Return to The Artifact Chapter Nineteen



The Artifact
CHAPTER TWENTY

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.
Note: I would like to dedicate this chapter to my beta reader TKOLove whom real life hasn't been treating very well lately. Get well soon.


Instead of the playful 'wow' she expected to hear, Tara found herself lying on her back with a smiling redhead on top of her.

"Maybe I could show you instead," Willow said throatily. Her deep green eyes burned with fire and just a hint of nervousness.

Tara's voice dropped an octave as her eyes met Willow's and held. "I'd love that."

Have Tara near me; check. Ask her if I can make love to her; check. Hear her say 'yes'; check. Believe that she meant it when she said yes; check. Now what do I do? Kiss her? Undress her? Hell, yes! Wait, we're already naked. She really did blissfully fry my brain. Ohhhh god, naked Tara...

After a long moment Willow had yet to make a move on her and Tara decided to break the silence to ask if something was wrong.

"Willow, honey, what's the matter? Are you okay? Are you feeling tired?" she asked worriedly.

Of course she's tired. She just swam through an ice cold underwater tunnel and nearly froze to death. I should have let her sleep then, but no, I had to make love to her and wear her out...

Willow saw the fear dash through her girlfriend's eyes and she quickly tried to reassure her. She moved her right hand to caress the blonde's jaw line and simultaneously move Tara's face slightly in order to keep their eyes locked. When she was sure she had the blonde's attention Willow spoke softly.

"I am a little tired, that's true. Actually it's more like 'euphorically mellow.'" She gave a sexy grin. "But I want - no, I need - to make love to you. We've been waiting for what feels like a year and I just can't wait anymore." She stopped for a second, just long enough to see Tara's face relax and her lips curl into a smile. She took a deep breath and then continued. "My hesitation only comes from being a little nervous. You made love to me and it was so much more than I ever expected or could have imagined. Baby, it was perfect. You took me to another universe and I want to do the same for you. But I've never done this before and I'm scared that I won't be good enough and you'll be disappointed or something."

This time Tara extended her hand and tenderly cupped Willow's face.

"Honey... it will be perfect. And do you want to know how I know this?"

Rather than see Willow nod, Tara felt the subtle movement against the palm of her hand.

"I know because no matter what happens, it will be you touching me. You, the woman I love with all my heart and soul...the woman I want more than I've ever wanted anything in my life. God, Willow, don't you know what you do to me? You kiss me and I completely melt. I can't think, I can't breathe, and all I know is that I want more of you. You have a way of looking at me that, well, let's just say it gets me completely aroused. So you see there's absolutely no way I could ever be disappointed with you making love to me."

Feeling her nervousness begin to fade in the wake of Tara's passionate speech, the redhead leaned down and kissed her on the lips. It was slow and tender, a simple thank you for the blonde's understanding and reassurance.

"I love you," Willow said softly.

"I love you, too."

Okay, this is it. Oh God, do I even know what to do? I have to calm down. Tara just made love to me and it was so amazing, hot, sensual, natural and beautiful. Thank goodness for the 21st century; I've seen enough films and books filled with sex scenes to give me an idea of the basic mechanics, but does Tara like the same things I do? Maybe I should make a plan. Yeah, okay. First, I'll list what I know. One, I want to make love to her so much I can barely function. Two, I'm going to be the first one to make love to her. Hmmm... so far, not really a list that's helping me to relax. So, back to the plan. First go slow...

As she gazed into Willow's eyes Tara could still see the trepidation and insecurity there and she desperately wanted to do more to help without pushing.

Oh Sweetie, I love you so much. And there's no limit to how much I want you. I feel like you'll only have to touch me once or twice and I'll come so hard I'll pass out. Hmm, maybe I should show you how much I want you instead of telling you.

Tara snaked both her arms around Willow's back and pulled the redhead down against her. She craned her head up and began kissing Willow's neck slowly, making her moan at the unexpected contact.

"Mmmmm... oh god, Tara. I... I can't... think with you doing that."

The blonde moved her mouth higher to nibble on her girlfriend's ear lobe. She then moved up slightly and began to whisper her tender message.

"You're thinking too much. Feel. Feel my skin as it moves against yours, my heart as it beats against yours. Feel the heat, the love, the desire. It's all for you. I am... you know... yours."

