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[personal profile] ellie_hell
Title: The Pull of One Magnet to Another - Part 4
Rating: R (Sexual activities)
Warnings: Mention of animal cruelty.
Beta: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] anarion who is always an inspiring plot consultant, and to [livejournal.com profile] omletlove who was an all-star beta, both for SPAG and plot; I couldn’t have hoped for a better beta, she’s amazing.
Pairing: Sherlock/John, with a tiny hint of Mycroft/Lestrade.
Word Count: 46 500 total, 9941 this part.
Summary: Mummy has arranged Mycroft’s marriage with an ex-army doctor. However, John meets Sherlock first, and sparks fly.
Disclaimer: The case was stolen from the movie Untraceable, and so was the computer speech.
Notes: Written several months ago for a prompt on the kink meme, but I wasn’t happy with it at the time, so I gave it a huge makeover. If anyone from the meme is reading this, I want to thank you for your huge support. The title comes from the song I Was Married by Tegan and Sara.

Back to first chapter.
Previous chapter.

Chapter 6

The first thing John noticed was the dampness surrounding him, invading his nose, mouth, and every single pore of his body. It didn’t feel as though he was breathing air, but liquid gathered in a particularly nasty pond. Then, he became aware of the position he was in: he was lying on something solid, his ankles and wrists were tied with cable-tie, and a thick rope bound his torso to the thing he was lying on. His heart was beating extremely fast, his breathing was laboured, and he could feel panic creeping close, latching at his brain and trying to engulf him.

He tried to remember his military training. One of his superiors had joked, saying there were as many kidnapping opportunities as there were sunburns in Afghanistan. He had only meant it as an incentive to remember what to do if they found themselves in that situation, but it had worked; if John had been lucky enough to get sunburns only, he still remembered what to do. The first step was to thwart the abduction and, well, it was a little late for that, wasn’t it? He pushed aside the feeling of shame; he didn’t have time for that.

He couldn’t linger on that feeling, he needed to remain calm. Sure, he was in a delicate situation, but he needed to stay positive; escape was still an option as long as he remained calm. For the next minutes, he concentrated on taking deep, slow breaths through his nose, exhaling through his mouth. He pictured himself being somewhere peaceful, in the last place he had felt at ease: Sherlock’s flat. Still breathing slowly, he closed his eyes, and the hard table he was lying on disappeared, replaced by the comfortable leather sofa in 221B Baker Street. He didn’t know where the image came from, but he imagined Sherlock putting a heavy duvet on him and stroking his hair. Eventually, he calmed down, and he could open his eyes without feeling as if he was on the verge of a panic attack.

The next thing he needed to do was observe. He had been unconscious up until a few minutes ago, so he didn’t know where he was, or how much time had passed since he had left Sherlock in the kitchen. Thinking about Sherlock and the kitchen made his mouth go dry; he had been annoyed with Sherlock, and he had left him alone to get some air, that’s when he had been abducted. No one knew where he was; his sister thought he was at Mrs Holmes’ house, and Mrs Holmes thought he was with Sherlock. As for Sherlock, there was no way he would come looking for him, not after being called heartless.

What a stupid thing to say to the man who had welcomed him with open arms into his flat. In the days they had spent together, Sherlock had showed him countless times how not heartless he was; they had had long discussions during which Sherlock had opened up, he had been considerate and thoughtful, and he had shown several times that he possessed a sense of humour (albeit a slightly disturbing one, which John loved). Was he really angry with Sherlock for not caring about the victims, or was he scared that Sherlock didn’t actually care about him? Most likely the latter, but now wasn’t the time to think about that.

So, observations. He was obviously in a terribly old room that seemed at least partially underground. It was so damp the wallpaper was practically peeling off the walls, and thinking of wallpaper, the person who had chosen it had taste as horrifying as Sherlock’s landlady. As far as he knew, there were two kidnappers: the thin Jim from PCeU whom John could overcome without a doubt even with his hands and feet tied, if only he weren’t stuck to the table. The other one was taller and much more robust than Jim, but John hadn’t had a proper look, having seen him only briefly while he and Sherlock had chased him across London.

His two assailants weren’t in the room right now, and for all he knew, dozens of men could be waiting upstairs. He didn’t know whether they were armed, but they had sedated—wait! They had sedated him, and he had been knocked out almost immediately. Had he been given M99? Was he in the hands of the Internet Killer? Jim Moriarty was a computer expert, it would have been easy for him to set up an un-closable website. With the help of an accomplice, he could have been at work, unsuspected, while his partner kidnapped and filmed the victims.

Great, so he was the prisoner of someone who enjoyed broadcasting his murders on the Internet, so there was no doubt that’s what was awaiting him in the near future. Unfortunately, once the broadcast would start, he had no chance of being spared. His thoughts were interrupted when he heard steps coming closer. Then, a door creaked, and it wasn’t long before he was faced with Jim’s horrible smile looking down at him.

“Finally! I was afraid you were going to be late for your own party,” Jim said, his high voice sending chills running down John’s immobilised spine.

“It’s you then, the Internet Killer,” John said flatly. He had to remain calm; being arrogant or violent would only make matters worse.

“Yes, it’s me,” he said, smiling as he insisted on the last syllable.

“Where are we?” John asked.

“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny… Do you seriously think I will tell you? You and my last victim almost ruined everything with your little Morse code stunt, I can’t risk you blinking away our location as soon as you’re online, can I?”

“Why me?”

“Because Sherlock Holmes seems to have taken an interest in you, and I’m extremely interested in Sherlock Holmes,” Jim answered.

“Why not kidnap him, then?” John asked. Not because he wanted Sherlock to be in his current position, no, far from it. He had grown attached to the consulting detective in the short time he had known him, perhaps a little too attached, and the last thing he wanted was to see Sherlock bound and helpless on Jim’s website.

“Because I don’t care about you, I don’t care about what you’d feel if Sherlock were to die. But if you die, that’s interesting.”

“Why?” It was an old cliché, but he was buying time by trying to distract Jim from the computer and camera he supposed were in another corner of the room. He still had time. As long as he wasn’t hanging from the ceiling, he had time.

