Really long and awesome top A/N: First things first: NicolinaN betaed this one, and made it into a readable piece. She rocks my world even though she's a grammar(comma) nazi. But I love her anyway. I am masochistic like that.
So this one is for you, darling.

So apparently it's my turn to post the challenge-thingy. Kaikamahine Mai Hawai'i (OMG. I actually spelled it WITHOUT looking this time! Aren't you proud, Kai!), challenged me to write a one-shot that somehow related to her story "My Happy Ending". My passage of choice was this:

A wrong turn led them down a dusty, unpaved road between wheat fields one golden, late afternoon in Kansas. Deeanna Carter's Strawberry Wine playing on the radio led Lisa to smile and begin crooning along. The vision of Lisa, with her feet propped on the dash, her arm hanging out the window, and the golden sunlight streaming through her newly-blonde, freshly-cut hair while she sang along caused Jackson to stop the car and ask for a dance. The dance led to another kiss. The kiss led to a heated make-out session. The make-out session led to the first time he had actually made love to a woman.

I had a blast writing it. Then not so much when I started to get really self-conscious about this piece. What made me post it? Well, Kai threatened me with half-naked Rippner. Not that he would come, but rather that he WOULDN'T. Oh, and I am a feedback whore. Yeah. Not really, no, but some kind of review would be nice…

And, like in Nic's piece, I left hints for continuation so that my two taggees would have something to write from.
That being said, I am challenging… drum roll please… Greyhaven11 and Pirate Gyrl.
Congratulations, ladies. It's your turn to sweat. I am PM-ing you with details as I type this.
Hopefully, you'll accept the challenge.

One more Pee-Es: I mention situations from Nic's "A Beginning In a Way" and I quote Kai's "My Happy Ending" twice in this story, just to tie it neatly to their pieces. If I admitted to stealing Kai's lines is it still considered plagiarism :ponders:

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MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

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'Good morning all you beautiful hard working folks out there, this is Stanley Jenkins coming to you on your favorite 'Double Q Country' 105.9 FM. And WHAT a beautiful August morning it is! Cloudless skies all the way, not a chance of rain. Yep, that's right. We're looking at another one of those days, folks. ONE HUNDED AND FIFTEEN today! So you better get your air conditioners cracking. It's going to be a hot one.'

Jackson sighed and rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he drove along the Route 34. A close call, that left him with another scar to add to his collection, had drove him and Lisa from the windy Chicago in the early hours of the morning. The need to stay off the radar made them choose a less-populated, almost forgotten road towards Colorado, on their journey west. A short stop in Omaha allowed for some much-needed rest and change of cars. Then on a spur of the moment, they'd decided to hit the local clubs to let off some steam and vent out their frustrations on the dance floor. It had been either that, or they'd been very likely to rip each other's throats the very next chance they came to blows.

It was tiring. Countless weeks on the road, constantly running away, never staying in one place for longer than a few days; two weeks at most in bigger cities, where they could get lost easier in the big crowd.

A small rustle to his right snapped him out of his thoughts and he glanced at his sleeping companion. Lisa was snoring softly, curled up in a ball and facing him. He heard her sigh and roll herself into a tighter ball, hands coming up to rub her bare arms. He frowned, concerned, hand reaching out in front of her to feel for the cold air. Had he turned the A/C too high? He adjusted the grills so that they blew air directly on him and away from Lisa and reached back, blindly groping for some sort of material. Coming up with one of his discarded t-shirts, he threw it over Lisa's sleeping form, shading her from the cold artificial air. She wriggled and sighed content, and he held his breath, waiting for her to open her eyes, but she slept on.

Seeming satisfied that he didn't wake her up, he concentrated back on the road, running a hand through his short buzz cut.

Has it been two months already? His hair sure did grow back fast. He remembered Lisa giggling like mad when he'd blinded her with his baldness. And then she'd come out, platinum blonde and oozing sex. She'd stunned him. Made him think things that he didn't want to think about. For the first time he saw her as more than a female companion. One of the many 'firsts' that had made them become painfully aware of each other.

The first time they'd shared a bed, on a cold February night, after he'd bluntly let her know that he wouldn't touch her with a ten-foot pole. And the morning after, when they'd woken up in a tangled mess of naked limbs, hands tucked under various pieces of clothing, looking for heat.

