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I couldn't believe what I'd just heard. Well, I couldn't believe everything I'd just heard. Anything. I'd just watched Nigel tell John that we were lovers. Or I thought I had. And I'd just heard John laugh at him. And think he was teasing.
And my heart had been in my mouth all the way through. I mean I'd seen why Nigel had told him. Sort of. Only I hadn't. But I'd gone along with him. I knew I could trust his judgement. Well I did trust his judgement, which was almost the same thing. It was a pretty obvious thing to do, especially since it seemed they'd known each other since primary school. Throw yourself on your best friend's trust and friendship. Why? In case Andy mentioned to Mike that we'd been in bed together.
My mind was racing. The catch in the whole thing was Mike. And what Andy had said to him. If it had been something like 'look, Nigel and Chris love each other and are happy. I love you, too, Mike.' Actually I couldn't think how anyone could do it over the phone. But if Andy had told Mike, then Mike was a danger. Well I supposed he was. Although it seemed that John wouldn't believe Mike either.
I came down to earth again hearing Nigel saying "It's important, John. Even if you don't believe a word of it. Important that nothing goes around the school about Andy. Or about me and Chris. Someone could get hurt, OK?"
"Yeah, OK," John said absently. "Now, do you reckon we can do the same trick next match?"
"The blindside move?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sure. Why not. I enjoyed that, it felt fabulous."
"The look on their full-back's face! Amazing!"
"I didn't see that! I was trying very hard to stay in front of him. I could feel his breath on my neck. That try felt great!"
"Settled, then. We'll do it." John started to move away. Over his shoulder, "Can you guys get out to the flicks tonight?"
"What's on?" Nigel looked half enthusiastic.
"No idea, but there are ten screens. One must have something good," John called back. "I'll find out and call you?"
"Nigel?" I'd been dying for John to go.
"Yeah, I know."
"I wonder if you do."
"Let me guess. 'What the hell did you tell him for?' is the first bit, right?"
"To start with, yes."
"And his reaction!"
"That's it. I mean I don't understand. I don't understand."
"Nor do I. I think I half know why I told him. Did I scare you?"
"Yes. No. No. Not sure. Yes, yes a little. At first anyway."
"Sorry. You OK with it now?"
"I don't know. You told him to sort of reassure him, right?"
"I think so. I like John. We've spent a load of time together. Always told each other everything."
"No. Well not until today."
I had a flash of fear suddenly. No reason. It just made me a bit sharper than I wanted to be. "Fucking silly time to choose." I snapped at him. Damn.
Oh, I'd done it again. Made his face crumple. "I thought you'd understand, Chris. I thought you'd understand. I don't know why exactly, but something made me tell him." And he turned away. No not away he turned back, and put his hand on my shoulder. "Chris, please don't. John's OK. He is. I just know he is."
I relaxed. It had been a brief flash. The fear. Just a brief one. "Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. I was scared, suddenly. I should trust you. Heck I do trust you." "Why'd you choose today to tell him?"
"I suppose to try to tell him that Andy's a normal kid. And because I was sick of hiding. And I should have asked you first, and I'm sorry."
"Yeah. Well, it's done now. But it was odd. Why didn't he believe you?"
"Why didn't who believe what?" Claire had come up while we were talking. "I meant to ask how it went when you talked to John. Oh, and to say what a fantastic try that was.
"He didn't believe me, Mum. I told him and he didn't believe me."
"Told him what?"
"He told him he loved me, Claire. While he was trying to explain something about Andy, and tell John that Mike wasn't in any danger, and John didn't believe him." I filled in while Nigel's mouth was opening and closing like a goldfish.
"Let me get this right." Claire was trying to get to grips with it. "Nigel, you just told John that you and Chris were in love?"
"And he didn't believe you?"
"He thought I was teasing him. Said something about not being gay because I play rugger."
"And why does it matter if he doesn't believe you?"
"Simple question, Nigel. Why does it matter? Isn't it simpler, kind of?"
"I suppose. But... "
"Nigel, how long have you and John been friends?"
"And you and he have shared everything? No secrets?"
"One secret, Mum."
"Oh. Well yes. I suppose that would have been a secret. Must have been difficult to keep that secret. Now I look back I can see that you were bursting to tell someone. Even to tell me."
