Notes: Sorry it took me a little while to upload this; flew home for Christmas and that took it out of me!
Bumped this up to 'M', just to be safe.
There's some fanart inspired by this chapter. Don't you just love this fandom?
Tired of waiting on someone else,
I can fix it by myself
[And Run by He Is We]
Ruby should have known it would be in vain, attempting to hide from Belle again.
She had been cautious—overly so—in her fastidious avoidance of the woman, putting her senses on full alert; diving behind counters when she smelled that enticing rosy scent, working less hours at the diner, feigning sickness on not one, but two occasions, hell, even spending a few nights in the woods in human form. But this is a low point, she thinks, as she hides in the tiny, underground section of Seppo's Auto on a Friday night, sitting atop a stack of tires assembled like a poor man's throne.
Billy (poor, poor Gus) had shown her the place years ago—it allowed him to work on the underbellies of cars without having to raise them. But they had mainly used the place to fool around, once upon a time. Who could have guessed how that particular chapter of Ruby's fairytale would have turned out? Red, maybe, because that side of Ruby would permanently be convinced that the people she felt affection for would always pay the price of her curse. And Ruby isn't so sure she can find it in her to fight the notion, what with how things have played out recently.
Thus the hiding.
But it's all for naught; this she knows as soon as she hears the soft footsteps on the cement above her. Ruby can't help but think that perhaps Belle has a bit of the wolf in her, herself, the way she's able to find her in this stupid hole of a room.
"Was it because of wolfstime?" Belle demands without preamble, feet kicking aside empty beer cans and other bits of rubbish as she makes her way down into the room. "Was it some kind of reaction to what I ate, or something?"
"Belle…" Ruby stumbles off her royal chair of rubber, because the way Belle's eyes flash—the way her hair flicks about, releasing copious amounts of fragrance as the woman marches closer—the way Ruby's eyes are drawn to the red of Belle's lips—these things tell the werewolf she is likely going to have to make another hasty retreat. That is, if she's able to manage one at all in the presence of the woman who, even when Ruby has no moon to blame, makes her passions rise to heights she finds overwhelming.
"I tried research it; the library has a few things on lycanthropy. But they all focused on what appeared to be this world's version of the curse. And Granny wasn't very clear either."
"G-Granny? You talked to—About—"
"I didn't give her any specifics, but what was I supposed to do, Ruby?" Belle's eyes, already impossibly prominent, seem to grow larger or perhaps more blue. Ruby just knows that she might not ever be able to pull her gaze away. "What was I supposed to do when I had no idea whether…"
Belle sighs and looks away, but only for a moment, and when her gaze returns it is hardened and determined, and she asks her question again—phrased differently, but the same question all the same. "Did you only kiss me like that because you couldn't help it?"
Ruby wants to say yes. Because that's the honest response—that night, with Belle so close and so trusting, she would never have been able to walk away without tasting the woman's lips. But then, she's pretty sure if Belle invades her personal space now, in the same way she had that night, she won't be able to help it again, and it's the time of month when the moon has the least amount of pull on her. But that's not what Belle is asking. Not really.
As though sensing her hesitation, Belle adds to her question, closing off all means of escape. "Was it timing? Would you have kissed anyone like that, had they been there, then?"
Ruby wants to—desperately wants to—but she can't lie to this woman. Not when she's already broken her trust twice already.
"No. God, Belle, of course not. But it's… that kiss—that's who I am. That…that beast. And you don't want that. You can't want that."
The change that comes over Belle is astounding and (because Ruby is perhaps just a little bit twisted) absolutely stunning. Her eyes narrow, cutting off the light that normally shines in them, her lips pull back in an almost snarl, and her jaw clenches, the lines of her face becoming bolder and striking. Ruby hates the expression of anger that transforms Belle's face, but she can't help but feel her mouth go just a little bit dry, especially as Belle once again places herself so close to Ruby that the werewolf can feel the heat of the woman's skin.
"My whole life I've been told what was good or wasn't good for me. My whole life. My father bought me books that told me all about the world, but he hardly ever let me leave the castle without Gaston. They believed me weak—incapable of making my own decisions! I was never allowed the option of choosing anything more important than whether we should have venison or duck for dinner. I was denied growth—denied the experience of learning from my own mistakes.
"And do you know when the first time was that I made a decision for myself? It was when I left with Rumpelstiltskin—when I agreed to become his prisoner to save my land. That was my choice. The first time something was wholly my choice. And going back to him, after he let me go? That was my choice as well. Rumpelstiltskin was the first person who gave me a choice—twice. And even if that did change over time… Well, by then I knew my own power; I could choose to leave him."
