“When did you stop thinking of me as an instrument?”
“When did you stop thinking of me as a tool -- a way to get to Magnussen? When did you start thinking of me as a friend?”
An answer forms on Mary’s lips. You were always my friend first. It would be easy to say. It might soften Janine’s cold gaze.
After nearly a year without word from her former best friend, all Mary wants is to gain forgiveness.
She doesn’t lie to friends, though. Not anymore. Not about the big things.
Instead, she takes a deep breath and tells the worst of it.
“It wasn’t a sudden thing. When I first started talking to you, it wasn’t about you at all. I was just using you.” Mary keeps her eyes locked with Janine’s as she says it, even though she wants to look away. “By the time I was engaged, you were my best friend, truly. I can’t pinpoint the change -- it happened gradually. But,” she exhales, “I never stopped thinking of you as a tool, as well -- not until I left the job.”
Janine is silent. Mary looks down at the table, waits to be told to get leave. She’s glad she had this brief chance to see Janine again, painful though it is.
“You have changed,” Janine says finally, and Mary looks back up, startled. “Want tea?”
Oh... it was a test. And she hasn’t failed yet. She feels a faint spark of hope.
Janine stands in the kitchen doorway after putting the kettle on, studying her. “You loved it, didn’t you? Your black ops job?” Her voice, while not exactly warm, is milder than before.
“Yes,” Mary says, unhesitating. “Very much. Most of it, anyway.”
“All that time, I just thought you were unbelievably devoted to being a nurse at the clinic.” Janine says wryly. “Would you have kept doing it, if your cover hadn’t been blown?”
A quick head shake. “No. I hurt too many people.” Which doesn’t mean she never misses it. Often the cases are enough -- the cases and her family -- but there are moments of longing.
Janine nods, slowly. “Yes. You did.” Mary grimaces acknowledgement. Then, “I believe you.”
She’s silent for a bit, and Mary can’t read her, for all that she tries. Then, “John and Sherlock have forgiven you, evidently. What about your other friends, when they found out about your lies? Cath?”
When Mary’s eyes flicker down, Janine laughs. (That has to be a good sign, doesn’t it? Her laugh isn’t angry.) “You’re shitting me -- Cath already knew? Was she a spy, too? No, nevermind, you can’t answer that.” Mary says nothing. Some secrets are not hers to divulge. Janine shakes her head, disappears into the kitchen.
She emerges with tea and honey fresh from the combs outside. She pours, watching Mary. Janine’s gaze feels possibly a touch warmer now, softer than when they started talking. Mary wonders if she’s imagining that change.
“So you want my forgiveness?” Janine asks, after they both sip.
“Please,” Mary blurts. Not even ashamed of how raw with hope her voice is.
Janine arches an eyebrow. “Do you deserve it?”
Mary sets her cup down. She considers about everything she did to Janine, culminating with hitting her over the head and lying about it. She doesn’t have any logical reason to expect forgiveness from everyone she’s hurt. Somehow, she has John and Sherlock’s, in spite of that. But she has theirs more because they’re a special kind of fucked up -- a kind that she is, as well -- than for any other reason. Janine is a genuinely good person.
“No,” she admits, finally. “I really don’t.”
Janine nods, her mouth twisting in agreement. “Well, then,” Janine says softly, “you’ll have to earn it.”
Mary’s heart leaps. “How?” Mary wonders if Janine needs someone assassinated or intimidated. It’s been too long since she’s done either.
Janine’s smiles. It’s strangely predatory, though not exactly unfriendly. “You’re going to let me hit you.”
Mary blinks. “Sorry?”
“You hit me. Now I’m going to return the favor.”
Their gazes are locked; Mary can’t look away. But she hasn’t any idea what to make of the statement. Frowning, she says slowly, “You want to knock me over the head -- like I did to you?”
“Oh,” says Janine archly, “I think we could come up with something more fun than that, don’t you?”
Mary’s feels a prickling of static on her skin, a surge of heat in her belly. If it weren’t for the circumstances, she could swear -- “Are you flirting with me?”
Janine raises an eyebrow. “Depends on whether telling you that I’m going to take it out of your hide counts as flirting.”
Good lord -- she feels heat rising in her cheeks. Flustered as an innocent schoolgirl. This is nowhere in the realm of what she’d expected, and it’s a lot to process. “I didn’t know you were into that.” Into pain, into girls -- Mary isn’t sure quite what she means as she says it.
