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the island of conclusions

Four Kisses (Cooper/Sherman, R)

the island of conclusions

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Four Kisses (Cooper/Sherman, R)

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Ben Sherman
You may have heard me say how little I like writing kisses in m/m fic. And you many also have heard me say that I would probably never write Cooper/Sherman slash. This is me eating my words.

Title: Four Kisses
Rating: hard R
Pairing: Sherman/ Cooper
Word count: ~4K
Spoilers: none, really, but it makes more sense if you think of it happening before 3.09.
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit
a/n: many thanks to linaerys for the beta!


Summary: It felt like if he just tried hard enough, he could learn everything he needed to know about John from this alone.



one.

Ben was never sure whether the first one really happened.

+++

One moment everything was fine: he’d run the teenage perp to ground, had him up against the sun-baked wall of a warehouse and in the crosshairs of his gun.

And the next moment everything went to shit: the fucker suddenly had a knife in his hands, and was coming low and fast under Ben’s guard, cutting deep into the narrow span of flesh between vest and waistband.

Goddamn kamikaze move, Ben thought, as he took a step forward, and found himself flat on his back instead, shot hurtling heavenward, and a horrible, hot wetness spreading over his hip.

He blinked, and John was there, shouting their location into his radio and ripping at the buttons of his uniform shirt with his free hand. Why’s he doing that, Ben wondered, and then oh as John pressed the wadded material hard against his side.

“Stay with me, you hear?” John had his face close to Ben’s now, so close Ben could smell coffee and adrenaline-tinged sweat. “Don’t you dare pass out.”

And Ben tried to follow orders, he did. But it was no use.

+++

When he opened his eyes again, he was in a hospital room, and his mother was sitting on a chair pulled up close to the bed. She had twisted herself into a pretzel of anxiety–legs crossed and one ankle looped around the other for good measure, the fingers of one hand twining the fingers of the other into an elaborate knot–wishing she had a drink in them, no doubt. Her tight face looked about ten years older than it usually did.

“Oh, baby.” She let out a little breath of relief when she realized he was awake, untwisted her fingers to smooth them through his hair. “How’re you doing?”

Ben couldn’t have said. Mostly he felt like he was only half there – one whole side of his body was numb, and significant chunks of his brain still seemed to be offline. He tried shifting the parts of his body he could move, and found himself tethered to an IV drip and several monitors.

“Dunno,” he said, tongue thick and dry in his mouth. “You tell me.”

With another sympathetic noise, his mom fumbled for the water on the bedside table, helped him drink it through a straw. “You’re fine,” she said. “You’re fine. The knife nicked your spleen, so they had to go in and fix that before they could sew you up. And you lost a lot of blood. But you’re fine. Oh, Ben—" Her thin, tired face suddenly crumpled in on itself, and she choked down a hard sob.

“Hey. Mom.” Ben patted at the arm he could reach with his un-numb hand. “Don’t cry. I’m okay. It’s gonna be okay.” He had no idea if that was really true, but he hated seeing her cry.

She nodded, and sniffed, and pulled back from him to dab at her eyes. “The doctors wanted to know when you woke up.”

The doctor–a brusque gray-haired woman named Chang–seemed satisfied enough when she came in, told him he’d be home in a day or so, not even much of a scar.

“Your partner,” his mom said self-consciously when Dr. Chang had left. “He’s still here. Wouldn’t leave until you woke up.” She gave a brittle laugh, as if that kind of stubborn loyalty were exactly the kind of embarrassing faux pas she’d learned to expect from the police. “Made me promise I’d let him see you before he left.”

Ben had to suppress a smile at the image of Cooper wringing that promise out of his mother. He wondered whether he’d bothered to charm her, or just loomed over her until she gave him what he wanted.

“Yeah,” he said. “Sure.”

His mom let John in and hurried off, mumbling something about calling Ben’s sisters. John had been worried too, Ben could see it in the corners of his eyes. But there was no trace of it in his smile, or in the warm heavy hand he dropped onto the shoulder of Ben’s good side.

“Hope they’re giving you the good stuff,” he said, tilting his head towards the IV. “That was some chunk of flesh the little punk carved out of you.”

