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The Potter's Wheel
Stop the World – I Want to Get Off
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The party the last evening was a great success; Jim was really surprised and thrilled to see his brothers and sister along with their families. He was also happy to see so many friends from North Carolina, including the Colonel and Doc Marks, Drew and Nadine, and Grant and his boys. Declan and Dave brought, not Scott (thankfully), but a young man named Clinton Conway who would be running Stratton Engineering once Reprisal took over. Every time Jim looked at this handsome guy he got the feeling he knew him but he couldn't figure out how.
Matt was equally surprised and happy to see his step-brother Tom who was there with his new girlfriend; it had been a long time since they had seen each other and Matt was thrilled to find him looking so happy.
The birthday boys were delighted when Travis walked over to them without the aid of crutches—he still had a pronounced limp, and he couldn't stand for long; but he had made remarkable progress.
Much to Matt's dismay, his good mood began to evaporate as the night progressed; Jim seemed fine with everyone else, but began to avoid him. When Matt did manage to get his attention he was cold and distant, giving only one word answers. He sensed that something was eating at his lover; what he didn't know, but he was getting a distinct sense of déjà vu and he didn't like it. He couldn't imagine what he could have done in the last hour or so that could have caused Jim to act this way towards him. But what he wasn't going to do was worry about it now; he had worked too hard organizing this party and he wasn't going to let Jim spoil his happiness and didn't want to draw Barry into it; he was having a very much needed good time.
When they finally made it home at the end of the party, what was left of his happiness was completely gone when Jim went straight to sleep without the usual pillow talk then Matt became even more concerned.
He became very anxious during the brunch—while Jim had been pleasant and welcoming to all of his family and guests, he went out of his way to avoid him once again. He barely spoke ten words to him, and most disturbing was that he was out of bed and showered before Matt and Barry even woke up.
The meal was over; most of the guests had left when Matt walked through the house looking for Jim. The only people left were the gang from Philly, and George—Jim's dad and Travis, along with Udo and Wolf, and their sons who were leaving in the early evening; Jasmine had left with her parents, her mother wanting to get some shopping in.
There had been a private meeting between Finn and Mr. & Mrs. Powers before the party—the details were not shared; however the interaction between them during the evening indicated that it went well and there were no hard feelings. Billy, to his credit, met with the twins on his own and explained the whole situation. Wolf told Matt that he thought Billy was going to shit himself—but the brothers were very proud of him for seeking them out to explain what happened and apologizing; for what he wasn't sure since it really wasn't Billy's fault.
Entering the kitchen Matt said, "Al, you did a fantastic job with the brunch—and everything else this week, thank you!" and he squeezed the man's shoulder. Brett and Danny were helping Al square everything away; they seemed to have really hit it off, so much so that Danny stayed behind to help clean up after his parents and siblings had left. Earlier he had heard the pair telling a delighted MJ and Jimmer that they would teach them the basics of rugby after they were finished cleaning up.
"Have guys you seen Jim?" Matt asked, trying to appear nonchalant.
"Yeah, I saw him heading towards the stable about ten minutes ago," Al replied while wrapping what was left of a smoked salmon.
"Thanks," Matt said as he headed off to find his missing partner.
Al watched him walking across the lawn; he had noticed that Jim had been acting differently this morning; he just hoped it wasn't anything serious. Looking across the kitchen his eyes fell on Brett and Danny tying up bags of trash; they were laughing and joking about their rugby prowess among other things. The two had become very fast friends; they had spent most of the night before together except when they were dancing with one of the single young ladies present. Most of Brett's time was taken up by Danny's sister Grace who swooned every time the handsome Aussie opened his mouth. He could have called her a wanton whore and she would have melted at the sound of his sexy accent.
Al had known Danny for most of his life and spent quite a bit of time caring for him and his siblings. While he never made a big deal about being gay (in fact he had really never even told Ron and Jackie) he always believed he possessed excellent gaydar; and one thing he never once in all those years picked up, was any sense that Danny was gay or even bi—he was just a good guy who loved sports and hanging with his buddies.
Matt saw Jim standing at the stall door feeding his horse apples; well he didn't know it was his horse yet. He seemed to be a million miles away—he didn't even hear Matt step up next to him, "Hey dog face, I've been looking for you," he said putting a hand on Jim's shoulder causing him to flinch. He was so shocked by Jim's response that he pulled his hand back as if it had been burnt.
