Author: Chris Cook
Willow faced the horde of demons, resolute. Ice magic swirled around her, whipping at the trailing ends of her Zann Esu robes, shielding her from the hail of arrows, barbs, spines, and spells being hurled her way. Raising her staff she cast a barrage of frozen orbs, which shattered with brutal force against her primary enemy, the towering demon lord, and unleashed clouds of shrapnel that tore through the lesser minions crowded around him. The demon howled, roared, cast its own ice magic, but slowly and surely Willow's assault brought it to its knees.
"Demon, meet oblivion," Willow smiled grimly, readying her staff for one final attack.
Before she could unleash it, a black-clad assassin darted in behind the demon and jammed her katar blades through its back, sapping the very last of its strength and sending its corpse toppling to the ground, while its spirit swirled up into the air.
Ministry 'Bunnywing' heli-transport
"Hey!" Willow protested, throwing her Playstation controller at Faith. "My kill!" Faith ducked and chortled.
"Didn't see your name on its scaly demonic ass," she laughed. "Anyway, 'demon, meet oblivion'?"
"Well it's better than 'they'll never see me coming'," Willow huffed.
"What's wrong with that?"
"The one spoken line you get in the whole game, and it's an innuendo?" Willow scoffed.
"Oh, because 'evil be-ware' is so much better? What are you, straight out of the sorceress pep squad?"
"That's it!" Willow glared, snatching up her controller. "You, me, naked hell cows."
"You're on," Faith took up the challenge.
"Did she just say 'naked hell cows'?" Tara asked, looking over her shoulder from the co-pilot seat at the pair of agents furiously competing in the transport's passenger bay.
"It's some kind of game thing," Buffy shrugged, ignoring them. "Have you seen her get all butch like this before?"
"Only at driving," Tara said, omitting the butch-Willow situations she preferred to keep private.
"Yep, she can't stand to be out-driven," Buffy nodded. "Not that I think it's ever happened. Driving and gaming. Do you game?"
"I, uh, went to see the Tomb Raider movie," Tara offered.
"Same," Buffy grinned. "She and Faith were at each other's throats the first couple of weeks we got teamed - personality clash - but then they discovered a mutual love of Playstation, and, well it kind of sublimated all their antagonism."
"Hah! Willow one, Cow King zero!" echoed out of the passenger bay.
"Oh yeah? Eat Death Sentry!"
"Don't worry," Buffy reassured Tara. "They do this for half an hour, and then they get on great for the next week." She settled back in her flight couch, with her legs stretched out, ankles crossed on top of the control joke, keeping the aircraft on course.
"So, uh," she said after a quiet moment, punctuated only by a venomous promise from aft relating to where Faith's Shadow Warrior was going to get shoved.
"Uh?" Tara asked, looking up. Buffy was looking at her sidelong, not unkindly, but very much as if evaluating her.
"...you and Willow?" Buffy asked. Tara reddened, then nodded.
"Yes," she said. "Well, you know, anyway... Faith told you?"
"And the hand-holding," Buffy shrugged. "But yeah, she can find innuendo in anything and usually does, but she's still a pretty good judge of who's into who." She chuckled softly. "She had me pegged, like, a month before I realised it on my own - not that she shut up about me wanting her the whole time... Um, about Will? She's special."
"Yeah," Tara agreed, meeting Buffy's gaze.
"I'm not trying to be all stern-lecture-from-the-parents," Buffy grinned sheepishly, "but, you know, you can't not want to look out for her... I, uh, had a look at your record. You never took another partner, after Cordelia... left. One-off assignments for specific missions, but nothing ongoing."
"It never felt right," Tara admitted. "Willow is different."
"Yeah, she is that," Buffy chuckled, as a cry of 'Stacked Blizzard, hah!' echoed forward. "Um... Cordy...?"
"A mentor," Tara explained. "My friend... but not more than that. She could have been, but I... Our relationship was what it was, even though she was never, well, shy about the possibility, I don't think either of us really wanted more. I'm not sure sleeping together would have been 'more', anyway - we were closer than that already, but in a different way. I was learning from her - I needed that from her, not, well, anything else."
"And what did you learn from her?" Buffy asked.
"Hopefully?" Tara sighed. "Enough to take her down." Buffy looked at her, surprised and then grinning.
