Return to Van Rosenberg Chapter Thirty

Van Rosenberg

Author: Alcy
Rating: R for supernatural violence and (eventually) hot, gay lovin'
Disclaimers: I don't own any of the Buffy, Tomb Raider or Dracula characters. This fic is of course AU so no spoilers for any season.

Many thanks to Foo for the splendid banner.

It had been over four decades since Tara had last laid eyes on the man responsible for the humiliating and heartbreaking period at the end of her mortal life. Although the experience had been relatively brief it was now another scar that Tara had to carry with her, deeply etched into the fabric of her life. As a demon, her marriage held little consequence for her and was forgotten in the face of the larger and more interesting work around the skull...and Willow Van Helsing. Edward Walsh had lain dormant at the back of her mind, resurfacing only when her soul was restored and she was capable of recognising those memories as being exceptionally painful. Throughout the years spent in her physically and emotionally dark prison, she had used the memories of what Edward had done to her as a form of punishment. She forced herself to relieve each moment, from the gut-wrenching expression on Willow's face when she chose to marry Edward to the merciless manner in which he had forced himself on her every night of their short marriage. It had been effective torture indeed.

Tara was not expecting to find any sort of closure in a confrontation with Edward. Even as she stood on the footpath, staring up at his impressively ornate mansion, she could not decide exactly why she was there. Revenge of course played foremost in her mind. She was a creature of the night, un-dead and possessed with an inhuman strength, more than enough strength to punish Edward for what he had done to her. However, as she stood in front of his home she could not see herself murdering an old man...despite the severity of his past crimes.

Whatever sort of man Edward Walsh had been upon his return from Europe with news of his dead bride, it appeared not to have affected the rest of his life. Tara remembered Giles telling her that Edward was a long-serving and successful, if not universally well-liked, politician. She had never cared for such petty affairs of mortals but from the appearance of his home she had to guess that he had done extremely well for himself. This could not help but stir the bitter pangs of regret in her heart. Obviously Edward had done what he needed to be happy in life...whereas she had chosen to suffer for her family.

There were few lights glowing from the windows of the Walsh residence but Tara remembered Edward as a man who preferred to stay awake throughout the night and sleep through much of the day. She stood gazing up at a second floor window light by the dim glow of several candles and instinctively knew that was where she would find him. Tara concentrated; slowly her body lost any semblance of solidity as she morphed into her incorporeal form. The ability to shape shift was an ability possessed only by the most powerful vampires. For Tara it had been a strange development following her release from her cell, as it seemed to contradict the augmentation of her humanity.

Still, the ability was proving useful, no more so than as she slipped through a slight gap beneath a window and into the room beyond. Her instincts had been correct; sitting at a desk on the far side of the room was none other than Edward Walsh himself. While he was of a similar age to Abraham Van Helsing, the years had obviously been far kinder to Edward Walsh. Despite his advancing age his face possessed none of the haggard lines and sagging skin that had so marked Abraham. The lines etched into his brow were faint and his jowls were plump from a life of good living.

Tara reformed un-noticed in one shadowed corner of the room, content to observe him for a few moments before announcing her presence. He was working steadily on the papers in front of him with a diligence and concentration she had only seen him apply to drinking, eating and bed sports.

"Hello Edward."

His reaction was immediate, his head jerked upwards towards the sound of her voice and as he did so his entire body jerked. The quill he held fell from his fingers and he then sat completely frozen in his chair as he peered into the shadows in which she stood.

"Who is there?" he demanded, his whining tone had changed little over the years.

Tara had to fight to keep her breathing even as she heard him speak, remembering the sound all too well. She knew that he would remember her voice and watched the play of emotions across his face as he struggled to understand how that could be.

"You know exactly who it is, Edward," Tara replied evenly.

When no further words were forthcoming from his mouth, Tara stepped from the shadows and into the glow of the candle. The light was swallowed by her dark clothing but illuminated her pale skin and hair with a frightening intensity. In front of her Edward froze, the only part of him that moved was his furiously blinking eyes as though he hoped she would disappear.

