Plaid Skirts

A Phoebe & Paige Story By JewWitch

Chapter 1

Summary: This is an AU story with no magic...I guess every red-blooded American dyke probably has a boarding school story in her somewhere, so this is mine. There's just something so deliciously, ironically transgressive about being put somewhere explicitly for the purpose of being kept out of trouble (i.e., away form boys!) and really, you're suddenly, secretly in the garden of eden. So this is my idea of what it would be like if Phoebe and Paige met at boarding school...they are NOT sisters...I made Paige the older one, just cause I like Phoebe as the youngest, and since it's AU anyway I decided to make them both rock stars. Other than that, they are the same Phoebe and Paige we know. This is not going to be girl-on-girl porn, kids-- if you've read any of my other stuff you'll know that-- it's just a sweet little teenage riot grrrrrl romance.

Rating: PG-13 for language for now; definitely R later on!

Phoebe looked up at the towering, ivy-covered brick house as she stepped out of her grandmother's car, and her stomach twisted so sharply, she actually felt ill. She glanced from the building in front of her, across the lush courtyard to where a woman was walking from another cluster of buildings, apparently toward them. She swallowed back the rising sense of panic, hot and sharp as stomach acid. Oh God, oh God, oh God.

"Grams, please," Phoebe begged, the hot wave swelling inside her until she felt the sting of tears. She tried to blink them back, but they spilled down her cheeks instead. Fueled by desperation, Phoebe ignored them, letting go of her composure completely as her voice cracked, then broke. "Please don't leave me here! I'll be good, I swear, I'll n-never sneak out again," she sobbed, wiping her eyes hurriedly on her sleeves. "You, you can put bars on my windows!"

"Darling," her grandmother smiled sadly, stroking Phoebe's damp cheek. "I know you probably won't believe me right now, but this isn't a punishment. I'm not angry with you, sweetheart. You're sixteen now, and with both your sisters out of the house, I just can't keep up with you on my own anymore...I can't stay up half the night to make sure you're minding your curfew like I did with your mother. You've got her wild streak, you know," Grams finished, grinning wryly as she patted Phoebe's cheek. Phoebe opened her mouth, but couldn't find anything to say; so she just took a deep breath, feeling more tears streaking down her face. She knew she ought to be embarrassed, crying like a baby and begging her grandmother not to leave her, but she wasn't. She felt strange, almost feverish; hot on the inside while goosebumps rose on her shivering arms. Grams took a tissue out of her purse and dabbed Phoebe's cheek. Phoebe took it, wiping impatiently at her wet face and squeezing her eyes shut to wipe away the tears clinging to her lashes. When she opened her eyes again, everything looked a little fuzzy because she'd rubbed them too hard; she blinked a few times, registering a figure in grey and blue at close range, probably the same one from across the yard. She blinked again, and realized it wasn't a teacher, as she'd expected, who'd come to greet her. It was a student, a girl who looked about Phoebe's own age or maybe a little older; or at least taller. She wore the blue-and-grey plaid skirt and the grey blazer that was the school uniform, with a white button-down shirt and a tie, an actual tie, and grey kneesocks.

"Hi, you must be Phoebe Halliwell," she said as she approached, holding out her hand as she addressed herself to the red-eyed girl quickly pushing the crumpled kleenex into her pocket. "I'm Paige Matthews, your dorm sister." Phoebe raised both eyebrows and stared at the strange girl blankly. Paige laughed, giving Phoebe what looked like an apologetic grin. "It just means I'm the one whose job it is to show you around the dorm, help you find your classes, you know, make sure you settle in okay."

"Oh," Phoebe nodded dumbly. She knew she ought to try for more than one syllable, but at present her thought-forming powers were focused almost exclusively on Paige's smiling brown eyes. Her long black hair was a little messy, falling around her shoulders in a heap of loose curls, held back from her forehead with a couple of kids' barrettes, red, shaped like little bows. Paige cocked her head, catching Phoebe's eyes again with a grin, and Phoebe grinned back, feeling her cheeks flush; she looked down at the ground, feeling uncharacteristically sheepish. She noticed that Paige's kneesocks weren't actually part of the uniform-- at least, Phoebe seriously doubted they were, as they each showed a large graphic of a guitar with angelic wings unfurled, bearing the epithet Rock On across the center. The ankle-high black combat boots probably weren't regulation, either.

