Chapter Twelve: Future
"Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it."
-by Rainer Maria Rilke
Twentieth Century: Tokyo
They talked. Serena talked until her throat felt dry, and then they made tea and held warm cups and shared more memories.
They shared stories of the past they both remembered. About spooked horses and Princess Serenity's fear of them, and the time they had raced across the lawn of the palace, quite foolishly, because they could have been seen by anyone. Serena remembered the time he had started to grow a beard, and she had refused to kiss him until he shaved it off. They recalled the few times that everyone had been together; when they had gleefully, mercilessly teased their guardians as they blushed and stammered and fell in love with one another.
She was both grateful and distressed that Darien and the Scouts did not remember the generals, and that they hadn't known when they had fought their corrupted counterparts, Beryl's puppets. She pitied the men, and was troubled by their fate, and was immensely unsettled by the imbalance of her and Endymion finding one another without their friends being able to do the same.
Are they happy, in the future? She was worried then. They had all had dreams, aspirations, and goals that were not particularly suited to the future they had witnessed. They had wanted nothing more than to be normal. They accepted their destiny time and time again, but Serena wanted more for them than just acceptance of their fate. She wanted them to find true happiness. She didn't think it could be fair that they would always own a future they had not chose for themselves. They deserved to have their every dream come true, they had sacrificed and fought and hurt as much as she had.
Very happy, I assure you. As happy as I am, as happy as you will be. They would accept nothing less.
She felt the truth, and his knowing smile made her curious about what her sisters had in their future.
Endymion felt her curiosity, and her growing questions about what her friends had in store for them. He shook his head slowly at her, "I can say no more. Everything that lays ahead for them is such a happy surprise, and I cannot speak about the future with you, as much as I wish to."
Serena pouted exaggeratedly at him, and he returned the look with an overstated roll of the eyes. She giggled in response, hitting him lightly in the arm, "Oh, I've seen that look before!"
"I bet you have!" He copied her pout, rubbing his abused arm, and she copied his eye roll. Endymion let out a roll of laughter, and the sound filled her with delight.
I like to talk about it. About the past. It still feels so new, even though it's been so long.
He agreed, fully. His memory, which had once been so lost to him, was now so easy to navigate. He could vividly recall such little details; his memories were clear, complete, unaffected by time. It was a gift, considering how long he had lived, and how much he had experienced.
Serena could sense the idea, could grasp the context. It was remarkable how fresh her memories of the Silver Millennium were, how clear they now were when they had been so fuzzy and inaccessible before. And yet, there was still a sense of distance, something that made them feel separate and less hers.
That too, was a gift.
"I want you to tell me about your childhood."
Serena went silent, eyes widening as if she had made a mistake, trying to find words of apology. She had always felt such a cold, jagged sort of sadness whenever she considered Darien's lack of childhood memories, such sympathy and a hint of curiosity. She had such a lovely childhood, with such happy memories, and she had always hoped she could give Darien his memories back, like he had thought his princess could do. But his memories had been empty, unrestored, and it made her feel guilty and so very sad.
The idea that she had slipped up, had mentioned her unspeakable failure, filled her with a quiet horror.
"I didn't mean to-"
Endymion smiled reassuringly, pressing a finger to her lips to shush her.
"Which one, Serena?" he asked quietly, "My childhood as Darien, or as Prince Endymion?"
Her questions hit him all at once, the jumble of her mind pushing against his.
She broke into tears, spontaneously; she threw her arms around him, and felt like a weight had been lifted off of her. "I am so, so glad."
And it didn't matter anymore that she had been asking about Prince Endymion's life originally, that she had been asking for fairytales about princes and knights. She had longed for such a very, very long time to give Darien his memories, to hear him tell her about his parents, for him to have a solid recollection of the people he had lost, so that he could feel more complete.
What would you like to know?
She hugged him tighter, grinning into his shirt. She wanted to know everything, to know about every happy memory and every scraped knee and the way his mother sounded when she laughed. She wanted to know what his parents did and what they loved and how they met and if they teased one another. She wanted to know if they ever took him to the zoo, or to a garden, and what colors he liked to use when he did arts and crafts.
But she wanted most of all to see the way Darien felt about each memory, she wanted to see them fresh, not through Endymion's long understanding eyes.
