quinara: Spike drinking from a blood bag. (Spike blood bag)
[personal profile] quinara
[start of fic and notes]

'I love you' is a thing you say to people who are dying

by Quinara


Season 7. Buffy/Spike. Some Watchers survived, because sometimes people do.

[breakfasts III]

breakfasts IV

How dare you, Slayer? You come here with this – creature, wreathed in darkness. And you expect these things from me?

“Well, I didn’t know you could read minds, did I?”

“Bloody hell, Buffy; I can feel it. It’s found it. Run – get out of here - go.”

Come back when you are ready to suffer.

That was the last thing the dragon said before it abandoned them. One Vampire Slayer – check – one vampire – check – in an overly large storeroom opposite the bathrooms in the Bronze. The Vampire Slayer was her, of course: Buffy. The vampire was Spike, who had a trigger in his head that had been set there by the First Evil and was an affront, apparently, to any self-respecting mind-reading scion of goodness in the world.

It was all too fast, really. They’d left the house in stronger spirits, and Buffy had managed to put the embarrassment to one side. It wasn’t every day that she got turned down for sex, nor else that she begged someone for it, but the overly long snuggle-hug had been sweet – the sort of thing she hadn’t experienced in years – and she’d been glad to play the dream team with Spike, because they were good at it.

Now in the turn of an instant she was looking at this guy who didn’t know her, all demon face and scowling as he stalked, and circled, and – leapt.

The fight was brutal from the moment it began. Buffy fell to the floor hard, one shoulder blade jarring pain down the side of her body. Rough and ready, she pulled her heavy kicky boots into her chest and planted them right on the wrong side of Spike’s centre of balance, flipping him up and over her head like a piece of construction waste.

Space was tight, that was the thing, the sides of the room piled high with boxes and crates of beer that had never seen the blue light of the club’s dancefloor. It was a dragon’s hoard, pathologically so. When Spike smashed into it the glass and plastic clanged like the Almighty.

He was up, of course, by the time Buffy was back on her feet. Her gaze was full of him growling as she rushed over, an arm against his throat to slam him back again into the crates. “You don’t want to do this,” she commanded, right in his face. “You’re stronger than this!”

Completely unbothered by the way she was crushing his gullet, Spike snarled. His eyes were yellow and he pulled her closer. One dirty hand groped her backside for a squeeze and it startled her in a way that really shouldn’t have happened.

Even as the cold fear rushed through her, she felt weak. As she jumped back, too, Buffy knew it was a mistake. Spike took the inch and crowded her round into the corner of the room, his hands like weapons as they seized her upper arms.

Stumbling backwards, Buffy reached out, pulling down crate after crate, as each one failed to anchor her. Bottletops scraped along her palms and fingers as the room filled with the sticky smell of hops.

Just as her eyes tore themselves to the ceiling, Buffy saw the demon’s face loom in – no banter in his expression, no nothing. She cried out as the fangs sank into her neck, because she couldn’t not. She couldn’t believe it, that this was happening to her after all this time. Of all ways, that this would be how she went out. There was nothing she could do but fight, twist in Spike’s grip to try and get free.

The pain was quick, deep, but it didn’t send her into shock: there was little that could. She brought up her knee, but his legs were too close to hers where he’d crushed her against the wall.

A sob escaped her as Spike’s first slug rippled out of her veins. Her hand was bleeding on its own, cold and wet around two hot scrapes. Her back hurt where she’d hit the wall and where she’d fallen earlier. So it was gonna be.

I’m sorry.

Yet – the second pull, the one she expected to immediately follow, it never came. Spike seemed to have trouble swallowing; he was so close to her ear that Buffy could hear her own blood slosh as he had to gulp it down.

The cold air of the Bronze hit her wound as his fangs retreated – as… What? His nose? It rubbed against her, soft but not all that soothing.

Then, in a moment, Spike was rearing back so a demon’s face stared into hers. Its eyes were intimate and bright and confused – terrified. The dragon was gone and Dante had retreated long ago, but Buffy was there and this demon was watching her, snarling, those yellow eyes burning into her heart.

With a jerk of violent action he pressed his forehead against hers, wrinkles and ridges like gravel against Buffy’s skin, while one hand let go of its bruising grip on her arm. Air rushed into his nose, sweeping past her own as the thing inhaled. The breath came with some sort of eskimo-nuzzle that was far more erotic than it should have been.

