Taught By Love

by Zoe

Disclaimer: Let's see. I'm not exactly sure how to proceed with this part, so I will simply say that Xena and Co. belong to MCA/Universal. But my girls aren't their girls, so I should be okay, right? Anyway, that's that. Oh, yeah, you can't have them.

Violence Warning: There are scenes of violence in this baby. And school violence, to boot. This story deals with violence in American schools (think Littleton, et al, and you got it) and the aftermath of that violence. Rather than present the facts of what has happened in our schools in the last 3 years or so HERE, why not just email me and I'll tell you, okay?

Language Warning: There is some potentially objectionable language, but nothing too darned bad (See? I don't even say anything bad here. Wow.). Well, at least I don't think it's all that bad, but I may be world-weary, or used to it… Nah. But don't say I didn't tell you.

Other Stuff: There isn't any, really. WAIT!! How about my addy so you can tell me if you like it or not? Whaddaya say? Here it is just in case-- zoe_c71@yahoo.com . Oh, okay. I can thank my beta-reader for her help… but she won't let me mention her name so I'm hoping she'll know that this is for her.!

Now, without further ado…

Part 3

There was a knock at the door, and Mary quickly abandoned her post at the kitchen table watching Noelle fuss with the hook-up directions. "I'll get it," she called loudly.

"Mmhm," Noelle nodded absently. Then she leaned over the top of the new washer, her back to the door.

Molly walked into the kitchen with Mary and the sight that greeted her made her breath catch in her chest. Noelle was leaning over the top of the washer, her feet off the floor. She was peering at something hidden on the back of the washer. Her dark green shorts from earlier were hiked high up on her thighs. The sight of the backs of those slim, tan thighs caused Molly to quickly lick her suddenly dry lips.

She swallowed then crept closer to Noelle and spoke softly in her ear.

Noelle, still leaned over the washer, didn't know she was being watched until a low voice spoke almost directly in her ear. "Need a hand?"

At the first sound of the voice, instead of jumping up, Noelle just collapsed in defeat on top of the washer.

"Jesus," she groaned softly. "I'm going to kill you, Mary. I'm really going to commit matricide this time. No ifs, ands, or buts. Nope. Not this time," she grumbled to herself. "'Teacher Bludgeons Mother with Dean of Discipline' film at 11:00."

Molly's ears perked up when she heard Noelle whispering softly to herself. She leaned around to peek at Noelle, her face a scant inch from Noelle's.

"What's that you're saying there, Noe?" she asked loudly.

"Jesus! Will you PLEASE SHUT UP?" Noelle yelled at her. She shook her head then let it hang down in abject misery.

Molly laughed wickedly. "What's the matter, Potter? Need help?" she asked amiably. "Nice position, by the way," she added softly with an evil grin.

Without straightening, Noelle looked up at Molly and shot back, "Yeah. Too damned bad you can't do a thing about it. Nice position, my ass," she grumbled.

"Ummm, yup, that's pretty much what I just said. Nice position for your ass," Molly agreed.

"ARRRGGGHHH!! Will you SHUT UP finally? Jesus Christ, you're making me crazy."

Noelle looked Molly in the eyes and decided to have a little fun of her own. Never wavering, she licked her lips and slowly slid off the little dryer, feeling her shorts creep higher up her thighs. She winked quickly, grinning at the look on Molly's face. Then she turned away before Molly could respond.

Molly's breathing became more rapid, her mouth went dry, and her heart began to beat faster. The sight of Noelle's tan, slim thighs caused her heart to beat in double-time. My God. She's driving me wild with this little game she's playing. Does she even know the power that she has? Molly groaned to herself.

Noelle turned to Mary, who had been watching the exchange in amusement. "How about the washer in the spare bathroom, and the dryer in the office? The dryer doesn't need a vent, all we have to do, I think, is stick a nylon over the hose to catch the lint. It'll keep the office warmer. Hey wait. Want it in your room? It will keep it warm and smelling nice." Noelle leaned a hip against the counter, waiting for Mary to answer. She folded her arms and tipped her head slightly to one side.

Mary glanced over at Molly, noticing that her eyes never left Noelle. She turned to answer her daughter. "The office will be fine. I don't want it cluttering my room." She turned to the sink to fill a big pot with water. "Why don't you two move at least one of these while I get dinner going?" Mary suggested.

Noelle nodded. "Will do." She turned to Molly to find her staring at her intently. She smiled a small, defiant grin before stepping over to the washer. She continued to look at Molly, neither one saying a word.

Finally Molly spoke up. "Let's move the washer first, okay?" she suggested as she turned to pick up the electrical cord. She paused, waiting for a reply. When none was forthcoming, she turned to find Noelle checking out HER view. I hope she likes what she sees. She smiled as she snapped her fingers under Noelle's nose. "HELLO?? Anyone in there?" she asked loudly. "Yooohoooo! You with me, Potter?"

Noelle snapped to attention. "What?! Ummm, yeah. I think. What is it that we're talking about again?" she stammered.

Molly grinned wickedly at Noelle's distraction. I bet I know just what you're thinking, Noelle. Oh yeah, I do. "Moving the washer?" She looked at Noelle closely. "You okay, Potter?"

"Ummm, just fine. Let's get this damned thing out of here. I'm starving." Noelle placed her hands on top of the washer. "Umm, well, let's see… How do we do this?" she asked Molly.

