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|- Nobody's Hero -| [Closed]

By -Solaris-

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To heal
Your scars
I will give you everything
That I can
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-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

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The radio silence had become unbearable. It had been a few months since Cicero had even heard from Royland after their last encounter with one another. The bruises on his body had always been explained away by excuses, but the dark haired male wasn't stupid. However, being as they weren't official in any sense of the word, he simply let it go in fear that he would push the ginger away, and that simply wasn't something he wanted to do.

As good as the sex was, he was toeing that dangerous line between wanting to continue their flings, and catching feelings for him. It was a dangerous game that he was sure he would lose in the end. Cicero wouldn't have been so concerned had the male even been answering his text messages. For the last few months, there had been no response to even the ones that simply said [i 'Hello?']. The ravenette hadn't wanted to come across as a clingy lover or like he was losing the battle of not catching feelings, but he sure as hell didn't enjoy being ghosted either. It had annoyed him to the point where he had been very direct, and a week prior, he'd sent a message that simply read:

[i 'We need to talk. Meet me at Reflections Cafe next Saturday.']

It was now Saturday morning, and Cicero- dressed in a pair of black pants and a plaid button down shirt- had decided to brave a walk rather than a drive to the other end of town. It would be a safe place for the two of them to talk- outside of the territory his father's boss operated for so that they could have a private conversation. While his father probably didn't care about his personal life, he still didn't want to chance a run in of the wrong kind when all he wanted were answers, and to break off this long standing fling. He just wanted to be free from it so that he wouldn't drag Royland into the shit show that was his life. He was quite used to the life he'd been born into, and had lived since he was very young, but being a target of rival gangs by proxy of Cicero was not something he wanted in the least bit.

His bodyguards had insisted upon coming with him, but as he the parking lot of the cafe, he asked that they stay back as far as they possibly could. The last thing that he needed was for two musclebound idiots to scare off his not-boyfriend much less the normal people who were regulars at this cafe. Royland still didn't know what Cicero did for a living, and he had wanted so badly to keep it that way so that he could break up with him without scaring him away, but knew that that pipe dream was becoming less and less of a reality by the day- especially if he wanted Royland in his life more than just when one or both of them decided they wanted to get laid. The two bodyguards had decided upon patrolling the nearby area to avoid being too suspicious, and to avoid loitering in the area.

He entered the cafe and gave a half-smile to the barista that greeted him. He paid for two coffees: both black, but with plenty of cream and sugar on the side. Cicero took a seat in the back of the quaint cafe near the window where he could still see the outside and who was approaching.

[i 'I'm here. Come whenever you can. Hope to see you soon.']

He'd written several texts before ultimately settling on one that seemed both direct and hopeful.]

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Seven days is an eternity when ‘we need to talk’ is the expectation attached.

Maybe it was the three months and one week of bad sex that drove Royland to lace up his boots and take a thirty minute bus ride downtown to meet an old fling. Or, the intolerance for even a single moment more of his parent’s incessant arguing on his father’s day off. He didn’t fancy adding any more bruises, welts, or cuts to his skin by trying to defend himself or his mother during these arguments, either. Detective Vondien is a big man - 6’2”, built like a linebacker. Royland is a slender 5’11” - a pretty boy who takes after his mother, a former beauty pageant contestant who never saw a sash or a crown, but still ended up as someone's trophy wife. A modern tragedy disguised as a middle-class family in the modest suburbs. Quaint, but far from quiet.

Yet still, it could have been the general misguided sense of adventure that often dictates the listless existence of a post-college graduate who only picked his major because it made him look better on paper - not because he actually planned to do anything with it. Biology is interesting - but so is getting head from the cute lab assistant in the broom closet. Neither brought him much happiness or fulfillment.

The prospect of seeing Cicero fills Royland with a nervousness that he can’t quite place. Despite the weather, which is neither warm nor cold, he wipes his palms on his pants for the duration of the bus ride, and the remaining walk from the bus stop, to the cafe.
What could they possibly have to talk about? There wasn’t much to say; [i “My father is a tyrant.”] Common knowledge. [i “He found out you weren’t a woman, so I’ve been sleeping around to get him off of my back?”] True, but… too harsh. It certainly wasn’t the sort of message you sent over text, email, or a phone call. Saying it in person was equally harmful, but Cicero had been relentless in his attempts to contact Royland. So, he’d get his talk, his meeting. And then, they’d go their separate ways.

That, after all, was their destiny.

He was a spectacle to behold for all those who gazed upon him. It was a penance of little consequence - the last reminder that his autonomy was invalid against the will of an overbearing father. Yet, here he was. A testament to strength and weakness, simultaneously. Giving into the need to see this piece of his past that he had once been determined to put behind him.
The trauma on his face forces the barista’s hand to cover her mouth - but Royland still hears the wind leave her. She’s almost at a loss for words, and he’s too ashamed to lift his head, covered by a black ball cap. It does little to hide his condition. The skin around his eyes is mottled black and blue, the skin on his lips split open. They weren’t recent injuries, but they sure as hell looked it. He tells her plainly that he doesn’t wish to order, and scans the cafe for a place to sit, or a familiar face. When his eyes finally land on both, he returns his gaze to the ground as he walks in Cicero’s direction, white knuckling the brim of his hat.

This was the only time he ever worried about how he looked, sitting face to face with a man chiseled from the finest, most expensive marble. A face that opened a chasm deep in his chest, lit a fire in his belly. That prior nervousness morphed into dread.
“...Fuck.” Royland turned away, unable to stand it any longer. “I thought I made myself clear when I stopped responding.” He caught his bottom lip between his teeth, to stop it from trembling.
“Just...say your piece and let’s get this over with.”
-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

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Cicero sipped at the warm coffee that had rested between his hands. He sighed- unsure if Royland would even show up after having ghosted him for so long. He knew the boy's father was a tyrant, but hadn't thought he would have found out about the two of them- much less that Cicero was male instead of a woman. He was certainly pretty enough to be a girl- though the quiet tenor of his voice would give him away before anything else would. Who knew he was a cop who was good at putting the clues together. The thought almost made him smile. But he refrained from doing so as he knew the boy’s father was also a big reason he’d wanted to keep their friendship a secret. Taking the son of a cop to bed when his own father was decidedly on the other side of the law was definitely a recipe for disaster. Cicero felt guilty for being the thing that had caused the red-head pain at the hands of someone who claimed to love him.

