A fire burned cozily in the small office of the library, warming the two occupants of the room. Wind gusted wildly beyond the walls of the library, but inside of the building it was silent but for the crackling of the fire and the sweet, melodic sound of Belle’s voice as she read from a book nestled on her lap while Ruby lounged on the rug, listening, completely enthralled by both the story and the reader.
“And as the first stars came out Coraline finally allowed herself to drift into sleep, while the gentle upstairs music of the mouse circus spilled out onto the warm evening air, telling the world that the summer was almost over,” Belle finished softly, closing the book with a satisfying finality as a large smile spread across Ruby’s face.
“I liked that one,” Ruby breathed out, content and relaxed as she lifted her arms over her head and stretched luxuriously, like a predator that had just woken from slumber and was readying itself to start prowling again.
“Unlike all the other ones,” Belle teased gently, her eyes twinkling mischievously.
Ruby’s eyes widened and her body tensed at Belle’s words, her lips parting to issue a denial a second later. However, as her eyes anxiously scanned Belle’s face, the playful way Belle’s eyes were shining finally registered with her, and Ruby smiled and relaxed.
“I liked those ones too. I loved them,” Ruby breathed out. “But there’s just something about sitting on a rug, listening to a story in front of a fire on a snowy afternoon that’s … especially pleasing,” Ruby continued softly, an increasingly large smile stretching across her lips as she spoke, too happy and content at that moment to stop it from showing on her face.
“Especially?” Belle repeated cutely, lifting an auburn eyebrow at her companion.
“What?” Ruby asked; her voice lowering and her eyes narrowing as she mock glared at Belle. “I know I’ve got a hard head,” she continued, eyes sparkling playfully despite her serious tone, “but even I was bound to expand my vocabulary with you reading to me so much.”
“Your head is perfect,” Belle replied firmly, “And I’m not complaining,” she added, her voice gentling as she met Ruby’s eyes. “Or poking fun,” she said sincerely. “I liked it, your choice of words. It was very … whimsical. I like you when you’re whimsical.”
“Unlike all the other times,” Ruby replied, and Belle shook her head at Ruby, pretending to be annoyed by having her previous words used against her, but she wasn’t able to stop herself from smiling, which made her chastising head shaking less than convincing.
“What time is it?” Ruby asked as Belle rose from the chair she’d been seated on and proceeded to stretch muscles that had grown stiff as she read to Ruby.
Belle craned her head to the side to see the clock, and Ruby admired the elegant line of her neck and the unconscious grace of her movements. Belle was so gentle, so charming and delicate. She was a woman in full, and though Ruby told herself that she shouldn’t, she often found herself watching Belle in a state of stupefied awe; not quite able to believe that something so exquisite could be real or could care for her.
“Just past four,” Belle breathed out, sounding more than a little surprised as she turned back to face Ruby. “We’ve wiled away almost the entire afternoon,” Belle exclaimed, baffled by how such a thing could be possible but pleased by it nonetheless.
She had come by the library after the lunch rush with a care package for Belle. It had been snowing all morning, but the snow had really started to come down around noon and Ruby knew that it would chase most people indoors. Belle hadn’t been by the diner for lunch and Ruby guessed that she had gotten caught up in a book, completely losing track of time, space, and everything except for the pages in front her. Normally, Ruby wouldn’t have worried about this, but with the storm starting up she didn’t want Belle to end up going hungry when she snapped out of her fiction induced haze and realized that the weather was too fearsome to dare braving.
So, Ruby had packed up a little picnic basket for Belle, filled a very large thermos with Granny’s special Peppermint Hot Chocolate, and made her way over to the library to provide Belle with provisions for the afternoon – and evening, if need be.
Belle had nearly been driven to tears when Ruby explained why she was there, and after drawing Ruby into a tight hug that made Ruby’s heartbeat double and her cheeks flush red, Belle had invited Ruby to stay for a mug of hot chocolate and Ruby hadn’t wanted to refuse the offer, so she didn’t.
Quite contently, Ruby had settled herself in front of the fireplace on the ridiculously comfortable shag rug in Belle’s office and accepted a steaming mug of hot chocolate from Belle, and then Belle had collapsed into a comfy nearby armchair and smiled impishly at Ruby as she picked up a book and shyly – but hopefully – inquired if Ruby would like to hear a story.
Ruby, of course, had immediately agreed, and the rest, as they say, was history.
“I haven’t gotten you in trouble, have I?” Belle asked, her eyes widening a fraction as she gazed at Ruby, it suddenly occurring to her that she’d kept Ruby from the diner – from her job – for hours.
“Not today,” Ruby said easily, her easy tone and relaxed manner immediately soothing Belle’s worries. “Things were slow today with the weather and all, so when I told Gran I was coming over here to drop some food off for you, she told me I could have the rest of the afternoon off.”
“That was nice of her,” Belle commented softly, thinking that she would have to give Granny a nice big hug the next time she saw her for providing her with the pleasure of Ruby’s company that afternoon.
“Yeah,” Ruby breathed out smiling. “She’s a good cub, that one,” she drawled, and Belle grinned at her and then laughed.
