Part 1

text file (33k)

Sometimes, you have to love someone enough to let them go.

SPOILERS: Conduit, Little Green Men
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: This is not a new scenario, but it's my take on it. Also, if you absolutely need a sense of closure at the end of a story, wrapped up with a neat little bow, turn back now. Can't say I didn't warn you.


"I may not have the X-Files, Scully, but I still have my work." He rose from his chair and readjusted the wires on the tape recorder.

"And I still have you."

*Oh, Mulder, I'm so sorry,* she thought. But there was no doubt in her mind now what she had to do, and that it was for the best. She only hoped that someday he would understand.

The last few days had gone so differently than she intended. That evening in the parking garage, she had meant to tell him everything. But the defeat in his voice, the sag in his posture had given her pause. She wasn't sure how he would take the news, and at that moment, it seemed a weight too great to place on his shoulders. The fact that she had penetrated his barriers and reestablished connection between them was enough for her. There would be another day, another conversation, and then the time would be right.

And then Puerto Rico happened.

She went after him, as she had so often in the past, but she knew even as she committed herself to the pursuit that this would be the last time. This was simply who Mulder is--a bird that cannot be caged. He needs the freedom to fly off at a moment's notice, to soar on whatever wind is blowing through. She would not be the one to clip his wings.

Sitting in that tiny room, listening to lowlifes tell crass stories about strippers and lap dances, Scully saw a flicker of something that once seemed dead: hope. Even though he was empty-handed yet again, the spark had returned. It was that fire that kept his soul alive, and she loved him for it.

And she knew that sometimes, you have to love someone enough to let them go.

* * *
* * *


Leaning against the counter outside the front desk, Mulder flipped open the autopsy report that had been left there for him to pick up. He was still stewing over the fact that Skinner had sent him all the way to Seattle on this jerk-off assignment. Sure, the phrase "lights in the sky" had turned up in the witness statement. But the witness had been a hung-over teenager, and the only one of the five to invent that excuse for what happened to their friend out in the woods. Even Mulder wasn't gullible enough to believe the kid's half-ass story. Not that he didn't appreciate Skinner throwing him a bone every once in a while and offering him an X-File, but he had better things to do than fly all the way across the country--on the weekend, no less--just to prove that a bunch of teenagers got drunk and were trying to talk their way out of it after one of their friends died from their stupidity.

Soft, rapid footfalls approached from the hallway, and Mulder looked up--or down, rather--just in time to see a small child collide with his shins. He instinctively reached out to catch her, but she had already fallen back onto her bottom. She didn't seem injured, just a little stunned from the impact.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

The little girl looked up at him, and it took his breath away.


Logic told him that it couldn't be her, but the face staring back at him was strikingly familiar. The soft brown curls cascading over her shoulders, the turn of the nose, the dimple in the chin--it all reminded him so much of that picture of Samantha smiling up at the camera, a young bathing beauty dangling her feet in the pool. All but the eyes. Those big, blue eyes shining up at him were the aberration, the only part that made the picture incomplete.

"Anna, I told you not to run away from Mommy." Mulder was jarred from the spell that held him. He looked toward the hall and the owner of the voice--a voice that he knew quite well, but hadn't heard in so long.

As she stepped into the open foyer, Dana Scully came to a stop. For a moment, they just stared at each other. "Mulder," she finally said, her voice choked with surprise.

The little girl--Anna, he recalled--scrambled up from the floor and ran over to Scully. She reached down and lifted Anna, settling her on one hip, like it was the most natural thing in the world. He suddenly realized it was, and he recognized where he had seen those captivating blue eyes before. This was Scully's daughter. This little girl that looked like Samantha was Scully's daughter.

"What are you doing here?" Scully asked, focusing on Anna instead of on him.

He looked at the folder in his hand, suddenly remembering it. "Uh, I'm on a case. Possible UFO sighting."

"Not the Sanders case," she said, her tone betraying her negative opinion.

His brain suddenly connected the dots with the initials he'd seen on the autopsy report: D.K.S. "You did the autopsy."

"Have you read my report yet? It's obvious that girl died of alcohol poisoning. No alien involvement whatsoever. Those kids were just making up any story they could to hide what they were really doing out there."

"Actually, I agree with you. I figured this was a waste of time, but Skinner sent me out here--"

"Skinner?" she asked sharply.

