What If: Mr. and Mrs. Young

Young and Tasha were a married couple who discovered that they are both assassins working for opposing agencies?

Summer in the Spanish Mediterranean is absolutely gorgeous, stunningly beautiful that leaves James in general amazement. He reaches up and removes the mirrored sunglasses shielding his gaze, only to end up glancing to the left and then right before giving a good flick of his wrists in opening up a newspaper. There's an untouched cup of coffee sitting at the round table before him. It's going on noon in a few minutes and he sits in the shade of a small corner deli, listening to the active sounds of life all around him: cars and their occasional gridlock, motorcycles and mopeds skirting by them, handfuls of people flowing back and forth and the smells of food and salted air. It's beautiful. He glances over the upper edge of the Spanish newspaper. His contact will be arriving any moment now.

Playing the part of wealthy American tourist, Tasha is standing not too far from the deli, frowning at a map of the area and referring periodically to a Spanish phrase book. Or at least that's the cover. From behind her own dark sunglasses, she keeps a watch on the area. Her target comes into view - coincidentally, James's contact, and she starts on the move, still superficially keeping her eyes on the map as she walks. It gives her the perfect excuse to 'accidentally' run into the contact, dropping both map and book, and under the cover of apologizing profusely while gathering her things back up, she subtly slips something from his possession, swapping it out for a decoy. The real thing is tucked inside the book in the blink of an eye, and apologizing profusely in English, she starts scurrying off, mumbling something about a nearby cathedral, leaving his contact free to continue with the meet. And that would be the end of that, except for the inauspicious van pulling up at the end of the laneway.

James narrows his gaze as he spots his contact and he looks on even more suspiciously when the mysterious woman arrives on the scene. He swallows down and then folds the newspaper quickly up. A passing glance is given to the cup of coffee before he starts to rise and check his watch, nodding inwardly to himself, all culminating in his heading out of the deli's miniature courtyard and onto the sidewalk. He looks to the left and then moves right to intercept the contact. He smiles with a light nod but dares nothing more; instead, he focuses on the woman. "Excuse me, ma'am, hi, hey," he starts up with veiled exasperation in getting the woman's attention, catching sight of the van in the distance, "Happen to have the time?" He just needs her to turn around.

While normally Tasha would pretend not to hear him calling, so that she could just make her getaway and do what next needs to be done, her planned route of escape was up that alley. And she's spotted the van, which means she no longer wants to keep going that way. To that end, the man calling out for her gives her a perfect excuse to turn around without (hopefully) raising further suspicions. She takes another few steps before glancing back over her shoulder, and then stopping and turning. "What? Oh, yes, sorry," she replies, pushing back her sleeve so that she can look at her watch, while also trying to subtly move out of line of fire. "Still set on New York time," she explains, as to why simply telling the time is taking a few moments longer than it should. "Which means it's … just gone noon?" Just in time, she's sidled herself out of the direct line of fire, as she side door of the van swings open and the men within start taking shots at the poor contact.

The sun stares down at the pair of them but as the van opens up and grunts of some megalomaniac, or plural of such, begin to open fire on James's contact of information he focuses now on protecting the woman that's given the time of day to him. Down the side alley they go with him looking over his shoulder every few hurried steps. In time, however, the mayhem ceases and is put far into the background behind them. The man smiles reassuringly to the woman and he lingers there, looking to her: smitten by looks alone just now. There's something keenly romantic about the idea of love at first sight. It has him speak up amiably in spite of a nearby firefight: "I'm James."

Tasha, under guise of hapless American tourist, is quite content to allow the manly man to take charge, leaving her to pretend that she has absolutely no idea how to handle herself when ending up in the middle of a gunfight. Following his lead, she hurries down the side alley, casting a few glances back over her shoulder and flinching at the sounds of gunfire, until they're far enough away for it to be less of an active threat. Her map was dropped in the shuffle, but the book she still retains, clutching it close to her chest. Still high on a rush of adrenaline, she offers a smile in return, returning his look, the fighting growing all the more distant as her focus shifts. "My hero," she replies with a bit of dry humour, but also some sincerity. "I'm Natasha."

Time passes, as it is wont to do. The crazy kids who met in the Mediterranean have settled into married life. Tasha's Audi pulls smoothly up the winding drive and she comes to a stop in 'her' spot. After briefly checking herself over in the rearview mirror, she grabs her expensive briefcase and exits the car, coming into their immaculate home through the garage entrance. She checks her watch, confirming that she's home exactly on time, as she is every day. Briefcase is set into its place on the counter, coat hung on its hook by the door. The evening ritual completed, she heads further into the house, moving towards the kitchen.

James lives a comfortable and relaxing, domestic life. He has his car, parked currently in the garage. He has a beautiful wife, currently approaching the kitchen area. The dog died a year ago but it was due to old age and the good ol' mutt had lived a long a promising life, more or less. The throw pillows and other femininely decorative items shan't miss him. He has dinner cooking, his world famous pasta. At the far end of the dining table is a briefcase, his briefcase, with graded paperwork near to it: thus is the life of an eleventh grade English teacher during finals. With his maroon-hued dress shirt and black slacks, he dresses casually fine and takes a step back when Tasha enters into the room. He smiles. Seconds previously, he had been recoding the secret weapons cache's locks stored within the stove. "Someone's looking rather nice today," comments the man offhandedly, smiling all the more.

Tasha makes her way into the kitchen, passing by and pausing to lean in and give him a peck on the cheek, before crossing to the fridge to get herself a drink. "Thank you," she replies, smiling sincerely to the compliment, as she efficiently twists off the cap and tosses it into the garbage. "I had a meeting with a client this afternoon," she explains the extra effort put into her appearance today. That's the life in advertising, or so she would assume, having never actually done much in the way of advertising. But that's her story and she's sticking to it. "Dinner smells good. Is it almost ready?"

James licks his lips after the peck to the cheek and he stands there for a lingering moment in figuring out where the rest of the kiss went. Then, he returns just as quickly back to his cooking and lowers the heat with a small nod of his head. "Yeah, I think I'll be taking a few days off since my students have, somehow, passed," and it also gives him time and a half at committing to eliminating key prospects for his other profession. He takes a step back with skillet in hand and reaches up with his off-hand to recover a set of plates for the both of them. "You're right on time, hon', go ahead and sit down. Are we going with wine tonight, or something less charming?"