“I think being out of Granny’s earshot is making this wolf feel a bit too big and bad,” Belle teased, knowing that there was no way Ruby would have called Granny a cub if the woman had been within earshot.
“I’m not scared of her,” Ruby declared huffily, meeting Belle’s eyes in the most adorably defiant way.
Belle’s lips curved up in a gentle, but completely unconvinced smiled, and Ruby sighed softly and looked towards the office door warily, almost as if she expected Granny to jump through it and march into the room shaking her finger at her before grabbing her by the ear and dragging her out.
“Is this the part where you ask me to swear that I’ll never tell anyone, especially Granny, that you called her a cub?” Belle asked knowingly when Ruby looked back at her, her beautiful blue eyes a little wider and a little more panicked than they had been before she’d looked at the door.
“Yes,” Ruby replied seriously as she nodded her head, though a smile began to creep onto her lips. “With a side of, ‘please, please, please’,” Ruby added, clasping her hands together in front of her as she turned a pair of comically pleading eyes on Belle.
“Don’t give me that face,” Belle complained, laughing softly as she turned her head away from Ruby.
Sometime during Ruby’s first full moon cycle after magic had returned to Storybrooke, Ruby had realized that Belle had a hard time resisting her when she looked into Belle’s eyes very earnestly, and ever since Ruby had been unfairly influencing Belle by turning her big, beautiful doe-like eyes on her.
“Pretty please,” Ruby breathed out, scooting on the floor a little so that she was once again within Belle’s line of sight. “With cherries, and strawberries, and blueberries and … uh, acai berries and all the rest of the ‘ries’ on top?”
“Stop,” Belle started to complain, drawing the word out pathetically because she could feel herself succumbing to Ruby’s supernatural cuteness, and then she made the mistake of looking directly at Ruby and she knew she had lost. “Unfair,” Belle accused a few seconds later, though a gentle smile soon touch her lips as she gave into the heart-warming effects of Ruby’s stupidly adorable face.
Ruby shrugged and smiled at her, then stared at Belle, waiting.
“You actually want to hear me say it?” Belle asked surprised, though there was more than a touch of amusement in her voice as well.
Ruby smiled and nodded.
“Oh, very well then,” Belle sighed, even as a little smile tugged up the corner of her lips. “I, Isabelle French …”
“Isabelle?” Ruby interjected excitedly, gazing over at Belle curiously. “Really? I mean I guess it makes sense, I just never really thought about it, you know? You’re just … you’ve just always been Belle, but Isabelle … I like it,” Ruby breathed out, unconsciously nodding her head approvingly. “Sorry,” she continued, suddenly looking embarrassed. “Please continue.”
“Why thank you,” Belle said dryly, and Ruby blushed though she also continued to smile. “As I was saying … I, Isabelle French, do hereby solemnly swear to keep your confidence in regards to statements made by you, Ruby ‘Please, please, please’ Lucas, about Granny Lucas – and the similarities she bares to young wolflings – at approximately 4:05 p.m., on the 12th of December, in the year of our Lord 2012.”
Ruby watched Belle with an inscrutable expression on her face for a few seconds, and then she tilted her head to the side and smiled cheekily before murmuring, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” which made Belle smile and then throw a nearby pillow at her.
Ruby caught the pillow easily and hugged it to her chest, and Belle shook her head at Ruby before she gave up on pretending not to be charmed by Ruby and gracefully lowered herself onto the floor beside the raven-haired beauty.
“What is it?” Belle asked a few moments later, having noticed Ruby staring off into the distance, seemingly concentrating on nothing. She’d seen Ruby like this before, and she knew that she was listening with her wolf ears.
“The streets are quiet,” Ruby said softly. “The snow chased everyone inside.”
“You don’t hear anyone at all?” Belle asked as she shifted closer to Ruby, looping her arms through Ruby’s as she leaned against the raven-haired woman’s side.
“Nothing but the wind,” Ruby sighed, her eyelashes fluttering lightly and her heartbeat increasing as she breathed in Belle’s scent. A warm, pleasant tingling traveled through her body as she breathed Belle in, and Ruby had to consciously stop herself from moaning in ecstasy and burying her nose in Belle’s hair.
“How bad do you think it is out there?” Belle asked curiously.
“Only one way to find out,” Ruby replied smiling before she gently disentangled herself from Belle and rose to her feet.
She enjoyed being so close to Belle, too much so really, and she figured that putting some distance between them would be for the best.
“Are you ready to meet your destiny?” Ruby asked dramatically, sticking her hand down in front of Belle.
“I was born ready,” Belle replied, sounding like one of the fearless heroes from the adventure stories she liked to read.
“Then let us go bravely forth and discover what fate has woven for us on the loom of time,” Ruby said as she took hold of Belle’s hand and helped her to her feet.
“Nice turn of phrase,” Belle praised, smiling over at Ruby. “If you wrote a book, I’d read it,” she continued, and Ruby blushed a little as they began to walk towards the office door.
“What would I write a book about?” Ruby said softly, as they made their way into the stacks.