Molly grinned again. "It's got wheels, goofy. See right there?" she said, pointing to the castors under the machine. "Wheels. Makes moving it easier. Lots easier. Jesus, Potter, even CAVEMEN knew that, for God's sake."

Noelle picked up the first thing she put her hand on and threw it at Molly, hitting her square in the face with a dripping washcloth. "Smart ass! Let's wheel it out of here then, genius." She started to push the heavy appliance. When the attempt was unsuccessful, she turned to Molly. "Hello!! Stretch!! HEY! Let's have a little help here, okay?"

What's gotten into her? I know WHO wants to get into her, that's certain. Jesus, she's in a good mood. Molly grinned and wiped the water off of her face with the palm of her hand. I think I like it. I like it a lot. She's so damned adorable. And those freckles. Oh God, I'd like to taste each of them.

At the sound of Noelle's voice, Molly stepped to the washer, adding her strength to the move. Once the two women got past the tricky parts, the washer slid effortlessly into the spot that Mary had prepared earlier. It fit perfectly between the sink and the doorframe.

Noelle wiped the sweat out of her eyes, running her fingers through her hair, causing it to stick up all over the place. Her face was a deep red from the heat of the tiny room and the strain of the physical activity. She bent over to pick up the cord, plugging it into the outlet over the sink. She let the hose hang over the edge of the sink, ready to attach to the faucet when Mary wanted to use it.

Finished with that, Noelle turned to leave, and ran straight into Molly's bigger, harder body. "Oh, I, ummm… I'm sorry… you…" The rest of the words caught in her throat, never to see the light of day. She looked up into Molly's eyes, noticing for perhaps the first time, how much taller than her Molly really was.

She closed her eyes for a second, taking in Molly's scent and presence. Then she stepped back. "Why do you do that? All the damned time you scare me like that, sneaking up on me. Why?" she demanded in a voice barely above a whisper. "Why do you always look at me like that?"

Molly took a half-step closer. "Because I like to look at you. Very much," she said hypnotically.

Noelle stepped back again, running into the washer. Her hands went back to rest on the lid, her eyes never leaving Molly.

Molly took another step, standing directly in front of Noelle. She leaned over, placing her hands next to Noelle's, her face almost touching Noelle's.

Noelle's tongue darted out to wet her lips, her breathing becoming ragged. "Oh God," she whispered hoarsely.

Molly nodded. "I'm going to kiss you. Right now," she whispered seductively. "And I'm going to like it very much."

Noelle's eyes focused on Molly's lips, seeing them move but not hearing the words.

"I need to kiss you. I need to taste you," Molly repeated softly. Her eyes burned with desire, her hands ached to be buried in Noelle's hair feeling its silkiness.

"You need to kiss me? You want to?" Noelle asked absently. All of her attention was focused on Molly's mouth. On her lips.

Molly moved even closer. "Yes. Do you want me to kiss you?"

Noelle's eyebrows knit in confusion. "I… I think so. I think I'd like that," she replied in a whisper.

Molly smiled sexily. "Good. I promise you'll like it, Noelle." With that Molly bent her knees slightly, pressing her body close to Noelle's as she leaned in to claim Noelle's lips.

The kiss seared every nerve ending in Noelle's body. She closed her eyes and moaned, desire running rampant through her. Her body felt like it was on fire. Her skin tingled everywhere Molly touched her. Her body cried out for the contact of their bodies.

Molly growled in response to Noelle's moan. Her tongue came out to tentatively touch Noelle's lips, not wanting her to bolt like she did that afternoon. She stroked Noelle's lips with her tongue, coaxing Noelle to open her mouth.

She pulled back just enough to whisper, "Open for me, baby. Let me taste you."

"Oh God," Noelle whimpered. "Yes."

When Molly's lips and tongue came back to hers, Noelle's lips parted, allowing Molly's tongue entrance. At the first touch of Molly's tongue to hers, Noelle gasped, the desire burning white hot through her.

Molly slowly slid her tongue into Noelle's mouth, touching her tongue gently. Her hand came up to cup Noelle's cheek, her thumb brushing it softly. She moved her hand lower to the pulse point at Noelle's neck where she felt it beating frantically under her palm.

She pulled back, looking at Noelle. Noelle's eyes were closed, her lips wet and full and parted slightly. Her head was tilted back a bit, a soft flush covering her face and neck, making Molly's pulse race. She moved her hand around to the back of Noelle's neck, pulling her closer for another deep kiss.

Her tongue slid into Noelle's mouth again, tasting, touching, feeling. She buried her hand in Noelle's soft hair, holding her close, her tongue now claiming Noelle's mouth with insistent strokes.

Noelle broke the kiss, turning her head to the side, her breathing ragged and harsh. Her eyes were still closed. "Oh God… I can't. I'm… sorry… I can't." Then she pushed past Molly and fled the room.

Molly stood there, one hand still braced on the washer, breathing heavily. Damn it. Damn it. DAMN it. I did it again. SHIT! Move slower, Cartwright. Move slower. Molly shook her head and walked out of the bathroom towards the kitchen.

When she walked into the kitchen, the first thing she noticed was Noelle standing at the sink drinking a glass of water. Mary was at the stove stirring the contents of a big pot.

When she heard Molly come in, Mary looked at the two women. It was plain to her that something happened in the bathroom, something that had them both bothered. Hot and bothered, is more like it, she chuckled to herself. Good. It'll work out if they let it. And it will be good for them. Molly looks so lonely sometimes, like she's missing someone. Mary vowed then to include Molly in as much of her time with Noelle as possible, letting the girls spend time with one another. Time that wasn't filled with tension and stress. Although THAT kind of tension would be good for the two of them, she thought wickedly.

