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Hardison's Week Off: What We Talk About When We Don't Talk About Love.
Fandom: Leverage.
Pairing: There were three in the bed, until Alec kicked them out so he could get some sleep.
Warning: The Library of Congress does not endorse these shenanigans.

Notes: By brown_betty and emeraldwoman. Sequel to House Rules. Part of The Odd Jobs series. First in the Week Off sub-series.

Day One

Alec wasn't really sure what set Sophie off; nothing seemed really different when she came in, sorting through her mail. Nate was drinking, but just at maintenance levels, a whiskey that would last him most of the morning. Parker was sparring with Eliot -- or not really, mostly dancing around him, aiming quick little jabs at his hands while he blocked her, some kinda game they sometimes played that he couldn't figure out how to score -- and Sophie had to flatten herself against the wall to squeeze past.

Nate nodded at Alec. "Everything ready?" he asked.

"Nah, bad news. Our next job's gone bust."

Sophie stopped, and Eliot and Parker froze in place and craned their necks around. "What's wrong with it?" asked Eliot.

"He's not a good guy, is he?" said Parker. "I hate it when they're good guys."

"He's not a good--" Nate started to say, which was so completely true that Alec broke in:

"No. No way. He makes Khan look like Sybok." Whoops. In an unexpected twist, the only one not staring at him like he'd broken out in tongues was Sophie, but he didn't really think that was because she was a big fan of Ricardo Montalban. "Or, in language y'all can understand, he's a bad, bad man. Which is why the feds put him in prison." Alec twirled his chair back to the computer. "Which means I'm back to our little black book and looking for our dream-date. Don't worry, we won't be going to the prom alone."

Eliot sat down, snorting. It was nice that someone thought he was funny.

"So you don't really need me, then," said Sophie.

"You could take the day off," said Alec, and then remembered that Nate liked to be the man in charge, and cut a glance up at him.

"Do you need a day off?" asked Nate, sounding a little bit concerned.

"I was thinking more like a week," Sophie said, tapping her fingers on the seam of her jeans.

"A week?" Now Nate was actually looking worried. Sure, he wouldn't ever actually make a play for her, but he got mighty clingy when she started showing a bit of independence. Alec looked down at his keyboard to make sure Nate didn't see his face.

"I deserve a week at a spa. I deserve a week of nothing but massages and hot tubs, and fresh-squeezed orange juice."

Eliot was giving her what he thought was a subtle sidelong look, and Nate was actually managing to be subtle by eyeing her in the reflection on Alec's screen, so Alec raised his eyebrow at Nate's reflection to indicate his own bafflement.

Sophie's reflection hesitated and looked to the left, a sure tell that she'd realised she'd let on she was upset. She recovered quick, though: "You can come too, Parker. It will be a girls-only get-away."

Parker, who had started plumbing the depths of her breakfast strawberry milkshake, froze, looking as if she'd just heard a security alarm go off while she was still in the building.

"And what will the rest of us do?" Nate asked.

"Whatever you people do! Watch football. Have barbecues. Eat corn-on-the--"

Parker burst into laughter, and atomized her mouthful of supposed dairy product across the table. The arc of little pink droplets ended at Sophie.

Alec felt the moment called for respectful silence, or perhaps a quiet round of applause, but Parker was still laughing, huge hysterical whoops that brought tears to her eyes. Gasping for air, she waved off Eliot's fumbling attempt to pat her back. Sophie said nothing. She stood there, dripping, until Parker subsided.

Then she grabbed her purse from the table and threw it at Nate's head. He dodged, stumbling over his own feet. Alec winced.

"I'll see you all in a week," she said, very calmly, and walked out.

"If Sophie gets a week's vacation, so do I," Parker said immediately. "Will you guys look after the cats?"

"Uh, sure," Alec said. "Listen, if we're doing some time off-"

"Great!" Parker said, accelerating towards the door. "I'll send you a postcard!"

"From where?" Eliot called.

"I don't know. Paris? The Louvre added new motion detectors!" The door swung in the enthusiasm of her exit.

Alec looked at Nate, but apparently the news that Parker intended to spend her vacation evading exciting new security systems wasn't as important as pouring himself another drink.

