Fenris leaned against the foremast with his arms folded over his chest, watching the spirit of the strongest woman he knew crumble like a weathered stone. Hawke was never prone to shedding tears, but the rock everyone else leaned on in troubled times. In fact, up until that moment, he’d only ever seen her weep twice since they met. The last was the day Anders died.
He wanted to go to her, to comfort her, but feared such uncharacteristic behavior would be viewed as opportunistic. Besides, he wasn’t exactly the most sensitive person in the world. What could he ever do or say to comfort her? What he really wanted to do was go below deck, grab his royal drunkenness by the throat, and squeeze until the bastard’s neck snapped.
It would serve the bastard right.
The elf’s shoulders rose and fell with a heavy sigh. As much as he thought Alistair deserved it, hurting the prince would only cause Hawke more pain, and that was the last thing she needed. Besides, Alistair’s conduct still paled in comparison to Fenris’s own sins against Hawke.
Did she cry like that the night I broke her heart? Alone and in secret where no one else could see her tears? Or is this a buildup from years of frustration?
It sickened him that her tears were evoked by another emotionally destitute man who excelled in sharing his pain with everyone around him. Just like Anders. Just like himself. Her unyielding need to save the world was once again reflected in her romantic choices. She deserved much more than any of the three of them could have ever given her. He just wished she realized that.
The mage’s shoulders shook with gut wrenching sobs when she rolled onto her back and draped her forearm over her face to shield her eyes. The sight of her falling apart sent a shockwave from Fenris’s heart to his gut and evoked a memory of the first time he witnessed Hawke break down. It was a memory he was fairly certain she didn’t retain, given her condition that particular evening, and one he would never forget. It was the night he realized he was in love with her and had been from the very beginning. It was also the only time he gave serious thought to killing Anders.
For nearly two months, the healer had all but disappeared, and on the rare occasions he joined the others to complete a task, he was cold and distant to everyone around him, especially Hawke. She attempted to hide her distress over her lover’s odd behavior and made excuses for it every time anyone questioned his whereabouts, but Fenris was never fooled. He probably should have been more insistent, pressed Hawke into telling him what was going on between her and Anders, but he decided it was best to mind his own business. The elf would never stoop to the healer’s level and use Hawke’s pain as leverage to worm his way into the woman’s heart.
Then, one evening as he was on his way home from an unsuccessful night of Wicked Grace at the Hanged Man, Fenris spotted Hawke wandering the streets alone. As formidable as she was, even the most battle hardened soldiers wouldn’t brave Kirkwall after dark back then. So, to ensure Hawke’s safety, Fenris decided to trail her, being careful to remain out of her sight.
After a few stops at various businesses in Hightown, he followed her to Darktown’s entrance. From there, she headed straight for Anders’ clinic, and donned a puzzled expression when she found the door unlocked. She hesitated only a moment then entered, leaving the door ajar enough for Fenris to eavesdrop. It was wrong, of course, and Hawke would have been furious if she caught him, but his curiosity over what went wrong between the lovers bade him to stay.
The scratch of quill against parchment was the only sound to be heard as Hawke tiptoed through the darkened room toward Anders’ desk. The healer was hunched over another one of his journals, scribbling away by the light of a dim lamp flickering next to his right arm. Just as his lover reached him, he dropped his quill and turned in his chair to greet the woman, his eyes illuminated with ethereal blue. In an instant, warm amber replaced the haunted hue as the blonde mage’s lips curved into a wistful smile.
“Your perfume gives you away every time, love.”
“Anders. What’s going on?” Hawke asked, her brow furrowed in a questioning frown. “When I got home tonight, Bodahn told me you took all your things out of the house.
The healer rose to his feet and took her hands. “I thought it was better this way. I’ve wanted to tell you for weeks, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
“So this is better?” she asked, her eyes flaring with angered grief. “You think packing all your stuff and leaving while I’m gone is going to fix anything? What the fuck, Anders?” She inhaled a deep breath, ready to launch into a tirade, but slowly released it upon noticing the pained grimace on her lover’s face. “You don’t want to fix it. Do you?”
He ran his index finger down her cheek. “I love you. I’ve always loved you. You’re the only person who ever stayed by my side, even when I gave you every reason to turn away, but…”
“Is there someone else?” she interrupted in strangled voice.
