They're on the tip of his tongue, those words, ready to be thrown like the awfully sharp knives that they are, and to cut deep into Emma's skin. A string of insults, or maybe just one especially vile one that will ring in the air for hours if not days to come. His eyes spit fire and his lips have curled in a dreadful snarl. There isn't any time to steer away, to avoid it, because while he might be a terribly sore loser, he's quick as lightning. 
"I can't believe I was ever so desperate as to f-"
"Callum." Noah cuts through awful loud, causing three pairs of eyes to be drawn to him. His expression is unlike any I have ever seen from him. Noah is kindness incarnate, even in court. Sharp and direct when he needs to be, but never mean. This is different, and even Callum recoils a little; the insult is lost on his lips. "You are still a guest on these premises, and in all technicality you work for me. In that, you will respect my employees and their acquaintances. You will be respectful anyone in this building, but them especially."
Suddenly I see why Mr Davies is so fond of Noah - because in that moment, even though he's defending me, there's a part of me that is absolutely terrified of him. It gives off a feeling that he could very easily crush every part of my career, if he chose to do so. 
It doesn't seem to have the same effect on Callum, because Callum believes himself to be untouchable. He turns to Noah with a threat in his pose, but Noah seems unfazed. More so, he seems almost… relaxed. 
He turns to me and Emma. "I'll see you Friday. I'll call you to set up dinner." 
Emma has to pull me into the elevator, away from the fight that's about to go down, and away from staring eyes because of course we drew attention of half the floor. Emma impatiently jams the button of the garage, but the elevator doesn't go any quicker. We don't say anything, instead walk to the car in silence - she joins me in mine without discussing it, and there's a quiet agreement that we'll do something about her car at another time. Just when I start the car and move out of my parking spot, she finally says: "Tell me a story." 
"I… what?" I ask almost in reflex, because it's so much further from what I expected.
"A story. From your childhood, or with Matt and Brie, anything." She almost begs, her breathing quickening. "Because I need to be distracted because otherwise I might cry and I fucking refuse to give that absolutely cunt of a man the satisfaction of getting under my skin. Also I spend like an hour on my makeup and I don't want it to be ruined because of him." Her hands cover her mouth, her eyes are closed. My mind draws a blank on any stories as I try to navigate through the far-too-tight garage, so I switch to the next best thing: rapid-firing random facts. 
"Um. My favourite Disney movie growing up was Hercules. Eschieve’s was Brave." My mind is spinning trying to come up with anything, while also getting out of the garage and keeping an eye on Emma if she's at least sort of okay. "I sang in a church choir when I was four or five. Grandparents loved it. Church grandma's called me an angel." 
Emma lets out a broken snort, somewhere between a snort and a laugh, and I latch onto it. I'm blinded by the light as I finally get away from underground; I throw myself into a too-small gap between two cars and barely hear the Audi beeping at me. "My mother hated it, and so did I judging by the few pictures, but grandparents from both sides were devout Catholics and this was the only way to get them to shut up about baptism or confirmation. Aleran made relentless fun of me, and honestly I can't blame him. I looked ridiculous. But like I said, all the grandma's loved me. Gave me candy, squeezed my cheeks and would not shut up about how cute I looked. I hated it." I make a sharp turn to get us on the freeway, aware that a dinner at a nice restaurant is most likely off the table. "I don't remember much of it, but I remember very clearly that my father's mother used to call me son petit ange blond.
That, of all things, makes Emma's head snap my way. "You were blond?!"
"Yeah." I choke a laugh. "It didn't start getting darker until I was around eight. Did you not know that?" 
"No!" She sounds offended, but it seems to have finally broken her away from whatever haunting thoughts. "God, I need to see childhood pictures of you. I can't believe I've never seen childhood pictures of you!"
"Well, it's not like I've seen any of you, have I?!"
"You know my face! My face has always been exactly the same! If you know my face, you know my childhood pictures!"
I laugh, and to my relief, so does she. The tension shatters, and I offer my hand as I see her take a few deep breaths in my peripheral vision. She takes it, squeezing it tightly, and the muscles in my  neck and shoulders finally relax. "You okay?" 
"Yeah." She breathes. "I'm okay. Are you?" 
I nod, and wonder if it's a lie or not. I might only find out tomorrow. "I'm sorry." 
"It's not your fault. If you'd known…" She shakes her head. "I'm not upset. It's just… shock. That I saw him, that I actually got to say that to him, and then Noah…" Her laugh is shaky. "God, I need a drink." 
I squeeze her hand. "Yeah. Me too."
"Do... you still want to go out?"
I throw her a glance. "Do you?"
Her eyes flicker with disagreement of my insinuation that this was only a terrible moment for her, but she doesn't argue. "Well... It'd be a shame if all that effort of making me not ruin my makeup would go to waste."

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