She never spends the night.

At the beginning, she has the decency to lie. When the sun has hidden behind the seven forests, replaced by street lights looming over the sidewalk like ghosts in the attic, and when the sweet caress of rain drips down those lights to join its brethren, Emma succumbs to the woos of white, transparent lies. She says Mary Margaret was expecting her home an hour ago. She puts on her clothes in haphazard motions, in too much of a rush to notice her tank top has been pulled on inside out. There, underneath the soft, unnaturally cold rays of stolen sun, much like Thomas Edison had adopted that which was not his own, Emma steals the night in turn and disappears there where only a lone wolf would dare step in the dark.

In more ways than one, Ruby thinks, Emma is similar to a firefly. She thinks of herself as common, plain, ugly at heart, maybe, during the day; but the moment spirits of the stars start roaming the periphery, rapping at the door behind which the two lovers have sealed themselves, she begins to shine. Perhaps Ruby should stop trying to convince her the golden sheen truly is emanating from her. Much like a firefly can only wonder about the path it's lit, Emma doesn't see the beauty radiating from her. She doesn't want to. No, Ruby knows Emma craves the darkness instead as an excuse to escape Ruby's warm embrace. Holding her wrists down, Emma kisses her lips, a bittersweet scent of evanescence connecting her mouth with her lover's. Elusive as a firefly, Emma backs away when Ruby's tongue tries to lure her in closer, scared to lose her wings. In response, Ruby rests the back of her head on the pillow; she has learned that the wiser man leaves every breath of wind in a nightcrawler's freedom untouched. Her lips part on their own accord and her forearms reach up to hold onto the blonde's bare sides just lightly enough to spur her on as the rough texture of Emma's jeans makes contact with her core while the woman in question peppers kisses down a slender neck, brushing against strands of brunette mane in the process. Emma likes it this way; to be free to discover all treasures and artifacts the body beneath her has to offer on her own. No haste. No restrictions. No light outside to dim hers. Each time she takes her, she is slower about it, gentler, more careful; perchance as a subconscious form of apology.

She stops lying after a while; creatively, at least. Sometimes she claims Henry needs help with his homework, at this time of night. Sometimes she has an early shift in the morning and has to go home to prepare some things, to which sometimes Ruby wonders whether Emma has ever known the welcoming warmth of a true home. Probably not. Like a firefly, she swims in a vast, bottomless abyss, only to be chased and caught when she finally stumbles upon another living soul. Emma loathes getting caught. That's why even as her knee is digging into Ruby's center and even as Ruby's nails lightly scratch the skin on her sides, she doesn't descend, doesn't make an effort to merge two into one. Instead she flies, so close yet still torturously out of reach. Ruby knows this is as close as she will ever be able to get.

Because she never spends the night.

For weeks the waitress has been persuading her own mind to believe that this routine suits her perfectly. It's tender, it's pleasurable, it's satisfying… But tonight she is weak. So when Emma wraps an arm around her shoulders and fills her completely, and then when she swallows Ruby's moans like the sweet nectar they are, and when those flickering orbs in the sky begin to spin and dance on the other side of the glass when Emma makes her come — she panics. Suddenly, it all makes sense; why she has been content to watch the firefly from a distance rather than capture it for her own. Emma's still stroking inside her and whispering promises better left unsaid in her ear. She's about to pull out — to go, to leave for the white mansion with the trimmed hedges and the two flights of stairs and the apple trees in the backyard. "Don't," Ruby whimpers as her fingers coil around Emma's wrist, stilling it in place. "Just for a little while." Hopelessness grazes her features with as much transience as the stroke of a calligrapher on unused parchment.

These things — sense of security, tranquility, and total control — she can only get with Ruby, not with her. Ruby guesses there are contrasting superlatives that, however, are not in her power to provide either. Thus, she is not surprised when Emma answers. "I can't, Rubes. Not tonight," she repeats for the twenty-second time this fall. Never one for meticulous hygiene, she pulls out her fingers and wipes them on her jeans. Then she gathers the rest of her clothing as quickly as possible and sets out to leave until she stops in her tracks at the door. "I'll be back," she says to no one, unwilling to look Ruby, who was left empty and frail in the sheets, in the eye. It's an obvious lie, but at least she has the decency to lie. As the door closes shut, Ruby feels the tears she's been holding back spill over her eyelids. She touches herself between her legs, where Emma was mere seconds ago, hoping to find some of her warmth has stayed. Nothing remains. Ruby is alone.

Maybe next time, she will spend the night.