Title: Two Minutes And Counting.
Series: TF2
Character/pairing: Scout/Miss Pauling
Rating: PG-13
Author's note: Based on HIMYM's two minute date.

Happy birthday, perfectpurplepenmanship!

.

Scout was waiting for her in her office when she entered. He hopped up out of her chair, breaking into a smile as he saw her. Before he said anything, she held her hand up and interrupted him.

"Not happening."

"You didn't even hear what I had to say. You psychic, Miss P?"

"Yes," she said. "I psychically can tell that you're going to interrupt my work."

"Man, you are psychic. Did you see exactly what I was gonna say to you this mornin'—"

"No. It's a very narrow psychic power, and I don't want to know, either," she said dryly.

He was unfazed as ever by her rejection.

"It's nice out here. You wanna go and do somethin' with me?" Scout said, giving her his most winning smile, and gesturing with his hands as he talked. "It looks great on the desert about sundown, all these pretty colors and stuff."

She'd never met anyone so determined. When she'd first come to TF Industries, she'd been a little charmed by him. Just a little bit, though she'd actually considered some of his offers. At least, until she caught him using the exact same lines on several other women. She'd wised up fast, that was for sure.

She sighed. "Scout, I have two minutes of free time a day," she said.

"You're kiddin'," Scout said.

"No. With the possibility that Gray Mann could attack at any moment, sometimes I don't even have that."

"Well, two minutes is all I need," Scout said.

"I'd hope you'd last a little longer that," Miss Pauling said under her breath.

"Waitaminute—"

She held her hand up to silence him. "I'm not interested in a quickie in the back right now, so you can just keep that to yourself. Nor am I interested in lines you struck out with on every other girl you've met. Contrary to whatever world you live in, that doesn't endear you to the ladies."

Scout took a sharp intake at the word 'quickie,' revealing his prominent buck teeth. She wondered for a moment if she'd broken his brain, but he sprung back, just as determined as ever.

"Actual date, though," Scout persisted. "Two minutes. That's all I need."

She considered him. It'd take longer than two minutes to dissuade him. She could only imagine a full length date with Scout going with him talking about himself over dinner for hours, groping the waitress and then her at the doorstep—if she didn't get fed up and leave up with the check after. Distilled into two minutes, well that would be less of him talking about himself than a usual match.

"I don't see why you keep persisting," Miss Pauling said in exasperation.

"Ain't it obvious? Because I like you—you're special!"

She stepped back, a momentary softening inside her, before she remembered and steeled herself.

"Oh, really? Did you use that line on all the other girls, or am I just the one you're testing it out on to see if it works?" Miss Pauling said.

"What? No! You are absolutely the only girl I have ever said that to. Cross my heart and hope to die," Scout said.

She crossed her arms about her chest. "The only girl you've said it to so far, you mean."

"What if I told you that you were the only one?" Scout said.

"Then I'd tell you that you were lying and that you need to get off my desk, out of my office and off to whatever you should be doing," she replied.

And yet, there was a part of her which never really stopped liking him. She wasn't nearly as harsh on him as his behavior often merited, and her bitterness reeked of jealousy—a woman scorned was a fearsome thing indeed.

You struck out long before I ever gave you a chance. Maybe there's a part of me that wished you didn't, but it doesn't matter anymore.

"Two minutes. You can't even get coffee in that amount of time, hell, I can get coffee for you faster than that!" Scout persisted.

She considered him. He looked so hopeful, and yet with a steely determined underneath all that silliness.

"You're just never going to give up, are you?" she said with a sigh.

"Nope. Not when it comes to you," Scout said.

There really was no convincing him, but that didn't mean she couldn't turn it to her own advantage.

"Fine, I'll go with you for two minutes—"

Scout brightened considerably.

"—But with one stipulation."

"Sure, anythin'," Scout said quickly. He leaned against her desk, and she pushed him off.

"If I don't enjoy myself, you don't bother me again. No more asking me out on dates, no bothering me while I'm working, no talking to me. Nothing. Do you understand? You have one chance, and that's all."

If she thought this might dissuade him, she was wrong. Then again, knowing him, he probably couldn't even fathom the idea of failing.

"All right," Scout said. He gave her a two finger salute. "Prepare yourself for the most exciting two minutes you ever had!"

"Indeed," she said.

