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In-Between the Creases

Chapter Text


Tony should have really chosen someplace better to spend his weekend.


The nightclub or the bar nearby sounded really nice right about now. Maybe he should even go to the local Chinese restaurant to try some of their supposed “fantastic” cuisine.


Too bad he was stuck at the library for a Mechanical Engineering project at MIT.


If Tony wasn’t so devoted to graduating at the top of his class at age 18 so he could finally escape his parents’ chokehold on him, he would definitely be partying all day and night without a care in the world.


Although the library was often too quiet for his taste and full of college students with their textbooks stacked a mile high, Tony still found himself somewhat liking its calm but tense atmosphere.


It felt like his personal laboratory at the university and he thrived in it. The brunet knew that he had always worked best under pressure; his brain just automatically pushed harder and more efficiently for certain ideas while under the careful judgement of others — it started doing that as soon as he had learned how to build his first engine, when cruel and controlling Howard began to constantly lean over his shoulder, watching Tony, as his son built away in his utopia of inventions and machines. And predictably, six-year old Anthony Edward Stark, would be desperate for his father’s approval and purposely performed better whenever Howard was watching him. But e stopped trying after two years.


Clearly, Howard Stark would never be impressed by even his son’s best efforts to prove his worth to him — but the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would be — after he had presented his new project to his class.


After hours of grueling research over fusion power, brainstorming the dynamics in creating an electromagnetic field, and redesigning pre-developed plans for a miniature arc reactor, Tony had eventually called it a day when his left hand started to twitch from being clenched up in a tight fist, for too long.


The genius ultimately decided on finishing his work later at his dorm room while he quickly grabbed a black coffee from the library’s own coffee shop. Not his favorite flavor, but he liked to keep up his appearance when the other people in his classes stared at him in awe as he downed entire cups of the bitter liquid in a matter of seconds.


The warmth of the cup radiating onto his face made him sigh in content inevitably, and Tony examined his surroundings in his tiny corner of the massive library while sipping the richly-flavored drink. The whole building was covered in walls of books that lined each shelf with their colorful and intriguing covers and titles. Littered around the library floor, were students of varying ages, and occasionally a college professor, exploring the building’s many historical and more recent offers, ranging from photographs from the late 1800’s to autobiographies by today’s famous celebrities. Almost every single person’s hands within the library, including the ladies behind the front desk, were grasping a book with their noses buried a foot into it.


Come to think of it, Tony hadn’t read a full, proper novel written by an author who wasn’t an aerospace engineer or a quantum physicist, in years. Maybe he should check out a book while he was here - One that was actually worth his time to completely finish from the beginning to the end.


With a swift spring back onto his feet, the brunet slid off of the table he was resting on and strolled over to the non-fiction section of the library, scanning its shelves for a potential pastime to indulge himself in. When he didn’t find a single title that interested him or a subject that he wasn’t already an expert in, Tony found himself casually making his way over to the fiction-based area.


Surprisingly, there were a handful of students older than him scattered around and in-between the shelves, lying in beanbags or sitting upright at various tables, all reading books from their respected section. Coming from a university dedicated to the most recent scientific and technological advancements in the world, Tony was honestly astonished to be actually seeing some of its students reading fantasy and teen-fiction books.


He should’ve figured that — despite college students’ constant fearing over the future, — they would also want to hang onto certain parts of their pasts and childhoods. And rereading their favorite books was a great way to experience the nostalgia of their times before student loans and grade-point averages.


Tony spotted several copies of “Harry Potter” in some people’s hands, while others happily read “Percy Jackson,” and still others were clutching copies of “The Land of Stories” in their clasp. He smiled as he read the titles of each individual book, recalling the exact years he had first read each one, during his lonely childhood. Tony was pleased to recognize a lot of the different works of fiction that many of the people around him were holding, but none of them particularly captured his attention, seeing as he had all of his most beloved books’ storylines from his youth, memorized by heart.


As the brunet discovered that he had wandered aimlessly throughout the fiction section for the past five minutes, he suddenly remembered the name of one of his all-time favorite books that he had read a couple of years ago before he had started university.


