Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Joss Whedon, the writers he hired (I love you, Jane!), and whatever faceless corporate entities paid him for the rights. I own nothing besides my desires and pitiful imagination. Several lines of dialog were unabashedly ripped word for word from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Seasons One, Two, Three and Seven. The violated episodes are: Welcome To The Hellmouth, Angel, Surprise, The Prom, and Chosen. The title was scammed from the last. Two lines are also ripped from Angel: The Series, Season One: I Will Remember You. If I weren’t incredibly lazy, and if I could be certain of who wrote what, I’d credit those lines to their respective authors. A thousand pardons, and please don’t sue.
Notes: Written because what we want and what we need are sometimes one in the same, because I believe true love never dies, and because Angel in a wife-beater is always a treat.
Years, If Ever
Given enough time, life becomes a series of reflections. Mirrors reflect the powered-paper skin of a face etched unrecognizable with deep grooves of time. Bones reflect the pulsing ache of a body, well used and worn, whispering tired and hollow. The polished handle of the cane lying against the arm of the overstuffed chair reflects the lonely room.
Her mind reflects on what might have been.
In the emptiness, a whisper, “Let’s just say I’m a friend.”
Closing her eyes, the years fall away, and she smiles, “Yeah, well, maybe I don’t want a friend.”
“I didn’t say I was yours.”
Given enough time, life becomes a theater of recollection, the same film repeating, dialog memorized.
“Look, this can’t . . .”
“Ever be anything. I know,” she says, her brittle voice echoing young. “For one thing, you’re, like, two-hundred and twenty-four years older than I am.”
“I just gotta . . . I just gotta walk away from this.”
“And you did. I never forgave you,” she says, and suddenly she’s cold, freezing with regret. She knows who walked away when it mattered.
She opens her eyes, and for a moment, she can’t place herself. She doesn’t recognize the blue and beige afghan draped across the back of the alien plaid sofa. The room smells foreign and unpleasant, like eucalyptus, and green tea and stale, dying air. From a framed photo on the wall, strangers laugh at her with familiar but unnamable eyes.
“Dawnie,” her voice says a second before her mind catches up, and then she’s back. “William and Joy. Dawn’s . . .”
Great-grandchildren, she remembers. Dawn’s great-grandchildren, but she can’t remember who their mother is. Tara’s girl, or the other one . . .
“I love you. I try not to, but I can’t stop . . .”
“Shhh,” she says, “I can’t remember the other one’s name. I have to call Dawnie and ask her. Ugh, she’s gonna tease and tease.”
She chuckles, gripping her cane, tuning out her muscles’ familiar groans as she rises from the chair. “She’ll never let me live this down,” she says, smiling, as she walks to the dust-laden coffee table and reaches for the phone.
Mid-reach, she remembers Dawn’s gone.
Her dropped cane clatters against the table, and she sits down hard on the sofa, trembling with fresh-struck grief.
Given enough time, most of the conversations you ache to have are with dead people.
“It’s Happy Birthday Buffy!”
She groans as sleep rolls away. “Willow . . .no.”
“Not Happy Birthday Buffy?”
“Unless I’m dead, a world of no,” she mutters, opening her eyes. Pale light washes the ivory walls grey, reiterating what her growling joints already know—rain. Storms.
“How very fitting,” she says, sitting up. She wipes the corners of her eyes clean, and then lies down again.
There’s no reason to get up. No one’s coming to visit. Everyone’s too busy being dead, so that pretty much takes care of the phone, too. More than likely, there’s a duty card or three from some great-niece or one of Willow or Xander’s grandkids sitting in the mailbox, but they can wait until tomorrow, or until whenever the mood strikes her to check.
She’s not getting out of bed today.
“It’s your birthday, Luv. You should celebrate.”
“Celebrate?” she scoffs. “I’m a hundred and six years old. I’m really in no shape to party.”
“All the more reason to get the bloody hell out of that bed while you still can. Get yourself all gussied up in your best old lady clothes and go terrorize your great-grand kids.”
“Go to Hell, Spike. Go be dead somewhere else. Just get out of my head.”
“Strike a nerve, did I, Slayer? Wonder what . . .oh! That’s right! No great-grand babies to slobber over. No chubby cheeks to pinch, are there, Pet? Gotta have kids of your own, to get those.”