"Kay, I need some time to prep, how about sayyy, this time tomorrowish. Be there, don't forget!" He said.

"I work here, my chance of not being in my office is pretty slim, and I'm sure you wouldn't let me forget for a moment," she replied.

"Haha, you got that right!"

Since there was no possibility she could enjoy herself, she would solve two problems at once. And in under five minutes, no less. Efficiency was ever her specialty. Ah, well. At least she'd get an anecdote out of it. An anecdote to tell to no one, considering she had no time to ever call her old friends these days.

Slowly she was drifting away from everything she had been, from her kindness, her family, perhaps even her humanity. But she was ever efficient; she would deal. She always found a way.

.

Waking the next day, the date was the first thing she remembered, as insistent as a thorn under her skin. After she'd brushed her teeth, she paused in front of her modest closet of purple-colored clothes. For a second, she considered something a bit shorter...but no, it was a simple small purple dress and black flats. No difference in the amount of buttons she did up, either. After all, it wasn't a date; it was a farce. Never mind that it was the closest thing to a date she'd had in a very long time. In the end it would only be two awkward minutes out of a very full day.

Still, she put on a lighter pink lipstick. It had nothing to do with the fact that it made her look a bit less severe than the darker lipstick, some might even say cute. Everyone needed a change once in a while.

She didn't feel nervous...it was more the feeling she got when she knew she had to do a job, and she was anticipating just how far she would have to have them go before she shot them in the back, and how much it would take to get the blood stains out this time.

Except, this would be cleaner, and she wouldn't have to hide a body this time. All pluses in her case.

He met her in the hall, in his usual clothes. She wasn't sure if this was a strike against him or not; he tended to look better in his uniform than a suit. He pulled his cap down and grinned at her.

"You ready for this?" He tossed up a stopwatch. She was more than a little surprised to see that he was actually keeping to the allotted time and not trying to push the limits.

"I suppose," she said. As ready as she'd ever be.

Scout opened the door, and she found the room transformed. First, a table with a checkered tablecloth of red and blue, piled with some delicious looking spaghetti and freshly baked bread. There were two wine glasses across from each other, just partly full.

"Ordered?" she said. She hadn't exactly seen much takeout like this from around, but Scout didn't strike her as the cooking type.

"I did it—well, ma helped me out. I slaved over a hot stove any everything–I even got war wounds." He pushed his left hand across the table which now had a number of flesh-colored band-aids all over it.

She sat down, and took a bite and found the food as good as it looked. "How much helping did your mother do?"

"Just a little. What, you don't think I could pull this off?" He said.

"Maybe," she said.

She took another bite. The sauce was tangy, but not too watery, and the noodles were cooked just right. She savored the taste, but before she could take another bite, he pulled her up. Before she knew it, she was being lead to the next table, where coffee and cake were set out.

"Don't tell me you made these as well?" she said.

"Not even close, I can't bake worth a shit. They're a gift from my ma. I made the coffee, though! Pretty sure you said you liked this once."

"And you remembered just from one offhand mention I made?" she said.

"'Course, since you were the one who said it," he said.

She took a bite, and it was quite moist, very good. She'd have to get the recipe. Or, more likely, convince Scout's mother to bring it on occasion when she visited.

"So, what school did you go to?" Scout asked.

"Harvard—why?" She said.

"Seriously? You're a Cambridge girl? I'm a Southie boy!" Scout said enthusiastically.

"Born and raised," she said.

"See, meant to be," he said.

Her life would be much easier if she hadn't felt a slight skip in heartbeat, if she could've just rolled her eyes at it, at him and thought him banal. She only got a sip of the coffee–it had an edge of hazelnut to it—before he was pulling her up again to the floor where he put one hand at her waist and the other leading her into a dance. She was stiff at first, missing all the cues and steps, but he didn't step on her feet once, proving himself quite agile.

"Bet you didn't know with all your fancy background checks that I can cut a rug," Scout said.

"No, you told me that detail yourself the last five times you tried to ask me out," she replied.

"You're keeping count!" Scout said with a distinct giddiness in his voice.

"I'm good at keeping track of things. I've never been good at dancing, though."

"Why not? I bet all the boys were just dyin' to take you out. Fights probably sprung up to see who would be the first to take you out," he said. He chuckled. "It's pretty funny to think of all those fancypants Cambridge boys fightin' each other. What, did they challenge each other to duels with their gloves?"

