Disclaimer: How many disclaimers do you think you've read by now? I won't insult you by repeating it, and if you don't know it by now, you never will.

Pairings: 2x5, 2x3, 4x3, 4x5, 1x2 (wait for it . . . )
Rating: NC-17
Category: AU
Warnings: OOC, yaoi, language, ghoulies, goblins, mind games, blood, gore, sexual innuendo and witticisms. *grin*
Spoilers: Me thinks not.

Dance with the Demons: Rules of Play
Part Seven
by Blue Soaring

Duo was rummaging around in Quatre's closet, flinging clothes back over his head as he appraised and then dismissed each article. The heap in the middle of the room was growing quite large.

"Don't you have ANYTHING that doesn't try to bond itself with your skin?" Another article of clothing sailed across the room.

Quatre winced. "Duo . . . you could just borrow something of Wufei's . . . " he said in an attempt to rescue his wardrobe from Duo's attentions.

Duo turned around, looking critically at a pair of snakeskin pants. "Is this lamia skin? Tell me this is NOT lamia skin."

The blonde casually shrugged. "It was a gift, ask Heero." He narrowed his eyes. "Actually," he said, gazing at Duo's lean form, "those would look quite good on you."

Snorting, Duo moved to stuff the pants back into the closet, then thought better of it and added them with a negligent toss to his pile of rejects. "I don't see what Heero is all uptight about. All I need is a few things from my apartment, ten minutes there, tops." He went back to destroying Quatre's closet.

The vampire sighed. It was going to be one of those days. It was nearing dawn, perhaps only two hours before. By Quatre's logic, Duo should have been asleep at least thirty minutes ago; he was returning to Lucrezia's later that day. Duo had, however, stated that he wanted to return to his apartment with Wufei. THAT particular idea hadn't gone over well with anyone. In the end, Duo had reluctantly agreed to remain at Devil's Bliss. Or, more precisely, he had been bullied into it. Quatre snickered softly to himself at the memory. Now, however, Quatre's closet was paying the price as Duo tried to find what he deemed 'sensible' clothing.

"Shouldn't you be asleep, Duo?" Quatre finally asked, dodging a particularly badly - or well, depending on how you looked at it - aimed shirt.

"No, I shouldn't. I SHOULD be back at my apartment with Wufei, engaging in mindlessly lustful acts of sexual perversion."

"And just why can't you do that here?"

Duo's shoulders shook with barely contained mirth. "Because, Q," he drawled, "things have a tendency to get 'crowded' around here."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

Stepping away from the now decimated closet, Duo let out an explosive breath. "Well, looks like I've exhausted all possibilities here." He looked at the rather large lump of clothes that decorated the middle of Quatre's room. Then, looking around eagerly, he said, "Next?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The sun shone brightly in the mid-afternoon sky as Duo walked across the long, green expanse of an urban park. After being cooped up in the basement of Devil's Bliss, he was thoroughly enjoying the feel of the warm sun on his skin. Wufei and Trowa walked on either side of him, and Duo felt like they were hovering like overprotective mother hens. He didn't tell them that, though.

Trowa watched Duo pluck uncomfortably at the billowing black cotton pants Wufei had finally convinced him to wear. "These make me look ridiculous!" he said indignantly.

"You don't look ridiculous, Duo. You look . . . " Trowa glanced helplessly at Wufei.

"Like a cast off from a desert harem with a crappy tailor," Duo finished. At least the black shirt he wore over one of Wufei’s white tank tops was loose enough to hide the Glock. Heero had given it to Duo before he had disappeared for the day, saying that he retrieved it from Mary-Anne’s apartment.

Wufei grinned in spite of himself. "I thought they looked rather good."

"You're biased," Duo accused.

Trowa chuckled softly. "You keep saying that."

"Well, he IS biased."

"And your point is?"

"Do you even have a point, Duo?" Wufei asked, not even bothering to look at the braided man. Instead he was watching a kite soaring in the sky not far from them.

Duo sputtered to himself, mumbling something about the side effects of being a were and its effect on one's sense of decency.

"I don't think you're in a position to accuse anyone of being indecent, Duo," Trowa pointed out mildly.

"You're not helping, Tro."

Trowa's eyes widened in mock surprise. "I'm sorry, was I supposed to be helping?"

