The Channel crossing had proven not to be quite as horrendous as Willow had feared but the following weeks of almost non-stop travel as they raced for Covasna had taken a toll on their small party. Even though she felt she should be used to riding following what she thought was a significant amount of experience, Willow still found herself sore at the end of each day's travel. She found herself longing for the relative comfort of the train that had carried them as far as Klausenburg. However after the city, there were no trains that could take them where they needed to go, deep into the mountains where even the locals would not dare to venture. There were also no hotels of even modest comfort that could provide them with a decent night's sleep, just the cold hard ground and the slim protection offered by canvas tents.
At the end of yet another day of travel, as darkness began to fall, an exhausted Willow tumbled into her tent. She was hungry and felt as though she was coated in enough travel grime to fill a large bathtub...however more than food or a bath, she desired sleep. The fact that there was no bath to be had made the choice even easier. She was disturbed a few minutes later by Faith's insistent voice. Even though Faith was merely concerned that she was hungry, Willow told her to go away in no uncertain terms.
Darkness had fallen completely when Willow awoke again. It took her a few minutes to realise that she had turned herself over in her sleep and managed to pull half a blanket over herself. Beyond the half open door of her tent she saw the dying embers of a fire and Giles's slumped shape as he was hunched over, scribbling madly on a piece of paper in the weak light.
Willow rolled over and tried to return to sleep. However as exhausted as she was she could not find the peace of mind that would allow slumber to claim her. She was not even sure she wanted to return to sleep; her dreams had been dark and troubled...just as they had been throughout the entire journey. With a sigh, she peeled back the blanket and extracted herself from the tent. The earth was cool beneath the thin socks on her feet and the chill of a slight wind reminded her that she ought to don her jacket. However she could not be bothered fetching it and instead crossed the clearing towards the fire, hoping the dying embers still radiated at least a little warmth. She could not see what Giles was working on, but whatever it was occupied him so intensely she was able to stand behind him for a good minute.
"Can't sleep?" he asked suddenly, just as she was about to announce her presence.
He turned with a small, warm smile on his face. At Willow's nod he set down the pencil and paper in his hand and rose to his feet stiffly. He stretched obviously weary bones and stifled a yawn. Surprisingly, Giles then held his arm out wide to beckon Willow into his embrace. After a moment's hesitation, Willow slipped crossed the short distance between them and gratefully sank against Giles's thin but solid frame. She felt his wiry arms loop around her back and draw her close; close enough for her to smell the cigar smoke and hint of whiskey that lingered on his clothing. Willow found a strength and solidity in that embrace that she sorely needed. Besides Abraham, Giles was the one masculine presence that she had been able to count on.
"I have never before thought to say as much," Giles said quietly, "But I do consider you as a daughter and love you as one."
"I love you too, Giles," Willow replied with no further hesitation on her part. She then drew back far enough to enable her to look him directly in the eyes. "Whatever you have to do tomorrow to be successful in destroying the skull, I want you to do it. I do not want any sentiment or emotion to cloud what must be done...understood?"
"Perfectly," Giles found his voice hoarse as he studied the determination in the young woman's eyes. He sighed wistfully. "I wish to god your brother had your strength..."
"He fell to pieces after he lost me..." Willow tried to apologise for him until she realised that she could not bring herself to make excuses for Abraham. There was nothing she could say that could erase what he did to Tara...and in turn, to her.
"And yet you lost everything...and here you are," Giles said what Willow could not.
"I would not be anywhere else," Willow stated emphatically. However after a moment's pause she frowned as though mulling over the logic of those words in her head, "Well, actually I would rather be somewhere...anywhere else, even the icy waste of the Arctic circle would be preferable to being so close to Covasna again but..." Willow paused again and drew a deep breath, "I hate the word 'duty'...for a very good reason, and yet this has always been mine, before I knew such evil things as vampires and demons existed in this world this was my task, my duty...and I'm going to see it carried out."
"Regardless of the cost," Giles whispered.
