A/N: Yes, so here's the start of the Amy/Zach story in the same 'verse as Magnolias In Bloom. Posted today in honour of St. Patrick's Day! Why? Because Zach is Irish :P Moving right along...

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Zachary O'Connor can remember, down to the minute, the start of a new phase in his life.

It was the first day of school of his junior year, and he'd just spent the summer in Europe, living with his father's people in County Galway, Ireland. He'd come home sporting plenty of souvenirs and a rather impressive vocabulary of cuss words in Gaelic compliments of his Uncle Murphy, and would have gone to school with every intention of spending his first period regaling an audience of any number of easily-impressed girls with an account of his vacation (in full Irish brogue for effect) had the malevolent fairy of high school scheduling not played him a mean trick.

His first period was AP Biology, a class taught by a notorious hardass. Sharp-tongued and eagle-eyed, Sophie Adams wore her dead-black hair in a tightly controlled chignon and tortoise-shell cat's eye glasses perched on her aquiline nose. She was clever and knowledgeable, with an excellent success rate of students who passed the exam, but also known by the student body for giving more detentions than all the other science teachers combined. The more embittered of the students in her classes called her Morticia, but never to her face. There were still rumours about what befell the last student to attempt anything of that sort.

Mrs. Adams stood at the head of the class, glasses on nose, arms crossed over her chest, and surveyed every student who walked into the classroom with eyes that could probably shoot lasers. Zach's typical policy with strict female teachers involved turning up the charm, but Adams was a battle axe if there ever was one, and the day was too young to get in trouble and have his brand-spanking-new parking pass revoked. Therefore, he simply shot her a small smile (which was not returned) and proceeded towards a lab table at the far end of the class.

He had almost made it there when one of the cheerleaders, whom he dated briefly and with whom he remained on decent terms, trilled out a greeting. He turned his head to answer her and, in the brief second that he didn't watch where he was going, barreled another student to the ground.

"SHI-- Hell, I'm sorry," Zach called out as the other student's books and papers went everywhere. It was a girl, petite and rather conservatively dressed in boot-cut jeans, a crisp white blouse and ballet flats. He bent down and started gathering up the pile of school supplies surrounding her. "'Twas Megan's fault for calling my name," he told the girl with a get-out-of-trouble grin as he placed her things on the closest table. "Really it was. But I'm sorry anyway. Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine, thank you," the girl answered, and her tone was cool and modulated and, to his ears, completely indifferent. It raised his hackles enough that he had to take a closer look as he offered her a hand. She calmly stood without his assistance.

Petite, definitely no taller than five-foot-three and delicate-looking with it. She had pale skin, a cap of short hair that was the blue-black of a moonless night sky, and eyes of sapphire blue fringed with inky lashes. Her face was heart-shaped, with soft, unpainted lips and a stubborn chin. He had never seen her before in any of his classes, of that he was sure, but a lady was a lady, and he had never been shy. "So what's your name, honey?"

"Not honey," she answered gravely, so gravely that he might have missed the glint of humour in her eyes. "I'm Amy. And you're Zachy, according to your friend Megan."

The bell signalling the start of class cut off any sort of snarky remark he might have made in return and he could only watch as the girl named Amy took her seat primly in a table at the front of the classroom and quietly pulled out her Biology textbook.

By luck or fate, after Mrs. Adams had gone over her class rules and syllabus in her crisp, no-nonsense voice, she told them that she would assign lab partners at random. "I do not believe in encouraging cliquish behaviour in my classroom, or letting friends fool around together," she said, paying no mind to the groans and eye-rolls. "This is an advanced placement class where academics take priority over socialising. Your partner assignments are arbitrary and final, so you had best learn to work together to ensure that both of you pass the class. You DO NOT want to force me to separate partners, take my word for it." Pausing to let her laser-beam eyes sweep over the faces of her class, she pulled out the attendance list and cleared her throat.

"Amy Anderson, your partner is Zachary O'Connor. Table One." Adams pointed at the table in question with drill sergeant efficiency. Zach gave a c'est la vie shrug towards Megan and made his way towards the indicated table, then raised his eyebrows when he saw the girl with the blue eyes and baffling equanimity take her seat next to him.

"We meet again," Zach remarked, pasting a friendly smile on his face and holding out a hand for her to shake. He kept his voice down as Adams continued barking out lab partner assignments to the rest of the class. "I do apologize again for my earlier clumsiness."

She shook his hand and met his gaze squarely. "I forgive you." She linked her hands over the cover of her textbook. "I suppose you're sorry that you don't get to work with your friend."

"I'm always up for meeting new people as long as they're not idiots," he replied cheerfully. "Don't worry about me."

"Oh, of course not," she answered, and again, he saw the glint of amusement in those big blue eyes. "I wouldn't dream of such a thing. But for what it's worth, I won't drag your grade down."

Perhaps it was her coolness, the way her wry words belied the infallibly courteous and soft-spoken tone of her voice. Perhaps it was the fact that she raised his hackles and he didn't seem to raise hers. Or perhaps it was her eyes, so blue and clear he could see his face reflected in them.

It was then and there that he decided, quite consciously and deliberately, that he'd have to get to her some way or another before the year was out.

It was just a sense of competition, he told himself. He wanted to best her, that was all, since she'd gotten the last word. Twice.

He kept this sentiment to himself as Adams launched full-blast into an introduction to macromolecules and he took down notes along with the rest of the class. Mind still swirling with the differences between polysaccharides and lipids at the end of the lecture, he didn't get to ask Amy any questions as she picked up her things and made her way out of the classroom.

He did notice, though, that she walked towards her next class by herself. She didn't join in any of the small groups of students that lingered in knots at lockers and drinking fountains making idle conversation. Zach watched out of the corner of his eye as she walked away, ballet flats silent on the uncarpeted floor, until she rounded the corner and vanished from view.

He wondered if she was a new student. It was possible, even though she didn't give off lost and clueless new-student vibes. He knew most the people in his grade, but he couldn't place her at all.