Home > Mpala > Mercy Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Rating: PG for very mild language
Summary: After the events of TSbBS, the lives of sentinel and guide take another unexpected turn.
Disclaimer: Pet Fly, Paramount, and Sci Fi own The Sentinel and its characters. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made.
Warning: This is the first story in a continuing series.
Acknowledgments: I offer my sincere gratitude to the extraordinary K, who agreed to beta this and made it a better story. Thanks also to Iris, Angie and Graywulf for all their advice and just being wonderful friends. You guys *are* the best!
Note: This story is for all the courageous people who believe the *subtext* of The Sentinel is spiritual rather than physical, who are inspired by journeys of the mysterious, and treasure the bonds of true friendship.
Where you used to be there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in daytime, and falling into at night. Edna St. Vincent Millay
His eyes scanned the horizon and by discriminate choice allowed himself the perspective of normalcy. Unaware of anything except that which he sought, he focused totally on the desired form. It had been a long time...almost too long to hold out any semblance of hope, but the feeling of *him* would never allow for such an inferior belief. Held in context of the one who was lost, it simply did not matter. You merely scanned the horizon. First as a man, then as something more.
One can scarcely believe the moments when all with which one had taken so little caution scampers away with such relative ease as to make one believe it is nothing more than the passage of time. You can know better by feeling it in your darkest emotions, but that is an intangible. Not meant to be spoken. It has nothing to do with your family, colleagues or your boss. No companion of whatever ilk can realize the *devastation* that comes with the acknowledgment of such a loss. But, the screams you hear in your mind furiously sound on and on. Never relenting. Always demanding the search.
The robbery ring case had been determined over. The perps caught and the victims placated. A sorry state of affairs that offered neither Ellison nor Sandburg comfort. Ellison had long since quit demanding such equilibrium, but his heart would ache for his younger partner from time to time. He was, at other moments, sadistically glad that Sandburg still suffered, as it made things appear humane in the department. Conversely, it caused him sadness to see the toll it took on his friend. The other detectives only knew that they had come to *need* Sandburg for various reasons. His presence apparently grounded them all. Jim was often relieved to see evidence of this because he had struggled with *need* for such a long time himself. His sentinel senses had mandated his symbiotic relationship with the anthropologist, but from that partnership had grown a dependency which frankly frightened him. Only when he saw the disappointment of the fellow detectives when some other endeavor kept his partner from coming to the police station did he seem vindicated. Then it was Sandburg who was unique, an empath in some sort of closed culture *brotherhood* ritual. Odd, but too often seen to be ignored.
Shortly after the paperwork had been completed and other cases considered, some strange news had filtered across the desks at Major Crimes. Captain Banks had called Ellison and Taggart into his office and in a tight voice had warned his two most trusted and experienced men that retribution for the prior arrests had been rumored on the streets. Such a thing was not infrequent. Family members seek to hurt in return. Spouses vow to make others suffer when their breadwinners are forced to suddenly retire from lucrative *jobs.* Such was the life of those who work with the criminal element and it rarely indicated more than the instability of the people that were the forced associates of Major Crimes. However, this threat was obviously being held in a much more serious light by the leader of the department.
"I don't know for sure what these veiled threats mean, or how important the implications, but my suggestion is that you watch your backs. I will have the same message for the others. And Jim, it means you will have your hands full because you need to keep Sandburg's trouble proned ass out of harm's way as well."
"Understood, sir." Jim's tone was resigned. This was the part of the work that made even the strongest weary; and keeping Sandburg away from mischief was soon to be a lot more tricky, now that the former doctoral student was going to go to the academy to gain credentials to become Ellison's full-time partner. A mixed blessing is the only way he could consider the new development.
Ellison would forever remember the following events with a sort of disbelief of his own naivete. The great sentinel detective naive? Could it be possible? How else could he explain his lack of action? What other determiner could be placed on his head to indicate the lack of knowledge, the sheer innocence, with which he confronted the subsequent days after hearing of the rumors of vengeance. All he knew is that he would trace the end of such innocence from that moment onward. Never again would life seem to follow a pattern of mercy.
