Something happened. I'm sure of it. Something involving me. And I have no means of recovering any memories of what happened during all those twelve or thirteen missing weeks. It's beginning to bother me. At first I put this stupid concern down to the wrong time of the month but that's past now, and still the missing weeks are on my mind. Why?
At first, I just thought I was being fanciful - reading something into that look that wasn't there, but the more I think about it, the more sure I am. He did something to me. It wasn't the first time he'd looked at me that way either.
The morning before Daniel put the question - the day Malikai turned the machine off, ending the loops - I noticed the colonel - well - grinning at me. Like he knew something I didn't. I asked him what he was smiling at. He just said, "Nothing," but carried on smiling in a way that made me feel very self-conscious, and I had to look away. Colonel O'Neill displays an off-beat sense of humour sometimes, but it's not like him to make me feel so uncomfortable. Or to take overt pleasure from my discomfort.
This just keeps on niggling at me. Whenever my work isn't fully occupying my mind, that look, that... leer... on Colonel O'Neill's face keeps coming back - etched more deeply into my memory with every passing day - and not just in waking hours either. It's begun to trouble my dreams too, so it's obviously bothering me at some deeper level. I have to know what happened. Somehow.
I feel like I hardly slept again last night. It certainly took me a long time to get off to sleep. When I did, finally, fall asleep, I had those dreams again - dreams of a shadowy, formless menace that I couldn't quite get to grips with no matter how hard I tried. As soon as I thought I'd got a hand on it, it slithered away again, remaining just out of reach - out of clear sight - and I awoke feeling uneasy... tense... on edge... and not in the least refreshed.
Maybe I'm being overly suspicious, but I feel I ought to sound out Teal'c first. Although... if the colonel has done something... um... underhanded shall we say, then he could already have arranged an alibi with Teal'c. Well, only one way to find out.
Teal'c had just completed his kel-no-reem and was extinguishing his candles when I arrived.
He cocked his head on one side and looked at me with some curiosity.
"W-well, Daniel said... Daniel asked," I went on, feeling very awkward, "if you'd done anything crazy because everything would reset on the next loop so you wouldn't have to bother about any consequences."
"Er, Teal'c, were you and Colonel O'Neill together all the time you were looping - well, calls of nature excepted?"
"We were not, Major Carter."
So Colonel O'Neill could have been doing... other things, while they were apart. He has no alibi for whatever happened - and I have no witnesses. Oh, I'm getting this all out of proportion. The colonel just isn't like that. My inner demon says, 'Isn't he? He's just a man like any other. And you're just a woman, the weaker vessel...'
I remember my days in training, when I was the only woman - well, after Plotnek and Peabody left, or rather, were driven out. My height made me a little less easy to push around, but the other cadets made my life hell on occasion, too. Granted it was just a handful of them, but none of the rest ever stood up for me, even that night that I came close to being raped. Nor did Major Ziska, whose attitude was 'boys will be boys' and we'd better get used to it, or we'd be no good in the face of the enemy.
They say a dog is just two meals away from being a wolf. Maybe an officer is just a couple of regs. away from being a cadet? I decide to tackle Colonel O'Neill head on. If I'd managed to stand up Crickmore, Judd and Hinselwood back then, I can stand up for myself now.
Oh crap, that's just made things worse - a whole lot worse.
I knocked on the door to the Colonel's office and entered at his invitation. He was busy with the dreaded paperwork.
"Carter?" he smiled, "come on in and take a load off..."
"Um, I'd rather stand, sir."
He raised his eyebrows.
"Sounds a little - official, Carter. What's the problem?"
"Ah, it's - um - it's a little... delicate, sir."
It certainly wasn't an easy subject to broach.
"Spit it out, Carter. I won't bite," he grinned.
That seemed to catch him off guard.
"Of course not. You know me."
"Do I, sir?"
He didn't reply at first - looked a little confused. He chewed his bottom lip, as if uncertain how to proceed.
"You know, if you have something to say, I wish you'd just come right out and say it and leave the cryptic utterances to the folks on Kheb."
"Very well, sir. I'd like to know what you did when you thought there wouldn't be any consequences."
"Yes, sir - that."
He puffed out his cheeks then let the breath go.
"Not a lot really - played a little golf in the 'Gate Room, took up pottery, rode a bike down the corridors, that kind of thing."
"We did a bit of juggling to annoy Daniel..."
