A/n: happy birthday to me! :D So I decided to treat myself to a chapter x) so sue me. Enjoy! :D
"So…" Nathaniel dragged the word out, deliberating. "What are we going to have for dinner?"
After washing down earlier he had offered to take me to dinner to celebrate conquering 'bad experiences', as he'd called them. Hey, a free dinner. I'd be stupid to reject it. So I accepted, despite feeling a tad apprehensive; this would be the first time we were out alone together since The Kiss. To be painfully honest, I was just a little disappointed that I hadn't felt any spark between us. But oh well, a friend was better than an enemy, right? Thankfully (due mostly to his wisecracking), there hadn't been any tension afterward.
We strolled genially along the deserted sidewalk. The night was cool, with a breeze strong enough for me to be glad for the jacket that Nathaniel had tossed across my shoulders. It had a nice, clean, rich smell about it that was so him. No matter that it was far too big for me; the sleeves fell far past my knuckles, and I had to roll them up four times to just to see my hands. I inhaled deeply and stared up at the sky as we walked. The sky was a purplish-black and had a mysterious feel about it that somehow lifted my spirits greatly, and I could actually see stars dotting the night sky in spite of the bright city lights.
The street lamps cast pools of orange light onto the pavement, and Nathaniel seemed to have reverted to being a little kid, leaping from one circle of light to the other. I watched him, strolling along behind him, amused. I had never seen grown men behave like children the way he did before. It was refreshing, somehow, that he didn't morph into the old stick-in-the-mud types and that he still kept in touch with his ah, youthful side.
I told him that, chuckling, and he stopped jumping and waited for me to catch up. "No wonder they say men don't grow up," I reflected, trying not to smile.
"Hey!" He tugged at the sleeve of the jacket and pouted, gazing down at me with his big blue eyes. "I do too grow up!"
The intensity and sheer depth of his eyes made my breath catch in my throat. I could drown in them–
I swallowed and forced a laugh to cover up my pause. "Yes, yes of course you do," I placated, reaching up to pat him on the head. His hair was soft, and silky, and felt as if they would be wonderful for running my fingers through. So, in a lapse of consciousness, I did.
I bit my lip momentarily. I shouldn't have given in to temptation, not with him. I grinned as if nothing had happened and tousled his hair roughly.
"Hey!" He reached over to mess my hair up, and I dodged out of the way, laughing. "You are so childish!" I snickered.
"Am not!" He stuck out his tongue at me.
"Aha! See! You are too!"
"How old are you, six?"
"Twenty six, thank you very much. Well actually I'm almost thirty. But that's just a technicality! I am flattered you think I am so youthful. At least I don't look like an old bat."
"Hey! Who're you calling an old bat?"
He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked away, humming tunelessly, pretending he hadn't heard me.
"Immature brat," I muttered, loudly enough for him to hear.
"Nagging old fogey."
"You –! Juvenile rascal!" I sputtered, glaring at him.
"I am not a ras – Oh. Hello." His voice was constrained and polite all of a sudden. What?
I stopped in my tracks as I saw a familiar man walk up to us. I resisted the urge to rub my temples. The very sight of the man was bringing on a headache!
I felt Emma stop beside me. "Who… Oh! Nicholas!"
I could hear the surprise and delight in her voice and only just restrained myself from punching him in frustration as she embraced him warmly. She never did that with me! Who was this guy, anyway! I scowled at him bitterly.
We were having fun before he came up and stole her away! I wanted to hit something, I was so annoyed. I turned away from them grumpily. It was only then I realised that there was a woman beside Nichol-ass, looking very amused by the two.
The more I stared, the more dazed I became. She was tall, about five feet seven to my six, and had long brown hair that reached down her back.
Emma has nicer hair, muttered a grumpy voice in my head. I ignored it.
The woman had sea-green eyes, tinted with specks of brown and blue. Her lashes were long and curled upwards gently. Her lips were a soft pink, and were curved up into a somewhat sly smile as she stared at them. Huh. I would figure that out later. She had a sharp chin that led down to a slender neck, and –
"Nathan, this is Rebecca. I think you've met her before? She's my best friend; we're interning together," Emma introduced excitedly.
I jerked out of my dazed state. "H…hi, nice to meet you." I nearly smacked myself in the head for stuttering in front of the lady. I thought I saw a frown on Emma's face, and something that looked wonderfully similar to jealousy, but I blinked, and it wasn't there anymore. Maybe I'd imagined it. Why would she be jealous, eh?
