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 4

The following Monday morning, Noelle walked into the office to check in and talk with Tony for a moment. She saw him in his office, and knocked on the doorjamb, waiting for him to acknowledge her and call her in.

Tony looked up and smiled when he saw it was Noelle. "Come on in, Noelle," he said amiably.

Noelle walked into his office and took a seat, sitting on the edge. "Morning, Tony. I hope your weekend was good?"

"It was. And yours?"

"Good, thanks. But this isn't why I'm here."

Tony grinned. "I didn't figure it was. So what's on your mind?" he asked her.

"Two things, actually. The first is my assistant. I need that assistant coach. Open gym starts tonight, and I need an assistant."

Tony smiled an evil grin, a wicked gleam in his eye. "Oh, you'll have an assistant, and she'll be there tonight," he said with a chuckle.

Noelle narrowed her eyes. "What the hell is so damned funny?" she asked suspiciously. "Who the hell is it, Tony?"

The gleam in his eyes shone brighter. "You'll see tonight."

"It better not be that chucklehead from over Jackson. I'll kill you both," she warned.

"No, no. Definitely not Dottie," Tony replied, knowing exactly who Noelle was talking about.

"Damned lucky," she said in mock severity. Then her face grew more serious, her eyes becoming concerned. "Tom Kline."

At the mention of the name, Tony nodded, the severity of the situation taking over their banter. "I heard from Molly. He's really having a bad time of it this year, isn't he?"

Noelle nodded. "Jilly, his girlfriend, at least she was last year, plays ball, and I'd like to talk to her after gym tomorrow night. Is that okay?"

Tony looked at Noelle closely. "There's something you're not telling me. I'll let it slide for now, but I expect to be kept informed of any potential problems. I don't want to be kept in the dark. I can't be if I ever have to cover our asses with any of this. Talk to her. Find out what you need to, but make sure you relay it back to me."

Realizing that Tony slipped into his principal mode out of necessity, Noelle nodded. "I will do that. Thank you for letting me do this, Tony. I'll definitely let you know what happens." Noelle paused, looking out the window in his office, then looked at Tony. "I worry that… well, I'll check it out, okay? Hopefully it's unfounded."

"Let's hope so, but let's make certain we're prepared for the worst case."

Noelle nodded. "I'll talk to you tomorrow morning, how's that?"

"Perfect." Tony stood up, escorting Noelle to the door. He grinned at her and said, "Have fun tonight."

Noelle snorted. "Yeah. She better be good, Tony. That's all I have to say."

Tony grinned and waved as she walked out of the office.

On her way to her classroom, Noelle saw Jilly Michaels. She walked over to where she was with her friends. "Hey, Jilly. C'mere." She waved the girl over to her. "Hey. How's it going this year, Jill?" she asked the girl gently.

"Hey, Coach P." The sophomore looked down at her feet which she shuffled back and forth. "I, ummmm… I guess okay." Jilly shrugged and looked at her favorite teacher. "Open gym tonight, right?" she asked, changing the subject.

Noelle looked at her for a moment, then nodded. "6:30. Don't be late. You know what happens," she reminded with a grin.

Jilly smiled. "Whistle sprints, and lots of them… yeah, I know. I won't be late."

"Good. See you tonight, then." Noelle turned to go, but stopped. "Oh. I need to talk to you after gym, okay? It'll only take a minute."

Jilly nodded then returned to her friends.

Noelle continued to her classroom wondering exactly how to broach the subject with the young girl.

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

Noelle sat on the bottom of the bleachers tying her high-tops tighter, keeping an eye on the girls as they shot around and warmed up. When she finished, she looked at her watch and saw that it was exactly 6:29, therefore time to start. She stood on the bleacher and blew her whistle, signaling to the girls to hustle over to where she stood.

Damned assistant. I'm going to kick Tony's ass tomorrow. Shit!

Noelle turned her attention to the girls gathered around her looking expectantly at her.

"Sit down. We've a few things to go over before we get started." Noelle watched as the girls settled down, waiting for them to be still before she continued. She looked at them expectantly. "Okay. We all know why we're here. The season's going to start soon, and we need to get our butts into some semblance of order before that happens. We missed the state title last year by that one game… and it's not going to happen this year." She paused, letting the girls think about last year for a minute. "We'll have an assistant, but I'm not sure who or when. Don't let's forget what happens to all of us if one of us is late. Now let's get a move on. Twenty laps…"

Noelle hopped off the bleachers and began a slow jog around the perimeter of the court, the girls falling into a pack behind her. She set an easy pace for this first day of open gym, knowing that it would be another couple of weeks before she could set a faster pace.

The group was just finishing up the warm-up laps when the gym doors opened and a lone figure walked in quietly. Noelle stopped center court and looked over at the person. A vague feeling of familiarity washed over her at the sight of the woman. Her eyes widened as the woman got closer. You gotta be kidding me? No… no way. No fucking way! I'll kill him. I swear to God, I'll kill him. Noelle's eyes narrowed as Molly Cartwright walked over to the group.

Oh boy, she looks pissed, Molly thought, seeing the look on Noelle's face.

"Coach, I'm-" Her words were cut off as Noelle turned from her towards the group.

