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Disclaimer : See chapter 1
Beta: Obsidian Jade - any errors here are mine since I’m never able to resist tweaking at words and phrases. Thanks for the patience and reassurances.
Note : I’ve cut this chapter in half since it was going way long even for me. I really wanted to give Rachel the time she deserves. I blame Jacob and Rachel for the length. According to my outline, I was supposed to get much further in this than I did in the unsplit version, but once they started talking to one another, they wouldn’t stop.
Guest Appearances and disclaimers: This is not a crossover. But three characters, that may be familiar to some, appear in a story about a poker game that Jacob tells Rachel about, over dinner. Jethro Gibbs and Jenny Shepard belong to NCIS and Paramount Studios. Pamela Landry belongs to whoever holds the rights to the Jason Bourne movies. This is a special one time mention of these three characters. For fun and to lessen the confusion there is a picture of the all seven regular members of The Bourbon & Scotch Club at the end of this chapter.
Previous Chapters : Ch 1 - Denial ; Ch 2 - Anger

Therapy Sessions



By Lattelady

Ch 3 - Bargaining - Jacob

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Like other souls, we shall seek out the flesh that we have left, but none of us shall wear it; it is not right for any man to have what he himself has cast aside. - From The Divine Comedy Of Dante Alighieri – Inferno – Canto XIII
.......................................................


Rachel maneuvered carefully around the corner. Her pace had slowed considerably since she’d left her room over half an hour earlier. She felt as if she were running an endless version of the obstacle course at Quantico, when in reality she was a few yards short of five laps around the fifth floor and had three more to go. Down the hall, past the nursing station, down another hall, beyond the elevators and then the long straightaway to where her room was located. Her physical therapist had told her that eight circuits of the misshapen oval added up to one mile.

Six months ago, when she’d taken the Bureau’s yearly fitness test, her average time had been nine minutes per mile, in full gear and weapons. It disgusted her that wearing nothing more than grey running shorts; a yellow sweatshirt with sleeves cut out at the shoulders; a slipper on the foot of her uninjured leg; and the all important accessory of a padded leg brace, her time was so poor. In a fit of temper she blamed it on the crutches she’d learned to use that morning, though in reality, without them, she was going nowhere.

“Some agent I am,” she grumbled quietly. “I’ll be lucky to finish this in under an hour.” It wasn’t helping that it took all her concentration to master the unsteady three-point gate, which was the only way she could get around. “At least it’s keeping my deltoids and biceps in shape,” she muttered as her arms bore her entire weight while her body swung carefully between precariously placed crutch tips.

“Hello there.” Anger, sorrow and something deep and smoky curled in Hood’s belly and pounded at his senses when he saw her jump slightly. He’d caught her by surprise and startled her.

“Ah… Hi, yourself,” she stuttered.

“Your nurse said you were in your room.” He nodded toward the door a few feet behind him “I guess she didn’t know you’d escaped.” He was blocking her path, with one shoulder leaning against the wall, as he studied her. His face was in shadows, but his arms were crossed and he looked large, dark and ornery.


“When I saw her awhile back, going into someone else’s room, I told her I was heading this way.” Rachel’s cheeks were flushed from exertion and she gritted her teeth as she repositioned her hold on the handgrips of her crutches. It frightened her that she’d come so close to losing her balance. She glared at him, irritated and embarrassed that he’d been watching her when she was having so much trouble maneuvering.

“But you didn’t bother to tell her you weren’t planning on going back to bed.” He couldn’t believe she was up and about so soon. He’d have been happy to find her sitting in a chair, but wandering the corridors was too much. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he ground out each word huskier than the last. All his carefully controlled emotions hammered to be set free.

“Physical therapy,” Rachel snapped, frustrated with her lack of progress and angry that she was so unsteady. “I’ve got three more laps of the corridors and then I’ll have completed a mile.” She stuck her nose in the air, daring him to argue with her.

“Is it still considered physical therapy if you fall on your ass and rip open the incision on your thigh?” He challenged, using the same unyielding tone he’d used the morning before, when he’d suggested she find another assignment. It made her feel as if someone had kicked her in the chest.

“I don’t know what you mean.” She faced him squarely, denying that her arms felt like rubber and her good leg was beginning to shake. Rachel let her anger bubble to the surface. It made her feel stronger, better able to deal with Jacob Hood acting totally out of character.

“Hmmm, then you won’t mind a small experiment.” As he spoke, he lightly nudged her left shoulder with two fingers. She wobbled and fought for control, but her muscles were too tired to obey. Moments later her crutches bounced and clattered at her feet. She grabbed for the nearest handhold, the front of his jacket. But she lacked her usual coordination and speed and would have landed in a heap on the floor, if he hadn’t clutched her securely around the waist.

