Chapter 54: "Up to No Good"
Wufei wanted nothing more than to explain what he'd discovered to Heero, but he didn't get a chance right away. Heero was searching the halls for him, and the second he spotted him, he nabbed Wufei by the elbow and led him at a fast walk towards the council chambers.
"You're going to be late," he said shortly. "Where the hell have you been?"
Wufei shook his arm free and lengthened his stride to take the lead. "Nezha. I'll tell you later. Anyway, I've still got a few minutes."
Heero shot him a sharp glance at the mention of the dragon, but kept his questions to himself. He had more pertinent news. "Kushrenada is there."
"What??" Wufei stared at him in disbelief. "With the Council?"
Heero nodded grimly. "Shen invited him. I saw him in there when I glanced in to see if you'd beat me there." He frowned, visibly displeased. "None of the Council members seem to have a problem with his presence."
Wufei cursed quietly and sped his pace up a notch. He stopped for a moment outside the chamber doors to even his breathing and compose his expression, then pushed the doors open and strode boldly inside. Heero followed on his heels, hand resting unconsciously on the hilt of his katana.
Everyone rose at his entrance, and Wufei's eyes sought out the General's face immediately. He was at the seat to Shen's right. As he took his seat at the head of the long table and everyone else sat back down, he shot furtive glances at the other Council members. Heero was right; they seemed undisturbed at Treize's presence. Only Junbao seemed affected; he was studying Treize with a faint frown hovering on his normally stony face.
"I hope you don't mind my intrusion," Treize spoke up smoothly. Wufei fought to keep his face blank. "I was curious as to how your people governed themselves, and Shen invited me to sit in. He's assured me nothing confidential or of any great importance is to be discussed today."
Wufei flicked a glance Shen's way, but the other man gave the barest of nods, lifting his brows. He wanted Wufei to play nice. Wufei forced a smile, though it probably looked less than sincere. He couldn't think of a cordial response, so he only nodded at Treize and turned his attention on the rest of the Council, intent on ignoring the older man for the rest of the meeting.
The new, younger Council members had proven to have different ideas than their predecessors on how Yeong should be run. They pressured Wufei for more control, constantly trying to wheedle him into letting them handle more and more responsibilties. Slowly they were tugging the reins of power from his hands, and Wufei wasn't quite sure what he thought about that. He lacked the experience and respect to completely sway the Council's mind, much less try to set down anything even resembling a policy or law unless a vast majority of the members gave their support. He had only set his foot down a couple of times since his grandfather's illness. It had not gotten a favorable reaction from all of them, but so far his luck had held and he'd gotten his way in those instances.
Today's topics were fairly mundane, almost dull, and Wufei found himself tuning out half of what was being said as he watched Trieze out of the corner of his eye. Treize caught him once, and offered a slow smile in return, and after that Wufei stubbornly refused to look at the man. Heero did enough staring for the both of them, anyway. He gazed steadily at the General for the entire meeting, jaw set.
The meeting was brief, and when it was over Wufei found himself wondering why he had even bothered to come. He had barely even needed to put in his two cents. He stood by his chair, letting the Council members trickle out, and caught Shen's eye. Treize inclined his head in Wufei's direction as he left the room. Wufei ignored him.
Shen hung back, waiting until everyone else had left, and turned a questioning eye on Wufei.
Wufei tried to keep his tone even, knowing it displeased the older man whenever he let his loathing of Treize show so openly. "What was Kushrenada doing here?"
Shen shrugged. "He was curious. And he is an important guest, Fei. We discussed nothing that we wouldn't want an outsider hearing, and it gave him an idea on how the colony is run, as he said earlier. He isn't planning on making a habit of it, if that's what you're getting at."
Wufei took a deep breath and reluctantly let it drop. He didn't want to get in another argument about it. He had come to rely heavily on Shen's friendship and counsel, and couldn't risk bad feelings between them. "Uncle, I have to ask you something."
Shen blinked, then broke into a pleased smile, with only a hint of teasing to his voice. "Uncle? You haven't called me that since you were this big, Fei." He held his hand by his hip.
Wufei flushed. The word had slipped out without him meaning it to. "Sorry," he muttered. "The memories Nez-- the dragon returned to me are still new enough that I sometimes..."
Shen laughed. "It's all right, Fei. I'm honored that you still see me as family. Your father and I were as close as brothers, anyhow."