I held back a sigh and smiled, holding a hand out. Rebecca slipped a slender one into mine, shaking it firmly. Hmmm. A beautiful woman who could shake hands properly. I smiled at her genuinely.
"It's nice to meet you too." She had a very pleasant voice, and a cheeky glint in her eye. Huh? Women were so weird.
You're supposed to like Emma, you twit!
"Nick, how come you're both here?"
"We wanted to pick you from the hospital and celebrate. The delivery was today, wasn't it?"
"Yes, it was."
"How did it go?" Rebecca asked, slipping between Emma and I and linking arms with her, essentially making me walk beside The Ass. I knew I had no right to call him that, especially since he hadn't been an ass at all, but I couldn't help it. The way Emma's face lit up at his very presence irked me.
We ended up at the Buttonhole, a small restaurant nearby, much to my annoyance. I didn't want to have to spend more time than necessary in The Ass' presence. It was stifling and uncomfortable.
"So Nathaniel, how did you know my brother?" Rebecca leaned forward across the table.
Don't look down, don't look down…
I didn't. Her words were too confusing for me to be preoccupied with… other things.
I stared at Rebecca blankly. Brother? What brother? I looked at Nicholas, then back at her, and back again. They didn't look much alike. Maybe the shape of their eyes, but that was about it. They were siblings?
I blinked, and a flood of relief rushed through me. They were siblings! So that was how Emma knew Nicholas! And presuming Emma and Rebecca had grown up together, it was no wonder that they were so close. Also… Girls don't go around dating their best friend's brothers, right?
I could hardly keep the grin off my face.
"Oh, we met here a while ago," I answered vaguely, before returning to bask in my relief.
"I feel like a balloon!" Emma sighed, patting her stomach contentedly.
I grinned and reached over and poked her side and she jumped, squealing. "Hey! Why'd you do that for!" she glared at me while rubbing her sore side.
I blinked, bewildered. I thought she had remarkable self-control; I hadn't expected her to squeal like that. I told her so, and she put her nose up snottily and replied condescendingly, with a fake aristocrat accent and all, "I can haf very good self-control vhen I haf to haf it, sir."
I laughed, and her gaze darted to me sharply for a moment before she dropped her head, smiling softly, and stared at the pavement while the others chuckled at her charade.
Why was she smiling? The girl befuddled me.
"Hey Emma," the Ass came around me and slung an arm around her shoulders. I tensed involuntarily, and tried to relax and smile when I noticed Rebecca staring at my reaction with a knowing smile. Girls were really scary. Why on earth did they smile for no reason?
However, my attention was directed back to their conversation when the Ass started all the rubbish about it being late and that they ought to get home to do 'stuff'. He winked, and Emma blushed and giggled.
I really felt like punching the bloke out cold. I could literally feel veins bulging in my neck. Who was he to wink at her like that?! Did he think I was invisible? I felt somewhat betrayed by Emma for having blushed at something the Ass had said. I thought she only blushed in front of me! What happened to that, huh?
I stormed past them in a huff.
"What's gotten into him?" I heard Emma ask.
You're not her boyfriend, he has every right to wink at her and make her blush.
Oh. That. Right.
I sighed heavily. She said she didn't feel anything from that kiss. Or the subsequent ones. How could she not? Did she lie?
I stopped abruptly. What if she did lie? There was no feasible way she could have not felt anything from those kisses, no way at all. Maybe… she didn't want things to become awkward? Of course, that must be it. And perhaps she didn't want to be to target of hate mail from the rest of the female staff back at the hospital.
A large grin spread over my face. I turned around. "Emma! Come on! Let's go home!" I offered my arm to her gallantly like a proper gentleman. Women liked that, didn't they?
Emma giggled. "Nate, what are you doing?"
I shook my arm at her. "Taking you home, what else?"
She took my arm. "Sorry Nick, it would be more convenient if he were to see me home. He lives right next door to me."
The Ass raised his brows. "Really? I see."
I didn't like the sound of that 'I see'. It sounded like he was up to something.
"Someone has to see Becca home, anyway," Emma prompted. YES! I knew it! She had a crush on me! Why else would she want to spend time alone with me?
Don't overanalyze things, man.
I ignored the voice. Stupid voice.
"I'll see you later then, alright?" The Ass held his arms open, and Emma dropped my arm and hugged him warmly.
"Bye Emma, I'll call you, alright?" Rebecca waved. "Goodbye Nathaniel, it was nice to meet you." I smiled at her. She was beautiful, really. "Yeah, I'll see you around."
