“Ten provinces and three territories all with a legal system that has its’ foundation in British common law….all except for one,” Kyler grumbled under his breath as he studied the text in front of him. “Quebec still retains a civil system for private issues of law. Like who gives a shit! This pissed me off the first time I did this course and it’s pissing me off again.”

In a fit of temper born of frustration, Kyler angrily swiped his arm across the table and sent his books flying against the kitchen wall.

Ten minutes later, Hugh walked into the kitchen and found Kyler slumped over the table and several books and pencils on the floor. Patrick was on duty at the hospital and Hugh had left Kyler in the kitchen with his homework while he himself tidied up some paperwork in the study. He stopped short when he saw the state of the kitchen and Kyler’s face as he straightened up.

“What’s going on? Why are all your books on the floor?”

Kyler was overtired. His normal shifts of every second night at the mine had been changed due to one of the guards quitting. Kyler had worked the last four nights and was sleeping poorly; it was catching up to him.

Lifting his head, he sassily responded to his oldest partner’s question. “Cause I like them there. Why? Because I’d rather be out instead of being stuck in here on a nice evening, studying crap I already know about.” He dropped his head back down onto his folded arms.

Hugh blinked. Who on earth was this waspish, mulish bear sitting at their kitchen table? His lips folded into a firm line and something kicked in deep inside his gut; the Top in him automatically surfaced. A response like that was assured of one, and only one, reaction. Hugh calmly took Kyler’s arm, yanked him up and turned him towards the scattered items on the floor.

“Pick them up, Kyler, and do it with a civil tongue in your head! Then you and I are going to sit back down and have a discussion. Now move!” He provided encouragement with a swift and sharp swat to Kyler’s bottom and watched with satisfaction the look of shock and chagrin that swept past his partner’s face.

“Hey, you got no right to….” A quick glance at Hugh’s face and Kyler wisely decided to forgo his complaint and do what he was told. He gathered up his books, papers and pencils while keeping his backside turned away from Hugh in case the older man thought another swat was in order.

Dropping the school supplies on the table, Kyler pouted and obstinately demanded, “Happy now?” He seemed unable to shake off the foul mood.

Hugh quirked an eyebrow and pulled out a chair as he responded to Kyler. “No, I am not happy! And we are going to talk about it. Now sit and remove that pout, Kyler. It does not become you.”

Hugh took the seat opposite Kyler and looked at him, his eyes serious. “You want to tell me what’s bothering you, honey?” This time, his tone was much gentler.

Kyler drooped against the back of his chair and tired blue eyes gazed out from behind his glasses. He sighed and shrugged his shoulders, hating the thought of having to admit his dwindling ability to cope with the extra hours at the mine.

“I don’t think this is working, Hugh,” he quietly confessed while toying with the pencil in his hand. “Between work and school, I’m not left with a lot of free time, especially when you and Patrick expect me to sleep some.” He looked up and gave the older man a crooked grin.

Then becoming a bit more glum, he murmured, “But there is nothing I can do about it, cause I’m low man on the security team’s totem pole and I keep getting stuck with all the shit shifts since Tony quit.”

Hugh listened sympathetically, nodding every now and then to urge Kyler to unburden his woes. He saw how desperately the young man was struggling to cope and clearly spinning out of control, and his heart went out to him. He chewed his lower lip for a while as Kyler went on to explain some of his shift patterns.

“Kyler, I think you need help to manage. You are overwhelmed with the additional work at the mine. You are struggling to keep up with school and you look beat like hell. I suppose Patrick and I have not paid you too much attention lately in that area, and for that we are to blame.”

Hugh paused and reached out to take Kyler’s hand over the table. “Honey, I have a suggestion,” he said.

Turning his hand over, Kyler clutched onto Hugh’s and he stared into the man’s face. ‘He knows where I’m coming from and he’s going to help,’ Kyler thought, feeling some of the weight lift off his shoulders. “Okay, I’m listening,” he nodded and waited patiently to hear Hugh’s ideas.

Hugh was pleased with Kyler’s reaction. “Why don’t we do this? Patrick and I will go over your schedule with you, and that includes your school work, your classroom time-table, and your shifts at the mine as well as your extra activities... the whole works. Then we both will decide what stays and what goes. For instance, at a glance, I would say you have too many shifts at the mine. We may not allow you to work so many hours going forward and we will talk to Kipper or your supervisor if we have to.”

He stopped to gauge Kyler’s expression. Satisfied that he was still listening, he continued. “And you may need to cut down on some of your games practices as well. Plus we may impose stricter rules on bedtimes. See these dark circles?” Hugh lovingly brushed a finger above Kyler’s cheekbones. “I don’t want to see them there any more.”

Kyler carefully considered the proposals and while he agreed with most of them, there were a couple he was having a problem with. “I kind of like the thought of you going over my schedule with me, but I don’t see how I can cut back my class-time as I’ve only two classes back-to-back on Wednesday afternoons. I don’t mind if you talk to Uncle Kipper, but, Hugh, it will be too embarrassing if you go to my supervisor. God, he’ll think I’m a little kid or something and that maybe I shouldn’t be working at all.” Kyler cringed at the very idea and wondered how he’d ever live it down were it to happen.

“Hmm, I don’t think I’m going to be too thrilled with whatever bedtime scheme you guys come up with as I didn’t realize we actually had any rules to begin with,” Kyler mused out loud with a bit of a smirk before turning a little grim. “And I hope I don’t miss too many practices or I’ll be kicked off the team. Do you think I’ll have to miss much, Hugh?”

Hugh had enough Top experience not to be surprised with this reply. Of course, Kyler was responding to the offered help and the sense of security it gave him. At the same time, he would also rebel against the restrictions that come with the territory; all standard Brat language.

With a patient smile, Hugh nodded his head at his partner and said soothingly, “The first thing to understand is that we will do only what we think is best for you. None of our actions are meant to demean you or make you feel like a child, and certainly not to make life miserable for you. Okay?”

Seeing the nod, he continued. “We will not talk to your supervisor at the mine unless there is no other choice, but we will help you reason out why you cannot take on so many shifts, and I am very sure your supervisor will listen to your reasons once he understands your situation. As for classes, I am not asking you to cut back class-time, not at all, honey. We just have to schedule in proper breaks and study time for you to fit it all in so you are not too stressed out or tired.”

