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New Fic: "I Broke Them All For You" - John/Sherlock - R [Apr. 9th, 2011|02:27 am]
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Title: I Broke Them All For You
Pairing: John/Sherlock
Rating: R
Notes: Written for red_chapel in return for her generous donation to the Red Cross as part of the efforts at . She asked me to unbreak her heart and handed me a Brandi Carlile song to bolster the prompt. This piece is intended as an epilogue to the diptych (thank you, sc010f, for drawing that description out of me, and for reccing these difficult stories) consisting of I Meet You There, and We Go / The Half-Open Window. These are the pieces that broke red_chapel's heart in the first place, so I'm offering as much of an antidote as I can manage.
Summary: John wonders if the stories they tell each other after dark are memories.


All of the lines across my face

Some days, Sherlock reflects, I have no recollection of aging.

If he were being honest with himself, which he knows he very rarely is, he'd admit that it's actually most days. And it's not that he's old, not really, not in the strictest sense of the term. It seems like only yesterday that his reflection in the bathroom mirror had been smooth and unperturbed. He frowns and touches the fine lines traversing his forehead, squinting to count them. That's when John wanders in.

"They'll turn into wrinkles if you're not careful," he teases, setting one warm hand on each of Sherlock's hips. It's distracting and perfect. He still smells of sex and sleep.

"How old am I?" Sherlock asks. "I seem to have lost track."

It's John's turn to frown at his reflection over Sherlock's shoulder.

"Christ, I don't know. Thirty-two by now? Does it matter?"

Sherlock shrugs. "You're thirty-six, insofar as I'm aware."

"God, no, I'm—" John's frown deepens. "That's strange."

"Isn't it," Sherlock says, his eyes narrowing, tapping the edge of the sink.

"Don't feel bad about it," John replies, lightening the mood. "I've got loads of them."

"What? Pieces of information you can't remember, for no good reason at all?"

"No," John says, pressing his mouth to Sherlock's neck. "Years starting to show."

While Sherlock picks at Mozart's K. 376, John spends the afternoon working on an article. He never gets any responses from the medical journals, which irritates him to no end, but he's content to keep trying. Sherlock lowers his bow and massacres a difficult sequence, determined just to force it out. John winces and shuts his computer, taking instead to rubbing his temples. Sherlock puts down the violin.

"Would you rather take a walk?" He'd meant to be curt, but his voice is fond.

John smiles up at Sherlock from his chair. "I'd like that."

It's early spring, and already the hives are humming. John hangs back while Sherlock checks on frame after frame, pleased to see that nectar from the hellebores, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and hyacinths in the garden are being put to use.

Neither one of them knows how the flowers got there.


These stories don't mean anything

John wonders if the stories they tell each other after dark are memories.

"And you're sure you didn't just dream it?" he asks. "Turning up on some poor woman's doorstep with evidence that'd kill her husband for sure?"

"I don't know," Sherlock says, his face half buried in the pillow. "It's quite vivid."

"That sounds like a nightmare to me. How did it end?"

"Mrs. Hudson was relieved. Not the kind of reaction one would expect."

The name sets off a flutter of panic in John's gut.

"Mr. Hudson must've been quite a piece of work," he says carefully.

"Must've been," Sherlock agrees. "I don't remember what he was in for."

"Was it a long time ago, Sherlock?"

"That I dreamed it, or—?"

"That it happened," John clarifies tentatively.

Sherlock makes an annoyed sound, and then rolls onto his side so that his back's to John, tugging John's arm over himself like a blanket. "Not so long ago," he sighs. "Maybe even recently. Isn't it enough that I can remember her name?"

"The trouble is, so can I."

"That doesn't mean anything. Wait, what was the question?"

"What's real and what isn't," John says.

Sherlock turns to him, tucked under John's arm, and gives him a piercing look.

"What else do you remember?"

"About what?"

"Life before this unbelievably sickening bliss. Sickening is fine, by the way."

