By D. M. Evans

Disclaimer: - All characters are the property of Joss Whedon and WB. I have no rights to them. I'm just grateful for a change to play with them and to create them a playmate in Ceara.

Time: Takes place 2nd season "Angel", sometime after "Epiphany"

A.N.: This is the first in a series, "Circling My Heart," featuring Wesley's friend, Ceara. Special thanks to SJ & Flipyon for their help with editing this.

Wesley looked at his watch then back at the door.

"Wesley, what is it?" Cordy asked, slapping a file down on her desk.

Startled, he glanced around. "What's what?" Wesley asked, shocked at the sharpness in her voice.

"Why are you checking your watch every ten seconds?" Gunn asked, looking up from where he was sharpening some stakes.

"It's very annoying," Cordy added.

"I'm waiting for Ceara Charging Thunder," Wesley replied. "She's late."

"She? A new lady friend, English?" Gunn shot him a smarmy grin.

"Old lady friend actually." Wesley's forehead creased. "That came out wrong. She's neither old nor a lady friend, not like you mean. I've known her mostly by our correspondence but we used to hang out, if you will, at the Watcher's headquarters in London." A subtle smile tugged at his lips as fondness shone in his eyes.

"She's a Watcher?" Cordy asked, wrinkling her nose not in the mood to deal with a Watcher. In her experience they were all uptight snobs, Wesley excepted.

"Actually no. She was a Slayer-in-Waiting once."

"Who was?"

Wesley spun at the new voice. A somewhat panicky look flickered across his thin face. "Angel, I wasn't expecting you to be awake yet."

Angel shrugged, swinging into one of the seats near Gunn. He examined the stakes appreciatively. "Couldn't sleep. Who's a Slayer-in-Waiting?"

"What's a Slayer-in-Waiting?" Gunn asked.

"The Watchers are able to identify possible Slayers. When we do, we get a Watcher with them to prepare and train them just in case. Very often these girls are extremely young. Charging Thunder was found in Australia and brought to England to train. She was a most.difficult woman though much of that had to do with her ancestry. A Lakota-Irish woman, Australian raised, there were three separate cultural resentments against the English," Wesley said sadly.

"So why did you invite Ms. Difficult here?" Cordy asked, crossing her arms. She gave Wes a look that said she had best not be expected to entertain someone who was likely to really annoy her. "Oh, I hear the kettle. Could you go get it, please Gunn? I feel a headache coming on." Cordy gave Wesley a look.

"She's a psychic of some renown. She specializes in talking to ghosts and psychometry. She works with the police quite often," Wesley said as Gunn left to make the tea. It was easier than arguing with Cordy that he wasn't there to make tea and clean

"That doesn't exactly explain why you invited her here," Angel said, his dark eyes leveling on Wesley. There was a hint of edge to his curiosity that made Wesley squirmy.

"Maybe you ought to bring her by my apartment to chat with Dennis," Cordy said, brightly, thinking Dennis might like that.

"That is why she's come here. Think about it, Angel. There was so much violent death here in the Hyperion. Ceara could be here for years and probably not document all the activity," Wesley said animatedly, his thin face glowing the thought of doing research.

"And you didn't tell us this earlier.why?" Angel asked. The edge in his eyes reflected in the sharpness of his voice. His friends could tell he was not thrilled at this prospect.

Wesley hung his head. "You're a private man and you're a vampire. I wasn't sure how you'd handle a one-time potential Slayer here. I thought if she were here while you were asleep it might be better." When he had come up with the idea, it had sounded good. Now it seemed lame.

"You still should have told me." Angel noted the pained look in Wesley's dark eyes. This spoke volumes towards the strain on their relationship was under ever since he had fired his friends and come back as their employee. That term hadn't really redefined the relationship. He still acted like the group's alpha just like he was now, trying to make Wesley submit. His face softened. "But it's all right. I'd be interested in meeting her. She does know I'm here, right? Even Slayers-in-waiting are usually able to spot a vampire."

"She knows your full history, Angel." Wesley's lean body relaxed at this acceptance of his idea. "This lateness of her is most irritating however. Two to one she'll tell us she's on Indian time, her usual excuse for being late. Promptness is not one of her virtues," Wesley lamented.

As if on cue someone knocked on the main doors. Wesley and Cordy looked at each other shocked to hear it. Most people just wandered in.

"That must be her and only an hour late. I suppose for her that's doing good," Wesley groused as he let her in.

A tall slim woman sauntered inside. She stopped almost immediately, her head tilting back giving the impression of a predator sniffing the wind. Wesley's hello died on his tongue. He knew the vacant look in her eyes and knew she was seeing something no one else in the hotel did. One of her hands came up, index finger out like a gun. She moved jerkily forward. "Here, here, here," she muttered walking through the lobby.

"Um, Wesley what is she doing?" Cordy asked, edging closer to the ex- Watcher.

"She's mapping out the massacre the bellboy left behind," he said softly, recognizing the spots she said 'here' in from the old crime scene photos.

She finally came to a stop in front of Angel. She swept her long raven hair out of eyes nearly as black. Her eyes raked over him.

"I didn't expect you to be awake. I'm Ceara Charging Thunder. You must be Angel. How very curious to meet you."

He smiled faintly, realizing she was nearly his height . "You're rather tall. When I met Buffy I thought she'd be built a bit more like you."

"She's the current Slayer, isn't she?" Ceara asked. "And hello, Wes. You look good.thin. You need to eat."

"I do not," Wesley said, smoothing his shirt trying to see what she did. "And I'm glad to see you again, Ceara. It's been too long."

"Yes Buffy is. Wesley said you wanted to look around here for the ghosts. It seems like you've seen a few already but I am curious as to why you want to do this," Angel said.

"It's sort of what I do only now I get paid for it," she replied, staring just over his shoulder. He half-turned looking for whatever she saw but didn't see anything.

"Say again?" Cordy asked, then turned hearing Gunn's footsteps coming back into the room.

He took a quick look at Ceara and gave her a goofy grin. He set the tea tray in front of Cordy nearly spilling everything in his haste. "I know you. Aren't you the hostess of 'Paranormal Investigations'?"

"Yes, I am." Smiling, she stuck out her hand and Gunn shook it heartily.

"I'm Charles Gunn, one of Angel Investigations' best men." He ran a hand over his shaved head, smiling almost bashfully.

"We're so glad he thinks so." Cordy rolled her eyes.

"You're even prettier in person than you are on TV," Gunn said, eyeing alternately her lush bustline and her large eyes that were set off by a luxuriant fringe of lashes. Full pouty lips drew a man's eye away from her slightly aquiline nose. A pale cocoa blush rode cheekbones high enough to give lips frostbite if one dared kiss them. Gunn liked what he saw

"Thank you, Charles. It's nice to meet you." Ceara grinned at him then finally went over to Wesley and gave him a rib-creaking hug. "See, hlete, I can pick you up like a twig."

"I'm not too thin and you promised not to call me that." Wesley pouted.

"Take care of yourself, and I won't," Ceara said, tapping his chin. "Hlete, is a good-for-nothing," she added for the other's benefit. Gunn snorted as Wesley rolled his eyes.