The Ass pressed a kiss to Emma's forehead before walking away. What an ass.
"Goodnight, Nate. Thanks for today." She arched her back as she removed my jacket and handed it to me. I stared at my shoes and tried not to notice how gracefully she arched her back, or how her breasts looked - don't go there. I pinched myself and looked up at her face, willing my gaze not to drop south. She smiled warmly, her eyes a warm honey shade, and fumbled about in her handbag for her keys.
Her hair was falling into her face, obscuring her vision. Should I tuck her hair back for her? I reached my hand out slowly –
She found her keys and tossed her hair back. Damn! I raised that hand inconspicuously to rub my ear, as if that had been my intention all along. "Well, goodnight!" She grinned.
What? No kiss? No hug? Nothing?
"Hey," I blurted, just as Emma was sliding her key into the lock. She looked up curiously. "I think you ought to come over to my place," I blurted out hastily. "You know, to take a look at that," I gestured awkwardly toward her injured hands.
Damn, Spencer, could you be any more of a dweeb?
She quirked an eyebrow and smiled amusedly. "I'm pretty sure I can do them myself, but thank you."
"No!" She looked at me quizzically, one hand still holding the key in the lock.
"I…I mean, it'd be easier if I wrapped them for you, since both your hands are, you know, injured…" I stuttered.
This was getting really embarrassing. I couldn't remember speaking like an idiot like I was doing.
I think she took pity on me. "Okay, I'll come over after I have a bath, okay? I'm beat. Thank you."
"Great!" I bit back a grimace. I just sounded like a twelve-year-old with a half-broken voice speaking to his crush for the first time. Goodness.
I started to regret my impromptu decision to ask her over when she actually came over.
She was dressed in an old faded red shirt and long pajama pants with bananas on them and had pulled on an Oxford hoodie that looked a tad too big for her. Her hair was only half-dry, and she smelt heavenly.
I resisted the urge to caress her hands as I dabbed antiseptic on her cuts. "They're healing nicely," I murmured.
Obviously, I had a knack of saying the wrong things, because she leaned over then, to take a look at her palms.
"Yes, they are. You did a great job, thank you."
I inhaled deeply; her hair smelled of apples and I could tell she used peach shower foam. I resumed my work on her hands, bandaging them deftly and scooting away as soon as I could. Our proximity was about killing me, especially since I was only supposed to be a friend and friends, as a general rule, don't touch intimately.
"Do you want something to drink?" I asked, by way of excusing my sudden movement away from her.
I shuffled into the kitchen. A coke? Juice? What would she like? I was about to ask, before I heard her gasp loudly.
My heart leapt into my throat and my brain clouded over. What could ever have happened? I rushed out of the kitchen. "What is it?!" I asked, frantic.
"You have a piano!"
She was seated by the piano, running her slender fingers up and down the keys, without actually playing anything.
Thank God. I heaved a sigh of relief and walked over to stand beside her.
"You have a piano," she repeated silently, watching her fingers run over the keys. Her eyes were alight with wonder and fascination, and her face was gleeful, as if she was doing something she had always dreamed of.
"Yes. Do you play?"
She scooted over to make space for me. "No," she said regretfully. Her eyes looked so innocent and mournful as she turned back to the keys.
"I wish I could play," she whispered. "I've always wanted to know how to play the piano."
"I could teach you," I offered, wishing to do anything to remove the sadness from her face. Even though she looked adorable sad.
Plus, I would get to spend time with her! Alone! Away from the Ass! The little person in my head jumped around and clapped his hands in glee. Genius.
Emma turned to me so quickly I wondered if she'd gotten whiplash. "You would?" she gasped, her eyes wide with delight, smile stretched across her face. She looked like a little girl at Christmas, and all of a sudden my eyes were drawn to her lips.
I nodded absently, eyes trained on the gentle curve of her bottom lip.
She squealed happily and threw her arms around my neck, engulfing me with a mixture of apple and peach. I sat still, stunned. This was the first time she had voluntarily hugged me.
I was aching to put my arms around her and pull her flush to me and feel her body against mine – but I couldn't. My body had already reacted alarmingly quickly to our proximity earlier; what would this do to me?
You know you want to, a voice said slyly.
I couldn't. I wouldn't scare her away like that. Slowly, I detached her arms from around me and set them in her lap, before walking back to the kitchen. "You're welcome!" I called.
A/n: REVIEW! :D