Return to Hellebore Chapter Twenty-Seven


Author: Chris Cook
Rating: NC-17
Copyright: Based on characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon and his talented minionators, and Diablo II by Blizzard Entertainment. All original material is copyright 2003 Chris Cook.

Willow poked her head through the flap in the wagon's rear and squinted in the sunlight, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"Sorry to wake you," Tryptin said, standing outside and looking none too rested himself, "breakfast. We're setting off in half an hour or so, but we'll be stopping for lunch today."

"Thanks," Willow said, accepting the covered dish and flask Tryptin offered. He left, and she ducked back inside, putting the food and drink aside for the moment on top of one of the crates.

"Wassat?" Tara murmured from beneath the blankets.

"Breakfast," Willow said sleepily, crawling back under with her. She rolled over and nestled her back up against Tara, smiling and wriggling gently as Tara's arms went around her and pulled her close, her palms pressing into her stomach and waist.

"Should get up?" Tara asked with a yawn.

"No need just yet," Willow replied, "it'll keep a few minutes... and I don't know about you, but I don't really want to move just now."

"Good," Tara said, tightening her hold on Willow, who chuckled.

"Feels nice," she murmured, "I love the way you hold me... makes me feel safe... warm all over..."

"All over?" Tara asked silkily. "Or anywhere in particular?" One of her hands strayed up towards Willow's chest, while the other remained tight around her waist.

"Woke up frisky, did you?" Willow teased.

"And why wouldn't I," Tara countered, "when my sexy sorceress snuggles up against me... mmm... your legs are trembling... are you cold?" Tara whispered, right into Willow's ear, "I should keep you warm..." She slid her leg over the top of Willow's, pressing her thigh down on her legs and rubbing her calf against Willow's shins. The shudders running through her body had nothing to do with cold.

"Oh... sexy legs..." Willow murmured with a smile.

"You like my legs, baby?" Tara asked sweetly.

"Oh yes," Willow said, "I love them... strong and curvy... and soft... can't get enough of them..." Tara grinned and pulled her thigh up close to her chest, her leg draping over Willow's waist.

"There's that Amazon flexibility, too," Willow said appreciatively as she leaned down to kiss Tara's knee, both her hands running up and down her calf and back over her thigh, squeezing her muscles fondly. She laughed quietly to herself.

"What's that for?" Tara asked fondly.

"Oh, just thinking," Willow replied vaguely. "A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in this very wagon thinking that I'd have nothing to do on this trip except read... and now here I am, with the most perfectly beautiful woman in the world... quite literally wrapped around me," she added with a grin over her shoulder at Tara, "and feeling like I'm in paradise every moment."

"Two weeks," Tara mused, "feels like longer."

"Well, two weeks, and half a day," Willow clarified. "It does, doesn't it? I can think back to when I was in Kurast and it doesn't seem so long ago, but when I think about being without you... it seems like it's someone else's life I'm thinking of." She took hold of Tara's hand, which was hovering around the bottom of her breasts, and brought it to her lips, kissing the palm tenderly.

"I love you," she whispered, and Tara saw there were tears in her eyes. "I love you so much, I don't want to ever be without you..."

"You never will," Tara promised. "I swear to you Willow, on my honour as an Amazon, I will love you always." She stroked Willow's cheek affectionately. "You got me, and you're stuck with me," she added with a grin. Willow glanced over her shoulder, her yearning expression giving way to a smile which became a full-bodied laugh.

"Funny," Willow said, "from where I am, it looks like you've got me." Tara gave Willow's waist a squeeze.

"I have indeed," she said in a low murmur, "but the question is... what am I going to do with you?"

"Ooh, I know that tone of voice," Willow grinned.

"And what tone of voice is that?" Tara murmured.

"The one that says I'm about to get ravished," Willow gasped, as Tara's hands both reached for her breasts, fitting around them perfectly.

"Very observant of you," Tara whispered in her ear, as Willow moaned and writhed gently in her grip. "You like this, my sweet Willow?" she purred.

