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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

TLR Chapter 71

Sunday morning Coral placed Castiel's carrier into the back seat of the cart and got behind the wheel, followed by a sulky Ryan who stood beside the cart, arms crossed, refusing to get in.

"I still don't understand why you're making me leave Cas with Shorty. I can care for him there, and you can too."

"We already had this discussion, little boy. Castiel is still little and should be with someone who knows how to take care of him, rather than take him to the cove and possibly lose him.” Coral explained for the third time.  Now wipe that pout off your face and let's have fun today."

"You just don't want me to have him at the beach. He'd be no trouble." Ryan continued to argue. "You said you wanted some time with him."
"And I do, but the beach is not the place for a small kitten. And we're not leaving him alone. He'll have company, and he'll be cared for. Now get into the cart and let's go pick up Tris."
"No, I want him to come with us." Ryan pouted.
Coral sighed in frustration, got back out of the cart and advanced on Ryan with an ominous expression. He took Ryan by the arm, turned him and gave him a half dozen, hard swats before turning him back to look at him. "We're not having this discussion anymore." Coral said with finality. "Now, we're going to drop Cas off with Shorty and that's the end of the discussion. Understood? Otherwise I'll just bring Tris to the cove, and we'll stay home. After I drop Cas off with Shorty."
Ryan yelped and danced with the swats. Tears lurked in the green eyes, but Ryan knew that when Coral resorted to swats or spanking, it meant that he'd crossed the line, and he said softly, "'Kay...sorry Coral."
Coral gave Ryan a hug and said, "I know. Get into the cart and let's go get Tristan."  

Ryan climbed into the cart, sitting  a bit gingerly and tried not to wince as he did so. They went to get Tris to spend the day with them. Ryan was still upset but stayed quiet.  

Tristan noticed that Ryan was upset but was unwilling to ask what had happened.  He stuck a finger into Castiel's carrier and rubbed the little kitten under his chin, making soft meowing sounds.  He saw Ryan's shoulders stiffen a bit from the corner of his eye and stopped what he'd been doing.

When they arrived at the bunkhouse, Shorty was standing outside, ready to welcome his little guest. Jarrod was standing beside him with his beach bag, but there was no sign of Little Jake.

Before anyone could ask, Jarrod said, "Little Jake is sick today and can't come, so it's just me. Shorty said you’d be willin’ to take me. He’s goin’ to stay here and look after little Jake."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Coral replied, "Will he be alright?"

"It's just a little summer cold," Shorty explained, "But I still didn't think he should go into the water, so he's going to stay here with Bo and I to take care of little Castiel." 

He saw the look on Ryan's face and added, "Don't worry, Ry, I promise we'll take very good care of him."

Ryan nodded but didn't reply, only sitting there with his lips clamped shut and fighting back the threatening tears.

"Thank you, Shorty," Coral replied, getting up to hand the vet the carrier. "I know you'll take good care of Cas. We'll be back in a few hours."

"Take your time," Shorty reassured them, "He's in good hands, Ry," he continued, bending down slightly to look at the obviously upset brat.

"Thank you." Ry said quietly.

Coral smiled his approval at Ryan, who finally managed to smile back, if somewhat wanly.  "Ok, Jare, hop in back and let's get going."

"Hooraw!" Jarrod shouted, as he got into the back seat where the carrier had been.  "Thanks for taking me, Coral." 

"You're very welcome." Coral smiled as he drove off toward James's house.


When they arrived at James's house at around ten that morning, Coral explained Jacob's absence. James gathered the small group of friends together and set out for the secluded cove. 

Jaxon watched in wonder as the cart bounced along the path to the private cove James maintained for the full time residents of TLR.

James smiled over at Jaxon as he drove carefully along trying not to jar his brat too much.

They had driven for a half hour when the path broke out onto a small clearing.  On the far side of the clearing was a small cabin, a shed and beyond that was the dock and lake.

Jarrod leaned in toward Tris and whispered, “Now the real fun starts!  Let's go."

"Hold on," Coral said, “we have to set up our site and then we can go over the ground rules."

"Ground rules? This is our time to relax." the older twin protested.

"And we'll relax a lot more as soon as we get the rules ironed out." Coral replied with a knowing smile.  Wherever Jarrod was, trouble was not far behind. Let's get our picnic site set up and then we can go from there."

