Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS, AtS, or any of the characters portrayed therein. They belong to Joss, Mutant Enemy, etc... of which I have zero affiliation. I'm just borrowing them to entertain myself for a little while.
Author's Note: Thank you to those who've taken the time to review!
I hope everyone enjoyed their New Years, now that the holidays have passed I'm hoping I'll be able to continue to update every week... just keep your fingers crossed that I can stay on top of editing!
Chapter 5: Regrets
The atmosphere in the Summers' home had never been darker as the last of the guests left the reception; the few people who remembered Buffy from high school, a bunch of co-workers from some place called the DoubleMeat Palace, where Buffy had apparently been working. Without any outsiders to distract us, to keep the gears turning in our heads as we attempted to fabricate lies about Buffy's passing or how we all knew her, the harsh truth was there staring us in the face. Not only was our beloved friend gone once again, but the Slayer was dead. The one person who could protect us all against what was slowly spreading across the globe.
Giles had attempted to contact the Council, but with Buffy deceased, and a new Slayer poised to take over, they refused to give him any information regarding her whereabouts; they didn't want someone as unorthodox as Giles to 'taint' their new warrior. Thus, not only were we left with a gaping hole in our hearts that no one could fill, but we had no way of warning anyone what was coming, or helping them when it did.
Standing in the doorway to the living room, I glanced around at those left behind; Willow and Tara were slumped on the couch, leaning heavily into each other for support. Anya sat on Xander's lap on the opposite sofa, his arms wrapped around her tightly as they both stared off into nothingness. Cordelia and Gunn sat beside each other on two chairs that had been brought in from the kitchen, both gazing solemnly at the floor. Cordelia turned an empty plastic cup in her hands, and chewed the inside of her cheek as she did so. I frowned at her, even despite what we were dealing with, she was acting out of character. Giles and Wesley stood beside the fireplace uncomfortably, every so often I would hear one of them recite a book title, then the other would shake their head, or mutter "I already checked that one.". Lorne was absent, though he'd wanted to be there for moral support, with other humans present, he'd decided it would probably not be the best idea for him to be there. Finally Dawn stood near the window, her arms crossed protectively over her body as she stared out into the night. Dried tears streaked her face, and her eyes were red and puffy from crying. She sniffled, and toyed with a used tissue in one of her hands.
It was then that I realized Spike was absent. He'd been glued to Dawn's side since the sun had gone down, and I didn't think it was like him to disappear without letting anyone know. I crossed the room to Dawn quietly, she barely acknowledged my presence.
"Where's Spike?" I whispered.
She shrugged, "Don't know."
"He didn't say anything?"
She shook her head, and chewed her lip as more tears began to well in her eyes. I placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, and she leaned into me, hiding her face from the rest of the group as her body began to shake with quiet sobs.
It was then that bits of the others' conversation began to catch my attention.
"At least she won't be here to see this," Gunn said quietly.
"True," Anya agreed softly, "She'd seen enough destruction."
Suddenly the door flew open, and Spike stumbled in with an almost empty bottle of whiskey clutched in his hand. He swayed slightly, before tripping into the doorframe of the living room, and held onto it for support.
The others glanced in his direction to see what the racket was, before continuing.
"She's at peace now," Tara whispered.
"Right," Willow agreed tearfully, "She's not suffering this time... we should be happy for her..."
Spike's hysterical laughter shattered the quiet in the room and everyone turned to the doorway to stare at him, "Sufferin'!" he slurred, "She wasn't sufferin' last time neither!"
"What are you rambling about Spike?" Xander snapped.
"She wouldn't tell you!" he chuckled, and paused as his eyes fell over everyone in the room before he continued, "She wouldn't tell you because she thought you all needed her to be the strong one. 'Cause you all had to lean on her all the time and she didn't want to let you all down...! You were s'posed to be her friends and she couldn't even be honest with the lot of you..."
I felt the bottom of my stomach drop out as it dawned on me what he was alluding to, "Spike... stop talking." I growled. I wanted to pull him out of the room, but Dawn was still clinging to me.
"Sod off!" he shouted, "They need to know! They need to know what they did!" he spat, pointing towards the rest of the group with the bottle he clutched in his hand, the amber liquid sloshing around inside.
"What are you talking about Spike?" Willow asked tearfully.
