A SOLDIER's Weapon
… … …
When Sephiroth first saw the blond SOLDIER, Sephiroth didn't think much of him. After Hojo released Sephiroth from the labs to the SOLDIER program he spent most of his time either in the labs or on missions. Lately though, his mission load has been lightening. The newness of Hojo's prize weapon had been wearing off, so he had some free time. Even though he had been at Headquarters for a little over a year everyone was still rather new to him and the blond was just one more new face.
Not knowing what else to do with himself Sephiroth spent his time lurking around the rec rooms and cafeterias listening to SOLDIERs and secretaries gossip. It was then that he learned that the blond was new to everyone else, too. He was a SOLDIER from some kind of alternate program out of a subsidiary company down in the Fort Condor area called WolfHaven. Which everyone thought explained the wolf motif the man had going on rather neatly. According to rumor the man also had Hojo in going off in one of his rages. Not only did he insist on beating the "tar" out of Hojo top First Class, he also refused to let the Science Department near him. Sephiroth couldn't help but wonder why Hojo hadn't set him up against the blond, but he also knew that, as much as Hojo liked to brag about Sephiroth being his best creation, he also had a tendency to treat him like glass. Hojo never put Sephiroth into any situation in which he was not in clear control of the outcome.
So, Sephiroth had his first goal set, learning more about the mysterious blond. He didn't feel right just asking any of the SOLDIERs directly. He learned quickly listening to the rough banter that you just didn't if you didn't also want to get teased mercilessly, or possibly ostracized, for anything that could be misinterpreted as sexual interest in the 'wrong' person. And, apparently, everything could be misinterpreted as sexual interest.
Plus, he didn't want Hojo to find out that he was curious about the blond. Sephiroth remembered all too clearly what happened to the last friend he had made, a young guard who liked to talk about his baby brothers and smile beneath his mask, who had been turned into an abject lesson. Sephiroth had been able to slip through the security and put the young man out of his misery, but given Hojo's gloating the next morning he still wasn't sure whether that was exactly what Hojo was going for. It made him cautious trusting the other young SOLDIERs like Angeal or Genesis, both of whom seemed friendly enough, though he doubted that they would hold long against the scientist's interest. The blond might, he already had Hojo chewing the furniture, but Sephiroth didn't want to give Hojo any more reasons to go after the other man.
Sephiroth didn't really do anything more then what he had been doing and was eventually able to put a name to the face. Cloud Strife. Sephiroth wasn't sure he liked the name. 'Cloud' sounded weak, although he was anything but. The blond spent a lot of his time in the training rooms. Sephiroth found himself spending more and more time there watching the other man. Sephiroth had heard the phrase 'poetry in motion' before and thought that it was trite and pointless, but that was exactly what it was like, watching the blond SOLDIER. Every movement was tight and controlled graceful arcs and swift strikes, the perfect harmony between muscle and movement. It was the most beautiful thing Sephiroth had ever seen. And the sword.
At first glance it was a wide buster sword like that favored by Angeal, but then between one turn and the next it would split apart and two swords were in the blond's hands, sometimes they were put back together sometimes one was discarded to be picked up later. Sephiroth was not familiar with the forms that the blond used. He recognized the individual strikes and moves, of course, but the overall patterns were completely new. Cloud must have created the forms to work with his unique blade.
Sephiroth's favorite was the one where the blond started at the end of the room and worked his way in a spiral towards the center, discarding the pieces at certain points so that they formed a perfect circle with the blond barehanded in the center kneeling in what looked like supplication, but was just coiled power waiting to lash out. Then he exploded back into motion, moving in the reverse of the inward spiral, picking up and reforming the sword until he ended where he began.
Sephiroth had been considering how to approach Cloud during the past week he had been obliquely stalking him. The man was difficult to read, and more so to approach. He could give the Turks lessons on inscrutability. Sephiroth was distracted, trusting too much to anonymity of his Second Class uniform and helmet. With his long hair braided back he looked enough like any other Second that he didn't think twice before following Cloud into an access hallway along one of the large conference rooms. It was not until he found himself pressed up against the wall that he realized his error. With the now familiar clicking of the short side blade being unfolded as his only, brief, warning before he had the sharp edge pressed against his throat. His helmet had been knocked aside and everything seemed simultaneously brighter and less defined without the enhanced optics.
