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Challenges 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges 3
An overview of Enobaria's life from winning her Games (and, I presume, being still brainwashed to be Capitol-loyal) and that moment at the Victors' Vote when she says, "Give 'em a taste of their own medicine." for Tom

---
I put on the rebel uniform without much interest.

I don't know why they care; it's obviously not anyone's position as a rebel that's of interest to our new "interim" president. But they've got Annie Cresta -- Odair -- in a uniform, too, and she says I probably saw more actual military-style action than she did, despite not officially being a combatant. Surviving the battles on the streets of the Capitol wasn't exactly making use of my skills at hosting tea parties.

It was Annie who found me after the war, actually.

I'd been underground since the night my brother died, the night the rebels pulled Annie, Johanna, and the Mellark kid out of prison. My minders told me oh-so-very-gently -- don't annoy the woman who bites people's throats out, remember -- that the rebels had shot Janus when they came to take the protected visitors captive. Such a hero he'd died, defending them from the terrible fate of being reunited with their loved ones (their tolerated ones, in Johanna's case), out of prison.

I don't think they knew how much Janus had managed to convey to me over the weeks I'd been out of the arena. We only talked out loud about how well the three of them were settling in, and how glad we were that I was safe in the Capitol, and hadn't been kidnapped by Abernathy and Latier, like the Everdeen girl, or dead in the arena, like Brutus.

If they saw his hands moving, they most likely assumed it was just those lively District Two folk, talking with their hands like they always did. Sometimes, I've seen Capitol people trying to mimic our gestures, flinging their hands around wildly and making exaggerated faces. Of course, they have no idea what the gestures or expressions mean. They just think it's "passion" or "local color."

Janus and I, on the other hand, knew what meant, "I'm lying" (or in our case, "I'm talking exactly backward") or "pain" or "danger." It's not a precise sign language, so he couldn't tell me anything specific, but I understood enough to know that he was coldly furious, that he was disgusted with his colleagues among the Peacekeepers -- PKs, or "Peeks" as we usually called them when we were little -- even that he thought any wrong move on my part would end me up there as well.

If Janus was shot, it wasn't by the rebels, and he sure as hell wasn't bravely trying to prevent them from rescuing tortured victors. And I had no doubt that it would take Snow less than a day to decide that I would do better in maximum security after all. Or that he should just kill me and be done with it, maybe claiming that I was also heroically trying to save Johanna Mason from the awful fate of being rescued.

So, I made all the right noises before I went to bed. Survive, I told myself. Just keep surviving and worry about the rest later. I waited for my new "companion" -- the series of Capitol born Peeks who'd guarded me since they fished me out of the arena -- to arrive and relieve the one who'd told me. Many of them thought they were my friends. I heard the one finishing her shift mutter something like, "Poor thing," and the new one, more logically, said, "What does she believe?" But the first one assured him that I was as docile as a drugged sloth, so when she left, he wasn't particularly on his guard.

He barely looked up when I went across the living room, feigning sleepiness, to get a glass of water in the kitchen. I stood and drank it slowly, too, and I rattled a few things in the dishwasher when I put the glass in, which covered the sound of drawing the carving knife from the basket.

His hand only made it halfway to the communicator on his belt before I buried the knife in his neck. He died with a look of dazed surprise on his face.

I'm not sure why. They trained me for murder, and it's not like they actually trusted me.

I wanted to leave right away. The apartment was undoubtedly bugged, and unlike my arena kills, the Capitol was unlikely to treat this one as a triumph on my scorecard.

But I didn't leave.

I don't remember everything, but I do remember kicking him, and slapping him, and, of all things, calling him names, like he could hear.

Finally, I woke up to what I was doing and realized I was standing over him, and I'd knocked him all askew and made the knife tear further. I had one more wild thought -- Bite him so no one doubts who it was -- but then I get myself under control. I'm tired of being the biting girl. I saw Finnick's broadcast earlier. Like he had Capitol troubles. He just had people who had a taste for pretty boys. My company was sought after by sick pervos who wanted the girl who had bitten another human being to death. One man wanted me to drink his blood from a bite to the neck, because he was obsessed with idiotic stories. A woman wanted me to suckle blood from her breasts. Others just wanted simply to be beaten or cut or…

I shudder. I've gathered that there are people who want to do those things, but I'm not one of them, and I doubt someone who wanted to would have been to their taste anyway. Those folks always stopped at some invisible line. My exciting new friends wanted the thrill of being under the power of a real murderer.

