The Botanic Gardens
After that mind blowing night Chris and I spent wrestling on my satin bedspread, we were closer than ever. We spent nearly every waking moment together that I wasn’t working at the comic book store or the bar. Obviously, having two jobs really cut down on my free time, but that was what it to took to carry my weight with my roommate. The growing relationship with Chris was getting on her nerves since she had her own designs on me.
Melinda started questioning every move I made and was beyond cold to Chris whenever he came over. It was getting ridiculous. She was my roommate, not my wife! There was never any chance that I was going to get into an intimate relationship with her. I had been upfront about that but it didn’t stop her from wanting more than I could give.
One night I decided it was time to take Chris out to one of my favorite places. There wouldn’t be any privacy if we stayed at the apartment. I had visions of Melinda glowering in her room with her ear against a glass held to the wall, fuming about us making out. The image was enough to make me very uncomfortable about it. Going out seemed like the only way to have some alone time that wouldn’t be encroached on by a tidal wave of estrogen hot flashes and unrequited lust.
“Let’s go,” I murmured to Chris softly in hopes of sneaking out without yet another confrontation.
“Ok.” Chris agreed readily. Even he had caught the edges of the tension between Melinda and I.
I took his hand and left my room. Melinda was sitting in the living room glowering at the TV. Her gray eyes snapped to us as we headed for the front door. They widened as they took in our entwined fingers. Her mouth twisted into a full scowl.
“Where are you two off to?” she demanded abruptly.
Chris nearly jumped at the tone of voice thrown at us. I let go of his hand and opened the front door for him. He almost bolted through the screen door in his rush to get the hell out of that frozen wasteland of a living room. The screen door shrieked a protest as he barely managed to get it open while going through.
“I’ll meet you downstairs babe,” I told him. Chris nodded and headed down the stairs to the courtyard. Passing the pool, he waited at the gate for me.
My lips pressed together until I was almost biting the inside of them. I carefully and quietly closed the front door. Resisting the urge to slam it was nearly beyond my ability, but I was proud that I managed to just nudge it shut. Our neighbors didn’t need to hear the conversation that was about to happen.
“We’re going out, obviously,” I finally replied as I turned to face her with my arms folded over my chest.
“Where to?” she demanded again.
“I frankly don’t see how that is your business, Melinda,” I snapped back.
Her eyes widened and she glared. Her hands clenched in her lap as she fought to keep control of her own temper. I could tell she didn’t really want to fight but she was getting desperate to keep me for herself, despite my blunt rejection of her advances. Her self-control was waning in the wake of her hopes.
“It would be courteous to let me know where you are going, if you plan on using my car,” she finally managed to get out.
She had me there. That much was true. “I am taking Chris over to see the Botanical Gardens up at the university. We won’t be gone that long since it is almost closing time.”
“Did you have other plans for the evening that you might need the car? You obviously have prior claim on it if so.” I came back with.
“Nice of you to ask first, but no,” she shot back waspishly. “Go ahead and take it. Please put gas in it.”
“Of course. Thanks. See you later.” I could tell my short answers were hitting home to her that she had pushed me too far.
I went out the front door now, carefully shutting it, proud that I still didn’t slam it the way I really wanted to. As it finally closed and latched, I caught a last glimpse of her staring off into space, her face a study in defeat and misery. That didn’t make me feel any better, but I was glad I hadn’t flayed her verbally the way I was inclined to originally.
Chris smiled at me as I came trotting downing the stairs. They were wrought iron with cement slabs for the steps and it twanged each time I hit one and moved down to the next. You could always tell how fast someone was going by the twang and how close together they came. He held open the gate and I took his hand again as we left the apartment complex. We moved on to the car and I got it unlocked, opening the passenger door for him.
Before I started it up after I got in, I checked the time. I was wrong. The Gardens would be closed for at least half an hour before we could possibly get there. I considered the options. I really wanted him to see my favorite place in the entire town. The delay with Melinda had really screwed up the timing. Well, and the make-out session before that. Still…
I talked with Chris, just sitting in the car for nearly an hour more before even starting off. We covered a lot of different territory, from favorite comic book heroes and stories, favorite foods, dislikes and moved all the way into more exotic topics such as favorite sexual fantasies. Once we got onto that ground, I decided we needed to get moving or we would never leave and end up making out in the car parked right there. Not a swift move considering anyone could walk by and see into the car easily.