"Was I there, when you remembered?"
"Yes, you were."
She sighed happily, releasing him and reaching up to press a hand against his cheek. She felt the slight amount of stubble on his skin and giggled softly, dropping her hand down to grasp his, "Just tell me a little bit about them. Just…something."
"My mother was quiet, and kind. She taught me how to read." He enjoyed the wide, joyful smile that spread across her lips as he shared the visual image of the recalled memory with her, "She liked to paint. My father was loud, outgoing, and adventurous. He was always singing, though his voice was terrible."
Serena laughed, Endymion's recollection of the sound filling her ears, and he felt their shared gratefulness for memory, and the parents that had filled the first six years of his life with love.
"They sound lovely. I wish I could have met them."
"I think they would have loved you."
She almost blushed, both pleased and saddened. Endymion placed a kiss to her forehead, and gave her hand a light squeeze.
"Now, about your parents…"
"I don't wanna walk all the way home when it's getting dark, mama! It's scary. Can I just stay at Raye's? Pleeeeease? We're having so much fun!"
Her voice was hushed in the phone, cheerful, and had an innocent, whining lilt to it that made the story convincing.
He could hear the faint murmur of her mother's replies in the receiver, and was hit by a wave of nostalgia. The hush in the apartment as Serena spoke into the phone and how the moment was always filled with such tension and such hope. All the untruths about sleepovers at Raye's and how anticipation beat through his veins as he kept silent for her. And how her voice never wavered through the lies, lies that he knew made her feel the aching sort of guilt only daughters can feel.
He watched her twist the cord of the phone around her finger, a slight smile appearing on her face as she looked over at him and whispered back into the receiver, "Thank you. Goodnight mama, I love you."
She hung up slowly and returned to him, expectantly.
"Can we watch the sunset now?"
The sky was dominated by oranges and yellows, but Serena was quick to point out the sliver of bright pink lining an illuminated cloud. She traced her finger across the sky, as if she was painting the colors there by her own will.
The moon had hidden from view behind the clouds, and the sun dipped lower.
"How is it already sunset?" she asked quietly, her voice not conveying a hint of sadness, but rather wonder.
"Time always passes quickly. Sometimes it is a blessing, but often it is unwelcome." Endymion looked at her, memorizing the way the oranges of the sky made her hair look auburn and the way the fading light highlighted her face. She had always been so stunning, and he had always been so painfully aware of that fact.
"I don't really know if I want the sun to set. I'm not ready for you to go."
He smiled sadly, "It is not yet sunset. And I will not disappear as the sun fades. I will still be here. Always."
"I know." She smiled, eyes shining, "I'm not sad, I promise. Are you?"
Endymion did not respond for a long moment. He cast his eyes at the dying light, the fading day, and breathed out the words, "I am."
She looked surprised, and her hand went to his even as her consciousness drifted towards hers, as if to soothe the sadness. "Why? Your life is very beautiful, Endy. You're going back to someplace wonderful."
He looked at her then, fully, eyes tracing over her every feature. Noting the differences, the roundness of her face, the length of her eyelashes, the fullness of her lips, and the subtle little differences that hadn't meant anything and now meant everything.
Once sure of the image of her, that his memory had fully committed her to his heart, he forced himself to look away. Solemnly, his fears and questions rose up, and he spoke quietly, and honestly, "This is the last time I will ever see you like this. The last time I will ever see my home as it is now."
He waved his hand out towards the city bellow, which looked so small and so fragile to him, "This is my last day in Tokyo. That is a sad thing. It is a sad thing to relive so much, and then give up the nostalgia. I love my life in Crystal Tokyo. But I loved my life here just as much."
Serena's face fell into a frown, and she felt a wave of sympathy towards him, which made him run his fingers through his hair in defeat. She scooted closer to him, speaking softly, "Are you okay?"
He pulled her close, and she fit beneath his arm as she clutched one hand to the ledge and wrapped the other arm around him. He held her there, content to let her seep the lingering sadness away, and watch the fading sun take away the moment. He was swept up in the end, in the promise of never seeing her quite this way again, of never seeing Serena, the girl, ever again. This was the girl he had fallen in love with, who he had teased mercilessly when he didn't know how else to respond to the way she made him roar to life, who he had stubbornly refused to confront his feelings for, even long after it was obvious.