"So we're off for a week?" Alec tested.

Nate waved at the air. "Fine. Don't get in trouble. I'm not going to be available for bail."

Eliot rolled his eyes and got to his feet. Alec found himself inspecting the way the muscles moved under his jeans when he did that. A week of free time without Parker wasn't great, but a week of free time with Eliot could be.

Day Two

The first night was mostly spent settling the cats into their bedroom while Eliot drank beers, until he gave into Alec's increasingly blatant suggestions regarding the hot tub. Grover managed to open the balcony door and wander over in the middle of a crucial moment, but Alec was used to the cats' bemused staring at their humans' strange behaviour.

He woke up the next morning feeling really good, and nostalgic for life with Nana. The reason for the first feeling was pretty obvious, and had a lot to do with that thing Eliot did with two fingers applied just so, but the reason for the second took a little longer to identify. The mystery was solved when he padded towards the kitchen.

"Hey," Eliot said, taking a tray of cookies out of the oven and putting another in. Three trays were already cooling on the bench.

"I like vacation," Alec decided, and snagged one from the tray closest to him. "Hey, rosemary shortbread! Nana made these."

Eliot set the timer. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Now, these aren't that good, because my Nana, she was the Queen of her kitchen, and I ain't about to commit treason. But they're pretty damn good." He stuffed another in his mouth, wondering if there was milk in the fridge.

"There's milk in the fridge," Eliot said. "Okay, so that's the shortbread, the cherry chocolate chip, the oatmeal raisin and the plain oatmeal, and the mint chocolate swirl are in the oven. Take those out when the timer goes. I'm going to Kentucky."

Alec's jaw dropped. Cookie crumbs fell down his front, and he hastily closed it again, brushing his hand down the shirt he slept in. "You're what?" he demanded, at the same time he tried to swallow.

Eliot waited until he stopped coughing, eyes politely averted. No, not politely - the son-of-a-bitch was avoiding eye contact. "Figured I'd check on the barn," he mumbled. "You know, see some old friends. Since I've got the chance."

"Do we have a problem?" Alec asked. "And by 'we', I mean, 'you and me'."

"No," Eliot said, his eyes going everywhere but Alec's face.

"Fine," Alec said, wishing he sounded a little less like a prissy girlfriend. "Whatever."

Eliot slunk out like a fratboy waking up in the wrong frat, leaving Alec with delicious cookies and a debt to repay. He took a stack of the first and went to his computer to fulfill the second. It took him nearly half an hour to subscribe Eliot to all the magazines on fluffy white-boy hair-styling he could find, and he signed him up for a couple of glossy informational brochures on hair-plugs besides. He broke briefly when the alarm went off for the cookies, and actually struggled for a moment over whether or not he wanted to take the cookies out of the oven, or let them burn. Then his good sense prevailed and he decided setting fire to tasty cookies in his own oven might not be the best repayment, so he pulled them out, and tried one. It burnt his hand, and was delicious.

Then he logged into Eliot's WoW account, stripped his warrior alt down to his underwear and sent him running through Durotar. He put the video on YouTube, went back for more cookies, and decided that he could leave it there for a while.

Although if Eliot hadn't grovelled by the time Parker showed up, he'd leave him to her tender mercies.

Alec logged into his own account and took another run at planting the Horde standard in a pile of skulls at the top of a mountain.

The collection of pixels didn't stab the pole down with enough vigour, but he let out a little warcry to make up for it.

Day Three

He woke up facedown on the keyboard. Susan was climbing his leg, which, since he hadn't bothered to put on pants, was more painful than it had to be. He hoisted her onto his arm, scratched behind her grey ears and went to find her brothers. Benjamin was drinking from the toilet bowl in Eliot's ensuite. Grover had somehow managed the latch on the cupboard that held the cat biscuits, and was patiently clawing pawfuls of Kat Krumbs out of a box.

Susan jumped down to join him, bumping him aside with her flank.

"How did you do that?" Alec asked. "I know that door was locked."

Grover ignored him in favour of batting at Susan's tail. Unperturbed, she hooked out a pile of Kat Krumbs and began nosing among them for the purple-coloured ones.