A familiar crop of red hair had caught his attention- even underneath the baseball hat. The male’s gait was familiar. Just seeing him caused a stir of feelings that he didn’t like. Butterflies and nervousness amongst them. His palms felt clammy, and his gaze moved down from the face that was riddled with bruises and injuries through the window back down to the gentle swirling of light colored liquid in a half empty cup.

He let out a soft exhale- hearing the male’s voice. Green hues the color of sea glass moved upwards to take in the full extent of the male’s injuries, and he felt his stomach drop sharply. There were no real words to explain the myriad of feelings and emotions that ran through his brain all at once. It made him angry, livid, fearful, and triggered a desire to protect Royland from within himself. Deep down, he wished that he could rid the other male of his problems with just one bullet, but that would help neither of them. Rather, his brows furrowed in concern. As happy as he was to see him, he couldn’t bring himself to smile. His only expression was that of worry and concern.

“[#9b74f1 He hit you again, didn’t he?]” It was a question that didn’t need an answer. He, instead, offered the seat in front of him. “[#9b74f1 Please, I have a bit to say since you’ve ghosted me for the last three months.]”

There was plenty he had wanted to say, but none of it was appropriate over text messages or a phone call. “[#9b74f1 I don’t appreciate being ghosted. A simple response is better than no response. Even if you had told me the bare minimum, I wouldn’t have kept worrying about you even being alive.]” The words came out far more venomous than he’d intended, and almost immediately, regretted what he’d said. But it was far too late. “[#9b74f1 I’ve felt nothing but guilt for being the reason you end up like this, Royland.]” He wasn’t what the male’s father wanted him to be by any stretch of the word. Perhaps it was best just to be done with it here and now. But another part of him didn’t want to. He was a selfish creature- a very greedy and selfish creature who openly embraced his sinful nature that sought to corrupt the only good thing in his life.

“[#9b74f1 I, admittedly, wanted to talk to you about how it would be better for both of us if we were to cut our losses here. I’ve really enjoyed the time we’ve been friends, and more than that as well, but I cannot, in good conscience, see you put through the wringer for being in any type of relationship with me.]” He once again looked over to Royland with a bit more determination in his worried expression and reached over to take those hands gingerly into his own. His fingers softly rubbing over the backs of his hands. “[#9b74f1 But even saying that, I know that I’m not ready to move on yet.]”]]
AutumnReaper     1y ago

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[i Did he hit you again?] Royland’s arm dropped to his side, fists clenched. What the fuck kind of a question was that? He wanted to scream. Cicero’s matter of fact attitude bothered him. It was only ever bearable when their goal was to have a good time. It had always been ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ between them. Cicero, for all those many months they were caught in his unholy tryst, had never been one to break that rule. What would have once been regarded as sincere just seemed like pandering, now.

Perhaps against his better judgement, he sat down with the direction of an otherworldly force. Though he might have initially felt that Cicero was insincere, he was yet, still in front of him and compelled to listen. Royland bristled with the delivery of every word. It was going to take all of his power not to make a scene. Cicero had more than ‘a bit’ to say. It was a lecture, as Royland refrained from unleashing himself upon the other. He waited until he was finished, for the most part, before lowering his head to formulate a response.

And then he felt it - the dreaded touch.

Cicero reaches the shores of Royland’s humanity with slender fingers. This touch, warm and familiar, drew an earnest breath from barely parted lips. As though he had been waiting for a comfort that he was sure would never reach him. He is a gentle nightmare; a spectre that creeps from beneath his sheets and swallows his worries. Verdant orbs devour the uncertainty in his heart without reluctance as he gazes into them. How badly he wanted to stumble headfirst into that beautiful oblivion.

Ever fickle and tentative, Royland pulls away in the next moment, unwilling to let his emotions crowd out the true reason he had responded to Cicero’s summons today. Tellingly, Royland’s hands don’t leave the table, he merely pulls back enough that Cicero is no longer touching him.
“I…” He begins, but realizes that his intended thought is incomplete. “It isn’t your fault. None of this… It’s mine.”

He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “I’ll be honest. My old man has been beating me to shit for the better part of 24 years, and there’s nothing I could have done to avoid this.”

The ever commandeering detective was equally as heavy-handed in his son’s upbringing, determined to make him strong, or otherwise turn him into the type of man that wouldn’t embarrass him. Unfortunately for the old man, his influence had the opposite effect. Royland was a hedonistic creature, who sought escape in others and intellectual pursuits. And if there was nothing to be found in conversation, it was found in sex. Man, woman, whoever was willing to give themselves, and willing to accept him, could have free access without recourse. That was how he fell into the Von Stratton honeypot. His narrow escape was eluding him right before his very eyes.

“Ci… I never once forgot about you. I mean, I never meant for it to happen like this.” Three months ago, a passing patrol car had caught Royland in an impassioned embrace with Cicero while he was on his way out of the other’s house. It was only by chance that Cicero wasn’t wearing a shirt. His longtime partner’s sex exposed, the elder Vondien...became bitter. Every morning since then was a well-timed escape to a city park, or local library. Every night was a grand spectacle just to get inside, sight unseen. Here or there, Royland would get caught and take his beating with as much grace and poise as a defeated, wilted flower. No one had ordered him to stop seeing Cicero, but the beatings were less frequent when the Detective caught the passing giggles of girls through the walls of his son’s bedroom. At the time, he’d thought it was better that way. Now he just felt guilty. Like he’d cheated. “I was terrified about what he might do to you.” An understatement.

