Return to The Artifact Chapter Fifteen

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 nodded her approval but didn't make the slightest movement to get up. She was feeling better - closed inside the circle of the redhead's arms, looking deeply into those emerald orbs, and basking on their warmth - than she had ever felt before in her life, and although she understood that they had to keep going, she was unwilling to let go.

I never want to let go...

As they stared deeply into each other eyes they started to move closer and closer, as if by magnetic force - they just couldn't be this near and remain apart. Their mouths locked together, fitting each other perfectly, their lips moving in time with each other. As their kiss continued, the temperature started to rise, their mouths opened more and asked to be invaded. Tongues teased soft lips in search of their mates, while hands began to roam and legs entwined themselves in an attempt get even closer.

Willow's hands snaked under Tara's tight shirt and started to caress her lower back, making the blonde moan into their kiss. She kneaded the muscles there for a while and then started to slowly inch her hands up until she reached Tara's bra strap. She followed it with her hands, her thumbs grazing the sides of Tara's full breasts over the thin fabric. She felt a pair of strong but tender hands running all the way down her back, coming to rest on her ass, firmly cupping her buttocks and pushing their centers forcefully together.

They both felt a jolt of pleasure shooting directly from their clits and they arched their backs, pressing harder against each other, breaking their kiss to moan loudly.

"Oh, Willoww..."

"Mmmm... Taraa..."

Oh God... that feels so good. Wait?! Who wants to wait, anyway? Willow thought as she buried her face on the blonde's neck and started to suck on her pulse point, while her hands traveled the small distance needed to fully hold Tara's luscious breasts. Willow gasped as the nipples swelled and hardened immediately under her touch.

Tara! Tara wants to wait!! Gosh, twenty minutes ago I said I'd wait for her as long as she needed and now here I am with my hands all over her. What's wrong with me?!

That thought stopped Willow cold. She lifted her head from the blonde's neck and pulled her hands out from under Tara's shirt.

Tara whimpered as she lost the contact of Willow's lips and hands at the same time. When she felt Willow pull away instead of feeling her press closer, Tara opened her eyes to see what was happening.

Just as she opened her eyes Willow started to talk nervously.

"I'm sorry... I didn't want to be all over you. Uhm... I mean, of course I wanted to be all over you! Although, I probably don't need to be telling you that. I would imagine that "the-hands-in-interesting-places" had already told you that much. So I'm not saying that I didn't want to... because, God, I did... I do! So much! So it's clear that I want to, right? Although I'm almost sure that that wasn't the point I was trying to make before I started rambling..."

Willow stopped for a moment to take in a little air and search for a better way to phrase what she wanted to say.

As Tara heard the other girl's voice, the reality of the situation slowly started to register in her still-foggy brain.

We were going to make love... on the floor in the same room where I pushed her up against the wall! Oh Goddess... I want to wait. I want to take her to dinner with candlelight and violin music. I want to get down on my knees and serenade her. Lay her down on a soft bed and make sweet, passionate love to her. But at the same time I don't want to wait. She only has to look at me and my breath catches in my throat and my heart pounds in my chest. She touches me and I burn and melt. She kisses me and I forget who and where I am. When I'm in her arms I forget everything except that I'm hers... and that's all that matters. Maybe the answer is that easy...

Tara was about to state that she was ready - that they'd waited long enough - and then just pull Willow down to her and kiss her with all the passion, desire, and pure hunger that she could feel burning deep inside her. But as she was moving to do just that, she caught a glimpse of something that struck her as not quite right, and she stopped.

She'd survived many crypts and searches for lost artifacts, and she owed that fact to her senses and acute instincts. They'd saved her life more than once. In her already long career as a tomb raider she'd learned to disregard no signs.

So she quickly stood up and looked at what had caught her attention.

In the meantime, Willow had been distracted, engrossed in thought. But as she saw Tara standing and tensing, Willow jumped to her feet, drew her guns, and stood at Tara's side, ready to face whatever it was that had caused her partner to react.

"What the...?" Tara asked astonished.

Willow didn't answer - she simply gazed at the strange sight in front of her.

A skeleton's head and shoulders were coming out of the floor. It was as if the ground had turned into quicksand for a while, swallowed most of the skeleton's body and then turned into stone again, trapping the undead entity by its shoulders and leaving only its skull free.

They walked carefully in the skeleton's direction, stopping just a few feet away. It was perfectly still, apparently just as dead as it should be. They stood there silently, lost in their thoughts for a while until Willow broke the silence.

