DISCLAIMER: The characters and most of the settings in this story are not mine. I am not making any money from it, this is just for fun.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Prompt: 'Oz returns to Sunnydale, and suddenly his wishes start to come true.' The prompt was taken very liberately. This story is AU, because some characters who died on the series haven't done so in my fic. It is set about seven years after the end of the series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Werewolf Fighting
It had been so long since anything bad had happened that Tara had forgotten all about the jinx. And she'd said similar things before, they all had, and nothing had gone wrong because of it for seven years straight, so why would anything come of it now? But somehow, the moment the words had left her mouth, a chill ran down Tara's spine, and she feared that this time, their luck had run out.
"What did you say, baby?" asked Willow, and raised her head from where it was resting on Tara's stomach. It was almost nine-thirty in the evening, yet the two women were in bed already. It being Saturday, this wasn't really a problem, but they'd still felt indulgent, going to bed so early. Tara lifted a hand and stroked Willow's long tresses, and repeated, still half in a daze from the love-making they'd been doing:
"I said that everything's just so perfect.." She trailed off, the feeling she hadn't been able to identify the first time suddenly clear. Fear. Something was wrong, or was going to be wrong, and she had to find out what it was so they could try to stop it.. And with those thoughts Tara went under. The vision was short, and not very informative: Willow and Tara were in Buffy's gym, and Buffy and Spike were fighting with Oz. He hadn't changed much since the meeting they'd had ten years ago. He was still a werewolf, and he was winning the fight. Behind Buffy, Willow was lying on the floor. She wasn't moving, and Tara couldn't get her to wake up.
The next instant she was back in the present, with Willow, who was peering intently at her eyes. She saw Willow swallowing before she asked carefully:
"Sweetie, did you have a vision?"
Tara nodded, afraid to say anything else, not knowing what to make of the situation. Willow, however, acted instinctively. She threw off the covers, pulled Tara to her feet, and marshalled her into the bathroom next to their bedroom. She turned on the shower, grabbed the home made soap and shampoo from the basket in the windowsill and handed them to Tara.
"Would you prefer it if I made you something to eat, or do you want to shower together?" Willow asked Tara.
"Together. It's easier to get my back done that way. Yours too, for that matter," said Tara, trying to get her mind off the images that had burned themselves into her brain a minute before. They knew this routine, had performed it countless times, and it calmed her to be doing it. Somehow doing the ritual would keep the panic at bay, even though it would make her more receptive of the visions. She checked the temperature of the water and got in, then held out her hand to steady Willow as her lover stepped into the shower and immediately slipped on the wet floor. She always does that, Tara thought, and wondered how Willow survived taking a shower on her own. It had never occurred to her that Willow did it on purpose, because she knew Tara would always catch her, and loved that feeling of absolute safety.
It didn't take them more than fifteen minutes to do a thorough cleansing. Nowadays, they only did this on full moons and sabbats, but they'd done it daily for months in the years before they closed the Hellmouth. Practise was one thing they didn't need for this. The moment Tara started chanting, they'd both be in the trance they needed. They could even do this with monsters breaking through the bathroom door, if necessary. Four years ago, they had. The chant was short and simple, and didn't do much in itself. It was the intention behind it and the concentration when using it that worked the magic.
By the time the women stepped out of the shower, Tara was calm again. The ritual had grounded her, and she was in close contact with herself, her lover, and the elements.
"Hmm, roses.." Willow smiled. The mixture in the cleansing articles always had a healthy dose of soap in them, and somehow the smell always seemed to cling to Tara more than it did to her. To Willow, Tara had always smelled of roses, and smelling a rose brought all kinds of happy memories. Tara gave Willow a peck on the tip of her nose, and handed her the clip Willow always used to keep her wet hair up.
"If you want me to make you some regular rose soap, I'd be more than willing," said Tara grinning.
"It's not on me that I like the smell so much, you doofus," replied Willow, smiling as well. They'd had this conversation before. "But if you want to make soap, I'm all for it. It'll be the Autumn equinox in less that two weeks."