He nodded, trying to read what was behind her tone, but she didn't elaborate.

Anna let loose a yawn and rested her head against Scully's shoulder.

"I need to get her home. It's past her nap time."

"Aren't you going to at least introduce me?" It didn't matter that Mulder had already learned the girl's name. There was more to this situation than he yet knew, and he wasn't ready to let Scully slip away so easily.

She hesitated, but then said, "This is Anna. Anna, this old friend of mine, Mulder."

Mulder smiled at Anna as a greeting. She lifted her head from Scully's shoulder and regarded him openly. "Are you my daddy?"

The wind was ripped from Mulder's lungs, like he had been kicked in the gut. He looked to Scully. Her face had gone pale and she wouldn't meet his eyes.


She quickly stepped over to the counter, grabbed a pen and scrap paper, and scribbled something down. When she handed it to him, he saw it was an address.

Only with lowered eyes did she answer. "Come over tonight, around five. We'll talk then."

Mulder stared at the paper in his hand for a moment longer, then turned and watched as Scully all but ran out the door. Over her shoulder, Anna watched him with her inquisitive eyes until they had disappeared from sight.

* * *
* * *

Although so many of the days in the intervening years had passed in a blur, Scully remembered that one night with perfect clarity. The devastation in his voice when he had called her to say they had been shut down, split up. It was over. A year before then, she couldn't have imagined her life like this, chasing strange creatures and men hiding in smoke and shadows. But after so many months by his side, she couldn't imagine her life any other way.

Mulder had been drinking, she thought, his voice slurred and off-kilter. His hang up had been abrupt, and he didn't answer when she called back. She tried to let it pass, but the concern barred her from sleep. He sounded so distressed that she worried for his safety, his sanity.

Her frantic knock was met with, "It's open," offering the first hint of relief that he might be okay. He was safe at least, though far from okay. The tear streaks were obvious, even in the dim lighting. Her heart broke for him, and she knelt before where he sat on the couch. He crumpled into her arms, letting her rock him.

"I have to find her, Scully. Why won't they let me find her?"

As the minutes dragged on, her knees began to ache. She moved to the couch; his embrace loosened to allow her change in position, but he didn't release her. She continued to rock him, to soothe him, stroking his face, kissing his forehead. Then his face lifted to hers. The kisses shifted, and so did the need. Comfort turned into urgency. So many barriers had already crumbled between them that this last one seemed inevitable.

In the bright light of mid-morning, she woke alone on his couch, naked and sticky beneath the blanket. He left her no note, so she left none either. But a voice mail awaited her when she returned home.

She never knew whether someone had contacted him or there had been a specific threat. He didn't use the words "regret" or "mistake," but his message was unequivocal: they couldn't see each other again, or even openly communicate. To protect the work, he said, but she wondered if it was more to protect his heart.

She abided by his wishes and played his cloak and dagger games. After all, she wasn't one to come begging. In the long run, it seemed for the best--until that morning she discovered the consequences of their rash actions. She was unmarried, barely 30, and trying to climb a career ladder. An accidental pregnancy wasn't part of her well-laid plan.

She would have told him. She had decided it was the best thing to do, to break their self-imposed isolation and tell him the truth. But then he made his excursion to Puerto Rico, once again chasing down little green men. And she knew on that plane ride, to bring him home dead or alive, that there was only one choice for her to make.

* * *
* * *

When the doorbell rang, Scully jumped, despite the fact that she had been expecting it. She tried to calm her racing heart as she crossed to the entryway. This was the moment she'd been running from for the last four years, but it had finally caught up with her. With a deep breath, she opened the door.

As she went through the formalities of inviting Mulder in and offering to take his coat, she tried to read his expression. His eyes were expectant, yet wary. He regarded her closely for a moment, then turned his investigator's gaze on his surroundings. Her condo was modest, yet large enough for two. The living room was peppered with toys and children's videos, but most were neatly stacked or tucked out of the way. She knew he was cataloguing every detail, noticing even the minutiae that no one else would, as she'd seen him do so often at a crime scene.

Mulder crossed to the mantle and examined the photos on display. A few were of extended family, Scully's siblings and their children, but most were pictures of Anna at various ages. He stopped his perusal at one photo in particular and lifted a finger to gently stroke Anna's face. Scully recognized the gesture from a case buried in their past. It confirmed for her what she had long suspected.

