DISCLAIMER: The characters are owned by Joss Whedon, et al. I care not. All other material is copyright to me. Please do not do the Infringe.
TIMEFRAME: This is set during season 4, prior to New Moon Rising, but doesn't strictly follow canon
DISTRIBUTION: If you want it, go ahead, but please ask me first.
FEEDBACK: Pretty please? With sugar on top?
DEDICATION: For Cath more than she knows.
Above, Between, Below
By Twisted Minstrel
The First Bit
Willow Rosenberg had lost her mind.
She was certain she still had it when she woke up that morning, but by that afternoon
"Yeah, gone. Just pfft! Poof. I'm an ambulating pile of organs. No brain whatsoever. Pay no mind. No mind to pay. That's right. Just another mindless geek coed without a brain-thing. Yup. That's me."
She was wandering aimlessly through the corridors of Sunnydale UC, pondering her predicament (which, she knew, she shouldn't be able to do, being brainless and all), when she realized that gravity had suddenly taken hold, like a madcap maelstrom, forcing her to the ground.
Gravity had an accomplice.
Flat and prostrate on the floor, Willow became immediately aware that the Tasmanian Devil-like whirlwind that had suddenly attacked her was none other than the fair-haired Wicca.
"W-Willow? Oh God, I'm s-so sorry!"
Pushing herself up with both hands, Tara gazed down at the stunned red-head with a worried expression. Her books had gone flying, yet she somehow managed to land squarely on top of Willow.
Not a bad place to be, really, all things considered I could have landed on a smelly jock. Or a cactus. Or something not found in the desert, usually.
Aware the red-head was staring right back, albeit with a slightly more dazed expression. Tara righted herself, stood and offered a hand to the hapless hacker.
Pulling herself up, Willow stood and twisted to and fro, stretching, ensuring nothing was out of place. Tara regarded her silently for a moment, a barely perceptible shiver of arousal making its way down along her spine, radiating along her hips, between her thighs, a warm pulsing itch right there, making her flex her leg muscles as if taken with a cramp.
"I-I didn't see you."
Willow smiled at her, sending a thunderbolt of longing straight to Tara's stomach. Afraid it might actually start rumbling, she quickly bent and started collecting her books. Willow fetched one, somewhat heavier than the others.
"Oof. Who knew art history was such a weighty subject? But I guess, well, history and all, kind of a no-brainer. History, big subject and all that but uh, lower back pain, not really of the good, I think. I can help you carry some of this, if you'd like, you know? "
Tara held her books close to her chest, her fair locks falling forward as she nodded. Willow smiled at the demure introversion of her new friend. Kind of cute actually.
"Thanks. I, uh, was just heading back to m-my room."
"Let me walk you then. What do you say? A burden shared is a shared burden, or not a burden, but uh, non-burdeny, less-burdensome-thing?"
A lopsided smile peaked from behind Tara's locks.
"Um, something like that, thanks. B-but you were heading the other way."
Willow shook her head.
"Oh! Did I fail to mention I'm minus a brain today? Totally misplaced it something to do with insane monkey logic or maybe endless iterations in fractal geometry which is kinda the same thing. Thus, aimless wandering. Then whoops! You."
Willow's smile was infectious and kind. Tara had never met anyone as kind as Willow Rosenberg before. Despite her somewhat eccentric behavior she was also downright sexy; which made Tara more than a little nervous.
"Um, yeah. Whoops m-me. Well, um, this way."
Tara led them to her room, hugging her books closely and keeping her eyes anywhere but Willow. This did not go unnoticed by a certain red head - which still had a brainlessness issue to contend with. Tara was shy, but did Willow make her nervous also?
"Here we are."
Unlocking her door, Tara led the way inside and closed the door behind them.
Tara's room had more than enough colorful, quirky detail to keep Willow occupied for quite a while. Tara's artistic vibe seemed to veer off into the exotic with her India-inspired posters and knick knacks, including a jade Buddha, all round and merry, sitting on her bookcase. A small shelf contained various volumes on Wicca and witchcraft, and a number of children's books as well, like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and the Narnia Chronicles.
Willow placed her burden on Tara's bed while Tara placed hers on the desk. Willow's eyes were drawn to several large sketches posted on a board in one corner.
"Did you draw these?"
