Just a Song

By Shahrezad1

Summary: Ruby manages to get Archie to dance with her. Set during "Dreamy," at the Miner's Day festival. RedXCricket friendship fic with a touch of romance.

Disclaimer: I don't own them, but I would love it if I did. :)

~/~/~

" Lend me your arm dear,

Let's go for a walk.

I'll be gentle, I'll be kind,

Curl your hand around mine.

It's just a song,

Always strings me along.

Could it be your heart is warming to mine?

You want a leading lady,

I put my name in for the part,

So why don't we put away these lonesome hearts."

-Lonesome Hearts, The Good Lovelies

The power outage had definitely been a surprise, Ruby thought to herself as she clutched her candle between gloved hands, but this was so much better.

The formality of a town event was softened under the light of the Nuns' homemade candles, their glow doubled by the honey color of the beeswax. Similarly it soothed the dark circles under tired eyes and creases around downturned mouths as neighbors greeted one another joyfully, as though upon meeting one another for the first time.

Which was true, in a sense. Ruby could honestly say that the members of Storybrooke hadn't ever met one another this particular setting of warm community before, cold electric lighting a poor substitute for candlelight. And somewhere, beyond Ruby's line of sight, she could hear the beginning strains of music as someone began tickling a fiddle. A tune that was soon deepened by the addition of a guitar.

The waitress beamed at Granny, one of the first shows of affection she'd given her that day since hearing about her grandmother's snub toward Mary Margaret, passed off her candle and dashed off. Leaving shaken heads and bemused glances behind her. Normally exasperation would be paired with the Lucas matron's expression, but tonight was Miner's Day and such child-like impulse was almost to be expected.

The music wasn't difficult to follow, the notes becoming clearer with every passing second. Although she did pause next a pastry booth—pumpkin tarts, lemon meringues, picked-pepper zippers!—upon recognizing the sound of a clarinet joining the group. Then Ruby was in the clear, crowd breaking apart to reveal three men who, on any other day, were just regular townspeople.

Today they were musicians at their craft, a lively trio completely in tune with the others' movements. A wizened, white-fringed plate nodded cheerfully to his fellows as a certain red-haired psychiatrist and resident doctor bobbed their heads in time. Two of the three had removed their shepherd's caps in fear of losing them during the orchestration, but Whale's light brown top bore no hint of headgear. And in the nippy night air all three sets of hair had started to curl—white, ginger, and brown.

Without really thinking about it a circle had formed round the impromptu musicians, clapping eagerly but it soon broke off into two groups—dancing couples and spectators. Granny was among the latter, Ruby's now-dark candle tucked into her pocket as she bore a cup of hot cider in her opposite hand. The younger Lucas was in the former, watching as Mr. and Mrs. Sprat whirled about like they were young again. Next to them Maria Contrario and Phil Phillips, the lad from the pastry stall, were whirling, despite her protestations. And even Henry was being dragged around the "dance floor" by a pretty ash-blonde a few inches taller than himself.

Billy and a few other local boys claimed her for a whirl or two until she was practically dizzy and had to sit down. Only then did she notice that her seatmate was none other than one of the musicians, taking a break from playing the clarinet. Walking by, one of the nuns—Sister Tina? Christina?—handed him a warm drink with a smile. Archie grinned boyishly, looking the most carefree that Ruby had ever seen the responsible therapist be, and took a gulp of the hot cider. Hissing half a second later at the heat, he took a smaller sip at the thereafter but only after blowing a few times. She couldn't help but chuckle.

"Too hot for you to handle, Doctor Hopper?" Ruby teased with a small dose of flirtation. She had to be careful sometimes when it came to their interactions. If she came on too strong then he blushed and stammered all the way home, tail between his legs. But when she didn't put forth enough effort he became concerned, as though something was wrong. The waitress wondered how he would react if she told him that sometimes she became tired of being Ruby-The-Flirt. That every now and again it felt like she was acting a part instead of being herself.

Of course, if she did say something like that he'd probably go all 'Psych Eval' on her and tell her grandmother about the change, a cause for the old lady's celebration. And then their pleasant interactions—filled with her teasing him until he blushed like a schoolboy—would probably end. So instead she opted to stick to the script and maybe even push a few buttons in the process.

Archie had choked at her question, already chapped cheeks going redder still. But after giving her an affectionate, exasperated look for both her words and her timing, he responded back, "a tad, yes."