Sandburg had been at the loft ... home. Jim spoke to him of the whispers on the street and made reference for a need for care. "Watch your butt, Sandburg. Until you have the rest of that training behind you, Simon considers you to be my responsibility. You and I both know the academy is more show than substance in your case, but as it stands we can't screw with it. However, retribution rumors are out there. Someone wants to nail one of us for getting the trash off the street so it pays to be careful." Sandburg had nodded, smiled, grimaced a bit at Jim's lack of empathy towards the families of the criminals, and passed the chips.
"I mean it, Chief. These families can be something like the Mafia in their approach. While you are biding your time around here, just keep a watchful eye out, 'kay?"
"You know me, Jim. Never go where danger treads. That's my motto. You know, you should consider that the relatives of bad guys just *might* have a tough time of it, too. Sometimes rumors are only that. I like to think I can give those unfortunates a bit of a break *and* watch my butt, as you describe it." Jim would never forget the mercy in Blair's eyes.
The call came while Jim was at lunch. Funny how your circumstances can be dramatically altered during the course of the mundane. One minute you are staring at a burger and wondering about getting that fried pie, and the next you are alone in your life.
Ellison entered the loft and felt his knees grow weak and his lungs lose their oxygen. Or was it the room itself which had suddenly became a vacuum, leeching air as its own life force was sucked into the emerging black hole? The place was in shambles. At least the struggle was a hard one. Never could it be said that Sandburg let go easily. Then, the detective's mind divided the soul from the physical as he went to work. Relying on instinct to search for clues and shear determination to breathe, he went through the building with the dedication of the obsessed. He dared not depend too heavily on *the* senses, but focused in and zoomed out, as he had been taught so well. Jim took no notice of the comforting words or sympathetic looks given to him by his captain or fellow detectives. Once the evidence was gathered and the place straightened the loss would be measured...until then he worked to survive.
Hours stretched into days and days into a fortnight and still no indications of what had happened to Blair Sandburg became available. Jim found himself struggling with exhaustion and total frustration, neither of which helped the situation or the use of his senses. The belief that the robbery ring was responsible for the kidnapping was conjecture at best. With all plausible leads followed to no avail, it did seem the most likely scenario. The certainty he and the rest of Major Crimes felt was strengthened when the wife and sons of the ringleader disappeared overnight without a trace. At this point Jim let himself go. It was then that he realized that he had lost a measure of the hope and faith he had depended upon. The witnesses in Simon's office as Jim unleashed that fury in one fist through the pane window would forever remember the scene as the precise instant that Blair became linked with past tense in their minds.
Time continued to pass and for some of those left behind the pain had begun to lessen. Other crimes had to be solved, new victims soothed. Mothers of criminals and mothers of victims both deserved mercy. And Jim, remembering the look on Blair's face that final night, became the vessel of that mercy. His fellow detectives and friends looked on with sadness as Jim changed once again. Some had expected the hardened exterior to once more assert itself, but they had grossly underestimated the power of one Blair Sandburg. This was the only thing that would light the rage in Jim Ellison which so many feared. An underestimation of the life and work of the anthropologist was something to avoid if you came into contact with the detective. But the victims marveled at the humanity, the empathy, the *kindness* exuding from the quiet man. Such was the homage paid by the sentinel to his friend who had once embodied those very qualities himself.
So it was in Simon's office that another measure was taken.
"Jim, Ive put this off for obvious reasons, but I feel like there are some things I really need to discuss with you."
"Have I done something wrong, sir?" Jim's quiet voice held no defensiveness, just a question required to get the facts.
"No, Jim. You haven't done anything wrong. Unless you call leaving behind a damned good detective and becoming the shell of the man I called my friend *wrong.*"
"I'm sorry, Captain. I'll try to work on my attitude."
"Hell! I don't think any amount of work on attitude is going to change things, do you? I mean, your best friend is gone, Jim, and things aren't looking awfully good for us getting him back, either. I hate to be blunt, but this needs to be said!" Simon went around his desk and joined Jim at the table. He tried to look his detective in the eyes but Jim only stared at the floor. With a sigh, Simon continued his speech.
"Jim, I know you love the kid like a brother.... shit, probably better than most men love their brothers. And I would be lying to you if I didn't say he means something to me as well. This thing is tearing Darryl up so badly we can scarcely talk about it. How could I expect you to come to work every day and act like you weren't affected? I can't pass his desk some days without breaking down. I am being honest with you here and I would appreciate the same from you. All I hear from the others is how you have become so *understanding* and sympathetic. I hate to say it, Jim, but thats not you, especially under stress. Sandburg's disappearance is eating away at you. How long before you break?"
