Author: June
see prolouge or chapter 1 for notes, warnings, disclaimer

Warnings: AMBIGUITY runs rampant.
The G-boys return! - one of them anyway. Sorry for the length of their absence. And thank you to those who don't mind the OCs!

Reformation/Reaffirmation + Chapter 8

The king of the jungle
was asleep in his car.
When your chances fall in your lap like that,
you gotta recognize them for what they really are.
Nobody in this house wants to own up to the truth.
I crawl in shotgun and reach into his mouth
and grab hold of one long, sharp tooth

- Lion's Teeth M.G.

The sound of Heero's shoulder blades smacking against the wrestling mat was music to my ears, and I aimed a tight-lipped smile down at where my palm was pressed into the ball and socket joint. But of course victory was short-lived as his legs jack-knifed up to his chest and then snapped back out like they were spring-loaded, and he nearly took my head off as he flung himself upright. He swung his left arm in a stiff backhand, forcing me back a step further and then shifted his weight, twisting into a roundhouse kick. I took the kick on my forearms and then grabbed for his leg before he could lower it, aiming an elbow for his kneecap. But he twisted again, kicking off with the foot he still had planted so that I had to let him go or feel all five of his toes dig under my jaw bone. He fell to the ground like a cat, landing silently on all fours and spinning in a tight arc to try to sweep my legs from under me. I jumped and bent my body into kick at his throat, but he somersaulted backwards and regained his feet, taking a few sliding steps back along the mat and returning to his stance.

"How are your studies coming? Have you gotten your teachers off your back?" he asked, voice as flat and expression as stony as ever.

I rolled my shoulder and popped the vertebra in my neck. "At what point would they ever be off my back, Yuy? It's their purpose in life to be on my back. Or at least they get paid to do it." I took a few casual steps toward him and he shuffled back a half step, readying himself.

"Just thought I'd ask."

I feinted right and then dug two quick jabs at his middle. He blocked both and brought his knee up when I got in close. I caught it between crossed forearms and pushed him back.

"I do the assignments that I don't find insulting and it's enough for me to pass the courses."

"That's very big of you."

"Did you know that they call me Chang the Magnanimous?"

Heero's mouth twitched up into a small smile. "I'm sure it's what your teachers enjoy about you most." He came at me again, a series of probing fists and fingers that, no matter how quickly I blocked, found their way through to glance off my ribs and shoulders. I ducked under a whistling kick, and managed to sweep his feet from under him before he recovered his stance. But when I approached to pin him, he twisted around onto his side and grabbed my ankle, jerking me down onto the mat beside him. With a snarl from both of us, the sparring turned into wrestling.

I liked the way Heero moved, and I had ever since I encountered him outside of his gundam. If Duo moved like gravity didn't apply to him the same way it did the rest of us, Heero had found a way to make gravity his strongest defense. With his feet flat on the ground, he could not be moved. When we sparred, he was never off balance because he had the lowest center of gravity I'd ever seen. He kept his knees bent when he shifted his weight and his limbs moved like they were magnetized - centered and controlled and deeply connected to the earth. Even in space, when gravity really didn't apply, Heero always knew which way was down; he could always orient his body to make it the most effective weapon in whatever environment he found himself. And he always landed on his feet.

When I got him on his back, he twisted and slithered about, his spine flexible and reminiscent of a muscular snake, until he could flip himself over. And if he was able to flip himself over, the fight was finished. When grappling with Heero Yuy it was very important to keep him on his back. I fought to get him into a hold, bending my arms through his, struggling to keep his legs pinned under mine. Even though his expression remained mild, I knew he was scowling beneath it. And, oddly enough, still enjoying himself. His muscles twitched and flexed under mine, testing the strength of the hold. He watched me from under heavy lashes and, for those few seconds when I had him pinned, I felt like a foolish kid who'd gotten hold of a dangerous creature's tail.

