Here's the second "Once Upon a Time" story I've come up with. I'm still new at writing for this fandom, but I am really into it right now, and it seems to be where my muse is focusing. This one deals mainly with Ruby, and is one of the more AU stories I've ever toyed with. Some of this obviously might not quite fit in with canon, but I still think it deals with some realistic and interesting feelings and motives for her character. I'd say it fits in somewhere between "Children of the Moon" and "The Outsider" during season 2. Of course, I would love to know what you think of this – or any – of my fan fiction stories. And I obviously don't own the show or any of the characters. So without further ado, here it is - Enjoy!

Always Running

By: TutorGirlml

Run, run, run!... Faster…please…If I can just get as far away from here as possible… Her feet pound on the hard soil, branches whip through her long, dark hair and claw at her face as she flies in fear from the temptation to destroy. She is panting, her heart racing, senses fully aware of the stench of terror and blood on the stormy night wind. Only moments ago, everything had been perfect – blissfully so – she and Peter alone together until a gorgeous, full moon, making plans for the rest of their lives together, once she got him through this night. Now, Red finds herself running like a startled rabbit or a leaf before a maelstrom. Still, no matter how quickly she fleas, it will never be swift enough to leave behind what she has done.

She is the wolf! How could she not have known?! So many things make sense now – now that it is too late. It is suddenly clear why she has always been able to separate and follow certain scents, the way she hears things no one else can, why it has never frightened her to wander into the woods, even when the other children won't. Peter often says…

Peter! His name: the name she has called on since they were six years old and catching frogs in the creek or fetching kindling for his father's forge; suddenly, it stabs a knife to the very core of her heart. Vines and needled brush rip at her bare hands and catch at her skirt and cloak, her breath grows ragged – a sharp, aching pain settling under her ribs – but Red continues to race further into the black of night and the forest's depths. Images of his adoring gaze, his messy, tufted, black hair standing up in cowlicks he could never tame, his strong hands and warm smile, all flash through her mind in dizzying succession, battering her with the fleeting idyll their growing up together and brief young love had been. Peter has always been with her, for as long as she can remember. What will she do now that he is gone? How can she live with herself? It's all her fault. She is the wolf! The man she loves is dead, and she killed him.

Red wonders if she will ever stop running now. With what she has done, she will never belong anywhere, never be able to rest. She cannot return to her sleepy little village, where her neighbors are still hunting the wolf, where she has lived a lie with her granny, where she played and snuck kisses and dreamed dreams with Peter and will now see his absence everywhere.

The past hour still replays in vicious detail, looping through her mind. Peter's trusting face resurfaces continually. He let her chain him to a tree, thinking that she could keep him from turning into the monster. Instead, she sentenced him to death and led him like a lamb to the slaughter. It is too much to be forced to relive hearing him beg her for recognition, and then the animal growl in her other form's throat, her reasoning mind not housed in the savage, primal body that stalked toward him without care for his pleas. She ripped him limb from limb, and knows she will never have peace from the graphic memories.

Eventually, even supernatural endurance runs out, and Red falls to the wet, mossy ground, panting, curling into a ball and feeling tears wet her cheeks, neck, and chest as they pour silent and unchecked from her eyes. If in her lupine form, she would be howling to the remorseless moon, cursed not by her werewolf other half, but by the knowledge of it which has come too late. The moon's glow bathes her pale skin, giving it an otherworldly glow, beautiful even in her sorrow. Anyone who could see her would wish to hold her, to comfort her, but the only arms she longs for are gone now, never to return…

~0~ ~0~ ~0~ ~0~ ~0~ ~0~

Sometime later, in Storybrooke, Maine…

Each morning when Ruby Lucas wakes in her little apartment above Granny's diner, she stares out the window peacefully for just a moment, letting herself bask happily in the dawn of a new day's sun, smiling at its warmth on her face, stretching her arms above her head, working the kinks from her back and relishing the few blissful seconds of still-sleepy haze before it all comes back. She does not get long until she remembers that she is also Red Riding Hood – and a werewolf – and though she lives in a town full of real-life fairy tale characters, True Love's Kiss, and magical adventure, her handsome prince will never ride up to find her on his gleaming white horse; she lost her chance for a happily ever after long ago.

Once that all floods back into her memory, there is nothing for Ruby to do but turn from the morning light at the window and dress for the day before heading down to the diner to work. Wearing red, as she never fails to do, Ruby sighs, not sure if she means it as a warning sign or some sort of penitent self-reprisal. She knows this day too will be the same as the day before and the endless procession of days to come. She was once so blissfully naïve – still a little girl really, in her former existence – and unaware of the beast which had been lurking within all the time. Now that Emma has broken the curse, Ruby knows that people look at her as some sort of confusing curiosity. Those who knew her in their real home, as Red, cannot understand where the brazen, flirtatious, outrageously dressed siren of Storybrooke comes from, but Ruby doesn't have the heart to explain. She isn't sure it can be explained, even if she were to try. That carefree, innocent young girl in love is gone; she isn't that sweet youth roaming the fields and meadows with her childhood best friend and sweetheart anymore. She can never be that person again, and it feels to her that outwardly she shouldn't pretend. The difference needs to be clear, so that some other poor victim doesn't get too close.