Willow moaned as her body responded both to Tara's touch and her voice. Each of the blonde's words was murmured hotly between kisses and soft bites, making Willow shudder and effectively erasing all doubts and insecurities from her mind.

Willow lifted her head away from Tara's caress and locked their eyes together. This time there was no hesitation or fear in the darkened green orbs, only an all consuming desire that made Tara's heart beat a little faster and her breath become a little shallower.

Mine. She's mine and it's time for me to claim her. We've waited long enough.

"I love you, Tara."

Willow dropped her head and claimed Tara's lips and mouth in a deep, hungry kiss that the blonde rapidly matched in intensity. Tara's hands desperately pulled Willow as close as they possibly could. Their mouths widened as if they were trying to devour each other while their tongues fiercely caressed and stroked one another. Finally a lack of oxygen made them pull away panting, lips wet, swollen, and aching for more. Their eyes heatedly locked together once again.

The heat rolling off of their bodies was so intense the temperature around them began to rise. As Willow took in Tara's already hazy dark blue gaze, her brain struggled to break through the lust filled fog.

Good god. What am I doing? Slow down, remember the plan? Go slow, Rosenberg.

She leaned down and began leaving small kisses all around Tara's mouth, careful to miss the sensitive lips even as the blonde moved her head in an effort to resume their heated kiss. Feeling utterly frustrated, Tara brought her hands up from Willow's back and buried them in her hair in an attempt to guide her. Willow stopped altogether and lifted her head away making Tara whimper in displeasure.

"Willow, please!"

"Slow down, honey. After all the time I've spent waiting to make love to you I don't want to rush anything. I want to take it slow and give you as much pleasure as you just gave me." Willow's actions belied her intent as she leaned down to slowly lick her girlfriend's lips teasingly before plunging her tongue inside a warm, inviting mouth.

Tara's mind might have understood Willow's reasons for wanting to take it slow but all her body knew was what it desperately needed - and it was tired of being denied. Finding Willow's tongue exactly where she wanted it, she closed her lips firmly around the invading muscle and sucked in earnest, making her girlfriend moan in pleasure.

Fighting to stick with her initial plan to take things slowly, Willow broke the kiss, sat up, spread her legs open to straddle the blonde's hips, and made Tara's hands release her hair and come to rest on the improvised bed. Willow bit back a moan as she settled down and felt Tara's strong belly beneath her, quivering against her damp sex. She breathed deeply a few times, summoning the will power to prevent her hips from moving and rubbing her burning sex on Tara's smooth skin. The intensely fierce, hungry look in Tara's eyes made it hard for Willow to maintain any semblance of control.

A moment passed and she felt a bit calmer. Unhurriedly, she brought her hands up the inside of Tara's arms and teasingly traced small circles on the sensitive skin until her hands were high enough for her wrists to brush the soft, full sides of Tara's breasts.

Tara began squirming under the redhead's touch, trying to bring Willow's hands to her breasts. She'd been aroused since the moment Willow asked her to make love to her, and having the beautiful woman astride her belly wasn't helping to cool her down. It was taking all of her self control to let her girlfriend move at her own pace and to refrain from sitting up and ravishing Willow until she passed out from pleasure. She didn't even dare to move her hands from the bed to caress the redhead, afraid it would be her undoing. Just the sight of Willow's milky breasts and erect nipples was enough to make Tara lightheaded, and feeling her girlfriend's red curls and puffy labia make small gliding motions against her, splashing Willow's wetness on her skin...well...it was all too much. Her nipples were already swollen nearly to the point of being painful, and they begged for Willow's attention.

"Willow..."

Feeling Tara's frustration, Willow decided she'd teased both of them enough, so she let her hands slide over to cup Tara's breasts. The sensation made both girls moan. She looked down at the sight of her hands on Tara's breasts and her mouth went dry as a wave of arousal crashed over her. Her own nipples hardened and wetness flowed from her center, painting Tara's skin with silky nectar.

"You're so beautiful baby," Willow said in awe as she stared at Tara's deep pink, engorged nipples peeking from between her forefingers and thumbs. She gently squeezed and weighed her girlfriend's breasts, reveling in the fullness and firm softness that filled her hands.

Tara blushed a bit even as her body reacted to the redhead's voice and soft caress, and her nipples swelled even more under Willow's intense stare. She reached one hand up to stroke Willow's right cheek while the other freed red tresses from a loosening ponytail. A flowing red mane framed Willow's face like dancing flames.

