Feeling as if he had nothing better to do, Jamie stood opposite the Doctor in the control room, watching as he busily worked away at the TARDIS console. Mere seconds had passed when his mind began to wander back to events that had occurred in the recent past. It soon honed in on one memory in particular.
He hated it.
It had been at least a week or two since they had left the Wheel, but his feelings remained unchanged.
He knew it was silly of him, but he hated it.
He hated looking over to where he'd expect to see Victoria, only to find the space now occupied by another small lass. This Zoe.
Just as they were about to leave, he and the Doctor discovered she had stowed away on the TARDIS. Despite the fact the Doctor had shown her an example of the dangers they'd encountered, she had still insisted on joining them. Jamie had actually found himself annoyed with the Doctor for agreeing to it.
Why was he feeling so strongly about this? He'd be lying to himself if he denied still being upset over Victoria leaving them once she decided traveling with them proved to be too much for her. The difference in both girls' personalities couldn't be more glaring, and it was obvious to Jamie which one he'd preferred. Victoria was delicate and lovely, with a bit of shyness and naivete he found very appealing.
In contrast, Zoe was a know-it-all who came off as quite cold and business-like. She seemed the type of lass who was proud of herself for being so smart, and wouldn't hesitate to remind everyone of the fact. The very people who worked with her on the Wheel had suggested she was like a human computer. Jamie snorted, unable to find anything wrong with that comparison.
“Jamie? Something wrong, my boy?”
He was thrown out of his reverie as he noticed the Doctor had popped his head up from behind the console, gazing at him with his big, bushy eyebrows raised in curiosity.
Suddenly realizing he must have snorted aloud, Jamie felt a blush creeping into his cheeks. “No, Doctor,” he replied with a shake of his head. Of course he was going to lie. There was no point in complaining to the Doctor about this.
The Doctor regarded him with what appeared to be leftover curiosity before giving a tiny shrug and going back to work on the console. His head suddenly popped up again after a moment. “Oh, go and get Zoe, will you? I need her assistance with these modifications to the materialization circuit.”
Grumbling in the affirmative, Jamie stalked out of the room. That was another thing that bothered him about Zoe: she seemed to be more the Doctor's intellectual equal. Jamie himself was obviously no match for the two of them (let alone either of them). As much as he was loath to admit it, the concept nearly threatened him.
Having gotten several yards away from the console room, Jamie stopped and sighed. Where would he even begin to look for Zoe? Unsurprisingly she seemed to spend a great deal of time in the library, which was … quite a distance from here. Well, the Doctor would just have to wait, then.
Passing the kitchen, he found he didn't have to look far. Inside was Zoe, looking as if she were studying the food machine closely as she stood in front of it. He'd nearly begun wondering what was going through that large brain of hers when he stopped and reminded himself that he couldn't begin to understand it. He scuffed his boots on the floor just outside the room, hoping to get her attention.
She hadn't taken any notice, which only irritated Jamie further. What in blazes could be so interesting about that contraption that it needed such intense study? He finally cleared his throat loudly, smiling inwardly in satisfaction as it finally got her attention.
Perhaps it'd worked a little better than expected, given the way she nearly jumped a foot in the air and then turned to regard him with widened eyes.
“Now that I've got yer attention, the Doctor needs tae see ye in the control room,” Jamie told her coldly, hooking his thumb in the direction of said room.
Zoe seemed a bit taken aback for a moment. “Oh.” Recovering, she slapped on a thin smile and nodded. “Of course.”
Jamie grunted in reply and led her back to the control room. Once inside he looked around, a frown of confusion knitting his brow. Where had the Doctor gone …?
Before he could ponder it further, the Time Lord's head shot up above the console, a smile on his face. “Ah, Zoe, there you are!” He gestured for her to come nearer. “I'm thinking of applying a new parameter to the materialization circuit and I'm in need of your opinion ...”
Jamie blocked out the rest of the Doctor's explanation, especially once he noted the way Zoe's eyes lit up in excitement as she joined him. Unable to keep from rolling his eyes, he sighed and sauntered out of the room. It was obvious there was nothing he could contribute to this conversation.