Apparently, Cloud did have expressions, his glowing blue eyes grew hard and his lips thinned into a hard line. "Sephiroth."
"Cloud," Sephiroth thanked the stars that his voice didn't crack. It had been doing that lately. Hojo said it was a normal part of being fifteen, but he never explained why he couldn't fix it.
"You've been following me," Cloud said. "Why? What do you want?"
Sephiroth blinked at him; why was he following Cloud? He never really thought out the reason why, it was just something that he did. Mostly he was curious. He wanted to know more about the blond SOLDIER. He wanted… "I want you to train me."
Cloud tilted his head to one side, looking less like a curious human and more like a Wastelands Wolf eyeing the strange thing it had caught and wondering if it was going to eat it or not. Sephiroth felt his cock twitch and jump as his mind wandered into unhelpful places after that thought. This being fifteen thing? Really annoying sometimes.
"Why would I do that?" Cloud asked, interrupting his train of thought.
It was a spur of the moment suggestion. He didn't have any reason why. Just that- "Because you're good." Powerful, beautiful, perfect. "The best. None of my current First Class trainers can even come close to what you can do."
Cloud stepped away. He lowered the sword and pressed the dull back edge against his thigh. The blade folded with a harsh ratcheting sound. Cloud turned and walked away, clapping the folded blade back into place without even looking. Sephiroth felt his heart drop, even though it was a spur of the moment request he really had been hoping that- "Aren't you coming?"
Sephiroth looked up to see Cloud had paused and half turned to watch him. "I- Yes, sir!" Sephiroth fought the sudden, alien urge to grin. He sketched a quick salute and bent to pick up his helmet.
"But-" Even as he protested Sephiroth left the helmet on the cheap laminate floor to follow Cloud to the elevator bank. "But the enhanced optic views are-"
"We don't need it."
The elevator door closed on any chance of him going back to get the helmet, not that Sephiroth minded an excuse to lose the uncomfortable thing. But it was part of the regulation uniform, so he argued anyways. If there was one thing he learned early and often was that blatant disobedience got you nothing but trouble. "The armor properties-"
"The direct PHS connection?" These were all things that had been patiently repeated to him that he absolutely needed in order to function as a SOLDIER.
Cloud paused and thought about that one. "Occasionally useful," he conceded. "But mostly annoying."
It was about this time that the elevator they were in passed the training floors and continued on downwards. "We aren't going to the training rooms, sir?"
Cloud gave him a flat look.
"Where are we going?"
"Out into Midgar," he said. "There are some places in the slums that are good for low level training."
"The slums?" Sephiroth felt his eyes widen. He was only allowed on carefully scouted, measured and controlled missions. Often something created in the training sims so that the Science Department could carefully measure his skill level, and the upper management could watch from the comfort of the vid feeds in their offices. He had never been out somewhere so, so uncontrolled. Who knows what might happen?
"There are some fairly weak monsters down there. It's a good place to start." Cloud explained, his head tilted back as he watched the floor numbers over the elevator door. "I did."
Uncertain what to say to that, Sephiroth said nothing. They reached the third floor in silence and the doors behind them opened out onto the parking garage. He followed Cloud along a row of motorbikes that ranged from colorful little scooters to lightly armored harriers.
Cloud walked to one of the armored harriers. It was a long low beast of a machine made for all types of terrain and numerous compartments that could probably hold a lot more then it reasonably should. Cloud reached out and ran a hand lightly over the leather seat. "Hey, baby. You miss me?"
The bike made no reply. With a greeting like that Sephiroth was half expecting something. The front compartments hissed open as Cloud hit a release button near the apex of the handlebars. He swiftly broke down the massive sword and placed each blade into a compartment that had to be custom made for it. Cloud held out his hand to Sephiroth. Sephiroth blinked at him unsure of what he wanted, surely he didn't expect Sephiroth to place his hand in Cloud's, that seemed a little- odd.
"Your sword," Cloud prompted, waving his hand in a brief 'come here' gesture.
Sephiroth reached behind him and unhooked the broadsword from his back harness and passed it to Cloud. Cloud stared down at the thing like Sephiroth had handed him a live snake. No, not a live snake. Something slimy and worthless, but not dangerous. A snake two weeks dead maybe.
"It's a ShinRa Standard Issue Broadsword," Sephiroth said, a little defensive.
