Title: "Absolution" 1/2
Fandom: Julie Garwood/Heartbreaker
Rating/Classification: AC, language, slash, het, Noah/Tom, Noah/OFC, sexual situations, language, humor.
Disclaimer: Nope...I don't own these characters, but I still maintain Julie made them gay!
Summary: A loose sequel to "Mortal Sin" (http://ats.malisita.com/heartbreaker.html), this takes place after the novels "Heartbreaker" and "Mercy". Noah Clayborne lost love once...can he get it right this time or will history repeat itself? While it helps to have read the books, since these are secondary characters, the story can probably stand alone.
Dedication: To Lex, of course, for helping me keep the Noah/Tom flame alive.
Two years. He hadn't set foot in Holy Oaks in two long years. "You don't have to come," Nick had said on the phone, haltingly. "We'd understand."
He'd crumpled the christening announcement in one fist and said, "Fuck that. You know I'll be there. I wouldn't miss this for the world."
It wasn't every day that one of your best friends asked you to be the godfather of their firstborn child. No matter what memories Holy Oaks held, there was a little girl named Noelle Buchanan that needed him and he wasn't going to let her down.
So, he prepared. He asked Mei to go with him and she was pleased and all too happy to do it. Taking her home to meet the "family", as it were. He knew it meant they'd be one step shy of the altar...and that was fine. That was the choice he'd made, wasn't it? When he'd left? To move on.
*"Come with me."*
*"You know I can't. Stay a little longer."*
*"You know I can't. Not like this...pretending we're 'just friends'."*
*"Then I guess this is good-bye, Noah."*
A month recuperating from his gunshot wound. A glorious six months of coming back after cases, of fighting and fucking and comfortable days spent watching football on the couch... and an abrupt, fiery, crash-and-burn ending.
Neither one of them had wanted to budge, to leave their lives for each other. And now he had Mei Siu, gorgeous and funny and totally accepting of his work and his foul mouth. He was a lucky bastard, really, because she *got* him. She loved him. And she was perfect. Petite and Eastern-beautiful, like a doll, but with a sense of humor that belonged to a radio shock jock.
He'd left her with Laurant, talking about art. The two women had hit it off instantly, over something about brushes and traditional Chinese fan painting, and were practically shooing him out the door of the shop five minutes after their arrival.
And that gave him time. Time to go to Assumption Abbey. The place where it had all began. The place where it had ended.
The chapel was empty save for one person. The resident abbot, fiddling with the Communion chalice. His shoulders were linebacker wide beneath the black cassock, his hair still brown, only just beginning to gray, and riotously curly. If he turned, Noah knew that there would still be that tiny dimple in his right cheek and the splattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose. And there would be nothing but regret in his eyes.
Tommy Madden was still maddening. Would always be.
"Hello, Priest," he said, softly, voice betraying his presence since he knew his footsteps would not. "I've come for absolution."
The chalice fell to the floor with a discordant clang and the broad shoulders slumped. The man he loved...the only man he'd ever loved... faced him with the tired acceptance of somebody who'd known...expected... one last heartbreak. "Hello, Noah." Tommy smiled, tremulously. "Where's your fiancee?"
He swallowed hard, kept one foot in front of the other...wondered how the weight of the gun in his shoulder holster could be nothing compared to the weight that had dropped from his chest to the pit of his stomach. "Do you really think...? Do you really think I'd be that much of an asshole?" he demanded, thickly. "I left her with Laurant and the baby...up at the soda shop."
Tommy nodded, sharply, as if he'd already guessed. No doubt, Nick had told him. *"Uh...I hope you don't mind...but Noah'll be bringing Mei... you know.... the woman he met in Hong Kong..."*.
"Does she know...about us...?" he wondered, leaning down to scoop up the fallen chalice and place it back on the altar.
"Oh...so I'm not just an asshole...I'm a stupid asshole?" He couldn't help a bitter grin...and even as he offered it, he knew he was taking in every new line on Priest's face, cataloging every gray hair, and wondering if somewhere beneath the skin, the cancer was back. Of course, Laurant would've mentioned it if it were...but still...that fear would always be there. "Do you think I would start a serious relationship with a woman and not tell her I was fucking a guy for six months? How goddamned callous and irresponsible do you think I am?"