He scoured the bookshelves until he arrived at the start of the fiction-based area, where a blond college student who looked like a football player, was looking for something in the shelves. Ignoring the stranger, Tony glanced at each book’s spines for the correct last name and once he had finally found what he’d been searching for, reached up for the only copy, only to bump his hand with the blond’s while doing so.


“Sorry!” The person said as the two of them simultaneously jerked their hands back. “Didn’t see you there, my bad.”


“You’re good,” the genius replied as he rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. His fingers tingled in the spot where he had felt the blond’s skin against his.


An awkward silence fell between the two and the brunet suddenly had the urge to interrupt it.


“So, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda?” Tony smirked as he tipped his head to the side towards the book and moved aside for the other to see. “Didn’t know a guy like you would be interested in a book like this.”


The blond didn’t hesitate to roll his eyes, “Just because I play football and I hang out with my extremely-straight friends, doesn’t mean I can’t stand out as anything else by myself.”


“Fair point,” Tony acknowledged the stranger. “Sorry, you just took me by surprise. Not many people have actually read the book; most have just seen the movie.”


“Exactly!” The blond clamped his mouth shut from his sudden outburst. “Damnit, I’m so sorry. It’s hard to control my voice when I’m talking about something that I’m really passionate about. But yeah, people should really read the book even if they’ve already seen the movie. They’re just missing out on so much from the book that never made it into the film.”


Tony grinned, “So, I take it you’ve read the book first and then watched the movie?”


“Yeah. I was looking for LGBTQ+ books a few years back in high school and just happened to stumble upon this one. Ever since I finished it, it’s been one of my all-time favorite reads.”


“Same, — although one of the biggest reasons why I love this book so much is because of Simon’s struggle to come out to all of his family and friends. It’s something that I can really relate to.” The genius gave a sad frown as he referred to his father.


Deciding not to kill the friendly mood, Tony wiped his face of any negative emotions and plastered on a curious smile as a replacement, “I’m Tony, by the way. Tony Stark.”


“Steve,” the blond said with kind eyes. “You’re a Stark? I’ve heard of your father, before.”


The genius stopped himself from almost scowling right in front of this extremely-attractive young man named Steve and bit his bottom lip, unconsciously.


“Yeah — Howard Stark — that’s my dad alright. But we never really got along as much as the media thought we did.” Tony explained. “Having a world-renown scientist as a father isn’t as fun as everyone thinks it is. It gets hard having to live up to his expectations every, single, fucking, day.”


Steve gave Tony a sympathetic pout and the brunet immediately felt bad for ranting about his life’s problems to this random college student in the library, out of all the places. He didn’t want to scare away this insanely-gorgeous guy right after he had just met him.


“Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off and start complaining about my family — I guess I didn’t really have a right to, in the first place.” Tony shrugged, apologetically. “I mean, everyone has their own family problems and… I should really learn how to keep mine to myself.”


What the hell was Steve doing to him? How was he opening up so quickly to this random stranger so quickly?


A million questions raced through Tony’s head as he felt his heart start to pick up its pace, the longer he stared into Steve’s handsome face — Was there any other synonyms that Tony hadn’t used yet to describe the absolute perfection of this person’s bodily features? The brunet was sure he should have run out of words that had the same meaning as “beautiful,” by now.


Is this what human interaction was like? Because if it is, then Tony’s been missing out on so much during his childhood.


The blond laughed nervously, “Don’t worry, I don’t exactly have the best father in the world either. In fact, he had actually left my ma right after I was born so he had never truly made an impact in my life. I’m sorry for mentioning your dad’s name, I didn’t mean to provoke you. And I should really stop apologizing, shouldn’t I? I promise you, I don’t usually say the word “sorry,” this many times in a single hour.”


Usually?” Tony questioned with an arched eyebrow. “And don’t worry ‘bout it, Steve. I could listen to your incredible voice repeat the word “sorry,” for hours-on-end.”

Tony almost said the phrase, “Especially in bed,” but had to remind himself that he was still a virgin. Yeah, he couldn’t believe it, either.


The genius swore he had undeniably seen Steve’s neck and ears turn a little pink but shook it off once the tint of red had disappeared as fast as it had occurred.


