Dawn was still complaining about the missing chocolate chips when the front door slammed. The Scoobies jumped, but quickly relaxed when they heard Giles' voice.
"Aw! Bloody Hell!"
"Giles?" Buffy had a lopsided smile.
"Dawn! How many times does Buffy have to tell you to pick up your bloody book bag?" The kitchen occupants heard his voice thunder, followed immediately by the sounds of the very bag being kicked across the hardwood floor.
His tone wiped the amusement off of Buffy's face, and she looked over at Dawn who gulped. They tensed as he burst through the door with a scowl that immediately honed in on the younger Summers.
"Rupert? Is everything all right?" Jo asked.
Giles' head shot from Dawn to his left. His face softened a bit when he saw her. "What? Yes, it's fine," he said flatly. "Wait, I thought you had to work."
"I did, but we finished early." Her voice wavered. "I thought I'd stop by and surprise you, but if you're..."
The hurt in her voice moved him to cut her off. "And you did," he said. "Surprise me, that is. And pleasantly. It's just..." He sighed and ran a hand roughly through his hair. "Perhaps I should just stop before this day gets any worse."
"Aha! So everything's not all right," Buffy announced, but her excitement at catching his white lie quickly disappeared at the intensity of his frown. "S-sorry, Giles. What's wrong?"
"Just a bad day at work." He turned back to Jo. "I hope you don't mind, but I really just feel like a shower and an early evening. Thanks for the thought, but I doubt I'd be very good company right now."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not particularly, no."
"I'm sorry," he added quickly. "I really am exhausted, and I still haven't prepared for tomorrow's lecture. I hope you understand."
"Of course." She got up from the chair and walked over to him. "Enjoy your shower, get some work done, and go to bed. We'll talk when you're more rested." She leaned up and planted a brief kiss on his lips.
The snickers from the gang prompted Giles to roll his eyes. "Oh, dear Lord. We're all adults here. Well, almost all," he said, glancing at Dawn.
"Hey!" Dawn protested. "I didn't even laugh. Xander and Willow are the ones grinning like idiots and Buffy looks like she's going to puke or something. I, on the other hand, displayed a maturity way beyond my years."
"Perhaps Dawn, but adults don't leave their book bags lying about on the floor, now do they?" He missed Dawn's frown when he turned back to Jo. "Shall I show you out?"
"Actually, I think I'll stick around for a bit. Catch up with the little kiddies."
There was a collective "hey" this time.
Jo's eyes danced when she saw the half smile she was able to put on Rupert's face, even if it was at the gang's expense.
"All right." He dropped one last kiss on her forehead. "I'll call you later then."
"Later." She smiled at him, but when he turned to leave, her smile fell and a concerned frown followed him out the door.
After the door closed and they heard Giles' footsteps on the stairs, Xander turned to the group and said, "Okay, what the heck was that?"
"Hey, that was my question," Dawn whined.
"Sounding real adult now, Dawnie."
"Xander, don't taunt the minor," Willow said. "It's embarrassing."
"God. I can't taunt the mini-demon; I can't taunt the minor. Who the hell can I taunt, I ask you?"
"Watch the language in front of the minor," Buffy said.
"Stop calling me that!"
"Oh, go pick up your backpack," Buffy said.
"Please," Jo said. "Can we focus for a minute? I'm worried about Rupert."
With virtually identical huffs and folded arms, Xander and Dawn threw themselves down into their respective chairs.
"So I take it you don't know why he's upset either?" Jo asked the group.
"No," Buffy said.
"Not a clue," Willow added.
"Me either," Xander said. "I mean, he's been like Mr. Terrifyingly Happy Giles these past few weeks, what with the new job."
"Oh. And you, of course," Xander added.
"Thanks for the afterthought, Xander," Jo said. "So, did any of you notice if he was upset before tonight?"
"Nope," Buffy answered. "He was fine last night after dinner, and he seemed fine this morning at breakfast. He wasn't too psyched about the reception. Hope he didn't embarrass himself or something. He's not all that comfortable at those mixer type thingies."
"Really? Oh, I wish I'd known," Jo said. "I would have rescheduled for him."
"Awwww," Willow said. "That's so sweet."
"Maybe I should go up and check on him," Jo said.
