Welcome To The Harem
Borrowed Time by Azar
Summary: Living on borrowed time is still living if you have someone to share it with. Secret Santa fic. Kim, Doggett, others.
Title: Borrowed Time
Disclaimer: David, Kenny, Art, Anne and Mom Cook are mine, the rest of the
characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. Although if you want
my opinion, the spirit of Kim Cook belongs jointly to Arlene Pileggi, who
created her, and Kristen K2, who made sure that no one could ever see her as
"just a secretary." Merry Christmas, Kristen!
Rating: PG-13 for some strong language
Summary: Living on borrowed time is still living if you have someone to
share it with.
by Kristen's Secret Santa
She still hadn't gotten used to the feeling that stole over her sometimes
these days. Even though it had been five years since she'd finally gotten up
the nerve to demand of her boss the truth behind the rumors surrounding
Agent Mulder's disappearance. Even though it had been three years since he'd
appeared at her door--distraught and
dishonorably discharged from the Bureau, but alive--with the grim news on
his lips that Agents Mulder and Scully were presumed dead, Agents Doggett
and Reyes were missing, and the date was coming sooner than they'd ever
It would hit her most often when she was out in public--like now, wandering
the aisles of the grocery store. One minute the faces of people around her,
going about their everyday lives, would be a soothing presence. A lingering
tie to the normality her life had lost years ago. The next, they would float
in her vision like walking corpses and leave her fighting a compulsion to
climb up on something in the middle of the store and scream at them. Didn't
they realize that this way of life had an expiration date on it, that no
amount of refrigeration would postpone?
The faint, printed date on the carton of milk in her hands danced tauntingly
in and out of focus. Sometimes the strangest things would trigger that
moment of panic.
Shaking it off with a silent scolding for the exaggerated metaphor, she
dropped her eyes to the basket. The feeling would pass. It always did. She'd
seen too much in her life to believe there wasn't Someone Up There
protecting the human race from itself. Too much to ever be completely
A quick relocation of a jar of curry powder made room for the milk as she
rounded the corner, but was immediately rendered moot as she collided with
someone in the aisle. The hapless milk carton exploded on impact, all over
the front of her clothes.
"Christ, I'm sorry!" a man's voice apologized. A rough hand whipped out a
white cotton handkerchief and extended it to her.
Suddenly distracted from the blast pattern of milk droplets decorating her
chest, her eyes snapped in astonishment to the face that went with the voice
her ears couldn't quite believe they were hearing.
He looked at her for the first time, eyes rounding in shock. "Kimberly,
right? From AD Skinner's office?"
She accepted the handkerchief with a disbelieving little nod.
"Need a little help with that?"
"No, I've got it. You remembered my name."
He smiled, blue eyes bright with amusement. "You're pretty hard to forget."
A more expected compliment she probably could've resisted, but instead found
her cheeks turning embarrassingly warm. Fortunately, he didn't seem to
"Lemme buy you another carton of milk."
"I haven't paid for this one yet--"
"Then I'll cover it too, if they decide to be unreasonable about it."
Before she could object, he held up a staying hand. "Please. Two things my
mom taught me were never swear in front of a lady, and always take
responsibility for your own mistakes. Already broke one of those rules,
don't make me break the other too."
Kim grinned helplessly. "All right. But I was the one who wasn't looking
where I was going, so let me do something to make it up to you."
"You already have--you have no idea how long it's been since I've seen a
The petite redhead frowned. "What about Agent Reyes?"
"Mexico. We decided it'd be better if she took care of her folks and
coordinated things from down there, and it's easier for one person to
disappear than two."
"Then what are you doing in Atlanta?"
"Monica's coverin' her home turf, I'm coverin' mine. What about you?"
She sighed, bitter memories leaving their familiar, rancid taste on her
tongue. "After Walter lost his job, I got offered a position with the SAC at
the local field office. He insisted I take it, so I wouldn't get caught in
the backlash of his fall. Plus...well, this is my turf too."
"You're from around here?"
Kim nodded. "Born and raised. You?"
"Democrat Hot Springs. But we moved into the city after the spring dried up
and people stopped comin'." He smiled. "Hey, can I buy you a cup of coffee
or somethin'? I've got a lotta questions about what happened after Monica 'n
I left. Always felt bad for leaving Skinner to walk into the lion's den
She hesitated, but the frank, hopeful look in his eyes was persuasive.