Jim looked up at Simon with those crystalline eyes and shook his head. "So what's up, Simon? They move his case to the back burner? It's been three months and he is, after all, *not* a cop."
Simon swallowed and merely said, "Jim."
"I appreciate your words Simon, more than you realize, but I am realistic. I understand how these things work, you know."
Simon could feel his eyes misting. ~Damn them, I always knew something would happen and I would be left to pick up the pieces. After everything they've been through, this is damned tough.~ "What about you taking some time, Jim? I think I can pull some strings and get you a leave. You have to find that kid, that is all there is to it. We've run out of time and manpower, but you were always his best bet anyway. You have always had a way of knowing what was going on with one another. If you could follow a few of these old leads on your own.... well, who knows.
Jim stared at his captain in gratitude. He had a lot to be grateful for in Simon. It was time he told him. Jim reached over and grabbed Simon by the shoulders and then pulled him in for a quick hug. "Thank you, sir. But, you know I was going to have to do this no matter what strings there were to pull, right?" Simon stepped back, wiped his eyes, and nodded.
"Yeah, Jim. I just wanted to beat you to the punch, I guess."
"I *am* going to find him, Simon. He's out there somewhere." Jim sent his captain a grateful look and turned to go out of the office.
"Keep me posted, detective." Jim gave Simon a curt nod as he opened the door and began the sentinel's quest to make his tribe whole once more.
The days which followed were difficult. Old leads were traced and sorted with nothing remarkable to be added. Ellison found himself even more driven without the distraction of other cases. He spent almost as much time at the station as before he began the search. It didnt take long for the other detectives to realize they should just leave him to his work. Not only was he virtually unresponsive to their questions or small talk, he had become so distant as to seem like another person. Eventually, they just took to smiling at him briefly and staying away.
Finally a break came when the criminals who took Sandburg from the loft turned themselves in. The story was much as it had been rumored-- as retribution for the arrest of the family members caught in the robberies, the remaining relatives decided to go after one of Cascade PD's own. Publicity and experience with Ellison had made Sandburg known and a target.
Upon hearing the news, Jim rushed to the station, only to be told that the family was insisting that Blair was long gone. He had been traded in a bizarre exchange for money with an acquaintance who seemed extremely interested in the anthropologist's fraudulent dissertation. This *acquaintance* had been persistent and frightening. The family, who had determined to hold Blair for a deal regarding the jailed relatives, had the distinct feeling that his new captor wanted much more than money. Rumors of violence and death surfaced and agitation set in. As the days stretched on and nothing more was heard of the young man, his original captors determined that something very wrong had transpired and decided the best thing to do was come clean. Deal making was one thing in the small minded criminals' world, murdering a future policeman and a hard-assed detective's partner was something else.
For Jim, the news had been unsettling. He found himself in a whirlwind of frustration that Blair could have been so close only to slip away in some sort of warped black market trade. Emotions buried beneath the desire to uncover his guide's whereabouts began to surface and surge. All Jim could do was imagine Sandburg's reaction, begging him to take time and let things flow to him in their own way. He could almost hear the words, softly spoken entreaties that asked for needed time and a chance for mercy.
My life will be forever autumn, 'cause you're not here. Justin Hayward
Jim walked slowly through the park not far from the loft. It wasn't lost to him that this was a place that he and Blair had spent many afternoons talking over cases, debating future tests, and discussing some obscure anthropological notation of closed culture societies that worked in police departments, lived in apartments, ran fast food restaurants, or whatever else grabbed the attention of his best friend. As Jim strolled aimlessly down the sidewalk, he became aware of the passing of the season. The afternoon sun had become a rare commodity as fall began to make its presence known. Leaves scattering about the park gave it a just painted appearance and brought back memories. Memories so strong that for a moment Jim felt him there...beside him and as full of life as always. Kicking through the leaves, arms gesturing wildly to make some sought after point, ...it was Blair. Why this apparition now? Maybe because Blair loved the autumn, maybe because the air smelled a bit like winter would soon be here, maybe because he wondered if his friend was cold.... would be too cold, maybe because he began to wonder if Sandburg would ever walk beside him again, if either of them would ever be *home* again.
