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Thank you to illusionaltzu for the fantastic beta. Story requested by suespur. Full prompt at the end.

Here With Me

by trillingstar

Toby's breathless when he reaches the top of the stairs. He's just run all the way from the law library to his apartment - nearly a mile, and although it's not truly winter yet, the air is cold enough to burn his lungs when he inhales. Gasping, his backpack heavy in his hand, he strips off his gloves and reaches into his pocket for his keys. He's got fifteen minutes before the rest of his study group arrives, and he doesn't know if Chris is on his way over or not.

The thought of Chris inside, sprawled on the couch while listening to music, a cigarette stuck in the corner of his mouth, makes Toby smile - Keller isn't the type to wait around for anyone. When they first met, Toby was intimidated by Chris's muscles and his swagger. Chris walks like he owns the world, and it owes him. Toby cherishes their intimacy; he's seen how Chris shows a smooth, hard face to everyone else, but he's gentle with Toby, careful with him.

He dumps his bag and coat next to a jumble of sneakers in the hallway, tosses his keys into the wooden bowl on the kitchen counter, and unwraps his scarf as he heads straight for the phone in the living room. Chris likes it when Toby calls to say he's home, and safe; he's pissed when Toby forgets.

He's halfway through dialing the number when he's startled by a dull thudding noise from behind. Whirling around, Toby sees Chris standing in the doorway, leaning to the side, fingers strangling the neck of a bottle of beer. He's tapping the glass against the wood of the frame, his face expressionless, even though he must know Toby nearly swallowed his tongue in surprise.

"Hey, Beech," Chris says, in that tone that makes Toby wonder if he's being mocked.

Toby glares at him. "You scared the crap out of me! What're you doing here? Actually, how did you get in?" He doesn't remember giving Chris a key, but honestly, anyone who was absolutely determined to get inside wouldn't have much of a problem. They were welcome to his crappy cassette deck, tiny television, and shabby, second-hand furniture.

Chris shrugs his shoulders, takes a swig from his beer, but doesn't reply.

Toby moves around the room, turning on lights and checking the thermostat. He sets it low when he leaves for class, and the apartment sits cold all day. "Uh, okay, Mister Secretive, but listen, my study group's on its way over, and- "

Chris interrupts. "Yeah? What's this, the sixth, seventh night in a row? You just can't get enough of their company."

Toby realizes that Chris looks a little drunk. His eyes are half-closed and he's leaning against the doorframe like it's holding him up. He knows that Chris can hold his liquor, so he tamps down the brief flicker of worry that crosses his mind.

"Actually, I don't even know how much time I spend with them... all the days are running together lately." Toby tries to make a joke out of it, but it's clear that Chris isn't biting. There's tension between them, and Toby shifts impatiently. "I've gotta get changed?" he asks. "Now," he tacks on, clearing his throat. He experiences the weirdest feeling when he has to push past the other man, as if Chris isn't moving no matter what Toby wants. He looks into Chris's frosty eyes and shivers, and it has nothing to do with the temperature in the living room.

But he's probably imagining it, because Chris wraps him into a big bear hug, tucks his face into the curve of Toby's neck, and breathes deep. "Sexy," he comments, his voice muffled.

Toby smiles in relief. "I bet; I ran all the way home from the library. I wish I could shower."

Chris pushes his face down into Toby's collar and nuzzles his skin. "I like you sweaty," he says. "Sweaty and flushed and hard," he murmurs. "Let's go take a shower."

"I can't, Chris, I don't have time!" Toby squeezes his arms around Chris, before letting go, trying to extricate himself from the hug, but Chris isn't having it. "I'm serious," he says.

"So 'm I, and I wanna get you clean so I can make you dirty again," Chris mutters. He shuffles his feet, and Toby realizes they're swaying in place, rocking a little, like they're at a high school dance.

The doorbell buzzes twice.

"Fuck!" Toby squirms in Chris's embrace. "I have to get that. No, you have to get that, because I have to change!" He wrenches free, and Chris opens his arms, lets him go.

They stand in the hall, chest to chest, staring one another down.

The buzzer sounds again, demanding their attention.

