DISCLAIMER: Characters are not mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This takes place at some vague time when both Ruby and Regina are in Storybrooke, after all the various curses. Neither Robin nor Dorothy are in the picture.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To mysensitiveside[at]yahoo.com
A Fortunate Mistake
That first night, Regina simply wasn't thinking.
It had been a long day, but as the minutes of the night ticked slowly by, Regina was growing increasingly restless. The house always felt so hollow without Henry, who was spending the day and night with Emma; although loneliness still felt nearly more familiar to Regina than otherwise, she somehow wasn't in the right frame of mind for it that night.
She tried distracting herselfreading the same page of her novel several times over before giving up; tidying up each already-tidy room; flipping mindlessly through all of the many television channels. She tried forcing herself to go to sleep, but staring up at her ceiling grew boring before too long. Even attempting to fill the house with music did nothing to combat the mansion's ill-fitting quiet.
Regina didn't know what it was about that night in particular, but there was something in the vast emptiness of the house that bothered her, like an itch she couldn't scratch. There was so much space within the mansion, and yet The rooms felt somehow claustrophobicthe walls were too tight; the air, too thick.
So, without thinking, Regina left that cold, empty house behind and walked over to the diner.
The sound of the chiming bell over the door clearly startled Ruby, but Regina, lost in her own thoughts, didn't notice. Nor did she particularly notice how odd it was to find the diner completely devoid of other patrons.
She sat down on one of the bar stools and said, "Good evening, Miss Lucas. I'll have a glass of red wine. Whatever's your best."
Ruby stared at her for a long moment, but Regina was gazing blankly at the wall in front of her, rather than meeting Ruby's eyes. It wasn't that Regina was purposefully ignoring the other woman; she simply wasn't there to make small talk.
At last, Ruby shook her head with a wry smile. Putting down the rag she'd been using to wipe down the counter, she replied, "Sure thing, Madam Mayor."
The wine was good, at least. Regina hadn't been sure if she could trust in Granny's inventory, but she offered an appreciative nod at her first sip of whatever it was that Ruby had picked out for her.
Looking back on that night, Regina knew that she must have noticed, at least on some level, that Ruby was clearly closing up for the night. But it hadn't struck her as odd at the timeit hadn't struck her at all, reallythat as Regina drank her wine, Ruby moved around the diner, wiping everything down and placing the chairs upside down on the tabletops.
The quiet bustle of Ruby's activity was actually soothing, somehow so different from the way that the voiceless silence had echoed through the big, empty house on Mifflin Street.
Once Ruby was done with her work, she pulled up a stool behind the counter. Without needing to be asked, she wordlessly refilled Regina's glass, and then poured out a glass for herself as well. Again, Regina had certainly never seen Ruby drink on the job before, but she truly didn't think anything of it at the time.
Later, Ruby would admit that part of her had been dying to say something that nightto ask what Regina was doing there, mostlybut there was also a large part of her that was content to just sit, sip her wine, and occasionally sneak a contemplative look up from her phone and over towards Regina. Somehow she'd known that saying something would have broken the strangely peaceful spell that had fallen over them.
Regina didn't know how long it was that she'd been sitting there, but Ruby had just started to doze off when she jerked upright at the sound of Regina pushing back her stool. Their eyes did meet, then, as Ruby blinked sleepily up towards Regina.
For a moment, Regina could only stare at her, taken totally by surprise at how beautiful Ruby looked.
She'd always known that Ruby was a good-looking young woman, of course, but she'd never really
Refusing to become flustered and lose the sense of relaxed calm that she'd gained while sitting there in the diner, Regina blocked off any further thinking and pushed her empty wine glass across the counter.
"Thank you for the drink, Miss Lucas," she said, her voice formal as she placed down what she figured would be enough money to include a good tip. "Good night."
She then turned to go, only pausing for a brief moment when, just as she was exiting, she heard a soft, "Good night, Regina."
Behind her, Ruby got up to watch Regina walk down the street and disappear into the shadows before she finally locked the door and turned off the lights.
The next time, exactly one week later, Regina must have at least vaguely known what she was doing, even if she allowed no conscious acknowledgement of it.
Because Regina didn't choose to go to the diner for dinner, or right after she finished washing the dishes from her simple meal. Instead, she went through the motions of completing some paperwork, puttering around the house for a bit, and then successfully managing to read another chapter in her book.
The nagging restlessness that had plagued her the week before wasn't an issue that night.