Jim spent much of his time pouring over the statements from Blair's first abductors. He was convinced that the statements held the answers, it was just a matter of finding them. The only real lead he could garner was the appearance of the strange man and his knowledge of Blairs association with Jim. A statement was made by this man to the original captors referring to Sandburgs press conference. Reportedly, the stranger implied that Jim may want to hold a similar conference, keying the detective further into a possible sentinel connection. While the rest of Major Crimes worked on traditional leads, Jim let his instinctual ties and feelings take over. It seemed the best route to take and admittedly, the journey of the mysterious, seemed to be the one with the clearest path.
It was in this mode of functioning that Jim felt drawn to the streets. He knew if he could find just one person who recognized the police sketch of "the agent" as Jim came to think of him, or a photo of his long-haired friend then his instincts would have once again been proven right. The statement the agent had made to Blairs kidnappers gave Jim the distinct impression he had not taken Sandburg far. Consequently, he started at the obvious places in and around Cascade. He tried clubs, pool halls, hang outs of the ex-military, anywhere his hunches led him. Part of Jim felt foolish and gullible, with no guide to reassure him of his instincts, he found the logical detective part of his brain at odds with his sentinel self. At such times, he would revisit conversations with Sandburg, which gave him a sense of peace and strengthened his resolve to continue his search.
It was not really surprising to him then, when one day he felt the compulsion to enter a downtown health clinic. After showing his badge, he questioned the receptionists and office workers about the pictures. A nurse came up and peered over the others' shoulders to look. She glanced up at Jim and shook her head, "I think Ive seen these two, however the man in the photo doesn't look quite the same, but I know Ive seen the man in the drawing.
Jim drew in a breath very slowly and concentrated on remaining calm. "So you think you have seen these men?" he repeated in a patient voice.
"I might be mistaken since we see so many people, but I am remarkably good with faces, sir. Like I said, the older guy looks really familiar and the young one seems possible. Something about him was different."
"Maybe he was wearing his hair tied back?
"Yes! Thats it! If I picture him with his hair different he seems much more like the man I remember."
Jim swallowed and asked in a very quiet voice, "Do you have a record of their visit? Was one of them ill?"
The young nurse drew Jim to the side as the others returned to their work. "I'm really not sure how much I am allowed to tell you. I don't want to get into any kind of trouble. I need this job."
Jim met the young woman's eyes and shook his head. "Please, miss, you must tell me what you know! The young guy is my partner and best friend. He's in serious danger and I have to find him. Can you help me in any way at all?" The woman sighed and appeared to review things mentally before responding.
"The older guy brought the younger one in. I remember thinking they seemed strange. The older one kinda bossed the young one around as I recall, but not in a mean way. I noticed it and remember thinking they must be family. Let me go look at our records." She left and went to a room towards the back of the clinic while Jim stood uncomfortably in the hallway.
Moments later she was back. "Your friend was diagnosed with dehydration and exhaustion... ummm, and here is the part you need to know, but you did not hear from me, do you understand?" Jim nodded as he met her eyes. "The older guy reported he had taken your friend off the streets and cleaned him up. The report mentions possible heavy drug use. Is that feasible?" Jim turned away and stared off for a time, he could feel the swirling emotions and the strange protective urge he always received when he was aware of a danger to his guide. As he stared down the hallway, he felt the loss of perspective that so often signaled a possible zone. Shaking himself free before things got out of hand, he looked into her questioning eyes.
I'm not sure what has been done to him, but I do know it was done *to* him. Jim swallowed and forced himself to continue looking at the girl. He could feel his eyes misting a bit and saw her expression soften as she realized the emotion he was feeling. "Did you see how they paid? It wasn't by check, was it? Did they refer to each other by name at all?"
"No, I'm sorry, they didn't. Records report a Mr. J. Smith paid in cash and your partner's chart was under the name Darwin Smith. I really am sorry." Her hand came up to rest on his arm. "I do hope you find him. He seemed so lost when he was here, kinda like a little kid. I think thats why I noticed them so much."
Jim smiled and patted her hand. Thank you very much.