And now for the most difficult bit, the part Hugh knew would most likely work up the younger man. “Kyler, if we are going to do it right, we have to do it all the way. This means we cannot just manage one part of your life and not the others. You know what I mean, babe. So bedtimes, recreation times, everything that concerns you will be monitored, at least until such time we all feel you are out of the woods.” Hugh took a long breath. “And one more thing, appropriate behaviour gets thrown into the pot as well. When we make a decision, you will abide by it, no matter how unpleasant you find it to be. There will be no temper tantrums, no defiance, and no arguments; that would defeat the whole purpose of this exercise.” He sat back and waited for the explosion, only it never happened.

“Hmm, Hugh, does any of this conversation have something to do with the one you and I and Patrick had a few days ago? You know, the one about DP’s with you and Patrick being Tops and all?” Kyler swallowed as he rubbed his sweaty palms on the front of his t-shirt. “Cause what happens if I put a stink up over something?”

While Kyler appreciated his partners’ help and support, was he ready for anything further? He was really too tired to think about it or about how he would react if Hugh told him that was where this discussion was headed. He sat there, wide-eyed and waiting with bated-breath.

Hugh couldn’t help but smile at the questions and the look on Kyler’s face. He looked so young and, at the moment, very apprehensive. Hugh got up, went over to Kyler and pulled him into a hug. “Babe, come here. It’s not as scary as you think or make it out to be. We will talk a lot about what we want to do and what happens if things don't go according to our plans.”

Feeling Kyler tremble in his arms, he said softly, “You are worried about the paddle? Aw honey, that’s not what it’s all about. You might get paddled if you outright defy me or do something totally unacceptable, but that is not the first course of action. Nor even the second. Listen, hey, this is not about finding reasons to punish you.”

Kyler relaxed into the comfort offered by the strong arms encompassing him. “I guess most of that works for me, Hugh, but not the paddling part,” he softly spoke, his breath warm on the front of the bigger man’s shirt. Looking up, he solemnly requested, “Can you make me a promise not to spank at all? I am really to grown-up for that kind of thing, don’t you think?”

Hugh pushed Kyler gently off his chest and tried to keep his face straight. Kyler looked anything but ‘too grown-up’ at that moment. Speaking in a steady voice, he responded firmly. “Age has nothing to do with it, Kyler, and I am sorry but I cannot make that promise. It comes with the territory; this kind of relationship does. That’s part of how it works. But like I said earlier, it’s not about paddling per se, though it will certainly happen if you flaunt my decisions or continue to disobey me despite repeated reminders or show blatant disrespect, because those are all serious stuff. But we may really never get to it either if you behave well.”

Kyler shoved himself out of Hugh’s arms and stood glaring at his partner. “I know I’m far from perfect and there’s a good chance I’ll do things you or Patrick don’t like. But don’t think for one minute I’m gonna put up with you walloping me. No sir! Forget it! Cause I am soooo out of here, man!” With that, Kyler did what he had done so many times in the past....he bolted.

Slamming out the back door, he dashed across the yard and through the gate, leaving it swinging on its’ hinges. He tore down the alley at break-neck speed and ran all the way downtown to the pool hall. It was there that he finally stopped and rested his head against the brick wall of the building while he waited for his heartbeat to slow down. He closed his eyes and willed his breathing to return to normal so his chest and throat would stop hurting.

He eventually entered the lounge and made his way to the office, pausing long enough to buy himself a beer. He found his Uncle Kipper working on the books and threw himself down on the couch.

Kipper glanced up at the unexpected intrusion and slowly shook his head. ‘Yeap, the signs are all there,’ he thought with loving exasperation as he got up and went to sit beside his nephew. He put his arm around the younger man and drew him close. “What are you running from this time, Sport?” he patiently inquired.

“What makes you think I’m running from anything?” Kyler sharply demanded. “Cause I’m not, you know.”

“Hey!” he hollered when he discovered himself face-down over his uncle’s lap and a painful swat making the older man’s displeasure known. “Okay, okay, I’ll tell you…..properly. Just let me up, Uncle Kipper, please.” Once upright, Kyler blushed profusely and hesitantly began to share the conversation he’d had with Hugh.

An hour later, the tête-à-tête he was having with his uncle came to an end with Kyler understanding and better able to accept what it was he really needed in his life. And however reluctantly, if truth be told, what he actually wanted deep down in his heart and soul.

“May I use the phone, please? I left without my cell.” Getting a nod, Kyler hastily punched in a number and then paced nervously as he waited for a voice on the other end. He sighed when one of his lovers answered, and taking a deep breath, he quietly asked.

“Can I come home, Hugh?”


Hugh had watched the door slam and let out a frustrated growl. In the few months they’d been together, Kyler had abruptly left discussions a couple of times, especially when he had felt out of his depth or irritated. Hugh shook his head grimly, more convinced than ever of what Kyler needed.

He glanced at the clock and saw that Patrick was due back at any time. Not wanting to go look for Kyler without first leaving a note, he was scribbling on the notepad when he saw the flash of headlights and heard the crunch of tyres on the drive. He crumpled the piece of paper in his fist and threw it into the bin, then went to meet Patrick.

Patrick smiled tiredly at Hugh, and then immediately asked upon seeing Hugh’s expression. “What’s wrong?”

Hugh quickly brought Patrick up to speed on the evening’s happenings and ended by saying, “I was just about to go search for him when you drove up. Wait till I get my hands on him!” he fumed. “What’s so funny?” He demanded crossly when Patrick laughed.

“You are, honey!” Patrick gave his partner a kiss, then took Hugh’s hand and pushed him back into the kitchen. “I need a drink and you need to calm down.”

“Easy for you to say,” Hugh grumbled but he let Patrick draw him into a hug before he sat back down at the kitchen table. “I spent a good hour explaining to him and I was extra careful not to spook him ...”

Patrick sat down next to Hugh with a cup in his hands and sipped slowly. “I wouldn’t worry about Kyler; he just needs to get it out of his system. He won’t run too far, being as he’s on foot anyway.”

Hugh had to acknowledge the truth of that. Kyler was impulsive but not destructive. He would come home once he calmed down. “Hey, remember what Kipper told us, Patrick?” Hugh asked with his brow slightly creased, “about Kyler’s childhood and his quirks and starts?”

Patrick nodded his head. “You mean right after the first time Kyler bolted?”

