A/N: This is my first attempt at Red Beauty. I hope I didn't do a too horrible job at it. It's a Halloween story (in celebration of today) and I hope you like.
Belle entered Granny's diner that morning smiling happily. It was a first since Rumple and the others had left on Hook's ship but this morning something had struck her and it was a welcome memory of a young lady who now obviously was part of herself: Lacey.
"Happy Halloween," she wished everyone brightly.
"Shhhh," Ruby who had just served some breakfast at a table nearby made and then came over. "This is not a good time," she told her friend, grabbing her arm.
Belle looked around and saw several unhappy faces aimed at her, Grumpy looked, well, he looked even grumpier than usual.
"What did I do?" Belle asked the dark-haired beauty by her side. Ruby led her over to an empty booth and they sat down across from each other.
"Some of the guys had this lengthy discussion this morning... about Halloween and Christmas and what not. Whether these should even be a thing here since we didn't have them... you know, back there. And especially with Halloween being all about dressing as... us, basically. Granny only just stopped it from getting violent, she threatened to get her crossbow and shoot people, so..."
"Oh," Belle said. She once again looked across the room and noticed the tension, the furtive looks of some of the people, the moody glances of others. She had, of course, known that there were some discussions about finding a way back to the Enchanted Forrest or staying in Storybrooke but she didn't know that this had expanded to holidays now. It sure took the fun out of something she had enjoyed as her alter ego, there were happy memories there. False happy memories but still, happy ones.
"You all right?" Ruby asked and reached across the table. She covered Belle's hands with her own bigger one. Belle looked up at her and tried a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes.
"I had kinda hoped that this could be a kind of celebration, a tradition... I don't know. Halloween seems so mystical and... fun. I thought some of us could come together, tell stories, maybe even true ones from the Enchanted Forrest - or wherever everybody's from. With food and friends...," she trailed off.
"I don't think that's going to happen here. Granny isn't very verbal about what she wants, you know how practical she is and she knows that wishing won't make it so, but I think she's hoping that there could be a way to go back home. The dwarfs are bored here, they want to go back to their mines and work... some others want to stay, their life is better here, they feel that they have more say in what is happening."
"Where do you stand on this?" Belle asked and Ruby smiled softly.
"I kinda like my morning shower, and coffee and pancakes," she grinned and Belle laughed. "Of course, if this place becomes... part of this world, of America... all kinds of people will be able to live here and... the way I see it, outsiders are not exactly thrilled about werewolves." Ruby's eyes showed her sadness over her 'difference.' It wasn't so bad as long as she lived among the people who knew her, who knew she wouldn't harm them but even among them she was something else, half human, half beast. And after the latest encounter with people from outside - Tamara and Greg Mendell - it was understandable that Ruby was reluctant to meet more people like that.
"I understand," Belle said, now taking Ruby's comforting hand between her own and squeezing it. "It is so strange to have these memories, fake memories of Lacey's. But she enjoyed Halloween and though I wouldn't want to celebrat it as she did... I would have liked to just get together with some friends and do something... different from what we do every day. I mean, we could still do that, maybe, you and I," Belle suggested and looked up at her friend hopefully. But she met a frown and saw her enthusiasm once again met with resistance.
"I would love to, Belle, It's just... tonight is..." Ruby trailed off.
"Full moon?" Belle asked and the taller woman nodded.
"You're going into the woods?"
"Yeah, it's safer... for everyone if I'm not around too much in my furry form."
"You could always come over to the library. I'd get something for you to eat and...," Belle tried but Ruby shook her long locks.
"I'm not really good company when I'm a wolf, Belle. I don't talk, I'd be restless to be inside. I'm also not quite comfortable... with... you seeing me eat..." Ruby lowered her eyes, not even able to look at her friend. She tried to pull her hand back from Belle's but it was held tightly.
"That's nothing to be ashamed of, Ruby," Belle told her firmly.
"Yes, it is," Ruby argued and didn't let her friend tell her otherwise. "I'm an animal... I will be an animal tonight. I'm potentially dangerous and certainly not some... pet that you should have around in the library." She pulled her hand free of Belle's and stood up. "I can't do this, Belle," she said and then walked briskly away in the direction of the kitchen.
Belle watched her go, sadly. This day had turned from promising to desolate in the matter of minutes. She looked around at the other patrons, most of them she knew and knew well, but nobody seemed especially uplifted in the face of something that was part of their life, and yet not part of their history: Halloween.