His whispered response was predictable, "You are dead."

"I am." It was nothing short of the truth.

Edward slowly pushed his chair back from his desk and stood on a pair of legs that were shaking due to fear as opposed to frailty. He kept both his hands on the desk in front of him to steady himself. Since discovering that no amount of blinking would make her presence leave, his eyes remained large, almost feverish as he stared at her.

"In the years following your death I expected to be visited by your ghost seeking vengeance," Edward began, his voice growing steadier with each word, "Eventually I believed that you were just as weak in death as you had been in life and I had nothing to fear...I see now that I was wrong. Although if you are here to haunt me you will have a short time in which to do so, I am not as young as I was."

"Vengeance," Tara repeated the word in a stony voice, enjoying the way the word rolled off her tongue but still unsure as to what it meant for her, "I would think that I would be entitled to vengeance after the hell you put me through."

"I did not kill you," Edward pointed out.

It was at that point that Tara felt the hate surging through her body and she fervently wished she had brought a weapon of some sort to slit the foul coward open before he opened his mouth to debate his role in her death.

"You drove me out into the night!" Tara growled in response. She saw her tone have an immediate effect on Edward as he blanched a whiter shade of pale. "I preferred being alone, outdoors in the middle of the night in a foreign country over being inside, barred in the same room with you!"

"Female foolishness!" Edward managed to snarl. "It was that foolishness which led to your death!"

"I was dead long before that night in Austria," Tara continued. "Destroyed by your cruelty. When I was attacked I was terrified beyond belief...but a part of me longed for my suffering to be at an end!" Little did I know, it was only the beginning...

She moved several steps across the polished floor, purposely creating footsteps that were loud enough for him to hear clearly in order to dispel the notion he had that she was merely a ghost in his presence. His eyes bulged in his head and he struggled to draw in enough air as he began to panic.

"You were an abomination!" Edward shrieked. His voice was reedy and thin through his constant wheezing, "You and that Van Helsing girl!"

"I suppose you think it was treatment I deserved?" Tara asked quietly, remaining calm, refusing to raise her voice. "Tell me Edward, did you find yourself another wife?"

"Yes," he replied stiffly, "My wife has since passed away...but I have three children and five grandchildren."

"A fine legacy," Tara commented bitterly.

"Please leave," he demanded, his voice carrying very little authority in his fear, "I know you cannot harm me, you are a pathetic shade, the dead hold no power over the living!"

"The dead hold sway over all!" Tara whispered fiercely before suddenly surging forward as though her feet were not touching the floor, effortlessly she leapt over the desk and reached out for Edward Walsh's throat. His eyes bulged once more as her icy fingers closed around his flesh and the chair was knocked aside as she thrust him roughly against the wall at his back

Edward tried to lash out, to wrestle her weight from his but he found himself up against a physical strength he did not anticipate. "What are you?"

Tara cocked her head to one side, studying him for a moment, enjoying the feeling of fear radiating from him. "You feel my fingers around your throat, Edward? That should tell you that I am not a harmless shade."

"You are dead!" he stubbornly repeated his first statement.

"No, my dear Edward," Tara squeezed the leathery flesh at his throat and felt her nails pierce the skin, "I am undead...a state rather different from being dead and one for which you should feel a very palpable fear."

She peeled her lips back from her teeth in a wide snarl, offering Edward the opportunity to get closer to a pair of fangs than he ever wanted to be. He shrank backwards, trying to move away from the unnaturally pointed teeth as though expecting her to sink them into his throat.

"You need not fear my drinking your blood; I would rather drink from a live pig than suck on the foul stuff that runs through your veins!"

"You are a monster!"

"No more so than you...and I will spend the rest of my days atoning for crimes I committed as a soulless demon. Have you atoned for your crimes Edward?"

"I have committed none!" he protested.