"Okay, it appears our new assistant coach is here. Late, but here…"

Noelle's words were met with groans and muttered words from the girls trying to catch their breath.

"Line up for whistle sprints," Noelle ordered. She looked at Molly and spoke curtly, "You and I first, Ms. Cartwright."

Molly looked at her suspiciously. "What exactly is a whistle sprint, Coach?" She was almost afraid to hear the answer, but, never one to bow down from a challenge, she waited patiently for Noelle's answer.

"Jilly, Sara, Missy, line up with me and let's show Ms. Cartwright what a whistle sprint is."

The three girls jogged with Noelle to the baseline while the rest of the girls cleared off the court. The four runners spaced themselves out along the line, giving each other plenty of room.

Noelle blew her whistle and the four females started sprinting down the court. About 3/4s of the way to the other baseline, Noelle blew the whistle again and the four of them pivoted and sprinted back towards their starting place. Almost to the baseline, Noelle whistled again, and they all pivoted again. This continued, the whistles coming closer and closer together until Noelle blew the whistle twice and they sprinted to the end.

The four players walked around, panting, trying to catch their breath. Noelle walked over to Molly. "Whi… whistle… sprints," she panted. She turned and yelled to the group. "Line up!"

She looked at Molly over her shoulder. "You're with… the first group."

Her breathing was rapidly returning to normal. Noelle peered at Molly, waiting for her to object, her arms crossed over her chest and her nostrils flaring slightly from the sprint.

She thinks I'm going to back out, doesn't she? Yeah, well, I've got something to say about that. I'll run until I drop, Molly thought stubbornly.

She moved to line up with the other 3 girls, raising a dark eyebrow at Noelle. Before Noelle started them, however, she spoke to the group.

"You all know that normally we only do two of these and two back-pedaling before we move on, right?" Molly watched Noelle wait for the nods and agreement. "Michelle, what happens when someone is late?" she asked a tall girl in the back of the group.

"We double up on everything, Coach," came the answer.

"Double up. That's right. So, because Ms. Cartwright was late, we do double."

Molly didn't miss the fact that Noelle said WE, not YOU. From what she just saw so far and from what she knew about her, Molly suspected that Noelle did every drill, every play, everything that her team did. As her words sank in, though, Molly opened her mouth to protest. "Now wait a second, Coach. I was late. I'm a coach, for pete's sake! You can't make them do double because of me. That's not fair!"

Noelle's face got harder. "Make it five." She stared at Molly, waiting for her to say something more. She vaguely heard the groans and moans of the girls in the background, she was so concentrated on this battle of wills.

Molly looked at her incredulously. "You've got to-"

"No, she's not, Ms. Cartwright. Now please shut up!" came a reply from somewhere behind her.

Molly narrowed her eyes at Noelle and set her jaw, determined to keep her mouth shut and talk with Noelle after the girls left. Lost in her thoughts as she was, she wasn't prepared when Noelle blew her whistle for her group to start.

Damn her, Molly thought testily as she sprinted down the court.

After Noelle, Molly, and the girls ran through all of the warm-up sprints five times each, Noelle divided the girls into two teams for a game. She put herself in charge of one team and Molly in charge of the other. She walked over to Molly with the pinnies in her hand.

"You girls get to be pinnies. We'll take them next time. Run anything you can with them. This is only for fun, nothing too important. Make sure everyone gets in," she said, then she tossed the bag of pinnies to Molly and jogged to her team.

The two teams consisted of 7 girls each, plus the coaches, Molly for one team, Noelle for the other. It started out as a friendly game, but it soon turned into something more between the two women. They started playing like it was for the Olympic Gold Medal, each woman trying to out-do the other.

What Noelle lacked in height, she made up for in speed and determination. But Molly wasn't about to be out-done by the little dynamo. When she got the ball, which was often, because once her team found out she could sink a lay-up better than anyone in the gym they fed the ball to her as often as possible, Molly simply held the ball over her head and Noelle was unable to get to it.

Once the ball hit the floor, though, Noelle quickly stole it from the taller woman and sprinted down the court for an outside bank shot. She also made a fair number of assists to Missy, the tallest girl on her team. Noelle played fair, she made sure each of the girls on her team had the opportunity to play, but she also played with a vengeance, despite her words to Molly earlier.

Right at 8:30, Noelle put a stop to the game. She waved the group to center court and waited until everyone was seated and quiet, Molly included.

"Thank you. It was a good night tonight. I think we'll have a good season this year, and I'm looking towards the title this season. We'll do it." Noelle paused and looked at her team. They were a bedraggled looking group, all sweaty and tired. Then she grinned. "I'll take care of the balls tonight. Go home. You ladies look exhausted. See you Thursday."

With that, the girls got up and trotted to the locker room. Noelle shook her head and walked to get the ball cart so she could gather the balls.

"Coach? You wanted to see me?" a young voice asked behind her.

Noelle turned to see Jilly Michaels standing behind her, looking nervous.

"Oh, hey, Jilly. Yeah, I wanted to talk with you for a minute," Noelle replied. Wanting to help the young girl feel less on the spot, Noelle suggested they gather the balls while they chatted.

"How are things going with you and Tom this year? You still seeing him?" she asked Jilly.

