I'm not going to be saying much about this, but I will say that I have a complete draft of this story, and the rating is for themes rather than content. I will also credit the one-shot "No Silver Lining" for coming up with the same starting point.

"So," Dr. Patel said, "tell me about your dinner with Ronnie and Veronica." When Pat was silent, he pressed, "Your parents were very concerned. I am told your friends were concerned. They said that you left the dinner early, but came home very late. They were also concerned about another person, Tiffany."

"Yeah. Tiffany," Pat said. "She's Veronica's sister. She's a slut."

"That is a very harsh thing to say about a woman," Dr. Patel said. "You have talked to me about trying to learn to be more empathetic, and to avoid saying things that are hurtful. So why would you say this about Tiffany?"

"Tiffany says she's a slut," Pat said. "She said, `I used to be the biggest slut, and I like that about myself.'"

"So she used the past tense," Dr. Patel said, "and you use the present. Perhaps we should back up..."

Pat told him about the dinner. "It was obviously Veronica's idea of a set-up," he said. "You know, I went on a few dates with her before she got together with Ronnie? That's why she hates me. She tried to set me up with her sister to keep me from getting back together with Nikki."

"Pat, we have discussed this," Dr. Patel said. "I will not presume to tell you what may or may not happen with your... with Nikki. But for now, you are both under a restraining order. If you try to contact Nikki, you will not only get yourself into trouble, you may get her into trouble as well. You don't want that, do you?"

"No," Pat said. "I don't want to hurt Nikki."

"That is good. That is a good step," Dr. Patel said. "Now, let's talk about Veronica. Did you consider that she might still care about you, and be concerned about your desire to make contact with Nikki when you are legally forbidden to? `Setting you up' might be her idea of protecting you, and Nikki as well."

"Maybe," Pat said, "but where does she get off trying to set me up with Tiffany? She's not the kind of person I want to be associated with. I can't let Nikki think I'm associated with her kind of behavior. If I could just write a letter to Nikki to explain everything..."

"There, you say that again," Dr. Patel said. "Why do you say that? What happened?"

"I'll tell you what happened! I walked Tiffany home, just to be nice, you know, a gentleman. Nikki always said I needed to be more of a gentleman. Then Tiffany says, I quote, my room is completely separate from the house, so there's no danger of anyone walking in on us. I hate that you wore a jersey to dinner, but I saw how you were looking at me. You can come in and- make love- as long as you turn the lights out. End quote, not in those words."

"I see," Patel said. "That must have been very difficult for you, especially since it sounds like you find Tiffany very attractive. You are clearly conflicted in your feelings. Reuniting with Nikki has been your hope for your future, a `happy ending' as you put it, and a powerful motivation to improve yourself. Now Tiffany is offering you the possibility of a happy and healthy future without Nikki, and your priorities and values are in doubt."

"Happy and healthy? Didn't you hear what I just told you? She's crazy, like a nymphomaniac or something!"

"She may or may not be," Patel said, "but it sounds to me as if she simply tried to reciprocate what she thought you felt, so you would value her."

"Uh-uh, Doc!" said Pat. "There were no signals! There's no doubt! I'm not losing my happy ending with Nikki because Tiffany's a big slut!"

"Pat," Dr. Patel said, "did you say yes?"

There was a long, long silence.

"I need to get a letter to Nikki," Pat said. "I can explain everything..."

Pat made a dozen furtive glances as he ran past Tiffany's house, yet he was caught completely by surprise when Tiffany came up alongside him. "Pat," she said, "I think we need to talk, about last week." He ran faster, making several turns, but then she was right there again.

"I'd like us to be friends, Pat," she said. "I thought, we could do something for each other without it complicating things. Maybe do it on a regular basis, just as friends helping each other out. You know, casual. I'm sorry if I was wrong."

"Wrong?! I'm married!" he shouted. He held out his ring. "You made me cheat on Nikki!"

"`Made you'? I didn't notice you complaining! Besides, she cheated on you."

"Two wrongs don't make a right. And I told you, I'm married!"

"I'm married too!" Tiffany answered, holding out her own ring. "It's something in common!"

"That's different, Tommy's dead!" They both froze in their tracks

"Then what is the difference?" Tiffany retorted. "It seems to me, she's more gone for you than Tommy is for me. I lost Tommy, but Nikki left you, she left you to rot in the hospital and went to court to force you to stay away from her. She filed for a divorce, Pat, don't you know that?" Pat started to jog, allowing Tiffany to keep pace with him. "Where are we going?"

"What do you mean, where are you going?"

"I'm jogging with you, Pat! Where are you going?"

They were, in fact, headed down Tiffany's driveway.