Friday, July 28, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Even In Death Chapter 22 - Epilogue

Chapter 22 – Epilogue – Halfway to Anywhere
We're leaving here tonight
There's no need to tell anyone
They'd only hold us down
So by the mornings light
We'll be half way to anywhere
Where no one needs a reason

Forget this life 
Come with me
Don't look back you're safe now
Unlock your heart
Drop your guard
No one's left to stop you
“Anywhere” by Evanescence
EDWARD
“Thanks for your help today, Dr. Masen,” Dr. Whitewater called to me from across the parking lot.
“See you in a few weeks,” I told her. I smiled, giving a wave her way before getting into my car.
Volunteering at the Crescent City Health Clinic was rewarding most days. Though, today I was ready to go home; I had plans. It was an hour drive from Crescent City, California, to Gold Beach, Oregon, but I only went a few times a month to help them out, and it was getting me acclimated to practicing medicine again. Colds, skin rashes, and the occasional broken arm at the family medicine clinic was easier than the intensity of a hospital ER or children’s ward.
I pulled onto the 101 heading north toward home. Home. Alaska had been home until a little over a month ago. We’d stayed on the Denali property for almost two years after my change. There had been close calls with my diet, which was why we’d stayed longer than anticipated. A hiking couple had almost ruined me not long after Charlie’s wedding. A scraped arm combined with adrenaline had pulled at me so hard during a hunt that it took Bella’s shield, Emmett’s strength, and Jasper’s calming to get me to stop. Up until that point, I thought I’d been ready to handle a more populated area, but no.

My mind reading, while helpful and a curse all at once, was another thing I’d had to hone. It was still loud, still buzzing, but I’d learned to focus beyond the noise in my head. With Alice’s help, I’d learned to filter most of it. She had decades of experience with her visions, and she showed me repeatedly when something was insignificant and when something was important. Errant thoughts concerning looks, attraction, and fantasies about the members of the Cullen family and my wife weren’t important. Curiosity concerning age, actions, and whether or not we were something altogether different – that was important. And Alice and I worked together flawlessly. We’d tested it in public more times than I could count. Family outings were the perfect excuse to try.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure where I’d be without any of them. As much as I had been ready to find a life of my own with Bella, I was grateful for the Cullens and the Denalis, as well. All of them. Their patience was unlimited, it had seemed. Their experiences were learning tools. Every one of them offered up their memories and thoughts in order to teach me.
The vampire mind was fascinating. Multitasking was an understatement when it came to how much I could absorb, process, and retain now versus my human mind. Memory was a complete recall of anything read or witnessed. Carlisle told me several times that when I was ready to get back to practicing medicine, that memory would be my biggest ally. And he was right. He was also the reason I’d decided to slowly push my limits with the clinic.
But no one was as big of a cheerleader as my Bella.
Just the thought of her brought a smile to my face as I drew closer to home. She was all things good about this new life. No struggle or setback or worry lasted long while she was with me. The short yet dark time when I thought she was gone was almost a blurry memory. The loss of her had wrecked me, but what I’d gotten in return was infinitely better. It was more, it was intense, and it was forever.
When I first met her in college, we were so very good together. And the words “made for each other” were used all the time. Now, it seemed to mean more because they were so very true. She was my safe haven from minds, bloodlust, and overwhelming sensations that this new life could throw my way. And I was hers.
Carlisle had once described mating to me as a connection, a port in the storm. He’d said we’d need each other when this life became too much or not enough or disturbing. He’d said that we’d need our connection in which to anchor ourselves. He was right. Despite the Cullens helpfulness, it would always be her.
The setting sun dropped low on the Pacific Ocean as I pulled into our driveway. I smiled at the house we’d only been in since we’d left Alaska. It was ours, and ours alone. Carlisle and the rest of the Cullens were barely even three miles away in a bigger, more expensive home. We’d all voted on Gold Beach for several reasons – there were an average of a hundred and sixty rainy days a year, it was off the beaten path, and we were right next to Rogue River-Siskuyou National Park. The area was perfect, and for Bella and me, we weren’t too far for Charlie to visit.