"You're the beautiful one, Willow," Tara said throatily. She ran both of her hands through the silky hair and pulled Willow's head down as she rose to meet her half way.

Willow smiled before diving down gently, meeting Tara, and pushing her down to lie on her back. She settled on top and both women sighed in pleasure as more of their hot skin pressed together. Willow moved her head so she could whisper directly into Tara's right ear, her warm breath and words teasing the blonde.

"I guess we'll just have to accept that we're both beautiful."

She then claimed the supple earlobe and lightly sucked on it as she tenderly pinched Tara's nipples, effectively silencing the blonde's reply before it could rise from her throat. All that surfaced from Tara were words of rapturous appreciation.

"Oh... yes. Right there, Willow."

Willow began kissing and licking a path down Tara's neck while her hands kept stroking, pinching and pulling the blonde's nipples. She reveled in the constant moans that her touch provoked and in the way Tara passionately entwined her hands in her hair and held her head against the blonde's skin. Tara arched her back and pushed her breasts more fully into Willow's caress.

When Willow reached the gorgeous collarbone with her mouth she changed direction and moved to the side. Careful not to leave any expanse untouched along her path, her lips and tongue left a wet trail of passion across the smooth skin. Near the shoulder she found a scar roughly the size of a nickel and she took time to kiss it thoroughly, tenderly, willing her lips to erase the past pain of which the scar was proof.

Tara gasped at the delicious sensation of Willow's mouth, hot and wet against the skin around the old scar that even after all these years was still oversensitive. That feeling combined with the continued caressing of her breasts was driving her insane with arousal and she needed more.

She opened her legs and bent her knees, trapping Willow's hips between her thighs, then lifted her legs and crossed her feet over Willow's back side, bringing her sex in contact with the redhead's lower belly. The immediate pressure on her mercilessly throbbing clit made her close her eyes and moan with pleasure as her hips began a slow rocking motion.

"Ohhhh God..."

Willow couldn't help but let out a sexy growl as she felt Tara's feet settling on her, holding her close, trapping her between the soft, strong thighs. Her mind completely shut down at the feel of her girlfriend's wetness melting hotly on her skin, awakening a raging river low in her belly that flooded her own sex as her clit swelled and twisted.

"Mmmm..."

Deciding to follow Tara's lead and move things along a little, Willow lifted her head and hands away from the warm body beneath her and slid down, rubbing herself against the blonde's wetness, anointing her belly with Tara's juices and only stopping when her head was even with Tara's breasts. She felt her mouth water at the sight of perfection and she paused, wanting to savor the knowledge that she was about to taste the luscious flesh for the first time.

But a brief moment was all she could take. The sumptuous feel of Tara's legs wrapped around her waist, the blonde's silken wetness on her skin, and the delectable sight of Tara's breasts all added up to tear down Willow's defenses. She dropped her head to kiss and lick the puckered nipples that fascinated her. Willow sighed at the sensation of Tara's taut flesh under her tongue, and after a few long swipes across the erect bud she couldn't resist the temptation to go further. Giving in, she roughly sucked the nipple into her mouth.

Tara didn't have time to protest Willow's sudden pause. The brief added pressure on her center from Willow's movement rendered her completely speechless, and when Willow subsequently began to suck on her nipple, all thoughts of complaining went out the window, quickly replaced by feelings of ecstasy. Tara let out a long breathy moan and her hands tightened their hold on Willow's head as she resumed her rocking motions, this time against Willow's stomach. Her sex made circles of wet passion on the redhead's skin.

"Mmmm... Willow."

If her mouth hadn't been otherwise occupied, Willow would more than likely have echoed the blonde's moan. As it was, Tara's nipple felt too good to abandon so her rapturous sounds were absorbed by the taut breast. A moment later she brought a hand up to stroke Tara's other breast while her other hand moved down to follow the curve of Tara's hip and cup the blonde's firm back side, encouraging her rocking motion. Willow flexed her strong abs and searched for friction with her own rocking movements against the blonde's heated, wet flesh.

"Oh God... yessss!" Tara cried out at the added stimulation. Her hands flew from Willow's head to tightly grip the sheet and the sleeping bag beneath them. Willow's touch seemed to be everywhere and it scorched her, arousing her to such extremes that she began to lose control. She felt she might die if Willow didn't make her come soon.

