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Author's Note: Being a B/A fan, naturally, I hated Where The Wild Things Are. Even when I tried to rewrite the episode, I found the events rushed, although it was easy to change the B/R scenes into B/A. When I put it up before we moved, I felt dissatisfied with it, but I was not in a position to do anything about it, with the internet going off in a few days, stuff in boxes or at the new house, and my muse in a galaxy far, far, away.

When we were finally sorted at the new house however, my muse briefly emerged from hyperspace to present me with an alternative, which is a rewrite of the Angel series episode I've Got You Under My Skin. During a brief foray on dial up net, I managed to retrieve the script, from which most of the dialogue is taken, and the Angel guide book was also extremely useful. Somehow, it ended up being a Wesley and Tara episode.

I had neglected the two throughout Season Four, and this seemed a good episode to put them in, given their past history which I had invented for them,- which I am being deliberately vague and mysterious about here, as I wrote in detail during S5 Family -and Wesley's own demons in the original. I tried to include scenes for the others, but my muse returned to hyperspace, so I hope that aside from the end Buffy scene, their absence is not sorely missed. Enjoy.

Exorcism.


"Yes, thank you for calling me back," Wesley began nervously, trying to project a mixture of business, confidence, slight concern and diffidence into his tone, no easy task on any usual day. "I just thought I should let you know that I'm afraid I can no longer keep the case of your missing daughter as an active one. I have used all resources available to me to find her, but my efforts have been in vain. My advice is that you just wait for her to make the first move. I have ruled out all, shall we say, unusual explanations for her disappearance." he paused as he listened to the reply.

"Yes, I'm well aware of that, sir. But I have ruled them out. The only avenues left open are human ones, and if she doesn't want to be found...." he let the sentence peter out, the ending silence more than eloquent. "Well, other than to inform you of this, which I thought wise, as it would not be fair to keep charging you when I can do no more." Another pause as the client offered perfunctory gratitude. "Well, thank you for bringing the matter to me. Again I am very sorry that I can do no more to help. And that I failed to find your daughter. I hope she contacts you soon. Goodbye."

He put the phone down with a sigh of relief, then turned to the young woman who had been waiting patiently and silently ever since the number was first dialled. "There, that distasteful business is over. Are you sure you don't want to call them and let them know that I made a mistake and that I have found you?"

Tara shook her head. "No, their.... concern," her tone belied a different meaning other than familial affection, "is what caused me to come here in the first place. And for you to be looking for me."

Wesley smiled at her kindly. "Well, I'm grateful I found you." he reached out and clasped her hand across his desk. "Now, as to the other matter, when are you going to tell the others how you came to be here?"

She withdrew her hand, causing him to regret that he had ever asked. "I can't, Wes, not yet. It's too soon."

"I'm sure they would understand," Wesley persisted. "It's hardly a typical group. And the concern may be unfounded. Your father was positively reluctant to give me too many details. Which means it may turn out to be nothing more than a family myth."

"Even if that's the case, I can't tell them yet," Tara replied. "Let me wait, Wes, please. At least until it's closer to the date when it might become a concern."

Wesley rose from his chair to walk round the desk and kneel before her, taking her hands in his. "I'd never force you of all people into doing something you don't want to, no matter my belief in the outcome. And I swear to you again, never to betray your confidence."

Tara smiled at him. "Thank you," she said, her tone eloquently conveying feelings which he knew went deeper than simple gratitude.

His business line rang again, breaking the moment, causing him to rise from bended knee and return to the chair behind his desk. "Wyndam-Pryce Investigations, how my I help you?" He paused as the caller stated the case. "Of course, let me check my diary," he added, before opening the appointment book before him. The ensuing pause was a deliberate move, to imply that he was busier than he seemed. Wes knew without looking at the blank pages before him, when his next case was. "As it happens, I am free this morning, sir, if you could name an hour which is convenient for you. Eleven is fine, I'll see you then. Thank you." He put the receiver down. "I have a new client. Fancy staying to help?"

"If I can be useful," Tara replied. "I don't have classes till this afternoon."

"Your assistance would be most welcome," Wesley assured her, smiling.

 


The client arrived promptly at eleven, entering the offices of Wyndam-Pryce investigations with hesitation and nervousness, pausing before he opened the exterior door, then the internal one to where Wesley and Tara were waiting. He froze at the sight of the couple, directing his gaze to each one, trying to decide if he trusted them.

