"Stop it." Natasha asked gently, a shy smile playing around her full lips as she turned around to look at the redhead who sat on the table behind her, dangling her legs enthusiastically.
"What?" Clarissa gave back with a huge grin, her eyes focused at the blonde.
"That." Natasha pointed at the redhead's face before she turned around and put the tablecloths into the closet before her.
"What 'that'?`" Clarissa played along and intensified her swinging as even the upper part of her body started to swing along.
"That-you-following-me-everywhere-and-staring-at-me-all-the-time-that." Natasha clarified with her hands on her hips.
"Oh that 'that'." The princess nodded. "Can't stop that that." She grinned self-satisfied. "and don't want to stop that." She added as she glanced dreamingly at the blonde.
Natasha blushed and lowered her head. "Clare." She tried to admonish the other girl but failed totally as desire filled her voice.
Clarissa's smile even grew wider. "Besides you told me you loved me watching you." She defended herself.
The blonde's blush deepened till it had the shade of Clarissa's hair. "Yeah, but not the whole time, only when we're alone."
Clarissa looked around the small storeroom. "Well, we're alone right now." She jumped down from the table and crossed the room to pull the blonde into a hug.
"Alone in your room." Natasha clarified and tried to pull herself playfully out of the hug but her resistance was weakened with a soft kiss and a tongue that played behind her ear.
Clarissa smiled into the blond hair as she felt the other woman's body melting into hers. "We could go back." She offered.
The blonde sighed but resisted. "We've been there for three days." She reminded her.
"And that was two days ago." Clarissa threw in with a pout.
"You forget the nights." Natasha informed her.
"I would never forget the nights." The redhead insisted and nuzzled the neck in front of her. "But between the nights are always these long boring days without you."
"Without me?" Natasha snickered. "The last two days you left my side for five minutes."
"And they were five very long minutes." Clarissa continued her caress. She whimpered when the blonde withdrew and held her at arms-length.
"Clare, it can't go on like this." She tried again.
"Why not?" Clarissa stared frustrated at the point where she had planed to set a hickey but had been interrupted.
"They will get suspicious."
"Let them." The princess answered childishly.
"Clare!" Natasha frowned.
"They won't find out. You've been here for three weeks and four days and they haven't found out yet. Why should they now?" Clarissa squeezed Natasha's hand to reassure her but the blonde wasn't easy to convince.
"Because you follow every one of my steps." She argued.
Clarissa sighed. "If it means that much to you."
"It does." Natasha looked anxiously at the door like she expected someone to burst in upon them any second.
Clarissa tried it one more time. "I could help you with your work if that's less suspicious."
Natasha giggled at the crazy thought. "Sure, a princess peeling potatoes in the kitchen is way less suspicious." Then she turned serious again. "We promised Nana to be careful."
The princess sighed frustrated. "You're right. I don't like it but you're right." She shoved the blonde to the door. "Go before I change my mind. Shu, shu." Her hand grabbed the doorknob but Natasha stopped her.
"Hey, I didn't mean that fast." The blonde said. Behind her back Clarissa smiled when her plan succeeded.
"So you are not bored of me?" the redhead asked impishly.
"Never." Her lover answered bashfully.
"Fine." The princess knew she had the upper hand now but she was generous. "Let's make a deal."
Natasha looked at her questioning. "What do you want?" She asked suspiciously.
"Me? Nothing? How could you even think of me like this?" Clarissa answered with mocked hurt. She gave in when Natasha's suspicious gaze stayed on her. "Only a tiny little thing. Not bigger than this." She held her thumb and index finger close to each other.
"And that would be?"
"Less work for you and more time with me. In the library of course. Not in my room or bed." Clarissa added.
"What a pity. More time in bed sounded just too good." The witch sighed. "But I'll surrender. More time with you." She smiled.
"Great." The redhead jumped up and down, pulling the blonde with her.
Natasha laughed. "And to show you how serious I am. What about if I get us something to eat from the kitchen and we spend the rest of the day in the library." Her smile grew sensual. "Or in bed, if you'll prefer." She added wickedly.
"I take this as a yes." Natasha answered before she stepped closer and kissed her girlfriend. Then she gave her a clap at her bottom.
Clarissa jumped and squeaked but she only succeeded in brightening Natasha's smile. "Now hurry to our room. I'll meet you there in 10 minutes."
Clarissa paced her room. She stopped at her bed and smoothed the blanket. The bed should look as inevitable as possible. Then she considered her work and folded the blanket back. Satisfied with her work she took two candles from the shelve and put them on the nightstand. Only when she was about to light them up she remembered that it was only midday and that it would take the sun at least seven more hours to fall.
Well Natasha had promised her the whole day in bed and that included the night in her opinion. And at night the candles would be handy so she could watch the blonde in the soft candlelight. A jolt of desire rushed through her as she imagined how the flickering light would cast its pattern of light and shadow at the blonde's body, the beads of sweat shimmering in the illumination.
If Natasha didn't come right now she would have to handle a very horny and frustrated princess. A dangerous mixture.
She crossed the room and opened the door to peek into the hall. Still no sign of Tasha. She pouted. Where was she? She knew that she waited for her impatiently but nonetheless she was nowhere to be seen.
Clarissa shifted her weight from one foot to the other to lose some of her nervousness. Waiting. She hated waiting. It was her punishment for playing earlier. She was sure. But she promised that she would pay it back. She would let her wait in bed. Teasing her to the climax and than she would wait. She only had to pull back at the exact moment.
She giggled as she thought about the frustration that would show in the blonde's face. Well maybe she would allow her one climax first and then later at night when she expected it least she would pay her back. Yes, that plan was way better than her last. First satisfaction then punishment.
She sat down on the chair, stood up again, leaned against the wall across from the door, so that Natasha could see her when she entered the room. She put her hands onto her hips. No, better one arm behind her head, or both. She tried several different positions but she didn't find the right one. She wanted to send a message with her posture. The seductive-never-let-me-wait-this-long- again-message. Maybe the wall wasn't the right place for this message. The bed would be way better. Additional the way from the wall to the bed was too long and they already had lost too much time.
She walked back to the bed and flopped onto it. That was way better. No long ways just a short pulling and Tasha would lay next to her where she belonged.
Clarissa sat there, her hands hammering at the mattress. She titled her head and looked at the door, waiting for the knob to be turned. Still no sign of the blonde. Oh, she would have to pay. As soon as she had found the perfect seductive position. She lay on her side, her head propped on her arm and faced the door. Okay, that position was good. But what should she do with her second arm? She could brush over her own breast. Or maybe lay it on her thigh.
Or maybe she should lay on her back, one arm behind her head, stroking her own hair and her legs crossed over each other?
The princess sighed in frustration. She had been set up.
A knock on the door pulled her out off her frustration.
"Come in." She yelled excited. She would play Natasha's play along if the blonde wanted to play the princess-maid play, even in this room.
The unknown face that showed up in her room made her jump up and out of her seductive position.
"What are you doing here?" She squeaked.
Even before the maid could answer she continued harshly. "I won't see the queen now. Go and tell her I'm sick and need to lie down." Her hands waved the frightened girl to leave her.
"Nana." Was all the girl brought out but it was enough to stop Clarissa. Suddenly there was this bad taste in her mouth and her stomach turned into one heavy knot.
"Where is she?" She asked voiceless as she realized that Natasha hadn't set her up.
She yanked the girl toward the door. "She's in the kitchen." The girl stumbled as she tried to keep pace with the princess. "She sent me to you because of your maiden, Natasha."
Clarissa only nodded, her lips pressed tightly together as she literally ran down the floor. "Tell me." She pressed out without reducing her speed.
"The priest came in and he yelled at her called her a witch and hit her. And then Nana told me to get you." Clarissa let the girl go. She had all the information she needed right now and the girl only slowed her down.
The priest. Clarissa had always hated the old, bony man. Since she knew him he had always been mean. His only pleasure had been to scare children and grown ups with his stories about hell and the eternal punishment for every sinner. In his world god wasn't a forgiving father but a punishing judge.
No one liked him and he had only been able to hold his powerful position because of her mother. The queen was the only person who 'liked' the priest but that had been enough for him to extend his power and the fear in all people around him.
She could hear his yelled sermon through the hall as she headed for the kitchen. His voice seeped through the stone halls like venom through veins sending shivers down the princess' back.
