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Sonuachara Chapter 13

"Hey," Trina said, after they were done Monday night. "You want to hit Sonic? I've got a craving for a burger. Maybe a milkshake, too."

Zoe leaned back against her seat, exhausted. The night had been hell — sheer, unmitigated hell — as more reports of abuse were checking out, and children were being pulled back. They'd pulled in six kids over the weekend alone.

"We can stop if you want," she said, closing her eyes, "but I have absolutely no desire for food. Maybe ever again."

"That bad?" Trina said, laughing.

"Mm."

"Well, I want some." Zoe felt the car slow and turn. "Sure you don't want anything? You'll probably be starving once you smell the food."

"Ugh." Zoe wrinkled her nose.

"Okay," Trina said. A few minutes later, she pulled out with a burger, fries, and shake. "Hey," she said, after another minute or so. "You're coming to the party Friday, right?"

"I said I would, didn't I?" Zoe said. "Unless you'd prefer I didn't...."

"No!" Trina said, loudly. "No, I want you to come!"

"Hey, easy," Zoe said, startled. "I will, I already said I would. I just thought you might be more comfortable if I didn't."

Trina shook her head. "No. I just wanted to make sure you hadn't changed your mind."

"I don't break promises," Zoe said. "That's why I don't make many of them. If I don't show up, it'll be because I'm either dead or so physically incapacitated that I can't, okay?"

Trina gave her a sheepish smile. "Okay. Sorry."

"And if I'm just incapacitated," Zoe said, "you know, both legs broke or something... I'll call."

"You'd better," Trina said.

"Promise. I can't say how long I'll be able to stay, but I'll come."

"Okay," Trina said, slowing to a stop in front of Zoe's house. "See you tomorrow, then, I guess."

Zoe dragged herself out of the car, actually opening the door for once. "Yeah. Unless I decide to sleep through it."

"You can't do that!" Trina protested. "Who would Mrs. Marks have to yell at for not paying attention?"

"Eh, you'd just have to do my slacking off for me," Zoe said. "It'd be good for you."

"I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to start," Trina said, frowning. "I mean, how embarrassing would that be, trying to slack and failing at it?"

"You're a clever girl," Zoe said, with a laugh. "I think you could probably figure it out."

"I don't know. I'd hate to risk it."

"Hey, new experiences are good. Broaden your horizons," Zoe said. "Expand your repertoire."

Trina looked down at her hips. "I don't think I need any more broadening."

"Oh, come on now," Zoe said, totally disgusted. "You've never pulled that shit before, don't you start now. You're too smart for that."

"Hey!" Trina said. "I didn't say I was fat. I said I didn't need to get any broader. You can't argue with that."

Zoe looked at her, assessingly. "Eh. Maybe not need, but it wouldn't hurt any either. If there's a range to these things, I'd say you're right in the middle of it, maybe on the small side. So you could broaden by a good twenty pounds or so and it wouldn't be a negative thing, probably."

"Well, if I could get most of it to go to my tits, I might take you up on that," Trina said.

"Your tits are fine and you know it," Zoe said, rolling her eyes. "Your tits are the focal point for every testosterone-producing beer-carrying-unit in the school. If they were any bigger, you'd need scaffolding."

"What, only the testosterone-producing ones?" Trina said, laughing. "See? I do need bigger ones, so that I can make the girls drool too."

"It seems to me that assuming that girls would be motivated by the same things that the guys are wouldn't be logical," Zoe said. "All you'd get is more attention from guys, and I'd think what you get has to be annoying enough." She flushed, a little embarrassed. "Or maybe you like it, hell, how would I know?"

"Hmm," Trina said, looking thoughtful. "Well, then, what would you suggest?"

"For what?"

"Getting the girls to drool over me too," Trina said. "After all, everyone should be lusting after my fabulous body."

"You are vain," Zoe said. "You know bloody good and well that those that are appropriately oriented already are, and those that aren't are jealous, which, as far as I can tell by observation of the 'attractive female' types, seems to be counted as just as good. If you want a higher percentage of drooling females, I'd suggest getting a tattoo and moving to Dallas. Or better yet, San Francisco, New Orleans, or New York. You've got the best you're gonna get in Tyler."

She paused, thinking. "Though, if you do that, you'll get a lower percentage of boys, because more of them are openly gay, too. So it might just cancel out."

Trina waved her hand. "The gay boys aren't actually lusting over me, so that wouldn't be a loss. But then I guess the gay girls are and just aren't admitting it, so it wouldn't make a difference, would it?"

"Well... it'd make a bit of one," Zoe said. "There'd be more who let themselves... you know, the ones who won't even admit it in their own head? And there're more bi-girls where they realize that's an option, too."

"Hmm. Point," Trina said. "But probably not worth the hassle. There'd be more competition, too."

"Ooookay," Zoe said, putting her hands on her hips. "I think I've fed your ego enough tonight. I'm going in and getting some dinner. See you tomorrow."

Trina pouted. "What, you don't want to stay and drool over me?"

Zoe shook her head, smiling. "You've already got enough people drooling over you. Add one more, and you'd need to move up to six-inch platform heels to keep your toes dry."

"Hey, wait a minute," Trina said. "You said you weren't ever eating again."

"Mm?" Zoe said. "Oh. Um... hmm. Guess the drive revived me a bit. It is awfully pretty out, isn't it?"

Trina just raised an eyebrow, and Zoe smiled sweetly. "See you tomorrow?"