"It's cheap pot metal that can't hold an edge for more than two minutes," Cloud said sharply. And, he wasn't wrong, but it was what ShinRa gave them to work with. Not that holding an edge meant much of anything. With SOLDIER strength he could drive even a dull edge through flesh and bone, and frequently did until the blade finally gave out. Then when the blade was bent and warped beyond all recognition he simply picked up another one and kept on going. Swords were just weapons. Tools to be used and discarded when no longer able to perform their function.
Cloud pocketed the two Materia, set the cheap sword aside, and mounted his bike, gesturing for Sephiroth to get on behind him. Sephiroth made a quickly aborted motion to go after the discarded weapon. "But-"
"I'll get you a new one, get on." He couldn't argue with that.
Cloud didn't have any helmets. He didn't even have a second pair of goggles. Sephiroth wrapped his arms around Cloud and pressed his face into Cloud's back to protect his eyes. He was glad that he braided his hair this morning. Otherwise it would have turned into an unholy mess to comb out. And, while most of the guys in the barracks were too scared to tease him to his face, he still would be able to hear the remarks behind his back. Sephiroth tried to push the thoughts of the other SOLDIERs out of his mind and focus on the present.
It didn't take long for Cloud to reach their destination below the plate, Sector Seven slums. The place was quiet this early in the day, dim light filtered down from above was augmented by flickering neon lights and lines of mismatched streetlamps. The buildings were all ramshackle constructs of clapboard and repurposed materials discarded from topside. This was a fairly built up sector with residents on the second and third floors above storefronts and bars. A group of children played with a rag ball along the widest of the narrow streets that twisted through the sector.
Cloud parked the bike in front of what may have been a weapons shop, or a garage. Sephiroth couldn't tell by the collection of cheap knives and battered oil cans on display in the window. Cloud nodded at the man behind the counter before being waved through to the back room.
A burly, bear of a man dressed in worn jeans and a heavy leather apron sat at a massive grindstone sharpening what looked like nothing more than half of a wheel rim attached to a long metal pole. The man set aside the weapon and stood to greet them.
"Hey, Cloud. How's that engine mod on Fenrir working for you?"
"Response is slow and the acceleration is crap," Cloud said bluntly.
The man sighed explosively. "Ah, yeah that's the trouble with those Mako engines. They- "
Cloud gave the man small smile and sighed regretfully. "Unfortunately I didn't come to talk shop. I need a sword for Sephiroth, here."
"Yeah?" The mechanic cum weapon smith gave Sephiroth a long appraising look. "What'cha lookin' fer?"
Sephiroth frowned at the man's sudden adoption of a thick underplate brogue, it was probably a test to trip him up or make him feel isolated after his easy acceptance of Cloud. Sephiroth held his head up and looked the big man straight in the eye, determined not to let it show that the rebuff bothered him. "I've been using a broadsword, but I am familiar with a wide range of weapons. I'm sure whatever you have in stock will do."
"After seeing that crap ShinRa issues I'm sure a cracked log will do," The man laughed harshly. Even Cloud smiled, a small polite thing lacking the warmth of the one earlier. Sephiroth tried not to stare. He had seen more expressions cross Cloud's face in the past hour then since the man had first arrived at the ShinRa Headquarters, a month ago by all reports.
"Do you have any katana?" Cloud asked. "A longer blade preferably if you have any odachi."
"Well, it ain't the Masamune. But I do have this one…. Where did I put it?" The man trailed off as he rummaged around the various stacked crated and leaning pole arms. "Here it is. Ashura."
Sephiroth wasn't expecting much from the grease stained sailcloth, but the sound of pure reverence in the weapon smith's voice gave him pause. The revealed blade was straight and long with a slight curve at the tip, probably to make it easier for the long blade to clear the scabbard. The scabbard was plain unvarnished wood that did not match the gold washed silk wrapped around the hilt.
"Let's take it outside. Give the boy some room to swing it, see how he likes her," the man suggested. He waved them to follow him back through the storefront. Once outside Sephiroth placed the sword in his uniform's harness, it took a moment to adjust the frog for the thinner blade. He drew the sword and stood with it in his hands unsure what to do with it. Sephiroth made a few passes, the blade felt too long and too light. Warm calloused hands were over his, adjusting his grip. Cloud's voice was soft and low, his breath ghosting across the shell of Sephiroth's ear.
