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Taking Chances

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The General sat behind her desk, a glass of wine in her hand. Her blue eyes were focused on the liquid within but her mind was elsewhere. As it often was lately.

Cadet Craven had been de-biddied a few weeks ago and returned to her unit for the start of War College. She had done Alder a great service in sacrificing her years so that she could live, without a second thought. She was impressed—and had been since she met the girl, if she were being honest.

There was something about her. Something more than her Knower abilities, more than the fact she continuously challenged Alder, more than her dedication as a soldier…

Sarah was drawn to her in a way she hadn't felt in all her 300+ years—and that was terrifying. Tally's sacrifice…said without any hesitation and with such conviction…she never expected that from a cadet, let alone Tally who had been questioning her about her motives and disagreeing with her decisions. It was surprising to say the least.

She wasn't totally sure why Tally had made that decision. Why she really made the decision…if the cadet was so against her methods why would she sacrifice her full life to become a biddy. She knew she had changed Tally's mind about her in at least a small way after their private conversation. It was one of the few moments she allowed herself to be vulnerable, even rarer to allow someone to see it. Whatever it was, she felt safe showing it to Tally.

She really didn't want to think about that.

She took a swig of the wine and sighed happily as the flavors exploded on her tongue. She did love a good red.

She needed the wine to take her mind off of things. She could feel their link, buried deep below where Sarah knew it resided but could tuck it away—and hope it would dissipate on its own. Well. Hoped.

Anytime she thought about it disappearing, it pained her greatly. Which was inconvenient and unfortunate for her, considering her present feelings for the young woman. If anyone asked she would deny that she missed her…but truthfully, she did. She had no reason to really visit Tally in the infirmary after the process—but she told herself she just wanted to make sure the young witch was doing well. She also didn't make a habit of visiting companies at the start of War College. In fact, she could barely remember the last time she had. She told herself it was just to boost morale…but that was another lie. She missed Tally Craven, just as much as Tally missed her.

She was certain that the affection Tally was feeling for her was a side effect of the biddy link. Alder had only de-biddied a handful over the years and none of them affected her like this, not even close. The effects of the previous separations were gone within a couple days. The cadet had told her how much she'd missed her, and it had set a warmth in Alder's stomach—only for a cold to wash over her at the thought that it was only because of the remnants of the biddy link. But it still didn't explain why she'd been able to feel Tally's emotions this far along. She'd made the mistake of tapping into the link to soothe her own ache for the girl—feeling herself overcome with a yearning so strong it brought tears to her eyes. Her mind had been so restless since Tally's release.

She went to stand, ready to retire to her room for the night—and froze as a feeling of terror rippled down her body. Her heart began racing as a cold sweat overtook her.

She roused the biddies from their sleep through the link to follow her, not bothering to wait for them as she allowed the tug of terror to pull her feet in the right direction.

She knew it was Work. She could feel it in her blood and on her tongue. It felt ancient…old…primal—it even tasted different.

She didn't dare question it. Whenever a Working that old called upon a witch, one should not ignore it.

She barely registered the sound of the biddies rushing to catch up to her as she pushed open the door to the infirmary.

Raelle and Abigail were trying to rouse Tally from sleep as the girl screamed in terror. She was thrashing against them on the bed; crying out 'General' as she fought back in her sleep.

"Move," Alder growled protectively, startling the two cadets, and moved to Tally.

"General," they said in tandem as they moved away, clearly sharing a look of confusion.

"Tally," Alder said as she reached out to touch her shoulder. As soon as her palm made contact, she felt a calm wash over her and she released a breath she didn't know she was holding.

Tally ceased screaming and her eyes began to flutter rapidly as she woke.

"My stomach," she rasped out, pulling her shirt up and exposing her abdomen to the women in the room.

Horrible, red, painful-looking welts were rising on her skin.

Alder recognized those welts immediately. "Collar."

Raelle nodded as she rushed around the opposite side of the bed and linked with Tally to heal her.

They watched silently as the welts began to disappear and Tally breathed a sigh of relief.

"Are you alright?" Alder asked immediately. Her eyes searched Tally's warm brown ones.

Tally simply nodded. She wasn't sure what to say. General Alder was here…in the room…with her. She then realized the biddies were all in their night attire while the General was wearing her uniform minus the jacket. She briefly got lost in her thoughts at the sight of Sarah's bare arms. When she snapped out of it, her eyes flickered to Abigail and Raelle, who were staring at her with concern.

"You got the General?" Tally questioned them disbelievingly, blinking the remnants of the nightmare away. She couldn't believe that they would run straight for Alder, but nothing else made sense for why she was here or how she knew.

The two simply shook their heads and looked to the General to explain why she came bursting in at the perfect time.

Alder hadn't noticed their stares. She was focused on Tally's stomach—thoughts racing. How had she gotten those welts? Those were distinctive to an attack by the Camarilla in the jungle. And that was decades ago. And why was the cadet in the infirmary in the first place?

"General?" Tally asked softly, voice still strained from her earlier screaming.

Alder's eyes snapped up to meet Tally's, and her heart clenched painfully. The girl looked exhausted. Her skin was paler than usual, and her eyes seemed heavy with a weight that no one so young should bear.

"Why are you in the infirmary?" Alder asked seriously, her eyes boring into Tally's.

"I haven't been able to sleep…" she trailed off, not wanting to say more.

A stern look from Alder, coupled with a raised eyebrow that said 'there's more to that and you need to explain, now'.

"I've been having nightmares since we severed the link. At first I thought it was just regular nightmares…maybe PTSD? But then they kept happening and you were always there and I realized then that they're your memories," Tally said quickly.

Her eyes saddened at the end and Alder felt like the wind had just been knocked out of her. Tally had been reliving some of Alder's worst memories, and she wasn't sure how to process that.

"We try to wake her up," Raelle finally spoke up, drawing the women's attention. "It's just really hard to get her out of it."

Alder considered her words a moment before she quickly made a decision, and decided to follow her instincts. That magical pull to Tally wasn't a coincidence. She was seeing her memories and suffering physical harm now because of them.

"How much sleep have you been getting?" Alder asked.

"Like two or three hours," Tally answered.

Alder's eyes widened and thoughts ran wild through her head. Why hadn't she been told about this?

"Every other night maybe? Like actual sleep," Tally added, wincing shortly after at the look of pain on Alder's face.

"If it was this serious, why did you not come to me?" Her eyes were soft but her voice was demanding.

Tally looked at her with tired eyes. "You told me that a small part of the bond would always remain…I just thought this was part of it and the last thing I was going to do was run to you about it." The last bit came out a little harsher than she intended.

Alder couldn't help but internally wince at the words. She gave a stiff nod, not wanting to show that the words were hurtful, and making sure she kept her feelings buried. Being near her right now was allowing her to feel Tally's emotions clearly, as it seemed to happen every time they were near each other. Hence the General keeping her distance.

Regardless of her personal feelings, Tally was being injured by her memories and she couldn't sit by and allow the cadet to deal with it on her own.

"With me, Craven," Alder said as she stood.

She held a hand out for Tally to take to help her stand. Not only could she see the surprise and confusion on her face, but she could feel it through the link as well.

"Do you feel okay to walk?" she asked as Tally stood.

"I think—," Tally began only to have her legs give out. She would have crumpled to the ground had Alder not wrapped her arms around her to catch her.

Before Tally could process the amount of contact with Alder's body, the General scooped her up in her arms and carried her toward the door bridal style.

"Go to your beds and get some rest. Craven and I need to talk and I'll monitor her tonight," Alder barked as she left the room, her biddies following diligently behind.

Alder glanced down at Tally to find the girl staring at her wide-eyed. But what grabbed the General's attention was that Tally's skin had returned to their normal shade.

"Your color has returned," General Alder said softly as she strode down the hall.

They were nearly at her private quarters and she nodded to her biddies as they branched off to their room. Alder sang a soft seed that opened the door to her office so she could pass through without putting Tally down.

Her boot kicked the door backwards—shutting it with a thud.

Tally thought that they would be sitting in Alder's office, so she was surprised—delighted but surprised—to find that they were heading for Alder's personal room. She was feeling much better than when she had awoken, and being in Alder's arms wasn't hurting at all. She'd missed her desperately. Alder had told her that their bond would always be there…but that it would fade. It wasn't at all. If anything, it was intensifying. Being in the General's arms was all Tally really wanted and it soothed the ache that was created when she had been de-biddied.

She wasn't entirely sure why the General came to see her…or how she even knew she was having a nightmare. Her thoughts were racing, as were her emotions. She only broke her reverie when her body touched the bed—Alder's bed.

"So. You've been seeing my memories," Alder stated quietly.

Tally nodded.

Alder's shoulders sagged as a heavy sigh escaped her. Her memories weren't for the faint of heart.

"Tell me everything about what happened," Alder requested as she moved away and toward her dresser.

Tally swallowed and scooted up to rest against the headboard. She began to recount the nightmare, watching Alder's every move as she spoke. She had grabbed her night attire and disappeared into the bathroom, leaving the door open a bit. Enough that Tally could sort of see in.

It was immensely distracting and Tally tripped over her words as a wave of desire flowed through her at the brief sight of the General's back muscles. She glanced around the room as she spoke, taking in the simplicity of it all. Everything was standard issue, aside from a very old, handmade quilt at the foot of the bed.

"Um…" she trailed off, shaking her head as the General finished dressing. "Then I woke up and…"

Alder strode back to the bed, worrying her lip between her teeth. She knew that they were still connected after the de-biddying. She had told Tally as much—that the bond they shared would endure in some small way. But this? This was not small. If Tally would get seriously hurt in the memory…the thought made her feel sick.

"Why do you feel sick?" Tally questioned suddenly.

Alder's eyes snapped to meet hers. "How did you know?"

Tally looked confused as she thought on it. "I felt it." Her eyes closed so she could focus. "You're…worried…frightened…not for you but for me…" she trailed off as her eyes opened to stare in wonder at the General.

Goddess had Tally missed her. She'd been craving the mere presence of the General since they separated. She couldn't remember ever wanting something so badly. She knew the feeling was different than that of the biddy connection. The biddy connection was deep on a level but this…whatever she was feeling through the connection was much deeper. She knew it. Despite whatever Alder told her, she knew otherwise.

Alder released a shaky breath as she climbed on top of the bed, pulling the covers down so that she and Tally could slide under. At Tally's questioning glance, she nodded for her to join her.

Tally temporarily forgot how to breathe at the implication.

They settled on their backs, staring up at the ceiling.

"How did you know I was having a nightmare?" Tally broached quietly. Laying in Alder's bed with her…she was excited but nervous as hell—and was trying her best to not fidget.

"I felt it through our connection," came the soft reply.

Tally couldn't help but smile at that. Alder could feel it just like Tally could and it made her heart sing. Then it hit her. "Why didn't you tell me you could feel it too?"

Her voice sounded so small and vulnerable when she asked.

"I…" Alder trailed off. "Honestly, I thought it was a usual side effect. I've had a handful of biddies be de-biddied over the centuries but the bond faded quickly after. I assumed it would be the same. This time is different though," she told her.

Tally could understand that. "Why did you bring me here?"

"I don't want you out of my sight tonight," Alder replied easily, eyes still on the ceiling.

"Why?"

She could feel Tally's eyes on her face, searching.

"Because you've been through my memories…that is not something I wish for anyone to experience. You were also injured in the memory and that is not something to be ignored," Alder explained honestly. She finally looked over to meet Tally's gaze.

The girl had rolled onto her side so that she could look at her better, and Alder soon found herself mirroring the position.

"If you experience another one while you sleep, I want to be here to pull you from it before you can be injured," she added.

Tally nodded, then asked, "But why are we sharing a bed?"

Alder couldn't help but smirk. Tally's eyes were bright—so much different than their worn appearance earlier.

"Craven, are you seriously looking a gift horse in the mouth?"

Tally blushed furiously and spluttered out some sort of response.

Alder simply chuckled and reached out to take one of Tally's hand in her own before she could even think on it. "We are sharing a bed because I want to try something while you sleep. I want to see if I can actively be present as myself here, there."

Tally nodded.

Alder didn't mention that it was also because it felt easier to breathe with her around.

"Sleep," Alder commanded softly before she began the seed her mother would sing to help her drift off.

Tally's eyes grew heavy as she began to feel the pull of slumber. "Goodnight, General."

Then she was out.

Alder continued for another moment before stopping. She took a second to take Tally in. Her eyes gazed over her relaxed face. She seemed so at peace here, clinging to Alder's hand still—as if she might remove it at any moment.

She wouldn't. Not tonight. Tonight, she needed to keep Tally safe.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, singing a seed and effortlessly falling into a deep sleep.




Tally knew she was dreaming when she opened her eyes. She was definitely somewhere in the 1600's if it was anything to go by. She was in a small village, and as she walked she realized that she was in Salem.

She walked around, taking in the single church in the center, as well as the men and women working while the children ran and played. It was all so simple. Just a small community working to benefit each other—she suddenly felt a pang of sadness as these same people would turn on Sarah and her family.

"It worked."

Tally turned and couldn't help but smile at the sight of the General. She was in the shorts and tank top she had changed into for bed.

Tally couldn't help but stare. Alder was fit. She couldn't help the thought of how she would look above her—how her back muscles would look with red nail lines running down them.

What Tally didn't realize, was that the General was able to suddenly feel the emotions running through her.

Sarah sucked in a breath, hoping that Tally didn't notice. She didn't understand why their connection was intensifying instead of dissipating. She didn't want to question Izadora's skill on the matter as she was certain it wasn't her fault.

She recalled the Work she felt when it had pulled her…No, this is something else, she reminded herself. She could try and rationalize it all she wanted, but she knew in the pit of her stomach this was different.

She cleared her throat, "I was hoping that if I was here with you, I'd be able to join you and possibly control what you see."

Tally smiled softly. "That is very generous of you, but you can't do this every night. I recall you don't sleep much, and I know you have other things—more important things to deal with than—"

"Craven," Alder interjected with a slight smile but a serious gaze. "Until we find an explanation for why you are getting injured, we will do this every night."

Disbelief covered Tally's face. "Are you sure this isn't just about you keeping more secrets?" She couldn't help but ask.

She was trying hard to remember that despite her attraction to the General, she had done things that Tally couldn't unsee and un-know.

Alder looked at her questioningly, her eyes hardening. "What are you implying, cadet?"

"I'm implying that you don't want me to see your memories because you have something to hide. Just like you did with those civilians. Like you did about puppeting the President."

"You still feel that my actions are unjust," Alder stated, her voice flat. She was frustrated at Tally's disbelief. Everything she had ever done was to keep their kind from being hunted and killed. She did whatever was necessary to keep them safe.

Tally merely nodded.

The pang of disappointment hit Sarah hard. She wanted Tally to believe in her, to try and understand. That in itself was irritating. She didn't need anyone's approval…but she wanted Tally's.

"We weren't ready. We weren't ready for that. You made us into murderers," Tally said woefully.

"I made you into soldiers." Alder took a step closer. "Nothing ever really prepares you for the things you have to do in battle. War College doesn't prepare you for the blood on your hands. You're never really ready."

Tally looked away, finding Alder's gaze too intense for her.

"What would you have had me do?" Alder pressed.

Tally whipped her head to look back at the General—she was stunned and thought a moment before realizing the General was not joking. "You're serious?"

Alder nodded. "The information I had going into that mission was that two trucks stocked with Spree work were heading to the nearest international airport. There they would be able to spread the work farther and wider than before, and wrack up mass casualties." Alder had begun pacing back and forth, her hands clasped behind her back. "Your unit…and while unfortunate that you weren't mentally and emotionally ready…your unit was the only one that could make it in time. What I knew was that we had two very dangerous trucks heading to cause mass casualties…who knows how many lives could have perished if your unit hadn't been there. The civilians were…" she trailed off.

Tally held her breath and waited. She hated that what Alder said made sense.

"It was heartbreaking," she said finally as she settled on the word. Her eyes met Tally's again. "Innocent people were involved by no choice of their own…but had I not made that call, who knows what could have happened…how many more civilians would die or how many more witches." Alder took a step closer to Tally. "So tell me, Craven, what would you have done if you had that information…"

Tally was silent. She ran through scenarios in her head, forgetting for a moment that before she had realized there were civilians Alder had made a sound call. Then she thought as logically as she could about the civilians—the Camarilla are civilians who hate witches and want them hunted…who was to say that there wasn't a hostage who shared those sentiments. If they had allowed the truck to go because of the risk…there was no idea how many more innocents could die on both sides. She couldn't unfeel their terror at the thought of dying, though. The two contradicted each other—the epitome of the mind versus the heart. It was a necessary call, but that didn't make it right. She was resigned to that fact.

General Alder watched as the thoughts flew through Tally's mind. She could feel it through their connection and she was satisfied that she at least made her think about the tough decisions she makes every day.

She took a deep breath and walked past Tally onto the small dirt road that led outside of the town. Her eyes stayed focused on the forest ahead, unworried that her companion wouldn't follow her. She knew Tally was just behind.

She paused on the edge of the forest and let out a shaky breath before continuing on another path that wove in between the trees.

Tally hurried her steps to catch up to the General. She couldn't help the lump that had appeared in her throat after she questioned her and thought through the scenario presented to her. She had felt a slight pang of disappointment when she had agreed with Alder's assessment—not her own though. Tally knew then it had come from the General, and it made Tally's heart clench unpleasantly. More importantly, she could feel that Alder wanted her to understand, and Tally couldn't help but feel honored that Alder cared about what she thought at all.

They came upon a wooden cottage and Tally was torn away from her internal musings. She took the cottage in; a large garden rested off to the side, as well as a small animal pen on the other. Smoke was wafting from the chimney, coiling up into the trees like silk.

"Sarah, cut it out!" a small voice shrieked before letting out a large laugh.

A young girl, probably around twelve if Tally had to guess, appeared from the trees—laughing loudly and coming to rest just before them.

"What is wrong, sister?"

Tally couldn't help the smile that blossomed across her face as she heard a young Sarah. She appeared then, leaping from the thicket of brush—her black hair a tad wild around her face. Twigs clung to her dress and her hair, and there was even some dirt smeared on her face; an indication of her rambunctious play.

"You're adorable," Tally chuckled without glancing at the General.

Sarah's eyes widened, and she turned her head to gaze at her companion.

"You are just telling me to stop because you are too slow," little Sarah said as she crossed her arms. That air of defiance was there, but it was behind shining bright blue eyes and a smile.

Tally felt her heart soar at the sight. She looked so carefree and happy. It suddenly made Tally very sad when she realized that before long both of the girls' lives would change drastically—for one an end, and for the other hundreds of years of service and fighting.

Tally had to admit, seeing Sarah as a young carefree girl simply playing with her sister made her realize just how much she had sacrificed over the years after watching her sister be killed next to her.

"What's her name?" Tally asked, her head turning to look at the witch next to her.

"Elizabeth," Sarah replied, voice tight with emotion. She could feel the tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

She hadn't meant for this to happen when she decided on showing Tally this memory. She wanted to show her what she was like before all the death and destruction, before the wars and bloodshed. She desperately wanted to feel like she was understood, but aside from her biddies she didn't really have anyone in her corner. She was okay with that…for a time. But after meeting Tally Craven…

Sarah chuckled to herself darkly. Tally Craven was changing everything and she didn't even realize.

"Hey, hey," Tally said softly. She turned to face Alder fully and reached out, hands grabbing her waist and pulling her into a hug without thinking it through.

A small gasp escaped her when she felt her body respond. She was filled with energy as well as a feeling of wholeness. She felt like home.

Sarah felt her tears slide down her face as she turned her head inward to press against red locks and a pale neck, similarly affected. Breathing Tally in calmed her considerably, but the pain she was feeling at seeing her sister again was just so much.

It shouldn't still feel like it just happened, Sarah thought ruefully.

Soft hands drew her from her brooding when they passed up and down her back. She sighed at the calming motion and began to feel her control returning. She knew she should be embarrassed for losing her composure in front of a cadet, but she couldn't bring herself to care. She had endured so much, the least she could do was allow herself some comfort, especially in the privacy of their minds.

Sarah pulled back and wiped at her tears. "Thank you."

"I'm happy to help," Tally replied honestly as she reached up and brushed another stray tear from the General's face. "General—"

"Sarah," Alder interjected. She nearly laughed at Tally's surprise. "Call me Sarah. When we are alone like this, it's Sarah."

"Sarah," Tally repeated with a giddy smile.

Sarah found it infectious, and returned it.

"So, Sarah, why this memory?" Tally asked as they turned to face the continuing memory of Sarah and Elizabeth chasing each other around the house.

"I wanted to revisit my home," she answered honestly. "I also wanted to show you what my life was like before everything had happened."

"Why?" Tally questioned.

Sarah couldn't help but smile. "So many questions, Craven."

"Tally," she corrected, flashing a pleased grin.

Sarah leaned in closer to the witch's ear. "So many questions, Tally," her voice practically a purr.

Tally felt a rush of desire flood her and she couldn't help but gasp audibly as it hit her.

Sarah wondered for a second what had caused such a reaction when she felt it through the connection.

Oh.

Tally wanted her. Sarah had to close the connection off a little to ease the intensity of the feelings. She also didn't want to embarrass Tally that she felt it so strongly…or that her own was bubbling in response.

"Is there anywhere you'd like to see?" Sarah asked, changing the subject quickly. She did however reach down and take Tally's hand in her own.

"Oh, um," Tally stuttered out. "I'd like to see the rest of Liberia…"

Sarah considered her a moment before she closed her eyes and willed the memory forth. When she opened her eyes again, they were back in the jungles in combat attire.

"Up here," Sarah directed, pulling Tally through the group of witches to her position in the front.

She had only ever witnessed herself from this viewpoint a few times prior, and it was just as strange as the other times. But, they stopped next to her…and a woman that Tally was staring at intensely.

"Who is she?" Tally asked, pointing to the soldier.

"Nicte Batan," she replied.

"She's the redacted soldier," Tally murmured. "Why was she redacted from the history books, Sarah?"

She took a deep breath and brought another memory to the surface, one that would explain all to Tally and she prayed to the Goddess that she wouldn't think of her as a monster.

They stood outside of the church, just the two Sarahs and Tally.

In the General's hands was a glass bottle that she was staring at, a conflicted look on her face. Her hands shook for a moment, but only just. She took a deep breath, exhaled, and then threw the bottle in through the window.

Tally could faintly hear the manipulated seed from outside—and she watched, in horror, as the screams began from inside, as well as the fire.

Tears were shining in General Alder's eyes as she watched the scene.

"What did you do?!" Nicte screamed as she ran toward the church.

"Batan!" Alder called out, voice catching in her throat.

Nicte rounded on her. "You killed them all!"

"I did what I had to do!" Alder screamed, tears shining but her jaw firm. "I do what I always must do to keep us all safe. This kind of work, Nicte, it is wrong. I can't allow you and them to destroy everything I have built for us!"

"You're forcing us to participate in wars that we don't want to fight in! They surrendered! You didn't have to kill them! "

"The moment we no longer become useful to the government is the moment we will be persecuted, again! Having to fight wars for this country is how we stay safe!" General Alder raged back. "Would they have really surrendered, Nicte? This was not something we can just take their word for!"

Tally could feel the waves of anguish, guilt, determination…hope…that flowed through the connection.

She didn't agree with what Alder did—not by a longshot. The method was wrong…but the sentiment was there. She could see the panic in Alder's eyes. She never saw the woman so afraid.

"Your heart is black, Sarah," Nicte spit angrily before she ran off.

Tally's heart broke for Sarah. The anguish at those words were clear as day in her expression, and Tally watched mournfully as Sarah fell to her knees and sobbed.

"Take me to the moment after they hung your sister," Tally requested softly, her eyes still trained on the sight of Alder sobbing in the dirt. "I don't want you to watch her death again, but if you could send just me—"

"No," Sarah replied, shaking her head. She turned Tally to face her and took her hands in her own, closing her eyes.

The scene abruptly shifted when Tally blinked. They were now standing in a crowd of villagers, calling for death.

Tally looked on, terrified, as she saw that Elizabeth was still alive. They had just placed the noose around her neck. She turned quickly to Alder.

"If you want to see everything to know…you need to see it," Sarah whispered.

Tally squeezed Alder's hand and stood shoulder to shoulder with her. She knew this wasn't going to be pleasant for either of them…but especially for Sarah.

The crowd called out horrible things to Elizabeth. Accused her of horrible crimes. Threw rotten vegetables here and there as she stood sobbing with the noose around her neck.

Sarah looked away as the reverend kicked the stool out from under her—and Tally wrapped her arm around her, pulling her close and giving her no option but to take refuge there.

Her hand ran up and down Sarah's back as she watched the crowd cheer loudly for the death of her sister.

"Sarah Alder!" the reverend yelled.

Sarah looked up from where she had rested her head. She was ashamed for being unable to watch after all these years, but she was grateful that Tally wasn't thinking her weak for it.

Tally took a sharp breath as she saw familiar eyes shining with tears behind a scold's bridle. Her clothing was ripped and dirty, no doubt from being dragged.

The reverend began reading her accusations, but Tally wasn't paying the words any mind. Instead, she looked around at the faces of everyone there. There was such malice in their eyes and fury on their lips; this was true hatred.

"Did you know all of them?" Tally asked.

Sarah looked away from her younger self to the crowd around them. "Yes." She nodded to a woman near them. "Mary Cobbs, I helped my mother deliver her daughter." Her eyes shifted. "I regularly dropped off medicine for the reverend's wife. I helped my mother and sister tend to any injury or illness as well. I worked on all of them at some point. The local merchant and his family, I played with his children in my youth. Those are his sons there."

Tally looked at Sarah's eyeline and watched as the boys—about Sarah's age—yelling atrocious things about her—lying about her.

And Tally suddenly got it.

Hundreds of years. Three hundred plus years General Alder led the army and watched out for their kind. Tally suddenly understood the weight Alder had been carrying. People in the village that she knew her whole life had turned on her family in an instant. Tally was well aware of what others say about Sarah—that through the hundreds of years she's lived, she didn't retain her humanity; that it is impossible to be human still when you have outlived everyone you've ever known; that it is impossible to still feel empathy after numerous wars and battles.

That was proven wrong the moment Sarah cried at the memory of her sister. Tally knew then that despite the hard outer layer Sarah had, she was still just as human as the rest of them…and she was still going.

Then the reverend was removing the bridle with the whole crowd encouraging her to speak up for her crimes.

And Sarah roared.

Tally could feel the power in her seed as it sprang from her lips, cascading over everyone before thunder and lightning began to crack in the sky. She watched as the villagers changed their tune, urging the reverend to reconsider because they could utilize her power.