The first time he'd let himself be touched by her, not by choice, but rather a necessity, after a tussle with an innocent looking ivy bush, when she'd rubbed soothing ointment onto his aching body. He'd learned two things that faithful day when an angry orchard keeper with a loaded shotgun had been chasing them to the edge of the woods. One: Lisa loved to climb. He'd noticed that when she disappeared into the thick foliage of an apple tree, 'to provide some munchies' as she gracefully put it. Two: He, apparently, was very allergic to poison ivy. More so than other people. Which had sparkled a memorable comment from his female companion that he must have been rubbing himself with it when she hadn't been looking, because there was NO WAY ivy could get THERE by itself.

A warm mid-April day in New York City had made his heart flutter for a brief moment - a definite first for him - when he'd observed Lisa twirling and laughing amidst blooming Cherry Blossoms in Central Park. Which, incidentally, had led him to his first caveman moment in Times Square, when Lisa had been hit on, rather persistently, by The Naked Cowboy, until Jackson had knocked him down on his tightie-whitie ass.

Next to him the girl mumbled something under her breath - as she always did when she was very tired - and turned in her seat, facing the window this time. The soft snoring continued.

Adjusting the hold on the steering wheel, Jackson continued driving ahead.

-

'Haigler - Population 211'

He eyed the metal plate with a scowl. The sign squeaked as it swung back and forth on its rusty hinges, seemingly mocking him. A lazy glance at the pump's slowly rolling numbers told him that nothing much had changed since he'd looked at it about a minute ago. Not even half a tank yet. Leaving the nozzle in the hole, he leaned back against the side of the red Chevy truck and closed his tired eyes for a moment. The heavy-tinted sunglasses - one of many on Jackson's collection - made for a perfect protection against the merciless rays of the late-morning sun, as he let his head fall back, soaking in the not-yet uncomfortable warmth.

A long moment later a loud 'ping' of the ancient-looking gas pump announced that the tank was full, and with a sigh he pushed himself off the car replacing the nozzle.

Lisa was coming out of the local grocery store, a huge brown paper bag loaded to the brink. Her blonde bob appeared and disappeared as she looked out from behind the bag from time to time to see where she was going. He cracked a smile when he noticed a long red fruit-loop hanging from her mouth, as she chewed on it slowly.

He walked to her, taking the heavy bag and peeking inside. "More candy? Damnit Leese, I said 'lunch'. Oreo's and-" He dug through the bag pulling out various junk food, scowling disapprovingly. "Jelly Beans are not 'lunch'."

She bristled, chewing on the red delicacy. "Yeah, well, that's all they had that wasn't dated back to the eighties. Honestly, I was scared to touch some of the things there."

Jackson rolled his eyes at her lame excuse to buy more candy. She was a monster when it came to junk food. He had found out one particular day when Lisa had walked out of The Candy Lady, grinning like mad, chewing on half-melted Pecan Fudge as she juggled bags of chocolatey goodness. That had been one of the most fun days they'd had, all hyped up on sugar, and up until the wee hours of the morning, doing things that were so embarrassing they unanimously agreed never to speak of it again.

"Have you got anything else besides candy?"

She nodded, pulling a book from the bag and showing him the title.

He stared, gobsmacked. "Tour Guide?"

"A gift from Jessica Alba." she explained and waited for his reaction. He didn't disappoint.

Jessica Alba? "Are you serious?"

She nodded, pulling at the red fruit loop until it snapped in half and grinning widely. "Although she prefers 'Jessie'."

As if on cue, a very pregnant teenage girl came out of the store, waving a colorful box of candy in the air. "Eliz'beth! You forgot your Milk Duds!"

"Fuck. How old is she? Twelve?" Jackson breathed, observing the girl as she slowly made her way to the waiting duo, panting and sweaty.

"Fourteen and three quarters," she quoted. "And I don't think she knows who Jessica Alba is."

The girl finally managed to roll herself to the pair. "You left your Milk Duds in the store, Eliz'beth." She turned to Jackson beaming widely. "Heya. I'm Jessie. Jessie Alba. My mom owns the store."