The sketches were charcoal studies of a pregnant, semi-naked woman, the other of a young girl, her hair falling forward, obscuring her eyes.
"Yes. Um, it's a study for a painting I'm working on. It's called, um, 'The Mother and Child Reunion."
Willow smiled appreciatively.
"Paul Simon would approve, I think. One Jew to another. Or something I think they're beautiful. You're very talented."
"Thanks um. I didn't know you were J-Jewish."
"Yup all my life."
"Oh um would you like a drink or something?"
Willow looped her thumbs around the belt loop of her jeans.
"Well, actually, I was thinking some chocolaty mocha goodness might be in order. What do you think?"
Tara nodded, attempting to hide her disappointment at not being able to corner the hacker alone. In her room. Alone.
"Yeah, that sounds great."
The Second Bit
Tara really wanted to listen intently to Willow's problems with higher mathematical concepts; she was really trying. The red head was so fascinating, in and of herself, but numbers and calculations and theories left her a little
"Dry? Want another?"
Tara glared down at her empty cup; she didn't remember taking her first sip, much less the last.
"Oh, um, no thanks. Bladder issues."
Willow nodded in sympathy and for a heart beat or two longer than necessary, simply stared at her companion.
"Um maybe we should head back? It's kinda getting dark and everything?"
Willow had been oblivious to the darkening sky, but finally stood from the small table in the coffee shop and nodded.
"Right you are. Darkness is of the bad around here and we should be shoving off."
Tara disposed of her cup and walked with Willow out into the street.
As they walked, the city street lamps came on one by one and the after-work traffic had all but disappeared. Despite the peace and silence, Tara noticed Willow's agitation increasing by leaps and bounds, constantly glancing up at the ever-darkening sky or peering over her shoulder every two minutes.
"Willow? Is anything wrong? Y-you seem nervous?"
Willow did her best to be cheery, but she wasn't.
"Oh! Fine. You know, Finey McFine. Just wish I had brought a weap um flashlight or something. Dark, you know?"
Tara nodded, confused, as it was hardly dark enough to require the aid of a torch, but maybe Willow's eyesight was poor.
I can show her around in the dark.
"Not to mention all the vampires and everything."
Willow paused for a moment, remembering Tara was not entirely out of the mystical loop then proceeded to mentally kick herself for her brainless issues.
As they approached the University, Tara paused and pointed in the direction of her dorm.
"Well, um, I'm kind of that way, I guess. So, um, I'll see you tomorrow maybe, unless maybe, you'd like to try a spell or something?"
Willow weighed her options for a moment. Buffy's probably out patrolling by now and I with no brain would much rather be with Tara anyway, so my conclusion is:
"I think I'd like to see you two do a spell together."
Tara and Willow both turned to the source of the strange voice. Willow winced at the young man, dressed in his Sunday best, yet clearly not a choir boy. And this wasn't Sunday. Instinctively, Willow stepped forward, blocking the vampire's access to Tara.
"Well, I'm thinking some people should mind their own business, especially dead people, because, hey you're dead and what business do you have minding people, huh? I think not, emphatically."
The vampire stared at Willow, confused, and he hesitated too long as it turned out. When the dust cleared, Willow saw only Buffy, stake in hand.
"Hey Will. Good tactic. If you can't lose 'em, confuse 'em. We'll call it the Rosenberg Maneuver. Is that Tara?"
The blonde peaked over Willow's shoulders and gave a small wave. Tara had not completely acclimated herself to the strangeness that is Sunnydale, nor the idea of a vampire slayer and her gang (including Willow) protecting its citizens from demons and vampires and the Goddess knew what else, usually just by showing up. But she was grateful they were around, at least.
"So whatcha guys up to? Witchy spell stuff?"
Willow stepped away from Tara, shaking her head.
"Oh, well, not so much, just made with the sweet caffeine and back to the campus when Mr. Bumpy showed up."
"Um, Willow? I'm going to head back to my room. Um, thanks, B-Buffy."
Before she could depart, Willow grabbed lightly at her arm to stop her.
"Tara, hey, we'll walk you back there, okay? Buffy?"
"That was going to be my suggestion."
Tara nodded, her hair once again falling over her eyes, and turned back toward her room. They had just reached Tara's building when they were stopped again this time by one Riley Finn. Tara did her best to stifle a groan at all the company that kept intruding on her time with Willow.