Wesley rose from behind his desk. "I am Wesley Wyndam-Pryce," he began, before gesturing a hand to Tara who had risen also. "This Tara, an expert whom I consult on a regular basis," he added, bringing a smile to the shy young woman, who felt honoured that he considered her knowledge to be equal, even superior in some aspects to his.

After shaking their hands, the man chose to remain standing, casting his eyes nervously around the office, his caution and hesitancy not lessened by their kind manners. "I'm Seth Anderson," he replied. "I never thought there would someone who could help me with this. Professional, I mean. I thought priests usually took care of things. But then I never believed that movies about such things were based on truth."

"Exorcism needs a firm character, a knowledge of demons, and a fluency with Latin," Wesley replied. "Most priests nowadays rarely believe in the benefits of the practice." He gestured to a seat. "Please, Mr Anderson, sit down and tell us who you believe needs our help. I can assure you that whatever you have to say will be believed."

"It started years ago," Seth replied. "At first my wife and I put it down to rebellious behaviour, stress. But when he started setting fire to things, hurting his sister, himself, us, we realised something was seriously wrong with him. But we didn't know what to do. We moved several times, lied to Social Services, to the police. But last night was the final straw."

"What happened?" Wesley asked.

"My son, he tried to kill himself." Seth swallowed a howling cry. "He just ran out into the middle of the road. If it hadn't been for a passerby, the car would have hit him." He put his hand to his mouth, breathing deeply for composure. "Can you help, please?"

Wesley leaned forward, clasping his hands together and resting them on the wood veneer of the desk. "I think so. But the process will be difficult, traumatic, not just for your son, but for you and your family. It might bear some similarity to the film and the book from which it was adapted, but not the worse symptoms they described or depicted."

Seth nodded. "I can't take much more of this, nor can my wife. And we don't want it to damage his sister either. What will you need to do? Will any harm come to my boy?"

"I cannot guarantee that," Wesley answered quietly to the last. "It depends on the species of the demon, which I will need to find out. May we come over, Tara and I, tonight?"

"Sure," Seth replied, puzzled. "Why?"

"Before we can exorcise the demon, we need to know what we're dealing with," Wesley explained. "Without arousing its' suspicions. We need to bring a dish over which everyone can eat, but which includes an ingredient that will make the demon manifest itself. Then I'll perform the exorcism."

Anderson nodded once more, his concern for his family still making him nervous about the whole business. He grabbed a piece of paper and a pen from the desk and wrote down his address. "This is where we live. We'll see you at half six for dinner."

Wesley rose from his chair, Tara following, causing Seth to rise also. "I promise you, Mr Anderson to do all I can to help your son and your family," he remarked before opening the door and ushering him out.

Tara waited until the exterior door was closed before speaking. "You realise that you'll need to know what species it is before dinner, as each one needs a different manifest herb?"

Wesley nodded. "Which is why I need to go over to the house now and see if I can find any excretions." he turned to his office cabinet to retrieve a clear plastic evidence bag, latex gloves and large tweezers. "Can you come with me tonight?" He asked her.

"Yes, if you're sure I can be of help," Tara replied.

"Of course," Wesley assured her. "Besides offering comfort to them, you can help me with the protection spells which I'll imagine we'll need."


During the afternoon recess, Tara was walking to her next class when her cellphone rang. She retrieved the device from her pocket and answered. "So what is it?"

"A Ethros," Wesley answered at the other end.

"Ethros," Tara echoed. "I don't believe I've heard of an Ethros before?"

"You know the nursery rhyme about Lizzy Borden?"

"'Lizzy Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty wacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one,'" Tara quoted. "She was acquitted, in June 1893, from the charge of murdering her father and stepmother at Fall River, Massachusetts on August 4th, 1892."

"Well she was possessed by an adolescent Ethros," Wesley explained. "The amount of excretion I found though, means its a fully grown one." He flicked through the volume nearby, grabbed a pen and paper, and wrote down the ingredients. "We'll need Psylis Eucalipsis powder in order for it to manifest itself. Its bitter to the palette, so something sweet should be used to hide it. There's something else we'll need as well. When an Ethros is expelled, it immediately tries to possess the next warm body. Even if we wanted them to, the new initiate rarely survives the experience."

"What can we use to contain it then?"

"A Ethros box," Wes answered. "It's made using six hundred species of virgin wood, crafted by blind Tibetan monks."

"The Magic Box has one, I think," Tara informed him. "I'll pick it up, along with the Psylis Eucalipsis powder."

"Are you sure?" Wesley asked. "I have little else left to do other than bone up on my Latin for the ritual, and I know you have classes."

