“Get your butts in gear right now, ladies! We're leaving in ten minutes!!” Vi's shouts rang throughout the hallways as she tried to corral in her wayward slayers. She turned to the figure at her side. “I really hate you, you know?”
Buffy laughed. “And why's that?”
Vi stared at her in exasperation. “I can't believe you made me
be in charge of our trip out. You could have made Molly be in charge. Or you could have done it yourself?”
Buffy smiled. “Don't look at me. I've learned the power of delegation. If you need any help, you can ask and I'll hook you up. But it's your gig. I know you can do it.”
Vi smiled despite herself. She tried to see Buffy as a real person. It was so hard. Vi had seen all of Buffy's warts back in the day, before the activation of the slayers. She'd seen the rants and arguments between Buffy and her friends. Vi had seen someone feeling their way, uncertain of the direction she was taking. None of it mattered. Even now, Vi could feel Buffy's power touching her. And it wasn't just the connection to Buffy that Vi and every other slayer felt. It was Buffy herself. Buffy was larger than life in so many ways. Loved by two souled vampires. Died two times. More powerful than before the activation of the potentials. Lasted longer than any other slayer before her. Defeated a god. Stopped so many apocalypses that they had to figure out the plural. She'd killed humans
for the slayers. In many ways, that, more than anything else, had Buffy-worship on the radar of so many slayers. Having someone willing to die for you was one thing. But to a bunch of predators, having someone willing to kill for you was another thing entirely. Every slayer knew Buffy would kill to protect them. She'd already done so. It was comforting. And it made them love her more.
Finally, they had the chaos under control. Vi had nine slayers in front of her. Well, plus Buffy. And one sister, Dawn.
“All right, ladies. Let's hit the checklist one more time. Does everyone have their weapon systems? Check. Does everyone have their 'special' swords? Check. Does everyone have their chameleon suits? Check. Does everyone have their full twenty clips of Willow's 'special' ammunition? Check. Does everyone have their phones and laptops? Check. Molly, did you pack the four back up sets of everything? Check. Remember ladies, if you forget personal possessions, you can always call Xander and he'll make sure to ship it to you. No underwear or 'naughty' lingerie, though. Yeah, that means you, Autumn.” The beautiful brunette gave Vi an innocent look, but she wasn't having any of it. The girl was a horndog, through and through, who gave Faith a run for her money. No boyfriend was safe when Autumn was prowling. Even off-limits ones, like Xander.
Buffy looked over the group. Everyone was excited to be going. Before it was over, it would probably end up boring, but for now, it was an adventure. She was giving and receiving Xander and Willow hugs now. She and Giles had already said their goodbyes earlier. She'd gotten one of his rare hugs. That had put a smile on her face. Buffy could count on the fingers of both hands the number of hugs they'd exchanged over the years. Despite this, the depth of the affection they felt for each other was tremendous. To Buffy, Giles was
the father she'd been missing in her teenage years. To Giles, Buffy was the daughter of his heart. She was going to miss him.
Speaking of missing someone, how had she missed Eve's arrival? Buffy stared at the small girl who sat on the big, olive duffel. She would have liked to believe that Eve had come to see her off, despite Buffy already going to visit the young girl to say her goodbyes. There had been hugs and tears, but eventually Eve had let her go after a minimum of fuss. Now Buffy knew why. The red-headed, pixie-faced girl gave Buffy a nonchalant smile and a small wave.
Vi noticed the girl around the same time. “Eve Matthews! What do you think you're doing?” Vi barked, knowing this was going to put off their schedule. She sighed at the look on the girl's face. Eve was simply not intimidated by other slayers. With the exception of Buffy, no one could get her to do anything she didn't want to. Yet another reason for Buffy's frequent visits to Eve's house. Oh, Vi had no doubt Buffy cared for the munchkin, but she was such a pain in the ass during training. Since you couldn't intimidate her, you actually had to follow through with threats. And even bruises and black eyes had minimal impact on the girl, since she bounced right back, usually within a few minutes of a 'lesson.' Vi had no doubt that in a few years, Eve would be running her own team. Maybe that would give her insight in how much of a pain in the ass she
was. Only time would tell.
Eve jumped up. “Buffy! I'm here to go with you! You need someone to watch your back. That's totally me. That way you'll be safe.” Her face was alight with excitement. She was going off with her hero to save the world.
