The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated 02/10/2007)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 11:44 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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This story is always so well told, it is not far off to say that I get very happy seeing that you have updated before I even read the new chapter. This was no exception, and the pay-off was wonderful. I am digging the subplot about the diary and the previous tomb raiders that traveled through the temple. It adds a level of mystery and depth to an otherwise interesting story, and it's always appreciated to have context. It's interesting to see the parallels. Also great to see the advanced nature of their emotions. Very much looking forward to more!

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My sister: Well the real question is, why does he bother working out when no one will ever love him?


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated 02/10/2007)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 8:00 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe
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:thud

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated 02/10/2007)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 11:15 am 
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3. Flaming O

Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:20 pm
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Another Update :-D
I was heartbroken when the site that i was following this story was closed and i thought i would never get a chance to read the ending. happily i discovered it here :)
The last update i read happened to be on my birthday hope it wont take half a year for me to find the next update though :blush

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated 02/10/2007)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 12:50 am 
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17. Mega-Witches
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Yay! It's always great to see a new chapter of this story, and you never disappoint. This one was very much a coda to the action of the previous chapter, but I like that they're separate - the previous was fast and frantic from start to finish, and now this chapter gets to showcase the fallout from the spider attack in a slower, more character-based manner, with the conversation moving from relief at Willow and Tara being reunited to concern and anxiety over whether there were any lingering effects of the spider venom, to reassurance and passion (wow :blush )... and of course a cute revisit of the running gag of the hideously bland protein balls :)

Willow reading over Henrietta's journal of her doomed journey with Raven was bitter-sweet - I wonder if it might prove useful too? Is the temple set up in such a way that Henriette and Raven had to go in the same way Willow and Tara have, or could they have arrived at the spider complex by a different route, and thus have faced and perhaps documented other challenges which, from W&T's point of view, are still up ahead?

So with all the action of Tara's abduction and Willow's rescue dash, and their taking time to rest and recharge, it seems like the next chapter will be them venturing deeper into the temple and opening up a new set of puzzles and challenges. Count me in! ;-)

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Replies
PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 5:47 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hi everyone :wave

Long time no see *cough* *cough* I know you hate to sound like grandma but I don’t write I don’t call… Shame on me really :blush
Well, my excuse for this huge wait in between updates is kind of weak and to add insult to injury not very original. The workload at school has been steadily increasing as the years go by and this last year was the hardest to date which made my muse run off into hiding for a long while. But now, I think she has forgiven me for neglecting her and she has come back. Though I’m sure she’ll slap me around for a while to make sure I’ve learned my lesson, lol.
Anyway even though I don’t have an update ready for posting, I decided you guys deserved at least to get some replies to your comments (By the way you guys rock :* Tks for reading and leaving replies) And besides it’s a way for me to let you know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth and that this story isn’t dead.
Ok, so here we go:


tazraven :D I love the fact that my story rates the calling of Dibs :blush Thank you. One drooling and one thud emoticon, Yay :D I’m glad you liked it. Hopefully you’ll like the next one just as much.
P.S. I absolutely love your avatar. That’s the scene we should all have seen. I mean outside our heads, on the actual tv *cough*


PancakesinBellies hey :wave Thanks :D I had fun writing Willow fussing over Tara, I had this little pic of a nervous overeager little redhead jumping around in my head all the time begging to be let out. So I’m glad you thought it worked out well. :D I’m really praying to not have lost my touch and indeed be able to keep up with this story.


Dianneswillowtree Oooohhh… dancing pink elephant :bounce I love that little emoticon. I’m not even going to comment on the Willow and Tara and the leash *cough* *cough* Well, the speechless state rates as high praise so thank you :D


ceridwen :D A thud, drool and a bow. I feel like a very lucky one indeed :D Thanks :D


Guppy Hey :wave Thanks :D I always worry about writing the love scenes. Sometimes I get so caught in the details that I can’t see the big picture and I worry that I’m saying too much or maybe not enough and that the scene is falling flat.
I agree that they are in need of some drama free time and just have time with each other. So tune in for the next update :wink


The Rose24 Hi :wave I’m glad you liked it :D well, some clichés are true and I think her love for Tara makes Willow want to be a better person, better for Tara. To be the one that is always there and the one you can’t count on when you need her. I’m sure she will fail her own expectations sometimes but then again we all do. And I’m kind of rambling, aren’t I? *cough* sorry :blush *cough*
I am confident that Willow will prove to be more than capable to return the favour to Tara too.
Quote:
Willow seems a little fearful when Tara mentions "everything" though

I think Willow still has some leftover fear that she won’t measure up, won’t be enough for Tara. So she has so trouble letting go. But she’s working on it.
Thanks :D


ringwaldoeuvre Mmm… I think I just got a little speechless here :blush Thank you :D I am really happy this update didn’t disappoint.
The focus of this story being on Willow and Tara being alone in a temple it doesn’t leave me with many chances to write other characters so it was fun to stretch my muscles a little bit with these two new characters :D
As we enter the last part of the story it is time to start shedding some light on some of the mysteries of the temple. So you can count with having more background story in the next chapters. Ok, maybe not in the next one :hmm but soon.
Hopefully more of the artifact will soon be going your way :D
P.S. I love your signature. It’s way, way funny :D


gabbykat Hello you :wave So you think you have already commented on everything so you can get away with only a thud, hum? :eyebrow
Lucky for you, I really, really love the thuds, hmpf :miff And besides I’m pretty sure you kind of get credit for being your wonderful beta you :wink
Thank you for all your help, encouragement and occasional pestering, lol. :D You rock :D You keep this story burning bright in my brain *hugs*


Morningstar Hi :wave I’m glad you found your way to the kitten and my story too :D I am sorry the updates have been so few and far in between. I am trying to work on that :blush
I promise you won’t have to wait till your next b-day to read another update of the artifact.
Thanks :D


Artemis Hi :wave It is always a pleasure to see a reply from you :D I am very much hoping this story will keep on not disappoint you.
I wanted the chapter before this one to be an action packed chapter, a return to a more temple focused and trap oriented storyline since I had been increasingly focusing more and more on their relationship. I wanted it to work as a reminder that they are in a dangerous situation and so they can’t be as completely absorbed by falling in love as they probably wished to be. And then on this one I pretty much wanted to do the opposite. I wanted it to be focused on them and how they handled the reality of this new found love making them more vulnerable to the attacks they were under but at the same time bringing out a new found strength on each of them. And also how they dealt with the fact that they are likely to get hurt and now have the other one to worry about too. And again I kind of ended up rambling, didn’t I? :blush
I am glad you found the passion to be “wow” worthy :D
Mmm… Well I’m still thinking about what I want to do with Henrietta’s journal. I’m pretty sure Willow and Tara aren’t done with it just yet.
I am not disclosing anything about the next chapter yet… shameless ploy to really have you tuning in for the next chapter’s adventure, lol.


Ok, kittens, this is all for today. To all of you once again thank you for reading and really special thanks for those who took the time to reply. It really means a lot to me that you made the effort *hugs*
See you all soon :wave

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"I think love should be irresistable, like a drug. When it happens you just can't help yourself." Amy to Lucy in D.E.B.S.


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated 02/10/2007)
PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 6:00 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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:pinky I dont need tell you how much I love this story so I will sit and watch for that update as always :party

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Replies are in)
PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2007 8:57 pm 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 6:48 pm
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:buried I'm sure I'm not the only one who can relate to your overload. Just glad to see to are able to continue. Definitely looking forward to your next update! :peace


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Replies are in)
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:07 pm 
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3. Flaming O

Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 9:42 am
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Location: Germany
Wow I just read the first 10 chapters and sadly have to go to bed now because I have to work tomorrow and its already way to late but you deserve feedback.

You're story is “God like”. Its really well written. It has so much of Willow and Tara goodness in it You manage to bring them alive. I love how you write there inner dialogs and how funny they are and I feel tempted to play Tomb Raider again. But I guess it would pale to you're story because it is without Tara and Willow. Rest assured I will finish the story tomorrow.

Great job!!

Edit:

Ok I finished. Sorry it took longer then expected because I decided to install Tomb Raider in between. Anyway really well done with the right amount of angst and humor. I cant wait to reat the next chapter :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Replies are in)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:05 am 
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5. Willowhand
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anyone know if the writer is still around and if its gonna be updated this is a great story and i hope itll be continued


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Replies are in)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:48 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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*crawls out quietly from under her wee rock*

Hi :wave

I wasn't planning on posting here until i had the chapter ready but i read your reply, cammy, and i just couldn't help myself, the embarassement made me post :blush I know how absolutely frustrating it feels not to know if a story will ever get updated or what happened to the author so here i am with a little update on the situation.

So to answer your question, yes i am still around and yes this story will be updated sometime soon and i have every intention of finishing it.
Lady Life likes to keep things interesting so she made a few waves that messed up my posting schedule, but i believe things are getting better and we'll be back on track soon. Annnddd if my previous sentence made no sense at all to you i apologize, maybe i should run my posts through my beta too :blush

I'll do the replies when i post the new chapter but i wanted to thank you guys for your comments (which i love to read :D) and specially for your patience *hugs* You kittens rock :peace

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Replies are in)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 1:49 pm 
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29. Miss Psycho-pep-squad
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hey hi sabina, I've been lurking around for a while and I must say I'm really loving this fic....sorry I missed all the updates til now, but I'll make it up...update soon? :pray I'll be good! :angel

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 Post subject: The Artifact - Chapter 26
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 9:30 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hi everyone *waves*

It has been such a damn long time since the last time I posted here… I’m sorry :(
Five years have passed since I first started writing the artifact… Five years, over three hundred pages and more than one hundred and fifty thousand words… This story has gained a life of its own over the years and grown completely out of my control, lol. I’m not even sure how many of you out there are still interested in reading it (yes, I know I’m fishing here :blush I am properly ashamed of myself for it, I assure you, lol).

So here’s the thing, I don’t know if you know this but English is my second language and from the beginning of this story I have had the help of generous beta readers to review my chapters and help me out with my sometimes (I’m an optimist *cough*) weird phrasing and the use of not so adequate words or the terrible assassination of grammar. Currently I find myself, for the first time, without a beta reader. RL has a somewhat annoying tendency to get in the way and Gabbykat at this time and for the foreseeable future is unable to help me with this story.
So and since I have a chapter written I’m going to post it the way I wrote it, no betaing whatsoever. I want to apologize if it’s not up to the usual standards. Any mistakes you might find in the chapter are mine and mine alone (no doubt about it, lol).


If anyone out there is interested in helping me out and betaing for me you can PM me. It’s mainly a revising job since I like to work out the plot myself.


Here are some quick replies, before I post the chapter.

Willowtree252 Thank you for your kind words. The update is here. I hope you enjoy it.

GreatedEnergy Thank you. Yeah, things at school are definitively heating up. I’ll earn my degree in a little less than two months… After so many years spent studying it’s a somewhat daunting perspective indeed. Lol. I hope you’ll enjoy this next chapter.

Sorry Thank you :D Wow, you read ten chapters in a row, hum? That’s really high praise. I’m glad that you feel I managed to stay in character with my depictions of Willow and Tara and also that you are enjoying tomb raider again. It’s certainly a game that deserves revisiting :D Next chapter coming up, I hope you like it.

jay/wt4evr Hi :D Thank you. I’m sorry I’ve been taking so long in between updates, I think I’m the one who needs to be good *sigh* Update coming up, hold on tight for another twenty seconds, lol.

