Earlier Than Never
Chuuya’s second year of high school should have been exactly like the first.
He did well in most of his classes. He had good friends. He was part of the soccer team, which had won every game he had played, much to their coach’s delight. He wasn’t involved in any of the occasional sordid stories and rumors that were part of all school experiences; he stood up against bullies, was appreciated by his teachers and classmates, and was occasionally confessed to by girls he had to turn down in spite of his embarrassment—and without quite revealing why he turned them down.
He should’ve walked his way toward the end of the year tranquilly, and Dazai should’ve kept ignoring him.
“You know,” said the voice of the boy in question, much deeper now than it had been before Dazai had disappeared from his life, “I really wouldn’t have pegged you for the top-of-the-year kind. Aren’t sports kids supposed to get abysmal grades?”
He was leaning over Chuuya’s shoulder, peering down at the physics homework spread over Chuuya’s desk, and his words came with soft exhales around the bare skin of Chuuya’s neck. Chuuya clenched his teeth reflexively. He also clenched his hand, crumpling the page of his textbook and making his scars redden.
Don’t answer him, he told himself.
“But there you are, beating me in science. You used to be terrible at math, Chuuya; what on earth happened?”
“This is self-study,” came Yosano’s drawling voice from the row behind them. “Not study-your-neighbor, Dazai.”
Chuuya’s jaw only relaxed when he felt Dazai move away to look at her. He didn’t have to turn around to know the face he would be making now; slightly bemused, slightly condescending, as if to ask her, Why would I need to study?
“I don’t have anything to work on right now,” Dazai replied, oddly polite.
“Surely our resident genius can handle a few questions.”
“I’m not your resident genius,” Chuuya said between his teeth. He regretted it immediately, for Dazai seemed to take his spite as invitation and leaned over his desk again, sideways this time, so that Chuuya couldn’t avoid having him within his sight. Furious with himself, he shot Dazai a glare. “I just work hard.”
Dazai gave him a slow smile. With his head tilted, with how close they were to the windows, his hair lightened to brown. Strands of it brushed softly over his forehead.
Chuuya held his breath and looked away.
“You really like physics.” Chuuya didn’t make a move to stop Dazai as he slid the notebook out of his loose-fingered hold, and even without direct contact, Chuuya felt his fingertips tingle. “Your handwriting’s still terrible, but these are some well-kept notes. I know our teacher wants you to study it in college, too.”
Had the compliment come from anyone else, Chuuya would’ve thanked them. He would have felt flustered, a little flattered, proud of himself. As it came from Dazai, he only spat, “What is it to you anyway?”
There was a brief silence. “It’s just interesting,” Dazai replied evenly. “You’ve changed.”
If Dazai wanted to get to know Chuuya again, he could’ve done so any time in the last year. Chuuya ripped his notebook out of the other’s hold and started shoving his things back in his bag.
“Yosano,” he called, ignoring Dazai’s presence entirely and looking over his shoulder. Yosano sat a desk over, looking at them with boredom. “Wanna go get lunch?”
“I suppose it’s close enough to the end of the period,” she answered, eyes flicking toward the wall clock. “Though, we’ll get chewed if we get caught.”
“We won’t. Come on.”
He waited just long enough for her to have bagged her own books before rising from his chair. He pushed Dazai out of his way, and Dazai moved without complaint, following the press of Chuuya’s hand like water swept by the tide.
Chuuya barely listened to what Yosano was saying while they crossed the corridor leading to Higuchi’s classroom. He leaned by the wall next to the door as she stuck her head inside to invite her to join them.
It was a warm spring day, blooming pink and yellow over the wide school grounds. Chuuya let the sun wash over his face and felt only shivers.
Arthur’s voice must be coming from within the kitchen. Chuuya eased his shoes off one-handed and tried not to stumble in the process. His backpack was only slung over one shoulder, pulling him toward the ground. He managed not to fall by awkwardly shoving himself onto the wall; behind him, the front door closed with a click.
Arthur’s head peeked out of the open entrance of the kitchen. “You alive in there?”
“Yeah,” Chuuya replied, smiling despite himself. “Sorry. Just tired from practice.”
“You’re running late. Your coach isn’t working you too hard, is he?”
“S’fine. The season starts next week.”
