CHAPTER 5 - A Seed is Sown

Rowan paced around the church in agitation constantly checking the time on her watch. "Where the hell is he?" she groused irately as she turned around to start pacing the other way. "He should have been here half an hour ago. I swear if he's out there causing any kind of trouble…"

"Patience daughter," her father said soothingly. "Rufus will return in good time. You know how he enjoys being let out."

"I know exactly how much he enjoys it Dad which is why I'm concerned," she replied unhappily.

The old man laughed lightly and shook his head. His children were as different from each other as chalk and cheese…until it came to the kill that is…then they were both as effectively deadly as the other.

There was a noise from the front of the church followed by footsteps echoing around the outer aisle.

"It's about time," Rowan growled as her brother walked nonchalantly through the door with a huge grin and a bag of chips. "Where the hell have you been?"

"School," he replied shortly, his smile fading in the face of her obvious anger. "What's the matter, your memory going in your old age, Rowan?"

She tutted at his attitude and shook her head. "Just make sure you come straight back here tomorrow," she told him coldly.

"Yes, Sir," he retorted sarcastically as he gave her a mock salute and walked over to a nearby chair and sat down.

"That's enough, Rufus," his father warned lightly, turning to face his youngest child. "Now, tell us how it went today. Did you speak to the Slayer's sister?"

"Speak to her," Rufus scoffed. "Hell, she was all over me. I didn't realise how easy this was going to be." He pulled a slightly disgusted face. "To be honest I was expecting more of a challenge but she's eating out of my hand already," he concluded, smiling smugly.

"Well, just don't go corrupting her, Rufus," Rowan warned him with a frown. "The purer the soul the better, you know that."

Her brother quirked an eyebrow as his smile turned lecherous. "I do, but what I wouldn't give have a little taste. I bet she'd be a quick learner."

Rowan merely rolled her eyes and picked up her purse. "I've got to go out and meet Anya. You stay here and I'll be back later with dinner."

"Any chance of a Chinese tonight?" her father asked hopefully.

"I'll see what I can do," Rowan nodded and then left.

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Dawn almost ran down the street in her haste to reach home and share her news with Buffy. It was only the fact that she was being weighed down by the five heavy reference books from the school library she was carrying, that held her back from a full out sprint.

Finally, she reached the house and burst in like a mini hurricane. "Oh…my…God!" she exclaimed with an excited grin as she came to a halt just inside the kitchen door. "There's a new guy just started at school today and he is so hot! His name's Rufus and he is like so smart. He got top marks in our Math pop quiz and he's my new Biology partner because, you know, Susie broke her leg last week in that accident. Anyway, he recommended that I read these and we've arranged to meet up three times a week and study which is cool because he's really, really, hot!" Catching her breath, she walked further into the kitchen and dropped the books unceremoniously on top of the worktop before sitting down on the stool opposite Buffy.

"I think someone's got a little crush," the Slayer teased, smiling at her sister's excitement.

"No, I've got a big crush," Dawn clarified happily. "And I think he kind of likes me too. He was really friendly, you know, opening doors for me and everything."

Leaning against the kitchen sink, Spike waited for the microwave to announce his blood was warmed and snorted loudly. "Sounds like a right wimp if you ask me," he commented with a frown.

"I didn't and he's not," the younger Summers sister retorted brightly, completely unfazed by the vampire's negativity. "He's very sweet."

The snort was louder this time. "Exactly. Right wimp," Spike groused again then opened the microwave as it beeped annoyingly and withdrew his mug before slamming it shut.

"What's with him?" Dawn asked Buffy quizzically.

"Oh, he's just cranky because he couldn't keep up with me around the Mall this afternoon, that's all," the Slayer replied dismissively.

"Oy! First off, he is standing right here," the vampire protested irately. "And secondly, the Energiser bunny would've had trouble keeping up with you today."

"Was it shoes or clothes?" Dawn asked sympathetically.

"What do you mean, 'or'?" the vampire retorted in disgust, causing Dawn to laugh.

"Hey! I don't get that much time off and I had to make the most of it," Buffy defended herself.

"You did that, luv," Spike countered with feeling.

"I know," the Slayer responded as she stood up and walked over to him. Smiling, she slid her arms around his waist and looked up at him as she added, "I got to do two of my favourite things today. Go shopping and spend time with my gorgeous boyfriend. Yay me."

Despite his previous ill-humour, Spike couldn't help but smile in response to her words. Putting down his mug, he pulled her closer to him and dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. "I'm sure I could help you do another one of your favourite thing's today," he murmured with a suggestive leer and gentle thrust of his pelvis.

