Title: A FLUKE BETWEEN TWO WICCANS (1/12)

Author: Spikeme4now4200

Email: spikeme4now4200@yahoo.com.au

URL:

Distribution: Everywhere and anywhere, just let me know where.

Copyright: April 2003

Spoilers: It would help if you've seen season 3.

FEEDBACK: Yes Please!!!!  I would really appreciate feedback on this story; I'll reply to anyone who emails me.  Constructive criticisms are very welcomed; outright flames will be ignored. 

Category: Alternate Universe (Willow and Tara met during Willow's senior year of high school).

Pairing: Willow/Tara

Rating: PG-13 (first 5 chaps) R to NC-17 for the rest.

Disclaimer: This Story is mine.  However, I don't own the Buffyverse or any of the characters created by Joss Whedon et al; you all know who they are.  I don't wish to harm them; I simply want to play with them a little :-)

SUMMARY: Tara started at UC Sunnydale during Willow's senior year of high school.  This story shows what would've happened if the two witches had met then, instead of at the Wicca group the following year.

Author's Notes: We know Tara was born in 1980; and since Willow graduated in the class of '99; that would mean our blonde Wiccan was 18 going on 19 during that year.  Theoretically that would make her old enough to be at college.  Furthermore; since it was never established exactly when Tara started college, my storyline could technically have taken place . . . in my own mind anyway . . . lol

Notes: Special thanks to Susan Carr for beta reading.


***

CHAPTER 1

***

Willow was in a really good mood that hot Sunday morning, as she got dressed, seeing as how summer was almost over and school was starting tomorrow. She hadn't had the best summer; what with her best friend's absence and all, and was secretly hoping that the Slayer would return now that school was starting again. Although, she did know that her hopes were highly unlikely, especially since Buffy had been expelled; but a small irrational part of her refused to see reason.

She'd gone through a lot of life changes this summer; with the dating; the practicing of magicks; even the cutting of her hair, and would've really appreciated having someone to talk with about everything. She'd never had a boyfriend before, and there was a lot she didn't understand; a lot of feelings that confused her—not to mention the whole werewolf thing she had to deal with three days a month.

What's more, she'd been honing up on her magick use like crazy, hooking up with her old friend Amy, and the warlock Michael to form a mini Coven. Amy and Michael had taught her a lot these past few months; she'd even managed to pull off a few glamours, and was very close to actually levitating a pencil. However, there was still so much she had yet to learn; so much she was scared of, and Amy simply wasn't the right person to talk with about such things.

Amy was all about increasing her power, and would most likely scoff at her fears. Sure, Willow also wanted to increase her own power; but she wasn't quite sure how much she was ready for, or even when she should have a crack at new challenges. Like the other week; when she'd attempted to communicate with the spirit world; she'd felt like she'd been pulled apart from the inside, not to mention having blown out the power for the whole block. She still felt a little guilty over the incident.

It was times like that when she really missed Buffy; missed going to her for advice. It's not like she could tell Giles about what'd happened; he was already upset enough about her delving into the Dark Arts; and Amy . . . well, she would've just laughed at her.

It was like the only two people she could talk to about the magicks; were on two opposite ends of the scale—she couldn't trust the opinion of either of them. Giles wanted to hold her back; whereas Amy wanted to push her forward—regardless of how ready she was. If only she had someone to talk to with—someone she could trust . . . even Oz was concerned about her using the magicks. Couldn't they understand how important magick was to her, how it made her feel alive?

When she'd done the ritual to restore Angel's soul; she'd felt as if a whole new power had surged through her body; like she'd unleashed something that had remained dormant inside her for so long . . . and she now needed a way to tap into it. That's why she'd gone to Amy—in the hopes of learning something from her—gaining an insight into her newfound power.

She just wished her friend wasn't always jibing her about her inexperience; her apparent lack of magickal ability. It was like Amy loved showing off how powerful she was, and Willow sometimes felt like she was competing with the girl; like she was inadequate because she couldn't even float a stupid pencil in the air. She didn't wanna compete with anyone; she just wanted a guide; a teacher if you will.

Why did Amy have to act so superior? Sure, the girl was her friend; they'd been friends for years—but she wasn't a very good teacher. In fact, there was an energy surrounding Amy that scared her sometimes, like she was teetering on the edge of something dangerous. Take for example the way she flaunted her ability for summoning the Goddess Hecate; acting like she was the only one who could do so, as if it made her special . . .

That was partly the reason Willow had tried contacting the spirit world by herself; she'd wanted to put Amy down a peg or two; show her she wasn't the only one with power. Obviously, that had ended badly—and a part of Willow couldn't help but blame Amy for it; the girl brought out a negative side of her. It was only a part of her though; a deep hidden part that she wouldn't acknowledge. Amy was her friend, and the only one around who was willing to show her anything about the Dark Arts; she wasn't about to end that friendship because of a little competition. Besides, competition was a good way to improve your skills . . . right?

Willow had just finished brushing her hair, when the phone rang, bringing her out of her thoughts. She promptly put the brush down, before moving to answer it.

"Hello," she spoke softly into the receiver.

"Hey Will."

"Amy," Willow replied—surprised to hear from the girl she'd just been thinking about. "What's up?"

"Not much," Amy replied tentatively. "You?"

"Just got up," Willow began, "it's still early . . . think I'll head down for some breakfast, or . . ."

"You think Oz is at home?" Amy asked, interrupting the redhead's response.

Willow frowned in confusion; wondering about her friend's question. "He usually sleeps till like 2 or 3 in the afternoon, so I guess he's at home. Why do you ask?"

"You think he'll be up for giving us a lift to UC Sunnydale?"

"Why do you wanna go there?" Willow asked.

"I wanna meet someone," Amy began her explanation, "a witch . . . maybe. My mother knew her mother . . . for a while anyway. They were members of a Wiccan group all through high school; and they even went to the same college here in Sunnydale as well . . . although; they kinda lost touch with each other once they got married and stuff. In fact, I don't even think they were really great friends to begin with . . . they were just part of the same group; Wiccans and all . . ."

