Ruby held the dark red cloak in her hands and squeezed the fabric between her fingers for comfort. The cloak had meant so much to her in a past life. Under it she had managed to avert the deaths of some of those most important to her. Her mind lingered sadly on the word some. When she hadn't had the cloak not everyone was safe and there had been casualties. Yet, when she wore it, the magical material kept her from being the villain and that's what she clung to so desperately now. Ruby wanted to believe this. She wanted to know that she wasn't evil. It was essential that she pull together the memories of her past life and bring them into this new world she now found herself in.
In her memories she had gained control over the beast that moved below the surface of her skin, crawling through her veins, biding its time until it could emerge during the full moon. In that world she knew how to keep the evil at bay, but in Storybrooke Ruby felt lost. In fact, she knew she really wasn't Ruby. Ruby was the name she had been given by Regina's curse. It was also the evil magic which had kept her clueless about the fancy dress up cloak in Granny's closet and what it was capable of. Now that the memories of Ruby's past life had been restored, she knew that she was Red, or to be more precise, Red Riding Hood as Henry's story book had exposed and that the cloak was much more than something to be worn on Halloween.
Still she felt conflicted. Red or Ruby … who really was she and who was she able to be? Wolf or human? Fairytale character or waitress at her Grandmother's restaurant? Ruby wasn't sure. All that seemed real to her at that moment was the red cloak and how it had kept those around her safe before and how it would again. Yes, in this world, her cloak should keep others away from harm even if she couldn't control the evil inside. She kept reciting this softly to herself as an act of comfort to the point that Ruby was unaware of someone approaching.
"What are you doing back here all alone?" Came the soft lilt of Belle's accent.
Startled, Ruby jerked her head upright, which had been buried deep in the dark red fibers of her cloak. A quiet swear escaped her lips. Her canine senses should have made Ruby aware of Belle's approaching footsteps, no matter how soft they were against the wood flooring of this old library. Even the tune Belle had been humming could have easily been heard by human ears.
These were familiar sounds to Ruby as they were attributes to the girl she found herself drawn to more and more each day and while she would never admit it to Belle, there was some comfort to be found in the little habits of her friend. The way Belle lightly tapped her fingers against the plastic counter tops of the café while she read a book, or the familiar tune she occasionally hummed, like she had been when Ruby entered the library, seemed to have a way of calming her down. It's why she had come here in the first place, to be near someone who could quiet her restless spirit.
Unfortunately, it would seem that during moments of duress like this one, even being near Belle couldn't comfort Ruby and her wolf senses had failed her. Now, because of her self-absorption, the situation had become awkward with Belle catching her looking more crazy than sane, clutching her cloak, muttering incoherently into it, all the while sitting on the floor in the back of the library. It was a situation that had she been herself, Ruby could have easily avoided.
"Oh nothing … I'm just … I'm sorry … I thought I could come here and just …" Ruby wasn't sure how to end her sentence and, so instead she let her words die away without any real conclusion.
Belle put down the stack of books she had been carrying and crouched on the floor near Ruby, "You know you're not going to get away with that explanation, because it doesn't make sense." Belle smiled playfully.
Ruby could tell that her friend was trying to ease the stress that was no doubt etched across her face and she nervously laughed while replying, "No, I guess I'm not my most articulate today."
"Not so much." Belle stated while gathering Ruby's hands into her own as a means to steady the shaking the other wasn't even aware was happening.
When Ruby let the calm of Belle's touch wash over her, she inadvertently lost her grip of the cloak and it drifted to the floor around her knees. Her first instinct was to pull from Belle and retrieve the clothing item, but thankfully the anxiety that had been so stifling only moments ago was beginning to wane. With Belle's influence lightening her angst, Ruby kept her hands in the other girl's grasp.
"I assume this lack of words you seem to be suffering from has something to do with the approaching full moon."
"How did you …" Ruby began to ask, but then stopped when the realization washed over her, "Granny." She groaned.
"Don't be cross." Belle said as she placed a finger on the bridge of Ruby's nose and moved it upward to remove the crease between her brows, "I sort of pulled it out of her and besides I already knew you were a shape shifter. You told me so yourself. Granny was simply adding a little detail to this part of you that I don't know a whole lot about. I went to her and asked why you've seemed so preoccupied lately. You know you missed our book club date yesterday. I was forced to sit in the cafe alone while I waited for you. I ordered pancakes to pass the time."
Ruby's heart sank, aware that she had disappointed Belle. It was a feeling that bothered her almost as much as the approaching full moon. Shaking her head, Ruby gave her friend a sincere apologetic look, "That was yesterday? I'm sorry. Why didn't you say anything when I came into the library today?"
Ruby shrugged. "Well, partly, because I didn't want to bother you over something so petty when you are dealing with something much more precarious at the moment and also ... well, the book is kind of rubbish. I'm embarrassed I picked it out. Twilight? I suppose I thought I might like the subject matter … a human who can transform into something else. It reminded me of you." Belle darted her eyes away shyly before looking back at Ruby with an impish grin.
Ruby feigned a disgusted face in response to Belle's comparison, "Are you implying that I'm Edward Cullen?" She stuck out her tongue.
"Ha!" Belle exclaimed. "You did read the book!"
"Yeah and it was terrible. I got through it though, because you seemed so damned interested in it."
Belle smiled. "Well, I appreciate your loyalty to book club and my terrible choices. I promise it's your turn next. You can pick out anything you'd like. How about something from the library? Something older and less likely to contain sparkling creatures? Come on I'll help you pick it out."
With their hands still linked, Belle pulled Ruby to her feet and then breaking their connection, she bent down to retrieve the cloak. "Here you are. Don't want to forget this."
Ruby pulled in her bottom lip as she stared down at the red lump Belle held out in her arms, knowing it wasn't what she yearned for anymore. It wasn't the thing that was going to bring her the most comfort, but could she admit that to Belle?
"That's okay. I don't really need it till tonight anyway and to be honest I'd rather just … well, can I just hold your hand for now. That's all I really want." She admitted with a sigh, like a weight was being lifted off her chest.
With a nod and knowing glance, Belle let the cloak fall back to ground and placed one of her hands inside Ruby's, their fingers interlocking. Then the two walked hand in hand through the aisles of books, in search of a story to share.