Return to The Artifact Chapter Eight

The Artifact

Author: sabina
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The Tomb Raider videogame is the property of Eidos Interactive and Core Design. This fic is not meant to infringe any copyrights.
Special Note: I had this chapter finished and ready to go, when suddenly I realised that I had to make some minor corrections to it. In the end those minor corrections turned into four and half pages (Yikes) and I wanted to send a special thanks to TKOLove for putting up with my last minute crazy ideas and betaing this over night.

Willow couldn't wait to see the blonde. When she made the turn and the door came into her view, she saw that Tara was already there and a bright smile lit up her face. As she neared the blonde, the smile started to waver. Looking from afar, everything seemed to be fine with Tara, but now that she was closer, Willow could see this was not the case.

The blonde was completely covered with dust, her face and hair were streaked with dirt, and her usually clear blue eyes were blood-shot and carried such a tired expression that the redhead's heart nearly broke. Tara's knees and elbows were deeply bruised and bloodied. Her hands were heavily bandaged, and Willow imagined they were badly injured, judging by the blood seeping through the mud that covered the tissue. The exhausted girl's arms hung limply at her sides, and her legs appeared to be on the brink of collapse. In short, she was a wreck.

For a moment, Willow stood completely motionless; her eyes widened with shock, her mouth struck speechless.

Tara! I should never have suggested our split up. Efficacy be damned!! But no... I had to let you go off alone, and now you're really hurt and it's my fault. I'm an idiot. We're much stronger together... if I'd been with you, this wouldn't have happened. I'm the one responsible for your pain, and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want me anywhere near you.

Her mind was completely caught up in a circle of self-loathing, incapable of doing anything other than taking the blame for Tara's condition.

As the seconds ticked away with Willow merely staring at her in silence, the blonde started to feel simply miserable. She could see the startled look in Willow's eyes, and Tara assumed that it carried nothing but disgust.

She has the right to feel disgusted. I'm supposed to be capable of taking care of myself, and she trusted me to carry half of this search and now look at me. I'm a mess. I can barely move my arms, I'm bleeding, and I can't even see straight. And she won't even talk to me. Oh, and let's not forget I'm about two seconds away from breaking down completely and crying my eyes out in front of her. Pathetic.

During her search and subsequent fight for life, Tara had been completely drained, emotionally and physically. She was in no condition to resist Willow's rejection. She felt like curling up in a ball, falling back into that hole, and never coming back up again.

When the redhead saw tears running down the blonde's cheeks, she couldn't hold herself back. Willow closed the distance between herself and the blonde, and embraced her tenderly.

It wasn't a real hug... the redhead was terrified that putting any pressure on Tara's body would hurt her. She simply moved her body to rest against Tara's, gently offering her the comfort of her warmth.

The blonde was astonished to feel Willow trying to comfort her. Tara felt a wave of hope crash over her, coaxing her back to life. The moisture in her eyes evaporated without falling. She couldn't lift her arms to hug the redhead properly, so she did the next best thing. She scooted closer and pressed back against Willow, her left cheek resting on the redhead's right shoulder.

Willow was feeling better now, but she still felt guilty, and was racking her brain for a way to somehow make it up to Tara. She suddenly smiled a little, as an idea began to form in her head. She pulled away from Tara just a bit so she could look into her eyes as she made the suggestion.

"Tara, I've been thinking. It'll be dark in about an hour, so maybe we could call it a day. I thought we could settle down near the river, just by that oak tree. Then I could use the water and soap to wash your cuts and bruises... because you shouldn't leave the dirt over those wounds like that. You can get a nasty infection and that would be bad... but 'duh,' I guess you probably know that." Willow gave a shy smile. "Anyway, in my pack I have some oil I could use to massage your arms and legs. It's a relaxing oil... does wonders with sore muscles. Oh, I mean only if you want me to, of course... I would never give you a massage without you agreeing to it, because that would just be... wrong..."

While the redhead spoke, green eyes begged blue to accept. Tara was too tired to argue, and she realized she'd be crazy to protest such a proposition, so she stopped the redhead mid-babble.

"It sounds wonderful, Willow."

Willow shot a huge grin her direction.

"Then, can you hang on here for a sec while I get a few things ready?"

"Yeah, I think I'm still capable of doing that," Tara said smiling. It lifted Tara's spirits to see Willow trying so hard to make her feel better, and suddenly her pain wasn't so great anymore.

