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Disclaimer : See chapter 1
Rating : R - note rating bump
Credits : Many thanks to Joyce who helped me find my way when I was lost in a story that had taken on a mind of its own. If not for her, this wouldn’t be getting posted yet.
Notes: Acceptance is getting split into three chapters. This one is shorter than I usually write, but I think you will enjoy it. About a page in Jacob decided to change the direction the story was taking and as much as I fought him for control, he won out. It took me weeks to write it the way he wanted it written. You can blame Hood for the length between posts. He wouldn’t listen to me no matter how much I tried to reason with him.

Previous Chapters : Ch 1 - Denial ; Ch 2 - Anger ; Ch 3 - Bargaining - Jacob ; Ch 4 - Bargaining - Rachel ; Ch 5 - Depression - Interludes ; Ch 6 - Depression - Jacob ; Ch 7 - Depression - Rachel

Therapy Sessions



By Lattelady

Ch 8 – Acceptance – Interlude

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When he felt himself caught up, he called out to me: “Come here so I can hold you,” then made one bundle of himself and me. - From The Divine Comedy Of Dante Alighieri – Inferno – Canto XXXI
.......................................................


It had been almost two hours since they’d lost power and it didn’t appear that it was going to be restored anytime soon. Jacob Hood sat alone in the darkened family room listening to the storm’s fury as it pounded around them. He knew all the old house’s normal sounds in every season and weather condition, even when they were muted by rain, wind and thunder but he still couldn’t sleep. Something was bothering him and he didn’t know what it was, so he did one more walk-around. He had a flashlight in one hand and a recently freshened scotch in the other.

Owen was sleeping soundly and didn’t appear to have moved since he’d carried his nephew to bed. As Hood went from room to room, he double-checked to be sure all electronics were unplugged. He ran the beam of his flashlight above crown molding and around windows. The new roof and gutters he and Alex had had put on after last year’s unexpected spring hailstorm had been a good investment. Not even the southeast corner of the third-floor sitting room ceiling leaked. It had been a problem, when the wind blew just right, for as long as he could remember.

Jacob looked out the small window on his way down the back stairs. It gave him a good view of his sister’s studio and the light he’d left burning over the small building's door. It was the one bright spot in the blackness for as far as he could see and indicated Alex’s back-up generator was still functioning. Any of her work that was in the drying furnace was safe from temperature fluctuation. He’d gotten soaked checking the workshop not long after he’d helped Rachel to bed. He’d left the light on to save any further trips out into the storm.

Rachel...his lips turned up at the edges as he thought of her. Was she the reason he was anxious? It wasn’t as if she was in danger, she’d been safe for weeks but... something… just… didn’t… feel… right. He rationalized it, as habit from when she’d been shot and kidnapped but that didn’t help. He was worried and it wasn’t going away until he was sure she was safe. The strange yearnings in his stomach didn’t make sense, but feelings seldom did. It was one of the reasons he preferred logic and reason to emotions. Hood finished his drink in one burning gulp and continued on down the stairs, leaving his empty glass on a kitchen counter as he headed toward the downstairs bedroom.

He stood for a moment with his hand resting on her closed door. It was strange to have it separating them. His fingers twitched with the urge to open it so he could check on her.

Distant thunder rumbled, shaking the windows and it was followed by a low moan that quickly became a panicked scream. “Nooooo! Hood, look out! Run!”

Jacob never gave it a second thought. He pulled the door open and raced into the room.

Rachel was sitting in the middle of her bed. Her left leg curled beneath her and the injured one tangled in the bedding. Her fingers clutched the sheet and dug into the mattress. It wasn’t until he was sitting inches away from her that he realized her eyes were closed.

“Rachel, wake-up,” he rasped, shaking her gently by the shoulders. “You’re having a nightmare. You’re safe, but you need to wake-up.”

“Hood?” his name dropped from her lips as her head came up. She blinked and her eyes filled with confusion. “I couldn’t get to you.” She gripped the front of his undershirt, pulling him closer, trying to explain. “I was too late...too far away. I called and called but you couldn’t hear me.” She shuddered at the memory. “...Then the South Tower fell…and you were trapped,” her voice was harsh, like shards of broken glass.

“Rachel, look at me,” he demanded. “I’m right here and so are you. We’re both safe.”

“You don’t understand,” she whispered and grazed his jaw with the tips of her fingers, trying to convince herself he was really there. “I tried to get to you, but I wasn’t fast enough.”

“I’m fine, both of us are.” He wrapped his arms around her and ran one hand gently up and down her back. “You were having a bad dream.”