They made the ritual soap twice a year on the equinoxes, not just for themselves but also for the shop, that way ensuring they'd never run out but wouldn't get stuck with far too large quantities. Though the last seven years had been a lot less hectic than the seven before them, they still dealt with enough vampires and monsters to remember how bad things could get. Their house, just like those of the others, was warded against intruders, and there were weapons all around. The Hellmouth might be closed, but there was usually a large concentration of slayers in Sunnydale, and their organization was even to the public semi-visible. Though the town was usually just about vamp free, every full moon or so some demon tried to wipe out the training centre, including staff and trainees, so they made sure never to run low on weaponry.
By ten o'clock, Tara and Willow were on their way to the training centre. After the slayers, Scoobies and other people helping had managed to finally close the Hellmouth, everyone had been at a loss as to what to do next. After spending about three weeks at Angel's in Los Angeles, the core group Buffy, Dawn, Spike, Willow and Tara, Xander, Anya, and Giles had gone back to Sunnydale to make plans. After many nights of discussing the options, Anya had provided the solution by reiterating the plan she'd already had two years earlier: for Buffy to get paid for her slaying. However, she shouldn't be paid by the community, but by the Watcher's Council, and Buffy shouldn't get paid to slay after all, there wasn't much slaying left to do in Sunnydale but to train slayers who could then fight evil all over the world. Together they'd made a plan, working out all the details. Giles and Willow took care of the practicalities, Anya made a financial plan, Xander a building plan. Buffy and Spike worked out training schedules, Tara prepared a course in basic magic, and Dawn made a plan to cover the medical needs. Then they invited the Council over, began haggling.
Of course the Council loved the general idea, and of course they wanted to place it in England, and under their direct supervision. And Giles cleaned his glasses and was not sure how to press the issue. But just when Gwendolyn Post had started looking smug, Buffy and Anya had stepped forward and had icily explained that this was the way they were going to do it, and the Council could either be in or be out, but who did they think the slayers would come to? And besides, who were responsible for the Council's continued existence? Quentin Travers had turned almost turned grey at the memory of the Council headquarters blowing up only minutes after he'd gotten everyone out of the building. He didn't need any more convincing after that. And so they'd set up a training centre at the edge of town, near both the woods and one of the many cemeteries. It hadn't even taken long to convince Giles to stay with them, officially to act as a liaison between the Council and the Scoobies, unofficially because if he wanted to leave again, he'd better do so without telling them, and go somewhere he was certain no one would find him, because, so had Buffy declared with a huge grin on her face, if he didn't she'd personally come after him and make him see the error of his ways. Giles had just hugged her and said he'd be honoured to stay.
That had been seven years ago. In the meantime a lot of things had changed. Buffy and Spike had somehow managed to stay together. Willow and Tara had, too.
They'd bought their own house four years ago after Willow had accepted a job at an internet security company where she got to hack all day and then try to secure the programs so no one would be able to do it again. It paid well, which enabled Tara to follow several courses on Yoga and Reiki, and now she didn't just teach basic magic to slayers and their respective Scoobies (if they had any), but also taught a couple of Yoga classes.
Xander and Anya were together most of the time. They loved each other dearly, but living together had proved to be difficult and they'd never fully recovered from the wedding fiasco. So once in a while they'd get into a spectacular shouting match and break up for a month or two, only to realize that they were miserable without each other. In the end they'd bought a house together, but had remodelled it so they didn't have to spend any time together. It often happened that they didn't see each other at all during the day, but they always ended up in bed together, and were happy with the solution. Anya still owned The Magic Box but had, together with Giles, set it up so that the dangerous books, items and ingredients weren't so readily available anymore. Although Anya had initially grumbled that if someone wanted to buy something, she should damn well be able to sell it, Giles had insisted that this too was part of taking responsibility for their actions. There were going to be a lot of people who had the power but not the knowledge to deal with things the right way, he'd said, and Anya had understood that he wanted to prevent another Willow like problem from happening. She still hadn't been happy about it, until she noticed that since the dangerous items were no longer in the store, people had far less reasons to come and trash the place. The insurance pay was now not a third of what it had once been, and that was something she could appreciate.
Xander still worked in construction, leading the practical side of the company. He loved the company, but hated being responsible for the finances, which was why he co-owned it with his former boss. It saved him the stress of keeping the orders coming in and this way, neither had to work as long as they would've had they done this on their own. Besides, they worked well together, and liked it.
And Dawn Tara's thoughts were interrupted by Willow, who took her hand and put an apple in it.