I drove us to the university, taking my time. It was after dark now and the area was deserted. I still thought I could pull this off. Chris had as much of an adventuresome spirit as I did. We hiked all over the city wherever whim took us and didn’t think anything of it. I knew he would agree to my idea, even with a change of actual plan due to the lateness of the hour now.
I pulled into the Gardens’ parking lot and parked in an out of the way spot, not easily noticed unless you really looked hard. I had no idea what the security would be like, but I imagined it was really next to nothing. Who on earth would try to get in after hours?
“So, babe, this is the place I’ve talked about before. I love it here and wanted you to see it with me. Unfortunately, we got here way to late and it’s closed now. Are you game for hopping the fence and exploring in the dark?”
“Sure, why not? Sounds fun actually,” he grinned which just about melted my heart. That smile of his sent bolts of electricity through me every time. It really brought out the best of his physical features and showed some of his soul too. I leaned into him and kissed those smiling lips. He brought his hands to cup my face and kissed back.
We got out the car, finally, pretty much breathless from our long kissing session. The stars were well out now and we watched as the full moon broke over the horizon, a white-silver disk that was just awesome coming from behind the hills before us. Light shone everywhere, not as bright as day but more than enough for us to see clearly. His hand was warm in mine as we walked toward the entrance to the Gardens. Contentment just welled up and I squeezed gently as our hands swung back and forth.
The gate was locked, naturally, when we got to it. Vast iron bars, high crossbars set into cinderblock columns, swept off in both directions. The fence and gate were probably about seven feet high. Both Chris and I were around six feet. I looked carefully, trying to decide how to get over. The bars were far too close together to simply slide in that way. No cross bars to give us a place to put a foot to get us half way either. Puzzling. I glanced at Chris, who was doing his own examination of the situation.
“I think we’ll have to use the column to get over,” Chris said, pointing to the column attached to the gate hinges. I studied it carefully then nodded.
Putting my foot on the hinge, I reached for the flat top of the column. Pulling with all my puny strength, I managed to get my stomach high enough to lay myself onto it. My foot levered against the gate bars just enough to keep me from losing ground as I tried to get up onto the top of the column. Swinging my legs, they went over the top of the gate as I turned my stomach on the column. I then pushed off the top and dropped down into the Gardens with an ‘oomph’ as my legs jarred into my torso. Still, not bad for a skinny weakling!
I looked around to see if any staff were still onsite as Chris followed me over the gate. He was in much better shape than me, at least in my opinion. There was a certain grace to his wiry figure and he landed next to me without a sound. No one was around, we lucked out. It looked like no one was working after hours on this day and had cleared the place out at closing. I grinned at Chris, grabbed his hand and tugged him into the Botanical Gardens.
I started him off going through the wooded section, trees of all kinds laid out in a random pattern. They were all marked and the feeling was really very natural, though the Gardens’ staff all carefully planned it. Green lawn flanked the asphalt path leading on to other sections. The Gardens were set at the base of the hills behind the university and actually climbed right up them.
The scents were very different at night versus the daytime visits. Night-blooming jasmine was distinctive, heady on the barest breeze. The grass scent was even different, more fragrant than the usual dry, desert odor. They watered at closing, giving the plants more opportunity to absorb that precious fluid without it evaporating instantly in our daytime heat. Eucalyptus had a sharp bite into the scent pallet of the evening too, along with pine and even some orange tree blossoms that were flowering.
Chris wandered with me, smiling as I chattered on about the rose section, so many varieties and colors. It was one of my favorite spots in the lower Gardens. Though he was interested, I could see he was getting restless. On the spur of the moment, I challenged him to a race to the top of the Gardens. He laughed as he accepted. On the count of three, we bolted. He pushed me to the side as he came up on me, not hard but enough to throw my balance into confusion. He sped past me, giggling between breaths.
The paths wound and turned as they went up the side of the hill, sometime looping back down into a valley-like crease and up again. I lost sight of the bugger as he dropped down one of those valleys and around a turn. Fig trees with low hanging branches were in this section. I kept running, eyes searching to see where he was. The path split, but I followed the branch that continued climbing the hill. Ahead was a stand of bamboo, tall poles, some as think as my forearm, rising twenty and thirty feet into the air.