She saw firsthand what their fear would do…and how the villagers wanted to use her powers…embracing witches to use them. How quickly they changed their opinion…

But it also had been saving them. Until the Spree began attacking and making the witches look dangerous to civilians…and the Camarilla coming back.

So much sacrifice.

Tally rounded on Sarah. "Wake us up."

"Tally…" Sarah began, thoroughly confused.

"Sarah," Tally uttered with a smile. "Wake us up."

Sarah closed her eyes, opening them and finding her and Tally in her bed. Her eyes flickered to the clock on her nightstand.

04:00

She sighed and reached out to shake Tally awake.

"Tally," Sarah said softly.

The red-haired witch woke slowly, her eyes blinking the remnants of sleep from her eyes.

"Sarah," Tally murmured before wiping her eyes and waking up fully. She sat up in the bed and turned to look at the older woman, who was still laying under the covers with a worried gaze.

"I understand now," Tally supplied with a soft smile. "You've spent your whole life…sacrificing everything to keep witchkind safe. I don't agree with your methods or the things you've done, but I understand." Tally reached out, thrilled when Alder reached back so that they could entwine their hands. She didn't dwell on how easy it was. "You saw how easily we could be turned on…seen so many wars…watched the Spree aid in making us look evil to civilians…helped them hate us more. The Camarilla…Goddess, I'm sorry."

Sarah sat up, tears threatening to break free. She couldn't remember when she last cried this much in a day. But these tears were different, these were relief and happiness.

"You gave us a place in the world," Tally pressed on as she started to cry. The emotion from witnessing everything had shaken her, and Sarah's emotions were only enhancing Tally's. "Centuries of hard work and sacrifice and the Spree an-and Camarilla could u-undo it a—" her breath caught in her throat as she began to worry.

Sarah was there in an instant, pulling Tally to her to practically sit in her lap. "I will do everything in my power to keep them from succeeding."

Tally pulled back with a watery smile. "I know you will."

Sarah felt as if the sun had just burst from her chest. Tally seemed to have that effect on her, and it was growing faster. It felt as if her emotions were on a high speed train, and she could do nothing to stop it. She let her head rest against Tally's.

"It is still early, and you have had anything but a restful night," Sarah murmured against Tally's forehead before placing a soft kiss there. The action made her lips tingle and she could feel Tally's breath catch. "We can talk more later if you have more questions…which I'm sure you do."

"The memories haven't all been bad," Tally admitted.

Sarah could sense there was more to that, so she softly spoke, "I believe you have more than earned the right to speak freely."

"It was nice feeling close to you, even if it was just a memory."

She softly smiled against her forehead. "Will you rest now?"

Tally nodded and Alder could feel Tally's elation through the link.

She was already indulging in this too much. She had allowed her to see her memories. Memories that were some of the most painful moments in her life, without a moment's hesitation…because Tally asked. With their connection intensifying, she knew she needed to find an explanation soon so that they could prepare. If Tally would continue to get hurt, she would need to find a way to sever the connection.

At the thought, it felt as though her body screamed 'no'. From the depths of her being, everything in her revolted against the idea of no longer being connected to the young witch.

"Will you sleep?" Tally asked, her words already slurring a little as she nuzzled in closer to Sarah, shivering slightly.

It was enough to pull Sarah from her dark thoughts, and she leaned backward carefully to lower them both on the bed—grabbing the old quilt at the bottom and pulling it with her. Tally adjusted her position, a leg thrown over Sarah's; her left arm laying protectively across her chest; her nose nuzzling against Sarah's neck.

Sarah shivered at the contact. It was addicting.

"I will try. But fret not, I will be here when you wake." She kissed her forehead once more, unable to resist, and tucked the quilt around Tally.

It wasn't long before she was out too.




Chapter Text

Sarah awoke slowly at first. She was warm and cozy—a feeling that was exceedingly rare—then she realized there was a weight on her chest.

Her eyes opened and she was greeted with the sight of red hair in her face, and a very passed out Tally Craven on her chest. The memories of the earlier hours flooded back as she carefully brushed the strands from Tally's face and smoothed them near her own.

Sarah could tell by the dead weight on her chest that the cadet was in a very deep slumber and she was thrilled to see her still sleeping soundly.

No nightmarish memories, she thought completely relieved. They would have to try a few different methods just to test what would work and what wouldn't. She couldn't have Tally staying with her every night.

Her heart jumped at the thought, ever so pleased with the possibility of the young witch being in her arms regularly.

She stamped it down and peered over at the clock.

08:00

She had slept for a few hours at least, but she had overslept. She could feel the biddies waiting patiently in her office for her, and she quietly summoned them to the room through the link.

One by one they filed in and gathered around the foot of the bed; each had a pleased glint in their eyes, and Sarah caught the joined sentiment through their link.

"Not a word," she directed through the connection.

They nodded in tandem, still pleased as they glanced at the young, sleeping witch.

"I will be working from here until she wakes. Goddess knows she needs her sleep," she informed them.

She had them push back any meetings that she could, and reschedule those that she couldn't and needed to cancel. She requested the papers she had been reviewing, as well as a few books on bindings to research her and Tally's connection further.

The biddies went about their duties silently, while the General tried to figure out how to sit up and leave the bed without waking Tally.

She carefully began to move—and as if realizing what Sarah was doing, Tally tightened her hold.

"Tally, I only need up for a moment and then I'll be back," she whispered softly, hoping the younger witch could hear her.

She tried again and to her delight, Tally stayed still. She quickly dashed to the bathroom to relieve herself and freshen up before returning. Tally hadn't moved from her spot. Once Sarah was seated against the headboard and adjusted, she carefully adjusted Tally's head so it rested in her lap while she hugged the rest of Alder's legs. She adjusted the quilt once more, tucking her in.

She ignored her biddies. They knew exactly what she was feeling. No need to give them the satisfaction of admitting it.

You're smitten. One of her biddies commented through the link. Her eyes glanced up and she glared at Corinne, one of the oldest biddies.

Sarah told herself that she didn't owe a response…but they all knew it was because she couldn't deny it.

We've been able to feel your pining, Corinne pressed. She thought it with such nonchalance—as if it wasn't the equivalent of a bomb dropping.

Sarah clenched her jaw. I do not pine.

The biddies all shared a look and Sarah scoffed. She picked up a few papers and set to reading, ignoring any further jabs from her biddies.

It was an hour later when she realized that Tally had her off-canon work class…which was starting any moment.

She reached out with farspeech. "Magda, Cadet Craven will not be in class. She is working with me today," she said softly.

"Understood, General," Verger replied before the connection was cut.

Sarah sighed and glanced down. Tally was out cold still and Sarah couldn't help but smile softly as she brushed a loose strand of hair away from her face.

She returned to her work, silently reading.

When Tally did finally wake, it was almost noon.

She began to stir in Sarah's lap, causing the older witch to set her papers down behind Tally as she woke.

She sat up, a little bleary eyed before reality seemed to settle in.

"Good morning," Sarah greeted.

Tally's head whipped to face her, as if she couldn't believe this was real.

"How did you sleep? You looked rather peaceful," she continued.

"I slept amazing," Tally breathed out before a large smile overtook her. "Thank you so much."

Sarah returned the smile, pleased she was able to help.

Tally then noticed the piles of papers that surrounded her. Each had been carefully placed behind where Tally had been curled up but still within arm's reach of Alder. She whipped her head at the clock and realized the time, panic rising.

Sarah quickly grasped her chin, forcing Tally to look at her. "I told Verger you weren't going to be in class, there will be no penalty."

Tally calmed considerably. "Thank you. I can't believe I slept so long."

"You needed it. Rather desperately judging by the depth of the slumber," Sarah added. Her hand still held Tally's chin, and she left a parting stroke before she pulled it back.

"To be honest, I feel like I could've slept more. I didn't realize how exhausted I was," Tally told her as she rubbed some sleep from her eye.

Sarah's heart clenched. Tally did look more rested, but she could still see the exhaustion beneath her eyes.

Tally's eyes widened again. "Oh my god you've been working from bed."

Alder couldn't help but chuckle at Tally's expression of disbelief.

"Why didn't you wake me? You're the General and I just passed out on you like you're my personal pillow, this is so embarrassing."

Sarah laughed, startling Tally and earning knowing smiles from the biddies.

"Tally, it is more than okay. I made the decision to not wake you. You were sleeping soundly and I know you haven't been getting much as of late. It will affect your performance if you do not get enough rest. I also gave you my word I would be here when you woke," she told her honestly.

Tally was speechless, so she simply nodded and smiled softly at Sarah. Her eyes fell to the quilt that was laying across her body, and she took it between her fingers to feel the material.

"My mother made that for me. In the old world actually, before we came here."

Tally's eyes widened and she looked at Sarah flabbergasted.

The General smirked. "Don't worry, I've imbued it with work so that it will never be damaged. It is one of the few things I have of her still," she told her thoughtfully.

"It's really cozy," Tally told her with a soft smile. "And it smells like you."

Alder arched an eyebrow and Tally's face nearly turned as red as her hair. She really tried to dampen the butterflies in her stomach at Tally's words…but the smile forming on Tally's face told her she hadn't succeeded.

"Now," Sarah began as she swung her legs from the bed and stretched languidly. "I had the biddies retrieve some of your things so you could get ready here instead of going back to your unit in your pajamas." She gestured for one of the biddies to hand Tally her uniform and toiletries.

"Thank you," Tally told her gratefully. "I am going to go get ready then." She hopped up off the bed and darted to the bathroom.

She couldn't believe that she had slept so long, and that she had been snuggled up with Sarah the whole night.

Sarah, she rolled the name around in her head. Her stomach flipped pleasantly and she couldn't keep the smile from her face if she wanted to. She was fairly certain that Alder might have feelings for her. Tally knew she had them for her…that was undeniable—but maybe, just maybe, Sarah felt the same.

Meanwhile, Sarah began organizing her papers with the assistance of the biddies and carrying items out into her office.

She was still wearing her tank top and shorts. Her hair was still in its tight braid, but not as kept after sleeping on it the whole night. She honestly didn't mind. She rarely needed sleep, but around Tally she couldn't help but slip into that warm abyss of slumber.

Her eyes trailed over to the tray that sat on the tea cart near her desk. There was a carafe of fresh coffee on it, as well as a plate of fruit and some pastries. She arched a questioning eyebrow as her biddies entered the room.

They merely smiled and took their seats.

"Sure, act innocent," she chided affectionately. She helped herself to a cup of coffee. She loved her wine, whiskey, coffee, and tea. Everything else could fall to the wayside in terms of food.

She added some sugar and took a swig as she began sorting through the files.

Then her office door burst open.

She looked up, eyes narrowing as she leered at the two cadets that just barged in. The biddies hissed their displeasure, and Alder allowed them to continue until she held up a hand. Silently, she excused the biddies from the room, waiting until they were gone before she sang a soft seed, soundproofing the room. She didn't need anyone else hearing what this would entail.

"Collar, Bellweather…I'm shocked your parents never taught you how to knock," she said smoothly as she took another swig of coffee. "To what do I owe this intrusion?"

They had the decency to look ashamed for barging in. Especially when they both realized the General wasn't in uniform.

Abigail was the one to speak first. "I'm sorry for intruding, General, we're just really worried about Tally."

It was an honest answer and Sarah knew that as soon as they entered. She simply disliked the lack of manners.

She was feeling rather generous today however and decided to show leniency.

So generous, came the soft comment from Erin, another of her biddies.

Erin, Sarah silenced, even as she felt warmth flood her cheeks. She loved her biddies but sometimes their constant connection didn't allow her room for denial.

"Craven is fine. She slept quite a while and it was much needed. I didn't want to interrupt that," she explained before finishing her cup of coffee—face impassive as ever.

"When Major Verger said she wouldn't be in class because she was with you…" Collar trailed off, as if she was realizing her mistake as she said it.

The implication was clear. They didn't think Tally would be safe with her. She couldn't fault them too much. Collar had an issue with her since before she arrived on base; Abigail's issues had increased with Tally's line of questioning—which she could hardly blame her for, even though it frustrated her to no end.

She walked to the cart and refilled her cup before turning to look at them. "I can assure you that Tally is safe with me. There were no more incidents last night, and there is one solid way to keep her from harm." That was all she said for the moment. She knew that Tally would fill them in on everything else, and she owed them no explanation.

Before either cadet could say anything in response, Tally breezed into the room, not noticing her unit, and headed straight toward Sarah's position.

"Sarah, do I sme—yes I did, coffee," Tally said excitedly.

Without even thinking, Tally plucked Alder's cup from her hand and took a sip—humming happily at the first taste.

"Oh pastries!"

Sarah could tell she was blushing a little. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks.

"Thank you," Tally said gratefully, offering a shining smile.

Alder thought she was looking into a star with how bright it was. She got lost a moment in her gaze. The relief and joy she felt at seeing Tally look at her like that again…

Raelle and Abigail were rooted to their spot, watching wide eyed.

Alder groaned internally at herself, remembering that they weren't alone in the room. She should have shot Tally a look—something or anything to keep this from escalating when they were still trying to understand. But the look of delight on Tally's face when their eyes met; her name falling from pink lips; her cup taken right from her hands to be drunk by another. She couldn't bring herself to care too much. Especially since Tally was no longer looking at her like she had betrayed everyone.

"Tally," Sarah said softly, clearing her throat and nodding to the door.

Tally spun, eyes widening when she saw her unit standing there. "Hi," she said happily. "What're you guys doing here?"

Alder, not one to hang around for other's awkward conversations—took a step forward and lightly touched Tally's arm.

They shared a moment as Alder reached out for their connection, suppressing a gasp at the wave of emotions that cascaded over her.

"The room is proofed, you can speak freely," Sarah said through the connection. They could communicate much like they could through the biddy link she surmised.

Tally seemed perplexed as she asked, "What should I tell them? Also we can talk telepathically?" Her eyes brightened.

From what Sarah was understanding so far, the biddies could hear nothing that Tally told Sarah.

Curious, she mused to herself.

"Whatever you wish. I trust you to do what you feel is bestAnd yes, it would appear so." Then she stepped away and left to her private rooms.

As soon as the door shut Raelle spoke, "What the fuck is going on with you two?"

"Sarah?" Abigail asked. Her eyes shone with mirth and disbelief as she sat down in a chair, followed by Raelle.

Tally blushed and took a sip of her coffee. "Well…"

She told them about Alder's concern, the connection and feelings Tally was experiencing; how she's really been doing since the de-biddying; why she hadn't told them truthfully how little she'd been sleeping and so focused on the truth; how much she's missed Alder; how she feels around her. Then she spoke of the memories. She didn't go into detail, only telling them the pertinent points, and expressing her genuine trust in the woman now—even if she didn't always agree with her actions, she knew the General had all of their best interests at heart.

"I'm sorry…I'm still stuck on what you said…you said that she worked around you in bed while you were passed out on her?" Abigail asked with a delighted chuckle.

Tally couldn't help but giggle as her cheeks reddened.

"I'm still stuck on the fact that Alder bridal carried you to her room," Raelle pointed out. "You've always had a crush on Alder, Tal, so I'm not surprised on your end..."

"What do you mean?" Tally asked curiously, eyebrows scrunching together.

"I mean...do you think Alder feels the same as you?" Raelle questioned.

Tally sighed wistfully. "I don't know...I obviously hope so but...she's the General. She's like...unattainable."

Raelle worried her lip. "Are you sure about this, Tal? She's done a lot of shit…and romantically she's your commanding officer…all of ours. That's got to be an issue." Raelle crossed her arms.

Tally's face fell.

"She's letting you address her by name, Tal," Abigail commented, soldiering on through Rae's downer. She shot Raelle a look.

"I know," said Tally, as another blush graced her face. "I can tell you guys more later."

"I think we should have a proper session once we are in our room," Abigail suggested.

"Just be careful, Tal," Raelle added. "I still don't trust her."

Abigail looked to Tally then and nudged Raelle, noticing the redhead was preoccupied.

Tally had tilted her head to the side, as if listening, and a soft smile graced her face.

"Ah, Alder is about to come in," Tally said quickly just before the door swung open.

"General," Abigail and Raelle greeted, properly this time, as they stood.

Back in her uniform, the commanding aura of the General was palpable in the room.

"At ease, cadets. You did catch me in my sleepwear," she joked. Her eyes drifted to Tally's. "I have meetings to attend for the rest of the day, but I would like you back here at 2200 tonight if you're agreeable. You still need more rest."

Tally nodded quickly, and Sarah suppressed the urge to chuckle at the girl's eagerness. She'd be a liar if she said she wasn't looking forward to another night with the witch.

"Excellent. You're all dismissed, and I suggest you go straight to lunch," Sarah said, looking pointedly at Tally where she was just finishing her croissant.

The three cadets began exiting the room—and Tally cast one final glance back at the General before disappearing down the hall.

Her biddies entered, all coming to stand around the desk. Their eyebrows were raised, gazes pointed, and lips turned upward in satisfied smirks.

Alder looked at them, hearing what they were saying loud and clear even though no words were spoken aloud or through the link.

"Oh shut up."

 


 

"I'm sorry I had to push our meeting back," Sarah expressed as she and her biddies approached Izadora.

"Not an issue, General," Izadora replied. "What was it that you wanted to discuss?"

Sarah released a breath, unsure where to begin even. She worried her lip between her teeth as her fingers flexed from where they were clasped behind her back.

"Sarah," Izadora addressed with a smile.

It was enough to draw Alder's gaze.

She took a deep breath. "Tally Craven," she said simply before launching into the details. She was concerned—placing this much information in the hands of another—but Izadora was trustworthy, she had proven so on many occasions.

"The de-biddying went exactly as it should have. Of course there would be a small bond still but…that's minuscule and doesn't usually actively last more than a few days, let alone weeks…and intensifies." Izadora watched the General carefully as she mused aloud.

"I agree," Alder concurred. "What I am unsure of is what it is. This connection with Tally…it's allowing her to see my memories and even be injured in them with the injuries manifesting in the physical world. How can that be?" she questioned.

Izadora shook her head. "I'm unsure. I will research what I can and keep you informed." She sighed. "In the meantime, continue with your tests on which methods help keep her safe until I find something."

"Thank you, Izadora."

"Now, once you know what the connection is…what are your plans for her?" Izadora questioned.

Sarah leaned against the wall. "I do not know. What I feel is…" she trailed off before she met Izadora's gaze. "It's unlike anything else I've felt and it…it feels ancient. Like old magic is afoot."

Izadora hummed. "So you'll pursue it?" She smirked.

Alder stiffened. "I can't."

"What do you mean you can't?" Izadora asked with a laugh. "Sarah, if you and the girl are meant to be connected…you've never had that before have you?"

Sarah shook her head.

"Maybe it's a blessing from the Goddess. You've done so much for witchkind, perhaps this is your reward for everything you've sacrificed."

Sarah wasn't sure how she felt about that. She'd been alive so long, why would she bless her with something so wonderful now?

"Sarah, I can see the doubt swirling," Izadora chuckled. "Whatever this is, it is rare—and if it is also ancient?" Izadora shrugged. "Then there is nothing to be done but accept the happiness given to you. You know better than to fight against that."

"A losing battle indeed," she replied. "Tally is at risk from outside forces as well if they learn of our connection, and if this connection is permanent then they eventually will and that puts her in danger. I can't ask any more of her."

Izadora's face fell, understanding where the General was coming from. "Tally is very capable. She's also a very gifted Knower and you know that will serve her well. You can't protect everyone, Sarah, but if you're willing to try and let her in, you can protect her."

Izadora placed a hand on Sarah's shoulder and gave it a supportive squeeze. She needed to begin her research and she knew she left the older woman something to think about.


Tally was anxious. She was on her way to Alder's quarters and glanced at the clock on a nearby wall. It was almost 2200 so she would be right on time. She and the girls had their gush session in the late afternoon after their training finished for the day. Tally couldn't help but tell them everything she was feeling.

She didn't mention that Alder had cried on her, but she made sure to tell them how gentle she was with her, and how worried she had seemed at the thought of Tally in harm's way.

"I don't fully trust her, Tal, but I trust you," Raelle had concluded before Tally left.

She could understand that. She would be of the same mindset if she was in Raelle's position.

She didn't bother knocking when she arrived, simply opening the door with her packed bag of clothes and toiletries and entering the office.

The empty office.

She's already in her room, Tally thought as she approached the other door. This time she did knock, only entering when she heard the 'come in' from the other side.

When Tally entered she felt like someone had knocked the wind out of her.

Sarah was sitting on the bed, her legs crossed; a pair of shorts and a tank top once more; her black hair cascading in loose waves over her shoulders.

Tally definitely forgot how to breathe. She forced her heart to calm down, but she lost it again when Sarah looked up and smiled.

"Right on time," the General commented as she swept the papers up and handed them to one of the remaining biddies in the room before bidding her good night, and looking up at Tally.

Their eyes met, and they took each other in. After a stretched silence that most would find uncomfortable—but in their case it felt completely natural.

Tally finally spoke, "Hi."

Alder chuckled. "Hi."

"So," Tally began as she walked toward the bathroom. She could feel Alder's stare on her and it sent a thrill of excitement through her. "What are you thinking for tonight?"

She disappeared into the bathroom and closed the door behind her as she began readying herself for bed.

"Well," Sarah's voice came from the other side of the door, and Tally surmised the witch had risen and approached. "Tonight I would like to do the same as last night. Until you're adequately rested, I don't want to experiment—the risk of you losing even more sleep is not something either of us want."

Tally opened the door, now changed for bed, and set to brushing her teeth. Once she spit her toothpaste out she glanced at Sarah.

"And once I'm adequately rested?"

Sarah sighed. "I am wondering if being in close proximity to me is helping. Last night, when I carried you, your color returned almost instantaneously. It's only a theory but there's a possibility that us being separated is causing everything."

"So, you think that being in closer proximity to you will keep the nightmares from being too intense or gone?"

"Possibly. Once you've rested properly we can try other methods. We can reassess from there." Sarah shifted on her feet as she leaned against the doorframe. "I meant what I said, Tally, until we figure this out we will do this each night."

Tally offered her a small smile as they walked toward the bed.

"I also spoke with Izadora today about the connection. She is going to do some research and see if she can find anything about what it is, how it happened, and how you're bearing the brunt of the physical injuries." Sarah stared at the corner of her bed, deep in thought.

Tally slid into the bed first, waiting for Sarah to climb under the covers and join her. They laid on their backs again, gazing at the ceiling.

"You don't think it's related to the biddy connection," Tally stated. She had read between the lines of Alder's words.

Alder's jaw clenched. "No. No I don't," she breathed out.

She could feel Tally's eyes on her face and she turned to meet them—suppressing a gasp at the look directed at her.

Tally was looking at her as though she had hung the moon. Her smile was wide, and her eyes sparkled with something that Alder couldn't place—but knew she had been the reason, and it filled her with an all-consuming warmth.

Tally rolled onto her side, a little closer to Sarah.

The General knew she should put a stop to the more…intimate moments, but she really didn't want to. Tally was the sun, and Sarah was trapped by the magnetism she exuded. So she rolled onto her side, mirroring their positions from the previous night. This time though, they were far closer than what would be appropriate—as if any of this was appropriate.

Sarah was grasping at straws, she realized.

"What do you think it is?" Tally asked. She swallowed thickly as she glanced down at Sarah's lips. Their faces were only inches apart.

"I have no idea," Sarah answered softly. "All I know is that it is growing stronger."

Tally's eyes brightened. "You feel it too?"

"Your emotions aren't exactly subtle," Sarah teased.

A pretty blush coated Tally's cheeks. "You…you've been feeling what I've been feeling? Like…everything?"

Sarah nodded carefully. She had admitted as much last night, but she hadn't voiced that she was finding immense difficulty in burying her own emotions now.

"Wh-why are yours not so easily felt?" Tally asked.

Sarah could see the dark doubt that began descending over Tally's expression, and she quickly rectified it by reaching up and cupping Tally's cheek.

"I am hundreds of years old and I have had a lot of practice keeping my feelings buried." It was the truth. She leaned forward and touched their foreheads, and she released a shaky breath.

The more they touched, the more electricity she felt surging through her. She had no doubt if she wanted to summon a storm she could do so with minimal loss to her power. She wondered how her magic would react to her lips on Tally's.

But she resisted. Barely.

Sarah pulled away and everything in her being protested at her decision.

She cleared her throat. "You should sleep. I'll meet you there."

Tally nodded and offered Sarah a small smile as she shyly reached for Sarah's hand. Out of instinct, Tally snuggled into Sarah's hand and closed her eyes.

Sarah's breath caught in her throat as her heart beat faster. She began her seed, lulling Tally to sleep. Once she was out, she released a shaky breath.

"Goodnight, Tally," she whispered before she leaned forward and placed a delicate kiss to her forehead.

 


 

Tally once again found herself in Salem. It seemed like this was going to be the go to place for them. She wasn't mad about it. She enjoyed seeing the way things used to be. She wasn't sure how long she had before Sarah would appear, so she took off in the direction of Sarah's childhood home.

There was no one in sight as she approached. She took in the outside better before she walked up to the door and stepped inside.

The interior of the cottage was simple enough. There was a hearth to the side, a large cauldron simmering over an open flame as something delicious wafted through the air. There was a table and four chairs nearby; various herbs hung around the walls to dry; there was a double bed off to the side; a ladder led up to what Tally surmised was the equivalent of a loft.

It was all so simple and Tally couldn't bother to fight her curiosity at what resided up the ladder. So, she climbed.

The loft was simple as well. There were a number of old journals on the shelves that were against the walls. Two single beds resided on either side of the room—Tally's eyes brightened when she saw the quilt that Sarah's mother had made her, resting at the foot of one of the beds.

What really caught Tally's eye though were a few pieces of parchment resting on the small table near Sarah's bed.

It was a drawing of her sister Elizabeth. It wasn't bad, and Tally wondered who had drawn it, whether it was Elizabeth, Sarah, or their mother or father perhaps.

"Tally?" Sarah called from outside.

"In here!" Tally called back.

She heard the door open and then the sound of climbing.

"I see your curiosity knows no bounds," Sarah chided.

Tally blushed, embarrassed, as she turned around to meet Sarah's gaze.

The General wasn't upset though. Instead, the expression on her face was soft as she looked at Tally, and then around the room.

Her eyes fell on her old bed and she sighed as she walked over to Elizabeth's and took a seat on it.

"I'm sorry. I was curious and I didn't think about how this might feel for you," Tally said.

Sarah shook her head and patted the spot next to her. When Tally joined her, sitting shoulder to shoulder, Sarah instinctively took Tally's hand in her own.

