Author's Note: Hey, this is my first OUAT fic, I may turn this into a series, depending on the feedback, which is much appreciated, so please leave a comment. I apologise for any mistakes.
"Belle? Are you alright?" asked Ruby across the table as she sat opposite the curly brunette. Ruby had been watching Belle for the past few minutes from the counter, and she had been concerned over her new friend's expression. She sat, staring into her glass of iced tea that Ruby had brought her, knowing it was her favourite.
"Hmm?" was the reply, as Belle looked up abruptly, and looked confused for a moment, but then recognised Ruby, and her face split into a wide smile. "No, no, no, I'm fine, just thinking."
Ruby could still see that Belle was troubled by something, but chose to let it go.
"Okay, but if you need someone to talk to, you know where I am," Ruby said warmly, a strange fluttering in her stomach and an inexplicable feeling of loss as she turned away to go back to the kitchen to deal with the other orders.
Ruby finished up her shift and checked the time. It was quarter past eight, and she would be turning soon. It was the first night of wolfstime, and she could feel the wolf yearning to be let free. She tidied up and made to leave the diner, reaching for her coat. A small noise made her stop and she turned to see Belle still sitting in the booth, her head buried in a book. Ruby smiled warmly and walked over to her, careful not to startle her.
"Belle?" she said softly. Belle looked up from the page, and returned Ruby's smile. Then she noticed how quiet it was, and looked around.
"Where is everyone?" she asked, before realisation dawned on her face as her eyes fell upon the clock. "Oh, Ruby, I'm so sorry, I lost track of time," she said, apologising profusely as she got to her feet.
"No, it's fine, I was just leaving."
"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow then."
Ruby felt a pang of loss as she saw the mane of brown curls bounce away from her towards the door. Her eyes had met Belle's for a split second, and amidst those pools of ocean blue, she saw something was wrong. Something was hurting her. Acting without thinking, Ruby hurried after Belle, placing a hand on her arm as she opened the door.
"Hey, if you want, we could walk and talk?" she said quickly. Belle stopped and looked at her, a bemused expression on her face. "I'm going for a bit of a walk anyway, I mean, if you don't mind me walking you back." Ruby cursed herself for her choice of words, but for some reason, her powers of speech were generally impaired when she was around the librarian, but she stuck with it and waited for an answer. Belle still looked a little perplexed, but her smile lit up her eyes as she said:
"Of course, I'd love some company." Ruby reached past Belle and opened the door, pretending not to notice just how close they were for a few seconds, and then, as she held open the door for Belle, not to be simultaneously apprehensive and also joyous on the inside, her heart leaping and her stomach fluttering at the same time.
After locking up the diner, Ruby walked on the pavement next to Belle, hands stuffed into her black jacket pockets, she took a deep breath and noticed Belle shivering slightly.
"Cold?" asked Ruby.
"Very. I almost forgot how it feels to be outside. Especially this time of year, I miss the snow."
"I love snow, and winter in general."
They continued with small talk as they walked, both of them thoroughly enjoying each other's company, until they reached the library door, and Belle fumbled in her pocket for the key.
"Thank you for walking me back," said Belle.
"No problem," replied Ruby with the smile that simply refused to leave her face around Belle. "I'll see you tomorrow?" It wasn't quite a question, or an expectation, more of an invitation.
"Of course, it's nice to have someone to talk to. And I do love your iced tea."
Ruby lingered for a moment on the step of the library, one down from Belle, so they were approximately the same height. She let her eyes drift over Belle's face, coming to rest on her eyes, just as Belle's performed the same routine, staring into each other's eyes. Almost imperceptibly, Ruby leaned forwards, barely an inch, and Belle seemed about to move towards the lycan too. The moment was so intense, the pair growing steadily closer and closer, time standing still for them both, their hearts beating so fast they were sure they would keel over. Then, a rare car drove past, the noise shattering the moment like a glass pane shattering into a thousand pieces. Ruby and Belle simultaneously pulled back, both only just noticing the breath they had been holding.