"She looks like her, doesn't she?" Scully asked.

Even with the ambiguous pronouns, it was clear he knew exactly to whom she was referring.

His focus still on the picture, he nodded. "When I first saw her, I thought she was Samantha."

"I thought they looked similar, from what I remember, but I didn't have any pictures to compare."

Wordlessly, he pulled out his wallet, slipped out a photograph, and handed it to her. It was the duplicate of the snapshot Scully had once seen attached to an X-File, the folder containing the details of Samantha's disappearance. The girl looked a little older than Anna was now, but the resemblance was unmistakable.

"Where is Anna?" Mulder asked, as though he had just noticed her absence.

Scully handed the photograph back to him. "At the neighbor's. I thought it might be better if we had a chance to talk first."

He nodded, his eyes averted as he replaced the picture in his wallet, but she recognized the clench of his jaw. The conversation ahead would not be an easy one.

Before she had a chance to ask if he wanted something to drink, his eyes shot up to hers, full of fire. "Are you going to make me ask?"

She almost said, "Ask what?" but stopped herself. She knew what he meant. He needed to hear the words, directly from her. The truth had been suppressed so long that she stuttered as she said, "Anna is your daughter."

He closed his eyes momentarily. The fire was replaced with something colder when he opened them again. "That's why you left, isn't it?" he asked, his tone laced with accusation.

"Yes," she said weakly. This wasn't how the conversation was supposed to go. She'd rehearsed it all so carefully in her head throughout the afternoon, but now she had completely lost control of the situation.

"How could you not tell me? Did you really think I'd make such a horrible father that you had to run to keep me away from her?"

"No, Mulder. It wasn't that at all." She regained her confidence as she realized how important it was to disavow him of this notion. "Mulder, sit, please," she urged gently. Reluctantly, he followed her lead, and they settled tensely at opposite ends of the couch.

"I never doubted that you'd be a good father. In fact, I knew you'd do 'the right thing.' But the right thing for me and Anna wouldn't have been the right thing for you." At his puzzled and frustrated look, she knew he didn't understand.

She held up her hand to forestall his comments. "I'm not explaining this very well. Let me try again." Taking a deep breath, she searched to find all those well-rehearsed lines, but they'd abandoned her. She realized she had to start at the beginning.

"Do you remember that night in the parking garage, when we met at the Watergate Hotel?"

He nodded. "You told me not to give up, even if I *was* crazy."

She couldn't help but smile at the memory. "I don't think that's quite what I meant--that you were crazy. But I did mean the rest of it, not to give up. I was going to tell you that night. That's why I insisted on meeting in person. But when I saw how defeated you were, it scared me. The last thing I could do was give you another obstacle. And then..."

"And then I went running off on another wild goose chase."

She shook her head, wanting him to understand fully. "And then I saw you regain what you'd lost--your hope and determination. And I knew I could never do anything to take that away from you again. But I also knew that I could no longer follow you."

"But why didn't you tell me, Scully? Why didn't you at least give me a choice?"

"Because I knew that you'd do everything you could to do right by me. You might even go so far as trying to settle down and build a home together. But that isn't you, Mulder. What would happen the next time a hot tip came along, or a late night meeting with an informant? You'd have to choose between a trip to Puerto Rico or your family, and I never wanted to put you in that position. They assigned me to the X-Files to help end your quest, and if I had domesticated you, I would've succeeded. And I refused to be the one who stopped you from looking for Samantha. I never wanted to see that defeat in your eyes again, and I certainly didn't want to be the one who put it there."

But even as she said it, she regretted the words, because that very look of defeat began to stare back at her. Then he quickly turned away.

"Maybe you're right, Scully. You were better off without me."

"That's not what I meant, Mulder. It's not what I said."

He stood and stepped over to the fireplace, his back to her. "There have been plenty of last minute trips to covert locations, and plenty of dead ends. Two steps forward, and three steps back. If I learned to walk backwards, I might actually be getting somewhere."

"Did you ever find Samantha?" she asked gently.

"No." He sighed and said wistfully, "But for a brief moment today, I thought I had." He lifted his finger to stroke the same photo of Anna he had caressed earlier.