John kisses Sherlock's eyelids. "I remember the first time I saw your face."


Traveled across the ocean blue

What Sherlock loves most about living here is the nearness of the sea. And John, of course, but John is constant where the sea is changeable. It brings storms and gifts.

"Why don't we ever swim?" John asks, wriggling his toes in the wet sand.

"Because the water's freezing," Sherlock says. "You're welcome to it."

"Some other day," replies John. "We've got all the time in the world."

It's chilly, but not enough to make Sherlock shiver the way he's shivering now.

"Have we?" he asked, bending to investigate an object rolling in the surf.

"Why not?" John's tone is gentle, teasing. "Is there evidence to the contrary?"

Not exactly, Sherlock thinks. There's no evidence at all. He picks up the object and brushes it clean. A vertebra, not human, stained and worn by the waves. His index finger fits through the center. He tosses it with all his strength, watches it vanish.

"You could've saved it," John says, taking his hand. "Run some tests."

Sherlock shakes his head. Shells are one thing, but bones are another. He remembers charred shards beneath his magnifier, blank stares and cracked fingernails, bloodied flesh and tangled hair. More dreams, perhaps. Nightmares, as John had called them.

"No need," he said. "It was from a horse. Death by natural causes, no foul play."

John chuckles, as if he finds this amusing, but falls suddenly quiet.

"I remember water," he says. "Play of light and shadows. Do you?"

Sherlock nods, contemplating the waves' white crests, the rosy glow of sunset.


Crossed all the lines, broke all the rules

There comes an evening when John remembers something else.

The dream—or is it a memory?—unfolds with startling precision. Sherlock's pale, ash-covered face is as vivid as the hot slip of blood beneath his fingertips. Labored breath in both of them; pain beyond bearing. He closes his eyes, sets down his book, and breathes in desperate, shaking lungfuls of air. He can still breathe. Why?

Sherlock, perched over at the table, looks up from his microscope.

"Are you all right?"

John waits until his heart rate has slowed before responding.

"Losing you would be...the worst thing imaginable. I don't think I have words."

Sherlock fixes him with a concerned look. "John, I'm not going anywhere."

"It's not a question of you going. It's a question of you being taken."

Sherlock stares past him and out the window, towards the orchard and the hives.

"I'd bring you with me," he says. "Or you'd come. Just like always."

John took a slow breath, scarcely daring to trust his sense of relief.

"Sherlock, do you dream—"

"Yes," Sherlock said. "But I don't dwell on it. We're here."

The greatest mystery of all, thinks John, and he's content not to ask questions.


Hiding the words that don't come out

Sherlock exists for these moments most of all: press of skin against cooling skin, John's breath ghosting evenly past his ear. One of Sherlock's ankles is tangled in the sheet, and the other is still hitched up to the small of John's back, drifting downward by the second, slicked with sweat. John sighs and slips free of him, collapsing.

"How is it," John marvels, "that I haven't done my back permanent damage?"

"Where you're concerned, I'm remarkably ergonomic," replies Sherlock, yawning. They're a mess, the bed's a mess, everything's a mess, and he doesn't care.

"Everything fits a bit too well sometimes," John murmurs.

"It fits a bit too well all the time," Sherlock says. "Not that I'm complaining."

"Does it bore you?" asks John, softly.

Sherlock snorted, pinching John's side.

"I won't dignify that with an answer. It's beneath you."

"That much is true," says John, laughing.

"That wasn't quite a pun, so I'll overlook it."

They lie in silence for a while, forehead to forehead, John's mouth pressed to the corner of Sherlock's. Neither one of them will say what they both know.

To acknowledge it would mean surrender.


They don't know what I've been through

The scar on John's shoulder is proof of past trauma that he's not meant to forget. Sherlock runs his fingers over it in endless circles, never asking when or how. He must already know. Their dreams, if not the same, tend to overlap.

"Another thing you haven't got," John says, running his fingers up Sherlock's arm.

