Regina took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. The slight headache behind her eyes indicated that she had worked way too long on her papers. A short look at her clock confirmed that it was after midnight, the only light in the room coming from her table lamp and the computer monitor in front of her.
She pushed her papers together and placed her glasses and the pen on top of them. Automatically her gaze fell on the monitor showing the recordings of the six surveillance cameras placed around her mansion.
She frowned when a car stopped in front of her house right under one of the street lamps.
Automatically her hand went to the first drawer of her desk where she kept her gun, her gaze never wavering from the monitor. She squinted her eyes, trying to decipher the make of car.
She gasped and covered her mouth with her hand when she recognized the brand, the gun forgotten.
An old red Camaro.
It couldn't be.
But then the driver stepped out of the car and Regina's chair fell with a loud thud when she stood up abruptly.
As quickly as her high heels allowed she rushed to her door and threw it open.
“Red,” she whispered.
The other woman on her patio gave her a dazzling bright smile.
“It's over, Queenie. It's over.”
Regina didn't remember how, but suddenly she was in Red's arms, their kisses desperate and needy.
Her hand hovered over the scar, tracing it without touching it. There were many scars on Red's skin, faded but still visible in the bright sunlight that filtered through the blinds into her bedroom.
The one under her hand was the worst.
Regina still remembered the blood. There had been so much that she hadn't had enough hands to stop it.
Sometimes she still felt it on her hands, after one of her nightmares which left her panting and with a hammering heart.
“It's over,” she repeated the words spoken to her earlier in a whisper.
They still felt foreign to her.
Finally her fingers touched the rough skin, pressing slightly against it.
Just to make sure.
Just to make sure that she was here, next to her and not dead; that this wasn't one of her more pleasant dreams.
A hand covered hers and she looked up to find Red awake and smiling at her.
“Hi.” Red's voice was heavy with sleep, but her eyes were wide awake and sparkling with life. She brought their entwined hands up to her mouth and kissed the palm of Regina's hand before she pulled her against her body to kiss her long and deep.
When they parted, Regina's gaze once again traveled to the scars. “I knew you survived, but they never told me.... “ Regina trailed off as her hand touched Red's stomach, tracing the different scars there.
The skin formed goosebumps under her touch.
“How bad was it?”
Red inhaled deeply and stilled for a moment, before she pulled herself up against the headrest, causing Regina's hand to lose contact. “I'm here, nothing else matters.”
A line of worry formed on Regina's forehead and she wanted to protest, but then she saw the fear in Red's eyes.
She nodded instead.
“You're right, nothing else matters.”
Even in her ears it sounded like a lie.
She got up and grabbed her bathrobe which lay on a chair next to her bed. With one smooth move she pulled it around herself.
“I'm going to make breakfast.” she leaned over and kissed Red, her lips lingering for a moment, reluctant to break the contact.
There was a sadness in her eyes when they finally separated and it caused Red to raise her brows, but before she could ask Regina, she was already at the bedroom door.
“You can shower, clean towels are in the cabinet.”
Twenty minutes later Red padded down the staircase, admiring her surroundings. Someone had spend a lot of time picking and positioning the furniture perfectly. The mansion looked like out of a furnishing magazine, elegant and expensive, but it was lacking even a single personal touch. There were no pictures or decorations, nothing that hinted at the owner's personality.
It felt cold and empty.
But Regina looked like she belonged there. Somehow in the twenty minutes Red had needed to shower, she had managed to slip into a perfect fitting business-costume. Even the apron she was wearing did nothing to conceal the aura of dominance and confidence she was radiating.
She looked every inch a politician.
Red looked down at herself. She was still wearing her clothes from the night before, her shirt crinkled where Regina had grabbed and clung to it like her life depended on it.
Regina hadn't noticed her yet and Red used the opportunity to lean against the door frame and watch her as she was cooking.
“You're house is huge. Without the smell of coffee I don't think I would have found your kitchen,” she mocked her lightly as she pushed herself from the door frame and walked into the kitchen.
Regina turned from the oven where she was making pancakes. She placed the last pancakes from the frying pan onto a plate and brought it over to the table.
“Just because I went into witness protection doesn't mean I had to be poor.” She motioned Red to sit down and placed a stack of pancakes in front of her.
The sight of the pancakes made Red realize just how hungry she was. “So they made you a mayor?” The disbelief was obvious in Red's voice, her eyes never wandering from the food.
“No, a rich widow. My older husband died in his sleep and left me his fortune.” There was an evil glint in Regina's eyes when she continued, “there are whispers in this town, that I killed him, but they are to afraid of me to voice these accusations aloud.”