“Yeah, it certainly wasn’t the first time Kyler had run away when things didn’t go his way. Kipper said Kyler needed a lot of guidance and firm handling. Kipper did warn us about this habit he has, right? And said we were not to encourage it? I guess we just didn’t take him too seriously and we should have. I wonder when he said firm handling, if he meant discipline.”

The two Tops sat pondering in silence until the sudden shrill ringing of the phone startled them. Hugh got to the phone first and heard the tremulous voice on the other end. Relief swept over him and he answered immediately. “Of course you can, baby. Where are you? Shall I come get you?”

“No, it’s all right, Hugh. I’m at the pool hall with Uncle Kipper, but I’ll be home as quick as I can.” Hanging up, he beamed a wide smile at his uncle. “I gotta go now. Thanks for all your help, Uncle Kipper.” Kyler threw his arms around the older man’s neck and squeezed. “Love ya,” he whispered and ran out.

He made it home in record time, hopped up the porch steps and noisily entered the kitchen. He heard his partners’ voices coming from another room and after taking a deep breath to steel himself for the upcoming conversation, he calmly walked into the living room.

The two Tops stopped talking when they heard the kitchen door open. Patrick gave Hugh a rather mischievous wink; then turned to greet their youngest partner with arms open. “Come here, you!”

Patrick engulfed Kyler in a tight hug, planting a noisy kiss on his head and removing all awkwardness in their reunion. “Now what’s this I hear about you running off in the middle of a discussion, again?” Patrick asked in a mock-stern tone, purposely putting emphasis on the last word and watching Kyler grimace.

Kyler melted into Patrick’s hug and sighed out his contentment, not at all fooled by the man’s tone.

“Go and apologize to Hugh!” Patrick ordered, giving Kyler a gentle shove in Hugh’s direction.

Kyler obediently made his way over to his oldest partner and Hugh swung a beefy arm around Kyler’s neck and pulled him close. Kyler had to blink back tears caused by the intense pleasure he felt at being held so tightly.

“I’m sorry for running out the way I did, Hugh. I want you to know I wasn’t actually mad at you; I was mostly mad at myself,” Kyler murmured once he had himself enough under control to speak coherently.

A surge of protectiveness swelled up in Hugh, making his throat constrict for a moment. After a while, he managed to ask, “So, what did your Uncle Kipper have to say to you?” Hugh held Kyler at arms’ length to better see his face.

In response to Hugh’s inquiry, Kyler nodded and suggested, “Let’s sit down and I’ll tell you what Uncle Kipper and I talked about. Best be prepared, it’s gonna take some time.” His grin widened, deepening his dimples as he pulled over the hassock and sat down to face his two partners who were sitting side-by-side on the large sofa.

“Ah, I think it will make more sense if I go back a bit in time…..at least it worked for me when Uncle Kipper did it.” Kyler took a deep breath, turned serious and slowly began his narrative. “You know that my Dad died in a mining accident back east when I was twelve years old and about my Mom moving us out here to live. My whole world turned upside down; losing my Dad, having to leave all my friends…..it wasn’t good for either Mom or me. I spent a lot of time by myself that summer, either in my room or wandering around the countryside.”

Shrugging his shoulders in an attempt to hide his embarrassment, Kyler smiled shyly at the two men in front of him. “Uncle Kipper called it running or hiding; although he never interfered or said much the first few months after we got out here. Once school started, I made a few friends but for some reason I still felt something was missing. Then one weekend, a couple of the guys and I climbed aboard a freight train. It was moving slowly up the mountain and we dared each other to jump on.”

He shook his head and unconsciously played with the frayed hem of his shorts. “Man, they had a search party combing the area for miles. Two days later, the RCMP brought the three of us home and that was the first time Uncle Kipper spanked me. We had a long talk afterward and he told me what we could expect from each other. Two things really stood out for me; one was how sore my butt was and the other was how good the rest of me felt. It was as if my world had finally been set back on its’ axis.”

Kyler checked to see that he still had his partners’ undivided attention. “Uncle Kipper kept the boundaries firmly in place for the next several years. But a couple of years ago, those boundaries began to get a bit fuzzy and when I moved in with you guys, they disappeared altogether. And hey, I was okay with that ….or at least I thought I was. After all, I’m not a kid anymore. I should be able to govern myself without help from anyone, right?”

Not waiting for a response, Kyler just hung his head as he murmured his confession. “Except I can’t….furthermore, I don’t even want to….at least not all the time.” He glanced up; his brow creased with concern, and quietly asked, “Does any of this make sense to you?” This time he waited for an answer.

Hugh and Patrick listened to Kyler quietly, letting him talk without interruption. They could see how much he was struggling to get the words out and neither wanted to break his train of thought or get in the way. Kyler obviously needed to get things off his chest.

When he finally fell silent, Hugh asked gently, “Kyler, what exactly are you telling us?”

“Don’t be afraid to tell us, Ky. Anything ... as long as it’s from your heart,” Patrick encouraged.

Kyler leaned forward, elbows on his knees and chin resting in the palm of his hands. ‘Man, this is the hard part…..how to ask for help without sounding needy or incompetent,’ he thought with a sigh as he looked back and forth between his two partners. ‘Maybe I’ll just put it the way Uncle Kipper did…it sounded pretty straightforward when he said it.’

“Okay, it’s like this. I can do all I have to do; like school, work and the team, etc. But it is much harder doing it on my own and I mess up more often. I really do a lot better when I have to answer to someone or if I have someone helping me decide what to do next and how best to go about it.” He held his breath and plunged ahead. “I-I really need the kind of relationship you were talking about earlier, Hugh. Can we talk more about it? I promise not to run this time.” He exhaled loudly, relieved to have it all out and up for discussion.

“Ah ...” Hugh said, watching Kyler closely. “So, you are saying you want a taste of discipline in our relationship.” It was a matter-of-fact statement. “Okay, I know you talked it over with your Uncle Kipper and right now it sounds pretty good to you; it’s exactly what you want and you are eager to give it a try. Tell you what; I think you should think it over one more time. Take twenty-four hours. Sleep on it, and tomorrow, if you still feel the same, then we talk.”

Patrick smiled at Kyler, his eyes with a definite twinkle. “Good idea. I think we are all tired and you are probably more wired than you know. A cool-off period, clear head, fresh outlook ... and no pressure. And no more bolting either! Do we have your word?”

