A/N: I guess this is slightly AU? Just a fair warning in advance that it might not make the most sense but since I've just finished marathoning Once Upon A Time I couldn't get the thought of these two out of my brain.
The Threat of Tomorrow
you've got blue blood on your hands, i want you to know
i hoped that you'd come and take me away, back to my home
blue blood ––foals
The first time Graham sees her, the bad girl complex has already escaped him in light of casual indifference. He doesn't remember it, of course, because the curse is too strong and even a bond as infinite as theirs is impossible to recollect entirely without something drastic occurring to spark it – but he can imagine as much, and it's still there, flashing defiantly out of his immediate reach – her mouth painted red as blood, shorts riding up her thighs, smiling like she hasn't got a care in the world though altogether it screams Something just isn't right here.
He has run with wolves since his childhood, considering the pack his family and duty. She is unaware of her heritage from the moon but is nonetheless roaming alone through the wilderness by choice.
He stumbles upon her accidentally, blaming the terribly wrong first impression on her tear–stained cheeks he'd spotted from afar – but then there's no one to blame except himself when his reflexes are too slow and suddenly she's holding his own spear at his throat.
"What are you going to do, kill me?" he says bravely, eyes boring holes into hers, cornered and motionless and not making any attempt for the time being to get himself out of this situation, "If so, go ahead."
"Now," she begins challengingly, because she recognizes the truth behind his words and that is more frightening than anything has been in a long time, this stranger's fearlessness of death, "Why would I do that?"
"Well, thus far you certainly look like you're planning on cutting off my air supply with my weapon to amuse yourself in some twisted manner." She doesn't seem like the murdering in cold blood type, but just to be safe, he cuts his speech short.
"Are you asking for it or trying to manipulate me out of it?"
"Neither. I happen to not care."
His continued courage spikes her interest slightly, so she lowers her hood and the spear, one hand still resting on it from initial fear of him being one of the Queen's guard as she backs away slowly. "Is that so? Tell me, then – what do you care about?" Because suspicions aside, he is rather easy on the eyes and Peter has been paying her little attention lately.
"Why do I owe you any explanation?" he responds, brushing off his armor and keeping his attention locked on her to prevent any further conflict between them. Out of habit, his gaze is naturally drawn to the contrast between her pale face and red cloak, but he snaps out of it as quickly as possible.
Her eyes sparkle, and she sets his spear on the ground with unsaid confidence that he won't hurt her either. She was too curious to run and hide, so she chose to confront him and now he's proving to be rather anti–climatic. All she desires is a little bit of adventure. "You don't," she agrees, to his surprise remaining more amused than irritated.
The way she continues to look at him expectantly leaves him with nothing but the sense that he does owe her something. "Honor," he informs her through clenched teeth as she retreats, shaking his head at the prospect of a lone girl wandering the depths of the wilderness.
"I'll keep that in mind," he hears, and re–evaluates his previous notion because she surely did defend herself well against a Huntsman whose single fault was a potential inkling to assist her. A strange itch leads him to the assumption that he will cross paths with her again. A stranger one makes him come to terms with the fact he's looking forward to it.
"Sheriff," Ruby greets on the thousandth evening where he has nothing to look forward to. Granted, he did take a seat where he was aware he'd be visible to her rather than the other waitresses, but she's almost quicker than he can keep up with these days. "You're looking awfully lonely tonight."
A wry smile and a drink order is the only answer he gives her.
He smells like coffee and toothpaste, she notes when she props herself a little too forward in the name of handing him his whiskey on the rocks, coffee and toothpaste and something else she can't quite place.
"Thank you," he says finally, cocking his head to the side. There's an invitation carved into each of her angles so he leans in further against his best rational instincts. "Do you ever get the feeling you're forgetting a lot of things?"
No matter how sober and in a position of authority he is, she can't pretend to take him seriously. "Depending on how drunk I am, yes," she tells him, throwing a wink over her shoulder as she contemplates what has gotten into him other than tiredness.
