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COMPLETE: To Care for Him

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To Care for Him
ACT 3: ASH
Chapter 22: Princess Molly​

Author’s Note: The fairy tale mentioned in this chapter is from a friend of mine, Serge, but since this isn’t some kind of NC-17 fic I’ll arrange it so it reads more like a fairy tale, but really, folks, do you read Grimm’s fairy tales? Not for the faint of heart…

One cold winter night, Delia lay on the couch, watching television with Ash as he sat on the floor in front of her, his spiky black hair sometimes interrupting her view. They were watching a Pokemon League tournament, a yearly ratings sweeps bonanza that always ensured the broadcasters filled their coffers back up to the brim. During a commercial, Ash, holding a plush poke ball in his hand (which contained a plush squirtle), looked up at his mother, who seemed to him like she was the goddess Hera, if he knew of such things -- although in his eyes she was the ultimate ruler of his universe.

“Mom?” he asked, his voice wavering and hushed because he knew this question might upset his mother. “Can Molly and I play a game tomorrow?”

Delia frowned before she could stop it. She smiled quickly to recover, but she could tell from her son’s face that he was disappointed already. “I … I’m sorry, Ash -- I was still tired from all the housework this morning. What kind of game do you want to play? I hope you’re not going to tease her again. It’s important that you be nice to our company, you understand?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Molly found this book and we want to turn it into a play for our friends in Pallet.”

“What kind of book?” Delia asked, suddenly aware that maybe her son, barely nine-and-a-half, was turning into some kind of scholar.

“A fairy tale by some guy named Serge,” he replied. “It’s about a boy and a girl and the boy finds out the girl is actually a princess but an evil witch doesn’t want people to know about that so she lies to the girl to make her stop believing she’s a princess and then the boy sets out to kill the witch.” He started beaming as he began to describe some more violent acts of the story.

Boys, Delia thought to herself.

“Ash, do you remember what happened last year?”

Ash sat there, his face still and slightly puzzled. Finally, he shrugged.

“Do you remember your friend Gary’s mother passing away and Amber too?” she asked him, even though she didn’t want to upset the boy. She had had to let him sleep in her bed for weeks afterward because he was having nightmares, but after his initial mourning he seemed to forget all about it. Still, she was surprised when he looked down at the floor first and then nodded. “Well, is that why you and Molly are going to do this play? Because you’re upset? If it is, it’s alright to talk about it, too.”

Ash sighed and rolled his eyes and turned back to the television. “Gaaawwwwsssshhhh, Mom … I’m not a little kid, y’know. I can take lots of bad news. I’m not a crybaby. Gary and I want to be in it ‘cause there’s lots of fighting and rescuing. We can be heroes. Some stupid gloomy funeral doesn’t bother us. Get a life, Mom.” He started bouncing on the floor as he became more animated with the thought of acting in this play. “Besides, Professor Oak’s gonna let us borrow some pokemon and they’re going to be in the play too. It’s going to be so cool, we should charge people to show up and Gary and I can be rich too, like Molly is!”

“What makes you think she’s rich?”

Ash glanced at her like she didn’t know the sky was blue. “Jeez, Mom … she lives in a super-huge house with a gazillion rooms and has servants and everything. Her dad must have money in his bedroom that reaches to his ceiling.” He thought for a moment before adding with a playful grin, “Or maybe his house is made of money that they just painted over. That’d be cool!”

Delia lay back on the couch, stunned by Ash’s choice of words to describe … Molly’s father. Molly’s father? “Ash,” she managed to say at last, “what do you think of your … of Molly’s father? Do you remember seeing him when you were younger?”

Ash shrugged and pulled on the bottom of his yellow pajama top, stretching it over his ever-growing legs. “A little, I guess. Molly’s dad lives in Greenfield and he’s a scientist like Professor Oak but he doesn’t let you play around like Professor Oak does. He actually kinda sucks. I can see why Molly likes coming over here better. Professor Oak is more fun.”

Delia sat up, straightening her pink cotton nightgown, and bent over to hug her only son, who struggled to get out of her embarrassing embrace.

She was deeply saddened, but she was also very happy …

… that he didn’t see her crying silently.