"I wouldn't," Buffy jumped in quickly. "I mean, not right now, anyway. Giles likes to do the initial brooding stage solo. You're more likely to catch him in a talking mood after he's had some time to think things through, over and over and over again."
"That doesn't sound too healthy," Jo said.
"That's our Giles. Mr. Stiff Upper Lippy Silent Guy. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll be fine by tomorrow," Buffy said, forcing a smile.
"Well, then I think I'll take a rain check on the ice cream, Dawn," Jo said.
"Ooh, I get hers," Xander said, jumping up.
Willow shook her head and turned to Jo. "I'll walk you out, Jo. I want to tell you about my new job at school."
In the living room, Willow told Jo about the new professor and the research opportunity, happy to see an appropriately excited reaction for once. Despite Willow's smile, however, Jo could sense all was not well. "Is there something else, Willow?"
"No. Maybe. It's nothing really, but I just wanted to run it by a third ear, or I guess that'd be a second set of ears, because it's kind of hard to lend someone just one and...."
"Oh yeah. Well it's the new professor. She's really cool, and I'm really looking forward to working with her. It's really like a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity for me..."
"But...?" Jo asked.
"Well, when I was in her office talking about my qualifications and hours and stuff, she kinda..."
"Kind of what?" Jo asked, sitting up on the edge of the couch.
"Well, she seemed like she was kinda interested in more than just my test scores. Like she was... well, like she was maybe interested in me."
"And what'd she do to give you that idea?"
Willow opened her mouth and then hesitated, before finally answering. "She asked me out."
Jo looked shock. "That's hardly appropriate behavior on her part."
"Yeah, I know. It's just..."
"What?" Jo asked.
"Well, she is pretty hot and definitely smart, and I didn't really do a good job of hiding my excitement about talking to her. Maybe...well, what if I gave her the wrong idea?" Willow began biting at her lip.
"How so? Just being excited about talking to a well-known professor doesn't mean Ďask me out.' Besides, isn't that sort of thing frowned upon? Fraternizing with students?"
Willow looked down to study her fidgeting hands. "I wasn't sure what to do at first. I didn't want to be mean and flat out reject her. I figured the truth was the safest bet. I'm just not all that interested in being interested in anyone right now. No matter how interesting they are. Did that make any sense?"
"Surprisingly, yes," Jo smiled.
"Well, after Kennedy and all the Hellmouth stuff, I've been sort of hoping for something a bit lower on the Ďab' scale of abnormal. Dating professors probably doesn't fit the bill."
Jo put a hand on Willow's knee. "How did she take it?"
"Fine, I guess," Willow said. "She apologized for being so forward."
"Is that all?" Jo asked.
Willow hesitated. "Yeah. Like I said, it wasn't that big a deal. I probably just gave her the wrong impression or something."
Jo started to press her further and then stopped. "Do you plan on telling anyone? At the school, I mean?" Jo asked.
"No!" Willow's head shot up. "I mean, it's really not necessary. She said she was sorry and that she didn't usually hit on her students, but there was just something special about me."
Jo gave the young Wicca's shoulder a squeeze. "Of course there is, Willow. It just sounds a bit..."
"What?" Willow asked.
"I don't know. Just be careful, will you?"
"I'm sure it's nothing, Jo. Really. And she did say it wouldn't affect my work or school. In fact, I start researching with her in the lab tomorrow."
"All right. But promise me you'll let me know if you need anything."
"Okay," Willow said.
"Anything at all," Jo said again.
"Yeah. Promise. And thanks for listening and not trying to tell me what to do."
"Anytime, Willow. And you've got a great head on your shoulders. You've really come a long way in your months at the Coven. Elspeth's very proud of you too."
"Really?" Willow asked, her eyes brightening and her mouth curling up into a smile.
"Really," Jo said.
Willow frowned again. "I guess that's why I'm so worried about this research opportunity. I gotta find something else I can be good at, since I'm no good at the magic anymore. I can't even open a jar of peanut butter with a simple spell."
"Oh Willow," Jo said. "You heard Giles and Elspeth. They don't think you're losing your magic. You're just having control issues, that's all."
"Good thing you're not having this conversation with Xander," Willow said, a grin breaking through the somber look on her face.
Jo retraced her last statement and giggled. "Or Rupert," she said, and both women burst out into laughter.
