Saturday the twenty-first
Emma was puffing hard as she rounded the corner to her apartment block. She'd tried a new route for her run and the hill had been harder than it looked.
As she approached her apartment building she saw House, lounging against the wall near the entrance, a large brown paper bag hanging from one hand.
"Hello," she said breathlessly when she reached him, pulling her iPod ear buds out as she spoke. She wondered whether or not to kiss him hello, but decided against it, sure her sweaty face wouldn't be quite what he was expecting.
"Hi," he greeted her with a raised eyebrow. "Why do I always seem to be around you when you smell bad?"
She knew him well enough now to let that slide and laughed a little.
"Would you like to come inside and wait while I shower? Did you want to grab lunch?"
House couldn't help the mischievous look that crossed his face as he imagined her in the shower.
"Lunch? Nah, it's still breakfast time as far as I'm concerned," he said and held up the paper bag.
Emma turned to the apartment building door and opened it, holding it open for him to follow her in. They reached her apartment door and, once inside, Emma dumped her keys and iPod and headed for the bathroom.
"I'll be quick," she yelled over her shoulder as she headed down the corridor. "Make yourself at home."
House headed for the kitchen, opening up the bag and pulling out two paper cups of coffee, bagels, sachets of cream cheese and a clumsily wrapped small gift. He opened cupboard doors and drawers, finding plates, knives and setting them out on the petite kitchen table. Then he went into the lounge for a proper look round.
Emma had showered and changed in to yoga pants and a tight, scoop-necked t-shirt in record time. She walked barefoot into the kitchen to find House learning against the kitchen counter going through a photo album.
"Enjoying yourself?" she asked, archly.
"Who's this hot chick?" he asked.
Emma peered around his shoulder. "My sister. Hands off, she's married."
She looked around and saw breakfast set out on the table. She smiled, touched, imagining that this was the Greg House equivalent of boxed roses.
"Thanks for breakfast," she said, "even if it is one in the afternoon."
"You're welcome," he gave a slight bow. "Aren't you going to open your present?" He gestured to the little package on the table.
Emma gave a start – a gift was very unexpected.
"Oh, this is a surprise," she said.
"Wait til you open it," he said mysteriously.
Emma picked at the clumsy wrapping; it opened easily, having been held together with just a single piece of tape.
When Emma saw the unmistakable black, yellow and red of a small jar of Vegemite, she let out a little scream.
"Oh my God, I can't believe it! Where did you get it? How did you get it?"
"I had serious negotiations with Chase. It's from his own personal stash. I'm doing his clinic hours for a week." House actually had been pleased with the bargain, he was prepared to go up to two weeks, so Chase could really have pressed the advantage.
"So please explain why you Aussies treat this stuff like gold?" House asked. "It tastes disgusting."
"You tried it?" Emma then saw that the jar had been opened and when she took the lid off, there was clearly a finger-shaped dint in the top. "You idiot, you're not supposed to eat it straight from the jar like that! You've got to have it on toast!"
"Look, as far as I'm concerned that stuff is poisonous and I can hardly see how anything other than a charcoal stomach pump could mask that taste."
Emma began to giggle as House continued to rant.
"It's beyond me why…"
Emma reached up and put a finger against his mouth to silence him.
"When are you going to shut up and kiss me?" she asked.
House stared at her. He could barely be around her without thoughts of kissing – and more – being at the forefront of his mind. He didn't need a second invitation. Placing one hand on her jaw, he tilted her head up to meet him, kissing her softly.
Emma kissed him back, her eyes fluttering shut as she pressed a hand against his chest for balance.
Pulling away, she looked up at him, dreamily, her thoughts suddenly muddled.
"I was going to do something, but now I can't remember what it was…" Emma murmured.
"I hope it wasn't going to be smothering yourself in that black stuff," House replied, his hand still on her cheek, his thumb stroking her soft skin. "Because I am not licking it off, no matter what you…"
"Toast!" she exclaimed, interrupting him.
House's comment had reminded her of his gift and she was determined to show him why she was so fond of it – show him what the gift meant to her. She broke free of his embrace and set about toasting the bagels he had brought, putting out butter and slicing cheese. House just watched her with a bemused expression as she bustled around the small kitchen.
After smearing an artery-hardening amount of butter and small dabs of black Vegemite on the bagels, she turned to him, holding out one half in offering.
"Go on, taste it."
House made a face. "Not likely."
"Oh, go on, be adventurous. It's just salty. Like if you'd kissed me before I'd had a shower."