The redhead needed no further encouragement. She carefully removed the blonde's pack from her back and sprinted toward the designated spot. Tara was so tired, all she could do was stand there, using the time to rest her eyes. Next thing she knew, Willow was back at her side.

"Are you ready, milady? I would say that your chariot awaits, but I'm terrified of horses, so I'd never do that. Be near a real chariot, that is. And anyway, there aren't any horses around, so that wouldn't be possible. And we kind of lack the chariot, too. So, well, we're going to have to walk there." Tara smiled and nodded. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew she should have said something about how horses are actually very sweet creatures. But the majority of her brain was caught up in watching Willow as she bowed jokingly before the blonde.

Also, that happened to be a position that highlighted the redhead's firm ass.

Suddenly, Tara was aching to touch her, to run her hands over her buttocks, to close her fingers around them, then squeeze and massage them before pulling the redhead close, grinding Willow against her heated flesh. Tara shook her head and tried hard to clear her mind, as the redhead was already at her side, ready to help her walk if the need should arise.

It wasn't far, and in a couple of minutes they were there.

Willow lay her sleeping bag open on the ground, and rested Tara's on top of it. Its corner was folded down as if it was a real bed, and their backpacks were already in position to serve as pillows. Near the river, there was a washcloth and soap. Willow made sure that everything they'd need was set up and ready, so that all the blonde had to do was sit back and relax.

Tara was deeply touched and felt a little overwhelmed. Such a long time had passed since she'd been taken care of like this. Such a long time since someone had gone out of her way to comfort her. And it warmed her soul that it was Willow - the woman with whom she'd fallen hopelessly in love - who cared. After a little while, she managed to focus on the details, and it made her heart beat faster to see that the sleeping arrangements were made for them to sleep together. She stared at their 'bed' for a long moment.

Willow was becoming unnerved by the other raider's silence.

Maybe it was a bad idea to put us together inside both sleeping bags. Maybe she thinks this is me making a move on her... and now she's freaked. Oh god, I hope not. Not that I wouldn't love to do the whole "sleeping-without-the-actual-sleep" thing with her, because I so would, but tonight's not about that. I want to take her pain away. I'd trade places with her in a second if I could, but since that's not possible, I have to do the next best thing. And the whole 'bed' idea, well, I just don't want her to feel alone or cold tonight. So, ok, I want her near me, too... my reasons aren't completely selfless. But it truly would be best this way...

It was Willow who spoke first.

"I thought you could sit by the river and let me wash your face, arms and legs. It's better if you wash your hair tomorrow, because we have no way to dry it now, and you might catch a cold if you sleep with it wet. Oh, and after the bath, I'll make you new bandages."

Willow stopped for a second, and when she spoke next her voice had changed to impersonate an annoyed secretary at a spa resort, "Next on your schedule, you have a delicious dinner made of proteins, vitamins and water. All you could want, really. And to finish, I booked you a thoroughly relaxing massage just before bed. Uhm... well, this last part really hasn't any predetermined order. You can choose to sleep through the massage," the redhead joked nervously, her voice coming back to her own tone.

Tara was shaken from her reverie by the redhead's voice. She tried hard not to blush, but failed. Willow's itinerary made the blonde feel like an Egyptian princess being pampered by her favorite slave and lover, and her brain was suddenly drowning in images to go with that concept. Tara was lost, completely distracted by her fantasy.

Willow saw Tara blush, and she was suddenly very nervous for having suggested a massage. She truly hoped the blonde wasn't going to refuse. As time went by and Tara said nothing, Willow decided to occupy herself with something else and leave the blonde alone with her thoughts. She's been through so much today that the least I can do is to let her be, if that's what she wants. Now I'll just have to find something to do that can take my mind off the rejection... Oh... I know, I can count trees until I pass out... maybe it's better to count leaves... She left Tara's side and went to gaze blankly at the woods.

In the meantime, Tara was flooded by the most vivid sexual fantasy she'd ever had.

She lay languid and naked on the steps of a crystal blue pool, her feet surrounded by the soothing water. Willow, also naked, drops to her knees and positions herself between Tara's legs. She picks up the soap and runs it along the sensitive skin of her owner's feet and legs. The redhead's talented hands are on Tara, kneading... squeezing. Willow's fingers skillfully caress their way up Tara's soapy legs, starting with her calves, progressing in wide circles, rubbing up to the knees.

There she stops for a moment to worship the soft skin on the under side of the blonde's knees. She moves up a step, effectively opening Tara's legs wider, so she can reach the blonde's thighs and backside. Only then do her hands resume their journey upward. As the blonde feels her slave's fingers make their way up her thighs, she arches her body and drops her head back... her mouth open, moaning with pleasure and desire.