"This is a katana, not a broadsword. The balance is different so the hand positions are different. Right hand, lower on the hilt, guides the blade. Left hand here behind the tsuba, the hand guard, acts as the fulcrum. Push with one hand, pull with the other to control the blade. Push and pull." The long blade danced as Cloud manipulated Sephiroth's hands, the tip weaving uncertainly at first and then cutting strong wide arcs through the air as Sephiroth gained more confidence. Sephiroth was surprised that Cloud knew so much about a style that was obviously not his chosen great sword. All SOLDIERs were supposed to be trained in the basics for each broad weapon category, but ShinRa didn't spend much time on Wusheng style weapons and Sephiroth hadn't picked up a katana since he was a child. Cloud stepped back to stand next to the weapon smith. "Now, go through the fifth form."
Sephiroth nodded and re-sheathed Ashura. He took a moment to center himself and run the form through his head. ShinRa training consisted of a series of set forms to instill muscle memory through sheer repetition. The fifth was the first of the sword forms consisting of all the basic strikes and blocks performed in a tight configuration that could be done in even the smallest of training rooms. He began by drawing the sword directly into a forward strike, paused to adjust his grip to match what Cloud had demonstrated just a moment before, then continued with a block forward, pull back, look left, turn and strike. The sword was lighter and more responsive then the heavy ShinRa broadsword. Strike forward for two steps high then low, blocking retreat for one, about face, upper block. He worried that the blade was too light, but it felt good in his hands. Almost alive. Strike forward high then low, blocking retreat, face front once again, forward lunge, stand, sharp flick, sheath, and back to parade rest.
"He'll take it," Cloud said. They all trooped inside. Sephiroth removed the sword from his harness but was reluctant to hand it back. Cloud mutely handed him the Materia beads that had been removed from the ShinRa broadsword, before settling into haggling over the price with the weapon smith. They alternately praised and insulted the sword, ShinRa, the economy, and each other until the price agreed upon was merely astronomical, not lifetime membership to the Gold Saucer for half of Midgar. Sephiroth fingered the Material slots, two linked pair was now filled with his refined Fira and a half-mastered Restore that he got back from Cloud. Sephiroth wondered how he could hope to even start repaying him for the sword.
"Think you guys can watch my bike?" Cloud asked. "I'm taking Sephiroth out to the train graveyard for some practice."
"You SOLDIER boys are nuts," the old man behind the counter shook his head, speaking for the first time since they entered the store. "That place isn't a playground."
"Just depends on the games you're playing," Cloud replied. "Can you?"
"Don't worry. We'll make sure no one walks off with your bike," the weapon smith said. Cloud raised one eyebrow and the other man quickly amended. "We'll make sure no one gets hurt trying to walk off with your bike."
Cloud nodded approvingly and walked out of the shop. Sephiroth followed, new sword at his back. He wasn't going to ask. The commanding office give out information on an as needed basis, it didn't matter that curiosity was eating him alive. They wound their way down narrow streets to the nearby train station. This was the last stop for most of the major lines. Sephiroth could see rows of empty tracks where the cars would be put up for the night and a wye for the trains to turn around. Beyond that was… the train graveyard. It was the only thing that he could think of to describe the banks of rusting husks scattered haphazardly across the open ground.
"What is this place?" The question slipped out before Sephiroth could stop it. Cloud turned to look at him. "Sorry, sir"
"If you don't ask you won't know."
The statement was so counter to everything that the ShinRa military was built on it actually took Sephiroth a few moments to pause and process that, yes Cloud did actually say that. Sephiroth wondered if this was some kind of test. "Information is the prerogative of the Company and the commanding officer to disclose as needed to ensure mission success with minimal chance of compromise."
"Sephiroth." Cloud's tone was soft and a little chiding. He frowned disapprovingly, but paused for a long moment to think carefully before speaking. "Some… individuals may choose to withhold key information. You are the one who takes ultimate responsibility for your actions. Not your commanding officer." Cloud hesitated a moment before adding, "And not the Company. Now, what information do you need to further this mission?"
