The Price of Loyalty

Helllloo all of you, I haven't posted something in like… 2 years? Sorry about that, but college provided me with papers every single week and I got major burnout from writing. Plus I've been working on my own things, so fanfics have taken a back burner. I thought I'd supply this as a 'thanks for being a fan' and informing you that I may or may not write more for this website.

Anyway, onto the story…It's not completely in character but I thought I'd make another XemSai fic. Looking at my last one I'm actually disappointed in myself for how…badly funny it turned out. It was supposed to be funny, but the OoCness always bothers me to no end. In any case, this has sort of a rape induced sex dialogue to it and I was trying to aim for a more realistic setting instead of consensual happiness that typically happens in pairings on this site.

Long intro short, I hope you enjoy the man on man.

Typically a person who could not feel emotions had no reason to complain of the eeriness of The World That Never Was. Black, cold, and uncaring were all words to describe its features and its many companions. Each day was as unsatisfying as its last, though, and to one Nobody in particular he could not pretend that something deep within him was screaming discomfort.

What was it that caused such gnawing at his core? It was horrid and never-ending…but always increased tenfold during certain points of the day.

Saix had to believe that perhaps it was merely the sudden change that made this new existence so troubling and disturbing. Clearly his recollection of a past life was too vibrant in his mind to push back. In the end, he tried to remind himself that this was a new beginning to a journey he had wished he never dragged himself into. After all, it was Axel who had encouraged the two of them meet with the scientists and allow the experiments to happen, and now it was a burden he must carry with him until they discover a way to gain their hearts back.

Honestly it had not been that long since they were stuck in this odd limbo, but even so, in Saix's mind it had felt like forever. One of the others, Xaldin if he remembered correctly, had suggested he simply obey the Superior and he would be fine. Not that he should have taken it so seriously, but Saix really wished to reverse what had happened. Yet it seemed the blue-haired individual did more harm than good when he put his best attempts forward. Perhaps it was nerves or lack of understanding in his recently acquired powers, but it was easy to see the disappointment in the Superior's face.

At that moment in time he was standing within the confines of Xemnas's office where he held most of their information when he got around to looking at the reports. They were just starting out but Saix could see the mess on the table hinting that their future was bleak and full of slaving away. To what, Saix still didn't understand. They were still so lost on their information…

And he didn't need to even explain how furious it made Xemnas. He usually kept his demeanor around them as a group, but Saix had heard raised voices behind closed doors and even met with backlash once or twice already. For not being able to feel, Saix seemed to think that fear was something that plagued him. He didn't necessarily get the clenched feeling or the shaking of his muscles, but it always caught his tongue. In moments like that he felt stupid that he couldn't speak up, but for some reason no matter how he yearned to, the words never came.

This was one of those moments.

Xemnas had gently fingered the edge of the report in front of him, eyes swiftly moving over the piece of paper in front of him. Muscles gently strained here and there, so subtle that it was almost impossible to tell that he was disapproving of the material before him, but in these few short days Saix knew better. The report was soon pressed against the desk and the depth of orange moved upward to look at him. Saix felt the judging look, how it probed him thoroughly and in a demeaning manner.

"I asked for information on our world, to obtain something useful and capable of helping us on our next step to regaining our hearts…and I am met with this?" The gloved hand pressed down on the piece of paper as if to set it ablaze for even existing.

Saix felt the words settling in his mind on how to respond, trying to be thoughtful in his explanation, but it took him too long and the Superior had moved the topic onward.

"This information is useless to me, Saix."

Right, so an explanation wasn't necessary then. After all, if the information had no worth then there was no point in obsessing over it. Saix remained silent and expected to be dismissed, but the burning of Xemnas's eyes had began to create that eerie and uncomfortable air which Saix thought constantly hung around this place.

"Well, are you going to speak to me or just stand there like an idiot?" Xemnas broke the silence once more with some malice to his tone, impatient to his younger helper.

So he should have spoke up earlier…Now he wasn't certain what to say to Xemnas, especially when he questioned him like that. It was rhetorical and degrading. "Did you want an explanation, Superior?" Try to figure out the thoughts that were hidden within Xemnas's mind.

"Yes, Saix, what else would I want from you? Explain. Be quick about it."

The Diviner tried to recollect what he had put in his report. The memory of describing the surroundings came to mind, as well as Heartless… "I thought you wanted to know what was out there."

