3. Banter, Binding, Bonding
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=:= Zoe =:=

"It's not that funny." Zoe stated, trying not to glare. Her ears were low and her tail was twitching back and forth with irritation.

Cindy nodded, stifling a giggle. "I know."

"Yet you keep smirking and snickering." she grumbled.

"Sorry," Cindy replied, smirking.

Zoe glared, "We nearly got kicked off, because you couldn't keep quiet!"

"I know! I'm sorry!" Cindy bit her lip, trying not to laugh. "It's just... That's the first time we've met anyone who's allergic to you!"

Finally she couldn't hold back any longer, and burst into another fit of giggles. The cute blonde stopped on the side of the road, bent over as she let loose with the laughter.

Zoe was blushing and her tail twitched even faster. "It's been what, sixteen months or something? Nobody's ever been allergic to me! Even people who've said they're allergic to cats, haven't been bothered! So why would the bus driver have been allergic?!"

Cindy was laughing so hard now she almost toppled over. Instead, she stumbled off the road and leaned against a farmer's fence as her small body shook with mirth.

Zoe just sighed and waited for her girlfriend to get all the giggles out of her system. Again.

They were nearly in Grosmont now, finally. They'd left Whitchurch two days ago, and if they'd actually been in a hurry they could have made the trip in a single afternoon.

Instead, they took a train south into Hereford, and stayed there a day while they played tourist. They slept in late this morning, wasted some more time in town, then eventually found a bus that brought them to within a few kilometres of Grosmont.

A bus who's driver was apparently allergic to catgirls.

Zoe blushed again at the thought. It was only about a thirty-minute ride. She wasn't keen on busses, or trains, or any sort of vehicle with seats that didn't accommodate people with tails. So she was already in a grumpy mood about the ride.

Then not long after they'd boarded the bus, the driver started sneezing uncontrollably. He asked if anyone had smuggled a cat on board, and everyone turned and stared at Zoe.

Not that she wasn't used to being stared at, but that was just plain embarrassing. And even then, it probably wouldn't have been that bad.

Except Cindy couldn't stop giggling.

Zoe had been positive the driver was going to stop and kick them both off. But the driver toughed it out, and after the longest thirty-minute-ride of her life, she and Cindy finally reached their stop. From there it was about three kilometres' walk to the village.

Eventually Cindy sorted herself out, wiped her eyes, and apologized.

"I'm really sorry... I know it's bothering you Zoe," she said, trying to keep a straight face. "Like you said though... It's been so long, and this is the first time that's ever happened... It just kinda caught me off-guard?" She was starting to smirk again.

"Fine," Zoe said, tail twitching. "I'm not stopping again though. Next time you collapse in a giggle-fit, you can just catch up to me on your own."

Cindy bit her lip, then grinned "That's actually fine. You can keep walking, and I'll just teleport to you wherever you are to catch up."

"Hmph." Zoe scowled, stomping off with her arms folded infront of her chest.

Cindy hurried to catch up to her, then slipped an arm around her waist. "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you." Now she sounded genuinely apologetic.

Zoe glanced over, and saw the small blond looked anxious. She looked like she was afraid she'd gone too far, afraid she'd actually hurt Zoe's feelings.

She was able to maintain her grumpy act for a few more seconds, before she felt her ears and tail starting to betray her. At that point, Zoe smiled and stuck her tongue out at her girlfriend, mimicking one of Cindy's favourite expressions.

That brought a fresh smile to Cindy's face as she looked relieved that Zoe wasn't actually angry.

"C'mon cutie." Zoe smiled. "We've still got another fifteen or twenty minutes walk ahead of us, and we have no idea if there's even any place we can stay when we get there."

=:= Jessica =:=

Jess glared a little at the group standing around outside. "I was really hoping they'd leave us alone now, since they ruined our grand opening yesterday."

She and Kara were at QSAW again today, slumped in a couple guest chairs in the reception area.

"I think they're planning to stay a while." Kelly said. She was sitting at the front desk, though like yesterday she had very little to do at the moment.

Kara was keeping an eye on the picketers, as they commented "Samantha said she'd be making some calls today. Maybe the city can do something about it." They didn't sound very hopeful at the moment.

"We might be stuck with them till they get bored and give up." Kelly sighed.

Jess glanced at the time on her phone then asked, "Anyone up for lunch? I'll brave the bigots and pick up some sandwiches from the cafe on the corner."

