DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not my copyright. This is a not-for-prophet work, no money is being made from it and access to it should not be bought or sold.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: (Beta Reader Credit:) many thanks to Rebelgirl for her fantastic work in making sure you don't have to try to decipher my typos and goof-ups, and for making me laugh at myself so much / don't blame her for my sometimes admittedly odd grammar and such though, o.k.? / plus, beware my attempts at Buffy-speak (Story:) alternate history / non-cannon (Key:) "speaking" / <thoughts> / *emphasis* / --in the past-- / /"voice on the phone"/ (Warnings:) infrequent use of profanity / violence of the slaying vampires kind (Vocabulary:) mi hija = Spanish for "my daughter" / mija = contraction for "mi hija" / P.D.A. = public display of affection (Pop Culture References:) Way back in the very first episode of the Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV show, when Sabrina was first learning about her powers, all she could figure out how to do was turn things into pineapples, a talent she used on Libby without meaning to.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Wiccan Way
:: A Fire That Moves Us ::

By Jessica Knight


In Sunnydale, CA, there's a shop on Maple Street called The Wiccan Way. Tara's parents, Andrea and Jenny, own it, and have lived there on the second floor with their daughter since they moved to Sunnydale when Tara was only five. Tara went to school, made friends, grew up, and fell in love with a girl named Sasha Easton. This story centers around Tara's home and tells her story and that of her friends and loved ones. All this, and a vampire attack outside the Sun Cinema might just lead their paths to cross that of a certain Vampire Slayer you might recognize. Be prepared, life in the sleepy little town of Sunnydale looks like it might just start to get a whole lot more interesting...

:: Part 1 ::

The Ballad of Lisa Pennyman

Friday night, The Bronze, two friends sitting at a table, talking happens.

"Hey Willow?..."

"Yeah Amy?" The redhead asked, looking over at the girl sitting next to her and taking a sip of her soda.

"I... um, how did things go yesterday?"

"C minus, tops. I doubt a future as a mathematician is in store." Willow replied.

"Not about the grade." Amy chucked a little and gave the other girl's shoulder a bit of nudge with her hand. "I mean... you know, did you?" She prompted.

"Oh that... Not so much."

"What happened?" Amy asked, trying to be as sensitive and tactful as she could.

"Nothing!" Willow replied. "Nothing happened. I chickened out. Again. ...You know, it's like: When I was born, God was sitting on a cloud, looking down at the line where people's souls wait in line before going to earth. She was bored, deeply so, and she looked down and my red hair just happened to catch her eye, and you know what God said?"

"Not really." Amy said. "But I bet you're gonna tell me." Willow was so cute when she got like this, Amy couldn't help but stare a little, and feel happy.

"Yes. As a matter of fact I am." Willow went on. "God looked down on me and said, *You who will be Willow Rosenberg: You'll be born with the ability to never stress nor choke over test nor quiz, but when it comes to talking with boys? I'm afraid you are just doomed...* and then she tagged me like those scientists do with arctic seals when they want to study them. And she's up there right now, making with the all seeing eye and having a good chuckle at my expense. This is why I know, I just know, I'm gonna live a long and healthy life. If I died early, God would miss out on all the giggles."

"Is that right." Amy said. She was gazing over at Willow with an interested expression.

"It's the obvious conclusion." Willow reasoned.

"Should we wave?"


"Yeah, at God? If she's watching us, do you think we should wave?" Amy couldn't help but tease her.

"I'd feel kind'a silly." Willow said.

"Yeah, me too." Amy admitted, looking up at the ceiling and giving a small wave.

"So, what's the what with my two favorite girls?" A voice broke in.

"Xander, hi!" Willow greeted as her friend took the seat they had been saving for him.

"Hi." Amy echoed the greeting.

"So, what's with the wave?" Xander questioned. "Does the Bronze have a few bats in the belfry now?" Xander looked up as if to judge for himself.

"Oh, we were just talking about God, and I thought it would be polite to wave to her." Amy explained.

"God's a girl?" Xander questioned.

"That's what the song says anyway." Amy replied logically.

"There's a song?" He asked.

"There's always a song Xander. I'd have thought we'd have learned this by now?" Willow answered reprovingly.

"Hey Xander... Have you ever been in love with someone and been afraid to tell them?" Amy asked curiously, with a hit of impatience in her tone.

"Well, yeah. I guess so. Why?" Xander answered as Amy noticed Willow giving her a look.

"Oh, no reason. I was just curious... So, what'd you do about it?" Amy went on, actually curious to know the answer.

"Ah, Lisa Pennyman." Xander started. Willow covered her head with her hands.

"Who's Lisa Pennyman?" Amy asked.

"Fifth grade class. She was always mean to us. I cheered the day she moved away, Xander wept like a little girl." Willow informed.

"Hey! I did not! Those were manly tears of... manliness! Stoic, long suffering... dare I say, noble?"

"Right, noble. And the stuffed animal you stole from me for a week factored into this, how?" Willow challenged.

"Moral support, there's nothing wrong with it." Xander defended.

"Absolutely." Willow said. "For a big old girl." she accused under her breath.

"Anyway." Xander went on, pretending he had heard not what Willow had said. "Yes, she was a bit..."

"Evil?" Willow supplied.

"That's a little harsh." Xander said.

"She held your face in the mud for two whole minutes!" Willow exclaimed. Amy was having a lot of fun listening to all of this by now.

"It was a sign of affection!" Xander defended.

"If so, she must have had the hots for me too." Willow grumbled.

"Ha! Maybe she was bi." Amy said, giggling at her own joke.

"No, no." Xander disagreed. "You got it all wrong, both of you. Lisa saw Willow as her competition for my affections." He explained passionately. "It was all misplaced aggression. If only I'd seen it sooner." He berated himself.

"You've put a lot of thought into this." Amy observed, resting her head on her hands held up by her elbows on the table.

"She was my first love!" Xander defended.

"Hey! I thought I was your first love?" Willow protested.

"I was too immature then." Xander dismissed it. "I didn't know what it was to be in love yet." He said knowledgably. "Lisa changed my world."

"Who changed your world?" Jesse broke in, taking the fourth chair at the table.

"Lisa Pennyman." Amy provided distractedly as she saw the hurt look on Willow's face, which, of course, Xander was oblivious to.

"Ah, you dog! You been holding out on me? Who is this girl? Why haven't I met her?" Jesse questioned.

"Just an old girlfriend, nothing big. We broke up when she moved out'a town." Xander played it cool.

"Ha! She wouldn't give you the time of day! ...Not the correct time of day anyway." Willow corrected herself.

"This all happened when they were in fifth grade." Amy supplied.

"Wait a minute, is this that girl your mom told me hung you--" Jesse started to say, a huge grin on his face.

"DON'T! Even go there." Xander warned his friend, at which Jesse laughed. A lot.

"So, what did you do?" Amy finally asked.

"What do you mean?" Asked Xander.

"About Lisa. Did you ever tell her how you felt?"

"Alas no." Xander replied. "My love went unmentioned. I never knew what could have been."

"Probably would have laughed in your face and run you up the flagpole again." Willow grumbled, causing Jesse to laugh hysterically.

"That's just it, you never know." Xander went on, undaunted. "So if you love someone Amy, don't chicken out. Tell'em how you feel."

"It's me isn't it?" Jesse joked. "I can't blame her really. Who could resist a prize specimen like me?"

"Hey! She asked me. You don't know." Xander pointed out.

"I need to go to the bathroom. Too much soda." Willow excused herself.

Amy looked panicked for a moment.

"So tell us Amy: Who is it, me or Jesse?" Xander persisted.

"You can be a real jerk sometimes, you know that Xander?" Amy said pointedly as she got up to go after Willow.

"See? Told you it was me." Jesse said. "Girls just can't resist me."

"Oh yeah? Two words: Cordelia. Chase." Xander pointed out using his hands as visual aides to count the two words. He was referring to his friend's most recent crash and burn on the dance floor of a few minutes past.

"Give her time, she'll come around." Jesse predicted.

Amy quickly made her way to the club's bathroom, dodging the odd patron here and there along the way and barely noticing when some girl told her to watch where she was going.

She slipped into the room and looked around, seeing a girl at the sink looking in the mirror and fussing with her makeup.

"It's fine already." Amy said irritably at the girl. "Not like it'll really make you look any better."

"What?!" The girl said. "I-"

"Oh just leave already, will you?" Amy interrupted. "I'm sure whoever it is'll want to bone you like you were the last girl in the world, o.k.? Happy now? Then get lost."

The girl just stared disbelievingly at her then turned at left. "Crazy little freak." She shot back at Amy as she went out the door.

Amy just shook her head and felt the beginnings of a headache coming on as she started to check the stalls where she knew she'd probably find her friend. Stopping at the last one, she knocked.

"I can not believe you said that to that girl." Came Willow's voice through the stall.

Amy opened the stall door and peeked in, a crooked smile on her face. "Yeah, well, I was in a hurry to comfort a friend of mine, what can I say? She left didn't she?" Amy opened the stall door the whole way and stepped in, kneeling down on one knee in front of her friend.

Willow just laughed a little and looked down at the floor. "You always were a lot braver than I was."

"Hey, Willow no." Amy said, bringing Willow's chin up a little with her hand and moving in to hug her. "I was just being rude and grouchy. That's not brave, that's being a jerk. I inherited the gift for it from my mom, you may recall..." She said disparagingly of herself. "I'm really not so brave either. At least you tried to tell him, right? What have I done?"

"Amy, I didn't try anything. I chickened out remember?" Willow complained.

"Yeah, well you intended to anyway. So you choked, so what?" Amy replied.

"So what... is that even if I told him, you heard what they said... Xander doesn't even think of me like that... I don't even think he really gets that I'm a girl, you know?" Willow lamented.

Amy smiled. "Well, if you're not a girl, then you're definitely in the wrong room." She stroked Willow's cheek a little to comfort her. "And you know what? I don't give a flying fuck what those two idiots said. You know they couldn't catch a clue if their lives depended on it, don't you?"

"Yeah, well they seem to be cluing in to you being a girl just fine." Willow said a touch bitterly.

"I didn't ask for that, and I'm so not interested in either of them. You shouldn't be either. I mean, they can be sweet sometimes, and we've known them forever, but... you deserve so much better..." Amy said with a bit of wistfulness, stroking Willow's hair absently.

"Amy...?" Willow looked over at her friend and their eyes met, that unreadable look Amy got when she looked at her sometimes seemed more intense than ever. And before the redhead knew it, her friend's lips where kissing hers. Pressing intently yet softly. The feeling was sweet and wild all at once, like a summer's breeze at first. Amy's hands on either side of her face, running through her hair with infinite care. Willow's brain was just not working and when Amy's tongue slid over her lips she opened her mouth to the silent entreaty, her eyes fell shut. She just let Amy continue to kiss her until finally Amy backed away and fell down to her knees before her, breathing half-ragged and uneven.

"Wow... I guess I'm braver than I thought..." Amy looked at Willow with a little of a half smile on her face that was both hopeful and fearful at the same time.

Willow still had a dazed look on her face for a moment as her eyes fluttered open and looked down at Amy's expectant ones. She brought her hand up to her lips and touched them with two of her fingers, a look of wonder in her eyes. "You kissed me." She said simply.

"Yeah, Willow I... I like you, o.k.?" Amy said a bit helplessly. "...I mean I *really*... like you." She reached up to touch Willow's cheek again, but the redhead flinched a little from the touch so Amy withdrew her hand. "Look, I'm.. I'm sorry... if you didn't want me to... or, or, it's o.k. if you don't, if you can't... I'm just. I couldn't help it o.k.? 'Cause you *are* really beautiful you know? And you should know that... And Xander's the stupidest boy alive not to notice." Amy pleaded her case, her voice soft and ardent.

Willow looked down at her and started to cry. Amy was up and holding the other girl in her arms in only a moment. "Shh, it's o.k., it's o.k.." Amy comforted. "I know I probably just screwed things up big time here... but I'm still your friend alright? I promise, I'll always be that... If you still want me to be I mean..." Amy felt a few tears of her own coming on, her heart feeling tight in her chest and the echoes of panic beginning to surface all over again.

"Of course! Of course I do!" Willow cried out. Just then, they heard the bathroom door swing open and the voices of three girls walking through it.

"I mean, can you believe what she was wearing? Seriously, they should have a remedial fashion for the clueless class at school or something. It's embarrassing. Really." One particularly distinct voice could be heard saying.

