I Let the Music Speak

by Spikesgirl58

It was just too nice in bed to want to leave just yet. Illya nestled a bit closer to Napoleon, who didn't seem to mind at all. Instead he murmured, adjusted his position slightly to accommodate his partner and sighed, but never woke. Illya was chilly this morning, something odd for him, but it didn't matter. Napoleon was nice and warm and very obliging.

Illya cracked open an eye to stare blearily at his clock. He couldn't really see it without his contacts in, but he guessed it was just after nine, given the way the sun was struggling through the curtains. Time is money and money is time. He needed to move.

Taste had been open late last night in celebration of New Year's Eve. They'd welcomed in 1990 with noise, laughter, drinking and, of course, plenty of food. The restaurant had been packed all evening and by the time 11:30 arrived, it was bursting at the seams.

Illya swallowed and frowned. His throat hurt this morning, but he chalked it up to the smoke that had spilled from the bar into the dining room, the shouting, singing, and then the voice he'd given to his passion last night... well, early this morning, actually. The memory of their lovemaking made him smile sleepily, but didn't wake his penis quite yet. Their session had been too long and much too thorough for him to be interested again quite so soon. It was one of the problems of growing older, although Illya was willing to bet they had sex more often than men half their age.

It was inviting to stay, wrapped securely in Napoleon's embrace, and let his body slowly wake to the fire that would soon start again in his belly. It was tempting to remain here until then and take Napoleon and love him, absolutely and completely, in spite of the heavy ache of his body. It still frightened Illya how much he loved and wanted Napoleon, how desperately he counted upon Napoleon's strength and presence. He didn't want to consider ever again doing without Napoleon's easy smile, solid support, or warm caresses. So Illya didn't. Instead he did what he could to make sure Napoleon knew his feelings and his mind, always. But always the clock was ticking, reminding him that he needed to move.

Illya kissed the back of Napoleon's head, pausing for a moment to enjoy the softness of the salt-and-pepper hair against his cheek. While he didn't have the hair fetish Napoleon apparently did, it didn't mean he was entirely immune himself.

Gritting his teeth, Illya climbed from the warm cocoon of the bed and sat on the edge of the bed, stretching. The room was chilly and Illya found himself wondering if the pilot light on the furnace had gone out again. As much as he loved this old house, it was a challenge to keep it warm in the winter, no matter how much insulation they stuffed into every crack and crevice. The cold air kept finding its way in. Illya found Napoleon's robe and pulled it on, luxuriating in its warmth and in the smell of Napoleon. It was almost as good as being in Napoleon's arms.

The image that reflected back to him from the mirror was not a pleasant sight. His hair was a mass of tangles, stiff from sweat. He really needed to get it cut. His eyes were bloodshot from the smoke and drink of the celebration and his mouth tasted like something had crawled inside it and died. He grabbed his razor and squeezed a generous dollop of tooth paste onto his toothbrush before stepping into the shower. Even with the hot water turned to a point that threatened to scald him, he was still chilly and behind schedule. He needed to get with it.

And the chill made climbing out of the shower most unpleasant. He dressed quickly in a heavy pair of jeans, a turtleneck and a sweater. Napoleon would think a stranger had taken up residence when he saw Illya for the first time. On his way downstairs, he paused and bumped the thermostat up to seventy. Then he stopped to light a fire in the fireplace.

The kitchen was still a mess from the night before and he had a small dinner planned for the four of them tonight. Matt and Rocky would be over in the afternoon to participate, so he really needed to shovel the place out before that happened. He turned on the coffee pot and started to rinse dishes and fill the dishwasher. The cats wandered in, as blurry eyed as he was today, and sat expectantly until he put plates of food down in front of them. Outside the thermometer read a balmy fifteen degrees—no wonder he was chilly today. He looked at the clock, now more in focus, but no less kind in its relentless march.

Shit, I'm already behind schedule, he thought and reached for the dish soap. The coffee came up and Illya gulped down the first cup almost faster than the hot fluid had a chance to register. It felt good on his throat and the smell curled around him like a loving embrace, warm and familiar. He sometimes wondered if you cut him would he bleed coffee? That would be interesting. He grinned at that and pulled off his sweater. He was finally getting warm now.

