Summary: Epilogue. At the end of his leave on Hamlan, Spock and Hermione make plans to formalize matters.
AN: AU, Post the Movie.
~ooO A Union of Two Ooo~
T'Pau carefully arranged the headpiece of her outfit before re-centring the elaborate and heavy collar-like necklace representing her status and clan over her heavy formal robes. Today was a day she had been looking forward to for a long time. Finally, the Gryffindor Princess would take the first steps to be formally bonded with one of T'Pau's descendants; her talents and prestige would be added to the House of Surak.
It was a pity Spock had chosen to retain his commission in Starfleet, but T'Pau was certain he would eventually return to Hamlan.
"T'sai T'Pau. S'haile Spah'k has arrived with a human companion."
T'Pau nodded and rose to step out and speak to her great-grandson. Before she exited, T'Pau gave her aide instructions to continue with her assigned research project while T'Pau was otherwise occupied.
Her current aide was a teenaged great-great-granddaughter who had survived the destruction of Vulcan. S'vai had expressed a desire to enter the diplomatic service and requested the opportunity to assist T'Pau two hours every evening. T'Pau hoped S'vai found an alternative field of interest that would not involve travelling off-planet. There were not sufficient unbonded females, or Vulcans for that matter, to encourage extended periods of self-exploration.
The matriarch seated herself before nodding to her great-grandson, dressed in formal dark brown Vulcan robes embroidered in bronze. The short human female standing beside him was dressed in dark green robes embroidered with black silk thread along the collar, front, and cuffs. T'Pau raised a brow, noting that the designs on the female's robes were non-Vulcan glyphs. Nothing with which she was familiar.
Sarek's son bowed his head. "Pid-kom."
T'Pau glanced at the human female who met her eyes calmly, almost placidly. T'Pau gained the impression of great hidden depths. This one had almost Vulcan-like control. Suddenly, she wished she had arranged to interact more with Hermione Evans. Unfortunately, her duties and Hermione Evans' commitments rarely allowed their paths to intersect informally.
"What do you seek, son of Sarek?"
He glanced at his companion. T'Pau was certain they were communicating non-verbally, but how exactly she was not sure. They were not touching each other, and she was certain they were not bonded.
Amanda Grayson's brown eyes met T'Pau's black ones calmly.
"We seek your permission to bond. Our minds are compatible, and our interests are similar."
T'Pau's eyes sharpened. "Will she join you in Starfleet?"
"Not at this time, Elder," the young female murmured in soothing tones. "My duty to the Vulcan community is greater than my personal preferences. I will remain on Hamlan until the Enterprise's five-year mission has ended, or until Spock experiences the Fires."
T'Pau nodded, absorbing the information. "Very well. Kneel before me. I must verify your compatibility before I give my consent."
Both followed her instructions and remained still as T'Pau placed an aged hand upon each young face. The stern face creased slightly as she examined both minds, one familiar and disciplined, the other vibrant and fluid.
Black eyes widened as the link between them resisted her probes, almost twisting out of her mental 'fingers.' It was not the faint thin cord she was used to seeing in compatible couples. It was several strands twisted and braided together; each strand adding its strength to the whole until the connection nearly resembled a Fires-forged marriage bond. The resonance between them was extraordinary. She caught small glimpses of hand-holding, fingertips brushing against bare skin, a focused passion for something more that caught T'Pau off guard. Then she was pushed out firmly and surely.
She stared at her new great-granddaughter-to-be. Hermione Evans did not look away or fidget but met the matriarch's eyes with her own calm, unflinching gaze. At that moment, T'Pau found she could easily believe all of Q's claims. Humans were a driven and creative race, but there was something more in Hermione Evans. The decades to come would be filled with many challenges and changes for Vulcans and the Federation, events catalyzed by this single female.
"Sit," she ordered the two of them and waited until they were settled across from her. "Do you have any other plans to formalize your union?"
"We will be having a Federation wedding ceremony in addition to the Van-Kal t'Telan. So that I can contact and visit Spock without too much interference," Hermione explained. "Our bonding will be concluded on Hamlan when the Fires burn."
T'Pau raised an eyebrow. "You seem certain Spock will experience the Fires," she mused.
Hermione merely looked back blankly. "I am certain you are aware of Elder Selek. He has informed us it is a very strong possibility. Even stronger, given the current situation."