He watches her walk away and everything is clearly too familiar about her, too familiar and too off and too obvious. Reality is practically right in front of his face but he can't name it correctly, and that is frustrating so he drowns the drink in one go and orders another. He will figure it out if it's the last thing he does, and he supposes that the hope of doing so is better than nothing to hold on to.
Not an hour has passed when the mayor walks through the diner to retrieve him for the weekend and his patterns of thought are forgotten.
He evades trouble ceaselessly and continues to live according to duty and obligation to the animals he's grown up with. She is unknowingly one of them by curse and apparently hasn't been informed of it yet, but he can smell it all over her the next occasion they coincidentally collide when she takes him by surprise.
"Still tending to those wolves, I see," she remarks playfully into his ear from behind him, "The thing about honor wasn't a myth. The gods have spoken in your favor, Huntsman."
His brief annoyance with her presence is clear in his expression when he turns around to find her grinning, but he attempts to pretend otherwise because that is the proper way to react. In the woods, their bond has almost become almost sacred. Timeless and unburdened by the boundaries from around them, as if alliances or anything more are not difficult at all in this troubled era that has befallen the realm.
"What do you know of wolves and honor?" he asks lightly in return, shoulders tight as she leans against a nearby tree.
"Not as much as you, I presume from what I've seen."
He can't hide his disbelief at this prospect. Firmly, he replies, "I think you're lying," but she doesn't budge. Perhaps she's really not aware of her own true form, and it isn't his place to tell her.
"Think what you want," she responds, raising an eyebrow in his direction as she crosses her arms, unable to take the bait, "Why do you think I'm hiding something? You've given me several lectures about honor and my knowledge of wolves only goes as far as what my Granny has seen to be in her discretion to warn me about. So, in truth, I don't know much."
He shrugs, hoping she doesn't read much into his next statement. It shouldn't seem like he cares more than manners require it, because emotional attachments have never worked out in his favor. "Well, you will. Eventually."
She nods, and they lapse into a comfortable silence as he sharpens his arrows and she scours the area for any plants bearing fruit.
"Have you ever loved someone?" she blurts out, Peter on her mind but the Huntsman standing in her direct line of sight, solemn and serious as ever, "And before you say it, wolves most certainly don't count. I mean a someone. Answer carefully." She's genuinely curious, yes, but mostly she wants to get to the bottom of his constant quietness. A man like him deserves to not be lonely for the rest of eternity.
"Not quite," he shakes his head, giving her a cautious once over, "Why, have you?"
"Sort of. There's someone, right now." They default to a considerably less comfortable silence than before until he speaks up again.
"Who is he?"
"He's from my village." She trusts him to keep her secret, but like all the things that should be said, it goes unspoken. She can't be bothered with convincing him to come over for supper even though it's not far from where they are in the least, because she has attempted it on various occasions and watched him reject her. And yet she's desperate to know what he's so afraid of. "We've been friends since we were children," she adds, because it sounded right in her head.
"The real problem you should deliberate on is whether he's aware just what he's getting himself into," he comments off-handedly, and it takes her a moment to catch on because she's not used to him engaging in any form of teasing. It's a good look on him.
"Oh, is that how it is now?" she demands, stepping over to give him a shove, thankful for the disappearance of the brief awkwardness as a result of his attempt at a joke, "Don't play games you can't win. Honestly, there must be something you can enlighten me with. What do you know of love and loss?"
"Much less than you, I'm guessing from what I've heard." He promptly hates himself for going along with it for her sake when he notes the way her shoulders fall as though she's exhausted.
"Wrong," she maintains a cheerful exterior as she goes on, "I haven't told you the whole story. I know some, not a lot. In fact, you might know more than me –"
"I wouldn't gamble on it," he grasps on to his last shreds of nonchalance, "You see what you want to see."
She hesitates for barely a second. "If I have faith in anything, it's that you will. Eventually."
"Then we'll just have to give it time."
