Full Court Press
Chapter 1

I just couldn't leave well enough alone. Duty had always been important to me, and tonight was no different.

I looked at the white Econoline van. It was parked beside the dumpster behind the Noble Roman's pizza parlor where I worked. I thought that I heard a muffled voice from the van and saw that it was moving a bit; as if someone were shifting their weight inside of it.

I walked toward the van intending to discourage the occupant from trying to sleep here tonight. I figured that was what was going on, but the trash truck was due in the morning and the van was parked too close to the dumpster. I didn't need the hassles that would bring.

I'm Mark Reynolds, night manager for Noble Roman's pizza parlor and 2nd year engineering student at Purdue University. I enrolled here after a tour in Vietnam as a flight medic.

The closer I got to the van the more the shaking increased and the louder the sounds got. Maybe I was not about to interrupt a young man getting ready for sleep; but a couple trying to find privacy. Too bad, they should have picked a better place to park. I stopped next to the double side door and slapped my open right hand against the metal three times quickly. I was still holding the broken pizza paddle I used to lift the lid of the dumpster. Both sides of the paddle had broken off leaving a 4 foot ash board with a narrow edge on one end and a rounded knob on the other.

I stepped back from the vehicle to avoid the windowless door opening into me, "I'm sorry to disturb you, but you are going to have to move this van, you are too close to the dumpster." I yelled.

"Who the hell are you? I'll fucking move when I'm done fucking, now get the hell away from here before I fuck you up!"

This guy was very fond of the 'f' word. I stepped back in toward the van and slapped the side three more times. "You need to move now, or I'll have to call a tow truck to move you, at your expense."

The driver had backed his van up against a sign that said this very thing. This time the only response from the van was a growl. The door was suddenly flung open, and a big man with long dark hair and a full beard stepped out of the van. A dark mat of curly hair showed on his chest and belly through his open shirt as he paused to adjust his pants. He looked like a bear wearing jeans and a flannel shirt.

When the door slammed open I had stepped back another couple of steps out of caution. The light coming from the back of the pizza parlor was not very bright, but I was able to see past Mr. Grizzly well enough to show the naked girl lying on the floor of the van. I was also able to see the duct tape on her mouth and the fact that her wrists were fastened to a cargo strap over her head.

I grasped the board firmly with my right hand and shifted my left hand up and further towards the sharp end holding the board diagonally across my body. The big man looked up at me, yelled, and started a charge. There was no thought required as old reactions and muscle memory took over. It was like I was watching from above as the butt stroke developed just the way it had been drilled into me on the hot Louisiana sands of Fort Polk. I punched the blunt end of the board up under his chin, followed with a smash into the face with my weight behind it. As he was falling back I gave him a twisting slash across the neck that backed me up enough to prepare for the final thrust up into the heart. Blood spurted onto me and onto the white van as the big man slowly slid down the side of the van to the ground. The final thrust would not be needed. I had not expected the oven hardened end of the paddle to cut as well or better than the bayonet the movement was designed for.

I made a quick value judgment, and decided to help the victim first. If he was still alive in a few minutes, I would patch up Mr. Grizzly.

I pulled my shirt off as I stepped into the van and the girl's eyes widened as she tried to back up into the side wall, pulling her feet back up against her buttocks.

"Take it easy miss, I won't hurt you." I draped my shirt over her bare chest, realizing as I did so that the shirt was covered in blood. It was probably not the best thing to use, but I didn't have anything else. I stepped back to let her calm down. "I'm going to take the tape off of your mouth first, please be still and I'll be as careful as I can."

She nodded yes, so I reached out to grab the corner of the tape and quickly pulled it smoothly off of her mouth.

"Ow, damnit! I thought you were going to be careful?"

"I'm sorry, but that is the best way to handle it. Are you injured anywhere; is anything broken?"

"I don't think he broke anything. Now please get me loose from this shit."

I reached into my pocket and got out my keys. There was a sharp little knife on the key ring. I opened it and carefully cut the tape holding her wrists together.

"Thank you. I don't know who you are, but I owe you one. Is that piece of shit dead?"

As she was asking this, the girl was pulling my shirt over her head. I looked out at the guy and saw that the blood had stopped squirting and there was a large pool under him. I got out and checked his wrist for a pulse; nothing. "He won't be bothering you again. Be careful where you step, try to stay out of the blood. I'll take you inside the shop; someone should still be here to help you out. I need to call the police."

