They’d talked about it once, Ruby smiling sadly, gazing half at the table and half at her iced tea, while Belle had listened intensely, shocked and a little squeamish and utterly enthralled by the story. It was the psychological realism, she would have said on her Goodreads account, if it had been a book, the moral and social trauma of it all. Definitely four stars.
Essentially, Red had been a virgin, or possibly had done her boy Peter in a hay stack, Belle hadn’t quite sorted out the details there, and when she woke up with 28 years of memories as Ruby, she was most definitely not a virgin anymore.
“That wasn’t really the problem,” Ruby said, “Because Ruby made her own decisions, and they made sense to her, so Red just took it like an education. Memories aren’t the same as experiences. It’s like it happened to someone else, like a book. But,” Ruby ducked her head at this. “It’s just hard to deal with people who knew Ruby too well. Or people who want to get to know Ruby – the old Ruby – , because I’m not the kind of girl who can just… drink and go home with someone anymore.”
“You’ve drank and gone home with me,” Belle said, confused.
Ruby gave her one of those smiles that made Belle bite her lip. “Gone home was a euphemism there.”
“I see.” Belle flushed.
“So I just… I’m not interested in dating much these days. And I’m really not interested in meaningless sex. So it’s hard when someone approaches me.”
Belle did understand. She could read the discomfort on Ruby’s face like a book. And when she saw the young man – attractive though he was – start to approach her, talk to her, and saw how her face went strained and upset, Belle couldn’t just let her deal with it alone. She headed over.
“We have plans!” she said, her arm slipping around Ruby’s waist. And Ruby looked at her like she’d grown another head. “At my place, right?”
Ruby caught up eventually.
“With wine and cheese, and…”
The young man looked embarrassed. “It’s okay, really. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were dating.” And he left.
Belle gaped after him. Dating? He thought they were dating? But… they were both girls.
“Thanks for the save,” Ruby said softly.
“I… I thought we really could have a movie night, if you were interested.”
“That sounds great.”
If Belle was good at anything, she was good at research, and it didn’t take long for her to figure out that there were people called lesbians in this world. She knew about Google. They wore flannel, like Ruby, and rented brand name moving vehicles, and had very long fingernails and thigh high stockings. Some of these things didn’t seem to mesh, but that was people for you, they were all different. But most importantly lesbians fell in love with other women, and even got married! Lesbian wedding pictures were Belle’s favorite wedding pictures, and she pinned a bunch of them on Pinterest.
“Um,” Emma said, the person who had told Belle about Pinterest and was currently her only follower. “What’s up with all the lesbian wedding stuff?”
“It’s so romantic!” Belle explained. “It’s like Romeo and Juliet, only it ends happily, and there are two brides! Two brides make a wedding so much more romantic! Sometimes there are two wedding dresses!”
Emma was kind of looking at her like her head had fallen off, but it still seemed fully affixed to her neck, so Belle didn’t worry about it.
The next guy looking to ask Ruby out Belle headed off preemptively. She heard him talking to his friend about the smoking hot waitress that he had banged before, and now that she was a werewolf he wanted to bang again, and Belle found this distasteful. So she sent Ruby on an errand and sidled up to the guy who was hanging around, waiting for her.
“Do you need anything?”
“Uh, I was just looking for the waitress.”
“You mean Ruby? She had to go out, but if you need to tell her something, I’d be happy to give my girlfriend a message for you.”
The man froze. “Your girlfriend?”
Belle smiled. “Yes. We’re lesbians together.”
“Uh, okay.” He looked torn between finding this hot and being really weirded out. “So, just lesbians? Not up for a threesome?”
Belle blinked at him. “What’s that?”
He didn’t explain. A little bit of research made Belle frown. Some sources said that lesbians loved threesomes with men. Others disagreed. She thought she was going to go with the disagree camp on this one.
Belle didn’t have to say anything to the next guy. He came up to both of them, while Ruby was on break, sitting and talking to her in the booth, and Belle just leaned forward, smiled at her best friend, and placed her hand on top of Ruby’s, squeezing lightly. Ruby smiled back at her, and the man looked awkward and left.
It was easy now, to stand so close to Ruby that their arms brushed, to touch her familiarly, to sit on her lap and play with her hair. And in return, Ruby was comfortable enough to hug her, and nuzzle her ear, and the hollow self-loathing that Belle hated seeing in her eyes just wasn’t there.
They’d started getting some weird looks, mostly from Granny and Emma. Whale had flopped down the books he was borrowing at the library and leered at her. “I’d pay to see the show,” he said.
Belle didn’t know what that meant. “What show?”
“You and the werewolf,” he replied.
“We don’t do a show.”
Whale laughed. “If she ever wants you to do one, just think of me.”
Research again. Apparently, Whale wanted to watch them have sex. Why would someone want to watch that, Belle wondered. Sex was private, personal. And… it involved nudity. That was just embarrassing. Although, she’d spent enough time with Safe Search turned off to realize that people did apparently take pictures and videos of themselves having sex, and put them up for other people to watch them. Belle had started a few on xtube, but they were honestly rather low on plot and characterization, so she got bored.
Belle was getting really curious though, about what it would be like to kiss Ruby. But it wouldn’t be any fun if she wasn’t kissed back.