Jackson shook her sweaty palm. "Jonnie Dep, one 'Pee'," he introduced himself and yelped when Lisa kicked him, rather sharply, in the sheen.

"Well hey there, Jonnie-Dep-One-Pee. Nice to meet you."

"Thanks for the Duds, Jessie. You shouldn't have to come all the way here-"

The girl waved Lisa away, interrupting. "Ah, no problem really. I need to move more, anyway. Doctor's orders. Apparently it's good for the baby."

Jackson took the opportunity to glance at her swollen belly. "When are you due?"

"Oh, a week ago," she sighed tiredly. "Baby don't want to come out. Can't blame her, really. On a weather like this I wouldn't want to either." She patted her belly. "Well, I better get back inside. You guys have a safe trip. And stay off that heat. It's going to be a record today. I can feel it." She bid them short goodbye and walked away, small hands supporting her aching back.

"Holy fuck." Jackson stared after the pregnant child.

"Yeah." Lisa agreed sadly.

-

'This is Stanley Jenkins on your favorite 'Double Q Country'. It's five minutes after noon. The sun is high and beaming mercilessly down of us, One hundred and three and still climbing!'

Jackson cranked the air conditioner in the car another notch and frowned when he noticed that it was already as high as it could be. He could already see the road rippling before him, the heat waves rolling along the black asphalt in a translucent mirage. Next to him Lisa was sitting cross-legged and reading quietly from the tour guide she'd picked up at the gas station a while back. One hand absentmindedly played with a lock of her golden hair, twirling it this and that way, lower lip half-sucked into her mouth and chewing on it lightly.

"Did you know that Nebraska's state insect is honeybee?"

"I don't like bees," Jackson grumbled. The heat was starting to make him cranky.

Lisa shrugged and continued her reading.

-

"We're lost," Lisa announced, putting down the map and letting out a soft sigh.

"No, we're not."

"Yeah. We are."

"You said to make a left after we got off the 34th. So I did."

"Yeah, but not the first left you happen to run across."

Jackson ran a hand across his face. He was tired and he was hungry. And the heat was getting to him. On top of it all, the air conditioner had stopped working about half an hour ago. Now, even with the windows cranked all the way down, it was hotter than hell in their monstrous Red Chevy Silverado. Next to him, Lisa was sitting half undressed and looking very distracting, in her white tank and impossibly short Daisy Dukes, bare feet propped on the dashboard, map spread across her legs.

"Alright. Where are we then?"

"Kansas."

"What? Give me that!" He ripped the map from her hands and spread it across the dashboard, one hand firmly on the steering wheel. He studied the map closely, while keeping a careful eye on the road, then frowned. "Fuck."

"It doesn't matter," she remarked, breaking the silence.

"Are you mental? Of course it matters! We're fucking BACK in fucking KANSAS!" he roared angrily.

Lisa shrugged, not paying any attention to his short outburst. "Oh put a cork in it, Jacko. Besides, it's not like we have a destination. We're just... driving. So shut up and enjoy the scenery."

Jackson opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, but then decided to let drop. She was right after all. It's not like they were going somewhere.

-

'This is Double Q Country greeting you on this scorching hot Thursday afternoon. We've just reached ONE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN degrees here in Alliance, Nebraska. Now THAT, dear folks, is a new record for the August. All I have to say is: Thank God for the air conditioners.'

"Thank God for the air conditioners." Jackson mocked the DJ, making a disguisted face in the general direction of the radio. Asshole.

"Oh my God! They have a giant twine ball in Cawker City! Jackson! Are we anywhere near Cawker City!" Lisa's ecstatic babbling, mixed in with the rustle of paper, reached his ears and he rolled his eyes annoyed.

"We're not going to drive halfway across Kansas to see a fucking twine ball."

Lisa glared at him from atop the giant map, pouting slightly. "Why not?"

"It's a ball of twine!" It was the heat, he told himself. The heat was making him agitated.

"The biggest one you've ever seen! Thirty eight feet, Jackson!"

He felt like her was suddenly talking to a five-year old. "It's a ball. Made out of twine. Thirty-fucking-eight feet of twine."

"But-"

"I said. No."

Lisa slumped in her seat. And huffed. And she crossed her arms over her chest and pouted. "You're such a party pooper."

