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"Ungrateful, spiteful, little college ingrate-"

"Come on, Knock Out, she was only trying to do her job-"

"I simply asked if they had better dress suits and all she could tell me was 'Um, well, these are the latest fashion options of the fall' like some drone!"

Breakdown sighed as he handled three bags worth of clothes, following after his boyfriend dejectedly.  "She's probably just a summer hire-"

"Well then, maybe they should fine comb their hiring process a little better next year!"

Sally didn't say anything, having anticipated Knock Out to act like this. He usually got angry when someone wasn't able to help him to his liking. She looked at Breakdown, who just held all the bags that Knock Out had thrown at him.

She looked at the shorter man. It was pretty obvious that, even though he was frustrated, he was nowhere near done with shopping. If anything, whenever he was irritated, he tended to shop more to make himself relax. Which only meant that Breakdown would have more bags to carry. And eventually she would have to help carry them too.

She reached up and tugged on Breakdown's sleeve, causing him to look at her. She smiled and stretched out her hands. "I can take them to the car. That way we don't have a lot to carry later."

"It's fine-"

"He's just gonna buy more and then it'll be heavy and we'll have trouble getting it all the car... And we'll look silly. Again."

Breakdown couldn't really argue with that. This wasn't the first time his boyfriend had bought way too many things for himself during a shopping trip. He always ended up looking ridiculous carrying the other's bags for him and was often stared at by people passing by.

"Maybe Valdone's will have something I can actually wear!"

They both glanced at Knock Out who was angrily storming through the mall, causing teenagers and families to part before his vengeful walk.

"Sally... maybe we should just wait for Knock Out to calm down.  He'll probably find something at the next store or two and that'll be it."

"But what if he doesn't?  You know he buys a lot when he doesn't find what he's looking for."

Another point Breakdown couldn't argue with.  And if Valdone's or 35th Street didn't have what he was looking for, they would be here all afternoon.

He sighed. “Yeah, you're right.” He gently handed over the bags to her before pulling out the keys and putting them into her hands.  "I'll try to keep Knock Out from buying out the whole store.  Just hurry back."

She nodded and quickly turned the other way to head out of the mall. She had a feeling that Knock Out would take a long time today. It had been a while since they had gone shopping. Knock Out would definitely be hitting up every store that peeked his interest.

Sally didn't mind though. She liked spending time with them. Since they both worked, she didn't get to see them a lot during the week and didn't spend as much time with them. She was normally at home doing chores. And while that was fun and all, she would rather go out and spend time with them than clean the living room and watch movies.

Besides, this gave her a chance to go shopping too. Breakdown didn't mind buying her things when she asked for them and Knock Out helped her picked out really cute clothes. It was fun being with them like this. 

She hummed to herself as she headed into the parking garage.  Knock Out had found a beautiful summer dress for her in one of the last stores that he had gotten for her in three different colors.

She loved it so much.  She smiled remembering how she spun around in all the different colors, Knock Out and Breakdown waiting patiently for her to change into each one to find which ones suited her best.

Sally hoped they would find something else that looked good on her.  She liked trying on clothes for them. She liked being cute for them. Especially since they would praise her and make her feel special whenever she did.

The car was just in sight when she heard a voice behind her.

"Sally?"

Blinking, Sally looked around until she found the person who was calling for her.  "Richard?"

She almost couldn't believe it.  After he told her their relationship was over three years ago, she thought she would never see him again, but to her surprise, her ex-boyfriend was now right behind her, in the middle of the intersection she had just crossed staring at her from his BMW.

"Uh... hey, it's been awhile."

"Oh, yeah.  Yeah, it had been some time."

"How... are you doing?"

"Fine.  Fine, I've been..." Sally bit her lip as she spun the bags in her hands nervously, "I've been doing good."

"I... see." Richard looked at the bags in her hands and her outfit before turning back to her.  "You... look nice."

"Oh, um..."

"I meant, your outfit, yeah.  Your outfit looks great."

"Oh... thank you."

"Yes, um... yeah." Richard glanced around, spotting a parking space only a few yards away. "Hold on, let me park."

"Oh, um-!"

She didn't get a chance to say anything as she watched him pull away from her to park his car. She bit her bottom lip and glanced around, unsure of what she should do. Breakdown and Knock Out had warned her not to get involved with Richard ever again. They told her to stay away from him for her own safety... And she could see where they were coming from. He had beaten her up pretty badly the last time they had talked to each other.

