When the last thing you remember is the sound of a gunshot ringing out, you kind of expect to wake up in the hospital, or maybe somewhere with the guy you were with hanging around, or in the afterlife, or something like that. You don’t expect to come to with your best friend’s fingers buried to the knuckle up your ass, and her kissing you, deep and wet and dirty, like there’s no tomorrow, and you really don’t expect to top that off with your body suddenly deciding that it’s ready for the best orgasm of your life.
To be completely honest, that was not a situation Belle had ever expected to be in, even if it hadn’t been abutted right to the memory of the dark woods and Rumpel and a pirate. Kissing Ruby was almost enough to make her forget that this was insane, except for the whole, fingers up her butt thing, and was that a bitemark on Ruby’s neck? And just holy shit, everything was upside down and backwards, and none of it made any sense, and then Ruby was just fondling her pussy like she had a right to be there, and Belle wanted her there, and she just needed to go, because she couldn’t think, she couldn’t sort out what on earth was going on, not with Ruby right there, with those impossibly long fingers taking her apart, and she was done. She was out.
Ruby’s distressed astonishment almost pulled her back, but what on earth could she say?
Belle’s legs felt like jelly, her trousers gripping too tightly in very sensitive areas, and what the hell was wrong with these boots she was wearing? Who in their right mind wore heels like this?
As she stumbled her way down the street, other memories started to open up in her head. Ruby’s hands on her breasts, her back hitting the cold shower wall, fingers sliding inside of her. She reached the library, her safe place. She could go in there, hide. But she looked at it and blanched, the memory of Ruby, cuffed and naked, tied to one of the columns in the basement rising up in her mind. They had defiled the library.
Rumpel, she thought. He would know what was going on, wouldn’t he? But she looked down the street toward his shop and remembered, far too vividly, her lips wrapping around the head of his cock. She thought she might be sick.
The clock struck two am. What could she do? Where could she go?
There was one door. She banged on it, and banged again.
“What?” The door finally opened, revealing a sleepy-eyed, pillow-haired Snow, who blinked at her in astonishment. “Lacey, what are you doing here?”
“Lacey?” Belle gasped, utterly confused. “I’m not Lacey. I’m Belle.”
* * *
Snow leaned against the counter as Lacey – no, Belle, hunched over her cup of tea, looking utterly miserable. It was pretty miserable to get all of your memories back, in general. But from the way Belle looked stunned and mussed, and sat awkwardly, shifting every few moments, Snow could guess that this sort of rude awakening was, well, rather more rude than otherwise.
“How long?” Belle asked. “How long have I been… Lacey?”
“A few months,’ Snow said, doing the calculations in her head. “Nearly five months, actually.”
Belle made a weak, distressed sound. “And the whole pirate, Cora…”
“Taken care of.” Snow didn’t want to explain the part she had had in it, so she kept it neutral. “Things are… reasonably peaceful right now,” as long as she didn’t include her and Regina’s bitter sniping during council sessions when they tried to figure out how to run the town.
“That’s good. And Rumpel?”
“He’s been… busy.” Snow actually had no idea what he was doing. At first he had been pretty busy just trying to handle Lacey, and then, when Ruby had gotten involved, he had been trying to kill her, but after that he seemed to take himself out of the equation, which only meant he had to be planning something nefarious.
“And… how long has Ruby…”
“How long has Ruby been banging Lacey?” Belle looked sick. “A while.”
“How long… after?”
Snow blinked. Was Belle wondering how long it took Ruby to get over her and move on? Then Belle waved her hand.
“No, don’t tell me. I remember.”
Belle nodded weakly. “I can remember everything Lacey did, if something reminds me of it. And I just, it’s just…”
“Horrible?” Snow sighed. “I understand. I have so many memories of Regina treating me like trash, laughing at me as I cowered and gave her everything she wanted.”
“But she didn’t fuck you,” Belle hissed, and Snow sat up straight, shocked out of her bitterness.
“No,” she said. “No she didn’t.” And that thought made her wonder if she really had got off lightly. Coming back to herself with those memories? Taking it and liking it? She felt rather ill.
“And it’s not like you… you at least had done something.”
Snow’s eyes went wide. “Oh,” she said. “Really?”
Belle’s eyes went teary, and she rubbed them, leaving herself looking even more like a raccoon than before. “I went from having kissed one man ever, to this. And I didn’t make any of the decisions. I just remember. And feel it. And Ruby.” Her voice cracked.
“Did you… tell her, when you got your memories back? You were with her, weren’t you?”
Belle nodded weakly. “No,” she said. “I didn’t tell her. I just… I had to leave. I mean, we had just…” She flinched.
Snow frowned. “So you just left her there? Without an explanation?”
“An explanation? I wasn’t the one who put my fingers in her—” Belle choked, cutting herself off.
Snow felt her eyes go huge. There was only so much she really needed to know about the details. “Um, was it the first time that she, um, did that?”
Belle grimaced and nodded slowly.
“Do you think that could have triggered it? That there’s a reason why you got your memories back then?”
Belle recoiled. “I hope not.”
Yes, Snow thought, one did not want to be the expert witness on the magical properties of ass sex. “Was there anything else that it could have been? Anything that might have felt out of the ordinary…” She wished she hadn’t said those words. Clearly there was plenty going on that had felt quite out of the ordinary.
Belle’s eyes dropped to the carpet. “I was kissing her,” she said.
“Well, surely that wasn’t new, was it?”
Belle’s shoulders hunched even further. “It was.”
“You hadn’t kissed her? Lacey was sleeping with her for three months and never kissed her?”
“Rumpel didn’t want me to. He said I could sleep around, but I couldn’t kiss anyone else.”
Snow went still and quiet. This didn’t make sense. True love was true love, wasn’t it? It overcame all obstacles. But what if the obstacle was more true love? “Do you think he knew that a kiss would bring back your memories?”