"That's your explanation?"

What more was there to say? "Yes…" It was a defeated response but the only one he could think of.

Xemnas sighed at that and he took a moment to close his eyes, as if holding back something worse within, before he opened them again to look at the boy. "Telling me descriptions of places is not of any help. You didn't test anything. You didn't fight, you didn't try leaving, or looking for exits…anything. You walked around and called that a report."

"I apologize, Superior," Saix replied in return. Maybe if Xemnas were clearer in his directions this wouldn't have happened, but he chose not to argue. Saying 'find a way to regain our hearts' didn't necessarily speak volumes to Saix. It meant 'hope you fall upon something good' in his mind.

"I know you are new to all of this, as is everyone else, but your lack of trying irritates me. Go back out and do it again and this time return with information I might be able to use."

Saix wanted to argue, to say that he was trying and that Xemnas clearly had poor communication skills, but he choked it all back. He was assuming that was the fear again. Or perhaps it was common sense to not talk back to the Superior. Either way, he nodded his head and turned to leave, deciding that it was best he just do what he was asked and not make a fool of himself again.

Yet when he got back outside in the dreary world and the rain started to pour down on him, he wondered what more he could gain from this place. He needed to test things…to fight things, maybe look for exits. Those were Xemnas's suggestions, or demands, really, and he supposed that was the minimum that he could do. But it all had to link back to its significance in regaining their hearts.

The more this small mission weighed on him, the more he felt as if he was back in school doing essays on pointless subjects. How did anything like fighting Heartless have to relate to gaining their hearts back? He knew that they were necessary but they couldn't collect the hearts…according to the other members of the Organization, at least. So what was the point of him fighting?

There wasn't one, was there? Xemnas was just testing his loyalty, wasn't he? Saix didn't want to fall back into the eyes of disappointment. He yearned to prove to Xemnas that he could be of use and that he was better than some of the others he worked with…it was getting to that point that was the problem.

Sliding further into the storming world, Saix sought out Heartless like the way a dog hunts for food. In this place they were often tricky and harder to see, their black and small bodies moving so neatly against the ground that it required a keen eye to pick up on their whereabouts. With it raining so hard, Saix began to wonder if it was a good idea to even continue at this hour, but he didn't want Xemnas to yell at him for not getting the mission done when asked, so he sucked it up and tried to harbor his senses on his surroundings.

At first they were Shadows, their little wiggling bodies appearing in groups together, writhing and looking about with those glowing yellow eyes. Saix tended to think they were like ants but moved as sporadically as birds. If they just stood there he would have thought they were anything but harmful, but he had experienced their swift movements and claws before. Nothing was ever as it seemed. With some effort Saix summoned his claymore and set to work battling the little ones, watching as each perished after a few swings. Even with that done, he felt just as clueless as he had began. There was no way to gain hearts, was there? This was going to be a futile goal for them all…

The rain soaked down into his cloak, as he had forgotten to put his hood up, and the cold chilled his skin as he continued onward in that large and confusing world. He had reached an area of long, outstretched darkness in an alleyway with which he had passed up earlier thinking it would lead to a dead end. Now he wondered if perhaps there was more to it than that. Saix trudged forward, the heaviness of his outfit pulling him down and the sloshing of rain as his boots hit downward was reminding him that he should have been more careful.

Glowing eyes met him at eye level, something he was certain normal Shadows couldn't do. He backed up to exit and found he was surrounded by these taller versions, the build and length to them giving Saix warning signs that fighting them would be far harder than what he had been going up against. In an effort to provide any possible information, Saix stood his ground and moved in for an attack.

The rain beat down harder.

Saix didn't know how long he had fought, but they were too powerful for him at this moment in time. He was heavily wounded and outnumbered. Pelts of rain smashed against his face as he looked up from his grounded position, the creatures moved in toward him in a slow and steady manner like the way nightmares always ended. Except this wasn't a dream for Saix. He made a portal quickly and rushed through, the length of darkness soon pulsing into light. No more rain. No more battling.

His knees gave out and he soon met the floor, exhaustion rushing over his body. He hadn't felt it earlier, as if his mind refused to tell him such was happening, but now as he lay there he knew his body had limits even when the rest of him didn't know that.

