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Those Left Behind [Closed]

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
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Posts
241
#1
((12 Firstfall, 9:35; Evening in the Grey Warden compound; Niamh ))

Cauthrien re-read the letter again, leaning back in her chair with a sigh.

Damn it.

She had hoped that Velanna would remain … if not with Nathaniel, then with the Wardens. Instead, she had done neither, returning to her life of isolation. Unable to care for others … or afraid to? There had been hints of vulnerability, loneliness, kept closely guarded, but her hostility to shemlen society had always been stronger, and Cauthrien could not honestly say that she was surprised at Nathaniel’s letter.

She would not be hunted down; it would be useless - and quit possibly suicidal - to seek to keep a mage of such power against her will. But neither would she be protected should she draw the attention of the templars again. She had already shown herself willing to use her magic recklessly when she was piqued, and Nathaniel had already killed to defend her. It would not be done again … unless Nathaniel decided to do it.

Damn it.

She could advise him, and he might even take her advice, but faced with a split-second decision, he would act as he chose, as he had before. She would not waste time worrying over what might or might not happen in the future, however. She had concerns of the present; Niamh would need to be told that her mentor had left.

Leaving the letter on her desk, Cauthrien left her office and ascended the stairs to Niamh’s quarters. The younger woman was mending well from the injury the darkspawn had dealt her, and Siali’s arrival had buoyed her spirits. Hopefully the combination would be sufficient to cushion what the Warden-Constable suspected would be a difficult blow.

Lifting a hand, she rapped lightly on the door.
 

Niamh

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34
#2
Niamh could not have been more comfortable if she tried. Well, maybe if there was a way to remove the taint from her blood but other than that she was as content as she'd ever been. Siali's return had been the breath of air needed to kick her recovery into true focus. It was easier to push yourself when you really knew what you were fighting for. Niamh still believed in abstract goodness and service but more than anything, she was ready to fight for her lover. And she was ready to show that affection and drive in a wonderful variety of gestures, poses, and extra-curricular exertions.

They had just finished one such indulgence, laying in bed comfortably and holding close to each other. Pads was flopped lazily at their feet, contented as he'd ever been. Perhaps he understood that this could well be the start of a kind of family or perhaps he simply could feel the affection in the air, but he seemed happy too. Niamh shifted, drawing closer to Siali under the covers of her bed and simply enjoying the warmth of another person. These moments would always be punctuated by dark excursions and battles, which made them all the more important to enjoy. They lay for some time until a knock came at the door. Niamh lifted her head frowning a bit before holding up a hand to her lover to indicate that she would get it.

Sliding out of the bed, she rummaged through her clothes for a loose pair of trousers and a shirt. The shirt was far too large, possibly one of Anders', but she slipped it on and sauntered towards the door, opening it slowly and only allowing a small crack. Her stance immediately changed once she realized it was Cauthrien before her.

"Ser!" She stood at attention, although she did not open the door in full. "Um... what ken I do for ye?" At this point, Pads had managed to scramble off the bed and over to the door, scratching at the Warden-Constable's boots. "I ain't... we were..." She nodded back towards the direction of the bed, although she hid Siali from view. "I were in the middle 'o summat, y'know?"
 

Siali Arnith

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Grey Warden
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45
#3
Siali was comfortable. That didn’t happen often. Lying in her own bed when she was awake left her antsy and there was usually something that bothered her throughout the day – the taint in her blood, the memories of fights, the current things she had to fight, armour chafing, dealing with people who still didn’t afford her any sort of respect for being a Warden just because she was an elf. That and the persistent hunger.

But right now she was content to stay right where she was, buried down under the sheets, wrapped around Niamh, her skin still cooling. She nuzzled Niamh’s nose with her own, not thinking about anything much except that she could have stayed there for a considerable length of time before she felt the need to move again. She did punctuate the silences with the occasional lazy kiss, however, her fingertips brushing gently over Niamh’s back.