Ryan pouted. "How come there always has to be rules. Why can't we do as we want?  You made me leave Cas with Shorty and Little Jake because he is still so little and needed care, but I could have cared for him here and you could have too." He continued to pout.

"We already had this discussion little boy and we agreed it was better to leave Castiel with someone who knows how to take care of him rather than take him here and possibly lose him, hon. Now wipe that pout off your face and let's have fun today." Coral replied.

James said, "Hold on Jax, I want to make sure everyone gathers and not scatter to the four winds before we talk about the rules."

"Sheesh, I was just getting out of the cart, James, not running away." Jax grumped.

"I was," Jarrod joked to Tris in a low whisper.

Tris grinned and shouldered Jare.  "Quiet you."

James arched an eyebrow. "We only are coming out here on the condition that everyone listens and we have an enjoyable time. I'm not going to track down five brats."

"Hey, big guy, count again, I'm not a brat," Coral laughed.

James grinned and teased, “Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.”

Ryan laughed at that and Cor shook his head.

Jax flushed and looked at the ground at James’s comment. "Sorry," he said.

James put an arm around Jax and squeezed him kissing him on the forehead. "I know, now let's all gather together so Coral and I can let you four know what we expect so we all can have a fun time."

Jarrod sighed but sat down on the top of the picnic table and put on his listening face.

Tris looked at Jarrod and sat down beside him. He looked at Jax and Ryan to see what was going to happen next.  This was his first day at the beach with friends and he didn't want to miss anything.

Jax shrugged and sat down on one of the seats.

Coral looked at James as their leader and waited for him to begin.

Ryan sat down with the others with a bored look.

Coral saw Ryan's expression and leaned down to whisper something in his ear.

Ryan's eyes widened a bit but he quickly lost the bored expression and listened attentively.

James said, "Rule number one wanders off alone. Rule number two, any of you will tell Coral or me if you plan to leave the camp site and you’re not to be gone too long...maybe an hour." He looked at Coral for confirmation.

Coral nodded.  "Anyone leaving the camp site without first telling one of us is going to be in trouble.  Plain and simple." He added.

James leveled a look at the four young men. "You can go out on the lake, but there will be no horsing around out there and you will remain in sight of Coral or myself at all times or like Coral said, you'll be in trouble."

"James, we can't even think about horsing around if you don't let us get in the lake," Jax groaned.  "It's hot."

"I didn't say you couldn't get in the lake, just that you had to stay in sight of us at all times or no one goes in."

 Ryan muttered. "We're not damn children."

"Watch your mouth and your attitude little boy," Coral said quietly.  "If we didn't care about you we'd just let you go and do whatever you wanted regardless of the dangers.  Just do as you're told."

Ryan sighed and said, "Yes Sir."

"And that's what lakes are for." Jare said reasonably.  "For having fun and relaxing.  Who's up for a game of water volleyball?"

Tris was becoming uneasy and smiled at Jarrod.  "I'm in.... as soon as we can get in the water."

"Hey guys," Jax said, "I thought we came out here to relax and have fun, not grump and argue."

"Jaxon is right." Coral said with a somewhat sheepish smile.  "Everyone go on out and have a good time. Just follow the rules, guys, and we'll all have a great time today."

James looked at Coral then said, "Jax, go ahead and have fun, just follow the rules."

Jax leaned into James, "Thanks."  

"Just make sure you keep your brace on, little one.”

Jarrod immediately shucked his street clothes and sandals so that he stood in only his bathing suit.  "Last one in the water eats sushi!" He yelled as he ran toward the water and dove in. He came up gasping for air and laughing.  "The water is freezing, come on in!"

Ryan wrinkled his nose at Jarrod's comment and shucked his street clothes down to his bathing suit as well and waited for Jax.

James asked, "Need any help, little one?"

Jax plopped down on the sand again and stuck his feet in the air waiting for James to pull his pants off.  He laughed with joy.

James chuckled at Jax's antics and pulled off the young man's pants.

Tristan watched James and Jax, a wistful expression on his face.  He stripped down to his bathing suit as well and walked dejectedly toward the water.  His eyes opened wide when he felt the coldness and he began to walk in slowly.

Ryan said, "If we walk into the lake together no one will be last and have to eat sushi."