For her part, Tasha doesn't even seem to notice anything amiss. "Well, I imagine it's entirely to do with them having a good teacher," she replies with a faint smile, quite okay with giving the children no credit of their own. "And time off must be nice." She wouldn't know. Neither her cover nor her real job afford much of that - though that might be how she likes it. Time on her hands makes her crazy. She considers the options as she begins to head for the table as instructed. "Wine then. I would hate to be accused of not being charming," she replies smoothly, setting her other drink aside and then glancing back over her shoulder to offer him a smile.

James looks to her as she begins to head for the dining room table and he quickly moves over to the stove and depresses two buttons before stepping away from the pair of beeps. The code reset and the time now appearing on the small clock there. He carries over the two plates quietly as she looks over to him with a smile and he smirks in reply. "And you're as charming as ever." He pauses replying in order to set her plate down at her end of the table and then his at his spot while turning back for the wine. Removing the cork is simple enough and with a brief curse he's angled it so that it heads for Tasha, "Oh shit!" It's a test of his, as serenely paranoid as he's become about their lives.

"Mm. Well, I try," Tasha says with fake modesty as she settles into her place at the table, subtly pressing a finger to the end of her knife so that the blade lifts from the table enough to show a reflection of the room behind her, giving her a way to keep an eye on him even with her back to him. And so as the cork flies towards her, she finds herself instinctively dodging the projectile, moving just out of the way, so that it flies past her, knocking over a candlestick instead. Tasha remains still for a moment, still seated on that slight angle, watching him in the knife's blade, watching him for his reaction, muscles tensed, ready to react.

"Ten points for striking the candle," James pipes up quickly, trying to cover everything up. He dryly laughs things off, airy and somewhat fake while he turns back around to get the wine glasses. With his back to her, he wrinkles the bridge of his nose and sticks his tongue out at the cabinet before him. Another curse is muttered, under his breath, whispered, "Fuck me," before he reaches for the other glass and begins to carry all three back. He sets the pair of glasses down next to her at first and begins to pour. Rather than look at her or fix the candlestick, the man focuses on the knife next to her hand.

"Yes, well," is all Tasha can think to say to that, offering a tense smile to the empty space in front of her. Slowly, she straightens back up, her free hand making a show of straightening out her cutlery just so, while the other hand keeps the knife's reflection trained on him until he comes around where she can see him properly. Then the knife is allowed to lie flat again, though her hand still lingers near, smoothing out a non-existent crease in her napkin while she watches him pour the wine. "Thank you," is murmured in reply, though she sounds somewhat distracted.

James only stops pouring when she speaks up and he draws back the bottle of wine with a sidelong glance in her direction. He smiles, oh so charmingly, "You're welcome." He moves in further just so that he can brush her cheek with his lips in a sweeping kiss that hovers over her mouth, and all the while he uses his free hand to place over hers; it's a contingency, in the end, to keep her from stabbing him spontaneously. He retracts and moves to pour his own glass and carry it to his side of the table. Along the way, he corrects the candlestick, sets the wine bottle to the center, and collects the corrected papers in order to remove from the table. In the end, he seats himself and looks across the space towards her.

There is no spontaneous stabbing at least. Tasha fights off neither the kiss nor the touch, allowing him to redirect her hand away from the bladed weapon. As he moves away, she sits up straighter, watching him more closely now, but making no sudden moves herself. The game is afoot, and her Spidey-sense is tingling, but she isn't going to be the one to start things if she can help it. "So," she begins conversationally, as she draws out the matter of laying her napkin across her lap, trying to wait and let him have the first bite of food to be on the safe side, "I heard that the Millers are pregnant again." Neighbourhood gossip, not that she really cares, but it gives her something to say while assessing him.

James averts his gaze and casts it downward when she looks to him. He has his favorite sidearm in his briefcase but it is out of reach and she has knives. Thus, he stirs the pasta with his fork idly while lighting up at the news. "Oh yeah," he starts, "I thought they would have stopped at the twins. When're they due?" It's inane and a worthy distraction while he continues to play with the food and returns to watching after her. It is good food, however. Still, the two of them have begun the game of cat and mouse and he surely won't be caught being the mouse when it comes to her of all people.

"July, I think it was," Tasha replies without missing a beat, so she doesn't bother feigning too much interest in the matter. Even cover-her only has so much patience for the children of others. But on the plus side, her reputation in the cul-de-sac does keep the little monsters off their grass. "They wanted to know if they could use the curb in front of our house for the contractor. They're adding an extra room." She picks up her fork, beginning to slowly mix up the pasta and the sauce, all the while watching him, and remaining oh-so-aware of her knife.

"Hope it's the Fourth," because everyone loves a baby born on Independence Day. James rolls the fork between his fingertips and then leans in to take a small bite. It helps to distract from using his cover identity in mentioning kids. Thanks be to the lack of a marriage counselor, they would get an ear-full about his want and her lack; then again, it's just a cover, more or less. He squints a bit and looks aside in the curb's direction. He can't see it, but he ends up idly shrugging it off. "I don't see why not." He quiets down after that and returns to watching her, jaw setting briefly. There's another bite and then he swallows it down. "So," he adds, "I called the office today."

"It could be," Tasha replies with a shrug, not having bothered to either ask or remember the precise date of prediction. She also avoids bringing up the children issue, neither real-her nor cover-her wanting to get into that debate again. "Yeah, I told them to go ahead," she replies, having already taken that liberty on his behalf. "I hope it won't take too long. I thought we'd get some quiet from construction noise after they finished putting in the speed bumps." The conversation nearly puts her to sleep, but she keeps up the effort, since it gives her an excuse to continue watching him carefully. She finally follows his lead in taking a mouthful of pasta, mid-chew when he speaks up again. She swallows and then gives him a pointed look. "Oh? The receptionist didn't mention that you'd called." Someone will be fired. Out of a cannon.

James sniffs at the air a bit and lowers his fork with a soft clack to the side of the plate. He folds his hands together at the edge of the table as she mentions the receptionist and he lightly smiles in return. He's remembering his previous words: Fuck me. "Yeah, I told her not to mention it. It wasn't anything important. I just needed to drop something off for you. Though," he pauses for a short breath, unlocking his hands as he continues to speak and resting them at the sides of his plate. "It was a bit… odd… to find you not at work, or apparently in town." He focuses all the more on her now.

