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Title: In Their Quilted Coats ch. 3
Author: Pip
Pairing: None yet, but yes, it will be Richard/Pip eventually.
Warning: Umm, AU, obvs. Richard's wife and family don't exist, because I refuse to break up a home. :D He did, however, have his accident in this universe. Also, I should probably warn for Jeremy Clarkson in general.

A massive thank you to [livejournal.com profile] tigertale7 and [livejournal.com profile] giddy_london for the betas, encouragement, and general enabling. This fandom wouldn't be half as much fun without you two. ♥ ♥ ♥

Chapter 1, 2

First posted Sept, 2008



They'd finished eating and drinking, moving on to coffee after the meal. Pip curled her feet up onto the small sofa. "All right, then, who's going to start the Spanish Inquisition?"

"Jez is always High Inquisitor," James said. "Rich and I aren't cruel enough for the job. Although, to be fair, Rich always tries hard."

"Pillock," Richard said comfortably, slouched on the love seat beside Pip, his coffee in his hand. "This isn't an inquisition, Pip--"

"Yes, it is," Jeremy objected, although it was clear he was only half-serious. "I want to know who's going to be dictating my schedule now. I also want to make certain I can trust her, after your episode of foot-in-mouth disease earlier. What if she runs off and sells the story to the tabloids for enough money to buy a Carerra?"

Richard rolled his eyes. "It'd be a bit of flogging a dead horse, wouldn't it? That story's already run its course, Jez."

"I know that, Hammond. I want to be sure of confidentiality before the next story, and I should think you would, too."

Pip interrupted the debate before it could get heated. "I understand Jeremy, I really do. I'm just not sure how I can set your mind at ease."

"Why did you move to England? How did you get this job? What did you do before?" he barked.

"One at a time, Jez," James protested. "You're making me uncomfortable, let alone her."

"I moved to England because I visited here once, and I loved it. I was unhappy in my job at home, I disliked the town I was living in, and I had no major responsibilities tying me down," Pip explained easily. "I figured why not? If it was a disaster, I'd just move back to Canada and start over again. So far it hasn't been easy, but I've got a job and a place to live, so I'm content for the moment."

"For the moment," Jeremy repeated. "Planning on moving on quickly, are you? I don't want to put my scheduling into the hands of someone who's going to be buggering off in six months."

Pip shook her head. "That's not me. I meant content in terms of how I've started off here. I expect to get better at my job and find a nicer place to live when I can afford it, and then I'll be more than content."

Richard nodded, looking pleased with her answer.

"As for how I got the job, a friend of mine works at White City and recommended me to Andy. She knew I'd been thinking of moving to England, but probably wouldn't actually do it without a job to come to. And my previous boss sent in a recommendation for me. You should probably ask Andy if you want to know anything more about why he actually gave me a chance, because I certainly wasn't expecting it."

"What was your previous job?" Jeremy quizzed, his eyes narrowing.

"Very similar to what I'm doing for you guys, except in a different industry. I was personal assistant to the president of a large furniture store chain. He was brilliant at the creative and business end, and utterly shit at organizing his commitments. I was working reception at head office at the time, and ended up just starting to, well, rescue him from himself. After a month of things going more smoothly, he took me off reception, gave me a small office off his, and I oversaw every detail of his schedule and paperwork. Within two years he'd doubled my salary and I was organizing his personal life as well."

"And why were you unhappy?" James asked curiously.

"He got married, and his new wife resented the depth of my involvement in his affairs." She suddenly coloured. "Not affairs affairs. You know, his, his business. She made it a very difficult situation. He couldn't say no to her, and I couldn't stay under those circumstances, so I made the decision to take Andy's offer sight unseen, so to speak."

"So you're used to dealing with personal information?" Jeremy asked, watching her intently.

"Yes, I am."

"And you've never gone shopping on eBay with his credit card number, or gossiped to your girlfriend about his leopard print knickers, or emailed his private porn collection to the papers?" he pressed, then added, "Hamster's especially worried about that last one."

"I'm not ashamed of my porn collection," Richard said solemnly. "It's very tasteful."

Smiling, Pip said, "No, I've never done any of those things. I am quite boring and trustworthy, really. I don't know the right people to pass the dirt onto, I guess?"

"Hmm. Well, we'll see about that."

