Fixed the ending. Realized I was being lame and knew I was perfectly capable of ending it not stupidly. I'm very sorry for those of you who read the first ending.
I haven't been on in a while, this is true.
I have no excuse.
But I tell you now, I hope you'll read more of my work...
... Because I assure you, I'll be back.
Scenes From Last Episode:
Maybe it was time to give up. He was fighting a losing battle against a girl who refused to see sense.
Quitters never win, but those who persist don't always win either.
Sasuke didn't know what to do, forget or keep going. Go against her wishes even though in her heart she wants it? Go against his wishes and destroy everything he had worked for over the last year? Logically, he shouldn't give up, but emotionally he felt drained.
Maybe he would try and see if she would come to him on her own.
Sadly, she only had a week longer to do that before he left Konoha and went to attend Akatsuki University, which was located quite the ways away. It took a long plane ride to get there.
Time's running out Nata-chan…
Time didn't run out.
Sasuke's hands were bound as Hinata straddled him. He wanted to touch her back, but she wasn't letting him. Then she went the whole nine yards and blindfolded him, shutting out all sight. He knew it was her… somehow.
"This… this isn't fair." He growled, very aware of her leaning towards his left ear. Her warm, moist breath was tickling and he could feel a blush come from pure enjoyment.
"It's not meant to be."
Her voice was husky and it drove him nearly to the edge of his sanity. He cried out a tiny bit as she licked his ear lobe, reveling in the peculiar feeling of the tip of her nose in his ear.
Sasuke jumped involuntarily, his forehead hitting the cold glass of the taxi window that he had been dozing on.
So, actually time ran out.
It was just a dream. Just the best dream he had had in… in ever.
Coming back to reality in a snap, he vaguely heard someone laughing at his disorientation and turned his head sharply to the right to see Shikamaru chuckling, holding one of his earphones out of his ear.
"You alright?" Shikamaru asked, a smirk breaking out over his tired face.
"I'm fine." Sasuke got over his embarrassment by taking out his own Ipod. Shikamaru shook his head lightly before closing his eyes again and popping in the other earphone. Sheesh, even in the cramped backseat of a taxi he could laze around.
Even though Sasuke's heart rate started to slow, he was still panting. He tried to make it seem that he wasn't on edge, but was failing epically. That had felt more real than sex ever had. And they hadn't even technically had intercourse. It was simply raw, unbelievable foreplay.
He remembered his exact situation with a jolt. He was leaving for college today.
Sasuke and Shikamaru were on a taxi to the airport together early. Early meaning 6 in the morning. Though Sasuke always woke up well and fine whenever he had to get up early, this morning sucked balls. It would have been a lot better if he hadn't just had quite the dream with Nata-chan.
She didn't come to me… He thought sadly, cruel realization finally dawning. But he really couldn't have done much more, short of kidnapping, to try to salvage at least something of their pairing.
Maybe I should have kissed her… He thought vaguely before mentally berating himself for thinking it. The past failed to matter now. He was as good as gone.
But, if he would have kissed her, she couldn't have thought about it and her first reaction would have been to kiss back and then they would have just been unstoppable. He honestly had that much confidence in his kissing skills, and hers as well. If she was any where as good as she had been in the dream… he couldn't even fathom it.
Sadly, it mattered little now. Sasuke and Shikamaru, though they could never be called besties, held a mutual respect for the other with regards to their intelligence. They were more alike than anyone else in their group, besides maybe Neji. The three of them (including Neji) were all smart, talented, and when they spoke it was something that everyone should listen to. That's mainly why they had planned to carpool to the airport.
Because of the likenesses, Sasuke and Shikamaru were both glad that there wasn't some chatterbox riding with them. It was early, they had minor hangovers, and they were leaving their old lives behind… talking wasn't exactly on the to-do list.
When they got to Akatsuki University (known hereafter as just Akatsuki), they would split up and probably not see each other too often. Even after fulfilling their credits for the history, math, etc. Shikamaru would be taking classes in analyzing, psychology and a little sociology and Sasuke would go for literature, creative writing, and maybe a class in journalism.
It was nice to have a friend there, although neither of them would admit it.
Sakura and Ino had thrown a party last night. Three guesses as to who didn't show and the last two don't count.