As I came even with the bamboo, I was tackled from the side. I fell into the embankment on the opposite side to the stand and sprawled out flat with Chris on top of me. All the air was pushed out of me and I was gasping for air. His weight on my stomach and chest was making that a bit hard, but I honestly didn’t notice or care much. The contact with his body was turning me on in a big way. Even though I couldn’t breathe, I sure could feel the rush of my blood through my veins and where that blood was finally ending up. I know he could feel it happening, since his groin was crushed up into mine on landing.
His eyes stared down into mine, much darker in the moonlit shadows of the bamboo over us. Without a word, he pushed his mouth to mine, kissing me. The little breath I had managed to get was once more sucked out of me. He ground his hips into me, making fireworks explode behind my eyes as I could feel an answering hardness rubbing along mine, through two pairs of old jeans. There was no doubt that we both were on the same wavelength at that moment. Hell, we were definitely ready for anything at this point. Still, there was a better place for frolicking than this embankment. Chris shifted his weight and I promptly shoved his hips hard with my hands. He fell sideways and I bolted to my feet, taking off up the path.
“Catch me if you can, ambusher!” I yelled back over my shoulder at him as he got to his feet in the quickly receding distance.
I could hear the pounding of his sneakers on the path behind me, gradually getting louder as he closed the distance between us. I knew he would catch me, but not before I got us where I wanted to go. The hillside cleared of trees at this point and even the larger bushes were much further apart. This section of the Gardens was still very under-developed, set aside for future plantings. The sky opened up overhead and stars, countless stars were twinkling brightly. Even the moon was now directly overhead. Everything was painted in a wash of silver light and shadows.
Chris caught me again, as I knew he would. His arms came flying out of the night and wrapped around my waist as he tackled me yet again. This time I was expecting it, so I was able to break our fall relatively easily and without either of us getting hurt or damaged. I twisted in his arms and laid back on the ground to watch the sky from our new perch on the upper hillside. The lights of the city sparkled below us, a poor imitation of the sky’s splendor above. Still, it was entrancing.
He stayed in the position we landed, his arms around my waist, his head sideways on my lap. My last minute move had pretty much kept his face out of my butt, which I admit would probably been a softer landing place than my groin. It was intoxicating, lying there with his cheek pressed against my clothed hard dick. His breathing was heavy, deep, still trying to recover from his hard run to catch up with me. I ran my fingers slowly through his pale blond hair as I stared up at the sky.
Clenching me briefly with his arms, he let go. Well, tried to. I arched my back a bit to get my weight off of him. That got his arms free with the added bonus of pushing my crotch into his face. He used his now free hands to push me flat again and then pop the top button my jeans. I found my breath froze in my lungs as he grabbed the zipper in his teeth and pulled downward. Holding the waistband tightly, he tugged until the zipper was completely down. The feel of it as it happened was a whole new sensation that gave me shivers.
“This what you had in mind?” Chris whispered as he mouthed my dick through my underwear. I couldn’t even answer because I was so busy feeling through my skin down there.
“Thought so,” he murmured as he continued moving his lips up and down my shaft through the cloth. He had pulled his lips in over his teeth and was nibbling me with that added cushion to make sure he didn’t hurt me. Well, that worked just fine. My hands fell flat to the ground, clutching at the grass. While his mouth was busy, he used his hands to pull down my jeans to my ankles. All the while, he explored me through my underwear, which was getting wetter by the minute from his spit.
I writhed in the waves of tingling electricity he was causing, lost in sensation. His hands pushed up my t-shirt and rubbed my sides and stomach. I could practically feel the ridges of his fingerprints; my skin was so sensitive now. When he felt he had me where he wanted, he lifted the edge of my waistband and freed the monster he had created. The air was cool against me as my erection sprang upward, no longer confined. His lips now directly ran along my length. Then came his hot, wet tongue, tracing the contours of me.
Licking for all he was worth, he moved on to my balls. One hand now cradled my shaft, stroking without actually grasping with his open palm. Chris sucked at the skin on my balls, taking in one then the other, alternating gently. After an immensely long time, he moved back up, licking the crown of my dick, circling it rapidly with his tongue. My breathing was becoming ragged, as I gasped for air. Then all air cut off as he engulfed me completely, sucking me down, down, all the way to the base in one long slow swallow.
