Author: watson (additional snarkage by Carleen)
Things at the finish line were a blur, they hardly had time to stay on their feet, let alone catch up with their friends. Production whisked them off immediately for meetings and de-briefs. After what seemed like 15 hours but was probably closer to two, they were finally allowed to go up to their hotel room to freshen up.
They had never been so relieved to find themselves in a hotel room, which said a lot since they'd spent the last 30 nights in all sorts of sleeping environments. Soft music played from the entertainment center, the lights were at just the right brightness, the sight of the crisp white sheets and soft downy duvets drew them to the bed.
Willow took a giant flying leap and was sprawled diagonally on the bed in no time.
"Hmm, this is my idea of heaven," she let out a giant sigh and closed her eyes. Sleep threatened to creep up on her immediately.
"So, I'll leave you to enjoy your heaven while I take a much needed shower, okay? May be itíll wake me up a bit," Tara said. She was looking forward to the shower, very much, and began to make her way to the bathroom.
"Oh no! No Tara means no heaven! Come to me," Willow opened one eye and beckoned to Tara.
Tara looked back at her partner. Willow was so cute, peeping at her with that expectant pleading expression, and the beginnings of a pout on her lips. How could she resist? She kicked off her shoes, sat at the edge of the king-sized bed and untied Willow's sneakers, casually dropping them on the floor. She slowly lowered herself until she, too, was stretched out on the soft mattress. Willow turned sideways to face her, and soon their lips found each other in an unhurried, sweet kiss.
"We made it, we finished the race," Tara murmured.
Willow was still for a moment. Then she pulled away, took an imperceptible breath. "Yeah," she said, and looked away.
Tara frowned, propped herself up on one elbow and placed her hand on Willow's arm. "Hey," she said softly.
"It's okay," Willow's whisper sounded far away, even though they were almost touching. "I'll be fine in a minute. Why don't you take your shower? I'll explore the room," she said as she rolled off the bed in one swift movement. She held one hand out to help pull Tara up to a standing position.
"Will, are you --" Tara's worries were stopped by a kiss.
"I'll be fine. Just need the jabbering monkeys in my head to settle down," Willow smiled thinly, propelling Tara into the bathroom. "Now, if you don't get showering, I'll be forced to take you into the shower myself."
Tara joined in the attempt to lighten the atmosphere. Not that it was heavy, just a little ... blue. "And that's bad because?"
"Because if we shower together, we'll end up in the big soft bed and we won't leave it for 72 hours and that's in contravention of item #42 on that golden handcuff contract we just signed," Willow said.
Tara smiled and did as her love said. As the first drops of the steaming hot water hit her aching shoulders, she let out a groan of appreciation, and felt the dust and strain of thousands of miles of travel slip from her. She scrubbed herself clean, and stayed in the shower longer than was necessary to enjoy the feeling of the cascading water. She had never felt so refreshed.
I needed that.
She wrapped herself in the soft, thick hotel bathrobe. When she returned to the room Willow had discovered the computer and was working on it intently. As soon as she heard Tara, she looked up and a slow smile appeared.
"I see you've wasted no time," Tara teased.
Willow grinned as she stood up. "It was calling out to me. Do you want to play? I'll take my shower."
"No, I'll just watch TV and wait for you," Tara said as she settled down on the bed, grabbing the remote from the bedside table.
Willow took her turn in the shower, alternating between scalding hot and bone-chillingly cold water. It felt good, very good. The contrast in temperatures was like her non-stop mind, alternating between happiness and sadness. We finished third. God, if only our plane hadnít been late.
As she reached for the shampoo bottle, she noticed the cap was already off. Tara, itís not like Tara to leave the cap off, she must be really tired. She smiled as she thought of her love. I have Tara. The rest doesnít matter. She stood under the water again to rinse the shampoo from her hair, and felt the disappointment roll off her body as she watched the foam spiral down the drain.
Tara was asleep when she stepped back. She stood at the side of the bed and lovingly studied her lover and said softly to herself, "Oh Tara." She reached out and gently covered Tara's hand with her own, and she felt salty tears well up in her eyes.
"Will," it was so faint, she felt rather than heard it.
With eyes still closed, Tara reached out and pulled at Willow's robe. They kissed, and neither wanted to stop.
Hands soon found their way inside the loose robes; they slid down the bed, skin pressing on skin. They hadn't stopped kissing, and as one, put more urgency into the caresses.
"Need you now," Willow growled.
"Now, yes," Tara responded. And almost screamed when Willow licked behind her ear.
Their robes were in a state of disarray, the soft terry cloth providing extra friction as they quickly found a rhythm together. Their legs and thighs locked in the now familiar pattern that sent jolts of pleasure deep inside them.
Hands inched down towards heated, throbbing, pleading, aroused places.
And then they were interrupted.
"No, not now," Willow protested at the sound of the bell.
"Did we order room service?" Tara wondered out loud.
"No, should we ignore it?" Willow moved to kiss Tara again.
The bell rang again.
Tara gave Willow a loving (but chaste) kiss and extracted herself. She tied her robe up tightly and answered the door. Willow was so disgruntled she didn't bother to cover herself, so Tara made sure the view into the room was blocked.