“I’ve been watching Sherlock Holmes for a long time now. You see, I’m what our dear detective would probably call a ‘consulting criminal’; people come to me with various problems and I fix it for them. Kidnapping, murder, theft, insider-trading, torture; there is nothing I haven’t organised. Sherlock Holmes has unknowingly interfered with my plans more times than I can count—”

“So you seek revenge. I still don’t understand why it has to be me.”

“Revenge? Oh no, no no no no, nothing so ordinary,” Jim said with a grimace. “Sherlock and I are alike; two extremely intelligent men, both selfish, cunning, brilliant, and devoted to our work. The perfect partners. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, Sherlock decided to side with the police.”

John didn’t know how much time had passed since he had been sedated. A few hours certainly. This situation didn’t feel real; he was tied to a table while a madman who looked fresh out of a movie explained his motives. If John’s life were a movie, Sherlock would wait until the very last moment to barge in through the door and rescue him, long coat billowing behind him. Oh please, let his life be a movie, even a cheesy one, he didn’t care.

“I worked out a plan for Sherlock to see how rotten the world is, to show him that working with Scotland Yard is useless; no matter how hard he works, I will always win because people are rooting for me. You saw how quickly your two predecessors died; the citizens of London didn’t care that they were good and well-liked men, they didn’t care that Cameron Banks was volunteering for the Scouts, and that Peter Howarth was an exemplary husband, they wanted to watch them suffer and die. I will always win, and I wanted Sherlock to see, hoping it would make him jump ship and join me.”

“Sherlock is a good man!” John spat, losing some of his control.

“No Johnny-boy, Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and the two of us could do exceptional things together. We’d be unstoppable.”

“He’ll never work with you. Sherlock helps people, and he saves lives.”

“That’s not what you were telling him earlier, is it?” Jim asked tauntingly.

John felt all the blood leaving his face. How did Jim know about what had happened in Sherlock’s kitchen earlier?

“How?” he asked.

Jim threw his head back and laughed, his whole body shaking in the process. Then, he stopped abruptly; it was a terrifying sight.

“People always assume their houses are private, far away from prying eyes and ears. Yet, it’s so easy for a computer expert with a good Trojan to gain access to other people’s lives, especially when someone receives dozens of emails and puzzles every day from potential clients. It was surprisingly simple to gain access to Sherlock’s webcam. I must admit it’s been riveting to watch you and him dancing around each other. You’re quite special Johnny; I had never seen Sherlock with a friend before.”

John felt dull anger pulsing through his veins. This insane man had violated Sherlock’s privacy, he had breached his sanctuary and had turned him into a lab rat, something to observe and study. Again, he reminded himself that he needed to stay calm and clear-headed, that it was the key to escaping unharmed. Taking a few deep breaths, he waited for Jim to continue.

“I really don’t know what he sees in you, but I know he does like you. He likes you quite a lot. At first, all I wanted was to show Sherlock what he was missing, to lure him into a world without rules and limitations, but after seeing you two playing house together, I was inspired. You know what people always say; if you want someone, kill his friends.”

“I’m sure no one says that,” John said.

“Yeah you’re right, they don’t. But I hope it’ll catch on.”

“Well, good luck with that.”

“Aren’t you curious to know how Sherlock will react when he’ll realise that, because of him, the only friend he’s had in years is dead.”

“If I die, it will be your fault, not Sherlock’s!”

“If only I’d been quicker, cleverer! Oh, John, what did I do? I let you down, boohoo John I loved you so much,” Jim mocked, and his cold voice made John shiver, his whole body covered in goose bumps.

“Now Johnny, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do. We’ll go live in the afternoon, and I want everything to be perfect. You won’t see me again; I’ll be at work when you die, but I’ll leave you in very capable hands. Sebastian was in the army too; you’ll have loads of things to talk about.

Then, Jim patted John’s cheek and left. John still had no idea what time it was, or how long he had until his own personal counter went up on the website. To keep his mind sharp and busy, he started thinking about ways to escape, taking in what he could see of his surroundings. He was a soldier; he wouldn’t go down without a fight.

:::

To say Sherlock had a dreadful night was an understatement. The samples he and John had collected were useless; there was nothing in the basement that could help him identify the killer. Without tangible evidence to focus on, his thoughts kept coming back to John. In order not to keep his hopes up, he kept telling himself that John was gone for good, that he had left for Mummy’s house, and that he wouldn’t be back. Yet, with every passing hour, he could feel the burden of crushed hope bending his spine. No matter how hard he tried not to, he kept perking up when a cab stopped outside, but he was disappointed every time, the urge to smash his head against a wall becoming stronger every time the cars that weren’t dropping John off drove away.

He waited until late morning to go to Scotland Yard and see Lestrade. He was anxious to know if someone had managed to track Patrick Bateman, the elusive man from the M99 buyers list, but most of all, he had to get out of his flat. He was getting restless. He needed to get away from John’s empty chair in the kitchen, from the rumpled duvet on the sofa, and from John’s suitcase that was still in the upstairs bedroom, radiating false hope all the way down to the living room.

When Sherlock arrived, Lestrade was pacing in his office. He didn’t look as though he had slept at all the night before; he had dark circles under his eyes, his shirt was ruffled, and the hand holding his coffee mug was shaking, a sign that this wasn’t even close to being his first cup. Upon hearing Sherlock, the DI turned around.

“What are you doing here? Have you found anything?”

“No, we’re dealing with a very intelligent killer,” Sherlock said.

“Don’t tell me you fancy him,” Lestrade said with a smirk, and Sherlock rolled his eyes as a response.

“Where is your new friend this morning?” Lestrade asked as he hit refresh on his browser to check whether there was something new on the website. There wasn’t.

“He’s my brother’s friend. He left.”

“That’s too bad, you two seemed like you were getting along.”

Sherlock ignored him, and he started inspecting the board where the DI kept all the information about the case. There had to be something there, no killer was infallible, especially if Sherlock was on the case. He inspected the evidence scattered across the wall, sometimes adding a few notes of his own while Lestrade watched him intently.

They spent the next two hours discussing the case. Donovan and Anderson joined them at one point, followed by Jim from PCeU. Anderson had arrived to the same conclusions as Sherlock regarding the crime scene, Donovan’s search for Patrick Bateman had been fruitless, and Jim still couldn’t help them identify who had set up the website. All so useless, it was infuriating to be in the same room as them.

“Video feed is back,” Lestrade said.