Chris tilts his head, narrows his eyes, then turns away, and swallows some more beer. "Yeah, I'll go get that, Tobe. You'd better hurry up and change; you got company." He saunters toward the front door like nothing is wrong, and Toby watches him go, shaking his head, and then bolts into the bedroom. The walls are thin, and he hears Keller opening the front door, and then his voice. The words are just barely audible, and Toby easily makes out something about getting naked, prompting nervous laughter from the girls.

Toby returns to the living room in record time, his clothes mostly on, hair tousled, a light blush on his cheeks. Chris is sitting in the recliner, his legs spread. He's cracked open another beer, and he doesn't spare even a glance in Toby's direction. The three other members of his group - Ben, Kim and Lisa - are huddled together, whispering over their books and notes, a variety of sodas arranged in the middle of the table. Lisa looks up when Toby comes in and smiles a shade too brightly, patting the seat of the chair next to her.

After he retrieves his book bag from the hall, Toby joins them. Lisa's sitting closer to him than she normally does. When she leans over to grab a can of soda, her breasts brush against his forearm. Chris gets up, flicks on the television, and the theme song for Hill Street Blues fills the small room.

Toby's head jerks up. Chris is standing next to the television, drinking his beer, and watching him, his face blank, a challenge in his eyes.

Leveling a glare at Chris, Toby asks, patiently, "Could you turn that down? Or put on the headphones?"

Chris stares at him. They share a long look, and finally Toby adds, "Please?"

The corners of Chris's mouth turn down as he makes a show of considering it, his hand hovering by the dial. He smiles widely, falsely. "Anything for you, baby."

Toby hears Kim suck in a sharp breath. He feels the blush climb up his neck to his hairline; Chris has never acted like anything other than a buddy in front of Toby's friends. He ducks his head down, trying to concentrate on what Ben's stammering out. The metallic click of a lighter brings Toby's gaze up again, and he sees that Chris has returned to the recliner, lit a cigarette and is ashing on the carpet. He grinds his teeth together, determined to ignore the display.

But he can't focus on his work, as over the next several minutes, Chris moves all around the apartment, disappearing from sight into the bedroom, then reappearing to stand by the window. He plants his elbows on the breakfast bar, shifting from one foot to the other, and then he's back by the television, grinding his cigarette out on the cover of the book that holds the rabbit ears in place. He lights up another one immediately, then drifts over to the group clustered around the table and slides right between Ben and Lisa, kneeling, his chin resting on the arm that's propped against the table. Reluctantly, they move to make space for him.

Catching Toby's eye, Chris blows out a wobbly smoke ring. He grins suddenly, his eyes sparkling, daring Toby to stop him. Toby's seen that look before, in a much different context, and he knows whatever's brewing inside Chris's head will only end after Toby's wrung-out, blissed out, and hoarse from begging. He waits for it, a sick sense of anticipation churning in his stomach.
"Ever been in jail?" Chris directs his question to Ben, who stiffens, his eyes flinty.

"No," Ben answers tightly. He turns his head dismissively, focusing on Kim.

Chris reaches out, slowly, and traces his finger along the seam of Ben's collar. "You probably wouldn't like it," he murmurs.

Ben jerks away from the touch and glares at Toby. "And you did?" he asks acidly, refusing to look at Chris.

Toby feels the situation spinning wildly out of control. His heart feels like it's about to pound out of his chest, and he finds it difficult to breathe.

"Some parts were better than others," Chris admits. He stands up, scratches his stomach, takes a drag. Though Toby's classmates won't look up at him, he has their full attention, and Toby's own incredulous stare provides any encouragement Chris might need. "Like, the showers..." He looks meaningfully at Toby, then crowds into Ben's personal space and lowers his voice. "But you know the old joke about not dropping the soap? Turns out, it's not really a joke."

Ben blushes bright red and his nostrils flare; he looks as though he might take a swing, and Toby's seen Keller in a fight. He shoves his chair back and stands up quickly. "Chris!" He gentles his tone. "Can, can I see you in the kitchen, for a minute? Excuse us," he says to the rest of the group. It's clear from Lisa's expression that she's re-evaluating Toby, perhaps thinking that he's not quite the catch she'd envisioned, while Kim stares at Keller with thinly veiled interest.

Ben leans back in his chair and speaks directly to Lisa. "I read a fascinating article in the Journal the other day," he says. He flicks his eyes at Chris. "That's the Wall Street Journal, you know, it's a publication for people with careers."

