Clunker

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Pre-Slash, Drama
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  1 - March 16, 1997
Spoilers:  None
Size:  28kb, short story
Written:  April 1-2,4-5, 2012
Summary:  Daniel brings home something unexpected, causing Jack's good mood to change drastically.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Jack and Daniel sometimes say things that have double meanings.  A simple “Jack” or “What are you doing?” could mean much more than the words spoken and could carry multiple connotations, including feelings, desires, fears, etc.  These double meanings are noted like this:  “Actual spoken words”  **(double meaning)**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Candice, Navi, Alverine!

Clunker
by Orrymain

Colonel Jack O'Neill whistled as he drove towards his somewhat humble but very comfortable home.  It was just an average size house, but it had been built with some very odd quirks, including having a couple of different levels to the main floor and the entire home having just a single bathroom that was inside the master bedroom.  To Jack, who was separated from his wife, Sara, the place was all he needed to live a content life.  It had a spacious backyard, lots of trees, plants, and flowers which kept the place secluded somewhat from his neighbors, and a deck, small as it was, attached to the side of the bedroom.  The roof deck was like a sanctuary to the colonel.  He always found peace there where he could look up at the stars through his telescope.

Jack had purchased the suburban home a little over a year ago, shortly after returning from Abydos for the first time.  It was the mission that had changed his life, or rather, it had given him his life back.  The impetus for the recharge of his soul came from an unexpected source, Doctor Daniel Jackson.  At first, Jack thought the scientist was just some long-haired geek who sneezed a lot and had to be looked after.  By the end of the mission, Daniel had become Jack's friend.  It was an odd feeling for the colonel, to feel beholden to this younger man whose philosophy on life and the military appeared to be almost the complete opposite of what Jack believed.  Yet, their farewell after Daniel had decided to stay on Abydos and marry the beautiful Sha're had been burned into the colonel's mind.

Retired from the military for a second time, Jack had peacefully existed in his new home, minding his business.  He was acquainted with many of the neighbors and had a reputation of being polite and helpful, while definitely not being the nosy type.  He was the closest to Mrs. Sophia Valissi, who lived two houses down.  She was a spry woman, retired and widowed.  Loving her youthful attitude and enjoying her humorous flirtatiousness, Jack felt a little protective of her, especially when she went out jogging alone at all times of the day and night.

Most of the colonel's time was spent watching hockey, which was his favorite sport, playing poker with his friend, Andy, who was the sheriff, and stargazing.  Oftentimes, his mind drifted to a planet faraway, wondering how the geek was doing amid a planet full of aliens.  Of course, on Abydos, Daniel was the alien, but he had fit in very well and was, in fact, a leader who was beloved, respected, and revered.  At this point, though, Jack was not aware of just how important Daniel had become to the Abydonian people.

Everything changed five weeks ago, however.  Through a course of events, Jack had returned to the Air Force, gone on a second mission to Abydos, and upon his return, gained a new houseguest -- Daniel.  With his wife now a Goa'uld host, the scientist had fought his way onto SG-1, the flagship team of a growing project known as the Stargate Program.  Housed at Cheyenne Mountain, beneath the levels that belonged to NORAD, Stargate Command was still figuring out how to go about saving the world from the evil Goa'uld, parasites that infested human bodies, and those of the Jaffa, by slithering inside them.  To Jack, they looked like little snakes, spawning his frequent nickname for the Goa'uld of snakeheads.

Having found a lonely and despairing Daniel in the empty corridors of SGC that first night Jack and his team had returned from Abydos, Jack took the scientist officially under his wing.  The spare room that had been used for storage was now Daniel's room.  Oddly to the colonel, he was enjoying the company.  He liked having Daniel around, even if he did sneeze a lot.

The shaggy haired archaeologist was still adjusting to life back on Earth.  His year or so away had been life altering.  He hadn't had electricity or technology to do chores or work with, so getting back to a world full of computers and televisions took a bit of readjustment.  Plus, he had gone from being considered a scientific joke by his colleagues to being a highly regarded citizen and now was back to being the brunt of jokes by snickering military personnel who looked at him and saw only a weakling whom they felt did not belong anywhere near Stargate Command.

