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Balcony Cat and the Egyptian Vacation

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"You're both idiots," Sam pronounced, and walked out on roommate movie night.

Darcy paused in the middle of giving herself a pedicure and gave Steve a bewildered look, and he shrugged and went back to scaring the neighbor's cat off their balcony with the fire extinguisher.

"What was that about?" she asked when Steve came back inside and returned the fire extinguisher to its place.

"I have no idea," Steve said, blushing like he absolutely did have an idea.

Darcy wondered what it was, but didn't let her wondering distract her from how adorable Steve was when he blushed.

She had her own ideas about why Sam had noped out of spending time with the two of them, but she wasn't about to admit it. He had stormed away after catching her checking out Steve's back side when he went to grab the fire extinguisher, but it wasn't like she could tell Steve that. Steve was way too good for her, she was sure, no matter what Sam said to the contrary.

A tinkling crash from the bedroom made Darcy flub her middle toe and Steve leap up. "Wait here, I'll see what it is," he said, and strode off in action mode. Darcy chuckled; she wasn't fit for action in pedicure mode.

Steve came back for the fire extinguisher.

"Oh my god, is something on fire?!" Darcy gasped, ready to leap into action mode, pink toe separators or no.

"Neighbor's cat," Steve responded, and stalked back down the hallway.

"You're kidding; this has got to stop," Darcy huffed, then called after him, "I'm texting the landlord!"

"Good call!" he shouted back, and she heard the puff of the fire extinguisher and an angry hiss. Usually he just had to brandish it and the cat vamoosed.

Darcy pressed 'send' on her "the cat from upstairs is at it again" text and paused as a realization came to her. "Steve?" she called. "Whose bedroom window just broke?"

"Yours," came the annoyed reply. "There's glass all over your bed."

Darcy swore. "I'm going to strangle that cat." She sent another, angrier text to the landlord, including her new feelings about catricide.

Abandoning her unpainted toenails and the flub on the middle toe (she'd fix it later), Darcy paused the movie and stood, mincing down the hallway to assess the damage.

"Stay back," Steve warned when she appeared in the doorway of her bedroom. "There's glass everywhere."

"Goodie," Darcy said, sarcasm dripping. "I think there might be an empty box in the closet if you want to at least cover up the hole until it gets fixed..."

"Duct tape in the—"

"Kitchen drawer, I know," Darcy said, stepping carefully into the kitchen to retrieve it.

When she returned, Steve was breaking down a box her mom had sent a care package in and propping it up across the hole the devil cat had made. He turned and held out his hand for the tape.

"You know what?" Darcy sighed as she tossed it to him. "I don't even wanna clean this up tonight. It's Roommate Movie Night. We're supposed to be relaxing, not chasing a devil cat out of the bedroom... oh god."

"What?" Steve turned, alarmed at her tone.

"You meant it when you said there's glass everywhere ... it’s not just on my bed. This is going to be an all day cleanup."

"I can help..." Steve began. "At least your bed won't be that bad, just pick up the sheets..."

"Yeah, but the carpet," Darcy pointed out with another sigh. "Looks like I'm going to be on the couch tonight."

"But—"

"I don't sleep in steel toed boots like you guys," Darcy said, giving Steve's footwear a pointed look. "The last thing I want is to slice my foot open in the middle of the night when I get up to go to the bathroom."

"You don't have to sleep on the couch," Steve said, securing the cardboard to the window.

"I don't love the idea of sleeping on the floor," Darcy told him.

"No, I mean—you can take my bed."

"I... couldn't—" Darcy began.

"Please," Steve interrupted. "I work from home, you don't. If I don't get enough rest on the couch, I can sleep in after you go to work and nobody will care."

"Right, okay..." Darcy agreed reluctantly.

"Wanna get back to the movie, then?" he asked, shaking his boots free of glass before exiting her room.

Darcy smiled nervously. "Sure."


Steve woke to the sight of Sam standing over him.

"What the hell."

Steve blinked sleep away, confused. "What?"

"Darcy in your bed, finally , but you not in bed with her. What the hell."

"There was glass all over her bedroom," Steve reported, and pulled himself into a sitting position. "She was going to wait until later to clean it up and just sleep on the couch—"

"But you invited her into your bed, yes, I'm on the party line," Sam interrupted. "My question is why weren't you in there with her ."

"Because... Darcy doesn't like me like that."

Sam laughed—threw back his head and laughed—then stopped suddenly. "Why you think I left last night? She was looking at you like she wanted to eat you. I didn't wanna be around when she did."

Steve shook his head. He thought that might have been the reason Sam had left them alone, but Sam didn't see what Steve saw. When Sam looked at Darcy, he saw delusions. Darcy was in love with Steve, she was pining after him, she wanted to jump his bones.