"Cordelia. Shit." Amy breathed. Willow looked at her with round frightened eyes as though she'd been caught doing something horribly wrong and was about to be caught and dragged in front of the school for a public tar and feathering... Which might not be all too far off the truth of what might happen if Cordelia Chase caught the two of them like they were in the same bathroom stall, now that Amy considered it. "Stay here." Amy said to Willow as she got up and exited the stall, intent on getting the three girls to leave no matter what it took, thereby saving Willow from the social beating she might be in danger from.

"Well, look who we have here." Cordelia said, noticing Amy coming out from the stall. "What do you think girls? Think she'd pose for pictures? We could make a little photo book: 'Sunnydale High's Worst Fashion Nightmares'? We'd have people begging the school for a fashion class then, am I right?"

"Totally." One of the others, Lisa, said.

"Yeah Amy, if you're going to buy ratty jeans, would it kill you to at least shop for them at the Gap or something?" The other girl, Harmony, said. "Seriously, Good Will is *not* your friend." They all laughed.

Amy cocked her head at Harmony. <Good Will?> Her mind questioned. A sly little grin played across her face and disappeared in an instant. The need to protect Willow making her bold, and the memory of the kiss making her feel a little crazy and impulsive. Idea sparks. Course of action set. Have fun with it, Amy.

"Oh Harmony, I'm so glad you're here!" Amy ran over to Harmony and gave her a hug. "Jesus loves you, you know?" She stood back and held the surprised cheerleader by her shoulders. "And I love you too. Even if you do look like a heathen sinner with far too much make up on. Do you wanna come to church with me?" She asked innocently.

"Are you nuts?" Asked Cordelia, giving Amy a dubious look.

"No, I'm Amy, Amy Madison." Amy went over to Cordelia and shook her hand. "And you're Cordelia Chase. Whom all the boys like to. Chase that is. Confession is good for the soul, Cordy. Harmony's really a read-head, isn't she?" She asked conspiratorially. "You can tell me. I'm in training to be a priest."

Cordelia couldn't help it, she snorted a surprised laugh at the expense of her best friend.

"Aw, that's so cute! Laughter is good for the soul." Amy affectionately ruffled Cordelia's hair and caused the brunette to back away and bat at Amy's arms.

"Hey, hey, *hey*! Do not wreck my hair crazy girl. Don't you have a therapist's appointment to get to?"

"I think she must have already gone." Lisa pointed out saliently. "They obviously gave her the wrong prescription."

Amy leveled a suspicious gaze at Lisa. "Are you the devil?" She asked. "Never mind. God loves even a sinner like you." Amy went over to hug Lisa, who steadfastly fended her off, backing away.

"No, no, that's o.k.. Go bother someone else with that, o.k.?" Lisa said.

"No hug, huh? You must have intimacy issues. The church has a great counselor for things like that. I know I have his card here somewhere." Amy started to look through her pockets.

"Look, whatever. Just get lost, o.k. Amy?" Cordelia went over to the sinks and began inspecting the damage to her hair, Harmony and Lisa following suit, doing their best to ignore Amy.

"My God, you're absolutely right!" Amy said. "My body is my temple, and we, as good Christian girls, *have* to make sure we keep it all glossy and prim." She took the sink between Harmony and Cordelia. "Hey Harm, can I use some of that powder stuff maybe, and some lipstick?" She grabbed Harmony's purse and started rooting around in it like it was hers.

"Hey! Hands off, freak!" Harmony slapped Amy away.

"Greedy bitch!" Amy rebuked her. "God will punish you! For being so stingy, I'll get her to deflate your chest next year!" Amy made a cross sign in front of her chest as if to ward off some unseen evil. "Wicked heathen."

Harmony was speechless.

"Hey Cordy dear, Harmony's being a selfish old biddy and getting wrinkles prematurely, can you lend me some lipstick instead? I promise I'll get you a good seat next Sunday?" She implored. Really getting far too caught up in this act, a part of her mused, she put her hand on Cordelia's shoulder and looked at her with beseeching eyes.

"All right, that's enough!" Cordelia backed up and pushed Amy's hand away, holding her hands up in front of her to ward against any hugs or purse grabbing. "I don't know what your malfunction is, but take it somewhere else or I swear..." She left the threat hanging menacingly in the air.

"You shouldn't fucking swear like that, Cordy girl." Amy pouted, the reproach clear in her voice. "God damn it, do you think God wants to hear that dirty shit coming out of your mouth? Hell no she does not!" Amy had her hands on her hips. "You should be ashamed and repent. I'm going to stand right here until I hear you repent!"

Cordelia groaned and rubbed her face in frustration. "I so do not need this right now, I swear." She said under her breath.

Amy perked up. "Wait, something isn't the matter, is it?" Amy got a concerned look on her face and went up to Cordelia. "Do you need a hug?" She asked.

Cordelia got what could only be described as a truly frightened look on her face for a second. "...I think I'll pass." She backed away. "Come on girls, we're leaving. Someone obviously forgot to put the 'Beware Raving *Lunatics*' sign up. I must speak to the management." Cordelia stalked past Amy, giving her a wide berth and looking very much like she had a killer head-ache forming.

"But wait, we should pray about this! We can work through anything with Jesus on our side!" Amy called after her.

"You're even more of a freak than I thought you were." Harmony said disgustedly. "Why don't you do us all a favor and go someplace quiet and die?"

Amy's eyes thinned slightly. "Aw, Harmony, you say the cutest little things. I'm sure you'll make someone a fine mother next year."

Her hand on the door, Harmony's eyes widened as she turned and saw a devilish smirk on Amy's lips. "You... You..." She glared at Amy with deadly intent. "Oh, you'll pay." She hissed under her breath before turning and leaving. Amy just caught Lisa's laugh from the hallway and Harmony's answering "shut up" as the door closed

"*Whew*" Amy heaved a sigh of relief, releasing a breath she hadn't realized she was holding as she leaned back against the sink. From the end stall, she heard a certain red-head break out in uncontrolled laughter. Amy couldn't help it, she started to laugh too.

Laughter, laughter, more laughter.

When the laughter died down, Amy was still holding the edge of the sink as Willow came out of the stall.

"You're in training to be a priest?" Willow asked her, doubting it.

"Um, would you believe, priestess?" Amy asked sheepishly.

Willow snorted a laugh. "I don't think so." She said, leaning against the stall a few feet from Amy.

"Well, guess I'm just another heathen then." Amy said pretend-woefully, not managing to meet Willow's eyes.

"That is what they say about witches, you know." Willow pointed out.

"We prefer 'wiccas' dear." Amy pointed out tolerantly. "And it's that whole 'not suffering me to live' thing that compels me to mock churches so." She defended herself.

"I feel you." Willow agreed. "Don't tell my dad though, he's rather fond of the churches you know. The Jewish ones anyway."

"Do Jewish people have witchy death threats too? Or is that just a Catholic thing?"

"Don't know... I should find out..." Willow was pondering... her shoes mostly, at the moment.

Awkward silence.

"...You really *are* brave you know." Willow said, at once looking up at Amy. "Thanks."

Amy looked up and a sunny smile spread across her face. "You're welcome... But if I were *really* brave, I'd be asking you out on a date right now." She replied half jokingly.

Willow made a very cute little meeping sound, her eyes meekly finding other things to look at. No reply forthcoming.

Awkward again. Amy berated herself internally for saying something so dumb.

"So... I guess we should do the talking thing now, huh?" Amy ventured.

Willow's cheeks glowed a little pink and she looked down at the floor timidly. "Yeah... I guess so... Only... can it wait until later? ...My brain's not working so much right now..." Willow asked imploringly, looking up into Amy's eyes again.

Amy paused and looked down at the floor too. "Yeah... o.k.... Just, promise me something o.k.?" She looked back over at Willow. "Promise you'll still be my friend?" She asked with undertones of desperation in her voice.

Willow looked up at her shyly. "I promise." She gave a small smile to reassure her friend.

"Well, that's good." Amy smiled, relieved. "So, should we head back out to the guys now or what? They must be wondering what we've been doing in here so long." Amy asked, a touch of humor in her voice. What would Xander and Jesse have thought if they knew she'd been in here kissing Willow on a toilet, and religiously propositioning three cheerleaders for fun and profit as well? She didn't know, but a part of her really wanted to see their faces if they found out.

"Yeah, I guess so." Willow said.

"O.k., let's go." Amy said with forced cheer.

"That was my first real kiss, you know that right?" Willow said as they walked out of the room.

Amy nodded. "Mine too. So how was I then?" She asked.

Willow blushed furiously. "You were good..." She said in a small voice.

"Just good?" Amy asked, disappointment clear in her voice.

"O.k.... Maybe a little bit more than good." Willow admitted with a shy smile.

Amy smiled triumphantly. "I knew it!" She said. "I totally blew you away, admit it Will."

"I will not!" Willow replied.

Amy just smiled smugly, then looked at Willow out of the corner of her eyes while running a hand through her hair flirtatiously.

"What *did* blow me away though, was all that stuff you said to Cordelia and them." Willow said steering them to safer topics. "That was completely insane, you realize this, yes?" She considered.

"Hmph, a minute ago you said it was brave." Amy protested.

"That was a minute ago, before my mind wrapped itself around just how much extra grief they're going to give us for this." Willow shook her head.

"Hey, that was all for you. You know that, don't you?" Amy pleaded. "Besides, most people just ignore crazy people. And religious crazy people? I bet they never *speak* to me again." She pointed out.

"You do have a point." Willow conceded. "I guess you really *must* like me though, to go through all that just for me." She was still a little struck dumb that Amy'd actually had the guts to say all that to the snippy cheerleaders.

"Yeah... I really do..." Amy said meaningfully.

"...Amy..." Willow looked over at her, like she wanted to say something but didn't know what to.

"It's o.k.." Amy assured her with a smile. "I did just kind'a say all that stuff out of the blue and everything..." She admitted. "It was pretty lame actually, me too scared to say anything to you since forever and then just..."

"Oh yeah, you're a real coward." Willow said facetiously.

"Hey Willow, you wanna go out on a date with me?" Amy asked in joking fashion, a little of a playful dare in her voice.

"Oh you shut up." Willow said, giving Amy a playful elbow.

"No you shut up." Amy replied gamely.

"No you shut up." Willow replied back, finding comfort in one of their old jokes.

"O.k., I'll shut up." Amy replied, and did just that.

Something occurred to Willow. "Wait, 'since forever'?" She looked over at Amy. "How long have you been crushing on me anyway?"

Amy's eyes widened. "Um, not very long really..."

"How long?" Willow insisted.

"Um..."Amy paused as they were just getting back to the table where Xander and Jesse were. "Only since the summer after our first year in middle school..." She admitted as she sought refuge going over and taking her seat with their two male friends.

Willow made another squeaking kind'a sound and just stood there for a few seconds. "Wow." She said under her breath as she dumbly followed Amy over to the table and took her seat as well.

"So, what took you two so long anyway?" Xander asked. "I was beginning to think you ditched us or something."

Amy just gave him a slightly crooked smile. "Oh, you know. Just girl stuff."

Willow tried to hide her blush.

Later that night at the Rosenberg house, Willow was pacing a little in her room. She'd tried to get some school work done, having spent most of the evening out with her friends, but she just couldn't get her brain into scholar mode, and, well, it didn't take a scholar to figure out why.

<She kissed me! Amy kissed me! A lot!... and, and tongue!> Willow was ranting mentally. <My first kiss, and it's a girl, It's Amy! Oh what'm I gonna do...> She worried. <Do I like her like that? I mean... she is a girl, and I'm a girl too, so if I like her, that means I'm into girls, but I'm not! I'm, I mean, Xander! And.... and but, it's Amy, she's like my best friend other than Xander and how did I miss that she wanted to jump my bones since not even a year after we met? I'm totally a brick-headed... brick-head!> She threw her hands in the air, her movements agitated, then she sat down cross-legged on the floor by her bed and put her chin in her hands and kind of pouted. <What'm I gonna do? I still like Xander... even if he does think I'm a guy or something... but, Amy...>

She let her head fall back against the bed and closed her eyes, groaning in frustration.

:: Part 2 ::

Not Looking The Other Way

It was getting close to midnight, and Amy was sort of aimlessly wandering the streets. Not exactly the safest thing to do, but she really didn't want to go home yet, and she knew she could probably take care of herself if it came to that. What she needed was someone to talk with, she concluded. On her short list of candidates, there was really only the one place she could find a person like that, at Wiccan Way.