Ruby had to grin. What with the musical liberation the good doctor was in fine form tonight, and more than that it seemed as though he was perfectly willing to humor her and her banter, if his sideways smile was anything to go by. She bit her lower lip in glee, pleased when even that drew his attention.

Waiting until Doctor Hopper was about to take another small swig, she added nonchalantly, "the problem is that you're going from cold to hot too fast. You just need to warm up first."

The look she gave him out of the corner of her eye was sultry, aided and abetted by mascara and a heavy dose of eye shadow. Meanwhile her lips quirked up in the tiniest bit of a crimson smirk.

He barely managed to avoid a minor scalding as he coughed, cup drawn away before it could all spill down the front of his suit jacket.

Ruby tried to appear innocent, she really tried, but the redhead's expression was just too droll, too wry, and so with an adolescent kind of abandon she hadn't enjoyed for years Ruby laughed long and hard. Until even Archibald Hopper, psychiatrist, laughed with her, the fun of the evening carrying away them both.

Feeling fond warmth blossom in her chest, the brunette took a minute to examine her companion and found only that which was pleasing. His already curly hair was practically fluffy with their recent head-tossing exercise and his cheeks were a lingering strawberry, exertion and cheerful embarrassment an attractive mix. Archie removed his glasses to wipe away the tears of laughter from his eyes and she couldn't help but marvel at the creases in the corner of his eyes and mouth.

Here is a primarily happy man, she thought to herself. It was an appealing trait, especially when compared with the dour faces she usually came up against. And who knew that happiness could make a person look so much younger?

Smirking, Ruby Lucas decided to enlist some of the impulsiveness inherent to the evening as she leaned in to whisper in his ear, breath deliberately brushing against the side of his well-shaven cheeks, "you know what would warm you up faster?" not waiting for his characteristic flush, the young woman gripped her gloved hand around his bare one, and tugged, "dancing!"

The older man barely had enough time to set down his drink before they were in the circle of couples, and by then his protestations were somewhat moot.

"Ah, Ruby, no I-I shouldn't. I was just c-catching my breath before s-staring—I meant starting again! And-."

"Oh, c'mon, Archie," the girl remarked as she propelled them away from a potentially drunk couple, "it's just a song. One itty bitty song. And it's not even that fast."

Which was true. Somehow sensing that his old friend was in the mix, Marco had turned to playing a simple, leisurely country tune. Gentle and lightly romantic in nature in comparison to her previous flight across the 'dance floor.' Whale was still accompanying him, albeit absently, eyes bouncing between the prettier nuns and one of the hospital nurses, while someone she only vaguely knew as Luis—Louis?—had added his trumpet temporarily to the mix as a surprisingly gentle counterpoint.

"You deserve at least one, especially if you're going to be roped into playing the rest of the night," she added when he tried to protest again.

"Well I-I…" Archie fumbled for words to say as he noticed that their classical waltz position had somehow become something more friendly, a 'simple' two-step with her arms wrapped around his neck and his on her waist, "…I suppose."

Humming along, she gently nudged him into movement until the redhead relaxed enough to get the hang of it, rocking back and forth and just enjoying the melody. Eventually without noticing it he even started enjoying himself under her care.

Ruby hid a smile and rearranged her grip, drawing a little closer so that his chin brushed the fluffy bouffant section of her hair. Archie's hands were forced to shift again, but had an easier time of it, fumbling for only a moment. But they soon were comfortably spread, the pads of his fingers pressed respectfully along her spine and back. He even unwound enough to hum along with her at one point.

"This is one of my favorite songs," he murmured in the chilly air, warmth brushing her temple.

Ruby smiled gently and tucked herself closer to the very friendly doctor, answer his collar, "I bet you anything that's why he chose it."

Hopper chuckled slightly, a teasing quality to his voice that she didn't have to see to recognize, "you should really be careful with that phrase."

The young woman scoffed, "you're not Mr. Gold. You'd never press that advantage—you're too good a guy to do that, Arch."

He chuckled, low and amused, "not that good," he contested, "not always."

Ruby wrapped herself more tightly around him, pressing close as though making a point. Or maybe just comforting herself against the truth, "better than me."

"You're a better person than you give yourself credit for," he remarked with a sigh, and she had to blush for once. The statement had been immediate, no faults or stuttering, and it went without saying that Archibald Hopper never lied.

