[chapter one]

Disclaimer: If you've heard of them, I don't own them. Everything else is mine, so no stealing, pretty please. ;-)

Author's Note: I have tried to be as faithful and accurate as possible in portraying Vrai's beliefs. Apologies for any miscues. :-)

Author's Note II: This is not your every day fic - use your imagination. ;-)

Author's Note III: Vrai is pronounced vray, not vry.

**

Jimmie Johnson glanced up as the door shut behind him, the tinkling of bells drawing his eyes to the ceiling. Slowly, he surveyed the shop he had just entered, which was dimly lit and filled to the brim with trinkets, treasures, candlelight and books.

Shrugging nervously, he began making a slow loop around the store, fingering candles and stones, searching for the perfect gift for Jarit's girlfriend. He had no idea what she wanted, only that "she was really into all this stuff".

Vrai Gerritson watched the dark haired man as he slowly circuited her shop, touching objects with a mixture of curiosity and confusion. It was an expression Vrai was used to - most people felt that way when they entered a magic shop, especially if they were unsure what they wanted, or why they were there.

Most people didn't understand magic, and by extension, didn't understand Vrai.

"Hello?" She said soothingly, making the man whirl around and face her. "May I help you find something today?" She asked pleasantly. She was drawn to the warmth and depth of his brown eyes, to the set of his shoulders, and to the embarrassed smile he gave her.

"Hi." He said with uncertainty. "I…uh, I don't know what I'm looking for. A gift - my brother's girlfriend is really into all this." He said, waving a hand around.

He watched the young woman step from behind the counter, her long skirt swirling around her ballet shoe clad feet. Her hair was a fiery red, her eyes a bright green, and her smile steady and settling. He felt peace as she walked towards him, he realized with confusion. What a weird emotion, he thought to himself as she closed the distance between them.

"All this?" She said, her voice mocking but her smile warm. "Magic? Earth power? Wicca?"

Jimmie shrugged. "I guess."

Vrai nodded knowingly. He didn't know why he was here, what he sought, or why he felt so uneasy in this place. But Vrai had a sense of why he felt that way. "What are you looking for? A Magic 8 ball? Incense? A crystal ball?" She asked, her voice harder than she meant it to sound.

She hated it when people looked down on magic as dirty, as wrong, as…

Fraudulent.

Jimmie laughed nervously. "I…no. None of that. I'm sorry…I'm just…I don't really know." He said, his eyes pleading with her a little to take pity on him.

Vrai felt herself soften, and walked him towards a bookcase. "Is she already practicing, or just interested?"

"Um…just interested, I think." Jimmie said with a smile sigh of relief at the help she offered. "Any suggestions?"

Vrai nodded as she lovingly ran her fingers across the spines of several books. "I highly recommend this series by Scott Cunningham - he's very thorough and easy to read, especially for novices. Candles are always appreciated, and when used correctly, very useful. How would that be to start?" She asked, handing him several titles to peruse.

Jimmie nodded, thumbing through the pages of the book. "Sure. And let's grab some candles too. Thanks."

Vrai rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "One doesn't 'just grab' some candles. They all carry power and meaning. They are sacred objects. How about a white one for purity and truth, a pink one for friendships, yellow for study and divination, and orange for strength and luck?" She suggested gently.

"Cool." Jimmie said, digging into his pockets for his wallet. "I'll take these books, too." He said, selecting several titles from the stack she had offered, with words like 'power' and 'earth' and 'divination' in the titles.

Vrai nodded and began totaling his purchases, taking his credit card carefully and running it through her machine. After a moment, she gave him back his card, encircling his outstretched hand with both of hers for a brief moment, as though shaking his hand warmly.

Jimmie almost gasped as she touched him, as though he had an electric shock shoot from his hand to every pulse point in his body. She made him feel…fiery. Warm. Hot.

He quickly signed the receipt and moved to take his bag off the counter when Vrai stopped him. "Here." She said softly, turning around and taking a candle from a shelf behind her. "A white candle with essence of rosemary and peony. For safe journies for you. A gift from me to you."

Jimmie's eyes widened at her choice of words, but he continued to listen to her soft, musical voice. "Stand in a darkened room with the candle. Strike a match above your head, then lower it to let the flame light the candle. Don't blow out the match - simply let it burn out. Feel the spark of energy from the candle, and visualize your safe journey. Let the candle burn out, don't blow it out. When the candle is extinguished, the spell is set. Easy." She said with a smile. "If you believe."

"How did you know to give me a candle for a safe journey?" Jimmie asked, wondering if she knew what profession he had chosen so many years ago.

She smiled at him and gave him the merest of winks. "Magic."

Jimmie's eyes were still wide as he slowly moved towards the door. His hand on the doorknob, he turned to see her watching him with a soft, almost secret smile. "What's your name?" He asked on impulse.

"Vrai." She said, still smiling. "It means true."

"True." He muttered. "True."

And with that, he fled from her sight.

chapter two