He could have stayed forever like that, but the sound of footsteps awakened his muscles. Get up. The Diviner tried to push up even with his small amount of energy and glanced down on the white floor, how blotched with blood it had become. From him?

"Saix."

The familiar voice caused the hairs to rise on the back of his neck, the stern and low voice he had wondered would insult him or praise him. Well…he had yet to hear praise. Looking toward the Superior, he found the tanned figure to be giving him a look of confusion mixed with lack of care.

"Superior," was all he could muster. He stayed in his position, too frozen to move or mention that he would clean up the blood spill on the floor.

"You're bleeding," Xemnas mentioned, "And soaked."

Was he supposed to respond to that? "Yes."

The Superior continued to stare at him until his calmness broke, "What have you been doing? Can you move?"

"I was redoing the mission as you asked, Superior." Saix shifted a bit, muscles taxed from his battle. "I might need help."

Xemnas stepped forth and pulled Saix up, with strength that Saix wasn't quite expecting, but gladly accepted. He helped the Diviner into his room and sat him down. Saix watched as his leader grabbed up the medical kit and came back over only to give him a testy look. For a moment Saix expected a lecture or an insult, but instead Xemnas raised an eyebrow. "Do you expect me to undress you as well?"

It probably would be easier if he didn't have his clothes on for the bandaging process, but the way Xemnas said it made Saix feel quite befuddled. He didn't do anything in that moment, a bit too frozen to do the simplest of tasks.

The Superior sighed and unzipped Saix's cloak, eyes widening a bit as he saw the claw marks against the torn fabric of his undershirt. "What were you fighting that caused this?"

Saix glanced down at the gushing scratch, deep and festering in anger. "They looked like Shadows…but larger."

"Where at?" Xemnas asked while pulling up Saix's wet shirt. Frowning he dipped Saix's pants lower to see where the gash ended. Saix had immediately grabbed the Superior's hand to stop him out of a common reaction and the look he got was quite nasty. "I'll pretend you didn't do that."

"Sorry, Superior," Saix mumbled. He would have explained that it just seemed odd, but then decided that it was stupid to react in that way let alone try to explain it. He instead focused on the question that had been asked. "Near some alleyway…I was going to search it for the exits you asked for, but those were there instead."

"Hmm." Xemnas straightened up and pointed at him. "Take off the rest of your clothes, they're in the way and I doubt they're doing you much good being so wet."

Saix neatly removed his gloves and shirt, then worked on his boots and lastly his pants. It was odd to be undressing in front of the Superior, but supposed out of all the others he would prefer it be him. Even though the Superior seemed judgmental and disapproving, he felt that it would be better than half the things the others would say out loud.

Xemnas removed one of his own gloves and squeezed some ointment onto the tip of his fingers which he soon slathered into the wound. Saix couldn't help but shout at the burn, which only made Xemnas smile slightly. "That means it's working."

Saix couldn't help but feel a glare cross his face toward that comment. Even if he was the highest ranking member, he didn't enjoy seeing someone getting the better of him like that. Luckily he chose not to vocalize the things he wanted to say to Xemnas for making such a remark.

Xemnas grabbed up gauze next and bandaged the wound neatly, the cloth gently tightening around him with each round. Saix could feel the Superior's warm breath against his chest what with the proximity but he thought nothing of it, the yearning to put on warm clothes was more important in his mind.

He had finished and straightened back up again, gloving the naked hand he had and soon speaking up once more. "Next time wait until it's not raining to do your mission."

"You made it sound as if the information was needed immediately." Saix hesitated and then quickly responded, "Superior," as if that made his statement more respectful.

"You clearly could have used common sense to know that going out in the rain for an extended period of time is a stupid idea, especially considering we know nothing about the health of our bodies and how far we can push them in this current state."

"Then I suppose this is an experiment which is going to be more useful to your goal in regaining a heart over me searching outside for nothing." He didn't know why he was being so agitated with the Superior, but it felt as if the hold on his tongue had finally disappeared and a truer form of himself was slipping forth. Whether it was that or not, it was obvious to see that Xemnas disapproved of this attitude more than he had the previous one.

"I am going to ignore your comments and pretend it's the blood loss impairing your judgment, but the next time we speak again I best hear respect in that tone of yours otherwise I will ensure you feel the full extent of my wrath. When you are finished resting I expect you back on your feet and at my desk promptly." The Superior left then, the air stinging of tension suddenly disappearing and leaving Saix alone.

