Author: Chris Cook
Willow regarded herself critically in her hotel room's floor-length mirror, and turned this way and that. The dimmed lights glittered off the sequins on the pink thong which was, at present, her entire wardrobe. She experimentally tugged the waist straps a little higher and studied the displaying effect on her hips, then she turned and crouched slightly, giggling quietly at her bottom in the mirror.
'Perfect,' she thought, with a decisive little nod as she sauntered into the bathroom, swinging her hips in time to an imaginary beat. 'That's that taken care of.'
Being one of the Travel Network's leading reporters - a purely accidental career move that had surprised Willow, nearly as much as the fact that she loved it even more than her previous occupation of becoming the world's first laptop-addicted life-form - had one drawback, and that was the occasional absence of Tara. The Network was willing to accommodate 'Willow Rosenberg and guest' on its expense account, but while Tara's lecture schedule was flexible, it wasn't so flexible that she could accompany Willow on every single assignment she ended up with. They had compromised that they would cajole and wheedle whatever scheduling changes were necessary, either from Tara's faculty or Willow's network, to go together on Willow's overseas assignments, but to avoid trying the patience of their superiors, any trips within the country would be taken whenever the network's powers-that-be chose, even if it meant coping with each other's absence for a few days.
Willow continued bopping her hips from side to side as she prepared for bed, and when she reached the teeth-cleaning stage, she began opening and closing her lips to turn her electric toothbrush's whirr into an amateur, and rather gurgly, musical accompaniment. She imagined Tara watching, then grinned as imaginary Tara burst into a fit of giggles.
The thong, and the matching nipple tassels which remained in her luggage, were the latest in a series of odd purchases that marked Willow's globe-trotting travels. It had begun with a trip to Disneyland, on which Willow, apropos of nothing, had bought a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, and when she arrived home surprised Tara by waiting for her in the bedroom wearing the ears and nothing else. Since then every trip more significant than the weekly shopping meant Willow would find some item of clothing appropriate for the location, and contrive to seduce Tara when she got home while wearing said item, a task made significantly easier by Tara's extreme willingness to be seduced at the drop of a hat.
Indeed a section of closet was now devoted to Willow's souvenirs. There was the kimono from Tokyo, the hula skirt from Hawaii, the imitation-fur-lined Eskimo coat with its big fluffy hood from Alaska - though few Inuit, Willow acknowledged, would have been inclined to leave their pants off, as she had that night - the Roman toga, the sari from New Delhi, the gauzy veil from Turkey, the flamenco shoes from Spain, and even mementoes of trips closer to home, such as the 'I (heart) NY' shirt, deliberately several sizes too small. On those trips where Tara accompanied her Willow had taken to hiding away her new purchase until they got home, which had proved quite difficult - though rewarding, in the end - when in Paris she'd got her heart set on a full Moulin Rouge dancer's outfit, complete with peacock feather tail.
In Willow's opinion it beat postcards hands down.
So, here in Las Vegas with her exotic dancer's outfit duly purchased, Willow returned to her bedroom with a sense of satisfaction, stripped off the thong, and pulled out a t-shirt of Tara's to sleep in - the purpose for which Tara always made sure to put one in her luggage when they had one of their brief enforced separations.
"Save a tree - eat a beaver!" she read from the front of the shirt, chuckling at the memory. Tara had spotted it at a market six months ago, and had it hit her funny bone in just the right way that she was unable to stop laughing for half an hour. They had waited another half an hour for the stall to be un-crowded enough that she could buy it without being seen by anyone, with Willow keeping a look-out as she hastily pointed the shirt out to the stall-holder - a task made harder by her inability to actually say the words, and having to rely instead on directions along the lines of 'that one, between the other two, no further back, below that one, that's it' - and of course, Tara had never actually worn it in public. Willow pulled it on, feeling it settle comfortably on her slender form.
As she drew back the covers her eye lit on the satin-wrapped bundle on the coffee table across the room, and she decided it was time.
"You did?" Willow grinned excitedly, and held her cellphone between her ear and shoulder as she waved vaguely in Xander's direction. "Xander, hand me my bag?"