"Oh gods yes," Willow sighed.

"I know how much you like touching my breasts," Tara went on, squeezing Willow and rubbing her nipples between her fingers. "How you love feeling them... soft and warm in your hands... but it's my turn now... how does it make you feel, Willow? Tell me."

"H... hot," Willow gasped, "so hot... oh gods..."

"And...?" Tara prompted, gently giving Willow's nipples a particularly arousing pinch.

"Oh! Oh... gods... wet," Willow said, "wet..."

"Tell me," Tara whispered.

"I... I want you, soooo... much..." Willow managed between moans. "A-all the... time... but when you... touch me... oh... gods... it's too much, I can't... stop myself... I just want you, a-and... oh... need you..."

"I want you too, Willow," Tara murmured in her ear, "I need you too..."

"Oh gods," Willow whispered, "oh, touch me, please, please Tara..."

"I would," Tara said, "but I like where my hands are now... and I think you do too?" Willow moaned in response, as Tara flexed her fingers.

"Yesss," she hissed.

"Touch yourself, Willow," Tara breathed, "just... softly... and slowly. That's right," she urged, as Willow's hands crept tentatively down her body, "yes... just touch your lips... good..." Willow gasped involuntarily as she felt her own sex. Somehow, it was very, very much more than all the times she had touched herself before.

"Oh gods Tara," she whimpered, "how...?"

"Because I'm touching you," Tara replied softly, "it's not you doing this... I'm the one who decides that your fingertips are going to part your lips... aren't they?"

"Oh yes," Willow said, her hands complying without her even having to think about it.

"If I tell you to," Tara murmured, her tongue darting out to tease Willow's ear, "you'll keep yourself on the edge forever... aching, needing... until I let you come."

"Yes," Willow repeated.

"Move your fingers," Tara instructed, "up and down... gently... that's it... feel how wet you are. You're very wet, aren't you Willow? So very wet... and so desperate for release... that it would just take a touch, in the right place. Isn't that right?"

"Oh gods," Willow sighed, her fingers teasing her, completely beyond her conscious control. She felt as though they were truly Tara's hands on her sex, Tara's fingers stroking through her wetness. All the while, Tara was cupping her breasts, squeezing and stimulating, sending little shivers through her each time her fingertips closed on Willow's nipples and gently tugged them.

"Yes," Tara whispered, "just a touch... but not yet. First, let me taste you..." Willow brought a trembling hand to Tara's waiting mouth, her eyes following it in fascination all the way. Tara closed her lips around the offered fingers and stared at Willow as she sucked the juices from them.

"Divine," she whispered at last, releasing Willow's hand. "I think you're ready. Do you want me to make you come, my sweet Willow?"

"Yes, gods yes," Willow pleaded.

"Oh, yes," Tara purred, "you're definitely ready... touch yourself for me, Willow... part your lips... tease yourself... just the tips of your fingers..."

"Yours," Willow gasped.

"Yes," Tara smiled, delighted at how Willow was becoming absorbed in their play, "my fingers... teasing you... giving you just enough to whet your appetite... to wet your sex... you want more, don't you? You want me to go deep inside you... get ready, Willow... it's close now. Get ready..." Tara was breathing heavily, as Willow writhed in her embrace, every inch of their bodies pressed together and moving.

"Now," Tara breathed. Willow jolted almost out of her grasp as she plunged her two fingers into herself, her climax starting the instant her fingers reached their depth and her palm flattened against her clit. Tara held on tight, moaning as her own body responded to the way Willow thrust her hips, worked her legs, forced her breasts into Tara's hands, and tossed her head back, eyes closed, mouth open, gasping with release. She kissed along the back of Willow's neck, licked her earlobe, nuzzled into her hair, anything to convey her love as Willow slowly relaxed and settled back, almost entirely lying on top of her.

"Oh baby," Willow sighed, "oh... oh you are so wonderful..."

"I'm not sure how much credit I can take," Tara murmured, as Willow slowly rolled over to face her.

"Hmm?" Willow enquired.

