Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

    Ronyx
  • Author
  • 4,604 Words
  • 2,477 Views
  • 4 Comments
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

A Mourning Storm - 15. Chapter 15

Gabe returned about fifteen minutes later. He lifted a large laundry basket up the ladder and heaved it into the tree house.

Freddy and I had been talking quietly while he was gone. Most of it was about school and teachers. He was having trouble in an American history class. The teacher, Mr. Fletcher, was a real hard ass. Freddy explained that he had been trying to catch up on the assignments since he enrolled in our school.

“He’s expecting too much,” Freddy complained. “Besides doing the regular daily class work, he expects me to turn in ten additional assignments each week. I’ve already taken two zeros because I didn’t get them completed on time.”

I have Mr. Fletcher fourth period. Freddy has him sixth, so I knew what he was talking about. Fletch, as he is called by the students, doesn’t tolerate anyone who slacks off in class. I had been experiencing a similar problem since I had missed so much work the past couple of months, but I’ve been able to keep up with the work.

“Why are you taking American history, anyway?” Since he was a year ahead of me, he should have already completed the class.

“I kind of failed it last year,” he answered embarrassedly.

“Kind of failed it?”

“Yeah,” he explained. “I was in the middle of doing a major project when we moved. My computer was down for a couple of weeks, and I didn’t have a way to the library. The teacher wouldn’t extend the due date. It was a major part of our grade. So, I kind of failed the class,” he grinned. “Mom was furious when she found out. She says I should have told her I was having trouble.”

“Maybe I can help you in Fletch’s class,” I volunteered.

He replied excitedly, “God, Richie, that would be great! If I fail his class again, I’ll won’t be able graduate next year. I already have to make up two classes in summer school.”

“You let me know what assignments you’re missing,” I said. “I may have them in my notebook. You can copy them.”

He looked at me skeptically. “I don’t know, Richie. Isn’t that cheating?”

“Do you want to have to make it up in summer school?”

“Well, no.”

“Then I’ll help you,” I insisted. “I’m almost caught up, so I have the time.”

“Cool,” he responded. “When we leave tomorrow, you can go home with me.” He stopped suddenly. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “We’ll go to your house, and we can go over the assignments I’ve missed.”

I felt saddened when he talked of home. I could tell by the expression on his face that he felt uncomfortable talking about it. My home was now his home. Even though I loved my aunt and uncle, it still didn’t feel like I could call it home. I felt more like I was living in foster care.

“What’s all this?” I asked as Gabe pushed the basket toward me. I looked over at Freddy and shrugged my shoulders.

“Things we’ll need tonight.” He entered the tree house and tried to catch his breath.

“We didn’t use to need all this,” I reminded him. “We just came up here and slept.”

“We’re not little anymore,” he said. He began to unload the contents of the basket onto the floor.

“Blankets,” he said as he pulled out four and held them up.

“Food!” he said excitedly as he took several bags of chips, cookies and a big jar of dill pickles. Gabe always had a thing for pickles. Almost every meal includes them. He pulled out a six pack of soda. He then lifted his laptop computer out of the basket. “Can’t forget this,” he announced.

“I thought we were going to rough it tonight?” I asked.

“Are you serious?” He gave me a questioning look. “We’re not kids any more. Besides, I have some email I have to send.”

“Are you going to email Teresa and tell her about Sasha?” I teased.

“Hell, no! We’re only dating. It’s not like we’re going steady or anything.”

“She’s going around school telling everyone you are,” I informed him.

“Who told you that?”

“Everybody knows about it,” I said. I looked over at Freddy. “Isn’t that right?”

He looked at Gabe and said, “I heard about it last week.”

“What!” Gabe started to stand but hit his head on the roof of the tree house. Freddy and I started rolling on the floor laughing.

“Give her another week and she’ll have you married.”

“Shit!” he hissed. “I gotta stop seeing her. I like her and all, but I’m too young to get married!” Freddy and I looked at each other and broke out laughing again.