He took her hands again, rubbing her knuckles with his thumbs as he studied them. After several moments, he finally met her gaze. “No. My heart belongs to you and you alone, Emily. In my whole life, you are the only woman I’ve ever loved, but it’s not about that.” She opened her mouth to argue, but he covered her lips with his fingertips. “Just let me finish. Please.” She nodded and his hand moved back to hers. “I wish that loving you meant I would never hurt you. You’ve been the most important thing in my life, but some things matter more than my life, ¦more than either of us. More than our love.”
“You’re wrong,” she choked, her voice cracking with anger and desperation. “Nothing in this world is more important than love, Anders.”
With a gentle tug, he loosened the red ribbon at her crown. When her long, wavy mane tumbled to her shoulders, he ran his fingers through the tresses framing her face then tucked them behind her ears and caressed her cheek with his thumb. Pools of emerald glistened with hopelessness as she covered his left hand with her right and sucked her lower lip between her teeth.
“I’m sorry, Em,” he whispered, his eyes pleading for her to understand. “I told you I’d break your heart, and it’s breaking mine to do it, but I’m out of choices and Kirkwall’s out of time. I was hoping we could find a better way to resolve the situation between the templars and the mages, but you remember what Leliana said. This city is at its breaking point and so is that lunatic, Meredith. To make matters worse, Justice and Vengeance have become so intertwined, I can’t tell one from the other anymore.”
Her lips twisted into a derisive sneer. “So this is about him, then.”
“No. This is about so much more. This is about what I’ve been fighting for over the past seven years. Being with you made me lose sight of what’s really important, of the bigger picture.”
Hawke jerked away from him, her expression altered from disdain to wounded disbelief. “So you’re saying I’m not important?”
Anders caught her by the arm before she could retreat too far from his grasp and drew her in close. Without a word of warning, she slapped him across the face and he responded by entangling his fingers in her hair at the back of her head and squeezing her tighter against his body. As her shoulders rose and fell with angry pants, the healer leaned over, pressed his forehead against hers, and squeezed his lids shut.
“Listen to me,” he demanded through gritted teeth, the affect born from urgency more than ire. “I love you, dammit, and I refuse to let this end with you doubting that fact. You’re the most fucking important person in my world, Em. You’re the one who helped me see there is good in this world. You opened my eyes to new possibilities. To the void, you made me believe that anything was possible.”
She wrapped her arms around him, as if her very life depended on his embrace. “Then why in the Maker’s name are you doing this?”
“The truth is, everyone should know the freedom to have what we’ve shared. There are so many who never have and never will unless someone does something about it. Between the taint and Justice, I’m the logical choice. It has to be me.”
He released a long, labored breath. “You’ve always been the one shining light in my life. If you remember nothing else of me, remember that I’ve loved you with everything I am, and I always will.”
He captured her lips in a soft kiss then wrested himself out of her embrace to retreat to his clinic’s backroom. As he walked away, Hawke peered down at her left hand and her brows pleated together with contemplation. After staring at the delicate emerald ring gracing her finger for several moments, she removed the unneeded piece of jewelry and laid it on his desk.
“Anders?” she called, stopping him in his tracks. “I won’t pretend to understand this, but it’s obviously something you think you need to do. I just want you to know that I love you, down to my very soul, and I’m not letting you get rid of me that easily. So, I’ll wait for you. Until you’re finished with whatever this is. Until you change your mind. Truth is, with my family dead, you’re the only thing in this world that really matters to me. You are my world. And I’m just stubborn enough to wait for you forever if I have to. Just keep that in mind. For now, though, I think you should probably have this back. When you’re ready, you can give it back to me. Until then, take care of yourself.”
Fenris didn’t wait for Anders’ reply or Hawke’s reaction to it. He felt dirty enough spying on such a private and painful moment, a moment he knew Hawke would never reveal to anyone. He considered waiting in the shadows outside the clinic so he could continue following her for her protection, but since the healer’s door was only a few feet from the back entrance to her estate, there was really no need.
It is really not my problem, anyway. Hawke is strong. Tomorrow, she will have a long talk with Isabela and they will spend the rest of the day drinking and comparing men to dogs. She will be fine.
