Author's Note: Not quite what I thought it would be. My first time writing this pairing as more than a minor thing, and first time writing Ruby for more than a few lines in a scene. Comments are always appreciated. Mild smut at the end, which made me hesitate posting this here, but I decided to go ahead.
She shows up at his office after the last person is gone and he's just sitting there on the couch, thinking about going home but not finding the energy to move. In the three weeks since the curse broke it's seemed like most of the town has come to see him at least once, trying to sort out two sets of memories. It doesn't seem to matter to any of them that he's no longer a board certified psychiatrist, but rather a cricket that's somehow still in human form. They need to talk, and he's always been one for listening.
"Perfecting the art of sleeping with your eyes open, huh?" She finally comments after a minute of standing in the doorway.
"What?" He blinks, his eyes circled in shadows. There's been little sleep, these weeks, with everyone needing just one more minute of his time, please, and the little free time he has needed for picking through his own memories and trying to build one man from the fragments of two.
"Come on, I'll walk you home. You look like you're more likely to stop halfway and sleep against a light pole." She holds out her hand to him, red tipped fingernails beckoning invitingly. He's tired enough that he almost reaches for her hand.
"You didn't come here just to walk me home." He gathers up his papers, taping them on his desk before putting them in his briefcase. The whole time he's watching her. She's changed, these last weeks, just like all of them. The red streaks are still in her hair but her skirts are always past her knees and her stomach never shows. Her smile is friendly but not quite as suggestive as it had been. The biggest difference, though, is that she's calmer, more self assured. That restless energy that he always saw in her seemed to have settled.
It's back now.
"You're tired. It can wait until tomorrow." It's not a denial, and he knows now that he's right. Something has her worried.
"Why don't we make a trade? You can walk me home if when we get there you tell me what it is you need." Maybe she'll tell him what's bothering her. Even if she doesn't he gets to spend a little time with her, and that's been rare these last weeks. He hasn't even been stopping at Granny's, except to get take out.
"Is that a shrink's version of inviting me up to see your etchings?" Her teasing is lighthearted, but he's glad his back is turned. He's sure she has no idea that he really would like to invite her to his apartment as something more than a friend. He's been looking for the courage to ask her on a date for months now, but those plans were quashed three weeks ago, when the world tipped sideways. Or backwards.
"It's my way of telling you that I'm here to listen, as a friend." He's comforted to be that, at least.
"Alright." She doesn't say much more as he locks up and they walk the blocks that separate his office and home. Storybrooke is a small town, which is funny considering that everyone from seven kingdoms lives here, but perhaps even this place isn't devoid of magic.
"Something to drink? I have water or... well just water, really, unless you'd like me to start a pot of coffee?" He closes his fridge, embarrassed to have her see just how empty it is. It's too late.
"No wonder you eat at Granny's all the time. You know there's a grocery store in town, right? And they sell food." She slides off her jacket and rests it on the back of a kitchen chair. "Water would be fine. You need sleep, not more caffeine."
"I don't think one would prevent the other from happening." He's always been a coffee junkie. Or at least Archie is; Jiminy's never had any until now. The addiction's gotten worse these last weeks; he's practically living on the stuff. Now, though, he pours them each a glass of water. "So what's on your mind, Red? Or do you prefer Ruby?"
"Either is fine, though I guess I feel more like Red tonight. But you're tired. I can just..."
"A deal's a deal. Just tell me, okay? If it's too much I'll let you know." She'll feel better if she talks; he can at least offer her that.
"Tomorrow's the full moon," she blurts out. She hides her eyes from him, as if worried about his reaction.
"I believe it is, yes." He's quiet for one minute, and then a few seconds more. Red doesn't last any longer than that; most people don't when there's silence to fill.
"It's the first full moon since we all woke up. And there was that weird purple fog thing. I don't know what's changed." She's fidgeting, moving the water glass in circles on the table.
"Changed?" And then it dawns on him, what she means. There's not that many who know her secret, but he's one of them. "You're worried that you'll change, tomorrow."
"I don't know what happened to my cloak. If things are different here now I don't know if that means this is different too. I could hurt people." It's been 28 years, and she's not looking forward to the idea of tasting blood again. "I can't let that happen."