But what was she supposed to do now? She had never expected to run into him like this and her hands were full, so she couldn't just reach into her purse and text them that Richard was here...

Sally bit her lip as she watched the older man get out of his car and lock it as he approached her. What should she do? It would have been rude to just run away and it would probably make him angry... And Richard was never pleasant to be around when he was angry.

"Finishing up your shopping?"

"Wha-Oh!" She glanced at the bags. "Oh, no... No, these are my friend's. I-I was going to take them to the car."

"I didn't know you got a car."

"N-No, it's my friend's..."

"Oh."

Sally didn't know what else to say. Nervous, she glanced over her shoulder at Breakdown's car and shuffled on her feet. What should she do, what should she do...

"Sally, you don't have to be so nervous."

"H-Huh?" 

Richard gave a bit of a sad smile and held up his hands in almost a surrendering manner. "It's okay, I get it, I mean..." He paused for a moment as he put down his hands. Then he sighed. "I did and said some pretty hurtful things to you. I always wanted to apologize to you for it too... But I get why you're nervous. It's okay, Sally. I'm not going to do anything bad."

"Oh... um, I wasn't-"

"I was... in a bad place last time." Richard looked to the side.  "My... I don't want to make excuses, but I... when I attacked you, I had been under a lot of stress."

"Stress?"

"My father had passed away just before... before I had a breakdown and attacked you."

Sally blinked.  His father?  He hadn't talked much about his parents when they were dating.  It didn't seem like they were close.  "Oh... I'm sorry to hear."

"I... Our relationship was strained for a while... I was trying to get back in touch with him.  Work things out and all... Maybe even get us all together to meet."

That caused her heart to skip.  He... wanted her to meet his dad?  That... Richard had almost never taken her out except for when they first started dating.  But even then, it had never been with his 'friends'.  His family... she couldn't even remember him mentioning them before."

"I... I wanted to talk to you."

"Talk?" Sally asked nervously.  "You... wanted to-?"

"Talk... yeah, I wanted to apologize, like I said.  But I was in a bad place and I was going to a therapist after I served time for hurting you.  I... I didn't want to hurt you again after what had happened."

"Then... are you better now?"

"Much better." Richard looked at her before looking back at his car.  "I... I didn't know if I could talk to you, even though I wanted to.  I just... wanted to try and reconnect."

"I'm-" Despite Breakdown and Knock Out's warning about getting back with Richard, Sally couldn't help but to feel sorry for her ex.  If his... outburst had been because of his father's death, then surely it hadn't been his fault entirely.  Even though she was dating the other two, there was nothing wrong with talking with Richard, right? 

"I'm... okay with chatting."

He smiled brightly. "Great. Why don't we go somewhere to eat? There's a cafe nearby."

"Um-! I-I can't. Not... Not right now."

He paused. "What do you mean?"

"I... I'm with friends. A-And I promised them I'd be back."

"It won't take long, I promise. Just tell them you ran into a friend." He stepped up to her and gently grabbed her arm. Sally stiffened a bit and felt her stomach drop. "Come on, we won't take long. I'll treat you to something sweet. We both know how much you like that."

Sally didn't know why, but her heart started to race. His hand felt cold against her skin and she suddenly felt... scared. It was really weird. She knew Richard was generally this pushy about things and he had never meant anything by it... At least that was what Knock Out had said she had convinced herself.

Her boyfriends suddenly came to mind. They had told her to stay away from him. That everything she had thought about Richard was wrong. His behavior wasn't okay. He was dangerous and she could get hurt by people like him. And even though he had apologized and explained himself about his behavior from before, she somehow still didn't feel safe at the moment.

It was weird. It was just Richard... He... He hadn't done anything too terrible to her. Right? Everyone got mad once in a while and sometimes snapped from the stress. Her mom used to hit her because she was stressed out and Richard had only done it once, so... So it wasn't... supposed to be that bad...

"Come on, I'll even buy you a new dress."

Sally gasped when he started to pull on her and practically drag her towards his car. For whatever reason, she couldn't stop herself from letting out a small shriek and yank her arm from him. His grip hadn't been very tight and he stared at her in shock. She just stared back at him, surprised by her own reaction as she glanced at her arm. Good Lord, it was actually shaking.