"I know the owner well," Tara revealed. "I can probably get a discount, as I'll need to pick up some binding powder and protection spells. I'll change before I go, and you can pick me up from there, if you like."

"It would be a pleasure," Wesley replied. "I'll see you this evening then."



"More Brussels sprouts, Tara?" Paige Anderson asked.

Tara shook her head. "No! Thank you, I'm – full. Everything was – very good."

Natural awkwardness concerning the occasion had faded away by early evening, leaving a pleasant, if a little too polite atmosphere, the calm before the storm. Tara and Wesley tried to appear more confident than they really were, while Paige and Seth displayed an attitude of kind but formal manners, trying to act normal for the kids when in reality they felt anxious about what was to come from their guests. As for the children, their natural innocent curiosity won out over their parent's uneasiness.

"The roast was a little dry," Seth remarked.

"No. It was full of – roasty goodness," Tara assured Paige.

"I think we're ready to try your brownies, Wesley," Paige declared.

Seth rose to help clean up the table. "I'll get the coffee."

As soon as their parents had left the dining room for the kitchen, Ryan leaned forward to confess something to Tara. "I didn't like the Brussels sprouts. They're gross."

Tara smiled and turned to his sister Stephanie. "You seemed to like yours."

Stephanie lifted the fold in her napkin, revealing one hidden Brussels sprout.

Tara leaned forward to confide in her. "I buried one in my mashed potatoes, too," she whispered, making the kids laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" Seth asked from the kitchen.

"Tara's funny," Stephanie replied.

Paige and he emerged from the kitchen, placing the brownies and the coffee on the table. "Look kids. See what Wesley and Tara brought over for us?"

Everyone eagerly went for the brownies, Tara and Wesley included, covering for the fact that the secret powder which Tara had purchased from the Magic Box was planted inside them to reveal the demon which possessed the boy.

"Hmm, it's uhm very good," Paige complimented. "What's your secret, Wesley?"

"It's an old family recipe," Wesley replied. "I use, chocolate. That's why they're brown – which gives them their name – brownies."

"No hot chocolate for you kids tonight," Seth decided. "This is your treat tonight."

Ryan frowned. "Dad."

"That's not fair," Stephanie added.

Paige looked at them. "Kids. Shh. Company."

Suddenly Ryan choked, before a growling scream emerged from his mouth. Tara and Wesley slowly rose from the table as Paige jumped up from her chair to go to her son.

"Oh God, Ryan, what's wrong?" She asked.

Wesley turned to Seth. "Your son is possessed by a demon."

Stephanie bowed her head. "Ryan's bad. Ryan's always been bad."

Paige turned a shocked face from him to her child. "Baby, - can you hear me?"

Wesley walked over to her. "Paige, listen to me – he's okay."

"What do you mean, he's okay?" Paige asked.

"I had to get the demon to show itself first," Wesley explained.

Paige looked at him in horror. "You did this to him?"

Wes shook his head. "The demon was already there, I just used the brownies to..."

"You put something in our food," Paige realised. "You poisoned him? What were you thinking? I thought you were here to help us."

"Paige, it's okay," Seth began.

She turned her incredulous gaze to her husband. "Seth, he did this to Ryan."

"We both know that that is not true," Seth replied, rising from the table. "What was wrong with Ryan has been wrong for a long time. That's why I asked Wesley over this morning." He turned to him and Tara. "For the last three years - it's been all I can do to hold this family together. Now you confirm for me that there may be a reason for all the terror and confusion, and a way to end it. What do you need?"

Wesley glanced at Tara who nodded her assistance. "We need a room with a bed, and space around it with which to work."

"What are you going to do?" Paige asked.

"Free him from the demon," Tara replied.

"Like the movie?" Paige sought to confirm fearfully.

Tara shook her head. "It shouldn't be as bad as that. It depends on how far the possession extends."

"We'll place a binding circle around him to protect you," Wesley added. "Once that is do, you cannot cross it. He will try to tempt you, pretend he is your son, but it will be the demon who is calling you, asking you to break the circle, so he can jump from your son to you where he believes we will fail to get him without great risk to yourself."

Carefully Wesley and Tara took Ryan out of his mother's embrace and followed Seth upstairs to their bedroom. He placed him in the bed, while Tara retrieved the bag of binding powder from her pocket and spread it around the frame.

"Done," she announced to Wesley.

"Thank you," he replied to her. "I'll make a start, you make sure they stay down stairs. This is will be a painful and long process."

