Title: But You Can Save Me From Madness
Pairing: Regina/Ruby
Rating: R
Length: 6, 250
Summary: Ruby needs an escape and Regina's house has been empty for a long time.

It's hard to believe when it's actually over. To Ruby it seems impossible that there's finally peace. Half the town had returned home, leaving the rest of the citizens with plenty of room to grow, to even take in the occasional outsider, hiding their many secrets until the time was right. If it ever went bad, they had plenty of ways to wipe the memories of those who couldn't believe in the possibility of these creatures existing. Regina always arrives promptly, a small vial that seemed to contain a swirling mist of bright blue and white smoke that would be tipped down the unconscious person's throat.

Ruby sometimes wonders why Regina was so yielding to the people she knew would never fully trust or forgive her. She knew the obvious answer, that her son's acceptance was more important than giving into the people who murdered her mother, who tore away her lover after giving her the hope of his survival, who only give her child back for short bursts of time. But she does whatever they ask of her, what anyone asks of her: those less discerning, who enjoy their new life or hated their previous one, who didn't mind serving Regina whether as queen or mayor, would seek out her help. From couples who were having trouble conceiving to those who needed help sorting out their new extended family trees.

The former queen was always greeted with cold politeness from nearly everyone else who happened to meet her in the street. Though they couldn't deny their resentment of having their lives torn away, they had still chosen to stay in this new life, and knew that they owed that to Regina for not only bringing them here, but also for helping them stay. She had saved the day in the end, with the help of Emma The Saviour, of course. Ruby was occasionally at the meetings between The Charming brood and Regina, who Henry had forgiven so fully that they found themselves bound to her no matter what they felt personally. It was always awkward and tense, but Henry never seemed to mind. She felt bad for the kid, she knew he felt the hostility and was doing his best to not let it affect him.

It was thoughts like these that had Ruby walking the streets at night, pulling her to the great manor that Regina lived in alone. Sometimes it was consciously, sometimes it was as the wolf, and sometimes she didn't know why she would ever think to walk this way. Tonight she was the wolf, the full moon having chilled her spine so much that she felt she had no choice but to turn and rip through the forest nearby, occasionally ravaging a raccoon or rabbit as she tore through the thick brush near the river. As the night wore on she found herself back on the streets, panting as she trotted through the myriad of smells from the houses she passed. Sweat when she went by Mary Margaret and David's – gross, popcorn when she made her way beyond the loft, with the added sound of an action movie and Emma and Henry's accompanying commentary, berries and pie crusts filter from Granny's as she used the down time at the diner to restock the fridges and freezers.

When she eventually stops in front of Regina's house, she's actually tired. A few cautious steps up the path was all she would allow herself as her heightened senses had her smelling the deep red wine Regina has chosen before she's even popped the cork. Usually it was scotch, occasionally brandy, but wine seemed to be a special treat of sorts. The clink of the glasses was pure and high, ringing like bells, signaling real crystal. She wonders if it's from the other land or if it was a special treat when she arrived here. One glass is steadily consumed as Ruby sits, breathing out puffs of hot air in the cool night breeze. Once in awhile she twists an ear when she picks up the sound of Pongo barking in the distance or a neighbor bringing out the trash, but her yellow eyes remain trained on the white door a yard away from her. A sigh and the sound of a second glass being poured is distinctly made out, but she doesn't hear the wine being sipped. Instead Regina's walking, the nail of her thumb clicking against the lever on the door as she opens it.

She stands there for a minute, fully dressed save for the matching blazer she usually wears with that skirt. The crimson lipstick she wore matched the sweet wine she held in her left hand. Regina took one drink before speaking. "You can come in, you know."

She turns before Ruby can quirk her head to the side, leaving the wolf to stare into the opened doorway. Ruby hesitates before taking a step, willing herself to change back to a bipedal being again before she reaches the door, something that is usually easier to do. But she's stepping through the threshold in sleek boots, her hands buried in the pockets of her hoodie. Regina stands in the kitchen, pouring wine into a second glass.

