|"Sometimes, Lord, I think you're not quite fair. No disrespect
intended, of course," Phillipe added quickly, glancing up as if he
expected lightning to fall from the clear blue evening sky. And who
knew but what it might. "I know I should be happy for them. I am happy for them. But (I know I don't have to tell you) it would be nice to be happy for myself occasionally."
Phillipe -- the thief called the Mouse, only prisoner ever to escape from the prisons of Aquila, confidant to the Lady Isabeau, companion to Etienne of Navarre -- slumped on the riverbank and contrived to look very dejected indeed. Not that anyone noticed.
They were all too busy twittering over the events of the day. It wasn't every day, even in Aquila, that the bishop was killed in his own church. It wasn't every day the moon supplanted the sun. It wasn't every day that true love triumphed over evil, that lovers were rejoined, that miracles happened.
And now, thought Phillipe, they don't need me anymore. It was enough to make him question his belief in God, really. "One little wish, Lord, one desire. Is it so hard?"
He knew it was. Even his... unorthodox view of God didn't really encompass the supreme being as matchmaker. Especially not the sort of match he desired.
Phillipe had to smile at himself. The priest, Imperious, would be appalled. Not that he expected the Mouse to be a choirboy (Imperious could hardly expect more of a thief than he expected of himself), but still, when one was a priest...
The creak of leather brought his head up out of his hands with a snap, but it was only the trappings of a passing merchant's horse. Not black leather armor. Not Navarre.
It was foolish, that sudden spurt of excitement, as if it really could have been the captain. As if he'd go wandering about on this night of all nights. Etienne was with Isabeau. After years apart, separated as surely as day from night, could there be any doubt they had sought out the solitude to rejoin their love? Hawks and wolves mated for life, didn't they?
Phillipe lay back on the river bank, eyes closed, arms spread
to the sides like a poor man's crucifix. He didn't have to speculate,
to imagine what milady hawke and milord wolf were doing, now that they
could touch in human flesh once more. He knew. He remembered.
God, he'd known Navarre's temper was unpredictable, but this...
Phillipe had woken up to the smell of fresh cooked fish, and the clear light of late morning. Navarre was smiling; evidently he'd finally gotten used to his unconventional companion, and rediscovered enough of his humanity to feed him, and let him sleep late. And, after the night he'd had, God knew he needed it.
How quickly the morning had changed. From the minute Ladyhawke had chosen to land on Phillipe's outstretched arm, instead of her master's waiting glove, Navarre's mood turned suddenly aggressive, dangerous. Jealous.
At least he calmed down again once Phillipe returned the hawk. Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Phillipe retreated, issuing reassurance in a steady meandering stream.
"She's the most wonderful woman that ever lived, and I can't say I haven't had my fantasies. But the truth is, all she did was talk about you." Now, Lord, I know and you know that a lie told for a good purpose can't really be considered a sin.
Navarre's smile was bitter. "Every moment you spend with her, I envy you. But you can tell me." He put his hands on Phillipe's shoulders, the expression in his pale blue eyes intense. "Tell me everything she said. And I warn you, I will know if the words are hers."
Phillipe almost smiled at that. He'd been making things up from the beginning. Purely with the best of intentions, of course. What chance that Navarre would pick up on it now? He wandered a little away, tapping his fingers against his lips thoughtfully -- what would be safe to say? "She was sad at first. She talked about the day you met, and she cursed it." But as he saw Navarre's face harden at the words, sealing over the grief with a coat of ice, he didn't have the heart to continue, and subtly changed his course. "But then I saw her remember how happy you were together, before the bishop's curse, and her eyes glowed. No, she glowed. She loves you more than life, Captain; she's had to."
"Did you know that hawks and wolves mate for life?" Navarre told him, his sorrow as always tainted with bitterness. "The bishop didn't even leave us that. Not even that."
Phillipe just looked at him, unable for a moment to even think up a good lie. Somehow the true tragedy of their curse struck him fully for the first time. He closed his eyes, blinked against sympathetic tears -- the ones Isabeau wouldn't shed and Navarre couldn't. And he found himself telling the Captain the truth about the previous night.
Navarre listened silently, his face turned away. Only the occasional tilt of his head made it clear he was still listening.