"Dive in or you'll take all day." Jarrod called. "Come on, Jax, Ry! No sushi today, promise." He grinned.

He pushed off the bottom of the lake, arrowed into the air as much as he could and dove back in, getting used to the water.

Ryan shook his head, but waited for Jax.

Tristan leaned down and cupped water into his hands to wet his arms and legs, and then his chest.  The air was warm but the lake water was cold.  He frowned when Jarrod splashed water at him. 

James and Coral walked up to the shed.  Once there they opened the door and pulled out a couple of inner tubes and a small two man raft.  They carried their findings back to the beach.

"Come on in!"  Jarrod said again.

When no one joined him, Jarrod frowned and began to swim out by himself.

Ryan walked along the path to the lake with Jax and reaching the edge grinned. "Shall we just rush in?"

"Sure, but I can't run fast."  Jax answered as he carefully made his way to the water.

Ryan said, "You don't have to, just hang onto me and I'll bring you in." He grinned, even though he was the same size as Jax.

"Ok," the young man agreed.

"Come on guys! Time's a wastin'!" Jarrod called from the dock.

Ryan walked with Jax to the water's edge and then taking his hand tugged him along steadily into the water until he was about waist high and then pushed him down, rolling with him and laughing.

Jax sucked in a deep breath when he finally hit the water.  He came up sputtering.  He reached for Ryan trying to pull him under.

Tristan envied the easy relationship between Ryan and Jax. He'd been on the resort for a while but he still never felt like 'one of the guys'.  He finally dove in and swam toward the dock to be near Jarrod.

Ryan came up sputtering and grinned at Jax. "Now you can swim and try not to drown me again." He teased as he struck out to where Jare was and Tristan was heading.

When Tristan got to the dock he climbed up onto the sun warmed platform and grinned at Jarrod, who leaned over the edge of the dock to splash water on him.  Tristan immediately got up and pushed the other man into the water.  Jarrod came up, grinning and got back up onto the dock where he and Tristan got into a mock wrestling match, each trying to throw the other into the water.

A shrill whistle cut the air and the two men stopped what they were doing to see what was happening.

Coral shouted to the two young men on the dock.  "We said no horsing around!" He warned.

Jarrod and Tristan both shouted 'sorry's' to the older man and sat back down on the dock to sun themselves.

Ryan stopped swimming as he heard the shrill whistle from Coral. When he heard the older man shouting at Tris and Jarrod he looked at Jax, then continued to swim toward the dock

"Jax, can you make it to the dock?" Jarrod asked. “We'll help you up the ladder if you want to get up here with us."

"Na, I want to swim some more." Jax answered.

"Want company?" Tris asked.

"Sure." Jax answered with a grin.

Ry smiled at Tristan and said, "I'm goin' to swim some more too."

Tristan grinned and dove back into the water, followed closely by Jarrod and Ryan.  They swam from the dock to the shore, back to the buoys and then back toward the dock. 

Coral and James watched the brats, making sure they were playing nice then began setting up some chaise lounges.  Coral started the fire pit so they would be ready for lunch when the boys wore themselves out.

"Who's up for water volleyball?" Jarrod asked again.

He loved the water and couldn't get enough of it. He was especially pleased to have his friends with him, although he did feel badly that Little Jake had been sick that morning and couldn't go with them.

It didn't seem like it but they had been in the water for over an hour and Jax was tiring out.  James could see it from the beach.

Ryan looked at Jax, "You up for that?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"If we're in deep enough, your knee should be fine.  It's mostly upper body stuff, and you can kick off with your good leg." Jare assured Jax. 

James called, "It's time for everyone to come in and get something to eat and rest!"

Jare frowned when he heard James call them in for lunch.   "Maybe afterward, hey guys?"  He asked as they all began to swim toward the beach.

Relief showed on Jax's face when he heard James call them in.

Coral met the younger men at the edge of the water with clean, dry towels.  He helped Jaxon toward the camp site, careful of the young man's knee.

"Thanks, Cor," Jax said his teeth chattering.

Coral led Jax to the picnic table and put another towel over the shivering young man.  He then turned toward Ryan to make sure his boy wasn't in the same condition.

Ryan was shivering a bit but smiled at Coral. "I'm all right, just take care of the others. I'm tough."