“High as a kite.” Ben tried to smile in return, though in truth it felt like the drugs were starting to wear thin, a deep achy exhaustion beginning to tug at him. “Did we--?”

“Not yet. But boy is he going to be sorry when we do. Cutting a cop.” John shook his head in a way that promised unpleasant things.

Ben tried to rustle up some helpful details of the guy’s appearance, but it was like chasing marbles over a tiled floor. He thought the perp had been wearing a gray t-shirt—but it might’ve been black. He’d definitely had some kind of tattoo, but its shape rippled and shifted as Ben tried to remember it.

“I—" he started. “He—"

John seemed to get it. “Don’t worry, kid,” he said, leaning down. “We’ll find him. You get some rest.”

And this time Ben couldn’t have disobeyed if he’d tried. His eyelids slid shut like they had lead weights attached to them. But he thought he felt, right before he went under, the brush of something rough and warm against his temple, light as breath.


two.

They were in the middle of a night shift, the coffee just beginning to go sour in Ben’s stomach, driving down a commercial strip of closed-down shops and lit up clubs, when they passed two men sitting on the curb. Both were dressed in an assortment of black leather and metal studs, older than your typical night-crawlers—in their fifties maybe. In the halogen wash of the streetlight, Ben could see the blood on the slighter one’s face. His stockier companion had a tight arm around his shoulders.

“Pull over,” Cooper said, and then, when they’d double-parked and approached, “Everything alright here, fellas?”

The injured guy lifted his head. The blood was coming from a jagged cut along one cheekbone, as if he’d been hit hard by someone with an elaborate ring. It slicked one side of his face and glinted eerily in the streetlight. He squinted up at them. “John?” he said.

Ben heard John draw a breath. “Ephraim?” he asked, in the softer, unguarded voice Ben rarely heard. “What the fuck happened?”

The bigger guy answered, releasing his hold on his friend and standing up. “Whaddaya think happened? Bunch of assholes jumped us, round the back of Zelda’s, that’s what. Usual fucking thing–took our money—watches, jewelry.” His hand went to his ear, where Ben could see now something had been ripped out. “Beat us up and called us a lot of names for good measure.”

“That right, Ephraim?” John asked. “That what happened?”

Ephraim nodded. He had close-cropped, graying hair and a ravaged-looking, angular face made beautiful by a pair of dark, sloe eyes.

“How many were there? You get a look at them?” John gestured at Ben to start taking notes.

“No, uh-uh.” The other man shook his head. “We’re not pressing charges. What’s the use? We’re just waiting for my sister to come pick us up.”

John glared at him. “How about you, Ephraim? You gonna press charges on what is starting to sound to me like a goddamn hate crime.”

“I—" Ephraim looked up at them. “John—I—" His wide, expressive mouth froze, a rictus of misery, and his shoulders started to shake. Ben couldn’t tell whether he was about to cry or scream.

“Hey,” said John, voice gone gentle again. “Hey. Let’s take a walk, okay?” He reached down a hand, tugging Ephraim to his feet, and then kept it around his bicep as he steered him down the sidewalk. They were about the same height, but Ephraim was much narrower, and he listed towards John as they moved. As Ben watched, John moved his hand to the small of Ephraim’s back, rested it there.

“Get a statement,” John barked without turning his head.

Ben turned back towards the other man, who he saw had been watching too. “Well,” the man said musingly, “that was a surprise.”

Ben itched to know what he meant, but he forced himself to concentrate on police business. “Now,” he said, pen in hand, “what time would you say the incident occurred?”

+++

Neither of them said much for the rest of the shift.

“So. That guy--?” Ben had tried as they watched Ephraim and his friend—Paul, his name turned out to be, Paul Drevitch—getting into Paul’s sister’s minivan.

“Old friend,” said John, and that was that.

Ben had grown used to John’s silences. He liked to think he knew his way around them now, and, truth be told, they suited him; he was sometimes grateful to be able to spend time with someone who didn’t demand the constant back and forth of conversation, for whom a look, a smile, a touch was usually enough. It was a relief from just about everyone else he’d ever known.

