It began slowly, gently. The whisperings of tiny droplets blinked into existence, gained form and drifted toward the caress of the fluid, unblemished terrain. They landed on the soft fleece with a touch that was like feather and a sigh that sounded of paradise. Never-ending. Plentiful. Gradually as the winds turned gray, tendrils became flurries, and the lazy drifting became an relentless march as the snowflakes pummeled into the accepting expanse of whiteness blanketing the ancient glens.
A whitewashed cottage with walls made from stones and wood beams as old as the hills stood in solid quiet as the snow swirled and gathered. Inside the warmth of the room by the garden, two bodies glowed as they joined together in a familiar pattern. They began as slowly and as gently as the first snowfall. The faintest of touches as fingertips grazed strong shoulders, and dragged across heavy breasts, before journeying toward rolling crevices as soft as the fresh snow outside.
A sigh. An affirmation.
Gradually, as the passion flared and the touches deepened, words became blurred with visions of delirium and feelings of ecstasy. As the snowdrift built outside, two spirits soared beyond the trees and the clouds and the mountains. With a hitch of breath and a tightening they were falling, falling, falling over the edge and into the soft, accepting blanket of their love.
"Are you sure? Stan was saying the district council are bringing in heavy machinery from Canada. It's not been this bad since Ian and I were married," Morag Livingstone asked as she served coffee and breakfast in the huge warm kitchen of Livingstone House. She glanced outside to the house-high wall of snow, worry lines appearing on her normally cheerful face.
"We'll be fine. The forecast says the cold front won't hit till Wednesday, I'm sure it'll get better once we get further south," Willow commented as she helped herself to scrambled eggs, sausages and fried bread. She was about to take a third slice when a stern, subtle glare from Tara stopped her. She stuck her tongue out at her self-appointed nutritionist and made a point to scoop an extra spoonful of mushroom onto her plate.
"We don't want to be imposing on you any more, Morag. It's enough that you let us stay another week when you normally close up for Christmas," Tara smiled at their hostess. Her breakfast, compared with Willow's, was a picture of healthiness -- she tossed a handful of dried cranberries into a bowl of bran flakes and carefully poured skimmed milk over the cereal. Her only concession was a healthy dollop of homemade honey from a small earthenware jar.
"Nonsense. It's my pleasure! I'm glad you decided to stay here and keep me company while Ian is at the big house. It's better than that dingy B&B down at Glasgow," Morag said while she fussed around the kitchen.
They were still at Livingstone House. The original plan for staying one week then decamping to Edinburgh turned into an extended stay in the Highlands with day trips to the big cities. The house was simply too beautiful, too welcoming, especially for Tara, who craved the quiet of the countryside. Morag used the excuse of "keeping an old lady company" to entice them to stay. She didn't need to ask twice.
They spent the days exploring the lochs and the villages in the area, spending time in the small churches that held historical records of the MacLeas, MacLeays and Maclays. There wasn't a huge amount of information -- the ancient Scots were more interested in warring than writing -- but what they could find touched an emotional nerve. Tara was often teary eyed as she tenderly touched a headstone or a broken relic that held a tenuous link to her ancestors.
They spent most of their evenings either at Stan McCoist's pub or in front of a roaring fire chatting with Morag. Their hostess wasn't boasting when she described herself as the source of local information, entertaining them with stories from her own childhood as well as enrapturing Highland folktales. Sinking into the soft leather armchairs, wrapped in tartan blankets, and with good conversation, it was easy to forget about the outside world. Disasters, demons and the daily grind were so far removed from the cozy drawing room. There were television sets at the house, but they had little appeal given the alternative. Willow only powered up her laptop a few times, to Tara's shock and delight.
Their room overlooking the garden became their idyllic retreat. With their hosts' living quarters at the other side of the house and two floors up, there was scant chance that their expressions of passion would inadvertently be overheard. Not that Morag wasn't aware -- the wise lady gave them as much privacy as she could -- but it was considered polite not to subject innocent ears to screams and cries that bordered on primal. "I don't want her thinking that we're insatiable harlots," Tara said after yet another lengthy lovemaking session. Willow laughed, replied that Morag probably didn't need to hear them to know what they were up to, and promptly returned to lavishing attention to Tara's body.