Gabe unloaded several more things onto the floor. He then reached into the bottom of the basket and pulled out a six pack of beer. “Tada!” he said excitedly as he held it into the air.

“Where did you get that?” Freddy asked. “Our parents will kill us if we drink.” He again looked over at me sadly. “Sorry, Rich. I keep forgetting.”

“Listen, Freddy.” I looked over at Gabe. “You, too. I’m a big boy now. You don’t have to worry what you say around me.” I took a deep breath. “I know Mom’s dead, and I’m living with my aunt and uncle. I’ll let you know if you say something I don’t like, all right?” They both nodded.

“Now let’s party!” Gabe shouted as he tried to stand but bumped his head on the ceiling again. Freddy and I roared with laughter.

We had a good time. I felt better than I had in several years. It seemed like old times, but now Freddy was included in our banter. Several times Gabe started to talk about girls at school, but he stopped. I guess he figured neither of us was interested.

After we each had drunk two beers and eaten most of the food, Gabe said excitedly, “Let’s streak the neighborhood!”

“No!” I shouted.

“Yes we can, Richie,” he laughed. “We used to do it all the time when we were little.”

“You guys ran around naked?” Freddy almost shrieked out the words.

“Yeah,” Gabe replied. “We were only about ten or eleven, but we had fun. Mrs. Stevenson down the street caught us one night when she was walking her dog.” He looked over at me and laughed. “Remember that, Richie?” I nodded. “She called our parents and we were grounded for a month.”

“I think she enjoyed seeing us naked.” I lay back and laughed. Gabe lay beside me and put his head on my stomach.

“Do you remember the look on her face when we turned and mooned her?” We roared with laughter. Freddy, too, started laughing.

“You guys are idiots!” he laughed. “I’d like to have seen that.”

Gabe sat up. “You can,” he said challenging. “Let’s go out in the yard and take off our clothes. This is going to be so cool. I may even call Greg.”

Greg is one of our friends who used to get a kick out of watching us run bare-assed past his bedroom window. Gabe would always call him and give him an advanced notice when we were going to streak.

“Don’t you dare!” I shouted.

Gabe looked at me and grinned. “You game?” I looked over at Freddy. “I don’t know.” Gabe waited for Freddy to respond. When he shrugged his shoulders, Gabe jumped up, hitting his head on the ceiling.

“Last one naked is a rotten egg!” he shouted as he removed his shirt and headed for the door.

Gabe was already naked by the time we climbed down the ladder. Freddy’s eyes widened when he saw his sculpted body. Years of playing sports showed as he stood nude before us.

He was holding his cell phone to his ear. “Greg?” he shouted into the phone. “Look out your window in five minutes.” He closed the phone and started laughing.

He looked over at us and threw up his arms. “Come on, Guys. I feel a little funny here.”

I looked over at Freddy. “You want to do this?”

He grinned and started taking off his shirt. “Sure, why not.” Gabe started dancing around in the yard. We removed all our clothes except our underwear. I stood waiting until he removed his. Finally, he pulled them down and stood before us naked.

I felt my cock start to harden looking at him. Even though I had seen his cock at the park, seeing him standing naked before me aroused me. He didn’t play sports, but his body was as firm and defined as Gabe’s.

“Come on, Richie,” hollered Gabe. When he realized I was reluctant to pull down my underwear, he ran behind me and quickly pulled them down. Freddy’s eyes widened when he saw me standing with an erection.

Gabe reached out and thumped it. I bent over and moaned. “We’re supposed to be streaking here, not having sex.” He grabbed my arm. “Come on. I told Greg five minutes.”

Freddy looked at me and giggled when Gabe started running. He took off and I followed, watching his ass under the moonlit sky. It didn’t help my boner any. We ran to Greg’s house. He had his window open and was leaning out. He started roaring with laughter when he saw us approaching. Gabe stood and wiggled his body at him, making his cock sway side to side.