And everywhere she went that day, people argued about it. They stood in groups around the market place, infront of Granny's, the grocer's. And while the adults argued over the value of an 'adopted holiday,' the kids stood by with hopeful eyes, wishing for the opportunity to put on a costume, maybe even something that resembled their former everyday garb and just pretend, either that they were someone else or that they were back home. It saddened Belle to see everybody so torn between who they had been and who they were now. She wished that David was back to talk some sense into everybody, or that Rumple was there to explain things to her.
But they were gone and Belle felt that she should be able to do something for the people of Storybrooke. Maybe there was something in the library that could tell her a way out of the disagreement. She spent a couple of hours there, reading through some stories, through some history but there was nothing that helped her very much in her quest for peace in Storybrooke. She was tired and hopeless when she left the library that afternoon. And then she say a solemn tall figure come her way, a figure in a black leather jacket, a hat on her head and a red scarf around her neck. Ruby tried a tentative smile at her friend and Belle found it mirrored on her own lips.
"Hey," Ruby said.
"Hey, I thought you might have already left," Belle greeted her friend.
"I'm about to but...," she held up a basket filled with treats. "I wanted to bring you this. There's some candy in here, I thought if there were children trick-or-treating you might wanna hand them out. If not, well, these are mostly your favorites, so... then there's this. It's a book with scary stories I found in the book shelf at Granny's and this one has poems in it," she said and blushed lightly. She pushed the small volume with the poems behind the one with the stories and Belle had to smile. She would definately look into the poetry later. "Well, and then there's this...," Ruby lifted a bottle out of the basket. "It's the last bottle of the Mayor's cider Granny had. She won't open it because she thinks there may be drugs in there but we've been drinking Regina's cider for years now and that was a bottle of the old stash so... I don't think there's anything in it but cider. And if Regina knew something about anything it's apples, so... I thought you might enjoy it," Ruby's ramblings finally came to a close.
"This is so sweet, Ruby. thank you," Belle smiled at her and felt her earlier enthusiasm for this mystical holiday return, even if she would have to spend it alone.
"I know you're missing... Mr. Gold, Belle. And you probably thought that today could be... a day to get together and have friends over. And I'm sorry that this day has turned out to be the worst day for that. And I wish I could... spend the evening with you but tonight is... impossible for me," the tall dark-haired woman apologized. "And after everything you've been through, too."
They hadn't talked about Belle's memory loss, Lacey and her regaining her memories of Belle. It was mostly because Belle didn't feel comfortable relating some of the things she had experienced, how she felt about them, how she felt about the things that had surrounded her experiences... some of it had shocked her to her core. She wasn't even sure she could understand everybody's behavior, Rumple's behavior, Snow and Charming's even. And most of the time she didn't want to think about it, let alone talk. But it meant a lot to her that Ruby acknowledged all this, that she hadn't forgotten what had happened, that she didn't brush Belle's perils away because something else was more important at the moment - like she felt Rumple had done.
"You know, I do miss Rumple but... not as much as I thought I would. And I'm a little bit lonely but I have my books and... my friends. And now I have chocolate and cider and scary stories to read... thank you, Ruby. And if... if you change your mind and maybe want to... come over here later while you're still a wolf... you can," Belle told her.
Ruby gave her the basket, she smiled.
"I appreciate the offer, Belle," she simply said but they were both sure that Ruby wouldn't come back into town while still in her wolf form - not tonight.
And maybe it was better this way. With all the discussions that had been going on about Storybrooke vs. the Enchanted Forrest, with tempers running high, the sighting of Ruby as wolf might shake things lose that were better fastened tight.
"I'll leave a window open either way," Belle promised and they smiled at each other.
"I'll see you tomorrow. We can have lunch together if you want," Ruby said, and though she didn't acknowledge the invitation Belle knew she appreciated it. It was in her smile. Her beautiful smile. "I should be going," the tall woman then said and shrugged her shoulders a little.
"I'll see you later," Belle just said, leaving open when that would be.
"Later," Ruby answered and then walked away.