“You live in a magical town and turn into a great big wolf. Write about what happened on Sunday,” Belle replied, nudging Ruby with her elbow playfully, and Ruby chuckled and gazed at Belle fondly until she began to worry that Belle might see too much in her eyes and turned away from her.
“All I do when I’m a great big wolf is run around the woods like a puppy after a bowl of Red Bull and then come here and follow you around for a while before falling asleep on your feet. Which is nice,” Ruby sighed happily, “but I don’t think it would be the most exciting story ever.”
“You’ve helped Emma and David out with detective stuff before haven’t you? You helped them find me. Using that inside knowledge of the world of law enforcement you could … I don’t know, write about being a Private Eye named Red … who, in a quirky little twist, is both the heroine and her trusty side-kick,” Belle replied, smirking playfully when Ruby turned to look at her and then narrowed her eyes menacingly.
“Only having to pay one salary would help keep down her costs. Red would be able to offer much more reasonable rates than the competition,” Belle offered impishly, shrugging when Ruby huffed at her, and then smiling when Ruby pointedly angled her face away.
When they neared the library’s front door, Ruby gallantly pulled ahead of Belle. If the snow had been coming down at the rate it was when Ruby left the diner then hours before then a respectable amount would have fallen and opening the door would likely require some muscle. If the snow had started coming down even heavier since she’d entered the library, well, then the door was definitely going to require a little muscle.
“Do you want some help?” Belle asked as Ruby reached the door.
“I got it,” Ruby said confidently before bracing her shoulder against the door and reaching for the door knob.
Ruby turned the knob and then leaned into the door, using the weight of her body to help muscle the door open. She wasn’t as strong in her human form as she was when she was a wolf, but she was still much stronger than your average human, and even so getting the library open was a challenge for her. A rather large snow drift had formed outside of the door, and Ruby had to fight against the knee-high, tightly packed powder to get the door to open.
“Whoa!” Ruby exclaimed, rearing back when she finally managed to get the door open enough to see outside.
“What is it?” Belle asked curiously, wrapping her arms around herself as cold air blew into the library and began to make her shiver.
“Come look,” Ruby told her, beckoning Belle over to her with her hand.
Ruby stepped back when Belle approached her, giving her access to the door so that Belle wouldn’t have to try and look over or around her.
“Oh wow,” Belle gasped, shivering but mesmerized as she gazed out at Storybrooke.
“Cool, huh?” Ruby asked grinning as they both gazed out of the door.
The storm was still going, much harder than it had been a few hours earlier when Ruby had made her way to the library. Ruby could see a little more than Belle could thanks to her wolf eyes, but even she couldn’t see very much. The entire town was a swirling porcelain blanket, entirely whited out by gusting snow.
“I’ve only read about snow storms like this,” Belle breathed out smiling, even as her teeth chattered.
“I’ve seen some this bad before, but not often,” Ruby murmured. “Welcome to Maine,” she teased, grinning over at Belle.
As she gazed at Belle, Ruby could see the effect the cold was having on Belle, and she knew what she wanted to do to help. She wanted to wrap her arms around Belle and warm the other woman with her body. She ran a higher body temperature than regular people did, and her body heat would definitely combat the effects of the open door. But, Ruby held herself still, worried that she’d be overstepping her bounds. However, when a particularly violent shudder worked its way through Belle’s thin frame, Ruby threw her concerns to the wind and wrapped one of her arms around Belle from behind while she reached out with her other arm to pull the door closed.
To Ruby’s delight Belle turned into Ruby’s body, seeking out her warmth, and when the door was finally shut Ruby wrapped her other arm around Belle, and sighed softly she held Belle against her tightly, reveling in the feel of Belle’s body flush against her own.
“Thanks,” Belle murmured into Ruby’s chest a short while later as the shivers running through her body finally began to calm. “It was beautiful, but it seems I’m not exactly built for the cold.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Ruby breathed out, meaning it more than Belle could possibly know. “But you probably want to get back in front of the fire, huh?” she continued as she ran her hands up and down Belle’s back, unable to force herself to pull back from Belle just yet, despite the fact that she knew they should head back to the warm office.
“Yeah,” Belle breathed out, trying not to sound as reluctant as she felt about leaving Ruby’s arms. “But … could we just stay like this for a bit longer. I’m still a bit ….” A shiver ran through Belle’s body before she could finish speaking, and Ruby’s arms flexed, tightening around her just a bit more.
“Of course,” Ruby said immediately, completely happy to stay just as they were for as long as Belle wanted, “just say when,” she breathed out, hoping that Belle wouldn’t say ‘when’ for a while.
“When what?” Belle asked curiously, her eyebrows scrunching in confusion as she tried to decipher Ruby’s words.
Ruby’s body vibrated against Belle’s as she chuckled softly and Belle had to fight to stop herself from nuzzling further into Ruby.
“When you’re ready to go back to the office,” Ruby explained gently a second later.
“Oh,” Belle breathed out thoughtfully, “Okay,” she continued, and then she rested her head on Ruby’s shoulder and continued to hold onto the raven-haired woman, not planning on saying ‘when’ anytime soon.