Her contribution of assistance prompting a satisfied smile on her face, Zoe left the control room and traversed the long corridor towards the library. The Doctor had erroneously assumed his proposed tweak to the materialization circuit parameters would result in a smoother landing for the TARDIS. Zoe had suggested adding a multiplier of 3.5 and applying at a gradual rate instead of an instantaneous one. She had to admit she was amused by the fact he initially seemed a bit overwhelmed by her suggestion, as though the scope of his understanding wasn't quite at the same level of her own. He'd seemed to catch on rather quickly, though, and was quite appreciative of her assistance.
Sighing, she shook her head as if to clear it. Regardless of whether the Doctor was as smart as she or not, it was very generous of him to allow her to travel with him and Jamie. She owed him for that.
Speaking of Jamie, she then found her mind wandering to the young Scotsman. Not long after he'd brought her to the control room to assist the Doctor, she'd picked up on his behavior as he left the room. She'd furrowed her brow in thought for a brief moment before directing her attention back to the Doctor and the console. It was just one example of the way he had acted towards her since she had joined them. On the whole, he seemed rather annoyed by her presence. Whenever she found him and the Doctor chatting and decided to join them, Jamie would either leave the room abruptly – most of the time without even looking at her – or give the Doctor some pathetic excuse before leaving. If he ever interacted with her, it seemed purely out of necessity.
Zoe couldn't deny this left her greatly frustrated. She knew the two of them were quite different – practically polar opposites – and there was already a great amount of friction between them when they'd first met.. But there seemed to be an added factor contributing to Jamie's cold behavior. He couldn't simply hate her, full stop. She would have to confront him and get to the bottom of this.
Her deep introspection gave her an opportunity in a way she hadn't expected. Not paying attention to the path she was walking, she'd suddenly bumped into something – or rather someone, as the rather loud 'Oof!' demonstrated.
Shaking herself out of her daze, she looked up to find a very flustered Jamie regarding her in surprise.
“I'm sorry, Jamie.”
“Och, I didnae see ye there, Zoe,” he said, apparently not having heard a word she'd said. She watched as his expression turned from surprised to awkward and then to emotionally shut down, all within mere seconds. After a moment of awkward silence, he continued, “Well, if ye'll excuse me, I've gotta go … er … comb my hair.”
He'd moved to leave but Zoe held out a hand to stop him. “No,” she said firmly. “We've got to talk about this problem.”
Jamie appeared as if she were speaking a completely different language. “Problem? What problem?” he asked with a shrug.
A frown creased her brow as she regarded him incredulously. Could he really be this dense? “Your behavior, Jamie,” she replied. “Ever since I joined you and the Doctor here on the TARDIS, it's been quite obvious that you're not happy. You look for any excuse to leave the room upon my entrance. You only speak to me out of necessity. It's as if my very presence repulses you.”
“Ye're imaginin' things, Zoe,” he replied with a scoff.
Zoe felt herself growing increasingly frustrated. “Am I? 'I've got to comb my hair'??”
A faint blush had stained Jamie's cheeks as he shrugged once again. “Aye, I look a fright.” As if to emphasize his point, he violently ruffled up his hair until it stuck out every which way.
Zoe rolled her eyes and her jaw set in a glare. “You honestly believe I'm that stupid?”
Jamie glared back as he smoothed his hair back down. “Och, no, of course not,” he replied in an overly sarcastic, condescending tone. “Ye're ever so smart. Ye're the perfect match for the Doctor, 'cept he's actually got a heart. You? Ye're all brains an' no heart.”
There it was again. The same accusation the very people with whom she worked on the Wheel had recently made. Zoe's eyes widened in anger, the barb hitting her harder than she'd expected. She quickly reached out and slapped Jamie in the face.
Jamie gaped at her in shock as his hand immediately went to the spot she'd slapped. “Hey! What'd ye do that for?” he objected, his expression turning into a scowl.
“You've no idea what you just accused me of, have you?” Zoe asked, her voice tight and her eyes narrowed angrily.
Jamie merely stared at her.
Zoe heaved a sigh, attempting to calm herself a bit. Perhaps she had acted a little too rashly. “Look, Jamie. I know we didn't quite start off on the right foot earlier.”
Jamie snorted in reply, rolling his eyes.
“And I know we're two very different people,” Zoe continued, ignoring him. “But for the life of me, I can't understand why you object so much to having me travel with you and the Doctor.”