T'Pau inclined her head in assent.
"It is a prudent assumption." Black eyes twinkled. "A very welcome and anticipated event as well," she added mildly.
Spock blinked twice. A small loss of control, but forgivable.
"Forgive me, Pid-kom, but your positive response is…unexpected."
T'Pau leaned back in her chair. "Do not be foolish. Do you not remember it was I who listened to the words of the being called Q?" She turned to the Terran. "I am uncertain of how much Spock has told you…"
"Quite a bit," Hermione admitted freely. "It is illogical to start a relationship under false pretences. He said you interacted with an unknown shape-shifting being who called himself Q. He is the one responsible for moving me to this time and space."
T'Pau inclined her head. "At first it seemed impossible. But when I considered the facts and Q's words and what I knew…there was no benefit for him to lie. And he did not challenge me to do anything illogical…just to be open to the possibility. I had nearly forgotten when Sarek contacted me and said he had interacted with the Gryffindor Princess," T'Pau admitted.
Light brown eyes widened. "That's why you were so quick to offer me a place in the colony!"
"And you were a proven Healer," T'Pau pointed out mildly. "Healing is a rare and valued gift, now more than ever."
Hermione glanced at Spock, almost drawing courage from him, before turning to T'Pau.
"Spock informs me that you encouraged Sarek to look for me. And Sarek told him to win my respect and trust if he ever met me. So that I would ally myself with Vulcan."
T'Pau inclined her head. "I did. But do you truly believe that respect and interest would not be there if your heart-brother had not introduced you to his First Officer? Do you believe Spock would not have offered the resources and contacts he possessed to Heal Christopher Pike, his instructor and mentor? Did Spock mislead you in any fashion in regards to his interest in you? That it is false? That it is for purely clinical reasons?"
Hermione shook her head, smiling faintly. "No. He has not. He cannot mislead me."
T'Pau did not smile, though her pleasure could be detected by those familiar with her.
"Then I am pleased. I had intended to ally my clan with you; the benefits Q alluded to were not easy to discount. But to force or trick you into a bonding? No. That would have been very illogical. There was too much at stake to risk your disagreement. Especially after the disaster. I did what I could to increase your connection to Vulcan. I instructed Sarek to reduce contact with you so that you could come to a decision on your own, without any unintended pressure. I must confess that I had not anticipated your choice to share a household with Selek."
"James suggested it," Hermione admitted. "I was a little concerned about living surrounded by Vulcans with no human contact. He said Selek was more accepting and comfortable with emotions. And he was right." She glanced up, flashing a smile at Spock. "We have a lot in common. Being time-displaced is not something easy to comprehend." She turned to T'Pau, her expression becoming serious, earnest. "Thank you for your forbearance, for not interfering."
T'Pau blinked, taken aback by the genuine expression and words. "But I did."
Hermione shook her head. "You did not force us into making a choice. You did not drug or compel us into believing a lie. You did not pretend everything was perfect and that what you wanted would be what I would want. You allowed us to choose for ourselves."
T'Pau was definitely taken aback. "To do otherwise would be illogical and unethical!" she pointed out.
Hermione looked away, her eyes distant and unfocused. "It happened to me before. When I went to school, I became friends with a boy who came from a very traditional family. During the summers, I would spend a few weeks with the Weasleys. In our sixth year of schooling, I became infatuated with him." She turned to T'Pau, her eyes shimmering with old hurt. "I would have married him if this Q hadn't dropped me in the future.
"The first few weeks were hard. I missed Ron desperately. Then I became very sick. The free clinic doctor who saw me asked if I had ever used recreational drugs because the symptoms were very close to withdrawal symptoms. When I recovered, all my feelings for Ron had vanished. It was then that I realized that Molly Weasley had used love potions to make me attracted to her son, who, I can truthfully say, is a waste of air and food.
"You did not drug us, T'Pau. You did not trick us into sharing a living space. You did not insist on introducing me as a potential in-law. You did not push me to correspond with Spock. You did not contact me every other day and ask me about my feelings. You did not practically announce our engagement when we had not even completed school.
"So believe me, T'Pau, I would be proud to call you Clan Mother."
