Title: Luscious Purple
Character/pairing: Scout/Miss Pauling
Summary: Miss Pauling spends her lunch hour with company, Scout has some unexpected talents, and Miss Pauling starts thinking of what ifs.
Author's note: everything I'm doing is either plotty longfic or a million words of porn, so quick fluff to deal with my outburst of feelings over the Smissmass comic.
I always wanted to finish a nail polish intimacy fic, but didn't have the chance because none of my other OTPs wear nail polish in canon.
Thanks to Jana for the beta.
Around her office, several computers flickered, and a mountain of paperwork awaited. Miss Pauling was at a table just away from her desk, her legs crossed at the ankles. Miss Pauling frowned at her nails. They could make teleporters, atomic weapons, and ultra grade quicklime, but somehow, making decent nail polish was beyond them. Which was saying something, considering that Helen had killed men for less, and she really loved her nails.
Then again, the Mann Co. motto was basically "If it doesn't work, throw more guns and atomic energy at it! If that doesn't work, try throwing some bears for good measure!"
All their other resources were outsourced to making hats. She'd have thought with all his over the top devotion towards Helen, Saxton Hale would have worked out a decent nail polish. Maybe he was still perfecting the formula. He probably was working on a version made out of the blood of bears, or something.
She wasn't too surprised when the door swung open far enough to hit the wall–the wall was starting to dent there. She didn't even look up to see who it was.
"So, I'm got some quality secret crap for you. All in blue. Look at that, it should be gift wrapped, it don't even have any shrapnel marks on it."
"Put it in the corner with the rest," Miss Pauling said without looking up.
This time she did look up. He apparently hadn't even bothered to get healed and changed after battle, as his red shirt was spattered with blood and dirt.
"So, did I ever tell you the one with my older middle brother—"
"Frankie, Patrick, Paul or Jonathan?" She said.
"Frankie–Wow, you're quick. It's like you already know the whole gang. You know all our details like that? I bet you aced all your tests with a memory like that," he said.
"I can remember some details for most of the mercenaries. You've just told me yours so many time that they were committed to memory," she said.
Scout grinned wide. "So I'm special, huh?"
In retrospect, that was a poor word choice on her part.
"I'll sign your papers later that you brought the suitcase directly to me. I have to attend to some things first," she said.
"Like what? Ain't much which can get in the way of you and papers, Miss Pauling," he said.
She held up her nails. "The Administrator hates to see things out of place. Cracked nail polish is a particular dislike of hers."
"I'll do them for you!" Scout said.
"That's all right," Miss Pauling said. "The Administrator demands perfection, and I don't want to have to do them again."
"No, no, you don't understand. I'm great at doing nails," Scout said. "Just one of my many unknown talents. I got dozens of 'em, you know."
Miss Pauling lifted one brow. "You don't seem the type."
"See, I'm the youngest. Ma used to take me out shopping with her when everyone else was at school. When I got older I was in school so I couldn't shop anymore, so she taught me to do her nails so we could still have some time together."
"And your brothers didn't tease you for this?" She said.
"They tease me for everything ever, but... I got to spend extra time with ma and do stuff they couldn't. When you got seven other boys to fight for attention, you aren't picky if it means you get ma's undivided attention for a while. Plus, she told me it'd make me popular with the girls."
"Did she now?"
"Yep. I had a chick I wanted to impress. So I took to it until I could apply the stuff like a pro. And then I put mud pies in her hair. I was a charmer even at seven," he said. "The girl, not ma. She'd kill me if I messed up her hair."
"I figured," Miss Pauling said. Miss Pauling lifted her clipboard at an angle to hide her smile.
Helen's preferences tended towards Royal purple, and she hated to see chipped nails about as much as she hated friendship and cold coffee. Miss Pauling still had a copy of Between The Sheets a shade of purple one of her friends had sent as a gag gift. Thankfully, that was still in her room. She'd never hear the end of bad pick up lines if he saw that one.
She wasn't sure Luscious Lips Purple was any better, to be honest, but that was what she had on hand.
"Lunch only lasts an hour," she said.
"If I do your nails then you'll actually have time to eat," Scout said. "I'm off for lunch, anyways. The rest of the group don't want me around because I showed them up today. They're totally jealous."
"What about you?" She said.
"I dunno. Grab a Bonk or something. Steal Heavy's sandwich if I have to," Scout said. He shrugged. "I'll get by."
There didn't really need to be anymore strife, especially if the team was already irritated at Scout—which was their default feeling towards him, anyways. Besides, Scout got irritable when he didn't eat, and when he got irritable, the whole team got out of sorts.
