I found myself ensconced in a carriage riding to Virsus Court the next morning. If it hadn’t been completely inappropriate, I would have gone straight there from the Lantern late the evening before. As it was, I hadn’t slept at all and was blinking groggily into the sunlight as my driver opened the carriage door.
The view of the Virsus’ Estate was, in a word, imposing. I knew it was upheld as the pinnacle of post-war Benzarian architecture, but I’d never warmed to it. Now, looking up at the three-story pale rose building, with its gilded window frames and grand arched entryway, it was just as daunting as it had been when I’d first visited as a small boy. Steeling myself, I walked up the shallow front stairs until I was beneath the shadow of the intrados outside the doors.
My fingers held the rope bell and paused. I needed to push Nicolas to open up to me. Usually, that wouldn’t have been hard, but after all that had happened at the Jewel House? I had no idea where we stood with one another. Moreover, the fact he’d kept from me the fact his family was moving flared my temper like gas on a flame. He’d blindsided me, used me, ignored me! Yet I had to tamp down my anger if I was going to get answers from him. Steadying myself with a deep breath in, I pulled the rope. The familiar jingle echoed around me, but something felt, well, off. Typically, there was more bustle happening about the Court. Gardeners tending the flowerbeds, guardsmen making rounds, today there was nothing but quiet.
When the head matron opened the tall doors, she did not look pleased. She never looked pleased; today, however, there was a new glint in her pale eyes.
“No visitors,” she announced in a clipped tone.
“I’m just here to see Nicolas.”
Her eyes narrowed. “No visitors.”
I glanced over her shoulder, blinking when I noticed the bare spaces of wall in the entry hall, where there had once been portraits. The floors were bare where there had once been hand-woven rugs from countries across the sea.
“Young sir doesn’t wish to be disturbed.”
“Please. I have to see him.” Even more so if something was deeply wrong—which it obviously was.
She eyed me with such scrutiny I felt she was looking through layers of skin and bone to my thoughts. “I don’t know where he is on the grounds.”
“I’ll find him,” I said with a polite nod as I bypassed her.
With every step, I knew Anthony’s rumors had been true. I was only amazed more people weren’t talking. The number of stocking carts and carriages necessary to move all the furniture, art, and luxuries within the estate had to be significant, because nothing was left. Leave it to Nicolas’ mother to do so much with so little rumor. But what was the truth behind it? This was more than simply moving to a country estate for the summer. What the hell was happening?
The more empty rooms I searched, the further my anxiety increased. Nicolas wasn’t in any of his usual haunts, not within the kitchens or courtyards or stables—all of which held not one other soul. The estate had become as quiet as a tomb.
“Nicolas!” I began to shout, rushing along the residential hallways. “Nicolas!”
At last I found his formal apartments, the ones he staunchly avoided, as they were adjacent to his mother’s rooms. Slowly, I creaked open one of the ceiling-high doors. “Nicolas?” I asked hesitantly, though I didn’t know why.
There he was, standing at the windows and staring down to the central garden. He turned to glare. “I paid Ms. Shunick a bonus to do the exact opposite of what she has just done.”
I gave a helpless grin. “Keep out visitors?”
“Specifically, keep you out.”
A silence drew out between us; I could hardly bare it. For half my life he’d been the person I could say anything—almost anything—to and I had thought it was the same for him. I’d thought there was very little unsaid between us. Now the short distance of the room seemed to stretch out like a continent. How long had it been since we’d been honest with one another?
“What’s happened, Nicolas?”
With a heavy sigh, he sank into a simple wooden chair near the window. His head bent to settle in his hands.
“Nicolas…” I took a step, reached out a hand, but stopped myself. It was a physical pain not to comfort him, but I didn’t know what he needed right now, or what he wanted. “I…”
“Just give me a moment, Sage.”
I nodded, though he wasn’t looking at me. He was breathing deeply, obviously trying to collect himself, so I sat cross-legged on the floor and waited.
“It’s all gone,” he said finally.
He waved a hand, “Everything. I’ve been helping them sell it off all our assets.” The sunlight through the window put one side of his face in high relief, and I could see all the strain and stress he’d been concealing from me, and everyone, for so long.
I knew he’d sold things here and there for his parents, but this was quite different. “How long since the purge began?”
“Not long after the new year.”