"Mommy?" the demon cried out, causing the parents to rush to the hall. "Where are you? Mommy, I'm scared. - I need you. - Are you there?"

Tara walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.

"Couldn't I just take him his toys, please?" Paige asked.

"You heard what Wesley said, Paige," Seth replied. "We have to wait."

"But why do we have to wait?" Paige asked. "Things were going really well this time, weren't they? - Couldn't we just keep on like it was?"

Seth shook his head. "Paige, no. Not after Ohio."

"Ohio?" Tara echoed.

"A friend of ours – the kids used to call him Uncle Frank, died in a fire," Seth replied.

Paige sobbed. "That was an accident. It wasn't Ryan!"

"Mommy, I'm scared," Ryan called out. "It's so cold in here. Mommy?"

His mother tried to go to the door, but his father grabbed her arm, holding her back. "And that isn't Ryan either. - Paige?"

Paige sighed. "I'm not going to him, okay? I'm playing by the stupid rules."

"Mommy, I need you," Ryan cried. "I'm so scared. Come here."

"This is just too cruel," Paige said to Tara. "Can't we just see him?"

Tara looked at her. "This will be less hurtful for both of you if you just stay away. Ryan is not the one who is crying out for help, the demon is."

"I won't cross the circle," Paige said. "Please, just let me see him."

Tara nodded, and opened the door. "How are doing Wes?"

"I am about ready to begin," Wesley replied.

Paige looked at her son. "See, honey? Mommy's right here. I'm not going anywhere. Nobody is going to hurt you, sweetie. It's going to be okay."

"Paige, come away," Tara urged.

Seth nodded. "You wanted to see him, there he is – and he's gonna be fine."

"He's not fine!" Paige cried. "Look at him, Seth. Look at him. He needs me."

"Mommy?" The boy in the bed, demon features still visible, suddenly called out.

Paige took a step forward.

"No," Tara began. "No one steps beyond this circle. Its too dangerous."

"I can't see, where are you?" The Ethros continued in a childish plea.

"He'll do this to trick you," Wesley added, "make you break the binding, then he will kill you."

"Mommy, please."

Paige dashed to her son, brushing past Wesley and Tara to take the boy in her arms.

"Mommy. I'm so glad you're here," Ryan cried, before taking her by the throat and proceeding to choke her. "So glad."

Seth cried out in shock as he realised what his son was doing, while Tara rushed forward into the room to help. "Ryan, no! Ryan, stop it! Ryan, no. Let her go. Ryan, stop it! Stop it! Let her go!"

Tara tried to separate the mother from the son, the demon's strength inside the boy making him a fierce opponent. Suddenly a cross appeared over her heads.

"Omnis spiritus in munde. In nomine deti!" Wes cried out.

Tara pulled Paige away, returning her to her husband's arms.

Wesley observed the boy as he fell back. "It's retreated back into the boy."

"It's gone deeper," Tara mused.

The private detective, and former watcher nodded. "That's likely." He turned to the parents outside. "Look, from now on you do exactly as I'm telling you, understood?"

Paige nodded from the sanctuary of her husband's arms.

 


"Your Latin sucks," Ryan, with the demon's voice in his undertones, remarked to the former watcher as Wesley shut the door behind him.

"I know your tricks," Wesley replied, opening the book. "You'll not deter me from doing what must be done."

"You?" The boy mocked. "Do something? What makes you think you could do anything?"

"In odorem suavitatis. Tu Autem effugare, diabole," Wesley recited. "Appropinquat enim judicium dei."

"You couldn't even watch," Ryan added. Everyone knows you got fired because you couldn't do anything right. Nothing is going to make him proud of you."

Wesley ignored him. "Omnis spiritus immunde. In nomine dei."

"All those hours locked under the stairs and still weren't good enough," the boy suddenly announced. "Not good enough for Daddy, not good enough for the council."

"What?" Tara uttered, the words catching her by surprise, looking at her companion. Since the attack she had left the parents alone downstairs, joining Wesley in case the boy tried to attack him, so she could take over.

Wesley took a deep breath, then looked back at the boy. "Skimming the surface of my mind. Very clever. But a mere parlour trick. Here's one for you." He put aside the holy water he had in favour of the crucifix once more. "How many crosses am I holding up? Tu autem. Effugare, diabole."

 


Hours later, and Wesley was able to recite the final words of the ritual to exorcise the demon from the little boy.