"Dinner's almost ready. Why don't you two set the table, and we can start on the salad," Mary suggested to no one in particular. When neither of the women moved, Mary spun around, hands on her hips.

"Now listen, both of you. You need to SNAP OUT OF IT and get that table set. Jesus, what is wrong with you?" she asked in exasperation.

"Watch your mouth, Mary," Noelle said absently as she reached above the sink for plates and bowls. She carried them to the table and set them down. "Silverware is in the left drawer," she tossed to Molly. She pulled the table from the wall, flipping up the leaf. Then she set the plates and bowls out.

Molly brought the silverware and napkins to the table. She handed them to Noelle, letting her finish.

Dinner was a somber affair with neither of the younger women volunteering anything and only answering when Mary spoke directly to one of them. Finally, Mary put down her fork and folded her hands on the table.

"Okay. Want to tell me what exactly is going on here? You two are about as talkative as my damned ZITI! Now somebody better spill it quick."

"She started it," Noelle said without looking up form her plate.

Molly looked up sharply. "Like hell I did!" she exclaimed. "I didn't do a damned thing you didn't want!"

"HA! You keep pushing and pushing!"

"Maybe now it not the best time to discuss this, Noelle," Molly said sharply.

"Damn it!" Noelle exploded. She pushed her chair back, took her plate to the sink, and stormed out the back door.

Molly got up and, excused herself to Mary, and followed Noelle outside.

"Well. That was interesting," Mary said aloud. "Certainly interesting, indeed." She got up and began to clear the table, wanting to give the girls time to discuss the issues at hand.

***** ***** *****

Molly strode down the two steps, stopping long enough to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. She looked around, quickly spotting a shadowy figure on the opposite side of the tree. She walked slowly over to the tree and leaned against it with one shoulder. She faced Noelle who leaned back against the tree looking up at the sky.

"Nice night out," Noelle said quietly after a moment.

"Mmhm." Molly wanted to reach out and touch Noelle. Touch her anywhere, just so she'd know that Noelle was for real. She sighed and clasped her hands behind her back.

Noelle turned her head to look at Molly. "Why the sigh?" When Molly didn't answer, Noelle added softly, "I'm sorry about in there. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. It was uncalled for."

Molly shook her head. "No. Don't apologize, okay? I need to say it to you. I am so sorry for pushing you. If I've made you feel like that, then I'm in the wrong, not you." Molly paused, looking down at the ground. "But I don't know that I can stop. Or that I even want to stop," she added.

It was Noelle's turn to sigh deeply. She swallowed. "I don't know that I want you to stop either," she admitted in a whisper. "It's just… I mean… oh God. I'm sorry. I won't do this. I can't. No. I'm sorry," Noelle said in a rush. She turned to leave but was stopped by Molly's hand softly touching her arm. She looked over her shoulder at the other woman.

Molly looked deeply into Noelle's eyes, into her soul. "I'll wait." Then Molly turned and strode back to the house.

***** ***** *****

By the time Noelle returned to the house, the dryer had already been moved, and Molly was gone. She sat in the rocking chair, moving back and forth slowly with her head leaned back and her eyes closed.

"Talk to me, sweetie. Tell me what you're thinking," Mary prodded gently.

Noelle sat with her eyes closed, not speaking for some time. When she did begin to speak, her eyes remained closed, and she continued to rock.

"I don't know, Mom. I don't know how to feel around her, how to act. I don't know what she wants from me," Noelle whispered. "I don't know what to do."

"Be yourself," her mother urged her. "Molly Cartwright likes you for YOU. Not for who she thinks you are. She likes YOU, Noelle. Be yourself. I suspect that Molly will wait for you."

"No. I don't want her to. You're the only thing I need, Mom. The only person I need to love."

"Oh, baby. Don't say that. You need someone in your life-"

"I already have someone. YOU. I don't need anyone else," Noelle interrupted.

"I won't always be around. You know that," Mary pointed out.

Noelle looked at her mother quickly. "NO! Don't you DARE talk like that. Don't even THINK it, Ma. Not at all," Noelle demanded. Her eyes filled with tears, her voice trembled with fright. "Please don't," she whispered.

Mary saw the tears, heard the fear. She opened her arms to her daughter, offering her love and solace.

Noelle knelt beside Mary's chair and laid her head on her lap. "Please don't leave me, Mom. Please don't. I can't do it without you," Noelle whimpered softly.

Mary stroked Noelle's hair. "Shhhh," she soothed. "It'll be okay." Silent tears ran down Mary's cheeks at the thought of her beautiful, sensitive daughter being alone someday. She ached for Noelle. Feared for her when she left her. God, please help her accept love when she finds it, she prayed fervently.

***** ***** *****

Noelle walked into school Monday morning, all of her senses assailed with the sights, sounds, and smells that she loved. Students called out greetings to one another, lockers slammed shut, and kids darted past her in excitement. Noelle probably loved this day more than any other day of the year, even the last. The students, most of them, anyway, were actually glad to be back at school. And so was Noelle.

She walked into the office to sign in, noting once again that Molly was already in the building. Her face darkened momentarily at the memory of the weekend. It brightened again when she looked up and saw Tony.