It was a grave error in judgement. One he discovered when she appeared at his doorstep, soaked to the bone and reeking of whiskey. At first, she didn’t speak a word, merely stood there with rain pouring down her grimacing face and an empty bottle clutched in her hand. The moment she crossed the threshold, her knees buckled beneath her, and she fell to the marble floor in a sobbing heap.
“What in the void’s wrong with me, Fenris?”
“What makes you think there is something wrong with you, Hawke?” he asked before putting his bicep under hers to help her to her feet.
She wrenched her arm from his grasp and shook her head with a frantic motion. “Why does everyone leave me?”
Knowing he was included in that sentiment, Fenris was hard pressed to come up with an answer. Instead, he remained paralyzed on the spot, gaping at her like an imbecile. Her gaze followed a trail from his boots to his face until she met his stare with glassy emerald eyes. Without warning, she lunged forward and encircled his waist, knocking the breath from his lungs and nearly toppling them both to the floor.
“Why did Anders leave me?” she croaked, her voice muffled by the muscles of the elf’s bare chest. “Am I so terrible? Is it that hard to love me?”
Fenris placed his hands on her cheeks and lifted her face to meet his gaze again. The second her shimmering eyes met his, his breath hitched in his throat and his heart skipped a beat. For the first time in his life, he was more concerned with someone else’s pain than his own. The only thing that mattered in that moment was Hawke and her happiness, even if it meant defending the one person he detested above all others.
“You are not terrible, amica, and you are not at all difficult to love,” he assured her in a gentle voice. “Anyone can see that Anders loves you. He is just confused right now. Trust me when I tell you, he will see the error of his ways in time, and then he will return to you. The mage is obsessive, stubborn, and infuriating, but he is not unintelligent.”
She sniffed and swiped her knuckles across the apples of her cheeks before peering up at him with widened eyes replete with innocence and trust. The affect reminded Fenris of a young girl hanging on her adoring father’s every word. It was a side of Hawke the elf had never seen before.
“Do you really think so?”
“Yes,” he lied with a forced smile. “Anders will return to you soon,”
“Thank you, Fenris,” she said, snuggling her cheek to his chest. “I’m glad I couldn’t find my way home tonight.”
The elf tightened his embrace. Within a few moments, her body relaxed to give way to faint snoring. Fenris didn’t have the heart to wake her. She looked more peaceful than she had in months. So, he carried her upstairs and stripped off her drenched clothes to replace them with a dry linen shirt then covered her with several thick blankets. Once he was satisfied she was comfortable, he settled himself on the nearby window seat to watch over her for the remainder of the evening.
When she awoke the next morning, Hawke was hungover with no recollection of why she was in the elf’s house, let alone his bed. In an effort to prevent any further embarrassment on her part, Fenris explained that she passed out on his doorstep and he afforded her his bed for the evening so he wouldn’t be forced to carry her home in the rain. He hated the dishonesty, but he considered it a better alternative to completely humiliating her.
While she dressed, Fenris put on a kettle of tea, and they spent the rest of the morning discussing everything under the sun. Everything but Anders, anyway. By the time the midday sun was settled high above the city, all awkwardness and tension between them had disappeared, leaving only kinship and mutual respect. After that day, the mage referred to Fenris as her best friend, and it was a mantle he wore proudly.
The elf was startled by Isabela’s whisper in his ear. “So how’s our girl doing?”
“I imagine she has felt better,” he observed upon regaining his composure.
The pirate’s face reddened with rage as her fists clenched into tight balls “I’m going to beat the ever-loving shit out of that asshole.”
“Unfortunately, I do not think it would help matters,” Fenris offered with a sigh.
“Well, it would certainly make me feel better.”
The elf’s brow pleated with a thoughtful frown. “Trust me, I understand the sentiment Isabela. The thought has crossed my mind several times as well, but I do not believe this is just about Alistair. I think it has very little to do with him, in fact.”
“Anders,” the captain bristled.
Fenris’s chest jerked with a bitter chuckle. “Anders.”
“Nothing against you, Fenris,” the pirate began. “But I know how sad and lonely Hawke’s been since Anders walked out on her, and it was even worse after he died. I guess I was hoping Alistair would help heal that wound. I mean, I tried to put in a good word for you, but…”
“It is fine,” the elf cut her off. “I let that chance pass me by long ago.”
The captain arched an expectant “So any ideas what to do now, Muscles?”
