Love Potion No. 9 (Part I of III)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
"I'm looking for something subtle. Not too flowery or obnoxious or anything like that, just something light yet noticeable." Stephanie McMahon directed the salesgirl at the perfume counter.

The salesgirl (Stephanie squinted at the tiny name tag-Jolene) brightened. "Oh, I know just the thing!" She reached in the glass case and pulled out a small green colored bottle. "It's called 'Ambrosia'. Isn't it heavenly?" She pulled out the stopper and offered Stephanie a sniff.

"Ugh. It smells like a garden. No, trust me, where I work, that smell would not be appreciated. What else do you have?"

Forty minutes later an upset and annoyed Jolene told Stephanie: "Look, it's obvious that we're not going to find something here that's going to please you. I'd suggest you go to this place." Hurriedly, Jolene wrote down an address on a piece of paper and thrust it at Stephanie. "Good luck in finding a perfume." She bit out. Stephanie looked down at the address. "What is this place?" She queried.

"It's a specialty shop. The woman who runs it, she has a lot of really- unusual-things. So you can get exactly what you want."

"Oh, that sounds perfect. Thank you!" Stephanie said brightly and exited the store.

The girl cursed under her breath and stalked back over to the register where Cindy, one of the other clerks was ringing up a huge sale.

Cindy waited until the customer had left before she burst out laughing. "Jolene, did you just send that poor girl over to your crazy Aunt Thea?"

"Yeah..hey! She wasted my time, this is one of the biggest sales days of the year, what with all the panicked men coming in to buy last minute presents for their wives or girlfriends. Or both." She smirked at Cindy. "She totally made me miss out on some good commission, so she deserves whatever my Aunt's gonna throw at her!"

"You're sooo bad." Cindy giggled.

Jolene grinned. "Yeah I know. But who knows? My Aunt.well, stuff always has this weird way of just working out with her, so who knows? Maybe I did the girl a favor."

Cindy looked at Jolene warily. Jolene shrugged. "Then again, probably not."
Twenty Minutes Later
Stephanie looked at the small shop dubiously. The snow was falling somewhat heavily now, and in between her windshield wiper intervals she checked the address again; yes, this was the place. It looked.vaguely creepy. Shaking off the feeling, laughing (and if the laughter was nervous, who was to know but her?), she climbed out of the car and made her way up the path to the shop. She opened the door and was instantly greeted by a heavy scent of incense.jasmine and lavender. Really quite nice she thought. Stephanie brushed the snow off of her thick jacket. The store was absolutely cramped, no extra space anywhere. There were herbs hanging from the ceiling. And there was no actual light, the whole room was filled with candles. There were old books everywhere. It was kind of like a cross between a café and a fairy land. Stephanie stopped dead in the doorway.

She was just about to turn around and walk out when a bright voice came from the back. "Hello! How are you on this blustery winter day?" Stephanie looked up, startled and saw the small figure who had just questioned her. She was a petite woman, probably in her fifties, with reddish hair with only the slightest hints of gray, that went all the way down to her waist. Stephanie blinked.

"Ummm.I think I might have made a mistake. Made a wrong turn somewhere or something. I'll just-I'm going to leave now." She said, backing away toward the safe haven of the door slowly.

"Well, I don't know about that. Seems like you're in the right place to me. Do you mind if I ask who sent you?"

"Oh, just a girl at a perfume counter. Her name was Joan, I think."

"Jolene." The woman muttered "Well, you're in the right place, all right. Jo's my niece; I'm Thea. So she sent you here for some perfume, did she?"

"Well, yes. But it doesn't really look like you sell any of that here-" Stephanie motioned at the odd contents of the shop around her. "So your niece must've been mistaken, I guess. I'm sorry to have disturbed you."

"No, no. You're in the right place, really. So what kind of scent are you looking for, dear?" Thea asked curiously. "Must be something really special, for Jo to send you to me of all people."

"You do sell perfume?" Stephanie questioned doubtfully.

"Oh, my, yes. I customize it actually. Never have two scents alike, women love it because they leave here knowing no other woman on earth smells the way they do."

"That's actually the idea." Stephanie said slowly, finally stepping into the store, toward Thea. "I need something unique. Completely.inspired. I just.I need a change." She said quietly.

The looked over at the well-dressed younger woman. Very beautiful.lovely skin.but the eyes. Oh, the eyes. Thea peered carefully at the girl and what she saw broke her heart. A desperate sadness.a loneliness.and want. So much longing was in those eyes, and Thea wondered exactly what it was this woman sought so desperately. The whole posture of the woman was one of someone who'd been defeated somehow, someone who was just terribly hopeless. What could such a lovely young woman have to be so bleak about? Thea puzzled through the matter. But how to help?

Perhaps.Thea stole another glance at the blue eyes which were now studying her carefully in turn. She made a quick decision, completely intuitive, but that was after all how some of her very best decisions had been made. She knew what to do.