Wufei nodded. "Speaking of the dragon..." he fought hard not to look at Heero, who was listening curiously without making it too obvious, "she's been playing games with my head ever since Grandfather showed her to me. And some of the things she's said have been..." he shook his head in frustration. "A lot of it seems impossible. Even more of it doesn't make sense at all. I feel like she's expecting something of me, but I'm not sure what." Which was partly true.
Shen placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, expression solemn. "The Jade Dragon is a mysterious force, Fei. She has looked over our people for centuries. And always she has had a close connection to the ancestors of your family's bloodline. Your birth assured your place as our Lord, but she chose you to bear her Mark. That has not happened in almost four generations. And even that instance was a... surprise."
"A surprise? Had it not happened in a long time before him?"
"That's the thing." Shen looked a bit uncomfortable. "The Dragon didn't put the Mark on your great-grandfather; instead, she chose his younger sister."
Wufei's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Even Heero blinked in surprise, giving himself away. Shen pretended not to notice his eavesdropping.
"I'm not accusing my own people of being bigoted," Wufei said hesitantly. "But isn't that...?"
"I prefer the term 'old-fashioned', myself," Shen admitted with a wry little smile. "But yes, it caught everyone completely by surprise. She certainly couldn't rule, Mark or no Mark. She was a woman. It was her brother that became the next Lord, but the Dragon made it clear whom was to be the Clan's protector in her stead. Your great-grandmother was the sword and shield for L5."
Wufei's hand strayed towards his lower back, his heart giving a little thump in his chest. "Is that what the Mark means? Are you telling me it has nothing to do with declaring a worthy sucessor?"
Shen nodded seriously. "Not every lord has carried the Mark. But every man who has ever carried the Mark has been a leader of our people. With the exception of your great-grandmother. At first everyone assumed it meant that the Mark identified an extrodinary leader. Our people had forgotten the meaning behind the Mark."
Shen cocked his head to the side, but didn't comment on Wufei's ignorance. "The Jade Dragon in that hall is only that-- jade. A statue. They say, however, that the spirit of the original dragon rests in that statue. And she lends her strength and power to an individual each generation-- one from the royal bloodline that she sees worthy enough to carry her word and power. That generation, for reasons unknown to her people, she chose your great-grandmother. She saw something in that girl that no one else saw; the strength and fortitude to protect her people and bear the Dragon's great power."
"Power?" Wufei repeated incredulously. "But... it's just a tattoo!"
Shen arched a brow.
"All right, so it's... reacted strangely sometimes," Wufei admitted. "Especially when it's touched. And.." he glanced at Heero, "it seems to have connected me in some way with my Guardians. But that's all."
"That's because it has only just become mature with your seventeenth birthday. Its defenses should be stronger, as well, and it will retaliate if someone you do not trust attempts to touch it." At least, Wufei thought grimly, that meant Treize and his loathesome Suit Phillips couldn't use it against him any more. "According to legend, once the Mark has matured, the bearer has access to great power that can be used in danger. It will protect you-- and your people."
"What kind of power?" Wufei asked nervously.
Shen spread his arms wide. "Who can say? There are stories of great things that bearers of that Mark have done in the past, but it is impossible to tell what is legend and what is fact. If I were you, I would hope that you never have to find out. That power should only be called upon in dire circumstances, and we would prefer to live in peace." He grasped Wufei's shoulders, looking him right in the eye. "But I should caution you against testing it. There's a catch. The power has been said to kill lesser men. They lost control, and it destroyed them."
Wufei tried to tell himself that it was just superstitious nonsense. That he didn't believe in 'power' or 'spirits'. Or past lives, for that matter.
But then, he was the one who held conversations with a woman no one else could see.
"I trust you."
Quatre jumped, turning quickly from where he was sitting in the gardens making notes. His hand moved automatically to cover what he'd been writing before he recognized the speaker. "What?"
Trowa approached him slowly, gazing at the delicate blossoms on one of the fruit trees rather than look his friend in the eye. "I trust you-- to look after yourself. And Wufei."
Quatre hesitated, then closed his notebook slowly, glancing away.
"You were trained just as long as I was," Trowa continued, coming to stand close to the stone bench. "We've gone on training missions before. You've proven yourself more than once. I don't think you're incompetent."