"Uh, well… yeah. We're still together. Why?" Jilly walked a few steps away to pick up another ball. She brought it back to the cart, careful not to make eye contact with her coach.

"Just wondering, I guess," Noelle commented. She paused, picking up a ball and putting it on the cart. "Has he… how has he been? He doesn't talk to me like he did last year, and I was just kind of worried, is all," she continued casually.

Jilly looked at her, fear in her eyes. "I… he… he's fine," she stammered. "He… ummm, he's having some… trouble at home. I… he's not…" Jilly's voice died. She looked down at her hands.

Noelle waited for the girl to continue.

"He's not like he used to be, Ms. P. Sometimes… sometimes he scares me," she said softly, still not looking at Noelle.

Noelle perked up in alarm. "What do you mean, he scares you? What does that mean, Jilly? How? When?" she asked rapidly.

Jilly looked at her nervously. "Forget it. Just forget it, okay? It's nothing. Never mind. I have to go now, my dad is waiting." With that, the girl ran to the locker room.

Noelle slammed a ball on the rack, swearing at her stupidity. "How the hell could I do that? Jesus, you'd think I would have some sense. Fuck," she swore softly.

Shaking her head, she continued to pick up the stray balls.

She heard someone dribbling a ball, and, expecting it to be one of the girls, she shouted over her shoulder, "I said go home! It's a school night."

When she got no reply, Noelle turned to see who wasn't listening to her.

"Figures," she muttered under her breath, seeing that it was Molly who wasn't listening. She shook her head and walked around the gym to finish gathering the balls. When the only ball left was the one that Molly was shooting, she jogged over to her. Just as Molly was about the go up for the shot, Noelle snuck under her arm and stole the ball from her. She jogged a few feet away, dribbling the ball and looking at Molly.

Molly had watched the conversation between the girl and her coach. Let's face it, I tried to eavesdrop on them, she admitted to herself. She saw Noelle's reaction to Jilly's abrupt departure. Wonder what that's about? She was shaken out of her thoughts when Noelle spoke to her.

"You up for a little one-on-one, Cartwright?" Noelle challenged saucily. "You know, don't tell anyone, but I was keeping score. I had you by 6 points at the end."

Molly looked at the little spitfire speculatively. "By 6, huh? Well, let's see if that won't change right now." She dropped low into a defensive stance, her weight on the balls of her feet, her hands up and loose by her sides. "Bring it on, Potter," she said with a wicked grin.

Noelle dropped the ball to the floor and started dribbling it. She walked slowly towards Molly who was guarding the lane, hips swaying and a big grin plastered on her face. "You'll be sorry you said that, Stretch."

Molly shook her head and grinned back. "Nu-uh. You'll be sorry you challenged me, Potter. Real sorry," she said softly.

Suddenly Noelle pointed behind Molly and screamed, "Oh my GOD!! Look!!" without pulling up her dribble. When Molly spun around in alarm to look where Noelle pointed, Noelle went in for the easy lay-up.

She got her own rebound as Molly just stood there staring at her with her mouth open. "I can't believe you'd cheat like that," she said softly, as Noelle dribbled to half court.

"Winners," Noelle sang as she turned at half court.

Molly narrowed her eyes. "You are toast, Potter," she growled.

"Yeah, yeah. Promises, promises." Noelle grinned and jogged to the top of the key. She waited for Molly to d-up on her, knowing she'd do just that from watching her during the game. As soon as Molly got close, Noelle faked right, her strong side, then spun left and went in for another lay-up.

After getting the ball and jogging to half court again, Noelle switched the ball to her left hand, signaling that she'd most likely go left, then she faked and spun opposite again, breezing past Molly and pulling up for the jumper.

After four of these outside shots in a row, Molly wised up to Noelle's strategy. Fake, spin, pull-up jumper. The fake went both ways randomly which made it difficult to tell which way it was going each time. Finally, after the fourth shot, Molly decided that she'd simply fake and spin with Noelle, and when Noelle went up for the shot, she'd cram the ball down her throat.

It worked beautifully. Noelle dribbled in close, faked right, spun left, and was mighty surprised when the ball was totally rejected. So surprised, in fact, that Molly was able to pick up the ball, dribble to half court and back for the easy shot.

As she dribbled back to half court, Molly crowed, "Winners!"

Within a few minutes, Molly was able to even the score.

She THINKS she's going to win, Noelle thought. We'll see. We'll see about that.

The game continued in almost complete silence. The only sounds were the squeaks of their high-tops on the gym floor, the sound of the ball as it hit the floor or the backboard, and the occasional grunt from one of the women.

The game ended finally when, after having the ball stolen from her, Molly fell on the floor, holding her knee and rolling back and forth.

"Owww! Oh my God. Ohhh, it hurts so much," she moaned loudly.

Noelle pulled up short. "Shit!" She ran back to where Molly lay, letting the ball roll near the basket. She put her hand on Molly's thigh. "My God. Are you okay? Jesus, what the hell hap-"

Her words were cut short when she was knocked on her butt by Molly's bigger body.

Molly scrambled to her feet, scooped up the ball, and made the shot.