A couple of hours later, Belle sat in the reading corner she had set up in the library. It was furnished with a big old, comfy leather couch and some armchairs, sponsored by Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer. Belle was cozily huddled in a corner of the couch, the basket Ruby had given her on the table next to her. She took the two books from it and looked at them closely. The thicker volume were old fashioned ghost stories of the Victorian era, the stories were of the time, not the book itself. It didn't look read at all. Maybe it had been a present to Granny or maybe somebody had left it at the Inn, Belle mused. The other book was thin and seemed very well read. The crease in the back confirmed that and some of the pages came almost lose from the binding. The book had been printed in the 1970s. It seemed strange to Belle how the things that had been in existence before Storybrooke had found their way there, Regina certainly had an eye for detail when she created this place that was to be everyone's private little hell and her own salvation.
Belle smiled a small smile. It hadn't been in the end, of course. The savior had set them all free, free to think and free to pursue their respective dreams. Yes, their dreams. For so long, Belle had thought that her dream included nothing but being with Rumplestiltskin. She had known him in that other realm, in the Enchanted Forrest, had lived with him, had seen his dark and his light side. He was ambitious and determined... and he loved her. He also wanted to protect her, that's why he had left her in Storybrooke. She so would have liked to come with, to be part of the adventure. But he couldn't stand losing her, not after he had lost his son, and in some way she understood and in another she didn't. Because she wasn't just his to keep, she was also her own to gamble with, to seek adventure, to try and find herself. Because that was something everybody seemed to want to prevent her from - her father, Gaston, Rumple.
Belle remembered the day she had first set foot into this strange town, she remembered walking into Granny's and finding a friend there, a friend who didn't want to hold her back, a friend who had let her try all the unhealthy food on the menue, who had brought her as many iced teas as she could drink... not because she wanted to make a profit but because she wanted to see Belle happy. And Belle had felt... something, looking into those bright green eyes. Warmth and contentment had spread through her but there was also a lightness to her heart, a not-to-worry, a freedom she hadn't felt before - ever. And though she was afraid of this place, she felt that she's had a friend. And that was Ruby. A friend...
Belle's smile grew a little wistful. Should she really think about that other thing she sometimes felt around Ruby? The dark magnetism the tall woman exuded? She was good, there was no doubt about that, but there was a darker side to her, her wolf. An animalistic force that made her hugs a little tighter, her gait restless, her look... searching into the deep recesses of ones soul - or so it felt to Belle. She had felt her hands cramp at her sides because there were times she had wanted to reach out to Ruby, and not in a friendly way. Times, she had bit her lip to keep from telling something meaningful, heartfelt. And mornings she hadn't gone into Granny's because she yearned too much to see her. That was also Ruby. Something more than a friend...
But Belle hadn't given in. And she probably wouldn't. Rumple would come back, things would get more settled, they would have a good life. She would be protected and loved and those were the most important things. Not someone who wouldn't think of being more than a friend.
Belle shook her head impatiently and focused again on the book she was holding between her fingers, the volume of poetry Ruby had given her. She settled back and started to read the first poem, a love poem... the second, another love poem... page after page, filled with love poetry, sonetts, verses dedicated to the beauty of women...
A noise pulled Belle out of the thrall of the sentimental and sometimes erotic wording. She listened in the direction of the window that she had left ajar in a backroom, the same room she had left some raw meat for Ruby to eat, in case she changed her mind. For a breathless moment all was quiet but then Belle heard the muted sound of paws approaching.
"Ruby?" she called, her heart hammering in her chest. She wondered at herself for being fearful, not elated that Ruby had come after all. There was doubt in her, doubt that this was indeed Ruby, that Ruby would hide and approach her so casually. It felt off to Belle. And when she finally saw the lone figure of a big wolf in the hallway to the backroom, she knew instantly that this was not Ruby. Its eyes were darker, it's gait maliciously relaxed and casual. Not the gait of someone who was fearful of what her friend might think of her in her other form.
"Who are you?" Belle asked, even though she knew she couldn't expect an answer.
There was no doubt in her mind that this was another werewolf, and that its intentions weren't good. She hadn't heard of another of Ruby's kind in the town but then, nobody had really taken stock of the creatures who lived among them. Regina might know who all had come from various fantastical realms into this world, but nobody had ever bothered to ask her about it. Belle now wished they had. Because she was afraid.
"Did you come here for the meat? It's all yours if you want it," she told the wolf who merely leaned his head to the side and looked at her. What else should it have done? It couldn't talk, yet it seemed that it was mocking Belle. And it was so patient and Belle was so very afraid. In her mind, she hoped that Ruby would come but she knew how unlikely that was. If Ruby had wanted to be here with her she would have already arrived. But what other resource of help could there be for her? Maybe she could calm the beast herself, maybe she could talk it out of... harming her? If it was even here to harm her... but she knew that it was, even if she didn't know why.