"It won't." He reaches across the table, calming her hands by covering them with his own. "We'll figure something out, alright?"
"You'll help me?" She asks, even though that answer is staring back at her with pale blue eyes.
"We still have half an hour until moonrise. You don't have to worry." She watches as he slips the key from his pocket, unlocking the door the the cabin they're borrowing for the night. He'd told her that it was a client's, who lent it to him. He hadn't mentioned that the client was Mr. Gold. Rumpelstiltskin. She'd delivered dinners out here, a few times.
"You don't have to stay, you know. After you get me situated." She's two steps behind him as they walk into the cabin, for the first time in weeks dressed in one of the short denim skirts she used to wear so often, and a t-shirt that's seen better day. They're clothes picked because it wouldn't matter if they got ruined.
"I think it would be better if someone was here. In case you need help." She couldn't imagine what kind of aid he thinks he'd be to a wolf, but for the moment there didn't seem to be a reason to fight it.
"Archie..." That doesn't stop her from trying, but he seems to be ready for her protest.
"I'll be safe, I promise. The last thing I want is you having to live with something bad happening on a night like this." He knows she'd blame herself, even if it was the wolf's fault. The hardest part of her memories returning had been remembering the blood on her hands.
"Suddenly I'm feeling more like the disposable girl in a horror film, rather than the monster." She stares down the almost pitch black staircase, leading to the basement. He spends a little more time than necessary fussing with the door and finding the light switch.
"You're not a monster." His voice is soft, but sure.
"In less than half an hour I could turn into a hairy thing with claws that lusts after the taste of people and would tear you to pieces if it got the chance. How is that not a monster?" She takes the first tentative step down the stairs. Twenty minutes to moonrise.
"That's not who you really are, it's something that happened to you. You have no control over that. I know you; you don't hurt people. The only time you've purposely let the wolf out was when it was to help people, because you're that good of a friend that you'd do something you hate to try and save someone else." She looks over her shoulder at him; he's genuinely upset, like he did the time Henry had called himself crazy, or when Leroy had said he was nothing better than the town drunk and there was no point trying to change. It's kind of sweet. Then again it's Archie, he's always sweet. Also terribly slow and completely ignorant of signs other guys pick up on in seconds. She's been trying to get him to ask her out for ages; at least she had been, before the curse broke. Things have been up in the air since then.
"The monsters inside of me, all the time. Waiting." Waiting to devour her, she sometimes thought back home. It would rather be the one on the outside with her trapped inside.
She steps into the basement, a room that's all but empty. There's firewood stacked in a corner, a twin mattress in another corner, and empty shelves against one wall probably meant for storing canned food. Gold's not really the domestic type. "Cosy," she comments, not really meaning it.
"It's just until we know what happens." He sets down the bag he's brought with him, pulling it open. The first thing out is a pair of manacles, thick and worn with age. There's a length of chain and a padlock as well; someone came prepared.
"It's always the mild mannered ones, isn't it? I never would have guess, Archie." Despite the nerves she feels at what could happen in a few minutes she can't help grinning at him, her words weighed heavy with innuendo.
"What?" For a moment he looks like he has no idea what she's talking about. It's obvious from his expression when he cottons on. "No, this isn't... I... Shopping. I went shopping today, to get the things we needed. I didn't... these aren't mine."
"I don't know, those cuffs look a little too well used to be new. Are you sure you don't have a Friday night girl?" It's more comfortable for her, to tease then to think about what's coming. Plus there's the wonderful side effect of his blush.
"I bought them at the pawn shop." He's so genuine, trying to explain, like he's worried what she might think. The whole town knows her reputation, yet he doesn't want her to think he practices something totally normal. She can't help wondering if he really has done any bondage. She can't help wondering, too, what it would be like to give him a lesson. That's for another day, though, and probably some time down the road. There's other things to settle now.
He holds the manacles in his hand, long thin fingers wrapped around the bulky metal. She watches as he surveys the room. It takes a minute, but he walks towards an iron loop, half imbedded in the stone wall just under the window. It's convenient. Strangely convenient, but she doesn't think much of it, considering to whom the house belongs. "Besides, I'm usually at the diner on Friday nights."
