Lacey liked to shake her groove thang. Down at the Rabbit Hole, these days, she could be found shaking it regularly on Saturday nights, getting sloshed and taking home any scruff or muscles that caught her eye. Even Gold had given up on trying to control her. He was bad, but bad was only sexy when it was active. When it was a little old man brewing up potions in his basement, well, it really wasn’t good for a shag.
Ruby had moved through denial and guilt and bargaining and whatever the fuck else was involved in getting over being a shitty friend, and figured Lacey could handle herself. She’d handled Gold, and if you could handle Gold, the losers down at the Rabbit Hole weren’t really going to be much of a problem. It didn’t mean that Ruby didn’t tend to keep an eye on her, but there was the eye of worry, and then there was the eye of, omg that’s a short skirt and is she really wearing purple underwear, oh yes she is.
“You’re watching her again,” said Emma.
“She really shouldn’t be dancing on the bar,” replied Ruby. “It can get slippery up there. The pool table is a much better option.”
Emma gave her the ‘don’t give me that bullshit look,’ and Ruby sighed. Hot was hot. What-thefuck-ever. “Rubes.”
“I’m not going to have a bonding moment with you about my bisexuality, okay?” Ruby said flatly. “It is what it is. And I didn’t bang your mom, but I would have, if I had known it was physically possible back then.”
Emma blanched. “Okay! Okay! No bonding talks about mutual bisexuality. Great.”
Ruby laughed and shook her head, letting her hair lash around her face. “Nother drink?”
“In a second. Rubes, when are you going to come back and work for the Sheriff’s office? I’m not going to say you’re wasted at the diner, because those legs are not at all wasted in those daisy dukes, but come on, I’m working with my dad. And we could really use your nose on some of the cases.”
“I am excellent at finding lost cats,” Ruby agreed. Honestly, she wanted it. She wanted a chance to use the skills she’d been hiding for so long, to be congratulated for doing something right for a change. Not Ruby Lucas, village bicycle, or Red Riding Hood, savage werewolf killer, but just Ruby, competent deputy, with the nose of a bloodhound and the seductive capabilities of… um, whatever lady detective used her wiles to get her way. She thought she could be good at that. Maybe.
Ruby gave a slight smile. It would mostly be answering phones and finding lost cats, but still. “Maybe part time? ‘Till we get more help at the diner?”
“Score! You have no idea how many times Old Mother Hubbard has sent me chasing after Puss in Boots this past week.”
Ruby wrinkled her nose. “You bum.”
Emma grinned. “You said you’d help!”
“I will. But I need another drink.” Ruby slid out of her chair and headed towards the bar. The only think important in life was to be happy, she thought to herself. And she’d had enough of being miserable. She had Emma now, and Ashley, and Snow back, though married and happy and glowing with pregnancy put their relationship on rather a different footing than it had been. And, well, she didn’t have Belle.
She looked up, watching Lacey roll her hips and throw back her hair, wild curls scattering like leaves in the wind. She was beautiful. But Ruby missed the kind girl – too kind – who had treated her well, who had looked at her like she could actually be someone’s knight, or someone’s lady. It had been too good to last. Ruby had been born a villain.
She had just reached the bar, leaning over to signal the bartender for a refill, when she heard a shriek. Her wolf reflexes were fast, but the crowd of people surrounding Lacey was too thick to get through, and like idiots, when she fell, they all stepped away. She impacted the floor with a sickening crack.
Shit! Shit! Shit shit shit!
Ruby shoved through the standing gawpers and dropped to her knees. She’d had EMT training, because her Granny didn’t want any trouble at the diner, but it had been a long time ago, and she was panicking. Lacey was splayed over the floor, limp, like a doll, but nothing immediately and obviously displaced. “Call the fucking ambulance,” she yelled. Because it was clear that Lacey was out cold, and head injuries were never a good thing.
Especially in Storybrooke.
* * *
“God, it’s like deja-vu,” Mary-Margaret said softly, handing Ruby a coffee from the vending machine down the hall. “Back here, waiting for Belle to wake up.”
“Lacey,” Ruby muttered. They were waiting for Lacey to wake up this time.
“Well, maybe so. And maybe we’ll have wiped that slate clean.”
Just thinking about her like that, lost and alone, having barely formed a new identity to have it stripped away again, it was more than Ruby could bear.