Even so, and while he was desperate to find Sha're, Daniel had to admit that he loved Earth and a part of him was very happy to be back on his home planet.  There was one very negative part of it all.  He was broke, just as broke as he had been when Catherine Langford recruited him for the original Stargate project.  He did have a lot of back pay coming, but it was hard to tell when the government would actually pay up for his previous service.  This is why he was staying with Jack.  Simply put, Daniel had nowhere else to go, unless he wanted to stay at a shelter or, even worse, in one of the cell-like rooms at the Mountain which at first had little in them except for uncomfortable cots, cafeteria chairs, and pictures of the American flag on the walls.  That said, he felt strangely content having a roommate who was a Special Forces specialist in the Air Force.  Daniel disliked most everything about all branches of the service, but he liked Jack O'Neill.  Still, he knew he needed to get his own place at some point.  First, though, there was something else that had been on his mind since his return to Earth.

In his truck, Jack was still whistling as his he turned right and onto the street on which he lived.  It was a nice day out, the sky clear and the weather nice and crisp as the temperature fluctuated from the mid-sixties to the low seventies.  He'd been over at his friend's house, the friend being Major Lou Ferretti.  The major had been on both missions to Abydos, but in between them, Jack had not contacted the man.  Now that the ongoing activities of SGC had essentially reunited the two friends, they were spending more time together socially.

Today was a good example.  Jack had gone over to the Ferretti home to see Lou's new project, a large truck he'd just bought for the sole purpose of rebuilding it completely.  It would take years to properly redo the rundown vehicle, but those would be fun years.  It had already proven to be a good time as by the end of their work session, Jack nicknamed the truck the MonsterMobile.  It didn't take long for Lou to join in.  In addition, Jack reconnected with Lou's wife, Carolyn, who could cook a mean Italian meal, something the colonel was grateful at lunchtime.

Thus, Jack's mood was great.  His weekend so far had definitely been pleasurable. Then, as he turned into his driveway, he saw it.

~You have *got* to be kidding me!~

The brakes were suddenly pressed to their maximum, jerking the truck to a stop.  The driver blinked twice, shook his head as if to wake up from a dream, and then stared at the object he had almost run into.

~From the looks of it, running into it might be a help.~

With his truck secure, Jack got out and walked around the object, unable to take his eyes off of it.  He just couldn't believe it.

“She's, ah, nice, don't you think?”

The voice was unmistakable.  It was soft-spoken and somewhat tentative, full of both confidence and insecurity which might seem unusual to those who didn't really understand or know  Daniel Jackson.

“Oh, yeah, nice,” came the insincere response.  Jack turned, not surprised to see his houseguest doing what he called the self-hug.  The action fit the sound of Daniel's somewhat uncertain tone.  ~He's gonna break an arm one of these days if he keeps holding himself like that.~

Daniel's arms were locked in his pose, his fingers pressing tightly on his arms.  There was no denying that he hugging himself, bracing for the disapproval he was certain would come.  He didn't need approval to survive, but now and then, it was nice to get it even if it was just for inconsequential things like this.

Jack was becoming too acquainted with the stance.  He did not fully understand the reasons for it as yet, so he often felt confused.  Daniel had opened the Stargate, saved the lives of Jack and his team, and had already shown that he would be a reliable teammate on SG-1.  In spite of this and his penchant for speaking his mind no matter what, including doing battle with military types like Major General George S. Hammond who was the commander of SGC, Daniel had a way of looking uncertain.

Jack's mind suddenly went elsewhere.  The thought did not really make sense to him, but it was his instant reaction to the younger man's appearance.

~He looks darn pitiful in those baggy pants and plaid shirt.~

“Well?” Daniel questioned, nodding over at the contraption that was his focus.

“What is it?” Jack asked, once again eyeing the object with skepticism.

“Wha...what?”

“Daniel, what is this thing?” Jack asked, desperately trying to rephrase his inquiry again as his hand wildly gesticulated at the thing in front of him.

“It's a car,” Daniel snapped abruptly.

“Oh, I wasn't sure.”

With a sigh, Daniel walked down the last couple of steps from the walkway and approached the vehicle.  He knew it wasn't exactly a Mercedes, but it could be worse.  In fact, it almost had been.  He had viewed a number of cars at the used car lot that day, but this is the one that had caught his eye the most.