The next morning Delia went outside to the snow-covered ground in her backyard and spotted Gary, whose dark red hair seemed to match the dark blue shirt and blue jeans he wore, Ash, wearing his favorite orange-and-white striped shirt and blue jean shorts, and Molly, the youngest, with her light-blue jumper and a picture of a lapras on the front. The air was quite warm since the cold front had moved through and the snow was beginning to melt in the sunlight. The boys were telling Molly about the play, barely masking their frustration that she seemed too young to understand what was going on … and what “pretend” meant.

Gary held the book in his hands as he told Molly about her part in the play, while she cried next to a spherical pink balloon-like pokemon called a jigglypuff. He growled, but managed to keep a smile on his face. “Molly, I’m telling you: the jigglypuff has to be Molly. You can’t be Molly.”

Molly wailed and hugged the pokemon tighter. “I am Molly! I wanna be Molly!” She repeated “I wanna be Molly” over and over until Ash calmly put her hand on her short brown hair.

“Molly,” Ash said soothingly, “there’s a princess in this story. Do you want to be the normal little girl or do you want to be the princess?”

Molly’s four-year-old eyes lit up. “I wanna be a p’incess!” she announced, dropping her arms and releasing a relieved pokemon from her grasp. She got up and started twirling around. “Look! I can dance like a p’incess! See?” She began to laugh at her own attempts to dizzy herself with dancing. The boys glanced at each other and sighed. Finally, they could begin the play.

“Uh,” Gary noted, “but we don’t have a witch. Where are we going to get one?”

Ash scratched his head for a moment. “Maybe Mom can be the witch.”

“Ash!” Delia exclaimed. The boys jumped at her voice and blushed.

“Sorry, Mrs. Ketchum,” Gary said. “We didn’t mean you were a witch. We were only going to pretend.”

“Missus Ketzum is too nice to be a witch,” Molly complained while stroking the little curl of fur above the jigglypuff’s eyes. “The witch should be someone ugly and mean.”

Professor Oak suddenly appeared behind Delia and pinched her on the shoulder, making her yelp and jump about two feet off the ground. She spun around and pushed the professor away. “Don’t do that!”

He laughed, his long white lab coat swaying in a brief breeze. “I’m sorry, Delia,” he told her playfully. “I just wanted to see how Gary’s play was doing.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Ever since Marie died, I’ve tried to raise the boy as best I can. I don’t want him to be unduly influenced by his father. I want to raise Gary into an upstanding member of the pokemon community.” He started talking again so that the children could hear him. “Anyway, what’s the problem? I thought you kids were going to have a play today.”

Gary shook his head. “We can’t find a witch to kill like in the book. There aren’t any girls around … well, except Molly and she wants to be the princess … and we can’t think of a pokemon that would like being attacked.”

“I see,” the professor noted, stroking his chin. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. “I have it! I’ll bring over one of my pokemon who knows Substitute. It creates a fake version of itself that you can attack as much as you like and it won’t hurt the pokemon one bit. You can dress it up as your witch and blow it to kingdom come, if you like.”

“That’s perfect!” Ash replied happily. The children continued their discussions about the various events in the play as Professor Oak tugged at Delia’s sleeve.

“Delia,” he said quietly, “I need to talk to you.”

“Of course, Professor.” They rounded the corner to the front of the house. “What is it?”

“I’ve noticed the way you look when you deal with Molly. Delia, you can’t take out your frustrations about Spencer on her. She’s done nothing to deserve your contempt.”

Delia could kick herself. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t escape her teacher’s expert gaze. Well, she thought to herself, there was no point in lying now. “Professor, this is the third time this year I’ve had to babysit that girl because her father is busy going on lecture tours around Johto. I’m considering asking a judge to yank away his visitation rights, as good as it does Ash. Ash doesn’t even associate Spencer with fatherhood anymore. It’s like Spencer doesn’t even exist. Yet, despite his complete lack of wanting to see his son, he wants me to take care of his child, not his own wife, while he avoids his responsibilities. It’s not fair!”

Professor Oak sighed and leaned back to peek at the children as they began their play in the back. “Delia, I know you think the girl is spoiled to the core, but she is a princess, of a kind.”

“Yeah, the spoiled kind.”