The trio of Willow, her location producer Giles, and cameraman Xander, were waiting for their flight to Vegas start boarding. Giles was sipping tea from a styrofoam cup, which he clear disapproved of, Xander was engrossed in a comic, and Willow was taking full advantage of her network cellphone account to talk to Tara.
"What, did you forget something?" Xander asked, handing the in-flight bag past Giles, who sat between them, to Willow.
"Tara packed a present for me," she replied, beaming. "Because," she added, speaking into the phone, "she's the best girlfriend ever! Oh here it is, with the satin- huh? Oh... oh, right, okay then." She quickly zipped the bag up again.
"No present?" Xander asked.
"Um, it's not really a present for opening at the airport," Willow explained, blushing slightly. "No reason of course! Just, you know, later on, not so much noise and confusion - don't want to have someone bump into us and make me drop it, that'd be a horrible thing to happen to a present."
Xander looked around the departure lounge, which was quite sedate.
"I don't see a lot of people running around not looking where they're going," he offered, with a grin that said he knew he was being unhelpful.
"Navigationally-challenged people could happen at any time!" Willow insisted. "It's okay baby," she added to the phone, "I've put it away again... uh-huh... yeah," she suddenly grinned very widely, and Xander chuckled.
"What?" she protested. "I'll have you know our conversation is entirely innocent."
"I didn't say anything!" Xander replied.
"I know that look, that's your grinning-at-Willow look - I can tell, you always use that look... when you... grin at me," she finished, not entirely happy with how the sentence turned out. "Yeah I know," she admitted to the phone, "it sounded more authoritative in my head ... I should only talk to you when we're alone," she added, mock-frowning at Xander. "That'll teach him to infer that we're spicy-talking... oh? Oh, darn." Her face fell with disappointment.
"What's up?" Xander asked.
"Tara's covering an evening seminar," Willow explained. "No evening chat with the phone bill going to the company - I mean, not unless I stay up late. I could stay up late!" she insisted into the phone. "Well I could," she repeated after a pause. "Um, about six-thirty the next morning... I can get by on less than eight hours sleep just fine. Alright, I promise I'll get enough sleep," she finished. Xander smiled indulgently and went back to reading his comic.
"I'll miss your voice," Willow went on. "Uh-huh... I know it's only one night, but still... Okay then, how about when I get back we go do something special? ... Actually I was thinking more along the lines of... um, maybe a camp-out?" She glanced warily at Xander, who was off in his own world.
"Uh-huh... yep, out by the lake... Oh no, remember that time I went out trail-bike riding, just to get in practice so I wouldn't make a doofus of myself on national TV the week after? I found this spot just a little way from the lake, with an overlook, and it's... um, secluded," her voice dropped to a whisper.
"Secluded?" Xander asked, coming out of his comic-trance like one of Pavlov's dogs hearing a bell ring.
"Xander!" Willow complained. "Private moment - not that there's anything private going on," she added hastily, "we're just discussing, um... yeah, stargazing!" she said, nodding in agreement with the voice on the other end of the line. "Nothing unusual about stargazing at all."
"You have to be secluded for stargazing?" Xander asked. "Do the stars mind either way?"
"It's important!" Willow insisted. "Because... otherwise... um, light pollution! If there are other people around all the house lights and so on bounce around the sky, and you can't see as many stars." A comment from her phone got her attention, and she blushed and grinned.
"Yeah I'm sure we'll see plenty of stars," she agreed. "Um, perhaps, if you like, we could bring... the, uh... the new... telescope, yeah, that we bought last week?" Her grin got wider and her blush disappeared as her eyes glazed over and she stopped paying attention to her surroundings.
"Yeah I'd like to," she nodded slowly. "If we start out with one of the smaller ones... um, to see where the stars are, generally... and then switch over once I'm- it's all ready... Oh it is most definitely a date, baby," she smiled. She was startled out of her reverie by a boarding call over the airport speakers.
"Drat honey, gotta rush," she said. "Yeah they're calling the flight, I have to go."
"Yes please do," Giles said quietly, "before my modesty receives its death-blow."
"Um, I'll talk to you tomorrow night," Willow said, blushing furiously. "Love you, bye baby." She shot a glare at Xander, who was laughing so hard he was holding his sides.
