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Life's Struggles - 8. Finding Hope

Four months had passed since Levi was attacked, he had completed a ton of intense in-house therapy. Levi often found himself frustrated for not being able to do everything the way he used to, or even fast enough for his likings. Since he returned home, it felt like Brody is always on the receiving end of his outbursts. This also left Levi angry and ashamed most of the time.

Levi and Brody were playing ‘Baseball All-Stars’ on the Wii game system with Lincoln and Sage in the living room while the rest of the family was relaxing out near the pool. Levi took a swing at a pitch that he miss-timed and lost his balance when his vision blurred more than normal causing Brody to try to steady him.

“Stop it!” the teen jerked his shoulder away from his boyfriend. “I don’t need to be treated like a freak,” Levi teetered on the edge of a meltdown.

“I didn’t–”

“Just save it, Brody, I’m so sick of everybody treating me like I’m an invalid who barely can wipe his own ass,” Levi shouted as he shook from his own emotions. Brody reeled back his eyes filling with tears, he ran from the room causing Sage to follow after the boy who he considered to be a friend over the time he spent with Link’s family.

Link looked at his twin, “Seriously? Brody loves you, you jackass.” He sighed and shook his head, as Levi slouched on the couch overcome with frustration.


Sage found Brody sitting on the edge of the pool with his feet dangling in the water distancing himself from the rest of the family. Even the laughter and quiet conversation echoing from the other side of the yard was no comfort. If anything it made him feel more alone. He brought one foot up resting on the side, his chin leaning on his bent knee. He wiped away the few tears he’d allowed to spill since he sat down hoping no one had seen him.

Placing his hand on Brody’s shoulder as he shucked off his shoes lowering himself beside his friend dipping his feet into the water gingerly testing the temperature. “Hey, B, you mind some company?”

Nodding his head before pausing and then shaking his head, “Nah, he can be so mean sometimes.” Brody wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, “He tries so hard, Sage, he places so many unrealistic expectations on himself.”

Sage sighed placing his arm across Brody’s shoulder giving him a squeeze, “Dude, you don’t need to make excuses when Levi plays the ass. I think you deserve so much credit man,” Sage removed his arm from the teen’s shoulder when he eyed Blu vigilantly watching from his chair with the other family members. “You’re a saint dealing with those tantrums of Levi’s.”

“I love him, you know.” Brody sighed.

“I do, I get it. At some point, you’re going to have to push back. I don’t mean create drama or problems but let him know that you’re there for him no matter what, but you’re not his punching bag.”

Brody rolled his head watching Sage as he spoke, the boys gaze fixed on the water, distant, as if he was speaking from experience in someway. Had he gone through the same thing at one time? He found Sage somewhat wise for a kid their age. He gently bobbed his head in recognition of Sage’s advice and quietly went back to searching the pool water for some type of epiphany or answers.


Sage peeked his head into his and Link’s room, “I’m gonna check on your stubborn brother.”

Lincoln paused from reading ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ which was the newest of his parenting books. “I think he’s in his room, he knows he screwed the pooch.”

Snickering and rolling his eyes Sage smirked, “So eloquent, Babe. Love ya, be right back.” He turned trotting off in the direction of the stairs.

Taking the stairs two at a time Sage made quick-time getting to the door of Levi’s bedroom. He paused knocking on the door frame since the teen left the door slightly open.

“What?” Levi laid in his bed staring at the ceiling.

Sage opened the door a little further poking his head around, “Can we talk dude?”

“Why bother?” Levi let out a long exasperated sigh crossing his arms protectively across his chest.

Casually strolling across the room plopping down on the bed beside quite possibly his future brother-in-law, he stretched out elbowing him, “Levi, you really need to cut yourself some slack. Brody, your family, and well I guess we all only want you to be happy.” He laid next to Levi with his hands comfortably set behind his head.

“It’s hard being happy all the time,” Levi elbowed Sage then he gave him a slight shove and chuckled, “Umm… dude-man you do realize your sock has a hole in it? Your big toe is sticking out.”