Making up her mind, she turned around and headed down to 5124 Maple Court and hoped someone was still awake.

As she walked, she heard a faint scream from a block down. Amy hesitated, then cursed under her breath and headed towards the sound.

As she neared the ally next to the Sun Cinema theater, she could hear a voice talking, male, but she couldn't make out what it was saying. Stepping around the corner, she quickly decided that whatever the demon had been saying, she really didn't care. There were two vampires there, both male, both probably college age in looks, and they each had a victim. The one closest to her had his teeth in a guy she recognized as a fellow Sunnydale High student who's name she didn't remember. The one further away was on top of a girl who was laying on the ground, her back against the wall. He had a hand over her mouth and was looking ready to bite her. Her, Amy recognized.

"Who do we have here?" The first vampire said, licking his lips as he dropped the boy in his arms, now dead, to the ground and returned to his human face.

The other vamp paused and turned to look when his buddy spoke.

"I'm feeling a little full right now, just had myself a midnight snack." The first vampire continued. "So, tell you what. Why don't you just go on your way and let my buddy over there finish what he's doing, and maybe I'll see you again some other time?"

Amy looked at him, not just a little fear and apprehension running through her mind. She was here though, so she might as well do something. She focused, looked over at a shipping pallet leaning against the wall. A piece of it broke off by itself and with a nod of Amy's head, it lodged in the vampire's back. He got this shocked look on his face and promptly turned to dust.

"What the hell?" The other vamp said, a look of fear and disbelief now coming over his face. "What the hell did you do, you bitch?" He growled angrily, getting to his feet entirely too fast and charging Amy.

"Not this." Amy said, taking a step back and reaching out a hand, palm up. A fireball flared above her palm and she tossed it at the vamp just as he got to his feet. He burned to ash just a few feet from her. <Phew!> Amy thought with relief. <A little slower, that really could've been it for me. Dead... Damn, he was fast.> She shuddered at that. <They usually don't move like that.>

"A-Amy?" The girl lying in the ally said, struggling to get to her feet on shaky legs.

"Hi Lisa." Amy said, going over and offering the girl a hand up. "Are you hurt?" She asked.

"No, I'm... I'm o.k...." Lisa looked over at her boyfriend laying dead on the ground, blood splattered around his neck, his skin looking pale and deathly now. She stood there a second or two then turned and hurried over to a spot by the dumpster and started throwing up. "Oh God, oh my God." She fell back on her knees after a moment, wiping at her mouth in disgust.

Amy just put a hand on Lisa's shoulder in sympathy. Seeing a dead body like that for the first time was no picnic, she knew. "I'm sorry..." Amy said.

Lisa looked over at her and asked. "What did you do to them?"

"Magic." Amy explained. "Don't tell anyone, o.k.?"

"O-O.k...." Lisa agreed. "And... thanks..."

Amy smiled and helped Lisa to her feet again. "You're welcome."

"Are you o.k. to get home?" Amy asked.

"I... I guess so..." Lisa said dazedly. "What... what about him?" She asked, looking down at the dead body.

"They'll find him in the morning... Don't, you don't have to worry about it...." Amy said, a sober look crossing her face. "There's nothing we can really do for him now anyway..."

"Can, can you walk home with me?" She asked Amy, a little skittishly, still feeling scared.

"...yeah, o.k.. I guess I could do that." Amy agreed.

"Thank you." Lisa said meekly.

"It's o.k.." Amy said. "Where do you live?"

"Revello drive." Lisa supplied, and the two walked off in silence

"So... Do you do this kind of thing a lot?" Lisa asked curiously after they'd been walking for a minute or so.

"Do what?" Amy asked absently.

"Like, save people from monsters at night... You seem like, you've done that before."

"Yeah, I have." Amy told her. "But no, it's not like I patrol the streets at night or anything... I just, well I was walking, going to see a friend, and I heard you scream... I couldn't just ignore it, you know?" She explained.

"I'm glad you didn't." Lisa said.

"I wish I could've saved... whoever he was, too."

"Ben... Ben Carter. He's... he was on the basketball team..." Lisa finished quietly.

"Ben... yeah... I think I remember seeing him play in a game once..."

"It's not your fault." Lisa looked over at her. "I mean, you did the best you could. And you saved me after all, right?"

"Yeah." Amy smiled. "But I'm still sorry, that he died I mean... That it happened."

"Yeah..." Lisa agreed.

It was past twelve-thirty by the time Amy got Lisa home, the girl not having said much else to her after that, just thanking her a few more times, and now Amy found herself on the sidewalk alone. She was heading back to town, though her house was a lot closer. Her pace was slow and her thoughts were heavy. She really didn't want to go home. Oh, she could deal with her mom if she needed to, though Catherine Madison was probably asleep by this hour. Amy just didn't really want to be there tonight. She needed someplace that was friendly and that she felt at home. And she needed to talk with someone she trusted.

One a.m. found Amy at the door to the Wiccan Way magic shop. It was closed of course, but Amy had her key in the inside pocket of her jacket, so she could let herself in.

She took out the key, put it into the lock, and silently pushed open the door, the familiar scent of a light perfume and incense in the air making her feel immediately more relaxed and welcome. The Wiccan Way was her sanctuary. It's owners, who lived on the floor above, her long time friends. This place was sadly a lot more what she would consider a home than where she lived. Not for the first time, she wished she was Tara's sister and she actually lived here instead.

Looking around, her eyes already accustomed to the dark, Amy could make out familiar shapes. The counter, some displays, a table, the sofa and chairs in the book reading area... There wasn't any source of illumination save that of the signs, street lamps, and moonlight coming in through the windows from outside. Amy made sure to lock the door behind her, then went silently to the back, turning on a small lamp so she could find her way. She then ventured over to the stairs and climbed them, making sure to keep silent as not to wake her most likely sound asleep friends. She would just take a quick peek to make sure no one was up, she decided. And so she did, and like she thought, no one was about and the lights were all off. With a slight sigh, she turned and headed back down the stares.

In the back room, there were some blankets, a sheet and pillow. She'd used them quite a few times over the years, and found herself doing so more and more lately. She'd just lay herself down on the comfy and familiar couch, go to sleep, and when she woke, she'd be surrounded by people who cared about her, and for once, she'd have some good news to tell them. That thought alone made her smile as she settled in to sleep.

The place you feel safest, that's where your home should be, she thought. Out of all the places she'd ever been, this couch most gave her that feeling. She never had any trouble sleeping here. Some people say: You can't choose your family... Amy was very glad the truth of that statement seemed to lessen the more she aged.

Back across town, in the same ally by the Sun Cinema where Amy had just been, a silent figure walks by, senses on alert for trouble. She pauses and notices the body of a dead teenage boy. Her eyes narrow at the puncture marks on his neck and she lets out a low curse under her breath as she takes a good look around to make sure the boy's murders aren't still lurking about. Satisfied, she crouches down on the ground next to him to inspect the scene. No blood on his lips or in his mouth, that was good. She really didn't want to have to decapitate the poor boy on top of everything to prevent him coming back as a demon.

Her nose caught the smell of something in the air though. Ash. She got out a flashlight and looked around. Sure enough, a pile of dust, just the right size. She went over and ran a finger though it, bringing it to her nose. It was fresh. A vampire had been killed here recently. But this one wasn't the source of the burned smell. She looked around further. Just like she'd thought, a few feet away, there was another pile of dust, this one charred and burned. There were footprints in this dust as well. Someone was doing her job for her, it seemed.

She decided it would be a good idea to find out who.

Whoever it was, they might know something she didn't. Time really wasn't on her side.

:: Part 3 ::

When In The Waking World

Jazz music played from an alarm clock, and seven o'clock the next morning found Tara blinking her eyes open and looking up at the ceiling. An announcer on the radio started to speak in that soothing low tone of voice the people on jazz stations tended to effect, and Tara knew <It's time to get up.> A slow soft smile coming to her face. It was the weekend, Sasha would be over before too long. They'd said eight, but she knew for Sasha that meant almost certainly at least fifteen minutes before eight. The sun was shining in through the windows. She was alone in bed, but hoped not to be later on. That thought kept the weekend smile firmly in place as she sat up and ran a hand through her hair to order it. <Right, so, bathroom now.> She concluded, moving the covers aside and reaching for a long around-the-house shirt. Her floor was carpeted, but the bathroom of course wasn't, so slippers were also necessary.

A half hour later found a happy Tara, teeth brushed, freshly showered, and dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt, carrying a still steaming cup of tea down the stairs to turn on the lights in her family's shop and set things up for the business day ahead. She knew her parents wouldn't likely be down until a while later, neither of them being morning people like she was. Must be a trait from her father, she'd thought, whoever that was.

She absently looked around the back room, taking a sip of her tea and sighing in contentment as the lightly fragrant herbal mix warmed her and made the day seem that much brighter. The blankets were missing again. <Hm, Amy's here.> She thought to herself. <That makes four times this week.> She didn't mind the company in the mornings or evenings, her friend was always welcome as far as she was concerned. It was only concern for Amy's welfare that gave Tara an unsettled feeling. She'd had the unfortunate displeasure of meeting Catherine Madison, Amy's mother, on several occasions; the older witch often having frequented her family's shop to buy things. Tara was often the one to ring up her purchases. She once again shuddered at the thought of what growing up in a house with that woman must have been like for her friend. No, she was quite happy to be able to help Amy as much as she could. Amy, she'd long since come to consider, was more of a sister to her than a friend anyway really. They'd met shortly after Tara and her family had moved to Sunnydale in Tara's last year of elementary school. Amy had been kind of a lonely kid then, never talking to anyone much. Tara's heart had immediately gone out to her and she'd been determined to become the other girl's friend.

Tara walked into the main area of the shop and leaned against a wall, looking over at the still sleeping Amy with a bemused expression on her face.

Tara, after a few weeks of trying, had gotten her wish back then, and she and Amy had become best friends. Mrs. Madison was only too happy to let the little girl spend as much time with Tara's family as possible. Never a good sign when a parent wants to spend time with her own child so little. Though in Amy's case, Tara came to consider it a blessing. Catherine Madison wasn't the sort of person you wanted overly interested in you. So it was that Amy spent so much time over at her house that they quickly become like sisters, Tara's moms accepting her like one of their own without any trouble, just happy that Tara had found so good a friend. The couple soon developed a strong liking and a sense of protectiveness towards the young girl as well. They'd met Catherine too, after all.

When middle school came around, things changed a little for them. Amy, now more outspoken and less shy socially, had met Willow and Xander and instantly become friends with them. Jesse joined their group a while later. Tara, for her part, liked both Willow and Xander quite a lot too, she just didn't have as much in common with them as Amy seemed to. Tara hung out with Amy's new group some times of course, but a lot of the time, Amy just spent time with her group and time with Tara and her family separately. This division deepened even more when, half way through their first year, Sasha had transferred into their school and Tara had started to spend more and more time with her. By the next year, Tara had been dating the raven haired girl. She could see easily that Amy had similar feelings for Willow, and told her as much during the summer that year, but Amy hadn't been so quick to accept those feelings. She was also too scared to let Willow know, especially with the red-head's obvious unrequited feelings for Xander Harris. So, over the ensuing two years as Willow and Amy became closer as friends, Tara had been stuck in the hapless position of being a sounding board for her friend on all things Willow related. Sasha helped too, and they'd even tried to discreetly play match-maker a few times, but as yet, the two of them hadn't managed to get Amy and Willow together. Tara still had a good feeling about Willow though. After all, the read-head knew about her and Sasha and, while she often blushed and looked away or avoided the subject, she didn't actually seem to have a problem with them being together at all. Willow had even remarked once that the two of them looked cute together... of course, Sasha had been holding a big fluffy teddy bear at the time, so that was a very understandable sentiment Tara admitted.

Tara heard a few waking sounds from the couch and saw the rustling of sheets that indicated her 'sister' was getting up.

"Good morning." Tara amiably greeted her guest from across the room. "Want some tea?"

"Mhm, yes please." Amy replied sleepily, still only half awake.

"Be right back." Tara said, turning around and heading back up the stairs to fetch another cup of tea. And the tea service too, she amended to herself.

"Thanks Tara." Amy said gratefully, rubbing her eyes and sitting up on the couch. She pulled the blankets to her and waited for her friend to return, deciding to just use the time to sit there and wake up a little more.