“She’s the light of Ash, Delia,” he replied somberly and almost pleadingly. “And maybe Gary too. All three have parents who have been missing from their lives for some time now and by playing with Molly the two boys can also come to grips with their own grief. Ash has the added benefit of playing with Molly since she’s the only reminder of his father he has left. If she were to go away, he’d have nothing but fading memories. You shouldn’t take that away from him, Delia. He may not see his relationship with Molly as such, but you can tell that they explore their pain only with each other, not with any of the other kids in Pallet. They will heal themselves by helping her heal from all her frustrations and disappointments. I,” he said, pausing to place his hand on her shoulder, “just don’t want your hatred of Spencer to shield Ash from a potential source of healing, that’s all. Two of my colleagues, Kurt and Dr. Fuji, have recently lost loved ones and have turned themselves into hermits, living alone in their houses and shunning everyone who might be able to help them. I don’t want Gary and Ash to end up the same way … or Molly. When you hide from the world, it ends up consuming you.”
 
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To Care for Him
ACT 4: ELDERSHIPPING
Chapter 23: Email​

Professor Oak sat in front of his computer, stroking his chin, watching as the little porygon icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen twirled. Although some used the little cyber-pokemon for online battles, Oak preferred it as a sentient utility program for his computer. In any case, he stared at the screen, which was filled with a list of emails he had not yet opened.

One of them surprised him. It was labeled, simply, “Ghosts”. The username was GSGaiaTRainer:

Enclosed is an item of interest. Enjoy.

Hmm, Samuel Oak thought to himself. Unlike his grandson Gary, Giovanni wasted no words when he wasn’t talking about business matters. He clicked on the attachment. A picture came up. Professor Oak studied it carefully: it was dimly lit by candlelight somewhere just out of frame and showed Agatha in a tortured pose as purple wisps of smoke swirled around her. He zoomed in on a small card she was holding in her right hand, both hands stretching up toward the heavens in a beseeching manner. It was him. An old picture of him, to be certain, but there was no doubting it -- Agatha was performing some sort of cultish ceremony and he was the target.

He shuddered as he tried to stop the cold shiver from running up his spine. After a few tense seconds, he sighed. He tried to remind himself that Agatha was prone to melodramatic manipulations -- when she found it necessary. To most, especially the goth groupies who hung around her Indigo Elite office, she was a “normal” person -- a bit old-fashioned and somewhat arrogant toward the younger generations, but nothing unusual. It disappointed her most hard-core fan club, naturally.

He deleted the message along with the attachment and shook his head. There was also the possibility that his son had altered the photo to yank his father’s chain. He had done it before, even as a child, Giovanni was always seeking to manipulate both parents against each other for his own benefit. He didn’t protest when Agatha took him away after the divorce -- indeed, he welcomed the opportunity to get away from one of the few people who saw through his machinations.

The next email was from DKGardener. Ah, Delia, he thought with a smile. He welcomed any emails he got from her. She was always so warm and supportive of Ash’s journey, which had been going on for about a year now. All he had needed was one more badge from a gym leader and he could enter that year’s Indigo League Tournament. The label, however, was strange, coming from her, “Settlement Request”:

It has several months, but I appreciate the progress you’re making. He must not know. That is a condition I cannot repeat often enough. I hope you understand. He cannot see … TRA - Zero - One. I have completed my end of the bargain. All information regarding her jungle mission has been emailed to you. All I ask is that you watch after my son. I love him so much. You will find that certain scenarios are in place to help you achieve your goals within the specified time frame. Should further contact be impossible, let it be known that my gratefulness knows no bounds. I thank you again for your support in this matter. You must keep him safe, even from his dearly beloved.

Professor Oak looked at the date of the email. It was sent well over a week ago, according to the date used within the message. However, it was only actually sent yesterday. It didn’t seem like Delia to delay sending a message like this. And what was this? Delia had never asked him to do anything save help teach Ash about safety and responsibility in caring for pokemon. And the “TRA” bothered him as well. If it meant what he thought it did, Delia was heading for trouble. He wasn’t aware that she may have been contacting Team Rocket agents at all, much less Giovanni -- Oak and Delia were the only ones except obviously Agatha who knew what Giovanni actually did for a “living” -- and frankly he thought her ill-prepared to go up against her ex-lover.