He was in the middle of scrubbing a pan when the phone rang. Automatically, he looked to the clock to time stamp the call, for in his soul of souls, he was still an agent. He grabbed it before it got the chance to ring a second time.

"Kuryakin..." Or at least that's what he tried to say. All that came out was a noise akin to a squeaky bedspring. He cleared his throat and tried again. This time, it sounded more like a cat being gutted. He felt the first twinges of panic start to twist in his gut. What the hell is happening?

"Hello?" He heard Matt's voice, at first friendly, take on an edge of concern. "Cara? Illya? Hello, who is this?"

Illya tried to get a word out, but each attempt was worse than the one before it. He felt the receiver being removed from his hand, but he didn't jump. He knew it was Napoleon.

"It's okay, Matt, I'm here." Napoleon rested a hand on Illya's forehead and then pulled Illya's head to his shoulder. What amazed Illya was that he permitted it and stood contented, if a bit confused, in Napoleon's one-armed embrace. "I think our industrious chef has worked himself into a case of laryngitis, that's all. I'll call you back."

Dr. Hancock tipped Illya's head back and shoved the tongue depressor so far back Illya thought he was going to choke. He gagged and the doctor smiled, but didn't release his killer grip on Illya's jaw. For an old man, the doctor's hands were still formidable.

He and Illya were seated at the dining room table. "I'm sorry, but I can't exactly ask you to say 'ah' now, can I? So how long have you had those tonsils?" The doctor grinned at his own joke. "Just can't help myself..." He adjusted the position of the depressor and frowned.

"I'd try, Doc, things being what they are and all," Napoleon said from the sofa. "He will get his voice back and then there will be hell to pay. This I know from past experience." He watched the physician's every move. "Thanks for coming out this morning. It's just that this is something new."

"Well, it's going around and this is one of the prices you pay for living in a small community. I expect at least four or five calls today." He adjusted the angle of his penlight. "Your throat is certainly inflamed and now I am being serious, you should see about having those tonsils removed. Do they bother you much?" He released Illya's jaw and the Russian slowly shook his head. "Okay, well you look to have a genuine first class case of laryngitis, just as Mr. Solo so aptly diagnosed."

"What do we do?" Napoleon asked.

"Well, he's running a slight fever , but not really contagious however, I would suggest some bed rest and taking it easy for the next couple of days."

"Can I cook?" Illya whispered, just that effort brought tears to his eyes. He glanced over at the mantle clock and inwardly sighed. If he didn't get a move on, this day wasn't going to be recoverable. And as nice as it would be to stop, just stop, for a moment, he was behind schedule.

"Okay, none of that—no talking, and most certainly, no whispering. That's harder on your throat than speaking—complete and total silence will give you your voice back faster than anything else. Gargle every hour with warm water and salt. Take a couple of aspirin for the fever and drink lots of fluids, too, as much as you can tolerate. You need to keep the mucous membranes in your throat wet, so anything that creates saliva is a good thing - chew some gum..." The doctor hesitated and then smiled as he looked over at Napoleon and dropped his voice. "Or chew on him. I'm guessing, judging from the fresh bruising I'm seeing, he's already well infected."

Illya met the doctor's eye dead on for a brief moment, just to let him know he felt no shame in the love he shared with his partner and then he looked around the room madly.

"Illya?" Napoleon was up and to the table, a hand on Illya's shoulder. Illya made a scribbling motion with his hand and Napoleon nodded. A moment later he returned with a pad of paper and a pen. Illya wrote something and handed it to the doctor.

"What?" The man turned the paper around and shook his head. "I can't read this. With handwriting like that, you should be a doctor."

"It's a closely guarded secret, Doc, but he is—in quantum mechanics." Napoleon took the paper and scanned it. "He wants to know if he can safely cook."

"Sure, providing you can do it without talking."

Napoleon started to laugh, but Illya shot him a fast glare and Napoleon sobered. "How long can something like this last, Doc?"

"Usually just a couple of days, if you take care of yourself and about a week if you don't. The best thing you can do is rest and give your body a chance to heal itself. I suspect you've been going straight out since the start of the season."

"First of November, the truth be known." Napoleon handed Illya back the paper. "He's exhausted, but he'd never tell anyone that." Illya glared at him again and Napoleon grinned back. "Come on, little buckaroo, let's get you to bed."

"I'll stop by in a couple of days."

"Will that be necessary, Doc?"