“Are you crazy?” the words ripped from her as she clung to him. She hated being weak and dependent, especially in front of this man who she was supposed to protect.

“It’s not my sanity that’s in question at the moment.” As much as he wanted to pick her up and carry her the few remaining feet to her room, he knew it wouldn’t end well if he did. The last thing she needed was to be overpowered by anyone or anything else.

“I hate this,” Rachel growled in temper but held onto him tighter. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been physically unable to do something that she really wanted to do.


“I know, but the outcome could have been so much worse.” His voice broke as he ran one hand over the soft skin of her bare shoulder and upper arm.

“I get it, Hood, believe me I do.” All her anger couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran through her body when she remembered the exact moment she’d looked her own mortality straight in the eyes and hadn’t flinched. Instead she’d spoken of him. She’d told Sofia that Hood was a genuinely good man and a genius but that Lyons might be expecting too much, because he wasn’t practical. Rachel had been wrong about that, and knew she’d never tell him that she’d doubted his ability to find her alive.

“Just give yourself a minute to get your equilibrium back.” Though it was his equilibrium that was in a tailspin. When he’d found her missing from her room, he hadn’t known what to think. When he’d discovered her hobbling down the hall, he'd been swamped with conflicting emotions he couldn’t name and didn’t understand. He’d finally recognized anger and let it take the lead. It was easily expressed and kept him from having to deal with any of the others.

“I’m okay, now.” She put some distance between them. She liked being in his arms far too much for her own good. It was a new feeling and totally out of place in their relationship. That way led to disaster both personally and professionally. She transferred her right hand from his shoulder to the safety rail on the wall and finally looked up to meet his penetrating gaze.

Jacob watched her carefully to be sure she maintained her balance, one hand near hers on the railing and the other still resting on her waist. He knew arguing with her would only make her more determined to have her own way. It struck him that they were in an odd role reversal and, as much as he was enjoying it, once Rachel realized what was going on, she wouldn’t. If they ever got to a place in their lives where he was allowed to look out for her, too, it would have to be because she permitted it. Having it forced on her due to an injury would only lead to resentment.


“All right, here’s the deal.” Hood decided to play hardball. “I’ll pick up those crutches and give them back to you, but the only place you’re going is straight to your room. Once we’ve eaten the dinner I brought, if you still want to finish your mile, I will accompany you. Then you stay put for the rest of the night.”


“That’s two deals.” Rachel had a mutinous look on her face, as she weighed her chances of bending down and retrieving the crutches without falling ignominiously at his feet.


“Take it or leave it.” He shrugged his shoulders and wouldn’t budge. “It’s you’re choice.”


“And if I say no?” She thrust out her chin and curled her lip. He’d seen her use that expression before. It usually signaled that a right hook or a drawn weapon weren’t far behind, but this time she wasn’t armed and he knew if she took a swing at him, she’d end up on the floor.


“I’ve carried you once before. You don’t weigh much and I doubt that leg brace adds more than a few pounds. No reason I can’t do it again.” He shifted to her side and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, bending slightly at the knees in preparation to pick her up.


“Wait,” she gasped and shook her head, trying to make sense of hazy disjointed memories. “That was real?” her voice quavered in doubt.


“Umhm.” He nodded. “Don’t you remember?” Those frantic moments in the truck and running into the hospital were some of the most frightening of his adult life. It was hard to imagine she didn’t recall them with the same intense clarity.


“I’m sorry, Jacob, I...ah…just hand me the crutches, please. You win.” A cloudy, uncertain memory began to clear. It was of Hood’s face inches away from hers. He was frightened, worried and demanding, as he’d quietly pleaded with her to stay awake and alive as she clung to him. Then everything became chaotic. There were loud voices and bright lights. She no longer felt the warmth of his arms around her as strangers took his place. “I was sure it was some sort of fever induced hallucination.”


“No, I wish it had been, but it wasn’t.” He bent and reached for her crutches, giving them back to her one at a time.


“Damn,” she sighed, wondering if any of the other fragments of nightmare that haunted her sleep were true. If they were that meant Jacob had seen her crying and out of control. If they weren’t then she had started dreaming about him. Rachel wasn’t sure which was worse.


They made their way to her room without exchanging a word. Every time Hood looked in her direction, a swing of long blonde hair blocked her face from view. He knew she was upset or she wouldn’t have capitulated so easily.