"What's up with you?" Matt asked, surprised by Jim's reaction.
"Nothing, I just needed some time to myself," he said barely above a whisper.
"Why, did I do something wrong? Or you didn't enjoy the party?" Matt asked not quite understanding what was happening.
"It was fine," Jim answered curtly without turning to look at Matt.
The word fine was like a punch in the gut to Matt; having known Jim all these years, he knew better than anyone that `fine' was Jim's go to word when he wanted to be ambivalent and not discuss an issue.
"Fine? Do you know how hard I worked to surprise you?"
"I didn't ask you to do it, besides didn't you get enough praise last night? All I heard the whole night was how wonderful you are—one would think that would be enough to stroke your ego," Jim said, with uncharacteristically a little too much venom in his voice.
Matt was dumbfounded; he hadn't heard that tone in Jim's voice since that day so long ago, the day that changed their lives. He felt his heart pounding in his ears, he was finding it hard to breath. "Excuse me?" No response.
"Okay, not sure where this is coming from all of a sudden. Would you care to explain," But Jim continued to ignore him.
"You know it's funny Jimmy, it was just about a month ago that you told me that we were so alike and that, and I quote, "I love you more than anything in this world," Matt spat out, refusing to let the tears welling in his eyes break through, "and now you see me as egotistical? What is it with you, do you turn into an asshole every twenty years or so like a cicada emerging from hibernation?" Again no response, "There must be something I've done since you were fine with everyone else." Again, no response, "Okay, when you decide what could have possibly changed your feelings for me—besides you not meaning a word of it before, let me know." He finished and left the stable and headed for the house, he heard was Jim shout "Fuck!" and the sound of a bucket hitting the wall but continued towards the house anyway.
He walked straight to their bedroom, ignoring questions from Al, Frank, and George. He went right into the bathroom and kneeling before the toilet threw up his breakfast. Getting up he rinsed his mouth and brushed his teeth; his chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it, the tears he was trying to hide started to fall—he wiped them away with his sleeve willing them to stop. Matt couldn't even begin to fathom what brought this on; why Jim was acting this way—what he could have done to cause it? One thing he did know was that he wasn't going to stand for it. Having just reached the bed, he was about to lie down when the door opened and Jim walked in.
"What the fuck do you want?" Matt all but screamed.
"I'm going to pack my clothes—I'm going home with the boys," Jim said quietly.
Matt stood and stared, he wasn't sure he heard correctly; but he knew he had. There was no way he was going to repeat the events of their last big fight. And not wanting to escalate things further he just walked past Jim and left the room. "Matt!" Jim called out.
"Fuck off Jimmy," said Matt, stopping with his hand on the door knob, and turning around he continued, "I'm not interested, I'm not the same young, dumb, and in love teenager I once was—I'll never give you that much power over me again. So what is it you want to say? Do you want to profess your love for me again? Sorry, I'm not interested in your words—your actions have spoken for you," Matt said and walked through the door almost knocking Barry over who looked at Jim and then at the fleeing Matt and started after him.
"Matt, stop!" Barry called out, "I can't chase you," he said breathlessly. The Captain made it to the office and sat waiting for Bazza to arrive.
"What's going on? Why are you two screaming at each other?" Barry asked, sitting next to Matt and hugging him.
"I don't know, he started acting weird last night at the party and then has barely said a word to me all morning. Funny thing is Baz, I don't really give a fuck—let him have his mood; I'm not going to fight with him, and I'm not going to let him have the power he had over me in high school," Matt repeated the line once again almost as if he was trying to reinforce his belief in the statement. He gave Barry a kiss, "Let's go find the boys; I want to spend some time with them before they leave.
It was a bright sunny day, quite warm for November, and they found the boys involved in a rag-tag game of rugby with the older boys, running around in the grass. The shirtless pair of Brett and Danny (part of the `skins' team) were attempting to teach them the rules, however it seemed to be turning into nothing more than the two smaller ones trying to tackle the big boys. Travis, Finn and Frank were already seated on the side with Kelly who was on a blanket, happily playing with a tennis ball. Ryan however needed to be restrained; he was hell-bent on joining the scrum. His dad gave him a questioning look when they approached but Matt ignored it.
