amazingly_strange: (Default)
amazingly_strange ([personal profile] amazingly_strange) wrote2016-08-05 07:02 am

Fic: Passionate Action (Rude/Tseng)

Another year, another Amecon yaoi panel fanfiction (though new badge name, I am now Shadow of Shinra). This time the theme was magical boys so of COURSE my thoughts turned back to my comfort zone. Makes perfect sense, right?

Also this was the only entry, which means I won by default, but I'll take it! Especially since my writing skills were pretty rusty when I wrote it!

Bonus points this time were for: A magic wand, sparkles, a transformation sequence, a cute mascot, someone being saved by the power of love, a dark magical boy, weird symbolism. I think I at least touched on most of them, see if you can spot them!

Also: Smut warning. Because of course there is.

Passionate Action
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Pairing: Rude/Tseng
Summary: Rufus has an interesting new plan in mind for his Turks and it brings to light truths that may yet have remained hidden.

“So. Not that I mind, but remind me. Where, exactly, does this fit in with the master plan the bossman supposedly has in mind?”

Tseng supposed he couldn’t blame Reno for asking. After all the fuss Rufus had made about the science department’s latest triumph, being sent to sit in a bar and pretend they weren’t drawing attention seemed an odd means of product testing. And yet, knowing that did little to suppress the frustrated sigh or fingers seeking to stave off the earliest promises of a headache; it wasn’t exactly Reno’s fault, but that didn’t change Tseng’s distaste for being left in the dark like this.

Apparently that was all the response Reno needed; before Tseng could put voice to a response, the redhead was speaking again. “Sounds like one of his little games, if even you don’t know. Maybe he’s makin’ sure we remember not to get too carried away with anything the science guys dreamt up.”

Tseng had to admit it was possible. Rude certainly seemed to have considered the same thing, if the tone to his wordless grunt was any indication. Even so, it seemed an odd decision while Shinra was still finding its feet again and for all he knew Rufus could be dangerous even to his own people at times, there was usually a bigger reason for it than simply tormenting the people who probably stood the biggest chance of lethal retaliation.

Whatever path his thoughts might have strode down next, they were soon diverted to the source of an insistent tug at the hem of his trousers; where the sight of a pale-blonde cat with a distinctive glitter to her fur might have startled some, for Tseng it meant only one thing. “You found something, then.”

“Well I didn’t come all this way just for the thrill of evading everyone who wanted to adopt me or sell me.” The cat effected a deliberate pout which might have carried more weight were it not disrupted by her surprise at being lifted into Rude’s lap - and Tseng had half expected that surprise to be followed by violence.

Apparently, so had Reno. “Yo, ‘Laney. How come Rude gets away with that when I’d be bleedin’ out right now?”

“You know exactly why.” The cat - more accurately, their fellow Turk Elena who currently happened to be transformed into a cat - made a point of stretching out to make herself more comfortable before turning her attention back to Tseng. “Apparently, the President isn’t done with his more confusing decisions. He seems to have decided this project is the excuse he needs to try to re-recruit Valentine.”

“Are we sure the ‘stigma hasn’t messed with his head more than we thought?” The disdain in Reno’s tone, even as he casually reached for his beer, was hard to miss. “Hilarious as ‘Laney is like this, why weaken her and then give someone with no incentive to play nice the same power as the rest of us?”

“Apparently we need a mascot now.” Though his tone spoke to disapproval, it was hard for those who knew him to miss the faint distraction that suggested Rude wasn’t as entirely against this as he might be expected to be; the only reason Tseng declined to call him out for it - and he suspected the same was true for the others - was that he seemed to have a knack for keeping Elena calmer than she would otherwise be for being pushed into the mascot role by their boss. Certainly there was little denying that Rude’s hold on Elena now was the only thing stopping her from launching herself at Reno in retaliation for yet another smart comment.

More troubling, however, to Tseng’s mind was the latter half to Reno’s question. Certainly, Vincent was a large part of why he and Elena were alive now but that didn’t put him on their side and beyond that, a new strain of transformation magic mixing with Vincent’s existing physiology could very well spell trouble beyond what might come of using such untested Materia to begin with. And that meant, even in the unlikely event that it was unintentional on Rufus’ part, it was the Turks’ duty to investigate.