Belle nodded. “I’m sure he knew. And I’m sure he hated the fact that his kiss hadn’t worked. He would have rathered I stayed Lacey forever than be cured by someone who wasn’t him.”
“And it was Ruby.”
“Yes,” Belle said, her voice coming out in a growl. “Ruby, who was carefully, methodically, removing all my virginities. Who didn’t even think about what it might be like if I remembered. Who was the only one who should have known what it would have been like, because she… she had to deal with the same thing.”
“We thought you were gone for good.”
Belle jumped to her feet. “Maybe I should have been!”
Snow sat back quickly.
“I know what you’re thinking – that Ruby’s my true love now, or some bullshit like that. But Rumpel was my true love. Rumpel was the one I was supposed to be with, no matter how hard it was. And Ruby wasn’t falling for me all this time.” Belle rubbed her hand across her face. “She was falling for Lacey.”
“I remember. I saw how she looked at me – her. Lacey, with her stupid heels and her slutty clothes and her bondage kink, is Ruby’s true love. It isn’t me. Their kiss may have fixed what was wrong with my head, but that’s all.” Belle laughed, but it was utterly bitter. “Regina’s curse really worked this time, didn’t it? None of us will get a happy ending.”
* * *
The little man fixed her with a harsh, dangerous look.
“I can’t see you anymore,” Belle said. “I don’t want to have anything to do with you, or even to see you, if I don’t have to.”
“This is because of Ruby, isn’t it?” his voice went deadly.
“I…” She met his eyes, keeping her voice steady. “I can’t see her anymore either. I’m ending all of this.”
Belle laughed in disbelief. “I thought you at least wouldn’t need to be told. I’m not Lacey. I’m Belle. And you and Ruby, you took advantage of me for months, when I was in no shape to consent to anything. I didn’t know who I was and you still thought it was fine to put your… your sex parts all over me.”
Rumpel gaped. “Belle? But…”
“You’re my true love, Rumpel, but loving someone you can’t trust is worse than never loving anyone at all.”
“But my kiss, it didn’t work.”
“You weren’t kissing me. You were kissing Lacey. And that’s the worst of it, really. Because when you thought you were kissing me, you were kissing Lacey. And when you thought you were fucking Lacey, you were fucking me. And I didn’t want to. And I still don’t.”
* * *
Ruby figured it out pretty quickly. It took one look at the girl walking down the street in a sedate summer dress with a high collar, watching her as she went up the library steps and unlocked the doors, to put together the truth. Belle was back. Belle had come back sometime in the middle of dirty, dirty sex, and Belle was never, ever going to speak to her again.
She had to sit down. Ruby sank into one of the booths and pressed her face into her hands. “Oh, God,” she whimpered.
Emma stared at her and then sat down across from her. “What is it?” she asked.
“Lacey,” was the broken word that came out of her mouth.
Ruby’s stomach twisted into knives. She felt her wolf howl in mourning. “Lacey’s gone.”
* * *
Emma watched in horror as the whole thing started to make sense. Belle was back, but not the old Belle, innocent and open minded. This one was as sharp and brittle as a twig. She held herself stiffly, proudly, never looking to the diner or to Gold’s shop. She had the library running like a well oiled machine in a week. She shopped and cooked for herself, and never went out to eat. She spoke to Snow and a few other people, but in clipped, hard tones, and Emma never saw her relaxing with a book anymore. It was horrible to behold.
Ruby was a mess. She had gotten over – or perhaps not really gotten over – her desperate futile crush on Belle, only to fall hard for Lacey, and then get completely burned in the bargain. It was really kind of sad.
Emma tried to get Snow to spill the beans on what exactly had happened, but Snow just went Mary-Margaret prim and said, “you just don’t understand what it’s like to have two sets of memories. One set that just isn’t yours, and yet belongs to your body and mind, so you know it happened to you.”
No, Emma did not know what this was like. But Ruby did. And Ruby had come to terms with it. She had sorted out the Red parts of her and the Ruby parts of her and seemed to be heading toward an integrated whole of the two. Snow hadn’t done that. And if Belle was taking her cues from Snow, Emma didn’t like the looks of the outcomes.
It was time for an intervention.
* * *
Belle jerked out of the reverie she had been in, staring at that column in the basement that still had the two iron hooks hammered into it at just the right height. She had been there, naked breasts pressed up against the cold metal, wrists bound and suspended, Ruby hot against her back, mouthing her neck, rutting against her ass, and she hadn’t been scared. That was the strangest part. She had been delighted. And Belle hated Lacey, for being able to be delighted, for being able to let go and not care that she was trapped and bound with a werewolf rutting against her.
She could admit that some of it was jealousy. It didn’t make a difference. Belle turned.
Emma was standing there, grinning awkwardly in that idiotic way she had, that always made her discomfort with the situation blatantly obvious. She was Ruby’s friend. Not Belle’s. That was important.
“Are you looking for a book?”
“Um, actually I was looking for you.”
Belle raised an eyebrow. She wasn’t interested in talking about this. She was working through it her own way.
“You know, friendly neighborhood sheriff, wants to make sure everything’s… okay?”
“You know as well as I do that everything is not okay,” Belle said flatly. “But I really have no idea what you think you can do about any of it.”
“Well, I’m the savior?”
It was too stupid, and Belle had to laugh. Emma grinned back at her, and for a moment she thought maybe they could be friends too. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”
“That’s fine,” Emma said, glancing around, but not making any move to leave. “You’ve been hanging out with my mom a lot lately.”
“Snow has been… sympathetic.”
“Yeah, well, she knows what it’s like to have the rug ripped out from under you right when you think it’s all hunky dory.”