Tears swell hot in her throat, and burn behind her eyes. “Why are you doing this? Why are you being so mean?”
“Don’t ask me, Love. It’s your head. I’m dead, remember?”
She remembers. She went to his funeral. Well, lurked at his funeral. She didn’t have any right to be there, despite Faith calling her and saying she was welcome. There was something in the other slayer’s voice that said she wasn’t.
And why would she be? Faith only called because of their history—out of a sense of duty, because of everything they’d been through. Most wives don’t call their dead husband’s ex’s and invite them over for after-burial tea and cake. Besides, it had been forty years. Forty years since she’d last seen Spike, and longer yet since she’d spoken to Faith. She no longer knew them. She didn’t know their kids.
Their kids—they were the reason she lurked within the elongating shadows of the taller gravestones, holding her breath and trying to become invisible. The only reason. She had no last goodbyes for Spike; they’d all been said and meant a long time before. Even though, something inside wanted to see, needed to see, what she might have had.
They were grown, of course. Middle-aged, with nearly grown children of their own. Two men and a woman standing front and center with their mother, their spouses and children forming a protective semi-circle behind them. One of the children—a slender boy with unruly dark-blond hair, sensed her. He turned and looked at her with Spike’s face. Their eyes locked, and she felt her center hollow with loss. Not the loss of Spike, but for the blond, blue-eyed grandson who might have been hers—who could have been.
Given enough time, life becomes a series of could-have-been’s. Could have been, but, now, can never be.
She pulls the blanket tighter to her chest. “He was beautiful. He looked just like you.”
“Yeah. He’s my favorite.”
“Dead. Like me.”
“Lucky bitch. How come she got to die? I mean, how old was she? Eighty? She was a slayer too, so what gives with the early out?”
“Ninety-six. Not eighty. And she didn’t get an early out. She died fighting. Dru . . .she really was a twisted bint, wasn’t she? I must’ve been out of my bleeding skull, back in the day. Just happy Billy was there to stop that bird’s bloody clock.”
“Lucky bitch. Faith, I mean. Not Dru. Too bad she didn’t show up here, instead. You know how long it’s been since I’ve seen a vampire?”
“Just so happens I do. Three nights ago. A mere seventy-two hours, give or take.”
A shudder rips through her at the memory of the pale face staring in, just outside her bedroom window. The pain in those dark, unforgettable eyes had been palpable. Loneliness there, and something else . . . something that felt somehow final, leaving her with a sense of terrifying loss.
“How do you know about that?” she breathes.
“I’m worried about you, Buffy. The voices. Conversations with dead people. You really need to get out more. Interact with the living. Play some bridge with the other old bits. Might stave off the senility. It’s still your head, remember?”
“Whatever. Anyway, I was talking about the evil undead. He doesn’t count.”
“He’s the only one that counts, Love. The only one who’s ever counted, as I recall.”
The tears come. Her throat hurts too much to swallow them back any longer. “Spike . . . please. Don’t.”
“I’m not,” and in her mind, she sees him smile. Young, and alive, and full of hurt and pity. Hurt, because he loves her. Pity, because she can’t love him, and they both know why, although she refuses to admit it.
“I want to die.”
“It’ll come, Buffy. It won’t be much longer now. You feel it, don’t you? The cold seeping into your bones? That’s the earth calling you back. It’s coming. Why rush it?”
She closes her eyes so she can see him better. He’s still young, but now he’s dead—undead—shrouded in his black duster. His eyes glitter cold. He looks like he wants to eat her. Somehow, she’s more comfortable when he looks this way. Less guilt associated with the image, she suspects.
“Everyone’s dead. I should be too.”
“Not everyone. Not yet.”
“Technically, yes. Everyone. I’m the only one left.”
“Lonely, isn’t it?”
A sob escapes, and echoes. The strength of its pain is startling. She can’t associate it with herself, and she sits up, glancing around her familiar bedroom, half-expecting to see another woman in there with her.
“Silly, Buffy. Silly old biddy Buffy.” She lies back down, conscious of her racing heart. Her slayer’s heart, which stubbornly refuses to quit.
“He can relate.”
“Who? And to what?”