"So how do you know her?" Willow interjected. "I mean, if they lost touch, and . . . and what about your mom's friend . . . if she's anything like your mom, well . . ."

"Willow," Amy interrupted her friend's babbling.

"Yeah . . .?"

"It's okay," Amy reassured. "The girl's mom died about a year ago; when she was like 17."

"Oh . . ."

"Besides," she continued, "I don't think her mom was anything like mine."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well," Amy explained, "they were just part of the same Wiccan group, and I'm not even sure if she was a real witch or anything . . ."

"So how do you know her?" Willow interrupted.

"I went through my mom's stuff when she, um . . . disappeared . . . and, I kinda came across some of her old witchy things . . ."

"Like what?" Willow had to ask.

"Oh, you know," Amy began vaguely, "books, and charms, and stuff . . . Anyway, I, uh . . . I also found some of her diaries, and as I was going through 'em, I . . . I found some entries about her college days, and about the Wiccan group she was a part of, and so I tried to contact some of the Wiccans—to you know . . . let 'em know she wasn't around anymore . . ."

"How'd they take it?" Willow asked, frowning at her friend's vagueness. Was there something Amy wasn't telling her? She chose to ignore her inner voice though; she was just being paranoid . . . right?

"That's the thing," Amy replied, "I, uh . . . I didn't hear back from any of 'em . . ."

"None of 'em?" Willow asked in surprise; her inner voice returning. Was that really true . . . she'd heard back from no one . . .? It didn't seem possible . . .

"Nope," she replied forcefully. "Except for Tara's mom that is . . ."

"Tara?"

"That's the girl I wanna meet." Amy explained

"Oh . . ."

"So, yeah," she continued, "that's how I know her. When she wrote back, she mentioned having a daughter around my age, so I, uh . . . I kinda wondered if she was a witch as well . . . so I asked for her name, and we've been pen-pals for almost a year now."

"So she's a witch too?"

"I dunno . . ."

Willow was confused. "I thought . . ." she trailed off, pausing to take a breath. "Didn't you say you wrote to each other for about a year . . .?"

"We did," Amy replied, "but we mainly talked about what it was like to, you know . . . lose your mom and stuff, and we didn't really write all that often . . . every few months—3 or 4, sometimes more . . . between letters . . ."

"Oh," Willow whispered, as a thought hit her. "Wasn't her mom alive when she first wrote to you?"

"Yeah," Amy confirmed, "but just after she wrote to me, she uh . . . she kinda died. She'd been sick for a while, and . . . you know . . . I didn't really feel like writing to this girl and asking if her mom was a witch . . . not when she was grieving . . ."

"Yeah . . ."

"But she could've been," Amy continued, "a witch I mean . . . and if she was, then Tara might be too, and I kinda wanna find out . . ."

"Why now?"

"What do you mean?"

"I get why you didn't ask her straight away," Willow explained, "but if you've been writing for about a year—you could've asked her later . . ."

"Oh," Amy began, "I was gonna do that, but I thought it would be easier in person . . ."

"How'd you know you were gonna meet?"

"When we first started writing, she told me that she wanted to go to the same college her mom went to. I figured; I'd get to know her a bit, before telling her I was a witch, and then when we met, I could sense if she had power or not, and if she did . . . then I'd know . . . and she'd know, and . . . you know what I mean?"

"You can sense if someone has power?" Willow asked in surprise.

"Can't you?" Amy asked smugly—knowing full well her friend wasn't that attune to the magicks yet.

"I, uh," Willow sputtered, suddenly feeling like an idiot, "I . . . oh, yeah . . . sure . . . of course I can . . ."

Amy chuckled into the phone. "Anyway, so . . . what do you say?"

"What?"

"About Oz . . . you think he'll give us a lift? We could walk, but who needs a half-hour walk, when we could drive there in a few minutes . . .?"

"Oh . . . yeah, I'll give him a call," Willow replied, still feeling a little inadequate. Amy always seemed to do that to her. "It's early," she continued, forcing herself to stop thinking about it, "so he'll be a bit cranky . . . but he's Oz . . . so I don't think he'll mind . . . too much . . ."

"Great . . . call me after you've talked to him," Amy replied as she hung up.

With that, Willow clicked down the receiver, before dialing her boyfriend's number. She knew he wouldn't be too pleased at having such an early wake-up call on a Sunday morning; but Willow knew he'd be okay about it—Oz was like that. Besides, she was suddenly very interested in meeting this potential witch—who knows what she could learn from the girl?

***

Half an hour later, Oz had parked his van outside the UC Sunnydale campus, and the three witches; Amy; Willow; and Michael, were now piling out of it.

Xander was also making his way out of the van; having called upon Willow this morning in boredom, and had decided to come along when Oz had arrived. He'd become instantly intrigued when Willow had told him about her conversation with Amy. The idea of meeting a sophisticated college gal—who was also a possible bad-ass Wiccan, greatly appealed to him. He was after all a young, hot-blooded all-American, teenage male . . . even if he did sorta have a girlfriend. Besides, he'd remained faithful to Cordy all summer—and in his mind, there was nothing wrong with a little ogling. He couldn't help but wonder what this Tara-chick would look like . . .

"So she knows we're coming?" Willow asked Amy, as Oz stepped out of the van, and moved to take her hand.

"Yeah," Amy replied, for like the hundredth time, "she knows . . . and we're not intruding."

"Really?" Willow asked insistently, as they began walking towards Tara's dorm. "Cause there's like five of us, and we've never met the girl, and what if she isn't really a witch? What are we gonna say to her? And what did you tell her—on the phone, I mean—about us, about why we're all coming and stuff? And what if she's a bad witch—like your mom, or—or worse . . .? And what if she doesn't like us, and . . . and turns us all into frogs or something—you know I hate frogs, and being a frog would be really, really bad, and . . . and what if she does something even worse, and without Buffy around . . .? Or what if she's a good witch, and we say something to upset her—or her power isn't that strong, and we don't sense it, and so we don't know if she really is a witch, but she is, and we . . . we . . . or what if she doesn't like us 'cause we're still in high school? She's like this older college-type person, and if she's a powerful witch as well . . . why would she wanna hang out with us? And what if . . ."