"Yep, you are." Coral smiled, planting a kiss on Ryan's mouth before turning toward Tristan.  "You ok?" He asked.

"I'm fine. The water was cold but the sun is warming me right up." He assured the other man.

James went over and enveloped Jax in a hug, snuggling him close to help him to warm up a bit.

Jax leaned against James warmth smiling.

"Then everyone sit down, we have dogs and burgers all made up, just help yourselves." Coral said with a smile as he sat down beside Ryan and put an arm around him.

Ryan leaned against Coral and was glad for his warmth, but still wished that they'd taken Castiel to the beach with him. He liked to fall asleep to the rumble of the kitten's purring. 

The boys made short work of the food the tops had prepared for them.

Tristan tried not to stare at the couples who were so obviously enjoying each other's closeness.  He wished for the millionth time that Brendon and he could be a couple again.  He felt very lost and alone.

Jarrod saw the expression on Tristan's face and a great thought came to him.  "Hey," he said, "Why don't we all take a nap?"

"After you reapply your sunblock.  You're starting to burn a little." Coral said.

"I burn and tan." Jarrod assured the older man.

"Well, I'd prefer you didn’t burn at all." Coral replied, "So you'll reapply your sunblock.  I'll be happy to help if you need it."

Taking Coral's warning, Jare scowled and sprayed sunblock on himself, rubbing it in wherever he could reach.  He allowed Coral to do his back for him, although he felt as though Coral was being a little heavy handed when he did the backs of his legs.

"Ow!" Jarrod complained.

"Sorry." Coral responded, not sounding the least bit sorry.

Jax watched Coral and Jarrod from the safety of James's arms.  He was learning that Jare could be a pain when he wanted too.

"A nap sounds really good about now." Coral said when he'd finished with Jarrod.  "We have blankets laid out on the beach.  Everyone claim a spot and get a little sleep."

Tristan laid on his stomach beside Jare on a large green blanket.  Jax and James claimed the blanket next to theirs.

Coral lay down and wrapped his arms around Ryan, pulling his boy as close to him as he could in the shade of the trees.

Ryan snuggled close to Coral, content to stay right where he was, even if he did miss Castiel’s presence.

Jarrod and the others laid back and enjoyed the sunshine and the relative quiet, the faint sound of the birds, the water lapping at the shore, the slight thunk, thunk as the water caused the dock to move.

Because the day was warm Jax only rested his head on James's bicep not his chest. Soon he could hear James's soft snoring added to the other sounds around them.  But it was too hot to sleep so Jax rolled away from James, stood and walked down to the shore line.  He walked ankle deep into the water trying to cool off.

Tris walked up beside him.  “Having trouble sleeping too?” He whispered not wanting to wake the others.

“Yeah,” Jax nodded, “It’s just too hot.” 

Jax led them out onto the dock, they sat dangling their feet in the chilly water. 

“Hey, look over there,” Tris said pointing to the bank across from the cove.  “It looks like an inlet to a river.”

“It is,” Jarrod said surprising both young men.

“Man, Jare, warn a guy next time,” Jax growled.

The young horse wrangler plopped down next the Tris.  “Sorry, I thought you heard me coming.”  He added his feet to the cold water too.  “Anyway, that is the beginnings of a river.  Me and Jake have been down it several times.”

“Maybe James and Coral can show it to us when they wake up,” Jax wondered out loud.

“Yeah, that would be fun,” Tris added.

Jare looked back at the resort owner to make sure he was actually asleep and then gently nudged Tristan.  “If you two want, I can take you over there now.”

"Jare, I don't think we are supposed to leave the area.  I'm not sure..." Jax said hesitantly.

"Hey, Come on, let’s have a little fun. The river is beautiful.”  The older twin cut him off.  “We just need to be quiet till we get to the mouth.”

The brats looked at each other.

"Come on, Jax, you'll love it over there."

The young man looked back at his oldest partner, glanced over to where Coral and Ryan were sound asleep and sighed, “Sure I’d love to see the river.”

“Me too,” Tris chimed in.

Jare noticed a movement near Coral and Ryan and froze for a moment, then realized that it was just Ryan snuggling up even closer to Coral in his sleep.