"You do seem more like a silk scarves kind of guy." It's hard to tell in the light, but it seems as if even his ears are blushing. And he was at the diner most Fridays, sometimes with Marco, more often alone. In fact she'd never seen him with a date that she could remember, though some things were still a little fuzzy, with two lives in her head trying to blend, or fight for dominance. It made her wonder just how tightly wound he was.
She watches as he loops the chain through the metal circle, using the padlock to twist and shape a loop that somehow has the manacles dangling from it. He's given her a few feet of space to pace, somehow understanding that the wolf can't be bound too tightly. Then again he's Archie; he seems to understand everything. "Let's test this sucker out."
"You still have a little time left. You don't have to..."
"I don't want to push it too close. Besides, the sooner you get me all snuggly fixed up the sooner you can get back up the stairs." She's pretty sure that trying to talk him into leaving the cabin altogether is pointless. He can be pretty stubborn; he probably prefers the term 'resolved.'
"If you're sure." There's a clicking sound, and one of the manacles opens. Another click and they're both ready for her. They're wider than normal handcuffs, not that she has any reason of knowing what wearing those feels like. Not in an official capacity, at least. They're heavier too, when Archie locks the first one around her wrist. Solid.
"Seems strong enough." She tugs, and neither the manacles, chain or wall hook feel in danger of giving. Not even the wolf is strong enough to break forged steel.
She tries not not think about chains wrapped around a tree; humans can't break out of forged steel bonds either. "It's only a few minutes, Archie. You should go."
"I brought a raw steak. I thought it might help, since there's no way to let the wolf go hunting." He gestures at the bag before turning back to the chain, tugging on it a few more times.
She tries to swallow the panic clawing inside of her. "Archie, moonrise is..."
"I'm not going anywhere." He looks at her, and she's never seen that look in his eyes before. At least not in his human eyes; she's reminded of the War Council, and his fierce determination to be heard despite his size.
"Please." She's never been so close to begging before. He knows what the wolf is capable of, what it can do to a human. He understands, as much as anyone not a wolf can, about the bloodlust. "Archie, Jiminy, please. You have to go." She appeals to both sides of him, in hopes that one will listen.
"You're not going to hurt me." His fingers brush against hers, and then he's taking a step back. And another. He perches awkwardly on the stack of firewood, out of her reach. "See? You can't even get to me."
"Why would you stay?" The minutes are ticking away; moonrise should come at any moment now. She's not sure if the thing clawing in her gut is fear or the monster.
"There's no reason to think you'll change; I'm not a cricket." He's not quite looking at her, though. He's Jiminy Cricket, he doesn't lie; that doesn't mean he always tells the whole truth.
"You could have brought me a book to read, if you didn't think I'd wolf out. Why are you staying? He doesn't talk about himself much, but it's not usually so hard to get an answer. Maybe it's the weight of the moon, but she's feeling an urgency, now, to get the truth from him.
"I didn't want you to be alone." Closer to the right answer, now. His eyes at least flick up in her direction. There's still something, though.
"I'm a big girl, I can deal. Why, Archie, did you..."
"You asked for my help, and I'm going to do everything I can, and that includes watching over you if you do turn into a wolf, and keeping you company if you don't. I can't stand the idea of you being alone in the dark basement, no matter what form you're in. I'd rather face anything, down here, then find out that you needed help and I wasn't here to give it to you." He was close to winded by the time he was done, barely stopping for a breath. He was also looking at her with such a raw expression of want on his face that it took her breath away.
She'd been in love, once. It had been an exciting thing, full of stolen kisses and whispered promises. They'd spoken of running away together, and if not for the Tragedy she probably would have. She'd loved Peter.
He'd never looked at her the way Archie was looking at her now.
She'd thought about dating Archie. She'd thought about sleeping with him. She'd never considered loving him, or him loving her. After losing Peter, torn to shreds or drowned in a lake depending on the memory, but always her fault, she hadn't expected or felt she deserved love.
"Why do you come to Granny's?" She's forgotten the moon that's already rising Forgotten the manacles and the danger and even the confusion of the curse breaking and two people's memories being in her head. All she can think of is the man that's watching her, the only man who's refused to leave when she told him to go. Men, she's learned, have a tendency to leave once they've gotten what they want, but there's nothing here but her and possibly a monster, and Archie is staying.
