Note: This story was dynamically reformatted for online reading convenience. Christie and Me Chapter 11 The A-Team by Story codes: Mff, hum, les, rom, preg Author's Note: This story involves sexual activity between a variety of people, some of whom are underage. If it is illegal in your jurisdiction to read about such things, please delete this story immediately. (And know that you have my sympathies for living in such a repressive atmosphere.) This story is entirely a work of fiction; none of the events described herein actually took place (at least not to the author's knowledge). The author does not condone sexual activity with minors, although he does recommend most of the following if done with a consenting adult. This story may be posted with no changes or deletions on a free site, or the free area of a commercial site. The work is copyright 2012 by the author, and all rights are reserved. Tired as I was, I still woke up about 20 minutes before the alarm. A very pleasant awakening it was, too. Christie was curled up on my left, her leg thrown over mine, her head on my shoulder and her arm on my chest, while I had my arm wrapped around her. Lily, snoring softly, was backed into my right side, butt pressed against my hip, bottom leg pulled up at an angle so her foot was resting on my calf and top leg thrown over mine, while her head rested on my outthrust arm. Fortunately, the morning wood wasn't too bad. I knew there was no way I could get out of bed without waking one or both of them up, so I didn't even try. Instead, I just lay there and caressed Christie's back; she snuggled in a little closer without waking up. I wanted to hug Lily too, but the way she was laying on my arm, the best I could've done was wrap it around her head, and that just wasn't the same. (Not to mention how weird that would've been for her, to wake up in a headlock.) When the alarm went off, Christie of course was awake immediately, yawning and stretching and then leaning over to give me a kiss. Lily barely moved, rolling over on her stomach and mumbling something that might have been, "In a minute, Mom." I gently pulled my arm out from under her, and she opened her eyes and looked at me, appearing confused for a moment about why she was waking up in bed with me. Then she looked past me to see Christie, and smiled. "Morning, you two." She kissed my cheek, then leaned across me; she and Christie met over my chest to exchange a kiss, so I lifted my head enough to kiss each of them on the cheek. Of course, that meant both of them wanted to kiss me, and morning breath or no, it was a very nice way to start the day. Both girls snuggled in, arms around me and each other, each throwing a leg over one of mine. Lily of course bumped into my morning hardon. "Wow, Harry," she said, teasing. "A couple of kisses is all it takes to get you going in the morning?" "Geez, Lily, don't you know anything?" Christie said scornfully. "All guys wake up hard, `cause they have to piss." Lily had apparently never woken up with a guy either, and Christie proceeded to explain the whole morning wood phenomenon as if she were an expert and hadn't just learned about it herself the day before. "While you two are discussing my bladder, I think I'm going to go empty it," I said, reluctantly releasing them. They moved back a little to let me out, and I climbed over Christie and headed for the bathroom. I was still in the middle of emptying the night's accumulation when Christie walked in, with Lily close behind. "Hurry up, Harry," Christie said. "Junior started bouncing on mine and I need to go." "Where are your towels?" Lily asked. "There's only two hanging up here, and I want one of my own." "In the cupboard there," I said, nodding my head toward it. "Grab a couple of extra, please." She pulled out three big fluffy towels, and turned around just in time to see me grasp the base of my cock, run my hand to the end and shake it. She giggled. "Just couldn't resist jerking it with us hotties around, huh, Harry?" I looked puzzled. "That stroke and shake thing you just did." "That's just the way guys pee," I said. "There's always a little left in the pipes, so to speak. If we didn't `do the stroke and shake thing,' it'd just come dribbling out on its own anyway." "Really? Cool. I like hanging around with you, Harry. I'm learning new stuff about guys." "If you two are done talking about Harry's dick, would you move so I can sit," Christie said. I got out of the way and she sat while Lily started the shower. "Hot or warm, guys?" she asked. "How do you like it?" "Um, I like it semi-hot. Are we showering together?" I asked. "Yeah, unless you're shy," Lily said with a grin. "It's plenty big enough, and I've never showered with three before." I hadn't either, and it was a lot of fun, actually. Plenty of soapy sudsy fun, and laughter, and a few kisses. No sex- I think we were all too nervous about what was ahead to get horny, plus we knew Lily's father would be there soon. But as they say, a good time was had by all. Drying off proved to be fun, too, as we all rubbed and patted