"Sure. Just let me finish picking up the things I need for dinner tonight."
Doggett pleasantly surprised her by offering to take her home to drop off
her groceries first, after she revealed that she'd walked the six blocks to
the store. She shouldn't have been--she'd seen enough of the agent to know
he could be a perfect Southern gentleman when he wanted to--but years of
being ignored by agents who only wanted to talk to her boss had conditioned
her not to expect such courtesy from one of them.
He surprised her again when he paid for her coffee as well as his own: "This
was my idea, I'll cover it," he insisted. And like a true gentleman, he also
insisted on carrying both cups to the empty table they'd selected by the
"So, when you said you were 'covering' your home turf...did you mean some
sort of resistance?" she asked as they sat down.
It was his turn to look surprised. "Somethin' like that--I'm still not a
hundred percent convinced this threat is alien, but that doesn't make it any
less of a threat."
"Don't you ever feel guilty that you're basically working against your own
government?" It was a thought that nagged at her once in a while--despite
the frustration of wanting to do something and not being able to, despite
her anger over how Walter had been "rewarded" for his years of faithful
service, there was still that twinge of guilt over feeling so unpatriotic.
"Not anymore--this country was founded on the idea that if the government
doesn't serve its people, we have a responsibility to change it so it does."
He had a point. She sipped at her latte with a discontented frown. "At least
you are doing something to change things."
Doggett looked surprised again. "Didn't Skinner contact you when we set up
"No...don't look like that, Agent Doggett. He wanted to protect me, and I
"Seems to me you're probably pretty capable of protecting yourself, or him
for that matter," was the response, accompanied by another blush-inducing
smile. "And call me John--I haven't been Agent or Doggett since I came back
across the border."
"You're using a false name?"
He nodded. "Friend of some old friends of Mulder's set me up with it."
Kim's eyes grew subdued at the mention of Agent Mulder. "I was sorry to hear
about them, by the way. About Agents Mulder and Scully."
He'd looked about to accept her sympathy until she mentioned their names,
then a line of confusion appeared on the bridge of his nose. "What about
Mulder and Dana?"
"Why, that...I...Walter was told they were killed in New Mexico."
The former agent blinked in surprise. "They were fine as of a week ago, last
time I heard from 'em. They're the ones organizin' this 'resistance' as you
"Oh." Well, that was embarrassing. Why hadn't anyone told her? Why hadn't
Walter called to tell her when he found out...?
Then she remembered, with a twist of regret, what else she'd agreed to when
she'd promised him she'd take the job in Atlanta. He didn't know her current
number, didn't know where she lived. He hadn't wanted to--swore he wouldn't
let her become a target on account of his choices.
A sigh slipped out from between her lips. "Next time I let someone talk me
into disappearing, remind me not to agree to cut all ties."
He chuckled softly at the hint of sarcasm in her voice. "It's not much, and
it probably won't be enough...but we had to try."
"I wish there was something I could do."
John eyed her thoughtfully, his piercing study sending a shiver along her
veins. "Maybe there is. Honestly, we need all the help we can get,
especially getting more people on our side. We need recruiters, people who
can make others believe there's really a threat worth fighting. Marita
Covarrubias is good at that, but she's workin' on the vaccine end of things
right now and, from what I remember, you're a hell of a lot more diplomatic
Dana Scully's ever been."
Kim flushed even deeper, her mouth forming an 'o' of surprise. No one had
ever compared her to Agent Scully like that before, as if she were the one
who should be envied.
"You mean it?"
"If you really want to be a part of this, yeah, I mean it. But I'll tell you
right now, what we're doin' is dangerous. The forces we're fightin' are
still a hell of a lot more powerful than we are, and what little security we
have in secrecy can be ripped away at a moment's notice."
"Agent--John...I may be a secretary, but I'm also a human being dealing with
the possible extinction of her race. I can sit here and do nothing and wait
for the end of the world, which I probably won't survive, or I can do
everything in my power to help. Believe me, if it's between danger and
certain doom...that's not a hard choice to make."
He nodded. "Y'know...I think I owe you an apology."
"For not knowing better than to underestimate you. Shoulda known there's no
such thing as 'just a secretary.'"
