Anyway, I wrote a little fic, betaed by the beauteous blithers. It's Eliza/Henry, of course, and rated T for Teen. Spoilers for all aired eps (the last one was "Here's This Guy") only. First comes respect, then trust, and finally love. Or: Eliza wants to bang Henry like a screen door in a hurricane.
"So," she says when Henry makes it out of the revolving door and joins her on the sidewalk, "since you're picking whatever we're doing now, it should be my choice what we do after work, right? Cool."
The smile that Henry's wearing drops right off his face. So he wasn't all jazzed about the revolving door, even though it's probably the closest he's getting to a carnival ride in his buttoned-up lifetime. What is his damage? "What do you mean, 'whatever we're doing now'? Eliza, I told you about my plans for our lunch hour this morning, remember?"
Henry had said a lot of things that morning, including ranting about what a waste of valuable time it was to stand in line for cronuts, not that that stopped him from chewing and swallowing and even smiling a little when she broke off a piece and shoved it in his mouth. There'd been sugar sparkling on his lip, but Larry had used all the napkins up dealing with the microwave's rejection of his prune-and-oatmeal bowl of yuck (which, not that she was Nostradamus or anything, but she'd totally called that that combo wouldn't end well) and so she'd seen Henry's little pink tongue dart out to lick his lips clean.
"Um," she says, as he takes off and she just barely keeps in step with him (her legs are longer, but stilettos aren't exactly designed to make anyone speedier), "remind me?" Stupid pink-tongued Henry, who actually listens when she talks, expects her to do the same, and can't be distracted with shiny things like her hair or his phone.
"I am going to donate blood, and if you're not, then I'm not sure I understand why you're tagging along."
"Do not reopen the plus-one debate with me, Henry," she says, taking his arm - the sidewalks are so cracked they're basically an obstacle course, and she so doesn't need to end up on TMZ for flashing the Calypso Mesh thong she got at a once-in-a-lifetime sale at La Perla. His arm is nicely solid under the layers of fabric. "Of course I would, but I can't."
"You can't?" he asks, adjusting his stride so that they match. He'd be killer at a three-legged race, she bets. "Do you have a fear of needles?"
She's sane, so the answer is obviously YES. But he'll probably have some Jedi mind-trick to get her over that, and she's really not up for sharp metal meeting her skin, so she says instead, "Totes anemic."
"Oh," he says, flexing a little to squeeze her hand between the matching hardness of his arm and his chest, and if his sympathetic reflex is being a total hotass, then how the hell has he been single for so long? "I'm sorry to hear that. We're here."
She gets as far as the front desk, where he - no lie - whips out a Donor Buddy card that gets the tiny bald girl who's sitting there rocking some fierce winged eyeliner to perk up and say, "Henry! These fiscal quarters fly by, don't they? I swear you were here just last week." And Eliza has her answer then - he's still single because he's deeply stupid. Tiny Bald Girl is giving him the elevator eyes and he thinks she's just interested in his platelets.
Henry laughs - suddenly, he's got all the time in the world for small talk when he should be having lunch with her - and says, "I know I wasn't, because I'd remember seeing you, Audrey." And, okay, yes, TBG's wearing a nametag, but still, Henry's eyes haven't dipped down to her chest, which means that not only is he maintaining eye contact, he actually knows TBG's name. Eliza's sort of impressed - hashtag rolodexbrain - but mostly irritated, because having a complete idiot be the one to give her a new outlook on life doesn't seem like the smartest move she could make.
"Have a great day," he says to TBG and turns to go, his hand reaching out for her and landing on the small of her back.
Eliza lets TBG's favorite Donor Buddy steer her about three feet down the hall before she just has to say something, even if he did stomp all over that poor cookie-bearing barista a couple of weeks ago. "Hey, Henry, wait," she says, and he checks his watch just like she knew he would. It must be hard for him not to remind her he has an appointment and that he hates to be late for anything, even things he'd be better off avoiding, like secret meetings with Saperstein, squash games with Larry (who goes full-on Olivia Newton-John when it comes to athletic ensembles), and those weekly phone calls with his mother. "I think that girl back there liked you. You could probably get her number pretty easily."
His face just then is amazing - he frowns, then smiles, then does both at the same time, like, is he not worried about wrinkles at all? - and he says, "Audrey? I think she's seeing someone. She's always talking about this great guy who's smart and handsome and a snappy dresser."
Holy lolcats, his lack of game should really not be so presh. "Oh, my bad," she says, and snuggles a little closer - which, one, he's warm and her outfit's not exactly insulated, and two, he smells really great - and then they're at the Donation Center and she sits outside the door he disappeared behind and tries not to think about a needle going into his arm, about dark red blood flowing out of him, and . . .
