Title: I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn't Love to Howl
Pairing: Regina/Red, Regina/Ruby, slight Jefferson/Ruby
Length: 4, 200
Spoilers: We Are Both
Summary: Regina knew Red, Ruby didn't know The Queen.
Notes: Written for thegirl20 and comparisons.
"Bite your tongue, dear. I did no such thing. And I would hate to have to make a liar out of you."
Of course the Queen would cut her down before she even began. While the dwarves had attended to Snow's body, Red had got on her horse and rode. And rode. And rode. Until her thighs were sore and she stood at the front doors of the Dark Palace, pushing her way beyond the stationary guards that were in position there. The Queen must have known she was coming, Red had received no resistance from any of her men as she made her way to the bedroom where she knew the Queen would be reveling in her victory.
The woman in question languished on chaise lounge in a crimson velvet dress that hugged every curve. Her hair done up, make up on, the complete lack of surprise at the intruder who burst through her doors – she had definitely known Red was on her way.
"You said that she wouldn't die," Red spat, her voice heavy due to her labored breathing. "You said that you didn't want to kill her."
"And I didn't. She's there, not dead, for the world to see," with a wave of her hand an image appeared in her mirror, one of Snow in a glass coffin surrounded by the dwarves. "We could start selling tickets. I'm sure it would be quite the attraction."
"I knew I couldn't trust you." Red grabbed Regina by her dress, forcing her to stand upright and meet Red's gaze. "I knew it-"
"But you did anyway, Ruby," the Queen replied, dark eyes narrowed slightly. "You know as well as I do that I have been nothing if not transparent throughout our little meetings. I gave you every reason to believe what I said would happen and never held back on my plans – don't get angry with me for choosing not to listen."
She was angry though. Red threw the Queen back down to her cushioned lounge. 'I want to make her suffer.' The Queen was right; she had been crystal clear with Red every step of the way. It was Red who had blinded herself into thinking she could play both sides and not see the inevitable destruction the woman before her had promised. "And how does this make her suffer? It makes everyone around her suffer, everyone she loved. Not Snow."
"She's not getting her happily ever after." The Queen smoothed out her dress as she stood on her own volition. "That's enough for me."
"I could have stopped this. I could have stopped this all," Red whispered to herself as a numbness swept over her body. She nearly buckled under the weight of the truth in her own sentence, choosing instead to lean against the smooth stone wall behind her. Why hadn't she stopped it?
"Yes, you could have," the soothing lilt that Red had come to accept seemed jarring as Regina stepped towards her. "But you didn't, you came to me time and time again because I could help you." Yes, Red thought as she closed her eyes to escape the brown ones staring at her, because I needed help. I did. "And then you stayed. Time and time again, because you wanted to. And at any point you could have killed me – thrown me out the window, a knife in the back while I slept, maybe you would have just transformed and ripped out my throat, who knows? I'm sure you would have been as creative as you were loyal. But where do your loyalties lie, Red?"
Her name sounded so foreign on Regina's tongue that for a moment Red almost found herself correcting her, almost agreed with her, almost stayed with her and her soothing voice and warm eyes. Instead, she slapped away the hand that was coming up to touch her cheek and shoved past the monarch, heading towards the door. It closed before she could reach it but she refused to turn back to face the older woman.
"It's rude to leave a question unanswered, Ruby."
"You know where my loyalties lie, Regina." She surprised herself with how level she had kept her voice. "And it's not in your bed."
Regina had avoided Granny's during the investigation, at least when she could see could see Ruby's bright smile through the windows. She had refused each phone call, but it didn't seem to take the waitress long to realize that Regina wouldn't be picking up any time soon. And life went on. For a few days. Until Kathryn reappeared, out of the blue. And of course it was Ruby who had found her, disheveled and confused in the parking lot behind Granny's.
Again she avoided the call from Ruby that evening. She also forwent a hospital visit to the woman who was the only friend she had made in twenty-eight years. It wouldn't be right. She could only fake so many smiles, could only pretend so much that she wasn't a force set out on destroying lives. She had visited Gold, but received nothing but smirks in return. Her whole plan had vanished and she was left looking guilty.
Even though Henry again rebuked her, it was David Nolan, of all people, who set her off, though it shouldn't have surprised her. Charming had always been a smarmy ass, but he was handsome. David turned her advances down, more gently than Henry had turned down her attempt at mothering him, but it was a slight nonetheless.
A slight that sent her out for a midnight stroll after Henry had been safely put to bed. She didn't know where she was going, but Regina walked with purpose as she tried to decipher just why she was so unlovable. She must have circled around the small city center twice before she heard it: the ragged breathing as she neared the bar that could only mean one thing. But it was the familiarity of that breathing that had her treading quietly, even while she was safely across the street, to glance into the alleyway behind the building.