He caressed the edge of the monitor, his breathing getting shallower. What has she done? She was supposed to be en route to Greenfield to meet with Spencer about finalizing the relinquishment of her alimony. Was that a lie?

He called Spencer on his cell phone.

“This is Professor Hale,” Spencer noted dryly. “May I help you?”

“Yes, this is Professor Oak.” He found he could not hide the stress in his voice. “Have you heard from Delia?”

There was a long pause. “She said she’d meet me two days ago but she emailed me instead with the legal documents she was requesting me to sign. I’ll just be happy when all this is over, Professor. This has been going on too long. I have my own family now.” There was another pause. “Is there something the matter?”

“No,” Professor Oak replied hastily, “there’s nothing of interest today. I was just wondering if she … if she had changed her plans or anything. I was supposed to meet her today for tea and she didn’t answer her phone.”

“Maybe she’s finally getting a life, Professor,” Spencer replied icily. “It’s about time. Look, I’ve got to go. Maybe next time we can chat longer.” Click.

Serge, Professor Oak’s assistant, walked into the library room just as Professor Oak was running toward the front door, grabbing his lab coat from a nearby hanger. Professor Oak glanced quickly at him. “Call me if you hear from Delia, Serge. I mean it! I want to know the second she talks to you. I’m going to her house to see if she needs anything.”

“Why am I waiting for her call, then?”

“Don’t argue with me!” Oak shouted as he grabbed the doorknob. “She’s not answering. But if you hear anything --”

“I’ll let you know immediately, Professor.” Serge nodded and called out as his mentor was leaving, “Gary’s recovering, by the way. I gave him the sedative herb like you said.”

“Thank you for all your help, Serge,” Professor Oak replied graciously as he ran for his bike.
 
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To Care for Him
ACT 4: ELDERSHIPPING
Chapter 24: A Long Time Ago​

The stars and the large creamy moon filled the park with a very romantic glow. However, Delia was not here for love. It had been just a year after she broke up with Giovanni, and even though she was seeing Spencer, she wasn’t quite yet ready to have a long-term relationship again. She walked toward the lone bench in the center of the park, in front of an old non-functioning fountain, wondering if Spencer would continue to be patient with her. She didn’t want to lose him because she knew she needed stability in her life, and Giovanni would never have provided that.

As she reached the worn wooden bench, she spotted a young female clothed in black, her purple hair curling up slightly at the shoulders. The woman held a baby in a beautiful pink embroidered blanket and rocked her gently.

Delia smiled. “She’s very lovely.”

The woman looked up and tried in vain to hide her worried expression. “Thanks. I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost her. She’s the only good thing to come out of my relationship with her … father,” she noted, smiling yet wiping tears from her eyes. “She’s my little princess.”

Delia sighed to try to relieve her discomfort at being out so late -- with an elite Team Rocket member. “You needed something?”

The woman, Miyamoto, nodded. “Do you know anything about Mew?”

Delia sat beside her on the bench, eyes wide, staring out into space. “Why would you think I could know anything about a Mew?”

Miyamoto shrugged. “You like psychic pokemon, don’t you? Giovanni …” she stopped, suddenly aware that her friend wouldn’t like what was about to come out of her mouth, “… keeps detailed records on all members. God knows why, when his mother runs the organization.”

“I’m not a member of Team Rocket, Miya,” Delia protested. “Any files you may have seen that said otherwise is simply his wish fulfillment.”

Miyamoto laughed and dangled a strand of purple hair to tickle the infant’s face playfully. “He still doesn’t feel it’s complete without you, obviously.” She paused and stared at her friend. “Madame Boss wants me to go on a mission -- one that will take at least a few years to prepare -- and I want you to come along. You seem to have an affinity for psychic pokemon and I think you could help me find Mew a lot faster.”

“I don’t hurt pokemon,” Delia retorted in disgust.

“Team Rocket doesn’t do that, Delia!” Miyamoto protested. “All I’m going to do is find a Mew and record its voice! It’s true pokemon are profitable but it’s stupid to just hurt pokemon for no reason …. Look, I need to know if you’re in or not.”