"It will be to set your arm and stitch you up once he gets through with you." The man pulled on his overcoat and gloves, still talking to Napoleon. "If he has any abnormal swelling of his throat or his fever spikes over 103, call me immediately."

"Will do—thanks, Doc."

"Don't thank me until after you get my bill." Napoleon walked the man to the door and gave him a quick wave good bye. It was too cold to keep the door open for long.

Illya got up slowly from the table and went to the couch, sinking down to the cushion with an air of dejection. He started as Napoleon draped his mother's handmade quilt over his shoulders. He didn't feel that bad, and he was really, very seriously, behind schedule now. He needed to get his ass in gear or they would be eating dinner at midnight. He looked at the kitchen door and tried to work up the energy to stand.

"I know what you're thinking and it isn't happening on my watch." Napoleon sat down beside him, elbows resting on his knees. "You heard what the doctor said. Just take it easy and relax a bit. Go back to bed and catch up on your sleep. God knows you could use it."

"Matt and Rocky —" Illya whispered and Napoleon clamped a gentle but firm hand over his mouth.

"No talking, Illya, and especially no whispering. You heard the doctor." He slowly removed the hand when Illya's eyes promised revenge if he didn't. "I'll call them and cancel." Illya shook his head and Napoleon nodded. "Yes, if they come, you'll start cooking and talking because it's what you do, partner. Sorry, but you are not cooking a meal for us tonight. I am quite capable of feeding us."

Illya let his eyes grow wide and wild looking and then clutched his throat and choked. Instantly Napoleon was alert. "Are you okay? Do you need the doctor?"

"You? Cook?" Illya gasped and then grinned.

Napoleon, however, was not amused. "Son of a... don't scare me like that!" Napoleon pointed towards the stairs. "Go to bed! Now!"

Illya studied his partner, his lips forming a silent, "What?" Napoleon really was worried and he didn't quite get it. Then Illya realized... he was always getting hurt, working himself until he was close to collapse, too sore to move, but rarely was Illya sick. The whole community could be down with something and Illya would remain uninfected. Everyone would be coughing and sneezing, vomiting or something else, but not Illya. This was actually the first time he'd been sick since Napoleon's return. Sheepishly he dropped his gaze to the floor and then back up. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. Be quiet and go rest."

Illya nodded and slowly got to his feet, letting the quilt slide from his shoulders. He was tired and could use a little more sleep. If he couldn't cook, and Napoleon seemed pretty resolute about that, then he'd at least rest for a bit. He scratched his cheek, surprised that he'd missed a patch of whiskers.

Huh, maybe I really am a little sick. He felt Napoleon's eyes follow him up the stairs and he rolled his shoulders. They were tired from last night and the aspirin he'd eaten for breakfast was wearing off. The bed was rumpled, covers flung back, and looked so inviting, but Illya's eyes automatically went to the clock. Of course, he could use this time to get his menu planned for Taste next week. And make out his order. It would be good to get that taken care of and he really wasn't that sick. Part of his stubbornness reared its head then.

"You're not that sick! Get up!"

"I am, Papa, I tell you, I'm too sick for school. I want to sleep."

"If you are breathing, you are not too ill for school." His father dragged him out of bed by the scruff of his neck. "Do not shame me, Illya Nichovetch, and do not shame our name. It is far better to drop dead in your traces than die from boredom."

Illya knew his father had only the best of intentions as he pushed Illya forward into a world he wanted no part of on that bitter January morning. Illya wanted to stay wrapped up in bed with his brothers and sisters. Instead, he was destined to be the example, the leader, a loner, until his siblings knew only a stranger called Illya Nichovetch.

He sat on the edge of the bed and wondered what they were doing right now, all still happily wound up together back home while he remained the outsider, still pushed by demons he had no names for, still driven to prove to his father that he was not a bringer of shame to the family name. He had accomplished more, seen more, learned more than all of them and yet...

"Cara, are you decent?" Illya glanced up at the sound of his former lover's and current business partner's voice. Matt stood at the door. Illya longed to make some comment that would have the redhead smirking, but nothing was coming out.

Matt lifted a long finger to his lips and shook his head. "No talking, we promised Napoleon."

We? Illya mouthed the word and Matt entered the room followed by Rocky. Both men looked as if they had just climbed out of bed themselves. He nodded and coughed, automatically turning his head.