"Good morning," Tony said jovially.

"Morning." Noelle smiled a big grin. "We're back."

"Oh yeah. And I'm glad."

"So am I, Tony." Noelle grinned at Tony again as she left the office. The last thing she heard before the door closed was his call of good luck to her. She quickly made her way to the faculty room, exchanging "Hellos" with various students. She grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator and heading to her room. On the way, she called out "Merry First Day of School!" to anyone who would listen, receiving a couple of "You toos", and "Thank yous" and a bunch of adolescent grins.

Noelle walked into her room, flipping on the lights as she made her way to her desk. She sat with a sigh, enjoying the few moments of solitude before the day began. She sipped her water, mentally reviewing the things she needed to do today.

Just then the bell rang, interrupting her thoughts. Noelle set her bottle down with a grin, and went to stand outside her door to greet her students as they came into the room. Another year begins, she thought in satisfaction.

The morning was spent with her freshman homeroom, taking care of the usual first day housekeeping that both teachers and students were required to complete. She discussed the school's, and her classroom's, rules and regulations, making certain that all of her freshmen knew exactly what was going on.

In the very early afternoon, they ran a shortened bell schedule, leaving each teacher only 25 minutes with each class. Noelle was with her last class of the day, a junior honors world lit class. She was sitting on a desk, her feet on the seat discussing the classroom rules with them.

"Most of you have had me before… aren't you lucky to be back?" she asked innocently.

"Yeah right!" a voice called out good-naturedly.

"HA! Like I have it any better with YOU? Please. Don't give yourselves that much credit. Jeez," Noelle answered with a grin.

"Okay," she said, getting down to business, "tomorrow I'll be handing out Beowulf and your notebooks. We're going to get right into it starting tomorrow. So make certain you all have a writing utensil. I'm not giving them out for free this year. You're going to have to buy them," she informed her students.

"Beo tomorrow? Why so soon?" one student asked.

She snapped her fingers. "No time to waste, Kyle. We need to jump right in and get both feet wet."

"Our whole bodies is more like it," the boy replied with a smile.

"Whatever. Now, anyone have anything else?" she asked. She looked at each of her students with pride. This will be a very good class, she decided. As she looked around the room, she caught movement in the corner of her eye. She turned to see Molly pause outside of her door and look in. Just then the bell rang, but instead of scrambling for the door, not one student moved. They looked expectantly at Noelle, waiting for her to give the word.

Noelle sighed dramatically. Then she pointed out the door and said, "Go on with you." At the word, the students headed for the door, most saying good-bye to Noelle as they walked out the door.

Noelle looked to see if Molly was still around, but she didn't see her anywhere. She sat at her desk and heaved a sigh of relief. Wow. What a day. But a good day, she thought with a laugh. "I love it." She thought of that last class and the students that were in it. I'm glad that I have Tom this year again. Maybe I can keep an eye on him. He seems… different this year. Different, even, from a few days ago. I wonder if he's still going with Jilly. I better ask her tomorrow, find out what's going on with those two. But tomorrow. Not right now.

She sighed again then stood to gather the forms from earlier in the day. She straightened her desk then shut down her computer. Before leaving her room, she paused for a minute at the door, making certain that she wasn't forgetting anything. When she was certain she hadn't, she said, "Good." And she left her room.

On her way out the door ten minutes later, she wondered where Molly went. That's right. Bus duty. Okay, good. Then I won't see her.

Noelle walked to her Jimmy and, noticing the breeze, she decided to take the boat out for a couple of hours. When she arrived home, she quickly changed, phoned Mary to check in, and hitched the trailer.

It wasn't long before she was backing into the water at the launch. It was a bit more difficult to launch the boat by herself, but Noelle managed with little difficulty. She was under sail and enjoying the water not too long after that.

The breeze was light, the boat not going very fast at all, but Noelle enjoyed her time on the water nonetheless. A few hours after setting out, she noticed that the sky was darkening with the coming of night. She turned the hull back towards the launch.

After trailering the boat, Noelle decided to stop at Tarred and Feathered for an "after the first day of school" drink. She parked the SUV and trailer at the far end of the lot and, noticing that there weren't many cars, she walked into the bar.

Monday nights were quiet, at least until football season began. The lights were dim, the jukebox played softly in the background, and voices were lowered to hushed whispers. Noelle chose a stool in a dark corner of the bar. She ordered her beer and took a long drink when it arrived.

She had just put her beer down when a voice murmured low in her ear. "Hello, Noelle."

She jumped slightly at the sound, then closed her eyes briefly. Her body shivered once. Then she opened her eyes as she turned toward the voice.

"Hi," she said softly, looking into Molly's incredible blue eyes. "What are you doing here?"

Molly shrugged and held up her beer glass. "Same as you, I guess," she replied with a grin. "Ummm, mind if I sit down?"

Noelle shook her head. "No, no. Go ahead." She turned back to the bar, resting her elbows on it.

Molly sat on the stool next to her and reached for the basket of peanuts in front of them. She tossed a few into her mouth, and chewed thoughtfully. There was a long pause as both women took a drink from their beers. When she put her glass down, Molly turned slightly towards Noelle. "So what brings you here tonight?" she asked just as softly as Noelle.

"I was out on the lake, and decided to stop before going home," Noelle answered. Her finger traced patterns in the condensation on the side of her bottle.