Belle frowned slightly. What was she talking about? It wasn’t as if things had been easy before Lacey. Now it was just all worse. “That parallel doesn’t make sense.”
Emma blinked. “Oh, yeah. I suppose you were always in a bit of a mess.” Her expression darkened and she looked at Belle, really looked, eyes sharp and accusing. “The one who was finally getting her shit together, and who was starting to be at peace with herself, and think maybe she deserved something good in her life, like a girlfriend, even if it was just a timeshare with Mr. Gold, that was Ruby.”
Belle went still. It still hurt, the memory of Red’s face as she left the library that night, ready to die to expiate her sins. It had made Belle sick to see such a truly good person unable to forgive herself when the man she loved couldn’t see the evil in his cruelest acts.
“That’s not my fault. I’m not Lacey. Lacey wasn’t real. It’s not my fault if Ruby lied to herself enough to—”
“Lacey?” Emma snorted. “I’m not talking about Lacey. I’m talking about you. Before Lacey. Before you ran off after Mr. Gold and got your head messed with. Back when Red was crushing hard on you, and you were leading her on like– like a judas goat.”
Belle’s lips parted, eyebrows shooting up. “What?”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the hot waitress leaning on the counter and flirting with you.”
“I—” Belle felt herself start to turn red. Those memories were all mixed in with Ruby’s eyes watching Lacey, her warm easy smiles alongside her wolf grins. And it wasn’t fair that she couldn’t sort her memories properly, that it was all starting to feel like it had all been her, and that it hurt that Ruby wasn’t trying harder to fix things. But she wasn’t the one Ruby wanted. “I–, yes, but I was taken, sort of, and everything was crazy, and she was safe, even when she thought she wasn’t and chained me to a post.” And it wasn’t fair. It could have been different. “That crush didn’t stop her, did it? From going out and fucking Lacey until I couldn’t walk.”
Emma grimaced. “That, I think, is kind of my fault.”
“Yeah. Red was being a mopey fuck who hadn’t got laid since she thought she was just Ruby and I thought going out would be good for her. I didn’t expect her to bring home her dead crush’s alter, but people grieve in different ways.”
Belle swallowed. Dead crush? “Grieving?”
“That’s what freaked me out when she started talking about how Lacey was like you. I figured she’d just thoroughly failed to move on.”
“Lacey isn’t like me,” Belle said softly.
Emma shrugged. “I don’t know. Ruby’s got this theory though, about Regina’s magic. It doesn’t seem plausible that the magic could really just rewrite all our personalities. It would have to be crazy strong, or we’d all just be cardboard people, or something. So Ruby thinks that all it really does is wipe away the things that changed us. Ruby isn’t the girl who ate her first boyfriend and lost her family. Mary-Margaret never had to flee into the forest and fight Regina. Lacey…”
“Lacey never had to sacrifice herself.”
“You think she’s right?”
Belle shrugged. “Maybe. Lacey’s someone I could have been. But I’m not her. I went with Rumpel. I spent the last twenty-eight years in a psychward. It doesn’t really change anything.”
“But you were her, for a bit. It’s part of you. You’ve got to be able to deal with that.”
“I am dealing with that. Day by day.”
* * *
The walls weren’t working anymore. She had tried so hard to figure out which parts of her memories were Lacey and which were Belle, and keep them separate, but the knowledge just kept seeping through. She found herself answering detailed questions about motorcycles with an easy confidence. The young library patron had looked at her in shock. “Jeez, Ms. Belle. How do you know all this stuff?”
“I read a book,” she had replied. Lacey had read a book. Belle found it tossed carelessly in a pile in the library basement and remembered a bored afternoon spent with a vodka spritzer on the sofa, reading intently. She had fantasized about running away, leaving this bullshit small town behind, taking Ruby and Mr. Gold’s cash and finding out what sort of trouble two hot girls could get into.
The memories were part of her now. She still turned around when someone called that name. She ran into Jake from the Rabbit Hole who hadn’t heard the news. He challenged her to a rematch at pool. She remembered beating him handily, and thought she probably still could. She kind of wanted to try.
She wasn’t Belle anymore, she realized. She couldn’t be, not after being Lacey. She was always going to be Belle + Lacey’s memories, and that sum was more than Belle alone. But what was that sum? Who was she supposed to be now?
Rumpel made part of it very clear. He stopped by the library with a rose and offered it to her.
“Belle, darling. You know I love you. Lacey was delicious fun, but you are my true love.”
Belle stared at him and felt insulted, and not a little disgusted with herself. Lacey hadn’t thought she was a virgin, but her body had been, and she had given him so much. Was this what he thought of Lacey? Someone he could use but didn’t actually want? And why did he want Belle more? “What does true love even mean?” she asked.
“It means we are destined to be together!”
“No it doesn’t,” Belle replied. “If that’s what it meant, then Regina would have her true love, and none of us would be in this mess.” Though she wondered if she wasn’t grateful for it, a little bit. Twenty-eight years in a psych ward wasn’t something to be happy about, but it hadn’t felt that long. And now she was out, and she wasn’t trapped and isolated in a castle in the middle of nowhere. She was somewhere interesting and new. But Rumpel kept trying to drag her back.
“It means we can overcome any obstacle! Except death.”
“But who are we, Rumpel? I tried to find you underneath your Dark One clothes, and I thought I had, but I don’t see that person anymore. And you are looking for Belle, right? The one who stayed, who came back, who gave in. But I’m not her anymore. I’m not Lacey anymore either. I’m someone new. Every day I am someone new. I like that.”
“But it’s true love.” He looked hollowed out. “You’ll come back to me eventually.”
“You don’t even believe that yourself, do you?”
Rumpel straightened, proudly. “I still love you, even if you have stopped.” He offered her the rose. Belle shook her head. He offered it again. Belle shook her head more vehemently. “Take it!”