Willow sat cross-legged on the bed, with the hem of Tara's 'beaver' shirt resting on her thighs, and the present in her lap. She took a moment to appreciate the satin cloth wrapped around it, running a hand softly over it, feeling its soft texture. There was once a time when the mere mention of a present would have her shredding the wrapping to get at it, but one of the many things Tara had brought to her was an appreciation of the journey, as well as the destination. She lifted the corner of the cloth, and leaned down to brush it against her cheek.
"Satiny," she murmured, adding a quiet "Well, duh," as an afterthought.
She carefully unwrapped the cloth from around its contents, which proved to be a slim wooden case, with tiny vines and flowers painted on the edges, and gleaming with a deep, rich varnish that brought out the texture of the wood. Willow smiled as she studied the careful artistry, recognizing her lover's work.
She opened the box's hinged lid and, finding a handwritten page inside, lay it in front of her and stretched out on the bed, pulling a pillow over to prop beneath her chin, with the satin covering it, while she read.
My precious Willow,
Here's a little something to keep you company of a night, until I see you again, and can - how should I put this? - attend to your needs in person. If you hadn't guessed by now, the contents of this box are meant for a private moment when you're not likely to be disturbed. I wouldn't want you to get half-way through and be interrupted before you finished.
Willow giggled, seeing Tara had drawn a little eye with an arched eyebrow above it, echoing just the teasing expression of Tara's that she was already imagining.
Make yourself comfortable, sweetest... and know that nothing can carry you far enough away that my love can't reach you. And just in case you're not sure, I fully intend for you to 'make yourself comfortable', if you know what I mean. And you know the smile I'm smiling while I write this, don't you?
Sweet dreams, my sweet dream girl.
- Tara (yours)
Willow found her heart racing as she finished reading the brief note - while its meaning was clear enough, she had no idea what might lie beneath it in the box. Willow knew from considerable and enjoyable experience that Tara gave her imagination free rein when it came to their intimate moments, or indeed intimate hours and, on occasion, entire days. Over the course of the five years they had been together Tara had surprised Willow with velvety seductions fit for the most squirmingly-enticing romance novel, love poetry that in Willow's opinion would have made Shakespeare bite his quill in half, exotic encounters that left her scandalized, in the best possible way, for days afterwards, and playful romps that were so silly they could only be the product of true love.
'I still can't see a French maid's outfit without giggling,' she thought of one of their more recent escapades.
She took a moment to savour her curiosity and expectation, then lifted the paper and deposited it on the bedside table. Beneath it in the box was a slim book, hand-bound with gold patterns painted onto its crimson leather cover, and a single word in delicate calligraphy: 'Tara'. Willow quickly lifted the volume and moved the empty box onto the table with the note, settling back down and slowly opening the cover.
The inside cover was blank, but on the first page, marked with a cloth bookmark, there was a column of text. Willow looked at it, slightly puzzled - Tara had written over less than half the width of the page, and the length of each line was different to the one before, as if her right margin were waving gently in and out. Some words had their letters tightly-packed, others were written flowingly, spread out, and on some letters, some words, Tara had gone over the lines several times, strengthening the characters, while others were normal, and some written with the faintest of marks. Willow shook her head in bemusement and read:
There are times when you hold me so tenderly I could slumber forever in your arms; or bring me such joy that I laugh until I ache. When the capriciousness of the world grates on me and my temper rails against my control, you can soothe me with a word, and when I see only greys and monotonous existence, with a look you bring me back to a world of colour and surprise and life. From me to you, with nothing in between. I love you.
Willow smiled, biting her lip with gentle pleasure as she heard Tara's voice, and felt her fingers stroking her hair as she spoke, slowly and with care for every word. She lifted the bookmark to turn the page, and noticed one more line of text, sideways. Instinctively she turned the book side-on, read the cheeky line: Our little secret..., and gasped as she glanced idly at the irregular column of text, finally seeing it for what it was as her unfocused eyes took in shades and contours, not letters. The image was well-hidden, indistinct by nature, existing only in delicate patterns of thin and thick lines, dense and sparse letters - but Willow knew Tara's form too well to mistake the curve of her waist to her hip, the angle her thigh would rest at as she lay with one knee bent, the triangle formed as she would prop her head up on one arm and gaze longingly at her lover.