Kim grinned impishly at him over her coffee. "I could've told you that."
He laughed. "Thanks."
"For accepting your apology?"
"That...and for just comin' here with me. Answerin' my questions 'n all.
It's been a long time since I just got to 'hang out' with someone."
She nodded. "I've got my family in town, but if you're here under an assumed
name...I can understand that would be lonely."
"More than you know."
An idea struck her, then. "Why don't you come over for dinner tonight? I've
got a new curry recipe I want to try out, and my brother cancelled at the
He looked at her warily, but his eyes were twinkling. "Curry? I don't
know--can you cook?"
She laughed. "John, my last name is Cook--if I couldn't, I'd never live it
John grinned then. "All right. In the meantime, I'll see about puttin' you
in touch with someone who can help you figure out where you fit in."
"Thank you, really..."
He shook his head, that same heart-stopping smile once again gracing his
face. "I'm the one who should be thanking you."
(Continued in part II)
"Were you in love with her?"
In the past six months, one dinner had turned into a weekly ritual, a
blissful moment of ordinariness in a week that was anything but. Whenever
both of them were in town, nothing but the invasion coming early could've
prevented them from keeping that new tradition. And gradually their dinner
conversation had become more and more intimate. Both had missed having a
confidante, and were only too happy to serve that purpose for each other.
Tonight, they had retired to the couch in John's living room after the meal
was finished and the dishes done. Much to Kim's delight, he always insisted
on helping with the cleanup, even when they were at her place.
"What?" he asked from one end of the sofa, turning so he could see her
The question had come out of the blue, she knew that, but she also wasn't
afraid to ask it anymore. "Were you in love with Agent Scully?"
A moment of thought passed, then he shook his head against the cushions.
"Nah. She was my partner--I felt responsible for her. And for her baby...I
couldn't forget what it felt like to have my son torn away from me. I
couldn't let that happen to someone else."
She heard what he wasn't saying too--it had happened, in the end, and he
hadn't been able to prevent it, because it was Scully's own choice. Kim
couldn't imagine having to make that choice.
"What about Agent Reyes?"
John sighed deeply. "Monica and I...if things had gone differently, if we
hadn't had to run...I don't know. Guess I never will."
"Don't be." He smiled. "I had it all once...wife, kid, house in the
suburbs...that's more than some people get."
She nodded, her right hand instinctively massaging the empty finger on her
left hand. She'd been married once too. Before he'd accused her of having an
affair with Walter. Sometimes she thought she never wanted to try again,
unable to believe that she'd misjudged her husband so badly. How could she
have married such an irrationally jealous man without noticing that fault
"Do you ever wish you hadn't been assigned to the X-Files?"
His laugh was curt and ironic. "All the time. But I wouldn't do anything
differently. 'Cept maybe not object so much to Skinner wantin' to dig Mulder
up." He sat up straighter then, looking her straight in the eyes. "What
about you--do you regret gettin' involved in all this?"
"I do and I don't," she admitted. "Sometimes I wish I didn't know...that I
didn't have this fear of the future hanging over my head. But what I would
lose by not knowing..." Her stomach fluttered unexpectedly as she met his
eyes. "That I wouldn't give up for the world." God, how could any woman not
drown in those eyes, or in the wonderful rough baritone of his voice?
"Sounds like we feel the same, then."
"Nah, Kim, I couldn't," John protested.
"Why not? You say this is your home turf, but you're here under an assumed
name and I never hear you talk about spending time with your family...so
it's not like you have other plans."
"You tellin' me if I go to your folks house for Christmas with you, your
whole family isn't gonna assume you're bringin' home the new boyfriend?" he
demanded, smiling in spite of himself.
Kim laughed brightly. "Of course they are! That's half the fun."
Blue eyes stared at her in mock scandal over the shelf full of teddy bears.
"Kimberly Arlene Cook, are you just usin' me to get back at your family or
"Would I do that?"
When his grin broadened, she giggled. "Face it, John, you'd be terrible for
that kind of revenge--you're every mother's dream son- in-law. If I really
wanted to scare them, I'd be inviting Alex Krycek over for Christmas
John's face sobered for a second with that last statement and he cast her a
sideways, wondering look.
She flushed, eyes dropping to the plush toy in her hands. "Okay, so that
might be a little more difficult..."