It was indeed Ruby who was having a midnight rendezvous, but it was her companion that truly surprised Regina. Jefferson had the young girl pinned against the wall in the alleyway that also served as the parking lot, his eyes closed tight as he thrust into waitress. An odd pair, Regina mulled distractedly as she watched Ruby bury her face in the scarf around the man's neck, Attractive, but odd. It was over before Regina could feel voyeuristic, but even the way they parted had left Regina somewhat bemused, as it was so casually done. Jefferson pulled away and collected himself and Ruby did the same, but they shared a joke for a moment as he bent down to retrieve her underwear, which she in turn took with a 'thank you' before tossing them in a nearby dumpster, resulting in a charming laugh from her suitor.
As they parted, Jefferson choosing to duck back into the alleyway and head towards his estate while Ruby took a moment to smooth down her dress, Regina was left wondering if this thing had been a regular occurrence. It couldn't be, the logical part of her brain told her despite the fact that her feet were already crossing the pavement to where the other girl stood. He's just began to reappear in the town. And what Ruby does is none-
"My, my, aren't we a busy girl?" Ruby gave a visible start, her hand flying up to her chest to land over her heart as she took in her intruder. She seemed to be trying to stand taller, taller than she already was, especially with those ridiculous heels, but Regina still felt like she had the upper hand.
"What do you want, Regina?"
"That's Mayor Mills to you, little girl," Regina sniped back, her feet still guiding her towards the younger woman, effectively backing her prey against the wall of the pub once more, though they were on the street for all to see – if anyone else had been up that late on a Thursday evening. There was less than an inch of space between them when her feet finally stopped in front of the taller woman and she surprised herself when she grabbed Ruby's face, forcing the waitress to keep their eyes locked. She didn't know why she was so angry, really. So possessive when she had been the one to cut the leash she had on this girl. But she was.
Ruby, however, had a surprise of her own as she swooped in to kiss Regina, more roughly than she ever had in the past, only to tear her mouth away as Regina's grip on her jaw loosened. The waitress gave a small something, whether it was a whine or a whimper, Regina couldn't tell, but the look on her face was undoubtedly agony.
"It's not supposed to… Listen, I get it if you're done with me but when I kiss you, god, when I even touch you…" Ruby jerked her head to the side as she collected her thoughts, distress lining her face as she tried to make herself understood. "It's like drinking ice water on a hot day. I can't expl-"
Regina backed away from the woman before her and it earned her a sudden silence from the brunette. The curse was weakening; more things were bleeding into this world. Yet she was still powerless as her life fell apart around her. All because Emma Swan had decided to stay, because she couldn't have just left her damn past in the past. The irony wasn't lost on Regina, but still, she couldn't find it within herself to comfort Ruby like she so clearly wanted to be, she couldn't provide the cooling kisses and touches that she craved. Ruby was Ruby and Red was Red. She decided a long time ago to stop blurring the lines.
"Regina," she heard as she turned on foot and headed back towards her house. "Please, you can't…"
When she pictured the angry mob, Red was one of the first in line. Hell, she was the one tying her up so they could kill her. When the real mob showed up, Red was there but she was trying to play the peacekeeper. Though she didn't make a noise when they talked about locking her up, didn't visit while she was in jail. Red seemed to have other things on her mind, and Regina couldn't blame her, really. But she knew the real reason. Red would be far too afraid of someone being able to walk in on a conversation they'd have.
Those worries didn't stop the brunette as she pushed past Regina and into her house under the cover of nightfall. The older woman was grateful for the intrusion; not only for the chance to speak to Red again, but because her large abode had been feeling far too empty without her son there. Red paced in the entryway for a moment and then looked at Regina as if she were waiting for all the answers to every question in the world.
"How about some of that scotch?"
Red was still quiet, even after half of her glass has been drained. She stood in the same spot she had the first night she had been in the study, but this time she faced Regina rather than the mantle above the fireplace. Stood there, staring at Regina. Waiting. Regina, meanwhile, finished off her own drink in slow, even sips as she studied the woman across the room from her, trying to decipher the mask that Red had apparently been working on.
"So should I call you Red or-" A glass hurtling towards the wall behind her interrupted her, though it smashed far enough away that Regina had known it was intentionally not aimed at her.
"How could you?"
"I told you-"
"You took away our lives." The mask had fallen. Regina could read her clearly now: hurt, angry, betrayed, lost, scared, bitter. Everything was there for her to see. "You stole everything-"
"Oh, what did I steal?" Regina snapped back, shoulders squared. "I gave you everything. I brought you to a world with penicillin and civil rights and bras. And just like I promised you, I let you stay with your grandmother. I even gave you a job you liked, hell, I gave you a Camaro for god's sake-"
"Forced me," Red said suddenly, her face having previously been lost in concentration. At least she listened. "You forced me and everyone else into this life with no consent given on our parts. You made us forget who we were, who we loved. You tore apart families, you tore apart our lives for your own means and kept us trapped here. And, what, you expect me to thank you for that?"