"You need to eat something, you look like a ghost." Tara looked at Willow and nodded, but she didn't take a bite. Suddenly the nerves were back. She'd had so many visions in the past, and most of them had been terrifying. The first one had happened right after she'd met Glory for the first time. In it, she saw Joyce die during an operation to remove a tumour in her brain, and she'd been terrified when she learned that Joyce would indeed have to have surgery. But Joyce had come out of it just fine, and Tara had been relieved, thinking it hadn't been a vision after all. Then Joyce had died, and Tara had been too afraid and confused to tell anyone what had happened.
The next vision she'd had hadn't happened at all, in any shape or form, but the one after that was of Buffy's death, high up a tower. And then Glory had imprisoned her in a world of hell and madness, and there she saw nightmarish thing after nightmarish thing. After her rescue, some of the visions had come again, and when a few of them had come true she knew she had to tell the others. Even now she wasn't certain the visions weren't just glimpses into another universe, because though they often came true, the circumstances were always just a bit different, and at times the end result didn't even come close. She'd forgotten most of them, but the most terrifying ones would always be with her. Her own death, just after making love to Willow had effectively lowered her libido for months. In the end she didn't know whether that was the reason she only took a hit to the shoulder, but at least she'd survived. Both she and Willow had cried for weeks after that incident, realizing how close they'd come to losing each other for good. It made Willow go off magic completely, but that had also had it's side effects, because she'd been so scared to use her powers, even for a good purpose, that Anya and Spike had almost died because of it. At the last moment Willow had come through because she'd known that if she didn't, the world might be as bleak for Buffy and Xander as it had almost been for her. Together the two witches had given them most of their energy, and miraculously, the entire Scooby gang survived, though Anya would always have a limp. There was only one good thing that had come from that. The moment Dawn had seen the causalities and wounded she'd known that she'd wanted to go to med school. She'd recently finished her residency and was now working at Sunnydale Memorial for three days a week. The other two she worked at the training centre, teaching specialized first aid. After all, a bad injury for a normal person wasn't always important when one is a slayer. In the end, they'd all gotten back on their feet, but still the horrors they'd lived through to close the Hellmouth haunted Tara.
About that final apocalypse, Tara had had so many visions. In some they all died, but saved the world. In some no human survived. In one the entire universe even imploded. Tara shivered. They'd all survived, but it had taken them years to get close to the light heartedness they'd had before those awful two and a half years had happened. In retrospect, dealing with things like the Initiative seemed child's play.
Only in the past two years or so had Tara seen how it must have been in the beginning: difficult and scary perhaps, but also fun and exciting. All of them were happy and healthy, even Anya seemed to be walking quicker these days. And now her vision might destroy it all.
Tara looked up. Willow was standing in front of her, looking worried and a little sad. How long had she been lost in thought? Willow opened her arms and pulled her into a hug.
"It'll be alright, I promise. And if it isn't, we'll make it alright. We've done this before, love. Besides, how bad can it be? We haven't had an apocalypse in years.." Willow babbled, then moved back, her eyes wide. "It's not an apocalypse, is it?"
"I don't think so." Tara shook her head. "I can't tell what it is, really. It just felt.." she bit on her lip. "Bad," she finally whispered. She sighed when she felt Willow rub her back, and tried to relax, but just couldn't. Because she knew she'd have to answer Willow's next question.
"Can you tell me what you saw?" Willow asked carefully. Tara swallowed, and tried, but couldn't get the words out of her mouth. Although Willow had never even looked at another man or woman in all the years they'd been together, she was still afraid of what might happen if she told Willow about her vision. Oz had been Willow's first lover, and though Tara was certain Willow loved her and wanted to spend the rest of her life with her, she wasn't so sure that Willow wouldn't get angry if Tara implied anything negative or dangerous about Oz.
Willow, of course, noticed that Tara just couldn't say it, whatever it was.