"Hmph," Trina said, giving her a look. "You're just going in so you can moon over me in secret, depriving me of the chance to enjoy it."

Zoe smiled. "You betcha," she said. "If I were to, ah, 'moon over' anyone, it'd be the best-kept secret in the world."

"Great," Trina said, giving a dramatic sigh.

"Go home," Zoe ordered, laughing. "Or pick one of the puppy-eyed freaks who follow you around and call him up."

Trina shook her head, smiling. "See you tomorrow."


Zoe had a headache the next morning. Trina's joke the night before had made her start thinking about it, and now it wouldn't go away. She'd spent the night in a fugue of confusion, wondering if the reason she disliked Trina's boyfriend so much was because she was jealous.

Between the lack of sleep, the headache, and the introspection, she was quieter than normal, and Trina picked up on it immediately.

"Hey, you okay today?"

"Yeah," Zoe said, flushing slightly. "I'm just tired. Sorry if I've been grouchy."

"You sure?" Trina asked.

"Of course I'm sure," Zoe said. "What have I told you?"

"I know, I know," Trina said, raising her hands in surrender. "Look, do you need to just go home after school? We've gotten in enough extra hours that you'd be okay...."

Zoe shook her head. "No! I don't go for the credits, you know that. And they need us."

"Okay," Trina said, giving her a worried look. "But if you get to feeling too bad, let me know."

"It's nothing," Zoe said, shaking her head again.

"Well... okay."


Things got worse as the week went on. By the time Friday rolled around, two dozen kids had been pulled back, and Zoe was utterly exhausted. Trina, on the other hand, was jittery all day, either from nervousness, or from excitement about the party, Zoe couldn't tell which.

None of her friends seemed to think anything unusual was going on, but as the party got closer, it was clear to Zoe that she was nervous, and it was getting worse as time went by.

As people started arriving, Zoe realized it was a good thing the party was outside, because it seemed like the entire school was showing up. Well, the entire school, with the glaring exception of Trina's boyfriend, who had yet to appear. Not that Zoe particularly wanted to see him, but it pissed her off that he would hurt Trina that way.

Zoe hadn't realized that Julie hadn't shown up either until she drove up about fifteen minutes after the party had officially started. And getting out of the passenger side was Trina's boyfriend.

It was possible, Zoe admitted to herself, that he'd wrecked his big testosterone truck, or that his latest attempt to soup it up had left it not running, but she didn't think so. He was male, Julie was a bitch, and Zoe was a pessimist, so she made her way over next to Trina just in case.

... A 'just in case' which promptly proved to be justified, as Julie walked into the party hanging on to his arm.

"Sorry I'm late, Trina dear," Julie said, giving Trina a patently false smile as the party went silent, the music cutting off. "But I had to pick up my boyfriend on the way."

She could kill her, Zoe thought, watching Trina for her reaction. Or she could slip away and quietly do rude things to the interior of Julie's car, if Trina took it well enough that trying to comfort her would be more of an embarrassment than a help.

Trina stiffened, just for a moment— if Zoe hadn't been watching, she'd have missed it— and then, oddly, all the nervousness she'd been showing all day seemed to just... drain away, replaced by that same cool, collected feeling her mother always exuded.

"Julie, darling, I am so disappointed in you," she said, sweetly. "I mean, if you wanted to hurt me by stealing something, you should have picked something I cared about, like maybe my new purse. You're welcome to him, if you want him, but frankly I think you'll find him a disappointment."

Zoe smiled to herself, slipping back into the shadows. Good girl. Then she looked around for the nearest security guard, to inform him that, as those two had just become uninvited guests, perhaps they should be removed from the premises.

The boyfriend's face reddened, and Julie stepped forward to say something, but Trina cut her off. "Now, as this party is for my friends, and the two of you are so obviously not my friends, I think it's best you leave. I'd hate for you to have to call your mother and tell her that you and your new boyfriend were arrested for trespassing." She gave the girl a cool smile, then turned her back on her. "Somebody turn the music back on, would you?"

Two of the waiters smoothly interposed themselves between Trina and the two who'd just been dis-invited, quietly herding them off. Zoe couldn't suppress a smirk when the ex-boyfriend found his arm pinned behind his back and his mouth covered with a large hand before he could make a fuss.

Unfortunately, the incident seemed to have destroyed the party mood. People did their best, but it was obvious their hearts weren't in it, and after an hour they began to make their excuses and leave.

As Zoe watched Trina's reaction to this, she found herself surprised. Apparently Trina really hadn't cared about what Julie had done, because she hadn't shown any signs of anger, but as she watched her friends leave, her face darkened. Losing her boyfriend didn't bother her, but having her birthday party ruined clearly did.

"I'll take care of her," Zoe quietly promised, coming up beside Trina. "When I get done, she'll have less pride than a crack-whore's sub. She'll have to leave the state before she can show her face again. Trust me."

"Let's go inside," Trina said, tightly.

Zoe reached out and squeezed her hand. "Okay."

Trina led her inside, and up the stairs, stopping at her bedroom door. "I need—" She cut herself off. "No. I need to return the favor," she murmured, before looking Zoe in the eye. "Can I trust you to keep my secrets?"

"Don't you know the answer to that by now?" Zoe asked, unable to mask the flash of hurt that crossed her face.

"I have to ask," Trina said. "I have something that I need to do. You're welcome to come with me, as long as you keep my secrets and don't interrupt me."

"No, you don't have to ask," Zoe said. "Who the hell would I tell if I want to? Have I ever told anyone anything that would hurt you? No, and I won't, and you should know that. But if you would rather I leave, I can. I only stayed because I thought... you might need someone to... talk to, or something."

