Chapter 31: ...From the people you love
Author: Carla, aka cali-chan
Rating: Most likely PG-13. Nothing worse than what's in the books.
Genre: Adventure/suspense/drama/romance... again, pretty much what's in the books.
Pairings: Peeta/Katniss, Rory/Prim... and probably others. You'll see soon.
Canon/timeline: Same-context AU— this fic still happens in the same world as THG, but the actual events in the books never happened. I'm adding about five years to the characters from the age they were at the beginning of The Hunger Games. Katniss is 21.
Disclaimer: Yeah, just let me go get my transfer laser and switch bodies with Suzanne Collins. Until I find it in the mess that is my room, anything you can recognize belongs to her.
Note: I've never really tried this before (and I'm sure it will eventually come back and bite me in the behind), but each chapter will be from the PoV of a different character. You should be able to tell whose PoV it is fairly easily, though.
Summary: "Primrose Everdeen." This can't be happening, Katniss thought. She desperately pushed through the crowd. I volunteer!, she wanted to scream. I volunteer as tribute! But she couldn't, because she wasn't eligible for the reaping anymore. There was nothing she could do.
"The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers." —Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
"No, no, no, no, oh please no, no, Katniss, no..."
Peeta was unaware that he was muttering incessantly as he pushed people out of his way as he made a run to the monitor, like somehow he could get to her, reach out and grab her right through the screen, and get her out of that wretched place and to safety.
When the transmission first came on air, all he could feel was relief. She was still alive. Still a prisoner, in a sense, though the red dress, the make-up and the updo might suggest otherwise. She looked absolutely beautiful, and it took his breath away for a moment, but as soon as the interview started it was quite obvious they were only keeping her healthy as a façade, so she could deliver a message. The Capitol's message. She was still trapped.
Someone like Katniss didn't take well to being trapped. And now, as a consequence of her disobedience, her blood was spattered on the tiles of the interview stage, in a mind-numbing, abstract pattern that would haunt Peeta's dreams for the rest of his life.
The entire room buzzed around him, in an uproar about the significance of Katniss's cryptic warning, instead of what they should be discussing, which was Katniss herself. Did nobody else care what happened to her? Maybe only he did, his eyes glued to the monitor in front of him, which was no longer showing any images, just static.
"Would you people just shut up!" Haymitch finally intervened, his voice ringing louder than the rest. The arguments quieted as everybody turned to look at him. "That girl couldn't come up with a riddle if you paid her. What she said is just what's going to happen: they're sending missiles our way. Tonight."
Objections started popping up left and right: How could she know this? She'd been under Capitol hold for weeks, why should they trust what she said? Haymitch glared at the jerk who had piped up that last one. "Right, 'cause she wanted to get beaten up. She did it just for kicks," he replied, his tone as venomous as Peeta had ever heard it. "She put her neck on the line to tell us about this, and you need more proof than that? Boy, back me up on this one."
Everybody turned to look at Peeta then, but for once in his life, he found he couldn't say anything. It was like every possible answer had evaporated right out of his brain, as his mind was too busy replaying over, and over, and over again the moment that Peacekeeper hit Katniss on the back of her head.
"She wouldn't have said it if she didn't believe it was true," came the assertion from behind him, and it was only then that Peeta was able to pry his eyes away from the screen to look back at Gale, who was standing just a few paces behind him, and looked just as shook up as Peeta felt.
The Seam man wasn't really supposed to be in the Command room. From training he knew Gale had something of a status among the low-level military ranks, for the way he had basically led the escape out of a bombed Twelve— surviving in the forest on your own for three days was no easy feat, let alone keeping 800 plus people alive for the same period of time— but even that wasn't enough to get him a place in Command. It was only until Peeta put his foot down and declared that if he had to be present, Gale should be as well, that they grudgingly allowed him to be involved. He thought Gale might not be particularly happy with him for doing that, but Peeta was glad they acquiesced; they needed more people who cared about Katniss in these meetings.
"There you go," Haymitch spoke up again, on the heels of Gale's intervention. "Now would you listen to the people who actually know the girl? Let's do this, it's not like we have all the time in the world."
