Carson Kearns' Highlander Fanfic

Lost in the Loving: Lighting You Home

Chapter 3

by Carson Kearns





Late May 1997.

 Methos soon learned that the few sentences that Duncan had uttered en route to Iona did not in any way signal a breakthrough.  If anything he seemed to retreat further inside himself, as if sensing the seductive power of Iona to enchant and entrap one such as himself.  The wind itself seemed to whisper of hope for the hopeless – of a haven for souls unutterably lost.  It was as if the Scot felt the aural caress of comfort being offered - and rejected it totally.

 In Paris Duncan had accused Methos of being a manifestation of a demon.  He had looked at him in panic, unsure of what was real and what was murderous fantasy.  If his being taken to Iona by the Methos-shape had changed his mind he hadn’t, as yet, voiced it.  Indeed, since Methos had made it clear that he had no intention of leaving Duncan alone, Duncan took the only logical course open to him – he travelled inside himself, to a plane far beyond Methos’ ability to reach.  Years of intense meditation had forged many such internal paths and hiding places and without conscious thought he trod these long-forgotten paths – determined to stay well ahead of the intense light that shone all around him on the beautiful isle. 

 And everyday he seemed to retreat further - deeper and further away.  What he didn’t and couldn't admit to Methos and barely refused to acknowledge to himself, was that there was something frighteningly familiar about Iona.  But he couldn’t understand why and had no emotional reserves to explore further.  He had had enough of fear-filled illusions.  And who was to say that this feeling of familiarity wasn’t simply another such delusion? How many pictures had he seen in his lifetime of the mystical Isle - how many stories and imaginings had settled, unknowingly, in his overactive memories?

Their large white house – for none could call it a home -  looked out over the the Abbey and the Strait.  Intense blue shimmered off the calming waters that separated Iona from Mull.  Fishermen and tourist boats passed on their way to the outer isles.  Ordinary lives continued.  The days passed.  And  Duncan would stand at the window, looking out on life passing him by.  Listen to the cries of the gulls and the fishermen.  Watch their weather-lined faces in laughter and play. He felt as if he were in a bubble, there behind the glass, looking out on a living world forever denied him. When Methos came up behind him and held him close, he gave no sign that he felt anything.


Methos attempted time and again to get him to go for a walk with him, to explore Iona, but he received no response of any kind.  The Scot appeared to be in such a deep depression – so far away.   Methos soon found himself exhausted from his constant chatter to the shell of the man who had once brought such light and life into his world.

Towards the end of their first week he did manage one afternoon to force him to walk a little way – past the Abbey and bookshop and down to the ferry landing in front of the tiny Post Office.  It wasn’t his fault, he tried to tell himself later, that one of the young roofers fixing the slate had brilliant red curls and a smile that radiated for miles.  Or that he was reckless as he played the fool on the double story building, delighting his workmates.  Or that his eyes were bluer than lapis lazuli.  Duncan simply stood, staring at the clone of Richie Ryan,  closed his eyes and turned, stumbling, away from the scene. 

 Methos had tried to reassure those around that it was nothing that they had done – that Duncan had suffered a tragedy in his family and that he had bought him to the island to help him heal.  It was a story very familiar to the islanders, who had seen Iona used as such a haven for centuries.  It also meant that Methos had successfully ensured that Duncan would be silently watched over and protected by the small community and those who came there to seek a spiritual retreat. 

 To signal his flight from such caring, and to block out the sights of the living, his headaches started soon after.  It was as  if his body was somehow acknowledging that ten days of the warming light had indeed started to penetrate his body and that it had no choice but to fight back in the only way and with the only weapon it owned.  And of course his eyes no longer wanted to register any of the images of his past life.  The excruciating pain would start radiating out from the back of his neck and behind his eyes, before blinding quickening-like currents blocked out all vision.  Methos would find him on the bed writhing in pain and soon recognised the symptoms of a very intense migraine attack.  The nausea soon followed – intense bouts that invariably ended with exhausting dry retching.  The blindness should have disappeared but instead it seemed to be lasting for longer and longer periods.  By the end of the second week on the island when the sixth attack was underway Methos was beginning to feel completely distraught and useless – and angry.