“Yes,” he replied, his mouth twisted in a grimace of determination. “Take Hawke to your cabin and do whatever you can to ease her sorrow. I am going to retrieve my sword.”
Between the salty sea and the salt in her tears, Emily’s eyes burned like the void. She was tired of crying. Tired of thinking. Perhaps Alistair was onto something. Maybe spending her life drowning in spirits was the best way to face her shit storm of a life. The creaking of wooden planks alerted the mage to the presence of someone standing next to the rail near her feet.
“You really shouldn’t be lying about out there,” Isabela observed. “The saltwater will ruin your hair.”
The mage heaved a perturbed sigh and lifted her forearm long enough to see her friend’s leg sweep over the railing toward her. “Go away, Isabela. Just leave me alone.”
The pirate reclined on the safety netting opposite the wooden spar and pulled Emily’s arm from her face. “No Hawke, that’s the last thing you need right now.” She shoved a bottle of amber liquid into the mage’s chest. “What you need is a good stiff drink and a friend to tell your troubles to.”
Emily peered up into the heavens and released a long, slow breath. Maybe it was a sign. Maybe the Maker finally realized how fucked up her life was and Isabela’s offering was his agreement to her solution. She sat up, removed the cork from the rum and took a long swig before brandishing the bottle toward the sky.
After another drink, she replaced the stopper then leaned over to rest her head on her friend’s shoulder. Although not prone to physical affection outside her bed, the pirate didn’t hesitate to put a comforting arm around the mage, prompting Emily to nestle her forehead against the base of Isabela’s neck.
Between the captain’s comforting embrace and her exhaustion, the mage’s eyes grew heavy. Just as she closed her eyes to surrender to her need for sleep, Isabela patted her thigh. “All right sweetpea, time to move this party inside. It’s starting to get cold out here and if we don’t get out of this damp air soon, we’ll both catch our deaths.”
Emily arched a curious brow. “This is a bit out of character for you. Are you feeling alright, Isabela?”
“Well,” replied the captain with a wanton smirk. “I didn’t want to say anything, but I was hoping that, between the rum and having your face practically buried in my cleavage, I might be able to talk you into having a little fun. Who needs men anyway?” The mage’s shoulders shook with a chuckle as the pirate continued, “I guess if you really need a man involved, I could always fetch young Anion. Then we could make it a real party.”
“Your depravity knows no bounds does it, Izzy?” Emily joked.
The captain’s grin widened. “You have no idea how depraved I can be, but I’m more than willing to show you.”
“You’re incorrigible,” the mage chuckled. “You know that don’t you?”
“Maybe so,” replied the pirate. “But I got you to laugh, didn’t I?”
Emily tilted her head in a conceding bow. “You did at that.”
The last thing Alistair remembered dreaming about was falling from a high place just before his face planted against the wooden planks of the deck. It had definitely been sometime since he’d been drunk enough to fall out of bed. After heaving himself over onto his back, he blinked several times then peered up through squinted lids at a scowling elven warrior.
“Get up you drunken imbecile,” he growled.
The prince rubbed his hand across his eyes. “What the bloody fuck, Fenris?”
Alistair had no clue what the elf was up to. He really didn’t care. At that moment, his only concern was his throbbing head and possibly broken nose.
The sword and shield he refused to bear earlier that evening landed with a loud clank next to his arm, forcing him to wince against the sound. The bottle of Rivaini rum he downed before passing out in one of the crew hammocks was certainly taking its toll. There was at least one other bottle of the spiced spirits tucked away in the back of the galley larder. He just needed to get rid of Fenris before he was afforded the chance to retrieve it.
Before Alistair was able to find his feet, the elf kicked Duncan’s shield toward him with the toe of his boot. “You have exactly thirty seconds to arm yourself before I begin swinging. I suggest you hurry.”
The prince heaved a perturbed sigh and rose to a sitting position before hauling himself to his knees. What was Fenris’s problem anyway? He already told Emily to stay away. Wasn’t that enough? Maybe Isabela told the elf what she interrupted back at the inn.
Considering Fenris and Emily’s new relationship, Alistair could certainly understand the hostility if he did discover what happened. Perhaps the prince could explain that he knew it was a mistake, a heat of the moment situation. The elf would still be pissed, but hopefully it would at least contain the bastard’s thirst for blood.
