For WhirlingGirl, who'll know why.


"We have to get inside," Michael said suddenly.

I tried to let go of his shirt, suddenly embarrassed about crying. He already had enough to deal with. Come on, Liz - where's that strength and independence you were supposed to be getting back?


I blinked and looked up. "Yeah," I said. "Okay. Uhm - where?"

He frowned and swallowed, pursing his lips and looking out at the street. My room was right across the street. The fire escape was ten feet away -

"The stockroom," He said suddenly. "You go first. I'll follow you when I'm sure it's clear."

I stared up at him. "The stockroom? But -"

"We both have a reason to be there," He said, his eyes locked on mine.

I couldn't miss the underlying message.

I don't have a reason to be in your room.

The tightness clenched in my throat and I nodded once, not trusting my voice. I turned away quickly and slipped into the darkness, heading for the alley.


She rounded the corner and I let out a breath. Damnit. My hands slid through my hair and fell back at my sides. I need more time. It's too soon. I didn't know what to tell her yet -

Yes, you do.

I blinked, staring at the corner where she'd turned and disappeared.

Control, Guerin. It was the mantra of the summer. Focus your powers. Keep an eye on Max. Get Isabel to listen, stay away from Maria, don't think about Liz...

Don't think about Liz. Right. How was I supposed to concentrate on anything else when I was working with her, when she was waiting for me in the dark...

And then I knew how to do it. How to get the control back.

I counted to fifty, and then I moved out of the doorway, following the path of shadows back to the Crashdown.


I was starting to worry when Michael closed the door behind him, turning his back to me and placing his palm over the doorknob. A thin pulse of light shone through his skin and I heard the soft snik of the lock -

He turned around and faced me.

"Hey," I whispered after a second. And then felt stupid for saying it. I glanced around the small space.

The stockroom was dark and cramped, and I couldn't see Michael at all. There was only one window in the stockroom, a small one, high up on the wall right behind me.

"Uhm - I'll, uh, get the light," I said, reaching up for the cord that hung from the ceiling -

"Don't," He said, his voice quiet but sharp. "Leave it off."

I paused, my arm half-raised. He moved towards me -

And then past me to the window, looking outside both ways before pulling the shade down and turning back to me again.

I felt my heart clench. He doesn't want anyone to see him with me.

"So," He mumbled, shoving his hands in his pockets and staring at me. I could barely make out his expression. He's terrified Max is going to find us.

I swallowed and looked around. The metal shelves were crowded with food supplies - napkins, ketchup, that sort of stuff. 'Cluttered' was the most appropriate word.

"I guess Maria hasn't done inventory in a while," I said suddenly, my hands fidgeting nervously. I walked over to the shelf and started dusting off a case of ketchup. "My Dad would freak if he -"


My fingertips jumped slightly on the box. I raised my hands to my hat, pulling it off, tugging at the material. I turned around to face him. "Sorry," I whispered.

He took a breath. "Look. We, uhm - we should talk."

"Right," I whispered, my teeth tugging gently on my lip. "Okay. So - so Maria was telling me all this stuff, and I just - is it warm in here?" I asked. I held the hat under my elbow and started pulling my mittens off. "I'm getting hot."

He sighed, exasperated. "Liz -"

"I'm sorry, okay?" I blurted out suddenly, staring up at him. "I'm not… I mean…I don't know how to do this," I finished lamely, tugging the mittens off and shoving them in my pockets.

It was quiet. He took a deep breath. "Look - about Max," He said slowly. "You don't - you don't have to worry about him."

I started shaking my head.

"Liz," He said gently. "He's not going to hurt you. I promise -"

"You weren't there," I whispered. "You didn't see his face. He didn't -" I took a breath and looked around the room. "He was just so cold, Michael…"

"He was upset," Michael said, stressing the last word slightly. In the dark, I was paying more attention to the tone of his voice. "That's all."

I looked back at the cap in my hands. "That wasn't all," I whispered.

I felt him go into intimidation mode, feeling the air change as he stepped toward me suddenly. "What do you mean?"

"Michael -"

"Don't Michael me. What do you mean, 'that wasn't all'?"

"I mean it -" I looked around again, trying to find the words. "It was like he almost felt..." My voice trailed off. "I don't know," I whispered.