The mood lightened considerably and Jo stood up to leave. "Well, I'm going to head out now. Hopefully, Rupert will be in a better mood tomorrow."
"All right," Willow said, showing Jo to the door. "Tell everyone I said 'hey.'"
"Of course," Jo said and then gave Willow a quick hug before heading down the path to her truck.
Giles hurried from his office to his next class. The halls were already empty, and he disliked tardiness. Besides, it would be hard to demand promptness from his students, if he himself were late. Just as he rounded the corner, he was stopped by a familiar voice. His body cringed.
"Rupert. Rupert Giles. Just the man I've been looking for."
He pulled up to a stop. "Dr. Forrester," he practically spit as he slowly turned around.
"So nice to see you again."
"I'm actually off to class. So if you don't mind."
"Oh, that's too bad. I really didn't like the way we parted yesterday. I wanted to apologize."
Giles looked skeptical. "Unfortunately, I'm running late..."
"Rupert. It will only take a moment. Let me apologize properly." She reached out and touched his arm, gently this time.
Giles glanced down at her hand and then noticed his watch. He really did need to get going. Looking up to speak, he felt her hand move from his arm, up his chest and then she began to play with his tie. His eyes followed the path up to her hand.
"I thought I made myself quite clear the other day. I am flattered, but uninterested."
"And I thought I made myself quite clear the other day as well. I am in no need of flattery, and I am very interested."
Giles pulled away. "I'm sorry, but I really must be going." With that, he hurried to the door and disappeared into the lecture room.
"Don't worry, Rupert. I don't give up that easily," she said with a leer.
Willow stood in the scrub room, staring at herself in the mirror. She lifted her shaking hand to trace across the embroidered cursive letters on her very own lab coat that read "Willow Rosenberg, Research Assistant." She scrubbed up, leaving her hands under the hot water longer than necessary. The warmth reduced the trembling somewhat.
"Willow?" Dr. Forrester called. "Are you ready?"
She hesitated and whispered to her reflection, "Sure hope so." She turned and walked out into the lab.
"There you are." Dr. Forrester smiled. "Are you all right?"
"Hm? Oh yes."
"Good. Then let's get started." She motioned for Willow to join her at the side of a female cadaver. "Now Willow, as I explained before, I'm conducting a study on a potential cause of infertility in women. It involves the adverse effects of excessive Melatonin production. Shall we test that brain of yours?"
Willow nodded slowly.
"Tell me what you know about Melatonin."
Willow thought for a moment. "Melatonin," she repeated. "Um, it's a hormone. It's made in the pineal gland."
"Good." Dr. Forrester nodded.
"The pineal gland's this really small gland in the brain, like the size of small pebble." As Willow continued, the facts began to flow more easily from her mouth and her stomach started to settle. "It's near the top of the spinal cord. And I want to say it's attached to the hypothalamus, but I'm not sure.."
"That's excellent, Willow," the older woman patted her shoulder in approval, and left her hand there. Willow tensed a bit at the prolonged contact. "Now Melatonin plays a large role in orchestrating the body's hormones, including the hormones that regulate reproduction. You may or may not have heard that women who are trying to get pregnant are advised to stay away from Melatonin supplements."
Willow shook her head negatively.
Dr. Forrester continued, "Yes, well you likely wouldn't unless you, yourself, were already thinking about having children." She leaned down and gave a chuckle next to Willow's ear. "And from our discussion the other day, I gather if you're not eager to jump into any new relationships, you're likely not thinking about becoming a parent either." Willow's shoulder stiffened under her hand. "Oh don't worry, Willow," she cooed. "I didn't mean anything by it."
Willow looked up, a forced smile on her face.
"Really," Forrester assured her. "I was only trying to make a joke, but perhaps I chose a less-than-ideal subject. As I said yesterday, it will not affect our working relationship in any way." She stepped back and dropped her hand to her side.
Willow relaxed a bit, and her smile became more natural.
"But it is a good thing to keep in the back of your mind."
Willow's eyes shot open.
Dr. Forrester chuckled. "The information about Melatonin, Willow . I meant if, in the future, you wish to have children, keep in mind the warnings about Melatonin."
"Oh. Right." Willow dropped her head with a shy grin.