“But that-that was nearly half a year ago!”
“Holy hell, Nici. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was dealing with it…and my own issues.”
Well, dammit, I didn’t really want to pursue that. Not yet.
“What now?” I asked tentatively. He looked so drained.
“Mother already went with Father back to his family in Lassar.”
“Wait, what? That’s across the sea!”
Stretching his long legs before him, he stared at his hands in his lap. “Oh, they left months ago, when all the servants were still here. So it wouldn't look improper. So I could take more time selling everything off without raising any eyebrows.”
I stood up then. “They just left you here to deal with it alone? For appearances sake? That’s ridiculous!” Clenching my fists, I was unable to even find words awful enough to describe what I was feeling.
“My mother is a proud woman,” Nicolas continued. “She was practically shunned when she married my Father. I think that make her cling even more to the Benzarian ideal of appearances, of saving face; she wanted to prove everyone wrong.” He sighed. “In all honesty I think she’ll be happier in Lassar, without all that weight on her shoulders. Sometimes I wonder if she shouldn’t have done it years ago, when they first married.”
Why did they even have a child if they were such selfish people? I wanted to yell, but of course I said no such thing.
Then something warbled within the room and I nearly jumped. “Oh! Orchid is still here?” I walked over to the birdcage and whistled at the little green bird. He’d always reminded me of leaves in the spring sunshine. “They didn’t take him?”
“No! I’m the one who taught him his songs, so he’s mine.” His eyes locked to mine as he spoke his last words.
Clearing my throat, I asked, “So, what now? Did they leave you behind just to see to the sales then you’re to find your own way to Lassar?”
Nicolas shook his head, “I refused to leave. My life is here and I know now how to make my own way.” He shrugged, “I can always join them later, if it comes to that.” I knelt before him and took his hand. “Of course. But, please, whatever I can do, ask me. I’m here for you.”
He took my hand from his and stood to stare outside. “I know you mean it. Truly I do. But Sage, I can’t have you near me.”
“You’re trying to be a true friend, but I don’t want your friendship,” his eyes finally turned to me, “I want you. Don’t you see? My secret is out. You know how I feel. And with my family ousted from Society, I don’t have any reason to hide. It’s different for you. Your future in Society and in your family is still secure. Being with me could…endanger that. Maybe if we just spoke in places like The Lantern, our friendship would be ignored.” He shook his head. “But I can’t go back to that, not after having you once—taking you, tasting you…” He shut his eyes as if in pain. “I can’t. I can not simply be your friend now.”
It was my turn to stand. Though Nicolas’ eyes remained at his feet, I stepped in close. “I didn’t ask you to.”
Nicolas huffed. “Not in words, but your silence and absence was enough.”
“My silence and absence? You can’t be serious!” I stepped back from in my anger.
“Fine! You are not the only one at fault. But after the House, did you try to contact me? Write a letter? Anything?”
I was going to pummel him. “Excuse me, but,” I hissed the words low, “you are the one who fucked me and left without even a look! And somehow I am the one to blame for not coming crawling to you?” I raked my hands through my hair and yanked at the strands to keep from throttling him. “Tits of the mother, Nici! I love you but I want to kill you right now!”
All he did was blink at me for a long moment. His mouth opened then shut. “I was an idiot. All right? I was confused. I won’t make excuses, but it’s the truth. I didn’t know what to think- or how you really felt.” His eyes searched mine, locked on them and held. “You love me?”
“Nicolas, that is hardly a secret. Yes, I love you! We grew up together. We have always been together.”
The light in his eyes died as he turned away. “Like brothers then, you mean?”
Oh, he was really going to milk this, wasn’t he? Squeeze me for every blasted word!
“You are an idiot. No, nothing like brothers!”
“But you never…?”
I threw up my hands. “Of course I’ve been attracted to you! How could I not be? But—” I tried to collect my thoughts. “Attraction is one thing, and friendship another. I valued that more. Sex, fun,” I shrugged, “I could find that elsewhere.” I took a deep breath; this was not easy. “That night at the Jewel House, though…that was more than sex.”
Nicolas dared look at me, and there was so much vulnerability in his eyes I nearly flinched. I could see he was wondering where this was going.
“I had intended to purchase your contract that night simply to keep you away from anyone else,” he admitted. “I didn’t plan on…exploiting it.”