Willow found Buffy and Faith lounging in the entry foyer, checking out the various guests as they arrived, and covertly signalling to the disguised Ministry agents among them. Buffy was outfitted in a version of Dorothy's blue and white dress from The Wizard of Oz, the skirt of which was cut quite a bit higher than the original, and the white shirt of which was missing entirely, giving Faith ample opportunity to glance across at more or less the entirety of her girlfriend's chest, barring the shoulder straps which were valiantly preserving what remained of the blonde's discretion. Faith, true to form, was wearing enough leather to comfortably outfit one tenth of a woman. She had a rather generous, and luxurious, scarlet cloak around her shoulders, but it apparently hadn't occurred to her to use it to cover herself.
"I feel ridiculous," the redhead grumbled, sitting down between the pair. "Couldn't I have been Lara Croft again?"
"You look hot," Faith quipped, nudging her amiably. The top half of Willow's outfit was a very smartly-tailored black jacket, over a white shirt and tie, topped off with a bowler hat that gave her a rather rakish, if slightly comical, charm. Below the waist, on the other hand, she wore black satin panties, charcoal-coloured stockings, and black high heels. The contrast was eye-catching, to say the least.
"John Steed," Buffy told her, attempting a Kansas accent with rather erratic results. "A very sexy John Steed. Come on, you were always going on about how cool the Avengers looked, I figured you and Tara would make a good Steed and Peel." Willow perked up.
"Tara's Emma Peel?"
"I had the Ministry round up the costumes, it's all taken care of," Buffy assured her. Faith leaned back and caught her eye, behind Willow's back.
'Touch of Brimstone?' she mouthed. Buffy nodded and waggled her eyebrows; Faith grinned gleefully.
"I still feel silly," Willow complained, oblivious. "Who decided the Kitten Awards would be fancy dress?"
"Aren't these things always fancy dress?" Buffy shrugged, suppressing her grin.
"I look like a magician's assistant," Willow groused.
"That'd be a top hat, not a bowler," Buffy pointed out.
"Either way, I'm pretty sure John Steed didn't wear stockings."
"You never know," Faith smirked. "Stuffy English dudes, got to watch out for them. One time I peeked into the guys' change room back at the Ministry driving course, saw 'Citroen' Giles putting his tweed suit on over a Frank-N-Furter costume."
"I don't need to know this!" Willow protested.
"Really? Buffy asked.
"Nah, just wanted to see your face when I said it," Faith grinned at Willow, poking her in the side.
"What the heck are you supposed to be, anyway?" Willow sniped.
"Red Riding Hood. Got the idea from you," Faith leered.
"Since when does Red Riding Hood wear leather lingerie and thighboots with spikes?" Willow pointed out.
"I saw it online somewhere," Faith shrugged. "Memorable. Oh, here she comes!"
"Where- oh." Willow's mouth went dry as she caught sight of Tara, manoeuvring through the crowd, and gathering stares as she went, though she seemed not to notice - all her attention was on Willow. The redhead, with the help of a gentle shove from Buffy and Faith, stood to meet her, taking Tara in from bottom to top as she got her balance: high black boots, bare thighs, body hugged by satin and lace, shoulders and arms bare to elbow-length black satin gloves, and a leather collar around her neck with delicate silver spikes set into it. Over one arm was draped a serpent, which stirred slowly, tasting the air with its tongue; around her other wrist was a thin strap, a leash. Tara held out the other end of it to Willow and smiled.
"Am I needed, Mr Steed?"
Willow took the offered leash wordlessly, still staring.
"You, uh... wow," she said at last, a grin breaking over her face. "You make a great Queen of Sin."
"Thank you," Tara smiled, a bashful blush colouring her face, quite at odds with her unambiguously forward attire. "Buffy said you'd like it."
"She had no idea how much," Willow nodded.
"Am I forgiven?" Buffy interjected.
"Uh-huh," Willow replied, without really hearing the question. Tara laughed softly and took her arm, as the crowd began to make a general move in the direction of the main theatre.
"You look beautiful," she whispered in Willow's ear, as Faith and Buffy chuckled and headed off to their assigned positions. "And handsome - the perfect English gentleman."
"I am?" Willow asked, the corners of her mouth curling into a grin.