The heat of his mouth and throat was intense after the cooler air. The friction where he touched me was growing and then he moved up and down. My control was slipping. Air escaped in a low moan. I let go of the grass and went for his hair again. The fine strands wove around my fingers as I ran through them and cupped his ears. Pressure was building but I wasn’t ready to let things end so quickly or without him.
“Let up, babe,” I whispered as I gently pushed at his head to get him to let go.
He wasn’t so willing to give up his hold on me and continued bobbing on my shaft even as I was struggling into a half sitting position. Chris was stretched out on the slope on my legs, effectively pinning me to the hillside. I gave up on trying to stop things from the front end and went after his pants. Wiggling, I twisted to the side as much as possible until I could get my hands under him. I found the belt and got it undone, barely. Popping the pants button was easier. Getting his zipper down stalled me out. All the while, he was attached to my groin like a lamprey.
My flexibility comes in handy at the oddest times. Chris finally came up for air. I immediately grabbed him by the shoulders and flung him onto his side and off of my legs. I kept the motion going and flipped myself on top of him to pin him in place, much as he had had me just moments before. I laughed, and swooped in on his lips. Kissing him, I pinned his wrists to the ground.
“My turn!” I whispered when I broke the kiss. He nodded, dazed from my aggressive moves.
I let go of his hands and slid down his body. When my head was level with his pants, I finished what I started and got his zipper down. Lucky I hadn’t gotten far the first time since he was commando. I might have hurt him accidentally. Talk about a mood killer! Blessing good fortune, I got his pants undone and wiggle them down his legs until they were at his ankles, just as he had done with me. His dick was just as rigid as mine and ready for attention. I admired its shape, as I always did when it came into sight. Scimitar like with a slight curve to his left. I ran my tongue alone it, tracing it from base to tip.
Chris moaned, instantly tamed by my mouth. I liked making him do that. His skin was so white in the moonlight, almost glowing. I pushed up his jacket and shirt. His paleness extended over his whole body. Those strong Nordic genes were very dominant. He never tanned. I grabbed the base of his shaft and held him upright so he was pointed at the moon overhead. Then I sucked him in, lips curled over my teeth. I toyed with the crown, pulling my mouth back and forth on the flared ridge, his moans getting louder by the minute.
I began going lower and lower on his shaft. Eventually, my nose was resting in his groin, tickled by his nest of blond hair. I swallowed hard and came back up all the way. I let him go and tongued the tip, letting myself completely explore there in all directions, seeking the most sensitive places, especially the area just under the flange on the bottom of his shaft. The silken smoothness of the skin and the rubbery edge were a delightful contrast. I sucked him back into my mouth and went all the way down on him, twisting my head to accommodate the curve as best I could. Over and over and over, up and down, up and down.
“Stop! I am too close! I want to fuck you!” Chris hissed between clenched teeth.
I came up and let him go, reluctantly. I knew he was close because of the sweetish taste of his precum was all over my tongue for the last several minutes. He gasped for a minute, struggling to bring himself back for the edge I had pushed him to and regain control. Chris sat up and moved me to the side. Knowing me so well, he dug into my pants pocket to find the small tube of lube I had stashed there. He knew I always kept some around since our first time together.
Chris struggled to his knees, handicapped by his pants. Then he set his hands to my hips and got me on my hands and knees. Moving in behind me, he got his feet as far apart as he could with his pants at his ankles. I kept my feet together, so he had his on the outside of mine. The grass under my knees and hands was cool to the touch and I dug my fingers down to try to anchor me for the ride ahead.
He popped the cap and squeezed some lube onto his fingers. Bringing them to my backside, he spread some around my tight pucker before pressing softly at the opening of my ass. I relaxed into it, bringing my head down onto my arms. I shifted so that my arms pillowed my cheek. I gasped as his insistent fingers forced their way inward. His middle fingertip went in first, followed shortly by his index. That first one wasn’t a big deal, but I was barely ready for it when the second reached the muscle ring so soon. Twisting slowly, he pushed those two fingers inward, making sure not to just jam them in. I concentrated on relaxing and soon they were both in to the second knuckle.