Jackson decided not to comment on that.

-

The heat was unbearable. And it was getting to them both now.

"You're such an asshole!"

"And you're a fucking whore!" He roared back.

A stunned silence.

"Stop the car."

"What?"

"I said, stop. The car. Now." Lisa sat shockingly still, fingers digging into the soft flesh if her palms.

"You don't get to tell me wha-"

Without warning, Lisa grabbed the handle and popped the door open.

"What the FUCK!" Jackson slammed hard on the brakes. Lisa was out even before the car came to a full stop. "Lisa. LISA! FUCK!"

He was angry. Oh, he was so angry he wanted to break things, punch people and kick small puppies. It was the heat. It was going to be their downfall. It was messing with their heads, making them agitated.

He didn't even know how the fight started. What were they arguing about? Something about the last night out. They'd decided to hit a few spots in the city, let off some steam. He had seen Lisa flirt with few guys, but turn them down flatly when they'd gotten too close. He'd made an off comment about how she was a cock tease. Then the whole hell had come crashing down.

He told himself that he didn't care. That he should just fucking start the car and leave. Leave her here, because she was getting on his last nerve.

He punched the steering wheel angrily and almost torn the driver's door open when he exited the car. His white t-shirt was already sticking uncomfortably to his body, half-soaked in his sweat. Angry, he pulled the edge to his face and wiped the beads of sweat trickling down from his brow.

Shading his pale eyes from the merciless rays of the midday sun, he scanned the golden fields for the sign of his female companion. He should probably let her cool off by herself, but it was already past three and they were nowhere near civilization, and he was tired and hungry, and wanted nothing else but a cold shower and a room with air conditioner. The sooner he found Lisa, the sooner they could hit the road again.

So he took a few deep breaths and started off after the blonde. He found her lying in the field of tanned wheat, twirling a long straw in her fingers, her eyes closed and soaking in the golden rays. Momentarily mesmerized by her sheer innocence, he simply stared.

"Close your mouth, Jackson. You're gonna catch flies."

"Shut up," he shot back, visibly relieved that she held no grudge.

"I'm not a cock tease, you know?"

"I know, Leese."

"Nor am I a whore." He nodded feeling like an utter prick. "I can't be one and the other. It's simply impossible." She grinned.

He rubbed the back of his head and smiled sheepishly. She was right, of course. He blamed the heat for his temporary brain fart. And her impossibly long bare legs taunting and distracting him and making him say things that made no sense. And were hurtful.

"You say those things and they hurt. I know you don't mean them, that it's the heat that's messing with your head. You're tired from the long drive and you're probably hungry and angry at me for buying all that candy and you're lashing out, but-"

"I'm sorry. I'm a prick." And he was completely honest.

She nodded her head, accepting his brief apology. She'd learned long time ago not to expect much from one Jackson Rippner. When he lied down next to her, she turned her head in his direction, opening her eyes. His heart skipped a bit and he found himself drawn to her parted lips. The sudden need to kiss her clouded his mind and he closed his eyes for a moment, trying to get himself under some sort of control. God! He wanted nothing more than to grab her and kiss her senseless, but he knew that would be a bad idea. Just like the other three times.

His mind reeled back to the very first, albeit accidental, kiss and he sighed loudly. That one kiss started something that was quickly getting out of control, even though he tried his best to keep it professional.

He'd kissed Lisa a total of three times since the night at the Palm House Inn. Provided, one of those three times was unavoidable, because they were running away from the police by posing as a couple, strolling through a farmer's market in Oklahoma, holding hands and acting in love.

But the other two times he had himself to blame. He had been the one who started it, and he had been the one who abruptly put a stop to it every single time, pushing a confused Lisa away and then stalking angrily off to somewhere where he could vent and curse himself for being so unprofessional. He would not come back for hours at a time, and when he finally did, they would usually step around each other over the next couple of days, painfully aware of every accidental touch or wrong-said word. Then they would slowly drift back to the normalcy of their way. The soft teasing and flirting would start. Touch here; touch there and then - BAM! - They would come back full circle.