Ruby adjusts her hood before she closes the door and steps into the small mansion – as if trying to be incognito inside the house made any sense at all. But it made her feel more protected in this new abode. She doesn't hesitate in taking the glass meant for her, licking her lips at the sweet, dry flavor. Ruby neither avoids Regina's gaze nor seeks it out. It's as if this isn't their first real meeting in, well, ever. Like there's an understanding that's never been spoken between them.

"You're alone." It's not really a question, or a statement for that matter. Just something that needed to be said – that Regina surely already knew the answer to. She spared Ruby by not saying 'lonely', and Ruby knows it. That would have just been trivial. Being alone is so much worse. She nods and tries not to drop her gaze. "Well, I have a spare room. Or two."

She walks off then. Because it's still early in the evening, considering, and she has potions to mix, cures and remedies for any ailment that could befall someone, distributed first to the schools and hospitals, then, as Regina's stock grew, straight to the homes of people who needed them. She seemed to have a lot of time on her hands, and had devoted her entire basement to brewing potions for the town. Always dressed as if she was ready for a business conference with one's boss. Once in awhile, Regina sought out Granny for her expertise on how to hide the concoctions, asking whether they should be slipped into a sweet milkshake or hidden amongst a strong broth. It seems there wasn't a way for one to simply change the flavor of a potion.

Ruby takes it upon herself to press the cork back down the neck of the bottle, sparing what little remained for a later date, but she really doesn't know what to do with herself after that. She doesn't particularly want to see Regina's little basement laboratory, the smells are intense and exotic and strange. Instead she wanders the great house, ending up in the small library. Many of the books were law related, presumably for Regina's previous career, but there was a good amount of fiction novels that Ruby took an interest in. Belle was always going on about so many authors she now has the chance to read, and Red had always enjoyed hearing tales as a child. She settles on the first classic she encounters, Dickens or Brontë or Austen, she doesn't really care. But she's nine chapters in when Regina finally returns from the basement, lazing on the couch, the empty wine glass hanging daintily from her stretched out hand, her book held in the other.

"I'll show you around upstairs." A command. "You can bring the book." With a flick of the wrist the glass in Ruby's hand disappears. Ruby doubts she uses her magic for much more than doing away with the dishes these days. She straightens up and follows the older woman, the novel still in her hold. They climb the towering staircase and take a left. Before they reach their destination at the end of the hall they pass an empty doorway, clearly Henry's long-untouched room. "The bathroom is the door to your left," Regina comments without hesitation.

The door is opened for her and Ruby steps in. She hesitates as she reaches for the zipper of her hoodie, turning to Regina. She should say something. Ask something. About how Regina knew she would be there, how she knew without question what she needed. But Ruby knows better. Regina's alone, too. The older woman nods brusquely before turning to leave. "Goodnight, Ruby."

Ruby wakes up at the smell of bacon. How could she not? Why, though, Regina had to choose such an ungodly hour to make breakfast was beyond her. She had stayed up at least an hour or two longer than Ruby had the night before – a lengthy bath followed by paperwork done in her bed on the other side of the house was just what Ruby heard before she drifted off herself. She steps back into leggings and puts her bra back on before grabbing her dress from a crumpled heap on the floor.

She stops in front of one of the many mirrors in the hallway to smooth out her hair, wishing she had a ponytail to throw the matted mess up in. Regina's pouring a rich smelling coffee into two mugs, a black silk robe thrown over what appears to be a white slip, barefooted on the cold tiles beneath her. She glances up upon Ruby's arrival.

"Cream and sugar?"


Her first word comes unforced. Had she been taking the order, she would have known how Regina took it – heavy with cream and a dusting of sugar, just sweet enough to be manageable, but Ruby still preferrs her own coffees to be made with heavy syrups, anything to sweeten the bitter necessity of the drink. They sit at the island, a chair between them as they help themselves to the small buffet Regina has laid out. They trade pages of The Daily Mirror between them – Sidney had revamped the paper, and the constant expansion of their small city was a source for daily news. Clever innuendos were always thrown into specific headlines meant to catch the attention of the magical population without alerting any outsider who happened to stop for a night on their way to the Canadian border in a quaint, but forgettable small town. Signals for meetings, for the introduction of new history topics in the schools to cover the other world, now a heavy subject with the admissions from Rumpelstiltskin and Regina on how the curse was brought to life. David deemed it worthy of retelling of their history and without hesitation the school had added a class for each grade level.