"Ok, so now this is officially weird. A whole skeleton with a sword attacking us I can understand, but now an unmoving skull trapped in the floor? It just doesn't make sense. Not that everything has to make sense. We're stuck in a temple full of traps that defy every known law of physics; everything goes in here. And well, now that I think about it, the first skeleton appearing didn't make much sense either. I could swear there wasn't anything menacing in this room, but then again I wasn't exactly focused while I was searching... and I didn't see it coming either. I was... uhm... distracted..."

Willow's tone dropped a little by the end and she started to blush as she remembered exactly why she'd been preoccupied.

And what I wouldn't give to be distracted that way again. Tara's hands... Tara's mouth... Mmm. Okay, patience Rosenberg. There will be a time for that, but it isn't now.

When Tara heard Willow's words she couldn't help but blush along with the redhead and remember exactly what they'd been doing before the skeleton's attack.

I didn't see it coming, either. I guess I was more focused on making and seeing you come... oh Goddess... mmm. Jeez, focus on the skeletons!! So one moment we're alone and then when we're about to make love... bang! Stupid, rude sk-... uhm, okay... wait a minute, it's almost if...

Tara opened and closed her mouth before finally managing to make her voice work and catch the redhead's attention.


"Yeah? What is it?" She asked softly while she walked toward the blonde, reached for her hand, and lovingly interlaced their fingers. Her body and mind reacted to the trepidation in her love's voice and they both wanted to calm her.

The soothing move wasn't lost on Tara and she squeezed Willow's hand back, grateful for the feeling of their palms together and their fingers intertwined. She took a deep breath to steady herself and then spoke.

"I don't think the skeletons were in the room when we first got here."

Willow nodded before answering.

"I think you're right. So ok, I hadn't been paying much attention to the room before..."

Willow once again felt a blush creep up her face as her mind was invaded with images of Tara kissing, touching, and caressing her. The redhead shook her head and resumed what she was saying.

"But after the attack I looked around carefully and I'm sure that the skull wasn't there. So where do you think those things came from? Maybe they used some hidden door that we can track to get out of here."

"I believe they emerged from the ground. I think that's the most logical explanation considering how we found that skull. It looked like it was in the process of ascending to this room... but the passage suddenly closed, trapping it by its shoulders."

Willow thought for a while before answering.

"So ok, you have a point. It did sort of look like it was coming out of the ground. But then why did the passage close before it was completely out? It's not like a skull is high on the 'Menacing Things' list."

"I... I think something must have triggered the opening of a passage and then some other thing triggered its closing before all the bones could get out."

Purposely she kept her explanation vague, waiting to see if Willow's always busy brain would lead her to the same conclusions that Tara had reached.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm imagining things. Please let me be imagining things. Maybe Willow will find another answer to this.

"Something triggered it? You mean like a hidden trap? The 'touch-me-and-you'll-be-history' kind of trap? But we didn't touch anything before being attacked. Well... I mean besides the wall and the floor... and each other..."

As she voiced that last thought Willow could feel another wave of heat coming up her face.

God... this is becoming annoying, why can't my blood stay put where it's needed instead of making vacation trips to my cheeks every five minutes?! Stupid blushing mechanism. What's the point in blushing anyway? And why am I rambling on in my head about blushing when I should be concentrating on figuring out this skeleton trap? Hello... Tara's waiting for me to say something! And I never want to make Tara wait. Although I can think of other situations where making Tara wait could be fun... Mmm. Ok, I think my blood just rushed from my head to somewhere much further south. Argg... Trap! Skeleton! Concentrate! So Tara thinks that something we did triggered the whole skeleton-appearing-out-of-nowhere thingy. But all we did was kiss and touch each other! It couldn't have been that, could it?

Tara waited silently for her love to come up with her own answers, in the mean time losing herself in what was rapidly becoming her favorite pastime - Willow-gazing. She was completely entranced by the myriad of expressions that crossed the redhead's face. The endearingly shy blush that spread through her pale skin, the way her lips curved mischievously up in a seductive and somehow predatory smile, and the adorable way her brows knitted together in confusion. With each passing second Tara could feel herself falling more and more in love with Willow.

She's just so beautiful. Her soft skin, her ruby lips, her fiery red hair, her deep, tender, green eyes that hold me safe. How did I ever get this lucky?

After a little while Willow's hesitant voice pierced the silence, breaking Tara's reverie.

"Tara, you think the trap was activated when we touched?"

The blonde simply nodded sadly letting the redhead know that that was exactly what she thought.

"But... but... we've touched before and nothing happened. I mean nothing of the icky 'I want to kill you' variety. What your touch does to me can hardly be dismissed as nothing. God, you kiss me and I burn, you touch me and I melt. I just meant that never before we reached this room did our touching open passages for skeletons to come out and attack... mmm"

Before Willow could finish her sentence, Tara's arms went around her neck, her hands ensconcing themselves in red tresses and pulling Willow closer while her lips descended upon Willow's in a hungry, deep kiss that burned all thoughts from her brain, leaving only passion and need that matched Tara's.

