Disclaimer: Don't own and never will.

AN: I am so very sorry that it's taken this long to update this fic. I've also set up a poll on my profile page as to which fic I should focus on after I finish Swordmaster, so feel free to head over and vote.

Dean glared at the chaotic set of pins on the map and closed his eyes with a groan.

"Magic's flaring all over the place, far more than usual. Why isn't the pattern clear?" he muttered under his breath. He closed his eyes once more and rubbed the bridge of his nose, still muttering.

"Too many missing factors. Far too many," he continued as he paced up and down before punching the board in frustration. "How am I supposed to connect the dots when half of them are missing!"

Throwing on his coat and shoes, Mr Collins stormed out his front door. He wasn't getting anywhere with second hand reports. He needed to go to the sites himself and examine them personally. Maybe, hidden in magical residue, he might find something that could shed more light on what was happening. According to his predecessor, surges like this had been known to happen in Heatherfield, but unlike Dean, he had dismissed them as a local phenomenon and not worthy of further investigation. Dean Collins however had a far more personal stake in this and he wasn't going to just let it go.

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"I thought you said you wouldn't get a scratch?" Anna asked teasingly with a smirk on her face. Tom chuckled as he leaned forward and kissed her.

"It's only a little scratch," he protested and Anna just gave him a bemused smirk.

"Ah, but you said to me Mr Lair, that 'I won't even have a scratch, I promise.' That is what you said," Anna added with a grin, before hugging him tightly and whispering in his ear. "Make sure that's the closest I get to losing you."

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Theresa Cook was troubled. Very troubled.

When Theresa married Lionel, she swore to herself that she would never use her powers on him, or her children. It was far too easy to slip into the habit of using your powers freely, never needing to trust someone absolutely because you could always know. It could corrode a relationship from the inside out as it slowly drove the people who mattered away and destroyed the trust of those who used their powers in that way. It was one of the hidden side effects of paladin magic, the psychological effects of being able to see everyone's darkest secrets with a glance. And that in itself was a good reason for not using her powers now.

Theresa had never been so tempted as she had today though. Taranee was definitely nervous about something, something more than the usual teenage worries her daughter had. And with the knowledge that her daughter might have magic made it a very tempting to use her powers.

"No, I will NOT sink to that level!" she snapped quietly to herself as she heard Taranee enter the house.

"Hi mom," Taranee said with a smile as she walked into the lounge and pulled her homework out of her bag. Theresa watched with a small smile as she watched her studious, clever, amazing little girl concentrated on her homework.

"Taranee…if there was something…unusual going on in your life, something out of the ordinary, you would tell me, wouldn't you?" Theresa asked with uncharacteristic nervousness and Taranee gave her mum a strange look.

"Mom…?" she asked, her eyes questioning.

"It's just…you can talk to me about anything if it's bothering you or…" she stumbled and Taranee looked at her with concern.

"Mom, are you okay?" Taranee asked in a tone of wary concern.

"I'm fine," Theresa said with a sad smile. "Now I have a few court cases to look over. Would you like something to drink?"

"Some squash sounds good," Taranee replied with a forced smile. "Are you sure your okay?"

"Yes, yes, I'm just being unusually emotional," Theresa said breezily as she stood up. "Nothing to worry about."

Taranee frowned as she watched her mum leave the room. Was it possible that she somehow knew about her Guardian activities? She gave herself a mental shake. That was silly, how could she? But still…it might be worth bringing up with the others tomorrow at school.

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Joan Lin smiled as she watched her daughter become completely involved with her drawing. Whatever else Hay Lin was, she was a truly gifted artist and Joan felt a small surge of pride in her daughter's skill. More pertinently, the subject of her daughter's attentions was ideal.

"That's an interesting picture Hay," she said and Hay Lin jumped in surprise before giving her a genuine, wide smile.

"It's something I saw in the clouds today," she explained cheerfully. "It's a sorceress with the ability to manipulate the elements!"

"That's good," Joan said, looking interested and Hay Lin continued.

"I've gone for all these loose ribbons on her dress," Hay Lin continued, gesturing to her drawing. "They're all fluttering about to show her connection to air and exaggerate her movements. And I've given her a crown of fire to show her control over that element." Hay Lin paused and gestured to the woman's arms. "I've got a couple of small rivers running down her arm and her feet are literally rooted to the ground. I'm thinking of giving it to grandma as a get well soon present."

"Wouldn't it be fun to have powers like that?" Joan said with a smile, while reminding herself that magical powers also had a tendency to go wrong as well.

"Yeah…we could wave our hand and make Grandma better. That would be wonderful," Hay Lin replied dreamily and Joan suppressed a wince. Magic couldn't cure everything and it was always a disappointment when new mages discovered that.

"When I was your age, I think I would've been terrified of suddenly gaining magical powers," which is exactly the way Joan HAD reacted when she first gained her powers, she mused internally. "I wouldn't have told my parents at all," Joan continued, while she suppressed a grin as she remembered the things she'd done to keep them hidden. "Which probably would have been a better idea. It's a shame that type of magic doesn't exist."

