Disclaimer: I do not own any of the following characters, nor do I own the television show from which they hail, "The Nanny." I assure you, if I did own it, the show would have probably been called "The Socialite and the Butler." The title and lyric snippet at the end come from "The Adventure," an amazing song copyrighted to Angels & Airwaves.
Winking from behind the tops of the buildings, the sun began to set for the evening. CC Babcock had made it far enough from the Sheffield residence to ensure that no peeking eyes from behind the damask curtains could view her. And then she promptly froze.
What was she doing? Quitting her job and abandoning the closest thing she'd ever had to a family, or bravely embarking on her life's new adventure? CC knew she was feeding herself a load of crap. She wasn't 29; gone were the days when she could feasibly begin a new "adventure" as far as her career was concerned. But she wasn't 50, as Niles liked to hint. Far from it, actually. She wondered if anyone even knew her age.
Regardless, something had to change. Whatever mid-century crisis had overcome Niles, CC knew she needed to change something in her own life. But she wasn't necessarily sure that leaving Sheffield-Babcock Productions behind was the spark. She spun on her heel and looked back at the familiar entryway.
Niles looked out the window from his room. Fuming after his altercation with Babcock, he'd gotten a great deal of his packing accomplished before his energy had been sapped all too quickly. As he watched the sun's rays split the buildings across the street, Niles surmised that he'd done more stupid things in the past week than he'd done in his entire life. And he'd done some stupid things in his life.
But spitting out proposal after proposal to his alleged nemesis? Impersonating Maxwell and the She Devil to produce a play in a futile attempt to impress her? Costing Sheffield-Babcock hundreds of thousands of dollars? Quitting Maxwell's employ? Niles' shoulders sagged as he once again realized how much he'd messed up his life in the span of a few days. Where was he to go? Back to England, move in with his parents, and go back to university? He scoffed at the idea.
He pulled his curtains shut, effectively making his room the gloomiest place in the city. Treading through the path between boxes and stacks of books, Niles navigated back to his bed. He sat on the edge and stared at his socked feet.
Perhaps he'd proposed to Babcock in a desperate attempt to change his life. Whatever the answer would have been—and being honest with himself, Niles knew she was going to say no—it would have changed his life. And change his life it did. It would appear, however, that it had changed his life for the worse. That was certainly not his intention.
CC shut the heavy door behind her, hearing it echo slightly in the vestibule. She walked further into the marble foyer where she'd earlier revealed more emotion in 5 minutes than in 15 years. Setting her house key on the foyer table with a slight chink, CC pivoted to face the sweeping staircase. If Niles were really moving back to England, she was never going to get the last word. And damnit, she was not going to let him win this.
She walked up the stairs, down the hall, and stopped at the door to his room. It was silent inside, which probably meant that Niles was sitting on the edge of the bed, pouting. Taking a steadying breath, CC pushed open the door and stepped inside.
I knew it, CC told herself victoriously. She may not understand his actions of late, but CC knew her Butler Boy.
She shut the door sharply behind her and crossed her arms over her chest. Niles looked up at her; if he was surprised that she was suddenly standing in his room after rejecting him both privately and publicly, he showed no signs of it. She returned his stare before the silence overwhelmed her.
"What?" she demanded.
Niles simply stared at her. "You walked in my room, Babcock."
CC nodded, allowing this simple fact. "You had no right, Niles."
He considered asking what he had no right to, but he already knew the answer. "Last time I checked, it was a free country."
She wanted to strangle him. There he was, being so flippant, and he was the one who'd upended the precarious relationship it had taken so long to form. This wasn't how things went between them, and yet Niles completely disregarded the rules.
"Just leave, Miss Babcock," Niles said, his shoulders stooping even lower, if it were possible.
CC felt anger, her default emotion, surge within her again. This wasn't Niles! Niles wasn't defeated and morose. He was witty, sarcastic, and a pain in the ass. "What the hell was I supposed to say?" CC snapped.
Niles looked up at her, appreciating how formidable she could be when angry. "Exactly what you said."
CC paused and processed this information. "Why would you propose if you expected me to say no?"
"I don't know, Miss Babcock," Niles replied listlessly. "I needed a change. I needed…" Niles wouldn't say that he needed to know. However much he'd known she was going to say no, he'd desperately wanted her to say yes. Their back-and-forth dance wasn't as fulfilling as it should have been and somewhere deep down, Niles was hoping they could bypass another few years of hands brushing against each other in favor of something infinitely more rewarding.
"Newsflash: you don't propose to someone because you're bored with your life," CC replied waspishly. His response had fueled her ire and she didn't care to investigate that it was most likely due to the fact that his proposal wasn't inspired by some hidden desire to actually be with her.
