The End

The locking mechanism in the handcuffs clicks into place.

"They'll kill you!"

"Isn't that what I deserve?"

I hide behind the corner and keep walking. I don't know what I was thinking, the belief that a wall between us would make it any easier to leave dead set in my mind. I quickly discover that that's not the case when the stone fails to rescue me from her desperate prayers to a deity that goes by my names.

"Ruby. Ruby! You can't leave me here!

Red!"

Cursing under my breath, I backtrack, hesitating when I reach the spot that, to its credit, has managed to personify both my salvation and my defeat simultaneously in a matter of seconds. Right now, there's only one way for me to preserve a clear conscience and show her where I'm coming from. There's only one giant 'but' in there, a 'but' I never thought I'd have to consider.

A permission.

Her arm is bent at an angle that gives her pull the most force. It's not nearly enough to set her free. More than enough to release me in my true form. She smiles when she sees me, unsure yet entirely hopeful that I've changed my mind.

"Can I kiss you?" I ask while standing still in the doorway.

The smile fades. That much I expected. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Under the circumstances, it would be unfair of me to do it without asking you first," I explain, making a 'lay it all out' gesture with my hand. Must be the wolf. Or Snow. Snow used to do that back in the day, often when she chose to resign on the present matter. I blink as a part of my own self comes into focus. I run a hand through my hair and my lungs deflate with a loud sigh. "I'm sorry. Can you forget I said that?" Come to think of it, I miss my tail. I could put it between my legs and wolf away.

"Yes."

Okay. Just as planned. "Good." What now?

"N-no, I meant," Belle stutters, "I meant yes as in, well, yes."

I take a step back. "Really?"

"Really."

"Why?"

"If you're going to make me explain it, I might have to revoke that statement," she warns, pointing an accusing finger my way, which I find adorable rather than threatening. Despite that, though, in my own fashion, she remains emotionlessly monotone, mended by a power beyond my understanding.

Any other time of the year, I would take pride in seizing the first move. Right now, it just feels like the ruse it is. Partially. Not entirely. But I never swore I'd tell no lies.

The wolf notices the subtle quickening of the pace of her breathing. The wolf also senses she is not afraid but bristling with curiosity and sudden anticipation. The wolf isn't pleased. I think, gulping down a lump in my throat the size of Maine, that Belle is the bravest, purest, kindest, boldest, brightest, most irritating, frustrating, infuriating, most obnoxious, honest, unselfish, unbelievable, unfathomable, craziest and borderline stupidest woman on the face of the Earth.

One of the few perks of having an inner monster are the senses. I haven't even seen the mayor today, yet I can feel her right now. And with that comes unwanted knowledge I never would have thought would have any power over me. But her fear, loneliness, and anger are so strong that I can smell them even from this secluded little library. I can hear her thoughts swirling, the bump of a wave of cider against glass. I can hear her murmuring two names over and over in her solitary evening sadness, which she, consciously or not, intends to imbue into every soul present tonight, living and dead. One of those names brings to mind the same image she sees, of a friend in need we both, to my surprise, seem to miss. The other means nothing and excuses nothing to me.

As deserved, she doesn't have a chance. I do.

When I cross that faint distance, it's really more of a panicked run. Why? I ask myself that. Because I'm scared the opportunity might pass, I suppose. I kiss her and she kisses me back, but it's not the taste that lingers. It's her scent, one I've memorized long ago, that shuns the sensations stemming from Regina's anxiety and replaces them with a sense of sanctuary. Her lip is chapped in one spot. I instinctively run the tip of my tongue over the cut in a lousy attempt to soothe it. Belle's laugh vibrates deep in her throat. "What?" I frown. Embarrassing myself already? Good going.

"You're right, you are an animal. A big, fluffy puppy, that's what you are," she smirks.

I raise an eyebrow at her without making a move. Let her wait a little while. She should have thought of that before. It's amazing how being with her, in this moment, makes me temporarily appreciate what I have. All these sounds; they are a symphony of melodies that start and pause and stop and skip at all the right times, making me lose myself in a phenomenal musical carnival. Crickets. Wheels rolling on the road. The minute hand on top of the clock tower twitching once, then a second time. Belle's breath tickling my face as her expectations stare up at me, wondering who we're becoming but all too willing to let her take the fall. Her heartbeat, distant and firm and regular.

I open my mouth to tell her that I can hear her, but stop myself in time. As amazing as it is, as much as I wish she could feel what I feel, I can't afford to stray from the plan. I settle for resting my hand over her heart, just to feel the beat running under my fingertips. Thump. Belle flinches, glancing down at my index finger on the collar of her shirt. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Like game in the forest.

Thump. Thump.

This is dangerous.

Thump.

I move behind her, except there's almost no motion involved. I'm looking her in the eye and then I'm holding her arms behind her back and pushing her up against the nearest flat surface that allows me to do so without forcing me to set her free. Belle's gasp of surprise is deafened by a dull rattling. Too dull, in fact. The side of a wall is helping me trap her, and the dullness is the chain whipping the back of Kafka's Metamorphosis along the way.

She doesn't know what I'm doing. If she did, she would try to get the chain to press between my legs, successfully hindering my efforts. But she doesn't. She waits, her cheeks reddening slightly.

I lean in, my nose nudging above her ear as I whisper. "Can I do more than just kiss you?" It comes out teasing, but that's more of an added bonus. I'm not just waiting for a no. I'm looking for the yes.