Jamie's scowl softened and a tinge of sadness appeared to color his eyes. “All right, ye want me tae tell ye the truth?” he asked after a protracted silence.
“Please. You owe me that much.”
Jamie sighed, scratching the back of his neck. Zoe's brow furrowed in curiosity as she observed him. He appeared reluctant to admit whatever was on his mind, but she had to know what was behind his less-than-accommodating behavior.
“Well, ye see, before the Doctor an' I met ye, this young lass called Victoria used tae travel with us. She was from the past, like me, an' we tangled with those Daleks the Doctor showed ye. Her father was killed an' she was left with no family, so she came with us. We'd gone on many adventures together.” He had a faraway look in his eyes, and a wistful smile crept across his face. “We faced so much danger an' I did my best tae protect her. We were like a family, the two of us an' the Doctor.”
Zoe couldn't stop a tentative smile from twitching at her lips as she listened to him.
“But after a while, she decided she no longer wanted tae travel with us.” His smile began to fade and the sadness which dulled his eyes had returned. “We had arrived in twentieth-century England an' she wished tae stay there. It was hard tae say goodbye. I cared so much for her an' I still miss her terribly.” Appearing uncomfortable, his gaze dropped to the floor.
Zoe gazed at him contritely. The emotions she had worked so hard to suppress for so long were threatening to spill forth as she felt herself empathizing with him. “I'm sorry,” she told him softly. “I can't fathom how much losing her must have affected you.”
Jamie's head shot up and his expression turned cold. “No. Ye cannae. Ye've no idea what it's like tae lose someone ye love.”
Zoe's eyes suddenly filled with tears. The earlier insult was one thing; this was so much worse. The dam had burst and the pain of loss threatened to consume her. Although it wasn't as recent as Jamie's, the salt in the wound made it feel as if it were.
“You're wrong,” she retorted, her voice faltering as she tried hard to retain the composure for which she was famous. “I was very young when I went to work on the Wheel for the first time. I kept being told by everyone what a marvelous opportunity it was, how special I was to have been picked for it. Little did I understand it meant losing my family.”
Jamie's cold expression seemed to change into one of questioning.
“Several years later, my father had died,” she continued as a tear managed to work its way down her cheek. “I never even got the chance to say goodbye!” She sighed again in another attempt to regain what she'd lost of her equilibrium. “So, yes, Jamie. I do know what it's like.” She gave him a frosty glare before abruptly turning and storming away.
“Wait, Zoe!” Jamie suddenly called after her. “I'm sorry. I didnae mean tae ...”
She didn't bother to look back. There was nothing left to say.
Zoe's shoes produced a staccato-like tone as she swiftly walked the corridor towards the control room, slowing only to wipe the tears from her cheek with the back of her hand. The sudden outpouring of emotion affected her nearly as much as Jamie's offending remarks. For so long she had kept that part of herself sealed away. It had kept her more focused on her work and made her more productive, earning her much praise from her superiors. All it took was one sentence uttered by Jamie, that simple Scotsman from Earth's antiquity, to awaken it.
She just couldn't believe it.
She slowed to a stop outside the control room and peered inside, finding the Doctor busy at work as he tapped on some keys on the console.
Even if he didn't have time to speak to her, surely he wouldn't mind if she watched him work?
She strolled over to the console, stopping just opposite him. A tentative smile flickered on her face as she caught him humming softly as he worked away.
After several moments, the humming abruptly stopped and he looked up in surprise. “Oh, Zoe.” He smiled. “I must thank you for your help. I've applied the new parameters and conditions to the circuit. I believe it will make all the difference in giving us a softer landing.” His proud smile faded into a deep frown. “Perhaps it will finally get Jamie to stop complaining about that.”
The mention of Jamie brought back the memory of the recent argument along with the pain resulting from it. Zoe sniffled a bit and nodded, her gaze dropping to the controls.
“Zoe? What's wrong?” She lifted her gaze to find the Doctor eyeing her in concern.
She took a few steps closer to him. “Jamie and I just had a terrible argument, Doctor,” she began, trying to keep her voice as emotionless as possible. It was clear she wasn't succeeding and gave up trying to fight it. “I confronted him over the way he's been acting towards me. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but he'd gone out of his way to ignore me. When he did interact with me, he was always cold and seemed to do it for your benefit.”