Tasha is quiet for a moment, studying him in return. Sometimes having long silences be a characteristic is just so damn handy, but this time it's only partly about trying to regain control of the conversation. "Were you checking up on me?" she asks, opting to go on the offensive instead of jumping to the defensive. "Something came up. If it were worth mentioning, I would have mentioned it." She too sets down her fork, sitting back in her chair, but nowhere near as relaxed as she makes herself appear.

When it comes to assignments, James is brash, relatively arrogant, and he generally enjoys things that explode and go boom. Thus far, he has been mild-mannered with a spark of ingenuity and creativity. Right now, he finds some measure of that tranquility while reaching for his plate and holding it by its sides with a shake of his head to Tasha's question. "I just wanted to surprise you with a thing or two," he vaguely replies with a light blink, still focused. He looks to the candlestick he had struck earlier and then further to the knife near to her before down to his. "Yeah, I know." He takes up his napkin and dabs his mouth before setting it aside and moving to stand. "I'll be right back," comments James while rising to his feet and reaching for his briefcase. He heads for the living room while unfastening it.

"You could surprise me now," Tasha points out with her usual pragmatism, still refusing to be the tiniest bit apologetic for not being at work when he came by, or for suspecting his motives. Of course, from the way she says this, it seems that motive-questioning still isn't off the table, since she doesn't expect it to be a good surprise at this point. As he gets up to head to the other room, she watches him closely, while idly flipping the knife around and sliding it up inside the sleeve of her blouse. With her free hand, she reaches for her wine, taking a demure sip as she stands, under the pretence of getting something from the counter.

James leaves the briefcase in the living room and looks down to the handgun in his hand. He finishes rolling on the silencer and then clears his throat before stepping back for the dining room. There is no way he is about to end up killed by his own assassin-wife, not that it is not a turn-on to find out that she holds a profession along those lines. "Oh honey, I've got the surprise for you," James says it lightly, amiably enough. He shoulders near to the corner between living and dining room. After a moment's count, he glances in with the sidearm angled down. The second moment leads him to step back in while raising the gun, looking around the room for her.

Of course, it isn't her first day on the job. Not wanting to tip her hand, Tasha has still maneuvered herself into place to at least be in a more defendable position than merely seated at the dining room table. There's no response to his light comment, but as soon as he steps around with the gun raised, she's ducked down behind the kitchen island for protection. "I feel badly I didn't get you anything," she returns, calling out from her hiding spot. Quietly, she slides a drawer open, and then - one, two, three - she pops up just long enough to launch a butcher knife in his direction - aiming to disarm rather than kill at this point.

James blinks at her words. The second time he blinks there's Tasha, with a butcher knife, and the aforementioned knife is being thrown in his direction. He doesn't have enough time to pull back the trigger and snap off a shot or two and he just barely ducks under the wayward blade while looking on wide-eyed out of sheer surprise. It crashes off into the distance. With him ducking behind the safety of the dining table and chairs he looks up and over before yelling back at her: "A butcher knife. A butcher knife, what the fuck!" Then again, he has a gun and thus he fires two shots her way before ducking back down.

As the bullets strike the island and surrounding counter, Tasha hunkers down all the more tightly, curling into a little ball and closing her eyes against flying debris. "Yes, I suppose I am irrational like that," she volleys back in return, after waiting for the shooting to finish. As there's a pause in the action, she risks crawling forward enough to edge open one of the bottom cupboards, withdrawing the largest cookie sheet she can find. Carefully she repositions herself, and then after a quick peek to make sure he's not standing there at the ready to shoot her, she raises the baking tray as a shield and makes a break for the nearest exit. At least she's finally showing an interest in baking?

James lingers down just in case any more knives are chucked in his direction but after the shuffling sounds he lowers down closer to the floor while sitting back and tries to spy at her through the mass of chair legs. He spots her darting by and he drops to his side and extends the silenced pistol. He fires off into the baking tray, one nicking the metal and richocheting off into the microwave and the second flowing through her wake and into the counter. He stands up and empties the rest of the magazine in her direction with practiced ease before dropping the empty clip onto the table with a thud. He reaches to a back pocket for a spare one and reloads while circling around to the island counter himself. One of his stashes is at least nearby, with heavier firepower: the stove. "Natasha, do you still wear the wedding ring when you leave for work? Or is it really even work? I don't know who you work for," he ducks down behind the island and looks to where she's escaped to, "But I know it's not with me."

It's a close call, but then, you don't get anywhere in this business by playing it safe. Tasha manages to make it into the hall without taking a bullet, so she considers that a win. Of course, since James is soon thereafter firing his entire load in her direction, she books it out of the hall, rounding into the study to retrieve her own nearest stash. The cookie sheet is tossed to the ground with a clatter as she flees the hallway, and then she's rounding the desk, pushing aside a shelf of books to reach the access panel. A code is punched in and the small cache revealed. But it's enough to load up her belt with a few handguns, and then a larger shotgun is slung over her shoulder. She speaks as she loads up, keeping a careful eye on the doorway. "I wear it when I leave. I wear it when I get home. I could ask you the same question," she answers in reply, beginning to head for the door, edging up beside it and sticking her head around just long enough to get the lay of the land, a pistol at the ready to shoot at anything that moves.

James doesn't get shot at and thus he stands up and moves to the stove, pressing in the code and then drawing back the door. He holds up his handgun to the nearby hallway and then glances to the entrance of the hidden cache. He picks up a second pistol and tucks it into the rear of his waistline before reaching for the submachine gun there. "I wear it all the time!" It's the truth, too, not that she specifically asked for it. He tucks away his silenced pistol as well and then holds up the sub while kicking the stove close with the back of his heel. He steps into the hallway and pivots in order to follow where she has run off to. "Really, I do," he adds, "I don't know. Guess I kind of got used to it." He still wants to kill her for planning on killing him.

"Ever the romantic, aren't you dear," Tasha notes wryly, head poking around the doorway again as she peeks out into the hallway. And now that he's moving in her direction, she fires off a few shots, though she's not able to get a good angle from her current hiding place. There's the tell-tale chk-chk of a shotgun being cocked, and then a pause of silence. After a moment or two, she suddenly makes another break for it, pivoting to fire off a shell in the general direction of the hallway before turning on her heel, back to him, and then to head right back into the archway opposite, all without pausing or missing a beat.