“Isn’t it funny, the things we don’t know about each other -- Mary?” Janine says her current name like a challenge, but this time her smile is more playful. “What exactly is it that you thought I did to Sherlock Holmes seven times a night?” She winks.
Mary laughs, startled. “Oh.” It comes out a lot breathier than she intended. She’s used a riding crop and related implements on Sherlock before, a few times. He’s never said a word about anyone else doing the same to him before, though; he does keep his secrets.
Janine, too, apparently -- she never mentioned such activities with Albert or any of her other exes. Mary has a sudden image of Janine whipping a bound Sherlock, and her breath catches.
Janine’s still smiling, daring her.
It’s been a long path to wanting to say yes to this.
The first boy she fucked, in high school -- finished in the blink of an eye, forgotten almost as fast. Disappointing. She didn’t say yes to anyone else, not for a long time. Too busy caring for her mother, and figuring out what to do with herself, after.
The man who trained with her, who also wanted to be a medic, who let her tease him and push him around, who took it good-naturedly with a “yes, ma’am.” Something sparked inside her at that. But in the bedroom, he was disappointingly normal -- expecting her to lie back, to let him control her. They didn’t last.
A few men in the C.I.A. Once or twice each. Boring, normal, never what she was looking for -- which was good, because she couldn’t afford attachments.
Her first woman, also at Langley. Confident outside the bedroom, she was so soft, pliant, hesitant once they kissed. And when Mary pushed her down on the bed and took charge, when she issued requests that were indistinguishable from orders, the other agent responded marvelously, served her eagerly. It was achingly perfect in a way sex had never been. For a while after that, Mary thought she was a lesbian.
Later, in Russia (don’t sleep with him you’d be a fool he’s a dangerous criminal don’t you dare), the man who changed her mind. He asked her to tie him up, to beat him. She did, and she loved it. She got off on watching him buck in pain, even without touching herself at all; by the time she grabbed his head and shoved it between her legs, she was inevitably already dripping. They both loved it when she roughly fucked his face, then beat him some more before allowing him his release.
When a partner entirely lacked that spark, it never worked. David was so unthinkingly conventional, so gentle and protective, sometimes she wanted to scream. She cheated on him twice, to keep from crawling out of her skin.
The second time she cheated was the first woman she submitted to. She wouldn’t have thought she’d enjoy that, but it turned out the power dynamic could thrill her just as much from the other end of things. She loved watching the gleeful glint in the other woman’s eyes as she shouted and squirmed. The pain was unexpectedly pleasing as well. And submitting to a woman -- well. It didn’t chafe the way that it did when she’d ceded power to a man, someone who took it for granted.
By the time she met John, she knew what she liked and needed. Also knew that she didn’t need it from every one-night stand. Which was, of course, what John was -- because she didn’t do relationships. Couldn’t afford them in her line of work. Still, she was extremely pleased to find that John didn’t protest at all when she shoved him up against the wall of her flat. He gasped rewardingly when she bit his lower lip, hard. And he stared at her, wide-eyed and inarguably aroused, when she straddled him on her bed, pinning his arms with her legs, and rode him until she came with a shout.
When it turned out not to be a one-night stand -- when it turned out to be a many more-night stand than she’d ever had before -- she had more chance to explore with him more thoroughly than with any of her past partners. John was the first man she felt comfortable enough with to switch roles from time to time. There was a fluidity and intensity to the dynamic between them that kept Mary on her toes, excited. And if she sometimes wished he were more into toys and elaborate scenes, if she wished he craved being beaten within an inch of his life the way she craved bestowing such a beating, it was a rare wish.
She’d thought when they married that it was the end of new partners, and she was content with the thought. (Well, all right, she’d had lascivious thoughts about both Janine and Anthea from time to time -- didn’t most women have such thoughts about their friends from time to time? She assumed so -- but never with any real intent to follow through.)
Then came the night, half a year after Gwen’s birth, when Sherlock came to her room.
John was downstairs on baby duty. Sherlock knew that -- usually slept with John on such nights, if he slept at all -- had scheduling spreadsheets that proved as much -- so why was he here?
“Mary, will you --?” He started, strangely hesitant. She met his eyes and shivered.