down each other. Lily and I both grabbed towels and attacked Christie's hair, Lily high and me low. Thorough as we were, it still took Christie and Lily nearly 20 minutes with hair dryer, brush and comb before it flowed in waves down her back. Christie has beautiful hair, but it's high maintenance. While they were drying, I dressed. We were hoping Christie's Mom had been so drunk she wouldn't remember who she'd brought home; according to Christie, that happened a lot. I dressed up in my oldest jeans and a flannel shirt, so I'd look more like her usual kind of guy. (When I walked into the bathroom after dressing, Lily broke out in a chorus of "He's a lumberjack, and he's OK.") If her mom hadn't been that drunk, we had plans to work around it, but it would be easier if she thought I'd been the one to screw her last night. Lily and Christie both dressed in jeans, too. Lily topped hers with a yellow halter and Christie pulled on another of my old flannel shirts. ("What can I say, I like your shirts.") I wore my watch, and the girls put in earrings but no other jewelry; the rattle of bracelets or other things probably wouldn't wake up her mom, but we weren't taking any chances. (Christie wore the earrings I'd given her. Lily asked what she had to do to earn a pair like that, and suggested some rather creative possibilities. Most of them I wasn't flexible enough for, and doubt that I would have been if I was still 20. I vowed that if- no, when- we pulled this off, I'd buy her a nice pair just to say thanks for coming up with the plan.) None of us were hungry, but I toasted some frozen bagels anyway and insisted we all have at least one. We were all starting to get a little nervous, and an upset stomach was the last thing anyone needed. Christie barely made it through half of hers, but Lily ate hers and the rest of Christie's and had a second glass of milk. I finished mine and was on my second cup of coffee when the doorbell rang; Lily's father was right on time. Lily and Christie charged the door and yanked it open, ready to charge out and hug Lily's father. Surprisingly, Lily's mother was with him; both of them got big hugs. Dean Crenshaw was a tree. He was short, barely taller than Christie, but big enough around that neither Christie nor Lily could reach all the way around him. (I didn't think I could either.) Not a bit of it was fat; even the man's muscles had muscles. His skin was bark-brown from working outdoors, and I would've been willing to bet he could curl his toes and take root through concrete. I wouldn't ever want Dean Crenshaw mad at me. I thought about what it must be like for some poor kid to come pick up Lily for a date, knowing he was probably going to fuck her, and then meeting a dad you wouldn't ever want to find out that you'd fucked his daughter. Talk about being conflicted. Hermione hugged me then introduced us. When I shook his hand, I could sense the strength in it even though it was a normal handshake. Had he chosen to squeeze, the only question would've been which bones didn't break, and I was fairly sure the answer would've been none. We retreated to the kitchen, where Hermione and Dean accepted coffee but declined anything to eat. "I expected Dad to be here," Christie said, "but how come you came, Mom2?" "I came to drive the getaway car," Hermione said with a laugh. "Doesn't every enforcer need his moll?" "Besides, she said I could plan on sleeping on the couch for a month if I tried to leave her behind," Dean said. Hermione shrugged. "And even if you had, I'd have just gotten in my car and followed. I'd go crazy sitting around home, waiting to hear how it turns out." She reached out and squeezed Christie's hand. "Honey, I'm sorry. If you or Lily had given us any idea how bad things were, we'd have done something about this a long time ago." "It's not your fault, Mom2," Christie said with a shrug. "I just didn't think anybody -could- help." "Besides, Mom," Lily said, "if you had gotten her out, she probably never would've met Harry, and they're good for each other. Even if he does snore." I winced internally; having Dean know I'd slept with his daughter was not something I really wanted. But he just grinned. "I wake you up for school, kid," he said. "It was probably you snoring, and you're just trying to blame poor Harry." "You see what I have to put up with, Harry?" Lily said in mock indignation. "Can I move in here with you and Christie? You guys appreciate me." "Sorry, Lilyflower," I said with a grin. "Maybe if you didn't snore, but-" "Hmph!" she snorted. "I see how it is. Everyone's out to get the cute kid." "No, we're not," Dean said. "No one's said a thing about Christie. We're picking on you." "Mom, make him sleep on the couch anyway. He's being mean to your sweet darling daughter." "How do you figure that, dear?" Hermione asked. "He hasn't said a word about your sister." "You're all against me, all of you," Lily said, doing a (rather poor) Bogart impression. "It was the strawberries, the strawberries." And she began rolling imaginary balls in her hand. We all laughed. "I told