“Hold on,” Greg whispered as he started to climb out the window. He was naked! “I’ve wanted to do this with you guys for years,” he laughed as he stood before us with his hands over his cock. Greg was a heavy boy who had few friends at school. Gabe and I had known him all our lives, and we never tried to avoid him like other students did. Many times Gabe had invited him to eat at our table in the cafeteria. The first time he did, Gabe had to practically drag his large body across the cafeteria floor. He objected because he wasn’t a jock, but Gabe had responded. “You’re our friend, that’s all that counts.” Other students started to treat him kinder after that.

“Then come on!” Gabe shouted as he tore off through the neighborhood.

We ran past Mr. Cunningham, an elder gentleman a block away. He was getting out of his car carrying a bag of groceries. He stopped and laughed when he saw us streaking past. “I’d join you,” he hollered, “but this old body won’t run anymore.” Gabe turned and waved. Mr. Cunningham gave us a thumbs up and then walked away laughing.

We ran through several blocks before finally returning home. When we dropped Greg off at his house, he thanked us and said it was the most fun he’d had in years.

We collapsed exhausted on the lawn outside the tree house. I looked over at Freddy. He was lying on his back and his chest was heaving as he tried to catch his breath. My eyes focused on his uncut cock.

“Take a picture,” Gabe giggled. My face turned several shades of red when I realized I’d been caught staring at him. After a few more minutes, we put on our underwear and climbed the ladder to the tree house.

“That was fun,” Gabe exclaimed as he sat down. “I almost forgot how much fun we used to have.”

“I can’t believe I streaked the neighborhood,” Freddy moaned. “If Mom finds out I’ll be grounded until I’m twenty-five.”

I looked over at Gabe, leaned in and gave him a big hug. “Thanks,” I whispered in his ear. Nothing more needed to be said. Gabe had restored my childhood. With everything I had been through, it felt good to be a kid once again. He knew that. That’s why he had us do what we did.

Gabe opened his phone to see what time it was. “We’d better get to sleep,” he announced. “It’s after midnight.”

“I thought we were going to pull an all-nighter?” He started to make a bed on the floor with the blankets.

“Can’t,” he said. “I got practice in the morning.”

“It’s Sunday!” I shouted.

“Tell the coach that,” he replied as he and Freddy continued to make a bed. “We can’t play on Friday if we don’t show up.” They laid three on the floor, leaving one as a cover. Gabe was the first to crawl in. Freddy looked at me. I guess he didn’t know if I wanted the middle or if he should take it. I shrugged and then lay down. Freddy got in beside me.

Gabe rolled on his side and fell asleep immediately. After years of spending nights with him, I knew it didn’t take him long. A minute later, he began to snore. I lay on my side facing him. Freddy tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable. After a few minutes, he spooned his body against mine.

I froze when he pressed his body against me. “Is this okay with you?” He whispered in my ear. I nodded. He then wrapped his arm around me and pulled me closer to him. I wrapped my hand around his arm and soon fell asleep.

Gabe was the first to awaken. The sun was beginning to shine through the window of the tree house. I opened my eyes and saw him smiling at me. I then realized that Freddy was still spooned against my body with his arm around me. I could feel his erection pressed against my ass.

“I gotta piss,” Gabe announced. When he pulled the cover back, his cock was straining against his underwear. “What?” He laughed when he saw me looking at it. “You had one last night.” He tugged on it a few times and then crawled to the door. I laughed as he climbed down the ladder.

Freddy stretched out. When he did, his hard cock poked my ass. I giggled and then turned toward him. “Morning,” I smiled. “Sleep well?”

He batted his eyes, trying to figure out where he was. He rose up on his elbow and looked around. “Yeah, I did.” He lay his head back down and stared at me. He looked so cute. His hair was tousled, and he had slight mustache which I hadn’t noticed before.

His brown eyes darted as he stared into my face. “Morning,” he said nervously as he leaned in to kiss me. I closed my eyes and felt his lips touch mine. Both of us started giggling at the same time.

He rolled on his back and covered his mouth. “Morning breath!”