Heero knew it, and I knew it, and dammit, two years of morning forms and monthly sparring was just not enough to keep me in the kind of shape needed to take on Heero Yuy and be his equal. The first time I'd realized this, shortly after Heero started to visit regularly, about six months after my sentence had begun, I'd been furious. My reflexes were slipping and so was my strength, and I noticed the second Heero tried to go easy on me. I had not yet realized the extent to which Heero could take on all of our guilt and bear it as though it were his own, so I took his restraint as an insult and tried to make sure that he would never do it again. I broke his nose and told him not to come back. He retaliated by reflex, without even hearing me, his body taking the necessary steps to eliminate a threat. If Busey hadn't shouted for him to stop, he probably would have snapped my spine over his knee. After several weeks of correspondence through Trowa and Duo, I convinced him that, not only did I want him to come back to continue to spar with me, but that I needed him to, so that I would have a hope of passing the Preventer entrance exam and so I could continue to scare off anyone here who wanted to mess with me. Of course, I didn't tell him the very last part.

Over a year and a half later, I'd gotten a handle on the fact that, physically, I could not beat Heero Yuy in a fight. He was stronger and faster than me, and I couldn't do anything about the muscle mass that I had lost. But he was far more trusting and that was something I had learned to manipulate very well.

I kept him in that hold for another few seconds, feeling him prepare to move under me. Then his body surged up, starting with his right hip, throwing me to the side. He rolled and twisted his arms out of my grip, one large hand snapping around my wrist before I could get away. But now he was the one holding the tiger's tale as I drove the heel of my other hand into his chest. He immediately let go and leaned away from the strike, absorbing the impact and rolling back with it, on his feet again in one fluid motion.

"How is it going, living in the same building as Katherine?" I asked it in the same tone he'd asked me about my studies. But where he had been only polite-to-slightly-curious, I had a different purpose in mind.

As Trowa had volunteered to tell us when they'd come to visit on the 13th of July, his sister had broken her ankle in a fall and had moved to Rome to be closer to her brother and to get away from the circus for awhile. The last time he'd visited, Duo had informed me that, after only a short time, Trowa had asked her to move in to his apartment with him, since she wasn't very mobile and she didn't have enough money saved up to afford a place on her own until she healed up - even though she had initially insisted otherwise when she'd come to town, claiming that she didn't want to be in her brother's hair, but that she just wanted to be closer to family. Being the maternal sort, Trowa hadn't believed it for a minute and had dragged Heero with him to where she'd been staying in a small hotel and, together, they'd brought all of her belongings back to Trowa's apartment.

Which happened to be in the same building as Heero's. They worked together; they were partners, and more than that, they were in a foreign city with no friends and no one they particularly trusted. I'd spent considerable time railing at them not to leave Brussels - the only place where they could really have a home - for those exact reasons, but they didn't listen. I felt guilty for awhile, being the cause for such a decision, and then I let it go, passing the guilt on to Heero, though of course, I hadn't realized he'd taken it at the time.

Heero's mouth tightened into what might have been a frown. "She likes to cook for us. It's not always good."

"Ah. My sympathies."

He heard the unspoken second half of that sentence concerning the quality of the food that I ate every day and I saw his jaw clench a bit tighter. For someone whose spirit had been impregnable during the wars, he was easy to dig into now. I knew he was an excellent field operative and the most skilled officer Preventers had in terms of the kind of invisible infiltration that ghosted through computer hard drives and along network cables, but to me, and to Duo, he was on one of Trowa's high wires without Trowa's knowhow. This was how I had a chance at beating him - it was the only way I ever could these days.

It had never been in my nature to tolerate what I thought to be weakness, and perhaps I'd been cruel about it in the past - why Sally and Noin considered themselves my friends when I'd been nothing but spiteful and rude to them was beyond me - but I didn't try to hurt people needlessly. I found Heero's floundering disturbing and strange and wrong, but some part of me, the part that recognized the need to dominate in whatever way and by whatever means necessary, the part that this place nurtured, saw him falter and wondered what could come of it, what would happen if I prodded just a little harder.

"How's Trowa taking it? Does he still like having her closer?"

Heero stayed in his stance, waiting for me to come at him, looking cornered even though I hadn't moved since I'd regained my feet. "I believe so. I believe he finds it reassuring, having her where he can look out for her."

I exhaled a sharp laugh. "That sounds like Trowa."

And just like that, something big and fierce and incredibly defensive reared up out of him, making him appear taller and broader, bringing the double image of a fighter with his feet firmly on the ground and a scattered, damaged war casualty into one, focused individual - an individual who had a focus. "What do you mean by that?" His voice was tight and dangerous, and his hands were suddenly clenched into tighter, tensed fists. My limbs flooded with adrenalin, feeling the waves of protective anger rolling off of him.