Jack put his keys in his pocket and rested his hands lightly on his hips as he thought, ~Having this in the driveway could lower property values.  The neighbors may kill me.~

“It was all I could afford,” the archaeologist admitted.

“The back pay will come.”

“I know.”

“The government is a little slow about coughing up money for civilians,” Jack explained.

“I need a car, Jack.  I can't keep depending on you to take me everywhere.”

“There are cabs.”

“And they're expensive,” Daniel countered, his self-hug loosened, but his arms still crossed in front of his chest.  “Besides, I think she has ... personality.”

“Personality?” Jack echoed with wide eyes.  “Danny ... ”

“Daniel.”

~Overly sensitive,~ Jack groaned, the sound loud and prolonged.  “Couldn't you have found something more attractive than this brown?  If it were any dingier, it would be dirt.”

“There was a, well, an odd shade of yellow.  Well, it wasn't bright yellow.  It was more ... low key, but it, well ... it ...”

“Daniel!” the colonel exclaimed in annoyance.

“It was a ... a horrible color, Jack.  It reminded me of ... of ... well, you know.”

“No, I don't know.”

“Um ...”

“Urine?” Jack sought to clarify.  ~It was the way he looked down at himself.~

“Something like that,” the archaeologist agreed with a cringe.  “But it just ... it wasn't pleasant to look at, okay?”

“Okay, I get how you don't want to drive around in a car that reminds you of bodily excretions, but this could be doo,” Jack argued.

“Doo?”

“Number two, dog doo.”

“Oh,” Daniel responded, internally wishing he hadn't heard that.  ~Now I'll think about that every time I drive it.~

“This isn't that much better.”  Mockingly, Jack moved backwards with his hands raised.  He looked around and asked, “Where's the poop bag?”

“Can we just forget about the color,” Daniel suggested strongly, worried he might never get the conversation out of his mind.

Willing to do so, Jack moved on and forcefully insisted, “Daniel, this car is a jalopy.  Lou's MonsterMobile is healthier than this thing.”

“His ... what?”

“Lou's new ride,” Jack clarified.  “It's huge, a monster, like the monster trucks.”  He saw nothing but blankness in the other man's expression.  “Ah, c'mon.  Monster Jams?  The Grave Digger?  Bigfoot?  Towasaurus Wrex?  Avenger?”  He gave a mock shudder at the complete lack of recognition on Daniel's face.  “Big trucks.  Never mind.  The point is that right now it's a bucket of bolts, but it's still better than this thing.”

Totally ignoring what had sounded like gibberish from Jack, Daniel refuted, “It's not a jalopy.”

“Okay, Genius, definition time.  Tell me, what's the definition of a jalopy?” Jack challenged pointedly.

With a hesitant sigh, Daniel responded, “An old de...decrepit vehicle.”

“What year is this?”

“1997.”

“What year is this car?”

“1985.”

“I think we can agree that this car is old,” Jack declared confidently.  “Define decrepit.”

“Jack!”  **(Why are you asking me to be a dictionary for words you already know the meaning of?)**

“Daniel!”  **(Don't argue; just do it.)**

“Fine.”  Looking to left for a brief moment, he reluctantly complied, defining the word as meaning, “Impaired by use or wear, worn out, something that has fallen into a state of disrepair or ... ruin.”

“Ah!” Jack returned with a smirk as he faced the other man and then looked at the car once again.  “Ja--lopy.”

“They had an MG F, Mark 1: way over my budget,” Daniel told the SG-1 team leader.

“There had to be something else,” Jack asserted.  “Maybe something without dents and a rusted paint job.”

“In my price range?” the archaeologist questioned rhetorically.  “There was a Plymouth Sundance.  I took it out for a test run and ...”

“And what?”

“When I looked out the side view mirror, I saw paint chips falling off.  Plus, it stalled.”

“Nothing else?”

“1975 Datsun Honeybee.”

“Not you.”

“I didn't think so either, so I looked at a Ford Pinto Bean.”  Daniel's face crunched up as he recalled, “The engine was louder than a motorcycle.  Of course, that was after it started, and that took three tries.”