Trina shook her head. "No, I had to ask. Not because I don't trust you, but because I have to make sure there's no miscommunication. I do trust you. I just needed you to say the words." She smiled, for the first time since people started leaving, and opened her bedroom door, motioning Zoe inside. "Thanks."

Zoe bit her lip, looking at Trina for several seconds, and entered. Trina followed her, closing her door behind her, and walked over to her closet door. "After you," she said, indicating the walk-in closet with a wave of her hand.

Zoe raised an eyebrow, but walked inside, followed by Trina. "You're about to learn one... well, actually, several of the family secrets," she said, closing the door behind her. Pushing aside the clothes on her left, she twisted three of the coat-hooks on the back wall, then pushed, and a large section of the wall began to move slowly inwards.

Zoe didn't blink. If she had unlimited money, she'd have secret doors and passages in her house, too. Who wouldn't?

Trina led her down a stone-walled passage which began to slope downwards after a few yards, then turned into stairs which lead sharply downwards. After what seemed like forever, the stairs ended, and Trina led Zoe through an archway into a large natural cavern. Openings in the ceiling allowed the full moon to shine through in places, illuminating a small pool to one side, and a large circular area marked off in the center.

The only problem was, the moon was only three-quarters full. How could there be a full moon shining down into the room?

"I know you have questions," Trina said, turning to her. "And I promise I'll do my best to answer them after I'm done. Can I ask you to wait until then, though, and not interrupt me?"

Zoe hesitated, wondering what was going on, but finally nodded. "All right."

"Thanks," Trina said, giving her a relieved smile. "You can look at stuff, if you want, just don't touch anything— some of it can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing."

Zoe gave her a non-committal shrug, and Trina looked at her for a moment.

"Thanks," she said again.

Zoe smiled tightly. "What you believe is your business, and this is your space."

Trina's smile turned into a grin. "I know you're a skeptic," she said. "That's okay. So was Dad."

"Mmm," Zoe said, looking for someplace out of the way to sit down.

Trina turned and walked over to the pool, stopping in front of a small table set beside it, and hesitated for a moment before pulling her shirt over her head. Zoe's eyes widened, startled, and she carefully looked elsewhere, although she found she couldn't stop herself from keeping Trina where she could see her in her peripheral vision.

The blonde girl kicked off her shoes as she undid her bra. She folded it neatly, setting it on the table next to her shirt, as she nudged her shoes until they were lined up under the table. Unbuttoning her jeans, she bent at the waist as she slid them down her legs.

Walls. The cavern had nice walls. And floors. It could use some air-conditioning, though, Zoe thought, suddenly sweating as she resisted the urge to turn and look directly at Trina. And, um, skylights. The skylights were nice.

Trina slid her thong underwear down her legs the same way, and Zoe found herself biting her tongue. Turning, the blonde stepped into the water, perfectly illuminated by the moonlight, and began washing herself.

Zoe did her best to look elsewhere, only sneaking a few peeks, as she waited for Trina to be done and, hopefully, dressed again. Instead, however, Trina stepped out of the pool on the other side, and that sense of power her mother always carried seemed to radiate from her. Zoe realized she'd seen hints of it before, when they were discussing someone who had hurt Brenna, and she filed that away for later thought.

A faint odor of something foul touched Zoe's nose, distracting her, and she glanced over to see a well-made rag doll sitting on the table next to her. Some sort of vine was twined around it, and it was definitely the source of the odor.

After a moment, she recognized it; it was quite obviously a doll of the jerk, and that made the reason for the vine clear. She frowned, uncomfortable with the idea, although she wasn't sure why. She didn't believe in voodoo, and Trina couldn't hurt herself with something that didn't exist, right? The fact that the doll was wrapped in poison ivy and had been dipped in sewage was just a coincidence. It had to be.

She turned her attention back to Trina, flushing a bit as she realized that the other girl apparently had no intention of dressing herself yet, and watched as she picked up a pair of sticks.

Trina stepped into the center of the circle, illuminated by the moonlight, and began to tap the sticks together as if to beat time. Chanting in a language Zoe didn't recognize, she took three steps out from the center, and began to walk the circumference. Maybe it was just that she was so brightly lit, compared to the background, but it almost seemed to Zoe that she was leaving a trail behind her, a silver smudge like an after-image.

Zoe rested her chin on her knees as she watched, her right eye hidden behind her hair, her left eye half-closed. Trina stopped, having reached her starting point on the circle, and walked back to the center.

Looking up, she spread her arms, and her voice took on a commanding tone as she began to chant. Finally, after what could have been several minutes or several hours, her voice crescendoed and then stopped.

There was no question, now, that Zoe was seeing a glow in the air around Trina, and where she walked the circle; it was illuminating the sand around it.

Trina looked up, at the opening in the ceiling. "I stand here now, under the moon of my ancestors. Ceridwen, Great Mother, Lady of Wisdom, Mother of my House, hear me. Grant me wisdom, and knowledge, and power, that my Work may be a Work well worked. Guide me in my spell, that my actions may be right."

The moonlight falling on her brightened, and despite herself, Zoe shivered, goose-bumps rising on her arms.

"I stand under my Mother's gaze and call upon Bel, God of Success, God of Healing, Father of my House. Father, hear me. Grant me your aid, that I might have success in my Work, that it may be a Work well worked."