Sage raised his leg in the air so they could see his digit sticking through on proud display. “He’s cute, I think we should name him.” He rolled his head grinning at Levi.

“God, Sage you’re a dork.” Levi chuckled, “I approve of my brother dating you, even with your horrible sense of style.” Letting out a sigh, “Aren’t gay guys supposed to have some fashion sense?”

He shrugged his shoulder, “Aren’t gay guys supposed to be able to handle hard times better?” he snickered at his double entendre. “Our community is riddled with an over abundance of sensless tragedy and difficult times. A lot of people lost their lives, families, identity, you name it.” He shook his head gently looking up at the ceiling. “Don’t you see how lucky you are? You still have all of those things, with everyone’s support – if you let them – you’ll find yourself again, and a new normal.” He sat up quickly giving Levi a thump to the shoulder. “Soldier up, dude. Apologize to your man in the good way.” Sage waggled his eyebrows at Levi grinning. He swung his legs over the side of the bed bouncing onto his feet leaving the bedroom with a swagger.

Levi’s eyes followed the guy as he left the room pondering his words. They were almost what Brent had said to him. Levi sighed, “Maybe they’re right,” he mumbled. Forcing himself out of bed, Levi went on the search for his beautiful boyfriend promising himself this is the last apology he would owe him. He would do better, he had to do better. “I have to stop feeling sorry for myself.”


Sage entered the kitchen to find Blu standing at the counter with a beer. It almost felt like he was waiting for him, his spidey-senses tingling. His boyfriend’s pop’s scrutinized him from head to toe, clearing his throat before he spoke.

“Thank you.”

Scratching his head with puzzlement, “For what exactly?”

Blu chuckled dropping his gaze to the label of his beer picking at the edges, he cleared his throat again. “For what you said to Levi,” he held up a hand, “I wasn’t eavesdropping,” he tilted his head, “not on purpose anyway. I came in to go to the restroom and talk to Levi but you were already in there.” The man gave Sage a nod. “Thank you.”

“Mr. Waters, I know you don’t necessarily like me or trust me.” Sage shoved his hands into his pockets, “I know what Levi’s going through, and family means everything or it should.”

“Hmm, okay. Well, thank you again.” Blu went to leave stopping to turn back to Sage. “I don’t not like you kid, I just don’t trust you yet with my baby boys heart - yet. We’ll see how you go, huh?” He stated and left.

Sage shrugged his shoulders turning to head to Link’s room – ‘It’s a start,’ he thought to himself. He didn’t appear to want to drive down a highway and hurl Sage out into oncoming traffic at the moment, maybe, just maybe, Jack Frost was thawing out.


Sage walked into Lincoln’s bedroom as a cellphone whistled passed his head a popping sound of the screen breaking as it hurled against the wall. “You bitch!” Link screamed with rage, yet filled with worry.

“Uh, I haven’t even said anything yet but I agree I can be a bitch,” Sage deadpanned at his boyfriend trying for amusement but failing miserably.

Link’s stared at Sage with his mouth hanging open while trying to make sense of how Sage claimed to be a bitch, when the first and god willing last female he will ever “be with” has found a new way to destroy his life. “I uh… you are so not a bitch.” He pointed at his cellphone, “that thing… she… oh fucking no way is she gonna do this.”

“What happened?” Sage asked sitting down next to Link pulling him into his arms.

Lincoln tried to slow his ragged breathing, “Melissa wants me to pay her from some supposed trust fund her ‘daddy’ found out about. If I can’t come up with the money that she wants they are threatening to put the baby up for adoption.”

“Hmm,” Sage kissed the top of Links head. “Can they even do that? Wouldn’t they need your permission as the father to even try?”

“I don’t know? Everytime Melissa talks to me, my life turns to shit.” Lincoln’s hands shook from nerves, “I need to talk to my dads, I’d talk to the entire family but I don’t think they can handle much more stress after Levi’s attack.” Clutching his hands together he looked at Sage, “I tried dealing with Melissa on my own, back when she first got pregnant.”