Oz smiled, and squeezed his girlfriend's hand affectionately, in an attempt to cease her babbling. He found it adorable how worked up she could get about things; she'd asked the same questions all through the ride over here, and seemed very excited about meeting this girl. In fact, she'd sounded just as excited over the phone; which is why he hadn't minded too much about being woken up at 8am on a Sunday morning, merely to play chauffer to Willow and her Coven. Besides, how could he refuse his girlfriend anything?

Willow stopped mid-babble and smiled at her boyfriend. "I'm babbling aren't I?"

"There are definitely babble-like qualities involved in your speech pattern," Oz replied gently.

"Yeah," Amy agreed, sharing a smile with Michael, "major babble-fest."

"Face it Will," Xander teased. "You're the Queen of Babble-onia. Maybe we should get you a crown—no wait—a muzzle . . ."

Willow lightly punched Xander's shoulder in response.

"Owww," Xander replied in mock pain; grinning devilishly at his best friend.

Willow chuckled, and then smiled ruefully before replying. "I guess I'm just nervous. It's so cool meeting another witch, and I don't wanna do anything to upset her. Besides," she turned her head towards Amy, "you still haven't told me exactly what you said to her about us; about who we are."

"I didn't really go into much detail," she replied. "I just told her my name, and that I'd gotten her letter the other day, so I thought I'd drop by with a few friends so that we could finally meet."

"So she's not really expecting all five of us . . ." Willow noted, her nervousness returning. "You didn't tell her how many of us were showing up. What if she's shy or something? I know how I'd feel if five strangers showed up at my door, and . . ."

"Don't worry about it," Amy interrupted with a grin. "It'll be fine. I told her I was bringing friends, and she didn't seem too worried."

"Really?" Willow asked. "What did she say—on the phone, I mean?"

"Not much actually—she was kinda quiet."

"So she's shy . . ." Willow interposed. "I knew it. She's shy, and we're gonna scare her off . . . or maybe she didn't say much 'cause she was thinking of a spell to use on us. She's an evil college-witch, and we're all gonna end up as frogs, and . . ."

The gang couldn't help laughing at Willow's continued irrationality. "If she tries to turn us into frogs," Amy interrupted; still chuckling, "I'll call up Hecate and turn her into a rat. How's that?"

Willow smiled at her friend. "I'm worrying too much, aren't I?"

"Just a little," Amy replied, returning the smile. "It'll be cool. I've written to this girl for the past year, and she didn't really sound evil on paper. In fact, she sounded kinda sad, like she's really missing her mom and stuff. They were really close, and she wrote that she doesn't get along with her dad and brother too well, so with her mom gone . . ."

"Lonely home-life," Willow finished off. "I know how that goes."

"Me too," Amy whispered, sharing a meaningful look with Willow. "At least I've got my dad now . . ." she trailed off as they reached Tara's building. "I think this is it," she pointed to her right. "It's the name she gave me."

"We're here already?" Willow asked excitedly.

The young witch grinned; she couldn't believe how nervous Willow was. "Just relax—it's no big deal," Amy soothed, as she opened the door, and began walking down the corridor.

Oz turned towards his girlfriend and squeezed her hand—noticing how she was starting to hyperventilate. "Breathe Will," he whispered into her ear. "Don't forget to breathe."

"Breathe," Willow whispered to herself, taking a deep breath, "mustn't forget to breathe . . ."

"Right," Oz encouraged, as they rounded the student lounge, "breathing's good."

As she continued to take deep; calming; breaths, Willow wondered why she was so nervous. She knew she was being silly; with the excessive babbling; the constant questions, and the intense worry. It's just that for some strange reason, she felt as if her whole world was about to change, and she couldn't help but think it had something to do with Tara—a person she hadn't even met yet. Why was that? Could this girl be the teacher she was looking for, someone who could help her tap into her power?

She truly hoped so—she really needed someone like that right now, especially since her best friend was still 'missing in action.' What's more, it seemed too much of a coincidence, to have been thinking about her need for a guide, right before Amy called and told her about Tara. Willow knew she was grasping at straws, but she so wished that this Tara person was a good and powerful witch; that she'd be willing to teach her; to show her what magick was all about; to guide her into the world of power, and be the one person who wasn't trying to either hold her back, or push her into something she wasn't ready for . . .

"Willow!!!" Oz, Michael, Xander, and Amy called out her name, for the tenth time.

"Huh?" Willow looked up, as she was pulled out of her thoughts; suddenly noticing they'd stopped walking.

"Are you okay?" Oz asked in concern. "You kinda spaced out for a minute . . ."

"Yeah," Michael agreed. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Willow looked at the concerned faces of her friends and boyfriend, and did her best to smile back reassuringly. "I'm fine," she insisted, moving her gaze from Oz; to Xander; and then to Michael and Amy. "Really . . ."

"You sure?" Xander asked, not quite convinced. He could tell his best friend was nervous, and recognized all too well her look of fear and excitement. Maybe meeting a potentially powerful witch was too much for the little Willster . . .?

"I'm sure," Willow insisted again, deciding to change the subject. "So, what did you wanna tell me?"

"We're here," Oz said softly, giving his girlfriend an affectionate smile.

"Here?" Willow asked in confusion, turning to face her boyfriend.

"Tara's room," Amy explained, pointing to the door in front of them.

"Oh," Willow whispered; doing her best to force down the sudden attack of butterflies in her stomach.

***

Tara looked up from the book she was reading, as she heard the knock on her door. She knew it was probably Amy and her friends; no one else had knocked on her door since she'd gotten here last week—except for the RA of course. Not that she minded; she was quite a shy person by nature—not used to large crowds, and was finding the whole college experience a little intimidating. At least it was better than being at home, and having to deal with her dad and Donnie.

