Return to Van Rosenberg Chapter Nine

Van Rosenberg

Author: Alcy
Rating: R for supernatural violence and (eventually) hot, gay lovin'
Disclaimers: I don't own any of the Buffy, Tomb Raider or Dracula characters. This fic is of course AU so no spoilers for any season.

Diary Entry - 15th September 1778

To say that today was one of the most difficult and awful days of my life is the cruellest irony one could possibly devise. There are no words to express the despair I feel at this moment...and have felt for each of the months that have passed since I last saw W.

As of this morning I am Mrs Edward Walsh. The wedding ceremony was the most cheerless event I have ever witnessed in my life...and that includes every funeral I have ever attended.

For all intents and purposes it was a own.

I do feel as though I witnessed it, I was never a participant. Instead I stood apart as though I watched another woman who looked very much like me wed Edward. As a witness I cried...I cried for the bride who dared not shed a tear herself.

As I write this, my last entry in the diary, I'm shivering in my nightgown in a room that is supposed to be my will never be my own, it belongs to my husband, everything belongs to Edward...including my body. The only small measure of consolation I have is while I may belong to him in name, I will never truly belong to him. In my mind I belong to W and no matter what he does to me; I will never let him take that away from me. My memories of my beautiful redhead are mine and mine alone, especially the tender moments we shared. I will always remember the feel of her naked body pressed against my own, both straining in the act of making love and more simply just lying, belonging next to each other like the pages of a book...put those two pages anywhere else, and they will be out of order, meaningless.

Tomorrow Edward and I leave for Austria on our honeymoon with a grand tour of cities along the way. Although I can think of nothing worse than travelling with him, I do so long to see the continent. Perhaps there may even be enough sights and marvels for me to lose myself and forget that I am not sharing them with the person I love. I wish to God I could stop feeling so wretched for myself, my situation is almost entirely self-created and I do not deserve the pity, there has been too much of that already in the pages I have written. If anyone deserves pity it is dear, brave W who was willing to risk all for us to be together. Nay, not pity...for she would not wish to be pitied and certainly not by me. As soon as I finish this entry I will bind this diary securely and dispatch it to her at first light. I cannot safely keep it and nor can I bring myself to destroy it. In its pages I have been honest to a fault and I can only hope that she will accept it as a token reminder of what she and I shared. A token reminder only for I believe that she would feel the same way I do, these are just words and the real reminders are etched onto our skin, into every pore of our bodies...a reminder that we should have belonged together forever. I have committed murder in tearing apart two souls who were destined to be together. It is in this respect that I am dead.

I can hear footsteps approaching. Edward is here...I do not pray often but I will pray tonight for Him to give me the strength to endure what must be endured.

Willow's heart felt leaden as she finished Tara Maclay's last entry in the diary. It was not only the words that sent Willow spiralling downwards into an abject state of melancholia, it was also something else, an emotion that she could not quite define and yet it plucked at her heart strings with all the grace of a violist playing with his toes. She turned the page of the diary to find that although the September 15th entry was Tara's last, she had gone on to write something else. It was just a single word...but that one word filled an entire page.


Willow gently touched the pads of her fingers to the paper as though she could feel the emotion with which the name was written over and over. Throughout the diary Tara had only ever written 'W', despite the fact that it would have done little to conceal the identity of her beloved. While Willow did not understand why she had resorted to such poorly concealed subterfuge, she did understand the sudden need for the repetition, especially considering what was about to happen to her at the hands of her husband.

Gripped by a sudden anger, Willow fiercely turned the page even though she knew she would find no answers there. There was text there in abundance...all written in the heavy, almost perfect script that Willow had also found in the inside cover, but she could decipher not a word. It was torture; Willow knew that the answers she sought, the rest of Tara's story lay hidden within the text. She scanned the first few pages in the vain hope that some sort of pattern would emerge, one that would give her clues to deciphering it but she possessed neither the patience nor the clarity of mind required for such a task. Instead she leapt from the bed in a state of agitation. Her footfalls sounded hard and fast on the floorboards as she paced the short width of her hotel room. Before she could give herself over to anger and tear the diary in two, Willow threw it to the floor where it landed with a thud and skidded beneath the bed.