"Child, I have just the thing. Wait here." She waited until the woman nodded and disappeared behind a clinking bead curtain in the back. Stephanie shifted her weight uneasily from one foot to the next, wondering what Thea was going to bring out to her. Thea came out a few minutes later.looking somewhat rumpled and dusty. Whatever she'd been looking for, she'd obviously had to really search for it. Thea walked slowly over to Stephanie and held out a tiny red bottle. She pulled it open and held it up to Stephanie's nose. Stephanie closed her eyes at the smell.

"Oh, my. That's.that's the most beautiful thing I've ever smelled in my entire life." She said dreamily. "I'll take a bottle. Probably two. I won't get tired of that smell any time soon." She smiled.

"I'm sorry, dear. But this is all that exists of this particular scent."

"But-but that's not nearly enough! There are only a few drops in the bottle!" Stephanie held up the tiny red bottle to the candle light. "I would only be able to wear this once!"

"That's all there is. And mark my words, child, you'll need no more than this." The old woman said cryptically. Stephanie tore her fascinated gaze from the bottle and looked down at Thea.

"I don't understand." She said slowly.

"You will. Now go. There's a storm coming in, going to sweep through the whole Midwest. Blizzards in February. We need to move out of Wisconsin." The woman laughed.

"Oh, I don't live in the Midwest. I'm just here on business." Stephanie commented off-handedly. Thea stopped laughing.

"In that instance, I must advise you. It's as you said; there's only one application contained in this bottle. What you must ask yourself is what it is in this world you desire above all else, and make certain you are wearing this when you are within reach of that desire. Do you understand?"

Stephanie looked at her, completely confused and starting to get a mild case of the wiggins. Jeez, she had been watching too much Buffy if that word was able to creep into her vocabulary. "Not-not especially."

"You want something. Want it, want it, like nothing before or since. And you don't think you can have it, do you?"

Stephanie bit her lip so hard a drop of blood appeared. "I-no, no.I'll never have him again."

Thea hid a smile. So it was a 'him.' As she'd suspected. "Perhaps. Perhaps not. But don't wear this until you know."

Stephanie shook her head. "You know what? I think-I think maybe you ought to take this back." She held the bottle out to Thea. "I don't believe this is what I'm looking for after all." She said stiffly.

Thea didn't take the bottle, simply smiled. "No, child." She said gently. "It's been looking for you. I've been waiting to give that to someone for quite some time now, and now you've finally come." Thea looked deeply into Stephanie's eyes and startled Stephanie when she reached out and grasped her hands. "May the Goddess smile on you, child. Be well." And with that, Thea stepped back and disappeared back behind the beaded curtain. Stephanie was left standing in the middle of the store. She called out hesitantly. "Ma'am? Don't you want me to pay for this at all?" No answer. Stephanie carefully walked up to a counter and set the bottle down. She bit her lip again and looked down at the bottle. She backed away slowly, reached the door and-

turned back around, ran to the counter, pocked the perfume and ran all the way back to her car, which was really quite silly considering how icy the sidewalk was. But at least she hadn't fallen. Stephanie turned up the heat in the car and shivered. She laughed at herself for getting so weirded out by a simple bottle of perfume.

Stephanie drove over to the arena where Smackdown was going to be taped that night and finished the show without much ado. She was just about to leave the stadium when Kurt Angle approached her from behind and Stephanie grinned at the Smackdown champion. "Hey, Kurt." She said easily. "Wonderful match tonight."

"Was it good enough that my boss would consider going out to dinner with me tomorrow night?" Kurt asked quietly.

Stephanie blinked. "Tomorrow's Valentine's." She said inanely.

"Yeah. I figured you weren't doing anything. I thought maybe.maybe we could hang out. No pressure or anything, really. Just two friends, going out, having dinner, eating-"

"Okay." Stephanie said, cutting him off.

"-going to a movie, whatever you want, I'm easy-wait. Did you say 'ok'?" Kurt asked his eyes widening.

"Yeah, I did. I'd-enjoy going out with you tomorrow night. I'm going to have to go to Chicago though, Dad has a bunch of contracts he wants me to go over. But after I'm done with that, we can go out."

"Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that' I didn't expect you to actually say yes." Kurt stammered.

Stephanie froze. "Oh. I-I see. You-you were just being nice, you didn't actually expect me to say yes. Jeez, Kurt way to-"

"No! No! I so didn't mean it like that! I want to go out with you, more than anything, really, Steph. How about if we fly to Chicago together? We can talk on the plane, it'll be fun." Stephanie looked up at Kurt. 'Fun.' Not exactly the word she would have used to describe it least she wouldn't be alone on Valentine's Day. Thank God for that at least.

"Okay Kurt. We'll fly to Chicago together." She told him, pleased with herself that she could manage to summon up a smile. The plane ride wouldn't be all that long, considering the proximity between Milwaukee and Chicago.

And she ignored the little voice in her head screaming that smiling really shouldn't have to be so damn hard.