Tommy winced. No swearing in the House of God. Or maybe he winced for other reasons. For memory. For truth.
"Of course she knows," he continued, waving his hand. "She knows everything about me, about everyone I've been with. She knows it was the past and a mistake and that I'm committed to her."
Tom sounded more like the Father than an ex-lover as he asked, insightfully, "Is it? Are you...?"
The cross up behind them was gleaming. The half-naked man pinned to it practically shining like a beacon. That...that was who *Tom* had committed himself to. "Do I have a choice?"
Before he could get an answer for that simple question, the door to the chapel burst open and Nick's voice filled the tense space between them. "Hey, you two! What are you doing here? You're supposed to be spoiling my daughter rotten!"
Forced cheerfulness. Perfect timing.
Now Tommy wouldn't have to admit that he still loved him. That he'd never stopped.
Noelle had her mother's big, green, eyes and her father's jaw. He hoped she grew into it, the poor, beautiful tyke. Like any woman in a ten mile radius, she'd fallen in love with him instantly...and he couldn't...wouldn't...admit just how good the tiny little girl felt in his arms. All soft and powder-scented, and waving her fists.
He and Mei could have this. One of their own. Two. Three. Four. As many Clayborne babies as they wanted if they both left the Feds and took jobs in the private sector. The fairy tale.
The problem was, he'd never believed in fairy tales.
Give him a puzzle to solve. A shoot-out. A fishing competition with Big Daddy in Bowen. Hot, sweaty, no-strings, sex, on the living room floor... although not with Big Daddy, of course. Those were his strengths. And Tommy. Tommy had been his strength once. And his weakness.
If Mei had noticed anything "off" in his circle of friends, she hadn't made it obvious. They'd all met up at the store...which was not just a soda fountain but also Laurant's gallery...and she'd been charmed by Tom's politeness and flirted outrageously with Nick. Which was fine since he'd been doing the exact same with Laurant. They'd been joined by Christopher and Michelle and dinner at the Buchanan house had been boisterous, filled with football talk and risque stories. The women were off sitting on the porch and drinking tea and letting the guys handle the dishes.
He'd gotten baby duty and he did not mind one bit.
His little namesake was perspective. Was reality.
FBI agents did not have Big Gay Love Affairs. That was what he'd told Pete after...after. He'd been hauled in to "talk" and, really, there wasn't a whole lot that could embarrass Noah, but talking to Morganstern about "what happened in Holy Oaks"...? Yeah, that had done it.
*"This isn't the military, Noah. I'm not going to toss you out. You're one of my best. You can talk to me about this."*
*"I don't wanna talk about it."*
He didn't want to talk about how the most notorious playboy in the Bureau had managed to get his heart stomped on by a Catholic priest, of all people. He didn't want to talk about waking up one morning to the sight of Tommy putting on his collar with shaking hands and drawling, "Little late to choose God over me, isn't it?" It hadn't been too late. Not that day.
So, he asked for time off. He helped Theo out with a few cases. Did a lot of fishing and bartending at the Swan, giving John Paul as much shit as possible. And then he'd gone to Asia. He'd gotten mixed up in some international espionage with the Agency and met Mei in the process. The rest was...it was history. Ancient history.
Theo and Mike were arriving in the morning. The christening would take place at the Abbey on Sunday. Mei had to be back at work at Langley on Monday. So, he just had to survive two days. He'd survived two years... he could do two days, couldn't he?
"You two make a beautiful picture."
The doorway of the nursery was filled with him before Noah could tell him to go away. And, suddenly, the exotic jungle scenes that Noelle's mommy had painted on the walls were coming alive. Choking him with vines and wanting Tommy.
"What do you want?" he asked, quietly, evenly, as he set the baby down, gently, in her bassinet, pulling the soft blanket up to her chin.
"Nick and Christopher are talking about the benefits of marriage. I thought I would check up on you."
"You want my thoughts on the benefits of marriage?" He moved to leave the suddenly cramped room, trying as hard as he could to not brush against the other man...*the* man. "Ask me in six months when Mei and I are hitched."
Hand on his shoulder. Stalling him. And that voice...that choked up voice asking the question he had no right...absolutely no fucking right...to ask. "Do you love her?"
He wrapped his fingers around Tom's, squeezing hard as he moved the hand out of his way. "Do you love God?"