Turning her back on the book Willow dashed a measure of water from the porcelain pitcher into the wash basin and hunched over it, staring into her own blurred reflection. A single tear slid over her nose, hung on the end of it for a second and dropped into the water with a tiny splash. A second tear followed in due course and before Willow knew quite what had overcome her she was weeping uncontrollably. Sobs racked her small frame and she found herself having to kneel down before she fell over on her weak knees. Willow crumpled into a small ball and tucked herself up in the tiny space between the heavy wooden dresser and the wall. She was so consumed with grief and pain, she didn't care that her body quickly became chilled pressed up against the bare boards. All she could dwell on was the overwhelming sense of loss she felt, as though something or someone very precious had been stolen from her.

Faith cried out, flinging her hands out behind her to firmly grasp the headboard of the bed upon which her naked body was currently writhing in agonising ecstasy. She thrust her hips repeatedly and insistently against the warm mouth that was fastened over her sex, straining for more pressure.

Lara responded by increasing the pace with which her tongue flicked over Faith's clit. She sensed that the lithe woman bucking against her lips was nearing her release as her movements became more intense, her breath sounding hoarse coupled with the increasingly loud words issuing from her throat. Without interrupting the work of her tongue, Lara shifted slightly so she could force one finger upwards, burying it in the warmth of Faith's cunt.

Faith slapped her hand against the headboard as she felt the penetration, thrusting against Lara's hand as well as her mouth.

"For the love of god! Are you trying to make me pull my stitches apart?"

Lara moved her mouth for a brief moment even as she kept thrusting with her finger, "You want me to stop?"

"Oh god, don't stop now!" was Faith's immediate reply.

Lara resumed her ministrations with her tongue, trying her best to keep her movements gentle but Faith's responses clearly showed that she was beyond feeling pain from her wound and concentrating solely on the pleasure.

Faith came a few moments later amidst a guttural howl of undecipherable words. Lara kept moving between Faith's trembling thighs, continuing to stroke her pulsing cunt with her tongue even as a command came for her to stop. She savoured a last taste before pulling back to admire the sight of her lover spread wide in front of her, glistening moisture coating the inside of her thighs and her sex. Lara licked her lips like a cat before crawling up Faith's body, warming her before the coat of sweat that covered her body could start cooling. She absently traced a small pattern between Faith's breasts as their bodies folded together, gradually moving her fingers downwards over the scars that dotted Faith's otherwise perfect skin, she stopped when she came to the thick bandage that concealed the still unhealed wound in her side.

"I'm sure this is not what the doctor would prescribe," Faith commented as she felt Lara's fingers brush over her skin.

"Was the activity a little too boisterous for you?" Lara teased in reply.

"Perhaps," Faith shifted slightly and felt the wound protest, "But what is a little pain compared to the pleasure of having your mouth between my legs...that and the fact that I was positively aching for your touch...or any touch for that matter. One should not go more than two weeks without fulfilling one's needs."

"Any touch?" Lara repeated archly, "I should hardly think that just any touch would suffice."

Faith smirked, "Yours is indeed pleasurable...and a more adequate way to pass the time I could not think of."

"Well, we have all evening..." Lara began.

Faith paused before replying in an apologetic tone, "About that, I was going to pay Willow a's quite odd actually, she hasn't been to see me and I stopped by her office today but she wasn't in, I could not find Giles and no one else seemed to know where she was...if she were ill she would have to be very sick indeed to keep her away from work."

"Yes...about Willow," Lara began, her voice betraying an element of discomfort.

"You know where she is?" Faith twisted her neck so she could look at Lara, "I'm missing her sorely although I would never admit that to her."

"I'm not expecting her back from Klausenburg for at least another three weeks," Lara replied simply, she cocked her head to one side as though she were mulling over dates in her head, "Perhaps a month if the information turns out to be of worthwhile interest and she can follow it up while she's there."