T'Pau pretended to ignore her great-grandson's fingers lacing through the fingers of the smaller hand belonging to the female sitting next to him. Hermione's loss of control was excusable. Forced bonding through drugs and mental reprogramming were inexcusable! It was a miracle Hermione had recovered enough to reach out, to trust and form an intimate bond.
The elderly Vulcan reached out and stroked Hermione's cheek, lightly skimming over the meld points, projecting an accepting serenity. She ignored the flowing tears and caught the younger female's eyes.
"The fault is not yours. You were betrayed by your Elders."
"I know." Hermione smiled, the expression more of a feral baring of teeth in challenge. "It is just one more reason why I chose a Vulcan as my husband, my bondmate."
T'Pau cocked her head in curious inquiry. "Tell me, Hermione Evans, what would you have done if you had not met Spock?"
Hermione's response was quick and to the point. "Once my personal situation was financially and physically secure, I would have arranged to have children without a partner."
T'Pau was taken aback. "You would not have sought out love?"
"I have love. I love James and Christopher and Lyri and many others. But to bind myself, to vow forever? Never to one who can't comprehend the commitment, never without trust, respect, and caring." She turned to Spock and smiled gently, squeezing his hand. "There are no doubts in the connection we have."
T'Pau nodded. "So I have seen. When do you wish to have the ceremony? It will take several months to arrange a large Terran-style ceremony."
"Unnecessary." Spock spoke quietly but firmly. "We plan on having a small civil ceremony on the Enterprise."
Hermione smirked. "James insisted on giving me away, so Christopher, Admiral Pike, will be conducting the Federation ceremony."
"Have you set a guest list for the Federation ceremony?"
"It is a work-in-progress. I know non-family do not witness the Vulcan ceremony, so most of my colleagues will be invited to attend the Federation ceremony. If you have anyone you wish to invite, let Spock know." She grinned, seeing T'Pau's raised eyebrow. "I'm looking after the ceremony on Hamlan, and Spock is organizing the one on the Enterprise."
Jim studied the bride and groom from his designated spot in the circle of witnesses. He was the only human present; all others were Vulcans and relatives. Spock was wearing formal red-brown Vulcan robes, but Mia had chosen to wear a cream silk sleeveless, calf-length dress that looked more like lingerie than a dress, given how it fitted around her boobs and flowed freely from below the gathers underneath. He wondered why she wasn't more concerned about getting a sunburn or heat stroke.
Jim Kirk tugged at the collar of his dress uniform and wished he'd taken Mia up on her suggestion to change into less restrictive clothing. But he hadn't because he wanted to honour his heart-sister the best way he knew how. His options for civilian formal wear were limited, and he did not like the styles Vulcans favoured for formal events.
"It will not take long," a familiar raspy voice murmured from beside him.
Jim turned and looked up at the elderly but unbowed Vulcan dressed in deep midnight blue robes.
"I know, Selek," Jim murmured as he deliberately released the hem of his tailored Starfleet dress tunic. "I'm a bit reluctant, that's all."
Selek raised a brow. "May I ask why? You had no doubts watching Admiral Pike marry them. In fact, you gave Hermione away and did not raise any objections."
Jim nodded. "I know, Selek. It's just that Vulcan bondings are essentially unbreakable."
Selek tilted his head to one side. "They are more sturdy than human wedding vows but not unbreakable. It can be done even without the consent of both parties involved, in extreme circumstances."
Blue eyes widened. "Really?"
"And saying that, I must add that I doubt the bond between Hermione and Spock can be similarly broken. Hermione's…unusual talents and Spock's own gifts will make their connection stronger than a typical marriage bond."
Jim blinked. "Do they know that?" he wanted to know.
Selek inclined his head. "They do. Hermione theorized the possibility, and T'Pau has since confirmed it. Their bond will be 'until death do us part.'"
Jim turned to watch Spock and Mia stand before T'Pau facing each other and listened to them speak in High Vulcan, an obscure, archaic dialect not in the Universal Translator.
As though sensing his frustration, Selek spoke softly. "It is a standard wedding ceremony confirming their consensual agreement to be bonded. T'Pau has confirmed it."
Jim relaxed and continued to watch as T'Pau placed her hands upon Spock and Mia's faces and did something. Mia had warned him of it. What she hadn't warned him of were the ribbons of luminescent white light that appeared out of nowhere, encircling his heart-sister and First Officer after T'Pau stepped back.
