So, over the weekend I got really into Lackadaisy, and well, this kind of popped into my head. Which isn't a bad thing, mind you, it's just that I should have been writing essays or studying for finals instead. The thing is, once an idea gets into my head, it usually doesn't like to leave until I've gotten it down, so I knew if I wanted to focus on my classes, I'd have to do this first. So, I hope you enjoy, I certainly did!
Warning! This fic contains some pretty dark subject matter which almost caused me to put it in the M category, but I felt I managed to stop in time. Be warned, there is some lime in this fic. Don't say I didn't warn you. If you feel I should still put this in the M catagory, please let me know, I value your opinion.
Disclaimer: I don't own a damn thing.
The dingy alley he waited in cast dark shadows across his already midnight fur. He waited patiently for his target to get into range. Honestly, how long could it take for that girl to finish her incessant flirting? Those boys weren't even all that interesting, practically drooling all over her. She could certainly do much better –
No! he thought, his eyes narrowing the tiniest fraction. That is no longer your concern. In fact, it never was, so why do you insist on inconveniencing yourself with such trivialities?
It was true. While he had once been Atlas' main triggerman and close companion, he had never been ordered to protect his former employer's goddaughter. Viktor had taken up that mantle, and as his partner, Mordecai had been willing to assist him when necessary. So what if they had gone the extra mile and started threatening her boyfriends, or had endured long shopping sprees just because they didn't want her going out alone where she could possibly be hurt or kidnapped? Atlas was dead, and he no longer associated himself with those imbeciles.
So why was he there, watching her from the shadows of a dirty alleyway? It was all because Asa Sweet had given him a mission, one that directly involved that very girl.
"Mordecai, I have a job for you. It seems the Lackadaisies still don't understand just how hopeless they are, and they just raided one of my shipments. I'm gonna need you to send them a little message," the heavy cat said, squinted eyes observing his most talented triggerman.
"Who do you need me to kill?" was the automatic response.
Asa chuckled mirthlessly. It killed him that Atlas had found him before he had. But no need to dwell on the past. "Nah, no killing this time. No, I need you to keep this one alive, make her a living reminder of just how far we're willing to go. The uh, higher ups think we've been fighting with the kid gloves for too long; it's time to up the ante."
Mordecai raised an eyebrow just the slightest bit. "Then what do you need me to do?"
"I need you to rape Ivy Pepper."
Honestly, he had spent hours trying to figure out a more convincing message, one that didn't involve the molestation of a girl he's known for years. Kidnapping was certainly out of the question. That was only effective when the victim's relations had the means to pay the ransom. Besides, with a feisty girl like Ivy it would probably be more trouble than it was worth. And while murder was certainly an efficient way of sending a message, Asa had a point. They'd killed, crippled, and robbed from the Lackadaisy clan before, and they still insisted on making trouble. They needed something ruthless, something that showed just how lenient they had been with them in the past. Rape was becoming the only option.
But why her? His conscience, nearly inaudible after all these years, whispered. And why you?
Because of her status. The assault and rape of Atlas' goddaughter will send a clear message not only to the Lackadaisies, but to all our other rivals. She is dear to many people, so leaving her battered and broken will have a lasting effect on them. As for why I must be the one to do this atrocious act, it's likely because I am the most efficient in my work, and I will make sure the job is done properly without accidentally killing her. Asa also probably wants to rub salt on their wounds by having Ms. Pepper defiled by one of their own. He'd had this internal argument several times since he'd been given his orders, and the response had become automatic. It still didn't stop his conscious from trying to talk him out of it.
He adjusted his cufflinks, then paused, staring at them. They were the ones Atlas had given him during the holidays before he died. Simple and gold, they shimmered slightly. Looking at them always reminded him of his former employer, and he wondered what he would think if he could see his "Golden Boy" now.
What do you think he'd say if he knew what you were planning to do to his goddaughter?
Tuning out the irritating whisper of his normally dormant conscience, he took a moment to observe the girl. Though she would likely always be a child in his eyes, he would admit she had grown, at least physically. No longer a tiny ball of fuzz that used Viktor as a jungle gym, she had grown taller, though she still remained rather petite. Her hair had remained the same short bob that it had always been, but it suited her better, framing her face and drawing one's attention to her large golden eyes. Her clothing didn't betray much curvature, hanging loosely on her slight frame, giving her a boyish figure fitting of the latest fashion. Still, the button-up blouse and plain skirt did make her look more feminine than the breeches and sweater she often wore did. But it was the way she held herself that displayed the fact that she was on the cusp of womanhood, that air of confidence and intelligence letting the world know she no longer considered herself a child.