 “Duncan, stop this!  You know that this is psychosomatic.  What’s the point of this?” He knelt behind the Highlander, rubbing his own hands over Duncan’s, attempting to rub away the agonising pain at his temples.  Methos moved his hand in front of the Scot’s eyes in circles but it was obvious that Duncan could see nothing.

 He rose, rubbing his hands through his own hair – furious.  “It doesn’t matter to me, Duncan, how long this goes on - what you do to yourself - .how much you punish yourself for still being alive.  I’ll still be here when the nausea stops and when the blindness goes away – I’ll still be here.”

 Duncan still said nothing and refused to show any sign that he had even heard what was being said.

 Methos closed his eyes, breathed deeply and tried again.  “It doesn’t matter how far away you go.  I’ll follow.”

 And finally from the man on his knees before him – a breakthrough.  “Then you’ll follow me to hell!” 

 “If needs be, then yes.  I’ll follow you to hell.”

 He watched in hope as Duncan slowly looked up to where he thought Methos was and stared for what seemed like minutes.  “I don’t want you here.  How often do I have to tell you that? My life isn’t your property.”  The words were all the more painful for being said with so little inflexion – so little energy.

 That night he lay down alongside his Highlander and reached out to stroke with light touches along his neck.  He tried again to get Duncan to understand how far he would go.  “You can retreat deep inside but you can’t stop me following.”  A sudden tensing of the Scot’s muscles was the first obvious sign that Duncan was actually listening.

 “I know you don’t believe me Duncan, but it will all become bearable.  You’re strong enough to carry this…”

 The words, when they came, were so quietly spoken that he was unable to be sure he’d heard it at all.  They were just fragments about not wanting any more burdens – about begging to be left alone to die.

 Methos closed his eyes against the physical constrictions in this throat.  “I’ll help you carry it Duncan.”

 But all Duncan whispered was that it was too late – it was too late.  But over the next few weeks the intensity of the migraines started to diminish as Duncan’s sub-conscious seemed to lay aside a weapon now grown useless and searched for another.  Methos wondered if the Scot’s internal journeying was starting to present him with sights he would rather not see?  Or whether he realised that he had started to lose control of what weapons he did and didn’t use against Methos.  Whatever the reason, the blindness at least stopped, along with the intense nausea.  Nothing seemed to stop the headaches.

 Not a word had been said of Ahriman or of shape-shifting – or of Richie. 


Late June, 1997.  Iona.

 There were times in the days that followed that convinced Methos that there was no hope.  He had never in his long life come up against such a will and a determination as were evident in the man before him.  Duncan was beginning to waste away before his eyes - his cheeks were now hollowed and his eyes appeared perennially glassy and unfocused.  He had started to converse more freely but never for long, his sentences still punctuated with anger and despair.  And an undisguised goading.

 "I never asked you or wanted you to stay with me - or bring me here!" 

And the days passed – brilliant blue skies  a tragic backdrop to the tragedy playing out on Iona.  In utter frustration, one chilly morning Methos dragged him out into the glorious sunshine and forced him to walk with him to the beautiful old Abby.  Duncan stood and starred at it for over ten minutes but didn't go inside.  Finally he whispered that he knew the layout - knew where the little room was that was St Columbus' retreat.  "I think that I've been here before," he offered to no-one in particular.  

Methos came up to him and took firm hold of his upper arm and headed them to a rise overlooking the Atlantic.  He settled in behind him and started to breathe deeply and loudly, attempting to get the Scot to echo him in some basic deep breathing and meditation.

 Duncan closed his eyes and attempted to come to terms with the complexity of the exercise. It gave him something to focus on apart from his yearning for oblivion.  It was, he believed, only appropriate that he should force this rhythm upon his ravaged body and soul. He welcomed any painful activity.   So as Methos started to do the exercise, Duncan mirrored him. He even pressed back into Methos and let his body fall into the Ancient Immortal’s rhythm.  And once the repetitions triggered memories of its form, he let his body continue to perform this one exercise - this one activity he fervently wished to cease forever.

 He let his deadly hands reach down and cover his ribs and let them ride the rising and falling of his lungs -


 It wasn't really a new exercise.  Every waking second was consumed with this intricate, exhausting effort. 

 Simply  - relearning   - how   - to   - breathe. 


 From his Catholic childhood from so long ago the words of Job came unasked for and unwelcome - but so very very true.