"So you're trying to make it sound appealing by comparing the taste to sweat? Mm, yummy," House said sarcastically. He looked at her doubtfully, but took the proffered bagel from her hand. He gingerly took a small bite.
Emma munched into her bagel cheerfully, enjoying the shape taste of home. She watched House carefully for his reaction.
"I guess it's OK," House said eventually, taking another small bite.
"See? I told you it was great stuff." She gave him a wide grin, pleased that he'd warmed to something she liked so much.
"Lets go sit in the lounge, I'll make a fresh pot of coffee."
House nodded and went to sit down. The previously sunny and warm day had clouded over and threatened a summer storm. The room had dimmed to the point that Emma turned on the lights when she returned to the lounge with fresh mugs of coffee for them both.
She sat on the couch next him, tucking her legs underneath her.
"I love afternoons like this. It makes me want to snuggle up on the couch with a crappy movie and then take a nap."
"I guess we could do that," House hedged. He wouldn't mind napping – he'd just wanted to get tired first. Preferably by indulging in some specific physical activity with her.
"If we did, it would be third time I've slept with you," Emma flirted.
"Wouldn't it be the second?" House thought about it. "I can only remember once."
"There was after the football when I was too drunk to stand up – which, by the way I'd prefer you to forget about – and then after we saw the band last week."
House gave a grin as he remembered her sleep-tousled look in his bed the morning after their drunken evening in the sports bar. But he still didn't remember a second time in bed with her.
"Hang on," he said. "We saw movies after we saw the band and then we had breakfast in the cemetery. I haven't forgotten about your favourite non-living lunch companions yet."
"Yeah, yeah," Emma dismissed the comment about her familiarity with the cemetery. "But in the middle of the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's I had to nudge you because you started snoring."
"But then I had to poke you awake just before the credits because you'd started to drool on my t-shirt," he countered.
"I did not!" Emma said defensively.
"You most certainly did. I can even show you the stain."
"Ugh, you mean you haven't washed it yet?" She pulled a face. "But, anyway it just goes to prove my point: we've slept together twice."
House looked at her doubtfully.
"I don't really think that counts. I mean, sleeping in a movie theatre is like sleeping on a plane, it's not sleeping together. Otherwise you could say that you'd slept with everyone else who was in the cinema too."
"But there was no one else in the cinema," she countered. "Only that pimply usher and that weird fat guy who kept looking at us, and they don't count."
"I'm sure their mothers love them. And that weird fat guy, he wasn't looking at us, he was looking at you. He probably hadn't seen a real live woman for months, let alone someone as knock-out as you."
Emma blushed a little, embarrassed but pleased by the compliment.
"You're making it sound like we were in a porn place, not a cinema," she accused, covering her embarrassment.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? That's what that place normally is. It only shows normal movies on weekends. During the week it's twenty-four-hour adult entertainment. That fat guy was probably still there from the previous session and was wondering why there weren't any hot lesbians needing their pool cleaned in Casablanca."
Emma studied his serious face, unsure if he was joking.
"Really?" she asked.
"Uh huh." House nodded seriously and then changed to shaking his head with a wicked smile.
"Is gullibility a national trait of Australians?" he asked.
"Oh, you, you…" Emma searched for an appropriate adjective and found herself lost for the right word.
Being careful to put her coffee down on the coffee table before making her move, she then leapt across the couch to tackle him physically for his teasing. She made as if she was going to strangle him, leaning in close with her hands stretched out. In a quick movement, House grabbed her wrists with one hand and put the other around her back, pulling her to him. Before she knew it, she was lying against him and he pulled her head up to his, pressing his mouth against her lips.
Emma kissed him back, allowing her tongue to taste the coffee, butter and salt that were still on his lips.
After a moment she pulled back, raising her head to look him in the eyes.
"I guess this is another way to spend the afternoon," she said a little breathlessly. "Or we could skip the movie and go straight to the napping."
"I'd just like to sleep with you properly," he emphasised. "And then maybe we can get up afterwards and have more breakfast."
"Or we could have breakfast tomorrow, in the morning. Maybe even in bed."
"You mean breakfast in bed in the morning? On a Sunday?" House said with mock horror. "Surely you can't be serious. I don't think it's ever been done before!"
"Shut up and kiss me or you won't get any pancakes." Emma tried to frown, but couldn't help the corner of her mouth curving up into a smile.
"Yes, ma'am," House saluted, before dropping his hand to pull her head towards him. He smiled at her. "Wouldn't want to jeopardise pancakes…"