“Well, I have to admit I’m not exactly thrilled with the discipline aspect but I know it goes with the structure I’m looking for.” Kyler commented as he got up and pushed the hassock back in its’ proper place. “Even though I’d rather do it now, I guess we can wait until tomorrow to decide on this one way or another. But it’s only ten o’clock, Hugh, much too early for me to go to bed. After all, I’m not as old and decrepit as you guys,” he teased as he moved to leave the room. “And I promise not to bolt, Patrick; at least not again tonight,” he laughed as he ran down the hall to the kitchen.

There was, of course, only one way to handle that: they gave chase. Kyler was cornered just before he reached the kitchen. Hugh grabbed his arms while Patrick caught his legs and between them, they boisterously carried Kyler up the stairs into their bedroom. They held the struggling Kyler as best they could and looked at one another from the end of their bed.

“Ready?” Patrick asked, with a wide grin on his face.

Hugh smirked and nodded. “Oh,yeah. One! Two! Three!”

Kyler was thrown up in the air and landed in the middle of the soft bed, followed immediately by his two partners who dove in on either side of him.

Kyler bounced twice. He tried to scramble out of the way but his hysterical laughing hindered his ability to do so. “Okay, okay, I give up!” he hollered when Hugh and Patrick landed simultaneously on the bed, causing him to bounce again.

Settling down, he look keenly at each of his partners in turn and suggestively dared, “Now that you have me at your mercy, I hope you both plan to take advantage of the situation.”

Without a word, Patrick leaned down and began to kiss Kyler while Hugh started undressing their young partner. Within a few minutes, they were all naked, hot and breathing hard. They had been more creative in bed ever since Kyler moved in and sex had become increasingly satisfying for the three men. They were learning fast what made Kyler moan and beg and they used that knowledge shamelessly.

Half an hour later, sweat covering their finely toned bodies, they collapsed in bed. Both Hugh and Patrick once again on either side of Kyler. When they had caught their breaths and the sweat had cooled off their skins, Hugh sat up and gave Kyler a gentle pat on the butt. “Honey, sit up. Hey – you know what? I think the sex has cleared all our heads - so if you two are still up to it, I think it’s time we had that talk. Patrick?”

Patrick rolled his eyes but shrugged good-naturedly. “Sure, your call Hugh.”

“Huh?” Kyler, still relishing the afterglow of some mind-blowing sex, gazed adoringly at the older man. “Talk? Now?” He took a deep breath and compliantly agreed. “All right, it’s probably as good a time as ever.” He sat up and turned to face the other two men who had moved to sit with their backs against the headboard. “Ah, where were we?”

Hugh had been mulling over it and didn’t think there was any point to be served in waiting till the next morning. It would only play on all their minds the whole night. Much better to have the whole thing worked out as soon as possible, Hugh thought. And Kyler seemed calm and compliant, which was exactly where Hugh wanted him to be. He stroked Kyler’s arm soothingly as he spoke. “You said you would do better if you have someone to answer to and that you need someone helping you decide on stuff. Well, that is exactly what Patrick and I have in mind too.”

Patrick nodded in agreement. “We have kind of been thinking that is what we need; for all of us. But this decision is best made when the Brat whole-heartedly wants this lifestyle. Right, Hugh?”

Hugh grabbed Patrick’s hand and kissed it. “Yes, absolutely. I have to admit, I do like this kind of relationship. I have missed it somewhat and while I don’t have to have it,” he gave Patrick’s hand a gentle squeeze, “I am looking forward to assuming the role of Top to a nice, lovable Brat - like you, Kyler.”

Kyler flopped down on his stomach and supported his upper body on his elbows. “So, then you’re both willing to give this a try.” He glanced with love and admiration from one partner to the other and his smile widened at the warmth he experienced with the thought of being these men’s Brat. At the same time, he clearly understood it would not always be smooth sailing. “I know it’s not going to be easy…in fact, at times I bet it is gonna be darn hard, but all three of us have a responsibility to make it work, correct?”

Getting firm nods of consensus, he seriously commented. “And if it’s a DP we’re talking about here, it means I have some negotiating rights. At least, that’s what Uncle Kipper told me. You’d be surprised at some of the things that man knows; he’s really a wealth of information.” Exhaling a deep breath, he inquired, “So what are some issues you feel we should concentrate on first?” He held up his hand and laughed. “Besides bolting, that is.”

“My rules are simple and straight forward,” Hugh said. “Honesty, respect, and obedience when I decide on a matter.” He glanced at Patrick. “Anything to add, Patrick?”

“Well,” Patrick pursed his lips. “I don’t have any right now, but I do reserve the right to add to the list as and when issues crop up which need addressing. None of us are perfect and I am sure we want to be able to discuss this openly as we proceed. Is that okay with you both?”

“So far it all sounds okay to me,” Kyler responded first. “And now I want to put in my two cents’ worth on the other side of things. I need to know what the consequences are going to be if a time comes that you feel I’ve done something inappropriate. I don’t want you hitting me with anything. My Dad and Uncle Kipper only used their hands; although, my Mom
used a slipper now and again, but that was before we moved out here.”

Hugh frowned a little at Kyler’s words. “We won’t ‘hit’ you. That’s not what this is. It’s not some kind of abusive relationship where one partner is allowed to ‘hit’ another.”

“Yeah, that sounds awful, Ky,” Patrick said, his brows already creasing. “I believe the word is spank, kiddo.”

“Yes,” Hugh agreed firmly. “Patrick is absolutely right. In fact, that would be a last resort for me. I would rather we sit down and have a face to face discussion together if I find anything inappropriate in your behaviour and believe me, that can often be as effective as any other form of physical punishment.”

“You haven’t really seen Hugh in full lecture mode, have you Ky?” A small smile curled Patrick’s sexy lips. “Well, you don’t really want to put him in that mood, honey. Trust me! Have you seen The Hulk?”

Hugh grinned. “I’m sure Patrick is trying to scare you, but I am not that scary. But just so you understand, Kyler, sometimes a spanking may be called for on top of the lecture. And when that happens, it would usually mean you have done something which we find totally unacceptable; like direct disobedience or defiance.”

Patrick put out a hand to touch Kyler, as if afraid he might jump off the bed if he didn’t hold him down. “Hugh and I discussed it earlier and we are agreed that while we might swat you with our hands, a full spanking will always be with a hairbrush or a paddle. You are an athlete and a pretty strong one, Ky, so spanking you with our bare hands is not really going to be much of a deterrent.”

