DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By parttimebowler


SVU Detective Olivia Benson sat at the bar, halfheartedly feigning interest in the beer in front of her. Across the dimly lit club, the dance floor was crowded with other women who seemed to be having a good time. Why am I here, watching other people have fun while I drink myself into a stupor, she thought. She had come to the trendy nightclub hoping to give her some reprieve from thinking about the state of her personal life. Not that one-night stands were terribly appealing anymore, but right now she needed physical contact with another woman. Looking around, scanning the crowd for a familiar face or two, she spied her co-worker, ADA Alexandra Cabot, entering the bar on the arm of a gorgeous redhead. Without warning, Olivia's shocked mind immediately began to replay events from a few hours before.

"Alex, I'm not gay! I know that's how you see yourself, but it's not who I am. Why can't we just let this go? Why do we need to discuss it six thousand times?"

Alex tried to contain her anger at Olivia's obliviously hurtful statement.

"I can't do this anymore," she said, fighting back tears.

"I can't just keep pretending nothing's going on with us; that we're just acquaintances and co-workers unless we're alone together. It's stressful and heartbreaking and it's not fair to either of us. I think I love you, Olivia," she finally admitted, "and I can't handle this gray area and keep shying away from saying we're in a relationship or even silly things like holding your hand in public because you're too fucking scared to admit it to yourself."

"We've been having this same conversation over and over – you want something from me that I can't give you right now! I'm just not ready yet. Can't you give me some time to think? Please?"

Olivia could see that she had hit a nerve with Alex, though she honestly hadn't intended to hurt her lover's feelings. Why couldn't Alex just understand that a romantic relationship with another woman was not what she had expected would transpire between them? Sure, they'd been sleeping together for a few weeks, but why did it have to be a big deal; why was Alex hell-bent on letting the entire city know they were sleeping together? She really didn't want to have to think about it, not when she was still processing the meaning of the intimacy that had formed between Alex and herself.

"If and when you're ready to act like an adult, give me a call. See you at the precinct tomorrow morning."

Alex's voice was cold and thick with frustration. She quickly turned and slammed the door to Olivia's small apartment, exhibiting a degree of anger and force Olivia had never seen in the otherwise delicate woman.

"Alex, wait…please…," she called, but it was too late. Alex was already gone, the familiar click of her expensive heels echoing down the stairwell. Olivia watched from the window as the blonde strode angrily out the front door of the apartment building and disappeared around the corner.

Olivia collapsed on the floor in front of the window, still stunned by the words exchanged just moments ago. Where had everything gone so wrong? Why was a definition of what they shared together coming between them? And why did this woman have so much damn control over her emotions? She realized then that she didn't ever want to hurt Alex again, regardless of her intent. But apologies were always hard for Olivia - she hated to swallow her pride and admit she'd messed up. Despite her concern for Alex, Olivia's stubbornness would not allow an apology, not yet. She needed time.

Alex was angrier than she could remember being in years. She felt she'd hit a wall with Olivia, bringing an end to their weeks of bliss. Over the last few weeks, they'd established a comfortable routine of movies and take-out in front of the fireplace, cuddled together under a blanket on Olivia's couch, discussing cases and victims. They exchanged stories from childhood - Alex's sheltered, Olivia's rough - and past loves while falling asleep in one another's arms. And the sex. God, the sex had been more than amazing. But then Alex had begun pressing Olivia for a definition of what they represented to one another, and Olivia had resisted in the same way each time. What would she do in the morning when they each had to return to work? Alex sighed deeply and picked up her phone. She didn't want to think about this right now; didn't want to acknowledge that her perfect world was crumbling at her feet. Picking up her cell phone from her coffee table, the blonde scrolled through the address book, settling on Andrea Adams, an old friend from her days at Columbia Law. She began to dial the familiar number, hoping an evening out accompanied by a few drinks would do her some good.

What the fuck is going on here, Olivia cursed to herself. Watching Alex stroll into the bar with another woman hurt the detective more than she could ever have imagined – her stomach sank and her head swam as tried to convince herself it was the alcohol beginning to take effect more than her heart ripping in two. She had to find a way out of there, quickly. Making a scene was not something she wanted to do, and if she was going to show Alex how much she really cared about their new relationship, it was not her best course of action.

