03 June 2007 @ 09:32 am
[ Naruto ] Mourning Air
So, this was actually the first Naruto fic I ever started writing. It's been molding on various hard drives since about, gee, 2003. You'd think that after four years, I'd somehow manage to come up with some truly inspiring opus, but there was a reason that it sat there. I'd look at it from time to time, half-finished as it was with bits that I was totally pleased with, and just not know how to get to the end. Surprisingly enough, I ended up pulling pretty much all of those parts, because I've learned a lot about characterization in that time, and I've learned a lot about Kakashi as well. I also discovered that I prefer writing present-tense to past-tense.

Originally, it was titled 'Bad Guys', and was supposed to be follow a conversation between Kakashi and Naruto over morality and Zabuza and Haku's villain status. The end product, however, deviated considerably, and while I still wanted to follow that thread (and may at some later time), it became a lighter piece on Naruto's first real encounter with mortality and reality as he never imagined it.

Inspiration via Portishead and, uh, Dan Fogelburg. (SHUT UP DON'T JUDGE ME. D:) Naruto is not mine, and I'm totally making no money whatsoever with my fandrivel. Comments are appreciated -- I wonder if you can tell where I picked it up?

mourning air
(a part of the heart gets lost in the learning)

Twilight lingers beyond the aspen groves, six hours since they died here and it is still snowing. Two shinobi work side by side in respectful silence, the younger of them unnaturally quiet since they'd begun this thankless task.

Kakashi wonders if this is the real Naruto he works with now. The boy is reserved, unencumbered by the mask of the childish prankster, his expression mournful and contemplative in a way that doesn't fit his carefree image at all.

Kakashi is proud of him, as curious as he is concerned about the obvious bond that had been forged between his pupil and the young shinobi Zabuza had retained. Perhaps there will be a time to ask, though Kakshi knows he never will -- he of all people can understand the value of secrets, and for that reason he does not mention seeing the boy slip a piece of the broken mask into his pouch.

The wood is wet with snow, but it is a trivial concern; fire jutsu creates enough heat to burn things far less flammable than this. It would be easier to just forego the wood altogether, but Kakashi has great respect for the shinobi pair and will hold a proper funeral. (There is also the matter of erasing the bodies; without a true hunter-nin, it is up to Kakashi to obscure the secrets of the Mist.)

Beyond that, he has a feeling Naruto would not allow anything less.

Naruto leaves for a few moments, returning with one last armload of wood, almost stumbling before continuing on stubbornly without so much as a sound of complaint. Their battle has taken much from them, but there is no one else who can do this -- Sakura refuses to leave Sasuke's side, and the Uchiha boy is back at Tazuna's home, slipping in and out of consciousness as his body tries to negotiate the damage it has taken from Haku's devastating attacks.

That is part of Naruto's silence, Kakashi thinks. There had been so much in the sudden spike of chakra, but it had been so, so strange. Dark and foreboding and evil, oh yes, but it was the--

--the tangible swirls of grief that curled like smoke through that seemingly endless power, thin and choking, like stepping out into deep winter from the warmth of a welcoming home. It left him gasping for air. It left him feeling that the world had ended, and he wasn't sure why.

He wonders, briefly, which of that body's inhabitants had been responsible. Not because he doesn't believe his student can grieve (nor does he truly believe the kyuubi can), but because he didn't think humans are capable of that level of anguish. It had felt so...endless.



Naruto kneels in the snow, placing the last pieces of wood on their makeshift pyre; inelegant, yes, but it will serve its purpose well enough. He sits there a moment in silence, and Kakashi wonders what sort of thoughts run through the boy's head. Dimly, the jounin realizes that this has been Naruto's first battle to end in death. A twinge of unexpected sympathy hits Kakashi.

He should have been able to keep his innocence a little longer.

He quells the thought, almost as soon as it occurs.

But we are shinobi, and he is the fox-child, and this is the first of too many deaths that he will see. It would not do to turn away now.