“Look, Fenris,” Alistair began, but his prepared speech was cut off by a large claymore barreling toward his head.
He rolled onto his back in time to dodge the blow, grabbed the shield, and held it in front of his face to ward off a second strike. When the elf’s blade made contact with the steel barrier, the impact was so severe, Alistair swore the bones in his arms cracked from the force. He snatched the sword from the ground and scrambled to his feet.
“What in the Maker’s flaming balls is wrong with you?”
“How long has it been since you held a blade, your Highness?” the elf questioned with a derisive sneer.
“What damned difference does it make?” Alistair countered, blocking another swing from the silver-haired warrior.
Fenris turned his back and walked toward the ladder leading topside. “Unless you lost your spine to the bottle completely, you will join me on deck. Or, if you prefer, I will wait five minutes then return below decks to rid the world of your cowardice by cleaving you in half. The choice is yours.”
When the elf disappeared into the evening air above, Alistair considered going back to bed. Wouldn’t the world be better off with one less drunk loitering about? On the other hand, he wasn’t sure he was quite ready to die yet, especially in such a violent manner. Drinking himself was one thing, but being split from crown to cock? He shivered at the notion. No, if he were going to die on that ship, it was going to be on his terms and certainly not by the hand of some broody bastard who was sleeping with the woman he loved.
Oh shit! That can’t be right. Get it together, dumbass. You can’t be in love with her. You don’t even know her. Not really.
The prince’s shoulders slumped with a protracted sigh. He was lying to himself, and he knew it. No matter how much he wished it wasn’t true, he couldn’t deny the increased drumming of his heart whenever Emily was near. If it wasn’t love, it was damned sure the closest thing he’d been to it in years, maybe ever.
Might as well get this over with. He might kill me anyway, but at least it’ll be easier to put up a fight topside.
When he reached the upper deck, Alistair found Fenris leaning against the main mast with the tip of his blade resting on the swabbed wood at his feet. He appeared bored, as if he were waiting for a line to clear at a banquet he wasn’t hungry for. The elf’s chest and shoulders fluctuated with a loud harrumph when the prince fully emerged from the hatch.
“It is good to see you are not as big a coward as I took you for.”
“So, are you going to tell me what this is all about, or do you intend to kick my ass for the void of it?”
In answer to Alistair’s question, Fenris lifted his sword and charged toward the prince.
Oh no you don’t, you bastard. You’re not going to catch me with that shit twice.
Instead of raising his shield for protection against the attack, Alistair’s mounting anger bade him to counter the elf’s strike with a parry followed by an arching swing of his own.
“I am under the impression you have not touched a weapon since you left Ferelden seven years ago,” the warrior observed as he countered Alistair’s effort.
The prince blocked the attack then thrust the point of his blade toward Fenris. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything. And I don’t see how it’s your fucking business. Why do you care, anyway?”
“You are to be one of Hawke’s companions,” the elf retaliated as he engaged Alistair’s sword and took a step toward him. “Which means you are to be her protector. If you do not have the ability to use that sword any longer then you are of no use to her and therefore no use to anyone.”
The prince pivoted to his left then lunged the tip of his blade at Fenris’s throat. “It’s been a while, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Fenris glanced the blow with his claymore then arced it to his right in an effort to disarm his opponent. “It may be starting to come back to you, but you will require a great deal more practice to be worthy of standing at Hawke’s side in battle.”
Alistair whirled around and ran the edge of his longsword across the underside of the elf’s weapon, throwing Fenris off balance enough to leave the smaller man’s neck exposed. The prince dug the edge of the blade into the elven warrior’s throat, yanked him back by his tunic, and hissed into his ear, “Maybe not as much as you think, elf.”
“So there is some fight left in you after all,” Fenris conceded with a self-satisfied smirk.
“It would seem so,” Alistair retorted, removing his blade and taking a step back. “But why do I have this sneaky suspicion this is about more than my talent with a sword.”
Fenris drove his claymore into the sheath at his back. “Perhaps you are not as much of a halfwit as you seem.”
“Yes,” the prince retorted in a snarky tone as he dropped his blade and shield to the floor. “I’m just full of surprises.” He folded his arms over his chest. “So what’s all this really about?”