Olivia watched as Alex and her date approached the bar at the front of the club to order their drinks, unaware they were being watched from a table in the far corner.

"I'll have something strong," Alex told the cute girl who was bartending that night, motioning for Andrea to order a drink as well. She'd convinced her old friend to come out to the club with her on a Sunday night under the pretense of catching up with one another over drinks and dancing. Though she gave Alex a hard time about going out, Andrea hadn't really minded; she and Alex were close in law school, having bonded over their shared interest in justice rather than the sheer earning power of being an attorney, but neither had much time for socializing anymore.

Peripherally, Alex let her eyes drift toward the crowd in hopes of finding an empty table so they wouldn't have to sit at the bar all night. Suddenly, she jerked her head back around toward her friend. Gasping, she grabbed Andrea's arm a little harder than she'd meant to, leaving a white handprint behind on the redhead's slender arm.

"Alex, are you okay? What's wrong?"

"Olivia's here, sitting by herself in the corner over there," Alex hissed, motioning toward Olivia's solitary post. "What the hell is she doing here? She doesn't even think she's gay. Jesus!"

A trendy lesbian nightspot, on a Sunday evening, no less, was the last place she would have expected to find her detective. In fact, the club had been chosen for that reason; after the words exchanged that afternoon, Alex was confident Olivia wouldn't be frequenting any gay establishments in her attempt to stay as closeted as possible.

"Go talk to her. Please, Alex? I know she's important to you, probably more than you're even willing to admit to yourself. The longer either of you wait, the harder it will be to work things out," Andrea said in a soothing voice. She had recently been through a break-up, and though it was amicable, she could empathize and didn't want the ADA to lose the woman with whom she was falling in love.

Ignoring their newly poured drinks, both women watched from the bar as Olivia got up and gathered her purse and jacket, preparing her hasty exit. Alex was unsure of herself, a rarity for the confident attorney, but managed to remain steady on her feet, making a beeline for Olivia's table. She can't leave before I get a chance to talk to her, she thought. Please Olivia, don't do this right now, not when I need you so much.

"Olivia!" she called frantically. Olivia looked up, startled, trying to decide if she wanted to ignore the blonde's pleas or give in. The detective desperately wanted to make amends and scoop the ADA up in her arms, whisking her home to spend the night apologizing in bed, but there was one problem. Who was the woman Alex arrived with? Was she on a date so soon after their falling out a few hours ago? What a cold bitch, she said to herself. Maybe the Ice Queen rumors have some kind of truth behind them, after all.

Brushing past a red-faced Alex, Olivia walked quickly toward the black velvet curtains shrouding the club's entrance. Alex caught her arm, and held on for dear life.

"Olivia, please! Talk to me! I'm so sorry about this afternoon. Come on, baby, don't do this," Alex pleaded, searching Olivia's red-rimmed eyes with her own.

"Let me go, Alex. I have to be at the precinct early in the morning, and I need to get home," she lied, knowing she wouldn't be getting any sleep that night. Disentangling the ADA's fingers from her arm, she pushed the door open and disappeared into the night, leaving Alex standing there with a wounded look on her face.

"Olivia, please, pick up the phone. I need to talk to you again – I need to hear your voice. Liv, I'm sorry I wanted something you couldn't give me, but the definition isn't as important to me as you are, I promise. Call me, please…" Alex began to trail off, and Olivia almost picked up the phone before hearing the answering machine give its familiar beep, indicating the caller was no longer on the line.

Olivia, pull it together, she lectured herself. She's reaching out, and she's the one who gave the ultimatum first, quit being an ass and just apologize already. The detective finally picked up the phone with shaky hands and dialed Alex's number, half-hoping the younger woman wouldn't answer.

"Hello?" Alex's voice was thick with tears. She'd been sobbing uncontrollably since Andrea escorted her home from the club an hour ago.

"Alex?" Olivia's voice was faint and unsure.

"Liv? Is that you? Oh God, I thought you'd never call," Alex said, relieved to hear her detective's voice.

Without acknowledging Alex's statement, Olivia started her interrogation before she could lose the nerve.

