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Disclaimer: It all belongs to who ever owns West Wing. I’m just playing with them and will return them unharmed and happier for the experience.
Pairing: Sam and Ainsley - this is how I believe it was for them,
Rating: PG-13
Timeframe: After Sam is working with Josh in DC, but before the Inauguration, probably mid-December. The beginning of their romance can be found in my story ‘The Black Dress’, but this piece stands alone.

Caught In The Moment

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The party was in full swing, but instead of loud music, political conversation was the beat everyone moved to. An election that had been won a month earlier was still being hashed over and celebrated. Caroline Marsdan looked around the crowded room and felt like an outsider. It was something she wasn’t used to and she didn’t like it. She was here because she was engaged to Sam Seaborn but that didn’t give her automatic acceptance into this group. Everyone around her was going to be working for Matt Santos in his new administration. Though she was a lawyer like most of the others present, the battle of minds in a criminal court was what stimulated her interest.

At the moment, her fiancé was in a corner with Josh Lyman going over a list of posts that still needed to be filled, in the president-elect’s staff. She was left standing alone by the buffet table. A little part of her wondered if this was what the next four to eight years were going to be like.

“Hi,” a petite blonde with a slight southern drawl smiled at her. “I haven’t met you yet, I’m Ainsley Hayes, Chief White House Counsel, or I will be come Inauguration Day.”

“Caroline….” Her voice ground to a halt as she shook hands. A bell went off in her head and she always listened to that little bell. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

“If you’re a Democrat, you probably don’t.” She reached around the statuesque red-head and added some food to her plate. “Ya see, I’m from the other side, a Republican,” Ainsley laughed. “I was with the Bartlett administration for over two years, so you don’t have to call in the secret service. I’m trustworthy.”

“Where could I have heard your name?” Caroline shook her head. It was on the edge of her memory, but her usual excellent recall was failing her.

“Well, I did some political affairs shows, way back when, and some television for President Bartlett after his third State of the Union address. During the MS debacle I kept a high profile in an attempt to…..” She shuddered slightly when she thought of what her party had tried to do to a good man. Suddenly she was slammed with old memories. It was like Dickens had written, ‘they were the best of times and the worst of times’. The worst because of the fear that everything was falling down around them, but the best because it had been that spring when she and Sam had…had…begun their eighteen month affair.

“No, it’s not your face that’s familiar, but your name…” The tall woman frowned.

“I left the White House right after the President’s second inauguration.” Ainsley popped a shrimp into her mouth and chewed to hide her distress. The gown she’d bought, when she’d thought she’d be going to the dances with Sam, was still hanging in her closet. Its protective wrap kept it as fresh and bright as it had been when she’d brought it home from the store. It was less painful to remember the Saturday-after- Election Day shopping trip she’d gone on with Donna and CJ, than to dwell on the snowy night when everyone else had been dancing and she’d been home alone crying. When Sam had been too busy in California to return for the evening, she hadn’t had the heart to attend, by herself. “I had some family responsibilities to tend to, and then worked for a congressman, very much behind the scenes,” she added as an afterthought. It was almost the truth. She’d left the White House because of her dad’s illness, but when everything had blown-up in her face, she knew that if Sam had still been in her life, she would have either returned to her old job or sought a new one in southern California.

Ainsley blinked quickly; terrified that she was going to cry. A month ago when she’d had the meeting with Josh about the Chief White House Counsel position, she hadn’t realized that Sam was coming back, too. Though, she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit she’d hoped he would be. It was later when Donna had told her that he was engaged, that her stomach had plummeted, but she’d accepted the job anyway. The Bartlett Administration was the last place she’d worked and been truly happy. So she had returned to a Democrat powered White House, in hope of finding herself again.

Four years earlier she and Sam had managed to keep their personal life under the radar and she didn’t think that even Josh had known. Donna had found out by accident when the young assistant had brought something to her office. Ainsley had just gotten off the phone with Sam in California. He’d been cool and had sounded disinterested. It was obvious his mind had been on other things. The second she’d put the receiver back in its cradle, she’d burst into tears. Unfortunately that was the exact moment Donna had walked in.

