Word Count: 5,835
Summary "You maybe didn't break the way you should've broke."
Spoilers/Warnings: "Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang"
Author's Note: I surrender to the Veronica/Lamb love. The fic for them is just picking up, and this is my contribution. As I often say, I'm not sure what the hell this is, but I don't think I'm gonna get it to work quite right with any amount of effort, so it stays as is. Moderately graphic sex scene (at least for me) included, so consider yourself warned if the pairing is a bit too squicky. Title and summary courtesy of Kelis. Also the first time in months that I've written a Veronica-centric story. Hope you enjoy.
~ * ~
"I stared into the light
To kill some of my pain
It was all in vain
Cause no senses remain
But an ache in my body
And regret on my mind
But I'll be fine."
- "Live and Learn," The Cardigans
~ * ~
Hope springs eternal in the human breast
Man never is, but always to be blest
The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home
Rests and expatiates in a life to come
Or in other words, life's a bitch and then you die.
Two years ago, those words didn't apply to you. They were something you saw on the backs of t-shirts, banners sold on the Neptune boardwalk, but they weren't about *you.* Two years ago your life was perfect. A nice, simple life with a mother and father and a dog in a little house with what passed for a white picket fence. Two years later you can divide your life into before and after, never bothering to clarify, because no one who knows you, and even those who don't know you, need an explanation. You wish you could say it was a clean break, no blurred edges, no hanging chads, because the life you lead now does nothing to resemble the life you used to love. But it's not that simple, not that easy, nothing like the fairytale endings of Family Channel movies you force Wallace to watch on nights Jackie's not bitching about "Pride and Prejudice."
Life's a bitch and then you die…except when you have to live it.
When you think back to who you were before, you feel more nauseous than the morning you woke up cold and alone searching for your underwear. You wonder if you were stupid, or simply just naïve, to think life could ever be close to perfect. You had a mother and father and a dog, a boyfriend, a best friend and Logan and a life you only read about in teeny-bopper books. Except your mom was having an affair and your boyfriend thought he was your brother, Lilly was miserable and Logan's dad beat the crap out of him, and you were all sunshine and California girl perkiness and never noticed anything wrong. You wonder if you ever opened your eyes once in that life before, or if you were too in love with yourself to notice anything outside your teen girl fantasy world.
~ * ~
You moved on the classics - the "real" classics according to Mrs. Murphy - after Pope
Except in your case, it's your mother. You see her in everything you do. You have her hair and her build, and in the right light, you have her face. You wonder, when your father looks at you in the glow of the TV screen, if he sees her staring back at him, reminding him of every betrayal, every mistake. Your dad is the greatest guy ever - he doesn't deserve to spend his life looking at the woman who broke his heart. You're glad he has Alicia, even if your dad dating squicks you out on every level. You're glad he's finally happy, glad his eyes don't cloud when she says she has to run or turns up late for dinner. You're glad there's no shot she's at the Camelot Motel burning up the sheets with someone your father could never be. Your father has Alicia. He has a new life. He can forget the past. You just have the memories.
You know now what attracted you to Logan. He was like you. And not because you both loved Lilly or felt betrayed by Lilly or missed Lilly or hated Lilly or wanted Lilly back. It had nothing to do with Lilly. He was like you because he knew what's inside you. He has Aaron running through his veins, keeping him warm, keeping him alive. You wonder, when he bandaged his knuckles after that fight with Weevil, if he stood in front of his bathroom mirror and saw his father staring back at him. You wonder, when his fist connected with Duncan's face, if he felt his father's fist smashing into his former best friend's nose, his blood staining his father's hands. You wonder, when he threw the lamp and scared you half to death, if he watched the ashtray slam into Lilly's skull with his father's eyes, watched her break the way the glass shattered against your living room wall.
Sometimes you lay awake at night and feel her coursing through you, hot and bubbling and destructive with every beat and pulse. Sometimes you wake up gasping, smelling cheap vodka and Parrot Bay seeping through your pores, clogging your senses. Sometimes you dream and you're behind the wheel of her car and the bottles are clanging against each other in the back seat, and the road is wet and slick and your brakes are shot and seeing the tree flush against your windshield doesn't make you lift your foot or make any attempt to stop. Everything your mother touched turned to crap. She drank, she lied, she cheated, she destroyed your life. You aced ninth grade bio, you understand genetics. You know that two people's DNA put together creates one person, that your father shaped you as much as your mother.