"Okay, let's get to the gym then, we'll talk about it there." She took Tara's hand again. "I called Anya and Xander, and Giles, so they should all be there soon, as well. Buffy and Spike.." Willow smiled for a second. On Saturdays the two trainers always worked out together, trying to develop more efficient strategies to teach the fledgling slayers who were probably more scared than powerful. Because every slayer now got tapped, they didn't automatically get a Watcher anymore, which led to a lot of scared and confused girls, most of whom took up the invitation to come and train for a couple of months. Both Spike and Buffy secretly loved scaring the heck out of them and spent a lot of time perfecting their routines, with him playing the evil vampire and her the failing slayer. Every month they got new students, and they tried to devise a new situation for every arriving group. It helped keep them on their toes.
"Dawn is probably watching them train." Willow finished off the list of Scoobies. "You can tell it then, okay?"
Anya and Xander would in all likelihood bring donuts. Willow had only had to say "Tara had a vision", and Anya had immediately replied they'd see them at the gym.
Giles' response had been practically identical. They'd been through these things enough times, and Scooby meetings were still a frequent happening, though usually because either Giles had heard from the Council that disturbances were coming their way, or because the training camp got attacked. The gym was always their meeting point, because that was the place where they'd bring the slayers-in-training. Safety in numbers.
Willow rubbed the bridge of her nose. Safety in numbers. Right. I hope those slayers-to-be are strong enough to fight whatever it is Tara saw. What did she see?
How bad was it, if she's afraid to tell me what it was? Willow thought, finally getting scared. She tightened her grip on Tara's hand and picked up her pace. They were almost at the gym now, and Willow could see that Buffy and Spike were fighting with someone else. And it couldn't be a slayer, because it was a man.. and he seemed to be howling.
"Tara, look!" Willow pointed to the window and started running. Tara immediately followed, feeling her heart freeze inside her chest. Was it happening already? Was her vision coming true? She caught up with Willow in front of the entrance, and opened the door. The light in the hallway was flickering, but that had needed replacement for weeks already, so that didn't mean anything. Ten seconds later they were standing in the main area, right behind Buffy and Spike, who were fighting.. a changing Oz. With a sound that could scare probably even Xena the Warrior Princess, Oz turned into a werewolf and took a swipe at Spike. The impact was so heavy that the vampire fell to his knees. Next to Tara, Willow fainted.
Buffy, in the meantime, was trying to dodge Oz, but the werewolf seemed to have gotten even better at his attacks than he'd been when he'd chased Tara over a decade ago. Spike was back on his feet now, but couldn't seem to do much damage. The next moment, Oz head butted him so hard that Spike went down, and didn't get up again. Buffy was attacking the werewolf again, but she seemed to be wounded. In desperation, Tara erected a shield to keep Willow and herself safe from the action, and tried to wake her lover. They had to get out of here, to get the other Scoobies and the trainee slayers. They'd have to take Oz out, by whatever means necessary. He may have been Willow's ex-boyfriend, but he was dangerous, and..
Tara looked at the scene before her. To her amazement, Buffy flipped Oz as lightly as if he were a mattress, then sat down right on top of him, holding his wrists.
"Right, you can change back now." Buffy told the werewolf. The next moment there was a naked man under her. She seemed to need a moment to take in the situation, then coloured a fierce red and jumped off him, looking quickly away.
"Sorry, I forgot about the naked thing," she said. Spike, who'd gotten up, tossed Oz his clothes. In a couple of hasty moves, Oz had put them on. In the meantime, Buffy looked around to find the best place to sit down and get her heartbeat to slow down, and spotted Willow and Tara.
Willow was just getting back to consciousness, but Tara beside her was sobbing. Within three steps Buffy was with them. For a moment she felt a slight resistance, evidence that one of the witches had been trying to keep them shielded, but then she was through the barrier and kneeled down next to them.
"Willow, Tara, what's happened?" Buffy asked, panicking. Neither seemed quite coherent at the moment, but Willow was in a better state than Tara, so Buffy focussed her attention on her for the moment.
Willow looked up, not quite sure whether what she'd seen had really happened, because here Buffy was, looking fine, and Spike was standing over there, and Oz..
"Oz?" Willow's voice came out shrill and scared. "What.. Why.. You were attacking Buffy. And Spike? You were changing, and now you're not. How..?" She started trembling, afraid to look at him, but also afraid to look away. What if he changed again, and killed them all?
Oz rushed forward, and Willow shrank back, but he didn't attack her. He only said:
"I'm cured, Will. For real this time."
At that, Willow burst into tears. Spike cursed and slapped Oz's arm, then walked next to Buffy.