“No, I don’t know you from television.” The red-head frowned and looked around for Sam. He could tell her. These where his friends and from what the blonde had told her, she’d worked at the White House during his last years there.

The crowd was beginning to thin, so it was easy to find the man she was looking for. Caroline almost melted in pleasure when she saw the expression on her fiancé’s face. The soft glow from his blue eyes made her feel warm and loved, but she couldn’t for the life of her remember him ever looking at her like that before. Maybe all he’d really needed was to get back to Washington? She was beginning to feel she might have been wrong in refusing to pack up her apartment and join him in DC, on the spur if the moment. She knew she could conduct her own job search from the comfort of his flat, just as easily as leaving it up to a head-hunter. Caro was quickly running the logistics of a hasty move through her head, so it took her a moment to realize Sam wasn’t staring at her, but beside her!

“Ainsley…” Sam’s conversation with Josh had come to a standstill the second he saw her. She hadn’t changed a bit, except her hair was slightly shorter. He could still remember what it felt like to run his hands through the thick blonde masses as his body moved over hers. “You should have warned me,” he whispered as he left his friend’s side.

“Ains…” He moved across the room on autopilot. The last four years slipped away and he was lost in the blue of her eyes. In that moment he knew what her skin felt like against his and what it was like to have her petite form snuggled against him when they slept. He’d missed her terribly and seeing her standing less than ten feet away only made the missing stronger.

“Saam?” the small southern woman whispered, as she put down her plate and reached out a hand to greet him. She was dizzy. It took all of her control not to throw herself into his arms or slap him with all of her might. She’d known they’d run into each other at some point, but she’d hoped it wouldn’t be in public. When he’d gone off to California to run in a race he hadn’t had a chance of winning, it had hurt. When he hadn’t asked her to follow him, or hadn’t come back when it was over, it had broken her heart.

Caroline stared in stunned silence at the man she was going to marry…or had thought she was going to marry. Her mind automatically corrected her thinking. She was a litigator and her livelihood depended on being able to think on her feet. What surprised her was that she hadn’t caught the importance of the name when the blonde had introduced herself. Maybe it was because when the word fell from Ainsley’s lips, it conjured lady-like images of magnolia blossoms, and warm lazy days; unlike the desperate longing when Sam had whispered it in his sleep or the sizzling desire when he had unknowingly gasped it in moments of passion.

Sam’s arms crept up Ainsley’s until he pulled her into a gently hug. “I was sorry to hear about your father,” he murmured into her ear. Part of him wanted to bury his nose against her hair. She smelled the same as she had all those years ago.

“Thanks, it was a difficult time,” she bit her lip as her voice broke. Her dad’s heart attack had been why she’d left the white house. She’d known he wasn’t doing well and had hoped to make things right between them. Her parents had hated where she worked and it was made worse during the MS hearings. But the real damage had been done when she’d helped with Bartlett’s campaign the following year. It had turned unpleasant arguments into a major rift between father and daughter.

“Were you able…?” Only Sam had known the upheaval that had been going on in her personal life. He’d held her when she’d cried over unpleasant letters and phone calls cut rudely short. Now he was holding her again and it felt as if they’d never been apart.

“No,” she shook her head and pulled back. His familiar scent was sending her on a trip down memory lane that could only lead to disaster. “I think if daddy had lived a bit longer things would have been all right. He was willing to listen to my side and though he didn’t like what I’d done, he understood my sense of duty. Then he had a second coronary and it killed him. Mama…well…she was hurting and needed someone to blame.” Ains shrugged helplessly.

“Maybe if you give it…” They were back to their old shorthand. In the old days everyone always kidded about Josh/Donna-speak, they never caught on that he and Ainsley did the same.