It turned out that she and Sherlock had some complementary cravings. There were some kinds of release he only desired from John. But there were other things she could do for him even better than John could, once in a while, as Sherlock needed. (Though John sometimes enjoyed watching, or lending a hand.) And oh, watching Sherlock writhe as the marks appeared on his pale skin was always immensely satisfying, particularly after he’d been mouthy -- and sometimes, she was fairly certain, he was mouthy with exactly that consequence in mind.
For the first time she could remember, she felt entirely sated. She knew what she enjoyed, and she had it in abundance. And whenever anyone asked her for something in the bedroom, she gladly said yes.
Mary is about to say yes -- of course yes -- when a thought occurs to her. “John.” Sherlock wouldn’t mind; he’s dismissive in the extreme of concepts like jealousy or possessiveness, and it’s never been clear to her whether he views their occasional pain play as sexual, anyway (god knows it gets her off, but she masturbates after, alone). But John? Mary isn’t sure. It’s never come up before -- any of the three of them wanting to play with someone else. There aren’t any rules, and she can’t guess what he would say.
Janine cocks her head. “Mmm, yes. John. Jealous man, isn’t he?” She laughs. “You should have seen him when I kissed Sherlock -- he was seething with rage. I never understood how Sherlock could be so oblivious to his interest for so long.” She raises her eyebrows. “Won’t it be interesting to see if he’s as jealous when I’m with you?”
Mary starts to open her mouth to discuss further, to negotiate. Janine holds up a finger, and she hesitates. Mary should insist, should call John before this goes any further. Instead, she allows herself to submit. Janine’s gesture, accompanied by a definitive head shake, chokes her words off, effective as a leash.
Janine smiles and pulls out her phone. Mary’s brow furrows -- Janine doesn’t have John’s number, but she’s dialing anyway. A moment later: “Sherl, hi.”
It’s the familiar greeting of friends who’ve talked recently. Sherlock and his secrets.
“Nothing’s changed with the bees,” Janine says. “I’m actually calling for another reason.” She stares into Mary’s eyes as she says, “I’m going to take your girl and mark her up rather a lot.”
Mary gasps. Knowing and hearing it spoken are two different things. A snake of heat coils inside her.
She can hear Sherlock pause, then his rumble of a reply which she can’t make out.
“Yes, I rather think so,” Janine says. “What’s John going to say when you tell him?”
Another rumble. “Seventy percent chance, you think?” Janine muses. “Bet you can raise that if you tell him with his prick in your hand. Make him think it’s a fantasy first.”
A little moan escapes Mary’s lips at that thought. Janine reaches out a finger and places it against her mouth -- Mary’s stills obediently. “No higher than eighty-five? Well, that’s all right. Mary likes to live dangerously, doesn’t she?”
As with every other statement Janine’s made into the phone, this is not an invitation for Mary to comment. This is a negotiation about her, occurring entirely without her input. Everything about this is fucked up. She’s slick between her legs, getting more so with each moment.
Janine studies her, and Mary feels her cheeks heating, wondering if her arousal shows on her face. Janine toys with her mouth, pulling her lower lip down. “Have you ever --” the rumble cuts her off. “No, I suppose she likes to be the one holding the whip. And you like to be the one feeling it, don’t you? Well, this will be fun.” Janine arches an eyebrow.
“Thanks, Sherl. Oh, one last question -- what kind of pressure can her nipples take?”
Mary’s breath stutters again. She hears the sounds of Sherlock presumably deducing the answer, since he has no personal experience in the area, and it’s humiliating to be discussed like this. Her nipples are at this point aching, and she’s throbbing against her soaked underwear. She resists the urge to grind against the chair.
Janine hangs up the phone, then grins at her. “You’re mine for the afternoon. And I’m going to hit you.” It’s still not a question. Janine jerks her head toward the bedroom. “Come with me.” Mary does.
Janine has laid out on the bed a wide selection of floggers, canes, and paddles -- and one actual whip. Mary is impressed, and a bit envious. She wants to ask questions about where Janine got some of these -- later. She’s mentally in a place right now where she prefers not to say anything.
Mary feels Janine’s gaze heavy upon her as she stares at the assorted implements, picks up and handles a few, whacking her palm to test the sensation. She’s been on the receiving end of a flogging occasionally (if never from Sherlock) and she knows she’s more of a fan of the thud than the sting -- there’s a suede flogger that she would very much enjoy.