"Nice socks," Phoebe said wryly, in what felt like her normal voice again.

"Thanks," Paige smirked. Then, to Phoebe's grandmother, "I can take you to the Headmaster's office if you have any last-minute questions or anything."

"That's quite all right, dear, I've already spoken with Daniel-- Mr. Cabot, I should say. But I will ask you to keep an eye on my granddaughter. She's much too proud to ask for help when she needs it," Grams winked.

"Grams," Phoebe hissed, rolling her eyes. Huffily, she went around to the trunk and began unloading her suitcases. A moment later she was surprised to find Paige next to her, pulling out bags. "That's okay, I got it," Phoebe said, wincing when she realized her voice still sounded huffy and sullen. "I mean, you really don't have to--"

"I don't mind," Paige said dismissively. "Moving in sucks no matter what, but it can suck a little less, you know?" She grinned, and Phoebe felt her own grin blossom in return, completely without conscious intention.

"Well, Phoebe dear, I leave you in capable hands," Grams said, moving toward her youngest grandchild for a final hug. "Be good, my darling," She whispered, giving Phoebe a squeeze. Phoebe felt her tears welling up again as she smelled her grandmother's perfume; it occurred to her that she wouldn't smell anything familiar for a long time.

"I will, Grams," she mumbled huskily, letting go of her grandmother quickly and wiping her eyes on her sleeve, grabbing blindly at the nearest suitcase and stumbling with it toward the dorm. She didn't turn around at the sound of Grams getting into her car, then driving away.

"Phoebe, wait," Paige called, tugging another large suitcase behind her. Phoebe finally whirled around, just in time to catch her grandmother's tail lights clearing the wrought-iron gates.

"What?" She snapped, her voice sharp and sullen again.

"Our dorm is this way," Paige informed her with a smirk, chucking her thumb over her shoulder.

"Oh."

They stumbled along dragging Phoebe's bags up three flights of stairs, panting slightly by the time they reached the door with Phoebe Halliwell, San Francisco, CA written in bubbly, rainbow-colored letters on the door. There was another girl's name on the door, of course, and Phoebe glanced at it in surprise. It read, Paige Matthews, Santa Cruz, CA.

"I thought you said you were a senior," Phoebe frowned, wiping the sweat from her brow as she let her suitcase fall from her hand with a clunk. "Don't roommates usually go by class year?"

"Usually, yeah," Paige nodded. "But you know, your showing up mid-year is pretty unorthodox; and there aren't a lot of open doubles on campus."

"Open doubles?"

"Yeah," Paige nodded again, dropping the second suitcase and sitting on it, pulling a pack of Camel Lights from her pocket, and lighting one with a casual flick of her lighter. She sat on the suitcase, and blew out a few smoke rings. "It means a room for two people, with two beds and two desks and everything, but only one person living in it." She looked up and noticed Phoebe eyeing her cigarette. "You want one?"

"I thought you were supposed to be keeping me in line," Phoebe teased.

"I'm not your mom," Paige shrugged, taking another drag. She looked up, head cocked, and they stared at each other for a long moment without speaking.

"Yeah, I want one," Phoebe admitted, an unexpected rush of warmth flooding her stomach when she took the cigarette from Paige's hand. She noticed that Paige's nails were short, and her fingers felt rough on Phoebe's own. She found herself glancing around automatically, her eyes quickly finding the guitar propped in the corner of the room. "Cool guitar," she grinned.

"Thanks," Paige smiled back shyly, pulling out her lighter again to light Phoebe's cigarette. "It was my dad's, a '65 Gibson hummingbird. You play?"

"Actually...I'm a drummer," Phoebe admitted, feeling warm again when Paige's eyes lit up.

"Seriously? Oh, shit, we'll have to jam."

"I didn't bring them with me."

"Well I didn't think you had a drum kit in your suitcase," Paige chuckled, going to her desk and sitting on the corner, legs dangling, as she blew another set of smoke rings. "There's practice rooms in the music building, we've got all that stuff. It's actually a pretty rad set up."

"Oh," Phoebe said again stupidly, her cheeks flushing. Paige studied her for a moment.

"It gets easier, you know," she said finally. "Being here. You'll get used to it faster than you think...it's not a bad place to be."

