A/N: As with everything (this almost seems pointless) I obviously don't own any rights whatsoever to The Proposal. If I did, oh, how great life would be. If I may borrow them, the characters will be returned to their rightful owners in pristine condition.
Truth be told, Jack Wesson wasn't a hater.
He got along with most people, could never really hold a grudge, and, hell, he even loved animals. But there was one woman that Jack — and as far as he knew, everyone he worked with — absolutely despised. It wasn't his fault, really. If he had to guess, he'd say she wasn't born, but instead manufactured in Satan's laboratory.
She was always meticulously dressed and expected everyone else to be the same. She read at a ridiculous pace that no human being could keep up with. She was always in control, drank the same coffee every day (which he was expected to provide), and could charm the bosses better than anyone in the business. Truth be told, she probably was better than anyone in the business, but you'd have to impale him on a rusty spike to make him admit it.
She was an oddity, though, in addition to being evil. He got a lecture that made him want to wet himself the first time he was late to work, but on rare occasion she would show up to work an hour late looking a little dishevelled. And while she never took a sick day and often frowned upon those who did — since getting ill was entirely a person's own fault, clearly — she was off work and usually out of town for every holiday.
Strangest of all was the fact that she wore a wedding band.
Someone had been psycho enough to marry her.
Of course, that was all Jack knew. There were rumours that she had been pregnant a little while back, but he couldn't imagine that. She would make the world's worst mother.
Then, again. . . Who knows. If someone married her. . . . He had been working at Hewitt and Company Publishing for just over five months as her assistant, and she was impossible to get to know. His co-workers were as scared of her as him, and all they could tell him about her was that she'd worked for years at another publishing company but had come to Hewitt after "personal problems." What the hell did that mean?
Right at that moment, however, he couldn't have possibly cared less. Because his delightful boss had just told him that he had to work late on the night of Halloween. Who did that? She was already flipping through another file, apparently having dismissed him, but he only stood at her desk, gaping.
"Is something the matter?" she asked coolly.
"Halloween is a holiday," he stuttered, swallowing thickly. He shouldn't protest — but as bad as she was, she had never forced him to work on a holiday before.
"For children," she replied, not bothering to glance up.
"Yeah, but —"
"Are you a child, Jack?"
"No, but I —"
"Do you have any children?"
"No! No, but —"
"Were you planning on spending Halloween with children?"
"Er, not really, but —"
"Then you have nothing to do. When you have children, you're welcome to the night off. Until then, this is any other night to you. Therefore, I'll see you at eight. You have the address." She flipped a page, and it was clear she was once more through with him. But he didn't budge. Giving an almighty sigh, she finally looked up. "All I'm asking is for you to stay late and finish reading the manuscript you should have finished this morning. Then deliver it to my apartment at eight. How is that difficult?"
"Okay, honestly?" he asked, feeling strangely courageous. She nodded, and there was a gleam in her eyes as she looked at him that should have set alarm bells off in his head. "I was going to go to a party at my roommate's brother's apartment and there's this girl that I really want to —"
"Enough," she cut in. "First, if the party starts before eight, it can hardly be an amazing party. Second of all, look at my face. Does this look like the face of someone who cares about your love life and the girls you want to sex up at parties?"
"Very good, Jack. Eight o'clock. Don't be late."
And he had to admit defeat.
He might have been her assistant for only a few months, but there was a reason she never kept assistants for very long: Margaret Paxton was a horror.
"I swear, I'll be there as soon as I drop this off," Jack said, stepping out of his car. "It'll only take a minute," he assured, and he snapped the phone shut as he started up the stairs. It figured that his boss would live in one of the most gorgeous buildings in the city.
Glancing at his reflection in the gold panelling of the elevator, he straightened his tie and tried to flatten his hair. He knew his unruly curls were an annoyance to her. She seemed unable to fathom that he was born with that hair.
When he knocked on the door, he had already placed a smile on his face, ready to hand over the manuscript and his notes on it as soon as she opened the door. It'd be a simple "Hello, here you go, goodbye," and he'd be gone.
The door swung open.
No one was there . . . until he glanced down.
He balked. There was a little girl looking up at him. Her feet were bare, but she wore what he guessed was the smallest suit on earth. He didn't know much about kids — anything, actually — but he guessed that she was three or four at most, and who in their right mind put a three-year-old in a pencil straight, dark grey suit?
"Hi," he finally said.