Red snickered. “And they still elected you?” She took the maple sirup, covering her pancakes generously.
Regina walked over to the table, with a pot of coffee in her hand. “I am the best woman for this job.” She filled Red's cup before she filled her own. “You should have seen the idiot who ran this town before. An elementary teacher.”She sounded like it was the most ridiculous thought ever. “It was a disaster,” Regina said as she sat down opposite to her.
Red looked at her plate first, the fork in her hand ready to dive into the pancakes, before she looked over at the empty plate in front of Regina.
Regina shook her head. “I'm not hungry.”
She still looked confident and calm, but her tight grip on her coffee cup betrayed the facade, her knuckles white from the tension.
Red put her fork down, her food forgotten. She wanted to reach out to Regina, but the table was too broad, separating them effectively. She leaned forward, resting on her forearms.
“The Dark One is dead. He can't harm you anymore.”
The grip didn't loosen.
“What about others?”
”There's isn't anyone left to come after you.”
Red observed Regina, waiting for a sign that the other woman understood the implication of her words, but Regina took her time to react. She took a sip from her coffee and placed the cup carefully back onto the saucer. She turned it, first left then right then she moved the small coffee spoon till she was satisfied with the arrangement.
“I can't go back.”
“I won't go back.” Regina stood up and carried her cup and the saucer over to the sink. “I'm the Mayor, the town needs me.”
“A town where people talk behind your back?” Red asked in disbelief, standing up as well.
Regina turned around and leaned against the sink. She crosser her arms in front of her. “They have their shortcomings, but here I can build something. I have plans for this town.”
“What about the plans we had?”
“Plans?” Regina shook her head as her hand smoothed down some imaginary crinkles in her skirt. “They've been daydreams, nothing more. Just something to get us through the night.”
Her voice was harsh and it cut right through Red.
“Maybe for you, but not for me.” When the nightmares had kept her awake she had clung to the memories of them leaned against the hood of her car, nursing their coffee while dreaming about a better future.
A future together.
“Be realistic Red. A cop and a prostitute, we never stood a chance.” Regina hissed, her eyes narrowed.
“No you're wrong.” Red shook her head, ignoring the hurt the words inflicted on her. “These 'dreams' as you call them have been the only thing that kept me going the last six years. You don't know what I had to do to protect you, to ensure your safety and return.”
“I never ask you to.” Regina's voice was cold. “I don't need you to save me, to be my knight in shining armor. This isn't some fairy tale.”
She spit out the last sentence and for a moment Red wanted the other woman to hurt like she did, to break through her smooth and hard facade and give her a taste of her own medicine.
“Don't worry, next time I won't be so stupid to step between you and a bomb.”
The following silence was deafening and the pain she saw in the other woman's dark eyes didn't make her feel any better.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean ...”
“You're right, Red,” Regina interrupted Red, her voice only slightly quivering as she straightened up. “It's my fault. If I hadn't gotten involved with the wrong people, we wouldn't be here.”
“No.” With two long steps Red closed the distance between them. She placed her hands on Regina's upper arms. “What you did was brave. Because of you, we were able to smash the cartel.” She shook her slightly, trying to shake some sense into her.
“I didn't do it, because I was brave.” With one swift motion Regina freed herself. “I did it, because I was scared. They've killed Jill and I was the next on their list!” she yelled.
Tears were running down her face and out of reflex Red reached out, only to have her hand swatted away.
“Why can't you understand?” The first push came unexpected and Red stumbled back a few steps. She didn't have time to find her balance before the next push came. “You just don't understand.” Another push and they both were out of the kitchen in in the entrance hall. Red grabbed Regina's hands, but that didn't stop the other woman from pushing again. “The woman you try to safe, she doesn't exist anymore. Queenie's dead, she died in that explosion.”
Red froze and let go off Regina's hands.
Regina took the opportunity to take a step back. She brushed her hand through her disheveled hair.
“What about last night? Wasn't that real?” Red whispered in disbelief.
“It was a weak moment nothing more,Red.”
Red squeezed her eyes shut, trying to sort through her thoughts, but there was only chaos.
There was only one thing she knew.
“Queenie was the only one who used that nickname.” She observed Regina, searching for a reaction, but the only acknowledgment was a small nod.
It hurt as much as the metal shred that pierced her body in the explosion.
Without another word Ruby turned around and headed for the door, but there she stopped, her hand already on the door knob. She just couldn't bring herself to open the door and leave.
She had to try one more time.
“I loved Queenie.”
