Xander is the Marshal General of the Drakensdvaerder.
Tara didn't say her thought out loud, yet Willow went entirely still. It felt as unnatural to Tara as any force brought to a sudden halt. Her eyes stayed wide and open, and whatever small movements they had been making in this leggy and fruitful embrace ground to a halt.
Willow didn't even blink.
"You understand who he is, don't you?" Willow said; her voice was low and steady. Tara wondered if she was about to get the kitchen knife stuck in her gut.
Who knows the secrets of a Drakensdvaerder?
"Yes," Tara replied.
Finally Willow blinked, but it looked deliberate; an appeasement to Tara's delicate immortal senses.
The slightest shifting away.
"Are we going to survive this?" Willow asked.
Tara wasn't sure how to answer, or even if she wanted to. To buy more time, she asked, "Survive what?"
Could any two letter word be more beautiful? Tara stared at Willow's lips as she formed the word, so she could see her touch her teeth with her tongue, see the tightening of her jaw.
Tara had her answer, and it was a refrain Willow had already heard before. "I guess that depends on what your definition of survive is, Willow," Tara said. "I will live forever and survive everything." Try as she could, she couldn't quite keep the soul-deep ache from penetrating her words, covering them in frost.
"I don't suppose there is any way you can make me immortal like you?" Willow asked, finally, blessedly, shifting in Tara's embrace again, lit with the soft naphtha lamp of the kitchen. Shadows drew strange shapes around the fruit splayed on the tile; half her beloved face was similarly softened with shades of grey.
"You mean like a vampyre?" Tara asked, a small smile gracing her lips. "I suppose you learned in the Drakensdvaerder that they are now extinct." Willow smiled, and Tara felt she had to keep explaining what truly resided in her heart. "Besides, you won't need to be a vampyre to be immortal, Will," she said. "You'll live forever, because my memory of you will never fade. You will be a flower in eternal bloom; even though the whole world be destroyed, you will yet remain."
"And though we spend each and every day for the rest of my mortal life talking, you could never tell me even a tenth of what you've experienced," Willow said, unleashing her most devastating attack: her eyes crinkling in concern, her voice bleeding under the brunt of Tara's deaths.
And just like that first day, the day in her den, the only part spared from Drusilla's ravishment, Tara looked at Willow and wanted to taste her. Badly. There, in the hollow of her throat. The skin near her ear.
No devil could be more seductive.
Tara was staring at Willow's lips, and Willow blushed under that steady and soul deep desire. Then Willow's hands fidgeted at Tara's knees; with some effort Tara lifted her eyes.
"Why do you feel that way?" Willow asked.
"I'm sorry," Willow blushed. "Sometimes I come to this conclusion in my head, my little thought train on the tracks, and forget that you weren't there for the ride. You may be ten thousand years old, but you still can't read minds."
"Six thousand, Willow. Six. Don't make me older than I already am."
Willow grinned, running her lip over her lower teeth, and then she sobered enough to say, "I mean, what I found out with Angyles. Your soul deep desire that I was going to use to destroy you. It was me, wasn't it? I mean, that's what I wanted to find out, and even though the water does reflect whatever is staring at it, it was magical water, so you must have meant me."
Tara threw away what parts of those sentences she couldn't immediately grasp, and hung on to the one that meant the most. This question, almost offhand and hidden by babble, was more important than any other. Did Willow deliberately try to emasculate it, and deny it power? Did she still harbour secret fears of loss and abandonment?
Willow continued, "And it's not like we even met before that first day in your den. I mean, I came to the poppy den, and maybe you watched me through the vid, but there would be nothing to make me different from anybody else down there. What did you see in me that I can't even see in myself?"
Willow paused, and Tara said, "Mortal mirrors could never show a true reflection of your character, Willow. What did I see when I looked upon you for the first time? I cannot now remember exactly, but I know it had to do with innocence, beauty, and resilience."
Willow blushed lightly, and Tara continued, "What dream did you ask me for?"