"Hi," she replied. She looked up at him curiously. Suddenly she gasped. "You's a tricker-or-treater!" she exclaimed happily, her face lighting up. Before he could protest, wondering if perhaps he'd gotten the wrong address, she shouted out "Daddy!" and went flying into the apartment. "DADDY!"
Jack teetered on the edge of the doorway. He glanced at his watch. It was three minutes past eight.
Margaret was going to kill him.
A moment later, the little girl reappeared, but this time she was on the hip of an older man. He was dressed in an impeccable suit — Margaret would be proud. The little girl's tiny suit skirt was bunched at her waist so that her chubby legs could wrap around the man's waist, and she looked even more delighted than before as she clutched at a bowl of candy. "Look, Daddy!" She pointed at him.
The man stared critically at Jack, his brows slowly rising. "Either you're the oldest tricker-or-treater ever and probably a child molester," the man said, "or you're here to see Margaret." Jack felt relief flush through him: this was the right apartment.
"I just wanted to drop off this manuscript," he said, holding it out. The man nodded, stepping back.
"Come on in," he replied. "You must be Jack Wesson, the new assistant. We haven't met yet. I'm Andrew Paxton." As he lowered his daughter to the ground, he held out his hand, and Jack shook it wordlessly. This was the man who'd been medicated enough to marry Margaret.
"Margeret!" he yelled down the hallway. "You've got company!" He looked down at the little girl, still clutching her bowl of candy. "Sorry, hon, looks like this one isn't a tricker-or-treater," he told her.
"But — but —" She looked sorely disappointed, but Jack was too astounded to say anything.
Margaret had a kid?! How did he not know that? And how was that even possible?
"But, you know, it's been a while since I've gotten to trick-or-treat," Andrew Paxton said thoughtfully, tapping his chin. The little girl looked up at him with renewed excitement. "Say," he looked down at her, "would you mind — ? Wait here!"
He walked out the door, shutting it behind him. Jack frowned, but the little girl only trained her eyes on the door. There was a knock. She leapt into action, jumping at the doorknob and swinging the door open. There was Andrew. "Trick or treat!" he sang.
"Trick!" the girl sang right back, before, ready to burst at the seams, she added loudly, "Close your eyes!" He did as told and an instant later she sailed out the door and under his legs. "Open them!" she demanded.
He did as told before letting out a gasp of disbelief. "You're gone!" he exclaimed. He looked at Jack. "She disappeared! Did you see? Gone! Poof! Annie? Annie!" The girl — called Annie, apparently — was having a fit of giggles behind him. Jack could only stare.
These people, a perfectly normal daughter and dad, were related to Margaret Paxton?
"Margaret!" Andrew shouted. "Annie's disappeared!"
Annie darted suddenly forward, back through her father's legs and appeared before him. Once more, he gasped with perfect shock. "You're back!" and he grabbed her, lifting her up while she laughed, her face a bright pink, her brown pigtails swinging wildly.
When they finally seemed to calm down, Andrew frowned dramatically. "It seems Margaret has disappeared," he told Jack, shutting the door behind him. "My best guess? She tried to drown herself in the tub to keep from having to wear her costume." He spoke in complete seriousness. "Darn! Knew I should have hidden the drain stopper." He snapped his fingers.
"Oh, well." He looked at Jack. "So, Jack, tell me about yourself." He smiled.
Jack was pretty sure the man was insane.
"I — I actually have this party to get to and I just wanted to drop off the manuscript and notes," he replied slowly. "Maybe you could give it to her?" He held it out hopefully.
Andrew smiled. "Trust me, Jack, I speak from personal experience when I tell you that you should give it to her yourself. The dog that lives in the apartment next door might nudge open the door that you didn't shut all of the way because it was two in the morning by the time you finished the assignment she gave you and you're exhausted, and the dog will get into her apartment, knock over the stand you put the manuscript on, which will break a china vase, and then pee on the manuscript, and it will be entirely your fault, something she'll remind you of for the next two months."
"Oh," Jack said, not sure what else there was to say.
"Relax," Andrew told him, smiling, "I was her assistant once, too. She's not as evil as she seems. It's all a carefully crafted illusion. She is, contrary to popular belief, human." Jack could only nod. "Annie," Andrew looked down at the girl, who'd gotten bored with their conversation and was eating her way through the contents of her bowl, "go see if Mommy's still alive, will you?"
Annie nodded, sliding out of his arms before racing across the stylish front room and disappearing down a hall.
"You were her assistant?" Jack asked, unable to stop himself.