--"Hi Lisa. Are you hurt?"-- Lisa remembered the words. She remembered looking up and seeing Amy Madison standing there in a jeans jacket, white shirt with a pink heart on it, and purple jeans that were kind of worn. She'd held out a hand to help her up and asked if she was hurt. Ben had just tried to run away when those vampires showed what they were... Not that she could really blame him of course, she'd run away too. It's just, and she knew this wasn't a very feminist thing to think, but he was her boyfriend. They hadn't been going out for that long, but she would have like to have thought he would have at least tried to protect her.

She'd been pretty sure she was going to die when that guy with the mangy hair and ugly (even without the fangs) face had shoved her to the ground. She'd tried to fight him of course, but he was way too strong. Freakishly so. She'd just hoped it would be quick and that her friends and loved ones wouldn't be too sad over her death. In stead, Amy Madison, probably just about the last person she would have expected to be a knight in shining armor type, came by and saved her, asked if she was hurt, been there for her, and walked her home. She was still having trouble processing everything. Especially Ben's dead body just laying there like that. She wondered, had they found him yet?

"Annalisa? Are you awake yet?" A voice interrupted her thoughts. She'd just been laying there staring up at the ceiling for the last twenty minutes.

"Si momma, I'm awake." She called back.

"Breakfast is ready, and your father's leaving for work before long. Can you be down stares soon, mi hija?"

"Yeah momma. Give me ten minutes, and I'll be there, o.k.?" Lisa replied, using a hand to toss her semi-short curly hair into a semblance of order as she hurried out of bed.

Whatever happened next week, she knew one thing. She was going to do her best to stop Cordelia and her other friends from giving Amy grief. It was the least she could do after all. And thankfulness aside, she was now completely sure she did not ever want to get on Amy Madison's bad side. If last night was any indication, if Cordelia and Harmony weren't careful, they could find themselves turned into a pair of tree frogs, or pineapples like on Sabrina, or something... Not that there wasn't a certain amount of humor in those scenarios, she admitted. Cordelia really could stand to take it down a few notches sometimes.

"Tea and biscuits, miss?" A cheery voice called in question.

Amy turned with a slightly crooked smile. "Why, yes. I'd adore some of those. Thank you Ms. Tara." Amy sat up more to accept the tea and biscuits with jam from Tara who was holding them out for her.

"We live to serve." Tara replied, going around the side of the couch and setting the tea service and biscuit tray down on the table before taking up a seat in one of the soft chairs, the one closest to Amy.

"And you do it so well." Amy purred, very happy with the warm feeling the tea was giving her.

Tara just chuckled a little. "So what were you up to last night, fair lady? Rescue any princes? Kiss any damsels? Slay a dragon maybe?"

Amy blinked, a quirky smile coming to her face. "Actually, you're not so far off."

"Really? Then you must have had a better night than me. All I did was watch a movie with Sasha and study 'til late. Do tell?" Tara inquired.

"Actually, your night sounds pretty good..." Amy pondered for a moment before going on. "I finally did it Tara, you'd be so proud of me. I... kissed her." Amy looked up at the ceiling, a little wonder in her voice that she'd actually gone through with it and that Willow hadn't screamed and told her to get lost and never come back or something.

"Willow? You really... O.k., you need to tell me everything. And where do dragons fit in?" Tara sat up on the edge of her seat.

"Vampires, actually." Amy explained, shifting up in her seat and crossing her legs Indian style, getting into story teller mode.

"Vampires? Oh goddess, are you o.k.? Is Willow?" Tara asked, leaning forward and visually inspecting her friend for damage.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Willow's fine. I'm o.k. too, just a little dust in my hair and stuff... Unlike poor Ben Carter, who is now dead by the way..." She finished soberly.

"Ben Carter? From the school's basketball team you mean?" Tara asked.

"Yeah. You knew him?" Amy asked.

"I met him a few times. Larry's friends with him." Tara explained, referring to Larry Blaisdell. A friend of hers from school.

"Oh... I'm sorry." Amy sympathized.

"So how did it happen?" Tara asked soberly.

"I was heading over here after the Bronze and stuff. I heard Lisa's scream a ways off, but by the time I got there he was already gone. I killed the vampires, and got her home. She was pretty shaken up." Amy explained.

"Lisa? Lisa Vogel? ...Oh, that's right. I think I heard she and Ben were going out lately, right?" Tara realized.

"Yeah. It looked like they were just coming back from the movies..." Amy added.

"Did Lisa see you do magic?" Tara asked tactfully.

"Yeah. I couldn't very well hide it. She said she wouldn't tell anyone though. And I believe her." Amy answered.

"Well, that's good anyway. If you can trust her I mean..." Tara was quiet for a moment and so was Amy. "So, um, if it wasn't Willow you rescued from the dragons, and Lisa was the prince. Where does the kissing of the damsel Willow come in?"

"Oh, yeah." Amy got a gentle smile on her face. "That was at the Bronze before."

"You kissed her at the Bronze? That's bold." Tara grinned. "I knew you had an inner vixen in you somewhere." She teased, trying to lighten the mood a little more.

Amy chuckled. "Well, maybe I do, but she wasn't quite that bold to kiss the girl she loves for the first time in front of a crowd of people I'm afraid." She admitted.

"Right, so no P.D.A. on the first date. Probably a good move. So, what did happen then?" Tara asked.

"Well, we, Willow and I, were at a table with Xander and Jesse. Willow had--" Amy stopped talking upon hearing the front door of the shop turn with a key in the lock.

They both looked over and saw a familiar shoulder length head of straight black hair appear from outside the door.

"Hey Sasha." Amy greeted her with a smile. "You're up and about early."

"And that's just how I like her." Tara put in as she got up from her spot in the chair and headed over to greet her girlfriend. Tara wrapped her arms around Sasha's shoulders and kissed her gently, not in any hurry. "Hey baby." She smiled, her voice a bit husky.

"Hey." Sasha smiled back just a little shyly. "You really know how to make a girl feel welcome." She added in a softer voice.

"Mm, we aim to please." Tara teased in a voice just as soft, leaning in to give her raven haired girlfriend another, deeper kiss. "So guess what?" Tara said after breaking of the kiss, a wide smile coming to her face.

"What?" Sasha asked, happily humoring her girlfriend.

"Last night, Amy and a certain red-head, who shall remain nameless but who she's had a huge crush on for years, were doing just what we were doing just now. Isn't that just the juiciest bit of gossip you've heard all week?" She teased, looking back over to Amy while she was still wrapped in Sasha's arms. Sasha looked over too, and Amy just looked back at them with a slightly bemused indulgent expression.

"Get out. You and Willow finally hooked up? No way! That's great Amy!" Sasha smiled brilliantly, letting go of Tara and going over to give Amy a congratulatory hug. "I'm so happy for you." Sasha said as Amy hugged her back.

"Thanks Sash. But don't go buying me illegal champagne just yet, o.k.? I still don't know if she's going to shoot me, hang me, keep me as a friend, or tell me she wants to date me yet. It's all kind of in the air right now." Amy finished a bit nervously.

"Oh...." Sasha said, leaning back from the hug and looking over at Tara questioningly. Tara was joining them over by the couch again, an indulgent smile still on her face. "But, she kissed you right? So that must be a good sign at least." She looked back at Amy as she settled on the floor by the chair Tara was sitting down in again.

"Oh, well I kissed her actually. It was sort of an in-the-moment thing..." Amy's cheeks warmed a little at remembering. "But she definitely kissed me back, and didn't pull away or anything, so... but she said she just needed time to think. Which is totally understandable, right? I mean... I did just kind of spring this on her out of the blue and all. She didn't seem to have any idea I... felt like that about her." Amy looked down at her hands.

"So, no secret crush on you on her part like you were hoping?" Sasha questioned in her sensitive voice.

"Not unless she hides it really well, no." Amy admitted a little humorlessly.

"But she might you know." Tara pointed out. "Hide it really well I mean. It's really typical you know. People being in denial of these kinds of feelings. I mean, if I hadn't told you you were crushing on her in the first place, who knows how long it would have taken you to figure it out?"

"That is true." Sasha agreed.

"Right. So, how else did she react then? Other than kissing you back and stuff I mean." Tara inquired. "Maybe we can help you figure out what she might be thinking." She prompted.

"Well, um... it's kind of hard to tell... Cordelia and her groupies came in just when things were getting to the talking part. But she didn't seem too freaked out or anything. She was still Willow, you know? And she still acted like we were friends pretty much..." Amy informed.

Sasha laughed a little. "I can guess what that must have looked like, if what she's like wherever Tara and me are in close proximity to one another is any clue." She remembered how cute the redhead was when she was embarrassed. "She must have been really cute, right?"

"She's always really cute." Amy supplied. "But yeah... And I think she was o.k. with it... The whole me being gay thing. But I wasn't really worried about that so much of course. I mean, she's always been fine with you two, and Larry and Todd and all." Todd was Larry's current boyfriend, of a whole three months so far.

"Right, so not a closet bigot. That's always good." Tara said. "But so, this shyness. Would you say it was more of a 'embarrassed because I kissed a girl' shyness, or was it a 'embarrassed because I *liked* kissing a girl' kind of shyness? These are the important details." She reasoned.

"Hold on, that's not a fair question." Sasha pointed out.

"The 'everybody's gay' theory?" Amy asked.

"Exactly!" Sasha confirmed. "It's pretty much a given she's gay deep down inside, and you're her friend and totally hot, so of course she's attracted to you on some level." She explained reasonably. "It's only a question of how scared she is to admit it."

"O.k...." Tara humored, still not willing to completely believe in Sasha's theory. "Well, it's the same question in the end anyway."

"Right." Sasha agreed easily. "Does the shyness say 'coy and come hither', or does it say 'cloistered and closeted?'" Was her revised and rather saucy question.

"Well... I want to say coy and come hither of course... but I'm not really an unbiased observer. I could just be seeing things. And you know, even if it is coy and come hither, it doesn't mean she'll act on it or acknowledge it. Like Tara said, that river in Egypt runs deep sometimes... And it could all just be hopeful thinking on my part anyway. I probably shouldn't get my hopes up." She said with a slight air of defeat in her voice.

"You need to call her." Tara said, and Sasha nodded her agreement.

"But... shouldn't I give her time?" Amy questioned.

"No. Offer time, but say she can hang out with you here if she wants to. That way there's no strings and if she's ready to talk, she's got an opening." Was Tara's sage advice.

"That's sage advice." Sasha nodded. "You should listen to her. She knows all."

"Except, apparently, that everyone is gay." Tara teased.

"Except that, yes." Sasha smiled back.

Amy grinned and shook her head a little. "Alright you two. So I'm hearing the consensus is: call?"

"Call." Tara confirmed, and Sasha nodded.

"But wait until nine." Sasha added in, Looking up at Tara. "It is Saturday morning after all. Some people, not us of course, but some people, they sleep in today."

"That's just because they don't have the proper motivation to wake up like I do." Tara pointed out, looking down at Sasha with lusty thoughts in her eyes.

Sasha swallowed. Tara laughed. "Later honey, we've got to keep Amy company now. To make sure she doesn't chicken out before nine o'clock."

Sasha looked suitably disappointed, but went along easily enough, it being for a good cause and all.

"So, you're helping out around the store again this weekend?" Sasha asked hopefully.

"Yeah, of course." Amy confirmed eagerly. "You and Tara can have the whole rest of the day together if you want. I'm happy to help." She smiled. And it was true, she was only too happy to help. And not just so her friends could have some time to get romantic with one another, but it also gave her something to do that would keep her away from home that much longer. And if she was lucky, then maybe Willow would accept her invitation and hang out with her here for a while and they could talk... Right, and then Willow would confess that she was falling in love with her. They'd kiss, Willow would take her out dancing at the Bronze, Xander and Jesse would look on stupidly but eventually get over it and be happy for them, they'd date, do the things couples do, and one day they'd get married. <Yeah. Right Amy. And one day my mother will turn into a nice person too. Head out of the clouds girl.>

"Oh, but one thing guys. Tara... could I borrow your shower maybe? I've still got vampire dust on me." She made a face that said just how much she enjoyed that.

"Oh, honey of course." Tara agreed easily.

"Vampire dust? When did that happen?" Sasha questioned, looking up at Tara, then down at herself and noticing for the first time that she'd managed to get some of it on her from hugging Amy before. "Oh ick! Amy!" She complained.

"Sorry Sasha." Amy apologized contritely.