Noelle sat where she was, her head hanging down. "I can't BELIEVE I fell for that," she commented, shaking her head. "I can't believe it."

Molly walked over to her, crouched down in front of her, and tilted her chin up. She looked gravely into Noelle's eyes, the look on her face very serious. Until she said softly, "I won."

Then a huge grin broke out on her face. Molly got up and danced around. "WOOOO!! I beat Potter. I beat Potter!" she sang as she danced around in victory.

Noelle got to her feet. "Oh shut up, would you?" she complained grumpily. She walked to where Molly was dancing, punched her in the arm, and picked up the ball. After putting the ball on the rack and the rack in the closet, she yelled across the gym to Molly. "Go home! We go again on Thursday." Without saying good-bye, she walked into the office in the locker room to get her things together.

She put her coat on, flipped the lights off, and turned to leave the office. Before she was full aware of it, though, she ran into a bigger body.

"What the he-," she yelped. Long, strong arms went around her, pulling her closer to the body.

"Whoa," a familiar, husky voice said. "Careful."

Noelle's hands automatically went up to Molly's chest to steady herself. She looked up, finding Molly's face in shadow. She couldn't see the piercing blue of her eyes, but she could feel them. Feel them looking deep into her soul.

"Oh! Ummm, sorry," Noelle said as she moved away from Molly. She took a step back into the office. "We need to go now. The custodians will be here to clean up soon." Instead of leaving, though, Noelle stood still, looking at Molly.

"I know. I only wanted to know if you wanted to go to Tarred for a quick drink?" Molly watched the hesitation cross Noelle's face. "Come on," she coaxed. "We need to talk about this coaching thing. I see that Tony didn't tell you that I was your assistant, eh?"

Noelle chuckled. "No, the shit. I'll get him back, though. Ummm, okay. We should talk about this, your role, all that. I'll meet you there."

Molly grinned. "Good. And I'll walk out with you." She stepped out into the locker room, waiting for Noelle to zip up her coat and grab her gym bag. When Noelle locked the door to the office, the two women walked out of the gym and into the parking lot.

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

Noelle pulled her chair closer to the table, reaching for her glass. She took a sip of the vodka and cranberry, and put it down. She looked around the bar, noting that it was full for a Monday night.

We better call Jilly in to talk with her. I don't like how she answered my questions, Noelle thought to herself as she waited for Molly to join her at the table.

And just then she did. Noelle watched as Molly sat with a surprising grace, considering her body size. And consider her body Noelle did.

Although she had worn sweatpants for gym that night, Noelle could tell that her body was velvet-covered steel. Her skin was soft and warm over muscles that were hard and strong. Hell, who am I kidding? I FELT it damn near up close and real personal, she thought wryly. Let's see something…, she added wickedly.

After Molly settled herself, Noelle jumped right into the details about coaching with her.

"I noticed that you wore sweats tonight. That's fine, but we all normally wear shorts, and I think it'd be a good idea if you did, as well. You know… the whole "team" thing. That would be the reason for the entire team being penalized when someone's late. We're a team, we need to work like a team, and to do that, we need to feel like a team," Noelle began seriously, looking right into Molly's eyes.

Molly took a sip from her bottle as she listened to Noelle speak. "Shorts," she repeated. "Okay, I can do that… but isn't that a bit odd? What's it supposed to do, help us play better?" she asked suspiciously.

"No. I just want to see your legs," Noelle said with a wicked grin.

Molly sputtered, almost choking on the peanuts she had just put in her mouth. Holy shit! Where'd THAT come from?

She wiped her mouth with a napkin, then raised an eyebrow at Noelle. "You want to see my legs, huh?" she asked. Her voice dropped to a deep, sexy whisper as she leaned forward. "All you have to do is ask and I'd be delighted to show you my… legs," Molly finished.

Noelle leaned forward, too, her voice dropping lower. "As tempting as that is, Molly Cartwright, I'll have to take a rain-check on that one."

"That rain-check will be good anytime you want it to be good, sweetheart," Molly said hypnotically.

Noelle's heart beat faster at Molly's words. "I bet it will be."

"You can take that to the bank, Coach Potter," Molly agreed huskily.

Noelle leaned further forward and licked her lips seductively. Then she smiled a sexy little grin. "Don't be late next time or we'll all run again," Noelle said in the same voice that she had just been using to flirt with Molly.

Molly blinked in shock, then grinned as she sat back in her chair. "You're funny, Potter. Really funny," she said with a laugh. "I think I like you."

Noelle sat back, too. "Good. It'll make the season go smoother." Noelle paused, trying to figure the best way to tell Molly what she had to tell her. "Okay, I need to be serious for a second here."

Molly raised an eyebrow. "You can do serious?"

"Ha ha. Yes, I can, thank you very much. Ummm… I really hope you can coach, Molly. You play well so I'm betting you played college ball, right?"

Molly nodded. "All four years, Penn State main."

Noelle whistled softly. "Wow. Good. Okay, so that's good."

"And why do you ask?"

"Well… okay, it's like this… you see… I… well…," Noelle stammered.

Molly was intrigued. She'd never seen Noelle this out of sorts. "Just spit it out, Potter. Jesus, it can't be all THAT bad," Molly said in exasperation. Then she narrowed her eyes, thinking about to whom she was talking and reconsidered that last statement. "Can it?"