She momentarily cursed herself at not having a better handle on her desires.

"Who drew the portrait?" Tally asked, pointing to the paper on the table with her free hand.

"I did," Sarah answered.

Tally whipped her head to look at her. "You can draw?"

Sarah's eyes twinkled with amusement. "I am a woman of many talents, Tally."

Tally blushed prettily and Sarah couldn't resist the smile that blossomed on her face. She really didn't want to think about why that affected her so. She knew though…and to be honest she was growing tired of fighting that. It had been easier over the years to forgo the desire to form any meaningful connections. She had certainly given up on love. Even the interest in sex had taken a backseat. She participated in Beltane, as was tradition, but that was merely for the power boost. By the time there was even enough peace for her to entertain the notion of finding a partner, she was already nearly one hundred and finding anyone that could remotely understand her was simply…unbelievable.

Then entered Tally Craven. She had seamlessly wiggled between Sarah's cracks and took up residence where no one had ever dared the attempt to go. She slipped in, as if she had been there all along, and Sarah found she didn't want to push her out.

"Do you still draw?" Tally asked, pulling Sarah from her internal storm.

"Yes," Sarah admitted. "Not as often as I would like, of course. But when things are fairly calm, I do enjoy sitting with my sketchbook and a glass of whiskey." She nodded to the picture. "I've gotten much better since though."

"I didn't know that as a biddy."

Sarah smiled softly and looked at Tally. "The biddies and I, as you know, share much. But, much are surface feelings, thoughts, desires, and the like. The deeper things…I try to keep to myself. Previous biddies have known of my interests but it really depends on what the time is like. Are we in a time of peace or turmoil…they flip back and forth so easily…" she mused.

Tally was soaking every word up as Sarah spoke. She loved the sound of Sarah's voice. Despite the way her words and looks could cut the bravest individual…Tally found them soothing.

"I don't want to overstep…" Tally began hesitantly.

Alder arched a brow, as if saying 'I believe we are past that.'

"If you ever want to share your drawings, I'd love to see them." Tally fidgeted with Sarah's hand. "I um…" she sighed, slightly embarrassed. "I write poetry."

Sarah squeezed her hand, drawing her eyes to her own. "If you would ever like to share…I believe we could exchange."

Tally beamed even as she blushed. "Some of it is really sappy though."

Alder laughed, and Tally loved the way the lines near her eyes became more prominent.

"Is most poetry not?" Sarah mused. "Regardless of what the subject is…it is all romantic. Be it dark or light or somewhere in between, it seeks to invoke emotion."

Tally could barely contain the feelings that were sitting in her chest as Sarah spoke.

Oh Goddess I really really like her, Tally thought to herself with a heavy internal sigh. She suspected it might actually be…more.

Sarah didn't tell her she caught the thought, and she summoned all her strength to keep that hidden from their link. She silently cursed herself at how difficult it was. She knew she couldn't keep the floodgates from opening for much longer. The strength of the connection…its rapid increasing…even she didn't have the power to do that.

"You're right. I didn't take you for a romantic, Sarah," Tally told her softly.

Sarah hummed. "Most wouldn't. To be fair, I certainly do not come off as such."

Tally shook her head and grinned. "No. I think that is an important distinction though. General Alder? A romantic? Impossible," she told her with a teasing smile. "But Sarah Alder? Witch of witches…I believe it."

Sarah whipped her head up to look at Tally. She didn't have the words, but she knew Tally understood the words behind the expression she wore.

"I think we all forget, myself included, that you're…you're you. You're a witch. You're a woman. You're more than the General of the Armed Forces. Though your whole life has revolved around witchkind and the army…you're still an individual with your own passions, desires, interests, etc."

Oh how Sarah tried to fight the tears that were welling in her eyes. She wasn't sure how Tally did that…how she had always seemed to just…know her. She knew she was a talented Knower…but this was more intimate than anything she'd experienced. The simple act of being known.

"I'm sorry," Tally whispered as she brought her free hand up to wipe away a stray tear.

"No apology necessary," Sarah replied, honestly. "You are simply remarkable, Tally Craven."

Tally's breath caught in her throat at the gentle gaze Sarah was fixing her with. She felt exposed—yet safe.

"Well, the sentiment is mutual, Sarah Alder."

A laugh escaped the General and she shook her head as she gazed around the room. She squeezed Tally's hand in a silent 'thank you' before she sighed.

"I set an alarm to wake us, so I am not sure how much time has passed. However, with whatever time we have, would you like to see anything else?"

Tally's eyes brightened. "Anything?"

Sarah's gaze narrowed suspiciously and Tally laughed loudly.

"Relax, nothing embarrassing." Tally grinned, her nose crinkling. "I'd actually really love to see more of your youth, before everything."

Sarah's eyebrows rose in surprise. She hadn't expected that, to be honest.

She closed her eyes and recalled one of her favorite memories.

When she opened them, they were outside in a field, just a ways from the cottage.

Sarah, Elizabeth, her mother, and her father, were all gathered on the edge of the field.

"This field is one of many the town used for our crops. This was our second year here and we had a very dry summer, and feared that we wouldn't have any rain to grow our food. My family rarely used the Work to call upon rain."

"Why did you lose your fertility then? If you could call on the rain?" Tally asked.

Sarah hummed. "The Work to call on rain, and the Work to do what I did…what I can do…different seeds and difficulty. What I sang was sacred and never supposed to be uttered. This is a minor working." She led them closer to her family. "This was the first time I had ever joined them in it. This was my first seed."

Tally smiled as she watched. Her heart was beating loudly to her own ears. Sarah was sharing her first true moment as a witch with her…of her own volition.

Young Sarah seemed nervous. Tally surmised she couldn't be more than eight here. Her eyes were wide and filled with uncertainty, something Tally had never expected to see from the General.

"We all start somewhere," Sarah told her, having caught the musings.

"Now," Sarah's mother began as she knelt in front of her youngest. "Listen to the seed that we sing…allow the work to fill you…feel it in your blood, in your gut…when you feel as though you could burst, that is when you should sing."

Young Sarah nodded, blue eyes still wide.

Her family began, and Tally could feel the hair on her body stand up as the power that rippled in the air. She looked up, watching the sky slowly fill with a few clouds. Her eyes went back to Sarah, watching as her eyes were closed, brow furrowed in concentration.

When her blue eyes shot open, her mouth did as well and a new voice joined in.

Tally couldn't help but gasp. Even as a child, Sarah was powerful. Her parents seemed to realize this, looking to their daughter with surprise and pride as the clouds began to darken quickly.

Then the rain fell to the earth, soaking it and providing much needed nourishment. Her family ceased their seed as her mother knelt in front of Sarah with pride shining in her gaze.

"You are powerful, my daughter," her mother told her before she pressed her forehead against Sarah's.

"Does it always feel like that?" young Sarah asked, her eyes wide as she watched the ground soak up the rain.

Her mother stroked her hair lovingly. "Yes."

"Wow," young Sarah breathed out.

Tally could feel the wonderment, excitement, and pride flowing through the connection—and Tally couldn't help but feel incredibly proud and humble that Sarah had showed her this moment.

"Is this where you get the forehead touching from?" Tally had to ask.

Sarah's eyes were still trained on her family—taking them in and remembering every detail she could. She had heard Tally's question though, and on instinct she answered honestly before she could think on her words.

"Yes. My mother and father always did that to my sister and I. It's an intimate gesture, showing trust and affection. It allows the person to be close to you, and close enough to your cords that they could damage them should they wish," Sarah told her absentmindedly.

She only realized what she said when she felt the emotions roll off Tally and through their link. It made her gasp—the pride that Tally felt at being so trusted by her to allow her to be so close to one of the most powerful witches, and near enough to an area that was sacred to them.

It was the greatest display of trust, and Tally had never thought of the significance until Sarah had told her.

Sarah swallowed thickly, silently cursing herself. Part of her…a part that was growing more insistent and refusing to be shut down much longer, spoke from within.

Let go.

She released a shaky breath and squeezed Tally's hand. Her thumb stroked the back of it softly.

"What're your parents' names?" Tally asked.

Sarah smiled and looked at Tally. "Mary and Thomas."

"Mary and Thomas Alder," Tally repeated with a smile, looking at Sarah's parents. "I bet they're so proud of you."

Sarah's eyes widened.

"They're all with the Goddess and I bet they've been watching everything you've done," Tally continued her musing as she watched them. "Imagine being your family and watching all you've done for witchkind. Everything your parents had to run from…you stood and confronted it. You'd known nothing but running your whole life in the old world…to have it follow here as well..." Tally turned her gaze to Sarah then, pressing on despite the look on Sarah's face that she might break. "Can you feel that pride? You took on the Camarilla, pushed them into near extinction, gave witches a place to call home, protected them the best way you could, helped their numbers grow by signing the accords, have led the Armed Forces for hundreds of years and are still going…"

The floodgates Sarah had thought of…if she thought they were ready to burst before…she was mistaken. She could feel it—the emotions rising and sloshing over the walls that she had constructed so carefully to prevent anything like this from happening.

"I'm proud of you," Tally told her, oblivious to how hard Sarah was working internally. "I can't imagine how proud they are, Sarah."

Sarah gasped, unable to keep her emotions in anymore—and the dam burst. Tears fell from her eyes as her heart clenched so painfully with affection, adoration, and wonder. It physically pained her to not have more contact with Tally. So she surprised her by releasing her hand, grabbing her waist, and pulling her flush against her in a hug.

Tally was breathing shakily as she felt Sarah's emotions crash into her through the connection.

It was intense.

She had never felt anything like it. She felt like she was floating, yet near blacking out from the sensations running through her. She couldn't do anything other than cling to Sarah and hold her tight as the General cried against her.

Tally realized then that Sarah had never heard those words since her parents passed. In the 286 years she had been essentially immortal, no one had told her that. That realization made Tally angry and sad at once. She tightened her hold on Sarah, her face turning to press against her neck.

Over and over she thought through the connection, 'I'm proud of you.'

Tally had no idea how long they stood there in the rain from the Alder family's seed, just holding onto each other as if they were the only tethers they had to the earth.

Sarah's hand tightened around Tally's waist as her other slid up her back and threaded through auburn locks, keeping her pressed against her neck—just to the side of her vocal cords.

The smallest windshear at this close of proximity could damage her cords beyond repair, or kill her instantly. She had no fear of it from Tally though. She had no feeling to even be slightly cautious—and that was when she realized how much she truly trusted the young witch.

"I…" Sarah began, her throat tight from crying. "I have no idea what I have done that was worth you being in my very long life, Tally, but I thank the Goddess."

Tally's breath caught at the admission and the sentiment of trust and she pressed closer, releasing another shaky breath against Sarah's throat before she did something that was definitely inappropriate. She pressed a light kiss right over Sarah's vocal cords.

Sarah gasped at the sensation.

"Thank you for trusting me so much," Tally murmured against her before she returned to the side of Sarah's neck. "I'm not sure what I did to earn that…but I also thank the Goddess."

Sarah lightly traced a rune of protection against the back of Tally's neck, feeling her shiver against her at the touch.

"Goddess protect," Sarah murmured in Mothertongue. "My word is done, as the rising moon and the setting sun."

Tally could feel the Work fall over her, blanketing her in warmth as she received the effect of whatever Sarah had done.

"What was that?" Tally asked softly.

"A blessing of protection," Sarah told her simply.

They hadn't moved from their spots, and suddenly Sarah could hear a faint bell in the distance.

She knew that she would begin to stir soon, she could see the landscape begin to shimmer and fade in and out of focus. She closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of Tally against her before they would be pulled from the bubble she encased them in.

 


 

Chapter Text

When Sarah awoke, she was surprised to find that her pillow was damp. She had yet to open her eyes, but surmised that she had been crying in the physical as well as the dreamscape. She could feel a familiar weight on her chest, and soft puffs of air against her neck where Tally was nuzzled. She had gotten closer through the night.

She blinked the sleep from her eyes and tilted her head slightly to look down at Tally. She brushed the hair from her face and then set to gently rubbing up and down her arms to rouse her.

Tally began to stir, grumbling slightly about how she didn't want to wake—or something of the sort.

"Good morning," Sarah murmured, voice thick from sleep.

Tally yawned and nuzzled back into Sarah's neck. "Mmm morning."

Sarah was blushing furiously at Tally's nuzzling. Waking up next to the young witch was something she wouldn't mind doing every day.

Then she could feel through the connection that Tally was about to fall back asleep.

"Tally," Sarah said as she shifted some.

Tally blinked her eyes open and raised her head. When she realized she was once again waking in Sarah's bed, she smiled brightly.

Sarah found herself returning the look. "What is your schedule like today?"

Tally sat up a little but still hadn't moved from where she was laying partially on Sarah. "Um. I have Mothertongue at 10:00 until lunch, then nothing until training at 14:00 until dinner. Long session," Tally yawned when she finished. "My schedule is really light today."

Sarah hummed in acknowledgement and only spent a moment questioning what she was going to do. It wasn't lost on her that Tally was still cuddled up against her, and that she hadn't moved her arms from where they encased the younger woman.

"How do you feel? Sleep wise, I mean," Sarah inquired seriously.

"Honestly?" Tally sighed. "I'm still exhausted. I definitely feel so much better but…honestly I feel like I could sleep a week," she told her with a chuckle.

"I see," Sarah replied. "You're welcome to continue sleeping then."

Tally's eyes were wide.

"You have Mothertongue and I could easily teach you whatever you are covering today. I'm afraid I can't join you to sleep, but perhaps you'll be able to rest if I'm nearby."

"Are you sure?" Tally questioned.

"What did I say about the gift horse," Sarah retorted pointedly.

Tally blushed and Sarah couldn't help but think how adorable Tally always looked when she did.

"Why don't you eat some breakfast with your unit, come back to the office, and you can nap until lunch. We can go over your lesson before your training session," Sarah told her. "If you're agreeable."

"Yes," Tally answered quickly, turning even redder at her own eagerness.

It was cute.

"You think I'm cute?" Tally blurted out as she caught the thought.

"Of course," she answered instantly.

Yeah she wasn't even trying to hide it now. She could hear her biddies chittering amongst themselves, wondering what transpired in the night that made her openly admit such a thing.

I believe we are past pretending I do not have feelings, she told them through their link—silencing them rather effectively. She could feel their surprise, they were sure they would have to hound her.

A bright smile had appeared on Tally's face, and Sarah knew she'd do anything to continue making Tally that happy.

After they finally left the bed, neither mentioning what had transpired in the dream, they both got ready for the day before Tally left to join her unit for breakfast.

Alder was unsure what to say about the previous night. It was raw and vulnerable—she couldn't remember the last time she ever allowed herself to be so, before Tally that is. More importantly, she didn't feel embarrassed by any of it. It felt right. All of it.

Tally was in a similar state. She certainly didn't want to push, especially since she had definitely taken some liberties with Sarah. She wasn't totally sure what to tell Abigail and Raelle either. She refused to betray Sarah's trust.

"She lives!" Raelle called as Tally entered the dining room.

She smiled and took a seat…then the questioning began.

She was pretty sure neither of them breathed once as they rapidly fired questions.

"Okay slow down," Tally shushed them with a laugh. "I won't say anything that could betray Sarah's trust…which…I have…her trust I mean, I have her trust."

"Really?" Raelle asked skeptically.

Tally rolled her eyes. "What is the point in you asking questions if you won't accept my answers?"

Abigail nodded her agreement. "So you have the General's complete trust? How do you know that?"

Tally turned crimson and Abigail and Raelle both became even more invested.

"We…" Tally trailed off before she leaned forward, indicating they should too. When they were close, she whispered, "we had a moment…like…two moments actually and um…she let me near her vocal cords."

Raelle didn't get it, but Abigail did.

"Holy shit. Tal, that's…that's huge," Abigail said.

"I don't get it."

"Our vocal cords make us the witches we are, right? You know how horrific it is that the Camarilla takes witches cords? Allowing anyone to get close enough that they could easily sever them is like…for Alder I'm not sure what could be bigger—especially considering the Camarilla have wanted her cords since…forever," Abigail told her.

Raelle's eyes widened as she touched her throat. "I hadn't thought of that."

"Okay I'll just say it," Abigail started, "I think Alder has feelings for you."

"Yeah, I'm starting to agree," Raelle added.

Tally bit her lip, a smile forming. "That would be…" she didn't have the words.

"You're kind of glowing," Abigail told her pointedly, a smirk on her face.

"Am I?" Tally asked. "I feel like it, I just…I like her so much you guys. So much."

"We know," Raelle reminded her playfully.

"What else?" Abigail pressed.

Tally's eyes brightened. "We cuddled again and um when she let me near her cords…she initiated the contact."

Abigail nodded encouragingly.

"We had our moment and she just…put her hands on my hips and pulled me into a hug and I just…nuzzled her neck," she finished with a squeak and large blush.

Raelle was looking far too smug. "Wow, Tally, way to go."

"Imayhavealsokissedherthroat."

"I'm sorry, what?" Abigail asked, not understanding.

Tally took a breath. "I kissed her throat."

"And you're alive?" Raelle asked, voice filled with disbelief. She shook her head. "Yeah she definitely reciprocates your feelings."

"Oh yeah," Abigail concurred. "No way around that."

"Was it like the side of her neck?" Rae asked.

Tally shook her head and lightly tapped right over her cords.

Abigail and Raelle shared a look.

"When's the wedding?"

Tally threw a breakfast roll at Raelle's head, causing them all to laugh.

"Ugh shit I forgot we have Mothertongue in an hour," Raelle grumbled as she caught a glance of the clock.

"Yeah, about that," Tally began with a small smile. "I'm missing class…again."

Abigail arched an eyebrow.

"She's letting me come back so I can nap and sleep some more before training later. I'm still exhausted, just able to function half decent now. So I'll be at training….just…she's going to teach me Mothertongue today."

Raelle snorted and smirked. "She's going to teach you some tongue alright."

"Rae!" Tally squeaked, turning beet red.

Abigail laughed loudly. "That was good, shitbird."

"Okay, on that note I'm heading back to her," Tally told them with a laugh.

They said their goodbyes, and Tally practically skipped back to Alder's office.

 


 

Alder wasn't sure how much more of Petra's prattling she was going to be able to stand. She'd been in here far longer than Sarah ever wanted. Sometimes she hated that Petra was damn good at her job.

"Also, Miss Silver will be arriving later this afternoon to report."

Alder nodded. "Excellent. It will do us some good having the Vice President's daughter here. Perhaps it will help ease tensions between us and civilians—if only slightly," she said.

She quickly looked to the door of her office. She could feel Tally nearing and breathed a sigh of relief.

A quick knock on the door, followed by Sarah's 'come in,' gave way to Tally entering. Her eyes widened when she saw General Bellweather, an apology already forming on her lips.

"Cadet Craven," Petra greeted with a warm smile. "How are you?" she asked as she approached her. She gave her a once over—this being the first time she'd seen Tally since the de-biddying process.

"I'm well, ma'am," Tally responded with a small smile.

"Good," Petra told her before she gave her a hug. "I wanted to thank you for being there with Abigail," she said as she pulled back. "You girls all gave me quite the scare. I'm glad that the General was gracious in allowing you to have you released of the biddying."

"Me too," Tally agreed.

"What brings you here?" Petra asked curiously.

"Me," Alder spoke up from her desk.

Petra turned and gave the General a nod before bidding Tally farewell.

As soon as the door closed behind her, Sarah offered Tally a grateful smile. "Perfect timing."

Tally hummed as she approached. "I could feel some irritation through the link."

"She has that effect on me," came the reply. Then she sighed. "Unfortunately I do have meetings so if you aren't opposed, I could put a silencing seed on you so that you won't be disturbed while you rest. I'm unsure how much physical proximity will suffice, so I took some liberties." She turned and looked to the corner near the desk, humming a low seed and revealing a made up cot.

Tally couldn't help the giddiness she felt. "You want me to sleep in your office while you hold meetings? Not that I'm complaining…but wouldn't that be…"

"Inappropriate?" Sarah finished with a smile as she stood and walked around her desk to stop in front of Tally. She reached down, taking her hands in her own. "Again, I do believe we are far past that and you still need to rest. Since I can't be as close as I would like, this is the easiest solution so that you rest. If you're uncomfortable though we can try with you sleeping in my room and see if that would suffice," Sarah explained, not realizing exactly what she said.

Careful, Sarah, or she'll realize just how much you like her, Margaret teased from where she sat playing chess with Corinne.

Oh please, Tally's a Knower. If she hasn't figured it out yet, I am sure she has her suspicions, Corinne replied.

Erin chimed in, At what point do you think she'll ask to court her?

I give her three days, tops, said Corinne.

Do you three mind? Sarah thought.

Meanwhile, Tally was sporting a blush as she glanced down at their entwined hands.

"I only have two more meetings, one of which is Anacostia, and the other is Izadora. I pushed the others back to the afternoon," Sarah continued on.

"It's perfect," Tally told her with a soft smile.

Sarah released her hands and Tally headed straight for the cot. The thought of sleep was too enticing and she could feel her tiredness coming back already. She shucked her jacket off and her boots, setting them on a chair to the side, and laid down on top of the cot, sighing happily as she nuzzled into the pillow.

She didn't want to call Sarah out on it…but Tally was very aware that it was Sarah's pillow. It smelled of her, and she found it immensely calming.

She felt something draped over her and opened her eyes, humming happily when it was Sarah's quilt that was being placed over her.

"Sweet dreams," Sarah said before she began her seed, lulling Tally to sleep.

Once she was sure she was out, she sang another. She waited a few moments before she stepped back and slammed her hand on her desk loudly—pleased when Tally didn't even flinch. She nodded to herself and sat back down behind the desk, waiting for Anacostia to arrive.

Things were tense between them still, and Anacostia had been keeping her distance—something that pained Sarah greatly. She sighed and rubbed her temples.

She won't stay angry forever, Analese told her.

She is stubborn, came Sarah's retort.

Just like her foster mother, Corinne added.

You're on thin ice, Sarah thought. She wasn't though, at all, and she knew it. Again, sometimes being connected was a pain in the ass. She couldn't even get mad about it because Corinne was completely right.

A knock on the door alerted them to Anacostia's arrival.

At Sarah's beckoning, she came in and stopped in front of the desk—eyes widening when she saw Tally asleep on the cot near Sarah's desk.

Anacostia merely arched an eyebrow.

"She's been suffering side effects from the severing," she told her honestly. "She hasn't been sleeping well unless she is in close proximity. Izadora is on it."

Anacostia nodded, a worried expression on her face.

They dove into their meeting, just going over some matters regarding the Spree and their recent activities. It hadn't lasted long, and usually where Anacostia would stay and chat with her about life…she merely nodded and waited to be dismissed—which Sarah had done begrudgingly.

When she left, she released a tired sigh.

Give her time, Liza urged. She will come around.

She could feel the others agree with the sentiment, and nodded.

She dove back into her work, going over reports that updated her on the status of their agents in the field and their findings, new intel on the Spree, and most importantly any updates on the Camarilla.

She checked on Tally periodically, making sure she was sleeping soundly. She thanked the Goddess each time she did and found her deep asleep.

Izadora arrived for their meeting, and if she was surprised at seeing Tally asleep on the cot, she didn't show it. She updated Sarah on the item that arrived from the Tarim and its link to Raelle, informing Alder that she had Raelle stop by the day prior to allow her to record a vocal sample. She was waiting on the results to come back for that.

When they finished, Izadora looked over at Tally from her seat. "Has she been sleeping soundly?"

"Yes," Sarah replied, relief evident in her voice. "The past two nights she stayed with me and I was able to help. She still requires more sleep, but there has been a noticeable improvement."

Izadora hummed. "Physical proximity to you must be necessary. You'll have to see how she does when you are apart."

Sarah nodded. "But not yet. I won't risk her losing more sleep while she is still recuperating."

"I believe that is wise," Izadora agreed. "So," she began with a smirk, "how goes not giving into your feelings?"

Sarah tilted her head back and chuckled. "Your patience is astounding."

"I'm a scientist, we often must wait," Izadora retorted.

Sarah was silent as she turned her gaze to Tally's sleeping form. "It is almost impossible to dampen my emotions near her. It is somewhat easier when there is distance between us…but even that is shrinking."

"It's still growing stronger?" Izadora asked.

"Yes. Much," she looked back to the Necro. "The more I accept this…the more contact we have…it expands exponentially. The barriers I have spent centuries carefully constructing…gone."

Izadora's eyebrows rose in surprise but a soft smile graced her lips shortly after. She could see that Sarah had accepted the fact that she had feelings for Tally that she couldn't hide…that the connection would make it impossible to not give in to whatever it was between them…but she was still hesitant. It wasn't lost on the ever observant Necro though that Sarah was much more relaxed in Tally's presence.

"She has a positive effect on you," Izadora commented as she stood. "It would seem that you have one on her as well."

With that she took her leave, allowing Sarah to sit with her thoughts.

 


 

Tally awoke to the sounds of a flickering fire, the shuffling of papers, and the careful placements of chess pieces. She smiled into the pillow and snuggled in closer, burying her face in it as much as she could as she slowly woke up.

She reached out, expecting to find Sarah next to her. When her hand hit the air, her brow furrowed and she grumbled. She could smell Sarah, so where was she?

She heard the careful approach of footsteps and felt the cot dip as her hand was taken in another. Her eyes fluttered open, an instant sleepy smile forming on her face when she felt the warmth of Sarah's hand in her own.

"Were you reaching for me?" Sarah asked softly.

She could feel Tally's confusion through the link as she awoke, and the subtle thrum of want for her. She still felt the need to ask, unsure still if it was the connection or her own wishful thinking.

Tally nodded as she gazed up at Sarah. "I'm associating amazing sleep with being near you," she whispered playfully.

Sarah's gaze softened impossibly further as she smiled and stroked the back of Tally's hand.

"I am glad you are resting well, truly," Sarah told her. "I feel slightly guilty to pull you from it."

Tally sat up. "No need to feel guilty. You're doing so much for me."

Sarah turned her gaze to the chairs near her fireplace. "Unfortunately, I cannot allow you to slack in your studies, so we must commence your lesson. I spoke with your teacher to inform him of your absence and to see where you were at in your studies."

"Not very far, I'm afraid," Tally replied with a sigh.

Sarah nodded and stood from the cot, walking to the chairs near the fireplace.

Once Tally rose, she put her boots back on and joined her.

Sarah nodded to a few of the biddies, and they disappeared while the others remained.

At the wordless questioning from Tally through the link, Sarah explained, "I'm having them bring you lunch. Now, do you have any basic knowledge of Méníshè?"