"Of course," Tara winked. "You're a gorgeous woman, what could be more perfect?" It was Willow's turn to blush, and she leaned close, obviously seeking Tara's lips, only to pause and glance at the spikes protruding from the blonde's collar.
"Rubber," Tara assured her, poking one with a fingertip - it bent easily. "There's no way I'd put on anything that ruled out Willow-kisses-" She got that far before just such a kiss silenced her for a long moment.
"Good," Willow whispered as their lips parted. They settled into one of the queues for admission into the theatre, had their tickets checked, and waited to be seated. Willow glanced down in surprise as Tara's snake nudged her elbow.
"Is that real?" she asked quietly.
"One of Anya's creations," Tara shook her head. "I think I might switch it off once we've got our seats, I don't think I really want to know what it's used for, aside from display."
"Good call," Willow agreed.
An attendant - dressed as Tinkerbell, though with a skirt somewhat higher and neckline somewhat lower than Disney would probably have liked - led them to their table, in the centre of the main theatre. The room was set up as a cabaret restaurant, but instead of chairs each round table had a lounge chair behind it, just large enough for two people to sit side by side. The chairs' high backs, curling around either side, afforded a sense of privacy while still leaving an excellent view of the stage, which was done up like a jungle, with vines hanging thick from the branches of tropical palms.
"Here's your snuggle seat, enjoy the show," Tinkerbell said brightly. "I'll be your waiter tonight, so if you need anything..." She grinned a little wider. "...at all..." She winked, then vanished to find some other guests to see to.
"All units, check in," Willow and Tara both heard from their earpieces just as they were seating themselves.
"Adorabunny in position," Willow reported quietly.
"Shy Bunny in position," Tara echoed, grinning to herself as Willow nestled up to her side, their thighs pressed together as they shared the snuggle seat. There was a pause, then a familiar voice came over the line.
"Well hello again, ladies!"
"Anya?" Tara asked.
"Yep, you don't think I'd miss this show do you? Everyone's checked in and deployed, I'll be monitoring your quadrant of the theatre. If you see anything that looks like enemy activity, you're authorised to act as you see fit. We don't know how exactly Osbourne and Cordelia are going to hit the show, but we've got the control boxes locked down tight, so it's likely they'll try to come in through the theatre itself somewhere, where we can't just shut down access. Leather Bunny and Cheerleader Bunny are on your right flank, about five tables away, they're your immediate backup. If you need anything else call me, I'll coordinate with M."
"M's here?" Willow said.
"In person. Guess she wants a look at Miss Kitty too. We drew straws for assignments, and you girls got lucky - you're monitoring the stage. We can't rule out an attempt on Miss Kitty or one of her entourage as a decoy or, somehow, a precursor to Osbourne uploading his virus to the network. So you two, make sure we know every move that they make up there."
"Wait, our job is to watch the Miss Kitty show?" Willow asked. "Seriously?"
"Not a bad way to earn a living, huh? Word of warning though, I know you're both going to get all sorts of hot and bothered, but just remember to keep watching the stage while you're busy in each other's pants."
"Anya!" Tara exclaimed.
"'Anya!' indeed, I know what you two are going to be up to the moment the lights go down. I'm going to brief Leather and Cheerleader, maybe offer some suggestions for positions. Keep in touch!"
Willow and Tara looked at each other as the line went dead, and shared a bashful grin.
"Um," Willow began. "I'll make sure, uh, my hands behave. You know..."
"Okay," Tara nodded. "Me too."
"It is very snuggly here, though," Willow went on.
"It is," Tara agreed. "But we've got a job to do, so... I guess we'll just have to restrain ourselves."
"Yeah," Willow said. "Okay, no problem. We're sensible, mature adults. We can watch a Miss Kitty show, all snuggled up to each other, without it leading to... um, well... anything..."
"Definitely," Tara murmured, trying not to notice how her arm had worked its way around Willow's waist. "It's natural to get... aroused. We'll just save it, for later."
"No reason to do anything that might be distracting during the show."
"No reason at all."
"Uh-huh," Tara concluded. "Unless... if you wanted..."
"If I wanted...?"
"I'm not saying anything," Tara said earnestly. "I'm just, you know... not saying no..."
Willow glanced at her, and realised just how close together they were sitting.
"Yeah," she whispered, before tearing her gaze away with a frustrated "Ugh!"
"Eyes on stage!" Tara agreed.