The focus of the room shifted to President Coin, every single soldier within those four walls awaiting her orders. "We do have an evacuation procedure set up for such cases," the President began, sounding more like she was perplexed about the possibility of an attack rather than worried about it. "Still, our strategists have worked for decades creating such scenarios, and we have long concluded that it would be counterproductive for the Capitol to attack us directly. Nuclear weaponry is heavily damaging to the environment and would render the land completely unusable, and even regular missiles could cause major damage to our underground structure, which we know the Capitol intends to keep for their own use."
Peeta simply stared at her; it was like someone had hit the mute button on her, her lips were moving but no sound came out— none he could understand, anyway. There was something about that woman that just didn't sit well with him. How could she be standing there, calmly discussing their options when Katniss had warned them they were just about to be attacked?
Haymitch seemed to agree with him. "Well, maybe they're gonna cut their losses," he all but interrupted her; not abruptly, but he did stop her tirade. "Decided it would be easier to simply blow us off the map and use this land to make a second rose garden for Snow. You know how he loves those."
Either the intricacies of his sarcasm were lost on Coin, or she simply ignored him deftly. "Well, if nothing happens we could always take this as a drill," she stated, final, as she raised her hand to type on the keyboard of her communicuff. "Let's proceed with the evacuation."
No sooner did she stop typing, the alarm system started going off. The sound was so loud it made his skin crawl, and Peeta's first instinct was to cover his ears as did everybody who wasn't used to it— he could only imagine how desensitized everyone in Thirteen had to be to these drills if they could walk down to the bunkers in an orderly fashion, as their highly-detailed safety protocols indicated.
As the exodus started, Peeta felt someone haul him to his feet unceremoniously and push him in the direction of the exit. He thought it might've been Haymitch, but he couldn't see him as the throng of people moved out of the room. He saw Gale pass by him without a comment while they were going down the corridors— probably to make sure his family evacuated on time. It was only as he was halfway down the tunnels that he realized he hadn't seen Finnick, who had been standing near him while Katniss's interview aired, exit the room at all.
He turned on his heels— rather abruptly as the movement of people around him jostled him and the blaring of the alarm was already making him dizzy— and pushed through the crowd to get back to Command. Finnick hadn't been the same since they came back from their mission and they found out that the day of the bombing of Twelve, riots broke out in three other districts, one of them being Four. The Capitol, not taking that well after their prized Victor Finnick Odair publicly betrayed them, retaliated all-out. Even those not directly involved with the riots were punished. This included Finnick's girlfriend, Annie, who was taken prisoner, and his mentor from the Games, Mags, whose whereabouts were unknown at the moment.
Finnick seemed pretty certain Mags was dead. If they managed to get Annie, he had told Peeta that day, his throat raw from grief, that meant Mags was dead.
Since that day, they came to see a whole different side of Finnick. Gone was the flirty, confident, jovial man who always had a teasing or suggestive comment to make. He was replaced by a quiet, broken shell of a person who always seemed to have too many worries weighing him down. He had clearly cared deeply about his mentor, and her death was a crippling blow; as it was, he was barely hanging on to the hope that the girl he loved might still be alive. Sadly, that was a feeling Peeta could empathize with. And because of that, he worried. If even someone like Finnick felt like giving up, how should he feel?
He had to find Finnick and get him to the bunkers.
That was easier said than done. Going against the crowd was a lot more difficult than going along with it, though as he got back to the upper levels there was hardly any people walking around. (One thing he had to admit about Thirteen: they had procedures for everything, but they were very effective). He ran all the way up to Command, and that's where he found his bronze-haired fellow rebel, sitting against a wall in-between two chairs. It's a wonder nobody saw him before and forced him to evacuate. "Finnick! What are you still doing here? We have to evacuate!"
It was like his words didn't get through; Finnick seemed to be in some sort of shock. Peeta wasn't about to wait for him to react. "Come on, man! Don't do this, we don't have time for this," he said as he roughly pulled him to his feet and pushed him toward the door.
"She's probably dead," Finnick said, and for a second Peeta's heart stopped because he thought he was talking about Katniss. But he wasn't. "Annie," he all but coughed out, stumbling from Peeta's prodding to keep walking. "She's probably dead."
"She's not dead," Peeta asserted back at him, sounding more certain than he truly felt after watching Katniss be knocked out on live television, as he pushed him forward with a steady hand between his shoulder blades. "They're not dead, and you have to stop thinking that way because you have to help me convince these people to rescue them."