Only when the need for oxygen became too much for them to ignore did they pull away, panting. It took only a few seconds for the separation to become unbearable for Willow, and she once again leaned in to capture Tara's mouth.

In the middle of Tara's aroused haze she had a moment of clarity. She brought her hands up to Willow's cheeks and pulled away from their kiss, indulging herself in one last lick of the ruby lips in front of her before breaking all contact.

At the loss of Tara's lips Willow let out a little whimpering noise and pushed forward trying to resume the contact, but she found herself unable to move her face as Tara's hands were still holding her in place. Not understanding what was happening and worried that she might have done something wrong, Willow opened her eyes hastily and locked her gaze on Tara.

She was instantly met by two comforting sapphires where she could see all her love and desire mirrored and directed back at her. Reassured that everything was indeed all right and that Tara wanted to kiss her just as badly as Willow needed to be kissed, the redhead uttered her plea breathlessly.

"Tara... please..."

When she heard Willow's voice Tara felt her resolve melt like ice under the spring sun and she had to drop her hands and take a couple of steps back to restrain herself from crushing their mouths together again. She took a deep breath and only then did she speak, pleading with the redhead to understand.

"Willow... we can't. Skeletons, remember?"

Willow looked around frantically before answering.

"But we don't even know if our touching is what sets the trap off. It... it might be something else, anything else... maybe mice?! Uhm, okay, so I haven't seen so much as a single mouse in this place, but I'm sure they're in here somewhere! Besides, we just touched and nothing happened. Uh... I mean no skeleton popping up..."

Tara could see that her partner was becoming distressed and to tell the truth, she wasn't coping very well herself with the notion that she couldn't touch Willow when she wanted to. But she'd sacrifice anything for the redhead's safety and if that meant not touching, she sure as Hell was going to keep her hands and her mouth to herself.

"Willow, I think the trap is triggered by... uhm... a... more int-intimate tt-touch than a kiss on the mouth. We were doing m-more than just k-kissing both times we found skeletons." Tara felt all the blood in her body rush to her face and she cursed her stutter for making it even harder to get the words out.

Willow blushed, too, when she was once again reminded of exactly what they'd been doing before being attacked by that inconsiderate bag of bones.


They were silent for a couple of minutes, both trying to find a solution that didn't entail giving up the right to just caress each other in whichever way they wanted. Then Willow spoke, her voice more high-pitched than usual, and her face even more flushed than before.

"So uhm... you think we should try... uh... touching each other to see if a skeleton appears?"

Tara thought it wasn't possible to blush deeper than she already had, but as she heard Willow's suggestion she felt her cheeks heat up even more and she knew she'd been wrong.

She took a calming breath and answered the redhead praying that she wouldn't stutter.

"Will... Willow... I-I don't think that's a g-good idea." Tara took another calming breath and then resumed what she was saying with a soft but firm voice, this time without stammering.

"First, the trap might only be activated if we're completely lost in each other to ensure that it takes us by surprise. If that's the case, and we're simply touching in order to see if a skeleton pops up, nothing will happen and we'd be deceiving ourselves. And then the danger would be even bigger when we became... uh... distracted again."

Willow looked like she desperately needed to say something, but Tara stopped her by putting a finger on her lips.

"Wait, let me finish, my love. Second, we could become too wrapped up in each other and completely forget that we were testing the trap in the first place. And if a skeleton appears we might not be as lucky as we were last time.

And last, but not least, I don't want our first time to be about something as cold and clinical as testing traps. I want it to be about love and passion. I want to make love to you, and I won't settle for anything less."

When she heard Tara's last argument, Willow dropped her gaze to the ground, unable to face the blue sea of disappointment that she was sure she'd meet if she dared look up.

"I'm sorry," she said in a broken whisper.

But Tara brought her right hand up and softly lifted Willow's head until the redhead was gazing deeply into two blue gems. And instead of the hurt she was sure she'd find there, Willow saw nothing but love and warmth in Tara's eyes. Relaxing under that loving gaze, Willow tried to explain her suggestion.

"I just wanted to find a way of denying that skeletons pop up when we... uh... are just about to... make love to each other. So I guess my geeky, bookworm roots just decided to surface and I thought we could try the scientific approach, you know - form a hypothesis, test it, and study the results. Not that there was much to study or consider in this case. Skeleton pops up - bad; skeleton doesn't pop up - good. I wasn't even thinking about the implications of testing your theory. If I had, I'd have given up on the scientific method faster than you could say, "Bag of bones at twelve o'clock." And now I'm babbling, aren't I?"

Willow shook her head and raised her hands to cup Tara's face, her thumbs tenderly stroking the soft skin beneath them.