"They're in shock. If you take her," he said, nodding to Tara, "I'll carry Willow. Come on, we'll take them to the kitchen." He carefully picked up the slight woman before him, who was crying and talking at the same time.
"But you just changed. You attacked them. Why? That's not right. Tara? Oh Tara honey are you okay?"
Before they were even halfway to the kitchen they heard people coming up behind them.
"What happened?" Xander asked, looking at Buffy and Spike who were both carrying one of the witches.
"Yes, what's going on here?" Said Anya angrily, sounding out of breath. "We heard commotion. Are they hurt?" She swivelled around and pointed a finger accusingly at Oz. "Did you hurt them? 'Cause if you did, I'll kill you."
"Anya, calm down," said Xander immediately, looking at the stranger in the room. "She always.. Oz? Is that you? And hey, did you hurt them? Because we'll kill you, even if you're Oz." he went on, the tone of his voice changing to angry. Xander looked at Giles, expecting to find back-up there. Giles, however, didn't react to Xander and Anya's accusations at all. Instead, he walked up to Buffy and Spike.
Resuming his way to the kitchen, Spike answered:
"I'm not sure. I think it shocked them to see Oz fight us, and then change back." Arriving in the kitchen, he carefully set Willow down into a chair. Next to him, Buffy did the same with Tara. Both women had stopped crying, but Tara was still shaking. Giles looked into her eyes and found the pupils distended and unfocussed.
"I think she's in shock. Does anyone know where Dawn is?" Instead of answering, Buffy put her hands to her mouth and yelled.
"Dawn!" They heard something fall and break, and the someone cursing. Then footsteps, coming rapidly closer.
"What?" Dawn came running into the room. "Oh my God. Oz. You're back!" She turned to Buffy and noticed Willow and Tara. Willow seemed fine, but Tara?
Dawn laid her hand on the woman's white and clammy skin and looked into her eyes. It took her only a moment to come to the same diagnosis Giles had just made.
"She's in shock. Buffy, grab a blanket. Spike, you make some tea." Dawn took a glass out of a cupboard and filled it with water. She handed it to Willow.
"Drink a sip, and if you're feeling better, try to get Tara to drink a bit, too." She opened the fridge, peered inside and closed it again, then moved onto the cupboard next to it. It was empty.
"Darn it, this is probably the only time there aren't any snacks in this kitchen.." Dawn grumbled. "Someone will have to go get some. Something high in sugar content, if possible."
"We've brought donuts." Anya said, holding out a big bag. Dawn grinned at her, opened the bag and took out a gigantic box.
"Thank you. Besides, what else did you expect? It's a Scooby meeting. There's always donuts at a Scooby meeting. This was simply our turn." Anya sat down at the table next to Xander, Oz and Giles, who'd taken a seat already. Spike, having made a two litre pot of tea, was heating up a mug of blood in the microwave. Right before the timer would have been at zero, he opened the door of the microwave and pulled it out, smirking. Buffy walked back in, so many blankets in her arms she almost couldn't see over them.
"Where do you want them?" she asked Dawn. Dawn put the box with donuts on the table and opened it, picked two chocolate donuts, and, ignoring Anya's protests, handed them to Willow.
"Eat one of them, and make sure Tara eats the other, okay?" After seeing Willow nod, she turned to Buffy. "Give one to Willow, and hand me another. Jeez, did you bring the whole closet?" Buffy shrugged.
"I didn't know how many you needed," she said with a pout. Seeing that Dawn was wrapping up Tara, she followed her sister's example and carefully covered Willow. Then she walked over to Spike, manhandled him into a chair and climbed in his lap. Peering inside his mug, she gave a mock shudder and grabbed a donut.
Tara was finally starting to feel better. The sugar in her mouth was bringing her back to herself, as was the heat of the teacup she'd just got pushed in her hands.
Slowly, she put down the cup and rubbed over her eyes.
"Would someone please tell me what is going on?" It came out almost as a whisper. Willow immediately grabbed her hand for support. The looked at each other and though they were both still afraid, they felt a little better. Everyone still appeared to be safe.