Tally shook her head.

"Then I will teach you as my mother taught me."

Sarah dove in. She explained the basic structure of the language, before she told Tally she would only speak to her in Méníshè for the next hour. It was simple enough though. She would point to various things in the room and say their word before she would use it in a sentence, allowing Tally to fill in the blanks on context clues. When she was correct, Sarah would have her repeat back the phrases until Tally felt comfortable.

Frankly, Tally learned more of the language in a single hour than she had in class so far. The biddies had returned with her lunch, and she ate while Sarah slowly built up to longer sentences, but making sure she pointed at anything she was referencing while she said it so Tally could follow.

By the end of the hour, they moved onto any questions Tally had about the language that Sarah hadn't covered. They practiced a little longer until it was 13:30.

Tally sighed as she saw the time, and Sarah caught the pang of disappointment that Tally felt at her having to leave soon.

"Would you like to come back at 21:00? It will give you an extra hour of rest," Sarah inquired as she stared at the flames.

"Please," Tally replied with a smile.

Sarah matched it with her own as they sat in silence awhile longer. She enjoyed the silence with Tally. There was something quite peaceful and comforting in simply existing with someone.

She was totally screwed.

We told you, Erin thought.

Multiple times, Michelle added.

Every day for what? Liza asked.

A chuckle. Better part of a month at least, Corinne supplied.

She's been eyeing her for longer, Analese said very matter of fact.

A hum of agreement from all the biddies echoed in the link.

Since she took a personal interest in her unit after their vocal work display, Margaret confirmed.

Remember when she saw her that first day she arrived at Fort Salem? Spotted her in the audience, Tessa said with a chuckle.

Sarah sighed heavily and Tally looked at her curiously.

"The biddies are having a laugh at my expense," Sarah said through their connection.

Tally smiled and shook her head. "I'm sure it's coming from a place of love."

"That is debatable," Sarah thought with a laugh.

They chuckled in tandem before Tally spoke, "Do you think it would be possible for me to change our scenery in the dream? Or?"

Sarah tilted her head to the side. "Is there somewhere specific you wish to go?"

Tally blushed. "I was just thinking it's only fair for you to see some of my memories…"

Sarah was surprised. Warmth filled her at Tally wanting to share her own memories with her.

"Unless that makes you uncomfortable then obviously we do—"

Sarah cut her off with a light laugh and soft smile. "I would like that," she said aloud.

"Oh," Tally stated, a new blush rising to her cheeks as she smiled. "Great."

Sarah really loved seeing her dimples when she smiled. It was easily one of her favorite things.

Tally flushed, and Sarah didn't even try to act like Tally hadn't caught the sentiment.

"It would be hard not to like them," Sarah thought through the link, relishing in the way their connection thrummed.

Tally was still blushing, but after a few more moments she was able to get herself together.

She looked at the clock and sighed. "I need to get to training. Thank you so much for letting me nap in here and for teaching me." Tally bit her lip in concentration before telling Alder 'thank you for everything' in Méníshè.

Sarah offered her a large smile and replied in kind.

"I'll see you tonight," Tally said before turning and looking at the biddies. "Thank you for bringing me lunch and for…well, everything you do." She cast a glance at Sarah, hoping that they understood she was also thanking them for everything they do for her as well.

She was pretty sure it had made Sarah blush when the biddies gave her answering smiles before their eyes flickered to the General.

She waved bye and slipped from the room as a blanket of silence fell over all of them.

"The room is less without her," Sarah said aloud to them, her eyes trained on the fire.

She could feel their agreement through the link, and she was wondering how she was going to focus the rest of the day.

 


 

Training was rough. Sure she had gotten more sleep and was definitely feeling better, but that boost she got from her nap rapidly left her about two hours into training. She tried to stay with Abigail and Raelle near the end, knowing they wouldn't kick her ass too bad when they know how exhausted she's been.

They had finally wrapped up and were heading to grab dinner when Tally told her about her nap in Alder's office, her lesson on Mothertongue, and her comments.

"The more I learn about her, the more surprised I get," Abigail said with a chuckle

"I can't get over the fact that she's…well…smooth. I mean, I guess having hundreds of years and partners makes one smooth," Raelle reasoned and Abigail smacked her.

"Ow, what was that for?"

Abigail gave her a sharp look.

Tally hadn't thought of that. Of course Sarah had hundreds of partners, the woman has been alive for hundreds of years, and she always participated in Beltane. Tally suddenly felt really insecure about it. She'd only slept with one person, and it was a guy. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to measure up.

"If it helps at all, Tal, I don't ever remember hearing Alder divulge this much personal information to someone that isn't a biddy," Abigail told her as she shot Raelle another glare for her carelessness.

"The biddies don't know a lot, it's mainly surface things they know," Tally said absentmindedly.

"That's a big deal, Tal. Don't forget she also let you kiss her cords."

"Yeah but—" Raelle began confused and Abigail gave her a glare that might as well have been a silencing seed.

Tally sighed heavily, her good mood gone. She ate in mostly silence, brooding and worrying before she got up and headed off to shower.

She stood under the stream for a while, mulling over what Raelle said. She pushed it to the back of her mind, choosing to focus on what Sarah was telling her and showing her instead.

Her mood improved some as she changed and packed her bag with her toiletries. She sighed as she saw the time. It was only 20:00.

She flopped down on her bed, unsure what to do with herself for the next hour.

She probably had only been laying there for five minutes when she heard M yell something.

She got up and padded to the door, opening it and walking down the hall a ways.

Just before she rounded the corner, she heard a distinct voice.

"At ease," Sarah told them before she looked over at Raelle and Abigail, a frown on her face.

She had just finished her last meeting for the night when she felt a wave of emotion surge through her that she most certainly knew was not her own. It was filled with insecurity, worry, and sadness. Instantly she was concerned something was wrong and came to investigate with her biddies reassuring her through their link.

They were concerned about Tally as well, not wanting something to be wrong, but wanted to make sure that Sarah didn't work herself up too much over something that could be nothing.

When she didn't see Tally with her unit, and the surprised and worried glances they shared when she had arrived…it told her most of what she needed to know.

"Craven?" Sarah questioned, eyes falling on Tally's unit.

When Tally heard her name, she backed up and turned to head back to her room. Sarah was here…and she had no idea why. A lot of emotions were flying through her and she faintly heard Sarah say 'never mind,' followed by multiple footsteps.

There was a knock a moment later and Tally called out a 'come in.' The door opened, revealing Sarah wearing a concerned expression before relief rippled through her.

"Are you alright?" Sarah asked as she closed the door behind her, having the biddies wait outside to run interference while she spoke with Tally.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Why?" Tally questioned, still not understanding why she was here.

She couldn't help but take her in. She really did love Sarah's uniforms.

Sarah approached her and reached out to take Tally's hands in her own. Electricity traveled up her body at the touch and she released a relieved sigh.

"I could feel some strong emotions from you and was worried something was wrong. Perhaps I need to get used to how deeply you feel things," Sarah explained with a soft smile. "I was worried," she reiterated simply.

Tally's face was starting to ache from how constant her smile has been. Her dimples must be prominent as hell, if Sarah's gaze on them and her adoration through the link was any indication.

Tally could actually feel the affection and adoration flow down the link to her. She gasped lightly and thought, "You like me."

Sarah didn't respond, but her cheeks were turning pink and her eyes widened slightly.

Tally smiled and released a giggle, which was embarrassing—she removed her hands from Sarah's to cover her eyes. Who giggles?

At a soft probing from Sarah from the link, Tally lowered her hands to meet Sarah's gaze. Alder was looking at her softly, her cheeks lightly pink—she reached out and pulled Tally toward her into a hug.

She mimicked her position from the dream and placed her arm around Tally's waist as her other hand threaded in her hair. Sarah could feel her heart beating in her chest, as well as her muscles relaxed substantially. It was a weird sensation—heart pounding from excitement but yet the muscles are as loose as they could be.

She sighed against Tally as the redhead ducked her head beneath Sarah's chin, lightly pressing right next to her cords. It was clearly Tally's favorite spot, and hers as well for the redhead to tuck herself in on. The only other person she'd ever let near her cords that wasn't her deceased family, was Anacostia. She trusted her completely and when she would have a hard time as a child, Sarah would pick her up and tuck her head beneath her chin as she hummed to her. The only other time someone was allowed near them was at Beltane for the power boost. Outside of whoever was Witchfather at the time, she hadn't taken a lover in nearly two hundred years. Sex was like food and sleep to her. Over the centuries and with her constant vigilance as General, they took up too much time.

This though…the vulnerability she was giving Tally, that was huge.

And she made sure Tally felt all of that through the bond, rubbing her back soothingly when she gasped in surprise against her before her hand returned to tangle in her hair—fingers lightly massaging her scalp.

"I do," Sarah whispered, so softly she wondered if she had even actually uttered them.

Tally had heard the words loud and clear though, and she smiled against Sarah's neck.

"How did you know?" Tally asked, referring to how she knew what exactly was bothering her.

"I caught snippets of your thoughts mixed with the emotions and pieced it together."

"Thank you for coming to check on me," Tally told her. "I would normally say that you didn't have to do that…but someone keeps telling me I shouldn't look gift horses in the mouth."

Sarah laughed loudly at that and Tally delighted in feeling the vibrations from her throat.

"She sounds wise, you should listen to her," Sarah retorted seriously, never ceasing her light ministrations against Tally's scalp.

"Probably, but where would the fun be in that?" Tally asked with another laugh.

Sarah found it infectious, and they took a few moments to calm. Once they had, she looked at the clock, seeing that it was growing close to 21:00.

"Come, I'm sure you're tired," Sarah said softly as she stepped back from the hug, her hand sliding down to grasp Tally's a moment before releasing it.

Tally grabbed her things and she walked to the door with Sarah. When she opened it, Raelle and Abigail were looking worried outside of the room. She suspected they tried to come in and the biddies had refused to move, which Tally was grateful for. She was soaking up every moment she and Sarah shared, as if each would be the last one.

She shot Raelle a satisfied smirk, watching with amusement as Raelle's eyes widened—receiving the message. Abigail snickered and pulled Raelle into their room as she, Sarah, and the biddies headed back to the office.

They walked in silence until they parted from the biddies and Tally told them goodnight. They readied for bed, easily swapping places between bathroom and bedroom in an easy flow.

When they had settled, Sarah was already in bed laying down on her back. She felt the bed dip and she reached over to the light on the nightstand and turned it off.

As soon as Tally laid down, hands were at her waist pulling her closer. So Tally allowed herself to be moved and positioned against the General. She was grateful that her back was to Sarah's front so that she couldn't see the blush she knew was there.

A jolt went through Tally as she felt Sarah's lips gently skim above her skin, and she gasped—immediately feeling Sarah tense behind her.

She wiggled backwards, getting as close to Sarah as she could and boldly reached behind to tug Alder's arm over her body, and then entwine their fingers.

Sarah relaxed instantly and sighed. Logically, she knew that this was going to be potentially problematic. Tally was a cadet. Their ranks, their positions, their ages…chasms between them. And yet, here she was curled around Tally holding her close to her chest and breathing in the smell of her shampoo as if they'd done this every night for years. She smelled like autumn.

She had already decided that she would speak to the powers that be once they understood the connection and petition for permission to court Tally openly, if she would even want Sarah to court her. She couldn't see Petra Bellweather or the Imperatrix agreeing with that one at all. She just hoped that if that happened, they would give her this one thing after everything she's done.

"What're you thinking about?" Tally questioned. She could practically hear the thoughts flying through Sarah's head. She couldn't make them out though—it just sounded like a lot of noise.

She answered honestly, "Us."

Tally smiled into the pillow.

"The connection, what Izadora may find, what it could possibly be…cataloging through as many memories as I can to see if I had ever come across anything like this," she continued. "I might have Izadora check all of us to make sure that you aren't physically at risk on a day to day by the severing—"

Tally rolled over, dropping Sarah's hand so she could place her own on her cheek. "You are sounding like me, and I can attest that those are too many." She smiled and stroked her thumb down Sarah's cheek without thinking. "How do you usually silence them?" Tally added.

"Wine," came the immediate reply.

They both chuckled lightly.

"Well, we are already in bed so I am afraid wine isn't an option," Tally said. She felt her cheeks warm as she realized she had just flirted with the General.

"Pray tell then, what is?" Sarah asked coyly.

Tally's eyes darkened considerably, and Sarah couldn't deny the wave of arousal that rolled through her own body. She knew that if she kissed Tally, she would immediately reciprocate. The problem was that she was unsure if she would be able to stop herself if she had a taste.

Tally's hand inched closer to rest behind Sarah's ear; her breathing was quick and shallow; she could feel an inexplicable tugging against her chest that filled her with the urge to be as close as she could be. She wanted Sarah to consume her, and consume her in return.

Sarah too felt the pull. She couldn't help but glance down at the pink lips so close to her own. Their breaths were mingling and she realized their noses were lightly brushing.

To hell with it, Sarah thought.

She closed the distance and took Tally's lips in her own. It was gentle but firm and it sent them both soaring.

She could have sworn the earth shook. Fire erupted in her veins as a feeling of completion settled in her chest. Her body hummed with magic and energy, rippling off her and through the room. She could faintly hear the sound of storm clouds gathering—a soft rumble in the distance.

Tally's hands had tangled in Sarah's dark hair, pulling her as close as she could while they kissed. Her tongue brushed against Sarah's lips, and she granted it readily. Moans rumbled in the air as their tongues touched, deepening the kiss.

Sparks went off all over Tally's body. Each touch of Sarah's tongue had her feeling like she was on salva. She moaned softly into the kiss when Sarah's hand tangled in her hair. Tally was close to losing it. She'd never felt so grounded yet so weightless.

Sarah slowed the kiss. She could feel the desire roll off Tally, and while it made her clench with need, this was not the time. She knew they probably wouldn't wait long, but she wanted the chance to court Tally some before that.

Tally could feel the magic humming around them, and she pulled back to glance up—gasping.

"What do you see?" Sarah asked breathlessly.

"Our magic," Tally breathed.

It was gorgeous. She had never seen anything like it—it wasn't wholly one color. It looked like a nebula as it surrounded them.

Tally met Sarah's blue eyes and focused on their connection, mentally sending Sarah what she saw. Her eyes widened and a short laugh escaped her.

She'd never heard of magic looking like that.

"Can you feel it?" Sarah asked Tally. She could feel it the moment their lips touched. She knew she could rend the sky in two if she would choose to do so; she could make the ground quake and split and the water rise.

Tally nodded. She could feel it everywhere on her body—warming and electrifying her.

Sarah took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She drew Tally in and touched their foreheads, silently asking that Tally sync up with her breathing. It only took a few moments before they had calmed and the magic in the room dampened.

"That was intense," Tally spoke softly.

"Quite," Sarah replied. She'd never felt such a boost to her power before. Not in all her Beltane's.

"None of them?" Tally asked.

Sarah could feel the pride that Tally felt at that and she chuckled. Tally's emotions had always been readable, but this was…different. For her as well. She couldn't feel the barriers she had constructed anywhere; she could feel her emotions flow into Tally.

"None," Sarah told her seriously. "It seems that the more physicality there is, the stronger it becomes. I'll have to let Izadora know of this development."

Tally's eyes narrowed and Sarah caught a flash of what she was feeling—like she was an experiment to be studying.

"Not at all," Sarah assured, her thumb stroking the soft skin below it. "I merely meant that it could help her understand better what it is. I don't want to put you in danger, and being connected to me is dangerous. You could die, Tally," she said softly. The thought made her heart constrict.

"You could die too," Tally replied. "Any of us could die any day. Yes you have the biddies but if something happens to them…it happens to you too. There are always risks. I thought you would know that better than anyone," she finished playfully, trying to lighten the mood and draw Sarah from her worry.

Sarah closed her eyes and chuckled, reflecting on what Tally said. She was right. Life was full of risks, it was merely which ones you chose to take.

"You are right," she confessed. "You seem to be right quite often."

Tally couldn't help but laugh.

Sarah found it infectious. "Do you have any idea how annoying that is?" Her cheeks were beginning to hurt from smiling so much.

They both fell into a small fit of laughter, finally slowing until they were left staring at each other.

Tally's eyes bore into hers—shining with such affection that Sarah thought she might weep.

"Until we get some answers, I think that we should not go further than this…" she allowed the unspoken 'but I desperately want to,' hang in the air between them.

Tally nodded. She was more than happy to accept this for now.

"You should sleep," Sarah urged. "You have training in the morning."

Tally nodded and leaned in to place one more soft kiss to Sarah's lips. She pulled back a hair. "Yes, ma'am."

"I'll meet you in our dreams," Sarah told her.

She smirked as Tally rolled back over so that she could be held through the night. Their legs tangled easily; their hands entwined while Sarah's arm laid protectively across Tally; she sang her seed—and soon the redhead was asleep.

"Goodnight, Tally," Sarah whispered against the bare shoulder. She placed a delicate kiss there and closed her eyes, allowing sleep to claim her.

 


 

 

Chapter Text

Tally once again found herself in Salem. This time though she decided to stay where she was and wait for Sarah. She was a bit anxious to show her some of her childhood memories.

"Hello," Sarah said behind her.

Tally turned, grinning, and walking up to Sarah to take her hands. "Okay, how do I do this?"

"Close your eyes and focus on the memory you want us to see. Try to remember as many of the details you can, and then will it to be," Sarah instructed.

When Sarah blinked, they were in a different location. She surmised that it must be the matrifocal compound.

"I did it!" Tally said excitedly.

Sarah chuckled at her enthusiasm. "Indeed. And well done, it's quite solid."

Tally beamed at the compliment. She led them through the compound until they arrived at Tally's home.

"Ah…" Tally began as she turned to face Sarah, stopping them before going in. "So when I thought of this memory I thought it would be cute but now I'm sort of second guessing an—"

"Tally," Sarah interrupted. She reached up and cupped Tally's cheek. "It is from your childhood and I am certain that everything about that will be cute."

Tally blushed and nodded before she turned on her heels and led them into the house.

They entered the living room, where there was a young and tiny Tally Craven.

"I think one of my perks in being a Knower is that I have a lot of memories of my childhood that are from before most children have the ability to form them."

"You're incredibly gifted, Tally, so I am not surprised," Sarah replied before she took the lead and brought them around the couch so she could see the little Tally better.

The General let out a laugh. "Goddess, even as a toddler your dimples were prominent."

Tally blushed furiously.

Then the TV played a song that both women were quite familiar with. 'America the Beautiful' played on the television as Sarah led them to the couch and took a seat. She smirked as she watched Tally wobble over to be closer to the TV before plopping down on her butt.

She was clearly entranced with the song and with the witches in the commercial.

"Even young you knew your calling," Sarah murmured affectionately.

Tally was wondering if she would ever stop blushing around Sarah.

"I certainly hope not," Sarah told her as she squeezed her hand.

Then Sarah's face appeared on the TV, speaking to all witches…and Tally beelined.

She was up on wobbly legs in an instant, powering over to the TV and immediately hugging it as if she was hugging Sarah.

Tally was very aware that she probably looked like a tomato…but seeing the bright blush that Sarah was sporting had Tally laughing.

Sarah shook her head, laughing delightedly at the display.

"A calling indeed," Sarah teased.

"Sorry," Tally scrunched her nose. "This is probably weird."

Sarah shook her head. "No. Oddly no. And this has actually given me some potential details to share with Izadora."

Tally tilted her head, silently asking Sarah to explain.

"We are connected, and I do not believe it is related to the biddy link…but I would like her to re-examine it to make sure you weren't harmed…our connection is…powerful. I don't just mean emotionally, but magically and physically." She nodded her head to the TV. "Depending on what type our connection is…there is a possibility that this—" She gestured between the two of them, "was by design."

Tally was slightly flabbergasted at how it made sense.

"We can't know for certain until we rule things out…but it is interesting," Sarah mused.

Tally squeezed her hand, sending waves of happiness to Sarah through the link, and smiling as Sarah returned the sentiment.

"Next memory," Tally told her as she stood and led them from the house. She led Sarah down a small path through the woods as darkness began to descend on the landscape, signaling nightfall.

This was one of Tally's favorite things about the compound. She made sure she didn't envision herself in it so that she and Sarah would have the view all to themselves.

They broke through the tree line, giving way to a beautiful pond and a perfect view of the night sky.

Tally willed a blanket to appear and she grinned triumphantly.

"Very good," Sarah told her as they moved to the blanket to lay down.

"This is my favorite spot," Tally told her. "Once the sun goes down completely, you'll see why."

Sarah smiled and took Tally's hand in hers again.

The sun disappeared and Sarah gasped at the beauty of the night sky. Places like this were rare treasures with the dawn of the modern age and electricity. It blinded the sky and the universe as they were meant to see—taking it away.

The lights in the sky and in the numerous stars; their own galaxy visible to the naked eye; the stars reflected on the water of the pond; fireflies danced overhead.

"It's beautiful Tally," Sarah breathed. "Thank you for sharing this with me."

Tally blushed as she spoke, "You're welcome."

They laid there for a while, basking in the beauty above them.

Tally chewed on her lip a moment. She really wanted to snuggle with Sarah as they watched the sky—and soon found herself pulled against the older woman.

"You are allowed to initiate, Tally," Sarah assured her softly as Tally nuzzled into her neck.

Tally nodded and grinned against Sarah's neck.

The General trailed her hand up and down Tally's arm, then turned her head to place a kiss to Tally's head.

The small boost she felt to her power surprised her, and she smiled against Tally's hair.

"Is there anywhere else you want to go? Or would you like to stay here?" she asked.

"I'd like to stay here if that's okay?" Tally replied.

"It's perfect."

They laid there for a while, and Sarah wasn't sure if it was her or Tally that had ended the memory—lulling them into a dreamless sleep.

 


 

Tally awoke feeling like she had slept on the most comfortable mattress of her life. She stretched a little and moaned at how fantastic it felt.

"What a way to wake up," Sarah murmured, half asleep and hazy.

A blush crept up Tally's neck and she bit her lip as she rolled over to be blessed with a still sleepy Alder.

Her hair was messed from sleep, and her eyes were squinted as her vision returned. Tally thought she was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.

She wasn't sure whether Alder meant that they shouldn't kiss again until they understood the connection better, but Tally figured that if Alder wanted to stop her she would—and Tally would apologize profusely and be embarrassed an—

Soft lips captured her own and Tally couldn't hold back the moan that escaped her. There was no urgency in the kiss or lust coating it—but instead was a promise of what was to come.

Sarah pulled back a little to look Tally in the eyes. When warm eyes met her own she smiled. "I caught some of your thoughts and I feared if I left you to decide what to do, your head would explode."

Tally laughed as she laid her head down on Alder's pillow, forcing them to share the air.

"So I guess kissing is okay?" Tally asked, seeking confirmation.

"Yes, Tally, kissing is okay," Sarah replied, voice soft but sure. "I…" she trailed off as she searched for the words she wanted to say. "I've never dated."

Tally's eyebrows rose in surprise. "You're gorgeous, what do you mean you haven't dated?"

Sarah laughed. "I mean what I said. I have never dated." Her expression grew serious. "I dedicated myself to protecting this country; dating wasn't exactly an option." She smirked. "I thought that what I shared through the bond last night helped, but I'm happy to clarify. Outside of Beltane, I haven't had a lover in over two hundred years."

Tally looked saddened by the information though, and Sarah's lips turned down. She reached up and cupped Tally's face.

"Why are you sad?" Sarah asked.

"It sounds lonely."

Sarah sighed, head nodding slightly. "It is sometimes. I watched so many of my sisters find love, or at least a marriage," she chuckled. "They had children and lived full lives. That was enough."

"Was?" Tally couldn't help but ask.

"Was," Sarah admitted quietly.

Tally was on her before she could blink. Sarah's confirmation made the unspoken so clear—it was enough before Tally. Her lips were insistent, seeking, and more soothing than any of the seeds Sarah could recall. Tally had straddled her waist, laying on top of her as Sarah's hands tangled themselves in Tally's hair. She kept her held in place as they kissed and Sarah could hear the sound of rumbling in the distance. She broke the kiss, fighting every instinct she could to reclaim Tally's swollen lips and never leave the room. The charge of their magic was back again with a force, sending sparks off in their bodies.

"The rumbling," Tally started, a breath away from Sarah's lips.

"It's me," Sarah murmured.

Tally sat back, still straddling Sarah. Her eyes were focused out of the window behind Alder's bed.

Sarah took that moment to look over Tally. Her pajamas were rumpled from sleep, her braids needed touched up, and Alder couldn't decide if it was messy because of sleep or because of her hands—she hoped it was the latter. Tally's eyes were bright with wonder as the storm faded.

"Does that always…"

"No," Sarah interrupted, her hands settled on Tally's waist. "It usually only happens if there's a powerful charge…it slips out."

"So…I…"

Sarah smiled up at the younger woman, who was looking very smug. "Yes, Tally, you." She lifted her hand to her lips and kissed the back. "You have a profound effect on me."

Oh, if Sarah could bottle Tally's smile to see whenever she wanted, she would. She wasn't sure what the future would hold, but one thing was certain—Sarah Alder was smitten with Tally Craven.

Sarah sat up, wrapping her arms around Tally and capturing her lips in another kiss. She didn't want to stop. She finally did when she felt her biddies rousing from their sleep. She pulled back, reaching up and cupping the side of Tally's face.

"We need to get up, the biddies are waking, and you need to get ready for class," Sarah told her.

Tally groaned. "I've been wanting to do this for so long, I'm afraid if we stop this all will have been a dream."

The honesty of the declaration had Sarah's head spinning in the best of ways. It sent a wave of warmth through her to know Tally was similarly affected.

"I understand. Rest assured that this is very real," she told her with a soft smile. "But, we have duties to tend to."

Tally took one last look at Sarah's lips before deciding to steal another kiss. Sarah indulged her, unable to resist either. A moan rumbled in her chest when Tally took her bottom lip in her teeth. An image of Sarah dipping her hand between Tally's thighs crossed her mind, and she was unsure who the thought originated from.

She was saved from the temptation by her biddies calling through the link. She pulled back and rolled them over, swiftly pinning Tally to the bed. She grinned at the wide-eyed stare from Tally.

"The biddies call," Sarah supplied before hopping off the bed and striding to her door to unlock it by hand.

Tally offered them a shy smile when they all fixed her with a knowing look. She was clearly rather flustered. She noted that the biddies seemed happy by it.

"Get dressed and we can go over a plan for tonight before you have to go to class," Sarah instructed as she disappeared into her office.