“A dream?” her breath hitched and she shook her head to clear it, tying to focus, but fact and fiction wouldn’t separate. “It was real.” Too much of what she’d dreamt was dredged up from old memories and given sound effects by distant thunder as the storm moved over them. She was confused remembering how shock and disbelief had turned to horror on that New York morning, when she and Nicky had stood on the rooftop of their Greenwich Village building and watched as the World Trade Center was reduced to rubble.

“Rachel,” he demanded. “Look me in the eyes and listen to me, not the storm.”

“Hood?” She nodded sounding like she was trying to convince herself of something she didn’t really believe.

“Yeah.” He smiled. “It’s me.”

“You’re safe?” Rachel ran her hands over his shoulders and up his neck needing to feel him warm and real. “I was only dreaming?”

“Yeah, now you’ve got it.”

“I thought...” she shook her head refusing to think about that dark time in her life. Bit by bit she pulled back into herself, carefully closing down into the cool efficient agent she’d become. It was a physical and emotional trick she’d practiced until she could pull it off at a moment’s notice no matter what the situation.

“No, ya don’t.” He kept a light hold on her shoulders refusing to let her disappear behind the pretense of Agent Young. “Stay with me. You stay right here with me.”

“I am. I’m here, Jak-Hood. Sorry for...ah...disturbing you.” She looked away, unable to meet his eyes. “Please,” she whispered. She could see he was dressed for bed. She must have woken him. “Let me go. You shouldn’t see me like this.” She knew that no matter how well versed she was at controlling her facade, she couldn’t sustain it, not here, not now, with this man when she needed it most.

“Why not?” He ran his hand along her damp cheek and into her hair.

“It’s unprofessional.” She put cool detachment into her words but it was hard when she knew she was only three weeks out from almost dying and that due to her physical injury, her career path consisted of a huge question mark.

“What are you talking about?”

“You need to trust me again to keep you safe. That’s never going to happen if you keep seeing me fall apart?” She shrugged and tried to smile, but it fell sadly short of her usual saucy grin. “It’s best if you go back to your room.”

“Stop it!” His words shook. “Stop it. I trust you and always have. What’s happening right now has nothing to do with your job.”

“But...”

“No, don’t argue.” He looked down at her determined to win this battle. “You’re not on duty. You’re someone recovering from being shot and almost bleeding to death. Feel free to fall apart anytime you need to.”

“I can’t. I have to be the strong one. It’s who I am.” At least this was familiar territory, Rachel thought. She was being the practical one while he was talking theory.

“It’s only part of who you are.” He spoke gently.

“No, no it isn’t,” she refused to accept that she’d changed that much. “It can’t be. That’s unacceptable.”

“Hush, you’re allowed to have moments when you’re confused and unsure. You’re even allowed to be afraid.” He tipped her chin upward and leaned closer.

“No…” her denial come out breathy instead of firm as she’d meant. “Fear is weakness.” Rachel knew she was quoting her father and resented that emotional triggers she believed she’d disarmed years ago, still had the power to hurt her.

“That’s crap and you know it. Fear like pain is a warning sign and nothing more. You need to deal with their causes and do so in an intelligent way. If you keep everything bottled up inside, you’ll break when you finally let it out.” This was a subject Jacob Hood was eminently qualified to talk about. He’d spent most of the day Saturday with a psychiatrist chopping through his emotional walls. He still couldn’t put a name to everything he’d found on the other side, the feelings were too unfamiliar but he knew for sure that the woman sitting inches away was important to him in ways he had never imagined.

“You don’t understand...” She had a hazy dream of a hospital bed, terrible pain and Jacob holding her as she cried. Had it really happened? Had he already seen her shattered and falling to pieces?

“Come here so I can hold you,” his lips moved against her ear and he wrapped his arms around her stiff body.

“I can’t,” Rachel denied one more time, before all the fight went out of her. She gave up and slumped against him. Her head resting on his shoulder with her face buried against his neck, telling herself that it was all right, just this once.

“Hold on and don’t let go.” Hood instructed as he shifted until they were lying down. He was on his back with her body sprawled haphazardly across his. He felt her tense as he pulled the covers over them and heard her gasp when he gently pulled her right leg up and across his abdomen making it easy to massage her injured muscles. “Am I hurting you?” he murmured. His hand stilled but never left her thigh.

“No,” her voice was hoarse and deep, as strange sensations rolled through her belly, making her want to touch him in return. “No...that feels...nice,” she sighed and shyly let her hand drift from his shoulder until it rested on his chest.

“Then relax. You’re safe.”