Sephiroth considered what he knew of the situation. It was a training exercise to an unknown area. It may have been unknown to him, but presumably not to Cloud since he commented earlier that he 'started out' in the slums. Which was odd, Cloud's accent didn't place him as Midvolk. Sephiroth tucked that away for later consideration and focused on the task at hand. "I would need to know the layout of the area, any known monsters, their stats, strengths and weaknesses, how long the exercise is expected to take, and if there are any set conditions for success or failure."
Cloud nodded. Instead addressing the issues Sephiroth listed he asked another question. "What sources do you have available?"
"I have you," Sephiroth paused, given Cloud's still blank expression he was clearly expecting more. "I can ask the locals. Many people living in the slums are distrustful of ShinRa, but the proprietor and smith back at the weapon shop would probably talk to me. Some ShinRa employees are from the slums, I could probably ask them as well."
"Where are the points of weakness? In what ways can an outside party, that is anyone other than you, sabotage the mission?"
Sephiroth frowned. "Don't you mean anyone other than us?"
"I could've been compromised," Cloud said with a shrug. "I could have my own agenda. You can only be certain of yourself. Everyone else is a potentially unknown." Cloud gave a small, bitter smile. "And sometimes even your own mind can be unknown."
Cloud shook his head. "Never mind, answer the question."
"Yes, sir." Sephiroth considered. "As stated you could have been compromised by an outside source, or have your own agenda, which could also apply to anyone else in the company. Someone from the slums may deliberately give out false information to spite ShinRa," Sephiroth hesitated. "How would you know?"
"Simple," Cloud said. "More information. You ask as many people as you can, you ask them multiple times. You compare the information. Is it consistent? Is anything odd, or misplaced? Consistent information is more likely to be true. A well established fabrication can be difficult to pierce, but even the best liars make mistakes."
"That can take a lot of time," Sephiroth said thoughtfully.
"Yes, it can. And you won't always have the time to gather all of the information you might need. You need to learn what you can in the time you have and act accordingly."
"Are we going to do all of that?" Sephiroth tried to cover his distaste at the prospect, apparently not as successfully as he would have liked. Cloud gave him a wry look.
"I forget again, what does SOLDIER stand for?"
After a beat Sephiroth realized that Cloud was not attempting to be humorous. "Special Operations: Logistics, Demolitions, Infiltration, Extraction and Reconnaissance."
"Ah, good you do remember that part," Cloud said. "We won't do anything today, but I want you to be aware of the possibilities."
"The train graveyard has no set layout. As cars are damaged or become obsolete they are piled up on top of the older ones. The area is filled with ghosts and deenglows. I'm not expecting us to run into anything ranked above a 10. Ghosts are weak to fire, but I want to see you focus on your sword work so I am limiting you to one use of ether."
Sephiroth tried not to feel too disappointed. One of the things his other First Class superiors always commented on was his affinity with Materia, and he had been looking forward to showing off to Cloud.
"I do have a phoenix down, if you make me use it and it will be considered mission failure." Sephiroth let a small smirk play across his lips to match Clouds wry humor, even a trooper should be able to get in and out past some level 10s with little problem. "The mission is over when I say it is. Do you have your PHS set?"
"Um, no," Sephiroth flushed guiltily. He quickly fished out his PHS from his pocket and quickly searched for Cloud's name from the archive and added it to his Active Party list. This was one of the first things pounded into cadets in basic; set your party in the PHS to keep track of your teammates' status and location. He tried to write it off as being sent on mostly solo missions since basic, but he knew that he simply forgot and something like that was inexcusable. What if Cloud got poisoned or some other status effect that was not readily apparent, he'd never be able to tell, and if Cloud got hurt- Sephiroth felt his eyes widen as Cloud's stats were downloaded. He'd heard rumors that when they tested Cloud they had to bank, manually write down the numbers and clear the counter, twice but that was... a lot of nines. Sephiroth doubted that there was anything that could give Cloud much trouble.
"Ready?" Sephiroth jumped and snapped shut his PHS and nodded. "Let's get started then."
"Yes, sir!" Sephiroth sketched a sharp salute and followed Cloud across the tracks and into the train graveyard.
… … …
Sephiroth wiped the sweat from his face with a quick swipe with the back of a gloved hand while he waited for one of the two ghosts to phase back in. He'd gotten hit a few times, but mostly he was tired. Cloud kept them moving, traversing the train graveyard back and forth, through the strange labyrinth of wrecked train cars and twisted metal girders. He did find two additional ethers, one in a rusty barrel and another under the seat of a car they were passing through. Cloud decreed them outside of his one ether limit since they were found on site. Sephiroth was still holding off on using them, he wanted to make the mission under the set guidelines. But, stars, he wanted that ether.
