Return to The Artifact Chapter Eleven

The Artifact

Author: sabina
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The Tomb Raider videogame is the property of Eidos Interactive and Core Design. This fic is not meant to infringe any copyrights.

Tara wasn't sure how long she'd watched Willow sleep; seconds, minutes, and hours lost their meaning as she held the redhead close with their hearts beating as one.

Although Tara was enjoying the proximity, she was relieved when she felt Willow stir in her arms.

As Willow slowly came back to consciousness, the first thing she noticed was that her head was lying between Tara's breasts. Initially it brought a smile to her face.

Tara's breasts... Mmm... The best sight in the world. Maybe I could lean just a little and kiss that nipple right there...

Then the fog enveloping her brain lifted a little... and she panicked.

Wait! Hold it! Oh my god... I fell asleep lying on Tara, and I have my head between her perfect breasts, and I've probably drooled all over her while thinking about taking her nipple into my mouth! I have to get up. I have to get up now... before it's too late!

Willow hastily lifted her head from where it had been resting, intending to apologize and tell Tara that nothing like that would ever happen again. But she never got the chance. Her sudden movement sent a sharp bolt of pain up her spine and directly into her brain. Her head felt like it was about to explode and she couldn't stop a shriek of pain from escaping her mouth.


Tara had been surprised and hurt by Willow's rapid retreat.

She jumped up because she realized her head was between my breasts, lying just above my heart. She can't stand to be this close to me. I already know that... so why do I keep pulling her into my arms? She's made it clear that she's not attracted to me. I have to stop taking advantage of every possible moment I find - every reason I create - to hold her tight. I won't try to shut her out again emotionally, but I'll at least try to keep my distance physically. Even if my body's left aching and wanting.

But when she heard the redhead cry out in pain her heart almost stopped, and she couldn't prevent herself from reaching out to offer comfort. She lifted her arms and pulled Willow softly but firmly back down. This time, Willow was lying on her side with her head nestled against the blonde's neck and shoulder.

"Willow, you've been poisoned, remember? You passed out and your body's probably still trying to process and expel the toxins. You can't go around making sudden movements with your head like that." As she admonished the dizzy redhead, Tara's voice was as soft as an autumn breeze caressing falling leaves.

As soon as Willow felt her head pressed against Tara's soft flesh, the pain retreated to the back of her mind. It was nothing more than a slight throbbing sensation.

Willow answered the blonde slowly and carefully. Too focused on keeping the pain away to censor the words that came out.

"I think emphatically... for me there will be no movements at all - sudden or otherwise - for the next few hours. I'm feeling perfectly happy right here where I am."

Only when she heard the words leaving her mouth did Willow fully understand what she was saying. She blushed deeply.

Gosh... real smooth. Why don't you just go ahead and tell her that you're head over heels in love with her? That you want to hold her every time you look at her. That you want to kiss her and make love to her every single time you stare deeply into her eyes. That you can't think of a better way to fall asleep than cradled in her arms. Since you're not going to say any of those things to her, try not to spoil your friendship. Snap out of it and start backpedaling fast, before she has time to wonder what you meant.

So as not to jar her throbbing cranium, Willow began her verbal tap dance in a near whisper.

"I mean... my head doesn't hurt as long as I'm still, and I just had to move to change my position... but I don't wanna move again because well... that would just make my head hurt, so I guess I'm voting for the 'Not-Moving-Around-Much' plan... hence the thing about staying like this for hours."

"Oh." Tara couldn't hold back the disappointed tone that mingled with her response.

Well, at least being near me didn't disgust her, so I don't have to worry about that. But she isn't exactly trembling with joy either. To her, this closeness is just a friendly gesture of mine. Why am I complaining anyway? At least she's not running away from me. It's not like I ever truly believed she could love me. At least not with my mind, anyway. Of course, my heart... that's a whole different story.

The blonde sighed before speaking.

"You should probably try to sleep for a bit longer. Hopefully you'll feel a lot better when you wake up."

"I can't sleep. It'll make us lose time, and we don't know if we can afford to lose it. We've been in this room for a day and a half already. Oh God... maybe this is a temporized room and we have a time limit to find each mask or else the door won't open and we'll die here in the middle of the plants! Then our rotten bodies will serve as a fertilizer for those stupid yellow flowers! Wow. Ok, you know, I think it's better if we don't even go there. It-"

Although Tara found Willowbabble as adorable as ever, she could see that the woman was becoming more and more agitated as she spoke, so she decided to cut Willow off. She did so in a manner that left no room for discussion about whether they would stay and rest for a bit longer or immediately resume the search.