She shivered at the thought of her family, and instantly forced them out of her head. She hated thinking about them; about what they said to her; about how they treated her . . . they always made her feel like she was worthless. Ever since her mom had died, their treatment of her had gotten worse. This is why she'd done everything in her power to excel at school, to earn herself a full scholarship at her mom's college. She knew they'd be reluctant to let her go; let alone pay for tuition—so a scholarship had been her only ticket out.

Her mother had told her all about Sunnydale; about how her power was more concentrated there, and had told her many good stories about experiences shared with her fellow Wiccans. Ever since she'd been a little girl; Tara had longed to someday move to Sunnydale; to find her own group of friends; people who were like her—something she'd never been able to find at home.

Sure, she knew the dangers of living in Sunnydale; knew it lay on a Hellmouth—but risking her life living around demons and vamps, would be worth it; as long as she could find some real friends—people who wouldn't make fun of her; who'd understood her, and maybe even find someone special . . . someone she could fall in love with . . .

Putting her spell book down, Tara took a deep breath as she stood up; she was suddenly very nervous. She'd written to Amy sporadically this past year, and didn't really know the girl that well; didn't even know if she was a real witch or not. Consequently, she was a little apprehensive to finally meet her. She wasn't really comfortable around new people, and the knowledge that Amy was also bringing along a few of her friends terrified her. Sure, she wanted to make friends, that's why she'd come here in the first place—but she just couldn't help her shyness. Social graces had never been her forte.

As she finally reached her door, Tara took another deep; calming breath—hoping she didn't make too bad an impression on these people. Upon opening the door however, she almost fainted in surprise. She most definitely hadn't expected to come face to face with five strangers. Two or three people, she might've been able to handle—but five . . . five people were just . . . well, they were like a gang or something, and it took all of Tara's willpower not to start hyperventilating. These strangers were just staring at her; looking at her expectantly . . . What was she to say to them? Who the hell were they all . . . and why had they decided to come here . . . to meet her . . .? What had Amy told them . . .?

Willow instantly noticed the reaction on Tara's face; recognizing it for what it was. She knew that look well, it was one she'd worn often enough—one she still wore every time she felt a little intimidated; or frightened, or in shock. Looking at this young blonde stranger, Willow couldn't help but feel an instant kinmanship with her, and suddenly all her fears about Tara being a bad-witch rolled out the window. A bad-witch wouldn't look like a deer caught in headlights, simply because five strangers had just shown up on her doorstep.

Letting go of Oz's hand, Willow decided to be the first one to introduce herself, to set this girl at ease. Putting on her most welcoming smile, Willow pushed past Amy, and moved towards Tara.

"Hey," she whispered softly, trying to catch Tara's eye. The girl was now looking at the floor, and was using her ash-blonde hair to cover the flush in her cheeks as she composed herself. This girl must really be shy, Willow thought to herself. She knew it hadn't been a good idea for all of them to come along . . .

"Tara," she continued, doing her best to keep her voice gentle.

Tara looked up at the sound of her name, and was startled to find herself looking into the most exquisite emerald-green eyes she'd ever seen. Her breath caught in her throat, as she gazed at the enchanting redhead. Who was she? Was this Amy?

Willow was pleased to have gotten the girl's attention so easily. "Hi," she said cheerfully, extending her hand in greeting. "I'm Willow."

Willow? Tara thought to herself. What a beautiful name . . . like the tree . . .

"W-W-Willow . . .?" she said shyly, as she reached for the girl's hand.

"Hey," Willow replied with enthusiasm, taking Tara's hand into her own.

The moment their hands made contact however, the two girls were unable to resist gasping in shock. Wow, they both thought, as their eyes locked together, and an amazing rush of energy coursed through their bodies. Neither of them had ever felt anything like it before, and had no idea what to make of it. They instantly let go of each other's hands, and were now gazing intently into one another's eyes—as if the whole world had suddenly faded away, and they were the only two souls left on the planet.

"Wow," Willow whispered, oblivious to the quizzical looks of her friends and boyfriend. "I guess that means you're a witch . . .?" she ventured.

Tara nodded, and unwittingly started to smile. "You too . . .?"

Willow grinned back—her heart pounding as she unconsciously reacted to Tara's smile. She's got the most gorgeous blue eyes I've ever seen, Willow thought to herself, as she continued to gaze at the blonde stranger. And her smile . . . oh God . . . She felt like her whole body was tingling. Why did she feel like that? What was going on here . . .?

"You guys wanna let us in on the secret?" Amy interjected; feeling disgruntled.

She'd thought Willow wasn't advanced enough to sense another witch's power. What's more, she could tell that something had passed between Willow and Tara when they'd touched hands . . . and she couldn't help feeling a little bit envious. It was obvious to her that the two witches had exchanged their energies, and that's something she'd never been able to do, with anyone.

She knew how much stronger she could be if she ever managed to unite with another witch. In fact, she'd even tried to do just that with Willow a few times, but had unfortunately been unsuccessful. She hadn't given their failure much thought though, and had simply assumed her friend's lack of magickal prowess was to blame. Now however, seeing what had just happened between Willow and Tara; Amy couldn't help but wonder if it was her . . . if she was the one whose power was inadequate. Needless to say, that thought did not sit well with Amy.

Willow and Tara were too caught up in each other's eyes however, to actually hear Amy's question. What's more, they could still feel the sensation of one another's energy coursing through their bodies, and it took all their self-restraint not to reach out their hands, so as to re-experience the merge.

"That was so cool," Willow exclaimed; her eyes locked with Tara's. "I mean . . . the energy . . . it was . . . I . . . I've never felt anything like that . . ."

"Me n-neither," Tara confessed shyly. She unconsciously moved to link her hands with Willow's, but pulled back at the last minute. What was she doing? She'd only just met this girl; she had no right to touch her at will. Sure, they'd just shared a very intimate moment; merged their energy in a manner—which only two witches who've been practicing together for years—could usually accomplish. But they were still strangers, and as such hand-holding was highly inappropriate . . .

"What're you guys talking about?" Xander asked. He was totally confused here. What had just happened? Why were Willow and this cute college-gal staring at each other? And she'd just said something about energy . . . what energy? He knew he was slow on the uptake sometimes, but even he could tell something significant had just happened—but what?

