Gundam Wing Fan Fiction ❯ Monsters ❯ Chapter 1

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Title: Monsters
Author: Maldoror 
Genre: Satire and humour perpetrated upon an innocent Supernatural AU fic.
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, 5÷13
Rated: Who knows. Probably PG13, for language.
Archived: and GWAddiction under the pen-name Maldoror, assuming my archivists actually want this.
Feedback: Erm, if you want ^_^
Spoilers: Lol!
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to its owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. I don't think anybody could make money outta this if they tried, though if it makes you laugh, that'll probably be good for my karma. I don't think lawyers can get their claws into that yet. Also, the movies mentioned are done so only in the spirit of taking the mick out of them. In the nicest possible way.


My deepest apologies to supernatural fanfics, the British monarchy, Goths and to monsters everywhere. Sometimes, I just get these...headaches, and then I really shouldn't be accountable for what I write, at least not in a legal sense. Oh, and last but not least, my apologies to the G-boys.

Dedicated to vampire fics, furry were fics, Buffy, Angel (not that either of these two appear in any shape or form), old horror movies and above all to my stupid sense of realism that insists on bugging me with technical questions and practicalities when it should just be enjoying itself. I tried to tell it about suspension of disbelief, but noooo, wouldn't have any of it.



- Monsters -


The situation called for a witty one-liner and some tough-guy posturing.

Duo preferred to be silent and look for a way out. He ferreted around the room, fingers whisking over the join between stones, and closely examining the locked door. The only sound in the shadowy crypt, badly lit by a creepy cast-iron chandelier high up in the vaulted ceiling, was the shuffle of feet and the occasional mutter of 'this fucking sucks' and 'calling the cops as soon as I get out'.

Finally he threw himself on the bed and glared at the ceiling, while he tried to think of something constructive to do. The bed was richly laid with black satin sheets, which violently jarred with the stark, rough-hewn crypt, like a porn-movie accessory in a church basement. Black satin sheets never looked as good as they aught to. When you got down to it, they were about as classy as a gold chain on a hairy chest. Besides, there was something that looked suspiciously like bird droppings here and there. But there wasn't any other furniture in the room, so it was either that or the floor-

The door opened abruptly.

"Hello, you must be-"

Duo shot off the bed and landed in a semi-crouch, both hands held out rigid in front of him. "Don't fucking come near me! I know karate!"

The blonde man looked from Duo's pale face to the 'Kung Fu Movie' pose, and said 'Oh good', weakly.

"I mean it! Don't come any closer!"

The blonde didn't come any closer. He stood near the door and looked Duo over appraisingly, though his blue eyes took a few seconds to focus. He was smiling gently, his expression benign, almost innocent, which, considering the circumstances, led Duo to the conclusion that he was probably stoned out of his gourd.

"Ahh, Heero has chosen well. You are a true beauty, young Duo."

"Beauty?!" Duo snarled, trying to stand like Bruce Lee and sound like the Terminator. "I ain't no fucking beauty, you creep! I'll kick your ass if you say that again!"

"Well, you are." The man seemed to be somewhat confused, in a woolly way. "Your eyes, your hair, your-"

"That's it! I give in! The old man's right! Tomorrow, it's the hairdressers and a crew cut! I don't care if it breaks mom's heart! The braid is gone!"

There was a moment of diplomatic silence.

"There ain't gonna be a tomorrow, is there..." Duo stated weakly.

"Oh, there is, there is. Er, but you won't be in any position to see hairdressers. And I very much doubt that Heero would want you to cut off that magnificent mane of hair."

"Heero...that's the guy who brought me here, right?"Duo was tugging savagely at his 'magnificent mane of hair' -which was a pain at the best of times - as if he could pull it off immediately.


"The guy who jumped me while I was jogging? Who spouted some nonsense while I was trying to run away, and then whopped me over the head?"

"Yes." Quatre looked a bit relieved; apparently, Duo's sweaty jogging attire had been giving him some sort of aesthetical problem.

"The cheerless bastard who should really invest in some cologne and mouthwash?"

Quatre'seyebrows quirked. "He drinks blood. Even with toothpaste, that rarely leaves your mouth smelling minty fresh."

