They must be lovers.
Regina fights against the possessive jealousy burning through her veins threatening to kindle a flame of fury in her heart. She is horrified at her unwitting intrusion on such a private conversation, as well as the emotions churning inside her as a result.
Her mind rages until the flame slowly burns out and leaves her feeling empty. She was a fool to believe...her heart understands Ruby's sorrow perfectly.
"Emma?!" Snow's shrill voice echoes through the hospital corridor.
Regina forces herself not to move and keeps her breathing slow and even. She fervently hopes it's enough to convince the two people on the hospital bed that she's still asleep.
"You should go. Talk to Snow." Ruby's sad voice grates through the emotionally charged silence.
Regina clenches her eyes shut. There is a slight shuffling sound before the bed squeaks. Regina can almost feel Emma frown at her through the red cloak. It feels as though her heart stops beating. Please don't let her find me here! She didn't think she would be able to face Emma before, not after...and now...Gods, just, please.
"Please go." Ruby pleads as Snow's increasingly panicked voice calls for Emma. Regina almost sags with relief when she hears Emma's boots slink out of the room.
"I know you're awake."
Regina flushes with shame. Slowly, she lifts the cloak until her face is no longer hidden. She can't bring herself to look Ruby in the eye.
"It was unacceptable for me to fall asleep, especially here. I used far too much magic and it left me drained and exhausted..." Regina's normal eloquence escapes her completely. Her jaw muscles clench and relax as she struggles with her sudden inarticulacy.
"Forgive me. I did not mean to intrude." Is all Regina manages.
Ruby's face contorts into a shadow of a smile, strangely bitter and filled with irony before her jaw locks like a vice. She shifts until she's sitting on the edge of the bed, absentmindedly running her hand over the sheets.
Regina's heart stirs at the sight of the normally proud, defiant girl looking so defeated. She reaches out and wraps her fingers around Ruby's restless hand.
"I truly am sorry." Regina says softly. The softness in those deep brown eyes make it clear she's not just referring to her accidental eavesdropping.
Ruby seems unable to resist the sincerity of Regina's apology. She looks down at their clasped hands and a small incredulous chuckle breaks the tension.
"I didn't know you were lovers." The words escape Regina's lips before she has a chance to stop them. Something in Regina's tone of voice catches Ruby's attention. Large green orbs study her closely underneath a very deep frown.
"No, we've never..." Ruby chews on her bottom lip nervously. "Emma was at the town border. Again. I go sit with her sometimes. Somehow, I managed to confess feelings for her without actually saying anything." Ruby shuts her eyes to veil her emotional reaction to the memory, but her voice betrays her. "We argued. I had to get away, so I ran up the hiking trail. Straight into Elsa and her block of ice."
Regina shifts uncomfortably. She'd misunderstood. That makes her intrusion even worse. Not only did Ruby have to suffer the disquietude of such an emotional confession and subsequent rejection, but she also had that embarrassment amplified by having an audience. An audience who slept with Emma. Regina feels as though she has violated Ruby. Her stomach heaves.
Regina gently tugs her hand free. She rises out of the chair and moves further away. Regina shakes her head when Ruby slides off the bed towards her. Ruby watches Regina's uncharacteristic struggle for words. She takes a few steps closer.
"You should hate me." Regina cautions her as she presses a hand against Ruby's shoulder to keep her at arms length. Ruby smiles harshly and shakes her head.
"You saved me. You saved..."
"I slept with her." Regina interrupts, taking another step away from Ruby.
Ruby's eyes grow wild and her nostrils flare. She can't keep the venom from her eyes as she glares at Regina. Ruby lunges forward, slamming into Regina and pinning her against the wall, one arm braced across Regina's torso and the other clasped around her right wrist, trapping it against the wall above Regina's head.
Regina's expression goes blank, almost neutral, but all the blood has drained from her face. She doesn't move. She doesn't speak. Her wide dark eyes watch Ruby. She hardly blinks.
They stare at each other for 13 seconds.
Ruby's fury withers. Large green orbs fill with moisture. The iron grip around Regina's wrist goes slack and their hands drop down. The arm across Regina's torso folds inwards until Ruby's forearm is resting against the line of buttons down Regina's silk shirt. Ruby sags into Regina.
"Tonight? At the cabin?" Ruby's wet eyelashes brush against Regina's temple.
"Her scent is all over you." Ruby murmurs, burying her face in Regina's hair.
"I'm s..." Ruby reaches up and places her fingers over Regina's lips.
"Please don't. I can't bear...I've heard those words too many times tonight. I can't take any more."