The Doctor seemed surprised to hear her admission for a brief moment before what appeared to be understanding registered on his face.
“He told me about the girl who used to travel with you, that he really cared for her and still missed her.”
“Hmm. Yes, Jamie has been quite upset about Victoria leaving us. They were very close.”
“Yes, I gathered from the way he spoke of her. I told him I couldn't imagine how much it upset him.” She suddenly felt the tears pricking at the corners of her eyes again. “Do you know what he said? He told me I didn't know what it was like to lose someone I love.”
“What?” the Doctor interjected, his eyebrows inching towards his hairline.
“Doctor, I'm not pleased to admit this, but it brought back some awful memories I thought I had banished for good. You see, my time on the Wheel started when I was quite young. I had to say goodbye to my family and I never saw them again. They would send messages now and then, but that was the extent of our communication. Several years later, I received word that my father had died. I'd never got a chance to say goodbye to him; I never even attended his memorial service. I missed them dearly, Doctor, and I still do. I tried hard to block it from my mind and throw myself into my work all these years ...” She trailed off, unsure of where to go from there.
“But you can't block something like this,” the Doctor finished for her. “Not to such an extent.” He gestured for her to come closer.
“Oh, you poor girl,” he muttered quietly, wrapping her in a hug. Separating after a moment, she found him gazing at her in sympathy. “I empathize with you. I had to leave my family long, long ago. I've not seen them since. I know what it's like.” A sad smile spread across his face. “But my companions have become my family. And I hope Jamie and I will become your new family.”
A tentative smile of her own reached her lips. “Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate this coming from you.” Her smile faded and she rolled her eyes. “Though I'm not quite sure what to make of Jamie.”
She could easily make out the sadness that had returned to the Doctor's eyes. “He did feel strongly about Victoria and her leaving affected him quite a bit. She was much different to you, Zoe.”
Zoe felt her eyes widen and she nearly took offense before the Doctor held his hands up in a placating manner. “It's not a bad thing, I assure you. How shall I put this? Victoria was a lovely girl, but she was very naive and delicate. She no longer wished to be placed in the dangerous situations in which we often found ourselves. From the short time I've observed you, Zoe, I've found you to be exceptionally bright and curious. I thought for certain that once I'd shown you the monsters we'd dealt with – the Daleks, for one – you'd want no part of us. But you've proven me wrong.” He smiled again. “I for one am pleased that you've joined us. Don't worry so much about Jamie. He'll come round.” His smile turned into a small glare as he turned to gaze out of the room. “If not, I'll have a word with him.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” she told him with a smile once he'd faced her again. She suddenly felt a bit self-conscious and returned her gaze to the console. “I apologize for being a bother. I didn't expect my emotions to --”
“Oh, Zoe, you've nothing to apologize for, my dear,” he replied, grinning fondly. “And there is no shame in showing any emotion. If anything, suppressing them to such a great extent is unhealthy.” He pointed to his head. “Remember, this is a good thing.” He then pointed to his chest where his heart resided. “But, so is this.”
Zoe's face cracked open in a large smile, and dare she say it felt good. “I'll remember that, Doctor. Thank you again.” Her stomach suddenly growled audibly, causing her to blush.
“Oh, my word,” the Doctor muttered. “How long has it been since you've last eaten? Get yourself to the food machine straight away.” He pointed straight out of the room.
Nodding, her smile never left her face as she made her way towards the doorway.
“I say, 'B31' is a very satisfying option, especially coupled with tea!” he called out after her.
She was back in the kitchen standing in front of the food machine, just as she had been prior to the events leading up to her heated argument with Jamie. After all that had happened it took her a brief second to recall exactly what she had been doing at the time. Ah, yes, she was trying to see if there was a code which deciphered exactly what food choices were presented to her. She wasn't daring enough to just pick something and let herself be surprised with the results. She much more appreciated knowing what she was in for ahead of time. Over the nearly two weeks she'd been traveling in the TARDIS, she had accepted the Doctor's recommendations and not particularly enjoyed the outcomes. Jamie himself hadn't seemed very helpful – she had a notion he'd been that way on purpose.