“Does Giovanni know about this mission?”

“He’s not trying to get you into it, if that’s what you mean,” Miyamoto sighed. “Delia, he would kill me if he knew I would be taking you on a dangerous … well, a not-very-comfortable mission in some jungle somewhere. Giovanni never intended on letting you go on adventures or missions -- you’re too precious to him to lose to some random crazed pokemon in the middle of nowhere.”

“I can’t be a part of it, Miya,” Delia sighed, shaking her head.

“Officially or not at all?” Miyamoto’s eyes pleaded with her friend. “Delia, you told a lot of us that you craved adventure, that all you could think about was getting away from your parents -- I need that fire from you now. I don’t think I’ll make it without your help.”

Delia’s lip quivered. “He … he killed my pokemon, Miya. The one he gave me -- as a present -- he killed my Ralts. I couldn’t think it at the time, but I realize now he betrayed me just to get a reaction.”

Miyamoto placed a hand on Delia’s lap. “Delia, I’m sorry,” she said in a warm smile. “That’s believable, but it’s all the more reason to go. If Madame Boss can’t get rich off this mission then Giovanni will plan a coup. Everyone knows what a jerk he is. He’ll go somewhere none of us want to be. You have to let me prevent that -- the future of Team Rocket and the world is at stake.”

Delia nodded once. “You’re right.”


Delia strained as an immense pressure held her against the cliff face. She was on the Johto-Kanto border, headed for the Indigo Plateau. She had assumed that going there would make her last just a little longer against Giovanni’s wrath, especially when he found out what she had done.

She was wrong.

She realized with perfect terror that even the Elite Four would not stop Giovanni’s wrath.

And it was upon her now.

What made her heart race faster was how impeccably cold it was, so impersonal. It had been sent to execute her for crossing its master.

She had told it that it didn’t want to do this, that it couldn’t continue to be the puppet for Team Rocket. Without emotion, it had thrown her against the cliff face, threatening to crush her body against the rock, and announced that superiority trumps morality. That was why she tried to tell it that it wasn’t always that way with Team Rocket, that Giovanni was a master manipulator and hater of all things “inferior” to him. She asked it to read her mind, to see how Team Rocket used to be.

It wasn’t impressed by the memory, or so it seemed to her at least.

Things change, it noted icily.

Oh Professor, Delia thought to herself, where are you when I need you? As she grunted in pain, she suddenly gasped. If he were to rescue her …

I would kill him as well, the pokemon assassin coldly acknowledged.
 
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To Care for Him
ACT 4: ELDERSHIPPING
Chapter 25: If I Should Die Before You Wake…​

Faced with such powerful dark energy, Sam climbed as hard as he could, his hands aching as shockwaves coursed through his body periodically. Someone he cared deeply about was about to lose the gift of life, and he knew that he must stop it, no matter what. So, he kept trying.

Professor Oak clutched the young woman as she lay on the ground, her eyes rolling up to the back of her head, her body trembling. He was trembling too -- he had never seen anything like this, save what the Iron Masked Marauder did to Celebii what seemed like decades ago, even though it technically hadn’t happened yet, that he knew for sure. He couldn’t remember exactly what that green pokemon was that Ash had, but he knew that at the moment that particular pokemon wasn’t part of his team.

He slipped off his lab coat and wrapped her in it to help prevent shock from overcoming her, then got up and stood in front of her as the feline-humanoid pale lavender pokemon reached back, forming a black shadow ball in its paws to hurl at them.

It smirked. A human of your reputation should know you cannot physically protect her from my attacks, it boasted, its arrogance the only emotion it had shown, if any. Professor Oak felt a tinge of pain as the psychic pokemon ran through his memories. Your grandchild, your lover -- I will hurt them both.

Professor Oak smirked, which temporarily caused a brief flash of confusion on the psychic pokemon’s face. “You don’t mention my son at all. Haven’t you questioned your master’s …”

I HAVE no master! it interrupted angrily, the shadow ball disappearing as it tried to make a fist with the three short toes on its paw. Professor Oak could see that the strange armor that shielded the pokemon quivered slightly in response to the pokemon’s growing fury.

