"Unfinished Business"


Rating: M

Chapter 1

House breathed a sigh of relief as he finished with the last patient of yet another arduous stretch of clinic duty. Cuddy had been laying it on a bit thick lately since House was holding out on hiring a new team of Fellows.

If she thought this was a way of wearing him down she was sorely mistaken, House thought as he tossed the last chart on the counter at the nurse's station. If anything it only steeled his reservations about hiring a new team of idiots to torture. House needed another set of Fellows like he needed another set of…He shook the picture from his thoughts with a smirk. House didn't like most of the human race and never would, simple as that. People were difficult enough to diagnose and treat let alone deal with on a daily basis.

House was leaning on the counter plotting his course of departure when one of the other doctors came up behind him and tossed another chart beside House's. "Here's the carrot top's mom." Was all he said before walking away. House glanced at the name on the chart. No, it couldn't be. But how many "carrot tops" could there be with the surname Pitivo? Even the recollection of the name brought back a cacophony of echoes from House's past. Pitivo…pitiful…pitiful ugly…fugly…fugly duckling!

The nurses were busy. House scooted the second chart in front of him and flipped it open, his inquisitive blue eyes scanning the page. Congestive heart failure, the woman was in her eighties, there were a number of other conditions. Death was imminent. His eyes fixed on the names. Flora Pitivo was the patient and her next of kin was her only child, Esmerelda. House noted the room number and closed the file as an odd smile found its way to his face. This might be worth a look!

A flood of memories came to mind as House meandered toward Flora Pitivo's room. Flora was a neighborhood oddity and dismissed as such. But her daughter, Esmerelda, was the neighborhood ugly duckling. A witty girl who seemed wise beyond her years in some things, Esmerelda struggled to make her way in the world waiting tables at a restaurant frequented by John Hopkins students and other locals.

Her classmates showed up on a regular basis after school to eat and tease her. House's med student cronies even made fun of the gangly teenager with the bright red braids. It was a busy restaurant and poor Esmerelda rarely had a moment's peace. House had even taken a crack or two at her in the early stages.

House learned quickly and much to his delight that the odd looking waitress of gypsy descent could match him snark for snark. Her wit and her tongue were as sharp as his and her tolerance of fools equaled House's if not surpassed it. In time both of them had looked forward to his occasional meals at the restaurant as a welcome break from the sheep that surrounded them. His meals were rarely boring when Esmerelda would occasionally take her breaks at his table for the sheer entertainment factor. House usually left with a smile and she was one of the few that got regular tips from her favorite customer.

House put his memories to rest as he made his way down the last hall. Flora's room came into view. Through the glass, even from a distance, House could already tell it was Esmerelda. He came to rest against the far wall and stared through the glass, and back through cobwebs of long forgotten memories. Lost in thought, House idly twirled his cane as he assessed the situation from a safe distance.

She'd filled out nicely; House mused as he admired the light blue silk dress that hinted at curves in all the right places. Esmerelda had finally acquired the feminine shape she'd lacked as a teenager. Her bright red hair had beautiful golden highlights and spilled down her back in silken waves. House's curiosity wouldn't let him leave, not until she started to turn around. All he wanted was a quick glimpse, a snapshot of her in later years. He hoped the years had been good to her.

He watched the young woman dab at her eyes with a tissue as she reached for her purse. How many times had he seen her tears as a young man? And now, after all these years, a tearful Esmerelda was saying good-bye to her mom. House snapped out of it. He had to get moving before she saw him. He pushed his tired frame from the wall as Esmerelda turned toward the door.

He hadn't moved soon enough. Their eyes fixed on one another for a fleeting moment before House retreated for the elevator. Esmerelda's was a questioning gaze that caught House by surprise. He'd paused a second too long to stare at the beautiful creature eyeing him curiously through the glass. House quickly turned away knowing too well it was already too late.

House ambled down the hall, ignoring the voice behind him. "Sir? Excuse me?" His cane hit the elevator button and House disappeared behind the closing doors as Esmerelda came into view for a moment. Their eyes locked on one another's again before House sheepishly looked away. There was a curious look in Esmerelda's eyes and a strange embarrassment in his. House's memory wrestled with the contradiction that was gazing at him as the doors closed. His ugly duckling had become a beautiful swan. It was obvious from the look in her eyes the swan thought she had seen a ghost, albeit a limping one, from her past.

House gathered his thoughts on the way down. Wilson was in surgery and Cuddy was in a board meeting. No safety in numbers to be found today. She wouldn't follow anyhow. Esmerelda had a dying mother to tend to. House opted for the cafeteria. A Reuben and chips would make it all better. Food made everything better.

Food would take his mind off of it. Off of what, House thought as he sighed and regrouped as the elevator came to rest. She wouldn't chase after him. She never had. Forget about it, House told himself. It was time to eat. After setting up his mini TV on the table, House happily dove into his sandwich and chips. Lost in lunch and a soap opera as he grazed, he didn't see her come into the cafeteria.

Esmerelda was famished and she had more important things to do than chase ghosts that didn't want to be seen. She went through the line picking and choosing and after paying at the register she turned to find a table. Her eyes scanned the busy cafeteria and she saw him at the far end of the room. It was obvious he'd wanted nothing to do with her.

Esmerelda found a table near the door and picked at her salad, her thoughts turning to her mother. There were arrangements to be made. The family plots and other details had been in place for years but there were fine points. She took a small planner out of her purse and jotted notes here and there as she ate.

It hadn't taken House long to mow through lunch. Wilson wasn't around to pay for seconds. House pushed the empty tray aside and settled in with the last of his drink. When he parked his TV directly in front of him he glimpsed the massive head of red hair across the room. Esmerelda was absorbed in her lunch and writing something. She was also between House and the door. Still, Esmerelda was ignoring him. House tried to concentrate on his soap opera but these small details were ruining it for him. He glanced up several times drinking in the view.

It was certainly nothing he would have done all those years ago, House thought to himself. The years had been good to her. Nice to know something had. House went back to his soap, his eyes occasionally glancing in her direction. Yes, the years had been good to her indeed. Esmerelda had finally grown into those skinny arms and legs that went on forever. Her skin was perfect. Her hair and makeup were perfect too. She was a vision in long lines, healthy curves and hair that seemed to glow from within. No doubt a husband and kids were somewhere in that one's life. House glanced up a few minutes later. She was getting up. He froze, staring at her.

Esmerelda politely bussed her table. Old habits never die. As she slipped her bag on her shoulder and picked up her tray she saw House staring. She almost laughed at the deer-in-the-headlights look, but she didn't. Gregory hadn't been one of the mean ones, not after she'd set him straight anyhow. He'd been quite the find actually, a diamond in the rough amid all those lumps of coal. She stared wistfully at the striking blue eyes assessing her from across the room for a moment. Your loss, Gregory, she thought to herself and turned to leave without so much as an acknowledgment.

House watched her leave. She didn't look back. Not so much as a glance. He went back to staring at his soap opera. He couldn't concentrate on it. Why did she look at him like that? What did it mean? It was so…dismissive. He'd been dismissed, from her day or from her life? House turned off his soap and headed for the elevator. He couldn't concentrate on it anyhow. He stopped just short of the hallway and peeked around the corner. No sign of her. Of course there was no sign of her. House admonished himself. She'd dismissed him without so much as a backward glance. He headed for the elevator and went back to his office to sulk and regroup.

Easing himself into his recliner, House propped up his leg after popping two Vicodin. He leaned back and closed his eyes. It had been a full morning and Cuddy and Wilson were occupied. It was time for a nap while the ankle biters were chewing on other things.

Sleep found him soon enough. His memories found him shortly thereafter. There wasn't any specific moment that haunted at first, but flashes of memories here and there. Idiots liked to yank on her braids. When she'd switched to a single braid it hadn't helped the situation. House saw her drop a pan of dirty dishes once when one of her classmates yanked her braid and threw her off balance. She'd handled it well enough, usually with a laugh and occasionally with a dirty look and snide remark. Esmerelda was a comedian making sure everyone had a good laugh. Unfortunately it was at her expense more often than not.

Esmerelda's tears visited House's dreams. She'd cried when her father died. She'd cried through a crush or two. There had been other tears but the memories were too dusty to be clear after all these years. But there was one…House's brow furrowed in his sleep.

Some memories were better left caked with the dust of age and buried under the sands of time. There had been a party. At least they'd said it was a party consisting of the usual alcohol, women, and music. House was playing the piano and drunk out of his mind as usual on a Friday night. Things had gone sour when it turned out it wasn't a regular party.

There had been tears that night too. In some long forgotten corner of his mind the echo of a scream jarred House. His cane fell to the floor with a thud. The thud in his dream was someone hitting the floor when a fight broke out. In the distance a woman's voice calling his name…Gregory…. Gregory.

"Gregory?" House opened his eyes and blinked several times. His eyes fixed on Esmerelda, as she stood framed in the doorway. House forced a smile and cleared his throat. "I can leave if it's a bad time for you." She said, staring at him.

"No, not at all." House glanced around the room struggling to get his bearings. "I wasn't sure if it was you earlier. I didn't want to seem like an idiot." House looked away and saw his cane lying on the floor. He was about to reach for it but Esmerelda could see it was too far away.

"No need to get up. You look exhausted." She said, walking in and retrieving it for him. They stared at one another for a moment as she handed it to him and stepped back. "If you'd rather I go?" She said, motioning toward the door.

House shook his head, unable to look away from eyes as green as the precious gem she'd been named for. "The years have been good to you." House said, eyeing her with a smile.

"And you." She smiled at him. He was handsome as ever she thought to herself.

House looked away with a smirk. "Liar. I'm an old man."

"No one in the room got any younger." Esmerelda's head tilted a little. "I wasn't sure if it was you either until I saw you in the cafeteria." She laughed quietly. "You still eat like food is leaving the planet."

"I'm a growing boy." House said, easing himself out of the chair. They were a few feet from one another. House carefully eyed her from bottom to top. "You got taller."

Esmerelda laughed. "And wider."

"Only in the right places." House snarked. "Long overdue, I'd say. If you'd looked like this in Maryland…" House stopped himself when she looked away nervously. "Some rich doctor might have stolen you away from that restaurant and we would have starved to death." House snarked.

"Tragic scenario." Esmerelda shook her head. "Everyone came and went except me. Even you." A sad expression followed a wistful sigh but a smile found her soon enough. "I always wondered what happened to you. I suppose I could have asked someone. People were so difficult to talk to in those days."

"They're still difficult to talk to. Try this job for a while." House rolled his eyes. He motioned to his chair. "Have a seat. It's a slow afternoon so far." House grinned as he watched her stride gracefully across the room and ease herself into the chair in front of his desk. She was a vision from every angle.

House ambled along behind her and eased himself into his chair behind the desk. Esmerelda watched with curiosity but said nothing about the cane. "I wasn't sure if you worked here or were visiting someone. You weren't in uniform so I asked."

House rolled his eyes. "Is there a crippled doctor with a cane?" He smirked.

"No. I remembered your name. They directed me here and here I am." She said, leaning back in the chair. "If you thought you saw a ghost I wanted to put your mind at ease." Esmerelda explained.

"More like a swan." House said before he could stop himself.

Esmerelda stared at him. Her expression was blank, impossible to read. House looked away cursing himself under his breath. "Thank you." Was all she said.

House nodded, fixing on an indiscernible spot in the rug. "I…I'm sorry."