“Right, spank it is then. I’m okay with the word change,” Kyler complacently went along with his partners’ terminology. He smirked at Patrick’s description of their older partner. While he could easily imagine an angry Hugh transforming into something Kyler would prefer never to witness, he had a hard time picturing him as The Hulk. “I hope you don’t turn green, Hugh, although I sure don’t mind you busting out of your clothes,” he teased with a wide grin lighting up his face.

On a more sombre note, he decided a rebuttal was called for. “I am not as big or any way as strong as either of you, Patrick. My playing on a couple of home town teams doesn’t actually qualify me as an athlete…..Hugh is a lot more athletic than I am and a lot more powerful than Uncle Kipper. But I can see your point and even go along with it in situations where I’ve done something damaging to my health or dangerous to myself or someone else. Maybe we should just stick to lectures, lines and loss of privileges.” Kyler appreciated being able to express his own views. He found himself enjoying the give and take involved in setting up the parameters of their changing life-style.

As a sudden afterthought, he added, “By the way, I definitely draw the line at the use of belts, switches or anything that closely resembles them.” Leaning closer to Patrick, he mischievously joked in a low voice. “See, so far I’ve kept my promise……I haven’t bolted yet.”

Patrick pulled Kyler to him so that the younger man was leaning on him with his back to Patrick’s chest. “No, you haven’t and I am proud of you and.... I am going to make sure you don’t!" Patrick suddenly tightened his arms around his young partner and kissed his neck, nibbling until Kyler gurgled with laughter. “Ever!”

Hugh watched the two of them twisting in one another’s arms, an indulgent smile on his face. He enjoyed their easy horsing around and teasing. Kyler was a sweet young man and he brought out something in Patrick that he himself could not. In fact, over the months Kyler had filled a void which neither of them had even been aware of previously. He brought out the protectiveness in their souls.

“Hey, Kyler,” Hugh said as Patrick released him. “I have been thinking over what you said, and first of all I want to say that we will never use anything more than the hairbrush or paddle. No belts, no switches, no canes; okay? Patrick, you agree?”

Patrick nodded. “Yes, of course!”

“Good,” Hugh continued. “Now, as for the hairbrush or paddle, I need you to have faith in me and Patrick that we will use that only when absolutely called for. The examples you gave are good - endangering yourself or others will definitely earn you a paddling, I see no two ways about that. Direct and blatant defiance too; otherwise, a lecture, grounding or some quiet corner time will be enough.”

Kyler smiled over his shoulder at Patrick and then at Hugh. He dearly loved and completely trusted both of them. But …

He sighed out his frustration at not getting a clear enough response and tenaciously dug in his heels. “Why do I feel like we are going around in circles here, guys? There are bound to be instances when something I do will warrant more than a lecture in your minds but not be bad enough to earn me a paddling in my mind…….so I need clarification on what happens then. Otherwise, I’m gonna outright refuse to let you paddle me at all. I’ve agreed to a paddling for endangerment only, nothing else.”

He pushed himself up off the bed and located his boxers that were hidden among the clothing scattered around the floor. Pulling them up over slender hips, Kyler light heartedly commented. “I think we’ve reached an impasse, gentlemen. Maybe it’s best if we forget the whole thing and go on the way we have been.” He smiled and shrugged his shoulders in an effort to appear nonchalant. His ruse failed when his smile didn’t reach his eyes and he was unable to entirely hide the disappointment in his voice.

He headed out of the room, stopped just short of the door and turned to face the two naked men on the bed. “Don’t worry; I’m not bolting. I’m just going downstairs.”

He carefully made his way through the darkened rooms and into the kitchen, where he grabbed a beer from the fridge and continued out to the back veranda. The oppressive heat of the day had dissipated and a light breeze was blowing. Kyler relaxed back in one of the lounges and wiped the condensation from the cold can across his brow before gulping down half his drink.

‘Shit, this didn’t work out at all the way I was hoping,’ he despondently contemplated as he toyed with the can in his hand. ‘Too bad, cause it appears that as much as we all seem to think it’s a great idea, a DP just might not be in the cards for us.’

“What was that about?” Hugh asked with his eyebrows raised. He looked over at Patrick in obvious surprise.

Patrick chewed his lip for a moment and said in almost a snap. “You spooked him!”

“How the hell did I do that?” Hugh demanded indignantly. “I already assured him, and it was Kyler himself who set the lines on what was acceptable!”

“Well, you didn’t do a very good job of it then,” Patrick shot back, scrambling off the bed and pulling on his boxers. “He is just nervous. If I was in his position and this is the first time I am going into DP, I would be nervous too. Listen; let me go talk to him.”

Hugh had also got off the bed and he held out a hand to stop Patrick. “Hold on, Patrick. Answer me this first. If you were in his place, would you trust me to do what is right, to know where to draw the line and to know how much you can take? Would you?”

Patrick thought for a moment with his brows slightly creased. Then the lines cleared and he flashed a smile at Hugh, saying softly, “Yes, I would. I would trust you totally to know me and to do what is right.”

Hugh nodded, returning the smile as he let out a breath. "Thanks, honey.” He leaned over and kissed Patrick on the forehead. “I needed to hear that. I love you. Now go talk to Kyler.”

Kyler finished off his beer and automatically threw the empty can towards the container housing recyclables. He was too caught up in his thoughts to feel his usual satisfaction in hitting the target. He pulled up his legs and rested his head on his knees while his mind continued to go into overdrive.

He was startled out of his reverie by a light touch on his shoulder and his hopes momentarily soared when he saw the patient smile on Patrick’s face.

“I just needed some space to think, Patrick.” Kyler jumped up before his partner had a chance to speak. “I’m still willing to give it a try but I really need to know that not every spanking will be with the paddle or hairbrush. That’s all I’m asking.” He chewed nervously at his lip.

“Oh babe, where on earth did you get that idea? Huh?” Patrick sat down and pulled Kyler down next to him. He ran a hand down Kyler’s back, over and over again.

Kyler lifted his head and stared at Patrick as if the man had grown a second head. “Ah, maybe it was when you told me that you and Hugh had discussed it earlier and agreed that a spanking would always involve a hairbrush or a paddle. Remember? You said it was because I was an athlete.” Kyler laid back, folded his arms and huffed. “Yeah, right, as if that should make a difference.”