"Yes, we. It isn't often you slow down enough to stand with us mere mortals, Chef," Rocky said, grinning to take the sting out of the words. "I can't remember the last time a bug was fast enough to catch you."

"He's getting old," Matt said, sighing. "Next thing you know we'll have to be pushing his wheelchair around the kitchen.

At that Illya got to his feet, jaw set, eyes narrowed.

"You got a rise out of him."

"I used to get more with less, but I fear the damage Napoleon would cause me."

"As well you should," Napoleon said from behind them. He was carrying two glasses. He handed one to Illya. "Go gargle." The other he set on the small bedside table next to Illya's clock. Illya watched Napoleon's hand hesitate for a moment, then it turned the clock around.

When he returned, the room was empty and his clock was entirely gone. Apparently, Napoleon didn't think just turning it around was good enough. The bed had been set to rights and one side turned down. He smiled at the small kindness and, stripping, he climbed in.

It took him a few minutes to get warm and he distracted himself by letting his mind start to wander. If it stays this cold, I should make the special a stew... beef? Chicken? With dumplings? Venison? How much is venison... can I get enough...

He came upon the deer carcass by literally stumbling over it. Not that it was really his fault. The blinding snow made it hard to see. This was a bad storm, even by Siberian standards. Illya chafed his hands together. They were cold, in spite of the two pairs of gloves.

He slung his rifle over his shoulder and knelt by the animal. He'd been tracking it for nearly half an hour, a seemingly impossible task in this storm, but they needed meat and it was his turn.

It took him just a few minutes to field dress the deer, a task made nearly impossible by the cold. His fingers were freezing by the time he shoved them, still blood stained, back into his gloves. He stood and hefted the carcass to his shoulder, staggering a bit under its weight. Hell, the thing probably weighed more than he did and in spite of his efforts, he'd be lucky to get much more than a mouthful of fresh meat. The pecking order being what it was, he would end up eating watery cabbage broth and stale bread along with a dozen or so other soldiers... if he was foolish enough to play by the rules...

Illya's shoulders and back ached by the time he stumbled into camp and his burden was taken from him. He'd shot a half dozen wolves on the way in, driven nearly as mad with hunger as he was. He stumbled to his bunk and collapsed. If he couldn't eat, then he would sleep.

Illya felt the boot in his side and was thankful that his great coat took much of the force. Even so, he grunted in response.

"C'mon, Kuryakin, rise and shine, you're on guard duty... "

He protested, knowing it did no good, knowing it was expected. And when he was on the outskirts of the encampment, a small fire his only source of heat, he reclaimed the chunk of meat he'd hidden in the snow. He, unlike many of his fellow soldiers, would return to Moscow alive. Hardened, with barely enough meat on his bones to make him no more than a walking skeleton, he marched into Moscow alive and twice as determined to live.

"Tell me this isn't so." His father wouldn't even look at his son as he threw the papers into Illya's face.

"Fine, it isn't so." He caught his father's backhand across the mouth, but refused to cower. He kept his gaze steady and focused, refusing to wipe away the blood that dribbled from one corner of his mouth. "You told me to work hard and I'd make something of myself. You just neglected to tell me what it was to be. "

The way Illya looked at it, his father had driven him into the arms of men, first by sending him to an all-boy school, then the Navy. Homosexuality was practically a requirement in the military. Isolated outposts, no women, a man could only make do with his fist for so long before he needed more.

Illya discovered it was an easy way to manipulate people of a certain nature, learning their needs, their secrets, their weaknesses, turning them into his strengths. He worked hard, but found many of his successes came from a very different nature indeed. And Moscow was pleased, until now. There had been a spy in their midst and Illya's revealing him had made enemies of former friends. Moscow had tucked him away, sent him home until they could send him some place safer. They'd invested too much time and energy into Illya's training to lose him now.

"Someone should beat some sense into you, boy." His father raged at him, but as he drew back his arm for another blow, Illya caught the hand and squeezed at just the right point, dropping his bear of a father to his knees, whimpering and weak.

"Not anymore. No one touches me now unless I permit it. Not even you, Papa."

Illya remembered walking from the house, intent upon returning to the city until his orders came through. He remembered the familiar voice of his brother calling his name, then a fist. He remembered waking up to the stink of antiseptic and gauze bandages and of intense pain from a beating at the hands of his own brothers.