"I was. I still am."
"Back to John for a minute. Does it really matter if he doesn't believe you?"
"It did at the time." Nigel pouted. Actually pouted.
"Chris, what do you think?" Claire turned to me.
"Not sure. I mean it was weird. Nigel was telling John. I was scared. But John kind of denied it was happening. I think I was angry. That's it. Angry." I felt all hot, too.
"That was how you reacted, not what you think. What I want you to think about, both of you, is if it's important. If it matters. If it spoils anything for you. For John, too, come to that."
"Why wouldn't he believe me, Mum?"
"Many reasons," she said, ruffling his damp hair. "Maybe he needs not to believe you. Maybe he did believe you and didn't want to hear what you said. Maybe all sorts of things. Only John knows."
"Needs not to believe me?"
"Oh Nigel. Hearing that your very best friend in the whole world has another best friend is a pretty tough thing to hear, you know. And hearing that you love him, too. Tough stuff." She paused to let it sink in. It sank in for me. I could see it sink in as Nigel looked thoughtful. "Nigel, friendship is pretty close to love, you know. In some cases it's the same thing."
"You mean John might love me? I might have upset him?"
"Not love exactly. But in a way, yes. And you might. Or he might be working it out now. Thinking about what you each said. Or not, I suppose."
"I'd better phone him this afternoon." It was half a question. "Oh no. No need. He's going to call me. Cinema."
"You staying for lunch, Chris? There's plenty. It's nothing much! Never is." Claire was smiling.
"I'd like to. Please. But I don't know the rules yet. My parents... " I trailed off lamely. I didn't. Was I expected home for lunch? What time? Mum and Dad would want to see me. I wanted to see them. And Nigel. I needed to be with him.
"Rules?" Claire sounded surprised.
"What I'm allowed to do. Now it's all so odd. It feels odd, Claire. Weird. It's not like going to a mate's house to play."
"I see. Yes. I can see that. But I don't see that it is so different. Except in your head, I mean."
This woman was amazing. I wouldn't have swapped her for my Mum. Well in some things, yes. All that awful stuff after she saw us holding hands. I'd have swapped that all right. But not the entire package. But the way Claire was able to just accept us, make us feel good. Make me, the interloper, feel good. That was the amazing part. "I'd better go home for lunch, I think. Only... "
"Only what?" Nigel was reading my mind.
"Only I want to spend some time telling you how fantastic that try was."
"Well, here's the car."
It wasn't far back to Nigel's place. We didn't talk on the way. We didn't really talk much when we were in his room, either. I lay down on the bed, and pulled a tired Nigel down beside me. Companionable silence. We lay there for ages. Breathing in time with each other. And for a while I was half sitting, propped on an increasingly tired elbow, just looking at him.
I never got tired of looking at him. Never. And I was allowed to look at him. To drink in every detail. I stroked his hair. It felt so soft. Drying now, a hint of damp left. Soft and silky. And I smoothed his eyebrows. Different hair texture. Soft, but a hint of wire in it.
"You know, you're beautiful."
"Silly boy," he smiled to me. "Silly boy. Not me. You. You're the beautiful one. I'm just me."
"Just you, you may be. Beautiful, you are. And I love you. I love you Nigel Cropper. Love you." I kissed his cheeks. He sighed. "Trouble is, I have to go home. Lunch. I've got to get this right."
"John'll be calling about the cinema this afternoon. You can come, can't you?"
"I'll have to ask."
"I don't want to go anywhere without you. Not anywhere." He was looking at me, almost desperately. He was holding my arm. Tightly, not too tightly, but tightly even so.
"Call me when he's phoned. I'll ask my parents when I get back."
It took even longer to part than putting the phone down had the other day. I made it to my bike eventually. And pedalled slowly away. It felt uphill all the way.
They were glad to see me home for lunch. I had enough wit not to tell them how fantastic Nigel had been in the match. Just that we'd finished honours even, and he'd scored a crucial try. I wondered whether to tell them about Andy, Mike, and John. And about Nigel telling John all about us. I figured that Dad could cope with it, but Mum probably couldn't. So I kept quiet. There wasn't really that much to tell, anyway. It would keep. Dad an I often had chats late at night. Probably one of those would be the right time.