"Buffy! We got a vamp party down at the football field. Cheerleader cocktails. Could use some help."
Buffy turned to Willow.
"Are you guys okay?"
"Go on Buffy. Vamp party. Slayer fun. Save the pom poms. It's your sacred duty."
Buffy nodded her thanks and took off with the manly Finn
Tara gave a small, silent cheer for the secret agent or whatever he was he now had a new Number One Fan.
And take Buffy with you!
Once her friend had disappeared Willow followed Tara into her dorm, to her room.
"Here we are."
Tara smiled, she hoped, suggestively.
"D-do you want to come in? Um, talk or try a spell or something?"
Buffy doesn't need me tonight. Riley '007' Finn to the rescue.
She wanted to not like Riley for taking Buffy away, but she found that she couldn't. This is how it goes; you grow up, you grow apart. Simple. Like really easy pi.
"Sure, I mean, if it's alright with you. Don't want to put you off your studying or sketching or what have you."
Tara shook her head, still smiling and opened to the door for Willow to enter.
The Third Bit
Willow sat cross-legged on the floor, watching Tara light a ring of candles around the room. The young Wicca had removed at least one layer of clothing, revealing a simple yellow blouse over a light brown skirt. She had removed her shoes as well, and the overall effect, to Willow was a petite fairy princess, mysterious and silent. She knew Tara came from a long line of witches; she wondered just how powerful her new friend really was.
Mostly, though, she just watched the lithe blonde's hypnotic movements as she went silently from candle to candle, with her face half-painted in shadows and light. Willow noted her finely sculpted cheekbones, the smooth slope of her nose, the fullness of her lips, especially her lips, which parted slightly as she blew out the tiny match she held gingerly between her fingers. Placing the match in a tiny tray, Tara turned fully toward Willow, and was momentarily alarmed by Willow's fixed stare.
"A-are you ready?"
Tara's whisper was barely audible. Willow only nodded her head, afraid to speak; afraid another babble fest would erupt and ruin the moment. She watched as Tara stepped around her, the light material of her skirt brushing against her shoulder, as Tara bent and sat opposite, crossing her legs, lotus-style.
"We'll first call upon Artemis, the m-moon goddess for her blessing; then ask her to raise the candles and extinguish them."
Willow nodded; her eyes unable to look anywhere but at Tara, who held both her hands forward. Willow accepted them in hers and together they recited the small chant to summon the goddess:
"Artemis, divine daughter of the moon,
Protector of women and virgin huntress,
Accept our humble obedience and prayer.
Give us your blessing in all our endeavors."
Willow frowned slightly as Tara finished the last lines of the incantation alone.
"Oh, um virgin huntress? Does that mean she hunts virgins?"
Tara stared at her for a moment, missing her point then shook her head.
"Oh, no. She's the virgin goddess of the hunt and moon. She doesn't actually hunt them, I mean, virgins; that I know about."
"Oh. Now what?"
Both women held a collective breath, neither releasing the other's grip as the candle flames began to grow stronger, strong enough to bathe the room in bright yellow light.
"Hey the candles are all, like extra flamey! Kinda cool."
Willow grinned at the apparent success of their chant; Tara, on the other hand, began to frown.
"Um, Willow? Look at them."
The flames had grown so bright, it began to hurt their eyes; when the candles began to move off their respective shelves, into the air over their heads, both Willow and Tara rose and moved apart to avoid the hot globules of dripping wax that began to rain over the room.
"Uh this is not good. Was this supposed to happen? We didn't ask for this yet, did we?"
Willow looked frantically around the room for anything that might aid in extinguishing the lively waxworks quickly, without causing damage when Tara
The candles instantly froze in place, immediately extinguished themselves and fell in a heap on the space of floor Willow and Tara had so recently vacated.
Picking drying bits of wax out of her hair, Tara looked worriedly over at Willow who was staring at the pile of candles, dumbfounded.
"Are you okay?"
"Sure. I love it when that happens. What just happened?"