you we shouldn't let her watch those old movies," Dean said. The conversation turned serious at that point as we went over the plan and everyone's role in it. Dean programmed my number into his cell phone. If I called, he wouldn't have to answer, he'd just get out of the car and come running. Christie gave directions to her apartment, and suggested a place Dean and Hermione could park; it was semi-secluded and barely half a block away. You could see the front and side exits of the building from there. Dean offered to come in with us, just in case the guy-of-the-night was still there, but we decided it would be better if he didn't. If there was a guy there, it would make things more difficult, but we thought we had a way around it. We really didn't have to worry about the guy being bright enough to realize something was going on; guys that bright wouldn't fuck Christie's mother. We were finally all set, and left the house a little after 10. Dean and Hermione followed Lily, Christie and I, and it was comforting to know they were back there. Little butterflies had started dancing in my stomach, and Christie was looking worried and nervous. Even Lily was unusually quiet. The neighborhood was bad. Trash overflowed the dumpster, the sidewalks were cracked and missing chunks of concrete, the buildings needed painting or brick repair- everything about it said "residents beyond broke". Christie's building was a five-story apartment building that must've been at least a century old. The red brick was nearly black, and the white adornments running up the corners and around windows and doors were a dark grey. Even from the street, we could see that the main doors leaned away from each other, leaving a large gap at the top. I parked around the side, hoping we wouldn't attract any notice. I wasn't so much worried about anyone seeing us as I was about someone stealing the wheels off the car. This wasn't an area were it was a good idea to pay too much attention to the neighbors. You kept your head down and your mouth shut, and if any cops came around, you didn't know nuthin' about nuthin'. I watched Dean and Hermione pull in down the street, and quit worrying about the car- they'd keep an eye on it. We got out and I took the loaded box from the trunk while the girls grabbed the empty ones. Christie led us around to the front and hit the left entry door just below the lock, then kicked the bottom of the right-hand door. "You gotta know the trick," she said with a shrug, then pulled the right-hand door open and walked in. The entranceway was even worse than the outside. Wallpaper strips hung off the walls, 2 of the 3 light bulbs were dark, and it smelled rather strongly of piss; apparently, it was too much trouble for some people to walk as far as their own bathrooms. Christie led us to a stairway which smelled even worse, and up two flights of stairs to the third floor. By the time we came out on another hallway, I was semi-gasping for breath. I'm slim and don't exercise much, and the box I was carrying was heavy. I called a stop and put the box down so my breathing and heart rate could slow. "You OK, Harry?" Christie whispered, looking worried. "I'm fine, honey," I said, and kissed her. "Just not as young as I used to be. I just hope I don't have to carry this back downstairs." She looked even more worried; if I had to carry it back down, it would mean we'd failed and she was stuck here until we came up with another idea. I kissed her again. "Don't worry, it's going to work. This is the last time you'll ever have to come back to this charming place." "Yeah, real charming," Lilly muttered, "if you like late Victorian shithole." Christie snickered quietly. "Well, it ain't much, but it's home," she said wryly. "Or at least a place to live until my handsome knight could rescue me." She smiled at me. "Hey, what about me?" Lily said, still keeping her voice down. "Doesn't the cute page girl count? Or maybe I can be the noble steed and Harry can ride me. Wanna hop on, Harry?" "Kiddo, if this works, I'll ride you all the way to Banbury town." "You mean she can ride your horse cock to Banbury town?" Christie asked, giggling quietly. I knew my darling would catch the joke; I was surprised Lily didn't. She looked puzzled, then shrugged. "Careful, dear," I said, "or you'll give me a swelled head." "That could be fun," she replied, "as long as you can still get it in me." "If it gets that big," I said with a grin, "I'll just have to use Loose Lily." "Hey!" she said loudly, then immediately dropped her voice. "It's only my morals that are loose. That is still nice and tight, thank you very much. Just ask Christie's fingers." "How about I talk to Christie's fingers after we're out of here," I said, picking up the box again. "Lead off, McDuff," I said to Christie. She looked worried again, but nodded. We turned into a short hallway a little way down the main corridor. There were four doors here, and Christie led us to the end door on the right, number 37. Lily and I hung back while she took out her key, drew a deep breath, and put the key