"He will not suffer me to take my breath,
but filleth me with bitterness. …
I am afraid of all my sorrows,
I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent. "

 But no matter how hard he tried, his lungs refused to fill to capacity.  The Ch'i refused to be harnessed.  Something vital had shattered inside him the night Richie Ryan had died.  And despite the passing of the endless days and bitter nights, whatever had been broken simply refused to regenerate.  His blood coursed too quickly.  His heart beat too loudly. His soul ached with the ache of a desperate and despairing longing.  His spirit slept the sleep of the dead, alongside Richie and all the other ghosts from his past.  And it seemed to Duncan MacLeod that the shattered fragments of his heart and mind and soul had somehow embedded themselves in his lungs - preventing him from ever being able to take a full breath.


 so that he could never perfect this exercise - never fill himself with enough cleansing air.  He was and would always be weak from lack of oxygen.  Always.


 And from somewhere far, far away from him Methos covered the beautiful deadly hands with his own and showed him, with his own body, how to breathe again.  And for what seemed like hours they sat there, under the blazing light and warmth, mirroring each other -meditating - breathing…



 It was the first time that Duncan could actually recall consciously thinking about events, since the night of Richie’s death.

 When Methos finally pulled the exhausted man to his feet and supported him as he started to collapse he saw with unmistakable clarity that Duncan was indeed physically deteriorating to an alarming degree. Indeed, it was as if the very effort that was going into strengthening his willpower was being sapped from his depleted physical reserves. The black cotton pullover now hung loosely on him.  The jeans were clearly not as form hugging as they once had been. There was little strength any more to hurl anything - verbal or physical.  But his power to strip Methos' soul bare and leave him in the grip of frustrated despair was as strong as ever.  And Methos doubted that that power would ever leave him - even in death.

 Later that afternoon, having slept for hours, Duncan rose and went to the door. He paused and let his eyes plead silently with his lover and his hoped for Liberator, and he left the house. 

 He was unlikely to go far, given his condition, or so Methos had thought.  But once again he had underestimated Duncan's resolve and therefore he waited too long before going out after him.  A certain element of complacency regarding Duncan's imprisonment had crept into Methos' dealings with the Scot.  But this didn't prevent him beginning to worry when one hour after Duncan had left the house Methos had still not found him or caught up with him.  Stopping and turning his senses inward he suddenly knew exactly where his Highlander would be headed. 

 It was late - 9.30pm - and the sun would soon set.  Despite the warm and sunny days, the winds of Iona blew fiercely and Methos buttoned his coat against the north-westerly. On the distant cliff top he saw Duncan’s dark form stark against the setting sun.  The irony was not lost on Methos - that Duncan should be bathed in the color of death.  He stopped and watched, wondering - and fearing - what Duncan intended.  Even if he jumped it was unlikely that he would do himself any real damage for long.  As the black silhouette melted into the fire of the setting sun, Methos saw with a frightening clarity what Duncan was trying to tell him.  That he would seek out any death, no matter how temporary, no matter how gruesome, to give himself the relief he craved.  He would do whatever he could to frustrate Methos' well-laid plans for him and his continued survival.  And his final message to Methos would be that it was only a matter of time before Methos lost him forever.  

Oblivious to his lover’s approach, Duncan stood surveying the wildness before him. It had been weeks since he had been able to make any sense of his thoughts and he called himself a coward for succumbing to the mental and emotional numbness of the past few weeks.  He was determined that the gradual return of his sanity would not dilute his intent.

 He had made the mistake of seeing the calendar this morning – June 19th.   One hundred and eighty two years earlier, this day, he had fought at Waterloo and met one of the greatest teachers of his life, and one of his dearest friends - the monk, Darius.  What, he wondered, would Darius think of him now? He had let so many people down - so many of his clan now dead.

 He was vaguely aware of the water crashing onto the rocks below…vaguely….but all he could really see set against the foaming spray  was Darius' headless body, or Richie, laughing, sharing a bottle of old cognac with him on the bridge in Paris.  When, he wondered, did Richie become so important in his life?  When did he lower his guard so vulnerably?  Why did he keep seeing Tessa standing before him, arms folded, looking at him with such disappointment and such betrayed trust.

 <<Damn you.  Damn your whole race!>> she had screamed at him once.  Damned, damned and doubly damned….