Faith immediately extracted herself from within Lara's warm embrace, trying to ignore the stabbing pain shooting through her torso as she moved too fast for her wound. She could hardly hide the grimace on her face and Lara predictably rose from her own reclining position to go to her lover's aid. Faith halted her movement with a raised hand blocking her path. Lara remained sitting on the bed while Faith swung her feet onto the floor and stood, her naked body glowing in the candlelight. She turned to face Lara without bothering to put any clothes on.

"I am to understand that you sent Willow to Eastern Europe...alone?" Faith demanded, clutching at the dressing covering the wound in her side.

Lara shook her head, finding it difficult to deny that a naked, angry Faith was a beautiful sight, "No, she's with Cavendish...and I engaged Alexander Harris to be their guide."

Faith let out a flabbergasted snort, "Myles is about as much use as a wooden sword...what is he there to do? Make cups of tea?"

"Cavendish is loyal to a fault and I believe we're all underestimating him...and he needs the field time as much as Rosenberg," Lara admitted with a shrug, she went on to add, "That debate aside, I'm sure you'll agree that Harris was the most appropriate guide, you yourself have used him on more than one occasion and pronounced him to be adequate...I figured that was high praise coming from you."

"It was high praise!" Faith agreed in exasperation, "He's a fine shot and a quick with his fists, there's no one I would rather have guarding my back in a tight situation than Alex Harris...but that's the thing, I don't want Willow in the type of situation where she would need a fine shot and quick fists!"

Faith forgot the pain in her side; instead she was consumed by anger and feat at the thought of her best friend in a completely unknown environment, much too far out of her element. She knew exactly what Willow was headed for and the thought unsettled her. While Klausenburg was hardly a dark and dangerous backwater, one still had to remain alert at every moment; the dark forces that they worked to combat had an uncanny ability to sense out employees of the British Museum and make life as uncomfortable for them as they possibly could. Too many times Faith had run into sticky situations, even in relatively secure environments and had been forced to use all of her experience and skill to escape. The thought of Willow having to do the same would have been laughable if not for the fact that it wasn't a joke, Willow was actually traipsing around Eastern Europe with her youthful assistant and Alexander Harris...when that thought ticked over in her head Faith groaned aloud.

"And Harris is a walking cock! He would fuck anything with two breasts and a cunt," Faith could testify to having seen him in action and she was willing to bet that the 'two breasts' criteria could be waived on occasion, "He stays professional with me because he knows I'd slice his balls off without a second thought...but is he really the type of man to whom you would entrust the care of someone like Willow, someone who has absolutely no experience in fending off unwanted male attentions!"

Lara gave a dismissive shrug, "You never know, she might want those attentions...she could certainly do with it...."

Faith took that last comment as a cue to find her clothes, she was pulling on her leather pants as she continued the conversation, trying to steer it away from the direction it was taking, "She could not do with the attentions of Alex Harris thank you very much!" The thought of that hopeless scoundrel trying to seduce Willow made Faith's blood boil.

"This banter is pointless, Rosenberg is an employee!" Lara threw up her hands in annoyance as Faith dragged on a shirt over her bare breasts, "I care about the job...not her personal life..."

"Bollocks, Lara!" Faith growled immediately, trying to find her missing leather boot beneath the bed, she dragged it out and popped her head back up to glare at her lover, "I distinctly remembering you telling me a month ago to keep a special eye on Willow...and now you're sending her off to chase a lead that I should be following up with just her assistant and a womanising American?"

Lara now had the grace to look somewhat guilty, although it was still not enough for Faith. She turned her back on the naked woman lying in her bed as she hopped around the room tugging her boots on, various curses coming from her lips as her wound smarted with each movement.

"Things...things weren't moving fast enough," Lara admitted quietly, her tone however indicated that was all she would admit.

Faith whirled on her, "What things? You're not going to tell me are you? I'm good enough to do what I'm told and share you bed when you feel like it but for some reason I can't be let in on your little plan...a plan which involves the safety of someone I care about deeply!"

"Maybe you should be fucking Willow," Lara said on impulse, immediately regretting the words as soon as they had left her lips.