Finally waving goodbye to those pathetic boys she had been speaking with, she unwittingly made her way right into the jaws of danger. His eyes narrowed as he steeled himself. This was the first step, but he doubted it would be the hardest. His target finally came into range, and his arms shot out like vipers, one wrapping around her waist to pin her arms, the other clamping over her mouth. To her credit she immediately started struggling against him, flailing about to try to kick his shins, loosen his arms, anything. When she bit his palm, he decided that enough was enough.
Tightening his grip on the struggling girl and pulling her further into the shadows of the alley, he leaned his head forward, whispering in her twitching ear, "I would appreciate your cooperation and discretion, Ms. Pepper. I truly have no interest in killing you at this time, but if you continue this pointless thrashing about, I may be forced to reconsider."
Ivy felt her blood freeze at the familiar voice and immediately stiffened. No one but Mordecai had ever spoken to her in such a cool, formal tone. How often had she heard that voice scold her or bluntly ask her why she insisted on bothering him and Viktor when they had better things to do than play nursemaid? And now here she was, trapped in his arms, her back pressed so tightly to his chest she could feel the butt of his trusty Browning hidden under his jacket. Fear started clouding her judgment, and it took all her self-restraint to not start screaming for help. Who'd come help anyway? She reasoned, trying to control her survival instincts. None of the guys are around, and even then he's already crippled the only one even remotely capable of taking him! If he could do that to Viktor, what chance do I have?
Mordecai almost smiled as the feisty girl stopped thrashing about. It was good to know she did still have a bit of sense about her, despite her association with that belligerent imbecile, Rocky. Softly clearing his throat to get her attention, he murmured in her ear, "Now, I'm going to remove my hand, but please do refrain from screaming. You know I can easily kill anyone who would try to aid you, and I'm certain you don't desire to have their blood on your hands. Though perhaps if you screamed loudly enough, those two boys you were talking to might decide to play knight in shining armor. Wouldn't that be sweet of them?"
Realization hit her like a punch to the gut. He's been watching me! How long has he been doing that? Did he see me with Calvin? Did he watch my latest rifle practice? Does he know who my friends are, would he hurt them? What about Viktor, does he know about his condition? The thought of the big lug gave her pause. Mordecai would not hesitate in hurting him, he'd proven that. No, Ivy would just have to play along, to not cause trouble until she could find an opportunity to escape on her own. Taking a deep breath, she nodded her head against his hand.
Pleased that she was able to see reason, he slowly released her mouth, ready to hurt her if she tried to go back on their agreement.
Taking a moment to catch her breath, Ivy turned her head as far as she could, managing to finally see her captor out of the corner of her eye. He sure hadn't changed physically. Same jet fur, same polished spectacles, same dull expression with just a hint of annoyance. "Mr. Heller, what are you doing here?" Just like how he always addressed her as "Ms. Pepper," she had always called him "Mr. Heller" whenever they spoke.
He quirked an eyebrow just the tiniest bit, as if surprised that she even had to ask. "I've been tasked with abducting you, Ms. Pepper. I will elaborate further as to the purpose of doing so once we reach our destination. Now, I am going to release your arms, but you are not going to run. You will walk – calmly – with me to my associate's vehicle, and you will behave. Do not draw attention to yourself, do not fight me, and do not try to escape. The consequences in doing so will be most dire."
Ivy glared at him out of the corner of her eye. How dare he treat her like a misbehaving child! He's the one kidnapping her, what right did he have to take that patronizing tone with her? "I'm not a child, Mr. Heller, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't treat me like one. I'll follow your conditions, but I'd suggest you change your tone!"
Snorting at her insolence, he cautiously released her arms, half expecting her to make a break for it. When she remained rooted to the spot, he nodded in approval before wrapping an arm around her waist and guiding her out of the ally. It would almost seem affectionate if it weren't for the distinct presence of his claws lightly digging into her side, a silent warning not to run.