He hated that. He hated the fact that he was slowly getting addicted to her kisses. He told himself that it was because she was touching him. Always touching. It was foreign to him. And it made him uncomfortable. He wanted to scream at her. Tell her to stop – fucking - touching him so damn much! Determined every time to put a stop to this, because he needed to focus. He had two lives to protect and this… this ridiculous game they were playing was distracting.

But then she would touch his arm, or ruffle his hair, and he would forget what he was going to say in the first place, and instead inhale her and let himself get lost in the feel of her soft hand on him.

Like now.

"I like your hair like that. It looks good on you." She touched his buzz cut, running her fingers though the short, soft mane and he sighed, letting himself enjoy it.

It was a lost battle and he was tired. And frankly, he didn't know if he even wanted to fight it anymore. With the way things were going, they were going to end up in bed fucking each other brains' out sooner or later. He was sure of that one.

He turned his head towards her and flashed her a killer smile. With sick satisfaction he noticed her turn a few shades of red. "Yeah, you could've told me that before I decided to go bald."

Lisa giggled at the pleasant memory. "You live, you learn." She shrugged.

"And I learned that I look like a total dick when I'm bald."

"A bald dick." Lisa chuckled.

Jackson gasped in mock shock. "Such a filthy mouth, Leese!" He poked her side, which automatically made her squirm and giggle. This only made him more determined and soon they were rolling in the field of tall, golden straw, tickling each other until one of them – usually Lisa - begged for mercy.

-

'This is 'Double Q Country' 105.9 FM, Stanley Jenkins saying good bye to you lovely folks on this wonderful, hot Thursday afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow we'll get that blessed rain we've been prayin' for. Until then, stay cool. And enjoy your evenin' with our favorite Donnie Nebrasko coming next. And now, back by popular demand, here's Deana Carter with 'Strawberry Wine'. '

"I love this song."

Jackson turned his head to the woman next to him as she turned the volume up a few notches - "Do you mind?" He shook his head 'no' - and leaned her head back, closing her eyes and loosing herself in the song. The vision of Lisa, with her feet propped on the dash, her arm hanging out the window, and the golden sunlight streaming through her blonde hair while she sang along caused Jackson to suddenly stop the car.

"Jackson?" She opened her eyes and looked at him questioningly.

"Get out of he car." He commanded curtly.

"What? Why-"

He turned to look at her, all confused and so fucking gorgeous that his breath hitched. "Dance with me, Leese."

She stared, gobsmacked. Then her face split into a wide grin and she hopped out of the car, him close behind her, both meeting in the middle, in front of their red pick up truck, Deana Carter singing her heart out from the inside of the car.

He bowed deeply sticking out his hand - "My lady" -, which made her giggle in that cute Lisa-way. She surprised him by curtsying, fingers clutching at the hem of her imaginary dress. "Kind sir." She responded with a slight nod of her head.

He took her hand and tugged at it until she was in his personal space, then cradled it to his chest holding it lightly there.

His buried his face in her golden tresses, inhaling the soft scent of her peach shampoo as he swayed her gently to the soft country tune. The change in her came slowly, but surely, like two other times before. He expected it. Didn't stop it. It would have been useless to even try at this point. He heard her breath hitch when he pulled her even closer, hands wrapping around her small form as hers slid from his chest to the small of his back. Her touch left scorching marks along his torso, and goosebumps erupted across his burning skin. He closed his eyes and welcomed the now-familiar feeling.

It was happening again. And he didn't even try to fight it.

A small groan escaped her when he touched the naked skin on her lower back and he felt his control slipping fast from him. Lips brushed her golden hair, then her temple and traveled down to her cheek. Her own head lifted and their lips met for the fourth time in the last two months. She tasted exactly how he remembered it. Chocolate and mint with a hint of something that he came to identify as 'Lisa'.

He managed not to groan when he felt her tongue sneak out, tracing his lips. He opened for her and welcomed her greedily, eliciting soft sexy sounds from her that drove him absolutely mad.

Feeling the approaching need to breathe, he pulled back first; eyes still closed, savoring her taste on him. His eyes snapped open when he felt her hand grab the edge of his t-shirt and hold him tightly. He looked at her questioningly, and his heart almost broke when he heard her utter the five words that made him snap like a twig.