Nearly the opposite, in fact.
She'd spoken on the phone with Henryand they were getting along very well, lately, but it still felt so fragile, sometimes; this precarious balance, with the memory of his hatred for her lurking just around the cornerand it hadn't been anything special, really. He had simply told her about his day, but he'd sounded happy, happy just to talk to her, and by the time she hung up after wishing him a good night, her heart felt so full.
After that, she simply couldn't even consider the thought of just sitting at home on her own.
When she pushed open the door to the diner, she was immediately met with Ruby's bright, warm smile. It actually made her pause for a split second, unused to anyone looking so happy to see her, other than Henry.
(Well, and Emma sometimes, Regina had to admit. And Snow. Those damn Charmings. She definitely had too many Charmings in her life.)
"You came back," Ruby said, still smiling, as Regina continued forward and took a seat at the counter. Again, no one else was there. There was a mop leaning against a wall in the corner, and all of the tables looked clean.
"Yes, well." Regina trailed off, unsure how to explain her presence, or even if an explanation was necessary. She settled on, "I have to admit to being impressed with the wine you gave me last week. I thought I'd see what else you might be able to come up with."
Ruby's eyes were bright with amusement as she asked, "Is that a challenge, your majesty? That sounds like a challenge."
Regina hadn't actually meant it as one, but she certainly wasn't going to admit that. Instead of responding verbally, she offered a small smirk as she raised one expectant eyebrow.
It almost seemed as though Ruby felt an actual chill in response to Regina's expressionbut no, that initial shiver of movement slid easily into Ruby stepping back to consider the inventory below the counter.
With Ruby's attention focused away, Regina studied the other woman. Though perhaps she wasn't as subtle as she meant to be; Regina watched as a light blush spread slowly across Ruby's cheeks, due, she could only assume, to Regina's attention. She looked away.
It wasn't too long before Ruby made her choice. Regina kept her focus away, listening to the squeaky sound of the corkscrew, the pop of the cork being pulled, and the low sound of two glasses being poured.
Ruby cleared her throat.
"Let's see what you think about this one," Ruby began. She kept her voice light as she added, "Something blood-red for the Queen."
Regina looked over sharply.
Ruby was already looking at her, but her open expression contained no ill-will, no anger or resentment; just kindness, with perhaps a hint of amusement.
Was Ruby teasing her?
Well, the girl certainly had some spirit, Regina would give her that. Regina let her expression darken, staring Ruby down until the exact moment when it became clear that Ruby was beginning to worry that she ha gone too far. Then she sat back with an amused chuckle, letting Ruby know that she could take a jokeshe may have joined the side of the "heroes," lord help her, but it was important to establish that she still could be intimidating if she wanted to be.
"Blood-red, hm?" Regina picked up the glass Ruby had placed before her and tilted it in the light. "That's your color of choice, isn't it, Red?"
She kept her tone light and her smile gentle, and Ruby responded with a grin of her own. "Guilty as charged, your majesty."
Regina turned her attention back to the wine. She swirled it around before taking in the smell of it. Just before she took a sip, she said, "You can call me Regina, you know."
Ruby had chosen well once again. The wine was deep and fairly intense, with an earthy, peppery overtone to what Regina thought was a hint of blackberry.
She hummed in appreciation.
"How did I do?" Ruby asked. Somehow she sounded like she actually cared about the answer.
"Quite well," Regina replied. "This is very good."
Regina held her glass out towards Ruby, with a pointed look down towards the second glass that lay untouched on the counter.
Ruby let out a surprised, "Oh," but she quickly picked up the glass and touched it against Regina's with a soft clink.
After that, it became a regular weekly occurrence.
Prior to this, Regina had never really spent much, if any, time alone with Ruby Lucas before.
That first week, she had been fairly surprised to find that she didn't mind it.
Sometimes they would talk. First they stuck to safer topicsHenry and Granny, mostly, or whatever Storybrooke gossip Ruby had picked up over the week. Before too long, they began pushing a little farther past small talk, a little closer towards the personal.
Other times, when one or the other of them wasn't in the mood for talking, they would simply sit together in companionable silence.
Regina had never particularly found silence to be companionable before. Silence had been dangerous when it came from Cora; it was heartbreaking from Henry; or it could be so very awkward, with too many people to count.
But silence with Ruby was surprisingly nice, somehow.