Ruby stood up, coffee sloshing over her fingers. “Don’t say that! The last thing I want is for her to have amnesia again! Don’t you think she’s suffered enough? Just because you like Belle better doesn’t mean Lacey doesn’t have a right to exist. They’re both her. And I am not the sort of person who will stop caring about her just because she’s changed. That’s not my style! Not anymore.”
She turned. Dr. Whale was standing in the hall with a clipboard.
“Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble,” he said, “but yeah. She’s got amnesia again.”
* * *
It wasn’t complete amnesia, he said, not like the other time. But it wasn’t great. She kind of knew who she was, she was just fuzzy on the details. She had some sense of worldly current events, but absolutely no knowledge of local ones. And when she heard that the girl who called the ambulance for her was sleeping in the waiting room, she wanted to see her.
It took a bit of steel, but Ruby headed down the hall and stepped into the hospital room. This sight was too familiar, that small form in a hospital bed. But this time the girl didn’t look slumped and sullen and angry, she looked up, stared intently at Ruby, and then smiled.
“You’re her,” she said. “You called the ambulance for me.”
“Well, I shouted until someone did,” Ruby said. “How are you feeling?”
“Kind of like crap. Headache mostly.” The girl cocked her head, biting down on her lower lip. “Your face is familiar. That’s a good sign, right?”
Ruby was confused out of her mind. The casual swearing was all Lacey, but the lip nibbling, the noticing her existence, that was Belle.
“An excellent sign,” said Whale. “I’m sure the majority of the amnesia will be only temporary.”
The girl’s eyes fell on Ruby. “You don’t look like it’s a good thing. I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?”
Ruby went tense.
“Only, I feel like I ought to know you, but,” she tapped her head, “nothing’s really working up here. So I just hope I haven’t… well, I hope I’m not your girlfriend, or something, and am making your life shatter by telling you I can’t remember you.”
Ruby stiffened in shock. “Girlfriend?” she squeaked. “No! No. We’re just… friends, I guess. Just friends.”
“Too bad,” the girl made a Lacey-like leer of a smile. “You’re delicious.”
Ruby had no idea how to respond to that. Because Lacey… Lacey wasn’t bi, and Belle wasn’t flirty, and, oh god, who was this one? “Do you, um, remember your name?”
“Nope,” the girl said. “Wanna tell me what it is?”
“That’s actually kind of a hard question.”
“You don’t know my name?” The girl’s mouth twisted slightly. “We’re we really friends?”
And those familiar words hit Ruby like a bullet to the gut. It was also not a question she could answer anymore. She’d been friends with Belle, but not Lacey, and this was all so complicated now. “That’s… sort of difficult too.”
The girl looked away. “You know, when you wake up in the hospital with amnesia, you kind of hope that there will be people who are waiting for you. Because if there’s not, well, that’s pretty much a sign that you didn’t matter to anyone in the whole world, and maybe it would be better to forget who you were for good. But you were here. And yet, you’re not my hot girl– tragic. You’re not even a friend.”
“I am your friend,” Ruby said fiercely. “Just, for a while there, you weren’t mine. But I will always be your friend, and I will always be here, waiting for you, if you need me.”
The girl blinked at her, looking a bit stunned by the ferocity. Then she smiled, soft, somewhere halfway between Lacey and Belle and gave a slight nod. “I’ll hold you to that.”
Ruby dipped her head, embarrassed.
“And my name?”
Ruby sighed. “Isabelle Lacey French,” she said. “Sometimes you go by Belle, sometimes by Lacey. I really can’t pick what you’d want to be called now.”
“Well, you were called Lacey when you were dancing on the bar that you fell off of.”
The girl winced. “Oh god, that’s how I hit my head? Embarrassing.”
“Are you the sort of girl who dances on bars?” Ruby asked.
The girl looked confused for a moment. “I… I wouldn’t put it past myself,” she said. “I do like to have fun, and when you get a little tipsy, sometimes you just go for it.”
Her smile was charming, and Ruby found herself nodding. “Just, you know, stick to the pool table, okay? It’s not as slippery as the bar.”
“Oh definitely,” the girl said, and laughed.
“Maybe you are Lacey,” Ruby said. Just… nice.
The girl shrugged. “I really can’t recall. You said I also went by Belle? And at that point, didn’t dance on bars, I take it?”
Ruby laughed. “Not so much. I mean, she liked to have fun too, but it was more movies and wine than bars and men.”