"For complimenting? Don't be silly. And I'm over here." She waved and pointed to where she was sitting. He was still such the little boy, she thought.

House smiled and glanced in her direction before his eyes scanned the surface of his desk. "You're still as observant." Damn you anyhow, he thought under his breath.

"And you're still as difficult." She glanced at her watch. "I should be getting back. Mother should be waking soon." Esmerelda rose to leave and hesitated. House looked positively wounded. "My mother is dying. I want to be there for her."

House nodded. "You don't have to explain anything to me, Esmerelda." House almost whispered her name. There was such reverence in his voice. House's eyes fixed on hers.

She stared at him as a beautiful smile adorned her lovely face. "I don't think I ever remember you calling me by my name. Thank you." Esmerelda nodded. Ever the comedian she sought to lighten the mood a bit before departing. "But for old time's sake, let me hear it, Gregory. Just once?" She gave him a devilish grin.

House seemed almost embarrassed, but relented for her. "Stop back if you're bored, Pippi." House said in spite of himself. Of all things, she missed that?

Esmerelda smiled and extended her hand. "I'll take you up on that. Sometimes I need to get away for a bit. It would be nice to have someplace other than the hallway."

House rose from his seat and took her porcelain hand in his. It looked so polished and delicate. He marveled at the sight of it for a moment as she gave him a curious look. "No more dishpan hands." He smirked, smiling appreciatively.

"Bet I can still smack you with a towel and make it hurt!" Esmerelda dared with a wink.

House made a pained expression. "Tease me with a good time! You've got to have a jealous husband or a flock of over protective children somewhere." House baited. He watched in disbelief as Esmerelda shook her head. But the look she gave him; she knew he was digging. He could rarely sneak anything past her.

"I've been blessed by the absence of the former and cursed by the absence of the latter. All in all life's been very good to me. I'll stop back." Esmerelda waited as House stared. "Gregory, you have to let go of my hand now." She whispered as she leaned across the desk a bit. House let the silken porcelain finery slip through his long elegant fingers and Esmerelda turned to leave.

"Es…Pippi?" House stopped himself and regrouped before she disappeared through the doorway. She turned and raised a questioning eyebrow. "Are you staying in Princeton?"

"Mother's called Princeton home for twenty years. I travel a lot. The Gypsy in me, remember?" She grinned. God, he still acted like such a little boy, she mused.

"If you'd like to get away, take a breather from the situation, maybe we could have dinner sometime?" House asked, hoping she wouldn't laugh.

"I'd like that. We could catch up. It looks like you've done well for yourself, Gregory. That's wonderful. Success was so important to you. You know where I'll be." She said, disappearing before House could speak again.

"It looks like you haven't done badly yourself." House said to the empty doorway as he eased himself into his chair. She was well dressed, soft-spoken and looked to be a businesswoman. Esmerelda had come a long way since waiting tables. House winced as he thought of the nickname. She made him call her Pippi. He shook his head at the memory of the storybook character he'd likened her to. He smiled in spite of it. She did look like Pippi Longstocking. At least she used to.

House leaned back in his chair wondering when and where that little girl had disappeared. He glanced at his fingers where the clear porcelain hand with gold rings on every finger had rested briefly. It isn't fair, House thought to himself. Girls don't come with instructions. How are we to know which of you blossom into orchids instead of weeds if we shower you with attention or occasionally throw you a bone?

And you probably managed this transformation right after I left, House thought as he propped his feet up on the back shelf after clicking on the TV. He flipped through the channels trying to compare the woman he'd spoken with to the girl he knew a lifetime ago. No instructions, House thought to himself. No warning labels either. How are the idiot men in your lives supposed to know which of you we teased without mercy will parade past us like beauty queens in later years without warning?

She'd almost walked away. She had walked away. She left the cafeteria without a word. House tried to figure it out. Esmerelda came back looking for him. Why? Did the sight of him illicit the same memories the sight of her name had visited upon him or something different? Did the memory of those years make her seek him out? What on earth for? They had no unfinished business. Or maybe they did.

We parted friends, House thought to himself. Friends? It was an odd choice of words considering how they parted. He'd been drummed out of John Hopkins shortly thereafter. He hadn't felt like stopping in to say good-bye or explain the reasons for leaving to anyone, least of all some gangly young waitress with an attitude like his. She would have laughed at him. House mentally kicked himself the moment that thought crossed his mind. No, she wouldn't have done that. She wasn't like that. Esmerelda was different, like him.

Esmerelda looked forward to those few times a week when he wandered in. They could trade jabs and war stories. She was just a kid. And he'd been…House closed his eyes. Maybe there was unfinished business, at least in the eyes of Esmerelda. Those eyes, so dark and green; he'd never seen eyes as beautiful as Esmerelda's; particularly now that there was such a pleasing package wrapped around them.

House realized he was still flipping through channels and hadn't a clue what was on. He turned the TV off and tossed the remote on a shelf. How could he let a chance meeting distract him so? He cursed himself and forced Esmerelda from his thoughts.

Later that evening, House was wrapping up a case and about to call it a day. He wandered in to Wilson's office and sat down without invitation as always. "Come in. Have a seat." Wilson said, glancing up from his paperwork. House had his troubled expression on. He wanted advise and counsel but would never let on.

"Long day in the OR?" House asked, glaring at his friend impatiently.

Wilson finished his work and closed the folder. "Sorry I missed feeding you at lunch. Sick people to tend to, it happens from time to time around here."

"Busy this evening?" House asked.

"Unfortunately. Cuddy and I have business to discuss. I missed the board meeting today." Wilson explained. He grinned at the exasperated expression across from him. House would have to tough it out alone this evening.

"That's all I wanted to know." House got up and hobbled out the door. He popped two Vicodin on the way back to his office and readied to leave. On the way out he thought about going past Flora's room. No. He wasn't going to hover. As he made his way through the lobby he heard a familiar voice.

"Gregory? Gregory?" House raised an eyebrow and smiled as he turned to see Esmerelda exiting the elevator. She caught up to him as he leaned heavily on his cane and waited. She saw the pained expression and the look of utter exhaustion in his eyes. But there was something else lurking behind those amazing blue eyes; was he leering at her? "Is this a bad time for you?" Esmerelda asked as she caught up to him.

"Disharmony, chaos and disorder; my work here is done for the day." House snarked. He saw Esmerelda's confusion at his words and smiled. "So where are you taking me for dinner?"

Chapter 2

House drove to an out of the way Italian restaurant Esmerelda suggested. Over dinner and a fine red wine they had a chance to relax and catch up on the last few decades. "No mysteries here." House said, taking a drink of wine. "Hospitals, patients, and a department with a lack of staff at the moment. That isn't necessarily a bad thing." House made a face. "Tell me about Esmerelda Pitivo." House said as he took a bite of steak. "How did our gypsy waitress make her escape from the college diner?"

Esmerelda smiled. "I worked my way through college with the help of some grants and scholarships. An art major evolved into an art gallery and then fashion design. I still have the gallery but I also have several lines of designer clothing and frequent the fashion houses of Europe and here at home. Well, home is New York City these days."

"No wonder." House commented as he drank in the site of her in candlelight. "You look…the years have been wonderful to you." House busied himself with his plate but glanced up in time to see Esmerelda blush at his comment.

"It doesn't look as though you've fared so badly yourself. Your own department at an important hospital…" Esmerelda said changing the subject.

"Crippled for life and surrounded by idiots." House snarked as her eyes widened. He kicked himself the moment he said it. "Sorry. It was a rough day."

"I'm the one who needs to apologize. I thought it was something temporary. You were always into sports, group activities. I won't ask." Esmerelda looked away.

"Misdiagnosed." Was all House said. "Stupid mistake."

Esmerelda's head tilted. "I'm so sorry. You must have been livid. One of your own?"

"Not one of my anything. Another idiot at the hospital, that's all. Add a medical proxy that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on and here I am." The anger in his voice was obvious as House touched on the incident as briefly as possible. It was a familiar scenario to Esmerelda as she nodded in understanding. House had always been such an angry young man.

"I hope you sued over the proxy at least." Esmerelda could see something she said struck a nerve.

House said nothing for a moment. "Difficult to sue the woman you love…loved." He found some spot at the wall to stare at before turning back to his dinner.

There was silence. Neither of them knew what to say for a moment. Esmerelda tried a little humor for old times sake. "That was your mistake, trusting a member of the opposite sex." She said with a quirky expression on her face. It brought back a flood of memories. But that familiar expression belonged on another face, one from another lifetime. This lovely creature across from him barely resembled the girl House knew years before.

House smiled in spite of himself. "I forgot myself, didn't I?" Their eyes met across the table. House couldn't look away as she nodded and sighed, a hint of a smile playing at the corners of her lips. She was beautiful, House thought to himself. If only…

"And everyone else did too, it seems. I would have thought that was one lesson you'd remember. You were the one that drummed it into my head." She smiled, trying to imitate her mentor at his best so many years ago. "Trust is for sissies and fools! People are sheep when it comes to their emotions…." Esmerelda mimicked House right down to the scowl and furrowed brow. "You were a good teacher, Gregory. You were absolutely right."

House blinked several times before he burst out laughing. "Was I ever that bad?" He asked sheepishly looking away.

Esmerelda nodded. "You were always that bad. And always that funny." She laughed.

"Funny? Funny?" House pretended to be insulted, failing miserably. "You thought I was joking when I tried to educate you in the ways of the world?" The laughter died away as quickly as it had begun. There was an uneasy silence between them.

"No. I didn't think you were joking." There was a fleeting sad smile on her lips before she spoke again. "You were fun to watch, that's all. All the faces and sound effects provided much needed amusement during my long hours at work."

Again, there was silence. House nodded and took a long drink of wine. "I bet you say that to all the guys." House snarked. "I'm glad I provided some lighter moments in your day…days." He stammered, looking away.

"Gregory, you were always the bright spot in my days, even the darkest of them." Esmerelda said smiling sweetly across the table at him.

"You were easily amused then, weren't you?" He wiggled his eyebrows at her and she giggled into her napkin.

"I haven't seen that in forever! Do you have any new material?" Esmerelda laughed.

"You'd be surprised at some of the more interesting things I've learned along the way." House countered with an evil gleam in his eye.

Esmerelda laughed and nodded but seemed somewhat embarrassed at the innuendo. There was that uneasy silence again, creeping up on them as dinner was coming to a close.

The conversation never stopped but it thinned considerably on the drive back to the hospital. Esmerelda had offered to take a cab but House insisted on driving her back to the hospital. "We can't have someone as lovely as you traveling unescorted at night." House had argued convincing Esmerelda to let him deposit her safely at the hospital's well lit entrance.

It was obvious to Esmerelda that House didn't want their time together to be over so soon. His hand had grazed Esmerelda's as she stepped into his car. He'd hovered a bit too close several times closing his eyes as he drank in the scent of her perfume. It was the same mysterious scent that had caught him off guard a lifetime ago.

Esmerelda took House's hand in hers before stepping out of the car. "I had a lovely time this evening." She said, watching the fleeting emotions that registered so clearly on his face. Even in the dark he could rarely hide his thoughts from her. "We'll have to do it again." Esmerelda's voice lowered as she squeezed his hand.

"We will." House said, looking away for a moment. "Looking forward to it." Was all he said as he let her hand slip from his without glancing in her direction.

"Call me." Was all Esmerelda said as she stepped out of the car and closed the door. But she was thinking so much more. I know you'll call me, Gregory. You can't let anything go unfinished.