He's never even tried to kiss her, not even at the New Year's Eve party last year when they'd both had a little too much to drink, and no one else was around.
"You've seen my refrigerator." The answer is almost too quick. She looks at him.
"Is that the only reason?" Sometimes he comes in twice a day. Why has no one noticed in all these years that he's so bad at feeding himself? She's tempted to invite herself over to cook for him. And for other things.
"You can ask me." There's a shift, nothing she can put her fingers on, but something about him has changed. Maybe it was the way he was sitting. Maybe his eyes really have gotten bluer.
"I'm in the middle of twenty questions here." She was never shy about asking questions. Once, in the memories she had from this world, she'd dreamt of having a talk show of her own and asking celebrities questions.
"You can ask me, the one you really want answered." This, she thought, was the Archie his patients saw, the man confident in his abilities and determined to help. There was no hesitation in his eyes now.
"Do you love me, Archie?"
He never meant to say anything. Tonight was about her, the concerns she had and the safety she needed, especially if she did turn. He'd come to the cabin with no purpose in mind other than protecting her. He certainly hadn't meant for her to find out how he felt.
It was hard remembering when he hadn't been in love with her, and he's not sure that's something he can blame the curse for, or just human nature.
"You can ask me." He knew, the moment he'd confessed that he'd rather face her nightmares in a basement rather than face his own by abandoning her, that she'd figured him out. The look on her face was too clear, the questions she asked too directed. She knew, and this was one of the rare times she didn't come right out and say it. He wasn't sure what that meant, but he needed to know. "You can ask me, the one you really want answered."
"Do you love me, Archie?" He watches her intently as he takes a step forward. Three weeks ago he wasn't sure if he could have answered the question. So much had changed; some things possibly for the better. Definitely for the scarier.
"Yes." His feet move almost of their own volition; the word is a single syllable, and yet it feels as if he's halfway across the room before he's done talking. A second later he's standing before her, their bodies not quite touching, except for their foreheads. "I love you, Red."
"Archie." She barely whispers his name. She also doesn't pull away, and that give him enough courage to tilt his head just a little, just enough to brush his lips against hers. How the barest touch of lips to lips can find its way into his soul he doesn't know. Never in his very long life has he felt like this.
"Archie." She says his name again, and this time it's just enough of a warning for him to stop thinking. Her mouth covers his, and there's very little soft or gentle about this kiss. He may have started things, but she's the one nudging his mouth open with the tip of her tongue, sliding inside as if they've done this a hundred times already, her head tilted at just the right angle. She tastes of dark chocolate, wild strawberries, and the air just before it rains.
They still barely touch, but he dares to cup his hand to her cheek, the heel of his palm and pads of each finger settling against her skin. He doesn't close his eyes, not wanting to miss a single thing. The kiss lasts an eternity. The kiss lasts barely a moment.
"What are we doing? Archie, you have to get away from me. The moon..."
"The moon's been up for more than an hour." He soothes her with his voice, his touch, and the whisper of a kiss against her jawline. "Nothing's changed."
"Everything's changed." Her smile is not the polite one she gives to everyone that comes in to the diner, the flirty one she uses on people like Whale, or the friendly one she gives him when he's out walking Pongo. It's none of the smiles he's seen before, and he's been watching her a long time. This smile is just his; it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. "You love me."
"That's nothing new either." He reaches into his pocket to take out the key to the manacles.
"But now I know." She looks down when his fingers graze the skin of her writes, along the edge of the metal, and shakes her head. "Not yet."
"You would have changed already, if it was going to happen." He wants to hold her, and maybe ask for another kiss or two. He wants at least to hug her, and with the chains that's not really possible.
"We don't know that, yet. Things are different here. I can't risk it, Archie."
"Alright, let's just make this a little more comfortable, okay? Just one minute." It's hard, to let her go, even though he rationally knows nothing's going to change in a minute. She kissed him. Not just kissed him back, but kissed him the second time. It's not a declaration of love, but he hadn't been expecting that. He hadn't been expecting anything.