Regina was without a comeback. She was tired. She missed her son. She didn't want a fight. But still, she pressed on, sputtering out, "I brought you to a world where you didn't have to worry about your little problem."
"You made me the town harlot in return," Red spat as she took a few steps toward her.
"What can I say? You're a wolf, you love to howl." She continued on when it looked as if Red was going to slap her, "I didn't have control over everything. Some people's personalities manifested in different ways like-"
"Me being a slut?"
Regina scoffed. "Just because you were in bed with me does not make you the town slut. It's the twenty-first century, dear. At least, here it is."
Red shook her head but the anger seemed to leave her for a moment. "What are you going to do now? You've pushed away everyone who cared for you and now you have a town full of people who would be happy to see you die. What's next, Regina?"
"What's next is I get my son back."
"And how do you plan to do that, Madam Mayor?"
Regina eyed up the younger woman for a moment. "Why, magic, dear. It's the only silver lining to this whole miserable thing."
"Would you like my advice?" Red didn't wait for a response. "Magic? Isn't going to solve anything. It's what created this mess. If you want that boy to love you, if you want anyone to love you, you're going to have to try to redeem yourself. Not dig this hole deeper."
She left without another word, glass crunching under her boots as she walked by.
Though she had swore not to, Red found herself slipping off a horse in front of the Dark Palace again, though this time the guards escorted her to her destination and didn't leave until Regina waved them away. She was dressed in black as she surveyed the valley before her, while Red surveyed her.
"You can still stop-"
"Save your breath, dear. It's futile." Regina straightened but still didn't turn around. "The wheels are already in motion."
Red had never felt more helpless than she had at that moment – not even when Snow had told her what she really was. She stared at the back of Regina's head, trying to will herself to run forward and snap her neck right then and there, but still she couldn't. She was the only one who could, but she couldn't.
"Please," she tried again as she stepped further into the room. "I'll do anything. Be anything. Just please stop this curse."
"As much as I love hearing you beg me for things, I'm afraid there's nothing left to be said on the topic." She turned then, her face a mask to Red.
"Please," once more, she had to, "whatever Snow has done to you surely can't-"
"I wouldn't speak of matters you have no knowledge of, Little Red." The Queen's voice brimmed with impatience, with anger and hurt and pain.
"She broke a promise, I know-"
"No, you don't know," came the snapped reply. "This curse… it's happening. I've worked too hard, given up too much for it not to."
The room was silent for a long time after the Queen's words, even the birds and wind having seemingly disappeared. It felt deafening and suffocating and Red had to force herself to look at the woman before her.
"She's pregnant." That seemed to catch the Queen's interest. Red saw the mask melt into a look she couldn't quite place, one of penitence perhaps, maybe even a bit of longing. Red saw her in; saw her only chance to save her loved ones. "And that baby is as innocent as one can be. Even if you hate Snow, surely you wouldn't separate a baby from its parents."
Regina looked her over with an expression that made her feel as if she knew what Red was trying to do. "She's pregnant," she muttered to herself, turning away from Red once more. "No. No, Snow and her child won't be separated. If it means so much to you." It was a tiny crack in the defense, though Red picked up on the lack of mention when it came to the baby's father. Nor had the tone the Queen had replied with gone by unnoticed. Regina turned back around with her usual flourish and smile, leaving Red feeling queasy at the sudden return to the norm. "Does the family lapdog have any other requests to make on their behalf?"
"Why do you do this?" Red snapped back. "Why can't you just be human for a little while?"
"Am I being inhumane? Is that what you think of me, a monster?" A mock pout accompanied the questions.
"I think of you as someone who has taken a grudge against a young girl and let it lead you to destroy everything in your path until you've gotten your revenge."
"Seems accurate enough."
"But I also think of you as someone who used to be able to love. Who waited until that girl could defend herself before getting her revenge for whatever it is you two won't talk about. I think of you as someone who helped me when I needed it the most, even if it was for selfish reasons. Even if you got something in return." Red stood her ground and squared her shoulders. Regina had a way of seeming grandiose and she needed to surpass it, even as her voice softened. "I think of you as the person who would hold me at night and keep the fire at bay until the wolfsbane petered out, who came whenever I needed her. You're better than this curse, Regina, you just won't let yourself be."
To her credit, Regina seemed to actually listen to her and even took a moment to let the words sink in before she spoke. "Are there any other requests you'd like to make?"