Willow marvelled at the work that Tara had put into the simple page - how she must have sketched and compared and experimented and drawn the lines again and again, to capture the most ephemeral echo of her own form in a few lines of text. She felt a secret joy in seeing Tara's work revealed to her, a tingle down her spine as if she and Tara had locked eyes over a busy room and shared a glance laden with private meaning, or stolen a second amid a crowd to whisper words that would never be heard by anyone else. She shifted her hips on the bed, remembering just such moments, when the space she shared with Tara, personal and private, had suddenly sprung out of its usual haunt in their house, or the secluded, scenic spots they frequented, and wrapped around them in the most unlikely moments. Packed onto a bus, waiting for a flight at an airport, standing in a queue at the theatre, wandering the aisles at the supermarket - every now and then, with moments of intense, secret joy, they reminded each other that there was no such thing as 'mundane' while they were together. Willow knew, for certain, that this was exactly what Tara was saying to her right now, and she felt a thrill to the part of her soul that was always virgin to Tara's exploring touch, as she righted the book and turned the page.
A moan escaped her lips at what she saw. Above a delicately-written paragraph Tara had drawn herself, lounging on a contoured sofa, a single rose held between her fingers, light and shadow playing across her from reflections and distant spotlights - the surroundings were sketched in only a few lines, but Tara herself was complete. She wore a sleeveless top - golden, Willow knew, even though Tara's pencil caught only the texture and not the colour of it - that was just on the verge of opacity, but not quite. Almost, but not quite enough to completely conceal the plane of her stomach as she reclined, or the swell of her breasts as she leant back with her elbows against the back of the sofa. A gap, a sliver of bare skin, showed between the top and tight black jeans. Willow remembered, and peered closely, seeing Tara had even drawn the tiny rose vine embroidered on the left leg of her 'vixen pants'.
Do you remember? Tara asked, and Willow did, of course, at once. The night they had dressed up on a mutual dare, to 'turn heads' at a club they had found months ago, where the friendly, casual atmosphere permitted them to shed some inhibitions a little way - Willow had worn leather pants, a silk top and a matching corset, but she believed Tara had trumped her in the clothing department. She remembered the exact moment Tara had reconstructed, when she had gone to fetch drinks, and returned to see Tara waiting for her at their modestly secluded table, leaning back on the sofa, with the strapless black bra she had been wearing tucked away in her handbag. Willow had near as dropped the bottle of wine she was carrying - for a moment her mind ran in opposite directions, arousal one way, panic the other, stretching her line a tug-o-war rope between, until Tara had caught her eye and given her a look that said-
Like what you see? she had written below, just as her eyes had said, and then: Who would have though it, shy Tara Maclay drinking in the feel of your eyes on her, your gaze penetrating me as easily as it did my clothing, with nothing now keeping the secrets that gauzy material was eager to give up. Remember how you stared, how as you sat with me your breath caught, watching my arousal grow in the coloured lights, rose-tinted skin and pale purple nipples under their gleam, all for you. Remember the whispered promises, the things you and I said that only we could hear, teasing each other, testing - how far could we go? Remember the trembling exultation as our eyes locked, standing, walking slowly to the shadowy recess off the dance floor, you whispered the words I wanted to hear, and I said the one word that neither of us, earlier that day, would ever have believed I would say, like that, there. Yes, I want you. Yes, now. Yes, here. Yes, like this, no closed doors, no waiting until later. Will anyone see, through the shadow? I don't care. You don't care. What I give you can't be stolen by an outsider's glance. Remember how it felt to reach into my pants, feel my ocean, dive deep? Remember arching your back as I pulled your top open, sucked your nipples, biting as you made me come so hard?
"Oh god I remember," Willow breathed, squirming. Her arms wrapped tightly around the pillow beneath her chin, crushing it, while her hips worked slowly, pressing again and again into the mattress, grinding her mound against the sheets. She squeezed her eyes shut, hissing a breath between clenched teeth, and exhaled a shuddering sigh as she turned the page.