"What do you mean?" Sherlock asks, lowering his mouth to John's shoulder.

"Proper scars. There's hardly a mark on you."

Sherlock shifts against him. "I had my appendix out."

"Surgeries don't count."

"Then you have only one proper scar. That's not an overwhelming lead."

"Next thing I know, you'll be claiming bee stings count."

"Maybe if I scratch my next one enough—"

John swats his backside. "Sherlock, no."

"It won't do any harm," Sherlock insists. "And then we'd be even."

"I like you as infuriatingly perfect as you are, thanks."

John kisses Sherlock soundly, and he hums into it, pleased. As they draw apart, John traces one high cheekbone with his thumb and wonders if the wrinkles will ever show, if devotion and belief are enough to bind them exactly as they are.

"Like me?" asks Sherlock, his brow furrowed dubiously.

"Love you," John corrects, smoothing Sherlock's hair.

Another strand of the knot in his chest unwinds.


Where I've been, how I got to where I am

"Why the middle of nowhere?" John asks, edging nearer to the hives than he ever has before. "Why a house with a back garden and fruit trees? Why beekeeping?"

Because it's where I can keep you, Sherlock thinks. Keep you safe.

"Doesn't everyone dream of something like this? A fine and private place?"

John's lips set in a firm line as Sherlock sets aside another frame for harvesting.

"We're not most people, Sherlock. You're not most people."

"I never got the chance," Sherlock snaps. "We never got—"

"Would you have taken it, then, if you'd found it?"

They stare at each other, the space between them filled with lazy buzzing.

"You quoted Marvell," says John, wonderingly.

"You asked for it," Sherlock tells him, not quite smiling.

"So you saw your chance, and you took it?"

Sherlock resumes smoking the hive, pulling up the next frame. They'll have honey for a month or two, and John will try his best to pick out the scents and flavors of the orchard and their garden. He'll be wrong, of course, and Sherlock will correct him.

"Better late than never," he says, and means every word.


And it's true that I was made for you

The sea isn't as cold as Sherlock had been fearing, not now that it's late summer and there's hardly any rain in sight. Still, Sherlock clings to John as if he's convinced the waves might carry him away. John doesn't mind, though. It'd be mad if he did.

"I didn't imagine the sea," Sherlock admits. "I'd never thought beyond the orchard."

"Surprising," John says, tangling his legs with Sherlock's. "You seem to enjoy it."

"I never did as a child. One too many close calls."

"Little wonder, that your first case was an apparent drowning."

They drift in silence for a while, pitched up to the precipice, yet content.

"You don't find it lonely, do you?" Sherlock asks.

John shakes his head, plucking a strand of seaweed out of Sherlock's hair.

"I came to you out of nowhere," he says. "None of the pieces fit, really fit, until now."

Sherlock tightens his arms around John's shoulders, his eyes anxious.

"I preferred it when everything fit a bit too well."

"Still does," John replies, "but the difference now is that I understand why."

Sherlock gives him a questioning, frightened look. It's achingly familiar.

"Then tell me," he sighs, "and hope we don't fall apart at the seams."

"Isn't it obvious?" John says. "I was made for you, and you made this place for us."

"It defies all logic," Sherlock mutters. "Flies in the face of everything—"

"Let it rest, Sherlock. I will if you will. For the rest of our days."

Sherlock widens his eyes, smiles bright enough to outshine the sun.

"Gladly."

John no longer wonders if they're in a story or a memory, a dream or eternity.

What matters, he thinks, is that it's true.




- Epilogue: I Dream a Highway (Back to You) -

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[User Picture]From: kim47
2011-04-09 01:46 am (UTC)

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While the first two pieces completely broke my heart, this one makes it ache in such a delightful way. It slots in perfectly with the other two, and I absolutely love the sense of isolation that I can feel through the whole thing. The tenderness, the slow-building realisation, the way they fit together, all of it really, is wonderful

"Then tell me," he sighs, "and hope we don't fall apart at the seams."