Matt was watching Danny and Brett; it appeared that they had bonded over the love of the game. Matt couldn't help but marvel at Danny's beauty—he was tall, broad shouldered and built thick and strong. His incredible chest and thick thighs were covered in a curly carpet of black hair, just a bit more muscle and he would be bigger than the twins. The beard made him look just a little older than his twenty years from a distance, but up close the blush of youth was still visible on his handsome face. While looking at all of the handsome guys enjoying themselves, their fit tight young bodies running up and down the make-shift pitch laughing and enjoying the physical game, the proverbial penny dropped for Matt. Those handsome young men were the perfect metaphor for his and Jim's lost youth; this was what had his soul mate so twisted: Jim was anxious about turning forty!
Matt was overjoyed he had figured out the mystery. Grabbing Barry's hand he said, "Bazza, do me a favor—give me fifteen minutes and meet me in the bedroom," and then continued when he read the confused look on his lovers face, "I just figured out what's wrong with Jim," he said smiling and took off for the house.
Matt opened the bedroom door to find Jim sitting on the bed looking out the window; he slammed the door causing the big man to turn, "Matty I..."
"Save it," Matt said in his best Marine bark, "On your feet Marine and strip—double time." Jim looked a little confused at first but years of conditioning kicked in and he followed orders. Matt watched his handsome stud lover peel off his clothes and his cock grew in his pants; Jim was now naked and standing at attention.
Matt crossed the room and got right in his face, "Alright Marine, would you like me to explain to you why I think you are acting like a complete FUCK WAD!"
"Sir, yes sir!" Jim answered his eyes forward not blinking.
"I think you are acting like a rock because you are feeling sorry for yourself!" Matt screamed in Jim's face like a drill Sargent at Parris Island, "I think you're acting like rock because you're afraid of turning forty!" he continued his verbal assault. Jim just stared back in Matt's eyes—Matt could tell he hit the nail right on the head, the `tell' was the throbbing vain in his temple. Satisfied that he had discovered the source of the big marine's angst he softened and all of his anger and hurt vanished. He reached up and grabbed Jim's head and forced him into a deep kiss.
Pulling off he said, "Are you ready to apologize, explain yourself, and take your punishment—in that order?" He asked Jim.
With a smile on his face he answered, "Sir, Yes Sir! Just one question sir, why am I naked?"
Matt laughed, "I don't know, it just sounded good at the time," he said leading Jim to the couch to sit. "Okay dog face, I'm ready."
"I'm sorry Matty; it's just that so much has happened in the last eighteen months it seemed I could hardly catch my breath. I mean think about it, we were two married men; both with jobs we loved, wives and families living in a regular neighborhood. Then we meet again, and BAM! Our lives changed in a heart-beat and then we were two lovers happily raising our boys. Then BAM again, now we're rich, we have a new lover—two homes, charities to run, a private plane and I guess I've just been overwhelmed," he stopped to catch his breath.
"It hit me hard last night, while you've been managing everything, the move, our lives, your work; you even managed to throw me a rocking surprise party—and I did nothing," he said dropping his head, "I mean this— I don't want you ending up feeling like a housewife with me running back and forth to NC and Philly leaving you with managing the house, watching Kelly, and coordinating the household activities. Let's not forget you still have work to do with the foundation—it just seemed like I was dumping everything on you, and I felt like a shit.
Then I was watching all the young guys and that made me feel old—but worse, I noticed how big our boys were getting and how fast they're growing up," he looked back up and directly into Matt's eyes, "I miss our family Matty, I miss having our boys with us and having dinner together every night. I know we have to do this for Bazza but I'm afraid I'm going to wake up one day and they will be in college, just like I woke up this morning knowing I'm going to be forty years old in a few days. I'm sorry I was such a jerk-off, I was acting like a pussy and I took it out on you."
"I only have one question," Matt said staring directly into Jim's eyes, "why would you treat me—of all people that way?"
"Because I'm an asshole," Jim said quietly looking down at his hands. "The reason is I know that you really love me and will always forgive me. I know it sounds lame but no one knows me like you, and the only other person I trust as much as you too really be myself in front of is Baz."