“Jacob, this isn’t smart.” Her fingers dug into t-shirt material to keep from caressing him.

“Screw smart,” he snapped, holding her tighter, every muscle in his body straining to bring her closer. This was what he needed. She was what he needed. He’d denied and hidden it for so long that the knowledge caught him by surprise as passion roared to life, making it hard to breathe. He’d always known she was beautiful and over the months he’d come to realize that he found her desirable, but this was so far above all that, it shook him to the core.

“Jake,” Rachel whispered. God she wanted him but even as the thought made her moan she fought it. What was she doing? She wasn’t his dead wife and never could be. “Stop…” she choked on the word but had to continue. She’d spent too much of her life playing second best to a boy child who’d died before he was born. She was done doing battle with ghosts. “I can’t be who you want me to be.”

“You’re exactly who I want you to be,” his voice was smoky and smooth and poured over her like warm cognac, making her shiver but she refused to relax against him. That way led to disaster and more pain than Rachel thought she could deal with.

“Jak-Hood?”

“Shhhh it’s all right,” he sighed and ran his hand through her hair until it stopped on her damp cheek. He realized she was in no condition to change the fundamentals of their relationship and wasn’t sure he was ready for it either. Over the last six months he’d noticed that they’d often exchanged heated glances but that didn’t mean he was who she wanted. “I’d never do anything to hurt you but I’m staying here in case you need me.”

“I don’t want to need you or anybody.” Her eyes glistened with tears and she hoped he couldn’t see them in the dark.

“Well, tough, you’re only human and going to have to live with that fact. You think I want to need you and your damn gun when we’re in the field?” One by one Hood forced his muscles to relax. He wanted Rachel Young and cared about her more than he realized was possible but she was still wounded and vulnerable. He wouldn’t push his advantage.

“It’s called a weapon, Hood,” Rachel growled, relieved to be on familiar territory.

“A rose by any other name…” He quoted causing them both to chuckle.

“Exactly how much of that scotch did you have to drink?” She grinned at him warm and beginning to relax for the first time since he arrived hours earlier. “You’re quoting Shakespeare after crawling into my bed...” her words died as she became aware of the hard length of him pressed against her abdomen.

“Actually...it’s my bed.” The world was suddenly very small and only contained the two of them.

“Oh,” she sighed. “I don’t understand…” She should have realized that his clothes hanging in the closet weren’t simply stored there, but were waiting for their owner to return and wear them. It made her wish she’d been a bit nosier and looked beyond the one drawer in the dresser that had been empty for her use. “You shouldn’t have given up your room for me.”

“Why not? You needed a place without stairs for a while and I had one. It’s not like I’m here all the time, even when I am in DC.” He shrugged. It had given him pleasure to picture her sleeping safe in his bed, when he’d been thousands of miles away.

It was a room she’d been comfortable in from the start. She liked the light blue walls that highlighted clean white crown molding. She’d spent hours reading in the large overstuffed rocking chair by the window. One of its well-padded arms had been the perfect resting place for the knee of her injured leg. “I don’t like to put you out.”

“As you can see, you haven’t.” He held her closer and grinned wickedly, wiggling his brows at her, making her giggle.

“Stop that.” She playfully hit his shoulder. “I’m trying to be serious.”

“So am I.” His expression sobered. He could hear his heart pounding in his ears from her nearness. “It’s no big deal really. This was our grandparents’ house. Owen has the bedroom that was mine when we would visit as kids. As an adult, it makes sense for me to be down here. I don’t have to worry about waking Alex on my nocturnal wanderings. She’s a light sleeper unless she’s exhausted from a marathon session with her glass art.” All his life he’d required less sleep than others and he’d learned to make certain concessions, but this room on the main floor of the old house he loved so much wasn’t one of them.

“That’s what tonight is, a nocturnal wandering?” She had to know exactly where on the list of things important to Jacob Hood her name fell.

“Hardly,” he rasped and then caught his breath as he felt her nails raking seductively down his shirt toward the ties of his sleep pants.

“Rachel, no,” he gasped and wrapped his fingers around her wrist before it was too late. He turned onto his side so he was facing her and moved his right leg to pin her left one to the mattress. He needed to feel her pressed intimately against him despite his refusal to take things any further.

“Then why are you here like this?” she cried out in frustration and hurt.

“Because I couldn’t stay away.” His answer tumbled out in true, honest, Jacob form.

“You’re not making any sense.” Desire gnawed at her. All she wanted to do was melt against him, skin to skin, to feel surrounded by him as he pressed her to the mattress and moved deep within her. He had the fire and passion she needed to burn away her sorrow and pain.