Breathing a sigh of relief Jare eased down into the water followed by the other two and led the other young men toward the raft. They put on their life vests.  Jarrod pulled the two man raft into the water and he and Tristan helped Jax into the back.  "You stay in back with Jax and paddle from there, I'll take the front, ok?" He asked Tristan.

"Sure, but I'm not that familiar with rafts.  Will we be safe with three of us in here?"

"Yeah, it's a two man raft, Jare." Jax added concerned.

"Safe as babies in their cribs." Jarrod replied with a grin.  “Jacob and I use these all the time, and you two aren't that big to begin with, so I think we'll be alright." Jarrod said.  "Jax, just lean back between Tris’s legs and we'll get going."

Not knowing what else to do, Jax leaned back keeping his leg stretched out in front of him.

Tristan picked up the paddle and helped Jarrod maneuver the raft into the water.  Jarrod took over and led them toward the river that let out of the lake.  "You guys are gonna love this." He assured them.

"I hope so cuz we aren't supposed to leave sight of the cabin." Jax reminded the older twin.

The ride was smooth at first and the boys all seemed to be enjoying the adventure, but then the water began to move faster, and the rubber raft bounced over small stones, making them jounce around inside.

"It's too late to turn back now, Jax.  Do you want me to pull over to the shore? You can get out there and walk back."

Jax looked around.  It was beautiful along the river. “No, keep going,” Jax grinned. He forgot about the trouble he was surely in when he spied a doe and fawn feeding near the water's edge.

"We're coming to the rapids.  Jax, hold on to the sides so you can balance.  Tris, get that paddle ready to help avoid the rocks. You guys are in for the ride of your life." Jarrod said excitedly.

Tristan's stomach dropped into his pelvic region.  "I've never been on the rapids before, Jare! I don't know how to paddle around them."

Jax barely had time to move before they hit the rapids

"Just don't panic and we'll be alright, guys." Jarrod grinned.  He'd been on the rapids alone and with his brother many times and they'd never had a mishap.  At first he expertly paddled around the larger rocks, laughing as the raft hit the smaller ones which made the raft bounce up into the air.

Jax gasped.

Tristan began to panic and tried to paddle backwards, which caused the raft to slew sideways.

"What're you doing!?" Jarrod demanded.  "Don't paddle like that you'll capsize us!"

"I don't know how to..." were the last words Tristan said before the raft capsized, throwing the three boys out into the rapidly moving water.

It was too late and Jax felt himself in the water.

Jarrod immediately reached out toward Jaxon and Tristan and grabbed hold of them, using the muscles he'd developed working horses to tow them to the shore.  It took some time with both of them panicking but he was able to do it. Eventually they lay on the bank, panting and gasping for breath.

Jax watched the raft disappear around the bend of the river.

"Jaxon, are you alright?" Jare asked, turning toward the other young man.

"Yeah," Jax coughed, "I am for now but I won't be when James finds us."

"We are in such deep doo," Tristan whispered, his eyes wide.


James stirred and looked around him. Three of the four brats were not lying there. He stood up and scanned the lake and the surrounding beach of the cove and frowned. There was no sign of them. He went over and bent down and touched Coral on the shoulder. "Coral?" He called quietly.

Coral's eyes opened immediately and focused on James.  "What's wrong?"

James said, "We’re missing three of our brats." He told Coral quietly, not wanting to wake Ryan.

"What?" Coral asked in disbelief.  "Where could they have gone?  Did you check the cabin?"

James said, "No, not yet. I was just about to do that, but I don't hear anything coming from the cabin and they're nowhere on the lake or the beach." He strode toward the cabin and checked inside and then the shed and then noticed the raft missing. He went back to Coral worry in his smoke blue eyes now. "There's no one in the cabin and the two man raft we brought down is missing from the beach." He reported.

"Then they went down the river." Coral said decisively.  "And if Jarrod was in the lead then they ended up on the rapids.  Call Con and Brian to keep a look out on the river for the raft and the three of them, I'll start driving along the access road to see if I can catch up with them."

James nodded. "All right." He got on the radio and called Con and Brian to alert them to the situation and to look out for the raft.

Ryan stirred and opened his green eyes. "What's goin' on Coral?"

"Your friends have decided to take a little ride down the river, hon. I'm going to go look for them now. You stay with James.  No arguments." He ordered.

