“We should go upstairs,” Regina whispered.
“There’s a giant bed,” she protested.
Ruby lay down onto the couch pulling Regina down with her placing a kiss on top of the shorter woman’s head as she did so. They had fallen asleep sitting up hours ago and she didn’t want to have to think about waking up enough to get herself up the stairs. She didn’t want to let Regina go. Her heartbeat was the only constant in her life right now; she needed to feel it strong beside her. Regina relented and snuggled down between her legs, her head resting on the taller woman’s chest. Ruby pulled a blanket from the back of the couch on top of them.
It was light again when Ruby woke up to the smell of coffee and pancakes. Regina’s weight and warmth was missing. She frowned for a moment before finding her feet on the floor. There were clothes scattered there, her pants, her bra, her shirt, Regina’s pants and bra. The night before came back to her, half asleep and stripping down so they could get comfortable, feeling the comfort of skin against skin. Regina had helped her off with her shirt. It had taken most of her will power to keep from kissing her. She could still feel the want. Pressing a fingertip to her lips she imagined what it would feel like to really kiss Regina; she ached at the thought of it.
Reaching for her shirt she stood and stretched, letting the feeling wash over her. As she made her way into the kitchen she pulled the shirt over her head. Regina was standing at the stove in a button up with only two buttons done up and panties. Her legs were lean and muscled, a fact of which Ruby had never really been in a position to admire before. The scene was so domestic a grin crept on to her face. Never would she have imagined waking up to Regina Mills cooking pancakes in her underwear.
She let herself lose herself in a reverie, imagining what it would be like to see this every weekend. Getting to walk up and kiss the nape of her neck just below the messy bun that she wore now that her hair had grown out, getting to place her hands on Regina’s waist and hold her just for a moment, breathing in her scent still sleepy from the night before. How simple it could be. Ruby shook her head pushing the images from her head, but the length of Regina’s legs made it hard.
The former mayor still hadn’t noticed her entrance, or how long Ruby had stood their admiring her. Taking a few light steps across the kitchen she placed her hand on the small of Regina’s back, letting her know she was there as she leaned over to grab a piece of freshly cooked pancake off the plate. Her quick reflexes saved her from receiving a playful slap on the wrist as the shorter woman admonished her to be patient.
She slipped the morsel into her mouth, “What? I’m hungry. We never got around to dinner last night. And it’s almost wolfstime which means I need to be fed regularly. ”
Regina turned to face Ruby, aware of how close they were. “There’s coffee over there,” she gestured with the spatula. Ruby leaned in bringing their faces inches apart, distracting Regina and reaching for another piece of pancake. There was a moment where their eyes locked and neither moved, and then it was gone as Regina turned back to the pancakes not wanting to burn them. Ruby snuck the pancake into her mouth as she turned to finish up their coffee trying to ignore the fluttering feeling in her stomach.
Breakfast passed quietly. Ruby poured more syrup on her pancakes than she had pancakes to soak it up and Regina barely had any. Neither wanted to break the silence for fear of popping the bubble of tranquility that had settled over their morning. With each accidental brush of hands or legs under the table the touches became less accidental. Their need of the comfort of skin against skin had spilled over into the daylight hours. By the time the need for a second cup of coffee arose they had settled in against the counter shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, still only half clothed.
Despite the peace this morning had afforded. The glimpse at something normal and calm and wonderful, the dark edges of Ruby’s mind bled against her feelings. She tried to push them away, but the harder she tried to hold onto the light the more the dark crept in. She felt Regina exhale heavily before she leaned her head on Ruby’s shoulder. They were both haunted by the pain still fresh in their past.
Ruby looked down at her coffee, “I feel like we’re back to that first morning almost. Everything is so raw again.” She fought the urge to turn and place a kiss on the top of Regina’s head. There were lines they hadn’t crossed in the daylight. As if they would be all the more real when seen by sunlight.
She felt Regina nod, “It’s different. You’re here. I mean, I know you’re here and you aren’t trying to run away.”
“No, I’m not.” Ruby leaned her weight into the other woman, “For the first time in a long while I don’t want to run.”