Quatre's fingers curled around the edges of his notebook tightly. "Then why are you always shouldering me out of the way?" he demanded with quiet heat. "Why do you always try to talk me out of situations like when Relena and I negotiated with Milliardo? Or take point, or volunteer for the more dangerous tasks when I'm--"
Trowa's jaw had been tightening, and he finally snapped, "I don't want you to get hurt, idiot."
Quatre stopped, staring at his friend in surprise. Trowa had never spoken to him so sharply before.
Trowa hesitated, reaching up to push his bangs out of his face restlessly. They fell back over his eyes immediately. "I know you can look after yourself," he said more calmly. "That doesn't mean I don't... worry about you. You know as well as I do what our job really is: shields. We take the blows meant for Wufei. We're supposed to put our lives on the line to protect him."
"Wufei's our friend," Quatre pointed out quietly. "Any one of us would do it-- including you. You can't try to protect me from something we both swore to do."
"I know that," Trowa said with the faintest edge of frustration to his voice.
Quatre fell silent, studying his friend closely. His heart was drumming faintly in his ears, and his fingers clenched nervously around the spiral spine of the notebook. "You never try to stop Heero from doing foolish things," he murmured. "And Heero throws himself at anything he sees as a threat to Wufei."
"Heero's my friend," Trowa admitted gruffly. "But he doesn't listen to me when I try to talk sense into him-- especially where Wufei is concerned."
"That's because Wufei is important to him," Quatre started to say, then stopped, breath catching in his throat. After a moment's hesitation, he set the notebook aside and got to his feet. He walked over to his friend and reached out, not quite touching the other boy's chest, just over his heart. This close, he could see how quickly the pulse in Trowa's neck was jumping. "Why won't you ever let me in here?" he asked quietly, glancing up at his friend. "You used to let me read you... when we were small. Now it's like there's a wall there. I can never tell what you're really feeling. If I didn't know any better, I'd think you did it on purpose." He swallowed hard. "What are you hiding from me?"
Trowa finally dragged his eyes away from the tree to look down at him. He had tensed, but he didn't step away. He didn't answer at first, as if contemplating a retreat. Then he reached up and took Quatre's wrist in a light grip. Keeping his eyes on Quatre's, he turned over the captured hand and raised it, pressing his mouth to the calloused palm in a light but lingering touch.
Quatre took in a sharp breath, staring at his friend in shock. His heart leapt almost painfully against his ribcage, but he couldn't get his vocal chords to work.
"Guys!" Duo came running up, panting and looking a little wild. "I've been lookin' all over for you!"
Trowa released Quatre's wrist immediately and turned to look expectantly at the braided boy. Quatre put his hand by his side, his heart still stammering in his chest and his face flaming. "Wh-what, Duo?" he managed to squeak, still a bit disoriented.
Duo came to a stop, leaning over to catch his breath. He didn't seem to have seen what had just transpired between the two boys. "Where's.. Wufei?" he panted. "I really really gotta talk to him. I checked the infirmary, but Relena's the only one there. She said she's been in there with her father for a couple hours, and she hasn't seen him either."
Trowa frowned slightly. "He's in the Council meeting." He flicked a glance towards the sun, checking the time. "He should be done by now. Why?"
"What's wrong?" Quatre asked, stepping forward in rising alarm. "Is everything all right?"
"Umm..." Duo grimaced uneasily. "It's gonna get pretty ugly, actually. Wufei is going to skin me alive."
"What are you talking about?" Trowa demanded impatiently.
"It's not really anyone's business, no offense," Duo hedged.
"Except Wufei's?" Trowa asked with an arched brow.
"It's better that he hears it from me, trust me."
Quatre hesitated, confused by the jumbled emotions he could sense from the other boy: fear, desperation and happiness were tangled together, making him almost impossible to read. "He was supposed to go see Mingzhu for his lessons afterwards," he offered. "Check the halls between the Council room and the library."
"Right. Thanks." Duo turned away, waving over his shoulder. "If you find my body stuffed in a corner somewhere later, don't raise the alarm, all right? It'll just be Wufei taking his temper out on me."
Trowa and Quatre looked at each other in confusion, but the braided Guardian was already jogging off.
"Where are we going? You have lessons." Heero pointed over his shoulder. "That way."