“I tried to, I don’t know. Throw him off? What if he pulled my cell phone records? What if he was having me followed? I couldn’t risk it. I just, I couldn’t.” A beating was a small price to pay when his need to protect was overriding his common sense. This time, it is Royland who reaches for Cicero’s hands. “...I’m sorry. I should have been honest. But, you… To me, you’re too important to risk. You understand… don’t you?”
-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

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Cicero knew his father was unlikely to approve of his choices- not that that had ever stopped him from doing what he wanted before though. Not because of some underlying factors such as homophobia or other outdated notions along the same vein, but because it wouldn't take much research to find out about Royland's father. The von Strattons had been in the business of laundering dirty money for the better part of four generations- with Cicero being the fifth. He’d never told the red-head about his life, as the two of them really only met when it was convenient, but he came from a very close-knit, and very large family, and as he was the oldest of his siblings, he would soon be expected to inherit the family business once his training was completed. Much like his father, he would likely become a consigliere to the Don of the well-known crime family they were part of. As much as he cared for Royland, the feeling of helplessness to keep the other boy safe from either of their fathers was starting to get to him.

The warm touch of the boy was familiar, and pulled him from his thoughts. He didn’t want to let go for fear that if he did, then the two would really be finished. Cicero was far from innocent, but in this regard, he was not used to these things. There was one such unfamiliar feeling lingering there in the back of his mind: jealousy. Such an ugly emotion. One that Cicero had only ever felt in relation to those who lived seemingly normal lives. He certainly didn’t envy Royland in the least. At least his own father, while a very strict man who took no bullshit from anyone, had never laid a hand on his wife or children.

“Royland,” He began, turning his seaglass colored gaze upwards- wearing an expression of genuine concern, and perhaps a little bit of hurt. These were such vulnerable moments, and in his mind, he had run through most of the scenarios- none of the end results were great. It was here that he had ultimately decided what he really wanted, and it wasn’t to separate. Perhaps deep down, he’d already come to terms with that, and was part of why he’d asked for a meeting. Once again, their hands connected, and he took the male’s hands in his own, bringing the knuckles of one of his hands up to his lips to place a small kiss against his knuckles. “What is happening to you is not your fault, and you should not think that it is.” His voice was quiet, but it still somehow carried in their empty corner of the cafe. He hated that the boy had grown so used to the abuse of his father that he saw it as something normal or something he’d brought on himself.

He raised their joined hands up and rested his forehead against his own hands. His head was swimming, and although he was now resolute in his decisions in what he wanted out of their friendship or relationship, he wasn’t sure if his counterpart also wanted this. Fuck. Why was this shit so hard? He’d never had to worry about romantic endeavors in the past even though he’d dated plenty. It had never really meant anything to him or anyone else involved. “I thought about you nearly everyday. I’ve never asked you about your bruises or your injuries. They weren’t relevant to the conversation at hand.” Cicero felt as though he could ignore them or simply honor the unspoken code they’d set in place for the sake of the thought out conversations and light-hearted pillow talk they often had shared. “But, holy fuck, Royland, look at you. You can’t reasonably expect me to say nothing after all this time.” After investing so much time, energy, and feelings into whatever the fuck this was, he felt he had the right.

“I’m a fucking idiot.” Cicero mused and let out a quiet chuckle. Only by some twisted thread of fate would he end up with someone who was his natural opposite; the world truly had a cruel sense of humor at times. He raised his head from their hands. The ravenette wanted to be determined and assured in his actions now so that there was no misconstruing of his actions or words. Normally, he was far more fluid in his endeavors- never really making up his mind or having to do so before. Things would fall into place with or without his input, he had found. Royland was normally the one that made offers that influenced the decisions he made. But now, for better or for worse, he was making his own choices without the influence of Royland- although his words had been sweet.

“I’m not afraid of your father, and I can protect myself.” a bit of a lie, but Royland didn’t need to know that- nor did he need to know all the details just yet. The man had shown his true colors when he’d found out the truth. It made him wonder what he would have done if he was familiar with the von Stratton family or if he knew Cicero’s name. “I invited you here so we could… I don’t know? Break up, I guess? I wanted to move on and put this past me, knowing that all I was to you was just convenience. It was easy to think that we meant nothing to each other.” It was pretty clear he wasn’t really used to voicing these types of thoughts. He was never one to be overly emotional. He was ruled by logic, and to bring these feelings to the forefront seemed more detrimental than beneficial. “But, I can’t. You mean too much to me for me to just let it go.” He sighed- his gaze having drifted from the other boy and back down to the coffee that was now cold between them. The ravenette wasn’t sure if he was reading too much into Royland’s words, and he didn’t want to assume, but he was hoping that it meant what he thought it meant. “I think I understand. But what if I promised you somewhere where you would be safe? Where we would both be safe?”

Cicero had no idea how to go about promising such a thing, but he had an idea. “I can’t stand to see you like this: beat up and bruised. You at least deserve better. Even if we aren’t in a serious relationship, you still are an important piece of my life, and I’d settle with being a partner of convenience if you’ll allow me to help you. I can pay for an apartment- a good one- close to your school.” The two of them could continue their lives from there, and he could watch over Royland himself. Free from bodyguards at his parents’ home, he would just be happy to have his own space. The two of them would be free to see whomever they wanted. These feelings of jealousy over the idea of sharing someone he cared for couldn’t be too hard to stamp down could they? “You wouldn’t owe me anything. I’m offering this for the both of us.” ]]
AutumnReaper     1y ago

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There's a saying among policemen - probably - that goes, 'never leave bruises in a place that can land you in the defendant's chair.' But when you run out of clear skin, where the presence of marks give your abuser their satisfaction, where do they turn? And where will you go when you feel that there is nowhere to hide?
Royland’s father is at a clear disadvantage. His position within the city’s police force means that his only son cannot turn up dead in his home, covered in bruises and defensive marks, without some questions being raised. He’d always thought that would be the purpose of his life - to die in a pool of his own blood, in the only home he had ever known. This proposed move was an alternative to a future he had always resigned himself to. Royland couldn’t remember a time he had ever felt more safe, than when he was being reassured by Cicero’s gentle words.

But, safety is an illusion. Royland wasn’t sure what Cicero, or his family, did for a living. But, he didn’t seem to have so much money that the conditions for a clean break from his father could be met. It was no secret that Royland didn’t work - his father would question this sudden windfall. He would want to know who he was moving in with, and would demand to know where he was going. Far from entitled from such information, he’d demand it, instead.