Naruto jumps beneath the damp fleece of his coat as Kakashi's hand clasps his shoulder. Slowly, he lifts his head to face his sensei, and it is impossible not to feel the pain painted across his deep blue eyes. His is a child's grief; the sorrow of first blood smeared across his cheeks and clothes. For a moment they simply look at each other, and then Naruto turns away like he has been caught doing something wrong.

Kakashi lowers his hand, and leaves the boy to his silence and his grief.

"This sucks," Naruto says quietly. "This really, really sucks."

"This is what we all become one day," Kakashi answers, a little too quickly. "One day, it will be me. One day, it will be you, too. Sasuke and Sakura too, and everyone else we've ever known."

Naruto's hands shake visibly, and Kakashi realizes that perhaps that was not the right thing to say. He sighs, and tries something a little more appropriate. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay." Naruto answers simply. "I guess we should do this, huh?" He gestures to the wood inarticulately, and starts to stand.

Kakashi blinks. "Yeah." He pauses a moment to gather his chakra, feeling the warmth rush through the channels in his arms, swirling and building in his fingertips as he forms the seals. Naruto gasps softly as fire blossoms before them, igniting the wood and the bodies in an instant.

Another silence passes between the pair, two shinobi seperately contemplating both Death and Purpose. For one, it is a struggle--what has happened today is so vastly different from the glorious heroic ending he has raised himself to believe in, and the part of him that isn't reeling in horror is attempting to come to terms with this reality. For the other, it is an avenue of thought too-often travelled, and he still no closer to understanding.

Before them, the fire crackles and rages, the sickening scent of charred flesh and burning hair riding the currents. Naruto shudders and fights not to turn away, and it takes every ounce of effort in his small frame not to run for clearer air. He stares at the pyre, stares until his eyes lose focus and the crisp outlines of the flames blur into a red-orange wall. He holds on to that image until the smoke forces his eyes closed and leaves him blinking hot tears that cool fast against his cheeks.

"Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto's voice sounds small, empty of his usual forced confidence.

Kakashi shifts and lowers his head, watching Naruto struggle for words. The boy doesn't bother to wipe the tears from his cheeks, and for a moment, Kakashi's previous thoughts rise again to the surface before being pushed down firmly. "Yes, Naruto." It is not so much a question as an encouragement.

"Ha--Haku," Naruto tastes the syllables hesitantly, as if he isn't sure whether he is allowed to speak the dead boy's name, "he wanted me to kill him. He said I took his reason to live." He shudders and huddles in on himself, the action making him look far younger than he is. "I understood what he was saying, Kakashi-sensei. I don't--I don't understand why he had to die. Why wasn't there another way?" His voice rises as he continues, traces of desperation beginning to lace through his tone.

Kakashi contemplates that for a moment, sifting through his thoughts and memories in an attempt to explain to a twelve-year old ninja that there are things that supercede personal safety, that sometimes nindo is just another name for death wish; that one can rarely succeed on belief alone. He thinks of Obito and Rin and he thinks of the Yondaime and he thinks of all those names carved in cold stone and realizes that this is something that simply cannot be explained, no matter how one tries.

He notices that Naruto is looking at him, eyes wide and full of confusion, and he knows that Naruto will never understand because his will to live is stronger than anyone Kakashi has ever met. The fire crackles and spits, and Kakashi turns his attention back to the flames and curses silently the fact that he has never had a talent for words. "Sometimes," he says and swallows against the bile rising in his throat as his memory finally settles on the image of white hair streaked crimson with slick blood, the gut-turning scent of intestines freshly ruptured. "Sometimes, the price of our failure is more than we have."

Kakashi forces the memory back down and closes his eyes, recalling the secret satisfaction on Haku's face as Kakashi's hand broke through his fragile chest. He combs the snow out of his hair and says softly, "sometimes, there is no choice at all."