He drags the mattress from the other side of the room; if she's not changing them might as well have something softer to sit on. Next is his bag; disregarding the raw meat he'd brought for the wolf there's a thermos of coffee, candy bars, beef jerky and almonds. They're his most common snacks, and Red doesn't need to know how often they've been his meal. Now that he remembers decades spent as a cricket it's easier to understand why he's never picked up cooking skills.
"Oh, it's just like a picnic." Red grins, and snatches up the jerky. When he hands her coffee in the plastic lid she holds his hands long enough to kiss the inside of his wrist. It's lucky her reflexes are fast, or there'd be coffee all over the mattress and her legs. As it is a few drops spill.
"Sorry." He uses his pocket handkerchief to wipe her fingers clean, and wonders what it would be to use his mouth instead. He doesn't dare.
"Don't be. This is already, like, one of the best dates I've ever been on." Drinking coffee was a bit tricky, considering the chains, but somehow she makes it look graceful. Her eyes twinkle as she looks at him.
"What?" He couldn't have heard her right, could he? "That's a joke, right?"
"Not at all. Think about it, Archie. Most guys I go out with, I'm lucky if I get dinner, but you knew what I needed and found just the right place. You brought food, not just for me but for the wolf as well. You even bought me a present." She holds up her wrists, clinking them together like some macabre version of 'cheers.' "Plus it's not every day a guy tells me he loves me. That never happens."
"It should." He knows some of the guys she's gone out with. None of them have been good enough for her. He's not either, but he's going to do his best to love her, if she'll let him.
"You're really the sweetest person I know." She rips off a piece of jerky, chewing it thoughtfully. "Think there's a change I can talk you into kissing me again?"
This time he spills the entire thermos of coffee, but since it's on the floor neither of them care. They're too busy learning each other's taste.
It's the sun coming through the single high window that wakes her. Sometime during the night between slow exploratory kisses, whispered secrets, shared food moments of perfect silence they'd both managed to fall asleep. She's facing the wall, the only position comfortable with her hands still in cuffs. He's behind her, arm around her waist and leg hooked over both of hers. She can't decide if he's trying to protect her from the rest of the world or trying to keep her from running. Both ideas are ridiculous.
He loves her. Her feelings are more confused and less defined, but she knows she cares about him. She knows that she was scared the night before at the idea of the wolf hurting him. She knows, too, that he's the first person she thought of going to, when the full moon loomed ahead of her. She trusts him, cares for him, and in the last few hours she's learned that she's really likes kissing him.
She turns over enough to tug at the glasses that are askew, folding them gentle and putting them on top of the bag that's mostly empty now. She's rarely seen him without his glasses and never seen him asleep; she could get used to it. She could get used to him, being something more than a friend, too.
The little wrinkle that's almost perpetually between his eyebrows is soothed away in sleep. She brushes her lips against the smooth skin. Normally she's not a stick around until morning kind of girl. Or Ruby wasn't; Red hasn't had a chance to find out.
"Morning?" Blue eyes flutter open, and there's just a trace of confusion. And wonder. "We fell asleep?"
"Looks like. Sun's up now, so I think it's safe to get rid of these things." She tries to sit up, but it's not really possible without using her arms. It's easier just to hold up her arms. The fact that it takes him a moment to react because she's on her back, bound, and maybe on purpose licking her lips, makes her glad she can't sit up.
"Of course. I just..."
He's still staring. She lets him for a moment before nudging his with her shoulder; as much as she enjoys the fact that he's not hiding behind a mask of friendliness anymore she has been chained up for the night and has some things that need her attention. "Your right pocket, Arch."
The moment she was free she tackled him, arms wrapping around him and throwing her weight so they both rolled off the mattress. The kiss she gives him has none of the tenderness of the night before. It's brief, but fierce. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." He flinches when she jabs him in the shoulder, just a moment later. "Ouch?"
"That's for waiting to tell me you love me until I was chained up and possibly about to turn into an animal." Because really, she can't let him get away without any consequences for that, can she? "It's a good thing you're cute."
"I didn't mean to tell you then." Carefully he sits up, bringing her with him. "I'm sorry."
"Well since you might not have told me at all, and that'd be worse, I forgive you." She kisses the tip of his very cute nose before scampering up. Her muscles, too long in one position, protest. "I'm going to go wash my hands. Meet me upstairs?"