Duo tugged harder at his braid and edged away, trying to get the bed between him and a guy who could say something like that in that gentle, chiding way, as if drinking blood and smelling like a massacre was a slightly embarrassing condition that Heero couldn't help and that Duo was rather impolite for mentioning.

"Drinks blood."

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

"So...those big-ass fangs weren't plastic."


"And Heero isn't some random wack-job."

"No, he's a vampire."

"Ah." Duo tried to get more of the bed between him and the crazy guy. "And are you a vampire?

"No. My name is Quatre."

"You're French?"

Quatre looked surprised. "No, I'm Arabian."

"Riiiight." Duo started to edge out from behind the bed. If Quatre wasn't as strong as Heero had been, and if all of the peroxide had leeched into his brain, as it apparently had, Duo had a chance of overpowering him.

"So Heero's a vampire." Keep him talking. And don't contradict him. You should never contradict nutty people. Especially when they might be telling the truth.

"Yes. It's a tragic story. Heero is a vampire prince -"

"Prince? They have royalty?"

"Yes, he's a prince of the Otherworld, that no mortal is allowed to -"

"And they have princes, kings and queens?"

"Yes, that no mortal is allowed to know of, the world of magic-"

"What's the point of being a prince if your parents are immortal parasites on human society who'll never cack it and let you inherit the throne?" And Prince Charles thought he had it rough.

"He's a vampire prince," Quatre started again, with the air of someone who was going to ignore the unscripted parts of the conversation from now on, "who was exiled from his clan when he refused to kill this little girl-"

Duo stopped paying attention. At one point, he thought he heard the word puppy, but he wasn't really listening. He was sure it was a fucking tragedy, but he didn't really give a damn if Heero ate her puppy, or whatever had actually happened. He just wanted out. But every time he thought of a plan to get around the unknown quantity that was Quatre, the man casually moved to block it. Prickles ran up Duo's spine.

"So he joined Trowa." Quatre concluded. "They became blood brothers."

Duo laughed weakly. Quatre looked at him blankly. Maybe it hadn't been a pun.

"And Trowa's a vampire?"

"No." Quatre shook his head, and then stopped with a slight wince and a rub at his temples. "He's a child of the Nightlings, a member of the clan of the moon, one of the weres of F'rball."

"Oh." Duo nodded wisely. His big blue eyes were completely blank.

"He's a werewolf." Quatre finally translated dourly.

"A- a werewolf?!"

"And he has very sensitive ears, so please don't shout."

"You mean he's here?!" Duo shouted in a whisper.

"Yes, he's in our room, a couple of doors away. But he won't hurt you."

"Oh, good."

"You're Heero's."

"Nyag," Duo whimpered.

"Trowa's my boyfriend," the blonde confessed, with a slight blush.

Duo stared at him like he was insane.

The blush intensified. "Which isn't exactly the kick people seem to think it is," Quatre muttered, and it was suddenly apparent to Duo that the blush was one of long-standing annoyance rather than anything else. "It means muddy paws on the carpet, fur in the bed, and when he snaps at you, it's with teeth. People who think it's sexy and chockfull of animal magnetism don't realize that what it's really chockfull of is dander and fleas. And if you think Heero's bad for smelling like a slaughterhouse, then you've never contemplated having a boyfriend who smelled like wet dog."

Duo continued to stare at him like he was insane, but Quatre wasn't paying attention. He seemed to be running a familiar argument through his head.

"And what are you?" Duo finally asked slowly, as if he really didn't want to know but felt morbidly forced to enquire. "A mad scientist? A warlock? An axe-murderer?"

Quatre blinked at him owlishly, then looked briefly pleased with the suggestions. Duo had the strange feeling he'd just made a friend.

"No, I'm-" Quatre's timidly pleased smile melted into a grimace. "I'm an empath."

"Is that some other word for insane?"

"No. I'm not insane; I just have headaches from time to time. Empath means I can read other peoples' auras and emotions."


Quatre watched morosely as the braided boy relaxed.

"Yes. Not really that intimidating, right? In fact, most people assume that that means I'm a bleeding-heart, sensitive pansy, in which case they haven't actually considered the emotional makeup of most humans. You try living on a steady diet of fear, greed, lust, anger, and the occasional nugget of happiness, and see what it does for your temperament."

"Riiiight." Duo stopped trying to edge around the blonde. Apparently, Quatre would be able to read the moves.