"Isn't it obvious?" John says. "I was made for you, and you made this place for us."


*wibbles*
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 07:54 am (UTC)

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If you haven't listened to the Brandi Carlile song that I link in the header, I definitely suggest doing so - some of the lyrics, I used as the section headers, and they really have so much to do with influencing the dialogue as well! It's about the only way I ever do song-fic, and it's curious to think that this trilogy is, between Tori Amos's "Garlands" and now Brandi Carlile's "The Story," definitely some species of song-fic.

Thank you so much for reading :)
[User Picture]From: misslucyjane
2011-04-09 01:47 am (UTC)

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Oh my. That's bittersweet in the best possible way.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 07:55 am (UTC)

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Thank you, dear. Glad to reciprocate after all of the wonderful fic we've had from you lately *hugs*
[User Picture]From: lbmisscharlie
2011-04-09 01:47 am (UTC)

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Wow. This is somehow sweet and comfortable and chilling and haunting at the same time. I don't even know how you accomplished that but it is amazing! Love <3
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 07:58 am (UTC)

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Even though I usually decide for myself exactly what's going on in a piece, I'm a fan of slight ambiguity in case there are some readers who prefer their own alternate interpretation. Thank you very much for reading!
[User Picture]From: katie_belikov
2011-04-09 01:54 am (UTC)

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Slightly unable to form words right now.

That, was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. So, I don't know how to describe it. Lyrical and colourful, but so, so sad. In a weirdly good way. Haunting and beautiful.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 07:59 am (UTC)

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*hugs*

Thank you for reading. I'm glad to hear you find complexity here, especially given the piece is rather short and spare :)
[User Picture]From: kellen_lee
2011-04-09 02:00 am (UTC)

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It's fitting, how content Sherlock is, since he was so restless in life. And that's a clue to him, yet I'm sure it's difficult to face. Just as he's afraid to poke too firmly at the illusion, if that's what he thought this was, lest it all fall apart.

I love the atmosphere he created for them, the one they were meant to have in life before it was cut short. It feels very peaceful and well-earned.

I loved that he said it isn't logical. But sometimes things aren't logical, and the two of them weren't logical in life, not in their relationship with each other, and they aren't in death either, but they do fit together so very well, and it's BEAUTIFUL!

Lovely work. <3
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:01 am (UTC)

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Thank you very much! I'm so looking forward to your completion of "Starved for Your Touch," by the way. I keep checking the thread and your journal, and I read a few of your other fills just to pass the time. I hope LJ notified you of the babbling I did on your floating post :)
[User Picture]From: snarryfool
2011-04-09 02:03 am (UTC)

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I had to read this squinting, as it were, because of Those Other Two Stories. The sense of unease under the bliss ... ow. But lovely.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:02 am (UTC)

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(Those Other Two Stories. Now they merit caps, so infamous have they become!)

I mostly want people to focus on the bliss, though. They decide the feeling of unease is unwarranted and just get on with being happy :) Thank you so much *hugs*
[User Picture]From: jerel
2011-04-09 02:10 am (UTC)

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Yeah, this one is going to stay with me a long time. Very vivid images, the voices are so perfect, and it's just hauntingly beautiful.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:03 am (UTC)

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Relieved that this one seems to be working, let me tell you - it was risky to revisit this 'verse!

Thank you so much for reading :)
[User Picture]From: meredydd
2011-04-09 02:14 am (UTC)

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It *hurts* but in a good way. All of the series does, but where the other two made me absolutely cry, this one made me smile and made my eyes prickle and made me think that yes, those two would end up like that.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:07 am (UTC)

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I'm glad it only brought on eye-prickling, then! *hugs* Thank you so much for reading.
[User Picture]From: mazarin221b
2011-04-09 02:21 am (UTC)

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Oh Goddammit, I cried again. How you do this. God, how you do it.