For a moment she was surprised by the next image - a simple drawing of two hands clasped together, hers and Tara's. Then she read the words beneath it, and her heart swelled with love and remembered desire.
I know you remember this, my lover forever. That first night, when we were both so shy and awkward, and could barely muster the courage to speak as we knew that we would be spending the night together, in the same bed, and by an agreement spoken in half-finished sentences and coy glances, no longer hiding our bodies from each other. Remember how we hesitated, looked to each other for guidance, afraid of seeming too eager, and secretly hoping for the other to make the first move, reach out and touch first? We lay together, side by side, our arms touching beneath the blankets you'd pulled up against the cold - and as soon as we touched, neither of us was cold. Our hands found each other in the dark, and held, and everything began. I turned onto my side. Your arm reached for me, hesitant, but hugging me close. I felt your breath against my cheek, and knew how close your lips were. I knew the next kiss would be nothing like those we had exchanged before. That the desire we felt was new, that there was nothing left between us. That if we kissed now, neither of us would be able to stop.
You asked "Do you want to kiss?" and I moved forward without thinking, and it was only the touch of your lips that made me realise what was about to happen. With our lips already brushing together, I spoke, telling you my vulnerability, that I had no defences, and no will to stop. I remember, always, the moment you claimed me, with a trembling nod, the moment you let me inside you. That nod, in darkness, felt only by your face moving against mine, changed my life. It began my life, and yours. And for the rest of the night, we celebrated our new birth.
Willow nodded without realising, remembering the scalding-hot, panicked realisation she had experienced when Tara had uttered those words, "If we kiss... I-I won't be able to stop kissing you, and...," and how she had needed nothing more to know that, frightened of these new feelings as she was, terrified of being inadequate, or somehow shattering their newfound love with a wrong word, a wrong touch, she wanted Tara to kiss her with all her heart. It was, she believed, the first time in her life she had wanted something with all her heart - and her heart had been proved so, so right. She had found courage she never knew, to venture, to touch, to love without reserve, to trust herself to feel what was right, and as she had lain beside her, legs tangled together, arms around each other, on the verge of sleep with the musk of sex wreathing them and the first light of sunrise peeking through the curtains, she had known that she wanted to love this woman for the rest of her life.
Grinning like a giddy schoolgirl, she was sure, she turned the page. Her mouth went dry as she saw the next image, a sight that had been seared into her memory by a blaze of passion ever since the first time, almost a year after they had fallen in love. There was no surrounding detail, but none was needed - Tara had drawn herself kneeling, docile, her eyes lowered, her features soft and peaceful, framed by the few strands of hair escaping the tight French twist she wore. She was naked, and displayed her nakedness proudly, her shoulders back, presenting her breasts with her nipples already hard, her thighs parted, offering an inviting glimpse of her mound, its covering of hair neatly trimmed into the shape of a heart for tonight, her lower back arched to present her full, smooth ass to whatever attention Willow might give. Just as she remembered Tara's hands were behind her back, her wrists touching. She remembered, as clear as if Tara were straddling her right now, leaning forward to whisper in her ear, her words: "Tell me I'm bound, and I don't need cuffs to make it so."
This, she had written, I remember as if my body itself were memory, such that I cannot recall this moment without becoming as soaked as I was then, waiting for your pleasure, without my hips moving, anticipating your entry, without my sex clutching for you, my body aching for you, my mind laying at your feet, to be yours. The names we first took that night, 'Mistress Willow' and 'little kitten' - how I love to be Your little kitten, my Mistress. I adore the pleasure I can give in return, when you kneel beneath my stern gaze, but I think this pleasure, the first submission, will never be overwhelmed.
Remember how nervous I was, my Mistress, to tame myself to You not as a lover, but as Your little kitten, Your tender, willing slave? How kindly You took me, and let me find my place between Your thighs, how generous You were with the gifts You bestowed, climax after climax, flood after flood of Your nectar until my face gleamed with Your juices. I will always, always remember how You held Your little kitten, Your one hand on my back, pressing in time to my heartbeat, Your other on my chest, stroking with my breathing - how I closed my eyes and felt my world change, my body give itself to You, You making my heart beat, You making my lungs draw air, You making me Yours, controlling me more completely than even I could myself. I became You, my Mistress Willow, and even when we lay our heads down and shed our names and our game, we remained one.