So let Finnick complain about a few gropey old people. A billion tiny violins for him.

But one way or another, I was done being the biting girl. Janus was the last power Snow had over me; that was why he'd been stationed here. Our parents are highly skilled military technicians, and they know their way around Strategic Command in Two. With rebels practically camping in the square, they wouldn't be considered disposable.

I grabbed a bag and stuffed it with as many valuables as I could get my hands on in a few minutes, then I slipped out into the night. There were a million places to fence the goods. I'd never had to do it myself, but one of my "friends" did plenty of business in stolen goods, and I'd "forced" him to tell me about it as the object of one of his nasty games. Once you have cash money in the Capitol, safety can be bought, if you stay under the radar.

Unfortunately, there was no way to get passage out of the Capitol. Even the ones willing to sell it were unable. Vehicles had been commandeered, borders had been shut. So I took cover in a boat house on the lake shore, and I paid local kids to bring me food and news.

It was one of them who told me about the fall of Strategic Command.

Up until that point, I'd been surviving pretty well. I wasn't thinking about my brother (or so I told myself). I wasn't weepy, nor had I gone on a murder spree after killing my guard.

But when the boy I'd paid brought up news of the collapse of the mountain, of the battle in the square ("They shot the Mockingjay! And Lyme!"), I saw my parents' faces in my mind, the faces of the two people I'd thought so utterly safe that I hadn't given them a second thought. But it hadn't been the Capitol who'd killed them. I lost Janus to the Capitol, but Mom and Dad fell to the rebellion.

I remember feeling like I was shoved, physically, back into the shadows, back through time. I was in Victors' Village, in our combat ring, showing girls how to throw someone bigger than they were, as Brutus charged at me bullishly. I was on my Victory Tour, taken up to a room in the District Two Justice Building, while Snow, over a telephone, told me to look out into the square, where my baby brother was cheerfully dancing with one of my preps. Then a man came in and handed me a shiny, skimpy costume.

I was younger then, in the arena, sure I would die. Unarmed and overpowered. I struck with the only weapon I had left. When I was training in Victors' Village -- they called it "visiting" and the training was just a little game that we played for hours every day -- we'd talked about whether or not it was a feasible choice. I discovered that it didn't matter. I wanted to live and there was only one way left. I bit.

And then I was younger still, in a pretty red dress, twirling before my first dance. My mother braided ribbons into my hair, and my father joked that he'd steal a shotgun from work and wait up on the porch to make sure that my date brought me home safe. Janus laughed and said it was my date's parents who'd have to watch out. I don't remember my date's name because then I was a child with my brother, hiking in the mountains around the abandoned train depot.

We always ended up here. It was a pirate ship. An enemy fort. A dragon's cave. A dark castle. It was a million things that needed to be stormed and conquered, and my brother and I would stand across the ravine from each other, speaking without words, waving our hands to signal our strategies, just like he waved them to tell me the truth about what was happening in the victors' prison and…

The child who brought me the news reached out and touched me tentatively and I screamed at him to leave. I sank into the darkness after that for some unknowable amount of time. It wasn't dark to me. It was light, and Janus and I rescued princes and wizards and skinny stray dogs. The reaping was years away, and maybe would never come.

I don't know how long it was. Someone brought me water. I found the bowl when I came back to myself. I didn't see any signs of food, and I was famished. My remaining money was long gone. I blinked into the sunlight and came outside.

The Capitol was in chaos, and no one seemed to care where I was. The rebels had a village entrenched by the tracks. I thought about going to them, to see if they could get me out, but I didn't have the energy.

Instead, I turned to scavenging. I was good at it. It was an arena skill. Drop any trained tribute into an unknown area, and we'll find a way to get along, if we're uninjured and in our right minds. I've never understood the districts who don't bother to train kids at this. I learned it even before I started visiting at the Village. Survive, survive, survive. Janus and I never packed food when we went on our adventures. Why would we? The forest was full of food. We sometimes played at being Robin Hood, and actually foraged extra to leave for poor people in town. We never showed ourselves. That would have been against the rules.