Ok, so chapter 26, here it is.


• Title: The Artifact
• Author: sabina
• Feedback: Yes, please. I crave it.
• Distribution: Anywhere. Just please ask me first.
• Spoilers: No spoilers whatsoever. This is an AU fic.
• Rating: Overall NC-17.
• Pairing: W/T
• 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.
• Summary: Willow and Tara are two strong and independent tomb raiders who are both hired to find the same artifact. Trapped inside a temple they realize that not everything is what it seems and they have to work together and fight side by side for their lives as they try to find the way out.

• Note 1: I want to thank my beta reader gabbykat for her help, support and outstanding job from chapter 23 to chapter 25. She made my story shine with all the care she put into it. She also has been this story’s champion, always encouraging me to write and not letting me forget about the artifact. So thank you very much for everything gabs.
• Note 2: I want to thank my beta reader for the first 22 chapters, TKOLove. Without her help and encouragement maybe the artifact wouldn’t have been posted. Your work has made this fic a better one, so thank you TKOLove.
• Note 3: I love Tomb Raider and this fic was something that had been in the back of my mind for long. Now I finally decided to write it. I hope you all enjoy reading it.
• Note 4: Thoughts are in italics


[center]Previously[/center]

“Are you ok, baby?”
“Mmm… very ok.” Tara replied lazily.
“Are you sure?”
Tara opened her eyes to regard her girlfriend seriously.
“Yes, I’m so sure. Don’t worry baby. God, I was so turned on from making love to you that I think you could have made me come with words.” She grinned confidently all shyness washed away. “I’m great.”

Willow grinned back and then leaned to the side to kiss her girlfriend’s smiling mouth.
“What about you? You liked?” Tara asked, looking straight at the redhead with a half shy half smug smile on her face.
“Do you even need to ask? God Tara, it was amazing, spectacular. I don’t have words to describe how amazing it was.” Willow said with a look of complete awe and a voice that dripped with reverence before adding. “I just hope to do the same for you some day.”

Tara grinned, winked and said. “You will, baby, you so will.”


[center]Chapter 26[/center]

Willow felt an answering, lazy smile curve her lips, a promise of things to come. She sighed happily and snuggled up to Tara, burrowing her face on the blonde’s neck, feeling a pleasant tiredness invading her. She closed her eyes and let her hand roam freely over the expanse of the other girl’s naked back drawing random patterns on the soft skin with the tips of her fingers.

Tara sighed closing her eyes under the gentle caress and she lifted one of her hands to run her fingers in the other girl’s hair, pulling gently at the silky tips softly massaging the redhead’s scalp.

“Mmm.” Willow moaned with her eyes still closed and arched her head back towards the other girl’s hand asking wordless for a firmer touch.
The blonde smiled charmed and obliged using her fingers to stroke the redhead’s head and neck in a gently probing circular way.
“Tarahand.” The redhead whispered happily.
“You like it then, huh?” Tara grinned, the slight blush slowly spreading over her face the only trace of shyness
“Uh huh.” Willow mumbled pleasantly boneless. “Oh that feels so good baby.” She groaned as her girlfriend probed deeper into her muscles. “Talented, talented Tarahand”.
The blonde’s smile got impossibly wider at the sleepy, relaxed rambling quality to her girlfriend’s voice. She bit her bottom lip a mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes as she thought for a second about her reply.

Tease her? Tease her not?

Tara brought her other hand up to the other girl’s scalp. One hand mirroring the movements of the other, circles wider and wider, pressing deeper into the lightly freckled skin.
“Tarahands.” Willow moaned squeezing her girlfriend tighter showing her appreciation for the double caress.
Tara felt a shiver run down her spine at the redhead’s throaty voice and the unexpected pressing of their naked bodies closer together and she once again bit her bottom lip indecisively. The mischievous twinkle entering the blue orbs again.

After a moment she leaned her head down to be closer to her girlfriend’s ear and she husked out.
“Tarahands… Doing the very expensive and very, very, very exclusive Tara neck rub.”
The teasing voice catching her attention, Willow lifted her head slightly, to regard her girlfriend, but carefully not to dislodge the hands that were still stroking her neck and scalp so exquisitely.
“And just how expensive are we talking here?” Willow asked with her green eyes widening comically.

The blonde chuckled sexily and ran her hands down the side of her girlfriend’s back and then back up the centre next to the spine making the redhead sigh happily.
“Very.” She purred close to Willow’s ear which made the redhead shake, her nerve ends firing up with a different kind of pleasure.
The redhead slowly, deliberately slid her right hand around to rest on her girlfriend’s neck. She gently nudged the blonde’s head down and kissed the smiling mouth in front of her.

Willow opened her mouth to the softness that was Tara and pulled the other girl more firmly against her.
The blonde turned on her side and pushed her leg gently in between the redhead’s. An excited little shiver ran through her at the feeling of her girlfriend’s still damp curls tickling her upper thigh. At the same time she pushed her tongue inside the redhead’s mouth, thigh and tongue mirroring each other in a soft twin probing motion. The blonde felt the jerk of the hips beneath her and the pulse under her fingertips jump and she couldn’t help but to smile.

“Insatiable. And I thought I had worn you out for a while.” Tara teased close to her girlfriend’s lips.
Willow blushed and replied. “Oh you did. God, you so did!” The redhead closed her eyes as she remembered. She felt her belly clench with a faint twitch of arousal and her eyes opened to focus on the blonde on top of her, only to find that Tara was looking at her with a knowing look and a very smug smile on her face.

The redhead smiled wickedly and rolled them over so that she was now the one on top and gazing down at those amazing blue eyes. Tara let out a surprised squeak at the swift manoeuvre.
“Feeling entirely too proud of ourselves, aren’t we?” Willow asked teasingly just as she gave her fingers free reign over her girlfriend’s exposed ribs.

Tara started giggling under the relentless attack and tried to move away from the tormenting fingers. She tried to turn the redhead on her back but to no avail as Willow had all her weight balanced on her knees and wouldn’t bulge.

Oh well if you can’t beat them…

Willow let out a surprised squeak as she felt the tickling sensation of her girlfriend’s fingers on the bare skin of the back of her knees. The redhead’s hands flew to fend off the unexpected attack, her position astride the blonde giving her the leverage she needed. Her hands closed around Tara’s wrists and pinned the blonde’s arms to the floor.
“Gotcha.” The redhead said breathless from laughing and wiggling.
“Indeed.” Tara answered huskily. “So what are you going to do with me now?”

Willow recognized the tone in Tara’s voice and felt a shiver run down her spine. She breathed in deeply and then she lifted her eyes to meet her girlfriend’s blue and a smile formed on her lips.
“Who’s the insatiable one again?”

Tara gave her girlfriend her trademark lopsided smile and lifted her head, her eyes never leaving the redhead’s. She watched as Willow’s pupils dilated as the blonde’s face went nearer the redhead’s. Willow’s mouth opened unconsciously anticipating the kiss. She could almost taste it in the blonde’s breath that fell upon her moist lips. But then at the least possible moment Tara turned her head to the side missing the redhead’s mouth and instead sliding her cheek against her girlfriend’s hot one until the blonde’s lips were almost brushing the other girl’s ear. And then she whispered huskily.

“How could I resist it when you are so…” A swipe of a tongue around Willow’s earlobe and then teeth nibbling and pulling, lips closing and sucking for an instant on the sensitive flesh. “…delicious.” Tara finished with a warm puff of air that hit the wet skin like a sensual caress.
Willow goose bumped just as she felt her body flushing hotly, her heart hammering in her chest.
Feeling the complete loss of concentration from the redhead Tara tensed her hips and thighs and with one smooth movement shifted their positions rolling on top of the stunned redhead.

“Ah ah. Gotcha” She chuckled wickedly just before she let her hands lose and started to tickle the redhead for all she was worth.
Caught completely unaware Willow could do no more than try to protect her sides as she giggled feverishly under the blonde’s merciless onslaught.
Tara laughed alongside with her girlfriend delighted by the child like behaviour the sometimes too serious redhead was showing.

“Truce. Truce.” The redhead cried in between chuckles, her belly muscles hurting from the exercise.
Tara stopped her tickling motions and turned them into a soothing tummy rub feeling the last ripples of tension beneath her hands as Willow relaxed.
“You know that was cheating baby.” The redhead said pouting as she recovered her breath.
The blonde chuckled and answered. “Awww my poor honey. So tell me how can I make it up to you?” She asked batting her eyelashes comically at the redhead.

The funny effect was completely lost on Willow who blushed hotly at the barely hidden hunger in her girlfriend’s eyes.

Oh god… I can think of a few things. More than a few… make that a lot, heaps, tons, loads… Where can a girl find a thesaurus when she needs one? Though I think I’m doing fine on my own coming up with synonyms and especially ideas, naughty, sassy ideas, thank you very much. We need resting, relaxing, replenishing strength… once again that thesaurus missing. So what do I do, what do I do? Oh oh… I know.

Tara watched amused as her beloved redhead’s face heated up to match her hair and she could make an educated guess on what type of thoughts were running through Willow’s mind. She licked her lips waiting. But when the redhead’s request finally came she was caught completely by surprise.

“Tell me a story about yourself?” The redhead asked softly lifting her head and looking into her girlfriend’s eyes.
Tara moved back to rest on her side, that way putting some room between them.
“Me? You want to know about me?” She asked cautiously, her eyes becoming guarded.

Willow saw that she had startled the other girl, the mood going from playful and teasing to serious in the time it took for the request to sink in and she felt like kicking herself. She quickly added.
“Well, it doesn’t have to be earth shaking information or anything. I mean we kind of missed the whole first steps thing, the silly questions and small talk. With us it has been rollercoaster ride with no seatbelts on, hang on tight to each other kind of thing… which is very ok because I love roller coasters and I’m not much of a first date-y person. I get nervous sweaty palms and worry and I babble the whole time which actually I’m doing right now so see it’s getting first date-y already, all awkward and embarrassing so if you could just shoot me now.” The redhead sighed and dropped her head forward in self deprecation.

Tara felt her lips curve into a smile and moved back into her former position holding Willow in her arms with the redhead’s face against Tara’s neck.
“Sweetie, I love you.”
Willow snuggled closer in relief, their bodies melting together effortlessly and she sighed happily.
“I love you too” she whispered back.

The blonde brought her hands up and lazily resumed her caress of the redhead’s neck and scalp.
“You know…” Tara began hesitantly breaking the silence. “You are right we don’t know much about each other.” She felt Willow move and looked down to meet the redhead’s upraised gaze and she continued firmly. “But, I do know that you are brave and kind and generous, smart and funny, though stubborn. And I also know that I am in love with you.” The blonde slid down in Willow’s arms so that she could whisper the last phrase directly into the redhead’s lips while she stared into bottomless pools of green.

Willow leaned forward to capture the luscious lips in front of her, her heart filled with emotion almost to the point of bursting.
They kissed, light and gentle, just the brushing of lips with no sense of urgency, love flowing from one to the other and then back again in between one breath and the next. After a long moment Tara pulled away to regard her girlfriend seriously.
“But just because I know the important stuff that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to know more about you.”