Toby shoots Ben a look of pure disbelief. It's clear that Keller won't be joining him in the kitchen, so he sits back down. On the surface, it looks like Chris is actually interested in Ben's words, but Toby sees the twitch of a muscle in Chris's jaw, the flex of his biceps as he shifts. The television blares in the background, and the refrigerator rattles, but their focus is concentrated on Ben.

"Yeah, it was about - uh, what word did they use - oh yeah, cons. You know, convicts." He raises an eyebrow at Lisa. She coughs discreetly, her gaze skipping from one face to the next.

Under the table, Toby clenches his hands into fists. He's angry that Ben is baiting Chris - who is obviously Toby's guest - but more importantly, there's a cold prickle of anxiety creeping up between his shoulder blades and nestling at the nape of his neck. He knows that Ben has no idea what kind of beast he's poking, but Toby knows what Keller is capable of, and it's not good. As mortified as he is by Chris's behavior, he's starting to fear for his so-called friend.

Ben continues, "I've never been a criminal, so I wouldn't know, but it sounds crazy to me. According to the article, seventy-four percent of the lowlifes who manage to make parole immediately do something stupid and get sent back again." He chuckles condescendingly. "Or maybe some people just belong in prison."

"It's great to see that you're taking such an interest in issues like rehabilitation and social justice." Keller's eyes widen innocently. "What else did the important paper have to say? Don't keep us in suspense." He taps ashes onto Ben's leather briefcase.

"The article said that a lot of guys get ass-raped," Ben fires back. "You got a story for us about that, Keller?"

Kneeling down, Chris grins once, cold and dangerous. "Greedy for some cheap thrills, Benjy?" He leans closer and seems satisfied when Ben inclines his head away slightly. "Tell you what, how `bout you and me get together sometime; I'll tell you everything you wanna know about being locked up," he says, all playfulness gone from his voice. "Even better... I'll show you. You think there's a difference between what some fuckhead reporter wrote and what really happens? I'll show you every single inch. Of. It." He stands up again, flicks the cigarette butt in the direction of the sink, and leans against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest.

Toby feels the blood draining from his face. He tries to catch Lisa's eye, but both she and Kim are staring at Chris, and this time Kim's fascination is apparent as she brashly checks out his body. Chris turns his attention towards her, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. The second that she returns it, his expression turns mean, and his lips curl up into a sneer.

"Not even if I was desperate," he states, and she looks away quickly, her chin trembling. Ben watches their interaction with a sick expression, and it's obvious to everyone that the study session is over. Toby helps Kim and Lisa pack up the books.

Ben pushes his chair out, stands, and shrugs on his coat and hat. "Toby," he says haughtily. Within a couple of minutes, all three of them are walking down the hallway, away from Toby's apartment.

Toby stands in the doorway, halfway through offering up a weak promise to call about the assignment tomorrow, when Chris reaches over his shoulder and slams the door closed. There's just enough room to turn around, before Chris pushes him back against the door and leans in close, wrapping his arms around Toby and hugging him tightly.

"Nice friends you got, baby," he says, nipping at Toby's earlobe. "No wonder you wanna spend so much time with them."

Toby blows out an angry breath. He pushes at Chris's shoulders with both hands, hard. Chris yields instantly, his thumbs hooking in his belt loops, slouching arrogantly. Toby shakes his head and walks into the living room. He turns off the television, looks down at the little pile of ash that Chris left on the carpet, and takes several deep breaths before turning to face the other man.

He means to take it slow and keep his cool but accusing words burst forth instead. "What is going on with you!"

Something akin to helplessness skitters across Chris's face as he asks, "Why're you so set on being a lawyer, anyway?"

Toby's mouth gapes open, but he can't get any words out. He tries to sit down, but his limbs aren't following orders.

"I gotta wonder, Tobe. You never seem that into it; you're always working so hard, you barely got any time for anything other than studying. You think that's gonna change when you're done? You take some big test right at the end and suddenly everything's like livin' on easy street?" The derision in Chris's voice is plain. "So what's so goddamn special about being a lawyer?"