The girl was frowning at her, curiously. “Usually I don’t think people have two personalities, without a psychiatric disorder. Do I have a psychiatric disorder?”
“Um…” Ruby shrugged awkwardly. “No more than anyone else in this town. I have two personalities too, so does Snow, and your Doctor, and most everyone. Only Emma doesn’t, but she’s not really from here. Two personalities is normal.”
“That… doesn’t sound normal to me. Is this a mental institution?”
Ruby laughed weakly. “Not officially. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it, but there is a reason. It’s just… complicated.”
The girl sighed. “Why don’t you just call me Isabelle for now? I kind of don’t want to lay claim to either of my alter egos.” She bit lightly at her lip. “What are yours?”
“Well, they’re Ruby and Red,” Ruby said, feeling a bit awkward about talking like this. “One’s kind of seen as a ho by most of the town, but she just likes to party and is proud of her body. And the other, well, Red’s a bit of a mess. Lots of guilt and stuff, for something I did a while ago. But… we’ve integrated. I tend to go by Ruby now, but, you know, wear long pants and angst about my dead boyfriend.”
“Oh!” Isabelle sounded surprised. “You can integrate them?”
“It’s not a psychiatric problem here. It’s more of a situational artifact.”
“Interesting.” Isabelle smiled, and she was too pretty to believe. “So… Ruby.”
“I feel like I should write this down. One friend, named Ruby, gorgeous, confident, but a bit mysterious with a painful past. Maybe I’ll start a novel about this, from the POV of the amnesiac. Interesting, right?”
Ruby choked out a laugh. “Yes, really interesting.” She ducked her head. “You, um, you like books?”
“Of course. How can you not like books?” Her expression was bright and intense and honest, and Ruby wanted to kiss her, more than she’d wanted to kiss anyone.
“I’m afraid we need to take Miss French away for some checks, Ruby.” The nurse said. “You can come back at visiting hours. You know when they are.”
“Oh,” Isabelle looked disappointed. “You will come back, right?”
Ruby leaned down and caught her hand, clasping it tightly. “I promise,” she said. “Is there anything you want? Books, food, movies? Probably not liquor.”
Isabelle wrinkled her nose. “No? I could really use a shot of Jameson. But books please?”
Isabelle narrowed her eyes. “Amnesiac, remember. I can’t recall my own name, and you expect me to come up with call numbers?”
Ruby laughed. “No, no. Just any sort you’re in the mood for?”
Isabelle cocked her head slightly. “I’m not sure but… is Zadie Morrison an author’s name? Or… Toni Smith?”
Ruby blinked. “Not exactly, but I know who you mean, I think. I’m on it.”
“Thank you.” And in a move to quick for Ruby to react, Isabelle had her arms around her and was pulling her down, planting a brief kiss on her cheek. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” she said, “but you have no idea how sad I am that you’re not my girlfriend, sexy.”
As Isabelle was helped into a wheelchair and taken down the hall, Ruby just stood there, gaping.
* * *
“She’s just not, she’s not either of them.”
Emma and Snow and Regina, all, strangely, for the moment, at peace, sat around the diner table while Granny leaned over it, frowning. Henry, looking confused, ate his bear claw.
“She sounds like Belle to me,” said Snow, firmly. “The books, and the sweetness.”
“But the books are wrong too! I mean, they’re good books, but Belle was into the classics. She wanted to read everything in chronological order. Lacey didn’t read at all, but if she had read…”
“I kinda don’t think Toni Morrison is Lacey’s kind of writer either though,” commented Emma. “More like, Pat Califia, or, eh, Anne Desclos.”
Ruby gave Emma a suspicious look. She was pretty quick on the names of authors of dirty books, while ask her who wrote War and Peace and she’d be stammering for an hour.
“This may just be a temporary effect,” Regina said. “Once she remembers more, she may tilt one way or the other. My question is, has she met Rumplestiltskin yet? Her reaction to him may tell us what we need to know.”
“I don’t… want her to meet him,” Ruby said, looking down.
“Well of course not,” Granny said. “She’s into you now, like you would have killed for with either of the other two. You don’t want to risk it.”
“Huh?” Henry said. “But he’s her true love.”
There was a round of disgusted noises.
“Whose true love?” Emma asked. “It sounds like we’ve got three options. And he might have been Belle’s true love, but Lacey didn’t give him the time of day after that one hookup. If Izzy’s her own person, then it’s a crapshoot who she’ll fall for, but if she’s one of the other of them, well…”
“I just don’t get it,” Snow said, helplessly. “How can she be gay? Neither of her alters were gay.”