I could feel the stretching, minorly painful, more of a sting really. He pushed in further, still turning the fingers as he went. Gently, he searched until he found my prostate. Chris knew he found it both by touch and by my gasp. He slid right on by until all of his two fingers were entirely in me. Pulling back slowly, he made sure to trail over that spot again. Now he was finger fucking me, slowly but steadily. In and out, out and in, always hitting the magic button as he went. I could feel my dick getting ever harder, unimaginable as that was. My dick shuddered, moving each time he crossed that hidden territory.
When Chris felt I was properly lubed and just about to explode from wanting him, he slid his fingers out. He wrapped them around his dick and stroked a few times to get slicked up with the lube still on his hand. Moving in closer, he brought the head of his dick down and against me. I pushed back slightly and he pushed forward, popping in swiftly. Since I was relaxed and totally ready, it went in smoothly without pain. Just a twinge as the muscle expanded and I pushed back against him.
Inch after inch slid in until finally I was pressed against his groin, the course hair rubbing the sensitive skin of my opening. He grunted as I bumped against him while the air went out of me. His dick filling my ass was beyond words. Grasping my hips, he pulled away while holding me in place. His dick dragged back out of me in a rush and then he slammed back forward before he left me completely. Instantly he smacked up against me. Given my nature and physical needs, he knew what would work best on me.
Chris began a slow, steady, hard pounding of my ass. All of my being was centered on that part of my body now. I clamped down with the muscles inside every time he pushed in, releasing a little as he pulled out. He did his best to angle his entry to hit my prostate, sending jolts of sensation into me and up through my dick. As he got closer to his orgasm, he sped up. The smack of his balls against my ass and balls grew closer together, his impacts jarring me.
“I’m gonna cum inside you!” he yelled as he reached explosion.
Pistonning into me, he slammed me as hard as he could. His grip on my waist was so tight, I looked for bruises later. There weren’t any, which surprised the hell out of me. Still, I loved it. With a wail, he slammed into me and then ground his hips hard. His dick rotated in me, scraping over my prostate as he orgasmed. I could feel his dick expanding, his girth pushing me open still further. His whole body shuddered against me and his breathe stopped. He pulled back and slammed home again. I milked him for all I was worth, putting as much internal pressure on him as I could, squeezing, milking. His cry was joyful as he spasmed again and again, grinding against my ass, practically trying to climb up inside me.
After the last spasm passed, Chris fell forward on me, completely drained of cum and energy. Still lodged squarely up my ass, I held the weight for us both, content with his presence. His breath was hot against my neck and his arms wrapped my chest. I enjoyed the closeness. When he felt he could move, he pulled himself upright again. Since he had not lost a bit of his hardness, that dug his dick into my ass in interesting ways. My moan reminded him I still hadn’t gotten off yet. He carefully pulled free and moved back.
Taking a handkerchief from his jacket pocket, he cleaned me up and then himself. I flipped myself around, ready to finish myself off. Chris caught my hand and shook his head. I was startled. He put the tube of lube in my hand and then turned his back to me. Sitting on the hillside, he made it plain that it was turn-about is fair play.
“Your turn,” he said as he squatted in front of me. He had managed to get one leg out of his pants with removing his shoes.
I wasted no more time, squeezing lube onto my palm. Slicking up my dick, I then moved onto him. I went straight for his ass, nudging my slimed up fingers into his hole as gently as possible. When I felt the pressure squeezing me ease, I slid them upward. He groaned, since squatting like that put different stresses on a body. He backed up so he was straddling me with my legs straight out between his. I worked my fingers in and out, making sure he was loosened up enough. Once he was riding my hand like a pony on his own, it was time to move on.
Pulling my fingers out, I moved my dick into position and lifted up to his hole. Once I was touching him, he lowered as I lifted. Chris gasped as I popped into him. Now in, I grabbed his waist to take some strain off his legs and guide his motion. Pulling him down, he was soon sitting completely in my lap, his back pressed to my chest. I leaned back some, taking him with me. This ground me into his ass, scraping along his insides. His hand now could brace on the ground.
Stabilized, I grabbed his ass with both hands and lifted. I slid out until the crown of my dick was pressed against his muscle ring at the opening, then pulled him back down onto me. Getting the program now, he now lifted with me and let me pull him down with each stroke. Soon I was almost lifting him off his feet with each thrust into him. I sped up, close to cumming since he had nearly gotten me there when he was fucking me. It wasn’t long before I could feel the pressure of orgasm climbing to unbearable limits.