 And because he'd allowed himself those few minutes more of such painful recriminations he never heard or felt Methos coming up behind him, stealing in on the heavy winds that moaned and sighed around his lover.

 "You know that a jump from there won’t kill you, Duncan."  It wasn't really a question - more a statement of fact.

 The Scot flinched as if he'd been stabbed, and closed his eyes.  He said nothing.  There were no words that could possibly be said that could satisfy Methos.  With a determination he hadn't felt for too long he finally opened his eyes and looked out across the wild sea - and started to give himself up to the glorious wind.  Enticing him.  Pulling him forward.  Wanting to dance with him.  He remembered that he used to love to dance, once.  Job, he was convinced, had called it correctly:

"Thou liftest me up to the wind;
thou causest me to ride upon it,
and dissolvest my substance."

 How easy it would be, how easy, to let himself be seduced by that liberating wind…let it cocoon him with all its soft edges…caress him with its kiss….suck out of him the pain and the longing and the guilt…give it all up to the winds of Iona…the light.  The water far below was already dancing with the shimmerings of light and sun…

 …it called him….shimmered and enticed him …

 …like a Quickening….Richie's Quickening…..calling him….

 How he longed to be swallowed up in the ocean's womb and never be re-born - to curl up and go to sleep far below the glistening surface.  To hear nothing but the roar of the earth's thrumming.  He could see it reaching for him - it wanted him.  It craved him, as much as he craved it - cradling him, sighing its soft sighs all around him as it yearned to carry him away - to come dancing.  Just a few steps,  just a few and it could take him.  And he could float in the waters of his homeland, like a womb, back with his Mother all warm and safe as she kissed his head and soothed his brow and sang his soul to sleep. 

 Just another step…

The sea and rocks below would hold off that deeper, ever-present never-ending pain and it would be banished, for some hours at least.  He craved euphoria of the withdrawal from the daily pain that had wrapped itself around his entrails, worked its way under his skin and clogged up the chambers of his heart.

 Methos moved quietly to the side and watched the seduction play itself out on the ravaged face. The fiery sunset was a fitting backdrop to this Greek drama being played out on the cliff top, here at the end of their world.

 The Chorus whispered on the wind. 

 Methos knew that he would have one chance only to reach him before Duncan slipped over the edge, just one.  He relied on every iota of knowledge he had ever learnt, acquired, and guessed about the man in front of him and read his intentions down to the micro-second.  And just as Duncan went to take that last step into the illusory arms before him Methos  - reached  - out. 

 He almost sobbed as he realized that he had succeeded in grasping Duncan's coat and the pullover beneath it. He didn't pause for breath.  Finally what he had to do became clear. After all the weeks of stress and tension trying to keep Duncan alive Methos finally realised that he had always had something to bargain with.  But in his all-consuming focus on Duncan he had lost sight of the one thing that Duncan craved more than his own death.  

He didn't bother with any soothing words or phrases.  Any small talk.  He simply laid his head against his lover's neck, moulded his body against the still strong backbone and whispered into his ear, so that it could almost have been the wind that spoke to his soul…the Chorus…  

 "Any decision to end your life, Duncan, will also be a decision to end mine."  Slowly he pulled back and pulled the determined man around to face him. He continued, disregarding the clenched jaw and the obvious signs of distress brought on by his promise to mark the Highlander's death with his own.  Of all the truths that he had ever known, Methos knew with a terrifying certainty that this was war and he had no intention of letting Duncan win.

 Methos had never played fair, and he had no intention of learning any new habits now, when the cost could be so high. 

He continued with his promise, enunciating very slowly, "The minute - I - believe -you -are -truly -dead, -truly -gone -from -me in this world, I will follow you.  If you let an Immortal take your head, I'll kill them and take back your Quickening and I'll arrange my own death so that no-one else will ever - ever - receive our Quickenings.  All that we are and all the Quickenings we have ever taken will be lost.  And we'll be lost to each other." 

 He finally took breath but his eyes never wavered.  "Look at me Duncan.  Open your eyes and -look -at -me. Any comforting thoughts you might have had about your soul resting inside mine for eternity can be thrown away.  You kill yourself and I promise you this, bright boy – you will be alone for eternity and so will I!"