"Well, you see… ummm…" Noelle blew her breath out in frustration, causing her bangs to poof up. "Shit."

Molly leaned forward again. "Come on… you can tell me, Noelle. I promise not to get scared," Molly teased the smaller woman.

Noelle looked at Molly and sighed. Then she began to speak quickly, her words finally running together to form one giant word. "Okay, it's like this… I sort of, ummm… kind of… well…" Noelle took a deep breath and just decided to take the plunge. "Hell, I get thrownoutofgamesandIneedanassistantwho-" Her word was cut off by Molly's laughter.

Molly laughed loudly. "Jesus, Noelle… slow down. I can… I can barely understand you," she said as her body shook with laughter.

Noelle smiled, and she felt her body relax of its own accord. She settled back in her chair. "I'm sorry," she said with a grin. "It's really not all that terrible, but it's kind of… stupid, actually."

Molly stopped laughing and looked hard at Noelle. "Nothing you say or do is stupid, Noelle. Nothing," she said intently.

Noelle looked down at her glass and rubbed the wood of the table with one fingertip. She sighed softly before speaking again. "I have a… tendency… to get… thrown out of games," Noelle said hesitantly. "The team needs someone who can stay more level-headed than me. There are some times when I won't be there, so I need someone… someone who'll be able to coach the girls." Noelle looked up at Molly. "They want to play well. They want to win. Can you help them?"

Molly smiled gently at Noelle. Then she nodded. "I can, yeah," she said sincerely. Then she arched a dark brow. "But… thrown out of the game? Isn't that a bit… extreme, Potter?" she asked sarcastically then, trying to lighten the mood.

Noelle laughed. "Yes, definitely extreme," she agreed. "But I'm sure that when Tony asked you to coach, he warned you about me. Something to the effect, "You'll have to see for yourself", I bet."

"Experience you, is more like it, but, yeah, you got it."

The two women laughed together for a short time. Noelle glanced at her watch then. "Oh wow. I need to go. I have to get a few things ready for tomorrow," she said regretfully. She drained the rest of her drink and stood up. "Thank you," she said softly as she pushed her chair in. She smiled at Molly. "I had fun playing with you tonight."

Molly raised an eyebrow at that last statement. "You can play with me any time you want," she said wickedly.

"I didn't… I mean…." Noelle stammered, feeling herself blush. "You know… I… oh hell. Forget it. I'm leaving." She turned to leave, but stopped when she heard Molly stand up.

"I'll walk out with you," Molly offered as she put on her coat and gloves.

Noelle rolled her eyes. "Oh, thank you!" she exclaimed dramatically.

Molly smiled and rolled her eyes. "You really are something else, you know that?" she asked as they walked to the door.

Noelle appeared to give that statement very serious consideration. She looked at Molly very gravely. She nodded, her eyes big and serious. "Yes. Yes, I know that."

Then she grinned.

Molly shouted with laughter and gave Noelle a small shove out the door. Molly shortened her stride to match Noelle's. As they walked down the street, Molly asked, "So just how often do you get thrown out of a game?"

"A lot." Noelle paused for a moment. "Let me put it to you this way: last year the faculty ran a pool… well, two actually."

"Ummm, what kind of pools?"

Noelle smiled. "How soon and how often."

"Oh. Wow. And who won?"

"Carl with game three, and Mike Johnson with an even dozen."

Molly whistled softly. "Wow. That's, ummmm…"

"Over the top," Noelle finished for her. "Yeah I know." Then she stopped walking and turned to Molly. "It's not something I intend on doing. I mean, I don't set out to get thrown out," she said earnestly. "Really. I… it's… I just have a wicked temper when it comes to stupid people. And," this they finished together, "referees are stupid."

Noelle laughed. "Not all the time, but yeah."

Molly simply looked at Noelle then. She just stood, taking in the sight of the woman before her. God… she's adorable, Molly thought. Noelle was looking at her, her eyes bright and sparkling, the look in them making Molly want to smile… and kiss Noelle breathless.

Noelle's cheeks and nose were red from the cold, the color serving to deepen the green of her eyes. A wide smile spread over her face. Molly's eyes wandered briefly to Noelle's hair. The color was so unlike her own, and, although it was short, much shorter than hers, it was… Noelle. It was all over the place from playing ball earlier and the wind blowing it right then. A streetlight back-lit Noelle, highlighting her hair and spreading a halo around her. In Molly's eyes, Noelle was stunning. And she wanted to kiss her so very much. Her hands clenched into fists at her side to keep from reaching for her.

"You better go," she whispered abruptly, the look in her eyes intense and hard.

Noelle stopped smiling. "What? But… why?" she asked in confusion. "I don't… I don't understand."

"Please. Just go," Molly growled, much more harshly this time.

Noelle took a step back. "But… I'm sorry… I… I'm…"

Oh God, Molly groaned silently. Her hands came up of their own will to touch Noelle, but she stopped suddenly when she saw Noelle flinch and turn her head away. She barely heard the whispered "I'm sorry."