"Um, hello! I'm still here you know," came Dawn's voice from across the room.

"I'll hold you to that," Buffy quietly said to the vampire then, with seductive smile, she thrust back against him gently before pulling away to turn and face her sister. Ignoring Spike's groan and his muttered 'teasing little chit', she walked back over to Dawn. "So, when's the first study date?"

"Day after tomorrow," the brunette replied on a sigh, her face taking on a dreamy look.

"Good, Spike and I can't wait to meet him," the Slayer told her with a bright smile.

The happy look immediately vanished to be replaced by one of wide eyed panic. "You and Spike?" she echoed, darting a look between the two smiling blonde's. "But…you can't do that to me. I-I mean, I like this guy."

"All the more reason for us to meet him early on, Bit," Spike decided as he walked over and placed an arm around Buffy's waist drawing her to his side. "Suss him out."

"What? No! No sussing. He's just a nice, normal guy. I don't want you going all big bad brother on me and freaking him out," Dawn stressed, looking to Buffy for sisterly support.

The Slayer giggled at Dawn's pleading expression and shook her head. "Don't worry, I'll make sure we keep a low profile, I promise."

"Speak for yourself, luv," Spike growled and then sighed heavily at the warning look his girlfriend suddenly directed at him. "Oh alright, I'll behave," he muttered begrudgingly and was rewarded with a kiss on the cheek from Buffy and a relieved, "Thanks, Spike, you're the best," from a delighted Dawn.

"Yeah, yeah," he muttered, turning away from them to retrieve his mug of blood from the worktop on the other side of the room.

Happy once more, Dawn ignored him and looked back at her sister with a huge grin. "Okay, I so have to sort out something to wear."

Without waiting for further comment, the teen then dashed out of the room and stampeded up the stairs. Entering her bedroom, she closed the door behind her with an exuberant slam then moved to her wardrobe and pulled open the doors wide to look inside. She'd find the perfect study outfit if it took her all night.

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Rowan entered the Magic Shop and glanced around looking for Anya. Spying the blonde coming up from the basement, she pasted a smile on her face and headed over. "Hey," she greeted brightly.

The blonde looked up and gave her friend a tired smile. "Hello Rowan," she replied in a subdued voice.

"Oooh, that doesn't sound like the voice of a woman who was thoroughly ravaged last night," the redhead replied with an arch of her eyebrow.

Anya huffed and nodded her head. "That's because I wasn't," she confirmed in an annoyed tone. "Xander and I argued instead."

"Oh no…and after all your hard work too," the vixen sympathised. "I hope your argument wasn't about anything too serious."

Thinking about what Xander had said the night before, the blonde frowned slightly and let out a sigh before looking up at her friend. She might as well find out if what her husband said was true. "Rowan, what would you say if I told you this was a real magic shop?"

The other woman smiled slightly and shrugged. "I'd say, I know and let me have a vial of Dragon's Blood Resin."

Anya stared at her for a few seconds as Rowan's words sunk in and then suddenly burst out laughing. "Oh my God, what are you? A witch? I would have thought I'd have noticed if you were."

Rowan grinned and shook her head. "No, I'm not, but I've dabbled. Mom used to practice quite a bit when she was alive."

"So, I'm guessing that since you know about magic, you also know there's other…things…out there?" Anya asked hopefully.

"You mean like demons? Vampires? Those sorts of 'things'?"

"Yes!" Anya exclaimed in relief. "Yes, exactly, those sorts of things."

Rowan smiled and nodded. "I know."

"Oh, thank goodness because there's something I should tell you before this friendship goes any further," the blonde replied suddenly serious.

"That sounds ominous," the redhead said with a slight frown. "What is it?"

"I used to be a vengeance demon but now I'm not. Giles, the owner of this shop, he broke my pendant and I've been mortal ever since," she explained in a rush. "Does it make a difference?"

Rowan stared at her blankly. "A difference to what?"

"To you and me being friends?" Anya supplied impatiently.

Rowan chuckled. "No, why would it?"

Anya looked troubled. "Well, Xander said that…" she stopped then drew in a breath and slowly exhaled before pasting a smile on her face and shaking her head. "You know what? It doesn't matter. Look, why don't we…"

Before Anya could finish, the bell tinkled announcing the arrival of a customer and she made her excuses to Rowan who gestured that she'd sit down at the research table. Anya nodded then turned back to the customer just as the bell jangled again and Willow entered.

The redhead gave a little wave of acknowledgement to Anya and then went over to the table and sat down. "Hey," she greeted the other redhead awkwardly before opening up her bag and pulling out a small notebook.