“Um,” said Emma, “Lacey acted pretty straight, but Belle was just monogamous…”
“When she wasn’t making eyes at my granddaughter,” Granny muttered.
“…She could have been bisexual.”
Snow laughed. “You can’t be monogamous and bisexual.”
“Um, mom.” Emma was giving her a rather uncomfortable look. “I’m monogamous and bisexual.”
“I’m single, and bi,” Ruby said, “But if I wasn’t I would probably also be monogamous. And even if it was a poly relationship, I wouldn’t cheat.”
Henry’s eyes were wide and his bear claw was half hanging out of his mouth. Snow looked at him. “Oh,” Snow said. “I see. I’m sorry Emma, Ruby. I didn’t really think it through. I guess I just… don’t expect this sort of thing. It’s not like we had it in the old world.” She forced a smile.
Ruby frowned. “We did, actually. We just didn’t talk about it.”
“Yes,” Regina drawled, “because identifying as a pervert was really not an enjoyable way of life. Or, more commonly, death.”
Ruby hadn’t been a royal, and among the peasants, you weren’t actually sent to the gallows. If you made advances on someone who wasn’t interested, however, you were in deep shit, and the village often shunned you until your choice was starve or leave. If you found someone, though, someone who didn’t mind, then you could be happy, as long as you ignored the snide amused whispering, and suggestions about when you were going to grow up and find a wife or husband, and stop playing house with your dear friend.
Ruby really didn’t miss the old world.
“I guess,” Ruby said, “I guess I’ll just play it by ear,” she said. God, she wanted to take Isabelle up on her flirtation, but Whale’s words, that this amnesia was only temporary, lingered in her. How much worse would that be, to give herself over to this, to have her for a moment, only to lose everything when she remembered?
Only love could break your heart. Stubbornness just left you a little lonely.
* * *
“I remember lots of things,” she heard Isabelle telling Whale. “I remember to brush my teeth every night, and how to feed myself, though I’m pretty sure cooking isn’t my forte. I remember characters from books, and how to mix margaritas – from scratch. And I think I remember having my own apartment.”
“You do,” Ruby said, ducking into the room. “Above the library. And I have an extra key to it, if you’ve misplaced yours.”
Isabelle looked up, saw her, and smiled, the expression lighting up her face in a way that was all Belle. “Are you sure you aren’t my girlfriend,” she asked, teasingly, “sneaking into my place whenever?”
Ruby laughed, but felt herself blush. And she felt, more than saw, Whale glancing between them, frowning, and looking suspicious. She turned her smile to Whale. “I can take her home and get her settled in.”
Whale frowned. “I suppose that would be fine. We’ll do one more check up, to make sure that concussion hasn’t had any other nasty side effects, but I figure getting back to real life as quickly as possibly would be the best medicine. I mean, it’s not like disorientation and amnesia aren’t really par for the course for you.”
Isabelle looked vaguely surprised. “This isn’t the first time I’ve had amnesia?”
Whale made a face, as if he hadn’t really intended to let that one out.
Ruby touched her shoulder. “Remember how I said you had two names. It was a pre/post amnesia thing.”
Isabelle looked at her, blue eyes wide and a little anxious. “You mean Belle was pre amnesia and Lacey was post? You mean… I never got my memories back?”
She looked shaken.
Ruby took hold of both her shoulders and squeezed lightly. “You already have more memories back than the first time,” she said. “You’re going to be fine.”
Whale made a supportive noise. “Definitely. You’re much more on track. I’ll just set up the last few tests.” He disappeared.
Isabelle hung onto Ruby’s hand, not letting her move away from the bed. “I didn’t tell him, but I’ve been having some… odd memories. There was a little man who came to visit me, and he sad, he said his name was Mr. Gold, and he was my benefactor, that if ever I needed anything, I could go to him. But after he left I had the worst dreams, of being lost in a dark castle, of seeing him beat a man to death with his cane, and I… they can’t be memories, can they? That would be crazy.”
Ruby swallowed, not sure what to say. “No one’s perfect,” she said softly. “Say you dreamt about me turning into a huge wolf and savaging my boyfriend, or say I locked you up in a basement and left you alone. Would you hate me?”
Isabelle looked at her intently. “I feel like I should say that it was just a dream, and dreams don’t matter, but that’s not what you’re trying to tell me. You’re saying that people do shitty things, and we shouldn’t judge them until we get why.”
