The silence that hung over the stately brick building was shattered as a black sports car rocketed up the ornate and tree-lined driveway. The gravel crunched beneath its tyres as it ground to a halt at the foot of a rather impressive series of stairs and the doors swung open. The driver stepped out wearing a satisfied smile on her face. The passenger on the other hand stepped out looking rather worried and immediately did a circuit of the vehicle to check for any sign of damage to its paintwork.
"There's not a scratch on it!" Faith moved around the back of the car to head Buffy off, she patted the large spoiler rather heavily, "Definitely looks like Red's trying to compensate for something though!"
Buffy just rolled her eyes and made a beeline for the stairs, Faith jogged to catch up. The brunette's eyes roamed over the entrance. A sign to the left of the door read, 'Sunnydale School for Girls.'
"This place is trippin'!" Faith said with all her usual inflection, "And all they could think to call it was 'Sunnydale School for Girls?' Talk about serious lack of imagination!"
"Well, they should call it 'Sunnydale School for Delinquent Girls,' Buffy's voice echoed slightly as she moved into the impressively grand foyer, "At any rate...it's too far removed from a prison, which is where she should have gone."
Buffy's voiced was heavily barbed, obviously the topic of her little sister rubbed salt into unhealed wounds. Her palm came down heavily on the reception desk, causing the receptionist to glance up with a very annoyed look.
"Can I help you?" the receptionist asked in a prim voice.
"Yes, I'm Buffy Summers, I'm here to pick up my sister, Dawn Summers," Buffy's voice was curt.
Buffy and Faith were forced to wait nearly half an hour in the foyer. The Slayer grew increasingly agitated with each passing moment, first tapping the palms of her hands on her thighs before resorting to full blown pacing up and down the length of the foyer. Buffy watched the deliberate movement of Faith's hips, each undulation carefully calculated to taunt. Even as she tried to focus on something as innocuous as the floor tiles, her mind kept wandering back to those hips swinging. She was watching Faith's latest pass when the brunette looked over her shoulder and flashed a smouldering glance. A hot flush flooded Buffy's face and she renewed her focus on the floor tiles so fiercely her eyes began to ache. The detective was saved further embarrassment by the arrival of a long-legged teenager, complete with sullen expression.
"Buffy...what the hell?"
Faith ceased pacing and Buffy stood, facing down her little sister with a firm stare. The blonde planted her hands on her hips while her sister folded her arms across her chest. Dawn's mousy hair fell in perfect folds about her angelic face...an angelic face ruined by her sulky expression.
"Dawn, I don't want a scene...we're here to pick you up," Buffy said in as neutral tone as she could manage.
Dawn's face brightened considerably, "Hello! Did you honestly think I'd make a scene at you taking me away from this hellhole?"
"Well...you do tend to make a scene at the slightest invitation," Buffy began, Faith elbowed her sharply and Buffy tried not to provoke, "But there's no time for that...we have to be going."
"Who's the skank?" Dawn asked eyeing Faith through lidded eyes, she looked her up and down with barely concealed contempt, "Are you serious? Leather pants?"
Faith met Dawn's gaze without blinking and replied in a deadpan voice, "Name's Faith...and I'm very serious."
Dawn huffed, hardly feeling threatened despite the fact that Faith had her fixed in her unwavering gaze, "Whatever! Shall I go and pack?"
Buffy shook her head, clearly agitated, "There's no time, and we really have to get going."
She grabbed her little sister by her upper arm and began dragging her to the entrance. Clearly upset at something, Dawn yanked out of Buffy's grip with an indignant expression on her face.
"What I am supposed to wear? I need to pack a few things!" she insisted as only a teenager could, "You can't seriously think that I would wear your stuff...seriously Buffy, it's high time someone told you that you dress like a lesbian."
Buffy looked down at her sensible suit and then up to Faith who just shrugged.
"I'm not in a position to comment, I wear leather," Faith said dryly.
Buffy groaned deep in her throat and grabbed Dawn by her ear. The teenager shrieked but was forced to follow along with her sister or else risk her ear being ripped from the side of her head. The two made a comical sight as they went to leave the building. Meanwhile, the receptionist stood behind the counter, peering anxiously over it at the fleeing trio.
"Hold on!" she yelled in their wake, "You can't just remove a student from school like that! There are forms to be filled out...the forms need filling out! Parental approval!"
Faith spun around but kept walking backwards as she spoke, "Piss on your forms, are you going to stop us?"
"Well I never!" the receptionist snorted and sank back into her chair; her bold statement hardly concealed the slight tremor in her voice.