I hope they knew how to take care of themselves without us. Once I was reaped, there was no opportunity to do that again.

The city was more of a challenge, since most food was actually owned by people, but even in the midst of a war, the Capitol was wasteful. They took their ability to waste things as a point of pride. I took it as a great convenience. I frequented alleys behind restaurants and bars, and ate perfectly good food -- delicious food -- that had been partially discarded because the portions were so large. There was more canned food and preserved meat than they'd usually have, but it tasted fine. I got stronger.

I watched Finnick Odair get married when the rebels hijacked the air to show it, and I felt glad for him. I noticed that they didn't show Peeta Mellark, and wondered if he'd died. They did show Abernathy and Everdeen and Mason and Latier. I wanted to be there, too, even though they'd all loathed me, and it was pretty mutual. It just seemed, for a scant moment, like the only place on earth where I might come close to belonging.

Useless wishing.

The rebels pushed a few blocks further in, and displaced people started to fill up the empty spaces. There were tent cities in the Capitol proper now, where the poor trash who'd made their homes around the railroad tracks tried to scrounge out a place. They weren't good at it.

I don't know when I decided to start stealing for them, too. I just realized that I had an armful of stolen goods one day, and I left them beside a sleeping man. I thought about Janus, and about playing Robin Hood when were kids. I sat down with my head in my hands, but didn't cry for him. Crying was done.

I didn't fight in any of the battles, not for any side. They'd both killed my people. I didn't fight at all until I had to, in that final push, in the confusing mess as the refugees flooded the streets and the rebels and Peeks blasted blindly at each other. I'd found a squat not far from City Center, and I defended it as violently as I had to. When the world exploded and the ground shook, I got shattered glass all over me. I had to crawl across corpses to get out and figure out what had happened.

When Caesar Flickerman was shot on live television the next day, I lost any illusion I might have had about it being an improvement for me. I was a Capitol pet. A "Career," as the outer districts called us. I'd be as dead as Caesar if I showed my face.

So I holed up again, this time deep down in the basement of the Runway, the fashion stage where all of the Capitol designers had walked their wares every season. It was undamaged, but utterly deserted once the rebel looting stopped.

That was where Annie found me.

I heard her come in and hid. She was thin and pale, and looked like half a person without Finnick beside her. I don't think I ever saw her outside the arena without him at her side. I didn't know what she wanted until she called, "Enobaria? Eno, it's me, Annie Odair."

I stayed in the shadows. "How did you know I was here?"

"Finnick told me you used to sneak food to people in the Capitol."

"I did not!"

"He said you did. He said he saw you at it. And I asked some of the refugees. They said someone had been leaving them food. A little girl said she'd seen someone go off this way. I took a guess, with this place being empty…"

I came out. "Why were you looking?"

"There aren't enough of us left to fight. Come on. Katniss made Coin promise not to hurt any of the victors. Just come back with me."

And so I went. And they stuck me in a rebel uniform, though I couldn't care less about it. And now, someone orders me into a side room. I go. Annie's already there. So is Jo Mason, and Beetee Latier, and Haymitch Abernathy. It takes me a minute to recognize the burned, half-dead looking boy as the pretty young Peeta Mellark.

Victors, I realize. Probably all of us that are left, once Katniss Everdeen floats in, holding a cup with a white rose in it. She's apparently completely cracked up since I last saw her.

I barely register the conversation. Johanna isn't thrilled to see me, I gather. The woman who comes in, the new president who grinned ghoulishly over Caesar's execution, explains that I'm apparently covered by Katniss's deal, though she's probably the only one who thinks Katniss might have meant to include me in it. I evaluate her while she speaks. I've seen her type. Her type has had their perverse, sadistic little hands all over me.

Survive.

When she asks what we think of her plan, I tell her what she obviously wants to hear. It seems more likely to end with me alive, and it's not like I care one way or the other anyway.



Finnick and a dog for vesta_aurelia

---
Tonio Callahan lives in the last hut before the fence.