I cupped my hand to my mouth and let out a few breaths. “Eww,” I giggled.

He rolled back over and looked at me. He covered his mouth and said, “Maybe we should try this again later.”

"Good idea,” I laughed.

Gabe came up the ladder and crawled in beside us. He was dressed. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing!” We said in unison.

Freddy and I hurried outside and got dressed. I couldn’t take my eyes off him while he put his clothes on. His eyes didn’t leave my body, either.

“Here!” Gabe threw the laundry basket down at me. Freddy stepped over and helped me catch it.

When we entered Gabe’s house, his mother was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. “Did you boys have fun last night?” We looked at each other and started laughing.

“Yeah, Mom,” said Gabe. He gave us a wicked grin. “We ran into a problem, but it turned out okay.” She gave us a puzzled look when we started laughing.

“Boys.” She shook her head. “Go clean up. Breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes.”

We were eating when Mr. Dyson walked sleepily into the room. He sat down while Gabe’s mother poured him a cup of coffee. He looked over at us. “Morning, Boys.” He picked up the syrup bottle and poured some on his pancakes. He then looked back over and grinned. “Did you enjoy your morning run?”

Gabe started choking on a piece of bacon. I looked over at Freddy. I don’t know whose face was redder, mine or his. Mr. Dyson smiled again and started pounding on his chest. “Nothing like an early run to get the old heart pumping, huh, Boys?”

“Yeah, Richie,” he laughed. “A good run makes a lot of things pump up, right?” The orange juice I was drinking sprayed from my mouth onto my plate.

“What on earth are you rambling about, Carl?” Gabe’s mother asked as she sat the cup of coffee in front of her husband.

“Nothing, Dear,” he looked at us and grinned. “I have to remember not to get up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom.” Gabe looked at me, then Freddy, then back to his father. His father leaned back in his chair and roared with laughter.

He then stopped laughing, leaned toward Gabe and warned, “We’ll talk about this later, Son.”

“Yes, Sir,” Gabe answered sheepishly and very red-faced.

“What do you think he’s going to do to you?” We had finished eating breakfast and were sitting in Gabe’s room. Gabe was pacing nervously around the room.

“I don’t know,” he said worriedly, “but whatever it is, you’re going to help me do it.”

“But it was your idea,” I reminded him.

“So?” He looked at me and Freddy. “You didn’t have to do it.”

“What!” Freddy jumped up, but I stopped him.

“Forget it, Freddy,” I laughed. “When Gabe gets in trouble, everyone gets in trouble.”

“Damn, straight!” Gabe said as he walked over and fisted me. Freddy reluctantly returned it.

We sat around talking for about a half hour. Gabe’s father came into the room to get him for basketball practice. “You ready, Sport?” He walked around Gabe examining him. Gabe gave us a puzzled look. “Yep. Got all your clothes on.”

Gabe turned to his father. “You’re getting a kick out of this, aren’t you?”

His father laughed and said, “Let’s just say I have a mean streak.” He emphasized the word ‘streak.’

“Come on, Guys.” Gabe angrily picked up his gym bag and left hurriedly from the room. His father trailed behind him laughing.

He dropped Freddy off first. Before he got out of the car, he asked me, “Do you want to come in for a while? I can show you what work I need help with in history.”

I looked worriedly at him. I then looked at the driveway to see if his car was parked outside. “I don’t know. Why don’t you come over later to my aunt’s house?”

He looked sadly at me. “I’ll ask Mom to bring me over later. I really was hoping you’d come in, though.” He got out of the car without saying goodbye. I knew by the expression on his face he was upset. We had gotten along so well, and now I had disappointed him.

Gabe turned to me when he saw Freddy walking up the driveway with his shoulders slumped. “Why don’t you go in with him?” I hesitated a moment before opening the door and climbing out.

“Hey, Freddy!” He turned and smiled when he saw me exit the car. “Wait up!” His smile turned to a wide grin when I walked up and threw my arm around his shoulder.