“Let me help you.” He offered as she handed him her crutches after sitting on her bed.


“I’ve got to do it myself.” She grabbed the trapeze above her head with one hand and a Velcro straps on her brace with the other. In one careful move she picked up her injured leg and turned, until she was situated comfortably with her back supported against her pillow and both legs straight out in front of her.


“Look, Hood, I know I’ve been out of it for a bit and you…well…you saw me at my worst.” She took a deep breath, knowing she had to continue no matter how embarrassing it would be if she discovered he had doubts. “But I can still protect you.”


“Rachel--” He was caught completely by surprise as he was setting out containers of Italian food on her tray table.


“No, listen to me. Even now I could do it. I may not have my weapon, but I’d find a way. You’re safe. You don’t need to worry about that.” She leaned forward, curling her left foot beneath her body, intent on getting her point across.


“Rachel, stop it.” In two quick steps he was at her side and sitting on her bed. Her brace brushed against left hip and his knee pressed into her other calf above where it was twisted under her. Neither were aware of how close they sat or how intimate their position, as each was caught up in emotions they didn’t understand.

“But…” she interjected.

“No!” He gripped her shoulders fighting the urge to shake some sense into her. “It hasn’t been my safety I’ve been worried about.” He had a strange sense of déjà vu. He’d had almost the same conversation with her in the Emergency Room when she’d been out of her head with pain and fever.


“But…yesterday morning…you said…you wanted to let me go.”


“That’s not what I said.” He looked her in the eyes, not letting her gaze waver. Didn’t she understand the internal battle he was fighting? He didn’t want her to leave, but he didn’t want her dead, either. He knew he’d walk out of her life and never look back, if that was what it took to keep her alive. But it just wasn’t a bargain he was willing to make until he had all the data. All that he really knew right now was that having one woman die in his arms was more than enough for any man’s lifetime.

“Ah…ah…you said that I almost died and…” She pursed her lips trying to remember his precise words, but they were overshadowed by his suggestion that she could leave his detail if she liked. “That it bothered you?”


“That’s close enough.” He was relieved that she was vague on the words he’d used. She’d caught him in a vulnerable moment and he’d spoken more freely than he’d intended.


“I thought you’d lost confidence in me and were just trying to be polite.” She should’ve been more careful when chasing Sofia. It had been a rooky mistake to get caught in the glare of motion triggered yard lights.


“Me, polite? Please, Rachel when have you ever known me to mince words?” He looked shocked.


“Well, now that you mention it, never.” She grinned at him for the first time since he'd arrived. “I just had to be sure, especially after discovering that you’d seen me…well, it couldn’t have been very pleasant to have had to carry me, all bleeding and weak, like that.”


“It certainly wasn’t, so please, don’t every make me do it again.” His heart pounded at the memory. He hadn’t given a damn about the blood. He’d been so relieved to have her back; all that had mattered had been getting her to the medical care she needed.


“It’s a deal then. I won’t get shot and you won’t have to carry me.” She reached out and they shook hands, both of them laughing, both of them relieved that the unusual emotions that had them acting so out of character were swept aside by humor.
.......................................................

Hood made himself comfortable on the foot of her bed as they shared her tray table. Over Cesar Salad and pasta he told her about his day. “I think Legal is finally through with me, at least for the time being. They’d been questioning Mal Sheppard, the psychiatrist who was supposed to be caring for Sofia. A closer look at his records showed a number of discrepancies in the use of controlled substances. When he was confronted with additional charges of possible drug trafficking, the doctor gave them all the information they needed to put Wynne away for a long time. He was still talking, trying to cut some sort of deal, when I went off to my meeting with McGruder.”

“How’d that go?” She pushed a crouton around her plate trying to appear nonchalant, though she was burning with curiosity. “What do you think of Carson Dilworth?”

“He wasn’t what I’d anticipated.” Up until then, Hood had been assigned younger agents with less seniority. According to Dilworth, he’d been with the Bureau for over twenty-five years. “And he seems kind of an odd duck.”

“That’s the pot calling the kettle black,” she laughed softly at his indigent expression.

“Rachel, are you saying I’m odd?” He knew she must be feeling better, if she was teasing him again. He’d been right to insist she rest and eat.

“Well, if the shoe fits…?” she grinned relieved that he seemed disgruntled with his new handler.

“What’s with the idioms all of the sudden?” He was beginning to think her pain medication had taken control of her tongue.


“I’d never say odd exactly, more like eccentric.” Her eyes sparkled.