"Hey..." Before she looked up again, he was at her side, pulling her into a
"I actually liked him, you know," she confessed. "In spite of everything, I
kept hoping...until...what he did to Walter...that I couldn't forgive. God
knows, I might've shot him myself if I'd been there."
"Then I'm glad you weren't."
Letting go with some reluctance, she tightened her grip on the white bunny
with its Santa hat and gave him a grateful smile. "So are you coming or
John grinned in relief, the teasing tone suddenly back in his voice. "What
the hell--not like I've got anything better to do. Just promise me one
"Don't you dare abandon me to your brothers' tender mercies if they start
quizzin' me about my intentions."
She laughed out loud. "Deal."
"So how did you and my sister meet?" Kim's twin brother, Ken asked, taking a
sip of eggnog.
The question made her look up from where she was helping her mom set the
table for dinner. At John's scolding look she shrugged helplessly, but her
eyes were twinkling. Promise or no promise, there was only so much she could
"We ran into each other in the grocery store...literally," he admitted, with
one last exasperated glance in her smirking direction.
Watching the exchange, her brother laughed. "Believe it or not, I'm glad to
hear that. It's nice to know Kimmy's finally making an effort to make some
friends locally--we've been telling her for three years that she shouldn't
have left DC if was going to spend all her time focusing on what she left
The ex-agent smothered a surprised laugh with a cough and the secretary
ducked her head to let the curtain of her auburn hair hide a smile.
Ken looked from one to the other. "Oh no...Kimmy, don't tell me..."
Still grinning, she arranged one last place setting and crossed to the sofa
where her brother was sitting. "Kenny, did I forget to mention John used to
work for the Bureau out of DC?"
The expression on his face couldn't seem to quite believe what it was
hearing. "For God's sake, Kimmy--"
"Don't you dare scold me, Ken--" she warned him with sparkling eyes. "It's
He ducked his head in acknowledgment. "Consider it my Christmas gift to you,
"If that's all you got me, Bro, you're the one who's going to have some
explaining to do," she shot back merrily.
The baby of the family, who had so far just been hovering with an impish
look on his face, laughed out loud at this. "She's got you there, Kenny."
"Shut up, Art," Ken threw back good-naturedly.
Kim didn't fight the smile that spread over her face. This was the one
regret she didn't have about coming home to Atlanta--being close enough to
spend time like this with her family. God, she'd missed them. And no matter
how much she'd worried about Walter during the years when she didn't know
where he was or what he was doing, she'd always been grateful to him for
She felt John's eyes on her and glanced over at him. He was watching the
banter with a fond smile, and she wondered again how he could stand to be so
close to home and so far away. It had made her even more determined to share
her family with him.
"Honestly," Mom's smile was as bright as her daughter's as she approached
them with both hands on her hips. "It'll be a relief when David and Anne get
here--he'll put the fear of God into you boys if nothing else does."
Something like surprise flickered in John's face and Kim almost laughed
aloud. Yes, sometimes it probably seemed like she had a never-ending supply
of brothers. It seemed that way to her too, on occasion. But the advantage,
of course, was that the only sister got treated like a princess when she
wasn't being teased mercilessly.
"David and Anne?" John echoed disbelievingly as she plopped down next to him
on the couch.
"My older brother and his wife...believe it or not, my *only* other brother
besides these two," she glared playfully at Ken and Art. "And the only one
of the three with enough sense to get married and stop depending on me and
Mom for all their decent meals."
"I resemble that remark," Art teased, bending down to give his sister a kiss
on the cheek. "Speaking of...hey, Mom, dinner gonna be ready any time soon?"
(Cont. in part 3)
Snow. It should be snowing, Kim thought as she looked out miserably at the
rain pounding the driveway of her mother's house into mud. The fleece
pullover she was wearing was warm, especially under the leather jacket, but
she still found herself shivering.
Oh, God, why did she have to remember tonight? To remember the precarious
edge the world was balanced on, an edge her family didn't even know about
because she--the prized recruiter--hadn't found the courage to tell them?
And of all reasons, why had a Christmas carol made her think of it?
The house was quiet. The singing had died in confusion when she fled, but
she couldn't yet force herself to go back in and face the puzzlement in
She'd known it was John the moment she heard the door close. Not that her
brothers or Anne wouldn't have come after her, but knowing him he didn't
give them the chance. She'd barely reached the edge of the porch herself
when he followed.