"Willow!" Tara said loudly.

The redhead stopped talking and cringed as the blonde's voice resonated painfully inside her brain.

"See? You can't even stand hearing loud sounds. No way are you in any shape to go running around facing all kinds of danger. We're going to stay here for a while and you're going to sleep, end of discussion." Although the blonde's voice had regained its usual tenderness, its authority was indisputable.

Take-Charge-Tara... Mmm. If it was anyone else telling me to stay put when I wanted to move, I'd probably run instead of walk just to prove to them that I'm the one in charge of my life. But it's Tara, and I don't feel like rebelling. Besides, her resolve face is just so damned sexy. I don't think I can refuse anything she asks me with that voice and that face. It just melts me from the inside out. I wonder if there are other situations in which Take-Charge-Tara makes an appearance... Stop it right there, Brain of Mine. I know where you're going with this, and you're already intoxicated enough without starting to get lusty Tara-thoughts.

"I guess you're right," Willow said with a small voice, before moving slightly, settling her head on Tara's shoulder, and snaking an arm around the blonde's waist to pull Tara closer.

A smile formed on Tara's lips as she heard Willow say she'd indeed rest. But as the blonde felt her body being pulled against the redhead's, she gasped.

Oh man... why does my breath have to catch in my throat - and my heart start beating wildly in my chest - every single time she gets close to me? She's not mine to hold. I can't forget that.

Tara tried to calm herself down without disturbing Willow. A moment passed and she'd regained some composure, so she looked down to see if the redhead had noticed anything. What she saw made her face light up with a warm smile.

Willow was peacefully sleeping. A few auburn tresses had escaped the tight ponytail and fallen gracefully on her cheek. Her mouth was slightly opened in a childlike manner, with her tongue peaking through the middle of her lips. She looked endearingly young and vulnerable.

Tara fell in love with her all over again in that one moment, and she couldn't help but pull Willow closer to her body.

As Willow felt the change of pressure, she shifted her position in her sleep. First, she buried her head in Tara's neck; her hot breath teased the other girl's skin and sent shivers down her body. Then Willow's right hand migrated and her palm came to rest cupping the blonde's left breast. Meanwhile, with her knee slightly bent, and her right leg nestled between Tara's, Willow's thigh settled mere inches away from the blonde's center.

As Tara felt the other raider move, she was overcome with the sudden rush of sensations; her eyes nearly bulged out of her head and she had to bite back a moan of pleasure. She felt herself burning and melting, her center flooding from a sudden surge of wetness, and her clit starting to throb... begging for friction, pleading for release.

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. Ok, calm down... I have to calm down.

Tara took a few deep breaths, trying to be as still as possible so Willow wouldn't be disturbed. Tara was fearful that the redhead would choose that moment to come back to Awakeland - it would be just too mortifying.

A moment later, she'd managed to calm down just a little, and coherent thought was starting to come back to her.

Willow's asleep, and she was just poisoned. I have to remember that if she were awake she wouldn't be doing this to me. Goddess... if I could at least move just a little further away...

Tara tried to make small movements so she wouldn't startle her companion. At first, she managed to make her plan work, putting some space between herself and Willow's body, slowly, inch-by-inch, without earning any reaction from the woman.

But then Willow suddenly made a little disgruntled noise, scooted closer to Tara, and tightened her grip on the blonde. Her right hand closed on Tara's left breast possessively, and Willow bent her right leg further until her thigh pressed forcefully against the blonde's center.

It was too much stimulation for the blonde to bear quietly. She arched her back, pushed her breast further against the redhead's hand, and before she could stop herself, a low moan slipped past her lips.


The combination of Willow's hand cupping her breast and the sudden pressure of the redhead's thigh between her legs made Tara completely mad with desire. Her heart hammered in her chest and her breathing became frantic.

She could feel wetness trickle out of her and soak through her panties. Her clit twisted and throbbed mercilessly, wanting more pressure, asking to be rubbed, pulled, and pushed. Her already engorged nipples became hard as diamonds against the redhead's palm, and her body temperature rose wildly.

Tara willed herself to be still, not to give in to the overwhelming need she felt to grind herself passionately against Willow and simply let pleasure take over her body.

Ok, ok... don't panic, and oooh... for God's sake don't move! I'm already over-stimulated and Willow's just pressing her body against me. If she were moving... mmm... I don't think I'd be able to hold on. What can I do?