After a few brief words, she thanked the person at the door and closed it with a soft click.
"Our presence has been requested," she said.
They thought that they could slip into the party unnoticed. But of course they were overwhelmed as soon as they stepped in. Network Executives and reporters swarmed around them, offering congratulations and fishing for sound bites. They spent an exhausting hour with a fixed smile on their faces and their arms ached with the constant handshaking.
Finally the attention turned elsewhere and they breathed a sigh of relief as they looked around the room for their friends.
Anya, of course it was Anya who was the first to reach them. She threw her arms out, one over Tara's shoulders, one over Willow's, and squealed her pleasure.
"Ooof! Anya, Hi!" Tara returned the enthusiasm, clearly overjoyed to see the woman she had gotten close to during the past few weeks.
"You look good," Willow said to their former ally.
"Iíve been lazing under sun, eating three decent meals a day and sleeping in 12 hour stretches," Anya grinned. "You don't look so bad yourselves, considering you just finished racing around the world. Did you hide these sexy little dresses in your backpacks all the time?"
"No, Ashley had them delivered to us, our backpacks are in transit from Vancouver," Willow explained.
"We sent our bags on separately, wanted to come to the last sector as lightweight as possible," Tara added.
"What's this about a lightweight? Talking about me behind my back again?" Xander joked as he came up to them with a tray of drinks and snacks, giving each a friendly peck on the cheek. He'd filled out a little, and he was looking relaxed and even chirpy.
They found an empty table and sat down. Around them, other racers and crew were catching up with each other in the relaxed atmosphere.
"So, what happened?" Anya asked.
"What what happened?" Willow countered.
"You know, everything since Australia," Anya emphasized by waving her arms out in a giant circle. "All the dirt, how did Buffy get that nasty gash on her head. Why are you only third?"
"We're happy about third," Tara said, not sure what direction Anya was going.
"You missed out on the million! How can you be happy?" Anya frowned.
"It's not just the money," Willow pointed out.
We have more, we have each other.
"Oh yeah, you get $25,000, is that confirmed?" Xander said. Willow nodded in affirmation.
"I still want to know everything, how close were you?" Anya continued.
"We haven't talked to the others, but we were on the flight that was supposed to get in first. Then it got delayed in Seattle," Willow recounted.
"So you could have come in first if not for the delay? Were you flying American?"
Willow smiled thinly and shrugged. "Look, it was like any flight we've taken during the race, it could have been early, it could have been late. Last thing we want to do, Anya, is the what-if thing," she said, a little tersely.
Tara reached over to take Willow's hand, giving it a loving squeeze in reassurance. Willow squeezed her back gratefully.
Anya looked like she was going to continue; luckily they were interrupted by the arrival of Joyce, April and Andrew. They looked well and tanned. Joyce seemed to have adopted the two youngsters as her own children. Everybody exchanged hugs and were genuinely happy to be in each other's company.
A short time later, it was only the two of them. Willow leaned back in the plush seat with a drink in one hand, holding Tara close in the other.
Tara rested her head on Willow's shoulder, linking their arms together. She sighed.
"You okay, Baby?" Willow asked.
Tara smiled. "I'm happy, Will. I should be bitter at how unlucky we were, but right now, I'm feeling like the luckiest girl in the universe. I'm high on adrenalin, but I feel at peace. Are you okay? Still unhappy?"
Willow thought for a moment. "No, I'm fine now. The shower and having you with me helped. I know what you mean about the adrenalin, I feel buzzed, like I have so much residual energy I need to use it up, like do a roadblock or something," Willow said.
"That's one of the things I love so much about you, you have so much energy," Tara said.
"You give me balance, you're my calming influence," Willow replied, pulling Tara closer.
"Calming influence? Forcing you to ride a horse even though you're petrified of them?"
"It worked out though. Plus you offered me one of your arms."
"I did, and I always will, even though that sounds gross. I'm glad it worked out, we got to the airport quickly," Tara sighed. "I think we'll be avoiding Seattle airport for the rest of our lives."
"Yeah, we'll boycott it forever. I can't help it, Tara; I am disappointed that we lost our chance to win because of something so small. Hopefully it'll go away when we crawl into bed and I can do wonderful things to you for the next 72 hours," Willow sighed.
"Really? What sort of wonderful things?" Tara smirked.
"You have to ask?" Willow beamed back.
They basked in the blissful comfort that they were sharing the same thoughts.
"You won't be --" "-- too tired?"
They spoke together, and the sentence ended up overlapping. They giggled at the coincidence; they were having more and more of these moments.
They lapsed into comfortable quietness again.
The party continued with other racers coming up to them to catch-up and add their congratulations. Mainly they hung out with Xander & Anya, or simply by themselves.
There was a photo session with Rupert & Randy and Faith & Robin. Everyone looked nice, cleaned up and in nice clothes. They visited with Buffy and were relieved that the blonde athlete was fine. The gash was only skin-deep, and would heal soon. Buffy looked sad though, so Willow spent a few minutes chatting with her, trying to cheer her up.