"I said I wanted to dream of my best friend, Buffy."
"Do you realize what sort of dreams I make, Willow?" Tara asked. When Willow shook her head, she continued, "I sometimes make dreams of joy. More often I make dreams of hatred, of revenge, of shallow and watery futures, of inconsequential things that swallow my clients whole and leave me reeling with regret. So few are like you. Too few.
"And then when I returned, you knelt at my feet and asked after me. True character doesn't hide, Will. I was more touched at that moment than I had been in years. Of course I wanted you. Who doesn't want what they think they can never have?"
"No one has ever wanted me," Willow whispered, and the wonder was deep in her voice. "Not like..."
She didn't get to finish her sentence, for Tara was kissing her, ever so softly, there on her pert and youthful lips. Just as Willow was about to melt into her, to the shattering of the last of her defences, Tara lifted her mouth and lifted Willow's neck, and then began kissing her way down the front of Willow's throat. Her skin was coated with a light sheen of summer heat and desire; to Tara's love-starved lips and tongue it was ambrosia.
There, the hollow of her throat. Willow's spine bent with Tara's hands behind it, offering Tara a smooth and wondrous expanse of skin. Even the fabric beneath her fingers could not suffice; Tara ran her hands up under her silky top as she kissed the hollow of Willow's throat, pressing her tongue firmly into the cleft of space.
She was rewarded with a fierce intake of air, and her girlfriend's hands in her hair.
Supporting Willow with only one hand, Tara pulled her other hand out of Willow's shirt and began to run the tips of her fingers along the crest of Willow's arm, lifting her mouth to kiss the skin in the crook of Willow's elbow.
And then she held Willow's wrist, and looked up into her eyes.
Your dream is ready.
There had been confusion in Willow's eyes, that first day in her den. To the everlasting expansion of Tara's heart, there was only intention in them now, a nearly fierce intent, to meet Tara fully on this blessed ground. There was memory as well, though Tara doubted Willow could know how much Tara had desired this exact moment.
She looked into Willow's darkened eyes as she licked the delicate skin of her wrist, and when she puffed a small breath upon it, Willow's entire body shivered in a most glorious cascade. Never breaking eye contact, Tara kissed Willow's wrist again, pressed her tongue against the spidery veins, and then nibbled lightly.
Near growling with that ferocious intent, Willow captured Tara's lips, and hard. Tara barely noticed Willow bearing her down to the floor, scattering the fruit about them; the dreamberry burst beneath Willow's forearm. She was more interested in the hard and lithe thigh that parted her legs, in the hot and fierce kisses being rained down upon her lips. Her hands were as eager as Willow's; she caressed every part of skin she could as Willow stretched them both out upon the hard tiled floor.
It was Willow now who became the explorer; Tara's lips felt empty as Willow began to kiss her way down her jaw, down her throat, visiting those same spots that Tara had lingered upon. The molten core of her began to grow hard, desperate. There was a little friction between their shorts, some small movements that Willow may even be unaware that she was making; the slightness of it was about to drive Tara mad with unfulfillment.
But then Willow kissed the crest of her breast, one of her hands inside Tara's shirt, the other propping her up. She flicked her eyes up to her, and they were as they had been the first day, a pure reflection of her soul. To see her dripping with want, fiery with need, alive with desire over Tara herself; the six thousand year old djinn could have wept for the joy of it.
"Is this all right?" Willow asked.
"Oh, yes," Tara breathed, but Willow was already moving further, lifting the hemline of Tara's shirt to lay small and soft kisses on her abdomen. Each of those kisses sparked depth charges deep in Tara's body; explosions rocketing from the center of those kisses down her blazing nerves, her limbs trembling with suppressed emotions.
Then Willow lifted her head again, and her eyes were glittering in the naphtha lamps. It struck Tara again how grateful she was to see Willow's face whole; no broken nose, no snaking black eye. Willow's acceptance of her oath with Anya made a little more sense now that she understood the depths to which Willow would go to gain knowledge. How Willow had discovered the truth of Angyles Tara did not yet know, nor which one of the Marshal Generals had enslaved him to begin with.