I pulled into the garage, smiling at how much we loved this new house. I’d thought my Bella loved the one we’d bought in Seattle, but this one was all about her. I’d finally put the Seattle house on the market, and it sold quickly. We’d bought this one almost immediately. And we’d keep this one, even when we’d have to move on from the area. It would be there for decades to come. This one would be ours until it fell to the ground.
“Bella?” I called, dropping my keys onto the kitchen counter. I inhaled deeply, listened intently, but the only noises I heard were the ticking of the clock, the hum of the refrigerator, and the crashing waves of the ocean hitting the beach right outside our backdoor. “Steve?” I chuckled, shaking my head at the silence that I received in return.
Walking through this house was completely different than the one in Seattle. Here, Bella could put her touch in every room. This house allowed her to do what we’d never been able to do in Seattle – settle in. And Bella’s love and touch and creativity was everywhere. Curtains, vases, framed photographs and artwork – it all looked so much better than when I’d tried to unpack through loss and grief. This place, these small things were the way it should’ve been. And we’d had so much fun and silly arguments doing it together. We’d painted and decorated and unpacked together, and we’d barely come up for air or hunting for a solid week. Not even the Cullens disturbed that, because they’d known that we had been looking forward to it so much, we’d barely shut up about it. This was the one thing, the first thing I wanted to give back to Bella, and it wasn’t something I was taking lightly.
The music room was set up very much the same as the Seattle house, with my piano the focal point and Bella’s books filling the wall full of shelves. Our bedroom upstairs overlooked the back of the house and the beach. The kitchen was rarely used now, the living room was comfortable, and there was a spare room for Charlie and Sue whenever they decided to visit. The whole house was open, airy, with honey-colored wood and stone and plenty of natural light.
As beautiful and comfortable as our house was, it was still empty. But I knew where to find them.
I stepped out the back door into the chilly December air, gazing over the yard toward the beach. The scent of them was strong and recent, so I followed it. Their trail led down the steps and through the grass, spilling out onto the sand where their footprints started. The beach was a deep orange now, even though the day had been cloudy, and strange, dark shadows cast across the sand from the large rocks on the shore. The scent of salty water and impending rain met my nose, along with the scent of Steve.
I found him on his side, his eyes wide as he watched small birds run to and from the waves crashing to shore. The very tip of his long orange tail swished back and forth, but he made no move to give chase; he was just relaxing.
“Hey, Steve,” I called him, smiling when he hummed excitedly and ran to me, tail high and eyes bright. Kneeling down, I scooped him up, chuckling when he repeatedly rubbed his face on mine. “Missed you, too, buddy.”
The scent I needed most met my nose, and I set Steve down onto the sand. He kept pace with me as I navigated the rocks. I found her leaning against a tall boulder, the sunset making her a silhouette. To look at her hurt. She was so beautiful, so very still, and if I didn’t know her so well, I’d say sad. But she wasn’t sad. Hell, Bella was rarely sad. She was simply lost in thought, and I didn’t need her shield lifted for me to know what she was thinking.
“Happy anniversary, sweetheart,” I called softly, walking to her. The resulting smile was what I honestly lived to see.
“You’re early,” she said, almost chastising, but she was in my arms before I could blink. “I thought you’d be another hour.”
“Nope. Not tonight.”
She grinned, cupping my face in her hands as I lifted her off the rocky ground. “Happy anniversary to you too.”
“So…dinner and a movie? Hotel room?” I asked teasingly, because those were the things we’d done on our first anniversary.
Bella’s giggle was adorable. “Um, Netflix and chill?”
“If that’s what you want,” I said through a laugh. “I’m fresh out of lunatic, red-headed nomads to fight.”
Bella’s head fell back with her laugh at my mentioning of our second anniversary, which had resulted in my change.
“There’s always hunting…” I whispered against the sweet-smelling skin of her throat, but I trailed off as she shook her head. Last year we’d gone hunting in Alaska for our third anniversary.
Bella’s legs were securely wrapped around my waist, her fingers slipping through my hair languidly as she gazed at me lovingly.
“Does it make me completely boring if I just want to hole ourselves up in the house and ignore the world?” she asked me, dropping kisses to my forehead, nose, and finally lips.
“No, ma’am.”
“Good, because I think that sounds kinda perfect.”
“Me, too.”