 Slowly Duncan opened his eyes.  Before he could react and pull away Methos reached down, seized the right hand of the stunned Scot and with a knife from no-where slashed the palm to the bone. Never letting his eyes waver from Duncan's gaze, Methos slashed his own hand and held the two together as the blood oath was sealed. As droplets of their blood were carried away on the breeze Duncan slowly lowered his eyes and stared, unbelieving, at the two weeping palms.

 "I swear Duncan that all I've promised will come to pass if you in any way engineer or acquiesce in your own death."

 Duncan stared, unbelieving, for some minutes before finally finding the words of outrage, at all living things.  Mortal, immortal, the earth, sky and sea - the gods - Richie and Tessa - his parents.  The demon. Methos. Their blood on the wind.   Finally - finally - the rebellion Methos had been engineering, and hoping for, came. 

 "You have no right to do this Methos!  None!  I won't carry that.  I won't carry your death as well…"  His face was a haunted plea.  He was lucid enough to realise what Methos was doing - attempting a blood-covenant.

 "We've shared our souls, our Quickenings - our bodies, Duncan.  It's time we shared our blood."  Methos produced a silver wine flask from his pocket, emptied some of its contents and captured a good portion of their blood before sealing it and placing it back in his pocket.

 It was indeed a war and Duncan MacLeod, even such a damaged Duncan - was as skilful as the man before him in the art of war.  His greatest weapon with his lover had always been his body - his eyes, mouth, hands.

 "Please.  Release me from this oath Methos.  If you love me more than you love yourself, release me.  I can't carry anything any more Methos.  I can't be responsible for your life. I won't be."

 "Or my death?" 

 Duncan closed his eyes against the resolve he saw on the face before him.  "Release me.  Whether you live or die is your choice - not mine!"

 Methos called on everything he had ever learned - the mistakes, the tragedies and the successes - and offered the desperate man his first taste in too long of a once favored morsel.  He offered him hope.

 "In three months time, if you ask me again, I'll release you.  If you still seek death, I'll be the one to give it to you.  Your Quickening is mine Duncan - no-one else's.  Ever.  Ever. Promise me Gradhach."  He let his hands stroke and soothe the troubled brow, refusing to disengage.

 The seconds that seemed like years…the weighing up…the manoeuvring…the second-guessing.  Finally, -  the words.

 "I promise."

"I want your word - given as part of the ritual."  The Methos who held him now had little to do with the late twentieth century.  Never letting his Highlander go, he steered him away from the cliff top and pulled him down out of the traitorous wind.  Taking the flask he shook it and mixed its contents – wine and blood.  They both knew its meaning -  draught of immortality and the symbol of knowledge.  When they drank from the same cup, simultaneously, both believed that an indissoluble covenant would be struck.

The ancient Immortal raised his hand and pulled his lover's head forward so that both of their mouths were at the rim of the jar. He called on Dagda, the god of brotherhood and alliances to sponsor their oath, before carefully articulating what the oath entailed.  "…tongudo dia toinges mo thuath…" and as Duncan heard the ancient invocation of his lover calling on the gods, he realised, fully, the depths Methos intended to go to prevent him from ending his life.

 Methos raised the jar and used the fingers of his left hand to force open Duncan's mouth.  Both then drank of the blood and wine.  As the rich thick liquid touched the surfaces of his mouth and slid down his throat Duncan was taken back to the Catholic rituals of his upbringing and recognised the ancient warrior traditions that Christ called on at the Last Supper, that had been translated into the ritual of the Mass:

 Accipite, et bibite ex eo omnes hic est enim calix sanguinis mei….  
 "…Take and drink you all of this, for this is the chalice of my blood…" 

 He wasn't sure any more whether he or Methos had translated.  The voice beside him continued - but it was not a voice that he had ever feared before.  Methos called on the Cosmos, making their covenant with it as surety for their word, knowing that in pledging his word thus he enrolled it in an order of things which was greater than them both.  Neither doubted that the breaking of such a covenant would bring down chaos not only on the two supplicants kneeling here at the end of the world, but on the world itself.  And that belief, plotted Methos, would be what would ensure that Duncan would keep his word.  "Your word, Duncan!  I want your sacred oath.  Invoke the Cosmos  - and your parents, Tessa, and Richie as our witnesses." 

 It was war.