Lifting herself up on her toes in order to peer at the first row of choices, she wrinkled her nose in frustration. They were merely alphanumerical designations. Surely a vague description of one or several words couldn't hurt? Perhaps once she got used to it she would disagree, and in general she wouldn't be adverse to such a system, but this being her first exposure to the machine it would be helpful …
She was thrown from her ruminations by the sound of a light knock. Steadying herself, she turned to find Jamie standing in the doorway. It was no surprise she hadn't expected to find him there, and she was a bit perplexed as to why he would knock when there was really no door to speak of. Catching the awkward, almost shame-faced expression on his face, she refused to allow herself to ruin things by over-analyzing them.
“May I come in?” he asked tentatively.
She was still a bit surprised to see him but welcomed his presence. Perhaps he could help her with this food machine. Shyly attempting a smile, she nodded.
Jamie entered the room and stood beside her, casting a fleeting glance at the machine. He then met her gaze, appearing to be studying her.
“What're ye up to?” he asked.
“Oh, not very much. Just … thinking,” she finished with a shrug.
“Aye. Me too.” She regarded him curiously, prompting him to elaborate: “Aboot what ye told me before, aboot yer family an' bein' apart from them when ye started workin' on the Wheel.” He suddenly seemed a bit reluctant to continue. “How did ye know aboot yer father?”
A feeling of dread suddenly enveloped her. Somehow, she knew he would ask her about it.
“Ye don' have tae say anythin' if ye don' care tae,” Jamie suddenly insisted, seeming to sense her discomfort.
As she met his gaze, she found a great deal of concern and perhaps even a bit of worry coloring his eyes. Unexpectedly, she found it touching and finally worked up the courage to tell him. Not only that, but she felt she owed him an explanation.
“In the beginning, say the first couple of years I worked on the Wheel, I received communications from my family,” she began, trying to keep her voice as unemotional as possible. “After that, the communications were coming in less and less. I never learnt exactly why. Gemma Corwin told us there was interference with the communication signals.” She shrugged. Suddenly feeling the sense of dread return, she swallowed around a lump in her throat to push past it. “Several months later we finally began receiving communications on a more regular basis. It was then that I'd received word of my father's passing. Mum had said she didn't expect me to attend the memorial service, but she felt I must know.” Tears stung her eyes and she blinked to rid herself of them. “I never got a chance to say goodbye to him.”
Wiping her nose with the back of her hand, she looked up to find Jamie just staring at her, looking almost crushed by her admission. Without a word, he approached her and took her into his arms, enveloping her in a hug.
Even though she barely knew him and their relationship had been characterized as not much more than friction, Zoe felt surprisingly comforted by this show of affection. Sighing, she allowed herself to relax into his touch and stayed against him for a good while.
“I'm sorry, Zoe,” Jamie murmured once he'd finally loosened his hold on her and stepped back. “How I felt when Victoria left doesnae even compare with what ye'd gone through, havin' tae leave yer family. At least I got a chance tae say goodbye tae her.”
“You didn't know, Jamie,” she told him softly.
Jamie gazed at her sadly. “No, it's no' just that,” he continued. “I shoudnae have been treatin' ye so poorly, takin' my frustration over Victoria leavin' out on you. I know ye're quite different to Victoria and it'll take some gettin' used to,” he looked down sheepishly and she grinned inwardly at the sight of the faint blush now coloring his features. “But I promise tae treat ye with respect as long as ye do the same for me.”
Perplexed, Zoe furrowed her brow. “I thought I had treated you with respect.”
Jamie's blush seemed to deepen. “Well, I mean as far as makin' me feel aboot two feet tall with all yer scientific smarts. It's bad enough the Doctor is that way. I feel as though I'm outnumbered now.” His lip twitched into a lopsided, awkward smile.
A sympathetic laugh bubbled up from Zoe's throat. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I've got to get used to the Doctor's way of doing things as well. He's so haphazard at times! And I've got a notion that his complaint about the TARDIS not getting us to where we'd like to go is deliberate on his part.”
Jamie snorted, apparently trying to hold in his laughter, but in the end didn't have much success. Zoe smiled, pleased that she was able to make him laugh.
“But you're right. I should treat you with more respect as well. I know I come off as an uncaring automaton much of the time. I used to show emotion a lot more, but on the Wheel I'd learnt to throw myself into my job, to let my scientific mind take over. One of my instructors had taught me that showing emotion was a sign of weakness and had trained me to suppress it.” She shrugged. “After a while it just became second nature to me.” She turned to find the sadness had returned to Jamie's eyes. “After being with you and the Doctor this very short time I realize the shortcomings of this mindset, and that it's not a bad thing to show some emotion now and then.”