There is a small pause, and Royland takes a breath. “You have no idea what you’re saying… You can’t be sure my dad won’t follow us, or send someone to stake us out. What if he pulls the lease for the property and finds out it’s in your name? What if he runs the number you’ve been texting me from? Come on, Ci. Don’t be ridiculous.” The stakes were high, and there was little margin for error. How could Cicero say such reckless things with the utmost confidence?

“You really are an idiot.” There was no room for joy in Royland’s expression - he was absolutely serious. “Yeah, maybe it started out as a convenience for us, but... “ In spite of himself, he averted his gaze. “No matter what we’re doing, or what it is to us, now… That’s no reason to put yourself in danger by trying to save me.” The gesture would have been sweet, if its conclusion would not have been so inevitable. They would be caught in short order. Royland would be sought out and forced to return home under the threat of further worrying his mother. But, once he returned, there was no guarantee that he would survive the next beating. And, would he want to? What merit could there possibly be in eking out an existence until he was able to claw his own way out?

Why would anyone take that chance?

The longer he gazed into Cicero’s eyes, the more he wanted to hold on to the hope that this lifeline was something that he could believe in. Royland muttered, “But… We can try… I think… I want to…” Instinctively, he wanted to pull back - Cicero’s gaze was burrowing into the side of his face, still turned towards the window outside, but the redhead was just sure that the other could feel his heart threatening to burst through his chest. Could he feel that thundering pulse through his hands? The thought made Royland’s face burn, although there was little room for the color to change.

Connections are so messy - and Royland always preferred to keep everyone at arm’s length. People were boring, unreliable, inconsistent, twisted, oftentimes deplorable… Even Cicero had his moments. And yet, despite that, the urge to get closer consumed the young Vondien. For better, for worse. Good, and bad. It’s obvious what you’d call it, but Royland quickly quashed that thought from his mind, uninterested in entertaining it. He wasn’t in the business of unrequited love.

“First… we need a gameplan.” What he meant was, he needed a distraction from his own feelings. “We move too quickly, and the plan won’t work. My dad looked like he was in a hurry on his way out this morning, so he probably won’t be home tonight.” Under normal circumstances, Royland would jump at the chance for some peace and quiet. But he wasn’t too keen on seeing his mother, either. She’d just hassle him about going out with his face the way it was. “I’ll just tell my mom I’m staying at some girl’s house, or something.” It had happened more than enough times by now, that it would get his parents off of his back. For a while. Royland glanced at Cicero for his approval… and perhaps his forgiveness.
-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

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“I’m not endangering myself. I have ways of keeping not only myself safe, Royland, but you as well.” He didn’t forget that Royland still had no idea of the money he had access to or the means of protection he’d alluded to, but Cicero was serious in this now. He was strategically laying his cards on the table so to speak. He knew they would have to find some way around the man’s bulldozer of a father, and get him out of that house as soon as they possibly could. “I’m not saving you like some damsel in distress. I’m helping you out of a bad situation because I l-” The dark-haired boy caught himself before he said it, realizing where that was going, and wanting to nip that feeling before it blossomed into something he couldn’t handle. “Because I care about you, you idiot.” He’d been a constant for some time now. It was hard to not care about someone who had been there for him longer than some of the other people that claimed to be his friends.

Though, Royland had a point. There was a potential paper trail they had to figure out. “Why would he follow us?” The boy’s father should be grateful that he would be moving out and trying to make a living on his own. He couldn’t just live in that house and be his father’s punching bag for the rest of his life. Even he had to know that. “I was intending to get the lease under an alias. That way it wouldn’t be traced back to me, and if he asks, you can just say that you started dating a hot woman with a lot of money” They had tried to concoct a plan prior that involved something along the same vein in case the boy’s father tried to find out who he was bedding, but it had ultimately blown up rather spectacularly in their faces after he’d seen him half naked.

Pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger of his left hand, he let out a quiet sigh. “I understand your concerns. I know you’re afraid, but will you please just give me a chance to do this? I’m asking for you to put your trust in me.” He, of all people, knew how hard that was to do- to put his faith in anyone outside of his normal circle of people.

He nodded at the male’s statement. Royland would have to get his things, and that was something Cicero was not interested in going with him to do. It was dangerous all things considered. The boy’s father knew what he looked like, and even if he were to disguise himself somehow, he feared that the man would see right through him. Doubting the man’s intelligence would be his ultimate downfall, and so he would entertain all the possibilities. “My parents are still at work. We all work in my grandfather’s business. They work the later shifts on the weekends. They let me have today off so that I could take care of something important.” Cicero’s lips curled up into a soft smile- a soft laugh escaped him. This was far more important to him than work, and he wouldn’t even lie about it. “Why don’t you get your things, and I can go get you? I don’t think it would be beneficial for me to go with you to grab your things just in case your father is there, but once you’re ready, I can take the car over that way and pick you up.” It had tinted windows dark enough to where no one could really see who was inside, and that made him feel a little safer.

“Once we’re at my house, we can work on our plan. I just want to make sure you’re safe. If it’s any consolation, I think my parents would like you.” He wore a playful smile as he got up from the table. As he passed the boy, he reached over and tucked a stray ginger hair behind his ear- fingers gently ghosting over the harsh bruise on his cheek. “Let me know when you’re ready.”]]
AutumnReaper     1y ago

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Trust. Did Cicero think trust grew in abundance in the Republic of Royland? Had he given off such an impression? The audacity drove Royland to chew his lip, as he pondered all of Cicero’s unsubstantiated claims. Such “means to protect” certainly did not stop Lady Luck from calling in sick - how could he be expected to put his trust into what he could not see?

“He’s already suspicious of who you are. He’d follow [i me] to see what I’m up to. Who I’m with. Where I am.” Royland rubbed his temple, mindful of the bruises on his face. No matter what his concerns were, Cicero had already made up his mind. At the very least, their cover stories matched, and they were on the same page about what they needed to do for the day. Perhaps that was all Royland could ask for. “...Fine. I’ll grab just a few things, and I’ll call you when I’m out of sight of the house. Just in case Dad comes back around the neighborhood, or the neighbors get suspicious. Your car is so weird, man…” Those tinted windows had always screamed, ‘I hide in alleyways and sell drugs to teenagers for a living.’