Just then, Willow started to mumble something against Tara's neck. Her moist lips brushed slowly and sensually against Tara's skin, adding to the sweet torment the blonde was forced to endure.

Tara shifted her head slightly, trying to escape the soft torture of Willow's lips. As the drowsy woman moved in response to Tara's movement, her mouth settled directly in front of the blonde's ear. Her hot breath teased Tara and sent jolts of energy and pleasure straight to her center with each word.

"Pillars and spheres dancing together?" the redhead asked in surprise.

Curiously, in the middle of the haze of lust that clouded Tara's brain, Willow's sentences still clearly registered.

Ooohh... yes... pillars... mmmm... spheres. Wait... what?!

"But that's just ridiculous," Willow continued. "Because... hello... their dancing styles just don't fit at all! Pillars can only move up and down... you know... like this..."

Willow began to demonstrate the pillars' dancing movements. The hand that was still resting on the blonde's breast suddenly moved. Its palm rubbed the hardened nipple up and down, up and down. At the same time, Willow's right leg shifted and began to move, pressing up and then backing down, over and over again...producing the pressure that Tara's little bundle of nerves begged for.

When Tara felt the added stimulation, she had to bite down hard on her lip - nearly to the point of drawing blood - to stop herself from screaming in bliss, but she couldn't prevent a small groan from escaping her lips. "Mmmm." Her emotions were so strained, she couldn't tell if it was from the unbelievable pleasure she was feeling or from the frustration of not being able to stop what was happening.

Tara fought hard to stay on this side of reality. Pleasure ripped at every cell of her body, leaving her drained and aching for more...promising an earth-shattering release if she would simply let go.

"Willowww... mmmm... oohh... mmm." Low moans were released from deep down inside the blonde every time Willow pressed up against her.

Tara's brain was shutting down; thought replaced by feel, need, and desire.

I can't come like this... mmmmm.... ohhhh, please... she's... Oh God mmm... asleep... Tara begged silently in her head... fighting, even as she could feel herself sink down into a hot sea of oblivion.

Then she heard the redhead's whisper in her ear as if resuming an interrupted conversation.

"...You see... these are the pillars! Now, spheres don't only move up and down, they can also roll around..."

As Tara heard Willow's speech, her tightly closed eyes shot wide open.

In her fevered state, she imagined Willow rubbing her body... rubbing the palm of her hand in circles over her nipple... and then the redhead's thigh rubbing...pulling and pushing her clit in every direction. Simply thinking about it almost sent her over the edge.

No... no... no... There's only.... mmm... so much I can take... Goddessssss... I have to get out of here... now!!

Tara hastily disentangled herself from Willow. She tried to gently roll the woman off of her, but succeeded in sending her to the floor rather abruptly. Tara stood up quickly, flushed and shaking. Every nerve ending in her body complained about being so rudely interrupted.

Willow woke up startled. The first thing she felt was herself rolling roughly to lie on her stomach. The movement rubbed Tara's wetness from the redhead's knee and erased any physical trace of what had happened.

Willow closed and opened her eyes a few times, and tried to understand why it was that she was now lying with her face buried in the dirt when she'd fallen asleep safely nestled on Tara's soft shoulder.

Then she heard Tara speaking hurriedly, and she turned her face to look at the blonde. She saw that Tara was shaking and that her face was a deep shade of red.

"I'm so... sor... sorry."

Good grief! Why do I have to stutter precisely on those occasions when I so desperately need her to believe everything is normal and ok? Tara breathed deeply and continued.

"I need to go to the bathroom. And I think I'll use this break to take a bath as well. Don't go anywhere. Wait for me here." That was the last thing Tara said before breaking into a sprint towards the woods and disappearing from Willow's sight.

She looked so stressed. Oh jeez... what if I did something inappropriate in my sleep... like grope her or something like that?! It could have happened; she makes me so hot all the time. I only have to think about her and my body temperature starts to rise, and my heart begins to pound in my chest. I want her so badly! So maybe I was having a hot... sweaty... lusty Tara-dream and I harassed the poor girl! Maybe I squeezed her breasts... mmm, yummy... Tara-breasts... Focus Willow!

Or worse! I could have ground myself into her body... my thigh sliding to the middle of hers, pressing up against her. Oh no... please no. Not that I wouldn't love to do all of those things and so much more to her, but if I'm going to make a move on her, at least let me be awake to enjoy it, before she punches me in the nose! What am I thinking?! Missing the point! I probably freaked her out and now I'm never going to bask in the warm light of those blue eyes again. I'll never hear that sweet voice again. I won't feel those soft hands running through my hair ever again. And never again will I go to sleep cradled in her arms.