Tara allowed herself to linger in the memory of Willow's touch everywhere on me while contemplating her breakfast. A faint twitch between her legs signaled her arousal, and not for the first time this vacation, she marveled at how her every part of her body was attuned to Willow; and how her mind was dominated by Willow. Thoughts of Willow. Willow's voice. Willow's impish grin. Willow's smart green eyes. A hint of honey shampoo in her hair; freckles on her back, the way her little toe curled when she was dreaming good dreams.
As the week passed, thoughts of leaving Livingstone House were unwelcome but inevitable. Sunnydale's vampires, slayers and watchers beckoned like a lighthouse beacon: it may fade for a while but its return was inescapable. The onset of increasingly wintery weather pushed them to make a firm decision -- to start making their way to London sooner rather than later. Morag was as unwilling to let them leave as they were of taking their leave. Lady Livingstone had entertained hundreds of visitors since opening her house to vacationers, but in these two young women from halfway around the world, she found unexpected kinship.
Which was why she was fretting about them like a mother hen. The snow was bearing down and the winds picking up. Add to it the early sunsets meant conditions would be horrendous. And they're not used to driving on this side of the road. Oh, what if they strayed to the wrong lane!
"Morag?" Tara's concerned touch on her arm snapped her back to her kitchen. She must have been lost in thoughts for a moment.
"I was saying I'd rather you stay here than venture out into the snow. When Ian comes back he can find out about flights from Inverness," Morag said.
"I'm usually not this insistent but my bones are telling me you lasses need to stay here now. Something," Morag suppressed an unexpected shiver, "I don't know what exactly, but something is coming. It's just a feeling in my bones. When you get to my age you take your intuition seriously."
Two powerful witches living on a hellmouth regarded each other meaningfully and nodded their understanding.
"We know about trusting our instincts, Morag."
"Better than you imagine."
Morag retired to her corner of the house after breakfast, pleading tiredness and a need to do paperwork.
With the fierce snowstorm outside, there was no choice but to stay indoors.
"And that's a hardship how?" Willow murmured as she sunk further into the soft leather armchair in the library with a book. This had become her spot over the last week or so. The Livingstone library reminded her of the Sunnydale High library, only bigger and older. With wood-paneled walls. And with many, many more books that interested her. Plus the advantage of that its floor wasn't going to open up and demons come crawling out. It was another reason why she wanted to stay there forever. She noted to herself that her mental list of "What I love about Livingstone House" was getting longer as each moment passed.
She chuckled as she realized she was talking to herself. Tara was either in their room or talking with Morag; Willow relaxed in the knowledge that Tara was nearby but there was no need to be in each other's company all the time. Despite the welcoming flutter she felt at the bottom of her stomach whenever she thought of Tara, and despite constantly wanting to touch Tara in the most intimate way, the certainty of their long term commitment was a panacea. The fiery passion between them could be ignited in a flash; but most times it was a slow, warming glow that connected them effortlessly from within.
Cushioned by her love, she relaxed into the deep leather and turned her attention to her book.
Tara leaned against the door frame, watching her lover with gentle intensity.
Willow looking so comfortable and in her element made Tara alternately want to weep and melt. She itched to throw herself down before Willow, touch the soft skin and worship the woman she loved. A choking sigh escaped from deep within her, and she fought to remain still. There was time. For now, she was absorbed by the simple, yet exquisite sight of a small redhead curled up comfortably with a book in one hand and her face radiating in the firelight.
Willow was the smartest person Tara had ever met. She had unlimited curiosity about everything and her mind never stopped working. She observed and interacted with her surroundings constantly and was one of those people who could never sit still for lengthy periods of time. Growing up among vampires and slayers meant she seemed always to be on the move, or getting ready to. Buffy, even at rest, was as tightly coiled as a panther. Willow, as the de facto second-in-command, had to be as alert. It was rare to see her completely at repose, with seemingly not a care in the world. And Tara was drinking in the sight.
People who made generalizations about love had no idea, she decided. Love was everything. It was making the grandest of statements and the smallest of gestures. It was the unexpected and yet it was the anticipated. She felt blessed. Once in a while the small, insecure child still inside of her would remember the hurtful words that spewed from her father's mouth and trembled at them. "No one will want you. Only your blood kin will take you in. You have no future." And then Willow would look at her, or squeeze her hand, or brush their lips together, and chase away the painful memories again.