Naruto turns away, his expression pained, and Kakashi knows he is trying to reason out this thing that he is far too inexperienced and far too young to understand. He opens his mouth and abruptly closes it, then opens it again. "I was going to do it," Naruto says after a moment, his voice so low it's almost lost in the wind. "He stood there and told me to come at him because it was the only way and I thought Sasuke was dead and--"

"--You didn't kill him, Naruto," Kakashi says, and looks at Naruto with such intensity that the boy shrinks back. A part of him wants to lecture Naruto. A part of him wants to tell Naruto that at his age he had killed more people than he had years to his name. A part of him wants to tell Naruto that if he had killed Haku it would have been for the mission and nothing more --and that before long he will do just that-- but even though Naruto has not been Kakashi's student long, he can sense that there is more to this child, and that he will not be able to hide behind the encompassing wall of mission priority.

Naruto only looks away, and Kakashi tries to remember what it feels like to not have blood on his hands.

Several minutes pass, the silence hanging between them only emphasized by the whisper of falling snow and the crackle of burning wood. The fire has started to burn low, and where once bodies lay there is little left but cinders. Naruto slips a cold hand into the larger curve of Kakashi's, small fingers trembling as they press against the rough fabric of his glove. Kakashi starts, surprised at the sudden gesture, the childlike display of weakness. He regards the boy for a few long seconds, and then surprises himself by squeezing back. He has never been good at offering comfort, but Naruto's face softens then and Kakashi is overcome with a sudden, unexpected wave of gratitude.

"Can we go back?" Naruto asks quietly, and Kakashi realizes after a moment that Naruto is speaking of Tazuna's home beyond the forest. Kakashi can see that he is shivering, and he knows that Naruto is concerned about Sasuke, though Naruto would never admit it. He glances back to the dying fire, but there is nothing left to do here, no reason to remain in front of this heap of burned wood and ashes. He nods briefly, and Naruto releases Kakashi's hand, straightening and brushing the snow from his shoulders like he was never vulnerable.

Kakashi watches the embers for another moment, then turns and thrusts his hands deep in his pockets. He offers one last silent prayer for the spirits of the dead as he walks towards the edge of the forest, and listens behind him for the soft crunch of Naruto's footsteps in the snow. Before long, he knows, this storm will pass. Sasuke will rise and pretend that nothing ever happened, Naruto wil return to his careless ways, and Sakura will again take her place between them as the middle ground that binds them both firmly to the earth. Before long, this storm will pass, and perhaps they will be that much wiser for it, because there are lessons to be learned from life and mortality that no amount of his instruction can provide.

Or perhaps it won't. Perhaps Sasuke's indifference or Sakura's obsession or Naruto's foolishness--perhaps all these things--will be their ruin. Kakashi doesn't fool himself into thinking that there aren't flaws in the bonds his team is struggling to form; he is constantly reaching through the years to extract the important lessons of those who have come before him. He hopes it will be enough.

Above, the sun breaks through the clouds and Kakashi briefly imagines this small island as a jewel floating at the edge of a glittering sea. In the distance, the sound of the village bells echoes off the water, rising above the snow and the forest and escaping into the atmosphere. Naruto trots past him and turns back, and Kakashi is relieved to see that Naruto's face has been cleared of that melancholy expression, replaced with a look of impatience that propels Kakashi forward into the forest, toward the village where the rest of his team is waiting.

Yes, Kakashi thinks and lifts his face to the sky, this storm will pass.


-- I know I say this a lot, and I really intensely dislike the idea that I seem to be constantly whining, but the more I go over this the less happy I am with it. Maybe it's because I still remember what I wanted it to be, and really feel that the product comes up short. I'm definitely going to sit on this for at least a few days before archiving it anywhere else, see what you cats' opinion on the thing is. I also think I need to find me a beta that I can sling ideas at; I'm kind of hesitant to go searching really hard for one, though, since my output isn't exactly expedient, and trying to keep someone's interest with a lot of dry periods in between is kind of difficult, sometimes. Anyone have any ideas on where to look? I know there are a few communities out there, but I'm kind of shy. >.<

I'm totally moving to Arizona in a few months. How excited am I? A WHOLE LOT. ♥
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[identity profile] vazavati.livejournal.com on June 3rd, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC)
..........I liked it. :( ♥ I liked it a lot. Your writing is delicious and this felt really--hm, I don't know. Complete? It felt right. It was one of those fics that fit seamlessly with my personal Naruto fanon, which is ve-e-e-ery rare. I adore the way you write Kakashi, which is also rare, since I've always thought him a bit tricky to write.