“That’s a door that’s firmly closed.” She looked sadly into his eyes. “If nothing else, it gives me a lot to talk about with Donna.” Ainsley nodded in the direction of Josh holding tightly to the tall blonde’s hand. “When those two finally settled things between them, it was the final straw as far as her mom and dad were concerned. I just don’t get why parents can’t take pleasure in their children’s happiness.”

“They’re Republicans, what do you except,” Sam deadpanned.

“Spoken like the Spawn of the Democrat-Devil, we all know you to be.” She laughed at the old joke. “By the way, I understand you’re engaged.”

The entire conversation couldn’t have taken more than two minutes. To someone who didn’t know Sam Seaborn, it would have looked as if he was greeting an old colleague and expressing sorrow over the loss of her parent, with a sprinkling of small talk thrown in. Unfortunately, Caroline did know Sam. She saw all the unspoken words. The way the couple had to fight to keep from touching each other, even when they’d pulled free from the hug that had been slightly more than friendly, but not quite romantic.

“Yes, yes, in fact.” Sam looked around and was surprised to find Caro standing beside Ainsley. He was shaken that he hadn’t realized she was there. “It looks as if you two may have already met.”

“Ohhh,” Ainsley turned her small gasp into a sound she hoped could pass for pleased surprise. The smile on her face was purely for show, but she’d been in politics long enough to know how to pull off. “That explains what we’ve been trying to figure out.” Ains hated that Sam must have talked about her to his fiancée. It had to be just as uncomfortable for the woman beside her, but at that moment she didn’t care. All she cared about was getting out of Josh and Donna’s apartment without crying and making a fool of herself. “It was very nice meeting you Caroline.” She reached for the woman’s hand and mentally thanked her unforgiving mother for her strict lessons in southern etiquette, all those years ago.

“Likewise,” the red-head shook the small woman’s hand and wished she hadn’t let Sam talk her into attending this party. If she’d taken the early flight back to LA as she’d originally planned, maybe she could have kept her illusions that things would work out between them, despite the doubts she’d been having.

“Sam,” Ainsley almost whispered as he took her hand. She was trembling and she knew he could feel it, but prayed he was still enough of a gentleman to remain silent. “Congratulations and the best of luck to both of you.” Her smile falter, so she ducked her head as her emotions began to take control. “I’ve got an early meeting tomorrow, so I really must run. Would you be kind enough to make my apologies to our host and hostess?”

Caroline stood back and watched Ainsley bolt for the door. She realized that Donna Moss followed close on the woman’s heels. It piqued her curiosity, but she had more important matters to content with.

“So, that’s Ainsley.” Caro whispered. “I’ve always wondered.”

“Wondered?” Sam frowned. He hadn’t talked about Ains to anyone, not even Donna when she’d tried a time or two to tell him he’d been a fool.

“You don’t know it, but when you’ve had an especially difficult day, you would turn over in your sleep and reach for me, but it was her name you murmured.” Caroline blinked to keep control of her tears.

“No, I never…I couldn’t have…” He felt his life spinning around him.

“Sam, it’s not your fault. You didn’t know and I never told you.” She sighed and decided if she was going to do this, she needed to do it right. “Those weren’t the only times you called out to her. The first time we made love…”

“No!” he shook his head in denial, but deep inside something told him it was true, all of it.

“Just listen to me. The first time it happened I thought maybe I had misunderstood…”

“It happened more than once?” He was mortified at his behavior.

“Shhh.” She placed her fingers over his lips to quiet him. “Whenever it happened I’d lay there in the dark promising myself that I’d get to the bottom of it in the morning. But I never did, because in the light of day I’d convince myself that whoever she was, it didn’t matter because she was ancient history. I’ve never asked you about her, never once in the eight months we’ve been together, or when you asked me to marry you.”

“Caroline, she is history. You’re…we’re the present.” But even as he said the words he could hear the doubt in his voice.