"You forced yourself on me repeatedly and brutally. Every night I struggled to avoid your fists striking my flesh for the merest transgression, if it is not a crime to treat your wife in such a manner then what is it?" Tara demanded, her voice retaining its quiet tone but taking on a hard edge. Anger boiled in her veins and the demon in her longed to snap Edward's fleshy neck.

Edward's voice was firm despite his fear, as though he were speaking a well-learned mantra. "A woman's duty!"

The carefully constructed wall of control restraining Tara from within crumbled instantly. She released her hold on his neck only to seize him by the lapels of his waistcoat. In one swift movement she picked him up and threw his entire body over the desk. Edward hit the ground like a sack of old bones, crumpling to the ground instantly. Tara followed him, stooping to seize him by his wig before he could attempt to stand under his own power.

As she dragged him upwards, Edward Walsh looked nothing more than a terrified old man staring in the face of his own death...a death at the hands of a monster. In that moment Tara realised that killing Edward Walsh would undo all the effort it had taken her to restore a fragile semblance of her humanity. Although killing him would initially provide some sense of satisfaction and perhaps even closure, Tara knew that in the long-term such an act would do more harm than good. There may still have been a monster inside her, but she could prove her humanity by showing an amount of compassion to a man as despicable as Edward Walsh.

She thrust him away from her, glad to no longer be in contact with his slimy skin. He immediately cringed back against the wall behind him as though he expected a killing blow to come at any moment. Even though none came, he remained terrified, unable to tear his gaze away from Tara's burning gaze.

However frightful her appearance, on the inside Tara felt fragile and emotional. She could only maintain her withering stare in Edward Walsh's direction for a brief moment longer before she felt tears of frustration and pain burn at the corners of her eyes. Clearly she could not remain emotionless and detached in front of the man who had briefly been her husband, not when his image so easily dragged up memories of what he had done to her.

Trying to make the act appear as effortless as possible, she once again shifted in her non-corporeal form with Edward watching, terrified at such a transformation. He was still frozen against the wall when Tara drifted back out the window. She felt Walsh's house as fast as she was able.

Several weeks following her encounter with Edward, Tara was stalking the streets of London in the early hours of the morning. She had to confess that lately all she longed for was a soft bed upon which to sleep but in order to keep up pretences she at least had to feign interest in feeding. She was tired of creeping about in the shadows and this night was particularly damp and unpleasant with a stiff breeze fluttering at her skirts and nipping her exposed skin with its cold bite. Although she usually barely noticed the cold, the wind left her drained and listless.

A single page from a newspaper that had been picked up by the breeze collided with her leg and interrupted her thoughts. Although Tara was not normally inclined to read the usually irrelevant newspapers, for some reason she stooped and retrieved this particular page. Her eyes immediately wandered to an announcement in bold near the foot of the page.

MP Edward Walsh found dead in home

Tara continued reading to find that Edward had died in his office. Investigators had found no sign of an intruder and had ruled out foul play to proclaim his death 'sudden but natural.' She then glanced to the date beneath the headline to find that it was the day following her visit. As she crumpled the paper in her fist and tossed it in the gutter she realised that the news was somewhat anticlimactic. She felt neither relief nor pleasure at the news of his death. It was certainly not the death Edward had deserved but she knew she could never have given him that death. The death that would have led to a much larger, more sensational headline with a story packed with enticing words like 'blood' and 'murder.'

As it was, Edward had died alone with her face the last image in his mind. With this thought Tara was finally able to feel a small measure of satisfaction.

Edward Walsh was dead. Tara decided that she would slip into an empty hotel room and fall asleep, safe in the knowledge that there would be one less face to see in her dreams.


The imposing fašade of the recently completed British Museum loomed over Great Russell Street, and in particular over three small figures ascending the steps and passing beneath its neo-classical columns. While a man and woman walked at a more sedate pace, a young girl rushed ahead as only excited children could.

