this slowl…" Belle continued, however her words were cut short when she was forced to grip Ruby's fur in a desperate attempt to stay astride her when Ruby began to run.
The first few minutes on Ruby's back were harrowing, but when the initial fear and panic wore off, Belle realized that if she squeezed Ruby's sides with her thighs while leaning forward, keeping her front as close to Ruby's back as possible, that it was actually pretty easy to keep her balance. Once she had that worked out, she was then able to turn her attention to the sights around her, and she found herself smiling widely as Ruby ran.
The wind was cold as it hit Belle's face, but it wasn't harsh or cutting. The way Ruby ran made the cool air sort of caress Belle's features, making her skin tingle pleasantly, invigorating her. She felt wild and powerful as they raced through the trees, she felt attuned to world around her in a way that she never had before as Ruby's strong body carried them further and further into the woods. As her fingers curled in Ruby's fur, and she hunched down closer to the wolf, imaging that she herself was running, Belle really understood just why Ruby loved being out in the woods so much, and it made her heart swell with love for her, because every full moon Ruby gave up some of that freedom to come to the library and spend time with her.
When they finally came to a stop, Belle found that Ruby had brought them to a clearing so picturesque it could have been featured on a postcard. At their sides stood majestic evergreens that were dusted with snow, branching hanging heavily but beautiful under the weight of the icy power, and in front of a pristine expanse of snow sparkled, spreading before them for hundreds of yards.
"It's beautiful," Belle breathed out dreamily, looking down at Ruby who tail wagged happily.
Then, as Belle looked down at her, Ruby dipped her snout into the snow and lifted it quickly, flicking a chuck of snow that had settled on it at Belle.
"Hey!" Belle exclaimed as bits of snow sprayed her cheek.
Ruby's tail wagged again.
"Oh, I see. Okay," Belle said as big wolf eyes looked up at her, sparkling with a mischief. "You're on," she declared pointing a gloved finger at Ruby.
Belle bent down to pick up a hand full of snow to retaliate and Ruby took off into the clearing to avoid making it too easy for Belle to take her revenge.
Belle wasn't sure how long they stayed out there in the clearing, but she was sure that it had to have been a couple hours. After Ruby had taken off into the clearing, Belle had followed her –armed with a mighty snow ball – and they had spend quite a while playing a game Belle had come to think of as Throw, Attack, Dodge or Eat. Without hands, Ruby hadn't been able to retaliate against Belle by throwing snowballs of her own, but Ruby had plenty of fun chasing after Belle and attacking by flicking snow at her with snout, while also dodging the snowballs Belle hurled at her, or even occasionally jumping up to catch a snowball which she always proceeded up to chew up before darting towards Belle again.
Ruby had a wolfs cardiovascular system and seemed to be able to play forever, but eventually Belle started to tire, and spotting a stick poking out of the snow, she had plucked it out of the snow and started a game of fetch.
When Ruby had gotten tired of fetch, she had brought the stick to Belle's feet, dropped it, and then stood up on her hind legs, placing her paws on Belle's shoulders. If Ruby had been a normal sized wolf, Belle would have been able to support her weight, but Ruby was a great big wolf, and eventually her weight caused Belle to topple over into the snow.
Finding herself lying in the snow, Belle decided to make the best of the situation, and figured that as long as she was down there she could as well make a snow angel and she'd started moving her legs and arms accordingly. Ruby had watched her for a minute, her head tilted quizzically to the side, then she had lay down in the snow as well, and tried to copy what Belle was doing. Wolves weren't designed to make snow angels however, and Ruby had just ended up uselessly kicking her legs and paws, and the sight of it eventually sent Belle into a fit of giggles that caused her to ruin her own attempt at making a snow angel.
The cold from the snow had eventually begun to seep in through the layers of Belle's clothing and she'd had to get up in order to warm up a bit.
Spotting an overturned tree trunk at the edge of the clearing, Belle had walked over to it and sat down. Ruby had followed her and lay down at her feet, and for a while the two of them had just sat in silence, enjoying the crisp winter air as they look up the twinkling stars filling the sky above them.