I turned to carry her back to the house, both of us calling for Steve, who was sitting on a rock with his tail wrapped all the way around his feet. He’d gone back to watching the birds at the water, as if he couldn’t quite figure out why they kept running back and forth. However, he turned when we called him, leading the way back up the beach and through the backyard.
Once inside and upstairs in the bedroom, I set Bella down onto the bed, kissing her lips roughly. “Let me change clothes, and I’m all yours,” I told her, and she smiled and nodded. I backed away, tugging my tie off and narrowing my eyes her way. “What are you thinking?” I asked, tilting my head a little as I kicked out of my shoes at the same time.
Her grin was adorable and a bit shy when she gazed down to the floor. “I, umm, I got a job today.”
My mouth opened and shut, and I shrugged out of my button-down shirt, tossing it into the laundry basket, along with my undershirt. I walked back to the bed, sitting next to her.
“Spill, sweetheart,” I said through a chuckle. “I didn’t know you were looking. I thought…”
“I wasn’t, Edward!” she countered, shaking her head. “It just sort of…happened.” She shrugged a shoulder, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I went with Esme today to register Alice, Jasper, Rose, and Emmett for Gold Beach High School. I just was keeping her company. She and I were working on…you know, whatever part we’ve got to play, and well, while we were there, they needed a school librarian assistant.”
Smiling, I pulled her in for a kiss. “Are you sure you’re ready, my Bella?”
“Yeah, I think so. And it’s only part-time. It’s perfect for days you’re at the clinic, and I’ll be with the rest of them…sorta.” She grinned at herself, but again, she shrugged as she blinked adorably up at me. “The story is a little awkward, but it works with the IDs that Jenks set up for me.”
Wrinkling my nose, I nodded. Technically, Isabella Marie Swan Masen was dead on paper, so Bella had to have an identity. The Cullens’ lawyer provided all of them with false papers with no questions asked. He was paid very well for it, and he was just shady enough to ignore the fact that his clients changed names on some sort of regular basis. Not to mention, they’d been coming to him for close to thirty years. Bella had argued for Swan, for Dwyer, for even Mason again but spelled differently, but she was told she needed to be completely separated from her old life. She resigned herself to Cullen when she was told in a few years she could change it again.
Therefore, Isabella Cullen was born…on paper. To me, she was still Mrs. Masen. To me, she was still my wife. She still wore the rings I gave her. She still called herself Dr. Masen’s wife. She just had to carry another name in her wallet. It was one of the harder lessons we’d learned about this new life we were settling into, so it would take some getting used to.
Bella scooted closer, and I simply gave in to the need to hold her close, pulling her to my lap. She cupped my face.
“I know you hate it,” she whispered, grimacing a little, “but it keeps me from having to hide away from the world. You know, Bella Cullen has this really handsome doctor boyfriend…”
Chuckling, I rolled my eyes, but I nodded, too. However, she kept going.
“You and I are older – physically – than Carlisle and Esme. We can’t pass for the high school kids that the rest can, so I’m Carlisle’s cousin, you’re my boyfriend, and we all moved here from Alaska. It’s simple and weird, and we’ve got to play the part, Edward, because we have no choice, unless we run away from it all and live like hermits in the fucking woods.”
I barked a laugh at her touch of temper, but I kissed her. “I know, I know! I just… I worked really hard to make you a Masen.”
Bella giggled, kissing me roughly. “It wasn’t that hard, baby. I said yes before you could finish the damn question.”
“True,” I whispered, tilting my head a little. “That was a good day.” My voice was wistful and silly.
“Yeah, it was.”
“Does all this mean I can ask you again?”
Bella laughed. “If that’s what you want,” she said, repeating what I’d said to her on the beach. “I’m kind of a sure thing, so no need to be all nervous next time. Okay?”
Chuckling, I nodded a kissed her lips. “I was so very nervous.”
“I know. I wasn’t sure what the hell was wrong with you that day.”
Grinning, I groaned a little. “Oh, Bella… You were too pretty, and it didn’t matter that we were already living together. I just… I wanted you to know I wanted it all with you, before my residency took over my entire life. You were it for me the second you said, ‘I’ll see you ’round,’ in the library.”
“Me, too.”
God, I lived for these conversations, this rhythm we’d had since the beginning. They were comforting, no matter the subject. I’m certain every decision or problem we’d ever had we’d solved just like we were now.