Once inside she knew exactly where she was going, threading her way through the light crowd in the lobby, grinning at an attendant as she made a beeline directly for a door marked 'employees only.' The door had closed behind her before either adult had a chance to catch up, or offer her some wise words of caution. They followed, the man holding the door open for the woman. She smiled at him as she passed as one did when in love. Despite the advancing years of the man, the grin that followed made him seem youthful and spirited. He carried a sizable bag in one hand with apparently little effort.

Up ahead, the young girl had reached the employees only floor and was happily making her way through the staff going about their business. No one stopped to question the twelve year old on her business, instead many greeted her warmly.

"Well if it isn't young Lara Croft," a white-coated man with a white beard to match asked, his teeth shining just as white, "How are your Latin conjugations coming along?"

Twelve year old Lara immediately made a face in response, "The subjunctive imperfect is giving me a frightful headache."

He laughed and she continued on her way, almost breaking into a run when she saw her destination in the distance. She entered the employee's library, a place far more fascinating than any other she had ever visited and in the pretext of looking for Rupert Giles, her eyes roamed the shelves of books. The fact that she did not call out for the librarian indicated that she was not overly bothered whether she found him or not. She drifted towards the shelves laden with books, her hungry eyes roaming over the titles on the thick spines. Every so often she paused to reach out and stroke a particular book, running her fingers over the embossed leather with an expression akin to rapture.

"Are you supposed to be in here?" a soft voice interrupted her reverie.

Lara Croft drew back her fingers as though she had just been burned and spun on her heels in the direction of the voice. When she saw who had spoken she had to blink a few times to confirm exactly what it was she was seeing. Emerging from the shadows between two of the stacks was a young woman, clad entirely in black from the floor to her throat. Her long pale hair framed a pair of blue eyes which shone even in the library's poor light.

Normally exceptionally quick to reply, Lara was confused. This stranger did prompt her to react with the reluctant obedience and forced politeness that she normally resorted to in the company of adults. She managed to suppress the strange fear the woman's presence stirred within her and responded with barely concealed insolence, testing the woman to see how she would react.

"Of course," Lara replied impertinently. "Are you?"

Much to Lara's surprise the blonde woman did not immediately chastise her; instead she did something far worse. She continued to stare at her with those piercing blue eyes, as though she was seeing straight past the expression she wore and through to what she was thinking. Lara felt decidedly uncomfortable beneath such intense scrutiny. Had she been less bold, she would have torn her gaze away to stare at her feet.

As she stared back at the woman she realised that there was something exceptionally unusual about her. At first Lara had merely thought her pale, but her skin was actually verging on being translucent. Her hair was so pale a shade of blonde that it might as well have been white. Before the woman could reply or she could ask another question, Lara heard more footsteps in the library. She turned and immediately wrinkled her nose, her parents had joined her.

Jeremiah Croft glared in at his daughter with an expression that was supposed to be disapproving; however he merely appeared mildly amused. Before he could channel his disapproval into a scolding, he glanced beyond Lara to see a familiar face, one he had not seen for a long time.

"Tara!" he exclaimed like a giddy schoolboy, "You have not changed one iota since I saw you last!"

He quickly let go of the bag he was holding and picked up her proffered hand. As he bent to lay a gentle kiss on the back of her hand he glanced up at her with a twinkle in his eye, as though deciding that was not the greeting he wished to bestow on his old friend. Instead he embraced Tara warmly and kissed her gently on one pale, cold cheek. When he stepped back there was a red flush to his own cheeks.

"Neither have you," Tara replied, faint traces of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

Jeremiah's grin was blatant as he patted his slightly rotund belly, "It is kind of you to say...but it has been almost fifteen years."

"Closer to were still a bachelor the last time I saw you," Tara commented, well aware of the others in the room, the shy woman standing nervously just behind Jeremiah's shoulder and the young girl with whom she had already had the dubious pleasure of trading a few words.

"Yes!" Jeremiah said excitedly, as though he had forgotten the most important event that had happened in his life since he last saw Tara, "It all makes for a rather funny story really...I had just delivered a paper to the Royal Society, it was splendidly received of course but in the midst of all the scholarly veneration, surrounded by grey haired old gits, I suddenly realised that there was still one thing in life I had neglected to achieve - marriage and children!"

