Tara stretched, blinking rabidly as the last images of her dream fell away. As she moved to get up, the sleeping redhead beside her grumbled and clutched her waist tight. Willow mumbled again but smiled in her sleep when Tara ran a single finger over her mouth and lightly kissed her lips. Thinking about the night before, the blonde grinned at Willow's romantic thoughtfulness. After sharing their bath, the couple had been too exhausted to do anything but cuddle in front of the fire.
Bare feet thumped lightly against the cold wooden floor. The sun had yet to come up but tiny shadows of light flickered in the sky, signaling its coming arrival. While Willow slept, Tara used the opportunity to look around the small cabin. Oak cabinets and bookcases aligned the walls on both sides, some empty and others full of books and small nicknacks. Tara lazily ran her hand along the polished surfaces as she walked along the narrow hallway.
Stopping in front of the main fireplace, the blonde gazed upward, her gentle eyes regarding the large quilt that hung from the wall above the brass and brick frame. Tara couldn't guess its age but knew it was older than she was. The pattern and bright color gave life to the otherwise solid coloring of the room. After a final glance around the different areas of the cabin, Tara checked on Willow before quietly walking into the kitchen. While water boiled for tea, the blonde decided to investigate Willow's bag of goodies half-hidden beneath the table.
"The sun is coming up." The soft whisper tickled the short hairs below Willow's ear. Lips brushed against her cheek and the redhead slowly remembered where she was as she opened her eyes.
Tara smoothed a wisp of hair behind her partner's ear. She loved the fresh brightness of Willow's eyes in the morning. Swirling rivers of green swimming around pieces of burning amber, her lover's eyes were magnificent.
"Mmm," Willow sat up, smiling gratefully when Tara handed her a warm glass cup. Cradling the cup in her hands, the redhead inhaled the relaxing aroma and leaned over to kiss her girlfriend.
"Up." Tara said, offering her hand to Willow when the kiss ended. Her partner looked up at her questioningly but groggily rose to her feet. Retrieving the blanket, the blonde wrapped the thick comforter around their shoulders as they helped each other through the front door.
The porch creaked once then rested under their weight. Arriving in time to watch the last colors burst into the sky, the drowsy couple settled down onto the steps. Looking upward, the dark orangish purple hue of the clouds resembled spilt raspberry juice mixed with slices of mango.
Frosted with morning dew, the grass glistened against the dark wooden steps that had dried overnight. Birds chirped, calling home distant mates as both women sipped their tea in comfortable silence. The soothing heat warmed their bodies, melting away dawn's chill and spreading through their veins like fire.
Streams of cloudy light broke through red and green leafs, finding its place across the planes of Tara's face. While Tara looked up, Willow admired the beauty of her lover. The blonde's golden wheat hair hung in disarray but was flawless to Willow's eyes. Small pieces blew against the strong curve of Tara's jaw before resting in the smooth hollow of the blonde's collarbone.
Tara smiled briefly at her and looked back into the distance, sighing happily.
"I love you." Willow wasn't aware that her lips had moved until Tara returned the gesture with a kiss, mumbling ‘I love yous' against the redhead's mouth.
Gazing up and through the parted clouds, they finished their tea in silence.
Tara crawled up the bed and snuggled close into Willow's shoulder as the redhead fingered the string of the pendants she had brought back last night.
"I made this when I was eight." Willow smiled, twisting the string around her thumb. "I would always tie it to my hair and call myself the Forest Princess."
"It's beautiful." Tara nuzzled the redhead's neck and laced her fingers with her girlfriend's free hand. "And you're beautiful," she added, imagining Willow dressed in a barely masking leaf bikini.
Grinning at the blushing redhead, Tara reached across to the bedside table and grabbed the blank scrapbook. "So what should we add first, hmm?" Eyes twinkling, she watched Willow nibble on her bottom lip.
"Do you promise not to laugh?" Willow asked as she fiddled with the corner of the first page. Her lover nodded and used a finger to playfully cross over her heart. "Tara, I'm serious," the redhead pouted although her lips curled into a smile.
"Promise." Tara giggled, using a quick kiss to wipe the pout away.
"Okay, um, well I thought we could both add something of our own and then later, you know, add stuff that is special to us as a couple. It doesn't have to be anything, like, really big but-."
"Sweetie, that's a wonderful idea. Why would I have laughed at that?" The blonde asked and received a shrug of uncertainty.
"Not too childish?"
"Of course not. Is this what you're adding?" Tara collected the ornament that had slid from Willow's lap and down unto the blanket.