“The loneliness. And you bloody damn well know who. It’s time, Love. Time to go say what needs to be said. ”
She laughs—a high, sharp bark of a laugh. “A little too late for that, don’t you think?” She glances at the non-existent watch on her wrist. “I’d say about fifty-years too late, give or take.”
“It’s not too late. Not yet. But if you don’t get off your backside soon . . .aw, hell. Enough excuses, Slayer. They don’t become you.”
“Hello! A hundred and six, remember? I can’t very well just walk up to him and start pouring my heart out. He’ll think I’m some crazy old woman . . . hey, wait! I am some crazy old woman. Talking to you, aren’t I?”
“Okay. Now we both know you’re talking out of your arse. The Great Poof was lurking outside your window, wasn’t he? If you lived to be three-hundred, he’d know you. And besides, you don’t look a day over seventy-five.”
“You’re a lousy liar.”
“Bullocks. I’m the master. You’re tired. Sleep, Love. We’ll see each other again, soon enough.”
She yawns. “I’m not tired.”
“Shh. Sleep. And when you wake up, be a good bit and do what you need to. You’re almost out of time.”
She smiles, and closes her eyes.
Her dreams are linear and accusing as they show lost moments of opportunity. Scenario after scenario, she hears herself say the wrong thing for the right reasons, or the right thing for the wrong ones, or some convoluted combination. Her head is never in communication with her heart, and her emotions are wild and senseless.
Over and over, she watches herself walk away. Over and over, watches herself seek solace in the wrong place, never understanding why the hell she just can’t be done already. Happy. Complete. Baked.
He’s started a fire. The flames throw shadows against the grey walls, but they light up his face as he paces before it, his pale hands wrestling with each other as he waits.
She watches him the doorway, silent, not ready to draw his attention. Seeing him, she feels . . . She feels. And it’s good just to feel something other than the cold. But it’ll make things harder. She’s back from the dead, but nothing has changed—not between them. He’s still a vampire, she’s still the Slayer, and dying didn’t change a damn thing.
This was a bad idea. She should go. Before he sees her.
Before she can get his name past her lips, she’s in his arms, and, suddenly, she’s alive—fully alive for the first time since she clawed her way out of the ground, and it’s agony, it’s bliss, it’s a dam of everything in-between pouring out of her and she’s drowning and that’s okay. It’s perfect.
Perfect. The faster she ends it, the less painful it’ll be.
“No,” He murmurs, his face nestled in her hair, which is damp with his tears. “I’m not letting you go. Not this time. Not ever again. I let you go so you could live, and you died. They said you’d live, and you died.”
“I know. I remember,” she says, forcing her head up to meet his warm chocolate eyes, and dying all over again. “I remembered, when I was in heav . . . it doesn’t matter. Nothing’s changed, Angel. We can’t. The world’s safer . . .”
“We’ll make it work,” he says, his eyes pleading. “Buffy, I love you. I’m not losing you again. If I’d been there . . .If I hadn’t . . .”
“You would have been human, and there’s a good chance you’d be dead right now. Because you would have swayed me. We would have. I still wouldn't have sacrificed Dawn, but I don’t know if I could've left you . . . left what we would've had. And the world would have paid the price.”
“No,” he says, but his eyes flick away from hers, and dance down to the floor.
“You know it’s true.”
“Even if it is, what difference does it make now, Buffy? It’s over. You saved Dawn. Saved the world.”
“It’s never over. Not even if we die. Guess you know that better than anyone.”
“Yeah. That’s my point. Haven’t we both been through enough? Don’t we deserve this?”
She smiles. “We do. It’s just not our time, yet. Someday . . .”
“I don’t know.” She kisses him, and then forces herself to pull away. “I have to go.”
“Buffy. . .”
“I love you, Angel. Always love you.” And then she’s running, tears blinding, praying to feel his hand grasp her arm and pull her to a stop, to not let her go. But when she finally slows, she can’t feel him anymore. He’s too far away, and inside, she’s dead again.
And, twisted as it is, it’s better. Easier.
She shifts in her sleep, and the dream changes. She’s in the cemetery, and this time, he’s the one walking away. Because she told him to.
She calls after him, “Angel.”
He turns, and looks back at her, waiting.
“I do . . .sometimes think that far ahead.”
He smiles. “Sometimes is something.” He turns and continues walking.