“Anyways, uhm,” Steve politely disregarded Tony’s flirting and gestured to the book still sitting on its shelf, “Did you want that? ‘Cause, uh, I don’t want to take it from you — or anything.”




This guy was unbelievably cute when he stuttered. Tony innerly-squealed and congratulated himself on a flirting-well-done.


“Nah, I’m good, you can have it. After all, I’ve read it like a million times, already. One of my favorites, remember?”


“Right,” Steve nodded in appreciation as he picked up the hardback. “Sorry, I — damnit — I just apologized again, didn’t I?”


Tony giggled as the blond cracked a shy smile.


Fucking hell, this guy just couldn’t get any more captivating — Could he?


The brunet kind-of wanted to stick around Steve just to see the possibilities that could blossom from their conversations.


“Thanks,” Steve breathed and Tony’s heart just skipped another three-thousand beats. “I’ll bring it back as soon as I can — this book is just too good to have only one copy in this entire library for the all of MIT to share.”


“Couldn’t agree more,” Tony beamed as the blond began to shuffle away from their momentary position in-between the fiction-filled bookshelves.


Is he leaving already? Tony asked within his head. Great job, you fucking idiot. He’s gone from your life and he’s only been in it for fifteen minutes.


“I should probably get this checked out,” Steve suggested and held up the book up in the direction of the front desk. “See you later?”


“Yeah,” Tony exhales in almost pure relief at the sound of Steve’s promising words. “Definitely.”


“Sounds perfect.” Steve turned around and started walking away when he abruptly spun back around and ran back to the spot where he previously stood. “Except for one thing: Can I ask what your classes are?”


And Tony is pretty sure he smiled so hard at the blond that he could still feel the expression etched onto his face, a week later.



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Tony was falling fast for Steve. And he was falling hard.


How did he just realize it?


Apparently, the brunet was just not aware of his own feelings enough to actually notice his quickened heartbeat whenever he cheerfully chatted hours away with Steve, or his heightened senses whenever the blond accidentally brushed his shoulder against his while they were walking to their afternoon classes side-by-side.


The days after their meeting turned into weeks, and then those turned into months, and eventually, the months sped into a whole year of rambling to each other about their favorite books, movies, professors at MIT, historical artists, historical scientists, formulas for quantum mechanics, and basically about every possible subject under the sun.


By the time Tony had noticed that he was already three-fourths done with his university experience, it had already been too late to enjoy it all properly. The best he could do was reminisce his past year with Steve and his band of crazy mis-fits that had immediately accepted the brunet as one of their own.


They’ve already exchanged phone numbers and have hung out on several occasions — and Tony would consider all of it “progress” — if he wasn’t almost-one-hundred-percent sure that Steve had no interest in being anything other than friends with him.


Every time the genius’ mind would scurry back to his deep hole of self-doubt, he’d remind himself to try and distance himself more from Steve, in hopes that if he ever does get his heart broken by the blond, it’ll be a light let-down. Judging by the looks of their unbreakable bond that just kept getting stronger with each passing day, it didn’t look like Tony would be spared of any of his feelings anytime soon.


So naturally, the brunet found himself inching closer and closer to Steve each time he sat down next to the football player for lunch, despite his mind profoundly warning him to refuse the urge to. Every attempt at a release of the grip that Steve’s enchanting personality had on him only drove Tony deeper into his heart-aching longing for the blond.


After all, Tony admitted to himself, he should have expected for it to be hard to resist absolute perfection. Especially when it’s in human form.


It didn’t help that not long after he had joined Steve’s unique group of friends, one of them — Natasha Romanov, to be more specific — had figured out about Tony’s “extremely-fucking obvious,” crush.


Was it that big of a problem to the point that even Steve’s friends are noticing how blatantly apparent it was that Tony had fallen stupidly in love with the blond?


According to Natasha, Clint, Bruce, Thor, Bucky, Sam, and basically everyone who attended MIT, it was that big of a problem.


It was so enormous of a problem that the only solution, — with the help of Tony’s friends’ pushing and encouragement — was to finally confront Steve about his feelings.


But as he waited outside of Steve’s Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT) classroom, Tony suddenly realized that he just couldn’t do this.