"You guys used to be better listeners," Alec complained. "I have needs, y'all. I feel that you're not accommodating my reasonable requirements for a healthy relationship."

Benjamin ran across the kitchen floor, skidded to a halt, and repeated the action in the other direction.

"Fine," Alec said, and tipped Kat Krumbs into their bowls, topping up the water fountain for good measure. "Just don't be surprised when my lawyer knocks on your cat-flap."

He snagged a handful of cookies - oatmeal, for a healthy breakfast - cracked open a new soda, and went back to his desk.

He didn't exactly expect to hear from Parker, although the postcard would probably show up eventually, but it had been three days without her so he let himself run a brief search. She'd taken out €2000 in cash in Frankfurt, forty hours ago, and could be anywhere by now, or at least anywhere with a high ceiling and valuables. He didn't actually mean to check up on Eliot -- he had put the man out of his mind -- except sometimes his fingers were faster than his brain, and what was Eliot doing in Georgia?

He needed to find something productive to do.

He was midway through beefing up the firewalls at the Library of Congress, which were currently pretty much begging for some bored scriptkiddie to come in and mess up the catalogues, when his cellphone started playing "Fever".

"I need to be booked into another spa," Sophie said, without preliminaries. "But they're all full. Can you slip me in somewhere?"

Alec started tracing the call. "Sophie, is my name Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy?"

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"I'm not your concierge," he said, pulling up a list of five star resorts in Tuscany.

There was a pause, which he used to rank the spas according to amenities. "You're right," she said. "You're on holiday. Don't worry about it. Sorry to bother you."

That got him all the way alert. "Sophie? Is this a kumquat situation?" His fingers hovered, ready to send the code that would bring them all in to help her out.

She sighed, a deep groan devoid of the breathy poutiness she aimed at marks. "I truly wish it was. No, I'll handle this. Enjoy your time off."

"You bet," he told the dead air, and went back to making the national library hacker-proof. Well, except for him, of course. But he was using his powers for good.

Since Eliot wasn't around to make faces at him, he went down to the bodega and picked up a bag of everyflavour chips, and, since he was there, more soda, and some of the tamales they sold out of the back. Walking back, he ate a few chips, and then remembered that he'd never really liked everyflavour. He decided if Eliot wasn't there to gag, half the fun was gone anyway, and dropped the bag into a trash-can.

Benjamin was back at the toilet bowl. "You got clean water thirty feet that way," Alec reminded him. "Why you so nasty, man?" Benjamin stared at him, yellow-green eyes glinting in the late afternoon sun, and lowered his head again.

Alec shuddered, and settled in for a pleasant evening of disemvowelling White Power sites. It didn't really make them that much more incoherent, but it had the excellent effect of driving the owners even crazier.

Day Four

He woke up, drooling into the mattress, to his cellphone playing "Perfect Day", which meant it was Nate.

"I need you to run a license check," he said. There was a lot of noise in the background, but the sound of ice clinking in a glass was clear.

Alec sighed. "Are you at a bar?"

"Are you my mother?"

"I'm on vacation."


He was already cracking the laptop. "Fine. What's the number? And don't say I never give you nothing."

"That's a triple negative, Mr. Hardison. I'm amazed."

"Don't you be dissing my linguistic stylings, neither. Okay, owner is one Carla Ramirez." He blinked. "AKA Angel Blues, AKA Jennifer Smith, AKA Laura Jacobs, AKA Juanita Reyes. This lady gets around."

"She's got a record?"

"Smalltime stuff, all more than a decade ago. Petty theft, petty fraud, one count of grand theft auto, one count of carrying a weapon across state lines unlicensed. Sealed juvenile record, which I could crack but I'm not gonna because I respect sealed juvenile records."

"Huh. So she got caught, and then she got good." There was a muffled noise, as if Nate was covering the mouthpiece and talking to someone else. Ordering another round, Alec was willing to bet. "-yeah. Current address?"

Alec rattled it off. "You need me for this?"

"No," Nate said sharply, and hung up.