Ruby's full and nursing the bottom half of her coffee before it becomes to lukewarm to bear, not particularly thinking about anything, looking off into the large windows. Nothing about this feels forced. If anything it feels domestic. Which is odd because Ruby has never been domestic. Red never really was either.

"What are you doing today?" She asks nonchalantly, returning her eyes to the paper in Regina's hands rather than her face.

"Going riding. Even with the rain. Then I have a lunch with Henry."

"Why do you get up so early?"

"Force of habit." There's a beat of silence and Regina picks up on the lack of any forthcoming questions to Ruby's brain and beats her to it. "Do you work today?"

Ruby nods and squints at the clock. She could even go in early. Impress Granny with her initiative. She has to sneak in a shower at home though, or Granny will pick up on where she's been – Ruby might take a quick jog through the forest just in case.

"I guess I'll see you at lunch then," Regina remarks offhandedly, slipping from the stool she sat on to take her plate and mug to the sink. She leaves the kitchen without warning, and by the time Ruby collects her jacket from the room she had slept in, Regina was walking out the door in what looked to be incredibly expensive riding clothes.

Ruby locks the door before she leaves, though she doubts anyone has the balls to break into Regina's house lately. And surely the enchantress had put some sort of spell on her abode now that she had her powers. The brunette makes her jog quick but ensures that she travels through as much marsh and mud as she can before slipping into the hotel that was her house.

Granny was already in the diner, taking out things to defrost for the dinner rush, helping the cooks get ready with the prep work. Their only visitor in the inn was a businessman from Quebec City who was headed to Boston. He didn't seem like the type who was going to stick around for more than a cup of coffee to go. Ruby showers and dresses, but allows herself a minute to deflate before she heads down to set up the signs. The previous night was heavy on her mind. And what she was supposed to do about it, she doesn't know.

But if Regina was going to treat it lightly, she didn't see a reason to stir the pot. There was more than enough drama in their small town than she could deal with already. And now she has a place to go where none of it matters, when it should really have matter more. Ruby shakes her head and locks her door before heading down to the kitchen, pouring herself a second cup of coffee as Granny switches on the lights.

"How was your night?"


"And those wolves up near the lake?"

"They still seem docile. The alpha's the only one who ever comes into town and he never makes a fuss." Graham's wolf. Her heart feels heavy for a moment and she has to do away with it. "The town should really be paying me as some sort of conservation officer."

Granny laughs as she heads to unlock the door and turn the sign. "Well, I'd tell you to talk to the mayor, but I think David's in over his head as it is. Why he thought he could run a city in a bureaucratic society is beyond me."

"You know him, he thinks if he's not running the place then it's all going to go to hell. They should really just give the job back to Regina." It slips past her lips before she notices, but she tries to remain calm, knowing her grandmother was the master of picking up on things.

But Granny just sighs and stares off into the drizzly Maine morning. "She ran the town for twenty-eight years," she comments in agreement. "But you know they can't ever let her have what she wants. They're not going to let the debt be repaid."

Ruby blinks because it's the first time that Granny's ever really spoken out against anyone, save for Gold and Regina herself. She's quick tempered, but level minded when it comes to people. Once the blood has all settled, anyway. Granny glances at her with a pinched look on her face.

"Well, what are you standing there for? Go put out the sign. Don't bother with the chairs. It's going to rain all week."

Regina arrives five minutes before noon, freshly showered and sharply dressed, her hair only a little damp from the downpour outside. She takes a seat at the booth, undoing the top few buttons on her jacket and shaking her head lightly to do away with as much moisture as she could.

"Coffee?" Ruby asks from behind the counter, drawing a few gazes from a patron or two due to her neutral if not upbeat tone.

