The squealing that had started when the lights came on died off almost instantly. Giles found himself regarding four rats sitting on the center reading table.
The rats expectantly regarded him back.
"Let me guess," said Giles to the one with the reddish fur: "you tried to restore Amy and it backfired."
Giles changed his trousers, then picked Willow up by the tail and tried to get her to point out which book on his shelves had been her source for the spell that had gone awry. The other three rats he identified as Buffy, Xander and Oz; Oz because he was a good deal furrier than the others, Buffy because of her fair fur, and Xander for the total lack of identifying characteristics.
They continued to favor him with urgent squeals, to which he would reply, "What? Timmy's down the well?" or, "You shouldn't say that when Cordelia's not present to defend herself, Xander," or, "Mitigating circumstances aside, Buffy, she and I are both adults." But as his search with Willow progressed he found himself perceiving her squeaks as admonitions to hold her lower or further to the left; and when it was discovered that the book in question was missing, he distinctly heard the lot of them using vocabulary which he certainly had not known at their age.
"Sure you don't still have it, Will?" Xander squeaked as Giles put Willow back on the table.
"No, I xeroxed the pages and put the book back so Giles wouldn't know I'd been in it."
"Good plan," said Oz.
"Particularly since it ought to have meant that I could help if it went wrong," said Giles. "I commend you for, if not being good, being careful."
"But where is it then?" Buffy shrilled. "Wesley?"
Giles shook his head. "Wesley will have his own copy of Baxter's Big Book of Darkish Gray Magic."
"Someone's stolen it," said Xander.
The library doors banged open. "Giles," Angel strode, "something's up and I can't find Buffy."
"Don't know exactly. I just smell a rat." The resouled vampire double-took at the contents of the table. "More than one, I guess."
"There's really nothing to worry about, Faith my dear," said the Mayor. "The reversal spell is right here on the next page, and we'll run it when you're done."
Faith growled a reply.
The Mayor laughed. "Oh, that's funny," he chuckled. "No seriously, sweetheart, you knew what it was going to do to you. We filled in the blank for the spell option -" He tapped a yellow Post-It note on the open page of Baxter's Big Book of Darkish Gray Magic and read it. "- 'the form most dangerous this night to the enemy Buffy Summers'." He removed the Post-It and transferred it to keep the place of the reversal spell, and closed the book. "I don't know why, any more'n you do, but that must be what we got."
Persuaded, Faith purred, and licked her paw to wash her whiskers.
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