Title: I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn't Love to Howl
Pairing: Regina/Red, Regina/Ruby
Rating: R
Length: 5, 900
Spoilers: The Stable Boy
Summary: Regina knew Red, Ruby didn't know The Queen.
Warning: Sexin'
Notes: Written for thegirl20(.tumblr) and comparisons(.tumblr).

Part One

"A collar? Really, now that is insulting. You'll have to forgive my men. If time has taught me anything, it's that they're utterly incompetent."

She's smaller than Red had expected – tiny, really. But she held herself with an air of regality that gave her the impression of appearing grandiose; something that came off as both intimidating and inviting, and made her seem taller than Red herself. Rich brown eyes commanded attention despite being cloaked in black: the makeup, the hair, the clothes, all as dark as the ever-approaching night sky. Her lips were red though, the corners tilted just so, as if their encounter were an everyday occurrence for them.

"It smells like death here." It had been the first thing Red noticed when she had woken up in a barricaded room somewhere in the Dark Palace, neck throbbing from where the dart had hit. It wasn't necessarily the smell of blood or decay; it was something she couldn't put her finger on, as if she smelled sorrow and loss itself rather than what led to them.

Judging by the look of amusement on her face as she finally moved from the spot she had been planted at since the guards had brought Red in, the Queen didn't seem to mind the outburst. "I'll be sure to remind them to air out the palace more often."

"What do you want with me?"

"You know," The Queen began flippantly as she reached the vanity across from where Red was standing, sitting down before casually starting to release her hair from the series of intricate knots that held it in place, "I was pleasantly surprised to find that you're so beautiful. I expected you to be a little… mangier. And hairier. I suppose I can't judge your book by its cover." She caught Red's eyes in the mirror as she ran her hand through her hair, working out the kinks. "I think we can help each other."

Red bristled and made another futile effort to break the shackles that were holding her wrists behind her back. "The only thing I'll help you with is pushing you out that window. You want to kill my friend."

"An eye for an eye. Seems only fair, don't you think?" The raven-haired woman didn't lose her cool but Red had seen a flash of something cross her eyes. Before she could respond the Queen had already begun speaking again, a sharp edge added to her voice. "And I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss me, pup. I'm sure I could find plenty of villages where they would be delighted at the news that I had captured the big bad wolf that has been ravaging my subjects and their livestock."

Even with her cloak on, wolfstime still affected her: her emotions heightened, her blood boiled, her senses went wild – it always felt as if she was about to burst from her own skin. Which, of course, she was. She was thankful for it now though, that her rage towards this woman could drown out the guilt of countless innocent lives on her conscience. "If you want to kill me, then kill me."

"If I wanted to kill you I'd already have a new wolf skin rug adorning my floor," came the droll reply as a necklace was tossed down. "As I said, I think we can help each other."

Red stopped and considered her surroundings for a moment. The Queen was the most powerful woman in the land; she really could have had Red skinned anytime she wanted. "If I had wanted to make a deal with someone for some magical cure, if that were even possible, I'd already have gone to Rumpelstiltskin."

"Rumpelstiltskin," The Queen began pleasantly as she unclasped her bracelet, "would sell a man the cure to his blindness at the small cost of his eyes. Besides, too many strings come attached with magic, and I'm sure you've paid enough already."

A moment passed as the older woman looked herself over in the mirror one last time, tying her wavy hair back with a simple black ribbon as if she were in no rush, and despite herself Red was curious at the offer her liege lady was placing on the table. She furrowed her eyebrows as she watched the other woman drape a blanket over the mirror, but pressed forward. "How then?"

A pleased smirk graced the monarch's lips as she stood from her vanity and moved towards Red, ready to speak. But at the brunette's own step away, she had stopped, raised her hands in mock surrender, and approached more cautiously.

"May I?" the Queen asked, waiting for the confirmation that came via an almost indiscernible nod before reaching up to remove the leather belt that had been secured around Red's neck – an attempt to ensure the hood of her cloak remained on her. "Does it hurt? Changing into the beast, that is."

"I don't know," Red whispered, letting out a relieved breath as the pressure on the ache in her neck was removed. The spot where the dart had hit her hurt in a way she had never felt before, like a smoldering fire that wouldn't burn out. "I think… I think it feels like a relief when I do. But even now… I never remember much."

The Queen now seemed to be the one considering her words while she delicately ran a finger along the hem of the hood. "And this keeps you from changing? It's exquisite, both the magic and the material. The color suits you. I guess that was a lucky coincidence." Red looked away when the Queen's gaze left the hood and returned to her eyes. "So you have no control at all, then? When you turn into it?"