By this point, Willow was close to hyperventilation. Merely thinking of Tara walking out of her life made her feel like she was being stabbed through her heart with dull needles. After a period of uncontrolled panic, Willow calmed herself down and applied her logical mind to piecing together why Tara took off so quickly... and why she looked so upset doing it.

Ok, calm down and think! What was I dreaming about? I'm sure Tara was there... but, hey, that's no surprise; she's always on my mind. Doesn't matter if I'm awake or asleep, as long as I'm breathing, I have Tara on my mind. Oh brother... let's stop with the hopelessly romantic ramble and get back to the point. Hmm, Tara was there, but I don't think I was dreaming about anything sexy. Oh hey! I remember now; I was dreaming about pillars and spheres dancing together, and I was showing Tara how they'd smash into each other on the dance floor. Sounds innocent enough. I really don't think a 'dancing stones' dream would lead me to make a move on her. Well, that's a comfort at least.

Oh well, maybe she just really had to go to the bathroom. Yeah, maybe she'd held on as long as she could, trying not to disturb me, and that's why she looked so agitated. In that case I'll just close my eyes a little longer and wait for Tara to come back.

Relief washed over the redhead and allowed her to relax. In a moment she was again asleep.

In the meantime, Tara was running toward the river as if the Devil himself were chasing her.

Since we're lacking cold showers, I'll use the dive-into-a-cold-river technique and pray to every deity in every heaven for it to work. I've never been so aroused in my whole life. And the woman was unconscious! Imagine if instead of simply mechanically stimulating me, she were actually concentrating on manipulating my body, pushing my buttons, kneading me to her liking... opening me with her lips and tongue...

Tara felt the throbbing sensation between her legs come back with a vengeance, and she tried to focus on running, running as fast as she could.

Oh come on! Am I trying to make myself explode from frustration? Where's a cold river when I need one?

Just as she processed that thought, she cleared the woods and found the river right in front of her. She dived head first without even slowing down. She felt herself cooling down as the river enveloped her. The cold water soothed her aching, burning flesh, and she returned to the surface after a few moments.

Two days, two jumps into the river with the intent to cool off. All right... what's up with me? I never wanted anyone like this before. She just has to look at me the right way and I feel myself melting... trembling... throbbing... and at the same time aching to touch her, to feel her, to lose myself completely inside her and never come back. I guess I can sum it all up with three words; I love her.

Tara sighed deeply before diving deep down again. And she doesn't want me. What is it about that small sentence that I can't grasp? She... doesn't... want... me. I'm tormenting myself with these thoughts and fantasies. I really need to cool down before I do something stupid.

The blonde swam for a while, hoping the water would wash away all signs of her previous aroused state, and simultaneously refresh her mind and spirit, so she'd be ready to face Willow without giving away her true feelings.

After a few minutes, Tara decided it was time to go back to Willow. As she got out of the water, an unsettling thought entered her mind and made her once again break into a full sprint. This time toward the redhead, not away from her.

Oh my God! She's alone, semi-intoxicated, and vulnerable in the middle of a forest full of traps and deadly tricks. How the hell could I leave her there by herself?! I have to get back to her. Now! Willow...

Tara ran like the wind, while all kinds of dark thoughts entered her mind. As she reached their temporary camp, relief washed over her. Willow slept peacefully in the same spot where Tara had left her. The blonde's lips curved softly in an adoring smile while she was gazing at the sleeping raider. Willow lay on her side with her legs and arms bent, her head resting on her right arm.

Tara stood there, motionless, feeling content to simply gaze at Willow until she saw the redhead start to stir. Her arm moved to brush away the few auburn tresses that had broken loose from her ponytail and fallen across her face, and she rubbed her eyes lightly, yawning all the while.

It took her several moments to notice the woman who was simply standing there, looking at her. When she did, she quickly sat straight up and her mouth curved in a sheepish smile.

"How long have you been there?" Willow asked, feeling a little self-conscious.

Thank God this tight ponytail prevents bed hair. At least that's one thing I don't have to worry about. Oh, but what if I was mumbling and drooling. Worse... what if I was whispering and moaning her name? Hmm... nah... if I was having that kind of dream I'd be burning with fever and I'm feeling cool, err, at least I was before I started to think of possible scenarios that would have me moaning her beautiful name. Willow was startled and embarrassed when her thoughts were interrupted by her friend's answer.