Not at all gently, Spike the vampire caressed her face, and Buffy covered his hand with hers. She couldn’t figure it out.

Despite the lurch in her stomach, though, there didn’t seem to be anything to figure out, not in the end. Turning into him, Buffy kissed Spike’s palm, squeezed her eyes shut and loved him.

Thwack.

He slumped against her with a thud, out cold. Buffy looked to the other arm she’d wrenched free… A beer bottle was juddering in her hand, blood on its neck just like hers. She didn’t remember taking hold of it.




It took a while for Xander to arrive.

Buffy hadn’t told him much on the phone, only that Spike’s trigger had gone off, they were behind the Bronze, and she needed him to bring the car. Really, Buffy wasn’t sure what she was going to say. It was irrational, and they hadn’t really done anything, but this still somehow felt like a punishment for starting up again with Spike. Xander was going to kill her, she knew it.

“Buffy?” he called out to her, even as he pulled up to the mouth of the alleyway. The driver door was open before he’d come to a stop. It was barely in park before he was spilling out of the door. He’d driven without a seatbelt, which in Buffy’s opinion was just plain reckless. “Buffy!”

She was starting to feel pretty woozy now, with the bloodloss. Her speech had been a little slurred on the phone and she had no idea what she would sound like at this second in time. So little of her blood had gone down Spike’s throat, but her neck didn’t seem to care, resolutely dampening the ancient Dingoes Ate My Baby t-shirts she’d found in the storeroom. She was on number four now, from a box of them.

“My god, what happened?” Xander was asking. Behind him, Anya was trotting around the car with a first aid kit as big as her torso. Buffy was strangely glad to see them together. “Your neck!” Xander was still panicking. “Did he bite you?”

Buffy was sitting on the ground, as she bled. Her legs were stretched out in front of her and Spike’s head was resting in her lap, the bruise on his temple plain for all to see. Looming above her, Xander looked big and tall and intimidating. She could only look away, feeling the guilt.

“Hey Buffy,” Anya was saying then, kneeling down by Buffy’s Spike-free side and opening up her kit. “I’ve got mercurochrome and – that glue stuff and, and those thick kind of dressings that regular humans have to wear. You, uh, wanna take that rag away?”

Steeling herself, Buffy fought against her own survival instinct. It was telling her not to let go, to keep the pressure against her neck even if she couldn’t hold up on her own feet. This was her fault, she knew that was what they were going to say. This was her fault.

But how could she help it?

Eventually, Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, filled her lungs and relaxed her grip. Pain seized her and her head throbbed from its lack of oxygen. “There you are…” Anya was saying, soothingly, but Buffy was shivering. The other woman nudged her arm down, but as the t-shirt came away it made the warm, living mass of blood in Buffy's hand feel cold and dead and lost. “OK – I’m just gonna clean you up…”

Buffy hissed as the antiseptic stung into her. Heavy, stinging tears shot into her eyes like darts. They would figure it out, she knew, why she’d let herself get to this point. And the thing was, there was no defence. It was comforting, even here, with her eyes shut and with her hurting from what he’d done, to have a killer’s head resting in her lap. His ear was against her crotch seam and her hand was on his chest, and, ultimately? She wanted him awake.

“God,” Anya was saying, now pushing fingers against her, one hand on one side of her head and the other at her neck. “The wound’s small, but the way it’s bleeding…” She was talking to Xander, the word’s directed some other way than Buffy’s ears. “I think he must’ve hit an artery. Maybe grazed it? She’s not super squirty, but that could be the blood pressure… If they’d come I’d say we call an ambulance.”

There were no ambulances, of course. It had been on the news. The hospital was still running, but they’d had to take the EMTs off the streets so they could fully staff the wards and the ER. The whole thing was just another reason so many people had left town already.

“Oh, this is not good,” Xander was saying, sounding like he didn’t know what to do. “This is not good at all. You think we should take her in?”

“I don’t know,” Anya replied, just as anxiously. “She might need a tetanus shot. Do we know what Spike had for lunch today?”

“I’m fine…” Buffy managed to say, at least in response to that. The words came out like a groan, but she figured her meaning was clear. “Just take me home; it could’ve been worse.”