“Let’s go. If we’re lucky, we won’t find anything worse than a disappointed President.” From the way he stood, it was clear Tseng wasn’t asking. “Rude, keep hold of Elena. We don’t have time to cater to pride right now.”

“He was heading to the Forgotten Capital.” Even knowing the weight those words would carry with Tseng, as they did with her, Elena showed no protest either to that or to Tseng’s command. No doubt this was all part of what Rufus had in mind, after all, and she knew as well as Tseng did just how much could go wrong where Vincent’s possible involvement was concerned.

--

“They should be just up ahead.”

As Elena spoke, Tseng turned to give Rude a nod of approval. Knowing as he did how little Elena would care for being carried for so long, she’d held her tongue remarkably well while they’d sought out where Rufus might be and he saw no reason for her to suffer the indignity any longer than necessary - and he also knew Rude well enough to know it was far quicker to give silent command than to wait for Rude to decide to let go of his own accord.

Elena leapt to the ground the moment Rude obliged to loosen his hold on her, ears flicking as she sought to focus on any potential threats surrounding them. “Think we might have a welcome party.”

“Which means testing out the Materia.” The resignation to Tseng’s tone spoke to a growing understanding of Rufus’ ways and why he’d orchestrated events the way he had.

“Hope he’s on hand to uncollar ‘Laney if it all goes wrong.” For all his mutterings, Reno was quick to step forward, sleeves pulled back to uncover the wristband and the glowing Materia embedded within, the gift Rufus had bestowed upon his Turks and just as unremovable without Rufus on hand to do so as the collar keeping Elena in her feline form.

Before he could so much as mutter a here goes nothing, he was bathed in a red light sparkling with energy, mingling with the white-blue and earth-brown lights of Tseng’s and Rude’s until the three combined to a firework-like explosion to an off-colour - and partially incomplete - Shinra logo. Within the intermingling shafts of light, each man found the very fabric of their suits shifted around them until crisp black and white was interspersed with colour reflecting their expected role within Rufus’ new envisioned unit. Trousers shortened and adorned themselves with frills and bows; shirts and jackets seemed almost to tear to leave a sleeveless body of a shirt with colour-appropriate ties that thinned to something almost leash-like in appearance. And each, by the end, found themselves holding sleek wands reminiscent of their weapons of choice: Reno’s reflected his stun-stick; Rude’s more club-like wand reflected his preference for fists and Tseng’s took a shape very similar to the standard-issue firearms he made most use of.

As the lights started to fade, each man opened his mouth as though to express thoughts on the whole experience. Instead, as Reno levelled a challenging glare at Elena - who’d watched the whole thing with a certain smug amusement - his words of protest cut out for something sounding far more scripted, accompanied by holding his wand aloft abruptly enough to betray how forced into the action he’d been. “In the name of Shinra, I’ll raze all who oppose us!”

The first response, though spoken with more resignation than Reno had shown, came from Tseng. “In the name of Shinra, I’ll put the freeze on our enemies and their plans.”

For a moment, then, there came nothing but silence; Reno, Tseng and Elena all looked to Rude expectantly as he tried to fight any such similar outburst. In the end, his failure came with a deliberate averting of his gaze for fear he might meet that of one of the others. “In the name of Shinra, I’ll make the very ground beneath us serve our needs.”

Another moment of silence fell, then, before Elena finally found her voice. “You know. For the first time since I was given this damn collar, I’m actually starting to think I got off lightly.”

“Well, you might wanna reconsider that when we save your ass.” Reno nodded towards a group of hedgehog-like creatures emerging from the shadows. “Looks like the welcome party’s finally caught up.”

“Reno, Rude, you handle this.” Tseng was already moving towards the gap in the group of monsters. “Elena, you’re with me. We’ll make Rufus see sense if we have to beat it into him.”

Elena nodded, already slipping ahead of Tseng even as the heat of fiery blasts filled the air, coupled with a quiet rumble of the ground below them that spoke to the potential for something far more serious being held in check. She hadn’t seen the cause, but Tseng had and yet all he could do while Rufus was still in peril was hope that Rude would get the hang of his new powers sooner rather than later.

--

“You’re late.”