"Alex, what were you doing with that woman at the bar? I know we had an argument, but the way you were touching her – anyone could tell you were together. Do I really mean that little to you? Were you just trying to see if I'd be jealous? Well, it worked. It fucking worked, okay? " Anger began to seep into Olivia's voice as she replayed the events that had transpired at the nightclub.

"Liv, listen to me! I was with Andrea, an old friend from law school. I invited her out because I was upset about this afternoon and I needed a friend. I promise. No matter how angry I was with you, I wouldn't do that to you." Though she made a living arguing in court, when it came to Olivia, she was often more inarticulate than she'd have preferred.

The detective could hear Alex crying; the cracking voice and the small, stifled sobs coming from the phone. Alex had to be telling the truth, right? So why didn't Olivia believe her? In her line of work, she learned early on never to take any statement at face value. But from the woman she loved? Why would Alex, whom she knew to be honest to a fault, lie to her?

Olivia sighed audibly into the receiver.

"Alex, it was hard for me to see you out with another woman, even if you insist it was platonic. I've never been a jealous person; never had any reason to be, but tonight was different. I was sitting there, drinking, trying to think about how I was going to make this up to you when you came in with her. I just lost it and I couldn't think clearly so I left beofre I could do or say anything I'd regret later."

"Oh honey, I'm so sorry. I never wanted any of this to happen, not after my life was so perfect for the last few weeks. Let's talk this over. Give me a few minutes, and I'll come to you. Is that okay?" Alex felt as though she were begging, but then again, her options were slim.

Olivia was silent for a few moments, mulling over the blonde's proposition. Would she be able to move past the scene at the club, when she had been convinced Alex considered her utterly replaceable just because she couldn't make heads or tails of the last few weeks? On the other hand, she already missed the ADA with a frightening intensity and really just wanted fall into her arms and let the blonde hold her tightly.

"I guess that's fine," Olivia said curtly. "I'll see you here in a few minutes." She hung up without giving Alex the chance to say another word.

Suddenly nervous at seeing her lover again, Olivia began to pace her apartment floor, picking up the odds and ends she found along the way in a mindless attempt to straighten up. She was grateful for the time to think about what she'd say and whether Alex's statement about the nature of her date was worth questioning. When she'd grown tired of pacing, she sank into the couch with a heightened awareness of the late hour. Was it really one AM? Her monologue was interrupted by the buzzer from downstairs announcing Alex's arrival.

Within seconds, there was a knock on Olivia's front door. The detective opened it gingerly to find the ADA, dressed in sweatpants and a tank top, her eyes red and bloodshot, her hair roped into a messy ponytail. The sight of Alex hurting so much nearly broke Olivia's heart.

"Come here," she instructed, pulling Alex into a hug, sweeping the apartment door closed behind them. After a long while, the two women separated and Olivia gestured toward the couch, indicating that Alex should sit down, then headed to the kitchen to pour them some tea. When she returned from the kitchen, Alex was sitting cross-legged on the couch. After a couple of years of seeing one another only in the context of work, Olivia still couldn't get used to seeing the normally polished attorney in such a casual stance, and it always brought a smile to her face.

"So, where do we start?" the detective pried, looking Alex directly in the eye.

"Honestly? I've no idea. How did this mess start in the first place? It all seems like a blur," Alex's voice was soft and lacked the normal air of confidence and careful enunciation.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Olivia's cell ringing from the coffee table. Olivia picked up the phone, checking the caller ID, and looked at the crying blonde, indicating that the call was something she needed to answer. Of course, Elliot would interrupt her evening with a work-related call. They'd caught a rape case, one that required her to get down to the 1-6 immediately.

"Alex, I'm sorry. I have to get down to the precinct – we've got a case. Can we do this tomorrow?"

"Sure," Alex said, disappointed that they wouldn't fall asleep in one another's arms that night. "Do you need company?"

"No, but why don't you stay here – it's late, get some sleep in my bed, and I'll see you either when I get back, or in the morning," Olivia said gently. She was exhausted and wasn't altogether sure how she'd summon the energy to work this case after such a long day, but it was comforting to think of Alex sleeping in her bed while she was at work.

Rising quickly, Alex gave Olivia a hug and chaste kiss on the cheek. "Thank you," she said softly. "For letting me come over, even if we were interrupted."

"It's no problem. I've got to go. I'll see you tomorrow." Olivia collected her badge, gun, and coat from the foyer and gave Alex a sympathetic look before quietly closing the door behind her.