"After the wolfcatcher... died," Phillipe finished delicately, "we returned to the inn. The barn," he corrected himself, glancing up at Navarre out of the corner of his eye. The captain's face was grim. "You... the wolf had run off someplace. Just as well, I suppose; you can't take a wolf to an inn, can you?"
"No, you can't," Navarre whispered. He turned further away.
"She... Isabeau was... quiet. I think she was still scared for you, even though the danger was past." Phillipe's voice faded. He remembered her serious expression, her distraction as she wandered to the stall in which she'd changed earlier and began stripping off her sodden gown. As if he wasn't there, or didn't matter. And his own hesitation, knowing he should turn away and yet captivated by the slowly emerging pale luminescence of her perfect skin.
"Go on," Navarre ordered gruffly, shaking Phillipe out of his reverie.
"Nothing more to say, Captain," he chirped with affected cheer.
Holy Christ, since when had his name become an order? He was sure his mother had never put such command into it, even if he'd never met her.
"Nothing, Captain. Honest! I swear."
"When you swear to something, little Mouse, it's a sure sign you're lying." But he smiled a little as he said it. "You were wet."
"You said it was raining. You were wet through by the time you got back to the barn."
"Yes," Phillipe allowed slowly, not sure he liked Navarre taking over the narrative.
"You could hardly sit around all night in wet clothes," Navarre pointed out reasonably.
It was as if he knew. Phillipe paced away from the patiently waiting man, then reluctantly back. Of course he knew. There were things about both of them, even now, that he didn't understand. Things about the curse, and about the blessing they shared between them which almost made nothing of the curse. The blessing of their love.
Tell him, she'd whispered into his ear while he was still panting and shaking with the strength of his pleasure. He almost hadn't heard her; he certainly hadn't understood. Until now.
"She took off her gown," he murmured low, captured by Navarre's intense blue gaze. "Her skin glowed in the lamplight. She glowed," he corrected, unconsciously repeating his earlier words. "I've never... surely God's angels must look like that." He shook his head in wonderment.
"I... couldn't move. She came to me and put her hands on my shoulders." Phillipe almost jumped when Navarre's broad callused hands settled on his shoulders. He closed his eyes and licked his lips before continuing shakily, his voice little more than a whisper. "She kissed me."
As Navarre's warm mouth covered his, Phillipe understood his place, his role in a flash of insight. He'd been go-between for their words, their first contact in years; now, there were deeds to be passed between them. Perhaps their last, if things went... poorly in Aquila.
The price of last night's pleasure was now before him, in the person of Etienne Navarre. The price of this morning's pleasure was already paid: in the arms of Isabeau in the dark of the night.
"Go on," Navarre breathed against the tender skin of his neck. Phillipe swallowed hard, not sure if he was fighting excitement or trepidation, and continued. Or began, it hardly mattered which.
Her arms were strong about him, her fragile beauty belied by the strength of her grip. She needed the touch of human hands. She needed Navarre, but could no more find solace with a wolf than he with a hawk. It was Phillipe she turned to; he would be Navarre for her.
As he would be Isabeau for Navarre. Navarre, whose hands, roughened with the touch of swordhilt and crossbow, were unaccountably gentle. The faint creak of leather accompanied the swift, sure stripping away of Phillipe's clothes. The discarded garments padded the ground under him as he was laid back to receive the body of his lord.
His lady lay on a bed of straw, opening herself to him. No time for preliminaries. Just the sudden keen need, to cover her cool pale beauty, the skin which hadn't seen sun for years, and drive himself into her perfection. Two became one and one cried out for sorrow and pleasure, and strived for an impossible goal.
It hurt, but that hardly mattered. The strong body of Navarre drove into him, implacable in his need, and Phillipe rose to meet it, wrapping his arms and legs around him as Isabeau had clung to him. He couldn't tell, in the pleasure-dazed fog of his mind, with which of them he mated, or even who he was. He was Navarre, plunged to the hilt in the body of his love; he was Isabeau, open and accepting her lover's thrusts. He was both, giving and taking, thrusting and receiving, a lance and a chalice and, like Isabeau who said she was sorrow, and Navarre who was revenge, Phillipe was sacrifice. And more, he was pleasure.
It was Navarre now, who panted against his shoulder, his thick shaft still buried in Phillipe's body. He raised a hand to pet the short hair at the nape of Navarre's neck, in Isabeau's gesture of last night. The warm splatter of liquid on his belly, however, was Phillipe's own.