[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:08 am (UTC)

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By pushing myself to places I'd probably do well not to visit so frequently?

*hugs*

Thank you for reading, my dear. I'd offer tissues if virtual ones weren't so useless.
[User Picture]From: shehasathree
2011-04-09 02:25 am (UTC)

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*whimpers*
<3
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:08 am (UTC)

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*hugshugshugs*

Thank you ♥
[User Picture]From: lavellington
2011-04-09 02:30 am (UTC)

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...I... *wibble*

Great concept, beautifully written as always. Your prose is gorgeous, and your dialogue is so spot on.

Also: bee ♥

[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:09 am (UTC)

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Bee ♥ indeed.

*hugs*

Thank you very much, my dear.
[User Picture]From: lindentreeisle
2011-04-09 02:35 am (UTC)

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I was scared to read this, because of how beautifully the deathfic tore me apart. But this...it does patch up some of the damage in my chest. :)

I very much like the idea of Sherlock & John existing somewhere eternally, together and content. With bees.

You are brilliant.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:10 am (UTC)

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I feel like I patched up my own damage, but the results with readers seem variable: some are more at ease with the other pieces now, but some are still just as torn up! What this tells me is that I may not be as good at fixing things as I hope I am ;)

Thank you so much for reading ♥
[User Picture]From: zephyr_macabee
2011-04-09 02:39 am (UTC)

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A perfect way to complete the circle. John and Sherlock are safe, together and happy, somewhere and somewhen and that is all that matters.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-11 08:10 am (UTC)

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Thank you very much!
[User Picture]From: annietalbot
2011-04-09 02:41 am (UTC)

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Exquisite, as always.

I don't know what to say. You've completed the set perfectly. I couldn't wish for anything other than what you've given us. Given them.

I was made for you, and you made this place for us.

Thank you for making this place for them.
[User Picture]From: anon_aspasia
2011-04-09 02:59 am (UTC)

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(sniffles, points upwards) I'm going to borrow her words, because I don't have many of my own right now, and she says it really well.

Thanks to the auction winner for the prompt, and thank *you* for writing something this beautiful. The boys deserve it.
[User Picture]From: random_nexus
2011-04-09 02:47 am (UTC)

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This. These. Yes. Heaven. I've got actual tears running down my face and I'm smiling. You more than fixed it, you made it worth going through to get here. Feh, even if I'm wrong, they're gorgeous. Simply gorgeous little treasures with hidden facets and unexpected textures.

One more time: Gorgeous.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:25 am (UTC)

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*hugs*

Hopefully I won't be revisiting territory like this any time soon. At least I can rest assured now that I've taken care of whatever unfinished business there might have been.

Thank you ♥
[User Picture]From: r34dinglight
2011-04-09 02:58 am (UTC)

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had Cinderbella333 read this first for me; as the earlier pieces, while both so amazing and brilliant, had about damn near crushed me. ongoing loss is a strange thing, hits in places where you dont see it coming but at times is something that needs to be faced/felt. that pain is cathartic.but its intense. and it can last. for awhile.

so she said that this piece was beautiful and full of hope and that it felt like it could be healing, both in terms of resolution of those visions from the earlier works as well for life.now.

and it was beautiful, and so hopeful.which is healing. so very healing.

still I need a bit of a walk or something
it was lovely but rough
in a good way.

and sorry for blathering on on your lj. just wanted you to know your work is so moving. and helpful.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:28 am (UTC)

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I can hardly fault you for having somebody screen this for you before wading in; if death-fic doesn't agree with you, then knowing what you're walking into is always preferable *hugs*

It's meant to be healing. When it was finished, I realized it had the potential to do a bit more damage yet, but I hoped that the ending would make up for whatever uneasiness I had to cover in the first handful of scenes. I wouldn't say you've blathered here; I appreciate hearing about your approach and thought processes!