Willow sniffed quietly but she did not reply to his statement. There was absolutely nothing useful to say about the topic of self-sacrifice. She could only know in her heart that dying was the last thing she wanted to do...again. Yet for all the deepest desires of her heart, fate would do what it wished with her. She would be carried along in its currents and it was all she could do to see that whatever she did...she did to the best of her ability.
"I do believe that someone else would like a moment of your time," Giles interrupted her thoughts; she looked up to see him nod towards a spot over her shoulder.
Frowning, Willow slipped out of Giles's embrace and turned to the point he had indicated. Standing next to her tent she saw none other than Tara. The frown disappeared to be replaced by concern as she searched the blonde vampire for any trace of harm or fatigue. Beside the fact that there were the ever-present dark circles beneath her eyes, she appeared unscathed. Her concern then gave way to anger as she was forced to relive the anguish that the blonde's absence had caused her throughout their journey.
"You..." Willow began in a whisper but she had to stop and swallow to avoid having an awkward coughing fit, "You return from Hampshire only to go running off again...without even paying me the courtesy of one small word of acknowledgement. Now you just show up in the middle of nowhere with your aggravatingly calm expression and expect me to what? Fall into your arms?" Willow stopped and folded her arms stubbornly across her chest as if she had no intention of taking a single step towards the blonde.
"Will?" Tara prodded gently with a decided gleam in her blue eyes.
"What?" Willow spat back in a grumpy tone.
"Be silent and come here."
Willow's resolve crumpled and she practically fell across the distance that separated them and into Tara's waiting arms. In a split second they had resumed the kiss that had been cut short a few days earlier. Neither woman noticed Giles quietly disappear into the shadows to give them some privacy.
"I...am...sorry!" Willow managed to gasp in the brief moments that Tara's lips were not on hers.
Tara drew back slightly, cupping Willow's pale face gently between her hands even as Willow tried to continued speaking. She shook her head slightly, "Now is not the not the time to say sorry, Will, I just want us to be together."
"Together, together?" Willow asked hopefully.
Tara found herself smiling at the expression on Willow's face; she pressed her lips to hers in a brief kiss, "Together, together...as we were always meant to be...as we will be." As we will be, Tara uttered the silent promise even as Willow grasped her about the waist and lead her urgently towards the tent, already tugging the at the ties of her cloak. The dark garment slid like water to the ground.
With no small amount of struggling with canvas and annoying ropes, they managed to fight their way into the tent. Willow fell backwards beneath Tara's weight. Only a few blankets and a canvas sheet softened her fall. She let out a ragged gasp as the wind was knocked out of her. As soon as she was able however she seized the back of Tara's neck and drew her down hard, their lips crashing together once more.
At some point during the kiss, Tara managed to undo the majority of the buttons on Willow's shirt and then drag her woollen vest up to expose her breasts. Although there was very little light in the tent, she could see the pale mounds of flesh rising and falling rapidly in time with Willow's urgent breaths. She pinned Willow's hands up behind her head and began ravaging her breasts with an insistent mouth. She had to fight to reign in her urges as she was struck by the frightening realisation that her desire would prove to be unstoppable. She needed to have Willow and it went beyond her physical desire for the redhead to a need to assert her humanity. As her mouth explored Willow's breasts and one hand held Willow's hands above her head, she moved the other hand downwards. She pushed insistently beneath the band of Willow's pants and plunged downwards towards the heat at her centre. A small cry from Willow brought her crashing back to earth.
"Willow...I-I?" Tara felt the redhead trembling violently beneath her and she sat up with a start, her head scraping the canvas of the tent above her as she tried to give Willow some space.
Willow couldn't find a voice to say the words with...it was as though she didn't have control over any part of herself any longer. Tears leaked unbidden from the corners of her eyes. Tara's thigh pressed firmly against her sex made her all too aware of the pleasure she could be experiencing...what she wanted to be feeling.
"Will?" Tara asked again, leaning down to stroked Willow's forehead, her voice hoarse with emotion.
"Please don't stop," it was a half-strangled cry torn from the back of Willow's throat.
"Please..." Willow whispered urgently with another groan of desire interrupting her words. "It has been so long...I would not have so many layers of clothing separating us, I want to feel your skin move against mine...please..."