Twenty minutes after receiving Elliot's call about their newest case, Olivia walked into the squadroom to find her partner sitting at his desk looking over some paperwork.

"What've we got this time, El?" Olivia's exhaustion was evident as she slid into her chair with a sigh; her face was drawn and she had dark circles under her red eyes.

"You okay, Liv? You look kinda rough tonight," her partner answered. He wasn't always the most sensitive person in the world, and she was in no mood to play around tonight.

"Thanks, El," Olivia shot him a don't-go-there look. "Remind me to hassle you about your appearance next time you've had a bad goddamn day."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! What happened?" Elliot's tone was gentler, and Olivia could tell he was concerned.

"Just an argument with someone I've been seeing for a couple of weeks. Nothing major; I'll be fine, you know that. Dating is exhausting – sometimes I just want to commit to being single forever, because it's a lot fucking easier than all the bullshit."

Elliot didn't pry any further. He knew Olivia was intensely private about her personal life, especially after having a one-night-stand with a co-worker a few years ago and having him confront her at the precinct about it. He also knew that most of the detectives at the precinct suspected that she and a certain blonde ADA were a little more than friends outside of work. When Olivia wanted to talk, if she ever did, she'd spill the beans on her own. He'd just have to wait, and in the meantime, he chose his words carefully.

"Liv – I know you keep your job and your personal life separate, and I respect that, but if you need anything, just let me know. And a word of advice? Whoever makes you this upset probably isn't worth it." The detective knew his words probably provided little comfort, but he felt compelled to let his partner know he'd be there for her.

"Thanks, El. So, this case? What have we got?"

"26-year-old woman, found raped and strangled in her apartment. Cragen thought it would be an open-and-shut case until we found out the victim's name. Jana Robertson, she's some kind of socialite, I guess? Old money parents, doesn't work for a living, parties a lot. The press is going to be all over this thing, so we need to get over to her apartment before the information leaks. CSI is already there, so we've gotta hurry." He sounded detached, as usual, but Olivia knew that was the only way he got through difficult cases.

"I've seen her name in the paper, I think. Jesus. This never gets any easier, does it?" Olivia looked at the photos on her desk. The framed photograph of her mother, taken sometime before she had been born, kept her going during the hard times. Though her relationship with her mother wasn't always pleasant, she owed it to herself to make sure that perps paid for what they did.

"Let's go. I'll drive," he said, looking her in the eye. "The cruiser's parked out front, and you look like you might fall over if you sit still too long." For once, Olivia was grateful that her partner was willing to take over at a time like this.

On the way back to the precinct from what had been a particularly rough crime scene, Olivia lay her head back on the headrest and quickly fell asleep. Elliot looked over and chuckled, knowing his partner definitely needed the sleep – at six AM, after being awake all night, he certainly did too. He contemplated waking her to see if he could drop her at her apartment rather than take her all the way back to the 1-6, but decided to let her sleep instead, given her earlier statements.

"Liv? Wake up, we're back at the precinct," Elliot said quietly, nudging his partner's shoulder. She woke with a jolt, collected her belongings, and stepped out of the car without looking at him.

"I'm just going to catch a cab, if that's okay. I don't even want to go back in there. Can you tell the captain I'll complete my paperwork as soon as I can get a few hours of sleep? Don't tell him it's personal, just tell him I'm tired, okay?" She shouldn't have made her partner do the dirty work of talking to the captain and explaining her absence, but she was so tired that she didn't really care.

"Sure, Liv. You know he wouldn't care to give you some time off. God knows you've earned enough. Take care of yourself, okay? I'll see you this afternoon."

Olivia crossed the street and quickly hailed a cab, giving the driver her address before laying her head back against the seat. Oh shit, she thought, exhaling sharply. Alex is at home, asleep in my bed. Maybe they could talk that evening; there was absolutely no way Olivia would be staying awake to have a serious conversation with the attorney.

Olivia's apartment was completely dark by the time she arrived home. Unlocking the front door, she quietly made her way down the hallway, dropping her gun, badge, and keys on the table where she'd found the items several hours ago. Deciding against turning any lights on so as not to wake Alex, she fumbled her way to the bedroom where she undressed down to a tank and her panties, climbing into bed beside the blonde attorney. Alex's face was peaceful with sleep and her cornsilk hair made an ethereal halo around her porcelain face. Olivia's heart melted. How could she possibly deny this woman anything at all?