Fenris stared at the prince a long moment, his deep green eyes narrowed with intensity. “First, you must answer a question for me. Do you care for Hawke as much as you seem to or is she simply some sort of conquest for you?”
“Does it really matter?” Alistair questioned. “She’s yours. I won’t try to interfere again, but how I feel about her is my own damned business.”
The elf rolled his eyes. “I take back my previous statement about your not being a halfwit. Your intelligence would have improved to be considered such.”
“Funny,” quipped the prince with a contemptuous glare.
“It was not meant to be a joke. Just answer the question.”
Alistair shifted his weight onto his right leg. “Fine. The truth is, I hardly know the woman, but if you’re asking if I’d like to know her better, the answer is yes.”
“That is not a sufficient answer,” countered the elf. “Saying you would like to know Hawke could have more than one meaning.”
“Stubborn bastard,” Alistair muttered with an irritated sigh. “Fine. Have it your way. The truth is, eight years ago, I could’ve pictured myself having a future with Emily. But I’m a different man now. Even if I wanted to pursue a relationship with her, she’s got no hope of a future with me. You see, I’m only a shell of the man I was when I joined the Wardens, and I’ve got absolutely nothing to offer her but a life of heartbreak, misery, and shame. I think we can both agree that she deserves a damned sight more than that. Now, if you plan to kill me for that answer, go the fuck ahead. I’d probably be better off.”
Fenris drew a deep breath and slowly released it as he studied the wooden planks beneath his boots. “I have no intention of killing you, Alistair. I do not know if you are aware, but Hawke has suffered more heartache than you know and much more than a woman like her deserves. It is my greatest shame to admit that I was the cause of some of it. It is also my biggest regret. Hawke has the most tremendous capacity to love that I have ever witnessed, and I threw that love away.”
Alistair’s brow pleated with confusion. “Wait. What? I thought the two of you…”
“No,” the elf interrupted with a morose frown. “I waited too long to apologize and reveal my true feelings. It is not me she wants.”
The prince’s scowl deepened. “Are you trying to say she wants me?”
“I am simply saying her heart is broken, just as yours is,” Fenris explained. “I am merely suggesting that, perhaps, you might find healing in each other.”
The glimmer of hope swelling in Alistair’s heart faded upon recalling Emily’s former lover. “I don’t think I could ever be like Anders.”
The elf’s chest shook with a disdainful snort. “Trust me when I tell you that is the best news I have heard so far. As bitter as it tastes, I will admit the mage treated her decently for a time, but, in the end, it was Anders who broke her heart more than anyone else. If you were to become like him, I would put the blade to you myself.”
Isabela alluded to the fact that Anders may have broken Emily’s heart. Was it possible Alistair was making the man out to be more than he actually was? Maybe…No he couldn’t. He couldn’t endure what Erin put him through. Not again. There wasn’t anything in Thedas to convince him that taking another chance on love was worth the potential agony.
“I can’t,” Alistair whispered. “I just can’t.”
Fenris rendered a bitter chuckle. “Those are almost the exact words I used right before I walked out on Hawke the night that…Well, never mind. It is done and no longer important.” The elf’s frown deepened causing the lines in his forehead to grow more apparent. His expression seemed almost sympathetic. “May I give you one piece of advice before we part ways for the evening?”
The prince extended a half-hearted shrug. “Sure.”
“Do not be the fool I was. I have known Hawke for years, and I can tell you one thing for certain. She is more than worthy of your trust. I, unfortunately, came to that realization too late.”
“Thanks for the advice. I’ll think about it.”
The warrior turned on his heel and headed toward the hatch. After only a few steps, he stopped in his tracks, his gaze fixed on the dark horizon ahead of him. “I did not do it for you. I did it for her.” He raised his right hand to his chest and untied the red cloth gracing his wrist. With a heavy sigh, he released the token into the ocean breeze. “You have won Hawke’s favor. Do not throw it away as I did because you will regret it for the remainder of your days”
As the elf descended to the lower decks, Alistair watched the crimson ribbon flutter in the wind until it disappeared from his sight. Maybe Fenris was right. Maybe it was time he finally let go of the past. For seven years, he regretted every day of his miserable life, and the idea of adding another to that overwhelming burden suddenly seemed more foolish than the risk of losing his heart. Perhaps it really was time to give love another chance.
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