"I just love you so much... I panicked. I'm sorry," she said in a thick voice. She then pulled Tara's face closer and captured her mouth in a deep kiss that conveyed all that Willow wanted to say to the blonde. All of her love and want expressed with wet, deep, lazy caresses of tongue on tongue.

They kissed until the need for air was too urgent for them to ignore and forced them to pull away. They stood there panting, with their arms still wrapped around each other, their gazes still locked, until Tara broke the silence. The vulnerability and doubt she saw in the emerald pools she loved so much called out to her.

"I like it that you react to danger in a rational way, that you try to resolve the problems and puzzles scientifically. The geeky, bookworm roots as you called them... they're a part of you and it only makes me love you more."

Green eyes widened as Willow heard Tara's words. She'd fought so hard to forget that part of herself; the babbling, bright, quirky young girl that she'd once been. And now here she stood in front of the woman whom she loved more than her own life, and she was being told that she was loved not in spite of that side of herself but because of it, because it is part of who she is.

Does she know what she's saying? Does she mean it?

"You mean...?"

The strangled voice in which the question was made in combination with the fear, hurt, and hope swirling in Willow's eyes told Tara that this was a much more important question than anyone could have guessed by their earlier conversation.

She answered in the only way she could.

"I mean... I love you Willow... so much! All of you."

And then she pulled the redhead closer and kissed her profoundly, letting her lips and tongue silently and passionately express the boundless love she felt for Willow.

Willow... who hurt you? Who told you that you weren't good enough? Who made you believe that you're unworthy of being loved for who you are? God... I love you so much, sometimes my heart seems like it's going to explode. You're the most lovable person I've ever met. The cutest, the sweetest, the smartest. And if you let me, I'll spend the rest of my life proving it to you, loving you in every possible way until the end of time. But now isn't the time to discuss that. First we have to get out of this temple and then...

Before the kiss could escalate and their passion could rise out of control, Tara pulled away. But she didn't go very far before she hugged Willow fiercely against her heart, the circle of her arms closing protectively around the redhead.

They were both silent for a moment before Tara decided it was time to ease some of the tension and lift the mood.

"Willow, honey?"


"Doesn't that scientific method involve repeating the same experience several times for the results to be considered valid?"


Tara bent her head a little so that her next words would be whispered directly in front of the other girl's ear. Then she spoke in her best sultry voice, her warm breath teasing Willow's skin and sending shivers down her spine.

"It's just that I can see a definite potential in the "me, you, and the scientific method" equation. Lots of experiences being repeated, over and over and over again... to exhaustion... until we're both completely satisfied..."

Tara heard Willow's breathing hitch and she pulled away, her only intention had been to tease Willow a little and change the mood to a more playful one. She knew how easy it was for them to become completely lost in each other, and there was no need to tempt fate, skeletons, and their self-control.

But when she took in Willow's appearance, she felt a shiver run down her spine, the now familiar ache set deep in her lower belly, and a distinct pool of wetness form between her legs - and she wondered if things had already begun to escape her control.

Willow's face was flushed, her eyes dilated with need, her green hungry gaze burning Tara to the core, her wet and swollen lips slightly apart, calling out to the blonde, begging to be sucked, kissed, nibbled...

She's just so beautiful. God, the way her face flushes, her breathing grows ragged, and her eyes darken to the most entrancing shade of green. I do that to her... I, Tara Maclay... I turn the sexiest woman I've ever met on to the point where she can't think straight! I just want to pull her down and... Oh God... Skeletons, remember? Breathe Tara, breathe. I shouldn't be doing this. The push and pull is too much. One of us is bound to break down and either try to find some release and be attacked by the next undead thing that decides to pop up, or go insane!

In the meantime, Willow had managed to calm down a little. Although she was now sure that Tara wasn't upset by her plan, she was still feeling a little guilty for even having suggested that they try to make a skeleton appear. So she shook her head a couple of times and took a few deep breaths to steady herself. Feeling the lusty haze lift a little, she looked right into Tara's eyes and spoke in a light tone, bringing the other girl back from her thoughts.


Tara's heart lifted when she heard the playful tone and saw the good-natured glint in Willow's eyes, and she smiled one of her half smiles... and couldn't prevent the words that escaped her mouth next.

"Well, since we can't use the scientific method in the most desirable way, I think we should try to find a way out of here. Maybe start by searching that Sun clock more thoroughly," she said in a perfectly casual way before beginning to walk toward the clock.

Willow's mouth fell open as she heard Tara's words, and she was frozen to the spot as her partner moved to investigate the large clock. She shook her head before following Tara's footsteps and whispered to herself.

"Yeah. Total vixen."

Continue to The Artifact Chapter Seventeen

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