Fixing What's Broken
Once Upon A Time
Disclaimer: All characters etc. Belong to ABC and all legal owners. I am just borrowing them for a brief moment.
Note: Okay let me just say, I love Dorothy and Ruby together but I watching the last episode of Once I was irritated by Regina's removal of her evil self and I realized only one other person would be able to show Regina why keeping the evil part of her was important. And I still love Red Queen :-)
"What the hell did you do Regina?"
Regina turned from where she was staring out at the harbor, shocked to see Ruby Lucas leaning against the rail next to her.
"Well well, Little Red Riding Hood has come home has she?" Regina quipped.
"Don't do that," Ruby said seriously. "I heard you did something to get rid of the Evil Queen. Why?"
Regina looked away, shame and remorse eating at her. "I don't know how that's any of your business," she said coolly. "Besides, don't you have a farmer's daughter you're supposed to be wooing?"
"Yeah that didn't work out," Ruby said sadly, turning around and facing the harbor as well.
"Why?" she asked curiously. She was perhaps one of the very few who didn't believe 'true love' over came everything, but the brevity of Ruby's romance still surprised her.
"The people of Oz want her to marry a man so she can have heirs. She agreed," Ruby shrugged as if it didn't matter, but Regina could feel the pain radiating from her.
"I'm sorry Ruby," Regina said sincerely. "There isn't anything..."
"No," Ruby interrupted. "She made her choice and I came home. End of story. I'm sorry about Robin."
Regina nodded, unable and unwilling to talk about that right now. "You know, it didn't happen a lot but occasionally I almost missed you while you were gone," she said, a familiar smirk crossing her face.
"And I missed that silver tongue of yours," Ruby replied, grinning.
"We've never had much cause to talk, you and I," Regina said casually, turning to look at the enigmatic werewolf, "but despite what I led you to believe, I've always had an odd sort of respect for you."
Ruby's surprise and a hint of disbelief was evident on her face. "Really?"
Regina had to admit she enjoyed disarming the young woman not to mention aggravating her. "Yes really. While your outfits may be loud enough to startle the deaf," she hid a grin at the offended glare she received, "I will admit, I've long admired your penchant for silence. You listen before rushing in with an opinion and you don't push when it's clear a person doesn't want to be pushed. You have a very level head Miss Lucas. Something that's a rare commodity around here."
Ruby wouldn't have been more shocked if Regina had burst into song right there on the pier but she knew better than to show her that so she smirked. "So you like it when I just stand there and look pretty?"
Regina rolled her eyes. "I don't recall using the word 'pretty'."
"You didn't have to," Ruby grinned.
"Your fantastic ego aside, when did you get back?" Regina asked, knowing when to accept her losses.
"Last night. I went and saw Granny and she filled me in on what I've missed."
"I'm sure that was entertaining."
Ruby snorted. "You know Granny."
"Look, I need to get back to the diner but...I would like to talk to you later."
"The innocent look is not a good one for you Regina," Ruby laughed before her smile faded. "You know what."
"There's nothing to talk about Miss Lucas," Regina replied.
"I think there is. I won't force you to say anything you don't want to, but I think you need to talk to someone who actually understands what it is that drove you to remove a very big part of yourself."
Regina stiffened. "And what exactly makes you an expert?"
"If you think about it, I'm sure you'll get it but I'll explain it later if you agree to have dinner with me tonight."
To her own amazement, Regina found herself agreeing. "Very well, but I'd prefer if we do it at my house. There seems to be no end of sensitive ears and wagging tongues in this town."
"Somethings never change, no matter what disaster they've just survived."
"So seven o'clock at my house. I'm unfamiliar with Oz cuisine, but I assume you wouldn't be adverse to a large steak, medium rare?"
Ruby's mouth actually began to water. It had been a very long time. "I'm sure I can force it down," she lied, smiling at Regina's own amusement. "I'll see you tonight then."
"I'm sorry for the reason, but it is good to see you again Ruby," Regina said sincerely.
"You too," Ruby smiled and then walked away.
Regina had just taken the steaks off of the grill when she saw Ruby coming around the corner of her house.
"So you are familiar with the concept of promptness. The world is just full of surprises," Regina greeted.
Ruby simply grinned. "Yes it is. Who'd have ever expected to see Regina Mills slaving over a grill?"
Regina's smile faded a little at that. "Robin showed me how to use it."
Ruby sighed. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Regina said, pulling on the mask of perfect hostess. "Now make yourself useful," she ordered gesturing at a fancy tray with the steaks.
"Yes your majesty," Ruby taunted, laughing at Regina's glare. "I'm surprised you trust me with these." And she wasn't lying. It had been a very long time since she'd had regular food, not to mention what was probably a very expensive steak and she and her wolf were both salivating at the smell.