"Well," Tara pointed out, "it wasn't my hands... apart from up here," she added, tickling the sides of Willow's breasts, pressed against her, before wrapping her arms around Willow's back and hugging her.

"I know," Willow grinned, "but then again, it kind of was, wasn't it? I mean, you told me what to do, a-and you know, I really felt as though it was you touching me, because... it's so much more, when it's you. Heh," she chuckled, "I don't think I'll ever be able to be satisfied masturbating again."

"Are you sure?" Tara said with a smile. "Even if I was there, and telling you how unbelievably aroused I was getting from watching you?"

"Oh, well," Willow conceded, wide-eyed, "that's different, of course... Gods, are all Amazon warriors as sexy as you?"

"I don't know," Tara said with a straight face, "maybe you could try some others sometime and find out?"

"Nah," Willow countered with a knowing smile, "why would I waste time even looking at anyone else when I've got you?"

"Mmm-hmm," Tara agreed, "right answer." Willow laughed.

"Keeping me on my toes, eh?" she said.

"They're such cute toes," Tara mused. Willow rolled off to lie beside her, stretching expansively.

"Breakfast's here," she said, "can I tempt you?"

"You could tempt me in your sleep," Tara replied, touching the tip of her nose to Willow's, which made her giggle as she sat up and reached for their meal. "What've we got?"

"Omelette," Willow said, lifting the cover off the dish, "not quite piping hot, of course..."

"Doesn't matter," Tara replied, sitting up, "I think the delay was well worth it."

"Absolutely," Willow concurred, passing Tara a robe and pulling her own around her shoulders to keep warm. Tara handed her a pair of lacquered wooden plates and mugs from her baggage and Willow divided up breakfast and poured Tara some fruit juice. As they were eating they heard Shan outside calling the caravan to order, and their wagon lurched into motion.

"Oops," Tara said with a grin, "we missed seeing a whole town."

"Yeah," Willow smiled, "what with one thing and another... who knows, maybe we'll come back this way some day? See what the place has to offer. Sorceresses are kind of expected to travel wherever they want, and Ember was definitely a mentor along those lines."

"Heh," Tara chuckled, then grew speculative. "I thought this journey was a special assignment?"

"It is," Willow explained, "but in any case, if I'd concluded my apprenticeship the normal way, the next stage would be to just up and travel for four years. You know, see the world, find out where we belong... I guess I got a head-start on that," she added with a wink at Tara, who blew her a kiss.

"And sometime during that four years, you work out what you want to do, and settle down to do it?" she asked.

"That's the idea," Willow agreed. "It wasn't always that way, of course... I mean, up until the end of the Reckoning, the life goal of a sorceress was to refine her battle magics as much as possible, and then pass on that skill to the next generation of sorceresses. Ever since the Order was established we've had Oracles who could see parts of the future. It's something that happens, very rarely, to lightning sorceresses. They can learn to sense the part of their energy that exists outside time, that sort of... powers time, moves it forward, from the outside. I'm not really sure how to explain it... well, no-one is, except the Oracles themselves. They tune their sight to that energy, instead of seeing the normal world - they're blind, always, once they become Oracles - and they can see things to come."

"Priestesses of Zerae sometimes get visions of the future," Tara said, "but nothing that specific. They're always... symbols, and feelings. They write them down, and then spend most of their time trying to work out what they mean. But I've heard people say that they're blind while they're having visions. It doesn't last, though, they can see again when it's over."

"It might be similar," Willow mused, "Zerae's your lightning goddess, so she would understand its power... perhaps she grants it to the priestesses briefly, when it's important. Oracles are tuned to timeless energy permanently, and lose their sight forever. I guess it's a sacrifice they're willing to make... not that it's crippling to them, of course, but... well, it must be a tough decision. How did I get onto Oracles?" she wondered aloud.

"The Reckoning?" Tara guessed.