"Well, uhm…" said Ruby, trying to fill the awkward silence. Belle smiled coyly, looking slightly embarrassed as she glanced at her feet, before looking back up at Ruby, her eyes quickly stopping on her eyes before moving away again.
"Thanks again for a lovely evening," said Belle, opening the door.
"You're very welcome, Belle," replied Ruby. She felt herself leaning forwards and wrapping her arms around Belle, her head resting on the shorter woman's shoulder. Breathing in the scent of her hair, she smiled, and could sense that Belle was smiling too.
"Oh," gasped Belle suddenly, and Ruby tensed whipping round and looking for the source of Belle's shock.
"What is it?" asked Ruby, scanning the street for a figure, probably Mr Gold, she guessed, but could see no one.
"Snow," said Belle, in such a small voice that Ruby wouldn't have been able to hear it without her wolf senses. Ruby instantly relaxed, looking back to Belle. "It's beautiful."
"It is," came the reply, though her eyes weren't on the weather. Belle looked lost for a moment, lost in the beauty of the scene around her, wondering absently how small flakes of frozen water could be that pretty in the moonlight… the full moonlight!
"Oh God, I'm so sorry, Ruby, I forgot it was the full moon tonight! I'm sorry I kept you, you probably want to be by yourself-"
"No, no, don't be ridiculous, it's fine." Ruby paused. "I like talking to you."
Belle chuckled, looking down at her feet – a gesture Ruby found most endearing – and put a hand on Ruby's arm.
"I like talking to you too," she smiled, in that lovely smile that Ruby loved to see.
"Well, we should do it again sometime."
"We should." Belle sighed contentedly, and then cast her gaze back onto the snow, which was falling heavier and quicker, already coating the ground in pure white, the ever so slight breeze blowing the flakes lazily over the town. "I might actually go for a wander for a while… well, I'll grab a scarf first." Belle laughed, and then looked back at Ruby, a concerned look crossing her features. "Or should I stay inside, after what happened last time…" she tailed off, remembering the events of the previous month.
Ruby too was reliving the memory of chaining Belle in the library, an action she regretted whole-heartedly, and had apologised over a hundred times for, but still felt guilty.
"I'm so sorry-" she began, but was silenced by Belle's 'stop-apologising' look. "No, you're fine for tonight, I'm not killing anyone."
"Oh good, I might run into you, I apologise if I scream," she laughed, a tinkling sound that set Ruby's soul alight.
"I'll be careful not to startle you," Ruby replied. She felt the wolf howl inside her, knowing she had to turn soon. "I should go, I'll look out for you though." Ruby turned to descend the steps.
"Thank you, be careful," Belle called after her.
Belle wandered across the street, her boots crunching over the snow, the flakes landing on her hair and dark coat that went down to her knees, her legs covered by her dress and leggings. Her breath fogged up the air in front of her, the air pleasantly chilled. She walked down to the harbour, walking at a leisurely pace, her path lit by the streetlamps and the moonlight. A few times she thought she heard a wolf howling in the distance, and this brought a smile to her face, knowing it was Ruby. Anything to do with Ruby made her smile. To be perfectly honest, the girl hadn't completely left her thoughts for a long time, something always reminded her of the girl. The implications of this scared her a little, but she was also inexplicably happy around her, a strange fluttering in her stomach every now and then. The hug earlier seemed to be burned permanently into her head; she was unable to stop thinking about it. Not that she'd want to, she reasoned. She came to the edge of the pier ad rested her elbows on the railing, looking down onto the water, where white snowflakes landed and melted instantly, disappearing forever. Losing herself in her thoughts for a minute, she snapped back to reality when she heard movement somewhere behind her. She turned, eyes squinting through the darkness surrounding her, just outside the light of the streetlamp beside her. Suddenly, a large dark object bounded towards her, and she all but screamed before the shadowy creature jumped up on her and licked her face. Still paralysed with fear, she nearly fell over, having to lean against the icy cold metal railing to prevent her from falling. Finally, her brain caught up with events, and she realised, as her gloved hands brushed against snow covered dark fur, that this must be Ruby.