"Hi," Rowan replied looking up briefly from the tome she was idly flicking through. Seeing Willow busily writing away, her eyes narrowed slightly and she craned her head to try and catch a glimpse of what she was jotting down.

"Oh poop," the redhead huffed to herself as she scribbled over the last sentence she wrote. "That won't work."

Rowan shut the tome with a snap and sat up straight. "Anything I can help you with?" she offered with an innocent smile.

Willow looked over at the young woman in surprise, almost as if she'd forgotten she was there. Worried at what the other might have seen, she pulled her notebook closer to her then she shook her head and began to babble in slightly panicked tone, "Oh…uh…no, no…it's okay, just a little problem I'm trying to figure out. You know, for school. Cos it's school work…just normal, boring school work."

"Well two heads are better than one," Rowan countered, leaning forward a little, her eyes firmly trained on the book.

"No, really…"

"Willow it's okay, you can let Rowan see," Anya suddenly called over from where she stood behind the counter. "Rowan's used magic herself and her mother also practised. Maybe she can help you."

The redhead turned wide eyes to Anya's friend. "You're a witch too?"

"No, definitely not a witch," Rowan answered wryly. Seeing that Willow still wasn't sure, she decided to try a different approach. If she'd read the witch right, she was soft touch, especially if she thought she'd offended someone. "It's okay, I understand if you don't want me to look," she said, adopting a hurt look. "I'll just go and leave you in peace while you carry on."

"No…wait," Willow said as Rowan started to rise from her seat. "I…I didn't mean for you to go…it's just…" she paused and slowly laid her notebook flat down on the table slanted slightly towards the other redhead. Offering a weak smile, she said, "Any help would be great. Thanks."

Rowan felt a dart of triumph run through her system as she lowered herself back down onto the seat. Holding back the smug grin that threatened to break through, she carefully schooled her features into a grateful smile. Nodding at Willow, she leaned over to get a closer look. "What are you trying to do?"

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Half an hour later, Willow sat back in her chair and arched her back slightly as she eased out the kinks after having sat hunched forward for so long. "I don't think I'm ever going to get the stupid spell right," she commented in defeat.

"Sure you will," Rowan assured her with a pat on her hand then paused as she glanced around furtively to make sure no one was in earshot and added in a low voice, "You know, this could be easily fixed if you just used the Book of Avivagor."

Willow's eyes widened at the mention of the name and vigorously shook her head. The text she referred to was notorious for its leaning towards the arts of black magick. "I couldn't!" the redhead replied in a hushed voice as, she too, checked to see who was listening. "The Book of Avivagor has some very dark spells, it wouldn't be right."

"It's not that dark," Rowan dismissed lightly. "In any case, you're strong, I can feel it…you'd be able to handle it easily."

Willow flushed slightly at the other woman's praise and smiled. "You really think I could handle it?" she queried dubiously. "Sometimes I make these mistakes…"

"It's all to do with confidence, Willow," Rowan told her seriously. "Trust me, you'd be fine."

The redhead stared back at her for a moment and then shook her head. "I…I don't think so. Tara wouldn't like me dabbling in that kind of magick a…and it'd just be wrong."

Hearing the uncertainty in the young witch's voice, Rowan decided to change her tact. "Of course, whatever you think is best. It was just a suggestion," Rowan replied with a smile. "I didn't realise you needed Tara's permission to practice."

Willow frowned slightly at that and felt a small spark of irritation flare at the other woman's words. "I don't need Tara's permission," she refuted firmly. "It's just that she's my girlfriend and I-I don't like to upset her and using that book would."

Rowan put her hands up in mock surrender at Willow's censure and immediately adopted a contrite expression. "Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you, okay?" she said placatingly. "It just seems a shame to me to waste all your potential, that's all."

The redhead shook her head again and gathered up her belongings. "I'd better go," she said quietly, her mind full of what Rowan had said as she bade her and Anya goodbye and left the shop.

Was she really strong enough to cope with black…well, okay…more of a medium greyish…magick like that? If she were honest, she'd often thought that she could handle something a little stronger…a little darker…but any suggestion was met with Giles telling her she wasn't ready or Tara's gentle admonishment.

Surely if Buffy was fighting the forces of evil, she needed as much help as she could get and if that meant dabbling in the blacker side of magick on the odd occasion then she had to do it, didn't she? As a Scooby, wasn't it her duty to?

As Willow walked back to her dorm deep in contemplation, Rowan sat in the shop with a satisfied smile on her face. She knew she'd done enough to get Willow thinking. The seed was sown and she didn't think it'd be long before it'd take root. There was a darkness in the girl that was just waiting to be unleashed and Rowan really wanted to be around when it happened.

TBC IN CHAPTER 6