“Richie!” Andrew was first to see me. He came running across the living room and jumped into my arms. We fell back onto the sofa. Seconds later, Harley came bounding into the room and jumped into my lap.

I started tickling them until Harley jumped up and shouted that I was going to make him pee his pants. I looked up at Freddy. He mouthed the words, “He means it.”

I put Andrew down and patted his butt. “Why don’t you guys go play? I’ll join you later.”

“Promise?” Andrew asked.

I gave him a hug. “Promise.” He hit Harley, yelled “you’re it,” and they ran from the room.

I turned when Freddy’s mother came walking into the room. She was dressed in a light blue sweat suit. It appeared she may have just returned from jogging. She stopped suddenly when she saw me standing beside Freddy. “Richard!” She gave me a warm smile.

“It’s Richie, Mom,” Freddy informed her. “He likes people to call him Richie.”

“Of course,” she replied as she walked over to me and extended her hand. “I’m pleased that you’re here.” My first instinct was to remind her that this wasn’t her home, but mine. I should be welcoming her to MY home. But I glanced quickly at Freddy. He was biting his lower lip nervously. I think he was afraid how I might respond to meeting his mother.

I took her hand and shook it. “Thank you, Mrs. Brumbaugh.”

“Linda,” she smiled. “If you like to be called Richie, then please call me Linda.”

“Okay, Linda.” She smiled warmly at me. A wave of guilt swept through me. I wanted to hate her, but I couldn’t. She seemed genuinely nice. I could now see where Freddy got his gentle nature.

She took my arm and started to lead me into the kitchen. “Come boys,” she said. “I just baked some oatmeal cookies. Harley’s been bugging me for weeks to make them.”

When we entered the kitchen, Freddy and I sat at the center island while she poured us a glass of milk and placed some cookies on a plate. She kept looking at me and smiling. She seemed really pleased that I was home. I heard the patter of feet. Harley and Andrew came running into the kitchen. “Oatmeal cookies!” Harley shouted. He ran over and hugged his mother. “Thank you, Mommy!”

She gave him and my brother a glass of milk and a handful of cookies. “Now you two go out on the deck and eat.” As they ran for the door, she shouted out, “And don’t make a mess!” She turned to us and laughed. “Boys.”

She poured herself a cup of coffee and then took a seat across from us. “Did you have a good time last night?” she asked Freddy. He quickly glanced over at me.

“Yes, Mother,” he replied. “I had a wonderful time.”

She looked at me and asked, “He didn’t get you in any trouble, did he?”

“Mother!” Freddy said loudly. “I’m not a kid anymore.”

“Of course, Dear,” she replied. She stood up and walked over to the counter. “I just don’t want you running around and getting into trouble.” For the second time that morning, I sprayed my drink onto the table.

She turned and gave us a puzzled look. Freddy grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. “Let’s go to my room,” he laughed.

“Boys!” I heard her exclaim as we left the room.

We went downstairs to the family room. Freddy’s clothes were neatly piled in stacks in the corner. His shoes lined one wall. The sofa had been made into a bed. I then remembered him telling me that he was now living down in the basement.

He walked over to the sofa and sat down. “See,” he smiled when I sat down beside him. “She’s not a monster.”

“Maybe not,” I grinned, “but her son is an ogre.” He laughed before jumping on top of me and pinning me down on the sofa. He smiled and then leaned in and kissed me. It was soft and gentle at first, but then the kiss became more passionate.

“Wow!” He said when our lips parted. He sat up and looked over at me.

I tried to return his smile, but I couldn’t. I enjoyed the kiss, but it seemed to have happened too soon. I was still getting over Wade’s death, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for another relationship.

“I’m sorry, Freddy,” I said sadly. “I’m just not ready for this yet.”

He grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “I know that, Richie,” he assured me. “It’s just I’ve wanted to kiss you since the first time I saw you.”

“You have?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “You have no idea how much I’ve been hurting because I thought you hated me.”

“Really?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I was surprised that he had wanted me for so long. I then thought back to how awful I’d been treating him. I suddenly felt embarrassed.