A rabbit poking its head out from a bush had disturbed that peace, for as soon as Ruby had spotted it, she'd been on her feet and immediately taken off in pursuit. Belle had tried to call her back, not liking the thought of Ruby hurting the rabbit even though she was a wolf and wolves ate rabbits, but Ruby either didn't hear her or didn't care because she continued chasing the rabbit until she was out of Belle's field of vision.
When Ruby had finally returned to her, Belle had apprehensively checked her snout for smears of blood, but Ruby had been as clean as she was when she'd raced off into the woods and Belle sighed in relief, pleased that rabbit had found a way to elude the wolf, even though Ruby herself looked miserable, having failed to capture her snack.
As always, Belle found Ruby's puppy dog face impossible to resist and she'd had no choice but to her start around round of Throw, Attack, Dodge, or Eat in order to cheer Ruby up.
Eventually however, the full day Belle had, coupled with her unexpectedly active night, began to take its toll on Belle, and when she once again retreated to the tree trunk she'd been resting on earlier, Ruby had followed her and nudged Belle's leg with her nose before bending down the way she had at the edge of town to make it easier for Belle to climb onto her back. Then, with Belle securely on her back, Ruby had begun to trot back to town.
Ruby smiled as she stretched her cramped limbs, extending her hands and pointing her toes forward, a soft sigh escaping from her at the pleasant feeling of her tense muscles loosening. Waking up on the ground was still a bit of a pain, but waking up on a nice, soft rug was much preferable to waking up on a pile of dried up old leaves, burrs and twigs, so Ruby wasn't going to complain.
When Ruby's eyes finally blinked open, and she found herself gazing at fat flakes of snow dancing in the wind as she looked out of the window of Belle's bedroom. Since she'd started falling sleep in Belle's room during wolfstime she'd always ended up waking up facing the window, and even though she had no conscious memory of it, she knew that her wolf enjoyed looking up at the stars before sleep claimed it and faced the window so that the stars would be the last thing it saw.
A soft sigh filled the room, snapping Ruby out of her reverie, and Ruby turned her head in the direction the sound had come from, her gaze gentling as it fell upon Belle.
Her girlfriend was still asleep, lying on her stomach with one arm hanging limply over the side of the bed. Belle didn't usually sleep so haphazardly and Ruby realized that Belle must have drifted off to sleep while petting her the night before. As a wolf, Ruby knew that she had no shame and she guessed that she had whined at Belle until Belle had relented and dropped her arm over the edge of the bed to stroke her.
Ruby indulged herself with some Belle gazing for a few minutes, but eventually she forced herself to rise to her feet. She'd never woken up before Belle after a full moon, and seeing Belle still so soundly asleep made Ruby realize that she had well and truly exhausted her girlfriend the night before, dragging her out into the woods the way she had.
Bending over the side of the bed, Ruby carefully helped Belle shift so that her arm was no longer awkwardly hanging over the edge of the bed, then she pressed her lips tenderly to Belle's forehead before she headed for the door.
She couldn't undo her wolf keeping Belle up all night, but she could at least try to make it up to her.
Ruby made her way down the diner's kitchen and busied herself making breakfast for her sleeping girlfriend. Usually Granny's would have been open for business in half an hour, but since magic had returned to Storybrooke – resurrecting Ruby's wolf – Granny had taken to opening the diner a few hours later on mornings after a full moon so that Ruby could get some sleep.
Humming softly to herself, Ruby diced and chopped; she cracked and scrambled, mixed and flipped, fried and toasted until she had a breakfast fit for a queen prepared. Belle deserved more; Belle deserved a breakfast fit for a goddess, but with only earthly ingredients at her disposal Ruby had to settle for making Belle a breakfast worthy of royalty.
By the time Ruby entered Belle's bedroom again, Belle was just beginning to stir – stretching sleep cramped limbs as she released the most adorable soft little waking sounds while blinking and squinting into the sunlit room. The sight of her brought a smile to Ruby's face, and Ruby carefully placed the large serving tray she had in her hands down on Belle's dresser before she crossed over to the bed and sat on the edge of her.