Following the DI’s announcement, Sherlock was almost immediately behind the desk to look at the screen. The video feed took a while to load, and Sherlock waited impatiently while drumming his fingers on the back of Lestrade’s chair.

When the video finally appeared, Sherlock felt as if he were falling without ever hitting the ground. His heart felt as though it was in his throat, and it was beating furiously while Lestrade’s office was blurring. The voices were becoming more and more distant until he couldn’t hear them. He wasn’t in Scotland Yard anymore, the external stimuli could barely reach him; he was locked inside his brain, lost in a storm while every single one of his neurons screamed John, John, JOHN. Then, he was violently brought back to reality when he felt an unwelcome hand on his shoulder, and he looked around to see Jim watching him attentively.

“Sherlock, are you okay?” he asked, and Sherlock didn’t answer, but he moved away from the touch, his eyes still fixed on the computer.

Contrary to the other times, the camera was zoomed in on John’s face, and they couldn’t see anything that could’ve helped them determining where he was. He was hanging upside down, gagged and blindfolded, but everything else was out of sight. The counter showing the number of viewers was going up at an alarming speed and, if Sherlock was not mistaken, it would be even quicker—no, he couldn’t think about that.

“John,” he whispered.

:::

Jim’s associate wasn’t as chatty as Jim had been, but it was uncanny how people seemed to open up when one of the speakers had a death sentence. He had observed the same thing in Afghanistan, but usually the people talking were the dying ones; he couldn’t count the number of confessions he had witnessed while tending to fatally wounded soldiers. The man tying his ankles to a chain was named Sebastian (also known as Patrick Bateman), and he had also been in the army, but had been forced to retire for what seemed like highly dubious reasons.

The chain was then tossed over a pipe and was tied down to an iron spool to which a crank had been fastened. Sebastian blindfolded and gagged him, and John felt his back slide against the table as Sebastian turned the crank with difficulty. Too soon, he was dangling upside down a few feet above the ground. Sebastian blocked the crank, pushed the table away, and fastened the cable-tie securely holding John’s wrists together to a ring bolted to the floor with a strong rope. He knew the computer and camera equipment were in place a few feet away from him, but the show wasn’t on yet.

John managed to keep his heartbeat under control while he heard Sebastian walking away from him and up to the desk where the computer was. He heard the chair creak, followed by the sound of fingers repeatedly hitting the keyboard, and then the rustling of paper that probably meant Sebastian had just opened a newspaper. The show had probably started, then. John’s less than ideal position was available for all Britain to see.

John had had enough time to observe the basement to come up with a strategy. Taking one deep breath, he started working on the rope tying his wrists to the ring.

:::

Sherlock’s thoughts were spiralling out of control, almost drowning the cacophony in Lestrade’s office. His brain was still chanting a panicked chorus of John, John, John, while he was analysing dozens of different ways to save his new friend. Nothing would work; he needed to know where John was before any plan could be put into action.

John still looked calm enough, but his face was virtually unreadable with the gag and blindfold obscuring his features. Sherlock, on the other hand, was in a state of agitation he had never experienced before. Unlike John, he could see the number of viewers growing alarmingly larger, and in order to think properly, he turned away from the computer.

The killer had changed his method, and that was important. Why was it important? It had been the same the other times, even when he had been killing animals. He was thorough and precise; he wouldn’t have changed his modus operandi unless something was forcing him to. What could he accomplish by restricting the view around John? There had to be something in the background that could’ve helped him identify John’s location. That only left…most of London. Well, most of London was better than all of London.

“John is somewhere the killer knew I would recognize,” Sherlock announced.

“What?” Anderson asked, and Sherlock shot him a nasty look.

“The killer knew I would be able to make out John’s location if he showed more than he is now, that’s why the camera is zoomed in on his face.”

“That makes sense,” Lestrade said, “but we can’t send a team to every single place you know in London. We need to narrow it down.”

“Yes, yes, I know!” Sherlock shouted as he grabbed two fistfuls of his dark curls and started pacing around the room.

“There can’t be many places where he could take John and tie him up without anyone noticing. We’re not only looking for somewhere private, but also for a place where he could be unbothered for a long period of time. It can’t be outdoors; the lighting isn’t right,” Sherlock said, the words spilling out of his mouth almost uncontrollably.

“I need a list,” Lestrade said, grabbing a pen and paper.

Sherlock barely heard him; his eyes were glued to John’s face. Behind the gag, he looked as though he was smiling, and that smile went straight to Sherlock’s brain, hitting something that managed to make him a little calmer. Through that smile, it seemed as if John was telling him things were going to be fine, and Sherlock wanted nothing more than to believe him.

:::

John smiled when the knot tying his wrists to the ring on the floor finally gave. He couldn’t believe his luck; Sebastian had tied an extraordinarily complicated knot, one that was practically impossible to untie for someone who hadn’t learned how to do so in the army. Enrolling seemed like the best idea he had ever had, and he continued to smile as he started working on the second part of his plan. He longed to take his blindfold off, but he didn’t want to alert Sebastian just yet, and regaining his sight wasn’t as important as what he had to do next.

Slowly, he started rocking back and forth.

It was like trying to gain momentum on a playground swing without using his feet. John was pushing himself back and forth while Sebastian chuckled in the background, obviously amused. John knew there was a pole in a particularly dark corner a few feet behind him, and all his thoughts were fixated on it; on how far away it was, and on how wide his trajectory needed to be if he hoped to achieve his goal. He only had one shot; he couldn’t screw it up.

:::

On screen, John was now moving. From the way his torso was rocking back and forth, he had obviously managed to free himself from what was tying him to the floor. The more he moved, the wider his trajectory was becoming, inch-by-inch. It was only a matter of time before his swinging brought him off screen, showing a tiny bit of the wall behind him. Sherlock felt as though his heart was going to stop when he caught a glimpse of what was behind John, something that seemed oddly familiar. He held his breath while he waited for John to swing back once more, and when he did, any doubt that remained as to where he was being held captive were erased.

“Baker Street. Now,” Sherlock said.