"Just give me a chance to prove myself, Jeremy, that's all I ask. I want to stick with this job as long as Top Gear exists, and I'm not going to do anything stupid to jeopardize that."

Jeremy steadily held her gaze for a moment longer, and then nodded. "Right. What do you know about the Bugatti Veyron?"

She made a face. "You didn't tell me there would be an exam. Umm. It's fast, and sleek, and expensive, and...fast?"

"I went fastest in it," James said smugly. "Two hundred and fifty-three-point-five miles per hour."

"Are you serious?" Pip's eyes were wide. "Jesus. The fastest I've ever been in a car was...one hundred and thirty-five," she cringed as she said it.

"That's not bad," Richard said encouragingly. "One-thirty-five miles per hour is--"

"Kilometres," she mumbled.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Kilometres per hour, okay? The fastest I've ever been is one hundred and thirty-five kilometres per hour."

The three men stared at her blankly. "That's...only eighty-five miles per hour," Richard finally said. "James, you're the resident expert on slow. Is that even possible?"

"It is," James said thoughtfully. "My grandmother never went above fifty-five miles per hour in her life. Mind you, she lived half her life before the invention of the motorcar."

"Yeah, yeah, all right," Pip muttered. "Mock away, I can take it."

"This is not acceptable," Jeremy declared. "No Top Gear staff member should be such an embarrassment to us. What have we got on set tomorrow, Hamster?"

Richard screwed his face up as he thought. "Well, the Bugatti, obviously, but we'd never be allowed. The Ferrari, ditto. And the Peel, which won't quite suit our purpose. Besides, the Stig will be on-track with the Dame. We'll do it Thursday."

"Do what Thursday?" Pip asked suspiciously.

"Make you go fast," Richard said with a wolfish grin.

"I was afraid that was what you meant."

James suggested, "I'll bring the Boxster and run her around the track. Or better yet, down the main airstrip." He looked at Pip. "Don't worry, we'll start you off gently. We'll only be doing about one-twenty."

"What is that in kilometres?"

He thought for a moment. "About one-ninety."

Pip pinched the bridge of her nose. "Oh god."

"Too much for you, Flip?" Jeremy challenged.

She immediately lifted her head and said, "No, not at all."

James and Richard shared a grin. "We'll have to keep that in mind," Richard murmured to him.

Pip said, "Back to the Veyron, if you please. Give me two facts about it that I should know."

"It has an 8.0 litre W16 engine," Jeremy rattled off. At the look on her face, he sighed loudly, sounding very put-upon. "Do you know what a V8 engine is?"

"Yes, it has eight, ehm, whatsits." She made an up and down gesture with her hand in a circular shape, flushing when Jeremy sniggered and Richard laughed out loud. "Pistons, dammit. Pistons. God, you're like fifteen year olds."

Still snickering, Jeremy said, "Yes, it has eight cylinders, arranged in a V configuration. A W16 is simply two V8's that share a crankshaft."

She looked surprised. "That actually makes sense."

It was James's turn to laugh.

"Shh," she admonished him. "I'm trying to learn something, here. Okay, the Veyron has an 8.0 litre W16 engine. What else?"

"It also has cross-drilled, turbine-vented carbon rotor brakes," Richard told her.

"No, don't tell me," she held up one hand, half-joking. "I can figure this one out. Cross-drilled I know, it's the holes drilled through the rotors. I had a set of those after I lost my brakes going down a steep hill one time; paranoia made me splash out on the cross-drilled ones after that. Turbine-vented I'm guessing...super air cooled?"

James nodded. "Well done."

"I hope I'm not shocking you horribly with my lack of expertise."

"We rather thought you didn't know much, to be honest," Richard admitted. "I was wondering how you wound up working with a bunch of car-mad gits."

"I don't know much about the mechanics," Pip agreed. "But I like the aesthetics of cars. I have very good taste," she grinned. "The first car I ever fell in love with was an Austin-Healey 100-Six, and the second was a Triumph TR3."

Richard nodded, one eyebrow raised. "Not bad. What else?"

"I'm a little embarrassed to admit I was hung up on Corvettes all through high school. Does it help that I really wanted the 1954 roadster?"

"Not much," Jeremy snorted. "Ridiculous engine. Useless suspension."