Molly's eyes were drawn to that finger. For the first time in her life, she wished she was a bottle of beer. She watched in aroused fascination as Noelle brought her finger to her mouth to absently lick off the drop of water. Molly's nostrils flared and her eyes darkened to a deeper shade of blue as Noelle's tongue quickly came out to lick her finger. Molly groaned silently. She's got to have a clue. It's just not possible that she doesn't, Molly thought to herself. Her eyes narrowed speculatively. Time to find out.

Noelle turned as Molly scooted her stool closer. She could feel the arousal coming from Molly in waves, threatening to wash over her. Her heart rate sped up, and her mouth suddenly became dry. Then she made the mistake of looking into Molly's eyes. She swallowed convulsively at what she saw there.

Molly's eyes were searching, looking for something that Noelle wasn't sure she could give. They were a hot, piercing blue that seemed to burn into her body. And soul. It was frightening. It was arousing. She stared into those eyes, wondering what she was supposed to say, what she was supposed to do.

Molly leaned closer to her, purring in her ear. "Do you have any idea what you do to me?" she asked seductively. "Do you know what I'm feeling right now… because of you? How hot I am?" She traced light circles on the back of Noelle's neck at the base of her skull.

Noelle couldn't tear her eyes from Molly's. She shivered at the sensations that Molly's voice and finger were causing. She shook her head once, not able to answer verbally.

"I am so very hot and wet because of you," Molly continued slowly in a husky, low voice. "Right now, I want you so badly that I could take you right on this bar, in front of all these people. My hands would slide in your shorts, feel-" The rest of her words were wasted as Noelle jumped off the chair and bolted out the door. Molly tossed back the rest of her beer then followed Noelle through the door.

Molly caught up with Noelle just as she reached her Jimmy, anxious to get as far away from Molly as she could. Molly's words had scared her, more than any other words ever had. And they excited her. They made her want things that she hadn't thought she needed. Things she didn't WANT to need.

She felt Molly's hand on her arm an instant before she was spun around and pushed back against the Jimmy. Her hands went to Molly's shoulders to push her away. She felt Molly's bigger body push into hers, pushing her gently back against the door of the SUV.

Molly's head came down to nuzzle her neck, and her voice whispered seductively in her ear. "Do you? Do you know what you do to me? How badly I want you?" Molly sucked lightly on Noelle's neck, and her hands went to Noelle's hips, pulling her closer to her body.

Noelle closed her eyes at Molly's words. Her hands, the same hands that were pushing her away a second ago, were now clutching Molly's shoulders. She felt Molly's hips rub against hers lightly, and she groaned loudly. When she felt Molly's mouth on her neck, she whimpered, "No. No… I can't…"

Molly looked at Noelle. "Liar," she challenged softly. "You want this as badly as I do. I can see it in your eyes when you look at me. I hear it when you talk to me. I feel it. Right now, I feel it. You want me just as much as I want you, Noelle Potter. Now tell me. Tell me that you feel this, too," Molly demanded in a fierce whisper.

Before Noelle could answer, though, Molly claimed her lips demandingly. Her tongue thrust deeply into Noelle's mouth, teasing her, tasting her. Noelle's hand grabbed Molly's shirt, pulling herself closer. Molly's hands tightened on her hips, wanting Noelle as close as she could get her.

Noelle pulled away after a long moment, her breath coming in short gasps. Her eyes were closed, and her hands were clutched painfully into Molly's shoulders. She leaned her head back against the door, feeling Molly's mouth on her shoulder sucking gently, her tongue licking the skin there.

Molly could feel Noelle's pulse racing under her skin. She does feel it. Good. "I want you so very badly, Noelle. Can you feel it?" she asked gently. "Feel this," she whispered, taking Noelle's hand and laying it over her heart. She let go, pleased when Noelle left her hand there. She leaned in to kiss Noelle, gently this time. She nipped Noelle's bottom lip, hearing the moan that came from the younger woman.

Noelle couldn't stop the sound that came from her throat when she felt Molly's lips nip hers. Her hand slid blindly up to bury in Molly's long dark hair. The hand on Molly's chest slid down just enough to cup Molly's breast lightly, her fingers brushing the side soft as a butterfly's wings.

At the tentative touch, Molly gasped and closed her eyes. The flame inside of her burst into a raging inferno. Knowing that she was close to losing control, close to really taking Noelle right there in the parking lot, she gently moved Noelle's hand. She brought that hand up to kiss the knuckles, then she brought her mouth back to Noelle's for one last, lingering kiss.

Molly stepped away from Noelle then, desperately trying to keep a hold on that control that she felt herself losing. The sight of Noelle leaning against the Jimmy, her face flushed, her lips full and wet, almost made her forget her resolve completely. God help me, she's beautiful.

"Go home, Noelle," Molly commanded softly.

At the words, Noelle's eyes snapped open. "What?" she asked incredulously.

"Go home. Now. We can't do this," Molly answered rougher than she intended. Seeing the hurt look that rushed into Noelle's eyes, she got angry at herself.

"I'm sorry," Noelle whispered. Then she, too, got angry. "If you didn't want any of this, what the hell were you doing touching me like that? Jesus Christ, you have some nerve, Molly Cartwright!"

Molly looked at her in confusion. "What the hell are you talking about, Noelle? What do you mean if I didn't want this? How can you say that?"

"Forget it!" Noelle said, still angry. "I have to go." And she turned to get into her vehicle. Once again, Molly's hand on her arm stopped her.

She wasn't going to look at Molly, but Molly's gentle voice made her turn back around.