Royland felt his chest flutter at Cicero’s fingertips against his skin. The chuckle that escaped him read more nervous than playful or lighthearted. “For the record, if I were a girl, I wouldn’t rely on you to save me.” He pointed to his face, “Look at me. I’d have an army of Prince Charming’s at my disposal.” A quick glance at the clock at the wall behind the barista’s counter, and Royland stood. If Cicero was leaving, there certainly was no reason for him to stay. Feigning confidence, he leaned in close before walking past.

“I guess I’ll settle for you. Just for today.”

On his way back to Hell, Royland tried to reconcile the reservations in his mind that weren’t satisfied during his conversation with Cicero. There was something about too many pieces missing from the puzzle that bothered him, sudden developments in their relationship that made him feel anxious. Living together, out from under the thumb of his father, close to school, in an apartment he didn’t need to pay for. But the freedom was his only foreseeable advantage. That place, while the chance for a new beginning, would be a cage. But, it couldn’t be any worse than the prison he called home, now.

Marlene Vondien is startled by her son’s sudden reappearance. He was usually gone for longer than he was today - she turned her head to check the time on the oven’s clock. There’s one set of footsteps thundering upstairs to his bedroom. He wasn’t with anyone. He didn’t say hi. He usually doesn’t, but he had rushed past the kitchen at such a clip, she wasn’t sure if he had even noticed her standing at the sink.
The sound of the rummaging in his room bothers her. It’s frantic, quick, he’s muttering to himself as though he’s in a hurry. Quietly, she goes up the stairs, and seeing that the door to his room is open, she lets herself in. Royland is silent when he turns to his mother. She has to work up the nerve to even ask him, “Where are you going? Back out?” The dish rag in her hand strains under the tightness of her tired fingers. She tries to relax herself, and pushes a strand of graying hair out of her face.

“Yeah… I’m staying the night at someone’s house.” He says. Marlene’s reaction is subtle, and she fixes her mouth, waiting for further explanation. Annoyed, Royland lets out a breath, and says, “It’s a girl. Don’t worry.”

“Is that true, or is that just what I should tell your father?”

“Would it bother you if it wasn’t a girl, Mom?”

“I-...” Marlene takes a step back. The fabric on the rag is stressed, threatening to rip. “No. You know I don’t care who you-... Roy… If something’s bothering you-” Royland points to his face, and his mother’s breath catches in her throat.
“Baby, [i please]. Don’t hate your father. He just, he’s old fashioned! He doesn’t know how else to express himself.”
“There’s definitely better ways to confront your bigotry. Beating the shit out of your son because you [i suspect] he’s gay isn’t fucking one of them.” Royland doesn’t break eye contact with his mother as he gathers his bag from the bed. It’s only half full, but the fervor with which he steps past her forces her to grip onto the strap of his backpack. He turns around, displeased, “Let me go.”

“I just wanted to say that I love you.”

Mother and son exchange glances. And within the mother, the son sees his own grief, evolved; a leviathan that swallowed her youth, beauty, and vivaciousness. Royland’s lip curls, and then, he looks away, stifling his anger. He cannot stand to look at himself, in her. His mother has the same thoughts, and yet, she cannot look away.
“I love you, too, Mom. I just wish you loved yourself the way you love me.”

It isn’t the first time Marlene had heard such a thing. And she had always tried to be strong, but the rush of emotions came pouring out, as she was prone to do. The one who was always there to wipe away her tears, and soothe her with an embrace, was that little boy she had poured her heart and soul into raising, and who she had tried - and failed - to protect. But, he wasn’t a little boy, anymore. It takes a moment, but when Royland feels his mother is able to stand on her own two feet, he bids her goodbye at the door.

“Are you coming back?” Marlene asks.

Royland smiles, “I’d tell you if I left for good, Mom. Goodnight. Lock the doors.”

“Stay safe.”

“I will.” And he’s gone.

As he’d promised, once he was safely out of the radius of watchful neighbors, Royland took out his phone from his pocket. He’d had Ci’s number memorized.

[i [center I’ll walk out by the closest convenience store. Make it look as natural as possible.And for God’s sake, avoid the cameras in the parking lot, if you have to park.]]
-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

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“I’ll settle for you. Just for today.”

Those words that’d been uttered by Royland had made him giddy for some reason. It made him feel like it was as close to ‘I love you’ as he would be getting from the red-head. He wasn’t trying to save Royland either- just put him in a better situation with the protection he needed so that he could live a normal life; he at least deserved that much. Cicero had never had a savior complex, and he’d told the ginger that plenty of times that he wasn’t a good person. They never seemed to listen to each other though, so here they were, toeing this fine line with Cicero uncharacteristically wanting to protect his not-boyfriend against a much more sinister force that claimed to be the law in the town. Honestly, sometimes he felt actual mobsters did a better job of protecting people and raising children than this man ever had.

He headed home to an empty house- explaining the situation to his bodyguards. They’d seen Royland around before, and had grown used to making themselves scarce whenever Cicero had company over. They’d bristled at the idea of the apartment, and the young heir of the estate leaving with no real protection, but Cicero would get his way, and he knew he would. The boy was far more capable of protecting himself, and not only that, but he needed his own space. Living at home had been fine for a while, but as he was nearly pushing twenty-seven, he knew it was time to leave.

[i ‘A friend is staying over tonight. Just letting you know so you don’t get freaked out when you get home.’]

He sent the text to both of his parents so they would know what to expect. They knew of his trysts with other people, but had never really talked to or encountered his partners as they’d always been gone before they woke up or came home- which was honestly how he preferred things to be. Having to explain the condition of Royland’s face to his parents- especially his mother who had babied Cicero when he even so much as got a scrape as a child- was something he was working on in his head for when their paths crossed. His father was no nonsense, but wouldn’t care as long as the boy stayed out of the way.