Some of the tension went out of the room. I thought I saw the outline of his shoulders relax a little. He doesn't want to believe me, I thought.

I looked down at the cap in my hands.

But that doesn't change what I saw. It doesn't change that Max was just a little...

"Smug," I said suddenly. "It was almost as if he was - pleased with himself..."

The tension was back. I could feel Michael's gaze on me. He was staring at me. Glaring at me...

"Smug," He said flatly. The contempt was thick in his voice.

"Or...something like that," I finished lamely, my voice dropping to a whisper.

He turned to the shelves next to him, shaking his head, muttering something I couldn't hear.

"It was just weird," I said. "That I would get that from him -"

"Maybe you were wrong," He said suddenly, turning around. "Maybe that was just his way of dealing with it."

I blinked. "That doesn't make any sense, Michael -"

"It doesn't matter if it makes sense," He snapped suddenly, turning on me. "I don't know why he did what he did. I don't…" He paused, shifting his weight. "I don't know why he was like that.

"But then I don't understand him," He said, shaking his head, running his hands over his face. "I never did."

I stared up at him. The light filtering through the shade danced at the edge of his jaw. He was clenching his teeth...

"Sorry," He mumbled. "I don't know how to do this either."

I didn't say anything for a second, turning my cap over in my hands. I sighed once. "We just have to work together," I whispered, taking a step toward him. "We can figure it out -"

He took a step back and held his palms up. "Look, Liz, I don't -" He took a deep breath. "It's not going to work like that."

I stared up at him. "What are you talking about?"

"This," He snapped, his eyes fierce and desperate. He waved his hands in emphasis. "You. Me. This place. We're in the stockroom, Liz."

I blinked. "Well - of course we're here. You said we should -"

"This isn't going to work," He muttered again, shifting his weight back, bringing his hands up to run through his hair and rub roughly at his face -

He's acting like he's caged, I thought blankly. Like there's no way out -

"I'm gonna quit," He said, letting his hands drop. "I'll tell your Dad tomorrow."


My jaw dropped. I stared at him in disbelief. "Quit? Michael, why?"

"I told you," He snapped loudly, clamping his lips together and pressing them together in a white line before speaking again in a low voice. "This isn't going to work, Liz -"

"Michael, quitting makes no sense -"

"Well what else am I supposed to do?" He demanded. "We can't be doing this, Liz."

"Can't do what?" I said, almost laughing out loud. He was being ridiculous. Quit? Where would he work, how would he pay his bills? He couldn't work somewhere else, someplace where we couldn't protect him, someplace where they might ask questions -

"We can't be seen together, Liz," He snapped. "No secret meetings. No visits to your house or mine. No late-night conferences in the stockroom," He raged suddenly, waving his hands, almost knocking a box over. "I mean, it has to be -"

"What, so I'm not even supposed to talk to you?" I asked, getting angry myself. "Is that what I'm supposed to do, pretend that you don't exist?"

"No, that's not it," He said. "That'd make the others suspicious -"

"The others," I repeated, folding my arms. "You mean Max."

There was a pause. He was scowling at me.

"That's part of it," He said finally, his words sharp and deliberate. "But there's just a way this has to go, alright? And part of it has to do with me not being on the payroll at the Crashdown."

He was talking at me. Telling me what was going to happen like I didn't have any say in anything. I thought we were past this... "Michael," I said, trying to keep the frustration out of my voice, "If you leave here, it's going to look suspicious, and -"

"No it won't," He snapped. "It'll look like the local punk ditched his responsibilities for a better gig. No one'll be surprised. People like it when you do what they expect."

I brought my hands up and rubbed my temples briefly. "Okay," I said. "But Max and Isabel will wonder what -"

"I can handle them," He said, cutting me off, flicking his hands in dismissal. "Don't worry about that."

"Michael," I said, trying to keep the anxiety out of my voice. "Michael - I need you here."

"Stop it," He said quietly.

"You're quitting so when they come to find you, you won't be here," I said. "You're trying to protect me, and Maria, and - look. We are all in this together. Look, maybe - maybe the people at the Babe Magnet were wrong about... about, you know...'others' coming."

He shook his head and stared at the window.

"I mean, they weren't -" I swallowed and my voice dropped. "They weren't right about everything..."

I felt his gaze fall on me and I stared down at my hands.

Promise me you won't leave.