"You're gonna get unglued from the wall one of these days?" Willow asked without looking up from her book.
Tara cocked her head as if in contemplation but said nothing. She stayed where she was.
Willow looked up several beats later to see Tara casually regarding her, her body framed against the light coming from beyond the doorway. She wore her trademark half-smirk, but her eyes were tender. "What?"
"I'm appreciating," Tara said pensively.
"Huh. Well, I agree. The library is very impressive," Willow countered.
One corner of Tara's mouth danced with laughter. "Definitely. But I was looking at something more specific inside the library."
"Ah, the books."
"Right. The books."
The air shimmered with clear understanding of what was not said, but communicated.
"Are you going to stand there like a real life Botticelli painting or are you going to come and sit with me?"
"I can't," Tara labored to whisper.
Willow slowly raised one eyebrow.
"Right now," Tara took a deep breath, "I want you so much that being anywhere near you will make me lose control and act in a way that will cause even the library ghosts to blush. And I respect the Livingstones too much to do this to their library, not to mention their ghosts."
Willow's expression didn't change. "I see."
"I'm glad you do."
"There's only one solution to your problem."
Now it was Tara's turn to silently question.
"Can you make it as far as the bedroom?"
The next moment, they were naked in bed. There was little recollection of how they got there or how they shed their clothing. The only thing that matter was skin.
Tara straddled Willow and pushed her against the pillows with one hand. Her other hand was firmly attached to one freckled breast and busily massaging until the nipple was sharp and hard. Willow tried to reach for her, but she sat back, aware of her wetness trailing over Willow's stomach, and grasped her own breasts in both hands.
Willow tried reaching for her again but Tara was not letting go. Her hands left her breasts for a moment, wrapped around Willow's wrists and spread her palm on her thighs. "No. Watch," she commanded.
Willow's grip on Tara's thighs intensified as she watched her lover toss her head back in euphoria. She watched in awe as Tarahands fiercely pushed and teased her own swollen breasts. It was a sight as abandoned and as arousing as she had ever seen. Catching some small control, she ran her hands up Tara's thighs, stopping just short of where the apex sat on her own abdomen. Tara opened one eye in appreciation, but didn't stop playing with her breasts.
"Want me to just watch?" Willow continued stroking the thighs, slipping her thumb to the underside and eliciting another appreciative moan.
"Watch. Touch. Anything you want," Tara's words were punctuated, her self-control slowly slipping as her arousal burned.
That was enough for Willow. Automatically, their hips begun moving together, effortlessly establishing a tempo. She eased her palm underneath Tara's sex, astonished to find such smoothness and wetness. The back of her hand rested on her clit, an extension of her own desire. She flexed her arm, gently at first but quickly her hips followed their joint rhythm and rocked against Tara. Each wave pushed her curved fingers inside Tara and soon they were rolling and arching together. She tried to speak, but it came out as a grunt. Tara was squeezing her breasts, almost roughly now, and the remaining sane cell left in Willow's brain wondered how she could stay so accurately in position. All too soon, even that sane cell lost its logic as she was overcome with the impending explosive orgasm. First one, then a second cry came together, two voices united in a blissful joining.
Tara's legs finally gave out and she collapsed ungracefully onto Willow, their arms and legs too numb to tell which belonged to which.
Willow kicked the duvet over over their cooling bodies. "You're wild this morning," she commented.
"Scared the bedroom ghosts did we?" Tara smiled, and blushed a little as she recalled how uninhibited she was.
Willow kissed her. "I think, love, that after this last week it's nothing new for them."
The sudden creak of an old floorboard sounded just like a bemused chuckle.
The afternoon was spent in a more leisurely fashion in the library. Steaming mugs of hot tea, a box of chocolate within easy reach and peaceful companionship offered a sharp contrast to the mind-blowing coupling earlier, but was no less enjoyable. They sat close together, shoulders and legs touching, each with their preferred book.
Time passed at its own pace in this remote northerly corner of an ancient kingdom. And it seemed no time had passed when Morag knocked at the door. She roused two girls as they dozed, loosely entwined together.