"It was pretty good for its time," Richard objected. "And even you have to admit the styling was fantastic."

"It was and is beautiful," Pip said firmly. "And now it's my turn to play inquisitor. James, I remember seeing an episode where you made the theme song out of engine notes, and it was really clear you have excellent pitch. Probably perfect pitch, I bet. Did you study music at all?"

"At university, yes."

"What instruments?"

James glanced at Jeremy and grimaced, obviously expecting a comment from that direction. "Flute and piano."

"I'd love to hear you play sometime, especially the piano. Who's your favourite composer, when you sit down to play for the joy of it?"

James pondered it for a moment. "Chopin, I suppose. And Bach."

"Jeremy," Pip said suddenly, turning to him and catching him in the middle of a very exaggeratedly put-upon yawn. "Do you have kids?"

He regarded her for a moment, and then said, "Yes. Three."

"I don't know where you live--do you get to go home nights when you're filming in Dunsfold?"

"No, I stay in London. Who wants another coffee--"

"It must be hard for you to spend so much time away from them," she said softly, "When you add in all the times you're travelling to various locations as well."

Surprised into an honest answer, Jeremy replied, "It was harder when they were younger. They don't have as much time for their old man these days."

Pip smiled. "I remember being a teenager. They'll think you're nothing more than a walking wallet for a while, and then you'll be back to being a beloved dad again."

Jeremy chuckled. "Not for years yet, I should imagine."

"Richard," she turned on the love seat, facing him. "Why a farm?"

"Ehm..." He looked a bit bewildered. "Why not?"

"No, I mean, why did you want to live on a farm, rather than in an apartment in the city?"

"I can't stand the city," he said immediately. "Not for long, at any rate. I like having land I can run about on, I need lots of garage space for my cars and bikes, and I like to have animals. I love the peace and quiet in the country, I like to do things myself and get my hands dirty. I'd rather be wearing a pair of muddy wellies than a pair of idiotic green Prada boots." He studiously avoided looking at Jeremy.

"I'll have you know those are the height of fashion," Jeremy objected.

Pip grinned but left it alone. "What kinds of animals do you have?"

"Currently, three dogs--including Top Gear Dog, of course--two cats, and a handful of chickens. Oh, and the one rooster who's walking a fine line of survival. Once the place is ready, I'll get some sheep and maybe a couple of horses."

"That sounds lovely," Pip said wistfully. "You'll have to bring some pictures of your animals in."

Richard set his empty coffee cup down on the low table in front of him, and then leaned his elbow on the arm of the love seat, his head on his hand. "You should just come down sometime and meet them for yourself."

"I'd like that."

"Pip," James asked suddenly, "You do realise it rains a lot in England, don't you? Almost incessantly, in fact?"

She looked taken aback at the change in subject. "Well, I've heard that, yes, but the past two weeks have been lovely--"

"An anomaly," he said darkly. "It's November soon, and we'll be lucky to get more than three days of sunshine in the entire month. Not to mention how early it gets dark. Are you honestly planning on riding your bicycle sixteen miles a day in pouring, freezing rain and dark?"

"Yes?"

"It's an utterly ridiculous idea, and you're going to get yourself run over."

"I'm not saying it's going to be pleasant," she said, "But I haven't much choice. The bus goes nowhere near the aerodrome, and I need to be able to come and go when I want, not when the bus allows. I'll pick up a rain suit and a headlight for my bike, though."

Richard slouched deeper into the corner of the love seat. "You could borrow my Land--"

"No," Pip said, shaking her head.

"Just until you get--"

"No," she repeated, adamant. "Thank you for the offer, it's incredibly kind, but I couldn't. I'll be fine on my bike. I'll hit the shops in Guildford for a headlight and some reflectors, and there's got to be a store in town that sells tools so I can install them. Pliers and wrenches and things."

"Spanners," James said. "They're not wrenches, they're spanners."

Pip cocked her head. "What an odd name. You use them to wrench on nuts or bolts or whatever, why on earth wouldn't you call them wrenches? You don't use them to 'span' on something."

Jeremy began to laugh. "She's got you there, May."

"Actually, I can tell you why they're called spanners--"

"Please god, noooo!" Jeremy moaned. "Change the subject, Flip, he's got an OCD thing about spanners. He's got them precision-hung in his shed and if one gets moved, the earth ceases to revolve or something."