As Jim took his leave, he couldn't help smiling to himself at Blair's never ending use of his intellect to get him out of sticky situations. Now he knew for sure he was on a substantial lead. ~Darwin Smith..., yeah, right...way to go, Chief.~
The exhilaration of finding some information on "the agent" and Blair soon gave way to the all too familiar feel of frustration. Jim haunted the streets near the clinic, showing the pictures and hoping to find another person who had seen the two men; but the silence continued and with it the sadness in the detective deepened. It had been months since he had last seen his friend and partner and winter was beginning to set in. Days were often gloomy and damp, so ponderous in their moist weight that at times Jim thought it might bring him to his knees. His loneliness insisted he carry on, but a small voice questioned his faith continually and made him long for the days when he had only himself to worry about, only himself to keep out of trouble. The division within him tore at his soul.
It was on such a darkened day, when it seemed to Jim that all of Cascade was mourning the disappearance of one irritatingly hyperactive former anthropology student that the unexpected hit again. Jim had been on the streets, going from seedy motel to seedy motel once again when a car with out of state tags in one of the seediest of such places caught his eye. Jim found himself oddly drawn to the vehicle. Approaching the car, Jim began to focus on his sight and smell as he allowed the sentinel part of his being to take charge. For the first time since Blair's disappearance Jim felt compelled to use his heightened senses, strangely assured that he could handle them on his own. As he stood surveying the car, an odd sensation enveloped him and once again he felt Blair's presence, much as he had in the park. This time he tuned in to the feeling with a part of himself which seemed instinctual and automatic. It was as if he suddenly knew how to use his senses completely, and the familiar voice became louder to him as it guided him through searching the car. He found no physical evidence, but he left that car with a much stronger sense of being.
For the first time in his life, Jim was at ease with his senses. The feeling was nothing short of enlightening at times if only for the sense of control it gave him when the rest of his life would have been seen as spiraling away. He would pick a place to search, the outer streets of Cascade for instance, and concentrate on one sense, such as sight. Using the sense and the familiarity of the surroundings, he would explore alleyways and windows. Scanning the horizon, he would look for anything which might offer him a clue to Sandburg's whereabouts. The next day he would return and piggyback his hearing onto his sight as Blair had taught him, all the while listening to the inner voice which he was coming to trust almost as much as the being to whom it belonged. Only at night did the fear creep back, stalking him as it reminded him of what he sought and why.
With Jim's expertise at using his senses without his guide's physical presence came an assuredness that he would find him. As he ventured closer into the heart of the city, into areas which required firmer use of his talents due to the presence of others, Jim gained even more confidence. He found he could concentrate deeply on the chosen sense and maintain an ability to stay in touch with his surroundings as long as he kept an awareness of Sandburg with him. He stopped worrying about whether this sense of the younger man was something he was creating in his own reality or was in fact a result of the teachings and tests so patiently bestowed upon him over the years. He merely knew that what he was doing was "right" and he would not be stopped until his tribe was whole once more.
The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is mingled with grief, love grows perhaps the greater. J. R. R. Tolkien
Simon had taken to only visiting the loft when he was feeling particularly courageous, not that he was afraid of the man who was his best friend and detective, but fear *was* involved. Simon had spent time chewing cigars and pondering such aspects of fear and in those moments when he was totally honest with himself, knew what gave oxygen to the fear and kept its flame alive -- it was the fear of losing another of his friends. Simon considered the young anthropologist a friend. In fact, he had come to admire the kid more than many of the men that he came in contact with in his job. It had been a hard won respect but was all the more strong due to the experiences which had gained it. Each day which passed with no news of the irrepressible anthropologist found him struggling with a grief that was almost permeable. It had effected his relationship with his son because he was unable to speak about Blair without becoming emotional, so he didn't. And even worse (if that was possible), the discomfort he felt around Ellison fanned the fear into an even brighter flame. Jim was changing. This Simon knew without doubt. The man had become calm and settled in the face of this horrendous tragedy. He was almost philosophical in his approach to finding Blair, as well as totally confident. Why did such confidence elicit fear? Simon sighed as he made his way down the hall to the loft. There really was only one way to find out.