Buffy knelt and hugged the smaller girl. Eve hugged her fiercely, just like she did everything. Finally, pulling back, Buffy looked up at Eve. “You can't come with me, sweetie. I'm so sorry, but you just can't. We're going somewhere dangerous.”
Eve pleaded, “Please, Buffy. I won't get in the way. I promise. You won't even know I'm there. Seriously. I swear on my parents' graves. Don't you believe me?”
Buffy stroked Eve's cheek. “I believe you, sweetie. You're never in the way. But you can't come. We already talked about this yesterday, remember? I'll call you just as often from Colorado as I do from here.”
Eve got a stubborn look on her face. Buffy was sooo great. But in this one area, she just didn't understand. Eve would make her understand, if it was the last thing she did. “Buffy, I've been checked out on the weapon systems. I would be a great help. No one is better than me at watching your back. Please take me with you. You know being a slayer is all I really want. What's the point of wasting time in school when I already know what I'm going to do?”
Buffy stared into the eyes of the girl. Oh boy, she thought, this is going to be impossible. Eve was probably the most hard-headed slayer out there, for all of being just thirteen years old. Not that she wasn't sweet and lovable, but getting her to change her mind was almost impossible. The first time Buffy had tried to get Eve to do what she wanted, Willow had laughed and commented that now Buffy knew how Giles had felt all those years ago. Buffy hadn't been too happy at the conversation, especially in light of the smug expression on Giles's face. Eventually, Buffy had changed Eve's mind, the only slayer who could. For instance, Eve and Vi's confrontation over what was suitable to train a thirteen-year-old slayer on weapons-wise was legendary. Eve had wanted to learn everything, while Vi had stuck to the 'book.' The result hadn't been pretty. After about a dozen 'spars,' Vi had been no closer to getting Eve to toe the line.
It was funny, Buffy mused, how their understanding of the dynamics of the slayer relationships had changed with the addition of so many. When it was just her and Faith, they'd gotten along like oil and water. Now, Buffy knew why. It had become a well-documented fact that slayers needed a certain amount of physical 'convincing' from time to time. Not that you beat each other bloody over and over, but slayers, like certain animals, needed to know where they fell in the pecking order. Once they did, it was rare you needed to express your dominance, at least in a physical way. Certain slayer dust ups were legendary, like the numerous ones between Faith and Kennedy. Ultimately, Faith had walked away victorious over and over, but it had been rough. One of the reasons that Buffy smacked Kennedy down as often as she did was because the younger girl simply refused to be content with her place in the pecking order. So Buffy had to 'remind' her on a regular basis. Kennedy had fought and beaten some of the slayers that Buffy was taking with her, but was still teamless because of her inability to get along with others. No one would follow her. So she was the only other slayer, other than Faith, who currently was not part of a team. Faith, because she wanted it that way, Kennedy because no one wanted her
And there lay the problem with Eve. Eve was simply unable to accept that any slayer was dominant to her, well any slayer other than Buffy. So Vi hadn't been able to threaten her to get her to go along. Even when Vi bounced her off the walls, Eve just got up grinning and started all over again. Buffy suspected that when Eve got older, she would mellow, but right now, she was wound tighter than a fifty dollar watch. Now it was left to Buffy to deal with Eve. She could see Xander and Willow hiding grins as they watched her. She doubted they would be smiling for long. Buffy could force Eve to her will. The slayer 'glow' that Buffy possessed, had more than just the ability to heal and sooth slayers. It could also force them to her will. The story of how Buffy had found out that
little tidbit was going to forever stay buried. She hadn't shared the information with anyone, even the other Scoobies. Buffy was reluctant, to say the least, to use it on Eve. She considered a dozen scenarios and discarded each of them. Finally, Buffy decided how to deal with Eve.
“So you want to come with me, huh?” Buffy hid a smile at the grin Eve wore. She was so cute. Buffy would have to be hard for this to work. Hard and uncaring was the only route she could travel.
“Totally! More than anything.” Eve knew that Buffy would fall in with her way of thinking.
“I need you to prove yourself worthy. So you'll need to take on the slayer of my choice.”
Buffy's simple statement caused Eve considerable consternation. She could beat about half of the slayers, but some of the older ones were simply too good to win against. If Buffy chose someone really tough, like Vi, she would kick Eve's ass. But she would have to agree or Buffy could simply say no. “Okay. I'll fight them. Who is it?”