"I mean that Trowa needs to feel that he's protecting those he cares about. He needs to have them close by so that he can feel useful." I watched the gears turning as Heero tried to determine the intent of my statement and whether or not I was insulting him or Trowa. "Is she getting in the way, invading your space like that? Taking him away from you?" If Duo were here, he would be whistling in amazement and ducking for cover. I invited his advance with a twitch of an eyebrow.

As reliable and as predictable as the laws of motion, Heero reacted on instinct, feeling my words pierce a part of him that I wasn't supposed to see. I stepped quickly backwards as he came at me, my feet sliding across the old mat, the proportions of the room etched in memory so that I knew when my back neared the wall. I blocked the first two punches, feeling the impact in my shoulder joints, and twisted away from a kick that probably would have had me pissing blood. I came up against the wall and slid down, wincing at the sound of knuckles against concrete, but I couldn't get out of his reach quick enough and I felt a hand on my back, fingers slipping on sweat and looking for purchase. We sparred shirtless for a reason. I nearly choked on my surprise when he grabbed hold of the waistband of the loose sleeping pants I wore, and with one powerful shove, sent me sprawling. Heero had never been limited by one particular style of fighting. His only requirement was that it be effective.

I saw his fist aimed for my face and my mind flashed forward to blood on the mat, a trip to the infirmary, a smirking Karl and a disappointed Onur. And one more reason for Heero to feel like the adopted, maladjusted child of a new world order he'd helped to create, but could not understand or function in.

"Or maybe you've both benefited from her arrival. Maybe she's helped you."

The fist froze about a foot from my jaw and I went a little cross-eyed staring at it. I'd lost my physical edge, but had learned other, easier ways to beat Heero Yuy. Using them at first had been a blow to my pride, but the feeling wore off eventually. And now, he was blushing - even flushed from the exertion of a fight, the blush was obvious because his ears turned red. He sat back suddenly on his heels and I chanced a look down at my clothes, hastily jerking the material back up to cover my exposed hip.

"Has she helped you, Heero?" I asked quietly.

He looked down at his lap, and I didn't think he would answer. He didn't have to, and he wasn't the type to provide that kind of information even when it was asked of him. But then he looked back up at me, propped up between the floor and the wall, and he started to look a little guilty, at which point I knew I had him.

"She... she takes up a lot of room in his apartment. It's a small place, and there really isn't room for two, so...Trowa stays with me a lot because I have more space and it's quiet. She gets around with a cane now, so she comes downstairs to see us and, unfortunately to cook, but mostly, she stays upstairs."

So, the answer is, yes, she's helped you tremendously, I finished silently. Heero was still blushing, but I didn't press him any further. I was already formulating a way to reveal this bit of information to Duo in the slowest, most excruciating way possible. He'd been plotting increasingly elaborate ways of extracting the information either from Heero or Trowa as to whether or not they were sleeping together, when I'd suggested that he just ask one of them. Not that I was interested - not that it was any of my business. His reaction had been amusing, to say the least.

"No! Jesus Christ, don't do that! Don't ask them!"

"Duo, what's wrong with asking? They're our friends; you think they'll refuse to answer?"

Duo shook his head. "You know that is a very distinct possibility as well as I do. Trowa would probably withdraw even further from us. I mean, he's a real private guy, and he might, you know, be like a turtle and-" To demonstrate he tucked his head down into his shoulders. "-pull himself into his collar and never speak to us again!"

I laughed and Duo gesticulated wildly. "And Heero, god, if you asked Heero whether he was boning Trowa, I'd have to refer to you henceforth as my friend, Wufei, the smear on the pavement, because that's all that would be left of you!" He was watching me for my reaction, trying to make me laugh again, so I did. By the end of his visit, he'd bet a pack of cloves that he could find out before me and that he could do it without drawing it out of them in a conversation. Because I thought he was being an idiot, and because Karl would like the cloves if I won (and could get me some if I lost), I took the bet.

I had a hunch the information would be easier to get out of Heero, and I'd been right. He was an intensely private person, keeping his emotions close to his chest and the way he felt about the three of us even closer. His steady presence was a clear enough indication - asking him to put those feelings into words didn't seem fair or necessary. But he would do it if he felt it was owed, whereas Trowa would hold out and hide behind his hair as stubbornly as though he were being interrogated by an old enemy instead of one of his few friends.