Worse?” Xander shouted. With her eyes shut, Buffy couldn’t see him, but his words were like a blow. “How exactly could it have been worse?

Pushing harder on her wound, Anya snapped, “Stop making her squirt, Xander! We need to get this thing closed.”

“He could’ve killed me,” was what Buffy said, forcing herself to relax. It was difficult, but as seconds passed she managed it, easing her eyes open to look down at Spike’s unconscious face. It was still in its angry demon form, a trace of her own blood crusting around his mouth. She wiped it away with her thumb. “He could’ve killed me,” she repeated, allowing for panic to subside and healing to begin, raising her gaze to look at her friend.

He was closer than she’d thought he’d be. That was a surprise. The pain had done something to Buffy’s perception, because Xander was kneeling by Anya’s side in the gravel – a bunch of used cotton wool in one hand and a roll of surgical tape in the other. He looked scared, his eyes round and his hair curling over his forehead. “But…” he began, actually talking a lot more quietly than Buffy had thought he’d been. “You fought him off. Didn’t you?”

Buffy smiled, the tears that had been caught in her eyes now free to dribble down her nose. “I hit him with everything I had,” she promised them all, “because I needed to get him down.” She still couldn’t speak entirely clearly, and felt like she needed at least a quart of orange juice and a cookie. Probably her legs weren’t gonna work. Her mind, however – that was clearing. “But that was only after…” OK, so maybe they didn’t need all the details. “He got me, right?” Buffy continued to explain, going slowly as a wave of dizziness hit. “Nowhere to go – no way to move – he… He was a demon, but he… He took one swallow and he stopped.”

There was a moment as Xander took that in. Anya didn’t seem to be paying attention, but instead exclaimed, “There!” as she stopped fiddling around and simply kept a constant pressure on Buffy’s neck.

“I’m not sure what you want me to say,” Xander eventually replied, glancing down to Spike’s unconscious form. Buffy felt something like a protective urge run down her arm. “Are you asking me to be impressed? He could’ve killed you just as easy with that one bite.”

“But he didn’t,” Buffy insisted, as strongly as she was able, feeling like she could cry. His want for her – the want he’d been so afraid of – it hadn’t killed her. It wasn’t in him to destroy her, and she’d known it, she really thought she’d known it – but now the truth was here for everyone to see.

Slowly, steadily, Buffy’s vision was almost clearing. She figured she was going to be OK. The night around them was bright; the bricks grimy and the ground uneven, littered with trash. Even Slayer healing didn’t work this quickly, but it never failed her, and sometimes that promise was enough.

“He didn’t kill me,” she repeated, clinging to the thought as she shut her eyes again. Just for a moment she let the thought gather within her, translating what it meant for everybody else. “The First is gonna be so… Pissed.”

“What was that about the First?” Anya was the one to ask, her face not quite in Buffy’s field of vision as she dumped things back in the first aid kit, her hard fingers always against the fuzzy-feeling dressing on Buffy’s neck. “You don’t think… You think this is about what it said to Andrew? That this was Spike’s time and he – and he blew it?”

“I don’t know,” Buffy replied, meeting Xander’s eyes. He still looked scared, but at least he looked serious. That was all Buffy wanted in this fight, from any of them. Hell, even herself. “But…” Ooh, she was tired though. “But it could’ve been. And – it’ll be its last chance. I’m… That thing is going.”

Slowly, a smile spread across Xander’s face. Buffy felt a small grin cross her own, and it almost felt like she’d won something. As she watched, her friend’s gaze drifted to Anya, and Buffy wondered how she was looking, too disciplined in the art of wound-treatment to look around.

That date night she and Xander had both had, it had been a disaster. Now, though, Buffy wondered if Xander’s hadn’t been as pointless as her own, even before the girl had strung him up.

“I wasn’t interrupting, was I?” she asked after a moment, mostly to break the silence but also to keep herself alert. They all knew she shouldn’t really move to the car until her wound had stabilised, not when there was no better medical help waiting for her. All the same, it was kinda cold. “You know,” Buffy continued, knowing her voice was frail, drifting into a whisper, “when I rang before?”

“Oh no…” Xander replied, shaking his head as if he’d been caught out.