Willow had no way to stop herself reaching a hand beneath her body, splaying her fingers through the soaked hair at the apex of her thighs, dragging her fingertips through the hot, needy folds that pulsed with desire as she touched them. She squeezed her clit between her fingers, bringing tears to her eyes, then lifted her hips and sank back down, her arousal easing the snug passage of three fingers past her clenching entrance, into the tight, grasping cathedral within.
With shaking fingers she turned the next page.
She couldn't place the image at once, but it stole her breath nonetheless. Tara had drawn herself - even without guessing Willow couldn't have failed to recognise her body - from waist to thighs, as if seen from very close to. She was resting on one side, and her legs were parted, one thigh thrust out before her, bent up near her stomach, the other stretched out beneath her. She had drawn every detail, and Willow found herself unbearably aroused and infinitely touched that Tara had done this, had devoted so much time and effort to giving her such an intimate, personal portrayal of herself. In the stroke of pencil over paper she had captured sunlight gleaming on her exposed inner thigh, revealing a stretch of skin moist with the orgasmic issue of her sex, which was pouted open, spent and satiated, flushed with satisfied need, glistening with liquid pleasure. Willow recognised her own hand as the one draped, as if in sleep, over Tara's thigh, barely an inch from her cleft, and she recognised the gleam on her fingers.
Think of when the new sunlight entered us - how we had planned our stay, how we had revelled in our island seclusion knowing no-one else would see us in the little cove we had travelled to. Remember days spent swimming and laughing, without a care in the world, the love we'd make as we spread lotion on our bodies, so we would need nothing else to shield us as we played, and the love we made in the water, and among the palm trees, on the grass, on our towels spread out just where the waves reached out legs, and the love we made every night as the sun set behind the mountains. Always love, and only love.
Lose yourself in the memory of that last night, the last of the old year, as we lay on the beach under starlight, talked and sang and slept and made love all night long. I remember how, with each passing hour, I needed you more and more, how I could almost feel the daylight of the new year's dawn rushing towards us from over the horizon, like desire overtakes me when you gaze at me with love in your eyes. I remember how we made love, more and more, tasting becoming devouring, until we were within each other, indivisible, engrossed and gorged on our love. I think of how I teased your nipples until you cried for release, of how we lay side by side, head to toe, and lowered our eager lips to each other's cores and licked and sucked and drank heaven's bounty until we were a flood, how you, oh my goddess, teased me open, more and more, until I lay with your hand inside me, and felt such a wonder as I still have no words for, that first, brilliant realisation of how totally, wholly within myself I could take you, and you me in return.
But most of all I remember the dawn, while we lay together, almost asleep, two creatures of the earth without clothes or shame, our muscles worn from our exertions, our skin forming rose-tinted marks to show where we had kissed and sucked and bitten in lust, the bursting dams of nectar from within us slowed to trickles which never quite ended, but still came sneaking out on silent thighs which were spent and sore from the hot nights which came before, and then, then my love, the sun came, and its light entered us, shone upon our bodies and warmed all the secret places which we gave to each other, and we saw in the new year not with eyes shielded against the glare on the horizon, but with sated bodies drinking it in.
Overcome by memories Willow worked her fingers quickly within herself, not sparing herself at all, but thrusting firmly in, deep. She would be tender later, but she would wear it as a badge of pride, of the moment when she lost herself to her love, her Tara, completely - when her lover took her, though she was all alone, miles away.
"Tara," Willow moaned, feeling herself tense, her climax near. "Tara... Tara!"
She pushed herself up with her free hand, pushed her hips back into her palm as her fingers buried deep, arched her back, offered herself to the goddess who had reached out and loved her over all the distance between them, and she came and came and came until she collapsed, almost surrendering to sleep.
Almost - one thing, still, she needed before she could rest. She reached for the bedside table, felt around until her fingers closed on her phone, and drew it to her ear, pushing a button as she did so. She listened as the phone dialled, the connection was made, their answering machine picked up and played its quick, cheerful message in her own voice, and then she spoke:
"I love you."