Why? Why was she so scared?

"Sally-?"

"I-I can't," she stuttered, backing away from him. "I-I promised I-I wouldn't take long. S-So I gotta go."

He frowned, which made her tense up a bit. The fear in her chest only got worse and she suddenly felt very small as he seemed to glare at her with that nasty look on his face. It vaguely reminded her of all the times he had insulted her out of impatient or frustration.

"Didn't I apologize? Why are you acting this way? You didn't use to be so difficult, Sally."

"I... I just, um-!"

He grabbed her arm again, his grip a lot tighter than before. "Don't be like this, Sally. You know people don't like it when you make things hard for them."

Sally bit her lip. She knew he had a point. She hated making things hard for people because she didn't want them to be angry with her. She had already caused a lot of trouble for her mother when she was younger; her mother had made that very clear throughout her childhood. She never wanted to be difficult for other people and cause them any unneeded stress.

"Come on, just get in the car."

He attempted to drag her once more, but Sally found herself trying to pull back. She didn't know why, but, even though she was probably being difficult and unreasonable, she absolutely did not want to get into his car.

But she couldn't pull away.  Even as her hands dropped the bags and grabbed at his arm, she couldn't do anything but let him drag her closer and closer to his car-

"HEY!"

They both stopped and turned around, seeing a large figure jumping across a car into the middle of the path to stare them down. 

"LET HER GO, YOU FUCKER!"

If Sally weren’t in such a terrified state, she would have probably noted that Breakdown looking so angry and even cursing around her was probably a first.  As far as she could remember.

But that didn't matter now as she felt Richard let go of her hand.  Without him pulling her, she fell back onto one of the bags with something digging into her skin as she hit the solid ground.

"Ah, w-wait, this isn't-"

That didn't work on Breakdown, who just glared at the man and charged.

Sally heard Richard running away, but her eyes were still on Breakdown as he crossed the distance between them.  But for how fast he was, she realized he would never get to Richard before the other got into the safety of his car. 

Which reminded her, why hadn't she heard the door unlocking for Richard's car?  He had the remote option, so why hadn't he-?

Her answer came when she followed Breakdown's charge past her.  She then saw what was keeping Richard from his car. 

The silent form of Knock Out surprising him, arms crossed and a wicked grin on his face that distracted the older man before Breakdown came in and tackled him. 

Sally gasped as Breakdown picked up her ex and threw him against a van parked, denting the doors.

"The fuck do you think you were doing with her?"

She could see Richard's face, pale and white and even older than before, as his full concentration was on the man holding him up by his shirt's collar. 

"Answer me!” 

"Th-This is just a misunderstanding!" Richard squeaked out, trying to free himself from the other's grip but having no such luck. "I was just-"

"What were you doing to her?!

"I-It's just a misunderstanding!  I didn't-!"

"Weren't trying to steal off with her now, were you?"

Sally watched as Richard's face turned pale while Knock Out's own face only grew more sinister with his smile widening, his whitened teeth obvious from where Sally was sitting.

"Or were you simply trying to show her something in your car?  A new mod?  Some candy?  Or maybe a new puppy?  I hear that's what old men like you use nowadays to lure children into your cars." 

"No, no, no!  I was just talking to her and I-I was asking if she wanted to m-maybe talk or-" 

"Oh, catch up?" Knock Out appeared surprise, but it was clear from his eyes that he wasn't fooled one bit, "Tell me, when you normally try to 'catch up' with people, do you forcibly drag them into your car? Doesn't seem very friendly, if you want my honest opinion."

"As I said, it's a misunderstanding-!"

"I thought I told you to stay away from her," Breakdown snarled, hands gripping the older man's shirt tightly. "Remember the last time we met? You want me to bash your face into the ground again? Because I will."

Sally was confused. Last time? What did Breakdown mean by that? He had never met up with Richard... They had only met during that one time when he saved her in the alleyway. Right? And Knock Out had never even seen Richard before, aside from the pictures she used to have on her phone. Had something happened before and they didn't tell her? 

She didn't have a chance to ask, only letting out a small gasp when she saw Breakdown throw Richard to the floor and slam his foot down hard on his stomach. The older man groaned in pain and Sally could feel herself starting to shake. What were they doing to him?! They knew she hated violence, especially watching it! It wasn't as awful as actually having to feel the pain herself, but that didn't mean she wanted to look at it...