"Eyes on stage," Willow repeated. They sat in silence for a moment, until Willow's hand slid from her lap to rest against Tara's thigh.
"Ummm," Tara murmured, unsure if she was objecting or inviting more.
"My eyes haven't left the stage," Willow said mischievously.
"Good," Tara smiled, relaxing against Willow's side as the redhead's hand began to slowly stroke up and down. "Very good..."
"Ladies and gentlemen..." a voice boomed through the theatre.
"Ooh, here we go!" Willow whispered, clutching Tara's thigh.
"Welcome to the seventy-eighth annual Academy of Lesbian Picture Arts and Sciences Awards! And now, to begin the evening... Miss Kitty Fantastico!"
The house lights dimmed, and spotlights lit the stage, revealing a jungle setting of moss-laden tree trunks, age-old tribal statues, and a plethora of vines and creepers draped over the floor, the scenery, hanging from branches, and disappearing into the darkness above the stage.
"Huh," Tara murmured.
"I've got DVDs of all of Miss Kitty's shows," the blonde whispered. "I've never seen one with a jungle theme."
"Do you watch them a lot?" Willow teased, licking the side of Tara's neck below her collar, with one eye on the stage.
"Hmm... maybe," Tara grinned. "Are you claiming you don't have some Miss Kitty DVDs lying around at home?"
"Of course I don't," Willow whispered.
"Tell the truth, or I'll punish you," Tara chuckled.
"I have them on my computer," Willow admitted. "High-def encoding with surround sound..."
"Ah, of course."
"Can I have my punishment anyway?"
One of the hanging vines on stage twitched, and a roar of applause broke out as a woman slid slowly down it from the hidden stage catwalk above, spinning slowly as the smooth vine slipped through her hands. Her dark skin gleamed like polished midnight, large liquid eyes shone from her proud face; her attire consisted entirely of leaves and thin vines, wrapped tightly around her hips and chest, and pure white body paint on her hands and feet, and running from beneath her jaw down the front of her torso.
"It's her," Willow whispered.
"She's nearly as gorgeous as you are," Tara murmured in her ear.
"I'm not that hot," Willow protested quietly.
"Shush you," Tara frowned, nipping at her earlobe. "You are to me."
The woman completed her descent to the stage and unwound her long arms from the vine, swaying sensuously to a quiet drumbeat that began to slowly build. Her hands freed, she ran them up the sides of her body, inhaling deeply, stretching her torso just like a cat in a ray of sunlight, drawing gasps from the spectators. Her hands dipped over her shoulders into her mane of silky black hair that slid over her arms as she lifted them like a waterfall. When she dropped her hands and shook her hair out, a pair of cat's ears had appeared, peeking out above her fringe, and with a playful wiggle of her hips a long black tail uncurled from her waist.
"Hello all you lovely people," she said, her exotic voice picked up by a hidden microphone and broadcast through the theatre's sound system, which was thrumming in earnest with the beat of primal drums. "I am Miss Kitty Fantastico... and it's my privilege to welcome you to this special night. I'd like to introduce you to my kittens..."
Five silhouettes appeared at the rear of the stage, swaying through the creepers, and spotlights shone on them one by one as they were introduced.
"Say hello to Persian," Miss Kitty said, as a dusky, shapely beauty danced forward, gyrating with the practised sensual motions of a contortionist. She wore only veils, whisper-thin, edged with gold weave and supported by tiny gold chains - one over her face, two covering her breasts, two others from her hips, one in front and one behind - but they were all but transparent, and hid nothing of the beauty of her face and body.
"Tabby." A compact woman strode forwards, whipping the vines out of her way. Her costume consisted solely of scraps of leather and fishnet sewn together, wrapped around her arms and legs, leaving her torso boldly bars except for the punkish tattoos adorning her hips, stomach and the tops of her breasts. Her hair was short, styled aggressively and dyed a striking orange, and her gaze was fearless.
"Siamese." A tall, slender Asian woman appeared next, slinking forward with feline grace, wrapped in a tight, near-transparent dress that covered her from neck to ankle, yet revealed every curve of her. She raised her breathtakingly pretty face to the audience, lifted her chin, and gave a playful wink.