"Sweetheart, wait. Please don't think that. It's not at all true. I did want this. God in heaven, I still do." Molly spoke gently, softly, wanting Noelle to understand what she was saying, what she was feeling.

"Then why? Why did you stop?" Noelle asked, her voice shaking.

Molly grinned then looked around. "Look where we are, Noe. Do you really want your first time to be in the parking lot of a bar?" she teased.

"Wha- How did… But…" Noelle sputtered.

Molly chuckled and pulled Noelle into a hug. She kissed the top of her head before answering. "I wasn't positive, but you just answered any question that I had about it."

Noelle wrapped her arms around Molly's waist then buried her head in Molly's shirt, hiding her face. She felt the embarrassment burn through her, causing her face to redden. "You fink," she said softly, her voice muffled by Molly's shirt. She shook her head. "Damn, and I just gave it away. Shit," she swore softly. Feeling Molly's body shake with laughter, Noelle couldn't help but join her. She looked up at Molly with shining eyes, flushed cheeks, and a big grin.

Molly's breath caught in her chest and the laughter died as she looked into Noelle's eyes. She watched as the smile froze on Noelle's face and the look in her eyes changed.

"Kiss me… please," Noelle asked in a whisper.

Molly nodded and proceeded to do as she had been asked. She kissed Noelle gently but thoroughly. She pulled back and placed a kiss on Noelle's nose.

Noelle leaned her forehead against Molly's chest again. "I'm sorry… I… I mean…"

Molly tilted Noelle's chin up and placed a finger on her lips. "Shhh. There's no need for an apology."

Before opening the door and ushering her into her vehicle, Molly kissed Noelle one last time. Then she helped her into the Jimmy and closed the door.

Noelle got in and started the Jimmy. Then she grinned and winked at Molly before pulling carefully out of the parking lot.

Molly just shook her head and grinned back as she watched Noelle leave. Then she started walking to her own vehicle.

***** ***** *****

The days settled into weeks, and before Noelle really knew it, it was the end of September. The school had settled into a routine, the students and faculty alike finding the rhythm that invariably came with a school year. The SAP team met daily for these first weeks and they were already getting referrals from faculty members.

One startling referral was Tom Kline. Three of his teachers referred him for behavioral changes and an attitude problem. The team was preparing to call him in to talk to him, see if there where problems at home or here at school. Noelle was worried about him.

Noelle didn't see Molly that often, only the occasional passing in the hall with a quick hello. She didn't see her at SAP meetings because Molly was always in some meeting or other with Tony and the executive admin. She didn't see her outside of school much, either, only once at the grocery store and another time at the gas station because her nights were occupied by Mary and school work now.

Noelle often wondered how Molly was settling into the position, if she liked it, liked the school. She did notice that, with the students and faculty, Molly was all business. There was none of the softness and playfulness that she had seen outside of work. Her eyes were hard, her voice was cold, and her posture and demeanor were stiff. She WAS the dean of students at their high school.

Noelle missed that playfulness. Almost. She'd never admit it to Molly, but she liked her company, liked to be with her and joke with her. A part of her was glad that she very rarely saw Molly. But the other part missed her. Of course it was a very LITTLE part, but a part nonetheless.

It wasn't until one afternoon in late September that Noelle ran into Molly again. Noelle was on cafeteria duty, and she was leaning against the wall, making certain that no fights of any variety broke out. She was watching a small group of boys in the corner get rowdier and rowdier until finally a chair was knocked over as the situation escalated.

As Noelle made her way quickly through the cafeteria to the table, she noticed that one of the major players in the fight was Tom Kline. What the hell? He never would have done that last year? Wonder what's going on with him? Her thoughts changed immediately when she saw the first punch thrown. Tom hit the other boy so hard it knocked him into two other boys who were standing by watching the entire thing.

"Stop!" Noelle yelled. "Stop!" She ran the last few steps to the boys, pushing chairs out of her way as she went. Just as she reached the table, she saw Tom pick the other kid up by the shirt collar and snarl something in his face. He shook the boy back and forth uncontrollably.

"Tom! Stop, Tom! NOW!" she yelled at him. She stepped right up next to him and yelled again. When that didn't work, Noelle looked around quickly, checking on the status of the other teachers. She saw Carl Rahn fighting his way through the crowd that had gathered around the fighters. What the fuck do I do now?! Jesus, he's going to kill that other kid.

Not knowing what else to do, Noelle reached her hand out and was just about to touch Tom when a hand grabbed her arm and spun her around. It was Molly, looking very grim.

"Get out of the damned way," she hissed. Then she forcefully yanked Noelle behind her and stepped in to do her job.

Noelle could only watch in slack-jawed amazement as Molly proceeded to separate the two combatants. She stormed into the middle of the fray, and physically pulled the bigger Tom Kline off the smaller boy. Tom was so enraged at that point that he spun around and swung at Molly. Molly blocked the punch then proceeded to subdue him in just a few seconds. She had him on the floor in an arm-hold that prevented him from moving much at all before anyone really knew what was happening.

Throughout the entire exchange, the grim look on Molly's face never left. Her movements were determined and graceful. Hard and fluid. It was beautiful, Noelle thought in amazement. Wow.

Molly hauled Tom to his feet and spoke low in his ear. He gritted hit teeth together and nodded once. Molly let him go, and he rubbed his arm and shook it. She looked at both boys. "To my office now," she said commandingly.