After a few minutes of walking the two arrived at a rather nice Forder, a large white cat leaning against its side smoking nonchalantly. Noticing them, he smiled a sort of lazy grin and flicked away his cigarette.
Mordecai nodded in greeting. "Nico, I've acquired the target. Are you ready to go?"
Nico chuckled. "Sure, ami, but is dis really de girl? She don't look de sort to be involved wit Atlas."
The tuxedo cat's eyes narrowed. "Are you doubting my knowledge pertaining to Atlas' relations?"
Holding up his hands in mock surrender, his smile faded a bit. "Non, non, I'm just surprised, dat's all!" He turned his attention to Ivy. "Bonjour mademoiselle, I am Nico Savoy. Am I to assume you are Ivy Pepper?"
Was this really Mordecai's new partner? He traded in Viktor for some Cajun? The nerve! "Yes, I am," she said tersely.
He turned back to Mordecai. "Has some bite to her, non?"
Ivy huffed and crossed her arms. "Well, I am being kidnapped, what did you expect? I agreed not to make a scene; I never said I'd to be nice about it."
The Cajun laughed, shaking his head. "Feisty girl. We ready t' go?" Not waiting for an answer, he went to the front of the car and started the engine. Mordecai, meanwhile, escorted her to the back, opening the door and giving her a look that brokered no arguments when she hesitated. Once she was securely in the back he slid into the passenger seat while Nico got into the driver's side, and off they went.
Once they were on the road, Mordecai turned around to tell her to sit in the middle, only to find she had already done so. His mouth twitched upwards for a moment, almost forming a small smile. "It's good to know you appreciate my love of symmetry, Ms. Pepper."
She let out an unladylike snort. "Hardly. I just didn't need you bitching and moaning about how I'm throwing off the car's symmetrical harmony. I had enough of that back when you and Viktor insisted on driving me places." She then addressed Nico. "So you're his new partner?"
"Oui. Me an' my sister been workin' wit him a few months now."
"Better be careful then. He's a sociopath with a bad habit of kneecapping his partners, especially when they refuse to retire."
Mordecai glared at her. "Viktor made his choice. I tried to reason with him, but he was too much of a fool to listen, so I had to apply force."
Ivy's glare could almost match his. "Viktor's not a fool! And is this what this is about? Are you kidnapping me to try to get Viktor to leave the gang? 'Cause if that's what you're going for, you're really underestimating him."
"Viktor's refusal to admit when he's beaten has little to do with this. Besides, we are not kidnapping you, per se. Kidnapping is only useful if the kidnapper's kin are able to pay the ransom, and the Lackadaisy has been a sinking ship since Atlas died."
Clenching her fists, she growled, "Then I guess it's true what they say: the rats are always the first to abandon ship."
It was rare that Mordecai lost his temper, but this was the closest he'd been to losing it in a while. His pupils shrunk to pinpricks and his fingers twitched, itching to reach for his gun and silence her in a spectacularly bloody manner. How dare she speak like she understands the situation! He mentally growled, almost tempted to climb into the backseat and shut her up. Her careless words would be her undoing, and he already had a few ideas on how to make her pay for them. Calm down, Mordecai, he thought. Don't let the words of some impertinent little girl get to you. Taking a few calming breaths, he adjusted his cufflinks, and a fresh wave of guilt washed over him. Of course she wouldn't know the situation, only Mitzi and I know what happened that night. He turned back to the front, keeping his eyes focused on the road ahead of them. Her anger is justified, but it will not stop me from doing my job.
Nico observed all this in silence, privately wondering if perhaps Asa was wrong in ordering Mordecai to be the one to break the girl. She reminded him of his sister in a way, the sugar on top barely concealing the spice. It was obvious that the two, while they probably hadn't been close (Mordecai close to someone? Ha!), had at least known each other for a long time, long enough to establish a sort of bond that wasn't quite so easily broken. He only hoped that this job wouldn't destroy the black cat like it would the girl.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, and in no time the car pulled up in front of a small motel. Looking out the window at the surrounding area, Ivy realized that she had no idea where she was, and her hope of escape was suddenly even less tangible than it had been when she first agreed to go with the men. Hopping out of the vehicle, Mordecai opened the backdoor, gesturing for Ivy to come with him.
"You want I should wait?" Nico asked, glancing at the two, masking his concern.