But tonight he found himself filling the quiet with all kinds of inappropriate thoughts. He’d schooled himself not to think too much about John being gay. It wasn’t appropriate, he’d told himself, was almost skeevy, to wonder about it—to think about what kind of men John might like, what kinds of activities. He never wondered that kind of thing about Dewey and his wife—why would he? And if Chickie had made random appearances in a dream or two, well, he didn’t have much control over that. But he wasn’t going to speculate about John. And usually Ben was pretty good at following his own rules. But the image of John’s hand on Ephraim’s back gnawed at him. Had they been friends or lovers? Was that John’s type—tall and lean, his own age or older?

He kept darting looks at John, different scenarios skimming across him mind, he couldn’t help it.

Eventually, of course, John called him on it. “You got something you wanna ask me, boot?” He threw the nickname out like a weapon.

Ben shook his head, hoping that the darkness would cover his ridiculous blush.

“Then quit with the googly-eyes already.”

Ben looked straight ahead after that, and was actually happy when they caught a bunch of garbage calls.

By the time they’d parked the squad car in the station lot, dawn was breaking and John was working on a vast and directionless fury. Ben hated when that happened–it always made him want to hunch his shoulders up around his ears and look around for available cover. At least the shift was over now, he thought, opening his door.

But John was already there. Without a word, he dragged Ben out and shoved him hard against the side of the car.

“You wanna know what it’s like for gays?” he snarled. “Is that what you’ve been wondering about all night?”

Ben shook his head, but it didn’t matter. John curled a rough palm around his jaw, tilted his head back, and kissed him. That is, if you could call something a kiss that was really a blow in disguise. He ground Ben’s lips against his teeth so hard it hurt and kept a viselike, bruising grip on the back of his neck—bore down with enough of his weight that Ben could feel his back arching painfully over the car.

John was only proving a point, Ben knew that, proving it in as brutal and abrasive a way as he could. But the hot heft of John’s body pressing into him did something to him nevertheless—set his pulse hammering in his ears, and hit something so low in his belly his knees went weak.

It seemed to go on forever, a crazy storm of sensation, but it was probably only fifteen or twenty seconds before John abruptly released him, stepped back and watched, hands on hips, while Ben dragged a hand across his mouth and tried to get his breathing under control. Before he could stop himself, Ben cast a worried eye around the parking lot: it was getting lighter very second, and he could hear motors running not far off.

“That’s right,” John said fiercely. “You think about it—you think about it all day, and tomorrow, too. Did anyone see? Will they tell your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your sergeant? What’re they going to do when they find out? Cry? Report you? Beat you up? You wondering what it’s like? That’s what it’s like.”

He turned on his heel and walked into the station house, perfectly upright, except for the slight hitch in his gait he always had by the end of shift.

Ben slumped forward, hands on his knees. He was shaking, though with fury or adrenaline or desire he couldn’t have said. Whatever it was, it was a long time before he could stand up again.

three.

Ben couldn’t shake the kiss. Rationally, he knew it hadn’t had anything to do with sex. But he couldn’t seem to get his body to get on board with that idea. At the oddest times, he’d feel again the barely leashed power of John’s body leaning into him, have the same odd sense that the answers to all his questions had lain just on the other side of those thin layers of clothing, had been almost decipherable in the movement of John’s lips.

Ben managed to keep everything tamped down at work–-he was damn good at keeping things tamped down, after all-–but at night, sometimes even when he was with a girl, the memory would come barreling back, leave him gasping in its wake.

It got to the point where he thought maybe he’d have to do something about it, even though it seemed like precisely the kind of line you should never cross with your training officer. And if John was more than that to him now, Ben still had no idea what that was.

But Ben had never been a pussy about sex, and he wasn’t going to start now.

There was a retirement party—some guy Ben barely knew. But he went, because it was expected, and because it was one of the few occasions when he might see John outside the job.

And sure enough, when he made his way into the restaurant, there was John, elbows on the bar and wearing a smile that Ben could tell was pasted on from halfway across the room.

Ben’s stomach started a slow, mean, twist and his mouth went dry. It was a bad time—anyone could see it was a bad time. But then, of course, there was never going to be a good time for this.

John grunted a welcome as Ben took the stool next to him and gestured to the bartender for a beer. Ben took a long swallow when it came. Heart in his mouth and looking straight ahead, he said, “I’m still wondering.”