Tara shook her head and approached the young hacker, reaching out to pluck a few scraps of wax from her bangs. She found it impossible to stop and kept finding imaginary things to dust away until there simply was nothing else and her hand came to rest on one pale, smooth cheek, and Willow's eyes were fixed in hers and it was so dark now, only the moonlight pouring in, illuminating their flushed faces, and Willow's skin was so warm and her hands felt burning hot and
"Your phone's ringing."
Tara's hand dropped to her side like someone had just tied a weight to it, nearly dragging the rest of her down with it.
Fishing around for the light switch, Tara reached for her phone.
Willow had bent to pick up the candles then stopped at the mention of Buffy's name.
"She's here, do you want to talk to oh. Oh. Okay. I'll tell her. Okay. Bye."
Quickly putting down the phone, Tara turned to Willow, who, now that she could see in the light, was covered in candle wax, despite her ministrations.
"Um, it looks like the vamp party ended a little early. She just wanted you to know she's staying at Riley's tonight, so not to worry."
Willow frowned. Another night at Riley's. Those two were worse than a pair of bunnies on crack.
Crack bunnies. That's what I'll call them. But just to myself, not to them, cause, hey, rude much? And besides, what's it to me, I'm just the best friend here, brainless and Oz-less which may not be such a bad thing anymore, I think. No, emphatically, I think not.
Tara knew by now that Willow could sometimes wind up in her own world once in a while, she did it too, but Willow made it look cute.
"Oh, hey! Sorry there. Brainless and everything, just hanging a left into the red, huh? The needles' on E.".
"Into the what? What needle?"
Willow scrunched her nose at the blonde.
"You know, like um, running on empty? Out of gas? Riding on fumes? Brain dead?"
Tara nodded sagely, something she did very well, and reached out to lift several more strips of wax off Willow's shirt.
"We really took a bath in this stuff, huh? You're totally covered in it."
Willow looked down and confirmed, she was, indeed, saturated with candle wax, then noticed the same on Tara and began to assist in the removal from her blouse.
Willow's eyes followed her hands as they swept at the tiny pieces of dry tallow, over Tara's chest, down Tara's breasts, her hardening nip Wait! Hands! Hands in new places!
Tara almost smirked as Willow quickly stepped away and dropped to the floor, once again collecting candles.
"Well! No mess is a good mess, I guess, so, uh, better make with the lessening of the mess! Less mess is, well, you know, less messy."
Recovering much sooner than she wished from Willow Contact, Tara dusted off her blouse and collected a waste basket from under her desk. She wondered, briefly, if Willow ever suffered from lightheadedness due to the lack of oxygen to her brain whenever she babbled. Or maybe it was just the opposite she had so much oxygen going on that her brain simply shifted into overdrive and had a hard time coming off it like a kid on helium. Her thoughts weren't mean-spirited in anyway, she just couldn't believe how close she had come no pun intended.
After collecting as much of the wax that they could, Willow searched around for her jacket and keys, preparing to leave. Though she didn't want to, making excuses to stay seemed a little stalkerish and she definitely didn't want to go there. Then again, she knew she had felt something very important and not just Tara's breasts - although they were wondrously soft and firm at the same time and she'd didn't realize nipples could be so Hold it! We are NOT discussing Tara's breasts! Be quiet!
Tara cocked her head to one side, examining the startled expression on the red head's face as she emerged from her Willow Trance.
"Sorry! Tired, battle fatigue, you know the usual. I should go and get a little breast, Ha! Rest! Yes! Rest. Lots and lots of rest. "
Tara shook her head, very slowly as she gazed at her friend, her eyes narrowed to tiny slits.
"Oh. Yeah, rest. You're probably tired, it's been a long day" In Tara's mind, this translated as: I'm boring, the spell was stupid, it didn't work and she's just trying to be nice.
"Yeah, long day."
For a long moment they simply looked back and forth at one another, just nodding their heads in some taciturn agreement.
"Well," said Willow, at last.
"Yeah, um, well." Agreed Tara, for no reason; her head still nodding in time with Willow's.
"I'll be going." Willow spoke and her head nodded, but she made no movement in the direction of the door.
"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow, m-maybe?" Tara's nod called in sick at the last minute, forcing her to hold up her own head, only a slightly askew angle.
Willow (whose nod was curious as to how this would all turn out) nodded. "Oh, yeah, absolutely, tomorrow, as in, the day after today."
