FANDOM: Once Upon a Time
PAIRING: Red Riding Hood/Regina Mills, Red Riding Hood/Snow White (friendship)
SUMMARY: Red's having a hard time dealing with Ruby's relationships.
WORD COUNT: ~4800
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: For anomalousalanna.
When Cora and Hook found their way to Maine, it seems they weren’t alone. Something came with them. Nobody’s really sure what it is yet, but it’s big and destructive and it’s enough for the town to have come together (even extending the invitation to Regina) to make a decision about how to tackle it. The consensus, after much argument, is that the townsfolk should to stay inside their homes while the unofficial ‘town leaders’ deal with the problem. Granny’s has been turned into a makeshift command center where they will remain throughout. Granny’s thrilled that she gets to use the ‘No Vacancy’ sign for the first time ever.
Those same ‘leaders’ are currently standing on the sidelines of a heated Charming family argument. It’s mostly in whispers - it wouldn’t do for the common folks to be privy to the details - but for Red, that’s of little consequence. She hears it all. Snow is furious at James’ suggestion that he and Emma take the first reconnaissance mission when night falls. While Red had always thought Snow to be level-headed and pragmatic, it seems that doesn’t really apply when her husband and her daughter feature in the situation. Particularly her daughter.
“The people chose me to be their sheriff. How the hell would it look if I turned to them and said ‘I’m sorry, my mommy says it’s too dangerous for me to go outside.’?” Red hides a laugh inside a cough at Emma’s vehement whisper. When she looks up, she spies Regina watching the whole thing with an air of amusement. Regina turns and catches her eye, granting her a slow smile and a nod. Red smiles back, a little uncomfortable.
Certain relationships have become a lot more complicated since the breaking of the curse. For example, Ruby had no problem with falling into the Mayor’s bed of an evening. Quite a few evenings, in fact. Now she’s Red again, she has to contend with the memories of Regina writhing underneath her, whimpering her name, leaving scratch marks on her back and panting into her neck. Given her loyalty to Snow, this presents quite a dilemma.
It’s not even the fact that she’s been sleeping with the Evil Queen that’s the problem. The problem is that she liked. it. And that she can’t quite reconcile the tyrant who pursued Snow so tirelessly in the old world with the small town mayor who gave them all schools and a hospital and a bus service. The woman she served coffee to every morning for twenty-eight years. The mother who brought her new baby son to the diner for the first time wearing the biggest and proudest smile Red has ever seen.
Twenty-eight years seems a long time to preside over the running of a small town, with all the headaches and heartaches that brings, without actually doing any harm to its inhabitants. Why people think Regina is suddenly going to turn around and kill them all is beyond Red. While it was kind of a boring place, they all led a pretty good lives in Storybrooke. They had good jobs, warm, comfortable homes and money. Regina could’ve been an awful lot more evil if she’d wanted to be.
The sudden reappearance of Henry’s affection for Regina has gone a long way to assuaging Snow and James, but Red knows they’re watching and waiting for the monster to come out. She knows that feeling all too well.
She thinks she should probably tell Snow about the Regina thing. ‘We were cursed’ appears to be a valid excuse for strange dalliances. Hell, James was married to another chick! Surely Snow will understand that Ruby was a young girl with urges and needs and that sleeping with her Evil Stepmother was nothing personal and they can go back to being BFFs.
Red bites her lip. Ruby’s vocabulary catches her unaware sometimes, startling her and bringing back memories she knows can’t have happened. It makes her sad to think that she never actually went to high school. That she was never actually a cheerleader. That she never really lost her virginity to a boy called Peter in the backseat of a Corvette. Her imaginary teenage years had been pretty fun and it’s a shame they’re all in her head. Or in Regina’s. She’s really not sure how this whole thing works.
In fairness, Regina hasn’t mentioned anything about their encounters to anyone. She does, however, appear to enjoy teasing Red from afar. Little winks and knowing smiles. And Red cannot deny the draw the woman still has on her. Whether it’s a residual crush that Ruby had on the mayor or not, it’s Red’s body that reacts. It’s Red who whines in frustration when she wakes up from another dream about Regina. It’s Red’s heart that starts beating faster whenever she catches the Queen’s scent in the air.