I took her hand as she stepped out of the van. She reached back inside and grabbed a pair of pink sandals; she dropped them on the ground and slid her feet in. I noticed that her feet were small and tanned, with pink nails to match the sandals. I led her in through the back door, to be met by Penny Shake, one of the girls working cleanup tonight.

"Mark! What took you so long ... and who is this and why is she wearing your shirt?" Penny seemed to get more confused the more questions she asked.

"Penny, please take care of this girl while I call the police. I'm sorry miss, but you shouldn't get cleaned up until after the police see you." She was nodding her head as I walked into the office to call. Waiting for the West Lafayette police to answer the phone I took my first good look at the girl I had rescued. She was short enough that my shirt came down almost to her knees, and plump enough that she was stretching it a few places that I didn't. Her hair was short and bleached, and the heavy mascara on her eyes was streaming down onto her cheeks with the tears she was now crying. The interesting item revealed by her smudged makeup was a line of freckles traveling over her cheeks and nose.

The phone was finally picked up on the other end. I calmly explained to the person who answered the phone that I needed an ambulance and some officers at the Noble Roman's on the levy. I told them that I had stopped a rape in progress and the rapist was now dead. I answered questions for the next ten minutes and heard sirens approaching before I was able to get off of the phone.

I put on the extra shirt I kept in the office before meeting the police at the front door. The next couple of hours were excruciating. The girl, Christine Braddock, had to admit that she was being raped before the police would believe me. I was taken to the police station and Christine to the hospital. At first I was charged with murder, then assault, and then finally at 5am I was released into my father's custody. They had discovered that the man that I had killed was wanted for 5 or more rapes on campus. It was understood that there were always more rapes than were reported.

The hardest part was trying to explain to them that I had not intended to kill the guy, but once I started the bayonet movement I had continued to near the end without thinking about it. I had no way to know that the end of the paddle would cut into him so deeply. I was just trying to disable him. He was so much bigger than I that I wasn't taking any chances and his death was an accident.

All this had happened on a Saturday night, and since the pizza parlor sold beer, it was closed on Sunday. I didn't get out of the police station till almost noon on Sunday. Dad took me back to Noble Roman's to get my car and I followed him across the Wabash River to his house in the north part of Lafayette. I could have lived with my parents while going to school, but I liked the freedom my apartment gave me.

Mom fed me and after a lot of talk and some TV I spent a nearly sleepless night with my parents. I kept seeing the blood dripping down the side of the white van intermingled with the terrified face of the young girl and flashes of jungle and napalm. The comforting feel of my old room and knowing that my folks were just across the hall helped keep a bad night from becoming horrific.

I didn't go to school on Monday; I just couldn't face the fake hippies populating the college yet. When I walked into work Monday night, the owner was there. From his attitude I thought that I was going to be fired, until his wife told him that if he fired me, she would be gone as well.

"Take it easy Marsha; I was just pulling his chain for making such a mess out back. The police towed the van away, but that fat bastard bled out what looked to be gallons and we had to bleach it all down. I'm just glad that you were on duty Mark; I don't know what I would have done in your place, but probably not what you did. You can take a couple of days off if you want to; I know that had to take a lot out of you."

"That's okay John, I'd just as soon work. If the fool had just parked far enough away from the dumpster, I would have probably left him alone. Well, anything special going on tonight?"

"No, just a normal Monday; I'll get these accounts finished and be out of your way soon. Have a good night, and thank you again."

I went ahead and did the normal business. Most of the staff looked at me funny, but I was used to that. Most folks knew that I had been in Vietnam and the fact that I had been a medic didn't keep many of the kids at Purdue from calling me a "baby killer" and a "fascist thug". Maybe this incident would make them think twice before confronting me now.

I was keeping my reaction to killing a man behind thick bars in my mind, it wasn't the first time after all, but it was becoming harder to hold it there. When it finally broke out the reaction was going to be a doozy. I just hoped that I could hold off until Wednesday when I had my appointment with the psychologist at the VA in Indy.

I saw the big bleached area out back when I took out the trash. I had to find a new board to use on the dumpster as the police had appropriated the weapon I had used on the rapist.