"Sorry to wake you," she said kindly.
Willow woke up first. "Wha--? Oh, looks like we drifted off. It's so comfy here." She stretched and turned to see Tara also in the process of rejoining the conscious. She looks so sexy, still flushed with sleep.
"You looked like two angels there, I almost didn't have the heart to come in," Morag said. "But Ian called from the big house. The council got their act together and cleared the main road somewhat. We've been invited to dinner and overnight stay with Cromartie and his family."
"Crumulty?" Even after almost two weeks the Scottish accent could be a mystery at times.
Morag smiled at the obvious confusion. "The Earl of Cromartie, Chief of the Clan Mackenzies," she explained. "Our bitter enemy once upon a time," she winked at Tara.
Tara blinked. She had read about the hot-headed Highlanders and the fierce rivalry between clans. "He's not the sort to hold grudges I hope."
"Ack no. What's a few hundred years if not to temper the ties between clansmen and their enemies? No, we're good friends now."
"Wow. A real Scottish earl," Willow said, changing the subject.
"He's a good man. Looks after his land and does good work. It'll not be a formal affair, just go as you are, dears. His daughter is home from university, and she'll be wanting to talk to you lasses," Morag continued.
"We'll go get ready," Tara said. She stood up and automatically held out her hand to Willow. Morag called out after them to remember to pack overnight clothes.
Willow kicked the bedroom door shut with one foot and turned them around so Tara was trapped between her and the door. Deliberately, and very slowly, she ran her hand up Tara's arm. "I don't know about you but I feel excited about visiting a real life lord in his real life castle," she said. "Not to mention sleeping there."
Tara caught Willow's hand on one of its upward journeys. "Honey, we so don't have time." Noting Willow's pout, she pulled Willow toward her and kissed her deeply. "Think about the ghosts we'll be scaring tonight at the castle."
"Be careful, we seem to be earning a reputation with Scottish ghosts," Willow ran her tongue slowly around Tara's mouth, then reluctantly withdrew. She continued with tiny kisses at the four corners of Tara's lips.
Tara wanted to be sensible, she wondered how many more times they could greet Morag with the unmistakable "just got laid" look on their faces. One more time can't hurt. Mind made up and hazy with Willow's light kisses, she pulled Willow abruptly into her and slipped her knee between Willow's thighs.
Willow squirmed but Tara's hold on her hips was tight. She felt her clit harden in a flash, an automatic response to Tara's touch, and she rolled her pelvis forward as Tara increased the exquisite pleasure. "You're gonna make me come if you keep doing this," she said.
"Good," Tara said simply.
The inseams of her jeans bit into Willow and she felt herself tensing. She tried to muster up enough energy to reach for Tara's pants to work her hand inside but all of her attention was at her center and her arms fell limply on Tara's shoulders. It didn't take long for her climax to hit fast and strong. She was still in spasms as her legs gave out. Luckily Tara was there, her support.
"I can't move," Willow gasped.
Tara laughed. "Come on, I'll help you."
"I need a shower. Right now. I can't go to dinner like this! I'm all sticky in delicate places," Willow squealed.
"There's no time," Tara said solemnly. She sat Willow down on their bed and rummaged in the closet for clothing. "Here, put these on," she took out a soft sweater, new jeans and underwear for Willow.
"But--" Willow protested.
"If it's any consolation, I'm in just as bad shape as you are, sweetie," Tara said.
Willow broke out into a wide, satisfied grin. "Really?"
"Uh huh. More so, probably."
"Good," Willow repeated, a roguish idea forming.
Tara picked up on the twinkle. Willow was planning something. She remembered the heated sex in the bathroom at LAX and right in the middle of the airplane cabin, an involuntary aroused shudder washed over her. "What?"
Instead of answering, Willow jumped up from the bed and started packing an overnight bag. "Nothing. Be good, Tara."
Willow gathered her clothes in a bundle, gave Tara a chaste kiss and skipped to the bathroom. "Let's get going, don't want Morag to wait too long."
Tara narrowed her eyes and contemplated joining her lover in the bathroom. After a moment, she smiled and decided that they had better hurry.
She would still be ready, whatever Willow had cooking.