And either John was an even better cop than Ben thought he was, or, all this time, he had been wondering too, because he swung his head around and fixed Ben with a sharp, level gaze. And Ben was sure, absolutely fucking sure, that John knew exactly what he was talking about.

He steeled himself for what was about to happen: the inevitable harangue; John slamming down his drink and walking out. But neither came.

“Yeah?” said John, and if his voice wasn’t inviting Ben in, it wasn’t shutting him out either.

“Yeah,” Ben answered, though he barely had breath for the single syllable.

“Then follow me home.”

+++

Ben had no idea what he was expecting when he pushed open the door to John’s place. He deliberately hadn’t let himself think about it on the ride over, bike thrumming between his thighs and the wind in his face.

But if he had let himself think about it, he supposed he would have expected it to be something like that time in the pre-dawn parking lot—fast and aggressive and confrontational. Kind of like fighting, but with hard-ons.

It wasn’t like that.

Nor was it like being with any girl Ben could remember. He wasn’t the type to boast about his skills in the sack, but he did like to make sure his partner had a good time, liked to be pretty thorough about meeting her needs before he took care of his own.

But the minute John pushed him up against the wall and kissed him, any chance of that kind of restraint was shot to hell.

Because John took him right the fuck apart .

He urged his tongue through Ben’s lips like he was staking a claim, thrusting, sucking, biting, his thumbs running hot grooves up Ben’s throat until Ben was up on his goddamn toes, angling for more.

It was like going from zero to sixty on some crazy, balls-out chase, and without even knowing how he’d gotten there, Ben was hard and heavy as a rock, hips bucking forwards, looking for contact, wanting flesh against flesh. But he couldn’t get there with his dick, and he couldn’t get there with his hands either. John had him pinned, a knee between his legs, forearms on his shoulders, the length of his erection digging into Ben’s hip.

A little desperate, maybe even a little out of his head, Ben tried pushing against him, tried to get his arms back under his own control. But John held him easily, kept right on tongue-fucking Ben’s mouth, slower now, taking his own sweet time. Ben tried again, a little harder. He couldn’t budge.

And, shit, if that didn’t turn him on even more. Because maybe it should scare him, John not letting him go, and maybe it should piss him off. But it didn’t, not either. It felt, in some strange way, like a thing he’d always wanted and never known how to ask for. Like a promise that nothing would ever be too much—that he could pour whatever he wanted into this, any new-stoked or pent-up desire—and John would let him, would take it all.

When John finally pulled back to look at him, Ben almost whimpered, wanting more. John’s lips were red, a little swollen-looking now, and his cheeks were flushed.

“What now?” he said, voice deep in his chest. “Your call.”

And, weird as it was, now that he’d finally been liberated, Ben couldn’t move. He stood, his dick straining against the zipper of his jeans, staring at John, their breath beating the same ragged, insistent rhythm.

“Fuck me,” Ben said, and until the words left his mouth he had had no idea he was going to say them. “I want you to fuck me,” he said again, testing the truth of it. And it held: he never would have guessed it before tonight, but he wanted the weight of John’s body on him--he wanted to be held down, taken, filled.

“You ever done that before? “ John asked, a trace of his skeptical, on-duty self surfacing. “You ever been fucked?”

“Yeah.” Ben brazened it out. “Couple of times. By a girl. With a strap on.”

John seemed genuinely amused. “This,” he said, “ain’t gonna be nothing like that. C’mon, then, if you’re sure—I’m too old to do it standing up.”

four.

Ben had gotten John to come back to his place, for once, thinking the change of scene might help, might blunt the hard edge of meanness John got when his back was really bad. Ben had put a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara in front of him – one of the few things he could cook with confidence – and hadn’t fussed too much when it had gone nearly untouched. He’d had better luck with the beer.

Afterward, he’d blown John with an enthusiasm he hoped made up for his lack of expertise. John hadn’t seemed to mind–-had lost a bit of his surly reserve, at least, fingers turning gentle in Ben’s hair. He’d even pushed Ben back onto the bed when he was finished and demonstrated the wonders a little experience could do.