“There *had* to be another option besides this brown sack,” Jack maintained, which is how he felt about the obviously run down Chevrolet Chevette.

“A Buick.  I think it was an '87.  It ran well, but it was a couple hundred higher than this one, and that was out of my price bracket.  Oh, and there was a ... Volkswagon.”

“A bug?  You'd look cute in a bug.”  Jack grinned mischievously.  “You'd be just like a bug in a rug.”

~Bug?  in a ... a rug?~  Daniel simply stared, not really knowing how to respond to that remark.  Finally, he let out a sound and simply continued his statement.  “It was a Rabbit.  I didn't like it.”

“But you liked this old thing?”

“It runs.”

“For now!” Jack exclaimed, his eyes raised to the sky in utter disbelief.  Then he looked at the other man and insisted, “There's always another option rather than being stuck with the bottom of the well.”

“Have you seen my bank account?”

“You *have* a bank account?”

“Exactly!” came Daniel's forceful reply, his eyes conveying that Jack should totally understand the situation.

“So other than the Buick and the MG, this car, and I say that generously, was the cream of the crop?”

“Pretty much.”

~Should have waited.~  Jack kneeled down to examine the tires and shook his head.  “Where are the treads?”

“Treads?” Daniel questioned, as he blinked owlishly at the colonel.

“Daniel, there's no traction on these tires.  The first time you drive this thing in a downpour, you'll spin out.  You need new tires.”

“Okay, so I'll get tires,” Daniel acknowledged.  ~In about four months.  I might be able to afford them then.~

~You bet your rocks, you'll get new tires.~  Going on a hunch, Jack leaned over, his hands touching the cement of his driveway.  Sure enough, his suspicions proved to be correct.  “Leaking oil.”

“I'll get a new oil ... thing.”

“Oil pan,” Jack automatically corrected.  ~Apparently, he's not much of a mechanic.  I guess they didn't teach that at Harvard or Yale or wherever the heck he got all those degrees from.~

“Whatever,” Daniel stated with a shrug.  “I'll get one.”

“Tomorrow,” Jack directed.  ~Or it will leak oil all over the driveway.~  Standing, he walked around the old car, brushing by its owner as he did so.  “Paint job is lacking.”

“You've already said that, but that's one of the reasons I could afford it,” Daniel explained.  “Besides, I wasn't looking for a piece of art.”

“That's obvious.”  The colonel again shook his head and then informed Daniel that, “This car has been in an accident.”

“I see the dents, Jack.”

“No, those are door dings and stoplight bumps.  I'm talking about a full blown wreck, and little personality here had major work on her.”

“How do you know?”

“Two things: paint and gap.”

“Paint and ...”

“Gap,” both men spoke together.

“Come with me,” Jack instructed, leading Daniel to the driver's side of the car.  “Take a good look at the color.  Study it, like you do your rocks.”

“Artifacts.”

“In your mind,” Jack snarked.

Trying to ignore the jab, Daniel reviewed the car's paint job carefully.

“Okay, look here, at the space between the door and the fender.  Measure it in your mind,” Jack ordered.  “Then join me over there,” he stated while pointing and walking over to the passenger side of the car.

A few seconds later, Daniel did as requested.  His immediate reaction was visible.  Without Jack saying a word, Daniel could see what Jack was talking about.  First, the color of the paint was a slight shade lighter on this side.  Second, the space between the door and the fender was at least twice that of the gap on the driver's side.

“Don't feel bad, Danny.  Most people miss this.  If you weren't thinking about the color, dull as it is, you'd probably never notice the difference.”

“But you did.”

“I'm paid to notice details.”

“I should have seen the gap.”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, though he quickly gave his friend a smile.  “It may not mean anything, but it could also mean alignment trouble or ...

“... or a lot of different things,” Daniel stated in a resigned sigh.

Jack simply nodded.

“It's still a cute car.”

Back in front of the vehicle, Jack stared at the hood and asked, “Do I dare open it?”

Daniel closed his eyes for just a moment before opening the door and reaching down to engage the hood release.

“Not locked?”

“Is yours?”

Jack thought for a moment and then stated, “Let's take a look.”

~Point: Jackson,~ Daniel thought proudly.