Belle's expression abruptly shifts, the anger dissipating with the same rapidity with which it had come—taking with it the tension in her shoulders and face, softening her features into something more familiar.
"And then I met you, Ruby, and you didn't force me into anything. You asked me what I wanted. You asked about me and you listened. You gave me the option of staying with Granny—you even let me decide how much syrup to put on my pancakes, even though you like it on everything." Belle smiles, but only sadly, and only briefly (before the anger takes hold once again).
"But then you—you locked me in the library. And you left after—after you kissed me like that. And you didn't let me say anything. You didn't let me decide what I wanted. You just… ran." Belle's hand reaches up and grips the placket of Ruby's flannel shirt, nails scraping against the skin exposed by the opening in the fabric.
"If it only happened because…because you couldn't help it—if you didn't want it and you're sparing my feelings now, then fine. That's fine. But if you're trying to protect me—if this is some misguided attempt to choose what you see as a less painful road for me, then… then stop. I can decide my own fate. But you have to…you need to tell me the truth. Just tell me."
Belle's eyes flash and Ruby finds that it takes her a moment to remember exactly how to speak.
"Belle… I didn't want to—I never meant to—" She takes a breath—a deep one—and continues, her voice low, but not unrushed. "I want you. I do. And it's not the wolf. Or the curse. Or anything other than me. I just want you. But you—"
Belle shakes her head, her grip of Ruby's shirt tightening, and then it's déjà vu, but backwards and upside down, because this time, it's Belle's lips that crush against hers and Belle's body that surges forward, pushing Ruby's back into the hard wall behind them, their feet knocking over a bottle of some sort that spills cold liquid onto the floor and over Ruby's boots.
Maybe it should seem out of character, Belle's kiss—hard and fast and demanding—but it seems as though Belle is just tired of people telling her what she can and can't or should and shouldn't do. And maybe, the sweet, kind librarian wants to start doing whatever the hell she wants. And if this is what Belle wants (if she is what Belle wants), who is Ruby to complain?
And with that thought in mind it's hard (impossible, really) and pointless to resist the impulse to draw Belle even closer. So she doesn't— gripping at the woman's hips, bunching the fabric there, and aligning them properly, the hem of Belle's dress rising up and over Ruby's knee. She wishes she were wearing shorts (or better yet, no pants at all) so she could feel the smooth skin, always hidden by Belle's clothing, against her own. But then, maybe she can (and why shouldn't she?) because it's not difficult to slip a hand under that same hem—to slide it up over the woman's flesh, feeling the shiver that wracks Belle's form and the slight goose bumps that raise under her palm as she lifts the leg around her hip, nails pressing into Belle's upper thigh.
Flipping them around is even easier. Belle is unsteady and pliant and Ruby needs more friction, more of Belle, in general; she needs to mold herself into the body of the woman she so desperately craves. The connection between their lips breaks, but only hardly—only just—because as they spin, she can still feel them occasionally brush—can still taste the air Belle breathes in quick, desperate pants. It is this breath that Ruby swallows as they complete their turn—Belle's back hitting the concrete wall (a noise of agreement escaping from deep in her throat)—and she once again renews the connection in a kiss that surely leaves some kind of mark.
Belle pulls Ruby's flannel shirt up, freeing it from the jeans from where it had been tucked, and her hands slip under the soft red and gold fabric; the skin is hot underneath, and Belle's touch only makes the temperature rise (further than it should, maybe, and Ruby wonders if this isn't some sort of sickness—some kind of fever—the way she burns for Belle). Clearly, though, she's not the only one affected; her knee shifts and pushes against the thin fabric covering Belle's center and the woman whimpers, head falling backwards and thudding against the wall painfully.
The concrete wall, Ruby remembers vaguely. The concrete wall that has stains and cracks and chipped paint. The concrete wall that is part of the tiny underground opening of an—Jesus!—an automobile repair shop.
"Belle," Ruby gasps, wrenching herself way. "This is—this isn't right. We haven't we haven't even—oh god—we haven't even gone on a date! We're in a dirty garage. This is—"
This is a place where girls with red streaks in their hair and dark makeup on their face go for a quick fuck, Ruby thinks, not where precious librarians are deflowered by people who genuinely care for them.