Her chuckle tapered off. "Shall we?" She turned to the examination table. "So, this study is going to explore the theory that high doses of Melatonin not only alter the menstrual cycle, but also adversely affect female fertility."
"Neat," Willow said as she watched the Dr. situate the tools on the metal tray. "I mean, not neat as in it keeps women from having kids, but neat as in you may have found another cause of infertility. Once you find the cause, you're well on your way to finding the cure."
"Bravo, Ms. Rosenberg. I can see you are going to be an invaluable asset."
"Now, in order to proceed with this phase of my research, we need to harvest the pineal glands from these four specimens. Why don't you watch me do the first one?"
"Ok." Willow watched, mesmerized as Dorothy Forrester picked up the scalpel and approached the body. The deceased was female and her head had already been shaved and prepped for the procedure. The doctor began making incisions in the scalp.
She cast a glance at Willow and smiled, impressed with the lack of any signs of impending nausea. Once the skull was exposed, she picked up the surgical saw and positioned it in the middle of the forehead. She chuckled softly as Willow jumped at the noise when it was turned on. Willow flashed her a sheepish grin.
After the top portion of the skull was removed, Dr. Forrester began her dissection of the brain. Willow watched carefully, memorizing every cut the brain was separated the two hemispheres. Once inside, she focused in on the center of the brain, where the pineal gland was housed. Using the forceps and dissecting scissors, she carefully removed the surrounding parts to expose the mid-brain. Willow recognized the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland from her anatomy books.
"We save what we can for the anatomy classes," Dr. Forrester explained, as she harvested the other parts and placed them in labeled formaldehyde-filled containers. "Ah, here we go," she said, as she carefully removed the pineal gland. She held it out in her latex-covered palm for Willow's inspection and then placed it on a tray.
"Cool," Willow said. "Never saw one up close. They are really small."
"Yes. And yet play such a big part in the continuation of life. So do you think you're ready for your first craniotomy?"
"Really?" Willow asked, her eyebrows arching upwards.
"That's what you're here for," the doctor chuckled. "I wouldn't have chosen you, if I didn't think you could handle it, Willow. I meant what I said, you have a lot of potential. I'd like to see that it doesn't go to waste."
"You won't be disappointed," Willow said.
"I have no doubts," she said with a smile. "Now the hardest part is getting through the skull without damaging the brain. I'll talk you through that part and then let you retrieve the gland on your own. That'll free me up to work as well, and together we could end up way ahead of schedule."
Willow followed the doctor to the next cadaver.
Willow nodded vigorously.
The doctor handed her scalpel to Willow. At a nod from the woman, Willow began repeating the steps taken earlier.
"Amazing, Willow. It's like you were made for this."
Willow worked carefully and removed the skull, not once touching the delicate brain tissue beneath.
"Why Willow, I do believe you are a natural. Perhaps a future brain surgeon is in my midst?" Willow looked up, her smile so wide it was obvious even from behind her mask. "I can see you don't need any supervision here, so I'll get started on another one. Keep up the good work."
Carrie Whedon glanced at the pale teenager in the chair across and then at the open file on her desk before picking up the telephone and punching in numbers.
Dawn smiled weakly. "Maybe you should just go ahead and put me on speed dial."
"Did you remember to eat lunch?" Carrie asked, listening to the rings.
Dawn nodded, turning even paler at the movement. "Two chili cheese dogs, some chips, a banana, a couple of Double Stuff Oreos and a Coke."
Carrie shook her head. "I guess we can rule out low blood sugar. Although you probably should schedule an appointment with a nutritionist."
"I had a banana," Dawn protested. "That's healthy"
"There's no answer at your house." Carrie put down the receiver. "Do you have any idea where I can reach your sister?"
Dawn looked at her watch. "I just remembered. Buffy's in class."
"What about Mr. Giles?"
"He's at the University today, too." Dawn thought for a moment. "Xander said he was going to be in his workshop this afternoon." She rattled off the cell number.
This time the call was answered on the first ring. "Hello, this is Carrie Whedon. I'm..."
Dawn watched in fascination as Miss Whedon smiled and blushed.
"Yes, that right. We did speak once before. You have a very good memory."
Dawn held back a grin. Ever since the night she'd called to check up on her at the house, Xander had been asking questions about the pretty school nurse, but Dawn hadn't realized Miss Whedon was interested, too.