"Symmetry makes me happy," James said haughtily.

Pip grinned. "You'd hate my apartment, then. It's a disaster zone."

"I thought you were the queen of organization?"

"I am--for other people. But I can't keep myself organized for more than ten minutes at a time," she admitted. "Don't ask me why. It's a bizarre phenomenon."

"And I'm trusting my life to this woman." Jeremy covered his eyes with his hand.

"No, you're trusting your schedule to this woman. Your life is your own responsibility, pal." She bit her lip. "Sorry. You guys make it too easy to be casual with you."

"I can't stand formality, so don't bother," Jeremy said.

Pip nodded in thanks. "Speaking of schedules," she said, "I'm going to need to sit down with each of you sometime over the next few days--not tomorrow, I know that's filming day--and get you to tell me everything you've got set up so far, so I can put it in my calendar. Then I'll be able to take over for you, and you can stop worrying about it."

"How exactly is this going to work?" James asked.

"Well, you let me know all your commitments, personal and otherwise. Just when they are, I mean, you don't have to tell me what, not when it's personal. From there I can look after all aspects of your shooting schedules with Andy, hammering out the whole thing to make it easiest for you, although don't tell him I said that. Then I can give you a detailed itinerary by day, week, whatever format you want. If you need appointments made, just tell me what and where, and I'll book it for you. Travel plans, I'll sort them out. If you need someone in to water your plants while you're away shooting something for Top Gear, I'll have it looked after. I'm there to run interference for you. You know when they say 'Have your people call my people'? I'm your people."

James and Jeremy looked at each other, and then James asked, "Why didn't we have one of these before? She's better than sat-nav."

"A Nissan Sunny is better than sat-nav. She's better than a Ferrari Mondial."

"You don't like the Mondial."

"No, but I love Ferrari. So she's better than the worst car of the best marque in the world."

"That doesn't even make sense!" James protested.

"Yes, it does! If she can get us through to January without me killing you or either of us killing Hammond, then she'll be better than the Maranello. And if we make it all the way to a year, she'll be better than the Enzo."

James paused, and then looked at Pip. "That is high praise," he admitted.

A laugh bubbled up her throat. "I'll work on it, I promise."

"Hammond, if-- Oh, you're joking," Jeremy said. "Richard. Richard." He began to chuckle.

Pip looked over to see Richard fast asleep, his head still leaning on his hand, although just barely. "Aww. He's had a rough day, poor guy."

"Wake him up and send him home," Jeremy decided. "It's going to be a long day tomorrow anyway."

"You can't let him drive like this," she protested. "What if he falls asleep on the way home?"

"Oh, cock," James sighed. "She's right, Jez. If he fell asleep drinking coffee and in the same room as you..."

"Are you referring to my dulcet tones? Well, what do you intend to do? I'm not driving him home, I've got a family to go to."

James gave him two fingers. "Fine, I'll drive him."

"That won't work," Pip pointed out. "His car will be here, and I don't have my bike."

"Oh, cock."

"Listen, he can..." She hesitated. "Would it be really inappropriate to offer him a spot on my sofa?" she asked. "He was going to have to drive all the way back to pick me up tomorrow anyway."

"Planning on molesting him in his sleep?" Jeremy asked.

"Of course not!" she said, aghast.

"Fine with me, then. Just make sure he gets in on time for filming. See you tomorrow." With that, Jeremy rose and left.

James shook his head. "Pillock. Are you sure, Pip? I'm sure with a bit of mental fortitude we could sort something else out."

"It's fine. I slept on my sofa for a week until my bed was delivered, it's really quite comfortable, so he won't be a wreck tomorrow. Besides, then he can sleep in a bit longer if he doesn't have to drive to come get me. After his water heater issue last night, I'm sure he needs it."

"Quite probably. All right, I'll at least help you get him awake and semi-mobile." James leaned over to push Richard's head off his hand. "Oi. Hammond," he said loudly.

Richard's head dropped and then snapped up, and he said, "Sprouts. What?" He blinked slowly.

"I don't want to know what you were dreaming, mate," James huffed a laugh. "Wake up, it's time to vacate the pub."

"Hmm? Oh. Right. See you tomorrow." He leaned his head on the arm of the love seat and closed his eyes.