"And naturally you could not leave something like that unachieved," Tara added conspiratorially.

"Of course not!" Jeremiah grinned, "So I marched up to Charlotte, who was the daughter of a very good friend and asked her if she would very much mind marrying me...right in the middle of the reception...and much to my surprise she agreed on the spot."

Charlotte smiled shyly and nodded in agreement as Jeremiah gave her a quick squeeze around the waist.

"The old fool was too blind to notice...I had been making eyes at him for years, dropping all the appropriate hints and making excuses to be with him," Charlotte was softly spoken but her voice was tinged with humour and more than a little good-natured teasing, "He was exceptionally lucky that I have always been a very patient woman."

Tara held out her hand with a small but warm smile on her face. After a moments hesitation, Charlotte reached out and took it in her own, if she was surprised at just how cold Tara's hand was then she did not let it show on her face. Instead, she returned the smile. In the relatively short period of time that had passed, Tara had already decided that Charlotte was the perfect woman for Jeremiah. While her attire indicated that she was a woman of simple tastes, she possessed a radiant natural beauty.

"And you have already met our daughter, Lara..." Jeremiah nodded towards the dark-haired girl.

Jeremiah's daughter appeared to be at an awkward stage in her development. While it was very clear that one day she was going to be lithe and as exceptionally beautiful as her mother she currently possessed a set of gangly limbs and both her eyes and her lips were too big for her face. She was staring up at Tara with an expression on her face that reminded Tara all too well of a young Jeremiah with his curiosity in full flight. Tara was waiting for the entirely inappropriate question that was bound to follow. However, young Lara remained content to stare brazenly, obviously fascinated.

"Charlotte, Lara, this is a good friend of mine...and Giles's...Tara Maclay. She has been...abroad for a good many years."

"You certainly do not look as old as my father!" Lara interjected brazenly.

"Ah...we also have a son," Jeremiah interrupted his daughter, placing a warning hand on her shoulder, "Archie, rather proud of him actually, he is doing exceptionally well at Oxford."

"I would expect nothing less from your son," Tara replied warmly.

All three members of the Croft family were staring intently at Tara. Jeremiah found himself reverting back to when his was sixteen and his pleasant memories of a youthful infatuation with the vampire. The resumption of his infatuation was aided by the fact that she had not changed at all in the years since he had last seen her. If Tara found the Croft's scrutiny unnerving, she did not let it show.

"Why are you so pale?" Lara asked suddenly.

"Um..." Jeremiah stepped forward between his daughter and Tara and struggled to find an appropriate reply other than the truth. It was clear that the girl was not content with the simple introduction her father had offered in stating little more than Tara's name.

"My apologies," Tara broke the silence recognising both the needs of her guests and the fact that Jeremiah obviously did not want to have to answer his daughter's questions, "I have been out of civilised company for so long I have forgotten my manners...can I offer you tea?"

"I would love nothing more but Charlotte and I are off to Egypt for a month or so and Giles is always kind enough to watch over Lara whenever we go abroad...he takes his duties as a grandfather very seriously," Jeremiah answered, glancing quickly at his pocket watch. "Our ship departs in a few hours, might I be able to impose on you to watch over Lara until his return?"

"It would not be the least imposition," Tara responded with a wary smile in Lara's direction. She already suspected that the young girl was more than a handful for Giles.

Charlotte stooped to embrace Lara warmly, when she pulled back she rubbed at an imaginary spot of dirt on her cheek, "Sweetie, you will be on your best behaviour as always...and promise me you will desist with your constant questioning?"

Lara merely nodded perfunctorily, not seeming the least bit concerned that her parents were about to leave her for an unspecified amount of time. She actually appeared impatient for them to be gone, as though she could not wait to be alone with the mysterious friend of her father's. Both her parents bid Tara a warm farewell and then they were gone. Lara sighed with relief when the library door closed behind them. She loved her parents dearly but they were so dreadfully stifling with rules and whatnot. At the age of twelve she felt more than old enough to accompany them on their far flung adventures but they would hear none of it, and insisted on bundling her off to stay with Giles.