Matt understood what he was saying—he didn't like the way Jim had acted but he could follow his thinking. "Well do me a favor dog face, next time you have a crisis, come and tell me first—at least I'll know why you're acting like a dick," Matt said, he was trying to keep it lite—but he was sure Jim got the message.
Matt hugged him hard, "Now about your concerns; don't worry I think I have a few ideas that might help," Matt said.
"Well I see that everything has worked out," Barry said entering the bedroom.
"Good Bazza, you're just in time," Matt said moving and patting the empty space between them.
"Can I ask why he's naked?" Barry asked sitting between his guys.
"We'll get to that in a minute, just no touching him—he's being punished," Matt said with a smirk causing Barry to snicker.
Matt gave Barry a quick recap to bring him up to speed and then continued with his ideas, "Look Jimmy, one problem is easily solved—we'll talk to the boys and tell them how much we miss them and ask if they would care moving up here at Thanksgiving. I don't think they will mind, in fact your dad has said they always complain that they miss us—even though they burn up the cellphone calling and texting," Matt said with a smile, "Al recommended a private Episcopal day school, it was founded by that fancy boarding school that he showed us. They do pre-school to 8th grade and have a 7:1 teacher ratio. It's co-ed and I think it would be the perfect place, you know how much they love IOP—and you know Episcopalians are just Catholics without the Pope!"
"Too right mate, the church is perfect for gay men; it's headed by a queen!" Barry said getting a laugh from his guys.
"Anyway," Matt said getting the conversation back on track, "I had already contacted them planning to have the boys start in the New Year if we all agreed; they already have their records so I don't think it will be a problem. Now the running of the house, here's what I'm thinking guys...
The rugby match over, MJ and Jimmer were begging to go in the hot tub, "Come on Uncle Billy, you know our dads won't let us go in alone. Please!" they both cried.
"Alright guys, we have to shower first, but down in the gym, we're too dirty to go in the house," Billy said, following the boys around to the back of the house with Mike, Conner, Tim, and Derrick trailing him and Danny and Brett bringing up the rear.
"You up for a soak in the tub or a sauna?" Brett asked.
"Sauna sounds good, I need to go up and get my clothes first," Danny replied.
"No need, mate, you should probably know it now, when the guests and chicks are gone this turns into a clothing optional house. Unless you're not cool with it," Brett clarified.
"Nah, I've been in locker rooms all my life—being naked never bothered me. It will be strange though if Uncle Buck is around, I mean he's like another dad to me."
"No worries with him mate, he caught me working out in the nuddy yesterday and never said a word," Brett said.
"Nuddy?" Danny asked.
"Yeah, what you Yanks call naked. But I get your point."
When they entered the gym room they found everyone already undressed and crowding in the shower room. Danny relaxed, it was just like being in the locker room at school—and while he would never verbalize it, he liked being naked—it was very liberating and he didn't even care if Uncle Buck did see him.
The guys found Al in the kitchen putting together sandwiches and plating leftover coleslaw and potato salad, "Al, your job is completed," Jim said.
"Eh!" he said waving his hand dismissively, "just figured the boys would be hungry after their game so I thought I would throw this together," he didn't say anything but was glad to see whatever the weirdness was earlier, it was clearly gone.
"Come on over," Matt said, he was at the wet bar pouring glasses of wine, "have a seat, we'd like to talk to you." He came over and accepted a glass of wine and sat at the table with the guys.
"Al, we have a proposition for you," Jim said.
"Don't you think two boyfriends are enough?" Al said causing Matt and Barry to explode with laughter and leaving Jim slightly baffled for a moment.
"No, it's not that; besides, you're too old for me," Jim said recovering quickly and throwing Al's comment from yesterday back at him. "We were wondering if you ever considered going back to work full-time."
"Actually I have—problem is with the real estate market the way it is it wouldn't be worth it—especially with the price of gas. And with the way things are, there aren't many jobs out there for a guy my age."
"Well we'd like to hire you," Matt said taking over. Al raised his eyebrow questioningly. "As a majordomo—we need help running the house, well houses. You would be in full control of the maintenance and daily operation; you'll have a house credit card and a checking account for household expenses. It also means hiring a cleaning crew for the place, someone to handle the stable, and also be a liaison with Major Belgrade on the property in North Carolina. One thing we really would like to ask you to do here is take care of the meals and help with Kelly and Ryan—those two boys already love you and we all enjoy your food," Matt said. Then he slid a folded piece of paper across the table to Al which he picked up and read it and raised an eyebrow.