"But you still have the X-Files, don't you? I mean, this case--"

He abruptly turned away from the photograph and began to pace the living room. "There are no X-Files. I got them reopened once, briefly. But this time when they assigned a partner to spy on me, it actually worked. An agent named Alex Krycek. As soon as I sniffed out his duplicity, he skittered back into the woodpile, never to be heard from again. The X-Files were shut down, and I was sent back to do grunt work. At least I have Skinner's sympathies now. He throws me an unusual case when he can, but I know his hands are tied. You don't know how many times I've thought about quitting, but every time I decide to--I don't know, something stops me. I feel like somehow I would be betraying Samantha."

"No, Mulder. You'd find another way. I know you would."

He stopped his pacing and offered her a sad smile. "You always believed in me, Scully. You're the only one who ever has."

A knock at the front door interrupted their conversation. Scully opened it to find her neighbor, Mrs. Samson, standing there with Anna.

"I'm sorry, Dana, but Tony called, and I have to pick him up from work. I could take Anna with me if you want, but we might not be back for another hour."

"No, that's okay. I appreciate you watching her for a while." Scully reached over to take her daughter from Mrs. Samson's hands. The paper Anna was clutching ended up in Scully's face, so she lowered the girl to the floor.

"It's no trouble." Mrs. Samson crouched down to Anna's eye level. "Bye, Anna. I'll see you later."

The little girl waved her free hand. "Bye!"

The door was barely shut when Anna excitedly fluttered the page in her grasp. "Mommy, look! I drawed a picture."

Scully crouched down next to Anna. "That's very nice." She hesitated a moment, mindful of the man standing behind her witnessing this scene. She knew her next words might be jarring to Mulder, although they would sound perfectly natural to Anna. "Why don't you show it to Daddy?"

Anna looked up from her drawing and followed Scully's gaze across the room, finally noticing Mulder's presence. With only fleeting shyness, Anna trotted over and held out the page. "See? It's a tree, and birds. Like at the park."

For a long moment, Mulder stood still, watching her with wonder. Then he knelt down next to Anna and regarded the picture carefully before answering, "It's beautiful." His eyes projected warmth and admiration, but Scully could see the sadness behind them.

Anna, however, was oblivious. "I got lots of pictures in my room. Wanna see?"

He nodded and looked to Scully as if for permission.

"Go ahead," Scully said softly. "She can show you her room while I work on dinner."

Any remnant of hesitation gone, Anna grabbed onto his hand and pulled him along behind her. "Come on."

Scully hung back, meaning to head for the kitchen, but her curiosity got the better of her. Quietly, she followed them down the hall and stopped just outside Anna's room to peek in.

Anna was giving him a full tour of her finger paintings taped up along the wall. It didn't take long for him to notice the framed photograph by her bed. Scully nervously chewed on her lip while he picked up the frame. He turned back to look for her. His eyes met hers, and she saw the question there.

"I never wanted to hide from her who her father was," she explained.

"That's how she knew me," he said. "I didn't realize you had a picture of me."

"It wasn't easy to come by. That's from a crime scene photo. I borrowed it from an old case file to have it copied, and then I blew it up so it was big enough to frame."

He leaned in for a closer perusal. "No wonder it's so blurry. I hope that's a look of deep concentration, because otherwise I'd say I look constipated."

"Daddy!" Anna cried out, tugging on his pant leg with the indignation of a child who has lost her audience. He dutifully put down the photo and gave her his undivided attention.

Scully stepped back from the doorway, but lingered for a moment more. Anna chattered on, explaining each picture on the wall in her simple terms, then raced across the room to show him each of her favorite toys. The tears began to well up in Scully's eyes as she observed this tender scene that might never had been. Quietly, she turned and retreated down the hall, vowing to herself that she wouldn't cry.

* * *

Dinner was simple kid fare, macaroni and cheese with a side of green beans. Thankfully, Mulder didn't comment on Scully's culinary skills, but she figured that if he still ate the way he used to, this was probably a gourmet meal by his standards.

After dinner, it was already getting late into the evening, and Scully tried to stick to the normal routine of getting Anna ready for bed. But with the excitement of having a visitor--especially *this* visitor--the routine took twice as long. Mulder endured it patiently, watching from a safe distance, sometimes with amazement, sometimes with amusement.