Arthur gave a sympathetic noise and went back to what smelled like dinner. Chuuya exhaled slowly, thoroughly, until at last some of the tension in his back filtered out. His calves and thighs still ached fiercely, but that was nothing a good night’s sleep wouldn’t fix.
“What’s for dinner?” he asked once he had put on his slippers and made his way to the kitchen itself. He let his bags fall by his chair and took a seat, glad to see that the table had already been set.
“Pasta,” Arthur announced proudly. “I think I managed to cook them al dente.”
“Did you tell Paul already?”
“Who do you take me for? I sent him a snap the moment I took them out of the water.”
Chuuya laughed. “How unfair is it,” he declared, “that the best dad and the best sibling are both on the other side of the world. I haven’t seen a vegetable that wasn’t sadly boiled in a month.”
“You can cook,” Arthur replied, falsely accusing, even as he dumped a spoonful of spaghetti into Chuuya’s plate. “You’re just never around to do it.”
“We can’t all work from home, old man.”
Dinner was a pleasant affair. It always was. Even with Paul and Kouyou gone to France—one to spoon-feed Arthur’s new book to its intended public, the other for college—Chuuya didn’t feel off in the least. Arthur was good company, with cutting humor and kind eyes. That had been what had driven Chuuya to him in the first place, eight-year-old that he had been, feral and rude and achingly lonely.
If he had been told then that he would one day have a place to call home and people to call family, he would’ve laughed until he cried.
Chuuya took care of the dishes despite his aching legs and Arthur’s offer to do it himself. The activity soothed his mind of the day’s thoughts, too many of which had been occupied by Dazai’s weird behavior of late, and the scarring on his hands was old enough now that dish soap and water didn’t irritate it too much. He barely spared it a glance as he set the plates up to dry on their own.
“I’ve got some homework left,” he called from the kitchen, wiping his hands with a clean rag. “So I’m gonna head up now.”
He could see the back of Arthur’s head above the armchair he was sat in, no doubt putting endless edits onto an already-perfect draft. Arthur lifted a hand in his direction and said, “Good night, kid.”
Paul always had an easier time calling Chuuya son than Arthur did, but even so, Chuuya heard the word for what it was. It kept him warm through the chest during all of his Japanese lit reading.
His phone rang sometime before ten, right as he was deliberating getting started on chemistry ahead of time. He took the call, as happy with the excuse not to as he was with its sender.
“Hi.” He grinned as soon as Kouyou’s face sharpened over the screen.
“Hello,” she replied, smiling as well. “Hard at work?”
“Procrastinating. Where’s Paul?”
“At some fancy editorial luncheon, I believe, singing Arthur’s praise.” It was afternoon still in France, and Chuuya could see sunlight around the shape of his sister, a stone wall at the back of her head and foliage from some tree brushing in and out of the frame. “How are you?”
Generally speaking they reserved calls for weekends, because of the awkward time difference and because it was easier for all of them to be present at once, so Kouyou and he had talked only days ago. Chuuya knew he had been withdrawn, though, and so he had an idea of the reason she had chosen a time when she knew he would be alone.
He picked idly at the numb burn scars marring the back of his wrists and hands. They weren’t so very swollen now and thankfully not nearly as sensitive as they had been for months after the accident, but he still only had to focus for a second to feel the echo of that ache.
“I’m fine,” he replied at last.
He knew he couldn’t fool her.
“Chuuya,” Kouyou said, predictably, in a less agreeable tone than she had used so far. “Something’s bothering you.”
“It’s nothing important.”
“But it’s something.”
Sometimes, Chuuya really wished that she weren’t so perceptive.
“It’s nothing,” he repeated, but the words came with far less ease the second time around. “It’s just—you know. Dazai.”
Kouyou kept silent for a moment. When she asked, “Has he done anything to you?” her voice was cold.
“No,” Chuuya replied too quickly. “No, he’s just decided to stop ignoring me is all.”
“What do you mean?”
He hadn’t realized just how tightly he had withheld his thoughts, crushed them inside his chest like paper in a closed fist, until the words came flowing out of him at the sight of Kouyou’s face, the sound of her static-filled voice. Each time he said Dazai’s name came a little more easily. It was a year now since the boy had reappeared into his life; yet aside from mentioning his return once on the day he had turned fifteen, Chuuya had not said any more.