Jim opened the door as Simon knocked. Simon looked past the detective at the loft beyond him, not sure what he would find. As he was pleasantly invited in, Simon continued to scan the surrounding room. With relief and not just a little surprise, he noticed that all seemed normal. In fact, the loft appeared typical of the place when Sandburg was not around for some reason, neater and more organized, but the presence of the anthropologist still significant in a relaxed sort of way. Simon decided this was a good sign as he clasped his friend's hand in a warm greeting.
Jim's eyes were bright and enthusiastic. "Hey, Simon. I'm really glad to see you!"
"Well, I finally decided that if I was going to find out what was happening, I was going to have to come to you."
Jim briefly looked away in mild embarrassment. "Im sorry, sir. I should've come to the precinct, but, I've been pretty busy."
"You've gotten another lead?"
"I wouldn't exactly call it a lead, Captain. More like a change of perception, I guess. Something I should've figured out a long time ago." For the first time that evening, Jim's eyes reflected immense pain. "Some things might've happened differently if I had." Then the detective seemed to draw himself up and the pain in his eyes dissipated as quickly as it arrived. "Have a seat, sir. Let me get you a beer."
Simon's gaze followed Ellison into the kitchen as the detective went to the refrigerator. It was as if the kid wasn't really gone...as if he would step through the door, throw his keys in the basket, and proceed to whirlwind through the loft as he told stories of his day and his take on their proceedings. Simon felt the all too familiar twist of grief in his stomach as he thought of the younger man and how keenly he missed him.
Jim returned with the beer and handed one to Simon as he said, "No, I really think I have finally come to terms with some things. I guess you could say Ive had some revelations and have decided its time to put my knowledge to work. I've been able to use my senses, Simon. For the first time in my life, *I* am able to control them. It's really kind of amazing when you think about it." Jim cocked his head to the side as he sat down on the couch and took a good look at his captain. "Are you okay, Simon?"
Simon took a swallow of beer, and set it aside. "No Jim, I guess I can honestly say I am not okay. I will admit I miss the kid, miss who and what he is, can you?"
Jim wasn't ready for the accusatory tone in Simon's voice and coughed a bit before responding. "I'm not sure I follow you, sir."
"Shit, Jim! I'm *not* accusing you of forgetting Sandburg, just wondering what is going on with you. Sitting here, looking around the loft, and how it is so...so, like the loft, you know? Drinking beer with you, talking about *your senses* for heaven's sake. Im wondering whats happening in your head. You act as if the kid's going to come bounding in here any minute and everything will be like normal again.
Jim met his captain's anguished gaze directly. "First of all, I miss that man more than I thought myself capable of missing *anyone.* If it wasn't for Sandburg, I wouldn't be here, Simon. I wouldn't be working for you, hell, I might not even be alive. I am well aware of how badly everyone else misses him, too. How they *grieve* for him, but I AM going to find him, I know this as well as I can know anything. I have no time for grief, no time for good-byes that don't need to be spoken. Can you comprehend what I am saying here?"
At Simon's mute nod, Jim continued. "And as for things being "like normal," well, I am coming to terms with that, too. I don't know what normal means anymore, sir, as you can well imagine. Remember you are talking to the guy who has visions and heightened senses. No, I fully think things *will* be different, even when I get him back, they will be different. How? I'm not sure. Where Blair figures into all this? I have no idea. Its just something I *know.* I'm working on it, but I can be a little dense in matters such as these, as a couple of very dear friends have a habit of telling me. He will be by my side again, Simon. Im just doing what has to be done."
Simon continued to stare directly into the eyes of his friend. As he met Ellison's unwavering gaze he felt the confidence exude from the man. How can he know such things? What is leading him in this hunt for his dearest friend? Instinct? Some primal knowledge of what Sandburg represents; who he is, why he is needed? Simon latched onto those last thoughts. Crazy as such ideas seemed, that was more than likely it. And somehow, he, Simon Banks, figured into the equation as well. As surely as Jim knew his role, Simon began to comprehend his own. Somehow they were linked, the three of them, whether in a matter of destiny or a reenactment of fate. All the plans for a normal place for Blair, a sanctuary for Jim, a haven for himself, all of these things were flying away as surely as if gravity had left the planet. Frightening and intimidating as these thoughts were, they also brought the first real peace Simon had felt in months. Since before Blair's disappearance, before the press conference, before the other sentinel who had changed their lives forever. And this time he would be ready. He reached out and grasped his friend's shoulder. This time they would be together.
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