The visits were nearly routine now. Weeks would pass, he would let himself in, and for a while Charles and Erik would pretend that nothing had changed. It was as easy as sidestepping certain topics when they started to come up.
The ones who had been there before—Alex, Sean, and Hank—still gave him a wide berth, and the others who had come to call the mansion home seemed curious but cautious. And then there was Arya, who had stabbed him in the leg and somehow decided that he could be reasonably trusted while dependable Charles could not.
It still took her a year and a half to say anything of substance. He understood. If Charles hadn’t been able to dip into his mind and know everything instantly, Erik wasn’t sure he would have ever shared any of it.
She sat in front of the television, glaring, and he nearly didn’t recognize her. Her long ratty brown hair had been chopped off, ragged and close to her scalp. “Arya?” he asked.
She glared at him. “What?”
“I’m not sure that your new look entirely suits you,” he said.
Arya raised her chin defiantly. “You don’t know anything about me,” she said, and turned back to the television, head in her hands.
“What did the little hellion do this time?” Erik asked Charles later. “Get gum in her hair? Push someone a little too far?”
Charles rubbed at his temples. “She did it to herself,” he said. “There was some argument with her sister, and she sawed it off.” He imitated the motion. “Literally sawed with that knife she carries around, it was a little horrifying.”
“I suppose you’ll be wanting me to speak with her before I leave.”
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
He sought her out later and found her outside on the porch, scowling at nothing in particular. The wind ruffled the tufts of her hair. “Shouldn’t you have a coat?” he asked.
“It’s not that cold,” she said. “It used to snow in the summer back home.”
“What was winter like, then?”
“I don’t know,” Arya said. “I was too little to remember the last one.”
He pulled up a chair and they sat and brooded silently for a while. Finally, she said, “I didn’t want Sansa to braid my hair. She wanted to braid it like our mother used to when we were little.”
“You picked an awfully dramatic way of protesting.”
“It wouldn’t have stayed anyway,” she grumbled. “And it wouldn’t have looked good. It never did.”
He waited, and she added, “I was thinking…” but stopped.
I’m no good at this, he thought. Charles is the one who prods and gets people to bare their souls. He watched her, and finally she said, “I didn’t want to be me any more. I don’t even know who I am. I hate it here. They all want me to be like I was before, and I’ll never be that Arya Stark again. So I was thinking… maybe I could be Arry for a while. But Arry was never real, and I don’t really look like a boy anymore. It didn’t work.”
Arry had been one of the names that she had given him after they had plucked her from the lab in Russia. “It would take more than a terrible haircut to convince people that you live with that you were a different person, yes,” he said.
“Shut up. It was just a stupid thing I thought for a minute. Besides, I didn’t really like being Arry, I just wanted to be someone different.” She drew up her legs to her chest and hugged them. “Arry couldn’t keep them from killing Yoren and Lommy and taking Needle, anyway. It was stupid to think being him was better.”
“Who were they? Yoren, Lommy, and Needle."
“Nobody,” she snapped. “More dead people I couldn’t save.” She softened a little. “And Needle was my sword. My brother Jon gave it to me the last time I saw him. I got it back, but I had to hide it before I came here and it stayed behind.”
He almost said, And how exactly was a ten-year-old girl supposed to save anyone? but his mother, a coin, and a voice counting to three were always present in his mind, so the words remained unsaid. “Was it a good sword?” he asked instead.
“It was the best sword,” she said, brightening up. “It was a little small, because I was small, and it was a bravo’s blade. It’s kind of like a fencing rapier, I think? Except the blade was thicker, and the hilt was different. You wouldn’t use it to fight like…” She swung her arm, a sweeping imitation of a phantom sword. “You darted in and stuck them with the pointy end.” Her stance changed in her chair, shifting sideways and her arm stabbed out in demonstration. She smiled wistfully. “When my father found out that I had it, he found an instructor for me. He could have just taken it away.”
“You might not be cold, but I am,” Erik said after a moment, standing up. “I’m going inside.”
“I don’t hate it here that much,” she said before he could. “They just expect me to be something I’m not, is all.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” he said, and walked back into the mansion.
It had not gone as well as it could have. Someone—Janos didn’t know if it had been one of theirs or one of the ones who had shown up to help—had set off a pressurized tank in the research facility. And that had set off another tank, and so on.