Duo's face assumed the long-suffering expression he had become so fond of lately, and he gazed questioningly at the as-of-yet unresponsive sky. "Why me?"

Wufei looked at him innocently. "Why not?"

"Have you been reading philosophy books again, Wu?" asked Duo sourly.

The innocent expression didn't change. "What a silly idea, wherever did you come up with THAT notion?"

"Okay, okay, we're almost there. Let's try to look somewhat serious." Trowa interceded.

Duo's eyes widened in horror. "TROWA! What a thing to suggest!"

"This is your fault, Wufei. Yours and Quatre's." Trowa gestured at the grinning Duo. "See what you've done?"

"I don't see how it's MY fault," Wufei replied.

Duo was still grinning as he slipped an arm around each of their waists. "Let's go visit the lovely Senora, yes?" With that, the three continued on their way, with Duo quietly humming 'We're off to See the Wizard' softly to himself.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Why the fuck isn't she answering!?" Duo exclaimed loudly as he pounded on the door again, long ago abandoning the doorbell in favor of a more direct approach.

Wufei winced, watching the hinges on the door shudder under the force of Duo's fist. Duo's good mood had swiftly evaporated after ten minutes of waiting on the Senora's front porch.

"Maybe she went out for a little while?" Trowa ventured, eyeing Duo somewhat nervously.

"Out!?" Duo yelled, "OUT!?!?" He turned on his heel, staring straight at Wufei. "Wufei!" he snapped.

"Yes, master?" The Chinese shifter unconsciously slipped back into his old habits when faced with Duo's rage.

"What day is this?"

Wufei thought for a moment. "Saturday," he said finally.

"Then she should be here," Duo said, raising his fist to strike the door again.

Trowa reached out and caught Duo's hand before it made contact. Duo's eyes flared dangerously, the knuckles of his clenched fist white with pressure.

"Duo . . . " Trowa said softly, "we'll try the back, she could be busy with something. Didn't you say Saturday she devoted to her practice?" He wasn't referring to Lucrezia's career as a lawyer.

Wufei hesitatingly laid a hand on Duo's shoulder in mute agreement with Trowa's words. Duo's eyes narrowed dangerously, and he looked like he would strike one of them. Then the tension seeped out of his body, and he let his arm relax in Trowa's grip.

"Right. You're right. Sorry, I guess I'm just so . . . frustrated!" Duo smiled, his features easily returning to the familiar expression. He stepped down off the porch, heading towards the gate in the high fence that led to the back garden. "The door's back here," he called over his shoulder.

Wufei and Trowa exchanged a worried glance. The barely checked rage Duo had just displayed seemed very out of place for his character. Even when he and Heero had been fighting, Duo hadn't shown the sheer amount of rage as he did in that one moment on the priestess' porch. Perhaps it was because Duo had been inactive for the past week, or maybe Heero's suspicions about Lucrezia bothered the self-made killer more than he let on.

For all Wufei's banter, Duo still had power over him, power that Wufei had freely given up. And Trowa had done the same. They were both shifters, submissive to him by choice and not force, and that meant everything that went with it. And Duo . . . Duo was a man that killed. A man that killed shifters.

With that sobering thought in mind, Trowa and Wufei followed Duo through the gate and up to the basement door. Heero had invited Duo to play the game, but had anyone bothered to set out what was at stake? Or even make the rules?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Wufei peered into the dark hallway. The light from the open door barley pierced the darkness. He listened intently, but no sound reached his sensitive ears. He shot a questioning look at Trowa, who shook his head in the negative. He didn't hear anything either.

"Well . . ." Duo whispered, "we can sneak in, or saunter in like old friends." His voice was all but inaudible, but the two weres heard him clearly.

Wufei mouthed the word 'friends', and Trowa nodded his agreement. If anything was there, it probably already knew of their presence. Sneaking about at this point in time was merely foolishness.

"Knock, knock, Senora! You have visitors." Duo raised his voice, fumbling for the light switch as Wufei stepped into the hall. The werepanther felt something give slightly under his foot with a squishy slurping sound.

Duo chose that particular moment to find the light switch, and the basement hall flooded with light. "Ewww . . ." he said, looking down at Wufei's feet.