Toby inhales loudly. "Well, there's this little thing called the law, Chris! You know, there are laws to keep people in check, and make sure that society doesn't fall into anarchy!" He's not quite yelling, but it's close. He knows how defensive he sounds, but they're talking about his chosen profession - and his father's, and his grandfather's.

Chris nods. "Yeah, but then why do we have prisons? People don't always do what they're told. Anyway that's what cops are for, to enforce laws." He moves around to the side of the sofa, blocking the path to the door.

Toby splutters. "Because- you- m-maybe I can do some good, then. Maybe I can help someone who got screwed over by the system, or even by the cops. Just because some people don't abide by the laws, that doesn't mean laws aren't good to have around... And it doesn't mean that there isn't goodness in the people who break them." He paces to the other side of the living room, looking out the window into the starless night sky. "There is such a thing as justice."

"Oh yeah?" Chris asks. "You think justice always gets served?" He stalks closer. Lowering his voice, he says, "I know you got stars in your eyes, baby, but shouldn't you be doing something you really want? This is your life, not your dad's."

"This is what's going to make me happy," Toby insists, his jaw set.

"Putting people away, sending `em to jail? That's really how you want to spend your life? Playing God, deciding who's worth your time, who can pay enough?" Chris snorts. "Yeah, that sounds terrific."

Toby glares at him. "Like you have any idea what's right for me," he snaps. Anger flares in his belly, and he wants to pummel something.

Chris studies Toby's face. "I know you think you'll score a trophy wife, like that slut who rubbed herself all over you tonight. You'll be surrounded by a bunch of assholes who'll pretend to be your friends, like Ben. There'll be a membership to the club and a subscription to some fuckin' journal. You'll probably hate whatever bullshit paper-pushing job that your dad gives you `cause he doesn't think you're quite ready for the courtroom. I'm gonna guess you'll last about five years, and then you'll start drowning your sorrows with Jack or John. How'm I doing so far?"

Toby's biting his lower lip, his hands clenched into fists. He's terrified. It's as though Chris can read his mind. There's someone missing from Chris's scenario, though. "What, what about you?"

Chris barks out a contemptuous laugh. "What about me? You think I'm gonna stick around for that train wreck? Uh-uh, don't think so." He takes a step back, opening up his stance, and gestures expansively. "Right now, it's you and me, Toby. You think you're gonna find somebody who'll understand you better? You think you could do better than me?"

"Do I think-" Toby closes his eyes, waits a beat, then opens them. "Why, exactly, am I supposedly even looking for someone else, Chris?" Lines appear between his eyebrows as his confusion grows. "It's like I'm seeing a whole other side of you tonight! Are you mad at me? Did I do something, and you're just looking for a reason to break it off? Or-" He stops, running his hands through his hair. "Or are you trying to get me to do it," he finishes, sighing heavily.

Chris's eyes dart from Toby's face to the floor and back again. "You know what? I'm tired. I should get going, anyway," he says casually.

Shocked, Toby gapes at him. "What? You- you can't leave."

"No?" Chris asks wryly.

"No!" Toby protests. "You can't just drop something like this on me, start to talk about it, and then just- expect-"

"Watch me," Chris interrupts smoothly. But he doesn't move. A pause, then he says, "It's no big deal."

"No big deal?" Toby's voice rises up an octave. A panicky chill crawls down his spine; his mind is blank, and he's afraid that Chris is going to walk out before he can formulate a coherent, persuasive response. Finally he settles for a low, pathetic "But..."

Chris raises an eyebrow. "But..." he prompts. His mouth twists into a smirk. Toby definitely feels mocked this time, and that gives him the power of speech.

"You're leaving? Over... over law school?" His shock gives way to fury. "What are you talking about, are you kidding, what the hell just happened!" His hands are shaking.

They stare at each other for what feels like an hour. Finally Chris ducks his head, looks down at the carpet and fumbles in his pocket for his smokes. Toby's still trembling as the initial wave of adrenalin fades, and his senses seem heightened. He can hear Chris's fingers sliding against the plastic of the cigarette pack and the tiny whoosh as the spark of his lighter mixes with the air.

"You don't want a life with me, Toby. I get that," Chris mumbles. He runs his palm down over his face. Smoke escapes from his nostrils. He looks tired and sore, like he's just been punched in the gut. "I'm gonna - yeah, I'm gonna leave."