By Tuesday, more people had heard about my escapade and there were more funny looks, but a couple of people stopped me to thank me for doing the world a favor.

Most of the staff was back to normal that night. I was sitting back in the corner with Bill Oliver, who worked the cash register, when I heard a small voice behind me, "Excuse me, but are you Mark Reynolds?"

I turned, to find a plumpish bleached blond with too much mascara standing behind me. "Yes I am Miss, May I help you?"

"I brought your shirt back; I couldn't get all of the blood out." She handed me the bright yellow T-shirt with the Noble Roman's logo on it that I had been wearing Saturday night, and looked down at the floor. "I also wanted to thank you for saving me. He really hurt some of the other girls when he had time, and he had just started with me when you interrupted him."

"I'm sorry Miss, Christine, isn't it?" She nodded, "I didn't recognize you, and no thanks are needed, besides, you already thanked me that night. I was just protecting myself; you don't owe me anything."


"I recognize you now."

"Oh shut up. I saw you when that bastard opened the door, and you were backing off, you weren't going to get in a fight. Then you saw me, and that stick you were carrying snapped up. It was like someone flipped a switch. You stepped in and that stick moved up, and I have never seen anyone move that fucking fast. The next thing I know asshole is falling and you are stepping into the van and taking off your shirt, at first I thought that you were going to fucking rape me too, and then you put the bloody goddamn thing on me, covering my tits. I could be your slave for life, and never pay you back for what you did."

"Please believe me Christine, you owe me nothing. I just wish that I had gone out sooner so you wouldn't have been hurt at all."

"Wrong bucko, we do owe you, and we pay our debts." I looked beyond Christine and noticed another girl standing there. She was taller and wider than the blond, with dark hair cut short, wearing a sleeveless plaid shirt, and cutoff denim shorts with hiking boots. Oh shit, it's her butch girlfriend. "Now what night are you off work? We're going to take you out and reward you, one way or another."

"I'm sorry Miss?" I looked questioningly at the second girl...

"Shannon, Shannon McKensie, I'm Christine's roommate."

" ... McKensie, I am off tomorrow, but I have an appointment and plans to spend the evening with my folks. If you really want to do something, come on over to my place Sunday." I pulled over a napkin and wrote down my address, "Here is where I live. Come on over and bring some kind of veggies or salad, I'll supply the beef and beer. You can ask some friends along if you like. We can talk then. For right now, I need to get back to work. Thank you for bringing back my shirt, but I can't wear it here again. Why don't you keep it as a reminder that you survived, that he didn't win."

I handed the shirt back to Christine, and took my dishes back behind the counter. I had just enough time to go into the office and take my pills. On my last mission in 'Nam 3 rounds from an AK-47 had taken out my stomach and several feet of colon. The plastic replacements required alcohol and several enzymes to be introduced to my system after meals in order to aid digestion. I usually did this in the office to avoid curious stares. When I came back out, the girls were gone.

The next day I went over to my folks' house and Dad drove me to my appointment. I had been seeing a shrink monthly for about a year to help with the stress left over from my experiences in a war zone. I could have driven myself, but some of the sessions affected me enough to make driving home problematic. This was one of those sessions. The Doc almost had me admitted for the night. The biggest problem was that I had acted solely on instinct and muscle memory. The doc finally talked to my father and got him to agree that I would stay with them tonight; he said that it was important that I not be alone.

The rest of the week passed quickly. Neither one of the girls showed up at the pizza parlor, as I had half expected them to. I bought a bunch of hamburger to make into patties and some hot dogs, as well as charcoal, buns, and fixin's. I had a grill out on my patio and my dad had taught me all he knew about grilling, so I was all set. If the girls didn't show up, the supplies would last me for a few weeks.

Sunday morning I got up early and went to the pool for a good hard swim. I had found that Sunday mornings gave me the most privacy at the pool. That meant that I didn't have to spend quite so much of my time explaining my scars to children. My abdomen looked like a road map with three large cities. I was glad that Charley used the 7.62 copper jacketed rounds, because they went through me without the tumbling that the M-16's 5.56 rounds did. The exit wounds on my back were just puckered scars instead of the big holes that would be left by our ammo. The fourth bullet that hit my left thigh had dug out a trench that only gave me occasional twinges now. I really didn't mind talking to the kids, but it did take away from my exercise time and often the mothers were not pleased with my stories. Some of them seemed afraid that I would go crazy and hurt their children. My parents told an entirely different story about the reaction people had to them when they got home after World War two. Both of my parents had been in the Army.