So we did very little for ages. I did get permission to go to the cinema if it happened. So I sort of waited for the phone to ring.
And tidied my room.
I hated tidying my room.
It was one of those jobs that never got done.
It wasn't voluntary. Not exactly. I was trying to get some brownie points from Mum.
Two o'clock passed.
Dad came up for a chat. But I must have been evil company, because I wanted to talk to him and couldn't find the way to start, so snapped at him. I didn't get the same reaction as when I snapped at Nigel. He just quietly went downstairs, leaving me to my feeling of being on edge.
The phone hadn't rung at 3 o'clock either.
And my mood got more brittle.
It wasn't fair of Nigel not to ring. Wasn't fair. Mind you, he may have had John on the phone. Or Andy. Probably not Mike. Now my mind started racing. I put on a CD. Chose random play and repeat, and turned the volume up to just under Mum's disapproval threshold.
It didn't help.
Even so I finished tidying my room, then lay on the bed, face into the pillow, music pummelling my ears, and feeling sorry for myself. Which was ridiculous. Not at the time. But it was. I was in love with the most gorgeous boy, and he loved me. But I was feeling low.
Four o'clock passed.
I didn't look up when the door opened. Didn't care if it was Mum or Dad. I didn't move when the bed dipped from being sat on, nor when my hair was stroked. It felt nice, but I didn't stir. I didn't want Mum to console me. Nor Dad.
For no good reason I felt miserable. Even after watching Nigel in the morning. After spending the night entwined with his body. No amount of hair stroking was going to make up for that. And I was scared about John and Mike and Andy. And what would happen at school when it all got out.
"What's the matter, Chris?"
That couldn't be right. I sat up with a jolt. "How? But! When? How long? I! Oh!" And I swivelled into his arms. "Nigel how did... "
"Shh! I didn't mean to make you jump."
"But you're here."
"Well, yes. I do seem to be."
"You know those things with a pair of wheels? The ones powered by a boy sitting on a saddle?"
"I mean how did you get in without disturbing me? I'd have heard the doorbell."
"I met your Mum on the drive. She sent me up. Said you were tidying your room."
"Oh. I'm glad you're here. I was missing you."
"With wet cheeks." He was holding me close. Still stroking my hair.
"Whatever. It's OK now. How are we going to manage being apart? I hate it."
"We'll cope." He hadn't loosened the grip. "And we're going to the cinema."
"John rang then?"
"Mmm. We're meeting him there after supper. Which your Mum's invited me to have here."
"Did he say anything about... "
"Not a thing. Scary. Or it would be if it wasn't John. I really do trust him, Chris. Even if he's not ready to understand us yet. He did say Mike was OK. John asked him about Andy, and Mike said it was cool. Didn't matter. Andy being daft or something. John said it was all something and nothing."
"In a way. Andy must be hurting, though."
I couldn't even start to imagine what Andy felt like. I hadn't been Nigel. Hadn't spent for ever looking at a boy I loved and not been able to speak. Instead I'd been blissfully happy with Carol, and hadn't even realised that Nigel existed, far less cared. I supposed it must have been even more lonely than I'd been feeling when Nigel crept into my room. "I feel bad about Andy." I did. It wasn't specific, I just felt bad about him. "I was wondering how to help him."
"Me, too. Only I think he has to help himself. Loving someone is awful."
"Tell me about it! I've never felt so high then so low. And I've got you loving me back."
"Loved you first!"
He'd made me giggle. "Idiot. Love you best!"
"Firsmmmphhh!" Which was the result of my putting my lips on his and forcing my tongue into his mouth.
We broke for air after a while. "I'm glad you came over. Can you stay the night?"
"Maybe." But his eyes were glinting.
"You're teasing me?" I hoped he was teasing me.
"Yes. I'm staying the night. It's part of the deal."
It wasn't just my heart that leapt when I heard that. "Oh good." I melted. And fell back down onto the bed, followed by Nigel. I wanted him, suddenly. Immediately. I ran my hands all over his body as he lay beside me. I went for the waistband of his jeans, but he stopped me.
"Mmm." I was kissing him hard. Couldn't speak. "Need you so badly. Wanted you on the pitch this morning. Just after that try. Before the conversion." I'd parted my lips from his, and was grinding my hips into him, using his hip for relief.