"Yeah?" Phoebe smirked, and rolled her eyes half-heartedly.

"Yeah." Paige waggled her eyebrows, and they both laughed easily. "So how'd you pull off a mid-year admittance, anyway? This place doesn't exactly have an open-door policy."

"My Grams is old friends with the headmaster," Phoebe shrugged, tapping her ashes into a tin can full of old butts on the windowsill. At least I got a roommate who doesn't mind breaking the rules, she thought to herself, cheering slightly as she took another drag. "I'm your good deed for the year."

"Oh yeah?" Paige raised one eyebrow curiously. "How's that?"

"It used to be my sisters' job to keep me in line, make sure I'm being a good little doobie and not sneaking around to squander my youth...now that they're both in college, it was just Grams and me, and...well, I guess I'm just a little too much for her to handle." Phoebe looked down at the windowsill, trying to look as though this didn't bother her. "So Saint Anne's agreed to take over the job."

"No mom and dad?" Paige asked quietly. Phoebe shook her head.

"My dad's out there somewhere; we just don't know where. He split after my mom died, when I was about three. I don't really remember either of them." She shrugged, looking up at Paige with a false smile. "Another American sob story, right?"

"At least you've still got your grandmother, and your sisters," Paige said, taking another cigarette from her pack and lighting it off the end of the last one.

"Yeah," Phoebe nodded, her fake smile sliding into a weak, but genuine, grin. "Prue's a junior at Berkeley, and Piper just left for Palo Alto...I wish I could go live with her."

"Stanford?"

"Uh-huh," Phoebe mumbled, wiping her nose on her sleeve with an ill-disguised sniffle. "She just started last semester. She's...doing really great."

"You must be proud," Paige said, tossing a box of kleenex over to Phoebe's side of the small room.

"Oh...yeah...thanks." Phoebe grinned bashfully again, blowing her nose to cover her embarrassment at being caught on the verge of tears yet again.

"Not allergic to the smoke, are you?" Paige asked coyly, cocking her head and holding up her cigarette.

"No."

"Well that's good," Paige nodded approvingly. "Otherwise you'd be in for a pretty miserable semester."

"Aren't you afraid I might turn you in?" Phoebe asked, cocking her head back with a mischievously raised eyebrow.

"Ha," Paige snickered. "Not bloody likely...I read your file, miss bad girl. You're not the tattle-tale type."

"You read my file?" Phoebe jumped to her feet in outrage, hands on her hips. "What is this, some kind of Neo-McCarthyism?!"

"Ooh, smart and rebellious," Paige teased, laughing at Phoebe's outburst. "Relax, champ, it's standard procedure. I'm student council president, and you're the only new girl in the 11th grade this year."

"You're...? Oh. Really? Wow." Phoebe sat back down on the edge of the bed, eyebrows knit with all the new information she was acquiring. "So, you play in a band, smoke in your room, and you're student council president?"

"Yup." Paige ground out her cigarette on the windowsill.

"Seems like kind of a contradiction in terms."

"I'm a complicated girl," Paige shrugged, standing up with a stretch. "What say we get you unpacked, yeah?"

"Okay," Phoebe agreed, pulling one of her suitcases onto the bed and unlatching it. "Your family must be, like, insanely proud of you. Student council president at a prestigious boarding school like Saint Anne's."

"I like to think they would be," Paige said lightly. Phoebe stopped going through her clothes, and looked up blankly.

"They, um...don't know?"

"No," Paige shook her head, her voice still casual though she wasn't looking at Phoebe. "They're dead. My parents and I were in a car wreck three years ago; they were both killed instantly, but I got off with nothing but a metal plate in my head. I was in foster care for a while, and now I'm here on scholarship...technically, I'm a ward of the State." She looked up then, catching the unguarded horror on Phoebe's face. "Just another American sob story, right?"

"Oh, God, Paige, I'm sorry-- I, I shouldn't have said--"

"No, it's cool, you didn't know," Paige shook her head, reaching over to give Phoebe's hand a brief squeeze. Phoebe's stomach belly-flopped against her diaphragm. "Don't feel weird about it, please. It's just how things are." Phoebe could tell from the expression in Paige's eyes that she was serious, and it certainly made sense that the girl didn't want to have people acting sad or pitying her all the time. She blinked, feeling a sudden sense of shock at how strongly she felt she knew what Paige was thinking and feeling, after only having just met her. But she accepted it, as she'd always accepted her gut feelings, without question.