The brunette shook her head and the Queen hummed in return, stepping around her like an animal stalking its prey. Red's heart jumped at the feel of her shackled wrists being gently grabbed. "Well dear, we're just going to have to learn to control it, aren't we?"

The sound of metal clanking against the stone floors registered before the realization that she could move her arms again. The Queen had yet to move behind her, had yet to elaborate on what she meant, had yet to do anything but be in the assistance of the captured girl, who was in turn conflicted about not tearing out her captor's throat as soon as she could.

"How?" Red ended up repeating while she rid herself of the leather gloves she wore to inspect her bruised wrists.

"Does it hurt?" The Queen's question was answered before it left her lips as her nail gently brushed over where her soldier's dart had landed on Red's neck, causing the younger girl to jerk away in pain. The small dot and the area around it had turned black on impact and spread, like a dye slowly seeping across the shifter's porcelain skin. "Wolfsbane is tricky little weed. Too much and it could have killed you."

Red remained silent as she watched the Queen step around her to move towards closed window, throwing the shutters open with a wave of her hand. The moon was just beginning to rise but it was full and looming all the same, leaving a shudder running down her spine at the sight. The Queen leant against the ledge, surveying the valley her palace overlooked.

"I could kill you right now," Red finally said to break the silence, hands dropping to curl around the edge of the cloak on either side of her body. "Make you pay for all the people you've hurt."

"I suppose I could do the same, but what kind of host would that make me?" A growl escaped Red's throat and her lips curled into a snarl but the Queen remained blasé as she turned back to face her. "When were you bitten?"

"I wasn't." A single black eyebrow rose, curiosity now written on the woman's face. Whether it was due to the information she had received or the tone the younger girl had taken, Red couldn't say. "My grandmother was… by my grandfather. The curse was passed on to me from my mother."

"You truly are a fascinating little creature, did you know that? I mean, turning into a wolf is one thing, but genetic lycanthropy is as rare as they come. Mostly due to the fact that the carriers don't often last long enough to pass on the curse in such a way… and their loved ones generally have an even shorter life expectancy than they." The Queen stood in front of the Red once more and again moved deliberately slowly as she reached to tug the crimson hood down.

"What are you doing?" Red asked warily as she took another furtive glance out the window.

"Learning to control this pesky little curse isn't going to be easy. Not only is it going to take a great deal of time and patience, it's going to hurt like hell. And a… certain level of commitment will be required." A single cool finger slid up along her neck until her chin was lifted, forcing her to meet piercing brown eyes. "Understand?'

"I'll do anything," it had come out like a plea despite her best intentions, "Your Majesty."

"Please, call me Regina." Blood red lips curled into a wolfish smile that Red wasn't sure she could even top. "I'm sure we'll be the best of friends by the end of the evening…"

"R-" she caught herself as the ever-present scent of grief seeping out of the stone floors and walls grabbed her attention once more. "Ruby. My name is Ruby."

She had never been a good liar; the false words always seemed to move queerly across her tongue and become evident to those listening. Regina was no different judging by the look of amused disbelief on her face, but she gave no other comment than, "How fitting."

"Please," Red implored yet again. Each beat of her heart seemed to fan the embers at the wolfsbane injection site, and when she made the mistake of gently touching the mark it only seemed to intensify. "Just tell me what I need to do."

"My dear, you don't need to do anything. Except take off that pretty red cloak of yours." Regina was already close, but it didn't stop her from slowly filling what little gap there was between them. Even with the smell of gloom in the castle, the Queen's own scent was heady and sweet, like lilacs and lilies, and it left Red with the distinct memory of flowers on a grave. "The wolfsbane will keep you from transforming and all you'll have to do is try to keep focus while your body is stuck not changing. With a little practice it shouldn't be that hard to control yourself after a real transformation."

"You make it seem as if this is common knowledge," the brunette said slowly.

"I do my research." The statement was accompanied with a wink and the almost caring gesture of Regina reaching up to tuck her hair back behind her ear, only to have her hand smacked away. The gentleness, the supposed help, and the warm brown eyes: none of this fit the description of the woman who wanted to kill Snow White. It struck the young girl a second later that she really had no defense against the monarch, if what she said was true. "Temper, temper," came the reply after Red had batted away her searching fingers, the smooth voice having lost an ounce of its teasing.

"I don't like being toyed with."