"It's a witch thing," Michael explained, turning his head towards Xander. "I don't think they can hear us . . ."

"What do you mean?" Xander asked—still confused.

"It's kinda rare for it to happen between strangers," Michael began, "but I think they've just exchanged their energies, and . . . well . . . they've gotta be feeling the rush right about now. It's a really powerful experience."

"Powerful?" Oz asked, not sure how he felt about what was happening.

It could just be a side-effect of his inner-Wolfie, but for some reason, he felt strangely territorial all of a sudden. Why was that? Willow was just connecting with a fellow-witch . . . What was so wrong with that? However, as he moved his gaze between Willow and the blonde, he couldn't help but feel like an outsider; like the two Wiccans were in their own little world, and this Tara person was sharing something with his girlfriend; something he'd never be a part of. He decided to put his annoyance aside however, knowing how The Wolf could sometimes cause him to over-react. He was a human being after all—The Wolf needed to be suppressed . . .

"Yeah," Michael continued. "They're connected now—it's really cool. Not many witches or warlocks actually find someone they can connect to like that—but when they do . . . it opens them up to all sorts of magicks. They're so lucky," he sighed wistfully.

"It's not about luck," Amy pointed out. "It takes the right amount of power to manage a successful exchange."

"Not exactly," Michael disagreed. "Power's involved, but it has to be compatible. You can't just merge with someone whose energy is different, or isn't channeled or directed like your own . . ."

"So, you wouldn't be able to merge with someone whose power was weaker . . .?" Amy pondered aloud, feeling better now about her inability to merge with Willow. Of course she couldn't link herself with a novice witch; she was just too powerful. Tara and Willow were weak, no wonder they'd connected . . . and no wonder she wasn't able to sense the blonde's power . . .

"Well . . ." Michael let out. "That's not entirely true . . ."

"What do you mean?" Amy demanded.

"A connection is formed based on the type of power, and where it comes from—not how strong it is. Every witch uses their power differently, draws on it differently, and only two witches who are similar in nature can exchange their energies. That's why it rarely happens between strangers—it usually takes years of joint training, and practicing to become the same . . ."

"To think the same," Amy interjected.

"Exactly," Michael nodded. "I guess your pen-pal here is a lot like Willow . . ."

"That makes sense," Amy smiled, her mood improving somewhat.

However, her resentment was something that wouldn't go away so easily. Why did Willow get to meet someone she connected to, someone who could make her more powerful? Why couldn't she meet someone like that? It wasn't fair . . . she was the one with whom Tara was meant to connect with. Part of the reason she'd been so eager to form a friendship with this girl—was in the hopes of making a magickal connection with her. Now that Willow had done so instead—it irked her to no end; she felt like she'd been one-upped—by one of her oldest friends no less. However, she realized it wouldn't do to whine about it—there had to be some other way of increasing her power . . . but what?

"You mean they're just gonna stand there staring at each other all day?" Xander asked.

Michael chuckled. "Maybe we should remind them we're still here," he suggested, "or you could be right."

Oz took that as a signal for him to make his move. He'd had enough of watching his girlfriend share an intimate moment with this stranger. With determination, he took a few steps towards Willow, and wrapped his arms around her waist, as he pressed himself up against her back. He pulled her towards himself, and rested his chin on her left shoulder.

"Hi," he greeted, looking directly at Tara over Willow's shoulder.

Willow was startled, to suddenly find herself in her boyfriend's arms. She'd forgotten he was here—in fact; she'd forgotten everything and everyone, as she'd stared into Tara's eyes. What was that all about?

"This is Oz," she told Tara softly, unwilling to break her stare.

"Boyfriend," he explained, reaching out a hand from around Willow's waist.

It took a moment for the word to sink in, but when it did, Tara couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. She should've known a beauty like Willow would have a boyfriend. Just because they'd connected magickally, didn't mean anything romantic . . .

Doing her best to hide her disappointment, Tara tentatively reached out for the young man's hand. "Hi," she smiled shyly. If Willow thought enough of this guy to go out with him, then he must definitely be a good person . . .

"Nice to meet you," Oz replied, briefly grasping Tara's hand.

As he released it, he couldn't help but warm to this young blonde; there was a sweet shyness about her that reminded him of Willow. No wonder the two girls had connected—they were obviously very much alike. He suddenly felt guilty over his earlier reaction; especially since he knew how much Willow missed having a close female friend; someone she could relate to. With Buffy gone all summer, he seen how much she'd longed for female companionship. It would do her good to have another girl around besides Amy . . .

Not one to be ignored, Xander took a few steps forward. "I'm Xander," he stated; taking the girl's hand, "Willow's oldest, and bestest bud." He shook Tara's hand enthusiastically, and gave her a flirtatious grin.

"Hi," Tara responded softly, letting her hair cover her eyes. This guy seemed nice enough, but his eagerness was kinda intimidating.

"If you ever need a young; virile; hot-blooded teenage male, to use in your rituals . . ." he began.

"Xander!!!" Willow interrupted him, noticing the blush in Tara's cheek. She could tell the blonde was embarrassed by her best friend's flirting, and couldn't help being annoyed with him. "Leave the poor girl alone . . ."

Xander turned towards his friend. "I was just being friendly," he defended himself, giving Willow an oh-so-innocent look.

"I wonder what Cordy would say to your 'friendly' offer . . ."

"Well, she's not here now . . . is she?" Xander pointed out, giving Tara another smile, before letting go of her hand. "And besides," he continued, moving his gaze back to Willow. "Who knows what she's been up to all summer . . . she's probably found some cute cabana boy to hook up with, or . . ."

"Shouldn't you wait to find out first," Willow raised an eyebrow, "before you start coming on to every pretty girl you meet?"

Willow's words did not go unnoticed by Tara, and she could feel the heat coming to her cheeks. Had she heard correctly? Did Willow just say she was pretty? Reminding herself she wasn't alone, Tara took a few deep breaths in order to keep her composure. She wasn't used to being called pretty—especially by a beautiful goddess like Willow.