“You want to know more about me?” It was Willow’s turn to be startled. “I’m not that interesting, really.” She added shaking her head for emphasis.
“But you are.” Tara’s reply was swift and firm.
The redhead searched her girlfriend’s eyes and there she found the confirmation she sought. She blushed and smiled shyly at the other girl.
Tara smiled back. “So I thought maybe we could play twenty questions. I mean you ask me a question then I ask you a question until we want to, it’s getting pretty late so it doesn’t have to be twenty, twenty. We can just do a few… Unless you think that’s silly and then forget I ever mentioned it.” It was Tara’s turn to blush as she waited for Willow’s answer.

The redhead pondered the idea for a moment before replying.
“Nope, not silly, in fact I think that’s a great idea. Hey, and we can test your memory that way too.” Willow added excitedly.
Tara lifted one eyebrow at the redhead.
“Like if I ask you if you ever had any pets and you find that you have a fuzzy spot there and you can’t really remember if you had pets or not, then we’ll know there’s something wrong with your memory.” Willow promptly explained.
“And what if there is something wrong with my memory and I can’t remember my pets so I tell you I didn’t have any.” The blonde challenged.

“Ah well, and then there is that.” Willow said becoming a bit flustered. “Oh God, baby, are you having trouble with your memory?”
“No, no honey, my memory is just fine. You’re so cute all flustered that I couldn’t resist.” Tara’s lips curved into an amused lopsided smile.
“You know, that was just mean.” The redhead pouted hoping that it would earn her a taste of her girlfriend’s ruby lips. She got her wish a second later as Tara leaned forward to kiss her gently but thoroughly.

“Oh, and I had two cats, tin man and the white witch, brother and sister. Tin man was grey with darker grey little tiger like stripes and the white witch was all white except for one little black spot between her eyes. We got them when I was eight. Tin man ran away by the time I was twelve but the white witch lived to be an old cat. She was still alive by the time I left home. No, I haven’t had any other pets since I live alone.” Tara made a pause and then added. “My memory is just fine, baby. You can stop worrying, ok?” She leaned forward to give her girlfriend another kiss, just a quick little peck. “And by the way that makes one and now it’s my turn.”

Willow opened her eyes slowly and considered what the other girl had said.
“Mmm… Ok. But you know I think you are cheating again. I don’t remember making a question. But all right I’ll let it go for this once, just because you are your gorgeous self.” Willow teased and tickled the blonde, her fingers running lightly over Tara’s side.
Tara chuckled and tried to wiggle away which in turn had Willow chasing after her. Tickling and getting tickled they stopped after a minute, the redhead on top of the blonde, both of them breathing hard.

“You know honey, déjà vu.” Tara commented teasingly as she looked down at them, one on top of the other again after a tickling fight.
“Yeah, I know.” Willow blushed and bit her bottom lip averting her girlfriend’s eyes for a moment.
“Honey, why don’t we get ready for bed and settle in for the night before we keep going with the questions? That way we could just talk until we drifted off.” Tara suggested. Her calm tone betrayed only for her slight shortness of breath.

“That is a good idea.” Willow said half relieved half disappointed. She let herself become focused on the heat coming from where their bodies were touching, the humming of arousal cursing through her. “Less ermmm… distracting too.” Her voice caught a little and she blushed.

“Yeah.” The blonde felt a matching blush heat up her cheeks and for a long moment they were both silent just gazing deep into each other’s eyes. Tara shook her head and coughed a little. “So…”
“So.”
“Better get up.”
“Yep.”

They let go of each other, turned away and got up with their backs still turned. They picked their discarded clothes from the floor and put them away before picking clean underwear and clothes from their backpacks. Quickly and in silence they got dressed. Then Willow picked up from the floor the discarded diary respectfully and put it away safely in her backpack while Tara took out a sleeping bag from her bag. They both took a couple of flares out of their bags and laid them on the floor on each side of the sleeping bag. Willow put down her guns on her side of the makeshift bed within easy reach and made sure that the shotgun that was still hanging from the backpack was also easily accessible. Preparations finished they returned to the blanket to lay on their sides facing one another.

“So…” Tara started. “It’s my turn to ask a question.”
Willow bended her right arm to rest her head on the palm of her head.
“Shoot.” the redhead said a bit nervously.
“Did you ever have pets?”
“Well, I really, really wanted a dog when I was a kid, but my parents thought it would make too much of a mess. So I used to sneak out to play with the neighbour’s dog all the time, his name was Scooby. But I guess that doesn’t count. Well, I had a turtle when I was nine. You know one of those little ones in the little aquariums full of rocks and little tree branches for the turtle to play on. I called her arquimedes.” Willow dipped her head embarrassed. “My geek invested roots.”

“I love your geek invested roots baby.”
Willow smiled warmly at her girlfriend before continuing. “You know, what no one tells you, is that if you feed the turtles too much, they can get real big. And I mean like huge. So after a while the aquarium just wasn’t comfortable for her so my parents called this reservation park and we set her free. She probably is still off swimming somewhere, being happy, laying turtle-y eggs and doing her turtle-y thing.”

Willow made a wishful pause for a few seconds, staring at the ground. As she lifted her head and concentrated back on her girlfriend she was met with a wide smile and sparkling blue eyes and she smiled back.
“Ok, so it’s my turn now. Mmmm… what to ask, what to ask… Oh, I know. Do you sing?”
“What? Where did that come from?” Tara asked surprised.
Willow blushed. “Well, tin man and white witch, you know wizard of Oz and whenever I think wizard of Oz ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ kind of starts playing in the back of my mind, Judy Garland’s voice and all.”

“I used to sing. My mother sang all the time when she was at home and I think that’s where I caught the singing bug. I sang in the choir before we moved. But I haven’t really done it ever since.”
“I bet you have a beautiful singing voice. Sing for me sometime?”
Tara blushed and dipped her head a little, her lose hair falling into a protective curtain around her. “Maybe.”

“Just don’t ask for duets. I’m kind of terrible at it. I mean singing, well I guess technically duets too since it involves singing.” Willow added quickly, shaking her head ridiculously. She was rewarded by the return of her girlfriend’s smile.
“Do you have any siblings?” The blonde asked promptly, not having to think much about her question.
“No, I’m an only child. An accident as it was. Mom and Dad never planned to have kids.” Willow fell silent for a moment. “Do you have siblings?”
“Yeah, I have one brother, Donnie, older than me by a couple of years.”

“What’s your favourite dish?”
The redhead puckered her lips as she thought about her answer.
“I’ll have to go with pizza, as long as it doesn’t have anchovies in it. Blech, hate the things. Though after the description you made of lasagne, it is a very, very close second. God, you almost killed me. I wanted you so much.”
“If it makes it any better I was killing myself too.” Tara replied.
They shared an amused chuckle as they both remembered.

“Soooo, what’s your favourite dish?”
“Honey, now you’re just being lazy.” The blonde teased.
“Hey, it’s an important question. Don’t they say the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach? I need to keep up.” Willow batted her eyelashes at her girlfriend.
Tara turned on her belly and crawled over to her girlfriend closing the space between them. She lifted her hand and cupped the side of Willow’s cheek, her thumb reverently rubbing the redhead’s sweet lips.

The redhead felt her breath catch at Tara’s proximity, and she licked her lips, her tongue catching the blonde’s thumb in a gentle swipe.
“I’d say you are keeping up just fine, sweetie.” The blonde husked out as she leaned down to replace her thumb with her mouth upon her redhead’s mouth. Willow turned to lie on her back, wrapped her arms around Tara’s neck and completely relaxed. They kissed gently, unhurriedly, mapping out the fine texture of each other’s lips for long minutes, until Tara broke away with a couple of pecks on the redhead’s mouth.

“It’s getting late. At least it feels like it’s getting late.” Willow said softly, opening her eyes to regard her girlfriend regretfully.
“Yeah, I know, we should sleep.” Tara replied without moving an inch.
“Rain-check on the twenty questions then?”
“Yep.” The blonde leaned down to give her girlfriend one last peck and then she pulled the second sleeping bag over them and snuggled against Willow’s side wiggling a little to get comfortable. Her arm across the other girl’s belly, her head resting on the redhead’s shoulder, she sighed happily. The redhead felt the warm weight of her girlfriend settling down and her content sigh echoed the blonde’s.

“Night, baby.”
“Night, honey.”

It wasn’t long until they were both asleep.

Tara was the first one to wake up. Uncomfortable with the lack of light she felt around the blanket for her flares. She found one without much difficulty and she lit it up. She was relieved to find everything just as they had left it before they fell asleep. She felt movement next to her and looked to the side to see Willow’s alert eyes looking at her.
“Good morning baby.” The redhead rasped out.
“Good morning sleepyhead.” The blonde teased leaning down to drop a quick kiss on the other girl.
“I resent that. By the look of that flare you’ve only been up for five minutes you vixen.” Willow shot back as the blonde sat up.

“Time enough to get a head start on breakfast.” Tara retorted as she rummaged through her backpack. She found the protein balls and playfully threw one at her girlfriend, and took one for herself.
Willow sat up and caught the airborne protein. “Breakfast in bed.” She said distastefully.
“Willow Rosenberg, are you complaining?”
“No, no, the bed part I like, it’s the breakfast part that needs some working at.”
Tara chuckled at the other girl’s wishful tone of voice as they both concentrated on eating.

“So I’m guessing we are getting back to that central room today.” The blonde was the first to break the silence.
“Yeah.” Willow unenthusiastically replied. “I think that’s the way to go to move forward. There’s no other way to go. I went through all the other rooms and they are all like this one. And they are all part of one giant switch to open the doors to the central room.”
“How do you get into the central room? Being as I took the easy way in and got a lift.” Tara said cheerfully. Maybe too cheerfully.

Willow’s lips twitched with the effort to smile. In the end she managed only a pained one.
“Well, we were right to think there was something fishy with the torches. They kind of are the key. There are eight rooms like this one veering off the corridor that circles the main room, though really it doesn’t have a circular shape but a square shape so maybe we should say the corridor that squares the main room instead of circles. Anyway in each one of the little rooms we have to light the ridge on the floor with the torch until it is lit in all rooms so that it completes some kind of circuit that opens the doors to the main room.”
“So that’s it? Just light the ridge on the floor in all the rooms and the door opens?” Tara asked as she finished her protein ball, stood up and started folding her blanket, getting ready to go.

Willow followed her girlfriend’s example and put away in her backpack her protein ball, her unused flares and started folding the other blanket as she answered the question.
“Yes, the only catch is that there is a time limit to light the things after which the torches die down and the spiders come out. But I was fast enough to do it on my own so it should be a walk in the park for both of us.” The redhead grinned at her girlfriend before adding. “Oh, and the fire starts to change colour as it is about to go puff.”

“I think I remember that.” The blonde said thoughtfully as she picked her backpack and fastened it to her shoulders. She verified that she had her knife strapped to her thigh just as she liked it, in easy reach and a couple of flares on the back pocket of her bag.
Willow strapped her belt with the holsters and her guns to ride low on her hips, picked up her backpack and fastened it to her shoulders. She tied her hair in a tight ponytail and turned to her girlfriend.

“So and what happens after we get the doors opened?” Tara asked seriously.
“Well, inside there is a passageway like a tunnel dug in the earth and there are two torches on one wall and a lever that opens the door from the inside on the other. As we go forward spiders will start coming at us in waves, but there are these dug clefts on the floor, walls and ceiling that we can light that make a sort of ring of fire which the spiders won’t cross. There are a few of these rings so we can trap the little buggers, but in between the rings we have to run all out.” Willow took a deep breath and shrugged sheepishly. “I think I just confused myself. Did what I just said make any sense to you?”