House watched her go through the doors before backing out of the parking space and heading home. It had been a good evening, he thought to himself. No. It had been a wonderful evening compared to what he was used to. It felt like part of him had come alive again. House wasn't sure how to handle the odd feelings he was fighting down.

He busied himself flipping from station to station on the radio, smiling at the fact they'd traded cell phone numbers. This remnant from his ancient past had come home to roost in his phone directory. It was like finding some long lost childhood treasure in a grandparent's attic. Esmerelda had no idea how rare a find she was, House mused. He could count the happy memories of his youth on one hand, maybe two if he thought hard.

House smiled again at the memory of it. She'd added his phone number to her directory during dessert, as House was about to scribble her number on a dinner napkin. Her comment about men never bothering with such slips of paper the morning after was an honest assessment.

"I'm sure you'll get to it over coffee first thing in the morning. Men are such paragons of organization." House didn't protest when Esmerelda held out her hand. House handed her his cell phone and Esmerelda hadn't wasted any time adding her phone number to House's lengthy list of contacts. Each was as close as a phone call.

House tried to wind down and put the evening in the proper perspective as he drove home. As if in answer to his efforts an old song came over the radio. House could only listen, his hand slipping away from the buttons, as he was about to change it. Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne" both serenaded and tortured him the rest of the way home. The prophetic lyrics struck like flint against his soul kindling something he'd been denying all evening. He wanted her.

The song was still playing as House parked in front of his apartment. House didn't get out of the car. He sat with an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach and an unbelievably sad look on his face as he listened to the tale of a chance meeting of two old lovers.

"We drank a toast to innocence. We drank a toast to now. We tried to reach beyond the emptiness, but neither one knew how…"

The sad strains of "Auld Lang Syne" played by a soul-rending saxophone echoed from the speakers at the end of the song. House closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the seat as the final notes wafted through some cracks in the wall he'd built around his emotions. A thousand memories came flooding in uncontrollably.

House shut the car off as the song ended and sat in the silent darkness for a while. He idly rubbed his eyes with his free hand as he started to get out of the car. It occurred to him his fingers were damp as he reached for his bag. House cursed himself as he hobbled into his apartment.

What had she done to him? By the very presence of her being, what had the sudden reappearance of Esmerelda Pitivo done to him? It was an unsettling ghost that had come back to haunt him. But only if he allowed it, House thought. He needed to regroup.

House made himself a stiff drink and settled in at the piano. He made several more as the last of the evening disappeared. His memories steeped in the glass resting beside his Vicodin bottle, and resonated from the piano until it was time for sleep. His fingers eloquently played the last lines of "Auld Lang Syne" and he downed the last of his drink before retiring for the evening.

The day had been mentally draining and sleep found House soon enough. Unfortunately dreams that were too vivid came visiting soon after. There were flashes of memories that came back to haunt like lightning in a lingering storm.

A college party untangled itself from some ancient cobwebs in the corners of his mind, showing itself in bits and pieces as it escaped and filtered through House's dreams. A group of people here and the odd face there stirred House into a fitful sleep. Voices long forgotten echoed like thunder after the lightning. Distant laughter filled a room, growing louder as the memory of a particular night became clearer. There was laughter, and the sound of a piano playing familiar music. The smell of beer and various kinds of smoke hung in the air like a hazy poisonous cloud.

An off campus multi keg weekend long celebration of mid terms being over was how it started. Somewhere in the middle of things several smaller parties splintered off as more beer and hard liquor came in to play. It was gearing up to be a very good weekend.

House was making the rounds. Musicians and clowns got invited to all the parties and House was lapping up his share of alcohol at all of them. It was late when he settled in behind a piano at one of them and there was an unending flow of drinks atop the piano as he kept the music and snarky entertainment going for free drinks.

Somewhere in the middle of a lengthy break House had noticed something odd. Even with beer goggles on it seemed none of the women at this party were anything to crow about. Some were downright scary looking. Then it occurred to House this was a dogfight. He was certain of it when he watched one of the frat stars walk in with "Pippi" Pitivo in tow.

It was the first time House had ever seen Pippi without her hair up in braids or a bun. It only helped a little. House overheard several comments about "cousin it" from the Addams family and a few other less kind references. No matter what Pippi did to improve on herself it never went over well.

As the party progressed and House made the rounds he saw Pippi make her way to the kitchen for another beer. House decided against his better judgment to enlighten his "wet behind the ears" giver of food before she got the rug yanked out from under her. Silence might not get him "preferred customer" status at the restaurant. Not a good thing, House rationalized.

Pippi was peering in the fridge when an arm reached around her for a beer. She wheeled around to find House towering over her. "Well hello there!" She smiled up at him teetering a bit. House looked less than impressed. "Surprised to see me here?"

"No, not at all." House said, slamming the refrigerator door shut. The scent of her perfume threw him for a moment. Pippi smelled positively delicious.

"Girls like me don't normally get invited to your rich boy frat parties." Pippi countered.

"It isn't a normal party." House announced as she opened the fridge and grabbed a beer.

"What isn't normal about it?" She asked.

"Take a look around. Tell me what you see." House said, watching her eyes as she scanned the other room through the doorway.

"Wasted frat boys. Just add alcohol and whatever else. It's a party." Pippi shrugged.

"What kind of party?" House quizzed.

"What do you mean what kind of party?" Pippi leaned against the refrigerator door and raised an eyebrow. "Elaborate, oh great wizard of the party circuit." She snarked.

House glared at the smart aleck girl daring him to educate her. It was a familiar scene played out in the restaurant whenever he chose to enlighten and impress her with his vast knowledge of the world according to House. Pippi hadn't moved. She was waiting for an explanation.

Fine, House thought. "There are so many different kinds of parties, Pippi. I hardly know where to start." House said trying to ease into it as gently as a drunken college student could. "There are homecoming parties, birthday parties, even Tupperware parties. Take a look around, Pippi. Take a good look at some of the girls. What do you think might be the theme of this party?" House asked, hoping he wouldn't have to spell it out for the naïve woman who fed him several times a week.

Pippi glanced around the room. She'd seen most of the guys in the restaurant, but never with any of these girls. House saw the look of realization register on her face as Pippi eyed the less than impressive females. House knew he'd ruined her evening but it was for the right reasons. Surely she wouldn't take it out on him. At least he hoped she wouldn't. Pippi opened her beer and took a long drink. House took advantage of her silence to elaborate.

"Ever hear the term dog fight? Get out of here and save yourself some embarrassment." House whispered in her ear. He paused for a second. Pippi smelled delicious. Whatever the earthy intoxicating scent was it caught him off guard. House lingered for a moment. He shook it off regrouping and hoping for a hasty exit. "Don't say I never did you any favors. Now get the hell out of here, kid." House said and started for the door.

"Hey!" Pippi called out, hot on his heels. "Come back here! You're not hitting me with that bit of information and waltzing out of the room, piano man. Who wins?"

House winced at the question. He hesitated for a moment and regretted doing so as Pippi grabbed his arm and spun him around. House was way too inebriated to be handled in such fashion and nearly crashed into a wall. "Hey! I try and help do you a favor and you're going to beat me up? I didn't invite you!" House protested.

"Who wins? Who'd you bring?" Pippi glared at him. House kept backing up till he ran out of wall. Pippi cornered him and he glanced toward the door. "Never mind the door! You're not getting away that easy hot shot! Who's the lucky girl, Dr. Romeo? And who decides the winner? What do we get? Anything? Laid and properly kicked to the curb if we're lucky?" Pippi demanded as House stared at her wide-eyed.

House glanced at the door. No one was coming in. "The guy with the ugliest date wins. There's probably a cash pool. Winner takes all." House tried to explain before anyone caught him snitching. Pippi glared at him. "What?"

"So the guys are the only winners?" She asked.

"You don't think any of you are getting a prize do you?" House tried not to laugh but his expression gave him away. Pippi smacked him on the arm and House flinched half mocking his petite but highly vexed attacker. "I didn't do anything!" House protested, rubbing his arm and glaring at her.

"And what poor victim did you subject to this?" Pippi demanded. "You better tell her."

"Nobody! I didn't bring anyone." House argued although he didn't know why he felt compelled to explain himself to her. "I wandered in for free beer! There are parties all over because of mid terms. I'm making the rounds. I didn't know till I took a break from the piano and took a good look around the room." House made a face at the thought of all that homely in the next room and Pippi smacked him on the arm again. "Hey! I only like it rough…I mean, this isn't foreplay!" House stammered trying for a joke. It didn't work.

Pippi's eyes were getting glassy. Oh god, House thought, anything but tears. "Pippi! I haven't done anything except get drunk. There's no harm in that." He stared in honest horror at the gangly redhead that could probably do him serious physical damage in his present state. "I was only trying to help." House reminded her, hoping for a reprieve.

Pippi glared at him. "The girls don't get anything for being made sport of?"

"How the hell should I know? I don't waste my time on crap like this." Pippi didn't budge and he was still cornered. House thought for a moment when she didn't back down. "The guy with the ugliest girl wins." House repeated for lack of anything else to reveal. His honesty got him another smack on the arm.

"So you think I'd win hands down? That's why you think I should leave? Poor Pippi, there's only one thing she can do well? She can scare a guy off at fifty paces?" Her anger was rising.

House had seen Pippi angry before. Redheads were scary. He'd learned that much. Pippi was no exception. "I thought…" Words escaped him at that moment. He was staring at the livid redhead and saw a tear trickle down her cheek as the glassy eyes began to spill over. Oh God, anything but a crying woman, House thought. House sighed and inhaled some the beer he was clutching. "I thought I was doing the right thing by warning you. You can do what you want with it from there, Pippi. I wasn't trying to make you angry. You feed me." House reminded her. "Who else is going to give me live entertainment with my food?"

Pippi gave him a dirty look and relented brushing away her tears. He was right. She was angry and taking it out on House because he was there. It wasn't his fault. She backed off and emptied her beer, leaving the empty can on the counter. "Thanks, piano man." Was all Pippi said before turning to leave.

"What are you going to do?" House asked and she spun around to face him again.

"Warn some of my friends and get the hell out of here! I was hoping to get laid but not because I won the ugly dog contest!" The furrowed brow and confused look she was getting stopped her momentarily. "You don't get it do you? It's so easy for a guy. You go out and snag some desperate looking female." There were the beginnings of tears again and House was still cornered. He found an object to focus on and tried staring at that while the tirade continued. Anything, focus on anything but the matter at hand. "Does it ever occur to you we might enjoy the attention? You don't have to be serious about it but you could at least be kind once in a while! Bastards, all of you!" Pippi burst into tears and stormed out of the kitchen.

House breathed a sigh of relief. He was alone. He wasn't cornered. And by some miracle nobody saw it. He blinked several times, trying to shake the incident from his conscious thought. He went to the fridge for another beer. Everyone was huddled around the cheap stuff in the kegs in the front room anyhow. There was a moment of relative silence as he downed half of it and tried to clear his alcohol laden thought processes.

It wasn't his fault. He wasn't the one that made Pippi cry. He was without blame, House rationalized. He was only trying to help. He couldn't help it if she got emotional on him and came unglued. Why did women always have to do these things? It was maddening. You try and have a straightforward conversation and sooner or later there were always tears to deal with. The one thing House hadn't learned to handle well was a woman's tears. It reminded him too much of his mother.

