Title: Season of the Witch- Part 1: Meet in the Middle

Author: BuffyAngel68

e-mail:vg68@msn.com

Rating: G

Category:Angsty Adventure/ Adventurous Angst whichever you prefer.

Spoilers: None that I know of. If I do, e-mail me a scathing notice and I'll drop to me knees and apologize for at least ten minutes straight without taking a breath or even a sip of water.

Attribution: Joss owns Buff and company. Not sure who owns Piper, Paige and that crew, but it isn't me. Sue if you care to. Since I'm not making money off these characters, I have nothing and you will receive nothing.

Summary: BtVS/ Charmed X-over. Thought it was time these two groups found out about each other. Pain and general getting beat up may ensue. We'll see. I don't even know yet.....

Timeline: Sometime after Prue's demise and Buffster's latest resurrection. Other than that.... eh, who knows. (Yeah, yeah. In my other Buffy story I publicly announced my disdain for them bringing her back one more time. I can't help that this story cried out for her presence. So I'm a big hypocrite. Talk to my muse, Heraldo. He convinced me to follow canon as much as possible on this one, even through that wretched beginning to season 6.)

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[Tara? Have you seen my new Wiccan catalog? I thought I left it here on the night table.]

[Which one?]

[Herbs for Fun and Spell casting.]

[Sorry, sweetie. I put it in the magazine rack when I was cleaning up this morning.]

[It's okay. Someone has to be the neatnik in this relationship. Leave it up to absent-minded me and I'd be putting hemlock in the chamomile canister. That would be a cup of tea to remember!]

[Not for long.] Tara giggled softly. The sound reverberated in Willow Rosenberg's head, the feelings it engendered making her slightly dizzy. When it was just the two of them, they always communicated telepathically, and had been doing so for over a year. They had kept it their secret, fearing that the others would worry they were isolating and pulling away from the world too much, but Willow and Tara merely saw the mind to mind contact as a higher level of the intimacy they shared. [By the way; I thought we talked about the negative me-speak. I love you just as you are, baby. Even when you're throwing clothes all over the room looking for your watch.]

[And I love you, supportive brick wall girl. Ah-ha. Here's the web addy I was looking for. I was really hoping Anya would have the Hellispont flower I need for the healing broth, but she won't get any in for a month.]

[That's weird. I swear I saw some in there yesterday.]

[Whole buds, yeah, but I need it pre-ground. The dried buds are like cement. I don't have anything that'll grind 'em. Luckily the ad for this store had a URL.... wow. It's all the way down in San Francisco. Feel like a day trip tomorrow, lover?]

[I'm on night shift at the shop. Sure. It could be fun.]

[And if we manage lunch at Fisherman's Wharf and an hour or two gawking at dresses and shoes we can't afford, who'd dare judge us sneaky and time-wastey?]

[Noone!] Tara laughed again, her voice sending another round of pleasant chills through her girlfriend. The warmth and affection Tara felt for her was as clear in Willow's head as if they were in the same room, instead of several feet apart, separated by a bathroom door. [We'd better get some sleep then, baby. Lunching and window-shopping can take it right out of a girl.]

[Uggh! Too much Cordelia sounding! Get in here and drive her out of my head. Hurry!]

[I'm coming. Is the tea ready?]

[Yep. Nice and hemlocky with a touch of arsenic, just the way you like it.]

When Tara chuckled in her mind for the third time, Willow flushed, grinned broadly, put aside her laptop and crossed her legs under her. Silently, she began her nightly round of private prayer, giving her measure of thanks for all she'd been allowed to accomplish in her life and in her magic, and for the restoration of Tara's sanity. She prayed that the ones watching over her, Tara and the rest of their circle understood the depth of her gratitude she bore for friends, lovers and the mystical power that sustained her in a world that, just lately, seemed to be upside-down and sideways far more often than it was right-side up.