Faith smirked and delivered a parting gesture with her finger before following Buffy and Dawn down the steps. In her wake, the receptionist breathed a sigh of relief.
Once outside, Dawn ceased squealing in pain only when Buffy released her hold on her ear...and that was because there was a trench-coated figure leaning up against the car. Buffy's face had gone a rather ashen white as she stared at the newcomer. His garb was straight out of an eighties rock video, a leather trench coat falling to his ankles over a hideous red shirt and tight leather pants tucked into army surplus boots. Worst of all, his spiky hair had been peroxided within an inch of its life, framing an all too pale face and cold, knowing eyes. Casually, he flicked his spent cigarette to the ground at Buffy's feet. Buffy looked down in horror at the cigarette smouldering below her and then back up to the strangers face, her own face fell even further. He merely smirked at her discomfort.
"It's good to see you again Buffy," his accent was clearly British.
"Who the hell are you?" Faith marched up to him and jabbed his chest with her forefinger.
"Might be asking you the same question. Why don't you ask Buffy who I am!" he drew himself up to his full, not inconsiderable, height and towered over Faith.
Both looked across to Buffy, whose face was growing redder by the second.
"I made a mistake...once," Buffy growled before rounding on Dawn, the teenager was standing defiantly with her hands on her hips as though daring Buffy to confront her, "What the hell is he doing here?"
"You were involved with...him?" Faith asked Buffy incredulously.
"He's my boyfriend," Dawn replied snappily.
"What the fuck?" Faith was thoroughly confused and she took a step back, out of the path of any potential mudslinging.
Buffy's eyes bulged on their stalks, her mouth worked soundlessly like a fish gasping for air. She crossed the short distance between herself and the peroxided stranger in a single, angry bound. Her fist snapped out with her entire body weight behind it, catching him squarely on the jaw and sending him reeling backwards.
"Ow! You stupid bitch!" he clutched his jaw as he did a little dance of one in pain.
"She's fifteen! It's illegal...not to mention gross!" Buffy snapped, kicking him childishly in the shin.
The Englishman yelped again, creating a rather comic picture as he clutched his jaw and tried to rub his shin at the same time. Not quite finished with her victim, Buffy pushed him to the ground. Already dangerously off-balance, he fell heavily. Once he was down Buffy proceeded to kick him repeatedly in the stomach. Faith just stood and watched, arms crossed and stance relaxed as though she were enjoying the show.
"Buffy!" Dawn tried to restrain her sister in vain by holding her around the waist.
"Oi! She's lying!" the cowering man protested, he finally dragged himself to a kneeling position only to have Buffy kick him again.
"Buffy, I lied!" Dawn finally admitted, throwing down her hands in defeat.
Buffy stopped her assault on the peroxided man only to grab him by the front of his coat and yank him to his feet roughly. She found herself face to face with her ex...uncomfortably close. Feeling all sorts of uncomfortable feelings, Buffy released her hold and he scrambled away from her in fright.
"Little bit! What did you have to do that for?" he snapped at Dawn, "Coulda told her the bleedin' truth!"
Dawn shrugged and replied in a bored voice, "How was I to know she didn't take her medicine today?"
"Well, what are you doing hanging around my sister?" Buffy obviously did not feel any remorse for what she had done to him.
"I'm her bleedin' Guardian!" he insisted, "Supposed to keep her safe I am...although how was I to know that I was the one who would be in need protecting?"
"You're her Guardian!" Buffy and Faith intoned at precisely the same moment.
"Yeah, why are you surprised? I'm trustworthy...and the little bit and I get along really well," he indicated Dawn with a nod of his head.
Dawn shrugged, "He's got a good point, he's the only one who ever treated me like I was an adult."
Faith stomped her foot angrily, "Isn't anyone going to tell me who the hell this is!"
Buffy groaned and doubled-over, massaging her temples as though she had a terrible headache. When she straightened up she stared the Englishman in the eye, giving him her very best 'don't mess with me' expression.
"Faith...it gives me no pleasure at all to introduce Spike."
"One-Six-Seven right?" Willow glanced at the mailbox as she pulled Giles' car up to the curb, she resisted the urge to scrape the rims against the concrete.
Willow glanced up at the nicely appointed suburban home. It looked exactly like the house she had grown up in, a home of the pretentious middle-class. It was homes like these that concealed some of the most dysfunctional families.
Tara double-checked the note for the tenth time as she was well aware of the consequences of collecting the wrong person, "This is the one...you all set?"