It slides into place, the tumblers clicking and the secret's revealed. "Oh," Toby says, faintly. "Oh, God." Toby is at Chris's side before he can turn away. He grabs hold of Chris's elbow. "Stop. Chris, stop." His voice gains strength.

Chris looks down at Toby's hand on his arm, then lifts his gaze back up to Toby's face. They look at one another carefully. Toby tugs, and Chris lets himself be led to the couch.

"Gimme a cigarette," Toby says.

Surprised, Chris lights one for him, and their fingers brush as he hands it over.

They sit quietly: Chris fiddles with his cigarette; Toby rubs the back of his hand over his forehead as he puffs. Finishing his smoke, Chris holds the butt between his thumb and index finger, waiting for it to burn out, and then turns his attention to the knee of his jeans, picking at a hole in the denim.

"Okay," Toby says. "Okay, maybe you're right."

Chris looks at him sideways, his expression wary. "About what?" he asks, his voice scratchy.

Toby presses his lips together. After a false start, he says slowly, "There's never been a time in my life when I didn't know that I was going to be a lawyer." He takes a deep breath. "Nearly all my decisions have been geared toward it." A rueful chuckle. "I don't even know if I'm good at anything else." He looks at Chris, who's given up on ruining a pair of pants, his head raised, and he's paying attention to what Toby's saying.

"And I am good at it, Chris. I like researching cases, and I like convincing people that what I'm telling them is the truth." He smiles. "You know how that feels."

Chris nods in agreement. His face is still suspicious, but some of the tension in his upper body dissipates as he relaxes.

"So I never thought about putting those skills to another use." Toby shrugs slightly. "Maybe you're right, and five years from now I'll be a miserable bastard, saddled with a life I don't want..." He notices how Chris's back stiffens, and hurries to continue. "But, maybe not. Because I'll have you there, with me."

It's obvious that Chris remains unconvinced.

"I can be a lawyer - I'm going to be a lawyer, Chris, but I can be one who isn't a corrupt asshole. I can be one who has someone in my heart, reminding me of what I want from life, not what I can take from others' lives." He hesitates, feeling vulnerable, but he pushes forward. "You'll be there with me, won't you? Because I want you there."

Chris doesn't reply for so long that Toby begins to despair, mentally reviewing everything he's just said and probing for weak spots.

Turning towards Toby, Chris smiles, hesitantly. His face is open, all of his defenses vanished, and Toby's struck by how young Chris looks.

A second later, Chris's face creases into a frown, and he speaks slowly, like he's choosing his words carefully. "Yeah," he says. "I'll be there."

It's a reluctant admission, but it's more concrete than anything he's said before, and Toby is familiar with the weight of Chris's pride.

"Good," Toby says, stressing the word, like he's praising a dog. Sometimes he's slow on the uptake, but he'll remember this and how it affected Chris. He makes sure to relax and smile, to act like they've worked it out. It's been a long night; it's time for a truce.

Chris recognizes the gesture. "Baby," he whispers desperately, lunging forward across the couch, reaching out for Toby, one hand palming the back of Toby's neck, the other sliding down between his shoulder blades and pulling him close.

Their mouths meet in a fierce kiss, communicating anxious desire, and Toby murmurs, "It's okay, okay, all right," in comfort. Chris's mouth is tender on Toby's as the kiss deepens and slows, their eyelashes tickling each others' cheeks.

"Bedtime," Chris states firmly, drawing a laugh from Toby.

They circle each other, getting in the other's way, both reaching for the light switch, the doorknob, the thermostat at the same time. At first, Toby laughs; Chris doesn't speak, but he smiles, and his eyes are hot as his gaze wanders up and down Toby's body. Toby shivers after each look, his body reacting to the expectation simmering between them. Finally, the apartment is locked up for the night, and they move to the bedroom, where Chris stays close enough that they're bumping into one another with every step or turn.

Chris follows Toby into the bathroom, watching while Toby turns the taps, adjusts the temperature, and disrobes. Toby's pinned by Chris's stare, and his cock hardens in response to the ache of desire that flares through his body. Chris isn't taking off his clothes, and Toby knows it's because Chris has to see that Toby's not hiding anything from him, and that Toby's still his, a combination of possession and belonging.

