Chapter 15

Will stumbles around outside in the dark, thinking things over. It was true, Ashley could care for herself. He figured that out the first day he met her. She left him for dust. The old Ashley that was, this person, he's not so sure. Does she know about that woman being her supposed sister? Why had she been horrified that the woman called her Ashley? Was it surprise, or anger, as if they had an agreement not to use the name?

He is startled out of his thoughts by the sound of soft footsteps. He spies a child, in the moonlight, heading for the door of Kathryn-Nicole Magnus/Smith's apartment.

"Hey." He whispers to the little girl in the darkness, without stopping to think it might spook her.

The girl stops, and turns to face him. "Yes?" She asks politely, her hand raised in mid air, as she had been about to knock on the door in front of her. Her golden hair shimmers in the moonlight, much like how he had pictured Ashley as a child.

"You can't go in there." He warns her. He thinks of the gun, the knife, the crazy lady inside. Leaving Ashley in there was one thing, but he could not stand by and watch a child walk into that.

"I have homework for Principal Smith. It's overdue." The girl explains, waving the papers in her other hand to show him.

"You can give it to her tomorrow, at School." Will suggest.

"No." The child tells him. "I don't think so." The child meets his gaze then, and there is something disturbing in her eyes. Something he can't quite make out in the dim moonlight. Something not quite right, not quite normal, not quite human. But such things no longer scare him.

He lunges towards her to grab her, but she has already knocked loudly on the door, and before he can pull the child away, he hears the door knob turning, and the door creaking open.

It's Ashley who answers the door. She sees the little girl first, and bends down to greet the child at her level. "Cadence, come in, it's cold outside."

The little girl steps inside "Thank you, Miss Jones" She answers.

Jones? Will thinks to himself. Kathryn-Nicole Smith, and Simmone Jones? They could have used a little more imagination with their fake last names, he thinks.

Ashley does not notice him until she attempts to close the door, and his foot prevents it. She sighs wearily.

"I'm sorry." He begins, then hates himself for apologising. "But there is a child here, I had to make sure everything was ok."

"We don't need you to make sure everything is ok." She whispers to him, angrily.

"You might not need me, might think you don't, but that's a child. What is she, five years old?" He hisses.

"My name is Cadence." The little girl introduces herself, as she removes her coat and places it on the coat stand. "And I'm six and a half."

"There are lots of children around here, I told you, I'm a teacher, Kathryn is the school principal." Ashley reminds him. "It's hardly surprising." Ashley puts her arm protectively around the girl standing in front of her. Will can't tell if it's to protect the child from him, or if she is using the child to shield herself.

Something doesn't sit right about this, or about that child. She is eerily staring at Will. He can almost feel holes burning in his flesh from the intensity of her gaze.

"Who are you?" The little girl asks him.

"He is a very old friend, who is just leaving." Kathryn-Nicole answers from inside the house before Will has a chance.

"He doesn't look very old." Cadence states as she doesn't break her gaze with Will.

"Looks can be deceiving, little one." Kathryn tells the girl. "Come, show me your homework." As Kathryn ushers the little child into another room, she turns making some kind of hand signal towards Ashley, Ashley nods in reply.

"Ashely..." He begins

"Do not call me that." She tells him icily.

"This is crazy. What are you doing here?" He asks her, he looks at her, deep into her eyes, trying to reach her, to make sense of this.

"I don't answer to you, Will." She tells him. "I don't answer to anyone, anymore."

"Except Kathryn?" Will challenges her.

"I answer to no-one." She insists angrily.

"That is a child."He repeats.

"Are you implying that child in some sort of danger?" Ashley wants to know.

"Not five minutes ago, you were standing there with a gun pointed at me, that crazy woman had a knife, so no I'm not certain this is the right place for a child." He explains.

"You think I'd hurt a child? That I'd allow a child to be hurt? That's what you think of me?" She asks him. It horrifies her. But it makes sense. Why not? They all thought that, Magnus included. They all believed she was like her father, violent, dangerous, sadistic, evil.

"You said yourself, I don't know you any more. Give me one good reason why I should take your word for anything." He asks.

She doesn't have one good reason. She can tell him to leave her alone, that she's not his problem, that she can care for herself, make her own choices. That even if Kathryn wants to kill her, she doesn't really care, she doesn't want to be saved. She can tell him all that without flinching.