Navarre pressed a kiss to the curve of his shoulder and slowly withdrew. He crouched over Phillipe, looking for the moment less haunted, then blinked and sat back on his heels. He reached out a hand to draw Phillipe to him and hugged him roughly.
"Thank you," he whispered gruffly, his breath tossing Phillipe's hair. The Mouse, for once, was silent.
The hawk flapped its wings, mute protest against sitting blindly on a branch, unattended.
As Phillipe stiffly drew his clothing back on, he realized
that entwined with the cries of two men reaching completion had been
the scream of a hawk.
"You there!" A sharp yell, and sharper kick to the ribs, returned Phillipe to his unfortunate present. He blinked his eyes open, looking up at a soldier clad in the menacing red and black of the bishop's guard. "Get up, little man!"
"Oh no," Phillipe muttered under his breath as he scrambled to his feet.
"You were the pipsqueak with Navarre in the cathedral."
In the cathedral where he kissed me, and she kissed me. "Perhaps," Phillipe hedged; there was no knowing if this burly fellow still considered himself loyal to the old captain of the guard or the new one.
"He wants you."
How his heart pounded at those words. Phillipe closed his eyes and took a deep breath, earning himself another thump in the back for his hesitation.
"Come on, you." A hand like an iron claw closed on his shoulder, forcing him along at a brisk march like a recalcitrant child to a beating.
"You know, God," Phillipe murmured as he was steered inexorably into the keep, "this sort of thing doesn't reflect very well on you. This stumbling around, not knowing where we're going is hardly fair, now is it? Still, if you're paying attention (and I know you always are, so let's not pretend otherwise), I'd appreciate it if you'd see your way to making this what it seems, whatever that might be, and not merely a personal escort back to the dungeons."
To his unutterable surprise, he wasn't lead down to the filthy dungeons, and he made a mental note to thank God later for the consideration. Instead, he was shoved up a flight of stone steps to the living quarters above the keep, and planted in front of a thick oaken door on which the guardsman pounded heavily with his fist.
She opened the door, radiant in the simple gown she'd worn into the cathedral. She grabbed Phillipe by the elbows when he stumbled forward, propelled by another strong push between the shoulderblades, and gave the guard a vicious look before shutting the door in his face.
"Sorry, Phillipe." Isabeau brushed him off, as if by so doing she would remove any trace of the guard's touch. "If we'd known he'd treat you like that..."
"No need, milady," he assured with well-practiced cheer, "I'm used to it."
Her look spoke of disagreement, but she said nothing. It was only when she turned toward the window embrasure that he realized Navarre was also in the room. He'd changed out of the armor and washed; now, he looked oddly prosaic, dressed in a plain linen jerkin and hose, his hair drying in rough spikes.
"Hello, little thief."
Navarre smiled at him. Phillipe's eyes automatically sought the floor. It was hard, he knew, for anyone to meet that pale blue gaze with equanimity. That didn't excuse his own cowardice. Except, of course, for the fact that he was a coward, as he liked to remind people.
"We didn't thank you properly," she said.
"What, me?" He unconsciously clasped his hands together. "Oh no, milady. You don't owe me anything, not my kind. No thanks are necessary."
"They are," Navarre corrected bluntly, "for the depth of service you've done us. And," he added, almost unwillingly, "will do."
"Will?" Phillipe was startled into glancing up. "Is something wrong? The curse...?" He suddenly realized the sun was going down, and that they knew only that Isabeau was released. Navarre turned to the window again, the last rays of light catching on his rugged features, turning his hair to flame. He smiled.
"Is broken," he rumbled, looking back at Phillipe, "as far as that goes."
"We still need your help," Isabeau said at his shoulder. Phillipe reluctantly drew his gaze from Navarre. She laid a hand on his arm, and her smile, like Navarre's, was seduction itself.
"The bishop didn't content himself with merely separating us," Navarre said behind him, his husky voice doing nothing to release Phillipe from the enchantment of Isabeau's eyes. "It's up to you to bring us together again, little Mouse."