"Of course," answers James before getting shot at by his darling wife. He jerks and moves to the side of the hallway in order to avoid being killed. For a moment there, he thought he was going to die. In the next moment, he holds up the submachine gun in preparing to fire only to hear the tell-tale chambering of a shotgun. He groans, "Oh, come on." The man presses himself into the makeshift alcove and as hard as he can he moves against the closed door he's taking cover with. The blast goes off and then he turns out with a sharp pivot in order to fire a small burst after her. "What was that? How the hell did you get the new model?" He checks himself and then fires another burst towards the archway before coming to a stop near to it. The last time he looked out, a butcher knife was thrown at him: now she has a shotgun.

Tasha really has to scurry, almost literally dodging bullets as James sends his burst of fire in her direction. With a diving save, she manages to get through the archway in one piece, and quickly gets back to her feet. "What, this old thing? Just something I had lying around," she replies dryly, as she moves to press back against the wall beside the archway, almost exactly opposite him on the other side of the wall. But when he fires a burst at the archway where she's taking shelter, she turns her head away to avoid the flying debris, and then goes still and quiet, hoping to get the drop on him when he comes around the corner into this room.

"It, uh, I like it." James starts to speak up further but then he leaves the compliment at just that while looking down the length of hallway they had traveled down a while back. They're ruining the house and he squints a bit in debating before glancing over towards the archway's side, his back against the wall against her back. It's quiet. He inhales and then holds his breath while taking the quick few steps in order to turn around the archway and enter the room, looking for her and intent on carrying things through.

Tasha doesn't reply to the compliment, though it does get a silent smile from her as she glances briefly down at the shotgun. As it goes quiet on his end also, she grows that much more still and hyperalert, muscles tensed, body ready to spring. When he comes around the archway where she's hidden, she makes a split-second decision: rather than taking a shot at close range, she deftly turns the weapon about to use the butt of the shotgun in an attempt to strike him sharply, her main intent on disarming him - though she'd go for the head if it came into reach.

James finds the butt of the shotgun impacting his shoulder as he turns towards her and tries to side-step from the incoming blow. It doesn't help with holding the firearm; instead, he pulls back on the trigger and a series of rounds go off from floor to far wall to ceiling - destroying a large portion of a couch and priceless books perched upon a bookcase in the distance - all before he ends up being disarmed. The submachine gun drops and he reaches for the shotgun while standing his ground, trying not to end up struck once again or worst yet shot by the woman.

Oh well. It was time for redecorating anyway. Though the books are a bit of a loss. Still, Tasha tries to remain focussed on the matter at hand, namely a husband intent on killing her. There's a fleeting victory as she succeeds in disarming him, but then she finds the shotgun grabbed. She clings to the end of it for a moment, before releasing one hand, making it easier to be ripped from her grasp, but also allowing her to reach around and quickly pull a handgun from her belt, which is levelled on him.

James awkwardly steps back now that he has a shotgun in hand. He wasn't expecting such an easy win after grabbing it, but he makes the best of it and swings it into both hands. The pump is drawn swiftly back and the familiar ch-chk of reloading and as she points the handgun at him he lifts the shotgun and turns it back on her. His muscles tight and his reflexes sharpened thanks to nearly being killed by his wife, he stares down the length of the weapon and focuses on her. Rather than shoot, he ends up standing there with his labored breathing.

And thus begins the tense stand-off. Tasha keeps the handgun pointed squarely at his head, her eyes locked on his instead of allowing herself to look down at the weapon in his hands that is pointed at parts of herself she would prefer not be shot. Cool, collected, unflinching even in the face of danger, Tasha also just ends up standing there, breathing hard but otherwise unmoving, her trigger finger tensed and ready to twitch at the first sign from him.

James inhales all the more and he exhales through his nose, trying to relax in spite of all of this. He licks the backs of his teeth and hesitates even further after a look to her handgun and then he rolls his gaze back to hers. His jaw sets briefly but then he speaks up quietly. "So, traded cooking lessons for firearms training," it's just a half-tease, most of it used to help try and distract or at least coerce her into making a mistake that he can capitalize on. His right foot takes a half-step back. He further asks, "Any martial arts?"

"Seemed more interesting," Tasha replies, of the firearms training versus learning how to cook. After all, she has him to do that for her, but he can't shoot himself on her behalf. Well, he could, but he probably won't be that considerate. She begins smoothly edging back from him herself, though the gun doesn't move in the slightest, still trained squarely upon him. "Too bad you won't have the chance to find out," is all he gets on her mad martial arts skillz.

James flashes a brief and wry smirk in Tasha's direction while taking another step and further retreating from standing before her. The shotgun is still leveled towards her midsection and since he has no intention of killing himself, or shooting himself, or maiming himself in any other possible way, he doesn't reach for the handguns concealed at the rear of his waistline. He doesn't bother going for the submachine gun abandoned in the middle of the floor either. "I won't? How about we drop everything and give it a show?" Almost everyone on the block knows they haven't been physical with each other in forever.

"Sure. You first," Tasha challenge with a smirk of her own, eyebrows lifting in a cool arch as she dares him to put the shotgun down first. Surely she'll follow mere moments later with the handgun in her possession, right? Where's the trust? She hasn't forgotten about the other weapon in the middle of the floor either, but it seems too risky to make a dive for it while he has the shotgun levelled on her so closely. She shifts her weight from her front foot to her back, moving away slowly another few inches.

James rolls his eyes a bit at her response and gives a brief shake of his head. Instead of relieving himself of his main - stolen - firearm he instead extends his right arm so that he continues to hold it in her direction with a finger over the trigger. His freed hand reaches behind and draws his silenced pistol. As a show of faith, he tosses the gun aside. His second pistol is taken and he does the same as well before shrugging his shoulders in her direction. "I'm only doing it if you do it." Since she hasn't shot him, he hasn't shot her. He also stops moving back now.

Tasha is honestly a bit surprised when he actually starts to disarm himself. Then again, he's always been able to surprise her when he tries. It was part of the original appeal. For a moment, she doesn't move, just watches him as he tosses his weapons aside. At least she doesn't try to shoot him when he's doing so. Trust has never come as easily to her, but finally she reaches around with her free hand, withdrawing her second handgun and then, the first still on him, bending to lightly set it down and then nudge it out of reach with a careful kick as she straightens back up. It leaves them, presumably, with the one remaining weapon each. "On three?" she suggests, nodding towards the weapons they still hold.