Everyone started moving at once. The policemen got ready to leave while Sherlock urged them on; it wasn’t long before they were packed in police cars, sirens blaring as they hurried to Baker Street. For once, Sherlock rode in the same vehicle as Lestrade, his usual reluctance to being seen in a police car forgotten. On the way, Sherlock called Mrs Hudson, and he told her to put the key to the basement flat on her table and leave immediately. When she asked for an explanation, he told her it was for her own safety, and he hung up. He was twitching in his seat, torn between the fear to look at the website and discover it was too late, and the need to see that John was still as safe as he could be. In the end, he decided not to look to keep his head clear of distractions. As he pressed his forehead against the cool window, he willed the people watching John’s struggle online to close their Internet browser.

Please, let him live, he thought.

:::

John had successfully built a rhythm, but he wasn’t quite there yet. He tried his best not to think about the counter on the website, but part of him was constantly aware of how little time he had left. From the fact that Sebastian hadn’t tried to stop him yet, John knew he was still in the crossbow’s trajectory. Exactly where he needed to be if he wanted his plan to succeed. Although he couldn’t see, he had studied the layout of the room very carefully before he had been blindfolded, and he knew he was getting close.

He swung relentlessly, the pipe creaking and groaning, but unmoving and strong as he thrust his body forward again. Then, when he was swinging back, he threw his arms back as far as they would go, and he successfully managed to grab the pole he was aiming for. The metal felt slippery under his sweaty palms, but he held on as tightly as he could. He could hear the old boiler’s rumbling sound beside him and he sighed in relief; he was exactly where he wanted to be. Struggling a little, he managed to pull his blindfold down and he waited.

“No, that won’t do,” Sebastian said before walking up to John.

It was all a question of timing. By wriggling behind the pole until it supported his chest, John was free to grope for the thin steam pipe of the boiler, and he yanked it as hard as he could. He felt the old metal rupture and the pipe burst open, causing a violent eruption of the pressurised steam. The metal was hot in his hands, but John held on, and he directed the scalding-hot steam at Sebastian’s face. Sebastian took a few steps back, trying to get away from the steam, but John didn’t let go until the pressure died down and Sebastian was on the floor, his burnt face buried in his also wounded hands.

John still wasn’t out of trouble, but the success of his plan’s first part made him exhilarated, and he was thrumming with renewed energy. His wrists were still tied together, and he was still hanging from the ceiling, but the battle wasn’t lost; it was just beginning. As Sebastian stumbled to his feet, John got ready for the next round.

:::

Sherlock retrieved the key from Mrs Hudson’s flat, and he was glad to see she had obeyed him and left. Lestrade was waiting beside the 221C door, but his team was still outside in order not to let the Internet Killer know they were there; the last thing they wanted was for him to panic and kill John before his time was up. It was Lestrade who unlocked the door, and he gestured for his team to follow him. Sherlock had been told to stay behind until the area was secure, but he ignored the DI’s orders and rushed inside the basement flat as quickly as he could.

:::

John knew there was no way he would ever free his ankles from the chain and cable tie alone, so he didn’t waste any time trying. Instead, he got ready to face Sebastian in the position he was in, taking deep breaths and visualising what he needed to do to bring the other man down. When Sebastian managed to push through the pain and stumble towards him, John waited for the right moment to let go of the pipe, which made him swing towards his kidnapper.

Before Sebastian could hit him, John used his joined hands to deliver an unforgiving blow to his genitalia. Then, when Sebastian fell down, John brought his arms up until they collided violently with the other man’s nose. John felt warm blood trickling down his hands, and he grinned behind the gag. However, he didn’t have time to bask in his victory; there were frantic footsteps coming down the stairs, which could mean Sebastian’s accomplices had been alerted by the noise. In order to get ready for another fight, he took the gag off and waited for the intruders to show themselves

:::

When Sherlock entered Mrs Hudson’s dark and damp basement flat, the sight that greeted him was nothing like what he had expected. The first thing he noticed was John who was still hanging from the ceiling, and thankfully still alive. Sherlock experienced a slight surge of panic when he saw John’s hands and arms covered in blood, but he soon realised it wasn’t his. In fact, the kidnapper looked as though he had had a much worst day; his face, neck and hands were covered in angry red blisters, and his nose was bleeding profusely.

“Jim! It was Jim from PCeU!” John cried out when he saw them entering the room.

Sherlock filed that information for later observation; now was not the time to think about what he had obviously missed, and that had nearly cost John his life. What he needed to do now was to get rid of the weapon still threatening John. Sherlock ran to the crossbow, his heart racing as he pushed it out of the way, making sure it was aimed at a wall instead of John. Meanwhile, Lestrade handcuffed the bloodied man – who wasn’t in any condition to put up a fight, thanks to John’s special treatment – and shouted for Donovan to ring the Yard and raise the alarm about Jim Moriarty.

Once the threat of the crossbow was eliminated, Sherlock ran over to John and knelt beside him to make sure he was alright. When John assured him that he was fine, albeit a little dizzy, no words could express the relief Sherlock felt. John was safe, he was unharmed, he had survived, and he had saved himself. Was there anything that marvel of a man couldn’t do?

With the help of two sergeants from the Yard, they managed to lower John to the floor without putting too much stress on his damaged shoulder, and they cut the cable-ties tying his wrists and ankles together. Sherlock helped him up to his feet, and he put an arm around his waist while John waited for the dizziness to cease. When John murmured “Christ!” and his legs wavered, Sherlock tightened his grip. He didn’t even think about their proximity until John wrapped his arms around him and thanked him. Suddenly, it was a little harder to breathe, and Sherlock didn’t answer, he just put his other hand on John’s back and pulled him closer, his cheek resting on the smaller man’s head.

Sherlock didn’t know how long they remained that way. He knew there were dozens of things he had to do at the moment; the case wasn’t closed, and he needed to think about the fact that the killer had been prancing in front of him for the past few days. However, the only thing that mattered for now was John’s steady heartbeat against his chest.

:::

Chapter 7

It took an hour before Sherlock and John could finally return to Sherlock’s flat. It would have taken longer; Lestrade wanted them to come back to Scotland Yard so John could give his official statement and Sherlock could help with the Moriarty investigation. Sherlock refused, saying he had already told them everything he knew about Jim Moriarty and the crime scene, and the likely state of chaos at the Yard meant giving a simple statement would undoubtedly take a few hours. He had to promise he would text Lestrade if he ever thought of anything that could help them catch Moriarty, as well as assure him they would go to the Yard early the next morning to give their statement before they were allowed to leave. Then, finally, Sherlock could finally return home with John, who obviously needed a strong cup of tea and a long nap.