For all that had been unusual about the whole incident, Tseng could at least take some strange reassurance from Rufus’ expected greeting. Even as the President of the Shinra company - now clad in a similar outfit to the male Turks, with a far more elaborate tie and yellow accents - was facing down a monstrous creature that could only be a transformed Vincent, he still had time to berate his people and never mind he was the one to head off without warning to begin with.

“And you’re reckless as ever. Or does this whim of yours also cover how we’re going to get the Materia back from an unwilling-”

“Watch out!”

Before Tseng could even fully absorb the interruption as the disastrous amalgamation of a powered-up Chaos-transformed Vincent lunged towards them, Elena had darted forward to claw at whatever she could reach, as tenacious - and mildly reckless - as she’d ever been in her usual form. Even Rufus seemed to appreciate the same but before either man could speak, Elena was darting off with Chaos behind and immediately Tseng knew what she was doing.

Apparently so did Rufus.

“Lecture later. Let’s start with the big guns.” As he spoke, he grabbed Tseng’s wrist, lifting the shotgun-shaped wand he carried as he pushed Tseng to raise his too. “Cold sparks, break forth!”

Tseng found himself echoing without pausing to think about it, though without quite the same strength of feeling behind it; immediately, the cavernous space filled with vicious sparks as shards of ice shot towards their target. Each shard seemed to conduct the electricity in the air to shock anyone or anything hit by them; even Chaos seemed to flinch if only for long enough for Elena to slip into a gap through which she couldn’t be followed. Which meant only that when the shock faded, Chaos’ attention turned readily to the two men responsible for such an attack.

“And now that we’ve pissed him off?”

If Rufus noticed the dry scolding in Tseng’s tone, he made no indication of it; indeed, he seemed to care rather less about the immediate threat than he did about matters which might be deemed far less important in the current moment. “Hmm. Not a bad start but needs more passion. You should work on that.”
Almost as though to cut off any protest from Tseng, Rufus’ words were punctuated by an explosive sound from behind closely followed by two pairs of footsteps beating a hasty retreat in their direction. Sure enough, Reno and Rude were soon joining them, skidding to a stop as they took in the situation before them.
“You know, I’m pretty sure the VR rooms are back up and running by now.”

Ignoring Reno’s comment entirely, Rufus looked to Rude. “Sounds like you’re both getting the hang of it, at least. Maybe we’ll get a worthwhile combination yet.”

“Maybe we can worry about that later!”

The sharpness to Tseng’s tone cut through whatever thoughts the others might have held; looking up, they saw him desperately trying to keep Chaos at bay with a shield of ice that slowed but couldn’t stop the steady advance towards the group - and not least because it seemed to be taking all the strength Tseng had to keep the shield in place; as his stamina was pushed to its limits the shield seemed to become less as less effective until it almost faltered completely. Immediately, Reno and Rufus moved forward, but they’d taken barely two steps before an almighty rumble ran through the ground beneath them, strong enough to almost knock them off their feet - and strong enough to cause chunks of the ceiling to fall, leading Reno to divert his attention to pushing Rufus out of the way even as fire and electricity entwined to destroy any debris big enough to cause any severe damage should they be struck by it.

It hadn’t gone unnoticed by either man that for all Rufus had spoken of passionate combinations, Rude had managed such utter carnage entirely by his own will. And for as spent as Tseng felt, as he fought to catch his breath, he couldn’t miss that Rude’s sudden burst of strength had to come from more than a simple gradual acceptance of what was expected of him.

--

“Guess that’s the end of that little scheme, then.”

Hours later, Reno and Elena - now fully back to normal - were back at Shinra HQ, making the most of the lull of the aftermath to relax. Rufus hadn’t stuck around, more concerned with taking the wristbands and collar back to the science department than anything else.

At Reno’s words, Elena could only arch an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t put money on that. I’ll just be happy if the next attempt means I get to join in on the action.”

As he passed them by, Tseng barely managed to suppress the wry upward curve of his mouth. Youngest and newest she might be but Elena always had been sharp and he couldn’t exactly disagree with her sentiments. With no casualties, there was no reason for Rufus to put the idea on ice even if he’d at least learned his lesson when it came to involving Vincent.

Hopefully.

That was a concern for later. For now, Tseng made his way to one of the recovery rooms, silently dismissing the guard he knew was there far more to keep the occupant in than to keep anyone else out. Wasn’t as though Rude had been injured badly enough for him to be out of action for long but equally, Rufus had wanted to make certain there were no lingering after-effects from drawing so much power from the new Materia and in this, Tseng was in full agreement.