Regina turned and set her coffee down, wrapping her arms around the taller woman’s waist. She pulled her head back slightly so she could look her in the eye. Their lower bodies pressed together, bare lengths of legs tangled. “I’m glad.” She moved her hands to rest on Ruby’s biceps as the taller woman wrapped her arms around her waist, letting her fingers play against the length of lean muscle.
“What are we doing?” Ruby asked. She could feel the heat from Regina pressed against her. It was nearly wolfstime and there was no hiding scents from her nose even if she tried to ignore them. Ruby could smell the desire building between them.
“I don’t know,” Regina answered. She looked up at Ruby, here eyes coming rest on the other woman’s lips. It would be so easy, natural, to push up on tip toe and press their lips together. But the weight with which the question was asked meant she couldn’t close that distance, anything more would be proof that there was more between them than friendship. Anything more and she couldn’t rationalize it. She pulled back slightly, but not out of Ruby’s embrace, just enough to put air between them.
“We need to figure this out.” Ruby reached out and caught a finger under one of the buttons on Regina’s shirt that was actually buttoned, pulling the other woman into her again. She rested her forehead against the shorter woman’s. It was hard to breath and even harder to think this close. Regina nodded slightly, her nose barely brushing against the other woman’s. A small affirmative noise escaped her throat. Ruby’s hands slid around Regina’s waist underneath the half-open dress shirt.
“Mom! I’m here! Ready to start work on Operation Mongoose!” Henry called from the front hall.
“Shit.” Ruby moved across the kitchen trying to hide.
“What time is it,” Regina hissed.
Ruby stole a look at the clock, “Nearly ten.”
“Of course he’s early.”
“You raised him well,” Ruby tried not to grin.
“Henry, meet me in the living room,” Regina called and Ruby shot her a look. Their clothes were still on the floor. “I mean the study! Why don’t you grab what we’ll need from your room.” She pinched the bridge of her nose trying to think her way out of the potentially disastrous situation.
“Sure. Is Ruby here?” He called.
Ruby went white trying to hold back laughter at the look of pure mortification on Regina’s face. There would be no explaining this. The half naked breakfast and no we still haven’t even kissed. It was too much. If Henry walked into the kitchen there was nowhere to go. Regina called back to Henry but Ruby was too busy watching her flush as she tried to convince him to the other side of the house before he walked in on them. It was the second time he had interrupted them. This time they were sober, there was no excuse.
This time though, Ruby wouldn’t let it go. Once she heard Henry run up the stairs she crossed the kitchen in a few quick steps and slipped her arms back around Regina’s waist, pressing their lips together. Regina’s hands found their way to the back of her neck, her fingers tangling in Ruby’s hair. There was nothing gentle about the kiss. It was rushed and demanding and over far too quickly leaving both women breathless.
“We’ll talk later,” Ruby husked.
But it hadn’t ended quickly enough. Regina pushed away from Ruby trying to close her half buttoned shirt and ran her fingers through her hair. She opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t find the words. Henry was trying not to look at either his mom or Ruby who were both in fewer clothes than he had ever seen them. The tension in the room was stifling. Regina pursed her lips and turned her gaze away from Ruby. There would be no forgetting, no resetting their friendship. They could move forward together or things could fall apart. There would be no keeping things the way they were. Last night would be their last curled up together as just friends offering each other comfort from the chaos that followed in their wake.
“I- I’ll go,” Ruby stammered.
Ruby was pacing back and forth outside the Storybrooke library trying to decide if she should go in or if she should continue to wait. Right as Ruby had arrived Emma had run up and let her know that someone had broken in. She desperately wanted to know that Belle was okay, she also just needed to talk with her friend. It had been months since they had spoken and she had heard through the town gossips that Belle had married Rumpelstiltskin. It didn’t feel right that Belle had made such a huge decision without even telling her after the fact. But maybe Ruby’s disappearing act had hurt their friendship more than she imagined. Nervous she continued to pace fretfully.