Everyone in the room was staring at Spike in confusion.
He laughed again, "She told me... she told me but she couldn't tell you... what d'you think about that?! Good for nothin' vampire, but the Slayer can confide in me!"
"Spike!" I shouted.
"Bloody spit it out already!" Giles snapped impatiently, his eyes burning with rage.
"She was so afraid... so afraid of hurtin' you all that she hurt herself instead..." he muttered drunkenly.
"Spike... you're scaring me..." Dawn whimpered peering over my arm.
Spike finally turned to her, and his face crumpled as he laid eyes on the younger Summers girl.
"She wasn't in Hell when you brought her back!" he sobbed, turning back to Willow, "You... you pulled her out of Heaven!"
No one spoke. Tension crackled through the room as Spike's words crashed down on everyone. If possible, Willow became even more pale, and Tara moved slowly to take her hand.
I quickly disentangled myself from Dawn and stalked towards Spike.
"She was at peace! She was restin', and she didn't have to fight anymore, and then you went and pulled her out! To claw her way out of a bloody hole in the ground! To fight and feel pain and suffer all over again!" he continued as I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and began to drag him outside, "And for WHAT?!" he shouted as I wrenched the door open and forced him out, "So she can die again! And so the world can end! And we can all burn!"
I slammed the door behind us as I threw him off the porch, he stumbled backwards down the stairs, and landed on his back on the walkway.
"Wanker!" he muttered as I descended the steps towards him.
I snatched the bottle from his hand, and chucked it into the street where it shattered noisily on the pavement as I leaned down to grab him by the collar of his shirt. I punched him in the jaw, before shoving my face angrily in his.
"Wake up!" I roared.
"Sod off, you bloody tosser!" he slurred, scowling at me with bleary eyes.
I slapped him across the face, then grabbed him by the chin, forcing him to look at me, "You think you're the only one hurting right now?! Do you think they needed to hear that?!" I snarled, gesturing back at the house.
"They need to know what they did to her!" he muttered.
I was still leaning over him menacingly as we glared at each other, nose-to-nose, "No they don't! How dare you betray Buffy's trust!" I hissed.
Laughter bubbled up inside Spike's chest, but it quickly turned to sobs as tears began to stream down his face, "How dare you..." he glowered, "How dare you!" he ripped my hands violently off of his shirt and pushed me away from him before scrambling unsteadily to his feet. "How many times did you hurt her? Huh?! How many times did you break her heart, and send her retreatin' back into herself?!" he hollered, swaying precariously back and forth, "It's your fault she's gone!"
"Shut up..." I warned. I felt the tears beginning to sting behind my eyes, and I'd be damned if I let Spike see me cry.
"I loved her... you know," he chuckled.
My stomach churned, "No you didn't."
"I did. I bloody did..." he laughed again, "I didn't want to... but the way she was... I couldn't help myself... you know what I mean, don't you mate? You'd have to."
"You don't deserve her." I growled.
"Neither did you!" he shouted, "But you got her anyway, you useless sap! You had her, and you let her go... but she couldn't let you go, and now she's gone because of it..." he sobbed.
I stood there, stunned and horrified as the vampire once known as William the Bloody fell to pieces before me. I clenched my fists at my sides, I felt as though I was about to explode. How I wished I could just fall apart like Spike was, how I wished I could rage against everything and everyone that had ripped Buffy from my life, but I couldn't. I had to hold it together for her friends, and above all, for Dawn.
Spike was crouching on the walkway now, his face buried in his hands as he sobbed. I wanted to hate him, I wanted to tear him apart for even daring to develop feelings for my girl... but I couldn't. All I felt for the poor broken man in front of me was pity and sympathy. I knew how he felt.
"Go home, Spike." I sighed.
"I'm not bloody goin' anywhere!" he slurred between sobs.
"Yes you are. I'm not letting you back in there."
He stood, rage burning in his eyes, and rushed at me, "You can't kick me out! I belong in there as much as you do!" he pushed me backwards, then grabbed the lapels of my coat and shook me. I grabbed him by the shoulders and steadied him.
"I'm not kicking you out, I'm trying to save your ass!" I shouted over his inebriated rambling.
He stopped shouting and glared at me.
"It won't do you, or anyone else any good if you walk back in there tonight. Go home, calm down... and for Christ sake, sober up." I sighed.