"There's extra food in the fridge. I'll split it with you if you don't get crumbs on my nails," Miss Pauling said.
"I'll get it," Scout said. She let him because it was easier. He was actually quite a good assistant in this respect. He got things without question and never looked in the documents unless they might pertain to her. Most of the paperwork side of TF industries bored him, so he was quite reliable.
She set the supplies out and laid her right hand on a newspaper. Fifteen hippies dead in mysterious animal attacks! was partially obscured by globs of purple polish. Scout laid a plate with a couple of sandwiches and chips to the left of her hand. On the left of her was a bowl filled with ice cubes. She didn't ask.
He wetted a cotton ball with some nail polish remover and ran it across her nails. Mann co's personal nail polish remover was extra concentrated with atomic energy, so it only took a small amount of time to work.
"Hey, this stuff works fast," Scout said.
"It's the Mann co. way," she said. "We do things faster than a punch in the jugular."
He took the bottle and shook it with one hand, his gaze never leaving hers.
"So like I was saying, I was amazing today. You should've seen me with that intel. I'd bring the rest right to you, but I can only carry so much today."
"I saw; I view most matches unless I'm called away," Miss Pauling said.
Truth be told, he had preformed quite admirably today. He'd taken down the Heavy on the opposing team without a scratch and captured the intel flawlessly. Dealing with Scout was a tricky balance. He'd take any compliment as an indication of affection. On the other hand, he worked hardest when he had a goal to achieve, and when Scout was determined, he could achieve amazing feats. At the moment, she herself was the ultimate bargaining chip. Theoretically, she could sway the entire outcome of battles simply with a promise.
Get this intel and I'll kiss you.
Win this round and I'll go out with you.
It would be a lie to say that this sort of power didn't have its own temptation...or even Scout himself. She wasn't completely immune to his charms. His attempts at flirting with her were so bad they circled back into rather cute. At this point she was attempting to keep out of any messy entanglements, or go through the problems of dating someone who worked under her, or the possible issue of her favoring one mercenary over another. But sometimes, on late nights when she was still alone with no one else to call, no one else asking how her day was or saying she looked pretty, her resolve wavered.
He slowly applied the nail polish, painting it on in thin, even strips. She broke a sandwich in half, and leaned up just far enough for him to take a bite. He chewed loudly. The thought came to her that her family would hate him, and it made her smile just a little. He'd drive her mother to drinking in the kitchen, her father to what is wrong with you? looks.
They always were a bit stuffy and undemonstrative, a little too concerned with appearances. By comparison, Scout's family seemed to share entirely too much, half their affection apparently showed by smacks upside the head, if Scout's anecdotes were to be trusted.
"You remember something funny?" Scout asked.
"Something like that...it's classified, so I can't talk about it," she said.
"Oh, I bet it involves Saxton Hale, right? He's a great guy, always fun to be around," Scout said.
She took a bite of her sandwich and nodded. He'd brought her turkey on rye with Swiss; her favorite. Of course he would remember. The minute something of her was revealed—a preference, a taste, a like–she'd start seeing a whole lot of that. It'd only taken him a month to find out that her favorite flowers were purple roses. Once she'd caught him repeating to himself as he drew in ink on his arm she prefers Dr. Pepper.
"Mm, oh that's good. You had a good day today, Miss Pauling?"
"I suppose. When things go well for TF industries, they go well for me," she said.
"Then I'm glad I made it easier for you," he said.
She didn't correct him, for by all means, he was right. He could make her life easier just as much as he could make her life difficult with his habit of flirting with her in very public areas, which tended to put her under the scrutiny of her superiors.
He flicked away a bit of polish which had dipped on her cuticle with his thumb, and began to smooth out another line of nail polish. He hadn't lied when he said that he was good. She hadn't even thought him capable of going slow, yet here he was, making the polish actually have a less gloopy consistency with slow, measured strokes of the brush.
When he finished her thumb, he lifted up her hand and dipped it into the water. She drew her hand back from the cold, but he held her steady.
"You can get nails to dry way faster if you got ice water. Just stick em in there and bam, dry nails in a few minutes. My ma used to do that because she didn't have enough time to wait all the way," Scout said.
"I hadn't thought of that," she said.
"Apparently it came from some women's magazine. I dunno, don't read that stuff."
"Not even for more nail tips?" she teased.
"Nah, man. I don't really have time to do ma's nails anymore. She gets 'em done in one of those salon type things and I pay for it."
He removed her hand from the cold water and began to pat her fingers dry with his shirt. He even warmed her hands with his own without messing up her nails, which was some feat. It was very tender and very sweet, actually. She watched him as he started with the same routine on the other hand.