Michael - I would never -

Promise me. Just say it -

We stood like that for a minute, the silence between us blanketing the room.

"That's true," He said finally, looking up at the ceiling. I glanced up at him immediately and then looked down at the floor, at the shelves, anything -

We'd never talked about my leaving. Before I left.

I just went. Just made the decision and left everything behind... Max, Michael, all of it.

Like he's going to, now, I thought. I closed my eyes. Come on. You can't fall apart now -

"If Nasedo -" He paused and breathed in sharply. "Look, if he's successful, if he takes care of the unit entirely, then the list goes away. And you're in the clear.

"But I'm always going to be on that list, Liz."

"Michael -"

"I'm not discussing this," He said, looking at me. "I'm quitting. That's it."


She was staring up at me, her mouth slightly open. Here it comes, I thought. Reason.

"Michael," She started, speaking carefully. "I don't think that -"

"I made my decision," I interrupted. "I'm leaving. It's done."

She didn't expect that. Her eyes flashed dangerously and she tried to cover it, keep it in check - "Michael, decisions like this affect all of us, and I don't think you're -"

"Look, I don't want you involved," I snapped.

The surprise on her face was giving way to shock. And then something else. It took me a second to place it.


Damnit. Overplayed your hand -

"You don't want me involved," She repeated slowly, her voice sharp.

I breathed deep. Nothing to do now but play it through now...

"No," I said, matching my voice to hers. "I don't. If anything does go wrong -"

"I am already involved, Michael!" She said.

Damn, damn, damn...

" can't just throw me out now and pretend that if you don't acknowledge me, then maybe the FBI and everyone else won't, either. I mean, that's -"

"Look, I don't know how else to put this," He snapped, dropping his arms to his sides and moving into me. "I can't have you around because I have to watch out for Max, and Is, and I can't do that if -"

"You have to watch out for them? Michael, what about them looking out for you? What about Maria, and Alex, and me? Are you going to just cut them out of your life, too?"

I scowled down at her, trying to figure out how to dodge it. She was twisting everything. I had to get control back...


"Whatever," He said, pursing his lips, throwing his hands up in the air. "Fine. Do whatever you want."


"No," He said. "Liz, you're in danger. We all are. I don't know what's coming and we're all sitting ducks. I want you as far away from all of this as possible," He said, turning to the door. "That's it."

"You want to protect me," I said deliberately, moving closer to him, my hands out... Careful. Careful, Liz... "I understand that. But this is not the way to -"

"I can't come up with anything else!" He shouted suddenly.

I paused, staring up at him. He was glaring, and pacing, and -

"Maria won't leave me alone, Max refuses to listen to me, Is keeps siding with him and October's here, Liz," He snapped, stopping in front of me. "It's not a couple of months from now, it's now. And they're acting like their lives can just go back to normal, like we all go back to high school because that's what they want."

I felt his eyes burning into me.

"But just because you want something," He said, his voice accusing, "Doesn't mean you get it."

Oh, God, Michael...

I'm so sorry.

"Michael," I whispered.

"Look - you had to go," He shrugged. "I get that. It was - good," He swallowed. "That you left. It gave everybody time to deal. Max dealt with it. I dealt with it."

He stared at me. "And now you have to deal with this."

"Michael," I whispered. "Don't -"

"Don't what? What do you want me to say?" He demanded. "What else're we gonna do, Liz? You tell me. 'Cause I can't think of anything else."

"We could do something together," I said. "You don't have to quit. Look, the - the store needs you. My Dad -"

"He'll get a fry cook in a week, Liz," He said, a smile curling at his lips. "It's not a bad gig."

I stared up at him. He can't be serious. He can't really want to leave...

I licked my lips nervously. "But what - what about Maria? She's in just as much danger as I am," I said.

"I don't believe that," He said flatly. "She wasn't the one with glowing handprints and hickeys. No flashes. Nothing. Everything she knows is second-hand."

"You've been distancing yourself from her all summer," I said quietly.

He pursed his lips and breathed in sharply. "Trying to," He said, staring at me. "She doesn't want to hear what I'm telling her."

"You can't shake me off any more than her," I whispered. "You know that."

He smiled wryly and shook his head, walking toward me with his hands in his pockets, stopping right in front of me.

"That's why I'm going," He said evenly.