"Hut" is really too fine a name for it. It's a tarpaper shack that blows over with every hurricane, and most halfway serious rain storms. Tonio himself isn't in much better shape. He isn't an old man. He and Dad played together as boys. But he looks older than Dad did… by a long shot.

Everyone in Four ages a little bit early. Time spent out in the sun means thick, leathery skin early on, with brown spots and burns as often as not, especially among the redheads like Daddy and Tonio. But while Dad always found a little money to guard his skin from the sun (that's how Dad always used to put it: he "found" money, but I always knew it meant sneaking out of the district for the really good shellfish up River Bay), Tonio has never bothered. At forty-three, he looks like a withered old man. There are still traces of red in his hair, but they're just faded threads in the bleached white strands. I wonder if I will look like this when I'm old.

He looks up at me blearily. "Finnick? What the hell are you doing up this way? Don't you belong up in your fine house?"

I frown. "I'm not welcome here now that Dad's gone?"

He brushes this off and leads me into the house, clearing junk from his chairs as he goes and indicating that I should sit down on the old broken plaid sofa. The shack smells of dog, and I think that's what I really came for. I like Old Tonio all right, but his dog, Raspberry, was my best friend when both of us were little. Three years ago, she had puppies, and we adopted a little one that Dad, as a joke, named Sharkbait. Sharky was supposed to be mine, but he always loved Dad better.

And he was always on Dad's boat.

Including on the day it blew up.

"I'm damned sorry about your dad," Tonio says, pouring water for me into a tin cup. "Damned sorry. And I don't believe for a minute what they said about your mother. Carolyn's a good woman, and she loved Doolin. I have no doubt of it, and there's no reason she'd kill him, as he'd give her anything she asked for, even if he had to build a space raft and go to the moon to fetch it."

"I know," I say. "But thanks anyway -- I'm glad other people know. Mags knows."

"There's no one in District Four that doesn't know."

"It was a jury from Four that convicted her."

Tonio doesn't say anything to this. Even the jury probably knew. But there are more than a few people in District Four who hated my parents, and hated me. Dad stole their business, they thought, always having more and better shellfish and finfish to sell. Well, let's see now if any of them have the gumption to slip the minefield and go up River Bay for the good stuff. More likely, they'll just get poorer, as Dad's not there to buy their bait-fish.

"Have you seen her? She's just up at the District prison, isn't she?"

I nod. It was the best I could do for her. They threatened to send her to the Capitol, but I promised that I'd be good at the Games if they'd just leave her in the District, where I could visit her. "I can go in once month," I say. "They won't let me see her more than that."

"So, what brings you over here, boy?"

I sigh. "Well, I wondered… that big house, it's empty and… I wondered if Raspberry had an puppies. I want a dog."

"Oh." He looks around awkwardly. "Well, Razzie hasn't been puppy-having age for a few years, Finnick. She's getting on, for a dog. Still healthy and happy, mind, but her last litter was the one she…" He realizes. "Oh, damn. That damned puppy was on Doolin's boat."

I nod.

Tonio casts around awkwardly for a minute, then says, "Truth is, I kept one of Razzie's girl puppies. Maybe one of these days, she'll meet a special someone. But I… well, I think she's pretty settled here. She and Razzie still get along fine, and this is her home."

"Okay. I get it. I wasn't going to take one of your dogs, Tonio. But if there's ever another puppy -- I'd like to know." I start to leave.

Tonio grabs my arm. "Look, I… I mean to do a bit of clam-digging this afternoon."

"You need help?"

"No, but I thought maybe my dogs could use some company while I'm out. You think you could stay over while I'm out?" He opens the back door and whistles, and there's a riot of sound as two dogs come bounding in. Razzie spots me and leaps up onto the sofa beside me, licking my face like she just saw me ten minutes ago, instead of the year and a half it's been since I was down here last. "Looks like Razzie'd like it, anyway." He give a sharp whistle and the other dog rises up and tackles him. She's smaller than Razzie and has big brown spots, and shorter hair, but her face is the same. "This one's Glamorpuss. Glam, this is Finnick. He's an even bigger show-off than you are."