"Abrenuntias satanae? Et omnibus operibus eus? Omnisbus pompis eys?" Wesley pressed the cross on the boy's body. He recited the final words. "Exorcie te. Omnis spiritus immunde. Adaperiae!"

A cloud flew from the boy's head, hitting the open box which Tara held ready to contain it. To their surprise, it broke through the wood and then through the panes of glass in the window behind her.

Wesley checked the boy over, then nodded at Tara. "It's long gone from him. Though not into the box as we had hoped."

Tara looked at him. "Do you think it might attempt to repossess the boy?"

"I don't think so," Wes replied. "Not right away."

"What are you thinking?" Tara asked.

"Well, it had to expel a lot of energy to escape like this," Wesley replied as he rose up to collect the rest of their supplies. "It'll need time to recharge."

"You're thinking the demon has taken on corporeal form," Tara remarked.

Wes nodded. "That's my guess. It can only absorb the elements it needs if it manifests itself physically. Which means, if we can find it in time we can kill it. He'll be looking for a hostile environment – somewhere damp. Probably returning to primordial volcanic basalt for his regeneration."

"The sea caves by the beach," Tara added.

Wesley bowed his head in agreement. "That's our next stop."

 


Having reunited Ryan with his parents, who thanked them for their help, Wesley and Tara left the house and drove to the coast, before parking the car and taking the path across the sand to the sea caves.

"You," the Ethros demon said as they came upon him.

"Didn't think this was over, did you?" Wesley asked.

"You are a fool," Ethros taunted. "You think to destroy me? You're dealing with forces beyond your comprehension."

Wes was unfazed. "Yeah? Well, it's a hobby of mine. You great – putrescent – bully! Pick on an innocent child! You think you're impressive?"

The demon grinned evilly. "I am Ethros! I corrupted the spirits of men before they had speech to name me. The child was but the last among tens of thousands. One more pure heart to corrupt. One more soul to suck dry."

"Well, chalk up one exciting failure," Wesley replied. "You didn't get that boy's soul."

"What soul?" Ethros. "Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? Nothing? That's what I found in the boy. No conscience, no fear, no humanity. Just a black void. I could wait to get out; I never even manifested until you brought me forth. I just sat in him and watched as he destroyed everything around him. Not from a belief in evil, not for any reason at all. That boy's mind was the blackest hell I've ever known."


Back at the Andersons' house, everything seemed to be normal for the first time in a long while. In light of the eventful night, Paige and Seth relented on the hot chocolate for the children, giving them one each before bed time.

"She has nine marshmallows, and I only have seven," Ryan whined as his mother gave him and his sister their rewards.

"Well, we'll just have to write the Nestle bunny about that," Paige replied. She kissed them both on their cheeks. "Drink up. It's way past bedtime."

Later having seen them both to bed, she joined her husband down stairs, pleased that her boy was unharmed. "He doesn't seem to remember any of it."

"Good," Seth replied, raising his arm as she sat down next to him on the sofa, wrapping it around her waist. "Let's hope this horrible thing is finally over."


"When he slept, I could whisper in him," Ethros continued. "I tried to get him to end his life, even if it meant ending mine."

Tara stilled as she remembered what Seth had said when he visited them. "You sleepwalked him in front of the car."

Ethros nodded. "I had given up hope. I know you bring death. I do not fear it. The only thing I have ever feared is in that house."

Tara turned to her companion. "Wes, he's with his family. We have to hurry."

"Yes, you do," Ethros replied.

Wes raised the axe he had retrieved from the car, and went forward to do what he must.


At the Anderson's house, Ryan walked from his bedroom into that of his parents, taking the box of matches from his father's night stand.

Seth stirred as he walked back out into the hall. "Ryan?"

Ryan made no reply to his father's inquiry, instead he closed the door and placed a wedge under it to prevent it from being opened.

Paige woke at the sound of her husband's voice. "What is going on?"

Seth rose from the bed to try and open the door. "I don't know."

Outside in the hallway, Ryan picked up a can of gasoline which he had fetched from the garage only minutes ago.

"Ryan, open the door!" Seth cried.

"Ryan - Stephanie?" Paige called out.

As his parents continued to shout, Ryan ignored them and walked into his sister's room. While his father threw himself against the bedroom door in an attempt to force it open, Ryan poured gasoline on the floor of Stephanie's room. Setting the can down, he opened the matchbox, took out a match and struck it against the edge of the box.

When the match ignited, he dropped it to the floor.

The gasoline lit up, the flames reaching high, causing Stephanie to wake, screaming at the sight of the fire, and the smoke alarm to sound.