“No?” And he burst into smoke and disappeared. The rose turned to black fluid that ate a bald patch into the carpet.
“Great,” muttered Belle, and found a pot to put over it so no one would step in it by accident.
* * *
At least when she was a wolf, Ruby didn’t have to think about her miserable existence. Unfortunately, she only got to be a wolf three nights a month. The rest of the time, she was depressed.
Granny had decided that the best remedy for depression was more shifts at the diner and also lots of early morning yelling and cold showers. She turned off the water heater in Ruby’s bathroom. Ruby considered killing her.
Then they had a screaming fight only on the surface about the water heater.
“I’m not miserable because I’m missing sex, Granny!”
“You’re miserable because you’re too much of a wimp to go talk to the girl!”
“The girl is gone! I can’t ‘go talk to the girl’ because she’s gone!”
“Don’t give me that bull, missy! You know there were two girls you were hung up on and now there’s one girl who’s both of them. That doesn’t sound like gone to me!”
“She doesn’t want to talk to me!”
“And maybe if you had kept your dirty paws to yourself you might have not humiliated the girl!”
“Leave my dirty paws out of it! I don’t— I don’t regret any of that.”
And Ruby really, really didn’t. Because it had been amazing, and Lacey had been amazing, and she still kept that list tacked up on her wall. And if Belle was suddenly saddled with a bunch of memories she didn’t want, well, then she didn’t understand them.
“Yeah,” said Granny. “Don’t lead with that.”
Ruby stiffened. “I should, you know. I should tell her that she has all of this Lacey pent up inside of her, and that she’s amazing when she lets go, and that I’m sorry it didn’t happen like she would have wanted, but underneath, she totally wanted it.”
Granny sighed. “Try not to sound like a date rapist.”
“Oh, God,” Ruby pressed her hands to her face. “That was bad, wasn’t it?”
“But I really… I know everything is messed up now, but I asked, every time, I asked what she wanted. Even the first time, when it was supposed to be hate sex, and I hurt her more than I should have, she said it was fine. I have the list. There was explicit consent every time.”
“Please don’t say that either.”
“Should I show her the list?”
“No. The girl wrote the list. You don’t need to act like a stalker.”
“Then… what should I say?”
“Say hello,” Granny replied, raising an eyebrow. “Then say you’re sorry. And exude non-threateningness.”
Ruby dressed like Red, lumberjack-style and all, and went and sat on the stairs outside the library. She desperately wanted to stick her head through the boundary and not have to remember any of this.
“What are you doing here?” Snow asked sharply as she walked up to the doors.
Ruby looked at her and sighed. “I’m trying to apologize. Don’t look at me like that. You were my friend once.”
Snow sighed. “I still am. But I was Red’s friend, and Ruby still…”
“Rubs you the wrong way?” Ruby shook her head. “Maybe you’re more like Mary-Margaret on the inside than you think you are.”
Snow stiffened. “I take offense at that!”
“What?” Ruby asked. “You’re saying back in the enchanted forest that you wouldn’t have been upset if I said I hooked up with Bob the farmer, or someone?”
Snow wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know. Probably I would have. I had no sense of ‘casual relationships’ back then, it was either true love or it wasn’t. But if you were fine with it I would be fine with it, eventually. But you’re not fine.”
“It wasn’t casual either. I was really—”
“I know that.” Snow looked at her, eyes dark and sympathetic. “How else would she have gotten her memories back?”
Ruby sank slightly. She hated having external evidence of her feelings.
“Unless,” Snow said, smirking slightly, “It really was boning her ass that shook the memories free.”
Ruby went white. “She told you?”
Snow laughed. “Not in so many words. She was really freaking out. I mean, of all the times to suddenly get your memories back.”
“I know, oh god.” Ruby banged her forehead on her knee. “Like, I wouldn’t have surprised if Lacey had freaked the fuck out after that. And Lacey was game.”
“You know,” Snow said softly, “I’ve been trying to let her take the lead on this, and figure herself out, but she’s not recovering, really. She’s just building up these walls and keeping everyone out. And that’s not like Belle or Lacey, and I don’t think it’s healthy. And I know she doesn’t want to talk about it, but I think she really should. And since you were… there, for most of it, maybe she’ll talk to you.”
“Or maybe she’ll hit me with a book.”
“This is always a possibility. But Gold tried to hit you with a falling statue. Anyways, maybe you can try going inside, and not just lingering on the doorstep.”
Ruby nodded. “Thanks Snow,” she said and stepped into the offered embrace.
“Just because I don’t want to know about your sex life doesn’t mean I don’t think you should have one.”
* * *
The library was bright and well lit, and Ruby nearly tripped over a pot sitting in the middle of the floor. There was a new section going up for DVDs and music. Belle had set up a series of computers with Internet access and had a wireless hotspot sign hanging behind the desk. Shiny new releases sat with their covers facing the entering patrons.
It looked… honestly, nothing like she had pictured. It was modern and upbeat and there was a sign for salsa classes being offered in the big back room, and tai-chi. There were definitely comfy looking chairs tucked into nooks away for reading, but there were also tables, and a sign to a teen room that read ‘talking encouraged: especially about books!’ Ruby pressed her nose against the plexiglass and examined the shiny book covers. Teen books looked like fun.
“Looking for werewolf books?” came a voice from being her, and Ruby jumped, horrified that her wolf senses had let her down. Belle stood behind her, arms crossed. Her hair was up and she wore a crisp white collared shirt and a black pencil skirt, and looked like the perfect strict and sexy librarian.
Ruby smiled a wolf smile without intending to. “You just need glasses and a ruler to make that perfect.”
Belle raised her eyebrows in confused astonishment.
“Um, sorry,” Ruby said, cringing slightly. Sexual overtures did not equal apologies. “Hello,” she tried again.