“It’s okay, Richie,” he assured me. “As long as I know you don’t hate me, I can wait.” Tears were shining in his brown eyes. I leaned in and kissed him again, only not as passionately as we had the first time.

“Thanks,” he said as I pulled away.

We sat back on the sofa. He reached over and took my hand in his, and I locked my fingers around his. For some reason that I couldn’t even explain to myself, I felt safe when he was holding my hand.

I asked, “Does your mother know you’re gay?”

“Yeah.” I looked surprisingly at him.

“She does?”

“Yeah,” he said as he squeezed my hand. “I told her about two years ago. She’s okay with it.”

“She is?” I couldn’t believe that he had come out to his mother. I always thought it was something you kept hidden until you graduated or something.

He started laughing. “Not everyone thinks we’re perverted.”

“My father does,” I replied sadly.

“No, he doesn’t.” I gave Freddy a surprised look. “He knows I’m gay. He’s never said anything bad about it to me.”

“He knows you’re gay?” He started laughing at the stunned look on my face.

“Of course,” he laughed. “When I came out to Mom, she asked if it would be all right if she told your father. He’s seems pretty cool with it.”

“He is?”

Freddy sat back and laughed. He squeezed my hand tighter. “Not everyone is a monster like you seem to think.” He leaned over and kissed me quickly. He rose, walked over to a table and got a book.

“We did come back to study,” he reminded me when he sat back down. I scooted closer to him as he opened his book. We worked for the next few hours on some assignments he had to make up. I wanted to go home and get my notebook, but he said it was better if we did it without cheating. When we finished, he only had a few assignments remaining.

“You’re a life saver,” he remarked as he closed the book after we’d finished a long assignment.

I started smiling. “I had a good time. In fact, the past two days have been fun. I’m glad we finally met each other.”

“Me, too,” he said as he kissed me quickly on the lips.

Just then the upstairs door opened, and his mother hollered down. “Boys! Dinner is ready.” I looked over at the clock. I hadn’t realized that so much time had passed.

“I can’t stay for dinner,” I responded worriedly.

“Why?”

“I...just...can’t,” I stammered out. I didn’t want to face him. I wasn’t yet prepared to see him again. I thought that I would be gone by the time he got home. I should have been more aware of the time.

Freddy followed behind me as I bounded up the stairs. I opened the door, hoping to make it to the garage door before he saw me. As soon as I walked out, I ran into him.

“Son?”

“Daddy?”

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments, likes and loves.  :thankyou:

Copyright © 2009 by Ronyx; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 26
  • Love 9
  • Wow 1
  • Fingers Crossed 2
  • Angry 1
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

I cannot imagine what my parents would have done if I’d been caught streaking! Body-shame was a huge deal in my family. Nudity was a big ‘sin’ (remember, my father was a conservative Protestant minister). My parents did make their extreme disapproval of the Seventies streaking fad clear to us.
;–)
 

Is it significant that Richie called him ‘Daddy’ in the final line?

Link to comment

Gabe’s Dad is awesome. I’m pleased Richie and Freddie seem to be getting along better.

Is it significant Richie saying Daddy to his Dad.

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment
  • Site Administrator

A feelgood chapter after a lot of chapters filled with pain and angst :)

I'm glad that Freddy and Richie are getting closer. I'm even more impressed that Richie recognises and tells Freddy, that he's not ready for a relationship. Richie is healing, and while there's still a good chance of a setback, overall his mental state is improving steadily.

From what Freddy has said, Richie may need to adjust his thinking about his father. Of course, there's a difference between someone else's kid being gay and your own kid being gay, but there's a chance that Richie's father isn't upset at Richie being gay. It's other things that have had the two of them at each other's throats in previous chapters. Richie's mother is the obvious one, and that still hasn't been resolved. We'll see in the next chapter if Richie's anger at his father's betrayal of his mother has subsided, or if it's still at category 5...

  • Like 3
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..