In this quietness he realized he had just fought with the Superior, perhaps a first time for him…maybe anyone? No one ever tested Xemnas…and if they had Saix would have thought he would have heard about it by now. No, clearly he was the first.

As the thought sunk in he would have felt proud, but there was nothing there. Just emptiness. And another realization that he had fought with him in his underwear, no less.

Trying to ignore the last thought, he crawled toward his bed and slipped within the confines of covers, muscles pulsing with agony that they were now being laid to rest.

When Saix had awoken and gotten dressed, sore as ever from his excursions of yesterday, he knew that the Superior would want him to be prompt in getting to his office. He thought about skipping for awhile and telling him that 'oh, last time you ordered a mission you told me it didn't need to be prompt' but did remember that Xemnas had asked him to be quick. With one glance over in the mirror he moved out to the Superior's office.

He discovered him at the window looking out over the world before him. It was a calming effect to Saix, the ebb of anger from before had died out and he remembered that Xemnas wasn't his enemy. He was here to help him and it would be better if he got on Xemnas's good side.

"Superior," Saix spoke up and watched as the tan figure slowly turned to look at him. "I came, as you asked."

"Your body…what sensations do you feel right now?"

It was an odd question but Saix answered to the best of his ability. "Sore…aching…tight."

The Superior kept his eyes fixed on his lesser companion, walking forth to observe him closer with his cold, unfeeling expression. "I see your attitude is fixed."

He would have agreed, or explained, but he couldn't. He simply stood there and allowed Xemnas to circle him like a piece of meat. When Xemnas passed in front of him the man sat down on the edge of his desk, facing Saix. "Still, I find it very distracting that one of my loyal members would be so rude to me."

More silence fell between them, Saix unsure of what to say to that. He hated it when they fell to the moments of uncertainty, whether he should respond or stay silent.

"I expect repayment so I can trust you again."

Was he ever trusted in the first place? "What would you have me do, Superior, to show you I am loyal to you?"

"We are going to find out more about the extent of our bodies, their boundaries, and perhaps find limits to them. I want to know what we can expect in this life, but first go forth to the others and hand them these folders." He handed Saix a pile of them. "They're the missions they are assigned today."

Saix looked at the pile and counted one missing. "So instead of doing a mission, I am to be some guinea pig today?"

"Something like that. Be quick, I don't want to wait all day."

Saix turned then and left, heading down the lonely hallways to where his comrades would be. Most were lounging around or tinkering with information between each other on what theories they had come up with and trying to point out the flaws of the others. Eyes landed on him when he appeared and soon they slid onto the folders. They all knew what that was.

"What's this?" Xaldin asked, nodding toward Saix as he began to hand them out according to rank.

"The Superior asked me to deliver these to you. It's your missions."

Zexion glanced at his and raised an eyebrow slightly, curiously wondering why he had been given such a thing. "I am to vacate here and find a way out. And I quote, 'not to return until a new world is discovered.'"

Xigbar glanced through his, "And do recon at the new place."

"Plus a headcount of Heartless," Vexen mused to himself. "He gave us all the same mission."

"A long one, too," Axel joked, "Maybe that means we can go in pairs." He looked at Saix and frowned then, "Hey, where's your folder?"

Saix shook his head, "I don't have one."

"Didn't you hear?" Lexaeus calmly spoke up, eyes smirking over at the redhead. "He was wounded yesterday. He wouldn't be of any use out there, especially on a long mission."

"Oh yeah, what did you do, Saix? Lay down on the ground for the Shadows to get you?" Xigbar taunted and felt the yellow glare slide onto him. "You'll miss us, I'm sure. Especially if you're keeping the Superior company."

"I suppose a long mission is preferable over that," Zexion muttered to himself. "We best prepare and leave now."

Axel watched the other guys start to gather supplies while he wandered over to Saix, gently nudging his friend. "What luck do you have, huh? Hopefully he doesn't have any bad missions to put you through…like clean this place or something, eh?"

Saix chose not to explain what Xemnas had in mind, since he really didn't know what the Superior was planning. "As long as cleaning doesn't come with a bad outfit, I think I'd prefer it over what you're doing."