Trina closed her eyes, obviously steadying herself, as the light around her took on flickers of red. "I stand in front of my Mother and Father, under the moon of my ancestors. Dana, Mother of the Gods, Mother of my Father's House, Goddess of Magic, hear me now. Lend your strength to the Work that I will do, that it may be a Work well worked."

Zoe had the sense of a river flowing swiftly nearby, though she couldn't pin down the reason when she tried, and she swallowed as the hair on the back of her neck prickled.

"Manannan mac Lir, Lord of Storm and Sea, God of Magic, who sheltered us when we needed it, Patron of my mother, hear me now. Grant your strength to my arm, that my Work may be a Work well worked."

The scent of salt and water touched Zoe's nose as Trina stopped, visibly gathering herself, and when she spoke again, her voice was noticeably different, her entire stance more cautious.

"Morrigan, Lady of Prophecy, Queen of Revenge, hear my plea. Lend me your aid in this my work; add your strength to mine. Help me to find for these betrayers a punishment to suit the crime. Grant me your arm alongside mine, that this may be a Work well worked."

Something was different. Zoe wasn't sure what it was, but she was suddenly nervous. Damned near terrified, in fact. She had the sense of something hovering, just out of sight, something dark and powerful, brushing its fingers over her soul, as if to taste it.

Gritting her teeth, she straightened. She loathed being afraid. She was going to find out what was causing this... this phobia, and she was going to get over it as soon as she did. And until then, she was not going to let it affect her actions.

There was a sense of amusement, mixed with approval, an almost proprietary caress across her soul, and then the lighting around Trina changed, taking on what Zoe could only think of as a 'darkened' aspect. It was if it wasn't illuminating as much as it had been, even though Zoe could see everything she had before.

She watched, disturbed that Trina seemed to be afraid, as the blonde opened her eyes and began speaking. Zoe couldn't hear what she was saying, and when Trina cocked her head, clearly listening to something, it was just as silent.

Trina shook her head, and the silent, one-sided conversation continued for several minutes before she smiled and nodded. Closing her eyes, she began to chant.

The words were barely audible, as if coming from a great distance, and Zoe couldn't understand them; they seemed to be in the same language she'd used as she walked the circle.

Somehow, though, they seemed weighted with power, as if hearing them directly, with nothing shielding her, would have been too much for Zoe to bear, would have left her naked in front of the witch, for she couldn't deny any longer that that was exactly what Trina was, and she found herself grateful for the distance between them.

As Trina spoke, she seemed to come into focus somehow, as if each word defined her more fully, until Zoe felt as if she could see each hair on the witch's body, each mark. She realized that she could somehow see the small scar on Trina's back, just above the curve of her left buttock, despite the fact that the witch was facing her. It was clearly not the result of an accident, a horizontal line with four vertical lines hanging down, and somehow Zoe knew that it had personal meaning to the witch.

Zoe found herself appreciating the view which presented itself to her. Trina was facing her, at a slight angle, her feet shoulder-width apart; nothing was hidden from Zoe's view. Even some things that should have been, such as the scar, weren't, and Zoe's gaze traced over Trina's body. She'd never looked at another girl's naked body before, not like this, but Trina truly was beautiful, and it didn't mean anything that Zoe was able to see that.

The light around Trina took on definition as Trina did, separate figures nonetheless occupying the same space. A woman, eyes conveying a sense of wisdom. A man, fire racing along his muscles. A woman, with a sense of age and power palpably radiating from her. A man with a beard, wearing a suit of armor. A younger woman, raven-haired, somehow set apart from the others; somehow, Zoe knew that this was the one who had examined her earlier.

The figures seemed to solidify, taking on more definition, and light collected around Trina. Finally, the witch raised her hand and shouted, and although Zoe somehow knew only a fraction of the power in that word reached her, it was still enough to rock her backwards and stagger her, forcing her to grit her teeth in an effort to forcibly maintain her calm demeanor.

Trina left her hands upraised for several seconds before lowering them as she somehow turned to face each figure without moving from where she stood. Although Zoe couldn't hear her words, she somehow knew that the witch was thanking them for their aid, and as each was thanked, it began to fade, though the bearded figure grabbed her in a fierce hug before doing so, and the older woman planted a kiss on Trina's forehead. The first woman looked at Zoe, then back at Trina, and took both of the witch's hands in hers as she said something that made the girl blush, causing Zoe to frown in irritation.

Hadn't Trina been embarrassed enough tonight?

Trina nodded shyly, saying something, and the woman hugged her close before she left. The first man to appear simply smiled at her before fading away, and the black-haired woman said something to the witch, glancing at Zoe and causing Trina's eyes to go wide. The witch swallowed, and nodded, and the woman kissed her on the cheek before turning to smile at Zoe. As she faded, she seemed to come closer, and Zoe had the impression of hundreds of wings fluttering by.

When she looked back at Trina, the girl was sagging slightly, as if she'd just finished running a race, but she straightened, obviously calling on the last of her reserves. Turning, she began to walk the circle in the opposite direction than she had when she started, and as she walked, the sound of the sticks and the chant grew louder, as if Trina were coming closer, until Zoe could hear her clearly at the end. Finally, Trina finished, hanging her head and simply standing there for a moment, her arms hanging limply at her side.

"I'm done," she said, after a few moments, looking up at Zoe, obviously exhausted but managing a smile.

"Then sit down," Zoe said, taking a few steps towards her before stopping, uncertain. "Before you fall down."

Trina nodded, and did so right there on the spot. "I hadn't realized it would take that much out of me," she said.