Willow sat up so Tara could peel her shirt down over her shoulders; at the same time her hands went to the throat of Tara's dress. As she fumbled urgently with the small buttons she had to keep shifting so Tara could remove the shirt. The garment was finally drawn down over each of her wrists and tossed aside, Tara then quickly dragged her vest up over her head even as Willow's fingers struggled again with the buttons. Almost impatiently, Tara shifted her hands so she could undo them herself. Willow flopped onto her back, lifting her hips off the ground so she could slide her pants down; she removed them completely with a well-timed kick which also crashed against the side of the tent.
Although it was awkward and cramped in the small space, eventually all their clothing and underclothes found the ground...every single piece except for one of Willow's socks. She was about to peel it off with a deft tug when she finally allowed herself to stare directly at Tara in her full nakedness. She found herself sitting with one hand on the toe of her sock and her jaw dropping steadily with each passing moment. As she allowed herself to drink in every bit of Tara's marble skin, the sock was gradually forgotten.
"Oh my god," Willow mumbled, hardly able to manage the words as her gaze lingered over Tara's perfectly formed breasts, from the ample curves to perfectly pink nipples. "I know I've seen it all before but oh my god...you...are...just...so bloody perfect."
"Will," Tara whispered in a playfully gruff tone and silenced the redhead with a brief but intense kiss. "While you are exceptionally adorable I would appreciate you admiring my 'bloody perfection' at a later time...it has been a long time after all."
Tara smiled and moved forward, she kissed her then. It began as something soft, like silk... their tongues darting out tentatively as though they had never met before. However when Willow's hand moved up around to the back of Tara's neck, she drew her downwards insistently and the hesitation was once again gone. Their bodies melded together perfectly and Tara's thigh slid gently between Willow's legs as she caressed her shoulders and arms. Their lips grated together in movements that were coarse and yet soft. Their tongues danced in fierce competition, each trying to wrestle the other into submission. Even as they kissed, Willow kept thrusting upward with her hips, increasing the urgency with which she moved against Tara's thigh.
Tara's hand moved to Willow's breast, stroking it before breaking their kiss to move her head lower. Willow looked pleadingly at Tara until the blonde's mouth closed over the sensitive mound of flesh. She felt Tara's lips close over her nipple until she was sucking on it gently, rolling the tiny nub between her lips. She alternated between that and licking it with long, lazy strokes. Willow pressed her head back into the ground, letting the sensations wash over her as Tara worked her magic on her body. She listened with growing pleasure to the small sucking noises the blonde's mouth made, soon joined by her own soft moans. Tara switched breasts, giving each one the attention Willow craved.
While her mouth worked eagerly, Tara moved her hand down between their stomachs, over Willow's flat, hard belly and down to the top of the red curls that had been grinding against her thigh. She cupped Willow's entire mound and felt a small jolt run through her body, closely followed by another, much larger as she slipped one finger inside Willow's folds. It wasn't long before she found Willow's clit. She stroked it a few times it too budded beneath her touch.
Willow ran her hands through Tara's hair as she dipped and moved over her breasts. Incoherent moans that might have been words continued to issue from her throat. She felt a sudden warmth flow between her legs and her eyes squeezed shut tightly as she willed Tara to move even faster as long forgotten, almost unfamiliar and yet most welcome sensations took a hold of her body.
"I'm a virgin," Willow whispered in realisation, her fingers absently tracing Tara's neck as she stared at an undetermined point above her.
"Will..." Tara whispered softly, she looked up and slowed her thrusting movements without stopping completely, "Look at me?" Willow forced herself to lift her head and look into Tara's blue eyes. Tara brought her free hand up from Willow's breast to cup the back of her neck tightly, keeping their eyes locked together. "I can't begin to understand how this feels for you...to remember being with me and yet never having physically experienced it..."
"I want to," Willow urged her fiercely, "Of course I want to...it's just...oh sorry, you're right, I should just bloody be quiet and let you do...oh...my...god!"