Gliding into the bedroom, Tara settled on the bed facing her lover and began her own personal litany of thanks and petitions of protection and eternal grace for Willow Rosenberg, the one person she clung to when the world confused, frightened and overwhelmed her, which was more often than not. In Tara's eyes, Willow was not a proper name for the tower of strength that was the powerful woman she'd come to adore. Privately (she had vowed her lover would never learn of it) she had renamed the redhead Luna-Athené, after the goddesses of light and wisdom. To her mind, the name represented Willow's finest and most evident qualities; the light of her white magic, which shone from her, and the power of a mind and spirit guided by a compassionate heart.

Finally opening her eyes, Tara found Willow gazing intently at her.

[You aren't supposed to ask about personal prayers, remember?] she sent gently and with a touch of good humor. [It was your rule.]

[I wasn't going to. You just looked so happy and at peace. I wondered.... that's all.]

[I'm always that way when you're nearby. Let's do our spoken unison prayer. My hemlock tea's getting cold.]

Smiling, Tara grasped Willow's hands tightly and the two women began to chant together.

" "Guardian spirits; shield us and all those we care for through the long hours of darkness.

Spirits of strength and endurance; guard our footsteps through the coming day, that we may not stumble and lend us your power, that we may face whatever confronts us with grace and equanimity.

Goddess of the mystical realms; may your face shine upon our endeavors, may all we create, be it with magic or the works of our hands, be only for good, and may we bring honor to the names of all those who went before.

As it was, so shall it be again.

As it should be, may we see it come to pass.

Blessed be." "

When the last drop of tea had been drained from their cups and the bedside lights extinguished, both women curled close to one another. Thoughts of seeking out the other's opinion on a bit of pleasure drifted muzzily through their heads, but were quickly over-ridden by fatigue and chamomile. Only moments after Willow stepped over the edge into true sleep, Tara followed.

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FOLLOWING MORNING

"Phoebe! Where did we put the Hellispont buds last time? I can't find the canister anywhere!"

Peeping around a corner into the kitchen, Phoebe Halliwell grinned sheepishly at her sister, squeezing her eyes shut.

"We're out. You used up the last of them teaching Paige the trap the demon spell, remember? I keep checking our favorite spooky supermarket, but all they have is the powder. Canister's in the dishwasher ready to be sterilized for the next batch."

"Why doesn't anybody tell me these things!" Piper muttered irritably from the top of the stepstool, making one last futile search through the cabinets. When Phoebe began to laugh, Piper whipped her head around and glared down at her. "What?"

"Nothing. Hearing that just reminded me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon I used to like."

"Really. Great. I've been reduced from head of the household to a blob of ink and paint."

Thumping her way back down to floor level, Piper snatched her keys from the table and headed for the front door, but halted in her tracks when an idea struck her. "Where's Paige?"

"Upstairs in her room. Why?"

Smiling thinly, Piper spun and marched up the stairs.

"I need a shopping partner."

{and a frustration sounding board. She'll have to learn to avoid me and my black moods sometime. Might as well be now....}

Several minutes later, Piper and Paige were belted into the Explorer and pulling out of the driveway. As it usually did, manuevering and controlling the vehicle bled off most of Piper's angst and left her feeling relatively peaceful; at least enough to admit that her stress had other sources besides her sisters and running out of a necessary herb at a bad time.

With Paige's arrival and the adjustments she and Phoebe had been forced to make, Piper had convinced herself that her delayed grief over Prue's death would only be that; a delay. Once things had calmed down and she could find a moment to herself, she would scream and cry in private, but while the other two still needed her strength, collapse was not an option. She would grieve when the others no longer leaned on her so much. Paige had been thrust into a new family and a power that had her head spinning full speed. Phoebe was only beginning to talk out her confusion and pain over the loss of her sister.

{Yeah, and if I concentrate and look really hard, I see the Statue of Liberty from here. God save me from ever completely swallowing the daily load of bull I feed myself.}

"Piper? Are you.... I mean, if you don't want to talk about it, I understand. I just thought..."

Startled out of some fairly dark mental pathways, Piper jumped slightly in surprise, then settled back, flexing and relaxing her hands.