She was leaning forward to take one of these now when there was a knock at the door. Siali blinked stupidly, remembering there was a world outside the room, and she started to try and pull herself together as Niamh indicated she would get it.

She did watch Niamh as she got dressed, though. She enjoyed just watching her lover, even in something as mundane as pulling on trews. Niamh was extremely graceful.

It occurred to Siali a bit belatedly that she should probably have thought about putting on some clothes as well just as Niamh opened the door.

“Ser! Um…what ken I do for ye?” Almost certainly Cauthrien. “I ain’t…we were…” Niamh shifted slightly in the doorway, probably to try and block Cauthrien’s view. “I were in the middle ‘o summat, y’know?”

Siali stood up, taking the sheet with her as a wrap. She could see her tunic on the floor but not where her own breeches had ended up. Bugger. She made sure the sheet was secure and then headed for the doorway, trying to play it as though this was a normal situation. She wasn’t just going to pretend she wasn’t there, it might be important. “Is there something the matter?”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
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Posts
241
#4
There was a delay before Niamh opened the door, hair tousled and clothes obviously donned in haste.

"Ser!" The elf straightened hastily, keeping the door half open. "Um... what ken I do for ye?" The mabari puppy that Nathaniel had gifted her for Satinalia half-fell off the bed and loped over to snuffle and paw at Cauthrien’s boots, undoubtedly smelling horse shit from the stables. "I ain't... we were..." she stammered, looking back to the direction of the bed just as Siali strode into view wrapped in a bedsheet. "I were in the middle 'o summat, y'know?"

“I know, and I’m sorry.” She wasn’t going to scold either of them for enjoying themselves off duty. She’d need to chat with Siali later about not letting her affections influence her behavior on duty, but that was merely a formality. “I needed to have a word with you.”

“Is there something the matter?” Siali came to the door as unselfconsciously as if she were wearing full armor. The trailing edge of the linen drew the pup’s attention from her boots, and he grabbed the sheet, tugging and shaking his head while tiny growls thrummed in his throat.

“No darkspawn,” Cauthrien assured them, not bothering to try to hide her amusement at the dog’s antics. Between her lover and her pet, Niamh would have a good buffer against the news that she bore. “Can I come in for a bit? You can stay,” she added to Siali.
 

Niamh

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#5
Niamh was mortified. Of the many knocks that might have arrived at her door, she had not expected Cauthrien. Her admiration for the Warden-Constable made even the slightest expression of impropriety feel like a huge insult to the woman, and yet here she was in bed with the newly promoted Lieutenant. Who also happened to stroll up while swaddled in bedsheets instead of clothes.

“Is there something the matter?” Siali was suddenly next to her, Pads flopping besides to tug at her sheets. Niamh's eyes went wide, and her face equally red. Hurriedly, she attempts to shoo her pup away from her lover lest he somehow pull her modesty protecting sheets away from her entirely. Yet, if Cauthrien seemed to care about the situation, she did not show it.

“No darkspawn,” she told them quickly. At least that eased Niamh's worry somewhat. “Can I come in for a bit? You can stay." That last part was to Siali.

Niamh nodded opening the door and beckoning her commander inside. Pads seemed to change his mind about the sheets and gave a lolling plop against one of Cauthrien's boots before following the woman around curiously. Niamh moved to the side, standing at as much of attention as her exhausted (but quite satiated) self could muster.

"Iff'n it ain't darkspawn, then what's brought ya?" The question had an implicit "now, of all times" at the end of it. "Were someone hurt?"
 

Siali Arnith

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45
#6
Cauthrien gave no sign of disapproval as Siali popped up behind Niamh’s shoulder, her state of undress making it very clear what they’d been up to. The sheet did a good job of hiding everything but Pads decided it was an invitation to play and started tugging at the edge of it. “Pads. Come on.” Siali clamped her arm around the sheet and used her free hand to try and pull the fabric away from the dog. Niamh, far more red-faced, also attempted to move Pads on, and eventually he responded to his mistress and sat, panting happily. Siali was not typically a dog person but Pads was especially appealing, and so he got nothing more than an eye-roll from her as she refocused on the Warden-Constable.