Willow was cut short as Tara slid two fingers up into her passage. She cried out slightly as she felt pain but it was replaced in an instant by the pleasant sensation of feeling Tara inside her. They were joined. Willow felt her eyes water from both the pain and pleasure but she didn't know why Tara's eyes were also watering. The pools of blue liquid were shining brightly, her mouth parted slightly as though in awe.
"Are you quite alright?" Willow asked quietly. She felt her flesh settle around Tara's fingers and marvelled at just how right it felt.
"That is supposed to be my question," Tara breathed, she leaned in close and whispered, "I love you Will," just as she withdrew her fingers slowly before thrusting upward again, this time a little faster.
Tara's movement rendered Willow unable to repeat the three words that meant so much to her, and yet she conveyed them through the touch of her fingers and body. Willow moved her hips instinctively, grinding herself against the base of Tara's hand. Tara responded by moving against her even faster, thrusting her fingers in and out in a steady rhythm. Willow felt as though she desperately wanted to close her eyes and thrash her head back against the ground but she kept her eyes on Tara. Even as they glazed over and she could barely see a thing through the haze she continued to stare at her lover. Tara thrust deep again... and then once more before Willow felt her release nearing until she let out a sharp cry and her orgasm surged through her body. Waves of pleasure spread out from between her legs, to her gut... all the way down to her toes. Willow groaned, she definitely couldn't even find words anymore, not even Tara's name.
It felt nothing like her dreams...or even her experience in the mirror, it was real. As she came she kept her eyes on Tara's, in her haze she lost herself in the blue depths of those eyes. She saw a small smile cross Tara's lips as her body gradually stopped shaking.
Even as a sort of calm descended over her she did not allow herself to lie back down, instead she surged forward and found Tara's lips. She kept moving forward until she toppled Tara over backwards, effectively reversing their positions. In one deft move she wrapped her legs around the blonde's waist. She felt Tara's free hand wrap around her back and urge her to move. Willow complied until she was riding Tara's fingers, bringing herself to a second orgasm even so soon after the first.
Although she felt exhausted enough to collapse she could not stop. She released Tara from the grip of her legs and manoeuvred her body until she was lying atop her. With Tara lying beneath her, she sought out her breasts. Her mouth closed over first one and then the other, feeling Tara's soft skin with her tongue. One hand snaked her way down Tara's body, feeling gently for the heat between her legs.
"I haven't touched you yet...and you're already wet," Willow whispered in awe as her fingers slid easily into Tara's moist folds.
"I did just spend the last ten minutes with your naked body beneath and above me...how could I not be?" Tara replied, arching her eyebrows.
Willow grinned wickedly as she reached out and roughly flicked Tara's clit only to be startled by the violent jolt that followed. Tara arched her back, grinding against Willow's hand as a shuddering moan escaped her lips.
"Will, inside..." Tara gasped impatiently, seizing the hand that teased her so cruelly and trying to guide Willow's fingers up into her soaking wet cunt. Willow gently pushed her aside and carried out Tara's wishes without assistance, thrusting upwards with her whole body behind the movement.
A few moments later Willow felt an incredible surge of emotion, as it was she who was fucking Tara, it was her fingers that were urging her to come. The tears that burned her eyes never fell but that did not render the moment any less emotional for her, she was finally able to be with the one she loved.
Tara felt her clawing fingers slip on Willow's sweat coated back so she embraced the bucking girl fully, wrapping her arms around her small but powerful body that was so intent on its one purpose. Willow's breathing was loud and hoarse in her ear and her own came in between moans that she was trying her utmost to stifle. As Willow's fingers dove deep into her cunt, her palm worked against her clit. She had been on the edge of orgasm from the first thrust and it was only through some amount of willpower that she kept herself from falling over the edge, a desire to prolong the experience of Willow moving within her after so many years apart.