Serena was a snapshot of how wonderful his life had been; she was the spellbinding beginning of the symphony, the first, lyrical line of the poem. She was everything that was good about the life he had found, she was the singular purpose he revolved around.
She filled the silence with her own thoughts, her fingers softly sweeping across his open palm in lazy patterns as she watched their careful drawings.
"I like the disconnect between us. I like how different we are right now from the people we are use to. I like looking into the future when I look at you, and I like having this to hold onto. I like that this moment will exist separately for us, and that somewhere in time there is always this day, this moment. I like that I lived this day, this moment, long before you did - and that you lived my future day with Darien long before I will. I like seeing how beautifully we still fit together, despite how different it is, and that no matter how tangled our history gets, we always have moments like this."
He said nothing. His throat felt constricted, and he could only nod. He was losing something he could never get back. This had always been the moment they had been building up to. This was what had started it all, what had begun the true start of their lives. This was where they really began. In Tokyo, just the two of them, and Darien and Serenity sitting in a garden talking softly. Serena had so much in front of her, so much happiness would spring forth from this day. A string of firsts, an open heart, and warm kisses.
But this was the beginning of the end for him. Just as she was gaining everything, he was falling into a slow downhill. His daughter, who had been tiny for so long, would begin to age. And Serenity. Serenity would be encased in crystal, and it would drive him to madness – he knew it. He had seen it in the dreams his future self had seeped into Darien, the dreams of loss, of his failure to protect the people who mattered most to him. He could do nothing about the future ahead of him, could only look at her and remember what had been, and feel a sinking sense of despair at what lay ahead.
He could not lose her.
This was the start of a new story for him. And he felt like clutching her tighter, to keep him there, to keep him in the past, to keep him where he was sure of the fullness of love and the life with her ahead of him, instead of returning to an uncertain, and much too certain future.
When he looked to her, eyes conveying how lost he felt, he found she had moved, and stood behind him, tugging his hand and ushering him up from his perch on the edge of the high rise. She pulled him close as he turned to her, holding him tightly to her as she rested her head over his heart and washed assurance over him.
She could see his fears take shape, could feel his melancholy seeping deeper inward.
"You are sad. And scared. And you shouldn't be. Things always, always work out. We always have each other, we are never lost forever. Things are only ever bad for a little while."
They were only words.
"Stop it. You're only remembering the bad. Remember that. And I'm going to promise you right now, when I'm Serenity, in your future, I'm going to make the years ahead of you the very, very best. Every sorrow will be only a small little thing, Endymion. I'm not going to let this be an end for you, or for me, or for anyone. When you get back, we are going to go on a grand adventure. And just think of it this way – everything ahead of you is going to be an unpredictable adventure. For the first time you won't know the end game, you get to shape your destiny. There is no pressure of knowing, you can do anything you want."
To her, everything about the future was bright. She had seen their triumphs, their eventual victory, and Rini's smiles upon her return told her enough about what came after. She was optimistic about their future, he had made her that way, and she would not let him take away from himself what he had just given to her.
But Endymion still felt the creeping dread, the memory of being without her still fresh. It was a wound that never quite healed, the way he had broken himself without her, the way he had been endlessly tormented by images of her demise. The way that seeing the way that he had hurt her felt like death. And that it would be worse now, so much worse, with Small Lady in the midst and with such a long time by Serenity's side.
And he could not even predict what would come after.
It was bleak, and it chilled him in a way he hadn't felt in hundreds of years. Her promises spoke of the future he had already lived, and told nothing of the days to come.
"What is there left to do, my love? I have seen every corner of this Earth with you, I have met great scientists and artists, I have seen cities rise. I have met a million people. I have married you, I have become a king, I have helped raise my beautiful, tiny little princess. There is nothing left to do, nothing new to discover."
Serena pushed away, crossing her arms, a fierce determination lighting fire behind her eyes. She shook her head, vehemently speaking out, "I am not going to let that happen. Have you ever gotten bored with me in all the time we have known one another?"
He shook his head immediately, replying sincerely, "Never."
"Well, you never will. We will seek new adventures. New discoveries. Rini hasn't even grown up yet, you'll get to see her become a queen. You'll get to walk her down the aisle. You'll get to play with grandchildren, all with their own little personalities and hopes and dreams. Probably all with ridiculously colored hair." She grinned at the image, at the idea and how ridiculously possible and far away the whole thing seemed.