I smile. "Thanks, Tonio."

He ducks out. He might even get his clam bucket; I don't know.

I get down on the floor, and Razzie jumps after me. She's favoring a leg, and I guess maybe she is getting on, but she's excited to see me, wagging her tail wildly and making a high, half-yelp sound. I toss her an old sock ball.

Glamorpuss comes over and leans down, her rump in the air, tail wagging like she's trying to get a generator going.

"Oh, you're like your momma," I say. "You have to have things tossed at you!" I take off one of my fine leather sandals and throw it. I can afford another pair, and I never got hurt walking barefoot for thirteen years.

Glamorpuss runs after the sandal gleefully, and I toss the other one to Razzie, who follows it enthusiastically and comes back with it dangling from her mouth.

We play this game inside for a little while, then I grab the sandals (now very well chewed) and go out back with them, to the muddy little area Tonio's got fenced off for them. They have a little box to go into if it's raining. Dad helped build the fence, and it's got pieces of one of his old rafts in it. I see pictures he whittled into the bark, and initials.

Then Glamorpuss tackles me and there's no time to look at the fence, or do anything other than entertain the dogs. I jump with them, and splash in a mud puddle with them. I don't remember the last time I actually just got muddy. I think what my stylist would say and laugh out loud.

I throw some muddy water in Razzie's direction, and she shakes it off, soaking me in a rain of brown mire. Glamorpuss knocks me over when I try to get up, and that just makes me laugh harder.

The game turns into chasing and tackling. I let them catch me. They're totally tame, and their idea of an attack seems to be licking my face until I can't breathe, and my head is full of the weird, meaty smell of their breath on my nose. We wrestle in the mud, and I toss them sticks, and they bark and jump and tackle me again and again. I look over the fence once and I see a girl with long brown hair. I wave to her and she waves back in a bemused way. I don't know her, and I don't think she recognizes me under the layers of mud that are now covering up my Capitol clothes. And my face. And my hair. She laughs.

I do a handstand.

Razzie runs at me and knocks me down.

The mud splashes out in all directions, and the dogs leap from side to side. The girl laughs and leaves, a boy's arm across her shoulders. It's okay.

After a while, I'm tired, and go sit on the edge of the platform where their shelter box is. They come and sit beside me, and then the three of us, piled on top of each other, fall into a muddy, smelly sleep.

I dream pleasantly, about running along the beach with Razzie, about my parents on the boat, about Dad and Sharkbait at the prow, the wind ruffling their hair back. Dad grins at me and tells me that my dog is being a pain. Shark nudges him playfully, as if to say, Yeah, right, it's me that’s the problem child around here. Mom hugs me and tells me that I don't need to worry about the reaping, because the older kids always volunteer.

And they do. I get called, but a big boy from the docks volunteers, and I cheer him on. He gets the big house. He's not pretty, so no one bothers him. He's happy, and he gets along great with Mags and the others. I stay in our beat-up little house on the hill (still finer than most, but next to Victors' Village, where I do still go to play on Mags's beach), it looks like Tonio's shack. Shark and I race each other down to the water, and Razzie and Glamorpuss tackle us into a heap and then it's raining, and I can hear it on the roof, and it doesn't matter, because I'm safe inside, with my dog curled up beside me.

By the time I wake up, it's dusk. Razzie has gotten up, and I can see her outside, taking care of her business. It is raining, and at some point, Tonio got home, but instead of waking me up, he just lifted up my legs so I was totally inside the doghouse, and put ratty old blanket over me. It's warm enough out that I don't really need it, but it's okay. It's good to know that he saw me here, and didn't make me go inside.

I scratch and pet the dogs for a few more minutes, but the time is fading, I know. I go out into the rain, letting some of the mud wash off me. I don't go inside and mess up Tonio's things, but I do go up to his window and knock on it. He's washing up our tin cups, and he smiles at me. I point toward Victors' Village, and he nods.

I head on home, following the path of the beach. The Peacekeeper at the gate tries to stop me, but I push the last of the mud off of my face, and he recognizes me.

I go into my empty house, strip off the muddy clothes, and wrap up in a towel.