"You may wait if you wish, but I cannot be certain how long this will take. As you have probably realized she isn't exactly your typical damsel-in-distress." He gripped Ivy's arm tightly and pulled her towards the motel, his face betraying no emotion.
They checked into a room, and the triggerman was pleased to find that the room was clean. It was bad enough he was being forced to commit such an atrocious act on the girl, but he certainly wasn't going to do it in a dirty room. It was simple with a bed, night table, dresser, and mirror. Locking the door, he gestured towards the bed. "Sit."
She did, but she did so on the edge, knowing this would irritate him. It astounded her how she was suddenly so willing to play with fire; after all she had known him to kill over less. Perhaps it was the reminder that Mordecai was no longer one of them, that he had betrayed his own partner and joined Asa Sweet, abandoning the gang to have to scrape for every customer they could get. That was partially why she had been flirting with those boys, because they were potential customers and she didn't want her friends to have to suffer so much. His comments about Viktor had also rubbed salt on a still very fresh wound. Viktor may not have been as smart as Mordecai, but he was a thousand times more loyal, and that's what really counted in her mind.
Noticing her position on the bed, he gave her his patented irritated look and removed his coat, bringing his gun into plain view. She stiffened, briefly wondering how much it hurt to be shot. Viktor had been shot plenty of times and managed to be just fine, but then again she wasn't an enormous Austrian that seemed to not understand the concept of pain.
Carefully removing the holster, he set it on the nearby dresser, then started loosening his tie. Keeping his eyes on her, his expression was once again neutral. "Have you deciphered why you're here?" he asked.
She hesitated a moment before meeting his eyes defiantly. If she was going to die, she'd at least do it with dignity, just like Uncle Atlas probably had. She'd always imagined him standing tall before his killer, whoever he was, and probably giving one last dignified parting shot before meeting his violent end. "Gee, I don't know Mr. Heller. I'm guessing that you're going to murder me in a spectacularly bloody fashion and leave me on the doorstep of the Little Daisy as some sort of sick message?"
Undoing his tie and folding it neatly, he placed it next to the gun, still staring straight at her with that same infuriatingly bored look. "Only half right, I'm afraid." He began to unbutton his vest. "I do plan to leave you on their doorstep as a message, but I have no intention of killing you." The vest was neatly folded and placed next to the tie.
Despite her confusion, she pressed on, her anger still simmering too hotly for her to listen to that little voice in the back of her head that told her she really didn't want to know the answer. "Then what are you going to do, huh? Interrogate me for information that you probably already have? Mutilate my face in a completely symmetrical way? Oh! Maybe you're planning to talk about semantics until I go insane!" she shouted, clenching her fists so tightly she could almost see he knuckles turn white under her fur.
He looked away from her to remove his cufflinks and place them almost reverently atop the vest. Ivy immediately recognized them as the ones Atlas had given him before he died. It amazed her that he still wore them after leaving the Lackadaisies.
Once again ignoring the irritating voice of his conscience, he turned back to his victim. "No, no, and don't be ridiculous. Have you honestly not guessed?" He gestured about the room. "You're a clever girl, Ms. Pepper, I would think it would be easy for you to figure out why a young lady such as yourself would be brought to a secluded motel by a "sociopathic" man like myself?"
It took a moment for the words to register in her brain, partially because she simply didn't want to register them. But register they did, causing her eyes to widen and her hand to shoot to her mouth to stifle her gasp. "Y-you wouldn't. There's no way…Mr. Heller, please tell me you're just making a sick joke, that you wouldn't actually sink that low! Please," she finished weakly, her voice high and shaky even to her own ears.
In response, Mordecai simply removed his spectacles and began unbuttoning his shirt, glancing away from the horrified girl. Desperate to escape now that she had such terrifying information, Ivy took advantage of his temporarily distracted state and made a break for the door. Unfortunately, the black cat was quicker and roughly grasped both her wrists, forcing them both onto the bed.
Pinning her wrists with one hand and shoving her knees between her struggling thighs, he effectively pinned her down. He gripped her chin with his free hand and made her look at him. "Ms. Pepper," he said, a small growl of irritation creeping into his voice. "This will be much easier on both of us if you would simply refrain from struggling and allow me to do the job I have been assigned." Not waiting for a response, he turned her head to the side and honed in on her neck.