Andrew nodded. "Three years. I have her job now, though, at her old company. She went over to Hewitt when I first became an editor. Conflict of interest, you know? Not supposed to sleep with your boss and all." He nodded at Jack as if it were all the most obvious situation in the world.
"Right," Jack said.
"Daddy!" Annie had reappeared, and was skipping her way over to him. "Mommy says she'd rather throw herself at the mercy of Kevin before she wore that suit in public," Annie declared. "And she said if you go looking for her and try and get her to come out," Annie giggled, "she'll beat you to death with the shoes you're trying to get her to wear."
He cracked his neck. "I'll risk it. Hold down the fort. Oh, dear pumpkin!" he yelled, disappearing down the hall as Annie had before. Annie smiled up at him. He didn't know what to say. She thrust the candy bowl at him suddenly. "Want some?"
"I'm okay," he replied.
"Don't you like candy?"
"Yes, but —"
"Mommy says that eating lots of candy will make all your teeth rot and fall out," she told him matter-of-factly.
"Well, she was probably just —"
"Daddy says Mommy's heart is gonna rot if she goes around spoiling the magic of childhood for kids." She giggled. "And Mommy says Daddy's favourite limb'll rot 'cause a disuse if he doesn't shut up." She leaned towards him as if about to share a great secret. "I asked Daddy, and he said his left hand was his favourite limb, but he said it was a secret. Shh!" She couldn't contain her giggles.
"Okay," Jack said, still not sure how to deal with Margaret's apparent family. This was unbelievable. Shouting came from down the hall. He glanced up just in time to see a furious Margaret storm into the room.
She wore a men's suit, one that hung oddly on her shoulders. Her feet were bare, and he was shocked to see her toenails painted a bright orange. "Jack," she greeted as if everything were perfectly normal. "You're late."
"I was actually —"
"Did you finish the manuscript and write a report on it?" He nodded wordlessly, holding the papers out for her. She began flipping through it immediately, only to have it taken away by her husband, who came out of no where and grabbed it before she could stop him. She protested but it was to no avail.
"It's Halloween," Andrew told her, holding the manuscript above his head. "We've got to get out there before it gets any later or all the door candy. Right, Annie?"
"Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" Annie exclaimed, jumping up and down around her parents.
"I am not going out dressed like this," Margaret replied, a hand on her hip and her fiercest glare set in her face. She glanced at Annie. "Mommy'll buy you some candy, sweetie, how would you like that? Anything you want!"
She sent her husband another glare but Andrew Paxton only smiled back at her.
"It's just a suit. You love suits. You love pants suits. Its like any other day for you!"
"This is a man's suit," she replied, glowering.
"You don't say!"
"You turned down the Wonder Woman suit," he said. She rolled her eyes.
"If you really thought I would ever wear that —"
"Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, whatever," he interrupted. "So instead your costume matches with your daughter's. It's cute. We'll take pictures for Gammy. It'll be great." He made a cutesy face at her. She mockingly returned it.
"How does my wearing a suit match with Annie's costume?"
"I'm you, Mommy!" Annie interrupted, clearly used to her parents' bickering.
"Do the hand on the hip," Andrew coached, and little Annie struck a pose. "Atta girl! And you," Andrew turned back to Margaret, "are me, back in my days as assistant. Remember that time when I loathed you with a burning passion?"
"Oh, fondly," she replied. "And who, remind me again, are you?"
"The later me."
"That's not a costume."
"Sure it is, sugarpuss. I was going to be Superman to go along with —"
"Do not bring that up again."
Jack knew he should be on his way — he was already late — but he was too fascinated to leave. They seemed to have forgotten he was there, and he couldn't help myself: it was the same Margaret he knew, yet it was a completely different one at the same time. . . .
It all took on a new level of weird when a baby started crying.
"Saved by the baby!" Andrew exclaimed as Margaret started walking towards the plaintive cries.
"This conversation is not finished!" she called back. Andrew shook his head, a smile playing on his lips. "You ready to go?" he asked Annie. She nodded, her eyes round and excited. Andrew looked over at Jack.
"Any plans for the night?" he asked.
"A party, actually," Jack answered. "Not costume, but I think I prefer it that way."
Andrew nodded in understanding. "I can get behind that." The cries had stopped. So Margaret had been pregnant recently. Un-fucking-believable. "She likes you, you know." Jack looked back at Andrew to see the older man watching him keenly.
"You sure about that?"