But you have to wonder, if your mother wasn't a part of you, if it would have turned out different. Maybe you wouldn't have been friends with a party girl like Lilly. Maybe Jake Kane's son, loaded with Jake Kane DNA, would have never noticed your existence. And maybe, just maybe, you wouldn't have taken that drink and ruined what was left of your life. You don't believe in things like fate or destiny, not with your track record, because you refuse to believe that god hates you so much that he'd take away your mother, your boyfriend, your best friend, and your virginity in one fell swoop. But you know to trust the classics, that sometimes Mr. Darcy's walk into your life and sweep you off your feet, and sometimes some higher power decides you're not destined for greatness.
For sixteen years life sold you a real good bill of goods. And two years ago, it took it all away. You're a detective, it's your job to look for what's under the surface, to see what's not apparent to the naked eye. You thought you had it all, but you had nothing. And when everything came crashing down, the little girl fantasies and the false sense of perfection, you realized you'd never had anything real in the first place, and seeing your mother for who she really was, you realized you never had a chance. Cutting your hair was easy; getting tough was even easier; putting your life back together was the hard part, the impossible part. When your mom left, for the second time, she didn't just take away your security, your house, your family - she took away your hope. She stole your belief that someday, your life would be right again, that you'd have another Lilly, another Duncan, a chance at being someone other than the person she made you. But you've never been that lucky. You're not the girl you were before. You can grow your hair long again, your dad can buy you a new house, you can date Duncan and join pep squad, but it won't change what you've become, and it won't make you forget who you used to be.
You open the door, hair wet, robe fluffy, half expecting Logan perched on your doorstep, demanding answers, trying to make things better, hoping to fix you. Only this time, you're positive you can't be fixed. And it's not Logan outside your front door, slumped over, arms clutching the edges of his jacket, looking defeated and confused. You push the door open a little wider, let in the light, and look up into Sheriff Lamb's eyes. You're thankful you have the doorjamb to lean against, or you might have ended up in a bruised heap at his feet. You cross your arms over your chest, quirk a brow, tighten the belt of your robe. "Are you lost, deputy? Cause I don't run a taxi service. You'll have to find your own way home."
His brows draw together in a knot and his eyes close, briefly, opening painfully. "I need your help."
And you burst out laughing. "Help?" you say. "From my kind of people?"
He sighs, loudly, and runs a hand over his forehead. "I'm serious, Mars. Don't think I want to be here. But I need your help."
There's something brittle in his tone, almost nervous, and you push past the ego and see something scared in his eyes. Six people died because of you; Beaver is destroyed because of you; Logan was tried for murder because of you. If you were really your mother's daughter, you'd slam the door in his face, bolt it tight and pretend he never showed up on your doorstep shaking and begging. But you're your father's daughter too, and he's never turned down the opportunity to help someone in need, not even his worst enemy. You can choose, the way you didn't get to choose when you were sixteen, to be the girl you used to be. It's not a difficult decision as you smile warily and open the door wider, "What can I do to help?"
He sits awkwardly on your couch, sipping a glass of water, while you hurriedly tug on a t-shirt and jeans. When you reappear he's holding his head in his hands, rubbing the back of his neck. You slip into the chair opposite him, arms crossed, fixing him with a stare. It's like a replay of last year, only you're the one with the power. His hands shake slightly as he lifts his head, and for once you have nothing witty or sarcastic to say. "What do you want?" you ask, careful to keep your voice level and even, professional, like he wasn't that December morning.
It takes him a minute to start talking and when he does he trips over his words so they come out in an incompressible tangle. He takes a breath, slows down, "I need you to find my brother," he says. "I'll pay you, whatever you want, just find him."
This is getting too weird. There's no snarking. No double entendres. No jokes, no humor in this discussion. You want to hate him. You *do* hate him. But he's looking too normal, way too pitiful, and even the new you can't kick a man when he's down. "I didn't know you had a brother."