James thoughtfully chews over his bottom lip as he watches her reciprocate the disarming but he melts into a brief smile and takes a half step forward. They just have the two weapons now, one aimed at her and one aimed at him. "On three," he agrees, looking to their weapons. He turns his attention back to just Tasha and slowly begins to crouch down to the wooden flooring. "One, two…" and as three comes along he starts to lower the shotgun even further to the side while watching her own movements; calm, collected, he's also cautious right now - "Three."

Tasha watches him carefully, still not moving with her final weapon as he moves in closer. When he agrees to her 'count of three' suggestion, she gives a small nod. And yet, despite the compromise, he still sort of ends up going first, since even on the count of three, she waits to make sure he's doing it before she starts to lower her own weapon, gradually pointing it down towards the ground and then slowly moving to crouch so that she can set it down, careful to keep her hands in clear sight.

At three, James is without a firearm and he ends up standing back up with his empty palms held towards her at his sides. He shrugs once again and keeps quiet as he continues to stand within the fullness of his height. In spite of her desires to kill him, and his to kill her, he doesn't bother with trying to shoot her anymore. Then again, he likes the risk presented and he dares her to go against their would-be promise. The man then takes a step forward and then another in beginning the approach, watching her movements.

Once she's relatively confident that James has actually disarmed, she releases her own hold on the handgun, nudging it with her fingertips so that it slides across the hardwood, just out of her reach. And then she slowly stands back up, watching him closely in turn, waiting to see if he'll try to jump her, and planning in her head all manner of defensive and offensive moves should he try. So she lets him come to her, holding her pose like a statue. Until he comes within reach, and then flashing a quick grin, she suddenly strikes, moving to sweep his feet out from under him with a kick.

James rolls his right hand into a small arc and then curls his hand into a fist while his left balls as well, albeit briefly and only tightening to release the pressure between his joints, before opening back up. He lowers the center of his gravity as he approaches with lightly hunched shoulders and his right hand lifting, leaning into things. He steps quickly back from the sweep and eases out of the offensive stance just so he can shake a forefinger in her direction, chuckling. "Tease," is the single word he counters with before shirking his amusement. He throws a straight jab for her face while circling to the right.

Tasha wasn't really expecting the sweep to work, though it was a bit of a test, a way to get a feel for his own level of skill and training. Plus as opening gambits go, it was a pretty safe one. She flashes another grin, cocking her head to one side as if to acknowledge the fact that it was a bit of a tease. And then she has to move quickly to get herself out of the way of his jab, ducking promptly and then using that position to launch herself forward with a blow aimed for his midsection.

James ends up missing, only to end up with his wife's fist burying itself against his torso. There's an audible grunt but he doesn't lose all of his breath just yet. He instead drops his arms to her sides in order to try and keep her close and have the pair of them locked together while pipes up once again. "You punch like a girl!" Still, it hurts and his gaze flashes around their surroundings in the study in looking for anything, something, to use against her; but, saying it doesn't hurt one way or another works wonders on his psyche in the end.

"You punch like my baby sister," Tasha offers in response, through gritted teeth. She's distracted because she finds herself pinned, unable to pull free and regain enough ground to swing again. Despite her claims, the advantage is currently his, since he's certainly stronger, and now it's more of a wrestling match, with her only able to swing some rather ineffectual punches at such a close range; still, she aims those ones for his sides as well, trying to build upon that first injury.

James chokes on his words at her response and even more so at her micro-sized punches at his side. He has the advantage for the moment though and he absolutely spoils it by trying to throw her away from him and towards the nearby bullet-riddled sofa. Upon that, he huffs heavily and grits his teeth, watching her. "You have a baby sister?" He momentarily forgets that he's supposed to be killing her and that she's trying to kill him, but then that thought returns and he begins heading in her direction.

Tasha manages to get in at least a few hits before she finds herself getting thrown away towards the sofa. Hitting the back of it, she uses her own momentum to flip herself over it, landing on her back on the cushions and then rolling to her feet as she comes off of it, crouching down behind for a moment, though it leaves her stuck between couch and coffee table. "Yeah, and I'm pretty sure even she could take you," Tasha replies as she springs back to her feet. She hops up onto the coffee table, then steps from it to couch cushion, and then a third step up onto the back of the couch, thereupon to launch herself off in his direction with the intent of tackling him from above.

James stops abruptly from stalking after his wife and holds a hand up to his side to rub over the tenderized spot, rubbing out the pain and then rolling his shoulders while coming to step before the couch. He holds up his hands when she appears and he grits his teeth in clenching his jaw when she counters. "That- That was uncalled for," he replies quickly, partly anxious and all the more defensive and unable to truly counter it. He holds his hands back up in preparing to continue the fight, only to watch her come soaring in, "Hell, woman," and tackle him onto his backside.

"I'm pretty sure you started it," Tasha replies with an unrepentant shrug when he can't counter her counter. But she's a little distracted what with the whole tackle-pouncing him. She goes down as well, atop of him, and she quickly moves in to pin him there, trying to use the surprise and dominant position to her advantage, since he still has strength on his side.

James lands roughly on his back and it doesn't help that Tasha lands on him as well. He coughs out with a slow and murmured groan and it makes pinning him down there all the easier. After a second or two to regain his wits and remember everything in the past few moments he jerks against her in trying to break free before looking up to her. "All right, all right," he starts, "I'm… sorry. You win."

Being declared the winner draws a wide and beaming grin out of the hyper-competitive woman, and she beams down at him. Though she's not in any rush to let him up. "I'm the best at what I do," she replies confidently. "Though you aren't half-bad yourself." Funny how her tune changes once she feels victorious. Still, she remains there, straddling him and pinning him to the ground.

"Yeah, well, thanks," James is not finding any of this amusing save for he was beaten by his wife in something he excels in, which leads him to turning his face to the side and looking aimlessly to the rest of the room. He still rests his head to the side but he glances back up towards her. "If you're going to kill me, well… I'd rather it be from you than anyone else." It's generally heartfelt too, not that he's using it to disarm her in any way. He's already admitted to defeat. He smiles a bit and turns back to face her.

It leaves Tasha at a bit of a dilemma though. Now he's at her mercy, he's already admitted defeat, and she finds herself … not really wanting to kill him. How frustrating. With a sigh, she sits back, still straddling him, and now all but sitting atop him as well, but it frees his arms. "Shut up," is her own heartfelt response, since she can't deal with him being sincere while she's supposed to be finishing him off. Whether or not he intends it, that's dirty pool.