John. He had been drugged, kidnapped, hanged from a ceiling, and almost shot in the heart with an unforgiving arrow. Yet, he seemed pretty calm and unruffled. Sure, he was an ex-soldier with nerves of steel, but he had answered Lestrade’s questions as calmly as if the DI had been asking about his evening plans. Sherlock had seen plenty of kidnapping victims in the five years he had worked alongside Scotland Yard, but none of them had ever reacted like John. He had seen tears, anger, shock, but never that quiet patience. While Sherlock had been buzzing with the desire to go home, John had endured the endless questions without any complaints.

Upon entering Sherlock’s flat, John made a beeline for the kettle, and he remained silent as he prepared two cups for Sherlock and himself. Sherlock watched him closely, wondering what to do next. Someone who, like John, had just escaped death usually longed for some sort of comfort, but nothing in his body language suggested that he needed it. For Sherlock who was unused to providing reassurance, who had never acted as a soothing presence for as long as he could remember, this should have been excellent news.

Yet, he felt the urge to be close to John, to hug him tightly as he had done in the basement, and never to let go. To comfort John or himself? That was hardly noteworthy; what was important was John’s functioning lungs transporting oxygen to his bloodstream, and his strong heart pumping oxygenated blood through his veins. He wanted to feel the proofs that John was still breathing, to experience them with his own skin, but the kitchen table was stretching between them in what seemed like miles and miles of wood.

Then, unexpectedly, John’s whole body went still and he put his mug on the table before running into the living room where Sherlock’s laptop was lying on the sofa. Jim’s macabre website was still in the state it had been in when Sherlock had left the flat earlier that day: black background without the video feed. When John hit the refresh button, an error message announcing the server couldn’t be found appeared. It wasn’t surprising, considering Lestrade’s team had unplugged everything in 221C to bring it back to the Yard, but it was still satisfying to see part of the murder weapon in no state to cause harm. Then, John shut down the laptop completely, and Sherlock raised a puzzled eyebrow.

“He used your computer to spy on you,” John explained, “I don’t know exactly how he did it, but he said something about a Trojan, whatever that is.”

Sherlock felt nauseated at the thought of the criminal spying on him, entering his flat without his consent, immersing himself in his life, and seeing him at his most vulnerable. Feeling his pulse drumming with anger, he grabbed his laptop from John’s hands, opened the window, smashed it against the metal railing, and threw it down onto the pavement.

“Are you alright?” John asked, concerned.

Sherlock couldn’t believe what he was hearing. John was asking him whether he was alright. Him! Obviously, it had been excruciating for him to watch John suspended from the ceiling while the counter constantly reduced his life expectancy. He had been almost sick with worry and fear, but it was nothing compared to what John had gone through.

“Are you?” Sherlock asked. “You got kidnapped, you almost died, and you escaped!”

“Yeah, I suppose I did,” John said with a small smile as he returned to the kitchen to grab his tea.

His moves were slow and reflected his exhaustion, but his steps were strong and assured when he returned to the living room. He slumped down onto the sofa as carefully as one can do when slumping down onto a piece of furniture, and he managed to do so without spilling any tea, which was a small victory in itself. Sherlock followed, picking up his notes on the case, and sitting as close to John as possible without seeming suspicious. There were so many things that didn’t make sense, so many things he didn’t understand, and he still couldn’t figure out why John had been involved.

“Don’t think so hard, you’ll break something,” John said with a soft smile.

“I don’t have enough data.”

“Can I help?”

“I think, yes. I need you to tell me what happened. Be precise,” Sherlock said.

It took John almost thirty minutes to describe what had happened to him since he had angrily stormed out of 221B Baker Street the night before. He was often interrupted, mostly by Sherlock’s questions, but also by the need to yawn that was becoming increasingly strong. He told Sherlock everything he remembered, starting from the startling appearance of Jim and Sebastian, and the needle he had felt piercing his neck. Then, he told him about waking up in a place so damp it felt like downing in liquid air. He recited everything he could recall from Jim’s speech, which made the blood drain out of Sherlock’s face, making his already pale skin even more devoid of colour than usual.

“Of course, I wasn’t surprised it had everything to do with you, the message on the website had made it very clear. But I had no idea how obsessed with you he actually was,” John said.

“I had no idea either,” Sherlock echoed.

It was true. While Jim’s website had obviously been set up to get his attention, he had only concentrated on the puzzle and the game. Now, strangely, he felt as though he had been betrayed. He had admired the killer’s intellect, had praised his genius, which had shaken his friendship with John, and he had enjoyed the chase. Knowing the killer had been nothing but a little man with an unhealthy fascination with him made his blood boil with anger.

“I should have known it was him,” Sherlock said.

“How could you know? It’s not like he was walking around stroking his evil beard and cackling evilly,” John said, attempting to lighten the mood.

“All the signs were there, but I didn’t observe. Even you noticed his fascination with me was strange and disturbing; I was fooled like an amateur.”

“There are plenty of strange and disturbing people walking around. Anderson seems a little shady, doesn’t mean he kills people.”

“He gave me his phone number—”

“Anderson?”

“Of course not. Jim,” Sherlock said as he ran to his bedroom, found the jacket he had been wearing on Monday night, and dug a hand in the pocket to find the small piece of paper with Jim’s number on it.

He had forgotten all about it in the whirlwind of emotions the case had been, but now he needed to ring the number, to see whether it had been another one of Jim’s taunts. When he returned to the living room, he sat beside John again, and he took out his phone. He dialled quickly and pushed the speaker button when the phone started ringing, and ringing, and ringing until the voicemail started.

You’ve reached the voicemail of Jim Moriarty, hi! Please leave a message, or if you want to play, you can find me at 4, Susan Close. Ciao!

“That’s the address, it’s where he killed his first victims,” John said, turning to look at Sherlock with wide eyes.

Sherlock didn’t need John telling him, he knew already. He also knew what the implications of his failure were. He gripped his phone so tightly his knuckles turned white; he couldn’t believe how unobservant he had been. He had had the address in his pocket all this time, and he hadn’t deduced it. He let out a pained groan and let his head fall back.

“You couldn’t know, he was just a creep leaving you his phone number,” John said, but Sherlock ignored him.