This was probably going to be urgent.

“No darkspawn. Can I come in for a bit? You can stay.”

Siali nodded. If there was bad news coming, no chance was she going to leave her lover to receive it alone. She shuffled back, her free arm now loosely wrapped around Niamh’s waist. The other woman was standing to attention, sort of, but Siali decided that was probably moot for her given how she was currently dressed.

“Iff’n it ain’t darkspawn, then what’s brought ya?” Despite the situation and the definite sense of foreboding Siali was getting, she couldn’t help but smile a little at the terse edge to Niamh’s words. They probably would have been in bed quite a fair while longer without the interruption. “Were someone hurt?”

That wiped the smile from Siali’s face. She stayed where she was and hoped that even if the news was bad, it wasn’t too bad. Although her general experience of life had informed her there was little point in hoping for such things. The Maker seemed to like dropping a weight on people just as they were digging themselves out of trouble.
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
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241
#7
Niamh was clearly chagrined at being caught by her commanding officer with her lover … who also happened to be another officer. In another life, such fraternization would have been cause for a reprimand, but the Grey Wardens were not simply soldiers who could come and go, seek companionship or love wherever they pleased. The secrets that they carried set them forever apart, and while some might be able to find lovers who could accept such secrets being kept from them, the record to date had not been encouraging.

Caught up in a war that would not end in their lifetimes, they needed something to fight for, some respite from the burdens of the secrets that they kept and the horrors that they witnessed. If they found that with each other, she was not going to deny them that, so long as the lines between duty and pleasure remained distinct. Her choice with Nathaniel had been for her alone; she was what she was, and she would not force her own standards on the others. No reason for them all to go through life alone just because she couldn’t unlearn her habits.

“Iff’n it ain’t darkspawn, then what’s brought ya?” Niamh asked after she and Siali had convinced the pup that the corner of the sheet was not an invitation to tug-of-war. Siali slipped an arm around her lover’s waist, looking as contented as Cauthrien had ever seen her, and the Warden-Constable felt a wistful twinge, remembering those early, tentative moments with Nate, when it had actually seemed possible -

“Were someone hurt?”

The question sharpened Siali’s expression and reminded Cauthrien that she didn’t have time to be maudlin over things that couldn’t be changed. Nathaniel was with Fergus, which was for the best. She could not have accepted sharing his affections, and his love for Highever’s Teyrn would have always stood between them. She wouldn’t force him to change, but neither could she force herself to do so.

“Not hurt.” Niamh moved aside to let her enter, and Cauthrien stepped past her, settling into the chair by the desk. The pup - Pads, Niamh had called him - followed, once again fascinated by her boots, and she bent to scratch his head briefly, then straightened.

“I received a letter from the Warden-Commander,” she addressed Niamh. “It seems that Velanna has chosen to leave the Grey Wardens again.” Her gaze shifted briefly to Siali, then back. A Grey Warden deserting would be a concern to the Warden-Lieutenant, but Niamh had lost her asha: her link between the Grey Wardens and her heritage. "I doubt that she will return." Doubted that Nate would allow it after being burned twice, and no matter how useful her magic, Cauthrien was not inclined to entrust one who was so easily moved by turns of mood.
 

Niamh

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34
#8
“Not hurt.” Well, that part was good. Niamh exhaled ever so slightly, having worried that perhaps Mara or another friend had been hurt. Or worse She still bore bad memories of the times that Nathaniel had imparted such bad news. The elf nodded as Cauthrien entered the room and gave Pads a little scratch. Worried that he might pester and scuff her commander's boots too much, Niamh scooped down and picked up up, listening all the while.

“I received a letter from the Warden-Commander,” Cauthrien explained. That the contents of such a letter might affect her was surprising. “It seems that Velanna has chosen to leave the Grey Wardens again.”