I was slowly losing myself with her on my lap. Trailing the back of my fingers along her cheek, I asked, “So when do you start?”
“When school is back in session. January.”
“Is your doctor boyfriend allowed to visit?”
Bella giggled. “Yeah, definitely.”
“Well, then… Congratulations, sweetheart.” I brushed kisses across her lips – top, bottom, middle – ghosting more along her cheek to her ear. “So, it seems we have more to celebrate than our wedding anniversary.”
Bella looked shy yet proud at the same time, and her mind finally opened to me for the first time since I’d been home. She was nervous about getting back out in the world, because she didn’t want to mess up. She was happy we were finding some sort of normal with our new lives. However, above all of that, her love for me, her sweet, unconditional adoration was overriding every other thought in her mind.
She showed me what she’d been thinking when I’d found her on the beach. It had been us. All our history, our love, our heartbreak, and our reunion she’d been reliving out there as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Fate wasn’t something she’d given much thought to, but whatever it was that gave us each other – not once, but two times – felt damn close to it.
Cupping her face, I kissed her softly. “Tunnel vision, sweetheart,” I teased in a whisper.
A soft smile curled the corners of her lips briefly, but she nodded. “Yeah, right now, I definitely have tunnel vision.”
The next thing her mind told me was that she wanted me. And I gave in completely. Slipping my fingers beneath her shirt, I gently lifted it off over her head. Jeans were next, and soon, I was guiding her to the middle of our bed. Her hands ghosted down my back and around to my belt, but I shifted away from her, because I was still in my black dress pants.
“Hold that thought, baby,” I whispered against her collarbone as I worked my way down her body. “I want to savor you, worship every inch of you.”
There were things that never changed, despite our new immortality. The way Bella said my name, the way her legs opened for me, the distinct flavor of her – all that was the same. However, the intensity of her orgasm was ten times more. The strength in which she held me to her or flipped me over and straddled me would’ve been disarming if I wasn’t used to it by now – and loved it so damn much. It made me harder for her as I grinned up at her pinning me to our bed.
Dragging my tongue along my bottom lip, I couldn’t help but tease her. “You act like I’m trying to get away, Bella.”
Her wicked chuckle pushed out against the skin of my stomach, and golden eyes locked on to my own as she swirled her tongue around my navel. My belt was undone, and my pants and underwear were removed swiftly. Her mouth and tongue and hands did things to my cock that had my eyes rolling back into my head, but I started to shake, trying to stave off coming.
“No, no… Bella… Baby, wait,” I begged her, pulling her up to my face. “Not that way. I…”
There was never going to be anything better than the feeling of becoming one with her, with my wife, with my mate. And as soon as I was completely inside her, everything else became insignificant.
~o~EID~o~
Pulling into the parking lot of Gold Beach High, I glanced around. Classes were almost over, and some of the students were already making their way to their cars. I spotted Rosalie’s BMW on the side row, and I pulled in next to it. Normally, Bella’s Volvo would be next to it, but I had driven her in that morning.
It was the last day before Spring Break. Bella had been at the school for a little over two months. She loved it. She’d been nervous at first, which was understandable, what with all the humans surrounding her day in and day out. However, her shield kept it all at bay. It also helped that she only worked a couple of days a week.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how any of them did it. Taking the same public school classes, taking the same tests, listening to the same whispers of teenage kids – it would drive me mad. And I would’ve heard all the thoughts of students and teachers on top of it all. I wasn’t sure I’d survive it, and it had nothing to do with the scent of blood and the pounding heartbeats I was walking through now as I passed by full classrooms. I’d visited the school a handful of times since they’d all started here, and the ridiculous crushes, the lewd thoughts, and the jealousy that was aimed our way was taxing on my mind. The hospital where Carlisle worked wasn’t even as harsh as this environment.
I counted myself lucky that I appeared too old to pull off the average student. I’d hated high school the first time around; I couldn’t imagine repeating it over and over. It would’ve been like purgatory – some sort of penitence for sins committed. No thank you.
Making my way through the halls, I stepped into the library. The check-out desk was vacant, and there were a few students at tables here and there. Most minds were ready for the week off. I kept my face passive when thoughts turned to me, who I was to “Miss Cullen,” and just what the hell was in the water of Alaska in order for all of us to look as “hot” as we did. The latter made me want to roll my eyes. A small, snarky side of me wanted to tell them it wasn’t water we drank.