"I resent that," Xander replied with mock offense. "I wasn't coming on to her . . . I was merely extending the offer of my, uh . . . services . . ."

"And what services are those Alexander Harris . . .?"

Xander put his hands up in defeat; he knew he was beaten when Willow used his full name like that. "Fine, I'm backing away here . . ." he trailed off as a thought hit him. "Hey! Since when did you become Cordelia's spokesperson?"

Since you started hitting on Tara, Willow thought to herself; instantly becoming confused. Why would she think that?

"I, uh . . . I just d-don't think it's fair, that's all," she stammered, doing her best to cover her thoughts. "I mean, don't get me wrong; I'm no Cordelia fan—she did torment me for like the past ten years of my life—but it's, uh . . . it's the principle of the matter. Us gal's gotta stick together. Yeah . . . if we allow one male to get away with the flirting, and the straying, and . . . and, it's all about sticking up for women everywhere, and . . ."

"Hey," Xander interrupted; figuring she must've had another one of those patriarchal talks with her mom. "Do I need to get out the muzzle, Miss Queen of Babble-onia?" he teased.

"Huh?" Willow looked at him in confusion. "Oh . . ." she trailed off, and then giggled as she realized she'd gone a bit overboard. "You're meant to stop me when I do that," she craned her neck back to look at her boyfriend.

"I would," Oz replied, "but the uh, whole cuteness factor, kinda makes it difficult."

Willow smiled, and blushed in response. Even though they'd been together for a while now, Willow still found it hard to get used to the idea of having a boyfriend, of having someone who actually found her adorable. She'd had an unrequited crush on Xander for so long, that she'd begun to think that no one would ever find her attractive; so when Oz had come along, she'd gladly lapped up the attention. She still wasn't too sure how she felt about him though—which is why she wished Buffy was around to talk to.

The closer she and Oz got; the more confused she became about her feelings. She didn't know if she was falling in love with him, or if she was merely in love with the idea of being in love. What's more, in Willow's mind, being with Oz made her seem cooler somehow—as if his status as a musician helped expel her from the disease of geekdom. She knew that was the wrong way to look at things; but she couldn't help it, and it made her feel a little guilty sometimes.

Although; times like these, when Oz complimented her—she became even more confused than ever. Why would anyone think a geek-girl like her was cute, adorable . . . special? She was very lucky to have someone who cared for her—she just wished she knew how she felt in return. Why did relationshippy things always have to be so complicated?

On second thoughts though, wasn't she the one making it complicated? You either loved someone, or you didn't; why couldn't she be sure? Why did she feel like something was missing in their relationship? Oz cared about her; made her feel special, and she cared about him . . . but was that love? And wasn't there supposed to be fireworks when you made out? Sure, she enjoyed making out with him—it felt nice; and sweet . . . but according to all those romance novels—which she'd never admit to reading—wasn't she supposed to feel electrified every time her boyfriend kissed her? All these were questions she'd longed to ask Buffy this summer, and hated the fact she couldn't. Just when she needed a girl-friend the most, she'd been deserted. A part of her couldn't help but resent Buffy for it.

Realizing she'd let her thoughts wander; Willow gave Oz another smile, and then turned her attention back to Tara. "I, uh . . . sorry about that . . . with the babbling, I . . . I never know when to stop, and I . . . well, it usually leads to boredom, and annoyance, and I totally understand when people get up and leave, and . . . and who wants to listen to someone going on, and on about nothing, and I . . . I'm doing it again, aren't I . . .?"

"Th-that's okay," Tara stammered softly; her baby-blue eyes peeking out adorably through a veil of hair.

Willow gave Tara a warm smile, as her skin began to tingle again. Why was she feeling like this? What was it about this stranger that affected her so profoundly? And why had they connected—with the energy?

"You get used to it," Amy interjected, deciding to remind everyone of her presence. "Willow-babble is all part of the package." She moved passed Xander, and extended her hand towards Tara. "I'm Amy by the way; the one who's been writing to you for the past year. It's good to finally meet you."

"Amy," Tara greeted softly, as she took the girl's hand.

Before letting go of Tara's hand, Amy made a point of allowing her energy to flow around her. Unfortunately, she didn't experience anything like what Willow had, and couldn't help feeling a little disappointed. I guess only Willow can connect with Tara . . .

Tara was glad when Amy finally let go of her hand; she'd sensed the girl's energy, and it had chilled her. There was a darkness surrounding her, which she found very unsettling, as if she was struggling with herself, hovering on the edge of something dark and dangerous—even if she wasn't quite there yet. She would definitely have to keep her guard up around this witch.

"And that's Michael," Amy introduced, moving aside to let the young warlock through.

He responded by shaking Tara's hand. "Hey."

"Hi," Tara replied. As she took the young man's hand, she could tell that he too had power; but not like Amy's. Michael's power didn't seem to be tainted or dangerous, and she instantly knew he was a potential friend. "It's n-nice to m-meet you," she continued, letting go of his hand.

"I guess that's all the introductions," Amy stated.

Tara smiled and nodded her head in response. "Yeah," she said softly, moving her gaze from Amy to Michael; and then to Xander and Oz, before coming to rest on Willow.

Willow smiled as their eyes met, and the two girls unconsciously shared another affectionate look. They weren't fully aware of what they were doing, but they were nevertheless drawn to one another.

"So," Amy continued, ignoring Willow and Tara's preoccupation. "You gonna let us in, or do you want us to stand out here all day?" she chuckled.

"Oh," Tara blushed, realizing what she'd done. "I'm-I'm s-s-so s-s-s-sorry," she apologized, directing her words to Willow, and not to Amy. "I, uh . . . I'm r-r-really s-s-s-s-sorry," she stammered. "I d-d-didn't r-r-r-realize, I-I-I-I . . . I . . ."

"It's okay," Willow soothed, giving Tara her most comforting smile. She found Tara's stuttering to be completely adorable, and she couldn't help but relate to her emotions.

Tara smiled back, and instantly felt better. She then moved away from the doorway, and motioned for the group to come inside. "P-p-p-please c-c-c-come in . . ."

