"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I only wanted to discourage you from wanting to be controlled. I never realised that would happen. I should have just waited until the effect of my kisses had subsided but I'm so foolish. I didn't think."
"What happened?" I mumbled.
"You were willing to give up the instinct to resist predation."
"Like... like my will to live?"
"No - that's emotional. Your instinct to fight for life is natural. It's as ingrained in you as ... well, I can't find anything to compare it to. But it's important: vital. It's the reason you try to resurface after spending too much time underwater, why suicide is so wickedly difficult. It's part of being alive."
I was quiet again, then. I didn't want to dwell on the subject any longer: it scared me. All I wanted was to lose myself in the comfort of Ross's arms. It was safe there.
Ross let go and said "I'm going to make us some hot chocolate. We're both shaken."
Despite my need of his presence, I let him go. I felt his own need, though his was to do something. As he left the room, I put back on my top.
The hot chocolate Ross made was delicious and indeed comforting. But I cared more for Ross who sat there and told me I was perfect.
When we'd finished our drinks, Ross asked me if I'd like to sit with Jack who was in the living room watching a film.
I replied in the affirmative and together we went downstairs. We snuggled up together on the sofa, me beside an amused Jack. We watched some action movie I couldn't really concentrate on since Ross's arm was around me and he kept kissing my face and neck. I put my own arms around him and we became tangled in each other's embrace.
After the film, Jack stood and stretched. He looked at me and Ross and smiled.
"Want to play Scrabble?" he asked.
"Oh yes please," I replied at the same time that Ross said "No thanks."
Jack grinned. He looked at Ross and said "Well, you can go and sit in your room and be bored then."
"And let you play a game alone with my rose-dove? No chance."
"You'll have to sit and watch then," I said.
"That should be okay," Ross said, shrugging. He winked at me. "Maybe I'll distract you."
I frowned. "That's not fair."
Ross chuckled. He and I rose to our feet and followed Jack up to his room.
"Best place in the world," I murmured as we entered, wanting to tease Ross.
"Well, Jack is the best friend," he teased back.
Jack found the Scrabble game under his bed and put it on top of his desk. He moved everything else to the floor, moved the desk so it was nearer the middle of the bed and sat on the chair. He smiled at us.
"I could never match up to either of you," he said modestly.
Ross and I sat on the bed and drew up the score table while Jack set up the board and handed me a letter bench. After setting his own on his side of the table, he shook the drawstring bag of letters and held it out to me. I pulled out seven: ‘P', ‘H', ‘L', ‘I', ‘R', ‘A', ‘E'.
Ross examined them while Jack took his.
‘HARPIE,' he thought in my head.
‘Isn't the singular Harpy?' I replied.
‘I'll go and look it up.' And to my amusement - and Jack's bewilderment, he got up and went off to find a dictionary.
"Where's he going?" Jack asked.
"To find a dictionary."
Jack laughed. "Is he helping you?"
I nodded, grinning.
Ross returned, carrying a massive hardback dictionary. He sat beside me and flicked through it while Jack looked at his own letters, stifling laughter.
Ross sighed, closing the book. He touched my arm and thought ‘Yeah, you're right.'
"Who's going first?" I asked aloud as I thought to Ross ‘HELP would give us a good score.'
"Um, I don't mind," Jack answered.
"You can," Ross said.
When I looked at him questioningly, he thought to me ‘He might put down an S.'
But unfortunately, Jack put GOUT, gaining himself 10 points as the letters lay over the double word score in the middle of the board.
Instead of HELP, I put HAG, using Jack's G, and earned myself 15 points as the H was on a triple letter tile.
Ross dutifully wrote down the scores, putting a love heart around mine which made me giggle. Jack and I picked out letters, and N and I were added to my letter bench.
‘PERIL,' thought Ross.
‘Good one if a helpful letter comes down,' I told him ‘but we should try to use that Y. Let's see what Jack puts.'
Jack borrowed the dictionary while it was his turn. He took a while but finally he put a T above the O of GOUT and a G beneath it, making two words because the A of HAG was adjacent to his T. His T and G were on double letter tiles, so he received a score of ten points.
Ross crossed out Jack's previous score and wrote 20 beneath it and then I made PITY using the T from Jack's GOUT. I and Y were on double letter tiles so I got 14 points, making my total 29.
The game continued and we made some fantastic word. The longest was PITYING (using my PITY), which scored Jack 11 points but the highest scoring was JOTS because the S was on a triple word tile. That gave Jack (yes, him again) 57 points. It was no wonder he won, though to be fair there had been points at which I had been in the lead as well.
The final scores, when I had empted my bench and Jack had been left with O and I, were 256 and 267.
Ross was hilarious, demanding that I should get a prize of some sort - especially since we weren't awarding prizes - and Jack was modest, saying he had been lucky with his letters. He shook my hand saying "Well played" and then started to tidy everything away. Of course it was at this moment that an N was still lying in the letter bag which caused more laughter. Ross and I helped by putting the benches in the box and then we returned to Ross's bedroom.
We sat on the bed and I laughed as Ross said "You should have won."
When he said "Jack cheated you out of a win somehow", I put my arms around him and sighed contentedly.
"Jack won fair and square, Ross. But if you want me to feel special and proud, maybe you should do something about it."
Ross chuckled and hugged me back. Somehow he managed to make us fall over so we were lying on our sides.
"It would be my pleasure," he replied.