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"A Choice of a Lifetime" - chapter 2/6

Now we get into the difficult part of this story. In some ways, the discussion here is very interesting, and in other ways, it's interminably boring. This and the next two chapters are the hard ones; after them, I think it gets a lot better. I wish you luck in reading this. ;)

Word count: 5118





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If it wasn't for the weapon at her back, Amy would have immediately turned back for Rory, pummeling the guards with her fists if she had to. However, there was nothing she could do against four heavily armed and armoured men, and so she trudged along, with David by her side where Rory should have been. Stealing a look at her companion, she saw that he was barely controlling his panic, clenching his fists at his side and keeping a steady gaze at the floor. She wondered if the guards would mind her talking, then decided that if they did, they could just tell her to shut up.

"It's okay, David. We'll get out of this." There was no response, either from him or the guards, so she continued. "We're harmless. They'll figure it out and let us go."

"It doesn't matter," David finally mumbled through gritted teeth. "Nothing matters if I don't get that watch back." The guards urged them to turn and they descended a marble staircase.

"We'll get it. Rory will figure something out. He's clever that way." She hoped that she sounded convincing to him, because she certainly didn't sound convincing to herself.

"I've gone and messed up again." He smacked one fist on top of the other a few times. "I've outdone myself. And this time, I'll just endanger all of reality, shall I?"

Amy stopped to stare at David. "What are you talking about?"

"This way!" One of the guards pushed Amy into a side corridor, and David followed her. "Come on. You can yammer all you like. Just keeping walking."

"Oi, I got it. You don't have to shove." Amy glared at the man, who ignored her, then looked around as she started moving again. Though sparsely decorated, the corridor was clean and finely built. Every three metres or so was a heavy wooden door with a small barred window and bolts on the visible side. "Where are we?" she wondered out loud.

"The solitary cells," replied one of the guards, who stopped and unbolted a door. "Built for quiet contemplation. Good for prisoners, too." He opened the door, revealing a tiny spartan room with walls of smooth stone, a sleeping mat and a thin blanket in the corner, and what was probably a chamber pot. A high narrow window let in just enough sunlight to keep the room from being gloomy. "Get in, both of you."

David turned to him. "Really, we just want to get our things and leave. We never intended to intrude. Can't you help us?"

"Save your silver-tongued words, demon. Get in there!" With both hands, the guard shoved David and he stumbled into the room, barely keeping himself on his feet as he caught himself against the opposite wall.

"Oi! yelled Amy. "You don't need to do that!"

"Do as you're told and I won't. Now, get in there!" As Amy glared at the guard, his eyes flicked past her into the room and widened with fear. She whirled to see a cloud of golden energy descend from the ceiling. It paused for a moment, as if it was searching for something, then streaked towards the startled David. With the energy coalescing around him, he stared at his hands, which shimmered and pulsed, before it all suddenly absorbed into him.

For one moment, David's eyes popped wide open, shining with power and ecstasy, then snapped shut as he began to scream, his body twisting and crumpling in agony. As he fell to his knees and clawed his head, the guards backed away from the door, drawing sigils over themselves. Amy ran into the room and hovered over her friend writhing on the ground. "David! David! What's happening? David!"

"Ahhhh! Gnnnggnahhhh! Hurts! Ahhhh! Stop! Stop! Arrh! Please! Stop!" He kicked and squirmed, tangling himself in his coat, and rocked back and forth on the stone floor. The guards shouted orders at each other.

"Lock him in! Don't let the demon out!"

"Tell the cardinal!"

"Go!"

Behind Amy, the door slammed, and she barely heard the bolt clang into place over David's cries. She dropped to the floor and tried to steady him, but she didn't have enough strength to suppress his frenzied tremors. No longer screaming but still insensible with pain, he curled up into a ball, his arms clutched over his chest. "Uh! Uh! Nnnh! Make it stop! Please! Ahnnhh!" he ground out through gritted teeth.

Amy rocked back on her heels, paralysed without any idea of how to help him. She hopped back to her feet and flattened against the wall after a kick nearly sent her sprawling. There she stood for minutes, her hands clamped over her mouth, watching her friend suffer, squirming and contorting from the pain. Finally, after what felt like hours to her, his eyes, streaming with tears, popped open, sightless but with sudden relief, and he collapsed in a limp pile.