It was fun, as they all got smashed again. There were a lot of tears as Sasuke and Shikamaru were leaving the next day to Akatsuki, Sakura the day after to a med school and Naruto, Chouji and Ino to various places in the country three days after. Bad news bears…
It was sad, but they managed to have one more night of fun between them, the illustrious Konoha Twelve, minus Hinata, Neji, Tenten and Shino (three of whom were already off to college). So it was more like the Konoha Eight.
You know what they say… two's a party, three's a crowd, eight is a drunken explosion of good friends saying goodbye. Try to comprehend twelve… oh my.
Hinata was being a cowardly, weak wimp. That was the truth of the matter. She was being stubborn too, which added a nice layer of annoying on top of it all. But they loved her, so it didn't matter. They all just wanted to spend time with her.
Hinata was the perfect combination of Early Bird and Night Owl. She could go to sleep at three in the morning, and yet wake at six with absolutely no trouble at all (unless she was under the influence of either alcohol or sugar).
The aforementioned example was her exact situation this morning. She had been up until three, unable to sleep because of her anxious thoughts, and had woken subconsciously at around six without the drive to fall back asleep.
At this moment, 5:47 to be exact, she sat at the dining room counter, staring straight into her cereal bowl that housed the remaining half of her Alphabet-Os.
She was distraught. Sasuke was leaving off to whatever college. She had never asked which one.
"Come on…" Hinata whispered urgently, trying to channel some inner energy into her cereal. "Please give me a sign…"
The remaining letters swirled around slowly. She got "SUTRDOIS" and "KNCGOFO" in clumps, simple alphabetical nonsense. Though if she thought about it analytically she could get both "go for it" or "don't go for it" from those words. Some sign that was, but since when had Alphabet-Os been prophetical?
Also written in her cereal was "fuck it". So she could do "fuck, go for it" or "fuck, don't go for it".
Suddenly, the "D" became so waterlogged (or in this case, milklogged) that it began to sink into the white depths.
That was her sign.
After moving so fast that she actually went back in time, Hinata was in the garage, leaping over her door while turning on the car with a button on the keys and opening the garage. Her heart was pounding madly as she waited for the damn door to open all the way.
As soon as it opened just enough for her to squeeze through, she went petal to the metal.
T'was quite the nice sound at 6 in the morning.
Sasuke was about to drift off to sleep again when a tap on his shoulder alerted him to his senses. Shikamaru was leaning slightly over the mass of bags with a sly smile on his face.
"So… what happened with you and Hinata?"
The simple question rocked Sasuke to his core. It was as if Shikamaru had just stabbed him through the throat. Not even the heart, the neck, ensuring a slow, painful death by blood-loss.
"It never took off." Sasuke muttered, shrugging. Though normally one to lie and deny all connection with a relationship with a messy end, he found that he really didn't care about what people thought. It was only Shikamaru, and whom would he tell?
"That's a shame. You know she would be coming to Akatsuki too if it weren't for her father being a total ass?"
Sasuke's eyes widened as this new realization hit him. He would keel over dead if he kept getting hit with these world-rocking ironies.
Hinata would have come to the same school he did. They would have been on the same campus for around four years. How could he have never known?
"She never told me that." Sasuke growled, furrowing his brow. He was very tempted to stop the car and go punch Hinata's father right through the teeth. This was way. Too. Unfair!
"I heard it from Neji. Apparently she wasn't going to tell anyone until she got the ok from her dad, but he shut her down. He threatened to take away her inheritance and position as next-head of the company."
Oh shit. Now he understood why she couldn't have just defied her father. He, and everyone else in their group of friends knew that practically Hinata's entire existence had been to appease and prove herself to her father. The fact that he threatened that was just cruel and probably the one thing that could have made her obey him.
"Ass." Sasuke said quietly.
Hinata got to Sasuke's apartment building in record time, having run a few stop signs and maybe a red light or two. She almost died of the overwhelming sense of thankfulness when there was a perfect parking spot. After hurtling through the revolving doors, she ran as fast as she could to the elevator.
"If you're looking for Sasuke, he and a friend of his got on an airport taxi not ten minutes ago…"
The sudden sound make Hinata jump, and she turned around quickly to see the host at the desk looking at her oddly. "W-what do you mean?"
"They had a bunch of bags with them. My guess is that they're off to college."