I stared up at him. I didn't know what to say. There has to be something you can do. Something you can say -

"Bye, Liz," He said, moving past me.


"Michael," She breathed, rushing over to me, catching my arm. "Michael. You can't -"

"Not up for debate, Liz," I said, shrugging her arm off. Get to the door. Get to the door -

"No, Michael, listen," She said quickly, moving in front of me to stop me from leaving. I sighed and stared up at the ceiling.

She wasn't the only one I was fighting.

Come on, Guerin. You made the decision. Stick to it, damnit -

"We could think of something," She whispered, standing with her back to the door, blocking the only way out. "We could - we could -"

"You had your chance, Liz," I said, getting impatient. I had to do this. And I had to do it fast, or I might let her talk me out of it -

"Well, if you'd talk to me, instead of just issuing commands at me," She snapped. "Then maybe we could -"

"That's not what I'm doing," I said, frustration flaring into anger. She was waving at me, trying to shush me. "Liz," I snapped. "Come on -"

"Keep your voice down!" She hissed, turning her head so her ear was to the door -

And then we heard it. Footsteps, moving toward the room.

Both of us froze for a second, and then she was pushing me back, behind the shelves.

"Get back," She whispered. "Hide!"

"Me?" I hissed, stumbling over boxes, trying to move her behind me. "Liz, I'm the one with the powers -"

"Liz? You down here?"

She stopped and stared up at me. I looked at the door, scowling -

"Yeah," She called out, her eyes locked on mine. "I'm here."

I glared at her, and then I was scrambling over boxes, moving for the shelves. I heard the lock to the door turned back with a snik and the door opened -

"Hi, Dad," Liz said.


"Lizzie? What're you doing in here?" Mr. Parker asked, stepping into the room. "Where's the light?"

"It's, um -" I heard the sounds of her moving quickly. The room stayed dark. "It's not working. I think the light's burned out."

"Oh. Well, what're you -"

"I was just checking up on our supplies," She said. "That's all."

"Now?" He asked. He sounded surprised -

"Well, I wasn't doing anything," She said offhandedly. I rolled my eyes. "So I thought I'd just check. We're good."

"Oh. Well, that's... is there someone down here with you?" He asked, and I heard some shuffling. "I thought I heard voices..."

"No," She said quickly, her voice filled with cheerful innocence. "Nope. Just me. Talking out loud. Checking the inventory. You know, 'We're good on ketchup, plenty of napkins...'"

Her voice trailed off.

"That's it," She said self-consciously.

"Well, okay, that's… I mean… I'm happy to see you taking such an interest," He finished finally.

I closed my eyes.

"We didn't get to talk this afternoon about when you were coming back, and I thought -"

"I'm not," She interrupted.

My eyes opened.

"You're not what?"

"Uhm - coming back, I mean. If that's alright. I sort of - need to do something else."

I bit down on the inside of my lip. Damnit, Liz...

"What?" Her Dad said. I heard more shuffling. "Why? Your mother didn't mention anything about -"

"Dad, I've gotta start thinking about, uhm, college," She said quickly.

I blinked, staring at the box in front of me.

"You know, and - and most colleges want some really strong work history, or volunteer stuff, and I just think I need to be concentrating on that."

"Well, I -" He paused. "I see your point, honey, I just thought…"

"Maybe I could help with the books," She said brightly. "You know, go over the checks, make sure everything balances. Stuff like that."

There was a pause. "But you always said you -"

"I know! I know," She said, laughing a little. "I'd rather wait tables. But, see, I think that this would probably work. Now," She finished lamely.

"Well - okay," Her Dad said. "I mean, if that's what you really want…"

"It is." I heard more shuffling and her next words were muffling. She must have hugged him. "Thanks, Dad."

Great. Just great...

"Sure," He said, sounding bewildered. "I'll just, ah - I'll just ask Jim if he knows of any local jobs that would impress Harvard. You know, Courtnay did pretty well here over the summer. I can ask her if she can stay on."

"Oh! Good," Liz said, her voice fading slightly. She was taking him out of the room.

"Maybe I could do some volunteer work at the Y, or, uhm, maybe something in an office, you know, filing or something like that -"

The footsteps stopped for a second. "Hey," He said suddenly. "Remember all that campaign stuff your Mom was doing last year?"

The door shut behind them with a faint click and I breathed in deep, closing my eyes and resting my head against the shelf.