“Hello…” Belle said slowly, her nose wrinkled in suspicion.
“I just stopped by to say, um, to say sorry.”
Belle took a step away from her and her face turned impassive. “Really?”
“Um, yes.” Ruby said. “I know everything got pretty fucked up while you were… gone. And I just wanted to know that I never meant to… to hurt you.”
Belle’s eyes slid away. “Didn’t stop you from falling for her,” she muttered.
Ruby blinked. “Are you… jealous?”
“What? Of course not!”
“Are you sure? Because it sounded a lot like you were pissed that I went for Lacey. And that’s not… that’s not the using your body without your permission problem that you were having before.”
“I am still upset about that!”
“And you’re also upset that I didn’t stay chaste until you got back? God, I’m glad I was the one fucking you. Gold was bad enough, but you didn’t have the slightest idea of how to stay safe, and at least you weren’t banging randos from the Rabbit Hole!”
“So you’re glad you violated me? You and your campaign to make me try every kink under the sun.”
“That was your idea. You gave me a list. I was helping.”
“I gave you a…” And then Belle went a little green. “Oh. Yeah. I gave you a list. I hadn’t remembered that yet.”
“You and Lacey,” Ruby smiled fondly. “That’s one thing you had in common, insatiable curiosity. Lacey just took ‘insatiable’ more literally.”
“The literal meaning of ‘insatiable’ has nothing to do with sex.”
Ruby grinned at her. “I know. But it sounds sexy.”
“God, you.” Belle shoved her lightly. Ruby caught her wrists and stepped into her. Belle hissed in a breath and went still.
Ruby wanted to lean down and kiss her, but her eyes were so wide and she looked so panicked. Ruby let her wrists go. She moved back. “Sorry.”
Belle dropped her gaze. “I’m not Lacey.”
“I know that.”
“I can’t do what she did. I’m not comfortable with all of that… sex.”
“There was a lot of sex,” Ruby said wryly. “But that wasn’t… it wasn’t everything that I wanted.”
Belle swallowed. “I don’t…”
“I’m not pushing you. I’m not asking for anything. I just wanted to say I’m sorry, and I wanted to be friends again. I want you to be able to come to the diner. I want to just let it go.”
Belle ducked her head. “Yeah,” she said. “I can do that, I think.”
“Thank you,” Ruby said, and flushed at the intensity of her words.
Belle smiled, and Ruby only reddened more.
* * *
“You’re looking more upbeat,” said Emma as she wandered into the diner.
Ruby grinned at her and gestured with her head at a table. Belle and Snow were there, having lunch, and discussing rather intently the inclusion of fresh seafood and green items on the menu.
“Honestly?” Belle was saying. “I don’t think tradition is all that important. If you never try new things you never find anything better. And this is better.”
“You don’t go to a diner for new things. You go for comfort,” Snow protested.
“Go home for comfort. Go out for excitement!”
Emma’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? Things are going good?”
“Things are fine,” Ruby said. “We have reached détente.”
“Awesome!” Emma grinned. “This calls for a girls’ night!”
“No,” Ruby said, “No it does not. It does not call for a girls’ night.”
“Yes it does! And you will put up with it and I will have girls’ night with my mom. And who else? Ashley? Regina?”
“What? Your mom and Regina? You’re crazy.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right about that.”
* * *
Ruby had the closing shift at the diner, so she was meeting them a little later, and she was not enthused about walking into the Rabbit Hole again. The thought made her a little ill. She wasn’t looking to pull, it was girl’s night, so she let Red pick her clothes, but then she unbuttoned her shirt a little and changed into a red bra. Just for… contrast.
She found the table quickly. She spotted Belle first, stirring her drink, dressed casually in black pants and a blue lace tank top that left her arms bare. She was looking at Ashley with a very peculiar expression on her face and Ruby suddenly and awfully remembered the first conversation she had had with Lacey, and was pretty sure that Belle was remembering it too.
Belle was the first to look over, and then she bit the side of her lip and let her eyes flick to Ashley and back, making it incredibly obvious what she was thinking. Ruby gave her the face of ‘don’t you dare say a word.’
“Ruby!” said Emma, happily. “Pick your poison?”
Too many ex-fuck buddies? That sounded like it would kill her. “Um, what are you guys having?”
“Dwarf brew!” announced Emma, slamming her nearly-empty pint glass onto the table. And… that was why she was already hammered. Someone needed to tell them to stop brewing 120 proof beer.
Ruby made eye contact with Snow. “You walking her home?”
“I’m on it.”
“They have rhubarb martinis,” commented Belle.
Ruby’s eyes fell to her glass. “Any good?”
“Mm,” she nodded. “Different. I like trying new things.”
“Hmm, yeah,” snorted Emma. Ruby gave her a hard elbow to the side.
“All right. I’m going to the bar, anyone need a refill?”
“Yeah!” said Emma.
“Water for you.”
She returned from the bar just in time to overhear the beginning of an awkward conversation.
“It’s good to see that you and Ruby are friends again,” Ashley started tentatively. “I mean, regular friends, after… um, not, or—”
Belle cut off this dancing around the subject of Lacey with a smile that did not look quite Belle-like. “It is possible to be friends with people who fucked your alter,” she said. “I mean, really, you should know.”
Ashley turned a funny color and glared at Ruby. “You told her?”
Snow was wide-eyed. Emma was grinning happily and clearly had no idea of what was going on. Ruby very carefully set the drinks down and slid into the seat next to Belle. She grinned awkwardly. “Well, I told Lacey, but news gets around.”
“Why would you tell Lacey?”
“But she was awful.”
“Kind of still right here, guys,” Belle said.
Ashley looked at her. “But you’re not…”
Belle leaned forward over the table. “Here’s the thing, if I say Ashley was awful, you’d get offended. You still have all her memories. In fact, you still go by Ashley. She’s more immediate to you than your alter.”