Ruby let out a sharp laugh. That was Belle’s thoughts in Lacey’s words. “No,” she said, “No, actually I’m saying, I’ve done shitty things. And I can’t stand Mr. Gold, but if you hate him for what he’s done, you should hate me too. I’m no better than he is.”
Isabelle squeezed her hand. “I got drunk and fell off a bar,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I don’t have a lot of leg to stand on here.”
Ruby wanted to laugh, move in, kiss her soft, part-open mouth. Isabelle was watching her, with that half-dark gaze, that said she saw that there was darkness in her, but that wasn’t all she saw. Worst of all, it felt like a writer’s gaze, someone trying to sort things out, understand, and then reveal it all on paper. Writers were dangerous people to kiss.
* * *
The check up had gone fine, and Isabelle, dressed in the clothes Ruby brought from her apartment (which had been a mess. Lacey, clearly, did not tidy, and did not do dishes, or laundry, and the number of empty liquor bottles was appalling. Smelling the sheets was possibly the worst thing Ruby had ever had to do, and she deeply considered getting her a new mattress.) was checking out the strappy black sandals and tight jeans that had come off the top of the laundry pile. The yellow vest left her sexy shoulders bare, and her hair, finally brushed properly, spilled everywhere in loose waves.
“One question,” Isabelle accosted Whale. “You said I’m good, strenuous exercise is fine, standing on my head, not recommended, but still fine. Long periods of reading, fine. But, Doctor Whale, you didn’t tell me, can I drink?”
Ruby laughed, caught by surprise.
“Uh,” Whale said, “Yeah. Shouldn’t hurt.”
Ruby caught her around the waist. “Just don’t fall off any more bars,” she said.
Isabelle grinned up at her. “Be there to catch me, this time?”
Whale gave them that weird look again.
* * *
“This is where you work?” Isabelle looked around the diner, the slight crease in her brow suggesting that she found it familiar, but couldn’t place the memories.
“Here and the Sheriff’s office. I am the official finder of lost cats.” Ruby grinned. Isabelle tugged her into the usual booth.
Ruby stiffened, the hairs on the back of her neck bristling at the voice.
“It’s lovely to see you up and about.”
Mr. Gold was standing there with his cane and his hat in his hand, bowing slightly. Isabelle cast a smile on him, it was warm, though more knowing than Belle’s had been. “Hello, Mr. Gold. Thank you for the flowers you sent.”
“You are welcome.”
And, as easily as if there was nothing strange about this at all, Isabelle turned back to Ruby and the menu and started frowning at it. “What do I like here?”
“Um, well, the hamburgers,” Ruby said. Mr. Gold looked tired and left.
“Well, duh. Poutine? Why do you have poutine? We’re not in Canada, are we?” Isabelle sat up, seeming tense and rather anxious. Ruby couldn’t help but laugh “No, no. Not in Canada. Actually, a while ago, you said you wanted to try it, so I dished some up, but, well, you never got to because of… circumstances. But Leroy ate it, and he thought it was great, and people kept ordering it, so we just put it on the menu.”
Isabelle’s eyes were curious, a little suspicious, but gentle. “Well,” she said, “I definitely want to try it now.”
“Ruby!” Emma jogged over, badge on, looking like she was slacking off in the middle of her rounds. “And Iz! You’re out of the lockup!”
Isabelle looked a bit unsettled at the nickname, and very much like she had no idea who Emma was, but didn’t much like her. It was a very Lacey sort of look. Ruby hid a grin.
“So, mom and I were thinking, girl’s night out? You, me, Isabelle, Snow, Ash, and maybe Regina, if she doesn’t hate me today.”
Ruby glanced over at her charge. “I’m not sure if hitting up the Rabbit Hole on the night she gets out of the hospital is really a great idea.”
Isabelle’s eyes narrowed. “Oh no. I got permission to drink. You are not going to boss me about and keep me from drinking.”
Ruby laughed. “If you’re set on it. I can take you to meet the bar you fell off of.”
Isabelle flushed slightly. “I am expecting you to cut me off,” she said. “No bar dancing tonight.”
Now Emma was the one with the odd look. She caught Ruby on her way to the back to check on the poutine and tugged her aside. “She is into you,” she said, sounding eager. “I thought maybe you were overthinking things, but nope, she gives you sexy eyes.”
