Call It What You Want by Meowser_Clancy
A/N: Hey, y'all. If you've been following me at all, then you know that I love Sense and Sensibility. This story will have Maddie in the Marianne role, Howie as Colonel Brandon, and Doug as Willoughby. I couldn't think of an equivalent character who could be Elinor so I'm just leaving that alone. This will also have a modern college setting. I do recommend the 1995 film directed, written by, and starring, Emma Thompson but if you haven't seen it, you can still enjoy this with zero prior knowledge
She was in his sociology class.
Howie was the professor's aide, and he was mainly in charge of grading. She always did well on written assignments, as well as exams.
Maddie Buckley impressed him.
"You know she has a boyfriend, right?" Hen asked one day as they got lunch together. She took a bite of her sandwich.
Howie flushed, putting the assignments back in his bag. He hadn't thought he'd mentioned her so much to Hen previously that she'd take note of it. "Why does that matter? I'm not interested like that."
"Like hell you aren't," she said dryly. "You've been talking about this girl since the beginning of the semester. How pretty her hair is, how she's so involved in class."
"I never said her name," he said.
Hen shrugged. "Call it what you want," she said. "I saw her name on the paper you were grading and I recognized it. Maddie Buckley is in my nursing classes with me."
"Well, now you know that I wasn't exaggerating," Howie said, ducking his head. "So how well do you know her?"
"We studied together for the midterm, that's it," Hen said. "Her big scary boyfriend came to pick her up every time."
"What does that mean?" Howie questioned.
She shrugged. "I just got bad vibes, it's probably nothing. She's a smart girl so I doubt it's anything more than a feeling I got."
Howie was silent, picking up one of Hen's chips and biting into it. They were in the common area, the sun wasn't too hot, but Hen had scored one of the only tables with shade as usual. She had weird luck picking tables.
"Hey, I have to meet up with Karen," Hen said. "We're going apartment shopping since she's off this afternoon."
"Exciting," Howie said absently.
"Hey," she said, almost sharply. "You're a good guy, Howie. You deserve more than mooning over a girl with a boyfriend."
"I'm not," he said. "I didn't know before today so you're right, I'll drop it."
"So no more nice guys finish last?" Hen asked wryly.
"Not at all," Howie replied. "She has a boyfriend. I'm not the kind of guy to break them up, or wait around to see. I just hope she's happy."
She ruffled his hair as she stood up. "I think Karen knows someone I could set you up with," she said. "Want to bite?"
"I'll let you know Friday," he mumbled.
Maddie hurried out of her A&P class, checking her phone. It was just past 12:30, it wasn't so late that Doug would be mad. She had just wanted to stay and talk over a problem with her professor, and they'd lost track of time. She really appreciated how helpful Professor Lovelace was, and planned on taking A&P II with her as well.
Doug would be annoyed though. She just hoped he hadn't gone into anger territory.
It wasn't his fault he'd be mad. It really wasn't. He was so stressed, he was about to take the MCAT and had been studying his ass off. She just had to be understanding.
She didn't see the flaws in her reasoning, she never wondered why he never showed the same considerations for her. The rose colored glasses still had a firm hold on her, and she fiercely loved him.
He was going to be a heart surgeon. What was more selfless? He was entitled to some emotion and stress. He was just passionate sometimes.
She passed through the commons, and saw the aide from her sociology class sitting by himself with papers spread in front of him. She paused, wondering if she dared to stop and ask him if he'd graded her paper yet. She really needed an A in this class, but it had been at the bottom of her study list, and she was worried about her most recent one.
She checked her phone again and Doug still hadn't messaged.
She took a deep breath and walked over to where Howard sat, deep in his thoughts.
"Hi, Howard," she said, and he looked up. She saw clear surprise on his face, and he pulled out his earbuds.
"What's up, Maddie?" He asked.
"I know it's not Monday," she said. "But I was really worried about that most recent paper so when I saw you, I figured I'd stop and ask if you had graded mine yet. If not, it's whatever, but I thought it didn't hurt to ask."
"Yeah, I did actually," he said, rifling through the papers. "Hang on, I know I just had it."
She studied him as he looked. He was solidly built, subtle muscles were clear through the fabric of his sweater. Tanned, and his Asian ancestry gave him a kind, open face.
He was actually pretty cute.
She immediately pushed the thought from her mind, reminding herself that she had a boyfriend. This line of thinking was entirely inappropriate.
He pulled out another stapled set of papers, and handed it to her. "You did fine," he said. She rifled through it, seeing the places he'd marked off, and then the overall grade on the last page.
"Thank you," she said, surprised.
"It wasn't my work that got you that," he said, taking it back.
"Well, thank you for letting me see it early," she said, smiling at him.
"No reason not to if it's done," he shrugged. "See you next week, I suppose."
"Yeah," she said, smiling back at him. "Next week for sure."
She hurried away, but found herself looking back over her shoulder at him. She was shocked to find that he was watching her go, and he quickly ducked his head, pretended that he wasn't.
Maddie swallowed, wondering at the odd zing that shot through her heart when she'd realized he was watching her.
She had a boyfriend. She had no business letting her heart zing about other guys.
Her phone buzzed, and she knew without checking that it was Doug. She didn't have time to consider what her weird feelings might mean.
Doug was waiting.