I wanted to ask what had tipped the scales, instead I heard myself saying, “That was a large price to pay.”
“It was just as well. At first, I didn’t know the extent of our household debts—heaven knows my parents never told me the details of their fiancés—but I could sense it was narrowing to the brink, that the fall was coming. My account was still in my Mother’s name at the bank. She simply turned the other way when I made my own deposits. But I knew she’d take the money when things finally crumpled.” He sighed. “I didn’t want to hand that over, and it’s not as if I could get my own account without her. So I wanted to spend it.” He shrugged again. “The timing was right, so…” he faltered, “I took it and used it.”
“For one night with me. All your savings?”
His honesty struck me hard in the chest. I felt as if I handled a fragile bird in my hands. He’d given me all he had.
But it left me with so many questions, and I couldn’t hold them in. “Why did you leave the way you did then? Why didn’t you seduce me the whole damn night?” I may have growled. “Why didn’t you try to win me over or something?”
I’d never seen Nici shamed or chagrined, but he looked both in that moment. His cheeks flared pink as he studied the floor. “Well, for one, I’d convinced myself that was all I could have: that one night. Hell, I told you I wasn’t even planning to have sex with you at first. I knew I couldn’t have you in the long run anyhow, but…I couldn’t help myself.” He moved toward me. “You have no idea what it did to me to see you that way. Naked, collared and jeweled like a pet. And erect.” His eyes briefly shut. “I was sprung in a heartbeat. You were glorious.”
“And now?” I asked with a smirk, because who knew Nici was such a sap? And who knew I’d love it? “Am I still glorious with my clothes on?”
He met my smirk with his own. “Almost. Not quite.”
“In that case…” I moved to shrug my jacket off and he stopped me.
“I’ve let my senses run away again. I’m sorry.” He grit his teeth. “We’re both forgetting you still have a reputation and position to protect. Do you have any idea what would happen if we were found together?”
I wrapped my arms about his neck and leaned in to breath in his ear, “Yes, and I’d still have everything I could want.”
“Sage, you’re not thinking clearly. This is your entire future at stake!”
“Yes, and you are what I want. So will you shut up and take what you want already?” When he still hesitated—despite the evidence in his trousers that he wanted to pin me to the wall—I told him, “Listen, you have the knowledge and wits to make your own way in the city; I trust you can do that even better with me at your side.”
“I don’t think you realize what you’ll be giving up.”
With a snort, I grabbed him through his pants and chuckled. “I’ll be gaining this. I think I’ll be able to live with the trade.”
“Sage,” he chuckled and rested his forehead to mine. “You’re going to be trouble, aren’t you?”
“Only if you want me to…Master.”
We laughed together and finally made good use of the wall. I wasn’t completely green, I knew we had challenges before us, but it was worth it. Oh yes, based on the sex, most definitely worth it. Not to mention he was my closest friend well beyond the bed.
In the aftermath, as we lay in a panting, sticky mess on the one remaining rug, Nicolas twined our fingers together. Nothing had ever felt so right in my life. A sudden burst of emotion caught me off guard, because I never I thought I’d be allowed this: to want him, to have him. And I’d do whatever it took to keep him.
“I forgot to mention, I love you too,” Nicolas said with a grin, and I had to laugh.
“I know you well enough to know that, Nici.”
“It’s not going to be easy, you know.”
“Truly good things rarely are,” I told him, but I couldn’t let the heaviness last. I was too happy. “Except for me,” I added, rolling atop him, “I’m very easy. Just keep me fed and well-pet and I’ll spread for you anytime you ask!”
“Haha. You idiot! I’ll hold you to that!”
That began a wrestling match we both one.
(Continue onto to Part 2 of the Jewel House world in 'Ruby', Ch1, posting here Ast 1st or read now on our Patreon.)
“What is this?” I couldn’t keep the astonishment from my face, even though I knew I was gawking. “How on earth—“
“You are forgetting yourself,” Nicolas said firmly. “You are to address me as Master.”
He could not be serious. Except he was.
His eyes looked back at me, the warmth always those there now cloaked.
“Yes… Master.” My voice sounded soft in my ears, subdued by bewilderment.
For a long moment he simply held my eyes, as if challenging me to take the chance to leave. I stared back.