"Lynx." There was a fallen tree trunk blocking the fourth figure's path to the front of the stage; she leapt gracefully onto it, paused a moment in a predatory crouch, then vaulted down to the stage floor and stood upright. She was blonde, her skin tanned brown, and her costume was a bikini made of ragged imitation skins sewn together with cords made from twisted vines - the result was skimpy in the extreme, and hid nothing of her powerful physique.
"And making her debut tonight," Miss Kitty smiled, "give a big welcome to Cheshire."
"I heard Snow Leopard was taking a few months off," Tara whispered.
"Solo yachting around the world," Willow confirmed. "All the Miss Kitty message boards were going nuts predicting who the new kitten would be. Not that I obsess about online forums, or anything..."
"Of course not," Tara chuckled. Willow silenced her by dragging a fingertip over her bottom lip, leaving it quivering.
True to her stage name, Cheshire's smile was the first thing to appear, somehow shining brightly in an otherwise dark area of the stage. Then the spotlights opened fully to reveal a fit, curvaceous brunette wearing striped lilac and burgundy stockings all the way up to her hips, and similarly-coloured gloves that reached her shoulders. The rest of her body was naked, save for an ornament dangling from her pierced left nipple: a silver crescent that, as she sauntered to her position at the front of the stage, was revealed to be, naturally, a wide grin.
"As you can see," Miss Kitty said, circling her kittens, reaching out now and then to scratch the back of a neck or pat a firm buttock, "we have many kinds of beauty up here... and I see many more out there," she grinned, waving a hand to encompass the audience. "Remember, my friends, there's only one person who needs to be turned on by you, and that's yourself. Enjoy yourselves, experience yourselves, be happy with yourself and love yourself... because love comes easy, once you love yourself. And just in case any of you are wondering what I mean by loving myself, partly it's a state of mind, and partly, well..."
Her five kittens gathered around her, Lynx and Persian, and Siamese and Tabby pairing to support a foot each as Cheshire gave Miss Kitty a boost, so that they could lift her up high, like a goddess on a pedestal.
"...just watch," she smirked, licking her lips, and in a quick, startling motion she tore off her makeshift costume, as the stage erupted with a dozen concealed torches bursting into flaming life, and the music thundered with drumbeats, and a frenzied tribal chanting.
The kittens danced apart; Miss Kitty executed a backflip landed in a crouch between them, joining them in their dance without pause. Each of the six danced in their own style, from balletic to tribal to modern, but as they circled near each other their styles meshed for a moment, becoming synchronised duets, before splitting off again into individual routines. Their hands roamed absolutely everywhere over their bodies, and reached for each other, but never quite touched; as Miss Kitty gyrated among them they all reached for her her, stretching their arms towards her, craning their necks, mouths open and lips trembling for a taste of her skin, but always she was a fraction of an inch too far away, half a second too fast to be caught, and the kittens could only watch in choreographed need as she touched herself the way they sought to.
Willow and Tara hugged each other tightly as they watched, entranced. Tara felt Willow's hand on her thigh clutch, hot and sweaty against her skin, and suppressed a moan.
"I think my hand wants to wander," Willow whispered.
"I think I want it to," Tara murmured in reply, feeling her mouth go dry.
"You think?" Willow asked, lifting her hand a little higher.
"I think Siamese has a figure too close to yours not to be giving me ideas," Tara admitted. Willow, who had been following Tabby, glanced at the Asian kitten.
"She's good with her hands," she observed breathlessly.
"Like I said, reminds me of you," Tara countered.
"Show me," Tara begged quietly.
Willow slid her hand up Tara's thigh as the blonde opened her legs a fraction wider. Her palm cupped Tara's mound, feeling her heat through her satin panties.
"Oh, my..." she breathed. "I... do you...?"
"Yes," Tara nodded slightly. Willow rubbed her gently, feeling her whole body respond.
"You don't mind that we're... here?" the redhead asked, her voice trembling, seeking one last reassurance before giving in to what she absolutely wanted.
"This... is about pleasure," Tara gasped, staring at the stage. "So for me... it's about you. I want you to... oh god... I want you to be part of me, for this..." She risked a quick glance at Willow, just enough to see her eyes before returning to her duty, watching the performers.
"I want it too," Willow murmured, finding Tara's hand in her lap and holding it firmly. Her free hand slipped up, beneath the folds of light silk draped over her torso, and then down again, finding the waist of her panties and carefully slipping beneath them.