But that didn't stop her as she rushed to the door and yanked it open.
"Stop it." She yelled even louder at him even before the scene enrolled before her.
The sudden entry of a new player stopped the play before her, froze everyone in place and she had time to take in everything.
Her first sight fell on the tall priest, his face contorted in rage, spit running down his chin. His arm was frozen in mid motion over his head, ready to be slammed down a rosary with a big cross-pendant dangling from it.
Nearly hidden from her view due to the priest Natasha was crouched down in a dark corner her hands protectively covering her head.
The princess rage grew as she realized that the priest had been about to hit the blonde.
"How dare you?" She stepped closer to him, stretching herself to her to her full size. She had taken the priest by surprise and she knew that this was her only card she could play out.
She looked up with lowered eyes at the priest only inches away from her.
He came back to life with her question and his whole body shook in his godlike rage. His arm shoot out to point accusingly at Natasha.
"She's a witch working her devilish magic on these lost souls." Natasha looked up behind her still held up arms, a bloody streak covering her cheek. Her big eyes showed her fear and her whole body was trembling.
Clarissa was torn between rushing to her side to protect the blonde and killing the priest in an instant with the big knife she saw laid out at the big kitchen table. She clenched and unclenched her hands to regain her composure.
Her gaze fell on Nana who sat heavily at a chair next to the table, two maiden stabilizing her from behind. A new jolt of pain rushed through the redhead's heart. She had never seen her nurse so old and exhausted.
She focused back on the priest her hate visible in her narrowed eyes. "She's mine. And not even god will be able to protect you if you ever lay hand on her." She promised him.
Her gaze drifted to Natasha. She held her hand out and motioned her to take it.
As the priest was to oppose her her head snapped back and she pinned him with her dark green eyes. "Forget it, even the queen won't be on your side. Right now I'm way more valuable for her than you are. She has plans for me and she won't let them get ruined by you." She hissed.
The barely visible shift in his frame told her that she had won.
She turned around to Natasha again. "Come." Her voice thousand times softer than a second ago.
The blonde looked at her before she took her hand and let herself be pulled up by the small redhead.
Without looking back she led Natasha out of the kitchen and stopped only after they had reached her room and she had closed the door behind them.
Willow crossed her arms before her chest. "Great, like there aren't enough psychos in this story already to cause trouble." She mumbled grumpily.
"Tasha?" Clarissa asked into the night, her voice still heavy with sleep.
She had woken up freezing. Searching for warmth she had edged closer to where the blonde normally lay, finding the place next to her empty and cold. A chill ran over her skin as the cold air hit her bare shoulders as she propped up onto her arms and blinked a few times to adapt her eyes to the darkness.
She hadn't to search long before her eyes found the blonde standing at the open window. She called out softly once more but Tasha still didn't react. The blonde just stood there staring out of the window into the night sky, her arms wrapped around herself in the fruitless attempt to ward off the cold. Even from the other end of the room she could see the blonde' fragile frame in the white nightgown shivering in the cold.
Clarissa got up from the bed and pulled the thick cover with her to protect herself against the night air. She crossed the room and stepped behind Natasha to pull the blonde into her warm embrace. Carefully she tucked them both up into the cover her arms resting at the blonde's shoulders. Her body melted into the one before her as she tried to drive away the chill that radiated from the body in front of her. But instead of relaxing in her embrace the blonde stayed tense.
She replaced one of her arms around Natasha's waist to rest her head onto her shoulder. "You shouldn't do that. You'll get a cold." she chastised the blonde in a whisper. "Especially when you're bare footed." She frowned.
When Natasha still didn't answer she followed her gaze into the sky. It was a clear night and above them hundreds of stars sparkled. Only a month from now the sky would change into the winter sky revealing new legends and tales with it's constellations.
They stayed there in silence for a few minutes and finally the blonde slightly relaxed to the touch of her lover and leaned her head against the resting one on her shoulder.
"It's beautiful. Just like you." Clarissa said huskily. Her eyes traveled from her lover to the sky. "There's Canis Minor." She pointed at a constellation. "Cassiopia." Her finger moved in the sky.
"The cross-eyed cow." Tasha whispered.
Clarissa frowned slightly as she tried to remember that constellation. "Um... you know... not sure I remember that one."
"Oh, it's a major one. See those bright stars right there?" Clarissa leaned her head against Natasha's and followed the path the blonde's finger laid out for her.
"And see those stars along there?" Tasha asked.
"It's big." Clarissa answered astonished when the stars suddenly turned into a cross-eyed cow.
"Hence the name." Tasha stopped but then continued. "The real ones never made sense to me. I sorta have my own."
Clarissa wanted to ask the blonde to teach her all of her stars but before she could voice her request she felt her shivering in her arms. "Come back to bed." She mumbled into blonde hair, pulling her with her but the blonde stayed stock still, resisting the soft invitation.
"Honey?" Clarissa asked concerned. She shifted to look at the blonde.
Natasha didn't look at her, her gaze still locked at the night sky. "I don't belong here." She whispered, her voice quivering.
"No!" Clarissa yelled panicked. She stepped in front of the blonde. Unnoticed to them the cover slipped to the floor as she took the blonde's face between her palms. "You belong here. You belong with me!" Her voice cracked with emotions as her hands covered the face in front of her with tender strokes.
Natasha dipped her head, her long golden strands covering her face. "Look at me." The princess pleaded, fear coloring her voice.
"I don't think this is working." Tears ran down Natasha's cheek as she looked up again.
"Hey. It is. It's working. Tasha, please. I need you baby. I need you." Clarissa could feel her tears wetting her cheek as she plastered her lover's face with desperate kisses.
"We can't go on like this." Tasha answered. "We've ignored reality too long." She answered quietly as she removed herself from her lover's hands.
"Is it because of the priest? I can handle him, he won't hurt you ever again." Clarissa promised her voice squeaking with fear.
"It isn't because of him. There's so much more we refused to acknowledge." The blonde shook her head slightly. "We lived in a dreamworld and I c-can't do that any longer." She said determined as her eyes locked with the green ones in front of her.
Clarissa frowned. "I thought what we had was for real." She gulped as her world crumbled around her.
"Clare," Their foreheads touched, as Tasha leant against the redhead. "Our love is the only real thing here." She whispered her voice filled with love. "But you're neglecting the truth." The witch continued sadly.
Clarissa couldn't believe that such a gentle voice could bring so much pain to someone. Even the blonde's gentle touch suddenly hurt her like Tasha's skin was plastered with tiny needles tormenting her.
With a sudden jerk she pulled back away from the blonde's touch. "Which truth?" She asked her voice betraying the sudden anger she felt.
"The Count for example, or your mother." Natasha stated in the same voice like before, her eyes shimmering with the pain Clarissa's action and tone had caused her.
"I don't love him, I love you." Clarissa stated angry. Why couldn't Natasha accept that they belonged together. Why had there always to be new problems as soon as they recovered from the last ones.
Tasha crossed her arms above her chest, her shoulders collapsing. "But you will marry him." She answered downcast.
"You will. You have no other choice. Or will you disobey your mother?" Tasha looked at Clarissa, waiting for an answer.
And Clarissa wanted to answer her, wanted to show her with one tiny witty comment that there wasn't anything in their future together to be threatened off. Her mouth opened but the words left her as she realized that Tasha was right.
She had never thought about what the future held for her. She had always been able to put that part of her future at the back of her mind, burying it with her future plans with the blond witch. And now all these plans were shattered, leaving only the cold future with the Count behind. Tasha was right. She had dreamed about their future together but in reality that future wasn't possible.
"I, I don't know." She stammered. She couldn't stand the blue firm eyes any longer and looked away in shame. Her mind raced as she tried to come up with a solution. She wouldn't give up Natasha. That wasn't an option. No matter what she had to do.
Her face lit up as her fast working brain found the answer. "We could go south. Leave here. Maybe go to one of the free cities. Just give me two or three days to plan out everything." Her eyes sparkled with newfound hope as she stepped forward and took Natasha's cold trembling fingers into hers.
Tasha smiled sadly. "You could leave everything behind?" She asked in disbelief a sad smile playing around her lips. "Life isn't easy out there. You never lived outside your castle. Could you really leave it, your mother and father, Nana, your books?"