"Oh no… sweetheart, no. It's… I'm not… I won't hurt you. Not ever," she said gently. Her hands moved to cup Noelle's face softly. "Look at me. Please," she begged.

Noelle's eyes hesitantly came to Molly's.

Molly almost melted at the look in her eyes. It was sad, bewildered… and very frightened. "Please don't be afraid," she whispered to Noelle. "What? What's made you this scared? Talk to me, Noelle," she urged the smaller woman quietly.

Noelle looked away for a minute, her eyebrows knitting in anxiety. "Nothing," she finally answered softly. "I… I don't want to… talk about it."

Molly used one of her thumbs to lightly caress Noelle's lips as she spoke. When she stopped, Molly continued to stroke her lips, speaking softly. "I wasn't angry. Not at all, Noe. I want to touch you so badly right now. I want to taste you. Kiss you. But, for God's sake, we're in the middle of a street in small-town America. We can't do that here. As much as I want to touch you right now, right now I can't," she explained. "But I was not angry," Molly emphasized.

Noelle looked into Molly's eyes, eyes that seemed to be gazing deep into her soul. "Come home with me," she heard herself ask barely loud enough for herself to hear. I just asked Molly Cartwright to come home with me. Have I lost complete hold of my rudder? Her thoughts were drawn back to Molly when she smiled at her. She… amazes me. "Please."

"Oh, Noelle. I want that so very much. So very much. But… are you sure?" Molly asked gently. Molly held her breath, waiting for Noelle's answer.

Noelle, instead of answering, reached up to bury her hands in Molly's dark hair and pull her head down to kiss her. She kissed her briefly, then let her go, looking around quickly. Then she looked back into Molly's eyes.


Then Noelle turned and strode quickly to her car.

Molly followed her home, parking her Rover a discreet distance from Noelle's house. She quickly walked the short distance to Noelle's house.

Noelle waited for her on the porch, watching her stride down the street with purposeful steps. Molly is… she's… wow. Unable to form a coherent thought, Noelle simply watched her approach. Her breath quickened as Molly got closer. When she mounted the porch steps, Noelle quickly licked her lips before smiling softly.

Molly took the steps two at a time and stopped within touching range. She just stood there, looking deeply into Noelle's eye, her hands loose at her sides. She had to resist the urge to reach for Noelle with every fiber of her being. She so badly wanted to touch Noelle, crush Noelle to her, feel Noelle with every part of her that could feel. But she just stood still.

Noelle looked determinedly into Molly's eyes. She never took her eyes from her as she brought her hand up slowly to cup Molly's face. A bolt of lightening raced through Noelle at the first touch of her hand on Molly's face. The look on her face softened from determination to wonder as she caressed Molly's cheek softly and watched her eyes close.

Molly closed her eyes briefly at the touch of Noelle's hand on her face. She leaned into the caress for a moment before opening her eyes to look into Noelle's. The faint light from the stars shone on her, causing Molly to think of that old Air Supply song. 'And all the stars in the sky are taking aim at your eyes like a spotlight'… they are, she thought in awe. She's amazing. So beautiful.

Noelle held her face for only a moment more before turning to unlock the door. She stepped inside, expecting Molly to follow. Molly smiled. I like her… I really like Noelle Potter, she thought warmly as she stepped into Noelle's house for the first time. The first thing that greeted Molly was… cinnamon. Noelle's house smelled like cinnamon. Molly suddenly knew that she'd forever associate cinnamon with the sweetness that was Noelle Potter.

Noelle hung up her coat and smiled at Molly. "It's strong, I know. But… well, I like it," she said softly, seeming to read Molly's mind. Noelle reached up to take Molly's coat, and Molly noticed her hands were trembling badly.

Instead of giving her coat to Noelle, Molly took her hands and held them, her thumbs rubbing the backs of her hands soothingly. "We don't… have to do this," she offered to Noelle. She saw Noelle swallow nervously.

Noelle stepped closer to Molly, freeing her hands and moving them to the zipper of her coat. She kept her eyes on her hands, knowing Molly was staring hard at her with those incredible blue eyes. She slowly unzipped Molly's jacket, the rasping sound the zipper made loud in her ears. When the coat hung open, Noelle reached her hands up to push it off, brushing her hands against Molly's breasts as she went.

At the light, accidental touch, Molly's eyes closed and she sucked in her breath sharply.

At the sound, Noelle's eyes flew to Molly's face, and she dropped her hands, stepping away from Molly.

"I… I'm… sorry," she stammered. She looked down at the floor before continuing. "I… I didn't… mean to… do that…" she stumbled.

"Oh, Noelle. Honey… you don't understand. That one tiny touch just made me feel so incredibly good, that I can't begin to wonder what the rest of it's going to be like." As she spoke, Molly took one of Noelle's hands, and brought it to her breast, cupping both their hands around the fullest part of it.

Molly swayed slightly at the contact, the desire racing like a freight train through her body. Her heartbeat quickened, and she clenched her jaw against the onslaught. Already she felt any control she had slipping away.

Suddenly Molly moaned aloud as she felt Noelle's other hand move to her other breast to hold it gently. She opened her eyes to see Noelle staring at her hands on Molly's body.

"I… this feels so… good, Molly," she whispered softly. She looked up at the taller woman then, her eyes conveying all the desire that her words so inadequately tried to share.