“Ainsley maybe your history, but I think she’s your future, as well,” the statuesque red-head sighed softly. “After all, the present is only what is happening right now. How can that possibly compare to all the moments that came before and those that should come after?”

“What is it about working in politics that turns my life upside-down?” He shook his head, unaware he’d spoken out loud.

“Maybe this time it’s been turned right-side-up.” Caro slide the sparkling yellow diamond off her finger. As she put it into Sam’s palm, she curled her hands around his to keep it wrapped tightly in his fist. “I’m giving this back to you, but I’m not Lisa. I’m not dumping you. This has nothing to do with your job or your ambitions. Life is too short to settle for second best and I think that’s what we both would be doing if we went through with this now. There must be something in the air that’s different here in Washington. I don’t know why it was so easy to lie to myself in California.”

“Caro, I never meant to hurt you.” It amazed him that he’d told her about his ex-fiancée and not Ainsley. There was something significant in it, but right now he couldn’t think straight.

“I know. I hurt myself when I thought I could marry a man who called another woman’s name in his sleep.” She frowned and shook her head at her own stupidly. “As I said, it’s something in the air. Los Angles is the land of pretenses. Maybe we could have pulled it off there, at least until we began to hate each other.”

“We need to talk more. I’ll call the airlines and get you booked on a later flight.” He reached for his cell, as he put the ring in his picket and wished he felt more upset about what had just happened.

“I’ve got a better idea. Ask your friend Josh to call me a cab, so I can make my plane. You get my bag out of your car and then I think it would be a good idea if you went in search of the woman who ran out of here not too long ago.” She smiled at him so he would see that she was doing all right, though she was sure that she’d cry all the way from DC to LA. “Ainsley Hayes is the one you need to have that talk with.”
Half an hour later Sam pulled up in front of Ainsley’s condo. She lived in the same flat she’d lived in when she’d worked for President Bartlett. It was a lovely old three unit building and he remembered how thrilled she’d been when she’d made the purchase. He punched in the door code from four years ago and smiled, pleased that it still worked.

“Ainsley,” he called her name as he knocked on the door to her unit.

“Go away, Sam.” She held the door open, but left the chain lock in place to keep him out.

“Please, Ains let me in.”

Why should I?” her voice was hoarse and filled with tears.

“Because I want to talk to you and I’m not going away until you do.”

“All right, but make it quick.” She opened the door and he followed her into the room he remembered so well. She figured it was better to get this over with now, so they could go on with their separate lives. “What is it that you want?”

“You, I want you and I always have.” His blue eyes sparkled as he looked her over. She was rumpled and had been crying, but she looked beautiful in a tank top and pajama bottoms.

“Well you can’t have me!” She folded her arms and glared at him, glad that her anger finally kicked in pushing her sadness away.

“Is there someone else?”

“There sure is, and she’s the tall red-haired woman you’re currently engaged to.” Ainsley couldn’t finish the sentence without tears filling her eyes. “Why didn’t you ever ask me to join you in California?” she cried out. She was the only person he’d told about his promise to Will Bailey, until he’d had to act on it. “When the special election was over why didn’t you come back here like you said you would?” It was what he’d planned on doing, but it had never happened. “Why did you mess us up so badly?” She buried her face in her hands and cried for all she was worth.

“First of all, I’m not engaged anymore.” He put his arms around her and led her to the sofa. “And I never should have been.” He pulled her closer but she wouldn’t relax against him and he couldn’t blame her for that. He’d messed things up royally. “About the other,” he sighed. “I knew you were under a lot of pressure from your family and didn’t want to add to it.” He looked into the past knowing he’d been given a second chance and he owed them both honesty. “Then there was my stupid male ego and pride. I wanted to be worthy of asking you to marry me. When I lost I was embarrassed. By the time I got my act together enough to come back here for you, Josh told me your dad was sick and you were trying to patch things up with your family. I figured it was too late. You’d moved on.”