Zoe hesitated, then retrieved Trina's shirt and draped it over the girl's shoulder before sitting down beside her.

The witch smiled up at her weakly. "You've probably got a million questions to ask."

Zoe shrugged one shoulder. "It can wait. Or you can talk about it, if you're up to it."

"I'm up to it," Trina said, nodding. "I just don't think I can face the stairs for a few minutes."

"Then take your time, and go ahead," Zoe said.

"What do you want to know first?" Trina asked.

"What were you doing?"

"Getting revenge?" the witch offered, hesitantly.

"Why?" Zoe asked, giving her a searching look.

Trina sighed. "Don't get me wrong," she said. "I've known for a while that Eric and I weren't permanent, and if she'd just asked, I'd have given him to her. But she was deliberately trying to hurt me, which pisses me off, and she ruined my damned party, which really pisses me off."

"Ah," Zoe said. "Her, not him. All right, I can understand that. But what were you trying to do to her?"

Trina gave her a smug smile. "Well, it took a while, but we finally settled on... let's just say that some of her secrets are going to be exposed in the not too distant future. And either he'll dump her, or he'll be pestering her forever."

Zoe shuddered theatrically. "I know she's a bitch, but that last one is a bit much for anything short of murder, don't you think?"

"I'm just giving her what she asked for," Trina said, with an angelic look on her face. "There's nothing wrong in that, is there?"

"All right," Zoe said, laughing. "You don't expect me to say something idiotic like 'turn the other cheek', or 'forgive and forget', do you? I don't care what you do to her, or to him, if it's something you can live with."

Trina nodded. "I didn't go over the top," she said. "I think I kept it more or less on the same level. She tried to publicly humiliate me, so she'll get the same treatment."

Zoe nodded back to her, before her face darkened. "I would have taken care of her for you, you know," she said, quietly.

"I know," Trina said, smiling at her. "But this is more... appropriate. I don't think you could have managed this, and she'd have tried to get revenge on you. This way, there's no way for her to trace it back. Well, unless she knows magic, but she doesn't have the look."

"So... what's the price?" Zoe asked.

"The effort it took me to do it," Trina said. "And the energy I put into it."

"And that's all?" Zoe asked skeptically.

Trina nodded. "Yeah. Well, sort of. You've also got to include all the time I've spent learning magic, all the practice and study and meditation, all the mental exercises I've done, all that."

"The Wiccans I've known all claim a curse hurts you more than your target," Zoe said.

"I know." Trina gave her a small smile. "But... well, not to sound arrogant, but they don't know what they're talking about. Or maybe it does, for them, since they think it will."

"You're the one who went on and on about things always balancing," Zoe said, still not convinced.

Trina nodded. "What you experience does balance."

"Mm-hmm," Zoe said. "All right, then, one more question."

"Okay?"

"Are you all right?" Zoe asked.

"I am," Trina said, giving her a smile. "Just a little tired. It took more out of me than I expected."

"I don't mean that."

"Okay," Trina said, looking puzzled. "I'm not following, then."

"Look... getting even helps, but it doesn't make everything stop hurting," Zoe said, gently. "You know I know that."

Trina looked startled for a moment. "Oh!" she said, laughing. "Honestly, I wasn't all that hurt. Mostly I was just pissed. It hurt a little that someone I considered a friend would do that, but that was it."

Zoe thought about that, and the fact that Trina's nervousness had vanished when it happened, and suddenly things clicked.

"You were expecting it," she said, flatly. "You just didn't know who."

Trina nodded. "I knew something was going to happen, and I knew it involved some sort of betrayal, but I didn't know the details. How'd you know?"

Zoe shrugged. "You seemed to be... waiting for it."

Trina nodded again. "I was, more or less, but I didn't know what I was waiting for."

"I'm sorry," Zoe said.

Trina sighed. "So am I. But I've known for a month or so that I was going to be breaking up with him."

Zoe frowned. That was right around, or maybe shortly before, Trina had offered her that first ride. "Why?"

"Because I knew he wasn't the right one."

"So why were you with him?" Zoe asked.

"Because...." Trina sighed. "Because I didn't know who was. And I wanted... I wanted to be wanted." She looked up at Zoe, her eyes pleading for understanding.

"Trina... half the school wants you," Zoe said. "That doesn't mean you have to give yourself to one of those testosterone-soaked jerks."

"I know," Trina said, sighing again, and looking away. "I just didn't know who the right one was."

"So you wait until you do, instead of settling for something like that," Zoe said. "You don't intend to just take the next stupid lump that asks you out, do you?"

"Hey!" Trina said, straightening. "It's not like I did anything with him, you know! I just enjoyed the attention."

"What attention?" Zoe said, only mostly succeeding in stopping herself from snapping. "I never saw him give you any!"

"He did," Trina said. "I've just been avoiding him for the last month or so."

"Then why not go ahead and break up with him?"

"I was going to," Trina said. "I was just trying to find a way to do it without hurting his feelings." She looked glum. "I guess that was a wasted effort."

"Yeah," Zoe snorted. "He didn't deserve the courtesy."

Trina sighed. "He's actually not a bad guy, Zoe. He's... well, a redneck, yeah, but he's not a bad guy. He was actually kind of sweet."

"So's a puppy," Zoe said. "And they've got about the same IQ."

Trina laughed. "I'd tell you to be nice, but...."

"No," Zoe said. "I wouldn't do it. Showing up like that lost any compassion I might have had for him."

"Point." Trina sighed. "I should have just told him as soon as I knew, but...."