"Mmm," mumbled Alex as the detective embraced her sleeping figure. "You're home. I've missed you…" her voice began to trail as she fell asleep again.

This is where I want to be, thought Olivia, as she began to drift away. How did I ever doubt that this woman could be so perfect for me? She knew there would be a difficult discussion likely followed by tears and apologies later that day, but for that moment in time, she was content to snuggle against her lover, reveling in her warmth and security.

When Olivia woke that afternoon, she rolled over to find the other side of her bed cold. Alex must have gotten up and gone to work already. Lifting her head to look at the clock atop the bedside table, she was distracted by a folded piece of paper with Alex's spartan handwriting spelling out her name on the front.


Thank you for letting me stay last night in your absence. I was amazed and grateful to wake up in your arms – the best way to start a day, in my opinion. I appreciate that you didn't shut me out even though we still have a few things to resolve. It means more to me than you know.

Elliot called and said that you could take the rest of the day off, if you need it.

Would you like to have dinner with me tonight? I think we could both benefit from a chance to sit down and talk without interruptions. I'm willing to listen to anything and everything you have to say, and I hope you'll feel the same. I'll call you before I leave the office tonight.



Oh, Alex. Sometimes Olivia wished she were better at communicating her emotions – her lover seemed to be able to say what she was feeling and thinking at any given time, but it was harder for the detective to put thoughts into words. Maybe someday, Alex would be able to understand and have patience with her lack of communication. Or so Olivia was hoping.

Kicking off the sheet and blankets tangled around her body, Olivia glanced at her previously forgotten alarm clock to find it was nearly five o'clock in the afternoon. Had she really slept all day? Panicking, she checked her cell only to discover a lone text message from her partner. Take the day off, Captain's orders. She grinned. What would she do without Elliot? Sure, he wasn't the most sensitive guy, as evidenced by last night's conversation, but he really did care about her well-being, and besides, he was the only family she had left.

After a long, hot shower that helped to wash away both the physical and emotional grime of the last 24 hours, Olivia felt ready to call Alex and proceed with dinner plans. Though she was nervous about interacting with her lover after she'd been so awful to the ADA the day before, she was confident that they could get through this argument. In order to do so, however, the detective would have to concede the infamous stubbornness that had landed her in this situation. This time, she was more than willing.

"Hey, you," said Alex softly, glad to hear her lover's voice on the other end of the phone.

"Hey yourself. So, I heard a rumor that you're taking me out to dinner tonight? Anywhere in particular?" the detective teased. She was feeling exponentially better after sleep and a nice, hot shower.

"Your choice, Detective Benson. I'll oblige whatever you choose, within reason. After all, I did ask you out," Alex said, a hint of teasing in her voice.

"Meaning you don't want to have a fancy dinner with me at the Burger King down the street from the precinct?" Olivia teased in return.

"Oh, Lord. Are those the type of establishments you've got in mind? I was thinking more along the lines of a nice sit-down place with an extensive wine selection. I think we both deserve it."

"You're right. How about the little Mediterranean place around the corner from my apartment? We've never been there, and I've heard nothing but positive reviews. I don't know about your extensive wine list, but they probably have something, and it's different than our usual fare." Olivia knew the restaurant wouldn't be crowded, and thus quiet and probably a good place to have the impending discussion about the nature of their relationship.

Although the last 24 hours had been insane, the detective had had a little bit of time to think about what she wanted from Alex, and vice versa. Labels weren't important, she'd decided. Being in a relationship just meant that she loved Alex and Alex loved her. It didn't matter how or why either woman identified their sexual politics, just that when they were together, everything else was unimportant. She felt extremely guilty about having given Alex such a difficult time about defining their love for one another, and decided that she would sincerely apologize at dinner. Maybe she'd even summon the courage to tell Alex that the issue wasn't really sexuality (aside from the world's assumption that she was a butch cop, fitting a million different stereotypes that she hated – why did strong women always have to be lesbians?), so much as a fear of the seriousness they'd hurling toward. That she fell so quickly for her the ADA was frightening, at first, because she'd never felt that way about anyone before – not even the few men she'd been serious with in her younger days. Olivia hoped that Alex would understand where she was coming from.