“Emma,” Ruby protested. She didn’t need this. “I’m not going to get with a girl who has amnesia. That is totally a Chad Michael Murray-worthy thing to do.”
Emma wrinkled her nose. “What’s so bad about it?”
Ruby shoved her. “You’re the Sheriff. You should know about things like impaired consent!”
“She’s into you!”
“You’re the worst!”
* * *
When Isabelle ordered three shots of Jameson and a Long Island Iced tea, Snow’s eyebrows were nearly at her hairline. The night really didn’t get better from there. Eventually, Isabelle dragged Ruby out to the dance floor, and curled into her, murmuring into her ear, “I hate your friends.” She pulled back slightly. “They’re you’re friends, right? Not mine.”
Ruby laughed. “Yeah, my friends, most of them.”
“Emma is just so needy. And Snow is kind of judgmental, and Ashley is all about that baby, and really, I do not care about babies. And Regina, well…” Isabelle pursed her lips. “Regina’s okay. She just never says anything, and looks or snorts dismissively whenever anyone speaks at all.”
“Way to diss all my friends, Lace,” Ruby said, laughing, and then froze.
“Lace?” Isabelle cocked her head slightly. “Was that a Lacey thing to say?”
“Belle might have thought it, but she wouldn’t have said it.”
Isabelle wrinkled her nose. “I’m rude, apparently.”
“Refreshingly honest.” Ruby twirled her slightly. “Honestly, Snow’s one of my oldest friends, but she was always a little judgy, and some shit that went down lately made it worse. Emma is needy, and she’s also trying to play peacemaker between Snow and Regina, which doesn’t make her any more confident. Ash, yeah, well, she was pregnant for 28 years, so I suppose she deserves some baby talk, but it is not my favorite topic either. I always was more into dogs than kids.”
Isabelle smiled. “I like dogs. Cats best really.”
Ruby shook her head. “Cats hate me. Dogs are scared at first, but they get over it. Babies just look like dinner.”
Isabelle laughed, sounding like the whiskey had finally hit her. “Ruby, you are really kind of strange, and this town is fucked up. What is it, I mean really?”
“It’s a curse,” Ruby said. “Regina, she of the dismissive snorts, hated Snow so much that she cursed our entire world to live in a tiny town in Maine for twenty eight years. Does that make it make more sense? Oh, and I’m a werewolf.”
“I’m drunk? Miss, three shots to start.”
Isabelle was grinning at her. “Werewolves are sexy,” she said, and leaned in, shimmying her body up against Ruby’s pressing up on her toes, and tugging Ruby down, ready for a kiss.
“Lacey!” called out a voice, and Ruby jerked back. Isabelle turned, to see a dude in a leather jacket with a beer wave at her. “Good to see you back, babe.” He sidled up. “Got some magic dust that will make you see stars for hours.” He fingered something in his pocket. Isabelle looked tense and unsettled. “I’ll give you the usual discount in the bathroom. Say ten minutes?” He adjusted himself, and then reached out, moving to press his thumb against Isabelle’s mouth. “If I can take pictures, I’ll give it to you free.”
Before his hand could make contact, Ruby had swiped it out of the air, and her body was between them. “Hey!” The man yelled. He glared down at her, at least six seven, and thick. “What do you—” Ruby punched him. He went sailing.
“You’re really trying to make a drug deal in front of the Sheriff’s deputy?” she said, stalking up to him. “You fucking imbecile.”
She grabbed him, jerking both wrists together, and dragged him off to Emma. “Douche was trying to sell some magic dust,” she said.
Emma blinked. “I, uh, I got it from here,” she said. Snow was already calling David, on duty in the department, and they’d have this cleaned up soon.
Free of her burden, Ruby felt a light brush on her arm. Isabelle was behind her, looking strained. “I think I want to go home,” she said.
* * *
“You think I blew him for drugs?” Isabelle asked, sitting at her kitchen table, nursing a tall glass of water.
“I don’t know,” Ruby said. “Seems likely. Honestly, I might have done the same, sometime back in my 28 years as just Ruby.”
“The idea makes me want to puke.”
“Me too,” Ruby said.
Isabelle looked up at her. “’s funny. It seems like you’ve got a lot in common with Lacey, but you were better friends with Belle. Which one did you like better?”