"That would be your salary, of course it would include room and board—you could use the Au Pair suite here in the house or the apartment above the stable. We'd also cover your health insurance," said Matt.
"One other thing," Jim added, "we would like you to travel with us sometimes—of course at our expense, but if we were to go to the beach for a few weeks we'd like you to be with us."
Al looked at the three men across the table; for the first time in his life he was left without words. "You don't have to give us an answer today," Barry offered.
"No, no—I don't have to wait; I can answer now, I would love to accept," Al went on to explain that this offer couldn't have come at a better time. While he owned his home, he had taken a severe hit in the market on the last downturn. The income he had expected to live on was cut by three quarters—the old Savings and Loan (now a bank) in which he owned a substantial number of shares—and had always paid well—had been inexplicitly prevented from paying dividends by the Feds even though they were solvent and had taken no bail-out money. He could easily rent his house and save the income for retirement and in his mind he acknowledged the added bonus of living with these three hot men and their extended family.
"Just one thing guys; we share some of the same interests if you know what I mean," he said with a wink, "but I've never been one advertise it—I wouldn't lie if asked, but I just don't bring it up. Believe it or not, while I'm sure Ron and Jackie know, we've never discussed it."
"Don't worry Al, we understand—you're part of the family now, and you know how Italians take care of their family," Matt said touching his finger to the side of his nose.
"How about we go find the boys and talk to them about the move," Jim suggested. When they arrived downstairs they found all the guys sitting in the common area playing video games, naked of course. Al was surprised to find Danny amongst them, sitting naked shoulder to shoulder with Brett engaged in battle playing the new Super Mario Brothers on the Wii—it was nice to see they picked a game appropriate for the boys.
"All right guys, I have sandwiches and salads laid out upstairs so let's go!" Al called out jumping right into his new role.
Jim grabbed the boys and held them back so they could talk to them about moving to Delaware early. Matt was elated at how readily they agreed; they missed their dads and wanted to be with them no matter what. Their only concern was whether they could have a bike track.
Al watched the group of boys descend on the sandwiches and salads like a plague of locusts, they hadn't even bothered to grab shorts, "Do you guys always eat naked? He asked.
"Pretty much," answered Billy, "except when it's really cold or Jasmine or other friends are around."
"It saves us a lot of laundry as well," said Mike as he filled his plate. Watching the food disappear Al figured he'd have to adjust the amount of food he cooked to accommodate these appetites, even by Italian standards the quantity of food consumed was staggering.
"Alright everybody," Jim said entering the room, "we have a few announcements to make. You first Captain."
"Listen up; we have hired Al to work for us. He will be living here and be in charge of running the house—he is not a maid so you guys—especially you two (he pointed at MJ & Jimmer) will be responsible for policing your own room and the family room, and that means making your own beds except for the day the cleaning service comes in," that led to a few groans from everybody. "He will also be in charge of cooking." That earned a cheer from the boys.
"What's this?" Jim asked, "You don't like the way your dads cook?"
"No Dad," MJ said, "We're just glad you'll have more time to spend with us since you won't have to cook dinner."
"Nice save kiddo," Billy said mussing MJ's hair, "but Al, I just wish there was a way you could cook for us up in Philly."
"Maybe we can work something out," Al said with a smile.
Frank and Finn entered the kitchen, "What's going on?"
"We're coming to live here at Thanksgiving, Papa and Uncle Buck is going to live here too and cook for us," Jimmer announced.
"Well if Uncle Buck is cooking I'll move in too," Frank said getting a laugh.
"Really Papa?" MJ asked seriously.
"Well maybe not move in, but we'll visit a lot more often since we won't have to eat your dads' cooking," Frank said getting an even bigger laugh and a scowl from Matt, Jim, and Barry.
"Danny," Al said, "Could you give me a hand? I want to pick up a few things at the house and stay here tonight." What he really wanted was to have a private conversation with the boy. Danny was always his favorite, he also was the closest thing to a son he'd ever have. This was a conversation he didn't want to have—not because he was ashamed of whom and what he was, he was just worried how he would take the news.
Passing through the gates and turning on the road heading into town, Al started, "You know I really didn't need any help, right?"
