Belle woke up on the floor of the vet's office. She scrambled to her feet. Ruby was lying on the large dog operating table, human again, an ugly chunk taken out of her shoulder. She was breathing at least. But her face was too calm, too still even for sleep. Belle shut her eyes, and let her fingers stroke Ruby's hair.

"Hey you," David said, coming in from the back of the vet's office. "Don't worry. She'll be all right. They weren't messing around with silver bullets or anything."

Belle let out a breath she hadn't known she was holding. "Good," she said.

"Though she's definitely spending tonight in here under general anesthetic. We don't need her reinjuring herself."

Belle looked down. "What about me?"

David gave her arm a squeeze. "Let's play it by ear. Regina's people calming technique tends to result in them remembering exactly who's the real big bad in this town, and though that often distracts them from forming mobs, it's not one hundred percent reliable."

But as it went, Emma flipping out at the mob had had a reasonable effect, and Belle got a few apologies as she made her way from the vet's to the library.

Actually, she got an apology from nearly everyone she passed, which was odd. She wondered whether Rumpel had had a hand in stirring them up. He seemed to have orchestrated the whole thing, all for her. She wouldn't be surprised if he had orchestrated the mob as well.

Most of the apologizers, of course, assumed that she and Ruby were together.

"Sorry miss," said one. "If we had known you had wanted to become a wolf, well… we might have still gotten upset, but, you know, it wasn't right. No one should say Storybrooke is behind the times. Modernity, self-determination, gay marriage and all that."

Belle gave him a weak smile.

Another patted her on the shoulder. "Glad to see you've moved on from Mr. Gold. Ruby is, um, well, she tries."

Belle held back her glare. The town was nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.

A subsequent comment on how at least Ruby was good in bed and most of the town could vouch for it received a growl that made the young man look like he had wet his pants.

Belle made her way to her own bed, collapsed, and cried herself to sleep.

x x x

Emma was busily frowning sternly at passers-by when Regina appeared beside her. "I think they're all aware of your disapproval of lynch mobs, dear. Your screaming fit last night made that quite clear."

"I don't want them to get any ideas. I am keeping my eye on them."

Regina nodded. "Admirably so."

Emma gave her a suspicious look. "I'm sure you didn't just stop by to compliment me."

"No," Regina said. "I'm here to remind you that your bill is coming due. You owe me."

"Oh, I do, do I?"

"Indeed. I acted as your general purpose assistant and crime lab in this investigation, and I stepped in and handled things when you were useless. I had to teleport to the vet's office while carrying a smelly wolf and keep her from bleeding out, and then you made me go back for the other smelly wolf because you thought she might be lonely. I think you owe me quite a lot, actually."

"Did you figure out what to do about Gold?"

"We had a chat."

"Oh." Emma frowned. Being sheriff of a town where you were about as powerful as an insect in a stableyard was a bit depressing. It was contingent upon her to maintain a good relationship with at least one of the horses. She had picked her horse, and it seemed to be working out. The town ran as smooth as butter when the mayor and the sheriff were on the same side. And the mayor took payment in sex. It was really a no-lose proposition. "It's settled?"

"He seems happy to pretend that the incident never happened. He claims that all he wanted was Miss French's happiness, and if she is happy with the wolf, he wishes them the best."

"Ah. The graceful loser shtick. I'm… never totally comfortable with that one."

"No. But I think she hurt his pride with the 'I'd rather die than take anything from you' line. And, well, he knows that I enjoy seeing him unhappy. I'm invested in their future."

"Under your protection, eh? Let's not tell them that. I feel like it wouldn't be appreciated."

"But you appreciate it, don't you?"

Emma grinned at her. "Totally. Your house tonight?"

"I did say you owed me."

x x x

That night a solitary wolf howled out its loneliness.

x x x

Sunday morning, nine thirty, Belle stepped into the diner. Only Granny was behind the counter, and she barely acknowledged Belle with a nod as she came in. Belle sat in her usual booth and started composing speeches in her head. She had given this a lot of thought once the wolf had settled down, and she had decided that her answer was no. She couldn't be with Ruby. It wouldn't work. She loved Ruby, for all her messy broken pieces – not in spite of them. But she didn't want Ruby, not sexually, not when her wolf wasn't wild and high and burning for her. It just sounded… embarrassing.