"I will. There's only one person I want to spend my life with, only one book I want to read over and over again. You." Clarissa laid her heart open to the blonde. "Please stay with me. Don't leave me. We can work this out. I promise." She pleaded with big teary eyes. "Let me prove. I just need time to prepare anything."
A dry laughter escaped Tasha before she could stop herself. In shock about what she had done she covered her mouth with her hands but the hurt expression was already there in Clarissa's face.
"You're laughing at me." The redhead expressed her hurt feelings and shook her head. "I can't see anything funny here. Well maybe I'm the fun here, thinking that you love me and want to be together with me. Funny me. Haha." Her shrill voice filled the room.
After the sound of her harsh laughter had vanished thick silence was all that was left between them. The silence closed its iron hand around Clarissa's heart and tighten its grip with every beat. There was nothing left in her, no emotion she could cling onto and shove into the other girl's face.
She stumbled back till she felt the heavy wooden frame of her bed against her knees. Drained she sat down. She wanted to feel the soft arms of her lover around her, wanted to hear her soothing whisper confirming her that everything was alright that last minutes had only been a bad dream she had woken up from. She wanted to lay her head and the secure lap of the blonde, feeling her fingers stroking her hair. She wanted to drift off to sleep hearing the soft voice telling her stories of a better world. She wanted to wake up the next morning only a slightly uncomfortable feeling reminding her of a bad dream last night.
Clarissa looked up her eyes telling her lover all she wanted but when the blonde was about to approach her and to fulfill at least some of her wishes the princess stopped her with a raised hand.
"Don't." She whispered. To feel these arms around her now would only increase her pain would only remind her of what she was about to lose.
Tasha stopped. "I love you."
"Why do you want to leave me then?"
"I don't but..." The witch stopped and sighed." It's complicated."
Clarissa shook her head vehemently. "No it isn't. We just leave this place together. Right now." She stood up with new determination in her voice and started to open her drawers and wardrobe dropping casual clothes onto her bed.
A gentle hand on her arm stopped her from throwing another stack of clothes at the already big pile. "Clare." The soft voice of her girlfriend reached her ear stopping her in mid-motion.
Clarissa refused to look up, right now she couldn't use another dose of reality. Right now all she needed was to pack her things and leave this place with Tasha in tow. But another delicate hand reached up under her chin and forced her to look up to meet the blue eyes that were shimmering with unshed tears. Another thing she couldn't use right now.
"Please, let me pack." She pleaded, clinging desperately to her self-delusion.
"I wish I could. But I can't. You don't know the world out there. It isn't like in your books where they discuss the simple joy of tilling the ground and living in worthwhile poverty waiting for god's reward in heaven. You will ..." The blonde trailed off her face darkened with her sudden thought.
"What would I do?" Clarissa asked.
"Nothing." Tasha's head turned avoiding Clarissa's gaze.
"How should I understand why you are leaving me if you don't tell me." From the gaze of the blue eyes she knew that this was her chance. If she now said the right thing she could convince the blonde to stay with her. Or to take her with her. The determination that had been there only seconds ago had left the blue eyes and she could see the unsteadiness shimmering in them. If she now insisted to learn the truth Clarissa knew she would win. No, she shook her head invisibly. This wasn't about winning. This wasn't a contest, this was her future she was fighting for. "Tell me." She asked softly as she sat down in front of her pile of clothes patting the place next to her.
Her eyes followed Tasha as she sat down next to her, following her request and finally the blonde's defense broke. She lowered her head and watched her fiddling fingers in her lap before she answered. "You'll hate me if I take you out into this world."
"Never." Clarissa was shocked. Her hand reached out and entwined with Tasha's before she placed them above her heart. "I could never hate you. Never in my whole life." She said sincerely.
"Not until you lie hungry and freezing in a drafty damp hut." The blonde answered resigned.
"Right and life here without you would be so much better." Clarissa said sarcastically. "A caring mother at my side and at night I'll lie in the caring arms of my beloved husband who will treat me like his most valuable treasure. And I'm sure the sex will be great."
"Sex?" The blonde gulped. "You can't, he is..."
"Well I won't have a chance when I'm his wife." Clarissa needed her whole self-control not to grin. She had her.
"No you can't, he..." Tasha stopped, her breathing fastening as she tried to draw in more air.
Clarissa put her finger on Tasha's full lips to silence her. "Pssssst. Calm down."
"You don't understand." The blonde tried again but Clarissa interrupted her again. "We both don't want me to have sex with him." She assured her. "Let's make a deal. You show me the town and all its ugliness and I prove you that I can stand it. Two weeks and then we'll see. Or can't you stand two more weeks around me?"
On the main street every second house was a tavern filled with noise and movement. And Clarissa vibrated with excitement about her new adventure as Natasha guided her through the town. Every turn offered a new world. Revealed something new that waited for her to be explored. Her heart was filled with strength and confidence. This would be easy. With Natasha's finger entwined with hers there was nothing she couldn't face and conquer.
'This will be easy'. She smiled to herself. Proving to Tasha that she could do it and learning new things at the same time. And she would be able to spend even more time with the blonde. She couldn't find anything negative about this deal.
There was so much to see, so much to learn and she hoped that two weeks would be enough to explore everything. After this time... Well after this time she wouldn't be here to explore the city. She would be far away on her way to one of the imperial free cities. With Tasha by her side. Only the two of them facing new adventures and living a new life. Outside the oppressive castle walls. Out of reach for her mother and the count. No more patronage. No one to tell her what to do. No more expectations she didn't want to fulfill. Only expectations she wanted to fulfill. Expectations she had about her future with the blonde. Her smile brightened as she thought what she would do with Tasha. And to her.
Clarissa took a deep breath. Freedom. She could smell it. And she wanted to fill her lungs, her heart and every other part of her body with it. This was the beginning of her new life, she decided. Again a new beginning. Every new beginning in her life involved the blonde who held her hand secure as she walked next to her through the colorful streets. With her her life had only begun and she hoped that it would never end. There were to many beginnings waiting for them.
With one look at the witch's face Clarissa forgot all the interesting new things around her. Tasha was the most exciting, most interesting 'thing' for her. She would never get tired of watching her. Of following the cascading golden hair with her eyes, of traveling along the delicate features of her face, feeling the soft, full lips parting under the touch of her fingers. Involuntarily her other hand reached out to feel what her mind was dreaming about and it took al her willpower to stop herself. She couldn't do this, not now. But she would definitely do it and more when they were alone in their room. In their bed lying next to each other, there bodies pressed against each other filling the room with warmth in the already cool nights.
The mere thought of it flooded her body with heat and parched her throat. She gulped in her effort to gain control over her body once again. She had to pull her gaze from the blonde and forced herself to watch the life around them. Just as she felt the heat fading from her body and just as her brain was able to comprehend what happened around them again the blonde looked at her. Even in the dim light of the oil lamps she could see the deep blue eyes that looked down into her bare soul.
"Are you alright?" a soft caring voice asked her.
"Willow stop it." Tara moaned as the redhead's fingers traveled along her jaw, sending electrifying jolt through her body.
"It's your own fault, telling me stories like this. How am I supposed to keep my hands of you with images like this in my head." Willow whispered.
"O-okay. Break. Five minutes." Tara croaked as she leaned down to capture Willow's lips with hers.
Half an hour later she settled back to continue her tale, her fingers massaging her lover's skull till she elicited a small purr from the sick witch.
"Are you alright?" a soft caring voice asked her.
"Fine." She squealed than cleared her throat before she tried again. "Fine." This time even she believed her own voice.
But Tasha wasn't as convinced as she was. "Are you sure? You don't have to do this. We could go back." She offered but the princess stopped her.
"No. I'm fine. I'm fine whenever you're with me. I'm more than fine then. I'm great." She smiled sensual.
Tasha lowered her head and Clare was sure that a blush covered her cheeks even if she couldn't see it in the dark. She just knew that it was there.
"Uhm. We, we have to... this way." The blonde stuttered.
"Lead me, I follow you." Clarissa answered still smiling. 'Wherever you go.'
They had continued their walk along the main street the light from the taverns illuminating their way. Eyes opened wide Clarissa drank every detail that enfolded before her. Her eyes couldn't be big enough to take everything in, afraid of missing something important. She was sure to hear her brain pulsating under her skull as it tired to process the sensations that overwhelmed her senses.