Tally skirted off to do as told, still feeling on cloud nine. She couldn't believe this was happening. When she emerged from the bathroom, dressed in her uniform and her braids fixed, Alder's hair was in its impeccable braid down her back.

"There's coffee and food in my office on the cart," Sarah told her as she rose from the chair and made her way toward Tally. She lightly touched her hip, needing just a little contact before she entered her bathroom.

Tally was beginning to wonder if her smile would be permanent. She ducked from the room and poured herself some coffee and grabbed a muffin off the cart. She set to eating her breakfast, waiting for Sarah to return. She leaned against the desk and looked at the portrait above the fireplace.

She really can pull off any uniform, Tally thought.

"I'm glad you think so," Sarah said, startling the redhead.

Tally smiled. "I can guarantee that I'm not the only one that thinks so."

Sarah shrugged as she walked up to Tally. "Perhaps, but you're the only one that counts."

Oh that was worth the amount of sap Sarah spewed. Tally's smile was bright, her dimples perfect, eyes shining, and a pretty blush on her cheeks.

"What're your thoughts for tonight?" Tally asked as she and Sarah threaded their fingers together.

"Well, first…how do you feel? Do you feel well rested?"

"I do. I think I finally am back to normal," Tally said, voice full of relief.

"Then perhaps tonight we should sleep apart, to see if we will have to figure anything else out." Sarah smiled softly at the sad look that crossed Tally's face. "We need to rule things out…but if it is comforting to know, I am not looking forward to spending the night without you."

Tally nodded and leaned in to kiss Sarah softly.

When they broke apart, Sarah worried her lip.

Tally found the uncharacteristic gesture endearing but prodded, "What is it?"

"I know that we are still trying to understand the connection but…Tally, would you permit me to court you?" Sarah asked seriously.

Tally's eyes brightened and a beaming smile crossed her face as she stepped in front of the General. "Permission granted."

Alder couldn't help the laugh that escaped her and she pulled Tally in close to place a soft kiss to her lips. When they pulled back, Alder gently stroked her cheek. She felt like she was on cloud nine being granted the honor of courting Tally.

Tally blushed as she caught the sentiment through the connection.

"In that case," Sarah began hesitantly. "Would you permit one more thing?"

"Of course," Tally told her instantly.

Sarah could feel her cheeks flush then as she led Tally to the mirror off on the side of the office—and reached up and undid Tally's braids. She stepped around her and took up residence behind her to deftly finish undoing the pattern, before she would redo it in a different way. It was an intricate pattern but one that Sarah had memorized when she was younger. Giving this braid to Tally was a large deal to her. She paused for a moment and turned to one of her biddies, silently requesting the objects she wanted.

Her mother had given them to her when she came of age, just before everything changed. They were silver beads, with intricate patterns on each, that were worn in the braid to signal that the wearer was spoken for. When Michelle brought them over, Sarah plucked them up with nimble fingers and set to adding them to the rest of the braid. The beads, and having them threaded in the hair by the courter, was quite symbolic. Even if Tally had no idea of the magnitude, it was important to Sarah.

"All done," Sarah said softly, stepping away from Tally so she could inspect the braid in the mirror.

"The beads…they're so beautiful," Tally said in awe.

The braid was made by taking hair from each side of her head to meet in the back and be carefully twisted and braided with the beads lining the inner workings of the braid.

"My mother gave them to me. Elizabeth was never much of a romantic, but as you know, I am," she said with a fond smile. "They're courtship beads, as is the braid. It's a tradition that has long since passed…"

"I can feel how important this is to you," Tally told her with a soft smile as their eyes met in the mirror. "I feel the significance and you have my enthusiastic consent to court me however you'd like." She turned around to face her.

Sarah's eyes were watery as she smiled. The warmth that bloomed in her chest at Tally's words nearly knocked the wind from her, and she took Tally's hand in her own to raise it to her lips and place a delicate kiss there.

"You never cease to amaze me," Sarah told her honestly as she pulled her in for another kiss. She sighed and rested her forehead against Tally's, knowing that they really needed to get to their duties for the day.

"Thank you," Tally whispered against her lips before she took a step back and tried to regain her composure.

Sarah did the same before she smiled and said playfully, "You need to get to class, Cadet. That's an order."

Tally smiled brightly before plucking her muffin off the desk. "Yes, General Alder."

She tossed a wink at her as she exited.

Sarah looked over at her biddies, feeling their smug grins before seeing them. "You're all so pleased aren't you."

She could feel the waves of support wash over her. Yes, they were pleased. Enthusiastically so. She could feel their desire for her to be happy; their joy at seeing how much she was smiling; they were thrilled by the development.

Sarah just hoped that everyone else would feel the same.

You all owe me $20, Erin said through the link.

Sarah cocked her eyebrow, watching as the other biddies rummaged for their money and then gave it to Erin.

She sent a silent question to them.

Corinne bet three days for you to ask to court her. Michelle said two, the others gave you longer, Erin explained.

She chuckled, pleased that she had managed to surprise all but one of her biddies with her boldness.

 


 

Tally's magic was wild. Her hand to hand combat and scourge combat were especially impressive today. She definitely got a power boost from her morning with Alder. By the time training finished, she still felt like she could go a few more rounds—while Raelle and Abigail were on the ground trying to recoup.

As the last members departed, leaving the unit alone, Raelle and Abigail immediately set to questioning her.

"Any more dreams?" Raelle asked, figuring they should get the serious stuff out of the way.

"None still," Tally answered, beaming. "I've never slept better, honestly."

Abigail watched her. "So what's the plan tonight?"

Tally unleashed an attack on one of the practice dummies, flawlessly executed. "Tonight I'll be in my bed. Sarah wants to try and see if it's a physical proximity thing at all to help rule things out."

"Well, I'm sure that Sarah has a plan in place in case it is?" Abigail questioned with a satisfied smirk.

Tally rolled her eyes.

"Just humor us and then we want all the details," Raelle supplied patiently.

Tally shrugged. "Honestly I have no idea, she didn't say…but I know that if I have another one she'll know and come."

Raelle and Abigail nodded.

"She is supposed to meet with Izadora again today to see if there are any tentative theories yet and to give her some updates," Tally added.

"So what's with the power boost?" Abigail asked wryly. "It has a very distinct taste. Sort of like the magic at Beltane."

"Mmm sexual energy," Raelle agreed with a wiggle of her eyebrows.

Tally laughed, feeling her face grow red. "We ah…we kissed…a lot."

Raelle and Abigail's eyes were wide as saucers. They hadn't expected that.

"What?"

"How?"

"Who made the first move?"

They were alternating questions and Tally had to hold up her hands.

"We were in bed and talking about the connection, the feelings and pull to each other and we were laughing and flirting." Tally could feel her cheeks heat up as she smiled. "And um, we had a moment and we were just soooo close you guys. Like we had moved closer and then…she kissed me."

"She kissed you?" Abigail asked with wonder. "Holy shit. Good for Alder."

"How was it?" Raelle asked.

Tally's eyes brightened. "It felt like everything just…clicked. I never felt anything close to that, not even on Beltane. This was unlike anything else, guys. I could see our magic and it was…ethereal. We spent time in some of my memories last night and I showed her my favorite spot and we just cuddled and laid there." Tally covered her face for a moment to try and contain the giddiness. When she removed them she continued, just remembering, "and she started to inadvertently summon a storm this morning when we were making out."

Raelle and Abigail shared a look.

"Wait, those clouds that just sort of rolled in this morning and then vanished? That was Alder's work?" Raelle asked, disbelief in her voice.

Tally nodded enthusiastically. "Apparently it makes her lose control when there is a powerful charge. Like…Beltane level charge…but even last Beltane she hadn't summoned a storm…" Tally explained, absolutely beaming with pride.

"So are you guys…going to date?" Abigail asked.

Raelle nodded in agreement. "Yeah how would it work when she's literally the head of the army and you're still in War College. She's our CO. The CO."

Tally blushed more. "Actually…she, ah, asked my permission to court me."

Abigail and Raelle's eyes widened, and then they were speaking at once again until Tally held up her hands for them to stop.

"One at a time!" she said with a laugh.

"What does her courting you entail exactly?" Raelle inquired.

Tally gestured to her head and turned to show them the braid.

"And?" Rae asked, not getting it.

"Oh!" Tally squeaked and turned back around. "It's a courtship braid. Very common in Sarah's day. The beads are courtship beads and they were her mother's. The person who is doing the courting does the braid and inlays the beads. It's…it's a really big deal to her."

Abigail's eyes actually softened considerably. "Holy shit I never thought Alder was such a romantic."

"Yeah, I'm not a fan of her still but that's…that's really fucking romantic, Tal. How are you feeling about it?" Raelle asked.

Tally smiled. "I literally can't stop smiling. This feels like a dream almost. I just…I can't believe that she would want me. I mean…we barely made it into War College and only did because of what we did in the Tarim." She looked sad a moment. "I'm not really sure what she sees in me…."

Abigail and Raelle shared a look, their eyebrows rising.

"Ah, Tal, you're beautiful," Raelle told her seriously. "You are ridiculously sweet, empathetic, driven, smart—"

"Funny, trustworthy, loyal," Abigail interjected. "I mean…need we go on? Alder would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to not see that…and as much as I'm skeptical of her…I've never heard of her ever sharing anything personal outside of what the history books say. So…her doing this plus everything else, even I can see what a gesture she's making."

"Yeah? Really?" Tally asked, needing the reassurance.

"Absolutely," Raelle agreed. "She asked you though, right? To clarify?"

"Yes," Tally replied instantly. "She asked, and then asked if I'd allow her to do something else, and I said yes, and then…" she gestured to the braid. "I also told her that anything else she wanted to do to court me she could. I know it's a lot with everything happening with the connection and all…but she really cares."

"I am really glad to hear that. Because you deserve someone that cares about your feelings and your well-being." Abigail stood and walked to Tally to hug her. "Even if it is Alder, and the jury is still out on her."

Raelle joined soon after and they shared a group hug.

"She's not pressuring you though? Like, physically?" Raelle asked.

Tally pulled back to look at her. "Not at all. If anything I've been the…insistent one," Tally said with a chuckle. "We can kiss but she doesn't want to go any further until she has an idea about the connection. I think she's…" Tally trailed off as she recalled the feelings that came from Sarah earlier. "She's trying to cover both of us from any potential fallout. She really is assessing everything."

Raelle nodded and gave Tally and Abigail another hug.

Tally's breath caught with surprise as she heard her through the connection.

"Here."

That was all the warning Tally had before the doors to the training room opened and Alder stepped through with the biddies.

General Alder had hoped Tally could accompany her for her meeting with Izadora later so that she could give their severed biddy link a look. She had sought her out subtly through the connection, and had been so focused on seeing Tally that she had ignored the fact that the other members of her unit would be there.

Sarah internally chastised herself. She was thinking like a schoolgirl, not a 300+ year old General of the army. Then Tally met her gaze and she really couldn't give less of a shit how she was acting.

The unit broke apart to stand at attention.

Once the door swung shut behind them, Alder spoke, "At ease, cadets."

"General," Tally greeted, trying to not smile like an idiot. She looked over at the biddies and waved at them, smiling when they waved back wearing matching smiles.

Sarah caught the knowing look in Raelle and Abigail's eyes. "She told you then."

Tally blushed, hard. She was sure her face had never matched her hair so well, so frequently, in her life.

Sarah couldn't help but laugh loudly as she crossed the distance between them and came to stand in front of Tally.

"It's quite alright," Sarah assured as she reached out to take Tally's hands in her own.

Tally felt a burst of energy flow through her veins and she let out a pleased sigh.

Sarah could feel the boost as well. She certainly didn't feel the weight of 300 years on her shoulders whenever she was near Tally. She brought her hands to her lips and kissed the back of each.

"It is good to have sisters that you can share with," Sarah told her sincerely. She looked at Raelle and Abigail, who were still looking far too smug for Alder's liking. "I trust that you won't breathe a word of this."

"No, General."

Sarah nodded, accepting that. "I want to assure you both that your silence on this is in no way a concern for my position. The connection between Tally and I is only known to us all and Izadora. If anyone else learns of the connection between us they could use Tally to get to me, and the last thing I want is for this to put Tally in harm's way. Especially with our courtship also taking place."

Raelle had crossed her arms and stared at Alder. "And once you know exactly what this is, what's your intention? Like I get you're courting but, are you just going to keep her a secret like everything else?"

Tally shot Rae a look that clearly said, 'stop,' but the blonde witch didn't seem to give a shit.

Sarah was still holding Tally's hands, and they tightened their hold slightly. The biddies hissed in unison at the implication.

Alder could feel her patience wearing thin, ready to reprimand her to remember who she was speaking to…and then realized that she was only worried about Tally's happiness…and considering Alder's track record of late, she wasn't exactly winning either of their favors. They were Tally's family after all.

"No," Sarah answered immediately with conviction. "I am only indulging you because you are Tally's family, but make no mistake, Collar, I am still your General."

Raelle had the decency to look away.

"Depending on how Izadora finds this connection will determine my next move, but only because I need to know what I would be presenting. I won't keep Tally a secret but I need to be sure that we understand the details before I say anything openly. The braid is…" she trailed off, deciding how honest she wanted to be, "the braid is for us. Everyone who knows their significance is gone…aside from the Imperatrix, possibly, even that I am unsure of."

Sarah took a deep breath. She looked to Tally then and sent a wave of reassurance through the connection—one that Tally didn't know she desperately needed; one that said she wasn't running from it but toward it while protecting them both as best as she could. She wasn't someone who would half ass anything.

Raelle and Abigail both nodded, seeming satisfied with what Sarah had said. She made no mistake though, she knew the other two would take time to fully come around about them and more specifically—her.

"You wanted me to come with you to see Izadora," Tally stated, trying to change the subject and break the tension that was in the air. She had felt the reason for the visit through the bond, and this seemed like the best time to bring it up.

"Yes. I'm to meet her in the basement bunker, where the biddy connection was severed. She needs room to work and compare. Our meeting is at 1600 and I don't suspect it will take long," Sarah told her. "You'll have plenty of time to fill your friends in on everything before bed." Alder arched an eyebrow at Raelle and Abigail in jest.

Tally beamed that Alder was trying with Rae and Abigail, even if they could be a handful. "I will be there."

Sarah smiled and nodded before she moved to pull away and return to her biddies—but Tally's hand remained entwined with her own to pull her back so they were a breath apart, stopping her from leaving. Then Tally's lips were on her own in a chaste, but effective kiss.

When they pulled apart, Sarah could see the realization of what Tally had done on her face and felt her panic through the connection.

It wasn't in Sarah's nature—well not for hundreds of years at least—to soothe and provide comfort. She could, in rare moments where it was appropriate for the situation. But with Tally—it was instinct. It was as easy as breathing to comfort her and take her in from her internal storms.

She reached up and gently cupped Tally's cheeks. "I will see you then."

She placed one last kiss to Tally's lips before her hands fell to clasp behind her back; turning around and leading her biddies out the door, while leaving a beaming Tally and flabbergasted sisters in her wake.

"You just kissed Alder in front of us," Abigail stated with disbelief, a laugh escaping her shortly after. "Alder just kissed you in front of us."

Tally was smiling wide and shook her head. "I can't believe I just did that. I didn't even think it was just…need and want."

"Saucy," Rae teased.

"No," Tally replied with a wistful sigh, "it's not all sexual. Don't get me wrong…I really want that."

"Get it," Abigail encouraged to Raelle's delight.

Tally shot her a look but continued unperturbed. "I just want to be near her. Being away from her just feels wrong."

"You've got it bad, Tally," Raelle told her, smiling.

"But lucky for you, it seems like the General has it just as bad…she did kiss you in front of your unit, and that braid is nothing to snuff at." Abigail raised her eyebrows to get her point across.

"Fair enough."

 


 

"Will Tally be joining us?" Izadora asked as the biddies all took their seats in the chairs.

"She will," General Alder replied, allowing the ending to go extended.

Izadora turned and flashed her a look that screamed 'you're really going to make me ask'.

When Alder arched an eyebrow, Izadora sighed. "What happened?"

"Tally and I made a development. I kept her from dreaming again…but before that we…" she trailed off.

At Izadora's questioning gaze she sighed, and sported a light blush. "We kissed. The connection is…very open now. We can communicate easily without physically touching, can read each other's emotions even from more of a distance…Tally also saw our magic and shared with me what she saw…" she held her hand out for Izadora to take so that she could show her.

After she had, Izadora's expression was somewhere between wonder and disbelief.

"I know." Alder's posture was relaxed as she spoke, arms clasped behind her back.

"I've never heard of anything like that."

"Nor I."

Izadora hummed thoughtfully. "How was Tally's nap yesterday?"

"Well."

Izadora nodded. "The connection is stronger and open…carrying further in distance…and she didn't have any bad dreams while near you."

Alder nodded.

Izadora thought a moment. "It seems physical proximity is in fact key. Are you sleeping apart tonight?"

Alder nodded once more.

Izadora hummed, taking a moment. "If Tally experiences the dreams away from you…" she shook her head. "Does the bond entail hearing each other in your minds by chance? You mentioned being able to communicate without physical touch."

"Yes," Alder breathed. "We can also sense each other. The closer we are the stronger the connection, yes, but it is still as strong when we are apart…at least it is for me. It only takes a little longer for me to find her…but that is getting easier as well."

Izadora placed a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Tonight, if Tally has a nightmare, you should be awake so you make it to her as quickly as possible."

She tensed at the thought of Tally experiencing another nightmare. She briefly worried about if she would be able to make it in time before anything bad could happen.

The Alder sucked in a breath and said, "Tally's coming."

They stepped away and Alder tried to relax her shoulders. Tally entered, and not a moment too soon—the moment their eyes locked Alder felt the tension melt away.

Concern was evident all over Tally's face and she cast a wary glance toward Izadora. When her gaze flickered back to Alder she could feel that Izadora was…very supportive of this.

So Tally took it in stride and walked right into the General's arms.

"Are you okay?" Tally whispered. She had felt the emotions like a tidal wave before she had entered.

Sarah nodded, touching her forehead to Tally's. "Yes."

She was. Whatever the connection was, she knew that there was no severing it. There was no changing it. Tally Craven was as much a part of Sarah Alder as she was to her. She wanted to know what it was, and why she had been on the receiving end of such a gift. Whatever it was—Sarah had already decided she would have to tell the powers at be that this was something she was going to pursue. She just needed evidence, something tangible so they could understand that this was unstoppable.

"General, I believe we are ready?" Izadora asked.

The two witches separated and took their seats in the chairs; their heads nearly touching.

"I'm going to examine the biddy link to clarify this isn't the result of that," Izadora explained.

She began her seed, hands raising in the air to bring forth the connection.

Alder glanced up at it, examining it as best as she could. Everything looked normal to her.

Izadora took a few minutes to walk around the link connectors, examining each and finding no faults anywhere. It was a perfect severance.

"I believe we are agreed?" Izadora asked.

She had seen Alder examining what she could see from her position—she gave a slow nod as her answer.

Izadora vocalized once more, and Tally watched the connection disappear.

Alder swung her legs over the chair and looked at the Necro professor. "I hope that the information, and this, helps you in your research."

"It has certainly given me more to work with. There are so many variations of connections…"

"—that have been around for hundreds of years…yes. I know of many myself but this is quite different." Sarah added as she stood and walked around the side of Tally's chair, offering her hand to help her stand.

Tally blushed lightly at how chivalrous it was.

"Keep me posted on how Tally fairs tonight," Izadora requested before she exited the room. The biddies followed her out to wait for Sarah at the top of the stairs.

"Have I mentioned that I don't want to sleep without you tonight?" Tally asked, a little shy.

Sarah smiled—it was adorable seeing Tally shy to mention it, as if Sarah wasn't dreading the night as well.

The General reached down and took Tally's hand, leading her to the door. "I am not looking forward to it either, so I am glad that I am not alone in that sentiment." She squeezed her hand.

Tally stopped their progress to the door and waited until Alder faced her. "Tonight…"

"I'm not going to sleep," Sarah answered, already knowing what Tally was asking. "You'll sleep, hopefully peacefully, and we can decide what's next once we have an answer."

They turned and headed up the stairs to meet the biddies just outside the door.

"And if it isn't peaceful?" Tally worried aloud before they walked through.

"The moment I sense something is wrong, I will be in your room waking you."

Tally nodded as Sarah dipped her head and kissed her softly.

"You can reach me through the link, always," Sarah told her before placing another kiss to her lips, and opening the door to head back to her office with her biddies in tow.

 


 

Chapter Text

Tally really wasn't looking forward to spending the night away from Sarah. Not so much out of fear of a nightmare, she took comfort in knowing Sarah would reach her as soon as she could—she just didn't feel right being out of her arms to sleep. She'd become accustomed to waking up wrapped up with her.

When she arrived back at her room, she was delighted to see that there were two new additions in the room, both of which resided on Tally's bed. The first was Sarah's quilt—and Tally felt warmed all over at the gesture that she was trusting Tally with it.

The second was an old looking journal. Clearly worn from years of existence but in good condition. She had plopped down on her bed and picked it up, smiling when she opened it and found a note inside.

I believe we discussed sharing and wanted to leave this for your viewing pleasure. It is my oldest sketchbook, and I have numerous others that are available if you'd wish to see them.

Sarah

Tally smiled as she began going through the pages. There were so many of her fellow witches, all drawn in the 1700s, and Tally surmised they must be members from Sarah's first coven. There were beautiful drawings of the town of Salem, as well as numerous sketches of trees, leaves, and flowers. Tally gathered that Sarah really cherished the area's landscape and foliage. They were all so detailed and beautiful, and she was just finishing going through the pages when Abigail and Raelle entered the room.

"What're you looking at?" Raelle asked curiously as she approached.

"Um," Tally began with a blush, "one of Sarah's sketchbooks."

Abigail's eyebrows rose. "She draws?"

Tally opened to a page with one of her favorite portrait drawings. The woman's name was scrawled in Sarah's script with the date in the bottom right corner.

"Martha Balan," Raelle read. Her brow furrowed. "I can't place that line at all."

Abigail shook her head, unable to as well.

"I think they're her first coven members. The dates aren't too many years after she signed the accords," Tally told them.

"She's really good," Raelle said as her eyes fell on the other new addition. "A quilt?"

Tally blushed furiously. "It's Sarah's."

Abigail couldn't help but laugh as she went back to her bed and crawled in. "She's got it bad for you."

Tally could feel her cheeks heat impossibly further.

Raelle had moved to her own bed and crawled in. "I gotta agree with Abs. She's smitten."

"She isn't the only one," Tally replied softly with a fond smile.

"Heart eyes for days," Abigail teased from her bed.

Tally sighed and flopped back on the bed. She placed the sketchbook on the nightstand and shimmied under her covers, pulling the quilt up to her chin and breathing in Sarah's smell.

"Do you think you'll be okay?" Raelle asked finally from her bunk.

Tally bit her lip. "I honestly don't know. The woman has three hundred years of…horror."

"We'll try and wake you while we wait for her to come," Abigail assured across from Tally. "You aren't alone, Tal. I know it may be hard but try to remember that if you dream."

"Thank you, both of you. I love you guys," she told them seriously.

Raelle's hand appeared from the covers, stretching out across the gap, her pinky finger sticking out for Tally to grab. "We love you too."

Tally reached out and linked pinkies with Raelle for a moment. When they separated, Tally wrapped the quilt around herself, snuggling into the warmth and smell of Sarah—which was distinctively earthy, like sandalwood and pine—and closed her eyes.

She wasn't very tired…like at all. She was wide awake and too worried about what she may see. Sarah wasn't here to rouse her immediately, or here to curl up around.

She sighed quietly and tried to clear her mind as best as she could.

It lasted for about a minute.

She was torn. She needed to sleep or else she'd barely be able to make it through her classes tomorrow. She suddenly remembered Sarah mentioning she could reach her through the link. They'd never conversed through the link while this far apart. She knew the connection had grown stronger though—her mind could brush against Sarah's effortlessly when she was near; her emotions came through easier despite her attempts to bury them.

She focused on their connection, where it sits in her soul, and followed it.

"Sarah?"

"Hello, Tally."

"Holy shit it worked!" Tally was ecstatic.

Sarah's throaty chuckle echoed in Tally's mind as clear as day. "So it would seem. I was unsure if it would carry this far."

"It took me no time at all to find you," Tally thought with a smile.

"Ah, that explains even more why you were so thrilled," Sarah mused. She hummed as she caught some flashes of Tally's thoughts. "Too energized to sleep?"

Tally sighed and rolled over on her side to snuggle her pillow and part of the quilt—attempting to pretend it was Sarah. "Unfortunately. Thank you for the quilt. I'll take good care of it. And the sketchbook. You're ridiculously good."

"I told you I have many talents," Sarah teased. "And I know you will. I had Corinne deliver them before you'd return."

"Tell her thank you for me please?" Tally requested.

Sarah was silent for a few moments, then said, "She says that it was her pleasure, and…" she trailed off, and Tally could practically feel the blush Sarah was sporting, "that she hopes it provides comfort in my absence."

"They're all so sweet. They really care about you. And not because their life force is tied to you. They're genuine. I felt that the moment I became a biddy."

"They certainly care for you as well, and not just because of my feelings for you," Sarah informed her.

Tally smiled into the pillow.

"The drawings of all the women…were they your first coven?" she asked.

"Yes," Sarah replied easily.

Tally could feel the fondness and sadness through the link. "I'm sorry."

"There is no need. I am grateful that I chose to draw each of them. It's comforting to be able to look on their faces even hundreds of years later."

Tally sent a wave of affection through the bond, smiling and basking in their connection.

"Would you mind if I try something?" Sarah asked then.

"Whatever you'd like. I trust you," Tally thought immediately.

The feeling of joy and relief that soared through the connection hit Tally like a bolt of lightning. She shivered under it as if it were praise—pure gratitude for her words pouring from Sarah.

Then, she began to hear Sarah's sleepy time song in her mind, as Tally had so aptly named it.

She sent her thanks through the connection—feeling warmed as if Sarah was right there with her. She quickly drifted off to sleep.

 


 

General Alder sat behind her desk, a glass of wine in hand, reviewing some documents from the President. The woman was becoming a true thorn in her side. She released an irritated breath and took a swig of her wine. She pushed the papers away and turned her gaze to the fireplace flickering in the low light of the room. She glanced at the clock—02:00.

Tally had fallen asleep three hours ago, and so far she felt nothing through their connection. She had released her hold on it, just to ease Tally away from her mind so that her thoughts wouldn't disturb her and her presence wouldn't interfere.

Sarah was grateful she wasn't sleeping tonight. She didn't think sleep was something that was ever possible outside of Tally's arms.