He had brought me back to the bed in the alcove, but hadn’t yet touched me. Did he mean to pay simply to keep me from my fun tonight? Nicolas had never been vindictive—and he hardly had the money to spare. Good lord, I couldn’t even conceive how he’d made a bid in the first place. He must’ve called in a favor and had Charles do it. I knew he had connections and ways of getting things done but…this was ridiculous! And, well, why? It was out of character for him.
“Well, Master, are you just going to have me sit on the bed alone all night?” As soon as I’d said the words, I realized they could be taken as innuendo or invitation. “I mean… I didn’t mean…”
“Kneel on the bed. Spread your legs and face me.”
I swallowed and blinked. “What?”
“Was I not clear?”
For a moment, I stood frozen, my confusion keeping me rooted.
“Don’t make me repeat myself, Pet.”
Was this happening? Was Nicolas so put out he would try to shame me? I stepped up to the bed, climbed on, and obeyed. My body moved of its own accord, because I surely couldn’t think at the moment.
“I had always wondered if you actually went through with getting your nipple pierced,” he snorted softly, so as not to be overheard. Reaching a hand out he flinched the golden ring hanging on my chest. I expected it to be annoying as hell, instead I gasped at the sudden jolt of arousal that went straight to my groin, making my cock bob in appreciation.
Nicolas didn’t miss it. “My heavens, you’re sensitive, aren’t you?” He smirked. “Though I did hear as much from Charles and Markus. They were quite taken with you.” Leaning in, he put his mouth to my ear. “They talked for days of wanting to be the first to fuck you, to unload inside you.” He drew back and I felt my cheeks bloom scarlet with both embarrassment and arousal. “It took coaxing for them to let me have you. Your ass doesn’t come cheap.”
He meant it as an insult, but I lifted my chin. If he thought I’d slink away, he was going to be damn disappointed. I had nothing to be ashamed of. Though his words begged the question of how on earth Nicolas had paid for my company? That was the foremost thought in my mind, pushing aside other, more complicated questions. Answers would have to wait. I couldn’t very well demand anything in my current role—and in front of the entire room of occupants.
“Turn around, hands and knees.” My heart pounded so hard at the command I was certain he could see my chest vibrate as I moved. Nicolas moved onto the bed behind me; I could feel the warmth of his body even through his clothes. His hands came up and smoothed over my exposed backside, then down my hips and thighs. When he reached between my legs to stroke my shaft, I flinched.
“So hard and ready.”
Then he shifted again, and his fingers pressed to the jeweled plug in my ass, making me squirm. Dear lord, it felt good.
“You like to be teased, don’t you? I’m not sure I would’ve guessed that.”
“Why didn’t you get a private room?” I asked, watching those around us indulge themselves of the view we were giving them while they sucked and fucked one another.
“You like to be watched, don’t you?” He leaned in and said in a low, husky tone, “You told us all about it, remember?” Then he moved up to lock eyes with mine. “And I want them all to know you belong to me.”
I was grateful her was behind me and didn’t see my mouth gape open.
“You’re mine tonight.”
My mouth went dry as a sudden jolt made me shutter beneath his words. Was this really Nicolas? How had he hidden all this heat and possessiveness for so long?
We’d kissed as boys, and I’d pined for him for years. But he’d never given any indication he’d felt the same. Nothing; not a hint. So I’d laid my hopes to rest and learned to enjoy his company as a friend. And looked elsewhere for pleasure.
I wanted to rile at him about all the time we’d lost. Scream and demand answers. But his body was atop mine now, his clothing warm as it pressed into my naked skin.
“I’m going to ride you until you buckle beneath me, and then I’ll unload myself inside you, so you’ll be slick and sore from me the rest of the night.”
Looking over my shoulder, I saw him reach for one of the jars of oil and heard myself say, “Not like this.” His fingers now slick and dripping—I nearly lost my train of thought at that sight—he cocked an eyebrow at me inquisitively. “Can I—May I face you…Master?” I’d never felt quite so vulnerable as I waited for his answer. Then he smiled. Not a smirk, a genuine grin. He put down the jar and bent to give me a quick kiss. “Yes, Sage,” he whispered, moving me onto my back.
I don’t know why I expected him to shove his cock right into me, Nicolas always had always liked to take his time. And damn him to hell, that’s exactly what he did. Slow and torturous, he kissed from the crook behind my ears to the curve behind my knees and everywhere in between. Except my cock, the bastard. Though his oiled fingers did stroke my hole with the promise of more.