As before, Phillipe felt himself sinking into a calm pool of desire, knowing vaguely what must happen and largely undisturbed by his role. It seemed he'd been born for this; at no time before and at no time to come would he ever be so completely necessary. He would have to remember never again to assume anything about God's role, or lack of it, as matchmaker. And he would definitely have to remember to thank God properly later... candles for the church, perhaps, or a generous donation in gold, surely God wouldn't quibble over where it had come from...
She stood before him in that gown, so thin, so sheer, as to be almost nothing. Her face tilted up to his, and he bent in a spell to lay his lips on hers. A solid wall of heat closed with his back, reaching strong arms around him to pull her against his chest.
Phillipe bit back a groan when her sleek, ripe body nestled against his, when the strong muscled frame of the Captain pushed against his back. The mouse, caught between wolf and hawk, no more able to escape their hypnotic presence than if he'd been caught betwixt fangs and talons.
Her lips nibbled at his, drawing him deeper into the kiss. He felt the brush of Navarre's breath on the tender skin behind his ear, followed by the burning touch of lips. Her arms were around his neck, her gown puddled on the rough floorboards. Navarre's lips continued their exploration unbroken as his hands turned to the task of removing Phillipe's simple clothing, leaving him free to explore her willing body.
Isabeau arched against him, taking an intensity of pleasure in his caresses she hadn't on the first occasion, just as Phillipe's skin prickled at Navarre's warm touch as it hadn't had time to do previously. Not stolen moments, stolen kisses; instead a time drawn out in languid fire.
Navarre's clothing was rough against Phillipe's bare back, his callused hands gentle in their sweeping caresses. Phillipe gasped his pleasure into Isabeau's mouth as his shaft and balls were gathered into a sure strong grip. She gentled him with tiny darting kisses, before her hands pushed down on his shoulders. He moaned softly as Navarre's hands slowly released his cock, bestowing a lingering caress on parting.
He was happy to kneel before her, to worship the flawless white elegance that was Isabeau. No wonder a bishop had sold his soul to possess her; no wonder a man like Navarre would give his life to free her. He pressed his face to her softly rounded belly, his arms encircling her shapely hips. He felt Navarre's thighs press hard against his shoulders and knew they were kissing above him. Phillipe bent his head to kiss her at the juncture of her thighs.
She cried out, her fingers tangling in his hair, her weight sagging against his arms. Navarre's large hands helped again: guided her back onto the bed, lifted her legs onto his shoulders so that he could taste her there.
The rough floorboards were hard on his knees, but Phillipe barely noticed. His tongue dipped again and again into her center, plunging as deeply as it could reach, then retreating to lap over the small nub which made her squirm and cry out. She shuddered under his tongue, her hips almost twisting out of his hands, and he knew he had given her pleasure.
He turned, blind with arousal, and felt Navarre behind him, standing over him. His hands reached for the fastenings to Navarre's clothing, releasing him quickly. Her taste was still in his mouth when he took Navarre's heavy shaft down his throat, his bitter spice mixing with her musk.
Phillipe's eyes were closed; he moaned, swallowed, his throat muscles massaging Navarre's engorged cock. Large hands cradled his head, held him in place to receive deliberate, controlled thrusts.
His hands wrapped around Navarre's thighs, feeling the hard muscles bunch and quiver at the effort of holding back. Phillipe swallowed again, and again, knowing Navarre was close, wanting to drive him over the edge and experience his lord's pleasure as he had his lady's.
With more force of will than Phillipe still had, Navarre withdrew gently. One rough, square hand cupped the side of Phillipe's face, stroked a caress down his cheek, and lifted his chin.
"Get on the bed, little mouse," Navarre ordered softly, rifling Phillipe's short brown hair.
He scrambled to his feet, turned to the bed, and froze. She was laid out on it like a banquet, legs splayed, arms beckoning. But not for him, surely. He'd always had to steal everything he wanted. Nothing that beautiful came to him so simply and naturally, without a moment of guile on his part.
Navarre guided him firmly to kneel on the bed between her thighs. Nudged down, he caught his weight over her on shaky arms. Her soft white hands closed on his biceps as her intense gaze captivated his. But only for a moment. His eyes closed, as involuntarily as the moan which escaped him. A strong hand stroked his painfully swollen cock firmly, the few strokes almost enough to set him off, before Navarre changed his grip.