As soon as he said that, she was at the spinning doors again, muttering a hasty "Thank you!"
Jumping over the car door instead of opening it again, Hinata wasted no time in firing up and speeding in the direction of the airport. She was more terrified than she had been in a very long time.
"No… no, no, no…" She kept muttering over and over again, pressing her foot on the petal even harder as she got on the highway.
Then a cruel catastrophe happened. As she was barreling down a 55 mph zone at 70 mph, she heard the unmistakable sound that signaled her doom.
The siren of a cop car.
Outrun or pull over? If she pulled over she might lose Sasuke, but if she tried to outrun the police she could get caught and sent to jail. Shit!
Logic won as she slowed down drastically and pulled off to the side, all the while checking the clock on the dashboard every other second. Damn it! Why can't he go faster?
The officer had just reached her and opened his door. Hinata felt her heart grow heavy with every step he took. She had never, ever gotten a ticket… and what a way to get your first one!
She had her head bowed down in shame as he finally reached her.
"Do you realize you were going 15 miles above the speed limit, miss?"
"Uh… well… I suppose I was, yes." Looking up out of her panicked eyes, she saw someone she never thought she'd see ever again.
Simon. Simon McCreepster.
Terrible surprise shocked all thoughts of Sasuke retrieval out of her noggin for a moment as she froze. Then he trickled back in and she started to panic again, obviously not having the time for this. She had to go.
There was one option that she thought—no, knew would work. She didn't have the time to be chatted up again.
And thus Hyuga Hinata chose to do something she thought she would never do.
"Oh my god!" She said, adopting a surprised expression. "I can't believe it's you!"
Simon looked down at her quizzically. He had obviously forgotten about her, which made her a little pissed. "Do I know you?"
"You don't remember?" Hinata asked with a high, almost valley-girl tone. "Oh, I guess our run in was more monumental for me than it was for you… You were the reason I broke up with my boyfriend actually."
One thing was certain; she could weave a sturdy web of lies in a second if she wanted to. Also, note the lack of stutter!
"It was at the beach, and I was a life guard. You don't remember? You told me I had pretty eyes." Hinata said, pouting in an 'I can't believe it' face.
"Uh… Oh! It's you! But didn't your boyfriend come and—"
Hinata's face darkened at the mention of her 'boyfriend'. "I broke up with him because, one, I liked you, and two, he was an overprotective asshole who never let me look at another guy. Let alone talk to one. I got fed up with it after you left and broke it off with him!"
Simon narrowed his eyes, trying to remember if it had happened that way.
It's now or never. Hinata thought gravely. She already knew that she was wearing a small tank top and it was time to use it.
Leaning towards him slightly, she pressed her breasts together with her arms a little, looking into his eyes with an adoring expression. "I'm really grateful to you. I don't know what I would have done if I were to stay in that relationship. I wish there was some way…" She bit her bottom lip "that I could repay you…"
He smirked, crossing his arms in front of his chest in a smug manner. "What do you have in mind?"
He sensed an easy lay.
"You can have anything you want from me. A-ny-thing. Surely there's something you would want…" she shrugged, adopting a look of pure innocence. Yup, she was winning.
"You've got quite a spacious car." He stated, an evil smirk sliding onto his face. "I've also got handcuffs."
Hinata almost puked. But she couldn't, she had to keep up the act. She faked a smirk. "Tonight then. Go to the beach parking lot at midnight and we'll go until dawn."
She almost started laughing at the terrible line. As bad as it was, it worked. Simon's face alighted in a savage glee. "Oh, you know we will… I guess I'm just going to let you off with a warning now, you'll get your punishment tonight…"
With nothing more than a smirk, Hinata drove off, waiting until she was away to gag and die a little bit inside.
But hey, it worked.
There weren't a lot of taxis in Konoha, and the few that were there were airport taxis. Hinata reasoned that the odds were in her favor that if she found a taxi at this hour, it might be holding Sasuke. And so she sped down the highway, now going 20 mph over, trying to make up for lost time.
She was glad the top was down, because the rushing wind gave her adrenaline that made her go faster. When she finally exited the highway, her hair was a windswept mess.
But then she saw it.
Waiting at the red light was one solitary airport taxi. It was in the left turning lane, about to turn onto the road that would lead to the airport.