Professor Oak gulped and smiled. He might die, but this pokemon had not thought everything through. “To my son, he is master of us all -- human and pokemon alike. If he’s willing to assassinate his father and his former lover, what will he do with you when you too become obsolete or irritating to his purposes?”

The creature laughed. I have nothing to fear from him.

“But the rest of us do,” Professor Oak admitted. “You help him terrorize all of us, all so he can make himself look superior than what he is.”

He helped me control my powers, the creature said after a pause. Control is the ultimate sign of superiority.

Oak chuckled. “Quoted verbatim from my son himself. He finds purpose only in controlling others.” Professor Oak was then thrown back a couple of feet, tripping over Delia’s body, and landed with a hard thump on the ground. He rubbed his back, but it shot sparks of pain up and down his spine. The damage would take years to heal.

No one controls me, the creature said with an almost supernatural, icy calm.

Professor Oak remembered trying to get Celebii to remember the good times he had had with his younger self and Ash so that he would break free of Team Rocket’s dark influence and stop destroying the forest. Could the same strategy work on this being?

“Perhaps the lack of someone controls you, then,” Professor Oak remarked through gritted teeth as he tried to stand despite the agonizing pain. “I’m not a fool: there’s only one man I know of who could have created you, and I know what that man went through. You look so different from the source material that other genetic information had to be used. My son believes himself to be the ultimate in power, so naturally he’d bestow upon you his … superiority, so to speak. I guess that makes me your father in part as well….”

It shuddered slightly. I should kill you now for insulting me.

Professor Oak glared at his attacker. “There would only be one reason for Dr. Fuji to create you -- he wanted to perfect resurrection through cloning. And there’s only one way to ensure that you fit his master plan -- you haven’t killed me yet because you know something deep in that heart of yours -- that little speck of light that says …”

Life is wonderful, it said unbidden as it now looked at the ground below.

“Life is worth saving,” Oak continued, softening his voice. “He wanted his daughter back and, knowing him, he had a backup plan in case he couldn’t get her essence to return to life. I suspect she lives on in you.”

The pokemon groped its face in agony, as if it were trying to come to grips with a truth it could not see. The lack of someone was controlling him -- in fact, it threatened to tear him apart. Finally, its telepathic voice roared and a psychic wave knocked Professor Oak back to the ground. Its throat quivered, its paws shook -- and suddenly it glared at Oak and Delia just as she was beginning to recuperate from the psychic shock. Do you care for each other? it screamed. Would you agree to anything to protect each other? I am not a true part of this world -- I will never have what you take for granted -- so now, neither will you!

A gigantic wave of blue energy rocketed toward them, knocking them both unconscious. Even as they both felt themselves slip away from each other, their bodies sliding further and further apart as a white light overtook them…
 
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To Care for Him
ACT 4: ELDERSHIPPING
Chapter 26: Mewtwo’s Epilogue​

He stroked the rough sackcloth robe in his paws. It had been hanging on a line outside a house with a windmill with a couple of others, flowing in the breeze. He used his powers to teleport the robe to himself as he sat on a tree branch high above the edge of the field where he knew resided a human who helped him discover what had been missing in his life.

As he threw it around him and prepared to teleport away, he noticed laughter coming from the house a couple of hundred yards away. The brown-headed woman was eating a snack next to the older man, laughing as he recited poetry. He decided to stay to see how they would act towards one another, feeling a pit of anger in his stomach as he realized they must be recovering from his mind wipe.

The woman told the man what a pretty day it was and that she hoped her son would be home soon after he had completed the Johto League. The old man nodded and told her her son would surely return home -- since the boy couldn’t resist the woman’s cooking. They both smiled and blushed.

“Professor Oak, don’t you ever wonder if life was always supposed to be this way? I mean, what if we could all be doing something else?” the woman pondered out loud.

The old man coughed. “Delia … I ….”

The woman sighed as she brushed a strand of brown hair from her face and soaked in the sun. She smiled. “I’m glad we’re friends, aren’t you?”

He returned the smile, and the spying pokemon could barely perceive the relief. “Yes, I am, Delia. I’m very glad indeed.”
 
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Awww! That was a very enjoyable fic, I have to say. I know I didn't always review, but I read every word and thought it was great.
 
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