“You wanted to marry me? You loved me enough to want me to be your wife, and yet you left without telling me that?” Ainsley didn’t know if she was furious or if her heart had just broken all over again.

“I know, not my best move. I had decided to do it when I came back to pack my office, but Babish had you out of DC on some job. I waited for as long as I could, but I had to get back to Orange County.” He shrugged at how stupid he’d been. “For some reason I felt it necessary to do it in person. I wanted to see your face when I asked you to spend the rest of your life with me.”

“Sam, when I came back here and found your things gone and your keys on the table, I about died. That southern California office of yours wasn’t very helpful. It took me three days to reach you by phone and when I finally did you sounded…well…I didn’t think you wanted to talk to me.”

“Oh, Babe, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It took everything in me not to beg you to catch the next flight to California. I didn’t because…well…I was afraid you might turn me down.” He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her for the first time in four years. It was the best move he’d made since he’d accepted Josh’s job offer and come back to DC.

“It’s not all your fault,” she sniffed. “I should have tried harder. It isn’t like me to give up easily on something I really want. I think I was scared too.” She bit her lip as she remembered sitting in the steam pipe trunk distribution venue missing him desperately but afraid to ask the questions that would give her definite answers. “When I think back to that time after you left, but before my father’s first heart attack, I remember being frightened that our political difference would be too much to overcome. If I didn’t force the issue in one of our phone calls or by email, I’d always be able to believe that you loved me.”

“I did love you Ainsley. I still do.” He lifted her chin and looked into her troubled blue eyes.

“So, you’re really not engaged anymore?” She knew they’d both messed up in the past. Were they strong enough to get beyond their mistakes and make a future for themselves?

“Nope, I don’t seem to have much luck staying engaged while getting ready to go to work in the White House. In fact,” he smiled smugly. “The next time I ask a woman to marry me, it’s going to be after I’m already working there and probably when all hell is breaking loose.”

“That sounds like a plan.” She smiled warmly.

“I missed you Ainsley,” he whispered as he lifted her onto his lap and leaned over to kiss her again, but stopped inches from her lips with a smile on his face. “I don’t have to worry about some big guy coming through that door and demanding to know why I’m kissing his girl friend, do I?”

“No.” Her eyes lit up and she bit her lower lip letting it slide between her teeth as she shook her head. “No, there’s been no one since you, Sam. I’ve dated some, but no.” Her tears rolled down her face as she realized how lonely she’d been.

“I should have been as smart.” He held her tightly and kissed her damp cheeks. “Any chance you’ll go to the Inauguration Balls with me?”

“I just happen to have a gown.” She grinned and kissed him back. It felt so good to be in his arms again. When she’d looked across the room earlier that evening and seen him, she’d thought her heart had about stopped. But it had really stopped four years earlier when they’d let time, miles and fear separate them.
Five months later in the heat of trying to bring the last of the troops home from the little war that had begun in the Bartlett administration, Sam Seaborn sauntered into the law library of the White House Counsel’s office.

Ainsley had law books piled on a desk and more on the conference table that took up one side of the room. She and her staff had been working on the legal language, for the treaty that would end this particular ‘police action’.

“Well I must say this is a huge change from the steam pipe trunk distribution venue.” He leaned on the doorframe with a gentle smile on his face and looked out the large window on the other side of the room. When the sun had gone down a spring storm had blown in from the Atlantic and rain was pounding against the pane. It reminded him of Ainsley in a slinky black dress and the very first night they’d slept together. That had been almost six years earlier.

“Sam you scared me to death. Besides, this is not my office, though I do seem to spend a lot of time in here.” She grinned very glad to see him. “Darn, I was hoping I’d get to actually see you during daylight hours.” She’d been engrossed in her work and not paying attention to how late it had gotten.

“I haven’t heard any complaints about the nights.” He walked slowly toward her desk and she was frozen in place.

A throaty laugh filled the air and her eyes sparkled as she looked him over from head to toe enjoying the view. “Have I ever told you that I like way you move, Mr. Seaborn?” Ainsley’s words flowed with quiet desire.