James slowly looks more closely in her direction now that she's begun to relent even with his neck out, so to speak. His jaw sets itself for a tense moment and then he exhales against the comment she responds with. He comes up onto his elbows just to eye her more suspiciously. If she cannot kill him, then he won't ever try to kill her. "I really went to your workplace because I had an assignment on you, intel, and you… I couldn't do it." He's not going to shut up; instead, he starts to sit up further and face her while she straddles his lap.

"Shut up," Tasha replies that much more insistently, almost with an edge of panic to it now as he begins explaining. She tries to fight back that urge to get all womanly and emotional. A woman in a man's world has to be twice as hard or she'll never hear the end of 'that time of the month' comments. She edges back slightly as he begins to sit up, having a hard time maintaining composure here, even as she tries to remind herself that this is business, and he's just messing with her head.

James shuts up now. It's not that he wants to, but Tasha wants him to, leading him to cast his gaze downwards to his stomach and offhandedly he reaches up to sweep away beads of sweat from his brow and temples. He looks aside to his other hand, the left, specifically to the wedding ring still worn there. With inclining his head to the side, he looks to hers and arches an eyebrow. There's a glance from hands to her face and between the two points once more before focusing back on her face. "You remember our vows?"

Now that he's finally gone quiet and Tasha has gotten her way again, she's not so sure she wants it, since the quiet leaves her alone with her thoughts. She sits back further, allowing him just enough room to sit up properly, though she doesn't get off him. It's a security measure, really, to make sure he doesn't still go for the gun. As he brings up their vows, she runs a thumb over the underside of her ring, feeling it there, though she doesn't take her watchful gaze off of him. At least she doesn't tell him to shut up again. "Until death do us part?" she guesses his meaning. It seems the most fitting part right now.

"Yeah, that sounds about right," replies James in turn, now starting to knowingly grin. It's rather fitting right now and he comes to sit up more fully, just so that the space between the two of them diminishes into something rather negligible and insignificant. He searches her face for some answer to all of this and seemingly satisfied he looks back into her eyes. The man doesn't go for the nearby guns, or some sort of pin against her.

Tasha finds her breath catching slightly in her throat as he moves in so much closer, her blood rushing, adrenaline flowing through her veins, and all emotions rather heightened after a good brawl. Her gaze remains locked onto his, just watching him, still tense, still ready to react to anything, but otherwise, just staying in place, not trying to regain any of that distance between them. "How long have you known?" she asks, her voice lower now.

James finds himself unable to move any further away from her but all the closer works just perfectly fine for him and thus as adrenaline funnels through his veins thanks to a marital spat with such a beautiful - and deadly - woman he leans in closer. "The other day," he murmurs in reply before quieting down into relative silence. He gives a slow and languid glance down to the tip of her nose and then further down and towards her lips as he inhales. With a slowed exhale, he focuses back on her face. He could speak up further but with his heart picking up in pace his mind is drown out of any serious thoughts and wondering. Apparently, till death do they part.

He kisses her as if it were the first time, so many years ago that was. James can hardly remember. It doesn't hold back the rekindled passion though. All of the feeling, the desire, it returns at length as he sits up further and brings up his hands to cradle her jaw with a firm but careful touch. It's been pent up for years now. He makes the best of it as his fingertips press to her skin and his mouth claims hers.

In the background, one of the study's windows breaks and something clatters against the ground and then begins to roll. It stops somewhere in the distance, having it a chair and then endtable, but it's a tell-tale moment that possesses the atmosphere around the two of them. James looks aside and then focuses back on Natasha mid-kiss. He murmurs it, "Flashbang."

Tasha just gives a nod of acknowledgment for his unspecific answer, though it sets some worries at ease. At least he hasn't been keeping her in the dark for long. She sees no need to further question that front right now, and silence seems a nice option after all the action and destruction. Still, she doesn't exactly relax, but it's a new type of tension that's taking over. And then he's kissing her, and she's returning in kind, all that rush expressed through this far more desirable outlet. Her arms wrap around his chest as she leans into the kiss, ready to push him over, back onto his back, when she's distracted from that line of thought by the sudden ruckus in the study. A hand resting on his chest, her breathing heavy, she pulls back just enough to get her bearings, listening for indications of its source.

James looks quickly to the left and then right as his hands drop to her shoulders, and then he closes his eyes and shields her from the explosive flare of light and sound. In the distance he can only faintly hear the crash of the front or back door, one of the two, but his ears are ringing far too much at the moment. "The couch is bulletproof," croaks the man while trying to slide underneath Tasha and head for the guns they've left in the distance; specifically, the ones he had disarmed himself of. He'll toss her the shotgun when he reaches it, all the while he's still disorientated.

Thanks to James's efforts, Tasha isn't quite so badly effected by the explosion, burying her face against him mere microseconds before it goes off. It's still more than enough to leave her head feeling rather more like a bowl of jelly, but she shakes it quickly to try to clear it, beginning to push to her feet to make it easier for him to get free. She catches the shotgun as he throws it, already in motion towards the couch to leap over it and take shelter in behind. She quickly pumps the shotgun and pokes up back over the edge of the furniture, training the barrel on the door as she keeps a watch, ready to lay down covering fire while she silently urges him to hurry up.

James gives Tasha a look as he tries to hurry the process of collecting firearms back up. Her handguns are tossed over and then he retrieves both of his. The last thing on the menu now is the submachine gun in front of the entrance. He looks to Tasha for a moment and then back to it before darting past the entrance, only to have their home invaders shooting in his wake. He heads for the couch in the end though and ducks behind it, reloading afterwards. "Have I mentioned you look good with that shotgun?"

Tasha tries to cover him, but from here, she can't get a good angle when the intruders open fire of their own. Still, she remains poised at the ready, prepared to fire as soon as any one of them so much as thinks about coming into sight. It's only once he finally gets around behind the couch as well that she drops back down, pressing her back in against the couch and taking a moment to quickly load the handguns into her belt again. "I'll keep that in mind for our anniversary," she notes wryly, leaning over to press her lips to his in a quick, brutal kiss, before she's popping back up to go back to guard duty while they figure their next move.

"Wait, wh-," James doesn't bother continuing down that line of thought while looking up to her. The kiss is more than good enough to seal his lips and keep him on track; for the most part, at least. He finishes and tucks his handguns away for the time being while covering her flank in a crouch just behind her. He takes a moment at peeking down to her lower backside and then aims forward from their corner of solitude, to keep from being distracted. James calls out over his shoulder after licking his lips, "Until death do us part?"