Of course Rumplestiltskin was the first to track her down. “I hear you’re dating the wolf.”
He looked hurt and exhausted, and Belle felt really bad about this. She opened her mouth to explain.
“I hope she treats you well,” he said. “And if she doesn’t,” his eyes narrowed. “I will kill her.”
Belle froze. Rumple strode off. She felt sick and sorry for him. If he hadn’t gotten so awful in the last twenty-eight years, she might have given him another chance. But being with him reminded her a little too much of being locked in the psych ward, where nothing made sense, but she wasn’t allowed to fight. And in his past twenty-eight years he’d gotten used to treating the entire town like hateful children, and she really couldn’t smilingly accept that. It broke her heart a little.
“Hey, are you okay?” Ruby found her in the diner and immediately noticed that she was upset. Belle couldn’t help but smile through the sadness. Ruby bundled her up in a hug, and Belle breathed in her clean lovely scent and just enjoyed it.
She was doing library accounts that afternoon, and cursing Excel, but Ruby kept bringing her treats and smiles and funny comments she’d overheard from the other patrons. It really would be easy to fall in love with her, Belle thought.
Ruby had just walked away after leaving her with a muffin and a joke, and Belle looked up to find Snow watching them with a beatific look on her face.
“Um,” Belle said. “What is it?”
“It’s just so cute!” Snow was not defeated by the awkwardness of the diner booths, and wrapped Belle up in a hug. “Take care of her, okay? She needs someone like you.”
“I, um, of course,” Belle said, and suddenly realize that she had started up a story, and there was going to be fallout of the F. Scott Fitzgerald degree.
So she waited.
And looked at pictures of lesbians kissing on Tumblr.
They made her a little sad.
“Why does everyone thing we’re going out?” Ruby asked her, dumping trash in the alley right next to the diner.
“I didn’t think anything about it at first,” Ruby said, “the weird notes on the checks, the way Snow kept cooing when she saw us together. And I was pretty sure Granny was just, um, well, trying to tell me something when she gave me your lunch deliveries and said ‘take this to your girlfriend.’” Ruby looked embarrassed. “But it’s the entire town now. And Regina, even, just walked by and asked me when I was going to move in with you, and um, sleep the niceness out of you.”
Belle frowned at her. “She didn’t by any chance say ‘fuck,’ did she?”
Ruby blinked and looked awkward. “Yes.”
“Oh good. I was pretty certain that ‘sleep the niceness out’ wasn’t an idiom. I had to check.”
Ruby huffed out something that was half amused, half frustrated. “Belle, what’s going on? Do you know? Or do I need hunt down, I dunno, Whale or someone and smack him for making stuff up.”
Belle looked at her shoes. “Um, no. I think this is my fault.”
“You told people we were dating?”
“Not… exactly. It’s just, people kept on asking you out, and I know that makes you uncomfortable. So I just… made a barrier.”
“You were trying to protect me.” Ruby looked both sad and affectionate. “By cockblocking me.”
Belle gaped. “You said you didn’t want any more cock!”
Ruby blanched. “Oh my god, don’t use that word.”
Belle frowned at her. “What should I use? ‘You didn’t want any more penis’ doesn’t really have the same meaning.”
Ruby waved her hands in desperation. “Please don’t say any of those things! It’s too cute and it makes me want to die.”
Belle frowned, confused again. She shook it off. “I’m sorry if this has made you uncomfortable too.”
“Everyone thinking I’m dating you?” Ruby gave her a wry smile. “Nah, it’s flattering that everyone seems to think I can get a girl in your league.”
Belle stiffened. That was the self-loathing coming out again. “Why couldn’t you?”
Ruby reached out and caught her hand. “You’re kind of my best friend these days, Belle. And you’re super sweet to me. And there’s only one girl in your league, and that’s you. Since I can’t actually get you…”
“Why not?” Belle asked. “Why can’t you ‘get’ me?”
Ruby gave her a confused look. “Because you’re straight, and you have a true love, and you may blur the boundaries of affection and molestation on occasion, but it’s not like you’d want me.”
Belle stiffened. “I never said I was straight.” She crossed her arms. “Haven’t you been on Tumblr? Bisexuality exists!”
“And true love’s kiss is a really complicated concept. And Rumple said… he said he hopes you’ll make me happy.”
Ruby was starting to look panicked.
“And I’ve wanted to kiss you for weeks now. And sex is… not something I’m totally comfortable with, but I thought that it would probably just happen naturally if we were together, that’s how it works on AO3, and I’d like to try that, and I just…”
Ruby was now gaping at her. “Did you tell everyone we were dating because you wanted us to be dating?”
“No!” Belle exclaimed, and then thought about it. “Yes? Maybe? I wasn’t really thinking that hard when I did it.”
Ruby laughed. “I’m going to kiss you,” she said. “And then we’re going to go on enough dates so that it actually won’t feel absurd that people think we’ve been together for months.”
Belle bit her lip, feeling happier than she had in weeks. She looked up at Ruby, pretty, sexy Ruby, who didn’t have an ounce of self-loathing in her eyes at the moment. “Please?” she said. “Yes, please.”
Ruby bent down, but Belle kissed her first.
Ruby kissed her back.
Belle couldn’t wait to tell the Internet everything.