"Do I need a newspaper?" Regina asked casually, watching Ruby staring at the steak as if it were the last one on earth. She opened the door for Ruby and followed her inside.
"Cute." Ruby muttered.
"I've got the table set with salads, so please have a seat. I'll be in in a moment."
Ruby placed the tray on the kitchen counter and went into the dining room. She found a bottle of red wine on the table as well and poured two glasses while she waited.
Regina gathered the plates and joined Ruby at the table. The two women were silent for a while as they started to eat and tried to figure out how to start the conversation neither were sure they wanted to have.
"I assume, judging by the sounds you're making, you're enjoying the steak?"
Ruby was too happy about the best meal she'd had in months to be offended. "It is pretty good."
Regina rolled her eyes, not really surprised Ruby Lucas wouldn't rise to the bait. She had always been a woman to march to her own drum.
"So I assume the meals in Oz were different?"
Ruby stiffened, fighting off the sharp stabbing pain of rejection that threatened to return. She met Regina's eyes, surprised to see a look of understanding in her face. "You could say that," Ruby answered with a half smile. "The meat was from animals I've never seen before and the vegetables were these ridiculously vibrant and highly unnatural colors. It was really quite disturbing."
"And disgustingly cheerful I imagine."
Ruby chuckled. "Disgustingly."
"So, are you going to tell me about what happened with you and Miss Gale?"
"Are you going to tell me why you got rid of the Evil Queen?"
Regina smirked. "You're a bit cheeky for a guest in my home."
"Were you expecting anything else?"
"Honestly? I had absolutely no idea what to expect," Regina replied truthfully.
"Well why don't I help you with clean up and then we go into the living room with a few bottles of wine and then I'll tell you mine and you tell me yours?"
Surprising herself, Regina agreed. "Alright. However, there's no need to worry about clean up." With a negligent wave of her hand and a plume of purple smoke the table was as clean as if they'd not just eaten.
"Nifty," Ruby said impressed. "Want a part time job at Granny's?"
"As tempting an offer as that isn't, I think I'll pass," she drawled.
"Let's go bare all of our secrets then shall we?" Ruby said lightly but it didn't fool Regina for a minute. She knew pain when she saw it and this woman reeked of it.
She led Ruby into the living room and took a seat on the sofa. Ruby poured them both glasses of wine and sat on the other end of sofa.
"So," Ruby said, trying to find the best way to move forward. "I heard you and your sister worked things out.
As far as awkward starter questions went, Regina had heard worse, but she held off her amusement. "We did and she and my mother also were able to make amends.
"That's great," Ruby said sincerely. She knew there were still a lot of people who had issues with both Regina and Zelena but Ruby had seen the potential in Zelena once she gave up the bitterness and sense of abandonment that had driven her rage.
"I admit, it is...nice to have a sister, even though we haven't really had time to do much bonding, what with the rotating crises that hit Storybrooke on a regular basis."
"Granny told me that Zelena saved your life by killing Hades," Ruby approached cautiously.
Regina laughed bitterly. "She killed her true love to save me after he killed my true love. It's rather poetic sort of cruelty isn't it? Apparently nobody in my family is destined to have a true love."
Ruby nodded sadly. "I understand how you feel," she replied.
Regina glared. "Oh really," she drawled angrily. "Please tell me how you understand anything?"
Ruby heard the anger and bitterness and wasn't at all put off by it. As Regina said, she didn't talk a lot but she listened and she observed and she could recognize a defense mechanism when she saw it.
"I killed my first true love after tying him to a tree and then ripping his heart out," she admitted, the guilt never far from the surface. "The second man to show even a hint of interest in me was butchered in some disgusting attempt to frame me and kill the big bad wolf, but Dorothy? I'd never in my life been attracted to a woman before, but I loved her from the second I saw her. I loved her enough that I was able to wake her from a sleeping curse with a kiss and she then she chooses to marry someone else. Someone she doesn't even love, so yeah I'm guessing werewolves rank right up there with Evil Queens and green witches when it comes to getting the short end of the stick in the love department."
Regina saw the hurt and rejection on Ruby's face and whether or not it was because she no longer had her darkness, it broke her heart a little.
"I'm sorry Ruby," she said quietly, unwilling to offer the aggravating platitudes that most of the people in this town would probably give her.
Ruby sniffed, grateful for Regina's short response. If she heard the words "she'll change her mind, it's true love," one more time she wasn't sure what she would do.
"It was so hard for me Regina," she said, sipping her wine for courage. "I have spent so much time avoiding letting anyone in because I was afraid. I was afraid of hurting them. I was afraid of seeing fear in their eyes. But when I met Dorothy, it was as if every fear I ever had vanished. All I could see was her you know?"
Regina thought of Daniel and tears stung her eyes at the memory she would never be able to let go of. "I know."
"I risked everything for her and she didn't want me. I wasn't enough."