The sight of Heero sitting back on his heals, fighting with what to say to me, what to reveal about his relationship with Trowa, was enough for me to remember exactly why I'd thought the bet was stupid to begin with. I decided then to give Duo a sufficient amount of grief for proposing it the next time I saw him. I didn't need to see what Heero clearly did not want to show me, and I certainly didn't need to reveal what he already had, to Duo. But of more immediate relevance, I didn't want to be having this sort of conversation at all, scintillating as it might be to someone else with a braid and the need to know everything about everyone.

"Trowa... and I," he started, hunching forward a little, looking like his words were being tugged out of him, like a tube that had been down his throat. "We... I'm not sure if-"

"Yuy," I interrupted. "I don't need to know, and I don't know why you'd want to tell me." I sat up straight and watched sharp, wary blue eyes snap up to mine, unsteady but shrewd.

Heero could be played, but Heero also knew me. He'd been with me right up to the end of both wars, and whether or not he'd understood my motivations for fighting back then, he certainly did now, if a bit belatedly. He lunged at me, a frustrated growl rumbling in his chest when I twisted out his grip. "You can be a real asshole, Chang," he gritted into my ear. We tumbled about on the mat, fighting for the upper hand, our knees and elbows sliding on the smooth, soft surface. "But this isn't news to you," he added.

"No," I grunted, flipping over onto my back and jamming my knee up into his abdomen, shoving him over my head. Of the five of us, I'd always been the snide, prickly jerk, but I maintained it was because everyone else was persistently, frustratingly moronic. I twisted around onto hands and knees, but Heero was already waiting for me. A brief scuffle, during which he got the necessary leverage to get one large foot planted on the mat, resulted in me landing flat on my back for what I decided had to be the last time for the day. There was only so much I could take before it ceased to be productive.

Heero, however, didn't look ready to end the fight. He ran flat calculating eyes from my own down to the waistline of my pants. His eyes caught on a few scars along my chest, old pale lines that suspiciously resembled the straps of a cockpit harness. Piloting in my loose cotton shirt had never been a good idea, but I'd always hated the restrictive flight suits. He didn't let me up, even though it was clear I could do nothing to break the hold. When his gaze dipped down and then back up to mine again, I opened my mouth to ask him exactly what the fuck he thought he was looking at, when he preempted me with a curt question that brought me up short.

"You're being careful, right?"


Shifting his weight to press one arm across my chest, he jerked the drawstring waist down low on my hip, the one he'd exposed before when he'd resorted to pulling on clothes like an eight-year-old.

"Hey! Yuy, what the-"

He pressed on the skin just inside my hipbone and I hissed, craning my neck forward to see what exactly he thought he was doing. Then, I wished for a large-scale natural disaster to strike the complex at that exact moment, sweeping us both away in a flood or sending us plummeting into a crevice opening up to the center of the earth. Either of these would have served to sufficiently distract him from what he was looking at. He moved his thumb to the side to reveal a bruised bite mark, one Karl had put there yesterday when we'd hidden in the dry goods room during our lunch shift. My arms resting on sacks of flour, he'd knelt at my feet and sucked me off in only a little over a minute. There was even time for me to reciprocate, though I still didn't get on my knees for him. I hadn't remembered that he'd bitten me, probably because I was in no position to care at the time.

"Are you being careful?" he asked again. He was so close to me and so willing to openly address what he saw as a risk to my safety that I could do nothing but answer truthfully. And if I had not, I would have been the worst kind of hypocrite, prying into his personal life, but not allowing him into mine. It occurred to me that he was probably very aware of this.

"Yes," I said, meeting his sober gaze.

"Have you told Duo?"

I jerked back by reflex at the very thought. "What? No! Why would I?"

He blinked and his brow dipped in confusion. "Because he's your - because you're-" He searched for the words and didn't find them. "Aren't you?"

"No! We're not. Why would you think we were? Did he say something to you? What did he say?" I reared up against the arm still pressed against my chest and he backed up into a crouch, defensive and tense.