"Wait! Did he say TV? You're on TV?" Cordy's eyes gleamed eagerly. "I'm an actress.okay, I don't have a big resume yet but still. Cordelia Chase, you might have seen a commercial or two."

"I'm not exactly an actress, Cordelia. I host a show on investigating the paranormal. I head up a team of parapsychologists who examine hauntings, go into buildings talk to the ghosts, et cetera. We work the history of the area into the show as well. It's a lot of fun but it's not acting," Ceara said quickly, sensing where the conversation was going

"You aren't looking to put the Hyperion on the show, are you? Is that why Wesley didn't tell me you were coming?" Angel asked, glaring daggers in Wesley's direction.

"You didn't tell him?" Ceara glanced at her friend with slotted eyes. "No, Angel, that's not it. I'm here for play time. But I do know the producers of the show have contacted the leaseholder for the hotel since it has such a reputation. It has nothing to do with my visit here though."

"I really don't want camera crews in here," Angel huffed. He circled back to Wesley's side, his eye glinting angrily.

"Understood and I do have some pull as to which stories I do. If I can steer them away from you, I will." Ceara offered, stepping over to Wesley almost protectively.

Angel looked at her, realizing she wasn't afraid of him and didn't like his aggressive stance toward her friend. "Thanks." He seemed mollified and somewhat pleased to see Wesley had such a friend.

"Do you want me to not do this at all? I'll understand if you don't." The offer was less than enthusiastic.

Angel couldn't think of a reason why she shouldn't be allowed. "No, you can do what you came to do," Angel replied.

"Is there anything you need us to do?" Wesley asked.

"Try not to let me get in your way. I could use a drink of water before I start."

"I'll get it. I think Wes was about to complain about you being late," Cordy said, shooting him a reproachful look, her eyes narrowed.

"Ah, big surprise there. Have yet to meet a Watcher who wasn't entirely anal," Ceara said.

"I'm not anal." Wesley puffed himself up a bit then deflated seeing all the looks of disbelief on his friends' faces.

"Ha!" Cordy laughed.

"I'm not." He stuck out his lower lip. "I just don't think it's much to ask for a little promptness."

"I was prompt. I've been sitting on the sidewalk for nearly an hour debating whether or not I was coming in here," Ceara informed him.

"Why?" Gunn asked.

"Ever see that Michael J. Fox movie, 'The Frighteners?' There was this house they anthropomorphized into this evil devil face thingie. This hotel has the same sort of look to it," Ceara replied.

"Well, I've had cheerier thoughts," Cordy said, heading off for the water.

"And yet you came in." Wesley gave her an admiring look. He never failed to marvel at her spirit. Every now and then he wished they had hit it off better in the manner Gunn had implied earlier.

Ceara spun a circle, arms wide. "How could I pass on the chance?"

"One would make a case that anyone in her right mind would," Angel said, smiling at her enthusiasm.

"Right mind? You think I might be in my right mind?" Ceara's grin broadened and he laughed softly.

"Not if you have English as a friend," Gunn said.

"Excellent point." She patted Wesley's back.

Wesley's eyes narrowed as he pulled off his glasses. "I really must protest."

"Oh, hush," Cordy said, bustling past with a glass of water.

"Thanks." Ceara drained the glass in two smooth swallows.

"What else do you need from us?" Wesley asked.

"You can watch me work if you want. I mostly need paper and pens to record what I learn and some quiet so the ultra low frequency tapes won't get disturbed," Ceara said, taking out her tablet and pens.

"Well, since the phones don't exactly ring off the hook here your tapes should be okay," Cordy said, rolling her eyes, going back to her desk.

"I could work for hours just in this lobby," Ceara replied, her black eyes gleaming with anticipation.

"Would you like a tour first?" Angel asked.

"I'll take you up on that after I work on the lobby if you don't mind."

"Do you plan on coming back here then? I would think it would take days for you to thoroughly talk to all the ghosts," Angel said, not sure he liked that idea. When had he become so mired in routine?

"True. Angel, I'm getting a real hint of resistance here. If you don't want me to do this, I'll go," she offered again.

"Stay. Come back whenever you like. Angel doesn't run the show. English does," Gunn said, leveling his gaze at Angel, daring him to protest again.

"Problem is if Wes gets mad, I know I can knock him on his ass. If Angel gets mad, well it's been a little while since I've staked a vampire and I'd really hate to have to do it." Ceara thought she could almost smell the testosterone.

"It's all right, Ceara. Take your time. Come back if you need to. I'm just.well, I'm not really used to company," Angel said, backing down. Maybe he should just go back to bed before he ended up fighting when he really didn't want to.

"Understandable. I'll keep out of your way. But could I ask about an impression I get about that banister? It's not a ghost or anything but there are times when bad things leave their imprints on things. I'm curious why a group of people hung you, Angel. Surely they didn't know you were a vampire or they'd know better than to try that." Ceara looked at the banister, taking his hand trying to heighten the sense she got from it. Her hand felt nearly as cold as his and that shocked Angel. He moved his other hand in front of her feeling a blob of cold.

She smiled. "That's the entities, that cold you feel."

"There was a Thessulac demon in here. We only cleared it out recently," Angel replied. "It feeds off of negative emotions, creates suspicion and guilt."

"And what's more negative than mob mentality." Ceara wrinkled her nose. "It is gone, right?"


"Good. I don't mind ghosts but I hate dealing with demons." She took her tablet and went to a spot on the floor and sat. She set up her tape equipment and seemed to just wait.

"I think maybe I'll give sleeping another shot if no one minds. That'll get me out of your way, Ceara," Angel said.

"You're not in my way but we all need sleep, right. When you feel up to that tour I'd love it," she replied.

"Of course," Angel said then headed off.

"Think she'd like to go out for dinner?" Gunn whispered and his friends looked at him surprised. They weren't used to him being interested in anything but work.

"She's older than you, Gunn," Wesley said.

"So? She's not that much older. Maybe she likes them young and buff." Gunn strutted a bit for effect. Cordy rolled her eyes, kicking back in her chair, feeling a bit disappointed no one had looked at her like that in a way.

"If the gossip from when we were teens back in London was true she likes them older," Wesley replied

"Don't ruin my fantasy," Gunn said, giving Wes a good-natured shove.

"Was it good gossip?" Cordy asked, utterly bored with her work for the day and even old gossip would be a welcome diversion.

"Is gossip ever good?" Wesley shot back. Cordy gave him a look that said 'well, of course.' He shrugged. "I guess it was. It was said Ceara was having an affair with a Watcher while she was a Slayer-in-Waiting."

"Okay, given what I know about Watchers just let me say, ewww." Cordy gave a full body shudder.

"Hey!" Wesley gave her his best indignant look. Cordy just lifted an eyebrow daring him to contradict her. "At any rate, she was supposed to be having an affair with Rupert Giles."

"Giles!" Cordy's jaw fell open. "I'll repeat. Ewww. Was it true?"

"Who's this Giles person? Anyone we should worry about?" Gunn asked, misreading the look on Cordy's face to mean Giles was a threat.

"He's Buffy's Watcher. I doubt it was true. The Council wouldn't have let it continue if it were," Wesley replied.

"It's true." Ceara's head swiveled so she looked at them over her shoulder. "Almost."

"You have hearing like a cat's," Cordy said, far too self-assured to blush.