And right now, he had other things to worry about. One of the tanks had sent shrapnel into his back as he tried to control the explosions. He had grayed out, and assumed that Azazel had teleported him and the other wounded to wherever they were now, since it was neither the Brotherhood’s current base nor federal custody.
He lay on his stomach, feeling the tug of new stitches when he tried to lift himself and see his surroundings. The closest to him, a young man with half his face in bandages and what looked like a white rug draped across his lap, looked at him. “You’re awake,” he said, his voice hoarse.
Janos nodded and winced. “Anyone dead?”
“None of yours.” The white rug opened its red eyes, and Janos placed him. Jon Snow. The boy that Magneto had them looking for all that time, the one with the wolf. The one who ran with the Canadians. “We lost two of ours. It probably would have been worse had you not done whatever you were doing, so you have my thanks.”
He grunted, settling down again. “It’s a risk.”
Snow nodded, raising one hand to try and scratch at his face before letting it dropped. Now that it wasn’t gloved, Janos could see the thick scars. Burn scars, maybe. “Something splashed in my face,” Snow explained, noticing Janos staring. “It itches now. I think I kept the eye.”
“You seem to have bad luck with eyes,” Janos said, noticing the deep scars that ran down the unbandaged side of Snow’s face.
Snow laughed, coughed, and nodded. “One day I’ll learn.”
“Are any of the others here? From the Brotherhood. I assume we’re with your people.”
“Three of yours, not including you,” said Snow, leaning back. “I don’t know their names. They’re all sedated for now. I think you and I are the least wounded of the wounded.”
Janos grunted. “That could have gone better. Magneto must be furious.”
“I’ve seen worse,” Snow said, rather philosophically. “Before I came here, I once spent near a week defending an all-out assault with my brothers on the Wall. All there were of us were a few old men, young boys, and a whore with a crossbow against hundreds of wildlings, with giants and mammoths. And I did it with an arrow in my leg and accused of breaking my vows.” He looked almost nostalgic. “This is just a mishap compared to that.”
“Keeping things in perspective?”
“A strange sort of perspective,” Snow said. “But yes.”
“Giants and mammoths?” Janos couldn't resist asking.
“Oooh, I am the last of the giants, my people are gone from the earth,” Snow said softly. “It wasn’t so true, as it turned out. I wonder if there will be any left if I ever go back?”
There wasn’t much that Janos could say to that. Snow scratched his wolf’s ears for a while in silence. “You remind me a little of the wildlings,” he said. “They call themselves the free folk, make their own laws, owe allegiance to nobody that they do not personally respect.”
“It’s a damned nuisance to the people I was sworn to protect,” said Snow. “One man being just as good as the next, and a woman just as good as a man?” He sounded affronted, but smiled. “How can you have a kingdom when every man is a king, and every woman, too? It would give the smallfolk ideas.”
“I can’t imagine why. I’d rather live free than under someone’s boot.”
Snow nodded. “Which is why they put out stories about the wildlings. It’s easy to keep people from joining them if they fear and hate them. I hated them until I met a few and learned better.”
“You’re going to start moralizing, aren’t you?”
“No. Nobody is going to listen to each other back home. Westerosi hate wildlings too much and wildlings will never live like kneelers. That’s what they called us, because we were so fond of kneeling to whatever king or lord came along. But the wildlings are fighters, and I admire them for it. You in the Brotherhood, and the Beaubiers, you have that same spirit.” He nodded firmly. “It’s admirable.”
Mystique was used to being stared at when she visited her old home. Sometimes it was with curiosity, or envy, or lust. Once upon a time she would have been afraid to be gawked at and hidden herself behind her pink-and-blonde shield, but that was years ago. She was comfortable in her own skin and scales now.
Sansa Stark was one of the few in the mansion who didn't stare. She was polite, always greeting Mystique even with her face red as her hair, but she never looked Mystique in the eyes. Or at all, if she could help it.
"It's not because you're a mutant," Charles told her groggily on her most recent visit. He was still doped up from an appendectomy that had gone off without a hitch, but Mystique wanted to be there with him as he recovered. He could be annoying, self-righteous, and completely oblivious sometimes, but he would always be her brother.
"Could have fooled me," she grumbled.