Wufei was practically dragging Heero down the hall, and he didn't bother to slow down at his lover's protests. "Mingzhu's already mad at me; she'll get over it if I'm a few minutes late. I have to talk to you."
"Talk?" Heero repeated carefully, obviously unsure if Wufei was trying to steal a few minutes of 'alone time'.
"Yes. It's about something Nezha said to me."
Heero frowned, but turned to wave off the guards who were trailing behind just out of earshot. They fell back obediently; as long as Wufei had a Guardian with him, their presence was more for show than anything else.
He and Wufei ducked out the nearest door and paused on the wide porch that encircled the main building.
Wufei crossed his arms over his chest in an unconsciously defensive position, knowing that what he was about to say sounded ludicrous even to his own ears. "I've told you that the dragon spoke to me before."
"..Yes." Heero eyed him a bit warily. "You mentioned that she'd said that Duo couldn't be trusted."
"Right. Well... she decided to make another appearance. Just before the Council meeting. Actually, I asked her to speak to me. Demanded, more like."
"What did she say?"
"...Nothing that made any sense," Wufei admitted slowly. "I still need to think about a lot of it. But if I understood her correctly, she seemed to be indicating that... that I am a reincarnation or some such nonsense. That she made some sort of deal with me in a past life, and that I have been reincarnated multiple times in order to keep up my end of the bargain."
Heero's eyebrows rose. "What sort of bargain?"
Wufei's eyes went to the leather thong around Heero's neck, and the slight bump under the cloth at his chest. "I think I was supposed to bring ruyi back to her."
Heero's hand rose unconsciously to touch the concealed weapon, frowning. "For this?" he sounded skeptical. "Why would she bring you back to life just to bring this to her?"
"It used to belong to her. Remember that children's story I told you about-- the one about the boy and Sun Wokong? I think he stole it from her, and she struck some sort of deal with me-- or whoever I was back then --to get it back. If I'm understanding this right, the boy trapped Sun Wokong, and in return she agreed to watch over his people. But then the boy-- a past 'me', theoretically --asked her for another favor. So she agreed, if he would find and return the ruyi the Monkey King had stolen from her."
Heero's frown deepened. "What were you supposed to get in return? Or was your reincarnation her end of the deal?"
Wufei could tell Heero was humoring him, and winced, avoiding the question. "I know how it sounds," he grumbled. "I'm not even sure I believe it, either. But lately I've... been seeing things."
"I'm not losing my mind," Wufei snapped defensively, stung at the other boy's wary tone. "In the infirmary I saw someone other than my grandfather in that bed-- and a woman was there, too. A moment later they were gone. And once in the hall, there was a man. A scarred man. And when I brought Relena before the dragon, that was the first time Nezha appeared to me-- the woman form, I mean." He reached up and rubbed at his forehead in annoyance. "I thought I was losing it," he growled, "but if what she says is true, then most of what I'm seeing are flashes of past lives."
Heero placed his hands on his hips and looked away over the grounds, face pensive. "If this were true," he said slowly, "then that means your part in it is over, doesn't it? Ruyi is back on the colony with her."
"Which ends whatever contract you made with her."
Heero looked back at him. "But what were you supposed to get out of it?"
Wufei hesitated. "That's the part I'm unclear on," he muttered, which was partly true. "She was very cryptic. She usually is; she's infuriating. She just suggested that it was something I-- or a past self, anyway --thought was 'precious'. Whatever the hell that means."
Heero eyed him suspiciously. "Do you think she kept her end of the bargain?"
Wufei looked at him for a moment. "I'm not sure," he said quietly. "I have to ask her again what she meant. I don't want to jump to conclusions." He glanced away, voice brusque. "But she also said I'd brought along something she didn't want. Actually, I think she meant someone."
Heero's voice sharpened in distaste. "Kushrenada."
Wufei looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "No.." Then he realized Heero wasn't looking at him, but glaring over Wufei's shoulder. He turned quickly, and tensed as the General appeared in the doorway.
"Ah, there you are." Treize offered a brief smile. "I wonder if I might have a word with you alone?"
Wufei stomped on his initial, less-than-diplomatic response. "What is it?"
Treize's eyes flickered towards Heero. Wufei turned back to his Guardian. "Go on," he muttered. "I can handle him. Besides, I doubt he'll be stupid enough to try anything here."