Patrick tousled Kyler’s hair and then gave him a smart tap on the head. “You are choosing to hear what you want to hear, Ky! Think back to what Hugh said. I seem to recall him saying he had thought it over - what you said, that is - and that he is willing to go with your suggestion that we will use the paddle only if it’s called for.”

Patrick turned Kyler around to peer into his face. “Hey, babe,” he said softly. “You are really scared of the paddle, aren’t you? Oh babe...” he rocked Kyler a bit and then said firmly, “Kyler, I may not have Hugh’s experience in this kind of relationship, but I do know it’s not about fear. In fact, it would be the Top’s job to keep you safe. So if you really dislike the thought of the paddle, I won’t use it. Ever; no matter the circumstances.”

“I get it now, Patrick. Thanks for spelling things out for me, but you need not make me that kind of promise.” Kyler gazed lovingly into the other man’s eyes. “It’s not that I’m afraid exactly…….I mean, let’s face it; I’m certainly not jumping for joy over the prospects of being spanked to begin with.”

He smirked and then paused briefly to consider his next words, swallowing when he realized that as difficult as it was to agree to the use of an implement, his partners needed to be aware of his willingness to submit to them. “I know what works for me and I understand where the use of the paddle would differentiate between the varying degrees of misbehaviour.”

Sitting up straight and turning to face his partner, Kyler wrapped his arms around Patrick’s neck and kissed him. “I trust you, and I trust Hugh too. I know for this lifestyle to work, it is necessary for the two of you to have the final say. I was just looking for reassurance before the ultimate decision was made. It’s a big step, you know.”

“I know; it is a big step. Of course you need to be sure. It’s all right to ask, babe. Neither of us is upset with you for wanting to be sure. I certainly am not and I know Hugh is more bewildered than upset. But you need to go talk to him, you know?”

Kyler readily nodded his head. “Yeah, I want to do that. Hmm, is it okay if I talk to him alone?” he softly asked.

Patrick stood up and held out a hand. “Come, babe. You go talk to Hugh and I will go make us something to snack on. I don’t know about you, but I am suddenly starving. All this drama ...” His lips curled into a smile.

Together they walked into the house and stopped at the foot of the staircase. Patrick gave Kyler a hug and then patted his butt lightly to send him up the stairs while he disappeared into the kitchen.

Kyler made his way quietly up to the master bedroom. He stood for several moments taking in the sight of the big man stretched out on the bed, his well-honed body displayed in all its’ glory. Kyler was mischievously tempted to remove his boxers, but knew it would only forestall the critically needed conversation. Although he loved both his partners equally, every now and again his feelings towards Hugh would border on hero-worship and this was definitely one of those times.

Tip-toeing across the room, Kyler crawled onto the bed and boldly insinuated himself between Hugh and the book he was reading. With glistening blue eyes gazing solemnly into dark brown ones, Kyler reached up and brushed the thick brown hair off Hugh’s forehead and tentatively requested, “Can we talk, Hugh?”

Hugh raised one eyebrow when Kyler crept up and he peered over Kyler’s head, pretending to continue reading as Kyler squeezed up against him. He kept his face perfectly straight, seemingly engrossed. But after a while, it was impossible to keep up the stern pretence and his lips twitched and widened into a slow smile.

He didn’t say anything, just looked keenly into the intense blue eyes before him. Finally, Hugh lowered the book, took Kyler’s hand and kissed it, palm up. He then patted the space next to him, opening his arms in invitation. “Come here!” he ordered softly.

A happy grin spread across Kyler’s face; he didn’t have to be told twice. Nestled against Hugh’s side with strong arms holding him close, Kyler looked up. “Patrick’s making us a midnight snack. He says he’s hungry but I know he is actually giving us some alone-time to talk.”

Kyler sighed deeply and absent-mindedly rubbed his hand through the mat of hair on Hugh’s chest, while he gathered his thoughts. “I’m sorry, Hugh. I should have had more faith in you, but I kinda got hung up on one issue when I heard you two guys had already talked things over and I wondered if my input might be coming too late. But there was quite a bit of give and take in our discussion, wasn’t there? And now that Patrick has pointed out things I missed, I want you to know how much I trust both of you to do whatever has to be done to help me.”

Shifting position in order to lie on top of his partner and look him in the eye, Kyler sweetly smiled. “You remember what you said earlier about looking forward to assuming the role of Top to a nice, lovable Brat? Well, I’d really like to be that Brat….yours and Patrick’s Brat. I don’t think I’d ever find two better Tops.” Kyler’s voice rang with heartfelt conviction.

The smile lingered on Hugh’s lips as his fingers gently ran through Kyler’s locks. He loved the way the bright eyes looked up at him. He could feel his own heart squeeze with love; a different kind of emotion he felt with Patrick, but Hugh was convinced it was love all the same.

“You are my Brat, love,” Hugh said, very tenderly but also very firmly. He paused as he looked for the right words. “Kyler, I want you to remember this. I may have lived this lifestyle in the past and I have had two Brats before you, but I have never been in a three-person relationship before. Certainly not the way we are now. Besides considering your well-being and your needs, I also have Patrick to think about.
So yes, we had talked before. We had to because neither of us was entirely sure if this would work, how this should be done or what was the best way of going about it. It does not mean we talked about this behind your back to put you at a disadvantage. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Seeing the trusting nod from Kyler, Hugh continued. “When I talked about trust, it wasn’t just about how I would handle you. I need you to believe that if and when I am in doubt - and I am sure there will be such times - I will seek to understand first before taking any action. I wouldn’t just use past experience or unrelated knowledge to make a decision. Every relationship is different. Every past is unique. I would talk about it with you or with Patrick first if I was not entirely sure of myself. Do you see where I am coming from? That is not just trust, but faith as well that I am asking from you.”

“I do understand. I trust you, Hugh, to be the best you can be. However, I don’t expect you to be perfect, anymore than you expect me to be.” This time, Kyler felt confident enough to adamantly express his thoughts. Knowing his place in the scheme of things empowered him. “And the trust has to be equally given and received by all of us. After all, we all have a responsibility in making this lifestyle work for us. Isn’t that right, Patrick?” Kyler rolled off Hugh and turned to include the man walking into the room carrying a tray of food.

Patrick put the tray down and joined his two lovers on the bed. He looked from one to the other. “I’d say you two had a good discussion?”

“Yes,” Hugh said with a smile. “I think we did. There’s still some ground to cover and other details to go over, but I would say we are pretty good; at least on the right track. Wouldn’t you say so, Kyler?”