In the time it had taken the other boy to get ready for him to go pick him up, he’d already made a few phone calls to a nice apartment complex on the other side of town. Using an impressive falsetto that had fooled the woman on the other end of the line, he’d set up a meeting to discuss a lease for a later date. Seeing the text from Royland, he smiled.

[i ‘You have such little faith in me, Little Bird. I’ll be right there.’ ]

WIth that being said, he left the house- expecting it fully empty when he returned. Maybe at some point, he would tell Royland about the side of him he still had no idea about. Until then, he would continue making excuses for how weird his life was. He slid into the driver’s seat of the black car with extremely dark tinted windows and made his way toward the gas station in question. He did park the car off to the side- far out of the way so that Royland could get into the car without worrying about the security footage.

[i ‘I’m here to sweep you off your feet, Ptichka.’]]]
AutumnReaper     1y ago

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[center [i I wish you wouldn’t call me that.]]

Royland scoffed. Little bird. Always with the pet names. This one wasn’t flattering - and it never had been. To acknowledge it would be to accept that his wings were clipped, and that this little bird was often locked away in a cage. Nowhere to fly. A sobering thought - one that had no such place in his head. No matter his personal feelings, Cicero seemed to reserve that name for him alone. That was worth its weight in emotional gold.

With Cicero in the parking lot, Royland slipped into the passenger’s seat with his hood up, just as a precaution. The minute his identity was safe behind those tinted windows, he let out a breath of relief. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been holding it, but he was glad to be able to relax his shoulders. The tension from his trip home fell away from him like pieces of an armored shell. His head throbbed, and he touched his fingertips to his bruises. “All I want when we get to your house is painkillers.” Among other things.

Instinctively, Royland kept his head down during the drive, tensed into his seat until there was a sharp pain shooting down his back. Every time Cicero passed a patrol car, he would hold his breath, wipe his hands off onto his pants, fidget with his seatbelt. As soon as he’d realize he was doing it, he would stop. It was an irritating, hellish cycle from which he could not escape, making for a restless drive to Cicero’s home.

Although the sight of 39th Street would usually elicit some sense of awe, Royland wasn’t in the mood to make digs about Cicero’s tranquil slice of 1950s America. All that could be said had been said before - and it could never overshadow the truth. Three months ago, he would have been relieved to see a home that wasn’t his own. But, now, he clenched his fist, nervously looking about the street for anything or anyone that seemed out of place, or paid too much attention to Cicero’s car. Stupid. He had never come around often enough that he’d be able to tell who was a friendly face, and who was not. So Royland let out the breath he was holding. Just in time for Cicero to pull into the garage, securing their escape.

“Well, that was nerve wracking.” He glanced over, eyes on one of Cicero’s hands. He wanted to reach out and hold it - but he refrained. “So… Who did you tell? Does your family know that I’m here?”
-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

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With Royland safely in his car, he decided to drive the long way home. It would take a little longer, but there was less of a chance they would run into anyone they knew. Out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed every nervous fidget or tense up from Royland, and as much as he wanted to comfort him, Cicero honestly didn’t know what to say or do that would make things better. Instead, he focused on the drive home, and pulled into the driveway of a house that seemed ripped straight out of 1950s Americana. In the front, there was a white picket fence, and around the rest of the house, there was a high privacy fence that’d been built to dissuade nosy neighbors from peaking in on the lives of the von Strattons.

The blue house seemed quaint, and obviously the home of an upper-middle class family without being too ostentatious. While they wanted to look like they lived within their means, they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves unnecessarily if it could be helped. The garage door had closed after they’d pulled into it- leaving them in the spacious garage. There were no signs of other people still being here, and the only other vehicles that were there were their bicycles in the far corners of the parking space.

“Relax, Ptichka, I only told the people who need to know. I didn’t want Ma and Dad to come home from work and be surprised by you, so I did tell them you would be here for a little while. If you’re hungry, Ma told me she left leftovers in the fridge.” Cicero looked over at Royland fully since the male had gotten into his car and reached across to place his hand on the male’s thigh. “There’s no one here except us right now. You’ll be safe here.” Or at least he hoped so. Cicero didn’t know how much the male’s father had dug up on him or his family, and he knew that these things would eventually be out in the open, but he wanted it to be on his own terms.

He removed his hand and got out of the car to lead the way up the steps that led into the kitchen of the spacious home. While the outside screamed Americana, the inside was modern with a minimalistic approach to decoration. It was empty as the boys entered the home, with a clock nearby chiming the time. Cicero drew all the blinds and curtains closed as an extra precaution. When all was said and done, he reached into a cabinet near the refrigerator and handed a pill bottle to Royland. “Here. Take these. You’ll feel better. Once you’re done, I can show you the rest of the house since our only goal isn’t to go straight to bed~” He teased.

“I’m all for relaxing,” Cicero started- the teasing demeanor having disappeared just as soon as it had appeared. “But we need to get our story straight, and we need to get a jump on this apartment. I’ve already started pulling some strings, but I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page.” ]]
AutumnReaper     1y ago

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Relax. Cicero tossed that word around as though it were natural. [i Relax]. Royland looked at the hand on his thigh - soft, feminine, slender fingers. He’d have preferred if Cicero had reached for his hand. It was already hard enough to concentrate with this headache. He didn’t need to be tempted by any impure thoughts, so abundant and vivid within his mind.
He sighed and followed Cicero out of the car, the place where the other’s hand had lingered was burning, as though he’d been imprinted.

The pills that Cicero tossed his way were a welcome relief, but the teasing didn’t help. Frowning made his head throb even more With haste, and without water, Royland tossed a few pills into his hand and swallowed them whole, hoping that his lack of a hearty meal that day wouldn’t interfere with their effectiveness.

He had to keep his figure trim, now that he’d be shacking up.

Breaking Cicero’s gaze, Royland turned his head to the windows, now covered. “What do you mean?” Hadn’t they hashed this out in the cafe? “You’re my brand new, rich girlfriend. The apartment is in your--... [i her] name. What else is there to get straight? More importantly, what are you going to tell your parents when they see me?” Royland pointed to his face.