"Well, isn't that just WONDERFUL," Wufei said, lifting his foot and shaking it, trying to dislodge the piece of whatever that was clinging to it.

"That looks like . . ." Duo said thoughtfully and sniffing the air, "and smells like intestines. Ewww."

"Yes, yes," Wufei said, "you said ewww already, now get this thing off my foot!" He gave his leg a last violent shake, sending the trailing intestines smacking into a wall with a sick sounding slap.

"That was mildly disgusting," Trowa said conversationally. "Does Lucrezia usually have various innards lying around her house?"

Duo followed Wufei further into the house. "No, not that I'm aware of. Of course, I could be wrong," he paused. "I wonder who owns those?" he asked, nodding his head in the direction of the ropey organ.

"Whoever owns them doesn't need them now," Wufei said, glancing into a doorway. He flicked on the light. "Laundry room . . . no visible vital organs lying around in here."

"At least her laundry room is clean," Duo said, walking past Wufei as he flicked off the light. "Senora, are you home? Darling Lucrezia?"

". . . darling?" Wufei asked.

Duo shrugged, then he cursed when he turned the corner to look up the stairs. "I think I found the owner of our welcoming present."

Wufei sighed inwardly. Only since he met Duo had he developed the habit of walking in on slaughtered humans. He hoped it wasn't catching.

Trowa had walked past Wufei to stand beside Duo. "You know him?"

The Chinese shifter's disposition brightened. Well, at least the person was recognizable. He turned the corner and peered between the other two. Okay, yes, the person was recognizable, but it wasn't the whole person. In fact, it wasn't even a person anymore. It was the head of Lucrezia's zombie butler.

Duo made a 'tisk tisk' sound with his tongue. "And good slightly decomposed serving men are so hard to find these days," he said as he leaned down to take a closer look at the head.

The decapitated zombie opened its eyes, staring straight at Duo, who promptly shouted several choice curses and jumped back, landing in Trowa’s arms. "Is it supposed to do that?" Trowa asked, looking down at Duo.

"No, the damn thing shouldn't be able to do ANYTHING," Duo said, irritated. He hated being caught off guard.

The zombie was still looking at Duo, seemingly oblivious to the others. "Hello, Duo," it said pleasantly.

"Alright," Trowa said, "I know it's not supposed to be able to do that, it doesn't even have a throat anymore."

The zombie head was unconcerned with Trowa's statement. "I hope you're feeling better now, Duo, I heard you had a nasty encounter a while back," it continued in that same pleasant tone.

Duo weighed his options. One: he could run screaming from the house, and forget he ever met the Senora. Two: he could have a conversation with a decapitated talking zombie head.

"Ahh, yeah . . . . Well, I'm feeling much better now," he said, opting for the latter of the two choices. "I'd ask how you are, but . . ." he trailed off.

"Oh, don't concern yourself with that. Now, to business. I'm sure you're wondering where the Senora is."

"You could say I'm slightly curious, yes," Duo replied.

"Senora Lucrezia has decided that her interests would be best served elsewhere, so, much to her regret, the Senora is unable to see you again," the zombie head said.

"This is a permanent arrangement then?"

"Oh, yes, of course it is. I thought I had mentioned that. The Senora sends her utmost apologies for any inconvenience this may cause."

"I'm sure she does," Wufei muttered under his breath. From what he remembered of Lucrezia, the woman was unconcerned with 'inconveniencing' others.

Again, the zombie took no notice of anyone but Duo. "Now, if you'll be so kind as to excuse me, I've delivered my message, and I do believe it's time for me to go." With that, the decapitated zombie closed his eyes, and stopped moving completely.

"Just a DAMN minute here, I'm not finished yet, I want to ask you a few things," Duo raged at the now silent head.

"I don't think he's listening to you anymore, Duo," Wufei said.

"What do we do now?" Trowa asked. "Look around?"

"I guess so," Duo said, throwing a sour look at the head in the middle of the stairway and then back at Trowa. "I just hope that thing doesn't bite our ankles as we walk past."

"Uhh . . . I don't think that'll be a problem," the black-haired shifter said, pointing at the zombie's head.

Its message delivered, the head began to decompose, the magic used to animate it spent. The decomposition started slowly, then rapidly gained speed, until the head was a half-dusty, half-gooey puddle on the stairs.

