It was becoming a usual thing to see May in his office, but seeing her pace around like he did when he was confronted with a problem he simply couldn’t solve? Yes, this was different.
Maxie found himself studying this new behaviour with interest, and just as much focus as he was giving to what she was saying, her words falling out in a steady stream.
The trouble was, she was talking too fast, sometimes interrupting herself and sometimes mumbling under her breath. In short, he could only actually understand about one word in ten.
“May. Slow down.” She paused in front of him, still wringing her hands, stopped in the middle of her sentence. “Now, start from the beginning.”
Being still was clearly not one of May’s strong points, because although she made an effort to stop hyperventilating, she went straight back to pacing his floor as though her intention was to make a hole in it.
“Steven invited me along to one of Devon Corp’s annual… party. Thing.”
He twitched involuntarily at the former Champion’s name. It usually wouldn’t produce such a reaction – internally was another matter, given that their history was far from simple – but with the context she’d just given him, Maxie found it hard not to be unnerved. Just a little.
“If you don’t wish to attend, then you merely have to inform him so. You needn’t do anything you do not feel like doing – and if you feel pressured, even less so.”
“No! That’s not it!” His heart dropped a little from the small amount of hope he’d kept. “I asked him about it when he offered – I’m interested. I want to go. But.”
She stopped in front of him, hands on her face for a long moment before she took them away again to look up at him, and he was reminded of just how much of a child she still was in so many ways – innocent and trusting and altogether earnest, in a way that so many more ‘adult’ people – himself included – had lost somewhere along the way.
“It’s just… I don’t really do smart. I don’t think I know how to.”
He blinked, unsure if he’d heard her correctly.
“If you’re somehow implying that- I assure you, regardless what qualifications might say, you are someone I would never doubt the intellect of- May?”
She was laughing and shaking her head slightly. But it was a relief to see after her previous worries, even if it did prick at his pride.
“No, I meant… smart. All dressed up. Fancy suits and dresses. Slow music. But I’ve never – I’ve never done any of that.”
Maxie sighed, and pushed his glasses up his nose.
“I have to admit, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to attend formal functions. I… can’t say that it’s my area of expertise, either.”
She laughed again, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“Could you help me, though?”
“I’d feel better if I had some practice wearing a proper dress! I won’t be a bother, I just-”
He silenced her with one finger held in the air between them.
“May, I’ve told you before. Your presence here is a welcome addition, and I’m sure that we’d all be happy to assist in any way possible.”
He had meant those words, in every way. He simply hadn’t expected to have her bring dress after dress into the hideout about a week later, holing away with Courtney and Lisia, and although the contest star started out rather intimidated by what had become Maxie’s home, she later became more relaxed, more confident. How much of that was faked for May’s sake was none of his business.
Their purpose, of course, was to try each one on after the other, with the favourites shown off in front of the entire team, as though the grunt common room was suddenly a contest hall or something equally ridiculous.
He would have put a stop to it. None of it was what he’d intended, or imagined. But the smile on her face when she turned to him and asked him what he thought of them stopped him.
Each time. Up until his mind gave up on even the very idea of telling them that his organisation’s base was not a playground, or that his grunts had work to do.
It wasn’t like he was any better, although at least he’d brought some of his work along with him even if he’d managed to get hardly any of it done.
The two girls finally managed to narrow the choices down to three, then two, and then at long last there was only one dress left.
He had to admit. It did suit her perfectly. Even if his opinion was… biased, to say the least.
From then on, the evening wound down gradually.
The grunts went their separate ways, after helping to clean up the common room, and from there either returned to unfinished jobs, or to their rest.
He himself returned to his office. He assumed that May would be needing to go home from here, rest for the next day’s activities, so that she would be ready for the main event in a few days’ time.
He was debating whether or not to pour out a glass of red wine to allow himself to shake loose some of the stress, telling himself again – and yet again – that it meant absolutely nothing that she had come to him for his help in this, for his team’s help in this. She saw him as a friend, a confidante, even.
He was just thinking to himself how preposterous – how irrational and unlikely – it would be for her to like him in such a way, after all he’d done, no matter her optimistic nature, when there was a light, hesitant knock on the door.
It was the knock that had him. If it was Tabitha or Courtney, they would have messaged him via his computer first, and since he’d be expecting them, they may have simply opened the door or walked right in via the portal. If it were one of the grunts, then it would be something similar.
He’d seen Lisia depart on her Altaria some time ago, so he was sure that it could not have been her again. Meaning it could only be one person.
He walked over to the door to open it himself, not knowing what to expect from the visit this time, and she-
She stood there, still in that last dress that they had chosen. The fact that she came up a little higher against him than she normally did in her flat running shoes was all the evidence he needed that she was wearing the heels, too.
She was smiling up at him, but… shyly. Which contrasted greatly with his normal view of her. It took him a moment to remember to stand aside and actually let her in.
And there was music playing. He’d forgotten he’d set music to play. He usually did, when trying to relax – just something in the background – but at this moment, right now…
“I- I wondered if I could have this dance?”
“A little late for that, isn’t it? I thought you’d be gone by now.”
His mouth was running on autopilot. Otherwise his words wouldn’t have been nearly so coherent. There would have been far more stuttering involved, that was for sure.
May put her hands on her hips, looking far more like the May he knew for the first time since she’d come in.
“It’s not quite midnight though, is it? So I can still be Cinderella.”
“Very well then,” he said, bemused, taking her hand. Someone must have told her that he could dance. He wondered who. “You make a very strange Cinderella then, dancing with someone other than your Prince Charming.”
The song was slow, and he tried to ignore how apt the lyrics were. He corrected her posture, her footing, making sure she knew where to put her hands.
But somewhere down the line, all of that stopped mattering. Because now he found himself with her head resting against his shoulder as they swayed, and he thought he heard her say something.
He must have misheard, though.
“Who says I’m not?”
AN: In case anyone's curious due to Maxie mentioning lyrics at one point, I was listening to 'I'm Not In Love' from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. So you could imagine that's what they were dancing to. Also, I just loved the mental image/idea of Lisia and May being really close friends, and this happening.