Willow nodded and was about to clamber out of the car when she turned to Tara with a funny expression on her face. Tara raised her eyebrows questioningly and in response Willow smiled wickedly.
"We're alone...in a car," Willow looked over her shoulder to check out the back seat, "Backseat is a little cramped...but as this car belongs to a tight arse like Giles, I can understand."
"Willow, you can't be serious," Tara glanced upwards to emphasise the open air above them, "It's a soft-top and the top isn't up!"
Willow felt a little ashamed of herself, given the situation they were in, "Sorry, I just thought a little levity would help...and that would be a no with the levity."
"Levity? Willow, please be serious," Tara gave her a steady gaze with no trace of mirth on her features, "We're here to save a little boy...for all we know that warlock you saw last week has been here already...or is still here."
Willow froze and looked at the house with a newfound appreciation for their situation. She had absolutely no desire to face down that nightmare again. Her face was apologetic when she turned back to Tara.
"I'm all set," she checked inside her coat and felt the cold metal sitting in its holster, "Shall we go."
They both exited the car and made their way up the well-manicured front path. Before they reached the front door, Tara reached out and gently gripped Willow's hand. Willow halted and turned slightly.
"I'm sorry Will...next time we're alone together in a car, you can take me straight to the backseat," she said quietly, a twinkle in her eye despite the serious tone of her voice.
Willow gave Tara's hand a brief squeeze before letting go and continuing to the front door. She noted with relief that there were no signs of forced entry. However, there was a little hesitation in her knock as she wondered whom the door would open to reveal. It swung open a few moments after her knock.
"Yo, can I help you?" a teenage boy answered the door, his face broadened into an awkward grin when he saw the beautiful women on his doorstep.
He was lanky, as though his limbs were growing at a different rate from the rest of his body. His unkempt black hair grew over half his face; his green eyes could barely be seen peering out from beneath it. He wore a bright blue t-shirt over jeans which were sitting half way around his bum, leaving a copious amount of his bright yellow boxer shorts showing. A pair of headphones sat around his neck, the music blaring audibly from them...something very loud and incomprehensible.
"Matthew Murphy?" Willow asked dubiously.
"Matt!" he insisted, "Am I in some sort of trouble? Cos I haven't done anythin'...lately."
Both women shook their heads and Tara replied, "No Matt, you haven't done anything..."
His grin widened even larger when he knew they were here for him, "Sweet! What can I do for you ladies? Would you like to come in for a drink?"
He stepped aside to make a path for them into the house, making a sweeping gesture with one arm.
Little charmer, Willow thought with a raised eyebrow, "Um, we'd actually like to speak to a guardian, is someone else at home."
His face fell slightly, although his grin seemed to be a permanent fixture, 'You mean my parents? Cos they ain't here, in New Zealand or somewhere on holiday...or do you mean my Guardian?"
His emphasis on the word was slight, but it attracted both women's attention. Obviously he knew something of what he was and possibly even the danger he could be in. Matt's grin never faded however, even as both women nodded again. He ushered them inside quickly as though they were all part of a secret conspiracy...which wasn't far from the truth.
As they were shown into the sitting room, Willow had a good look at her surroundings. Never for a moment did she cease being a detective; she constantly checked exits, danger spots and points of concealment. She also noted that it was exactly like her parents house, right down to the hideously overdone family portrait hanging over the fireplace.
"Take a seat, I'll just go get Nat," Matt turned and bounded up a set of stairs, leaving the two women to take spots on an overstuffed couch.
Willow studied the portrait. It appeared recent. Two smiling adults stared back at her, a balding but fit looking man in his forties and an attractive but plasticised woman of the same age. Then there was Matt, his hair swept back from his face for the occasion, trademark grin in place. The absence of hair revealed a handsome, young chap. There was one last person in the portrait, a young woman, possibly in her early twenties. Her perfect brown hair fell down around her shoulders. A short skirt revealed a pair of gorgeously lithe, tanned legs. Her warm smile was a more feminine version of Matt's grin.
"Can I help you?"
Willow turned to see the subject of her attention walking down the stairs, every bit as perfect and beautiful as her picture. She had obviously required no touching up whatsoever. Willow felt a momentary surge of disappointment that her legs were clad in a pair of sweat pants. On top she wore a UC Sunnydale t-shirt and her hair was thrown up in a messy ponytail. As Willow stared, she did not notice that Tara was in turn staring at her.
Tara swiftly erased her worried frown and stood, introducing herself in a warm voice, "I'm Tara Maclay, and this is Willow Rosenberg..."