"Most of my paycheck goes back to ma. I don't really got much to spend it on. She's happy as a clam, even though she don't get to see me much, which makes her a bit sad. We never had much back when I was younger, so she's finally getting to have a nice house and nice clothes. Bet she still misses Southie, though."
Miss Pauling couldn't quite see the nostalgia involved with crippling poverty and a place ruled by gangs and the mob, but Scout had always been fiercely protective of where he came from.
"A change is always good. Besides, she could always go back...if she so chose. She has enough to buy out an apartment building and decorate."
"Hey, that's a good idea. I'll mail her that one, next time," he said. "You're always full of good ideas."
"It's what I'm paid to do."
"Then they don't pay you enough," Scout said. "I mean, with all you do for us, and what you put in...you're really good, you know that? You deserve double of what they're paying you, even if it's in the millions."
She smiled despite herself. "Thank you."
"Hey, I could compliment you all day. Seriously, I could. I've tested myself and—this just in–I'm really good at talking," Scout said.
"I noticed," she said. She'd witnessed his gift of gab more than once. If non-stop talking had been an Olympic event, he'd surely take the gold.
"Good to see you're noticin' me at last," Scout said. He winked.
Oh, Scout. She thought now was a very good time to stuff some more sandwich in his mouth, and offered it. They finished the rest of the meal off like that. Food distracted him and kept him sated for a while. She'd have to file that one away for later.
He dipped her other hand in the cold water, which was no less shocking than the last time. But the contrast of him warming up her hand afterwards, the feel of bandages and skin against hers, well, it was worth it.
"Aaaand, I'm done. If this isn't the best damn nail job you ever had, then you're lyin'!" Scout said.
She admired her nails, which were done evenly with quite a nice shine.
"Thank you," she said.
"Anytime, Miss Pauling. Anyways, what you really need is to double coat this after a manicure," Scout said.
"I haven't had the time as of late," Miss Pauling said. "And I doubt I'll have time today, either."
She was saying this all too much lately. She didn't have time to visit her family, her friends, and they were slowly drifting away from her. Her love life started and ended with double A batteries and had been so for a very, very long time. But she had a feeling it wouldn't be that way forever.
"I'll do it for you, I'll even do your feet next time," Scout said.
He was bargaining for more time with her, for more of her. Every little action was just yet another way to try and wedge the door open to her heart. She considered him. He was attempting to grin seductively at her, but there was a clumsy, boyish edge to it, which actually made it more appealing than had he actually been an actual ladykiller and not someone who talked too fast and came on too strong . If she let him in an inch, he'd just keep pushing and pushing until he was closer and closer to her. There was already a dent in the wall, growing deeper day by day, yet another evidence that he'd been there.
Her nails had never looked better, and this was a far more enjoyable experience than doing paperwork alone in her office while she ate. Yet she knew he was getting under her skin, little by little. Sometimes thoughts—like earlier–would come to her, and she wouldn't quite extinguish them fast enough. Thoughts like wondering if he'd actually treat her as well as he kept saying he would, or if this was just his usual hyperbole. But she was finding that there was quite a bit of truth to his posturing, after all.
"So, see you then?" Scout said. He looked so eager and filled with hope, his baseball cap pulled down so part of his face was obscured. She could deflate him in a minute and say no, but he'd just be back tomorrow and trying again even harder. She'd never known anyone with this level of determination before.
"See you tomorrow," she replied.
If Helen had a problem with it, then she should've given her more time off to pursue a love life outside of TF industries. Besides, for all the things that could go wrong with letting Scout woo her, at least she wouldn't have to worry about revealing too much of her job and then having to kill him. Scout wasn't interested in the paperwork; just her.
"By the way, Miss Pauling..."
Scout leaned back to grin at her.
"That nail polish is really fitting for you. Perfect name, if I don't say so myself. In fact, the first time I saw you, I thought—"
"You're going to be late, Scout," she said, cutting him off.
"Nah, you underestimate me. With my speed, I'll probably be early."
"See you tomorrow, Scout," she said firmly.
He lit up at this, as if she'd made his whole day. Her tone had been a reprimand, but all he could hear was the promise that he'd see her again.
"Oh, I will be seeing you. That is without a doubt. Bye, Miss Pauling!"
He raced out to catch up with the rest of his team, and she found herself smiling, as if his happiness were infectious and she'd caught it somehow.
She looked down at her nails. They shone in the light, perfectly applied.
Well then, your move. Will you manage to win me or not? If you keep it up like this, I just might let you.