By the time Anna was bathed, changed, brushed, pottied, and beneath the covers awaiting her bedtime story, she was well exhausted. But still, she kept her eyes open long enough for Mulder to read her Goodnight Moon--twice.

Scully watched from the bedroom doorway as Anna blinked her eyes shut a final time, lulled into slumber by his soothing monotone. When he finished, he shut the book and carefully lifted his weight from the mattress to kneel beside the bed. Gently, he stroked the hair back from her face, then he leaned in and kissed her forehead.

After putting the book away for him, Scully turned out the bedroom light and followed him into the hallway. She preceded him back into the living room, where they could talk without waking Anna.

They stood there, quiet for a minute, until Mulder finally broke the silence.

"When this day started, I never imagined I'd be ending it like this. And all because of this pointless case."

Scully debated whether or not to tell him what she suspected, but decided now was not the time to withhold information. "I don't think it was exactly a coincidence. Skinner gave you the case, didn't he?"

"Skinner knew?" There was only a hint of bitterness in his voice.

"About Anna? Not back then, no. But he was out here last month for some meetings. He stopped by my office unannounced and saw her picture on my desk. I think it was easy enough for him to put two and two together."

"I guess I owe him a thank you," he said, with more sarcasm than thankfulness.

Scully wasn't sure how to respond. The silence grew uncomfortable, and she tried to decide whether she should ask him to sit and stay for a while.

Instead, she asked, "How long will you be in town?"

"The case is finished. But since tomorrow's Sunday, I can probably delay my flight until the evening."

She nodded. "Skinner will expect you back by Monday morning."

"Unless I ask for some time off."

She watched him carefully, uncertain if he was seeking her approval of that idea.

Regardless, he moved on. "So, what happens next?" Mulder asked.

"I'm not really sure. I guess that depends on what you want."

He shrugged. "Eight hours ago, I didn't even know I *had* a daughter. Now, I don't want to leave her."

"I think we both need some time to think about this, and decide where we go from here."

He nodded and moved toward the front door. She retrieved his coat from the hall closet and handed it to him.

He hesitated, as though to say something, but then put on his coat and turned toward the door.

"So, you don't mind if I come over in the morning?" he asked.

"No. Any time after eight would be fine." She usually took Anna to nine o'clock Mass on Sundays, but missing one week wouldn't hurt.

He nodded and opened the door. He had gone only a few steps before she found herself calling out, "Mulder?"

He turned back, poised to listen.

She couldn't stop herself from asking the one question she'd been repressing all night. "Can you forgive me for not telling you?"

He looked off into the distance for a moment, then met her eyes. "I think I may already have. I understand your reasons, and they're more legitimate than I want to admit."

She exhaled deeply in relief, feeling the burden of guilt lift.

"But you lied to me, Scully. It was a lie of omission, but a lie all the same. It may take me a long time to trust you again."

The guilt came crashing back down on her, now a concentrated blow to the chest. She saw in his expression that he was sorry, not for the way he felt but that she had to hear those painful words.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he said quietly. Unable to move, she watched as he climbed into his car and drove away.

* * *

It was nearly ten o'clock in the morning when Mulder knocked on the door. His tardiness was only partly accidental. He would never tell Scully that he spent the last hour parked around the corner, deliberating whether even to come.

If she had expected him earlier, she didn't comment on it. When she opened the door, they shared a nervous smile, and she stepped aside to let him enter.

It didn't take long for her to notice what he was concealing behind his back. After all, she was a trained investigator--and a gift that large was hard to hide.

"Mulder?" she asked, amusement in her voice.

But he was saved from responding by the small torpedo launched at his shins.

"Daddy!" Anna barreled across the room and hugged his legs, almost making him lose his balance.

"Anna," Scully chided. But he shook his head to tell her he didn't mind.

"Hey, kiddo. Guess what I brought you?"

Anna couldn't miss what he was hiding behind his back either. She dodged around him to check it out, and he swiftly maneuvered the large stuffed animal around his other side. Giggling, she chased it around the front, then wised up and switched directions, running right into the soft bundle of fur on its second circuit past his back.

"Teddy!" She clearly was quite familiar with the requisite childhood companion. In fact, Mulder had noticed at least three other teddy bears around her bedroom, but none of them were even half the size of this one.