Ruby looked at her, feeling anxious. “It’s hard,” she said. “They were both hot as hell.” She smiled, giving Isabelle a teasing eye. “Unsurprisingly. And Belle was nothing like me. We had about zero things in common. But… she liked me, while Lacey never even gave me the time of day. And I wanted to be better for Belle, I wanted to expand my interests, work on my intellect, try something new. After I got over the initial rejection, I wanted to be there for Lacey, help her if she ever asked for it, not that she ever did. But really, you like people who like you. Belle liked me. So we were closer.”
“Lacey probably would have liked you too,” Isabelle said. “If she’d let herself get to know you.”
“Do you like me? After your harsh words on my friends, I’m almost scared to ask.”
“You punched a drug dealer for me,” Isabelle said. “How can I not like you?”
Suddenly, Isabelle’s hand was on her neck, her breath was close. “You know,” she murmured. “It’s a shitty surprise to find out that I did terrible things like blowing guys for drugs, and maybe, if I get my memories back, one of my other personalities would have similar terrible realizations about things that I did. But… I don’t think either of them would regret me kissing you.”
Ruby felt her stomach clench up in panic. “Really?” she asked. “Lacey seemed pretty straight.”
“I doubt it. Probably repressing her bisexuality.” Isabelle frowned, concentrating as if trying to pull up a recalcitrant memory. “I think Gold scared her. Giving into him was one way of being safe, but that didn’t work for long. Then putting big strong men that she didn’t really care about between them was better. Sleeping with a woman she might care about, it wouldn’t keep her safe.”
“That’s an… interpretation.”
Isabelle was looking at her, intent, eyes blue as they could be. “Who do you think I am? If I get my memories back, which one will I be?”
Ruby stared, trying to think, trying to make sense of this. “I…” It ought to be Lacey. A bang on the head wouldn’t disturb memories that had been wiped away by magic. But this girl wasn’t Lacey. And yet, she wasn’t Belle either. She was more than both, and less than either. “You,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you get them back or not. I think… you’ll just be you. All of you.”
Isabelle smiled. “Right answer,” she said, and stepped in, tilting her chin up and catching Ruby’s head, tugging her down to kiss her.
The kiss felt like breaking, like splitting open, like magic and better than magic. It lasted forever, or possibly seven seconds. Their lips came apart, soft and easy. “You’re drunk,” Ruby murmured.
“Who cares?” Isabelle replied, and sought upwards to kiss her again.
They ended up on the couch, mainly kissing and grinding. Dresses for going out were flimsy things, and ended up pushed out of the way. It was gentle and easy, and ended with warmth and soft noises. Ruby pulled the crocheted blanket over them, and Isabelle fell asleep.
* * *
“No! Please! Please let me out!”
Ruby struggled to consciousness, Isabelle thrashing slightly in her arms. “Hey, hey,” she said, trying to wake her from the nightmare. “Wake up. Wake up. You’re dreaming.”
But she didn’t wake. That dream shifted, into something darker, into wandering and loss. Ruby just stroked her hair and put a cold washcloth on her forehead, trying to calm her. And then, a soft, “I do love books.”
Ruby’s fingernails dug into her palms. What was going on here?
It was full morning before Isabelle opened her eyes. She blinked at Ruby, looking wrecked and exhausted, hardly dressed in an old t-shirt, and then glanced down at herself, naked.
“Oh good. I hoped that part wasn’t a dream.”
“Hey,” Ruby murmured, weakly, not even certain who she was speaking to.
“C’m here,” Isabelle murmured, opening the blanket and inviting her in. Ruby curled in beside her, up on the couch. Isabelle’s fingers ran over the scar on Ruby’s side, she hummed into her shoulder. “I totally thought you were crazy when you said you were a werewolf,” she murmured. “Sexy crazy, but still, totally crazy. But then, I also thought locking me up in the basement was a metaphor for sexy bondage. Apparently, you are just a lot more literal than I assumed.”
“’m not the book girl,” Ruby murmured.
“Lacey read straight up Denis Lehane,” Belle-Lacey-Isabelle said.
Ruby laughed softly. “She read?”
“She’s still me,” Isabelle murmured. “And you need something to do while you’re getting over your hangover before the bars open again.”
Ruby breathed in the scent of Isabelle’s hair – floral shampoo and whiskey, with sweat and a bit of sex, and leaned in and pressed a kiss against the side of her head. “All you,” she murmured.
Isabelle Lacey French shifted in her arms, coming around to face her, and leaned in to give her a kiss.
It was a good one.