Kara raised an eyebrow, "Maybe I should go with you?"

"Nah, I'll be fine." Jessica replied. "Better that you stay here, hold the fort with Kelly."

Before they came to any sort of decision, Kelly said "Wait, I think we might have a customer."

Jess and Kara both looked up, to see a young man making his way past the protestors. A few of them watched him, but as near as Jessica could tell nobody tried to stop him, none of them even spoke to him as he walked past.

As he approached the door, Jessica could see he looked like an older teen, seventeen or eighteen perhaps. In fact he looked a lot like he could just as easily belong with the group protesting them. His short black hair was immaculately groomed, he was wearing slacks with a sharp crease, and a neat and tidy jacket.

He looked slightly nervous as he pulled the door open and stepped inside. The wards didn't stop him, so Jess knew he wasn't coming in with ill intent.

The young man stood infront of the reception desk and asked, "Uh, hi... Could I maybe speak to someone in charge?" He was soft-spoken, but still spoke clearly and enunciated his words like he'd had some training in public speaking.

Kara was keeping their eyes on him, but stayed quiet for the moment.

"I guess that'd be me?" Jess spoke up. "My name's Jessica, and this is Kara. We're two out of three organizers here."

The teen turned towards them and asked, "Would it be possible to talk in private?"

Jessica and Kara exchanged a glance, then Jess got to her feet. "Sure. Follow me." She added to Kelly, "Give us a shout if anything happens out here, ok?"

Kelly just nodded and turned her attention back to the book she was reading.

Jessica led the young man out of the reception area and into their meeting room. Kara followed behind him, keeping an eye on him.

"Pick a seat." Jess gestured around the table, as she settled into one of them.

Their guest sat in the one nearest the door, and Kara sat down nearby, leaving an empty seat between herself and him.

"What can we do for you?" Jess asked, looking him over again.

The young man undid his jacket, he was wearing a button-down shirt underneath it. He almost looked like he was dressed for church or something, Jessica thought.

"First, I'd like to apologize for that lot outside." The teen said. "The tall man with the beard out there is my father, Reverend Clark."

Jess and Kara exchanged another glance. She knew Kara was ready for trouble, and was probably on high alert now.

"My name's Trevor. My father sent me in here to try and spy on you all. He wanted me to see if there was any 'blasphemous' or 'corrupting' materials in here, that sort of thing."

"Why are you telling us this?" Kara asked, their tone level and their expression masking the suspicion Jessica knew they were feeling.

Just to be sure, Jess cast the truth spell as Trevor started to talk again.

Trevor replied, "A few years ago you people helped a good friend of mine... She's trans, her parents used to attend my father's church." He sighed, "Her parents were... Violently uncooperative towards her. She got your number from somewhere and called your group. And her life quickly improved after that. There was a councillor or therapist here who talked with her, and got her in touch with a sympathetic doctor." He smiled slightly, "Thanks to you people, my friend got on hormones and started her transition. Eventually her parents even came around and accepted her."

Jessica smiled as well, her spell confirmed what Trevor had said. He seemed genuine, and from what she could tell, he didn't agree with his father's bigotry. "I'm glad to hear that, Trevor. How's your friend doing now?"

"I don't know." Trever admitted with a sigh. "My father kicked her family out of the church after that, and forbid me from contacting any of them. I've seen her around once or twice though. She looked very happy."

Kara looked angry, but stayed quiet for now.

Jessica sighed, "I'm sorry, Trevor. Kara and I both have some experience with intolerant parents, we can sympathize with you on that."

He sighed as well. "My folks control just about every aspect of my life. If I tried to contact her, they'd find out. To be honest I've wanted to speak with you people for a long time, but if I did, my parents would make my life hell." He added, "When my father asked me to come and spy on you, I agreed because it was my chance to actually come in and talk. And if I didn't, he'd just send someone else."

"Well I'm glad you're here." Jessica gave him a friendly smile. "So what can we do for you?"

Trevor hesitated a little, then admitted, "Honestly, I'm not even sure?" He sighed. "When my friend transitioned, I was really happy for her. Even though it meant I couldn't see her or talk with her any more... There was something else though. I think I might have been a little jealous of her..."

Jess could see he was feeling awkward now, and his already-soft voice had grown even quieter.

He sighed again, "The few times I've seen her since... I've seen how happy she looks, how much more alive she is now, compared to before..."