"Eliza!" someone is saying, very insistently, and she frowns because she's cold and uncomfortable. "Eliza! Please wake up." She turns her head and realizes it's being pillowed on Henry's hand, which, who knew his hands were that big? Her eyes open and there he is, so close, looking out of his mind with worry and - hello - pretty damn good in a tank top and his suit pants. There's a square of gauze taped to the inside of his elbow, as white as his undershirt, and it makes his skin look like gold. "You fainted," he says, like, duh, obvs, but this whole day has been like a circus of stupidity for Henry, so she doesn't hold it against him.
"I gave blood, and you fainted," he says again, slowly, like he's a million miles away, but he still helps her sit up when she swings her legs down off the exam table that she totally doesn't remember getting on, which means that Henry is constitutionally capable of hulking out when he's worried. "I told you that stupid cronut had no nutritional value and you needed to eat a proper breakfast! Especially since you're anemic!" he chides, then gets out his phone and steps away. As he goes, his fingers trail absently against her waist, and it's not like she's ticklish, but there's a tingling there.
"Charlie? Push my one o'clock to two, please." He heaves a deep sigh, and she has to say that it does excellent things for his shoulders and back. "No, don't change the clocks; just reschedule my one p.m. meeting to two p.m. Thank you."
When he turns to look over his shoulder at her, she can already see the puzzlement on his face. "It's not you," she assures him, "it's Charlie. He doesn't understand anybody."
Immediately, he brightens. "Right?" He starts drawing on his lavender button-down, covering the undershirt that is clinging to him like a baby monkey to its mother. "I'm getting some food in you before we head back. We can't have our best sales rep fainting."
She likes how he ties his tie, all efficient movements that still flex his biceps, but, like, totally cazh, like he's not even thinking about his musculature. He tucks his shirt in with precise little motions that don't leave a single wrinkle, and man, he's nice and trim, and she really needs to eat something, because she's spent this entire lunch hour she's been trapped in the hospital totally seeing Audrey's point of view, and that's a recipe for disaster.
Because Henry thinks of her as a project, not as someone who might just jump his bones if he keeps taking her seriously.
"Henry," she says, kicking off her heels and tucking her legs under her, "you've taught me so much." Of course she's taught him stuff too, like the futility of protesting her getting comfortable when she's on his couch. Probably Julia had just hovered over his furniture like a weightless feather. "I had no idea people other than eighty-year-old linguistics professors listened to stuff like this."
He doesn't take the bait. Maybe he knows her too well. It's not an uncomfortable thought. "Bach is a life-changer," he says, not a note of protest in his voice.
"Is that what they mean when they talk about your life flashing in front of your eyes?" she asks, and he gives her his exasperated grin, which is entirely too cute for comfort. "Why are you force-feeding me 'culture,' anyway?"
"Any kind of music by definition is culture, and I happen to like this stuff."
"Yeah, but you like other stuff too." He does, because she remembers talking him through how to put an endless array of 1970s soul albums on his phone, which, random was not even the word to describe that afternoon. He nods pleasantly at her and makes no move to stop the plinky death throes of a thousand harpsichords. "Whatevs, we should eat. Let's order food."
Right on cue, he says, "I've got salad fixings in the fridge." Dude is obsessed with big salads.
"And, like, an army's worth of yogurt. I thought you were lactose-intolerant."
"I am, but the bacteria in yogurt -"
Oh, he set her up so sweet for this. "Not everything is about culture, Henry."
His eyes go round in surprise and then he's laughing, these deep vibrations that make the whole couch buzz. His head's tipped back and his throat is strong and smooth and entirely delectable. She's going to dream about the arrowhead shape of his jawline for the rest of her natural-born life.
"Nicely played, my friend," he says, and she realizes she's been sitting there like a dummy, knees pulled up to her chest, just watching him laugh and letting the sound of it ripple through her. "Shall I order pizza for us?"
"You have no idea how good that sounds right now. Why is it so cold in here? Ooh, and get garlic knots with marinara to dip them in. And -"
"Here," he says, tossing her his phone. "You call - you know what I like anyway. I'll be right back."
Which, like, with anybody else in the known world, getting an unlocked phone would be a way of going all stalkerrific on his ass and figuring out all his secrets. But because it's Henry, who actually answers questions when she asks them, even if they're personal, there's nothing new to find. Probably.
She swipes his screen open.
The most recent picture is the selfie she took with her phone and texted to him, just to document the interminable minutes when she was watching him confuse Charlie by asking for collated copies of their annual product reviews. It's in his Gallery, which means he saved it from her text to his phone - she had no idea he knew how to do that. Before she can start scrolling through the rest of his Gallery, he's back, handing her something soft. "Here," he says, nudging his slippers over toward her. "You can wear these too."