She picks up a thin birch cane and hands it to Janine. Janine raises an eyebrow, then nods.
“Do you want a safeword?” she asks. Mary shakes her head. Janine’s lip quirks. “Why am I not surprised?” She doesn’t argue, though.
Light is streaming in through the bedroom windows, and Mary turns to draw the blinds before obeying. “Did I tell you to do that?” Janine asks, amused. Mary freezes, shakes her head. “You’ve been a bad girl, Mary, and the whole world can know it, as far as I’m concerned.”
Mary shivers. The country road outside has few travelers. She still feels exposed as she removes her dress, drops her underwear to the ground.
Janine’s eyes trace down her body slowly, appreciatively. Mary feels like a new possession, being evaluated. Her shoulders, breasts, belly -- stretch marks and all -- the small tattoo on her hip, her powerful thighs, calves. Down and then back up Janine’s eyes rove, taking all of her in. They pause a while on the light hair between her legs. Mary feels suddenly shy in front of Janine and the world. She fights the urge to cover herself, stands there bare and proud, until at last Janine meets her eyes again.
“Brace yourself against the window,” Janine instructs. If she does as Janine says, anyone driving by on the road will have a prime view of her breasts.
Janine grabs her nipple, twisting and pulling downward. Mary shouts with surprise and pain, inarticulate. “Too slow.” Janine leads her, bent over, to the window. She releases her, and Mary resists the urge to rub and soothe her nipple. Instead, she grabs the window frame, resting her hands and elbows against it.
“Back straight,” Janine orders from behind her. “Feet wider. Walk backward a step. Another. Don’t lock your knees.” Mary obeys as Janine positions her -- when she doesn’t obey one of the instructions precisely enough, Janine swats her with the cane until Mary complies (it stings, but Mary knows it’s nothing compared to what’s to come). Finally, Janine is satisfied. And despite the fact that Mary is thrusting her arse out, it’s a fairly comfortable position -- and stable, with her forearms braced against the window -- but Mary knows that it will take effort to maintain if she’s being beaten, given that there are no physical restraints holding her in place.
In the reflection, she can just make out Janine studying her from behind -- she must have a lovely view of Mary’s arse and likely her cunt from where she’s standing. “Very nice. And now, Mary -- you’re going to let me hit you until you feel like you’ve taken enough stripes to make up for what you’ve done.”
Mary swallows and nods. This is going to take a while.
“When you feel like you’ve fully apologized, you will tell me.” It’s an order. Mary nods again.
Janine turns to the nightstand, rummages. “Almost forgot,” she says, approaching Mary. She holds up butterfly clamps in front of her face. Mary swallows. “These are going to hurt like fuck,” Janine says, grinning at her. She fastens them to Mary’s erect nipples -- left, right -- and the chain hangs between.
Janine’s absolutely right. Mary hisses with the pain and grips the window frame tighter. Oh, damn. The nipple Janine grabbed before hurts the most, but both breasts feel like vortices of pain, focused on the two pinch points. She forces herself to breath, and a few moments later, she gets a handle on the pain. She can take this. She knows the wetness between her legs has just increased again; she wonders if Janine can tell. And then --
She hears it before she feels anything. For a moment, nothing, then the shock of impact, then the stinging fire across her flesh. It bites into her arse, but it’s not so bad. What’s bad is the way her body jerks, the way the chain between the nipple clamps jiggles and pulls, yanking this way each nipple. She sucks in breath. Fuck.
“Breathe.” She obeys.
It’s a near symmetrical stripe on the other cheek. This time it’s not a surprise, and she keeps breathing and doesn’t shake quite as much in response. It hurts, but it’s manageable.
Janine swings again a few dozen times, testing her arse and thighs and sometimes her upper back, learning her sensitivities. Mary relaxes into the rhythm, occasionally hissing and jerking a bit when Janine hits a particularly sensitive spot. Whenever that happens, it’s a struggle not to move away, or to cover her tender flesh -- and it’s even harder not to yank off the relentless nipple clamps. But she knows that would disappoint Janine, so she clutches the window, white-knuckled, and she takes it.
After an unknown number of blows, Janine pauses, sets down the cane. She takes a sip of water from the glass on her nightstand, then holds the glass to Mary’s lips. Mary drinks gratefully. “How are you doing?” Janine asks, studying her. “Had enough?”