“Huh-huh, I believe so,” Kyler agreed with a wide smile and an enthusiastic nod. Spying his favourite snack, he reached over and snatched up a peanut butter and jam sandwich. He took a big bite out of the middle of it before turning back to Hugh. “What other details?” he mumbled around a mouthful of food.

“For a start,” Hugh said severely, “manners, young man! Stop stuffing your mouth and don’t talk with it full!”

“Especially when it’s peanut butter,” Patrick commented, watching Kyler struggle. He shook his head. “Now Ky, leave the rest of it. Here, drink this.” Patrick loved fussing over their young partner.

Hugh waited till Patrick had managed to wrestle the half-eaten sandwich away from Kyler before he spoke. “Let’s get back to the subject of discipline, okay? More specifically, how we approach it. The rules Patrick and I want to set up are very basic. Nothing we have not done before so there is no need to look so worried. Like study time and telling us in advance if you are going out and what time to expect you home. Stuff like that.”

Patrick rubbed Kyler’s thigh. “And of course your hours at the mine, but we covered that already, right? If we feel you are doing too much and tell you to stop, then you need to obey.”

“Which brings us to what will happen if you forget the rules or choose not to obey,” Hugh said, and his voice held enough firmness to keep Kyler totally focused. “I am going to suggest,” he paused and looked over at Patrick, “that while I will decide with Patrick on what is or is not acceptable, any spanking that is earned will be carried out by Patrick only; for now.”

Patrick was startled but he managed to keep his face neutral. He watched Kyler, trying to read the expression on his face.

Kyler accepted the drink from Patrick and slowly drank the milk while listening closely to Hugh’s words. He was both surprised and confused by the last statement. Emotionally withdrawing from the older man, Kyler emptied the glass and placed it back on the tray. “Whatever you say, Hugh,” he quietly murmured, keeping his head down so as not to look at either of his partners.

He got up off the bed, took a clean t-shirt out of his dresser drawer and headed for their en suite. “I’m going to get ready for bed now,” he softly informed them, still not making eye contact with either of the other men.

Kyler stared at the reflection in the mirror and saw the pain in the blue eyes returning his gaze. Whether the feeling of rejection was real or imagined didn’t matter, because it still hurt. “Hugh is an experienced Top who has had two previous Brats,” he reminded himself. A small doubting voice spoke up. “Guess he’s remembered the work involved and has decided he doesn’t want to go through it again. Maybe I’m not worth the effort.” A second voice in Kyler’s head argued back. “But he said I was his Brat now.”

The exhaustion Kyler experienced earlier returned with a vengeance and swept over him. Quickly washing up and brushing his teeth, he slipped on his t-shirt and left the bathroom.

The minute Kyler left the room, Patrick turned to Hugh. “Did you see his face?” he demanded in a harsh whisper. “He is devastated!”

Hugh sighed and got out of bed. Patrick was clearly distressed and rightfully so. “Patrick ...”

“Don’t you ‘Patrick’ me,” Patrick spat at him, as angry as he ever will be at Hugh. “He is shocked and frankly, so am I! What the fuck were you thinking, Hugh?”

Hugh’s eyebrows rose at that seldom used word in their home but he controlled himself. “That is quite enough, I know you are angry. Look, I love Kyler as much as you do and it’s certainly not my intention to hurt him. But I cannot be comfortable with our arrangement until I am convinced he has absolute faith in me. He says he does but I don’t know if he even understands what he is signing himself up for.”

Patrick was still glaring but not quite so fiercely. “Well, are you going to talk to him? Explain?”

“Of course,” Hugh said irritably and just managed to stop himself from landing a swat on Patrick’s behind. “And I want to do it alone, if you don't mind. I’m sorry, but can you leave us again?”

Patrick nodded readily enough. “Of course!” he scoffed; then he leaned over to kiss Hugh on the cheek before he quietly went out of the room.

Kyler walked into the bedroom. He stopped short and looked around, surprised to see only Hugh standing next to the window.

“Where’s Patrick?” he asked, somewhat nervously. Feeling he had somehow failed the older man, Kyler was unsure of wanting to be alone with Hugh. Glancing up at the taller man through thick eyelashes, Kyler noticed the thoughtful expression and grew even more agitated. He steadily inched himself closer to the bed. “I-I’m tired and just want to go to bed now.”

Hugh easily closed the distance between them and catching hold of Kyler’s hand, he pulled him firmly into his arms. He held him tightly, aware of the tense and straining muscles and his heart suffered a pang at the thought that Kyler was afraid of him or was trying to avoid him.

“Hey, come here, baby. Its okay, I’ve got you. I love you, okay? I do, just you remember that!” Hugh said in between kisses which he laid on Kyler’s head.” Kyler, darling, look at me and let me see those gorgeous eyes of yours.”

Hugh tilted Kyler’s chin up with a firm finger and looked sombrely down into those big melting eyes. He leaned down and kissed him gently. “Why such sad eyes, Kyler? Did you think I didn’t want you for my Brat, hmm?”

Kyler leaned tiredly into the loving embrace and let the beating of his lover’s heart soothe him. At Hugh’s insistence, he gazed solemnly into kind brown eyes and moments later found himself wanting when the kiss ended.

“I thought you might have reconsidered and that maybe I had failed in some way to meet your expectations,” he murmured, chewing nervously at his lower lip. “I really need this safety net you and Patrick can provide, Hugh. But I need both of you equally, because something will be missing if you are only a part-time Top.” His eyes pleaded for understanding.

Bravely gathering his courage, Kyler ventured into what he realized was rather personal territory; his need to know taking precedence over his apprehension. “Hm, Hugh? Can I ask what your first two Brats did to make you end the relationship?”

Hugh shook his head. “Kyler, those have nothing to do with what we are discussing here. Those relationships were built on different grounds and ended for different reasons. And I am not about to go into them.” He sounded slightly stern. “I have no intention to be your part-time Top, Kyler. That is not going to happen. You’ve got all of me and nothing’s gonna change that! You belong to me as much as you belong to Patrick. Are we clear on that?”

Seeing Kyler’s nod, Hugh linked his hands behind Kyler’s waist so that they were joined at the stomach and groin. Holding him that way, he had full control over Kyler’s movements. Hugh held him close and said, “You have not failed me in any way. You had every right to raise your doubts and concerns and I am glad you did. This kind of relationship needs a lot of understanding, commitment and trust and the only way to do that is to communicate. And you did, which is good. I am proud of you.”