Tommy slowly backed away to let him pass. "You know the answer to that," he whispered, bleakly.
He laughed, softly. "Then you know mine, too."
If their shoulders rubbed, if their hands stayed linked a little too long, if it took just a minute more to leave the darkened hallway than it should have, it was totally unintentional.
That was what he told himself when he spooned against Mei's back in the darkness of the guest bedroom later that night. That was what he told himself when he kissed the back of her slender neck and tasted Tom's cologne.
They had a fairly active, healthy, sex life. They did it often, in places as mundane as beds and as strange as jungle floors in the middle of being chased by North Korean soldiers. Mei was enthusiastic, open to experimentation, and as flexible as a teenage gymnast. She really was his perfect partner in a lot of ways. Waking up with a hard-on had never been so easily a problem solved.
Until he woke up in a strange bed and found her sitting, cross-legged, at the foot of it, wearing one of his t-shirts. She looked serious and beautiful and vaguely like a statue of Kwan Yin. And ready for battle.
"We need to talk," she said, her lightly-accented English crisp and business-like. The four most dangerous words in a relationship. And they were spoken.
He groaned, sitting up slowly and wincing at the sunlight streaming in the windows. "About what, Baby?"
She tilted her head, almond-shaped eyes missing nothing. "You know what, Noah. About Tom Madden."
"Oh. That. Him." He managed a sheepish grin, scratching absently at his chest. "Right."
"I asked Laurant about you two last night. She told me everything." There was no condemnation in her tone. Just...something strange. Wonder? "You made it sound like...like you were fooling around, Noah. Like you had a mid-life gay crisis after a really tense situation with Stark and the shooting." She shook her head. "But it wasn't, was it? It was more than that. For both of you. Why did you tell me that you cared about him so deeply?"
He pushed the sheets aside, standing up and reaching for his boxers. "It's over, Mei. I...I didn't think it was relevant. We got the blood tests... everything was okay...I figured that was it," he said, yanking the offending curtains closed so he could adjust to the morning.
"Not relevant? This isn't about blood tests or me caring that we've *both* had male lovers before we got together, Noah. He hurt you." Mei scrambled from the bed...and he felt her arms slide around his waist...her lips brushing the center of his back...just about as high as she could reach. "How am I supposed to look at him knowing that he broke your heart?"
He shuddered, clutching a fistful of the drapes. "All that matters is that you put it back together."
She traced circles, letters, on his skin with her fingertips. "That'd be nice thing to say...except we both know it's not true. You're still in pieces. And those pieces don't belong to me."
"I wanted them to." He turned, slowly, and lifted her up onto his feet for extra inches, tilting her face up for a real kiss. Soft, and regretful and tasting of her minty toothpaste. "I really wanted them to, Mei. You do believe that, don't you?"
She kissed him back, fiercely, before slipping back to the ground and nodding. "I'm here because I do love you, Noah Clayborne...and I want to fight for you...but you just have to decide if you want to fight for *him*."
He smiled grimly. "How do you fight the Lord?"
Her expression was priceless. Not judgmental, nor defeated, as she realized he was, without really saying it, choosing Tom over her. Simply evil. And genius. "You fight dirty."
He wondered how he'd gone from sleeping with her to having a fag hag, best gal pal in a span of fourteen hours. But he wasn't about to look a gift Mei in the mouth. He just hoped she found a nice guy with no issues and no ex-boyfriends after this whole thing was over and done with.
She began that Saturday morning more armed and dangerous than Nick with his Sig Sauer, instructing him to wear his tightest jeans and t-shirt while she, herself, wore something that could barely be construed as a sundress. A bikini with a butt flap, maybe. Nick was heading to the airport to collect his brother and the Mrs. Dr. Renard-Buchanan. Laurant had opted to stay home with the baby and get some painting done.
"Perfect time," Mei said, sliding her arm through his, "for us to go down to the Abbey."
"And do what?" he wondered, trying not to stare at her choice assets hanging out for God and country to admire. "Fuck in the confessional while Tommy listens?"
"Oooh...hadn't thought of that." She laughed, delighted...probably just as turned on by the idea as he was. "But no. I thought we'd ask the good Father Madden if he'd officiate at our wedding."
He wearily dragged his hand through his hair. "But we're not getting married."