Axel shrugged and soon joined the others in gathering what they needed. Saix stayed long enough to see them go and at last he turned back toward the hallway and walked its length to return to Xemnas. Once back inside the office he stopped at the desk but found Xemnas was facing away from him again. "The others have left, Superior, as ordered."

"Good, now remove your clothing."

Saix felt a frown tug at the ends of his lips but he kept it as straight as possible. "May I ask why, Superior?"

"The tests are of the body. I think clothes will only get in the way of what I have in mind."

"What do you have in mind?" He wondered if it was like torture or endurance…

Xemnas turned to face him a bit angry with his question, "Do as you're ordered, or are you not loyal to me? I seem to remember you professing such awhile ago."

"I didn't mean to offend, Superior," Saix remarked and slipped off his cloak. He got rid of the rest of his clothing, soon standing in his underwear in front of the Superior again. How many times was this going to happen to him?

But Xemnas came closer and looked down at the last article of clothing before returning his gaze into Saix's. "I said clothes off."

Saix was beginning to think whatever he had in mind was going to hurt a lot in areas he didn't want hurt. All this to prove loyalty…perhaps he should have learned to keep his mouth shut. He slipped it off, now a free man and wondering if he could survive being gelded or something just as bad. That fear feeling crept over him once again and he was starting to wonder if it was good or bad that he couldn't actually feel such a thing, just know that it was crawling all over his skin.

Xemnas unzipped his cloak and set it on the table, before demanding, "On your knees."

Down he went, a slow ascension until his knees hit the hard surface of the floor. He would have asked why the Superior removed his cloak, perhaps not wishing to get it covered in blood, but his question died in his throat as the gloved hand grabbed his tresses and yanked him forward. He was now dangerously close to Xemnas's crotch, an area he never thought he would get near, let alone want to be near. "Superior?" He finally asked, hoping this was some kind of shaming effect he wanted to test before letting him go. The hand continued to hold him there, though.

"We can't feel humiliation, Saix, it is an emotion that requires a heart. But can the body still register those things? Let's find out. Undo my pants with your teeth."

Well for not feeling humiliated Saix knew it was humiliating and that was bad enough. He was degrading him to put him in his place. He wondered if this was worse than being gelded and really couldn't decide. "I don't know if I can do that," Saix finally spoke up.

"You can and will," Xemnas replied and put his boot against Saix's exposed manhood. "Do you need incentive to obey? I can always make it hurt."

The mere placement made Saix instantly rethink the situation. His privates needed to be saved and he shook his head, "I don't need incentive, I'll do it."

The boot moved off of him and the hand pulled him closer, his face touching the fabric of Xemnas's pants, his warm breath beating against the Superior and coming back at him in quite the heavy rhythm. He must be scared, or upset, he assumed. His body was at least kicking in a response. Saix didn't think more on it, he instead grabbed the zipper as best as he could, nuzzling up against his leader's crotch to try and grasp the metal piece. It was difficult to do and he felt like giving up with each second it took, but at last he yanked it far down enough. The button required just as must determination to twist and pull in the right places, but that too came undone.

"There."

"You're not quite finished." Xemnas gently slid his pants down a bit, underwear going with to expose himself to Saix. "It's only fitting that you put your mouth where it deserves."

Oh no, Saix didn't know if he could do that. He looked up at Xemnas, the way the leader smiled like this was some kind of sick joke. He tried to muster his words but they came out anyway. "I would prefer not to."

"I know, which is why you're going to do it. If you're going to be loyal to me, you're going to show me that you will do the things you hate the most just because I asked you to do them. Understand? Now pleasure me with your mouth."

Saix leaned closer to try but turned his head away, the feeling in his stomach was tossing and turning at the very thought. "I can't."

Xemnas sighed and put a finger in Saix's mouth, prying it open. "Close your eyes." He watched the disgusted look flash over Saix's face before the man forcibly closed them, the fear of what was to come clearly evident in his mind. Xemnas then pushed the tip of his cock into Saix's gaping mouth. His other hand moved behind Saix's head again to pull him forward. He could feel the hot and wet inside of Saix's mouth, how his tongue squirmed to try and work around the intruder within, but Xemnas didn't seem to care how uncomfortable his lesser companion was. With him doing all the work, Xemnas forced Saix's head back and forth on his dick, the feeling was an interesting sensation, but no rise of emotions came to him. His body naturally started to harden at the feeling, his length soon gagging Saix to the point that Xemnas had to let him go for fear the boy would vomit.