“Shh, shh, shh,” Sage cooed softly into the top of Link’s head. He pulled his boyfriend into his lap enveloping as much of him as possible. “I think… first, we need you to calm down. Second, I think it’s wise to get your dads help. This isn’t something you can do on your own. I don’t think anyone would if they didn’t have to. Do you want me to text your dad and ask him to come in here, ask him to do it discreetly so you can talk to just him first. I think your pop might lose his shit – just guessing.” He chuckled.

The door burst open and Jonathan started to run in stopping at where the broken cellphone laid on the floor, spotting his brother upset in Sage’s arms the boy turned and ran from the room.

With the door to the room still hanging open, the boys could hear Kyle’s voice. “Blu for the love of God, slow down and calm down.” A few moments passed, “Don’t give me that look, you can be so unreasonable sometimes.” Blu whirlwind into the room with Kyle in pursuit of his now nearly psychotic looking husband, glaring at Sage who was holding his baby boy in his perverted lap.

“What the hell?” Blu raged. “What did you do to him?” his face red with that one pulsating vein in his forehead that freaked Sage out every time it appeared.

Sage’s eyes were huge, he expected Blu to be unreasonable but this man was causing his seventeen-year-old heart to have palpitations. “I… umm,” Sage’s throat felt very dry, “I was only trying to uh–”

“Dammit Blu, stop trying to grab Sage,” Kyle said as he attempted to keep ahold of his wiry husband who seemed to be able to wiggle more than a venomous snake at the moment.

“MELISSA!” Sage yelled grimacing at his outburst, “It’s Melissa,” he said in his normal volume clearing his throat, “she threatened Link.” Sage pulled tighter around Lincoln nuzzling into the boy's neck.

“Oh,” Blu stopped struggling pulling himself together, “why didn’t you say so.” He turned to his husband with a ‘What the fuck’ expression.

Kyle shook his head sweeping his hand through his hair. “You’re an idiot. I told you Sage didn’t do anything. I suggest you apologize and go back outside with the other children while I sort this out. Then I’ll come find you.” He tugged on his husband’s arm pulling him to the doorway, pushed him through the gap slamming the door then locking it.”

Blu banged on the door, “Let me in or I’m keeping the triplets here for the weekend.”

Sage and Kyle’s eyes grew big knowing Blu would do exactly that. Link sat up in Sage’s lap calling out to his pop, “Good, do it! Go and calm down old man.”

Kyle texted Kaleb telling him under no circumstances was he to bring the kids over to their house today due to a situation with Lincoln’s baby’s momma. After making sure the text sent he slipped the phone back into his pocket and the boys both filled him in on the threats the teenage princess and her family were leveling he cracked open the door spotting his husband who sat on a kitchen chair glaring at the door.

“I uh, Babe before you go all Bates Motel on us, maybe put on some clothes. I called George, my attorney,” Kyle looked at Blu who was approximately the shade of a well-ripened tomato, “we are to meet him at his office in forty-five minutes and I don’t think the speedo is quite appropriate.”

“Pop, I swear to God, Sage didn’t hurt me,” Link said over top of Kyle’s shoulder who both teens were using as a shield.

“Mister Waters I would never hurt Lincoln, I would rather somebody hurt me first.” Sage added his input hoping to regain some of the kindness the man had shown him earlier.

Blu made a growling noise as some type of apology to Sage before heading off to get changed. Kyle shook his head truly at his wits end to know how to handle Blu and his complete and utter denial of Sage being the good guy.

Jonathan came around the corner with Khan on a leash trying to drag the dog along pointing at Sage, “Get him!” The boy shouted.

Cody walked by eating a hotdog with his headphones on listening to music as the dog took off after him wanting a bite of that delicious looking delicacy the teenager was eating dragging the ten-year-old by the leash since his hand was wrapped through the leash.

“Woah, woah, woah,” Sage said to the dog grabbing the leash in one hand and snatching the boy off the ground in the other. “Let go, little buddy. He’ll rip your hand off.” Jonathan flicked his hand until the leash dropped, just as Blu came back into the room. He looked at Sage, then the dog, then Jonathan. “I… I was just helping,” Sage told him anxiously.