"Yeah, I thought that since I've had it for so long it would be good to put it in the book." Willow peeled one of the thin corners back and carefully pushed the string and pendants down until it reached the bottom. "What are you adding?" She turned toward her lover.
"I, um, didn't exactly come prepared." The blonde smiled and stopped her girlfriend when it looked as if Willow was about to speak. "But..." she paused, thinking as she left the bed. "I have an idea." Tara disappeared into the main room, returning with the flower she had collected from the yard last night. "We can use this until I find something. Deal?"
"Deal." Willow nodded, using her hand to smooth over the plastic and the flower beneath it. "Are you hungry?" She asked as she returned the scrapbook to the table.
"Hmm, maybe just a little," Tara admitted and lazily ran a hand over her stomach.
Jumping to her feet and offering her hand to her girlfriend, Willow led the way to the kitchen, talking as they walked. "How about we eat and then I can take you on a mini tour of the area." The blonde nodded eagerly and began setting the table.
It was past breakfast time and bordering on one in the afternoon. Neither woman was exactly sure where the time went but looked forward to making the best of the day, so after finishing their lunch, the couple dressed and headed out into the forest.
"And this is where I almost died." Willow pointed to another tree as she and Tara walked along the grassy pathway. "Oh, oh, I nearly died over there too," the redhead's finger moved toward another tree several feet away. "And there," she pointed again, "I've had a lot of near death experiences," she nodded then noticed the amused look on her girlfriend's face. "What?"
Tara merely shook her head, chuckling.
"Okay, well, it might not have been near death but to a six-year old a scratch is a pretty big deal. I have the scars to prove it," Willow frowned as her lover pulled her along.
"I know. I was messing with you, please continue," the blonde said, smiling when Willow launched into another one of her near death stories.
An hour later, after circling the area twice, the couple was sprinting back to the cabin. Well, Tara was sprinting and Willow was wheezing somewhere behind the blonde. It had been Willow's idea to race her girlfriend back to the cabin and because she knew the area better, the redhead figured that she would win. She never counted on Tara leaving her in the dust, literally.
"I just... I need to... yeah," the redhead promptly collapsed on the porch steps. Exhaling deeply and feeling overheated as her legs threatened to give out from under her, Willow closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Tara was smiling above her with two glasses of water.
While her partner eagerly swallowed gulps of water, Tara relaxed into a hammock hanging nearby.
"I want a rematch," Willow stumbled over and into the empty space beside the blonde. The hammock sunk, forming to the curve of their bodies as they lay back.
"Willow, honey, you were walking. That hardly calls for a rematch." Tara took a sip from her water before reaching forward to set the glass on the ground.
"No... I was power-walking," the redhead smiled guiltily. Tara playfully rolled her eyes before growing more serious.
"I don't think I've thanked you yet," she gestured around her, "for all of this." Leaning in to whisper into Willow's ear, the blonde's lips grazed the skin beneath the redhead's ear. "Thank you." Her lips connected softly before Willow turned and captured her mouth.
Savoring the kiss awhile longer, the two women smiled as they separated. "So what should we do now?" Willow asked, raising a teasing eyebrow.
"How about we take a quick shower," the blonde traced over the slope of her girlfriend's jaw with her finger, "and then you can show me those scars." In an instant, Tara's eyes had darkened.
The redhead gulped and squeaked a loud, "Okay." With renewed energy, she hastily climbed out of the hammock. "Just let me do something really quick, okay?" Tara smiled, nodding as Willow disappeared into the cabin.
Tara reached the steps, already looking forward to her shower and the comfortable bed when Willow reemerged carrying something large, blue and folded neatly. "What is that?" She stopped in the doorway as her girlfriend walked past her and into the yard.
"C'mon, Tara, we can't sleep in the wilderness without actually, well... sleeping in the wilderness," the redhead began inflating the tent.
"Wh-... bu-," sputtering, the blonde looked into the cabin and then back at Willow.
"It'll be great. Just me, you, and the forest air." The redhead inhaled deeply.
"We can open a window." Incredulous, Tara frowned as Willow walked toward her with her hands behind her back. Her girlfriend simply stared at her, green eyes smoldering under the sun. Tara stepped forward, leaning in to kiss Willow, and possibly persuade her, but found her lips meeting air.
Willow moved back with a smirk and Tara's eyes scanned her figure before moving over to the tent. The blonde stared, blinked, then drifted off into another unmoving stare.
"Okay, so... maybe it isn't such a bad idea." She shrugged, verbally convincing herself even though she was already sold.