 Even in the depths of such shock, Duncan could still find it in himself to genuflect to Methos' superior skills on the battlefield.  To know the two things in the world that would still have some meaning for Duncan MacLeod - his love of Methos, his inability to be the cause of Methos' death and wasted Quickening, and  Duncan's total inability to dishonor his family.  He had also brilliantly exploited the responsibility Duncan MacLeod felt for all living things.

 But, Duncan reassured himself, Methos had merely won this battle.  He had not won the war. 

All warriors knew the sense of a strategic - temporary - retreat.  Three months time would see himself, he was sure, the victor.  And then his soul would lay forever within Methos.  Away from pain and hurt and grief.  Three months.  And there was nothing in the bargain that spoke of him making Methos' life easy in that three months.  Or ruled out Methos' willingly releasing his lover from its bindings when he fully realised the cost.  Perhaps, Duncan consoled himself, when Methos saw day in and day out what price living was exacting on Duncan and on them both, he might release the Highlander to the death he so desperately desired?

 Reading all these thoughts as they wrote themselves across the haunted face before him, Methos took a deep breath and pulled Duncan more firmly into his arms.  He held him so tightly that both their hearts began beating as one.  As the elements beat uselessly against the shield they presented, Methos kissed Duncan's head and closed his own eyes against the pain. 

 <<Never listen to my lies…Never Gradhach. Never will I release youNever…>> 

 But the pain in his soul spoke differently, the old certainty no longer there.  Methos grimaced and accepted that he had three months only to give Duncan a reason to live.  And he had to do it in such a way that Duncan never stopped loving him - or he would be left with nothing to negotiate with.  He needed to think, to plan, to anticipate the counter moves.  Only one thing was truly known to him.  That if he failed and gave Duncan what he craved then he would follow the Highlander into whatever hell lay waiting for them.  He had determined long ago to be the gatekeeper of Duncan' MacLeod's nights and days - on this earth and beyond.

 It was, indeed, war.

 "I want all the outward forms Duncan.  I want my three months.  You're to spend as many hours as I dictate in training, meditation, eating, - in our bed.  And I don't give a damn whether you feel like any of it.  For the next three months you live.  In every sense of the word."

 Duncan opened his eyes and stared deep into the soul before him.  His eyes blazed in fury and despair. "I can't Methos.  I can't.  Do you think that I don't crave sleep?  That I wouldn't like to eat and drink without wanting to be sick? I can't train.  Meditation won't come to me.  I can't be your lover in any way that would satisfy you."

 Methos continued with the cold reserve that he had always carried in his arsenal of weapons.  "I-don't-care!  Twelve weeks, do you hear me?  I don't give a flying fuck if every mouthful of food makes you choke.  Every touch of my hands on your body makes you violently ill.  If you think that I'm going to let you simply sit around brooding, until the three months is up, you are very sorely mistaken.  You have a lot to learn about me Duncan.  And there's no time like the present. Your time for self-indulgence is over, youngling. Time to grow up."

 Methos saw with satisfaction the blind anger welling up and noted with even more satisfaction Duncan's unsuccessful attempts to contain it.  Fury had to be felt.  And this was the first sign he had seen in many weeks that Duncan was still capable of any real feeling at all.

 Duncan however was still tactician enough to know that he had lost this encounter.  And that he would need to get himself back into physical condition.  He should at least, he berated himself, be able to use his physical prowess to further his intentions. He had no doubt that Methos would always win any emotional war between them.  He considered Methos’ offer.  Three months - a life time.  He couldn’t think of Methos' threat now, couldn't believe that Methos would give up on five thousand years of life for one completely flawed and fragmented "…youngling…".  For Methos always lied, he reassured himself.  He always lied.

There were many more weapons still to be used. Like sex. He silently assured himself that Methos had under-estimated the arsenal Duncan MacLeod had at his disposal.  And he doubted that Methos knew the irony of the dates he had set and that the twelve week period coincided with a birthday.  He thought it fit that the day for celebrating a birth would be the day he welcomed his longed for final death.  It seemed a suitable bookend.

 Two hours later they were both back at the house and Methos was finally pulling Duncan into his arms in their huge warm bed.  Duncan's exhaustion after the harrowing exchange and the difficult walk back from the cliff promised some hours of much needed sleep for them both. Sleep - and planning.



End of Chpt 3

Go to Chapter 4

22 May, 2001

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