Being social, compared to his critical thinking and engineering abilities, was never — and presumably never will be — his strong suit. Especially when Tony grew up with such a cold and uncaring father like Howard, that never even bothered to greet his son when he arrived home from a business trip.


If the brunet wanted an effective way of communicating his dumb feelings to this incredibly-amazingly-talented god of a college student, he was going to have to do something much more of his style; something that didn’t include walking straight up to Steve and blurting out random, incomprehensible words that would probably just make him weirded-out enough to walk away.


And with Tony’s genius brain, he decided to send Steve on a little quest.


He just hoped his plan would work and Steve would get what he’s been wanting to tell him for months.


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It took at least a whole month to formulate a single, overly-elaborated, but simple plan.


Based on Tony’s calculations — yes, it was a thing he did now when it came to Steve — he should have a decent 70.0529% chance of achieving success — that is if Steve actually supposedly has the same feelings for the genius that he did, for him. Relatively speaking, Tony’s friends would definitely consider that pretty goods odds that would most likely turn out in favor for Tony — but he had to remind himself that that’s where the other 29.9471% falls in: mainly into two categories.


The first part, the 11.8767%, would just be the chance of the blond never finding out about Tony's feelings for him at all.


However, if Steve didn’t reciprocate what Tony felt; well that’s where the remaining 18.0704% would come in to ruin everything for him.


All of his chances and every moment that they had shared and cherished together would be lost forever — thrown to waste if Steve was actually never into Tony in the first place. But the brunet chose not to focus on the possibility.


One day after his frantic worrying; once Natasha finished telling him to stop panicking, Tony made sure to check that Steve had received a notecard from Bruce, during the blond’s biochemical engineering class, telling him to go to the library and find the book with the class number: PS3602.O255, from the MIT library catalog.


Inside the book would be another note with the inscription: “Pg. 29, Lines 3-4. Pg. 33, Lines 4-8. Pp. 171-172, Lines 1-23. Pg. 240, Lines 15-17.“ with Tony’s fancy signature at the bottom.


So essentially, it was all just a miniature scavenger hunt. Sure, it was an odd method to confess your love to your crush, but it would certainly get the job done better than Tony just outright babbling about the emotions that he felt and didn’t fully understand, right at Steve.


Maybe he shouldn’t have listed so many pages. What if Steve got Tony’s meaning confused and thought that he was pranking him or something like that, but worse? The brunet had to be reminded by Thor that Steve would never accuse him of something that sinister, and the rest of his friends reassured him over and over again that his plan would work and that he should stop, “shitting his pants.”


Now all that the genius could do, is wait in his dorm room, try not to create a hole in the ground with his foot’s constant tapping, and hope that Steve understood what Tony was trying to tell him: That he was overly-idiotically in love with him and was too much of a coward to openly admit it to the blond’s face.


Okay, maybe not the last bit, but definitely the “in love” part.


Oh, and he should probably hope that Steve returned his feelings for him. That was probably the most logical thing to do right about now.


Too bad Tony was too deeply buried in his anticipating-thoughts to do so.


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A whole twenty-four hours passed before Tony had received a response from Steve, — oddly, in the form of a notecard saying: “PZ7.A434.”


He instantly knew what to do.


Taking the note with him, the genius raced to the library after all of his classes had ended, logged onto one of the building’s public computers, briskly opened up the library’s catalog, and searched up the book belonging to the class number in Tony’s hand.


Strangely enough, the location of the book that he needed to find, was in the exact same spot that Steve and Tony had met and talked for the very first time. A pleasant aura washed over his body as he entered the enormous fiction-section of the library.


An all-too familiar book jutted out an inch farther than its neighbors out of its shelf, catching Tony’s attention within a few seconds of arrival.


At first glance, Tony saw that there was a piece of paper was stuck to the front of the red-hardback and he eagerly but carefully, scanned over its words.


Read where I’ve marked the book at the front desk, was written on the note in Steve’s perfect handwriting.


On the back of the notecard, there was only one phrase neatly scrawled onto its surface: “Page 273. Line 24.”


What Steve had in store for him couldn’t be good if he only needed one line of text to express it, right? Or maybe, Tony could be completely wrong.