"And what about me?"
"What makes you think I did anything involving you, Carter?"
"Well, the way you keep looking at me and... and smirking. Sir."
I looked him straight in the eye. He looked away, paused for a long while, puffed out his cheeks again, cleared his throat and finally said,
"Um, well, actually, I - er - I..." he dropped his voice to a whisper, "kissed you."
"You kissed me?"
"Oh, it was nothing, just a bit of fun - a schoolboyish prank, if you will"
"Excuse me? It was nothing? Just a bit of fun?" I exclaimed. "You kissed me, and it was 'just a bit of fun'?"
"I wasn't disrespecting you, Carter," he protested.
"No sir? It sure looks that way from where I'm standing."
"Hey! You weren't complaining!"
"What? What was I doing?"
"You kissed me back..."
I gasped. I felt my cheeks flaming, lost my nerve and fled.
I feel as if I've been punched in the stomach. This is a real mess. As if Anise's zatarc machine hasn't caused enough trouble! It seems like only a few days ago to me, but it's been over three months for him. A quarter of a year in which to construct a fantasy around me? Us...? Surely not? There is no 'us.' And there was no declaration of any warmer feeling than caring about me. Okay, 'more than he should', but any one of us could have said that about any other team member.
When we go through the 'Gate, we have no means of predicting what we're going to meet on the other side. Yes, we get visuals from the M.A.L.P., and we can send a U.A.V. through, but they only give us snapshots of a very small part of a planet at a particular time. There are plenty of times and places on Earth where such sensors would find an absence of intelligent life-forms - and I'm not talking the World Arena Ice Hall here.
In terrestrial encounters, the military has some idea how people will behave in a given situation. We don't have the luxury of being able to predict what alien beings will do, however human-like they look. So... we have to know each other inside out instead - how each of us thinks, how each will behave in a wide variety of circumstances. This makes us a very close-knit team. It's the only way we manage to survive.
So, while caring for each other the way we do probably violates all sorts of military protocol, caring is as far as it goes. My career comes first, foremost and always in my book. I've had to go through far too much shit in order to gain a truly fulfilling and rewarding position and I am not going to throw it all over for some dewy-eyed and probably short-lived romance. I mean, when we were being tested by that infernal machine, there was no mention of the 'L' word - on either side - and surely caring obviates taking advantage of people you care about. Doesn't it?
Surely not. I wasn't in my right mind then. No. Logic dictates that I wouldn't have agreed to something that only he would remember. I'm not that stupid. Stop panicking, Sam, and get on with it! Like Major Ziska said, just suck it up and deal. Get a grip.
No consequences, my ass. This whole thing has affected me more than I realized. I'm losing focus - can't concentrate on my work properly. Fortunately, it was only a small explosion owing to two compensating errors, but my lab. is a bit of a mess and General Hammond isn't very happy. He suggested I get myself checked out by Janet. Actually, it's not a bad idea. I really need to talk to someone about this.
I tapped on Janet's office door almost timidly. Janet may be my best friend, but this was still going to be difficult.
"Come in," she called, "Sam! What can I do for you?"
I thought about that. Was I letting my imagination run away with me?
"I suppose... But you didn't see that look on his face, Janet. If it really was just a... a prank - something with no consequences, then why did he make sure I knew he'd been up to something by leering at me that way? If he hadn't, I would've been none the wiser. Because it certainly wasn't his usual... um... friendly smile."
"Well, it must have been pretty frustrating, being condemned to relive the same ten hours indefinitely, with no way out," said the Devil's Advocate. "It's not entirely surprising that he and Teal'c resorted to a little juvenile behavior."
Janet looked horrified at what I was suggesting. At this point, my pent up emotions, exacerbated by sleeping badly, got the better of me, and I'm ashamed to say, I burst into tears. Janet came round her desk and hugged me.
"Well, one thing's for sure," she said, "the colonel's ass is sure gonna suffer for this!"
I felt a little better after I'd unburdened myself to Janet, and made up my mind I wasn't going to let Colonel O'Neill's uncharacteristic behaviour get to me. I like to think I'm a strong woman, and I've faced far worse than this. Then I spent another disturbed night of nebulous dreams, and woke feeling like I'd just completed a triathlon.
It occurs to me now, that most other problems I've faced have been clear cut. I've known what I've been up against. Now, I don't. It's unnerving because I'm used to dealing with hard scientific facts. Without them, I'm not sure how to proceed, what action to take.