I had just pushed the button on my dishwasher to start the cycle when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and stepped aside as my small apartment was inundated by women. Christine had indeed brought some friends.


I pointed the direction and stood back as they all carried their items into my tiny cooking cupboard.

"Hello ladies, and welcome to my home. My name is Mark Reynolds, and though I recognize several of you from my classes, I don't know your names. I was just about to fire up the charcoal, so if you have something that will take some time to cook, you should do it now."

I went out to the patio and proceeded to do as I had said. The girls came out one or two at a time and introduced themselves. They were all sorority sisters with Christine and Shannon. Each of the girls gave me a kiss on the cheek and thanked me for saving their sister. When the meat was ready I found that there was garden salad, corn on the cob, and potato salad, with peach cobbler for desert. The dinner was delicious and the company was fun. We talked about classes and teachers and sports, and just about everything but what had happened to Christine.

After eating I needed to take my medicines, but I didn't want to disturb the camaraderie that had formed. I was trying to decide on an exit strategy when the girls all started gathering dishes and heading into the kitchen to do cleanup. I went over to Shannon and pulled her to the side.

"Pardon me Shannon, but I have a small problem, and I thought that you might help. I don't want to scare away the girls, but I need to take some medicine now. I was going to go to my bedroom to do it, but I don't want to appear to be rude."

"Why would you need to go in there just to take medicine?"

I explained to her about my problem and that I didn't want the girls to think that I was some kind of a lush or something.

"Okay Mark, I understand. What do you need?"

"Just the meds, they are in a red bag in the bathroom, and a bottle from the cabinet over there."

"You sit down here and I'll take care of it. Chris! Come over here sweetie." Christine came over to the table, "Get Mark a bottle out of the cabinet over there, I'm going to get his pills."

Christine just nodded and went over and opened the cabinet, "What kind do you want Mark? There are several different things in here."

"Anything will be fine, just grab something."

She brought over a bottle of apple schnapps as Shannon came out of the bathroom with my meds. Shannon then told the other girls what was going on, as I was taking my meds the girls all came by and gave me another kiss on the cheek to say goodbye. One girl, a slender lass with long black hair in a ponytail stepped back after kissing me and said, "When I look at you the last thing I see is disabled; powerful, active, and in control yes, but disabled, no."

"Thank you my dear, I appreciate that."

The other girls all left, and Christine and Shannon were sitting at the table with me as I finished my pint.

"Now it is time for us to talk Mark. First off, do you have a girlfriend?" Shannon asked.

"Not right now, I had one last year, and that was a disaster. Why do you want to know?"

"Because we have a favor to ask you and if you had a girlfriend it would complicate matters. For your information though, any one of our sorority sisters that doesn't have a boyfriend will go out with you whenever you wish. They all want to be with you if they can."

"That is interesting, there were a couple of girls here today that I wouldn't mind dating."

"Which ones? I don't think any of these have a steady."

"The tall girl who talked to me at the last, and the stocky blond wearing the short dress."

"That is not what I expected to hear. I thought that those two would be ones you wouldn't want to date."

"They were the only ones who could walk past a mirror without preening. My last girlfriend was a cheerleader and I'm not going there again."

"Well, I guess that makes sense."

"What is this all about please, and what is the favor you want from me?"

"When that beast raped Chris he hurt and scared her really bad. Now she can't deal with sex at all. The counselor at the school says that it is natural and will pass in time, but she doesn't want to wait. We're both afraid that if she waits too long she'll never be able to be normal. I had the idea of getting your help. You are her hero and the only person she can feel safe with. We want you to make love to her."

"Say what?"

"We want you to make love to Christine, Mark." I looked over at the blond girl and saw the hope in her eyes, "you are the only man who can do it."

I moved my chair out from the table, "Come here Christine." She moved over to me and when I held my arms out she sat on my lap. Damn that felt good, she was so soft and she smelled so good. She seemed a little skittish, so I pulled her in and hugged her tightly.

"Relax Christine, I won't hurt you."

"But I'm fat. I don't want to hurt your legs."