"That was it. Yeah, ever since the Order was established, the Oracles we've had predicted that the Prime Evils would rise again, even though everyone thought they'd been defeated once and for all in the Sin War. They called it the Time of Emergence, because it would be the emergence of evil, and the time when we - sorceresses - would come out of hiding and fight the Prime Evils. Until then we'd always stayed remote, travelled in secret, and just about no-one in the outside world knew we existed as an order. So whatever servants the Evils had wouldn't know about us until we were ready to fight them."

"And now that it's over?" Tara asked.

"We're still working that out," Willow said, "mostly by following the Vizjerei methods. They're the closest of the other clans to us, most of the other clans sort of flipped a bit when we showed up during the Reckoning. They weren't sure what to make of us, and I guess we scared them a bit - well, the whole world was under threat from hell, and suddenly these women no-one's ever heard of show up, hurling meteors around, freezing whole tribes of demons in one blast, casting lightning strong enough to break open a boulder like it's nothing. It was probably a bit of a shock to them... um, no pun intended," she added as Tara rolled her eyes. "Anyway, during the Reckoning a lot of sorceresses ended up fighting alongside the Vizjerei, and when it was all over, I guess they reported back to their masters, and their clan accepted us pretty easily, when the others were still wary of us. And we adopted a lot of their ways, now that the Emergence was all over and done. I mean, there was no point anymore in secluding ourselves and training for a battle that's already finished and won, so we had to figure out how we were going to fit into the rest of the world."

"So, court mages?" Tara asked.

"Often," Willow agreed, "the Vizjerei are really the only clan to pay much attention to the Western Kingdoms and send their mages here, but there's never enough of them to go around, so there's lots of courts and rulers who want a mage on hand. A lot of the older sorceresses, those who haven't stayed with the Order as teachers or administrators, have settled down at courts all over Khanduras and Entsteig. Not so much Westmarch yet, seeing as it's the furthest away from Kurast, so, hey, I guess I'm one of the pioneers." She grinned.

"Is that what you'd like?" Tara asked. "Become a court mage?"

"Well, it goes without saying that I'm not settling down anywhere you're not happy being," Willow replied, earning an adoring smile from Tara. "There's a lot of other options, especially now that we're not just concentrating on battle magics. For generations the Order's goal was to be the best battle mages in history, so we perfected our control of the elements pretty much always with a view to using them to blow demons right back to hell. But elemental magic is much more than just firepower... or ice-power, or lightning-power or whatever. We've got the skill, the talent to wield massive amounts of elemental magic, now we're learning how much we can do with it. Apart from blowing things up. Lightning mages, even if they're not Oracles, can develop prescience and clairvoyance, plus there's telekinesis - that used to be just a battle skill, but now they're training to use it in all sorts of ways. Elemental fire has a lot of healing properties, not just battlefield stuff, but against diseases and so on. That's why we established the presence at the Hospice in Entsteig, to develop those skills, as well as make use of the library." She shrugged ruefully. "They've probably finished rebuilding it by now," she added. "And a talented cold mage can do all sorts of things besides just shielding herself and tossing icicles around. They say lightning is the most versatile element, but cold actually has a whole load of secondary effects that you can work with. Condensation, for example, drawing water out of the air - I could make it rain, as if we didn't have enough rain already. But anyway, there's all sorts of applications for our magic, and of course there's all the magical theory we know, aside from just elemental magic. Some sorceresses travel with big caravans, as advisors, or work with architects on construction. That dock we saw back at Kingsport, that was probably built with a Vizjerei mage's help, but a sorceress could do the same thing. Or just travel around researching magic and sending reports back to the Order every now and then. Lots of options."

"Any preferences?" Tara asked.

"You know, a while ago I didn't really think about it," Willow said with a grin, "but just lately, I've been thinking... after we're done travelling, of course, do you suppose the Amazon Nation could do with a resident sorceress?" Tara smiled, then leaned over and kissed Willow lightly on the lips.

"If that's what you want," she said softly, "I have it on very good authority that you'll get the highest recommendation."

"Thank you," Willow whispered.