Eve's eyes got big. Uh oh. She had never sparred with Buffy before, despite living in the same city, but she'd seen the other slayers come back from sparring sessions. They usually nursed a variety of ailments ranging from bruises to sprains to the occasional broken bone. All of them told the same story. Slayer Prime was deadly. So Eve would lose this bout. She studied Buffy's face. It wore a look of iron. Eve swallowed slowly. I won't give up, she told herself. You don't give up on things that are important to you. Slowly, she got into a stance.
Buffy hadn't really thought that Eve would be reasonable and just go home. She'd expected to have to fight her. So be it. The girl had earned this one.
Willow watched the resulting beating. You couldn't call it a fight. She could feel Xander's concern for Eve as Buffy knocked the girl down, over and over. Willow squeezed his arm as he tensed. Each time, Eve got up, sometimes staggering and weaving, but up. Each time, Buffy took her down again. Hard. That was unfair. Willow could see the care that Buffy took not to truly hurt the girl. And Eve was going all out. The way she did everything. The way she'd beaten older slayers she shouldn't have been able to beat. But if she didn't quit soon, the girl was going to get seriously hurt. Willow was about to step in, mystical-slayer-spell be damned, when Buffy held up her hand to stop Eve as the girl lunged forward yet again.
Eve hurt. Her lungs were on fire. She couldn't see through her left eye because of the swelling, and right hand felt funny. Her chest ached from one of Buffy's kicks that had slipped past her block like it wasn't there. Her back hurt from the same kick when she'd hit the wall. Hard. Her left knee was making weird noises and it was getting hard to move. Eve stopped when Buffy raised her hand. Now she waited for Buffy to speak.
“Do you still want to come? Do you want to continue?”
Eve raised her hands in, prepared to once again attack. She wouldn't quit. She knew Buffy wouldn't quit. No one could hurt Buffy enough to make her quit. She would just swallow the pain and go on. So Eve would too, no matter how bad it got.
“The test's over.” Buffy inured herself to the crushed look Eve wore. What she did now was for the girl's benefit.
Eve felt her lip tremble. Her eyes stung with unshed tears. It was so hard to hold them in. But Buffy would have held them, so she did. Even if that hurt more than the beating she'd just taken. “But Buffy...”
“Eve, I am going to let you go with me. On two conditions.”
Eve felt her heart soar. Aches and pains were forgotten. She wanted to lunge forward into a hug, but held herself back. Buffy still wore her cold, hard look. The one that made you sit up and obey. So Eve listened for the rest of Buffy's words.
“First, you will go to school until you graduate. Is that clear? In return, you will go with me wherever I go here on Earth. When you are older, I'll take you with me on patrol. Second, you will obey the other slayers accompanying us as if they speak with my voice. This voice. I will tolerate no disobedience. Otherwise, you can pick up your duffel and go back to your house. What is your choice?”
Eve considered. Buffy was being hard. Not necessarily unfair, but hard. Eve really didn't want to continue going to school. She considered it a waste of time getting in the way of what she really wanted to do. She also didn't want to obey the other slayers. She couldn't beat many of them, they were older and stronger, but she was getting closer every day. Now she would have to do what she was told by them. That would be hard. I can do it, though, Eve thought. I will do whatever it takes. Staring Buffy straight in the eye, Eve answered, “I promise to go to school and do what the other slayers tell me.”
A smile broke through the hard look on Buffy's face. To the watching slayers, it was like the sun breaking through the last vestiges of storm clouds. Eve's wasn't the only face that wore a look of almost-worship as they stared at Buffy's face. Willow felt her guts twist. She wanted to vomit. The spell she'd cast, the one to activate the slayers, had consequences over and above anything she'd dreamed when first she'd envisioned it. The changes that Buffy had gone through, her additional abilities, were the least of those consequences. The others were only now starting to become evident.