"I've hardly toyed with you, Ruby," Regina's hand rose again but stopped to flick the delicate knot that kept the cape securely around Red's shoulders. "On the contrary, I've told you exactly what you need to do and how it's going to help you." She stepped away then, waving her arms with a flourish as if to paint a clearer picture of the space between them.

The worst case, Red decided as she hesitantly reached to undo the bow, was that she ended up having a monarch for dinner. Snow would understand her acquiescence, maybe not for any other reason, but she would with this one she would. Controlling the wolf… it had been all Red had agonized over since she had found out. Red looked the Queen over one more time, trying to decipher her cloying smile and saccharine eyes.

The pain was instantaneous as her cloak fell off her shoulders and pooled behind her on the floor. Red had fallen to her knees immediately as fire burned through her veins, robbing her of her breath as she struggled to lift her head from the stone floor. She expected her skin to have melted off or blistered from her boiling blood, but all she saw was her shaking fists, clenched so hard they had turned white. My hood, she reminded herself, vaguely aware of the blood on her fingernails and the cuts on her palms as her hands uncoiled, I have to get my hood.

Everything from her bones and teeth to her eyes seemed to ache as she reached behind her, only to have her fingers brush against nothing but air. Red was left with no choice but to crane her head up, an act that left her whimpering at the particularly hard ache in her neck as she did, to locate Regina. The Queen stood where she had before, seemingly having not moved an inch despite having managed to grab ahold of Red's cloak.

"I did say that it was going to hurt," she clucked flippantly, folding the crimson hood until it was in a neat rectangle. It was the smirk on Regina's lips that did it, Red decided later on with a clear head, which caused something to snap inside her, that sent her springing from the floor to grapple the Queen's neck. Countless people had died in the past because of her, but never had Red held the power of someone else's life in her hands like this. She felt like a wolf; volatile and dangerous as her already bloodstained palms encircled Regina's throat. The pain coursing through her taking second place to the immeasurable rage she felt at that moment.

"Was all of this a joke to you?" she asked harshly, though the Queen didn't seem fazed in the least at nearly being strangled by the taller girl. Her smirk had dropped but her chin had jut forward just enough to still seem defiant.

"My dear, I told you countless times that I'm your ever humble servant when it comes to helping you with your… ailment." The teasing lilt was still heavy on her tongue and the anger in Red was once again slowly giving way to the unholy scorching in her veins. It's why she allowed, with a sharp, trained gaze, for the Queen's hand to again slowly raise up to her neck, to the area that hurt her so tremendously, the black spot that burned as if she had been branded with a red-hot poker. The instant Regina's finger brushed the blackened mark, relief emanated from the area, sending a shiver through Red's shoulders. Her hands, too, had loosened their grasp when the skin beneath them begun to take on the same cooling effect.

Her knees nearly buckled as she leant into the older woman, desperate for more of the intoxicating magic that was quelling the fire in her veins. Her mistrust, her anger, her fears were all in the back of her mind as her forehead lazily fell to rest against Regina's, bringing more of the remedy she craved.

"You see? I can help you." Red's eyes remained closed, because standing alone was hard enough with the battle raging between the poison in her veins and the magic of the Queen's skin, but she was sure she wouldn't want to open them anyway. She'd see the warm brown eyes of the woman who wanted to kill her best friend, the woman who she desperately needed to cling to for support. It was too much for her to take in, but Regina's voice was as soothing as her touch. "If you keep from transforming, if you fight to control it, one day you will."

The words are murmured against her cheek, spoken with all the fondness one would show a dear friend. "And I," the Queen's other hand rose to move around to the back of Red's neck, earning a whimper of comfort from the shapeshifter, "can help you, Ruby."

She had to then, open her eyes and make her choice. Her cloak is within reaching distance and the wolfsbane would surely work its way out of her system soon, but she remained rooted on the spot. The Queen was offering her something no one else could give; she rationalized as she tilted her chin, nose brushing along Regina's so she could look at her fully. The Queen was very pretty; she rationalized as her hands slipped to land at the top of the monarch's chest, the dress she wore leaving the expanse of skin bared to her. The Queen couldn't possibly be so evil; she rationalized as her head drooped once more, this time to capture Regina's lips.

It was like ice water was poured down her throat the instant their lips touched, an enticing remedy that gave Red some focus back. She was greedy for more, her hands sliding back up to clutch the Queen's neck, but this time to hold her closer. Regina, in return, was pliant under her touch, responding in kind but demanding no more. When Red grabbed the ridiculously opulent collar of the dress she wore and tore it in a fit of frustration, her only response was a low chuckle against Red's mouth. Yielding, helping, beautiful. This couldn't possibly be the same woman who meant to kill Snow.