Anya, however, had no such discretion. She told Buffy bluntly, “We were about to have ill-advised sex in Spike’s bed.” Then, because apparently Buffy needed a further explanation, she added, “We didn’t.”

Again with the discipline, at least with the pain, Buffy held back her laughter. Xander’s face was a picture; Buffy wondered if they’d picked the basement because they’d thought there would still be chains. “Well,” she said, before she gave much thought to it. “I guess that’s going…” I guess that’s going around.

Buffy was still not speaking entirely clearly, so the moment she’d said it she immediately hoped Xander hadn’t heard. Or at least didn’t figure out what she meant. She tried to keep her expression bland, as if she’d said something innocuous, or else anything but what she’d actually meant to say.

As it was, Xander looked at her a little weirdly, but not as if the implications had fully made themselves known to him. It wasn’t like she was ashamed of herself, Buffy thought, but this wasn’t the time for jokes. She had a neck wound to deal with. And a trigger.

Besides, it hadn’t been ill-advised. Here was proof.

“God,” Buffy murmured, nonetheless sick with pain. “Am I fixed yet…?”




They snuck into the house through the back door. Xander and Anya manhandled Spike downstairs while Buffy sat in the kitchen, heavy and slumped in her chair. She felt like her head weighed a hundred pounds, but she knew she couldn’t go to bed – couldn’t really be left on her own in case the wound re-opened when she was unconscious. So she was sitting, with a bowl of pasta left over from dinner and the tallest glass of watered-down orange juice Xander could make, complete with a curly straw.

She figured she’d be OK. She wasn’t unconscious, and with her that meant she could only get better. At least – so Buffy figured.

At the same time, she was plotting, because it wasn’t just about getting better. They would have to go with Althanea’s plan and get the trigger out of Spike by any means possible. It was too dangerous to leave it in there, really, no matter how much she was cheerleading danger in this particular fight. Maybe Spike didn’t want Buffy in his head, but he’d already done her enough harm, hadn’t he? And –

Buffy was running on endorphins. It seemed reasonable that her wits weren’t at her best to notice when someone she wasn’t expecting entered the kitchen. Of course, when that person was her sister it seemed kind of silly that she hadn’t expected it.

“Hey Buffy,” Dawn said when she first saw her, flippantly like it was any other day. “What’re you…”

She paused with a sick inevitability. Buffy looked up, her lips and her fingers still on her straw, the bandage on her hand making her hold thick and fuzzy like a teddy bear’s. Far away, just inside the entrance to the kitchen, Dawn looked at her with rage that was growing steadily.

“I’m gonna kill him,” she said, with a certainly that sounded like she’d killed many more than, what, no more than five vampires in her life. “I’m gonna burn him, and –“

Then, of course, there were tears in her eyes. Buffy held out her arm and her baby sister ran straight into it, hunching close into her shoulder. She was a little too tall to do it properly, but the feeling was there in the way her fists bunched at the collar of Buffy’s shirt and her tears fell in Buffy’s hair.

“I hate this,” Dawn said, her voice wet and unstable. “I hate him, how he can do this to you. He’s supposed to love you. He cried. He cried so hard and I had to hold him sometimes, and I don’t understand…” Then she was sobbing for real, the way she hadn’t ever that whole summer before Spike had come back.

Buffy let the curly straw slip from her mouth, swallowing the juice she had in her mouth and licking the spare drops from around her lips. “Dawn,” she said carefully, not least because she didn’t know what to say. “It’s OK, you know? I’m OK.”

“But you’re not,” Dawn cried again, feebly. “You’re bleeding.”

Buffy shut her eyes. It wasn’t something she’d ever wanted Dawn to know, how many things in her life there were that were worse than bleeding.

“I know,” she allowed. “And I’m gonna bleed a hundred times again before I…” Her sister’s sobs paused, the tears leaking a slow and steady stream: Buffy knew that she was listening. “This time around, I know it was the First and – and it was some stupid, interfering dragon bitch – and I know that even they couldn’t push Spike as far as they wanted him to go. I know he’ll wish that I would let you burn him, so that he could escape for a moment from the guilt. And that’s…”

When she trailed off, Dawn pulled back, apparently picking up on something in her voice. “Buffy,” she said, and for a moment she was strong again, “that’s not romantic. That’s…” She seemed lost for words. “That is fucked up.”