Willow felt Tara increase the pace of the erotic dance and she knew if they didn't slow down a little it would be over too soon. There was still so much she wanted to see and feel, so she reluctantly released the extended nipple from her mouth, lifted her head, and gritted her teeth as she tried to stop her own rocking motions while simultaneously holding Tara still.

"No... Willow, don't stop. Please," Tara nearly sobbed.

Tara opened her hazy, confused blue eyes and searched for a reason behind Willow's pulling back. They were met by dark green orbs filled with love and fiery passion that reassured her that everything was all right.

"Don't worry, baby. I just want to slow things down a little. Uh, again. But there will be no stopping, I promise." Willow kissed her deeply and allowed her tongue to enter her girlfriend's mouth and slowly stroke Tara's deliciously sweet tongue.

Tara reacted to the move by closing her lips and sucking intensely, trying to absorb the concentrated Willow flavor. She could never get enough of the redhead's taste. The move earned her a deep, guttural moan from Willow, who quickly realized that slowing down again was not an option. Neither woman would be able to stand the teasing much longer.

Without breaking the kiss Willow moved her hands up and down Tara's thighs, stroking the smooth skin until she reached the knees. She gently pushed them down, making Tara's feet fall slowly from Willow's back side and come to rest on the ground, one on either side of the redhead's thighs.

Willow ended their kiss - leaving both women panting - and moved to the side so that only half her body lay on top of Tara. She propped herself up on her elbow and let her eyes travel slowly over the body beneath her, tracing the path that her hands would soon follow.

The view was breathtaking: lovely tousled blonde hair... dark, burning sapphires... swollen, moist, slightly parted red lips... flushed skin, shining with perspiration... heaving chest... full breasts crowned with engorged, beseeching nipples... the soft, strong plane of Tara's stomach... the delicate belly button... the quivering lower belly... the damp patch of blonde curls...

As Willow's eyes reached her girlfriend's center she felt her breath hitch and her body start to tremble while her heart pounded loudly in her chest. She took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself as her eyes remained locked on the delectable sight of Tara's moist golden curls. Her eyes moved up and she extended her shaking right hand to cup the blonde's face while her thumb tenderly caressed the full, ruby lips.

Tara lifted her right hand and gently but firmly held Willow's wrist while she extended her tongue and began licking the sensitive pad of Willow's thumb, making her gasp. Her eyes burned into her girlfriend's emerald orbs as she let her tongue progress in slow sensual movements. After she'd thoroughly stroked her girlfriend's thumb Tara roughly enveloped the entire digit into the wet, hot softness of her mouth.

By this point Willow's body shivered from head to toe. The image of Tara's sex still scorched her eyes and mind and was joined by the way Tara's tongue and mouth caressed her thumb. It made Willow's blood boil and her body literally ache for the experience of having her fingers inside her girlfriend's center. She longed to feel the hot core pulsate against her digits just as Tara's orgasm would flood them both.

When Tara released both the redhead's thumb and her wrist from her grasp, Willow began her journey south. Quivering, she ran her hand down to cup the blonde's breast, pinched its nipple, and reveled in the needy moan that escaped Tara's lips. She slowly resumed her journey downward, beyond Tara's navel, through the soaked curls that protected her sex, and over and between her outer lips to rest against the blonde's engorged nub.

"Oh Tara... you feel so good," Willow moaned at the first touch of Tara's silky flesh.

"God... Willowwww."

Tara had been ready to burst with anticipation as Willow's hand slowly made its way down her body, and now that it finally reached its destination it felt more intense than anything she'd felt in her life. She spread her legs wider, silently offering all of herself to Willow. Her body shook from the futility of trying to keep still and give her girlfriend time to explore at her own pace when all she wanted was to grind herself heatedly against Willow's hand.

Willow slowly moved her fingers up and down, carefully avoiding the twisting bundle of nerves after that first touch. She coated her fingers in the blonde's wetness and marveled at how amazingly soft the skin was and at how much she loved the feel of Tara's sex under her touch. After a moment her fingers gravitated towards the blonde's entrance and two of them slowly edged inside.

Tara had been trying so hard to keep her hips still but when she felt those two fingers make their way inside her she couldn't hold back. Her hips moved of their own accord and she impaled herself on Willow's outstretched fingers. She cried out at the overwhelming sensation...and nearly came from that first thrust.