"Down, Ruby!" she laughed, trying to pull her head back, out of Ruby's licking range. The wolf seemed to grin a little, her yellow eyes glowing, and Ruby gave Belle one more lick, before dropping to the ground in a sitting position, her tail wagging, throwing flurries of snow in every direction.
"Hello," said Belle, looking Ruby up and down in her wolf form. She knelt on the ground and reached out to stroke Ruby's head, who complied immediately, nuzzling her hand with her snout. Belle chuckled and stood up.
"Want to come for a walk?" she asked, half-joking, she wasn't entirely sure how much Ruby understood as a wolf, but she seemed to understand that perfectly, as she jumped up and performed some sort of twirl in the air, before diving headfirst into a snow drift a short way away, just to make Belle laugh. And it worked like a charm. Belle set off along the path, not really paying much attention to where she was going, and Ruby followed, sometimes trotting alongside her, occasionally darting forwards and backwards, sprinting off into the distance before bounding back, lolloping around in the deep snow. They stopped in the park, when the snow was about shin deep, and Ruby was treated to a snowball to the back of the head, which resulted in Belle being chased around the park, and eventually being leapt on from the front and knocking her onto her back, the large wolf pinning her down.
"Get off me, you mutt!" teased Belle, struggling against Ruby's weight. Ruby growled indignantly, but her tail was still wagging, thumping against Belle's right leg. Ruby licked her face, and Belle playfully shoved her off, wriggling free and grabbing a lump of snow. She hurled it at Ruby, who jumped and caught it in her wide jaws. Belle laughed and threw another, this time in another direction, causing Ruby to sprint and leap, twisting in mid-air, snapping the snow in her sharp teeth. They continued this game for a while, until Ruby heard Belle's teeth start to chatter. Ruby loped back to Belle's side, panting slightly, and nuzzled her side. Belle checked the time on her phone, and realised it was just past eleven. She had been out for about three hours and she hadn't even noticed! The snow had collected on her jacket and the cold was seeping through, her feet had gone numb a long time ago and her hands were like ice. Ruby seemed to realise, as she kept warming up her hands on her fur. Belle was glad of that, and appreciated Ruby's concern. Belle began to walk home, a calmer Ruby trotting along beside her. The snow had eased off a little, but it still required effort to trudge through the deepening snow back to the library.
Belle was thoroughly exhausted when she reached the door. She kicked the snow off of her boots on the top step and opened the door. Walking through the door, she was about to close it, when she saw Ruby sitting at the bottom of the steps, pawing the ground somewhat nervously.
"Uhm… would you like to come in for a while?" she asked, Ruby looked up, as if searching for reassurance. Belle smiled warmly and Ruby leapt up the steps and dashed through the door, shaking the snow off her fur, most of it landing on Belle.
"Ruby!" she exclaimed, more amused than annoyed. Belle went to the door that led up to the apartment above the library, Ruby in tow. She let herself and the wolf in, and shrugged off her soaked coat, hanging it up and pulling off her boots. As soon as she reached the sofa, she collapsed onto it, lying with her feet up on the cushions, stretching out and yawning. Opening her eyes, she glanced at Ruby, who was standing awkwardly at the door, looking around the room which, Belle quickly realised; she had never been in before. Belle patted the couch, gesturing for Ruby to come over. Ruby pawed across the carpet and gently licked Belle's face, before sitting next to the couch. Belle lazily stroked her slightly damp but comfortably warm fur.
"Thank you for your delightful company," she mumbled, tiredness taking over her. The apartment was a little chilly, as she had forgotten to turn the heating on earlier. Ruby saw the goosebumps on Belle's arms, and jumped up onto the couch, curling up, her head resting on Belle's chest, her head nuzzling Belle's neck, and felt Belle's arms wrap around her.
Both woman and wolf were perfectly content to lie there for the whole night, and both dozed off, Ruby warming Belle and Belle stroking Ruby's fur.