Pip tried the 'annoying' method. "Richard. Richard. Richard. Richard."

He opened one eye. "What?"

"This isn't where you sleep. Come on, let's go for a walk."

His eye closed again. "Bugger off. And feed the chickens, will you?"

She sat back in defeat. "Would a bucket of cold water work?"

"The pub frowns on you soaking their furniture," James pointed out. "This ought to work." He leaned in close, his mouth next to Richard's ear. "The Zonda F?" he said loudly. "No, Hammond can't drive it, he's asleep."

Richard sat bolt upright. "'M not asleep! I'm here! What?" He looked up at James blearily. "Where's the Zonda?"

"It's at Pip's house," James said. "You'd better hurry." He turned to Pip and with a grin said, "That should do it. Just don't let him close his eyes again. You know where you are from here?"

"Yeah, I'm right up the High Street, actually. Thanks, James," she smiled.

"Right-o. See you in the morning, then. Goodnight, Richard." He exited out of the lounge.

Richard was struggling to his feet. "Goodnight? You've only just woken me up!" He turned to Pip and plaintively asked, "Why is the Zonda at your house?"

She shook her head and handed him the last of her now-cold coffee. "You are in rough shape, my friend. Drink this."

Richard drank, and made a face. "Eugh! God, how much sugar do you use?" He looked marginally more awake.

"Lots. Are you ready to tackle a short walk, then?"

He scrubbed his hands over his face and through his hair a few times. "I feel like something the cat dragged in. Did I say anything too stupid?"

"You mean other than selling all your cars and buying a hot air balloon?"

He goggled at her. "Did I really say that?"

"No," she grinned. "Come on, follow me."

"That's just cruel," he muttered, dutifully following her. "You ought not to trifle with a bloke like that. Especially one who's got brain damage."

"Poor angel," she murmured. They went up to the bar, and Richard asked the woman behind it what he owed. She handed him a bill.

"What? Those bastards! Those utter, thieving, cocking bastards." He began to laugh. "They stiffed me for the entire cheque. Well, I reckon that will teach me to fall asleep; I'm lucky they didn't shave one of my eyebrows off."

"Don't worry, I was there to protect your facial hair," Pip grinned as he paid the bill. "However, you might want to check for a sign on your back, because I did go to the ladies' room at one point."

After pocketing his receipt, they walked outside, and Richard began to head for the car park.

Pip grabbed his arm and steered him the other direction. "This way. You're sleeping on my sofa tonight."

"I'm what?" Richard stopped dead in his tracks.

She turned a bit pink, but gamely said, "The three of us decided you were in no condition to drive. I can't drive your car, and if one of them took you home, both your car and I would be stuck here in the morning. The only sensible solution is for you to crash at my place tonight, and drive us both in to Dunsfold in the morning."

"Oh. But I'm awake now. I could just drive home."

"Richard?"

"Yes?"

"Close your eyes."

He did as she instructed, and it didn't take long before he began to sway.

She put her hand on his arm to steady him, and when he opened his bleary eyes, she gently said, "You're not driving. Come on, I'm just around the corner."

"Perhaps," he said, knuckling at his eye, "Perhaps that would be best."

Pip led him around the corner onto the High Street, and as promised, it was a short walk down to the door to her flat, situated above a café. She unlocked the door and led the way in, pausing on the bottom step to ask him to lock the door behind him. There wasn't enough room for her to get past to do it herself. At the top of the stairs, she unlocked the secondary door that led into the flat itself.

"Make yourself at home," she said, gesturing around. "Bathroom's upstairs, kitchen's through there. Help yourself to anything in the fridge, if you're hungry or thirsty. I'll be down in a minute." She ran up the stairs to the bedroom.

Richard looked around the living room; it was small, with beige walls and carpet and a small non-working fireplace opposite the single window. Currently it was only furnished with a sofa, an end table, a guitar case, piles of books, and one photograph on the wall. Richard crossed the tiny room to look at it. Matted in white with a plain black frame, the black and white photo was of an ornate wrought iron and glass domed ceiling.

Pip re-entered the room carrying sheets, a blanket, and a pillow.

"That's a lovely photo," Richard commented, turning to take the pillow from her.

"Thanks. Took that one up in Scotland several years ago."