"David!" Kneeling beside him, Amy grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him gently, but he didn't respond, probably for the best, she decided. Feeling his face and neck, she found that his skin was clammy and wet with sudden sweat, but his breathing was steady, as normal as she could expect under the circumstances. She sat down and eased his head into her lap, stroking his hair and murmuring, "It's okay. You're okay now. Just rest."

A few minutes later, the door was thrown open wide as Rory was pushed into the now-crowded room. "Stay there. We'll get to the bottom of this," Jalla grunted as he secured the door and stomped away down the hall.

Rory dropped to the floor and caught Amy in a hug before asking, "What happened? We met the guards in the hall and they were spooked."

"I don't know. This glowing cloud came down from the ceiling." She pointed. "Right up there. It surrounded David and he started screaming like it was killing him. It finally let up and here he is."

"Let me see." Rory felt around David's head for bumps or bruises, then, leaning close to get a good look, lifted an eyelid, which he dropped immediately. "Oh my god."

"What?"

"Look."

Rory lifted the eyelid again, pulling his head back so Amy could see. David's eye shone with an intense golden light, so bright that she couldn't see the eye at all. Amy gasped. "That's just like the cloud I saw."

"I think it's from the watch. I don't know." Rory let the eyelid shut again. "This is way beyond me."

David groaned and stirred. "Wha-?"

"David!" Amy stroked his head again. "Are you okay? How do you feel?"

"Uhhh..." He shifted, trying to push himself up, streams of light leaking as his eyes creaked open.

Just then, Amy heard the clank of armour, announcing the return of the guards. Holding the actor down, she leaned in over him and whispered. "Pretend you're still out, okay? You've got to keep your eyes closed." David whimpered and collapsed back in her lap, and she took that as an agreement.

The door burst open and the cardinal strode in, his guards remaining in the hallway as if they were too afraid to approach. Amy read what he was about to do from the anger in his face and decided to go on the offensive.

"What have you done?" she screamed at him. She threw her arms around David and rocked him back and forth. "Why are you torturing him? We haven't done anything to harm you! He almost died!" The shock of uncertainty flitted across Deretyr's face, and she smiled inwardly whilst maintaining an expression of frightened anger.

The cardinal drew himself up. "It was your evil magics, a trick. The servants of Orsanal do not resort to such evils. He does not need to sully his holy self to discover the truth!"

"Liar!" Amy retorted, and the cardinal huffed in offense. "Why would we do this to our friend? You did this! You evil man!" She felt David twitch and continued rocking him to mask his movements.

The cardinal hesitated, confused by the recent events and Amy's logic. "There is some infernal plot here, something you're doing to undermine our faith. His Holiness shall get to the bottom of this." He backed out of the room. "I shall arrange that audience. Misho, bolt the door and clear out the rest of the chambers. No supplicants here today." The guard closed the door and threw the bolt. "Bring them food and water, but do not open the door for any more than that. Post two guards at the entrance to the cells and don't talk to them. I don't want anyone closer, where they can be corrupted by their speech." His voice faded as the men retreated.

Amy stared at Rory as they waited to be sure everyone was gone. After a couple minutes of silence, she released David from her protective hug and straightened. “It’s okay. They’re gone.”

The actor rolled off her lap and curled on the stone floor, his arms wrapped around his head. “No no no no no…” he murmured.

Rory scrambled next to him and tried to roll him back over. “Let me look, David. Something’s wrong. Your eyes…”

“I know! I know!” he cried, but he cringed away from Rory.

"Come on," Rory coaxed. "Let me check you out." He wanted to look at David's eyes again, but as he couldn't get him to relax and turn toward him, he snaked his fingers under his chin and felt for his pulse. At once, all the colour drained from the nurse's face. “What the -? Uh…” His eyes widened, and he rocked David back towards him so that he could thrust his hand between his arms to feel at his chest.

Amy stared at both of them in turn. “What? What's wrong?”

“Oh.” Rory slumped, his hand resting on David’s shoulder.

“What?”

“He’s got two hearts.” Rory swallowed.

Amy’s jaw dropped and she choked, her words stuck in her throat.

David groaned. “Everything's wrong. Everything is so very wrong.”