My mouth twitched a little when I heard Alice’s amused mind from the back of the library. Do that, and we’ll have to start all over someplace else.
I stepped around the last row of bookshelves, smiling at the scene in front of me. Bella was leaning on her book cart, which was almost empty, while Rose, Emmett, Jasper, and Alice spoke softly.
This was our new normal, it seemed. Bella and I may have lost our mortality, our grip on our old lives, but we’d gained a new family. They had been together for decades, with deep relationships, but they’d welcomed us into their fold with open arms. When I’d first met them all, I couldn’t fathom so many different personalities getting along, but we all did. They were a support system that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Bella and I loved our privacy, our own space, but they helped us with this new life.
“Ah, there he is!” Jasper whispered with a grin.
“What’s up, Doc?” Emmett asked, kicking back in his chair until the legs gave an eerie creak.
“Hey, baby.” Bella walked to me, kissing my lips softly. “You’ll have to hang out just a little bit before I can leave.”
“Sure, sweetheart.”
She kissed me again, shattering the heart of a poor boy at the closest bookshelf. He thought she was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. When my gaze shot to his, he looked back at the books on the shelf in front of him. That was a new part of me I couldn’t stop. It was something I’d discussed with Carlisle repeatedly, because I was confident in my relationship, my mate, but he’d said that my talent combined with mating would probably always be a burden. It was a bit instinctual to mark my territory, to claim what was mine, or to make the other back down. He explained that as time wore on, I’d learn to ignore it, but the need to eradicate the mere idea of someone wanting Bella would always be there. He’d explained that he felt the same way, along with Jasper and Emmett. It just…was.
Jasper chuckled as Bella went back to shelving books before the last bell. “Poor kid. You scared the shit out of him.” He laughed a little harder when I shrugged a shoulder and took a seat next to Rose and across from Alice. “He’s pushing out some jealousy, fear, and extreme disappointment.”
“Oh, well,” I countered with a sigh, smirking at Rose’s chuckle and nodding at her mental question. “Yeah, we’re going. I think Carlisle wants to get away and see how we’re all doing since the move,” I explained to her, and she smiled, giving me a quick glance up from her magazine.
Rose was the one relationship that hadn’t come easy. We’d butted heads when I was human, because I posed a danger knowing what they were. She’d also underestimated Bella’s and my relationship. It had taken until the run-in with the Volturi for us to find a common ground.
Alice nodded. “Should be fun. It usually is when we go on a big hunt.”
“Definitely,” Emmett agreed with a nod. “And it’s Northern California and spring, so there’s bears, maybe some panthers, and a whole mess of deer.”
I nodded, looking forward to the whole thing. We tamped down what we were most of the time, but during a hunt, we could let go for a short time. There were precautions, of course. There was the human element without a doubt. We also had to be careful not to take an animal with offspring, not to deplete an entire species, and we had to keep in mind what animals were struggling or on the endangered lists. There had been a boom of mountain lions in California, so we were clear to hunt those. Carlisle had considered hunting in the jungles of Brazil, but the jaguar was low in numbers this year.
Brazil had been intriguing, but I was glad we were staying in the States. Bella had been worried about leaving Steve behind, and it didn’t matter that we’d found the best, most expensive boarder. California meant he could come with us and stay in the cabin when we were out hunting. I was fairly certain there wasn’t a cat on the planet that traveled and explored as much as Steve. It was a given that he was coming with us. The Cullens didn’t even question it.
My eyes drifted across the library to watch Bella do her job. Seeing her back doing what she loved, what she was good at, was amazing to see. She was comfortable in the library surrounded by words and stories and pages. She was in dress pants and a sweater, her hair cascading down her back in soft, dark waves. Her smile with the kids was genuine and easy. They liked her, though their self-preservation made them feel she was unapproachable.
I could hear every mind inside the library but hers, which made sense. She tended to keep that shield up her entire day. Jasper and Emmett were making plans for the drive down to Six Rivers National Forest. Alice and Rose were discussing the magazine article Alice was flipping through, and there were several students practically clock-watching until they could run from the school. It all made me smile.
