The moon waned into a perfect crescent shape; Ruby looked up at it as she pulled the "open" sign back into the restaurant just before closing up. Wolf's Time was several weeks away.
She moved back inside, locking the doors behind her, and began wiping the few messy tables that were left; when she got to the last one, she found an unopened beer bottle on the table.
Before she could wonder who would leave a perfectly good beer behind, she heard a voice behind her, asking, "So is now a good time for that drink?"
She turned around to see Billy leaning nonchalantly against the booth.
Ruby did her best to hide her surprise before smiling and nodding. "Now's great; I'm pretty much done closing up." She motioned to the empty booth. "Is the beer for me?"
"Only if you don't want something stronger," he said, taking his seat.
Ruby got another beer from the cooler and expertly popped them open before taking her seat across from him.
"So, Red," Billy began, but she stopped him.
"Look, before you say anything…it really was just a bad night."
"Really? Because your friend was awful quick to bail you out."
"Well, she…it was complicated."
"Because of the wolf thing?"
Ruby looked up in shock. "How-how did you know?"
He shrugged. "Word gets around fast in a small town. It doesn't bother me though! I mean, I was a mouse; you're a wolf sometimes…I bet lots of people here used to be animals."
"Maybe." Ruby took a drink before a thought struck her. "So, were you a mouse all the time, right up until the curse hit?"
Billy smiled. "Actually, when Cinderella went to the ball, she needed a coach driver and footman, so my buddy Jacque and I were enlisted. I was human from then on."
"So were you at Ella's wedding?"
"Yeah! Were you?"
Ruby shook her head. "I was invited, but I couldn't make it." She gave Billy a wistful look. "I kind of wish I'd gone now…I could've met you sooner."
"Life's full of those sorts of things. What-ifs or if-onlys…" He half-smiled as he looked into his beer. "Remember the day Dr. Hopper and Henry got stuck in the mines?"
"Of course I do," she answered.
"I wish I'd walked you home that night," he admitted, taking a drink from his beer so that he didn't have to explain further. Ruby couldn't tell for sure, but she almost thought he was blushing.
"I wish," she said slowly, staring down into her own bottle, "that I hadn't turned you down when you asked me out on Valentine's Day."
Billy stared harder at the bottom of his beer bottle. "Yeah, that one stung for a while."
"I'm sorry," Ruby apologized, genuinely wishing she'd answered differently. "But hey," she said, reaching over and taking his hand, "I made up for a little, right? I took you with me to Mary Margaret's get-out-of-jail party. And I let you walk me home."
"You did. I just wish I'd been brave to kiss you good night."
Ruby's mouth dropped open. With quivering lips, she stammered, "If only I had…maybe what happened wouldn't have—" She let out a sob and couldn't continue.
"Hey," Billy said, squeezing her hand. "It wasn't your fault."
"I know, but I could have saved you."
He shook his head. "Maybe. But we can't live with "if-onlys." He looked up at the clock. "I've gotta go."
He slid out of the booth, leaving some money on the table for the drinks.
"Billy, wait!" Ruby was in tears. "Do you have to go so soon?"
"I'm sorry, Ruby." Impulsively, he leaned over and kissed her, soft and sweet, but with an inherent sadness.
"I wish I'd done that sooner." He smiled sadly. "Knowing how much I loved Ruby, I'm pretty sure I would've loved Red too."
She couldn't answer before he kissed her one more time on the cheek and said, "Good bye, Ruby," and walked out the diner, turning back once to wave.
Ruby, sobbing, called after him once, then sinking down in the booth, laid her head on the table and wept.
"Ruby? Ruby! Wake up, girl."
Ruby woke up to Granny shaking her violently.
"Wh-what happened?" she asked, still disoriented from sleep. "Where's Bill—" She didn't finish the sentence; across from her stood an untouched beer bottle.
Granny was already heading back towards the laundry room. "Come on, Ruby, get moving!" she called over her shoulder. "It's going to be a long and busy day."
Ruby followed her back into the laundry room and watched Granny pull a black dress out of the dryer and start ironing it.
"Granny," she asked, "what's going on today?"
Granny moved her jaw a few times before answering, "Billy's funeral's today."
Ruby was numb throughout the short service. Michael Tillman and the other boys from the garage carried the coffin to the cemetery, where Ashley gave a touching eulogy, reminiscing on Gus' loyal friendship and sweet nature.
After the Mother Superior said a few words, the group disbanded, heading back to the diner for a post-funeral reception. Ruby was reluctant to leave, but Granny took her arm and led her back with the others.
After she'd stayed a socially acceptable amount of time, she snuck out of the diner, two beer bottles in hand. Within minutes, she was back at Billy's grave. It had been filled in already, and a temporary marker, bearing only his name, had been placed where the official tombstone would go later.
Ruby used the concrete slab to open both beer bottles and sat down in the dirt, getting her skirt dirty.
"Hey, Billy," she said quietly. "I know I should've done this sooner, but here." She poured one of the beer bottles out onto the fresh earth then took a swig of her own. "I promised you a drink." A tear trailed down her cheek. "I wish we could have had it sooner."