Other than the errant kiss, Tasha is doing at least a little better for keeping on task. Sometimes being that anal Type-A personality can come in handy, such as in these life-or-death situations. She will win because she must, and she'll drag him along for the ride. He gets a little smirk at his comment, and she nods in agreement. "Let's see about making that as far away as possible. If we can get to the garage…" The wheels are turning as she starts trying to figure out their best escape route.

"Go through the hallway, to the living room, can stop off at the kitchen for ammo, but it's a straight shot," thanks to their house. James opens his mouth to speak up further and ask who had the overarching idea of buying an easily navigable house. He wants to take credit but he doesn't speak up and instead moves to crouch at the other side of her before their guests come flooding into the room. He opens fire on the first one to come barreling in and then turns to the windows nearby, removing their opponents from there as well. "I have three stashes from here to the garage, excluding my car." It includes his kitchen though, and exclude upstairs and the basement. What he wouldn't give to be in the basement right about now… He glances over to her. "I can't tell if these guys are from your company or mine."

With James taking out the first guy, Tasha then pops up to empty a round of shot into the next one. At least the doorway limits their attackers to coming in a thin stream instead of en masse. Still, their position won't remain fortifiable for long, so she doesn't bother trying to argue with his plan on principle. "Fine. But we're taking my car." Thankfully, she'd just had some enhancements installed, and this seems the perfect opportunity to try them out. "On three, we break for the hallway. You take left, I'll take right." It's not a question, but she at least pauses, looking over at him for confirmation, before she opens fire on the next few attackers trying to get in. "I don't know," she replies, as to who sent the goons. "You have any objections to killing them now and figuring out who they are later?"

James hangs his head with a low groan at the desire to take her car, the car that he dislikes with a passion and has yet to discover a safe way of blowing up. He looks over to her once more but doesn't provide an argument, since he doesn't have one, "Left it is, then." He turns back around and shoots down another before taking a moment to duck his head underneath a stray shot. He pivots in his spot in order to support her shotgun with a steadier stream of fire, slowly emptying the rest of his gun on the entryway. "I just like to know who I'm killing. Is there something wrong that?" James throws the submachine gun aside and then chimes in with, "Three," and reaches for his handguns.

Tasha is perhaps well aware of his feelings about her car, so his groaning earns him a Look, but she doesn't offer any compromise on that front. The shotgun blasts are going off as quickly as she can reload now, taking out a steady stream of their assailants so that they can at least hold this ground for the time being. "What difference does it make who they are? They die the same." Not that she isn't also curious, but there's a time and a place, and right now, it's more important to make these guys dead than worry about who sent them. On three, she empties a final round of shot before dropping the shotgun and also pulling out her handguns, since they're more practical for this part of the mission. And then she's once again heading up and over the back of the couch, taking advantage of her height at its apex in order to take out a few more of the guys coming through the archway, guns blazing in both hands.

James doesn't bother answering the question only because this isn't the exact time or place for things like a conversation, even for him of all people, but he does look sidelong in her direction with the hopes of finishing such talk later on when they aren't being shot at. He circles around the couch while his wife jumps over the couch. He extends a hand in the direction of the nearby window and snaps off two shots from his silenced pistol, clearing that window while looking around the smoking room. So many bodies already, and he almost wants to question if they sent more after her or after him. He turns and moves alongside her, opening up with both guns as the two of them clear the hallway and move into it.

And Tasha is always happy to have the last word in things, so she's feeling pretty satisfied right now. As she lands smoothly on the ground on the other side of the couch, she quickly straightens to fire off a few more rounds, waiting for him to move into position beside her, and then moving with him into the hallway. She turns sideways, one gun extended front and back of them, though most of her attention remains on making sure no one gets the drop on them from behind, instinctively trusting him to keep her apprised on what's going on in their path on the way there.

After a look in their wake, James shifts so that his back is placed against Tasha's as they stroll ever so casually through the hallway. He fires off once into the leg of someone stepping into the hallway and watches as their bullets streak off into the ceiling, he winces in reply and then continues to focus down the length of the hallway as she covers their rear. They work a lot better as a pair rather than against each other. In fact, it has James lightly smiling whenever he can, but then he pipes up quickly while leaning closer to her. "Kitchen," small signal, but he needs bigger and better toys, or just more ammunition.

Tasha follows his lead easily, naturally falling into pace with him as they progress, now back-to-back. Ironic how the person who was trying to kill her earlier is now so completely trusted to watch her back, both literally and figuratively, but then, some things just run deeper than logical thought. She fires off a single shot of her own, shattering a window and taking out a henchman through the pane of glass. She gives a quick nod to his signal, giving one last sweep of the hallway behind him, before turning to surge forward into the kitchen, taking up a post as guard at the door, while nodding for him to go ahead and do what he needs to do.

James looks into their joined wake and then turns about in order to follow after her and with a smooth pivot he enters into the kitchen and keys into the stove once again. In dropping down the door, the hidden cache of weapons arrives and he reaches in for two spare magazines and slides the ammunition in Tasha's direction before standing back up in order to provide cover for her while she recovers them. At that, he turns back over and collects the rest of his things, removes the initial silencer and then closes the concealed, now-drained stash. He looks to Tasha and then shrugs with a lightened grin.

Tasha trusts him to cover her while she drops to a crouch to retrieve the extra ammo. Staying low, her back against the wall for balance, she trades out her exhausted magazines for these new ones, before straightening up to take back over guard duty. A few rounds are first off, but it seems they've dealt with most of the first wave. But the sounds of footsteps on the floor above indicates the second wave is on its way. As he seems to be finished, she pushes off the wall to start making for the garage, glancing at the stove as she passes by. "No wonder you were so keen on the cooking," she mutters with a faint smirk.

"I love you too, dear," readily replies James after he turns his gaze from the ceiling and focuses back on Tasha. He returns her faint smirk with one of his own and then stands up more fully before stepping over to the same entrance that she stands near to. He's done with reloading and rearming himself. After a quick peek out into the main hallway, he steps into it and heads for the living room and looks around before over his shoulder, both of the handguns training along the room's entry points, the stairs leading upstairs and the front door for the time being. It won't take much long at all to cross and reach the garage.