Sasha sighed and gave her an easygoing smile anyway. "Oh, it's all right." She said, taking off her jacket and revealing her tank top and bare arms to Tara's appreciative gaze.

"Definitely all right." Tara agreed. Sasha gave her a light push on her leg in admonishment.

"Next she'll be wanting me to do a strip tease for her." Sasha complained.

"Well... I've heard worse ideas..." Tara gave her a cheeky grin and bent down to pick at Sasha's tank top. "You're not wearing a bra, are you?" She asked, her mouth suddenly feeling a little dry.

"Have fun you two, I'll try to be a while." Amy teased over her shoulder as she excused herself to go take a shower and get her hair clean.

:: Part 4 ::

What You Never Know

"Momma, are there any strawberries left?" Lisa asked, looking around in their over-sized fridge for something good to put on the pancakes her mother was just bringing to the table.

"No... we used those all last night." Her mother said evasively. "I think there's still some raspberries though, and those are just as good."

<O.k., so first, ew! I so did not need to know that momma!> Lisa's inner voice screamed at her parents. "Right, just as good." Lisa said under her breath. "Thanks momma." <And secondly, raspberries are by no stretch of the imagination as good as strawberries... on pancakes. Pancakes, Lisa... That mental picture is going to be seared into my brain for the rest of the day, isn't it?> She groaned to herself as she located the raspberries and went to put them into a bowl for the table.

"So how was your date with that young boy from the basketball team last night?" Her father asked conversationally. "You stayed out awfully late."

<Right, grill me about my date with my now *former* and also *dead* boyfriend. Thanks so much papi.> She thought to herself. "It was... fine. We saw a late movie, that's all..." Was what she said out loud.

"It doesn't sound like it went fine to me." Her father went on, completely oblivious and on the scent of trouble. "He didn't try anything, did he?" Lisa swore she could almost see the puffs of steam begin to rise from him.

"No, poppa. He didn't try anything." She said, hoping he would just drop the subject. The phone rang.

"I'll get it." Her mother said, excusing herself from the table.

"Anna, you can tell me if things did not go well. I know you are a good girl. I just want to keep you safe." He explained.

"I know papi. And I'm grateful. But really, Ben was a prefect gentleman." <Was.> "Or, well, close enough to count anyway..." She said soberly, remembering that rakish smile he used to get when he looked at her sometimes. She smiled at the memory now, before the image of his dead body came into focus again, and she saw Amy standing over her again, offering her a hand up.

"Annalisa, honey. It's for you." Her mother broke in. "It's Janet Carter, your Ben's mother... Apparently Ben hasn't come home yet, they haven't heard anything from him. She... wants to know if you might know where he is. I told her he wasn't here with us."

Her father stood up. "He's not here, is he Annalisa?" Her father accused. "He better not be in your bedroom is all I have to say." He spoke seriously, quickly excusing himself to search the house for the boy in question.

"No, poppa, he's..." But her father was gone and Lisa turned to accept the phone from her mother. "Hi Mrs. Carter." She greeted Ben's mother in a quiet, reserved voice.

"No, I... haven't seen him since last night... We got separated after the movie. A friend found me and she walked me home."

"No, I haven't heard from him since." She replied.

"Yes. Yes, of course. I'll let you know the moment I hear anything from him." She promised, though she knew that wouldn't ever happen.

"Yes, you're welcome Mrs. Carter. ...I hope he's all right too."

"Good bye." She passed the phone back to her mother.

"Oh I hope nothing bad has happened to the boy." Lisa's mother commented. Taking the phone back and going to return it to its cradle. "He seemed like such a nice young man..."

"Yeah..." Lisa said softly to herself as she went back over and sat at the table. Her appetite now significantly reduced, she none-the-less started to eat her breakfast again, just wanting to get on with it so family time would be over sooner and she could be alone.

Her father came back into the room.

"I take it you didn't find him hiding in my closet, poppa?" Lisa said, just a little bitingly.

"No, Anna." Her father admitted.

"What about under the bed? Did you make sure to search there too?" She questioned.

"I'm sorry mija, truly." Her father apologized. "I just..."

"Get kind of crazy some times?" She asked with a little of a smile now on her face.

"Si. Yes, it is so." Her father admitted.

"Well, at least I know you love me." She admitted. "That's not a bad thing to be reminded of sometimes." She went over and gave her father a hug.

Her father returned the hug gratefully. "Oh, I do love you Anna. You're a good daughter."

"And so understanding, yes?" Her mother added, returning from the living room.

"Yes, it is so." Her father smiled proudly as his daughter released him from the hug.

"I'm going to take the rest of my breakfast into my room if that's o.k.?" She asked, going over to give her mother a hug too.

"Oh... Yes, Annalisa. Of course." Her mother gave permission. "If that's what you'd like."

"Yes momma. Thank you for breakfast. It's delicious, as usual." She told her, going over to pick up her plate and things.

"Thank you, little flower." Her mother said, always appreciative of compliments on her cooking.

"Have a good day at work poppa, I'll see you later this afternoon." Lisa said good bye to her father as she went to go back to her room.

"Yes, I'll see you then mija. You have a good day as well, comprende?" He urged her.

"I will poppa, thank you." She said.

Ten o'clock found Lisa still in her room, her plates and such long since having been returned to the kitchen. Soft music with a Caribbean feel played on her stereo, and she sat on her bed reading a book for school. It was an account of early southern American colonial times, concerning some of the early conflicts between Spanish and English settlers. It wasn't especially interesting, just busy work she preferred to get done and out of the way. It wasn't bad enough to be considered dry reading though, thankfully. And it had the added benefit of giving her something to focus on as well, other than last night and that blank look in Ben Carter's eyes as he seemed to stare back up at her.

There was a knock at her door. "Annalisa, someone is here to see you. She says she's a friend of yours from school?" Her mother's voice informed her.

Lisa sat up straighter. "Someone from school?" She questioned. "Who is it?"

"I didn't catch her name... but she said it was about something that happened last night, and that you'd know what she meant... She seemed a little odd to me somehow." Her mother assessed. "Nice though, and very polite."

<Amy.> Lisa thought with worry. <What does she want...? Maybe she just wanted to make sure I was o.k.?> She thought optimistically. "I'll be right down momma. Thank you."

"Anna, what's this all about? Has this got something to do with Ben?" She asked.

"Um, probably. She was... at the movies with us last night. I called her to see if she'd heard from Ben or anything." She lied.

"Oh, of course." Her mother said. "You're not in any trouble are you, mija?" She wondered, catching a vibe in her daughter's words that had her a little concerned.

"No momma, I'm sure everything's fine. I'll just go down and talk with her." Lisa said, opening the door and walking past her mother to go downstairs.

"Well, all right. If that's what you think is best." Her mother agreed, a little unsure of herself. "I'll be out back in the garden if you need me for anything." She informed.

"O.k., momma. Thanks." Lisa said on her way downstairs.

As she turned the corner in the stairs and got a partial view of the open front door, she saw a head of straight black hair and a black leather jacket. <Who in the... That's definitely *not* Amy Madison.> She realized. The mystery-girl turned to her and gave her a small courteous smile to assure her of her good intentions.

"Um, hello?" Lisa asked.

"Hello." The girl greeted as Lisa walked up to her. "You are Annalisa Vogel?" Se asked.

"Um. Yes... Who are you?" Lisa asked curiously.

"My name is Kendra Young. I have some... interest in some, events that you may have witnessed last evening. In an alley? Close to the Sun Cinema theaters?" The girl informed her. This Kendra, she was very beautiful, Lisa noticed. Soft, dark skin. A very pretty face. Deep eyes. Nice taste in clothes too.

"I..." Lisa tried to think of what to say, a feeling of helplessness lodging in her stomach. How did this girl know? What did she want?

"May I come in? I think we will need to talk more about this." Kendra asked, walking past her and not waiting for the asked-for invitation.

Lisa followed after her helplessly. "Listen um, can you just tell me: What do you want?" She asked anxiously.

"I want to know what happened last night in that ally." Kendra informed, her eyes looking meaningfully into Lisa's. "You were attacked, yes? Or you witnessed an attack perhaps?" She questioned in that deep lilting Caribbean accent of hers.

Lisa didn't know why, but she found herself trusting this girl, at least enough to open up with her somewhat. "Yes... I was attacked. In the alley, just like you say." Lisa admitted, sitting down in a chair across from Kendra and looking down at her hands.

"And these people who attacked you, they were not normal. Yes?" Kendra pressed.

"No, they weren't." Lisa confirmed, looking up at Kendra.

"It's all right. I understand." Kendra comforted her. "Listen, I must know however, how did you stop them? The vampires?"

Lisa looked at Kendra skeptically now. <So that's what she's after. But why does she want to know about Amy? Or, well, me?> "Why do you want to know?" She asked, deciding to keep Amy's name out of it until she knew more about what this Kendra person wanted with her, if this Kendra person *was* a person. But it was day, right? Vampires didn't go out during the days. At least that's what they said in movies anyway. Who knew if that was true or not?

Kendra sighed, and debated with herself a moment what to say. She didn't sense anything amiss with this girl. To all her enhanced senses, Lisa seemed to be a perfectly normal girl, nothing about her to explain why she was able to dust two vampires so easily without having a scratch on her this morning. For a normal human without any of the necessary weapons or training, that should be very nearly impossible. She could tell though, that this girl was not about to trust her unless Kendra trusted her first. She never was a very good liar. Perhaps she should have sent Sam after all... but if it turned out that this girl was dangerous after all, and didn't like someone asking the wrong questions, she, not her Watcher, would be the best to handle it.

"Alright, listen. What I'm about to tell you, you can not repeat it to anyone. Do you understand?" Kendra asked, her eyes clearly conveying to Lisa the seriousness of her condition.

Lisa hesitated, then nodded her agreement.

"I am a vampire slayer. It is what I do. My calling to protect the world from demons." She paused for effect. "I am quite a bit more effective at this than my appearance might suggest. And last night, I came upon a scene with a dead local boy lying in an alley, the victim of vampires. What was strange about this, however, was that I could tell his murderers had been dispatched as well. One, it seems, by fire. I did some investigating and found that you, were likely the one to have been there with him when this happened. What I want to know, is how you killed those demons, and what your intentions are." Kendra finished explaining.

Lisa sat there riveted. Yesterday, of course, she likely wouldn't have believed a word of this. But now vampires were definitely real, not just in movies and weird rumors that went around school sometimes. And Amy Madison was a, a witch or something, with magic flame-thrower powers or whatever. Still, Lisa considered herself to be a reasonably intelligent person, and she wasn't going to go on faith with this without a little more reason. "How do I know what you're telling me is true?" Lisa asked. "I mean, for all I know, you could be a vampire too." She pointed out.

Kendra looked at her strangely. How could Annalisa Vogel think she was a vampire of all things? If she killed those two beasts last night, she would have to know about them. What vampires are. Wouldn't she? Unless, perhaps this girl didn't know what she did either? Or, perhaps she had just reacted some how. "Listen, I can tell you don't know this, but vampires. They can not venture out into daylight without burning."

"And I only have your word for that too." Lisa pointed out, not accusingly, but cautiously none the less.

Kendra thought. "If I was a vampire, wouldn't I already have tried to kill you?"

"Not if you think you'd lose." Lisa answered.

"Well..." She started out, not really having an answer for this. "Um, I'm just not, all right? I am not a vampire. I'm a vampire *slayer*." Kendra said, now at a loss for what else to say and getting more and more frustrated with this. Why couldn't this be simpler? She was good at hitting things and fighting, she didn't really do the whole talking thing well. "Just, um, can you trust me on this Annalisa?" She asked.

"Just Lisa is o.k.. And all right, let's say I do trust you. And let's say I did kill these vampires with my vampire killing super powers. What then?" Lisa asked curiously. At this point, she was pretty sure she could trust Kendra, if for no other reason than if Kendra was trying to trick her, Lisa imagined she'd be doing a better job of it. And she couldn't help liking her too, she just had this way of making you feel safe and protected when you were around her. But she was still a little scared that she might be wrong, and she didn't want to give Amy's secret away to someone who might be out to hurt her. That wouldn't be a very good way to pay someone back who'd just saved your life after all. And there was the whole turned into a pineapple thing to consider too, she reminded herself.

"Then I want to learn more about how you did it, and to say, perhaps, that we should work together." Kendra informed her. "There is something out there, something that I may not be able to deal with on my own." She admitted.