The soft cloth in her hands is a hoodie, charcoal grey with orange accents, and it will clash with her hair, her outfit, and possibly everything on the planet except him. She pulls it on anyway, bundling her hair away.
"How's that?" he asks, smiling at her and running his hands up and down her arms. She wonders what he'd do if she admitted her legs are still cold. "Toasty?" He sounds like a kindly old man with a twinkle in his eye, about to offer her a Werther's Original. He doesn't even look at his screen, still open to her admittedly awesome selfie.
Fuck her life, why did she fall for someone who trusts her that much?
When she answers his knock, he doesn't come in right away. Instead he just stands there, one shoulder up against the doorjamb, and smiles tentatively at her. For a second she wonders if he's going to shake her hand to introduce himself like some super-hot bible salesman (who actually bought bibles? if you wanted one so badly, couldn't you just steal one from a hotel room?).
"Are you . . . coming in?" she asks. He's usually already on her sofa by now. Her life would be so much easier if his constant weirdness desexified him, but she's just too accustomed to his face, his voice, his everything for that to work on her anymore. "Come on," she says, yanking him into her space. "I cleared off the sofa. Sort of." She's in the middle of trying on her autumn couture, which is why she's got a totally mismatched t-shirt and high-waisted skirt on.
He keeps hold of her when he heads over to the sofa, so she throws the clothes she's already tried on to one side and sits down. He perches there next to her like the world's most nervous giant bird. "Eliza," he begins, formally, like there's even anyone else in her apartment he could be talking to. "I meant it when I said you were as important to me as my job," Henry says, looking deep into her eyes, so she starts pinching herself because she's had dreams that start just this way. "And I think your - what the hell are you doing?"
"Um, tweaking my circulation," she offers, looking at the marks that are going to be bruises in about twenty minutes. "You were saying?" It would be great if the scales finally tipped in her direction, or if he pushed her on her back, got on top of her, and said something along the lines of, The hell with it - I've got savings, and from now on my only job is doing you 24/7. Come to think of it, he probably couldn't say the words without a full-body blush. One more thing for her bucket list.
"I was saying," he says, shooting her a befuddled look, "that I looked at the numbers and you consistently outperform all of your peers."
"I do make 'shelf-stable' sound good," she agrees.
She can see the little quiver in his throat when he sucks in a quick breath. "And I think you need to give yourself more credit for doing your job so well, so I got you something." He pulls a slim, flat package, all done up in bright paper and curling ribbon, out of the messenger bag slung around his torso.
"Is this a consolation prize?" she asks, finally figuring out why he's too tense to even sit like a normal person. Saperstein does his promotion weekends every six months, and there's one next week but Charmonique, who handles all of Saperstein's calligraphy needs, hasn't spilled who's on the list. Clearly, she's not.
"What? No!" Henry says. "I swear I don't have any inside information, Eliza. But I think if Saperstein's smart, he'll make you Director of Sales next week." Ugh, she's teetering on the verge of Miss America tears here, at him being so earnest and so close. "Go on, open it."
It's a leather binder, with a fancy pen in a special loop on the inside of the spine, and a notepad of heavy cream paper with Dooley Noted embossed on the top of each page in a rich brown. It's so Henry to get her something that's both stupid and thoughtful, and it takes all her willpower not to just climb on his lap - well, that and the fact that her skirt would basically split up the middle if she tried it.
"Thank you," she says, drawing out the ooo-sound in you because it's become sort of an inside joke - she has someone to have inside jokes with! - and half the time he'll laugh when she does it. Henry has a great laugh.
He smiles with only one side of his mouth this time. "You're welcome. I thought you could use it at the end of the day, like a diary."
"I could, or I could use it right now to take notes on our brainstorming session." Just hitting Record Memo on her phone would be so much more efficient, but he's still sitting there, all weirdly upright and giving her the sweet eyes.
"What are we brainstorming?"
"What you're going to be for the Halloween party."
"That's - ha - that's months away."
"Henry. I am already planning my autumn wardrobe," she says, gesturing to herself - did he really not notice her distinct lack of matchiness, or is he so fashion-impaired that he thinks she looks okay in a black pocket tee and an electric-blue skirt with bronze accents? "Why would you think I wouldn't be planning for Halloween, which is only nine weeks away?"
"I don't typically attend the Halloween party," he starts, and she lays her hand on her heart because she can just see Henry sitting at home by himself, all alone, every Halloween past, "and please stop thinking of me as some Dickensian orphan with his nose pressed to the window, wishing he'd been invited to the festivities."
"That was oddly specific," she says, but he doesn't let her play it off.
He smiles and says, "I know how you think."
"Tell me what I'm going as, then," she says.