"So you really have a metal plate in your head?" Phoebe asked, a small smirk emerging.

"Oh yeah," Paige nodded, grinning innocently as she made a fist and knocked lightly on the side of her head, making a fake clang clang sound with her tongue. "I'm airport security's worst nightmare." Phoebe laughed.

"That's amazing, you can't even tell. Does it hurt?"

"Nah," Paige shrugged. "I get migraines once in a while, but nothing too bad."

"Geez," Phoebe mumbled. She was beginning to feel like kind of a brat for feeling so sorry for herself earlier. Paige had been through so much more than Phoebe could even imagine, and here she was nursing Phoebe through her little pity party; and helping her unpack, to boot.

"Yeah, just don't tie me to a tree in a thunderstorm or anything," Paige teased. Phoebe could tell that she was trying to lighten the mood, and she let her.

"I'll try to restrain myself," Phoebe bantered back. "Got any good unpacking music?"

By the time they'd finished getting Phoebe settled into the room, the morning was over, and Paige lead them both across the lush green quad to the dining hall, another large, impressively ivy-covered building surrounded by tall oak trees. Paige introduced Phoebe to almost everyone they passed on their way to the lunch line, and Phoebe gave up trying to remember all the names after only a few minutes. It was overwhelming, being the only new kid in such a large, impressive place, from the vaulted ceilings to the polished oak tables and benches. She felt grateful for Paige's company, more than she'd expected to, and stayed beside her until the bell rang for afternoon lessons. Paige produced a copy of Phoebe's new schedule from her backpack, and walked her to the academic quad, leaving her at the door to her first class, American History.

"Okay, soldier, you ready to go down fighting?" Paige winked. Her grin faltered when she saw Phoebe's panic-stricken expression, the same one she'd had when they'd first met-- was it only hours ago?-- out on the lawn. "Hey, I was just kidding," Paige said gently, bumping Phoebe with her hip. "You'll be fine, trust me. I don't care how many favors the headmaster owes your grandmother, you wouldn't be here if you couldn't hack it." Phoebe looked up into Paige's dark brown eyes, and felt the same inexplicable warmth as before, when she stood begging her grandmother not to leave her here.

"Right," Phoebe nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat. "I'm good. It's cool. See you later."

"Hey." Paige caught her arm as she turned to enter the classroom. "I'll meet you here when the bell rings, and walk you to your next class, okay?" Phoebe let out the breath she was holding, and grinned weakly.

"Okay." Paige winked, and walked away, leaving Phoebe to brave her classes alone. "Okay," Phoebe said again to herself, striding into the room full of strangers with her shoulders set and her chin held high. She imagined that she was Prue, confident and self-assured as she found a seat amid all these hyper-intelligent prep school girls; she tried to visualize Prue sitting there, how she would hold herself, as if she had all the answers to every question that could ever be asked.

"Oooh, look, it's Mattie's new pet," a voice behind Phoebe spoke loudly. She didn't turn around, assuming, as she didn't know anyone in the room, that the voice was not addressing her.

"Hey, new girl. Hello? I'm talking to you." Phoebe turned in her seat, to find a girl with braided red hair staring her down with eyebrows raised appraisingly. "So who'd you screw to get in here halfway through the school year?"

"Your mom," Phoebe said dryly, turning back to face forward in her seat. "And my name's not new girl, it's Phoebe."

"Ooh, Mattie's pet has claws," the girl purred, leaning forward so her mouth was right by Phoebe's ear. "I heard all about you, kitty cat. Think you're all kinds of bad news cause you broke a few rules back at Goobertown High?" She snorted. Phoebe ignored her, keeping her eyes facing forward at the empty blackboard. "It's gonna be a little harder than that here, kitten. Just remember you start at the bottom." A small, sharp pain flashed through Phoebe's temple as the red-haired girl flicked her on the side of her head, like a schoolyard bully. Phoebe whirled around in her seat, eyes flashing, to meet a set of pale green eyes grinning back at her in a come on and try it way.

"Look," Phoebe snarled, but at that moment the teacher walked in, greeting the class with a brisk Good Afternoon, and Phoebe fell silent, turning back toward the blackboard. It was going to be a long first day.