"Eww," Wufei said, mimicking Duo's earlier expression.

Duo started up the stairs, giving the puddle a wide berth. "Let's get this over with, I'm sure Heero is just gnawing on his leather in frustration, waiting for us to get back."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"That house is deceptively small on the outside," Trowa observed.

The sun had long since set and the world outside buzzed with the drone of city night-life. The three breathed deeply of the somewhat cleaner air outside, relieved to be out of the voodoo priestess' home. Searching the house had been a somewhat harrying experience for them all. Blood and gore was one thing, various animated body parts and organs casually strewn about were another. Duo had just witnessed a multitude of disturbing things, and he didn't think he'd want to see anything even mildly gross for months. In fact, he was pretty sure he didn't even want to be alone after seeing what Lucrezia had lying about in her house.

Wufei looked back at the quiet building. "Wasn't that nice?" he quipped.

Trowa followed the other shifter's gaze, then said, "And just what are you using as a basis of comparison?"

"Enough!" Duo cried exasperatedly. "Let's just get the fuck out of here, okay? That is one sick woman, and I'll be delighted if Mr. Happy Head was right and Lucrezia is gone poof for good."

The two shifters looked at each other, then at Duo. "Good idea, Duo," Wufei said softly, "getting out of here sounds very good."

They left the back garden, shutting the gate securely behind them. The further they walked away from Lucrezia's, the better Duo felt. By the time they were crossing through the park, he was almost feeling good again.

Beside him, Trowa tensed. Duo opened his mouth to ask what was wrong when Trowa whispered, "Quatre . . . ."

The named vampire laughed softly, emerging from the shadows of a grove of trees. "You always could tell when it was me, pet," Quatre said softly. The blonde stepped fully into the light, and Duo let his eyes run over the vampire briefly. He was wearing black tonight, and it contrasted sharply with his pale coloring. A soft-looking shirt moved in the evening's breeze, making no sound as Quatre walked closer. His pants were of the same deep black, molding tight to his hips and falling looser as they passed his thighs. The night bled all color from his eyes, making then appear gray. Quatre felt Duo looking at him, and a small, knowing smile ghosted his lips.

"Come to collect us, have you?" Duo asked.

Quatre laughed, the sound cascading over Duo's skin like the quiet brush of the wind. He stopped in front of Trowa, capturing the shifter's lips in a deep kiss, then pulling back, watching the shifter's eyes. Trowa's eyes fluttered open, and he made a small sound of disappointment. The vampire traced the line of Trowa's cheek with his thumb, then ran it over his lips before kissing him again, open-mouthed.

Duo watched with morbid fascination, wondering how you could get that much tongue involved without cutting yourself on the vampire's fangs. He heard a sharp intake of breath beside him, and glanced over at Wufei. The werepanther was staring fixedly at the other two, his eyes glazed as he watched their tongues plunge into the other's mouth. Duo was just about to say something when Quatre stepped away from Trowa. Smiling, the vampire turned his eyes to Wufei, who immediately went to him.

Trowa was breathing heavily, both from Quatre's greeting and from watching that same greeting being offered to Wufei. Duo's sarcastic inner monologue was silenced as he felt himself become aroused. Quatre broke the kiss with one last nip on Wufei's lip and turned to face Duo.

The full force of the blonde vampire's gaze struck Duo and left his mind reeling. Quatre's eyes burned into him, searing though him in waves. He took a hesitant step towards the vampire before he realized what he was doing. Then Quatre was close, and the heat coming from his body blended with the heat of his eyes. Duo let out an involuntary moan. Pleased, Quatre pressed his body to Duo's and tilted his head. His tongue darted out to lick his already moist lips. Duo's sluggish mind dully registered the fact that Quatre was about to kiss him.

"What did you find at the mambo's home?" Quatre asked softly, his lips only centimeters from Duo's.

". . . what?" came the dazed reply.

"The Vodoun priestess, what did she tell you?"

Duo blinked, trying to get his mind to focus on something besides the feel of Quatre's lithe body against his own, or the tempting softness of his lips, so close to his . . . so easy to move just a little more, and taste them . . . .