What should have been dismay to hear her sister use that language swirled through Buffy in a strong pulse of lethargy. Something popped in her head and it pounded, pulling her to take another slug from her straw. “I know, Dawn,” she said, staring into the distance, which was really just the kitchen doorway. “But I don’t think it’s me and Spike,” she said with conviction, soft though her words were. “I think it’s the world we live in. The roles we’re made to play. Without them, we’re…”

Buffy looked down, not entirely willing to complete that thought.

“Hey,” said another voice. Buffy glanced around. It was Xander, standing with Anya just in front of the basement door. From the expression on his face, it wasn’t entirely clear how much they’d overheard. “The Evil Dead’s sleeping it off,” he reassured her. “He’s got a lump on his head the size of a blimp.”

“Good,” Buffy replied, not sure which part she was approving.




After another long drink and even longer sleep, Buffy came downstairs to find Spike exactly how she feared. He was awake like usual for the afternoon, but that day he was sitting on the edge of the cot, head in his hands.

“We need to fix this,” Buffy told him. It was hard, being so blunt with him. When he looked up, Spike’s eyes were rimmed red and he looked old enough to be his own age. It stung Buffy’s eyes, moreso than the wound underneath her shiny new morning dressing. “Althanea’s spell; we’ve gotta do it.”

Strangely, this suggestion seemed to piss Spike off, at least once it had sunk in. He rose to his feet, taking two strides towards her. “What we need,” he spat at her, voice almost broken, “is for you to shove a piece of wood through my bloody chest.”

“Maybe someday,” Buffy agreed, even as the thought ripped her in two . “But not now.”

This seemed to shock him. Buffy almost rolled her eyes, wondering how much she would give to stop everyone around her always reaching for the drama. She came closer, her footsteps silent on concrete – but Spike backed away. “You don’t…” he said, his expression closing off again. “I don’t know why you let me…”

“I don’t let you do anything!” Buffy blew up, annoyed. Spike’s big, wide hangdog eyes were straight back on her, set off by the bruised lump at his hairline. She could almost see the irises yellow.

Honestly, she got it. She really did. She knew Spike was terrified of himself and the things he’d done and it would take time, always time, for him to figure out how to be in this new world order. But looking at him standing there, not afraid of what she would do but actually what she wouldn’t, Buffy couldn’t figure out how she was supposed to help him.

The thing was, she was scared for him. They were in a war, but it almost didn’t seem to matter that everything in her wanted them both to survive, because time and time again, this time not least, it felt like she was the only one fighting. And Buffy knew she should say all of this. She knew that the best way to make her point was to cross the floor, take him in her arms like she wanted to and tell him all of this stuff, the stuff she’d told Dawn. At the same time, where would that leave them? How would it help? Really, there was no use for her fear.

When everything was said and done, Buffy always figured it made sense to go on the offensive, so it was on the offensive she went. “Do you remember what happened?” she demanded from Spike, not long after the echo had died from her complaint. She took another step into the basement. “Do you? Huh? Or is the memory wipe still active as well?”

Yet again, Spike dropped his eyes, practically shuffling his feet as far as Buffy could tell. “I bit you…” he murmured, like she didn’t have the bite marks to know it just as well.

After the last time, Buffy remembered promising herself that she would never yell at Spike again, but this was how much her promises were worth and why she didn’t say them out loud. “Right!” she told him bluntly, nodding. “And am I dead?”

Spike frowned, crossing his arms. “That’s not the point,” he muttered darkly, at least sounding a little surer of himself.

“No,” Buffy agreed. On another day, in another world, she might have let herself reminisce about her sniffedy encounter with demon Spike, but that wasn’t the point. “The point is…” Even if it had been kind of hot, in a really disturbing way. “The point is,” she forced herself to say, hands-on-hips and glaring across the basement into the gloom, “we have to move forward. No looking back.”

Silence fell, and the air hung with that feeling Buffy got at the end of her speeches. Like it was all too easy, all too perfect – until…

“I can still taste you, you know,” Spike suddenly shot back at her, jaw set and eyes narrowed as he looked up. It made her stomach clench. “I can feel you,” he continued, accusingly, before he sucked long and hard on his teeth. “Yeah… One full proof shot of Buffy blood, running down my throat.”