Logic, though it normally came to her with no problem, was on holiday. Hinata drove quickly up to the side of the taxi, in the lane that went straight only. Uh oh. Her heart was beating in great leaps, slowly, but with huge beats that she felt up in her throat.
Please let him be in there…
The taxi, she could see, held a fair skinned yet dark man who was listening to his Ipod. He had spiky, jet black hair and pretty features…
But he was not Sasuke.
At the look of his hair, Hinata was enlivened in with hope for the first time on this quest, only to have it all shot down. She was tempted to cry, but held it in.
Her tear ducts would be tested again in one more second as the light turned green and Hinata went off straight because of the lane she was in and the taxi turned left, to the airport.
"No, no no!" She muttered frantically, attempting to get into the turn lane but was spurned into going straight by honking behind her.
She cursed under her breath and sped straight, burning an impressive amount of rubber.
Airports were unnecessarily troublesome. That's what Sasuke decided, channeling a little bit of Shikamaru. There was an incredible amount of traffic in the lanes leading to the drop-off points, even this early in the morning. People were honking and yelling and it was hot in the car, so both of them were getting annoyed already.
And they weren't even in the airport yet.
Once out of the car, Shikamaru and Sasuke took all of their bags and wheeled them into the packed entrance. There was a long, snaking line that led into the place where you dropped off your bags, and an equally long line to go through security. Both would take forever.
"We'll get on the flight on time." Shikamaru mumbled, checking his watch. They were both geniuses but the speed at which he had deduced that was frighteningly impressive.
"Better see to it then."
Airports sucked balls. That's what Hinata decided, channeling a little bit of Kiba. Eight dollars for parking? A ten-minute line to pay eight dollars for parking? Nuh uh. La-a-a-ame.
But still, she did it. Anything for love.
After the ridiculous wait and fee, Hinata entered the sliding doors to the airport. She did a quick scan of the atrium she was in and failed to find Sasuke, so she strode quickly and confidently to the security check, going to a corner where a security guard was looking menacing while standing over the personnel entrance.
He was menacing? Well she was so demonically intimidating right now that a witness swore he saw fire erupt from the ground where she stepped. Hell hath no fury like a woman who has only a few minutes to get through airport security and find the man she's in love with at an unknown gate going to an unknown city that housed an unknown college. I'm sure I've heard that saying somewhere… hmm.
"Excuse me, I'm in a hurry." Hinata stated sweetly, implying that she needed to bypass the line. The guard looked at her shiftily, as if asking her to say it again.
"Sorry, miss, you'll just have to wait in line like everybody else," He finally grunted, averting his gaze away from her face.
"I'm really sorry…" She leaned forward to get a look at his name "… Ken, but I really cannot wait in the line. I can't miss seeing someone off."
"You'll just have to." Ken shot, his temper short because of the early morning.
Psh, he thought he was angry?
Why on earth didn't I ask him where he was going to college? She could call someone like Sakura or Kiba! She reached towards where she thought her bag would be, but then felt her stomach drop out when she realized she had left it under the seat of her car.
Now in a mild state of hysteria, Hinata knew that she had to bring out the inner, fiery bitch she knew she possessed.
"Listen well, my daddy owns this fucking airport, so either you let me through this very instant or I will get daddy to fire you and ensure you don't get another job in the next five years, understand?"
The prettiest rose oft yields the sharpest thorns.
Ken looked at her in unmistakable fear for a moment while she just glared at him in a look that would have killed a puppy.
"Ken, do you understand?" she asked, her voice dropping low, venom dripping from ever word.
He jumped as if a shock ran through him. Fumbling with the latch that was the only thing in the way of this demon-girl, Ken tried to let her through without losing any time.
When he finally opened it, she walked through regally and paused once she was through to bow and go back into her polite-mode. "Thank you very much, sir. I'll be sure to tell my daddy all about what you did."
Turning on her heel, she pranced away, breaking out into a run once she rounded the corner.
Wait. Wait wait wait. Where am I going? She stopped in front of a drink vending machine, skidding a little as the shoes she wore had absolutely no grip.
The enormity of the odds of finding him finally got to her, driving her to wrap her arms around herself in a hug. She started to cry in both anger and futility, her eyes watering painfully as she tried to keep the tears in.