Regina nods and unwinds her scarf, unaware or uncaring. Probably the latter. "And a milkshake for Henry."

Emma pulls up to the diner as Ruby plops the cherry on top of the whipped cream, walking Henry to the door like she's in the Secret Service protecting the president. She's actually one of the more pro-Regina members of the Charming clan, but they seem to put her on edge enough that she still feels the need to escort her son to meet his mother.

The blonde whispers something to Henry before pushing him off in Regina's direction. Regina smiles warmly at her son as he approaches, Ruby's presence seeming to go on ignored as she approaches.

"Coffee and a chocolate milkshake."

"Thanks, Ruby," Henry responds immediately as he slides into the booth, snatching the cherry off the top of his beverage.

"Can I get you guys anything else?"

"I think we're fine for now, thank you, Ruby." Regina's reply is politely dismissive and Ruby takes it as a cue and attends to the other customers, stopping by only to eventually take their order. Regina looks like an entirely different person when she's with Henry, so bright and loving and maternal. It was never hard for Ruby to adjust to that after watching her raise the boy, but when the memories came back some people had chosen to ignore Regina's tie to him rather than acknowledge that she had done something well.

Emma arrives on time, but when no deference is paid to her from the corner booth, she chooses to sit at the bar, already reaching for the sugar when Ruby appears in front of her.

"Just the coffee," she says briskly, ignoring the buzzing phone in her pocket.

"Work?" Ruby asks as she settles a cup on a saucer in front of the blonde.

"David," Emma sighs as she pours her sugar in along with the coffee, reaching for a spoon.

"In need of help or checking in on your next of kin there?" She nods towards the booth, where Henry and Regina are having an animated discussion about the unicorns in the other world.

"Both, probably. He has to find out how to file things to the zoning board commission. Apparently the mayor can't just say 'build this' and have it done, much to his surprise." She takes a long drink from her cup and sighs. "It sparks long discussions among the family. I guess you had a long night, too."

"What?" You're a werewolf. "Oh. I turned in earlier than usual. I'll probably be out late tonight."

"Will you check on that wolf den while you're out? I'm no sure about them settling so close to town." She's about to take another sip when Henry slips on to the stool next to her. "Hey, kid."


Behind them Regina slips out unnoticed by the other patrons in the restaurant.

Ruby chews on her lips as she settles on her bed, her feet sore from spending all day walking back and forth from the kitchen counter. Granny is out shopping for things they were low on, things that couldn't wait for the deliveries that were set to come. A graduate from the first class Storybrooke's high school ever saw was running the store, a smart girl who picked up on things quickly. Ruby could never remember her name, Sarah or Shannon or something. But she was giving Ruby the time she needs to make her decision.

If Granny had been around she would have heard the hurried packing. Ruby grabs just what she needs, folding things carefully and settling them in a duffel bag. Her cloak was the first thing, followed by clothes and any small necessities she finds. Jackets and shoes, then any hats she could fit last. She was thankful she no longer needs the thirty pounds of makeup old Ruby would have needed to haul with her.

Ruby doesn't go to Regina's straightaway. Instead she drives the outer roads of Storybrooke until the sun starts to set. Then she parks her Camaro a block away from the house, leaving her bag in the car and running into the woods and changing from two legs to four. She meets the other wolves and runs and hunts with them. Ruby stays with them until the sky starts to lighten outside and finds herself back to her natural form by the time she's stepping out of the forest, walking the lone highway road back to the town that was just starting to wake up.

She grabs her bag from the backseat and looks at the great white house down the street, second-guessing herself as she walks slowly down the pavement. Ruby stops in front of Regina's house, the cool morning air chilling her. The older woman's already up, in the kitchen. Earlier than she had been yesterday and Ruby wonders why.

The door gives way when she walks through it and when she walks into the kitchen she immediately earns Regina's attention.

"Planning on staying long?"

Ruby feels the weight of the bag slung over her shoulder, how much pressure it carries outside of her belongings. "I don't know, really."

Regina raises an eyebrow. "Well, I just want to know what to tell the neighbors. Because they will ask, you know."