“This from the woman who drives like a maniac and thrives on danger.” As soon as Jacob said it, he knew he shouldn’t have. Before he could ruin her mood or his, he changed the subject. “Tell me more about Carson Dilworth?”


“Dilly seems strange because he’s a product of a different era of FBI training. He tries, he really does,” she giggled, earning her an odd look from Hood that she missed. “He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor and goes completely by the book.”

“That makes him a male version of you, or at least how you were when we first began working together?”

“Nooo, not at all.” She crossed her arms and glared at him. But took the snide remark as payback for teasing him earlier. “I can’t imagine what was going through the Iceman’s mind when he assigned Carson to work with you.” She shook her head in wonder.


“Iceman?” Hood looked momentarily confused.


“My boss, Detail Chief Tyler C. McGruder, the head of the Executive Protection Detail. I hear he picked up the nickname when he was a Marine sniper during Desert Strom and it stuck. I guess it would have to. He was the commanding officer at Scout Sniper School when the Director convinced him to leave the Corp and head up the EPD.” She knew about the elite facility her boss used to command. It trained Marines from the 5th Marine Division; Soldiers from the Army’s 25th Infantry; and Navy Seals from Navy Seal Delivery Team 1. It was speculated that covert agents from the CIA put in time there, but that was one area that Rachel refused to dwell on.


“I’ve heard of it. With a background like that I can see why Frank wanted him. If you know how to kill a person, you’ll know how to train people to protect ‘em.” Jacob played poker with Frank, Ty and a few others when he was in town. He knew more about McGruder than Rachel realized.


“Why do you think it’s odd that Dilworth was assigned as my temporary handler?” Hood respected the silver-haired, cool-eyed ex-sniper, who was Rachel’s boss and didn’t think he took his job or Detail Group lightly.


“Don’t get me wrong, Carson Dilworth is an excellent agent, but he lives for rules and structure. You’re going to drive each other crazy. I can’t decide if McGruder is trying to convince Dilly to finally retire or if he’s got it in for you.” She shrugged, wondering if there was something she’d missed. “Though you’ve been really good lately, if you don’t count this whole Sofia and Wynne thing.”


“I hardly think Ty holds me accountable for that.” He thought for a moment, wondering if his other connection with TC McGruder was worth mentioning. “There is…ah…one other thing.”


“What have you done and how did it get past me?” Rachel couldn’t believe Hood had gotten himself into trouble that she didn’t know about and therefore hadn’t been able to rectify before it came to the attention of her boss.

“It’s no big deal really. I sometimes play poker with Frank and his buddies. The last time we were in town, I had a Jack-high flush that beat out McGruder’s nine-high flush in the final hand of the night. Your boss had some big money in the pot. But he doesn’t seem like the type of guy who’d carry a grudge for that?”

“Hold it!” She raised her hand, palm up. “Stop right there. Please tell me that you were with the Director at all times and under his security umbrella?” Things had changed a great deal in the eighteen months they’d been working together. There had been no recent threats on Jacob’s life and Rachel’s role had become more his handier than bodyguard. But she was still concerned about his safety.

“I was perfectly safe. The place was crawling with silent, armed guys dressed in black. There must have been ten of them checking windows and doors. I never realized Frank required so much protection.” He felt sorry for his old friend. Jacob knew what it was like having just one bodyguard, but to have so many would have driven him nuts.

“Director Foster has a detail but they’ve got orders to be unobtrusive…” her voice trailed off as she thought of something else. “Did you…were you playing in the Bourbon and Scotch games?” She felt a bit foolish asking since she’d always believed they were a unique DC urban legend.

“Yeah, I think someone jokingly called them that.” He didn’t like the shocked look on Rachel’s face.

“My God, Hood, you never cease to amaze me. No wonder Ray Wynne was out to get you.” Her heart was pounding. She had proof those damn things existed, but couldn’t say a word about it to anyone. “That group is rumored to consist of some of the most powerful men in DC. There isn’t an ambitious person in town who wouldn’t give their first born to be invited just once.” Again it was all gossip and innuendo, but if Jacob was telling the truth…her mind swung to dark, hazy rooms where secrets were exchanged along with cards.

“You’re exaggerating, they’re just some friends of Frank’s.” He shrugged, not sure what all the fuss was about. “Someone’s been pulling your leg---”

“Leave my leg out of this, thank you very much.” She leaned forward to open the straps on her brace and massage tired muscles in her calf and very gingerly her damaged thigh. She knew she should be doing the demanding set of stretches PT had prescribed, but there was no way she’d submit herself to that particular brand of torture in front of an audience.