She accompanied the two boys out of the cafeteria.

Noelle shook her head, and, noticing that students were still milling around, she yelled, "Show's over, gang. Get back to lunch." She stood where she was until the students were back in their seats. She walked the cafeteria until the bell rang a few minutes.

Noelle was on her way out of the cafeteria to her next class when Molly stopped her.

"Ms. Potter, stop in at my office after school to fill out a discipline referral."

Noelle immediately bristled at Molly's tone of voice. She felt the blood flow faster and harder through her body. She only nodded, however, and kept walking to her classroom.

Who the FUCK does she think she is? Stop in her office? Screw her. I'll stop in her damned office. Let her talk to me like that again. What a pain in my ass, Noelle fumed as she walked to her room.

Right after the bell, Noelle walked quickly to Molly's office. She strode into the office and glared at Molly. Molly was seated at her desk, writing on a piece of paper. Noelle crossed her arms as she began spoke. "Where's the form?" she said in a clipped tone.

Molly just looked at Noelle for a second, then she reached into the top drawer, pulled out a form, and slapped it on the desk. Noelle snatched it up and asked for a pen. Molly slapped that, too, on the desk.

Noelle could feel her anger starting to bubble up, like a pot of water just starting to boil. She grabbed the proffered pen and sat at one of the student desks that was in the room. She filled out the form, got up, and handed it back to Molly. She turned to leave the office.

"Wait a minute," Molly demanded. "You need to tell me what you saw earlier."

Noelle whirled around and verbally attacked Molly. "I don't NEED to do anything I damned well don't want to, Ms. Cartwright! I don't NEED to tell you anything. YOU need to stop ordering me around like I'm one of these kids. I'm NOT! So stop treating me like one!" For one brief instant, Noelle felt like stamping her foot. Which only served to get her angrier. "Thi-" Her words were interrupted by a soft, serious command.

"Close the door," Molly said softly. When Noelle made no move to obey, Molly got up, reached around Noelle, and closed the door herself.

Molly didn't sit back down. Instead, she glared at Noelle and asked harshly, "Just what the HELL were you thinking in there?!?! Jesus Christ, he would have killed you! What were you thinking?!" she asked furiously.

Noelle felt her mouth drop open at the tirade.

"Just what was that you were thinking?! He would have pounded you into the ground! You never, I mean NEVER, get between two fighters! That's the STUPIDEST thing you could have done. The stupidest!"

Noelle continued to stare at Molly incredulously, her body frozen in shock.

Molly leaned over her desk and pointed a finger at Noelle. "Not ever again," she commanded through gritted teeth.

At those last words, Noelle was spurred into action. "My God, are you completely insane?" she asked in a whisper, her eyes wide. As she continued, however, her voice got louder and stronger. "I don't know who you think you are to order me around like that, but I'm telling you right now to back off! I will do what the situation dictates, and if that means stopping a fight, then you better believe I damned well will! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to leave before I say something that you'll regret," Noelle said angrily. She turned to leave Molly's office, but, before she opened the door, she turned toward Molly again.

My God, she's incredible, Molly thought through her anger. She was totally captivated by Noelle at that moment. Noelle's eyes blazed a dark, deep green. They were hard and they conveyed her anger unquestionably. Her cheeks were flushed an angry red and her posture was rigid.

Noelle began to speak again, but the wind left her sails as she watched Molly step around her desk. As Molly approached, she took a step back and ran into the door. Her hand searched for the doorknob. Her instincts were telling her, hell, screaming at her to get out of that office NOW. The desire that raced through Noelle scared her senseless even as it excited her beyond words.

Her hand found the knob and she was about to open the door when Molly reached her. Molly brought her hand up to hold the door closed. She leaned closer to Noelle to whisper in her ear.

"You're gorgeous when you're angry," she whispered hotly in Noelle's ear. She nipped the lobe quickly, then straightened to look in her eyes. "You're so very lucky that we're in school right now," she said softly.

Noelle's mouth went dry at the gentle nip to her ear. She closed her eyes and turned her head slightly to the side, giving Molly better access to her ear.

When Molly again spoke, she opened her eyes in confusion.

"Lucky? But… why? Lucky?" she asked in bewilderment.

"Because I want to kiss you so badly. I want you so very much. And if we weren't here-"

The words were cut off by Noelle's mouth on hers. She felt Noelle's tongue peek shyly into her mouth. She groaned and pushed her hips into Noelle's.

At the pressure of Molly's hips, Noelle moved her hands to her hips, pulling her closer even as she strained to get nearer to Molly. She thrust her tongue more boldly this time. The only thing that existed in her body was the all-consuming need to feel Molly, and not just with her body. Noelle desperately needed to feel Molly with her mind, body, and soul.

At the touch of Noelle's tongue on hers, Molly's hands went to Noelle's hips, holding her still as she thrust gently against her. She moved her tongue with Noelle's, tasting the sweet taste that was all Noelle.

Noelle gasped and tore her mouth from Molly's. She turned her head to the side, taking in great gulps of air. She felt Molly's mouth move to her neck, nipping and licking the skin there. She moaned softly, her hands tangling in Molly's hair. "Ohhhh…"

At the sound, Molly brought her head up to look at Noelle. What she saw caused her heart to beat even faster than it already was. Noelle's eyes were open and she was looking at Molly with such undisguised desire that it made Molly's knees, and resolve, weak. Her face was flushed gently, and her lips were wet and parted slightly. Molly watched as her tongue came out to lick her lips, making them even wetter.