"Let me give you a... little suggestion," Knock Out said, stepping close to him with the sole of his shoe pressing into his face. "Stay away from her. Or I'll let Breakdown do what he did to you before. Clearly, you enjoyed that much more than you had let on the first time, since you've decided to pester Sally again."

"J-Just-!"

"How about you just get out now while you still have a bit of pride in tact, hmmm?" Knock Out pressed his foot down harder, making the other hiss out in pain. "And let's hope to never see you again, shall we?"

"Y-Yes... Yes, I promise!  I-I-I'll stay away from her!"

"And if I ever see you anywhere near her again," Breakdown snarled, yanking the now shaking man to his feet. "I'll dump your body into the nearest river."

Knock Out smiled brightly at the threat; how he would love to see that. "Now have a wonderful day and go away." 

The bigger man gave Richard a hard shove, who stumbled away before bolting to his car. Never once did he look back, making a hasty retreat into the vehicle before driving off, swerving a bit as he tried to get out and far away from the three of them. Sally was still sitting on the floor, shock and horrified by everything that had just happened. She only realized now that Richard was gone, she was shaking a bit.

"Sally?" She blinked and only realized that Breakdown was now beside her on his knees, "Sally, are you alright?  Did he hurt you?"

"I-I... I... I..."

"Here, let me help."

Sally didn't deny the hand that helped her up nor the one that held her close to him.

"Damn it, I shouldn't have let you go alone."

"I-It's fine-"

"Breakdown."

Both turned to the redhead who was picking up the bags that lied scattered on the floor.

"K-Knock-"

"We're going home." 

Sally's blood went cold at the icy tone of Knock Out's voice.  She had really messed up this time.  She had made him mad.  Knock Out had told her to stay away from Richard and she hadn't done what he told her.

She couldn't stop sniffling as Breakdown gently escorted her, both following after the man stomping through the parking garage in his expensive flats not caring that he was ruining them.

No one said anything else in that parking garage.


They arrived back at their apartment in record time due to Knock Out's speeding.  They were lucky no cop pulled them over.

"Knock Out, it's fine.  He didn't hurt her-"

"That pathetic piece of filth came after her!  He tried to kidnap her!"

"He can't harm her now.  Besides, he doesn't have anyway to get back at us.  He'll probably run away and hide like last time.”

“And then he’ll back come out snooping for her like the filthy vulture he is…”

Sally watched them as she sat on the couch.  Breakdown had brought her over to sit down and told her to wait.  He was about to ask if she needed a drink before Knock Out threw the bags onto the loveseat and stormed off into the kitchen.  Breakdown apologized before following after him.

She could hear their argument.  She didn't understand why Knock Out was so angry.  Richard... he hadn't hurt her.  They had gotten there before she got into his car…

"What if this was something he had planned?"

"Knock Out, how would he have known Sally would be at the mall with us and heading back to the car alone?

"Yes, I know he couldn't have-"

"I understand that.  But we know better now that he'll try something even if it’s just a spur of the moment-" 

"And then what?  What do we do if Sally passes him on the street or in the subway?"

"Knock Out, you can't keep her in here all the time."

“I know.”

But with that Richard bastard wandering around, the idea was tempting. Sally wasn’t very smart or very strong, unfortunately. Even though she had been trying to pull away from that bastard with all her strength, she hadn’t been able to get away. If they hadn’t gotten there when they had… Primus only knew where he would have taken her and what he would have done.

The more Knock Out thought about it, the angrier he grew. Why didn’t she just ignore him? Why didn’t she run away when she had the chance?!

He stormed out of the kitchen and back to the living room. Sally perked up to see him standing right in front of her, only to flinch back at the dark look on his face.

“Sally.”

She bit her bottom lip and looked away.

“Knock Out-” Breakdown came into the room and grabbed the redhead’s arm. “Come on, she didn’t-”

But Knock Out just yanked his arm free, his gaze still locked on the young woman sitting on the couch. “Sally. What happened?”

“… I…”

“You what?”

“… I was just going to put the bags in the car,” she mumbled, unable to look at him as she hugged herself tightly. “A-And then I ran into Richard… H-He apologized for what he did. H-He said he was just stressed and under a lot of pressure during the time-!”