She’s drawn from these dangerous musings by an indignant ‘Fine!’ from Snow. Looks like she lost the argument. James casts a worried glance at Emma, who shrugs. Sometimes, Emma is very clearly James’ daughter. He clears his throat.
“Okay, so , Emma and I are gonna go out and try to get a handle on what this thing is. We’ll aim to be back by dawn. We’ll send text messages on the hour to update you on the situation. No matter what happens, do not come looking for us before the sun comes up.” The last part is directed at Snow, who rolls her eyes.
Snow comes to stand beside Red, arms folded and scowling. Red’s not sure what to say, so she nudges Snow’s shoulder with her own in silent support. Emma sidles over to them, shoulders hunched and hands in pockets. She casts a quick glance at Red and Red smiles in encouragement. She bows her head and looks up at Snow.
“We’ll be back. I promise.”
Snow’s obviously trying to remain stoic, but in the face of Emma’s tentative smile, she caves and launches herself at her daughter, hugging her tightly and whispering against her ear.
“No crazy heroics, okay? No cutting down beanstalks. I want you back here safe and sound.” James comes over and wraps his arms around the women. Snow lifts her head to look at him. “Both of you.”
Emma steps back, stuffing her hands into her back pockets once more, letting James move in and kiss his wife goodbye. Not for the first time, Red wishes she could turn off her super-hearing as promises to ‘find each other’ reach her ears. She turns and walks away a little, giving them as much privacy as the small diner will allow.
Once the goodbyes are over, James and Emma take their leave and the rest are left to a long night of waiting and worrying. Granny, unsurprisingly, is the first to address the practicalities.
“Well, we’re not gonna be much use if we’re all too tired to function. Let’s draw up a watch rotation and then try to get some shut-eye.” She lifts her crossbow from behind the counter - Red’s told her on a number of occasions that it’s not safe to keep it there. “I’ll take first watch.”
Grumpy hefts his pick-axe onto his shoulder. “I’m with ya, sister.”
She nods her assent. “Red. You make sure everyone has a bed. There’s not enough to go around, but I’m sure no-one will mind sharing.”
Red’s eyes immediately flick to Regina, who is smirking at her. A low murmur has started up in the room, with everyone deciding amongst themselves who will be sharing. Red takes the opportunity to escape into the lobby to gather up the room keys, and to try to come up with an excuse not to share with Regina. Her rebellious mind has teamed up with her treacherous body and is refusing to produce anything like a valid reason.
“Don’t bother to give me a key. I won’t be needing one.” The smooth, confident tone makes her physically jump and she drops all of the keys she’d been holding. With barely a glance at the former mayor, she bends to gather them up. Unfortunately, Regina crouches to help her.
“Wh...why don’t you need a key?” Red asks, trying to keep her attention on the floor. She’s sure Regina’s hands are deliberately trying to touch her own as they pick up they keys.
“I would’ve thought that was obvious, dear.”
At this, Red does look at her face. Apparently her expression is amusing, because Regina lets out a chuckle.
“Calm down, Ru-“ She stops and tilts her head, wearing what Red thinks might be a wistful smile. “Well, I don’t suppose I should call you that any longer, should I?” Something passes between them; an acknowledgement of sorts. It lasts until Regina looks back down at the scattered keys. “What I meant was that I’ll be sharing Henry’s room.”
“Oh. Oh!” Red exclaims, studiously ignoring the part of her that is disappointed to remember that Henry is already safely asleep upstairs. “Right. Of course that’s what you meant.” She grins, and knows she’s blushing.
“Of course,” Regina agrees, standing and handing over the keys she’d picked up. “Well then, I’ll bid you goodnight....Red.”
With a final nod, Regina heads up the stairs. Red stands still and watches her go.
“Regina?” It’s out of her mouth before she even realised she was going to say it. Regina pauses and turns to look over her shoulder.
“Y...you can call me Ruby if you like. I...I liked Ruby.”