"Hmm?! Ah... n-not long." Both women blushed identical shades of red but they were too busy trying to hide it from each other to note their mutual flustered state.

Oh great. I stutter at all the right times. I have no idea how long I was standing there looking at you, Willow. Your beauty mesmerized me. But I can't exactly tell you that, now can I? And now I'm blushing. Just gets better and better. Mother of God...

"So how's your head doing?" Tara asked, hopeful for a change of topic, but also sincere in her concern for Willow's well being.

Willow moved her head in all directions waiting for the sharp pain to send her reeling as it had before. She was surprised when she felt nothing, and she smiled brightly.

"Hey... it doesn't hurt! Ok, there's a little left-over throbbing, but I'm so much better!"

Thank the gods! But did she have to say "throbbing?!"

Tara's face lit up before taking on a serious look again. She was relieved Willow was feeling better, but now it was time for them to get back to business.

"Then I guess we should try to search for the last mask."

"Hmm, you know? I think we could sit down for a while. Maybe eat lunch and think for a few minutes; it should lessen our chances of heading into another pitfall. There's usually some kind of logic to these traps and, well, it'd really help if we could narrow down our search options. We've already looked everywhere around here and found no trace of the last mask."

Tara's brow furrowed a little while she tried to decide if taking a few minutes to think things over would be a waste of more time or actually a way to save it. In the end, Willow's common sense couldn't be denied.

"Ok. I think that's a good idea."

They both sat down quietly, and each woman took an unavoidable protein ball out of her bag. They ate slowly.

"So what do we know about these masks?"

"Well, they're shaped like animal heads, they're golden... and, oh... I know... maybe the last one is buried. As if it's in a gold mine, you know?" The redhead said excitedly, before remembering something and resuming in a sad voice.

"Uhm, now that I think about it, it isn't such a great thing after all. Digging for a lost mask in the middle of a huge forest; that's got to be about as easy as... very difficult pie."

Tara smiled despite of their situation. Willow's babbling was just too endearing.

"Don't worry. The mask I found was already kind of buried. I don't think we'll have another one concealed in the underground," the blonde said reassuringly. She was rewarded for her effort when she saw Willow's eyes light up again.

The women fell silent, until Tara's voice cut through the quiet space.

"We found one mask in the river, one lying near the trail, one in a hole, and the other on a booby-trapped platform, lying in the middle of the grass. So, where's the last one?" mumbled Tara.

As she looked down, she missed the excited spark that shone in the green eyes in front of her.

"Hey, I think I have an idea of where the last mask is!" Willow was practically bouncing with enthusiasm.

Tara looked up with a question in her eyes, signaling for the redhead to continue.

"We found a lion mask lying near the path, a fish mask swimming in the river, so, ok, not exactly swimming, but, well, it was in the river, and it was a fish, so I guess I can say swimming. Although, it is kind of a stretch to-"

"Willow..." Tara called out before the redhead completely lost focus on her original point.

"Oh, sorry. I guess I got a little carried away with the fish thing. Now, ok... let's see... a fish mask in the river, a rabbit mask in a hole, and a snake mask lying in the middle of overgrown grass. Pretty clear pattern, wouldn't you say?

Willow stopped talking and waited to see if Tara was on the same page.

"Of course! Every mask was found in a place where the animals they represent would typically be found; the ground, the river, the rabbit hole, the grass," the blonde said, getting more excited by the second.

"Exactly! And following that line of thought, where do you think we'll find a monkey-shaped mask?"

"Oh, that's an easy one... in a tree," the older raider said smiling.

"I think so, too." Willow frowned slightly. "Ok, great... so now all we have to do is look at every single tree in this goddamn forest. Well, I guess it's better than digging, anyway," Willow said, trying to sound cheerful.

"You know, I don't think the mask will be that hard to find. It's impossible to reach the tops of most of these trees... so I'll only have to look through the ones that can be climbed. Also, I'm betting we'll most likely be able to spot the mask from the ground. The challenge probably lies in knowing where to look."

"That makes sense." Willow nodded, as her mood lifted again.

"Ok, so if you're finished with lunch, what's say we go tree hunting?"

Willow nodded enthusiastically while she put away her half-eaten protein ball. When she was ready to move on, she asserted happily... "Let's go find our elusive monkey!"

Continue to The Artifact Chapter Thirteen

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