"It's such a shame, but you'd always find some idiot willing to screw it up even if it did exist," Hay Lin replied, thinking of her encounter with Cedric and her mission that she and her friends had been entrusted with.

"Of course, you can always talk to me about anything that's bothering you," Joan finished. "No matter how strange it might be."

Hay Lin gave her mum a very tight hug and smiled at her.

"I'm sure Grandma will get better," she said as she wrapped her arm around her mum's shoulder. "I'll make some tea!"

It took a few seconds after Hay Lin left that Joan realised that she hadn't really answered the question. Next time perhaps.

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"Hi Will," Susan called out as she heard her walk through the door.

"Hi mom," Will said as she walked into the flat. "Finish early?"

"Yeah, I finished early. I wanted to spend a little mother/daughter time, especially after all the trouble you've had lately," Susan said almost breezily.

"Trouble?"

"You know, having to move to a new city and all the trouble at the Halloween party," Susan continued smoothly, "You know you can confide in me about anything, don't you? No matter how strange it sounds."

"Come on mom, what could possibly happen around here that's strange?" Will replied after a brief hesitation. "I've already made some friends here, we…have some stuff in common."

"That's good Willster. But, if you need to talk, or are in some kind of trouble…"

"Mom, trust me," Will said firmly. "I'll tell you if something happens," she added, crossing her fingers behind her back. The whole Guardian gig was weird enough as it was and she was pretty sure her mom would freak if she had any idea of just how weird her life had gotton recently.

"Okay then," Susan said with a kind smile. Will's hesitation hinted at perhaps something more, something she wasn't sharing. "Just so you know…"

"Mom, are you okay?" Will asked with concern. Susan gave her daughter a smile.

"I'm fine. Just my-" Susan gestured to her stomach "hormones playing up I think."

Will raised an eyebrow in a questioning way, but said nothing, much to Susan's relief. If she told Will that she was trying to find out if she was doing magic, she had no doubt that Will would freak out. But there was definitely something.

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Dean knelt over the ashes where the fire in the gym had been. It was certainly lucky that the building hadn't burned down, but it didn't stop him wishing for a bit more material to work with. Reaching out with his hands, he began sifting his way through the memories the ashes held.

The images, when they came, were fast and disjointed and few made sense. This in itself was not unusual; it was in the nature of psychometric trances to be that way.

Flash

An image of Cornelia's best friend Elyon, standing tall with a malevolent expression on her face and a crown on her head. A towering snake-man reared up behind her with an evil glint in his eyes and a malicious smile.

Flash

He saw Hay Lin, swept up in a magical cloud of some sort, something completely unlike anything he'd ever seen before.

Flash

A medieval world and above it stood a towering figure of a man who was clearly related to Elyon, his face etched in a regal pose and an evil look in his eyes.

"How is this possible?" Dean muttered to himself as he pulled himself away from the trance. There was nothing even remotely close to the world he had just seen in his vision in the local vicinity and certainly nothing that would involve Elyon or Hay Lin at all. Putting his hands back to the floor, he returned to his psychometric trance.

Flash

A magical portal, around seven or eight feet wide began contracting and a blue-skinned creature pointed at it shouting something.

Flash

Will Vandom was clutching her chest as though she was drawing something out of it.

BANG!

Dean was suddenly thrown back as something very powerful slammed him out of his trance, something in the vision itself. He let out a string of violent oaths as he fell over. Then he stood up and looked at the ashes with interest. Normally psychometric visions ended when he wanted them to, but this time, something extremely powerful had kicked him out violently, something that didn't want him to see something. But what it was, he couldn't tell. Stepping outside, he started walking home.

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"Hi dad, what's up?" Irma asked as she walked into the house.

"Hi Irma. Just going through the forensics reports for the fire at your school," Tom replied. "You were supposed to meet your friend Elyon there, weren't you? Did you see anything?"

"Na, we got there too late," Irma replied nonchantly. Tom's detective instincts kicked in however and he could sense that she was hiding something, or lying completely. He wasn't a Paladin, but in the absence of such skills, he had only instinct and in his case, instinct worked very well.

"Did you see anything unusual at all? Anything out of the ordinary?" he continued and Irma frowned slightly.

"I don't think so. Nothing comes to mind anyway," Irma replied. I only had an encounter with a giant SNAKE creature! She added in her head. But Irma figured that if she told her dad that, he'd probably freak. So instead, she said nothing.

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"That's it! That's it! I've got it, I've got it!" Dean exclaimed, jumping up from his seat. "Or at least part anyway."

He started putting pins on his map of Heatherfield, letting the magic guide his patterns.

"What if the tear in reality is the result of some kind of magical reality shield pushing against it?" he continued as he made more and more links. "What if the REASON that the surges are happening is because the shield flips between quiet and busy stages?"

He pulled out the records made by his predecessor and scanned through them with ease, noting the patterns as they formed.

"He never thought to look, did he?" Dean muttered to himself. "But then again, why would he? It's so well hidden that unless you happen to run a psychometric trance practically on top of where one was, you'd never find it."

Exhilarated, Dean picked up the telephone and dialled the number of the local company offices. This was important!