"That's yours?" he asked in some surprise. "Are you interested in photography?"

"I love it," she smiled. "I nearly went back to school for it instead of moving here, but I figured I could always take a course or two around here somewhere."

"What kind of camera do you shoot with?"

She raised one eyebrow. "You're a photographer yourself?" At his look, she added, "No one else asks what you 'shoot' with."

"Studied it at college, as a matter of fact," he grinned. "Along with painting. The most useless degree in history."

Pip laughed. "Mine comes a close second. I majored in English and theatre. I have a Nikon F60."

"That's a--"

"Film camera? Yep. I haven't joined the digital age, at least, not yet. I was saving up for one, but I ended up using those funds on moving costs." While she spoke, she spread the sheets out over her sofa, putting the blanket at one end and taking the pillow back from Richard to place it at the other end. "What do you have?"

"I've got the new D300 on order," he told her, pleased. "I get it next month, and it's going to be bloody brilliant. I got the two to four hundred millimetre zoom as well, for shooting at the track. I'll bring it in when I get it, show it to you."

"That would be awesome." She nearly matched his enthusiasm. "That's a fantastic camera. A guy I did some work for a couple years ago had the D200 when it first came out, and he let me borrow it for a day to shoot some portraits. It was unreal."

"I haven't bought a new one since the D70 in, what, '04, I think it was. And that was my first digital, I'd clung to film up until then, since that was what I knew inside and out." Richard suddenly yawned, widely. "Sorry."

"No, no, I'm sorry, I'm keeping you up. I just have to make my lunch for tomorrow, so why don't you use the bathroom first? I left a new toothbrush on the shelf beside the sink for you."

Richard looked at her, squinting. "Why are you making a lunch?"

"Um. Because I get a bit famished if I don't eat from eight until six?"

"But--they feed us," he said, confused. "Didn't you get my lunch from the craft services table today?"

"Well, yes, but I didn't think..." she coloured. "I'm...fairly low on the pecking order."

"Didn't Andy tell you? What a useless twat. Of course you can get your lunch from the table. The crew doesn't eat with us, but you certainly will."

She hesitated. "Are you sure? I don't want to create any problems."

"Positive. No need to pack a lunch."

"Wow," she smiled. "I'm there two days, and there's already perks. This job's getting better and better by the minute."

"Best job in the world," Richard agreed, and then yawned again.

"All right, enough chat. Go on up and use the bathroom." She pointed up the stairs and waited until he'd climbed them. While he was gone, she turned on the lamp that sat on the end table beside the sofa, and turned off the overhead light. From the kitchen she fetched a tall glass of water, and left that on the end table beside the lamp for Richard. Hesitating, with a second glance at the untidy piles of books scattered about, she hurried around stacking them more neatly and pushing them to the side, out of the way.

"Don't fuss on my account," Richard said from behind her.

"Oh!" she squeaked, whirling around. "God, you scared me."

"Sorry," he chuckled. "Had you already forgotten I was here?"

"Hardly," she said, attempting to draw her dignity around her again. "I just wasn't expecting you to creep up on me."

"Sorry," he said again, patting her arm as he walked by. "Relax, Pip, I'm a very undemanding houseguest. Have you got any mineral water? Still, if possible."

"Um--no, sorry, I--"

Richard grinned. "Kidding."

She flushed. "You--"

"Ah, ah," he warned her. "Remember who's driving you to work in the morning. Are these the books you couldn't leave home without?"

"I--you--" she stammered, thrown off-guard. "Yes. Some. Others I've bought here."

"Pick a favourite of the ones you brought with you," he suggested, sitting on top of the sheets on the sofa. "Just in case I wake up early."

Pip stared at him for a minute, then walked over to the piles and regarded them briefly. She pulled out a pocketbook and tossed it at him.

"Good Omens," he read off the cover. "Looks a little odd, but I'll give it a try. Oh, and I have eggs for breakfast every morning. An omelet will be fine."

"I-umm--"

He looked at her from under his fringe. "Kidding." He smiled cheekily.

"Augh!" Pip growled. She gave him the finger and turned on her heel, marching upstairs.

"Goodnight, Princess!" Richard called gleefully.

"Sleep well, Hamster," she called back.

Richard's groan followed her up the stairs.

Chapter 4
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