Hugh paused to let his words settle. “Now sweetheart, I want you to listen to me. I want you as my Brat and I want this DP to work, but I also want to give you some time to adjust. It can get scary, I know that, and it is okay to want to move into it slowly, to want to feel safe. Patrick is a much more patient man than I am, he is able and willing to promise that he will use only his hand to discipline; that is your safety net and that’s fine. I am okay with that. I, on the other hand, am not able to make that promise. I cannot ...” Hugh took a deep breath and released it before continuing. “When I top, I need to be in total control. Those are my expectations and I want you to be totally comfortable with them before moving forward with you. Can you understand that? That in no way means you have failed me. Do you understand, Kyler?”

Hugh leaned down and leaned his head against Kyler’s. “Oh honey, I didn’t mean to hurt you! I would never hurt you and if I somehow did, then I am very sorry. Forgive me?”

“You have nothing to apologize for, Hugh, but thank you for clearing up who belongs to whom.” Kyler turned a feeble smile up to the older man before leaning his head heavily against Hugh’s shoulder. He loved being held like this, loved having someone else in control at times like this. He suddenly had a great deal to get of his chest but as tired and frustrated as he was, wanted to take the time to carefully think it all through as he felt now was the time for making a final decision.

“I feel as if I’ve just run a marathon or been put through a meat grinder,” Kyler murmured. He cleared his throat and tried to speak a little more coherently. “It’s seems as if we’ve been running circles around one particular issue all evening and getting nowhere. I was led to believe that for a DP lifestyle to succeed there needed to be some give and take from all parties. All three of us agree it is a lifestyle we want to pursue. Once I commit to a discipline relationship, Hugh, it will be because I trust you and Patrick completely to take control. I would never have even discussed it at all if I didn’t have the level of trust in you that I do. I fully understand that different degrees of misbehaviour require different degrees of punishment and they will be decisions made by you and Patrick.”

A deep sigh and Kyler continued. “I have asked for only two things in all of this and so far, I have not received clarification on one of them. My request applied equally to both you and Patrick. I did not expect nor do I need a promise such as Patrick has made, although I do appreciate it and the promise not to use a belt or switch.” His arms tightened around Hugh’s waist in an attempt to show his gratitude. “Maybe I have not been expressing myself clearly enough. I will try harder to be as direct as possible.”

Kyler paused to think of the best way to explain. “Although I will try my best to avoid getting into trouble, I’m realistic enough to know the likelihood of my being absolutely able to do so is slim at best. Hugh, you said endangering myself or others will definitely earn me a paddling and I go along with that. But then you also said that direct and blatant defiance would also earn me a paddling. This is where I have a problem. I can see it earning me a spanking, but not a paddling; same with sassing back or throwing a tantrum….possible spanking offences but not paddling. I reckon Patrick will be okay with this; I just wonder if you will be. I am not giving an ultimatum here, Hugh; it is a petition that I hope can be granted equally by both you and Patrick. That both of you will hand-spank unless a paddling is called for.” Kyler search Hugh’s handsome face for a reaction. “Can you see yourself able to do this?” he softly inquired.

Keeping one hand around Kyler still, Hugh used the other to brush the hair off Kyler’s forehead. He gazed for a long time into Kyler’s eyes and was part saddened and part amused at the expression on his Brat’s face. Oh yes, he already thought of Kyler as his Brat. Hugh hated that he had been the cause for Kyler’s frustrations and confusion. Kyler was so earnest and determined and eager to please at the same time that it made him charmingly endearing.

“You are right, Kyler,” Hugh finally said. “Let’s put a stop to all this chasing one another in circles. You need to hear me say this and I will. I had planned on using either the hairbrush to spank or the paddle for more serious discipline issues. But after taking into consideration your inputs and feelings, I changed my mind. I thought I had already told you that earlier.” Hugh paused. “Maybe I didn’t say it clearly enough either, honey, which perhaps is why you were still nervous. That is the only reason why I suggested that only Patrick would spank if there was a need. I wanted you to feel safe and comfortable, and for you to have time to get used to DP. But I see now that is not going to work either. You need both of us to be in this together. I am sorry I didn’t see it earlier. But I do understand and I think in this instance you are absolutely right. So, I will use those two implements only when I feel that is absolutely necessary.” His voice gentled. “Okay?”

Hugh studied Kyler’s face carefully. He had not really said anything different but he knew they could not move forward until Kyler had heard those words of assurance he so plainly needed to hear. And he was willing to provide them. It didn’t matter that Hugh had no intention to ever physically punish Kyler beyond what he could bear. It bore no weight at this point that Hugh would in fact not spank unless Kyler had really overstepped the line and even then it would never be without restraint and strict caution on his part. Hugh had wanted Kyler to believe blindly, but on hindsight realized that was unlikely to happen. He might have had previous experiences with other Brats in the past, Brats with different temperaments and psychological make-ups, Brats who were less cautious or more reckless. But this was Kyler who was special in his own way and Hugh loved him enough to understand him and accept his fears and appreciate his tenacity.

Linking his arms around Kyler one more time, he gathered his young lover closer and asked softly, “Are we okay now, my love?”

Kyler nodded enthusiastically and wrapped his arms around Hugh’s neck. “Thank you,” he whispered before lovingly kissing Hugh’s lips. He yawned hard enough to cause his eyes to water and then self-consciously grinned up at his Top, his love and adoration for the older man shining from his deep blue eyes.

Wearily resting his head against Hugh’s chest, he quietly murmured. “So it’s a go, Hugh? Do you think we can tell Patrick before I fall asleep?”

“I’m right here,” Patrick said, coming back into the room. He came over and flung his arms over both of them, all three heads pressed closely together. He looked at Hugh over Kyler’s head. “Thanks,” he mouthed with a crooked smile.

Hugh winked back. “This has been one hell of a long night!” Hugh said as he slowly disengaged himself. “Bed, guys. I think I am going to give my Brat a cuddle while you shower, Patrick. Come, Kyler.” He held out his hand and waited for Kyler to take it.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Kyler grabbed Hugh’s extended hand and relinquished himself into his Top’s care. The last thing Kyler remember before falling asleep was lying down next to Hugh on the bed and being enveloped by strong, loving arms.

The End

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