Heero's expression darkened, but he nodded reluctantly. "I'll be right over there," he said firmly, and stalked into the yard.
Wufei faced Treize, eyes narrowing. Without Shen around to chastise him, he let his scorn show. "What do you want, Kushrenada?"
Treize strolled over, smiling disarmingly. "I'm no fool, Chang. Your dislike of me is quite obvious, despite Shen's attempts to keep you in check around me. I was hoping we could reconcile our differences."
"Feh!" Wufei brought himself to his full height, hating how the older man practically towered over him. "I have to be civil to you during your stay here, but don't think I've forgotten what you did back on earth."
"What, telling you the truth?" Treize spread his arms wide to indicate their surroundings. "At least I gave you some small bit of good news-- your grandfather is still alive, as you can clearly see."
"That's not what I'm referring to, and you know it!"
"Ah..." The General's mouth slid into a small, secret smile. "The incident with your Mark. I was only trying to protect you, little Lord."
Wufei flushed with indignation. "I can take care of myself!"
"No doubt." Treize's eyes flitted in the direction Heero had gone. "And of course there is always your stalwart bodyguard to watch your back in a pinch. Quite a loyal fellow."
"A bit trigger-happy, too," Wufei growled.
If Treize caught the veiled threat, he chose to ignore it, stepping closer and lifting his hand to brush tapered fingertips against Wufei's jawline. Wufei jerked his head away. "Stop it," he said through gritted teeth. "What the hell are you doing?"
"My apologies." He looked decidedly unapologetic in Wufei's opinion, another crafty smile hovering in place. "I admit, you still fascinate me. You are young, and still finding your place in life, but there is a fire in you that burns anyone that gets too close." He chuckled. "It is the sort of fire that can consume one-- though not in a decidedly unpleasant manner." Wufei stared at him, thrown by the unasked for compliments-- if that's what they were --and unsure how to respond. Treize took advantage of his momentary floundering to fondle idly with the button holding the neck of Wufei's outfit closed. "You are by far the most abrasive boy I have ever met," he murmured almost thoughtfully. "Yet something about you makes people want to stay by your side." He met Wufei's eyes with a quick grin. "Or beat some manners into you."
Wufei half-reached to touch his split lip without thinking, still a bit sore from his fight with Zhao. Treize beat him to it, pressing his thumb lightly against Wufei's bottom lip, just enough to sting. Wufei twitched his head away quickly. "Quit touching me!"
Treize's eyes flickered over Wufei's shoulders, then he leaned over abruptly, putting his mouth right by Wufei's ear. Wufei went rigid, fighting with his instinct when his fingers itched for the hilt of his dao. Footsteps echoed sharply on the wooden stairs behind him.
"Perhaps we will have a chance in the future to see just how 'charasmatic' you can really be," Treize murmured, lips brushing the shell of Wufei's ear and bringing back the memory of when he had used Wufei's Mark against him in his bedroom.
Wufei shuddered violently, taking a step back, but Treize's arm seized his wrist like a vice, holding him in place. He froze, staring up blankly into the other man's eyes. A part of his brain was shrieking at him to cut the man in two, politics be damned. The rest of him was still numb in absolute disbelief.
But it seemed that eye contact was all Treize desired. He smiled again briefly before releasing Wufei and backing off.
A hand on his shoulder pulling him back roughly startled Wufei so much he almost jumped out of his skin. Then Heero was putting himself firmly between the two of them, face livid. A muscle in his jaw was jumping in a fierce attempt to keep his temper in check, and his grip on the hilt of his katana was crushing. "Keep your hands off of him," he snarled.
"My, my," Treize said calmly. "No need to get so hostile. You know I have no intentions of harming your.. 'friend'."
Wufei's hands tightened into his fists at his sides, suspicion boiling in him at the slight enunciation Treize gave that innocent word.
Treize offered a brief bow, smirking slightly. "Good day." Seeming totally unperturbed by Heero's seething resentment or Wufei's blank stare, he turned on his heel and disappeared inside.
"Wufei." Heero turned back to his partner quickly, struggling to wipe the anger from his face. Wufei gazed back at him, noting how the other boy's ears were red with temper. "What did he say to you? Did he threaten you?"
Wufei finally found his voice, face hot with embarrasment and anger. "He's not that stupid," he muttered, finally managing to unclench his fists with an effort. "He's very good at walking a thin line."