House glanced at the kitchen door. He should do something, but what? Damn it. Why was he feeling guilty? He cursed himself for letting his conscience get in the way of a good time. He finished the beer, grabbed another, and cursed himself for letting his mother creep into his thoughts. No family here at college. There was only House and he liked it that way. He could do what he wanted and be whomever he wanted.

But Blythe had raised a good son in spite of John House's abuse and her boy had a conscience. House grumbled about the pitfalls of caring as he wandered back into the front room and made himself at home at the piano. He'd only been trying to help and look where it got him. Why did he even bother?

Because he knew better, House thought to himself as he started playing. This was wrong. There was a sinister mood hanging in the air with the dizzying smoke from too many different kinds of cigarettes. House tried to shrug it off. It was just a party. He'd done the right thing. That was the end of it.

He kept to his music and his beer, but he also kept a watchful eye in spite of telling himself it was none of his business. Pippi hadn't left yet. The idiot that brought her had obviously sweet-talked her into staying. Or he was still in the process of trying. House kept watching. Pippi wasn't smiling. The idiot was giving her the hard sell. He had his hands on Pippi and she seemed to be warming up to it. Maybe.

House went back to his music occasionally glancing up from the keys. At some point he'd become lost in the music and the next time he looked up from the piano Pippi and her date had disappeared. House cursed under his breath. She'd been warned. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't…

A scream echoed in his mind, in his ears, House wasn't sure as his eyes opened in the darkness that surrounded him. He was paralyzed for the split second his mind took to register the sound when he was conscious. His cell phone was ringing. He turned his head toward the nightstand and reached in the direction the annoying sound was coming from. "Someone better be dying." He grumbled into the phone.

"Does a cardiac arrest qualify?" Answered back and House closed his eyes listening to the latest turn of events on his patient. Ideas were traded for the next few minutes and instructions were doled out without House so much as opening his eyes.

"Keep me posted." House mumbled, hitting the end button. The phone rested on his chest for a bit as he wandered in and out of sleep for a few minutes.

He hadn't looked, but House could almost bet. He scrolled through his cell directory and sure enough there was nothing under the letter E. An odd smile came to his face in the glow of the cell phone light as he saw the name she'd typed in. Like a friendly ghost waving at him from those cobwebbed memories the name Pippi L. came up in duplicate. She'd given him both her cell and home phone numbers. House grinned, still half asleep. Two phone numbers from a pretty girl in one night. She obviously wanted him to call.

House couldn't resist. The devil in him wanted to pass along the rude awakening he'd received anyhow. He idly typed in, "Had fun. And you said I wouldn't call." He hit send and snapped the phone closed. She'd find it in the morning and it would make her smile House mused. Damn, she had a pretty smile. Pretty eyes. He wondered if any of her old detractors had seen her in later years and marveled at the sight of her the way he had earlier that day. House drifted back into his alcohol-laden sleep with the cell phone still in his hand.

It rang and jarred House from his half stupor. Now what, he thought. House glanced at the ID and hesitated for a moment. Pippi was up too? House flipped the phone open.

"Misery loves company?" The familiar voice whispered into the phone.

"Something like that. Fellows woke me up with an issue. I was playing with the buttons till I went back to sleep." House mumbled.

"Playing with buttons or trying to push some of mine for old times sake?" Esmerelda mused into the phone. Her voice was a melodic whisper and it lulled House's brain even more.

"Sorry I woke you." House half whispered. "I wasn't thinking. I was half asleep. Too much scotch when I got home."

"No need to apologize. I wasn't asleep. I was working on some sketches." There was silence. Neither one seemed to know what to say. No one hung up either. "Gregory?" Esmerelda asked thinking he might have fallen asleep. She was starting to have fun with the conversation.

House had started this banter in a careless moment. Maybe, Esmerelda thought, she could catch him in a rare unguarded moment. Gregory was always so much fun when she could take him by surprise. "Gregory?" Esmerelda cooed into the phone.


"Falling asleep on me?" Esmerelda teased.

"If you let me." House mumbled, half asleep.

"What? Giving up so soon? Not near the fight in you there used to be." Esmerelda said.

"Sorry. I was out. I made a mistake." House said, opening his eyes and blinking away the sleep. Gees, why did he say that? He scolded himself. "To call at this hour, I mean." House said, trying to smooth over any ruffled feathers in advance.

"It's funny. It's so you." Esmerelda teased. "You are funny, you know. Even after all these years you still make me laugh."

"Thanks. I suppose I deserved that." House relented.

"No, you didn't. But that was always the thing with us wasn't it? We knew how to have fun with all the crap we didn't deserve."

"Kept us sane?" House mused.

"Did me. How about you? Are you alright?" Esmerelda asked.

"Relative to what?" House quipped.

Esmerelda thought for a moment. "Before we ran into one another again after all these years?"

"I'm fine with it, Pippi." House said drifting out again. "I can live with it. Our secret."

"What?" Esmerelda asked. Her voice was a whisper.

"I…what did I say?" House mumbled as he blinked several times and forced himself to open his eyes. He was drifting in and out, somewhere between an unfinished dream and unfinished business between them. He cursed himself, unsure of what he'd said.

"Our secret? What are you talking about? House…Gregory?" Esmerelda stammered.

"I told you I was asleep." House sighed. "I had a couple of drinks after I got home. Sat down at the piano and had a couple more."

"You shouldn't be playing on the phone then. Go to sleep. You're going to get yourself in trouble otherwise." Esmerelda cautioned him. Or was it a dare?

"Rarely takes me long. Got an hour for old times sake?" House winced when he heard the words escape his half asleep brain. What was he thinking? Surely she wouldn't! She must think he was insane. "Pippi, I'm sorry. I'm half asleep. I'm not sober." House whispered into the phone. "Let me go. Hang up." House told her.

"You may be half asleep. I think you're only half as sorry if that much. Gregory?"

"Let me hang up. You can give me hell tomorrow." House was expecting to get his head ripped off and rightfully so.

"Mother's sound asleep for the night. I could slip away for a bit."

House's eyes widened with surprise and all remnants of sleep retreated as his breath caught. "You're serious?"

"I'm not a little girl anymore." Esmerelda whispered. "And somehow I have the impression you won't want to put a bag over my head this time? Might actually be fun for both of us this time around?" "Come on Dr. Romeo, afraid of a rematch?" Esmerelda dared.

There was only silence. House thanked the nonexistent keeper of the universe that Esmerelda could not see his shocked expression. "Pippi…. Esmerelda…. I never meant to hurt you." House stammered. "I didn't..." House tried again, but the right words escaped him at this hour.

"Of course you didn't. The winning is rounds. We'll call the first one a tie for old times sake." There was silence again. "So, are you 'up' for a rematch or is one of us out of the other's league now that we're on the same level?" Esmerelda cooed into the phone.

Her voice was enticing, sweet like the familiar scent he remembered from so many years before. House had caught a whiff of it again today and it only helped to take him back to the night of the party so many years before. The intoxicating scent of Esmerelda left him wanting more. House's mind was in overdrive. He could feel his heart pounding as he opened his mouth to speak. "No one's out of anyone's league."

Esmerelda gauged the sound of his voice. She had caught him off guard again. It was always such fun for her as a young girl to get the upper hand with these college geniuses who thought they had an answer for everything. "Well then. What better way to go to sleep?" Esmerelda waited. She remembered every word. She only wished she could see if the expression was the same as the one she'd taken such pleasure in so many years ago. "Gregory, you're stalling. You're only putting off the inevitable."

"What are you doing?" House asked as the words sunk in.

"Torturing you." Whispered through the phone into his ear.


"It's good for you. Builds character." Esmerelda whispered using House's words against him. She remembered all of his best one-liners.

"Pippi…" House sighed.

"If you back down now you will never know." Esmerelda whispered in a sultry voice. "You were undressing me with your eyes tonight across the table. Gregory, you will never know. The details will be a mystery to you forever and we both know how mysteries drive you mad." Esmerelda continued her seduction, savoring what she knew her words must have been doing to him. "Was she wearing lace or silk, or maybe nothing at all underneath that couture dress? How will she look naked in my bed after I've peeled her out of that tasteful little number she was wearing? Does she feel as good as she looks? How would her lips feel against mine after all these years? Would they still drive me mad with desire when they are working their magic elsewhere?"

Esmerelda waited a moment before continuing. Let the line out a little then reel them in some more. Men were so easy to wear down, particularly after too much alcohol. "You will never know how I am in your bed. The things I could do to you after all these years will forever be a mystery."

House closed his eyes. "Pippi, stop…" His voice was a gravelly whisper and Esmerelda was barely able to contain her delight. She had him. She knew it. Men were such simple creatures. You could talk them into anything once you had their attention.

"Tell me how you kiss, Gregory. Do you like to bite and nibble the way you used to? Do you like to mark your territory same as before?" Esmerelda waited a bit, giving his mind the opportunity to drink in all of the suggestions. "Let's take one another away from all this madness for an hour or so. If you're not up to it, just say no." Esmerelda teased, waiting.

Her reward was the familiar silence of the paralyzed Gregory House when awestruck by a beautiful woman. She'd seen it a time or two when the drop dead gorgeous variety had wandered into the restaurant. Esmerelda was ecstatic in this stolen moment. Finally. It was little Pippi Pitivo that took his breath away after all these years. "Give me your address and leave the door unlocked. I'll tuck you in properly; even kiss you good night once we're done having our way with one another. Come on, Gregory. You know you want to."

Chapter 3

House downed a shot of scotch after unlocking the door. She'd be there in a matter of minutes. Maybe this was a dream too, he thought, wandering out of the bathroom in time to hear a soft knock at his door. No. No more dreams tonight.

House opened the door and Esmerelda stood before him smiling at the hungry look in his eyes. House could only gaze upon the beauty before him and wonder at the visuals he was anticipating. Esmerelda's body revealed to him one agonizing inch at a time as he waited to feel her body against his. Esmerelda naked in his bed, lost in the throes of passion; the anticipation was unbearable. "Didn't lose that train of thought did you?" Esmerelda teased as House graciously took her by the hand and guided her through the front door.

"I could think of little else." House snarked. He wasted no time leading Esmerelda to his bedroom.

"Wonderful." Was all she said, a porcelain manicured hand reaching behind her to unzip her dress as he watched the fabric fall away from her back. She turned to face him. "Ready for me?" Esmerelda cooed, watching House start to smile. "You're not, you know." Her words caught House off guard as she walked toward him.

"You're a tease. Get over here." House whispered pulling her toward him gently.

House wrapped his arms around her as Esmerelda's hands roamed lazily over his torso. House closed his eyes as he felt her warm delicate hands slip under his t-shirt. "I want you naked." Esmerelda whispered as she nibbled at his chest through the fabric of his t-shirt while she eased it from his body. It fell to the floor and Esmerelda's lips danced across his chest leaving a trail of soft kisses. Her tongue flicked lightly against his nipple before pressing against it. She sucked delicately as her fingernails lightly traced their way down his flat stomach. Her fingers traced the edge of the waistband and slipped into the elastic of his boxers.

Houses' long fingers entwined themselves in her hair and pulled her closer. Esmerelda's lips pressed against his chest. She nuzzled against him driving him mad with her tongue. He felt her fingers easing his boxers down and stopped her gently. "Pippi, wait…" House whispered in her ear as the familiar scent she wore aroused him even more. "There's a scar. They scarred me for life." House whispered. "It's…I'm the ugly one now." House looked away. He felt Esmerelda's tresses flutter against his skin as she shook her head.