Belle almost growls, and Ruby realizes she's doing it again. It's easy because Belle is sweet and kind and good, and people who have an unnatural darkness in them—people like Ruby and Rumpelstiltskin—they're drawn to that. They want to protect that. Because they weren't able to protect it in themselves.
But pure innocence is a fallacy and maintaining the illusion a curse. And as she looks at Belle now, undone and free, she thinks the woman has never looked more beautiful. This doesn't feel like corruption. Not at all. It's desire—yes—and lust, but it's more than these base emotions. It's a tightness in her chest when she looks at Belle—a warmth that spreads when she thinks of being near her, hearing her laugh, or making her happy. It's something that scares Ruby a great deal, because she's been hurt by the feeling so many times. But so has Belle. And withdrawing now—running away again—would only accomplish bringing about more of this pain.
So she stops. And she asks. Because that's what Belle's always desired; the freedom to decide—to choose.
"What—what do you want, Belle?
"You." The woman moans, her words winded, but sure. "Here. Now."
Ruby's not sure it's possible for the woman to be more clear. Or for any words to have quite the same effect. And dirty garage or no, she's not going to be able to walk away from this now.
Doubt gone, Ruby spins Belle around; the woman's hands are ripped from under Ruby's flannel shirt and flattened against the wall as Ruby presses Belle's front into the concrete surface. One of Ruby's hands lands on top of Belle's left, fingers curling into the spaces in between the librarian's fingers, and the woman groans as Ruby pushes into her back, leg back in-between both of Belle's, shoving them apart with her knee. And as Ruby's right hand once again pushes up the fabric of the woman's dress and grips at her hip, a gasp tears from Belle's lips—surprised, but euphoric—and she is unable to keep the hand in place for long, sliding it across to slip just under the waistband of Belle's simple undergarment.
"This is what you want?" Ruby whispers, teeth scrapping against the shell of Belle's ear, and every bit of the woman's body presses into Ruby's as she squirms.
"Y—yes. Oh… oh! Yes!"
As Ruby's hand slips lower and presses into the woman's heat, Belle's gasps and whimpers grow louder, shifting into moans that echo off the walls of the garage and into the night. Ruby feels as though she's being pulled apart; the overload of sensations—Belle's body rocking into hers, the taste of salt on the side of the librarian's neck, the scent of the brown hair that spills over onto her shoulder—threaten to undo her completely, in the most pleasurable way possible.
And when Belle's groans turn into a chant—a mantra—of Ruby's name as Ruby's fingers curl further into the woman, she lets the feeling wash over her—thoughts fading away into a haze of inconsequential nothingness.
Belle's body jerks and falls forward further into the wall, her frame only held up by Ruby's weight pressing into her from behind. Ruby can feel the sweat on the back of Belle's neck as she lets her head fall onto the woman's shoulder, pressing a gentle kiss on the skin there.
"Oh," Belle breathes. "Oh."
Ruby pulls her hands back to rest on the librarian's hips, and turns her around again—slowly—to reveal what may be Ruby's new favorite expression—a dazed smile with just a hint of a flush. And as Belle leans against the concrete, this look in place, Ruby can't help but reply with a smile of her own, a smile that Belle's fingers reach up to trace, almost in wonder.
Love is a tricky thing, Ruby thinks, because living in this world has taught her that it's far more complicated than placing a bold 'x' in the 'true love' box. Things are blurry and confused in this land, and it's impossible to know whether the same rules—rules that were so concrete in the old world—still apply. [Can true love be found in this land? Can it be found twice? And does that label even matter?] Perhaps though—perhaps this is not a thing to bemoan. Because in the complexity of this tangled and convoluted and confusing ball of emotions, there's a sort of beauty that the cut and dry love of a land of magic and fairy tales could never quite acquire.
Ruby wants to embrace that beauty—that complexity—she wants to love Belle in a way that doesn't concern itself with labels or rules or past loves or losses. She wants to love Belle with all the innocence of Red, all the wildness of the wolf, and all the passion of Ruby.
And the way Belle's eyes trace her face—the way her breath still comes out in shallow pants—says she doesn't mind being loved that way. Not at all. Would it be so terrible if maybe this world didn't require any further validation than that?
Ruby grins widely at the thought and Belle's blush deepens.
"Have I worn you out too much to walk?"
Belle shakes her head, her blue eyes alight.
"Then what do you say to us finding a bed, beautiful?"
A quick kiss is her answer, and complex love or no, Ruby finds that pretty straightforward.