Blu shrugged his shoulder dismissively. “I know.” He looked toward Kyle. “Are we going or what?”

Kyle smiled as he ushered the group toward the door. “Brody, you’re in charge of this chaotic place. Be back soon,” He called out.

“M’Kay,” Brody called out from wherever he was.


Kyle, Blu, and the boys sat in a conference room at the attorney’s office after two hours of the entire group talking together before an army of attorney descended into the office preparing for some kind of legal battle if need be.

“I don’t understand?” Link exclaimed. “If you don’t get her to back off, where the hell am I going to get the money to pay the b… Melissa. There is no trust fund…” he trailed off looking at his dads closely as they eyed each other. “What? Why are you looking at each other like that?” he narrowed his eyes.

Kyle cleared his throat leaning forward elbows resting on the conference table, “Well, that’s not true. Each of you kids has two trust funds, one from your Pop and I, and one from Nan. Neither is attainable until you reach twenty-five-years-of-age. I’m not even sure how Melissa’s father obtained any of that information.”

George walked back in the room carrying a legal pad, “Our team in California filed an emergency declaration of paternity. However, Melissa and her father have agreed that if you were to pay all medical expenses along with surrogacy fee of fifty-five-thousand-dollars the girl and her family will consider the baby is being carried as a surrogate and sign all custodial of ‘said child’ away, once the baby is born.” The man laid the notepad down showing a bunch of legal jargon, that left the group feeling overwhelmed.

Lincoln threw his hands up, “Well that’s just fuckin’ wonderful, let me just drop my pants and pull the money out of my ass!” He shouted.

The attorney peered over the top of his glasses at the kid. “Young man, sit down and shut up. This is going to be dealt with and we’ll do it in a calm and adult manner.”

He didn’t need to say anything further before Link realized he was lashing out and being a jerk. He sat his ass down to the angry glare of his dads and a disappointed but understanding one from his boyfriend.

“Sorry, sir,” Link replied biting his thumbnail, his right leg bouncing a mile a minute on the ball of his foot.

After all was said and done the framework for custody had been arranged, although the money that was being talked about still had Lincoln in the dark as to where the payment would come from since his dad had told him he couldn’t get it from his trust fund.

George stood offering his hand to Kyle first and then to the other members of the family, and even Sage which cause a small smile from Lincoln that he was included.

“I’ll be in touch once the baby is born to finalize the arrangements,” the attorney had state before looking at the pair of teenagers, “I hope you both realize raising children isn’t a thing to take lightly, I’m sure with your fathers Lincoln you have a solid foundation to raise your child.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Lincoln laced his fingers with Sages.


Link dropped down on his bed after returning from the attorney’s office. Sage had headed home to spend some time with his sister as her baby due date was getting close and he’d been worried about her as the father seemed to be part-time. The ‘when he feels like it’ type of dad. He scrolled through his contact list on his phone stopping when he got to ‘Sis’. He’d been missing Bella like crazy since she’d gone back to California. Just as he went to press the call button Levi appeared in his doorway.

“Hey bro,” he sauntered in flopping down laying next to his brother.

“Hi, Levi.” Lincoln was sprawled on his bed, one leg bent with his foot tapping away. “I was just gonna call Bella.”

“Do it,” he grinned at Link, passing him an oreo cookie from the packaging he’d been hiding.

Link tapped the call button to video chat with their sister. She picked up after a few rings.

“Hey, Link. Levi!” she exclaimed while her eyes filled with water.

“Oh God, the water-works.” Lincoln chuckled, “Missed you too Bella.”

“You guys look great.” She smiled wiping her eyes quickly. “What’s been happening back home?”

“The dads and Sage and me, saw Dad’s attorney today,” Lincoln stated.

“Oh, why? Is everything okay?” she asked concerned.

“Uh, it is now. Melissa and her father wanted money,” Link bit his lip lightly.

“What the hell? Can they do that?” Bella asked angrily, both snickered at their sister’s outrage. It had always amused them when she got angry on someone else’s behalf. The jut of her chin with her fire eyes, ones when directed at them they knew better than to argue with.