When the bell rang, the noise both mental and physical was loud, making me flinch a little. A mass exit of loud kids just outside the building we were in was almost comical. Most of the students in the library packed up and left, though a couple were in line to check out a book or two.
Our table stood, shouldering bags or tucking books under their arms.
“We’ll see you at the house, right?” Jasper verified. “Carlisle wants to leave as soon as possible.”
“Yeah, we’ll be there,” I replied with a nod, gesturing to Bella behind the counter. “Once she’s done, we’ll grab Steve and lock up our house.”
“See you there,” Rosalie said, waving over her shoulder.
I followed them to the front, waiting patiently for Bella to finish with the last student. Seeing her behind that desk brought back strong, beautiful memories of seeing her for the first time at UW. She’d made me speechless with how pretty she was. She’d been friendly and a bit flirty, but only with me. I’d never felt anything like it. Up until that point, I’d been shy, withdrawn, and nervous being so far from home, but Bella made all that go away with a simple smile and introduction. She was my first friend at UW, my first and last real true love, and my partner for the rest of my days.
When the student waved her way and left the library, Bella leaned on the counter on her elbows. “This seems familiar,” she teased with a happy smile.
Grinning, I shoved my hands into the front pocket of my jeans and briefly glanced to the floor. “I was thinking that same thing, my Bella.”
“So, Edward Masen, no books to check out?” she continued to tease.
“Mmm, no. But I’m definitely checking out the librarian.”
Her laugh was beautiful and contagious. “Had you said that back then…” She tsked, shaking her head at me. “I already thought you were too handsome for your own good, baby.”
“And I thought you had every man on campus crushing on you.”
She shook her head. “I didn’t care.”
“I thought I didn’t stand a chance.”
She sighed, smirking at me. “And yet…here we are.”
“Here we are.” I walked to her, cupping her face in my hands and kissing her forehead. “I think we’re better than ever,” I whispered, pulling back to look her in the eye.
“Me, too.”
“I think this forever thing isn’t such a bad idea.”
Bella grinned. “Me, too.”
“And I think…I want to kiss you.”
“Huh, Edward. Me, too, so what do we do about that?”
My lips met hers, giving into it for just a moment, even though the counter was between us. I pulled back just to see her beautiful honey eyes swirl into blackness briefly. Smiling, I stepped away from the counter so she could close everything down and meet me on the other side.
“There’s no ‘see you ’round,’ this time,” she noted almost to herself, but I smiled down at her as I wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You know, I said that back then because I really wanted to see you.”
“Good thing, too. I would’ve followed you anywhere. Just like now.” I nodded like a child when she giggled.
“Let’s go, Edward. I’m ready.”
Pressing a kiss to her lips, I nodded when I heard more than leaving work or even leaving for this trip Carlisle had planned. I heard the big picture, the lifetimes ahead, and I was more than ready. We were different than the two shy humans who’d met in a college library, but we were better, stronger, and I couldn’t wait to see it all with her.
“Me, too, sweetheart. Me, too.”
~o~EID~o~
A/N… That’s the end, guys. I want to thank you all for coming with me on this one. This bent my usual rules a little, but your faith was amazing. For those that waited until it was complete, I get it. ;)
I had posed the question to my pre-readers about hearing from Bella one more time, but this ended up being Edward’s story, and I liked it that way. There may be an outtake/future-take for her specifically, but I can’t promise that.
I need to thank Suebee, maplestyle, inkedupmom, Driving Edward, smusic, Bethany Tullos for pre-reading, for your help, for finding those weird things I tend to leave in. Huge love to JenRar for her red pen and putting up with my commas. And thank you all for reading.
Another thank you for the readers waiting so damn patiently for the end of Six. This is all on me. EID Edward was much louder and more insistent than Sixward, so I stuck with it until the end. I will be sitting down to work on Six this coming week. I apologize again for the hiatus that it’s been on, but between Jenny and me, muses weren’t there, time was limited, and real life simply wrecked us. But I will be writing that next week.
For those that like the playlists, I’ll be adding the title song above, along with all the other influential music to the YouTube playlist.
Lastly…the future… Aside from Six, I do have something new coming – that is if I can make it work. You’ll know soon. Promise.
Until next time… Mooches, Deb ;)

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