For some reason, I tried to hold back from showing my pleasure, but Nicolas knew me too well. He knew I lacked patience and restraint; soon he had me openly writhing and moaning beneath him. He waited until every inch of my skin felt taut and flush before rubbing his nose against my cheek to ask, “Ready to be fucked, Pet?”
“Yessss!” I groaned, barely able to form words in my desperation.
Damn him. But he knew I liked it. “Master…please, fuck me. Fill me!”
I felt a rush of his breath ghost my shoulder and his body trembled above me. Perhaps he wasn’t as unaffected as he seemed. That spurred me on, I wriggled my naked hips up against the bulge of his trousers and whimpered.
He straightened up and shook his head with a smile. “I know what you’re trying to do.”
I grinned right back as I felt his fingers finally penetrate me. “Yeah? I think it’s working,” I told him as I pushed down on his agile fingers.
Nicolas chuckled. “Cocky bastard.” But he unbuttoned his trousers and pulled out his uncut cock.
God, he was beautiful. If I’d been thrown by being thrust into a sexual situation with by best friend before, I was thrilled now. We’d always meshed so damn well; this didn’t feel all that different. Even though I knew it was, and that it might change everything. Ignoring that thought, I licked my lips as I watched him stroke himself. “Want to suck me, Pet?” he asked.
I did wish he would stop calling me that, though.
“Hell, yes.” I lifted myself onto my elbows and he came up to straddle my chest, feeding me that sweet, stiff shaft. I moaned around him as he slid down my throat.
“H-How did you get so…good at this?” he sputtered.
I pulled back just long enough to mutter smugly, “Practice.” From the look in his eye, he didn’t appreciate my answer. I twisted my mouth about him and he gasped, his displeasure replaced with rapture. If I hadn’t had my lips stretched around his cock, I would’ve grinned.
With his attentions fixed, I drifted my hand between my legs to fondle myself. Nicolas had patience, but he also had passion. When he worked himself up—whether it was horse riding or painting or even cards—he was intent on reaching his goal. I knew he was teetering on the edge, and at any moment, he would be inside me.
“Stop!” he cried, pulling away.
I gave him a lop-sided grin. “Yes, Master?” His breathing was uneven and he held his erection at the base, as if forcefully holding back his climax. I slid up and spread my thighs wide, putting my feet on the outside of his knees. Then I leaned back. “Do it.”
In a rush, he spit on his hand and rubbed it up and down his shaft before pushing against my portal. I would’ve laughed at his desperation, but as he moved inside me, I lost all breath. By the Goddess, this felt…I had no words. I hadn’t told him, our friends, or even made it known on the Jewel House forms, but I’d never let another man inside my body. Well, maybe fingers, but never anything else. As Nicolas held my legs to my chest and waited for my body to adjust to him, I wondered if he had done this before. He took his time and knew just how to move to help me forget the pain and focus on the pleasure. And damn him, he had a lovely, lengthy cock. I had to breath deep and slow to accommodate him, and I basked in every sensation he brought me. I didn’t crave pain, but I didn’t mind it, and it was also buried beneath so much else.
“You need to relax, Sage,” he whispered. I shivered as he spoke my name and tried to ease my tight muscles. Why did it sound so different coming from his lips now? The breathless quality of his voice and the soft way he said ‘Sage’ reached something deep in me—something that I didn’t even want to acknowledge, but there it was.
“Good lord,” he said, eyes squeezed shut, “the heat of you…!” He began to rock within me in a slow, steady beat, inching deeper until his sac laid against my skin. I’d never felt so full and so pleased, but I needed more.
I must have moaned my plea, because Nicolas opened his eyes and said, “If you want more, you shall have it.” Then he started fucking me proper, and I was sent out of my head. He knew how to hit my prostate just so, and if it hadn’t already, the rest of the room and the people in it fell away.
It was an intensity of sensation I’d never known—beyond the physical was the fact this was Nicolas inside me, pining me to the sheets. My pulse raced anew every time the thought struck me. I loved him. As friends, always, but as lovers? That hope had been set aside so long ago, but now it rekindled against all my bidding and logic.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I could hear my open moans and gasps of pleasure, the hell if I would hold them back! I was good at living in the moment, and it had never felt so right before.