"So you didn't always know he wasn't right?" Zoe asked. "Come on... he's so not in your league. You'd be so bored."

"No," Trina said, quietly, "I always knew he wasn't the one."

"Then you knew from the beginning, and if you'd told him, you wouldn't have ever dated."

"That's... not what I meant," Trina said, softly.

Zoe was surprised at the stab of pain she felt at Trina's words, and she wasn't sure if it was because of the implication that Trina had her eye on someone, or because she hadn't told her.

"Then maybe you ought to tell me what you do mean," she said.

Trina looked away. "I'm scared to," she said.

That hurt, and there was no question as to why. "I thought you trusted me."

"I do," Trina said. "But I'm afraid you'll freak out if I tell you. I wouldn't blame you."

Zoe closed her eyes, reaching for the remnants of her patience. "Look. I haven't freaked out yet, have I? And trust me when I say that most people would have tonight. Freaking out isn't going to happen. I do not freak out. It just isn't me, okay?"

Trina swallowed, and Zoe was startled to realize that the other girl really was scared. "You're sure?"

"Trina... you know I'm always sure," Zoe said. "C'mon... I don't like you being scared."

Trina's voice was barely audible in the silence. "It's you."

"What?" Zoe asked, blinking.

Trina sighed. "It's you. The right person, I mean."

Zoe was speechless. "I... don't understand," she finally said, weakly.

Trina fiddled with the ring on her finger. "My family... we're not like everyone else. I guess you know that now. One of the things that makes us different is that we always know who the right person is. Mom knew Dad was the one for her the first time she saw him. My grandmother got married at thirteen, because she knew my grandfather was it. It goes all the way back."

"But... you can't," Zoe said. "I mean, I don't...." She closed her mouth and held up a hand, taking several deep breaths before continuing. "I'm not mad, and I'm not freaking out. But I don't know what to say. Except maybe 'I'm sorry.' I just don't... do that. I don't think I can."

"It... doesn't always work out," Trina said. "My great-great-great-grandmother never got to marry the right one— he was kicked in the head by a horse and, well...." She swallowed. "I don't think it's ever been like this before, though, although... Ceridwen approves, which is good."

"Look... maybe you're wrong about this," Zoe said. "Because that would just be... cruel."

Trina slumped. "You're straight, aren't you?"

Zoe shuddered, revolted. "No. If I were going to be with anyone, it wouldn't be a male. Not ever. But I'm... not gay, either. I've just... never felt that way. I don't think I can."

"Oh," Trina said. "You're... you're sure?"

"I...." Zoe hesitated. "I think so."

"You think so?"

Zoe flushed. "Yeah, I think so."

"But you aren't sure?" She could see the hope flaring in Trina's eyes, and closed her own.

"Please," she said. "I won't lie. But you shouldn't think that it's likely. I can't even imagine feeling that way, wanting to do... normal things. I just can't."

Trina hesitated. "What... exactly do you mean by... normal things?"

"Trina... you know I don't like to be touched." Trina nodded as Zoe wrapped her arms around her knees. "I... don't see that changing. I really don't."

Trina bit her lip. "You... you let me hug you."

"Yes," Zoe said gently. "But do you really think you'd be happy with just that?"

"I... no. Not really," Trina said, blushing and avoiding Zoe's gaze. "But... you don't let anyone else do that. So... are you really sure?"

Zoe closed her eyes again. "No. Just this once, I'm not sure. But it just doesn't seem likely. There are too many reasons, and they have nothing to do with you." She opened her eyes, looking at Trina earnestly. "Understand? It's not you, not at all. It's entirely me."

Trina nodded, slowly, looking into her eyes. "Would you... would you be willing to... try?"

"I... you'd just be hurt," Zoe said. "I don't want that."

"I think... it'd hurt worse not to try. Unless you just... aren't interested." Trina swallowed, not looking away. "If you aren't, don't... don't lead me on, please."

Zoe swore under her breath. "I... I'm more interested than I've ever been. I think. I don't really know what I feel right now. Except for guilty. That's nice and clear. But I'm not uninterested, anyway. It's just that... I don't think there's any chance. You're so... I'm too... Things as they are now are important to me. I don't want to mess that up. I don't want to lose it. And if this doesn't do anything but hurt you...." She shook her head.

Trina reached for her hand, and Zoe let her take it. "I'd rather fail than not try."

Zoe closed her eyes. "If we try and fail, I'll have to leave."

"Why?"

"Because I couldn't stand myself if I stayed around hurting you."

"No," Trina said, shaking her head. "Don't go because of that. Go because you don't want to be around me, or because I'm hurting you, but not because you can't give me what I want." She looked down. "I... I'd rather be close to you, even if I can't have what I want, than never see you again."

Zoe flinched. "God," she whispered, "This isn't fair. It's just not right to do this to you."

Trina dropped her head. "No. I shouldn't have asked. It's not fair to you. I'm sorry."

"Don't." Zoe laid her other hand over Trina's, trapping it between her hands. "Don't be sorry for offering what most people would kill for. It's not your fault that I'm... dysfunctional."

"Are you sure you are?" Trina asked.

"Yeah," Zoe said, softly. "That I'm sure of. But... I don't know. Maybe I can change it."

Trina bit her lip. "Do you want to try?"

Zoe hesitated. "Yeah," she said finally. "It's probably a mistake... it's probably going to just hurt you... but yeah."

"Thanks," Trina said, smiling so widely it had to hurt. "Um. You'll tell me if I push, right?"