"I have something in mind for tonight." He whispered to me. "Something special. Can you wait?"
Could I wait? What kind of damn fool question was that? "Wait? No! I need you now." It was getting stronger, the need for him.
"OK. No hands, then. Yours I mean."
"Grip the sides of the bed. Keep them there."
"Anything. Only do it now!"
He undid the waistband and eased my jeans down. Then he eased the briefs down. Just to my knees. And pulled my shirt up. "Grip."
I gripped. I was so erect it hurt. "It's urgent."
"All in good time. It'll get more urgent."
"My way or not all."
"Your way. Touch me, Nigel. Touch my cock. Grip it. Please!"
"Shh. No pleading. Just lie there and hold the sides of the bed."
"You wait." I felt him breathing on the tip of my cock. Felt him snuffling round the base. "You smell nice. Musky. I think that's the word. Musky." He licked my navel. Just brushed my cock with his chin. "You gripping that bed. Chris?"
"Yes. Oh yes."
"Good. I'm going to drive you wild. I hope." He never stopped moving his face round near my cock. "You've got a beautiful cock, Chris. Velvety. It's darker than your body skin. Sun-tanned almost. I'm going to touch it soon. Don't worry. But I'm going to suck your balls first." One at a time, the left one first, I felt his tongue, then his lips pulling each into his mouth in turn. And close his lips on each of them. To the point of pain. A dull ache. And then release. "Is that good?"
"Good. Now I'm going to look at your cock. I've not looked at it before. Not properly. Hmm. There's a darker line in the underside. It goes all the way through your scrotum." He lifted it out of the way. "Ah, there's a sort of ridge between there and your hole. Open your legs a little. Good. Yes almost all the way." He ran his fingers down the ridge. "Does that feel good?"
I was bucking and trying to get his fingers to my hole.
"Ahh, it does seem to!. Not this afternoon, Chris. It's your cock I want this afternoon. Do you want me to touch your cock?"
"Soon, Chris. Right now I want to look at the tip. I've never looked at a foreskin close too. I love the way yours covers the tip so completely. I'd have loved you without one, but I always hoped you'd have one." I felt his breath on the very tip. "I like the way it's all bunched at the tip." He put his tongue on the tip, and licked, then gripped that last little bit of skin between his lips, and pulled. Pulled!
"Sorry. But! Oh! Nigel!"
"Keep gripping that bed!" My right hand was wandering. "I stop when your hand moves next." I stopped and gripped the edge of the mattress again. My reward. I needed my reward. It was almost hurting, this waiting. His fingers of his right hand, I was watching, took hold of the skin each side of the tip, and withdrew it. "I love the way your cock pops out when I do this. The skin goes drum tight. It can't let the head out. It just can't. The little veins on it bulge, then empty. And the head peeps through and then comes rushing out suddenly into the daylight. I love it." His mouth got near. "I'm just going to check it out." He licked under the rim. Just the tip of his tongue. All round. I cringed and wriggled. But I kept those hands on the mattress. Almost impossible, but bearable. Except when he licked that arrowhead of skin that joined the skin to the tip.
"Shh. I'm going to give you the best time you ever had." It was amazing. A sort of gliding feeling. His fingers were so light and strong as they covered and uncovered the head. Not fast. Slowly. Gently. So that I could feel the skin opening and closing, feeling a tightening in my balls, tightening inside. "You've started leaking precum. I'm going to have to get rid of that. You'll get messy." And he put the tip of his tongue on the very tip, now covering it with my foreskin, now uncovering it. Adding hugely to the sensations as he was gently, so gently moving his hand, his fingers, up and down my shaft. Agony. Ecstasy. My back arched. "Are you nearly there?"
"Yes. Oh yes."
"Wait and see." His fingers started to move again. "This should get even better. I have to get this right. Tell me when you're nearly there. I want to make it special." It built again. More powerfully than the first time. Deeper inside somehow. Oh it built. "I love the way that precum leaks out. You taste fabulous." He kept the slow movement going. His left hand was squeezing each ball. Not hard. Just enough. Almost agony. Ecstasy.