Amy and Michael were the first to step through the door, and were followed closely by Xander. Willow made a move next, as Oz removed his arms from around her waist, and grasped her hand instead. When they were all inside, Tara dutifully closed the door, before turning around to face her guests. Looking around, she once again felt a little intimidated. There were five people in her room—near strangers, and her lack of social skills, were now causing her to tremble a little.

"Um . . . um . . ." she took a deep breath to steady herself, and decided to focus her gaze on Willow. For some reason, looking at the beautiful redhead seemed to calm her down somewhat. "Y-y-you, uh . . . you c-c-ca-can, um . . . t-t-take a-a-a s-s-seat," she offered, pointing to her bed, and then to her armchair. "If you w-w-w-want to . . ." As she finished the sentence, she closed her eyes in embarrassment, cursing her tendency for stuttering. Why did she have to be such a dork?

"Thanks," Willow said softly, her heart going out to the stuttering witch. She could see how embarrassed the girl was, and could almost feel Tara's pain as if it were her own. In fact, she felt a sudden urge to wrap her arms around Tara; hold her tight, and let her know it was okay; that she had nothing to be embarrassed about. Why was that? Why did she feel so protective about this almost-stranger?

"Yeah, thanks," Amy replied, taking a seat on the edge of Tara's bed.

Michael and Xander quickly followed, as did Oz. Willow on the other hand, gave in to her sentiment, and let go of her boyfriend's hand. She then took a couple of steps towards Tara, and gently placed a hand on her shoulder.

Tara looked up in surprise at the redhead's soft touch.

"Hey," Willow whispered with a smile. "Are you okay?"

"I . . ." she trailed off as she reacted to Willow's smile "Yeah . . ." I'm fine now, she thought to herself, as a smile reached her lips.

"It's a little much, isn't it?" Willow whispered knowingly—her right hand still in place on Tara's shoulder.

"Much?"

"All five of us," she explained, doing her best to keep her voice as soft as possible. "I know how I'd feel . . . five strangers . . . intimidating . . . right . . .?"

Tara's smile widened as she nodded in response. It's like Willow had read her mind. "Yeah . . . I uh, I'm . . . I'm n-n-not used to, um . . . b-b-being around a-a l-lot of, um . . . p-p-people . . ."

"And we kinda surprised you?" Willow finished off.

"A little," Tara admitted. "I . . . I w-w-wasn't expecting, um . . . s-s-so m-m-many of you . . ."

"I figured as much," Willow continued, locking her eyes with Tara's. "I knew we shouldn't 'ave all come, but . . . but . . . well . . . Amy called me; cause, you know—the whole witch thing, and . . . and Oz has a van, so he was wheel-man, and . . . and Michael . . . well he's like a warlock, and he's part of our coven, and . . . and we, uh . . . we all wanted to see if you were actually a witch, and . . . and then Xander rocked up, so we couldn't leave him behind, and . . . and . . . and, well . . . so you see . . . that's why we all came, and . . . you know . . .? But . . . but, I'm sorry if we're, um . . . intruding. We didn't mean to, it's just . . ."

"It's okay," Tara interrupted; flashing Willow a huge grin. "I, uh . . . I-I don't m-mind . . . really. I . . . I was, um . . . j-just . . . you know . . . a little, um . . . surprised . . . but it's okay . . . r-really."

Willow grinned back, pleased to note the reduction in Tara's stuttering. She'd obviously managed to relax the girl, and was feeling very happy with herself. She then gently squeezed Tara's shoulder, before taking a seat. She didn't move to the crowded bed however, but chose to relax in the nearby armchair—facing the bed. Tara moved as well, and grabbed a chair from her desk. She positioned it next to the armchair, instinctively wanting to sit next to Willow.

"So; was your mom a witch too?" Amy asked, as Tara got comfortable.

"Yeah," Tara replied shyly. "My, uh . . . my grandmother too . . ."

"Really?" Amy returned.

Tara nodded. "All the w-w-women in my, uh . . . family, have been, um . . . w-w-w-witches . . . as far as I can remember."

"That's pretty cool," Willow interjected. "So that means you know a lot about it, right? The magicks I mean . . ."

Tara turned towards Willow. "I . . . I d-d-don't know how much I, uh . . . I know. But my mom has been, um . . . t-teaching me . . . since I was little . . ."

"Wow," Willow responded; genuinely impressed. She'd definitely found her teacher; she just hoped the girl would accept the position. She'd ask her later though—when they were alone. Wait! Alone? When would they be alone? She'd just met the girl, and already she was trying to orchestrate some alone-time—presume much? What made her think Tara would agree to teach her about the magicks?

Tara smiled back, and was about to say something in response; when Amy asked her what her mom had been like. Reluctantly, she returned her attention back to Amy, as she answered the question.

Willow listened in silence as Amy proceeded to grill Tara about her mom; about her knowledge of all things magicky, and about what she knew of the Wiccan group their moms were a part of. She remained silent, mainly because she was trying to come up with a good way of asking Tara to be her teacher. Tara was obviously a very powerful witch, and it would be so great to have her as a guide.

As she alternated her gaze between Tara and Amy—according to who was speaking at the time—Willow found herself becoming kind of entranced by Tara's voice. The more she and Amy talked; the less pronounced her stuttering became. It seemed that talking about spells; and magicks, put Tara in her element. In fact, Willow couldn't help but notice how glowy Tara's eyes were becoming; how filled with excitement, and warmth, and kindness . . . and how they glistened like the ocean . . .

Willow forced herself to end that train of thought. What was with the sudden prose? Why was she so enthralled with Tara's eyes; with her voice; her smile . . . with the way she occasionally sucked on her lower lip as she pondered a question . . .? She had to stop these thoughts right now. They were highly inappropriate—confusing too . . .

"Enough with the witchy talk," Xander interrupted. "Not all of us are witches you know," he pointed out.

Tara looked at Xander; realizing their conversation must be boring him. "Sorry," she said softly, giving him a gentle smile.

Xander grinned back; pleased to have gotten the attention of the cute college-witch. "That's cool—I don't mind . . . but I've got questions of my own."