"Kinda figured that out, Uncle Buck," Danny said with a sideway smirk.
"Well it seems like you and Brett hit it off," Al started.
"Yeah, he'll be a hell of player. Can't wait to get him on the pitch," Danny said.
"So what do you think about the rest of the family?" Al continued trying to gauge the boy's feelings about them being gay.
"You mean that most of them are gay?"
"Well yeah, I mean I just want to make sure you're comfortable with them," Al said beginning to nervous.
"You mean like hanging out naked? It's cool, it's no different than being in a locker room," Danny asked, he was enjoying teasing Al.
"Well yeah, I mean okay look there is one other thing..." Al said almost ready to back out and save the conversation for another time.
"So what, you're finally going to come out?"
"Excuse me?" Al exclaimed; he couldn't believe what the boy had just said.
"Come on Uncle Al, it's cool—you're like my second father—and sometimes I think I'm closer to you than to my real dad. I mean you're the one that taught me baseball and football and helped with my weight training program; you even answered my questions when I had my first wet dream," Danny said with some emotion.
Al was blown away; he wasn't expecting this. "So how long have you known?"
"I don't know, since I was about fourteen or fifteen," Danny said.
"So what gave me away?" Al asked.
"Well, you're a real good looking masculine guy who never dated women. You're older than my Dad and have a six pack—and everybody knows that only gay men over forty have good bodies," Danny said, chuckling at his own joke. "And the clincher was the Brokeback Mountain DVD you rented—you left it on top of the TV."
Al was blown away, he didn't expect this at all—he couldn't speak for fear of losing it—and when Danny reached over and grabbed his hand he finally did lose it. The tears just flowed, but he didn't speak—he couldn't speak.
"You know," Danny said, "when I have bad days I always think about my time with you—I mean you and your mom, Aunt Mary, were always part of all the best times of my life. And I bet if you asked Grace and Mark they would say the same thing. So it's all good, I'll always love you just like you've always loved me—even when I was a pain in the ass," Danny said, "and by the way, it will be up to you to tell the rest of the family when you're ready."
"Danny, thanks for this buddy—you continually make proud," was all he could manage. Al's heart soared, for the first time in his life he felt free; free from the burden of the secret he had guarded so fiercely. It was truly like the old cliché: today was like the first day of the rest of his life.
"Dad, have you heard from the PI?" Billy asked. The guys were busy packing up to head back to Philly while Ryan was running around like a crazy man—he was all keyed up from all the attention and extra sweets.
"No, I'll call him in the morning and let you know," Frank answered, heading out the door with a suitcase, "but I wouldn't expect too much, we really didn't give him much to go on."
"I know, but I'm just worried about my friend," Billy replied
Finn came out, placing his arm around Billy, "Don't worry kiddo, he's the best PI I've ever worked with."
There was one change in the plans, Brett was staying in Delaware—he was going up to Newark to see if he could be enrolled for the winter term. Plus he had a date with Grace to go to Queenstown for more shopping at the outlets; Frank and Finn had given him a very generous gift card as a welcoming gift. He was also going to help take care of the boys for Matt who had a big project to complete. Of course he was happy with this, there would be more chances to hang out with Danny—after seeing him naked he was even more in lust with the big rugby stud.
Everyone was gathered in the foyer saying their goodbyes when Ryan came tearing through the group, laughing running right into Brett's crotch; to his credit Brett just bent over and lifted the giggling boy up, "Whoa Sparky, you need to slow down a bit."
"Who's Sparky?" Ryan asked with a screwed-up expression.
"That's you, mate," he said, throwing the giggling boy over his shoulder. "It's time to get to bed, so say goodnight and we'll read a story," Brett said, setting the boy down. To everyone's surprise Ryan went and said goodnight and gave a kiss to each guy and then quietly walked hand-in-hand with Brett to his bedroom.
Jim and Matt looked at Barry. "Well it seems he can charm boys of all ages," Matt said, and laughed.
"I noticed a few girls getting a little damp in his presence," Jim said. Barry and the other guys broke up.
"Real classy, Gunner," Matt said, "now say goodnight as well, you still have to be punished."
"Aye, aye Captain! Goodnight guys!" Jim called out and made a comic march towards the bedrooms.
To be continued...
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