"Right." She humored him. And he got the sense that she might've been humoring him since they met in Hong Kong. "But nobody knows that except you and me. As far as everyone else knows...I'm oblivious to your Big Gay Passion."
"It's NOT 'Big Gay Passion.'" He felt his face go red as he checked the neighborhood for eavesdroppers and opened the door of Nick's Porsche for her.
"If I hadn't called you on it this morning, I probably would've walked in on you at some point tonight, making out with him in Nick's broom closet. And I would've had to dump something on your head and make a scene while you both were all torn and angst-ridden. Face it, Noah. It's Big Gay Passion. Get over it."
"Are you over it?" he wondered, belting himself in, starting the engine... eyes lingering on her almost-completely bare thigh against the leather interior.
He wanted Tommy. He did. He always had. With every fiber of his being. But Mei...Mei was something all right. He would've married her. And been deliriously happy.
Tommy, as maddening and fuckable as he was, did not look like a geisha.
Her deceptively serene face didn't shift, didn't reveal anything. Only her voice. Low and soft and regretful. "I told you, Noah...I love you. But you've been whispering his name in your sleep for months. If you didn't think I'd see this coming...then you've been underestimating me since we met."
He nodded, turning the car towards the Abbey. "Or maybe I've just been too obsessed with someone else. For what it's worth, Mei, I'm sorry."
She reached across the stick shift column, her tiny hand covering his on the wheel. "It's worth a lot. I just hope Father Tom appreciates this."
They drove the rest of the way in relative silence...which was only a few minutes, especially in Nick's fancy little sports car. The entirely of Holy Oaks couldn't have spanned more than five miles.
Noah's palms were sweaty. He flashed back to yesterday...to his bitter appeal for absolution...and he knew that was the last thing he wanted from Tommy. He wanted promises. He wanted forever. He wanted it all. Most of all, he wanted Tom to leave the priesthood.
That hadn't been acceptable two years ago.
It had to be acceptable now. It had to be.
When Mei climbed out of the Porsche, he got a flash of her thong under the fluid silk of her dress...and he nearly stumbled. Was she fighting dirty to help with Tommy...or fighting dirty to keep him? He wasn't exactly sure. Either way, swallowing his tongue wasn't going to help anything.
They linked hands as they strolled up the path to Assumption Abbey, to the rectory, because he knew that Tommy would probably still be in civilian mode at this time of day. Again, he was startled by just how tiny Mei was... what a contrast to an Irish-Catholic former football player. Slender and small and golden. Perhaps it had been exactly her differences from Tom that had made her so appealing?
At night, when she was splayed across him, he barely felt her weight... just the tight heat. It was nothing like Tommy...smothering him and knocking him over and breaking various pieces of furniture.
Yeah, it was nothing like Tommy. He and Mei had never fought. Never disagreed. And he hadn't nearly died in her arms.
Passion. He needed passion.
He needed Tom.
He was pretty fucking certain he'd die too young, too fast, without him. Then again, he was pretty fucking certain he'd die anyway.
"I was raised Catholic, you see," Mei had lied, prettily, and he'd known,
yes, that it was a lie because he'd met her mother in Hong Kong...as Buddhist a woman as there ever was.
She'd been charming and genuine and completely convincing as she told Tom their fake wedding date and asked if he, the man who had saved her Noah's life, could be the one to unite them in marriage.
He had to hand it to her. She was good. No wonder Interpol had her on
After forcing Tom to stammer an unfailingly polite, "Of course, I would
love to officiate," she had wandered off, murmuring something about wanting
to see the rest of the newly restored Abbey.
"She's an amazing woman," he said now, still in that "for company" voice.
"More amazing than you know," he agreed, quietly, leaning back on the
couch. It had been re-upholstered since he'd gone...and he wondered if that had erased the memories of everything they'd done on it. Probably not. "She left Hong Kong for me. Her whole life. She started over. She's sacrificed so much because she loves me..."
"She's not like me, you mean?" Tom was many things...slow on the uptake wasn't one of them.
He had to fight to remain as detached and cool as possible. "I'm nobody's dirty little secret, Priest," he reminded. "You can blame the first time
on me... I take responsibility for it...but every time after? You weren't exactly the little lost virgin. You can't give me six months of what we had and then suddenly wake up one morning feeling like a sinner."