"ohhhhsweet mother of all gods..."

Head thrown back, eyes tightly closed, face flushed, hips rocking in a rhythm almost older than time itself; Tara was a sight to behold. It left the redhead breathless and made her even more determined to make her girlfriend climax.

"You're so beautiful..." Willow whispered, her voice husky with passion.

She began moving her fingers, first in slow strokes and then faster and faster still, following her girlfriend's desperate hip movements. After a long moment she extended her thumb and started rubbing Tara's swollen clit in time with her thrusts. Tara moaned constantly and her hip movements became frantic in her need to find release. It didn't take long for Willow to start feeling the already tight walls around her fingers contract. They sensuously pulled at her and signaled the beginning of Tara's orgasm.

Tara came hard, with an incoherent cry that vaguely resembled Willow's name. She was a vision - back arched, body stretched taut in pleasure. Willow rode Tara's orgasm as long as she could, captivated and moved by her girlfriend's rapture, not wanting it to end.

After a long, euphoric moment Tara's body crashed down limp and spent, and only then did Willow still her movements and carefully and reluctantly pull her fingers from Tara's hot, dripping core. As Tara recovered her strength, Willow moved to tenderly hold her lover, letting one hand lovingly caress Tara's neck in slow, soothing motions while the other held her around the waist.

I never thought making love to someone would be that intense. I can't wait to do that again. I wonder how Tara's feeling.

Tara opened her eyes and was met with Willow's smiling green spheres and greeted with a soft kiss that she happily returned. After a moment Willow pulled away.

"So, um, how are you feeling?" she asked a little nervously.

"Wow..." Tara answered with a sigh and a dreamy smile, putting all of Willow's doubts to rest with that one word. A very satisfied grin spread across Willow's lips.

"Are you sure you'd never done this before? Because you sure are good at it," Tara said playfully as she poked Willow in the ribs, earning a deep chuckle from her girlfriend.

"I guess you bring it out of me."

Willow tenderly kissed Tara on the lips before bringing the blankets up to cover them both and pulling the blonde more fully on top of her. Tara's head rested against Willow's neck.

She settled contently over Willow's body, bringing one arm to rest on her belly while one of her legs found a home between Willow's knees.

"Good for me," she whispered sleepily.

"Yeahhh," the redhead answered as she snuggled tight against Tara. The day's events finally caught up with her and she felt herself giving in to exhaustion.

In a matter of seconds they were both sound asleep in each other's arms.

A couple of hours later Willow woke up to find Tara tossing and turning in her sleep. She seemed to be in the grips of a nightmare and was obviously distressed as she whispered muffled, anguished words. Just as the redhead was about to wake her, Tara cried out and woke up.

"No! No, Willoww..."

Willow propped herself up on her elbows so she could look directly into Tara's eyes and extend her right hand to caress the blonde's cheek. Tara's fear was almost palpable, her blue eyes unfocused as if they were still lost in the nightmare.

"Tara? Honey?"

Willow's soft voice and tender touch permeated the dense fog in Tara's mind and the blonde flung herself into the redhead's arms, holding her in a desperately tight hug that was immediately reciprocated.

"Willow..." Tara began sobbing against her lover's naked shoulder as the relief of being awake mixed with the residual fright from her nightmare.

Willow simply held Tara tight and whispered softly in her ear.

"Shhh. It's okay, baby. It was just a nightmare."

What was it that haunted your dreams, honey? Was I there to help? I hope so. Or maybe I was part of the problem? No, no way. I won't even think that.

After a minute Tara had calmed down almost completely and lifted her head from Willow's shoulder, wearing a sheepish smile. She met troubled green eyes with her own embarrassed blue duo.

What's happening to me? I'm an adult, not a three year old with night panic! What must Willow be thinking of the "great" Tara Maclay now?

"I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to break down on you like that. So much for the tough tomb raider fašade, eh?"

Willow heard the dejected undertone and quickly brought both her hands up to cup Tara's cheeks. She moved to completely face her partner and lock eyes with her. Her response flowed with compassion.

"Baby, you had a nightmare and I'm happy you turned to me to help you. Uh... I mean I'm not happy that you had a nightmare, because let's face it, nightmares are plain scary, but I'm glad to be here for you when you need me. You're the most courageous person I've ever met but you don't always have to be brave and fearless. Things don't always have to be fine and right. You can be scared and I'll be here to love you and hold you and support you."