"Enough!" Faith announced with finality, seizing her jacket from where she had tossed it earlier over the back of a chair, "I'm taking a holiday...I'll be back when I feel like it."

Lara started to rise, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, "Faith, I'm sorry, I should come with you..."

"Even if you weren't crippled I wouldn't want you to come with me," Faith interrupted cruelly; "You can stay behind the desk where you belong."

Faith did not stay in the room long enough to see the crestfallen expression on Lara Croft's face. Faith's words had cut deep; hitting a vital artery but what hurt more was the fact that her lover's anger was futile because she did not have the complete picture. It had been essential to send Willow to Eastern Europe in a desperate attempt to unlock the secret of her past and in turn the information contained within her memories. Of course if Faith had not been so badly injured she would have dispatched them together but could not afford to wait for her to recover from her injuries. Lara also knew Faith's reaction to finding out Willow's destination, which was precisely why she had told Willow that she was not to bid Faith farewell before she left. Faith would have followed Willow no matter her she was set to do now.

In carrying out her duty, Lara had alienated a woman she had come to care for, perhaps even love...but they were all running out of time. Love was not important in the face of the horrors that could be unleashed if Willow failed.

Fierce hunger pains eventually drove Willow from her hotel room late the same evening but she did not leave her room before thoroughly scrubbing the tearstains from her face. She made her way downstairs towards the hotel bar where she had seen meals being served on her way up earlier that afternoon, huge hearty meals of bread and meat which Willow thought would suit her fine. However, she had no sooner entered the dimly lit room with its low ceiling than a broad shouldered man moved to block her path. Upon glancing upwards she found it to be Alex Harris, a cocky grin on his face as he tipped his cowboy hat.

"Well howdy little Miss, how about you let me buy you a drink and I'll tell you about the time I single-handedly stopped a stampeding herd of buffalo from crushing a wagon train full of womenfolk and little 'uns..."

Willow smiled politely and shrugged, "That sounds fascinating but I am actually famished..."

"I love a lady that knows how to eat!" Alex announced, slapping Willow on the back with more familiarity than she was comfortable with, "How's about we pull up a stool at the bar and have them bring us something with some meat?"

He left his hand resting against her back and chuckled as though he were enjoying a private joke of his own. Willow was rather helpless to resist as Alex steered her a path through the small crowd to two available seats at the bar. His hand left her back as he climbed on a stool and Willow took the opportunity to discreetly shift her own stool a few paces away from his.

"What are you drinking?" Alex slapped some coins down on the bar and the bearded old fellow behind the bar couldn't move to take their order fast enough, "My shout."

"I can buy my own drinks, Mr Harris," Willow began uncomfortably, "I do not think it appropriate..."

" man, we will have both have doubles of your finest vodka, followed by a pitcher of beer apiece!"

Willow stared at the alcohol in the rather dirty vessels that were dumped unceremoniously in front of her a minute or so later, Alex downed his vodka in one quick gulp and chased it with a great swill of beer. With alcohol lining his stomach, he quite happily launched into his tale about the wagon load of women folk as he had promised. Willow sighed tried to block out most of his blustering speech by simply ignoring him. Naturally, her mind drifted back to her reaction to the diary, even now she found her fists clenching at just the thought of Tara Maclay having to marry that awful man. It was awful...or rather it had been awful...but Willow couldn't understand being overwhelmed by sadness to the point of collapsing into tears. She didn't cry over anything...well, at least not since her brother, Alexander, had passed away when she was just five years old. She listened to the man who shared his name drone on in his animated voice and wondered what kind of man her brother would have grown up to be.

After staring at the glass in front of her for a few minutes, Willow finally ventured a small sip. Alex noticed her dainty movements and grimace of disgust and shook his head.

"You've got to down it in one, not sip at it like some lily-livered chicken!"

To shut him up, Willow tossed her head back and immediately felt the horrible burning sensation of the liquid as it passed down her throat. She slammed the glass back on the bar and Alex slapped her heartily on the back one again, driving her forward with the impact.