Lisa looked at her. For some reason, she just couldn't bring herself to believe that Kendra was lying to her. <She really seems like she'd be hopeless at lying.> Lisa assessed. "Alright. I believe you." Lisa said.

"Thank you." Kindra was relieved and gave her a grateful smile to show it. "So I was right then. It was you who killed them?"

"No, not me. I would have been dead too, but someone came along and saved me." Lisa told her.

"I see." Kendra said. "And this other person, how did she or he...?"

"Magic." Lisa told her. "She said it was magic."

Kendra got a comprehending yet somewhat concerned look on her face. "Can you tell me where I can find this person then?" She asked.

Lisa gave her an apprehensive look. "I probably should ask her for permission to tell you first..." She qualified. "I can call her I think?" She offered.

"That would be fine. Thank you Lisa." Kendra acquiesced.

"O.k.. I'll be right back." Lisa excused herself, taking the phone with her.

Once she was in the other room, she scrabbled around for a phone book. Finding it, she searched though the white pages. <Madison, Madison... Madison, Catherine and Madison, Jake... Are her parents divorced?> Lisa tried to think if she'd heard anything about Amy's personal life floating around school. She drew a blank. <Well, best bet's the mom I guess. They usually get custody.> She reasoned, dialing the number.

"Hello, Catherine Madison?" She asked when a woman's voice answered the phone.

"Yes, I'm sorry to bother you. But does an Amy Madison live with you?"

"She does? Great. Is she available?"

"Oh, she's not?"

"She hasn't been home today?" <That's strange.>

"I understand."

"No. But if you could just let her know I called when she gets in?"

"My name's Lisa, I go to school with her. It's... about a class assignment." Total lie.

"Right. Thanks for your help Catherine. Bye now." Lisa hung up the phone and shook her head, heading back in to Kendra.

"I couldn't--" Amy began.

"You couldn't get a hold of her on the phone. Her name is Amy Madison, and her mother is Catherine?" Kendra provided.

Lisa looked at her with a perplexed and slightly surprised expression.

"I have very good hearing. I should have mentioned, it is one of the blessings of being a Slayer." Kendra had the good sense to at least look a little embarrassed at her eavesdropping.

"Oh... Well, it's o.k. I guess. I'm pretty sure I can trust you by now anyway." Lisa gave her a friendly smile.

"That is good to hear." Kendra said with a little of an awkward smile, relieved that Lisa was not upset that she had listened in on her conversation with Catherine Madison. "So, you are not really friends with this Amy girl then?" Kendra questioned curiously.

"No. Well, not really. I'd say the fact that she saved my life definitely earns her a warm and fuzzy place in my heart of course, but that's not really being friends." She gave Kendra a little of a crooked smile.

Kendra returned the smile. "Yes. I can see how that would be the case..." She replied awkwardly, not really knowing what else to say now. She'd learned what she needed to though, and Lisa was probably getting tired of a stranger asking her questions like this. She should offer to leave. "I guess... I should not take up any more of your time today?" She spoke. "Now that I know her name, I should be able to find this Amy girl before very long." She explained.

"I guess you're right..." Lisa equivocated. She really didn't want Kendra to go yet, but she couldn't think of a way to get her to stay.

"Thank you for helping me." Kendra spoke up. "And for trusting me." She said in a more sedate voice.

"You're welcome." Lisa smiled.

Again, nothing to say. Kendra was frustrated with herself, so she went with tradition. "...and please, other than if you talk with this Amy Madison again, I remind you it is very important you not tell anyone about who I am or what I do." Kendra warned her.

"I promise." Lisa said with a sort of shaky kind of cheerfulness. "They'd think I was nuts anyway." She laughed a little. "But listen." An idea came to her. "I think I might still be able to help you find her faster. I... know who Amy hangs out with. I can call them, maybe one of them will know where we can find her?" She offered.

"That would be very helpful. Thank you... Lisa." Kendra gave her another smile and returned to her seat, feeling relieved for some reason. It was probably just loneliness she told herself. She usually only had Sam for company, and he wasn't exactly what she would call a friend. More of a cross between a teacher, a father and an employer, she lucidly assessed. It would be nice if she could make a friend.

"It's no trouble, I'm happy to." Lisa said as she went back into the kitchen.

This time, she just went and fetched the phone book, then returned to the living room and sat down across from Kendra to look up the phone numbers. Talking in another room obviously being a pointless endeavor around this girl.

"Let's get started." Lisa said, locating the first name she could think of to call.

Amy fussed with her hair as she went down the hallway heading towards the stairwell that led downstairs.

"Hi Amy." A voice greeted her from the living room.

Amy went over and peeked into the room. She saw one of Tara's moms sitting on the couch reading a magazine and the other on the floor at the coffee table, looking through an assortment of papers. The one sitting on the floor looked up from her work and waved as well. "Oh, hey Ames, didn't see you there. Have a good morning?" The dark haired woman asked.

"Hey Andrea, hey Jenny. Yeah, I had a great morning. That wonderful daughter of your brought me tea and biscuits and let me use her shower too. You two really know how to raise a winner, I'll have you know. You should be very proud." Amy joked.

"Well, we do our best." Andrea said from the couch.

"How come we didn't get any tea and biscuits?" Jenny looked up at her wife plaintively.

Andrea just shrugged. "I don't know."

"You've got to get in early, that's the trick. By the time you were up, Sasha was already here, and seeing as she wasn't wearing a bra... you didn't really stand a chance." Amy explained cheekily.

Jenny just smirked and gave a short laugh.

"Grading papers?" Amy asked Jenny, referring to the stack of papers on the table. "Isn't all your class stuff on computers?" She questioned curiously.

"It normally is." Andra explained.

"This is the *last* time I'm subbing for the English teacher." Jenny grumbled, slightly disgruntled.

"Ah, well, I guess I'll leave you to it then. It's almost nine anyway. So I've got a phone call to make." Amy smiled in anticipation, then looked down at her watch again with a slight look of trepidation in her eyes.

"Phone call?" Andrea asked. Her interest piqued by Amy's unusual manner.

"Willow and I kissed yesterday!" Amy explained, or rather blurted.

Jenny's head shot up. "Way to go Ames!" The dark haired woman smiled at her. "I knew you had it in you."

Andrea got up out of the couch and went over to hug Amy. "I'm so happy for you." Andrea said, tilting the girl's head up to look her in the eyes after the hug ended. Andrea's look was definitely that of a mother happy to see her daughter feeling happy. She knew well just how much Amy had been hoping for this to happen, and she was relieved that her surrogate daughter's heart hadn't gotten broken and that the girl she loved seemed to return her feelings.

"Thanks Ms. Calendar." Amy said sinisterly.

"Now, go call the girl." Andrea admonished her. Amy nodded positively.

"Good luck." Jenny wished her, having gotten up from her spot on the floor to offer Amy a hug of her own.

"Thanks guys." Amy said, feeling a little misty. She turned to head over to the staircase. "And don't worry, I'll still be able to work today. That is... It's o.k. if I ask Willow to come hang out with me here, right?" Amy asked a little uncertainly.

"Of course it is." Andrea said easily. "Your friends are always welcome to visit, you know that."

"And you can bring Willow over any time you want... If you want a place to be alone." Jenny offered understandingly, remembering how hard it had been for her to find a place to take her dates when she was Amy's age.

Willow sat at the immaculately ordered wooden work desk in her room, she was ostensibly working on the same school work for history class that Lisa had been working on. Except in her case, for her report, she'd chosen to focus on the motivations for expansion that led the European nations to colonize the Americas and how those motivations most affected what happened in the colonies. What she was really doing though, was trying furiously not to think of what had happened at the Bronze yesterday. Last night she'd thought herself in circles over and over until she'd finally just went to bed. The morning hadn't brought her any added clarity, so she'd just decided to avoid the question with some rigorous studying, hoping that maybe the problem would work itself out while she wasn't looking or something.

She'd really gotten into it now too. At the moment, she was surfing the web and accessing Harvard's online resource site for a few added sources for her paper. She was pretty sure she was the only one in her class who would get this extensive with the research, and she herself usually didn't go quite so far with her school work either, as it really wasn't necessary. Today though, she was just in a mood to be thorough.

The phone rang. Willow ignored it. Her mom and dad were still home, packing for a four day business trip to Los Angeles. Some series of lectures they were attending, or her mother was speaking at, Willow hadn't really paid attention to know which. She'd long since lost interest in trying to keep up with her parent's work.

"Willow, honey?" Her mother's less than completely sincerely cordial voice came through her door in short order. "The phone's for you. It's Amy." Willow's hands froze on her keyboard and her eyes widened with the recognition of those last two words. "...Willow? Did you hear what I said? Amy's on the phone for you." Her mother repeated, sounding annoyed and impatient.

"Oh! Yes... Be right there." Willow hurried out of her chair and went to open the door and accept the phone from her mother. "Thanks." She said absently, closing the door before her mother had a chance to say anything else.

"Hello... Amy?" Willow said nervously into the receiver as she went over and set on the edge of her bed. Her body felt like she'd just gotten off a rollercoaster or something, all tense and a little edgy. "It's Willow."

/"Willow, hi."/ Amy's slightly hesitant voice came over the line. /"So, how ya been?"/ The question was asked with a small smile evident in the voice coming over the line.

"Oh, you know, same old same old." Willow said, feeling more at ease now that she remembered she was talking to a friend, not just someone who'd kissed her (really well) in the bathroom at the Bronze. "I was just studying a little too obsessively to avoid thinking... Ironic, I know." She admitted. "Hey, did you know that America was named after a map maker? I mean, isn't that just wild? Lucky guy, gets not one but two continents named after him. Take that Scott." She babbled.

/"Um, Scott?"/ Amy questioned.

"Yeah. You know, the one with his own land?" Willow joked.

Amy chuckled. /"Oh, right, the kilt place."/ Amy recognized.

"Yeah..." Willow confirmed. "Scotland... named after Scott. It's funny, really." She was now officially at a loss for words.

Amy was silent for a moment. /"So... I'm guessing I was the one you were doing the study avoidance thing for then?"/ She asked with trepidation clear in her voice.

"Um, you might have been in there somewhere..." Willow admitted sheepishly.

/"Listen, it's o.k., really Will. I get it."/ Amy assured her.

"No, you really don't... I mean, if I don't get it, how can you? There's got to be something to get to get it, right? And I... I just don't know what to think. I mean, you're my best friend who's a girl, and, and... I just, I don't know how I feel." Willow tried, rather haphazardly, to explain.

/"Well... That's sort of why I called. I was wondering, if maybe you wanted some help or some company while you figured things out... No pressure or anything, but... it might help to talk about it. You know?"/ Amy offered a bit lamely.

Willow was silent for a moment. "...Yeah... I don't know. Maybe a little later, o.k.?" Willow asked.

/"Sure."/ Amy said, putting a little cheer in her voice. /"I'm working today, but Tara's moms said it would be o.k. if you hung out with me too... while I watched the shop... So, I'll be here all day, o.k.?"/ Amy assured.

"All right." Willow said, a small smile on her face. "And Amy?"

/"Yeah?"/ Amy asked.

"You're still my friend, all right? Guaranteed." She assured her. "And... so you know..." Willow was feeling a little brave. "You were right before. You really are... really good... at kissing." Willow finished softly.

The smile that got her, Willow could almost sense it at the other end of the phone. /"You weren't so bad yourself."/ Amy said just as softly.

"Thanks..." Willow said, her stomach fluttering and a little of a blush coming to her face. "Listen, Amy, I gotta go. I'll see you later, o.k.?" Willow was feeling entirely too exposed and felt the need to stop talking.

/"O.k., bye Will./" Amy said softly, a hint of a promise in her voice.

Willow hung up the phone and just sat there for a couple minutes.

She got up and was blankly heading back to her desk, when the phone rang in her hands and she nearly jumped out of her skin.

"Hello?" She answered the phone without thinking, very unsure of herself.

/"Hi. Willow?"/ A familiar, yet very out of place voice came back over the line. /"It's Lisa, Lisa Vogel. From school?"/

<Huh? Lisa Vogel?> Willow's internal voice sprang back to life with disbelief. <What the frilly heck is someone like her doing calling me?> She was instantly suspicious.

/"Willow? Are you there?"/ Lisa questioned when Willow hadn't replied.

"Um, yeah. I'm here Lisa. What did you need?" Willow asked reservedly.

/"I was just wondering, do you know where I can find Amy?"/ Lisa's voice asked.