Fatigue threatened to pull his eyelids down by the time he was done. He had moved from desk to bed sometime during his messy rant, and was in the middle of changing into sleepwear with his phone screen turned away.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” she said to him, her head now resting fully against the wall of what must be her university building. Chuuya slid into bed. “I can’t fix this for you.”
“I know,” Chuuya mumbled sleepily.
She paused. The mic of her own phone was not powerful enough to pick up the wind he could see swaying in her hair, but Chuuya heard it all the same. For a moment, he pictured himself sitting next to her, breathing in smells different from those of Yokohama, lacking the salt that sea brought but perhaps a bit sweeter.
“I don’t think he’d be speaking to you for no reason. Maybe he wants to apologize.”
“I don’t want his apology.”
At least not for what Dazai probably thought he should be apologizing for. Chuuya stared at the back of his hands, where his skin was pink and white and melted-looking.
“Then maybe he just misses you, Chuuya,” Kouyou said softly.
Darkness was tugging at the corners of Chuuya’s sight. The exertion of the day caught up with him at last and made his body languid, his mind weak against the pull of sleep.
He had almost entirely given to it when Kouyou added, “You’re very easy to miss.”
The first game of the season came the next Wednesday. Chuuya spent most of that week allowing himself lenience on school work to focus on training instead, spending each evening in the company of his team, carving strategy into his head as deep as he did the physical drills. He didn’t see much of his father outside of breakfast because, more often than not, he and Tachihara ended up getting dinner together after practice, too tired to do much more than moan about their fate.
Coach Oda had high hopes for them this year. The winning nationals sort of hope. Just because he was nice about it didn’t mean that he was letting any of them, especially Chuuya, slack off any.
Chuuya spent the night before the game catching up on what little homework he could and then forcing himself into bed at ten o’clock sharp. Until midnight he stared at the ceiling of his room and listened to the comings and goings of Arthur downstairs. Arthur always wrote the most at night.
Somehow, he ended up falling asleep; and somehow, he woke up feeling refreshed, free of the almost-constant nausea that stress had knotted into his stomach all week. He ate with relief, showered, picked up his bag and made for his school.
Luckily, the game was to be held there. He didn’t think he would be quite so calm if he had to step onto foreign grounds, no matter that the team they were playing studied only a handful of streets away.
“You ready for this?” Tachihara asked when he entered the locker room.
“We’ll see,” Chuuya replied, grabbing his offered arm firmly.
He turned his focus to the game after that. Changing into his team colors, warming up, all of it in a blur; soon enough he was on the field, surrounded by a surprising amount of people. It seemed most of their school had turned up, as well as a good chunk of their opposing team’s. A cry of his name quickly brought his attention to where Higuchi sat, next to a smirking Yosano.
Dazai was behind them. Their eyes met for a second—just long enough for Dazai’s lips to flutter into a smile.
Chuuya felt the cooling heat in his face awaken once more and turned away harshly.
It was a good game. Chuuya had not expected that they would lose, though their opponents had a new and better coach this year than the last time they had played each other. A coach was only as good as their team, however, and although the woman sitting next to Oda by the field’s flank looked severe and involved, Chuuya’s team was still a level above what she could handle.
Their win was expected, but it didn’t stop the stadium from exploding in cheers once the final whistle was blown, nor Oda from congratulating them all warmly. Sakaguchi, Chuuya’s literature teacher and the person responsible for the club, smiled awkwardly by his side.
“You’re a force of nature, Nakahara,” said one of Chuuya’s teammates once they were back in the locker room and queueing for the showers. Shirase—that was his name—wiped uselessly at the sweat running down his face. “How the hell did you score that last one?”
“Luck,” Chuuya replied honestly.
“Chuuya’s just that good,” Tachihara interrupted, happily throwing one arm over Chuuya’s shoulder, laughing at Chuuya’s grunt of displeasure. “Are you jealous you could only land one?”
“Shut up, Tachihara, you didn’t score anything.”
“I’m in defense, shithead.”
“Are you on something?” Shirase sneered, turning to Chuuya once more. “There’s no way you’re just doing all that fair and square.”
His eyes roamed up and down Chuuya’s body. He was the tallest member of the team, long-legged and very fast for it. Chuuya had no love for him, and Shirase didn’t like him either, but they rarely confronted each other directly. Chuuya thought himself more mature than to let rivalry put the team at risk.