Steve didn't see those things; he couldn't. When Steve looked at Darcy, he saw a strong, independent woman who didn't need no man. He saw his roommate, a person who was just looking for a friend instead of someone to make her living situation uncomfortable.

"So nothing happened?"

"She borrowed my shirt to sleep in."

"Uh-huh." Sam crossed his arms. "Are your feet wet, Steve? Can you see the pyramids?"

Steve shook his head. "Nothing happened and nothing's ever going to happen. She doesn't like me like that."

Sam let out a long-suffering sigh and walked away.


"Go home ," Helen advised when she found Darcy with her head down on the desk for the second time.

"You really should," Jane chimed in. "It's past lunch; too soon to cut out early, but too late to count for an entire sick day. If anyone asks, we could say you had a dentist appointment."

"Ooh, I'm not so great with the lying," Helen said. "Are we talking like a routine appointment or a root canal situation?"

Jane patted Darcy on the back. "Don't worry," she told her. "I'll do all the talking and make sure Helen doesn't tell everyone you're getting your wisdom teeth out or something."

"I'm fine," Darcy moaned. "I'm just... sleep deprived." She grabbed her water bottle and chugged some, then reached for her fourth cup of coffee.

"Did you stay up all night watching movies with your roommate?" Helen asked.

"You haven't heard ," Jane gasped. "The upstairs neighbor's cat broke her bedroom window last night—"

"Your landlord needs to put their foot down," Helen interjected.

"—There was glass everywhere, all over her bed and the floor and everything," Jane continued, "so she slept in her roommate's bed ."

Helen let out a gasp of her own. "Wait, which roommate are we talking about, the hot one, or—?"

"They're both hot," Darcy put in as she resumed her head/desk position.

"I know but is this Sexy And I Know It Sam, or—"

"—Sweetheart Steve," Jane told Helen. "A.K.A. Darcy's Dreamboat, the guy she's been pining for since the moment she met him."

"Well, good for you, Darcy!" Helen exclaimed.

"No," Darcy said, turning her face toward Helen without lifting her head off the desk. "He slept on the couch."

Helen frowned. "Then why are you sleep deprived? I don't get it."

"The bed smelled like him. I had... dreams. Lots of dreams."

Jane sighed and shook her head, reminding Darcy of Sam.

"Just jump him and get it over with," Helen suggested.

"I can't," Darcy began.

"Here we go," Jane muttered.

"Steve is the sweetest; I don't wanna throw myself at him and then have him feel bad for rejecting me. He's way too good for—"

"How do you know he doesn't like you back?" Helen interrupted.

"Because I... do," Darcy replied lamely. "And anyway it'd be super weird if I told him how I felt, because we'd still have to live together. Or I'd have to find a new place."

"Don't you hate your building?" Jane pointed out. "How would moving be a bad thing?"

Darcy sighed and listed out her pros and cons for Jane. On one hand was: "Loud. Crazy cat neighbor. Fluctuating temperatures in the shower. Look-but-don't-touch roommate." On the other was: "Eye candy. Cheap rent and even cheaper split utilities. My own bedroom. Close to work."

"Fine," Jane huffed. "But what if you moved one of those from one column to the other? Move Steve from cons to pros, and Sam could maybe bring a girl home every once in a while."

Darcy lifted her head off the desk and looked at her friend. "Wait..."

"He can only crash at his secret girlfriend's place so much, and her asshole roommate calls the cops whenever there's any noise over 65 decibels," Jane said pointedly, and then sauntered away.

"What just happened here?" Darcy asked Helen.

"Jane wants to have sex at your place instead of hers," Helen translated.

"I should go home," Darcy said. "I think I'm hallucinating."


Steve was taking a break to chase the neighbor's cat off the balcony when Darcy came home and collapsed face first into the couch.

"You okay?" he asked, as he returned the fire extinguisher to its rightful place.

"Mrrrrmph," Darcy replied.

"Same," Steve agreed. "I had a lot of work today and I wasn't sure if you wanted me in your room, so I haven't gotten to any cleanup—"

"It's fine," he heard Darcy say. "I'll do it, I just need a nap first."

"I can help out later when I get back from my client meeting," he told her, then frowned. "You can go sleep in a bed if you want; you don't have to sleep on the couch."

She didn't reply, and after a few minutes, Steve heard her breathing even out. He tried not to watch her sleep, but his eyes kept drifting over to the couch as he packed up his portfolio.

Before he left, he allowed himself a moment to take professional assessment of the breathtaking way her hair was falling across her face. For the sake of art, of course.


Darcy swore as she stepped out of the shower. The glass scattered across her bedroom was throwing everything off: her sleep schedule, her work day, and now her shower.