"I know." Ruby lets the bag slip to the floor as she approaches the island, leaning against it for support. She was so tired. "I slept for the first time in a long time the other night. Really slept. When I was here," she clarifies despite the lack of need for it. "And I just… I need to get away from this town."

"You're free to leave."

She is. She could drive across the border and never look back, go straight to Boston and catch a flight somewhere across the Atlantic. "I can't. I don't want to, really."

"Then why the need to escape?" It's a simple question, but everything Regina says always seems loaded with so much meaning.

"These people," Ruby eventually sighs, "I've known them for two lifetimes and they just can't let things be good. They always need to fight against something."

"Some say the same about me."

"It's different. You know what you're fighting for."

"Well, you can stay as long as you wish, Ruby," Regina says as she reaches for her cup. "But the rumor mill will start running. No matter how far away you park your car."

Ruby almost takes it for what it is, almost grabs her bag and heads up to the bed she had slept in the night before. But Regina's complacency stops her. "Why?"

"Because they're simple-minded idiots who need a distraction from their own lives."

She almost laughs. "No," Ruby settles with a smile, "Why are you letting me stay?"

Regina looks at her for a long time, eyes squinting when she brings her cup to her mouth and then settles it on the counter again. "I'll take allies in any way they come to me, Ruby."

They are allies now. Ruby would prefer to think of herself as Switzerland or a third party voter, but she was in Regina's corner now, literally and figuratively with the placement of her bedroom. But she had been turned to Regina's side long before she stepped through the door. She knew what Regina gave her, and after a large amount of time spent with Henry, she had heard more than enough from someone who was bipartisan in the supposed war between good and evil in Storybrooke.

She sleeps until the afternoon, stretched across the bed like a skydiver. The curtains have turned her room into a cave and she allows herself several moments to adjust before braving herself to open them. The day is bright and overcast, rain threatening to drop any moment. Ruby can feel it. She peeks outside the room, but it's not necessary. She can hear Regina, but she's down in the kitchen preparing dinner. She wonders if Henry is expected and immediately dismisses the thought because of the questions it would bring.

Ruby showers for a long time in the guest bathroom, wrapping herself in one of the towels laid out for her. The bathroom is designed like the rest of the house, modern but classic. Dark woods grains contrasting with sharp, clean lines of marble. It's open and cold if you don't appreciate the feelings of the elements brought into a home. There's a warmth there if you want to see it though, the comforting mahogany in a snowstorm of white, black veins reaching around it like vines, fighting against the bright walls and toning them down enough. Keeping the storm at bay.

She can see it, this house that was perfectly designed to suit Regina – can see how Regina's personality comes out in every way. Somewhere, deep in her mind, she remembers – old Ruby remembers something. It was a glimpse of Regina before Emma came. Eleven years before. She remembers the raven-haired woman coming into the diner, face flushed as she stoically shared the news of her impending adoption coming through. She had five months to set up a nursery, she was getting a boy. The break in the mayor's private demeanor had warmed the crowd around her – Mary Margaret and Granny both sincerely congratulated her, Leroy ordered her a drink and Archie went on about the wonderful emotional changes a child could bring to someone, earning him a sharp glare, all while Graham sat off to the side, scratching the back of his head.

"That's… the best news imaginable," Ruby said as Regina settled into a booth, the conversation having turned from her to everyone around her. She smiled and reached down, hugging Regina awkwardly in her sitting position. Regina had laughed in her ear and patted her shoulder, and Ruby heard her throat tighten as she thanked the younger girl.

Ruby pulled back and laughed a little bashfully, tucking her straightened hair behind her ear. "I'm really happy for you, Regina. You deserve this."

The mayor's look had tightened, her smile not reaching her eyes.

It's weird to remember things from Ruby's life, even if it wasn't from the fake one she had never really lived. Twenty-eight years of Storybrooke hadn't left her when the curse broke, her life before just joined the memories she had. They twist her emotions when they clash, are responsible for the post-curse Ruby who no longer felt such allegiance to her friends after a life she enjoyed that they had barely been a part of.

