Author: Sunhawk

Obligations (cont)

She sighed. "I know that, Duo... but I have a plan."

I met Hayden's eyes for a second and what I saw there made me groan. "God save us."

"You have no idea," he muttered.

"Knock it off, you two!" she mock growled at us.

"Just spit it out, Toria," I sighed.

"The zero-g competition is this week. I want us to enter," she said in a rush.

The whole damn room went still as a stone and all eyes were suddenly on me. "What!" I exclaimed. "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

"Come on, Duo!" she pleaded. "You two were damn good... you placed every year you entered! If we could take even second or third the prize money would be almost enough to get us started again. We could borrow the rest... "

"Victoria," I said flatly, making her snap her mouth shut in mid sentence, "it's been, what... " I glanced at Hayden, "a damn year?" He nodded. "We haven't practiced... we don't have a routine... it's in two days... "

"You have that routine you were working on the year we got married." She was leaning toward me with that damned bird of prey look and I sudden felt very edible.

I blinked at her. I thought about that routine and looked at Hayden, finding him studying his fingers again, his face beet red. Mine flashed hotly in sympathy.

I put my good elbow on the table and dropped my face into my hand. "Toria, ask me for my ship... ask me for my first born child... but don't... "

"If I could sell your first born for enough damn money to buy a ship, we'd talk," she drawled and won a tired laugh.

Then she cheated.

"Please Duo... I don't know what else to do?"

I hate when she does that. I hate that I can't say no to that Goddamn 'please' of hers. I hate that she knows that.

"I'll think about it," I growled at her and could see from the look on her face that she knew she had me. I snatched up the sketchpad and flipped irritatedly to the page I had left off on and went back to work on Jefty. Toria was practically preening. "Don't get so damn cocky, spacer-girl."

"I'm not equipped." She smiled sweetly.

To my left, Relena giggled sharply and tried to cut it off, then seemed to decide that since she had inadvertently entered the conversation anyway to go ahead and speak. "What competition are you talking about?"

"The Zero gravity exposition," Toria told her. "It's big in the colonies. Like your Earth's Olympics. It's held on a different colony each year and it just so happens to be on L2 this year."

"Just my fucking luck," I muttered, just to let her know I wasn't happy with her. She only threw a grin in my direction before turning back to Relena.

"You should go while you're on the colony... Lena." Toria smiled at the Princess and Relena completely missed the spark of mischief in her voice. "It's a huge event... not to be missed."

"Oh! It sounds like fun!" Relena beamed back at her and glanced up at Chezarina, "Would it be a problem for you... Aunt 'Zarina?"

I almost broke the pencil in my hand as I watched the first of my feeble excuses slip through my hand before I half had a chance to think about utilizing it.

"I don't see why not," Chezarina called back gaily and I had to resist the urge to throw something at her. I glanced up to find Toria smirking at me and Hayden giving me an oddly sympathetic grin.

"Give it up, Duo," he chuckled at my frown. "You're outmatched and out maneuvered."

"I don't see what you're so damn happy about," I snapped. "Or have you forgotten the outfits that went along with that routine?"

I saw the color slowly drain from his face and was pleased to see that he had indeed forgotten about the damn costumes. It was nice to be the one able to smirk for a change. "Not so damned appealing all of a sudden... is it?" I smiled. We'd been several years younger and a little less wise when we'd created that dance and designed those costumes.

"Shit," he muttered.

Toria only grinned harder, though I wouldn't have thought it possible. "That was the best part... getting to see two gorgeous guys all decked out in leather."

Hayden and I both groaned. Relena laughed out right and dared to blurt, "This sounds like fun!" though she blushed profusely.

Toria leaned across the table and punched the Princess lightly in the shoulder. "Just wait until you see them! Yum!"

"Just which event did you compete in?" Heero asked in a deceptively calm voice, entering the conversation for the first time.

"Free-style dance," Toria informed him with entirely too much glee.

Heero stopped what he was doing and turned around to look at the group of us. "I don't know that he is physically up to... "

Toria lost the grin and turned around to face Heero with a steady glare. "I realize that. They will have to practice and see what Duo is capable of... I won't ask him to hurt himself."

The temperature in the room was suddenly going up as the two of them squared off. I had to remind myself to breathe.

"He sees the Doctor first and has to be cleared for competition," Heero stated flatly.