“I guess being a teacher’s pet helps,” Shirase continued. “Or… you’ve never had a girlfriend, right? Maybe you’ve picked up on your daddies’ tastes. Do you offer special favors—”
Chuuya punched him.
It wasn’t a hard punch, but Shirase still bent in two over the zone of the impact, choking on a swear and turning red in the face. Chuuya’s ears were ringing, his body tensing anew. His left knee bent in preparation for a kick.
“Nakahara,” came Oda’s voice.
Everyone seemed to freeze in their spot. Shirase straightened up painfully. The others, who had peeked over the shower booths or around the lockers to watch the commotion, quickly went back to their business.
“Yes,” Chuuya said, feeling very far from his own body.
Oda nodded to the side of the door by which he was standing. “Someone wants to talk to you, if you’ve got a minute.”
It took a while for Chuuya to make sense of his coach’s words. Probably no more than a few seconds, but to him, they felt like hours.
“Sure,” he replied slowly. He clenched his teeth. Released them. Stepped away from his friend and added, “I’ll be right back, Tachihara.”
“Uh, all right.”
He made his way to the entrance of the room and past his coach, who gave him a glance that said I know what you just did and don’t think I’ll let it slide more sharply than words could. Chuuya’s only comfort was that Oda stared at Shirase next with even more disappointment.
How Oda managed to convey so much while looking perpetually bored was anyone’s guess.
The air outside came too crisply to his damp skin, chilling it almost instantly. Spring hadn’t settled enough to make the wind was bearable. Chuuya found that it did little to help soothe the anger clawing up his insides; but then he saw Dazai standing a little way from the door, shoes stained by the damp grass and lips stretched into a thin smile.
Chuuya turned around and tried to make for the lockers again.
“Wait,” Dazai called, hurrying after him and grabbing him around the elbow. “I just need to ask you something.”
“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” Chuuya gritted out, pouring as much loathing as he could into the word.
Dazai hesitated. His grip on Chuuya’s arm relaxed, and Chuuya could have easily freed himself, with how slick he felt all over and with Dazai’s apparent reluctance to hold onto him too tightly.
The observation only made him angrier.
For a moment they stood as they were: Chuuya half-turned away and Dazai looking almost lost. Chuuya still felt as though the blood in his veins was simmering. He would hear Shirase’s hateful words echo through him if only he bothered to listen.
“Well?” Chuuya snapped, once the silence became too hard to bear. It didn’t matter that chatter filtered out of the locker room as an easy distraction. “Ask your question.”
Dazai’s shoulders relaxed visibly. He let go of Chuuya’s arm. “You were great today,” he said evenly. “Though that’s less surprising than the grades.”
“You had all of last year to tell me that if you wanted to.”
Chuuya wanted to do more; he wanted to add, asshole, to the end of his sentence, or yell it out instead. But Dazai looked away then as if shamed by his words—as if he could ever feel shame—and his throat shivered visibly.
“Are you doing anything tomorrow evening?” he asked then.
Surprise made Chuuya tell the truth without thinking. “No.”
“Great,” and now Dazai was smiling again, as devastatingly handsome now as he had been when they were thirteen and thought their world would never change. “Can you meet me at nine?”
“What for?” Chuuya asked defensively, instead of doing the smart thing and refusing outright.
Dazai shook his head. His smile turned a little more bitter. “Just trust me,” he said. And then, probably realizing how that sounded: “If you want to.”
Chuuya should say no.
It wasn’t even because the last time he had met with Dazai on his own had turned out the way it did. That was very far from his mind. He should say no because he didn’t owe Dazai anything, not anymore, not after two years of silence and a year of being made to feel as if he hadn’t meant anything to Dazai at all.
“Maybe he wants to apologize,” Kouyou had said, but Chuuya wanted no apology.
“Maybe he misses you.”
Chuuya couldn’t pretend that he hadn’t missed Dazai either.
“Fine,” he said.
Dazai’s face lit up with his grin. It always did.
The thing was, it hadn’t been Dazai’s fault.
He hadn’t been the one to make Chuuya fall. He hadn’t placed the until then-unseen puddle of car oil where it was, ready to ignite at the touch of Chuuya’s lit cigarette. They had hung around the disused garage countless times before, a secret lair for two children as so many other places of the kind must be for so many others.