Tara heard the sincerity in Willow's voice and saw the profound love deep in her eyes. Her insecurity disappeared just as fast as it had set heavily on her heart.

"I love you," she said before softly kissing Willow on the mouth. Their lips unhurriedly moved together, each woman finding reassurance in the loving contact. After a long moment Willow pulled away and pressed her girlfriend's body even tighter against herself, needing to hold Tara as much as Tara needed to be held.

"Baby, do you want to talk about it?" she tenderly asked.

As she heard Willow's question she buried her face in the redhead's smooth neck and soft, loose tresses. She inhaled deeply to better convince herself that the feel of Willow in her arms was real. Willow's clean scent mixed with sweat and the smell of fresh sex was a clear reminder of their time together. Tara smiled as she realized that this was a smell that she'd probably become addicted to very quickly. It was heat, passion, lust and love...and it was pure Willow.

"It was aw-awful..." Tara began, her voice shaking slightly. "I was sitting on the floor just as I was yesterday, but this time there was no hole in the floor and I couldn't find you. I walked all around the room but no passage would open, so I went to the door and it opened up. I ran to the next room and you weren't there so I just started running from room to room...god, they all looked the same and you weren't in any of them. Until I ran into a room that had no doors and I could hear a voice ask, 'Who are you looking for? You're all alone'. The 'alone' part just seemed to echo everywhere, louder and louder, almost to the point of deafening me. Then I woke up."

When Tara finished recounting her nightmare Willow cupped her girlfriend's face and tenderly guided it up so that their eyes could meet. The mixture of lingering fear and utter embarrassment Willow saw in those amazing sapphires made her heart heavy.

"Oh, honey-" Willow began speaking in a soft voice, only to be abruptly interrupted by Tara.

"Look. I'm sorry I woke you up the way I did. Now that I've heard myself actually talk about the dream out loud I realize it was kind of pathetic. No need to make a big fuss about it." She disentangled herself from her lover's arms without looking her in the eye and felt cold as she sat up. She moved quickly to pick up her back pack and search for clean and dry clothes. Locating a matching bra and panties along with a dark blue shirt and black shorts, she hastily dressed without so much as a look in Willow's direction.

A month ago I lived on my own, worked on my own, and spent all of my time alone... and I was fine with it. Now a simple dream about being alone feels to me like some sort of life-altering nightmare and suddenly I'm terrified. How pathetic is that?! Damn, what's happened to my life? What's happened to me?

Willow was hurt and confused by Tara's cold tone of voice and by her pulling away. An uncomfortable silence fell between them as she struggled to understand what was happening.

Did I do something wrong? What happened? And why is she getting dressed? Maybe she's disappointed because I really wasn't good enough. But she seemed fine until a minute ago. Was it because I asked her to tell me about her nightmare? Wasn't I supportive enough? I told her I'll always be here to hold her. Oh God, maybe I'm suffocating her. Whatever it was I did...

"...Tara, I'm sorry," Willow softly whispered the rest of the sentence aloud.

The dejected tone made Tara lift her eyes to meet her girlfriend's. The wounded look she found there almost broke her heart.

I fell in love with the most amazing woman I've ever met. That's what's happened to me. And now I hurt her because of my stupid pride. I can be such an idiot sometimes.

"Oh, sweetie. You did nothing wrong," she replied softly as she lay down and moved into Willow's arms. Both of them sighed contently as their bodies molded together as if they'd never been apart.

"I'm the one who's sorry. I just panicked for a second. I've been on my own my whole life and now that I have you by my side the thought of being alone again terrifies me. Actually, the thought of not having you in my life terrifies me. Part of me is scared that any minute I'll wake up alone in some Godforsaken temple feeling cold and covered in dust... and I'm pretty sure it would break me in half to find that this was just a dream." Tara was aware that she was clinging to Willow desperately, but she just couldn't seem to let go. The motivation for the earlier betrayal of her feelings was gone, powerless against the love she felt for Willow. But she remained horrified that Willow might vanish under her nose.

Willow held on right back. She clung to Tara for dear life as relief flooded her.