“Be a long time coming. Years, if ever.”
In the darkness, she sees him shrug. “I ain’t getting any older.”
Flash forward, and she’s older. Spike’s down on one knee, and the diamond glittering in his palm flashes sunlight into his eyes. She’s about to break his heart.
“I can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
And there it is. All over his face, his heart breaking. “I . . .I don’t . . .why?”
She looks away. This is too hard. Hurts. It’s killing her to hurt him. “I . . .I love you, Spike. I love you, but I just can’t . . .”
He stands, closes his fist around the ring, squeezing. “You just can’t love me like you love him.”
She looks up at him, startled, taken aback by the anger in his eyes. She honestly doesn’t understand. “What? Spike, there isn’t anyone else.”
“Bullocks! There’s always been someone else. Bleeding Angel, that’s who.”
She stares at him, and she knows it’s true. She’s done baking. She was done baking the first time Angel touched her, and what she’s been trying to do all these years is un-bake. Return to her raw state and start over.
“It doesn’t matter,” he says, his eyes softening. “I love you, and that’s enough.”
But ultimately, it wasn’t enough. Not even for Spike.
“He’s still alive, Buffy. If he were dead, you’d know. He’s out there, somewhere. Find him. The two of you could still have a lot of good years together before it starts to get . . .awkward.”
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs, before the dream flashes on.
More lovers, more years, another rejected proposal. In the meantime, Dawn’s wedding, and Xander’s, and Willow’s commitment ceremony. A different face accompanies her to each one.
Between the weddings and births, she finds him.
It’s Christmas, and she’s in London, visiting Giles. It’s just the two of them this year, Watcher and Slayer turned father and daughter, and the only members of their family without families of their own. They share stories about the others, say they wish they were all together, but they’re lying. It’s nice, just the two of them. It’s a rare and sweet occurrence. A time to relish and appreciate.
Even so, after the sun sets the darkness calls to her, and she answers the clear, cold night alone, leaving Giles with a book by the fire.
As always, she feels him before she sees him. His presence is a large, warm butterfly spreading its wings in her chest, fluttering against her heart. She freezes on the empty sidewalk, and then turns slowly, blood pulsing hard at he hollow of her throat.
He’s across the street, and he’s not alone. There’s a woman with him, snuggled within the protective wrap of his arm, laughing at something he’s said as they walk. A pretty woman, but not exactly human—Buffy can sense it. She’s also a woman in love—Buffy can sense that, too.
She takes a step backwards, pressing herself into the shadows, and watches them, her blood draining cold. He hesitates in his step, and turns his head in her direction, his smile freezing and breaking as his eyes search the darkness surrounding her.
Their eyes lock, and she can’t breathe. It’s only for a second, but in that flash of time, he’s with her, he’s hers, and she can’t breathe.
He never stops walking. He breaks their connection, and hugs the woman at his side tighter, whispering something into her dark-blond hair, which makes her laugh again.
In the shadows, she’s dying. When she’s finally dead, she follows them to an Inn, and watches them slip beyond double oak doors.
Within the hour, she’s secured a tail. She calls Andrew, and he dispatches a young watcher in desperate need of field experience. Angel becomes a training tool, and afterwards, she always knows where he is.
Thanksgiving, three years later. She’s back in California, renting a house close to Dawn’s. He travels, but he’s never away from Los Angeles for long. He has family, too. A son. Darla’s son. And now, a granddaughter. From her vantage point behind the weeping willow in Connor’s front yard, she watches Angel hold the baby. Watches him smile and talk to her.
He’s beautiful, especially when he’s happy. And he knows she’s there. He allows himself to be watched. Allows the Watchers to follow him.
She sees his eyes flick toward the window, and past it, to the tree. To her. Just for a moment.
He always knows when she’s there.
The blonde woman, a werewolf, she was told, named Nina, is gone. Out of his life. Even though, he doesn’t acknowledge Buffy’s presence with anything more than a glance toward the darkness and a wry, half-smile.
She stares at the window, watching him with the baby, her heart bleeding. She wants to knock on the door, tell him she’s done, tell him she’s his and always has been, but she can’t. Because he knows she’s there, and he does nothing, and she’s afraid. Afraid, because he’s two-hundred and sixty-some years old, but he’ll always be twenty-seven, and next year, she’ll be forty. Afraid, because maybe he doesn’t want her. Afraid, because he didn’t receive the Shanshu, but the Mohra still exist, and they weren’t too damn hard to find. Their blood was easy to obtain.