Niamh blinked, not quite comprehending at first. Velanna had seemed fine the last time they spoke, going so far as to encourage the younger woman to practice her letters so that they could write one another. Her fellow Dalish Elf had seemed adjusted back to the more sedentary life of being a Grey Warden. And yet, through her shock, Niamh could not begrudge whatever had led to this decision. Every day among the humans was a specific struggle, one that they could never understand. One not even Siali could understand. Niamh understood why her mentor might leave, but that now left her alone among her peers. It hurt.

"Yer sure she ain't just..." Niamh spoke without thought, hopeful creature that she was. Perhaps Velanna had personal business or cause to scout away from the Wardens. If so, Cauthrien did not know nor seem to think it mattered.

"I doubt that she will return."

That comment somehow made it seem final, and Niamh wandered over to her bed to sit on the edge. She idly pet Pads, who seemed to slide into something of a half-sleep in her arms. Good pup. There were many questions to ask but one pressed most of all. It was a dark and awful question, but one that needed to be asked when anyone abandoned their duties. And Niamh was not so foolish as to leave it unsaid.

"Are we goin' after 'er?" To what end and fate, the young elf dare not ask. Her voice was shaky enough as it was. "I ain't keen on it but as you say them words, I'll ride out."
 

Siali Arnith

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Grey Warden
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45
#9
“Not hurt.” But the news wasn’t good either. Siali shifted the blanket so she could hold it with one hand, then slipped her other arm around Niamh’s waist.

“I received a letter from the Warden-Commander. It seems that Velanna has chosen to leave the Grey Wardens again.” Cauthrien flicked her gaze in Siali’s direction just as Siali’s jaw tensed. There was no leaving the Wardens, not really, after the Joining had been done. But Velanna had already done it once and between her wilfulness and the fact that the templars had already shown they didn’t give a crap if a mage was a Warden or not before going after them, this was a problem.

For her, though, it was a logistical one. For Niamh it would strike much closer to home. Cauthrien didn’t coddle her. “I doubt that she will return.”

Niamh slipped away from Siali, and sat on the edge of the bed. Siali couldn’t read her expression, although the trembling in her voice when she did speak said it all. “Are we goin’ after ‘er? I ain’t keen on it but as you say them words, I’ll ride out.”

Siali was only Warden-Lieutenant by a matter of days and she was still learning in the intricacies of her new position. Besides, the Denerim compound was largely Cauthrien’s jurisdiction, so she didn’t want to step on her toes, but she had a nasty feeling she knew what the answer might be. The Fereldan Wardens had grown in number considerably since the end of the Blight, but they still didn’t even number thirty yet. There simply wasn’t enough of them to send a few spares chasing over the horizon in search of somebody who absolutely would not want to be taken in, and might go to extreme lengths to maintain her freedom.

She sat by Niamh on the bed, hand upturned in case her lover wanted to take it, and looked up at Cauthrien. “Did the letter mention the circumstances under which she left?” If something had happened within the Wardens to provoke her, it could cause problems further on.
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
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Canon Character
Grey Warden
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Posts
241
#10
Cauthrien could see the bewilderment on Niamh's face at the news. "Yer sure she ain't just..." the elf began and trailed off, her eyes pleading for a scrap of hope that Cauthrien had to deny her. It was doubtful that Velanna would return of her own volition, and Cauthrien would speak strongly against accepting her if she did. She had deserted twice now; accepting her again would set an even poorer precedent than taking her back the first time had (and that had been a poor precedent, indeed, in the Warden-Constable’s opinion).

Hurt settled into Niamh’s features, and she stepped away from Siali’s comforting embrace, moving to sit on her bed, wrapping her arms around her mabari. "Are we goin' after 'er?” she blurted after a moment, dread etching her expression and trembling in her voice as she added. "I ain't keen on it but as you say them words, I'll ride out."