Mary shakes her head decisively.
“Good.” Janine smiles at her fondly, tracing Mary’s cheek with her hand. Then she reaches down and grabs the chain between the nipple clamps. She yanks up, forcing Mary up onto her tiptoes. “Because I’m not done with you -- and you’re mine until I say otherwise,” she says, still smiling.
Mary gasps and nods vigorously, watching her nipples stretch in front of her and gripping the window frame tighter.
Janine releases her, walks back behind her again. “All right, where were we, hmm?” She tsks. “You know, you might not have any bruises, from what we’ve done so far. That won’t do. I want to see my marks on your pretty skin.”
Janine falls back into a rhythm, but now she’s hitting harder, and aiming for more sensitive areas. Sometimes she hits the same skin place multiple times in a row. Mary stops thinking about being silent or about the world outside the window theoretically watching and hearing her. She grunts, groans, moans, shouts. She jerks, and her nipples jerk, and the chain jerks between them. Her consciousness narrows to rhythm of the bite against the flesh of her arse thighs cunt and the syncopated tug at her nipples.
She’s on fire, and the flames grow. She can’t take it, but she does anyway. This is no more than she deserves, surely. For the wrongs she’s done, the people she’s hurt. For Janine. Not enough. She lets the fire consume her.
She’s deep deep deep inside the pain when she realizes the rhythm has stopped. Janine is standing beside her, saying something, but Mary’s not sure what.
Janine grabs her hair again and yanks it back, and the new sensation grounds her. “Enough?” Janine asks, looking at her with a furrowed brow.
Mary shakes her head as best she can within Janine’s grip. She can’t be done. It’s not enough. Janine’s mouth twists. “Are you sure?” Nod.
Janine releases Mary’s hair. She kneels on the floor in front of Mary and a bit to the side -- somehow commanding, even from that position. As Janine traces the front of her body slowly with her eyes and then the cane, Mary realizes suddenly that her own knees are trembling. She hopes she doesn’t fall.
Watching Mary’s face, Janine begins switching the inside of her thighs, bouncing back and forth between them. She doesn’t have nearly the leverage here that she did from behind, but after a while, the heat of the fast repeated strokes builds up and transitions to pain. Mary yelps and raises up on her tiptoes as the skin becomes too tender, and her calves protest and quiver. Janine stops hitting her thighs, and Mary feels a surge of relief as she lowers her heels. But the next stroke lands on her breasts, and fuck if that isn’t the worst pain yet.
Mary feels the welts rising on her breasts as the punishment continues. She focuses once more on taking it, on breathing, on not falling down, on pleasing Janine. She wants to look at Janine to see if she’s pleasing her, but her eyes fluttered closed some while back. The stripes become abstract patterns, on a body she begins to feel disconnected from.
The strokes have stopped. Janine is saying something again, her lips near Mary’s ear. A wash of tenderness, concern, comes to Mary before the words. “Mary. Let’s stop this. Tell me it’s enough.”
Mary turns her head, stares at Janine for some stretch of time, then remembers a response is needed. She shakes her head.
Janine studies her face for what seems like a long while. Mary wishes she wouldn’t; the pain is becoming clearer, more individuated, with every passing moment. Then Janine nods. “All right. Here’s what’s going to happen now. You’re going to count out the hits for me, and I’ll stop as soon as you tell me to, or as soon as you stop counting. Okay?”
Words feel distant, but she strives to obey. “Yes,” she grits out.
Janine walks back behind her again. She raises the cane, holds it aloft for long enough that Mary starts to tremble even harder. She smacks down, hard, against Mary’s arse, which has had ample time to recover from the semi-numbed state it reached earlier, and to develop into a patchwork of clearly felt bruises. The number, One, is ripped from Mary’s throat in a scream.
Two, three, four, are agony. She wants to bury her consciousness again, hide from the pain. Instead, she counts, exquisitely aware. By twelve, she’s sobbing. Instead of twenty, she calls out, “Stop!”
The blows stop instantly. She falls to the ground, falls to her knees and cries into the carpet. Janine is there beside her, instantly, surrounding Mary with her arms, her cheek against Mary’s head. “Good girl,” she says with so much affection in her voice, “such a good girl. Let’s get you some water and a blanket.”