"Nothing! He didn't-"

I had never been so grateful for an interruption in my entire life. Just then, the loudspeakers blared to life, ringing the bell that signaled we were supposed to return to our cells. And shouting over top of that was the sharp male voice of an officer verbally demanding that we do so. It was so loud that the voice distorted a bit and I winced, automatically covering the ear that was closer the loudspeaker. Heero glanced around our small room as though expecting an ambush, and I was already scrambling for my shirt and shoes before the message ended. Even as it did, I heard shouting voices streaming by the closed door, calling out for to anyone who knew what was going on to share with the rest. The guard outside our room threw open the door and glared inside, eying Heero a bit apprehensively.

"You need to leave now, Mr. Yuy, and Wufei, you have to return immediately to your cell. There'll be a room check, so if you're not there-"

"I know, I know. I just have to get my shoes on." The guard ducked out again, and I could hear him trying to create some sort of ordered retreat from the chaos flooding around him. When I'd slid my feet into my flipflops and tugged my t-shirt over my head, I hurried to where Heero was lacing up his boots and grabbed him under both arms, hauling him to his feet. "Let's go, Yuy, you're coming with me."

"I am?" He reached down to snag his shirt before I dragged him toward the door.

"Something serious just went down and if they don't want a Preventer to see it, then I most definitely do. Now, hurry up. And whatever you do, don't let go of me." He glanced down at where I gripped his arm, then up to meet my gaze. I guess he saw what he needed to see, because he nodded once and then we took off into the seething crowd of uniformed inmates. Some of them wore aprons, coming directly from dinner prep. Some smelled like detergent and the moist heat of the laundry room, and some clutched their books to their chests, fending off the crowd with their elbows so as not to drop anything. We blew right past the first guard and between two more at the bottleneck at the end of the hall. Heero pushed his way through the crowd, grabbing my wrist with his free hand so that I released his arm. He pulled his badge out of his pocket, and I wanted to yell at him to put it away, but he wouldn't have heard me. And sure enough, when the men around us caught sight of it, they pushed each other out of the way to clear a path for us.

The yelling got louder as we neared the mess hall, the wide open space the only area in the facility where any large number of people could congregate. They were doing more than congregating. Fights had broken out in small pockets between the rows of tables and benches, and as we stopped briefly to watch, the pockets expanded to encompass others until the mess hall began to look like a battlefield instead of a cafeteria. The sides were instantly clear: Romefellar and White Fang. A few other colony rebels were scattered throughout with old Alliance watching from the sidelines. Staff members pushed their way through the seething crowd, shoving people apart, sending them in the direction of the cell blocks and generally doing very little to diffuse the situation. There wasn't much they could do when they were so heavily outnumbered and the men didn't seem interested in respecting rank without force to back it up.

The energy of the crowd was fearful, I realized. Certainly, the men were angry, but more than that, they were afraid. Heero was on the same wavelength, leaning close to say into my ear, "Why are they scared?"

I shook my head, unable to give him an exact answer. "Someone will take the fall for whatever's just happened. Someone will be blamed." Pulling my arm out of Heero's grip, I tugged on the sleeve of the first person I saw who I thought wouldn't deck me straight out. "Cooper!" I called. "Have you seen Onur?" The big man turned with a shout and swung for my face without so much as a glance at who I was. I ducked easily, but then Heero was behind him, snatching both wrists from the air and pinning them behind the man's back. He was about to step on the back of the guy's knee to get him on the ground, but before he did, he looked to me, and I shook my head, no. The big man relaxed a bit when he saw it was me in front of him, and he didn't dare look behind him to see which one of my friends had immobilized him. They all had reputations here. "Cooper," I tried again. "What's going on? What happened?"

"You haven't heard yet?"

I shook my head sharply. Obviously not.

"Two Romefellar are dead. Found in the supply room by the fucking toilet paper. They're all blaming us for it, fuckers, but they got no proof."

"Retribution for Benji?" I suggested.

He shrugged angrily. "Fuck if I know. We never found out who killed Benji. But those Romefellar fucks are out for blood now. And-"

"Where's Onur?"

Cooper cast his eyes over the crowd and shook his head. "He was here, and he was looking for you. Actually told me to tell you, if I found you, to go back to the room and wait for him and to not do anything stupid."

"Of course he did," I grumbled. Then I reached around Cooper and grabbed Heero's elbow. "Let's go, Yuy." Heero released Cooper's wrists with a terse word of thanks and then caught up to me before we left the mess hall.