The brunet patiently obliged Steve’s instructions and headed towards the front of the library, even though he was itching to open the book already. And there was Steve — standing there in all of his 6’2” glory.


Four feet in front of Steve, the blond motioned for him to stop walking and Tony halted in his place. The genius tilted his head an inch to the left, puzzled, as Steve grinned and signaled for him to start reading.


Tony took in a deep, calming breath, and while feeling Steve’s eyes closely watching his every move, cracked open the front cover to “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” and flipped to Page 273.


In-between the creases of Page 272 and Page 273, was a plain, white slip of paper and a pink Post-It note stuck to the right side. As he took out the first piece of paper and held it gingerly, Tony realized that there was a singular Oreo drawn expertly onto the bookmark. The brunet automatically smiled as he continued to hold up the thin sheet and examined it more thoroughly.


There was no doubt that Steve had poured every last bit of his effort and love into this one simple, but extraordinarily detailed, sketch. Had he done this just for Tony?


Maybe Tony did have a chance with his absurdly-handsome crush, after all. But he didn’t want to make any assumptions until he had read Steve’s actual message.


Gripping the book tightly, Tony willed his eyes to focus, his awareness of the blond’s presence evaporating, and finally read the very first words of line 24.


“I think I’m in love.”


His eyes widened at the heartwarming quote and pricks of tears began to cloud his vision.


Below the text was the pink sticky note that Tony had glimpsed earlier but didn’t get to read. As if the first sentence wasn’t enough, another set of words — but this time written elegantly onto the Post-It — managed to pry open and fill the brunet’s heart up with emotion, a tiny bit more than before.


I don’t think. I know.”


And Steve’s beautiful signature was sealed in ink below it.


Holy fucking shit.


He loved him back. Or at least, he returned some amount of Tony’s emotionally-painful feelings. It didn’t matter; at least he actually had some form of a chan—


“I love you.” Steve suddenly cut in on his inner voice.


Tony raised his head to peek over the top of the book and his mouth hung wide open, gaping at the blond behind the hardcover’s covers.


“And Tony, I know that right now you’re probably telling yourself, ‘He’s only slightly-interested in you, it’s nothing serious,’ — ” Steve said with an amused expression on his face. “ — That’s literally how well I know you — but I promise you; it’s definitely love that I’m feeling right now. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have used my favorite book to tell you.”


He’s too good for me, was the brunet’s first thought.


“You must be in deep-shit love with me or something, because that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Tony joked. “But I don’t blame you, I am irresistible, after all.”


Steve cocked an eyebrow at him and laughed lightly, his voice filling in the silent void of the library, and ultimately making Tony’s train of thought crash into about a million trees.


“But, uhm, yeah. It’s the same for me, too — the whole love thing I mean. As in: I love you — a lot. And I really hope you do too; actually I’ve been hoping for quite a while now, — As in I hope that you loved me back; not yourself — Not that I’m saying that you shouldn’t love who you are, but I meant as in like you lov—“


“Tony.” The blond interrupted him and nervously smiled. “I think that right about now, is when the main characters are supposed to kiss?”


He gestured towards the copy of “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” in the brunet’s hands.


“Oh, yeah. Uhm… right…” Tony flushed with embarrassment. “So… Are you going to come over here — and kiss me, — or…?”


The blond’s eyes lit up like a match lighting a candle. He moved at a painstakingly slow pace, eventually stopping right in front of Tony, their noses an inch apart. His head automatically tilted to the side — it was the perfect position for a storybook kiss. And Tony was determined to be the one to initiate it.


Yanking down Steve to his height, he felt his breath hitch and Tony grinned as his mouth met the blond’s. The first touch between them sent shivers and sparks down his spine and Tony mentally thanked the entire universe for being reading enough books to be properly prepared for the experience.


Fucking hell. The books did no fucking justice for this.


No amount of words could ever describe how euphoric this feeling was. Forget synonyms for amazing or nice; fuck trying to find the right words to properly express whatever was happening between the two, right now — there was only one word that fit this feeling, flawlessly — it was just fucking perfect. Perfectly, perfect in every single way that Tony’s mind could come up with at the moment. Perfect in the way that their noses and fitted so well together, perfect in the way that Steve hugged the genius by his waist with gentle hands, and perfect in the way that Tony’s arms were just the right length to fully wrap them around the blond’s neck.