"Oh?" Tara replied.

"Yeah," Xander returned. "Like; do you have a boyfriend, and . . .?"

Willow's ears perked up at Xander's question; she too was interested in the answer, only she didn't know why exactly. "Xander," she interrupted him instead. "Could you be more obvious?"

"I was just asking," he replied in defense. "There's no harm in that . . . right?" He turned to look at Tara then, giving her his most adorable smile. "So do you?"

"W-w-what?" Tara asked shyly, feeling nervous again.

"Have a boyfriend?"

Tara's face turned completely red as Xander repeated his question. She wasn't used to guys flirting with her, and to be honest—she'd always been more interested in girls anyway. Therefore; she found such obvious flirtation a little unnerving; she had no idea how to respond to it. "I, uh . . . I-I-I, d-d-don't have, a, um . . . a b-b-boyfriend . . ." she forced herself to respond; dropping her eyes to the floor, and letting her hair cover her face.

"Really?" Xander replied, his grin widening. "So you're not seeing anyone?"

Tara smiled nervously and shook her head; feeling more embarrassed by the second. She really hoped this guy wasn't about to ask her out; she'd be flattered; but he wasn't exactly her type—being male and all; and she didn't want to hurt his feelings . . .

"Xander," Willow interjected; once again feeling annoyed that he was hitting on Tara. "Does the name Cordelia mean anything to you?" she asked him pointedly. "As in she's your girlfriend—with whom you've spent many a day smooching, and even though you haven't seen her all summer; you'll see her tomorrow, and she might not be pleased to hear you're flirting with . . ."

"Okay, okay," Xander interrupted. "I get it." He grinned at his oldest friend, and gave her his best puppy-dog look. "I was just asking for future reference . . . who knows what . . ." he trailed off as Willow glared at him, and decided that he should keep his mouth shut. Besides; Willow was right; Cordy was still his girlfriend. What's more, he did kinda miss her, and was looking forward to seeing her again. It's just that his own insecurities had been plaguing him lately, and he couldn't help but question if she'd met someone; if he was about to get tossed aside . . .

Willow relaxed her frown; realizing she was acting funky. What was it about Xander's flirting that annoyed her so much? It's not like she was still interested in him—she'd even gotten used to seeing him and Cordelia together. So why didn't she like watching him flirt with Tara. She was about to apologize to Xander, when Amy interrupted.

"Oh," she exclaimed, leaping off the bed. "It's 10'oclock already. I kinda promised my dad I'd go tie-shopping with him. He's got an important meeting tomorrow and . . . well, I don't wanna bore you with the details, but it kinda means I gotta get going."

"You want a lift back?" Oz asked.

Amy turned to him and smiled. "If it's a problem . . ."

"It's fine," he responded graciously. "I don't mind."

As everyone stood up, and got off the bed, Willow remained in place. She still hadn't asked Tara if she would be her teacher, and was reluctant to leave until she had. Besides, after the way she'd connected with the young witch, she was desperate to get to know her better.

"You guys go on ahead," she told them, as they glanced down at her, wondering why she hadn't stood up with the rest of them. "I wanna talk to Tara for a bit," she turned her head to face the blonde, "If it's okay with you . . .?" she asked, not wanting to impose.

Tara grinned at Willow's words; thrilled by her suggestion. Willow wanted to talk to her . . . alone . . . oh wow . . . she was gonna spend some one-on-one time with the most enchanting girl she'd ever met . . . How could she refuse? "I . . . I'd l-l-like that . . ."

Willow was pleased with Tara's response, and flashed her huge smile. "Cool . . ."

Oz looked down at his girlfriend, and smiled in understanding. Willow had just met a powerful witch she connected with—of course she'd wanna spend time with her. If he knew his Willow, she'd be desperate for some magick pointers. Moving towards her, he placed his right hand against her cheek. "I'll see you at 5 then," he ventured, running his thumb along her cheekbone.

Willow smiled. "Right, patrol . . ."

Oz interrupted her by pressing a brief kiss to her lips. "Have a good time," he whispered, as he pulled away.

"Thanks," Willow replied softly, smiling at her boyfriend.

"It was nice meeting you, Tara," Oz said, as he removed his hand from his girlfriend's face.

"You too," Tara whispered, forcing a smile to her lips. Oz seemed like a nice guy, but watching him kiss Willow had left a queasy feeling in her stomach, and she was doing her best to push it away. Of all the people to develop an instant crush on—she just had to choose a straight girl with a boyfriend. Smart move Tara, she chided herself.

"Yeah," Amy interjected from the doorway. "It was nice to finally meet you. We should get together soon," she gestured to Michael and Willow, "we can all do some spells. A coven's more powerful with four people."

"Okay," Tara agreed. As long as Willow was part of the group, she'd gladly join the coven—even if she was kinda wigged about Amy's energy.

"Cool," Amy replied, as she stepped outside.

"Yeah, see ya," Michael said, as he followed Amy out.

Xander glanced at Michael and Amy, and then looked down at Tara. "I think I'll stick around as well," he said, moving back towards the bed.

Oz looked at Xander, and wondered how anyone could be so clueless. "Um, Xander," he began.

"Yeah?" he replied.

"I, uh . . . I think Willow and Tara want to talk magick . . ."

Xander just looked at Oz—wondering what he was getting at. "I don't mind . . ."

"Alone." Oz stressed.

Willow smiled gratefully at her boyfriend, and then looked pointedly at Xander.

Xander still didn't get it, but from the way Willow was looking at him, he figured it would be best not to argue. "Sure, okay . . ." he conceded.

"Bye Xander," Tara said softly, giving the young man a shy smile. She couldn't help but like the guy—even if she did find his flirting a little unnerving.

"Bye," he grinned back, as he stepped out of the room.

Oz moved back towards his girlfriend's side, and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. "See ya soon Will," he whispered into her ear.

"Bye Oz," she replied, grateful for his understanding. "And thanks . . ."

"Have fun," he smiled at his girlfriend, and then at Tara, before heading out the door.

END OF CHAPTER 1