“Oh yeah, once or twice.” He leaned over her, with his hands on the arms of her chair and nibbled slowly on her mouth.

“Sa-am,” her voice broke as she kissed him back. Getting a grip on her spiraling emotions, she moved her fingers over his lips as she caught her breath. “I thought we’d agreed to keep that out of the office.”

“Well it’s late, and most of the staff has gone home, besides I figured we could let it slide just this one.” He knelt so he was on eye level with her. “I love you Ainsley.”

“I love you too, Sam.” She looked around quickly and leaned forward to kiss him. “But we really need to be careful about this.”

“As I said, tonight is a bit different. We love each other and have for a long time. I doubt the work load will ever be heaver for either of our offices, than it is now. I’m only telling you this so you’ll realize what a good omen it is.”

“All right.” Ains smiled wondering where all this was leading.

“Will you marry me?” Sam almost whispered as he pulled a very old ring box out of his pocket. When he opened it she could see a platinum antique ring. The center stone was a large almost square cut sapphire and there were diamonds built into the filigree design around it.

“Of course I’ll marry you,” she gasped almost afraid to touch the ring. “How did you know I liked antique jewelry?”

He gave her that odd look that she found endearing. “Because I know you Ainsley, I really know you.” He felt her shiver and knew how important it was to her that he’d picked out something that was perfect for her. It only served to underscore how different he felt about her than he had about Lisa and Caro. When it had come time to buy rings for them, he’d been clueless as to what to purchase. Though he’d paid for them, both women had chosen their own engagement rings.

“I love you,” she whispered as she gently cupped his face and pulled him close to kiss him.

“Hey, none of that.” Josh Lyman grinned from the open door.

“Go away, Josh,” Sam ignored his friend as he slipped the ring on Ainsley’s finger. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“It fits.” Tears filled her eyes as she looked at her hand held in Sam’s.

“Of course it does. Hey, hey, don’t cry baby.” The Deputy Chief of Staff wrapped his arms around the Chief White House Counsel.

“I can’t help it.” She smiled despite the way her eyes damply glistened. “You really do know me, don’t you?”

“Yeah, babe I do. I love you.”

“I love you too, Sam.” Ainsley’s fingers caught in his hair as she kissed him fiercely.

“Whooo, eye bleach,” Josh gasped from his spot in the doorway.

“If you don’t want to see me kissing my fiancée, I suggest you leave,” Sam murmured.

“Nawww this is much more entertaining.” Then Sam’s words sunk in and Josh was grinning from ear to ear. “Ains, you didn’t really agree to marry this guy did you?”

“I sure did.” She smiled happily. It had been a hard four years, but at that moment she wouldn’t have changed a thing. It had been too easy the first time around, or they never would have fallen apart. Now they both knew what it was like to really love someone and how lonely it could be when that love was denied. This time they would make it work.

“Was there something you wanted besides harassing me?” Sam looked over his shoulder as he deftly slid Ainsley closer until her thighs were straddling him and their bodies were pressed tightly together. “Because if not…” He let the words hang and grinned like the devil as he snuggled Ains’ body tighter against his.

“Actually it was President and Mrs. Santos who have made the request. We’re all invited to the residence for champagne to celebrate.” Josh grinned. It was payback time. Sam had told on him before he’d proposed to Donna, it had only been fair to have done the same for his friend.
Sam and Ainsley were married three months later. They beat Josh and Donna to the alter by two months despite the fact that the other couple had been engaged longer.

And Ainsley and Sam lived happily ever-after, despite children, senate races and 8 years as President and First Lady


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2011 04:34 am (UTC)
Ah I love this and I can imagine it all perfectly.
Sep. 7th, 2011 12:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. They are one ok my favorite pairings. I was grateful that WW left there status open, allowing us to invent our own conon.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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September 2012


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I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears

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I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
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Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

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