She doesn't wait for an answer before running up the stairs with a grace that comes from the same place as her sense of smell and strange ability to find missing things. The restroom's not hard to find; she uses it quickly, almost as if Archie's going to leave without her, and washes her hands. A peak in the medicine cabinet reveals toothpaste; despite the lingering feeling that the cabin's strange owner with know that she took something she uses a squeeze on her finger to freshen her breath.
There's two door in the bathroom. The one she came through a minute ago leads to the hallway. The other, thanks to a wonderful architectural quirk that she probably owes to the Evil Queen, or possibly Rumpelstiltskin, leads to a bedroom. She grins at herself in the mirror before stepping through the second door.
"Archie?" He comes, just seconds after she calls, that wonderful look of confusion on his face again. She enjoys it for the moment it takes to push him against the wall and wrap her arms around his neck. She really likes having her arms free. She likes, even more, having her mouth against his. Every kiss until now has been about the kiss itself, tongues touching, lips melding, exploring and tasting. This kiss, though, has another purpose.
She wants him.
She's no stranger to desire, and attraction. There's been other guys, and she's not ashamed of that. She's attracted to Archie, and even if he hadn't confessed his feelings the night before she'd felt him, wrapped around her before he woke up. He wants her. But for the first time since Peter he wants more than just some fun and a fling. He wants more than her body, and even if she's not certain about the big L word she knows she wants more than one night with him too. But more has to start somewhere, and she sees no reason to wait. She wraps her hands around the front of his shirt and starts walking backwards.
"What are we doing?" His glasses are on again, and really she's never had a thing for glasses before but she does now.
"You're a clever guy, I think you can figure it out." In case he needs a clue, though, she pulls off her t-shirt and tosses it on the floor.
"We don't have to... I was going to take you to dinner. A real dinner. And to the movies; the original Dracula is playing on Friday and I know how you like those old horror films." He's trying really hard not to look at her chest, but at her eyes instead. He really is an amazing guy; she kisses him lightly as a thank you.
"That all sounds great, and I really hope we do those things. But if this whole curse thing has taught us anything it's that life is short. We don't know what will happen tomorrow, and if anything does happen I don't want to miss out on this." She frees his top button, moving slowly for his benefit. She'd rip the whole thing off, if she didn't think it would startle him. "Make love with me, Archie. Please?"
"I don't think there's ever been anything I've wanted more." He stays her hands, though, before she can undo his shirt anymore. His mouth finds her shoulder; he covers every inch of her neck and shoulders and belly with kisses before she's finally able to get his shirt off him. She doesn't protest, but she does laugh when his fingers fumble with the clasp of her bra. It takes him three tries to get it off, but when he does, when he's kissing her again and their chests are rubbing together, it's the most comforting yet arousing thing she's ever felt.
"I'm on the pill." She does a little fumbling of her own, trying to figure out what to say, and how much information is important. How much is too much. "Not the most romantic thing to say, but I didn't want you to worry. I know that you know I've..."
"It doesn't matter. Whatever, or whoever, came before is in the past. This is just us now. Alright?" Somehow he understands what she's trying to say, and soothes before she can even turn it into an issue. She doesn't want her past to come between them, and he's eased her fears.
"'Just us' could stand to get rid of some more clothes." Especial him, with his pants, underwear, socks and shoes. All she had was the denim skirt so short it barely needed removed and a pair of white lace underwear.
Archie took her at her word; within minutes the floor was littered with clothing and there was nothing between them except for a few inches of space.
"I love you." He kisses her, feather light on her cheek. She's never understood the idea of crying out of happiness, but she's close to it right now. Someday soon, she thinks, she might be able to give the words back to him. She wonders if anyone has before; for all the years she's known Archie she doesn't know much about Jiminy.
"Show me, Archie." She tugs him closer, their bodies pressed together, but it's more than that. She can feel something far less tangible tangling together was well. It's so much more than anything she's experienced before. When he enters her it's like the moment of the curse break, everything shifting and becoming right when she hadn't known it was all wrong.
She wipes away a tear before it can fall, and kisses him before he can notice. Someday, she realizes, is sooner than she thought.
"I love you too."