Usually she grabbed her own bathrobe before showering, but it was hanging on a hook on her closet door, across a desert of spiky shards. If there was no one waiting to shower after her, she'd often bring her clothes in and get dressed in the bathroom, but since her clothes were further inside her room than her robe... And she'd only been able to reach far enough inside her room to grab her shampoo. Steve's body wash was the only soap in the shower, so it was either that or nothing at all.

She sighed and toweled off her hair, then wrapped the towel securely around her chest. She'd just have to pull a Sam. He preferred strutting down the hallway after a shower with a towel slung around his hips. It was a habit that was incredibly rude of him, especially in the morning. Eye candy may have been a pro to living with Steve and Sam, but an unapologetically shirtless ex-Army guy before 8 am was pushing it.

Thinking of Sam's service reminded her that Steve had an extra pair of boots at the foot of he and Sam's bunk. She headed there, tiptoeing through the apartment even though no one was home.

The t-shirt she had worn the night before was laying across Steve's bed where she had cast it off that morning. Darcy glared at it; it smelled like Steve, too. It was probably a good idea to put something on, just in case someone came home, but all she had to do was get the boots on and get back down the hall to her room.

She grabbed onto the top bunk and was just slipping her left foot into a boot when she heard the door to the apartment open. The sound of keys being tossed into the key bowl on the counter preceded more steel toed boots walking across the apartment.

Steve.

Darcy let go of Sam's bed and would have gotten out of the guys' bedroom as fast as she could...

If the boots hadn't been tied together.

She tripped, barely staying upright only by seizing the bed again, but lost her grip on the towel around her chest. By the time Steve walked through the doorway, she had her wardrobe malfunction under control, but she was still standing in his bedroom wearing nothing but a towel and a pair of his boots.

"Hi," she said.

"Oh!" Steve started, turning completely pink at the sight of her. "I didn't realize you were—"

"Sorry for scaring you; I was trying to borrow your boots, but they're tied together, and then the towel..."

"Right, yeah, can I..." He floundered for words. "Help at all?"

"Untie the boots?" Darcy suggested.

Steve looked as though getting closer to her was the last thing he wanted to do, and suddenly her embarrassment took a back seat to how bad she felt for putting him on the spot.

"I mean, you don't have to, I can hop, or—"

"No, it's okay." He stepped across the room and knelt at her feet, keeping his eyes on her calves and feet. With a few deft tugs, the boots came untied. "There you go."

"Thanks," Darcy said. "Sorry again."

"It's fine," Steve told her, glancing up at her face for a second before looking away again and retreating quickly to the other side of the room. "Let me know if you need help cleaning up glass."

"Uh, yeah," Darcy said, shaking her head to rid herself of all the daydreams that had sprung up at the sight of Steve on his knees before her. "I'll give you a shout."

Steve nodded, and Darcy shuffled out the door.


"All right, get out here," Sam called to Darcy as he backed into the apartment with his arms full of takeout bags.

"I thought it was my night to make dinner," Steve said, leaving his work on his desk to help Sam with the door. It wasn't like he was working anyway. He was more staring at his work and trying to keep himself from pulling out a sketchbook to trace out the curves he’d seen when he found Darcy in his bedroom wearing nothing but his boots.

"It is," Sam told him. Darcy appeared in the kitchen door to dump the contents of the vacuum cleaner into the trash. "I'm changing our plans."

"That doesn't really look like enough food to feed all three of us," Darcy pointed out.

Sam grinned at her, but her phone rang before he could reply. She headed back to answer it.

"What's up, then?" Steve asked.

"My girlfriend is coming over," Sam told him. "This is going to be a romantic dinner."

"Sorry, man, I didn't realize," Steve said. "We'll get out of your way, then."

"You don't have to rush out," Sam said, reaching into a cabinet for a taper candle to put on the table.

Darcy emerged from her room looking annoyed and headed directly for the front door.

"Don't rush out," Sam repeated, putting himself in between her and her jacket.

"Sam," Darcy growled. "Don't do it."

Steve frowned while Sam grinned.

"Too late," Sam said. "Besides, Jane's probably on her way up, so even if you did manage to get out of the apartment, she'd stop you from leaving the building. I guess you could go upstairs and hang out with Balcony Cat if you really don't want to do this."

Darcy shot an beseeching look over her shoulder at Steve, begging silently for him to back her up.

"Hey, shouldn't she and I make ourselves scarce anyway? If your girlfriend is—" A knock on the door interrupted him. "—here."

"It's fine," Sam assured them, ushering Darcy over to the couch. "Sit down. You too, Steve."

Steve joined Darcy on the couch as Sam went to open the door. "Do you know what's going on?"

"Yup," Darcy said, popping the 'p.'

"Wanna clue me in?"

Darcy sighed and gave him a resigned smile. "Why ruin the surprise?" She grumbled something else but Steve only caught "—ruin everything else" before Sam's girlfriend Jane came inside the apartment.