At last Seth broke down the door and he and Paige rushed up behind Ryan, to find him watching silently as the flames grew around his sister.

"Stephanie!" Her father cried out.

"Mom, dad! Help!" the little girl cried in terror.

Abruptly the glass panes in the window broke into shards as Wesley burst through to the grab the little girl.

Tara appeared behind the parents, lifting Ryan off the floor into her arms.

"Everybody out!" Wesley shouted. "Lets go! Go! Go!"

He turned to the window and jumped out, as Tara urged the rest from the room.


Fire engines and police arrived, clustering around the house as the flames continued to be fanned by the gasoline and the weather. The sunshine state was usually prone to such fires, brought on by heat, humidity in combination with a lack of rain providing a variable tinder box of forest flames, but the emergency services saw the unharmed neighbouring buildings and forest straight away, realising immediately that this was arson.

The Andersons stood a short distance from the police car in which sat Ryan, beside Tara and Wesley, watching as the firemen set to work on damping the flames within and outside the house.

"Social services will take over from here," A police officer announced to Mr Anderson. "They'll want to speak to your son alone first."

"When will we get to see him?" Seth asked.

"Not until tomorrow," the officer replied.

"Well, what's gonna happen to him?" Seth demanded.

"We won't know until after the evaluation," the office informed him.

Seth watched the man return to the vehicle, get in and drive his son away from the crime scene. "I won't be able to cover for him anymore. They're gonna want to know about Ohio – and everything. - I wanted to protect him."

Wesley glanced at him steadily. "I know."

"I was just trying to hold my family together," Seth finished.

Tara looked at Stephanie and Paige, huddled in blankets nearby. "I think you did."

Seth turned to Wesley, still in shock by the horror of the night. "All this time I thought I was protecting my family. I've lost it for good now."

Wesley looked at the girls wrapped in blankets before the house. "No you haven't."


"What happened with you and your father?" Tara asked, as they returned to the campus in Wesley's car.

"It's nothing," he murmured, his eyes on the road, his hands tightening their grip of the steering wheel as they turned into the curve.

"No, it isn't," Tara replied. "I could tell. Wes, you and I have known each other too long for there to be any secrets between us. You know what my father is like. The damage it has done to me, to my mother, to my family. I can see in your eyes that you have no difficulty in believing that a person doesn't have to be possessed in order to terrorise their family."

They reached the parking spaces outside her residence hall. Wesley turned the engine off before turning round to face her. "Yes, I had a violent, abusive father," he confirmed. "It was something I had to deal with all of my youth, then later as he was a highly respected member of the Watcher's Council. But then he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I watched him gradually become a pale, sickly frail man before my eyes. And somehow his methods of parenting no longer seemed to matter any more." He paused, casting a gaze down to the floor of the vehicle, his left fingers tapping against the curve of his right palm. "He died a year before I came to America. When I said goodbye to him for the last time, I realised that despite all he had done to make me hate him, he was still my father, and I would have no other." He looked up into her gaze, his eyes dark and distance, his mind suspended between the present and the past. "But there are moments still when I would give anything to hear him say that he was proud of me."

Tara found she could say nothing, so she settled for clasping one of his hands in her own, and exchanging a meaningful, eloquent look. She reflected on the man before her, when they had met, how they came to be so close, and what it had done to her life. Now she had heard about the dark past of his youth, she still admired him for whom he had become despite his trauma, and the compassion he held for her family, even if he did not support their actions regarding herself.

Then he let go of her hand to open the car door and the moment passed.


Buffy stared angrily into the mirror, the rage pouring off her in waves, but the reflecting glass felt none of it. She pressed the damp towel to her lips, resisting the urge to fling it against the mirror, knowing the action would disturb her sleeping soulmate in the next room. She just had the most amazing sex of her life, which capped off a wonderful hour where she and Angel had done nothing but become one body, one soul.

Allowing herself to think that one morning without this unpleasant ablution might mean her body had healed itself, her reaction to finding that it was still not cured made her want to scream. What had she done to deserve this? Why did her worst case scenario have to be proved a truth? Why couldn't they just have killed them all during the summer after graduation and be done with it?

She stilled as she heard a muffled call coming from her beloved, who was obviously no longer asleep and oblivious to her whereabouts. Splashing her face, she returned the towel to the heated rail and exited the bathroom.

"Is anything wrong?" Angel asked her.

"Nothing," she replied softly. "Nothing at all."

The End.
To Be Continued In

SHADES OF GREY.