Her hand remained on the door knob, her forehead nearly touching the cold dark wood of the door as she waited for an answer. She didn't dare to turn around and face Regina, afraid of the pity or the indifference she might find.
The silence stretched into an unbearable infinity.
Eleven months and five days later........
Ruby cursed when the pen slipped out of her hand and fell to the ground. Trying to sign the paperwork with her non-dominant hand turned out to be more difficult than she had thought.
She didn't bother to pick it up, but leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. The wound in her shoulder still hurt, the sling was uncomfortable and it frustrated her to no end that she was useless and couldn't do the most simple tasks without difficulties.
Her train of thoughts was interrupted by a rustle next to her, like someone kneeling down and for a second a fragrance, she would never be able to forget, filled her nostrils.
She tensed, unwilling to believe it.
“You dropped your pen.” Her voice was soft and velvet and it took all of Ruby's willpower not to open her eyes.
“You can keep it.”
“I'm not in need of a new pen.”
Ruby opened her eyes and pushed her chair and herself away from Regina; away from her intoxicating fragrance. “Then why are you here?”
“Some unfinished business.” Regina raised a manila folder, she was carrying with her.
“I thought there was nothing left for you here, Mayor Mills.” Ruby didn't even try to hide the anger in her voice.
Regina winced. “I probably deserved that.”
Ruby refused to meet her eyes. Instead she looked around the precinct, noticing for the first time the attention their conversation was drawing from her colleagues. “You should go before someone recognizes you.”
“I don't care.” Regina leaned against Ruby's desk, giving her a perfect view of her long legs.
Ruby's knew that she did it on purpose, probably to flirt with her, and she cursed herself that she fell for it.
Her eyes travel up till she met Regina's gaze who acted like she hadn't noticed.
They stared at each other until Ruby finally looked away with a sigh. “Dammit.” She stoop up and grabbed Regina by her elbow to guide her to an observation room.
She tried to ignore Regina's triumphant smile.
Ruby closed the door behind them and leaned against the door. A frustrated wheeze escaped her lips when she wasn't able to cross her arms in front of her due to her sling.
“Does it hurt?”
Ruby shrugged, or at least tried. “I've had worse.”
Regina nodded sadly at the answer before she turned her head and looked through the one sided mirror into the interrogation room. “I've never been on this side of the mirror.” A smile played around her lips and she lowered her head. “Remember the first time you interrogated me in there?” She tilted her head and looked up at Ruby.
Ruby swallowed. Of course she remembered. “How could I forget? You were the most infuriating person I've ever met,” She answered, her throat suddenly dry.
Regina's smile turned predatory and she took a step forward, only for Ruby to tense up against the door.
“What do you want from me?”
The question stopped Regina effectively and the smile vanished from her face. “I have an offer to make.” She placed the manila folder onto the small table in the room and pushed it to the edge and closer to Ruby.
Suspiciously Ruby eyed the manila folder, but finally her curiosity won and she pulled the manila folder closer and opened it.
Her brows furrowed as she read the papers. “You're offering me a job?” she asked confused.
“As the police chief of Storybrooke.” Regina made it sound like it was a reasonable request and Ruby wondered which one of them had finally turned mad. “The two deputies I have are incompetent and I need someone capable of running my police station. I was thinking of you.”
“I'm honored.” Ruby answered sarcastically, before she closed the folder again and pushed it away. “I don't even know, if I should be amused or angry.”
“Yeah, that's what I've been afraid off,” Ruby mumbled. “What do you expect me to do? First you tell me, you never want to see me again and now you offer me a job in 'your' town? What the fuck is wrong with you?” Ruby rubbed her forehead. Not only was her shoulder throbbing with pain, now she had a headache too.
“Read the second page.” Regina answered calmly, her face still unreadable. “If it doesn't change your mind, I will leave and never bother you again.”
It was a promise, Ruby didn't know if she wanted the other woman to keep.
She opened the folder again and stopped when she saw the second page. Confusion spread over her face. Questioning she looked up at Regina before she looked down again.
“That's Henry, my son.” Tentatively Regina stepped closer.
“He's beautiful.” Once again Ruby looked at the picture of the baby. He was smiling widely at the camera, waving his small hand.
He looked happy and carefree.
Regina nodded and there was pride in her voice when she answered, “He is. He is the best thing that ever happened to me.” The smile on her face was the most beautiful one Ruby had ever seen.
It elated her and hurt at the same time.
“I adopted him six months ago.” Regina took one more step and she was next to Ruby, their bodies nearly touching. Her hand reached out and she brushed tenderly over the picture. “Because of him, I want to be a better person.”