"And you shouldn't try to sabotage someone's life as a way of flirting with her, but there you go," Niles agreed. "You act so surprised."
"Niles, you just told me that you proposed to me, what, 8 times because you're having some sort of mid-century crisis?" She silently applauded herself for using the insult she'd come up with just a few minutes ago.
"Oh, wake up, Babcock," Niles said, standing up and looking her in the eye. "I've spent more time around someone I claimed to hate in the last 5 years than I have with my own family."
"Your family is an ocean away," CC responded.
"Shut it, CaCa, you know what I'm saying."
And she did. But it was what he hadn't said for the past however many years that continued to plague her. "Oh, yes, Niles. This isn't surprising at all. I knew how you felt. You smiled at me five months ago—was I to take that as a hint that you want me to mother your children?"
"If you could manage to eke anything out of those dried-up eggs, I'd be shocked."
CC glared at him with such intensity that for a split second, Niles actually felt intimidated. Now he understood how the choreographers felt.
"I've known you for 15 years, Niles. And I'm supposed to forget 15 years of insults, pranks, harassment, and damn near assault because you blurt out a proposal the night after you produced a play? I'm still waiting for the punch line."
"I believe the punch line was when you rejected me multiple times and ruined my life."
"Vying to win the Tony Award, Drama Queen? I'm sure you'll move on," CC snapped.
"Yes, because I've managed to do that so well," Niles replied. "I haven't had any halfhearted, failed relationships in the last 15 years because I was waiting for you to laugh at one of my zingers, no, not me."
CC stared at him. "15 years, Niles. 15 years where you made fun of my looks, my weight, my body, my life, my career—which you tried so very hard to destroy."
"Destroy? How can you even credit that-"
"Boobcock," CC said with such a serious tone and face that Niles nearly laughed. "Do you even remember that? I can't claim credit for 'Norma Rae' because people insist that someone named Boobcock worked on that."
"Oh, don't even-"
"You put bunny ears behind my head in press photographs, you tried to trip me at multiple awards shows, and I can't even count the times you stopped me from talking to reporters. It's no wonder everyone thinks Maxwell is the brains behind the operation. No one even knows who I am!" CC exclaimed.
"Oh, Miss Minnelli, I could never even try to take the Tony away from you," Niles retorted.
"Niles, you held out the leash so that I'd trip over Chester and break every bone in my body," CC reminded him. "I didn't get to meet the president and, again, everyone credited Maxwell with getting the rights to use the Kennedy Center. That was me. That was supposed to be my weekend."
Niles felt a twinge of guilt and resented her for it. "You haven't exactly been the most innocent bystander."
"I didn't come here to recount all the evil you've conspired against me. I'm just trying to make you understand why your proposals were surprising for me."
"And I get it." Niles sat back down on his bed, unable to meet her eye. He'd surprised her and himself with the proposals, but it didn't make his request any less genuine. And the constant reminder was only twisting the knife.
CC watched him sit down and avoid her eyes, seeing him look more upset than she could ever recall. Were CC less emotional herself, she might have noticed their ever-present pattern: you make me feel something, I get mad at you.
"No," CC said, shaking her head. "No, you don't get to do this. I've played the Bitch of Broadway next to your Bashful Butler routine for the past 6 years and I'm sick of it. I may not be innocent, Niles, but I didn't always deserve your onslaught. And despite everything, history will remember this as icy CC, rejecting poor Niles."
"Does it even matter?" Niles wanted to know.
"Because…because you just expect everything to be so easy, Niles!" CC said. A voice in her mind told her that history would remember this as her weakest argument ever. "Oh, Babcock, I'm going to pick on you forever and then propose out of the blue. What do you say, pip pip?"
Niles looked up at her. "First of all, I have never said pip pip. And second of all, Miss Babcock, I believe I relinquished all opportunities for an easy life the day I fell in love with you."
Of the things that had floored her the last few days, that really did it. Had he been looking at her at that precise moment, he would have noticed the way her face faltered and how her eyes widened almost imperceptibly. Her mouth opened slightly and she stepped closer to him.
"I should have known that the blue-blooded princess couldn't imagine anything in life being easy," Niles muttered.
CC took a step back. "And why would I expect you to make anything in my life easy? And for future reference, you don't know much of anything about my life."
"I don't know what it's like growing up with a butler. I only know what it's like growing up being one." Niles stood and stepped closer to her. "But give me some credit, Babs. I know a few things about you." He turned and walked around his bed toward his pile of possessions. He didn't have any particular goal in mind, but he wished to have something to do so that he could ignore how much he was going to miss this infuriating woman.
CC watched as he lifted a pile of books and placed them in an empty box. She took a moment to admire how his suit jacket hugged his shoulders before asking, "Like what?"