“What is this?” Jack asked a bit rhetorically.  “1.6 liter?  Wow, four whole cylinders.  That'll get up the Mountain, eventually.”

“You're exaggerating,” the younger man accused.

“Not by much,” Jack sighed.  “This thing was made for fuel economy, in 1985, not 1997, and power is a word this heap is unacquainted with.”

“It's not a heap,” Daniel responded in a near whisper.  He waited as Jack examined the engine.  He wasn't all that long, but it seemed like an eternity.  Then the archaeologist heard the call.  It was the colonel, and he wasn't happy.  His moderate good feeling for the locked door issue had deflated, and his point now meaningless.  ~Foul: Jackson.~

With Daniel standing beside him, Jack pointed to the appropriate areas as he observed, “Radiator crack.  One corroded terminal on the battery.  Broken bolt.”

“Jack, stop.”

“Jalopy,” Jack repeated.  ~And a death trap waiting to explode.~

“Fine, it's a jalopy, but it's *my* jalopy, and it's ...”

“... leaking all over my driveway.”

“I'll move it, if you'll move your hog first.”

“Hog?”

“The mileage guzzler,” Daniel retorted as he walked to the driver's door.

“Daniel, look.  I know you want a car, but this is a wreck in the making.”

“I don't *want* a car, I *have* a car.”

“Then let's take this piece of junk back and buy you a real one.”

“This *is* a real one.”

With a cackle, Jack refuted, “No, this is scrap metal.”

“It's my car,” Daniel reiterated firmly.  “It has ... personality.”

“You've said that.”

“Well, it's ... it's true.”

The debate was getting testier with each statement.  Daniel felt like he had to defend his choice of automobile, not to prove that he was right, but just to solidify that he had made the only choice he could, considering the options he had available.  Jack, meanwhile, believed he needed to be assertive in order to keep his friend from making a very bad decision.  It wasn't about being dominant, but it was more about making sure his archaeologist survived the roads of Colorado Springs.  So intense was the arguing that their voices were becoming louder and their expressions were more taut and aggressive.

“You got ripped off,” Jack charged as his open hands motioned at the engine.

“No, I didn't.”

“Oh, yes, you did,” the colonel bellowed, after which he walked over to the edge of the driver's side and kicked the front tire.

“No, I didn't, and don't kick my tires.”

“Yes, you did, and why not?  Afraid they'll combust on the spot?”

“No.”

“To which question?”

Full of frustration, Daniel expanded his response to, “No, I did not get ripped off.”

“Oh, yes!” the older man exclaimed.

“Jack, it only cost four hundred,” Daniel revealed while walking around the car to stand on the passenger side of the engine.

“That much?” the colonel questioned facetiously.

“Jack!”  **(Give me a break here.)**

“Daniel!”  **(It's junk.  Face facts.)**

“If my car is a problem, I can leave,” Daniel threatened, though he didn't really think it was much of a threat.  ~He'd probably be happier if I weren't around anyway.~

“Cut that out!”

“What?”

“Admit this is a piece of junk,” Jack requested, not bothering to deal with what he considered to be a ridiculous threat beyond his initiation reaction.

“It may not be the god of trucks, Colonel, but it's *my* car.”

“It's a death trap.”

“Excuse me?”

“Why didn't you just ask me for a loan?” Jack queried, his tone a little softer.

“Friends shouldn't loan friends money,” Daniel heard himself say.  ~Gawd, I just said we were friends, casually and out loud, like it's natural or something.~

“Some friends can handle it,” Jack replied softly.  ~Aw, geez, Danny, it's okay to lean on friends when you need to.  Don't you know that?~

“I don't want to take the chance,” the archaeologist admitted, his tone also quieter than it had been.

Walking around to the front of the car, Jack questioned, “How about this?”  Not waiting for a response that he knew wouldn't come, he paused, making a mental list of all the problems he'd found in his impromptu review of the vehicle.  ~Could be worse; he could have brought home a '76.  Heck, why fight it.  Of course, fixing it up is going to cost more than if he'd bought that MG.~  His decision made, he looked at Daniel and smiled.  “You're right, Daniel.  Keep it.  It is a car, and it's cute in its own way.”