"Nonsense." She whispered looking up at him. Esmerelda saw the pained expression and gave him a knowing look. A smile played at her lips as she sought to ease his discomfort over this revealing moment. Easing herself away from him she clicked off the bedroom lamp before returning to House's embrace. "A little wisdom I learned a long time ago, piano man. Beauty is only a light switch away." She whispered in House's ear as her fingers caressed his neck before dancing through his hair. Her fingernails grazed his scalp in slow circles and she smiled at the goose bumps that rose to her attentions.

Their lips met as she laid his fears to rest with a gentle kiss. No one could understand how the scar made him feel better than Esmerelda. He laughed as their eyes met one another's. "You're evil." House whispered against her lips as they parted for him. Their tongues reintroduced themselves like old friends, easily finding their way in a familiar dance of passion.

"And you love it, don't you?" Esmerelda answered pulling away from his exquisite attentions for a moment as she caught her breath. "God, you've only improved with age." She whispered as her hands inched his boxers down. They fell to the floor and Esmerelda pressed her body against his arousal. Their eyes met as she began inching her dress from her shoulders. House watched as her porcelain skin revealed itself to him in the scant light from the other room.

She was more beautiful than House had imagined. Every inch of her curvaceous frame she revealed to House was perfect. The rest of her was still hidden from his gaze behind an exquisite light blue lace bra and matching panties. The silky material of her matching dress brushed against Mt. Gregory for what seemed an eternity as she took care to lower it slowly between them. The sensation was torture as Esmerelda let it linger between them for a moment.

As it dropped to the floor her hand brushed against his penis and Housed moaned under her lingering caress. Esmerelda watched his eyes close as her hand slipped around his erection sliding gracefully down the length of his shaft. "Looks like someone's happy to see me after all these years." She whispered, gently caressing its length as her head lowered for one delicate kiss on the tip. Her tongue slowly circled the head and House felt himself twitch against her delicate ministrations. "Enjoying yourself?" Esmerelda cooed as she nibbled her way up his hard belly and met his gaze.

"What was your first clue?" House's voice was a low growl in her ear as he pulled her toward him. He kissed Esmerelda, their tongues falling into their familiar dance again as they sank into one another's desire. House wanted her, now. He left no doubt as he began sliding a lacy bra strap over her soft shoulder. A trail of kisses followed the strap on its way down and he turned his attentions to the other side as his long fingers moved with expert ease behind her back. The lacy undergarment fell away and House gazed longingly at the feast before him.

Esmerelda gave him a gentle push backward, easing him down on the bed as she stepped between his long legs. "Better?"

House nodded in silence as his thumbs gently brushed against her inviting pink nipples. He watched them harden, enjoying the feel of their metamorphosis under his expert touch. His tongue flicked lightly over them as he reveled in the shudder of her desire. He felt Esmerelda arch against him and his hands lowered to her smooth round hips. As House kissed and suckled her breasts his fingers traced the lace edges of her panties on their journey.

His hands roamed over her perfect behind as a finger slipped between the lacy thong and the delicate curve of her cheeks. His free hand roamed toward the front gently grasping the lace edge at the top as his fingers brushed against her soft curls. House tugged slowly at the fragile undergarment letting it tease her core as he nibbled at her delicious soft belly.

Esmerelda felt herself go weak in the knees as House tortured her with a vast array of sensations. She gasped and arched against his touches as he found her breasts again with his tongue and a finger slipped inside the slippery warmth of her center for one exquisite moment.

Esmerelda reached for one of the ribbon ties at her hips but House stopped her, kissing her hand away from the perfect bow. "I'm not done torturing you yet, Pippi." House said as the tiny sheath of material danced lightly over her core in a slow steady rhythm. "I want you more naked than naked." His lips planted soft kisses against the lacey front, as his hot breath sent a shiver of ecstasy through her. House tugged at the material with his teeth and held it in place as his fingers slipped between her luscious thighs.

He ran a finger over the tiny strip of fabric with a touch so soft Esmerelda wanted to scream her desire for him. House let go of the lace and glanced up at her with a look of pure malevolence. "An hour?" House dared. "The foreplay alone will take longer than that." He whispered against her skin.

He saw the yearning in her lidded eyes and grazed her center with the tip of his finger again. "We'll leave these on till I'm ready for you. There are so many things I can do to you with them on." House teased her in a low growl as his tongue traced a delicate edge. He held her fast as another shudder ran through her body. "More naked than naked." House reminded her, his teeth eliciting a gasping moan from deep inside Esmerelda's throat as they nipped lightly over the lace that was the only material still covering her.

Her hands rested on his shoulders as House teased her through the lace with kisses and nibbles, moving upward to lavish more attention on her delicate nipples and breasts when he knew she could barely take another hot breath blowing softly through wisp of material covering her. House slowly nibbled his way up and down her ribs as he held her fast and drove her as close to the edge as he dared.

When Esmerelda thought she would go over the edge without House so much as touching her center again she sank to her knees in front of him. "Your turn." She whispered reaching up for a passionate kiss as her arms snaked around House's neck.

"Was I boring you?" House teased, grinning at her.

Esmerelda shook her head and laughed, grinning from ear to ear. "I was far from bored. You never stop, do you?"

"Only when you make me." House made a face and gave her his best puppy dog eyes. "So why did you make me?" He asked feigning a pout. House reached out and idly brushed her on the nose with his finger. He was stalling. They both knew it. He was fighting to get his own desire under control before Esmerelda took the reins.

"I thought you deserved a rest. Didn't want to wear you out too soon."

"Oh…thank you. Be kind to old men week is it?" House gave her a look.

"Lucky you." Esmerelda winked pulling the blue silk scarf from her hair. House watched her lean forward as she undid the knot from the scarf. "Sometimes it's more fun when some things are a surprise." Esmerelda said, reaching up and tying the scarf around House's eyes.

He pulled the scarf down and gave her a curious look. "Is this the part where you get out the ice pick and settle old scores?"

Esmerelda flipped the scarf over his head pulled him forward with it, laughing as she kissed him. "I'm sitting in front of you more naked than naked. See any place I could be hiding an ice pick while you were exploring the scenery?" She laughed shaking her head. House grinned and started shaking his too.

"I won't peek. We don't need this." House took it from her hands. "We didn't need it before." He said in a quiet voice.

"Yes we did. You did, at first." Esmerelda's voice matched his own. House would have none of it and pulled her toward him. He kissed Esmerelda, their tongues finding one another and dancing happily together in the time and space they were allowed. The scarf fell to the floor as they came up for air. House watched her reach for the scarf.

"Pippi…" House sighed. He stopped when she pressed a finger to her lips. She brushed the diaphanous material across his erection; smiling at the happy twitch it earned her.

"Props are fun." She whispered as she flicked the scarf over his erection again and removed it an inch at a time. House closed his eyes, drinking in the sensation as his head leaned back. "They make everything new. I want to give you a new experience.

"Point taken." He nodded and smiled.

"Not yet…soon." Esmerelda said. She tried again with the scarf. House relented this time. "Only for a little while." She whispered in his ear as House nodded. "Shame to cover them for too long." Esmerelda added nibbling at his earlobe as she gently tied it behind his head. "You have beautiful eyes." Esmerelda said, kissing his eyelids through the silk. She planted several more soft kisses on his temples and forehead through the material as she caressed his face.

It was an odd feeling, curious, different and strangely new. Esmerelda was right. House was intrigued. And that mesmerizing scent was on the scarf. House could smell it. The concept was growing on him already and she hadn't done anything spectacular yet. Her hands were tracing their way down his body. Her fingers lazily wandered across the hair on his chest as Esmerelda's tongue teased at his nipples.

House realized as her exploration continued that the scarf made him more sensitive to her touch. It was an exhilarating feeling as her hands continued exploring. House could only wonder as her hands roamed down his stomach. She planted soft kisses as she went. She nibbled lightly along his inner thighs prolonging his anticipation.

House caught his breath as he drank in the sensation of Esmerelda's hair brushing against his erection. She picked up on it and did it again. Esmerelda saw the smile playing at the corner of his lips and went with it. She gently rubbed her tresses up and down the length of his shaft enjoying the expression on House's face as he drank in the newness of it.

Men were such visual creatures, Esmerelda thought. Render them sightless and they were like fish out of water and putty in one's hands. She never took her eyes from his face as her lips brushed against the tip of his erection with a lingering kiss. Her tongue lightly circled the top of his shaft. She watched House's hands grip the blankets and clench into fists as she circled the sensitive rim and flicked her tongue against the underside while her hair continued to massage the shaft.

House let go of the blanket and reached for her. Esmerelda's hair fell away from him as she took his hands in hers. Their fingers entwined as she kissed the length and her tongue did a slow dance down the length of his shaft. She could hear his breathing change in the silence of the moment when she began to take him into her mouth.

House tried to pull her forward. He wanted her on top of him. Esmerelda pushed against his hands, nudging him down on the bed as she paused for a moment. "What's your hurry, piano man? Got a hot date?" She whispered. "Relax, Gregory. What was that about at least an hour for foreplay? Think you can hold out for the remainder?" Esmerelda dared.

"Pity you can't see the clock, isn't it?" Esmerelda continued to speak as she planted hot wet kisses down his shaft. "No idea how much longer." Her tongue flicked the underside of his rim and made another slow circle. "Maybe a few minutes." Esmerelda's tongue made another circle. "Maybe ten or fifteen." She teased, taking the head in her mouth and exhaling slowly, letting her hot breath flow over the head as she felt another twitch.

"I want you." House groaned. His voice was all but pleading with her.

"You have me. But you have to wait. I'm not done with you yet." Esmerelda told him, continuing to kiss and flick his erection with her tongue. She felt his hands tighten their grip as she gently took one of his balls into her mouth encircling it with her tongue. She gently sucked and caressed it, moving to the next and doing the same until House thought he would lose control under her expert ministrations. He fought to keep his composure as she gently tortured him with her wet kisses and hot breath.

House tried to pull her forward again as she began another gentle climb up the length of his shaft with her tongue. House gasped when she took him in her mouth and began to inch her way down the length at a snail's pace. Several torturous strokes later she let go of his hands.

House ripped off the blindfold and reached for her. He pulled Esmerelda on top of him as he slid further back on the bed. He untied the bows on her panties and tossed them aside in one quick motion as he gazed into her eyes. There was a familiar silence between them as Esmerelda smiled and reached for his hands again.

Their fingers touched. Their hands slid over one another's and they took hold of one another just below the elbows as she lowered himself onto him slowly. Their eyes closed as they drank in the sensation of one another, neither moving for what seemed an eternity as a memory held them fast. House finally let go of her and opened his eyes. His hands cupped her breasts as she began to move over him. House caressed her nipples as Esmerelda opened her eyes and smiled down at him.

Their eyes locked onto one another, House gazing up at the beauty looking down at him with a look of such sublime ecstasy it defied words. He smiled watching her hips circle and sway as Esmerelda danced over him. He could only gaze in awe and wonder. Yes, she was dancing. Esmerelda moved slowly up and down doing the most exquisite gyrations House had ever seen as his hands roamed over her body.

He drank in the sensation and the view, lost in her touch as she clenched and unclenched around him. House fought to stay in control. He didn't want it to end, ever. Esmerelda was fantastic, beyond description as she did her gypsy dance for him.

Her pace quickened. House felt her spasm as she continued to tighten around him. He knew she was close and he began to move with her as his thumb gently moved over her clit. His free hand slid up her belly to caress her breasts as her thrusts became more insistent.