"He lives with my mom. Second marriage, long story. I need you to find him before she does." This is too much information. You don't want to know about his home life, about his tortured brother or his difficult mother, because that makes him human, and you hate him too much to feel sorry for him. Lilly swims before your eyes, bitter and angry that Homecoming sunrise while Celeste bitched and Duncan looked on, and you sigh because you know you can't let this go, no matter who the kid's brother is. There's already too much on your conscience. You can't let someone else end up like Lilly.
"You're a cop," you say pointedly, staring down his jeans and t-shirt, but the lack of polyester and a gun make him look like sad little boy. "Why don't you ask the wizard for some brains?"
His head jerks up slightly, and for the briefest instant you think he almost looks guilty. You wonder if it will run in the family. "He's a minor. He ran away from home. If I alert the department, they'll turn him over to her. If I find him first, he can stay with me until I get things sorted out."
"There are tons of other investigators in Neptune. Why me?"
His smiles for the first time all night, expression shifting, and you think you see the slightest bit of respect in his features. "Because I know you'll get the job done." You raise another eyebrow, and his smile widens the tiniest bit. "You found who killed Lilly Kane, didn't you?" he says, and you hate him all over again for bringing up Lilly because now you know there's no possible way you can turn him down. You owe that much to Lilly.
You know what it cost him to admit he was wrong. You know what it cost him to come here, to you, and ask for help. You know what it feels like to lose something precious to you, everything precious to you. "Okay," you say. "But it will cost you. A lot."
"Money isn't an issue," he says and gets off your couch. He looks around, probably for the first time all night, and nods approvingly. "Must be nice getting off food stamps," he says. "Like what you've done to the place." You resist the urge to kick him, hate yourself for agreeing to take the case. What was it Weevil said, "a leopard never changes his spots?"
"But the case - "
"I'll be in touch." You give him a little shove between the shoulder blades and he's out your door.
~ * ~
The next morning you call his office and he emails you what you need to know about his brother: height, weight, looks, habits, age. Will is a pale, blonde, sixteen-year-old version of his brother and it doesn't take you long to find him camped out at the Sandpiper Inn with a ticket to Manhattan and collection of empty wine coolers. Leo tags along for kicks, and Will looks moderately disappointed to see you pulling open his blinds while Leo guards the door. You force him out of bed and he whines about how you've ruined his plans to be a go-go boy and move to Chelsea, and you're thankful you brought Leo because Will's eyes fix on him like he's gonna take him away someplace special, and you hate to break his heart and tell him that Leo's a lot of things, but he's no Brian Kinney. Maybe you should have brought Logan along instead.
Leo puts him in the back of a patrol car and ships him back to his brother, and two days later a check arrives for five thousand dollars. You buy some new photography equipment and boots with a spiky heel and leather that wraps around your calves and won't let go; the rest goes in a collection for college. You clean out your flip flops, the yellow cotton sundress, the gown you wore the last time you and Duncan were truly happy. It's time to face the truth - conscience or not - those things don't apply to the girl you've become.
It's still early when he shows up again at your door, and this time he's wearing nice jeans and a button down shirt and you swear some kind of fancy cologne hangs in the air. You're going clubbing with Duncan and you shift uncomfortably as he takes in your denim skirt and skimpy tank and the new black boots you bought with his money. His eyes linger on the boots, and as they slide up the rest of you they grow slightly wider. He looks almost shocked, that you're not the same girl who sniveled and cried in front of him, all white dresses and fairy tale hair, filling his space with pain. You feel exposed under his gaze and resist the urge to cross your arms over your breasts and let him know he's getting to you. "What do you want?" you ask, and wonder if tonight will be a repeat of before. You wouldn't mind if another brother of his turned up. You like Will. He's a not much of a go-go boy, but he's friendly and sweet and unlike his brother, you don't feel slightly sick at the sight of him.
"You helped me find my brother, I'm returning the favor." He pokes his head in the house. "Can I come in? I gotta make this quick." He gestures to his clothes. "I've got places to be." Before you can protest, because you have places to be too, he pushes past you and into your house. "Where's Keith?" he asks and you reluctantly admit he's on a fundraising trip with Woody Goodman.
He's in your kitchen, hips propped against the island, arms crossed across his chest. "My dad's out. What do you want?" you ask again. He reaches into his back pocket and pushes a crumpled piece of paper in your direction. It's folded into a neat square, clean lines, no frayed edges, but you still know it's gonna mess with your head. It's a police statement, neatly typed, even spacing, Carrie Bishop's signature a dark stroke across the bottom of the page. "What is this?" you whisper, willing yourself not to cry. You're not going to break down in front of him, not again, not after last time. "Where did you get this?"