Then Quatre was gone, standing beside Trowa with an expectant look on his face, awaiting Duo's answer. Duo cursed softly under his breath, though no doubt everyone was able to hear him with their heightened senses. Then Quatre's question finally clicked in his brain.

"Did you say 'Vodoun'?" he asked, still a little unbalanced. Then, "What's a mambo?"

Wufei spoke up, moving to slide his arm behind Duo's waist. "Mambo is the Dahomean word for a female Vodoun priest, and Vodoun is the true name for what you commonly call voodoo."

"Oh . . ." Duo said, feeling more than a little stupid. So much for being the intelligent monster hunter. "Lucrezia's skipped town, and her message boy decomposed a few hours ago. You missed him."

Quatre's brow creased in annoyance. "That's inconvenient."

"Yeah, she sends her apologies for that, too. Not that I'd believe her," Duo said as they started walking again.

Trowa walked close to the blonde vampire, and although he was slightly taller, by looking at them you would know Quatre was the one in charge. Trowa's body language was submissive, and he didn't even seem aware of it. Curious, Duo glanced to his left where Wufei walked close by. He was doing the same thing. What 'it' was, Duo couldn't quite put his finger on, but there was, no mistake. Wufei and Trowa just FELT submissive. Duo was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't even notice when the air grew noisier and the press of people going about their lives surrounded them.

The heat and noise of Devil's Bliss struck him full in the face when the bouncer opened the door. Looking up, Duo saw Dorothy smiling at him. A grin formed on Duo's lips. He had hardly expected to see the woman act as a bouncer. Then again, he had no clue what Dorothy was, she could have been a vamp for all he knew. Duo made a mental note to ask someone about that later.

Dorothy nodded once to Trowa and Wufei, then lowered her eyes when Quatre walked by. The blonde vampire gave her a hard look and then turned away, dismissing her. Duo's smile faltered. He'd have to ask about that, too. Heero had said that Dorothy had been dealt with, but that did nothing to comfort him. If anything, it made him feel worse. Duo glanced back towards the main entrance before opening the door that lead to the basement quarters. His list of things to confront Heero about seemed to be getting longer everyday.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Duo wearily trudged down the hallway, wondering why it was always so cold. He opened the door at the end of the hall without thinking and walked into Heero's rooms. Duo had decided that 'room' didn't describe the chamber accurately, so he opted for rooms instead. Heero had merely raised an eyebrow as Duo had discussed it with Wufei.

The door closed behind him, and it was only then that Duo realized he had lost the others somewhere along the way. A quick glance around revealed no sign of Heero.

"Heero? You in here?" Duo called, walking past the fire pit and through the gap in the transparent drapes to the bedroom area. "Odd . . . ." Where the hell was Heero? Duo thought he would be anxious to find out if his theory about Lucrezia was right or not.

Stopping beside the marble dais, Duo blew a puff of air in irritation. Now what was he supposed to do? His eyes wandered to the bed . . . maybe . . . no. He was tired, perhaps even exhausted, but sleeping in Heero's bed was not an option. Duo prudently ignored the fact that he had been sleeping there for the past week or more. Then Duo thought of the couches. A quick nap, then maybe see if he could find Heero. Quatre probably knew where he was.

Decision made, Duo turned around and caught sight of the huge marble bath on the raised dais. Instantly he thought of where he had been. A bath sounded perfect. Heero wasn't around to complain, and he probably wouldn't object anyway. Duo eyed the bath; it was certainly large enough for two, more than two, actually.

Duo caught himself before that thought went any further. What the hell was he thinking? Why should he care if two people could fit into the bathtub? He snorted, disgusted with himself. Things were starting to get to him.

He shook his head as if to clear those thoughts from his mind, and glanced towards the door. Duo was certain no one would enter uninvited, never mind that he had just sauntered in. Well, Wufei, Trowa or Quatre would. And of course Heero. But they had seen him naked before anyway. The first three had seen something a little more than just nudity. Besides, Duo wanted to clean himself of the dirt from Lucrezia's house. He looked around again, searching for towels or a robe. Seeing what looked like a partially hidden cupboard on one end of the dais, he climbed the three steps leading to the bath itself.