When she returns to her designated space she sets herself up in front of one of the many mirrors placed around the room. The mirror thing, she has to ask about that. She wonders if it's to make the rooms feel bigger or less empty. Or if it's just a weird fetish thing. Either way, she finds it convenient for the self-conscious. She isn't on her guard with Regina, but she feels socially awkward – aware of everything she does with her body, every nervous tic, every nuance of her voice.

Ruby passes the time until her hair dries, putting her few possessions in place so she can hide the mess in the well-kept room. She stretches out before she changes, something that feels so relaxing after a night of constant running and a good day's rest. Granny will be wondering where she is, but she's made herself become less aware of Ruby's presence during every full moon. It's mostly come about because of how tense and agitated Ruby can get with the customers when she hasn't had a good night, especially as the day wears on.

She finally leaves the comfort of her room to the bright hallway once again, dressed in tight jeans and a flowing shirt this time and choosing to pass Henry's room and descend down the large staircase. She walks in to see Regina returning a pot roast to the oven, an apron draped over her tailored clothes.

"You really lucked out with that wardrobe of yours," she comments as she walks in barefoot.

Regina smiles and tosses down the potholders so she can reach behind her to undo the knot on the apron. "You've found a way to make yours work."

Ruby laughs and resumes her position from earlier that day, leaning against the island. "You were kind of cruel to Mary Margaret. Those cardigans?"

"One of my lesser offenses, still just as cruel. But honestly, I didn't pick much. The curse did most of the choosing. And yes, that includes the styling."

"I've been wondering for a long time if you just liked to watch me in hot pants or what that whole thing was about." It's easier than she thought, talking to Regina. Ruby had always been charming and Regina has her way with people. She's laughing easily now, smiling and congenial. Once Snow had told Red that the Queen could be like that, but Red couldn't believe it with all she had heard. Ruby gets it now.

"I was as surprised as you."

"Whatever you're cooking smells delicious. Granny would be jealous, I'm sure."

"Your grandmother has had just about as much time as I have to play with recipes. There's a reason I still come to the diner, despite the chilly greeting." Regina's been cleaning up as she went along, so she rinses the few dishes she dirtied in taking her dish out. "I've always wanted her meatloaf recipe. Never felt like the right time to ask. My bet would be that would have been a few years ago. It's a roast, as I'm sure you picked up on. I figured you must get hungry after your ordeal."

"I do. For some reason filling up as the wolf doesn't always transition. Or I get just as hungry all on my own. The running makes up for the extra calories." Ruby taps her nails on the counter. "Is Henry coming for dinner tonight?"

Regina gives a humorless laugh and folds the apron neatly, setting it near the sink. "No. They wouldn't allow me such a treat as seeing him two days in a row."

"If it makes you feel any better, I think Mary Margaret has officially started campaigning for him to see you more. And you know Emma's more… lenient than she used to be."

"Well, time together will do that to people. The dinner's just for you and I. I feel we should get to know each other if you're going to be staying."

Ruby doesn't get in the way, doesn't say much until she's seated kitty corner from Regina at her table. The roast is delicious, but she takes her time eating, worried she'll need a distraction at any given point.

"So," Regina begins, opting for the glass of water next to her instead of her wine.

"So," Ruby replies immediately as she carefully cuts the generous portion of meat on her plate into smaller bites.

"My home is really the only place you feel you can escape to?"

"And you're more than welcoming of anyone who just walks through your door?"

Regina smiles and stabs a piece of potato with her fork. "I asked you first."

"Fair enough. I feel…" What did she feel? "I feel like I get where you're coming from and no one will understand it."

"I don't, so I can't imagine how those simpletons will."

"I just… I was more than happy for an escape from my life. A lot of people are, even if they don't admit it. I think you underestimated how evil this curse was. So many of us could have ended up a lot worse than we are. I don't know why anyone went back." Ruby's hand reaches for her own drink, only wine next to her right hand. "They're trying to recapture something they aren't anymore."

"Well, I guess I should be sad that my curse wasn't everything I hoped it would be."