"That's right." Carrie glanced at Dawn who had quickly closed her eyes and leaned her head against the back of the chair. "I tried to reach Dawn's sister, but..."
Dawn could hear a muffled reply and then Carrie put down the receiver and looked at Dawn. "Your friend will be here in just a few minutes. He seems very concerned and I know your sister insisted that you see several doctors. Is there something that I should know?"
"The stupid doctors didn't find anything wrong." Dawn sat up and heaved an exasperated sigh. "Xander worries too much. He's sort of like my big brother and he thinks it's his job to take care of me."
Carrie relaxed. "Well, I know something about that. I have three older brothers."
"Really?" Dawn asked. "Were they like total pains?"
Carrie laughed. "Totally. But in a good way."
"That's how Xander is." Dawn pasted an innocent look on her face. "I just wish he could find someone to appreciate what a great guy he is. He clowns around and makes a lot of jokes but he's really kinda shy."
"But once you get to know him Ö well, he's still kinda goofy. But in a really terrific way." Dawn stood up, then winced as the motion made her head start throbbing again.
Carrie saw the flash of pain cross Dawn's face. "Okay, let's get you to the office and signed out so you'll be ready to go when your shy, goofy, but terrific, friend gets here."
Dawn paused in the act of picking up her book bag. "Huh?"
"Your matchmaking technique needs some work." Carrie picked up the book bag and slid it over her own shoulder and opened the office door. "Never oversell your product. Always let the merchandise speak for itself."
"So you are interested?" Dawn asked, following her down the hall.
"Maybe." Carrie glanced over her shoulder. "I'll let you know after I meet him."
Willow continued the dissection, placing each harvested part in its respective bin. By the time she reached the middle area of the brain, she was almost humming with confidence. She reached down and carefully moved the cerebellum aside. However, as she poked around gently with a blunt metal probe, she found that the area normally housing the pineal gland was empty.
Willow froze, confused and slightly panicked. She checked the bins, but they only contained the correct parts. Willow checked over her shoulder, relieved to see Dr. Forrester was busy with her own dissection. She began checking everywhere for it, lifting other remaining brain parts, but despite the existence of a clear cavity that would perfectly house a pineal gland, the gland itself was nowhere to be found.
"Uh...are people ever born without a pineal gland?"
"Not that I've heard, but I suppose anything is possible," Dorothy Forrester said from across the lab.
"How about if it were removed; could someone survive without it?"
"Well removal of glands afflicted by tumors are performed, albeit rarely, and unfortunately the mortality rate from the procedure is incredibly high. What on earth are you going on about, Willow?" She put down her tools and walked over to Willow 's exam table. When she followed Willow's gaze, she saw the empty cavity. "Well, where is it?"
"I don't know," Willow said.
"Unfortunately, Willow, I don't have enough time to play. It's difficult to schedule lab time with the facilities in such high demand."
"I'm not playing. Honest. It was already like that when I opened her up. There's a space and everything for it, but the 'it' just isn't there." Willow began to ramble.
"That's impossible," the doctor said, realizing that her student was serious. She turned back to the body and used Willow's forceps to probe around the area. "Are you sure you didn't accidentally damage it when you were removing the hypothalamus?"
"No, it just wasn't there," Willow said, growing more and more panicked.
"Then someone must have taken it out beforehand."
"But you were right here with me," Willow said. "There were no incisions and the skull was intact."
The doctor searched a few more seconds, and then pulled back, placing the tool back on the tray. "I don't know what to say, Willow. This has me completely baffled."
"You think maybe someone stole it?"
"There is a large market for stolen organs, but I can see no beneficial use for a pineal gland, outside of its function within a living body, that is. Motive aside, I can't even fathom how it could have been extracted without leaving behind evidence of the operation."
"So what do we do?" Willow asked.
Dr. Forrester picked up the deceased's chart and skimmed it. "It says here that she died from natural causes. There's no mention of any trouble with hormonal imbalances or any other symptoms suggesting pineocytoma or fast growing pineoblastoma." At Willow's blank stare, she elaborated, "Tumors on the pineal gland. In fact, according to this chart, there's absolutely no reason for the brain to have been touched."
Willow watched as the woman leaned back against the neighboring exam table, put her hand on her hip, and sighed.
