Encounter Number One:
Don dropped his head against the metallic wall of the elevator with a tired sigh, expression thoroughly spent. The angle of his neck invited the glare of the overhead lighting straight into his eyes, and they tapered into a wince before simply falling closed altogether in response.
What a fucking day.
Elliot, despite his sneeze-ridden objections, was sick. His face was white as a sheet, his skin was damp and clammy, his every third word was a cough, and the heat radiating from his forehead was likely singlehandedly causing global warming. Convincing him to go home had taken hours—it wasn't until Tess caught him discussing the debt ceiling with a fern that Don got his wife to come get him.
And then there was Maggie. They were moving in together. She said she was 'glowingly happy'. They hadn't fought in months. And yet, she'd been stuck on packing 'one last box!' for two weeks now. Always finding little last second things here and there, falling asleep early and forgetting to pack, staying at work late and not finding the time—obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. She was making excuses, and he wasn't sure what made him more anxious: the fact that she was stalling or the fact that, deep down, a small, unacknowledged part of him was relieved.
Every day she had 'one last box!' was another day he could breathe.
And then, of course, there was the master of all things elusive and evasive and frustrating that was Sloan Sabbith. To say that her little 'you never asked me out' routine had thrown him off-guard would be an understatement. It shook his entire perspective up. Altered his awareness. Spiked his pulse. Jolted his perception. Overhauled his worldview. Sloan was all sharp angles and svelte lines and knife-like honesty and striking beauty. She was the kind of woman men didn't even bother asking out because the idea of trying to match her was ridiculous.
The ungettable get.
And yet, two weeks ago, she'd stood in his office and told him that, for reasons he couldn't even begin to fathom, he could've gotten her. And that was after reading him like a fucking book. Like the Great Wall of Don Keefer he'd built around all of his vulnerabilities was made out of dandelions. Like he made perfect sense as a person, despite how darkly complicated he thought himself to be, and she got it. It was bewildering, the way she sliced through the bullshit he wore like a jacket to get to the core of him, and even more so, the way she'd looked at him once she'd gotten there… like she didn't think he had anything to hide.
And that shook him, a guy who thought he had everything to hide, to the core.
Problem was, she was gone before he could really process this new awareness of her. Not gone gone—she hadn't left News Night—but given how many times he'd seen her since their 'starting now' moment outside of the studio, she might as well have left. She was avoiding him. It was obvious as hell. If he walked into the meeting room, the first thing he'd see is the sight of her inadvertently swinging hips leaving it. If he dropped by Will's office and they were rehearsing their segment, she'd invent an excuse—though once she'd just started coughing uncontrollably for no particular reason and waving her hands around—and leave.
It was frustrating. It was irritating. But most of all, it was enticing as all hell.
Don was competitive. When things fluttered just out his reach, his entrepreneurial streak flared, and there was little anyone could do to stop it. He relished things that sported the 'difficult' label, and nowadays, Sloan wore it like a little black fucking dress. Before her admission, she'd never even registered as a remote possibility in his head. Her label had been 'impossible'. She was a grand canyon away. A galaxy. A universe, even. Now, however, he realized he'd been wrong. She'd been an inch from his hand the whole time, and it was beginning to drive him crazy.
He understood what she was doing: she was staying away to make him forget about her. To make him forget what she'd said. To make him forget the way the air charged with electricity the second she told him that he wasn't a bad guy. But all her absence was doing was making her words fester in his head. Every day, without new words to replace them, they rooted more firmly in his thoughts, and every day, her avoidance made his fingers itch more and more to reach out and close the inch-wide margin between them. He didn't know what would come out of talking to her—he didn't even know what he wanted to come out of it—but the distance just wasn't working for him.
He needed more.
And, almost as if the God he didn't even believe in heard him, the elevator door paused on the fifteenth floor and opened to reveal none other than the ice queen herself. Appropriately, she froze the moment she saw him, right foot lifted in a forward step they both knew she had no intention of completing. They held each other's stare for a long, tense moment before she hastily broke eye contact. "I'll take the next one."
"Don't be ridiculous," Don scoffed, reaching out and grabbing her by the wrist before she could turn around. Every nerve ending in his hand flared with hyper-awareness as he pulled her into the elevator, racing to record the precise temperature and texture of her skin before she wrenched her wrist from his grip. He knew it was a bit of an aggressive move, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to be alone with her.
"I will strongly advise you not to touch me without my permission," she said as the elevator door slid shut, voice cold as ice and eyes fit to match. "I have ways of making men regret that."
"Sexual harassment suit?" he prompted, the faint smell of her perfume slowly beginning to pervade his senses, and her eyes slitted.
His lips twitched. "Much more your style."
She switched her stare to the front of the elevator, eyes fixed on the door. He stared at her profile for a few moments, acutely aware of every floor they were passing and how many more were left, before cocking his head to the side. "Sloan."
She remained stubbornly silent, eyes trained forward.
He crossed his arms, leaning forward slightly on the balls of his feet and adopting a bit of a smirk. "Sloan."
She glanced up at the number of floors left.
Eyes taking on the glitter they always seemed to adopt whenever she was around, he dropped his arms and took a slow step forward, bringing himself about two feet away from her. "You can't ignore me forever."
As if to prove that she could, she dug into her pocket and reached for her blackberry, bringing it up to idly scroll through her emails. His lips twisted into a grin. So that's how she wanted to play it.
"That's appallingly rude."
He took another step closer, shrinking the gap between them to just over a foot, and in her attempt not to visibly tense, she bit down on her lip. His stare zeroed in on the motion like metal to a magnet, momentarily entranced by the way the plumpness of her bottom lip swallowed up the sharp line of her teeth. Instinctively, he wondered what that lip would feel like between his teeth.
He shook the thought away as quickly as he could, forcing his stare back to her eyes. Almond in both shape and color. Cutting, exotic, exquisite—fuck, he needed to focus.
"Sloan," he said more seriously, dropping his chin a bit to level his gaze with hers, and she continued to ignore him. Frustrated, he reached for her hand and angled it in his direction, "You really think I'm less interesting than—" he took a second to peer at the screen of her phone, "—a coupon for 15% off Bermuda shorts at Banana Republic?"
She cut him a positively lethal side-ways glance. "I only give two warnings about the Ju-Jitsu."
He rolled his eyes. "We both know you don't know Ju—"
Before he could so much as blink, his back was slamming into the elevator floor, legs having gotten kicked out from right under him. Blood rushed up to his head with alarming speed, leaving a ringing in his ears that was promptly interrupted by the 'ping' of the elevator announcing their floor. Without a word, Sloan calmly stepped into the hallway and left him there, sprawled out and throbbing and positively dazed.
In that moment, Don decided he was either terrified of her or in love with her. And he'd be damned if he wasn't going to figure out which one.
AN: It's Sorkin. It's intimidating. I tried. Please let me know what you think! Reviews are my motivation.