All fear she had once had of hurting Willow physically was nearly gone; eroded with knowledge of the red-head's gifts. All her fears now were of a different sort.
Tara nearly leapt upwards to fasten her lips to Willow's; she wrapped her arms solidly about Willow's body as she swept up to her knees, scattering fruit across the floor. Willow held on to her as she lifted them up and off the floor, not releasing her from their kiss, their mouths frantic with each other.
Into the darkened and cork-muffled confines of her bedchamber, where Tara was diverted from her bed by her new lover, who spun her and pressed her with fierce insistence against the wall. Only the most diffuse of streetlight entered this chamber, spun into the room through the cloth of her curtains like pixie dust. It settled on Willow's vibrant skin with fascination, as hungry for her as Tara was.
Willow placed her thigh between Tara's legs and then somehow lifted, just enough, just so Tara was dancing on the tips of her toes, even as she captured Tara's wrists with her hands. From some deep and incredible well of insight, Willow was now focusing all her titanic attention on Tara's wrists, keeping Tara's body lifted. Her hands had been raised above her head; Willow was now bringing them down, slowly, tenderly, reigning in the raging fever that had overtaken them both, lengthening this most important moment.
Down, down, turning until her palms were upward near her breasts, and it was there that Willow paused, and hovered. Her mouth descended, and she simultaneously brushed the skin of Tara's wrist with her tongue as she applied slight pressure to the core she held trapped on her thigh.
An organic shiver, deep inside, curling Tara's toes and her spine and eventually her head, and Willow did not stop there; she turned her attention to the other wrist, and laved her tongue over it, lifting and restarting, experimenting with pressure and softness, nipping lightly with her teeth, sucking softly.
"Willow," Tara gasped, or thought she gasped. The pressure between her legs was all consuming; the friction of their shorts combined with the lithe hardness of the fighter's thigh and the softness of the fighter's tongue on her wrist.
Oh, God, her wrist!
This time when Willow lifted her head from her feasting of Tara's wrists, Tara was ready. Enough playing. She needed to possess Willow, to consume her, to make her cry out until the windows shattered and the curtains shivered, to carve her way into the very soul of her lover and anchor her in the world of the living forever and ever.
She wrapped her hands around Willow's neck, guided her lips to her own. She fiercely sucked Willow's tongue into her mouth and ran her hands down Willow's spine, curling around the front of her to cup her silk-covered breasts. Willow gasped there momentarily in their kiss; a sound of pure delight. Tara grabbed the hem of her tank top and began to lift.
No hesitation, even though Willow was bare-breasted underneath.
The girl even assisted with the final scrabble, when they had to break their kiss so that the shirt could be tossed away. Tara had no time to visually contemplate the beauty of those small and pert breasts; Willow immediately mashed her body back against Tara's, kissing whatever skin came near; her jaw, her throat, her collarbone. Tara felt afire; it was a molten ocean of lava that she danced in, waves of pure desire that lapped against her shores, and the vast, the great tsunami that crept closer and closer, whispering of delights she hadn't experienced in half a thousand years.
"Willow," she cried out again, when Willow tasted the tender skin by her ear, cupping Tara's breasts through her shirt.
"I want you," Willow breathed, touching the lobe of Tara's ear with her tongue. "Oh, God, how I want you." She followed her tempestuous words by holding lightly to Tara's ear with her teeth. "I want to kiss you and love you and make you mine."
The words were thunderclaps, and Tara reeled with them as Willow began to lift up her shirt.
Tara wrestled out of her top as eagerly as Willow had; they came together next with skin on skin for the very first time. The feeling of that skin, so soft with such hard muscles underneath; Tara's wandering hands came upon training scars and she could have cried for the hurt they must have dealt. Tara began to push backwards, guiding Willow as they kissed their way to her bed. The last impediment was their shorts; was Willow really ready for this?