There had been a fort or keep on that spot since the 12th century and the castle had more than its fair share of battle scars. Nowadays Castle Leod, seat of the Earl of Cromartie, was fully restored and open to the public during the summer. Its distinctive L-shaped design and red sandstone walls, 7-8 feet thick in places, gave it an imposing look and it was a popular venue for weddings and conferences. Standing majestic in the middle of the snowed-in landscape, it was breath-taking. No wonder the Livingstones called it by the endearing title of the big house.
Morag received a huge hug and affectionate pecks on her cheek by the owners of the castle who greeted them in the grand entrance. The earl and countess smiled warmly at Willow and Tara. "Welcome to our castle! I'm John Mackenzie..."
"...and I'm Janet Mackenzie," the husband-and-wife team introduced themselves with perfect timing. They had the air of people born into old money -- unaware yet vaguely apologetic of their privileged position in society. They obviously loved their home, as they proudly guided the visitors around the wood-paneled rooms filled with portraits and antique furnishings. The earl was especially proud of his collection of antique maps, either framed on the walls or laid out on long tables with miniature armies mounting historical campaigns against each other. He sounded actually geeky when he started talking about his hobbies. It was not unlike Willow talking about computers, Tara thought to herself.
Dinner was, as Morag promised, an extended family affair. Though they ate in the formal dining room, food was piled high in the middle of the table and there was much good natured passing around of platters and tureens. There was smoked wild salmon, roast beef with all the trimmings, a healthy selection of greens and neeps'n'tatties, otherwise known as potatoes mashed with turnips.
"We came late to the whole organic farming business," the countess explained when she was asked about the origins of the food. "But we caught up and now our land is 100% organic. Most historical houses in the country need extra income to sustain themselves; some have safari parks, others have gardens but mostly it's farming. It sounds so small but we specialize in onions and potatoes."
"The Irish talk about their love of potatoes; people forget how we Scots love our tatties," the Mackenzies' daughter chipped in. Emmy Mackenzie was in her first year at university and was overjoyed to have people in her age group at the table.
After dinner, the group had minced pies and coffee in the family room. The earl opened his bar and passed around a 30-years old highland single malt for all to enjoy. They naturally split into small groups, with Emmy pouncing on Willow and Tara straightaway.
"I thought I'd be bored out of my skin when Mum told me to that we were having a dinner party," she said, laying down a plate of shortbread biscuits. "Mind if I join you? I'm dying to hear all about you."
Tara caught Willow eyeing the shortbread greedily. The redhead had attacked the dinner with gusto, to the countess' delight. Where does she work all that excess calories off? Oh right, I know, she grinned knowingly to herself. "Of course, Emmy. I think we're as curious about your life as you are about ours, aren't we honey?" she answered. She placed one hand firmly on Willow's knee stopping Willow, who was in the middle of reaching for a shortbread piece, dead in her tracks.
"Absolutely! This trip is all about learning. Scottish history, villages, wars, and the aristocracy. We should start a webpage for all this information," Willow agreed, looking forlornly between Tara and the shortbread, knowing that she would get her way eventually.
Emmy was easy to talk to. The girl bubbled with excitement, growing especially wistful at descriptions of the beautiful California weather. "I love my home, but I'd give anything to be at the beach now. I can't imagine so much sun and being so near the ocean."
"Well, you have the lochs. They're just as interesting," Tara countered.
"Not when it rains for weeks on end and it gets dark at three in the afternoon. Are the beaches really full of beautiful people? I know this sounds shallow but do you ever see famous stars?" the girl continued.
"Well, Sunnydale is a little further north from LA. But our friend Angel lives in LA; I think his hotel has seen a famous people or two," Tara said.
"You have a friend who owns in a hotel?" Emmy asked.
"It was abandoned. He restored it." That was as simplified as Willow could get Angel's story. Emmy didn't relent, and continued asking plenty of questions. Willow supplied most of the answers, though she had to take out references to anything supernatural. Munching on the sweet biscuits helped, she gave herself some time to formulate an answer. Occasionally the others would join in their conversation, but mostly the Livingstones and the Cromarties talked about farming and running a tourist-focused business.