She felt his lingering doubts, even among his rising hopefulness.
Serena stood on the tips of her toes to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. She stayed close to him, enjoying the closeness, how she could feel his breath and his soul and his body and the ebb of his thoughts. Her mind conjured her own fantasies, to the ideas that she clung to when he wasn't around, when she needed the imagery to give her strength when he never replied to her calls or letters.
He knew what she would say next before she spoke, his eyes widening perceivably and his hands going to caress the smooth, freckled skin on her cheeks. She began with a coy smile, eyes fluttering downward before meeting his look of wonder full on, "And whose to say Rini will be our only child? Maybe we'll have a whole new bunch of brats with pink hair. Maybe you can look forward to raising a studious, moody little Endymion Junior and another bratty little girl just like me."
He couldn't nod, or say anything in response. This was not something they spoke of, it was something he kept tucked away and that she never said. He had thought it had been taboo, he thought that she never brought it up - even when he felt the thoughts on the edges of her mind - because it was only just impossible dreams.
He realized she kept the idea locked away for this moment, for hope when he needed it most, for strength when it was failing him. His stomach dropped, and his mind rebelled against the images she conjured, because it still felt like unsteady, unsafe territory.
But he grinned anyway.
She could surprise him after all this time.
"The possibilities are endless, don't you see?" she asked softly, matching the tilt of his lips. She laughed quietly at the way his mind spun, and snuck another kiss that just barely grazed his mouth. She grinned and continued, "We will never run out of things to do or see or create. And there are more cities to build, and places to see. The universe is really big – and scary – and I think we could face it together. Or …maybe we could live like normal people. Tuck ourselves away in a cottage by the sea and pretend we don't have super magical powers."
Endymion choked up, stepping back and holding her shoulders, "Just do not ever disappear. Do not fade, do not leave me, do not ever go away."
She wavered, emotion washing over her. The idea was preposterous, but she understood his fervor all too well. He had voiced her own fears, her worries that Endymion would vanish into Darien's cool façade, and take the memories with him. That she would be left with something less than them.
But she knew, deep down, that would never happen. That their days of being apart were over, that the distance between them had been shattered, and that she would never truly be lonely again.
They had forever. And longer, if she could manage it.
"Don't be ridiculous, Endymion. I'll drag you with me everywhere, till the very end. And let me tell you, mister. The end is very, very far in your future. Actually, I don't plan on there ever being an end. We'll live and be reborn a thousand million times if we have to, but we are always in this together."
Endymion cracked a smile, and wiped a tear away from her eyes, "Why are you crying, Sere?"
"Because you are, you big idiot." She laughed through the tears, blinking them away as a droplet slipped down her cheeks, "Now don't you dare be sad. Sit your butt back down and watch the sunset."
He brought his fingers to his own cheeks, feeling the moisture there, and let her wipe away the evidence of his grief away.
They looked, together, back out at the horizon. The sun had slipped entirely from view, the light already dying to dusky, deep blues and rich violets.
"We already missed it." Endymion noted, distractedly.
"Well, there's always tomorrow, isn't there?" she murmured, looking up at him with a sly smile.
They sat in the stairwell of his building and whispered plans, building small houses with their words and fighting about names.
He didn't very much like the name Endien, but she thought it was hilarious, her laughter echoing loudly off the walls at the way his eyebrows drew together at the suggestion.
She tucked her legs up to her chest, resting her head on her knees as she suggested another name innocently, "Dandymion?"
Endymion groaned and stood up, shaking his head vehemently, "That is it, we cannot have any sons. You have a horrible taste in male names."
Serena closed her eyes as she spread out on the floor of Darien's apartment, stretching out her limbs lazily. He lay beside her, amused by the way their positions mimicked his distant memory of falling asleep in Neo Queen Serenity's garden. They were in sync, forever in a loop, forever repeating the past and the future. He couldn't decide if his wife's intention all those years ago had been to mirror this moment, or if was some unintentional rhythm in them.
She rolled over to face him, "Is she very much like me?"
Serena smiled, eyes fluttering shut again.
Her eyes shot open, wide and terrified. She frowned at his sad smile, sitting up quickly and shaking her head, shushing him with a negation, "No. Not yet. No."