"Blame it on Mom. She's a biologist, had me out in the Outback for a good part of my life, tracking mammals. It's gotten so I can hear a mouse fart I swear."

"You had an affair with Giles. That moves beyond 'eww' to the realm of yuck," Cordy said, trying to figure out what anyone would see in that fussy bag of tweed. She conveniently forgot she had been interested in the fussy blue bag of tweed that had been Wesley back when they first met.

"You said it was true. Back when I told you I took Mr. Giles' place as Buffy's Watcher, you never even let on you knew him." Wesley looked stunned. "Having met the man, I really do have trouble seeing him breaking the rules." He pushed his glasses up, walking over to her. "And I knew you back then. How could I have missed it? I even asked you out but."

"You were a naïve prig?" Ceara leaned back, looking up at him. "And I said sort of. He and I weren't involved until I was no longer considered a candidate. They were courting me to be a Watcher at the time. We were together very discreetly for over a year. It just didn't work out though."

"You being a Watcher or you and Giles.uh forget I asked that. If you and Giles had worked out, you'd have been with him in the library in a tweed skirt or something," Cordy said, pulling a long face.

"I don't want to know what you mean by that, do I? But yes, I turned down being a Watcher. It wasn't for me. I still had a lot of issues to work out and as for Rupert he bolted on me when things turned serious. But that was all a long time ago but no as long as this bellboy's badness. I'm going to be talking to him for a long time," Ceara said then turned back to her work.

Gunn clamped a hand on Wesley's slim shoulder. "You know, English, I used to think it was just you who was weird but obviously its anyone in the whole Watcher-Slayer gig."

Wesley canted his eyes at the younger man. "Not funny."

"Then why's Cordy laughing?"

* * *

"Thanks for letting me set up that grill in the courtyard. Wouldn't know what to do without a good barby," Ceara said to Angel, waving away the smoke.

"No problem. It smells good. Sort of reminds me of what I'm missing though," Angel said from the shadows of the hotel. There was still just enough sunlight to trap him close to the wall.

"I hope we're not bothering you with it," Ceara said, flipping a burger.

"I'm used to it."

"Are you taping a show tomorrow?" Wesley asked, rocking back in his chair, watching the last of the sunlight trickling away.

"Yes I do. We'll be shooting at a mansion turned nursing home and soon to be bed and breakfast. There's supposed to be a ghostly nurse and who knows how many ex-patients roaming the halls. But most of the activity is only at night or so the reports say. So tomorrow after nightfall we'll be looking into it. I think the burgers are ready."

Gunn helped her serve them up and they all settled down, looking like a normal bunch of friends at a picnic. No one from the outside world would guess they were demon hunters, a speaker with the dead and a vampire.

"Do you think you could get me in on the set?" Cordy asked. "I want to be an actress. Did I mention that?"

"You did and I'm not an actress, Cordy. None of the hosts are. But we do use them to reenact some of the history of the places we investigate," Ceara said realizing it wasn't going to be the last of it she heard on the subject so she might as well just give in and get involved.

"So you'll get me on the set?" Cordy bounced in her seat.

"Yes. Just stay out of the way and do what the techies tell you, as a favor to me. Bring your resume and head shot with you and yeah, I'll give you an in with the casting director."

"I'd like to come, too, just to see how the show is made. I like it," Gunn said, squirting extra mustard onto a burger.

"No problem. Anyone else want to come?"

"I wouldn't mind seeing you at work," Wesley said.

"I've got enough haunts already in my life, I'll pass," Angel put in.

"Understandable. I'll meet you all here and we'll drive over together."

Cordy whirled out of her seat and raced insidefrantically searching for her purse. "I need to get a new dress."

Standing in the courtyard doorway, Gunn rolled his eyes. "Didn't Angel just get you a whole new wardrobe?"

She gave him a 'men-just-don't-understand' look, finding her purse. She nearly pitched onto the desk before Angel, sensing something wrong, ran inside and grabbed her, hauling her away. Cordy let out a long moan rising in pitch as her body thrashed in the vampire's strong arms.

"It's okay, Cordy. Tell us what you saw," Wesley said comfortingly as Gunn raced off to get some aspirin and water.

"What's wrong with her? Is she an epileptic?" Ceara asked, kneeling with them.

"No. Cordy has visions. The Powers That Be send them to her to aid Angel," Wesley said.

"Oh," Ceara mumbled her brow creasing trying to remember what she could about the Powers from her Slayer training. "Why?"

"There might be a chance I can be redeemed. The Powers are trying to help with that," Angel said. "These visions are their way. You okay, Cordy?"

Cordy rested her head against Angel's broad chest, burying her eyes against the soft cotton of his shirt. "There was this woman.there's something off about her but I couldn't see her clearly. I.I couldn't tell where she was. It was like she's in a fog. She's so angry and much sadness. I think she got killed."

"What does she look like?" Angel prompted, stroking her hair.

Cordy shook her head. "Blonde but that's all I can see. I can't see her face or her clothes.nothing. It's more like emotion than anything. No sounds, no smells.thankfully. Just a blonde woman angry and in trouble. I think she might have been rich." Cordy's lips pulled into a frown. "You have no end of troubles with blondes," she said directly to Angel who rolled his eyes.

"That's not much to go on," he said.

Her eyes went sad. "I'm sorry.I don't have any control over this, you know."

"He knows," Gunn said, coming back with the aspirin. He gave it to her.

"Is there anything I can do?" Ceara asked.

"I can't think of what any of us can do. You would think if the Powers That Be have to plague Cordelia with these visions the least they could do would be to give us enough to go on," Wesley sniffed.

"Yes, you would. If there's nothing I can do, I really do have to run. Cordy, do you think you'll still want to come tonight?" Ceara asked. "We can always do this another night."

"No, I'm okay. I still want to come."

"Okay, I'll pick you all up at six then," Ceara said and left Cordy in her friends' gentle care.

* * *

Cordy spun around, bouncing from one spot to another. Gunn and Wesley didn't even try to stop her. Her enthusiasm for being on site with all the cameras and light was contagious. Cordy stopped, her mouth falling open. She squeaked a name neither man knew but assumed it was a designer name by the way she was looking at the emerald green outfit Ceara wore as she strode in their direction. The green accentuated Ceara's trim figure and highlighted her deep mahogany skin color.

"Stunning! I would kill for an outfit like that or to look this beautiful when I'm old," Cordy bubbled.

Ceara swept her long hair back over her shoulder, trying to school away her irritation. "Cordy, you're a lovely young woman. You don't need to be jealous of me and I'm not that old." That last came out as a growl but it slid off of Cordy. "I wish they'd stop dressing me up like an overgrown doll for these shoots. I'm so worried I'm going to ruin the wardrobe I can't concentrate on the ghosts."

"You don't want to be on TV looking scruffy." Cordy brushed at an imaginary wrinkle in the silk. "I hope my skin looks as good as yours when I'm older. What moisturizer do you use?"

"Wes, tell her being in your thirties isn't old," Ceara demanded, looking over her shoulder at her friend.

"Don't bother, Ceara. She'll have to wait a few years before she understands," Wesley rolled his eyes.

"Where should we go to watch this?" Gunn asked then edged closer to Ceara and added, "You really do look beautiful."