Tommy turned from the bookcase where he had been pretending to stare at the spine of a King James Bible. And Noah had to give him points for the answering chill. "How do you know I didn't feel like a sinner every morning?"
So, this was how it felt to be sacked at the 10 yard line. He rose from
the couch, all pretenses and plans pushed to the wayside, shaking his head. "I know...I know because the only thing I remembered after taking a bullet...the only thing...was the sound of your voice. You. Telling me to hang on. Telling me you needed me." He closed the distance between them... at least the physical distance...and was almost viciously glad to see the telling red stain of memory flushing upwards from the pristine white collar. "What we had was good, Tom. Fantastic. Hot. Until you had a sudden attack of conscience."
"'What we had'?" Tom's fingers looped into his belt, tugging him closer. "What exactly was it that we had?" he demanded. "You flirting with every woman in a ten mile radius? You running off to parts unknown every few days, sleeping around? Do you remember Mary Ann? I'm not the only one who wouldn't sacrifice, Noah."
It wasn't a football metaphor. He'd been wrong. This was one-on-one. He hooked his hand around Tommy's neck, holding his face still, staring into
those eyes...those eyes that were so like Laurant's but a hundred times more dangerous. "This was never about me fucking Mary Ann. I wouldn't look at another person as long as I lived if you left the priesthood," he pointed out, softly. "And that's what scared you, didn't it? You'd have to give up walking around in the light of God's love and go to Hell with all the other fags, wouldn't you?"
He groaned, leaning in so their foreheads touched, and he inhaled the familiar scent of generic, strong, soap. "Damn it, Tommy...least in Hell, you wouldn't be alone," he whispered before he kissed him.
Whiskey. Tom always tasted faintly of whiskey...and today it was more
overt than faint... and Noah had to wonder if Priest had taken to drinking since his arrival in Holy Oaks. That didn't matter, though, as long as they had this...hands diving beneath the cassock, stubble grazing his jaw, the bookcase shuddering as their combined weight slammed against it.
Two years . Two years away from this was far too long.
"God doesn't need you like I do," he gasped against his throat. "Don't you
And it was exactly the wrong question to ask, exactly the wrong time to ask it. As quickly as the kiss had begun, as sudden and heady as the taste of
victory had been, it was over... and Tommy was pulling back, whisker-burned
cheeks pink as he struggled for breath. When he finally spoke, it was after three long strides across the room and his voice was even, without even the tiniest hint of emotion. "I think what you *need* is to find your fiancee and head back to town."
It was on the tip of his tongue to admit everything. To say, "She dumped me because I have Big Gay Passion" and throw himself at Tom again, force him to stay in his arms. But something stopped him. Something made his fists clench against his thighs as he turned and walked out of the room
without saying another word.
On the drive back to Nick's place, as Mei fiddled with the radio and made
purposely idle conversation about monks and scrolls, he would thank that
something. That inherent Clayborne sense of self-preservation.
"You're an idiot."
Tom had been called many things in his lifetime, but never an "idiot" and
not by his baby sister...who was really not a baby any longer since she had a baby of her own. He turned from the doorway of the confessional to see her standing in the aisle, hands on her hips, looking, for all the world, like she was about to *scold* him.
And he knew exactly why. "Noah," he said, sighing with resignation.
Laurant's voice bristled with that pretentious hint of France she got when she was annoyed. "Okay...you're not as *big* an idiot as I thought, but
you're still an idiot." She stalked up the aisle, slapping the edges of the pews along the way, until she was poised in front of him and poking him in the chest. "WHAT are you doing, Tommy?"
"Getting ready to hear confession," he said, automatically, which simply
elicited a firmer poke. One that made him wince and rub the wounded spot.
She responded with a flurry of rude comments insulting their mutual
parentage and quite possibly comparing his head to cabbage before switching
into English and sliding her hands into her pockets. "Isn't two years long enough?" she asked, more gently, now that fury was out of the way.
He sighed, swallowing hard as his hand clenched around the edge of the
booth. "I made a life long commitment to the Church. Two years is a drop in the bucket," he reminded.
She stamped her foot. "He LOVES you."
"You don't know that."
"A blind man could see it! He loves you. You love him. Why can't you be
"He's engaged to be married."
"And you're bound to God...yes, we know. We all know." Laurant growled ...a habit she'd surely picked up from her husband. "He was good enough to save...to fall for...to be with for *six* months. Why isn't he good enough to make a 'life long commitment' to?"