The smell of Toby's soap fills the air, and Chris moves the shower curtain back, watching as Toby lathers up his hair, then moves lower to wash his body, and then lower still, pushing a finger between each of his toes. Toby stretches, arms over his head, and he looks at Chris with soft, questioning eyes as the water streams down his back, his cock flushed from the warmth of the spray.

Chris swallows tightly, but he doesn't step closer, and Toby narrows his eyes, puzzled, when Chris leaves the bathroom. Toby appears in the doorway a moment later, his hair plastered to his skull, a towel tucked around his hips. He shoots Chris an appraising look, then drops the towel unselfconsciously and crawls into bed, the sheets cool under his heated skin.
"Good night," he says, finally, awkwardly, not knowing how else to leave things, and it's like an invitation, because Chris closes the distance between them in two long strides, tackles him, and holds him. The cotton of his t-shirt presses against Toby's back, the denim of his jeans chafes the backs of Toby's thighs, and the familiar smell and bulk of him is enough to make Toby cry out. Chris doesn't stop moving, continuing until they're side by side on the bed, foreheads touching, noses and lips and chins mashed together. He shoves his tongue into Toby's mouth, and their kisses are full of promises and longing.

They both yank off Chris's clothes, and he barely manages to roll onto his back before Toby is knocking his hands away, climbing onto Chris, arching his back and sheathing himself on Chris's cock. They fuck frantically, pushing at each other. The heel of Toby's hand is an anchor planted on Chris's chest; he straddles Chris, his head thrown back in pleasure, groaning out nonsensical syllables, trying to say something like love.

Sitting up, Chris wraps his arms around Toby, helping him up and down, faster, faster into oblivion. Water from his still-wet curls drips down onto his back and Chris grabs hold of his hair, forcing Toby's head back, biting at his Adam's apple, at his neck, at the line of his jaw. They're both loud, gasping out each other's names, fuck, oh, fuck, and yes and god, so good.

They kiss, their cries muffled, and Chris slips out of Toby, who goes to his elbows and knees. Chris's whole body trembles at the sight. He's a tease, running the head of his cock over Toby's ass, dipping inside and then pulling out just to hear him groan, just to watch him thrash around on the bed.

"Chris," Toby pants. "Please Chris, please, please."

Thrusting as hard as he can, Chris cries out, his fingers digging in under Toby's arms. They fit together so well, and they grab at each other, desperate to touch and hold. Chris's hands skim over the soft skin at Toby's hips, and then slide up his back, pulling at his hair. His cock slides into Toby, and his fist down Toby's cock, over and over. They come within seconds of one another, shouting wordlessly, pounding forward and back, the room awash in a blaze of heat and noise.

Panting, Toby falls flat onto the bed, his face pushed into the pillows. Chris follows him down, gasping, tiny grunts emanating from his chest that vibrate along Toby's back. He's still pushing forward, his hips jerking at intervals, always wanting more.

It's still dark outside when Toby wakes up, one arm slung across Chris's chest, his mouth next to Chris's ear. He knows Chris is awake from the sound of his breathing, which startles him because it's such an intimate detail.

"I know you think you're tough," Toby whispers. It's satisfying to see Chris's jaw clench. He smiles. "I mean, you are tough. And I want you to know that you can try to push me away, but as hard as you push, I'll still be here."

Chris opens his eyes, but he doesn't move. Toby feels the muscles in Chris's arm jumping. "I'm just as stubborn as you are. I can take you. All of you."

Turning his head, Chris's lips brush against Toby's. "I remember how we met. I know what you were doing there." He waits for Toby to meet his gaze, then continues. "I know you."

"I know you, too," Toby says firmly. "I've just never known anyone like you."

"Not much to know," Chris says blithely, but there's a warning in his eyes.

"I know enough," Toby responds. He raises his head to look out the window, then squints at the nightstand. "Be my alarm clock?"

Chris smiles at him affectionately. "Yeah, I got you covered."

"Good," Toby says, snuggling up against Chris's warm, sturdy body.

"Good," Chris echoes, holding Toby close.


Suespur's prompt:
Pairing/Character(s): B/K
Keyword/Prompt Phrase: You could do better than me.
Canon/AU/Either: AU
Special Requests: Toby is about to sit for the bar exam and high school drop-out Chris is feeling insecure.
Story/Art/Either: Story

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