At the first touch of his rough tongue to her soft fur, Ivy let out a strangled cry, screwing her eyes shut and trying to pretend that the whole thing was just a bad dream, one she would quickly wake up from and forget the next day. Mordecai, however, remained focused on the trembling girl beneath him. Asa had told him to at least pretend to enjoy what he did to her, to make it even more psychologically scarring. What was beginning to scare him was that he wasn't quite pretending when he moaned as her thigh brushed against his manhood. It's the body's natural reaction, besides, I'll need to be aroused in order to complete this, he reasoned, attempting to ignore the feeling of disgust welling up in his stomach. Keeping that thought in the forefront of his mind, he laved his tongue over her delicate throat before sucking sharply at her pulse-point.
Teeth nipped their way up to her ear as his hand travelled from her chin to the top of her blouse. "Are you going to remove this," he whispered, lightly tugging at the first button, "or would you rather I do it?"
Another pained whimper escaped her lips as she once again tried to struggle against him. Deciding leniency was getting him nowhere, he growled, "Fine then. Have it your way." He pulled away from her ear and with dexterous fingers quickly undid her blouse, yanking it open to reveal her small, flawless chest.
Seeing he like this made him pause as he was pulled in two directions. His body hungered for her, the predator in him awakening at the sight of the beautiful young woman in such a vulnerable state. It was something that, like his conscience, he had locked away deep within him, only allowing out in moments of extreme stress. It was the side of him that wanted nothing but to take take take and would do anything to get what it desired. And Ivy's small, innocent body was most certainly what it wanted. It wanted him to use her, defile her in every way he could think of, to sink deeply into her warm, sweet body and relish in the sins of the flesh he so often denied himself.
His mind, meanwhile, had a completely different reaction. His conscience was back with a vengeance, and this time it would not let him get away with feeble excuses of "orders" and "necessity." It demanded to know how he could possibly justify the fact that he was in the process of raping Ivy Pepper, Atlas' goddaughter, and most importantly someone he had always considered a mere child. Her body may be that of a woman, but that makes no difference! it shouted, filling him with disgust.
Releasing her wrists and pushing himself up so he could see her face, he starred down at her. Though she had obviously been trying to hide it (Probably so you wouldn't get the satisfaction, his mind whispered) tears had begun to stain her cheeks. Her cocoa hair was mussed, her lip was bleeding from trying to hide her terrified screams, and her breath was coming out in pained little sobs. A new wave of repulsion hit him. Have I really fallen so far? He wondered. Can I really do this to Ivy, a girl I've known and helped protect for years? He was suddenly struck with a flood of memories; Ivy asking him to assist her in choosing a tie for Viktor for Atlas' New Year's party, since the man had no fashion sense. Ivy demanding he dance with her since he and Viktor had scared off her date and Viktor couldn't dance. Ivy helping him locate his cufflinks when some idiot had misplaced them.
And raping her would do more than hurt the girl; it would destroy the people who loved her. Can I do this to Mitzi? As much as he hated the widow, he knew she had taken the girl under her wing and did what she could to keep her happy. Ivy and Mitzi sitting at one of the little café booths, the woman giving her advice on how to get the attention of a boy she liked.
Can I do this to Viktor? His former partner, whom he had physically crippled, would be devastated by this. She was practically his only family, the only one who loved him unconditionally. Ivy curled up in Viktor's lap, having fallen asleep reading Vogue to him. Ivy fussing over Viktor when he got shot in the arm after a pickup gone wrong.
He looked over at the cufflinks, shining innocently on the dresser. Can I do this to Atlas? They may not have been related by blood, but Atlas had adored her as if she was her own daughter. Atlas bragging about how good Ivy had gotten with a rifle. Atlas giving Ivy a fancy new dress for her birthday and laughing as she promised to wear it on her first date. The mix of pride and irritation on Atlas' face when Ivy fulfilled that promise.
No. He couldn't.
Taking a deep breath, Mordecai got off the bed and began straightening his clothes. Turning away from her, he said, "Cover yourself, I'm taking you home." He knew she was still scared and confused, but the sound of fabric rustling behind him at least let him know that she was at least willing to listen to his instructions. Quickly dressing himself, he cautiously faced the girl, grateful she was once again decent.
Wiping the remaining tears from her eyes, she attempted to untangle her short hair with her claws. Giving herself a once-over in the mirror, she nervously looked at him, the question of why obvious in her eyes.