Dammit, he stopped again. "Oh I love the way it twitches when I stop. Wonderful. I'm going to leave your foreskin back and cool the tip down." He blew on it. I nearly came on the spot. Nearly. Then he started again. "It's so full, Chris. So big. You've got a beautiful cock, Chris. I love the colour. And the smell of you is amazing. Ah, leaking again." And he forced the tip of his tongue into the slit. Or so it seemed. Magic. But he didn't stop the slow, steady rhythm of his fingers, covering and uncovering. Forcing the tongue in. Putting pressure on each ball Forcing the arrowhead against his tongue. "Don't tell me this time. We're going all the way this time." But the rhythm didn't change. Nothing changed. I felt it building inside. So deep inside. And he was squeezing my balls, both of them this time. "I'm going to feel you cum, Chris. Going to feel it all the way from your balls, from your perfect balls. Going to know the moment it starts." And he kept the rhythm up. Not possible to answer. Impossible. Back arching, trying to fuck his hand. Failing. Just feeling him stroke continuously, up and cover, down and uncover, press with the tongue.
Then "Oooooooooorrrrrrggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggghhhhhh! Oh yes! No! Stop. Don't stop! Oh. Yesss. No! Oh shit. Oh. Oh Nigel! Oh." He was still going. I looked and saw my seed spurt past his tongue tip. "No!!!" Oh it was important to stop now. It hurt. "Please stop!"
He stopped. "Said it would be good!"
"How did you know how to do that?" I was so out of breath it was amazing.
"I guessed. I did it to myself a couple of times. Thought you'd like it."
"Mega. Oh yes. I like it. Oh yes."
"Good. That'll keep you going until this evening." He laughed.
"What about you?"
"I want to wait until tonight."
"I couldn't." I was still breathless. I wanted to do something for him, too. He was obviously aroused, even trapped inside his jeans.
"I know. But I want to."
"Maybe. But it'll be awesome when I do! Leave it alone!"
I didn't. I carried on rubbing the outside of his jeans. Rubbing the bulge. I knew he was close. No-one could has done what he'd done without being close. "Not a chance." I lowered the zip and unlocked his belt and the top of the jeans. "I can't do what you've just done for me. Not today. I can only just do this." And I slid down and took my prize into my mouth.
As I suspected it was leaking. "Oh." I heard a little moan. "Oh. I've changed my mind. Now!" Oh I was going to do it now. It didn't take long. Not the way he was excited. Not the way I wanted him. Like a baby sucks a dummy. The skin was back soon enough. The end in my mouth. My hands on the shaft. Furious. No more than a minute, and I got my reward. Through clenched teeth I heard him. "Chriiiiiisss! Oh yes. Oh. Yesss!" And I could taste him And feel him, hot inside my mouth. Hear his panting.
We snuggled down. Kissing. Clothes in disarray. Holding each other. Recovering. I still felt hugely tingly, very sensitive. Amazing. "I love you, Nigel Cropper."
"I love you, Chris Jenkins."
"That's all right then. I wouldn't want to do that with someone who didn't love me!"
That sleepy feeling overtook me. Nigel too. It was only a few minutes before I woke up. But he was fast asleep. He looked even more lovely than ever. Face a little flushed, hair all tousled. I kissed him on the cheek. He stirred. Struggled to the surface, and stretched. "We need to go downstairs. Supper time. Wake up, sleepyhead."
Supper was a bit of a non-event. Well what I mean is, it was just supper. Mum seemed at least to be used to having Nigel around, and we were careful not to do anything to upset her. It felt a bit artificial, but it was better than making her feel uneasy, than having a scene. We went through the 'don't be late back' stuff. And there was a 'Are you sleeping here tonight, Nigel?' from Dad which Nigel had already arranged with Mum. Then we got sorted and caught the bus into town.
It was still light when we got to town. "John said we should meet by the clocktower," Nigel told me as we got off the bus. So we went over there. I was wondering silly things, like how you walk when you're in love. Daft stuff.
We got there first. Before John. "I'm a bit nervous."
"Of John?" Nigel asked me.
"Yeah. I still don't understand."
"Nor me. Still, nothing we do now can alter it, can it. And I love you. And sooner or later the whole world'll know."
"Yeah. Right now I'll settle for as few people as possible."
"I know what you mean." He was looking over my shoulder. "That is so unfair."
"What?" I struggled to follow his gaze.
"Those two girls. So fucking unfair!"