Rory wrung his hands. “They opened the watch. I told them not to, but they did. Then when the light burst out, that guard captain bashed it with his sword and broke it. I got it closed, and the energy sank into the ground and I thought it went away. Obviously not.”

Amy gestured at the man on the ground. "It came here and went into him. That's what he was trying to do in the TARDIS, right? Become the Doctor again?"

"No, I'm not the Doctor. I'm David, I'm David," he chanted. Holding his head in both hands, he continued to rock back and forth on the ground, moaning. "No. No no no. This can't be happening. This is a nightmare."

Amy leaned over and embraced her friend, murmuring comfort into his ear. "It's okay, David. It'll all be all right. The Doctor will fix everything when he gets here."

"No." He shook his head in spasms. "You don't understand. Everything is wrong. It didn't happen like this. The watch is gone and it's broken and this can't happen. This didn't happen." Amy and Rory stared at each other, trying to make sense of what he was saying. David rolled away from Amy and pushed himself up to sit. His eyes shone gold as they flicked around the room without seeing any of it; he was concentrating on what was happening inside his head. He dragged one hand through his hair. "It's so complicated. And it'll unravel, right here." He pounded his breastbone with his fist a few times. "I've got to stop it or it'll all come apart. Oh, it's magnificent," he breathed. "But it's all wrong."

"What is, David?" Amy concentrated to keep her voice low and steady, to try to calm her friend down.

"I... I can see it all now. Oh, my head is spinning." He buried his face in his hands. "What is, what was, what could be, what must not. It's glorious. It's horrifying. How can he stand this at all?"

Rory scooted in front of David and tipped his chin up, forcing the actor to look at him. The glow of his eyes seemed dimmer but was still uncomfortable to stare into. "David. Come on. Get ahold of yourself. You've got to help us help you. Tell us what's happening."

Nodding, David leaned back, then swallowed and breathed deeply a few times before trying to speak. "It's hard. I can't... I can't... I can’t think. Not just one... I can't handle all of it." Rory opened his mouth to ask what he meant, but then snapped it shut as he decided to let David speak at his own pace. His friend took a few more moments to compose himself. "I'm a Time Lord now. No, no, I'm not. I can't be. I don't have the knowledge, the training. What I am is... I've got the body of a Time Lord. Sort of. It's not right. I'm broken, but I don't know how. And I can't deal with all of this. I can't deal with seeing time and I can hear my hearts beating and see more colours and feel my body working and taste the air and it's too much and it's all broken and this didn't happen and the future is folding in on me and I've got to fix it but I might not have done and..."

As the jumble of words tumbled from his lips with increasing speed, Rory slapped David across the face with a sharp crack. Recoiling, David gasped for air. "Oh. Oh god. I couldn't stop. Thoughts are moving so fast. Twisting. Spiralling. Swirling through my head."

Rory held his friend by the shoulders, steadying him. "Calm down, David. Look at me. Can you concentrate on me?"

David's eyes flicked to his friend's face and stayed there for a moment, then wandered off. "I don't think so. I think... I think I'm not done changing. Not yet. I can't keep a straight thought. Ohhhh...." He swayed a bit. "It hurts."

Rory clasped David to himself, laying his friend's head on his shoulder and patting him on the back. "Relax and let it happen. Close your eyes. Maybe you can fall asleep." He could feel the actor attempt to relax against him, but he was still trembling.

"Can't close my eyes," he mumbled. "Do you know how bright the inside of my eyelids are right now? It's blinding."

The nurse began rocking his friend just like Amy had a few minutes ago. Over his head, he silently beseeched Amy for any help, but she shrugged; whatever was happening was far beyond their experiences. Crawling over and sitting next to him, she helped him cradle David, who curled into a ball between them.

As the minutes passed, Rory noticed the light in David's eyes fading and could feel him starting to relax, his head and shoulders becoming heavier. Nodding a reassurance to Amy, he continued to stroke the actor's back, waiting for him to either fall asleep or talk when he was ready. Nearly half an hour passed before David drew in a deep shuddering breath and pushed himself upright, out of his friends' embrace.