"That's the way! Barman...the same again!"

Less than half an hour later Willow had not had the meal she had originally been craving, yet she had had more than enough liquor to fill her belly. Willow was also relieved to find that she didn't feel quite so sad any longer. Also, her hunger pains had subsided to be replaced by a rather pleasant glow and she sat smiling stupidly in response to Alex's increasingly far-fetched stories, usually involving rescuing good-looking womenfolk from some calamity that was about to befall them.

One of the side effects of the large quantity of alcohol was a rather full bladder; she was in sore need of a chamber pot or an outhouse when she slipped from her stool. She found the floor a little unsteady beneath her feet and decided that the whole thing was uneven, definitely a poor standard of workmanship. A shaky step followed and she lurched rather alarmingly.

"Woah there Miss Rosenberg!" Alex moved quickly from his stool and reached out with two hands to prevent Willow from stumbling forward, placing one hand on her hip and the other around her waist. He steadied Willow and then drew her backwards into his body, "How's about we head for your sure look as though you could do with a lie down."

"Capital idea, Mr Harris!" Willow announced loudly, her full bladder forgotten at the thought of lying down, "Please take me straight to bed!"

Several other patrons in the bar sniggered at her announcement; Willow didn't see the broad grin on Alex's face as he helped her eagerly from the room, his hands securely wrapped around her waist. They had no sooner left the room and headed towards the stairs than Myles Cavendish appeared at the top of the landing above. He bounded quickly down the stairs and straightened up to his full height in front of Alex and Willow.

"Myles!" Willow grinned when she glanced up and recognised her assistant. "You've just missed having a beer with us! Mr Harris, back to the bar, let's go have another one with Myles!"

Alex smiled a little awkwardly in Myles's direction, "Er, I think Ms Rosenberg was fixing to go to bed...I was just helping her along there, see."

"I'll escort Miss Rosenberg to her room if you don't mind, Mr Harris," Myles announced confidently.

"Nonsense my man!" Alex placed a hand on Myles's shoulder and gave him a friendly but firm shove out of his path, "Why don't you pay a visit to the bar and find your own woman!"

Alex had only helped Willow a few more steps before Myles was back in front of him, "I think that ought to be your course of action Mr Harris....if you don't release Miss Rosenberg then you can be assured that I will inform Director Croft of your lack of professionalism, and you will never ever be hired by our organisation again."

"There's no need for that!" Alex spluttered, sizing up Myles to see just how serious his intentions were. The stern expression on the young man's face did not waiver and Alex was forced to concede, "Okay...don't see what harm I was doing anyway, I was just helping her into bed."

"And intending on climbing in along with her," Myles muttered under his breath as Alex Harris relinquished his hold on the swaying Willow.

The only one seemingly unconcerned by the whole encounter was Willow; she shifted from Alex's arms to Myles's with no complaint and a broad grin on her face. Matters were complicated somewhat a few steps later when they paused at the bottom of the stairs, for some reason Willow found her feet would not lift high enough to take even the first step.

"I'm afraid I might be leaning on you a little heavily," Willow mumbled as she tried to lift her feet again, "My feet feel like they're set in stone."

"Nonsense...I'm a strong lad and you're as light as a feather," Myles was quick to reply.

Despite his bold statement, Myles was of rather small stature and had some difficulty in supporting Willow up the stairs of the hotel and down the corridor to her room. However, he gamely tried not to show any signs of faltering as the two of them made their slow and perilous progression up the rickety flight of stairs. A fellow hotel patron squeezed past them as they were half way up and gave Myles a conspiratorial wink even though the young man had no the slightest intentions of taking advantage of a drunken woman. Myles had to wonder just how many men would stoop that low.

A good ten minutes later, he pushed open the door to Willow's room. The curtains were open and the light of a bright full moon streamed through the panes, illuminating the surfaces in the room.

"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Myles seemed reluctant to leave Willow in her state of inebriation.

"I'll be fine, thank you very much Myles," Willow was already making a rather unsteady beeline for her bed.