"You're welcome," Alec said, and did a little extra fossicking around Carla Ramirez anyway. Nothing turned up that Nate couldn't find for himself, which was suspicious all on its lonesome. People that careful to stay off the grid had plenty to hide.

"Perfect Day" started playing again, and Alec was already rolling his eyes when he picked up. "Look, unless you want to know her Triple-A number-"

"No, no," Nate said. "I just realised I forgot to say thank you. So, you know, that."

"Uh. Sure, man, no problem."

"Yeah," Nate said, and hung up again.

"That was weird," Alec told Susan. She yawned at him from her place on his pillow, then padded out the door, looking behind her expectantly. "Aren't the lionesses supposed to hunt?" he asked, following her. "Bringing back food for the dudes? I'm the leader of your pride, lady. I'm the Lion King."

He poured Kat Krumbs into the bowls and went to make sure Benjamin hadn't drowned himself. He hadn't; he was sleeping at the foot of Eliot's bed. Alec patted him awake, and then smoothed the covers down. In the back of his head, he'd been working on how to break the news to Parker that Eliot didn't want to be part of them if them involved him. Just in case it became necessary.

"Screw this," he told Benjamin, and went back to his computer, which loved him true and dear. He spent a couple of hours bouncing in and out of the FBI servers, making a lot of noise purely to amuse himself, because watching the Feds scurry after him was usually fun. This time it didn't do much for his mood, so he hit Wikipedia and swept through the pages on DC and Milestone heroes, instituting a pitiless editing campaign that left squabbling chaos in his wake.

When the rumbling in his stomach got louder than the BYU Combined Choir (he liked the old standards, so sue him) he went kitchen hunting.

He steadfastly ignored the cookies.

Day Five

He was starting to feel bored, really bored, the dangerous kind that he hadn't been in a while. Last time he'd been this bored, he'd gotten his fool self involved with a crew out of Sao Paolo who were trying to hack a military satellite's navigation system. They'd gotten along fine, speaking partly a mash of Spanish and Portuguese, and mostly Assembly, living on liquid invert sugar and whatever they could get delivered, and it had been a grand old time until Nathan Ford showed up.

Probably better not to go there again, he decided, and pulled out his parts box.

He wasn't much of a robotics guy, but how much did you have to know, really? Wheels here, body here, hydraulic claw here, all soothing, hands-on construction work that kept his brain on mechanics, and not code, away from the keyboards where he could get himself into so very much trouble. The sensor installation and remote control were a piece of cake, and that was the point he realised he hadn't slept or eaten in twenty-one hours.

More importantly, he hadn't fed the cats.

"Oh, fucking Christ," he said, and stumbled into the kitchen on legs that shook from low blood sugar. "Sorry, Nana. Sorry, Jesus. Sorry, cats. Sorry, Parker."

It turned out he didn't have to worry. Grover had opened the cupboard again, and the cats had torn through two boxes of Kat Krumbs. One of them had vomited on the carpet - he wasn't sure who, but it was the kind of thing Benjamin did when he felt that he wasn't getting enough attention. Alec cleaned up before one of the others could eat the vomit, which he never ever wanted to see again. Then he found Benjamin, sat the tiger-striped cat in his lap and stroked him while he methodically crunched his way through the rest of the mint chocolate swirl and rosemary shortbread.

Then he slipped the remote control out of his pocket.

The little robot trundled down the hall - those wheels were missing some traction on the carpet, but he'd replace them later - opened the fridge, retrieved a soda, and brought it over to him.

"Good boy," Alec said, and took a swig.

If Eliot were there, he'd have pointed out that the fridge was five steps to Alec's left. If Parker were there, she'd have offered to show them how to get stuff out of the fridge without touching the kitchen floor. Then it would have been time for an argument over whose methods were better, and pizza, and sex.

He really needed to hurt someone. It was time for The List.

The List had started in kindergarten, but he hadn't started writing it down until middle school. Most of the really big names - sadistic teachers, an abusive social worker, Bobby Gordon, who'd raped Sarah Kyle at Katrina's party and laughed right in her face when she'd confronted him the next day - had already been dealt with. Alec scanned down the remaining names and selected Jeffery T. Weinerburger, who hadn't liked a black geek dating a white cheerleader, and had registered his objections via his fist in Alec's face. Alec still couldn't decide which part of him had more offended The Weiner's sense of proper order.