“And you believed him?”

“… W-Why would he lie to me-?”

“Because you’re easy to trick.”

“Knock Out!”

“It’s not like that’s not true!” Knock Out snarled, glaring at Breakdown. He pointed to Sally, who just flinched back in fright. “She’s always been easy to manipulate! Because she’s willing to believe what anyone says, not giving it any reason thought!”

Sally hands balled into fists. That… That wasn’t true. She didn’t believe everything people said. She just… She was just giving people the benefit of the doubt, that was all. And that was what she was doing with Richard. Just giving him a chance to explain himself.

Besides, they didn’t know Richard like she did. When they had first met, he had been very kind and treated her wonderfully. He even let her move in with him after only dating for two months since she was going to be kicked out of her apartment. He had only gotten mean when he was under stress… And what he had said about his father… That was why he had hit her, he was just stressed, that was all…

“He gave you some sob story, didn’t he?”

Sally snapped out of her thoughts, seeing that Knock Out was now glaring at her again.

“He told you something that you feel sorry for him. Well, what was it?”

“… H-He just said he had b-been stressed and that… that his father passed away, so he had a breakdown and-”

“Oh, that’s a classic.”

Knock Out couldn’t believe this. She actually fell for that old trick! Anyone would have been able to see that was just some dirty lie! Why couldn’t she? Why was she just so damn gullible and stupid when it came to shit like this?! They told her Richard was a manipulator! They had already explained to her that he was just using her! What more did they have to say for her to understand that those people who had used her didn’t love her?! They just wanted something from her!

“Primus… What the hell do you think would have happened if we hadn’t come out there?”

Sally opened and closed her mouth. She didn’t know what to say. All Richard was going to was just take her to a café or something… No, she didn’t really want to go and she had been a little scared, though she didn’t know why. But they would have just gone out to eat, right?

“Knock Out…” Breakdown grabbed the man by the shoulders and forced him to look at him. “Come on, stop. This isn’t her fault.”

"I-!" Knock Out just threw his hands up in the air, clearly frustrated that he was being made out to be the bad guy.  "Anyone could have seen that he was lying through his teeth!”

“I know, but-”

Knock Out shoved the bigger man away and turned back to the girl sitting on the couch, shoulders shaking as she was hunched over.

“Why can’t you ever just think?!” he snarled, causing her to the flinch. “If you only actually thought about what people were saying for one fucking minute, you wouldn’t find yourself in these situations!”

“… I-I… I only-”

“You’re going to end up dead one day if you don’t open your eyes! Someone’s going to notice just how gullible you are, trick you, and then kill you! Is that what you want?! End up raped and dead in some alleyway?!”

Sally shook her head, tears starting to trickle down her cheeks.

“Knock Out-!”

“No!” he shouted, turning to the bigger man. “She needs to hear this!”

Maybe she did, but not like this. Breakdown knew that they needed to talk to her about this, but yelling at her wouldn’t get the point across. It would only scare and upset her. Hell, she was already starting to cry!

But Knock Out just turned back to her, unfazed by her soft sobs. “Breakdown and I won’t always be there to protect you! The only reason why we came when we did was because something didn’t feel right! A damn hunch! If it wasn’t for that, you would have been dragged off somewhere and we might have never found you!”

Sally could only cry in response. She didn’t want that. She didn’t want to think about that. That someone would kidnap her and hurt her. That she would never see Knock Out or Breakdown again. But she wouldn’t just let it happen so easily! She wasn’t stupid, she wasn’t… Richard wouldn’t have done anything, right? Richard was… He was…

She cried harder, burying her face into her hands. She didn’t know anymore. She knew Richard better than Knock Out or Breakdown. Or at least she was supposed to. He wouldn’t have hurt her… Even though he did use to hit her. Sometimes. And maybe he did lie once or twice, but he didn’t lie about big things… Did he?

Knock Out turned away with a small growl. He wasn’t trying to make her cry. He was just so tired of being so worried about her. It was as if the second he or Breakdown looked away, someone was trying to take advantage of her. He just wanted her to be safe… She had been abused all of her life by disgusting perverts. They just didn’t want it to happen again.