I'd give you, you know, feedback outside of "Yay good! :D" but it's like eighty-five degrees and I'm wilting. ~_~ Still, huzzah & huzzah.

You can sling ideas at me anytime you want. :x
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on June 4th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
Thank you a lot, hon. :3 I fretted over a lot of stuff -- too much exposition, too late, here? Is that ooc over there? -- that sort of thing. Also, I'm afraid my stories never really go anywhere, ha.

In a way, I'm also glad that I put it down when I did, because the Kakashi sidestory let me get to know him a lot better, and otherwise I'm afraid that I'd have probably given him far less personality -- he went from a guy who, while ridiculously talented at his job, probably isn't really able to pass that on, to all that because there's this huge difference between the war-time realities of his growth as a ninja, and the peaceful days of cat-sitting that these kids are going through, because lessons stick a lot better when it's you're forced to take very seriously the fact that your life is on the line and this lesson now might save your life tomorrow.

I, um, really like Kakashi a lot. His relationship in my head with Naruto is always an interesting thing, since I subscribe to the pretty universal thought that Naru is Yondy's kid, and Kakashi's near hero-worship of Yondy in his youth lets Naruto serve as reminder and hope in so many quiet ways.

Thank you again; I'm really pleased you liked it, despite my qualms. You're wilting at 85? Oh, yeah, humidity. *pets*

You'd never forgive me. XD
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[identity profile] vazavati.livejournal.com on June 4th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
I totally think someone needs to write a fic entitled The Peaceful Days of Cat-Sitting. :x

That said, I think your perception of Kakashi's dead-on, really. He was always one of my favorite Naruto characters, and perhaps my all-time favorite amongst the Good Guys--he makes stuff interesting, for certain. Of course, my heart belongs to Kabuto, but. For the win! Give me more, yes?

I wilt at 75, 'k. :( I suck hardcore at withstanding heat. You would not believe how wimpy I am. 'S amazing.

No, seriously! :x
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on June 4th, 2007 06:01 am (UTC)
Oh, don't tempt me! It could be all calm and, uh, peaceful, but with this totally menacing undertone, a bit of foreshadowing, bickering boys and Sakura being acutely aware that Kakashi's like a 'Nam vet at an ice cream social.

I still can't pick a favorite of the good guys. Or the bad guys, really. I love just about all the characters.

Haha, I take it you won't be visiting me when I settle in to Arizona. I can't deal with cold, and Montana is nothing if not FULL OF IT. >.<

I may take you up on that, then. You're ridiculously perceptive, and would probably be more than willing to smack me upside the head when I'm being silly or snore-inducing, which is something I need badly. ♥
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[identity profile] vazavati.livejournal.com on June 4th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
A++, would encourage fic again. :D :D :D ...a 'Nam vet at an ice cream social. Miriya, your similes rock the party.

You are such a Naruto freak. :x I've been having the same problem with Death Note lately...

Ahahaha. Not until winter, dear. 8D; Egaaaaaads. Hate hate hate. I'm moving to Vermont for college this fall and can't wait to dive into snowy winter. ♥

Aw, shucks. ♥ Yaaaay! Please take me up on it! I love having ideas chucked at me, especially, when, y'know...they don't suck. Rarer than you'd think.

who's that in your icon? 's good-lookin'.
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on June 5th, 2007 05:44 am (UTC)

I do admit to Naruto freak-hood, alas. There's just so many of them, and Kishi has come up with ways to make them all so lovable, no matter how freakish they may be. I still love me some DN, but my loathing for sleazy second-arc Light is just intense. I never even hated Sasuke that much.

Winter down there is supposed to be pretty mild. I remember Tucson was still 80+ mid-December, but according to sources, Camp Verde is 50-70, which is just fine.

I will do that, then, once I get something solid out. You will regret those words!