Jessica glanced at Kara again, then she gave Trevor another warm smile. "Are you trying to tell us that you're trans? Or questioning?"

He had the faintest amount of pink on his cheeks now, and shook his head slightly. "I don't know... It might just be that she got out... That she and her family got away from my father's church, that they're happy now, and free..."

He shook his head and sighed once more. "It doesn't matter I guess. My parents would never let me get away, let alone... Anything else."

Kara finally spoke up, "May I ask Trevor, how old are you?"

"I'm eighteen." He replied.

"Then you're an adult." Kara stated. "You can just go, they can't legally stop you or interfere with you."

Trevor shook his head again, "It's not that easy. My parents are well-off, and my father has connections. Like I said, they control every aspect of my life. I don't have any money that they don't control, and I don't qualify for any sort of assistance because they're well-off."

He sounded defeated as he added, "If I did leave, they'd just hunt me down, grab me, and ship me off to one of those religious 'camps'... They wanted to do that to Christine - my friend. They probably would have too, but her parents came around and became supportive before they could. That's when my father kicked their whole family out of the church."

"I'm sorry Trevor." Jessica shook her head. "Is there anything we can do for you?"

He shrugged. "Not really... It's good to talk about this with someone who understands, though. I probably won't get another chance."

"We have friends and resources too," Kara said. "Don't give up hope. If you let us, we can help you."

"Maybe..." He seemed unconvinced though. "Thanks anyways, for listening and for trying to help."

Kara asked, "What are you going to tell your father, about your visit here?"

Trevor took a deep breath, then replied, "I didn't see anything blasphemous or corrupting. I only saw the reception area and this meeting room. I didn't get a full tour, so I can't describe the rest of the facilities or the layout."

Kara nodded slightly, then asked "Is there anything you'd like to tell us, about his intentions or plans for our organization?"

"He doesn't confide in me much... But he does boast now and then." Trevor said, looking thoughtful. "He plans on keeping people out front until you give up and close. He said he has fifty or sixty people in the church who are willing to take shifts out front. He said he can have people out there every hour, every day that the doors are open."

Jessica and Kara both sighed a little at that.

Trevor continued, "He said they're hoping to scare away anyone from coming in, but if anyone tries to get past them they'll try to physically block them from getting in. And..." He hesitated, then sighed. "My father has been preaching that this place is a blight on our community. And that people like you are trying to pervert the youth and bring down society, that you all worship the devil..."

"Great." Jessica sighed. "Ok... Well thank you for letting us know, Trevor."

Kara nodded, "We appreciate it. And if you do change your mind about letting us help you, we'll still be here."

"Thank you," he nodded. "I'd better get going."

Jessica and Kara both stood, and walked him back out to the front. Trevor walked out the front door and to the right, soon disappearing from view. Of course the folks with the signs didn't try to stop him.

Kelly asked, "So how'd it go with our very first 'customer'?"

Jessica glanced at at Kara.

The enby replied, "Not great."

=:= Sadie =:=

"Ok, I think I can beat that." Amanda said, studying the floating ball of light Sadie had conjured.

Sadie grinned, "Bet you can't!" It was about the size of a soft-ball, and she'd been working hard to get better at this spell since they learned it three or four weeks ago.

They were sitting next to each other on Amanda's bed, practicing magic. It was the first day of their suspension from school, and Maria had to go to work today so the four of them were on their own.

Jenny and Beth were downstairs at the moment, Sadie wasn't sure what they were up to. Probably watching TV, she figured. Whatever it was, she was confident the two thirteen-year-olds would be doing it together. Jenny seemed to be making it her mission to bond with Beth. She actually wondered if Jenny wanted herself and Beth to be sort of like twins too, despite the six month difference in their ages.

Amanda focused as she cast the light spell. Sadie felt the little tingle of magic in the air, and a second ball of light appeared in the air, floating next to hers.

"Yes!" Amanda grinned triumphantly. "I win!"

"What? No way!" Sadie shook her head, smiling. "At best, they're the same size. I'm pretty sure mine's larger though."

"You're such a cheat!" Amanda giggled. She reached out and poked Sadie's light spell, which caused the orb to burst like a soap bubble, dispelling the magic with a few little sparkles that faded before they hit the floor.

Sadie giggled and poked the remaining ball, popping it too.