I pounded into his ass, grunting in time with him, wanting to feel my dick come out his mouth, pushing as far into him as possible. With a howl, I exploded. Spurt after spurt after spurt of cum shot out of my dick into Chris. His ass clamped down onto my shaft, clenching hard, bringing every shred of sensation possible to the experience. My strength flowed into him, sucked into his ass. Sweat was falling from both of us in sheets now. His strength gave out before mine, leaving him collapsed onto my stomach and chest. My dick was still embedded deeply in his ass. I was flat against the hill when I finally had the last spasm and last bit of cum leaked from my dick into him.
We lay that way, staring up at the stars and moon, connected. My arms hugged him to me, his dick hard again and pressing against the underside of them. His head was against the hollow of my shoulder, next to my neck. As we lay there, I began stroking his dick, slowly, persistently. I was still hard and still in his ass. I was careful not to move too fast, since my dick was sensitive now. Still, I ground against his ass, rotating my dick slowly, prodding his prostate. I could feel his dick twitch in my hand each time I got the right spot.
Neither of us said a word, just watched the sky as I jacked his dick and slow fucked his ass. His hands were on my sides at my hips, holding himself steady. I nuzzled his neck, nibbled his ear and kept fucking, slow as time, inevitable as the tide. When my sensitivity dropped back into tolerable levels, I began speeding up, just grinding and rotating, flicking over his prostate again and again. All the while I slowly stroked his dick. I paid special attention to the head, rotating my palm over it now and then.
When his breathing began getting ragged, I knew it was time to move things along. I began pulling out a little and thrusting back up in. I moved my hips faster, letting his weight push him down onto me when possible. Soon his chest was heaving, his back arching, pushing himself down onto me. He lifted up so he was sitting on my dick, grinding in circles himself. His dick in my hand was expanding and flaming hot. I began stroking him faster and faster, coming up over the crown and slamming back down to the base, gripping tightly.
I could feel my dick engorging still more and this time the sensation was even more intense. Every bit of skin on my dickhead was tingling and I shoved up into Chris as hard as I could. As I did so, his head fell back and he yelled. Hot fluid sprayed into the air, up past his shoulder and onto my face. The man was geysering as if the first orgasm had never happened. Our slow paced fuck was the most awesome we had ever had together and I shot into his ass a second time as his cum rained down on us both. Finally, we both were drained. I lifted Chris slowly, my dick sliding out of his tender ass with a final plop.
“Oh. My. God.” Chris murmured as he collapsed next to me on the hill.
“Yeah,” was all I could get out.
Chris turned his head and saw his cum on my nose and cheek. Grinning, he leaned into me and licked and sucked it off. Then he kissed me, shoving his tongue into my mouth. I could tell he had been eating tons of oranges lately because his cum had a citrusy after-taste to it. Once he needed to breathe again, Chris broke the kiss.
When I felt I could move, I took off my shirt and wiped Chris down. Then I did me. Groping around, I found the tube and snapped the cap shut. I pulled up my underwear and pants, ready to start heading out of there. I had no idea how much time was past, but I was sure it had been hours. Chris got himself sorted out and redressed at the same time. When we felt sufficiently recovered that we were going to fall on our faces, we headed down the hill back into the main Gardens. Hopping the fence to get out was an adventure, since both of us were dead exhausted now. Still, we made it.
Chris took my hand as we walked toward the car. Our eyes were on the sky, watching the stars. I was burning the evening into my memory, obviously, since I did not want to ever forget such an amazing time with my first love. We reached the car and I unlocked it.
As I got in, Chris said, ”I think I see why that is your favorite place in the whole city.”
“Well, it sure is now!” I grinned.
“No, really. It’s the stars and the city lights and just the vastness and where they meet,” he continued.
“Actually, yeah, that is it. During the day is similar. The sky meeting the hills and the Gardens blending it all in. All the senses it engages and the peace.”
“I’m glad you brought me to see it.”
“You are most welcome,” I was really pleased.
“I love you,” he whispered as we left the parking lot.
I was stunned. This was the first time he had ever said those words to me. I had said them weeks before. He had never returned then. Until tonight, now. Tears welled up in my eyes and I had to scrub them away with the back of my hand. Taking my hand, he kissed the wetness. Nothing in the world sounds quite like the first time your love is returned.