“I… she’s more useful. I mean, being a princess isn’t really going to help me here.”
Belle nodded. “So, I don’t have twenty-eight years of being Lacey. But we are in a bar. Who is more useful in a bar, Belle, or Lacey?”
“I’m sorry,” said Ashley, looking awkward. “I didn’t mean to insult you.”
“It’s okay. Lacey was pretty awful sometimes.” Belle grinned. “But you shouldn’t be ashamed of having banged Ruby. I mean, really? Why wouldn’t you want a piece of that?”
Ruby felt her cheeks flush with pleasure and it wasn’t the drink. She scooted her chair slightly closer, and Belle leaned against her arm.
“I’d totally take some!” Emma announced.
Snow looked appalled.
Ashley’s eyes flicked over them, considering, and then she smiled. “Yeah, I know. It was totally hot.”
“But then,” Emma continued, “There are a lot of super hot girls around here. I mean, you both too,” she gave Ashley and Belle an expansive gesture. “And Regina, oh my god, and the blue fairy, yum.” She grinned at Snow. “And I was totally trying to figure out a way to get into Mary-Margaret’s pants before you turned out to be my mom. Buzz kill!”
Snow now looked like she was trying really, really hard to learn to apparate. Ruby just laughed, and Belle leaned into her shoulder, laughing as well.
* * *
Ruby lingered outside the library door as Belle fumbled uselessly with the lock. Her fingers, they were not holding onto the goddamn key. “Thank you,” Ruby said. “For playing at being my girlfriend all night. You didn’t have to.”
Belle glanced back at her. “I wasn’t.”
Oh god, that wasn’t what she had meant. She was too drunk for human conversation. She lurched and caught Ruby’s hand, tugging it firmly toward her. “Hey, I meant I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I was just having a good time with you. The last time we actually hung out together was… the date.”
Ruby was staring at their clasped hands. “The date.”
“You know, the ill-starred night of fish and… poorly timed memory retrieval.”
Ruby flushed. “It was a date?”
Belle huffed a soft laugh and leaned into Ruby’s chest. “Of course it was a date. I– she– we were way into you. So there was a date. And then she took the risk, and kissed you, and we all know how well that turned out.”
“Oh yes. I think I recall.”
“But it was a good kiss. And the second one… that was really nice too.”
“It sounds like you’re angling for a repeat performance.”
“Not of the whole night.”
“How drunk are you?”
“Moderate level drunk.” Belle grinned up at her. “Not Emma level drunk.”
“That’s still pretty drunk.”
“It’s nice, though. It’s like, everything’s fun, and easy, and you’re gorgeous.” Belle looped her arms around her neck and pressed up against her. “I have all these awesome memories about naked sexy time with Lacey, and it’s like, all stuff I’d only read about in books, only thought I’d ever read about in books, but she did it, and I know I’d still like it.”
“Belle…” Fingers slipped into her hair.
Belle lifted up on her toes and pressed her lips against Ruby’s. It was soft, and sweet, and easy. Belle grinned against her mouth.
“You want to come up?” she murmured. “For sex?”
“No,” Ruby said softly.
“No?” Belle pushed off of her and stared at her. “You’re serious?”
“You’re hammered. I don’t want you to do anything you’d regret when you’re sober.”
“No it’s not,” Belle spat at her, shoving her away. “I know you. You’d fuck Lacey passed out on a bathroom floor. It’s just me. You don’t want me.”
Belle’s back hit the doors, Ruby’s hands pinning her wrists above her head.
“That’s not true.”
And they were kissing again, but this time deep and wet and open, and Belle gasped into it. Then Ruby pulled away.
“I want you,” she said, to the accompaniment of Belle’s rough breathing. “I want the girl you were tonight. Because you were all of them, you were the Belle I had a crush on because she liked new things and was charmingly embarrassed when I said something suggestive about pancakes, and you were the Lacey I was falling hard for, a little bit bitchy and amazingly sexy, and you were just you tonight, sweet and protective of me, and I don’t just want you. So, I won’t sleep with you tonight, because I don’t want to fuck it up again.”
Belle stared at her, at her hurting, noble countenance, and felt all the wind go out of her. “I’ll still want you tomorrow,” she said. She knew it was true. Whether she’d be able to admit it to herself was another thing.
“Ask me tomorrow. Ask me when you’re sober, okay? I promise I’ll say yes.”
* * *
Belle woke up early and hungover. She rolled into a ball and groaned. She remembered throwing herself at Ruby the night before, and being rejected.
“It was so much easier being Lacey,” she mumbled to herself. Only that wasn’t really true. It had been hard to be Lacey, to play all the games just right, keep Gold satisfied, and keep crawling into bed with Ruby and not kiss her. Belle fingered the place on her neck where she had worn the imprint of Ruby’s teeth for three months straight. She missed it.
Her hand slid down the front of her pajama pants and her fingers burrowed between her legs. The memory of Ruby’s mouth moving against hers was enough to turn her on, and she had so many memories to play with, spread and begging, being fucked hard, the heat of Ruby’s mouth a slippery scanty film away from her cunt. She wanted it. And she didn’t just want to imagine it. She wanted it to be real.
She had always loved books, but as a child she had loved them because she had wanted those adventures for herself. But she had never gotten the chance. She had been a prisoner – of her father, of Rumpel, of Regina, and books had become her escape. Books had been all she had, because she had given up all hope of being free.
Ruby wasn’t a cage. Ruby had bound Lacey’s wrists and given her something real, heat and love and risk and daring. And Belle wanted that. She wanted to step out of the safety of pretend and let herself feel.
She had to try. At least she had to try.
* * *
Emma was lying with her head on the counter and groaning softly. Ruby rolled her eyes, moving quickly and easily through the breakfast rush.