Zoe raised an eyebrow. "Have I ever shown any inclination not to?"

"Point," Trina said, laughing.

"But... I'd be lying if I said I had any idea what to do, though."

Trina made a face. "You think I do? I had no idea until I saw you... all I know is from when I walked in on— um. Er. That is."

"No," Zoe said, trying to fight her blush, "I mean... at all. How to act, what to say, anything."

"Just... be yourself," Trina said. "We can hide it, if you want, or be out, that's up to you."

"Honey... they'd eat you alive," Zoe said. "It's been bad enough for you, just publicly being my friend."

Trina gave her a look. "You don't think I can take care of myself?" she asked. "I'm not exactly a shrinking violet, you know."

"I know," Zoe said, smiling. "But that doesn't make it right to make things more difficult for you."

"Zoe... let's get one thing straight right now, okay?" Trina said. "I'm not ashamed of you, and I'm not afraid to be out."

"I know," Zoe said. "I didn't say you were. But, well... we both know that the odds are against this working. So I just don't see any reason for you to go through the kind of shit they'd give you, not for something that probably won't work."

"I'm not going to go into this with the attitude that it's going to fail," Trina said, giving Zoe a determined look. "I'm going to treat it like it's going to work out, and if it doesn't, I'll know it's not because I didn't give it my all."

Zoe bit her lip. "I just don't want this to cost you too much."

"It won't."

"That's not... what it seems like to me," Zoe said.

"Oh?" Trina asked.

"If we were somewhere else... but we're not," Zoe said. "Look, being open about this could ruin your life."

Trina gave her a look. "How?"

Zoe sighed in exasperation. "You know how people are here."

"I do," Trina said, nodding. "How could it ruin my life? What could they do to me?"

"Oh, I don't know," Zoe said. "Socially ostracize you, harass you, discriminate against you, physically assault you...."

Trina shrugged. "I'm prepared for all that." She gave Zoe a little smile. "If they assault me, they'll be surprised by what they get."

"Being prepared won't make it fun," Zoe said.

"No," Trina said. "But it can't cost me too much, because I'm willing to pay the price, whatever it is. They can't permanently harm me."

"Yes. They can," Zoe said. "They killed that man a few years ago."

Trina didn't answer immediately. "I guess that's something we should talk about." She looked at Zoe. "You should know that there are risks for you, too, if we get involved. My family has... a lot of money. I've grown up knowing that there's a chance someone would try to kidnap me. And I've grown up knowing that if they did, I probably wouldn't survive. You'd be facing the same danger. It's obviously not huge — no one's ever tried — but it's there."

"That's your answer?" Zoe said, incredulous. "Because there's already a risk of dying, it's okay to add to it?"

Trina shook her head. "No. I'm saying that it doesn't greatly increase the chances. Going from no chance to a chance, that's a big change. Going from a small chance to a slightly larger small chance isn't that much of a change."

Zoe closed her eyes. "Can you just tell me, straight up, what you want, then?"

"What I want?" Trina said, slowly. "I want to be your girlfriend."

"In public?"

Trina nodded. "If you're comfortable with that."

"That's what you actively want?" Zoe asked. "Not just what you think is... I don't know... honorable?"

Trina nodded.

Zoe thought for a while, trying to decide what she should do, what she wanted to do. "They'll just feel sorry for you, you know," she said, softly. "They'll say you were so upset over Erik and Julie that you snapped and took the first thing to come along."

Trina snickered. "Trust me. By this time next week, people will have forgotten all about that. And, honestly, I don't care. They'll find out that they're wrong."

"Then... if it's what you want, it's the least I can give you," Zoe said. "I think you'll regret it, but if it's what you want, I won't tell you no."

Trina gave her a brilliant smile. "I... thank you."

Zoe shifted uncomfortably. "Okay. Well then. Ah... do your parents ever come down here?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah," Trina said. "Mom does when she's teaching me stuff, but she has her own ritual space, and Dad has his space too."

"Well... I meant, more like, if they were looking for you," Zoe said.

"Oh. Mom might, but Dad probably wouldn't."

"Ah," Zoe said. "Then maybe you ought to, um, sort of get dressed?"

Trina blinked, reddening, and Zoe had to stop herself from following the blush down to see where it stopped. "Oh. Um. Yeah. Sorry. It's not really such a big deal for us, since we work naked, and... um... would you believe I honestly forgot I wasn't dressed?"

Zoe laughed. "Yes. I would. It's such a completely you thing to do, after all."

Trina grinned at her. "If you'll, um, hand me the rest of my clothes, I'll get dressed."

Zoe hurriedly — but not too hurriedly — did so, before turning around.

"You don't have to turn around," Trina said. "I don't mind you looking."

"I... don't think that's a good idea right now," Zoe said.

"Well, okay. Up to you." Zoe could hear the grin in her voice as she added, "I hope you did like the view before?"

She'd done it intentionally, Zoe realized. Including the view when she bent over to pull her underwear down....

Zoe flushed, pulling her thoughts away from that image. "So. What were those... ah... beings? Family spirits like the Japanese believe in?"

Trina didn't answer immediately. "I've got my jeans on. It's safe to look now." When Zoe turned back, cautiously, Trina gave her a nervous smile as she buttoned her jeans. "No. Not exactly. They were... well, gods. Ceridwen, Dana, Bel, Manannan mac Lir, the Morrigan. Um. Do you know anything at all about Celtic mythology?"

Zoe blinked. "Ah... no?"