The thing was that Chuuya and Dazai had once been friends. Chuuya had been adopted in France, where his Japanese mother had given birth to him before leaving him behind, where Arthur and Paul had married and lived their whole lives until choosing to adopt two kids no one wanted: an eight-year-old boy who had caused nothing but trouble for every foster home he had lived in, and a twelve-year-old girl who had done much of the same. They had moved to Japan after that because Arthur and Paul wanted Chuuya and Kouyou to live in their country of origin.
Chuuya had met Dazai almost immediately. It had taken no more than a day for the both of them to get into a fight at Chuuya’s brand new school—a school he could go to without the shame of having to say that he had no home, no parents to come home to, for the very first time. And Chuuya couldn’t remember why he had fought with Dazai that day, or why he had allowed the other boy to follow him around after that, bruised and angry even as they sat together on a bench and contemplated the wide world around them.
He couldn’t explain why Dazai followed him, and why he let Dazai follow, and why he felt as happy with the thought of a friend as he was with that of a family. Back then the two hadn’t been different to him; back then everyone in his life that he cared about was as good as kin.
So Chuuya and Dazai grew, picking fights with each other as often as they did not, lying side by side on the floor of each other’s bedroom, sneaking around Yokohama for every dirty corner they could find and call theirs.
Chuuya didn’t remember much of the incident after he had fallen. The doctors had told him that it was for the best because he had been in so much pain; Chuuya thought it was for the worst because he couldn’t know if the anguished cry of his name he had heard when his arms took fire had been real or a nightmare.
For a very long time that was the last thing he heard from Dazai at all. Chuuya, bellowed from the lungs of a gangly kid, breaking over the vowels because his voice hadn’t set yet.
All he knew was that Dazai had escaped unharmed. He let the thought float through his drug-hazed mind in the weeks he spent watching the burned skin of his hands and forearms heal. He hung onto it day after day, waiting for Dazai to visit him, to text him, to do anything to prove he hadn’t been a figment of Chuuya’s imagination all this time.
Dazai had long been gone by the time Chuuya was released from the hospital. He stayed gone for two years. Some of their mutual friends said he had moved overseas. Others said that he had died.
When he came back at the beginning of Chuuya’s first year of high school, Chuuya thought for days that he was seeing a ghost roaming the corridors.
“Oh, hello, Chuuya,” Dazai said the one time they bumped into each other with no one else around.
He never said anything else.
Chuuya arrived late to his rendezvous with Dazai because Dazai himself always arrived late, and he didn’t want to look like a fool waiting for someone to show up. Not when he didn’t know if Dazai would even bother showing up.
Dazai was already there.
“Hi,” he told Chuuya, smiling.
Chuuya didn’t know how to answer. He felt like smiling back, or turning away and going home. Most of all he felt like hiding his face into the shadows, away from the glare of streetlight, so that Dazai could not read from him what he did not want to be read.
They were at the entrance of Mitsuike Park. The sun had slipped behind the mountains, and the sky was a dark blue, yet people were milling about, families and couples walking in and out of the open gates with a soft murmur of voices.
“I didn’t think parks stayed open at night,” Chuuya said. He had to say something.
Dazai turned his back to him and replied, “Follow me.”
The walkers around them became sparser the deeper they went. Dazai soon took Chuuya away from the paths and between trees and flowering bushes, always looking over his shoulder to make sure Chuuya followed, holding branches out of his way when one was too high to step over.
“I remember you said you’d never done this before,” Dazai said at one point, chasing off the quiet.
Chuuya wasn’t sure where they were anymore. The canopy overhead kept them from moonlight, making Dazai’s trail difficult to follow. He guided himself mostly with the sound of the other’s footsteps, almost too sharp against the thick silence and occasional watery sounds. At least the lake must not be far; Chuuya would be able to navigate his way back by following the shore if Dazai tried to lose him.
“Done what?” he asked.
“Hanami. Your dads are always too busy at this time of the year, and you never got around to doing it with someone else, right?”
Don’t talk about my dads, Chuuya wanted to say. Shirase’s insults were too close still to the surface of his mind, only a shiver away from breaking through and awakening his rage. But Dazai’s tone wasn’t mocking. Dazai has never said anything uncouth toward Arthur or Paul or Chuuya himself. Not about this.