He sighed, and despite the understanding look on his face he pushed me away roughly.
With a nod, he wiped the tears from his face, and ran a hand through his hair, "Yeah... alright then." he turned, and took a few off-balance steps before turning back to me, "Do me a favour though, will you?" he asked.
I shrugged, "What?"
"Look after the L'il Bit? I'm worried about her, y'know?" he said with a frown.
I grimaced, and cast a glance back to the window where she'd been standing earlier; it was empty. I was relieved, I didn't want her to have seen the scuffle, "I will." I promised, looking back towards Spike.
With a mournful nod, he turned away once more, and disappeared down the street.
I turned, and walked back into the house, where everyone was still sitting where they were when I'd left. Dawn was missing.
"Where's Dawn?" I asked.
"She went upstairs," Cordelia whispered.
Willow turned to me suddenly, she looked shaken, gaunt, her eyes were wide in horror, "I-is it true? What Spike said? Is it true?" she stammered.
I studied the young woman, she'd come so far from the timid bookworm she'd been six years ago. She was a powerful ally now, I wondered if telling her the truth would undo all her hard work. On the other hand, I knew she was too smart to buy a lie.
"Yes." I whispered.
A hand flew to her mouth, and her eyes filled with tears before her other hand rose to cover her entire face. Tara's arm wrapped around her and drew her closer as the young witch began to sob uncontrollably.
I looked away as a pang of guilt cut through my chest. My eyes turned to Gunn, then Cordelia, who studied me with a mix of pity and horror. She shook her head, and her eyes fell to the floor again. Xander looked almost catatonic, as Anya stroked his hair gently, and Giles had sunk to the floor, leaning against the wall with his head between his hands. Wesley looked to me, shocked, then turned away, rubbing a hand over his face.
"I'm... I'm going to go check on Dawn," I whispered, then turning from the devastated group, slowly made my way up the stairs, where the young teenager's heartbroken wails could be heard louder and louder with each step.
My eyes snapped open, and I found myself once again lying on the floor by the fireplace, staring up at the high ceilings of the mansion's main room. With a sigh, I rubbed a hand over my face, and pushed myself to a sitting position. Dreaming of Buffy's wake had left me feeling hollow. I shuddered. I would give anything to never have to re-live that evening.
"Angel." a voice said quietly from behind me.
I turned, to discover Doyle standing there once more.
"Mornin'." he greeted.
"Morning." I answered, picking myself off the ground, and stretching.
"Is there a reason why you're sleepin' on the floor?" he asked with a slight smirk.
I shot him an unamused glare, but answered nonetheless, "Haven't slept in a bed for almost a hundred years, it just doesn't feel right anymore."
He just nodded.
I watched him, waiting for him to begin rambling as he usually did, but he remained silent, his expression one of concern.
"What is it?" I asked.
"You're dreamin' aren't ya?" he asked.
I frowned, "What do you mean?"
"You're havin' dreams... dreams about things that happened last time." he clarified.
I suddenly felt uneasy, if Doyle knew about my dreams, then it was probably not a good thing, "Yeah... yeah I have," I confirmed.
Doyle nodded, "Christ..." he sighed.
He studied me for a moment, before exhaling sharply, "I don't know if I should tell ye... ye might start throwin' things at me again,"
I threw up my hands in mock surrender, "No throwing. Just tell me what you know."
It was his turn to frown, "The Powers are sending them."
I chuckled darkly, "Of course they are."
"Again, I argued against it Pal, but they don't listen to me." Doyle defended.
"I know," I sighed, "So... what's the deal?"
"They're reminders. One, because they know it's been a long time, they want to be sure ye haven't forgotten anything important, anything that could keep Buffy alive... Two," he paused, looking unsure if he should continue, "Two, they want to make sure that ye remember all the devastation that was caused by her death, they want ye to remember what you're fighting for."
I shook my head, and sunk down onto the hearth of the fireplace, "Great. Well, tell them thanks for the extra psychological torment."
Doyle crossed to sit next to me, I studied him a moment, then tried to touch his arm, my hand passed right through him. He grinned sadly and shrugged at me. "Wanna talk about it?" he asked.
I shook my head, "No, it's bad enough having to dream it."
"Yeah, I hear ya." he agreed.