“Yeah honey, I think I got it. Lots of spiders, check. Rings of fire to trap the spiders in between, check.” Tara paused for a second. “Besides I’m sure it will all become clearer when we get there.” She smiled encouragingly at her girlfriend before adding. “So, ready?”
“Yeah. Let’s get this show on the road.” Willow smiled back.

They both gave a quick look around the room to make sure they weren’t leaving anything behind and then they walked out of the room. Tara leading them with her flare held up low and Willow following close behind, guns drawn and trying to look everywhere at once.
They walked in silence with their ears straining to pick on any out of place noise. After a little distance Tara made a turn right off the main corridor leading them back to the room where she had been attacked. The room where the skeletons of two forgotten lovers and their belongings rested.

The blonde turned to her girlfriend. “I think it’s time we know more about this Shamia Goddess. I thought we could pick up some books.”
Willow nodded. “Yeah, I had thought the same. This temple is way off the weirdo meter chart. And maybe we can find some answers in the books. God knows those guys’ diary saved us.” She said pointing at the skeletons.

Tara lifted one eyebrow in questioning.
“When you disappeared I was freaking out, I had this upset feeling in my tummy that time was running out and I had no idea where to look for you. Then I remembered the diary and ran back to grab it and the answer was there about how to get into the central room.” The redhead explained, her mouth going dry.

“Ah, so I guess some thanks are in order.”
Tara knelt by the old bag and lifted up the covering flap reverently giving one long look to the skeletons resting sweetly entwined to the side. She rummaged through the bag and picked up books, piling them on the floor next to the bag.

The redhead lit up a flare and threw it to land next to the entrance to the room, bathing it in bright red light. She held her guns tightly in her hands ready to shoot at the slight hint of movement near the door.
“Sweetie, there are more than a dozen books about Shamia here. I say we choose a couple to take each and that’s it.” Tara said regarding the books on the floor.
“That sounds good baby. Could you choose mine too, please?” Willow replied without taking her eyes off the entrance of the room.

Tara looked up and opened her mouth to reply but ended up closing it without releasing a sound as she took in the redhead’s tense posture. She rummaged through the books and chose four. The rest of the books she put back inside the bag and pulled the flap closed gently giving one last respectful look at the skeletons before getting up.
“Ok, so I’ve got the ‘Legend of Shamia’ and ‘Shamia the untold story’” The blonde put the books away in her backpack and then walked to her girlfriend and opened her backpack to put the books inside. “And you’ve got ‘Shamia the forgotten Goddess’ and ‘Temple of Shamia’. Catchy titles, don’t you think?”

When all she received in answer was a terse nod Tara dropped her hand to the other girl’s lower back and rubbed the tense muscles gently in wide circles making Willow sigh.
“It’s going to be all right baby.” The blonde whispered softly into her girlfriend’s ear.
The redhead breathed in deeply and then out slowly. She relaxed her shoulders and arms and turned back to her girlfriend with a little smile.
“I know baby. It’s just this room… not good memories you know?”
“Yeah, I know.” The blonde leaned forward and gave the other girl a sweet soft kiss. “So let’s get out of here.”

Tara began walking out of the room and back into the main corridor.
“Yeah.” Willow shook her head a little, took another deep breath and then followed after her girlfriend, picking up the flare by the door, one gun drawn and ready again.

When they reached the corridor she added. “We should go back to the first room we found when we came down here and then one of us can work on the rooms on this side and the other can work on the rooms on the other side. The main corridor makes like a square frame around the central room and there are eight rooms just like this one. If you are standing on the corridor that we came through from the brick room above us, there are three rooms on the right side, three rooms on the left side and two rooms on the opposite side we are standing. If we are standing on that first corridor, that is.”

Just as the redhead had finished talking they had reached the entrance to that first room. Tara looked thoughtful for a moment before replying. “Ok, I think I’ve got it. So I’ll start on this side going away from the corridor with the ladder we used to come back down, and we should meet on the opposite side. Probably on the fourth or fifth room we work on.”
Willow nodded in acquiescence. “Just give me half a minute to run to the other side so that we start lighting the ridges on the rooms at the same time, ok?”
“Ok, baby.”

The redhead pulled the other girl in close for a quick kiss and then whispered. “Good luck honey. See you in five.”
“Race you.” Tara winked.
Willow chuckled and then she turned around and ran off disappearing from the blonde’s sight by making a left turn.

The blonde looked around for a second and then she threw away the flare she was carrying and lit a new one. Then she walked into the room. She was met by the familiar sight of the black candle burning on the furthest corner of the room, the cleft dug on the floor that crossed the room from side to side and disappeared under the walls with the bronze plate resting on the ridge right halfway between the walls.

And last but not least… Voilá there it is.

Tara turned to see the unassuming torch resting on its support on the wall. She walked over to it, picked it up and then made her way to the black candle. “And now we wait… 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” She steeled herself and leaned the torch down to make it ignite. She then ran to the bronze plate on top of the cleft and lit it. She watched fascinated as the flames dripped down invading the cleft on the ground and then ran over its entire expanse. Tara shook her head and then left the torch discarded on the ground as she ran back into the main corridor and into the next room.

In the meantime Willow had just reached the first room on her side and lost no time in igniting the cleft on the ground.

It’s going to be all right. Yep, all right. Just run.

They met on the fifth room on Tara’s side, Willow running in just as the other girl was picking up the torch from the wall. The redhead’s relieved sigh was hidden by the noise of running steps.
“What took you so long?” Tara teased just as she lit up the torch and ran back to lit the bronze plate.
Willow stuck her tongue out at her girlfriend who smiled back.

They watched as the fire spread and then without speaking they walked outside to find the heavy doors to the central room open. They got inside the doors and into the cylinder shaped tunnel Willow was already familiar with. As they were expecting there were two burning torches on the right wall and the lever to open the door behind them on the left wall.
They both moved quickly to pick up the torches using the same hand that held the flares and then they faced the dark stretch of the tunnel in front of them.

“Ok honey, see those larger parts of the tunnel?” Willow asked pointing to a carved ridge up ahead.
“Yeah, I see it.”
“That’s one of those rings I was talking about, if you touch the torch to it, it burns and the spiders can’t get pass it. After one of us lights it we jump over it and run like some hellish monster is chasing us until the next one.”
“Ok, sweetie. I think I’ve got it.” Tara replied touching the other girl’s arm reassuringly with her hand.
“I’m over-explaining things, aren’t I?” The redhead asked sheepishly.
“I love you.” The blonde smiled but then quickly became serious again as the door behind them closed. “Time to get moving, baby.” She added as she drew her knife out of its case and held it firmly in her right hand.
“Yeah.” Willow replied grimly.

They walked resolutely side by side with the torches angled low, pointing at the ground. As they reached the first carved ring, they started to hear a low rustling sound that was getting louder. Willow clenched her teeth.
“Here they come.”
Tara squinted and she was able to make out a spreading of red, like a bloody wave coming at them. As it got closer she saw that it was comprised of tiny red spiders marching together on the ground and walls, and it was coming in their direction.

Muscles tensed and ready they waited until the spiders were almost, almost close enough to touch and then Willow touched her torch to the carved cleft. Instantly it ignited creating a circle of fire.
Not wasting any time the redhead jumped through the middle of the ring of flames and sprinted through the tunnel with Tara close on her wheels. They outran the red spiders to quickly reach the next circle. Willow ran through it without igniting it as she fired her gun against some of the fast approaching yellow spiders while Tara touched her torch to the ceiling making the second ring burn. And they kept sprinting down the hallway.

They repeated the process when they reached the third ring, Willow firing her gun to scare the blue spiders into keeping their distance and Tara close behind lighting the ring. And then once again as they sped through the last of the passageway and got into the central room. Tara lit the last ring, trapping the green spiders behind them.
“Take that.” She threw at the squirming spiders and then she turned around to face the new room just as her girlfriend was doing.

“Baby, anything you can remember about this room? We have to hurry because the circles only burn for so long.” Willow said urgently as she warily watched the dark shadows moving towards them from the corners of the room.
Tara looked around thoughtfully, regarding the dark forms of the skeletons hanging from the ceiling. She felt a cold shiver running down her spine and she took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a second.

Green… Green glow.

“Willow!” She called out. “I think the second piece of the star is in the centre of the room.” And she started to run towards the middle of the room with the redhead close by.
They reached the centre of the room to be met with the sight of a green piece of the star hanging from a platform on the ceiling too high for them to reach.
“Ok, now would be a good time for a magical ladder to appear.” The redhead said just as she saw a couple of giant spiders coming out from the shadows and moving in their direction. She fired a few shots and heard a wounded screech coming from the now retreating spiders.

“Baby, the fire is changing colour.” Tara pointed at their torches that were beginning to burn orange.
“Oh shoot. I was hoping being two of us would give us more time. Ok, ok we need to think fast because this party is just about to get crashed by a huge amount of angry spidies.”
The blonde looked back to see the flame on the entrance they had used had turned orange too. She clenched her knife tight in her hand and looked back resolutely at the hanging star.

“Ok, so we need to either get up there or somehow get it to come down here.”
“Yeah. The cocoons are too far away from it for us to use them to swing to the star.” Willow shot another few spiders that were getting too adventurous and definitively too close.
The fire turned purple.
“Hey, sweetie.” The blonde called out looking at the ceiling.
“Yeah?” Willow called back as she looked all around them.
“I think I see a few carved lines on the ceiling coming out of that platform the star is hanging from.”

The redhead looked up and focused away from the green glow to the sides of the star and she saw them too.
“You are right. They seem to be carved on the ceiling and coming down all the way to the walls. One, two… Eight clefts. Well, that makes sense, a room with eight walls, one cleft for each wall.”
Tara nodded her head in time with her girlfriend assessment and then added. “We should try to light them.”

The fire turned blue.
“There’s only one problem with that. We are about to get out of fire and swarmed in spiders.” Willow pointed at the blue flame on their torches. “So we should probably get a move on and get out of here.”
“Mmm.” Tara dipped her head for a second and then quickly rummaged through her backpack to come up with two small boxes. “Well… I have matches.”

Willow looked back at her girlfriend. “You want to try this with matches?”
“We could see if we could light the torches back up and besides we will be swarmed in spiders anyway, doesn’t matter if its running back or trying to get to the star. And I kind of want to get out of this place. So what do you say?”
The redhead struggled for a moment and just as she was about to open her mouth to answer the fire died down and they were left bathed in the red glow of the flares.
“Okeyy. Matches it is.” She said extending her hand to receive one matchbox.

They both quickly opened the boxes and lit a couple of matches each.
“Here goes nothing.” Tara said as they both touched the matches to the torch. They held their breaths as the smaller flames struggled to ignite the much larger torches and then they sighed together in relief as both their torches lit up.

“Yay, for that going right.” The redhead said.
A now familiar rustling sound now could be heard coming closer.
“Ok, let’s start on that wall, you go right, I’ll go left. Meet you on the other side.” The blonde said decisively.
Willow nodded her approval and shot a few rounds in the general direction of the smaller spiders running their way.

“You sure you don’t want to take the shotgun baby?” The redhead inquired as they were running towards their allotted walls.
“Nope, baby. I’ve got my knife. Besides I might end up shooting myself on the foot with that thing.”
Willow closed her mouth tightly and then just focused on the wall that she had just reached. She looked over at Tara that was facing the wall near her and together they extended their torches to touch the ridge on the wall. As they did it immediately started to burn, the fire following the cleft up into the ceiling and then across it to reach the platform where the star was.