Willow bounded forward as well, extending her hand to the brunette, "Detective Willow Rosenberg."
The young woman shook both their hands with a firm grip, "Nat Murphy...thank goodness someone has finally made contact with us...I knew those murders in the paper had something to do with us! Three children...magical circles..."
Wow, she's straight off the mark Willow mused, genuinely surprised by the fact that Nat knew exactly what was happening, "Well, don't worry Miss Murphy, we're here to help," Willow reassured her.
"Having the police here makes me feel so much safer," she smiled gratefully.
Matt thudded down the stairs just behind them, stopping a little short of the bottom where he placed on hand on the banister and leapt deftly over it. He grinned as though he was both incredibly talented and irresistible to ladies. His gaze moved over Willow and Tara, scrutinising their appearances and obviously found fault with what he saw.
"You two are cops?" he asked in a sceptical voice.
Tara looked down at her flowing skirt and blouse and then across at Willow who was looking a little miffed. The redhead was wearing her favourite suit, a black pinstripe which was both smartly cut and decidedly 'no-nonsense.' At least one of them looked like she meant business.
"Ah, we're not exactly the police," Tara was quick to dispel any misconceptions, the thought of herself as a police officer almost brought a smile to her lips, "Willow is a detective yes, but our little operation really has nothing to do with the police. Um...W-Willow and I are w-witches."
Nat raised her eyebrows and Mat's jaw dropped. However, the siblings recovered quickly.
Nat nodded once, "Exactly what we need, I contemplated going to the police myself but what could they do?"
"Not a lot unless you count sitting around on their arses eating donuts," Willow grinned, "The closest they get to magic is taking their kids to see Harry Potter."
Tara raised her eyebrows and whispered through her teeth in Willow's direction, "That description sounds a lot like a certain detective not too long ago."
Willow's cheeks coloured to be embarrassed in front of the attractive young woman. Tara narrowed her eyes and felt that Willow was asking for it. The redhead had used her 'charming grin' on Nat, the one she had used to such good effect while wooing Tara.
Nat didn't seem to notice the unspoken interaction between the two witches, "So, where to..."
Matt interrupted, "What sort of stuff can you guys do? Nat can just do stupid stuff like fireballs, it was cool to start with now it's just boring...so can you change all my grades at school so I'm getting As instead of Cs?"
Willow let out a loud laugh, "You don't need witchcraft for that! Just a really good computer and a highspeed connection..." however, while Matt listened eagerly, both Nat and Tara were giving her exasperated looks, Willow quickly changed tack to avoid their combined wrath, "But no, that's wrong, you should work hard at school...the old fashioned way."
"That's what I keep telling him!" Nat agreed, "Anyway...so we're going with you for protection? Should we pack?"
"Quickly," Willow added, remembering the fatal timing of her last encounter with one of the seals, "I'm not sure how much time we have...and we've wasted enough already."
Tara nodded, relieved that Willow had her eyes firmly set on their mission rather than the legs of their hostess.
Nat began dragging Matt up the stairs even as he continued talking, Willow and Tara got the impression that he often needed silencing.
"Can I take my PSP?"
"Well, I'm taking both!"
Willow watched them disappear upstairs, wondering for a moment whether she should follow them rather than let them go on their on.
"Should I go upstairs too?" Willow peered up the stairs, straining to see where the pair had gone, "I mean, letting them out of our sight can't be good..."
"W-Willow, are w-we exclusive?" Tara asked while Willow's back was turned, her increased stutter betraying how worried she was.
Upon hearing her name Willow spun around to face Tara with a slight frown, "What did you say baby?"
Tara gave a slightly annoyed grunt and repeated her question, "Are we exclusive?"
Willow frowned, wondering where that question had come from, "Tara?"
Tara continued, "Because if you want to be free to date other people then I suggest you find a new girlfriend because I'm a one woman kind of girl."
Willow fully heard all of Tara's words this time around, her eyes bulged out and she hastily spluttered a reply, "Tara...no...I mean, yes! Yes we are exclusive, I'm exclusively yours!"
Tara placed her hands on her hips and gave Willow an 'are you telling the truth?' stare, "I know we're only been going out for two seconds but the way you were looking at Nat, I thought I was going to have to follow you around with a mop to clean up your drool!"
Willow's jaw dropped, "Tara? I wasn't!"
Tara gave her an eye, "You were too, admit it!"