As if anything could possibly get better in the moment, intoxicated bliss combined with the sweet taste of Steve’s lips filled his head and made the brunet felt immortal to all the dangers in the world. Nothing could knock the two of them off of their victory pillar — and the brunet believed that they undoubtedly deserved this. Tony could loiter here, with Steve latched hungrily onto his lips, for hours on end — and he wouldn’t mind at all. If he had his way, both of them would be lingering here trapped within each other’s mouths until the end of the day — and the librarians would be ushering them to go back to their dorms as they closed down the library for the night.


But even in Tony’s favorite books, everything must have an eventual end to it. Pulling apart was like separating two magnets — hard and reluctant-to-go — but their human bodies were too greedy for oxygen for them to dismiss.


“I feel like I’m living in a fucking fairytale.” Tony sighed happily after catching his breath.


Honestly, perfect first-kisses like that, were only supposed to happen in fantasy or teen-romance novels, not in real life. Or perhaps Tony had been wrong all this time.


“I always feel like I’m in a fairytale when I’m around you.” Steve responded, with a tender look in his eyes.




Since when did this virgin, oblivious-fuck of a blond god, get so goddamn smooth?


He heard the other laugh, and he knew very well that Steve had probably just read his mind according to the unmistakable shade of pink on his face.


“Tones, are you blushing?”


“No! Uh, it’s just really hot in this library, that’s all,”


“Sure, Tony,” Steve just smiled wider. “Then how about we get out of here and — I don’t know — maybe, get some dinner? Preferably together?”


If the book that the genius was still holding had been housing a secret portal, in-between the creases of its chapters and pages, and magically teleported him into a whole new world where Steve actually wanted to take him out on a date, Tony didn’t want to go back to reality. This was unquestionably an unbelievable fairytale or some dumb teen-romance fiction, come true.


Tony made a sarcastic-startled noise, “Steven Grant Rogers, are you asking me out on a date?”


“Unless you don’t want, then I guess I’ll just take someone else out to eat and to shower them with my love.”


The brunet gasped dramatically, “After that moment that we just had? Absolutely, not. I’m going with you, whether you like it or not.”


“I’d love it.”


“Good,” Tony said, flashing him a beam as bright as the sun. “‘Cause I intend on sticking with you for quite a while, so get used to it.”


And somehow, Steve’s radiant smile managed to fill the coldness of the entire library with a sudden comforting warmth.


“I already have.”


─────── ───────


Chapter Text

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Book Title: Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory


Author: Raphael Bob-Waksberg


Class Number: PS3602.O255


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Pg. 29, Lines 3-4: “Yeah,” I say. “It’s stupid. The whole thing is stupid. But… I love you.”


Pg. 33, Lines 4-8: "You got on at DeKalb and sat across from me, and we made eye contact, briefly. I fell in love with you a little bit, in that stupid way where you completely make up a fictional version of the person you’re looking at and fall in love with that person. But still, I think there was something there.”


Pg. 171-172, Lines 1-23: “the poem” “I’m more than a little ambivalent over expressions of tender devotion” “This one day a year because greeting card companies profit off store-bought emotion.” “A romance-industrial complex so fueled by commodification of feeling” “Serves only to further homogenize all and promote what’s at best, unrevealing.” “It’s not just a lack of precision—this one-size-fits-allness—that leads me to mope.” :I think you and I share the same disillusionment, sprouted from long-buried hope.” “I worry, as you do, love dulls us to cold hollow sockets that ache for a joint.” “If ends are encoded in every beginning, we wonder, then what is the point?” “You’re right to be highly suspicious of seemingly mandated acts of affection,” “When all pretty words are a means to an ultimate heartbreak, a grand misdirection.” “I can’t guarantee that this letter won’t lead to us both one day broken and blue.” “All being said, though? You turn me to mush.”


Pg. 240, Lines 15-17: “And I think about how loving someone is kind of like being president, in that it doesn’t change you, not really. But it brings out more of the you that you already are.”


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