"Okay. Um. Well, they're, well, gods," Trina said.

"Gods. Okay, I can respect you believe that," Zoe said. "But if they're your gods, why does it bother you to talk about them?"

"It's not that. I'm afraid... well, see, the thing is, they aren't just gods. They're family. Bel and Ceridwen both, way back."

Zoe blinked again. That would explain why Trina was so nervous. If it was true, it meant she wasn't completely human, at least technically. Maybe. Did... um... godhood follow the laws of genetics?

"You... believe that?" she asked, cautiously.

Trina nodded. "I know it for a fact. Ceridwen and Bel both acknowledge it, and they'd know." She gave Zoe a weak smile. "I guess it's hard for you to believe, but it's the truth. That makes Dana, well, something like a many great grandmother, since she's Bel's mother."

"I... believe that you believe it," Zoe said, carefully. "And I don't really have any explanation yet for what I saw, so I'm not going to say yours is wrong. But I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with it, either, because I don't like things I can't explain. I don't like things that don't... don't fit properly into the world, because that makes it difficult. But if you want to claim kinship with things I don't understand... that's fine. As I don't entirely understand you, either, maybe it would actually explain things, and cancel out a bit."

Trina laughed. "That's one way to look at it. Um. I guess, since we're talking about this, there's something else we should discuss. Normally it wouldn't be something we'd talk about for a long time, but...."

Zoe flushed, realizing that she'd been staring at the bra and panties Trina was still holding in her hand, and looked away. "Just tell me. I'd rather know and get it out of the way, okay? In fact, consider tonight a free pass to go ahead and bring up any damned thing you think might potentially break my brain, okay? I mean, if I'm already mixed up, it can't hurt anything."

Trina laughed again. "Okay. Um. I'm... kind of obligated to have at least one kid."

"Ah. I see," Zoe said. She frowned and leaned against the wall. "Biologically?" The idea upset her and that was a surprise. And the fact that it was upsetting her upset her. And confused her. And the confusion, upset, and surprise was pissing her off.

"Yeah," Trina said, nodding hesitantly. "Um. To, you know, pass along the Gift."

"I... see," Zoe said. "Well... it's your body. I can't see that it's really any of my business. I... I like kids, anyway."

"Well... I mean... if we are together, it'd, you know, impact your life too," Trina said.

Zoe's jaw was tight. "Yes. But it's still your choice. I won't tell you what to do with your body. You should know that."

"I know," Trina said. "But... well, I mean... it's not a decision I can make unilaterally."

"Trina... you think it's something you have to do," Zoe said. "I don't know enough to even argue with you. So it's none of my business."

Trina straightened. "Yes, it is. If we're a couple, we have to do this sort of thing together. I'm not saying I'd want to go out and do it tomorrow or anything, but I also don't want to drop it on you out of the blue after we've been together for a few years." She hesitated. "Though... we might want to do it relatively soon, maybe."

"Honey... we can't do that," Zoe said, gently. "There are certain missing bits of equipment."

"Well... yeah," Trina said. "And depending on how we decide to do it, that means you'd have even more of a right to a say in it. But it would be us making the decision to do it."

Zoe closed her eyes. "There are options on how to do it?" she asked. "And... why the hurry?"

"Well, yeah," Trina said. "Artificial insemination and, you know, the natural way. And... well, I just thought... would Brenna like a little sister or brother?"

"You'd do that?" Zoe asked. "With doctors and cold tables and horrid metal stirrups and everything?"

Trina looked at her hesitantly. "It... wouldn't be my first choice, honestly. But if you... didn't like the idea of the other way, I'd rather do it that way."

"We'll... see," Zoe said, her thoughts whirling with confusion. "It's really to soon to think about that... and I don't know how I feel about it yet, to be honest. And yeah, Bren would love to have a baby in the house, but... there's no rush. Childbirth can be dangerous, especially if you're too young."

Trina nodded. "Okay. I just... I didn't want it to come up later and you think I'd been keeping it from you, or something."

"No," Zoe said. "If there's a choice about how it's done, it's okay. You know I like kids."

Trina sighed in relief. "Okay. Um. Let's see, other things I should bring up.... Oh! Remember I said Mom had friends who'd help me with getting back at the people who hurt Brenna?"

It took Zoe a second to realize what she meant. "Ah. I see. Well... I still say nothing's ever given free. But I have less worry about secrecy, I'll admit."

"It's not free," Trina said. "I still have to do the work and put the effort into it, and it takes more than you think."

Zoe frowned, remembering that Trina had stayed up all night making her the medallion— and now that she thought about it, Trina had stayed up all night making Brenna's teddy bear, which she'd said would protect her when they weren't there.

"Then... I'm not sure I want to know. Or ought to. I don't really like the thought of you hurting yourself, especially for things that are my responsibility."

"I won't actually hurt myself," Trina said. "Even tonight didn't wipe me out, it just... well, okay, it came pretty close, but that's only because I'd stayed up all night last Wednesday. If I'd been any tireder, I'd have asked Mom to help, and spread out the effort."

"All right," Zoe said. "It's your business, anyway. Your choices. But I'd appreciate it if you were... well... careful."

Trina nodded. "I will be, I promise."

Zoe smiled. "Good. And you're okay now, after tonight?"

Trina nodded. "Yeah. Just a little tired." She ducked her head at Zoe's look. "Okay, a lot tired."

"All right," Zoe said. "Then come on. You need to rest." She looked at Trina assessingly for a moment, then shook her head and slipped her arm around her waist. "Come on. I'll help."