Afraid, because even though he said he couldn’t change, maybe he had. Maybe he moved on, and forgot . . .
She leaves. She always leaves. And as she leaves, she remembers . . .
“So, then let’s just stick to the plan. Keep our distance until a lot of time has passed. Given enough time, we should be able to . . .”
She wakes up, her cheeks damp, the sun fading behind the pale, lace curtains. She’s slept the whole day away. Slept through the storms, though she smells their lingering acidity.
“Forget,” she mutters. “So not the word I was going for. As if I could forget. I was going to say ‘deal,’ or, ‘manage to be around each other without wanting to die,’ or something not so damn final. But no, you come out with ‘forget.’ What the hell was I supposed to say after that?”
“You deserve more. You deserve something outside of demons and darkness. You should be with someone who can take you into the light. Someone who can make love to you.”
“Angel,” she moans, shoving her aching legs off the bed. “I was born for demons and darkness. Even ten thousand sister slayers couldn’t change that.” She snorts a rueful chuckle. “I was killing demons well into my seventies.”
She stands, and her legs quiver, threatening to buckle and drop her, but she won’t let them. Not yet. There's one last walk through the night to make first.
She shuffles to the closet, and picks out her best dress. She’s too worn to struggle with the rest. No support hose. No slip. No jewelry. The dress will have to do. It’s soft and black, and it makes her feel younger.
She chuckles. “Black dress or no, my lovemakin’ days are over, Angel. But you can still take me into the light.”
Looking into the mirror, she nods. “I think I deserve that much. Don’t you?”
It’s a long walk to the bus-stop, and a even longer ride into the city. Afterwards, there’s heart-racing anxiety. What if he isn’t home? What if he is?
Clutched in her hand there's an address, scrawled in her shaky script, but she doesn’t need it. The moment she gets off the bus, she feels him, and the eager wings of the warm butterfly guide her.
She hesitates outside the door for a long time, holding her breath, until the street fades around her and she gasps, sucking at the air. Fully intending to knock, her hand, instead, reaches for the doorknob and turns.
He’s standing with his back to her, his shoulders slumped, his pale skin dark in contrast to the white wife-beater he wears. She eyes the head of the ancient griffin peaking out from underneath his shirt, just under his right shoulder, and the ache to touch it is powerful.
She steps forward, towards him.
He straightens, stiffens, but he doesn’t turn around. “Buffy.”
She freezes. Her mouth opens, but it’s forgotten how to speak.
“What are you doing here?” he says, and she doesn’t miss the chill in his voice. The trace of sarcasm. “Let me guess. You’ve finally decided you’re done baking.”
“Angel?” she whispers, but suddenly, she’s not so sure. Her mind screams, ‘Angelus.’ He’s so cold. Too cold.
She stands, staring at his back, unable to speak.
Finally, he turns to face her, and she knows. He’s not Angelus. It’s her Angel looking at her, his heart breaking in his dark eyes, his soul mirroring hers. Old and tired and sick with loneliness.
“Why are you here, Buffy?” he asks again. The cold sarcasm is gone, but his voice is cracked. Exhausted. He sighs. “Why now?”
“I . . .” and then she sees it. The stake clutched in his right hand. Her eyes dart to his chest, and lock on the dimple in his shirt just over his heart.
“Angel!” she gasps as her legs forget their age and hurry her over to him. She reaches for his hand—the one gripping the stake—but he jerks away from her.
“Oh my god. What are you doing?”
“Ordering out for pizza.”
“Angel . . .,” she reaches up, strokes his check. His skin feels exactly the same. Firm and cool, with just a whisper of roughness beneath the surface, reminding her that he shaves. Everyday he shaves, without the guidance of a mirror, and there’s never a nick.
The electricity is still there. The sizzling connection that charges them both— still there.
It’s been more than seventy years since she’s touched him, but it feels like yesterday. It feels like home.
He tilts his face into her palm, and smiles at her. Just a whisper of a smile, but thick with loss and regret. Even so, there’s warmth in his eyes. There’s love. And she knows he didn’t forget.