Without a word they ran on opposite sides to go to the next wall. Both of them were moving their feet wildly trying to fend off the spiders, the redhead’s shots ringing loudly in the silence.
“Hey, baby, you doing ok?” Willow called out just as she kicked off a couple of spiders and lit another cleft.
“Yes. You?” Tara called back just as she threw her knife to stab a giant spider and delivered a powerful kick to another one. She pulled her knife out of the dead spider and kept running.

“Oh, yeah, I had meals that were more challenging than this.” Willow replied loudly before she grumbled to herself. “When I was like one and didn’t know what a fork and knife were.”
Tara chuckled and lit another ridge and then jumped over to grab one of the skeletons to avoid the charge of the spiders on the ground. She jumped from one skeleton to the next using them as if they were ropes on a demented forest to get to the next cleft. She was comforted by the regular sound of the redhead shots ringing not too far away. She lit another cleft and looked at the ceiling to see a line of flaming expanding from the other side and she knew that the other girl had just lit another one too.

Willow ran forward kicking and shooting spiders, and she reached the last ridge on her side, meeting Tara just as the blonde too reached her final wall.
“Hello, stranger.” She pushed her torch to the wall.
“Fancy meeting you here.” Tara replied as she too touched her torch to the last unlit cleft.
Willow shot in a circle around them while Tara moved the torch around in circles and they both watched as the last line of flame burned towards the star. As it reached it, they heard a humming sound and the platform started to grow downwards like an inverted pillar being pushed through the ceiling, bringing the star closer and closer to the ground.
“Cool.” The redhead breathed out.
“Yeah.”

They ran forward towards the now easily reachable star and were surprised to see that all the spiders were staying away at a reasonable distance. As they got to the star they paused for only a moment looking at its green glow and then Tara extended her hand to the other girl. Willow reached out and firmly held her girlfriend’s hand in her own.
Then as one they reached for the piece of the star with their free hand and took it out of its platform reverently.

The moment they held the green relic on their hands they vanished from the room without a trace leaving behind angry spiders and grinning skeletons.



TBC.


******************************


Ok, you guys i wanted to ask you if you could please drop me a note if you are still reading this. It has been so long that I'm not sure how many of you, if any, are still interested in this story.
Ok, take care everyone :kgeek

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Last edited by sabina on Thu May 22, 2008 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated 22 May)
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 9:38 am 
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29. Miss Psycho-pep-squad
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Oooooh update!!! :D :D
Uh?? where did they vanished??

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Last edited by jay/wt4evr on Thu May 22, 2008 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 11:16 am 
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19. Yummy Face
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Excellent update-y goodness...

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 11:20 am 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman
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Oh yeah, definitely still reading, and so excited to see an update.

Still loving it too. Great detail in all the descriptions of the crazy tunnels, spiders, etc. Now you need to update soon to let us know where our girls vanished to.

Great job again.


Wimpy

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 11:48 am 
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12. Recently Gay
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I was a shy lurker when this started, and I've loved it from the very first chapter. I couldn't believe when I seen an update. I thought it was just gonna be one of those really good fic's that just never get finished.

So, yup, I'm still reading, and I will do so until the end.

I love the tomb raider setting, and the characters of Willow and Tara as you depict them. It's a very hot sweet read. I love it!!

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 11:54 am 
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5. Willowhand
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{{raises hand}}

I. Am. So. Here.

I love this fic! So psyched to see it's return. If this is as close to Tomb Raider 3 that I get, then so be it!

Thank you for not abandoning it, and pretty please, with guns-in-holsters-strapped-to-thighs on top, continue.

And maybe seeing as Indy 4 has been getting less than stellar reviews this is sate my desire for adventure!


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 1:07 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hey,

I'm so glad to see an update to your story.

I'm definitely still reading and would like to see the end of this adventure (not that i want it to end already, i just mean that i don't want it to go unfinished), things have been interesting from the very start, it's a fantastic story.

Keep up the great work.

Take care.

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 12:07 am 
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Definitely still reading. How could I abandon one of my favorite stories?!
I hope they took the right books.
I liked the twenty questions but I still think Tara needs to let Willow more in. Ah well, give it time right :p?
Hope you will update soon again!

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 2:16 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Do you even need to ask if I am still reading this I danced when I saw the update. This is one of my fav story's also so ya I am here and will be till the last word is written. :kgeek

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 10:06 am 
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10. Troll Hammer

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I am still reading this. I am glad you haven't decided to let this story just disapear. Hope to be reading many more updates.
Keep the writing going. This is a great story.


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 11:41 am 
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2. Floating Rose

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It is one of my favorite fan fic stories -- are you kidding? There are probably hundreds, thousands, millions ... okay, not millions of people waiting for an udate, but they would have if they have start reading it. I was jumping for joy when I saw that you've updated. :pinky Great storytelling. I can't wait to see what happens next, thank you.


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 2:16 pm 
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I caught up with this somewhere, and fell in love immediately. It's great. Please continue, you're doing wonderfully.

M.

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated May 22)
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 11:57 pm 
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19. Yummy Face

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Wow! This has been a great day on the board! " She's Got a Way" and now this story has been updated! I check the board every day for updates on my favorites.

I see the girls still can't keep their hands off of one another, but it seems like Tara is a little reluctant to tell Willow about herself. There still seems to be something holding her back.

I am definitely still interested in this story, and I can't wait to see how the rest plays out.

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 Post subject: Chapter 27
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 9:44 am 
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Hi everyone.

Back to the scene of the crime. But I come back bearing goodies aka a new chapter so please put away the rotten tomatoes... *drops into a crouch to dodge a rotten cabbage thrown her way*. I meant put away all rotten vegetables. *dusts herself off*

I know a long time has passed since the last time i looked at this story but it has been present in the back of my mind always. It's like a thorn buried deeply under my skin that won't let go until i pull all of it out of me. Yes, i am that corny *eye roll* Lol.

So anyway, no time like the present, right?
I've soleny decided that i'm going to finish this story this year *nods head* and no, i don't mean they'll magically be transported out of the tomb in this chapter and voilá instant 'the end', lol. Nope, i mean i'll give it a proper ending with all the chapters it was intended to have *nods head*. No cutting corners whatsoever (btw, what was i thinking when i devised the size of this thing? *shakes head* *cough*).

Now to the most important part :D I want to thank everyone who is still reading this. A very special thanks goes out to the kittens who left comments. You guys have kept your faith in me throughout all this time and it is what makes me keep coming back to this story.
I'll get back to my individual replies program after this chapter.

Last but not least, this chapter is dedicated to sonia, who bribed me into writing the artifact again, lol.

So without further ado... enjoy.

• Title: The Artifact
• Author: sabina
• Feedback: Yes, please. I crave it.
• Distribution: Anywhere. Just please ask me first.
• Spoilers: No spoilers whatsoever. This is an AU fic.
• Rating: It is going to get to NC-17.
• Pairing: W/T
• 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.
• Summary: Willow and Tara are two strong and independent tomb raiders who are both hired to find the same artifact. Trapped inside a temple they realize that not everything is what it seems and they have to work together and fight side by side for their lives as they try to find the way out.

• Note 1:I want to thank my beta reader gabbykat for her help, support and outstanding job from chapter 23 to chapter 25. She made my story shine with all the care she put into it. She also has been this story’s champion, always encouraging me to write and not letting me forget about the artifact. So thank you very much for everything gabs.
• Note 2: I want to thank my beta reader for the first 22 chapters, TKOLove. Without her help and encouragement maybe the artifact wouldn’t have been posted. Your work has made this fic a better one, so thank you TKOLove.
• Note 3: I love Tomb Raider and this fic was something that had been in the back of my mind for long. Now I finally decided to write it. I hope you all enjoy reading it.
• Note 4: Thoughts are in italics


[center]Previously[/center]

They ran forward towards the now easily reachable star and were surprised to see that all the spiders were staying away at a reasonable distance. As they got to the star they paused for only a moment looking at its green glow and then Tara extended her hand to the other girl. Willow reached out and firmly held her girlfriend’s hand in her own.
Then as one they reached for the piece of the star with their free hand and took it out of its platform reverently.

The moment they held the green relic on their hands they vanished from the room without a trace leaving behind angry spiders and grinning skeletons.


[center]Chapter 27[/center]

They held each other’s hand tighter as the dark earth walls, spiders and skeletons disappeared before their eyes to be replaced with the familiar sight of colourful paintings covering the round brick wall.
Even though this time they were ready to be transported back to the entrance room to the temple the sudden change of location still left them momentarily disoriented and dizzy.

“Back to where it all started.” Willow breathed out after a second. She looked around taking in the room where they had already been twice, the paintings on the walls, the two doors they had already gone through and the last one that was waiting for them.
“Actually I think it all started in the outer room.” Tara replied absently as she too observed the room.
“Well, technically yes, but back to the room after the one where it all started doesn’t have the same ring to it.” The redhead said pouting a little.

Tara chuckled and squeezed her hand. “But it’s true. It all began before we had even really stepped inside.” She pulled the redhead gently closer by their linked hands. “You had me the moment you took off your glasses.” She whispered seriously gazing into her girlfriend’s eyes.
Willow felt herself melt. “And you had me the moment I walked into that room and saw you examining the door.” She turned Tara’s hand palm up and gently caressed the lines with her thumb.
“Really?”
“Totally. Or didn’t you notice my catatonic statue impersonating state?”
“Oh that. I thought that was just you checking out my breasts.” Tara said teasingly.
Willow felt the heat starting to spread upwards from her neck, a red wave of visible embarrassment making her cheeks burn.

Where’s that big ole hole when we need them?

“Ermmm…”

Ha ah! So you were checking me out.

The blonde chuckled at her girlfriend’s flustered state and leaned forward to kiss her gently. Willow moved closer and sank into the kiss. She opened her mouth to tease the other girl’s lips with her tongue and deepen the kiss. The blonde relished the feeling of her girlfriend’s invasion and lifted her tongue to caress the redhead’s. A minute later the blonde pulled away after one last nibble on the redhead’s bottom lip.
“Nice distracting technique, Miss Rosenberg.”
“You started it, Miss Maclay.”
“Hey, I wasn’t the one doing the ogling.”

At least I wasn’t the one getting caught doing it… I hope.

The redhead blushed again which made the other girl smile.
“Sweetie, I’m just teasing. Besides it’s not like I’m complaining or anything.” The blonde’s words were accompanied by a reassuring squeeze of the redhead’s hand.
The redhead lifted her head and smiled at her girlfriend, her face still showing traces of her flustered state.
“Phew.” The redhead wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “Good to know. Boy, you’d have a lot to complain about.”

Tara chuckled and captured her girlfriend’s lips in a quick peck, one gentle reaffirmation of their connection. Then she lost her playful countenance.
“Well, shall we?” She asked motioning them to the last unopened door.
Willow looked around carefully for a second before answering. “Do you think the paintings on the wall have a purpose?” As no answer was forthcoming from her girlfriend the redhead continued hastily trying to explain. “I mean since we most likely won’t be coming back to this room, unless we get transported back here again of course, but in the chance we won’t get back here I wouldn’t want to miss anything important.”