"This is all my fault. I should have let you know beforehand. I'm so sorry, Willow. And to you too, Tara." He took a deep breath, then continued: "You see, a few months ago I was still in the south of Spain, and I was shopping, during the day, and suddenly there was someone who knew. He just came up to me and said that he knew I was a werewolf, and that I had to come with him. I was totally surprised that he just knew, and afraid he wanted to kill me, but I went with him anyway. I didn't know what else to do. It took me a while to notice that something was off about him. He smelled just like a werewolf. That frightened me even more, because if he wanted me to join him, how could I explain that I didn't want to hurt and kill people, that I hate it?" Oz paused to take a sip of tea, and continued. "Turned out it wasn't like that, at all. He told me he was cured, and that he knew a way to cure me, too. You can imagine I was more than a little sceptic about that. But he took me to a man called Ryan Thompson. He's a scientist, and guess who he used to work for?" At this, Oz looked pointedly at Giles. The others all followed his example.
"Ryan worked for the Council, trying to find cures for vampirism, lycanthropy and things like that." Seeing Spike's look, he added: "Nothing like the chip, Spike. He tried to find a way to make Slayers resistant to the infections. He quit the Council about twenty years ago because he disagreed with their policies. He was a smart man," Giles said with a slight smile.
Oz nodded in agreement.
"I don't know how he did it but he found a cure. Well, half of one, anyway. The virus is still in my system, but he's changed my body chemistry so it won't make me violent anymore. I can still change actually, I do still change if I'm under a lot of stress during the full moon but I no longer have the strength or stamina I used to have. I wouldn't be much of a danger even if I wanted to be." Oz grinned happily at Willow, who smiled back, but it looked forced. Around the table, everyone was silent. What would happen now?
"I take it you are certain this time that nothing can go wrong?" Dawn asked, her voice firm. Inside, however, she was shaking. Would this be like last time? Would he want Willow back, and try to hurt Tara?
Oz nodded. "It's completely safe. I just had a practice run with Buffy and Spike. They plan to use me to scare their next batch of newbie-slayers." He swallowed, looked at Willow and Tara, and said:
"Now I can finally have what I always wanted."
Tara moved her arms to enfold herself, and started to rock. Rationally, she knew that Willow loved her and wanted to be with her, but she was just scared. What if Oz wanted Willow back?
Willow looked at Tara, and rubbed her arm. It took some effort to get Tara's hand again, but she managed, and gave it an encouraging squeeze. She knew she'd have to ask him sooner or later, and later didn't seem to be an option. Tara couldn't take much more of this. Nor could she, for that matter. Willow took a deep breath, and asked:
"What is it you've always wanted, Oz?"
The silence in the room was deafening, the tension so high that Willow wasn't sure what would happen if he said that he wanted her back.
"Ever since I've been bitten, I've wanted to be normal. To be able to live my life and know that I'm not a danger to anyone if I don't lock myself up three nights a month. To live, and be happy. For years I thought I needed you for that. You were the one who made me normal, Willow. The one who didn't care I was a werewolf, but didn't want me to hurt other people, either." He paused. "Now I know that you're not the one I need. Someone like you, yes, but not you. I loved you, and part of me always will, but I don't need you to enable me to accept myself anymore. I am who I want to be."
Willow walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead.
"I'm so happy for you." She gave him a short hug, then moved back to Tara, who was crying quietly. "Honey, what is it?" She gasped. "Your vision. Had it something to do with this?"
Tara nodded, and cried even harder. Willow held her tight.
"Sweetie, you can tell us. We'll fix it, we always do." She stroked Tara's hair, trying to soothe her lover. Minutes passed, but finally Tara calmed down again, and when she looked up, she didn't look sad anymore. She looked happy and determined, and when she spoke, her voice was clear.
"The vision was simple. I saw Oz changing into a werewolf, and fighting Buffy and Spike. You were next to me, unconscious, and I couldn't wake you. It scared me so much. I thought that it was the foretelling of times like we had ten years ago." She looked at Oz. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions, but my visions usually didn't show good things." She took Willow's hands in hers again, and continued:
"You know, for ten years I've loved you, and I've always known you love me, too, but some small part of me was always scared you might leave me, through death or whatever other way. Tonight I finally understood that the only way you could ever leave me, is if I stop holding onto you. And I never want to do that." Looking up at Willow, without a doubt in her mind as to what her love would answer, Tara finished:
"Love, will you handfast with me?"
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