So far, as he first laid eyes on Rude on his feet and pacing, pausing to gingerly test how he stretched, all seemed to be as it should be. Potions took their time to work on Rude but between them and a steady course of healing Materia, it was rare that he needed very long to recover from even the worst of beatdowns.

Tseng wasn’t sure that what happened could count under that same heading. But if the recovery rate remained the same, that was all that really mattered.

“Good to see the big hero on his feet.” Even as he was supposed to mask his feelings under a more professional demeanour as Director, Tseng couldn’t help but feel relieved enough that a little of the truth slipped out, in his own dry manner. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say Rufus was playing favourites.”

Rude didn’t say a word but with his shades off - an insistence on Medical’s part, for so long as he was under their care - Tseng could clearly read the odd mix of relieved humour and something closer to shame Rude’s eyes held, along with something else he couldn’t quite identify. Not to say he didn’t have his suspicions, based on all he knew of the situation, but Tseng knew better than most how dangerous it could be to assume without full understanding of the situation.

Which was exactly what he was here for. “Rufus mentioned the power in that Materia was linked to strong emotion...to passion. I hadn’t realised you cared so much.”

Even as his comment had been couched in wry humour, Tseng couldn’t fail to catch the immediate shift in Rude’s expression and posture even with the deliberate aversion of his gaze that told Tseng he’d hit closer to the truth than he might have intended. He knew Rude could be somewhat reserved when it came to certain matters but there was a vulnerability to him, here, that Tseng suspected might not have been there had he been teasing about someone or something else.

Silence stretched between them, heavy and frustrating to Tseng’s mind - he wouldn’t have come if he was okay with being kept in the dark about the truth of the situation, and while he understood this likely wasn’t easy for Rude given their history and the nature of their work together, he still wanted answers. And indeed was right on the brink of demanding them by the time Rude finally spoke up, still not quite meeting his gaze. “Doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“We both know that’s not true.” Tseng stepped closer, glad to note that for all he seemed like he might want to, Rude at least didn’t retreat from him. “I might not be Reno but I’ve known you long enough to know it means something to you. You pulling us out of a fire doesn’t normally lead to you behaving like you are now..”

More silence, not that Tseng was surprised. It would have been a simple enough matter, to gloss this over as nothing more than an expected part of the Turks working together, something utterly ordinary under the circumstances. And so, that Rude couldn’t even muster the will to make more than a token effort to do so made it all the more apparent that this went beyond that norm.

Even if it hadn’t been, that Rude saw fit to respond by catching Tseng’s wrist and leaning in to kiss him would have chased away any doubt that might have remained. And while Rude’s actions weren’t so surprising to Tseng, with the evidence that had begun piling up in indication of the truth, what did catch him off-guard was his own response to the situation. Not that he’d ever put much thought into how he might react to Rude’s silent but certain profession of feelings for him, but even for that being so he hadn’t expected that he would find himself clutching Rude’s shirt to stop any attempts at withdrawing and pretending this had never happened. And even with his eyes closed and most of his focus lost to the kiss, he was still alert enough to recognise that even for being the one to instigate, Rude hadn’t expected this response either and only hadn’t stopped to question because Tseng had yet to grant him the opportunity to do so.

Eventually, the need to catch his breath pushed Tseng towards relenting and letting go, allowing Rude to break the kiss but still poised to stop any attempts at fleeing the situation. Whatever this was, it clearly ran deep and Tseng wanted to make certain of what this meant for them as men and as Turks. Fortunately, at least, Rude seemed to hold conviction enough in his actions to stand his ground and deal with whatever fallout came, though his expression and posture suggested he was still expecting rejection.

Instead, Tseng simply smiled, amused but a touch more genuine than normal, the fellow Turk and man rather than the Director with his subordinate. “I hope you don’t think I wouldn’t have stopped you if I’d wanted to.”

“Suppose you would’ve.” At least Rude’s response spoke to him believing it now, which Tseng would take as a small victory. “So what do you want?”

It was a heavy question and Tseng knew it, and yet with his nerves still tingling from the kiss and giving him all the answers about his own feelings he really needed, it seemed so much simpler and less awkward to let their actions do the talking. And so he reached to pull Rude closer again, enough that their noses touched and their gazes lingered. “I can think of a few things. Unless you still need time to recover.”