She wanted the intimate contact to last and yet Willow's rapid movements were going to be her undoing. As she fucked her with her hand, Willow's mouth continued to move across every inch of her exposed upper body flesh, paying special attention to her already swollen nipples which she teased between her teeth and the fingers of her left hand. Tara gave up trying to restrain her release and thrust her hips insistently, both her hands moved to Willow's arse where her nails dug into the tender flesh. As Tara's breathing grew short and urgent, Willow met her gaze directly, managing to hold it even as she continued to intensify the pace of her movements. The connection in their gaze was intense, with Willow focused while Tara struggled to keep her senses from flying apart. As she came, she squeezed her thighs hard against Willow and dug in nails in sharply in a vain effort to keep from crying out. A strangled gasp was all that emerged as her flesh contracted around Willow's fingers but it conveyed far more than the loudest scream.
Tara closed her eyes, allowing the thudding in her ears to gradually die down and she became aware of the moist pool between her legs, Willow's fingers still nestled in her passage and the layer of dripping sweat that coated her body. It could have been minutes or hours later that she felt Willow gently remove her fingers and settle contentedly into the contours of her body.
The only sound in the tiny tent was the sound of their combined breathing, both hoarse and short. Tara lent down and deposited a tender kiss on Willow's forehead. Whatever was to happen on the morrow did not matter; she had just been reunited with Willow. Her hands continued to roam over Willow's body as though she could not get enough of the redhead's flesh. When she heard Willow's breathing slow to the point where it was almost normal, a wicked grin spread across her face. She rolled over atop Willow before swiftly moving down her body until her face was between Willow's legs; her mouth paused above her tender and moist sex.
Willow felt dreadfully wicked as she parted her legs for Tara to the point where her knees were pressed against the damp sides of the tent. She yelped suddenly at the darting touch of Tara's tongue against her overly engorged, already tortured clit. The second touch was a long, languid stroke that left her squirming and craving more. Tara was eager to oblige, lavishing attention on her clit in an exploratory, teasing manner as she remembered the precise spot and speed that really made Willow squirm.
Willow tried to prop herself up on her elbows as she discovered she loved the sight of Tara working between her legs but that lasted all of a minute before her head was thrown back against the ground behind her as she tossed about uncontrollably. Tara's tongue was driving her once again to the brink, easily threatening to push her right over the edge but with the skill to prolong release and take her beyond without falling off completely. Her hands clutched for something to grasp and she settled for fistfuls of Tara's hair. If she was hurting the blonde, it did not slow her down at all. If anything, her movements became more intense and focused.
Willow flung out her arms. Her fingertips trailed over the canvas of the tent, made moist by their combined urgent, rasping breaths. It was as though in that moisture that she could find each breath in physical form, each drawn out moan in which she said her lover's name.
"Tara...Tara!" Willow repeated without even realising that she was speaking it aloud once more. "Tara...Tar..."
The last was muffled as Tara rose up from beneath her legs in the midst of her release. Tara's musky lips closed over her own, effectively silencing her. Willow realised Tara had shut her up before she could disturb the others in their party and she gratefully gave herself over to the kiss, directing all the energy that she would have otherwise released in words, into caressing them, tasting herself as she did so. Tara replaced her tongue with several of her fingers, once again thrusting up inside her and causing Willow's spasms to lengthen, adding more of her juices to the already damp blankets that lay beneath them. Her arms were still flung above her head and she seized a handful of woollen blanket in an attempt to anchor herself to something physical but eventually she let it go and gave herself over completely. The only anchor she needed was Tara and it was to Tara's body that she held fiercely. Her nails raked Tara's back and she felt them pierce the skin, no doubt drawing blood.
A low moan escaped the kiss as her hips involuntarily jerked upwards several times with finality before they settled back against the covers with the rest of her sweat soaked, damp body. The kiss became slower, almost lazier but lost none of its emotion as Tara continued to stroke her stomach and thighs with tender fingers.
"This is all I want to do for the rest of my life," Willow announced quietly. "Vampire slaying be damned!"
"I know what you mean," Tara agreed as she stroked a clump of Willow's hair away from her eyes. "Will, whatever happens tomorrow...I want you to know..."
Willow pressed the tip of her finger to Tara's lips, "You don't need to say anything...you can tell me once all of this is over."