“We are not,” Cauthrien told her firmly. “I do not believe that she will reveal Warden secrets, and she will not return willingly.” She hadn’t come willingly before, and Cauthrien figured that it would take more than an arrow in the ass to subdue her this time. “I will not put lives at risk just to make a point.” Velanna might not kill to keep her freedom … but Cauthrien would not bet lives upon it, or require Niamh to hunt down another Dalish. “If you see her, let her go her way.” If the elf were to seek out anyone, it would be Niamh, but Cauthrien did not think she would.

Siali moved to sit beside her lover, offering her hand without pressing, green eyes looking to Cauthrien. “Did the letter mention the circumstances under which she left?”

“No.” Nate’s letter had been succinct, devoid of any details, and the possibility of a lovers’ quarrel crossed into the territory of gossip that Cauthrien would not venture into. “She was captured before.” That much was common knowledge in Denerim as well as within the Wardens, thanks to Nathaniel’s spectacularly un-subtle tactics. “I am honestly surprised that she stayed as long as she did.” Much less agreed to share the bed of the man who had shot her in the ass and tied her to said bed.

She regarded Niamh sympathetically. “She cared about you,” she told the elf. “But she joined the Wardens for her own ends: to try to save her sister. When that failed, she had little tying her to the order.” Shortsightedness on Aedan’s part, perhaps, but recruiting such a powerful mage would have been a temptation, particularly with the darkspawn resurgence. “I hope she finds some kind of peace.”
 

Niamh

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#11
Niamh sat on her bed in disbelief. Perhaps she might have been prepared for this very thing, but she was ever the optimist. Velanna had returned—or more accurately been dragged back—and she was embracing the life of a Grey Warden again. What else could it be if she was getting close with the commander again, as well as taking a certain red haired elf under her wing? A few moments of thought might have led Niamh to think otherwise but she had been content to connect with another Dalish woman after so much time away from her clan. And now she was alone.

So she posed the question: were the Wardens going to chase after her? If it had been anyone else, if it had been herself or Mara, the answer would undoubtedly be yes. Would they have to hunt her down and do... whatever it was that happened to deserters?

“We are not.” Cauthrien's answer came firm. Niamh could not tell if her commander was upset or not. “I do not believe that she will reveal Warden secrets, and she will not return willingly. I will not put lives at risk just to make a point. If you see her, let her go her way.”

It prompted Niamh to voice her thought. "Iff'n I were runnin' off, ye'd be on yer horse right now.."

“Did the letter mention the circumstances under which she left?” Siali say down beside her, asking the question but also taking her hand. Niamh stroked her lover's hand in return. Niamh didn't really listen to Cauthrien's answer. She didn't need to. Velanna wouldn't have given the slightest hint of where she was going or explanation. Not if any shemlen were bound to find it. Wherever she went, it would be far as far from humans as it was her duty.

“She cared about you,” Cauthrien said. It brought Niamh back to reality. "But she joined the Wardens for her own ends: to try to save her sister. When that failed, she had little tying her to the order.” Even if it was true, it didn't make sense to the younger elf. What was the purpose of their talks and lessons? It seemed a cruel decision for a teacher to leave their student. “I hope she finds some kind of peace.”

Niamh was not convinced. "If she cared she would'uh stayed," she countered. The hurt was plain in her voice. "Folks always comin' and goin'. Runnin' and dyin'. It's a right load of shite, and a damned stupid thing t'do. We've a duty.."

The elf took a moment, taking a breath and unsure what to say. She sat a moment in whatever silence she could before finally speaking up. "Neither of ye know," she explained. "What it means t'leave the clan and come 'ere. To this. What it does to ye and what it takes. What each damned chat with a shem pulls from yer blood. I think the world of both of ye, but I ain't fussin' when I say that I feel right alone now."
 