"Hardly," she said. Her teenage years she'd been more duckling than swan, and she spent many a weekend with the company of her textbooks.

"Seriously? Then Cambridge boys have their heads up their asses and can't see the treasure that was right in front of them. Any guy who wouldn't take you out dancing needs to have his head checked."

He dipped her low, and pulled her up again, twirling her. He was so fast that it was hard to follow, and yet, she felt light headed—and lighthearted. Why was it she always felt like laughing around him...and not always at him, either? The dance stopped with one last turn, and he checked the stop watch again, and grabbed at the wall, bringing out a bundle of purple flowers. They were obviously not something bought, but collected from the outskirts and probably radioactive. The stems were unevenly cut, but somehow that just made them more endearing.

"Aaand, two minutes," he said. He tossed up the stopwatch and looked at her expectantly.

She could lie and break it all, give an excuse to be rid of him forever, but he'd been unexpectedly charming. None of her predictions had come true in the end—especially the part where she'd be unaffected by him.

"Not bad," she said.

"Oh, come on, that was amazin' and you know it!" Scout said.

She sat down at one of the tables and lifted the cup to her mouth. "I might not even throw you out of my office."

"Oooh, that's great!" Scout said. He sat down opposite her. "Does this count as a second date?"

"Maybe," she said.

This spaghetti was really good. Maybe he had hidden depths, after all. Or maybe his mother would just make a really good mother-in-law.

"So, you impressed yet?" Scout said.

"I suppose it was a rather impressive feat," she said.

"I know, right? Barely got it together in time, but man, this date should go down in history."

"It probably will when you reuse it on every girl you find," she said.

For a moment, he seemed to be lost in thought, very visibly trying to turn over something in his mind. Then his face lit up as he pointed at her.

"You're jealous!"

"What?" she said.

"You're so jealous! You can't even take it that I've flirted with other girls, so that's why you been bitter all this time!"

He laughed in triumph. She glowered at him.

"Hardly," she said, but her flushed cheeks said otherwise.

"You are soo into me, you're probably wantin' to get in a cat fight with all the other girls I ever even looked at—oh man, that'd be a sight to see, you kickin' all their asses. So hot!" he jumped out of his chair and laughed some more. "Oh, man! Have I got it figured out!"

She pinched the bridge of her nose. She'd never hear the end of it now. That wasn't even the worst part, however. The fact that he was completely right was downright embarrassing. She should have better taste with this. How did the job not come with a heart of metal?

"But, hey, you shouldn't worry about them. I never would've pulled this for any other girl, and I wouldn't have kept tryin' for anybody else. I wasn't kiddin' when I said you were special."

"I don't know if I can believe you," she said.

"Don't worry, I got this covered," Scout said.

"And what do you exactly plan to do?" she said.

"Win you over you two minutes at a time. Tomorrow, same time, same place?" Scout said.

She could throw him out, but this was the first thread of happiness and connection she'd felt for a very long time. It wasn't simply that he was an anyone, a warm body she could rest against, he'd always affected her a little. She'd never been able to completely dislike him, even when he hurt her. Even now, she felt charmed, a little bit of warmth growing through the cold inside her. Some days when she thought she could look at everything around her and be left cold and impersonal, like the job had taken every bit of her humanity, he'd come and say some sort of stupid anecdote and bring a little bit of the warmth back.

It was preposterous, a mission destined to fail. And yet...

She shook her head. "Why do you keep trying when I just kept turning you down?"

"Because you're the one girl I'd bet it all for," Scout said.

Always persisting, always waiting. Well, that remained to be seen. She looked down at her drink. She didn't feel heartless around him. That in itself was worth a risk at heartbreak.

"One chance. I'd advise that you don't blow it again, because I won't forgive you if you do," she said.

"I'm goin' to make you the happiest girl around, just you wait!" Scout said.

He leaned down to kiss her, catching her at the edge of the her mouth at the awkward angle, and nearly knocking her glasses off in the process, and nearly knocking over her chair, too. She had to grip the table just to not topple over completely. He winked at her like he was a real Don Juan, and ran out, leaving her office—and her life—a lot messier than when he started.

She touched to the edge of her mouth. He'd smeared her lipstick, and yet, such an awkward kiss had touched her more than a perfect, movie quality one would have. She laughed to herself, feeling more lighthearted than she had in a very long while.