“And I'm your first project?”
“No, not a project, but you definitely need someone to watch over you.”
If Ruby didn't know better, she could have sworn Regina scolded her like a little child. She snorted and wiped with her uninjured hand over her nose. “You think I need a knight in shining armor?”
“No, you need someone to tell you how stupid of an idea it was to try and negotiate with an hostage-taker without back-up.”
“It worked out in the end.”
“He shot you.”
Ruby opened her mouth to object, but Regina's raised brow silenced her effectively.
“You have to stop getting hurt,” Regina continued, her voice softer this time. Her hand rested gently on Ruby's uninjured arm, her touch so soft that Ruby barely felt it. “You don't know how scared I was when I heard you've been shot.”
“How did you even know?” Ruby asked, trying to evade the emotions Regina's confession had triggered in her.
She couldn't take her eyes off of Regina's hand on her arm.
“As a mayor I have resources.”
“Isn't that abuse of office?”
“I don't care.” Slowly her hand trailed up. For a second Ruby closed her eyes, enjoying the touch, before she forced herself to open them up again.
She wasn't ready to cave in.
“Could have fooled me.”
“I fooled us both.” Regina let her hand fall and Ruby missed the warmth immediately.
Regina wrapped her arms around herself. “I thought it would be safer to stay in Storybrooke. It's a small town, nothing ever happens there. Nothing that can hurt me.” Her eyes locked with Ruby's.
“Leaving you behind was the hardest part.”
“You didn't leave me, you threw me out.” Ruby whispered. Even after a year the pain of being rejected hadn't ceased.
“I was protecting you.”
“Protect me?” Ruby asked in disbelief, her brows raising up. “From what?” She shook her head. “I need need a better explanation than that.”
“You don't understand, you never did.” Regina sounded frustrated, but it only spurred Ruby on.
“Then tell me. Help me to understand, because right now all this...” Ruby made a vague gesture around the room. “doesn't make any sense. First you did everything to get away from me and now after a year you suddenly appear and offer me a job?” She grabbed Regina's arms. “I need to understand. Give me one single reason why hurting me was for my own benefit?” She demanded.
They stared at each other when suddenly Regina's hands went up and cupped Ruby's cheeks. She leaned forward and pressed her lips against Ruby's.
When Ruby started to return the kiss, Regina stepped back.
“Because I'm broken.” Ruby could hear the defeat in her voice.
Her arms wrapped around Regina's waist and she pulled her closer. She felt Regina relax against her, her head resting to her shoulder. “Since I got Henry I try to mend myself, but it's so hard and I'm so tired of it.”
“I know.” Ruby leaned her head against Regina's. “We're not the same anymore.” She probably hadn't been Red since she woke up from her coma, but it had taken Regina's rejection to force her to accept the reality.
She still didn't know who she really was.
Surprised Regina looked up and Ruby saw the tears glistering in her eyes. “I must be crazy, but I still want you,” Ruby added.
“I love you, too.”
Ruby nodded before her hand covered her eyes. She was close to tears now herself and she inhaled deeply to calm down.
She had waited more than seven years to hear these words.
They both were openly crying now and Ruby cupped Regina's face and kiss her.
When the separated again, Regina laughed, “I've made us both cry.” She wiped away the tears on Ruby's face, before she brushed over her own cheeks, only causing her mascara to smear even more.
“You've always been melodramatic like a real Queen.” With her own thumb Ruby helped to wipe off the worst.
“I'm a mayor now, isn't that the same?” Regina joked and Ruby answered with a smile.
“It's close enough,” she agreed.
“So you take the job? It comes with free board and lodging,” Regina asked. She frowned when she added, “… and a crying baby.”
“There's no place I'd rather be.” Ruby smirked.
They both knew that this wasn't their happy ending. That this was only the beginning of a long and hard process (with probably a lot of shouting and fighting in between), but for now they decided to postpone this reality.
This moment belonged to them and the knowledge that they had a chance at being together and after everything they've been through, the both would do anything to make this work.
Regina's hand went to Ruby's neck to scratch behind her ear. She still knew the perfect spot and involuntarily Ruby titled her head.
“So a few things haven't changed.” Regina commented with a smirk.
“That's unfair.” Ruby whined, but couldn't stop herself from smiling back.
Once again Regina's gaze went to the room behind the mirror. “Ever since I've met you, I've wanted to make out with you in one of these rooms.” she confessed and bit her lower lip seductively.
“Will this one do?” Ruby grinned.