Suddenly the door to one of the taverns was pulled open as two men stumbled out their arms around each other's waist to protected them from falling. The door stayed open and Clarissa peeked inside as they walked by.
The tavern was filled with drinking men shouting at each other as they smacked their steins together. A man was sitting at the table next to the door, a woman on his lap. She threw her head back and laughed shrilly as he whispered into her ear and grabbed her breast squeezing it. He had to feel her watch him cause he turned around focusing on her. Clarissa stopped in mid-motion as his gaze pierced into her, his lips curled into a lecherous smile as his searching look wandered up and down her body.
The princess felt trapped but unable to move, transfixed by his stare, his hand still around the tall woman's breast. She wanted to run, to hide from his stare but she wasn't even able to force air into her lungs. He had caught her spying at him and he liked it. He liked the power he had over her. Never in her life she had felt that dirty and disgusted. And ashamed about her curiosity. She wanted to go back to the world she knew. Back to her safe world behind thick walls. Suddenly she wasn't so sure anymore about two weeks in this world.
A pull at her hand brought her back to life as Tasha saved her from the man's gaze. Their encounter had only lasted a few seconds but for her it felt like eternity. She could still feel his eyes all over her, sending a chill down her spine. The princess looked down at herself to make sure that his hand didn't linger at her breast that she didn't feel his breath on her neck.
"We shouldn't stay too long at this street." Tasha explained unaware of the redhead's encounter.
They turned around a corner, into a small narrow street. Darkness enveloped them protecting them from the noise and images of the main street.
Only a few steps and the world around them had changed again. Only now and then there was a small light from an oil candle barely illuminating the street ahead but Tasha never stopped. Without hesitation she found her path leading Clarissa through the night and a destination only the blonde knew.
The redhead pressed herself against Natasha to feel the calming presence helping her to forget what she had experienced.
It was a world her books hadn't prepared her for. Looking back she only could shake her head in disbelief of her own naivety and stupidity. Life was more than reading a book in a secure library. But she couldn't show Tasha her concerns. She had told her that she could stand all this and now after only thirty minutes she wanted to run back to her castle and hide in the safety of her books. She gulped and straightened up. She could do this. She had to prove it to Tasha and herself. Too much depended on her being strong.
A turn left, a small dark street, some stairs up, a narrow street such small that they had to go behind each other and Clarissa had been lost in this labyrinth. She squeezed the blonde's hand just to be sure that the witch wouldn't abandon her, leaving her behind to roam through these streets till her death. Her view traveled up along the tall walls to the small gap above her. Even though the houses right and left from her were drawing close to each other there was a small crack permitting her a gaze at the sky.
It was a clear night and she was relieved to see the bright stars even though she wasn't sure where the dark sky ended and the walls began. She took a deep breath only to regret it the second the smell entered her mouth. The awful smell of the day's remains covered her tongue and she had to swallow to suppress the sudden urge to puke.
"I'm sorry but it's the shortest way." Natasha excused her chosen way as she felt the redhead tensing up.
Clarissa only nodded although she knew that her lover couldn't see the gesture but for nothing in this world she would open her mouth again in this street.
A sigh of relief escaped her throat when they left the stinking narrow street to enter a bigger and brighter street. She felt even more relieved when she realized that there wasn't a single tavern but only small neat houses. Her second hand joined the one entwined with Tasha's tightening her grip.
The blonde looked at her questioning. "You want to go back? It would be no problem." She asked concerned.
"No. It..." Clarissa looked around searching for an explanation that wouldn't reveal her fear. "The smell. The smell was awful. But I will adapt." She straightened up do emphasize her words. "I'm a very adapting person. Let's go back. I take another breath and I'm sure it won't bother me at all." At the end of her little speech her voice got smaller but she would do it, if she had to. She could do the vomiting when she was alone.
To her relief her lover shook her head, a little smile replacing the earlier frown. "Don't worry. No more stinking streets for you tonight."
"Where do we go?" She felt silly to ask her this question just now.
"Actually we're here." The witch pointed at a big two-storied house at the end of the street a small square in front of it. Only a small light shimmering through one shutter at the end of the house indicated any life within.
"Looks nice." 'And not threatening' she added in her mind. "What is it?"
"A soulhouse. Some friends of mine are running it." Natasha said.
"What's a soulhouse?" The princess asked as they reached their destination. They stopped before a small wooden door and not at the big entrance at the other end like Clarissa had expected.
"A shelter for old people. The soulwomen are running it."
"No, they live and work together without a vow. They don't need a priest's benediction to do good." Tasha's features darkened as she thought about the priest.
Clarissa reached out and caressed the other girl's cheek. "Hey, remember he won't hurt you again."
"But..." A finger on her lip silenced her.
"There's no 'but'. He hasn't the power to do anything and he knows it. If he could have done anything he'd done it by now. He was never a very patient man. I have to know. I've known him my whole life. It's not a very long life and I tried to spend as less time as possible with him but if you don't trust me, we could ask Nana, she..."
"I trust you."
"Fine." Clare grinned, earning a smile in return. "Let's meet your friends." The last hour was forgotten in her excitement to meet Tasha's friends. It were the first friends of her girlfriend she would get to know.
The blonde witch knocked at the door. Three times long, two times short and again one long knock. A sign for the inhabitants Clarissa assumed. Her fingers closed tighter around Tasha's as her stomach started to flutter with nervousness. What people needed a secret signal?
There was some noise, like shifting chairs and excited chatting before the door opened, revealing a small, middle-aged woman holding a candle. A woman with long brown hair who didn't look the slightest dangerous much less like a woman who needed to hide stood before them holding the candle above her.
"Tasha?" The woman asked in disbelief as her eyes adapted to the darkness outside. She turned her head shortly calling the other inhabitants "It's Tasha." Then she pulled the blonde into a fierce hug, the candle still in her hand. Too dangerously close to the blond hair in Clarissa's opinion.
"Where have you been?" She held Tasha's at arm's length to examine her closer. Her brown friendly eyes sparkled, satisfied with what she saw. "You look good."
Only then her eyes scooted over Clarissa and narrowed for a split second before she relaxed again.
"She's a friend." Tasha explained aware of her friend's unspoken question.
Clarissa flashed the woman a bright smile. A smile that she had trained at many occasions. And she hoped that it would be handy in making a good first impression.
It was good enough to be ushered in.
"I'm Helen." The brown-haired woman introduced herself before she motioned them to follow her through the narrow dark floor.
"Clare." Clarissa squeaked.
"So you are the one that kept her from us." Helen teased Clarissa with a look over her shoulder.
"Well I didn't... I'm sorry, I, she didn't... if..." The redhead defended herself unsuccessfully unaware of the little joke the older woman had made. Desperately searching for help she sent a pleading gaze at the blonde beside her only to find her suppressing a giggle.
Her mouth opened in shock.
"She's teasing you." A slender finger under her jaw closed her mouth. And lingered there for a moment sending a tingle through Clare's body.
"They won't harm you." Tasha whispered reassuringly while her hand traced small patterns over the redhead's upper arm. And Clarissa couldn't tell if by word or touch but her nerves were soothed.
"And if they try I'll hurt them." Tasha pulled her with her to follow Helen who had vanished to a room on the left.
Five pairs of eyes were settled on them as they entered the door stopping the redhead.
Clarissa fell back a little and watched the women surrounding and hugging her lover. Seldomly she had seen her lover at such ease with other people. She leaned against the door frame taking the scene in. It made her happy to know that other people except from her and Nana had discovered what an extraordinary and lovely person her lover was. Happy and proud. The whole world should know. But that would mean she had to share her. A big 'nono' for that.
Sharing her with these few women was enough. Not 'sharing sharing', she blushed at her own thoughts. Just sharing in the non-girl-girl-sharing way. She cleared her throat and shook her head slightly to focus again. Just to find everyone in the room staring at her.
"Uhm, hi." She waved her hand sheepishly.
"That's Clarissa. Sh-she's my friend." Natasha introduced her. "And she saved me." She added with a smile directed at the redhead. And Clarissa smiled back.
Then she introduced the women. Except for Helen. The brown-haired woman had vanished again through another door.
"This is Monica." Tasha pointed at a corpulent woman with dark-blonde hair who smiled at her. "Julia." A dark-haired girl her age nodded. "Marie." An other middle-aged woman with blonde hair greeted her.