"Of course," Toria responded, her voice just as firm and just as level.

God. I felt like a damn bone with two junkyard dogs arguing over me. I concentrated on my sketching until dinner was ready and then just ate. I cannot tell you what in the hell they put in front of me but I must have eaten it because nobody nagged me.

Dinner conversation flowed around me but I didn't pay any attention to that either. I just kept thinking about that stupid routine, going over it and trying to make up my mind if I could still manage it after all this time. I found that I knew it start to finish, could remember every choreographed move, every leap and every kick-off. We had worked on that routine the entire year between one expo and the next but then we had met Toria and Hayden hadn't been all that interested in dancing with me anymore. It had just faded away and at the time, I suppose, I had felt a twinge of disappointment that we had never gotten to compete again. The routine had been pretty damn good; I had been rather proud of it.

I became aware that someone had said my name and blinked up from my plate to find the room staring at me with varying degrees of amusement and concern.

"What?" I muttered brightly.

"I said;" Toria grinned across at me, one of the amused ones, "are you going to make me and Hayden sleep in the galley?"

Damn. I hadn't thought about the fact that stopping off to pick up a couple of hitchhikers was going to totally screw my schedule. The delay from the stop coupled with losing our momentum and having to build speed again was going to get us to L2 a half-day later. It would mean another night cycle. I had to bunk them somewhere. Damn.

I very carefully laid down my fork and gave Heero a smile that was so frozen I thought my face would crack. "We'll move you into my cabin," I told them. "Heero... I'll need your help moving our things."

I got up and left the room before anyone had a chance to speak. I heard Heero following me and, thank God, nobody else. I went straight to the locked door to the guest cabin at the end of the hall, beyond and opposite the one I put Relena and Chezarina in and waited for him to catch up to me.

"Duo... " he questioned me softly and I ignored it.

"No one goes in here but you and me," I told him and it came out in a cracked voice I almost didn't recognize. "I need you to move our things." I reached for the keypad with a hand that was trembling like a leaf and Heero caught it in his, holding me steady.

"Duo... what's wrong?" he asked me again.

I looked at him and just flat did not know what to say; didn't know how to warn him. "The... the password... " I stopped. I couldn't fucking tell him what the password was. I slid my hand away from him and keyed it; shouldhavebeenme and then hit the options menu and quickly changed it to the first thing that popped into my head.

"Hell," I told him. "The password is hell... and welcome to mine." I could barely stand to be that close to the damn door knowing that it was unlocked. Unlocked for the first time in... well over two years. I pushed passed him and headed away, forcing myself to stop after only a couple of steps. I couldn't even turn back when I spoke to him. "Just... just try not to look, Ok?" I blurted and fled to the cockpit. I even shut the damn door when I got there.

I grabbed Fuzzy-butt, queued my music, dimmed the lights and threw myself into my chair. God... it's always the little things that get you in the end. Stupid; how could I have not realized this was going to happen before now? Of course the delay would throw the schedule off. Of course I was going to have to find someplace for all my guests to sleep. Of course I was going to have to open up that last damn cabin.

The memory of what was in there was squirming around in my head like some slimy, illusive fish that I just didn't want to look at. I had sealed that room almost before the paint had been dry on the walls. It was one of the first things that I had painted back when my soul had still been puking up the worst of the ichors inside it. I had painted it in a frenzied purging of pain and guilt and loneliness. Had staggered out of that room and locked the door behind me, swearing that I would go back and sandblast the damn thing down to the bare metal. I'd never been able to make myself go back in.

And I'd just sent Heero in there alone. With very little warning of what he was about to see. Guilt came crashing down and I buried my face in Fuzzy-butt's fur and whispered, "God, I am such a fucking coward."

It was too late to stop it. More than enough time had elapsed that I'm sure he had all of our stuff moved and Toria and Hayden were probably already settled in our cabin. Heero'd had more than enough time to study every square inch of that room. And I had no doubt he would... like driving by a train wreck; it was hard not to look. Besides, it was in his nature. He would have to know... would have to see every bit of it.

When the door opens you are confronted with the most horrendous picture of a naked baby crucified to the outside of a boarded up abandoned building. There is no doubt what so ever that the baby is me. From the hint of violet eyes that shows in the screwed up, screaming face to the fuzz of chestnut hair on it's head. There is a woman walking away down the street. A hammer dangles from her fingers; her back is straight as a rod and a butt-length chestnut braid swings jauntily. She does not look back. You can not see her face.