Willow's legs bucked against the frame of the bed and she sat down, tearing herself away from Tara's grasp. In the evanescent light, her high and firm breasts were lifting with her brightened breath, and Tara found her gaze arrested by the sight of them. From the corner of her eye she could see the slightest tinge of worry in Willow's eyes; how did she measure up to Tara's other lovers?
"You are so beautiful, Willow," she began to say, and then her words were arrested by the piercing joy on Willow's face, followed by a naked and hungry gaze on her own breasts; her lover lifted a tentative hand to touch them.
"Oh, yes," Tara breathed.
Willow's war-callused fingers traced the swelling curve of Tara's breast, and then she wrapped her fingers to cup her breast in her palm, running her thumb over the hardened nipple. Tara made some sort of sound; she could not really discern what it was, other than a pure keening of arousal and hunger. She was still half-standing, half-leaning over Willow, but not for much longer.
Willow scooted back on the bedsheets until her entire body was fully on top; she wore the most irresistible and alluring smile Tara had ever seen. The sight of it struck her like a fist to her gut. "Come here, my love," Willow said, crooking a finger to beckon her near.
Winded, Tara began to crawl her way up to her, her heart yammering in her chest. She was halted in her wanderings by the glory of Willow's navel; she settled her body down and touched it with her tongue, swirling around before dipping lightly inside. She felt, rather than saw, Willow's hands grasp the bedsheets with a curled and insistent fist.
When Willow's spine lifted next in a curl of pure delight, Tara thrust her hands underneath, lending her own support. She began to kiss her way up Willow's firm abdomen, her lips and tongue lingering on the thin and nearly invisible scars across the belly. For a moment she remembered that her own hand had been on the blade that dealt one of those horrific wounds; who had dared to deliver the other? She thrust those thoughts away with a silent prayer of thanksgiving for Anya and her gifts. She encountered other scars on her way up Willow's body; she blessed each of them with a kiss.
Then Willow's breasts, and she had to start by tasting the swell at the top, just as she had dreamed of since that first day. Willow continued to ripple and writhe under her steadfast attentions, her fingers and toes curling reflexively again and again on the sheets. It was there, kissing the skin above Willow's heart, that Tara felt part of her own heart be neatly excised away. She lifted her head and Willow was there, her eyes barely discernible in the darkness.
"Only you," Tara breathed. "Only you have I desired. It's only you that I want. Willow Rosenberg, from the moment I saw you I knew I wanted only you."
Willow responded by pulling at her with her exquisitely strong hands; Tara felt herself propelled upwards to Willow's lips. They kissed, and the kisses that started off fiery and fierce slowed under the weight of the moment, for they both felt that some final precipice awaited, some final edge; a marker to forever differentiate the before and after of this moment.
It was as they were kissing, in this slow and nearly maddeningly languourous fashion, that Tara realized Willow's hands were at the hem of her shorts. Whatever slight question or hesitation Willow employed Tara swiftly solved by pausing and breaking the kiss long enough to wriggle out of her shorts.
No hesitation, even though yesterday they had tried to kill each other.
Willow took Tara's hands, and put them on her own shorts, and pleaded with her eyes.
Tara understood, and grasped them with her hands. Keeping her eyes on her lover, she began to tug them down. Halfway down Willow's outer thigh Tara's hand encountered the worst scar yet; slightly raised, an inch wide and several inches long. Following only instinct, she dipped her head to kiss it as well, and caught the scent of Willow's arousal.
The shorts were then quickly stripped away, discarded somewhere in the warm silver cocoon of her bedchamber.
When Tara came up again to her lover, Willow's eyes were wide and velvet with need and tenderness. She was already squirming deliciously under Tara's naked body. "How do I...?" she asked.
Tara blinked, a most lucious lowering of her eyelashes, and then once again she took hold of Willow's wrist.
"Like this," she whispered.