Naturally with the free-flowing alcohol and the residual excitement of running an intense race, the party quickly turned boisterous. A drinking competition became an impromptu karaoke picnic.
Lorne kicked off with a beautiful rendition of something from a musical they felt they should know, but the name of the song and the show were just beyond reach Cordy, Glory and Darla mouth-synched to Lady Marmalade, making a great show of the catchphrase 'voulez-vous coucher avec moi'.
"They must have practiced this when they were at the resort," Tara commented.
"Look at the pout when they sing the chorus," Willow laughed. "I never thought Darla and Glory could be so provocative. Cordy yes."
"We didn't get to know them that well," Tara replied. "How's Buffy?"
"She's sad at something, more than just not winning. I think something is up with her and Riley."
"They need to either mend their relationship, or make a clean break."
"I exchanged numbers with her, we should keep in touch."
Before Tara could answer, Willow nudged her and pointed at the stage and giggled. Randy had strutted on stage and started singing tacky 70s songs. He was very bad, out of tune and his dancing was befitting his drunken self. There were boo's and hisses coming from all corners of the room but the more he was heckled, the more motivated he seemed to get.
They endured several Randy squeaks before Rupert stepped in and wrenched the mic from Randy mid-song. The crowd cheered. A smart soul decided to put an end to the karaoke and open up the floor for dancing.
"Shall we?" Willow asked.
"Dance? Let's sit this one out," Tara said.
"No, not dance. I was thinking we could go back to our room."
"Thought you'd never ask."
What started as lazy kisses in the elevator, with small looks and feathery touches, quickly grew in passion and desire. The elevator ride was short, and it was only half a dozen doors down the corridor to their room; but the feeling of want, for the woman next to her, grew with each step until it was almost unbearable.
The door had barely closed before Willow had Tara flat against the closet door. Trembling fingers tried to loosen unfamiliar fastenings, the temptation to just rip the material apart was all too evident.
"Let me, you'll tear the dress, it probably cost more than our prize money," Tara had the sense to caution; she was amazed at how rational she sounded.
"Clothes. How I hate them," Willow punctuated each word by an ineffective pull at Tara's dress, all her usual nimbleness seemed to have taken a headlong dive into a chant of 'want Tara, want Tara' that obliterated all other thoughts and actions.
Tara groaned as Willow gave up on the dress and started running both hands up and down her bare arms. She barely contained a shiver that sent goose bumps all over her. "Oh this is impossible. Will, please. Let's get ourselves organized," she said as she grasped Willowhands in hers. The air was thick with their simmering passion and lust, but a part of her knew she had to keep a cool mind for just a few more minutes before she could let the emotions loose.
"Wha?" Willow squeaked, her brain functions conspicuously missing.
Tara took a deep breath and thanked the goddess for a calm mind honed from years of meditation. "Take a deep breath with me, and undress yourself, can you do that?" she asked an obviously still confused Willow.
Willow found enough sense to nod, and was out of her clothing in a flash. So much quicker that she pounced on Tara before the blonde was barely able to get herself 'organized', smashing their lips together in an animalistic growl.
"Ooomph," Tara squealed, as she felt herself falling into Willow's arms on the soft bed. She kicked the final piece of bothersome clothing off herself and turned her attention to her lover. They felt the urgency building, and soon the only thoughts remaining in their mind were of the raw need for each other. Recollections of the Race, the travel, the result, all faded into the background, scattered out of their minds like the clothing flung haphazardly on the floor.
They were face-to-face, mouths and tongues alternating between soft gentle nips and deep possessive kisses. Mapping the contours of welcoming warmth, of now familiar places and tastes.
Warm. Moist. Sweet.
They were breast to breast, puckered aureoles surrounding hard, sensitive nipples like a worshiping halo. A hand crept to cup the underside of one breast, and goose bumps spread deliciously from the touch. Another hand reached round and pulled already tightly pressed bodies into an even closer embrace so there was nothing between them.
Skin. Smooth. Intimate.
They were feet to feet, thighs and legs and ankles intertwined in an erotic tangle of interlocking, squishy parts. One leg wrapped around hips, wet centers opening and touching each other. Stiff, sensitive nubs searching, craving the friction that would bring immeasurable pleasure.
Slippery. Strong. Sure.
They were palm to palm. Reaching down, as one, towards the wet, needy, throbbing folds and feeling the arousal within. Heated fingers finding their way inside hot, smooth, welcoming passages. It was easy, so natural, to find their rhythm. Eyes closed. It was like they were floating on a soft bed of air, carrying them to a place that was their own private heaven.
Dreams. Bright. Deep.
They were inside. Their rhythm growing in intensity. Their breathing became shorter. Heartbeats thumped their anticipation. The heady sensation spread from the tips of stroking fingers. The inevitable explosion. Then numbness. The scream of joy was as unrestrained as it was intense.
Walls. Clench. Change.
They were together. On the edge of sleep. Cocooned in the protective shield of the duvet. Floating down from their place above, back to the comfort and warmth of each other's arms. Murmuring loving words, enjoying the tiny jolts of orgasmic fire that still buzzed through them.
Love. Soft. Safe.