Determination made some head way as Tara reached for and opened the door for Willow. Willow smiled, still nodding and passed through the arch into the hallway. They smiled again at one another before Willow turned and Tara finally shut the door. Tara was just about to bolt the lock when she felt the tremors of a slight rapping from outside.
Her heart racing, Tara opened the door. Looking far more expectant than she had hoped, Willow dropped her hand back to her side and took a step closer than was absolutely necessary.
Taking a step a closer than she knew to be necessary, Tara brought herself almost nose to nose with the red head, unaware that the pounding in her chest was threatening to deafen the dorm. Even Willow winced and her heart beat was no better.
"I was going to ask you "
Now completely unaware of herself, only the green, slightly bloodshot, somewhat sleepy, yet oh-so-sexy eyes before her, Tara took another step right onto Willow's feet, which started Willow, forcing her off balance, yet, unable to move her legs, went backward, taking Tara with her.
From her new vantage position on top of Willow, out in the hall, Tara thought she could hear all the music of the world, a rapturous, sublime melody with strings and flutes and harps and, yes, even the stars were out and sparrows soaring over their heads, and there was something her mother had told her, when she was little and it came back to her, a cherished memory:
Tara! No running in the house!
She almost laughed; she looked down at Willow and smiled.
And then she realized where the stars and sparrows had come from.
Willow was unconscious.
The Fourth Bit
"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do;
I'm half crazy all for the love of you "
The tune wound down in her head like HAL itself, winding down at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, all its programming and self-containment diminished, perhaps by madness. She had ached for the machine, at one time; she thought she understood it, why it did the things it did; she didn't need a half-assed sequel to tell her all the missing bits. I understand probability theory; I know what chaos looks like, I have no quasi-metaphysical hang-ups. I'm happy I tell you, blambustered and confuzzled. Happy!
"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do;
I'm half crazy all for the love of you "
Tara, unused to panic, began to pace around the red head she had dragged back into her room, still unconscious. She didn't recognize the song Willow was half-singing, half-humming, and wondered if the fall had caused some sort of brain damage. She had examined Willow carefully, no bumps or blood anywhere, and wasn't sure what warranted a call for an ambulance. The advice nurse she spoke to on the phone told her not to worry, she might have a slight concussion, and only to bring her in if she became dizzy, her eyesight was fuzzy or she started vomiting. Since no physical damage was present, it was best to just keep her down for a while, and wait until she woke. There really wasn't anymore they could do.
This is a fine end to an evening, the fair-haired witch thought. I actually get her alone for a little while, in my room no less, on my floor, all sweet and cuddly-looking and she's conked out, delirious, probably hemorrhaging internally, she'll be dead in minutes if I don't do something, call Buffy or Mr. Giles or elevate her feet or something.
I can definitely elevate her feet
Kneeling beside Willow, still humming her sickly sweet song, out of tune, in desperate need of a mint, Tara lifted her friend's feet and shoved three well-fluffed pillows beneath them. Grabbing a blanket from her bed, she draped it over Willow's body then gently opened one eye then the other, checking for .well, she didn't know what she was checking for, but they did it in movies and it seemed like a logical step.
Mild irritation began to work its way into Tara's nervous system as the simple tune vibrated from Willow's lips, and she knew she had heard it before, but couldn't place where. She wished Willow would wake and tell her. It was driving her nuts.
She gently stroked around Willow's pointed hairline, wondering at the wild color, and paused.
Daisy? Maybe it's someone Willow knows. A girlfriend? She would have mentioned that. An ex-girlfriend? A secret crush? A lost love? Someone she saw one day in one of her brain-cramp mathematics classes? Daisy sounds like a Southern Belle type all doe-eyed innocence and perky nipples .
Yanked from her reverie, Tara almost fell backward, and overcompensated by thrusting her torso forward, like a tight rope walker and lurched slightly, just narrowly avoiding another Willow landing.
The red head was smiling at her, calm and peaceful-looking. Her eyes, however, appeared to roll in their sockets, somewhat out of sync with one another.
"Tara .I had this funny dream. We were in this big boat and it was filled with dragons and chocolate and there were penguins, too, I remember the penguins, because one of them looked like you and one of them looked like me funny penguins, see? And there was this flood and we didn't have dry socks, and you said, 'we have to have dry socks,' so, the dragons, you know, they warmed our feet, but all the chocolate melted and we were sticky."