"I'm fine, Paige. I'm just a little.... stressed at the moment. That's part of what this drive is for, to blow off a little steam. I'm really.... fine."

Gazing over at her newfound sister from the passenger's seat, Paige assessed Piper critically.

"No you aren't, but it's okay. Prue's only been gone a little while. It'll take time. I get that. I know Phoebe and I have depended on you a lot this past week, too. I'm sorry. It's just.... all this has got me dizzy. If I don't lean on something, I'm afaid I'll fall over."

"Don't apologize for what you can't control. I know you didn't ask for all these changes to drop on you out of a clear blue sky. If I have to be extra-supportive for a while.... I can do that."

"And console Phoebe, and run the club, and find your own time to be sad? Yeah, right."

"Look. Being 'I'm here for you, and you and you too' girl is who I am. It's what I do. Let it go, alright?"

Paige nodded, but her arms remained crossed over her chest in an overt display of stubbornness and her expression remained vaguely irritated all the way to the store.

When they arrived, Piper locked the truck and strode up to the business' doors, unaware for the first few seconds that Paige was hanging back as if unsure she wanted to enter.

"It's just a store, Paige. Their stock may be a little.... unusual, but it's still a store just like any other. C'mon."

"Unusual. You mean witch stuff. For spells and protection. That kind of unusual." She replied, cautiously moving through the doors ahead of her sister.

"Exactly, but there are no bats hanging from the ceiling, no boogety- boogety's around every corner and noone's going to try and shrink you, I promise."

"Very funny. That was terrifying, Piper. I still have nightmares about it."

"Frankly, so do I, but I've gained enough distance to be able to joke about it, even if I can't laugh yet. It's never very long between life- threatening crises around our house, Paige. You learn pretty quickly to get over and get on before the next one shows up. You'll get the hang of it soon. Let's see. Fresh Herbs, Live Plants... there it is. Dried Flowers: Whole and Ground."

Stepping into the aisle she wanted, Piper spotted two other customers nearly at the other end of the row; a petite redhead and a tall, leggy blond who were obviously as into each other as they were into searching for what they needed.

{Live and let live.} she thought distractedly as she scanned the hundreds of boxes, bags and canisters for the name she sought, looking back once in awhile to make sure Paige was still with her. {They do look great together, though. Nice contrast in coloring, and they're both stunners.}

As the two pairs moved closer to each other, Piper's thoughts broke apart and scattered, a frown creased her brow and she raised a hand to absently rub at her left temple. Eventually her growing discomfort forced her to stop in her tracks.

"Piper? Are you alright?"

"Yeah. It's okay.... look, I told you what I'm looking for, right? If I give you the money, would you...."

"Of course. You're sure you're alright."

"I will be if I can get out of here. The redhead.... something about her..... I don't know. I'll see you in the car." Piper told her weakly, turning and practically running in the other direction.

"Okay. I shouldn't be long." Paige shouted after her before turning back to the shelves and surreptitiously tuning in on the conversation the other two were conducting. She found the task surprisingly difficult, as she was suddenly battling the first strains of what promised to develop into a monster headache as well as a touch of nausea announcing its unwelcome presence in the pit of her stomach. Despite the disturbing sensations, Paige dug in her heels and continued to listen.

"Helm-moss.... hellbane.... Hellispont powder! Wow, large and small bags. What do you think, baby? How much do we need?"

"I'm not sure. Somebody's getting smacked around or beaten up every other day, and demons are the evil soup du-jour back home right now. Two large maybe. What's the price?"

"Evil soup." The redhead giggled as she peered more closely at the label. "Like you get from McDonalds."

"Yeah." The blond agreed, chuckling too. "That stuff is defintely hell-spawned."

"Yay. This is a lot better price than I hoped it would be. I think I can afford three big ones."

Willow glanced over at Tara for a response, only to find her lover otherwise occupied in training a worried look on the young woman a few feet down the aisle from them. "Tara?"