“No, but yes if we want to guarantee she relinquishes custodial claims. Oh, and Bella do you know about any trust funds?” Link worried that maybe he shouldn’t broach the subject with his siblings but they weren’t little kids any longer.

She screwed up her face trying for pensive then looked completely guilty, her eyes darted away from the screen. “Shit, guys I gotta go. Hey Levi, call me later shithead. I spoke with Brody earlier and promised I’d kick your ass. So call me bro. Ta Ta’s.” She ended the video chat leaving both boys with no answers but thinking she knew more than she was letting on due to her hasty exit.

“Uh-huh,” Lincoln stated. “I call bullshit. Oh, and I’d say you’re about to get the ‘I’m the big sister and you will do what you’re told’.”

“Ha! No doubt.” Levi bit his bottom lip. “Sorry about earlier, dude. I’m not handling this really well am I? Um, I have to go and meet the service dog this afternoon. Did you want to come?”

“Levi, I will if you want me to. But, I think Brody deserves to be the one at your side. I never knew what it felt like to know how loved you can be outside the family until I met Sage. Your man needs to feel like you need him,” Lincoln kept his lecture on the casual side after seeing how dismissed Brody had felt after his twin’s last melt-down.

“I know,” Levi said feeling and looking the part of devastated and asshole at the same time.


Kyle and Blu waited in the car while Levi and Brody went inside the dog training kennel. The trainer met them at the front desk of the facility. “Hi guys, we spoke on the phone but I’m Heather. Let me show you around and then I will take you to see Spartan. As we discussed, he is pure-bred Belgian Malinois and is eighteen-months-old.” Both of the teens had been video conferencing with the trainer off and on over the last four months but had never met her in person. The one visit the family had paid to the facility had been to meet Spartan, which the dog had taken to Levi immediately sensing his needs. “And here is your boy Spartan.” The trainer said to the dog who was at Levi’s side before she had said it.

“Hi, Spartan.” Levi stated as he knelt beside his companion, “Who’s the good boy?” Levi cooed at the dog, which earned him some four-legged loving. “You’d better stop boy, or Brody’s jealous side is gonna come out,” he chuckled.

“Waters you’re such a dork,” Brody shook his head as he patted the dog and offering the dog Levi’s side of the bed when they got him home.

“Levi, did your Dad pick up food for Spartan?” Heather asked the teenager.

“No, I bought it. He’s my responsibility and I’m Spartans.” Levi said with pride.

“And I’ll babysit the both of them so they don’t get in trouble,” Brody said with a smirk.


A few weeks had passed when Sage dialed Levi’s phone, “Dude. Is everything all prepared for the baby shower?” Levi had told him the caterer, ‘Kaleb,’ had dropped the cake.


“I have Link on a wild-goose chase in the store.”

There was a brief pause, “No Link that’s the wrong thing, babe.” The car door slammed closed.

“Levi, I swear to God if I delay Link much more he will kill me. Just finish up quick.”

“You know what, pop told me one time a story about how dad got his permit. Link has been putting it off. Call and see or beg for them to fit him in, don’t tell him though. That should kill a few hours if you can manage it.” Levi shrugged even though Sage couldn’t see him.

“If I get kicked in the nuts by your brother I’m gonna pay it forward dude,” Sage sighed, “I’ll try and hopefully it buys you enough time to get shit straight.”

“Whatever dude-man,” Levi had given his friend the nickname, “later. Kasey.do.not.feed.Spartan.cake!” Was the last thing that Sage heard as the phone disconnected. Chuckling at his phone, Sage yipped in surprise when Link pinched his arm.

“Who were you talking too?” Link held up a bag of kitty litter. “Is this the right one?”

“Uh… that was your…” he squinted at the poop crystals, “yeah, I think so. Um, that was your dad making sure we remembered the onions.”

“What?” Link stamped his foot pissy and adorable as ever he turned back to the store grumbling to himself after dropping the bag on Sage’s lap crushing his balls. “Nobody asked for onions. What are we their little errand boys? I need a bigger allowance for this shit.”