I wanted it to go on forever, but I could feel my arousal cresting. I gripped my cock and began to pump as I straightened one of my legs. Then my hand was pulled away.
“You can’t flex your legs when he climax. I’d have to pull out, and you’re coming with me inside you.”
“What? How would you know how I come?” I snapped.
“Did you forget we figured out how to come together when we were younger?” Leaning down he said, “I haven’t. And now I know your technique hasn’t changed.” Straightening back up, he took a hold of my erection. “So now you’re going to let me take the lead, and make you come.” Oh, lord! And he did. He took his time, stroked me until I begged, then hit my prostate until my eyes teared from joy.
Then I came. It swept over me like a soft, intoxicating tide—first pulling me under, then lifting me up to the sky. And all the while, Nicolas watched me, though ‘watching’ is too light a word. He was flush and inside me and gazing at me as if he was devouring every damn movement and whimper I made like water on a parched tongue.
Then he fell onto me, into me. Filling me with his seed. Our hearts pounded against one another as we tried to catch our breath and come back to earth.
“Oh, Nicolas…that was…” I said in a low whisper into his ear, unable to form any other words. What it had been was beautiful, but I couldn’t say that aloud. I would sound like such a sap, and heaven only knew what Nicolas thought of all this. Had it been the same for him? Because, at least for me, this changed everything. I had no idea how I was going to deal with what he’d awoken inside me. I knew I needed him like this. Always like this. Everyday like this.
How in the world could that ever happen?
Too many thoughts and questions began chasing one another in my mind and it took me a moment to realize Nicolas was rising.
“Nici?” I asked softly, reaching for him. I hadn’t called him that since we’d been children, but it came to my lips without meaning to.
He didn’t look at me. All he did was straighten his clothes, slip his spent cock back into his trousers, and walk away.
It took all my strength and what small shreds of dignity I had left to pull myself together and ring the footman to come fetch me.
“Sage, pay attention.”
I jolted upright in my chair and hoped I hadn’t given myself away too badly. No matter how I tried, there was no way my mind was going to be able to focus on my lessons today.
“Yes, Mother,” I said automatically. Over the years I’d learned well to function on autopilot. She continued on about some social occasion or another; I nodded dutifully as my mind wandered.
What had possessed Nicolas last night? And why had he left like that, without a word? I’d never felt so bereft and, well, used. He might have meant it as a lesson: pillage me and then treat me like nothing so it would leave a bad taste in my mouth and I’d never want to visit the Jewel House again. Somehow, however, I could not believe that. For one, he wasn’t that vindictive (and he wouldn’t spend a small fortune to prove a point). For second, something had passed between us, whether he admitted it to himself or not. There was a connection now, well beyond friendship; perhaps there always had been.
Though what in the seven hells was I going to do about it I had no clue. We couldn’t be together, and how could we possibly maintain a friendship after what had happened?
Because what had happened was not merely sex. It was deeper, stronger—more frightening. I had to see him. We had to talk.
Unfortunately, that proved more difficult than I planned. Most of my group met regularly at The Lantern, at least once a week, if not more. Nicolas hadn’t appeared in a fortnight. We all expressed concern, but no one had been in touch with him. Then the rumors began.
“Something’s happening up at Virsus Court,” Anthony said, shaking his head on evening—Virsus Court being the estate Nicolas’ family owned.
My stomach dropped. “What do you mean?”
He spread his hands. “Nicolas hasn’t left the place in days, and Mother said stocking carriages were seen slipping in and out of the back gates.”
“What? Is his family moving?”
Anthony shrugged and no one else had anything more to offer. The conversation moved on to who had the most handsome valets and stable boys. I ignored them.
The Virsus family couldn’t truly be leaving the city for the countryside? Of course they had estates perched in the rolling hills outside Queenstown, but I knew Nicolas’ mother loathed not being in the center of things. I also knew their finances were not where they should be. Perhaps moving to the countryside for a time would allow them to save face while they reassessed their assets?
It was yet another thing that happened to nobles that no one liked to admit to, but there it was. Good lord, what would Nicolas do if he was forced so far afield? What would I do without him?
No. I would not allow it. I had to talk to him before it happened. Surely we could arrange…something? In any case, he was not leaving for anywhere for any length of time before we set matters right between us.