"And Elisabeth." She was the oldest one, her white hair framing her kind, wrinkled face. From her position at the table's end she watched the princess intensively causing a lump to form in Clarissa's throat. They didn't look alike but somehow the woman reminded her of Nana. They had the same look in their eyes. The look that told you that they had seen everything in this world and that there wasn't anything that could surprise them anymore.
The redhead nervously shuffled her feet but held the older woman's gaze. If this was some kind of test, she would pass. A lot of eyes had sized her up in her life, some kind, some indifferent and some even cruel. Nothing new here. But why was she nervous then? Because too much depended on Elisabeth's approval. It meant to be accepted by Natasha's friends. To be allowed into another part of Tasha's life. And she wanted to take part in every part of the blonde's life.
With a smile and an invitation to sit down she was let in. As soon as she sat down next to her lover she could feel her thigh pressing against hers sending a warm feeling through her and washing the panic away with it. The women didn't look threatening at all ... and Tasha had promised to protect her.
The other women settled down around the table.
"Uhm, Did I take anyone's seat? I can move, no problem..." Clarissa blurted out eliciting giggles all around her. She was barely half on her chair anymore when a hand from behind settled on her shoulder and pushed her down again.
"No, sweetie." Monica emerged from behind and placed a mug filled with hot steaming tea in front of her. "And we can use a little change now and then." She added with a mischievous smile.
"Thanks." Clarissa muttered. Her finger closed around the mug, welcoming the heat of the boiling water that seeped through the clay.
An expectant silence filled the room and Clarissa needed all her willpower to stop her fingertips to tap against the clay in her hand. She didn't need any more attention loaded on her. A short gaze at Tasha showed her that the blonde was unaware of the rapt attention.
Actually, she seemed to be the only one aware of it. The others around her chatted or continued the works they had abandoned due to Tasha's 'come back'.
Well she couldn't tap with her fingers, but a little foot wiggling to get rid of her nervousness was soundless, invisible and all she could do right now. What were they waiting for?
Princesses' were bad in waiting, didn't anyone tell them? Actually they didn't know but still, waiting in comfortable silence whilst there was someone really nervous among them wasn't polite at all. Didn't make a good first impression. If you wanted to make a good first impression. And from her look around she seemed to be the only one keen on making one.
She sipped her tea and regretted it instantly as the hot liquid burned her tongue and ran down her gullet to her stomach leaving the sensation of fire raging through her behind. Her head shot up to assure herself that nobody had noticed but Elisabeth's sympathetic eyes lay on her a pitiful and amused smile twitching around the corner of her thin mouth.
Clarissa blushed in return. Gladly at this moment Helen returned. She bent down over the older woman and whispered into her ear before she sat down next to her.
"Now that we're all here." Elisabeth looked around and till her gaze settled at Tasha. "We're curious where you've been."
Since they had entered the house it was the first time that Clarissa saw her lover shifting uncomfortable under their eyes. This time it was her hand that sneaked out under the table to squeeze her lover's knee reassuringly.
After taking a deep breath and a sip from her tea the blonde told her story. At least some of it. The part without a princess and without them making out. In her story Clarissa was another maiden and their were just good friends, really good friends. But that didn't stop Tasha from praising and thanking her so effusively that the redhead found herself blushing till her face had the same color as her crimson hair.
She was glad when Tasha finished her story. The blonde gazed at her to make sure that Clarissa approved her version. Their eyes met and Clarissa drowned in the blue that looked at her. Never in her life she had seen so much love radiating from someone's eyes. She gulped when she realized that this love was directed at her. Her and no-one else in this world. This time it wasn't the tea that burned deep down inside her. It was love that spread through her and melted her heart. This time the sweet pain she felt told her that she was alive. Alive and loved. A good feeling and a pain she never wanted to end.
She beamed at her lover and grabbed her hand.
"I'm glad you found her." Elisabeth's word brought them back to reality and Clarissa realized that she held Tasha's hand in front of everyone. Their affection for each other plain on their face. She pulled her hand back and hid it in her lap. Just to be sure that it couldn't do anything that would compromise her even more she entwined her own hands holding them close to her stomach. The butterflies that had whirled around there a moment ago had been transformed into heavy bricks. A quick glance to her left told her that Tasha was in a similar condition.
The giggles around them didn't made anything better.
So they knew.
A tingling feeling of being watched caused her to look up. There they were again, the bright blue eyes of Elizabeth mustering her again. Looking deep into her soul. With nowhere to hide. And she didn't want to hide. So they were lovers and the old woman knew.
She had dealt with a priest, she could deal with her. At least she could try to gain a small grain of the pride back she had lost in the last minute. That or die in an instant out of embarrassment. And that wasn't even an option. She would die again just out of embarrassment that she died. And you couldn't die twice.
Clarissa gathered all the dignity she could find and laid it into her gaze. Sometimes the training as a princess paid off. Self-conscious she allowed her hand to sneak out again and reunite with Tasha's cold one. Her thumb brushed over the pale knuckles. Slowly she could feel the other girl relax again.
Like she hadn't realized the turmoil she had caused Elisabeth turned to face Tasha. "So you're back now?" she asked her.
Tasha nodded before her head dipped down again. "I'm sorry I was gone so long. I, I shouldn't..." She muttered.
"No need for excuses to live your life. At your age you only should excuse if you don't live it." Elisabeth tilted her head to get a better look but the blonde hair still hid Tasha from the world around her. Softly the old woman sighed.
Like on command the other women got up and left the room murmuring excuses about having to look after the other inhabitants that were sleeping at the floor above or after the animals in the barn behind the kitchen.
Then they were alone with the old woman. "Tasha, look at me." She asked softly. "I'm not a big two-headed snake. And I won't devour you. I already had dinner." She snickered at her own joke. And Clarissa joined her.
Finally Tasha looked up.
"Don't be ashamed of whom you love."
"Never." The blonde whispered. "I, I was just afraid..."
"Believe an old woman, there's only one thing you should fear in your life. Not to love." The white-haired woman sighed. Then she stood up, supporting herself with her hands at the table and walked over to the oven.
She came back with the teapot and filled their mugs again. "I'm getting old. An old sentimental woman. And sooner or later I will lose all my teeth and tell the young ones stories about how good life had been in my youth. And they will eye me pitiful while I tell them about life and what to fear and what to embrace." She stopped a frown visible between her brows. "Hm, I'm afraid I'm already old."
Clarissa opened her mouth to oppose but a hand in front of her face stopped her. "I'm still not too old to identify a polite but hollow phrase. Keep your breath for telling her that you love her." Elisabeth continued aware of the blushes she sent again over the young faces. "and I'm old enough to embarrass the youth. Ahh, the advantage of the old." Her eyes misted over and the cleared them with a short shook of her head.
Then she settled back into her chair. "I assume you want to help again?" Elisabeth changed the topic.
"Oh, yes." Natasha whispered breathless causing her girlfriend to turn around and glance at her questioning. There had been no mentioning of any help to her before. So this wasn't just a polite visit. There was something going on here. Something she didn't have the slightest clue of. Night of surprises and she wasn't sure if she could take any more surprises.
Natasha shot her a glance telling her she would explain everything. Just not now. And Clarissa was bad with the waiting. Always been. Bad habit. But Princesses rarely waited. Her foot tapped impatiently it's pace fastening. The rest of her would wait patiently. But her foot would show her non-approval. Really visible. If anyone would look under the table it would be there, all visible expressing her opinion.
"It has been dangerous before." Tasha's voice grew stronger with the change of subject.
"Yes. But they doubled their effort to catch us. The church wants to get rid of us for good. There's no place on god's earth for healers like us." The wrinkles in Elisabeth's face deepened. "Or in his heaven." A sharp laugh escaped her throat. "Like I want to be in the same heaven as them."
Then she turned back to Tasha. "I can't allow you to help. Not after you finally started to live your life."
"I'm doing it with or without your help." The blonde witch answered harshly.
Clarissa looked at her lover in surprise. Only once before she had heard such determination in her lover's voice. It had been in the night when Tasha had told her, that she would leave.
"With your help it would be easier." Natasha added softer.
But Elisabeth shook her head. "The priest is more committed than ever. Like he's looking for revenge. It's no longer just his clerical mission. It's personal now. He was dangerous before but now..."