“I didn't say cute,” Daniel denied.  “I said it had personality.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Did not,” Daniel asserted.

“You said the car was cute.”

Daniel began to replay the conversation in his mind and then sighed, “Okay, I said it.”

After a beat to make sure things were still calm between them, Jack began again, though he decided to take a slightly different approach to his idea.

“I need to make sure my team's archaeologist doesn't kill himself because a tire blows out or the brakes fail.”

“Brakes?  What's wrong with my brakes?” a concerned Daniel asked, moving in front of the vehicle again and standing to Jack's left.

“I don't know, and that's precisely the point.  Daniel, it's not about the paint or the dents, but that broken bolt and the gap between the door and the fender could mean a whole lot of bad stuff is going on here.  Tomorrow, we need to take this ja...car to a mechanic.  I know a good shop; it's local, not a dealership.  They don't charge you an arm when all you need is a leg.”

“Oh, well, uh, that's good ... I think.”

Jack chuckled and continued, “You need new tires, and we need to take care of the problems with the engine.”

“I don't have the money, Jack.”

“But you will.  Until then, I'll pay.”  Jack saw his friend about to object and spoke again before Daniel could utter a sound.  “It's not a loan.”

“It's not?”

“No.”

“Then what is it?”

“It's ...”  Jack drew his hands together.  ~Think, O'Neill,~ he urged as he rubbed his palms back and forth.

“Well?”

“Give me a minute.”

A smile formed unexpectedly on Daniel's face, and the sound of a tiny but sincere chuckle was heard.

“I got it!” Jack exclaimed.  “Let's go inside.”

Jack headed purposefully inside the house, leaving Daniel confused and on his own momentarily.  The archaeologist closed the hood of his car and then gently rubbed the hood.

In a whisper, Daniel told the vehicle, “You are a cute car.  You may not be in the best shape, but I'm not much of a winner, either.  Maybe ... maybe we can get each other through a year or two.”  Suddenly,  he blinked.  “Jackson, you're talking to a car.”

Amused at his behavior, Daniel backed a couple of steps and then went inside the house.

“Here we go,” Jack said, waving Daniel into the study.  “Sit.”

“Woof!” Daniel mocked, hating even the hint of an order.

“Just sit down,” Jack groaned.

With his teammate seated at the desk, the colonel put down a legal size notepad and pen in front of Daniel.

“Am I taking dictation?”

“No,” Jack answered without thinking.  Then he retracted his response.  “Yes.  Write this ...”

“Jack, just tell me.”

“A promissory note.”

“A promissory note?” Daniel repeated.  “That's your idea?” he asked, somewhat taken aback by the notion.  “I told you, I ...”

“Danny, a promissory note is *not* a loan.  It is promise to pay on a specific date or on demand a certain amount.  All you have to do is write a note stating that at a time in the future you are going to pay me whatever it costs to get that car into proper running condition.”

“But it's not a loan.”

“Isn't it beautiful?” a gleeful Jack questioned, a big grin on his face.

“It's, uh ... interesting.”

“It solves our problem.”

“Our problem?” Daniel asked.

“Yeah,” Jack affirmed.  “Better wait until tomorrow once we know the costs, and tonight you can get on the computer you love so much and find the legal wording.”

“Right.”

“Let's watch a movie,” the colonel suggested.

“Okay.”

The two men adjourned to the living room.  Jack reached for the remote and turned on the TV, while Daniel went into the kitchen to get some drinks and snacks.

“What's on?” Daniel inquired when he returned to the living room.

“Used Cars,” Jack answered, laughing when Daniel did a double take and looked over at the TV.

“Really?”  Sure enough, when Daniel looked over at the screen, there was Kurt Russell and a used car lot.  “Isn't there anything else we can watch?”

“The Legend of the White Serpent.”

Daniel just stared at Jack, who shrugged innocently.

As the staring continued, the colonel had another idea.

“Chess?”

“Better.”

The two friends refocused their attention and settled down for a late afternoon game of chess.  Jack was feeling good that he'd been able to convince Daniel to fix up the clunker that the archaeologist generously referred to as a car, while Daniel was just happy not to have to rely on taxis or be a burden on Jack anymore.  Both were glad they had survived yet another conflict and that their friendship was still on the right track.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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