I clenched my jaw, "Spike's in love with Buffy," I grumbled.
"Wanker," Doyle hissed.
I couldn't help grinning.
"She wouldn't go for 'im would she?" he asked.
I shrugged, "I don't know... they hated each other's guts while I was around... but everything seems to be so different now."
Doyle grinned mischievously, "Well, ye have been given a second chance... if ye want to, ye could just stake him before any trouble starts."
I chuckled again, "I don't think that would do anything but make Buffy and Dawn mad at me."
"Alright, alright. I was just offerin' my advice." he laughed.
He rose to his feet, "If it means anything to ye, I think you and Buffy make a better couple. Hands down."
I smiled sadly, then looked up to him, but he was gone.
Buffy and I walked through the cemetery silently again. She seemed to still be reluctant to talk to me, and I was still reluctant to push her. I knew what a fragile state of mind she was in, and given the nature of the situation, I couldn't afford to waste time trying to repair any further damage to our fractured relationship. From what I'd observed so far, she was awkward and distant with her friends, with Dawn, but she was even more so with me. It made me wonder if perhaps she just didn't have the strength to tell me she didn't want me there, or if we'd simply grown that far apart. Was the way I'd remembered us being really just a lie I'd created for myself? Something I'd fabricated over the decades so I could keep going?
I looked down at her, she scanned the cemetery quietly, a stake twirling in her hand as she ignored me. She looked as though she didn't even know I was there.
"How's Dawn doing today?" I asked.
She grimaced, "Barely talking to me. But hey, at least she's not skipping school anymore... I hope."
"Do you want me to talk to her?" I asked.
She shook her head, "No... I have to learn to do this on my own." she sighed, "at least that's what Giles thinks."
I nodded, "Well, he does have a point. If you want her to start listening to you, you can't have other people undermining your authority."
"Right. So no, you can't talk to her." she said.
I sighed, and the conversation came to an abrupt halt. The only sound was that of the wind rustling softly through the leaves as we continued down the dark path. The abundant lack of vampires to slay was evident once again tonight, it was staring to look again like we would be having another long uncomfortable walk through the cemetery instead of doing any patrolling.
Just when I was starting to get used to the silence, Buffy sighed, "How can this not feel weird to you?"
I turned to her, my brow furrowed in confusion, "What do you mean?"
She stopped walking and threw her arms up in exasperation, "This isn't awkward for you at all?" she asked, "You can just forget?"
"Forget what?" I asked. She looked crestfallen, "I'm sorry Buffy... it's just... if you think about it there are a lot of reasons why we should feel awkward around each other. It's hard to keep track of them all."
She took a moment to digest my words. It only made her look more upset, "I guess you have a point." she muttered.
I sighed, "I didn't mean it like that... Please tell me what you mean."
She started to chew her lip nervously, "I meant after what happened last time we saw each other..." she whispered and cast her eyes to the ground as if she were ashamed of herself.
I knew she was referring to our lapse in judgement on the cliffs. I could've sworn I felt my cold, dead heart clench in my chest as I watched her fidget almost bashfully before me.
"Buffy, what happened that night... what we did... it was a mistake." I began.
She smiled wryly, "Gee, I feel special."
"Don't. Don't do that." I sighed.
"Do what?" she asked.
"Don't do that thing where you get all sarcastic and try to make me feel bad."
"I don't do that!" she huffed.
"Yes, you do."
"Forget it! Forget it, please!" I begged, "Just because it was a mistake doesn't mean that I wanted it to be."
She frowned at me, but didn't speak.
"Look, I'll take responsibility for what happened." I muttered, staring at the ground, "I just... I lost control. I missed you, and I'd spent months thinking I was never going to see you again. Then all of a sudden you're back, and we're together, and..."
I trailed off as I looked up and saw her face, I couldn't tell if she was about to cry or get angry with me, "And what?" she whispered.
"And I let myself slip... I'm sorry. You've been through too much for me to be confusing you like that." I continued.
Her expression didn't change, but after a moment, she smiled sadly, "It's okay. It's not like I tried to stop you or anything."
I frowned, "So... are we okay?" I asked. I paused and chuckled slightly upon realizing what a stupid question I'd just asked, "At least for us?"
She grinned sardonically, "Yeah, I guess we are."