Suddenly, Noelle found herself pressed against the wall next to the door, Molly's bigger body holding her there. Her hands automatically went to Molly's shoulders. She stared mesmerized at Molly's mouth as she spoke to her.

"I want to love you so very much right now, Noelle Potter. I want to be inside of you. I want to watch your face as I move inside of you. I want to taste you, feel you, hear you. Do you know how badly I want those things?" she spoke in a hushed whisper, not wanting to frighten the younger woman.

Molly watched as Noelle's tongue peeked out to quickly wet her very dry lips. And suddenly she bent in to kiss Noelle, wanting to taste those lips. She claimed Noelle's lips for her own, her tongue sliding into the younger woman's mouth. Molly tasted the heat of the vodka, the tartness of the cranberry juice… and the sweetness that was all Noelle.

"Mmm… God," she moaned. "You taste so good, Noe." Molly reached up and stroked Noelle's face with the backs of her fingers. Her skin was so soft, so… touchable. And Molly wanted to lose herself in the feel of Noelle's skin.

Noelle slowly opened her eyes. Her mind, what was left of it, anyway, reeled from Molly's kiss. She wasn't certain she'd be able to form a coherent sentence if she needed to save her own life. But at that moment, with this woman, Noelle Potter didn't have any desire to even try.

Noelle brought her hand up to rest in the crook of Molly's neck, feeling the warmth of her skin. She wanted to kiss that very spot. She slid her hand around to the back of Molly's head and slowly tugged her closer. She raised up on her toes, bringing her mouth to that spot that her hand just vacated.

Molly tilted her head to give Noelle better access to that sensitive spot on her neck.

Noelle sucked gently, her teeth grazing Molly's skin. Then she pulled away abruptly. She moved her hand, letting it fall to her side. She closed her eyes and swallowed. When she opened them, she found Molly gazing at her softly.

"It's okay to tell me you've changed your mind, Noe," Molly whispered in her ear. Her forearm came to rest on the wall above Noelle's head, bringing her face close to Noelle's. "It's okay."

Noelle shook her head slowly, her eyes on Molly's lips as she spoke. When Molly finished speaking, Noelle licked her own lips and then said softly, "I… I don't want to change my mind."

Molly smiled, the white of her teeth a sharp contrast against the shadows of her face. "I'm so glad," she said in a husky voice. "But anytime you want to, all you have to do is say so. Okay? I'll never do anything that you don't want me to do. Never. I promise," Molly finished seriously.

Noelle nodded. "Yes," she breathed. Without looking away from Molly, Noelle reached over to lock the front door. Then she reached for Molly's hand and led her to her bedroom. Instead of going in, however, Molly stopped at the thresh-hold, which caused Noelle to stop as well.

Noelle turned to look at Molly. "What?" she asked softly.

Molly pulled her slowly closer until she was able to capture Noelle's lips in a deep, soul-stirring kiss. She thrust her tongue slowly into Noelle's mouth, her hands clasping Noelle's hips and pulling her ever closer to her body. She moved her hips slightly against Noelle's, one hand sliding around to knead Noelle's cheek.

The kiss was rougher than any of the ones before, but it moved Noelle more than any of the others had, taking her to a higher plane of arousal. She brought her hands up to grasp Molly's shoulders, digging her short nails in Molly's shirt. At the feel of Molly's hips moving against hers and the touch of her hand on her behind, Noelle gasped and tore her lips from Molly's. She leaned her forehead against Molly's shoulder, her nails digging harder, finding purchase on skin. She moaned softly as Molly's hips continued to move against her. "Ohhhh." Noelle couldn't have stopped her hips from moving with Molly's if she tried. So Noelle didn't bother trying.

"That's it, Noelle… I want to feel you move against me… underneath me," Molly whispered hotly in Noelle's ear. She relished the feel of Noelle's nails in her skin. The feel of Noelle's hips moving tentatively against hers fanned the flicker of desire into a raging inferno. She continued to whisper in Noelle's ear, alternating words with nips to her earlobe. "I want to feel how hot your skin gets… how wet you get for me…"

Noelle whimpered. "Oh God… Molly… please," her hands began to move frantically against Molly's shoulders. "Please… I need… ohhh God…"

Molly cupped Noelle's face, forcing her to look into her eyes. She looked deep into Noelle's dark green eyes, eyes that were filled with passion and desire.

"What do you need? What do you want me to do? Right now, what do you want?" Molly asked in a harsh whisper.

Noelle shook her head slightly. "I… I don't… I don't know. I don't know!" she exclaimed.

"Shhhh…" Molly soothed as she pulled Noelle in for a hug. "Shhhh…" Molly wanted this little spitfire more than she had wanted anyone in a very long time. Yet she wanted it to be special.

She rubbed Noelle's back gently. Then she tilted her chin up, kissing her with all that she felt. As she kissed Noelle, Molly moved them slowly back to the bed that stood between two windows.

The bed was large, with hand-made quilts on it. The colors appeared to be pastel, but Molly couldn't be certain in the darkness. The blinds at the windows were pulled halfway down, blocking out most of the light from the starry sky.