Part of Regina wanted to reach out to the hurting young woman but years of self preservation had her refraining. "Ruby, there's nothing I can say to make you feel better or even convince you that you are mistaken, which you are by the way, so I'm not going to insult you by trying. All I can do is remind you what an incredibly strong woman you are. You have endured a great deal in your young life and have always come out on top. You are a survivor Ruby Lucas. Don't let anyone take that from you."
Ruby wiped her eyes, more grateful for that reminder than anything else anyone has already said but now she needed to remind Regina Mills of the same thing.
"I could say the same for you Regina," she said cautiously, "but from what I've heard, you eagerly removed the one thing that made you a survivor. Why?"
Regina stiffened, prepared to tell Ruby she didn't have to defend herself to her or anyone else, but there was something about what Ruby said that struck her.
"You're upset that I finally rid the world of the Evil Queen?"
Ruby sighed. "Look, I'm not anywhere as good with words as you are so just let me try and get this out before you decide to turn me into a frog or something."
Regina's lips quirked, impressed as always by Ruby's odd outspokenness. "I make no promises," she said simply.
Ruby snorted. "Of course not," she shifted and refilled both of their glasses as she gathered her thoughts.
"Here's the thing Regina. Even though we never really talked much up til now, the one thing I've always been aware of, when I wasn't cursed that is, is the fact that we aren't really that different. Not inside."
Regina's eyebrow lifted and she was curious despite herself. "And how exactly did you reach that conclusion."
Ruby heard the dangerous tone, but she didn't let it deter her. "You and I both carry a darkness inside of us. One that can and has killed many people in our time and both of us had to learn how to control it on our own. We are the only ones who know just how very hard we have to struggle every second of the day to maintain that control."
Regina cocked her head. "That is an interesting point and one I actually never considered," she admitted. "Though to be fair, your wolf only comes out once a month and a werewolf is something you are, not what you were made into."
"I know, but it doesn't change the facts. Something I've finally come to realize though is that like it or not, the wolf is part of me and I am the woman I am today because of her. The same is true of the Evil Queen."
"That's not quite true is it?" Regina asked quietly. "Your wolf has killed yes, but not out of hate or malice, or thirst from vengeance. It is a wolf's nature. Everything I did as the Evil Queen was deliberate. Hate and vengeance was all I felt Ruby. I don't want to be that person anymore Ruby. I can't be."
Ruby just shook her head. "Yeah, by herself she is an evil raging bitch, but like my wolf, once you gained control of her, she answered to the good you. You controlled her, not the other way around. You balance each other out, don't you see?"
"Ruby," Regina started, not sure she wanted to hear anymore. Snow, Emma and Henry had leaped at the idea of her taking Jekyll's serum and agreed with all of Regina's arguments for doing it. Now Ruby was telling her why she shouldn't have.
"No, let me finish," Ruby stated firmly. "Snow and Emma, they don't get it. They only see good and evil and the people of this town have you convinced that they ONLY way you can be good is to get rid of the darkness and that's bullshit."
"I couldn't take it anymore Ruby, don't you understand that? I could feel her fighting to get out every day and I couldn't allow myself to go back to that. It has cost me everything."
"That's because you fought her Regina. With my wolf, I had to learn that fighting with a part of me I couldn't change was a dangerous distraction. That was what was keeping me from maintaining control and once I did that, once I stopped fighting, I stopped seeing the wolf for the pain it caused and accepting it for the gifts it gave me. What it allowed me to become."
"I know what she allowed me to become Ruby. I became a woman that had her own son hating her. A woman who lived so far inside anger and hate, I thought I'd suffocate."
"She made you strong Regina. Forgetting the heart removals and other terrible things you did, that part of you ensured nobody ever hurt you again."
Regina swallowed, her heart beginning to ache as Ruby was touching on something Regina hadn't wanted to see.
"Ruby, she killed people because they disobeyed her. I killed people because they disobeyed me," she corrected, "I was cold, heartless and angry all the time. I was cruel to everyone but Henry but when I found Robin...no, even before, I realized I was tired of it. I wanted to be happy. I was tired of being alone and I actually wanted to do good but now that Robin is gone, it's like before. I feel the anger pushing at me all the time and it's all I can do not to incinerate anyone who looks at me the wrong way."
"Regina, you were doing good things even with the evil still inside you. Every time you reached out to help us, that told me, if nobody else, that that you had finally won over your own darkness."
"But it was still there," Regina almost shouted hoarsely. "Pushing and pushing. I couldn't take it anymore Ruby. I had to do something."
Ruby's own heart was breaking as she saw the pain so clearly in Regina's eyes. She couldn't speak for anyone else but the one thing that had always kept Ruby from despising the former Queen like everyone else had been Regina Mills' eyes. Whatever cruel thing she was spouting, her eyes always gave her away and the sorrow in them was overwhelming.
