Ross looked amazed. "Wow."
I smiled shyly.
Ross took my hand and kissed it.
"You're mind-blowing, Rosa: beyond belief. Though I hate the fact that you're defending a right to feel awful, you're thinking thoroughly and staying true to yourself which I find really admirable."
I blushed slightly.
"I ... I find myself having no choice but to let you feel your guilt. No matter how ridiculous it is. And ... don't feel obliged to do what I want. I guess I was being a bit selfish just now and really quite ignorant of the circumstances of your negativity. I hope you don't think I'm some dominant control freak."
I laughed. "No! Of course not. And Ross, I'm not obliged to do anything - I just physically can't resist you."
Ross looked worried. "In the sense that I'm strong enough to overpower you?"
I laughed again. "No, I know you wouldn't use your strength to make my resistance useless: I meant that I'm too captivated by you to really say no."
"So I might get lots of these choices and have to rely on my sense of right and wrong to keep you the same?"
"Yeah but usually I bet you'll just have to stop yourself kissing me."
"Darn," Ross muttered, and then he grinned to show he was teasing. His eyes really shone as he gazed at me: something I found a little disconcerting.
"Ross," I said, blushing deeply. "Can you stop staring at me like I'm a wondrous being?"
"I'd love to grant your request but I don't think it's possible," he replied, in a voice that made me want to melt.
"Can you just kiss me then or do something to level the playing field?"
"Aw, my kisses aren't wondrous."
I raised an eyebrow. "You wanna bet?"
"Yeah. And I'm going to tickle you until you agree with me."
"Wait!" I said as his hands reached for my waist. They stopped midair. Seriously, I murmured "That'd be my soul you want to change."
Ross looked deeply moved. I bit my lip, half anticipating bawling.
But he contained himself and said "Just tell me what I should do, Rosa."
"Um... kiss me?" Great, now he was acting mesmerised.
He took my hands gently and pulled me into a sitting position. Without letting go of them, he leant in and kissed me powerfully.
It ended and I gazed up into Ross's eyes, breathless. He looked like he was in awe of me.
I snapped my fingers in front of his face and said "Snap out of it."
He just moved my hand out of the way so he could see my face.
"Jack," I called. "I think I've unintentionally hypnotised Ross."
He walked in seconds later, almost as if he'd been waiting for me to need him. He looked amused as he stood opposite us.
"You've done what?"
"He won't stop staring at me. I said a couple of things that inspired him."
"Right. And you want me to do what, exactly?"
"Make him normal again."
"How? He's in love with you - you didn't use magic on him.
"But I'm uncomfortable," I complained.
Jack sighed. "Okay. It's like you've caught his will. So give him some power back. Submit to him somehow."
"But he's hypnotised. He won't tell me to do anything."
"Then ask him to. Anything else?"
"Why did this happen?"
Jack sat. Ross hadn't appeared to react to any of this. He was sitting there, stationary except from the movements his hands were making as he stroked mine and that of his eyes as he occasionally blinked.
"There's a balance of power in a romantic relationship. You don't notice it if you're more interested in experience than analysis. You and I always had it pretty even - occasionally, you gave me a bit more. We never directly did the possessive/ submissive thing: we belonged to each other and loved to share." Jack paused, looking wistful.
"We had it good," I said, determined to smile as my mind switched to reminiscing mode.
"Yeah," Jack agreed, smiling back. "But this relationship is much more intense. The power game has the subtlest influencing factors. I think that Ross's experiences have resulted in him having a powerful personality."
"But he's submissive?" I pointed out.
Jack's smile widened. "You have a powerful nature. Well, powerful's the wrong word - I'd say it was strong rather than powerful. But it's dominant within you and it controls your actions. Thinking about it, there's probably a subtle battle going on between your nature (your goodness) and Ross's... influence. Effect is probably a better word for it. So, if I'm right, you tipped the balance of power by winning the battle of defining characteristics."
I cocked my head sideways. "When did you turn into a confusing genius? And how do you know all this stuff?"
Jack shrugged. "I notice things, sometimes. Oh, by the way, did you refuse Ross a chance to make things equal between you?"
"Um, what sort of ... things?"
"Power-related. Yikes, that sounds evil. I really just mean things like ... kissing you passionately, ... um, tickling - yeah, tickling establishes control. Control of the relationship, not the lover, I mean. Yeah, maybe I should just shut up now." His cheeks were pink.
I laughed. "I get you. You meant control like self-control, not like dominance." I frowned. Thinking back on Jack's examples, it was as if he had magically seen what had happened with me and Ross before Ross had become submissive. Oh dear. "Yeah, I did refuse him. Twice."
Jack looked sympathetic. "He tried to object to your conscience?"
"The first time, yes."
"Well, that's helped him lose the battle. It's fine, though. There's no such thing as a perfectly stable relationship where the couple never fights or doesn't have to compromise."
I smiled. "Thanks a lot, Jack."
He kissed my cheek. "Have fun."
And with that, he stood up and left.