“I’ve seen the trees plenty of times,” he replied.
Dazai stumbled on a root. Chuuya grabbed the back of his jacket to keep him from falling forward. It was a thoughtless act, not something he wanted to spend time analyzing; but before he could take his hand back he found it clutched in Dazai’s own.
Dazai’s hand was surprisingly cold. Soft and barely even damp. When his thumb brushed over Chuuya’s scar, Chuuya stopped thinking entirely.
He was pulled forward and out of the thick greenery.
There was a little wooden balcony there that Chuuya had never seen before. It looked dusty, unused, perhaps forgotten by all. The lantern sat upon its bannister looked older than any Chuuya had seen before.
Yet it wasn’t the sudden light that Chuuya was staring at.
Pink petals hung from the cherry trees and swayed into the breeze. No stars could be seen now against the glow of that lantern, but it didn’t matter at all; not when every flower looked like cut paper on a canvas, drawn by hand onto the black sky, falling onto the quiet lake like snow.
“Come on,” Dazai murmured.
Chuuya let himself be dragged towards the steps in front of them. He climbed onto the promontory with Dazai’s hand still holding his. He couldn’t look anywhere but above, at the streaks of black night running ink-like between glowing flowers. The surface of the lake was dot work, pink and white strewn overwater like little drops of paint.
“It’s nice, isn’t it?”
Chuuya couldn’t have told how long it took him to look back at Dazai. He felt for once undisturbed by the smile on his lips.
He swallowed. “It’s nice,” he replied. “It’s… it’s beautiful.”
Dazai had once accused him of always being swayed by pretty things. Chuuya had not told him how much of that applied to how Dazai swayed him.
“I’m glad,” Dazai said. “I wanted to give you a nice birthday gift.”
Chuuya frowned. “My birthday is next week.”
“Ah, but they won’t be blooming anymore by then. They’re already late as it is.”
Chuuya tried in vain to make sense of it. Rather than ask Dazai directly, he looked at the flowers again. Dazai’s fingers in his hair almost startled his heart to a stop.
He allowed the other to pull whatever it was he caught out of Chuuya’s hair—a petal, it turned out, and a leaf that must have been there since they worked their way through the trees.
“Chuuya,” Dazai said then. “I’m sorry.”
It felt like a dream, because Chuuya had dreamed of this many more time than he could count. Dazai appearing at the door of his hospital room. Dazai walking into class one day and grinning at him foolishly. Dazai sparing more than absent glances toward him as they crossed paths in hallways.
Dazai holding his hand under a roof of luminous flowers.
“It doesn’t change anything,” Chuuya said lowly.
“You fucking disappeared. For two years. And then you acted like I didn’t even exist.”
“I’m sorry.” Dazai seemed to brace himself. “I’m so sorry. I had my reasons, but I know they’re not going to just erase everything—that is, if you’re willing to hear me out.” There was fear on his face, for a second, that Chuuya would not be. “But not now,” he finished. “Now I just want to apologize.”
And Chuuya had said time and time again, to himself and his family, that he had no need for Dazai’s apology; but his heart felt swollen now, pushing up his throat and making his eyes burn.
“I hate you,” he let out. He wound his free arm around Dazai’s shoulders and said again, “I hate you so much,” before embracing him.
Dazai laughed against the top of his head. His fingers twined with Chuuya’s, pressing them together to gap the spaces in which they shook, taking in the warmth cradled in Chuuya’s palm as if he had only ever been cold. Chuuya shoved his face into his shoulder and willed himself not to cry.
Dazai was the one who pulled away first. Chuuya felt the absence of his hand sharply, at least until it came to rest along his arm instead, thumb stroking over Chuuya’s jacket. With a settling inhale, he leaned back as well.
“Your story better be damn good,” he said shakily, once he had retrieved enough of himself to be able to speak.
Dazai smiled tiredly. He didn’t make a move to avoid Chuuya’s hand brushing the side of his face, though his cheeks colored at the contact, echoing Chuuya’s own blush.
“I don’t know if it’s good,” he replied, “but it’s interesting.”
Already, Chuuya felt something heal in him that he hadn’t known was still bleeding. Already he knew that whatever Dazai’s story was, he would forgive him for it.
He couldn’t find it in himself to regret it at all.