She was okay with that thought.

She stood, moving to the armchair near the fireplace, and removed her jacket from where it rested over the back.

Then it hit her—grief. Overwhelming, inescapable, soul aching, grief.

Sarah gasped for air as the emotions washed over her. She could faintly hear her song of grief…and knew what Tally had witnessed. Her pain, coupled with Tally's own at the heartbreaking display, had shaken her to her core.

It took everything she had to run from her office, to push through the emotional pain she was feeling and just get to Tally.

She must have been sprinting, because she was there faster than she had expected—unceremoniously bursting through the door to the Bellweather unit's room.

"What's going on?" Raelle groaned sleepily.

Abigail was already awake and at Tally's side—she backed away as soon as Sarah entered.

Tally wasn't screaming; only broken sobs fell from her mouth.

"Tally," Sarah gasped out as she slid across the floor to the bed and wrapped her arms around the redhead—she pulled her from her bed onto her lap, her sheet and blanket coming with her.

The noises, the pain, the grief, all dissipated like an extinguished flame. Tally awoke, breathing heavily with tears in her eyes. Her hand reached up and touched Sarah's face.

"Shh, I know," Sarah whispered before placing a kiss on Tally's head.

"Don't leave," Tally whimpered, her breathing still erratic.

"Never," Sarah replied immediately and hugged her closer to her body. "Do you wish to stay awake and calm? Or would you like me to sing to you so that you sleep."

"Sleep," she answered, eyes still swimming with the ghosts of Sarah's past.

Alder sang her seed, relief returning to her body as Tally fell back asleep in her arms. She wasn't letting go of her for the rest of the night. Sarah adjusted the blankets around Tally and scooped her up, then placed her on her bed. She removed her boots before she climbed in after her and made sure that Tally was covered with the quilt—then she pulled her against her and smiled when she felt Tally adjust her position so she could lay her head on Sarah's chest.

Alder was sure that she wouldn't be able to sleep—but she was proven wrong a few moments later when she followed after Tally.

 


 

Alder woke promptly at 06:00 to a call from her biddies. They were worried about Tally. Sarah gathered from their thoughts that when they entered her office and saw her jacket dropped on the floor late in the evening—they had heard Sarah slam open her office door to sprint down the hall—they assumed Tally had a nightmare.

"She's sleeping," Sarah thought. She sent a checklist of things to have ready for her, and to inform Izadora what had happened.

Sarah rubbed her hand up and down Tally's arm, enjoying just being next to her. She knew she would have to sneak out before anyone else in the Sekhmet coven rose. She couldn't be seen leaving a cadet's room. Tally chose that moment to snuggle into Sarah more, bumping her nose against her neck and nuzzling the spot there before stilling with slumber again.

Never mind then, I'll figure something out, she thought with a chuckle.

At 0730, the alarm went off for everyone to begin rising.

"I hate the morning," Raelle groaned from beside them. "Is Tally okay?"

Abigail's sleepy chuckle drew Alder's line of sight to her. Bellweather had a look on her face that Alder would love to be angry at, but the twinkle in her eyes—grateful for Tally being okay—kept it at bay.

Raelle sat up and turned to see Tally, and her eyebrows shot up to her hairline when she saw Alder.

"General?" Raelle shrieked.

Abigail and Alder both shushed her angrily.

"Sorry, sorry, General…um?"

"She had a nightmare," Alder answered. "You're a hell of a heavy sleeper, Collar. It's a good thing Abigail silenced the room when it started, otherwise the whole floor would be in here."

"She okay?" Raelle questioned.

"I'm not sure," Alder replied truthfully, "I'll know more once she wakes and we have a chance to speak." She looked from Tally to Raelle.

Raelle nodded and set to grabbing her toiletries, along with Abigail and departing from the room to give them some privacy.

"Tally," Sarah said softly. "Sweetheart, you need to rise."

"Fuck school," Tally mumbled against Sarah's shoulder.

She laughed, the motion jostling Tally from her last moments of sleep.

"Sarah," Tally breathed quietly before she captured Sarah's lips in a kiss.

It was soft and languid—Tally's hand cupping Sarah's face, and Sarah's arm over her waist, pulling her in as close as possible.

When they parted, they rested their foreheads against each other. Sarah allowed Tally a few moments to finish waking before she spoke again.

"We will need to speak of your dream, but we can leave that for tonight when you come to my room if you wish."

"Okay, I think that would be—wait, did you say tonight when I'm in your room?" Tally's smile was instantaneous.

"Yes, I did. Should you agree, of course."

"Of course," Tally responded quickly.

It drew a smirk from Sarah and she placed another kiss to Tally's lips. "It's clear that we need to be in close proximity. I think tonight we will sleep in my room, and then the following night I'll have you set up in a room closer to me for that night."

Tally nodded and sighed against Sarah's lips where they still touched. "What if I can't sleep away from you?"

"Then I won't sleep and will meditate to join you in your dreams as before and hope that for the time being, it allows you to get rest," Sarah told her. She kissed her once more, holding onto Tally's lip a little longer. She released her bottom lip and felt a shiver go up her spine at Tally's shaky breath against her. "I still want you to sleep with me, but every night wouldn't be possible while Izadora researches."

"And you can't do anything until you have something to show," Tally finished. She understood completely.

"I should go. I need to find an escape route so I won't be seen," Sarah quipped. "It sounds so juvenile."

Tally couldn't help but laugh. She nodded. "Oh absolutely. Does it make you feel any younger?"

Alder hummed lowly as she slowly rolled over Tally. She was close enough to tease her, but just far enough away that they weren't touching. She leaned in close to Tally's ear, nudging her head to the side with her nose so she could see out of the window. She grinned against Tally as she felt her draw a shaky breath.

"What do you think?" Sarah asked.

She took Tally's earlobe in her mouth, relishing in the gasp that flew from Tally's mouth—as a bolt of bright lightning flashed outside the window, accompanied by the sound of booming thunder.

Tally whimpered. She could feel her nipples straining against her shirt. Alder had pinned her legs, so there was no chance of her spreading them so she could at least get some friction—

Sarah moaned in Tally's ear, having caught the thoughts—and images—that flew through Tally's mind.

She was off her in a flash, leaving Tally flushed and confused. Sarah dropped to her knees on the floor and held her hands out for Tally to take. She kissed her knuckles and sighed, looking up at her with affection and a still smoldering lust.

"You have class, I have appointments, but believe me I would much rather occupy my time with that," she told her, earning a smile from Tally.

"You're right, I need to get ready or I'll be late…and I don't think I can say that I was late to my off-canon class because General Alder was in my bed."

Sarah smiled and shook her head. "Actually I think that you could tell Verger that and she would believe you."

Tally cupped Sarah's face, pulling her in for a soft kiss as the booming thunder turned to a low rumble before disappearing.

"Will you fix my braid?" Tally asked softly.

"Of course," Sarah agreed as Tally stood and turned away from her so she could work. She redid the braid in a few minutes, taking a moment to admire her handiwork. She enjoyed doing something so simple for Tally.

When she finished, she placed a kiss to Tally's shoulder before she moved to the window, glancing out of it onto the ground below. She looked to Tally. "Do you have Salva?"

Tally let out a cackle but grabbed the tin from her pack. "General Alder, are you really going to sneak out of my window after staying the night?" Her words were playful, and rather smug.

Sarah was beginning to enjoy Tally's smugness. She placed the Salva on her neck and leaned in for another goodbye kiss.

Then she lifted the window and hopped out, floating to the ground carefully and thanking the goddess that no one was outside this early just yet on this side of base. She was hoping that the goddess was on her side for a bit longer until she reached another entrance and headed inside.

People were beginning to move outside and she quickly set off in a jog. Might as well give the illusion she was up this early and running.

When she reached her biddies she could feel their amusement through the link.

"NotAWord," Sarah ordered, a smirk on her lips.

She couldn't help it. She was the General; and she had snuck out of a cadet's room in the morning after spending the night, through the window with the help of salva. It was ridiculous—but she couldn't remember the last time she felt so alive.

 


 

Alder stood in front of the Mycelium wall, watching her closely and basking in her presence. Izadora approached her then, silently joining her in front of it.

She'd met with Izadora to discuss the connection but also to be briefed on the results of Collar's link to the Mycelium. What Izadora had shown her was surprising, and they were simply waiting on the young witch to arrive.

"You wanted to see me, General?" Raelle questioned as she stepped into the room.

"Yes," Alder answered as she turned to regard the young witch. She nodded for Izadora to begin.

The Necro opened a seed box on the table, and a great sound of many many voices poured from it. Raelle winced at the sharp volume, not relaxing until Izadora closed the box.

"The sound you made is composed of thousands of layered voices, one on top of the other," Izadora explained.

"I've never heard anything so complex before. Or beautiful," Alder told her.

"Well how can I make so many voices if I only have the one?" Raelle asked.

Izadora motioned for her to step closer and take a seat in the chair before her. The Necro held up a small mirror to Collar's throat, examining her cords.

"The vocal and ventricular folds have changed. The epiglottis and epiglottal fold—" she moved the mirror over some to see more. "They're mycelial threads." Izadora had a perturbed look on her face as she turned to face the General. "The Mycelium has colonized her larynx."

Raelle immediately touched her throat. "Hol-hold on. It-it did what?"

Alder turned to look in awe at the Mycelium wall. Her thoughts ran wild a moment before she turned and looked back at Raelle. "Your update mentioned that you are now able to effortlessly speak mothertongue, yes?"

"It happens sometimes," Raelle responded in Mothertongue.

"I'd like you to try singing to Her one more time."

Raelle shook her head. "Last time I did it she jumped down my throat."

"Please, Raelle. We need every soldier, every weapon for what is coming. You know what they're capable of," Alder pleaded.

Raelle nodded hesitantly and stood. She approached the wall as Izadora and Alder gave her some space to work, watching from behind.

The Fixer opened her hands, palms facing the wall as she began a seed. The pitch changed as more of the voices sang through her. It grew in pitch and cadence as Raelle raised her hands high, struggling against the power that was pressing against her.

She released it with a cry, pushing it away from herself and at the wall to her left—sending dust and stone to the floor with the strength of the blast.

The cement cracked beneath them, running up the other side of the wall and crumbling.

Alder watched the crack carefully, ready to leap forward and grab Collar if necessary. Thankfully the structure held. She looked at Izadora, who was looking like she was either going to be sick or pass out from worry.

The hole that Raelle had caused, revealed more of the body of the Mycelium. She looked back to the wall.

"She's big," she said quietly.

"In the Tarim," Izadora began as she and Alder cautiously approached, "her gift transmuted organic matter. And now, with control, it broke down inorganic matter."

Alder leaned forward toward Raelle. She was incredibly pleased with this development. The hope she felt at ending this war with the Camarilla was lit anew at the possibilities.

"Do you think you could do it again?" she whispered, eyes lighting up as she gazed at the majesty before her.

 


 

The rest of Tally's day had gone by quickly. She had pushed the memory of Sarah's grief to the back of her mind. She had glossed over it with Rae and Abigail, leaving them concerned that Tally was keeping her emotions to herself. It wasn't that at all…she merely told them it was a very sad memory.

It was an understatement.

She had been thrust into a memory alongside Sarah. She was cracked with dry blood, most of which Tally is sure wasn't her own, and covered in soot and dirt from being in the thick of combat.

She was doing her best to run through the forest to a destination Tally wasn't familiar with. They had broken the tree line together, and the first pang of grief washed over Tally at the scene before them.

Tied to various stakes across the field, were the remains of Sarah's first coven—burned at the stake. Some of them were so fresh that the bodies were still twitching.

"No," Sarah rasped as she approached. Her eyes taking them all in.

All of them were gone. Her entire coven was reduced to ash and left for her to find.

Sarah fell to her knees, dropping the dirty Camarilla blade to the ground. She sobbed loudly, her hands digging into the dirt as her pain spilled from her.

Tally was crying as well, sharing in Sarah's grief—and then Sarah began vocalizing the most beautiful, heart wrenching seed that Tally had ever heard. The General sat up on her knees, still grieving into her seed. Tally watched all of the bodies slowly begin to descend into the ground before covering.

She wasn't sure how to explain that to Rae and Abi, and she wanted to speak to Sarah first. The memory was as personal as anything could be, and she didn't feel right sharing it until she made sense of it and received permission from Sarah.

She had suppressed the memory as best as she could, desperately pushing it to the back of her mind so that she could get through her day.

Sarah had sent word for her to meet her after her last class, and to bring her things with her.

When she entered the office, Tally was immediately pulled into waiting arms. It felt like coming home—all of the tension left her body the moment she sunk into Sarah's arms. She could feel their connection thrum with life, as if it had a heartbeat of its very own.

Then she broke down.

She collapsed under the weight of Sarah's grief, but the General was there, easing them both to the floor and sitting so Tally could be in her lap. Sarah stayed silent, allowing Tally to sob and pour everything out she needed. She sent waves of warmth and affection through the connection, feeling relieved when her sobs began to slow, as well as the pain.

She sent her biddies away, leaving the two of them alone in the room.

"It is my grief to bear," she thought through the connection. Her hand rose to brush Tally's hair from her face.

Tally shook her head. "No."

Sarah sighed. "Tally—"

"Sarah, no." Tally looked up, wiping some of the tears from her face. She took a deep breath, and then spoke aloud, "You've been carrying this for hundreds of years. I know you have the biddies, but having another person share in that burden is okay." Tally took her hand in her own and brought it to her lips to place a soft kiss there.

Sarah sighed. She was less than thrilled about Tally wanting to shoulder any of the burden. It wasn't fair to Tally to have to deal with grief from hundreds of years ago—not to mention the rest of her horrors.

Tally continued undeterred, "I want to help you carry your grief. You don't have to suffer in it alone. We can do memories together, or talk, or even send some of it through the connection. You don't have to keep it to yourself."

Sarah was speechless. Her eyes were wide as she looked down at Tally. She could feel the sincerity through the bond—but even without it, she could see it in those warm, brown eyes. She cupped Tally's jaw and kissed her, pouring her gratitude into it.

She'd never had a partner. Her biddies were a part of her, and though they could share through the link…it wasn't the same as having someone offer…this.

When they parted, Tally let out a small chuckle as she realized they were entangled on the floor of Sarah's office.

"This is not the way I thought I would end up on your office floor," she told Sarah with a light laugh.

Sarah's eyes brightened a little. "Yes, I recall…you have quite the fascination with my office."

Tally went red. "Y-you saw?"

Sarah chuckled throatily and rose from the ground, offering Tally her hand and pulling her up so their noses could touch.

"I think my favorite was you riding me in my chair," Sarah whispered, mirth dancing in her eyes.

"Goddess," Tally groaned. "I need to keep a lid on it better."

"Never," Sarah replied. "I am capable of still getting my duties done…even if it's a bit more slow moving with that glorious image in my mind."

Tally was still blushing but smiled through it and tucked her head underneath Sarah's chin.

They stood there for a while, just basking in each other's arms.

Sarah broke the silence first. "Did you tell Collar and Bellweather about the memory?"

Tally shook her head. "It's not mine to tell."

Sarah kissed the top of Tally's head, appreciative that she hadn't mentioned it to her unit. Not that she couldn't…it just was extremely personal and Sarah wasn't comfortable with subordinates knowing that, not yet anyway.

"Come, I'm sure you're tired after today," Sarah urged softly.

She walked with Tally to the room after they gathered her clothing, toiletries, the quilt, and Sarah's sketchbook, and took up residence on the bed while Tally dipped into the bathroom to ready herself.

The biddies entered the bedroom shortly after, handing Sarah a stack of papers and a few journals as she readied herself for bed. She bid them thanks and a goodnight just as Tally emerged from the bathroom in her pajamas.

"You're working?" Tally inquired, eyebrows rising slightly.

"I have been sleeping quite a lot lately," she answered while flashing Tally a soft smile. "I want to help Izadora along in her research and thought if I perused through my old journals I may stumble on something I've forgotten." She took a seat on the bed, resting against the headboard as she eyed the journals before her.

"Can I help?" Tally asked as she approached. She plopped down next to Sarah, sitting cross-legged on the bed, eyes bright with excitement.

Alder glanced at the clock. "You can help until lights out, but then you need to rest.

Tally nodded and plucked up a journal. She opened it, mouth dropping when she noticed it was all in Mothertongue.

"Um…"

Sarah chuckled. She recalled Raelle's ability to suddenly speak Mothertongue because of the Mycelium—she opened their connection, thinking on it and allowing her knowledge of Mothertongue to flow through her and into Tally. The redhead gasped as the words surged through her mind until Sarah retreated a little to allow Tally to focus.

"This is going to give me an unfair advantage in class," Tally told her. "How did you do that?"

"I'm glad it worked. Raelle's newfound abilities, actually. I thought that since you and I are connected, and it has been strengthening—perhaps it would work for us as well," Sarah explained with a gentle smile.

"Thank you so much," Tally told her. "You know, I've always wanted to learn it and when I found out we would be here I was so excited."

"You should have been taught it as a child," came her reply. Her eyes met Tally's then. "It's a shame that not all witches teach their children our language. Our history is in it, our Work, our essence…it is as much a part of us as our voices are."

Tally nodded. She couldn't agree more and the thought made her sad—her mother had such hatred for Sarah and the Army after her aunts died in service. So much so, that she never used Mothertongue around Tally and certainly didn't teach her.

"Thank you," Tally told her sincerely.

Sarah turned to meet her gaze, her hand raising to cup Tally's cheek. "I am sorry that your mother is not supportive of your choice."

Tally could only nod. Her mom was…well, her mom. It hurt her endlessly to not have her support. They couldn't even have a phone conversation without them arguing. She hadn't spoken to her since long before the Tarim. She had thought about calling her…but she decided against it as she was dealing with enough.

Sarah's arms had encircled her and pulled her close, providing as much physical attention as she could to help soothe the young witch.

Tally laid her head in Sarah's lap, rolling onto her back so she could read while Sarah did the same, her back pressed to the headboard.

Sarah had caught the emotions and thoughts from Tally about her mother, and her heart ached for her. Her mother was taken from her too soon, but she had loved and nurtured Sarah in their ways so that she was connected with her heritage.

"Oh my god my mom is going to disown me when she learns about us," Tally gasped out in sudden realization. "She is going to flip, I mean she hates the Army but, Sarah, she really really doesn't like you."

Sarah could feel Tally's pang of heartache at the realization. She could feel her sadness that her mother wouldn't accept any part of her life.

"Mothers can be difficult," Sarah began, her hand stroking Tally's cheek as she looked down into her eyes. "But I am sure your mother loves you and her unwillingness to accept your choices may be but a temporary situation. She will come around, Tally."

Tally released a heavy sigh as she opened the journal. "I hope so."

Sarah mulled over the options. She wondered if Tally would accept it if Sarah took it upon herself to speak with her mother; clear the air of past grievances and move forward for Tally's sake.

She kept this hidden from their connection and pushed it to the back of her mind to think of at a later date. Then she realized she had been able to hide it. It seemed that even though it grew stronger, it also allowed them more control over it.

They read in silence, sharing thoughts through the bond about what they'd found. Tally would ask questions here and there about certain pieces of magic that Sarah had referenced.

They each went through two journals before lights out, neither being successful in their searching.

Tally let out a yawn and sat her second journal down. "You've lived quite the life," Tally told her.

Sarah gave a curt nod and closed her own journal before setting it away. "An understatement."

Tally nodded. She couldn't imagine being alive for so long; watching all of your friends and family pass away; losing every new person you met eventually because you outlived them all; it was all so lonely.

"Hush, sweetheart, it is hard but I have survived against all odds and I do not regret my choice to serve," Sarah told her. She bent over and placed a kiss on Tally's forehead. "You should sleep."

"Can I hold you?" Tally asked as she sat up.

Sarah hadn't expected that. She gave a short nod and moved the journals and papers to the nightstand, and turned off the lamp before facing Tally.

Tally smiled shyly, her face illuminated by the moon shining brightly outside of the window, and laid down on her back, opening her arms for Sarah to curl in on. The General did as requested and laid on her side, her head resting on Tally's chest and her arm over her waist.

"Do you want to do any memories?" Tally asked after a moment.

Sarah hummed from her spot on Tally's chest. "It is entirely up to you. If you do not wish to, we can simply sleep to see if you dream," she suggested.

Tally nodded. She was exhausted from the previous night, and then her entire day. She was willing to give it a shot.

"Then that is what we shall do," Sarah told her easily.

"Goodnight, Sarah," Tally whispered before capturing Sarah's lips in a sweet kiss.

"Goodnight, Tally."

Chapter Text

"You can't be serious," Tally stated plainly.

She and Raelle were currently in the office of the Imperatrix, on the other side of base. They had gotten called in to discuss their lineage lines. Being that neither of them were particularly desired for their bloodlines, like Abigail was, Tally and Raelle had to have this awkward discussion.

Raelle, an out-cross witch, didn't have a desirable bloodline and wasn't beholden to the rules like the High Atlantic witches were—those with the purest bloodlines dating back to the first coven that served with Alder. Tally's ancestor was one such witch, but her bloodline, while old, wasn't one of the strongest and didn't belong to High Atlantic society.

From the sounds of it, they would be off the hook.

"Miss Craven, I fully expect you to participate in the party and find yourself a match."

It set Tally's blood cold.

"Tally, are you alright?" Sarah asked through the link, having sensed her distress.

She sent the feeling and memory through the bond and could feel Alder's anger simmering just beneath the surface.

"Miss Craven?" the Imperatrix snapped.

"Yes, sorry, I'll attend." Tally grimaced at the thought and had left the room with her head down.

Unbeknownst to either girl, the Imperatrix's eye fell on the braid at the back of Tally's hair. It seemed familiar to her, but she couldn't quite place it.

"Don't worry, Tal, no way is Alder going to be okay with that," Raelle assured.

"I know, but I still really don't want to even go. Rae, please come?" Tally all but begged. "I don't want to do this by myself."

"Abigail is going to be there," Raelle reminded her.

"Yeah and I would like for us to be together. Please?" she requested again, giving her best puppy dog eyes.

"Ugh, fine, I'll go," Raelle conceded, offering her friend a smile.

"At least we will all be with each other and we can just hang together. Abigail has Adil, so I can't see her actually trying to find a husband." Tally sighed and threw her hands up. "This is so stupid. We should be able to pick our own partners and have babies when we want to. Not just pop them out for the sake of witchkind."

"Plus, you're spoken for. I'm sure once you're able to be open about the relationship the Imperatrix will spring off your back so quick," Raelle said with a chuckle.

"I hope so. I don't know if I want Sarah kicking the Imperatrix's ass…well, at least not too badly," Tally told her. She sighed heavily before going to speak—

Then she stopped suddenly, her eyebrows rising to her hairline.

"What is it?" Raelle asked.

"Um…Sarah is on her way?" Tally told her quietly, voice full of confusion.

Raelle looked equally surprised, but smirked at her friend. "Told you she wasn't going to let that happen."

It was not a few more minutes before General Alder rounded the corner, with Petra Bellweather at her side and her biddies behind.

"Craven, Collar," Alder greeted curtly. "Informative discussion with the Imperatrix I presume?"

Tally couldn't help but shiver at the undercurrent of anger in Sarah's emotions—they flowed through her effortlessly this close in proximity.

"Yes, General," Raelle answered, her eyes looking at Petra right after. "General Bellweather."

"Collar," Petra returned, a small smile on her face. Then her eyes turned to Tally. "Craven, are you ready for the party tonight? There are going to be plenty of eligible bachelors."

Tally internally screamed.

"A pointless ceremony," Alder growled under her breath.

Petra rolled her eyes. "You and the Imperatrix have never seen eye to eye, General. I don't believe today will be the day you start." She smirked.

Alder scoffed, her eyes landing on Tally. "Hold out for the best, Craven."

Tally couldn't help but smile at that. "Oh I plan on it, ma'am."

"Good," Alder replied easily before she looked to Raelle. "Collar, I'm getting you out of the party tonight. Meet me out front of the west wing at 1900."

Tally visibly deflated at the information. At least she would have Abigail.

"Yes, General."

"Cadets," Alder said in parting before she turned on her heel and led Petra and her biddies into the office.

When Sarah entered, the room immediately felt cooler. She hated dealing with the Imperatrix. She found the whole concept of pure bloodlines to be complete bullshit. She didn't deny that it was important for their kind to continue to procreate more witches…but to deny them the chance of choosing someone in their own time…it didn't sit right with her.

"General Bellweather, thank you for coming by," the Imperatrix greeted before looking up. Once she did, her eyes narrowed. "General Alder—I was under the impression I would be speaking alone with Petra," the Imperatrix commented, a cold look in her eyes. Curious.

"Merely here to assess," General Alder replied easily. Her hands clasped behind her back as she stood in the center of the room.

"Well, Petra, I hope your daughter takes this seriously. Your line is one of my proudest achievements and with Abigail being the last of the line…she has a duty. Fewer witches are being born, and we are facing a new threat."

"Abigail will come around," Petra told her. "It's in her blood. And we have found one new bloodline, we may find more with testing—"

"More out-crossed lines, which I suppose have their place…"

Alder couldn't help but scoff quietly at the level of bullshit. God she hated this woman and what she stood for.

"…but they're no replacement for the power of purity." The Imperatrix flashed a self-satisfied smile.

"Perhaps," General Alder began, her voice taking on an edge, "the Imperative should reflect upon the fact that it lost track of these bloodlines to begin with." Alder straightened her stance.

"Witches are as powerful as they are…"

Alder slowly walked forward, not backing down from this confrontation.

"…because of the Imperative," the Imperatrix rebutted. She remained where she stood, her chin tilted up in an air of superiority that Alder despised. "Your duty—"

"I know my duty," Alder interrupted calmly. "The Imperative serves an important purpose, Matriarch." Her face hardened and a snarl etched itself on her lips. "But know your place."

The Imperatrix blinked. "I will not stand here while you impugn my authority to appease your ego."

Alder tilted her head up and fixed her with a stare that would make anyone under her command shake.

"I don't report to you. Now leave my office."

Petra looked back and forth between them, slightly worried about the standoff between the two women.

Alder maintained eye contact for a few moments before slowly backing up and then turning to lead the group from the room.

Alder and Petra walked side by side as they exited the building. It wasn't until they descended the first few stairs that Alder finally spoke.

"The arrogance of that woman."

Petra smirked. "That's the danger of having no one but yourself to answer to."

Alder fixed the side of her face with a stare. She just couldn't win today.

"How goes our hunt for the Camarilla?" she asked, changing the subject.

They stopped at the bottom of the steps and Petra turned to face her.