Ceara showed all of her teeth in a generous smile. She was very proud of those teeth, having spent a small fortune having them straightened and bleached after years of well water, teen-aged smoking and no fluoride had left them less than stellar. "Thanks, Charles. Just do what Janet tells you and you'll do fine." She pointed out the lady in question.

"We can do that," Gunn said.

Ceara watched them follow Janet to a safe distance then she headed over to her co-host, her cousin, John Lays Hard. John smiled. She and John shared many traits including their deep brown skin, lean forms, long raven hair and killer cheekbones. Ceara knew many women were jealous of her and John, not realizing they were kin and she usually didn't correct them. She was protective of him.

"Your friends seem like they're having a good time. I'm assuming the skinny white guy is your old Watcher friend," John said, fussing with his hair pipe choker.

"Yes, that's Wesley Wyndham-Price."

John snorted. "Couldn't be anything other than English with a name like that, could he?"

"John, most people would say a man named 'Lays Hard' has no room to laugh," Ceara said, tapping his eagle-like nose.

"Good point. You've known him most of your life, haven't you?"


"But he doesn't know about Aid-"

"Hush, don't even mention his name. No, he doesn't. He might feel obligated to tell the Watchers' Council I have a child and I'm not ready to expose Aidan to them even if he would be a fourth generation Watcher should he choose to go with them," Ceara hissed.

John nodded, his long swag of hair swaying. "Let's give this place a go, cousin."

Ceara looked at the mansion turned old age home. It currently stood empty, waiting for its next rebirth as a bed and breakfast. She hated nursing homes. Most nursing homes soaked misery into their walls. It didn't matter that the forlorn souls were gone, cleared out mostly likely to somewhere less pretty in hopes of reclaiming the gorgeous old building for something other than to be the waiting room for death.

Ceara tried to look less apprehensive. That was the last thing she wanted to translate onto film. Cordy's vision bothered her and Ceara wasn't sure why. There probably hadn't been a beautiful rich blonde woman within these walls in years. Still, Ceara didn't know this house's history. She preferred not to know so not to color her impressions. Of course that still wouldn't explain Cordy's vision. A woman long dead wouldn't be someone Angel could help. For that matter Cordy's vision most likely had nothing at all to do with this house. Cordy didn't know where her vision took place and Ceara couldn't explain why she felt it might be this mansion.

"Are you okay?" John asked.

Ceara jumped. "What? Oh, sorry. I'm just thinking about something Cordy said."

John glanced over at the girl in question with a smile. "She's really pretty, ain't she?"

"Yes, a little more vain than your usual type. She had a vision about a woman being murdered," Ceara said, knowing John wouldn't question that being prone to visions himself.

He fussed with his mike. "And you think it has something to do with this place?"

"I don't know. I can't see how. This house is empty. Cordy's visions aren't natural like yours, John. They are sent specifically to guide Angel to help set things right."

"He's the vampire, right?"

"Yeah, but he's not here tonight."

"Well, if some place screams murder, this place is it," John said, with a hint of a shudder.

Both of them studied the mansion, an unusual blend of Queen Anne and Eastlake stylings. Ornate gingerbreading hung from every eave and window, peeling paint that the cousins knew to be a sickly baby-food yellow clinging to the old wood. A riot of spindlework, turrets and gables, also yellow or peach, made the place look like a Victorian architect gone mad designed it. Lacy wrought iron cropped off the widow's walk and roof top and clamped over the windows as if to lock the misery inside.

"I know."

Ceara grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the place, leeching comfort from the familiar touch and smell of her cousin, a clean scent like pine and sage. Inside the house, Robert Ryder and Susie Starret were already setting up their infrared cameras and ultra low frequency tape decks. Cari Mannor, the director motioned them over.

"We're going to start filming you on the second floor, Ceara. That's where most of the activity has been documented. Your friends can follow along behind the cameras if they want. John, Bill wants you out in the courtyard."

"Okay," he said and headed off.

"Great. Wes, Cordy, Charles, come here. Cari said you can follow the camera crew," Ceara called to her friends.

They eagerly lined up behind the camera crew and trooped up the stairs after Ceara. The Lakota psychic stopped at the head of the stairs. The stench of cleanser and the less than subtle hints of urine wafted down the hall. The impressions of pain and desperation overwhelmed her but they were just remnants of a time gone by, not a true haunting. There were only the merest hints of faded glory inside. The handmade ornate plaster ceiling tiles, the crown moldings and remains of marble fireplace, all washed with medicinal green paint. A lot of money would be needed to peel off the layers of despair.

"You can just feel the sadness here, the despair and the loneliness," she said directly to the camera. "There has been so much death within these walls but so far I don't see anyone. There are many rooms and two other floors I haven't begun to examine."

Ceara headed down the hall slowly. Something brushed her and she stopped, trying to get a visual. Suddenly the entity dived through her so hard and cold she went to her knees. She could sense it winging its way down the hall toward her friends.

"No!" she cried, reaching toward them unable to form the words to warn them, far too shaken by the attack.

"Ceara, what is it?" Cari asked.

"So angry," Ceara moaned.

Wesley cried out as his arm jerked as if he was being pulled backwards. His head snapped back, his glasses sent flying indicating something had hit him hard. Still groggy, Wesley was pulled through a doorway, which slammed after him.

"Did we get all that on tape?" Cari asked excitedly.

"Think so," one of the crew said.

Ceara ran past her crew to join Cordy and Gunn at the door they were pounding on. It steadfastly refused to open.

"What the hell just happened?" Gunn demanded to know.

"The entity grabbed him." Ceara stood back so she could kick the door with force. Gunn helped her and the wood splintered, but didn't completely give.

"Hey, don't wreck the place. We'll have to pay for it," Cari cried, pulling Ceara away.

Gunn tried to get the heavy mahogany door to open but it still didn't want to budge despite the fatiguing wood. Ceara turned, hearing footsteps thundering up the steps. John rounded the top of them.

"Ceara, what's going on?" he asked. "I felt something horrible all the way outside."

"Wes got grabbed by something and it's doing its damndest to keep us away," Ceara said.

"How can a ghost do that? That's not right. They shouldn't just be able to grab you," Cordy babbled, helping Gunn with the door.

"Dennis does your dishes. They can touch things," Gunn snapped.

"This can't.ouch!" Cordy cried as she got a hunk of wood in the palm of her hand.

John gently maneuvered her out of the way. He and Ceara helped Gunn force his way past the door. A short corridor lay behind it. They raced in only to slam into a wall of frigid wind. It shoved them back past the doorway.

"What is going on, Ceara? This is your gig," Gunn said, staring into the darkness beyond the door, not used to things he couldn't see and attack.

"I'm not sure. I'm trying to contact this.thing but it's not listening in the least. Cari, get the cameras out of here," Ceara ordered.

Cari stared as if her star had gone insane. "Ceara, this is an amazing level of psychic energy. This is what we're here for."

"And it's gotten out of control. I can't protect you. I don't even know what took Wes or why. I can't risk anyone else," Ceara argued, thinking more that the crew was in her way. She needed to concentrate on Wesley and not someone else getting grabbed or hurt.

"All right everyone but the scientists will go and one camera," Cari conceded, thinking of her insurance riders.

