32. Keeping a Secret
Summary: Ruby hates keeping secrets. Post 2x13.
Notes: I couldn’t help myself. After that scene between Belle and Ruby tore my heart in two, I needed to do a really quick repair (during a staff meeting, apparently. What am I doing with my life?)
‘Just keep silent
And in the places where you’ve been
Nobody will say you’ve been seen’
[Vultures by Cocoon]
The words are whispered, hesitant, soft, and, most importantly, unheard. They fall on ears deafened by unconsciousness— not forced—thankfully not forced (not this time), but by the natural state of sleep, and it is only this that allows her to say the words that have clawed at her throat for the past day and a half—the words that have remained unsaid and have torn at her conscious in a sharp, beating staccato.
“I’m so sorry, Belle.”
The hospital chair is hard and unforgiving, and Ruby revels in the discomfort. Because she deserves it, maybe—or at least, shouldn’t be comfortable, not when Belle had twisted in her chair, fighting the sedative as it flooded her veins—not when she had looked Belle in the eye and told her she was imagining things—not when she had lied to the very woman who had always been upfront and honest with her.
The words threaten to spill out for the third time, but she chokes them back—in naught, it seems, for twice was enough to break through a barrier (a barrier she had foolishly though impenetrable) and reach Belle’s consciousness.
“Hmm—what?” The woman in bed stirs, blinking in the low light.
Ruby jumps from her seat, hands wiping on her jeans in a reflexive and unnecessary action. “Oh, Be—I mean—uh—I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Belle rises to her elbows as she rubs sleep from her eyes. “It’s—it’s fine. What were you—why were you apologizing… Ruby?”
Her name coming from Belle’s lips (even with the hint of uncertainty and hesitation) is her undoing.
“I shouldn’t have—” She swallows heavily. “We were friends. Good friends. And friends don’t—”
Belle simply stares at her, an expression in place that Ruby knows well—as though the woman is attempting to solve the puzzle that is Ruby—trying to pull the missing pieces out of thin air.
“You weren’t imagining things,” she says finally. “What you saw—you weren’t imagining it.”
The woman in bed sits up fully, blue eyes sparking with something Ruby thinks might be anger or shock or both. She doesn’t want to hear what’s going to come out of Belle’s mouth in that moment—doesn’t want to hear the disappointment or the harsh tone that has only been directed at her once before (after the rather misfortunate chaining in the library), so her next words come out in a rush.
“I’m sorry! I know I shouldn’t have—they said that you need to… remember things on your own. That if we force these things on you it’ll only make it worse, and—god—Bel—I mean—” Ruby wets her lips. “I just want you to be…safe. And happy. I don’t want to mess you up by telling you—”
Belle’s face is blank; Ruby tries not to wince.
“Sometimes the truth is… too much to handle. But you’re right. We shouldn’t have taken that away from you—that choice.”
“So then tell me. What’s going on?”
“I—there’s a lot about this town that’s… different. We all—all of us—have pasts that aren’t really normal. And you—you just don’t remember yours.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I know.” Ruby runs a hand through her hair, breathing deeply (she regrets the action immediately; Belle smells wrong—smells of hospital food and disinfectant—and Ruby misses the odd combination of leather and roses that she’d come to associate with the brunette). “But they think it’ll be better for you to remember on your own. They think it could be detrimental if we… force it on you. That it might… damage you, or something—damage you to the point of not being able to get those memories back. Ever.”
“That’s why you lied. That’s why everyone’s been lying to me.”
Hesitantly, Ruby nods.
“If I ask you—right now—to tell me everything, will you?”
Ruby thinks she might be able to taste the tension in the air; she’s unable to let it persist for long, and follows her resolute answer with a plea.
“But please don’t.”
Belle’s head drops—eyes falling down to the blanket clutched in her fingers, but still, she says nothing.
“I won’t lie to you again. I swear. I’ll—I’ll do everything I can to get you out of here—to put you somewhere you feel comfortable. But, if I’m the one that ruins your chance at happiness because I wasn’t strong enough—because I was too selfish—because I couldn’t bear to have you angry with me—I don’t know what I—I don’t know what I would do. It would kill me. So, please, you have to—I know I haven’t given you reason to, but you have to trust me. Please.”
The silence is worse than before—worse than anything. The beeps of the monitors in the hospital ring in her ears, and Ruby swears she might be shaking, just a little.
“Okay.” Belle sighs and then looks up again, into Ruby’s eyes. “Okay.”
The relief is great enough that she collapses back into the chair in a great exhale of tension. She can barely bring herself to lift her head, so great is the sudden loss of energy—as though her worry and guilt had been the only things keeping her going. But she manages it after another second of silence, but her eyes alight on the novel on Belle’s dresser, rather than the woman herself.
“I haven’t—I haven’t been able to read it yet,” Belle says.
She’s glad for the change of topic; it’s almost typical Belle, in a way that makes her heart warm; because Belle is kind and considerate, even at her own expense, at times.
“I should have brought you the French original. You preferred it. But I wasn’t sure if you—I don’t know what you remember.”
“I remember French,” Belle says slowly. “I just don’t remember how you know that I speak French. I only remember… I don’t remember being the person you—everyone—thinks I am.”
“That’s okay.” Ruby’s hand moves instinctively, covering Belle’s with the slightest of pressure (so slight it might as well be floating over the woman’s too-pale skin). “You don’t have to. Not right away. Just be…you.”
Belle’s hand flips and her fingers curl so that she is—in the loosest sense possible—holding Ruby’s hand.
“Will you help?” Belle’s eyes are blue—so very blue—and Ruby forces herself to look away.
“You don’t need it,” Ruby says softly. “But I’ll be here, if you let me. I’ll be here. I promise.”
The hand in hers shifts again, interlacing their fingers, and when she looks up at Belle, she sees the question in her eyes. It slips away, unasked.
But (as Ruby rubs a thumb over one of Belle’s knuckles) it is not quite unanswered.
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