"Really," he insisted. "It's--" Charles fell silent, still present enough to very obviously look like he realized he was going to say something that was none of his business. It wasn't just the thinning, graying hair and lines on his face that made him look like the professor she had jokingly dubbed him years ago, Mystique realized. He'd actually grown up.
"If you were to speak with her, she might surprise you," he finally mumbled.
Mystique got her chance that evening. She stood in the kitchen, brooding, a little homesick and mostly wondering about what Irene was doing at that moment when Sansa walked in. "Oh," Sansa said, dropping her eyes. "I'm sorry--I didn't realize--"
"It's a big kitchen," Mystique said, rolling her eyes. "I'm not going to kick you out if you want a snack. You live here now, don't you?"
Sansa's eyes darted up, borderline scared. "So did you," she said, very quietly. "I didn't mean to intrude."
"You're not intruding. Actually, I wanted to talk to you."
Sansa looked like she was about to bolt, but nodded stiffly. "If you like."
"God, drop the act. Why are you so scared of me? What did I ever do to hurt you?" Mystique was surprised by the anger in her voice, but it had been a long time coming, and okay, maybe she was a little satisfied with how if made the girl jump. "Is it because of how I look? What I do? What?"
"No, my lady," Sansa whispered, frozen.
"Don't be so goddamn polite if you don't mean it," Mystique snapped. “Nobody calls me lady. I've had my fill of people talking out of one side of their mouth and spewing shit with the other."
Sansa looked as if she were about to choke. "A lady's courtesy is her armor," she squeaked. "Please, it's all I have."
"Courtesy doesn't mean a damn when they're calling you a monster," Mystique said, knowing somewhere that Sansa was just a target for her frustration and feeling like a bully, but it still felt so good just to let loose. "Am I a monster to you? Is that why you never look at me?"
"No," Sansa said, horrified. "No, it's--you're naked!"
The absurdity stopped Mystique mid-rant. Charles had freaked out about that too, back when she first decided that she wouldn't hide what she was any longer, but it made sense from him. He'd been her brother since she was ten and he was twelve. "That's it?" she asked incredulously. "It's not the color or the scales?"
"No," Sansa said, shutting her eyes. “That’s not it at all. It’s—shameful.”
Mystique laughed. "I'm proud of how I look."
"It's not--" Sansa seemed to be wrestling with something, and finally drooped in defeat. Her face went blank, and she began to speak in a quiet monotone about how when she was thirteen, the boy king she had been betrothed to, the one who had killed her father and shown her his head and ordered her beaten when he was displeased, had also ordered her stripped in front of the court of people that she had once expected to rule and be a part of. "The only ones who helped me were a man with half his face burned away and a dwarf," she said. "Joff was the monster. A beautiful, beautiful monster." She smiled sadly. “He made me marry his uncle Tyrion after. The dwarf. He thought it would be amusing.”
Mystique felt sick. All that at thirteen. Jesus. "I'm sorry I yelled at you," she said finally. "Does anyone else know?”
“Professor Xavier,” she said quietly. “And Betsy. It’s hard to keep things from them. But… no, I haven’t told anyone else. Arya would have fought it, and my brothers—” She shook her head. “They wouldn’t understand.”
“That’s a lot to keep in.” Mystique looked at her hands, at the spot in the kitchen where Charles had found her after her own birth family had tried to kill her.
"I should have been kinder to you," Sansa said. "I never used to be kind. I was proud, and polite, and the perfect lady, and I've tried so hard to be kinder since Betsy took me in. But it's so hard."
"I was kind of a bitch just now, too," Mystique said. "You're not doing so bad, you know." Sansa looked up with hopeful blue eyes, as praise-starved as any abused mutant Mystique had ever met, and she had to wonder how she hadn't seen it before. "Charles told me you're going to college next fall."
Sansa nodded, equally proud and terrified. "I’m not clever,” she said. “And everyone here is so very nice, but I have no place here if I can’t do the things they can. But I can do this, I think.”
“What are you going to study?” Mystique asked, opening the freezer and taking out a carton of ice cream, and they spent the next hour talking about Sansa’s tentative, hesitant plans to help people like herself and those in the mansion by studying sociology and hopefully social work after that. The topic drifted to living outside of the mansion, with Mystique giving advice (”First off, don’t call anyone my lady, they’ll think you’re crazy or foreign or something.”) and from there, light girl talk topics that she rarely talked about any more.