The hand in hers tensed up and as Clarissa looked at her lover's face she could see the pain. "It's my fault." The young witch whispered. "I, I offended him."
"No Tasha." It was the first time Clarissa spoke a full sentence. "I offended him. It wasn't your fault."
"It was." The blonde pulled her hand free from Clarissa's grip. "And I will make it up. Starting right now." She stood up ready to leave.
"Sit down." The old woman commanded in a voice that didn't allow protest.
"Youth. Why is it always the youth that wants to throw its life away?" Her steel-blue eyes fixated the blonde.
And Tasha held her gaze.
Finally the old woman gave in. "I can't stop you, can I?"
"And you want to take her with you." Elisabeth nodded at Clare.
"No. she's staying here till I come back."
"No way." Willow screamed. "Forget about it. She won't leave her behind. Not this time." The redhead jumped up to face her girlfriend. "She's not leaving her behind." She hissed between gritted teeth.
"Shhh calm down baby." Tara shushed.
But Willow didn't want to be shushed down. "No way." She repeated. She blinked feeling suddenly dizzy from her jump. "Oho, all spinny." She added weaker.
This time she didn't protest when Tara pushed her gently down. And she didn't have anything against the cooling palm on her forehead that wiped the feverish beads away.
"Let me continue."
Willow focused on Tara's soft voice. The only steady thing in her tumbling world right now.
"No way." Clare screamed. The animals in the stable behind the kitchen scratched and moaned in protest of the noise.
Maybe she had the animals' attention. But still her girlfriend wouldn't look at her. Tasha preferred to look at an invisible spot at the table, hiding behind her hair.
And Clare stared at her as if her fierce gaze could burn through the blonde curtain that tried to keep her at bay. Normally she would have reached out to push the hair back to insure her lover that she needn't to hide from her.
This time Tasha had good reasons to hide. But it wouldn't stop her. She could feel the hot, burning spots that covered her face. Suddenly it was very hot. But not from the fireplace. It had already burned down, only the small, red smolder between the dark ash indicated that there had been a fire at all.
Right now there was enough heat and anger in her to warm the whole city.
She knew that her staring wouldn't get Tasha's attention. There had been enough occasions for her to learn how stubborn her girlfriend could be in her hiding. Stubborn and shy.
Well she hadn't been shy just a moment ago, when she had told Elisabeth that she wouldn't take her with her. Goddamn it, then she could be brave enough to face her now.
When looks alone couldn't get her girlfriend's attention she grabbed her arm and yanked her off her chair.
The blonde stared at her, the disbelief visible in her dark blue eyes. At least she'd gotten her attention. She loosened her grip at the blonde's arm but didn't let go. There would be marks tomorrow and she would apologize over and over again. And maybe she would kiss the marks away and cause new one with her lips. But not tonight. She was tired of being pushed around like this from her girlfriend. She had given her her word and she would ensure that she kept it.
"I don't stay behind." She hissed through gritted teeth.
"You've heard Elisabeth. It's gotten too dangerous." Tasha whispered back.
"Too dangerous for me but not for you? What are you planning, anyway? Do you want to dance naked around the church or burn it down?" A dry laugh escaped her lips. "Well that would get his attention I think. But I don't think that revenge will do it."
"This isn't about revenge." Again Tasha avoided her questioning gaze.
"What is it then?" This was getting more and more frustrating. Clarissa looked at Elisabeth, her eyes pleading for help. But the old woman shook her head. She wouldn't interfere.
Her anger still boiled in her but slowly an other emotion broke through to the surface when the blonde still didn't answer. Under all her anger about being left out she was afraid. Afraid about what her lover planed. What could be so dangerous that she didn't fear to take her through the dark streets but wouldn't take her any further?
She didn't want to lose her. She couldn't lose her. Images of how she found the blonde after her family had beaten her up flooded her mind, paralyzing her with fear.
Fingers stroke over hers.
"It's nothing like that." A squeeze underlined the witch's soft words, pulling the princess out of her paralyzed state.
"What is it then?" Clarissa asked again, her voice revealing her concern.
Confusion wrote itself all over the redhead's face. She knew that Tasha had helped others through her whole life. Even at the castle she had helped wherever she was needed. Till... Till the priest caught her. His words rang in her ears, 'She's a witch working her devilish magic on these lost souls'. His whole body had glimmered with hate. And she had threatened him. Making it even worse. As long as she protected Tasha he couldn't take his anger out on her. But he had found a way to work his anger.
"Oh." All her smart words had left her. Because of her threatening it had gotten nearly impossible for the women to help others without being brutally punished. Overwhelmed with guilt she looked down at her feet.
How could Tasha even look at her after what she'd done?
"No, It's not your fault." Tasha read her thoughts and lifted her face to look at her.
"It's nobody's fault." The old woman interrupted them, causing them to turn to her. After she was sure she had their attention she continued. "I've known him for years. Even before the two of you were born. He always has been god's arm of punishment, never of his love. And the Inquisition gives him every opportunity he needs to release his anger and fury." Her palm stroke over the dark wooden table, her eyes following the pattern of wood. "You just reminded him, but if it weren't you it would have been an other small incident. An old woman picking camomile for tea or a child picking up a flower. Only coincidence." Her fingers stopped for a second to explore an especially interesting spot at the tabletop. "Pure coincidence."
Tasha shook her head her lips a firm line. "That doesn't change anything. I will help."
"And IŽll go with you." Clarissa added stubborn. Even Tasha's stern look couldn't change her mind. "By your side or I'll follow you secretly. And to be honest, I'm a little scared of all the dark streets and if I lose you I'm not sure I'll find my way back to the castle. I might get lost, roaming through the dangerous streets all by myself for hours not being able to find back. And who knows what hides in the shadows and there are many shadows." She nodded aggravating her babbling. "Demons. Are there any demons? It was dark enough out there to hide demons. And I think I saw some yellow gleaming eyes in that awful smelling street. But then it was smelling that bad maybe I was hallucinating. I hope I don't hallucinate again, I might faint and then I will lie in a small dark, awful smelling street with scary monsters surrounding me." She shuddered theatrical before she took a deep breath to continue. But she was stopped by her lover's index-finger on her lips.
"You really would do it, wouldn't you?" The blonde asked her.
Silenced through the finger, Clarissa only nodded.
Tasha closed her eyes and covered her face with her hand. When she looked up a small furrow appeared between her brows. Her eyes caught Clare's and she stared at her, before she lowered her shoulders in defeat.
"But you stay close to me and follow my orders. If you don't do it I'll bring you back to the castle straight away." She surrendered.
A bright smile plastered the Princess's face as she nodded enthusiastically, her red bangs hopping up and down. She crossed her fingers in front of her. "Promise."
"Show me your other hand." Tasha insisted and pulled Clare's other hand into her view.
"Hey, don't you trust me?" The redhead pouted and shoved her lower lip forward.
"No." Tasha held the hand tight in hers. "Swear again." She pinned her girlfriend in place with her eyes.
"I swear." Clarissa answered in a tiny voice.
"But..." Clare was stopped by the deep blue fire in her girlfriends eyes. She gulped. "No, there's no 'but'. Not even the tiniest 'but'. I'm totally 'butless'. I don't even have such a word in my vocabulary."
They were back on the streets and Clarissa was glad that she didn't have to follow Tasha secretly. Otherwise she would have gotten lost. It hadn't been just a threat to make Tasha give in. She would have been utterly lost in these streets, even more as they had left the big illuminated street again and headed for the small river at the bottom of the hill.
She turned her head to look back at the castle. It had been a long way from the top of the hill down to these streets. Figurative and literally. But even here, wandering through the dark and dangerous streets she didn't want to go back. Somewhere deep down inside her she wished that they might really get lost and never find their way back to the cold stone-heart of the city, enthroned above everything, watching indifferently the life and death beneath it.
She had been a part of this. Most of her time she hadn't even been aware of the city. That her room lay to the other side with a wonderful view at the lush meadows and forests (and to the small village Tasha's farm belonged to) wasn't a real excuse. She had learned all her lesson's from her mother. 'Be gentle and patient with your people, they don't know about the burdens we take for them. They don't know how to reign and what it costs us. They are only interested in their own profit. Never see the bigger picture.'
Back then she had turned to her father, asking him silently for support. But he had only played with his newest hawk. He didn't even notice her presence as he taught his newest pet for the hunt.
