Title: The Only Exception

Summary: Gillian Owens always was her sister's mess to clean up, but now Sally has run out of steam. This time the mess is just too big for one witch's broom.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: All of the ideas and characters from Practical Magic are not my property. All rights go to their respective owners.

Author's Note: I've never been the first to post in a category that I personally requested. It's slightly intimidating. And yet, I kind of feel as though I'm sending this out there to no one! So, if you are out there reading, you would be ever-so-kind to review and let me know your thoughts. Flaming is totally and completely allowed! It hurts at first, but it makes the edges crispy =)


Chapter 1: The Spill

It hadn't taken long for things to warm up. Almost as soon as Sally and Gary came to terms with their relationship, they decided to be married. The girls had seemed happy enough with this, especially Antonia. And Gillian was thrilled for her sister, how could she not be? Everything seemed blissfully perfection. But the thing with perfection is that it doesn't exist for more than a moment at a time, and around every bend in the river is another waterfall.

"Gillian!" Sally Owens cried out in pain, her sister's hands working at the strings of her corset.

"I'm sorry, Sal, but you were the one who insisted upon wearing this ridiculously silly thing!" Gillian grunted as she pressed Sally against the drawing table and tied the laces.

"Yeah, Gillian, because you suggested it!" Sally gasped and pulled away from her sister. So far the entire morning had been nothing but stressful to the bride-to-be and her maid of honor. Sally turned to face Gillian, her hand over her heaving chest.

"I'm not even sure I did it right, I've never seen anything like that…thing," Gillian sighed wearily, "I sure as hell hope your first wedding wasn't this difficult."

"No, it wasn't, Gilly. It was ten times smaller because everyone in town was too scared of being turned into a toad to show up, and I didn't have two little girls running wild and being anything and everything but helpful or cooperative. Oh, and I didn't have this insane get-up because Michael insisted we marry outside in nothing more than our Easter Sunday best, which for me was a floral sundress and bare feet because it was so wet and muddy that my heels sank straight into the ground." Sally walked across the room to the window and opened it, breathing in the fresh late October air.

Gillian shivered, pulling her jacket around her shoulders. Her sunglasses slipped further down her nose as she looked down at her crossed arms. "I'm sorry I missed it all, Sal."

Closing her eyes, Sally leaned her head and shoulders out the window. The cool breeze played with her thick dark curls, and a chill went up her spine. She could feel the cool metal of the gold locket around her neck on her chest, running across her skin with the rise and fall of her breath.

"I'll go see what the girls are up to," Gillian said, breaking the painful silence. She crossed the door and left her sister to herself. All morning she had felt the tension growing between the two of them and had wanted nothing more than to settle it. However, Sally only got worse as time wore on through the morning. Gillian knew this would be a difficult day for Sally, but she wasn't going to take any kind of blame. She could sense Sally becoming irritated with her, and she was smart enough to know to put a little space between them before something happened to make matters worse.

There was a shriek, and a flash of curly brown hair as Antonia streaked down the hall past Gillian. A door slammed in the direction from which the little girl had been running.

"Antonia?" Gillian called, but the little girl was already two flights of stairs below her. Gillian moved toward the slammed door, not having to think twice about who was behind it.

She knocked softly on the white door. The reply was silence. Pressing her ear to the door, Gillian could hear faint sobs and heavy breathing. "Kylie? Open up, it's Aunt Gilly."

The crying instantly ceased, and Gillian heard the girl who had been sitting up against the other side of the door leap to her feet. The door swung open and Gillian stepped quickly inside before shutting it again behind her. In a split second, she felt the wind knocked out of her as the girl pummeled into her, throwing her arms around her midsection.

"Woah! Babe, what's wrong?" Gillian asked the mop of red hair squeezing her. She pulled Kylie's arms off of herself and held her at an arms length so she could have a good look at her. Tears streaked the girl's cheeks, and she covered her eyes quickly. Gillian bent over and pulled her into her arms. "Kylie, hon, what happened?"

"I don't want Mommy to get married!" Kylie cried, her voice muffled as she buried her face into Gillian's shoulder.

Holding her tightly, Gillian kissed Kylie's head, "Oh, honey, I thought you liked Mr. Hallet! Remember when you and Antonia threw that syrup we made off the cliff? I thought you wanted to him stay."

Pulling away quickly, Kylie wiped her nose on her sleeve, "You don't understand! Antonia doesn't get it either!"