Suddenly Willow felt a wave of intense, and not entirely rational, sense of jealousy welling up inside her. "Why? Why do you want to know where she is?" Willow accused.

/"Oh, well, um..."/ Lisa sounded flustered and unsure at Willow's immediate adversarial reaction, not having expected this from the usually very shy redhead. /"I guess I just ran into her last night, and I need to talk with her about some things. That's all."/ Lisa explained rather lamely.

Willow was struck with suspicion. What if this was some kind of revenge plot by Cordelia or something? "And just what 'things' would you need to talk with her about?" Willow demanded.

/"Willow... I..."/ Lisa was at a momentary loss. Where were all of these reactions coming from? /"Look, I don't know what your problem is, but I just need to talk to her, all right?"/ She was getting a little frustrated.

"No, not all right. Why do you want to see her so much?" Willow challenged back.

/"Look. It's private, o.k.? I'd rather not tell you about it."/ Lisa confessed. /"Can you just, tell me where I can find her?"/ Lisa pleaded a little.

Willow was silent for a moment, going back to her first thoughts of jealousy, her mind fuming over various scenarios that might involve Lisa Vogel and Amy doing something last night that was private.

/"Willow?"/ Lisa's voice came over the line.

"Yeah, all right, fine! She's working at Wiccan Way magic shop today, *happy*? Good! Bye then!" Willow angrily hung up the line and threw the phone receiver at her bed and started to pace. She was upset and angry and confused.

She wanted to call Amy back and yell at her.

But what would she say to her? 'Hey Amy, did you and Lisa Vogel sleep together last night or something?' Yeah, right. She could hardly think the words, let alone get up the nerve to say them out loud to Amy, even over the phone.

She paced some more, and the more she paced the angrier she got.

She didn't even really know if she liked Amy like that, why was she getting so jealous? She wondered. It was stupid! And what if Lisa and Amy did do something last night? Was it really any of her business? It's not like they were even going out or anything. It was just a kiss. She didn't own Amy or anything, Amy could do whatever she wanted.

She felt a little of a head ache coming on and she was getting dizzy with all this pacing. Sitting down on her bed seemed like a good idea. She slumped over and rested her chin in her hands and just let herself have a good stew.

After a while, she began to feel silly about all this though. So she let herself fall back onto the bed on her back and tried to think rationally again.

<O.k., think this through Willow.> She began to assess the situation. <You know Amy. There's no way she'd cheat on anyone, right? She's just not that kind of girl... At least, I don't think she is.> Willow qualified. <But, if she wasn't having a rendezvous with Lisa, what was she doing...?> She thought. <Maybe... Maybe Amy and Lisa have been going out secretly, and Amy met with her to break up with her because her and me kissed and she's in love with me? And now Lisa wants to talk with her to get her back.> Willow considered this. <No, wait, that doesn't make sense. Lisa's totally hot for a girl, why would Amy break up with her to be with me?> She thought disparagingly. <But... Maybe, what guys think is hot in a girl, and what girls think is, is different... Maybe I'm more girl hot than Lisa is girl hot? That would be cool. And it would explain Xander too... Maybe I am a... lesbian... and I didn't know it, and I've been sending out lesbian vibes and Xander was turned off and thinks I'm another guy or something?> Willow guessed, the scientist in her now on a trail of a potentially valid theory. <Then again, maybe it's all pheromones?> Another theory popped up. <Maybe I just have girl attracting pheromones? Not guy attracting ones...? And maybe my pheromones are better than Lisa's? Maybe Lisa doesn't have any girl pheromones at all? She does date a lot of guys.> Willow reasoned, crinkling her nose at the thought of the different pheromones.

"This is just going to drive me crazy, isn't it?" She spoke to the ceiling.

:: Part 5 ::

The Art Of The Chance Encounter

The papers in front of her were not in the correct order. And there was one page on this report that was missing, she was sure of it. Though, really, it *would* have been more easy to notice if Owen Thurman had bothered with putting page numbers on his paper. <I should deduct points for that.> She thought vindictively. <In the real world, people expect page numbers. And a staple in the upper left corner. It's only polite.> She reached for her red pen. That was one thing about grading papers that were on real paper, she got to use a red pen... Which, she guiltily admitted, she found a certain perverse joy in doing. Probably a catharsis something, to do with how she'd hated it when she'd spent half a day writing a report in school only to have a teacher say 'dig deeper' in red ink along with a 'C+'... It was misplaced retribution. But that was a teacher's solemn right, so why fight it? She found the missing page. <It actually is pretty good writing though.> She considered, continuing to read Owen's paper. <O.k., I'm being silly about the page numbers thing.> She reconsidered docking his grade and just wrote a note to tell him to remember the page numbers and staples next time and continued to read the report.

A minute or so later, she could hear someone coming up the stairs. She kept reading though, figuring they'd interrupt her if they wanted. She wanted to get her work done and have the rest of the weekend free, after all.

"Tara and Sasha went out." Andrea's voice called.

Jenny looked up. "Hey Andi." She smiled at her partner as Andrea walked over to her.

"Mmm... hey yourself." Andrea set down on her knees on the carpet behind her and proceeded to wrap Jenny in her arms and move her hair out of the way to plant gentle kisses on her neck. "How's the schoolwork going?" She asked.

"Mmm... fine..." She breathed. "Are you offering to keep me company while I work?" She asked hopefully, leaning back into Andrea's embrace contentedly.

"Mmm-Hmm... I think I could do that..." Andrea confirmed, resting her chin on her partner's shoulder and looking down at the papers in front of her. "No page numbers?" She read Jenny's note. "Someone's being thoughtless..." Andrea observed lightly.

"I was going to dock his grade..." Jenny told her, crinkling her nose a little at the admission. <God, I love how she smells.> She thought to herself.

"What made you change your mind...?" Andrea asked lazily, closing her eyes for a moment.

"Well... I never was the type to hold a grudge I guess..." Jenny admitted. "And he tells a good story, so he gets points for that too..."

"So... if he were a bad story teller, you'd have docked him for the page numbers too then?" Andrea teased, opening her eyes once more and curiously looking down at Owen Thurman's paper again.

"Well... I don't know, maybe... maybe not..." Jenny admitted with honesty. "You never know what could have been, after all..."

"Mmm... True..." Andrea admitted. "So... how's the class fairing so far, with their generous and gracious (not to mention very beautiful and oh so cuddly huggable) substitute teacher? Hmm?" She asked, holding her partner to her a little more tightly for a moment to emphasize her point about Jenny being cuddly and huggable.

Jenny laughed softly a little and nuzzled Andrea's head with her own. "So far, no one's flunked... Most of them aren't bad writers actually..." She admitted.

"That must be nice... Read one to me?" Andrea asked.

"Sure." Jenny agreed with a smile. "Many customers downstairs?" She asked, flipping through the papers until she found the first page of Owen's book report on 'Anne of Green Gables' of all things.

"Mmm... No. No one yet. Amy's got it covered. She'll use the intercom if she needs anything... So, for now, I'm all yours." Andrea pledged contentedly with a cheerful smile.

"Lucky me..." Jenny said, turning in Andrea's embrace to give her partner a quick kiss on the lips before starting to read Owen's thoughts on Anne Shirley's early life with her parents and in the orphanage, before she was sent to Prince Edward Island.

Kendra walked with Lisa at her side. The Wiccan Way hadn't been too far a walk from Lisa's house and Lisa had volunteered to show her the way. Kendra actually made it a point to know where every business and public building in her town was, but she had decided not to mention that fact to Lisa in order to have an excuse to keep the girl who she hoped would become her friend with her a little longer, all the while attending to official Slayer business. It was probably a good idea to have Lisa along anyway, she considered. After all, this Amy girl knew who Lisa was, so it wouldn't just be Kendra trying to convince her to trust her by herself, which if her experience with Lisa was any indication, she might have a tough time with. No, with Lisa as her ally, it would probably go more smoothly, she considered.

"Here we are." Lisa said, indicating a shop about a block ahead of them.

Kendra looked where Amy was indicating. It was a nice store, Kendra thought. She hadn't really taken the time to look at it before. Magic was always something her Watcher had told her was best to stay away from. Wiccan Way looked very sedate and unassuming actually. You wouldn't really especially notice it, if you didn't take the time to look. The sign was done in a tastefully styled gold-leaf script that definitely had echoes of stage magic in the style of it. There were flowers and things inlayed in the sign's background too, but you couldn't see them unless you looked closely. The exterior of the building was done in some high quality looking sand colored brick work. There was a large window display on one side of the door and a smaller one on the other side. Again, quite tasteful.

"It's a pretty shop." Kendra noticed, approval in her voice.

"Yeah. It is nice, isn't it?" Lisa noticed with a little surprise. "You'd think it was a coffee or flower shop or something by the way it looks almost." It was true, there was a very peaceful feel to the store. Lisa walked over to the larger of the window displays and indulged in a little window shopping. They were mostly things that looked to have come from a wide variety of places from around the world. A lot of it looked ornamental, things that her father, as a partner in a local interior/exterior design firm, would probably find useful in his work. She made a mental note to mention it to him sometime. <Or maybe not...> She reconsidered. <One of them could be a make your hair fall out while you sleep charm or something, for all I know.> "So, I guess we should go inside?" Lisa asked, turning to Kendra who was by her side looking at the window display as well.

"Yes. That would be a good idea." Kendra gave her a slightly awkward smile. It had been so much fun to just talk with Lisa on the way here while they walked. True, Lisa had had to carry the majority of the conversation, but Kendra found she really liked hearing her talk, and she found herself opening up to her a lot more than she would have guessed she would have. It was just so easy being around her.

Kendra went over to the door and held it open for Lisa.

"Thank you." Lisa gave her a charming smile as she went in ahead of Kendra.

"You're... welcome." Kendra felt her face heat up a little and wondered what was wrong with her. She dutifully followed Lisa into the store though, ignoring the strange reaction and focusing on her work. Looking around, the inside of the shop continued the laid back vibe that the outside started. Everything was done in light breezy sandy colors. There were plenty of prints on the walls that were for sale, some apparently from local artists. Most of them were of the ocean or of things of a similar nature. The ceiling was high, soft music was playing, and the soothing, understated aroma of incense and light perfume suffused the air. There was a good assortment of books and some CDs as well, Kendra noted with approval as her attention was drawn on ahead to a girl with reddish-blonde hair sitting behind the counter reading a book. The girl looked up when she saw them, a look of recognition coming to her face.

"Lisa?" The girl, Amy, Kendra supposed, asked. "Hi! What are you doing here? Who's your friend?" She asked curiously, standing up and moving out from behind the counter.

"Hi Amy." Lisa greeted with a little of a nervous smile and a small wave, cautionary visions of pineapples floating around in her head despite herself. "This is Kendra... She's also kind'a why I'm here.." Lisa began, relieved that Amy seemed to be in a good mood.

"Hi Kendra." Amy greeted the dark-skinned mystery girl in friendly fashion. "What can I do for you?" She asked, a little unsure of herself. Something was a bit off about this girl. She couldn't tell what it was, but she could sense she wasn't exactly normal.

Kendra gave Amy a curious look as though she was sizing her up, making a decision about her in her head. "...Can we sit down somewhere to talk?" Kendra asked politely, indicating with her eyes the chair and sofa set that Amy had spent the night on last night.

"Um, Sure!" Amy agreed, showing her guests over to the book reading area, a question mark still in her mind about what this all was about.

"Hey Amy, have you ever thought of selling espresso here?" Lisa asked curiously.

The phone rang.

"How about the purple one?" Sasha asked, studying the selection of stylized baseball hats intently.

"Sasha, he's a boy. Boys don't wear purple hats, traditionally." Tara explained logically, not really looking at the hat but instead finding Sasha's hair very fascinating to gaze at.

"Gay boys might though." Sasha defended her idea in a thoughtful voice. "...I think he'd look good in it. Besides, he has a purple shirt. Remember, he wore it last week?"

"Oh yeah, I guess you're right." Tara admitted a little sheepishly, shaking her head free from her distraction and giving Sasha a cute smile. They were shopping for birthday presents you see, for Larry's new boyfriend, Todd. Larry and Tara had been friends for a long time, and Tara was definitely happy about Todd having come along when he did. He seemed to be so good for Larry. And her friend hadn't exactly been big with the steady love interests of late, not since he got his heart broken right out of the closet (as it were). So, the boy that could get Larry to open up and take a chance again, Tara couldn't help but think he must be someone very special.