"Give the camera to John and we'll have a deal." Ceara turned to her cousin and said in Lakota, "Do whatever you have to but the film doesn't get made. I don't want the cameras catching what could very likely be someone's bloody death. Whatever that was, it's very pissed off and it can hurt us.bad."

"I'll take your word for it. You're better at sensing these things," John replied in their native tongue then turned back to Cari and the cameramen. "Can I have the camera? You don't want that thing coming after you."

Something howled from the corridor behind the splintered door. Cari paled, daring a look into the darkness. "Give him the camera," she decided.

Once they were gone, Ceara stepped through the door and was slammed back into Gunn. He steadied her with a strong arm.

"I'll just shoot the walls and get all 'Blair Witch' on the video. They won't be able to make out much," John promised.

Cordy stumbled back as something shoved at her. "Why don't you want any video? This could be proof for the world ghosts exist."

"Most people are happier with the mysteries of the world intact, Cordy. But more importantly I don't want the cameramen hurt. I don't want John distracted by trying to get a good shot and if things go bad I don't want my grisly death on film to be sold in the video shops everywhere for 19.99," Ceara said, linking arms with Gunn so they could forge ahead and steady each other.

"Do you think this thing is hurting English?" Gunn asked, shoving forward. He'd wanted to be closer to Ceara but not like this.

"I have no idea, Charles. I don't even know what it is," Ceara said, coming to a stop in front of an ornate spiral staircase. The thing swayed and howled, appearing alive. A 'caution, do not enter' sign was strung on a chain across the bottom and Ceara suspected no one had been up to the third floor in years.

"Do we have to go up that?" Cordy's pretty face screwed up.

Ceara nodded. She put a foot on the step and pain filled her senses. Raw emotions of betrayal and love spoilt like milk in the sun buffeted her . Ceara moved and as the emotions intensified her legs buckled. Ceara blacked out for a moment. She felt more herself, the emotions gone. Gunn's arms were around her and she was resting on the ground. She figured he had practice in catching Cordy when her visions hit.

Ceara sat up, leaning out of his grasp, rubbing her head. Pain blossomed behind her eyes. She glared up at the staircase. There was something wrong. This corridor was relatively new as if someone wanted to block off the staircase. Why else have a hall and stairs behind a door with nothing else there?

"Are you okay, Ceara?" Cordy asked.

"The entity is mad as hell in more ways than one. It's going to take some getting past this thing. I would like to know more about her."

"Her?" Gunn asked.

"It's definitely female. I can't read her, just this glut of emotion. John, what do we know about this place?"

"Obviously not enough." The Lakota holy man scowled prodigiously, slinging back his long hair. "Even I can feel the emotion and I'm not really a sensitive."

"Maybe we should get Angel," Gunn suggested.

"Good idea. John, give Cordy the camera and go get my laptop of the car. Do they have the phone lines active?"

"I don't know. I'll go ask Cari," John said, handing off the camera. He headed off.

"Turn that camera off, Cordy. There's nothing happening unless we go up those steps and I'm not going up there until I know more," Ceara said.

"English is probably up there and we've got to get him out of there." Gunn got up in her face but Ceara didn't back down.

"He's my friend too, Gunn, and I may be one of the few people who can get him away from an entity like that. But if I run in there unprepared I may never get back out."

He frowned as Cordy patted his arm cautiously. "Good point, but I don't like this."

"Neither do I," she replied grimly.

* * *

Angel wasn't sure what he was expecting when he got to the old nursing home but the feel of the place made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. There was a lingering stench of urine, sickness, old age and despair. He followed the echoes of pain to the second story. No one seemed to hear his approach. Several people were outside the broken door setting up equipment he couldn't guess at. Past the door Gunn paced around the corridor nearly bumping into a man Angel didn't know who couldn't seem to hold a camera steady as he pointed it up the spiral staircase. Cordy hung close to the man. Angel had become acquainted with Cordy's blitzkrieg style of flirtingback in Sunnydale. He almost felt sorry for the man and was amazed how Cordy could worry and flirt at the same time. Ceara sat cross- legged on the floor, rocked back staring up at the stairs. Her eyes had a scary vacant cast.

"Any news?" Angel asked softly.

All eyes turned on him. Ceara unfolded with amazing smoothness and strode over to him.

"It's not good. It doesn't want us up there. The phone lines here aren't working and I can't do any of the needed research from here," she said, irritation showing in her dark eyes.

"You've tried getting to Wesley?" Angel asked.

"Of course but it was all we could do to get this far," Gunn said defensively.

"It's really pouring it on. I haven't come up against this much power in ages," Ceara said. "I want to know what this might be stemming from. There's a cyber café a few blocks away. I want to go there and see if I can uncover some clue to this. With this much power and anger I'm betting it was news worthy."

"Do we have time for that? Wes is at risk," Angel said, catching her arm.

Ceara gestured at the staircase. "Go right ahead. This isn't something you can just pound on, Angel."

Angel snorted then headed up the steps His duster billowed and the vampire wavered for a moment before he was launched over the railing.

"You know, now I'm very glad I took your advice and didn't charge up those stairs," Gunn said as Angel picked himself up.

"Tried to tell you. Do you want to stay and try to get up there, Angel? At least I know you won't get killed," Ceara said.

Before Angel could answer, Cordy cried out. Gunn and Angel's hands nearly interlaced to catch her as she fell back. They lowered her to the ground. Cordy moaned, hands flailing in front of her. Her breath hissed out as her body seemed to liquefy, relaxing by measures.

"What did you see?" Angel asked anxiously.

Cordy clawed herself up their arms into a sitting position. She panted a few moments before answering. "Mostly the same thing.a beautiful blonde woman so sad, so angry. I saw this staircase."

"This one? You're sure?" Ceara asked, excitedly. She felt relief that her feelings that the vision and her feelings about the mansion were interconnected.

Cordy nodded, pressing a hand to her head. Tears squeezed past her eyelids. "Very sure."

"That doesn't make a lot of sense," Gunn said, "though they rarely do."

"I'm trying my best," Cordy said wearily. "There's something odd about the woman. I could see her more clearly this time. She looks like.I don't know, like out of one of those old movies. Her hair and dress is so 1920's. I think my head is going to slide off my body."

John knelt down, setting the camera on the floor. "Here, this might help." John took off Cordy's shoes and massaged her feet.

"Should I even ask?" Gunn crossed his arms, hovering protectively close to Cordy.

"Reflexology. Before this gig with 'Paranormal Investigations,' I worked in alternative medicine. There are spots on the foot that help ease headaches," John explained.

"Feels good," Cordy purred. "I think I'll keep you."

John laughed.

"Before you chain my cousin to the bedpost, Cordy, I need you to come with me. I think I have an idea what might be going on," Ceara said.

"Would you like to share?" Angel asked.

"I'd prefer to get to that cyber café and check out my theory. Think about it. Cordy is seeing a woman she feels belongs in the 20's. At that time this house as probably owned by one of the Hollywood Glitterati. That would have been this place's heyday. I feel the presence of an angry woman. I think what Cordy is seeing happened back then," Ceara said, talking with her hands in her enthusiasm.

"We're supposed to get visions for people we can actually help. How do we help some dead chick from the '20's?" Gunn snarled.