The room is a time-line of my life. If you turn to the right you see the plague in all its hideous glory on the next wall. I am older; my own hair beginning to lengthen and Solo is there... dying in my arms. There are sick children all around us; Becca is there... already dead. My face is pale and shocked. Not the over-whelming grief you would expect but a look of utter disbelief. I had thought Solo was immortal. Had thought he would be there to protect me... forever.

I rubbed absently at the line of scars down my arm.

Turn to the right again and you get to see the Maxwell church massacre. Not the burned out shell that is in the cargo bay. In this vision it is still burning; the dead are still dying. I am there again... a little older, the hair in the braid that would become my signature. This time it is Sister Helen who is dying in my arms. The despair on my face is something tangible. There is a truck in the background with a stolen mobile suit under a tarp on the back. In all the war years I never told Trowa how my heart crumbled every time he used that method to hide his Gundam. Never told him how it almost broke me to see the thing lying there under that damn tarp.

My fingers sought the small cross hanging around my neck.

One more turn and there is the gruesome picture of me kneeling on the ground, my face twisted in agony, my hands held up before my disbelieving eyes... the skin charred away to reveal nothing but blackened bone. The other pilots are all there... arrayed around me in a ring, their backs carefully turned. Their faces expressionless. That portrait, of all of them, isn't fair... but that's what came out when brush and paint and psyche hit the wall.

And overshadowing it all, if you look up, there is the shattered remains of Wing in the midst of a smoking crater on the ceiling. Heero lies nearby, broken and bleeding... his eyes staring down at whoever would dare to lie on the bed in that room. Staring down... empty and lifeless.

I suppose that portrait isn't really fair either... Heero had turned up alive some months later after all. But I had thought he was dead... had thought for a very long time that he was dead. After the battle in which he had so easily pushed that self-destruct button, I had gone on and done what I had needed to do. I had fought and run and fought some more. I had gone to ground with Quatre and the first time there had been a break in the fighting, the first time I had slowed down enough to fucking feel... I had attempted to push my own little self-destruct button. If Quatre hadn't been there, I'm pretty sure I would have died of alcohol poisoning. I don't really think I did it on purpose; I was just trying to kill the pain. I almost killed it permanently.

When I painted that room it came out in a blurred series of frenzied days. I had painted and crawled away to eat and sleep and then staggered back to paint some more. I barely remember it. I just remember stepping back one day and knowing it was done. Remember stepping back and looking around and feeling like someone had eviscerated me and smeared it on the wall. I had lain on the floor of that room and sobbed like I never had before and then I had stumbled out, locked the door, puked in the hall and went to bed where I slept for almost twenty hours. I had not opened the door since. Heero probably even had to make up one of the two beds.

I curled there in my pilot's chair in my dried-blood cockpit and hugged my inanimate co-pilot to my face and almost started laughing. I was sitting in a room the color of my own dried blood, surrounded by pictures of me and my former comrades, in the midst of a war. Pictures of us in captivity... pictures of us fighting and killing... pictures of us being cursed by the colonies we were trying to protect. And I found it oddly comforting. Guess I have a few loose bats still flitting around in the ol' belfry.

With a muttered curse I tossed the stupid bear back into the co-pilot's chair and threw myself to my feet. Hours had passed and I needed to stop hiding in here. But once on my feet, I found myself just standing there facing the door unable to make myself move. I slumped back down with another round of curses and scrubbed my hand over gritty eyes. The hell with it... I'd just spend the night in the damn cockpit.

Behind me, I heard the door hiss open and I closed my eyes, not wanting to deal with any more. There was the sound of a hesitant step, a pause and then another step.

"Duo?" Heero called softly and his voice... might have been someone else's it was so altered by pain.

I opened my eyes and turned to look at him with a sigh. "I'm so sorry... "

I told him, "I shouldn't have sent you in there. I should have... "

Should have had the damn nerve to go in there myself.

Should have thought of something else.

Should have painted over it years ago.

Should have been the one to die.

There was a strange, quiet moment during which neither of us seemed to know what in the hell to say. Then I looked at him a little closer and forgot about my own pain.