"I know Regina, but you forget something. Once you turned toward doing good that darkness, the Evil Queen was there guiding you when horrible, difficult choices had to be made and the "good" people couldn't or wouldn't make them. You know better than anyone that the world isn't all rainbows and unicorns. That villains don't stop being villains because someone asks them politely."
"I'm not not sure if I should be offended by that," Regina drawled, trying to ease the emotions threatening to crash in on her.
Ruby just smiled. She had missed the sass of this fiery, ill-tempered woman. "I'm fairly sure I know which way you're leaning," she teased back.
Regina sighed. "Ruby, I appreciate all that you've said, even though I'm frankly surprised that you are the one person in town wanting me to keep that part of me, but the fact is I crushed her heart once we were separated. I couldn't get her back even if I wanted to."
Ruby cocked her head thoughtfully. "Is that really even possible?" she mused.
"I saw her crumble to dust Ruby."
"I know but despite how we've been talking and despite what that serum stuff did, you and the Evil Queen are not two separate people. She is you and you are her so how can you destroy a heart that is effectively yours?"
Regina frowned, not at all liking where Ruby was going with that. "Ruby, what are you implying?"
"What if that heart you crushed wasn't real?"
Regina frowned. "I know what I saw Ruby. I know what I felt."
"I know but look, the Evil Queen isn't a separate person. She is you, even if she's outside of your body and your heart still beats. It seems to me that she can't be gone if you're still here."
Regina was beyond shocked by Ruby Lucas's perception especially when the thought hadn't even occurred to Regina or anyone else.
"Well then I hope you're mistaken because if she is out there somewhere we are in a lot of trouble."
"That's because she needs you Regina," Ruby said gently. "She needs your compassion and your capability for mercy, just like you need her ability to make hard decisions without letting emotions cloud your judgment. She doesn't have to stay evil Regina. Not with your heart and your intelligence balancing her out."
Regina suddenly couldn't handle any more. She got to her feet and paced the living room, wondering why she hadn't kicked the interfering waitress out of her house and wondering why everything she'd said made a terrible sort of sense.
"Why are you saying all of this Ruby?" She asked almost desperately. "Emma, Snow...me...everyone couldn't have been happier to see the last of the Evil Queen."
"That's because they don't understand,"
"Emma was the Dark One," Regina reminded her.
"Yes, but she wasn't born with it and she was only the Dark One for a short time."
Regina shook her head. "Ruby, I appreciate everything you said but as I said, even if I did agree with you, it's too late. She's gone."
"Well we'll just have to get her back."
"I don't understand you one damned bit," Regina said tiredly.
"Of course you don't. That's why you like me," Ruby grinned, wanting to lighten the mood.
"Hm," Regina replied though her lips twitched with repressed amusement.
"So, I said what I needed to," Ruby said getting to her feet. "Just give it some thought and if you decide you want to reunite with your inner Queen," she smiled, "let me know and you and I can figure out a way to get her back."
"Just like one of Henry's secret operations hm?" Regina replied, everything inside of her torn between being finally free of the evil part of her and the glaring hollowness she felt inside.
"And what exactly do you get out of it?" Regina couldn't help but ask.
Ruby wasn't surprised by the question. Regina Mills had learned to be suspicious of any offer of help long ago.
"Well there's the fact that I can use a distraction myself right now," she admitted honestly, "not to mention you get the pleasure of my company."
Regina shook her head and smiled despite herself, though she decided if this was what Ruby Lucas needed to mend her broken heart, she would go along with it. "I'm not entirely sure why you are so insistent on this Ruby. I'm still not I want to be re-joined with her. There is too much risk, but I can't deny that you have made me realize something I hadn't wanted to, so yes, should 'evil' me reappear, you and I will talk to her."
"That's a start," Ruby said getting to her feet. "And now, I think I'll be on my way before I become a nuisance."
"Too late for that," Regina quipped pleasantly, walking Ruby to the front door.
"I don't know why you care so much about saving someone everybody else can't wait to get rid of, especially someone that could turn you into a new hat without effort."
Ruby rolled her eyes. "Nice," she retorted. "And quite frankly, when she is balanced with you, I kind of like her. She's a woman who does what she wants and doesn't bow to anyone else's opinions."
It didn't take a genius to realize Ruby was referring to Dorothy. "She doesn't deserve you," Regina stated simply and meaning it. Ruby deserved a woman who had the strength to ignore giving in to other people's demands. She deserved someone who would actually fight for her.
"Thank you Regina," Ruby said with a half smile, unwilling to say or do anything that would spook the skittish woman back into her shell.
"Good night Ruby. I'll be in touch."
With a wave, Ruby left, her heart feeling slightly less broken than when she'd returned to Storybrooke and she hoped that maybe together, she and Regina Mills could finally be put back together.