"You're not very good at showing me how loyal you are."

He wanted to wash his mouth out and throw up at least five times, but whatever discomfort that had happened only seemed to have been from his body not being able to take such force. This was degrading. "I apologize, Superior…"

"No, that's not good enough." Xemnas pulled his shirt off and his gloves, pants and boots going as well finally so that both of them were naked. He could see the look of desperation on Saix's face, the knowing of what he wanted to do next. "Get up and bend yourself over the desk."

Saix rose but was slow in his movements. "Please, Superior, there have to be other tests—"

"Quit whining and do it," Xemnas ordered. The neophyte grudgingly bent over the table and felt Xemnas kick his feet to widen his stance. Saix hoped that this would never leave this room, that Xemnas and he could pretend this was just a bad dream that never truly happened. "Pity you failed at preparing me better, I guess this is repayment for such a poor job done. After all, you reap what you sow."

The blue-haired figure had started to wish he had been able to take Xemnas in more because he knew this was going to be painful. Just feeling the head rub against his cheeks and soon brushing the cleft of his ass made him tense up. He could survive this.

One of Xemnas's hands pushed Saix's cheek out of the way while the other guided himself into Saix's opening. It was tight and Xemnas really hard to force himself hard, finally breaking through the entrance with one hard shove that had Saix clenching the wood of the desk and arching upward in discomfort. The Superior pushed him back down, hands now resting on the ribcage of the Diviner. "I wonder how long this could last? How long you could go before the pain is too much?"

Saix was breathing hard. It was already at that point, how could it get any worse? "Superior…please, I'll do anything if we stop this."

"This is what I want to do, to test your body, to test mine…I can see you quivering and shaking. Is that from pleasure?"

"No," Saix replied, "It's from pain." He knew that for certain.

"What a pity." He began to thrust then, the lesser individual making quite the pained noises with each movement. Xemnas didn't care, he continued at it, tan flesh slapping against the pale skin of his partner. The tightness around his erection fueled him to keep at it, the sensation starting to become a nice throbbing of pleasure. It wasn't like he could feel it, like love, but in his loins he could feel the sensation boiling within. So perhaps they still had full range of their senses?

He went at it harder, the noise of his pelvis against Saix's ass being accompanied with the heavy breathing of Saix. Xemnas could tell it was painful, that breathing, like he was swallowing hot coals or stepping on pieces of glass, but he had no compassion for his partner. He only wished to see if he could orgasm, to see if he still had enough of himself to get to that erotic point.

It started to ebb and Xemnas frowned, wondering why he wasn't hitting the breaking point. Leaning down onto Saix he continued to thrust while feeling Saix's muscles against his front spasm and tighten in agony. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I'm going to be sick," Saix hissed between rapid thrusts.

"No pleasure at all?"

"Dying would be more pleasurable!"

Xemnas kept at it long and hard until he felt himself release into Saix, the other making quite the noise of disgust at the feeling. Nothing. He thought it was getting so close, that euphoric sensation…and he was met with nothing. It was easy to say that he was extremely disappointed in this matter, but wondered if he simply would have to keep trying—and at later dates.

Pulling out and backing off of Saix, he looked at the slick substance that covered his cock and how it gently slid downward Saix's thighs. "Disappointing. We will simply have to try again once we've recovered."

Saix looked over at him with so much hate and loathing. "Once is enough for me."

"No, I planned for the others to be gone in case this was to happen. We will keep trying until I discover why our bodies only stop at such points…"

"What points?"

"Before orgasm, of course."

"I don't see how you could orgasm," Saix remarked with malice, but chose to shut up after that.

The Superior merely looked his companion over and pointed at the clothing on the floor. "Take your things and go. Tonight we start the second round, so you better prepare."

Saix didn't hesitate in grabbing his items and leaving. It was a shameful walk, a painful journey toward his room, but one he rather take than stay in the grasps of the Superior. Once inside the confines of his room he only thought of one thing. Loyalty was a bitch.

SO! There's that. I'm not sure if this will get another chapter to it, because it can very well stand on its own. In any case, I hope you enjoyed this, or well…found it interesting. Review if you want, and thanks for reading!