“Rachel, we have too much history and this had been building for too long to be a one night thing.” He cupped her cheek and pressed his forehead against hers. “Chemistry has a way of fogging the clearest mind and confusing the issues. Once before I erred by mistaking a friendship with benefits for something much deeper than it was. The results were...difficult. I’m never going to do it again.”

“Yeah...I know what you mean,” she laughed bitterly, wondering who the woman had been in his life. Hours earlier he’d insisted that Anna Yang was simply a casual friend but Rachel couldn’t help wondering if there wasn’t more to it than that. “I’ve been there and done that, too. I know the issues that kind of relationship creates. It doesn’t take long for the benefits to become more of a problem than they’re worth. By that time there isn’t much left of the friendship.” She’d made a pass at Hood and he’d rejected her in the kindest possible way, but it was still a rejection. She didn’t know whether to be heartbroken or relieved.

“Are you talking about Mr. Shoes?” Hood guessed as he remembered Rachel answering her door wearing only a man’s partially buttoned shirt at 7 am on a Sunday morning.

“Who?”

“The guy who was with you that time I interrupted your free weekend. I’d read a news article about a boy who’d been miraculously cured of cancer. Mr. Shoes was the guy in your shower. Was he a...ah… your friend with ah...benefits?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?” She tried to pull out of his arms, but he wasn’t letting her go.

“You left him too casually for him to have meant anything to you, but you trusted him enough to leave while he was still in your apartment.” Jacob rolled onto his back, pulling her along with him until her right leg was resting across his middle again.

“Good detective work Dr. Hood.” She smirked.

“Thank you, Agent Young.” He kept one hand planted firmly on her back and the other on her shoulder. If he didn’t, he was sure he would end up cupping her bottom and pressing her tightly against him. “I don’t like him,” he growled.

“Who?”

“Mr. Shoes,” he spat the words out in disgust and mentally tossed that guy into a pile with any of the other DC Suit types who had drifted fleetingly through her life.

“You don’t know him.” She tried to reason with him.

“He was in your bed...”

“So are you...and all the word games in the world won’t change that.” She nodded for emphasis. “This is Alex’s house and she gave me this room to use while I’m here. That makes it---”

“….he--was--in--you,” Jacob ground out refusing to listen to her rant any longer. Something low and almost violent shivered along his nerve endings making him pull her tighter against him.

“You sound almost jealous,” she accused.

“I am!” The word exploded into the room hitting them both hard in the heart.

Rachel felt as if someone has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. “But you said no. You turned me down when I…” Her hand began to sneak carefully down the front of his shirt, again, only to be caught tightly in his grasp.

“Do you think that was easy, that any of this is easy?” He glared. It took all his strength not to slip his hands beneath her sleep clothes and explore her soft skin and hidden places.

“Jake…” her breath caught in her throat as she felt him move against her.

“Damn it, Rachel, shut up,” he groaned and buried his nose into her hair. The scent of almonds washed over him as he fought for restraint. It took time but his heart rate returned to normal and he finally let his muscles relax, confident that his mind was back in control.

“I’m sorry,” Jacob muttered and brushed his lips against her forehead. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. I want...” Suddenly he realized he didn’t know exactly what he wanted. He was a scientist who prided himself on logic, always having a plan, a way to move confidently from point A to point B. Here he was in one of the most important situations of his life and he had no idea where it was leading.

“I don’t understand. You’re the one who said screw smart...we could just...” She tried to pull her hand free to touch him everywhere. Her needs drowned out the small voice inside of her whispering that she wasn’t being fair to him. He’d lost his wife and was still dealing with his grief. “It wouldn’t have to mean anything,” she rationalized.

“You’re wrong. It would mean something and the way things are now, I don’t think it would be good...at least not after the next few hours. They would be very very good,” he assured her huskily and gently caressed her brow into her hairline. “But that’s the problem, Rachel. It’s why, as much as I desire you...” He shrugged and shook his head. “Not now, not like this when you’re still injured and unsure of what or why you’re doing things. And I’m not much better off.” He wished he could see clearer; know what to do to make her feel better. He wasn’t a man who was good at expressing his feelings and was sure there was something missing that he should say, but couldn’t figure out what it was.

“That’s just crazy…”

He could feel her breath on his face. “In my opinion, you’ve spent too much time with men who are only after one thing.”

“No, I...I’ve chosen men who don’t complicate my life,” she defended and tried to ignore the dull ache that appeared wherever his body met hers. It made her want things he wasn’t willing to give her even if it was only for one night.