“You’re not bad for a flatscan,” Mystique said, scraping her bowl of Neapolitan clean.
Sansa smiled shyly. “Thank you for listening,” she said.
He had been ferrying these people around thanklessly for six years. In between changing hideouts and the brief thrill of missions, there was the inevitable visit to Westchester and Azazel would roll his eyes, curse in Russian, and agree because it was either get bribes in appreciation or stay stuck in whatever hideout they currently inhabited and listen to the inevitable whining that came with people living too close together.
He wasn’t welcome here, he knew that. For all of Xavier’s polite words, he wasn’t meant for this place. He was used to it. Some of the children here had seen him kill, and those that hadn’t had probably heard the stories passed down. He would be disappointed if they hadn’t.
The girl that they had plucked out of Siberia and deposited here was unafraid, and tried pestering him with questions a few times. He answered her in Russian and laughed to himself as he teleported away, with her spitting angry behind him.
The young boy he had also heard was a teleporter was another who was not frightened of him. The boy only ever looked at him with a mild interest. Mystique told him that he had been taken in by homeless mutants who had been too visibly marked by their abilities to pass as human, and red skin and a tail was probably just another shade of normal.
On this day, Magneto was late (as usual) to their agreed pick-up time. Azazel always told himself that he would show up late as well, but inevitably something would irritate him and he found himself skulking around Xavier’s school. Popping up behind some of the children and yelling before teleporting to another part of the property was petty, but entertaining. And really, wasn’t he doing his part in teaching the next generation to be more aware of their surroundings? Magneto, with his convictions in the well-being of all mutants, could hardly fault him for that.
This particular knot of children included the girl from Siberia, her family, and a few others that he had seen. The green lizard boy, the telepath girl who dyed her hair, and the little girl with dark skin and white hair. He never bothered learning their names.
The white-haired girl was the one reason that he didn’t teleport right into the middle of their happy little circle. She had nearly struck him with lightning in her surprise the last and only time he had surprised her. The large wolves were also daunting, but he had stayed ahead of them before.
“What do you remember about home?” the boy in the wheelchair—currently out of the chair, stretched out on the grass, with one arm thrown across one of those wolves—asked.
The teleporting boy, leaning against his own wolf, shrugged. “Not much,” he said. “It’s like a dream. Or a show that I saw a long time ago. It’s not really real any more.”
“Do you remember the crypts?” asked the girl from Siberia. “The godswood? What about the people?”
“I kind of remember hiding in the crypts,” the teleporting boy said, glancing at the one lying on the grass. “With Osha. And Hodor, and… what were their names?”
“Right. I wanted one of the swords. And dreaming about talking to Father down there, I’ll never forget that.”
“Do you remember what he looked like?” asked the older girl, the one who wasn’t a mutant.
The boy shook his head, shaggy reddish hair falling in his face. “I think I remember his statue better than him.”
“Your father had a statue?” asked the white-haired girl.
“All the Lords of Winterfell did,” said the boy in the grass. “When he would die, he was buried down in the crypts with a longsword across his statue’s knees, to keep his shade from walking. All the Lords of Winterfell, and most of the Kings of Winter, were down there. Except for our brother Robb.”
The girl from Siberia’s face twisted in rage, but she said nothing. The white-haired girl’s eyes went wide. “You had kings in your family?”
“We were princes, for a while,” the boy in the grass said softly. Azazel raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t known that the little brats were royalty.
“I don’t remember much of that, either,” said the teleporting boy.
“What about our mother?” the flatscan girl asked. “Do you remember her at all?”
“No,” said the boy, after a while. “Not really. I remember her hair. She looked kind of like Sansa, didn’t she?”
The flatscan shuddered. “Don’t say that,” she whispered.
“Well, you do look like Mother,” the girl from Siberia said. “Remember when we were younger and you teased me for looking so much like Father?”
“It was because of Jon,” the girl said matter-of-factly. “I know. You wanted a princess for a sister, not a plain bastard who played with swords and horses.”
“Things were different back then,” the flatscan girl said, almost as red as Azazel.
“In any case, Rickon,” said the girl from Siberia, “Mother looked like Sansa but older, and Father looked like me but older and a man, and Robb looked like Bran but older.”