"Uh-oh. I've heard and read about this, but I never thought I'd.... wow. You'd better go on and pay for those, Willow. I'll talk her down and meet you in a few minutes."

"Down? From where? What's going on?"

"It's complicated. I meant to show you the article, but.... things, you know? You're giving her wiggins. I'll explain later. You just need to go."

"Tara...."

"Not now, sweetie. Go." she murmured, pushing the bags of powder into Willow's hands and encouraging the other woman to move in the direction of the registers before turning back to Paige. "I'm really sorry. She had no idea she was making you green around the gills. Is your friend alright?"

"My sister, and she is now. What was that?"

"We're witches too. It's something that happens sometimes between powerful ST's and naturals. That was Willow, I'm Tara."

"Paige Halliwell. ST's?"

'Self-trained's, like Willow and I are. Your sister must be really strong in her power, or else she never would have reacted so badly. It's like..... bringing together the same poles of two powerful magnets. The closer they get, the harder they push apart. In this case, the stronger witch, even if it's only by a little, usually repels the weaker."

"Really. I can't wait to tell Piper she got repelled. Don't mind the enthusiasm. Not that I'm glad she got sick, it's just that I'm kind of new to this, so most everything about magic is still really cool for me."

"Not so new. You felt it too, didn't you?"

"A little."

"That's a good sign. Your natural power will be very strong someday. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine now. I guess I should go. Thanks for the information."

"Wait. Were you looking for Hellispont too?"

"Uh-huh, but they don't have the form I need."

"Hang on... I know I stuck a bunch of those things in here a few days ago..." Tara mumbled, digging in her handbag. "Where did they.... ah. Here you go." She announced, producing a business card. "This place is only about an hour and a half away, and I know for a fact they're overstocked with the whole buds. Just call or e-mail and they'll ship however much you need at a decent price. Mention that Willow and I turned you on to the store and you might even get a discount. I wouldn't count on it, but you can try."

"Really? Hey, thanks.... Tara is it?"

"No problem. I'll even write Willow's and my e-mail addys on the back so we can stay in touch. There."

"Cool. Thanks again."

"You're welcome. Bye."

"Bye."

Back in the truck, Paige gave Piper a detailed account of her conversation and the events in the store.

".... and she said this place... 'The Magic Box', would ship all the whole Hellispont buds we want."

"Huh. It was almost worth feeling like all my internal organs were trying to Macarena out through the top of my head."

"That bad?"

"That bad. What was that term you said she used?"

"ST's?"

"Yeah, that. Self-trained witches. Stronger repels weaker, hmm? And here I thought I was queen of witch mountain." Piper mused darkly, sliding the business card into her jacket pocket.

"Hey. Wait a minute..."

"I promise you can copy all the information off the card. After that, I have something else in mind for it...." she stated cryptically, dropping the truck into gear and backing out of the lot.

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"Phebes? Where are you? I need help, like now!"

Appearing from the kitchen, hands and face streaked with copious amounts of flour, the third Halliwell looked mild daggers at her sister.

"I'm a little busy at the moment."

"Get unbusy.It's time to try that spell you've been avoiding for months."

"I thought you understood why I won't go near that one, Piper. No."

"You can't run from this forever, Phoebe. I think you're ready."

"I don't."

"I wouldn't ask unless I had a reason; a very good reason."

"You don't ask, sis. You demand, you insist, you bully, you strongarm...."

"Pheobe." Paige broke in, staring the smaller woman down. "Something really weird happened at the store today. It shook both of us up, but Piper got the worst of it. Before you make your decision and pour the cement.... can we at least talk about it?"

Glancing from Paige to each other, Piper and Pheobe spoke in perfect unison.

" " She's a Halliwell." "

Smiling thinly, Pheobe gave in.

"Fine. Let me get cleaned up.... and we'll talk."

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"Self-trained witch?"

"Two, actually." Piper corrected her. "They both had some power, but I got this sense that the redhead is stronger than any of us might ever become and she couldn't have been.... twenty-five even."

"You're worried."