“You mean men who are undemanding and boring. Rachel, you don’t seem to me to be the kind of woman who would find that enjoyable.” He challenged.

“Pa-lease, don’t give me that.” How dare he question her taste in men when she spent all her time keeping his ass out of the line of fire? “As if I need anymore complications, since you came into my life.”

“Exactly,” he grinned and strummed his fingers slowly across her lips. One thing was certain, he wanted to make her life as complicated as he could. It was the whys and wherefores of the outcome that he couldn’t see clearly.

“Jacob, you can’t mean...” she whispered. Her eyes met his inches away. Common sense vanished as they’d brushed very near a line that once crossed, there would be no returning. A simple romp in bed to relieve tension would be hard enough to overcome, but it appeared that he wanted far more from her than that.

“I don’t know what I mean, except that I want to give us a chance to find out.” He watched her expression change as his words sunk in. “I do know that you are important to me in ways I’ve yet to discover. I need...we need the time to find the answers. We both deserve that.”

“This is too confusing.” Her eyes fluttered closed and she rested against him, sure she would wake in the morning to find this had all been a strange dream, though there was no denying the reality of the deep desire she felt for him.

“I know.” It was why he’d pulled back. He had the advantage of a very rough day spent letting Anna Yang take a jackhammer to the walls he’d carefully constructed around his psyche. It had made him face a number of painful truths, but he didn’t have all the answers yet. That would take time and hours and hours spent with Rachel Young the woman, not the agent.

“I know it’s a lot to ask, but will you...ah...ah...stay with me until I fall asleep? I’m not trying to be a tease or make you change your mind...I ah... like listening to you breathe.” It was hard for her to admit that she wanted him on anything but a physical level.

“I was planning to stay all night.” He frowned in the dark and again silently cursed the shadowy man or men from her past who had been so careless with her feelings. He couldn’t imagine anyone being lucky enough to fall asleep beside her and then being foolish enough to leave her to wake alone.

“Wait, what about Owen? Alex would have a fit if she knew you were in here, even innocently, especially if there was any chance her son might find out.”

“Alex would be thrilled if she knew I was in here but then she knows her son sleeps like the dead and she thinks you’re good for me,” he chuckled softly at her shocked expression.

“You two have been talking about me?”

“No, you needn’t worry, she’s kept your confidences,” he was disgruntled that he hadn’t been able to use his sister as a source to find out more about Rachel. All Alex had been willing to tell him was how the injured agent was doing physically.

“Oh, all right then.” Rachel shifted until she was more comfortable. She wasn’t used to sleeping with a man. Sex was one thing, but spending the night wasn’t something she usually allowed. The few times it had happened, she’d been careful to stay on her side of the bed.

Hood reached across her and picked up her cell from the nightstand to check it. “Your alarm will go off before it’s time to get Owen up for school. My nephew is not a morning person. Mind over mattress is always a battle for him and anyone who is trying to get him out of bed, no matter what time it is.” He carefully placed the phone on the small table behind him, so it wouldn’t wake her when it went off.

“This is nice,” she whispered as she shifted against him trying to find a place to rest her leg so that her thigh or abdomen wasn’t pressing against his obvious erection. “I’m just not sure it’s such a good idea.”

“It’s not, if you keep moving around like that,” he groaned and gritted his teeth until she finally settled down.

“Sorry...I…” She couldn’t say it, she couldn’t tell him how strange this all was. He made her feel completely safe just by being him. A man had never been willing to simply hold her, no strings attached...or was it that she’d never bothered to ask?

“Now close your eyes and go to sleep. I’m right here.” His fingers dug carefully into her thigh while his other hand moved gently through her hair.

“Jake,” she muttered letting relaxation flow over her at his touch. She didn’t know where this was leading or even if it was wise to follow. She’d let the morning take care of those questions and the many more they were sure to create. For the moment she felt warm, safe and cared for. Feelings that were too precious to throw away just because it may be the smart, or the professional thing to do.

Jacob lay in the dark room and listened to Rachel’s breathing even out and felt her body grow lax in his arms as the storm blew itself out to sea. When he was sure she was asleep, he gently kissed her brow and whispered her name.

Occasionally, during the night, her sleep would grow restless and she would moan or cry out. Hood discovered that simply talking to her and holding her a bit closer was all the reassurance she needed to keep her nightmares from returning.
.......................................................

He woke to a gray dawn and a ringing cell phone on his nightstand. Without checking to see who was calling, he simply answered it, more interested in not waking the woman sleeping in his arms than anything else.

TBC

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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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