"Deputy Sacks pulled her over for speeding. We had a little talk, made a little deal." His eyebrows knot in a too familiar frown, and he reaches for the report. "Is there something you don't understand?"
You drop it like a hot potato and he bends to pick it up. "It says Duncan Kane raped me."
"He did, didn't he?"
You swallow thickly, press a hand to your stomach while he looks entirely too well-intentioned. It's all rushing back…the air conditioning blasting over your skin, Inga's concerned frown, the torn dress and the way you held your chin so brave until even you couldn't hold back the tears anymore. You hear Duncan screaming, the truth throbbing against your eyelids, "I tried not to, I tried not to, but it won't go away!"
Two years ago you came to him, terrified and devastated, and all you did was ask for help while he mocked you and insulted you and made you feel dirtier than you thought possible. You solved it yourself. You made your "peace" with Logan, with Duncan, even Dick for their parts in it. You moved past it. You're not sure what's harder - reliving it all over again, or that the one person you hate most did the only thing you've ever asked him to do. That he made a deal with Carrie Bishop of all people, risked his career, to help *you.* He's two years too late, but didn't your dad always teach you that it's the thought that counts?
You really think you might be sick.
You grasp the edges of the island and he reaches out a hand to steady you but you push it away, surprised he's not letting you crumple to the floor, slamming your head against the countertop in the process. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.
He notes the butcher block on the countertop and slides the knives out of reach. "Veronica?" he says, and looks genuinely concerned. "You're not gonna start boiling bunnies, are you?"
It barely takes a second for you to react and your fist slams into his jaw, impact reverberating to your shoulder, and he collapses in a heap on your kitchen floor, his head narrowly missing the countertop. You wish it had hit, made him feel the pain you felt when you came to him for help, but then you remember Lilly, blood clotting in her hair and pooling around her head, and you can't deal with that again. He glares at you, cradling his jaw. "What the hell, Mars?" he demands. "I did what you wanted. I found out who - " but you silence him by raising your fist before he can say the words.
You stand over him, spiked heels on either side of his hips, crouching down so you can meet his eyes. "You think this is okay? That it makes up for what you did to me?"
"Veronica -" he starts, but you're too quick.
"Do you remember that day?" you ask and drop to your knees on either side of him, thighs sliding over his hips. You want him to look at you - really look at you - the girl he helped create, see what he did. "My father had lost his job. My mother had left. My best friend was murdered. Do you know what it took for me to come to you, to ask for help?"
He doesn't answer, just stares up at you, a purpling bruise forming on his jaw, his expression unreadable, and you resist the urge to shift your knee and get him good. You become expressly aware of what you're doing, straddling him, mouth only inches from his, heat seeping through his jeans. He's spread out before you - literally - and at your mercy, and all you can do is stare in disgust. "You laughed at me," you say angrily. "You made feel like *I'd* done something wrong." You straighten up and shove off him, run a hand over your face. This isn't how you thought it would go. He's supposed to defend himself, say stupid, selfish things about how your family were liars and he was totally right to ignore your pleas for help, but he just lies there and listens and doesn't say a word.
He picks himself up, leans against the counter again still rubbing his jaw. "It was wrong," he says, and for a second you think you heard wrong. "It was wrong," he says again. "I was wrong."
"No," you say, hands clenched at your sides. "You don't get off that easy."
"What do you want?" he asks. "Me on my knees, begging your forgiveness? I haven't been religious in years, Mars. I'm not gonna start now."
You don't know what you want. You haven't known in two years. You know some things, like you want a life that doesn't exist anymore. You want your dad to be happy. You want yourself to be happy. You want to feel whole again. But you don't know what you want from him. You just know that you're tired of it all. Tired of him being nice to you, tired of him being an ass to you, tired of the game you play, tired of being angry and resentful and out for revenge. And most of all, you're tired of yearning for a life that isn't yours anymore. "An apology would be nice."
He looks at you like you're crazy, because in his eyes you are, because an apology would be admitting he did something wrong. "I told you," he insists. "I was wrong."