In the dim light, someone with normal eyesight might miss the slight quirk of Regina’s lips, but Red sees it. Just as she hears the words that follow it. Barely even a whisper. More like an exhalation.
“So did I.”
Red’s chest tightens and she steps forward, closer to the stairs. “Regina...I...”
“Goodnight Ruby.” The footsteps on the stairs are hurried and Red listens until she hears the bedroom door close. She sighs.
After a minimal amount of squabbling, everyone is dispatched to their allocated rooms. Red is sharing her own room with Snow. They’re currently changing with their backs to each other. Red has opted for shorts and a wife-beater, rather than her normal sleeping attire, which ranges from barely there negligees to nothing. Snow had proved more difficult to find something for, but they’d eventually settled on an oversized t-shirt that belonged to one of Ruby’s previous companions.
Standing on opposite sides of Red’s bed, Snow smiles, a little shy and Red laughs. It’s not like they’ve never slept together before. Back in the enchanted forest, they’d spent many nights wrapped around one another, trading stories and dreams. Occasionally, they’d trade more than that. Their kisses had been laughably chaste when Red thinks back on it. Both just young girls needing comfort and companionship and acceptance.
So much has changed. Red shakes her head and smiles at Snow, gesturing at the bed.
“This used to be less awkward back home, huh?”
Snow laughs, nodding. “Well, it was just me and you against the world then. Just us in our little cabin in the woods.” She tilts her head, giving Red a glimpse of the impish young girl she used to be. “And you were always so warm.”
“So that’s why you slept so close? To leech my body heat?” Red asks, glad for the opportunity to be playful, given the tendency for everything to be ever so dramatic lately.
“Yes. And...other reasons.” Snow’s smile fades and she collects herself, wrapping her arms over her stomach. “But...I’m married now.”
Married with a twenty-eight year old kid. Gods, they’re old. “Twenty-first century morality sucks.”
Snow laughs. “It does.” She glances at the window. Out into the dark where her husband and daughter are. “Listen, I’m not going to be able to sleep. But I wouldn’t mind snuggling with you.”
“For warmth. And comfort. And maybe we can tell each other our secrets. We haven’t really talked much since...well, everything.” Snow leans down and pulls back the covers before she climbs in. Red is doing the same when Snow speaks again. “Maybe we can start with what’s going on between you and Regina.”
Red freezes, one leg in bed and one still on the floor.
The room is only lit by the small amount of moonlight coming through the window, so Red’s reasonably sure Snow can’t see her blushing. She hurriedly gets into the bed and pulls the covers up to her chin, as if they will somehow form a protective barrier between Red and any further questions.
“I’m not an idiot, Red. Something’s going on. Does she...does she have something on you? Is she blackmailing you?”
Red resists the urge to sigh. Of course that would be the first thing that Snow would think of. Despite the uneasy truce between them, Snow isn’t exactly Regina’s biggest fan. Red can understand why; Regina made it her life’s mission to hunt Snow down and kill her. It’s probably really hard to get past that. But the fact that Snow is alive and well shows that Regina isn’t as evil as everyone likes to make out. Either that, or Regina’s just really terrible at being a villain. Red prefers to think it’s the former.
She weighs up her options. She’s always been an awful liar. Ruby was better at it, but Red just can’t. Especially not to Snow. She decides just to get it over with.
“I...slept with her. We slept together. As in...we had sex. With each other. I had sex with Regina.” Red clamps her lips together because she’s pretty sure that Snow got the gist from the first sentence. But she’s never been good with secrets - she’s even worse with lies - and her mouth tends to run away with her in uncomfortable situations. Although there’s a good few inches of space between them, Red can still feel Snow tense up.
“I see.” She doesn’t elaborate, which causes Red to get more nervous. Which results in more words forcing their way out of her mouth.
“A lot. I slept with her a lot. It was kind of a thing.” She wishes Snow would just say something. Or hit her. Or anything other than maintain the deafening silence.