"I haven't told them," she confessed in a cracked voice. "I was
afraid...afraid they wouldn't believe me. Or worse, that they'd be angry
with me for believing it."
He sighed behind her. "Yeah. I know what you mean. Why do you think I
haven't been home since I got here?"
She turned then, surprised by the guilt in his blue eyes.
"Guess it was easier to let 'em believe I was still missing than try to face
them with why I left the Bureau and went on the run after bein' the good
little soldier my whole life."
"Would your family really be that unforgiving?" she asked.
John shook his head. "Nah. But that doesn't make it any easier, does it?"
She blinked. "Oh."
"There's nothin' wrong with treasurin' the time you've got, Kim. One good
thing about knowin' the exact date when the shit's gonna hit the fan is we
*know* how much time we've got."
"Still...I owe them the truth."
"Yeah, you do. And so do I. But not necessarily right this second." He took
her hands between his. "It's Christmas. If you start gettin' down, remember
this--the whole point of Christmas is that two thousand years ago a kid was
born who'd grow up to save the whole world. Who knows, maybe history'll
She smiled, burying herself gratefully in his embrace. "Thanks."
"Anytime," was the soft reply. "But do ya mind if we go back in now? I'm
gettin' wet just lookin' at that sky."
Kim snickered. "I think I can handle that."
John winked at her and, tucking her arm through the crook of his elbow, led
Naturally, all eyes in the room--including David and Anne's kids-- fixed on
them the moment they closed the door behind them.
"You okay, Kimmy?" Ken asked softly.
She answered him with a warm smile. "Yeah, I'm okay."
Reassured, her brother's eyes turned to mischief once more. "Good. Because
at least in this house, there's no crying allowed under the mistletoe."
"Under the WHAT??"
Dismayed, Kim looked up and John's eyes followed hers. Oh God. How the hell
had she forgotten that David always insisted on mistletoe?
The entire family, even Mom, was smirking at them.
"Well?" her older brother's tone held just the right note of challenge.
Blushing furiously, she turned to face John.
"Y'know, we got nobody to blame for this but ourselves, lettin' 'em draw
their own conclusions," he murmured too softly for anyone else to hear. His
mouth was twitching with the effort to hide a chagrined smile.
"I know," she admitted.
"You wanna really give 'em hell?" was the next conspiratorial question.
Her eyes rose warily, but quickly became a reflection of the mischievous
glint in his. "Oh, damn it, why not?
His smile broadening even more, John took her face in his hands, and leaned
in to kiss her.
The instant their lips touched, Kim felt herself melting into him. For one
blissful instant, her heart stopped, then picked up again at a pace that
felt like it'd come from an electric shock. If John Doggett's eyes or his
voice were water to drown in, his kiss was
like quicksand. Yet, at the same time, it was like air--as long as his mouth
was on hers, she almost didn't need to breathe.
Unfortunately, far too soon her lungs protested that they did, and she let
go, trying to find her footing in a world that had suddenly been tilted on
Across from her, John sucked in a deep, shaking breath of his own. "Merry
Christmas, Kim," he whispered.
Kim hurt all over. Her head pounded, her body ached, and moving made her
want to scream.
She'd known the risks when she signed on, but still she'd never expected
things to go so horribly, horribly wrong. She'd failed--not only had the men
she was supposed to recruit already known, but they'd already chosen sides.
Sold out the rest of the human race for the promise of their own survival
just like other men had done fifty years ago. And not even the account of
that first group's horrific death had been enough to dissuade them.
Somewhere on the edge of consciousness she heard a door slam, and someone
get to their feet.
"David--" John's voice started.
"Don't even try, you bastard." That was David's voice...oh, God, she hadn't
heard him that angry since she'd called him crying because her prom date had
dumped her alone downtown for refusing to sleep with him. "You're goddamned
lucky I got here first, because last I heard Ken was looking for his shotgun
and Art had offered to help him stock up on ammunition."
Oh God...they were blaming John. She'd never told them, so they were blaming
John. She had to speak up, had to defend him.
So why wasn't anything coming out?
"God, David, you know I never wanted her to get hurt."