"Hush, you are not fat, and if my legs start to complain I will let you know. Right now you feel very good sitting here. Are you sure you want to have sex with me? Isn't it a little too soon after what happened?"

"No, it isn't. In fact it may be almost too late. I need to know what it is supposed to feel like, not what he did to me. I know that it is a lot to ask. Is there anything we could do for you?"

"You think that I would need to be paid for making love to you? I would be proud to be with you. In spite of what you might think, you are a very pretty girl. Would you do something for me right now, Dear?"

"What is that Mark?"

"Would you go into the bathroom and wash off all of that makeup? I want to see the real you."

"Okay," and with that she got up off of my lap and headed for the bathroom.

"All right Shannon, tell me the rest of the story. I can tell there is something more."

"Well ... when Chris and I were talking about what to do to help her with sex, you came up. As soon as that happened she got hot, and every time your name was mentioned she got hotter. I got her to orgasm by slowly rubbing her and saying that it was you doing it. We had read some porno books and the more we talked about it the wilder the fantasies became. Pretty soon you were dominating us and demanding all kinds of kinky sex from both of us. How would you like a couple of slaves, Mark?"

I had to interject here, "Both of you?"

"Yes, both of us. We aren't lesbians Mark; we fell together when guys wouldn't have anything to do with us. You've seen how many pretty girls there are on campus. The guys who ask us out are just looking for a quick fuck. When we don't put out they don't ask again. The first guy I let into my pants left ten minutes after he popped my cherry, and then told everyone what a slut I was. I know that this is putting a lot onto you, but we are really hoping that you won't reject us."

I was still sitting there stunned, when Christine came back from the bathroom, topless. I looked at her tits, nice 36C's not sagging much, and then up into her eyes.

"My top got wet, so I took it off. Has Shannon told you everything?"

I held out my arms and she happily snuggled back onto my lap. I looked at her face carefully, "I knew there was a pretty girl in there behind all that makeup." I lightly kissed across her cheeks and nose, "its criminal to cover up freckles like these." As I was doing this I was slowly rubbing one hand on her back, and the other on her belly, below her breasts, not quite touching them. "You two are asking a lot from me. I would be overjoyed to make love to either of you, but these fantasies are a little out of my comfort zone. I have never imagined being a master over a slave. This is a lot to think about." I brought my hand up to cup Christine's left tit and softly massaged it, then the other. Her nips were rock hard and she gasped the first time I touched one.

I heard a rustling sound and looked over to see Shannon kicking off her shorts and panties; her top was already gone, leaving her nude before me. My first look at a naked Shannon showed a tall, oval shaped girl with medium small sized tits sagging down a bit. Her nips were very pink and flat. There was a fold of flab just above the heavy bush nestled between thick thighs. The tension was obvious in her face, and it looked like she might cry at any moment. I held out my right arm, the one that had been feeling up Christine's tits, and Shannon shuffled quickly over to be drawn against my side. This put her tit right in front of me, and I couldn't resist giving it a quick kiss. The nip popped up hard in an instant.

"You ladies pose a serious problem. I don't know what to do with you, but I could get used to this. I don't know that I'm ready for what you want. Why don't we try a few things tonight to see how it will go? Did you have any plans for tonight, if I went along with your idea?"

Christine spoke up. "I just want to go to sleep in your arms Mark. This is the safest I have felt all week. I just know that nothing can harm me when I'm with you. Add to that the fact that I'm making a puddle on your leg, and I am as happy as I have ever been. Please don't send us away."

"But Christine, you hardly know me."

"I know you saved me without regard for your own safety and that I feel safe with you. There is no one else I would like to be with."

Shannon spoke again, "We talked to some of the girls you dated last year, Mark. And then the way you treated everyone this afternoon decided us. You didn't ogle any of the girls, even when they were asking for it, and when you got hit on, you acknowledged it, but you didn't bite. We all felt completely at ease with you. If we hadn't talked to the girls you dated, we might have thought that you were gay."

I pulled my arm back and gave Shannon a sharp smack on a nicely firm buttock. When I didn't remove my hand, it turned her shriek into a moan. "That's enough of that kind of talk. I am not the kind of guy who tries to take a girl to bed on a first date. I usually try to see that we have a chance of it being more than a one time thing. I'm not looking for conquests; I've seen enough of that to not be interested in it. You two are turning everything around backwards."