Molly sat on the bed, urging Noelle to stand between her knees. Noelle rested her hands on Molly's thighs as she looked at Molly. Oh God… Molly…, she moaned to herself. She slid a tongue out to lick her lips, then she bit the bottom one softly to keep from making any noise.

Molly reached up to gently work Noelle's lip free from her teeth. "No, baby, I want to hear you. I want to hear what I do to you," she said as she rubbed Noelle's lip with her thumb.

Noelle nodded.

Molly smiled. "Good." She trailed her fingers slowly down Noelle's neck… her shoulder… her arm… until she reached Noelle's hand. She brought Noelle's hand up to lick her palm. Then she slowly sucked one finger into her mouth, watching Noelle's eyes darken and a flush creep up her neck to her face.

"Ohh… Molly… please…" she whimpered again.

Molly swirled her tongue around her fingertip then slowly withdrew Noelle's finger from her mouth. She reached up and slid her middle finger into Noelle's mouth, slowly thrusting it in and out. "This is what I want to do to your body, Noelle. I want to be inside of you, feeling you…" she said in a low, husky voice.

Noelle sucked lightly on Molly's finger, her tongue flicking the tip. She closed her eyes at Molly's words, her body swaying slightly. She desperately wanted… something from Molly. But she wasn't sure what it was. And Noelle's mind wasn't working well enough just then to come up with a suitable answer. The feel, the implication of Molly's finger moving in her mouth made her ache so very much.

She turned her head to the side slightly, causing Molly's finger to withdraw from her mouth. "I need… you… something…" she panted, her eyes closed.

"I know, baby. I know," Molly soothed.

Molly brought her hands to the bottom of Noelle's t-shirt. "Let's get this off, okay?"

Noelle nodded and reached for the shirt. She slowly started to pull it up, all thoughts of modesty gone from her brain. As she raised her shirt past her breasts, she gasped when she felt Molly's large hands cup her breasts, her fingers kneading them.

"Ohhh… Molly…." She stayed as she was, not moving. Her arms were caught up by her chest, her head hung low, and her eyes were closed. "Please…" she whimpered.

Molly grinned, loving the sight of the woman in front of her. She brushed her thumbs over Noelle's nipples through her bra, a bra that was surprisingly lacy and delicate, feeling them harden even more. She ached to take one into her mouth.

She moved her hands to Noelle's sides to steady the smaller woman. Molly looked at Noelle again, not moving, waiting for her to open her eyes. She rubbed her thumbs in tiny, soothing circles on Noelle's skin, feeling the heat coming from her skin.

"Noelle," she whispered. "Noelle…"

Noelle leaned toward Molly's hands. She bit her lip again, and once again she felt Molly's thumb against it, easing it from beneath her teeth. When Molly's hand returned to her side, Noelle's stayed parted slightly, her breathing coming faster.

"Noelle, look at me," Molly commanded very softly.

At the sound of the husky voice, Noelle slowly opened her eyes to find herself staring into the most incredible blue. The look in those eyes was intense… and sexual. In some dark, distant corner of her mind, Noelle thought vaguely that she should be afraid of this powerful woman before her. Strangely, though, she wasn't. As she looked into those searing, intensely blue eyes, Noelle felt… anchored. When two minutes ago she had felt as if she was drifting out of control, as she looked into those eyes then, she felt herself anchored steadily again.

Noelle was brought out of herself by Molly's voice.

"I want you to watch me. Don't close your eyes. I want you to see me loving your body."

Then Molly leaned in to lick Noelle's nipple through her bra, wetting the lace… and her nipple.

"Oh God!" Noelle gasped at the sensation. The feeling shot through her entire body, sizzling every one of her nerve endings. Her entire body felt as if it was wired directly to a fuse box. "Ohhh God. Molly… please…" she whimpered.

Molly scraped her teeth against the taut nipple through the satin of the bra, causing Noelle to shiver uncontrollably. Molly released her nipple and quickly stripped Noelle of her shirt, leaving her in only her bra and sweatpants.

Molly looked down then, drawing in a long breath at the sight of Noelle's body bared to her. She reached both hands up to cup her small, full breasts, feeling Noelle lean into her. Molly slid her hands up to Noelle's shoulders to hook her bra straps, slowly lowering them down her arms until her breasts spilled from the confining material.

Not taking the bra off any further, Molly leaned in again to lick a hard nipple. Noelle moaned, and Molly closed her mouth around the nipple, sucking gently.

Noelle tried to raise her hands, but her arms were trapped against her body by the straps of the bra. She let out a groan of frustration, wanting to bury her hands in Molly's hair and not being able to.

Molly straightened and laughed softly. "Let me help you," she said. Then she reached around Noelle to unclasp the bra.

Noelle let it fall to the floor, looking down at it until she felt a finger lift her chin.

"You are so very beautiful, Noelle Potter. I want so badly to love you, to make you feel better than you've ever felt. I want to make you explode with desire. I want to do that," Molly said softly. "Will you let me do that?"

Noelle looked deeply into the blue fire that as Molly's eyes as she spoke. She nodded her head slowly when Molly finished speaking and fell to the bed as Molly lay down with her in her arms, sighing deeply.

Continued in Part 5.

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