Andrew grinned. "She's not the friendliest person. But she's been complaining about how even though you deserve a promotion, she doesn't want to give you one and lose you as an assistant." That was news to Jack, and he was sure it showed on his face. "It was kind of the same with me," Andrew went on, "but she didn't admit it until after our first wedding."
"You've been married multiple times?"
Andrew shook his head. "Had two weddings. Only managed to see one all the way though." At Jack's confusion, he added succinctly, "lo-ong story."
Margaret reappeared at that moment, and this time she was the one with a child on her hip. A baby, actually, a small, chubby boy with dark peach fuzz hair, flushed pink cheeks, and a tiny devil costume. "You're still here," Margaret remarked, eyeing Jack.
"I just — is it okay for me to leave?"
"Go," she waved her hand in dismissal. "Have fun at your aunt's cousin's brother's wife's mother's party." She turned to her husband. "If you expect me to go out like this, you better have an actual costume. You'll suffer right along with me."
"Gammy only made something for Annie and Teddy," he replied, smirking. "What would you like me to wear — my birthday suit?" He started for the door, and Annie was instantly on his side.
"Come on, Mommy!" she whined. "Le's go!" She stomped her foot.
"Yeah, Mommy," Andrew whined, "let's go!"
Jack had once again faded into the background, and he knew it was time to go. He wasn't sure what Andrew Paxton had done with the manuscript and the notes, but it wasn't his problem any more. He made for the door, and when he glanced back at the threshold, his eyes nearly bulged out of his head: they were kissing as Annie danced around their feet making noises of disgust.
The little boy smashed between his embracing parents looked at Jack with a happy face, drool gathering on his chin and his devil's horn cap sliding off his head. It looked as if Margaret wasn't the world's worst mother. He thought of his own parents, divorced when he was eight.
But it didn't matter. He needed to get to the party.
Work tomorrow, though, was definitely going to be interesting.
"You're late. You are aware, aren't you, that the world doesn't revolve around you, right?"
Jack sighed. He hadn't meant to be late, really, but the party had gone on for a while, and now Margaret was sitting behind her desk, meticulously dressed, her hair pinned up neatly and her work already spread out before her, and he looked even worse in comparison. Why couldn't today have been one of the rare days she was late?
He wondered randomly if Andrew Paxton was the reason behind her occasional lateness.
"Jack?" she asked critically.
"Ah, I'm sorry. Really. Sorry." He handed over her coffee, which she accepted without looking up. "The night went longer than I thought." Hoping maybe it was worth a stab, he went on hesitantly, "How was your night?"
"Fine." It was clear she wasn't willing to talk. No wonder no one knew about her husband or kids. He had done some Googling on his phone, though, as he waited in line at the coffee shop, and he'd discovered that Andrew Paxton was as big in the business as his wife.
"I guess I'll, ah . . . get to answering the phone, then. We have that meeting at nine, by the way." She nodded and he turned to leave. At the door, however, she stopped him. She was still looking at her desk as she spoke.
"I read your notes on the manuscript. They were good. Thanks for having them delivered."
"Sure," he said slowly, a little confused. Since when did she thank him? In fact, she had told him once that such thanking was unnecessary from boss to assistant as a pay check was thanks enough.
"You're good." She glanced up finally. "Which is why I'm promoting you as long as you one, purchase a functioning watch, and two, never tell a soul that you saw me go out in a men's suit." He could only stare. Her husband had been right. Swallowing thickly, he nodded.
"Th-thank you," he finally said.
"Find me a replacement and you can take the office across the hall as soon as you do." When he didn't reply, she went on, a gleam in her eye that he would have thought was amusement if he didn't know her better . . . but evidently he didn't know her very well at all. "Unless, that is, you'd like to stay my assistant." He shook his head quickly, and to his amazement, she smiled her first genuine smile at him. "You're good, Jack. You deserve this. I've only ever had one assistant as good as you before, and I stuck him under me for three years. Consider yourself lucky."
"Right," he replied, and when she looked down at her papers again, he knew he ought to leave before she could change her mind. So maybe she wasn't a horror after all. Maybe she was just hard to get to know and —
"Oh, and Jack!" she called. He glanced back.
"That tie is hideous. Buy a new one before you mortally offend someone."
Or maybe she was part horror and part human.
A/N: I saw the movie, bought it on DVD as soon as I could, and am officially obsessed. And in love with Ryan Reynolds. I had to write something, and this was what came to mind. Please review!