"Or at least would admit to out loud," she conceded, finally, "wouldn't want to ruin my Rep, after all."

She'd tried to make the comment lighthearted, but instead it just echoed with emptiness and both of them could hear it. When had the conversation taken such a serious turn, she wondered in part, but alternately didn't want to run away from the change. Not while she had Archie's undivided attention.

"Even for the sake of something better?" was his characteristic response, always aiming to help others. But there was almost an element of anxiety to the question, having tightened his grip on her so that she was flush against him, long limbs held firm against solid ones. She was distracted from replying by the unexpected intimacy of the moment—and the awareness that he was holding just as fixedly on her as she was on him. But his query still required a response, even a flippant one.

"Depends on what 'better' consists of. Better according to my grandmother? Or as per the expectations of this town? I don't even know what better means anymore," she began seriously, before making her question just the slightest bit tart, "you volunteering, Doctor Hopper?"

She could practically feel the heat coming off of his skin as he coughed awkwardly, loosening his grip in the sudden desire to jump back. Regret that her words had brought such a change in their closeness was mixed with light teasing, the kind that she knew he could take, "see, Arch. I told you I could warm you up."

His laugh was a tad desperate, a prevalent squeak coloring his vocals, but it was a laugh nonetheless. And she settled in for the rest of the dance with a smile on her face, ready to give him a reprieve.

It was only natural that the soothing notes made her sleepy, especially after such a long, emotionally taxing day. Without thought Ruby burrowed her pointed nose into his collar, taking a deep breath as she rested her head against his woolen scarf. Archie's heartbeat was slow and reassuring, a constant of sound that made her feel secure within his affection.

The therapist had even moved one of his arms so that it rested around her shoulders, still rocking them back and forth to the notes remaining. Until the sound of the loveliest of songs coming to a close drew them back. Opening her eyes slowly they just happened to stand parallel to the players, a view Ruby took in at a glance. Marco was smiling. At Archie, at her, and at her grandmother who had just sidled up with a new cup of cider for him. Louis was already wandering off to meet with friends. Whale was staring at her like he had never seen her before, expression skeptical and a little bit haughty before returned to his girl-scanning.

Irritated at both him and the effect his reaction was having on her, Ruby slipped her hand down Archie's arm in order to clasp his fingers in her own. She smiled tightly at her friend upon meeting his surprised, ruddy expression, "let's go check out some of the booths, Archie."

Making sure that Marco could take charge of his instrument once it had been packed away, the rest of the evening went by pleasantly with one of her best friends at her side. A man whom she didn't have to impress or put on a show for. After all, it wasn't such a bad thing that he could see through her mask sometimes.

And if she smiled more than usual or his gazes were more than a little fond, neither thought much on it. Just grateful for each others' pleasant company.

~/~/~

AN: "Pickled-Pepper Zippers" don't exist. I just wanted to make a bakery-type reference to, "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers, did Peter Piper pick?" A nursery rhyme tongue-twister. He also appears in the dancing crowd. I also took a stab at the idea that that Peter is the same as this Peter: "Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her. Put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well."

Also, in the episode, "Dreamy," did anyone else notice that the first door that Mary Margaret and Leroy come to involves, "Jack Sprat" and his wife? For, "Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean. Put them both together and they licked the platter clean."

Maria Contrario is a direct reference to: "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row."

The "ash-blonde" that Henry's dancing with is Grace. Despite repeated reference I couldn't decide if her hair was dark blonde or light brown. But ash-blonde is easier to fit into a sentence, so… *laughs*

Sister Christina is Tinkerbell, as I probably was not the only one to note that one of Sister Astrid's fellow nuns was very, very blonde. XD

Louis is from The Princess and the Frog. I needed a trumpet player, and Roger (101 Dalmatians) doesn't really work, considering that Archie kind of is Roger. XD

"Lonesome Hearts" by the Good Lovelies is the song being played by Marco and Co. Check it out, it's a pure delight!

I wrote Ruby as being Ruby in this, if that makes sense. She's teasing Archie because it's fun, and it's nothing serious. I mean, she's dancing with him, yes, but she also danced with a few other men and so it's not a big deal. And even he knows that. So their interactions are very light-hearted and friendly at the first, and even when she ends up holding his hand it's not really a big deal. To her, anyway. XD This is kind of a "starting point"-type of fic, I guess you could say, but I had fun writing it. :)