It was easier to transit through the corridors now that they were mostly empty of people. The alarms kept blaring and lights kept blinking at them, letting them know which way to go, until they finally saw the heavy, reinforced door to the bunker, which Peeta recognized from previous, low-level drills. The door was about to close. "We'll finish this conversation later. Now we have to move!" One feet. Maybe a few inches to go. He gave Finnick one last shove as the door was about to close, and the guy just managed to stick an arm through the crack just before it closed. The guards who were in charge of closing the doors were understanding enough to reverse the wheels for a moment and let them in.
Once inside, Peeta intended to go find Prim, see if the sudden move had any adverse effects on her, but the guards instructed them to find their assigned quarters depending on what compartment they lived in on the top levels. These quarters were nothing more than a twelve-by-twelve square on the ground with two beds carved into the wall of the cave. Usually they were assigned per family, four to five people maximum, and since Peeta's "family" (that is, Katniss and Prim) was not present, he figured he would get a space all on his own. He knew Finnick had an individual compartment, so maybe he'd invite him to stay with him, so he wouldn't have to spend hours, maybe even days, with a bunch of randomly-assigned strangers in his current state.
Before he could ask Finnick to follow him, however, he caught sight of Madge waving him over; she was with Gale, in a site marked with the number 47. "How come you guys are sharing a space?" he asked when he reached them, pulling Finnick along. "Where's Gale's family?"
"They're with Prim," Madge explained. Gale was busy reading the plasticized sheet of instructions every bunker space got. "Rory wouldn't leave her, so Hazelle and the kids decided to stay there with him. I'm gonna stay here with Gale in the meantime. I don't really feel like sharing with people I don't know, especially not right now when Katniss might be..." Clearly, Gale had already told her about what they saw in Command, so she cut herself off, thinking she might upset him. "I'm sorry."
"It's... it's okay," he let her know, though, honestly, even if she didn't bring the topic of Katniss up, there was little he could do to stop thinking about it. "Do you know if Prim's alright? There weren't any complications when they moved her? I was worried, since she's hooked up to all those machines..."
"As far as I know, she's alright. The doctors know what they're doing," she replied, trying to sound reassuring. "You should stay here with us. Without Hazelle and the kids now we have extra space," she added, looking behind him and at Finnick too, as if extending the invitation to him as well.
Peeta was about to point out what a bad idea that was, he and Gale being at all in the same place, especially in such confined space, and he would've thought Gale would object to the suggestion, but there was no chance for him to complain, as that was when the first bomb hit, and they had no choice but to pile up in the tiny space that had once been reserved for the Hawthornes. Gale clearly wasn't happy to have Peeta's presence forced on him, but they had bigger things to worry about, and even after the bombing was over, the only thing that really mattered to either of them was Katniss, and that rendered all of Gale's grudges against him completely inconsequential at the moment.
There wasn't much conversation after that. Straight on the heels of the explosion and the cracking sound of rock and metal being hit right above their heads, came the sound of every single person gasping, and then eerie silence. Everybody was waiting on baited breath to see if the bunker would hold on, or if the entire structure would collapse on top of them. The fear of being buried alive was very real, Peeta thought, as he looked around the place into the scared faces of children as well as adults.
"It seems like it's going to hold up," Madge commented a few minutes later, in a whisper, almost like she didn't want to jinx it. "Maybe we're too far down underground, the bombs aren't as effective." She bit her lip like she was aware this was just wishful thinking on her part, but still wanted to try and believe it.
Gale shook his head, intervening for the first time since they left Command. "They have special missiles for that. They taught us in training how they work. Specifically made to attack bunkers." Peeta couldn't remember ever hearing about such a thing, but clearly Gale was more invested in their military training than he was. He only went through with it because Thirteen made it mandatory for currently unassigned citizens to be army reserves. He wasn't a fighter, he didn't want to learn how to use weapons to kill people, but he didn't want to be left out of any possible plans to rescue Katniss from the Capitol; he wouldn't let himself be sidelined anymore.
In reality, however, he'd be much more comfortable if he could be assigned to the kitchens. The only person who would let him in there, though, was an old lady from the Seam called Sae, who was nice enough to let him help with a few loaves of bread every once in a while. It relaxed him. But even baking wasn't the same as it had been back home.