"Thank you." His head bowed, he hugged himself as he turned to face them, his hands grasping at his arms as if he was trying to convince himself that he was still real. "My mind is much clearer. I don't know what to think, but at least I can concentrate on one thing at a time now."

"Are you feeling better?" Rory asked. "Does it still hurt?"

"No. I just ache all over now, like the flu." Lifting his head, he regarded his friends with a shy cringe, as if he expected them to run screaming from him. His eyes were no longer glowing; it simply seemed that his brown eyes were now sparkling golden. "Tell me it didn't happen. What I think happened. Tell me, please."

"I don't know." Rory rubbed the back of his neck, trying to think of what he could do to figure out what exactly happened. "I mean, I don't know what happened, and I don't know what you think, really."

Thrusting his hands into his jacket pockets, David pulled a stethoscope from one of them and handed it to Rory. "Here." He gathered his courage with a deep breath. "Check my h..." He couldn't finish the word and tapped his breastbone.

As Rory began to listen at his friend's chest, Amy sat up on her knees. "You're David, right? That's what you said before."

He nodded. "Right. I'm David. I shouldn't be. I should be dead. I should be the Doctor now, but I'm not."

Rory pulled the stethoscope from his ears, shaking his head. "You've got two hearts now, definitely. I don't really know anything about Time Lord physiology, but if I had to make an opinion, I'd say something's wrong with your breathing. It's stuttering oddly."

David nodded. "That was deliberate. I engaged the respiratory bypass when you were listening, to see if you could hear it."

The nurse stared at him. "The what?"

"The respiratory bypass. Time Lords have this thing that allows them to go without breathing for a little while. I can feel all that. I'm aware of my two hearts and the bypass, and how my body works." He shuddered. "It's disturbing."

"You're aware of time, too, aren't you?" Amy's voice was barely a whisper.

David's eyes flashed. "Yes. That's even more disturbing." He began to rock back and forth, trembling.

Uncertain what to do, Rory glanced at Amy before offering David a vague reassurance. "It'll be okay."

"No." Still staring at nothing, David swallowed. "It's far worse than you know. It's not just that we're stuck in prison or that I've changed into... whatever I am now. I can see time, and... oh god, I can see what I've done. I've messed up so completely..." With great effort, he pulled himself back to the present. "I've created a paradox. One wee action, and I've snarled up time, from the moment I arrived. It's such a mess, it's hard to think straight." Closing his eyes, he massaged his head. "You know that I'm the Doctor, right? That 'David' is just a fake person that he made up for himself, right?"

Amy leaned forward and grasped David's shoulder. "You know that's not true. You're not a fake anything."

David's eyes popped open. He caught Amy's gaze and held it. "It is true. I may think and feel and be a person, but I am also artificial." His voice was devoid of emotion. Suddenly uneasy, Amy shivered and retreated. "I was about to... I was going to open the watch, so the Doctor would return, and then I lost it, right? That never happened."

"What?" Frowning with confusion, they both stared at him.

"It never happened. It's a new thread in the web." Rory and Amy glanced at each other to make sure the other hadn't understood what he meant, and David smiled. "I'm not being clear at all, am I? It's like this. Your Doctor was once me, and he opened the watch and returned. But I didn't, so what's happening now didn't happen, and what should have happened isn't happening. That's a paradox, twisting a huge timeline in on itself. It affects everything that happens to the Doctor, from now, from me right now, until... well, me, back then. If any of that happens, that is. Because it happened to us, right? But now it might not.”

The couple stared at him, blinking in unison. David allowed them to process what he just said, and finally, Rory shook his head. "That didn't make a lick of sense.”

David bit his lip, the look on his face betraying his disbelief that the situation wasn’t completely crystalline. “It didn't?"

Amy cocked her head at him. "Do you have a quota for how many times you have to say 'happen' in a day? Because I think you're good for the month."

"But it's simple!" David protested. "I've desynced the events and spawned a new timeline which hasn't resolved yet and..." He trailed off, horrified, and slapped a hand to his mouth. "I'm doing it, aren't I?"

Amy frowned. "Doing what?"

"I'm being completely obtuse without realising it. Nothing I'm saying is making any sense to you, is it?"

Rory pointed at him. "Those sentences made sense."