"Maybe you should go back to your room. That's what you're supposed to do, and you don't need any trouble from this." His words had a silvery undercurrent of urgency that told me he was now well and truly aware of the situation - seeing possible threats from all angles. He was thinking like a cop.

I shook my head. "No fucking way." I folded his fingers tightly around my wrist again, and tried to convey the seriousness of my request in a way that words simply couldn't. "You are taking me to that crime scene." And you're going to see all the clues that I can not, I added silently. Before he could disagree or refuse, I tugged him forward and we reentered the chaos of the hallways, pushing our way against the current of men heading for their cells.


It was a grizzly picture, no doubt about it: two bodies sprawled one on top of the other, and just as Cooper had said, right next to the toilet paper. As we approached, Heero's grip on my wrist tightened, his other hand gripping his badge. My throat closed up with reflexive nerves as he pushed his way through the tight ring of officers around the body. There were still a dozen or so inmates scattered around the supply room, lingering as long as they were allowed on the off-chance of hearing something relevant from the staff. They watched me enter the inner perimeter of the crime scene with wide eyes. And it was more frightening than I wanted to admit. I wanted to see the details; I wanted a better look, more evidence than I'd been able to gather from Benji's death, locked in my cell and helpless as we all had been when it'd happened. I wanted this time to be different, because two might not have been a pattern, but four certainly was. I wanted to stand with Heero and examine the bodies and report back to Karl exactly what I had seen, but all I could think as we squeezed through to stand at the corpses' feet was how much trouble I'd be in for this. I felt the weight of the power difference between myself and the officers pressing down on my back and it was all I could do to keep my head up and actually get a good look at the men sprawled in front of me. I forced myself to breath and tried to block out the feeling of their eyes boring into the back of my head.

Multiple stab wounds appeared to be the cause of death, though it was difficult and probably pointless to guess at which ones were the killing blows for each. The slash in the back of the one looked like it passed between his ribs, maybe high enough to hit the heart. The man underneath had been gutted but I suspected the bloody stain under his left arm was probably the one that did it. The heart was unprotected there. A clean strike in the armpit would always work, if not all that quickly.

Heero knelt down to get a closer look, running his fingers over the edges of the wounds without touching them, clearly wishing for a latex glove. He was scowling, and if it weren't for the hand he still had latched around my wrist, he would have appeared entirely professional, the confidence in the line of his back as it bent forward suited for someone twice his age. If I'd paid more attention at the moment, I would have noticed that I was proud of him.

As interesting as these details were, I had a difficult time looking away from their faces. They were pale in death, but not the sickly pallor of severe blood loss typical of stabbing victims. And I knew them. O'Malley's freckles stood out in stark contrast and his orange hair was even brighter against his skin. He looked as mean as ever, blue eyes glaring at nobody in particular. And flopped on top of him, I instantly recognized Basker's broad back and large hands. They had terrorized Karl and countless others for the last two years; they had wrangled together enough of their goons to come after me on more than one occasion, and now all of that was abruptly over. Part of me felt like crowing at the ceiling, "It's about fucking time!" The rest of my brain was running through Karl's and my lists, mumbling in distress, "It doesn't fit! They were not like Benji or Vasil. They were not like Quatre."

Heero tugged on my wrist and in a bit of a daze, I knelt down beside him, just as I heard Prescott's sharp voice drawing nearer from behind. We had maybe ten seconds. He kept his voice low, barely moving his lips, but I watched his mouth and understood every word. "These men were dead when they received all these wounds."

I looked up at the bodies, at the slashes in their clothes and the blood on the floor. "There isn't enough of it," I replied. And it was true. The wound under O'Malley's arm hadn't spilled much blood onto the floor, and the stain between Basker's ribs was relatively small. Their hearts had already stopped beating by the time the wounds were inflicted.

He grunted an affirmative. "You should leave now. I will stay as long as I can and then contact you later."

He let go of my wrist, not taking his eyes off the bodies. "You'd better," I muttered. I turned to bolt and saw Prescott's heels clicking towards us, then reached back and gave Heero's shoulder a squeeze. "Thank you." He nodded as I shoved my way back out between the ring of officers, unable to stop myself from making guilty eye contact with Prescott as she approached. Her dark eyes blazed into mine and I looked away and ran before she could say anything.

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