"I don't trust you," Red muttered when she finally managed to tear herself away. The fire returned, but she remained standing. Strong. She could be strong. She would have to be. She was toe to toe with the Queen, after all. So she stood, defiant, even as her hands shook, even as each beat of her heart made her feel faint as the wolfsbane burned it's way through her system. "You want to kill Snow. I don't… I can't…"

"Tell me something, Ruby," Regina began, grabbing what remained of the ostentatious collar that once adorned the onyx gemstone-encrusted dress she wore and tossed it to the side, "Why so much loyalty to a girl you've barely known more than a few months?"

"She stayed with me when I found out." Red stumbled back slightly as a particularly sharp ache in her neck left her winded. Her hands wrapped around one of the poles of the four-poster bed for support as she tried to keep her eyes at level with the Queen's. "She helped me when no one else would."

"And now here I am, trying to offer you the same support." Regina strode confidently toward Red, this time not waiting for approval as she reached up to cover the wound on the taller girl's neck. Red couldn't help it when another whimper of relief escaped her lips. "Helping your learn to control yourself when you're in that state benefits my entire kingdom, Ruby – as well as your precious Snow. And if I should have a little fun while helping you," her smirk returned, mischievous, self-congratulatory, and enslaving all at once, "then it seems that everybody wins."

The Queen had been making valid points; she rationalized as the ties to her bodice were undone with a single hand by the older woman. The Queen was right, she needed to control this thing and if wolfsbane was the only way, she surely couldn't deal with the pain it brought alone; she rationalized as she watched Regina rid herself of the ruined dress she wore. The Queen couldn't be more correct that her learning to control this thing could benefit hundreds of people, Snow included; she rationalized as she was stripped of the rest of her clothes.

"I still don't trust you," Red muttered almost breathlessly as Regina climbed over her, unable to stop the flush from spreading over her cheeks while the Queen's gaze seemed to scrutinize her every inch on her way up. She couldn't help her body's reaction, the immediate need for her to tangle herself with the older woman and get as close as possible; to keep the wolfsbane from burning, she tells herself later on when she's getting redressed.

"Doesn't seem as if that's going to be much of a problem, dear."

It was a rare day that Regina found herself at the bar, but after a particularly tedious city counsel meet followed by a temper tantrum from Henry, she was in need of an escape. Ms. Andrews had assured her that her son would be in bed before she returned home and had promptly grabbed the folder she needed to look over and went in search for something to calm her frayed nerves. The bar in Stoorybrooke was small and, thankfully, not busy. Not that she had expected it to be on a Tuesday evening, but the people of the small town she created seemed to enjoy the sauce far more than she would have anticipated.

She sat at the bar, alone, a single glass of scotch next to the file she had pulled from her briefcase. It was tedious business, being in charge in this world. Forms and documents and files were a far less interesting way to rule when compared to magic and knights and coups. But it was the life she chose – literally – and she had learned to make do with the monotony that had become her career. Because it still meant power – even if it was just power over people who didn't even know themselves.

There was a loud commotion at a table across the bar and she glanced back to see who could possibly be making noise at a pub on a Tuesday night when she saw a group of young guys surrounding a brunette with familiar red streaks in her hair. She tried to place names to the faces of the young men, but the years had left hazy on a lot of details, particularly those of the people she had little to do with in the other land. One or two had worked at her castle, perhaps. When Ruby pushed herself up from her seat to stride over to the bar to sit alone, not three stools down from Regina herself, she was met with a chorus of dissent from the gang she had left behind.

"Rubes, come on-"

"Just leave me alone," she snapped in a tired way that made her words seem less harsh than the glint in her eyes.

Two of the boys get up to follow her, one Regina did faintly recognize as the tow-truck operator (Jimmy? Billy? Who had he been in the other land? Had driven her carriage?), who stood by silently with a somewhat repentant look on his face, and another who Regina wouldn't be able to put a name to for the life of her.

"It was just joke, babe. Come back, we'll buy you a drink, and you can decide which one of us is worthy of your time tonight."

"I believe," Regina started not looking up from the file in front of her, her voice causing the three young patrons to jump in response and jerk their heads towards her, "the young lady told you to leave her alone. Now, I'm sure two fine gentleman such as yourself don't need to be reminded that when woman says go away, she means go away." She looked up then, the smile on her face not meeting her eyes as she stared past the brunette to meet the gazes of her admirers.

