Willow listened to the slow crackle and pop of the Yule log that burnt in the hearth. She could feel the fire’s warmth caress her bare skin. That warmth was matched by the body that lay spooned tight against her back. She ran her fingers along the strong, masculine arm that embraced her and smiled.
“Rupert, you awake?” she half whispered.
“Yes,” he replied sleepily. She rolled to face him. The sheep skin rug they lay on tickled her side.
Giles rose up on one elbow. He was naked and squinted slightly to bring his eyes into focus without glasses. “For?”
“Bringing me here. Getting us away from Sunnydale for a while. Telling my mother that she had no business forbidding our marriage and that I was an adult. Mostly just for being you and being with me.”
Rupert kissed her and held her tight against him.
“Where else could I be, love.” He released just enough so he could stare into her lovely face. The fire’s glow painted her a red gold that blended with her hair. The living room of the cottage he’d rented was masked in shadows. The puddle of light in front of the fire was a magic place, a pool of reality in the illusion of a shadow-clad world.
“I wish it could always be like this. Just us, no Buffy with her jokes about you wearing out. No Xander with his snide little quips about trading you in on two thirty ear olds when your sixty. No parents screaming Electra complex, like they actually had a clue. Just us.”
“They will come around. We only announced our relationship a month ago, love. They need time to adjust.”
“I know but...”
“Willow, we have right now. The others are eight-thousand miles away. Let’s leave them there. We have now.” Rupert kissed her and after the kiss let his eyes trace over her.
“I kinda like now.” Willow played her fingers through the hairs on his chest.
Rupert smiled and his gaze wandered to the hearth. “Love, very slowly, turn over and look at the fire.”
Long since accustomed to battle Willow did as she was told. A smile split her face. There in the fire danced what looked like a small, bipedal lizard.
“A Salamander,” she breathed. The elemental cavorted among the flames, playfully sporting in its element.
Rupert slipped his arms around Willow and held her close as they both watched the mystical visitor.
“It is very rare for them to manifest so clearly,” observed Rupert.
Willow nestled into him. A moment later a second salamander appeared amongst the flames.
“Look,” whispered Willow.
The two little creatures drew close. For a few minutes they circled like enemies sizing each other up, then the circling became a dance.
“On my, I believe they like each other,” observed Rupert as the one salamander finely built up its courage and touched the other.
“That’s so sweet,” said Willow.
The two little creatures began to almost waltz to the crackle of the flames.
“It is, oh, I guess sweet says it. This is extortionary.” Giles shifted, pressing even tighter against the beautiful, young woman he held.
The salamanders dance became a caress, then the flames sparked up granting the little, elemental spirits privacy.
“Why here?” asked Willow, who with the show done nestled into her lover’s arms.
“Like attracts like. Love attracts love. They came because the fire beckoned them, and our love made a safe place for them,” said Rupert.
“Our love. I like that. You know sometimes I feel sorry for the others, Buffy, Xander.”
“Why so?” Rupert nuzzled the side of her neck and kissed it gently.
“They see so little. Like, OK they see the demons and the vamps, but if it’s not out to eat somebody they just don’t see it. Like that wood-sprite last week.”
“We, at least, share a larger world,” agreed Rupert.
“Willow turned in his embrace. We share more than that, mister.” She kissed him and he responded enthusiastically. Both humans were oblivious to the fact that a pair of curious little creatures stared out benignly from the flames and seemed to smile.
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