“Sherlock, come on. No one knew,” John insisted.

“No one ever does, but I do. I always do.”

“Yeah, I suppose you do. But there’s nothing you can do, why don’t you go to bed? You look exhausted—”

“I need to look over my case notes; if I missed this, there could be something else I missed,” Sherlock said, and he picked up the pile of paper laying in front of him on the coffee table to start riffling through them.

John stayed beside him, reading at first, but soon his eyelids became too heavy to keep them open. It took thirty minutes for John to fall asleep, but Sherlock was so engrossed in reading his notes for the second time that night, he noticed it only ten minutes later, when John’s head hit his shoulder.

Sherlock froze. He didn’t dare move lest he woke John up, but he let his papers fall onto the floor to better concentrate on John’s steady breathing tickling his neck. Maybe John was right, perhaps there was nothing he could do at the moment. He wanted to watch, to see how sleep changed John’s features, so he carefully turned his head. As soon as Sherlock moved, John pressed closer until his face was buried in Sherlock’s long neck. The angle was horrible, and Sherlock knew John was bound to wake up sore and aching if he slept in that position, yet he was reluctant to wake him up. John had just fallen asleep, he didn’t need to wake him up now; he could still watch him for a little while, right?

Sherlock didn’t plan on falling asleep; a difficult endeavour since he had hardly slept in the last couple of days, but he was stubborn. For as long as John would be sleeping, he was determined to keep watch and protect him. From what? He didn’t know. From Jim Moriarty and Sebastian Moran, from anyone who wanted to hurt him, from Mycroft, from the whole world. Sherlock was usually repulsed by other people’s weaknesses, so the desire to protect John felt foreign and strange. Possibly because John had proven that he was stronger than he seemed. Maybe because he was so capable of taking care of himself and didn’t need saving, but the sight of John looking vulnerable in his sleep made Sherlock want to be so much stronger, to be better.

The deeper John’s sleep became, the more he snuggled up against Sherlock who kept telling himself he would wake John soon, very soon, just another minute. It would have been easier to wake him up if he had been sleeping peacefully, but John moved a lot, and his face often twisted into a pained grimace. The worst were the small sounds escaping his lips. They sounded halfway between sobs and moans, and they went straight to Sherlock’s chest, making him feel like someone heavy was sitting on him. Before waking him up, there was something Sherlock wanted to try. He ran a hand through John’s hair, and the sleeping man immediately stilled before pushing his head back to meet Sherlock’s hand, leaning into the touch. It wasn’t long before John calmed down, and his small anguished cries were replaced by sighs of pleasure.

That finding was followed by a few experiments in which Sherlock stopped stroking John’s hair to determine whether he would go back to his agitated state (he did). When no doubt remained that he was acting as a source of comfort for John, Sherlock worked out a straightforward plan that would allow the both of them to be more comfortable. Very slowly and delicately, he moved the backrest cushions to the floor, and he manoeuvred their bodies until they were lying down, with Sherlock’s back against the back of the sofa and John pressed solidly against him. Sherlock’s arms were trapped between his chest and John’s back, but he didn’t mind, their position was much better. Sherlock closed his eyes as he inhaled slowly, his nose buried deep into John’s hair. As long as they were pressed tightly against each other, as long as Sherlock could feel the slow rise and fall of John’s chest, it was easy to pretend John was his.

For the next hour, Sherlock busied himself by trying to catalogue every single colour in John’s hair. Then, he tried to figure out whether there was a change in texture and in smell depending on where the hair was on his head. Despite his limited access, he was pleased to find out the scent behind John’s ear was particularly pleasing, as was the softness of the short, pale strands. While exploring, Sherlock discovered that John hummed softly in his sleep when his neck was stroked. Following that discovery, Sherlock couldn’t resist not quite accidentally brushing his fingers against the warm skin, just to hear the sounds he could elicit from John.

When the sun began to set, John started waking up, and Sherlock froze in fear that John would realise what position they were in and leave. In order not to make John uncomfortable, he started taking long, slow breaths to feign sleep. Honestly, it wasn’t just for John’s sake, it was also an experiment: a way to figure out how John would react to their proximity. Sherlock needed to know, so he waited. It was easy to tell the exact moment when John started being aware of his surroundings, and Sherlock closed his eyes, willing him to go back to sleep. For a few minutes, John remained still, but soon Sherlock could feel him shifting exceedingly carefully.

Surprisingly, instead of getting off the sofa, he turned around until he was facing Sherlock. It was hard not to give in to his instinct and hold his breath, especially since he could almost feel John’s eyes fixed on him. When Sherlock felt John’s hesitant fingers brush a dark curl out of his eye, his heart skipped a beat, yet it was nothing compared to what he experienced when John’s rough thumb ran over one of his cheekbones. It was a deliberate movement, a soothing touch, and Sherlock wanted to open his eyes and put his hands on John, to kiss him, like he had rarely wanted anything else before.

Eventually, John fell asleep again, but it took a while before Sherlock could reopen his eyes. When he finally did, he found that John looked peaceful, a small smile playing on his thin lips. Sherlock didn’t even try holding back his own smile; John hadn’t run off. Not only was he still on the sofa, he had woken up, realised what position he was in, and hadn’t minded. He had watched Sherlock sleep, and – Sherlock was dizzy just thinking about it again – he had gently stroked his cheek. It wasn’t enough information to conclude that John had deeper feelings than friendship for him, but it had to mean something. There was some kind of attraction there, right? Sherlock had never felt the urge to touch someone as much as he wanted to touch John; it had to be because he was attracted to him. Was John’s touch a sign that he was attracted to him too? It was hard to tell; Sherlock’s interactions with others had never quite been like those of normal people, maybe it was customary for friends to caress each other’s faces when they shared a sofa. He needed more data.

Sherlock honestly hadn’t planned on falling asleep, but John was so warm against him and he was so tired, his body gave in to the exhaustion. He wasn’t asleep for that long, but when he woke up, he and John were even closer than they had been. Their legs were entwined, and Sherlock had put an arm around John’s waist in his sleep. John was so close Sherlock couldn’t even tell whether he was awake or not. The room was very dark; it had to be later than ten.

“Hello,” John said, the word slightly muffled by Sherlock’s chest. Well, that answered one question.