Tara took a moment to answer and she looked more closely at the paintings. They were representations of happy scenes, couples having picnics, snuggling under the shade of lone trees, kissing, locked in passionate embraces under the moonlight in the desert.
“Maybe these paintings are here to remind us of all that’s waiting for us outside if we get out of here alive.”
“But why are they all about couples? Why not dinner with the family or drinks with friends? I’m pretty sure the Egyptians had families and friends. And drinks, they had drinks too.”

“What’s your point, sweetie?”
Willow sighed. “I’m not sure I know the answer to that myself. But it’s just this temple… death traps popping up everywhere and so I’m thinking some blood filled horror movie poster like paintings should be here.” She got more animated as she went. “You know to warn off people and keep them away from the riches. But instead what do you find?”
“Peaceful, happy drawings of people in love.” Tara finished, rapidly catching up to her girlfriend’s meaning.
“Yeah. Talk about lying advertising.”

The blonde smiled at her girlfriend for a moment and then became serious again.
“Definitively there is something more going on here than we know. Just the fact that there has to be two of us to get most doors to open is strange enough.” She took a breath and then resumed. “But I don’t think we’ll find any answers here, and I’m not sure we should be losing much more time. How about tonight when we stop we search the books for answers?”
Willow nodded. “Yeah, let’s go, and later, you, me and the books. That’s a date.”

Tara lips curved into a lopsided smile as she reached her hand to the handle next to the door they had yet to go through. She turned to her girlfriend just in time to see her draw her guns and point them at the door.
“Ready?”
“Yep.”

The blonde pulled the handle and the door slid open in front of them. They tensed and focused their attention on what lay behind that door. What they saw was a hallway, about twenty meters long and two meters wide with regular brick walls. It looked quite harmless at first sight.
They walked inside together carefully taking small, measured steps. Neither of them was surprised as they heard the door behind them slid shut and saw the door at the end of the hallway open. But then on the walls on both sides lone bricks at different heights and places started sliding to the side creating small windows of missing bricks in the walls.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” Tara whispered.
“Me too. Movement on previously unmoving walls is never a good sign.” Willow replied.
Just as the redhead had finished talking they heard a prolonged scratching sound as midway through the hallway an entire column of bricks on each wall slid to the side leaving two parallel vertical empty lines.
“And now the feeling just got worse.” The redhead said.
“I guess the fun and games are about to begin.” Tara retorted.

A whooshing sound could be heard as from the closest opening on the wall a metal dart was launched horizontally towards the opposite wall. They watched as it cut through the air menacingly only to disappear to a mirror opening on the wall on the other side. And then the noise increased as one by one the newly created windows in the walls all started launching darts at set intervals of time leaving a few seconds of clear path and then shooting again.
Willow and Tara watched attentively for long moments, concentrating on memorizing the position of the openings on the walls and the rhythm of the flying projectiles until they had them all mapped out in their heads.

Then they turned to one another at the same time and smiled.
“Jump, crouch, jump…” Tara started.
“Roll on the floor, jump, run…” Willow continued.
“Roll again, dive between two darts, roll…” The blonde cut in.
“Crouch, wait and then run to the door.” The redhead concluded.
“Ok. That settles it then.”

Willow nodded, took a deep breath and then ran forward. She easily jumped over the first dart and bended her knees low upon landing to rest in a crouching position a little ahead. She could feel the air tousle her hair gently as a deadly dart flew over her head every few seconds.
“Hey.” Tara called out as she saw that her girlfriend was in a stable position.
“Yeah?” Willow answered eyeing the next set of dart throwers and the vertical lines of missing bricks up ahead.
“When did we agree that you were to go first?” The blonde asked annoyed.
“Ah… well… you went first last time.” The redhead replied sheepishly, turning to her girlfriend.

The blonde arched her eyebrow dubiously.
“Ok, miss smartypants but next time I’m going first, you hear?”
“Loud and clear, baby.”
Willow turned once again to the open door, took another deep breath moved a little forward to get in a better position and then jumped over the line of shooting of the next dart thrower. Immediately after her feet touched the ground she bended her legs, tucked her head between her knees and rolled forward to avoid getting hit by a low dart. At the same time she heard her girlfriend feet impact the floor behind her as the blonde followed her close.

Tara stopped in the same spot the redhead had before, crouching low. She watched as her girlfriend performed a perfect roll forward passing an especially tricky area where there were three dart throwers, one on top of the other shooting at the same time and creating a barrier of darts that you had to time just right to pass through unscathed.

They both heard the announcing noise at the same time, a painful screech of metal being released that made a cold shiver run down their spines, but it was Tara who spotted it first.
“Willow, look out.”
The redhead deftly stood up, ending her rolling motion, and stood still just to see two thick metal panels, as high as the hallway slid sideways from the vertical empty spaces one from each side of the wall, and impact each other violently in the middle of the corridor. Like malfunctioning sliding doors, deadly malfunctioning sliding doors.

“Now there’s a thinning mechanism for you. Get paper thin in half a second, no diet… ahhh.” Willow felt a cutting, burning sensation on her right leg, halfway between her knee and her foot and she looked down to see a line of red appearing and starting to drip downwards slowly.
“Baby?” Tara called out, worried, her focus being jarred off the doors by her girlfriend’s groan.
“I’m ok, I’m ok.” Willow answered. “Just got distracted with the big flashy doors and forgot to focus…” She jumped to avoid the next dart wincing as she landed. “…on the little pesky darts.”
“Oh God, you got hit? How bad is it?” Tara clenched her hands tight as all of her tensed up.
“I’m ok, baby, really. It’s just a minor scratch.” The redhead paused as she once again jumped, before adding. “I’m going to move forward now, ok?”

Tara bit her bottom lip. “Ok. But be careful, ok? No more bullseye imitations.”
Willow chuckled. “Gotcha.”
The redhead jumped one last time and then as the metallic panels in front of her slid open she ran forward a couple of steps. Then she threw herself into a roll moving under a mid height dart. She ended up on her feet only to throw herself in a dive forward between a high and a low flying darts and then rolled again to finish in a crouch under a dart thrower.

As she saw her girlfriend stopping Tara threw herself forward. From her crouching position she executed a perfect jump forward then rolled under a dart to reach the sliding doors. She jumped in place to avoid getting hit and she watched as Willow waited just for the right moment when no darts were being thrown and then ran to the door, steering clear of danger. The blonde let out the breath she was holding and jumped up again.

Willow carefully scanned the walls around her to make sure there were no other missing bricks and then rested her back against the wall. She lifted her injured leg a little and turned to see Tara jumping behind the metal panels.
“You know…” The blonde started.
“Yeah?” Willow asked while she bended a little to examine her leg.
“This reminds me of rope jumping in school.”
The redhead laughed quietly and took her backpack off her shoulders to look for something to clean her cut with and bandages to wrap it up while she watched her girlfriend out of the corner of her eye. “Good memories or bad memories?”

“Good memories.” Tara answered just as she ran forward taking advantage of the metal boards sliding open. From there she rolled on the floor, dove forward and then rolled again ending on a crouch a few steps away from the other girl. The only thing between them was a wall of darts thrown in time together. She waited for the right moment and then ran forward neatly avoiding the projectiles.

“So what took you so long? Is old age catching up to you?” Willow asked nonchalantly.
“Why you little… I ought to… tickle you!” Tara said advancing on the redhead menacingly and making her girlfriend drop down her backpack to protect her sides with her hands. “And I so would if you weren’t injured.” The blonde finished in a softer tone as she bended her knees and dropped one knee to the floor to closer examine the redhead’s injury.
“It’s just a scratch baby, really.” The redhead replied, her tone going from playful to embarrass.

Tara took the anti-septic and the clean bandages from the redhead’s hands and gently cleaned the cut. Willow winced as it stung a bit.
“You’re right it’s just a scratch.” The blonde said as she neatly and easily wrapped the cut in bandage.

Don’t say she needs to be more careful. She knows. Don’t say it.

Tara finished the wrapping and got up, her blue eyes looking everywhere but at the perceptive green ones of her girlfriend. “There, all done.”
Willow took the blonde’s hand in her own and squeezed it lovingly. “Thank you.” She said gently making her girlfriend look at her.
The blonde squeezed back and smiled at the other girl, reading a world of feelings swirling in the emerald depths in front of her.
“So shall we?” Tara asked after a bit, breaking the moment.
“Oh right. Yeah, let’s go. Just give me a second…” Willow shook herself into action and rapidly put away the anti-septic and the remaining bandages in her backpack. Then she strapped her backpack securely around her shoulders again, drew her guns and nodded her head at the other girl.

The blonde tensed her muscles and resolutely walked through the door with her girlfriend close behind. The moment they entered the new room the door closed behind them, hushing the rhythmic whooshing of the dart throwers and plunging them into silence once again.
Once inside they scanned the room from side to side, looking for possible immediate threats. When after a long moment they couldn’t spot any they relaxed slightly and let themselves really look at the new room.

At first sight it was a rectangular room with two doors, the one they had just come through and another one on the opposite wall. Also it had the highest ceiling they had encountered until now in the temple at around five meters high and it was completely empty.

The thing that first caught their attention was that the floor wasn’t the same all over the room. On the area where they were standing and for a couple of meters forward, the floor was the kind they had encountered all through the temple, but then as they let their eyes move towards the opposite wall, suddenly it changed. There were roughly square rose coloured marble tiles, about one meter long by one meter wide, that were put together in a grid pattern making a bigger square, the side of which was the width of the room, more or less eight meters. And then the floor once again went back to its familiar brick structure for another couple of meters until it ended at the wall
.
The second thing they noticed was that the wall behind them didn’t connect either with the wall to their left or the ceiling. It left a narrow empty space in the corner that looked like the entranceway to somewhere and a slight breathing space to the ceiling.

Their initial assessment of the room finished they turned to each other.
“Well, not much to see here.” Tara started.
“Right, not much to work with.” Willow agreed with a nod and then suggested. “I think there is something fishy about all that rosy-ness on the floor. We could check the marble to see if it’s just here for prettiness sake.”
“Yes.” Tara agreed. “But we could also go check out that passage there and then come back to check the floor.” She added pointing with her thumb to the corner on their left.

“Ok. Corner entrance gets my vote too.”
“Glad to see we agree.” Tara replied with a smile.
“How could we not? Shadowy, mysterious, half hidden corner passages beat rosy and bubbly marble all the time.” Willow said with a shrug, already walking towards the passage. Then she stopped. “And that sounded incredibly wrong.”
Tara chuckled and walked past her. The redhead caught herself and sped up her pace to walk alongside her girlfriend while she lifted her guns to point steadily forward.

They reached the corner of the room to find that the entrance led into corridor that went straight for a couple of meters following the left wall of the main room and then curved to the left and out of sight from the entrance.
Not seeing anything of the ordinary in the hallway they walked inside. While Tara carefully scanned the way forward, Willow walked sideways keeping an eye on the main room and on the walls around them.
As Tara made the left turn she saw that the corridor lead to a dead end just another couple of meters up ahead but that there were a couple of lines of hieroglyphs painted on the end wall.

“Dead end.” Willow stated as she too made the turn and lowered her weapons, relaxing her tense posture a bit.
“Yeah. But there’s an inscription there.” Tara replied absently as she stayed back and focused on deciphering the ancient language.
“That’s all yours, honey. It’s gibberish for me, baby drawings gibberish.” Willow paused before adding. “I’m so signing in for Egyptian reading and drawing 101 class next semester.”
As they neared the wall the redhead noticed that about a meter or so below the hieroglyphs, roughly at about shoulder high, there were two slightly sunken hand imprints on the wall. From afar they were almost impossible to spot as the bricks with the marks had the exact same colour as the surrounding ones.