It's probably just as well that there were no puppies. I don't want to know how Snow would decide to kill them.

But it was good, for a little while, to just be Finnick again.

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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 15th, 2016 09:31 am (UTC) (Link)
With the kind of loss Eno went through (those snippets of her and Janus while they were young and idealistic twisted the knife) you can't blame her for being maddened into apathy and self-preservation. Though there's still a good bit of depth there considering her attempts at charity; not to mention that it's actually Annie who reached out to her (on a related note, I hope there will be Peeta/Eno interactions in the TNP appendix).

I do have to say that the D2 practice of handtalking is an interesting headcanon. What influenced your decision for that?

After Eno's story, Finnick's was a welcome respite. It was wonderful seeing him get to be the kid that he was, as well as showing that uncanny ability for dogs to banish poisonous thoughts at least for a while.
In the end, these two drabbles were a good contrast: Eno mourning the loss of her innocence, while Finnick gets to temporarily regain his.

--FFR
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 21st, 2016 07:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been working on a Peeta-Eno scene.

D2 handtalking? It's a little Italian. Nowhere near as Italian as D12 is Appalachian, but a little bit. And the handtalking would be useful in a loud stone quarry, so it would likely persevere.

I definitely wanted the dog to mean something to Finnick other than just a random thought he and Annie had. The idea of the dog being a connection to his pre-Games self came slowly. It was originally a pre-Games piece, but the theme wasn't coalescing.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 21st, 2016 09:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, that inspiration makes sense; including the way outsiders would stereotype the culture. I was first thinking you might have developed it from military hand signals, but D2's miner background seems to precede its warrior one.

Can't lie though, when Finnick was musing about what happened to Sharkbait, I thought it was going to be another depressing story. Glad to be proven wrong.
Oh yeah, and glad to see an early Annie (Finnick doing a handstand and getting knocked down was adorable).
redrikki From: redrikki Date: March 15th, 2016 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another good pair of stories. Poor Enobaria, poor Finnick.

I noticed one error though: if we're uninjured an in our right minds.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 21st, 2016 07:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops! I'll grab that.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: March 15th, 2016 08:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love them both, especially the Enobaria one. And while I never thought of how her "services" would be required before, it makes a lot of sense that she'd end up getting paid to go out with Capitol vampire fetishists. And yes, from her perspective, Finnick got a comparatively sweet deal. (I always wished Collins had done more with the Careers; I know I've said it before, but I really appreciate how you flesh them out. In-universe, the Careers seem to be like canon Slytherins; they're bad because They Just Are. I like how you show them as being complicated inside just like everyone else).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 21st, 2016 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I didn't get the inherently bad vibe from them in canon, just the inherently dangerous in the arena because they'd absorbed a bad philosophy. Of course, that's also what I got of the Slytherins.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 15th, 2016 08:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

And now for something completely different

The Enobaria drabble was completely different than what I'd thought you'd write. I liked it, though.

I really liked the Finnick-and-dog drabble.

--Tom
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 15th, 2016 10:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: And now for something completely different

To clarify, I figured that Eno's point of view would be something like—

"In the Career districts, we know which side our bread is buttered on. So even when we're prostituted (like I was), we don't make waves. So when Katniss Everdeen blew up the arena and I was hauled in for questioning, I figured I'd be in prison for fifteen minutes MAXIMUM. Instead, for a while it looked like I'd die of old age in that prison. (Except NOBODY dies of old age in a Capitol prison, if you get my drift.) Anyway, when the gray-haired lady told us to vote for putting Capitol kids into the Games, everybody was probably expecting me to vote to protect those precious little darlings. Bleep that noise. You should have seen the look of shock on Mason's face when I voted _for_ Capitol Games. And Abernathy's—the drunk almost fell out of his chair."

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 21st, 2016 07:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: And now for something completely different

I considered it, but it wouldn't maintain itself for me for the length of a ficlet, so I wanted to go in a different direction.
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: March 15th, 2016 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thank you for the Finnick story!

It was lovely to see Finnick in his dream-life, where it all worked out for him and he was happy....
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 21st, 2016 07:35 am (UTC) (Link)
It would have been nice if he could have lived to have a taste of that.
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