Phillipe's eyes flew open, and he looked down the beautiful body beneath him to watch Navarre guide him into Isabeau's body. The strong, scarred hand wrapped loosely around his cock and traced the head teasingly up and down her slit before pushing it in. He slid sweetly into her with a groan, the sound of pleasure echoed in Navarre's rough baritone. She gasped and arched under him.
Phillipe bent to kiss Isabeau's softly rounded breasts, first one, then the other, tonguing the tight rosy nipples. He lowered himself over her, resting his weight on his elbows, and thrust gently. She closed around him, so tight and hot, perfect. There was a feeling, almost a sound, in his head: a click, like the noise a lock made when he was picking it, when he almost had it. He only became aware of the firm warm weight of Navarre's hand on the small of his back when it was removed, leaving his flesh to chill.
Phillipe nuzzled Isabeau's cheek, kissed down the slender column of her neck to once again draw a nipple into his mouth and suckle. He had a moment's vague abstraction, wondering if others -- those who did remember their mothers -- remembered what it was like to do this as a babe. Not at all the same, surely. Isabeau writhed under him, breaking him from the odd thought. Her legs tightened around his waist as she raised her hips to meet his thrusts. He released the nipple to bury his face in the curve of her throat, half-aware of the whisper of clothes being removed behind him.
Her legs loosened. She arched under him, taking him deeper until he gasped brokenly. Her heels met the bed between his thighs and caught in the bend of his legs, pulling against him. He adjusted automatically, drawing his knees up to accommodate her as she used the leverage to thrust up harder against him.
It was only when Navarre's hands closed on his hips that he realized his position: splayed out on the bed, her legs holding him apart, holding him open for Navarre.
Phillipe lifted his head to look down at her. She smiled. He felt the bed sink under Navarre's weight and turned to look over his shoulder at the man. Wild blue eyes met him squarely, a feral curve of the lips little reassurance.
Phillipe took a shuddering breath and pushed himself up on his hands, spreading his knees farther as he hovered over her, still buried within her. He hissed, surprised, when thick fingers, slick with oil, pushed into him in cursory preparation. That was new; he'd never, the few times he'd done this, both with and against his will, been taken with anything more than spit and sweat to smooth the way. He closed his eyes, and bent to rest his forehead against Isabeau's collarbone. Her hands curved around his buttocks and exposed him to Navarre.
She almost distracted him, her body squeezing and rippling around him; the pleasure was unreal. He'd forgotten how big Navarre was. Phillipe reared back with a gasp when the thick cock began pushing into him. One of Navarre's hands continued to steady his hip, the other curved around him, the palm splayed in the middle of his chest, holding him up. The second click seemed to sound in his head: a lock picked.
Phillipe had a moment of disorientation. The extremity of feeling was overwhelming: the wet, hot clasp of Isabeau's body; the heavy, thick invasion of Navarre's cock. Yet he looked down on Isabeau's face and saw suddenly through her eyes: saw Navarre's face, eyes narrowed in concentration, visible behind his shoulder. He saw his own face, flushed, his eyes widening as Navarre's cock slid fully home.
Shaking limbs unable to hold him, Phillipe let his weight gently down onto Isabeau, Navarre's hands returning to his hips. He rested his cheek on Isabeau's shoulder, and felt the world spin again. He saw himself, sun-browned skin covering Isabeau's pale and pink, his head turned on her breast, her eyes looking lovingly up at him. At Navarre.
The lock clicked open.
And Phillipe was himself; he was Isabeau; he was Navarre. He was them all. Penetrated and penetrating, he thrust and received, impaled and was impaled.
He remained, for a time, passive, Isabeau wrapped around him, Navarre plunging into him. After the first moment of stunned hesitation, the Captain withdrew and plunged home again, and again. Navarre's heavy thrusts drove Phillipe into Isabeau, taking them both with equal abandon.
Phillipe found he could control, for a few moments at a time, the unsteady whirl of their connection. He maintained Navarre's view as long as he could, taking in the man's pleasure in seeing his lady flushed with desire. Tears almost came at the wholly unexpected realization that Navarre was equally aroused by Phillipe's tight young body, by seeing his tousled brown hair fanned over Isabeau's shoulder, and knowing the young man's cock pushed again and again into her, driven by Navarre's powerful thrusts.