in the lock; it clunked loudly when she turned it and Christie winced. She pulled the key back out, slowly and quietly turned the handle, then carefully opened the door. She stepped in, then leaned back out and motioned us inside. It was as bad as I thought it would be. The door opened directly into a small living room, cluttered with dirty clothes, old dishes with food (and some mold) on them, a scattering of beer bottles (some with cigarettes floating in stale beer), a couple of empty Jack Daniels bottles, a used condom (ugh) on the coffee table, and assorted other crap thrown around. I doubted the place had been swept or dusted since they moved in. A tiny alcove with a stove, refrigerator and sink stood at one side, with barely enough room for a two-person table; four could crowd around it, but only if the food was served from the stove and counter. The kitchen area was actually fairly clean, although a couple of empty TV dinner boxes sat on the counter and there were a few dishes in the sink. (Christie later confirmed that she tried to keep the kitchen clean but made no effort on the living room since her mother bitched she couldn't find her things whenever Christie tried.) A short hallway straight in from the door had three other doors leading off it; a bathroom on the left, Christie's room on the right, and her mother's room straight ahead. Her mother rarely used it, preferring to fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV. And sure enough, that's where she was, passed out under a ratty orange blanket. Add about 5 inches and 60 pounds to Christie, soak her face and skin in alcohol for a decade or so and let her dry in the sun, and you'd come pretty close to Christie's mother. She was probably pretty once, but those days were long gone; at best she'd be called passable as long as the lights were dim. Even passed out drunk, her mouth was set in a hard line, and her eyebrows were pulled down in a frown. This was a hard woman who'd lived a hard life, and it hadn't worn well. Fortunately, she was alone. Whatever guy she'd brought home, he'd either left or was in the bathroom. I hoped fervently he'd left. I carefully set my box on the kitchen table, turning it so the label faced the living room. We took the boxes down the hall. Christie peeled off to grab a few things from the bathroom while Lily and I quietly opened the door to Christie's room to start packing. It was a neat clean room, but there was pitifully little there. A beat-up dresser with a missing drawer stood next to the window. A twin-size bed with a lumpy mattress was pushed against one wall; the sheets were thin and the blanket threadbare with a scattering of holes, but they were clean. Old milk cartons and packing crates stacked next to the door held her book collection and a few odds and ends, including a rather ragged stuffed dachshund. It didn't take long to pack. Lily started emptying the closet and dresser, and managed to fit all of it into three not very large boxes. I started on the "bookcase". Deciding it would be easier and quicker, I carefully disassembled it and used four of the milk cartons for all Christie's books. The rest of it fit easily into a couple of the boxes. Christie came in with a partially-filled box from the bathroom, and pulled out some of her clothes to repack it, so the bottles wouldn't clink together and break. We carefully carried it all to the door and set it down. Five milk cartons and three boxes. Not much for an entire life, even for a young teen. Christie held up one finger and went into the kitchen. She carefully rummaged through the cupboard and pulled down a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cereal bowl and a Barbie cup. She saw us grinning, flushed slightly, then shrugged. Mementos of childhood, I guessed, even if that childhood was a rough one. She then slid open one of the drawers and brought out a heavy carving knife. I looked at her, puzzled, but she just shook her head. The bowl, cup and knife went on top of one of the boxes. We eased the door open and carried the first load to the car. Lily and I insisted Christie stay with the car. The rest of it was too heavy for a pregnant girl to carry, and we wanted to make sure the first load would still be there when we got back with the second. She objected, but not very hard; I think she was glad to get out and was half-afraid if she returned, she'd somehow be trapped into staying. When the second load was done, the trunk was full and there was one milk carton in the rear seat. We were ready for the tricky part of the plan. Both girls stayed in the car. This part of the job was mine and mine alone. I stopped outside the apartment door, trying to force myself to be calm. When my heart rate was down to not quite twice normal, I opened it and went in. Slamming the door had no effect; Christie's mother didn't even twitch. I leaned over her and shook her shoulder; other than grunting and trying to shrug my hand off, she didn't move. I pulled out one of Mr. T.'s smelling salt capsules, broke it the way he'd told me, and waved it under