Take care of yourself *hugs* And thank you.
[User Picture]From: venturous1
2011-04-09 03:08 am (UTC)

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how appropriate to use a painters term to describe this suite. I know I will have to go to the canvas with this one. may take a while, but it will happen.
amazing. I didnt think it possible to unbreak what you'd so beautifully broken.but you did.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:30 am (UTC)

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Honestly, after what eastern_passage was able to do with the first two pieces, I'd love the chance to see what another artist would do with this ♥ If you want to play with it, by all means: you have my full permission.

Thank you so much for reading (again)!
[User Picture]From: madrona_8
2011-04-09 03:19 am (UTC)

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The other two, they made me sad and reflective. This one just makes me cry, but not in a sad way. Together forever in the heaven of their own making. **sniff**
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:33 am (UTC)

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I don't know if I actually believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, I'd like to think it's what we make it! Thank you so much for reading ♥
[User Picture]From: girlingoldboots
2011-04-09 03:22 am (UTC)

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Very nice. It's peaceful.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:34 am (UTC)

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Definitely my aim, after how decidedly disquieting certain parts of the first two are! Thank you ♥
[User Picture]From: lawless523
2011-04-09 03:45 am (UTC)

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I loved this. This was beautiful and uplifting and a wonderful conclusion. I particularly liked that Sherlock accepted (finally!) that not everything is logical and that's okay.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:35 am (UTC)

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I do think he'd have the capacity to finally hit that point, and if not in death, then I don't know when! Thank you very much for reading :)
[User Picture]From: nessa_atalanta
2011-04-09 04:08 am (UTC)

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How do you do it,Iris,I'll never now.But these fics are perfect pieces of art.Someone above said they are a triptych,and yes,now these three stories will be always together inside my heart.I'm crying,but it's a good cry.It's stunningly beautiful.
Somehow that makes me believe in the multiverse.*sighs*
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:36 am (UTC)

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Given the S1 cliffhanger, there are so many infinite directions in which events can be taken. I've hardly taken the most cheerful route in deciding to explore a scenario where both of them die, but I'm glad in the end that I did it. Thank you so much ♥
[User Picture]From: quirkies
2011-04-09 04:29 am (UTC)

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This is beautiful and wistful. It feels like a perilous safe haven and that's impossible but you've created it. &hearts
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:41 am (UTC)

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Perilous safe heaven - what an excellent phrase; that's exactly what it is, now that I think about it! Perilous only when they question it, and once they choose to accept it for what it is, it is, indeed, safe. Thank you so much! ♥
[User Picture]From: lucybun
2011-04-09 05:09 am (UTC)

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Everyone else will say this more eloquently, but this was beautiful and heart wrenching. It reminds me of the LOTR when they sail off to the Undying Lands. Wonderful.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:44 am (UTC)

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It reminds me of the LOTR when they sail off to the Undying Lands.

I can't help but be influenced by that a little, as I have background in writing LOTR, Frodo/Sam in particular (this is probably coming as a surprise to no one). There's also precedent in another of my fandoms (Good Omens) for retirement to a calm place down south by the sea, so I think it's a paradigm with which I'm very comfortable by now.

Thank you, my dear.
[User Picture]From: xjill
2011-04-09 05:43 am (UTC)

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This made me cry. It's so beautiful but really made me think about what heaven/the afterlife is a bit too much. Thanks for it, though, very lovely.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 12:46 am (UTC)

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I don't know if I believe in an afterlife (I consider myself a pretty firm agnostic), but I keep saying that if there is one, I'd like to think it's whatever we most want it to be. There's a Japanese film called After Life (1999) that you absolutely must see if you're ever in the right frame of mind to contemplate afterlife philosophy further!

Thank you very much.
[User Picture]From: ourdramaqueen
2011-04-09 05:51 am (UTC)

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I... don't quite know what to say. I am crying again - this is achingly beautiful. *sniff*
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-04-12 01:53 am (UTC)

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*hugs*

I hope the tears passed quickly! Thank you :)
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