"No, Wufei's the warlock. He's the fourth member of our group."

"Oh," Duo said, mentally substituting the word 'group' with 'scary insane asylum'. "And what does he do?"

Quatre's face grew a bit pinched and he rubbed gently at his temples again. "He makes a lot of noise, he casts magic, he makes a lot of noise, he turns into a dragon, he makes a lot of noise."

"A dragon?" Duo blurted out.

"Yes. Unfortunately. This is astoundingly indiscreet. Come on, ask me how come no mortal knows the Otherworld exists, when we've got a blooming dragon in tow?"

"How come-"

"I haven't got a frigging clue. A dragon isn't exactly the most circumspect thing to cart around with you. Fortunately, he only turns into a dragon when he loses his temper. Unfortunately, our Wufei tends to lose his temper a lot."

"I see, right, you've obviously got a problem here, 'kay, so maybe I should leave you to it, you know, I'll just mosey on and-and send you the number of a good psychiatrist when I get home-" Duo edged around the blond, deciding that, as he had nothing else to lose, the ballsy blasé approach might work.

Quatre wasn't really looking at him and made no move to stop him. In fact, he took a vague step to one side to let him pass. Duo carefully skirted the blonde and lunged towards the door-

It led out into a hallway. One of the doors was open. Something moved behind it with a heavy padding sound. A snuffled grunt and the door was nudged further ajar. A pair of gleaming green eyes shone in the darkness, aimed at Duo. It didn't smell like wet dog. It smelled like the bottom of the tiger's pit at the zoo.

Duo slammed the door shut and made a spirited attempt to hide under the bed.

"It's not too bad, I guess." Quatre had not noticed Duo's reaction; he was staring at an empty spot in the air, and apparently having a conversation with it. "Wufei can use magic to erase the memories of people who see him, if he knows who to deal with, and I help him with that. I just find the people who are banging their heads against the wall, convinced that they're nuts because they just saw a two-ton flying reptile. And Wufei isn't here much. Poor guy. I guess I feel sorry for him."

"Why?" Duo choked. Why would one feel sorry for a two-ton flying anything?

"He's cursed," Quatre explained mournfully. "I'm not sure how it happened, exactly. Apparently there's this type of witch who just can't stand to see a serious, somewhat arrogant guy walk around with, I grant you, certain misogynistic tendencies, without getting some very strange ideas into their heads. So they cursed him, every one of this coven of witches, and trust me, it's a bloody big coven. They doomed him to fall in love with his worst enemy, another warlock by the name of Treize."

"Tough," Duo said sympathetically. He had little or no notion of what he was sympathizing with, but since the bed had provided virtually no cover, he had decided to be extra nice to the crazy guy with the furry boyfriend.

"Yes, very. I mean, Wufei really hates the guy, and he's as straight as they come. At least Treize is now actively looking for a counter-curse on his behalf. Oh, he thought the whole thing was very amusing to start with, and I'm sure he might have somewhat abused the situation at one point. But he's straight too, for all he's as decadent as the next guy who bathes in rose-petaled bubble-bath-" Duo started discreetly looking for hidden passages in the wall again, while carefully keeping his back to it "- and he's not that keen on being, well, stalked, I'm afraid, by a young man half his age who tends to turn into a fire-breathing reptile when he gets upset."

"Quite understandable," Duo muttered absently. Damn, this wall felt bloody solid. Weren't there always sliding panels hiding secret passageways in and out of these bloody crypts in the movies?

"We're all cursed, I guess." Quatre continued mournfully. "Take me, for example. I mean, the wet dog thing is just an inconvenience. But my powers...they are more a curse than a blessing!"

"Tough," Duo repeated, since that dramatic exclamation seemed to require some feedback.

"Torn apart by other's emotions - and when you hang around with the crew, the emotion you mostly come into contact with is raw fear. If I were smart, I would hang around, I don't know, a crèche, or kittens, or a funfair or something. Sometimes, oh, sometimes I think all these emotions are making me a bit...unstable."

"Really? I'm sure I hadn't noticed."

"Yes, you did!" Quatre said sharply. "That's what you all think! I only get headaches! Duo, what are you doing?"

"Nothing! Just- examining the masonry! Nice architecture. Very gothic."