Ruby smiles, cheeks flushing from the wine. "Your turn."

"I miss having someone in the house," Regina replies simply.

"So Mary Margaret could have come in and you'd let her bunk with you?"

"I'd probably ask for some rental references and a damage deposit up front." Her smile grows but Ruby doesn't reply. Eventually Regina continues, "You didn't say anything. Didn't accuse or question. I liked that enough to realize you wouldn't be a nuisance." Regina pauses and flexes her left hand. "You've always shown a kindness to me. I appreciate that."

"Well, I wasn't as wounded as some people. So I don't know if it's that big a consolation."

"To me it is," Regina states and they continue on with dinner quietly. "Tell me about new Ruby. Seems like you didn't keep much of the old."

"Well, if it makes your curse feel any better, I didn't feel like Red when it broke. I'm just… Ruby now. I like reading more than Red or Ruby did. I feel more independent. I think that's old Ruby. She – I always felt like I was running on spot when I was her, though. I don't feel like that anymore." Ruby takes a long drink of her wine, settling back against the chair. "Tell me about Regina."

"Regina," the woman begins a little sardonically, "doesn't do much with her time these days. Other than trying to help David find files at City Hall and going for walks in hopes that I bump into my son and his mother."

"I can't imagine," Ruby retorts honestly.

"It's the worst pain in your life, except it happens over and over again. That's what it feels like every time I see him walking away with her." Regina's not looking at her anymore but out the window, her hand squeezing her fork tightly.

"I relive the worst moment of my life over and over again biweekly. It always springs up out of nowhere. The only time I never have remembered is when I'm the wolf." She wonders how many people know what happened to her, what she did - if Snow told Charming or if Granny ever confessed it to someone. "I can't imagine having a constant reminder."

"It's a bitch." She smirks and lazily takes a sip from her own cup of wine. "No offense."

"I don't know what I'm going to do with my night after this. I usually make an excuse to stay at the diner until closing."

"No more late nights for Ruby?"

"Not anymore. Binge drinking no longer holds the appeal it once did, and it seems all of my closest friends are back in the honeymoon stages with their beaus." Ruby realizes suddenly that half her dinner has been consumed, that the interrogation had been more than bearable and suddenly a memory from Red's life hits her. "I never thanked you. You know, for sparing my life."

"I take it you never told Snow about that encounter?"

"No. I should have." Ruby feels genuinely ashamed of herself for a moment. "She wouldn't have understood. But I should have. You could have killed me. Done anything to me."

"Yes, well, it seems to have been a good investment. More flies with honey and all that bullshit." Regina's eyes are on her again. Granny always told her that's how you trust someone, always through the eyes. "You may stay as long as you wish, Ruby, god knows I enjoy the company. But you're going to have to come up with your own defense." Regina rises with her plate and glass in hand, heading towards the kitchen. "As I'll have to, I suppose."

Ruby blinks as the realization hits her that she wouldn't be the one receiving flak for this – well, she probably would receive tons of it, but Regina would get it a hundred times worse simply because of who she was. Regina didn't seem mad about it though, and Ruby is more than prepared to stand up to any questions. At least she thinks she is. She returns her dishes to the sink when she heard Regina's heels clicking on the staircase and doesn't hesitate before striding out the front door, her steps speeding up until she was running full speed into the forest, where her footsteps became paw prints in the soft, loamy soil.

If someone asked Ruby to describe what it felt like when she was the wolf, she'd have no answer to give. To her it's indescribable, the feeling of being one with the forest. Hearing the far off sound of deer drinking from the river to the feel of the world disappearing behind her as she wandered deeper and deeper into the maze of trees. She can smell a family of foxes a hundred feet away and make out the birds that stood like shadows on the branches.

It's still dark when she returns to Regina's residence and she's still the wolf. She doesn't feel like turning back, she doesn't feel like going in, but Ruby feels like she belongs here, on the front step. She lets out a small noise before she settles herself, walking around until she finds herself lying on the stone beneath her, head resting on her paws and eyes set toward the street, as if she were already waiting for the angry mob to come.