When she was younger, she did not mind these arrangements in the least. The thought of travelling great distances by boat and train had held little appeal and she was far more content to explore the Museum. As she grew older however, she began to realise that the museum's treasures came from somewhere else, places far away and she began to long for those distant shores.

Still, as she glanced back towards Tara, she began to think that this particular stay might be a little more interesting than the last. The pale woman was regarding her with a strange look, as though she were not quite sure exactly what to do. Lara on the other hand knew exactly what she wanted - to find out more information about this strange yet compelling woman.

"There are more than a few things I do not you for instance, you say you're an old friend of my fathers and yet you look barely older than me." Lara commented on her observations with a suspicious frown on her face, "Just how old are you?"

"I look good for my age," was all Tara was prepared to say. Lara's disappointment manifested in an angry scowl but she tactfully steered any further conversation away from herself. "You must spend a great deal of time with you wish to become a librarian?"

"Good lord no, how dreadfully boring," Lara replied quite sagely, "I have already decided that I shall attend Oxford...Archie has promised to put in a good word for me. After graduation I shall travel the world, raiding tombs and uncovering all the mysteries of the ancient world!"

Tara arched an eyebrow, "All of them?"

Lara shrugged with a wry grin, "At least as many as I can."

"I wish you well in that goal; from experience I know that there are many mysteries..." Tara had to cut herself short as she felt a wave of dizziness accompanied by a hot flush surge through her body. For someone who barely felt temperature, it was an unnerving experience.

She was forced to lean on a nearby reading table to keep from falling over as young Lara looked on with a worried frown on her face.

"Are you quite alright?"

"I-I'm not sure," Tara replied awkwardly. She had no idea what was responsible for the sensations coursing through her body. At first she thought perhaps she might be under attack, a spell of some sort cast over a distance. She glanced across at Lara, worried that she might be at risk. "Stand back."

However as time passed, even when she was forced to close her eyes, Tara began to realise that what was happening to her was not a bad thing. The feelings throughout her body were not foreign, they were all too familiar. A fragrance met her nostrils, one she remembered despite the passage of time. She closed her eyes and lost herself to the wave of emotions and feelings that told her without a doubt that Willow had been reborn.

When Tara finally opened her eyes she managed a smile of reassurance in Lara's direction. She then looked towards the door to see Rupert Giles entering with an armful of packages. Although he also had not seen her for a good number of years, there was no surprise on his face when he saw her standing in the middle of his library with young Lara Croft. If he too knew what had just taken place, then it did not show on his face.

"Ah, I see you have met my finest and most attentive student...well, at least attentive when it suits her," Giles commented, placing his packages down on the nearest table. He addressed Lara, "I believe you will have some studying to do while I catch up with my old friend?"

Lara looked as though she might refuse but eventually she retrieved several books from the bag her father had left and retired to a study table. With her back turned, the two adults were free to talk in hushed tones.

"You felt it, did you not?" Giles asked.

Tara nodded, " too? Where is she?"

"The Rosenberg's live in India; I believe the father is in the army..." Giles began.

"Rosenberg?" Tara repeated the name, it sounded horribly unfamiliar to her lips. However she quickly realised that it was foolish of her to think that Willow would be a Van Helsing. She tried the name again, "Willow Rosenberg."

She desperately wanted to pester Giles for more information about the family, the sort of people they were but she knew he would not answer all her questions for the very simple reason that he did not want her to know. Tara sighed quietly, knowing that it would require an inhuman amount of patience to remain apart from Willow's new life.

"So it begins," Giles commented, glancing over his shoulder to see Lara quickly duck her head as though she had been straining to listen in on their conversation. He turned his attention back to Tara, saw the expression on her face and realised he needed to get her to concentrate on something other than Willow...for the next few decades at least.