She didn't blame Ruby for anything anymore. She knew who had caused this. And it wasn't all that bad, being a wolf. It was actually a bit exciting. Ruby had been right; it was a new world. (And mice were really surprisingly tasty.) Belle wanted to run with her next month, not have to learn the woods alone. But that wasn't the same as dating. She didn't have any experience with dating. Well… Lacey did. But that was not good advice. It just wasn't going to work. It couldn't work. Not after all the horrible things she'd said, the truths unearthed. Now she just had to figure out how to tell Ruby that without wrecking their friendship.

It's not you, she tried. You're wonderful. I'm just still a total mess after Rumpel and I'm not ready for another relationship. I did just have to tell him I'd rather die than have anything to do with him again, and I meant it, and does that really sound stable to you?

Or maybe…

The wolf is calm now, and I can think, and I've been thinking that this is a terrible idea. I care about you so much and if we messed this up, I'd lose my best friend, and everything is so precarious already. I kind of just want to keep you in love with me without my being responsible for any of it so I don't screw it all up.

Something sounded a little odd about the end of that one. She tried again.

You're really the most beautiful person in town, and anyone would be lucky to have you interested in them, but I'm not all that attracted to women, except for when I'm a wolf in heat, so can we just be friends? I'm okay with friend-snuggling and petting and maybe a little making out, but only a little, I'm serious about this!

Or…

But before she could come up with another, the door opened with a jingle, and Ruby stepped in. Belle's brain froze.

Ruby was dressed casually, in skinny jeans and a half unbuttoned white shirt over a red camisole, hair a mess of curls, a little untidy, which was probably due to the sling she still wore on one arm. Her eyes immediately went to Belle, and a half-tentative smile crossed her face.

She was gorgeous.

Belle was up from the table in a moment and, before she could think, had grabbed Ruby by her good arm and dragged her behind the counter and into the giant freezer.

"Um, Belle? What—"

Belle didn't let her finish her question. She pushed Ruby against the frozen lasagna and kissed her.

Ruby let out a soft breath into the kiss, then cupped Belle's cheek and kissed her back, sweet and gentle, and Belle's heart clenched in her chest. But then Ruby laughed into the kiss that Belle had to break it off.

"What?" Belle asked her, a little annoyed.

"I just," her thumb ran across Belle's cheekbone. "I walked in here sure you were going to give me the heave-ho. This was kind of an awesome surprise." Her eyes were lit with laughter, and Belle bit her lip to keep herself from smiling.

"Yeah," she said. "It was kind of a surprise to me too."

Ruby made a fake appalled face, leaning down to look her in the eyes. "You were going to dump me."

Ruby's hair fell a little into her eyes, and Belle pushed it back and cupped her ears. "Yeah," she said. "But, you know, the wolf's napping, and you're… you."

"Yes," Ruby said, smirking. "I'm usually me, when I'm not a wolf. Or just Ruby, or just Red, or having a psychotic break."

"Shut up," Belle told her, having a hard time keeping herself from laughing. "I'm trying to confess myself here."

"Oh please go ahead."

Belle wrinkled her nose at her. "You just think you're so cool, don't you?"

"Hey, my favorite girl just pulled me into a freezer and kissed me. There will be no wallowing in self-pity today. I am on top of the world."

Belle just stared at her for a long moment, her sweet eyes and self-satisfied grin. "Fine," she said. "Fine. I want you, and I love you. And you had better make a good girlfriend because I am done with trying to fix people."

"I am glad to hear it," said Ruby.

Belle smacked her good arm. "You are the most annoying person, aren't you? You're lucky I think you're charming."

"Very lucky. Now, are you going to kiss me again? Because if you aren't, I'm going to suggest we move this conversation somewhere besides the freezer before I lose my toes."

Belle rolled her eyes and pushed up on her toes to kiss her again.

This time no one laughed.