Soon the great fire in the fireplace began to die down and hands discreetly covered yawns. "We'll be up all night talking!" Emmy exclaimed. "I know! We'll have a sleepover in my room. Girls only."
But we have plans for very explicit sex in your parents' guest room tonight. The walls are so thick that no human being can possibly hear us from outside.
There was an awkward moment of silence as they tried to find an excuse without being rude to the girl.
"Emmy, I'm sure Willow and Tara are tired. There's plenty of time to continue tomorrow," the countess generously came to their rescue. "You don't have to leave first thing tomorrow, do you lasses?"
They looked to Morag and Ian who were the ones providing transportation. "Nay, plenty of time," Ian said.
That was settled.
The guest room was different from their room at Livingstone House. Where they had a light and airy garden room at the cottage, the room at the castle was heavy and solemn. A solid oak bed that could have belonged to first earl stood at the dead center of the room. The mirror above the dresser had a frame decorated by bronze gargoyles and was foggy with age. Theatrically thick curtains and gossamer net curtains kept the windows well covered and insulated from the outside chills. Worn rugs criss-crossed the floor, not quite providing covering for the creaky wooden boards.
"Is it me or is it extra cold in here?" Tara asked while she was undressing. She quickly put on her pajamas, a rare occurrence lately.
"It's not you," Willow quickly donned her sleepwear and proceeded to examine the radiators by the windows. They were warm to the touch, but not hot. "May take a while for the room to warm up, I guess. Wanna shower?"
The shower spluttered for ten seconds before water started dripping out. It took a further ten seconds before the water temperature rose above freezing, by that time two naked witches were shivering and clattering. The water pressure didn't build up much beyond a mediocre drizzle and any plans to explore wet skin and hardened nipples were abandoned in favor of quickly soaping, rinsing and scurrying under covers.
"Remember what Emmy said after dinner, that she would give anything to be at the beach now?" Tara asked as she clamored closer to Willow for body warmth, throwing an arm over Willow's stomach and squashing her breasts into Willow's back.
"We could teleport out and be back before sunrise. No one will miss us," Willow suggested.
Tara sighed. "If it weren't so wrong, I'd go along with it."
"I know," Willow sighed. "But think about it, we're doing it for self-preservation," she argued.
"Now you're being overdramatic," Tara chastised.
Willow turned around, carefully so as not to disturb the warmth that had built up under the covers, and slotted herself into Tara's curves. "Baby, we have a serious situation here. I had all sorts of plans for tonight, and now we're too frozen to snuggle properly."
Tara ran one hand through Willow's hair, following the route down her jaw and the small hollow of her throat, which she kissed. "So, we're not snuggling now?"
Willow blew out a frustrated breath. "But this is as far as it'll go tonight," she grumbled. "PG-13 is nice, but NC-17 is so much better."
"Anyone listening to this conversation would think you're sexually starved," Tara teased.
Willow harrumphed. "Well it's a good thing no one is listening then, cuz I'm sticking to my story."
A gust of extra cold wind swirled around them, as if trying to build up into a whirlwind. Disembodied whispers fluttered in the air, enough to make the hair at the back of their necks stand straight up. A faint laugh could be heard from...somewhere.
"Did you feel that?" Tara asked, trying not to be overwhelmed with fear.
"I read somewhere that ghosts are afraid of nakedness, they're kinda prudish that way," Tara said. "May be we should undress."
Willow wasn't sure to snort or laugh. "You'll have to show me where you read that. Besides, it's not true. Ghosts don't have any concept of the material stuff that live people get so hung up on. To a ghost the human form is a weird murky soup of fuzzy colors and disjointed sounds. You're more concerned with whether the person can see you than what they are wearing," she started explaining.
Tara was looking at her with a strangled expression.
"I was a ghost once, remember? Ethan Rayne, costume shop owned by the gods of chaos, Buffy was a useless girly girl in a Scarlett O'Hara dress?"
"Ah. You in a devastatingly sexy outfit that you refuse to show me a picture of."
"In your dreams, Maclay."
Talking with Willow had dispelled some of Tara's unease. The walls, the room, the creepy air had gotten to her; she surmised it was her being a sensitive. There was something slightly supernatural about the castle, and she didn't have enough experience to judge whether it was typical for a building this old. Still, with Willow stretched full-length against her, she could feel her anxiety gradually dissipating. In fact, with Willow stretched full-length against her, the chill had receded and she was becoming turned on.