Siali Arnith

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Grey Warden
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45
#12
They weren’t going after Velanna. While normally Wardens had to be aggressive in hunting down deserters, in case they revealed their secrets, there was little reason why Velanna would do that. She hadn’t exactly been fond of ‘civilisation’ to begin with, bartering information on the Wardens wouldn’t be of much use to her. “If you see her, let her go her way.”

Neither had Velanna let on why she’d left. It was amazing she’d stayed as long as she had, frankly, given the circumstances of her return. The rumour had got through the Keep quickly and Siali knew that if somebody had shot her in the arse and then tied her to a bed, they’d have better killed her instead of letting her free because she would have clawed their face off without even bothering to use her daggers.

She’d not felt particularly agreeable towards the Commander for a while after learning that story, but Velanna had ended up bedding him, so maybe it was part of a longer…thing for them. Siali knew a few things about the enjoyment of being rough, although there were limits.

Now wasn’t the moment to try and unpick the relationship between Nathaniel and Velanna. Much more immediate was that Niamh had lost somebody important to her – again. “She cared about you. But she joined the Wardens for her own ends: to try to save her sister. When that failed, she had little tying her to the order. I hope she finds some kind of peace.”

Niamh wasn’t convinced. Her voice shook a little as she damned the people who abandoned their post and returned to it at will. On that front, she and Siali were united.

"Neither of ye know, what it means t'leave the clan and come 'ere. To this. What it does to ye and what it takes. What each damned chat with a shem pulls from yer blood. I think the world of both of ye, but I ain't fussin' when I say that I feel right alone now."

Siali kept her fingers wound with Niamh’s. “Yeah. I don’t know. I’m sorry.” She understood loss, and grief, but she had no idea what it would be like to have an extended family free from the trappings of humans and then to lose even one link to it.
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
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Canon Character
Grey Warden
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241
#13
"Iff'n I were runnin' off, ye'd be on yer horse right now.." Niamh pointed out when Cauthrien voiced her intention not to hunt down Velanna, nor pursue her if she were spotted.

“Most likely,” Cauthrien admitted frankly, “but I do not believe that you would be likely to slaughter any who pursued you. Nor do I think you would forsake your duty without good reason.” Accepting one who sought to use the Wardens as a means to her own ends had been a mistake, but one that she could not honestly say that she would not have made herself, faced with the same circumstances that Aedan had been dealing with at the time. “I would also hope that you would speak with me if your dissatisfaction was so great that you considered desertion your only option.” The life of a Grey Warden was not an easy one, and they stood no chance at all of keeping people by force or fear; they had to want to stay.

Niamh savagely rejected Cauthrien’s suggestion that Velanna had cared about her. "If she cared she would'uh stayed," she shot back, hurt lacing her tone as she clung to the hand that Siali offered her. "Folks always comin' and goin'. Runnin' and dyin'. It's a right load of shite, and a damned stupid thing t'do. We've a duty.."

“We do,” Cauthrien agreed. “To each other, as well as to the rest of Thedas. But duty means different things to different people, and more to some than to others. I wish she had stayed.” And not only for the benefit of having such a powerful mage as a Grey Warden. Velanna’s own clan had turned her out; perhaps another in need of a First might take her in, but her volatile temperament would make any such arrangement precarious, though perhaps she would be more at peace among the Dalish.

"Neither of ye know, what it means t'leave the clan and come 'ere,” Niamh spoke up after a long pause, the tremor in her voice faint but present. “To this. What it does to ye and what it takes. What each damned chat with a shem pulls from yer blood. I think the world of both of ye, but I ain't fussin' when I say that I feel right alone now."

“Yeah. I don’t know,” Siali told her without withdrawing her hand from her lover’s clasp. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t either,” Cauthrien put in. She did know something about losing a trusted mentor, but regardless of her desertion, Velanna’s transgressions were nowhere near those of Loghain, and she doubted that the comparison would be welcomed. “I’m sorry, as well,” she offered instead. “If you need to talk in coming days, or just want to spar, I’ll be here.”
 
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