Niles stood and looked over his shoulder to eye her. He turned back around, closing his eyes and absentmindedly rearranging the remaining piles. "I know that you'd anticipated becoming an investment banker before your best friend Sara encouraged you to partner with Maxwell. I know you care for his children more than you'd ever admit; I remember you taking care of Miss Grace when Mr. Sheffield thought he couldn't after Sara…" Niles cleared his throat and continued, "I know it killed you because she so looked like Sara. I know that you initially balked against Miss Fine being here because she couldn't possibly compare to her. I know you look forward to your brother's visits and part of you wishes your sister would visit, too. I know you really treat Chester like a prince at your penthouse. And I know that you'd tell anyone that your favorite meal is duck confit but that you'd rather have a big hamburger any day of the week."
Niles turned to look at her and saw her shoulders ducking slightly. "Shall I go on? I know that you stand like that," he pointed to her current posture, "when you're trying to hide. You act so annoyed with my antics but I see how much you light up when we play. I know your relationships have failed because your ex-boyfriends have been so painfully boring and you need something exciting. Your favorite flowers are lilies, your favorite color is red, and you don't have many friends because every other woman your age and stature is a carbon copy of each other and you can't stand such falsity."
Niles transferred another pile of books to the box. He knew it was too much too late, and his very complicated relationship with CC would never be the same. At the very least, it gave Niles small comfort that CC knew he cared for her and that he had paid attention these past 15 years. "Now if you'll excuse me, Miss Babcock, I have some things to pack downstairs."
He crossed his room and was nearly to the door when he felt her move.
She said it so softly that Niles couldn't help the small bubble of hope that formed. As soon as he felt it rise in him, he knew he had to leave. He knew how Babcock's mind worked; the vulnerable speech would make her open up for a limited amount of time, after which she would close off and accuse him of messing with her mind and running off again. Just as she reached out to touch his arm, Niles opened his bedroom door and walked off.
As he entered the kitchen from the back stairway, he wondered if he should have stayed. He might have gotten a few kisses out of her after his "See? I've Noticed You" speech. But even as he thought it, he knew that if he were actually allowed to touch her, he would never be able to leave and it would be a million times harder to do so.
He leaned against the island with his fists balled and his eyes tightly closed. Willing his emotions to retreat, Niles felt his arms shake with the effort. He jumped dramatically when he felt a warm body lightly press against him from behind.
His eyes popped open, shocked that she had followed him.
"Niles, turn around." Her voice wasn't forceful or demanding, and yet the silkiness of it made him want to follow her orders without question.
"Why should I?" He could almost feel CC roll her eyes and he had to admit, his petulance astounded him at times.
She stepped even closer to him and placed both hands on his shoulder blades. "Because it'll be easier to kiss you that way."
Niles turned around slowly, her hands falling to her sides, and looked at her questioningly. Surprised, he lowered his eyes a few inches. "You took your shoes off."
"I didn't want you to hear me following you."
"I would have anyhow, with those big hooves slapping the floor."
CC considered responding in kind but knew it would make more of a statement if she didn't. "And I've always wanted to kiss you and be a little shorter than you."
That was the second time in as many minutes that she'd mentioned kissing him. Niles wouldn't be able to take the ultimate letdown. "I get it, Babcock. I trick you, you trick me. You can go now."
CC's eyebrow cocked up. He was never going to stop pissing her off, was he? "Niles-"
"I give you that sappy speech and so naturally you would want to kiss me. I get it. I don't really feel like waking up tomorrow and watching you struggle with another excuse."
CC's nostrils flared slightly and Niles was thrilled that she was angry. Angry CC, he could handle. She crossed her arms and stepped closer to him. "You hate the fact that you aren't as close with Maxwell as you used to be."
Expecting a heated berating, Niles paused. "What?"
"He's been so preoccupied with Nanny Fine for the last 5 years and it has actually bothered you more than it ever bothered me. You wanted to be a barrister but you regard the life as stultifying. You claim to hate your job but you love being so involved with this family. You don't miss England as much as you think you should. And you hate washing windows, but you've spent more time washing the office windows than any others in the house. And you love Chinese food but haven't been able to enjoy it because of one Sylvia Fine."
Niles' face remained impassive, but his eyes twinkled slightly.
"And your eyes do that," she said, lightly touching his left temple, "when you're happy." She let her fingertip slowly descend his face and re-crossed her arms. "I paid attention, too, Niles."
It was in that moment that CC expected him to kiss her, but he refused to move. As untrained in emotions as she was, she knew she'd hurt him and he was reluctant to put himself out there again for her. She'd taken the first step, literally, by following him to the kitchen. It was up to her to make the final one, and she didn't know if she could.