Emma arrives in town and it doesn't take him long to consider that he could very easily love her, cynicism and stubbornness and all. Regina grips him tighter so he goes for drinks more often to waste minutes that aren't his own to begin with and create the false pretense that he's okay. On second thought, he might already be in love with Emma. But when their lips finally meet in a moment of desperation, Mary Margaret's so–called doppelgänger is not all he remembers. His yesterdays are full of regrets and the threat of tomorrow is knocking on his door so he concludes that the best chance he has to feel anything is to work with what he has going for him today.
"Ruby," he calls loudly, entering her workplace on impulse rather than reason following an unsuccessful conversation at the elementary school. Apparently his method of getting a word with her falls short of discreet, as all bodies turn to face him.
"Sheriff," she strides over brightly, unaffected by the additional stares from the customers around them, "What can I do for you?"
He puts a hand on her arm, undemanding but stubborn. "We know each other from somewhere else," a pause because that route didn't go so excellently with Ms. Blanchard, "Am I going insane?" Followed by a deep sigh because he hadn't meant to say that out loud but he did and all his assumptions are crumbling into dirt and delusions and nothing when what he'd really fancy doing is reminding her of the revolution they once held in their hands.
"Excuse me?" she replies, looking mildly worried now, and he's glad she doesn't reply to his question, "Sheriff Graham, are you alright?"
"What have you become?" he asks dubiously, clinging to the unknown and expecting her to have the same faint memories he does, "This isn't you. This isn't us."
"I don't think you're alright. Really, you should sit –"
"I should go."
He glances back on his way out to find her looking at him confusedly, a hand on her hip and concern in all her bones, and it's like he's inhaling unnecessary amounts of smoke after blowing out a large candle as he realizes kissing her would be like tasting tales of the forest tangled in her veins, his veins, their veins. He wills her to recall the way they should be instead of the way they are with every ounce of determination he can muster, but he's positive he doesn't have the guts to kiss her and test the theory of where they truly belong because what if he's wrong? He swears it's not any fever getting to him like everyone claims, but he heads back to the station regardless without another word.
She ran away from him and what they had because it was unexplored territory for both of them, but nonetheless he closes his eyes and pictures her hopeful face and dark curls when the queen rips his heart out. He knows he can't be saved now because he brought this fate on himself by obeying dishonorable requests under the mask that he had nothing to lose, but he doesn't let go of the belief that the wolves will come once more. They were rebelling for the same cause and he has never–ending faith in Red Riding and her capabilities.
When he falls apart like a ragdoll in Emma's arms, saying hello to the floor like it's a long lost friend, the red and the yearning for companionship make complete sense. He contemplates that he deserves this, maybe, because when he'd thanked his deputy it wasn't just for her sake, but for allowing him to be brave enough to embrace the fragments of his real past. Then there is no air left in his lungs, in this universe or any other, but as everything fades to scarlet and the familiar scent of the earth, he manages to wish that he had enough breaths to tell Emma thanks once again. She will be an ally to what he holds dear.
Ruby stands at his grave every other Tuesday, setting down a bundle of flowers like a new tradition because something about the words honor and loss have been troubling her lately. She ignores the distant howling from the forest which seems to ring in her ears on occasion. It's dark but she's not afraid, so she hugs her favorite red leather jacket closer to herself and foolishly wishes she would've cried at his funeral and gotten it over and done with. No one has dared to utter his name since the day of his wake. Ironically, avoiding the subject casts a spell that makes dealing with it even heavier. She sort of prefers it that way, to have the guilt of him and what could have been resting on her shoulders through every one of her peaceful moments.
The first week after hell breaks loose in Storybrooke, she knows she is not imagining the sounds around her or the chill through her hair any longer. She embraces her true self and runs as far as her wolf limbs will take her in memory of him. She can still hear his voice, gentle and unbearably distant, a reflection of time passing and her waiting for days that never got written about. Wolves and honor, love and loss. If only he'd known that they are not simple words anymore, but a stain on her soul she will carry forever – because she will never stop giving it time. That's what he wanted.
"I'm sorry," she whispers into the wind, figuring that the easiest way to love someone is to not love them at all, "I should have remembered."
A/N: I don't know what exactly I was planning on accomplishing with this, sorry. Please don't favorite without reviewing!