Willow had a connection to every slayer on earth. She could locate them anytime she chose and in general, feel if something was wrong. Willow's connection paled compared to the one that Buffy carried. The slayer power that Willow had used the scythe to channel had all gone through Buffy. No slayer in all of history had ever experienced anything even remotely similar. Every slayer had gotten her power directly from Buffy. Every slayer had gotten at least some small look into Buffy's life and the choices she'd made. Into the sacrifices she'd made to save the world. To save them all. When the call had gone out, 'Are you ready to be strong?' it had been Buffy's voice each potential had heard. Buffy's voice calling them to serve. Calling them to their power. The resulting connection Buffy had with the other slayers went deeper than anything that Willow could imagine. She still didn't know what the final result would be, when all was said and done. It might be years before all of the twists and kinks of the spell worked their way out. Magic of that complexity had its own set of rules. Willow knew one thing though. The slayers were already Buffy's. Her weapon to wield as she chose. Willow just prayed to the Mother that Buffy would use her weapon wisely.
Buffy held out her arms to the girl. Eve launched herself into Buffy's arms, hugging her fiercely. Buffy hugged her back, just as fiercely. Finally, Buffy set her down. “Go join your sisters.” With a irrepressible grin, Eve grabbed her duffel, getting in line to put it on the bus taking them to the airport. Buffy smiled as she watched Eve chatter to the other girls, most wearing looks of amused tolerance. She was aware of Willow and Xander standing at her side. Buffy suspected that Xander, at least, had something to say about how she'd handled the situation.
“Buffy, can I talk to you inside for a moment?”
“Sure thing, Xander.” Buffy silently followed Xander back into the house. She appreciated the fact that whatever he had to say he was going to be discreet about it.
“I'm not accusing you. I just want to understand what happened. Answer me this: was that really necessary, Buffy? Did you have to play whack-a-mole with Eve, when you planned on letting her come anyway?” Xander's voice wasn't quite accusing, but neither was it particularly friendly. He hadn't liked for one second the display he'd just seen. Only Willow's hand on his arm had prevented him from stepping in and putting a stop to the beating. Earlier, when he'd joked about getting the other slayers to help him spank Buffy, it had been just that, a joke. What he saw after the fight, the looks the girls wore as Buffy made her decision, made the idea they'd act against her, delusions of the highest order. They almost worshiped one of his oldest friends. While Xander loved Buffy, the thought of someone else worshiping her was absurd. And scary, let's not forget scary, he thought. But not to the slayers. And that thought scared him even more.
“It was completely necessary, Xander. I didn't plan to let Eve come with me.”
Xander gaped at her. “You didn't? So why the beat-down, then?”
“Xander, you know how Eve is. If I had sent her home, she'd have followed me, even if she had to walk the entire way. She's the most stubborn slayer out there. She makes Kennedy seem whimsical. If I had just caved in and let her come, she would have made the other slayers' lives hell on earth. She would have constantly questioned everything they did, challenging them at every turn. What I did made sure that wouldn't happen. Eve needed a lesson on who's in charge.” Buffy tried to make Xander understand, but she doubted she'd gotten through.
“Dammit, Buffy. These girls don't belong to you. They're not your toys to play with however you want. You need to...”
“You're wrong.” The iron look Buffy had worn earlier was back. She stared grimly into her oldest friend's single eye as she continued, “They are mine!
They belong to me. Every last one of them. Ask Willow. I could lead them to the ends of the earth and they'd follow. They'd die for me. They'd kill for me. They'd do anything I asked of them. So that makes them mine in ways no person should belong to another. I pray daily that I'm strong enough to be worthy of them. Because I don't see any alternatives.”
Xander stared at her, then slowly his gaze moved to Willow, who seemed to wilt under it. “What happened, Willow? What changed on the activation spell?”
“Nothing changed, Xander. The spell is as it's always been. The problem is we... I, didn't understand the consequences of the spell. Xander, no one's ever cast a spell of this magnitude, not since the original spell creating the slayer. All magic has consequences and requires sacrifice. The original spell sacrificed the lives of the young women to whom it affected. This spell seems to be sacrificing some component of the girls it has affected. I still don't entirely know what it's done to them and to Buffy.”
Xander was horrified. “Holy crap, Willow. Reverse it. Change it back. Make with the wicca badassedness.”