“No,” the boy in the grass said suddenly. “I think—I might be older now than Robb was when—”
They all grew quiet, and the green boy with the scales cleared his throat. “So, I know Sansa was with your aunt before she came here, and Arya was in some weird city selling fish, and Bran was running up north. What were you doing, Rickon?”
The teleporting boy laughed. “Shaggy and I were eating unicorns.”
Azazel choked, and suddenly found himself the object of interest of the little gathering. The teleporting boy’s giant black wolf stood, glaring with menacing green eyes at him, and the girl from Siberia looked furious. “What are you doing here?” she asked accusingly.
“Your friend is late,” he told her. He turned his attention back to the teleporting boy. “Unicorns.”
“Yeah.” He shrugged, the least concerned out of all of the children. “It was on an island called… Skagos, if I remember right.”
“Were they white and pretty?” Azazel asked, sneering despite himself.
“They looked like goats, except bigger and with only one horn,” the boy said. “And they tasted like bloody meat.”
“Ew,” said the telepath girl.
“We couldn’t light a fire,” said the teleporting boy. “There were cannibals everywhere.”
Azazel barked a laugh and vanished, leaving them to their stories. A teleporting prince who ate unicorns. He knew there was a reason he kept making these trips.
“It’s not so bad there,” Neena said.
Emma rolled her eyes, examining her fingernails. They didn't look too bad, considering that life on the run meant that she was forever canceling appointments and constantly in search of new salons. It was her treat to herself.
“Seriously,” Neena said. “I don’t know what went on however long ago it was, but I bet they’ve forgotten all about it. Just come with me, okay? We can go into the city after or something.”
“Tempting.” Neena—Domino—had only been with the Brotherhood for a year and a half, but Emma liked her well enough. “Oh, why not? It beats baby-sitting.”
Neena grinned. “Thatta girl. So, what’s the story with you and Xavier, anyway?”
“He and my ex-employer had issues,” Emma said, reaching for her jacket. “And we have some professional differences of opinion.”
“The kid doesn’t like you much, either,” Neena said, double-checking her holsters.
“That would be one of the differences of opinion. So, am I going to be staying diamond the entire time you’re teaching said irritating child to shoot things?”
Neena laughed. “That’s on you. I’m not even gonna tell her you’re there.”
Xavier greeted her coolly when she arrived with Azazel, Neena, and Magneto on the mansion’s grounds. She was just as icily polite, and even ignored his little dig about staying out of students’ minds. As if she would root around in some grubby childrens’ heads. One incident of saving time by picking answers out of that urchin girl and she had a reputation as a busybody. If she was a different sort of person, she might be hurt.
Neena left to teach said urchin to use a gun, Magneto left to make moon eyes at the good professor, and Azazel had been out of the picture before they’d even walked in the door, leaving Emma alone to sulk in the library. Shopping, she told herself. And not listening to Angel complain about the bathroom situation.
Emma turned in her chair and saw a boy-—a young man, she supposed, in his late teens-—poking his head into the room. She stared.
The boy stared back and wheeled himself in. Just behind him, a giant dog or wolf or something huge and hairy followed. Emma’s lip twitched in distaste, picturing it shedding on her clean white jacket.
“He won’t bother you,” the boy said. “Summer, stay.” The giant thing held back obediently. “I can control him if he gets out of hand.” The boy tapped his forehead. “So you don’t have to be afraid.”
“You control animals?” Emma asked, despite herself, not taking her eyes off of Summer. If she felt the slightest hint of hostility from it, she could turn to diamond with a thought, but she still didn’t relish the thought of having it drooling all over her.
“I’m a warg,” he said matter-of-factly. “I slip into minds. And I’m getting better at telling what people are thinking and talking to them with just my mind, but I have to try really hard. Are you a mutant, too, or are you just visiting?”
“Both,” she said, looking at the boy.
“What do you do?” he asked when she didn’t elaborate.
I’m better at telepathy than you, she projected at him.
He blinked a few times, frowned, and then she felt him tentatively poking at her mind. Can you hear this? she heard, though it felt like a quiet voice through static.
“Is that the best you can do?” she asked, less than impressed. “When I was your age, I was getting my teachers to give me perfect scores without even trying.”