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[identity profile] vazavati.livejournal.com on June 5th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
I honestly don't find Naruto in and of itself to be, hmm, Impressive--the sheer volume of characters does appeal to me, I admit, and it's managed to sidestep annoying the living heck out of me (a la BLEACH, with its lousy antagonistic element). I used to be oh em gee! obsessed! but I fell out of love because it, well, I guess I got sick of the shonen vibes. XD My fangirlishness about Death Note probably points you to the fact that I have le sick fascination with moral ambiguity. One of the reasons I just hate second-arc!Light 99% of the time. He loses any redeemability, man! It's just like "Wow...what a sleazebag! Please die!" Which there is very little of in Naruto that's actually canon/acknowledged. Mind you, by the grace of the upper echelons of fandom, Naruto becomes something else entirely; something I like. I am such the huge snob, I guess. :( Ah well. There's certainly scads of stuff for a fandom enthusiast to extrapolate from Naruto. I just usually end up disappointed, as characters I used to draw depth around get cornered into being one-dimensional and I stop liking 'em.

...Okay, and, I wrote a novel. Yaaaaaaaaay me. *sigh*

80+ mid-December??? Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! X_X

Hurrah! :D

.........He's sexy. He looks like a woman, this Yura-sama, but he's sexy as all get-out. That second fellow is rather disturbing, but has, erm...an air of pierced intrigue?
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on June 7th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
I can understand that -- I guess the thing that raised my love like a zombie was more of the way that I read into it, to the point where I might not be reading the same series anymore (and I blame this on the long-ago days of CLAMP fangirling). Pretty much like what you're saying about it becoming something else entirely.

Honestly, I think Kishi's getting tired. I don't know what's up with the whole Oro thing --it's like he's trying to kill him off, but the company's like STFU MAKE US MONEY-- but even then, he's still a hands-down far better storyteller than the Bleach guy.

Even if it does take a serious turn for the worst, though, I've just invested waaaaaay too much emotionally to not see it through to the bitter end.

Yes, 80 in December. And Monsoons. ♥

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[identity profile] vazavati.livejournal.com on June 8th, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
I never handed over my emotional investment to Naruto. I'm not sure wh--wait, noooo, that's not true. Long ago in the summer between sophomore and junior year I did, in fact, give a significant fandom darn and watched an obscene amount of episodes in a short period of time. I got sidetracked by my own emotional drama, though, and by the time that concluded I had set Naruto somewhat aside and discovered Death Note. Which I sold my soul (and emotional investment) wholesale to, by the way.

...Yeah, that was a fantastic idea, I know. T______T Pretty much the worst series to care about characters in. It's like being kicked repeatedly in the gut. Bleargh. So harsh. You & some of my other favorite Naruto writers have extrapolated the shiny-shonen Naruto-verse into some harsh, dark areas, but Death Note canon smacks me in the face and leaves neither me nor the cast any wiggle room outside of Ye Merciless Plot.

...but enough about DN, which I can go on about for-eveeeer. XD As you know. I can't imagine being Kishimoto and writing such a boggling amount of something without wearing out. I wouldn't want to because I'd get worn out--or when it finally did end I'd feel accomplished and absolutely terrible. It's a tall order asking someone to keep a fanbase engaged for 350+ chapters. You have to hand it to him even if he is faltering.

For all I say about not being into Naruto anymore when I went online in an Internet cafe in Italy and found out about the Orochimaru thing my immediate physical reaction translated to "Leave my favorite character alone, bitch! D:" XD I still have loyalty to my villainous characters of choice...

BLEACH guy ran out of steam a looooooooooooong time ago. ~_~ Which makes me sad since I ♥ some characters in that series, but I'm still not gonna read any more.

I suppose you should count yourself lucky for your CLAMP fangirling days being over...? Mine totally, totally aren't. I am a Tsubasa obsessive to the death. I rarely write fic in it, though, 'cause the plot keeps changing and I don't want to be stuck out of continuum. 8D give me a happy ending please please please please please CLAMP's works have always struck me as having...mmm, more subtlety and depth in canon than series like Naruto. Recently, anyway. Series like x/1999 (while convoluted) were so extremely angsty that subtlety was barely present, but Tsubasa's shown a lot of un-CLAMP-like restraint. Makes its 'ouch' moments a lot more intense, too. Tsubasa impresses the hell out of me, I'm not going to lie. XD ♥ It and Death Note own my fandom self, I suppose.