A tired sigh left Petra's lips. "I've got operatives in the field, trying to figure out how they got to the rest of my line before we even knew they existed." Petra's face became solemn for a moment.

Alder nodded her agreement.

"Has the Hague gotten back to you on the plague samples we sent?" Petra asked suddenly.

"Not yet. But everybody's being cooperative for once." Alder gave a tight smile.

Petra fixed her with a knowing stare. "You're very good at getting people to see things your way…" she allowed the implication to hang in the air.

Alder's face was a mask of impassiveness, but underneath she was boiling. She was the only one who was truly looking out for their kind. If Petra had her way, or the President had hers, they wouldn't survive long. For as long as she lived, Alder had hoped that over time those that surrounded her would actually hear what she would say, instead of only hearing the surface.

"Good day, General," Petra bid in farewell.

As she walked away, Alder clenched her jaw.

 


 

With the busyness of the rest of the day, for both Tally and Sarah, they hadn't gotten to see each other before Tally had to go to that stupid party.

She'd complained to Sarah through the bond earlier, validated that the General shared her sentiment of the whole thing. It felt nice to be on the exact same page as Sarah. The first time in a while.

So Tally waited outside of the party for Abigail, musing over the day and dreading having to participate in this party at all.

Abigail arrived, dressed in her uniform, and clutching a journal to her chest.

"Abs, what the hell?" Tally was exasperated. She was going to have to do this by herself.

"I have something I need to do. I came to let you know…wait, where's Raelle?" Abigail asked.

"She has a thing with the higher ups," Tally answered, still pouting.

"I'm really sorry, Tal. I need to go," Abigail said as she turned around and took a step away, then called. "Don't tell anyone where I'm going. Or what I'm doing!"

She disappeared and Tally threw her hands up and huffed. "Don't worry because you didn't tell me!"

She turned and headed into the party, a grimace on her face.

This was the last fucking thing she wanted to be doing.

She walked in and stopped, glancing around the room. All the girls were pairing off with the boys and mingling. Then, much to Tally's relief, Gregorio approached with a drink. He handed her the glass and she accepted it gratefully.

"No Abigail or Raelle?" Gregorio asked as he and Tally surveyed the party.

"Nope," Tally replied, emphasizing her 'p'. "Raelle has something important going on, and Abigail blew me off because she's doing, something, of which I have no clue."

"That sucks, but luckily for you, your buddy Gregorio is here to help you pick the best bachelors."

Tally grimaced and Gregorio arched an eyebrow. "No?"

"I…I'm sort of involved with someone," Tally admitted to him. They had walked off and leaned against the nearest wall. Still watching the party and sipping their drinks as they talked.

"Well, well," Gregorio mused proudly, "Tally Craven has herself a boyfriend."

Tally blushed. "Um…they aren't a boy."

Gregorio's eyebrows could not possibly rise higher. "Oh my god…Raelle?"

"No!" Tally exclaimed with a laugh.

"I was going to say, I thought she was hung up on that Scylla chick," Gregorio spoke. He hummed. "Well, then yeah I can see why you aren't interested. As I also like women, I completely understand. Men suck."

Tally couldn't help but laugh. "Thank you, Gregorio. You're a good friend."

"I try."

"So," Tally began, "any ladies here tonight that you have your eye on?"

Gregorio shook his head. "Nah. I was dreading even coming to this thing tonight to be honest." He looked as if he suddenly realized something. "Hey why is Abigail so pissed at me?"

Tally chuckled. "She's not pissed at you. She's pissed because of what you represent. The Imperatrix has her eye on you two as a match."

Gregorio's mouth dropped. "Oh that makes so much sense now."

Tally nodded and finished her drink. "Want another? I figure we can keep each other company since we both aren't looking."

"Absolutely," Gregorio readily agreed.

They walked together toward the table, chatting happily until Tally abruptly stopped.

"Tally?" Gregorio questioned, concerned at her sudden halt. His eyes looked over her face, her eyes seemed like they were glazed—like she was seeing something else.

Then Tally's eyes welled as she muttered 'no no, not again'.

"Tally," Gregorio said again.

But Tally was still staring ahead, and she slowly fell to the floor as sobs sprang from her mouth.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to look at her, wondering what was going on.

She was seeing it again…that memory of Alder's discovery of her slain coven. Her grief hit Tally full force once more and she dropped to her knees next to Sarah as she sang her seed.

 


 

General Alder was already seated in the back of the truck. Her biddies were in the truck behind them, along with a small squad of witches just in case. The back door opened to show Raelle, a look of surprise on her face at seeing her seated in the truck.

"Collar," Alder greeted as the blonde hopped in and closed the door.

Sarah smacked her hand against the cabin of the truck.

They began to move out, but Raelle remained silent, her eyes avoiding the General's. She was fidgeting with something on her jacket, and it was then that Sarah realized what it was.

"I haven't seen a combat charm like that in a while," Sarah's voice was soft. "Was it your mother's?"

"Yes, ma'am. She left it for me when she deployed for the last time. It's a silly superstition but uh…I guess I'm just nervous," Raelle told her honestly.

"Nerves can be good," Alder assured. "They keep you on edge. But you're not heading into battle tonight, Cadet."

"With all due respect, I'm not sure what I'm heading into."

"With any luck, the history books," Alder answered.

Raelle remained silent, still playing with her charm.

Alder sighed. "I want you to show them what you can do, Raelle," she told her.

The use of Raelle's first name immediately got her attention.

"General Bellweather, General Sharma, and the President will be in attendance for the demonstration. Just as you have done before. But in a much safer area," Alder said with a smirk.

Raelle snorted. "Where are we going exactly?"

"Another part of base. One where we won't have to worry about prying eyes," she said.

"You're giving me much more information than normal," Raelle commented. She left the unspoken reason in the air, Tally.

Alder smiled softly. "I will admit that I have grown rather fond of you and Bellweather as of late. Perhaps it is Tally's feelings for you both that are influencing mine…or perhaps I am seeing what Tally sees in you both—as individuals. Not soldiers or weapons."

Raelle couldn't miss the way the General's eyes lit up as she mentioned Tally.

"Do you love her?" Raelle asked gently. She was genuinely curious, and if Alder did breathe a word, there was no way she'd mention it to Tally…she just wanted to make sure her heart was safe.

Alder bristled and Raelle held up her hands in peace.

"I only ask because I love Tally. She's my sister. I'm not asking General Alder, I'm asking Sarah."

Alder's shoulders relaxed and she contemplated answering.

"I…" she began.

Raelle waited patiently, not daring to push.

"Yes," she breathed out quietly.

Raelle couldn't help the bright smile that split across her face, and Alder found that she couldn't help but smile as well.

"I am pretty sure that the feeling is mutual," Raelle told her. "Tally has always been a happy person, but since you two happened…it's something new and different. She seems lighter, I think."

"I know we may not see eye to eye always, Raelle, but where Tally is concerned I have no doubt that you and I are on the same page," said Alder as she smiled.

"Absolutely." Raelle held out her hand. "Differences aside?"

Alder eyed the gesture a moment. Then she grasped Raelle's forearm with her hand, as Raelle did hers.

"Agreed."

The truck slowed to a stop then, and Alder stood—walking to the door and opening it so she and Raelle could exit. They began to walk toward the others, but Alder's voice halted their steps.

"Raelle," Alder began, "We can't have you holding anything back."

"Has anyone else ever been able to do what I can?" Raelle asked curiously.

Alder's expressions twisted into something that Raelle couldn't decipher.

"New Work is exceedingly rare." She fixed her with a stare. "But what you can do…I've never seen anything like it."

Raelle sucked in a breath. "Good. No pressure then."

"General, we're ready for you," Petra's voice broke through then and both women turned to look at her.

Alder gave her a nod and flashed Raelle one last look of support before heading toward the bunker.

It was a thick concrete building that rested above the ground, with a slightly narrow window for the viewers to see out of.

"General Sharma, thank you for joining us," Alder said pleasantly as she and her biddies entered the room.

General Sharma didn't seem to share in the pleasantry. Alder knew the woman disliked her and braced herself for whatever half-assed insult Sharma would say.

"General Alder. I have a meeting in Brussels tomorrow with General Amis, as I'm sure you're aware," General Sharma said with a knowing, pointed smirk.

Alder didn't miss a beat. "Perhaps you'll have something additional to discuss with her after this demonstration," she replied smoothly. Her eyes fell on the Vice President next. She was surprised to see that President Wade had sent her VP in her stead. "Mr. Vice President, this is a pleasant surprise. I was expecting President Wade." She waited a moment before saying, "No offense." She meant all offense.

The Vice President regarded her. "She wanted to be here but she's come down with some sort of a…" he shook his head as if trying to find the right words to describe it to Alder, "a nasty bug."

Alder tilted her head in understanding. "Then I hope you'll have good news to bring back, as well."

She turned her attention to the two women in the blast zone. Alder watched Petra say a few words to Raelle before coming back to the bunker.

Witches began a seed of protection around the bunker, protecting it from any potential damage Raelle might do.

"Here we go," Alder said quietly.

Raelle took a deep breath before she began her seed. Alder could hear the overlapping voices as the mycelium rose from the ground, curling on itself as it bubbled with power—ready to unleash itself the moment Raelle released it.

She finished with a yell and thrust her hands in front of her, sending the speckled dust clouds billowing with explosive force toward the concrete structures lining the path for her.

The destruction was…immediate. When the dust began to clear, various colors of glowing mushrooms began to bloom from where their pollen had touched. It lit the path of destruction Raelle had created, and Alder released a breath. It was inspiring to see such a beautiful thing bloom from devastation.

General Sharma and the Vice President looked at her then, disbelief on their faces.

They had shaken hands and said their polite goodbyes. Sharma informed Alder that she would be informing Amis of this ability, feeling that it will greatly serve their cause against the Camarilla. The Vice President…looked a little afraid and Alder couldn't help but feel smug.

She headed outside to meet with Petra and Raelle, coming to stop in front of them.

"That was well executed, Raelle," Alder told her seriously. There was pride in her eyes and in her heart and seeing her capability.

Petra nodded them a farewell and headed back to her own escort.

"Were they impressed?" Raelle asked, a prideful grin on her face. She looked back at the glowing mushrooms, smiling softly at what had been created.

"Quite," Alder replied. She went to speak again, but a familiar feeling of panic and grief swept over her.

It must have showed on her face because Raelle's eyes widened and she gave a questioning 'General?'—but Alder hadn't really heard her. It sounded like she was speaking while Alder was underwater.

"Something is wrong with Tally," Alder gasped out.

She and Raelle spun on their heels, rushing back to the truck.

"Back to the main hall, now!" she yelled at the driver as she ran by the window to hop in the back of the truck. She grabbed Raelle's arms and yanked her into the back with a strength Raelle was impressed by—and slammed her hands on the truck to move it.

 


 

"Tally," a voice called.

Tally looked around the area then, suddenly bare. There were no burning bodies, no disturbances, no Sarah…

"Hello?" Tally called out as she looked around.

"Tally."

She turned around, eyes connecting with a woman she didn't recognize.

"Who are you?" Tally asked.

The woman smiled softly. She was dressed in a uniform, resembling those of the American Armed Forces from the late 1700's.

"Anne Craven," the woman replied.

"Oh my god," Tally whispered, flabbergasted. "You're one of my ancestors!"

"A part of her anyway. We called you here for a purpose."

"Where is…here?" Tally asked. "I know this is where Sarah's coven was murdered but…"

"Fort Salem," Anne answered.

Tally's eyes widened. "F-Fort Salem?"

"This is where Sarah built it. On top of the ground where her coven was slain so that she would always remember them and could protect those that served. It's a memorial for her."

Tally nodded. She would ask Sarah about it later. "Why did you bring me here…and who is 'we'?"

"We, are the Mycelium," Anne said. "The Mycelium is comprised of all the spirits and magic of dead witches. We spread far and wide but our heart is here."

"The…the Mycelium. The mushroom wall that is in the Necro lab? That's…you?"

"A fraction. But yes. When Raelle Collar touched us, we knew that she would be the one to wield us. She is powerful on her own, but we chose her because she does not desire power." Anne pointed to a spot on the ground. "Use your sight."

Tally stared at her a moment longer before she dropped her gaze to the ground. She looked, watching as she could begin to see below. Deep through the ground the roots shimmered and glowed. She looked up, gasping as she could see it spread farther than her eyes could see. It was beautiful and complicated and encompassed the entire ground below.

"Wow," she whispered in awe.

"Raelle does not know how much power she wields. She has not listened to our call," Anne explained.

"Why not give yourself to Sarah?" Tally asked.

"She has witchkind's best interest at heart, but she carries so much anger and hatred. Her pain, it would consume her if we allowed her to wield us."

"She's changing," Tally defended.

Anne smiled. "We know. We see it. You have had a profound effect on her, which we are not surprised by giving the extent of your bond."

"Do you know what our bond is?"

"Yes."

Tally blanched. "Could you tell me?"

Anne chuckled and shook her head. "No, child. We cannot, for that will be revealed to you soon."

"Why are you showing me this?" Tally pressed.

"Things are happening and you witches must prepare. Tell Raelle and Sarah to visit the wall, so that we may show them this. They need to understand."

"How…how did you access my mind?" Tally asked abruptly. Realization after realization was hitting her and she needed answers.

"We are connected to Sarah, and therefore to you as well. Sarah has suppressed the pain and grief of her fallen sisters so deeply that she is beyond our reach. We are tied to that pain, as we were created from it."

Tally suddenly realized. "Sarah created you with her song."

"Yes, and over the hundreds of years since, and the thousands of witches who have died on this country's soil, live within us. Sarah has preserved us in a way that we never thought was possible. We have connected with the earth and the goddess, we know all history," Anne explained.

"Does Sarah know she created you?"

"No," Anne answered simply. "We have chosen you as our messenger, Tally Craven. Your sight is beyond measure, and you will need it for the coming war."

"War," Tally stated. "You mean with the Camarilla?"

"Yes. They are coming, Tally," Anne said gravely. "All of you have important roles to play. Take our message to Sarah and Raelle."

That was the last Tally heard before everything went black.

 


 

"Collar, let's go!" General Alder barked as she leapt from the truck.

She had just arrived back on this side of base and had high-tailed it through the halls in tandem with Raelle.

"Is she okay?" Raelle asked as she and Alder were nearly sprinting to reach Tally.

A pained look crossed Alder's face. "I can't feel her. It's like something is blocking me from her."

Alder knew she had worried Raelle with her honesty…but she was terrified. It felt…empty without Tally occupying her space. But not empty in the way a place feels without a certain type of furniture, but in the way her soul felt like a piece of it was just…gone. It was driving her crazy.

"The party," Raelle nodded up ahead as the building came into view.

Alder broke into a run, and Raelle followed behind. They barged in through the doors, drawing the stares of everyone in the room—especially a death glare from the Imperatrix.

"All of you, move," Alder snarled. Her blue eyes shone dangerously in the light of the room, coupled with her rigid posture—giving her the appearance of a predator ready to fight.

Raelle was even frightened of the look on Alder's face, and she was on her side.

The crowd parted immediately and Alder's eyes fell on Tally, kneeling over on the floor, breathing heavily with tears falling down her face.

"She's not responsive," Gregorio told Raelle. His eyes glanced to the General and then back to Raelle as if to say 'what's she doing here?'

Alder stepped forward and crouched down to softly touch Tally's face.

Immediately the connection opened and both of them audibly gasped. Tally's eyes flew open, finally crystal clear and seeing Sarah in front of her. She was about to fall into her arms when she realized she had been at the party…and still was, with everyone staring at her.

"Tally," Sarah whispered. She sighed and touched Tally's mind with her own, caressing it and basking in it. "Can you stand? We should go somewhere with privacy," she thought through the bond.

Tally simply nodded and accepted the hand General Alder offered her. She pulled her to her feet, catching her as Tally's legs buckled.

Without thinking, and as if it was the most natural thing, Sarah swooped her up in her arms bridal style—carrying her like she did that first time.

Alder's eyes fell on the Imperatrix, who was looking at Alder with confusion and curiosity. She didn't miss the way the woman's eyes flickered to the braid and then back to her.

"I'll take it from here," Alder stated. She glanced at Raelle and gestured over her shoulder for the blonde to follow her.

As soon as they stepped outside, Tally took a large breath of air and then exhaled shakily.

"Tal, what the hell happened?" Raelle asked, clearly worried.

"I need to talk to you both," Tally replied, still a little lost in thought.

Sarah merely held her tighter as she walked them toward her office. She knew the biddies were already there, readying a glass of wine for everyone—goddess knows they deserved it.

When they entered the office, Sarah walked Tally to her chair and sat her down in it. She plucked two filled glasses and handed one to each of them before she grabbed her own, taking a long drought.

Silence blanketed the room. Raelle was sitting in a chair across from Alder's desk, looking back and forth between the two.

Tally looked over at Sarah, who was standing at the window and looking out onto the grounds. "Sarah."

She turned immediately and walked over to Tally. She sat her glass down and kneeled in front of the redhead, taking her hands in her own and kissing them.

"What happened?" Sarah murmured against her skin.

"I want to show you…both of you," Tally said.

Raelle approached and took one of Tally's hands.

Sarah closed her eyes and reached out for Raelle's mind, when she found it, she latched on and pulled her through the bond into Tally's mind.

 


Chapter Text

To say last night had been a lot was an understatement. Sarah could hardly believe what she had seen, but knew it to be true. Her grief had created the Mycelium…this being that she thought was older than herself, was actually her doing.

Raelle had been thrown that the Mycelium wanted her to open herself to it, and that she would be the one to wield that magnitude of power.

Neither could believe that it had spread so far and in its infiniteness had been housing the magic of all the witches that died.

When they had been released from the memory, Raelle had hugged Tally and Sarah, not caring that she was hugging the General of the Army without permission. She was feeling grateful for them both and had made plans with Sarah to visit the Mycelium the next day so that she could join it for whatever it had to pass on to her.

Sarah and Tally had gone to bed, holding each other tightly and in silence as they mused over the details through their bond. Their minds were beginning to effortlessly blend together as they shared their thoughts and feelings about the night.

Tally had been kind and soothing through the bond, kissing Sarah on the head in the physical and drying her tears as she processed. They fell asleep tangled together until the early hours.

Sarah had woken first as usual and glanced up at Tally from where she had laid on the redhead's chest. She couldn't believe the genuine kindness of Tally Craven. The affection she gave effortlessly; her reassurance; her being a pillar of strength that Sarah never knew she needed.

She was in love with Tally Craven.

Their minds mingled in their sleep as if holding each other and subconsciously sharing details of each other.

Without having to ask, she knew Tally's favorite color was yellow, because of sunshine and sunflowers. Her mother had always planted sunflowers in their garden and they had been Tally's favorites ever since. She knows the pain Tally feels at her mother's disapproval of her decisions, having also seen some of the memories of their arguments over the years—including those about Tally looking up to someone like her.

They were on a 24/7 loop of interaction through their bond, rendering time meaningless. Sarah felt like she had known Tally Craven for years instead of just the nearly full year she did.

Tally began to rouse from slumber then. Soft noises fell from her slightly parted lips, and Sarah carefully tilted her head upward so that she could reach Tally's. She captured them softly, earning a moan from the younger witch.

"Good morning," Tally murmured against her lips.

"Good morning," she replied before placing another to her lips. "How did you sleep?"

"Wonderfully," Tally answered honestly. She brushed some hair from Sarah's face. "How did you sleep?"

"Quite restful. I'm…surprised, honestly."

Tally hummed in understanding. "Last night was a lot. How are you feeling so far?"

"Better once we were connected again. I hated not being able to feel you," Sarah responded, her eyes looking into Tally's. "It felt like I was suddenly missing a huge part of myself."

Tally nodded, grateful she had been trapped in the vision, rather than experiencing what Sarah did—but knowing Sarah was as attached as Tally was did bring a soft smile to her face.

Tally stroked Sarah's hair as they laid in silence for a few more moments. She grinned against Sarah's head, feeling the protectiveness for her flash.

"What brought that on?" Tally asked.

Sarah groaned. "The biddies rousing me."

"And that made you protective of me?" Tally asked quizzically.

"I…" Sarah trailed off. "I'm unsure. I just reacted to the thought of parting with you. Being unable to feel you last night seems to have shaken me some."

"I'm right here," the redhead whispered.

Tally kissed her again, her tongue swiping at Sarah's lips and seeking entrance. Sarah moaned into the kiss as she opened her mouth for Tally, their tongues brushing against each other as they deepened the kiss. Sarah bit on Tally's bottom lip, tugging on it before swiping her tongue across and earning a soft gasp from Tally. She ducked her head and kissed Tally's neck, earning another gasp. This one though, sent a wave of arousal to her center and she couldn't resist moaning against Tally's neck. She bit the soft flesh there as she moved herself on top of Tally, her lower body resting between her thighs.

Tally's breathing was becoming more erratic with Sarah's attention, and she could feel her panties sticking to her already. She sent her desire through the bond and moaned when Sarah practically growled against her neck.

"Bite me harder," Tally requested through the bond, moaning loudly when Sarah did as asked.

Sarah sunk her teeth in, her left hand sliding into Tally's hair and holding her head close—then she sucked on the spot and Tally's legs immediately wrapped themselves around Sarah's waist, locking her in place.

"Tally," Sarah groaned as she pressed into her harder. She'd meant for it to sound like a warning that they should stop.

"Sarah," Tally pleaded as her hands tangled in dark hair. "Please."

"Tally," Sarah breathed against her neck, kissing the mark she made. She pulled back and met Tally's gaze.

Tally's eyes had gotten considerably darker, as she watched Sarah with a hungry look. Sarah was about to say something but Tally pulled her waist closer and ground up against Sarah's stomach, moaning her name.

She had, begrudgingly, wanted to wait but Tally was making it so hard. She was worried that Tally wouldn't truly be ready and she certainly didn't want to push her—despite how desperately she wanted her.

"I don't want to wait," Tally told her, catching the thoughts. "You aren't pushing. Unless you aren't ready...then we don't have to."

"Believe me, I want to," Sarah told her honestly.

"Then take me, Sarah. Claim me."

That broke her.

Sarah kissed her fiercely, her grip tightening in Tally's hair as she ground her hips down against her center, earning multiple moans from Tally.

"Please don't tease me," Tally panted. She was more than turned on. It felt like fire running through her veins. She was overheated and soaked.

Sarah leaned back and reached down to grasp the hem of Tally's shirt. Her eyes looked up to brown, needing one more enthusiastic confirmation before she went further. "Are you sure?"

"More than anything," Tally breathed. She sent her sincerity through the link, watching with a soft smile as Sarah's eyes widened as she received the feelings. Then Tally sent her need through the bond.

It was the best decision she ever made, because Sarah was ripping her shirt off of her, followed by her bottoms and panties in one go. She tossed them over her shoulder and sat back to remove her own clothing.

Tally had wanted to do it, but she was content waiting. They could do slow and emotional later. Right now though, Tally needed Sarah to own her.

Sarah caught the sentiment and quickly laid back down between Tally's legs, her pubic bone resting against Tally's center as the redhead's legs trapped Sarah once more.

She released a guttural moan as she felt how wet Tally was for her. Wet was an understatement though—and it sent a delighted thrum through her veins. She was hers.

They kissed passionately again and Sarah traced her right hand up Tally's side to her breast—rolling the pink bud between her fingers and tugging.

Tally's head went back as she arched into Sarah, wanting more of the attention. So Sarah dipped her head and captured the other in her mouth.

Tally moaned—loud. Sarah released her nipple, sending a wave of reassurance through the bond before she sang a soundproofing seed.

She could hear the building of thunderclouds outside of base, but made peace that nothing could be done now. She was too far gone in her desire to be buried inside her witch.

She switched breasts, lathing the other with her tongue before biting gently. She knew Tally begged her not to tease, but Sarah couldn't resist. Tally's desire was crashing against Sarah's own in their bond, so much so that she could feel a bit of a whisper of her own touch against Tally.

She moaned, releasing the stiff bud and surging up to kiss Tally heatedly as her right hand slid down Tally's side, then to a smooth thigh, and inward to where Tally was pleading for her to be.

Her fingers connected with the wetness and Sarah whined. The noise was pitiful to her ears, but to Tally it only made her more aroused.

"Sarah, if you don't fuck me soon I swe—" Tally's sentence was caught off by a guttural moan as two of Sarah's finger slid into wet heat.

"Fuck," Sarah groaned against Tally's lips.

She had planned on drawing this out, but Sarah—always the epitome of control—absolutely lost hers.

She rocked against her hand, her thigh rising to press against the back of it as she began thrusting and curling her fingers in Tally.

Sarah was sure she had never heard such a beautiful sound as Tally's moans and gasps. Or seen such a beautiful sight. Tally was gorgeous, but lying beneath her with pink flushed skin and dark eyes—Sarah was sure she was a goddess. She licked a trail up Tally's neck to her witch mark, scraping her teeth over it as she curled her fingers.

"Sarah," Tally moaned as she hit the right spot. "I—"

"I know," Sarah replied.

She could feel that Tally was close already by the way her walls had begun to flutter against her fingers, as well as through their connection.

She could feel a ghost of Tally's climax in her core and she increased her thrusts, hitting deeper as Tally's legs spread wider to accommodate her.

"Fuck. Sarah!" Tally yelled as her orgasm washed over her. Her back arched and her head fell back against the pillow as she came hard around Sarah's fingers.

Tally barely had time to catch her breath before Sarah was kissing down her body, humming appreciatively as she went. She carefully eased her fingers from Tally and glanced up to find dark eyes watching her hungrily.

Sarah maintained eye contact as she lowered her mouth to Tally's wet heat. The red haired witch took in a sharp breath as Sarah's tongue licked up her center, gathering her wetness.

"You taste better than I imagined," Sarah whispered reverently to her before she plunged her tongue between Tally's folds.

Tally's hands tangled in Sarah's hair, keeping her pressed against her while she ate her out. Tally had never experienced anything like it. Every spot Sarah touched lit her on fire with need. Then Sarah took Tally's clit in her mouth and stars appeared before her eyes.

"Shit," Tally gasped.

Sarah hummed with approval against Tally, her tongue flicking the bundle of nerves and reveling in the way Tally panted prettily for her.

It didn't take long for Tally to teeter over the edge once more, Sarah's name falling from her lips.

She eased her down, languidly licking around the sensitive bud before placing a gentle kiss there. She crawled back up Tally's body, kissing her way upward to reach her face. Sarah turned Tally's head to the side and licked right over her witch's mark before lightly biting the spot.

Tally shivered beneath her, still trying to catch her breath.

"You're mine, Tally Craven," Sarah murmured into her ear.