He’d expected that Rude would take that as a challenge. What he hadn’t quite expected was the burst of heated passion as Rude’s hands fisted in his shirt, lips fiercely pressing against Tseng’s so that Tseng, for once, could only yield to the command of another instead of taking charge himself. And for how desperately he clung to Rude as he tried to keep up, as he met the push of Rude’s body against his own to chase out any hint of space between them, it was a side of Rude he wouldn’t mind seeing more of.

Before he quite knew it, his back was against the wall as Rude kept him pinned, lips and the edge of teeth keeping Tseng from thinking straight even where he was granted leave to suck in heated breaths. Rude always had delivered his best communications non-verbally and this time was no exception; indeed, even through the heat and need for vindication of his feelings, Tseng could tell Rude was holding to the right side of the line between taking command and ignoring Tseng’s wishes altogether. Even as things grew more heated - and Tseng knew without having to think on it that it was a matter of when not if - it was abundantly clear that Tseng could call a stop at any time and Rude would listen, and not just because Tseng held the true authority between them.

Right now, that didn’t matter. Right now, Tseng would gladly let Rude hold the reins if it meant such strong passion that he didn’t even mind getting swept away by it. And so, as Rude allowed himself a moment to pause and take in Tseng’s reactions, Tseng simply offered a smirk as satisfied as it was goading. “Should’ve figured you fuck like you fight. Wouldn’t do for me to think you weren’t capable, right?”

He wasn’t sure he’d ever seen a smile as expressive as the one Rude offered him in response, something that would easily have been a grin on anyone else. Apparently, something in Tseng’s words had quietened whatever doubting voices lingered in Rude’s mind and the reward quickly came in renewed vigour as their lips met, in bolder demonstration of what Rude wanted as he unzipped Tseng’s jacket. And for all his need for control in most situations, Tseng found he was still happy to yield, to move as Rude needed him to, to reciprocate in stripping Rude down as he himself was stripped down but allowing Rude to determine pace overall.

In turn, Rude seemed to be making quite certain that Tseng would have no room to feel impatient; jackets and shirts were soon discarded, though whatever relief might have come from skin bared to the air was short-lived as both men lost themselves to more heated kisses. Rude’s fingers slid to tangle in Tseng’s hair with an ease that spoke to one of the things he found most attractive and irresistible; Tseng, in return, curled a hand at the back of Rude’s neck, lips curving to a grin against Rude’s at the full-body shiver he earned as he did so.
Weakness noted. But there would be time enough to explore that in future, fates willing.

For now, Tseng would simply enjoy how the action spurred Rude into pulling him closer still, staggering a little as he guided them both to the bed more ordinarily used for patient recovery - and didn’t this still count, in some twisted way? Tseng certainly felt he could argue the case. Either way, he wouldn’t protest the more comfortable surface or the opportunity to sit, even if height wasn’t proving to be an issue between them. Nor could he really protest the hand that slid out of his hair to move down to his crotch, fondling through fabric and Tseng knew the first stirrings of something he hadn’t felt in quite some time would be readily apparent, especially to someone as perceptive as Rude.

“You’ve done this before.” His words came in a husky murmur, speaking far more to approval than any hint towards prying. He knew only a little of Rude’s personal history, enough to know the parts where it had overlapped with his profession and little more, but he could hardly protest if past experience was the cause of what he was feeling now.

“Wouldn’t do for you to think I’m not capable.” There came that pseudo-grin once more, as Rude coupled his echo of Tseng’s own words with a deliberate squeeze that Tseng couldn’t help but buck his hips into. “Still got plenty to show you, too.”

“I’m sure.” Not that he’d needed one, but Tseng was quick to take up the excuse to return the favour, mapping
out what he could feel of Rude through his pants and cursing under his breath as he got his answer. Not that they hadn’t seen each other in all kinds of states before but here, now, Tseng could feel - and more importantly, appreciate - just how big Rude was all over. “Still, better not get me too excited. I still need to thank you, don’t I?”

“It can wait.” Rude’s voice was as smooth as the motion he used to unzip Tseng’s pants, as heated as flesh against flesh as he took Tseng in hand, stroking him to full hardness. “Unless you want an audience.”