“Right.” Snow’s hand comes to cover her wrist, squeezing gently and Red lets go of a breath that was hurting her lungs. “That’s...okay. I mean, we were cursed, right? We all had some...indiscretions that we’d rather forget.”
Hearing Regina described in such terms makes Red cringe. She doesn’t expect Snow to understand, she shouldn’t even try to explain it. And yet, she keeps talking.
“I don’t think I want to forget about it. I...don’t think I could.” She closes her eyes. “I liked it, Snow. I like...her.”
The hand on her arm freezes and is withdrawn. Her heart sinks, but she feels movement on the bed and turns to see Snow lying on her side, head propped up on her hand.
“You...like her?” It sounds like she’s testing the words out. Like she can’t imagine they’d even allow themselves to be said in relation to Regina. “Wait...present tense? You like her now? Still?”
Red just nods, pulling the blanket up a bit more under her chin as she turns on her side to mirror Snow’s position.
“Oh...” To her credit, Snow hasn’t freaked out. “Have you two...” She makes a vague hand-gesture. “...since the curse broke?”
“No!” Red assures her. “No...we...well, we haven’t even really spoken that much. We’ve all been…kinda busy.” Portals and full moons and Cora have kept them all more than occupied. Red bites her lip. “And I’ve been feeling really guilty because....you know, she’s Regina.”
“Because of me?”
Red nods. “I...obviously Ruby didn’t know who she was, but I do and I...it feels like I’m betraying you when I even think about her.”
“Do you think about her a lot?”
It’s not the question Red expected and her answer erupts out of her before she can temper it.
“God...all the time. I can’t stop it. I want to, but it’s like she’s everywhere. Like, right now, I can smell her all the way down the hallw-.” That’s probably an overshare.
Snow’s eyes are wide and bright, even in the absence of light. Red can tell she’s trying to think of something to say.
“Well…she does seem to be, you know, trying.” It’s grudged, but honest, which is all Red can hope for. Snow attempts a smile. “This is kinda like the old days…you telling me about your crushes.”
The relief that floods through Red is like a deep breath after being underwater. She grins and props her head up on her arm as Snow does likewise.
“Of course, your crushes used to be on village boys…not the evil queen.”
Red shoves Snow’s shoulder gently – she’s getting better at remembering that she has superstrength.
“Don’t call her that!” she chides. “And anyway, you’re one to talk…Bride of Frankenstein.”
“Hey!” Snow pushes her back and they fall back to the pillows, laughing and prodding each other until their giggles are interrupted by the beeping of Snow’s cellphone. She whips around and grabs it from the nightstand. Her face breaks into a relieved smile.
“It’s Emma. Nothing to report.” She types back a response and then clutches the phone to her chest with her eyes closed. Red reaches over and squeezes her elbow.
“They’ll be back before you know it,” she says, knowing that her words probably won’t bring any comfort.
Snow’s eyes remain closed, the phone still clasped in her hand, as she starts to speak. “You wanna know a secret about me?”
Sensing this isn’t some juicy piece of gossip, Red doesn’t tease. “Sure.”
“I judge other people…but I’m a terrible person.”
Red’s brow creases in confusion. “You’re…huh?” Snow opens her eyes and turns back to face Red now, her eyes glimmering with the beginnings of tears.
“Tonight, when James and Emma were leaving to face this thing we know nothing about…James held me and promised to come back to me…and I…” A tear makes its way down her cheek and Red brushes it away, but doesn’t interrupt. Snow swallows and collects herself, looking into Red’s eyes as she continues. “And all I could think was that, if only one of them could come back…I…want…”
“You want it to be Emma.”
Snow nods. “Isn’t that awful? That I’d throw my own husband to this unknown monster if it meant she’d be okay?”
Red runs a hand through Snow’s short hair. “Snow, we both know that I’ve done things…that I’ve made choices…” She’d chosen Snow over her own mother. And she’d do it again in a heartbeat. Snow’s eyes show that she’s thinking of this too. “I get that there are people who come above everything, and everyone, else. You’d protect your daughter over anything else in the world. I don’t suppose there are many who would judge you for that. It doesn’t make you a terrible person and it certainly won’t make me judge you.”