A hand on her shoulder made her jump, she whirled around ready to attack only to be face to face with Belle. The brunette looked startled, but underneath she looked like she had been well. “Hi,” Ruby blurted out. It hurt to be this close to Belle and to not know if it was okay to hug her, to not know if she was allowed to be close.
“Hey, Emma told me you were out here.” Belle took a step back, putting a little distance between them. She shuffled her feet uncertainly, looking down. “I haven’t seen you around lately.”
Ruby cocked her head to the side wondering if Belle meant the past few weeks or the past few months. “Yeah, it’s been a while.” She hadn’t gone anywhere, hadn’t left Storybrooke and yet almost everyone acted like she had left, as if their lack of interaction had anything to do with physical absence. “I mean, I’ve been around. I feel like a lots happened since we last talked. Are you okay?” She gestured at Emma as she escorted a guy in handcuffs out of the library.
“Yeah,” Belle paused watching Emma shove the guy into the back of the cruiser. “He was passed out curled up around a book and whiskey bottle.” She didn’t quite look at Ruby, it felt like she was trying to avoid her, or acknowledging that their friendship was strained. She fiddled with the ring on her left hand.
“I heard you’re married now.” Ruby tried to keep her tone casual.
“Yeah–Yes.” Belle cleared her throat, “It was sudden, but I’m happy.”
“That’s good. Congratulations?” she tried not to make it a question, but couldn’t not. Their lives had changed so much in the past few months. She wondered if Belle couldn’t tell her about the wedding for the same reasons she couldn’t bring herself to talk about Regina. Maybe not the same reasons, but maybe it was complicated. There had to be a reason why the bookish girl who longed for adventure let herself be hidden away like some rare trophy.
Belle nodded, “Thanks. Have you been okay?”
The werewolf wanted to laugh at that, ask what it was that gave her away. For too long she had convinced herself her invisibility was complete that she had hidden any hurt and pain so deep inside that none could see it.That shell had cracked and Regina had broken it apart, pulled her out of the wreckage. She was soft skinned and vulnerable everything too close to the surface. Ruby smiled softly not wanting to dump the weight of it on the other girl, “That depends upon your definition of the word. I’m here though, aren’t I?”
“I know we haven’t talked.” She looked to Ruby with a kindness, this was the Belle she remembered. “I’m sorry for that.” She reached out for Ruby’s had and she let her take it. “We should have tea.” Belle’s eyes lit up, hopeful.
There was a tiny tug at her heart, the last fleeting beats of friendship still clinging to life after all this time. “I’d like that very much.” She pulled the shorter girl in for a hug, “I’ve missed our talks.”
Pulling back Belle beamed up at Ruby, “I’m sure you have so much to fill me in on. I mean aside from being married now nothing much has changed with me.”
“As if that’s not huge news.” Ruby quipped. It hurt that Belle hadn’t told her, but she didn’t want to fight. She wanted her friend back.
“How have things been going,” Belle paused, unsurety playing across her features. “With wolfstime?”
“Everything’s been fine.” She answered quickly. In truth it had been months since she had turned. Her control had been so tight, so complete, that it had all stopped. The things that made her so alive were gone. But now, without that hard outer layer of resolve, it could all change.
“I’d just heard you–“
“Heard what?” Ruby panicked for a moment wondering if the rumors of her and Regina had spread past the Charming and Lucas families. If maybe the town were truly talking.
Belle opened her mouth and closed it again taking her time in replying, “Just that you haven’t been shifting.”
“Oh.” Ruby hadn’t expected that. The last thing she imagined was that anyone had paid attention to her over the past several months. With the feeling of Regina’s lips still on hers, parting hungrily, she could think of little else but the woman whose bed she slept in. “No, it’s fine. Things are fine. Why wouldn’t they be?” She tried to smile.
Belle shook her head, and smiled sadly up at Ruby. “I don’t know, but you could come to me, if they weren’t.”
The taller girl pulled her into a hug, whispering I know against her hair.
Regina watched them standing at the ice wall: Charming, Emma, Elsa, and Ruby. Emma had called her down to see if she could help break the ice magic. It was a futile attempt but they needed to try, anything to calm down the towns people. Even after stepping down as mayor she couldn’t escape their need for her to fix things. Everyone was so used to her fixing problems even as they despised her for intervening.