"Yes." Tara paused for a moment until Lara was buried in her books once more, or at least pretending to be. "I need a copy of the Morte Grimoire; can I pretend to have stolen yours?"

Giles smirked at the odd sounding phrase, "Of long as I am able to steal it back before someone causes some serious damage. That book contains some powerful magic."

"You do not need to remind me, Giles," Tara replied with a trace of annoyance in her voice.

He nodded and went to fetch the Grimoire. As soon as Giles disappeared into the stacks, Lara's head glanced up from her books. Confirming he was indeed gone, she hopped off her chair and skipped casually to Tara's side with a hopeful smile on her face.

"You will stay and help me with my Latin...won't you?" Lara asked eagerly. "Please?"

Tara's eyebrows lifted in surprise as she wondered just what it was that she had done to make this child crave her company. A small part of her did want to be able to stay, to have nothing more to worry about save helping a twelve year old conjugate Latin verbs.

"I am afraid my Latin is very poor." Tara explained gently, unless you want to weave dark magick...a skill I am sure Giles would not want me to show you, "When I was your age girls were not allowed to study Latin...or much of anything save embroidery and tea making."

Lara's lips opened in a perfect, outraged pout. "That's positively barbarous!" she declared indignantly.

Tara could not help but smile in response. The young girl had spirit, definitely reminding her of a certain redhead who at this time was once again a squalling infant. However she knew she could not stay, it would not do for her relationship to Giles to be discovered. Not yet anyway. "I am afraid I have important business to attend to...but I am sure I will find occasion to come to the Museum again soon."

"Please do!" Lara clapped her hands together enthusiastically; there was a distinct twinkle in her eyes. "I love Giles immensely but he can be so exceptionally strict at times, I have no doubt that you would be more fun."

Tara arched an eyebrow at Lara's assessment of her as being 'more fun' than Giles. Given that she had shown absolutely no inclination towards 'fun' of any sort during the short time Lara had known her, she wasn't sure how the young girl had come to that conclusion. She was however able to appreciate the significance of Lara's decision, realising that she had just added to the rather small number of people she was able to call 'friends.'

"Well, I have no doubt that the 'fun' will commence with my next visit," Tara offered helpfully. She surprised herself when she extended her hand towards Lara for the young girl to shake. "It was a pleasure to meet you."

It was at that point that Giles returned with the book Tara had requested. He frowned at the rather pleased expression on Lara's face before a well placed nod sent her scurrying back to her books. When he glanced back to Tara he saw a strange look in the vampire's eyes and knew exactly whom she was thinking about.

"You will promise to stay away from her won't you, Tara?" Giles cautioned. He kept his voice extremely firm as he knew just how strong the connection between the two of them was, "It will do her no good to feel as though she is being watched...and it will do you no good either."

Tara appeared stricken for a moment before she managed to compose herself. "She'll need protecting...if Dracula should learn..."

"He doesn't," Giles said firmly. "No doubt that will remain the case throughout her childhood but if he does learn of her birth, you will of course be the first to know."

She nodded, Giles as always was a voice of reason. His face changed slightly, almost as though he was giving her a reassuring smile. She accepted the Grimoire with a relieved expression on her face. Whatever sort of relationship existed between the two of them, at the very least there was trust.

Tara left the British museum with a strange feeling coursing through her body. Normally she avoided crowded streets and public areas, especially in the day. She preferred to remain in the shadows, on the fringes of society. However on this particular day she felt compelled to remain in the midst of the throng that walked Great Russell Street, even allowing herself to be swept along towards a small park just across the road from the museum. She settled herself on a vacant bench, content to watch people stroll through the park and feel the sun on her face.

It took her a while to realise exactly what the emotion surging through her veins was, but when she thought about it for a moment Tara realised that she was actually happy. When she left the bench to continue on her way, she was secure in the knowledge that the world was a far richer place with Willow in it.

Continue to Van Rosenberg Chapter Thirty-Two

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