He watched as Mia held out her left hand palm up and Spock immediately reciprocated, placing his larger hand face down on top of hers. And he listened to her speak in High Vulcan, actions and words that clearly surprised the Vulcans present.
"What's she saying?" Jim wanted to know.
Selek began translating softly and quickly for Jim.
"I declare before all that my choice to bond with S'chin T'gai Spock in the way of his people and mine has been made of my own free will. I stand beneath the open sky on bare earth and swear this vow. I reaffirm this vow by the fire of my spirit and the blood in my veins."
"Witnessed," a cool, soothing feminine voice murmured in Jim's mind, though his ears heard nothing.
"Witnessed," a hot, impatient teenage male hissed in his brain.
Jim spun around, frantically looking for the source of the voices, and saw that everyone around him had also experienced something. Did they hear what he just heard?
"Witnessed," the deep voice of an older male rumbled.
"Witnessed," the high, childish treble of a young girl piped out.
"Witnessed," a masculine voice called out in a light baritone.
Jim spun around. He had heard that last voice. Out loud and not in his head.
"Q!" Jim had never heard Selek speak in such a wrath-filled, poisonous tone before. He was very happy it was not directed at him. "What are you doing here!"
Jim looked in the same direction as Selek and stared. There was a stranger standing less than thirty feet away; a human man in an unfamiliar jumpsuit, with black shoulders and pants and a red top, with a silver Starfleet insignia on the left breast.
"So you are the one called Q."
Jim wasn't quite sure just how Mia had managed to get in front of him without drawing his attention.
The one she called Q bowed from the waist and saluted, two fingers to the temple and away.
"At your service."
Mia studied Q with cold eyes.
"You are the one responsible for ripping me from my world and time."
Q eyed her warily as she stalked towards him to stand before him. She was small and fragile-seeming in her bare feet, the top of her head not even reaching his shoulders.
"I should be mad at you, but I am not." She smiled brilliantly as she stood on tip-toe and brushed a kiss against his cheek. "Thank you. Thank you for what you've given me."
Q eyed her warily like any sane man sensing an imminent feminine storm.
"Wait, you aren't mad at me?"
Mia grinned wryly. "If you had asked me that years ago I would have said 'Hell Yes!' But now, even though I have lost, what I've gained more than makes up for what I no longer have."
Q smirked cockily. "You are a very nice but odd example of humanity! Most of your species are ungrateful, unappreciative, narrow-minded, short-sighted, and I'll stop right there," he concluded quickly, seeing her eyes narrow dangerously. He turned to Selek. "Why can't the rest of you mortals be as nice and appreciative as Hermione here?
Selek glared. "Because you cause trouble wherever you go, Q. And you enjoy dropping us mortals in untenable situations and watching us flounder," he pointed out acidly. "Your presence only means disaster is imminent."
Q frowned. "I do not appreciate being called a bad luck charm!"
Selek snorted. "More like a bad penny that turns up where it is least wanted." Dark brown eyes narrowed. "What are you doing here, Q? Why did you interfere and move Hermione forward while doing nothing when Nero moved back?"
Q glared. "There are rules, Ambassador Spock. As much as I enjoy rule-breaking, there are some rules no Q can ever break! Not if the fabric of reality is to remain whole!"
Selek raised a sceptical brow. "I find that hard to believe, Q. You claim to be all-powerful, and yet you say you couldn't stop one mortal ship from travelling through a black hole?"
"So long as the fabric of reality remains intact, I may not interfere, unless I am undoing events caused by the actions of a Q, myself or another."
Selek stared hard at Q. "So Vulcan…"
"No Q caused Romulus's sun to go supernova. No Q was responsible for the presence of the red matter that created the black hole. Mortals created this mess, so mortals must clean it up. So it has been decreed by the Q-Continuum."
Selek sagged. Jim edged closer, just in case his elderly friend collapsed.
"So, what are you doing here then?" Selek asked in a weary tone. "Why did you move Hermione to this point in time-space?"
Everyone turned to hear the answer to the question.
Q hesitated before speaking.
"Tell me, Ambassador, did you ever read Picard's reports about his first meeting with me?"
Selek frowned. "Yes. You transported the Enterprise to an unknown region of the Milky Way galaxy. And the Enterprise was boarded by the…Borg." Dark eyes widened. "The Borg."