But none of it had been enough. John’s pain, his pills, still lay between them like No Man’s Land—a place Ben couldn’t map and John wouldn’t explain. Terra incognita, for all it seemed the key to everything.

Ben had been asleep for what seemed like two minutes when the bed shifted under him, and he heard a muted groan as John levered himself upright. Foggy with exhaustion, he reached out a hand, but only managed to catch the sweat-slicked plane of John’s back as he pulled away.

“Hey,” he mumbled, “lay down, woudja?”

John shrugged away from him with an efficient twist and a terse “go back to sleep.”

With a sigh, Ben struggled onto his back, and watched with a kind of mute, heavy resignation as John pulled on his boxers, gathered up the rest of his clothes, and shuffled towards the bathroom. He flung an arm over his face, listened to the toilet flush, and steeled himself for the inevitable click of the front door.

It never came.

Instead, as far as Ben could tell, John had gotten himself another beer, and was pacing around Ben’s living room in the dark, knocking against things occasionally with a muttered curse or clink.

He was just trying to decide whether the wiser course of action would be to get up and keep him company or to go back to sleep when something shattered with a sharp crack, and there was the crystalline clatter of glass falling to the ground.

A bitten off curse. And then silence.

Ben was out of bed in and in the other room before he realized he was still naked. Not that he cared. He flicked on the overhead lights, and there was John – standing stock still in front of the ruin of one of Ben’s framed photographs. He had one hand fisted in the palm of the other, and Ben could see a few drops of blood starting to ooze out between his fingers.

With a thousand words of comfort and concern clawing at his throat, Ben moved toward him, caught his hands between his own. He risked one look at John’s face, but he dropped his eyes quick. Not because of the pain he found there, or even the anger, but because of the blankness, a horrible, deep confusion, as if John had no idea how he’d ended up here, how he’d done himself this hurt.

Ben turned his attention to John’s hand, prying it out of its cradle of fingers. It wasn’t that bad—three or four narrow gashes across the knuckles, streaking the skin there red. He should get the first aid kit from the kitchen, he thought, the antibiotic ointment and the Band-Aids.

He drew the hand to his lips instead.

He mouthed over the rough skin of John’s knuckles, tasting copper, pushed his tongue into the spaces between his fingers. It felt like if he just tried hard enough, he could learn everything he needed to know about John from this alone—from the pattern of his calluses, the flavor of his sweat, the whorl of his skin.

John’s hand was heavy in his own, still fisted tight. But as Ben licked the blood away, sucked gently at the knobs of bone, laved across the pulse point at the bottom of his thumb, the rigidity went out of it. His fingers relaxed, opened, until they were entangled with Ben’s own.

end

  • HOLY COW I LOVE THIS. I love every nuance of it, and also, it's extremely hot, but mostly I'm enthralled with your characterization of Cooper. #2 is the gut-punch of this thing - a kiss like a blow, and then the explanation from Cooper taking the breath out of Ben. Dude. This whole thing is tremendous, and the ending, whoa. *happy dance!!!*
    • Oh, I'm so happy you enjoyed this! It means a lot to me, since you were the one who got me to start watching the show in the first place--and now these characters have gotten so far under my skin--and if you thought I captured something of them here, I'm so thrilled *beams*

      thanks for reading!

      (watching the finale tonight--there had better be an S4!)

      Edited at 2011-03-10 12:56 am (UTC)
  • Oh my god, this is so lovely, and hot, and just. I love how Ben keeps looking, how he finds his way in just a little bit more each time. Beautiful.
    • Thank you for the kind words--I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And that Ben's desire not just to be with John, but to also understand him, came through.

      thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • Oooh, I absolutely loved this. Tight writing, lovely characterization, and Ben was so adorable in the beginning, with all his wondering snout John and ephraim.

    And that line about Ben trying to remember something, likened to chasing marbles? gorgeous.

    It's been awhile since I've read such awesome southland fic! Thanks for writing <3
    • You are very welcome--thank you for the lovely feedback! I'm glad you liked that line--I worry that sometimes I get a little carried away with my similes, so it's good to know if they work.