"What?" I could just see a couple of girls, doing the usual girl things, walking arm in arm.
"Numbskull! They're holding hands."
"Girls can do that. Boys can't. It's so unfair."
I'd never thought about it. Not once. I'd just known how right it felt to hold Nigel's hand, and how I daren't do it in public in case people saw us. I hadn't realised, not really realised, that girls could hold hands, link arms, without even thinking twice. It was. Unfair. "I hadn't even thought about it. You're right. It is."
I suppose we were about ten minutes early. There wasn't anything much to do except hang around at the clocktower, or walk around looking into shop windows. Only that was another thing that girls did and that boys didn't. Only not an unfair one. Shopping and I were not close friends.
We hung around, backs to the bricks of the tower, still warm from the afternoon's sunshine. No conversation, just comfortable in each other's company. Absorbing each other. It felt good just being with him. Being with this beautiful boy, the boy who made stars flash out and back again whenever he kissed me. Feeling his strength flow into me from being beside me.
Then, from the other end of the high street someone was waving. Only whoever it was had someone else with him. With long blond hair. So that couldn't be John, because John didn't have a girlfriend. So I ignored the wave.
Until John arrived. Then I realised I shouldn't have ignored the wave. "Hi John. Oh hi Carol!" I was amazed. And almost a little jealous. I realised how much I still felt for Carol in that flash. It actually hurt. A moment's stabbing pain. I got control of myself. "You two haven't wasted much time." I was trying to smile, but it was a little watery. "Sorry." I'd seen the look on Carol's face. "I mean, it was quick, getting to know each other. That's what I mean. Didn't mean to sound jealous. It just crept out, OK?"
"Should be OK, Chris," John said. "I mean you shouldn't mind. You said you and Carol weren't going out anymore. And you aren't."
"Sorry, Chris. I was a bit insensitive agreeing to come out tonight." Carol was looking concerned. "I knew you'd be coming, and I wanted to see you." She looked at John. "As a friend you idiot!"
Poor John. He was looking embarrassed. He didn't need to. I didn't know how to stop him feeling bad, that was all. "It's OK, John. Heck I wonder if seeing your old girlfriend with a new boy is always like this, that's all. I've never done it before." His face eased. "It really is OK."
"Well, after what you said at the match, it should be OK!" John was laughing again. Well starting to anyway. "Only I still don't believe you. Not until I see you snogging in the back row tonight!"
I heard a gasp from Carol. Then she asked me "What did you say at the match, Chris?"
"Nothing. Nothing much, anyway."
"No, he's right," John added. "He didn't say much. It was Nigel. Do you know what he told me?"
"What, John? What did he tell you?" Carol was sounding urgent. Too urgent. It gave it all an awful credibility, her urgency. I was suddenly scared again. I couldn't stop this. The bike with no brakes was running down to the cliff edge. My life was sitting on the saddle, and it was going out of control towards the edge.
My heart was beating faster, too.
And I was getting hot. My face must have been going red.
"It's all right, Carol. Nothing bad about you." John was still smiling The axe hadn't fallen yet. He still didn't believe what Nigel had said.
Who was keeping very quiet.
"What he said was, oh you'll never believe it. It's too funny. What he said was... "
"What? Tell me, John." A serious Carol.
"Well, OK, but don't laugh?"
"I won't laugh."
"I promise. I won't laugh."
"What he said was 'I know how it feels to tell someone you love him'. That's what he said. Him. Love him." John paused. He was waiting for the laugh.
"Ah." She looked nonplussed.
"You don't believe it either! It's too daft for words. Then Chris joined in and said some stuff about Nigel kissing him to prove it. I mean really! These two are a pair of wind-up artists!"
"Ah." She was still looking nonplussed. "Why would they do that, John? Talk like that, I mean?"
"Oh it was all something and nothing about... " he paused. "Well, never mind. Family stuff."
But the expression on Carol's face hadn't changed from the one of shock when he'd told her. "Nigel's probably very good at 'family stuff', John. He's kind of, oh, what's the word?"
Nigel spoke for the first time for ages. He spoke quietly. Hardly more than a whisper. Yet his voice stopped all the traffic noise, stopped the sun from shining, and sent a cold wind blowing viciously and silently down the high street. A single word. One syllable. A soft word. "Gay."
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