"N-no, of course Madame Mayor," the unmemorable one stumbled, backing away as if Regina was holding a gun at him. "We're sorry to trouble you. And Ruby. Sorry, Ruby."

"My knight in shining Jimmy Choos," Ruby breathed, a small, but appreciative smile on her face as she turned to face Regina. The weather was brisk outside which had left Ruby in an actual outfit rather than the minimal clothing choices she made at Granny's. The younger woman seemed somewhat conflicted as she stared at her, as if she was having some sort of internal debate on what to do with herself in front of Regina when she wasn't wearing an apron and taking an order.

"I'm sure you could have handled them well enough yourself," Regina murmured in return, turning her eyes back to the work before her in an attempt to give the other girl an out. She saw Ruby nearly every day and they were always cordial, in fact, Ruby, with her infectious smile, seemed to be among the small few who didn't stiffen at the sight of the mayor. As Regina stared at the proposed budget in the file, she wondered, as she had many times, if it was their previous relationship seeping through. She shook the thought from her head, though. They weren't exactly friends in the other land.

She hadn't heard Ruby sidle up next to her until she addressed the bartender, "One more of these for the mayor, and one for me too."

"Really, Miss-"

"I insist," Ruby interrupted with a warm smile. "There's a good chance you just prevented a double homicide, I think that deserves a reward."

Regina laughed and finished what was left of the scotch in her glass to make way for the new one that came. "One of those days or were they just particularly annoying?"

Ruby took a sip of her scotch, settling herself more comfortably on the stool. Regina wondered if this was awkward for her, but Ruby always seemed comfortable with people. It's that charm. That inviting smile Red had. She's still in there. "One of those days. I just had to get out of the house and do something, I felt like I was gonna burst from my skin. Do you ever feel like that?" Regina's taking a drink but nods at the question, so Ruby continued, "So, I came here thinking that maybe a night hanging out with the guys wouldn't be so bad. Then I remembered that guys are idiots," her speech is finished with a sardonic smile and another sip of her drink.

"Well, I'm sorry to say that there's slim pickin's in this town, dear." She took a generous drink of her own before gathering up the paperwork she had spread out. I'm sorry to say that there probably won't be anything but slim pickin's.

"God, I'm sorry. You probably have, like, actual problems to think about. I didn't know I was inter-"

"You're not, Ruby. It was a lost cause thinking I could concentrate tonight." At Ruby's genuine look of sympathy, she continued with an offered explanation of, "One of those days."

"Is it… fun isn't the word I'm looking for… do you like being the mayor?" Ruby asked as she turned her body a little more towards Regina, her glass at her lips again. "I mean, it must be hard even in a place like Storybrooke. And being a single mom. That must be, like…"

"It's challenging." Regina had to keep her eyes on Ruby as she spoke, had to make sure she could see the differences between this girl and the one she once knew – the makeup, the hair, the clothes, she had to see them sometimes. Blurring the lines had always left her too exhausted not to. "But rewarding."

"Did you always want to go into politics?"

"No, I…" She stopped when she realized that it was the first real conversation she had with Ruby in twenty-eight years. Since the curse took place. Regina had distanced herself from everyone for a reason. But Ruby, with her bright eyes and that eagerness she remembered all-too-fondly, was hard to decline. "My mother pushed me into it. I would have rather just settled down."

"But you have Henry now," Ruby offered with that hopeful look she remembered seeing through her vanity mirror when she would catch Red and Snow talking.

"Yes," Regina replied with a genuine smile, "I have Henry now." And if he had his way, he wouldn't have me, she thought bitterly as the smile faded. It took her eighteen years to muster the courage to start a real life here, to look for happiness again, and again she was denied it. No matter how hard she tried.

"This might be the worst scotch I've ever had." Regina's face must have betrayed her, judging by the abrupt change of subject, but she couldn't have been more thankful for Ruby then. At her laugh, the younger woman continued, "Not that I'm some connoisseur, or whatever, but Granny's stocks better stuff than this."

"I have this bottle at home, twenty year scotch. You haven't tasted real scotch until you've tasted this." There was a shift then, as Regina realized half a second too late that what she said could be seen as an offering. It only took her another second to realize that she didn't care. Ruby's hazel eyes seemed hopeful and wary and altogether conflicted as she sized Regina up. Regina herself knew the tightrope she walked, but still. It had been one of those days. "If you ever want to come over for a glass."