But still cold. And the cold won.
"Let's try to get some sleep, sweetie."
Dreams of raining peaches and chipmunks talking in Perl woke Willow up. She found herself with a mouthful of hair, and she tried to blow it away only for more to brush against her eyes. "Grrr," she growled, but quickly silenced her protest when she jolted into full consciousness and realized her head was wedged in a sideways angle between Tara and the headboard. She tried to shift to a more conventional sleeping position, moving slowly so as not to wake Tara.
She didn't need to look at the bedside clock to know that it was still the dead of night. The curtains were not fully closed, but it was a moonless night and only a faltering glimmer squeezed through the gap in the door assured her that she hadn't gone blind.
Her nose was cold. Her teeth were beginning to chatter. She tentatively brought one hand out from under the covers to be exposed to the night air and quickly pulled it back into the warmth with a gasp. Slowly gathering her magic she reached her mind out toward the radiators and hummed with frustrated satisfaction when she found stone cold surfaces. The heating must have been turned off during the night.
She didn't bother debating with herself, knowing already her next course of action. An almost silent whisper of "fiat lux" and a dozen tiny tinkerbell lights materialized. She made them float in a lazy circle above her and experimented with their light intensity till it was just right. An imperceptible gesture gave the command to expand the circle and soon the streaks of light started weaving random patterns in the air. Another push of magic and the randomness organized into lines and curves forming a spherical web that encased the bed.
Like the boy in the bubble, she thought. Or a hollowed-out gyroelongated pentagonal rotunda, J25 I think, the science geek in her smirked. Deciding that thinking about advanced geometry while doing magic would only distract her, she focused on the next step.
Even before the shimmering dome was complete, she had begun filling it with heated air. Agitating air particles so that they abandoned their natural brownian motion into concerted heat-generating mode required true power, but she was powerful enough. Still, a thin sheen of sweat covered her forehead as she used her magic to control the lights, patch holes in the web, and heat the air. It was not unlike calling different sub-routines to a main program, it was an exercise in multi-tasking.
It was when another stream of magic joined her that she knew Tara was awake. Where she had tackled the task with her usual clinical precision, Tara's approach was emotional. The task gradually became a spell as Tara added a calm depth. It was no longer as simple as a problem (it's cold) needing a solution (get heat); Tara's magic was spiritual and it reached beyond consciousness. Despite her immense base of power, Willow tended to direct magic from her head; it never seemed to be fully complete until Tara joined -- together their magic drew effortlessly from the mind, the body and the soul.
This was why they were so powerful together.
Something very intimate occurred when two people performed magic together: the synchronization, laying out bare thoughts buried deep in the subconscious, letting down protective barriers -- these had more impact than the usual interaction between people. When it was magic infused with love, the emotional response was often one of profound connection.
Love fueled their magic; and magic fed their love.
This was why there was always the pounding need and the bone-deep demand of physical release after doing magic together.
All it took was Tara turning into Willow with a look that could only be answered by a kiss. Open-mouthed, firm and heated. Kisses led to exploration, both taking turns leading and giving. The sleepwear that was so necessary earlier in the night were discarded with whoops of abandonment and there was more exploring, more teasing, more touching.
Throwing back the duvet caused a draft that struck the ceiling of the dome causing a firework of sparkles.
"Tripping the light fantastic are we?"
And they returned to more.
Two bodies rocked against each other, sliding over slippery outlets of passion, building and pulsing until it was impossible to hold back any further.
The lights that weaved the magic that sustained the dome erupted in a flash that matched the power of the climax within. The waves of pleasure could been seen as a swell rolling over the surface and heard as a crest breaking through the web.
It took a long time for the breathless aftershocks to subside.
"That was big magic, love."
"We impressed the ghosts I think."
"I'll be sad to leave this place, Will," Tara said.
"We'll be back," Willow promised.
And Tara knew. As certain as snowflakes finding the blanket of snow on the ground; as sure as the welcome from Morag Livingstone and their new friends; and as true as their love, they would come back to the Highlands.
They had roots there, now.