"You're welcome, my love," Tara replied. "Besides, it's not just a matter of me doing anything to see that you're happy. You're a brilliant mage, you've got a wonderful mind, and I think the Queen's court would find you invaluable."

"Aw," Willow blushed, "now you're making me shy... Queen, huh? So I'm going to be a court mage after all. And among the Amazons, no less! Gods, the girls who trained with me are going to be so jealous. Especially if we ever meet any of them and they get a look at you," she added with a sly grin.

"Flattery will get you... well, kissed and cuddled as soon as we finish breakfast," Tara admitted with a smile. "You'd really like to live on the islands? It's a long way from your home... you know you don' t have to just for my sake."

"There's plenty I'd do just for your sake," Willow countered, "but I've thought about it seriously, aside from that. The way you talk about it, the way you get that 'this is my home' smile... I know you want to go back there one day. And I can't think of anywhere I'd rather go. I never saw myself settling down with the Order, so... yes, it's really what I want. When you go home, I'll be at your side, and it'll be my home too."

"Willow?" Tara said softly.


"Come here, my love." Tara pushed her plate aside, and as Willow came within reach she enfolded her in a warm, tender embrace and kissed her.

Tara looked around curiously as, outside, the order to halt was called down the length of the caravan, and their wagon slowed.

"Oh, I forgot," Willow said, "Tryptin mentioned we'd stop for lunch. I guess the road's safer from here on."

"Probably," Tara shrugged, "we're in Duncraig realm now, it's likely that bandits would prefer to work beyond the borders rather than within them. I don't know about these Carvers, though."

"They probably go wherever it seems most lawless," Willow mused, "they're dangerous to travellers, but a trained army would wipe them out pretty quickly. The ones that are left are probably the ones that preferred remote areas, even if they are less travelled than the roads within the larger realms."

"Well, whatever the reason, it's just as well," Tara said with a lop-sided grin, "the rain's stopped, I could use a bathroom break."

"You're not the only one," Willow replied, "chalk up one big disadvantage to living in a wagon. I'll go see what's for lunch first, meet you back here?"

"Okay," Tara agreed, pulling on her boots.

Willow gave Tara a quick kiss as they both jumped down to the ground, then they went their separate ways, Willow towards the supply wagon to see what was on offer. When she arrived, Kert and Tryptin were already there, in conversation.

"...probably a good choice," Kert was saying, "the roads were in a sorry state, especially from the crossroads up to the mountains. Hello, Miss Willow."

"Hello Kert," she replied.

"Good morning. Did you see any hostiles?" Tryptin asked, turning to Kert again.

"One band, far off on the first day. I rode around the back of them, but I think they were watching the road. Didn't seem to be too many of them, but in that rain, who knows? There may have been others. The ones I saw were small, rags for clothes - probably those Carvers you spoke of?" he asked Willow.

"Sounds like them," she agreed.

"All in all, best we avoided the mountains," Kert went on. "When I spoke with Master Gerrid last night, he said he'd have a word with the Duke about improving the roads up to Jesram. Maybe some soldiers, too, to see if they can't get rid of these creatures for good..." His voice faded away as Willow returned, parcels of food in hand, to the wagon, just in time to meet Tara returning from the edge of the forest across the road.

"My turn," Willow said, handing Tara the parcels. By the time she got back, Tara had unpacked them and was sitting on the tailboard of the wagon, just about to bite into a bread roll filled with cheese and tomato slices. She handed another to Willow before starting, and Willow relayed to her what Kert had been saying.

"Sounds like he's right," Tara said, "seeing as he wasn't in danger, it was best we didn't all take the detour. Even if the Carvers weren't around in great numbers, they could've caused some damage if they surprised us, especially in bad weather, and with the wagons moving slowly."

"All's well then," Willow concurred as they ate happily, enjoying the sunny calm the break in the rain was allowing.

"It's your turn," she said to Tara after a moment, "I've told you what I'm looking forward to, after all our travels are over and done with. So what's the most beautiful woman in the whole world going to be doing in five years' time?" Tara grinned at her.