"We aren't helping her. We're helping Wesley. Ghosts can interact with us. They can hurt us. We need to know what happened here. We need to understand this ghost and she's not talking to me so it's time to do a background check. Angel are you coming or are you staying?" Ceara slung her hair back.

"Why don't you go with them, Angel? You can't punch it out with a ghost or drain it dry. I can stay. I'm not as good with ghosts as my cousin but I can track one if she tries to come past me," John offered. "And I know the scientists out there and know if and when they can help. Beside having someone who was alive in the 20's might help give a useful perspective on Ceara's research."

Angel considered this. "Good point. I'll go with you, Ceara."

"Good. Keep your cell handy, John. Give us a call if something happens," Ceara said.

"Of course."

* * *

Wesley first became aware of the throbbing pain in his head, like his brains had been scooped out, put through a blender then sloshed back in. If Cordy's head hurt half as bad he felt horrible for her. He tried to move, failed, moaning loudly. His body felt like he'd fallen under the wheels of Angel's GTX.

He managed to get his eyes open but the room was dark. He peered near- sightedly around. The room appeared to be an unfinished attic that spanned the main wing of the mansion. Wes instinctively reached for glasses that weren't there. He patted himself down frantically for them with no luck.

A woman stood at the far reaches of the room beyond where he could comfortably see. Between his poor vision and the darkness he couldn't make out any details. Wes struggled to remember exactly what had happened to him. All he remembered was being hit by an invisible force and being dragged. He was obviously not on the second floor any more and what had grabbed him? Was the woman a prisoner or his captor? He wished he could see her more clearly. Maybe it was time to invest in contacts.

"Miss?" he called out softly, instantly regretting it. Whatever she was, she wasn't human.Nothing human could have transversed the room that fast. Wes shuddered. She seemed to suck all the heat from him. Feelings of pain and anger flooded him. Wes had encountered ghosts before but nothing like this. He had never known what one was feeling previously. This must be what Ceara sensed daily. He didn't know how she lived with it.

Wesley stared at her face. Eyes the color of the ocean in a storm, wheat gold hair worn in a short bob and little pouty lips added up to classical beauty. Or it would have if he couldn't see straight through the woman.


Wesley didn't so much as hear the words as feel them.


This time the word was far more demanding, insisting on some sort of response. "I'm not Michael."

There was nothing insubstantial about the feel of her hand on his face. Wesley could taste blood in his mouth.

"Why are you leaving me, Michael? How can you do this?"

"I'm not Michael. My name is Wesley." He tried to get his feet under him. This time she didn't hit him. He swayed on his feet, the room spinning. His gut cramped. Having had a concussion before, he knew he had to have one now.

"I did everything I could to keep you. The things we did.I can't be with anyone else. I have to keep you and I know how."

"I'm not Michael. Maybe I can help you find him," Wesley said, trying to remember how Ceara reasoned with ghosts.

She flowed like smoke at him. Her hand snapped out and while there was nothing in that thin translucent appendage Wes clearly felt the blow like a leather strap. Something else he knew too well thanks to his father. Another blow hit him across his shoulder, knocking him off his unsteady legs. His forehead rapped off the floorboards, robbing him of his sight for a few moments. Something grabbed his ankles and dragged him. Cold flowed up him from the entity's touch.

"I know how to keep you this time. You won't leave me again."

Wesley tried kicking but there was nothing to kick at. Unfamiliar forms cropped up in the darkness as she pulled him through the attic. As they got closer, despite his wiggling and grabbing at things, Wesley made out something that looked like a moldering mattress with thick manacles set into the headboard and footboard.

The coldness encircling his ankles released him and Wesley scrabbled away. She caught him by the hair and hauled him up. A blow to the gut doubled him up and she knocked him back onto the bed. The stench of mildew billowed up with bits of stuffing left over from the mice chewing at it. Wesley coughed and tried to fend off the blow he saw heading his way. He howled, feeling the bones of his forearm break. She forced him down. With the screech of metal long unused, the cuffs snapped over his wrists. She managed to capture his kicking feet and locked them down. Panting, Wesley stared at her. She looked slightly more solid, a pleased expression on her face.

"You know how this goes, Michael. We've played these games before. You enjoy them so. Now it's your turn to play the slave. You'll love this game. You'll never want to leave me," the ghost said, reaching out to grab Wesley's shirt. She tore it off him in pieces.

"What.what are you doing?"

"You know this game. It was always one of your favorites," she said petulantly, doing to his pants what she had done to his shirt.

Wesley trembled as she straddled his now-naked body. The chill from her felt like frostbite kissing wet skin. He had read about entity rape before but never dreamed he'd be in a position to find out if it was really real. He'd give anything not to have this unique and unwanted chance.

"Now, this will only hurt a little," she promised and Wesley shrieked as phantom teeth sank into his chest.

* * *

"You know this computer stuff pretty good. You remind me of Willow," Cordy said, then off Ceara's look added, "A computer geek I knew in high school."

"I'm not that good with computers. I'm just a good researcher. Here, this looks promising." Ceara gulped at her double-double cappuccino. The café was brighter than anticipated and more crowded but at least there was an open jack and the coffee was good.

"Are you sure that much caffeine is good for you?" Angel asked, staring over her shoulder at the screen.

"I need it." She waved at the screen. "Here we go. Here's our mansion."

"That's her!" Cordy cried, jabbing a finger at the screen. She grimaced seeing all heads swiveling toward her. Why did the café have to bee this crowded? "Sorry, that's the woman in my vision," she added quietly.

Ceara read quickly. "Oh damn."

"What?" Gunn asked, not quite able to see the screen.

"I think Wes is in a lot of trouble. The house belonged to heiress Jennifer Winston. She's the woman in Cordy's dream. She was engaged to Michael Parker. They had a long engagement, many, many parties, very popular. I've heard of this case. Crime stories have always been an interest of mine, especially since the police consult with me to help locate bodies and whatever else they think a psychic might be able to do." Ceara wrinkled her nose. "Anyhow, Jennifer and Michael were the life of the party. Their Bohemian lifestyle came to an end in 1922 when Jennifer was found dead on the third floor of that mansion, hanging. The official story was Jennifer was despondent over Michael breaking the engagement off. At that time they could never have printed the real story. It's not here on the screen but like I said, I've read about this case. Damn. If only I had known this was that house." Ceara pounded the table, nearly knocking over her vast lake of coffee. She rescued the mug and drank deep.

"How terrible was it?" Angel asked.

"Bad, very bad. Turned out Jennifer and Michael were heavily into cocaine and wild sex, the kinkier the better. Michael appears to have been the dominant one. He had Jennifer completely under his spell. He was extremely abusive and he did tell her it was over. Her friends reported that Jennifer was both very depressed and angry at what she had given up to be with Michael. What is known of her last night goes like this, she met him at their favorite restaurant. They had dinner and went back to her place. Michael said they fought and he left. The police had doubts that she hung herself. There was evidence of sexual activity. Did she commit suicide? Was it an accidental death by erotic asphyxiation or was it murder? No one knows and no one was ever tried for any crime," Ceara said.

"And you think the dead chick in Cordy's vision is this Jennifer woman? Why would she grab English?" Gunn asked.