He looks down. "Some hot redhead," he says, looking up at her through his eyelashes and goddamn but someone went to the Harlequin school of romance. Except that he clearly has no idea he's even doing it, which makes it better and sooooo much worse. "Raggedy Ann, maybe -"
"Wait, you think Raggedy Ann is hot? We need to have a serious talk about the hotness scale."
"Or Pippi Longstocking."
"You're just making up names now."
"Oh! Or Anne of Green Gables!" he says triumphantly, like, does he not realize he's making her point for her? All Canadians (except hockey players) automatically get dinged two points on the hotness scale, duh.
She makes the buzzer sound. "Wrong! I'm going as Sorsha -"
"The hot redhead from Willow," he whispers like he's seen the light. Seriously, he looks pretty worked up and he hasn't even seen her in the outfit yet. Score.
"I already ordered the costume. It's totes awes, because that cowl-neck chainmail isn't really protecting anything, lbr, but it draws the eye down to the leather." She's not above gesturing appropriately, and Henry's eyes look hungry as they track her hands. Maybe she should just go for it.
She leans in close. "We still need to do you."
"Ah, no, I'm set," he says, standing up. "I should go."
"But we haven't even picked a movie to watch."
"Right," he says, sitting back down. She could watch him pop up and down on a gif loop for days.
"Tell you what - I'll make you some tea and you can pick the movie."
She turns and heads for the kitchen area. She went to the tea shop around the corner from the hospital for the first time ever and found something that didn't smell like compost. Plus it says honey and vanilla, so how bad can it be? The tea, when she pours it out, is dark red and smells fantastic. That ought to relax Mr. Twitchy out there.
His fingers, slim and strong, linger on hers when she hands the mug over, and she's so ready to go to town on him. Why doesn't he just grab her the way he did all those months ago? Not with hot tea in his hands, of course, but still.
Time for action. "Hey," she says, "I need a back-up costume." When he looks blank, she says, "For the afterparty?"
"No, you don't."
"Just work with me here," she says, improvising like a total boss, ducking behind her folding screen and pulling her green dress off the top. "What do you think of this?" She's got a glow stick from her last ironic disco around her throat and the full-length front-zip on the dress pulled up only as far as her cleavage.
"It's" - his Adam's apple bobs when he swallows, hard, and he puts the mug down to rub his hands on his jeans - "very appealing."
"Obvs," she says, but she totally didn't expect him to say anything so nice about an outfit that's clearly not Work Appropriate, which is apparently worse than all seven of the deadly sins. "But do you know what I am?"
"Sexy Christmas tree?" he tries.
"I'd at least hang ornaments on myself for that, give me a little credit."
"Jessica Rabbit?" That's actually pretty good - she'll have to remember that one for next year. Or, if he plays his cards right, the next five minutes.
"Nope. Think of it like charades."
"Um, okay, you're in a dress."
Watching Henry trying to crack her code is verging on painful, like the first time she saw that gif of Brendan Fraser trying to clap. Clearly the man needs a hint. "Color?" she prompts.
"Green." He sounds relieved to be able to say something definitively. She nods encouragingly, but then he loses the plot again. "Not forest or moss or sage green, more of an emerald -"
"Let's just say green, okay?" His tension is affecting her now. Why can't he just figure it out and make his move?
"Okay." He still looks wound up, like a game-show contestant knowing the grand prize is one answer away. "Okay," he repeats, exhaling sharply. "Your necklace is glowing, which means . . . I don't know, you're la fée verte? That makes sense for an afterparty."
"HENRY," she says, well, bellows, and he sits up even straighter, "I am a GREEN" - she points to the dress - "LIGHT" - she points at her throat. "How are you not getting this?"
His mouth opens but nothing comes out. His eyes are fixed on her in a way that feels wholly new.
That gaze makes her braver than she's been; she's done with games. "I'm giving you the green light, I'm telling you I want you, I'm saying just touch me, Henry."
She's standing between his legs when his hands steal up to her waist, skimming against her ass as they go. She definitely remembers that move fondly. And then he hauls her down onto his lap and kisses her, and she's got one hand braced against his chest - his heart is racing - and the other is lost in his hair. He keeps trying to pull her forward with his hands on her ass, and she wants to be close, but not deformed-monster-bursting-out-of-his-tor
"Henry!" she protests, laughing into his mouth and pushing against his chest.
"No," he says, but before she can get out of the cage of his arms he stands, scoops her up - never mind that she probably outweighs him - and walks toward her bedroom. She keeps her legs locked around his waist and kisses him as they go, on his eyelids and mouth and that mole under his right ear that's been taunting her for months. "If we're doing this, we're doing this right," he says, and lays her down on the bed, covering her body with his own and opening her mouth with his.
This is what she gets, for falling in love with a perfectionist.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think!
This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/446852.html.