Coral slipped into his shorts, shirt and sandals.

Ryan opened his mouth to protest anyway. "Coral...I wanna come." He pouted.

James said, "You stay here, Ryan. I may need help if they come back."

Ryan looked at Coral pleadingly.

"Stay with James, Ry." Coral said in a quieter tone. He pulled Ryan toward him and gave him a reassuring hug.  "If I do find them there will only be room for the four of us.  Stick with James in the meantime."  He released Ryan and hopped into the cart. He peeled out of the camp area and drove to the access road, praying that the three young men were all right.

Ryan watched Coral go and understood that he had good reason for leaving him behind and so stayed with James without further protest, but wished once again that he had Castiel with him to keep him company. He didn't like having to wait without Coral even though he liked and trusted James.

James put an arm around Ryan. "It’ll be all right Ry, Con and Brian are also on the alert now.

Ryan nodded. "Yeah." He said.


"What are you gunna do now?" Jax asked Jare.  His leg was beginning to ache.

"We're gonna have to walk back, I guess." Jarrod said in a matter of fact tone.  "Nothin' else we can do now that we've lost the raft.  Jax, you gonna make it or do you need help walking?"

"I'll be ok," Jax growled, “I can walk."

"Hey, what are you mad at me for? It's not like I held a gun to your head and made you come." Jarrod stated angrily.  "And we were having a great time until Tristan panicked and made us capsize."

Jarrod saw Tris shivering and Jax limping slightly.  Instead of going back immediately he said, "Hang on guys, sit tight.  I'm going to gather some wood.  Sit in the sunlight and try to keep warm while I build and light a fire."

"Ok, a fire sounds great." Jax agreed.  "But not for too long."

Jare foraged into the surrounding woods, looking for dry wood and rocks.  He made a circle of the rocks and loaded dry wood inside in the shape of an inverted V.

"How do you figure you're going to light it?" Tris asked, "By rubbing two sticks together?"

Jarrod grinned and pulled a box wrapped in a balloon out of his swimsuit pocket.  "Waterproof matches.  Never leave home without 'em." He grinned.

Before long the three boys were gathered around the fire, feeling considerably warmer.

"If I ever get lost, I want it to be with you, Jare," Jax laughed.

"We are lost." Tris laughed too.

Jare smiled, glad that neither Jax nor Tris seemed especially angry with him at the moment. "Nah, we're not lost.  I know where we are.  See that path?" He asked pointing slightly toward the right. "The moose and deer made it. We just need to follow that to the access road.  It won't be the easiest thing to do but it's the best option we have right now."

Jax could feel his knee tingling, glad he still had his light weight brace on.

Jarrod noticed Jaxon rubbing at his knee.  "Hey, we can take turns taking you piggy back if you have a hard time walking." He suggested.

"I'll be ok, Jare.  But maybe you could find me a branch to use as a walking stick." Jax asked.

"Good idea. Let me get on that right now.  I'll be right back, you guys sit tight"

As the boys sat around their small fire down river Con and Brian were making a discovery along the shore.

"I'll radio James" Brian said quickly.  “Brian to James, Come in James. Over."

The ranger climbed over a couple of boulders to reach the orange raft.  He pulled it back up the shore to his waiting partner. 

James answered, "James you have any news? Over."

"We found the raft. No sign of the guys though. Over."

James frowned. "Would you and Brian go upriver and see if you can find any sign of them? Over."

"I'd estimate that we're about five miles downstream.  We’ll double back. Over."

"Tell him they probably got thrown out when they hit the first set of rapids." Con told Brian.

Brian relayed the message. "We'll head back that way and see if we can pick up any trail. Over."

Coral, who had been listening on the radio in the cart slowed down a little and said "I'll keep an eye out.  I'm on access road four. Over."

James said. "Thank you. Over and out." Then he called, "James to Coral. Over."

"Coral here. I heard, James.  What do you want me to do? Over."

"Maybe you can find a place to park and walk along the river toward Brian and Con? Over."

"Will do." Coral replied.  "Over."  He pulled his cart over to the side of the road and followed a narrow path toward the river. He was very grateful that Ryan had been with him and not in the raft with the other boys.  He shuddered to think what would have happened if the four of them had tried to squeeze into that two man raft.


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