"Not sure.wait, look," Ceara said as she scrolled down the page.

"Who is that?" Cordy asked, leaning close to the screen.

"Michael Parker," Ceara replied.

"He has more than a passing resemblance to Wesley," Angel said, peering at the picture.

"And there's our key," Ceara said.

"How?" Gunn asked.

"Think about it. She's looking to punish Michael for either killing her or putting her through so much hell. She thinks she has him. Not all ghosts are rational. Many are locked into time warps. For all she knows it's still 1922 and Michael has come back after being gone mere minutes," Ceara said.

"But what will she do to Wes?" Angel asked.

"Nothing good I'm sure. We need to get him out of there." Ceara got up, polishing off her coffee.

"I've been saying that," Gunn groused.

"Yes, but now I know enough to have a prayer of handling this ghost," Ceara argued.

"Then we'd better get back before we have nothing to rescue," Angel said.


* * *

Wesley tried to force the cuffs holding him now that the ghost was finally off of him. He knew he couldn't break the cuffs, even as rusty as they were but he hoped to split the old wood they were anchored into. As battered as he was he didn't know if he could run but he'd sure as hell try. Bruises, welts and bite marks covered the parts of his flesh he could see bound spread-eagle as he was. Wesley knew he was one huge contusion. His broken arm throbbed with each beat of his heart and had puffed up twice the normal size. He couldn't feel that hand.

He struggled some more but he just didn't have any leverage. The smell of blood reached his nose. Wes could see it running down his arms from his abraded wrists. Beyond him he could see metal rings set into the wall and could only imagine what kind of bondage device had once been there. He had known someone heavily into the lifestyle back in England, a snotty fifth generation young Watcher who had been a thorn in his side. He and Virginia had experimented with a little bondage but nothing like what this Michael and the phantom must have been into. She had a real taste for pain. His struggles must have alerted the ghost. She glided back over and slapped him lightly across the face.

"Don't be naughty, Michael. What is it you tell me, you have to give yourself completely in order to know love." Her ghostly hand trailed over him. "I think you may be ready to go again."

Wesley wanted to argue that, still mortified his own body could betray him so badly. She got back on the bed but her face changed. Wesley sensed her confusion and irritation.

"Someone's here. They can't come up. This is our special place.our nest. I'll be back as soon as I get rid of them."

She misted away. Wesley was thankful she was gone. It dimly occurred that if she didn't come back no one knew where he was. Wesley redoubled his attempts to get away. He did not want to die naked on a fetid bed in some old building only to be found weeks from now when the renovators came. He knew that was unlikely. He knew his friends were looking for him but still the fear bubbled in his mind. And he didn't really want to be found in this position, dead or alive. Pain flared in all his limbs but still he fought.

* * *

Ceara stopped at her co-workers' sides when she led the group back to the second floor. She glanced down at the equipment. "Going good?" she asked.

"Utterly amazing readings. You have to get up to the third floor, Ceara," one of them said enthusiastically then looked sheepish. "Sorry. I mean, I hope you get your friend out of there."

"Thanks. Cordy, if you and Gunn want to wait here, that might be better," Ceara said bracing for their emotional explosion.

"I'm not standing by when my friend's in danger," Gunn growled. Ceara imagined she could see his hackles rising.

"And don't tell us it's too dangerous. We know that. We deal with that every day," Cordy said, stuffing her fists against her hips.

"Fine. I just hope if Jennifer tries to jump into anyone, it's me. I know how to handle it." Ceara stomped testily down the corridor towards her cousin. Secretly she was pleased Wesley had such staunch friends.

"Wait, jump into?" Cordy asked. "They can do that?"

"Yes and it ain't pretty." Ceara leaned on her cousin's shoulder and whispered to him. He nodded. "Okay, up we go. Angel, you first. She probably can't get into you."

"She could. It's happened before." Angel frowned at the memory of the dead teacher invading Angelus' body forcing him and Buffy to play out a love gone almost as wrong as theirs had, even more wrong in some ways. "I'd hate to have someone else controlling my body again," Angel started up the stairs.

"Given your strength, we'd all hate that," Ceara replied, hanging close to him with Gunn and Cordy right behind her. John brought up the rear.

The staircase swayed as a frigid wind sailed down it. John stumbled and the camera went over the edge shattering below. Angel glanced back at Ceara wondering if it was done on purpose. Angel's attention was captured by something coalescing in front of him. He recognized the woman from the downloaded article hanging in front of him, the stairs visible through her.

"Michael and I aren't entertaining tonight. You'll have to find another party."

Those words reverberated in everyone's head. Ceara was surprised at the how clear and concise the entity's communication was. Before she could tell him not to move, Angel pushed forward. A screech made them all wince. Angel paused as the entity reached into him. The feeling, while not painful, was highly uncomfortable. Angel could feel her fumbling for his heart. She screamed again when she found nothing beating.

"Jennifer, it's all right," Ceara said calmly. "We're not here for a party. We're here to help you and Michael." Ceara eased past Angel and caught the apparition's attention.

Jennifer withdrew from Angel, her attention now on Ceara. "Michael wants to leave me. I have to keep him. I have him where he'll never leave me."

"We want you two to be together," Ceara said.

"Hey, what are you doing? We don't want her keeping Wesley." Gunn grabbed Ceara's arm, spinning her to face him. She nearly fell on the steep steps.

She shook free, glaring at him. Angel stepped between them, holding up a cautionary hand.

"Let her lead, she knows what she's doing," the vampire said.

"We're here to help, Jennifer," Ceara said again.

The specter flickered like a guttering candle. "How?"

"We'll all sit down and talk it through. It's not too late for that. Michael can understand what he's doing is wrong," Ceara replied, feeling her heart fluttering wildly from fear. She didn't want Jennifer reaching into her but she would rather that than have the ghost attack the others. "But we have to go upstairs."

The entity flickered more wildly as she considered this. "I don't know you."

"But we know, Michael. I promise you this will work," Ceara said, taking another step up the spiraling stairs.

Jennifer flowed in front of her, impeding the way. "How do you know Michael?"

"The Wildcrafters theatre," Cordy piped up. "He was our stage manager."

Her friends looked at her in shock but the ghost appeared more relaxed.

"He loves that theatre." Jennifer misted up the stairs.

Ceara charged after her. The door at the top gave no resistance. She nearly stumbled, having expected Jennifer to still be balking. Her eyes had to adjust to the lack of light. Angel moved past her into the attic.

"Everyone just stay where you are while we talk," Ceara said then pressed close to Angel to whisper in his ear. "Wesley's in the far corner. Get him out of here while I distract her."

Angel nodded, his nose twitching. He caught the hint of fear as her sweat overpowered her subtle scent of rose and lavender. He glanced at Gunn and Cordy, regretting they hadn't ever thought to develop a silent language of hand signals to help coordinate attacks. This was a fight against the intangible and he didn't know how to protect them especially if they ended up possessed. He didn't even have a way to tell them to back off and let Ceara work without the ghost hearing him. He hoped they wouldn't follow him into the corner. The ghost was sure to notice a group racing to the rescue.

"Why do you want Michael back?" Ceara asked purposely walking away from where Wesley was.

"I love him," Jennifer said, flowing in Ceara's direction.

"And that should be more than enough to keep him," Ceara said.