“How much do your parents know about my dad, and what he does? Do they know they’re at risk?” The last thing Royland wanted to do was disrupt the lives of others - much less of the family that was now knowingly sheltering him. From what he could guess, this ‘family business’ Cicero had mentioned at times was moderately successful - successful enough to fully renovate a home that was pushing 70 to 80 years since it was built. Granite countertops, state-of-the-art stovetops, island counters, a designer dining room set (that he had only recognized from the home of a very wealthy classmate that he used to be intimate with)? Not only that, but Cicero wasn’t a shabby dresser by any standard. The car he drove, the way he carried himself, and his relative emotional unavailability. Royland felt more like a stranger the longer he pondered on his new circumstances. Old money, or new money, he wondered innocently? It didn’t matter… It was the man he wanted - not his wallet.

And then - quite suddenly - he smiled mischievously.

“Unless they won’t be seeing me for some time.” Until later that night, or until tomorrow. “So that means we have some time, right? After the tour, of course.” It had been a [i long time]. Not that Royland would ever admit it, but he missed Cicero - his touch, his scent, his taste…
Hormones. They’re a fucking nusiance, aren’t they? Royland waved Cicero off in the next second.
“I’m kidding.” He wasn’t. “I’m tired.” A lie.

“And, after what I did, I’m probably not your favorite toy anymore. I understand.” It didn’t make it hurt any less. But, Royland was determined to keep his facade up for as long as he needed.

Until the pain subsided.
-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

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“Do you even know your rich girlfriend’s name?” A soft laugh left him after the playful tease, and a coquettish smile pulled at the corners of his lips as the soft tenor of his voice had once again risen an octave to become the rather impressive falsetto he'd used to charm the girl on the other end of the phone call when he’d set up their viewing appointment. It was pretty clearly something he'd practiced many times before, and he knew that if the boy’s father didn’t already know he wasn’t a girl, he would likely be able to fool him. Cicero had many aliases, but Royland didn't need to know them all- just the most relevant one right now. His voice returned to it's normal timbre before he pulled out a small laminated card from his wallet: an ID card that read ‘Circe Vandelinde’. By all accounts, it looked like a legitimate ID card. “My feminine name is Circe. This way the paper trail is a little more convoluted.”

He had no idea what he would tell his parents when they inevitably caught sight of Royland’s bruised face. Normally, he was good at thinking up lies on the spot, but he wondered if a half-truth wouldn’t be better here. “Hmm. How about ‘Ma, Dad, can we keep him? Please? He’s a little beat up, but I’ll take care of him I promise’?” He batted those thick, dark eyelashes for dramatic effect- tucking the fake ID back into his wallet where it belonged. “In all reality, I’d probably tell them a half-truth. They don’t have to know everything. They definitely don’t need to know your father is a cop. But I’ll just tell them that you’re a friend or something that’s having a hard time at home, and need a place to stay for a few days to lay low. They’ll understand.” He knew his mother would likely try to baby him as she had any time Cicero had fallen down or hurt himself in someway. In that regard, he was much like her. He hated seeing people he cared about with injuries he couldn’t have helped avoid or couldn’t help heal.

“Relax, Ptichka,” That word again. He seemed to be saying that a lot. “They don’t know anything about your daddy dearest. I’d like to keep it that way. Just like you don’t know much about my family.” There was a reason Cicero was so tight-lipped about his family and what he did for a living. It was a protection measure just in case. If Royland was in the loop, there was a chance he could have let slip information that he would have entrusted to him, and then it would have been his fault his family was in danger. “The von Stratton family comes from old money,” technically not a lie, but not a whole truth. The money was both old and new. “Let’s just say that it’s beneficial if we stay under the radar.”

A dark brow rose, and Cicero breathed out a quiet chuckle through his nose. He was still salty about being ghosted. Most of the time, the ravenette was only possessive of his things, and not people, but there was something about Royland that made him want to keep him to himself. It wasn’t pity or any similar emotion to that, but something that possessed him with a desire to keep the boy close despite all of the red flags and warning signs in their relationship and friendship. He looked at it through rose tinted glasses purposefully so he wouldn’t have to see them.

He moved closer to Royland and reached up- taking a gentle grasp of his chin and tilting his head down so that the two could see eye to eye. Those piercing sea-glass colored hues glinted with an enigmatic gleam. Ever so hard to read, his true emotions were locked behind a wall that he rarely, if ever, let down. He was upset, and just a smidge of that anger leaked through his actions. “If you have regrets for ghosting me, you can always make it up to me. You can always get back in my good graces, and I will always welcome you with open arms, and an open spot on my bed. You just have to say the word.” His thumb ever so gingerly brushed against his cheek so as not to put any pressure on his bruises or injuries. “I can always make you my favorite toy again if you’d like.”

Cicero would have loved to say he was just teasing, but there was some part of him that wasn’t. It was strange to see him like this- strange to have him over for some other reason than a late night tryst between them. “I’ll admit though. If you want anything out of me- even if we’re just going to be fuck buddies- you have a lot of making up to do for not even responding to me for the last three months.” He understood why he’d done it, but it still fucking irritated him that he had.

“Let’s get you settled before you decide you wanna slide back into bed, Ptichka.” He released the boy’s face from his grasp- opting instead to take his hand to lead him from the kitchen to the spacious living room that was filled with expensive furniture and a decent sized television. There were photos hanging on the mantle by the fireplace. A slightly younger Cicero among them and other framed photos of the von Stratton’s younger children as well. Feminine faces framed with bouncy cherry-cola colored curls that weren’t unlike Cicero’s smiled out of the frames. Upon a glance, one might have assumed incorrectly that the von Strattons only had female children. Though, Cicero was the only boy, and the only one who’d not really wanted to go to college to study. “They eat boys like you for breakfast. Probably best to leave them well enough alone.” Having been bullied by his younger sisters for a lot of his life, he knew first hand how terrible they could be.