She'd quit. I shook my head.

Getting control around Liz was going to be harder than I thought.


Dad and I were halfway up the stairs when I made up an excuse about forgetting something in the stockroom. "I'll just go back and get it," I said quickly. "Oh - and I should try to change that light bulb."

"Okay," He said, frowning. "Come up to our room when you're done, and we'll talk with your Mom. I'm almost positive she said that congresswoman was looking for an assistant."

"Alright," I said, turning at the bottom of the stairs. He was already heading back up, his back turned to me…

I hated lying to him. But if he found me in the stockroom with Michael, he'd be fired for sure…and if one of us was going to leave, it was going to be me. Michael couldn't risk looking for another job now. He had enough to think about. And he couldn't work someplace where they'd ask a lot of questions...

You know you're doing the same thing as him, I thought. Trying to control how this is all going to work...

Fine. I could handle that.

I couldn't handle him shutting me out.

I took a deep breath and opened the door.


"Cute," I said once she'd closed the door again, standing up and brushing clumps of dust off my jacket. "Not what I had in mind."

"I didn't have much time to think," She said, tossing her hair, staring up at me. Her hands were on her hips. "So?"

"You're going through with it?" I demanded, keeping my voice at a whisper. "You're quitting?"

She shrugged. "Yeah," She said. "Done."

I turned away, shaking my head. "Fine," I muttered. "Great. That's fantastic."

"I thought you didn't want me involved."

"Forget it."

"Michael, just explain it to me," She said, her voice soft. "Look - maybe I can help. Maybe I can -"

"You're a distraction, Liz," I said, trying to keep my voice even. "You're a liability."

She stared up at me, stunned. "What?"

I closed my eyes. I could hear Tess' voice. You're liabilities. All three of you.

"If I'm -" I shook my head. "Liz, if I'm around you, I'm not going to be thinking about what I need to do." I took a breath.

"I won't be focusing on Max."

She was still staring at me.

"Look, I don't know who or what we're up against and I can't get through to Max. I don't know where they're gonna hit us, or how, all I know is that they're coming and we're not ready."

She bit down on her lip and dropped her head.

"I'm sorry," I whispered. "I just - I can't screw this up."

She didn't say anything.

"And I don't want you to get hurt," I whispered. She looked up at me.

"I know," She said softly. Neither of us said anything for a moment.

"I can't believe this is happening," She whispered.

I took a breath and let it out. "Yeah," I murmured, looking down at her. A wisp of hair slipped over her shoulder and she brought her hand up, brushing it back -

I bit down on the inside of my mouth.

I shut my eyes before I said it.

"You should probably take that off," I said.



I opened my eyes, not saying anything. I just waited for her to agree, to put the pieces together...

To realize we didn't have a choice.

She looked down at her hand. Her eyes were shining.

She took off the ring and slipped it into her jeans pocket.

"I'm sorry," I whispered.

She closed her eyes as soon as I spoke. Liquid pooled on her eyelashes and she rubbed at them roughly. She turned around quickly, moving for the door -

"Wait," I breathed, grabbing her by the arm. Her lower lip was trembling. She was staring at my chest, not wanting to look up at me…

I cupped her face in my hands. "I'm sorry," I whispered. Please look at me. Please look at me. Please -

Her eyes moved up to mine. "I don't want to fight with you," She whispered.

"I know. I'm sorry," I whispered.

"I mean, this is all bad enough without…" Her voice broke off and she closed her eyes.

"I know," I breathed, trying to talk over the lump in my throat. "It's okay."

"It's not okay," She whispered fiercely. Her eyes flickered up to mine and she moved closer to me, placing her hand on my chest. I blinked, surprised and nervous -

"Liz," I whispered.

She looked up at me.

"I just wanted to know," She whispered.

Her hand dropped to her side and she backed up, moving to the door and walking through it, letting it close behind her.

I touched the hard surface of the pendant through my shirt.

The fabric was still warm from her touch.


I picked up the letters piled up on the counter, shoving my jacket to the side. "Bill," I muttered, tossing it down. "Bill, bill, bill..."

I pursed my lips and scrubbed my hands over my eyes before letting my arms drop. I hate this. I hate it...

Control, Guerin, the voice in my head whispered. You had to do it.