"Oh. Well, anyway, I couldn't leave. Because of Trowa. We're soul mates; we were from the very first moment our eyes met. This is a lot less romantic than people believe. And not just because of the dander thing. I mean, what's so hot about being soul mates? I'd rather fall in love with a guy because we like the same movies, or have a common hobby or something. Not because some Great Mystical Force decided to slap us together willy-nilly."

A mournful howl suddenly echoed through the corridors. Duo's hair tried to stand on end and he scrunched up against the wall.

"That's okay, Trowa! You know I love you!" Quatre shouted over his shoulder. "Though god only knows why, we have very little in common. But it's not like I got a choice. Oh, don't worry, Duo. It's the third night of the full moon. It's only on the first night that he gets, well, somewhat frisky, if you see what I mean. On the third night, he's usually quite tame."

"Oh good," Duo squeaked.

"Trowa's cursed too, of course. All the children of the moon are. Their conscience sublimated to The Beast. At the mercy of their animal passions." A small smile flitted by that looked very out of place on Quatre's benign blonde countenance. "And of course, once a month I have to chain him up." The smile intensified. Duo gulped.

"Why? Would he rip out your throat otherwise?"

"Oh, no," Quatre answered, shaking himself. The small smile disappeared, much to Duo's relief. "He'd never hurt me, beyond slobbering all over my face, or trying to hump my leg. And the others are too tough for him. No, the problem is, he goes running around under the moonlight, chasing rabbits, and he wakes up naked in parks or dumpsters. He's been arrested for Public Lewdness a number of times already. Wufei is getting tired of magicking him out of the pokey."

Duo tried to make sympathetic noises, but he wasn't sure they were loud enough to get past the ringing in his ears.

"And of course, there's Heero."

Duo twitched at the name.

"Doomed to live forever in the realm of night. Feared and reviled- trust me, he's tried mouthwash, he's tried cologne, he's even tried perfume, though Wufei made fun of him - you're not the first to make that observation, you know. There is scientifically no way, with the bloodflow from the neck veins being what it is, to not get it on your clothes, and you'd be surprised at how quickly blood goes off, especially in summer, and of course, it's not the most digestible of substances so the breath- As I was saying, forever doomed to live off the life of others, taking their warmth and joy without being able to feel any in return. A fallen prince, looking for his One True Love."

There was a silence. Quatre looked at Duo and Duo looked for a way out.

"His One True Love," Quatre repeated, stressing the capitals.

Duo moved another foot to the left and felt the rock behind him with his fingers, while keeping the wall firmly at his back.

"That would be you, Duo," Quatre finally prompted.

"Me?" Duo yelped. "I thought I was lunch!"

"No. Heero breaks into the blood banks to have lunch. Sometimes, when he's feeling down, he indulges in a groupie."

"A what?"

"A groupie. Goth chicks," Quatre explained, with some distaste. "The other guys all seem to have fans. But not me, of course. Oh no, who'd think a fluffy empath is dangerously dark and seductive. Never mind that I can read their deepest, darkest desires and blackmail the tar out of them. But that's not sexy, now, is it-"

"Fans?" Duo asked weakly.

"Yeah. Idiots who trail after the children of the night. Heero occasionally gets depressed thinking about his One True Love, without whom he will never know joy and compassion, and he ends up drunk with his face in a Goth chick's cleavage. And, eventually, jugular. Apparently, those girls have no sense of smell."

"Or preservation," Duo muttered.

"Yes, it is bizarre. They seem happy of the fact that the world is dark and cruel and full of vicious creatures, and that they will surely die young in a tragic, gruesome yet strangely cool way, and yet they seem ever so surprised and upset when it looks like it might actually happen." Quatre was staring at Duo's cleavage, or lack thereof, with something like the beginnings of confusion in his blue eyes.

"And then they get bitten and become vampires?"

"And then they get bitten and become dead. If vampirism was transmitted by a bite, then, exponentially speaking, the whole world would be vampires within a dozen generations or so."

Duo swallowed noisily.

"But don't worry, you'll be fine. Heero won't harm you. Er, not fatally. You're to become a vampire. Heero wants to make you his bride."

"Whoa!" Duo squawked. "I'm Duo Maxwell! I'm the man! Nobody makes a bride outta the man!"