Cicero began leading the male up the stairs. Many of the rooms had closed doors, and he didn’t bother to show Royland in them. Though, he did show him the necessities- upstairs bathroom, and the familiarity of his own bedroom. “I figured we’d share my bed, but if you prefer, you can sleep in the guest room~” He chuckled. ]]
AutumnReaper     1y ago

[center [pic]]

Cicero’s falsetto is convincing - scary, almost. Royland’s brows draw together, a tentative smile on his face. Even the ID was impressive. Those soft features that had fooled him when they first met would prove to be quite the asset to their charade. At least to those who were susceptible to it. “I… [i Wow.]” He crossed his arms across his chest. “...I’d love to hear you call my name in that voice. Just once~” He couldn’t resist.

The explanation he was willing to shell out to his parents made the smile drop from Royland’s face. Truth be told, it irritated him. “Oh.” He responded flatly. “My parents get told you’re my rich girlfriend, and to your parents, I’m just a ‘friend,’ huh? ...You really like taking the easy way out, don’t you?” It was a constant non-argument between them, the ‘what are we?’ conversation that seemed to constantly be overdue and yet, they never had. Royland liked to play dumb - he let Cicero get away with wriggling his way out for the sake of comfort. Who wanted to muck up a good relationship with an [i actual] relationship? But this hard reset, for some reason, had made him hesitant to tolerate much. Perhaps it was the dull pain of the blood rushing to his face, every time Cicero saw fit to reach out and touch him. Something was fraying his delicate nerves.

His mood didn’t improve upon the tour, though he had gotten to hold Cicero’s hand, like he’d wanted back in the car. Not even the absurd comment of his man eating siblings made him crack a smile. “What are you, nuts? I couldn’t possibly handle two of you from the same family.” Not to say that he wouldn’t try, if the opportunity presented itself… But more often than not, bees from the same hive were a similar type of crazy. Perhaps there were things about Cicero that he could only learn through observing or interacting with these siblings he had yet to meet...

“Well, if we don’t want to tip your parents off, I guess I should take the guest bedroom.” It was the only logical decision. Royland wasn’t in the business of shocking anyone in Cicero’s family into an early grave, nor was he too keen on exposing any more of himself to the von Strattons than absolutely necessary. Bare minimum contact would be best. The less they suspected about the true nature of his and Cicero’s relationship, the better… right? But, waking up in Cicero’s bed for the foreseeable future was tantalizing. Finalizing the lease on the apartment would take at least a month. A proper move in and the rightful explanation he would owe his parents, say, another week or two following that. More than enough time to get into Cicero’s good graces again. But, Royland wasn’t interested in taking it slow.

It’s slow enough so that Cicero can see it coming; Royland’s fingers slip across the shallow contours of the other’s jawline. The distance between them closes. He doesn’t linger, not at first, and runs his thumb across Cicero’s bottom lip before he returns for another kiss. “Do you want me in your bed… Or not? It’s simple…” There had been a fire brewing in his belly since they were in the kitchen, and it swelled uncontrollably. He wanted to take hold of this familiar feeling and never let it wrestle from his grasp. No matter the cost; sanity, decency, or his self-respect, he would give everything for a favorable response. Royland reached back for a gentle handful of Cicero’s hair - he always did like when he pulled it. “I won’t beg for your forgiveness… But you might want mine. Calling me ‘just a friend’ put me in a real bad mood.”

It was difficult to restrain himself - true what they say about old habits. It was instinct to move his mouth to Cicero’s neck, using one hand to keep his head forced back, and the other….wandering. “You’re so annoying. If you want me, just say that…”

[i [center I can’t stand your mind games]]
-Solaris-     1y ago
Caffeine Cleric

[center [Abel

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“Do you want me in your bed… or not? It’s that simple.”

The straightforwardness of the question made Cicero smile. There was a palpable frustration and tension in the air between the two of them. One that made both of them slip back into all too comfortable old habits. The red-head was never one to beat around the bush. Unlike Cicero, his companion never seemed to have too much patience. Did he want Royland back in his bed? The dark-haired male shivered as the hand snaked from his jawline to tangle in those dark locks. Having worn his hair back in a low-ponytail, Royland would be able to have a solid fistful of his hair.

“Roy,” But Cicero’s words were silenced by a kiss. Obliging, he moved a hand to rest on the male’s shoulders. His own hands bunched the fabric of the shirt and pulled him closer for yet another kiss. This one with a desperate hunger behind it. Cicero wanted Royland back in his bed- back in his good graces, but fuck was he still pissed about being ghosted while Royland got to fuck off and do whatever- or whoever- it was that he wanted. Of course these thoughts weren’t rational, but when his buttons were being pushed in the right order to stoke a fire of anger in him that he didn’t normally have for Royland, he wanted nothing more than to take his frustrations out on the boy. The other hand that found itself wrapped around his throat further prodded the embers. He was in no mood for these fucking games either. Anger was diluted by lust and frustration, and other mixed emotions that he’d never really experienced before… whatever pseudo-relationship the two of them had found themselves in.

A quiet chuckle left Cicero. “I always take the easy way out, huh?” Royland had given up a lot for their relationship, sure, but he had never stopped to consider just what Cicero was putting on the line by even having the son of a cop in his home right now. “Have you even considered that I have more to lose than you do? Out of either one of us, I’m the one putting the most on the line. My home, my family, my job; they’re all as equally important to me as you are. If you think for one second that I’d take the easy way out when I have so much at stake, you must be some kind of idiot.” His goal this time was the long game. The ravenette was playing it smart- not just jumping into something. He was no white knight, and Royland knew that he wasn’t the type.

“You’re so annoying. If you want me, just say that.”

Both of his hands moved upwards to cup the boy’s face. His fingers rested lightly against those dark bruises on his cheeks and thumbed over them. “I don’t expect forgiveness from you, and you can take out your frustration on me all you want. The long and short of it, Roy, is, well…” He paused and sighed quietly- pulling the male down to once again meet his lips with a hungry kiss. “I do want you, but I don’t want to lose what’s important to me, and that means you, Idiot. At some point, you deserve to know what you’re signing up for, but now isn’t the time, yeah?” Not with the two of them so worked up to the point where they were hot and bothered just from arguing over a relationship neither of them really wanted to commit to. They were toxic together, but neither seemed to notice or care much about just how bad they were for each other’s health. “We can share my bed. My parents won’t be home until later tonight. Plenty of time to vent your frustrations~”]]


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