"Don't push me away, please." A whispered naked and desperate plea. She was putting herself out there for him, her dignity be damned.

He stared.

Then he blinked.

Then he pounced.

Like a fucking starved animal, he jumped on her, making her stumble back startled, and grabbed her arms tightly, pulling her flush against him and attacking with his mouth. He caught her off guard and she yelped, but quickly caught on, retaliating with teeth and tongue and hands. God! Hands everywhere.

He walked her back until she hit the scorching hot mask of the car and with one swift move lifted her up and onto the red hood. She yelped when the hot metal touched the back of her thighs, but it soon was lost on her when Jackson's lips descended on her neck, nibbling and sucking and biting with an animalistic fury. Her hands disappeared under his damp t-shirt and traveled up, neatly bunching it at his chest until he finally let her go so that she could pull it off of him.

The need to feel more of her made him almost rip her tank off of her as her pulled it over her head and threw it carelessly behind him. Bare breasts came tumbling out and he stumbled back, utterly shocked at the vision before him. Lisa was sitting topless on the hood of the car, hair mused from his wandering hands, swollen lips parted from his bruising kisses.

His heart hammered wildly in his chest as he drank her in. She bit her lower lip and stared at him, confused about his sudden retreat and looking so fucking innocent that he knew then. He knew that he didn't want to simply fuck her brains out. This was probably the first and last time it would happen and he wanted to burn every little detail into his memory, as a sort of self-preservation. He wanted to make love to her. The thought should have made him cringe, or at least burst out laughing, but instead he found himself smiling.

He must have spaced out for too long, because Lisa was starting to look rather awkward, closing her arms across her naked chest self-consciously.

No, no, NO! He wasn't- He wasn't going to push her away! Not this time.

He stumbled back to her and kissed her deeply, letting her know that he was intent on seeing it to the very end. Once he was satisfied he got the message across – and by the look of a slightly dazed and very aroused Lisa, he determined that he succeeded just fine – he took her hand and pulled her off of the hood.

Leading her to the side of the car, he opened the backseat door, one hand quickly sending the junk from the seat to the floor below and with a naughty smirk that promised much, much more, he gestured for her inside.

Lisa smiled as she sat on the edge. Then scooted back and lied down, stretching her body along the back seat. His smirk never left his face as he leaned over her, popping the button of her Daisy Dukes and sliding them off along with her panties in one swift move.

He stared for a moment longer, searing the image of her naked and waiting for him into his mind, then moved in.

He went slow and gentle, much to Lisa's dismay, loving every single inch of her body, before he finally claimed her. And when he did, it was unlike anything he'd ever experienced. It was him, and it was Lisa, in the backseat of a pick-up truck in rural Kansas, Strawberry Wine floating across the airwaves, dandelion tufts floating past the windows on the lazy afternoon.

It was theirs.

And it was perfect.

-

Mandatory bottom A/N: Yeah, I researched too. Nic made me. Yapping about continuity and believability and whatnot. :shrugs: I got scared. One finger on the google maps, I followed R-34. Places mentioned exist. Jessie Alba is mine, however. So is Jonnie Dep-One-Pee.

Random trivia: If you opened your Google Maps and located Route 34 (running from Chicago to Colorado), and tracing your finger along it, you would pass Omaha and Haigler - Population 211 (googled that one). Passing Haigler, get off the 34th and take the first left 'you happen to run across' - that's the road Jackson turned onto - Now here's the cool part. Switch to satelite view and follow this road down. If you zoom in enough you'll notice... golden fields of wheat. In Kansas. You could probably see Jackson and Lisa getting it on in the red truck too, but goddamn Googl eMaps only zooms so far. Damnit:sigh: And who said that researching is boring!

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"Middle of Nowhere" is a one-shot based on Kai's wondeful piece My Happy Ending.
You should probably start off by reading that, because that story started the whole one-shot thing.
The order in which the stories have been written after "My Hapy Ending" are:
A Beginning in a Way, by NicolinaN
Middle of Nowhere, by Bunnies-Made-Me-Do-It
Giving You Your 'Never Again, by Kaikamahine Mai Hawai'i
Not the Destination, but the Journey, by greyhaven11

More stories will be added as the are written.

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It's been a blast.
Review?

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