Breakdown knew that too. And while he didn’t like how his lover had exploded at her, he had a point. Sally couldn’t go around trusting anyone who gave her a few kind words. If she did… Primus, he didn’t even want to think about.

As Sally continued to sob gently to herself, Breakdown slowly approached her and kneeled down in front of her. She flinched when he set them on her knees, but he didn’t move them, even when she started to sob again.

“Sally,” he said gently. “Don’t cry. Knock Out is only upset because we’re worried about you.”

She sniffled, trying to wipe her tears away. At least she was listening…

“You have to understand, Sally… There are bad people who want to hurt others out there and take advantage of them. And if they are able to trick you into trusting them, they might hurt you.”

“B-But n-not everyone-”

“I know, not everyone is like that. But you just need to be careful. People like Richard… He’s not a good person, Sally. He used to beat you. A person who abuses someone is not a good person.”

“B-But-!”

“Sally.”

The poor girl started to shake harder. Breakdown’s arms slowly came around her, gently pulling her into his chest. Sally gripped his shirt tightly, burying her head into his shoulder. She didn’t want him to be right. He couldn’t have been right. If… if he was right… No, no, not all of the people in her past could have been bad people. Not her boyfriends or her stepfather or even her own mother…

A soft sob escaped past her lips, tears staining Breakdown’s shirt. But the bigger man didn’t say anything, just running his fingers through her hair. Knock Out ended up sighing, moving around to rub her back. She sobbed harder, whimpering out soft declarations of “no” over and over again. Both of them felt slightly guilty for making her cry like this, but she needed to understand. She couldn’t remain ignorant to the truth forever.

She had been hurt. She had been abused. And what had happened to her was not okay. What happened to her all her life was all due to shitty people taking advantage of her naivety and good heart. And even if she didn’t see it like that, they knew better. And they knew none of it was her fault.


Sally ended up crying herself to sleep. Breakdown had carried her to her room and tucked her into her bed after Knock Out had gently wiped off her makeup. They stayed with her for a little bit before heading out in the kitchen, Knock Out letting out a heavy groan as he went to his liquor cabinet.

“Knock Out-”

“I’m just having one class,” he grumbled, pulling out a bottle of red wine and a glass. “I’d offer you some, but I know you’re not a fan of wine.”

The bigger man didn’t say anything as he sat at the island counter, watching his lover pour himself a glass. As he promised, he put the bottle back into the cabinet before joining him on the seat across from him.

They sat in silence for a few moments, Knock Out sipping his wine and staring out the window. He was still angry, but he knew that snapping at Sally wasn’t the way to go about all of this. Unfortunately, she didn’t know better… She didn’t know everything that had happened to her was abuse. That those people from her past were not good people. What they did wasn’t right or even moral. Not that he was exactly to talk, considering his own past.

But at least he knew what was wrong or immoral or whatever. She didn’t. And this was a problem. A problem they couldn’t ignore anymore.

“We should have her see a therapist,” Knock Out finally said, putting down his glass.

“… Yeah, you’re right.”

Breakdown had hoped that maybe they could just talk to Sally about all of this, but this issue seemed to stem a lot deeper than just her simply being naïve. He wanted to help her himself, but he and Knock Out weren’t enough. They weren’t professionals. She had to see someone about this. Someone who could help her understand better than they ever could.

“I have some connections.” Knock Out took another sip of his wine before continuing. “I can get her to see someone.”

“… Do you think you-?”

“I was already going to try and get a woman, yes.”

Breakdown nodded. It wasn’t that they thought a professional was going to do something to her, but… it was probably just better that she talked to a woman. Preferably someone who was older and had been a therapist longer. Maybe that would help Sally open up a bit more about what happened… and maybe whoever she was seeing would be able to help her understand just what had happened to her was wrong.

He huffed, rubbing his eyes as Knock Out finished the last of his wine. It was foolish of him to think they were enough. That they, who didn’t have any psychology background, would be able to help her understand. They tried, yes, and it seemed she understood a little bit, but clearly, it wasn’t enough.

They hoped this would help her. Even if just a little, it would help her understand. It would help her overcome a few things, maybe even become less gullible. Neither of them could be sure what talking to a therapist would do for her, but they knew it would help.

They just wanted her to be safe. Not just from Richard, but from anyone else who might try to be prey on her. And if she was safe, she would be happy.

And they would do whatever it took to ensure her happiness.