"You'll be lying on a bed, with soft silk sheets," she purred, "writhing and moaning as I make love to you."

"And what I'll be moaning is how much I love you," Willow grinned. Tara smiled and bit her lip lightly, which was too adorable for Willow to resist leaning across and kissing her, brushing the tip of her tongue lightly across Tara's lips for an instant.

"Seriously," she said, "once we go home, to the Amazon Isles, what do you see yourself doing?" Tara smiled at Willow then leaned back, gazing thoughtfully into the sky.

"I occasionally wondered what I'd do, if I didn't join a warrior pride," she said. "I think perhaps, I'd become a priestess."

"There isn't a vow of celibacy attached to that, is there?" Willow asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Not in the slightest," Tara grinned. "I think... five years? I think I'll be a priestess... a priestess of Athulua. I've always felt closest to her. Apart from the priests and priestesses who maintain her temple in Tran Athulua, and the smaller temples in the other cities, her devotees live among the people. They... well, they listen to people, listen to their problems and worries, and try to help them, to give them good advice and guidance."

"Yeah," Willow agreed, "I can picture that. You're the most compassionate person I could imagine." Tara smiled her thanks.

"When I was a child," she went on, "sometimes I'd stay with Jenavria, Eponin's eldest daughter, when Eponin had to travel to one of the other cities. Before she married her husband, she lived in a little house on the eastern edge of the city... it's right up against the edge of the lakes, and it's the only place where Tran Athulua comes right down to ground level. The house is empty now, but still in Eponin's family... I'd like to live there with you. We'll get an architect and some builders and expand it into a proper home for both of us."

"Our home," Willow smiled, "wow..."

"I know," Tara agreed, "it's a lot to think about... and I know we're still newly in love, and we'll come to know each other a lot better as we travel. But I know at the end of it, we'll be in love just as much as now, if not more. I've never been more certain of anything in my life."

"I..." Willow started, "I... I can't think of anything to say but I love you, a-and I wish I could, I wish I knew some way to, to tell you what I'm feeling, because it's so wonderful..."

"You don't have to say anything," Tara replied with a smile, "I know. I... every time I look at you, or touch you, or even think of you, I know."

The caravan got underway again soon, and Willow and Tara passed the time leisurely as the train of wagons ambled along the road towards the night's camp site. Tara unpacked her bow, and Willow's, and both spent some time working bramble oil into the wood, talking aimlessly about sorceresses and Amazons, and all the things they might one day see and do. There was just enough light, when the caravan halted, for them to bathe quickly in a nearby stream. With a rock wall some twenty feet high on one side of the stream, and a clump of trees on the other, they were secluded enough from the activity of the caravan, within easy earshot if they had some reason to call out, but with enough privacy that, after a glance over her shoulder to confirm that no-one else could see, Tara slipped her robe off her shoulders and strode naked into the stream.

"Join me?" she asked in a low voice. Willow, eyes riveted on Tara, quickly divested herself of her own robe and stood in front of Tara, her arms around her waist.

"What if someone sees?" she asked half-heartedly.

"No-one will," Tara replied with a serene smile, "they know we're here, and they won't risk offending the ladies by coming to the stream until we're done. I think we can afford a moment or two for... whatever we want." Her smile turned seductive, and Willow grinned in reply.

"So..." she murmured, "what do you want?" Her hands moved down Tara's back, cupping her bottom and squeezing playfully.

"Mmm," Tara purred, "well... I think, I want you to make love to me."

"Here?" Willow asked, caught between discretion and desire.

"Right here," Tara said, "right now."

"Well then," Willow grinned, "how can I refuse?" Tara draped her arms over Willow's shoulders, leaving her body quite unprotected as Willow wrapped one arm around her waist, and her other hand traced a path around her hips towards her centre.

"Yes," Tara moaned as Willow's fingers brushed through her curls, "yes... just you and me... nothing else in the world." Willow kissed her deeply, as her fingertips touched her wetness, and poised themselves at the entrance to her sex.