"...Spouse?" Quatre rolled the word around his mouth, as if he were trying to taste it.

"No spouse! No Love! No bite! No way!"

"Duo, please stop shouting. I have a headache. I often get...headaches..." Quatre rubbed his temples vaguely and Duo shut up.

"So..." Quatre stopped massaging his brow and muttering, and looked back at Duo. The empath appeared to be confused and somewhat worried. "You don't want to become a vampire?"

Duo shook his head vigorously.

"You're afraid of Heero?"

Duo nearly sprained his neck nodding.

" don't feel mysteriously drawn to him?"

Duo's braid - which, really, had always been more of a pain than anything else, should have cut it ages ago - slapped against the wall under the onslaught of a frantic headshake.

"Erm, you can speak, you know. Just don't shout. So, when you think of Heero, what do you feel?"

"Repulsed, mainly."

" don't feel helplessly fascinated by his tragic beauty? His deep, cobalt-blue eyes full of despair and longing?"

Duo took some time analyzing that sentence. "He's got blue eyes?" he finally asked.

"You didn't notice?!"

"Dude, all I saw was the fangs, and I started running like fuck-all."

"Oh. Well, maybe that's the problem. You didn't get a good look at him," Quatre said brightly.

Duo didn't answer, but he was pretty sure his expression indicated that getting a good look at Heero would not be likely to change in his initial assessment.

"Maybe..." Quatre was looking thoughtfully at Duo's complete and thorough lack of a heaving bosom. "Maybe you're just in denial, because you're so violently attracted to a man."

"I don't think I'd find a chick with inch-long fangs, gore on her lapel and raw-blood-sausage scent any more appealing."

"You sure you're not upset because you've just realized you're gay?"

"I got no problem being gay! I got a problem being dead! Or undead!" Duo tried to rein himself in, remembering the furry boyfriend down the hall, but he had the nasty feeling he'd just snapped.

"I got a problem being kidnapped, knocked unconscious and dragged into a crypt surrounded by Hammer horror rejects!" Yup, definitely snapped. "I got a problem being Heero's late-night snack! I definitely got a problem being Heero's bride, particularly if there's a blood-red satin dress with décolletage involved at any point, in which case you can expect me to go apeshit! And in case you didn't get it the first time, I especially got a problem being turned into some undead, blood-sucking parasite! Cousin Lenny became a lawyer and the folks won't talk to him no more!"


"I want to go home! I don't want to become some smelly gay vampire! Especially if that means I have to evolve some sort of personal tragedy to moon over!"

"Duo, you're getting upset."

"Damn right I am!"

"Look, don't worry about it. It'll all look better in the morning."

Duo looked momentarily hopeful, in a pitiful 'really, daddy, there is a Santa Claus' kind of way, until he realized exactly what Quatre had meant.

He didn't have time to do a reprise of the upset routine. A huge flapping noise made him start, and a sliding panel hiding a secret passageway in the high, vaulted ceiling opened to let a bat through. It was a big bat. Duo skipped upset and went straight to gibbering.

"Ah, Heero!" Quatre exclaimed happily, as if having a three-foot-high chiroptera land a yard away was somehow a good thing. Of course, even with that wingspan, there was no way this creature was big enough to be a man morphed into a bat. Maybe he lent the extra weight to Wufei, to help make up a two-ton dragon, Duo thought. Oh look, I'm hysterical.

The bat flopped around - bats are meant to hang upside down, not land on flagstones - then its outline blurred, and it started to change into a young man.

This sort of thing is a lot less sexy than people seem to think.

He was dressed in cool threads, showing off the universally acknowledged fashion sense that all vampires are known for. Or he might have been wearing a tux and a campy cape ensemble; Duo was too busy panicking to notice much beyond the fact that he was dressed in funereal black, and considering the circumstances, this wasn't at all as cool as it should be. He must have changed his blood-soaked clothes, though, and when he murmured 'Duo', there was a sharp eucalyptus smell. Fisherman's Friend, Duo thought, still giving hysteria a good try-out. It almost successfully covered the dull, thick, meaty smell of fresh and not-so-fresh blood on his breath.