However I'll have to put my misgivings on the back burner for now, with a two-week mission beginning today. Resettling the endangered Enkarans on a new home world will be pretty time-consuming. At least it should keep my mind off... other things. Fortunately, it's a relatively straightforward mission because I'm concerned that the lack of proper sleep is interfering with my ability to do my job.
Oh boy, I'm definitely not firing on all cylinders. I should've realized why the seventh chevron wouldn't lock a whole lot sooner than I did, and now I'm in a C105 transport plane heading for Siberia...
My work here at the Russian facility has mostly kept me out of Colonel O'Neill's way and our interactions have been purely concerned with the job at hand. What? The mini-sub holds three. How's the colonel going to divide his resources?
Well, that was... unusual. I'm not entirely sure how we got back from the Waterworld, but we're all safe. I'm amazed to find Colonel Maybourne is here too. Maybe I shouldn't be. If I were a little more alert, I might've realized where the Russians were getting their intell. from.
At least, after this gruelling trip, I should be out like a light as soon as I get to bed. Although, as it's long trip back even on the trans-polar route, we're staying overnight in the bunkhouse here. It's funny, I can sleep anywhere when we're camping out off-world - perhaps it's the familiar feel - and smell - of my own sleeping bag - but given a strange bed...
If there's one thing I can't stand, it's 'roaches. Eurghh! I really didn't want to sleep, but I had to. I laid awake for a while listening to the chittering, skittering noises in the dark as they ran across the wooden floor between the heating stove and the bathroom, but eventually exhaustion took over and I slept.
We spent the rest of the night dozing with the light on. 'Roaches weren't the only problem we encountered there. Over breakfast, we were all scratching - well, except Teal'c. Seems the mattresses had fleas. And now, so do we.
Which meant time in the infirmary being relieved of our unwanted stowaways. Janet's pronounced us all clear, but we're still itching at the very thought.
Couldn't help smiling, though, when Colonel O'Neill said,
"Ya know, I swear the doc.'s got in a special supply of blunt needles just for me!"
Yay! Go, Janet!
And now home to my own bed.
Or not. Oh God! Loder's dead and Daniel's disappeared. Again. Dr Rothman came back with the news. SG-11 have gone after the creature, believed to be an Unas, that dragged Daniel away. At least Daniel was still alive when... But that was three hours ago. We have to get Daniel back.
On the plus side, at least I slept better than for a long time - no dreams. Colonel O'Neill's stuck to the strictly professional and my mind stayed away from. Maybe I've turned the corner. Maybe I can put it all behind me, though the not knowing is hard when you're used to dealing with solid facts.
The transference of the Enkarans went very well. S.G.-4 had started the move in our absence and made good progress, and we completed the mission in excellent time. We are now being hailed as heroes, which really makes us feel good. Colonel O'Neill in particular is looking extremely pleased with himself - smug, even. Don't know if it was the ease and success of the operation - it's so nice to have a straightforward mission where everything goes according to plan - or whether I'm just getting used to poor quality sleep, but I'm really not feeling too bad right now. Or of course it could just be the release of beta-endorphins combined with adrenaline.
We were just congratulating ourselves on a job well done when trouble struck in the form of a ship full of alien beings bent on transforming the new Enkaran home world to their own requirements, and everything went to hell in a handcart. We were in a real double bind situation and Colonel O'Neill seemed to take it very personally. It seemed he didn't want to lose his hero status with the Enkarans because he took on a very one-sided stance in the whole affair.
I slept badly again - had bad dreams again. We were back on Netu - at least I was. I was reliving Jolinar's time there, experiencing what she went through with Bynarr. I couldn't see his face. It was dark and he was pressing hot hard kisses on me. I tried not to struggle - to let him have his way. I needed him to believe I loved him. Besides, he was so much more powerful than I, and I was afraid of what he would do if I did struggle.
This isn't going to go away any time soon. I contemplate asking Janet for sleeping tablets, but think better of it. That's just surrendering control of your life - or a part of it - to the chemicals. They don't make the problem go away. It'll still be there in the morning. No, I have to deal with the problem myself. I have to tackle him again - be more assertive. Which is going to be difficult given that he outranks me.
As soon as I arrive in Cheyenne Mountain, I check that Colonel O'Neill's here. He is. I make a bee-line for his office. At the door, I set my chin, knock and march straight in without waiting for a response. The die is cast. Maybe.