She was a girl Steve had met once or twice, at the local coffee shop where she and Darcy liked to go for coffee. Sam had asked her for her number the last time they had seen Jane and Darcy there, but Steve hadn’t realized that she and Sam had started dating.

Jane waved at Steve and turned to Darcy to ask, "Did you get all the glass out of your carpet?"

Darcy nodded, sighing again, that same resigned smile on her face.

"So," Jane began. "You probably both know why we're here."

Steve looked between Jane and Darcy, then over at Sam, who was lighting the candle in the middle of the kitchen table. "I... don't, actually," he said.

"Sure you do," Sam said. "It's time to come back from your Egyptian vacation."

Steve's eyes widened when he realized what Sam was talking about. "But—"

"Nope," Jane said, silencing him with a hand. "This is officially an intervention." She focused on Darcy. "We're doing this for your own good."

"I love you, Jane, but I hate you right now," Darcy told her.

Steve's heart sank. They were going to tell Darcy about his feelings for her, and she didn't want to hear it. How could they think that was a good thing?

"Come on, now—" he tried again.

"Steve, Darcy's had a crush on you since you helped her move and pretended the box with her shoes in it wasn't the heaviest thing you carried in," Jane announced.

Steve was struck dumb.

"No," Darcy argued. "It was..." She glanced aside at him, then sighed. "The next morning when you made me welcome pancakes."

"Finally," Sam said, obviously savoring the look on Steve's face. "Darcy, Steve has had it bad for you since he helped you move and pretended the box with her shoes in it wasn't the heaviest thing he carried in."

Steve shook his head, then laughed, glancing at Darcy out of the corner of his eye. He got to watch her face go from embarrassed to amazed.

"Actually it was the first time I made you laugh, and I think that was before the shoes," he admitted.

Sam and Jane high fived. "You're amazing," he told her.

"I absolutely am," Jane agreed. "Anyway, Sam and I are going out for dinner, but we're coming back here after, so Steve..." She waited until Steve looked up at her before continuing: "You should really find a different place to sleep tonight."

"But the romantic dinner..." Darcy began, looking into the kitchen at all the preparations that were going to go to waste.

"That's not for us ," Jane said with a smirk. She grabbed Sam and tugged him toward the front door. "Have a nice evening!"


The room was quiet after Sam and Jane left.

Darcy was too nervous to speak; before, there was no chance that she could drive Steve away by saying something stupid, but now, she could mess things up . There were Things that could possibly be Messed Up. She let out a long calming breath, watching the sky through the balcony door as the sun abandoned the dusk.

"So, um—" Darcy began when the silence became too thick.

Steve felt it too, because he spoke at the same time: "Well, I—"

They shared a nervous laugh. Steve pushed his hand through his hair and gestured for Darcy to speak.

"Looks like Sam was right," she decided to say.

"He... tried to tell you, too?" Steve asked.

Darcy nodded. "I wrote it off as teasing a lot of the time," she said. "I think the last straw must have been when he woke me up last night when he got home. I was too sleepy to understand the reason he kept asking why you weren't in your bed. I repeated the same thing probably four times before he gave up and let me go back to sleep. Not that I... slept. Much. Your bed smells like you, and I sort of couldn't."

Steve was smiling, the sort of blinding smile that was only on his face when he was really happy and wanted to beam some of that happiness onto everyone else.

"I didn't sleep much either," he admitted. "Not that the couch is that uncomfortable, just kind of knowing that you were..."

"In your bed?" Darcy volunteered.

He shook his head. "It was more knowing you were wearing my shirt to sleep in," he said.

"I have a super-rhetorical question," Darcy began. Steve raised his eyebrows, ready to hear it. "Why are we not kissing right now ?"

"I thought we were talking," he said, his gaze locking onto her mouth.

"Okay, sure, if you want to keep talking we can talk, I'm fine with—"

Steve silenced Darcy with his mouth on hers, and she leaned into the kiss, savoring the way Steve drew in a breath when she reached up to slide her hand around to the back of his neck. He tugged her closer with a hand on her waist and then let it linger there, fingers splayed across the small of her back.

When they paused to breathe, Steve leaned his forehead against Darcy's. "Tell me this is real," he requested.

Darcy kissed his jaw. "If this is a dream, the first thing I'm going to do when I wake up is make it a reality," she told him.

He kissed her again, hungrily. "It's too good to be true, though, isn't it?"

"I dunno," Darcy said, sucking a kiss onto his neck. "Is it?"

Steve laughed—it didn't sound disbelieving. "There's our reality check!" He pointed out onto the balcony. "That damn cat—"

"Steve," Darcy interrupted, inviting herself into his lap. "I don't care about the cat."

It turned out that Steve didn't, either.

When they finally got up to enjoy their romantic dinner, the candle had burned down to a nub, the food was cold, and the cat was gone.