In response, he narrowed his eyes, took a deep breath, and slumped over in his chair. In the same instant, she could feel his mind suddenly coming alive in the animal’s, a new intelligence in its yellow eyes, and she turned to diamond instantly, severing her connection with her telepathy but protecting her from potentially being savaged by a gigantic beast.
The boy opened his eyes, and the animal was only an animal again.
“You turned to glass,” he said, sounding almost accusing.
“Diamond,” she corrected, letting it fall and turning back to flesh. “It makes me very hard to hurt.”
He looked down. “It sounds useful.”
Another paralyzed telepath, Emma thought. Maybe I should stay away in case it’s catching. “Since you so obviously want to talk about it, I’ll bite. What happened?”
The boy looked at her, annoyed. “I fell off of a tower.” She felt the uncertainty in his mind as it rippled across his face. “At least, that’s what they told me. I don’t actually remember.”
“You don’t remember.” What was Xavier teaching in this place? “Your mutation deals with your mind. Make yourself remember. If you can’t master yourself, you’ll never amount to anything worthwhile.”
The boy looked faintly greenish, which looked terrible when contrasted with his hair. “I can’t,” he said. “It was nine years ago.”
“Oh, for the love of—none of the do-gooders here ever volunteered to help you with that little problem?”
“I never asked,” he said, bewildered.
“There’s no time like the present, and I don’t have anything better to do with my time.” Emma tapped one finger on her chair. “Are you willing, or not?”
The boy glanced over at his pet, who padded up to him and placed its giant head on his lap. “All right,” he said hesitantly.
Emma closed her eyes and dove into his mind, where she learned that his name was Bran Stark, he was the younger brother of the bratty girl that Neena was here to instruct, and the rumors about the children that Magneto had become so weirdly entangled with were true, as she saw and smelled and felt the savage alien home of his childhood.
It was pretty enough in a rough sort of way, but she found it easy to tune out and focus on her target. This didn’t look at all her type of place. Emma was a woman of cities and culture, and this place looked to have neither. She narrowed in on her target, prompting him to think on what little he could remember and focusing on those scattered bits of memory. Past a fleeting memory of dreams of falling, past a true memory of a clay boy dressed in his clothes flung from a wall and shattered on the ground, and on to a golden scar.
It warped everything it touched, a tower-shaped soundless event horizon. Years of avoiding it had left it tough. She examined it, looking for a weak spot; there, up top, where a window should be, where the poison golden glow was brightest. She zeroed in on it, chipping away with her mind. The scarred over portion regrew itself almost as fast as she could remove it, strong by virtue of being left alone for so long.
Get over here and help me, she thought. This is your mind. You should do at least some of the work.
In his own head, he could still move his legs. More than that, he could fly—-just over his mental image of himself, she could almost see a wolf with wings. He hesitantly started pulling away at the bricked over window, grimacing at the texture. It feels like skin, he said.
This would have been easier if you’d done it sooner, she said sharply.
Working together, they opened a crack, and the abrupt sound of wind whistling by nearly deafened Emma. A man’s voice echoed in it, loud and terrible. “The things I do for love.”
Bran’s mental image shrank until he was child-sized, but Emma grabbed him by the arm. Are you going to do this or not?
He looked, and the memory exploded, flinging her out of his mind.
When she opened her eyes, the giant dog was in front of her, teeth bared, and she went diamond automatically, cutting herself off from the sudden panic of having fangs that big inches from her throat.
“Summer, no,” Bran said, his voice ragged. “It’s all right.”
“What the hell was that?” Emma asked, not turning back yet. Not until she was well out of sight of that damned animal.
“I know what happened,” Bran said, sounding shaken. “I know why I fell. It was true. King Joffrey was a bastard after all.”
“I saw the queen and her brother together in the tower,” Bran said, more to himself than her. “And the Kingslayer pushed me out. I didn’t fall. I knew I couldn’t have, I never fell.”
Emma stared. “When you say together…”
“The queen and her twin brother were fucking in a tower,” he said, turning to look at her. “And I was unlucky enough to see it.”
Emma’s jaw worked soundlessly. When she came out of the emotionless diamond shell, she would certainly feel the revulsion that she knew intellectually that revelation would bring; for now, she saw the cascade of incest and lies that had led to this boy and his siblings all thinking that they had been the only survivors of a political purge. “I’ll say,” seemed to sum it up as well as anything.