"Okay. Good," I assured her with a nod before we continued slowly on our way.
"So, um, you've been so busy trying to pry me open – wow, that sounded wrong," she groaned.
I had to bite back a grin.
"What I mean to say, is that we haven't really talked about you," she clarified, "How's everything in L.A.?"
I panicked slightly; how was everything in L.A.? Though I'd spoken to Cordelia the day before, I really didn't remember much about what was happening right about now. Everything before the events that had ended Buffy's life were still mostly a blur to me. I assumed I had been to Pylea, saved that poor girl Fred who'd since gone back home to her parents... what had happened next?
"Fine. Just fine. Actually it's kind of quiet right now." I answered, vague would have to do for now.
Buffy smiled, "And how are Cordy and Wes?"
I was taken aback slightly that she would bother asking, I knew neither Cordelia or Wesley were her favourite people, but it meant a lot to me that she was trying to take interest in my new life, "They're both doing great... there's also, Gunn... he's sort of a vigilante vampire hunter... helps from time to tome... you haven't met him yet," I offered. I was slightly surprised by my willingness to share, as was she. I guess I missed my family back in L.A. more than I realized.
"Wow, making friends... never thought I'd see the day," she teased.
"Yeah, and maybe someday I'll be a real boy." I joked.
Buffy gave me a strange, puzzled look, "Was that a joke?"
I simply shrugged, and grinned at her before turning my attention back to the path in front of us. It was strange, I was here to try and save Buffy, but instead I felt like things were working the other way around. Despite everything, when I was with her I felt almost like my old self again, as though the last hundred years had been nothing but a bad dream.
"You know, Angel -"
She stopped abruptly mid-sentence, and I could see her peering suspiciously off in the distance ahead of us. Following her line of sight, I discovered she was scrutinizing one of the old crypts, the wrought-iron door had been partially ripped from its hinges.
"That wasn't like that last night..." she whispered.
"No... it wasn't," I agreed quietly.
We crept slowly towards the mausoleum, stakes out, bodies coiled, ready to attack. As we drew nearer, we began to hear sounds of scraping and scuffling coming from within its dark interior. Almost as we'd reached the bottom of the steps, a creature suddenly appeared in the doorway. Its skin was a mix of pale violet and blue, scaly and tough. It had large, yellow eyes with tiny pupils, no nose, and a wide, thin mouth. It wore what looked to be an armoured chest plate and gloves. Buffy and I paused, we'd never seen anything like it before. It made no move to attack upon seeing us, it simply hissed, and launched itself over our heads, before taking off at a breakneck speed further into the cemetery.
We watched it disappear into the night in stunned silence.
"Do you want to chase it?" Buffy asked in an almost dazed tone.
"Do you think you can run that fast?" I asked.
"Definitely not... you?"
"Not a chance."
Buffy turned back to the entrance to the crypt, and peered inside, "Do you think there are more of them?" she whispered.
"Only one way to find out." I replied, climbing cautiously up the steps. Buffy followed closely behind me, our stakes raised to attack; though I wasn't really sure that they would do much good against the armour, it was all we had. Once inside, it was plain to see the crypt was empty. The giant stone sarcophagus in the middle of the room had been pried open, and the floor was littered with broken vases, urns, and chests.
"Obviously it was looking for something." Buffy muttered, stepping past me into the room and picking up the remains of a marble box to study it.
"Yeah. The question is what?"
"I haven't the foggiest." she mused, dropping the box back to the ground, "What do you say we head over to Giles'?"
I nodded, "Yeah, sounds good."
I let her pass in front of me, then followed her down the steps and back toward the street. Fear began to gnaw at the pit of my stomach, something about this situation was making me uneasy.
"... With armour, you say?" Giles asked, as he turned away from where Buffy and I sat on the sofa to scan one of his many overstuffed bookcases.
"And creepy yellow eyes." Buffy nodded.
"And it didn't attack you?" he questioned.
"No, it seemed more determined to escape." I answered, "It ran faster than anything I've ever seen before."
Giles frowned as he pulled a large tome of a shelf and began to flip through it, "It actually sounds vaguely familiar... ah!" he exclaimed, tapping the open page gently with his finger, "Did it look anything like this?"
He held the book out to us, sketched on the page was the unmistakeable image of the demon we'd encountered in the cemetery.
