Snow lies on Red's bed, curled with her in the folds of the crimson cloak. They press themselves together, letting the warmth of the room seep into their chilled flesh.
“I could live like this,” Snow whispers into Red's dark waves. She is thinking of a day wasted in the woods, watching snow fall silently through the branches of pines, laughing about nothing.
“Here?” Red laughs on the word. “This place? It's nowhere, nothing. You lived in a palace.” She pulls the hood of the cloak beneath her cheek as a pillow and smiles at Snow, her eyes dark and sleepy. Snow turns onto her back and nudges her head closer.
“Palaces... are very empty if you don't have a friend.” She glances sideways at Red and returns the smile, knowing it must look bright and happy and ridiculous. “You're my friend.”
They fall asleep somewhere between whispers and giggles, many hours later.
Rumplestiltskin is not quite so generous as to deposit James within a day's ride of Snow. Even with the ring, it takes him three days, sunrise to sunrise. Even riding through most of the night.
At the end of the second day, he recognizes the land around him. He doesn't think to protest the pause in his journey, doesn't even notice it, until Red half-pulls him from the saddle. There's a fire, and food, and something warm and sweet to drink. He makes it through half a plate, unthinking, before he manages to notice Red sitting across the fire from him. Snow's eyes would be twinkling; Red's glow. He swallows his mouthful quickly and nearly chokes on it in the process.
Once he's able to speak again, James realizes how much he aches, and curses himself. He may have grown up a farmboy, but he knows better than to ride without stop. A brief glance shows him that Red must have seen to his horse, which looks tired but unharmed.
“...how did you find me?”
Red smiles, mischievous, and taps her nose.
“I'll always find you.”
It should be Regina's appearance that has Snow shaking in her boots (well, slippers), but it's not. She's fought trolls and soldiers and evil queens, bartered with the Dark One, and learned to live like a thief in the forests, but Snow has never been quite this terrified before.
Even the presence of Red, murmuring soft nonsense as she brushes Snow's hair out with utmost gentleness, does nothing to soothe Snow's nerves.
It doesn't help that she's facing the bed. Snow had been taught to keep as still as the grave when someone was dealing with her hair, but now she wants nothing more than to twist around and put her face in Red's cloak.
So she does. To hell with years as a p.txtess; the days-weeks-months of friendship were more useful than anything Snow had had before.
Red only laughs, sets down the brush.
“Don't be afraid. You've kissed him, haven't you?”
Snow nods, can't make herself speak.
“It's True Love, Snow. You'll be fine. It's not-- I mean, not that I ever did anything.” Snow looks up at the light tone and rapid words, to see Red blushing her bright namesake, and arches an eyebrow. Red shakes her head. “Not much! And it wasn't-- it wasn't True Love. With Peter. It has to be better if it is.” She leans down, presses a soft kiss to Snow's temple. “You'll always be ok. Snow, you're the bravest person I know.”
The first thing Red thinks after magic comes back is, no. Magic makes her the wolf again; magic means the cloak; magic means danger and cruel things walking the earth. Not that cruelty required magic, no, but she so clearly remembers now what it is to fear the potent mix of spite and power.
The second thing she thinks is Grandma! and is moments later embraced in a hug that goes on forever, which is just fine by Red.
The third thing, the best thing, is that she sees Snow and Charming, she knows them for who they are, and before she can really put anything else together they're all clinging together in various combinations. She can smell them, now, recognizes things she never knew she missed as Ruby. She smells how happy they are, to see each other, to see her. She smells the strength and honor and goodness of Charming and the utter Snow-ness of Snow, all the best and favorite things Red's never found words for. They smell like the world, the right one. They smell like home.
The first night after Snow and Emma are stolen from him, James takes Henry to Snow's-- Mary Margaret's-- Snow's house and pulls every blanket, sheet, and pillow in the place to the living room. Henry lights every candle they have. They lie in the warmth of the blankets, in the warm flicker of firelight, and mourn, and sleep.
The second night, Red-- Ruby-- Red comes to them, bringing hot food, warm cocoa, and less tangible comforts. Words, something James hasn't managed .txte about ten that morning.
James isn't entirely sure what she says to Henry while they eat, her voice quieter than he can pick up. At least the boy seems happier afterwards. James is too distracted, watching her. He can't decide if she's a reminder of Snow, or of all the times he's searched for Snow.
She says nothing at all to James, not until the three of them are sprawled within the Great Blanket Fortress, and she leans her head on his shoulder.
“We'll find them, Charming.” She looks up at him, but she has to crane her neck to do it, turning the sly glance into something comical. If only he remembered how to laugh. She taps her nose, the gesture somehow familiar.
“I'll always find her.”