The worry in the doctor's eyes started to scare Willow. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I'm... well, I'm at a complete loss. There is absolutely no physical explanation for the absence of this gland."
Willow's Hellmouth-trained ears perked up as the words, "no physical explanation," echoed off the sterile walls.
There was a knock at his office door. Giles checked his watch; Myrna wasn't supposed to stop by and drop off the chair for another half hour or so. Giles went to answer the door, speaking as he opened it, "Here so soon, Myrna?" His smile plummeted when he saw who stood before him.
"Oh, Rupert. It's good to see you too," Dr. Forrester said.
Giles brow creased. "I'm sorry, but I don't have time for you. I'm expecting someone any minute now." Before she could respond, he began to shut the door. She stuck her hand out to hold it open.
"Is that anyway to treat a colleague, Rupert?"
Giles looked past her, checking the hall to make sure Myrna wasn't early. "Perhaps not colleagues for whom I have respect."
"Ouch, Rupert. That hurts."
"Truth can sometimes have that effect."
She tilted her head and gave him an approving smile. "Why Rupert, I didn't know you had it in you."
"Yes, well you do seem to bring it out of me, don't you."
She chuckled. "Now, this is more like it," she said. When she noticed he'd let his guard down, she pushed forward, managing to open the door wide enough to slip inside the office. She tried to shut the door, but his hand held fast, now in an effort to keep it open. "Rupert," she chuckled. "With what I'm here to discuss, you most likely will want the door closed." She took another step into the office, and smirked as she heard the door shut slowly with an ominous click.
When he turned, he found her running her finger over Buffy's picture. His stomach lurched and he practically jumped to remove the picture from her hands. He re-set it on his desk, out of her reach. "As I said, I have no time for your games."
With a chuckle, she took a step away from the desk. She turned to face him, now positioned between him and the door. "Ah, but that's where you've erred, Rupert. I'm not here to play games. I'm actually quite serious."
Giles turned, facing her fully. "As am I."
She smiled as she dropped her folded arms, "Oh Rupert, no need to scowl. Actually, I fully intend to place a nice smile over that wonderful chin of yours." She stepped toward him, reaching up for his face, but he stepped back out of her reach. Unfortunately, his retreat was cut short by the edge of his desk. He winced as it dug into the back of his legs. With a pleased smile, she erased the remaining distance between them slowly, as if taunting a cornered prey.
He caught her hands, mere millimeters from his cheeks "This is not going to happen," he said evenly.
"Oh yes, Rupert. I assure you, it is." She leaned in forcefully and managed to brush her lips to his. His face, contorted in disgust, stretched as far as his neck would allow in a futile attempt to evade her advance.
The door behind her opened and Myrna entered along with a custodian, pushing a chair. He watched in horror as Myrna's eyes snapped open and moved from Dr. Forrester to him and then to their joined hands. The janitor's face bore an amused grin.
"Uh..., I'm sorry, Rupert. I'll... Yes... I'll, er... we'll, come back later. Sorry to have interrupted."
Before Giles could set Myrna straight, the door closed and he heard muffled voices and two sets of footsteps leaving down the hall.
His stare was torn from the door by a chuckle. He looked down at her wrists still in his hands and his grip tightened without him even realizing it. "What's so damned funny?" he asked, releasing her hands with a toss of his own.
"I couldn't have asked for a better set-up. I think our Ms. Myrna will be quite appalled to hear how you lured me to your office and made advances at me."
Giles eyes hardened and his nostrils flared slightly. "Just what the devil are you playing at?"
"Rupert, I'm used to getting what I want."
Giles clenched his jaw so tightly, his teeth hurt. "I do not take kindly to blackmail."
"Kindly or not, it's not something you can easily refuse. But I'll give you some time to make your choice. You have until tomorrow. If I don't see you at my office by 7:00 p.m., I'll go right over to the Dean and report your conduct."
"He'll never believe you."
"Rupert. If your friend Myrna's expression is any indication, I think the Dean will be quite easy to persuade. Besides, you're a part-time associate professor, who's been here a mere few weeks. I think someone of my caliber and reputation will have no trouble winning supporters."
With that she turned and opened the door. She looked back and with a smile said, "Tomorrow then."
Giles stepped toward the door, his face steeled with fury and swung his hand at the door, sending it slamming shut.