“I hate you,” Emma moaned. “Damn werewolves and their hangover immunity.”
“Even I would have a hangover if I had two pints of dwarf brew, Emma. You want something greasy?”
Emma made an unhappy sound. “Not yet. I just need to lie here and die right now.”
Regina strode into the diner. “It’s good to see our sheriff’s department looking so bright and alert and on the job, now, isn’t it?”
Emma just moaned helplessly.
“The usual?” Ruby asked Regina.
Regina cocked her head to one side and eyed Ruby consideringly. “Yes,” she said. “Wolf—”
“I have a name,” Ruby shot back.
“You also have a tendency to attract trouble. I think you have attracted it recently. I would be on your guard if I were you.”
Ruby made a face, unsure if that was a threat or not.
Regina smiled and sat at the counter next to Emma. “Now, breakfast please.”
* * *
Belle turned from locking the library doors behind her. Rumpel was standing in the road, watching her. He was dressed in his Dark One finery and held a large black stone on a leather strap.
Belle stiffened. “I don’t have to stand here and listen to you insult me. I told you we were through.”
“You told me you were through with it all, with me and the wolf. And I, graciously, allowed you time. I wanted you to recover. To feel safe and comfortable with your memories. But you have never been more than on loan from me.”
Belle’s hands closed into fists. “I said I was done with you. I am done with being your prisoner. I can’t go back to that.”
“But you’ll go back to the wolf? I saw you. I saw you playing the seductress, offering your body to her like the slut you are.”
Belle lifted her chin. “Yes,” she said. “I chose to do that. I chose her.”
Rumpel seemed to swell in fury. “You chose her? You were supposed to choose me. You are always supposed to choose me!”
“I don’t belong to you!”
“You chose me! You chose me before!”
“When I was blind. But I can’t stop seeing what you really are. Lacey saw it. Lacey liked it. But she knew what it meant. She knew that if she let you get the upper hand, you would hit her with it.”
“Belle,” Rumpel protested. “You’re a good girl. You know it is only your influence that helps me be better.”
“Good? I’m not good. I am Lacey. I am the person who likes how evil you are, who admires it, is jealous of it, because it means you’re free.”
Rumpel looked confused.
Belle wasn’t sure if it all made sense either. But it felt true. She remembered that rise of excitement, that furious joy at the use of power. It hadn’t been all that different than the feeling that filled her when she had Ruby tied up under her and bit. She shook her head. “I am only as good as I choose to be. And do you know why I chose to be good for so long? Because being good, being perfectly, carefully, impossibly good was the only way I could think of to make sure you wouldn’t hurt me. And I am done with that.”
“But I love you. I would never hurt you.”
“You’re proving that by coming here and calling me a whore? By trying to hurt the people I care about? By keeping me isolated and miserable so I can’t have any friends? Ruby left so many bruises on my body that Leroy asked if I was all right. But she never hurt me like you did. I like getting bit and manhandled and spanked. That doesn’t hurt. What hurts is being told that if I love you, I should trust you and having you betray my trust over and over.”
“I can work on that.” Rumpel pled. “I promise, I’m trying to be better.”
“You know how you can prove it? Let me go.”
Rumpel’s lips pressed together in a flat line. “Where’s my incentive?”
Belle bared her teeth. “You don’t need an incentive to choose to do the right thing!”
“You did. You said you were good out of fear.”
“Yes, and that means it wasn’t the right thing. I should have left you a long time ago. Love is wonderful but it doesn’t fix you. You need to choose to be fixed. Choose the right thing despite all the incentives to the contrary.”
“So the right thing for you is breaking your promises to me? Is offering yourself to the wolf?”
Belle smiled. “Yes.” It was a step, at least, a step in the right direction. She was breaking the chains and charging toward freedom.
“You don’t get to make that choice.” His face went ugly, and he raised his hand, the one holding the black stone. “You belong to me and you will stay with me. After, oh, fifty years or so in my favorite hell world, you’ll be over her.”
“Get the hell away from me, Rumpelstiltskin!”
The stone crackled, green light and white sparks shooting out from it.
“Hey!” came a shout. Emma charged out of the diner, waving a sword. “You stop right there! Put down the stone!”
“You will all be sorry that you tried to take her from me!”
Green energy shot toward Belle. But before it hit, she felt herself being tackled from behind, being scooped up and carried.
Regina stepped out of the diner and fixed Rumpel with a look.
“Damn you!” he hissed. “Damn all of you! You’ll be sorry!” He disappeared in a puff of green smoke. The stone fell onto the asphalt.
Regina pointed at the stone, and it exploded.
Then, of course, Ruby tripped over a root, and they fell sprawling into the grass, Ruby landing on top of her with an “oof.” Belle tried to breathe for a moment. God, what had happened? Had Rumpel tried to kidnap her into another dimension? Most probably.
And… there was a werewolf on top of her. She was heavier than she looked.
Ruby propped herself up onto her elbows, letting her hair fall like a curtain around Belle’s face. She smiled a wolf-smile. “Hey beautiful.”
“Hey yourself,” Belle replied, barely holding back her laughter. “You squash.”
“You know it.”
“Thank you for rescuing me.”
“It was an honor.”
Belle ducked her eyes away and bit down on her lower lip. Ruby’s gaze shifted to her mouth. “The last thing you called ‘an honor’ was giving me a spanking.”
Ruby flushed red to the tips of her ears, but she offered a brazen smirk that was entirely overcompensating. “Anything for you.”
“Yeah?” Belle grinned. “Then kiss me.”
They met in the middle, Belle arching up and wrapping her arms tightly around Ruby’s shoulders and neck. Ruby offered a chaste, closed-mouthed brush of lips, but Belle would have none of that. Her hand slid to Ruby’s cheek, rubbing her thumb into her jaw until her lips parted. Ruby sighed and the kiss turned warm and wet.