But to tell him to trust her, that she's capable and fit to ensure the safety of that little girl, of any child, of any person, she can't do it. She can't look him in the eye and say it. Not after the things she'd done. How she'd almost killed her own mother, destroyed the sanctuary and everyone in it, everyone she cared about. No, she can't expect him to take her word for anything. Let alone that innocent people are safe around her. And so, uncharacteristically, she does not fight, she does not argue, yell at him or take to her fists. She just leaves. Pushes past him in the doorway and vanishes into the night. So quickly, so unexpectedly, that it takes him a moment to realise what has happened.

Will had tried to catch Ashley in the dark streets, he had no success. She was too fast, she knew the neighbourhood, he did not. In any case, he didn't want to stray too far from the apartment, Ashley would come back at some point, surely. And the child was there. And the crazy Kathryn-Nicole.

He doesn't feel Ashley is in immediate danger, she is annoyed with him, and took off. And in any case, yes, she can take care of herself. Besides, she is the one who sent him packing in the first place. But there is something odd going on, Kathryn, that child. He doesn't like it. He doesn't know what to do, to protect Ashley, to protect the children. He is way way out of his depth.

He reaches for the phone, instinctively to call Magnus. He hesitates for a moment, she had not been herself since the Ashley business. But there is no one else to ask. About Kathryn-Nicole, her story about being a Magnus daughter, he had to go to the source. Magnus herself, knower of all things.

He rang her phone, three times, with no answer. Finally, he tries Henry. And when Henry answers, Will angrily demands "Hey, what's going on? No one will answer the phone."

"Where the hell are you?" Henry asks in reply.

"Australia." Will tells him.

"Dude, you didn't go after Ashley?" Henry asks hesitantly.

"I don't have time to talk about this with you, I need Magnus. Put her on the phone. Now."

"She told you to leave her alone." Henry continues.

She who? Will wonders, Both Magnus and Ashley had told him the same thing, leave it alone. Leave everything alone.

"You don't understand, something strange is going on." Will explains.

"Whatever. Life here is strange. Ashley made her choice. Let it go, this isn't helping. You're needed you here." There is anger in Henry's words. Will senses it is related to the fact Ashley left him behind, abandoned him. But there isn't time now to go into it.

"Put Magnus on the damn phone!" Will demands.

He then hears muffed footsteps, voices, the unmistakable hesitation in Henry's voice as he calls Magnus by name.

"Yes Henry" She answers wearily.

"It's Will." Henry tells her.

"Yes Will?" Helen answers wearily into the phone.

"I need to speak to you. About Ashley." Will explains.

There is dead silence on the other end of the line.

"Magnus?" Will asks.

"Where are you?" She demands.

"Australia." Had she not figured that out in the days he had been gone? Hadn't anyone stopped to wonder where he was, to find out?

"Perfect, Will. The place falling apart at the seams, people are running off left right and centre to the other side of the world, just perfect."

"Magnus, it's important." He ignores the fact that she doesn't want to speak to him, least of all about Ashley, "There is a woman Ashley is with, her name is Kathryn-Nicole..."

"I know her name." Magnus interrupts her icily.

"Of course you do, you know everything" He mutters "The point is, I don't think Ashley is safe. And there are these children. Something is definitely …."

"You don't think Ashley is safe?" Magnus repeats sarcastically. "You think she was safe here? You think you are? Will, if you don't want to be here, at the Sanctuary, then don't bother coming back. No questions asked. No hard feelings."

"Magnus, No. That's not what..." He begins, but it's useless.

"You want to be safe, you and Ashley both? Good for you, run away, wherever, stay with her, both of you, I sincerely hope you're happy. But if you value your job here, be here. Tomorrow. There is a pile of paperwork on your desk. Kate has run off somewhere, I need you to find her or find someone to replace her. You will never mention that name to me again, you will never mention Ashley. I trust I've made myself clear.

She doesn't wait for his answer before hanging up. Let him leave her too, why not? Let them all live in their cosy little place on the other side of the world. She doesn't begrudge happiness to Will, or Ashley. They are better away from her, so be it. But she can't help the stab of pain that pierces through her every time she thinks about her daughter so far away from her.

With that, she pours herself another glass of wine, and closes her eyes.