Well that went well! Not.
When I went in, the Colonel looked up in surprise.
"Carter!" he exclaimed, "well this is a pleasant... Ah, what do you want, Major?"
"It's about you taking advantage of me while we were going through all the time loops."
"Oh, for crying out loud, it was just a kiss! I did not take advantage of you!"
"So you say, sir."
"What? You're saying I'm lying?"
"No, sir, I'm sure you did kiss me, and that in itself constitutes an assault, not to mention"
"Chain of Command Protocol, frat. regs., yadda, yadda."
"Yes sir, none of which you can be charged with because of that 'No Consequences' clause in your service contract."
"Don't you think you're being a little melodramatic here, Carter?" he asked, lowering his voice, perhaps in the hope that I'd lower mine.
"Point is, sir, I wouldn't have thought you'd kiss me under any circumstances, bearing in mind Air Force Instruction 36-2909 - with which I suggest you renew your acquaintance. By your own admission, you've taken advantage of a subordinate officer by kissing her, when she couldn't very easily say no and would have her memory wiped immediately afterwards. Which is not only a despicable thing to do, but cowardly, too."
"Yes. Sir. If it wasn't cowardly, then why don't we go back to the 'Gate Room and you can do it again in front of the entire base!"
I paused for breath and for him to respond, but he didn't - just sat in stunned silence - so I plowed on.
"I don't think so, sir," I shouted back. "I am the victim here, not you."
With that, I - well, I suppose you could say I flounced out of his office and slammed the door. Not a lot else I could do. I set off at the double not really knowing where I was going, rounded the corner and collided with Daniel.
"Something the matter, Sam?"
"Oh, give the man a cigar. Great observational skills there, Daniel," I snapped.
"Ah, well you do seem a little upset. Why don't you come to my office and I'll make you a coffee - Blue Mountain?"
"Um, I'd rather we went to the commissary, but I'll take you up on the coffee - any coffee."
"Oh. Ah, Sam, it - ah - it sounds like you need..." He looked me in the face and concluded gently, "a shoulder to cry on?"
I nodded numbly.
"How about I take you out to the Celestial Café? We can be both public and private."
"You... know, Daniel?"
"Ah, no. I'm adding two and two together here, but I've no idea what the right answer is."
Daniel drove us down to North Union Boulevard. Neither of us said a word. I was grateful to him for his sensitivity in not pushing me before I was ready to talk.
"Yes I was. Am..."
So I told him everything. He wisely refrained from putting his arm round me, just kept me plied with coffee. And rolls.
"So what do you want to do, Sam?" he asked when I finally ground to a halt.
"Ideally, I want Colonel O'Neill to transfer to another team."
"You sound surprised," I said.
"W-well, yeah. It - ah - it sounds a little extreme..."
"Daniel, I can't go on the way things are, and call me selfish if you like, but I don't think I should have to leave S.G.-1 for something I had no control over. Do you?"
"Ah, well... Does it have to be like that? I mean, I can see you're very upset, but don't you think... um... maybe you're... er..."
"No! Well, maybe a little..."
"I mean, if he only did it once for - for a prank, ask yourself why didn't he kiss you as well - and General Hammond too, come to that?"
"I mean, why stop at me? Most worrying of all, why stop at 'just' kissing?"
Daniel was silent. I could see his mind processing the possibilities.
"Daniel, I've tried - believe me, I've tried - to put it behind me and move on, but it just keeps coming back. My trust in his command has just - I don't know - evaporated, I guess. It's something I always took for granted before. Now I'll always be aware of his exploiting me, wondering what's going through his mind - if he's remembering - every time he looks at me - and when he might take advantage again."
"You think he'd do that?"
"I don't know!" I cried. "That's the thing. I just don't know. Like you, I wouldn't've thought he would do it once. How can I be certain he won't do it again?"
"You - ah - you don't think, maybe, he's learnt his lesson?"
"I don't know, Daniel. This has turned my world upside-down. What I thought was solid ground under my feet well it feels like I've been Wile E. Coyote running on fresh air, and now I'm falling..."
And yes, I did end up crying on his shoulder. With anyone else, I would have felt a real wuss, but I knew Daniel understood.
When we got back to Cheyenne Mountain, I found a message waiting for me from General Hammond.