“Hello,” Sherlock answered, “did you sleep well?”

“I did, actually. But why am I not in bed?” he asked, and Sherlock was pleased to notice that John didn’t seem appalled by the fact that he was sleeping on the sofa with his future brother-in-law, merely curious.

“You fell asleep on me, and I didn’t want to wake you up,” Sherlock explained.

“Oh. Sorry. I hope I didn’t drool on your shirt.”

“I don’t mind if you did,” Sherlock replied, and it was true, he really didn’t mind.

Perhaps, if there were traces of John’s DNA on his shirt, he could build a new John for himself. Although he didn’t want a new John, he wanted this John. Maybe Mycroft could have the new John? Sherlock stopped that train of thought very quickly. It was idiotic and unrealistic; if he did manage to clone John, he would be an infant, and what good was that to anyone.

“I’m starving,” John said after a moment, apparently unaware that Sherlock still had an arm around him, or if he knew, he didn’t seem to care.

“There’s the pie you made on Monday,” Sherlock replied, “I put it in the fridge so it wouldn’t spoil.”

“Are you eating today?” John asked, concern seeping through his casual tone.

“The case is not closed.”

“You told Lestrade that Moriarty wouldn’t be found unless he wanted to be. What if he doesn’t want to be found for the next year? You can’t stop eating! I won’t let you!”

“Oh, alright. I’ll have pie,” Sherlock said in his best imitation of irritation, but the truth was he found John fussing over him quite endearing. John cared; he didn’t want Sherlock to starve himself. Also, John was still on the sofa, and he didn’t look uncomfortable at all. However, the need for pie meant they had to disentangle their legs, get off their small metaphorical island, and transfer to the kitchen.

John hadn’t even been in 221B Baker Street for a week, but they already had a kitchen routine. Sherlock’s place was on a chair, while John busied himself with putting the pie in the oven and finding forks. He was about to start looking for clean plates, but Sherlock suggested they ate directly off the pie dish, and John didn’t object. Instead, he started making tea: delicious tea with milk in it. It was a rare situation to have milk in the flat; Sherlock only occasionally bought some, he usually relied on Mrs Hudson bringing him a carton once in a while. Even then, he seldom drank it. It either went bad, or was used in various experiments. Or both.

When the pie was hot enough, John placed it on the kitchen table between them, and he handed Sherlock a fork. They didn’t bother with cutting pieces; instead, they started in the middle and worked their way out to the crust. The pie was at that perfect temperature between warm and hot, the apples were tender, and there was just the right amount of cinnamon. Sherlock closed his eyes when he took the first mouthful, enjoying the delicate blend of flavours and the moist texture. When he reopened his eyes, John was grinning at him from across the table.

“What?” Sherlock asked, and John’s smile turned into a soft laugh.

“For someone who refuses to eat while on a case, you really seem to enjoy it,” he answered.

“Food is a distraction, and I work better when I’m not distracted,” Sherlock answered matter-of-factly.

For the next minute, neither spoke as they concentrated on the pie. Yet, Sherlock never ceased to observe John from the corner of an eye. He seemed uneasy, troubled. Sherlock was considering asking what the problem was, but John spoke before he had the time to.

“Was I a distraction?”

Yes, I couldn’t stop thinking about you, Sherlock thought, but that wasn’t something he was supposed to say, he wasn’t ready to have this conversation. Instead, he settled for something safer, something that would erase the concerned frown lines from John’s face.

“You were invaluable. Without that thing you did, Moriarty’s associate would still be free, and there would probably be another person being tortured on that twisted website of theirs.”

“I wish I had noticed the second victim was blinking Morse code sooner, maybe then he’d still be alive,” John said regretfully.

“Don’t beat yourself up. It all comes back to what I was saying yesterday,” Sherlock said, the bitter memory of John leaving in anger still fresh on his mind, “people die, and it would be impossible to do my job if I dwelled on every victim.”

Sherlock ate another mouthful of pie while John shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“About last night,” John said, “I’m sorry I called you heartless. You’re not. I never thought you were. I don’t know why I said it.”

“It’s…easier if I don’t let myself care,” Sherlock tried to explain. “It was different when it was you; I lacked detachment, I couldn’t think, and I was utterly useless.”

“You found me, though,” John said, trying to hide with his hand the fact that his mouth was full of pie.

“I did. Yet, I didn’t feel the thrill I usually get when I solve a puzzle.”

“Oh, alright,” was John’s only answer, and silence fell over them.

In his quiet kitchen that was almost completely dark, the only source of light coming from the single turned on lamp in the living room, Sherlock had never been so tempted to ask about John’s reasons for marrying Mycroft. Yet he refrained, because as long as they didn’t talk about it, it was surprisingly easy to ignore the upcoming engagement. He still wanted to know, he needed to know, but he still had time; he had two whole days left.

They were halfway done with the pie by then, but they kept eating. John seemed ravenous, and now that Sherlock had started eating, he couldn’t stop. He could almost feel his stomach purring with pleasure as he fed it mouthful after mouthful of delicious dessert. John was silent for a while, and they continued to eat, exchanging smiles across the table when their eyes met. It was John who finally broke the silence with a question.

“Was Moriarty right about you not having friends?”

“After uni, I never bothered making any. It seemed like a lot of work.”

“I consider you a friend.”

“So do I,” Sherlock replied, and they smiled at each other before turning their attention back to the pie.

“Moriarty thought it would have destroyed you if I had been killed,” John said after a while.

It took much self-control for Sherlock not to choke on his mouthful. It was unnerving to know there was a person out there who knew so much about him, despite having met him only a couple of times. He thought about his smashed laptop on the pavement, and he felt a surge of anger crashing through him at the thought of his violated privacy. As a way of responding to John’s last comment, he made a noncommittal humming sound.

The pie dish was now empty, save for some crust crumbs that Sherlock chased with his index finger before bringing it to his mouth to suck on the crumbs stuck to it. He felt deliciously full, and he longed for a few hours of sleep, but it was out of the question as long as John was sitting with him in the kitchen. As if on cue, John tried to hide a yawn behind his hand.

“You’re tired. Don’t let me keep you up.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll go to bed. Thank you, for everything,” John said, and he got up to rinse their mugs and the pie dish before going up to his temporary bedroom.