Jamie nodded. “Aye. It's certainly no' a bad thing. Ye should do it more often, lass.” This time his tone was devoid of the cold sarcasm she'd earlier expected from him. It was now peppered with concern and perhaps a bit of fondness.
Zoe smiled again and nodded. “I promise I'll try. I also realize not all people are as interested in computers and science as I am. I'll try not to be so eager to look askance on those who aren't.” Her smile widened slightly as she looked up at him. “I admire you for your loyalty and courage … how far you will go in order to defend and protect me and the Doctor.”
A warm smile that threatened to melt Zoe's heart had spread across Jamie's face. “Thank ye for sayin' that, Zoe.” His smile faded a bit and he gazed around the room before turning back to her, leaning into her a bit. “Do ye think mebbe we could start over?”
Zoe's smile nearly cracked her face in half, and it felt quite good. “Of course, I would like that very much,” she replied. Her eyes suddenly twinkled and she tried to imitate his deep voice, “James Robert McCrimmon.”
Jamie chuckled and patted her affectionately on the shoulder. He then turned to gaze at the food machine. “What are ye interested in having?”
Zoe's brow knitted in thought. “I don't know. I'm still not all that familiar with the machine. The few choices I've already had weren't so good.” A thought suddenly struck her. “The Doctor told me that 'B31' was a good option.”
“Och, no, that's the worst!” Jamie exclaimed, scrunching up his face in disgust. “Trust me, ye willnae like it.” He stared at the machine for a moment. “Try 'C22.' 'Tis my favorite.”
“What is it?”
“Haggis,” Jamie replied with a proud grin.
Zoe wrinkled her nose. “A cow's stomach? Really?!”
“Zoe!” he thundered, wide-eyed as if she'd just uttered complete blasphemy. “Mind yer tongue! Haggis is made with sheep's stomach!”
“Still, I don't find it the least bit appetizing.”
Jamie made a face and then stuck his nose up in the air. “Yer taste is so unrefined.”
Zoe gazed at him incredulously for a moment before she sputtered in laughter.
Jamie regarded her in bewilderment. “What?”
“I just hadn't expected to hear that from you.”
Jamie shrugged nonchalantly and then smirked at her, as if triumphant he'd caught her unawares.
“Is there anything else you can recommend?”
“Well, let's see. Do ye fancy roast beef with potatoes an' cabbage?”
Zoe considered it for a moment and then smiled. “Yes, I like the sound of that.”
Smiling, Jamie reached up to push the button for her. “Aye, I'll join ye.” He then pushed it a second time, ordering some for himself. Zoe watched him and committed 'D12' to memory.
Once her meal arrived, she collected it and sat down at the table, looking it over and hoping she made the right choice. She looked up at the sound of footsteps to find Jamie approaching, his own food in hand. His expression was hopeful as he met her gaze.
“Ye got room for one more here?” he asked, gesturing to the empty seats.
He really didn't have to ask, but she found it endearing that he had. “Of course,” she told him, gesturing for him to join her.
She watched as he took the seat across from her and tucked into his meal. Zoe started eating her own food, pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. Her gaze flew over to Jamie and she smiled upon watching him enjoy his own meal. Jamie had apparently seen it and regarded her with a smile of his own.
She studied him thoughtfully as they continued eating and found her respect for him growing. Yes, they hadn't exactly begun as friends, but she was glad they were given the opportunity to start over.
Hopefully – as cliched as it might sound – this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
A loud cry from the control room suddenly pierced the silence. “Oh, my giddy aunt!! Zoe!! You've got the circuit parameters all wrong!! Why, they'd turn the TARDIS inside out!! Oh dear, oh, dear …”
Jamie stopped in mid-chew and his head shot up to look at her, eyebrows raised questioningly.
Zoe couldn't stop the wicked grin that overtook her face. “Don't worry. I'll put everything back once he's gone,” she whispered to him.
Jamie nodded and broke into silent laughter. “Ye're good, lassie,” he told her with a wink.
Zoe gave another shrug, a mock smug smile on her face as she winked back.
Yes, indeed. This was the start of a beautiful friendship.