You take a step closer, heels tapping on the tiles. "Not good enough." He doesn't budge, doesn't say a thing as you move even closer. "What, are you scared? Of little ole me?" You're too close now, close enough to smell the cologne and his shirtsleeve scrapes over your bare arm. "I never pegged you as the 'fraidy cat type."
He finally moves, mouth slamming into yours as your back hits the wall, hard, teeth rattling slightly against his lips, and your head spins a little. Your arms are locked on either side of your head and your thighs cling to his hips and you ignore that you're pressed up against the wall of the kitchen where you made your father dinner the night before, while his fingers slide down your stomach and tug up your pathetic excuse for a denim skirt and your panties tear with a shrieking rip. You won't look at him, because looking at him - jaw locked with concentration, eyes liquid and sensual - will make you remember this and the only reason you're doing this is to forget. You don't want to wake up sweating and remembering his fingers on you and sliding inside you, how you moaned and your nails dug into his shoulders and how the lack of cuddling didn't come close to the best part.
You hear the rustle of clothes and the slide of a zipper and then he's inside you and your back arches, head colliding with a framed photo Alicia left to give the place a sense of home. In the back of your mind, you feel Wallace and you father grinning down at you, a perfect display of domesticity and togetherness. Before - before everything - there used to be one of your mother and father and your dog and your little house with the white picket fence. The frame tilts awkwardly, on the verge of a fall, and you feel a little like falling yourself. Falling into this, falling away from your life, falling away from the girl Duncan expects you to be and the girl Logan wants you to be, the girl your father raised you to be.
He stills for a moment, hands still braced against the wall, fingers entwined, and murmurs against your neck, "Are you okay?"
You should say yes, you're fine, move your hips a little and get this show on the road, let him do his thing and get out of your house and leave you alone, but you don't. Instead you break your first rule and open your eyes, blue locking with green. It's not supposed to be like this. It's not supposed to be nice or gentle or anything but rough and bitter and angry. You want it to be harsh. You want it to leave a mark. You want it to hurt. And it's anything but. You breathe in deep, hips rocking slightly, and breath hisses between his lips. You close your eyes, concentrate. It's all about you, remember? You can change this. You squeeze your eyes shut, until lights pop and dart against your eyelids, and you push away that sweet smile and those earnest eyes and the way his knuckles brush tenderly over your jaw.
He smiles sheepishly, sweeps your hair back from your forehead. "You okay?" he asks again, hips silent and still against yours. And this time you manage the slightest nod, rolling your head back to rest against the wall as you arch again and the picture crashes to the floor and you fall into him like you're drowning.
"Look at me," he says, body sliding against yours, and lets go of your fingers long enough to grasp your chin in his. "Look at me." His voice is even and commanding, breathy but calm, and you suddenly understand why he does on occasion solve a case. You feel a tug on your chin and open your eyes. The sheepish grin is gone and there's nothing gentle about his expression. His knees buckle slightly and his lips hover over the shell of your ear. He shifts his hips and presses homeward, harder and deeper than before. "I'm sorry," he whispers, eyes locked, hips rolling. "I'm sorry," he says and presses harder, faster, the words tumbling from his mouth, matching each thrust with an apology. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"
Your arms are still stretched over your head, ankles locked around the small of his back, plaster digging into your skin as he pushes and pulls and you follow blindly, eyes open wide. You note the sweat beading on his forehead, shimmering on smooth cheeks, dripping down your breasts. You hear his words in your head, bouncing off the walls of your mind, sinking in deep where you won't be able to forget them even when you try. You hear moans in the background, and it takes a moment to realize they're coming from you. You're wrapped around him so tight you're wondering how you haven't become the same person, all slick skin and regret and mistakes, and all you feel is him drilling into you as he apologizes over and over and over again, and there's something poetic about this entire mess. You came to him once, reporting a crime, telling him you'd been violated and abused, and he'd laughed in your face. Now he's inside you - literally - and filling you - figuratively - and you're seizing up around him the way you never did that night and there's too much pressure on your chest and it's hard to breathe and you throw your head back and scream. You needed this. Worse, you *wanted* this. You don't feel like the girl you used to be. You don't feel like the girl you're supposed to be either. You just feel free.