Q nodded sharply. "Yes. The Borg. You are very aware of the threat they pose to all sentient species in this galaxy, any galaxy for that matter. They will assimilate and eradicate all life in their quest for unattainable perfection."
Selek steepled his fingers in front of his mouth. "The Federation is not ready for such a threat. They barely managed to survive the Collective in my time!"
Q snorted. "More by luck than a genuine advantage! Do you honestly believe this Federation will be ready when the Borg come calling in a hundred years?" he inquired sarcastically.
Selek shook his head. "Starfleet has lost too many ships, an entire class and generation of experienced officers. The Federation will be focused on rebuilding and reassuring the current members, not reaching out to make new allies. The Klingon fleet was decimated by the Narada, and Vulcan is gone. An alliance with Romulus is not possible, and the Cardassians are undependable."
Q inclined his head. "Yes. Unlike most of my compatriots, I am concerned about the Borg." He frowned slightly, looking away into the distance. "I would prefer to see the Collective destroyed before they assimilate all of this galaxy and reach the galactic centre." He smirked at Selek. "You know as well as I do that things will get messy if they succeed."
Selek shuddered in remembered horror. "Yes."
"So what does all this have to do with me?" Mia inquired hesitantly.
Q turned to her and smiled broadly. "Tell me, Hermione, what happens to electronics when you use what you call magic?"
Hermione frowned. "I have to be very careful," she admitted. "Or they will short circuit."
Selek frowned. "You cannot be serious, Q! Borg cubes are the size of small moons and are filled with hundreds of thousands of cybernetic drones! One witch, no matter how talented, cannot short circuit a single cube by herself."
Q smirked. "Who says she has to be the only one?"
Everyone froze. Jim wanted to throttle Q and demand answers. But he didn't because he sensed his usual methods of beating an opponent up for answers wouldn't work in this situation. Not against a being who talked casually of moving starships, crossing time, and undoing events!
"What exactly do you mean?" Sarek asked carefully since everyone had been stunned silent by Q's last statement.
Q moved to stand before Mia.
"You were born among mortals, but you are not one. Not entirely."
"What do you mean?"
"I think you know, Daughter of Nimue."
Mia inhaled sharply. "There are tales…. Contrary to Muggle legend, Nimue was not the younger student of Merlin but his teacher, a beautiful, capricious female who was said to be one of the Sidhe. She lived in Underhill, a land that could not be reached by any mortal or mage. There was speculation that the first Magicals were changelings, Sidhe children abandoned in the mortal realm because they were too weak to survive in Underhill."
"More like experiments," Q murmured. "The Sidhe are a faction of Q who chose not to abide by the Continuum rules. Very much like Vosh-katur. Your ancestors were engineered to have a small portion of a Q's abilities. The experiment was to see how mortals would choose to use their new gifts."
"And the Magicals failed," Hermione murmured.
"They failed," Q acknowledged. "Most chose to abuse their powers for self-gain or to harm those with less abilities with no justification. There were a few who chose to serve but none who served with distinction, who did not raise one race above all others. None until you."
Hermione closed her eyes, inhaling sharply. "The House Elves."
"The House Elves. And the goblins, and the centaurs, and the werewolves, and the giants… You did not discriminate. Even when you feared, you did not hate."
Her lips curved into a wry smile. "They did not choose to be different from me any more than I chose to be different from them."
"And that is why I chose you." There was steel in Q's voice. "You are my gift to the sentient beings of this universe so that they have the chance to survive the Borg."
"Hermione is a single being," Selek pointed out. "She cannot teach others how to use magic."
Q's eyes locked with Hermione's. "But others can be born with the talent. They can be raised and taught how to use magic by their mother, their clan matriarch." He ignored the shell-shocked expressions of all present. "You are the first mage, but you will not be the last. The alpha quadrant will rise and fall by your choices, so what say you, Daughter of Nimue?"
Hermione inhaled sharply and closed her eyes. Then she began speaking. "I grew up expecting war. I fought one war against genocide. Now you are asking me to have children and raise them to fight a war they did not cause, an enemy intent on destroying all life?"
Q's response was very even. "Yes."
Her eyes snapped wide open, her nostrils flared, small blue sparks jumped from the elaborate arrangement of braids wrapped around her head. "Then I say, bring it! I am not going to roll over for the next breed of fanatics seeking to destroy me and mine! The Borg will pay a hefty price for every sector, every planet, they seek to assimilate."