      Thanks so much for reading--I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      Edited at 2011-03-10 01:11 am (UTC)
  • Wow - this was so amazing :) Absolutely loved each subtlety, and the characterizations of both of them were so well done. Awesome - seriously :D
    • Thanks so much--I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm especially glad to hear that the characterizations worked for you--I love these guys, but they are so hard to write--

      thanks for reading and commenting!
  • OMG that was so perfect and very in-character! I could easily picture both of them in your writing. You did an amazing work here and I hope you continue writing Southland fics!

    BTW, can I ask you to post your fic here too? southland_slash I created this comm recently and it needs good fic posts there.
  • *fans self* Holy fuck. That's. Whoa.
  • Thanks so much for writing this! Just what I needed before the season finale tomorrow! I hope you continue to write Cooper & Ben fics...you definately do it right!
  • This is so sweet .

    ......You wondering what it’s like? That’s what it’s like
    I can totally hear John saying that in my ears.
    • Yay! I'm glad that moment sounded plausible--I was a little worried--

      thanks so much for reading--I'm glad you enjoyed it!
  • Love this!!! Totally perfect.
  • GUH, this is so, so good. I love each section, and together it makes a wonderful whole.
    • Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it--I never actually thought I'd be able to get into this place with these two, if you know what I mean, but the last part of the season seems to have gotten me there :)

      thanks so much for reading!
  • This is really beautiful. The lesson in the parking lot is really powerful (actually, in grad school, my husband had a similar lesson taught to him when, to help a co-student with his seminar, he agreed to wear a t-shirt that said "Boyfriend" on it, not knowing exactly what was going to happen. In the middle of the seminar, our fellow student, who was gay but not generally out, took off his sweater to reveal his own shirt that said "I'm not gay but my boyfriend is." It was a brilliant illustration of the complexities of that student's life). John's lesson here is so right on, so incisive, just like John. And I love the way that the story moves past the typical "climax" of sex to something way more intimate and meaningful.

    Oh, and that image of chasing marbles across a tile floor. Really, really nice.
    • Thank you! Both for the nice feedback, and for sharing the story about your husband--that sounds like a moment that would really have hit home. And I'm relieved John's actions seemed plausible--

      You know, I was originally going to end it with a more elaborate sex scene ("three kisses" sounded good), but I didn't want it to be one of those sex-solves-everything stories, and given the direction of the season, I didn't want it to end with John always being in charge. So I'm happy that sequence worked for you!

      thanks so much for reading and for the thoughtful comment!
  • Nice. Very, very nice.
  • Oh wow. SO MUCH love for this. So very much.
  • mmm, lovely on so many different levels. more, pretty please?
    • Thanks for the kind words--I'm so glad you enjoyed it! My Southland muse is a little fickle, but I hope there'll be more :)

      thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Lovely, interesting and so in character.
  • That was great. I love your way with words.
  • I really liked this.
  • (no subject) - monanotlisa
    • Thanks for the kind words! I love them, and the connection between them, so much--I'm really pleased if you thought I captured some of that in the fic.

      thanks for reading!
  • This was really well done, so visceral, but subtle as well. And I loved how the boys said as much with their physicality as they did with their words.
    • Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. the boys said as much with their physicality as they did with their words.: this is something I always aim for, so I really appreciate this comment!

      thanks for reading!
  • (no subject) - yukichouji
    • Thank you so much for the lovely feedback! I find them very hard characters to get inside, too, and so I'm thrilled you thought it worked here.

      Thank for you reading and commenting--I'm glad you enjoyed it!
  • I love this pairing and this show, so I thought I'd check this out. Superb!

    And this:

    “That’s right,” John said fiercely. “You think about it—you think about it all day, and tomorrow, too. Did anyone see? Will they tell your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your sergeant? What’re they going to do when they find out? Cry? Report you? Beat you up? You wondering what it’s like? That’s what it’s like.”

    Heartbreaking. True. Wow.
    • Hey--somehow I thought you'd read this story before--but very glad you enjoyed it now!

      I love this show and these characters and I loved this pairing when it seemed like a possibility :( Thinking about this story makes me nostalgic for it, though I think the development has been realistic).

      Glad you liked that part--it's one of my favorites!
  • Poor John! He's always in pain. I'm glad that he has Ben.
  • this the best fic ive read in this fandome so far really really good
    thanx
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