"Ok what next?" Amanda asked.

"Can you do more than one?" Sadie concentrated on the spell, creating a smaller light ball. This one was only about the size of a golf ball. She concentrated again, trying to maintain the first while creating a second. It didn't work though, the original flickered away as the replacement appeared.

She sighed, "Drat."

"I can't do that either." Amanda shrugged. "Hey, how about glamours? Check this out!"

Sadie watched as her sister cast the spell. Her blonde hair seemed to grow longer and darker, as her eyes also took on a darker shade. At the same time, make-up faded into existence on her face.

A moment later, it was as if Sadie was looking in a mirror. Well, apart from the clothes. Amanda was wearing faded jeans and an old pink t-shirt, while Sadie was in a simple blue tea-dress.

"What do you think?" Amanda asked. "Ever wished we were identical twins?"

Sadie giggled, "Not bad sis!" Then added, "Honestly I think I'm glad we're not completely identical? I mean, we're close enough, but I think it would have just been too weird at first. And I'm pretty happy as I am."

Amanda nodded, "Good point." She frowned slightly, "I kind of forget now how weird it was back then. You're right, it would have been too much if you'd showed up looking exactly the same as me."

"I'm sorry Amanda." Sadie sighed. "I didn't mean to upset you. Then, or now."

"I know sis, it's fine." Amanda grinned, "Anyways it's still your turn. Let's see a glamour!"

Sadie smiled, glad her twin wasn't upset. She focused as she recited the spell.

Apart from the tingling sensation of magic, a glamour didn't feel like anything once it was cast. She knew her appearance was changed, but it was just an illusion. And until the two of them got better at it, there were limitations on what they could do. If her spell worked as she intended, she now looked like her girlfriend. Or rather, a slightly shorter version.

Amanda looked impressed, "Not bad, sis!"

Sadie grimaced, "Thanks... I can't hold it for very long yet, there's too much to focus on... And if we were standing up, you'd see the height was wrong. Ashley's like two inches taller than me?" She added, "And I can't do the voice either, obviously."

"Still, it's not bad." Amanda said.

Sadie felt a flicker as her glamour fell apart, and then Amanda dispelled her own, letting her hair and eyes return to their normal blonde and hazel.

"Hey, since I did my girlfriend, why don't you try and do your boyfriend?" Sadie suggested. "Can you glamour yourself up as Ben?"

Amanda's eyes widened. "Huh... I don't know. That'll be a challenge."

Sadie watched as Amanda tried. She was focusing, concentrating hard as she worked the spell. Her appearance sort of flickered and shimmered, as she was obviously having trouble making the illusion stick. After a few seconds it solidified, but it was clear she was having trouble maintaining it.

"Not bad sis." Sadie said. "You won't fool anyone yet, but it's a good start."

Amanda asked, "How bad is it?"

Sadie smirked, "I mean.. Apart from your voice coming out of Ben's mouth, and the fact that you're like, 5 inches too short... It's not bad. I can still see your boobs and your waist, but you've got the face and arms pretty close?"

Amanda's appearance flickered back to normal and she sighed, "Ok, that was pretty hard... But I think I'm winning after that!"

Sadie protested, "C'mon! That was barely a successful glamour, you can't win on that!" She was still smiling though, all of this was good fun as well as being good practice.

"Ok, how about you try doing a guy glamour then?" Amanda said, her tone making it a challenge. She had a sly smile on her face as she asked, "Here's one that should be easy for you. Can you glamour yourself up to how you used to look, before?"

Sadie felt her smile fade, and she got a slightly heavy feeling in her stomach. Her eyes dropped, looking down at the floor. She shook her head, and in a quiet, slightly sad voice she replied "No. I can't do that, Amanda."

"Aw crap, I'm sorry sis." Amanda sighed. She leaned forward, and wrapped her arms around Sadie. "I wasn't thinking... I didn't mean to upset you. I got carried away..."

Sadie hugged her back, "It's ok sis, I know. And I'm the one who started it, getting you to try doing a Ben."

They held each other for a few more moments, then finally let go.

Sadie smiled weakly and said, "Anyways, you won. You did the hardest glamour."

"No," Amanda shook her her head. "We both win, because we've both got each other as sisters."

Sadie couldn't help but smile wider at that. The heaviness in her stomach was instantly gone, replaced with a warmth in her heart. "Thanks Amanda. You're the best."

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