"Oh, Noe," she moaned. "I want you. Here. Now. I want you," she whispered fiercely.

Molly heard Noelle's breath catch in her throat. Noelle's eyes widened, the green of them getting lighter. Molly saw the fear steal into them and take over the passion, extinguishing it, hiding it.

"No," she whispered. "No. I won't let you run." Her hands tightened on Noelle's hips. She stared hard into Noelle's eyes, looking for the answers to her unasked questions.

Suddenly she stepped back, her hands dropping from Noelle's hips.

She began to speak softly, earnestly to Noelle. "Oh, Noe. I know that you're afraid. I see it in those beautiful green eyes every time I come too close. I don't know what happened to you to make you fear this so much, but I promise that I'll not ever hurt you." Molly paused, watching Noelle's reaction. When she saw her relax a tiny bit, Molly continued. "I want to make love with you, Noelle Potter. I want to touch you, I want to be touched BY you. I want to show you that it's an incredibly wonderful experience. But you have to want it, too. You have to want me." Molly stopped speaking, letting Noelle digest her words.

Noelle shook her head. "I… I want… you. So very- No! No, I can't do this. I can't!" Noelle began to shake. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I have to… to go." She turned to leave, but Molly stopped her.

"Wait. We need to talk about this. All of this. We nee-"

"No! WE need nothing. YOU may need this, but I don't. I have my mother. That's ALL that I need! I won't let myself be hurt again. NOT AGAIN! So don't tell me what I need. DON'T!" Noelle snapped.

Molly stepped back in bewilderment. She didn't respond because she didn't know HOW to respond. Noelle's reaction was so intense, so sudden, that she didn't know how to respond.

Noelle pointed a shaking finger at Molly. "Not another damned word. Not one more." Then she left the office, leaving the door ajar.

Molly shook her head then sat down, deep in thought. What the hell just happened? What the fuck is she talking about? Jesus Christ. I want her so goddamned badly. She makes me crazy, I want her so badly. I want to be inside of her, on top of her, beside her. I want so much. Will I ever get that chance to show her? Jesus Christ!

Molly shook her head again, then closed her office, locking the door after her.

***** ***** *****

Noelle drove quickly to her mother's house. She strode up the sidewalk and let herself in, not bothering to call for Mary, knowing that she'd be in the kitchen. Noelle walked through the small house, going straight to Mary to kiss her cheek. "I missed you, Mary."

Mary smiled slightly, noting the strain in Noelle's voice, the tension in her posture. Wonder what's bothering her? Ahhh, I bet it's Molly again. I've not seen her this worked up for this long since… well, then. Aloud, she asked, "Everything okay, Noelle?"

"Fine. Everything is just fine," she said shortly.

Mary smiled again. "You were never very good at keeping the truth from me, sweetie," she prodded gently.

Those few words from the person she loved most in this world broke the dam that held her emotions in check. Noelle got up from her chair, stalked to the cabinets, and began yanking them open and slamming them shut. "I swear to GOD, she makes me NUTS! She makes me completely crazy, Ma. Completely damned crazy! Today… today she tried to tell me, tried to tell ME what to do! Jesus Christ, I could kill her! She makes me crazy!"

"Sit down," Mary said patiently. "Come talk to me."

"No," Noelle said petulantly. "I don't want to." She continued to slam the cabinets until Mary had enough.

"Sit down!" Mary said sharply. "I've had it with the damned slamming now."

Noelle looked at her mother in surprise. She didn't say a word but sat down across from her mother again. She looked closely at Mary for the first time since she arrived. She noticed with some alarm that Mary was unusually pale, her skin looking clammy and ashen, and she seemed out of breath.

"Mom? Mom? Are you okay? Jesus. You look like hell. Are you okay?" she asked quickly.

Mary waved a hand dismissively. "I'm fine. Thank you, but I'm fine. Now tell me what is going on inside of you, Noe."

Noelle let her mother's condition slide for the time being. She shrugged at her mother. "I don't know. Nothing. Nothing, I guess."

"She's lonely," Mary stated softly.

"What? Are you crazy? Molly Cartwright is a lot of things, but lonely isn't one of them. Not lonely at all."

"Have you taken the time to really, REALLY look at her? Look into her eyes?"

Noelle looked down at her hands, not knowing what to say. "I… I don't… I wasn't… oh hell, I guess I haven't taken the time. Shit."

"Mmhm. Thought so. But look at her, Noe. Really LOOK at her. Look into her eyes. She looks so lonely, so sad sometimes. I think she needs a friend." Mary hoped to appeal to Noelle's inborn sense of caring and kindness to get her to turn her attentions to Molly.

Mary wanted Noelle to have someone, someone to lean on and hold onto when the time came. She saw the way Molly looked at her daughter. She saw the way that Noelle acted, and reacted, around Molly. She knew they would be good for each other. The little that she knew about Molly, she knew that Molly would help ground her daughter, help keep her head, and heart, from being hurt by the world. She knew her daughter would lift Molly out of the world that she seemed to put herself in. Yes, they will be good for each other. If only they give it a chance.

"Give it a chance, Noe. Give Molly a chance. She's not like him. She's not." Mary said insistently.

"How do you know?" Noelle asked in a shaky voice. "How CAN you know that?"

"I just do," Mary whispered.

Continued in Part 4.

Back To Main Page