Sage held his injured crotch cursing the other twin while looking up the number for the DMV. Press 3, press 1, press 5. Everybody hates these automated services.

“Thank you for calling the Department of Motor Vehicles. Your call is important to us, you are thirteenth in the cue. Please hold.” Sage rolled his eyes watching through the window in case Link came back before he could speak with someone.

“For fuck sake,” Sage griped, rubbing his poor nut sac.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this chapter a lot of stuff happened in it. I'm not 100%, health-wise, but I am getting there.

Please leave reactions and comments.

Be safe and stay safe.

Aaron Hawke & JT Babbage
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Chapter Comments

Omg these poor people need to rent oit rooms in an asylum😂. I have to gove them props for not going entirely bananas! That little hussy better be glad Nan isnt around!

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Sage is so awesome .Come on Blu it's been 4 months now you got to know Sage is cool.Stop being so stubborn.

This might have been mentioned before and maybe the law has changed but legally Link has no rights being 17 at least at one time that was true which sucks .I hope Melissa and father don't get too greedy.

Although you're not 100% yet I'm so glad you're getting better.Praying for you

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Melissa is turning into a money grabbing hussy. Blu should have start to thaw towards Sage after 4 months.

I'm glad your getting better. Take care.

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4 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

Omg these poor people need to rent oit rooms in an asylum😂. I have to gove them props for not going entirely bananas! That little hussy better be glad Nan isnt around!

Renting rooms at an asylum (run by Jack 'I'm Baaaack' Nicholson) too expensive. Cheaper just to rubberize and pad walls for Blu and Levi.


Edited by Anton_Cloche
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Glad you're feeling better, just takes (frustratingly long) time. You'll get there, just step-by-step.

Be well. Stay save. Keep distance... I suggest 2 pool noodles apart vs hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, golf clubs or baseball bats. Any 'hard' distancing 'tools' could turn dangerous in the wrong hands, like Levi, Blu, etc. ;-p

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If its been four months since Levi was hurt, why is it taking so long to find out who hurt him.  The police and the family security should have already found who did it and buried them under the jail. 

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Just an added thought/twist — one of the long term effects of TBI can be issues with emotional regulation. Levi’s emotional outbursts do smack of that. Not sure whether you had this in mind while writing his character but it would be consistent with his injury on top of the anger about his other trauma related losses. Could add a complication to the plot that you would not want to deal with though. Enjoying this story a lot. 

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23 minutes ago, soundtechmc said:

If its been four months since Levi was hurt, why is it taking so long to find out who hurt him.  The police and the family security should have already found who did it and buried them under the jail. 

25 minutes ago, soundtechmc said:

If its been four months since Levi was hurt, why is it taking so long to find out who hurt him.  The police and the family security should have already found who did it and buried them under the jail. 

I ask myself this same question every time i finish reading a new chapter? Aren't they looking?


6 minutes ago, starboardtack said:

Just an added thought/twist — one of the long term effects of TBI can be issues with emotional regulation. Levi’s emotional outbursts do smack of that. Not sure whether you had this in mind while writing his character but it would be consistent with his injury on top of the anger about his other trauma related losses. Could add a complication to the plot that you would not want to deal with though. Enjoying this story a lot. 

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I'm just wondering how long until either Sage, Link, or both loose their patience with Blu. Normally, Blu's awesome, but he's totally being abusive to Sage. He needs to back down before something happens or is said that can't be taken back. I mean really, how much is the kid supposed to take. I really think he's forgotten how accepting of Kyle his family was right off. How would he have felt if his parents or Nan treated Kyle like he's treating Sage. No one deserves to be treated like they're second class and a criminal until they justify such actions. 

Edited by Ajbt2001
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Get better, glad your starting to get better. Another great chapter for the family even though they have a few rough things going on their lives, but they have a good family support system. Anyhow, I have a feeling Sage has a very sad back story, at least that's the feeling I get from Sage.

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This has got to be the most chaotic family I have ever encountered in all of my readings!!!  Thank you Dahawk for giving me something to laugh about during these stressful trouble times!!!  These are truly crazy lovable people!   

Edited by KayDeeMac
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