Madge's expression fell, and Gale noticed. "But one is probably not enough to bring down a place like this," he added, apparently realizing he was bringing everyone down. "It really depends on how many they shoot at us," he tried to fix his slip-up, but it was a weak attempt, especially considering all the practice he must have had with his younger siblings. More bombs falling on them wasn't exactly an appealing prospect for anyone, but they were all adults here: they had to deal with the truth, and the fear.
Eventually, they drifted off into silence again. It wasn't until some ten minutes later that they finally got news, when President Coin's voice came up through the loudspeakers, announcing that the first missile was not nuclear, but they were indeed expecting more. Thankfully the structure had held up as planned, and everybody was evacuated on time, for which they owed Katniss Mellark a "great debt of gratitude."
They sat there for hours on end. They were given clearance to go in groups to the bathroom or to wash their teeth, but with the threat of further attack incoming, very few people actually wanted to move from their place. Madge got one of the bunks and the three guys agreed to switch the other one, but none of them really slept, not when an explosion rocked the bunker every few hours; just as they managed to lull themselves into a false sense of security, the Capitol's bombs would blast them hard enough to shatter that illusion.
Madge made light conversation with him, sometimes also with Gale, mostly about trivial topics like their training, whether or not having Buttercup (whom Posy wouldn't let go of through the whole evacuation) near the medical bay patients was a good idea or not, or just about life in Thirteen. Peeta asked her about a book she carried with her, and she explained it was a training manual for her new job with the scheduling department.
"Apparently I'm good with schedules," she quipped, and shared a look with Gale; Peeta got the distinct feeling he had missed something there, like an inside joke he wasn't privy to. He wondered what was going on between them; he didn't think they were even friends before he left Twelve. Finnick kept quiet, leaning his back against the edge of a bed, as he played with his piece of rope, tangling it and untangling it back and forth.
The guards weren't too happy they didn't follow the assigned space arrangement. They really took that seriously, and at points Peeta worried they might actually be punished for not following orders. There was that one time Johanna Mason (the mentor from District Seven who had arrived at Thirteen with Plutarch Heavensbee and the rest of the rebel Victors the day after the rescue from the arena) walked by on her way to the bathroom and accused them of cheating. The bombing certainly wasn't doing much to improve her already bad mood.
"Tell me, Sarge, do these four look like they're related?" she asked one of the guards who were standing nearby. If she had to share a space with a man who had a nervous bowel problem, she said, she wasn't about to let these four have it so easy.
Peeta looked at his temporary "roommates." He and Madge at least had the same general coloring, what with the blonde hair and the blue eyes, but there was no way anyone would buy that Gale and Finnick were related to them. "Sure we are," he piped up, in the first burst of humor he felt since... forever, it seemed. "I'm Vick Hawthorne. This is Posy," he added, pointing at Madge, "and that one in the back is Rory," he pointed his thumb back at Finnick. "Our names should be listed for this space."
The guard gave them the stink-eye, obviously knowing they were lying, but did not say anything apart from that, continuing his patrol a few yards away from them. Johanna snorted. "I don't know what it is about you, Mellark," she said, with a roll of her eyes. "Maybe you can do some sort of mind trick on them, or maybe people are just that stupid." Her tone was still dry, but she seemed considerably more amused than she had been before.
She swept her eyes over the four of them again. "So. That was quite the production the Missus put on back there," she said, in Peeta's direction, as she crossed her arms haughtily. She clearly did not have the same reservations Madge had when it came to bringing up the topic of what happened with Katniss. "Snow's not going to be happy with that stunt she just pulled."
"Jo, don't," Finnick piped in from the back, throwing Johanna a warning glance. It was the first time he spoke since leaving the upper levels.
Gale's usual scowl grew more pronounced, like he was personally offended by the implications behind the brown-haired woman's words. "She did it to save us!" he exclaimed.
"And she'll probably get killed for it," she shot back straight away. It turned into some kind of staring contest, in which Gale made his glare darker and darker by the second, and Johanna brushed it off like people snapping at her was a common occurrence. Finally, she let out an overly-dramatic resigned sigh. "Look, don't get your tighty-whities in a bunch, gorgeous."
By that point even Madge was frowning at her. "Gorgeous?" he heard his fellow Town resident mutter under her breath.