"Baby, I'm scared to death that this is some sort of dream, too. It feels too good to be true, and heaven knows that I've never felt anything even remotely close to what I feel when I'm with you. I'm always expecting someone to pop up and say, "Hey! You didn't think that was really your life, did you?" And then I'll look up and you won't be there."

As she heard Willow's last sentence, Tara moved so she could face her.

"I'll always be here honey, I promise."

She kissed her girlfriend softly and slowly, trying to keep her libido asleep despite the fact that the feeling of their bodies pressed together was making her body race to life. In the meantime Willow was also having a hard time controlling herself as the sensation of her naked skin lightly rubbing against Tara's clothes was wreaking havoc on her mind. When they pulled away they were left gazing into each other's eyes, breathless, hungry.

Oh come on, stop it! We just made love a couple of hours ago and if I'm feeling a little sore I can only imagine how Willow's feeling. Besides, we need to sleep and be ready for tomorrow. We can't afford to take days off when we don't know if we have time to spare.

I want this woman. I can't imagine not wanting this woman. Ever. But right now we need our sleep. Arghhh... she feels so incredibly good. But we need to be in top shape tomorrow... and I'm sure I'll be a little sore. And being sleepy and really, really sore isn't a good combination for tomb raiders on the go, no matter how good we both are. Before we drift off I really want to reassure her... I'm not going anywhere. Ahh, and maybe I should get dressed too. Being naked and this close to her is just too much of a temptation for me.

Tara was just about to suggest that they settle for the night when Willow moved away and started to get up.

"Willow?" she asked, confused about what caused her girlfriend to leave the blankets.

"I was thinking... uh, maybe I should get dressed. It's just too much of a temptation," Willow said, feeling a little embarrassed by the admission.

"I should say so." A sexy half smile curved Tara's lips as she hungrily raked her eyes all over the redhead's strong, lithe body - the body she'd held in her arms just a few seconds ago - and made Willow stop her movements and blush bright red. A wave of heat engulfed Willow and for a second she couldn't remember what she was doing or why she was standing so far way from the beautiful woman in front of her.

Maybe I should forget about the clothes and being tired and just ravish her. Yessss, that's it; ravish her. Wait! No, bad plan. Better to concentrate on getting us out of this tomb alive...then I'll have many more years to spend ravishing Tara.

"Honey, behave." Willow gathered clothes from her backpack, turned her back to her girlfriend, and then rapidly got dressed. Tara inhaled deeply and closed her eyes, trying to calm her renewed desire, but opened them merely a second later. Willow's naked body flashed as vividly behind her closed eyelids as the real image was in front of her.

Okay then. I guess it wasn't such a bad idea for her to get dressed after all.

"All right, but just for today."

She answered with a mock pout, trying to cut through the sudden tension. The redhead turned around, relieved to see the fire in her girlfriend's eyes under control. She was sure her decision to rest for the remainder of the night wouldn't have lasted more than a second against Tara's advances. She gave Tara a wink and then moved to search for something in her backpack.

"Tara, there's something I'd like you to have. Ah-ha! There you are," Willow said triumphantly as her hand grasped the item she sought.

As her girlfriend came back to lie down on their improvised bed Tara was quite curious about what Willow concealed behind her back.

"So what is it that you're hiding, young lady?"

The redhead took her time settling down. She enjoyed teasing her girlfriend before finally revealing her secret; a small statue of a black cat with green eyes rested on the palm of her hand. Without a word Willow deposited the small figure in Tara's hand, silently offering it to her.

"Oh, Willow. I... I can't-"

"I really want you to have it. I found it on my first quest and it's been with me ever since. It helped me get through some difficult situations and it's been privy to all of my secrets. It would mean a lot to me if you would accept it. And this way if we ever get separated again you'll have something to remember me by and proof that our time together was real. Please take it."

"Yes." Tara's simple answer brought an instant end to the redhead's babble.

Willow smiled happily before tilting her head up and giving Tara a soft peck on the lips. They both sighed contently as they settled down in each other's arms once again. Willow rested her head on Tara's shoulder and wrapped her arm around her waist while Tara caressed Willow's neck with one hand and a lightly freckled arm with the other. Willow was nearly asleep, her body and mind utterly relaxed by the blonde's tender touch, when she heard Tara's soft voice.

"Willow?"

"Hmm?"

"Tell me about your first quest?"


Continue to The Artifact Chapter Twenty-One


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