The bath is completely forgotten, as the blonde feels her body start to burn with arousal. Her nipples harden and beg the redhead for attention. The flame-haired slave looks down at her owner, smiles mischievously, and waits until her mistress raises her head in protest of the lack of satisfaction. Then, in a swift movement, Willow lowers her body over Tara's, and her head descends on the blonde's breasts. She pauses to give time for the blonde to fully enjoy the feeling of their wet bodies pressing together, and then she gives a few small, light licks to Tara's left nipple, before passionately sucking the engorged mound into her mouth.

The blonde moans loudly and once again drops her head back, pushing her breast forcefully into the redhead's mouth. Willow complies with the unsaid request, and takes as much of Tara's breast into her mouth as she times caressing it tenderly with her lips and tongue, other times sucking roughly and biting lightly on the skin. After a while, Willow moves her mouth across Tara's chest and pays the same respect to the blonde's right nipple and breast.

Tara can't keep herself still or quiet anymore. She moans Willow's name pleadingly as she moves her head frantically from side to side.

Tara's clit throbs mercilessly, demanding some attention, but the redhead's body pins the blonde's torso and legs to the steps, preventing any kind of pressure or rubbing movement on the erect, pulsating little nub.

All the while, Willow's hands keep tracing invisible letters and figures on the inside of the blonde's thighs, coming closer to the source of her owner's heat, but always retreating before getting to the place where Tara needs her the most.

Tara feels her wetness trickling out of her sex to her thighs, mingling with soap and water.

She can't take the sensual teasing anymore, so she spreads her legs even wider, begging silently for the redhead to dive deep inside her.

That's the moment Tara's conscience chose to wake her from her daydream. She could feel her body reacting heavily to her reverie. She was shaking and sweating, her breathing was labored, she could feel her nipples straining painfully against her T-shirt, and wetness was soaking her panties and flowing to her shorts... her body burned all over with a lusty fever for her alluring companion.

Oh god... what am I thinking? Have I gone completely nuts?! I can't indulge in these kinds of thoughts. For one thing, I'll probably die of frustration, and for another, she doesn't want me like this... and I respect her wishes, but with these images in my head, I don't know how long I can restrain myself. Oh man... I hope she didn't notice how hot I just got.

Tara looked in the direction of the redhead, and sighed in relief when she saw that Willow was peacefully staring off into the woods. She never wanted to upset the redhead and she was sure that Willow seeing her all worked up because of... well... Willow, was going to cause the redhead distress.

Ok, so this time I was lucky. But from now on there'll be no more lusty thoughts about that... gorgeous... sexy... luscious... Stop it!... redhead. I think the better solution now is to dive into the river. The water'll help me cool down, and also wash away some other telltale signs that are currently marking my shorts. Then I can go on with Willow's plan and hopefully survive.

Tara slowly and quietly walked into the water. As she went deeper in, she could feel her brain and body cooling down. When she was immersed in the river to her waist, she opened her arms and let herself fall to the water.

The splashing sound alerted the redhead, who looked back just in time to see a blonde head coming back to the surface.

"Tara," she whispered, before running to the other raider's side to help her get out of the water.

"What was that for?" she asked, as she approached the soaked woman.

"Well, I suddenly thought it would be better if I got wet before we get on with your spa treatment," Tara said smiling. "All that dirt in my hair was bothering me, so I decided to get rid of some of it and I figured that my clothes could use a rinsing too." she continued jokingly.

"But you're ok, right?"

"I'm fine, Willow," she said seriously.

"But now you're soaked. You could catch a cold... or... or... maybe even pneumonia. And bacteria are everywhere, you know?! You have to get out of your clothes now!" Willow stopped for a second and blushed bright red when the meaning of what she said reached her brain, and she hastily resumed talking... in an attempt to cover up her embarrassment.

"Uhm... I mean you have to get out of those clothes and get yourself into something warm and dry. I wasn't suggesting that you should get naked or anything... although, of course you'll have to be naked somewhere in the middle of the whole "changing clothes operation"... but, I mean, that's just a transitional thing..."

The sound of the blonde's soft chuckling stopped Willow mid-babble. The redhead smiled sheepishly before continuing.

"I was babbling again, wasn't I? I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I think you're right. I'll be a lot more comfortable when I'm dressed in clean, dry clothes."

Willow smiled and spoke nervously.