Many minutes passed, quietly, and they both knew they were only delaying the inevitable. He finally pulled himself up, helping lift her in the process, both of them moving slowly, languidly, stubbornly refusing time even as they both felt weariness sink into them.
She danced ahead of him towards his bedroom, and stood in front of his door, blocking his way. She wagged a finger at him, "No sleeping. Not yet. Promise me."
"Not yet. I promise."
She nodded once, then, with a flourish, let him pass her. He chuckled lowly, and watched her as she practically paced, the stress held in the tense way she held herself almost palpable.
"Do not worry so much, Sere." He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, and guided her towards him, "On another note, your hair looks absolutely terrible right now."
"Thanks, Endymion." She replied dryly. Eyes shooting towards the mirror over his dresser to confirm or deny the claim. She let out a groan at the look of her hair, buns gone all askew, most likely from laying on the floor and the way she had nervously tugged on her ponytails all day, "Oh God, you're so right."
He tugged on one of her ponytails as her hands went to undo the tangled bun there. He gently swatted her hands away, his fingers deftly removing the pins, transferring them to one hand while the other moved onto the other side. Her hands brushed through her freed hair, combing out the tangles as he moved to place the pins on Darien's dresser.
"All better." He noted softly, running a hand through her golden hair.
She hummed, "Not many people get to see me with my hair down."
"I'm not many people, am I?"
"No, you're not." She blushed, "But still. I'm not used to you seeing me without my 'meatballs', as you so lovingly refer to them."
Endymion brushed her hair back from her face, smiling softly, "I like your hair, I always have."
"Is that why you teased me so mercilessly?"
"Of course, Serenity."
He kissed her.
She kissed him, and the name rang true in her ears. It felt like her, finally.
They, perhaps, got a bit carried away.
She pulled him down onto the bed, pushing him down against the mattress with both hands in the darkness of his room. She smoothed her palms across his chest, fingers sinking into the fabric as she hooked her leg over him to straddle his waist. She traced the lines of his muscles through the fabric, smiling at the way she could feel his muscles jump in response to her touch.
"You're perfect." She stated, just as the words took shape in his own mouth. His fingers slid to the hem of her dress, fingertips grazing the skin there and tracing slightly upward.
The whole thing felt intimate and safe, and there was nothing particularly sexual about it. Serena didn't feel any desire to kiss him anymore right then, only to memorize the moment.
"Maybe I lied. Maybe I don't want you to go. Maybe I'll kidnap King Endymion of Crystal Tokyo, and keep you for myself."
"What about Darien?"
"I'm keeping him, too. It will be so entertaining to see you two fight over me."
He placed his hands on her hips, looking up at her as she smiled wickedly. She played with the top button of his shirt, studying the action. They were quiet together, and he inspected her, letting their emotions brush and then bleed together.
"I've never done this before." She mused, looking into his eyes as her fingers undid the first button, then the next.
She meant the intimacy, but the other, unintentional and unfitting meaning made him want to blush like he was a teenager again. Those thoughts were pushed away.
He saw the silent play of her memories, the recall of the single previous time she had unbuttoned his shirt to tend to a wound. But she was right, Serena had never done this before. This was not pulling away fabric to mend a cut. This was something closer to who they were, to who they wanted to be, to where they want to be.
He felt and she felt and they felt as if they had all the time in the world.
She undid half the buttons, pausing in the middle to trace butterfly soft touches to the warmth of his chest. Her fingers lingered across his collarbone, and she lazily pressed a kiss to his neck as her fingers skimmed down to the next button.
As a small distraction, Endymion recalled that Serenity loved sewing buttons and mending tiny tears in shirts. She always did it so gently, so slowly, so softly. Her fingers caressed the cloth back tenderly, and she moved the thread through the fabric with the same slowness as the flutter of a breeze through the curtains in the small house they had once called their own. And despite her carefulness, the buttons always went on lopsided, with loose threads all about. But she returned his shirts to him that way, with a small smile and not an ounce of shyness, and they both liked her work.
"This one is loose." She noted, seemingly fascinated by how weakly it hung by its threads, wiggling it to test its endurance. She shot her eyes up toward him, then tugged it off in a single movement, out of some sort of spontaneous necessity. She held it up, peaking at it, and in her fingers it looked like a pale moon.