Regina couldn't readily explain to herself why she kept coming back each week, but they were nearing two months of these weekly encountersof course, thinking about how long it had been made Regina feel vaguely uneasy, so she simply chose not to think about itwhen things changed.
Once again, it all came down to Regina not thinking. It wasn't often that Regina did something without thinking it through. But it somehow felt safer for her to not think, when it came to whatever this friendship was between herself and Ruby.
Except, this week Emma had asked if they could switch up the usual schedule, with Henry coming to stay with her a day earlier than usual. Regina and Henry had both agreed, as it made no difference to either of them, really.
Only, it turned out that it did make a difference.
Because when Regina walked down to the diner, as she now regularly did on the nights when Henry wasn't at home, instead of a smiling Ruby, excited to share some new wine with Regina, she was met with a locked door.
Regina looked down at the door handle in confusion. She tried once again to push the door open, but
It was locked. Why would Ruby lock the door?
Regina peered insidethe lights were still onbut it was Granny, not Ruby, who approached the door to unlock it and poke her head outside.
"Sorry, Regina," Granny spoke. "We're closed now."
Regina blinked stupidly at Granny. "You're " She looked down at her watch, then back up at Granny. "Is Ruby all right?" she asked.
Granny gave Regina a quizzical look. "As far as I know. Why wouldn't she be? She's probably
home, tonight's my night to close up."
"Right." Regina felt herself blushing, but didn't even quite understand why. "I apologize for bothering you so late. Good night."
With that, Regina turned and walked quickly back towards Mifflin Street.
They were closed. Regina had arrived at the same approximate time as she had been all the other nights, but The diner was closed.
It was why no one else was ever there. It was why Ruby had clearly been cleaning up after the long day when Regina had shown up that first night. It was why Regina had refused to consciously think about any of those things before.
But then, why hadn't Ruby locked the door? Why hadn't she said anything? Why ?
It didn't take long for Regina's confusion to give way to anger and humiliation. Was it all just some kind of prank that Ruby had been playing? Some joke, and Ruby had been talking to someone like Emma about it and laughing at Regina behind her back?
Of course. Of course, Regina should have known better than to think Than to think that they might have been friends, or
Abruptly changing course, Regina crossed the street and walked away from Mifflin Street, striding instead over to where she knew Ruby's apartment was. Regina had never been there before, but Emma also lived nearby, and Henry had once pointed it out.
Aided by the mailbox marked with a wolf sticker and an apartment number, Regina didn't take long to find the right door.
Her anger had been steadily building, and she didn't hesitate at all before pounding loudly against the door.
If she had been in a better mood, Regina might have found it comical, how Ruby's features formed into a perfect picture of surprise at the sight of Regina.
"Regina, hi!" Ruby exclaimed after a moment of just staring. "What are you doing here?"
In spite of everything, Ruby actually looked happy to see her, once she'd gotten over her surprise.
Regina's traitorous heart thumped noticeably in response to that bright smile, but Regina's frown only deepened as she pushed her way past Ruby and into the apartment; she might not have been a queen any longer, but there was no way she was going to have this conversation out in the hallway, where any peasant might overhear them.
"Uh, come on in " Ruby murmured, confusion audible in her voice. "So nice of you to stop by."
Regina whirled around on Ruby, waiting just until she finished closing the front door before spitting out, "What kind of game have you been playing, Miss Lucas?"
"Don't play coy with me," Regina insisted, anger and hurt warring inside of her." I know you've been taking me for some kind of fool, but the joke is over, now. I mixed up what day it is, and I went to stop by the diner."
A look of dawning understanding began to cross Ruby's face, but Regina went on without pause.
"Imagine my surprise when the door was locked and your grandmother had to come inform me that the diner was closed. That the diner is always closed at this time. So I'll ask you again. What game have you been playing?"
Ruby met Regina's glare with what was surely an attempt at feigning sincerity. She said, "It's no game, Regina, I"
Lashing out, Regina interrupted, saying, "Don't call me that!"
Ruby immediately stopped trying to speak. Her posture sagged just a little, and she looked at Regina with an expression that seemed to convey a real genuine hurt.
"Madam Mayor, then?" she asked with a sad smile after a long beat of silence stretched between them.
Regina didn't answer. She didn't know what to say; she didn't know what to think, eitherRuby did seem sincere, but Regina just felt so thrown
"That first time, it was an accident," Ruby began again. "I do that sometimes; I just forget to lock the door when I'm closing up. But every time after that, I swear, Regi I swear that after that first time, I kept the door unlocked on purpose, just hoping that you would decide to come back again."