So she had nodded and turned back to her books.
But now she couldn't turn away any longer. She was right in the middle of it. She was scared and she liked it at the same time. But then she liked ... no loved everything she did with Tasha.
Her eyes traveled up to Tasha's face. Hidden under her cape she couldn't hardly make out the features of the face she could draw with closed eyes.
They hadn't spoken a single word since they left the house. After she had promised Tasha to follow her orders, the blonde had left the kitchen together with Elisabeth, ordering her to wait. At the beginning she had been anxious that Tasha would trick her and leave without her, but shortly after the witch had returned with a bag filled with herbs and two capes for them.
Covered under the heavy wooden fabric they had continued their way through the city in silence. And with every step they took the silence grew thicker filling Clarissa's heart with anxiety. What if Tasha was angry with her? Maybe she'd gone too far and the blonde wouldn't speak to her ever again?
The blonde was always patient but even she had to have a limit and what if she had crossed the boundaries? She'd never been good at being moderate.
Uncertain her eyes searched the blonde's face for any signs of disapproval. Whenever Tasha was angry there was this small furrow between her slender brows and the barely visible hardening of her jaw. But the worst thing about an angry Tasha was the icy stare. From one second to the other the same blue eyes that held nothing but love for the whole world could turn into a deep, cold sea, their icy cold waves drowning the offender and freezing him to its bones.
Finally they reached the small bridge that led over the river. Tasha had avoided the bigger stone bridge, preferring the small wooden bridge. But they had to leave the pavement, and exchanged it for the wet muddy ground to get there. And with every step the dampness creped from the muddy ground through her shoes, soaking her feet further. It didn't help her to feel any better. All she could do was to clench her teeth to stop them from chattering.
As they reached the middle of the bridge the redhead stopped. She closed her eyes listening to the rushing blackness beneath her. It was hypnotic. Its calmness flowed through her soothing her tensed nerves.
"Do you hate me?" her tiny voice was hardly audible over the rush. She wasn't even sure if the blonde had stopped or had continued her way without looking back.
"No." Tasha's hand gently stroke her shoulder, confusion covering her face. "I could never hate you."
"Then why don't you talk to me?" Clare's eyes were still fixed at an imaginative point in the water.
"Oh Clare." Tasha sighed. "I'm not mad at you." Her fingers traveled down the princess' arm, sending a pleasant shiver through the redhead's body that replaced the cold with the warm fuzzy feeling of being loved. The blonde clasped her hand.
"I'm angry with myself for getting you into this." She folded back her cape before she reached out to pull Clarissa's cape back as well to get a better look at her lover.
In the light of the moon the redhead could see a small frown at her girlfriend's face but it wasn't that mad-at-you-frown she had feared. It was the I'm-really-worried-about-all-this-frown. A particular frown that always elicited the urge in her to bend over and kiss all those worries away.
She reached out and her index-finger brushed over the small crinkle in an effort to erase it. "I always want to kiss it away." She whispered absentmindedly. A small smile whooshed over her face as she felt her lover shiver under the simple touch. "But I'm afraid this isn't the right place."
Tasha captured her hand and led it to her mouth to kiss the fingertip that hat caressed her. With a look of regret she shook her head. "But you can kiss it away when we're back at our room." She dipped her head to look at Clare from below, a sly smile playing around her lips.
"I could do more than kissing." Suddenly her throat was dry, forcing her to gulp audible. How did this happen? A moment ago she had feared that her girlfriend wouldn't love her anymore and now they were standing at this muddy bridge in public, discussing their love-life. As much as she loved the direction their dialog took it didn't answer the questions her mind threw at her. She didn't understand half of what was going on around her.
She braced herself. Her girlfriend sensed the change and the worry was back on her face. "You... You don't..."
"I will... but..." she took a deep breath and released it with a sigh. "So much has happened in the last days. The last hours, minutes. So much I don't understand and you..." Her green eyes connected with blue ones. "You aren't helpful at all. Not that your not helpful. I know we're on this mission to help people but you weren't helpful to me with my mind throwing all this questions at me. Questions I don't have answers for. And it made my head go all spinny. And if I stare any longer at this river I think I'm going to be seasick."
"Don't look at it." Tasha tried lighten up the situation but the stare it earned her from her lover silenced her.
"That isn't the point." Shocked at her own harsh voice the princess continued softer. "I hate you being all heroic on me. You lock me out of you life and I have to beg and even threat you to get in again." She shook her head before she lowered it. "I don't like this." Her fingers clutched into the wooden railing and she pressed her lips tight together. "I just feel like the junior-partner of this relation-ship sometimes."
"Oh baby, I, I'm sorry. I d-d-didn't mean to." Tasha's stutter was back at full force for the first time in a long run. She looked up into the sky searching for the right words to make things better. "I just want to protect you. I, I couldn't b-bear you g-getting hurt."
A dry laugh escaped the princess' throat. "If I remember correctly you are the one who gets hurt all the time. Not me."
"You fell off a horse." Tasha reminded her.
"Yeah, thanks for that happy memory." She tilted her head. "Actually it is a pleasant memory. Not the getting on the big, evil horse and the riding on the devilish horse and at least the falling off." She shook her head vehemently, her red bangs flying around her. "No that part was really bad." Her eyes gazed at the two deep blue pools before her. "But it brought you into my life. There won't ever be a better memory in my life. Please, let me stay in your life."
The frame of her girlfriend trembled slightly as she stepped closer and captured her face in her hands. Then she pulled the redhead close and kissed her.
"Hmmm, what about the public-part?" Clarissa mumbled as they parted. She gazed into the dark blue eyes that were only inches away.
"Don't see anyone." Tasha whispered, her breath caressing Clare's cheek as the blonde bent forward to place a kiss at her temple. Then she pulled away and watched her girlfriend carefully. "Stay as long as you want."
"That was a nice part." Willow sighed. "night, moon, confessions and a kiss. My preferred combination." She grinned.
She looked up to meet Tara's eyes. Worry crept into her heart as she watched her expression. "Oh no, come on they suffered enough. No more suffer."
"Honey, I just tell the story. All is settled up. Life has good and bad parts." Tara said.
"Great, I didn't ask for a realistic fairy tale." Willow grumbled and crossed her arms over her chest. "If I want realistic, depressing stories I'll watch TV."
After they left the bridge Tasha stopped and pulled Clarissa to a tree near by. It was almost black under there as no moonlight reached through the dense top.
"Hey, what are you planning." Clarissa asked teasingly. "didn't we agree to wait till we get back." Her hand reached out to draw small circle at Tasha's pelvis.
Although the blonde couldn't see it she pouted as Tasha squirmed out of her touch. "not yet." She breathed heavily. "business before pleasure." She rummaged through her bag and pushed something into Clarissa's hand. "Wear this. And don't pull your cape down."
The princess felt the soft fabric in her hand. "What is it?"
"A mask. Just a small precaution." She put on her own mask and pulled her cape over her face.
"Are you ready?"
"Uhmmm. I think." Clarissa turned her head left and right to adjust to the mask. She felt uncomfortable, like on a fancy-dress ball. "If I could see anything." She nestled at her mask. "Is it really necessary?" The redhead asked when Tasha reached over to adjust her mask. The soft fingertips brushing against her temples sent small waves of pleasure through her.
"Better?" The blonde asked.
Clare nodded unable to speak.
"Elisabeth gave them to me. She told me it's necessary these days to stay anonymous." She took Clare's hand and led her back to the street.
As they continued their way Clarissa didn't dare to look up in her effort to stay covered. Whenever someone passed them she dipped her head even further afraid to act suspicious. Somewhat relieved she realized that no-one paid attention to them. They were too absorbed in their own world. And from the look on their faces it didn't look like a pleasant world.
Her hand sneaked out to grasped Tasha's. And she was rewarded with a reassuring squeeze and a small smile from her girlfriend. Then Tasha's eyes focused on the huts around them again. Her eyes darted from the right to the left and back again like she was searching for something.
"What are you looking for?" Clare whispered, afraid someone might eavesdrop them.
"Well I've got that much." Clare answered grumpily. She tilted her head back and pushed her cape back a little to see more. For her the huts all looked the same. Shabby-looking and neglected.
Suddenly Tasha stopped and focused on a small stone house on her right. She tilted her head to take a closer look. Before she nodded satisfied and pulled her bag closer.