~ * ~
Everyone wants something from you. Logan wants you to forgive him, to trust him, to love him. Duncan wants you to forget, about Shelley's party and your temporarily shared DNA and the year he spent stomping on your heart. But when the sheriff looks at you through sleepy, hooded eyes, he doesn't want anything - not the old you, not the new you, not any version of you. He doesn't care who you are, who you were and what you've become, and he doesn't care how you got there. And you like it.
He shifts slightly, pulls his face out of your neck, lets go of your wrists and they fall weightlessly to your sides. He's breathing heavily, chest heaving against yours, and you rest your head on his shoulder. When your arms have feeling in them again you cup his face in your hands, look deep into his eyes. "Thank you," you say and he smiles, arms braced against the wall, your legs still locked around his waist. You can't forgive him, and maybe you never will, but you're ready to move past it. He lets you go and you slide down the wall, skirt pooled at your hips, tank shoved up practically to your neck. You straighten your clothes, check the clock above the oven - Duncan will be at your place any minute, and you need to be presentable. Neither of you say a word as he slips the police report back into his pocket and re-buttons his shirt.
You walk him to the door, watch the line of his back move down the path to your brand new white picket fence. He stops at the sidewalk, turns to look at you. "I'll see you around?"
All you can manage is a nod and he's halfway down the sidewalk before you decide to speak. "Apology accepted," you call out, and he stops for the splitest of seconds, before hoping in his car and driving out of your life.
You call Duncan and fake a headache and cancel your plans. You take a shower - a long shower - and scrub yourself from head to toe. You find the photo on the kitchen floor, frame bent slightly, but glass intact. You pick it up, dust it off, put it back on the wall. Wallace and Alicia and Darrell and your father's faces grin back at you manically, but it's not creepy this time. It's comforting, it's natural, it's a start.
The next day at lunch Duncan slides across from you at your favorite table and drills on your migraine. He even gives you a packet of herbal tea he swears by. You force a smile, feign gratitude, and try not to wince as he slips his fingers through yours, noting the bruises peppering your wrist, brow knotting in concern. "What's this, babe?" he asks, lightly brushing the pad of his thumb over your skin.
"Nothing," you say hurriedly. "Just too much fun with Backup."
He smiles in that innocent way of his. "How about I kiss it and make it better?" he asks and presses a kiss to the inside of your wrist. You smile, because that's what good girlfriends do, and turn into him, resting your head on his shoulder while he wraps an arm around your shoulders.
Wallace glances at you, cocks his head, studies your face. "Something different about you," he says. "Did you cut your hair?" You flush, the long edges of your hair grazing the middle of your back, and you think that maybe it's time for a cut.
"I'm fine," you say, but it comes out fake, even to your ears. You look pointedly at Wallace. "Can I get a minute alone with Duncan?"
He looks moderately grossed out and mumbles something about having your back, but he leaves. Duncan looks at you, confused and distant as ever. "Something wrong?" he asks, thumb rubbing your knuckles - still sore from the previous night - and you quickly pull your hand away.
You're tempted to pull a Kelly Taylor and say something cheesy like, "I choose me!" but you break it down your own way instead. You tell him it's over. You tell him you need space. You tell him that it all came too fast and you need time to heal. He looks at you like he doesn't know you, and you realize that was the problem all along. You promise that you can still be friends, that you'll keep in touch, that maybe when the time is right and you figure out who the hell you are, you'll give it a shot again. He kisses you and it's just like the first time all those years ago. It's familiar and warm and you like it, but it's not what you need, and when he walks away for the last time, you realize you don't miss it at all.
~ * ~
Two weeks later you see your local sheriff again, when Logan's latest kegger gets busted and you regret agreeing to Mac's request to crash an 09er bash and snark. You slink against a wall, sipping your diet coke, and meet his eyes over the crowd. He lets Sacks deal with Dick and his boys, saunters over to you. "Let's go, Mars," he says, and slides the cuffs around your wrists. Mac starts to protest, because it's not like you were drinking, but you say it's okay, that he really wants to be your prom date and thinks this is the only way you'll say yes. He throws you in the back of his cruiser, ignores your protests about the bad music and the wind knotting your hair, even if it barely grazes your shoulders.
The station is empty, the interrogation room dark, and he flicks on a light and pushes you inside. "So, Mars," he says as he slides you across the table, fingers pulling at the button on your jeans. "Same old, same old?"
~ * ~
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