Maybe she should have learned how to cook after all, if it meant getting to find the weapons cache hidden in the stove. But no matter. Tasha is past such regrets and back onto the matter at hand. She waits for him to join her, and then moves with him into the hallway, covering their backs again, while keeping an eye on the stairs as well. As they get closer to the living room, the second wave begins to come creeping down the stairs. Catching sight of a black boot through the railing, she lets off a well-aimed round, hitting the intruder in the foot and sending him tumbling down the stairs with a cry of pain. "Go," she urges in a whisper, figuring the rest will be right behind him.

James offers up a wry smile at the sight of a man tumbling down but with the opposing group approaching and her giving urgency to their need to depart from the area he lowers both handguns and tucks them into his waistline if only to free his hands. He reaches the garage door's entrance easily enough and gives a passing glance to the security system posted there. One hand reaches back to the grip of a sidearm and the other moves for the handle, the door's already ajar. He pulls it back and then sweeps into the cooler and lifeless garage, murmuring, "Clear." His muscle car is still there.

While James tucks away his guns to free up his hands, Tasha goes even more on the alert, keeping hers at the ready. Another man is shot down on the stairs before she hurries after him, ducking into the garage as he announces it clear, and pulling the door shut behind. It won't slow them down by much, but anything they can do to get something of a lead. "My car," she reminds him, as though she can just tell what he's thinking. Her Audi is parked there as well, after all.

"But," James looks over his shoulder towards Tasha in an effort to persuade her against that horribly horrible choice but he ends up storming off with a groan and heads for the rear trunk instead. She can lead the way to her car then. He pops up the trunk and removes a portion of his car's paneling in order to fetch an assault rifle and ammunition for it. Once taken, he closes it back up and then sets the alarm - just in case. The man heads for her and her car while reloading his bigger and stronger piece of personal artillery.

Thankfully Tasha keeps a spare set of keys, and she fetches these from behind a flowerpot, so that she can disarm and unlock her car while he further arms himself. She moves over to the driver's side, figuring it's her car, so she will drive. It leaves him to ride shotgun, so that's almost as much fun anyway, right? She climbs in and shuts the door, getting the engine running while she waits for him. Once he's in, she moves the car into drive, but keeps her foot on the break, one hand on the wheel, the other on the garage door opener mounted on the visor. "Ready?" She expects they'll find company outside.

Providing little to no argument on which car they use and who drives said car, James climbs into the shotgun position and debates fastening the seatbelt. "I forgot the grenades, but Hell, let's do this," he lowers the window via button rather than smash it open - because it's her car - and then looks over to her. That quick, brutal kiss from before is returned with one of his own before he prepares the shoot at anything prepped to appear behind them or in front of them from inside of the house.

Tasha returns the kiss, left a bit breathless by it. She takes her hand off of the garage opener for a moment, to snake her arm back between her seat and the side of the car, so that she can reach the speaker mounted on the inside of the back door. She presses on one side of it and it flips open, allowing her to reach inside and pull out a grenade. Carefully bringing her hand back around to the front, she sets it into the cupholder in between them. "More on that side," she adds, nodding towards the back door behind him. That done, she reaches back for the garage door opener, giving him a nod and then pressing the button, watching the door slowly inch open. As soon as she gauges it to be high enough to allow the car to pass through, she takes her foot off the brake and slams on the gas, sending them shooting forward.

James sticks his head out of the window and the assault rifle follows just so he can provide some ample covering fire on the group trying to breach the garage from inside of the house. He takes a handful of pot shots and then pauses, allowing them to retreat for the moment and give him a bit of time in order to gawk at her car. "Okay, well, maybe your car is better than I thought. Unless they blow us up, then I'll blame your grenades for killing us," he tries to laugh it off while hiding in plain sight from any retaliation from her. He pulls himself all the way in as the car shifts and then peels backwards and by then he has two grenades primed. Once out into the driveway, he heaves one to the right towards the curb since someone has decided to park in the spot they had reserved for their neighbor's remodeling. The other goes over the roof in a truck's direction.

Tasha expertly navigates the car down the driveway and onto the road, tires screeching as she throws it back into gear, motor purring like a kitten. "You haven't seen anything yet," she notes with a smirk, as he finally comes to appreciate her fine automobile. Still, whatever tricks she still has up her sleeves will have to wait, as someone steps out onto the side of the road, firing at the windshield. "Get down," she says quickly, in case he's busy looking at the things he's blowing up. She ducks down in her seat, but doesn't slow in the slightest, just veering a hard left to run the guy down before she straightens up again. "Where are we going?"

"Got him," murmurs James just prior to the first grenade going off. He lifts up the rifle and doesn't bother paying close attention to his explosions at work, thanks to his wife, but instead focuses on opening fire on the lone gunman near to them. His stomach lurches to and fro and for a passing moment he wishes he had gotten his seatbelt but he manages fairly excellent at aiming and firing as she drives. He doesn't even get to see the second grenade flipping the front end of the truck in a fiery inferno. He turns about and sits at the edge of the window, half-inside now, and continues to fire as they speed down the street. "I thought you knew!"

Tasha refuses to feel guilty about pulling her husband's attention away from the fiery boombooms in order to save their lives. "Why would I know?" she retorts, though a lack of destination doesn't stop her from tearing up their sleepy little cul-de-sac as fast as the expensive vehicle will go - which is not inconsiderable. "Fine, I'll figure something out," she goes on, as she screeches around a corner, trying to get them out of these tiny little suburban streets at least. She mutters something under her breath about having to do everything herself.

James has since emptied the entire clip of the assault rifle and he holds it aloft for a moment before finally sinking back into the car now that they aren't being followed. He sighs with a short exhale and then looks over to her. The rifle is set to the back seat. "I've got a buddy of mine. If he doesn't try to kill us, then he'll help. Turn left at the next intersection," he faintly smirks at that and then finally moves to put on his seat belt. Tasha is the first and last person he will ever trust when it comes to his life, and she just tried to kill him. "I'm hungry, you hungry?"

"Oh great," Tasha replies, not sounding quite so thrilled at this plan. "I've met your friends." And she was underwhelmed, to judge from her tone. But still, she has no better ideas, so at the next intersection, she takes a hard left. She's slowed up a little, since they don't seem to be being followed, but she's still certainly taking liberties with the speed limits around here. There's a pause as she considers that question, and then gives a small shrug. "Yeah, I could eat," she replies more conversationally.

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