“Sorry, bad choice of words.” He rolled his eyes and grinned, relieved that her quick wit was back, despite the pain he saw mirrored in her eyes.

In an attempt to take Rachel’s mind off her cramping leg, he decided to tell her more about his poker nights, since she appeared to be interested in them. “It’s just a friendly game. The stakes are a bit high at times, but friendly, not some shadowy backchannel meeting of the powers that be. Though once Chief Justice Sprague came by for a while. He’s got an amazing mind, though I can’t say I agree with him on many issues.

“The real regulars are Frank; your boss; two different women named Jenny; a man the redheaded Jenny calls Jethro but McGruder calls Gunny; and another woman named Pamela.”

“Wait. Hold it. There are women at these poker games?” She looked a bit incredulous. There were any number of extremely powerful females in the District but Rachel couldn’t imagine any of them had been able to invade such a good old boys’ bastion of chauvinism as the B and S games were purported to be. If there were women, it was for one reason only.


“Umhm.” Hood nodded innocently.

“The Director is married. He always seemed so straight laced. And you….” She shook her finger in at him. Jacob was teasing her, he had to be, but she was willing to play along.


“He is straight laced.” Hood’s brows rose when he realized what Rachel must have been thinking. “Agent Young, you have a dirty mind. Those women where there to play poker, like the rest of us. Pamela is married to a cardiac surgeon. She said she is a Section Chief in Virginia. That would be Quantico, right? I’ve never seen her around our building.”

“Wait…wait…wait…back-up.” She held up her hand and tried to keep a straight face. His story was getting wilder by the minute. It had just enough truth to keep her guessing. She really appreciated the effort he was putting into it, but she wasn’t going to let him get away with it. “Did this Pamela say she worked for the Bureau? ‘Cause we don’t have Section Chiefs. What’s her last name?” Rachel waited patiently for his answer, sure he’d tip his hand, though she had to give him credit. She never realized Hood had such a creative side.

“Landsbe, or something like that. You know I’m not good with names.”

“Landy?” Rachel’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “Pamela Landy is Section Chief in charge of Antiterrorism for the CIA. That would be located in Virginia all right, but Langley, Virginia, not Quantico.” If Hood was telling the truth and the Bourbon and Scotch club really existed, it was more powerful than anyone knew. The problem was that with a group like that, if there were rumors, there was nothing to them. It was only when there was silence that one needed to be suspicious. Jacob’s story created an interesting puzzle. Was this a lie and therefore silence, or was it the truth and therefore nothing of substance?

“Pam didn’t mention that. I would have remembered.” He took the last bite of his veal Parmesan and pushed his plate aside.

“What about the others?” Rachel was having way too much fun with this to let it go.

“The redheaded Jenny always arrived and left with Jethro. I think his last name is Gibbs. Yeah, that’s it, Jethro Gibbs.” Hood thought for a moment to be sure of his facts. “I’m not sure I ever learned her full name or even what she did, for that matter. The two of them were tough to beat. But they took great joy in trouncing one another. Then of course there was McGruder’s Jenny.”

“Ya know, Hood, I’m off the narcotics, so you can’t play with my head, though I really appreciate the entertainment during dinner.” Rachel laughed. “You had me going until the very end. I even swallowed the bit about the CIA and Landy. It’s Washington, stranger things have happened, but Iceman McGruder and a woman, that was just too much.”

“You don’t believe me?” He pushed aside the tray table that had been between them, slid a pillow under her thigh and rested her heel on his leg, as he helped massage her calf.

“Nope, you had great detail though. I particularly liked the bit about the redheaded Jenny and Jethro Gibbs. Felix must have helped you with the research. I didn’t think you knew about Jennifer Shepard, Director of NCIS. Though I’m not sure what the first female director of an armed agency would say about the insinuation that she was ‘dating’ one of her subordinates, though there were rumors when she first took over….then they grew strangely quiet…” She ended in a slight moan as Hood’s careful fingers hit a particularly tight spot on her calf, “Ooouch.”


“Sorry, but you’ve got quite a knot back there.” He supported her leg with one hand and worked on her cramped muscles with the other.


“Yeah, I noticed,” she gasped and dug her fists into the mattress and tried to breathe through the pain. The entertaining story forgotten as she was reminded once again how far she had to go before she was up and around.

Rachel made a silent promise to the gods of physical therapy, as Jacob worked on her leg: if she could just keep from crying until after he left, she’d be vigilant about her stretches from here on in.
.......................................................





On to Ch 4 - Bargaining - Rachel

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

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


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

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?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

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

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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