Willow smiled sadly. “I can't. I wouldn't even if I could. There would be consequences to that too. The point's moot. I'm not strong enough.” Willow shook her head at Xander's look of disbelief. “I'm powerful enough to stop the earth from spinning on its axis if I wanted to. I have reached heights and depths of magic that no witch or warlock has achieved in eons. And I don't dare try to manipulate the slayer spell again. I was lucky the first time. It took me months to realize how lucky. The power of the spell burned my magic white. It was insanely powerful, the endless sacrifices of all those young women's lives. Their willing sacrifices. Power beyond the dreams of gods. I could just as easily have been burned to a cinder or cast into the abyss by the power as what actually happened. I think that is what would happen if I tried again. It scares the pants off me, even the thought of going through that again. I was so lucky the first time. They say God looks out for little children and fools. I was a fool. If I'd even an inkling of the risks I was taking, I doubt I would have even tried. No wonder the First tried to attack the Slayer line the way it did. No wonder the Powers haven't moved against us, despite their threats. Every day that passes just makes it more powerful.”
Xander's mind whirled, “But there's gotta be something...” He stopped. Both of his friends were shaking their heads. Xander felt bleak. I guess I'll stop busting Buffy's chops, he thought. He now had an idea of just what she had sacrificed in the destruction of Sunnydale. Xander had lost an eye, but Buffy had lost a whole lot more. The thought of that crushing responsibility on the slender shoulders of his friend made him ache in sympathy. He silently squeezed her shoulder in support. For a moment, Buffy leaned into his touch, then moved back. Xander watched her and Willow exchange final hugs, then Buffy walked out the door and got onto the bus. The bus full of slayers. Buffy's slayers. I hope Buffy is strong enough for them, he thought.
Buffy sat on the bus next to Eve. Eve had insisted on it. Buffy didn't mind for a thirty minute bus ride, but Eve was going to have to make other plans for the flight. Buffy's idea of a enjoyable flight didn't include a hyper-active thirteen-year-old slayer. Still, Buffy thought fondly, she was glad she'd brought Eve, as she listened to the girl chatter next to her.
“So, Buffy, are we flying? Do I need a ticket? What if I can't get one?”
Buffy smiled at her. “Don't worry, Eve, we're flying in a chartered plane. That's the only way we could get this many weapons through airport security. So no tickets. We have plenty of seats, though.”
Eve grinned. “So when do I get my gun?”
“Sorry, honey, but you're going to school when we get there. You're not going with us on patrol. That's final.”
“But, Buffy...” Eve's eyes got big. Her bottom lip pouted. Then she caught the look on Buffy's face. It was iron.
“Don't even try it, Eve. I invented the pout. As a matter of fact, let me give you some pointers. Dawn never got these quite right. First, eye contact. Keep eye contact from start to finish. Second, lip tremble. You get points for size, but you have to put the right amount of tremble in it. That's key. Third, eye size. I already mentioned eye contact. The size you make your eyes is as important as the eye contact itself. Big eyes. Tilt your face down, then look up. That gives it some extra pathos. Last, surprise. The pout is most effective if they don't see it coming. So let them look away and when they look back, hit then with it. Now you try it.” Buffy looked at the seat in front of her for a second.
Buffy laughed at the woeful look she saw on Eve's face. “That's it. Use that one the next time you need to get your way. Just not on me. Cause I know your secrets.”
Eve's answering grin was equal parts glee and anticipation. “Thanks, Buffy.”
“You're welcome.”Cheyenne Mountain...
“So, Buffy's coming here? Seriously?” Graham looked at Riley, surprised, as they walked along, heading to the firing range. Riley had gotten back this morning, but had spent the next four hours in debriefing. This was Graham's first chance to find out how the final meeting had gone. And Riley's news was a doozie.
“Yes, seriously. I don't think the colonel or Major Davis were too happy about it, either.” Riley decided not to tell Graham about how pissed off Major Davis had been. The only thing he'd done was keep his head down. Riley didn't want to call attention to himself when he'd been the one who argued so vehemently against Davis's plan. He doubted that the Major would hold a grudge, but even the best officers occasionally took out their frustrations on their juniors. That was just the way life went.
“No doubt. Weren't they planning some kind of scheme to control the slayers they recruited?” Graham had heard through the grapevine about that one. Riley hadn't shared, but he might as well have. It was all over the base. God, they were stupid for trying that, Graham thought. Buffy must have eaten them alive.
“Yeah. They planned to bring the girls here and then use the isolation to pressure them to help more. I tried to tell them it was bad idea.” Riley had actually said worse than that, but finally had to zip it in the face of his senior's displeasure.