His eyes... God his eyes were blood-shot and red-rimmed and... haunted.

"Oh Heero... " I whispered. "Oh dear God... I'm so sorry."

I rose and we staggered toward each other, I jerked my arm out of the damn sling and pulled him tight into my arms as he came to me.

"Duo... " he whispered against my shoulder, "Is that... ? What is... ?" He struggled with the words, seeming strangled with them. "Talk to me. Please talk to me," he finally begged, giving up on the questions all together.

"It's old, Heero... " I soothed, reaching to thread my good hand through his hair, being very careful with my numb fingers. "From... right after the war. I should have gotten rid of it years ago instead of just locking it away."

He pushed away from me and caught my hand, peeling the glove off and tossing it aside, stroking his fingers over my scars. "We didn't turn away from you... Didn't abandon you... we cared for you... " His voice was anguished and confused.

"It isn't always reality that comes out when I paint," I told him sadly, catching his fingers to make him stop that touch that I could only half feel. "Sometimes it's just... fears... things I was confused about. Things I couldn't understand."

He brought my hand to his lips and murmured against the palm, "We hurt for you... we all hurt for you."

"I know that, love," I reassured him. "It's old... it doesn't mean anything... just let it go."

He closed his eyes and pressed his cheek into my hand. "Don't lie to me," he breathed.

"Heero... " I frowned but he cut me off.

"It means... a very great deal. Don't try to tell me it doesn't." His eyes were open again and boring into mine. I looked away.

"I don't half know what it means sometimes," I blurted before I realized it was coming out of my mouth.

He caught my face in his hands and forced me to meet his eyes. "Duo... no more hiding. I need you to talk to me. I need you to trust me... to let me be here for you."

It was getting to be too much; the frantic race to save Hayden and Toria, dealing with Relena's stupid little game of 'let's pretend', fighting with my damned anxiety attacks, feeling like my own body was betraying me, opening up that room, coming to grips with the idea of trying to follow through with Toria's hair-brained scheme... and Heero... trying not to worry Heero... trying to bear up under his damn constant scrutiny. My edges were fraying.

"I'm sorry Heero," I sighed, "I know I'm not handling this very well... I'm just so damn tired... "

Worry clouded those dark blue eyes then and he let go of my face to stroke gentle fingers over my cheek before catching me by the shoulders. "Duo love, you need to get some rest. It's late. Everyone else has gone to bed and we need to get you... "

"Heero... " I gasped, "please... I can't go in there. Don't ask me to go in there."

"Hush." He sighed and held my arms tight as though he were afraid I might pull away. Though where the hell he thought I might run is beyond me. "I've taken care of it... I pulled the light panel and jumpered it out. The lights can't come on in that room. Understand me? You can't see what's on the walls in there now... I swear to you."

I blinked at him and felt my knees turning to water from... God, I'm not sure what; emotional overload?

"I... I'll sleep in here," I panted out and wondered when I had gotten so panicked.

He gently pulled me against him. "I'll be with you. You can't sleep in here; you need some real rest. I brought the med-kit and we can use the sedatives if we have to. It'll be all right... "

I closed my eyes and stopped fighting it; let him lead me out of the cockpit and down the corridor. I let him lead me blind; I couldn't open my eyes. He kept me wrapped close and moved us forward with soothing, reassuring words. I tried to make myself believe that we were going to my own cabin... the comfort of my own piece of space. He paused at the door and I was relieved to hear him key in the password to unlock it; he had taken me seriously when I told him that no one else was to go in this room.

Once inside, I heard him lock it behind us and felt a strange shiver run up my spine. I wanted out of there very damn badly. He steered me toward the bed and I let him undress me, wanting to prolong the touch of his hands. He stripped me down to my shorts and then gently prodded, "Come on love, open your eyes. You need to prove to yourself that it's all right."

I truly felt like a fucking idiot; all bloody weak-kneed and trembling over a couple of damn, stupid paintings. I might have dealt with it better a week before or maybe even a week after but the last few days had seemed to pile one stone after another on my shoulders. This room had felt like just one stinking stone too many.

I slit my eyes open enough to see that the room was, as promised, pretty damn dark. There was a faint glow from the control panel over the bed and from the panel by the door. Enough light to see dark shapes and silhouettes but not enough to grant much color to anything, making the walls relatively obscure.