When he reached the final step, he knelt to open the cupboard. As he did he noticed the bottom of the bath was carved in an intricate pattern of vines, complete with leaves and thorns. Curious, he reached in to touch it. That had to be hard on the ass to sit on. Then again, maybe Heero was into that kind of thing . . . .

Duo felt a jolt of surprise when his hand encountered a smooth surface. Knitting his brows in confusion, he ran his hand over the entire length of the bottom. Nothing! It was completely smooth to the touch, no bumps or ridges anywhere. Now where in the name of Jesus did Heero find a bathtub like this?

Absently grabbing a towel from the cabinet, he stood and began to undress, flinging his clothes down the few stairs onto the floor. Halfway done, he bent again to start the water running. After a moments deliberation on how exactly to do that, he had a steady stream of hot water filling up the bath.

Duo started humming happily to himself in anticipation. He ran his hand through the water, and then straightened up, tugging off his boots and socks. Left only in the black pants, he unwound his braid, and sat down on the bath's rim, laying the tie next to him. As he waited for the tub to fill, he looked over the various bottles and containers scattered around.

He was still humming several minutes later when he crawled into the steaming water. Sinking to his neck in the heat, Duo's little tune changed into a small sigh of pleasure. He felt ten times better already. He lay back against the slanted wall for a few minutes, closing his eyes and just letting the water soak into him and loosen his muscles. Eventually he realized he had intended to wash, not parboil himself. Opening his eyes, however, was a challenge at this point. He chose instead to just reach blindly for the soap and the washcloth he had laid out.

When blind groping didn't work, he opened his eyes in frustration. Mumbling a few choice words under his breath, he grabbed the soap and, working up a good lather, started washing his neck.

Now that felt good. The dirt and grime rinsed away by the soap was heaven enough, but his tired muscles screamed in pleasure from the small massage. Duo leaned back again, continuing to wash as his thoughts began to wander errantly once more.

Strangely, at least to him, the first thing he thought about was Heero. Where was he, anyway? Duo wasn't really surprised though. Heero had a tendency to do as he pleased. And that brought Duo's mind back to Heero's odd behavior. It was clear what the vampire wanted. His voice and the words he spoke still echoed in Duo's mind. Give yourself to me, he had said. When they had fought, Duo was honestly trying to kill him. But was Heero? Did Heero really try to kill him? No doubt he could have, easily. He hadn't tried to kill him then. Heero had tried to own him.

A shiver ran though Duo's body at the thought, and it wasn't entirely out of fear or hatred. Heero had tried to own him. He wanted Duo to give in to him, and let Heero possess him. Anger quickly welled up inside Duo. No. No fucking way was he going to give in to a vampire. But hadn't he already given in to the shifters?

No, that was different. They were his, not the other way around. Wasn't that the way it was? They belonged to him, but he was still his own, no one owned him but himself. Duo closed his eyes again, this time in frustration. He was lying to himself. The shifters did own him, at least a part of him He had already given himself away.

Without warning, Duo thought of Quatre. No, not just Quatre, but the way he had looked at him. The memory was very fresh, and so were the feelings that accompanied it. The blonde vampire wanted him. And at the moment, Duo had wanted to give him what he wanted. Duo realized with a start that if Quatre had asked, he would have agreed without a thought. Had Quatre known that? Is that why he had pulled away?

This was a bad line of thought to follow. Duo switched gears quickly, deciding to try and figure out what to do next. With both Mary-Anne and Lucrezia out of the picture, Duo was stumped. He supposed that they could try to track down the priestess, but he severely doubted he'd have any luck with that. If Lucrezia wanted to disappear, no one would find her.

Duo's hand went to the glittering cross that rested against his chest. He had forgotten to remove it. Was there any connection between the fire and the killings? And why was the cross at Mary-Anne's? Duo stopped. How did he know that the cross had been there? Only because Heero had told him it was. What reason did he have to trust the vampire? A realization dawned on Duo then, and he didn't like the implications of it. Didn't like them one bit.

A small whisper ghosted through Duo's mind, so small it was almost lost in Duo's thoughts. He wasn't even sure why he did notice it, but there was no mistaking what it was. The touch was so familiar, comforting almost. Without opening his eyes, Duo smiled.

"Hello, Heero," he said quietly, his hand still wrapped loosely around the gold cross at his neck.

on to part eight

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