“So what?” Buffy challenged him, tossing her hair as her heartbeat pattered into her awareness.

Spike was unpredictable; that was the thing about him – he got mood swings. Buffy meant to forget it, but now he was prowling towards her, like he was gonna try and scare her. They’d been through this before, but she was glad to go through it again. She was glad to go through anything to get him beyond the moping. When he came to a halt, about an arm’s length away, Buffy was happy to have him there. “Aren’t you the least bit concerned,” he asked her nonetheless, “that I might go looking for another taste?”

They’d been physical with each other recently, at least so far as Buffy figured. Not as physical as they’d been a year ago, or in the years before that, but enough. It wasn’t right to spill her heart out, she knew that, but pinned down by the midnight blue of his eyes, feeling the grin that spread across her face – Buffy couldn’t feel guilty about touching him.

“No.” Closing the gap between them, the leather of her boots creaking slowly, Buffy relished the opportunity to cradle Spike’s face in her bandaged hand and press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. As the moment held, it made him tremble, and for one blissful instant if felt like everything might be OK.

Of course, it wasn’t enough.

Why?” Spike demanded when it was over. Buffy corrected herself from what she’d thought before: he sounded broken, and he looked it. Pulled back so that he was standing directly under the fluorescent light, she could see every shadow lining his face, the ghosts and the memories that haunted him. “I don’t…” he added, almost laughing as he ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t understand why.”

Looking at him, the vampire who’d tried to rape her – the vampire who’d brutalised her and her friends – Buffy wasn’t sure she fully understood it either. Every box that she could check, she was checking it. It couldn’t be that there was no one else out there for her; it couldn’t be that he was the only one who would ever understand.

The part of her who’d been looking up psychology websites in her lunch hour, referencing her old textbook so she felt like she was even marginally qualified to do her job, it made her feel like there was something going on with just how much trauma they’d shared together. This guy, standing in front of her, he’d watched her die and been there when she’d come back. He’d been the razor she’d cut herself with and borne the scars so her skin could stay clear of everything but bruises.

It should have been a huge, co-dependent mess that lay between them. There were times when it had been. In some ways it probably still was. But she was lonely, and tired, and they were both still fighting the battle she always would be. She honestly didn’t much care about the rest.

“The way I see it,” Buffy finally responded, brushing her hair from her eyes, “the why isn’t all that important.” Spike was hanging on her every word and she couldn’t bear how awkward it was between them. His head was at an awkward angle; his arms dangled awkwardly at his sides. Herself, she couldn’t figure out how to set her feet or why she was crossing her arms – why she was gesturing with one hand to snatch at nothing. The basement was too big; they were in the wrong part of it. “We are who we are, so all we can do is try, I guess, to make the best of it.”

She’d hoped the suggestion would make Spike grin. Buffy wanted him to break through all of this, come and meet her the way it didn’t work when she tried to meet him. She wanted his mouth to crack around his teeth, his eyes to crinkle, every part of him that was harrowed by this to soften out and accept her.

Of course he didn’t. “You actually still want to take a trip inside my head?” Spike asked, the red circles around his eyes hollowing his face into a skull.

“Well,” Buffy replied, wishing it would come out flirty. Mostly it came out flippant. “It’s been so long since I had a vacation.”

“You can’t,” Spike shut her down, shaking his head like it hurt him. He pulled away. “Not in here, not after what I’ve done. Please don’t make me…”

The words wouldn’t come to Buffy’s mouth, not for a moment. Somehow she knew it, that this was the wrong way. They would get nowhere while Spike wasn’t willing to risk her, or else to risk himself. At the same time, she didn’t know how to articulate that thought; what was she supposed to say that wouldn’t come out like a command?

“If there has to be someone else,” Spike continued, like the serious, risk-averse creature he had never been, “then someone else can go in here.” He turned away, dramatic and moody as anything, but also, Buffy somehow knew, he was unwilling to watch as he hurt her. Which he did a moment later, when he said, “Get the witch to send in that Lydia bird. She’s seen it all before.”

Thing was, if he’d looked her in the eye it might not have hurt so much.

.

[PART THREE (intermezzo)]

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quinara: Sheep on a hillside with a smiley face. (Default)
Quinara

December 2015

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