She turned and ran to her bed up against the wall, and leaped onto the mattress. Kylie buried her face in her pillow. Gillian stood to her full height and sighed. She did understand. Walking slowly across the room, she sat on the edge of Kylie's bed and looked out the window above the headboard.

"Your daddy loved your mommy very much. I'll tell you what, I bet he wouldn't want anything more than for your mommy to be happy."

"How would you know? You didn't even know him!" Kylie cried out, glaring at her aunt.

Gillian's expression softened, "That doesn't mean that I don't know what he was like. Kyles, your mom and I know a lot about each other. She's my favorite sister."

"She's your only sister."

"She's my favorite only sister," Gillian smiled, "and I've heard all kids of wonderful stories about your daddy. He loved you and Antonia very much, too! And he wouldn't want you to be unhappy either."

"But if Mommy marries Gary, that means she doesn't love Daddy anymore. And Antonia doesn't even care! She doesn't even remember Daddy! She's so stupid…" Kylie sat up and crossed her arms across her chest.

With a sigh, Gillian pulled Kylie into her lap, "My goodness, you're getting so big! Y'know what, Kylie? You and I have got quite a lot in common."

"We do?" Kylie asked, looking up at her aunt's face.

"Oh yeah! We've both got—red hair! And blue eyes! And, both of us have little sisters. We both grew up in this house. We both have chocolate for breakfast almost every morning. We, umm, we both are…witches! That's right, we're both witches, and we both have had bumps on our heads from thrown rocks. And, we both have mommies who love us very much," Gillian sighed, playing with Kylie's hand, "And both of our mommies have wanted the very best for us, especially after both of our daddies died when we were very little.

"Only—here's where we are different. When my daddy died, my mommy sent your mommy and me to live with the Aunts by ourselves. And then she killed herself. When your daddy died, your mommy got back up off the ground and took care of you. Kylie, sweetie, your mommy has done more for you than you can imagine. She hasn't forgotten your daddy, baby. She still loves him. But, believe it or not, you still need a daddy! You still need a daddy to protect you and teach about how horrible boys are, which is something I missed out on. Instead, your mommy tried to protect me from all of that, and both of us grew up a little confused. Your mommy doesn't want you to be confused, Kylie. She wants you to be happy! And so does your daddy. And so does Gary. He's not replacing your daddy in your heart or your mommy's heart. Your daddy just asked him to do his job for him since he's not here to do it himself."

Gillian listened to her niece's breathing, and wrapped her arms around her, hugging her tightly. Outside the window they could see Gary Hallet walking up the front walk. He looked up at the house before leaving their line of sight. The wind blew through the huge oak trees in the yard, sending flurries of orange leaves fluttering to the ground. Gillian felt Kylie slowly entwine her fingers with hers.

"Aunt Gillian, do you believe in love?"

"Well, your mommy was in love with your daddy, and now she's in love with Gary—."

"Do you believe in love?"

"I…well, not the same way I used when I was your age," Gillian explained, "I was so eager to fall in love that I'm afraid I've wasted my life looking for it in all the wrong places. And look at me now, alone. Only, I'm not alone! I have the Aunts, my sister, and you girls. And I don't doubt for a moment that I love you."

"I love you too, Aunt Gillian," Kylie whispered, squeezing Gillian's hand.

Later that afternoon, after supervising the girls' lunch, Gillian found herself contemplating her conversation with her niece. What was love anyway? Did she really think of love that way? All her life she had been searching for love, but what she found was nothing but instant gratification, nothing lasting or worthwhile. She wasted her body on endless men who didn't matter to her in the least anymore. Sure, she could smile and laugh at the slut jokes, because she knew they were all true and had already come to terms with that. But did that mean that was all she was? And moreover, did that mean that was all she wanted to be?

As a kid, she remembered wanting nothing more than for prince charming to swoop in on his noble steed and take her off to some enchanted castle where they would live happily ever after. When it finally occurred to her that there was no such man, she settle for Mr. Right Now in the stead of Mr. Right. Sex was a vice, and it made her feel wanted. It made her feel needed. It made her feel loved. She ran off with the first boy who offered her what seemed to be freedom and life to its fullest. The moment she got out of that state with him she dumped him flat on his ass, moving on to bigger and better things. Parties with endless drinking and drugs, and more sex. She went through man after man, moving further south as she did so. And all along she had been spinning so fast that she couldn't see the innocent little girl she used to be whom had wanted nothing more than to be loved.