"Heero... I'm so sorry," I told him, completely ready to die of embarrassment, "I don't know why I can't seem to catch my damn balance today."

He snorted softly and stepped back to undress. "You may not know why... but I do." Stripped to his shorts and tank top, he hesitated. "Which side of the bed do you want?"

I blinked up at him, not really able to see his face. I knew what I should do; I knew what duty demanded... I was the Captain of this ship; the pilot. I should be the one closest to the door. But... Heero was my second... wasn't he? Couldn't I, just for a few hours, let go and trust him to keep an eye on things?

I didn't speak but edged to the back of the bed and made room for him. I saw understanding in the squaring of his shoulders just before he crawled in with me. There was some damn awkward squirming around while we tried to get my arm settled. I finally said the hell with it and just shoved it under the pillow above my head, needing to be facing him, needing to have his arms around me.

"I'm here," he murmured, pulling me close. "I won't leave you alone in this room."

It was a relief to hear it... a relief not to have to ask for that promise. I settled my head against him and tried to ignore the thrumming pain in my arm. The nagging, itchy feel of those images all around me.

"Duo," he kissed the top of my head gently. "Forget this room for a minute. You promised you would tell me what happened between you and the Brannigans. You seemed... almost afraid of Hayden this afternoon. What the hell happened?"

I sighed, remembering the incident with a pang, "Damn," I murmured, just wishing he would drop everything and forget about it, "Hayden and I have been friends since not long after the war," I told him. "We... almost went into business together. Probably would have if he hadn't met Toria."

His fingers traced tranquil patterns over my back.

"Before dinner... Toria was teasing him... she... " I swallowed the sudden strange lump in my throat and tried again, "she brought it rather pointedly to his attention that I... prefer men."

"He didn't know?" he asked me softly and it felt like a rebuke, it made me a little defensive.

"It never fucking came up, ok?" I grumbled. "At the time I wasn't exactly looking to get my damn heart rip... " I stopped and so did the movement of the hand on my back. I blinked into the darkness; sometimes I almost forgot that this Heero and that Heero were the same person. I really didn't want to get into that right now.

"It surprised him," I continued the story, ignoring the lapse as though it had never happened. "I could see this... almost horrified look on his face. You could watch him trying to reevaluate our whole damn friendship."

It took a moment for his hand to resume stroking over my back. "I'm sorry," he murmured and I chose to take it for sympathy over the Hayden matter.

"He seems to have come to grips with it," I said, "or Toria brought him to grips with it... she was flaming pissed."

He chuckled lightly. "I think she could change the mind of a charging rhino if she decided to."

I snorted and shifted slightly against him, trying to ease the strain on my arm.

"You... " he ventured after a moment's silence, "do free style zero-g dance?"

I snickered at him. "So... I still have a few secrets?"

He tilted his head around and brushed his lips lightly across my forehead. "That was not something you talked about."

I grinned rather broadly. "Good," I teased him, "it's nice to know you aren't completely fucking omniscient. Does it surprise you?"

He was quiet for a minute. "Yes and no," he said at length. "It wasn't anything I ever would have guessed... but thinking back, you were always damned graceful in free-fall."

I felt the blood rush to my face and snorted softly at myself; preening like a damn school-girl at the slightest bit of praise; pathetic.

"We competed two years in a row and placed third and second. My half of the prize money was the seeds of my salvage business," I explained, ignoring my discomfort.

"Duo love," he said after a minute and his voice sounded worried, "are you sure you're up to trying something like that?"

I gusted a sigh. "I don't know," I admitted. "It's been so damn long." I twisted my head up and tried to look at him, seeing little more than the intense glitter of his eyes in the dim light. "I have to try... you know that; right?"

It was his turn to sigh and the hand on my back stilled and pulled me close for a second. "I know. But I don't want you... " he hesitated and his voice lost a little of the demanding edge it had held. "I'm worried that you're going to hurt yourself. You've struggled so hard to get back to where you are... I don't... "

I tilted my head up to kiss him. "I understand," I reassured him, "but I can't just walk away when they need me... they lost everything. If I can help, I have to try."

We lay in the dark for a little while, just holding each other and my mind drifted back over the events of the day. I chuckled lightly.

"What?" he murmured.

"Do you realize that Hayden and Toria know exactly who Relena is?"