Dropping her eyes, Snow reaches out to toy with the charm on the necklace Red’s wearing; a heart with a ruby embedded at the centre. Red continues to stroke her hair, not wanting to push her to talk.
Red’s eyes flick down to find Snow’s with a mischievous glint in them. She smiles.
“We’re back to that?”
“Oh, I think we’re gonna be on that for a while yet,” Snow says.. “We might as well get comfortable because I think we’ve got a lot to talk about.”
“I don’t even know if there’s anything to talk about,” Red says, shifting onto her back and stretching out her arm to let Snow cuddle up to her side. Just like in the old days. “Like I said, I haven’t exactly discussed this with Regina.”
“Well there’s your first step. You have to talk to her.” Snow turns her head to muffle a yawn against Red’s shoulder. She settles back down and there’s a pause as Red takes a moment to panic about all the ways that conversation could go wrong. Snow breaks into the disturbingly arousing visions she’s conjuring up. “You know, for a while there I wondered if…maybe Emma….” She slides an arm over Red’s stomach. “Never mind.”
Yeah, she’s not pursuing that. If only for the fact that Ruby had had the same thoughts for a while. She pushes away the pretty comical picture of Snow being her stepmother’s mother-in-law. Snow doesn’t leave her in peace for long.
“So…how is the…uh…”
Red covers her eyes with her free hand. “You are not asking me that.”
“Oh come on!” Snow tickles her side, making her squirm away. “I’ll tell you about Whale.”
“You don’t need to.” She removes her hand and raises her eyebrows at her friend. “He told me all about it the morning after.” She laughs when Snow’s mouth drops open in indignation. “But, unlike our friend the good doctor, I don’t kiss and tell.”
Snow sighs. “You’re no fun.”
“That’s not what Regina says.”
“Oh my God!”
Red’s watch with Archie is uneventful, spent mostly playing with Pongo and enjoying the chance to catch up with her friend. They’re relieved of their duties by Snow and Bashful. Snow confirms that all is well with Emma and Charming and bids Red goodnight. She trudges up the stairs to her room, looking forward to actually getting some sleep now that Snow is no longer there with her questions and her nervous energy. But she pauses with her hand on the doorknob, her attention drawn to a room down the hall. Before she can talk herself out of it, she’s in front of Regina’s door, her hand raised to knock. She does so quietly; Regina’s a light sleeper.
When the door opens, Regina squints against the light, tucking her silk shirt into her dress pants. The formal attire is not really meant for sleeping in.
“Ruby? I thought my watch wasn’t until 5am? Is something wrong?” Eyes still heavy with sleep, Regina looks muddled and confused in a way that Red can’t help but find adorable.
“No, nothing’s wrong.” She moves closer, brushing an unruly strand of hair behind Regina’s ear before cupping her jaw. “I just wanted to do this.” She leans in and presses a soft kiss to the former mayor’s lips; barely a brush of skin against skin, but enough to send a clear message.
When she pulls away, Regina’s eyes are still closed, her lips still pursed in a way that tells Red she was going to kiss back. It makes her heart beat faster. After a few seconds, her eyes flutter open and come to focus on Red.
Red’s hand is still resting on Regina’s cheek, so she uses her thumb to stroke the scar above her lip. “I’d like to do that often, if that’s okay with you?”
The crease between Regina’s eyebrows increases in depth as she looks up at Red. “I…assumed your previous loyalties would override our…arrangement.”
“Regina, I’ve known you for twenty-eight years. That’s longer than I was even alive back home.” She offers a lopsided smile. “I didn’t really know you before. And I like the Regina I got to know here.” Regina’s eyes drop, but Red’s hand under her chin urges her back up. “I want to prove myself right about you.”
For a long time, Regina’s face is unreadable and a sick feeling starts to creep into Red’s stomach. Then the older woman lets out a quiet laugh, shaking her head.