Illya never said a word when the police came, demanding to know who had attacked him. Nor did he say a word to his superiors, so sure that an Enemy of the State had targeted their young spy. Nor would he speak with his parents, his father so fearful, he couldn't even meet Illya's eyes.

When the word came through that he'd been accepted to the Sorbonne, he left, quietly without a word to any of them. If his father wanted to pretend Illya was dead, that was fine with him.

Paris and London were easier because of these lessons. He worked hard, he studied harder and he kept his ears and eyes open. He reported back to his Soviet masters whenever he was called. It was several years before he spoke again with his family, but he would never trust them again and he would never let them forget just what and who he was.

Then along came Napoleon and all of Illya's carefully crafted reserve went out the window. He'd remained quiet, never letting his partner know until his secret was dragged out of him, thanks to a nose full of THRUSH truth serum and Napoleon's damnable curiosity. Even then, he'd been cautious. He'd met Napoleon on the Field of Love and initially took what he wanted, just to see his partner's mind.

Then he stood back to see what the American would do. Within four months, they were practically living together and Illya was beginning to relax, beginning to believe that little imaginary warning bell in his head was wrong.

The symptoms were so subtle, he missed them at first. He was tired, really bone-achingly tired and it got so bad that he actually started to struggle to stay awake during some of their more protracted lovemaking sessions. He was relieved when the doctor told him it was anemia and nothing more tragic. He switched his diet, endured the painful iron shots and concentrated on keeping Napoleon happy. Yet it wasn't enough and, in the end, Napoleon turned to a woman.

And for the first time in his life, Illya Kuryakin stopped thinking, he simply reacted and when he finally stopped and looked around him, it was to a new world. Once again, he reinvented himself, devoting himself to studies of a very different nature. He made friends, made a career, but he never made the mistake of trusting anyone ever again...

Illya opened his eyes and swallowed as he stared at the ceiling above the bed. He was alone. Of course he was alone. Why wouldn't he be?

"Hey, you're awake..."

He blinked and turned his head. Napoleon was standing beside the bed. "You must have been exhausted. I've never seen you sleep that soundly before." He hefted the tray he carried. "But I knew the smell of food would bring you around."

Illya permitted Napoleon to set down the tray, then he grabbed the closest wrist and pulled. It was only years of training that kept Napoleon from toppling. He half twisted and landed with as much dignity as he could.

"Do you mind —?" They were practically nose-to-nose and Illya settled a hand to either side of Napoleon's head and kissed him. The doctor was right about one thing, if nothing else, Napoleon was already well infected. Napoleon repositioned himself, if only to get more comfortable, sliding the crook of an arm beneath the back of Illya's neck.

He pulled back and ran his hand over Illya's forehead, brushing the tangled blond hair off it. "You're still pretty warm, Illya, I think this might be something best left for later, when we are both —"

Illya didn't want to hear what Napoleon had to say. He'd spent a lifetime waiting, doing other people's bidding, eating, sleeping, and, for a time, even fucking at their command. Not anymore, to hell with his father, to hell with the government, to hell with everything and everyone except for the man in his arms.

"So it's going to be that way, is it?" Napoleon asked, once he'd been allowed to reclaim his tongue. With no voice, Illya used his lips and tongue for other purposes, kissing and suckling his way across Napoleon's neck, pausing now and again to pay special attention to a spot.

Napoleon got his other hand under the small of Illya's back and he rolled, pulling Illya with him, resting him on top, letting his lover know his willingness to have the other set the pace.

Illya sat back and pushed Napoleon's sweater up, revealing goose pimpled skin in the coolness of the bedroom. He impatiently tugged the garment over Napoleon's head, smiling as it mussed the perfectly combed hair. This was when he loved Napoleon the most, looking disheveled and wanting. Wanting him, needing him; it was in Napoleon's arms that Illya had first experienced the sense of wonderment and desire. Until then, sex had pretty much been just one more weapon in Illya's arsenal. It didn't mean he didn't enjoy it at times, but he always disconnected from it. Sex with Napoleon was different. The physicality of it was good, but the sense of his soul exploding every time he took Napoleon into his arms or Napoleon took him, it was better than good, it was better than better; it was love and Illya now knew the difference.