Isabeau's hands pushed against Phillipe's shoulders; he obeyed the silent command, drawing himself upright. He entangled his fingers with hers and looked down for a moment through his own eyes at her carnal beauty, from soft hair tossed in a halo around her head, to pert rosy breasts inviting his tongue, to the pale fur between her thighs where his cock parted the folds to breach her.
Then he let the magic take him again, filling him with Isabeau's world. The sweet fulfillment of his cock sliding deep, deeper with every thrust. Navarre's intense blue eyes staring down at her over Phillipe's shoulder. Phillipe relaxed back against Navarre's shoulder, letting the man's strong arms hold him up. He saw himself as she did. Saw his eyes, heavy-lidded with pleasure; the sinuous dance of his body, rocking like an experienced horseman with Navarre's driving thrusts. Navarre's arms tightened around his chest, pulling him closer; hot breath fanned over his neck, teeth nipping at the curve where neck met shoulder.
Phillipe shuddered and took the last step, as he had all the others, instinctively. He opened himself to them, letting them both feel the intense pleasure of taking and being taken simultaneously. Gave them the heat of Isabeau's cunt, the thick invasion of Navarre's cock, the tight clasp of his own ass.
Her startled cry was piercing as she writhed under him. Navarre gasped, then growled low in his throat. He shoved Phillipe down, tilting his hips up to meet the driving thrusts of his hard cock. Phillipe dropped his head, taking a tight red nipple into his mouth, sucking, driving her pleasure. She wailed, convulsing around him. He let his hips jerk with Navarre's powerful thrusts, pounding into him, pounding into her. The pleasure flowed backwards and forwards through the three, spilling from one to the next, and Phillipe was the nexus. He was the plunging cock, the pulsing channel. He was pleasure.
She screamed, high and sharp. Navarre growled, bit at
Phillipe's nape, and came, spilling hot seed into him as he continued
to thrust hard and deep. Phillipe was silent as a mouse, taking their
pleasure into him and pouring it all back out in a wave, jerking
between his cock and her cunt, convulsing as it all spilled out until
the world went black and he knew no more.
It was still dark when Phillipe woke. He slowly uncurled himself, turning from the edge of the bed. He was drained, empty. His heart and his ass ached.
They lay on the other side of the bed, wrapped in each other, in a wide clear swath of moonlight. She lay curled with her head on his chest, he with his arms around her as if he guarded something precious. And so he did.
Forcing back a sigh, Phillipe slid cautiously from the bed, staggering a little before his muscles remembered their proper function, and began slowly to dress.
The curse was well and truly broken now. And what use would two so intimately meant for each other have for a thief, no matter how talented? It was best, Phillipe had learned long ago, to leave before you were kicked out. Less painful that way.
Although, he told God silently, it would be nice to think there was a place. Some place, somewhere in this world, where I wouldn't be kicked out. It would certainly reflect well on you.
He had his jerkin over his head when a noise from the bed startled him. He whirled about to find Isabeau regarding him sleepily, Navarre propped up on an elbow to look over her.
"Where are you going, little thief?" His voice was rusty with sleep, rough and sexy.
"Uh... ah..." Phillipe ran a shaky hand through his hair as an aid to thought. "Well, you see, there's this... um... this girl. Maiden. Cursed, you see? And, having heard of me, naturally she summoned me to..."
"Rescue her?" Isabeau asked with a smile.
"Yeah. Rescue her." His eyes skittered around the room as he fought not to stare at the beautiful bodies lying so casually on display.
"Take off the jerkin, little Mouse, and come to bed," Navarre told him, a smile twitching the corner of his mouth.
"Sir? I don't think I--"
"Phillipe." The sound of his name on her lips cut him short. "Please."
He had the rough garment off almost before he had a chance to think about it. He hesitated at the edge of the bed, but Navarre held out a hand to him. The strong fingers grasped his own and drew him in. She kissed him, her mouth sweet and cool against his. Breathless, he was drawn out of the kiss by a strong hand and turned to meet Navarre's warm, demanding mouth. They exchanged long, dizzying kisses for a long time, passing him back and forth, occasionally kissing each other in between.
Finally, Phillipe found himself trapped in the center of the bed, with Isabeau cuddled into his chest and Navarre curled tightly against his back. A mouse caught between claws and fangs.
He couldn't have been happier.
Hawks and wolves, after all, mated for life.
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