"If you just want to rest awhile or... I don't know, I don't suppose you like candy?"
Was that a smile on the beast's face? Was it mocking her? It growled deep in its throat and now came closer to Belle. The young woman took a few steps back and the wolf growled louder.
"It's okay. I won't harm you and you won't harm me. Please," Belle asked, her voice already higher than usual. That was when the wolf bared its teeth before breaking into a bloodcurdling howl. Belle fell to her knees, her legs to weak with fright to hold her up. "Please," she begged.
But the beast wasn't impressed at all, it snapped its teeth at her and came closer. She knew it was ready to attack, she could see it hunch his hind legs, ready to spring at her. It happened so fast, Belle didn't even know what had happened but the wolf was pushed to the side just at it left the ground to attack her. Something had hit it, something furry, something fierce. The wolf slid over the hardwood floor, crashing into a shelf with books. When it shook his head to regain focus its eyes fell on the thing that had attacked it: a different wolf, a she-wolf. Belle saw her in the same instant.
"Ruby," she breathed. A look from feral green eyes confirmed this as the she-wolf looked at her quickly. It was quick but it was long enough for the other wolf to spring at Ruby and the wolves started to bite at each other, entangling their bodies, fighting.
Ruby snapped at the other wolf, just barely missing its neck. The other wolf - Belle was by now pretty sure it was a male - sprang free from her, slid over the floor again before snarling at Ruby. But then it turned and ran. They heard him in the back and Ruby followed quickly. She didn't leave the building, however, and when Belle came looking for her she was guarding the open window through which the other wolf had come in and now fled.
"Is he gone?" Belle asked to make sure and Ruby nodded. Belle closed the window and then kneeled down to look at her friend more closely. She reached out her hands for the wolf to come to her but Ruby retreated, her head lowered. "It's okay, Ruby. I just wanna make sure that you're not hurt. Please let me." Slowly Ruby came to her and Belle smiled when she could touch the soft fur. Heat radiated from the animal, she smelled of wet grass and pine-trees and a lot of fresh air. Belle raked her hands through Ruby's fur and looked for wounds, fortunately there were none. The male had not bitten her, though Belle suspected that she might be bruised in several places.
"Thank you, Ruby," Belle whispered. "Thank you for saving my life." The woman felt tears spring to her eyes at the thought of almost dying. Her fear leaked through her eyes and all she could see and feel now was the soft fur of her friend. She buried her face in it. Ruby lay her face against Belle's, one paw tapping a little awkwardly at her hair. Belle took a deep breath to calm herself, then she got up.
"I think some books fell from a shelf when the other wolf crashed into it. Wanna join me while I put them back?"
Ruby looked at her wide eyed, then threw a furtive glance at the meat that lay still untouched where Belle had put it earlier.
"You hungry?" Ruby simply looked at her. "All right, how about I go check on those books and you... join me when you're ready." Belle smiled at the animal and then went into the library. She looked around herself, trying to process what all had happened earlier. What could have happened had Ruby not come in the nick of time. It would have ended badly for her, that was for certain.
Belle had put the books that had fallen to the floor earlier back onto its shelf and then settled down on the couch. She also picked up the volume of love poems again but couldn't concentrate on it. She was listening for sounds from the backroom but Ruby seemed to very quietly eat her meat.
Belle put the book onto the table and took a swallow of the cider she had poured earlier. It was good, not poisoned at all. She also ate one of the candies, but she merely spend the time waiting for Ruby to join her. Which she did after endless minutes.
Ruby sauntered over to the group of furniture where Belle sat and then sat down on the carpet. She rolled herself into a ball, looking at her friend.
"Do you want to come up here?" Belle asked, indicating the other end of the couch but Ruby shook her furry head. Belle sighed. "Would you mind coming up here and... keep me company? I'm still a little shaken," Belle then asked of her and Ruby quickly got up from her perch and sprang on the couch. She settle down next to Belle and the small woman smiled. She petted the wolf, seeking comfort in its warmth and strength. "Thank you," she whispered as her hand lost itself while running over the soft wisps of Ruby's fur. A low growl came from the wolf but it seemed to be a sound of comfort and Belle continued her ministrations. She settled down easier now and took up the poetry book again. She began reading to Ruby and the wolf listened quietly but for the constant low growling sound that in another hour lulled Belle into a restful sleep.