"Liv? Are you still there?" Alex questioned. "Hello?"

"I'm here, I was just…thinking."

"Well, how about instead of sitting at home thinking by yourself, we meet in a half hour for dinner. Then we can, uhh, you know, think together." Alex's laughable attempt at innuendo was endearing, but sometimes when dealing with matters outside of criminal law, she was such a nerd.

Olivia giggled. "Alex, sometimes I don't know what I'm going to do with you," she said. "I'll see you in a half an hour, okay?"

"Okay. Liv?" Alex's voice grew smaller, making Olivia wonder what was on her mind.


"I love you."


Olivia waited patiently on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. She was early, and as usual, Alex was late. Maybe she had a hard time getting away from her office, she thought to herself. More than most people, the detective understood how easy it was to get tangled up in paperwork and phone calls the minute one tried to think about leaving for the day. Before long, she spied her beautiful blonde about a block away. Alex's expensively tailored pantsuits were flattering to her lithe figure, and her put-together intellectual look always made Olivia swoon. Even more so tonight – each of the women, unknown to the other, was anxious to get back to Olivia's apartment after their dinner conversation.

"Alex," Olivia met her lover's eyes and held her intense gaze.

"Olivia?" Though Alex's voice seemed unsure, the lovers embraced one another, both silently contemplating skipping dinner in favor of other activities. However, both knew they needed to apologize to one another and talk some things through before moving on to anything else. Olivia put her hand in the small of the attorney's back and guided her into the restaurant.

The little Mediterranean place was dimly lit, though more elegant than Alex had expected for a hole-in-the-wall sort of establishment. Small talk and work dominated the conversation until the waiter had left with their dinner orders in tow. Olivia decided that she'd take the plunge before she lost her nerve to deliver the apology.

"Alex, please let me apologize to you." She lifted her hand to silence Alex's objection, knowing the ADA was going to tell her it wasn't necessary, before continuing. "I overreacted yesterday, and I'm so sorry. I love being with you, love every moment we spend together. My reservations didn't have much at all to do with being a lesbian – it was just the first thing I could think to grab onto. In actuality, I was scared because I was falling for you so quickly. I've never had that happen to me before, and I panicked. I didn't know what to do. But I hurt your feelings, and for that, I apologize. I never meant to do anything of the sort. Alex, I love you, and as long as we're together, I don't give a shit what anyone calls us." On the brink of tears, Olivia stopped before she was actually crying, which did not go unnoticed by the attorney.

"Oh, Olivia. I should have known. It's just that after so many weeks of being together, I was flabbergasted that you'd have the gall to tell me you weren't gay. No offense, but you don't sleep with a woman for a month and then claim you're not the least bit queer," said Alex with a smirk on her face. "But I'm sorry too – I shouldn't have called you childish and walked out before you could defend yourself. And I definitely shouldn't have let you get away from me at the bar. I knew you thought I was on a date and I knew I'd have a hard time convincing you otherwise, and for that, I apologize." Alex caressed Olivia's hand gently across the table, looking her lover in the eye while trying to read her response.

"Who knew such an innocent mix-up could cause so much trouble?" said Olivia to herself, though Alex heard the statement. Continuing the discussion, the couple agreed to see how their relationship played out with honesty and open lines of communication, but also agreed that they wouldn't hide from the world, even at work. Alex was glad they could agree on the issue – she'd worried that even if they did make up, it would mean a lifetime of hiding their love from co-workers and friends.

By the time dinner and dessert were finished, both women were more than ready to leave the restaurant. Alex handed the waiter her credit card and smiled at the brunette across the table.

"So, what are your after-dinner plans, Miss Benson?"

Olivia giggled again at Alex's attempt to sound seductive. "I'm pretty sure I can think of some things for us to do when we get home, on one condition," she paused, enjoying the eager look from her lover. She stood, pulling Alex up out of her seat, gently kissing her neck as she helped the attorney into her wool coat.

Leaning in toward Alex right ear, the detective's voice dropped to a whisper.

"You have strict orders to leave these on," she ran her finger along the side of the sleekly polished black frames, "all night."

The End

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