Willow was about to resort to pleading but instead she jammed her hands on her hips and stamped her foot, "Now look here Tara Maclay, I've only got eyes for one hottie around here...and trust me, she's all the hottie I need."
Tara's face softened slightly leaving Willow with no idea where she actually stood, or how mad Tara was with her. The redhead twiddled her thumbs nervously and kept her eyes firmly on Tara. She knew full well that no naughty thoughts about Nat had crossed her mind, save for a few that were very brief and swiftly banished when Nat had first walked down the stairs.
Tara ducked her head, cheeks colouring with embarrassment when she realised how foolish her jealously really was, "Will..."
Willow stepped forward and silenced Tara by taking her into her arms, "No apologies...I know it's a little too early to be making grand statements...but honestly Tara, I feel as though you're the part of me I've been looking for all these years..."
"Ah, so that's how you justify all your w-womanising?" Tara revealed the source of her concern and Willow's eyebrows shot up.
"Tara...you're not going to bring up who I was whenever you feel insecure. I'm not going to make excuses for myself and quite frankly I shouldn't have to," Willow replied honestly as she hugged Tara all the more fiercely to her chest, "I'm doing my best to be a one woman gal too, although I guess some parts of my little brain haven't read the memo yet."
Tara almost laughed at the mental picture of Willow's brain that the statement conjured, hundreds and hundreds of little workers divided into colour-coded teams, all sending each other memos on coloured post-its. Thoughts of cuteness inexplicably became thoughts of desire and Tara could not restrain herself. She moved forward in one swift movement and swept Willow up into a quick but fierce kiss. After a few brief seconds of heaven, Willow found herself deposited back on earth.
There was a loud footfall on the stairs and Willow and Tara spun around to see Matt descending quickly, backpack over his shoulder.
"You guys are lesbians right? Matt asked in an excited voice, "Hot lesbians...excellent!"
"Matt!" Nat was following close behind and cuffed him hard over the back of his head.
"Ouch sis!" Matt reached the bottom and withdrew a cellphone from inside his jacket.
He promptly began typing a text message, no doubt telling some of his friends exactly where he was and whom he was with.
"I don't think so," Nat reached over and snatched the phone out of his grasp, she tucked it in a little pocket on the strap of her shoulder bag.
"We'd better move out," Willow said, the longer they hung around, the more likelihood of someone unpleasant showing up.
As the four of them moved out of the house, Tara noticed Nat looking around with reluctant expression on her face. No doubt she was already missing what she was leaving behind.
"Are you going to call your parents?" Tara asked quietly, sensing her worry.
Nat met Tara's gaze, "I already tried, they must have moved on from the hotel they were scheduled to be at, I'll try again later. Tara, are we going to be alright?"
Tara set her lips resolutely, "You'll be as safe as you can possibly be, we've got a good group of people."
Nat locked the door behind them, she then hid the key in a hollow rock in the garden.
"I hope I come back for it,' Nat looked wistfully at the rock for a moment.
The four were silent for a few moments as Willow led the way to Giles' car. It was mere seconds though before Matt let out a wild cry and raised his hand triumphantly as though he had scored a winning goal.
"Dibs on shotgun!" Matt yelled making a beeline for the front passenger seat.
His excitement quickly faded when he realised he was struggling against an unseen force holding him back. It was his older sister, one hand securely holding his backpack, effectively halting his flight.
"Wait a minute buster!" Nat cautioned, "You're going in the back with me!"
"Oh joy," Matt muttered sarcastically.
He didn't bothered to open the door, in an athletic bound he leapt into the back seat of Giles' car. His skate shoes landed squarely on the leather. Nat glared apocalyptically and he slid down into the seat.
Willow waved her hand dismissively as she walked around to the driver's door, "I wouldn't worry, it's not my car...and I don't particularly like the guy it belongs to."
"Willow!" Tara exclaimed in a horrified voice.
Willow looked suitably guilty and peered over her shoulder to address Matt, "But just because you don't like someone, it doesn't mean you don't respect their stuff."
Matt grinned like a co-conspirator.
"Right, where are we going? Some secret bunker that you guys have got hidden in the mountains somewhere?" Nat asked hopefully.
"Errr no," Willow looked across to Tara, "We're going to a magic shop."
Giles felt the distinct urge to wash his hands whenever he touched the Veneficus. For some reason, the book exuded immense evil. Giles was a logical man and he did not attempt to explain how mere bound paper could have this effect.