"Well, I guess you should change into the dry clothes now. I think I'll take advantage of this lovely river and do some laundry... so if you give me your clothes I could wash them too. I don't mind at all... your arms are sore so you shouldn't put unnecessary stress on your muscles. Oh, wait! You probably shouldn't undress yourself, either! I can help you if you want."

Have I gone insane?! I can't help Tara undress! To take her clothes off piece-by-piece...first, pulling off her shirt and shorts, then freeing her gorgeous breasts from her bra... mmmm... those full, luscious globes blossoming just in front of me, her nipples standing out. Goddess... and then, finally, to pull her panties all the way down to her calves and just look at her. Oh God... I so can't do that.

The redhead's skin was flushed. She suddenly had trouble breathing, and wetness started to pool between her legs as a response to her thoughts.

In the meantime, Tara had nearly forgotten how to breathe, as Willow's idea was still sinking in.

So, ok, my arms hurt like Hell and I'm not even sure I can lift them, but there's no way I can restrain myself from ravaging Willow if she undresses me. To feel her hands touching me everywhere, lifting my shirt, unhooking my bra. And... oh, to see her drop to her knees in front of me... and push down my shorts and panties... all the way down... until she's left facing me... facing my... Oh My God. Just thinking about it is heating my mind and working me up into overdrive... again.

"Uhm, thank you, but I think I can manage on my own," Tara answered after a moment had passed, her voice slightly shaking.

"Oh... ok, that's good. I'll just take care of the laundry then. I'll be a little further down the river if you need me, that way you can have privacy. Call me when you're done - or if you need anything," the redhead said, feeling a mix of relief and disappointment wash over her.


Willow nodded and then picked up her dirty laundry and the soap and walked away, disappearing from the blonde's sight as she rounded the corner. When she was sure she couldn't possibly catch even a glimpse of Tara, she stopped and sat by the river.

No way am I going to make the same mistake twice. This time I won't look... nope, not a chance... nuh-uh... no way, Jose! I'm not going to take a peek while she undresses. Not even a little bit, no, sir. Not so much as a glimpse toward that blonde with the body of a Goddess. Ok, focus on washing these clothes and not on Tara's... nakedness... that's right over there... just beyond that bend. Arrgghh!

The redhead pushed her clothes forcefully under the water and started to scrub her shorts frantically, trying to take her mind off what Tara was doing.

When Tara saw Willow disappear behind the trees, she sighed sadly, instantly missing her presence.

This is ridiculous. She's just over there. I have to get changed fast and then she can come back here... back to me.

With that last thought, the blonde decided she should try to hurry, so she found her backpack, dug out a dry set of clothing, and dropped it over the sleeping bag.

So far, so good. Now for the really difficult part... undressing.

She tried to lift her arms, and although it hurt, she managed to do it. But when she tried to pull her wet, clinging shirt from her body, she felt overwhelming pain and had to stop.

Ok, so this isn't exactly working. How am I going to get this off if I can't pull it? Hmm, I think I'll try my shorts and panties instead; they're baggier than my shirt, so maybe I won't have to put so much effort into taking them off.

Just as she'd hoped, she managed to take off her soaked shorts and panties and pull the dry ones on without hurting herself badly or taking too much time.

Now, back to the tough part. Stupid shirt. Oh God. If I can't handle this, I'm going to have to ask Willow to do it.

She felt a shiver run down her spine at that thought before she could stop herself.

I have to control myself. Mmmm.... Willowhands. Ok this is it... this shirt so has to come off.

And with that last thought the blonde lifted her arms, disregarded the pain, and tugged at the material again and again, but to no avail. It seemed as if it were glued to her body, the water making it cling tightly to her skin, her arm muscles too sore to coordinate and pull it off.

Damn. I'm either going to have to live in this thing or call Willow. Ok, so I'm calling Willow... there's just no other way. I'll just pray to whatever God is listening... please help me control myself.

And with one last deep breath to steel herself, the blonde called out.


When she heard the blonde call her name, Willow quickly stood up and ran toward the voice. The soap and her clothes were completely forgotten and scattered on the riverbank.

She reached Tara in no time.

"You called? Oh, forget that! That's a stupid question... of course you called, otherwise I wouldn't have heard you. Do you need my help?"

Tara had to stop herself from chuckling.

You're just too precious sometimes, Willow.

"Well, yes. I... uhm... I need your help. I can't seem to take my shirt off." The blonde said the last words in a timid voice, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious.