One thing was for certain: Johanna definitely had a knack for irritating people, and she was used to the adverse reactions. "It's not that I wish death on her or anything," she continued speaking. "I really don't care one way or the other, to be honest," she interjected with a dismissive shrug that made them all just a tiny bit more annoyed. "I'm just saying, it wouldn't do you any harm to be prepared for the worst."
"Snow won't kill them," Finnick intervened again, surprising Peeta. Just a few hours ago he'd been terrified at the idea that Annie might already be dead, and now he seemed convinced both her and Katniss still had a chance. Why the sudden change of heart? He noticed the blond's gaze on him and gave him a nod. Maybe it was some sort of apology for his earlier behavior?
Peeta let the man speak. He seemed to have things he needed to get out of his chest. "Now that I've thought about it, I really don't believe Snow would kill Katniss or Annie, even now," he continued. "He doesn't only want to stop the rebellion; he wants to crush us. He won't get rid of them if he can still use them against us."
The crease in Gale's brow remained, though now he looked more unsettled than angry. "You saw what Katniss did today. She's not going to do anything they want her to do," he pointed out.
"I didn't say she would," Finnick conceded. "But as long as they have her, they can hurt us." He took a deep breath, as if even he didn't want to hear what he was about to say. "And there's one thing Johanna's right about: we should prepare for the worst. Only..." Finnick looked at him in silence for a few seconds, then moved his gaze to the length of rope he held in his lap. He shook his head. "...The worst might not necessarily mean death."
Those words haunted Peeta for the next three days. Suddenly his nightmares of Katniss dying were replaced by countless images of her being beaten, poisoned, tortured or raped. He was making himself sick with each thought. Thankfully his bunker companions seemed as distraught as he was, so they didn't think twice about it when he stayed awake for the most part of 72 hours. It wasn't like any of them could get much sleep anyway, what with the bombs still coming periodically.
Several times he tried to ask Finnick what he meant by "something worse than death." Perhaps he was trying to convince himself that he was wrong about his assumptions, that his fear was fueling his imagination to come up with scenarios far worse than reality. But the most Finnick would tell him was "you don't want to know, Peeta," and eventually he stopped asking.
It was only until 24 hours passed without another bomb that they were finally given free reign to leave the bunker and go back to the upper levels— what remained of them, anyway. Some were completely destroyed, condemned, or closed pending repairs. Most people flooded out of the underground shelter intending to check on their compartments, see if their living quarters were still standing, or whether they would be relocated to a different block. Peeta didn't even bother, though. There was something else he needed to do.
There was one thing he'd been noticing since he arrived at Thirteen, and every time it happened while down at the bunker, it stayed with him. The fact was: the people of Thirteen looked at him like he was some sort of celebrity. Before, he had attributed it to them being shocked to see "the guy in the propo" just walking around the district. But it was only after four days of not being able to brush the glances off, that it hit him: these people were looking at him with sadness, maybe pity— their expressions would turn downcast and solemn whenever they walked by him. Some nodded at him, even waved. A little girl asked him when "Kabniss" was going to "come back home." These people were invested in his story.
Haymitch had hinted before that maybe the sympathy people had toward him gave more leverage over Thirteen Command than he thought he had. Up until then, Peeta hadn't believed it— getting waved off every time he tried to convince anyone to send out a rescue party for Katniss wasn't exactly what he called progress. But seeing the people so obviously moved by his words, by Katniss's words, it gave him an idea. It was crazy and he didn't know what the consequences of such an action would be, but at the moment he was part caring. At least there was still a chip he could bargain with.
So they wanted him to manipulate people? Fine. If it helped Katniss in any way, he would. And he would start with Coin herself.
His steps were fueled by determination as they took him straight from the bunker to Command. His voice did not falter as he walked toward Coin, at the moment surrounded by a group of people who seemed to be safety inspectors, and demanded to be allowed to film a second propo.
She remained impassive, and he wondered if there was anything that could shake the woman. She didn't question his motives, or even called him out on his previous declaration that he wouldn't stand in front of a camera until they had Katniss back safely. She merely commented that they had been contemplating that very idea recently: a propo as a way to announce that Thirteen had survived the Capitol's bombing. She told him she would coordinate matters with Plutarch and let him know when logistics were finalized.