She saw that unspoken words would not leave Tara...she could see the fear in her eyes. Willow knew that there volumes that could be said between them...perhaps the words even needed to be said, but she could not bring herself to say or hear them. Instead she pressed her cheek to Tara's, in the silence that followed she was all too aware of her still throbbing cunt and the spread of wetness that chaffed against the back of her thighs. She was surprised to find that she did not feel cold...and more importantly, she did not feel spent. As Tara shifted slightly so she was no longer lying directly atop her, she seized her opportunity to reverse their positions again, flipping Tara over onto her back in one quick movement that almost brought the tent down around them as she pushed Tara against the sides. Willow drew Tara back towards the blankets and used her tongue to trace a through the trail of sweat that ran between her breasts, continuing downwards until her chin brushed against the soft hair that covered Tara's mound. Her mouth was watering before she spread her folds apart and drank deeply of the moisture that lay within. She felt Tara's hands tangle in her hair and press her down insistently in encouragement.
What would happen on the morrow was banished from Willow's thoughts...there was no point in thinking this through or stopping to question what they were doing. In the midst intense passion of their continued lovemaking, her contact with Tara and their combined rhythm was all that existed in the world. Willow found comfort in the knowledge that tomorrow would not come until they were finished.
The next morning dawned surprisingly clear and still. However, although bright, the winter sun failed to do much to warm the earth below. Faith and Myles hunched close to the fire as they prepared a simple porridge for breakfast. Lara was sitting just inside the tent she had shared with Faith, repeatedly stroking a whetstone along the length of a silver sabre. Myles searched the small clearing for Giles but he could see nothing of the old man, his tent was already down and packed. He then turned and looked over his shoulder towards Willow's tent but there was no movement whatsoever behind the firmly closed canvas flaps.
"I'm surprised the smell of food hasn't woken Willow," Myles commented.
"It's porridge," Faith replied in an acerbic tone that spoke more to her mood than Myles's innocent comment. "Even my porridge isn't that good."
Myles rose to his feet, "Well I might wake her all the same, it would be a shame if she had to eat it cold."
"Myles," Faith growled in a cautionary tone as the young man started towards the still silent tent. "I believe it would be best for you not to look in Willow's tent."
Myles stopped in his tracks and spun with a confused expression on his face, "Why ever not?"
"Because I've already looked in there," Faith admitted with a slight smirk, "And although it is a pretty sight...I do not believe it is appropriate for your prying eyes. Just let them be for a short while longer."
"Them?" Myles appeared even more confused for a moment before realisation finally dawned, "Ohhhhh!"
The young man's cheeks were aflame as he returned to his spot by the fire. He all too gratefully accepted the bowl of porridge that Faith handed him and set about eating it as though it was the most necessary thing for him to do at that precise moment.
Dracula sneered at the infernal sunlight which bathed the mountains where the battlefield of Covasna lay. By his reckoning the Van Helsing woman's party which would the plateau by afternoon...full hours ahead of the time he and his vampires could possibly reach the battlefield. Although they had ridden hard by night and shadow, he had been unable to overtake them en route. It now came down to this day...and whether the fools would be able to destroy the skull before he could reach them. He regretted that it had come to such, but he could see no way of overcoming the inherent weakness of his kind. If they did manage to destroy the skull his only small consolation would lie in killing them all anyway...but it was small consolation indeed. Still, even the thought of killing Maclay was enough to bring a small smile to his face.
Dracula spun in his saddle and his smile broadened as he saw the host of vampires assembled at his back nestled within a cave that kept them all from the sun's deathly rays. Although there were mere dozens as opposed to the thousands which made up his army, it was a formidable sight and he was confident that their numbers would hold sway, despite the witch and warlock that guarded the skull. The other pathetic mortals he discounted altogether...save Willow Van Helsing. She was a mildly formidable foe ...although he would kill her just the same. He glanced across to his right and saw William's surly face staring back at him.
His smile disappeared as he recognised the challenging expression on the other vampire's face, "It would be best if you did not speak, William."
A sharp grunt was all that issued forth from the insubordinate vampire but his eyes spoke volumes of the failure that was expected. Dracula lifted his chin and ignored William as he settled back in his saddle to watch the shadows move across the ground, biding his time until the sun disappeared and his time came.