Oh my God. It's brain damage.
"Will you had an accident. You f-fell and hit your head. Do you remember?"
Unable to focus on any one part of Tara's face, Willow's brow wrinkled and her eyes narrowed.
"I remember wanting to kiss you goodnight. Does that count?"
Willow's smile returned, stealing Tara's breath. Clearly, Willow was still circling the airport, but the landing gear was down and all the passengers seemed to be happy.
"Are you comfortable? Does your head hurt?"
Willow shook her head slowly, from side to side, her eyes now fixed on Tara's, her smile unwavering. With a free hand, she patted at the empty space of floor on her right side, indicating she wanted Tara to join her there.
"Sleepy pumpkin? We'll have some snuggle time before class, okay?"
Willow's eyes had closed, taking all of Tara's sensibilities with them. Willow couldn't know what she was saying; she's delirious. She's not herself. She's disorientated.
Why then, do I not care?
Clambering over Willow's inert form, she curled up on the red head's right side, lifting the blanket to now cover them both. She was startled by Willow's arm snaking around her, pulling her in, hugging her close. She leaned forward, gently, placing her head near Willow's, close enough to feel her breath against her forehead. Close enough to feel Willow's lips, warm and soft, brush against her temple for the briefest of eternities she wrapped an arm across Willow's chest, her right hand hooking onto the hacker's shoulder, anchored solid.
She wanted to close her eyes, not watching the steady rise and fall of her arm with each breath Willow took; she wanted to sleep, and dream of Willow and their big boat, with their penguins and dragons, bound for some Never Land uncharted, save within the labyrinthine confines of Willow's brain, somewhere between the two of them, a blue-purple sea of endless conversations and cuddles, and endless kisses in the moonlight.
She called me pumpkin.
She adjusted herself, pressing as closely to Willow as she could, cautiously, not willing to wake her; her eyes closed as she raised one leg over Willow's thigh, a movement that placed her center right against the red head's hip. She froze; her underwear was suddenly too tight, too confining. Her pelvic muscle flexed involuntarily at the contact and she regretted her decision to lie so closely to her. She tried to once again maneuver herself away from Willow when the red head suddenly turned in her sleep, to face Tara. Willow pulled the blonde closer, bringing them hip to hip, with Tara's leg still thrown high over her thigh.
Now finding herself ground against Willow's stomach, Tara attempted to adjust herself again, raising her leg off Willow only to be cut short by Willow's knee, which moved forward between her legs and lodged itself firmly against Tara's rapidly heating core. Whichever way she went, she was still stuck and frustration was setting in.
The ache that started just below her navel and fell south, flooding through her fleshy nether caverns, was like a sneaky itch that she couldn't scratch. She wanted desperately to relieve herself of it: a hand, a tongue, a loofah she didn't want Willow to wake in the morning with crazy woman in her arms. In fact, she didn't want Willow to wake at all at this point what would she say? What would she think?
She called me pumpkin.
She held her breath, calling upon every element to make her calm, content; to help her sleep. Her eyes closed again and she willed herself to relax. She willed herself to ignore the almost imperceptible undulations of her hips, of the warm sap that was pooling between her thighs, of the soft, crimson lips that were so close to her own, or that Willow's arm had dropped from her waist no, that hadn't happened. Willow's hand, hot and curious, slipping under the band of her skirt, the tips of her fingers brushing lightly against the silky down of her
Was Willow awake?
Her eyes shot open; her nipples had become tattle tales, pointing at the culprit of her distress: She did it!
Willow's eyes were closed, her face blank. Yet her hand was most definitely not closed, but open and reaching further down, invoking lust and agitation, like some single-minded magician, intent on drawing the rabbit out, hat or no.
Is she awake?
She was torn; to submit to Willow's unconscious caresses seemed wrong; to stop them, however, might wake Willow and where would that lead? Would Willow, horrified, bolt from her room and never return? She might not, maybe, but at the same time perhaps she didn't want Willow touching her. Shouldn't she stop this in either case? Risk the embarrassment?
Willow's fingers were stroking lazy circles along her lips, just grazing her, teasing her, sending smooth, thrilling tremors along her nervous system, straight to her brain.
Do I have to decide this now?
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