Even with lust making a solid attempt at taking over his every brain cell one by one, Tseng still had awareness enough to know what Rude meant. It wouldn’t be long before the medical staff or Rufus or Reno or Elena or some combination of the four would feel the need to come check on Rude and it was probably for the best that they didn’t find out about this new development by walking in to see Tseng’s mouth on Rude’s dick. And so he simply shook his head, nipping at Rude’s ear as his hand mirrored Rude’s, tugging fabric out of his way to get a good feel for the measure of Rude. “Next time, then.”

“Once you know all my weaknesses?” If his tone was any indication, Rude didn’t exactly find that objectionable. Wasn’t like Tseng could have missed how much Rude had enjoyed that attention to his ear while they were this close or how that might be used in future. “Can’t imagine I’ll get my way every time.”

“Well, that depends on how well you behave.” Tseng coupled the tease with another tug of teeth at Rude’s ear, catching against one of the many piercings in the one act of defiance he could manage before Rude picked up the pace of his hand, prompting instinct to take priority over whatever conscious decisions Tseng might still be able to make. And instinct saw his head drop back, hips chasing more of that same touch as his own hand fell into a complementary rhythm far more by luck than judgement. Never would he have thought, even earlier today, that he would someday be sat half-naked next to Rude as they jerked each other off but then he couldn’t quite recall the last time anything about his work or his life beyond that had been anything resembling predictable.

And then, as Rude leant in to mouth at Tseng’s throat, shifting to allow himself to rub his dick against Tseng’s and coaxing Tseng’s hand into forming a tight tunnel with his own, Tseng couldn’t quite recall much of anything at all. Everything past that moment fell to heat and instinct and sensation, building to a crescendo until rhythm jerked and spasmed, pulling both men over the edge and Tseng would later find he couldn’t quite recall much about Rude’s fall for how utterly his own had him swept away.

Something else to keep in mind for next time, and there was no doubt in Tseng’s mind that there would be one.

“Guess we should get cleaned up.”

For all it had been Rude who’d seen him lost to instinct to begin with, it was Rude’s voice now that brought Tseng back to the present moment, coupled with a gentler touch and a damp coolness that Tseng knew to be a cleansing wipe. He cracked an eye open, not bothering to mask his amusement at how readily Rude had fallen into taking care of him. “You know I came here to check on you.”

“You came here for answers.” Rude gave him a knowing look, even as he moved on to cleaning up himself. Tseng supposed it was inevitable that Rude would have known that, and hadn’t been inclined to object anyway; even if he had, he wouldn’t have been able to refute Rude’s next comment even if he’d wanted to. “Must have liked the ones you got, hmm?”

--

“We’re seriously trying this shit again?”

As Reno vented his distaste to Rufus in a way only Reno would get away with and Elena carefully scrutinised the bracelet she’d been granted that would allow her, this time, to work and fight as an equal to the other Turks, Tseng took the moment to trade a knowing glance with Rude. Even masked by his shades as was typical for Rude, it was clear in what expression was visible that he at least understood Rufus’ thinking, just as Tseng did. Granted, Tseng wasn’t sure if this had been the exact outcome Rufus had been planning for with his passion-driven Materia - even if some of the looks their President was throwing Reno’s way suggested he wasn’t entirely sorry for it - but with just a few tweaks and some refinement, the transformation Materia could prove to be powerful stuff, quite beyond anything the Turks had ever been capable of before, an asset Shinra could sorely use right now.

And if it all fell through? Well, at least the whole exercise had brought to light truths that had led to a new dynamic for the Turks, one that had gone over surprisingly smoothly given Reno and Rude’s close bond and Elena’s former yearning for their Director. Things changed, after all, and while loyalty within the Turks would never be one of those things, for the first time since he’d taken the role as Director, Tseng could see a personal life for himself, a commitment that went beyond the suits and what Shinra asked of them.

He would never admit as much to Rufus for fear of never hearing the end of it. But then, as the group prepared to head out for a new test run of the Materia and Rufus met Tseng’s gaze with a smug look in return, perhaps it was a confession that need never be spoken of anyway. Even if it were, however, it would be a small price to pay for a happiness that transcended duty and spoke to passions and desires he’d sworn he hadn’t missed until they were in his life once more.