Q laughed. Thunder rumbled in the cloudless skies.
"So spoken, so witnessed!" He leaned forward and grabbed her by her shoulders before leaning forward to brush a kiss against her forehead. There was a soft flash of white light that briefly blinded the mortals present. "My gift to you. Long life and health, strength to endure what is to come, an extended lifespan to raise a large family and continue with your research. Your legacy will stand against the Borg. Your name will be remembered and venerated. Your descendants will be sought after in all spheres: in battle, in politics, in sciences, in love."
And then he vanished.
Hermione turned towards Spock, seeking reassurance. "Tell me I did not commit to fighting an enemy I never even heard of before today," she begged.
Selek coughed. "If there is an enemy that must be fought, it is the Borg. They are a cybernetic race originating from the Delta Quadrant that seek only to assimilate all other living beings. The victims are literally absorbed into the Collective and lose all self-identity and independence. The Borg cannot be reasoned with, they feel no compassion or love or even hate."
"What do you mean by assimilate?" Sarek asked in subdued tones.
"The Borg inject nanobots into their victims through fang-like retractable tubes in their hands. The probes rewrite genetic code, reprogram the brain, grow implants and replace organs and limbs with cybernetic equivalents. It is a horrific experience, and the rescued victims take months to recover both physically and psychologically from the experience, if ever."
"How did the Federation defeat them?"
"With great cost and loss of life. Planets and fleets." Selek's response was not reassuring.
Hermione stirred. "So Q's actions and suggestions are logical then." It was more of a statement than a question.
"Yes," Selek conceded reluctantly.
Hermione nodded and reached out to her new bondmate. Spock brushed his fingers against hers before hooking two around hers. She looked up and around at Selek, Jim, Sarek, and T'Pau.
"We have time. It is safe to assume they will not show up for another century since they would not be affected by events in the Alpha Quadrant. For now, I do not wish to inform the Federation of what we know. It will take at least fifteen years for the Federation to recover to its pre-Narada strength. I would prefer Vulcan be in a position of strength when we share this information." She looked at Spock. "It might be safer if you retire your commission before that happens."
Spock inclined his head. "Perhaps. We can re-evaluate at the time."
She turned to Selek. "Can you start documenting everything you can remember about the Borg? The political, economic, and technological variables that worked for and against them?"
Selek nodded. Hermione turned to Jim.
"Can you sit on this? You know the Federation is off balance. Telling Starfleet of an enemy that will arrive in a hundred years is not going to help. They already have enough on their plate."
Jim frowned. "But Starfleet can–"
"Help? How? According to Selek, they barely beat them back a hundred years in the future. And that was in a time when they were presumably in a much stronger position."
"Not exactly," Selek murmured. Everyone turned to stare at him. "The politics of the time were rather strained," he explained. "The Federation had to make a number of concessions to reassure our neighbours that our intentions were peaceful. Intelligence was focused on the empires at our borders. Gaining intelligence on the Borg was not easy either. You can't insert an agent to infiltrate, their computer algorithms and technology were several generations ahead of our own, and their ships were bigger and capable of trans-warp. Not at this point in time, as far as I know," he added hastily.
Jim snorted. "So you're saying this is practically a no-win situation. We have to go up against an overwhelmingly advanced enemy with better ships, shields, and guns that wants to turn us into little robots."
Selek stared. "Yes."
Jim beamed. "Great! Where do I sign up?" Everyone stared at him blankly. Hermione snorted. "What? You know I don't believe in no-win scenarios!"
Spock shook his head in barely hidden exasperation.
Hermione stifled a snort, suddenly feeling much better despite the new threat looming over them. At least this time she was an adult getting a hundred years notice to prepare for a war. She felt warm reassurance in the back of her mind from her bondmate and pushed her own confidence through the bond.
Hermione did not expect the Borg to be a pushover; they were probably just as bad as Death Eaters. They were going to lose a lot of good people, probably friends and family, but Hermione knew there were some things that were worth fighting for.
Vulcans were trained pacifists, but under the right circumstances, they could be as fierce and relentless as Klingon warriors. Hermione realized she was not afraid to see that for herself. Not as long as she had Spock beside her. As long as he was with her, she was certain she could handle anything the universe threw at her.
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