"How am I supposed to know that? Give me one good goddamned reason why I
should trust you after what you did to my sister!"
"I didn't do this to her...I would never do anything to hurt her on purpose,
you know that." John sounded so broken. Why couldn't she speak up for him???
"I know no such fucking thing--I've known you since Christmas!"
"You've known me since we were eight years old, damn it."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You're right about one thing--I haven't been completely honest with you.
My name's John Doggett."
It was suddenly silent, and Kim felt like sitting up in bed and screaming
at both of them. They *knew* each other and John had never told her?
When her brother finally spoke again, his voice was cold. "The John Doggett
I remember was a bully."
"If that's all you think I was, you've got a damned lousy memory," he shot
There was another long silence, then David admitted, "No, that's not all you
were." Silence again, then, "But that doesn't tell me who you are now.
"Oh, I've fuckin' changed all right. I've changed so goddamned much I'm not
surprised you didn't recognize me. I lost my son, my wife, hell, my whole
damn worldview...but everything I've gained, at least in the past year, is
because of her."
"My sister wouldn't have any reason to be in the path of a bullet-- she's a
secretary, not a goddamned agent. And since they say you brought her
in...until you give me a damned good reason to blame someone else, as far as
I'm concerned you did this to her. Especially now you tell me you've been
lying to all of us about your name."
Damn it, David, Kim cried silently, he didn't do this to me. I chose it. I
chose it because I had to.
"I never lied to her. She knew me long before I had any reason to hide who
"So you've got her lying to us for you...how is that not just as bad, if not
She was almost screaming at him now, in her mind--David, shut up about
things you don't understand.
"Just give me on good reason--"
"You want a good reason? You wanna know why I'd never hurt her?" In her
mind's eye, she saw him going toe to toe with her brother. "Because no
matter what we mighta told you, no matter what we mighta even believed at
the time, that whole scene at Christmas wasn't an act. Because I love her,
dammit. I love her so much I stop breathin' every time she does. I woulda
given my life for her if I'd had any warning that bastard was gonna shoot
her. So don't tell me you blame me for what happened to her, I got enough of
that in here." That last was accompanied by the soft sound of him tapping
"You...couldna mentioned all that...when I was awake?"
Shoving the heaviness that pulled at her away, Kim forced her eyes to open.
"Kim..." David's face swam above hers, his hand tightening around one of her
own. John hung back for a second, his face white with relief, and she
reached for him with the other hand. Granted permission, he took it,
squeezing gently so as not to make the IV line hurt worse.
"David," she croaked, clinging to John as she turned to look at her brother.
"Don't make accusations...about things you...couldn't
His grip tightened. "Then make me, understand, Kimmy."
"I will," she promised. And she would--she'd put it off too long and almost
lost the chance. She wouldn't put it off anymore. "But not...now. Want to
talk to John..."
When David had reluctantly agreed to leave, John moved to her other hand,
presumably so he could hold it as tightly as he was without worrying about
"Why didn't...tell me?"
He laughed, his voice rough and raw. "Had this wild idea that if I never
said anything, fate wouldn't take you away from me like it has with everyone
else I've ever loved."
She smiled even though it hurt. "Good to know...kiss wasn't...an act. Glad
you're...not that good...an actor."
His hand tightened even more on hers, but it didn't hurt. Everything else
hurt, but in that particular extremity there was nothing but pure, emotion
"I should never have gotten you into this," he stated regretfully.
"God...don't be...such a cliché."
"Hero always...blames himself for...getting his girl hurt. Boring."
John smiled despite obvious efforts not to.
"We both know who...got me into this...wasn't you. You're...the thing I
swore...I wouldn't trade." Kim blinked rapidly. Who knew it could take this
much energy to stay awake? She was already fading...
For a second, she could've sworn she saw him blink back tears. Then he
leaned in, and placed a lingering kiss on her forehead. "You wanted me to
say it while you're awake, so I'm sayin' it--I love you."
She smiled up at him through heavy eyes. "Love you...too. Though...that
doesn't mean...gonna let you get...away with not mentioning you...knew my
John chuckled. "Wouldn't dream of it."
As she drifted off, she could've sworn she heard him whisper, "Get well
soon...I got high hopes for pickin' up where we left off under the
mistletoe...preferably before the world ends."
Kim fell asleep smirking.
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