"Have you ever thought that maybe *I'm* the one who wasn't good enough?" he countered, softly, slumping against the confessional, staring at the holes in his faded sneakers. "I've always known what I wanted, Laurant. Where I belonged. In the Church, ministering, helping people. It's not a
complicated life." He dragged his hands through his hair, pretending he
didn't feel them shaking. "I've had my faith tested a thousand times. Every dose of chemo...when Stark came after you...but my faith has always won."
Laurant stilled his fingers, wrapping her own around them and bringing them to rest between them. "So, what changed?"
"Noah is unpredictable...he's passionate...he's beautiful. Everything about him is exciting and dangerous all the time. Even when he's at rest,
he's vibrating with energy, always moving." He swallowed hard, remembering how it had felt to be trapped against the bookcase, to be kissing Noah again after so long...feeling that incendiary burn that took over everything. "If I left the priesthood...do you really think he wouldn't get bored with me in a year? What the Hell do I have to offer him?"
She cocked her head, staring at him for a long moment. Too insightful. And slowly released his hands. "So...you're saying you don't have faith in yourself or in love?" She sighed, full of frustration. "I stand corrected. You're a *bigger* idiot than I thought."
With that momentous declaration, she spun and left the chapel.
And he couldn't help but wonder if she was right.
"You're brooding," Nick said, coming up behind him on the porch.
"Am not," he said, automatically, "I'm watching Mei get the presents from the rental car. She has a great ass."
Nick scoffed. "She doesn't *have* an ass. But, Man, she does have surprisingly great tits," he allowed, in a slightly glazed way. "Are you sure they're real?"
It was one of those shallow comments that a married man could only say around his dirty old friends. Noah considered himself lucky. He leaned on
the whitewashed porch railing. "Not fake," he assured, absently, noting that Mei was taking her sweet time getting Noelle's christening present from the truck. "And I'm not brooding. I don't 'brood.' Only romance novel heroes with hounds and capes 'brood.'"
Nick guffawed, dropping on to the porch swing and setting it to rocking. "Been reading a lot of romances lately, huh?"
"Fuck you." He hopped up onto the edge of the railing, drumming his feet
against the pickets. "Just get it over with."
His friend shot him a look that was all blue-eyed and innocent. "Get what over with?" he asked, delicately, in a tone that he must've learned from
He rolled his eyes, knowing now that Mei was probably going to take a
lengthy nap in the back seat. He picked a guy over her and her revenge was
letting him get lectured by Nick 'The Benefits of Marriage Are Tattooed On
My Ass' Buchanan. "You're out here to have a 'talk' with me about Priest. So have it. Come on," he sighed.
Nick crossed his arms over his chest, swinging back and forth at a nice
leisurely pace. "You're an idiot," he announced, emphatically.
"I'm an idiot? Why am I an idiot?" he demanded. "Tommy's the one who
won't leave the priesthood. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have gone to Hong Kong and met Mei."
"If it wasn't for him...you wouldn't be alive," the other man pointed out,
abruptly stopping his grandmother act and skidding the swing to a halt with his feet. "Have you ever told him you loved him?" he wondered.
"Tom *knows* how much--" he began, but was cut off by a sharp wave of Nick's hand.
"You've never said it," Nick interrupted. "You've never said 'I love
you.' People *like* hearing that, you know. It's reassuring to know you've got more than a mutual sex thing." And he shuddered, rubbing at his eyes. "Not that I want to *picture* my two best friends having a 'mutual sex thing'."
"We're not girls, you know," he muttered, irritably, so he wouldn't have to
admit Nick was right. "Just because we're gay...doesn't mean we need to talk about our 'feelings' and wear pink and listen to Barbra Streisand."
"Not because you're gay or bi or whatever...but because you *love him*,
Moron. Streisand is optional. The words aren't."
Damn it. When he was right, he really was right. Not that he was going to let him *know* that. Noah pretended to wipe a tear from his eye as he sniffled. "Are we done now, Dr. Phil?"
Nick nodded, shoulders slumping. No doubt he was weary from doling out all his sage advice. "We're done," he assured.
"Good." He hopped off the railing, rolling the kinks out of his neck as he
groaned. "Now, let's grab Theo and get shitfaced."
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