Thank goodness for Granny – and even more for Snow! Now that she knows Mary Margaret again for her long-lost friend, she is grateful for the other woman's constancy and acceptance. Snow did not abandon her on that horrible night when Peter had died, nor has she anytime since. Snow had gotten her moving again then, before the mob could catch her. The two of them had found a cabin far out on its own, just as they had talked about, where both of them could hide away. Sometimes, she still has to get away – to escape, to run – when she is afraid of herself and what she might do as well as what she has done. It is then when she heads for the woods on the edge of town, intending to shift and then run until she is so exhausted she couldn't hurt the tiniest kitten. Only then does she return, often to Mary Margaret's apartment where she falls into an overstuffed chair next to her old friend, accepts the hot cocoa offered her, and marvels at the fact that Mary Margaret, her friend Snow White, doesn't flinch at all despite what she knows, but instead picks bits of leaves and twigs out of her hair and listens to her countless fears and worries of what could happen if she ever slips again. This comfort and companionship reminds her that they were happy once before as well, in their little cabin in the wild, until Charming, the Evil Queen, King George, and then the curse, brought the rest of the world rushing back in.

Ruby tries to push all of this from her mind as she reaches her post behind the counter of the diner, ready for Leroy wanting his sausage and hash browns, Archie hoping for some French toast before he sees any patients for the day, and Emma coming in to pick up doughnuts for her and David at the station. Ruby squares her shoulders, ties on her short little apron, and hopes to start fresh on this new day. Granny passes by on her way to start a fresh pot of coffee brewing, patting her kindly on the shoulder, as if knowing the thoughts that are circling in her granddaughter's head. The little smile the older woman graces her with seems to say, "Keep your chin up."

Also trying not to watch the clock creep from one endless minute to the next, Ruby refills several earlier guests' mugs and glances out the window at the main street. Just then, the glint of early morning sunlight on the metallic paint of an old pick-up truck which has just parked outside catches her eye. Knowing pretty much every person in town – and what they drive – the unfamiliar vehicle arrests her attention.

That intrigue only grows when a tall, dark-headed stranger wearing dark aviator sunglasses, a beat-up denim jacket, and work boots gets out and heads up the walk, right in their door and to the counter where she stands waiting. Ruby knows that she's never seen him before, but the mischievous, crooked smile envelopes her in his friendly mirth as if they are old friends. Something familiar twinkles in his eyes and makes her stomach clench strangely, heart lurching into her throat as he takes off the shades and tucks the earpiece into his breast pocket. It's a feeling she has almost forgotten, that she has spent ages trying to forget, telling herself she will never be able to experience again. She can't help smiling back welcomingly, hoping suddenly that he won't walk away.

Granted, there aren't usually newcomers to Storybrooke, but Emma came, and that has more than turned out alright. Ruby finds that at this moment, she doesn't even care where he is from, as long as he stays, talks to her, keeps smiling at her the way he is right now. "Welcome to Granny's Diner," she greets brightly. "I'm Ruby. What can we get for you this morning?"

"Pete," he tells her, reaching out to shake hands and kindly pretending not to notice the sharp intake of breath she draws in surprise. "I hear this is the place to eat, and it's also where one figures out who's who and what's going on in this town." He winks at her slyly as he says this, and Ruby's poor dusty, disused heart flutters despite her.

"You heard right," she manages, flushing prettily as she nods to him, and batting her eyelashes without even realizing it. She doesn't want to go against her own rules which she has spent so long telling herself are for the best, but in the wake of this stranger's charm and inexplicable familiarity, she's helpless. "This is the place."

"What do you recommend?" he tosses back playfully, and she blinks rapidly, stunned, as that stabbing pain in her heart, the one she has been shrinking from ever since that horrible night so long ago – the night the wolf emerged and Peter was lost – returns.

"I'm sorry," she mumbles, backing away from him, not meeting his eyes any longer and looking to the door into the back of the diner. "I – I can't…I'm sorry." Before he can protest or say anything more, she turns tail and flees for the kitchen.

Slipping through the door and then leaning back against it to rest her beating heart, she tries to collect herself. Her pulse is racing, and she forces herself to take several deep breaths. When she finally feels some semblance of calm, she turns to peek around the swinging door the way she's come. Granny is helping the newcomer now, but he sees Ruby over Granny's shoulder and holds her eyes. There is something so playful in his eyes when he smirks at her, not letting her get away with hiding from him. It is warm, comforting, and almost as though she remembers the touch of that gaze from long ago. He smiles – a dare meant specifically for her. If she didn't know better, Ruby would think he knew everything: all her past, who she really is, and that none of it scared him at all. It should make her want to run, but for some reason – it gives her hope.

~0~ ~0~ ~0~ ~0~ ~0~

The next night finds her running again, but it is different this time. The light autumn breeze envelopes her like cool silk, ghosting over her skin pleasantly. Ruby smiles, feeling powerful and in control, and allowing herself to enjoy being one with the night. She had learned to control the wolf, to allow it to have a conscious part in who she was, once upon a time. The curse and this strange new land had made her doubt her ability to be both safely for some time, but she knows now that both sides of her still exist, and she must somehow embrace them both.

She careens through both the trees and the open clearings, with neither fatigue nor pain to slow her down, and she doesn't stop until reaching the stream by the Troll Bridge. For the first time in what she knows has been an age, she allows herself to feel that she may not always be running alone in the night. Tipping back her head, Ruby howls with joy instead of pain at that round, white orb in the sky. Somewhere still under this moon, there may be another who can run beside her. She may always be running, but it doesn't have to be running away, running from; maybe there will at last be something, or someone, she can run to.