David scrubbed both hands over his face, panting with frustration. "Okay." He straightened and nodded. "I'm sorry. I'm trying. I really am. But my mind is not working like I'm used to. Things that I wouldn't have understood yesterday seem so natural now, while other things are lost in a haze." He tugged on an ear as he thought. "In simple terms. I have to think of time in simple terms," he murmured. Looking directly at Amy, he began his explanation again. "When I had the watch in my hand, I opened it and became the Doctor again. That's what should have happened. But it didn't. I lost the watch, and this" - he waved a hand down his body from head to toe - "this happened. Two different outcomes from two different events. The Doctor remembers the first happening, but we saw this one instead. That's a paradox."

Amy nodded slowly. "Okay, I understand that. How can that happen?"

The actor inhaled to answer, then grinned. "I can't answer that, really. Either you want to know the temporal physics behind the paradox or you want to know why the TARDIS suddenly took off, and I don't know the answer to either. All I know is how it's affecting the timestream."

"And that means?"

His eyes unfocused as he explored in his mind. "There are creatures that inhabit the time vortex that will try to fix the paradox by destroying the time and space and events around it. That means erasing the entire time from when the Doctor rescued me from the pile-up through now, to the end of my Doctor, and then to finding me, because the problem is that if I never return to being the Doctor, how could he exist to find me? Think of all the worlds and times you've visited with him, and add to that all the worlds and times my Doctor visited after I became the Doctor again. All of that would have to be destroyed to fix the paradox." Sighing, he refocused on his friends.

"Are you sure about this?" Amy shivered.

"Quite. The timestream is a huge tangle in my mind. Excising even a small part of it is disastrous, and this will take out worlds." He hugged himself. "Oh, I've messed this up so completely."

"I don't think it's your fault, David. No one could have held onto the watch with the TARDIS shaking like it was."

David looked up, frowning. "Then whose fault was it? Who didn't manage to keep the watch from tumbling out of the door?"

"That was an accident! And anyway, blame whoever or whatever caused the TARDIS to take off like it did."

"I can't. The Doctor is my responsibility, the one thing I had to do, and I didn't do it. I failed to protect him." An uneasy silence settled between the three friends.

After a few minutes, Rory glanced around the room. "So, these creatures should show up any minute now and destroy the world around us, then."

"Not quite. I think..." David weighed his words carefully before continuing. "I think that the watch wasn't destroyed. If it were, there'd be no way for me to return to being the Doctor and therefore no way to resolve the paradox. So, if there's still the possibility that I could get the watch back, becoming the Doctor again might be good enough to fix everything, or at least patch the timestream with a little duct tape." The glow in his eyes intensified, and he wrung his hands, his knuckles turning white under his fingers. "I think. I think that simply making sure the Doctor returns from me will fix it." Scowling, he pounded his fists on each other. "I think, I think, I think! I don't know! I can see all of it, but I don't know what it means! I don't know what I'm doing! I'm going to mess it up even more!"

Amy plopped down next to him and threw her arm around his shoulders. "It's okay. You don't have to do anything. The Doctor'll come get us, and he'll know what to do."

David's chin dropped to his chest. "He's not coming."

Amy stiffened. "You can't know that."

"I can."

"How?"

"I don't know. I just know that he's not." He closed his eyes and concentrated. "Maybe... maybe it's because of the paradox. Yes. That's it. The TARDIS can't break into the paradox. It's already maintaining the one that allows me to be with the Doctor in the first place, so it can't enter this one. I'm sure of it."

Sitting back on her heels, Amy crossed her arms and glared at David. “I don’t believe you. He’ll come for us. I have faith in him.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Both David and Amy turned to Rory in surprise. “He’s not here now and we have to handle this ourselves. We do the only thing we can see as an option: get that watch back and make sure the Doctor comes back."

"If that's enough..." David began, but Rory spoke over him.

"And if it's not, we figure out what to do next when we get there."

Rory stared at David until his friend exhaled and nodded. "Right. We do what we have to do." His shining eyes faded.

"So." Amy jumped up and paced as much as she could around the tiny room. "How do we get the watch back?"

David shook his head. "I don't know. I don't think they've tried to destroy it again. I have a feeling I'd know if they had."