He removed his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. After hours of searching the tome, he had found several useful incantations, dark magicks which of course he would not use...but they were interesting nevertheless. However, there was nothing that he didn't already know concerning the seals and the concealed evil. Giles had reasoned that the book ought to contain something about how to defeat it, a passage that would no doubt be cryptic and mysterious...but something to start with at least.
With an angry snort Giles pushed his chair back, legs scraping on the linoleum. Ashley immediately lifted her head from where she was still playing with her Lego as she had for the past hour. By now she had constructed an impressively intricate fort, her construction however had used all her available materials and her patience was stretched to the limit. Her belly rumbled loudly, reminding her that it had been simply forever since she had eaten. She watched Giles pace for a few moments, observing his clearly agitated state. Being a very smart girl Ashley knew better than to interrupt adults when they were in a bad mood but she overruled her own judgement and stood.
"Giles?" Ashley deliberately spoke loudly so that he could not pretend he did not hear her, "It's almost dinner time."
"Yes, yes," Giles waved his hand absently as he continued pacing, "In a minute...it must be a spell, perhaps a renewal of the binding spell with seven new seals...or replace those that have failed, no, it cannot be that simple..."
Ashley hopped up onto Giles' recently vacated seat and propped both arms up on the chair back. She rested her chin on her forearms and stared at Giles as he continued talking to himself. He showed no signs of letting up any time soon. Ashley gave a snort of disgust and swivelled in the chair to face the mountain of books piled high on the table. She brought her small fist crashing down on the book nearest her, venting her frustration on the objects which seemed to be causing all the trouble. In doing so, she knocked one from the table. It landed with a muffled thud on the floor, its binding and pages spreading apart upon impact. Face frozen in horror, Ashley glanced up to Giles who was still pacing. She held her breath for a few moments, confirming that he was indeed so rapt up in his own thoughts that he did not hear her. With stealthy movements, Ashley slid from the chair and bent down to pick up the book. However, Giles turned just as she jerked to her feet. Ashley clutched the book to her chest and looked down to see a single page fluttering to the ground.
"Oh fuck," Ashley whispered, her eyes meeting Giles'.
Giles eyes widened, but not due to the fallen page, "Ashley Maclay! Where did you learn language like that?"
Ashley cocked her head to one side and looked at Giles as though he were joking, "Giles...have you forgotten I live with Faith?"
Giles groaned, "How could I?"
Ashley retrieved the fallen page. She picked up the paper between her fingers and was surprised to find it felt slimy. However, when she looked at it, the paper wasn't moist in the slightest. A shiver ran down her spine and she quickly held out both book and paper for Giles to take.
"I'm sorry Giles, I'm not sure where the page fell from," she whispered sheepishly.
Giles glanced down to see the Veneficus in her outstretched hands. Quickly he snatched both the book and page away from her. Ashley regarded him with wide eyes as though she were about to bear the brunt of a furious tirade.
He smiled wearily, "No Ashley, it's okay, let's go..."
Giles stopped abruptly when his eyes fell on the single page. Even at a glance he could tell that it had not come loose from the Veneficus. His thumb caressed the thick paper, sliding over words written in a heavy, black ink. The words seemed to tremble as though they had been written in a shaky hand. He looked up to the little girl, who still obviously under the impression that she was about to be scolded.
"Ashley, where did you get this page from?" Giles asked urgently, shaking the page in her direction.
"It was in the book..." Ashley began, pointing to the offending tome in Giles' other hand.
Giles shook his head, "No, it wasn't...tell me honestly, where did you get this page from? Did you take it from one of the other books?"
She responded with a decidedly firm shake of her head, "No Giles, it was in that book. I knocked it off the table and it fell out."
Giles was satisfied that Ashley was telling the truth, he finally allowed himself to read what was written in its entirety. His eyes were fixed to that single sheet of paper as they followed the shaky scrawl.
"When the hour is dire and the seals are failing, it is the Guardian of the seventh seal who will be both the last hope of the righteous and the key to their destruction.
The handwriting became almost illegible near the end...
What a terrible burden to bear"
The note was not signed, just initialled in the bottom right corner, MW
Despite the fact that it was exactly what he had been searching for, Giles felt empty and drained. It was a solution that left everything up to the frailty of an individual...and that was a situation that Giles did not like at all. His knees buckled beneath him and he slipped to the floor with a dull thud as Ashley looked on with a worried frown. She approached cautiously and laid her small hand on his shoulder.
"Giles, I'm sorry I said fuck," she apologised and them immediately clamped both hands over her mouth as she realised she'd done it again.
"Good lord," Giles whispered, not even looking up at Ashley, "We have to find the seventh seal..."