her nose. Her nose wrinkled, she twitched a little and rolled away. I moved with her, and finally, coughing and retching, she opened her eyes; I hurriedly snatched my hand away and tucked the capsule in my pocket. (I didn't want to leave it behind, just in case.) She sat up and looked at me, confused and disoriented, and quite possibly still a little drunk. She certainly reeked of enough alcohol that she could be. When she finally managed to focus, she put on a halfhearted (and really rather sickening) smile. "Good morning, tiger" she said. "You were really something last night, lover. Let me wake up and get coffee and we can have another round." I wanted to vomit, but kept my face friendly. At least we were in luck; she thought I was her guy-of-the-night, and that would make it easier. "Sounds good, Diane," I said. "I saw some instant in the kitchen- that OK?" "Just fine, lover," she said. "Cups are next to the oven." A pained look came over her face, and she held her head in her hands and leaned forward. "Whoo, what a night. Could you grab some aspirin out of the bathroom, honey? Someone's trying to beat my head in." I'd have been happy to beat it in, but I smiled and said, "Sure." I filled a cup and put it in a battered microwave to heat, then went to the bathroom. I found the bottle, shook a couple of tablets out, then went back to the kitchen and filled a glass with water. I handed glass and pills to her, then went back to the kitchen just as the microwave dinged. I scooped in some coffee, wished I'd thought to bring laxative, stirred it and took her the cup. She mumbled thanks and took a sip, wincing when it burned her tongue. (Oops, guess I made it a little hotter than normal.) (OK, it was a petty thing to do, but I was feeling petty and nasty. Hell, what I was really feeling was homicidal; overheating her coffee was pretty minor in comparison to what I wanted to do.) "Some little pregnant kid just left, carrying a trash bag," I said casually. "She said she'd be right back. I guess that was the daughter you were telling me about?" "The little cunt's here?" Diane said, sounding surprised. "I figured she'd be with that slut friend of hers, fucking any asshole who waved his dick at her." Oh, how I wanted to kill her. "And the little cunt never brings any of the money she makes home, either," she added bitterly. "Much as I do for her, and she can't even help her poor mother out. Little bitch." She took another sip of coffee, then seemed to remember something and her look turned sly and nasty. "You know, she's had a lot of practice at fucking and sucking, and some of my other guy friends say she's pretty good. If you want her, you can have her. A hundred bucks, and the little cunt's all yours. The big slut is free, but the little slut'll cost ya." "So, I can fuck your daughter if I pay her a hundred bucks?" I asked, trying to sound casual but interested. "No, no, honey. You pay -me- the hundred bucks, and the little twat will do whatever you want. And if she gives you any shit about it, I'll kick her ass." "Well, I don't know. I mean, that's a lot of money," I said. "Oh, she's worth it. She fucks around a lot, but the last guy who paid me said her pussy was still really tight, especially with that baby pushing down on it. A hundred bucks is a pretty good price for some 13-year old prime cunt, dontcha think?" "It's an amazing price, Diane. And thank you," I said, reaching into my shirt pocket. She looked confused. "Thanks for what?" I pulled out the miniature tape recorder and held it so she could see the tape turning, but too far away to grab. "For telling me, on tape, that you were willing to whore out your underage daughter." She started looking angry then. "What the fuck are you talking about? Why did you tape that, asshole? What are you trying to pull?" "I'll tell you what I'm pulling, bitch," I said, low and angry. "I'm pulling your daughter away from this shithole and taking her somewhere she can live a decent life." "What the fuck do you mean? I need the money that bitch brings, and she ain't going nowhere." A thought occurred to her. "Oh, I see how it is now. You already fucked her for free and liked it, so now you're going to take her home and fuck her some more, right? Then send her back here when you get tired of her shit. Well, it doesn't work like that, asshole, and you can-" "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" I screamed. She jerked as if slapped, slopping some of the coffee in her lap. I fought down the urge to get up and beat this woman, and was finally able to continue. "Here's the deal," I said. "You get to make a choice, which is more than you ever gave her. With this tape and what Christie can testify to in court, you could go to prison for a very long time. A lot of the women in there have kids of their own, and they wouldn't be too happy to find out you were there for pimping out your own daughter. A friend of mine is a guard at Pemberton, and he could tell you all sorts of interesting stories about what happens to someone the other prisoners don't like." (Pemberton