His laugh was sudden and genuine. "You're kidding? You mean to tell me... ?"

I snickered along with him. "Yep. The only one being fooled in this strange little game of hers is... Relena herself."

He shook his head. "I should tell her, I suppose," he sighed after thinking about it for a second.

"I'd let it go," I told him firmly, "I think I like Lena better than Relena. She's not so damn uptight."

He hesitated. "I won't have her made the fool in this." I could hear the frown in his voice.

"Look Heero," I said, "she started it. I talked to her about it when I asked her to go back to her cabin with me. She says this is the only way that people will act 'natural' around her. Nobody is trying to make her look stupid.'

I was completely proud of the fact that I didn't finish the thought with she's doing a good enough job of looking foolish on her own.

"I suppose," he grumbled but let it go and there was another of those strange silences.

"Toria is a little... blunt, isn't she?" Heero said suddenly.

I snickered. "You noticed?"

I could feel him smile slightly. "While I was moving our things... she came and wanted to know where you were."

"Argh," I grunted, that would mean that she would be all over my case the next time she saw me, wanting to know what was wrong. "What... what'd you tell her?"

He sighed rather heavily and I was kind of glad I hadn't been around for that conversation. "I told her that you were resting." I could tell from his rueful tone of voice that she hadn't let that go.

"I take it you got some argument?" I smiled against his shoulder.

"You could say that," his voice fairly smirking. "She wanted to know just what in the hell I had done to you."

"What?" I asked, confused.

"She says that you aren't acting normal at all... she wanted to know why you were dressed the way you are and why there hasn't been any music playing."

I could hear in his voice that he was looking for confirmation that she was right, that these were unusual actions for me. I sighed. "Heero... I'm usually alone. I do play my music all the time when I'm alone... but it's common courtesy when you have guests to adjust things for their... comfort."

"The clothes?" he prompted and I made a mental note to tell Toria Brannigan to mind her own damn business the next time I saw her.

"Yeah, maybe I do dress differently under normal circumstances but I can hardly drift around in my damn underwear with Relena and Chezarina onboard," I growled.

"So you do usually pilot in zero gravity?" he pounced and I wondered just what in the hell all they had talked about.

"That's not my fault... I'm not supposed to be using that much low gravity for the next couple of months." I felt defensive and wasn't even sure why; I hadn't done anything wrong. Maybe it's just because this all echoed the eye-opener I'd had earlier about not really being myself around Relena. It was like Heero and Toria had conspired to read my fucking mind somehow.

He didn't say anything, only shifted away from me. I had a strange moment of thinking he was angry with me before I realized that he was reaching to queue my night music. It was isolated to the speakers in this cabin and turned down low. It was almost a shock how soothing it was.

"Despite what you think," he murmured to me as he settled back beside me, "I can't read your mind. You have to tell me what you want."

Our eyes seemed to be adjusting a little to the near darkness and I could see him frowning at me slightly. "Duo... you can't be comfortable... "

I heaved a sigh. "I know. I guess I'm going to have to sleep on the outside."

He didn't immediately move but seemed to be considering something. "Not necessarily," he said at length and got up, pulling the blankets free from their null gravity, Velcro fastenings, "We're not in zero-g,' he informed me with a smile, "there's no saying that we need to fasten things down."

I chuckled with him and we turned ourselves around so that our heads were at the wrong end of the bed. I could lie on my left side so that my arm was out flat on the bed and he could spoon in behind me while still being on the outside edge.

"Better?" he asked when we were settled again.

"Hmmm," I agreed and squirmed until I was nestled as close in his arms as I could manage.

He stroked his fingers placidly over my hair and murmured, "You need to rest... go to sleep, love."

I didn't really want to. Lying here with him, talking with him had been... pleasant. I didn't really want it to stop. I had felt... closer to him today than I think I ever had. It was odd; I'm not sure where it was coming from. We'd certainly argued off and on enough. Maybe it had started with that strange revelation of the morning, thinking about the fear that had been in his eyes when he had realized I'd been hurt in the mishap with the cargo bay door. Maybe it had been the way his hands had shaken so much while he had been stripping me out of that vacuum suit. I'm not sure... but I just really wasn't ready to go to sleep yet. I was feeling better; more settled, but my head was still whirling with thoughts and half-formed ideas... emotions still raw edged.

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