House matched her movements as Esmerelda arched her back and buried herself against him. He thrust into her several times exploding inside her as they came together, their voices breaking the silence in an ecstatic duet of moans and groans until both were spent.

House reached out for her pulling Esmerelda down on him. He held her in his arms as their breathing returned to normal. She showered him with kisses as House nibbled on her ear, her neck, any part of her he could reach until she slowed enough that he could reach out and caress her face.

House pulled her toward him and Esmerelda's lips parted inviting him in. They kissed for an eternity, their tongues celebrating this joyous reunion till their passion subsided. Esmerelda rested her head on his chest for a bit listening to his heart. She hesitated, but knew it was time to ask.

"Shall I tuck you in now? Leave you be for the evening?"

"You can't be serious."

"No kicking to the curb and disappearing in humiliation this time?" Esmerelda felt House sigh heavily underneath her.

"I owe you an explanation." House said as she turned to look up at him. "After we get under the blankets. It's starting to cool off in here…or is it us?" He snarked.

Esmerelda gave a small laugh and carefully got off of him. She glanced at the scar on his leg again, knowing House couldn't see her eyes behind her hair. She'd gotten a good look earlier and winced at the thought of it.

What? Who could have done that to him and gotten away with it? House eased himself under the blankets and lifted the other side motioning for Esmerelda to join him. House pulled Esmerelda toward him and she snuggled happily against him in the darkness.

"You don't owe me anything, Gregory. You know that." Esmerelda told him.

House shook his head. "I left unfinished business. I should have said good-bye to you."

"Why then? Why did you leave?"

House stared at the ceiling and pulled her a little closer. "You remember the mid terms? That weekend? There was a reason I was that drunk."

"How could I forget?"

Esmerelda listened as House told her of his monumental screw up. He was hoping he'd gotten away with it but had his suspicions; hence the massive alcohol consumption that night. Cheating was not treated lightly at John Hopkins. In the end his case was no exception. House had left in a hurry and never looked back.

Esmerelda listened without interruption. But House could tell from the wide-eyed expression and sudden indiscernible look on her face that his words were long overdue. "So you see, it had nothing to do with you?" House asked, afraid to look in her direction. He felt Esmerelda nod against his chest. "I should have said something. It never occurred to me that I mattered to anyone there." House glanced in her direction. There was that look again. "Pippi, you were just a kid. Girls your age forget about idiots like me in a heartbeat." House snarked.

"I didn't." Esmerelda whispered.

"I see that." House said, an amazed look on his face.

"You were worth remembering."

"Whatever for I can't imagine?"

"You were my hero that night. And then I went and ruined it. I was the idiot." Esmerelda said shaking her head.

House made a face. "You didn't ruin anything. We were drunk. Things had already gotten out of hand at the party. They were the idiots. We got sucked in, that's all."

Esmerelda gave a conciliatory nod. "Easily led by fools and drink. They go hand in hand often."

House thought for a moment and glanced in her direction. "Yes. I suppose they do." He glanced at the clock then back at Esmerelda. "It's getting late."

"Time for me to go?" Esmerelda asked. There was that amazed look again. Esmerelda raised an eyebrow. "I was making sure."

"You promised to tuck me in!" House snarked in the whiniest tone he could muster at that hour. Esmerelda's laughter earned her a kiss on the forehead as she pulled the covers up further.

House watched in silence as Esmerelda finished her part of the bargain and patted the covers down around House's neck "All better?" She asked.

House smiled and nodded. "Pippi, I would argue to the end you do an excellent job of tucking."

They rolled their eyes at one another and Pippi smacked House on the arm under the blankets. House did a fine job of acting as if she'd just broken his arm in two before pulling her closer amid their laughter.

"Incorrigible." She spat, shaking her head.

"You wouldn't have me any other way."

"No. No I wouldn't" Esmerelda whispered as they settled in for the remainder of the evening.

Chapter 4

Esmerelda was gone by the time House woke up. House thought he'd find her in the bathroom or maybe the kitchen but there was no sign of Esmerelda as he wandered through the apartment. She'd left a note by the coffee pot saying she'd made a fresh pot and helped herself to a cup while waiting for her taxi. It was time to get back to her mother. House couldn't argue with her logic and left it at that.

It was a busy day at the hospital. His team was still working on the cardiac arrest case they'd woke him up with the night before. House feigned displeasure and chewed them out for not doing a better job of handling things on their own.

Under his breath he thanked them for waking him up as they scurried out the door with a new list of tests to run. If he hadn't gotten the call House wouldn't have sent that text to Esmerelda. House laughed under his breath as he settled into his recliner after lunch. Amazing what a heart attack can do for a man, House mused.

Amazing. The word lingered as House drifted off for his afternoon siesta. Yes, Esmerelda was definitely that. House couldn't remember the last time he'd had sex that good. No, sex that great. She was a fantastic lover. Pippi the pitiful was anything but. House patted himself on the back for always being good to her.

But the last thought hung over him as House drifted off to sleep. No, he hadn't always been good to Pippi. After all, it was House that came up with her nickname in the first place. Surely someone else would have coined the phrase soon enough. But it was House that blurted it out one day and it stuck.

But she didn't mind it, House rationalized. She'd wanted House to call her by that name just yesterday. But that wasn't the part the bothered House. No, he hadn't always been good to Pippi. He'd been there in an emergency, but was that really when she needed him most? Or was it afterward when Pippi had truly needed him and House, true to form, had failed her miserably.

Surely someone else at the party would have stepped in. Anyone could have done that. But shortly thereafter, when Pippi was at her absolute lowest and an emotional basket case, it was then that she decided she needed House the most.

House winced and opened his eyes momentarily. Could he ever have been that stupid? No, he wasn't stupid. He wasn't old enough to handle it properly, that's all. The wisdom that came with age eluded him. That much was obvious or he wouldn't have messed up his medical career at John Hopkins.

But this behavioral train wreck had little to do with something as petty as cheating on an exam. Stupidity had nothing to do with the fact that even then House could be a heartless bastard when the mood struck him. He could only blame his father for so much. In the end House knew better. He knew better.

But it wasn't the mood, House's conscience argued as he closed his eyes and sleep finally found him. It was the alcohol…and Pippi. If he hadn't been drinking. If he hadn't let things get out of hand he could have stopped it. He could have said no.

Sleep was a harsh haven that afternoon. Unfinished business came home to roost. The party was getting its second wind when a scream from another room brought things to a screeching halt. It was ignored by the majority of the comatose in short order but House watched over the piano as one of Pippi's friends came running from the back. She grabbed another one of the girls by the arm and dragged her out the front door. House's brow furrowed. He saw Pippi's date poke his head out the door and motion to one of his friends. What the hell?

House heard yelling. Panic. He got up from the piano and poked his head in the door in time to see both men leaning over the railing. "Give me you hand! Come on!" Pippi's date was calling out to her. House shoved him aside and stared over the railing.

Pippi was hanging from the railing and slowly losing her grip. Idiots, House thought. They couldn't possible reach her from there. "Pitiful ugly and stupid." House heard from behind him. House wheeled around and punched him knocking him to the floor.

He grabbed the other idiot by his shirt and yanked him forward. "Try to throw a sheet over the railing…anything!" House said tearing outside and around back of the building. He made it to the balcony in time to see a blanket being lowered over the railing. Pippi was kicking and screaming exhausting herself further.

Idiots, House thought. They'd flung it over the railing without rolling it up. It wouldn't hold her weight scant as it was. House pushed her screaming girlfriends out of the way and tried to get underneath her.

"Pippi, It's not that far. Let go, I've got you." House called out to her.

Her date and his friend started cursing at him. "Are you out of your mind?" One of them yelled. "Grab the corner…we'll pull you back up."

House knew better. She was slipping. Her arms were tired. House watched her try to get a better grip and pull herself up. Her arms were giving out and she slipped a few inches further toward the bottom. The idiots on the balcony were shouting. Her girlfriends were screaming. House turned to glare at the panic stricken teenagers. "Shut up!" He yelled at them. Silence. House turned and stared up at the balcony. "Pippi, it's House. Listen to me! Stop kicking and let go. I've got you."

"Gregory!" Pippi screamed.

"Don't kick! Don't push! Let go, and drop." House tried again.

"I'm scared!" She wailed, struggling to hang on as she slipped further.

The idiots on the balcony were yelling. House glared at them. "Shut up! Shut the hell up and get out of here!" House looked up at the dangling teenager and tried again. "Pippi, listen to me. Trust me. Pippi…trust me…let go."

Maybe he'd expected a warning, a scream, something. House held his breath as he saw his terrified friend put her life in his hands. Amid the screams of her frantic girlfriends Pippi let go and fell like a rag doll into House's waiting arms. They hit the ground together. Pippi's arms were around his neck. She clung to him for dear life and sobbed uncontrollably into his chest.

Her girlfriends were on the ground beside them in an instant fussing as only hysterical teenage girls could. House realized he had a death grip on her and finally loosened his hold a bit. Pippi sat in his lap on the lawn. House rocked her like a child till the tears ebbed enough for him to reason with her.

Pippi's girlfriends were chattering like mother hens. House shook his head trying to clear his thoughts. He shot them a quick glance as Pippi's arms finally slipped from his neck. "It's over. Go home, both of you." House told them. "She's fine." He waited while they fawned over Pippi a while longer. She only nodded in agreement with House and shooed them away.

House held her for a while longer. The tears were down to an occasional choked sob. "Had enough fun for one night?" House snarked. He gave Pippi an encouraging nudge.

"Oh I don't know. Maybe we could try it again." Pippi laughed sarcastically.

House laughed in spite of the situation and shook his head. "Come on, it's time to get you home." House said trying to nudge Pippi off his lap. Her arms wrapped around his waist and she shook her head sobbing into his chest again. "Pippi, come on." House talked to her as gently as he could. "Not a scratch. You're fine." House told her stroking her long red tresses. "Come on red, we're tougher than that. Get up." House whispered in her ear. "We'll go and get a bite to eat somewhere."

"I know a great little restaurant." Pippi laughed, trying desperately to get her tears under control.

"There's my girl. Let someone wait on you for a change." House encouraged. Finally she slid off his lap and stood up. She extended her hand and helped pull House up from the cold hard ground.

Somewhere in the next hour was when things went terribly wrong. They'd opted for a local drive thru. Pippi argued she couldn't go in anywhere with her eyes as red as her hair. They walked to House's car with the bags and ate there. House was starting to sober up. That hadn't been in the plan. Time to get her home and head back to the party circuit. She lived a fair distance outside of town too as House recalled.

He watched Pippi scarf down her burger and fries and thought she looked fine all things considered. Maybe he could drop her off and find another party. "Ready to go home?" House asked as he started toward Pippi's house. Pippi glanced at him over her burger and hesitated. "It's a drinking evening for me. The night is young." House snarked. He watched Pippi nod with a dejected look on her face.

"The night is young for you. Over for me." She pouted cleaning up the mess as the car sped out of the city limits.

"Someday when you're older." House began.

"I'm already older. I'm an old maid according to mother!"

House made a face. "Your mother's in another time zone, Pippi. She may be in the twilight zone for all I know." House snarked. "You're a kid. Go be a kid. Whatever you thought you were planning tonight, you and your pack, forget about it." House made a face and shook his head. The visual of a pack of hounds flashed in his head. He tried not to laugh.

"How would you know?" She demanded.

"You told me. It was 'VD' night for Pippi and her girls!" House laughed. Pippi stared at him and raised an eyebrow.