Heero's eyes narrowed as he misread the flush in Wufei's cheeks, but he didn't say anything.
Wufei shuddered compulsively, reaching up to scrub at his ear. "Bastard. Forget him. He's just trying to throw me off."
"I don't trust him," Heero spat.
"Like I do?" Wufei frowned. "He's up to something. Him and that brat of his. Why else would he be pushing me like this?" He scowled. "I feel like I need to take a shower to get rid of the feel of that dirtbag's hands." He hesitated in bemusement, noting how some of the tension seemed to ease out of Heero's shoulders. Something clicked, and his mouth opened in offended surprise. "You-- You're not--" He shoved Heero away from him in annoyance. "Yuy," he hissed, "the man makes me sick to my stomach! Don't tell me you're actually--"
"I'm not jealous," Heero snapped.
Wufei arched a brow. "How do you know that's what I was going to say?"
Heero glared at him mutely.
Wufei felt a small smile tugging at his lips. After a quick glance around to make sure no one was in the lawn, he reached out and placed his hand against Heero's hip, smirking at the fuming boy from inches away. Heero's brows lifted at his daring.
"The man is scum, as far as I'm concerned," Wufei informed him. A faint frown tugged at his mouth. "But you need to control your reaction around him, before he begins to wonder."
"Good," Heero said shortly. "Then maybe he'd keep his hands off you."
"'Not jealous'?" Wufei mocked, earning a dark look in response. He rolled his eyes, amused despite himself. "It's not like you can walk up to him and tell him I'm 'off the market' or anything as cheesy or idiotic as--" he ended in a gasp as Heero leaned forward abruptly and pressed his mouth to Wufei's neck.
A shiver ran up and down his spine, fingers digging unconsciously into Heero's side. "St-stop--" he managed to stutter, shocked and turned on all at once. Heero wasn't kissing his neck, he was sucking at it like a vampire; the pressure of it, and the feel of the tongue moving across his skin was... way way... too distracting...
Someone might see...
He lifted his hands to push Heero away, but the mouth disappeared, and Heero leaned back with the shadow of a smirk hovering on his mouth. "Now I don't have to tell him," he said simply.
Wufei stared at him for a moment, then reached up to clap his hand to the side of his neck in horror. "You didn't--" He could feel his face heating up in embarrassment. He glared at Heero, offended. Heero's smile only widened marginally. "You-- stupid, jealous--" he started to stammer.
Heero had NOT just left a god damned HICKEY on his--
"Wufei?" Duo's head popped out of the entrance Treize had just disappeared into. "Oh, good, the sleazeball actually told the truth for once. Kushrenada said you'd be out here."
"Impeccable timing, as always," Heero noted dryly, turning to offer a hooded look to the other Guardian.
Wufei frowned at the nervous look on Duo's face, careful to keep his hand where Heero's mouth had been. "What is it?"
"I've, ah, got something to tell you..." Duo fidgeted, making sure to stay well out of arm's reach. His eyes kept flickering towards Wufei's sword. "Don't kill me, okay? At least I'm bein' a man about it and tellin' you, right? I never meant for this to happen, I swear."
"Duo," Wufei snapped impatiently. "Stop dancing around it and just spit it out already."
"What did you do?" Heero asked suspiciously.
"Um, well..." Duo tugged at his braid fretfully, offering Wufei a watery grin. "This might all just be some kinda mistake, but, ah... I think that..." He took a deep breath and winced as if in preparation for a blow. "Hilde's pregnant."
Author's Notes: These moments of sap brought to you by: too much sugar. >>; There seems to be a bit more sap in here than usual *cough*
Okay, here's the deal... I started reading a fanfic that someone had rec'd, and kept noticing that in the author's notes, she kept apologizing for such a long delay between updates. 'That's ok,' I thought, 'because I found it when it's finished mwahaha.'
WRONG. o_o It's not finished. And it ended on a semi-cliffhanger. And it might be a month or more before I see another update T.T I whined about it to my sister and she gave me this Look and was like 'Sucks, doesn't it?'
So I'm going to put a lot more effort into getting HB chapters out a bit quicker. And it is winding towards the end, thank god.
But I just wanted to thank all who have stuck with me for this monstrosity of a fic ;_; <3
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