"Oooh, I'd like to try that too." Christine said. I responded by reaching around her and tweaking her nipple.

"As I was saying, I don't usually do this kind of thing on a first date, and especially since we haven't actually had a date, and there are two of you. I really need some time to think about it. Let's go into the living room and get to know each other a little better."

Christine got off of my lap and took the rest of her clothes off. I saw that she also had a plushly carpeted muff. I went into the living room, and when I would have sat in the recliner, Christine kind of whined. I looked over at her, and she was standing by the couch looking forlorn.

"Okay," I sat in the middle of the couch, "sit with me on the sofa."

They were both standing facing me with their hands at their sides.


They sat down on either side of me, and we spent the next two hours talking, with both of them trying to get my hands to touch them. I told them all about my experiences in the Far East and about my girlfriend from last year, Robin Howell. They both expressed opinions about what a fool Robin had been. I learned that Shannon was from Battleground, and Christine from Frankfort. They were members of Sigma Delta Tau sorority. Shannon was an agricultural student while Christine was leaning towards a degree in chemical engineering. Both freshmen were decent students and had done well in high school. Shannon hoped to go back and work with her family after graduation, while Christine had not really thought that far ahead.

"Okay girls, it is getting late, and I need some sleep. You two have given me a lot to think about, but know this, I am honored that you ask me to be with you in this way. I don't know that I will fall in love with either of you, but I don't know that I won't either. I do like you both and I look forward to spending time with you this year. Do either of you have an early morning class tomorrow or do you need to be back at the sorority tonight?"

"No to both questions Mark, our first class isn't till 10, and our sisters knew that we planned to stay with you tonight. We are yours to do with as you please."

"Then let us get ready for bed."

"Yes master, what would you have us do, what is your wish?" They both asked, almost in unison. They must have practiced it.

"Shannon, lock the doors and check to see that everything is turned off, then join us in the bedroom. Come along Christine."

Soon I was standing in my bedroom with two naked girls sitting on the edge of my bed. I took my shirt off and waited for their response to the scars.

After taking in a big breath, Shannon asked, "Are those the injuries you were telling us about earlier Mark?"

"Yes. This is the visual representation of my service to our country. Before you ask, no, it doesn't hurt much anymore, but I do have some problems because of it. I lost my stomach and several feet of intestine. That is why I have to have alcohol with my meals." Seeing that they had not run out screaming, I continued to undress. I unhooked my belt and jeans. "How much experience does each of you have? What I want to know is; have you done any heavy petting or had oral sex or anything like that?"

Christine looked up at me, "I had a boyfriend in high school and we did some petting in my folks' living room. One time he got his hand into my panties and he played with my tits a lot. On our last date I gave him a hand job through his pants. The next day he was bragging to all his friends about it and I dropped him. I haven't had very many dates since then, and since I wasn't putting out most of the guys at school didn't ask. Shannon was my roommate and we were so lonely, we kind of turned to each other for comfort."

Shannon spoke up then, "I didn't have as much experience as Chris when we got here. I only dated a couple of times, and when I got asked to the prom at the last minute, I agreed to go. The asshole took me to a party and got me drunk. He didn't even bother getting me undressed. He pulled down my panty hose and panties and ignored my protests as he took my cherry. It's a good thing that I was on the pill because the son-of-a-bitch didn't even bother with a rubber. The next day I was the school slut. I started to dress and act butch to keep the guys away after that. All the guys seemed to think that since I had done it once, I was available for all of them. They stopped asking after a while. As for oral, I never even saw his cock, and Chris and I have only helped each other masturbate with our fingers. I'm willing to do whatever you want me to; I'm not sure if I can swallow at first, but I will try."

"There is no need to worry about that, it will happen or not. For now I just want you both to sleep with me tonight, and then tomorrow you can join me for my exercises."

"You mean you aren't going to fuck us?" Shannon asked.

"Not tonight I'm not. Neither one of you is really ready for that yet. Let's take a while and get used to each other first; I'm in no hurry."

Of course it wasn't that simple. The girls kissed and stroked me from stem to stern and then some.

I had finally had enough, "Okay girls, snuggle up and go to sleep. We have to get up early to be able to exercise and still make it to school on time."

I went to sleep with two heads on my shoulders, four tits against my sides, two pussies against my legs, and two asses cradled in my hands.

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