"VD?" She asked.

"Virgin deflowering. You give me hell about a dog fight and you and the bow wow brigade had similar plans." House laughed. His laughter faded as he watched Pippi fold her arms across her chest. Oops, House thought, that stance was usually followed by an ear chewing. Maybe he should check the attitude for a bit.

"Bow wow brigade?" House tried to keep from laughing but hearing it from someone else only made it sound funnier to him.

"I'm not sober." House lost the struggle. He glanced in her direction and the look on her face only made it funnier. He started laughing. "Pippi, it was funny. It was a joke."

"Bow wow brigade is not funny!" She smacked him on the arm and it only made things worse. House was laughing at her. He'd just saved her life and he was laughing at her. She was hurt and incensed…and he was just like all of them. Just another ego that needed an attitude adjustment, Pippi thought.

"It is funny." House laughed, trying to keep things as humorous as possible. "They had plans. You had the same plans. You got upset when they had the same plans. Some of the guys might have actually been into it." House snarked.

"Maybe turn off the lights and put a bag over our heads?" Pippi argued.

"It sounded to me like it didn't matter all that much to you." House glanced in her direction again. He'd made her angry. She fed him. Not good, House thought. "Hey, we're all the same anyhow." House tried another angle as they neared the woods. Pippi's house was somewhere past that.

"We're a bunch of egotistical bastards and you almost got lucky tonight. Maybe next time." House made an optimistic face. Pippi suddenly wanted to wipe that look off his face. Maybe if she pounded his head into the steering wheel. No. One close call tonight was enough.

"You think it's funny if we try to take advantage of you." Pippi hissed. "But it's perfectly alright for you to take advantage of us."

"I didn't say that. It isn't all right. It's the way things are. This women's lib thing is a bunch of crap." House laughed. He was starting to enjoy this. Little Pippi thought she could win an argument with him. "You got into trouble tonight because one man was an idiot. Who rescued you?" House laughed in spite of it. "The bow wow brigade?"

They were well out of town and out from under the glare of the streetlights when Pippi decided she'd suffered enough at the hands of the egotistical John Hopkins students.

"It's all about control for you isn't it? You think you're in charge because two heads are better than one? It's the second one that gets you into trouble. You're ruled by it!" Pippi spat.

"Hey. You're almost home. Let's lighten up before I drop you off." House tried.

"Drop me off? Get rid of me, you mean. I'm tired of being kicked to the curb, piano man." Pippi inched closer, sizing up the egotistical Gregory House.

"I didn't kick you anywhere. Hey, I was the one who saved you, remember?" House argued. He was starting to get nervous. She was much too close and House knew from previous incidents Pippi was a scrapper; when it came to fight or flight Pippi would stand her ground every time.

"And for that I should be so grateful. I should sit here and allow you to insult me." Pippi hissed in his ear. House tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

"I didn't mean to…" House tried to interrupt.

"Insult my friends." Pippi continued. House glanced out the corner of his eye. She was angrier than he'd ever seen her. And she was much too close. "What's the matter, piano man? Not feeling so in control all of a sudden?" Pippi dared.

"Hey, they had it coming. All they could do was stand there and scream. They would have let you drop like a rock. They're stupid." House tried to reason with her but it came out wrong. He was starting to panic as Pippi repositioned herself beside him. "Sit down." House snapped at her. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Teaching you a little lesson about who's in control, piano man. If you're so in control of things, let's see you control basic human reaction."

House tried to grab her hands but the car swerved as Pippi laughed and inched the zipper of his jeans down. She watched the startled look on his face and smiled as her hand slipped inside his jeans. "Pippi." House started and caught his breath. The sensation of her warm soft hand on his penis jarred his thought processes.

Pippi smiled nuzzling his neck as House leaned his head back and fought to keep his mind on the road. "You're losing, Gregory. You're losing control." Pippi teased as she nibbled her way down his neck. "My, he doesn't get out much does he?" Pippi cooed stroking the growing erection. "He's much too eager for a little feminine attention, even if it is from the fearless leader of the bow wow brigade." She glanced at her captive audience. "Guess who's in control now, piano man? You can take it back anytime you want can't you?" Pippi dared. She waited. "Your decision. No dissenting vote?"

She waited for a response and watched House shake his head and tighten his grip on the wheel. "Find a spot where we can pull over." Pippi whispered in his ear and lowered her head to his lap before House could think of protesting.

Making her stop never occurred to him. From the first touch of her lips on his erection she had him. Pippi could barely contain her joy when she felt his hand come to rest gently on the back of her head. House gently stroked her hair as Pippi got her first taste of power over a man.

The car hadn't slowed yet and Pippi knew they were getting close to home. She knew House was getting close too. Her friends had coached her well. Her hand held her place and House's attention as she rose and whispered in his ear. "I can't believe we're not there yet. Pull in somewhere." Pippi teased trying not to be as cruel as House had been earlier. "Blink once for yes?" She laughed as House glanced at her and looked away.

"I'm looking. I know a place."

"I'll make it easy for you. You need to take your eyes off the road, and find a spot, that's all." Pippi eased her skirt up and straddled him slowly blocking House's view of the road. Her friends had told her caution was of utmost importance. Keep your ass off the steering wheel. He's already going to have enough trouble concentrating on the road.

Pippi thanked her lucky stars for House's long legs. There was ample room as she hiked her skirt up another inch or so and started to untie her delicate lace panties. She suddenly felt House's arm around her waist pulling her toward him. "Stop." House whispered in her ear. Pippi froze. Oh no, he wouldn't dare. House pulled off the road and down a dirt lane leading to the woods. Pippi breathed a sigh of relief as he held her fast for the bumpy ride on the way down. House turned into the woods a short distance and killed the engine and the lights. Silence. They stared at one another in the darkness as she pressed gently against his arousal. Pippi wanted to kiss him but she knew better. The look in his eyes said it all.

Her hand reached out and caressed his face as House closed his eyes. "Here." Pippi whispered, removing her scarf and blindfolding him.

House grabbed her wrists. "Stop it, Pippi. What the hell are you thinking?"

"If you can't bear to look you don't have to." Pippi said. House didn't let go. "And I won't have to see that look in your eyes. You know the one. It's the one you see in your friends' eyes when they look at me. I don't want you to look at me that way. I may be ugly but I don't want to see that reflected in your eyes. Not ever."

"You won't." House whispered, staring up at her. "There's more room in the back."

"This'll do. Get it over with and you can kick me to the curb." Pippi said.

She watched him sigh and look away. "You said this is your first?" House watched her nod and shook his head. "It isn't me you want." He tried to stifle a laugh. Pippi stared curiously at the embarrassed smile on his face.

"Gregory? You already know I didn't plan it this way. But here we are." They stared at one another in the darkness. "Say no. One word."

House closed his eyes. She felt so good pressed against him. He could have taken her right there. He felt Pippi moving against him in the darkness. Her tongue flicked against his earlobe and she nibbled softly. "How could any girl not want you?" She whispered in his ear and felt House's arms snake around her waist.

"We're friends. I don't want…I'd never want to hurt you." House tried to explain as Pippi clung to him. "It's your first. Girls…it hurts, Pippi. I don't want to hurt you."

"I've been warned. Better with someone who cares?" She asked. House said nothing. "So it's no then?"

There was silence. She saw the indecision in his eyes. Pippi's hands gently covered his eyes and their lips met. There was a moment's hesitation as she felt House's tongue beg entrance. House felt her stiffen then relax in his embrace as her lips parted.

He was warm and gentle. Their tongues danced slowly as they became acquainted. Pippi was a willing student. And she wanted him. For all of House's asinine behavior and egotistical rants, Pippi wanted him, at least for tonight. She melted into his kisses and her eager lips begged for more.

They came up for air after what seemed an eternity. Pippi tried again to claim her prize and again House stopped her. She watched him motion to the back seat and relented. Pippi slid between the seats of the spacious land yacht House drove before he had a chance to lower the seat. He laughed and pushed the seat back, joining her in short order.

House eased himself into the back seat and Pippi climbed on top of him. "What's the hurry?" He teased as she stared at him in the darkness. House gently ran his hands over her body. He tried to contain his laughter when he actually felt two surprised nipples rise to his touches. Pippi giggled and squirmed at the sensation of his thumbs as they danced over the satiny fabric of her spaghetti strap blouse. "Like that?" He asked as she regained her composure. Pippi tried the same technique on House and delighted in his expression.

She nodded eagerly and smiled at him. House stared for a moment. Pippi really wasn't that bad. She had a pretty smile. She had beautiful hair. She needed to fill out a bit. Pippi needed a chance to grow into some really nice accessories she was missing and some she already had. And she felt so good to House, so real. She wanted him to feel good too in this initial moment of mutual exploration.

Pippi didn't think he was a jerk, at least not all of the time. It seemed all was forgiven as her hands happily explored his body and helped ease him out of his clothes. House pulled her close to him, teasing the two new friends he'd found earlier. He nibbled gently at her budding breasts as he eased the top over her head.

There were no elusive snaps or strange combination locks to deal with. No need for a bra, House grinned as two petite perky breasts offered themselves for his viewing pleasure. House gently eased her down on the backseat and leaned over her, sampling this newly discovered treasure.

She arched against his touches as he suckled her breasts. Her nipples were so sensitive he felt goose bumps rise on every inch of her skin as his hands explored her willing body. He inched her skirt up, his hand teasing her through her panties. Again there were giggles and squirms. She liked it. She wanted him. House lost himself in the moment, easing the panties down those legs that went on forever. He eased the skirt down the same path and she lay before him naked, smiling.

Pippi's hands reached out to him. She tried to pull him down on top of her but House hesitated. He'd heard stories although he'd never been blessed with the experience of taking a virgin till now. This was a first for both of them to an extent. Please don't screw this up House thought as his long delicate fingers brushed the top of her soft curls and slipped between her legs.

He watched Pippi's expression as she gasped in surprise and smiled in ecstasy at the sensation. His fingers teased and stroked her soft curls before slipping inside of her. First one, then another finger parted her and reveled in the warm wet embrace they found at her entrance. She squirmed against his fingers as he took time to caress her and study every response. His redheaded virgin was a wealth of honest information.

House cursed himself for thinking of her like a science project even if only for a moment. He was obviously pleasuring her to no end, but he was experimenting as well. He was experimenting with someone who'd trusted him enough to put her life in his hands a short time ago. He couldn't make himself look at her as a romantic sexual partner. Pippi was a subject, a virgin, uncharted territory in the back seat of his car. House tried to shake the fact that the turn on for him was the mystery. If he hadn't gone through with this he would never know. All of Pippi's reactions were ingrained in House's memory as he teased and toyed with his willing subject.

House shook it from his thoughts. Pippi was his friend and she wanted him. House gingerly inched his finger inside her virgin passage. He thought he might be lucky. Then he felt it. She was intact. He took his time, kissing her as Pippi pulled him toward her. Her hips were moving in tiny unpracticed circles as he carefully inserted another finger. Pippi flinched a little and he hesitated.

House kissed her again, distracting her as he felt her relax again. She moved against his fingers as House tried to gauge…she flinched again. "Pippi?" House whispered.

"Mm?" She murmured happily in his ear.

"Are you sure?" House asked wrapping his arm around her. He felt her nod in his embrace. House closed his eyes and lifted her off the seat. He cursed himself for not trying to get past the tiny barrier with his fingers first. But it was going to hurt anyhow and he was greedy. It might be the only opportunity he ever had.