Now he had only to decide what The Weiner deserved.

Well, he hadn't skated into Homeland Security's databases for a while.

Fabricating security reports and two more robot-delivered sodas helped take the edge off, but as he rolled into bed, round about noon, he felt the danger of tomorrow tugging at his brain.

Day Six

Something was tickling his nose.

Alec swiped at it, then growled and opened his eyes when the poking persisted.

"Good morning," Eliot said.

Alec sat up, wishing that he'd showered at some point in the last three days, and also wishing that he'd rehearsed some lines in preparation for this moment. He stuck to glaring, figuring that was a tried and true classic.

Eliot had been poking his nose with the corner of a postcard. He held it out, and when Alec didn't move, dropped it into his lap. Eliot looked almost as dirty as Alec felt, hair stuffed under one of his disgusting beanies, and greasy at the edges.

"Uh," Eliot said, at the same time Alec said "What the hell, man?"

"Yeah," Eliot said. "So it turns out I'm a jackass."

"You think?" Alec demanded, and risked life and limb by poking Eliot in the chest, hard. "What is your problem?"

Eliot actually flinched. "I've never done this before! I wake up one morning and apparently I'm living with a man! I have a boyfriend! We have cats!" He stood up and windmilled his arms, scaring one of the aforementioned. "I-- No, okay, see, I get that I am an asshole. I just. It caught me by surprise. My last relationship was --" He rocked back and shoved his hands into his beltloops, apparently to steady himself.

Alec tried to surreptitiously scrub his tongue on his teeth, and swung his feet out onto the floor, wondering if it would be a good move to get dressed; he might feel a bit more moral-high-ground-ish if he wasn't wearing boxers that read "There's No Place Like". "So, what, it's too relationship-y?" he asked. "You wanna find some way to make this more sordid, I dunno, hand-jobs in back-alleys or somethin'? Because I ain't--"

Eliot grimaced and darted in close, whoa-- Alec kind of thought he was going to get- shoved, maybe, he didn't really think Eliot would get violent, but he might--

But instead Eliot kissed him, carefully, and settled his hands on Alec's hips. Not even a dirty kiss, or anything, just sort of a press of lips like for a photo. And then he backed off, about two inches and looked down into the space between them. "I'm obviously not-- I don't know what I'm doing but I want to figure it out. Aaagh," he added, as Susan began climbing his leg.

"You tell him, sister," Alec said, but he put his hands, carefully, on Eliot's hips.

"Yeah?" said Eliot, face still turned away, but Alec thought he caught a hopeful turn at the edge of his mouth.

"Here's what we're going to do," said Alec. "We're going to have a shower, because I can't tell which of us I'm smelling right now. And you're going to tell me all about how you're sorry. And then we're going to clean up this place before Parker comes back and decides we're a bad influence on the cats. Also, because I am good and kind, I'll cancel your subscription to Hair Club For Men."

"There's nothing wrong with my hair," Eliot said, looking vaguely insulted.

"You are wrong on that, as on so many things, which we will discuss in the shower."

Eliot smirked and sauntered towards the bathroom, pulling off both of his shirts. There was a yellowing bruise running right up the left side of his back. What had he been doing in Georgia? "I saw you ate all my cookies," he said over his shoulder. "Except the oatmeal raisin. And why is there a robot in the kitchen?"

"I don't know where you got the impression I like raisins. They're like little balls of ratshit in your cookies." Alec picked up the postcard.

It was a picture of LA at night. On the back, Parker had written four words in her shaky capitals: WISH I WERE THERE.

Alec smiled, carefully put the postcard on his nightstand, and went to join his boyfriend in the shower.

They had whole hours left of vacation.



( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 28th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
::dies:: I love you both very much.

Oh, Alec, you're so adorable :)
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:30 am (UTC)
And lo, we feast upon your love.