CC didn't know how long they stood in the kitchen staring at each other, but she recalled with perfect clarity that they'd simultaneously leaned toward each other. He unballed his fists and she untwined her arms, and they did so in perfect unison. As their lips finally met, their arms crashed around each other with such intensity that they both stumbled and Niles pushed her against the counter behind her to balance both of them. Once balanced, he shifted his weight and felt her melt against him.
CC's hands traveled up his back and tangled in his hair. Her passion for this man dictated that she must remove all of his clothing right then, but the last remaining thread of logical thought reminded her that they were in the Sheffield's kitchen. If he could put himself on the line for her, then she could do the same for him.
Reluctantly ending the kiss, CC slid out from between Niles and the counter. Her back facing the staircase, she held out her hand for him. Wordlessly, he took it and laced her fingers with his. She promptly spun around and hurried up the stairs, dragging him behind her.
As soon as they were in his room, he shut his door and she pressed herself upon him again, kissing him with even more abandon. Fingers trembling, she unbuttoned his suit jacket and let it fall limply to the floor. Following this, Niles kept his arms wrapped around her for fear that if he moved, she might suddenly realize what she was doing and leave.
CC's mind, however, was so firmly intent on her mission that leaving was the furthest thought from it. She unbuttoned Niles' Oxford shirt so quickly that CC impressed herself. Sliding the shirt off of his shoulders, she pulled Niles' arms away from her so that she could yank the shirt off of him completely. She immediately missed the contact of his arms but decided to pull his white t-shirt off first so that she could finally, finally touch his chest. Their lips separated again as she yanked the shirt off his head, giving his hair an adorably mussed-up look.
Leaning toward him again, CC paused. She hadn't kissed Niles as much as she may have wanted to over the last 15 years, but she knew when his full focus was on her and right now, it wasn't.
"You're not with me, Niles," CC said, her breath tickling his lips. It was such a delicious sensation for him that he nearly finished right there.
Niles glanced down and looked back at her. "I'd say I am."
CC smiled slightly at his rakish comment. "Part of you is. Not all of you."
"I am. I just…there's one last thing I have to say," Niles told her. His use of the word 'last' made her heart skip a beat in an entirely unpleasant way. "I'm fully prepared to do whatever it is you want to do tonight, and I'll leave tomorrow morning expecting nothing else from you. We can have tonight."
CC took two full steps back from him and Niles felt the sudden loss of her warmth. She looked at him with such a kaleidoscope of emotions in her eyes that worry crept into his face.
After everything she'd said to him, after everything she'd done tonight, he only wanted a one-night stand from her? "I don't understand," she began slowly, "why you don't see how confusing you are. Your sudden proposals, your random speeches, your heart-stopping kisses followed by your almost apologetic assertion that it'll just be this one time. You're like a maniacal child playing with a yo-yo and so help me God, I'm about to cut your damn string off."
Niles' eyes widened at CC's metaphor. He wasn't sure he completely understood it, but he didn't doubt her tendency toward violence. And for perhaps the first time, he truly comprehended how confusing he must have been to her. He took a tentative step toward her and placed his hands on her shoulders lightly. "Miss Ba…CC," he decided. "I only meant to imply that I'm not putting any pressure on you. You know I have feelings for you and in my own backhanded way, I confessed that I'm in love with you. And there is nothing I want more than to prove to you over and over, all night, just how much. I said what I said so that you'd know-"
CC took hold of his face and looked squarely into his eyes, her own seeming to pulse with desire. "Call me CC again."
Confused, Niles asked, "What?"
"Call me CC."
Niles watched as her desire for him seemed to increase with every second. He slipped his hands on either side of her waist and said softly, "I love you, CC." He thought he heard a soft moan as she pulled his face against hers, kissing him again. She slid her hands from his face to his toned chest at the same moment that she slid her tongue into his mouth without waiting for him to take the kiss further.
As she took charge, Niles' passion built and he hurriedly took off her red jacket and black v-neck beneath it. Grasping her hips, he carefully maneuvered both of them to his bed. When her knees met his mattress, she gently fell backwards while Niles remained standing above her. Taking a moment to appreciate that 75% of his fantasies regarding this hellacious beauty were about to come to fruition, Niles grinned at her and reached for the clasp in her pants.
"I believe I have an all-night promise to keep," Niles told her, slowly, torturously unbuttoning her pants.
"As long as it's longer than that," CC replied meaningfully.
Niles smiled and she returned it almost sheepishly as he leaned over to kiss her softly, wordlessly promising that he would be hers for much longer than one night.
And within a matter of moments, both discovered the spark that had been so glaringly absent from their lives.
And here we go, life's waiting to begin…