Shilo sat at the table a little towards the back of the Magic Box, brows creased as she wrote down what she could recall of the ingredients to her experiment. Her memory seemed to be failing her lately, but she didn't know if it was because of the explosion or because of the amount of stress she'd undergone in this place in just one day. She sighed and put her pen down, rubbing her forehead. It was probably a combination of both.
Sunnydale -- or the Hellmouth, as her father's look-alike called it -- carried its own brand of culture shock, too. For a place that attracted a lot of baddies, it was awfully beautiful in the daytime. She'd spent the morning perched on Giles' front steps, taking in the sunlight. Back at home, everything was so dreary with the amount of pollution that clouded the air and sky. The clean air would probably make the atmosphere back home a bitch to transition into once she got back, especially since her compromised immune system was just starting to kick in . . .
. . . If she ever did get back home.
"Are you alright, Shilo?" Giles' voice said behind her.
She dropped her hand from its place on her forehead. "I'm fine," she murmured.
"Tell me when you get hungry. I can have someone bring something in for you."
She nodded, feeling a sense of calm by the older man's hand on her shoulder. He wasn't her father, but he looked like him, and he did carry a sort of paternal aura. He was probably much nicer than her father, too. She sighed and returned to her piece of paper. Shilo was trying so hard not to grow an attachment to Giles, but it was difficult. It was completely skewing her mourning process for her father.
"I have to be careful about what I eat," Shilo piped up. "My father, he . . . " Did she really want to tell a complete stranger that her father had poisoned her for the better part of her life? Not that she would call it better at all. She pursed her lips, trying to choose her words carefully. "I was very ill until not too long ago. I don't know what foods I'm sensitive to. But the food over here can't be as bad as back home, I guess. There are so many preservatives in the food now."
Giles nodded, pushing his glasses further up his nose. "We can go food shopping later if you'd like."
A swell of affection rose within her before she could squash it down. Shilo swallowed, hard. She couldn't believe she was getting worked up over something as simple and domestic as going food shopping with her father -- no, this man who looked like her father. "Th-Thank you," she said, cursing her breathlessness.
He smiled kindly. "Shilo, may I ask a question about your father?"
She swallowed again, her mouth suddenly dry. "I-I can try my best to answer."
"His name . . . What was it?"
"His name was Nathan," Shilo replied, gripping the edge of the table. "Nathan Wallace. He was a . . . a doctor." She sucked in a breath when she heard the tinkling of the bell and watched the front door open. A young woman with chestnut brown hair swept into a messy bun stepped inside, smiling shyly.
"Good morning," she greeted.
"Tara," Giles said with a smile of his own. "Thank you for coming on such short notice. I was wondering if you could help."
"With what?" she asked, taking a seat across from Shilo at the big table, her keen eyes landing on the young girl.
"This is Shilo, um--"
"Wallace," Shilo said.
"Yes, Shilo Wallace. She . . . She dropped in from another dimension last night and she'd be extremely grateful if we helped her find her way home."
Tara blinked, a surprised look on her gentle features. "D-Dropped in?"
"I, uh, was doing an alchemy experiment back at home and it blew up," Shilo said sheepishly. "When I woke up, I was in a crypt. I'm not sure if you know him, but Spike found me. He took me here, to the shop." She glanced down at her abused slip of paper. "I've been trying to write down the ingredients I used, but for some reason I just can't recall all the calculations."
"I'll try to help you as best I can," Tara said gently, giving her a warm smile. "We all will. I think we have some pretty resourceful people around here."
Giles smiled down at the young girl, giving her shoulder another reassuring squeeze. "More than you know." He glanced at Tara. "We can call Willow when she's recalled enough of the chemical equations. I think we could use all the help we can get."
Tara smiled at Shilo when she tensed, her eyes strained as she glanced down at the paper. "There's no pressure, Shilo. Remember what you can. In fact, I could probably help you a little bit."
"H-How?" Shilo asked, her conversation with Giles coming to mind about how she'd landed in a not so ordinary place.
"I'm Wiccan," Tara explained. "I can use a harmless spell to induce memory enhancement. It's kind of like . . . Using ginko biloba, but in an advanced form and an even more advanced process."
"And it's . . . Safe, you said," Shilo said, licking her dry lips. "It only targets one specific memory?"
She nodded. "I can alter the incantation so that it triggers what it's supposed to trigger if you don't want anything else touched."
Shilo took a deep breath before nodding. "Okay."
"Don't worry," Tara said as she stood from her seat. "I'll just prepare the ingredients."
Shilo watched, her curiosity peaked as Tara went about the shop, collecting the needed items. There were small dusty vials and labeled zip lock bags filled with various dried plants. Tara retrieved a mortar and pestle from the back of the room, emptying the needed ingredients into the bowl and grinding them. Its aroma was strong, but not unpleasant.
"Come sit on the floor with me," Tara said after drawing a pentagram on the ground with chalk. She lined it with salt. She said a brief incantation at each point of the pentagram before stepping inside the circle. She motioned for Shilo to do the same.
Shilo carefully stepped over the line of chalk and salt, sitting in front of Tara with the bowl in between them. Tara lit two candles -- one red and one white -- making soft, sweeping gestures with her hands as she spoke her incantation softly.
"So mote it be," Tara finished, her hands coming to rest in her lap.
Shilo frowned, waiting for something grand to happen. "I don't--" And then suddenly images of what she'd written down on paper back at home came rushing through her mind, and she began to stand.
"Not yet," Tara said, quickly grabbing her hand. "I have to close the circle."
"Don't worry," she said gently. "It will still be there."
Shilo nodded, sitting down again, her knee jiggling as she gradually lost her patience. It seemed like forever for Tara to close the circle, but once the witch was through, she practically leapt out of it and back to her paper, writing down everything she could remember.
"I'll call Willow," Giles said, going in the back to use the phone.