I can't do this. I'm in the largest airport in the country trying to find a plane going to some place I don't know.
But why the hell should she give up?
Wait, I can try. Brain before brawn, Hinata.
She gasped after a few minutes of quick brainstorming. An idea that was more likely to fail than to succeed manifested, and she started running in the direction she had been before.
If there was one thing she could count on in this earth, it was that someone would have seen Uchiha Sasuke pass just because he was so god damned attractive.
"The plane to Iwa is now boarding those with tickets labeled C."
Sasuke and Shikamaru looked at their tickets at the same time, noting that they were E.
Wow. It takes like, twenty minutes to get through one letter. This will take so fucking long! I just want to leave!
"So, about Hinata… did you love her?" Shikamaru asked out of sheer curiosity.
Sasuke looked at him with an indifferent gaze that Shikamaru immediately got ticked at. So Sasuke never really cared. Figures.
"Sorry, what did you say?" He asked genuinely, causing Shikamaru to sweat-drop.
"Did you love Hinata?"
There was the reaction he had been searching for. Sasuke seemed to just break, right in front of him. Sasuke held his breath and let it out in one short burst.
"I still do."
And that, ladies and gentlemen (if there are any gentlemen readers) was the single weirdest thing Shikamaru (or any friends of Sasuke) had ever heard come out of Sasuke's mouth.
"Did an unbelievably attractive boy my age walk this way?"
Hinata was talking earnestly to a twenty-something girl working at a magazine stand, the fourth girl she had asked the question to. Each one she asked had led her in the direction she went. Nice plan Nata-chan! (A/N: RHYMING!!! XD!!!!11!!1)
The girl looked up from the Cosmopolitan she was reading to stare at Hinata oddly. They both stood like that for a few terrible moments before the girl's face lit up.
"Oh! Did he have spiky black hair and dark eyes that, like, peered right into your very soul?"
"Yep, that's definitely him." Hinata nodded, smiling in spite of her situation. It seemed everybody always looked at him. She could barely believe he had eyes for only her.
Well, that might not be the case anymore. She had been the royal coward and hid from confrontation up until he left. But she was making up for it now, hopefully.
"He boarded that plane right across from us about, eh, ten minutes ago."
Whipping around without even thanking the girl, Hinata gasped when the gate was empty save for one family looking out the window at the plane that, mercifully, hadn't left yet.
Completely in hysterics now, Hinata ran to the window and pressed her nose to it, squinting at the large plane that was bound to leave any minute. "No… no… no!"
Turning her head to see the destination, she almost collapsed into fits of sobbing.
He was headed for Iwa. The only place in Iwa was Akatsuki University.
The same Akatsuki that her father forbade her from going to.
Lucky Sasuke had gotten the window seat, so Shikamaru had to watch the goings-on outside the plane with a craned neck. The prince of darkness himself (Sasuke) had his eyes closed and was listening to Debussy cranked up to max on his Ipod, not taking advantage of the view.
Shikamaru's eyes looked over the men in bright orange vests loading bags onto the plane, over the cars speeding over the runway, before he eventually took in the windows of the gate they had just gotten out of. There was a family waving ceaselessly at the plane, far away, but not too much so.
Shikamaru's eyes narrowed as he tried to get a better look at them, but his attention was stolen by a sudden movement of a solitary figure to the left of the family. It was a girl with long dark hair.
A familiar girl with long dark hair.
As he stared, she dropped to her knees, with one hand on the window.
"Shit. Sasuke. OI!" Shikamaru's eyes didn't leave the girl. He tapped Sasuke on the forehead, who jumped and pulled out the earphones with an angry, "Wha?"
"She still loves you too." The lazy genius said, pointing.
Sasuke was bewildered beyond reckoning. He turned slowly, disbelievingly towards the window. A girl with dark hair drew his gaze. A girl he knew. A girl he loved.
Just as the weight of realization him, he felt the pull towards doom.
The plane had started moving.
So began the worst plane ride in the long and exciting history of plane rides. Crashing would have been better. Well, no, but whatever.
Time went in a blur of the depression Sasuke was so good at. His sun had been stolen. He arrived in Iwa, taxied over to the campus, moved his things into his dorm, and dropped face down in a heap on his bed.