"And why did you do that to poor Darien's shirt, princess?"
"It would have come off anyway." She insisted, amused, "I'm being helpful."
Her golden hair, he noticed, looked pale white in the moonlight. Like Serenity's. It tickled his chest as she leaned over to gentle place the button on his nightstand.
Her thoughts swirled around his, and he interlaced their fingers together and tugged her down to lay on his chest.
What is it?
She closed her eyes, feeling herself sink into him as his arms draw her into a loose embrace.
I wanted so badly to be her. And I was her the whole time. I have never not been her.
He let his eyes close, but couldn't help the tug of a smile on his lips, "Indeed."
She sat up suddenly, looking at him for a long moment. Her grabbed her hand, pressing a kiss to her fingertips. He carefully traced the pink gem of the ring on her finger.
"Kiss me." She murmured, and he did. Softly, carefully, and he could almost taste the goodbye. She pulled away, shyly looking back to his remaining buttons. She tentatively finished the job, then tugged at the hems of his cuffs to get him to remove the garment. He sat up, and she slid off his lap to rest on her knees in front of him.
"You're tired." She noted, sadly, helping him slide the shirt from his arms.
"I do not want to be."
She sighed, and he pressed kisses to her neck, breathing her in.
"We are going to be happy, Endymion." She whispered, sinking her fingers into the inky black of his hair. He shivered at the feeling, hands sliding down her sides.
And she didn't want to sleep in her dress, so she wouldn't.
Serena discarded her dress, her shoes and his, their socks, and carefully unbuckled and slid his belt away. She dropped them over the side of the bed messily, not caring where they landed. She looked at him curiously, at the figure of his body, and she blushed. He was handsome, he had always been too handsome, and she had never seen so much of him. Her own lack of dress felt natural, felt normal, and she always thought it would be uncomfortable for him to see her in just her underclothes. But it was Endymion. And it was fine, and it wasn't weird or uncomfortable and she knew he didn't expect things from her that she couldn't give.
Plus, if she was being honest with herself, a little part of her thought it would be eternally amusing to have Darien be flustered and confused and frustrated by her state of undress when he woke up in the morning.
She did love riling him up.
"I love you.'
He pressed her down into the mattress, kissing her resolutely, lingeringly, one last time.
Memories of her promise danced through his head, and for a small fraction of a second he let his control slip as he pictured the other children they might one day have. He remembered her round and pregnant, positively glowing with light, and his hands touched the soft, exposed skin of her stomach. She had been so incredible, he had been so utterly fascinated with the way she grew, and with the small kicks Small Lady had sometimes made. They were both so full of wonder, so excited, and scared out of their minds. Serenity was an amazing mother. And the thought of her with another child in her arms made him feel weak and aching. He liked the idea exponentially, and hope bloomed in his chest.
Serena tangled her fingers in his hair, smiling softly at the small echo of emotions she felt from him. She knew without seeing his thoughts that he was pondering at her suggestion. She had already spent nights dreaming of their future. She had always wanted children, always picturing herself with at least three whenever she used to dream about what her life would be like – before Rini, before she had any knowledge of what the future would hold. And even after Rini she had hoped that maybe, even if Rini didn't have any siblings in the time she was from, maybe they could have some more when Rini was older.
"We are going to have an amazing future, Endymion."
"And it's only just beginning."
She curled up next to him, letting her legs tangle with his beneath the covers. She looked at him for a long time. At his familiar face, at the look in his eyes. She had never stayed the night before.
Endymion brushed her hair back from her face, fingers caressing her skin. He memorized her, memorized the changes she hadn't yet gone through, memorized the moment. But he was so, so tired.
And he missed home.
"I love you." He murmured.
"I love you, too." She whispered back, tucking her head into the comfort of his chest, exhausted and sad and excited and in love.
He pressed a kiss to her hair, shutting his eyes tightly.
I have loved you for so long.
I will love you for so long.
Author's Note: The penultimate chapter is done! I hope you liked it. This chapter has been edited and redone so many times since I started this story, and I think this version is the best fit for where these two have ended up. I wanted to capture it in glimpses, and then convey how they have been altered during the span of a day. Hopefully I did so. Now one more to go before this story is complete.