Cloud was doing fine, better then Sephiroth, even though he'd take more hits. He had some kind of skill Materia that let him cut in front of the opponents attack. He'd already taken more than one hit meant for Sephiroth. At first Sephiroth resented that the other SOLDIER didn't think he could take it. But after hour upon hour of walking and fighting, he finally realized that he couldn't. Not at the same level that Cloud could. And Cloud brought him out here to watch him fight not take hits. Sephiroth focused on his fighting, on developing strategies to deal the most damage while conserving his limited resources, and left Cloud to make what he could of it.
Both of the ghosts finally phased back in, he hit one and Cloud got the other. They were nearing their entry point, again. Sephiroth was half hoping Cloud would call it quits this time. He was tired and this was starting to actually be boring. That was when the sharp blow blindsided him.
Dancing back away from Cloud, Sephiroth wasn't sure whether he should go for his PHS first or that ether so he could cast Cure. His questing right hand found the PHS first, he didn't want to look away from Cloud, especially knowing how fast the First Class could move, but he needed to check Cloud's status. He held Ashura out in a cross body block, but with the one handed grasp it could easily be knocked out of his hand, and Cloud had to have recovered from that strike by now. He was waiting for something. Taking the chance, Sephiroth glanced down at his PHS. Status was clear, which means…Cloud was testing him. Sephiroth tucked the PHS away, back into his pocket, and tried to swallow, his mouth suddenly dry. There was no way he was going to survive a fight against Cloud, not now.
Theoretically, SOLDIERs were all the same. Even a Third Class could take on a First Class and hold his own, the Classes just meant the types of missions and security levels that the SOLDIER could be trusted with. In more practical terms, there was still a world of difference in experience and skill. Plus, it's well known that Hojo liked to 'tweak' his 'specimens.' Sephiroth may have been built to be the best, but Cloud was a complete unknown.
Shit. Cloud even told him.
Everyone has their own agenda.
Sephiroth was going to die, really die. The best he could do right now was make as big an explosion as possible to get someone else's attention. The last blow pushed had pushed him past his limits. He'd been holding the break to check his PHS, but he didn't think that Cloud would give him the opportunity take that ether. This was the best shot, the only shot he had.
"Shadow Flare." Sephiroth released the limit break and darkness flowed out of him, forming glimmering spheres that converging on Cloud. Cloud braced himself with that monster sword planted deeply into the packed dirt. Sephiroth quickly downed the two ethers. The second one was probably more then he needed, but right then he didn't care about the waste. Sephiroth was able to get one cure cast before Cloud recovered from the barrage, and then he was fighting for his life.
He wondered if this was what his opponents, hand picked by Hojo to show him in his best light, felt like. Faced with this unstoppable force that you knew even the best you had would just delay the inevitable. Cloud's blade danced and morphed, one moment a wide pane hurdling towards him, and the next a fine light blade that made the air sing.
Ashura was heaven sent. Light enough to move as easily as thought, strong enough to turn aside even the most powerful of blows, and long enough to give him some fucking space. Sephiroth's lips pulled back in a snarling grimace. How, why, would a man with a sword that big push in that close?
Sephiroth pushed back to get some breathing space and poured his will into the Fira. Refined Materia was supposed to level faster and hit harder, but it was also more fragile and he felt more then heard the bead crack under the pressure. Fire exploded.
The ends of Sephiroth's hair singed and the flames curled about him. He squinted through the light to see Cloud glaring at him across the open space, hate and anger etched into his normally expressionless features. But Cloud could do nothing; there was a wall of fire between them that neither could breach. At first, Sephiroth thought the dimming light around the edges meant that the fire was dying down. He quickly realized that, no, that was due to him passing out
… … …
AN: First of all I would like to thank Mushi for betaing this, without her this story would have many more errors.
If any of you find the opening familiar and are wondering what happened to the rest of it, you may be familiar with the version posted as a fill to the FFVII Kink Meme (links in my profile). This is the extended version including extra scenes that had been cut out for the fill. It will include the rest and more in future chapters.