"Here." Her head nodded at the house and Clarissa followed her direction.
Then the blonde turned to look at her. "Listen to me. No matter what don't take your mask down. And stay behind me."
Clarissa still stared at the house. She concentrated on it really hard but it didn't look any different than the other ones surrounding it. And there wasn't any vibration neither good nor bad emanating from it. But then she wasn't' good at feeling vibrations. To be honest she'd never tried it before.
"What's so different about this one? I don't see a sign. Except for the I'm-looking-like-all-the-other-houses-sign." she asked in defeat. "is it a nether realm sign. Something I can't see because I'm no witch. Like a house aura? You told me about auras but I didn't know that houses could have ones too. What color is it?" she titled her head and narrowed her eyes. "Green with a sprinkle of yellow, I assume."
A giggle stopped her babbling. "What?" She asked offended. "I'm sensing a non-witch-discrimination here." She bit on her lower lip and pouted.
"No discrimination intended." Tasha waved her hands in defeat. "And no the house hasn't an aura. Just these two small pebbles next to the door. Elizabeth changes the sign every week. She'd been always very carefully. And if you need help you'll put the sign next to your door."
They reached the door and Tasha knocked. "Stay behind me."
A middle-aged man with tired eyes opened the door just a bit and peered out. "What do you want?" He asked in an harsh tone, causing Clare to step back. But Tasha held her ground.
"Y-you need help." She asked him, no sign in her voice that she was offended by his unfriendly manners.
He blinked and examined her from head to toe before he opened the door and motioned them to come in. Carefully he watched the street and then closed the door.
It was a small room lit by the fire at the fireplace. A table was placed in the middle of the room. Two small children sat there, a girl and a boy. The boy was barely able to look over the table as he watched her with big eyes. His older sister, maybe six years old, stared at her, her lips pressed into a small line.
Tasha opened her cape and handed it Clarissa. As the Princess was about to take off hers the witch slightly shook her head. 'No' she mouthed silent. Then she turned to the man.
"Your wife?" She asked him as she rolled up her sleeves to get ready to work. Her eyes scanned the room, taking in what she might need.
The man nodded and closed his eyes, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose.
"What happened?" Tasha asked. Slowly his eyes focused on her and he shook his head to get rid of his tiredness before he answered her.
"Fever. It started five days ago. We, I thought it was a cold, but the fever didn't stop. She has gotten weaker every day. I'm afraid she might die." He whispered and glanced at his children to make sure they hadn't heard him. The girl looked back at him knowingly whilst her brother played with a small wooden horse lost in his own little world.
"Go to your wife. I'll follow in a minute."
Tasha watched the man as he stepped to the door and took a deep breath. Then he wiped his hands on his trousers before he opened the door and slipped carefully into the room with every effort not to wake his wife. All very carefully to not wake his wife.
When he was gone Tasha turned to Clarissa.
"What can I do?" The princess asked her.
"Stay with the children. Tell them a story."
"A story? But I don't know good stories." Clare felt the panic rise in her stomach tying it into a knot. "And they don't seem to like me. The boy, he has a horse, that's so not a good sign. And the girl? She wants to hurt me. Maybe I can come with you, hold your bag? I'm a very good bag-holder." She nodded vehemently. And if her head hadnŽt been attached to her neck she was sure it would have fallen down from all the nodding.
"They are scared. their mother is sick and they're afraid they might lose her." Tasha's hand traveled up the redhead's arm till it rested at her elbow. Her thumb draw small patterns over her bone. "You'll be great. Just be yourself. Talk to them, keep them busy."
The redhead couldn't resist the trust that emanated from the blue eyes. She couldn't deny those blue eyes anything. If Tasha believed she could soothe the children then she would be the greatest children-soother in the whole world.
"You're a master in keeping someone busy." The blonde smiled at her and melted her heart. And Clare couldn't do anything than smile back at her like an idiot. She was under a spell when it came to Tasha and her smiles.
She nodded still lost in the blue eyes when her mind finally registered Tasha's last sentence. "Wait a minute. That was an insult wasn't it?"
But the blonde didn't answer. She had vanished into the room were the sick woman lay leaving her behind with her foes all by herself.
"I can do this." She muttered to herself and took a deep breath, before she plastered a bright smile at her face.
"Hi there, little ones." She waved her hand as she approached them.
"Is this seat taken?" She pointed at the chair next to the boy. The girl didn't react she just stared at the room were her mother lay. But at least the boy looked up from his play and nodded before he turned back to his horse.
Clarissa sighed and sat down. This wouldn't be easy. Her foot wiped nervously as she thought about what to do next. A story. Tasha had told her to tell them a story. But what was an appropriate story for children? Something without death. Death would be inappropriate right now. Well that excluded more than half the stories she knew. Why were all the fairy tales nurses told their children so brutal? Girls eaten by wolves, drowned or blinded princes. Fairy tale land was a really scary place she realized.
She bit her lower lip forcing her mind to race faster and to find a solution. Her face lighted up when she remembered a story where a horse was killed and his head hung up above the town gate. But with a look at the boy and his small toy she dismissed the idea.
Start slowly, she reminded herself, Tasha is counting on you, don't let her down. "Uhm, by the way I'm Cl..." 'Not you real name', her mind screamed at her. "Claudia." That was close.
The first step was done.
"Peter." The small boy answered without looking up from his horse racing above the cutlery, he had arranged in a course.
Expectantly she looked at the girl, but she was only rewarded with a short look before she turned back to the door.
'I can do this, I can do this' Clare repeated over and over again in her head but she didn't believe herself.
"Nice horse." 'Liar' The voice in her head told her and no reaction from the kids.
Next try. "Do you want to hear a story?"
"Mom's gonna die." For the first time the girl looked at her, her dark brown eyes piercing right through her. Her eyes seemed much too old for the young child.
"No." The panic was back. Tasha hadn't told her she had to talk to the children about her mother dying. She was so not prepared for that. "See my friend, the woman I came with? She's really good at helping people. Once I fell from a horse and she saved me. She's really good. And she'll help your mother." She hoped that she was right. Tasha had to save their mother.
The brown eyes were still fixed at her. Then slowly, almost unnoticeable her eyes softened and she nodded. God, she didn't want to disappoint these eyes.
A tug on her cape turned her attention to the boy.
"Can I sit on your lap?"
"Of course sweetie." She opened her arms and scooted the boy from his chair into her lap. He shifted a little before he settled down comfortable, his horse still clutched in his fist. When he leaned his head against her chest, Clarissa held her breath.
"Did it hurt when you fell?" He asked her.
Awkwardly she stroke his silky blond hair. When he didn't protest she released her breath relieved. "A little bit. My head hurt."
"Do you have to wear the mask to cover your deformed face?" He asked innocently.
"What? No, no!" She yelped. "Uhm, no... it's not disfigured. The mask..." Suddenly it grew very hot under her cape.
"Sometimes you have to wear a mask to pursue your work." A deep voice came from the door. She looked up to see the husband and Tasha entering the room.
The blonde smiled at her proudly before she went to a pail to wash her hands. "She will be better in a few days. Take care that she takes the herbs and drinks a lot."
The small girl jumped from her chair and ran to her father. She clinched to his leg and looked up at him. "She won't die?"
A soft smile played around his lips as he lifted her into his arms and brought her at eye's level. "No, Susan. She will be alright in a few days. And we will take care of her."
The girl nodded and threw her arms around her father, cuddling up to his chest.
With tears in his eyes he faced Tasha. "What do I owe you?"
"Nothing." The blonde shook her head. "She isn't that sick. I, I just gave her s-some herbs to loosen the phlegm and something to let her sleep. Nothing to thank for. Just a few days sleep and she would have gotten well without me."
But he wouldn't accept. "If you ever need something, You'll know where to find me."
"I liked that part." Willow yawned.
"You're tired? You should sleep. I can finish the story another time." Tara tucked her into her blanket.
"No." Willow shook her head but stopped when her world started to turn again. "I need to know the end. Too many unknown quantities right now. What about the priest, Phillip? And don't forget Anya. No can't forget the vengeance demon." She grumbled. "Not even when you're sick you can forget the demon."
Tara laughed and leaned down to kiss the pout away. "Baby, you know how all fairy tales end, don't you?"
"Yeah, but there's always so much suffer in between."