"Not nearly," Jennifer replied, looking back toward where Wesley was.

"That's not Michael over there, Jennifer," Ceara said, seeing Angel reach Wesley's side. "He's behind me. See the pretty light, Jennifer? Michael's through there. He's waiting for you."

Jennifer wavered for a moment then the loud crisp sound of cracking wood bounced around the attic. The ghost howled and beelined for Angel. The vampire stiffened as she passed through him then he collapsed on the bed, eliciting a moan from Wesley. Jennifer went invisible, grabbing Angel by his thick hair and dragged him off of the bed.

"Gunn, Cordy try to get Wesley out of here," Ceara cried, racing for Angel with John on her heels.

Angel rolled away from the phantom, leaving a hank of hair in imperceptible hands. The vampire got up, his head snapping back as if hit. He felt human hands on him as Ceara shoved him away. He watched her grab air and he felt the cold retreat from him as she pushed against nothing. He ran back to the bed to help shatter the head and foot boards since there was no telling where the keys for the shackles might be.

Ceara's cry dragged his attention back to her. Angel watched her fly a few feet and hit ground. Realizing Gunn and Cordy were doing their best with Wes he left off trying to break up the headboard and ran to Ceara. John was already at her side helping her to sit up but something kicked him away. Like the thumping of a sinus headache, the words 'no no no he's mine' thundered through everyone's head. Ceara cried out as her head rocked back. Blood fountained from her lips and nose. She hit the floor again.

She lurched back up and linked hands with John. "Anchor me. I'm going to pull the bitch straight on through. Come on, Jennifer. I'm taking Michael away from you. Stop me," she taunted.

A howl echoed through the dark attic. John grabbed his cousin's hand. Both of them staggered back, nearly falling. Angel caught them steadying them. The air around them was frigid. The smells of ozone clogged Angel's senses and something white and thick oozed down his arms. Ceara was near covered in it, convulsing in her cousin's arms.

"She has the entity. She has to throw her into the portal. I can't move. Angel, drag us about five feet to your left," John ordered.

"Portal?" Angel asked doing as he was ordered.

"Think of it as the tunnel. You know, 'don't go into the light'?" John asked.

"I can't see this light. Am I near it?" Angel asked.

"Stop now," Ceara croaked, sputtering on the goo that covered her. She flung something away from her then was jerked right out of John's hands. She almost disappeared.

"Ceara!" John's hand flailed wildly.

Angel shoved him aside and reached into nothingness. He felt something hard yet giving like flesh. He yanked backwards and hauled Ceara back into reality. She sagged in his arms, her eyes closed. He eased her to the ground, thinking she wasn't breathing. He wiped away the thick, white stuff off her face and she coughed. She rolled onto her back, moaning.

"That was one pissed off bitch," she muttered, holding up a hand, watching slime run down it.

"Is she gone?" Cordy asked. "Angel we could use some help here. I'm not strong enough to break this wood."

Ceara motioned him to go as John helped her to sit up. "She's gone. How's Wesley?" she asked.

"Naked," Cordy said making a face.

"Cold to the touch and covered in snot." Gunn looked equally disgusted.

"In pain," Wesley mumbled.

Ceara managed to pick herself up and walk over to him. "That's not snot. It's ectoplasm."

They considered that. Gunn's lips twitched up and he asked, "He's been slimed?" Angel just stared at him, missing the modern movie reference.

"Among other things. I think we ought to get him to a hospital," Ceara said.

"Capital suggestion," Wesley moaned.

After a moment's hesitation, Angel helped Wesley into his duster. Pulling the coat closed over his thin, nude form, Wesley tried to walk but could barely stand. Angel scooped him up and started down the stairs.

"Are you okay, Ceara?" Cordy asked.

"I'm covered in slime, I'm freezing cold and I nearly took a one-way trip to the realms beyond but other than that I'll survive," Ceara said, wiping more blood and slime off her battered face. "And I think there's a distinct possibility that bitch broke my nose."

"Hospital?" Gunn asked.


* * *

"Just take the damn Vicodin, Wes. It'll help with the pain," Ceara said, sitting on the edge of his bed. It was nearly dawn by the time the hospital released him and his friends took him home.

"It's just a broken arm. I don't need drugs," Wes said pulling the covers up around him one-handedly. He gave them all a sulky look.

"Do I have to crush it and hide it in your applesauce like I do with my dog? Take it. Make me happy." Ceara ordered.

Wesley looked into her eyes, lost in the huge bruises around them from her broken nose. "You have a fracture. You take it."

She shrugged and set the pill and glass of water on the bed stand. "Fine. Suffer."

He frowned. "Thank you for saving me, Ceara."

"That's what friends do. Cari is still ticked the camera got broke but hey the video up to that point is intact and pointless. And Angel, thank you for pulling me back. I'm not in a hurry to see the other side either." Ceara looked over her shoulder at the vampire.

He smirked. "I have a feeling you're far too interesting to lose just yet."

"Thanks.I think. And Cordy, thank you for coming up Wildcrafter's theatre and getting us up to the third floor in the first place. How did you know that?" Ceara asked.

"I read it in that article while you were talking. I saw that Michael was a stage manager and well, you know theatre people." She gave a sheepish shrug.

"Well, I'm very glad you saw that little detail. We ought to go, Wes. It's nearly dawn. We should get Angel home before he turns into a pumpkin. Do you want one of us to stay?" Ceara asked, brushing gently at his hair with her fingers.

He shrank back into the bedding. "No, I'll be fine."

"Are you sure, English? I could sack out on the couch," Gunn offered.

"I'm sure."

"Well, I'm coming over to make you breakfast.make that lunch," Cordy said.

"That isn't necessary." The look on his face spoke volumes as to the horror behind the idea of Cordy cooking.

"Nonsense," she said, sailing out with Gunn in tow.

"I'm pretty useless in the day but if you need anything tomorrow night." Angel said.

"Thank you, Angel. It really isn't necessary," Wesley said, pulling his recovered glasses off, setting them next to the water glass n the bed stand.

Angel nodded and left.

Ceara tucked the covers around Wesley. "If you want to talk about it.about what she did to you, just let me know. Your friends don't need to know all the details."

Wesley blanched, shuddering. "I'm not ready to talk about it."

"When you are, I'm ready to listen. I know how these things go," Ceara said. "It's not the first time I've encountered entity.sexual activity."

Wesley shut his eyes, then cracked them open slowly, looking over at Ceara. There was no judgment or blame in her eyes. "Thank you."

"Well, I have to go. Angel's my ride home. If you need me, and don't say you won't, I'll be either at the hotel or back at the mansion. Just call my cellular."

"Back at the mansion?"

"That wasn't the only ghost in there. Most of what was documented was on the second floor and out in the gardens. I have to go back. It's what I do."

"You nearly died helping me."

"Wesley, you know how this is with me. The ghosts find me whether I want them to or not. It's been that way since I was a child.since before I have true memories of it. If I don't hone my skills, they will kill me or worse. I'm not afraid. I'll go back." Ceara gave him a faint smile.

"I don't know how you can do it but I'm glad you were there tonight."

"You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow."

Wesley watched her go. He downed the pill and tried to settle in but all he could think of.all he could feel was the touch of the grave.