"Let's try this." Amy strode to the door and pounded on it. Sticking her face in the little window, she yelled, "Oi! You! Out there! Come in here! We want to talk to you!" Listening carefully, she heard the clanking of armour and voices, but they soon silenced. "Yeah, you! I'm talking to you! I know you can hear me!" Again, there were a few noises, and then nothing. She turned back to the two men. "True to their orders. They're not talking to us. I don't think we'll get anything from them until they take us to their pope or whoever."

"'His Holiness'," Rory murmured as his fiancee sat down next to him and put her arm around his shoulders. "They seemed afraid of him. Scared of taking up his time with us. I'm not particularly eager to meet him myself. They think we're demons, and that cardinal thinks we should be smited."

David rolled his eyes. "So, we have to convince the pope that we're not demons despite having appeared out of thin air, that this was all a huge mistake, that we're friendly and we'll just be on our way, and, oh, that strange device that nearly killed me isn't a threat at all, so can we please get it back?" He shrugged. "Piece of cake."

"We could tell him the truth," suggested Rory. "Tell him exactly what happened and what the watch does. It seems to me that we don't need the watch back so much as we need to get it opened without being destroyed first."

David shuddered at the thought. Shaking his head, he started muttering to himself. "He could have at least told me how much it was going to hurt," he mumbled, then snorted. "Of course, I played that on screen. I should have known." Crossing his legs, he rested his chin in his hand. "I'd really rather have control over when the watch gets opened," he remarked to Rory.

"We might not have that choice."

"Thanks for making me feel better."

"Yeah, well, that's my function here. Life of the party." Rory gazed around the room. "Maybe there's some other way out of here. What is this place, anyway?"

Glancing up at the single window, David studied it while he talked. "The guard said these rooms are for solitary contemplation. So people come here to pray? A bit strange that the doors have bolts on the outside."

"Sounds like they force them to come here, then." Amy pointed at the mat and the chamber pot. "And keep them here at least a night."

"Probably to make them demonstrate the strength of their faith. Hm.” He looked up at the walls. “Maybe the window." David popped up from the floor and toppled, catching himself with both hands to the wall. His friend were immediately at his side, supporting him upright, but he jerked his arms out of their grasps and waved them away. "No, no, I'm fine." He did keep one hand on the wall to steady himself.

"What happened?" Rory inched around him, trying to get a good look at his eyes.

"I overshot." Stretching each of his arms and legs, he then wiggled and clenched his fingers and pushed against the wall with the palms of his hands. "This is so strange. This body is stronger and more agile. Not by too much, but enough to throw me off. I'm going to be knocking into things a bit." Moving to the window, step by tentative step, he stood on tiptoes to look over the lower edge. “It’s a thick wall, and a pane of glass that I could open. It opens a little above the ground. Looks like a courtyard on the outside of this place. Maybe it’s big enough to get through?”

Shrugging off his coat and tossing it in an opposite corner, he reached in and flipped the window latch, pulling it open and setting the stop so that the pane was out of the way. He then hooked the frame with a hand and pulled himself smoothly up into the window, turning his head to squeeze in. He wriggled a bit, then pushed himself back out, dropping lightly to the floor. “No. It’s too tight.”

Amy nodded. “Then we wait.” With an air of resignation, she plopped down on the mat, and Rory joined her, whilst David sat against the opposite wall, his elbows propped on his knees. From his unfocused expression, they could tell he was exploring his new consciousness again, and they left him to it.

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
a_phoenixdragon
Jun. 5th, 2015 09:45 am (UTC)
Wasn't boring at all!! It was intriguing. I know what happened, but 'hearing' him describe it so perfectly was massively awesome!!

Poor Doctor...poor DAVID-Doctor.

Very much running to the next part and hoping I can get it in before work!!

*HUGS*
shivver13
Jun. 5th, 2015 02:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! You're always so encouraging! :)
shyfoxling
Jul. 14th, 2015 04:54 am (UTC)
Interesting descriptions of Time Lord consciousness from the inside.

or at least patch the timestream with a little duct tape.

Temporal duct tape, tee hee!
shivver13
Jul. 14th, 2015 05:06 am (UTC)
I so love it when they (the DW writers) take some common object and slap a technical adjective (especially "temporal") on it and use it in the show. I mean really, sonic screwdriver, laser spanner? Flibdigital switch? :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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