She wondered what Ruby was thinking then, because she certainly looked as if she was an animal stalking its prey, despite her poised nature on the barstool. She looked hungry and Regina swore she saw her eyes flash yellow when she casually replied, "Well, I'm free right now if you are."

Ruby remained hidden away in the study while Ms. Andrews was dealt with and Henry was checked on, her eyes scanning the books on the shelves when Regina entered, two glasses in her hands. She noted Ruby's discarded jacket and scarf, carefully folded and stacked on the couch, but made no mention. Their first few sips were in silence as Ruby took in the many titles, as well as the pictures and knick-knacks that filled the room, all while Regina watched Ruby. A certain fascination having took over after having written the brunette off years ago. She always seemed so much younger here; it made it easier for Regina to brush off the connection from the other land. But suddenly, with her glass of scotch and her red bra visible underneath the white blouse she wore, she didn't seem quite so young.

"I've always wanted to see the inside of this house," the brunette girl murmured, eyes falling on the clock that stood on the mantle of the fireplace. She licked her lips and took another drink of the fabled scotch, apparently in favor of it.

"Is that why you came here tonight?"

"No." Ruby turns back towards her, and that look had returned in her eyes. That hungry look that seemed to push away any apprehension inside her; the look that made Regina feel as if she was game to be hunted.

Regina finished her glass and set it down on the end table near the door and then turned her attention back to Ruby, who seemed to be doing the same, only to have something outside the window catch her eye. The moon was bright and full over Storybrooke that evening and it was if a lightbulb went off in her head. Well, Regina thought somewhat amusedly, I suppose the wolf had to come out in some way or another.

"Then why did you come, Little Red?" She couldn't help herself, even if it was the kind of slip-up that she hated, that she worked so hard to try to prevent. Regina stood stock-still as Ruby stalked toward her, grateful for the feeling of someone coming to her again, more than happy to be caught by this hunter. The younger girl was taller than her, even with her adorned Jimmy Choos, so Ruby had to lean down when she spoke her whisper.

"To see what kind of design scheme the bedroom has."

Even in the dark, without being able to see the gaudy makeup and red streaks, and only being able to hear that familiar voice, it was easy for Regina to differentiate Red and Ruby. Red wouldn't buck and beg so wantonly for Regina to give just a little more, would never smile and slither down the older woman's body to settle between her legs, would never encourage scratch marks etched down her porcelain back. Ruby does, though. She kissed Regina without restraint, pressed against her because she was desperate for more contact, bit her shoulder to keep from moaning too loud, and was absolutely relentless in her pursuit to leave the mayor completely spent before their night is through.

She felt exhausted when it was over. Exhausted and worshipped and sated, in a way she hadn't felt in years. Regina allowed Ruby to stretch out under the sheets next to her; her own eyes drooping before she could rearrange the disheveled bedspread. It felt like only minutes later that she heard rustling. Ruby was sitting on the edge of the bed, already half-dressed as she hooked her bra together, the pink lines Regina had left still very much visible. That was when she noticed Regina's bleary eyes on her and smiled, that bright Ruby grin that was no different than the one she would give while filling up a cup of coffee for Regina.

"Good morning. I figured I should get out of here before Henry wakes up." Her shirt is the next to come on, the buttons apparently causing her some difficulty while she simultaneously tried to slip her boots on. Regina sat up then and leant over, undoing some so she could straighten the shirt and redo them all for the younger girl. Ruby laughed quietly. "I'm all thumbs sometimes."

"I could put on some coffee," Regina offered after she cleared her throat. Morning after situations had rarely been problem with Graham – nights spent over where few and far between.

"I have to run home and shower and get ready for work," Ruby replied in a genuine voice, one that sounded so much like Red it made Regina blink again. "But I had fun last night. A lot of fun. And these sheets are ridiculous."

Regina smiled but offered no reply, already feeling even more tired at the thought of her own schedule for the day. Ruby, though, seemed to be a bundle of energy. She leaned over and kissed Regina's cheek before standing to leave. "Have a good day, Madame Mayor."

Regina waited until she heard the door quietly open and close before she got out of bed, padding over to the window to watch Ruby adjust her scarf as she cut across the street and headed towards Granny's. She had helped Red back in the other land, and when the curse was being put together, she allowed her more than most in this world, had even made concessions when the girl had no right to ask for any. Maybe this was her reward: an uncomplicated fling with someone who didn't seem to have those preconceived notions of her as mayor. Besides, Ruby was coming to her now, and who was she to decline?