He failed to notice that Iwa was a fantastic city with bizarre rock formations coming out of the ground randomly, and was surrounded by mountains. The sun shone, but it wasn't terribly hot like Konoha. It was a truly fantastic place. But he didn't notice.
The campus looked like it came straight out of the Harry Potter books, with old, castle-looking buildings, hidden slightly into a mountain. Magic or no, Sasuke still didn't notice.
His dorm was large, spacious, and with a nice view and even a small balcony. And yet still, he took no note.
The only thing he noticed was the clean smell of the sheets on his bed, which his face was pressed into.
He stayed there, in that position until nightfall. He never slept. Sasuke was more stuck in a state of meditative stupor.
For eight hours straight he was in the meditative stupor. For the four hours after all his thoughts lead to one place only:
I have to get over her. I have to move on.
It was around 12:15pm when he heard the first pebble on the window. Followed by a second, then third. The barrage stopped for a few seconds where he lifted his head and stared out the dark window before the window was hit by an angry shower of stones.
Confused and groggy, he pushed himself off the bed and pushed open the sliding door slowly. The sound of crickets and wind met him for the first time. It was nice, refreshing rather.
Regaining his composure, he approached the edge of the balcony and looked down to see…
No one. It was dark anyway. He made to turn around, but then a voice spoke from the void of shadow.
"But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?"
His hands gripped the edge of the balcony tightly. No.
"It is the East, and… Sasuke is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief that thou, her… man, art far more fair than she. Be not her man since she is envious. Her vestal livery is but sick and green, and none but fools do wear it. Cast it off. It is my… lord, oh it is my love! O, that he knew he were! He speaks, yet he says nothing. What of that?"
No. It can't be.
And yet he still went through with the line to match, albeit not the next in sequence technically.
"My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words of thy tongue's uttering, yet I know the sound. Art thou not supposed to be in Konoha, studying business?"
"Neither, fair lord, if either thee dislike."
Sasuke couldn't see her, though that voice could not have belonged to anyone else.
"Why are you here?" He asked, cutting to the chase. She must have jumped through a waterfall of magma to get here.
"Can you let me up?"
Sasuke froze for a minute. He had completely forgotten about the fact that he was in a secure place.
He nearly tripped over the threshold of the balcony in his haste to get back in. After reaching the front door, he heard a buzz coming from the box next to the frame. Sasuke had never used the box before, but he wasn't stupid. He pressed a white button lightly, and heard her squeak, "thanks!"
Her soft knock on the door made him jump.
Subconsciously he checked his reflection in the mirror, fixed his hair from sleeping… er, meditating on it. He then proceeded to smooth out his wrinkled clothes.
What a boy.
Opening the door, despite knowing exactly who it was, he was still surprised. Hyuga Hinata had come all the way across a whole country.
She made no move to come in, just stood, a sad smile alighting her features. "Tadaima, Suke-kun."
Sasuke smirked. What a thing to say. Technically she was never here, so she couldn't really say, "I'm home." But still, the meaning was beautiful.
It was a simple question that he asked, but only because he was so completely bewildered. Normally he was able to figure out at least a little bit of a situation just by looking at it but... no. Not this time.
"With love's light wings did I o'erperch these walls; for stony limits cannot hold love out. And what love can do, that dares love attempt." She muttered, tilting her head with the almost unachievable kitten-esque cuteness.
He grabbed one of her hands with both of his and pulled her gently inside, shutting the door with a very smooth action of the leg before pulling her into his warm embrace. "Enough Shakespeare."
Only Uchiha Sasuke was capable of such a sharp responce, while keeping his embrace soft.
He felt her smile into his shirt. "It's a long story."
"That I absolutely do not have time for." He muttered, smiling when she giggled.
She never left his arms while she spilled. "I realized I never wanted the inheritance, just father's approval, which I was never going to get. So I told him that, got yelled at, sold my car for a bundle, and got enough money for tuition, took all the money out of my bank and registered for a new account so he couldn't withhold the money. My mother was friends with the dean, so I got his favor and was allowed entry here so late. He even bought me an apartment. I guess that was the shortest long story ever, eh?"
Sasuke didn't speak at all. He just held her.
"Sasuke. Hey, are you asleep?" She asked after a good minute, still not moving from his arms. He smelled nice, as usual.
"No," He muttered into her hair, "Just happy. Okaeri, Nata-chan."