was the main women's prison in our state. I was lying; I had no friends who were prison guards. But the story was plausible enough that she started looking worried.) "That's your first choice. You might like the other choice a little better." I reached into my hip pocket and pulled out the two forms, unfolding them as I continued. "Your other choice is that you sign this piece of paper giving me guardianship of Christie until she's 18. You sign that piece of paper, and you agree not to cause problems or ever try to find her or talk to her again, and you stay out of prison. Plus, as a special bonus good for today only, you get that case of Jack Daniels on the table." Her eyes widened when she looked in the kitchen; I could see the longing. She really was a hardcore alky. "And, just to help with the lost income from not being able to pimp her out," I added, reaching into my pants pocket, "I'll give you $500. So what do you say- do you want to go to jail or do you want to sign the papers and get money and booze?" She looked pissed, and I'm sure she would've happily tried to kill me. I almost wished she'd try. "A thousand bucks, and you give me the tape." "OK, a thousand bucks, but no tape. No one'll hear the tape as long as you don't cause any problems. But I'm keeping it until Christie's 18, just to make sure you don't try anything. Because now I've got you on tape not only trying to pimp her out, but actually agreeing to sell her. That should get you life. But leave us alone and the tape gets destroyed when she's of age. Deal?" I hoped it wouldn't occur to her that I'd be in just as much trouble if the tape ever got played. After all, she might've agreed to sell Christie, but according to the law, I'd just offered to buy her. With a good lawyer and a sympathetic judge, I might not do a long stretch, but I'd definitely be making friends with Mad Dog and his buddies. Diane took another sip of coffee, looked at the Jack Daniels box, looked at the thousand dollars in my hand, and scowled. "Alright," she said, finally. "Give me the papers and a damn pen." I handed her both papers and a pen, and she signed them without even looking at them. I reached for them, but she held them back. "Give me the money first." "Don't play bullshit games with me, Diane. Hand over the papers and you get the money." "I don't trust you. Give me the money first." "No deal. Here," I said, and put half the money on the table. "Now give me the papers and you get the rest." She snarled, but threw them at me. I picked them up, then dropped the rest of the money on the table. "There. We're quits. You won't ever see me again, and you better hope to God I never see you. Enjoy the money and the booze. It probably means more to you than she ever did." And with that I got up and walked out. Once outside, I trotted down the hall and practically ran down the stairs. I didn't think she'd try anything or come after me, but I wasn't going to risk it. If we could get away, we'd have done it- Christie was free. Some scruffy looking guy in the entranceway tried to hit me up for money, but I ignored him and went out. Christie and Lily were waiting, both looking worried, and I saw Christie stiffen when she saw me fast walking to the car. I gave her a thumbs up and a smile; and the smile that lit her face is one I'll remember forever. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and tossed it into the back seat to Lily as I climbed in. "Call your dad and tell him everything's OK. It worked." And I grabbed Christie and pulled her into a tight hug and mashed my lips on hers. She didn't want to let go, but I pulled back and said, "Let me go, and let's get the fuck out of here." She nodded and sat back, fastening her seat belt as tears started rolling down her eyes. I could hear Lily on the phone in the back. "A-Team to backup. A-Team to backup. Mission success and the package is safe. Repeat, mission success and the package is safe. Rendezvous back at base- it's party time!" She laughed, then listened. "Hang on, I'll ask him. Harry, Dad says we should go back to our house and he'll grille up the best damned steaks you've ever had and feed you as much beer as you could ever want. What do you say?" I looked at Christie and she nodded. "OK. Tell him we'll drop the stuff at the house then head over." And that's how it worked. When we got home, I stopped Christie before she could go in, and went in ahead of her. I turned around, held out my arms, and said, "Welcome home, darling." I held her for a while until she stopped crying, while Lily carried in all the boxes. Lily joined us for a group hug then, and we stayed like that for a long time. We made a slight detour on the way to the Crenshaws, and dropped the guardianship form with Doug. He looked it over and said it should be fine, which earned him a kiss from both Lily and Christie. In a "what the hell" moment, I kissed him too; he grinned and pinched my ass. They were indeed the best steaks I'd ever had, flavored with just the right amount of spices, hickory smoke, and the sweet, sweet taste of success.