"Oops," Daniel said guiltily. "Guess I should've cleared it with him first. I didn't think."
"It's all right, Daniel. Besides, I don't think it's anything to do with us taking time out. It's not as if we had anything scheduled today, and besides, it's only me he wants to see."
"Maybe," Daniel conceded. "I'll wait for you outside his office. You won't be alone."
"Major Carter, come in."
His face was inscrutable. Which didn't look good.
"Sit down, Major," he continued.
He waited until I was settled, then dropped the bombshell.
"I've approved your transfer to S.G-7 as of the end of this month."
He looked almost as confused as I sounded. I could almost see the wheels turning in his mind.
"Well perhaps you'd better have a word with him, Major. In the meantime, perhaps you'd like me to keep your transfer on hold?"
"Er, yes, General. I mean, yes please, sir."
I left General Hammond's office in a daze, and was glad to find Daniel waiting for me. At least I have one colleague - friend - I can rely on.
"Sam, you're as white as a sheet," he said with concern.
"The General's approved my transfer to S.G.-7," I replied in a subdued tone, adding as an afterthought, "pending my discussing it with Colonel O'Neill."
"It appears that while we were away, Colonel O'Neill asked - on my behalf - for me to be transferred to another team because 'I no longer wish to serve under his command'."
Daniel just stared at me, uncomprehending.
"It's perfectly true. I don't wish to serve under Colonel O'Neill any more, but I can't very well say why. I have no proof - can't ever obtain any proof. Without it, I'll just look like a hysterical female trying to make trouble for the Colonel, and bang goes any hope of advancing my career. I am well and truly screwed umm.........I do not want to stay in the same team as Colonel O'Neill and neither do I wish to leave S.G.-1., but what can I do? He's the one in the wrong. Why should I be pushed out of the team I love?"
"You shouldn't, Sam," he replied, his face hard and set. "And you won't be. I promise."
He took my hand and led me up to the infirmary. I was suddenly worried about what Daniel planned to do and concerned at involving Daniel in my problem, but felt too washed out to make more than a token protest before he handed me over to Janet.
Dunno what Daniel said to Janet but she's got me in bed and under sedation. Can't keep my eyes o
"Really. You were exhausted. It was bound to catch up with you eventually. You're looking better - got a little colour back in your cheeks," Janet smiles. "Feel up to seeing a couple of visitors?"
Janet gave me time to visit the bathroom and pull a comb through my hair, then ushered in Daniel and Teal'c. No Colonel O'Neill. Normally, when one of his team was in the infirmary, he was getting under the feet of Janet or whoever was on duty. I'd always appreciated his devotion to his team. Now I was glad he'd stayed away.
"Hi Sam," Daniel smiled. "Nice to see you're looking more like your usual self."
Teal'c inclined his head and gave me one of his rare smiles - a real treat.
"Good to see you guys."
I remembered my forthcoming reassignment, and my smile faltered.
"Sorry I'll be seeing less of you in the future," I sighed.
"Ah, no Sam, you won't," Daniel said with his gentle smile.
I looked the question.
"It's all sorted out, Sam. I promised, remember?"
"Yes, but... Daniel, what have you done?"
"Ah, I - er - we -" he said, looking at Teal'c, "acted on your behalf and had a quiet word with Jack."
"So then I asked him what else he'd done? He asked what you'd been saying about him behind his back. Which... made me a little annoyed. I pointed out that, as you knew he'd kissed you, it was understandable that you'd wonder how much further he'd gone, bearing in mind that you had no means of knowing one way or the other. I - er - pointed out that you were in a similar position to someone who's had rohypnol slipped into her drink at a party and wakes up next morning not knowing what happened the night before."
"Daniel! The 'date-rape' drug? You didn't! What did he say to that?"
"Colonel O'Neill was inclined to bluster and to protest his innocence," Teal'c said, "but he was persuaded to see it from your point of view. We made further representations regarding his attempt to solve the problem by transferring you to another team against your wishes."
"Then Jack said he thought he was acting in accordance with your wishes..."
"...So I informed him that, had he had any interest in your welfare, he would have taken the trouble to ascertain your wishes..."
"...Rather than try to sweep the whole mess under the carpet."
"There is no carpet in O'Neill's office, DanielJackson." Teal'c said looking puzzled.
He followed our exchange of looks and raised an eloquent eyebrow in acknowledgment of yet another arcane Tau'ri metaphor.