House wanted the experience. He wanted to feel what it was like to actually take someone for the first time. House pulled her on top of him and held her in his embrace for a short while. "Your turn. You're in the driver's seat." House said, letting go of her and leaning back in the seat. His hands slid down her sides and rested on her hips.

"Gregory? I'm scared."

"That's why you're on top. You do what feels right to you. You can't be scared, Pippi. You have to relax. It's only going to hurt worse if you tense up." She held out her hands to him, coaxing him to sit up.

"Hold me."

House sat up and put his arms around her. Pippi clung to him for dear life and House kissed her. His tongue parted her lips as he sought to distract her again, hoping she didn't bite. He felt Pippi relax in his arms She pushed awkwardly down and House's hands went to her hips.

"Help with your aim?" He whispered in her ear. "Don't get shy on me now, Pippi. You did a fine job of getting his attention earlier. Introduce him to his new home." House teased. "He's kind of shy. You might have to grab hold and push."

House felt her delicate touch and held his breath. His eyes closed as the warm wetness that was Pippi engulfed him. Pippi gasped in his ear as she realized what she was in for. She squirmed down another inch or so and stopped, burying her head in House's neck. "Oh God." She whispered as House's arms tightened around her.

"Relax, baby. Relax." House said, rocking her slowly in his arms.

Pippi's eyes widened at the sound of House's voice. It was a low growl that met her ears. There was something so desperate, so primal in it. He called her baby. She did that to him! She loved it! She wanted more and inched her way further down her prize as House rocked her. He knew. He could feel his head pressing against her hymen as she stopped. Pippi gasped as she pushed again. "Oh my God. Gregory…"

"Shhhh…Relax. Breathe." House coaxed her in a low growl.

"If this was a parachute jump…I think…I'd need a little push." Pippi's voice pleaded with him.

She felt House nod his head. He pulled away from her and stared into her eyes. "Trust me?" He asked, as his thumbs brushed over her nipples and sent a shudder through her she never imagined possible.

"Oh yes…yes…" She buried her face in his neck. "I trust you with my life." She whispered in his ear. She felt his hands move to her hips and guide her slowly up and then back down. She gasped at the exquisite sensation of him moving inside of her as House guided her gently for a few more short strokes.

House was lost in the pleasures of her tight wet passage. He enjoyed himself a little longer, making sure she was starting to enjoy it too. "Ready?" He watched through half closed eyes as she nodded and braced herself against him. "I want you." House growled in her ear. He waited till Pippi was on a down stroke and pushed firmly on her hips as he thrust into her the rest of the way.

Pippi sank her teeth into his shoulder to stifle the scream as House wrapped her in his arms. "Relax, baby. Relax." House said over and over as he stroked her hair and held her tight. "Don't move till your ready." House closed his eyes and waited. "I told you I wasn't the one you wanted." He nuzzled against her.

"What? Why?" Pippi whispered as she settled in.

"We come in different sizes you know." House grinned. "No pun intended." He breathed a mental sigh of relief when she laughed a little. Patience, House told himself. Anything that felt that good sitting perfectly still was going to be worth the wait; she was a fantastic fit.

"Do we?"

"At first. It gets better as you get used to it."

"I'm getting used to it." She wiggled her hips a little bit and House caught his breath. "Like that?" Pippi whispered.

"Oh yes." His answer earned him another kiss. House eased his grip sliding his hands around to Pippi's breasts. If he could take her mind off…House caught his breath again as Pippi decided to test the waters. She wiggled her hips again and House saw a hint of a smile as she began to move over him in slow circles. She caught him staring.

"Tell me." She asked. She caught him off guard and smiled. House didn't know what to say. "Tell me what you like." Pippi said as his hands roamed over her fresh tight body.

"All of it. Whatever you do feels good to me." House said, lying down and giving her free reign over him.

"Tell me how you like it. I want to hear you."

"What?" House asked. Pippi leaned forward and nibbled at his earlobe. Her hands toyed with his nipples the same way he'd touched hers.

"You sound…different. I love the sound of your voice when you're inside of me." She breathed into his ear. House closed his eyes and pulled her toward him for another lingering kiss. She was learning from him. Her moves mirrored his. House was enthralled with the feel of her, the taste of her. His hands moved to her breasts again as Pippi sat up and started to move over him gracefully.

"That's it." House coaxed, watching her writhe in ecstasy as she rode him. "Dance for me, gypsy girl. He stared in stunned silence as his words brought her to life. His fingers caressed her body inch by porcelain inch, lingering when he felt her shudder under his touch. His fingertips moved in slow delicate circles over her inner thighs as her urgency increased with each delicate touch.

House lost himself in her movements matching them with his own. Giving her a little time and extra attention in the beginning seemed to do the trick. All the horror stories he'd heard were apparently because of idiots who didn't know how to wait for a good thing. House smiled in spite of himself. A wealth of useful information and a memorable backseat dalliance to finish the evening, wasn't he the lucky one?

House felt a telltale shudder from within and knew it was almost over. He reveled in the last few moments of Pippi's maiden voyage. His long fingers teased at her tuft of bright red hair as his thumb began to tease her sensitive clit.

Pippi gasped and ground her hips into him. House began to thrust against her as he felt her readying to explode. His thumb continued its subtle massage as his fingers nestled in her sensitive curls above. Pippi moaned and arched her back as House drove her to the edge with his gentle spoiling.

"Don't hold it in, Baby. Share." House murmured, granting her wish for the sound of his voice. "I want to hear you come. Come with me." House closed his eyes and caught up to her at the sound of her impassioned cries.

"Oh…Gregory…. oh…." She panted and pressed against him as House thrust into her exploding inside of her with a guttural moan. Pippi let out the most joyful sound he'd ever heard as he grabbed her hips and buried himself inside of her as deep as he could.

They writhed against one another till the last of their orgasms ebbed into the night. Pippi collapsed onto his chest as House wrapped her in his arms. Her hair spilled over him like a fiery blanket as she showered him with kisses.

They lay wrapped in one another's arms for what seemed an eternity. Pippi couldn't stop showering him with kisses and House laughed at her joyful enthusiasm. "What?" Pippi asked, glancing up at him.

"You're amazing. Don't ever let anyone tell you different." House grinned giving her a playful smack on the behind.

"It was good then?" Pippi asked.

House burst into laughter, staring up at the rear window. "Was it good for you too?" House mocked giving her a playful hug as he glanced at all of them. "We've steamed up every window in the land yacht." House announced, "It was a ten star performance."

"You're incorrigible." Pippi said, smacking him on the arm.

"You wouldn't have me any other way." House said. They stared at one another in the darkness. A smile came to Pippi's face as she winked at him.

"No. No I wouldn't."

They talked about anything, as they got dressed. Pippi giggled as she watched House wipe down the windows with his socks to get the steam off. House laughed as they searched for her scarf. It turned up when they climbed in the front seat. House watched her tie it on his rear view mirror announcing it was a souvenir. "A present for my hero. Queens used to give handkerchiefs to their knights in shining armor."

House laughed and shook his head. He'd been called a lot of things but never that. "Everything as it should be?" House asked as he hit the key. Pippi nodded and snuggled against him as House wrapped his arm around her. Well then, it's time we took you home. Your mother will have the police looking for you." House laughed.

"Mother's gone." Pippi laughed. "That's why I wanted…to do this tonight. Mother's gone for the weekend."

House gave her an odd look. "Your mother's gone." He repeated. Pippi nodded and watched him shake his head.


"Why did we do this out in the middle of the woods in the back seat of my car if your mother's gone?" House gave her one of those looks as Pippi covered her face with her hands.

She spread her fingers peeking at him from between them as they burst into laughter on the bumpy ride out of the woods. "Gregory, I don't know what I was thinking." She shook her head in disbelief as their laughter died down.

"You were on a mission." House announced. "It was only a footnote that the nice warm house is empty and mother is gone." House teased.

They glanced at one another again as House gave her an evil look. "Mother's gone." He wiggled his eyebrows at her and Pippi stopped to think for a moment. "The nice warm house is empty and mother's gone? He asked.

Pippi grinned from ear to ear. "Mother's gone! Pippi wrapped her arms around him and practically climbed into his lap.

House felt an odd sensation. His eyes blinked open and he felt Pippi's tresses brush against him again. She climbed into his lap taking great care not to touch his right thigh. His arms snaked around her waist as he fought to wake up. He glanced around his office. He glanced at Pippi as she snuggled on his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. Her eyes were damp and rimmed with red.

House tried to drag himself into the right decade as he stared at the beauty cradled in his lap. He'd held her exactly like this a lifetime ago as they sat on the lawn under the balcony. Her legs dangled over the arm of the chair, as she pressed tight against him.

"I didn't think it would hurt this bad. I thought it would be a relief." Pippi sobbed into his chest. Even the tears…House shook his head again and stroked her silky hair. He kissed her on the forehead and blinked several times as she glanced up at him. "What?"

"I was asleep. I mean really asleep. I missed something, I think." House said more to himself as he struggled to right his psyche.

"Mother's gone." She whispered in a forlorn voice he hadn't heard in years. "You answered me. You didn't open your eyes but you answered me." Pippi said as House sighed and nodded.

"It was a rough morning. And a long night." House glanced at her smiling.

He watched Pippi force a smile but it faded soon enough. "Yes it was. It was a lovely night. But mother's gone." Pippi wept into House's chest.

"Mother's gone." House repeated, watching her brush away the tears. House's fingers caressed away the few she'd missed as he cupped her face in his hand. He sat holding Pippi while she wept giving her ample time for her tears to ebb. Patience. Always patience with this one, House reminded himself.

He watched her for a long while before he squeezed her as hard as he dared. Pippi glanced up at him. "What on earth was that for?"

"I thought I'd never see you again." House answered.

Pippi stared at him before kissing him softly on the cheek. "Why on earth would you think such a thing?"

"It would be no more than I deserve after disappearing on you all those years ago." House said as he found a distant spot to fix his gaze upon.

"The world moves so quickly these days. We hope but we can't expect. I'd always hoped to see you again but I knew better than to wait around. I'd still be there waiting wouldn't I?" Pippi said wistfully.

House nodded resting his head against hers. "That's why when I found your signature souvenir this morning I thought it was your turn to disappear."


House reached in his pocket and produced the blue silk scarf she'd been wearing the night before. "It looked more valuable than the other one you gave me. I thought I should ask. And it would give me a reason to stop by and see you later." House cheerily added.

"And here I am."

"And here you are." They smiled at one another as House handed her the diaphanous piece of cloth. Pippi pressed his fingers closed over it and shook her head.

"Yours to keep. Remind you of the other one."

House gave her a sheepish grin. "I still have it." He sounded so like a little boy when he said it Esmerelda was moved to tears.

Pippi's jaw dropped in disbelief. "You what?" Pippi's voice was a shocked whisper as House smiled at her. Again, his eyes shied away from hers. He fixed on the wispy blue silk in his hand.

"Pressed between the pages of one of the books in my library. This one looked more valuable. The original will always be priceless to me." House's voice trailed off. "You mattered, Pippi. You mattered to me. Life got in the way." House took a deep breath and fell silent.

"And it finally brought me back to you." Pippi's hand reached up to caress his scruffy face. He so resembled the young man that woke up in her bed the next morning so many years ago. Tears spilled from her emerald eyes as she forced a quivering smile. "And here I am."

"And here you are." House's mesmerizing blue eyes stared into hers as he smiled and pulled her close.