"Of course I'm right." Sasha said in a soft and deceptively unassuming voice, turning and casting a furtive look around to see if anyone was watching. "I have *very* good taste..." She brought a hand to Tara's cheek and moved in to deliver a long and heartfelt kiss. "...but then so do you." She teased as she broke the kiss and ran her tongue over her lips teasingly.

Tara got a goofy smile on her face. "Minx." Tara playfully accused, quickly moving in to capture Sasha's lips for her own, in another, deeper kiss.

The kissing lasted for a while.

"Well if I am a minx, then it's a very good thing I didn't try to mate outside my own species, isn't it?" Sasha breathed after the kiss ended and Tara gave her a very minx-like smile.

"Watch it minx-girl, I just might pounce on you." Tara teased from less than two inches away.

"Any time you want." Sasha said in a low breath, never taking her eyes off Tara's, just enjoying a good stare.

Tara smiled and moved forward, pressing her body against Sasha's. "Just hold me for a while, o.k.? I want to be close to you." She moved her hands down Sasha's hips and leaned into the raven haired girl's welcoming body. Sasha got a quiet smile on her face and brought her arms to Tara's lower back.

Tara hummed a little, relaxing into her arms. She so loved just being near Sasha, even and sometimes especially in such a simple way as a hug. And Sasha was almost always just like this with her, very attentive and right there in the moment with her, yet so care free and unassuming, almost docile even... but there was also a quiet strength and a courage, just under the surface, that Tara sometimes found herself envying her a little for. There was the feeling though, Tara could sense, that whatever that courage was, wherever it came from, it had gotten there at least partly from her having earned it the hard way. She wondered now, as she had many times before, what had happened to the girl she loved to give her that strength... Sasha never seemed to want to talk about it however. Her past? Tara didn't know all that much about it... She knew she loved Sasha though. More than anything or anyone.

"I love you so much." Sasha said in a soft, meaningful voice.

Tara made a small pleased sound, moving her lips over to kiss the back of Sasha's neck. "I lo--"

"Look you little peon, I haven't got all day here, alright?" Tara was interrupted by a raised, and very impatient and superior sounding voice. It was a voice Tara recognized.

"I'm sorry miss! I--" The sales clerk's voice.

"Never mind! God you're useless... Just get me a new one and be quick about it!" The voice assaulted Tara's ears.

"This could be trouble." Tara spoke, having moved out of her embrace with Sasha.

"Is that...?" Sasha asked.

"Uh, huh."

"Should we go help?" Sasha asked. Now a little worried for the sales girl.

"I think we'd better..." Tara assessed.

"Right." Sasha grabbed the purple hat she'd been considering earlier and followed Tara up to the clothing store's check out area.

Once they were there, they saw Catherine Madison impatiently leaning on one hand against the counter and looking around the store with an annoyed and increasingly impatient expression on her face.

"Hi Mrs. Madison." Tara greeted her with forced friendliness as she and Sasha made their way to the counter with their purchases.

"Mm?" Catherine turned. "Oh, well hello girls. Out on a little shopping expedition I see?" The words were harmless enough, but Catherine said them in such a way that there were whole shades of other meanings beneath them, and most of those meanings were decidedly insulting, demeaning, and mocking to Tara and Sasha. To her credit, Catherine Madison never seemed to care that her daughter hung around with lesbians, or if, as Catherine had insinuated on a few occasions that she suspected, that Amy herself was one. Catherine just used it as ammunition to insult them with in that gratingly superior voice of her, generally looking at them like they were one big worthless joke. Tara never had thought it was funny.

"Yeah. We're going to a birthday party later today." Tara explained lightly, determined not to rise to the bait.

"Mm. Riveting." Catherine said absently. "You know, generally people buy presents for those types of things in advance."

"The party was last minute." Tara informed her, just as lightly.

"Mm. Right." Catherine said, looking around for the sales girl and seeming to want to be any place but here at the moment.

Tara decided not to reply, just keeping a watchful eye on the woman.

Sasha, for her part, agreed with the policy of being watchful, and had been watching this woman very carefully ever since they first walked up to her. She'd only met Catherine Madison twice before, when she'd come into her girlfriend's family's magic shop and she had been there. She hadn't liked her then at all, but this meeting was something else all together. The raven haired girl could sense the barely held back anger and malice behind the woman's seemingly benign exterior. It was the kind of sense that one would expect to feel from someone about to commit a murder. It was a feeling Sasha was all too familiar with.

"I'm sorry ma'am, it looks like the store is out of that dress in your size. I--" The sales girl stopped in mid sentence, backing away a few steps, when she saw the deadly look she was getting from her customer. "..um, ma'am?" The girl, Christy by her name tag, asked in a very meek and timid voice.

Catherine seemed to almost growl at the poor girl.

"Mrs. Madison..." Tara said in a conciliatory yet slightly warning voice, placing a hand lightly on Catherine's arm. It was just instinct, Tara always having been a physical person, touching as a way of communicating coming very naturally to her.

Catherine turned around and glared at Tara and Tara dropped her hand immediately, realizing her mistake. Energy was cracking invisibly in the air around the woman in front of them, Tara and Sasha could both feel it.

"Fucking little bitch." Catherine snapped at Tara in a very low voice. "What do you think y--"

Catherine was shoved roughly against the counter.

"Back off!" Sasha demanded, having moved between Tara and Catherine as soon as she saw the magical attack start to form.

Catherine glared, her eyes seeming to get a shade darker. Sasha stared back at her with brilliant green eyes. Catherine lashed out in anger with her mind, using enough force to fling a body back several yards to crash into the clothing stand behind them. Even a five hundred pound man built like a sumo wrestler couldn't likely have resisted the force she used very well. It might not have shot him back into the racks, but it would have at least knocked him squarely on his ass. So one could imagine Catherine's surprise when the only thing that happened was that Sasha's hair blew back a little and she readjusted her stance a bit, not even blinking.

"You should listen to her." Tara said in a calming voice.

Catherine glared at them more, as if trying to make a decision, her eyes gone slightly wild. Sasha could tell Catherine really wanted to lash out at them for some reason, and Sasha was more than a little worried what might happen if the woman did. Her hand wasn't quite as strong as Catherine probably thought it was after all, and she could sense just how dangerous Catherine really was now... Apparently though, some rationality reasserted itself and Catherine was able to clamp down on the impulse to attack and bring herself back under control. The dark witch stood fully, brushed herself off, and picked up the items she'd picked out, minus the ruined dress of course. She then walked by Tara and Sasha, only speaking as she was leaving. "Give my regards to your mothers, Tara dear." She said with just about as much venom as Tara imagined could injected into those words.

"We gotta tell Amy." Sasha said after Catherine had gone, concern now deeply written on her face.

"Oh shit! That lady didn't even pay for that stuff!" Christy exclaimed. "Now what'm I gonna do... Do I have to go after her?" She asked no one in particular in a rather timid voice.

"No!" Tara exclaimed. "You... you really shouldn't do that."

Sasha nodded emphatically. "She's right. That woman is dangerous."

"But..." Christy looked longingly at the door.

"Look, we'll pay for what she took, o.k.?" Tara said, using her sensitive voice.

"You will?" Christy looked over at her in surprise.

"Sure." Tara smiled. "Wouldn't want you to get in trouble after all..." Tara took out her charge card.

Christy looked indecisive for a moment, but then reached out and took the card. "Well... all right... Um, thank you." She gave Tara a grateful smile and begun to ring up the purchases for her.

"You're welcome." Tara replied amiably, putting the blue and white baseball shirt she'd chosen earlier on the counter along with a scarf she'd gotten for Sasha that looked far too cute on her girlfriend for her to resist buying.

Sasha put the now slightly rumpled cap she'd picked out on the counter along with some money. "And this for me." She put in.

"O.k.." Christy said eagerly, looking at Sasha with a slightly shy, hero-worshiping look.

"Um, you do do gift wrapping, right?" Tara asked, a little annoyed at Christy now.

"Oh, of course!" Christy exclaimed, feeling a little flustered still. "Um, would you like some? Gift wrapping?" She asked Tara.

"Yes please." Tara provided. "For the blue shirt and the cap."

"O.k., no problem!" Christy agreed eagerly. "It's on the house." She went over to get out the wrapping paper and supplies for gift wrapping. "It's the least I can do. I thought that crazy old witch was really gonna hit me or something there for a moment." She commented absently while unrolling and cutting the paper to length. "What do you suppose her deal was anyway. You two knew her, right?"

"Yeah... well, we're friends with her daughter anyway. She comes into my family's shop sometimes too. So I can really feel for you, believe me... I just try to keep my distance whenever possible." Tara explained.

"Sounds like a wise policy.... Jesus. You've really got to pity the girl with *that* for a mother." The girl said, shaking her head.

"But Amy's nice though. She's nothing like her mother." Sasha spoke up.

"Definitely not." Tara agreed.

"Well, that's good. Wouldn't want two of those in the world, that's for sure..." Christy said absently, searching in the cabinets below the counter for a box the right size for the hat.

"Mm-Hm, that's true." Tara couldn't help but agree. She turned to look over at Sasha meaningfully. "You were very brave." she whispered into Sasha's ear with an impish smile.

Sasha's cheeks flushed a little. "...I wouldn't let anyone hurt you." She spoke softly.

"I know..." Tara leaned into Sasha's side as they waited for Christy to finish with the wrapping.

"We... we should really call Amy soon though... The way her mom looked, I don't think it's safe to be around her right now..." Sasha spoke worriedly.

"I know." Tara agreed.

"What do you think was wrong with her anyway? I mean, has she acted that way before?" Sasha asked, her tone still hushed and her protectiveness of Tara now coming back to the fore at the thought that Catherine Madison might have tried to attack her girlfriend before this.

"No... never this bad before. I knew she was into some darker magics of course. But as far as I know, she's never hurt anyone before." Tara pondered. "I mean, she just always seemed to be a stuck-up jerk, you know? Like those girls at school you're better off avoiding. Not pleasant to be around, but she always seemed harmless enough... Do you think something happened with her to make her snap like that?"

"Here you go." Christy handed them their wrapped gifts and a receipt along with the scarf Tara bought. "...and thanks again." Christy said to Tara sincerely.

"It's o.k.. I'm glad we could help." Tara said, picking up her purchases and turning to leave.

"Bye." Sasha said in her typical half-cheerful easygoing tone of voice.

"Bye." Christy said back, giving Sasha an appraising look as she followed Tara out the door, then shaking her head out of the unusual thought.

"You know she totally has a crush on you now, don't you?" Tara teased her girlfriend in a light voice as they went out the door of the clothing shop.

"Huh?" Sasha looked back though the glass doors. "She does?" A little worry in her voice.

"Yup, I'm afraid so. Not that I blame her of course." Tara bumped shoulders with her and gave her a little of a cheeky grin. "If she tries anything though, I am *so* turning her into a frog. Just so you know." Tara spoke in an airy matter-of-fact tone. "You're mine after all." She looked over at Sasha who had an embarrassed, somewhat lost look on her face, which turned into a smile as she realized fully that Tara was just playing with her.

Sasha moved over closer to her and hugged her from the side, sniffing Tara's hair. "I'm yours alright, you silly minx you." Sasha nuzzled Tara's hair playfully and Tara giggled at the display Sasha was putting on.

When Sasha let go, Tara just gave her this slightly goofy look of adoration. "Good. I hate having to turn people into frogs anyway. So messy."

Sasha gave a sunny, light-hearted laugh. Tara loved in when Sasha laughed like that, and it was just about the best feeling in the world to know that she was the one who had made her so happy. <Speaking of things to make Sasha happy.> Tara remembered, stopping and presenting her gift scarf to Sasha. "For you." She said simply.

Sasha smiled delightedly and took the scarf, wrapping it around her neck and letting Tara look at it on her for a moment before going to give her a hug. "Thank you. I love it." Sasha said sincerely into Tara's hair as she hugged her.

"You're welcome." Tara smiled as they broke apart and looked into each other's eyes expectantly.

"Um, we should call Amy." Sasha spoke, pointing to Tara's cell phone. She'd really wanted to kiss Tara at that moment, but she knew there were more important things to do first.

Tara blinked. "Yeah." She took the phone out and began to dial the number as she and Sasha started to walk again, oblivious to some of the looks they were getting from the people around them.

The phone rang a couple times.

/"Thank you for calling The Wiccan Way magic supply and gift shop, my name is Amy. How can I help you today?"/ Amy's familiar voice came through the receiver.

To Be Continued

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