Then there was Sally. Sweet little Sally who was the perfect little witch, and yet so sure that she would never ever fall in love. Now look at her. Not only did she fall in love and find love in return, but she fell in love with a man who was madly in love with her as well twice. Why should the girl who wished to be alone forever end up so blissfully happy in the arms of her loving husband? And it couldn't seem more unfair that Gillian had to sit back and watch her.

Nonetheless, Gillian coped. She searched out the good things that came from the life she now lived. There were the times when she felt as though she was nothing but a burden to everyone around her and that she could do nothing but end it. End it all. Save herself the suffering and others the trouble. But she only had to look at her little nieces and know that someone out there depended on her.

Gillian wasn't even sure she deserved to be loved anymore. Knowing Kylie felt the way she did, and having her niece open up and let her in meant the world to Gillian. She knew how Kylie viewed her and looked up to her, and of course knew the dangers that could come with this if Gillian wasn't careful in her actions and the things she said around the girl. But she also saw Kylie's struggles with her mother and knew how confused she was with her life at the time, and she knew she had to step up and be her hero. After all, Gillian had never had a hero to rely on growing up, and wanted to give her niece everything she didn't have.

Throughout the afternoon, Sally only grew more restless, and Gillian avoided her at best, yet remained helpful by keeping the girls out of her sister's hair. The wedding was to start at four in the evening, just at dusk. Only roughly over an hour remained before everything had to be set and ready for the ceremony to begin. Gillian had put off getting ready until the latest possible time in order to stay away from Sally. But the time had now come that she had to go upstairs and get dressed, risking any clashes with Sally that could possibly occur.

Padding quietly into the loft, Gillian reached out for her dress as noiselessly as possible. She had almost succeeded in going unnoticed when the wire hanger made the sharp sound of metal scraping metal as she pulled it from the wrack. Sally swiveled around, pinning her sister with her eyes.

"Gillian."

"Yeah, Sal?"

"Kylie said you two talked earlier," Sally said, moving from behind the bed toward the center of the room, closer to Gillian.

"Oh, yeah, we had a little chat," Gillian nodded, turning back toward the stairs.

"Stop, Gillian."

Exasperated, Gillian pivoted on her heel, facing her sister again, "Do you need something, Sally?"

"What do you think you're doing? You can't just go off telling my daughters whatever pops into your little pea-brain, Gillian!"

"I don't know what you're talking about, Sally! Yeah, I talked to your daughter earlier because she was having a bit of a crisis and she needed some cheering up!"

"Cheering up? You think that telling her that her grandmother committed suicide is going to cheer her up?" Sally crossed her arms, closing a little more of the distance between them.

"What? Sal, I didn't--," Gillian stopped short. Maybe she had let something slip without thinking during their conversation. She hadn't thought she said anything inappropriate.

"Yes you did, Gillian! You told my twelve-year-old daughter that her grandmother killed herself!"

"Well, I'm sorry, Sally! Maybe you should have told her yourself! She has the right to--."

"No, Gillian! Our mother died of a broken heart!" Sally shouted.

"Sally, I'm sorry I stepped on your high standards, but you've got to get over it! People don't just keel over like that! You've heard the story a gadzillion times! She closed the garage, sat in the car and let the gas suffocate her!"

"You think that Kylie needs to know that?"

"She's almost a teenager! You don't trust her to know anything, Sal! I was nine when I found mom in that damn car!"

"And that makes it okay? Because you're messed up from all of the shit that was our childhood that I can't even remember it's okay for you to mess up my daughter? You really want that for her?"

"Oh, so there it is, that's what this is about. I'm messed up. I'm sick and twisted and vile! I'm sorry I'm not perfect like you, Sally! I'm sorry that I can't live up to all you want me to be, whatever the hell that is! But these are the facts of life, Sally. One day those little girls are going to wake up and realize that the perfect little world their mother raised them in doesn't exist!"

Gillian turned and stormed from loft, taking the stairs three at a time. Her dress was in knots in her hands, and she continued to wring it. When she reached the bathroom she locked herself in. She cast the dress aside and turned the cold water faucet on and splashed water on her face. Looking up at her reflection, she dried her face on her jacket sleeve. She sat on toilet seat, trembling slightly. It upset her, even after having seen it coming as she nearly always did. How could it not? She wasn't good enough for her own sister, and she never would be.