“Ball was kind of in my court, wasn’t it?” she says, and he nods, kissing her palm.
“Angel, I’m so sorry . . .” She wants to look away, avoid the deserved accusation in his eyes, but she can’t. She’s drowning in him, and there’s no breaking the surface.
“I know. Me too. So many times I almost . . . but . . . I’ve forgotten the excuses. There were so many of them, and they’re all meaningless anyway. Stupid,” he says, and there’s no accusation in his eyes, only shared blame, and the love that’s always been there.
“You always shave right before you stake yourself?” she asks, her thumb tracing the corner of his full mouth, which she’s dying to kiss. A hundred and six years old, death breathing cold at the nape of her neck, but she doesn’t feel old anymore--because she can see herself the way he sees her, and he doesn’t see her age. All he sees is Buffy.
“What? Like it’s an excuse to abandon good hygiene? I brushed my teeth, too. Never know who you might run into.” His smile deepens, becomes more true, and then he pulls her into his arms, kissing her gently.
“Mmm. Minty fresh,” she says, and then cuddles into his chest. She doesn’t feel a day over twenty-five. She’s twenty-five, and she wants to die here, in his arms. “Don’t leave me. Please.”
He tightens his embrace, strokes her hair. “I love you, Buffy. I never stopped. You need to know that.”
She nods against his chest. “I know. Me too. I never stopped, either. I was just so damn stupid. Angry, then stubborn, then scared. I ruined everything.”
“Shh,” he says, and she feels his lips press against the top of her head. “Don’t. We can’t take it back. Either of us, so just don’t, okay?”
She nods, feeling her tears soak into his shirt, and tries to bury herself deeper into his arms.
He accommodates, pulling her closer, and she feels something hard press against the small of her back. The stake. He’s still holding the damn stake.
She shifts, pulling back and looking up at him. He smiles down at her, but there’s something in his face . . . a finality.
“You’re dying,” he says. “I know. I felt it. I feel it.”
“That’s why you came,” she says, remembering his visit to her bedroom window.
He nods. “Same for you. It’s why you’re here.”
In answer, she curls herself back into his chest.
“I have plans tonight, Buffy. A death to attend to, and I’m sorry, but it’s not yours.”
“Don’t leave me. Please, Angel.”
“I didn’t. Why do you think I’m still here? Everyone else is gone. I buried Connor. I buried two of my grandchildren. Their children look old enough to be my parents, and I just can’t do it anymore, Buffy. I’m sorry, but I can’t. Hell is preferable. Hell is bliss compared to this. But I forced myself to live. For you. Until . . . don’t ask me to bury you, too, Buffy. Please, just don’t . . .”
He breaks, sags into her, pulls them both to the floor, and she feels the god-forsaken stake press again into her back. It’s his salvation, and he refuses to let go, and it breaks her heart.
“You don’t have to bury me,” she whispers. “Just take me with you.”
He stiffens in her arms. “No. Buffy, I can’t.”
She grasps his face, forcing him to look at her. “You can, Angel. We can. After all these years, we can finally be together. It’s finally our time.”
His eyes worry over hers, and then calm with understanding. “Are you sure?”
She nods. “More sure than I’ve ever been about anything. Take me with you, Angel.”
She pulls out of his arms and lies down on the floor. She sweeps her hair free from her neck, and then reaches for him.
He lowers himself into her outstretched arms, lowers his lips to hers, moaning as he kisses her. She pulls him closer with one arm, and takes the stake from him with her free hand.
“Sure you can do this?” he murmurs, nuzzling his face into her neck.
“Hundred years of practice. I won’t miss.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too, Angel.”
Against the soft skin of her neck, she feels his face harden and change. Cold sharpness grazes her throat, ripping fire follows, and then he’s inside her. Their oneness is complete, total, absolute. His essence fills her as he drinks, and the intimacy of their union is so intense, every nerve fires at once, and her body convulses in an all-consuming wave of pleasure.
He shudders against her, his mouth pulling deeper at her throat, and the second wave is twice as intense. She gasps, and feels her heart seize. After more than a century, her restless slayer’s heart is finally finished.
With the last of her strength, she clutches Angel as she raises the stake and drives it into his back, through his heart.
Ash settles over her in a thin, grey blanket, but she’s already gone.
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