"Maybe," I muttered. Still. The look on her face...

I walked over to the couch and sat down heavily, burying my face in my hands. I'd left her over an hour ago, and I couldn't settle down.

Focus. I could practice on the rocks. Tess and I'd worked our way up while she showed me how to thread my way through the organic material, surprised when I picked it up quickly.

I pursed my lips. Nasedo had given me the manual. Go down to the cellular level, then the atomic level, then between the atoms...

I stared at the door. The handle was turning.

What the hell -

I was on my feet, my arm stretched out, when Liz walked in.


"Hey," She said, moving towards me. "I've been thinking."

"Liz, this is dangerous," I snapped. God, the door wasn't even closed. I concentrated and slammed it shut from across the room, locking it behind her.

"And then I realized that was the problem," She said, as if I hadn't spoken, never slowing her pace towards me. I took a step back, then another. "I'm tired of thinking."

"Liz, what're you -"

"It's okay," She said softly. "I checked outside. We're safe."


"Liz, you can't -"

"Shhh," She breathed, putting a fingertip to my lips. I jumped slightly, surprised at her touch -

"Don't tell me what I can't do, Michael," She whispered.

I stared down at her. She looked different. Her hair was down, falling over her shoulders in these long, incredible waves, and she was wearing this dark blue shirt, and she was looking at me like that...

I was just standing there, staring at her, when her hands slid up my neck and pulled me down gently, her mouth covering mine and she was sweet and wet and oh God -

I pushed her back. She stumbled a little.

"Stop it," I whispered, my voice thick, backing up until my shoulders felt the wall behind me. "Stop."

"No," She whispered.

I blinked.

"I missed you," She whispered. "And I want you."

I was suddenly grateful for the wall behind me. I swallowed hard.

God, she looked beautiful -

She took a step toward me, her head tilted slightly to the side. "You can't control me, Michael," She said gently. "You can't make me do what you want." Her hand reached out and touched my cheek. I swallowed.

"Liz," I whispered, shaking my head slightly. Stop. Stop.

Don't stop...

"...I can't," I whispered. "I can't."

She moved close so our bodies were almost touching. I could feel the heat spiraling off of her in waves...

"Then don't do anything," She whispered, taking my hand in hers, raising it up to her lips.

I stared down at her as she took my fingertips and brushed them against her lips softly, her eyes locked on mine, and then her lips parted and she slipped the tips of my fingers into her mouth, warm and soft, her tongue sliding softly over the skin -

I was breathing through my mouth. The voice in the back of my head was yelling at me, telling me to back up, get away from her, get your control back -

She moved my hands away from her mouth, sliding my fingertips down her neck, down over the soft hollow of her collarbone -

And then she let go. Her hands moved to the buttons on her shirt. My hand stayed just where she'd left it.

The voice in my head was screaming.

Her hands moved quickly. The first button was open. Then the next one. Then the next...

Oh, God...

She leaned in to kiss me again, her lips parting over mine and I moaned into her mouth. I hadn't touched her in months. She'd been gone forever...

I felt her fingertips slipping into our kiss and gasped at the shock of her tongue and the softness of her skin, trying to reach all of her, taste every part of her, and then her fingertips were gone and I felt her breathe into me...

And then I felt her touch under my shirt, her fingertips slick and warm from our kiss, painting soft, wet trails against my chest, the wetness gliding in spirals over my ribs, down over my stomach, down...

I breathed her name and my eyes opened wide.

"It's okay," She whispered. She was smiling.

"It's okay, Michael."

I had no control. None. She was smiling at me, her hands slipping over my skin, and -

I sat up on my couch, breathing heavy, my eyes wide and panicked.

I was alone. In my room. On my couch -

"Jesus," I whispered, hearing the sound reverberate slightly through the empty room.

"It's a dream," I muttered to myself. "You're dreaming, Guerin."


" I called Congresswoman Whittaker and she was very excited," Mom said, placing the cereal down on the table. "She should be here around three this afternoon."

"Thanks, Mom," I said.

She looked over at me. "Sure," She said, smiling. "You know, honey, it's so nice to see you happy again. I think this is a great start to the new school year."

"Yeah," I said, smiling self-consciously, reaching for the cereal. "Me too."


Chapter Index

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DC Slash Harry Potter Ros. Hetero Ros. Slash Ros. Other