"Ahh," he responded with a slight inclination of his head, then continued. "We subsequently explained that his actions had caused him to forfeit our confidence in his ability to lead S.G.-1."
I looked at my two heroes and felt myself tearing up. Daniel passed me a tissue.
"Thanks," I sniffed. "So what's going to happen now? I mean, even if General Hammond approved the colonel's transfer from S.G.-1, the rest of the base is going to want an explanation if the S.G.C.'s 2IC isn't leading the first team."
"It's all been settled, Sam. You don't have a thing to worry about."
The two looked so smug that I couldn't begin to imagine what they'd managed to cook up between them. Daniel grinned at my look of bafflement.
"Come on, Daniel, give. Don't keep me in suspense," I pleaded.
"Ah, well, as Jack's just failed his latest medical - the knees, the back, take your pick"
"Janet! You've roped Janet into this, too, haven't you?"
"You didn't think I'd be left out, did you?" Janet asked, emerging from behind Teal'c.
Judging by the gleam in her eye, the colonel must have found the unscheduled examination more than ordinarily gruelling. The evil grin that accompanied the thumbs-up confirmed it.
"He's already put in for a transfer to another command," she went on. "336th Survival Training Group at Fairchild Air Force Base."
"A desk job," Daniel added with a hint of Schadenfreude.
"This will take effect immediately upon the appointment of his successor here," Teal'c concluded.
"His successor," I murmured, suddenly feeling a little sad. It seemed like the end of an era and I was so sorry that it had to end this way - wished there was some other way - but it avoided the inevitable awkwardness we would have felt had we kept bumping into each other in the S.G.C. I guess the colonel did put my interests before his own in the end, and I was grateful for that. Now, we had to move on.
"Penny for your thoughts, Sam?" Daniel broke in.
"What? Oh, I was just... wondering who our new C.O. will be. Colonel Reynolds is the next ranking officer."
"No?" I ask suspiciously. "You mean you know already who it's going to be?"
My team mates exchanged another smug smile.
"Well, the officer concerned is going for a little in-service training, after which she will be taking command of S.G.-1," Daniel grinned.
It took a little while for the penny to drop, by which time the conniving pair were sporting face-splitting grins.
"Me?" I squeaked. "You have to be kidding! General Hammond would never"
"Ah, actually he was fairly quick to see our point of view and to acknowledge the sense of it. He knew you had our support when Colonel Makepeace was given command of S.G.-1."
"Also, it will not be the first time you have led S.G.-1 on a mission and, apart from ColonelO'Neill, you have logged far more mission time than any other team leader in this facility."
"And as all the other teams are working efficiently, it seems more logical to give command of S.G.-1 to you than to disrupt any of them."
"Wow," was all I could think of to say, and then, "Thank you, guys. You're the best!"
"In the meantime, S.G.-1 is on stand-down, and Jack's on indefinite leave," Daniel concluded, "so you won't have to see him again if you don't want to. He would like you to see him once more before he leaves though, and I think you should."
He looked back towards the infirmary door, and I became aware of Colonel O'Neill hesitating in the shadows there. I nodded. As he approached, my eyes opened wide. His left eye was nearly closed and showing signs of developing a spectacular shiner. Only then did I notice the grazed knuckles on Teal'c's right hand.
"I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me... Sometime. I've no hard feelings towards you. None whatever. You're an admirable wom officer, one of the best I've ever served with - the more reason for me to regard my - my actions towards you as... contemptible - and... And I wish you all success with your new command."
He hesitated uncomfortably for a moment then saluted, abruptly turned on his heel and marched out, leaving me speechless. Almost, I felt sorry for him. I did feel sorry for him. His unwonted humility more than anything else made me think that maybe he was telling the truth. It was 'just a kiss.'
Then I remembered that he'd tried to solve his problem by, in effect, kicking me out of his team, and I didn't feel quite so forgiving. He did seem to have got the message though...
"Ah, Daniel, could you go after him and tell him, yes, I do forgive him. I don't want this to end with any bad feeling on either side. And thank you both. You've been... amazing - wonderful!"
I settle back against the pillows as they leave, at peace at last. I contemplate whom I might have as my fourth. And I think I'll have my hair cut. I grin to myself. A buzz-cut maybe, or a flattop? Don't want to give anyone else the idea that I'm just a dumb blonde he can take liberties with...