"'Morning sleepy head," she breathed out playfully before she pressed her lips to Belle's cheek.
"Morning," Belle responded, her voice raspy and slow. She was still half asleep. "You woke up before me," she breathed out, her eyebrows creasing a little in bewilderment even as she leaned into Ruby's body, instinctively seeking out her warmth.
"There's a first time for everything," Ruby replied, dipping her head down to kiss the top of Belle's head as Belle wrapped her arms around her waist and snuggled into her. "You can blame it on me though. I think I tuckered you out last night," she murmured into Belle's chestnut hair.
"Mm," Belle hummed, smiling a little before grazing her lips against Ruby's neck. "It was fun though," she sighed contently, pressing a firmer kiss to Ruby's skin.
"You laughed at me," Ruby replied softly, almost serenely as she held Belle, her mind drifting back to her ridiculous attempts to follow Belle's lead and make a snow angel the night before. Honestly, she couldn't blame Belle for laughing.
"You were funny," Belle breathed out, and Ruby chuckled softly before retaliating by poking Belle in the ribs which made Belle giggle and squirm.
"Brat," Ruby accused gently.
"Takes one to know one," Belle shot back, and Ruby's eyes narrowed at her menacingly, but she couldn't hold the expression for long and soon dissolved into a grin.
"You've been spending too much time at the elementary school," Ruby said, commenting on Belle's schoolyard response to her teasing.
"Pssft," Belle breathed out. "One can never spend too much time reading, especially to children."
"Is that so?" Ruby sighed.
"That is so," Belle replied. "Life hasn't taught them how to disbelieve yet; responsibility hasn't shackled their creativity nor has experience crushed their dreams. Theirs is a world of possibility … of wonder, of magic. As far as they're concerned anything is possible. How could anyone resist taking them to new worlds, introducing them to new friends, and having wild adventures together? It's … what?" Belle asked suddenly when she felt Ruby's body vibrating against her.
"Nothing," Ruby breathed out softly, though she was still smiling and had obviously been laughing silently. "You're just very cute."
"Hrmph," Belle exhaled. "I don't see what was so funny," she muttered, though she didn't pull back from Ruby's body.
"Nothing was," Ruby whispered, "You're just very cute and you make me happy," she continued before kissing the top of Belle's head again. "Also I made you breakfast," she went on a second later, knowing that would make Belle stop frowning. "Shift over and lean against the wall and we can make it breakfast in bed," Ruby continued as she slipped off of the bed and onto her feet so that she could retrieve the tray.
Belle shifted as instructed until she was leaning against the wall and, carefully balancing the tray of food, Ruby slipped onto the bed and moved so that she was sitting beside Belle before she then lowered the tray onto their laps.
"Bon appetite!" Ruby said with a smile, pulling the lids off of the dishes on the tray.
"Wow," Belle breathed out, her eyes widening with delight as she took in the feast before her. "This looks great," she said, her eyes crinkling at the corners, and Ruby beamed at her. "But please tell me you're eating too," Belle said as she glanced down at the tray.
As good as it all looked there was simply too much food for her to even contemplate finishing it all.
"Oh yeah," Ruby replied, a wicked little gleam coming into her eyes as she looked at Belle. "I'm hungry as a wolf," she continued, and Belle rolled her eyes at Ruby dramatically and shoved her lightly on the arm before giving in and laughing.
"That was terrible," Belle said when her laughter abated, shaking her head at Ruby as she spoke.
"Yeah, but it made you smile so it was totally worth it," Ruby breathed out and Belle graced her with another smile in response. "Come on, let's eat. My stomach's growling like …"
"Don't," Belle warned, shaking her head emphatically even as she smiled.
"A…" Ruby continued.
"Ruby," Belle said pointing a finger at her.
"Wolf," Ruby finished grinning.
"I'm eating my bacon and ignoring you now," Belle said turning her attention to the tray of food before her and Ruby chuckled softly before following Belle's lead and tucking in as well.