"Not... precisely. Concerned. There's a huge source of magical power out there we didn't even know existed.... power that could be turned against us."

"I don't know, Piper. Tara seemed perfectly nice..." Paige interjected.

"Tara isn't the dangerous one." Piper reminded her. "To be able to protect ourselves we need to know more about this... Willow. So. You up for this, Phebes?"

Breathing deeply, Phoebe swiped at a tear and shivered lightly, as if an errant draft of freezing air had touched her.

"I want Prue. She was so good at talking me through this kind of thing. She was the only one who really understood how much going to new levels of my power scared me...."

"I know, sweetie. If you really aren't ready, I can't force you. I won't."

"No. You're right. Without more info, we're sitting ducks. I have to try."

Sitting forward, Phoebe grasped Piper's left hand and Paige's right, then recited a short spell. "Powers of knowledge, powers of light,

Loosen the shackles on my inner sight.

From the object I now burn

Show me all that I might learn.

Shield my mind from evil's eye

And from the ones on which I spy."

On the third line of the spell, Piper dropped the business card into a copper bowl that already contained a modest flame.

The moment the last word of the spell was spoken, images began to bombard Pheobe, most coming far too fast for her to comprehend or interpret what she was seeing. It was nearly fifteen minutes before the torrent slowed and stopped, allowing her to open her eyes.

"Holy.... mother.... of pearl. Gotta modify that fourth line..... all... is a very bad word...."

"Phoebe?"

"I'm okay. That was incredible ... overwhelming..... I need a handful of aspirin and a forty-eight hour nap..... and I need them yesterday....."

Already unsettled and antsy about what had gone on that day, Paige took the opportunity to step away from events for a moment and left to grab a breath and dig up some pain reliever for Phoebe.

"What did you see?" Piper questioned her sister gently.

"Too much... way too much. Most of it is still all jumbled.... there was this blond girl.... beautiful, petite... it was like watching a kung fu\sci-fi double feature where the films got melted together..... she was kicking some major booty...."

"Whose?'

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try me."

"Demons definitely.... vampires maybe. I've never seen one, so I can't be sure."

"Vampires? Wow.... Anything else exciting?"

"Like that isn't enough? It was a lot of faces.... the same ones over and over, mostly. I get a really strong sense of sadness connected with the blond..... a flash of all the other faces together involved in a group demon ass kicking. From your and Paige's descriptions, two of them could be your pair from the store. Somewhere in there is a tall dark and handsome I wouldn't mind being introduced to....."

Just then Paige returned with a glass of water and the pills. "Thanks Paige. Look, let me go get some rest, okay? I'll sort everything out and write down what I can."

"Sure. You were terrific, Phebes. The best."

"Yeah, I was wonderful." Phoebe moaned, rising slowly and moving toward the stairs. "See if I *ever* do that again though. Man, my head could just fall off right now.... I really wouldn't mind."

Paige watched Phoebe go, then truned to Piper.

"Now what?"

Retrieving the paper onto which all the information from the card had been transferred, Piper studied it for a moment before replying.

"Now, we start planning a trip to.... Sunnydale. Hmmph. Sounds like something out of a bad sixties beach movie. I'll make a list of what we need to take for a couple days away from home, you go grab the book."

"I thought you said it doesn't leave the house."

"It isn't going to. I just want to get some background info on this type of demon and copy down a protection spell or two.... or six."

"You really are worried about this aren't you?"

"Absolutely. Vampires.... that's something we've never dealt with. Facing an unknown.... yeah, you could say that worries me."

"When do you want to leave?"

"First thing tomorrow. I don't like the idea of this threat in my back-yard and if thee's anything I can do about it.... I'm doing it"

"An hour and a half away isn't exactly our backyard, Piper. And are you talking about the witches or the vampires?"

"It's close enough..... and both."

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TBC........... if anyone thinks it's worth it..... or even if you don't, so Nyeah! ;} haha. Just kidding. Love you my faithful groupies. Keep feedbacking. It amuses my muse, and a happy muse is a productive muse.