The bright eyes rested on Duo who reacted like a rabbit staring at a cobra- yeah, Heero's eyes were blue all right. He didn't look like a blood-crazed maniac, really; in fact he looked okay, in an intense, dark, broody sort of way. With his mouth closed, the fangs weren't apparent. Nice bod- oh no...

"Quatre..." Duo whimpered.


"Quatre...I feel...."

"Yes, Duo?" Quatre sounded hopeful. Duo couldn't tear his eyes away from-

"I feel-...insanely attracted to his raw magnetism, his glorious dark beauty, his eyes full of love and despair- I can't help myself- you're right, this fucking sucks!"

"Yes, I know, this soul-mate thing is really a raw deal. You get- Yes! I love you, Trowa! Stop that racket! - you get used to it."

Duo whimpered. Heero had smiled. Considering the denture this revealed, Duo was hoping Heero spent most of his time scowling and brooding. Duo's animal brain was trying to concentrate on the faint remains of blood scent and the predatory look in those blue eyes (and the inch-long fangs, of course). Another part of him - possibly his heart, or some other brainless organ - was becoming more and more fascinated by the mysterious, dark beauty, the depth of deep blue eyes, the sexy- the animal brain started throwing rocks at the other part and cursing like a sailor, but it wasn't helping. Duo twitched. He was getting a headache.

"Well, I'll leave you two to it," Quatre announced, with all the diplomacy of a ballistic missile.

"" Duo whispered hoarsely.

"No way, Duo, I'm not getting in the way of Destiny. Or of Heero, which is considerably more dangerous under the circumstances. Sorry, but you've got to realize. He's a two hundred year old vampire who's been looking for his One True Love all this time. You do the math."

"Math?" Duo moaned. The predatory look in Heero's eyes was starting to alarm even the fluffy idiotic vampire-loving side that fate had apparently decided to curse him with.

"Yes. Two centuries of celibacy. I'll see you in a few weeks, Duo."

Quatre closed the door on Duo's yelp and Heero's feral growl.


"So, it's happened?"

Quatre looked up at the broody Chinese warlock who'd appeared at the end of the corridor, and tried to gauge his mood. It appeared that Wufei had finished his Treize stalking for the evening, and also the portion of the night he dedicated to beating himself up over said stalking. That probably made him acceptable company at this point.

"Yes, Heero has found his one true love." Quatre's headache was getting worse, what with the going-ons behind the door, so he decided to not bother with the capitals. Screw it.

"Didn't I hear a guy screaming, though?"

"Yes, apparently Heero bats for the other team, or at least he does now."

"Well, thank the gods! I was afraid it would be one of those Goth chicks! Tell me, is it someone intelligent, refined, capable of carrying out a civilized conversation?"

Quatre covered his wince. "Well, he does appear to be somewhat cultured," he extemporized, thinking of Duo's reference to Hammer horror movies. He didn't elaborate, not wanting to be caught in the same corridor as a grumpy dragon.

"Wonderful! Oh, here, Winner. You wanted some more of this."

"Thanks, Wufei! You're a life-saver!" Quatre clutched the magically enhanced flea-powder to his chest.

Wufei gave him the dubious look he often gave Quatre when the empath was suffering form his, ah, headaches. "Right. Well, I'll just be in my room, then. Unless you need my help with that?"

"No, it's okay. It's the third night of the full moon," Quatre, the walking lunar calendar, pointed out. "He'll be manageable."

"Very well then. I'll see you tomorrow at sundown-" Wufei was interrupted by a holler from the room at the end of the corridor.

"Ow! You bit me! That fucking hurts! Why does it hurt?! I thought it wasn't supposed to hurt! I-I don't...feel too good...dizzy..." the voice faded.

"He just got his jugular punctured, of course it's going to hurt. He doesn't sound too bright. Are you sure he's cultured?"

"Somewhat cultured," Quatre reiterated weakly. "Erm, I'll see you tomorrow night."

"...okay. Goodday, Winner. And say goodday to furball, too."

"I will."

The elegant gothic crypt - which somehow existed within easy reach of Goth girls, blood banks, parks and wide open spaces fit for dragons, yet close enough to trendy nightclubs and other obligatory creature-of-the-night haunts, all this without turning up on any local planning council's registry - gathered the darkness and whatever little silence it still had around it like a cape. Life, or the closest facsimile thereof, was about to get interesting.


To never be continued if we are all very lucky...