Red-Cricket Tails

By Shahrezad1

Summary: Welcome to Red-Cricket Week 2013 on Tumblr! :D

Disclaimer: I don't own, so please don't sue. And since this is based off of prompts…some of the ideas aren't even mine! *le gasp*

Day 1

Prompt Numero Uno: "Ruby thinks of Peter and Billy and understands why she loves Archie."

Sometimes Ruby's mind focused a bit too often on the 'What If's.

What if life had been different, for example, and what if she hadn't been a werewolf? Or what if she and 'Mary Margaret' had never met?

But more than that, what if Peter hadn't died?

Melancholy thoughts like these seemed to plague her most often when she was alone. Whether at home in her room at the B&B or while finishing up a closing shift at the diner. Mostly she kept up a mask of cheer, but once the cool was gone and the busboy—Jack Be Nimble, she sometimes had to remind herself—was picked up by his mother, Mrs. Zapato—the old woman who lived in a shoe—the thoughts came flooding back.

It seemed as though everything and nothing had changed since the curse's lifting. She still worked at Granny's, still serving the same food to the same patrons (if, perhaps, under alternate appellations). The difference being that Ruby was now also Red—and she now knew why on certain nights she felt like crying for no reason.

Peter had been everything a young girl might be interested in. He'd been sweet, a longtime friend, flirtatious with the tiniest bit of a rebellious streak twinkling in the corner of his eye. What's more, the lad had been hardworking and determined, a trait Widow Lucas couldn't sniff her nose at.

Still Granny had tried to dissuade the relationship. At the time Red had thought that there was something about him which her Grandmere didn't like. Only to find out after the fact that the problem was actually herself.

Widow Lucas had kept them apart in order to protect him from her.

Having such a traumatic "break up" made it hard to get close to anyone. Particularly when paired with the knowledge that she could be the harbinger of death to her loved ones at any time. Or, on another level of horror, that had things been different she might have ended up passing the wolf gene on to her children without knowing it.

The waitress couldn't help but dwell on that thought, those kinds of 'what-ifs' turning her as cold and shaken as any of her flashbacks.

No, it was better that Granny had kept them apart. Red just wished that she'd told her sooner—maybe, then, some of the horrors she'd instigated might have been prevented.

Billy had been a lot like Peter, in a way. Eager to please, nearly bending over backwards in an effort to gain some measure of approval from her. Ruby had lorded that power over him, teasing the man with kisses and snuggling but never anything more. But as Red she'd been a little more solemn—she knew what her abilities could do to the innocent , and her, "wolfish," side's traits before the curse's resolution just went to show how willing it was to play with its prey.

Even as Belle had been urging her on to give him a chance she'd been leery, worried. When the topic of conversation came up with Snow she'd wisely abstained from any pressure, but Belle—Belle hadn't known any better. She had merely wished for her friend to be as happy as she was. The intelligent librarian hadn't understood the kind of backlash Red's curse created.

And Billy—Gus-Gus—all he could see was her beauty. Her loveliness of personality and spirit. Not the infection lying just below the surface.

Ruby's efforts had all been for naught, of course, and for those hours after finding his body it felt like Peter all over again.

Their smiles an accusation before her face.

She had wanted to die, then. Plus later, too. Until Dr. Hopper stopped by the diner one night. He hadn't said a thing; hadn't offered platitudes or fear. Had merely sat at the bar with a simple mug of peppermint tea in hand. But the man had somehow known what she was going through—thoughts and empathy exuding from soft, pale eyes and loosely clasped hands.

Understanding, that was how he was different from Peter and Billy. They'd been attracted to her like moths to a flame, but Archie—no, Jiminy—knew what it was like to be burnt.

What it was like to be the flame.

The werewolf had asked her grandmother about the therapist's past and she'd hardly had anything to say—only that whatever had occurred happened when she and Marco were no more than children, and that neither man liked to talk about it too much.

Also that he was far older than he looked, certainly, and something about Rumpelstiltskin being involved. Which was never good news.

So Ruby had had to venture a question or two herself.

She'd asked him one day after closing, the redhead the last patron of the evening, standing just behind her as Ruby locked up. Then in halting, stuttering words he'd admitted to being the cause of Gepetto's parents' demise.

The two of them had held each other that night and every other night after that.

So while the 'What If's did plague her like her own personal Macbeth, part of her was glad that the end result was good-ish. Not for herself, but for Archie.

Because for all that she'd found someone who understood her, the greatest blessing was in giving the good Doctor someone who understood him.

~/~/~

AN: Yay! Welcome to day 1! I'm posting this a bit early, as I have a Horror Costume Party tomorrow to be a part of, so I won't have the opportunity after work. :) Still, I hope that it's not too shabby. See you on Sunday for chapter 2. ^^