Regina wasn't fully convinced but shewanted to be "Why?" she demanded. "Why would you do that?
This time, Ruby's smile was wry. "Because you're you. I never felt like I really knew you all that well, before. But I don't know, Regina"this time, Regina didn't correct Ruby's name usage"there was just something about you that really drew me in. I just like you, okay? I enjoy spending time with you. There's no game or joke or anything other than me wanting to spend more time with you."
Regina's resolve to stay firm was weakening. "If any of that is true, why didn't you say anything?"
Ruby could only shrug. "What would I have said? I wasn't even sure whether or not you knew the diner was closed, and it just seemed like " She paused before explaining, "If you did know, then there was no point in saying anything. And if you didn't, then I was worried that I'd, I don't know, scare you off or something."
It made sense, really. Regina wanted so much to believe Rubyit was startling, how much she wanted itand she felt like she'd been starting to get fairly good at reading Ruby over these past weeks. Ruby wasn't that good of an actress; she must actually be telling the truth.
Neither woman said anything else for a moment, until Regina spoke up, her tone regal. "I'm a mayor and an ex-Queen, you know; I don't scare off easily."
Ruby's responding smile was dimmer than usual; hesitant.
"That's a very good point," Ruby allowed. She then hurried to continue, "I really didn't mean to deceive you or anything, I'm really sorry, I"
"I may have overreacted, slightly," Regina interjected. As an aside, she added, "And admitting something like that isn't easy for me, so you should be grateful."
With a smile that was still wary, but getting brighter, Ruby said, "Oh I'm very grateful, your majesty. I think the last time you overreacted, you ended up cursing us all."
Regina laughed, surprised to find herself relieved that Ruby was still willing to tease her. Not many
people were. "Don't tell Snow how easily I let you off the hook, then," she said.
They lapsed into silence again. Regina started to look around Ruby's apartment for the first time since she'd barged in. It was a nice placeso much more colorful than her own home.
Regina's attention was drawn back to Ruby, who was fidgeting and wouldn't meet Regina's eyes.
"Yes?" Regina asked.
Ruby scuffed her foot against the floor. She said, "Lately, I actually had been trying to psych myself up for asking you something. And, well, now seems like as good a time as any to go ahead with it, if that's okay?" She finally looked up and into Regina's eyes, even as she kept her head tilted downward. It was somehow a particularly wolfish look.
"Well what is it?" Regina prompted.
With a deep breath, Ruby stood up straighter and faced Regina head on. "I was wondering if you'd let me buy you a drink, sometime; somewhere where I'm not the one serving it?"
Regina almost didn't think it through; she almost just shrugged and said that sure, that would be fine. But there was something about the seriousness with which Ruby had asked the question Regina took a moment to think.
"Ruby, are you asking me on a date?"
Ruby's face began to flush, but to her credit, she didn't look away. "It doesn't have to be one," she replied. "But, well, would you want it to be?"
Regina took another moment to consider. "Yes. I think I would like that," she said.
And there, finally, was Ruby's full, thousand-watt smile.
"I would too," said Ruby. "It's a date, then. Maybe this weekend?"
Regina nodded. "All right, yes."
She felt almost stunned, like she'd experienced whiplash. She had come to the apartment full of indignation, but would be leaving with plans for a date. With Ruby Lucas.
Not a bad trade-off, really.
Ruby was staring at her, clearly trying to gauge what Regina was thinking, behind her neutral facial expression.
Regina smiled, then chuckled again. "This wasn't how I thought this conversation was going to go," she said. Then she added, speaking about more than just this one conversation, "This wasn't how I thought any of this was going to go."
Ruby laughed as well, a bright shining sound. "No, me neither."
She then stepped closer to Regina, encroaching slowly into Regina's personal space. She leaned in and, very softly, brushed her lips against Regina's cheek.
Taking a step back, Ruby looked at Regina with a shy smile. "I'm really glad that I forgot to lock the door that night."
Regina smiled back. "Yes," she said. "Horrible for your security, of course. You know, you should really"
Ruby cut Regina off with a happy burst of laughter, and she was seemingly unable to stop herself from leaning in again to press another kiss to Regina's other cheek.
"I'll be very careful to only leave the door unlocked for you, okay?"
"Good." Regina nodded in satisfaction.
Regina hadn't experienced much luck in her life, and she would be happy to take advantage of Ruby's fortunate mistake this time.
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