by brinshannara

We slammed the laundry room door behind us just in time, locking it, but it wouldn't hold those things for long.

After a wholly unsuccessful attempt to push the vending machine in front of the door, Willow shoved at it in frustration. That only propelled her to the floor, grasping her ankle and grimacing in pain. I knelt beside her, knowing we didn't have a lot of time left before they got through the door. I wanted her to know I'd be there with her, that I wouldn't leave her to them when the door burst open. But she wasn't even looking at me. She was staring over my shoulder. Looking over, I didn't see anything, and then turned back to her. That's when I felt it. Magic! She was using magic, trying to move the vending machine. I knew she'd been different from those other girls at Wicca group. This one wasn't all about bake sales and drippy candles. Willow knew about magic because Willow used magic. She had power. And I could feel it.

She was struggling and breathing hard. She couldn't do it herself, but she kept trying. She wouldn't give up. Turning again, I saw the soda machine rocking back and forth.

The panic inside me subsided, and I pulled myself together. I could help.

My fingers brushed against hers, moving them slightly. I watched her, willed her to look up at me, so I could tell her to trust me, tell her that I could help, that this was something we could do together. Her hand relaxed and our fingers wove together neatly. I did everything I could to stay focused on the task at hand instead of the softness of her skin, and the power thrumming beneath it, but it wasn't easy. Our hands pressed together and she finally looked up, her face questioning me. I nodded slightly, then relaxed and began to summon my will. She squeezed my hand and I squeezed back. The banging at the door continued, but I barely heard it. All that mattered was our connection.

And then it happened. In one perfect moment, my will and her power joined together and suddenly the vending machine was moving across the room, slamming against the door. I looked at it to see if it would hold, and it seemed that it would.

I looked back at Willow, who was just staring at our hands in amazement. She met my eyes with wonder and maybe even a little bit of fear, and I knew she'd never felt anything like that before. Neither had I. Never in my life had I ever tasted this kind of connection, this kind of power, with anyone. Not even with my mother. This was something different, something new. Something neither one of us had encountered ever before. We sat there, breathing heavily, hands clasped for a while, unwilling to let go of each other, not wanting the power to fade. The monsters, for lack of a better word, had apparently realized they weren't going to get in, and had stopped trying. We were safe, it seemed.

We barely had time to relax, to let the adrenaline wear off, before it happened. My voice came back to me. I felt it get pulled back into my throat in a rush and my free hand moved to my neck, as if I'd be able to feel the difference.

Willow spoke first, her voice quiet. "That was amazing." She squeezed my hand very gently.

"Y-yeah," I managed, smiling at her. Too bad my stutter came back with my voice, I thought, with no small amount of irritation. Suddenly, it seemed awkward to be holding her hand. I mean, it felt right to me, but she was probably wondering why our hands were still clasped. Reluctantly, I let go of her and felt the magic dissipate between us.

She looked at me carefully. "Tara, right?"

She knew my name, which made me smile, and I nodded, knowing anything I said would just get garbled.

"I'm Willow."

Again, I nodded. "W-we should get your ankle looked at, b-but..." I looked over at the door.

"But can we do it twice?" She grinned. "Let's give it a shot, okay?"

"Okay," I replied, and reached down into myself for the control we needed. She reached out and took both my hands into both of hers. The magic, the power, was still distracting. It felt like it was just underneath her skin, and it made my hands tingle, ever so slightly. We both looked at the machine. Slower, this time, I thought to myself. We just needed to move it a little bit.

We felt it again. The instant when our powers met, it was like we melded with each other. We were no longer two separate entities. We were two parts of a whole. It was like Willow was my light and I was her lens. The power flowed from her and through me. I could direct it, control what was mostly hers, as long as we were touching. It was incredible. My eyes closed and I visualized how the machine should move. I let our joined power out, just a little bit of purely focused energy, and when I opened my eyes it had moved a few feet away, leaving us able to go through the door.

I looked at her again. Willow was positively giddy. She was grinning hugely, clearly excited about this newfound ability. I smiled back, shyly, knowing I had something to do with her being so happy.

The energy that existed between us was intoxicating, and I didn't want to let go, but now we were free to leave the laundry room, free to get Willow over to Health Services. Letting go of her hands again, I got up, unlocked the door and opened it, peeking out. It was clear. Walking back to Willow, I offered her a hand in getting up. She took it and then I wrapped my arm around her waist, holding her, letting her lean on me so she could walk.

The events of the past couple of days had been harrowing. First, losing my voice, then learning that a student had been killed was bad enough. Then, to be chased by those monsters, those demons, had been terrifying, not to mention an unwelcome reminder of my mother's heritage. Somehow, though, what was on my mind more than anything else was Willow's exuberant smile. And, as we crossed the campus, maybe, just maybe, I was thinking about when I'd next see her smiling at me.


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