Ruby's mouth was warm and soft, lips parted, tongue flickering out to meet hers in a light, snake-like brush. Belle tipped her head back, opening up to her. She was going to remember it this time. She would not forget this, not a moment or a touch. She slipped her arms around Ruby's neck, tangling her fingers in her hair. Ruby tugged on her lower lip with her teeth. Her hands slipped up under Belle's shirt, cool against her hot skin. Belle arched against her, breaking the kiss to take a gasp of chill air, then burying her face in her neck. She bit, and Ruby let out a whimper, pulling her tight into her body. She felt a momentary stir of interest from her wolf, but it lay down again as she dragged her teeth along Ruby's throat. Apparently biting was just them, and not a wolf thing at all.

Belle felt the rough nylon of the sling strap rub against her forearm and pulled back. "This doesn't hurt, does it? Tell me if it hurts."

"Nothing hurts," Ruby murmured, her voice soft and just a tiny bit breathy. "I don't think anything could, right now." Ruby pushed Belle's hair out of her face, and leaned in, letting their lips brush in a feather-like kiss.

"That's not… comforting, really." But Belle could hardly focus. Ruby's face was flushed, eyes bright. She licked her lips, and Belle had had enough. She moved in again, kissing her hard, fumbling to unbutton her shirt and push up her camisole. Her hands touched soft flesh, and she choked.

"You're not wearing a bra."

Ruby grinned. "With this shoulder?"

Oh. Of course. "You're laughing at me again."

"You're the one with your hands on my boobs."

Belle bit her lip. She was, wasn't she? She stepped in close, running her thumbs over Ruby's nipples. They tightened under her touch, and Ruby's breath caught. She tilted her head up and their mouths met again. Ruby's knee slid between her legs, rucking up her pleated skirt, the denim of her jeans rough against her skin. Belle's fingers teased and pinched, and god, how had she even thought that she didn't want this? She rode up on Ruby's knee, pressing her more firmly against the freezer racks. Ruby broke the wet, openmouthed kiss, panting, and caught her by the waist, holding her steady. Belle went for the fastenings of Ruby's jeans.

"God, the one day you aren't wearing a miniskirt—" She got the button undone and jerked the zipper down, and Ruby half laughed and half choked, as she burrowed inside, sliding her hand between her legs.

"You— oh god. What are you…"

"This is my choice," she murmured into Ruby's ear. "I want you."

Ruby bit her earlobe and growled a little. "Take me."

Her underwear was already wet, and Belle didn't hesitate, just twitched them aside and slid into her and Ruby's arms closed around her shoulders and pulled her in tight, her chest shuddering, her hips bucking into Belle's hand.

Belle pressed her face into the crook of Ruby's neck and hooked her free arm around her shoulders. Ruby's hands slid down her back and clasped her butt, pulling her in and sliding her up her thigh.Half grinding half fucking, her fingers buried deep inside of Ruby, Belle kissed her hard. Their hips moved together. Ruby whimpered, nails cutting into Belle's skin, clenching around her fingers. "God."

Belle smirked against her skin as Ruby came, hard and wet and gasping, and let go.

x x x

"Lord almighty, you two! This is a food service institution. That's unhygienic!"

Granny stormed out with a tray of lasagna and Belle and Ruby scrambled to refasten their clothes.

Distracted by Ruby's tight, flat stomach as she helped adjust her camisole and button up her shirt, Belle frowned, considering. "Did we ever find out whether it was possible for werewolves to have pups from lesbian heat sex?"

Ruby's eyebrows shot up. "Uhhh… no?"

"Oh well," Belle said. "I suppose we'll find out."

Ruby looked a bit stunned. It was endearing, seeing her mussed and undone and bewildered. Belle wanted to see her naked too. She wanted… everything.

She caught Ruby by her sling strap and tugged her toward the door. "Bed now? Then lunch, then maybe a ramble in the woods? And you can stay tonight, right? I kind of… want you around." Belle felt her face heat up. Maybe that was too much. This was just supposed to be a first date. But it hadn't felt like a first anything. It had felt like… finally.

Ruby smiled, warm and easy and happy, honestly happy in a way she hadn't seemed before. Belle's embarrassment faded, replaced by astonishment that she could cause that sort of feeling in anyone. But she knew it well. She was feeling it too.

Ruby removed Belle's hand from her sling strap and put it around her waist instead, then pulled her in. She pressed a kiss against the side of Belle's head. Belle leaned into her shoulder and just breathed her in.

"It sounds perfect."

FIN