“Ok, I take it back. This is probably not a dead end.” The redhead whispered as she put her guns back in their holsters and stepped up to the wall to better study the imprints. She first noticed that they were both imprints of right hands. Then she saw that they were the mirror image of a palm, fingers and thumb, right down to the smallest detail, as if someone had pushed their hand onto fresh cement leaving their mark there and then let it dry like that.
As Willow finished her observation of the marks she turned back to her girlfriend only to see that the blonde had her eyebrows drawn together.

“Why are you frowning, baby?”
“I don’t get it.” Tara said frustrated while she shook her head.
“You can’t read it?” Willow asked surprised.
“No. I mean yes I can read it ok. It just doesn’t make any sense. Or at least it doesn’t help us any.”
“What does it say? You know what they say about two heads.”
“Well, if I’m reading it right which I’m pretty sure I am then it says ‘in trust you shall find your path’.”

Willow looked deep in thought for a long moment and then finally shook her head lifting twinkling eyes to the other girl.
“Ok… Forget what they say about two heads. I have no idea what we are supposed to do with that.”
Tara lips curved into an amused smile. “It’s pretty vague. In trust…”
“Yeah. Trust what? And find your path where? To the door? It’s not like it’s hidden in a lost trail in the mountains or anything. Or maybe they mean it in a more general way.” The redhead mused, trailing off.

For a long moment they were both silent until the blonde spoke again.
“I think we should put it out of our minds for now and search for more clues instead. Maybe it will make more sense later.”
“Yeah.” Willow nodded and then added after a few seconds. “Hey, did you notice the hand marks on the wall?”
“Hand marks?” Tara asked curiously as she walked up to the wall. “Interesting.” She added as she looked at the engraved marks.
The redhead nodded before answering. “You know, we could try putting our hands there and see if something happens. I’m guessing they are there for some reason. But both are right hand marks so it has to be both of us.”
“Oh well, you know what they say about two hands.” Tara said jokingly while still looking at the imprints.
“They type faster than one?” Willow answered puzzled.

The blonde chuckled at the redhead’s adorably baffled face and then bit her lip and started to blush as a thought rose unbidden to her conscious mind.
“What?” Willow asked curiously as the blush on her girlfriend’s face deepened. “What?”
“Theygivemoreorgasmsthanone.” Tara let out in one long word.

“Wha… Oh.” Willow too started to blush as the meaning of what her girlfriend had just said sunk in and her mind jumped tracks at the speed of light.

I wonder what they would have to say about two hands and a tongue, two hands and two breasts, two hands a mouth and a thigh. Two hands, two… And who are they anyway?

Tara stared at her girlfriend, taking in the flushed, pink tint to her face, the deepening green of her eyes, the slightly parted ruby lips, the moist tongue that slid out to lick her top lip and she shook her head.

Focus. Could I just focus for five minutes? One thing at a time… Now getting that door to open. Later orgasms.

The blonde cleared her throat to speak.
“You said ‘you know what they say about two heads’ and then when you mentioned ‘two hands’ the repeating of the two thing stroke me as funny and so I said ‘you know what they say about two hands’ but I was just kidding, no one says anything about two hands…” Tara paused only to continue hastily as her eyes were drawn to her girlfriend’s creamy neck. “I mean at least I don’t think they do. Maybe someone does. But if they do I don’t know what they say.” She swallowed and watched as Willow did the same. “But anyway, that was a really bad joke.”

“No, no baby that was actually a good joke. What they say about two hands.” The redhead giggled nervously for a second before catching herself and sobering up. “Funny.”
Tara smiled shakily. She took a deep breath. “I think that’s an idea that might work.”
Willow scrunched up her brows together. “Oh, the two hands idea, right.” She nodded her head for a moment and then resumed speaking. “But maybe we should try searching the room first? Make sure we aren’t missing anything before changing things. Well, hopefully changing things, that is.”
“Yeah, that sounds good too.” The blonde easily agreed.

The redhead drew her guns once again and with them held high she began the short trek back to the main room with her girlfriend following close behind. In no time they were back where they started.
Willow put her guns back in the holster and Tara stepped forward to stand side to side with her girlfriend as they looked around, searching for anything different and seeing nothing. Then the redhead walked forward until she was right at the verge of stepping on the marble stones and looked back at the other girl. Tara nodded and the redhead could see the squinting of her girlfriend’s eyes.

“Here goes nothing.” Willow muttered quietly as she left the familiar brick ground and stepped on marble. She held her breath for a moment tensing up, ready to jump back at any moment. But nothing happened. She turned half around and shrugged her shoulders. “Seems like run of the mill ordinary marble.”
“Maybe if we both step on it… that has set things into motion before.” Tara mused.
“Hop on then.”

Tara carefully set her foot on the stone and then waited a beat as both of them tried to see everything, ear anything. Then she shifted her whole weight on to the marble to stand next to the other girl. When again nothing happened they breathed out a long sigh together that neither of them could tell if it was relieved or disappointed.
“Welcome aboard.” Willow said then turning to Tara.
The blonde answered by steeling a little kiss from the smiling mouth in front of her. “Thanks, baby.”
“You’re welcome.”

They shared a smile for a moment before they became serious again.
“Maybe we should test all of these stones just to make sure.” Willow suggested.
“Mmmm… Ok, I’m not completely against taking a walk around with you.” Tara replied teasingly.
The redhead poked her tongue out at the other girl.
Tara chuckled and extended her right hand in invitation at her girlfriend who after jokingly hesitating for long seconds took it warmly and firmly into her own.

They began testing each and every marble square by repeating the initial process. First one of them would step on the stone while the other stayed back, ready to pull the first one back to safety if something should happen, and then the second one would also step on to the stone. They tried all of the sixty-four marble tiles in that way and found nothing out of the ordinary there. So they continued their investigation of the room by heading towards the door they were trying to open, moving away from the marble and stepping on once again ordinary bricks.

“Hey baby, look. There’s another hand mark there.” Tara said, letting go of the other girl’s hand to point to the wall on the left side of the door.
Willow shifted her eyes from the door to the place the other girl was pointing at and saw that indeed there was another right hand imprint on the wall on this side. “Wonder what they would have to say about three hands…” She muttered to herself.
“What?” Tara asked distractedly while she focused on the mark.

Oh God… not this discussion again. I don’t think my heart can take it. Ok, it’s not my heart I’m worried about.

“Ermm… I said that’s weird I see fangs.” Willow could feel her face starting to burn up.
As the blonde looked back at her strangely the redhead hastened her steps to be closer to the wall and next to the other girl and pointed at the space between the fingers’ imprint.
“Right here, if you look at it the right way this looks just like teeth, big, scary teeth.” Seeing that her girlfriend was still not convinced she added sheepishly. “It’s more obvious from where I was standing.”

Tara lifted her eyebrow and opened her mouth only to close it a second later while shaking her head gently from side to side. Then she regarded the hand imprint again and opened her mouth again.
“So, I think we are running out of things to check.” The blonde started and then continued as she saw Willow nod eagerly. “I vote for us to give the hands a try.”
“The hands-on approach gets my vote too.”
As Tara smiled her lopsided smile, Willow just couldn’t resist it and leaned forward to give her girlfriend a gentle kiss.

“Start with this one?” The blonde half asked half stated.
The redhead nodded her approval. “Sounds good to me. Besides being closer to us also this spot just has one mark while the other has two… Maybe that means we should do this one first and the other second.”
Tara pondered her girlfriend’s words for a moment.
“Let’s find out.” She said resolutely and unwavering lifting her hand.
Willow drew her guns out and took one deep breath as her girlfriend’s hand carefully fit itself in the hand imprint.

A faint blue glow seemed to envelop Tara’s hand for a split second as she made contact with the wall only to then disappear without leaving a trace. Meanwhile in the room nothing changed, nothing moved and the silence was complete.
Tara’s let out the air she didn’t even know she was holding and took her hand off the wall.
“Ok, so I guess that answers that question.”
“Try the other ones?”
“Yeah.”

They walked across the room in a faster pace than before, less cautious now, and so it only took them half a minute to reach the corner entrance, go through the corridor and reach the wall at the end of it.
By unspoken agreement they both lifted their right hands but stopped at the last second and let them hover over the imprints on the wall. Their gazes met and held. They placed their hands upon the marks.

As soon as their hands were in place a greenish blue glow traced the outline of their hands in a thin line. It shone bright for a moment and then the glow around their hands dimmed as like a liquid being poured from a bowl it ran downwards on the wall and was diluted. They watched carefully as, on the wall at about waist high the line drew squares after squares until it became one big square made from smaller squares put together.
“Hey, sixty-four squares. It’s a chess board.” Willow said suddenly. “Well, that would make sense, because I definitively feel like a pawn, marching one little square at a time. Always in danger of getting eat… Ermm, ok let’s not go there. But you definitively are a queen. Though I wonder if pawns and queens are allowed to mingle… Cause there’s a whole row separating them and all that chess-y rank thing, not to mention the mobility difference issues…”

Willow’s voice faded into the background as Tara stood silently regarding the glowing square. Her girlfriend’s first words had sounded oddly familiar, like an unconscious thought running in the back of her mind that she’d be able to reach if she could just focus.
“That’s it!” The blonde said excitedly.
“What? You think we should say no to the row separating pawns from queens?” Willow asked.
“The squares! The marble squares outside. They’re sixty-four too!” The blonde replied ignoring the other girl’s last sentence.
“Oh, oh… So the little squares here could be a representation of the bigger ones outside.”
Tara nodded her head emphatically. “That’s what I’m thinking.”

Their grinned at each other and just as they were leaning together to share a happy kiss they heard a low humming, grinding sound start. Their eyes met once again fully alert. Willow drew her left hand gun and then they turned to look back at the corridor. But the hallway was just as it had been, not a brick different. Something caught Willow’s attention out of the corner of her eye and she turned her head back to see that one of the squares of the lower row was glowing a lot brighter than the others.
“Hey baby, look.” She called out.
Tara turned at her girlfriend’s voice noticing the highlighted square.
“Was that square any different from the others?” She asked trying to remember.
Willow shook her head. “Nah, they were the same.”

Meantime the noise was getting louder and louder, and then suddenly they heard the violent crack of a thunder bolt.
Their eyes met and they nodded at each other in silent agreement.
Tara dropped her hand from the wall. Just as she had taken a couple of steps away she heard the other girl call out.
“Honey?” Willow’s voice sounded resigned.
The blonde turned to see her girlfriend still in the same position.
“Baby?” Tara question was accompanied by a tilt of her head.
“My hand seems to be stuck to the wall.” Another loud snap of thunder.

“What?”
The blonde stepped back rapidly, grabbed her girlfriend’s arm gently and then pulled on it not so gently while the other girl too pushed herself back. But it was to no avail as Willow’s hand remained firmly glued to the wall. After few tries they gave up as the redhead’s wrist was beginning to ache.

The redhead looked at her girlfriend and gave her a tight smile.
“Well, I could shoot it off but I’m kind of attached to my hand.”
“I’m kind of attached to your hand too.” Tara said softly rubbing the redhead’s abused wrist with her hand.
“So I’m guessing I’m to stay here and you’ll have to go on your own.” She let out a long sigh.