Graham whistled. “You're kidding. Did they read any
of the reports from the Initiative? Buffy was one of the least pressurable people I've ever met. And even though that Faith chick was mad as a hatter, she might as well have been stone. Hell, none of the slayers are what you or I would consider normal. I can't believe the colonel at least wouldn't know you couldn't really control them.” Graham could tell from Riley's expression that he agreed, but was too diplomatic to say so.
“They wanted to think it would work. It was definitely wishful thinking on their part. Now they know it won't. I think the colonel knew as soon as he met Buffy that it wouldn't work. Now that was funny. Buffy hadn't changed a bit. She can still piss off officers as easy as a cat killing a canary.”
“Really? That seems... odd.” Graham found it strange that Riley would think that about Buffy. Graham had always found Buffy one of the most adaptable people he'd ever met. If Buffy was pushing his superiors, Graham figured she had her reasons. Sometimes he thought Riley was blind to who Buffy really was. Riley was too set on the white picket fence. Worse, he tended to slot people in where he thought they fitted into his white-picket-fence life. Not Graham. Graham had learned the hard way that white picket fences were never going to be a part of his life. He'd be lucky to survive his twenty and make it to early retirement. He just tried to get by one day at a time. Love and happiness were just ideals that Graham doubted he would ever achieve.
“Well, not completely. She's still damn stubborn. She looked so good, though. God, that outfit she had on was just... wow. She totally dominated the meeting. She's definitely the boss. I mean Giles was still Giles, but once Buffy came in, you kinda forgot about him. The sparks off her and the colonel...” Riley whistled for emphasis. That had been an interesting discussion.
Graham considered. “Really, I always thought that Buffy made decisions after talking with Giles and those guys, what'd you call them? The 'Scoobies?' What's changed?”
Riley looked surprised. Then he looked contemplative. “Hell, Graham, maybe I'm crazy. Buffy has changed. She must've. Just from the way she dominated that meeting. The girl I knew couldn't do that, at least not so easily. Sure she's still stubborn as a rock, but she had a presence... I don't know how to describe it. Even Colonel O'Neill was impressed. And he's faced every kind of alien imaginable.”
Graham was surprised. Riley had actually figured out something about the real Buffy. He felt a tightness in his chest at the thought and silently pushed it away. Graham hadn't really given Riley much of a chance of getting back together with Buffy. But if he could actually see something of the person she'd become, then maybe he had a shot. “So, you thinking about getting back together with Buffy?” Graham tried to keep his voice noncommittal, but wasn't sure about his success. Especially based on the sharp look from Riley.
Riley looked at Graham. There was that weird note again. He decided to get to the bottom of this. “Graham, you're okay with Buffy, right? I know Forest always had problems with her. He thought she was bad for me or something. What do you think of her?”
Graham was silent for a moment. What do I think about Buffy, he asked himself? Graham remembered the time she broke the ice cream machine in the cafeteria. She had looked so damn cute... Stop it, he told himself. You can't tell Riley that. “Finn, I don't have any problem with Buffy. She's cool. I know Forest didn't like her, but that was his thing, not mine. Whatever happens, happens.” Yeah, I'm okay with her, Graham thought bitterly. I just wish she knew I was alive.
“Thanks, Graham. I hoped you'd say that. I really appreciate your support. I don't know if anything's going to happen with Buffy. It probably won't. I've got an in, though. The colonel wants us to train the slayers. We get to put them through their paces.”
Graham looked at him in horror. “Finn, you're joking right? Tell me you're joking. We have to put eleven Buffys through that hell training that we went through? They'll kill us. Especially after P3X-4991. I nearly killed the colonel, myself, after that one. And I like him.” Even the prospect of spending time with Buffy didn't make this any more palatable for Graham. Every one of those girls could tear him in two. Not a pleasant prospect.
Riley laughed. “I swear I didn't volunteer. We drew it as Sunnydale veterans.”
“I hate you, Riley Finn. Seriously. You owe me big.”
Riley kept laughing as they entered the range. It was definitely going to be an adventure having Buffy here. One that he, at least, looked forward to. He thought briefly about big, gray eyes, then shook off the mental image. Buffy was what he should be thinking about. And not in a personal way. In a purely professional way. Buffy was going to hate him after he finished training her and her girls. Hopefully, they both will survive the next few weeks...