He really is. Aldis Hodge does an awful lot with that character - he could have been a smug geek, but he comes across as accomplished and sweet.
Mar. 28th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
!loved Parker's laugh!!

and Hardison's antics, and the kumquat.

nice story. bravo.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:33 am (UTC)

Mar. 28th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
Oh, God...disemvowelling White Power sites!!!

Things like that never get old.

I want to draw sparkly hearts around this series, really I do.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:34 am (UTC)
Hardison has no time for racist bullshit on *his* internet.

Mar. 28th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
Aww. Love this universe! More please.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:34 am (UTC)
I would stick around, were I you.
Mar. 28th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
cutest EVER. hardison, this is why you're my favorite. faaavorite. <333
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:34 am (UTC)
We're pretty fond of him too!
Mar. 28th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
settled in for a pleasant evening of disemvowelling White Power sites. It didn't really make them that much more incoherent, but it had the excellent effect of driving the owners even crazier.

yay, Alec's using his powers for good! this made me laugh so damn hard; I still have a huge grin

It was a picture of LA at night. On the back, Parker had written four words in her shaky capitals: WISH I WERE THERE.

Alec smiled, carefully put the postcard on his nightstand, and went to join his boyfriend in the shower.

They had whole hours left of vacation.

and this ending totally rocks. I'm completely sold on this trio - they're all wonderful and feel so in character, and apparently codependent. no more separate vacations!
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:36 am (UTC)
Well, I think the codependency is less cute, and more symptomatic of how they're all pretty fucked-up. I mean, come on, y'all, you can't take a week off without getting funky in the head?

Mar. 28th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
Yay! My joy that this is ongoing cannot be textually rendered. But it is definitely large.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:36 am (UTC)

Mar. 28th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)
I want to have your babies! Both of you! I am not sure how three women go about having a baby, but yknow. If the technology is every available.

Your Hardison voice is amazing. Also the cats. And the robot. And Nate calling for background checks and Eliot being kind of clueless and so many random geek references and... and... <3 <3 <3
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:37 am (UTC)
I'm sure the people at STARlabs can whip something up!

The geek references are one of our favourite parts of writing Hardison. The research is lolarious.
Mar. 28th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
Ack. *tiny gleeful fists* So much love.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 28th, 2009 06:17 am (UTC)
Hardison is truly the best thing ever, with Parker and Eliot in a close tie for second.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
They are so much fun to smush together!
Mar. 28th, 2009 06:33 am (UTC)
So much adorableness! Parker's laugh my favourite, and Alec's lecture about what they were going to do in the shower.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)
Sometimes you have to remind Eliot of stuff to keep him mission-oriented.

Glad you liked!
Mar. 28th, 2009 06:48 am (UTC)
he might feel a bit more moral-high-ground-ish if he wasn't wearing boxers that read "There's No Place Like"

Okay, the whole thing was as usual made of win, but this was the best thing ever.

I seriously considered ordering that t-shirt, but I decided that it was too geeky even for me. Of COURSE Alec has it.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:41 am (UTC)
Hee! That line was very much a team effort. Betty wrote: "he might feel a bit more moral-high-ground-ish if he wasn't wearing [ThinkGeek boxers]" and I got to look up an appropriate slogan.

Sadly, in my research I discovered ThinkGeek doesn't actually sell sloganed boxers, which is a terrible oversight corrected via fictional fiat.
Mar. 28th, 2009 10:12 am (UTC)
I can't even begin to tell you how much I'm in love with this series. There are no words!

I'm planning on putting together a rec-list in my journal, so my f-list gets a clue as to what they are missing... mind if I link them your way?

Edited at 2009-03-28 10:13 am (UTC)
Mar. 28th, 2009 10:29 am (UTC)
No; by all means, link away!
Mar. 28th, 2009 11:38 am (UTC)
This series continues to be pure, epic awesome. I love your Hardison voice, and the descriptions of his timewasting / revenge-seeking exploits are brilliant. As a librarian, I totally approve of him strengthening the Library of Congress firewalls!
Mar. 28th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
This is amazing and wonderful. It is everything that is good about the internet all in one brilliantly funny story. I just spent the last ten minutes cracking up. Yay.
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( 42 comments — Leave a comment )