She hated Regina in that moment. Pure, unfiltered hate. But she hated herself even more. More than she ever thought she could. But the hate didn't make her angry; it just bore down on her as she conceded to pleading once more. "Granny… well, she's the only family I have-"
"I'll see to it that you two aren't separated," Regina retorted as she turned back to look out the window.
At least she would get to be with Granny. Red had secured that, something she had desperately needed to do, even if she had to resort to beseeching the woman before her. She was thankful it hadn't come to that. Regina had a heart, even if she didn't bare it often. Red began walking towards the door, already exhausted at the thought of her ride back to the castle, where her absence must have surely gone noticed by then.
"I meant it," Red said tiredly after a pause, not looking behind her as she strode forward. "You're better than this curse, Regina."
The weight of the gazes on her were almost too oppressive; Regina felt like she could hardly breath as she pulled up in front of Granny's. One couple outside, another inside and one patron alone – only five people and it felt like she still had to watch her back, powers and all. She pressed on however; earning the gaze of the woman she came to meet as the bell above the door jingled, signaling her entrance.
The young woman behind the counter stood as tall as she had when Regina had taken Henry away with her at the town hall, though her face was less defiant. She nodded almost indiscernibly when Regina paused; giving the woman the go ahead to walk further into the establishment.
"I took your advice," Regina began in a somewhat low voice as she sat at one of the bar stools, "although I probably should have taken it before I set a small fire and terrified a room full of people."
"Can't argue with you there," came the reply, voice neutral. She watched as the waitress sized her up and then knelt down for a moment behind the counter, reappearing with a bottle of whiskey and then two glasses to join it. The younger woman smiled a little when the drinks had been poured, holding out her own glass for Regina to clink hers against before they both downed their respective shot.
"I didn't know the path to redemption would go down smoothly," Regina commented wryly although her face surely betrayed her. She was grateful for this white flag, if that's what it was. It appeared to be, judging by the smile and the way the brunette leant on the counter, relaxed but composed. "Red, I-"
"Ruby. I… I've been Ruby for twenty-eight years," she said with an easy grin. "And you may have been right about my life here. I do love it. I didn't pick it, but…" Ruby squinted as she looked out of the diner's front windows, into the near-blinding orange glow from the sunset. "Who does get to pick their lives, really? But I love mine. And the stuff between us here…"
"I hope you don't think-"
"You didn't exactly have to twist my arm." Hazel eyes met chocolate again as Ruby straightened behind the counter. "I may have been too quick to jump down your throat about that one."
"I think most people here have earned the right to jump down my throat."
"Only most?" Ruby asked as she poured them each another few fingers of whiskey.
"Not everyone had a fairytale life back there, you know. You actually do know, better than most." Regina spoke slowly; afraid of the backlash she could receive for her reasoning. It was a thin line to walk, she knew that much. "Just because your favorite couple had everything together-"
"I know." Ruby was looking down at the glass she held between both her hands on the counter while Regina looked at her. "I know that there's got to be a lot of people who would have benefited from a life here, but you didn't give us as choice to decide."
"I know," Regina parroted. "And… well, I'm on the path to redemption. Or trying to get there." She took a sip of her drink. "I just don't know where the road starts."
"He's safe with your best friend the prince, don't worry."
Ruby smiled brightly, bringing her gaze up to meet Regina's once again. "Well, that's definitely a start. Besides, it's always better to make a guy come to you than chase after him, right?"
"Not sure if those rules apply when it's regarding your son, but valued advice nonetheless." It felt weird to be so at ease with Ruby again, unbothered by the past between them. Then again, Ruby had always seemed more forgiving than Red.
"So what's your next step?"
Regina sighed and took another sip from her glass. "I don't know. Going to Hopper and trying to sort through my feelings or something equally as painful, I suppose."
"That sounds like a good plan to me," Ruby replied.
"And what about… I know I wasn't your best friend, but I did value… whatever it was we had. Both here and there." Regina forced her eyes to look up from the amber liquid in her glass to meet Ruby's hazel ones. She almost continued when the lone patron threw his bill on the counter next to where they were situated, undoubtedly giving Regina an icy glare as he did.
"I'll meet you over by the cash register," Ruby said calmly but sternly as she grabbed the bill. The man, whoever he was (because, god, there were so many people Regina just couldn't place at a moment's notice) turned in a huff and headed to the destination Ruby had given him. In turn, Ruby drained her glass of its contents and looked at Regina, again sizing her up, as if she were prey. Which, Regina supposed, she was. "You already know my Monday afternoons are open."
"Is that how I'm going to redeem myself to you?" Regina asked as she tried to contain the smirk on her lips.
"Well," Ruby began as she grabbed the drink from the former mayor's hand and polished it off as well before heading to cash register, "it couldn't hurt."