"Because I'm not sick enough to rape a child, no matter what my orders are. Besides, what would Atlas say if he could see me in such a repulsive position?" he answered, adjusting the cufflinks.
In any other situation Ivy would have felt insulted for being called a child, but at the moment it didn't matter. Mordecai had spared her, probably at his own risk, and she had no idea how to react. After a moment of deliberation, she moved forward, clutching him around the waist and squeezing tight, burying her head in his shoulder. "Thank you," she whispered.
He didn't respond, but he didn't push her away either, which was enough for her. Pulling away after a moment, she gave him a small, watery smile and let him lead her to the car. Nico seemed surprised to see them so soon, but made no comment, simply starting the car and watching as Mordecai held the door open for her. Not a word was spoken as the three drove into town, finally stopping in front of the Little Daisy.
Getting out, Mordecai assisted her in exiting the vehicle just as Viktor limped over from the back. His eyes widened at the sight of his old partner with his surrogate daughter, then he snarled and bared his teeth. "Get avay from her!"
Keeping his face completely blank, Mordecai simply responded "Hello, Viktor," before turning back to Ivy. "I'd suggest being more careful in the future. I'm going to have a word with my employer, but you'd be better off staying close to your bodyguard." With a curt nod to his former partner, he started getting back into the car, but turned to the girl one last time. "I am sorry, Ms. Pepper, for what happened."
Biting her lip, she nodded, meeting his sharp green eyes with her softer golden ones. "Just take care of yourself, Mr. Heller. And," she paused for a moment, trying to find the right words. Finally, "And don't worry about it. I'm sure Uncle Atlas would be proud of you."
This shocked Mordecai, but decided not to dwell on it, instead closing the door and telling Nico to drive.
Once the Forder was out of sight, Viktor walked over to Ivy. "Deivka, vhat vas that about?" he demanded, trying to hear the fear in his voice. He knew his ex-partner didn't just help his enemies for no reason, Mordecai must have done something to her. And he swore if she was hurt, he'd tear him apart, bad knees or not!
Ivy gave her guardian a small smile before taking his hand and leading him inside. She'd probably never quite forgive Mordecai for what he almost did, but one thing was for sure; she was grateful that even he had limits.
The elaborate office door opened, causing Asa to glance up from his paperwork, a fat cigar dangling between his teeth. He grinned at the sight of his best triggerman.
"Mordecai! So, how did it go? Did you get the message across?"
The next thing he knew, the cold bite of metal was pressed against his forehead. Mordecai stood before him, gun drawn with perhaps the iciest expression he had ever seen on his face.
"No, but I do have a message for you; no matter what your schemes demand, no matter how angry you are at Mitzi and her gang, Ivy Pepper is off limits. You are a sick man for ordering me to do that, even if they are technically from your superiors. Now, I'm only going to tell you this once," Mordecai leaned forward so Asa could look directly into his eyes. "I work for you, and I will follow your orders without question, but I am still loyal to Atlas. If any harm comes to his goddaughter that I can even tangibly trace back to you, I will kill not only the party responsible, but you as well. Have I made myself clear?"
Asa jerked his head up and down, eyes wide and cigar falling from his teeth onto the floor. Mordecai removed the gun from his face and turned to leave. He'd gotten the message alright, and was in no position to argue.
Once he exited the office, Ivy's words came back to him. "I'm sure Uncle Atlas would be proud of you." It suddenly dawned on him exactly what she had meant. Atlas would be proud that he had gone against his orders for the sake of protecting the godchild that he no longer had any obligation to. He'd be proud that his loyalty to him outdid his loyalty to Asa, that he hadn't lost everything the day he died. And Mordecai let a small smile grace his lips for a brief moment, himself pleased with this knowledge.
Well, that was one of the darkest things I have ever written. Seriously, that's what happens when I write a fic while listening to nothing but Evanescence, it ends up dark and kinda angsty. Also, I know Mordecai's a little OOC, but like I said, it was an idea that wouldn't leave my head, and after spending so much time and effort on this it seemed a waste not to post it. Plus, it was kind of fun to write for him, since it gave me the chance to use my Thesaurus and all the big words that would never otherwise show up in casual conversation. Either way, please review, I'd live to hear what you think!