"Well, I deduced Mr Harris had unsavoury intentions," Myles replied, his cheeks tinged with red at the praise.

"Well then...I think I am lucky that I travel with at least one gentleman," Willow replied in all honesty, despite his shortfalls, Myles was a genuinely nice young chap, "If you wouldn't mind leaving the basin by the bed...just in case my stomach disagrees with me during the night."

Myles fetched the basin as requested and placed it on the floor beside the bed. From the green-grey tinge to Willow's face, he did not think that it was there for a 'just in case' moment. He also fetched the pitcher of water and set it on the table just within her grasp. When he looked back at Willow, she was slumped into the depths of her feather pillow with her eyes closed, snoring softly.

"Ah, Willow?" he prodded her firmly with the tip of his finger. She didn't stir except to utter a half snore/half snort and roll over to face the other direction. Myles glanced down at her boots which were still firmly on her feet and the covers which were all trapped beneath her body. "Shall I take your boots off?"

Myles didn't expect an answer, it was clear Willow had already fallen into a deep sleep and would not be roused by anything short of a blast of icy water in the face...even then he expected that would have no effect. He debated whether he should take it upon himself to remove her boots and perhaps her jacket but just the thought of touching her while she was asleep was enough to send him into a fit of panicked breathing.

"I'll just be next door if you..." Myles began as he backed out of the room, he then realised that talking to her was pointless and made his exit gratefully. Although he did pause for a few moments just outside the door and wonder if he had made the right decision. He decided that he had and closed the door quietly behind him.

Perched just outside the window to Willow's hotel room, Tara heard the gentle tap as the young man closed the door behind him. She waited for a further minute before passing through the slight gap between the window and the sill as a gentle cloud of mist. When her body reformed she was standing in the middle of the room, not a sound had been made. The moonlight clearly revealed Willow lying on her back in the middle of her bed; her soft snores filled the room. Tara smiled, she didn't recall Willow ever snoring...and yet she also could not recall Willow ever drinking to excess. As Tara approached she knew she should not be getting this close, she was supposed to be watching over Willow, not interfering directly. Still, she had kept her distance for so long and could no longer resist keeping Willow at arm's length. She needed to be closer to her.

Tara stood over the bed, Willow was fully clothed, boots, jacket and all. Gently, she reached down and tugged Willow's jacket down, lifting her arms so she could pull them free of the sleeves. Willow jerked suddenly, her snoring stopped and she woke, her eyelids fluttering slightly but not opening fully.

"Sorry, got a bit carried away with the old drink," Willow mumbled as she lifted her arms to help Tara get her out of the jacket, "Thanks awfully for this, Myles."

"I'm not Myles," Tara said softly as she hung the jacket on a peg protruding from the wall, she turned to find Willow's eyes completely open, she was staring directly at her.

She watched Willow's expression transform from one of immediate shock to something akin to recognition. Tara moved back to Willow's bed side even as the other woman propped herself up on her elbows. Her head cocked slightly to one side as she studied Tara's face.

"'re the one that's in my dreams," Willow whispered softly, as she gazed up at Tara's face directly above her, "For so long I couldn't see the woman's face...but it was you all along, you're Tara Maclay."

Tara couldn't reply, just the sound of her own name rolling from Willow's lips after all these years was enough to make her heart soar. She knew it was foolish to reveal herself to Willow in this manner but she had tortured herself for too long, surely she had earned just these few moments? Moments Willow probably would not even remember in the morning. She continued undressing Willow who was able to help her slightly by lifting her hands over her head when she tugged her shirt off. Tara's fingers brushed ever so lightly against Willow's breast as she did so and she snatched them away as though she had felt fire.

Despite the lack of response to her statement and her half-dreamy state, Willow remembered reading something about a marriage and a love that couldn't be. Her mind couldn't quite process the fact that the writer of the diary seemed to be alive and sitting in her hotel was further evidence pointing towards what Willow had already suspected...but she couldn't quite remember what she had suspected in the first place. Something unnatural was afoot as the writer of the diary would have been well over a hundred years old. Still, Willow was not about to pass up the opportunity to have her questions answered in the flesh even though her body was screaming at her to go to sleep.