Not that I really need it. The demand travels down her spine, leaving shivers in its wake. She writhes in my grasp and the mossy flatland before her glazes over with a mist of her breath. I can't suppress a smirk; my nose crinkles as I catch a trail of her wetness. Expert on rehabilitation my ass.

"Uh-huh," she hums, her eyelashes fluttering.

I could nag her about it, but that's not what this is about. I sneak my arms around her waist, my front pressing into her back, creating friction in the fabric. I'd give anything to get rid of that annoying obstacle completely, but I know that's not where this is going. With nimble fingers I hitch the hem of her shirt up from under her skirt. I linger there, tracing patterns on smooth skin underneath. She sucks in a sharp breath, her stomach inching away from me only to have her hips grind against me. I chuckle into brunette locks, hiking the fabric upward. I have to pull her away from the wall so that I can continue my ministrations all the way up.

Thumpity thumpity thump.

I stop, smirking, when I feel the cup of her bra in my palm as her chest heaves. She's wearing the red lace I helped her pick back when she knew little about what iced tea was and even less about Storybrooke's clothing habits. I can't take it off completely anyway, as long as the chain stands in my way. A hiss escapes her throat as I slam her exposed chest against the cold stone. Gotta love these thick walls is time of year.

"Cold?" I ask innocently, running my fingers over hers as she tries to support herself and holding her body in place the few seconds it tries to get away on its own accord.

Belle opens her mouth to speak, or so I think, but what comes out is merely a strangled whimper. The itch in my nose grows stronger. The girl couldn't speak even if she wanted to. She can only bring herself to gulp down empty air and brush her knees together, the heat between her legs bubbling up like a no longer dormant volcano in stark contrast to the tiny icicles assaulting her skin above.

"Tell me to stop and I will," I offer and Belle knows I mean every word.

She shakes her head, as much as her confines permit her. Then she takes a shallow breath, absorbing all the determination that's left in this sad blizzard of a town, and speaks. "I know what you're doing."

"What am I doing, then?"

"You're trying to distract me, but it's not going to work," she answers meekly, her voice shaking, all the determination that's left being a pinch too little to resist.

As wrong as can be, but a decent guess nonetheless. "No and obviously not. Wolf smell, remember?" I chuckle, watching her eyes widen and her cheeks flush crimson at the prospect of just what I'm insinuating. Poor girl. That power is unfair of me to abuse and I know it.

I brush her hair aside and latch my lips onto her neck while my other hand works up a trail up the inside of her thigh, pushing her legs apart. Thank god she's wearing a skirt. I tickle and nip every now and then, questing fingers steadily reaching their destination.

"They'll kill you," she repeats more to herself than me, trying desperately to keep herself focused on what she thinks is more important than whatever it is we're doing. I ignore the remark, stopping just short of her panties, moving my hand in a crescent semicircle from her groin to her buttocks repeatedly without as much as acknowledging the spot she wants me to reach. "Oh god," she groans as I nibble at her earlobe, making her skin crawl, her toes curl, her muscles tense and her forehead slump against the wall with a thud in defeat. That's how I know she's given up. "Why are you doing this to me?" she mumbles, the sentence husky and weighed down by unshed tears for someone that no longer exists.

"I've told you. I'm a monster," I deadpan, more bitter than I ever wanted to wind up. Belle's making this way harder than it needs to be. For a second, I even consider not following through with the plan, instead acting on the stirrings underneath my ribs. Just once, I could listen to her. But that's a luxury way beyond my projected funds.

Taking pity on the girl - for the time being - I clamp my hand over her center, rubbing slowly, agonizingly slowly, back and forth over the moist mound underneath. "God, Ruby," she squeaks, reaching down to make me press harder, to which I swat her away and pin her clenched fist above her head.

"Nuh-uh."

"Please," she moans and I comply, brushing the pad of my middle finger over her clit and tilting her chin up so that I have better access to her pulse point, sucking on it at the same time. Her back arches as I repeat the motion several times, careful not to apply too much pressure for fear she might come right here and now. Her whole body is stiff with arousal, the sweet scent of which is sure by now to coat this place for at least a day.

Perfect.

I relent, pulling away and breaking all contact. Belle stumbles, doe-eyed and dizzy, her skirt crumpled, her shirt rolled up at her collar bone, her hair mussed. Her expression has a pitiful glassy sheen to it that compels me to hurry back and either finish the job or hold her in my arms like I deserve the privilege - either would work. She slides to the floor, her legs no longer able to support her.

"Why?" she whines, frowning in what is as close to anger as Belle can get - that is a mixture of confusion and betrayal, the same look she gave me when the cuff coiled around her wrist. I'm left to ponder which is worse.

"Because if I go through with this, if we do this, you will think that that's it, that what's done is done. But it's never over. For me it never ends, Belle," I cry, shaking. "What you're feeling now, that's what every day is like for me, all the time, always. There is no end. I'm sorry; I just had to make you understand!"

There it is. She's reduced me to a sniveling mess of soon-to-be fur and fangs. She hangs her head. Her shoulders sag when it dawns on her, the purpose of this whole affair, that she should have seen it and that she's voluntarily allowed me to go through with every step for reasons I can't begin to imagine.

"I have to go. I have to get my ending," I mumble, already halfway out the door, ignoring her calls for the deity that goes by my names.

"Do you really-" she starts, but I'm too far and the wolf too lost to hear.

"—not feel anything?"

Thump, thump, thump.