“You were supposed to be a bit of fun. A distraction. The fact that you were Snow White’s best friend only made it sweeter.” Anger shoots through Red and she takes a step back, but Regina catches her hand and holds it against her face. “But you turned out to be far more than I planned for.” Red looks back at her face to find a smile there, not a smirk or a sneer; a genuine smile. It gives her pause.
“Wh…what did I turn out to be?”
“You turned out to be…” Regina’s eyes narrow in thought as she searches for a word. Shrugging in defeat, she turns her head to place a kiss against Red’s palm before facing the younger woman once more. “You turned out to be Ruby.” Red’s chest tightens at all of the implications that single word seems to hold.
“Ruby with the big smile and the even bigger heart.” Regina’s laughing again. “Ruby, the goofy waitress who had my coffee ready and waiting and exactly as I liked it every single morning.” Red blushes, her smile growing as Regina continues. “Ruby who would turn up at my place with some god awful action movie for us to watch and then miss most of it because she would end up straddling me on the couch, just kissing, for hours.” Bringing a hand up, she touches Red’s lips. “Ruby, who could make me smile after the worst of days, just by being there.”
A sob makes its way out of Ruby’s throat, but it’s lost in the soft kiss Regina pulls her into. This time, no-one pulls away and the kiss deepens. Red’s hands slide to Regina’s waist and Regina’s become tangled in Red’s hair. They only part when the sound of a throat clearing interrupts the bubble they’ve created.
They look at each other in confusion and it’s only when Red notices movement over Regina’s shoulder that she swallows and lets go of the other woman.
Regina spins around to see her son grinning sleepily at them. “Henry! Why are you awake?” She glances over at Red. “We were...just…uh…”
“Kissing. I know.” He rubs his fist into his right eye. “I think it’s cool.”
Red has to hide a smile behind her hand at how shocked Regina looks at this assessment. “You…do?”
“Sure,” Henry affirms, the word stretching into a yawn. “Ruby’s cool. It’s cool.”
“You’re pretty cool yourself, kiddo,” Ruby tells him, moving closer to Regina and placing a hand on her back. Regina flashes her a smile and straightens out her clothing again; a nervous habit Red’s noticed of late.
“Yes, well,” Regina nods. “I’m glad we’re all…cool.”
The unexpected word coming out of Regina’s mouth causes both Red and Henry to dissolve into laughter. She looks at them, bewildered.
“What?” she demands.
“Oh, honey, nobody said you were cool.” Red bites her lip, the term of endearment had just slipped out. Regina narrows her eyes playfully, but is prevented from responding when Henry tugs on her arm, drawing her attention away.
“I think you’re pretty cool, Mom,” he says.
And the smile that appears on Regina’s face is as bright as the one Red remembers seeing her wear ten years ago, sitting in a booth at Granny’s, cradling her new baby.
“Thank you, Henry,” she whispers, cupping his cheek.
Loathe to interrupt the moment, Red knows that they really should all be sleeping so they’re ready to face whatever’s happening out in the town tomorrow.
“So, I’m gonna head to bed. You both should go back to sleep too.” Henry doesn’t need to be told twice and after a quick kiss for his mother, he’s throwing himself into the huge bed at the far side of the room. Regina watches him for a moment before turning back to Red with a smile.
“I’ll see you in the morning, then.”
“Yep.” It feels weird now, to say goodnight, to leave it at this. “So…goodnight, I guess.”
Regina rolls her eyes and steps in to place a chaste kiss on Ruby’s cheek. “We can talk more tomorrow.”
Still smiling from the tiny kiss, Ruby starts to walk backwards down the hall.
“’Night Regina.” She turns around to face forward, but thinks better of it and turns back. “Oh, and I think you’re pretty cool too, by the way.”
She has no trouble hearing Regina’s huff all the way along the corridor. “I’m ‘cooler’ than any of you. Who do you think came up with your wardrobe, Ms Fashion-Conscious? Or gave you your car?”
That makes Ruby stop in her tracks.
“Damn. You are cooler than the rest of us.”
Regina’s soft laugh bubbles in her ears. “And don’t you forget it, dear.”
“Not planning to.” Ruby’s reached her own door and she pushes it open. “G’night, Regina.”