"That'd be the one," Buffy agreed.
"Valkesch Demon..." I read off the opposite page. I paused searching the recesses of my memory for any mention of this demon, "I've never heard of it before," I muttered.
Giles pulled the book away, and began scanning the page, "Yes, well, they're relatively peaceful demons, they tend to avoid conflict."
"That's pretty obvious already," Buffy sighed.
"They get their strength from magical energies... it's said they have a sensitivity to mystical artifacts." Giles continued to explain.
I suddenly felt my chest tighten, and I was thankful I didn't need to breathe. After months of nothing, a strange demon that can sense magical activity turns up at the closest Hellmouth to Los Angeles... I prayed it wasn't looking for what I feared it was. "It was looking for something with mystical powers?" I asked.
"I believe it would be the most likely scenario." Giles replied.
"The question now, is what?" Buffy added.
"Did you happen to catch the name on the crypt?" Giles asked.
"Um..." Buffy mumbled.
"Whitlock," I answered, "It was Whitlock."
"How did you notice that?" she whispered.
I shrugged, "It just caught my eye... Does that mean anything to you Giles?"
I looked up at the Watcher in time to see him attempt to hide the horrified expression on his face, and fear gripped at my heart.
"Um... er... actually it might." he replied hesitantly, turning away from us again and removing his glasses from the bridge of his nose to clean them. "I remember reading something a while ago... but I can't remember where. I'll have to dig through my volumes..." he trailed off, he was clearly distracted and concerned about something. I had an inkling what it might be. "It may take me awhile, perhaps you should both get some rest, and we can reconvene at the Magic Box tomorrow evening?'
He shot me a pleading look, before averting his eyes back to Buffy.
With a nod, I rose from the sofa, "Sure. We'll meet then."
Buffy looked between us, a little puzzled, but didn't press the matter further, "Alright," she sighed with a shrug, then began to slowly make her way towards the door. "I'll let everyone know to be there."
"Yes. Goodnight then," Giles agreed in an overly cheerful manner as he ushered us out the door and began to quickly close it behind us. I caught it before it closed all the way, and leaned back into the home to find the perturbed looking Watcher staring at me.
"It's bad, isn't it?" I asked, wanting to either confirm or deny my fears.
"I'm afraid it might be..." he whispered, "But I don't want to worry Buffy with it until I'm certain."
I nodded, then slowly shut the door.
"What was all that about?" came Buffy's voice from behind me.
They way she'd been acting, I hadn't really expected her to wait for me, "I, uh... I'd just remembered that I have a few books he might find useful at the mansion, and... wanted to ask him if I should bring them tomorrow night."
She narrowed her eyes at me, "Why are the two of you acting so jumpy?"
"What do you mean?" I asked innocently.
"You already know what was in that crypt, don't you?" she asked.
"No, no we don't."
"Yes you do! Giles only gets stuttery when he's worried, and you get all awkward and stiff when you lie."
"I'm not stiff..." I muttered.
"Why are you trying to protect me?" she asked quietly.
"We're not. I swear. Giles just doesn't want to burden you until he's confirmed everything." I explained.
"So, protecting me." she scoffed.
I opened my mouth to reply, but she didn't give me a chance to reply.
"I know I might not be all there emotionally right now, but I can still fight. That's the one thing I'm not having trouble with." she barked.
"He cares about you Buffy, and he's concerned. He's just trying to make it easier on you." I defended.
She sighed, "You know what would make it easier on me? If everyone would stop coddling me!" she turned, and stalked away down the street.
I didn't follow. I knew when to give her space.
Starting to get into the action!
I think the flashback at the beginning of this chapter is one of my favourite sections of this story... I really wanted to have Angel and Spike confront each other about their feelings for Buffy, I never caught up with the AtS episodes once they moved Spike over there, and never really saw how they dealt with it... I think it would be something that would be challenging to write, and I was doubting my ability to pull it off... it came out better than I was expecting it to.
As for Angel sleeping on the floor... that was just something I felt like tossing in. I remember reading somewhere a long time back that people who used to be homeless or had been in other situations where they weren't sleeping in a bed for a prolonged period of time had trouble going back to it afterwards. Fun fact... and just something I felt like throwing in for sh*ts and giggles.
This is a haiku
I'm writing it so you will
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