"Ready?" she whispered, her lips still touching Tara's.

"Always," Tara whispered, "always, my love, every moment I exist, I'm yours."

"I love you, my Tara," Willow whispered in reply, as she gently thrust two fingers into her, catching her lips in a kiss as Tara's hips shuddered down against her hand, and her eyes fluttered closed in bliss. She knew they couldn't afford to spend too much time indulging their desires, in the middle of the countryside no less. Her thumb stroked across Tara's clit, not quite pressing as hard as she might, but nonetheless urging her towards a climax that would not be long coming. Her fingers inside Tara's warmth found the special spot that made her moan and quiver, and touched it with every thrust. At the last, Willow buried her fingers in her lover's sex, her fingertips stroking back and forth as her thumb worked on her clit, and she held Tara's waist in a firm hug, their bodies pressed tightly together, as she moaned with her orgasm. A second later Tara's mouth found hers, and they kissed for a long, long moment, both completely open to the other's advances, as their tongues danced in the blissful aftermath of their greater pleasures.

Afterwards, neither of them said anything - Tara's sensual smile, and Willow's gleeful grin, spoke all the words they needed. They quickly washed and retrieved their robes from the edge of the stream, and, with matching grins of a shared moment away from the rest of the world, returned to their wagon for dinner.

Later, naked and cocooned in warm blankets and the warmer contentment of each other's arms, Willow lay beside Tara, one arm around her waist, her head cushioned on her chest. Tara looked down at Willow's adoring gaze, and stroked her hair gently.

"In five years," she said quietly, "the sunlight will come streaming in through the windows of our bedroom, and we'll wake up, with you cuddled in my arms, like this." She rolled onto her side, and Willow nestled up against her, smiling blissfully as Tara's arm went around her, holding her.

"We'll wake up," Tara went on, kissing Willow's hair lightly, "and I'll kiss you, and tell you how much I love you, every single day. We'll get up and go out to the lake, which will be right up next to the house, and we'll bathe and play in the morning light. We'll dry each other off and have breakfast, and then you'll go off to the Queen's court to meet whoever you're meeting that day, or to study in one of the libraries. I'll have a place near the palace where people can find me if they need my help, so at lunch I'll come and meet you, and we'll eat in the gardens, and laugh and I'll stroke your hair like this, and... well, there are a few spots in the palace gardens that are pretty secluded," she said with a grin, teasingly licking Willow's earlobe.

"Once we're done having lunch, or whatever we get up to, you'll go back to the court, and I'll go back to being a priestess, and in the afternoon we'll meet up again, and go to the market, or take a walk in the forest below, or meet some friends. We'll go back home in time to watch the sunset, lying together in a chair on the balcony. Then I'll help out while you cook a delicious dinner, and we'll eat in front of a great big fire in the hearth. And then, we'll go to bed, and make love, and eventually we'll fall asleep, cuddled together. And I'll thank all the heavens that my time in this world is spent with such a goddess as you." Tara kissed Willow on the back of her neck, then frowned as she heard Willow stifle a sob.

"Willow?" she asked.

"I'm-" Willow choked back. She rolled over, and Tara saw, through the tears on her cheeks, the most beautiful smile she had ever seen.

"That's so beautiful," she tried again, "I... gods, how could I deserve something so wonderful?"

"Do you trust me?" Tara asked gently.

"Completely," Willow replied without hesitation.

"Then trust me to know that you deserve every happiness I can give you," Tara said. Willow nodded, and smiled up at Tara.

"I do," she said, "I don't know how, but I do... oh gods, Tara, you are... the most beautiful, lovely, wonderful, heavenly, divine... I love you. I love you, I love you I love you I love you..."

"And I love you," Tara whispered, "with all my heart, with everything that I am and everything I will ever be. I love you, Willow. And we'll have our home together one day."

"Yeah," Willow agreed, "and you'll always be my home. Now and forever."

"Now and forever," Tara echoed.

Continue to Hellebore Chapter Twenty-Nine (Rated NC-17)

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