Elsa was chatting with Ruby energetically. She was just out of earshot but she could see how relaxed Ruby was, her smile came easily. There was little left of the pain she had seen in the younger woman’s face that morning as she fled the kitchen. Absentmindedly her fingers touched her lips remembering the way the she-wolf had tasted. The way in which she had finally found the courage to do what had been on both their minds, even if they had refused to admit it. Still refused. Ruby had been avoiding her all day.
A pang shot through her gut as she watched Elsa’s had rest lightly on Ruby’s arm. Another as the ice queen leaned in to whisper something in Ruby’s ear that made her laugh. Ruby was her wolf. Not that she had any right to think that, any claims valid enough to make her feel as such. But she believed it none the less, she wanted to make it true. Nothing in her life was simple but Ruby air when she had been drowning. She needed the girl.
Though she may have ruined things this morning. Just as Ruby had stopped running she had chased her off. Neither had wanted to be caught by Henry but Regina had shut down. It hadn’t been her finest moment. Part of her had just reacted without thinking, berating herself, she should have known better.
She couldn’t let things stay like that between them. Though now was not the time to try to talk through their relationship, whatever it was. For the first time the thought of sleeping alone in her own bed terrified her. And she couldn’t fix it, not when there were others here. Still, she had to try.
Making her way over to where the two women stood she tried to sort an excuse, what she would speak to them about. They had exhausted their attempts to take down the ice wall and she had little to say to Storybrooke’s newest resident. The sun had just about gone down and it was time they all found somewhere warmer to be. Ruby was laughing when Regina reached her. The werewolf’s eyes flicked to her flashing yellow for a moment. Regina placed her hand on Ruby’s arm possessively.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was–“ Elsa started.
Ruby looked down at her arm, then at Regina, “That’s okay, I didn’t know there was something to–“
Regina dropped her hand from Ruby’s arm. “It’s complicated,” she said truthfully.
Elsa turned to go but stopped short as a strangled cry escaped Ruby’s lips and she doubled over. The full moon peaked out from behind the clouds.
“You have to go! Now! I’m going to shift and I don’t think I can control it.”
“What are you talking about, you’ve controlled the wolf for years,” David said.
“There’s no time, just go.” She pushed at anyone that tried to get near her, pleading with them to retreat. Her eyes met Regina’s and she felt her heart skip a beat. She couldn’t hurt anyone. She couldn’t hurt Regina. No. Regina mouthed the word run and Ruby didn’t hesitate.
The werewolf only made it a few steps before a spasm wracked her body. She fell to her knees a scream escaping her lips. The scream ended in a snarl and where Ruby had been stood an eight foot wolf. A large vicious creature. It snarled at the group, backing up slowly. Black and grey fur was matted, as if it had been confined for far too long. Clear goo from the change clung to the worst of the tangles. The look in it’s yellow eyes was wild, sniffing the air, trying to get it’s bearings. It had been gone for a long time and it was still not used to this new world.
David raised a hand, trying to reach out to the creature in an act of submission, “Ruby?” The wolf snapped its teeth. “Hey girl, its me. Ruby you can control this.” He approached slowly his head bent, having calmed the werewolf down before and brought her back to herself.
The wolf growled, shaking its thick fur, advancing on David. It sniffed the air, scenting its prey. Showing no recognition. He backed up, trying to keep the women behind him. “Run, get back to the town.”
“No.” Came as a chorus. They were backed against the ice wall, the only way out was through Ruby.
Emma pulled her gun. “What are you doing, Swan!” Regina hissed.
“Protecting us. If it comes down to her or us, I chose us.”
“Put that damned thing away. She may be the beast right now, but that is Ruby.”
“She doesn’t have control.”
Regina sent the gun flying out of Emma’s hands with a flick of her wrist.
“What are you doing?”
The wolf rushed forward. David, Emma, and Elsa cowered against the wall.
Regina stepped forward, “Ruby!”