She wants me to take her t-shirt off. Oh man... Ok, ok, calm down. You can do this. You can take it off and not melt or faint or kiss her senseless. Yes. You can do it. It's very do-able. God, who am I kidding?

Willow swallowed hard and moved to stand just a few inches away from Tara. She tentatively brought her hands to the hem of Tara's shirt, and gripped the fabric in her fingers, trying to avoid as much as possible "accidental" contact between the blonde's skin and her fingers.

Tara lifted her arms and Willow began to push the blonde's t-shirt up, trying not to notice - now that she was closer - just how well the fabric hugged Tara's curvaceous torso, and how two gorgeous nipples, engorged and hardened, showed through the material. She was actually doing very well in blocking all less-than-chaste thoughts, until she grazed the side of Tara's breasts with her knuckles.

When Willow felt the soft mounds push against the back of her fingers, she looked down. The sight of her hands pushing Tara's shirt up with her fingers just resting on the sides of the blonde's breasts... was simply the most mind-blowingly, sexy thing Willow had ever seen. Her breath caught in her throat and she could feel her blood start to pulse between her legs.

Tarabreasts... my hands... I have to get out of here... fast!! Frogs... frogs!

Willow hastily removed the t-shirt from Tara's body, picked up the rest of the discarded clothes from the floor, and started to walk back to the river.

"So uhm, I think I'm going to take a quick bath now, and I'll wash all of our clothes while I'm over there. Yeah, that way we'll have lots of clean, dry clothes by the morning. The sooner I wash 'em, the sooner they'll dry off."

Willow knew she wasn't making much sense, but at least her voice was close to normal, and, well, her brain wasn't really in any condition to come up with completely coherent thoughts. Tara nodded. She had managed to keep her composure all the way through the undressing, but now she was feeling a little self-conscious just standing there in her bra.

The redhead, seeing Tara's nod, turned around, ran to the river, and dove into the awaiting cold water. She felt herself cool down and she thanked whoever was listening for the fact that the river was actually cold. She decided to swim to the place where she'd been earlier, instead of getting back out and walking there. When she reached the spot, she went to her backpack and picked out some dry clothes. She quickly divested herself of the soaked ones and washed herself before putting on the fresh set.

Jeez... my boots and socks are soaked. Oh well, nothing I can do about the boots. Guess I'll just have to take them off to sleep. Ok, so now that I'm feeling a lot calmer, I should wash our clothes and get back to Tara.

Thinking about the blonde brought a smile to her face and she started to wash all of their clothes happily. It didn't take her long to finish with the laundry. When she was done, she picked up the garments and walked back to the other raider.

While Willow was washing their clothes, Tara slowly managed to unhook her bra, dry herself, and put on a dry bra. Then she picked up the dry shirt and looked at it... trying to figure out the best way to put it on. She tried a few positions until she managed - although not without pain - to finally put it on. She sighed in relief and looked wishfully at where the redhead should appear. Just then she saw Willow coming back and she felt her heart start to pound in her chest.

Willow was wearing a pair of black shorts and a V-cut black tight shirt that showed her perfectly shaped body. Her pale, lightly freckled skin stood out from the dark color with an ivory beauty. Her green eyes sparkled like no emerald ever could.

Beautiful. was all Tara thought before swallowing hard and composing herself.

Willow was stunned when she got her first glimpse of the blonde. Tara had changed into a light blue t-shirt that brought out her eyes, while it clung tightly to her torso. She'd also changed into a pair of dark gray shorts.

She's gorgeous. And those tight shorts and shirts are going to be the death of me. Ok, get a grip, Rosenberg. Pick your jaw up from the floor and stop drooling. The river already has enough water as it is without you helping.

When Willow reached Tara, both of them had managed to compose themselves and were simply smiling. Willow spoke first.

"So, are you ready to begin your "spa" adventure?" she asked playfully.

Tara laughed and then answered in the same tone of voice.

"Yes ma'am."

"Ok, so I think you should sit by the river and let me wash your wounds." The redhead's voice sounded much more serious now.

"Ok, but maybe I could lie down instead of sitting?"

I don't think I can hold myself up without shaking when I feel your hands on me, so it's better if I have the floor to support me. That way, I can focus simply on keeping myself from moaning every time you touch me.

"That's fine with me."

They moved to their positions, Tara lying down on her back and Willow kneeling between her companion and the river... the washcloth and the soap in the redhead's hand.

For an instant they just stood there awkwardly, then Willow moved and the moment of uncertainty was forgotten.

Continue to The Artifact Chapter Ten

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