Tara slid her right hand over her girlfriend’s skin all the way from her wrist to her neck and rested it there, her thumb lovingly rubbing the redhead’s jaw. The blonde moved forward to press her body to Willow’s tense one and kissed her deeply. When Tara felt the other girl relax into her she gradually pulled back until she pulled away completely with one last drag of her bottom lip over the other girl’s lips.
“I’m just going to take a look and I’ll be right back, ok?”
“Ok. I’ll be here.”

The blonde turned around and ran out of the hallway only to stop dead on her tracks as soon as the walked into the room. Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open for a moment as she took in the dramatic changes operated in the room since she had last seen it. Then she caught herself narrowed her eyes and nodded her head decisively to herself.
She looked everywhere, analyzing, memorizing, and not letting herself get distracted by the thunder that echoed periodically through the room making her ears ring. When she was satisfied she had what she needed she turned around and ran back to her girlfriend’s side.

“So? What’s happening?” Willow asked eagerly as soon as the other girl appeared in her line of sight.
“Well… You were right about there being something fishy about the marble.” Tara started. “The squares have risen from the floor so that they are now actually marble pillars.”
The redhead drew her eyebrows together and Tara was quick to explain.
“The top of the pillars are the polished marble squares we’ve seen but the four sides of it are made of a rougher stone, still rose coloured but unpolished. It’s like all of these square stone columns have burst through the floor and pushed the marble tiles up to act as their caps.”
“Ok.” Willow nodded slowly. “I think I see it. That explains the noise. So is it like the floor was lifted and now you have a marble platform high above the ground?”

Tara shook her head from side to side.
“No, not all the columns are the same height. It’s like this, one of the pillars can be four meters high but the one next to it can be only two and the one in front only ten centimetres high. Like a kid’s crazy Lego construction. Also some of the squares disappeared completely and there are now holes where they were before. Oh, and the top of the pillars gets hit by lightning bolts coming out of nowhere seemingly at random, or at least not following any pattern I could see.” She paused for a moment and then concluded. “Bright side is the door is open.”

“The door is open?” Willow repeated excitedly. “So all we have to do is cross over to the other side.” She looked at her hand and then at Tara sheepishly. “Which might be easier said than done.”
“I think I just need to get to the other hand mark. A hand for a hand.” The blonde smiled at her girlfriend. “Now I just have to find a way to cross without falling into any holes or getting hit by lightning.”
They both fell silent for a long moment until Willow spoke.
“Baby, maybe this glow-y grid thing on the wall is a map? I mean maybe the bright square is the one where you have to step. Of course it can also be the one where lightning is going to struck next.”
“Well… I could watch for a bit to see if lightning hit it.” Tara said slowly.
“And I can shout instructions about the next squares. It will be the blind leading the…” Willow paused to see her girlfriend arching her eyebrow at her. “… the very smart and capable and beautiful.”

Tara grinned and leaned forward to kiss the other girl.
“Sweet talker.” She whispered before kissing her again for long seconds. “It sounds like a plan, sweetie.”
“Ok then.” Willow replied seriously. “Let’s treat this like a chess board the rows are letters, from left to right starting at A and finishing at H. And the columns are numbers, starts closest to us at one and then the last one is eight.”
“Got it.”
They shared one last kiss and then Tara walked away firmly.
“Hey honey?” Willow called out.
“Yes?” Tara turned back.
“B1.” The redhead said with a calm she wasn’t feeling.
The blonde nodded, winked and disappeared behind the turn.
Willow sighed softly and whispered to herself. “Go eight, it’s your birthday.”

Tara stood on the brick platform and examined the B1 pillar. It was probably about two meters high and stood tall amongst its neighbours.
“Well, it could be worse, it could be E1 and then I’d need a ladder, a really big ladder.” She mused to herself regarding the tall E1 column.

Suddenly thunder cracked loudly and a lightning bolt hit D1.
“So?” Willow yelled nervously.
“B1 has just been cleared baby. It’s time to start climbing.”
“Yuck climbing. Now I’m happy I got stuck.”
Tara chuckled and approached the pillar. She jumped high and grabbed on to the ledge with her fingers. Then she tensed her biceps and forearms and pulled herself up the pillar easily.
“Ok, I’m here.” She yelled at Willow while from her vantage point she regarded the stone platforms around her trying to guess where she’d have to go next.

The redhead watched as the square that had been shining brightest dimmed to match the intensity of the grid around it. Then all of the grid glowed bright for a second and then faded leaving only another lone square highlighted.
“C2”
“What?” Tara asked, the thunder that had struck at the same time her girlfriend had talked had muffled her words.
“Chess 2” The redhead yelled.
“Why honey. I had guessed you were a breast girl but no need to shout it out to the world.” Tara teased making the redhead blush and chuckle nervously.
It was an easy jump as the C2 pillar was right next to it and only a few centimetres lower than the place where Tara was standing.

“Ok, all done.”
Just as the blonde landed on top of the pillar it started to shake and sink.
“Baby… Captain 2 is sinking. Hurry, please.”
“Ok, ok, almost there.” Willow waited impatiently for the grid once again to light up, seconds feeling like minutes.
“Einstein 3.”
This one was just a little bit higher than Tara’s current resting place. She wasted no time. She took a step back and then used the all the available space to gain some speed and executed a perfect jump to land squarely on E3.

“Here.”
“Gymnastics 4”
The blonde looked at the G4 and sighed loudly. “You sure you can’t see this, sweetie? Cause I swear you couldn’t have been more right if you could.” Tara yelled.
“Me?” Willow sounded puzzled. “Oh, don’t tell you have to do cart wheels for points. Those make me dizzy.”
The blonde’s lopsided trademark smile was firmly in place as she called out to the other girl. “No cartwheels, baby. It’s just G4 is really high, two meters above me high and two meters away.” She fell silent and then muttered quietly to herself as she prepared to jump. “And there is one big hole on the floor between me and it.”

“Oh.” Willow paced in place while she periodically pulled on her hand. She sighed in disgust as it remained firmly glued to the wall. “So, it’s far. So what? She can jump far. So it’s high, so what? She’s a great climber. Now if it was me we’d be in deep puppy dog poop trouble, runny puppy dog poop. Her, she’ll be fine. She’ll be ok. Piece of sweet lemon flavoured cake.”

Meanwhile Tara took one deep breath ran two steps and used the ledge of the pillar to propel herself forward into the air. She opened her arms and legs and as her body hit the side of the pillar she hugged it tight. She felt the roughness of the stone bite into her hands, arms, legs and knees as she held herself up by her hands and her feet clutching at the marble. She took one deep breath and tensing her legs even more to take her weight she rose up straightening her body and placed her hands higher on the sides of the pillar. Then she repeated the motion but now instead of her legs she tensed her arms so she could bend her legs and slide her feet upwards to find purchase higher.

“Baby?” Willow called out, her voice cracking half way through the word.
“I’m ok… just doing a… little… flat wall… climbing.” Tara answered getting out of breath as the repeated let go and grab motion was taxing her muscles bad.

The redhead bit her lip and fell silent while quickening the rhythm of her pacing and trying to empty her brain of all thoughts.

Tara reached the top of the pillar with one grateful sigh, the feel of the coldness of the polished marble on her knees and hands a very welcome sensation. She gave an out of breath yell to her girlfriend. “On top.”
Willow sighed in relief and then yelled back playfully. “Not always, no.”
The blonde laughed weakly and then sat down trying to regain her breath while loud cracks of thunder sounded around her.

“Fffff… family 5.”
“Having trouble saying the f-word baby?” Tara yelled playfully just as she was getting up. She was careful to stay slightly hunched so as not to hit the ceiling.
“Oh shut up.”
The blonde chuckled to herself as she imagined her girlfriend blushing. Then she regarded the F5 that was about one meter below her. She sat back down on her pillar’s corner and just as she was ready to let herself fall down a menacing set of spikes erupted all over the surface of F5 only to disappear a second later.

“Willow?”
“Yeah?”
“Are you sure?”
Willow didn’t have to check again as her eyes had never left the drawn square on the wall as she tried to imagine what it was going just on the other side of that wall.
“Yeah, I’m sure honey. Why?”
“Oh, no reason.” The blonde sighed. “It’s just I’m back to rope jumping.”
She waited for the spikes to appear and then be retracted all the time mentally counting the seconds in her head and then she let herself fall on top of the pillar. Her muscles complained about the recent abuse as she jumped high a split second before the spikes appeared again and landed after they had been gone. And then she did it again. And again.

“Baby?”
“Hang on.” The redhead sounded frustrated. “It’s taking longer than usual. Ok. Got it. Duck 6.”
“Let’s hope I don’t have to.” Tara whispered. Then as her feet next touched the ground she stepped up to the ledge and jumped to D6 that was at about the same height she was now.

Just as she landed neatly on top of this new pillar Willow’s voice rang out. “Beaver 7.”
Tara looked forward and saw that at B7 there was no pillar and instead there was a deep hole which bottom was lost in darkness.
“Baby, did you say B? As in… Baby 7?”
“Yeah, B7.”
The blonde felt the pillar beneath her feet start to shake and when she turned her eyes down she saw that it was starting to crumble. The ledges were breaking into pieces and a sideways crack was appearing at the centre of the surface.

“Great.”
“What?” Willow paused and then added. “I know I’m saying that a lot but… What?”
“This pillar is breaking into pieces.” Tara answered unwilling to worry her girlfriend more than she already was.
“Then get out of there. B7 baby.” The redhead called out urgently.

Tara bit her bottom lip as she eyed C7. It was such a perfectly formed square pillar, solid and real. Thunder snapped loudly just at her side. The pillar where she was standing was crumbling from a square to a cone and soon there would be nothing to stand on.

In trust you shall find your path.

Her decision made Tara took one deep breath and then yelled out.
“I love you Willow.” And then she jumped.
“Baby?” The redhead called out frantically. “Honey?”



TBC.


******************

And that was it for today :moo But i promise i'm coming back by the end of next week with a new one :wink

Soooo pease pease tell me what you thought about this chapter. Leave me a comment or two or five :kgeek
I take bribes you know? lol. :blush

Take care.

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated July 7 2009)
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:27 pm 
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19. Yummy Face
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Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
Yay for good update-y goodness... I hope Willow and Tara very soon are able to meet again...

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated July 7 2009)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:23 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Posts: 415
GOD!!..you're back!! :pinky :pinky
I thought you forgot about this fic..

did u take :bow :bow ? :blush

I'm keeping your promise here :kdevil
RC :kgeek


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated July 7 2009)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 1:36 pm 
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8. Vixen
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Location: Germany
Ohhh, I am sooooo happy that you updated! Ecstatic even!
Quote:
“So what took you so long? Is old age catching up to you?”

Love the teasing.
I bet that getting hand stuck thing was not an accident. I hope Tara didnt disappear down that hole! Mean cliffhanger, very mean :smash

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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated July 7 2009)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 2:16 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:38 pm
Posts: 22
Thanks for your latest post! Nice to see a good story continued. I think you're doing a great job of making complicated scenes come to life -- and I'm impressed with yet another interesting and dangerous puzzle. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Fic: The Artifact (AU) (Updated July 7 2009)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 2:28 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Posts: 444
Location: Nicaragua
Ooooh, this was such a great chapter!!!

You haven't lost your touch at all, I have to say.

And you were really bad to leave us hanging like that, but it's all forgiven if you update next week as you promised. Besides, I know our girls will be fine and live happily ever after in the end, right?

Congrats on this beautiful story, it's among my favorites :pride

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