Anna came around in front of him, hugging the bear tightly around its neck. It was nearly as big as she was. And so was Mulder's grin.

"What do you say, Anna?" Scully asked in a practiced maternal tone.

"Thank you," Anna parroted in her childish sing-song. She ran into the living room and spun around in circles, giggling as the bear's flexible legs danced through the air from her centrifugal force.

"Spoiling her already, I see," Scully teased, battling a smile.

"That's what fathers do best." His grin had waned but still played at his lips as he basked in Anna's delight.

"Can I take your coat?" Scully asked.

He pulled his eyes away from the little girl. "Uh, I can't stay long. The latest flight I could get leaves at noon."

"Oh." She was clearly surprised, and speechless.

"Listen, Scully, I only came over to say goodbye." He glanced at Anna, now seated on the floor carrying on a giddy conversation with her new playmate. Stepping closer to Scully, he told her softly, "I thought a lot about it last night, and this morning. About what you said. And the thing is, you're right. Anna deserves better than what I can offer her."


"No, please, just hear me out."

She watched him silently, her brow creased with concern.

"Everything I've done since I joined the FBI was to find my sister. You know better than anyone how devoted I've been to that one goal. And I'm not ready to walk away from it. In fact, after this weekend, I'm even more determined."

Looking over at Anna, once more he saw a memory of a lost little sister.

He turned back to Scully, his voice low and intense. "I have to find Samantha. I can't abandon her now, not after I've come this far. And as long as I'm still searching for her, I can't be the father that Anna deserves. I won't become the kind of man my own father was--there only when it was convenient for him, and too dedicated to his work to put his family first. It would be better if I weren't here at all, rather than constantly coming and going, running off at a moment's notice."

Scully frowned and took his lull as license to speak. "But that's--"

"That's exactly why you left," he filled in for her.

"That's not what I was going to say."

"But it's true. You can't deny that."

To her credit, she didn't. Instead, she looked away.

He took the opportunity to change the subject. "It's not fair that I haven't been helping out. Do you want me to pay child support?"

Still not looking at him, she shook her head and crossed her arms. "No. I don't need your money."

"Well, maybe I'll set up a trust fund, or a college fund. She might want it someday."

Scully looked up at him. "So, that's it? You walk away and she never sees you again? Just your name on a check or a bank account?"

"Never is a long time," he quipped. She frowned at his platitude.

He sobered. "I don't know, Scully. I'd like to see her again, someday, but I don't want to make any promises I can't keep."

He glanced at Anna again. She was now engrossed in a cartoon, seated on the floor with her arms still wrapped around the bear's neck. With her preoccupation, he saw his chance for a quick exit.

"Send me her picture every now and then, and call me if you ever need anything." He reached for the doorknob before she could stop him.

"Mulder!" she called after him, harshly but quietly. "You're leaving? Just like that? Aren't you even going to say goodbye?"

It was the coward's way out, he knew, but it was the only way he could do this. Standing outside, he looked at her through the doorway and shook his head. "I can't."

He heard the hitch in Scully's voice as she said, "What am I supposed to tell Anna?"

His first instinct was to say, "Don't tell her anything at all--you're good at that," but his better judgment held his tongue. That wasn't the way he wanted to leave things between them.

With nothing more positive to offer, he shrugged, and then jogged across the street where his rental car was parked. He didn't look back.

It was his turn to run, as she once had. But he knew that was merely a rationalization, and a piss-poor one. Right or wrong, it was a choice he had made a long time ago, and he had to see it through. He had to find Samantha. Until he did, nothing else mattered--not even the adorable little girl with brown curls and azure eyes who had already stolen his heart.

At least, that's what he kept telling himself all the way to the airport, and as he boarded the plane, as he took flight.


More notes:

(*Gasp*--you're not really going to leave it there, are you? Yes. Yes, I am.)

I know, this story begs for a sequel. Although I intially posted this part by itself without any promises of a continuation, I have since posted additional parts (see below).

I've always been intrigued by the look on Scully's face in the last scene of Little Green Men when Mulder says, "And I still have you." She doesn't exactly look...happy about that. Contemplative, maybe. But it always makes me wonder what exactly is going through her head. Since Gillian was quite obviously pregnant at the time, I liked the idea of making Scully pregnant too (although, perhaps a little less so at that point), and this is where that scene and supposition led me.

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