He had no voice left, not even the ability to give his desires the slightest sound. This is truly frightening. What if I have no voice ever again? How will I work? And how will Napoleon know how much I love him?" he thought, pausing in his worrying of one of Napoleon's nipples.

"Love you," he whispered, or tried to Nothing came out, nothing at all.

Napoleon's head came off the pillow. "What's wrong, Illya? Your brow is furrowed." Illya massaged his throat and shook his head. "Your voice, it's all gone, is it?" A nod. "Doc said that could happen." He pulled Illya back down to rest comfortably on his chest. ""Just relax, my love. There's no need for that right now."

Illya startled into action again, trying to reach for Napoleon's erection, but his partner tightened his grip, keeping him pinned in place. "Illya," he scolded gently. "Surely you realize by now there's more to our relationship than just sex?" Illya sighed and Napoleon released his grip. "Go and gargle, then come back."

Illya rolled off Napoleon and studied him for a moment. Swallowing hurt, but he kept his face still. If Napoleon didn't want him, then he might as well pack it up. He shook his head to displace the thought. Of course he knew Napoleon loved him—talk about wallowing.

He got off the bed and headed for the bathroom. He used the toilet, gargled and then tried to bring some sense of control to his hair. It really had a mind of its own these days. He took some aspirin and headed back to bed.

Napoleon was propped up against the headboard and patted the mattress between his spread eagled legs. If Illya had had a voice, he'd have made a snarky comment, but he was just too weary at the moment. He settled into place, leaning back against Napoleon, comforted by his familiarity. Napoleon tossed a blanket over them and then held out a mug to Illya. He took it and sipped carefully, wincing as the fluid sliced a path down his throat. The second sip was easier and the third easier still.

Illya's sense of smell was working just fine and he inhaled the aroma from the cup. It was chicken and it was good... really good. He glanced back at Napoleon.

"If I tell you I made it, you'd demand I replicate it for you to watch, am I right?" Illya nodded slowly. "Matt brought it with him. I just heated it up. There's plenty more so drink your fill."

By the time, Illya finished the second mug, it was all he could do to keep his head up. Napoleon settled them down onto the mattress and plumped the pillows until he was comfortable. It took Illya longer to get comfortable though, turning first this way and that until he finally found a position that didn't make his neck ache.

His back against Napoleon, his lover's fingers slowly carding through his hair, Illya was able to push the demons away. His belly was full, at least for the moment, his heart was full, he hoped for a lifetime, it was time to rest.

"I do really love you, you know that." Napoleon's voice was soft, almost seductive and he kissed Illya's left ring finger and the ring there. "And I meant my vows to you, Illya. What we have, it's more than just something physical. It's like when I'm with you, I'm a complete person. Without you around, I'm just part of a human being. I turned the world on its ear looking for you; I'm not about to let go of the best thing that ever happened to me... Well, that time with Mary Jo Meminski behind the bleachers rates pretty—" He broke off as Illya's elbow jabbed him. "Together forever, my love, and don't you forget it."

If Napoleon said more, Illya didn't hear him. He was already dozing off, his mind back to happier times in Russia. Of sitting on his father's lap, the deep baritone of his voice making Illya's body rumble as he read aloud the tales of Baba Yaga. He was the only one his father read to, but Illya didn't know why. He remembered his father cheering as he crossed the stage to collect his diploma, the first Kuryakin to make it through university. His father's hands on his back as Illya suffered through his first bona fide hangover, rubbing and offering him verbal comfort as Illya tried vomiting up his toes.

He remembered Vyetka and Makita dogging his heels whenever he came home, even if it was for just a few days. When Illya was home, he was never alone, his siblings surrounded him every moment—an annoyance when what he craved was solitude, but he tolerated it because he sensed it was important. Even as Vyetka and Makita beat him, he could remember one of them sobbing, the other apologizing in deep gulping breaths.

They were idiots, but they were his idiots. He woke briefly as Napoleon shifted, pushing away the blanket as opposed to Illya in an attempt to cool down. When Illya tried to pull away, Napoleon just held him tighter. Napoleon's arms chased the nightmares away and kept bad thoughts at bay. If it made Illya appear weak, then he would appear weak. If it made Illya appear lazy, then lazy he would be. But leave? Illya smiled and moved closer, leaving was one thing he'd never do, never again.

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