"So many questions for you," Willow continued, like any researcher she desperately wanted the answers...even when drunk, "You married Edward..."

Tara's breath caught in her throat at the simple statement, those few words stirred memories which she had suppressed in the deepest corner of her mind for over a century. Just the mention of that man's name, even though he was long dead, was enough to stir the worst kind of fear and coming from Willow's lips, it was especially potent. Her hands were trembling as she folded Willow's shirt and placed it on the end of the bed.

"I-I did," Tara struggled to force the simple words between her lips; it was almost as bad as saying 'I do' all over again. She had to sit down, and the only place she could find to sit was the edge of Willow's bed.

"To protect her," a sleepy Willow mumbled, subconsciously rolling over and moving closer to Tara's weight on the bed next to her.

Tara felt her heart twinge at Willow's simple statement. She had been waiting for over a hundred years to explain to Willow the reasons behind her decision to marry Edward, in person and not through the pages of her diary. Now that it had finally come about Tara felt something of an anti-climax, it no longer mattered now that Edward Walsh and Willow Van Helsing were dead and she had...changed. However, as she sat on the edge of the bed in that tiny hotel room in the middle of continental Europe staring down at the dopey redhead, she felt close to being human once again.

"To protect you," Tara whispered, brushing a stray strand of Willow's hair from her forehead.

Willow did not pick up on the whispered statement and Tara rose from the bed to untie Willow's heavy boots. Once the boots were off she turned her attention to Willow's pants, she gently undid the waist and hooked both her thumbs beneath the band so she could slide them downwards.

"Lift your hips...Willow," Tara commanded quietly, her heart hammering as though it were going to burst from her chest.

Willow obliged raising them just enough so Tara could slip the garment down over her hips and her thighs. Tara felt the smooth skin of Willow's thighs beneath her thin underwear and she remembered back to another time when that flesh had been hers to explore. This time however, she did not, could not linger and concentrated on just removing her pants. She folded them and placed them next to the shirt at the end of Willow's bed. When she turned back to face Willow she caught her breath. The redhead was lying on the bed, clad in just her woollen underwear. The skintight garment left little to the imagination even though it covered her from wrists to ankles.

"Beneath the covers," Tara ordered quickly, needing to remove the tempting sight as soon as possible.

However, as she reached out to peel back the blankets Willow's hand shot out with surprising speed and her fingers fastened around Tara's wrist. Tara froze at the contact. Willow's touch was firm on the bare skin of her wrist. Tara found herself drawn closer to Willow, fixated on the longing within her emerald eyes.

"Touch me...please?" Willow asked, knowing only that she needed the blonde woman's hands directly on her skin.

With the hand that wasn't holding Tara's, Willow began clumsily undoing the neck buttons on her underwear.

Tara could not take her eyes away from the increasingly area of smooth white skin that Willow revealed with each button she managed to undo. She was so transfixed that she did not blink until Willow had finished her task and was peeling the undergarment away from her chest. With awkward fingers she tugged it down over her shoulder to completely bare one breast.

"Oh god..." Tara's breath caught in her throat, she had not been struck so helpless just at the sight of a woman's body for a long time...not since she had last seen Willow naked, " have no idea what you're doing."

"No...but you can show me," Willow pleaded, moving the hand she held across to her breast.

Tara closed her eyes as her fingers touched the mound of flesh with the taught nipple nudging the palm of her hand. She knew she could not possibly give into Willow and yet the almost forgotten but still familiar urges were flooding her body.

"Can vampires make love?"

Tara eyes snapped open at the sound of Willow's innocent sounding question, she jerked her hand away, "How did you..."

"The photo I took of you in the park...and yet you were there in the middle of the day and you're also not trying to drink my blood...," Willow shrugged, seeming to forget that just a moment ago she was asking Tara to touch her and that her breast was still bared, "Which is a good thing for me...but it doesn't make any sense."

No it doesn't, Tara thought with a gut-wrenching twist, but then again everything stopped making sense the day I refused to run away with my love...