Belle hooked a leg over Ruby’s and flipped them. (Lacey knew all the best techniques.) She straddled Ruby’s hips and leaned down, kissing her again, biting and tugging at her lower lip. Ruby’s hips rolled under her, and Belle grinned into the kiss. She broke it and looked down. Ruby was panting lightly, looking a little stunned and very happy.
“There is one more thing I want from you,” Belle said, seriously.
“Anything…” Ruby managed.
Belle sat back and started unbuttoning her shirt. Ruby’s eyes went wide. Belle slipped the shirt down her shoulders. She pointed to the place right between her shoulder and her neck. “Bite me.”
“Bite you?” Ruby’s voice could have been interpreted as breathy with shock, but the tight clench of her thighs was unmistakeable.
Belle shifted slightly in her seat and drew her finger down Ruby’s neck all the way to her cleavage, enjoying the open collar of her white waitressing shirt. Then she leaned down and pressed a kiss to her throat. “I know you know how. I had that mark on me for three months straight. I want it back.”
Ruby’s hands came up to clasp her sides, her nails tracing teasing lines across her skin. Belle ground down into her lap.
“Fuck it, yes,” Ruby hissed. She rose like a wave and pushed Belle’s shirt open, burying her face between Belle’s breasts. Her hands tucked into the cups of her bra and flipped them down. Her long tongue laved over her nipple, and Belle couldn’t hold back the loud gasp. She shifted, sliding against Ruby’s hip, and tangled her fingers in her hair, tugging just enough to make Ruby bite. Leaving her nipples red and slick and aching, Ruby kissed and licked her way up Belle’s chest. Her hand found where Belle was rubbing hard against her hip and slid between her thighs, making her gasp. “You close? You feel close,” Ruby whispered against her skin. Her fingers twisted slightly and Belle gave a shuddery moan.
And Ruby’s teeth sank into her neck, fingers rubbing hard into her clit though the fabric of her jeans, and Belle’s hips bucked as she came.
Gasping, Belle found herself on all fours, pinning Ruby to the ground. Her neck stung, and Ruby was watching her with that look she used to give Lacey, aroused and affectionate and overwhelmed all at once. But this one was for her. Belle leaned down to kiss her, but was stopped by an embarrassed sounding cough from above.
‘Um, hi,” said Emma. “You know, not that I’m not glad that we just foiled that kidnapping attempt, and, um, that you guys are back together, or… together for the first time, or whatever, but you are like ten feet from a playground, and I’m going to have to arrest you for public indecency.”
“Emma!” Ruby squeaked.
Belle was suddenly very aware of her discombobulated shirt and upside down bra, and she found that somehow she had pulled apart Ruby’s top until it was missing buttons and had put crazy knots in Ruby’s hair. She carefully peeked over her shoulder and looked over the small hummock, behind which lay the playground, and caught sight of the rather horrified group of parents with their completely uninterested toddlers. “Ah,” she said. “Very well.”
She adjusted her bra and buttoned her shirt. Then she frowned at Ruby and buttoned as much of her shirt as she could. Ruby sat up and Belle started trying to tidy her hair.
“Hey, hey.” Ruby caught her hands. “Are you grooming me?”
Belle met her amused eyes and couldn’t help but smile happily back. “You’re untidy.”
“You’re my favorite.”
“Oh god,” said Emma. “We only have one cell. If I promise to give you guys a blanket and lock the door behind me, can we get moving?”
“Sounds good!” Belle got to her feet and offered Ruby a hand. “I owe you some sex.”
Ruby turned red again. “You don’t owe me anything.”
“Not true.” Belle stepped into her and tugged her down so she could murmur into her ear. “I owe you three orgasms, one for this, and one for the last time, and one for your daring rescue. And I want to make them really good.”
“I don’t deserve—”
Belle pressed her fingers against her mouth, shutting her up. “You deserve everything,” she said, “and don’t you dare deny it.”
Ruby looked astonished.
“Come on you guys.”
* * *
“I am not paying their fine if they’re naked in there!”
Ruby looked at Belle who looked back, understanding. They both dove for their pants. Ruby was fixing Belle’s buttons by the time Emma got the door unlocked. Granny strode in and gave them both a sharp look. “I hope you’ve gotten all your bullshit sorted out. And I’m expecting you,” she pointed at Belle, “to make certain she gets in for her shifts on time.”
“I’m on it!”
“Good,” said Granny. “It’s about time she had a real girlfriend, with her own apartment, where I don’t have to hear you fucking in the shower.” She glared at Ruby. “Vents,” she said. “You and Lacey never figured out vents.”
She turned to Emma and started sorting out the fine. Ruby shifted awkwardly. Belle turned and pinned her with a look. “What is it?”
“Are you all right with… with being my girlfriend?” Ruby asked, hating the softness in her voice.
Belle looked surprised. “If you are.” She glanced away, biting her lip, so maybe it wasn’t only filthy thoughts. “I mean, I feel like I can finally ask. Lacey wanted it, and I might have wanted it before, but I had so much baggage, and it looks like the biggest part of that baggage just took himself to another dimension, so I don’t feel like I’m going to hurt you by being with you anymore.”
Ruby held her shoulders and rubbed them, offering comfort. “If this isn’t going to make things too awkward, I’m totally in love with you.”
Belle laughed and wrapped her up tight in a hug. “Not awkward at all. And I thought it was just Lacey, but you’re the best, and I’m kind of totally in love with you too.”
“I like the incredibly cute confessions of love that happen after you broke a curse on her with true love’s kiss, guys,” said Emma, “but you can exit the cell now. God, why don’t these windows open? And where’s the Febreeze? I need to do some paperwork and now it smells like werewolf sex in here.”