Soon after, Sherlock retreated to his own bedroom, changed into his pyjama, and slid under the covers. His duvet was still in the living room, but his room wasn’t that cold, and he felt too lazy to move. It wasn’t long before he fell asleep, dreaming of John’s body pressed against his. In his dream, Sherlock was bolder than he had dared to be; he kissed John when he felt his thumb stroking his cheek. When he became aware that he was dreaming, he fought as hard as he could to remain asleep, but it was a lost battle, and he felt the dream slipping away as consciousness crept in.

“Sherlock?”

He was startled when he heard his name, and he sat up in his bed, trying to locate the source of the sound. The room was still dark, but he could distinguish John’s deformed silhouette in the doorway. Wait, deformed? Sherlock blinked several times until his eyes got accustomed to the darkness, and he saw what gave John’s silhouette a strange and fluffy shape: he had his arms full of Sherlock’s duvet.

“John? Is there anything wrong?” Sherlock asked.

“I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I hear Jim whispering in my ear, and I just…can’t. To know he was so close, it creeps me out.”

“Do you need anything?” Sherlock asked, because there had to be a reason for John to be standing so awkwardly in his doorway.

“Could I… I mean, erm, I was sleeping earlier and, well, it was fine. I was wondering if maybe, ah, if you don’t mind—”

Sherlock frowned while he attempted to decipher what John was trying to say. The last time he had heard him sound so embarrassed, John had been about to ask whether he could stay in London longer. So, John was probably trying to ask for something he wanted, but he feared rejection. Given the circumstances, there weren’t many possible things it could be. He recalled John’s troubled sleep and his small cries that had ceased as soon as Sherlock had started stroking his hair.

“My bed is big enough for the two of us, come here,” Sherlock said, and John took a few hesitant steps into the bedroom.

“I brought your duvet,” John said, and he extended his arms towards the bed, as if offering a duvet was the price to pay to gain access to Sherlock’s bed. He looked so small and vulnerable that the possessive animal that lived deep in Sherlock’s stomach twisted and turned with longing.

“Come on, then,” Sherlock said, and John climbed onto the bed, pushed several books out of the way, and slid under the covers. They both tugged at the duvet until it covered their two bodies, and they lay side by side facing each other.

Sherlock closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep, but it was difficult when all he could hear was a loud chorus of Handel’s Messiah playing repeatedly in his head. It was hard to tell how long they stayed silent, but eventually John sighed and Sherlock opened his eyes.

“It’s not working,” John said.

It wasn’t surprising; the conditions were very different from what they had been on the sofa. Maybe what was missing was the tall body of one particular consulting detective wrapped around John. In order to replicate the sofa conditions, Sherlock shifted closer until he could wrap an arm around John’s waist, and he held him tightly against him. Then, he slid one of his long legs over John’s, and he rested his chin on the top of the smaller man’s head.

“I’m so sorry Sherlock, if it’s weird for you—”

“Shh,” Sherlock cut him off, “you’re okay, try to sleep.”

He felt John’s body relax, and very soon he was peacefully asleep, protected by the improvised cocoon formed by Sherlock’s body. It was better than making a particularly surprising deduction, it was better than a murder, and better than sharing a pie. Just knowing that he had brought some comfort to John made him feel powerful and so, so good. The last thing he registered before he too fell asleep was John’s hand on his hip, a little over the waistband of his pyjama bottoms.

:::

Next chapter.

Date: 2011-10-13 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sabrinaphynn.livejournal.com
Ooo, this is good. I think Mummy may need to put her ad up again for Mycroft, though. ;)

Date: 2011-10-14 06:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arameae.livejournal.com
Sorry to intrude, but haven't you noticed the mysterious tag "pairing:mycroft/lestrade" above ?

I'm quite ready to bet Mummy will not have to look very far, maybe she won't even be needed ^^

And it was exactly the kind of update I needed to begin my day :)

Date: 2011-10-14 11:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sabrinaphynn.livejournal.com
Yees... But Mummy does not read tags, and she has taken pains to arrange this marriage for Mycroft. She may not take her efforts going to waste too well .... But I am sure she will get used to the idea, eventually. Let us hope so.

Date: 2011-10-13 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] karadin.livejournal.com
Very good, looking forward to more, story is paced just right.

Date: 2011-10-13 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xjill.livejournal.com
I was just thinking of this story earlier and hoping for an update. I really love their personalities and how they react to things the way you've written them.

"...maybe it was customary for friends to caress each other’s faces when they shared a sofa." OH SHERLOCK.

Date: 2011-10-13 08:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rte-175.livejournal.com
I love this story. That is all I can say. I. Love. It.

Date: 2011-10-14 02:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zinelady.livejournal.com
Very nice.

I kept expecting Mycroft to show up while the boys were wrapped around each other sleeping. hehehe

Date: 2011-10-14 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ourdramaqueen.livejournal.com
Yay for BAMF!John, and the end... oh, I think my heart might be melting! So, so wonderful! ♥

Date: 2011-10-14 04:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lenap-trap.livejournal.com
ohh... the last lines are so sweet))
perfect)))

Date: 2011-10-14 10:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lillianone.livejournal.com
If only I had my own personal Sherlock pillow, I would sleep so much better too.

This story is love!

Date: 2011-10-14 12:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yee-gee-wren.livejournal.com
This story is so well done in every way; dialogue, the narrative. And so romantic!

Date: 2011-12-21 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sara-ines.livejournal.com
Wow...

" Was he really angry with Sherlock for not caring about the victims, or was he scared that Sherlock didn’t actually care about him? " <- A really interesting question, John, but we all know the answer :)


" You know what people always say; if you want someone, kill his friends.”

“I’m sure no one says that,” John said.

“Yeah you’re right, they don’t. But I hope it’ll catch on.”" <- THIS IS SO JIM! I loved all their interaction!


"“He gave me his phone number—”

“Anderson?”" <- LMAO, I couldn't stop laughing here! Anderson giving his number to Sherlock xD It would be funny xD

"maybe it was customary for friends to caress each other’s faces when they shared a sofa. He needed more data." Poor Sherlock, he's so lost! It seems this is not "his area" :P

"Maybe Mycroft could have the new John?" lOL No comments. Really. *laughing*

Thank you so much for sharing this to us! (Don't worry, I have time to study :) My exam is in Jan!!)
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