Regina leans her head back against the wall. Ruby's hand moves from her lips and nestles in the hair at the base of Regina's neck. Her forearm slides down and her arm wraps around Regina's waist, pulling her closer.
"Do you love her?" Ruby finally asks in a hoarse whisper. Regina's hands clench the white fabric of Ruby's shirt. She doesn't answer.
"You're shaking." Ruby notices.
"I don't like being restrained." Regina replies into her shoulder.
Ruby's breathing hitches. A flush of shame spreads over her skin. She starts pulling away when Regina steps into her, pressing against her.
"Regina, I'm..." Ruby starts to apologise.
"I know, dear." Regina interrupts. "As am I."
The intimacy of their embrace finally registers and Ruby blushes and steps out of Regina's arms. Regina leans back against the wall. Ruby's green orbs watch her quietly. The hum of the hospital lights grow loud in the silence that follows.
"I can't hate you." Ruby admits. "I don't...I...this is insane."
Regina's lip curls into a small smile that doesn't reach her eyes. Ruby looks at Regina with an indecipherable expression.
"I...I don't even know if I really love her."
Regina frowns at Ruby in utter confusion. She feels as though she has missed some vital part of the conversation. Ruby sighs. She takes a few tentative steps, turns and leans against the wall next to Regina. Ruby clears her throat awkwardly.
"When the curse broke, things were kind of crazy. It was confusing having two different identities in my head. I mean, who am I? Ruby? Or Red?" Ruby doesn't pause for an answer. She doesn't seem to expect one. "David was right, though, I am both."
"Ruby, the waitress, fell for the mysterious beautiful Sheriff. Fell hard, actually. Not me...but since she's a part of me..." Ruby massages her eyebrows with the tips of her fingers.
"I don't know if it's love or the idea of having love. After Peter, and then Quinn..." Ruby's voice falters. She turns her head and studies Regina's profile.
"I thought I'd learned to temper love and yearning many many moons ago, but in that moment, lying next to Emma staring down at her, I saw hope. And I reached for it."
Regina only realises she's crying when she feels the moisture on her cheeks. Ruby tries to brush them away but Regina flinches.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Regina."
A shiver runs down Regina's spine when Ruby reaches over and pulls her into her arms. She holds Regina close. Regina is stiff and awkward but she doesn't pull away.
"Hmm." Ruby's dazed voice muffles against Regina's temple.
Regina pulls back and stares up at Ruby. Ruby blushes and leans back slightly against the wall, her arms still wrapped around Regina's waist.
"Emma usually shies away from any physical contact. Tonight was the first time she touched me. Held me." Ruby closes her eyes.
"It didn't feel like this." Ruby's eyes flow over her arms around Regina's waist. "It felt like...friendship?"
Regina's whole body grows tense. She tries to step out of the embrace but Ruby tightens her hold around Regina's waist and hugs her close against her chest.
"I'm not going to lie. This whole night has been crazy. This is crazy. I am very confused and feel more vulnerable than I'm used to, but I've never seen this side of you before and I think I like this you. After everything that's happened tonight...I think we're already...close, Regina."
Ruby holds on to Regina as she tries to duck out of the hug.
"There is still a residual flow of energy between us as a result of my healing your injury. This bond...It will fade soon enough. " Regina argues.
"I really hope it doesn't." Ruby admits. Regina grows still. Ruby grins and after a few half-hearted tugs Regina finally relaxes against her chest. Ruby holds her until she feels Regina leaning into the embrace.
"I reached for that hope too." Regina whispers in such a quiet voice that Ruby leans closer to hear it. "If it helps...she didn't choose me either."
Ruby leans back. Stormy green eyes trace a few silent tears as they trickle down Regina's cheeks. Ruby leans in and kisses Regina's eyelids. A bittersweet smile flutters over Regina's lips. Regina steps so close Ruby can feel her racing heartbeat against her chest.
"She should have chosen you." Regina whispers into Ruby's neck.
Regina's arms wrap around Ruby's waist and Ruby melts into the embrace. After what seems like an eternity, Regina leans back. A small shy smile touches the corner of her lips.
"Now, as much as I enjoy wrestling with you, we really should find Elsa." Regina smirks.
Ruby rolls her eyes but nods resolutely.
Regina steps out of her arms. She gestures for Ruby to lead the way. Ruby winks and makes her way to the green 'EXIT' sign at the end of the hospital corridor. Regina lingers for a moment. She runs her fingertips over her eyelids.
When she feels Ruby watching her, she brushes her hands over her clothes to smooth any wrinkles and walks over. Ruby holds the door for her as they step out into the freezing night to start their search.