“No!” Mary says, clutching at her arms.
“What do you need?” Janine asks, instantly. “I’m here.”
“I need --” Mary hesitates, looking for words. “Can I --” She spreads her trembling legs a bit, leans forward, intending to reach between her legs and touch the part of her that aches most.
Janine nods. “Yes, of course.” But before Mary can act, Janine is touching her, sliding against the incredible slickness, and her throbbing clit. Mary cries out and ruts against Janine’s palm, almost coming from mere contact.
“Shh, wait a moment,” Janine says. She keeps rubbing Mary, but with her other hand, she reaches up to Mary’s breasts, to the clamps that Mary has somehow managed to forget. She ever so quickly releases one, then the other, and the chain falls to the ground. Mary screams and writhes as the blood and pain come rushing back to her breasts, and then she’s grinding pulsing coming shuddering against Janine’s skillful fingers.
Next thing she’s fully aware of, she’s curled on the bed, wrapped in a blanket, sipping water, cradled in Janine’s arms. Janine’s skin feels hot against her back; she seems to have shed most of her own clothes somewhere along the line.
A thought occurs to Mary, and she stirs. “Did you -- do you need -- “
“If you think I didn’t come right after you,” Janine murmurs against her neck, “you should think again.” She chuckles. “Couldn’t have waited if I’d wanted to. Not after that.”
“My sweet thing,” Janine continues, stroking her hair. “That was amazing. You are amazing. You took so much pain.”
“Not enough,” Mary protests weakly.
Janine laughs. “More than enough. So much more. You’ve no idea. You far exceeded my expectations.”
Mary feels a smile break across her face. She shifts in Janine’s arms, turning to half-face her (and her breasts -- oh, yes). “Forgive me, then?”
“Entirely. To tell the truth, I already did mostly forgive you, from the moment you told me the truth.”
Dazed, she tries to think when that was. “When you made tea?”
Janine nods and smiles back. Forgiveness -- possibly not deserved, but given.
Mary accepts it gratefully. Then wonders, “Why this, then? Not that I’m complaining, mind,” she adds.
Janine gently tucks a sweaty lock of hair behind her ear. “Sherlock said you hadn’t forgiven yourself, and that it would eat at you.” How well he knows her. “We talked it over, and he suggested this might help. But neither of us predicted you’d be so stubborn, and keep going for so long.” She says it admiringly.
“So… this was all for me?”
Janine snorts. “Hardly. Even after I forgave you, I still had a lot of anger to work out.” She smirks. “Besides, I’d been thinking about this a long time -- longer than I’d been angry with you. You may have thought I missed those glances you used to give me, but you thought wrong.”
Mary finds herself blushing at that, absurdly. “Worked out your anger, then?”
Janine makes a show of considering. “Probably. Mostly, anyway.”
She manages a weak mischievous smile. “You can hit me more later, if you change your mind.”
Janine chuckles. “Not for a while, I think -- you are going to to be black and blue and purple for quite some time to come. And red -- did you know you’re bleeding a bit? We should patch you up shortly. Possibly you’ll have to be the one to wield the whip for a while.” She winks, and Mary somehow feels a surge of lust, in spite of feeling like she’s spent herself for a month.
“Yeah, I think I might be able to manage that.” There’s something else that she is still confused by, though. “Janine -- why now?”
Janine smiles. “I spent most of the last year traveling, and you’re about to leave, so there was a bit of a narrow window of opportunity.”
“You traveled!” Mary repeats, delighted, knowing it was always one of Janine’s greatest desires. “Where?”
“Everywhere,” Janine grins.
“I can’t wait to hear all about it.” The other words finally make their impression. “Wait -- I’m leaving?”
Janine raises her eyebrows. “Oh dear -- Sherl hasn’t told you about the case in Eastern Europe? Naughty boy.” Sherlock and his secrets. Mary should probably feel irritated, but mostly she feels a thrill of excitement at whatever mess Sherlock is about to get them all into.
“You have to let me meet Gwen before you go,” Janine adds.
“Of course -- please!”
Janine’s lip quirks. “Giving her my name was very devious of you, you know -- I’d mostly forgiven you even before you showed up today.”
“Well,” Mary says, turning and brushing her lips against Janine’s, two smiles meeting, “I’m glad you hadn’t forgiven me entirely. Aren’t you?”