Tara reached out quickly and drew Willow's underwear closed once more, taking the time to redo each button. She then folded back the blankets and was relieved when the redhead shifted without further attempts to remove her clothing.

"What happened to you? You should be dead after all this time," Willow burrowed contentedly beneath the covers and stifled a yawn as she regarded Tara with half-closed eyes, "But instead of being dead you're a vampire...which is just like being dead anyway isn't it, the walking undead, a demon in a human body."

"I am not a demon!" Tara replied more vehemently than she had intended, But I did die, in every sense of the word. Now was not the time for such a conversation or a debate about exactly what category of unfortunate creature she could be defined as, especially when Willow was in no fit state to process the information and would barely even remember the answers when she woke. "It is of no consequence...what does matter is you getting some have another long day on the road tomorrow, another day closer to your destiny..." Tara paused, a slip of the tongue, "Your destination."

Willow did not reply, nor did she seek answers to further questions. The redhead had slipped once more into the deep sleep of someone who had had far too much to drink. Tara almost felt like wakening her up, wanting to her that soft voice a few more times but she knew it was pointless, what she did dare to do however was lean over and place a gentle kiss on Willow's cheek. Her lips pressed against the smooth skin and her entire body tingled with shock at the contact. She drew away after just a split second, not daring to linger lest she loose control again, crossing quickly to the window.

As Tara cast one last look over her shoulder at the young woman she felt an intense desire to return to her side and simply curl up with her on that narrow bed. She allowed herself to entertain the thought for mere seconds. It simply could not be...just as she could not come out and explain everything to Willow, there were some things that took time to be done correctly. Even though their time was running out and the Covasna Resurrection was fast approaching, they could not afford to rush Willow. The girl had to find her own answers.

As Willow's eyelids fluttered open, she felt cold air on her upper body. She lifted her heavy arms to find that she was clad in just her woollen vest. She immediately drew the blankets up over her chest, wriggling slightly to confirm that she was also just wearing her knickers. Something had definitely gone a miss between her alcohol binge the previous night and climbing into bed. Willow lifted her head from the pillow and glanced around the room to confirm there was no one else present watching her sleep in her underwear or worse yet, sleeping in the bed beside her. She was sitting up scanning the room when she felt a massive rush of nausea to her head and she was forced to slump back against the pillow with an agonized groan. Her body was clearly not going to let her get off lightly after pouring a disgusting amount of beer and spirits into her gullet.

Self-inflicted Rosenberg...the pain is all self-inflicted.

As she lay with her head pressed back against the pillow, trying to make her eyes work properly in the dim morning light, foggy memories of the previous evening began to float slowly back into her mind. She very clearly remembered her initial drinking binge with Alex Harris being chiefly responsible for the purchasing of the large quantity of drink.

"He was deliberately trying to get me drunk!" Willow was rather appalled by the realisation and the subsequent memories of Mr Harris trying to escort her back to her room before Myles stepped in.

She was still spluttering indignantly even as she went through the rest of her memories from the evening. They became rather hazy as soon as Myles brought her through the door to her hotel room. What followed may very well have been a dream.

Still, Willow lifted the covers to double check, someone had removed all her clothes and she was almost certain that it had not been Myles. There had been an intoxicating scent, Willow was sure of it; even as she lay awake she was certain she could still smell the faintest tang lingering in the room. The scent...and long blonde hair leaning over her body...definitely not Myles. She remembered the smooth hands moving against her body as they peeled away each layer of her clothing. There had definitely been a hand on her breast and something stirred pleasantly in her loins.

Willow pressed her hand to her cheek as though it burned at the memory of the kiss planted there. She remembered speaking and being spoken to, something exceptionally significant...but the exact words would not come for all her trying. Even though she couldn't remember everything, a small smile crossed her lips. She wasn't sure whether she should be more worried about the fact that she may have been taken advantage of in her drunken state...or the fact that she intended to savour every aspect of her hazy memories of the night.

Continue to Van Rosenberg Chapter Eleven

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