And so later that afternoon, he found himself sitting in front of Cressida again, Castor's camera aimed straight at him, for a second "interview"-type propo. The first one had worked so well, after all, Plutarch had said. Why change it? This time, it wasn't only the three of them: they were surrounded by people— higher-ups from Thirteen, Plutarch himself, Haymitch and Finnick, a few production assistants... it was quite the crowd. "So, Peeta," Cressida started, trying to get him to focus on her questions. "How did you feel when you saw Katniss during that interview?"
He took a deep breath, trying to get himself ready for this. Cressida's gaze reiterated her earlier words, that he should just answer her questions honestly and it would be fine. He was trying. He just had so many feelings, he was afraid if he spoke the words out loud it would threaten to choke him. "I was... relieved that she was still alive. Proud that she's still fighting." He paused, and swallowed hard. "But then, when they obviously hurt her... I just felt completely terrified."
"I'm sure that was especially hard for you." Cressida gave him a small, supportive smile, which the camera wouldn't catch but he appreciated it nonetheless. "But surely she's alright. She's strong. You said it yourself last time," she reminded him.
"She is strong. I know that." How could he ever forget that, if it was one of the qualities that made him fall in love with her in the first place? "We're looking for her," he added. They weren't, of course, but giving the Capitol something to feel intimidated about was never a bad thing. Not to mention it put just a little more pressure on Coin, at the same time. "She could hang in there just a little longer, I know she could..."
He trailed off into a pause, knowing it was the make or break moment. This was it. "...It's the baby I'm worried about," he declared darkly.
He just happened to raise his eyes from the camera at that moment, and saw jaws dropping all over the place. Plutarch's assistant, Fulvia, let out a gasp. Messalla dropped the clipboard he was holding in his hands. Haymitch's eyebrows rose so far on his forehead, they almost blended with his hair. Peeta swallowed hard.
Even Cressida was shocked by his unexpected announcement, but remembering she was on air, she recovered quickly, snapping back into professional mode. "That's... that's certainly something to worry about," she said, after clearing her throat. She looked around and at Plutarch, raising a brow at him as if asking what to do now. Plutarch signaled for her to continue as planned. "I would congratulate you," she continued, turning back to Peeta once again, "but under the circumstances..."
"It's okay," he replied, his voice thick. His statement might've been a lie, but the emotion in his words wasn't entirely faked. He hoped this would help Katniss. It had to.
"Is there anything else you would like to tell us?" Cressida asked, expectant, and he recognized that as his cue to say what Coin wanted him to say. To let the Capitol and the districts that Thirteen was not destroyed, that they were still alive, and still fighting.
"No," he sentenced, final.
Hastily getting up, he took strides as lengthy as he could past the circle of people surrounding them, and out the double doors. The cameras were still rolling. He didn't look back. He knew the people in the districts could figure things out well enough just by the propo alone. He wasn't going to give Coin and her cohorts anything more than they deserved. Not until Katniss was safe, and back where she belonged.
Even Plutarch was too stunned to ask him to come back.
This chapter is brought to you by the never-ending line at Berlin's Foreigners' Office! Yay! \o/ (...not).
I keep apologizing— it's annoying, I know— but I really am sorry this took longer than expected; writing chapter 36 was like pulling teeth. I started writing way late because I had exams, and then after that I was hit with major writer's block. I was way too mentally dead to write, plot bunnies kept biting at my ankles, and adding that the chapter is mostly angsty didn't help matters.
Chapter 37 is slightly better fleshed out in my outline, so I'll try my best to get it done soon-ish. I can't promise anything, though, because I'm also going to start on a new fic, so I'll be juggling two plotlines at the same time and that's always complicated. On the other hand, though, the semester ends on July 19th, and after that I'll be blissfully free until October, so I aim to pump as many chapters of this story out as I can during summer break. I won't be posting the other fic until I have it written in its entirety, but in any case you might want to stay tuned! Hint, hint.
As for this chapter, what did you think of Peeta taking a stand? I wanted to show his emotional strength in adversity, and I hope that came across. I'd love to know what you thought, so please review! Your comments always help me so much. Also, I'm on tumblr (girls-are-weird) and twitter (girls_are_weird), and I post occasional snippets from future chapters over there, so be sure to follow me if you want to have an idea of what's coming up! Thanks so much for reading. :)