Tell me how Naruto ends, 'kay? :( :( :(

Ew. T____________T Monsoons sound awesome, but...heat. I hate heat. Rearrange the letters of 'hate' and you get 'heat'. The end.

Well, your taste is certainly intriguing. XD
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[identity profile] somekindofen.livejournal.com on June 5th, 2007 09:21 pm (UTC)
I am so shitty for being late to slobber all over your rare fic... Forgive me!

Here we go: The first thing I thought was, this is different. It's far less minimalist than the other things you've done, and has this grittier, more grounded sort of feel. I just read that Haku arc for the FIRST TIME EVER the other day, so this was insanely well-timed and tugged at the heart strings profusely. Way to be psychic, girl.

This was imbued with a subdued sort of realism that I haven't read for a long, long time; a world apart from the summer snowfall that softly graced the last pages of the arc, and a much-needed glimpse back, back, away from the changes in the intervening time between then and now, to where it all began and they were all so young and new and undamaged.

Halfway through, I just felt this sick sort of sadness in my stomach, like oh my god. Because Kakashi's stoic and mature handling of the entire situation is heartbreaking not purely because of context, but because he's so emotionally retarded like that, even though we know he's probably felt a lot harder and faster than our little emo bag of rice: Sasuke, albeit in less surround-sound . You could really feel the way he wanted to comfort Naruto. To give him something a little more tangible than duty to spin around the horrible, horrible thing that had just happened, but he can't do it, and that's so sick and sad in itself.

To reiterate: I think it's brilliant, and refuse to listen to anything that you say to sway me towards seeing otherwise. BECAUSE LA LA LA I AM NOT LISTENING. ♥

(PS: And Arizona? Eek, the prospect of packing everything up and just leaving utterly frightens me. I am in awe.)
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on June 7th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
Bah, bah! Never late to the party!

I take it you've never seen any of my earlier stuff -- I was a lot more wordy back in the day, and a lot more prone to saying totally retarded things that were out of character, but I liked the way the words sounded together (hence, the deletion of this paragraph -- and I wish I could say I was kidding -- of Kakashi lamenting over how if the kids had been born at a different place and time, they'd never have to deal with the waangst and woe of being omg ninjas. Of course, depending on what translation you've been reading, Kakashi is a lamer who said "he was a boy as pure as snow" to Naruto in reference to Haku, so, uh he might have at least something like that, too.)

Oh, wow, that's a long time to go without reading it. XD Wasn't it the saddest thing ever? I realized as I was flipping through it towards the end of this that I still whimper and get all teary-eyed when Naruto starts freaking out at Zabuza for being a cold bastard, and then Zabuza's like, *tear*. HOMAN, FATALITY.

It's really interesting, as well as ten kinds of painful to go back to the beginning where these kids are concerned, and see that thoughtlessly hopeful way that they mingle get completely demolished by this one dumb decision that you can totally see coming but can't do a freaking thing about it. It hurts, because you can see the potential and you can see what they're being shaped to be and you know that they could be different and not fuck up like the sannin did but Sasuke totally does, anyway. And you can totally see it coming, but you don't want to admit that that's the way it's got to be, and that they're going to miss every opportunity to fix things before they're too broken.

It's kind of like that Coldplay song, ha.

Re: Kakashi. It's totally a miracle that he's sane, much less a fully functional person. You just don't go through the ninja equivalent of World War II and come out a whole, untouched being, much less as a 12-year old soldier. And yet, words cannot describe my love for him.

Thank you again for your lovely words, miss. You make me feel better in a million ridiculous, giddy ways. <3 <3 <3

(PS: Hell yes! The idea of dropping everything and starting over in brand new ways makes me so hot in the pants, it's ridiculous.)
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