Tally pushed Sarah back by her chest so she could look in her eyes. "I've been yours."

A sigh escaped Sarah's lips; one of affection and deep emotion that Tally could feel in her chest through the bond.

"Now, it's your turn to be ravished," Tally told her with a smirk.

Sarah didn't have much time to think before Tally met her in a kiss, her hand tangling in her dark hair as Tally's other hand slid down her chest to her breast and teased her nipple. Tally pulled back and sat up so that Sarah was straddling her waist, and Tally had an all access view to the glory of General Sarah Alder.

"You're so beautiful," Tally told her, her hand stroking down Sarah's chest, down to her witch's mark that rested just under her left breast. She could see the bright shimmering of the mark, pleased that all of this was working for Sarah as it was her.

Then Tally suddenly became nervous. Sarah caught it instantly and tilted her chin back so she could meet her gaze.

"What is on your mind?" she asked softly as she stroked her cheek.

"I've never slept with a woman before and what if I'm bad at it?" Tally worried aloud.

Sarah's gaze softened, the lust taking a backseat. "Darling, I can assure you that you will not be bad at it. I enjoy your touch," she told her honestly. "I can help guide you. But, I encourage you to touch anywhere you would like. Just pay attention to the noises you pull from me to help." She leaned in and kissed her tenderly.

When they parted, Tally nodded before she bent forward to take a nipple in her mouth, licking and biting it into a hardened peak that had Sarah whine as she rolled her hips against Tally's abdomen.

Tally pulled back with a gasp, eyes darkening immediately as she felt the pool of Sarah's wetness against her.

"Sarah," Tally whimpered, her hand dipping down to cup Sarah's center.

Sarah hissed at the contact and ground down on it.

"You're soaked," Tally told her in awe.

Sarah suddenly felt a little…shy. Tally was looking at her with so much desire and she could feel her emotions clear as day. She thought she caught an undercurrent of something…maybe…love?

It made her heart beat faster and she cupped Tally's face.

"For you," Sarah replied simply as they met in a kiss. "Do you feel what you do to me?"

It was rhetorical, but Tally released a shaky breath as she stroked Sarah's soaked folds. The small whimpers and breathless gasps that fell from her lips each time Tally passed over her clit had the redhead swimming.

Then Tally slid two fingers in her and Sarah let out a loud moan as a clap of thunder echoed outside.

"Goddess do you feel good," Tally told her, half whining. She could feel her own body temperature rise, and her own arousal stirring again already.

Sarah didn't waste any time—she rode Tally's fingers, hitting every delicious spot she needed.

Their foreheads pressed against each other, and their lips met in another kiss—one that was short lived as Tally curled her fingers and Sarah couldn't help but moan into Tally's mouth.

Tally was in a similar state. Sarah's weight on top of her; her fingers buried in soaking wet heat; their connection thrumming almost in time with their thrusts—Tally was pretty sure that this was heaven—buried in Sarah. This was completion.

"Tally," Sarah half whispered, half moaned.

Tally curled her fingers again and adjusted her thumb to brush against Sarah's clit.

Sarah's head went back as she began to climax, and Tally took her opportunity. She leaned forward right up to Sarah's vocal cords and licked right over them before sucking on the soft flesh as she curled her fingers once more—deep in Sarah.

A bolt of lightning and a clap of thunder shook the room as Sarah came with Tally's name on her lips, and her fingers threaded in auburn locks.

Sarah felt like she'd been cumming for ages by the time she came down. She couldn't ever remember a time she'd cum so hard. Any previous times were miniscule compared to the way Tally made her feel.

They were both breathing heavily as they rested their foreheads against each other.

"Goddess," Sarah whispered before pulling back to regard Tally a moment.

"I agree," Tally replied with a bright smile.

"Beltane is going to kill me," Sarah murmured before she kissed Tally's lips.

"At least we will die happy," came Tally's rebuttal.

Sarah chuckled. She couldn't argue with that at all. Her forehead touched Tally's again—simply basking in their post-coital glow and connection.

If she thought the connection was open before—she was sorely mistaken. The connection was so flawlessly intertwined that she could feel…everything. It was deeper and stronger than the biddy connection—penetrating into the deepest and darkest parts of her soul to be laid bare before Tally. She just hoped that Tally wouldn't leave once she had seen everything, and she had no doubt that if Tally chose to stay, she would.

"Hey," Tally murmured, placing a kiss against Sarah's lips. "I want the deep and dark parts. I know you have so many horrific memories, and I know that you've done a lot of things that I don't agree with—but I can't deny that your intentions were good at heart for all of witchkind." She reached up and cupped Sarah's cheek. "I want it all, Sarah—every single part."

"Even if I've made so many mistakes?" Sarah whispered into the room, as if her question was a betrayal to everything she's done—and in a way, it was. She could admit her mistakes to herself and her biddies…and now Tally.

It said a lot for her to even give voice to it, something that wasn't lost on the younger witch.

"All of it," Tally reiterated with conviction.

Sarah released a shaky breath against Tally's lips, her hips rocking instinctively.

They both moaned, having forgotten that Tally was still buried in her.

"Oops," Tally commented, without an ounce of remorse.

Sarah rocked her hips again, gasping at how quickly her arousal hit her again. Tally knew what she needed and set a slow, deep pace. She slipped another finger into Sarah, both women breathing shakily.

Sarah pushed Tally back so she could lay down while Sarah laid on top of her. She adjusted them—Tally's legs spread with Sarah straddling her right thigh, and Sarah's right between Tally's legs.

She easily slipped her fingers back into the younger witch, groaning at just how good she felt. Being inside each other at the same time had both of them careening from the waves of emotion soaring through their connection as they moved against each other. They moved slowly this time—foreheads touching as wisps of pleasure escaped their lips.

Sarah could feel Tally getting close and increased her pace a little, earning more delicious noises from Tally's mouth.

"Sarah, I—" Tally gasped out.

"I know. With me," Sarah replied.

A few more timed thrusts from both of them had them climbing higher. Sarah bit down gently and sucked the skin right atop Tally's cords, earning a loud moan from Tally as they both cascaded into a well of earth shattering pleasure that flowed openly between them.

Neither were totally sure where one began and the other ended.

Sarah eased Tally down from her orgasm, groaning a little when she lifted herself up slightly so Tally could remove her fingers.

Once free, Sarah collapsed against Tally's side, half laying on her and half on the bed stomach down.

"That was…" Tally trailed off, unable to find the words.

"Yes, it was," Sarah agreed as she understood the sentiment through the bond.

"And we thought the bond was strong before."

Sarah smiled against Tally's shoulder and placed a gentle kiss. They lay there, basking in their closeness—and then Sarah remembered that she had summoned a storm.

Tally started laughing as she caught the realization that had Sarah spring up from the bed to look out of the window.

"Shit," Sarah grumbled.

Tally joined her in to see for herself. Her eyes widened when she saw the state of the grounds.

A fair amount of trees had been slightly uprooted, trees that Tally knew through the link were almost as old as Sarah if not older—and they had managed to produce something strong enough to pull them up.

There were also a few scorch marks.

It looked like the base was hit with the strongest storm of the decade, and all because they couldn't help but give in. Not only that, but they hadn't even heard it.

Tally couldn't resist the laugh that spilled from her, which had Sarah joining in shortly after.

When they calmed, Sarah sent Tally off to shower first—and alone, despite Tally's tantalizing offer—for they both had things to do and were unfortunately on a schedule.

While Tally showered, Sarah threw on her discarded sleepwear and entered her office after dispelling the seed. Her biddies were all there, going through their assignments or playing chess when she walked in.

Then she got a round of very pleased, and knowing smirks of what they had been up to.

She said nothing about it and quickly went through the itinerary for the day.

They had just finished when Tally appeared from the room—ready for her day but with wide eyes.

"I'm going to be late for class!" Tally exclaimed as she rushed to Sarah, giving her a deep kiss, saying bye to the biddies, and then rushing from the room.

She wasn't far from where Tally's class was held but she figured it couldn't hurt to make sure she wouldn't be penalized. Sarah really needed to manage time better.

Sarah smiled and reached out to Verger through farspeech. "Magda, Cadet Craven might be a tad late."

"I wonder why…must have been that nasty storm we had this morning…" Verger mused through the line, a lilt of amusement in her voice.

Sarah groaned internally, of course Verger knew what went on. She'd known the woman ever since she had come to Fort Salem as a cadet. Her abilities were highly impressive and as the years went on they had gone from a mutual respect to friends. She also had made the mistake of telling Verger, after too much wine, that if she had very good sex she could summon a storm—of course when she told her that, she hadn't had that experience in centuries—until Tally.

But it seemed that Verger's memory was too good.

"Yes, I saw the state of the grounds…" the General trailed off, knowing full well she was about to go outside and sing the trees back into the dirt as an apology for uprooting them.

Magda merely hummed. "Well it seems Cadet Craven made it with a minute to spare."

Sarah couldn't help but chuckle.

"Next time though, Sarah, maybe make sure you leave the hickeys below the uniform collar," Verger teased with a chuckle before she cut the line.

Sarah never became flustered anymore, or blushed for that matter…not since Tally Craven…and now it seemed she couldn't stop.

The biddies didn't even try to stifle their laughter, and Alder couldn't help but join in with them. She was far too happy to care.

 


 

When Tally arrived in class, she had quickly dashed to Raelle and Abigail, breathing slightly heavy.

"Sleep in?" Abigail asked with a smirk.

She and Raelle had witnessed the storm and knew that it had to have been Tally and Sarah.

Tally blushed but said nothing.

Raelle leaned in and whispered, "We want all the details after class because I want to know just what you were doing to get that hickey on your neck."

Tally went beat red. "There's a hickey?" she whispered quickly.

Abigail merely wiggled her eyebrows.

On instinct, Tally reached out through the bond. It was even easier now. She didn't have to take a moment to search to find Sarah anymore. She was just there immediately—as if she had always resided there.

"You left a hickey that is visible," Tally thought through the link.

She could feel Sarah's chuckle in her chest and hear it through the link.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. Nothing to be done about it now—also, Verger is aware of what went on."

Tally felt herself grow even redder, between Verger knowing what they had done and Sarah's affectionate pet name. She looked at the instructor—who turned her head and caught her eye at that exact moment.

She got a satisfied smirk.

"She just looked at me like she knows I'm talking to you," Tally told Sarah frantically.

Another chuckle. "She isn't that good a Knower. However, she has a lot of life experience and she probably can gather as much. Have a good class."

Tally caught the flash of irritation through the link and sent a questioning thought through.

A flash image of Petra Bellweather appeared in her mind and she hummed in understanding.

Tally didn't doubt that Petra loves her daughter, or that she cares for witchkind. She just didn't think Petra was putting witchkind first…

A vibration of…validation, went through the link. Sarah thought the same. Petra was ambitious and always seeking to elevate herself and her family to a higher status whenever possible.

Tally liked Petra…to an extent. No family is perfect. But Tally often worried that Petra wasn't concerned about what Abigail wanted. She could feel Sarah's agreement about that as well. She sent a wave of affection through the bond before pulling back to pay attention to her class.

"Today we are going to be going into the dollhouse again," Verger began. "You all will be without Cadet Craven, though."

Raelle groaned next to her.

Verger's eyes fell on Raelle and she smirked. "This is important. What if you don't have a Knower with you? What if you are separated? What if the worst happened to your Knower? How would you manage without them?"

Tally couldn't disagree. She raised her hand—when Verger nodded, she began, "So what will I be doing?"

"You, Cadet, will be with me on the outside looking in," Verger replied easily. "If you could?" She nodded her head to outside of the door.

Tally took the hint and exited the room so Verger could open the off-canon seed box.

When she reentered, her classmates were all inside of the dollhouse.

"What do you see?" Verger asked, her back to Tally with her eyes trained on the view before them.

Tally focused and her eyes widened as she saw the magic outside of the dollhouse. There was so much of it.

"When you look at the dollhouse, what do you see?" Verger asked.

"The sounds," Tally breathed. "It's beautiful. So many colors."

At this, Verger arched her eyebrow. "How many colors?"

Tally hadn't caught the look—too engrossed. "At least half a dozen. They're all different seeds aren't they."

"They are," Verger muttered. "Tally."

Tally turned her head at the use of her first name. She caught the look on Verger's face. It was one of pride and amazement.

"There is only one color that I can see," Verger told her. "And even that is hard depending on the seed."

Tally looked back at the dollhouse—her confusion evident.

She could definitely see multiple colors. There was a red tendril, a blue, a green, a gold…a black one that seemed to run underneath the dollhouse.

"Tally, I can assure you that it is most impressive. I haven't taught a Knower who can see sound in over a generation, let alone one that can see various colors."

"So why can I?"

Verger shrugged. "Hell if I know. What I do know is that it is rare and unique…and useful. Can you tell me which streams of working control what? This is important whether you can see the colors or not, hear the sounds, or see the source of the working. If you were blind, what do you feel?"

Tally looked back at the works swirling as she took a few steps closer. As she approached one stream, she closed her eyes to focus on the sensations from them and begin to get a sense of what each one did.

"This one is causing the base illusion," Tally said once she opened her eyes, pointing to the golden stream that encircled the dollhouse. "This one here, is green, and is controlling the sensations of the hallucination that affect the body. The red is fueling the rising tensions everyone experiences inside." She approached the next stream. "The blue is making them feel any emotions more intensely. This one here," she said as she pointed to a magenta colored stream, "is to lead them to the wrong answers to escape. And the black…" she pointed at the base of the dollhouse, "is creating all of the hallucinations they're experiencing. This one alone could run the dollhouse, but the others intensify the working…"

Verger had a very satisfied smile on her face. "Excellent, Craven. You've hit the nail on the head." She nodded to her friends inside. "Let's see how they're faring"

Verger hummed a low seed as the wall in front of them became visible to the outside world.

Abigail and Raelle were verbally berating each other while Gregorio looked like he was going to be sick—Tally mused he must have followed the magenta stream. A few others looked like they were unconscious.

"Looks like they aren't doing too well," Verger mused. "I knew they'd struggle without you but…"

"How can you recognize off-canon work when you aren't a Knower, and if you can't hear the working?" Tally asked.

"Feeling," Verger replied easily. "Everything in the universe has a frequency. What makes witches so magical is that we are able to vocalize that frequency in order to harness the powers it is associated with. That's why we use a tuning fork to help assess new witches."

Tally nodded, following so far. "What about Sarah? She can summon a storm without vocalizing it."

Verger cocked an eyebrow and Tally immediately realized her error.

"I-I m-mean General Alder," she hastily added.

Verger chuckled. "I'm not totally sure what is happening between you and the General, Craven. What I do know is that the General is a very practical woman…and if she is doing something as risky as sleeping with a cadet, then it must be worth the risk."

Tally could feel her cheeks reddening. Then she felt the subtle caress of Alder's mind against hers. Not enough to open communication between their minds, but almost as if hers was saying 'I'm here.'

She couldn't help but smile a little.

"Answering your question though," Verger continued, oblivious to what was going on in Tally's mind. "General Alder is exceptionally powerful. You take the biddies out of the equation and their combined strength doesn't match the General's. Like all things on the planet, we vibrate along the frequencies. Our energy field works with or against the vibrations. The General's vibration alone is enough to summon a storm."

"So her vibration rises to that of the frequency of the storm and therefore she can call on it…"

"Without needing her voice, yes," Verger finished. "So, all witches can feel the vibrations, it is just a matter of tuning in."

"So they just need to focus and…feel it?" Tally asked.

"Pretty much," Verger chuckled. "Now that's easier said than done of course. Some are naturally gifted, like yourself, and others…" Verger trailed off as her eyes fell on Raelle and Abigail, "seem to be too attuned to specific vibrations that they can't feel."

"So if they would tune into what they feel from the work they could figure it out," Tally stated.

"Yes."

"They aren't the most level headed at times," Tally told Verger.

The older woman chuckled. "I think it's time I took pity on them."

"Where's the fun in that?"

Tally and Verger both turned around at the sound of General Alder's voice. As soon as Tally's eyes met Sarah's, she felt the connection open instantly. She realized then that Sarah wanted to surprise her with a visit, and it's hard to surprise anyone when they're in your head.

"General," Verger and Tally greeted in tandem.

"I see we are working with the dollhouse again. How do they fare?" the General asked as she approached. Her biddies stayed back, happy to take up residence on the chairs in the room.

She stopped next to Tally and it took everything she had to not lean into Sarah.

"Not well without their Knower," Verger answered honestly. "General, if you wouldn't mind staying after the class, I need to discuss something with you."

General Alder nodded, her eyes flickering to Tally as a wordless question floated through the bond.

Tally merely shook her head, not knowing what Verger wanted to discuss.

"I was asking how witches can recognize off-canon work if they aren't Knowers," Tally told Sarah, gesturing to the dollhouse.

"Was Magda's answer sufficient?" she asked.

It made Tally smile. She could read behind Alder's words as if it was second nature—and it sort of was. She knew if the answer wasn't sufficient, given Tally's curiosity, she would seek out more information and Sarah wanted her to know she could call on her 300+ years of experience.

"Yes," Tally answered. "But my next question is how do witches get…acclimated to distinguishing different workings by feel, and without being too affected by it? I know some of these make me feel the same and it's hard to distinguish on feeling alone, or they're too intense."

Verger looked to the General, allowing her to answer if she wished.

"Meditation," Sarah answered honestly. "Meditation helps you ground yourself. It's best to focus on one specific piece of magic at a time as all of them together can be overwhelming. Meditation makes it easier."

Tally hummed in understanding. "I don't think Raelle will be thrilled with that."

General Alder chuckled and met Tally's gaze. "I don't doubt it. However, her relationship with the Mycelium will help immensely. She simply needs to let it in." Sarah gestured to Raelle. "I also wanted to see if you and Collar are free after this class so that we may visit the Mycelium."

Tally nodded. She was up for it and she was sure Raelle would be too.

"I think they've struggled long enough," General Alder said to Verger, a glint in her eyes.

Verger sang a seed and immediately all of the magic dispelled.

Tally's unit all shook their heads to help clear the hallucinating fog.

"I guess we failed," Raelle grumbled as they exited the dollhouse.

"Indeed," General Alder stated.

Everyone immediately stood at attention.

"At ease," she chuckled. "It seems that you struggle without a Knower. You must rely on all of your senses while in the dollhouse. Rely on your work. It constantly speaks to you, all you need to do is listen."

The group nodded.

"Collar, Bellweather, if you would remain behind with Cadet Craven. The rest of you are dismissed." Sarah turned and looked at Tally. "Could you take Collar and Bellweather into the other room and wait for me there?"

Tally nodded and gestured for Raelle and Abigail to follow her. Once everyone was gone, Alder turned her attention to the Major.

"What did you want to discuss?" the General asked.

"Tally, actually," Verger replied.

Sarah tensed slightly and Verger shook her head.

"It has nothing to do with you two, although I am extremely curious to know how that came about. Whatever it is though it must be pretty serious," Verger told her. "Why I want to discuss her is that—well she is remarkably gifted. Yes she is an exceptional Knower, but she can see colors in the work."

Alder's eyebrows rose. She was definitely intrigued. She knew Tally was able to see their magic, but she assumed that it was because of the link. This though, seeing colors of Work…

"Walk me through it."

"The dollhouse. I was having her focus on it so that she could work on seeing the trail of the workings. Which, as you know, is rare to start," Verger explained. "Tally can see their actual colors. The indication of the working has a color representative, and Tally can see them. And if magical workings are color coded…"

"Then we could know the type of working being done without having to be near it to feel it or hear it," Alder finished.

"It's remarkable. She is truly gifted." Verger offered her a smile. "I can think of no one more suited for you, General."

Alder smiled warmly and placed her hand on Verger's shoulder. "Thank you, my friend."

Verger chuckled and walked with Sarah to the door. "Don't forget to vocalize a seed next time, otherwise the whole base might be destroyed." With that, she stepped through the door, laughing as she departed.

Sarah shook her head, a grin on her face, and entered the other room to meet with the Bellweather unit.

When she stepped through, Tally's face was red as Abigail and Raelle were inspecting the visible hickey and asking questions.

"Cadets," Alder greeted.

All three snapped to attention immediately.

She approached them and gave them an 'at ease' as she stopped in front of the group. Tally immediately went to her side and leaned into Sarah as the General's arm wrapped around her waist.

"Mycelium?" Raelle asked.

"Yes, if you're ready." Sarah looked at Abigail. "I'd like you to attend as well to remain outside with Izadora. Should anything go awry, I trust you will do whatever it takes to pull your unit out."

Abigail nodded fervently.

"It'll be fine," Tally assured them.

"It is better to be prepared than not, darling," Sarah replied seriously.

Tally began sporting a blush and she could feel the delight run up her spine. She knew Sarah could feel it too.

Meanwhile, Raelle and Abigail shared a look at Alder's open use of a term of endearment.

"Let's get to it then. Abs, you ready?" Raelle asked her.

Abigail nodded with determination as Alder turned and began walking toward the biddies. Tally fell back from Alder's side a little, ready to walk next to her unit mates, when a hand reached out to pull her back to her side.

"You can walk with me if you wish," Sarah said as she led everyone from the room.

Tally smiled softly and walked in step with Sarah the rest of the way to the Necro lab.

She caught a glimpse of some of the trees that she and Sarah had uprooted with their earlier activities. A light blush coated her cheeks and she could feel Sarah's amusement through the link.

When they reached the lower level of the Necro lab, the four of them filed into the room to meet Izadora as the biddies remained in the hallway, sitting on the chairs left out for them.

"I see we have a full group," Izadora said with uncertainty.

"Bellweather will remain out here with you in case there is any reason we need to be pulled free," Alder told her. Her eyes were focused on the Mycelium though.

She could hardly believe that she had made this. They referred to her as The Mother all these years, when in actuality she was The Mother of this powerful entity. Hearing that it was made from the souls of the witches of her coven that perished, had filled her with joy. She couldn't protect them in life but she would do her damndest to protect them in this form.

"Are you okay?" Tally asked aloud, lightly touching Sarah's shoulder.

"I can't believe…" she trailed off, knowing that Tally would understand.

Tally nodded, and wrapped her arms around Alder from behind. She didn't care that they had an audience. Everyone in the room already knew that they were romantically involved. She briefly wondered if Alder would hate being called her 'girlfriend' and she quickly pushed it to the back of her mind. She rested her chin on her shoulder and just stood there in silence with her. She could feel the waves of emotion rolling through Sarah, and she did her best to soothe any pain that came up.

"Are you ready?" Raelle asked lightly.

Sarah nodded, then Tally. Raelle took a deep breath and approached the Mycelium. She sang her seed, and everyone watched with rapt attention as the Mycelium reached out from its wall. Three large roots made up of numerous more, thinner and tighter, crept out toward the three women.

Izadora and Abigail took a few steps back, just in case.

Raelle finished and looked at Sarah and Tally, nodded, and then grasped onto the root.

It quickly pulled her in, disappearing behind the wall.

Tally and Sarah reached out, clasping their own tentacles, and following after

Chapter Text

Sarah blinked rapidly. She was back. Back on this blood and ash soaked ground. She could still smell their burning bodies, hear the hisses creep from their cracked skin as the liquid in them evaporated—taste the death in the air.

Her eyes landed on her own self just in front—falling to the ground and singing her song of grief. She had merely thought that she had honored her coven by returning their bodies to the earth where they would greet the Goddess.

That had been enough at the time for Sarah. She had built Fort Salem on the spot of their deaths so that she would never be far from them, and could protect them and all of their soldiers through the centuries.

She hadn't dreamed that her song would give life from such death.

"Hello, Sarah."

Sarah looked up, suddenly realizing that Tally and Raelle were on either side of her, and one of her closest sisters from her first coven stood before them.

Tally recognized the woman immediately from Sarah's drawing, she captured her likeness exactly.

"Martha," Sarah whispered. Tears welled up in her eyes as she walked forward.

The woman pulled her into an embrace.

"How?" Sarah murmured against her hair.

Martha pulled back. "I am not solely Martha…"

"I know." Sarah looked back to Tally. "Tally explained—that there is a part of you that remains here…"

Martha smiled warmly. "It is good to see you after so long."

"And you. All of you," Sarah told her honestly, hand touching her cheek.

Then, suddenly, hundreds of witches began to appear around them. All of them members from the first few decades of her service to the country. Her first coven was there, each of them. So many of her friends and sisters that fought alongside her, all here…together.

Sarah released a laugh through her cries. It was a mixture of relief, contentment, hope, and deep sadness that she had failed them.

Tally was trying not to cry along with Sarah at the feelings surging through their connection, but as well as her own tears.

Sarah fell to the ground on her knees—the same position she had taken up when she sang her grief.

Tally knelt next to her and pulled her against her chest.

"You never failed them," Tally said through the link.

There was such conviction behind the words that Sarah could feel how strongly she believed that…believed in her.

She turned and looked in Tally's eyes, her hand rising to cup her cheek as she rested their foreheads together. Sarah took in a deep breath and nodded slightly before exhaling and standing with Tally's help.

"We understand that this is a lot…seeing all of us," Martha spoke. "But we need to warn you of the impending war."

"The Camarilla," Sarah said with a snarl. She wiped the remnants of the tears away as fury filled her. "We know they've returned."

"Yes. But they are growing stronger, Sarah. They have been slinking in the shadows for so long, breeding like rats—and now is their time to strike. Their numbers have surpassed any previous risings. This witch plague…it is growing as well. The danger is near, Sarah. There is a great fraction within witchkind, and between witchkind and civilians."

"The Spree—"

"Need to be a part of this fight," a woman spoke up. She approached closer, and Tally and Raelle's mouths dropped.

"Jem Bellweather," Tally said.

"Jem," Sarah began, an exasperated sigh falling from her lips. "You do not understand—"

"I understand well enough. You need every witch in this fight. The Camarilla cannot be allowed to have any more room to grow. They are already too powerful. Too many civilians sympathize as well. You know as well as I that if this is not stifled soon…"

There was a murmur of agreement through the throng of witches before them.

Sarah grew silent.

Tally could feel the turmoil in her. She wasn't completely sure, but she and Sarah both had an inkling that Nicte Batan was still alive and well, and connected to the Spree in some way. And if they needed the Spree on their side…

"We need to find Nicte Batan," Tally told Sarah. Then she looked at Raelle to gauge her opinion.

"I think it's our only option right now," Raelle said.

Sarah's shoulders sagged. She hated to admit that they were right. The worst part about living centuries was that eventually you'd face the consequences of your actions.

It was rather annoying.

She gave a slight nod and Tally rested her hand on her shoulder. The weight and warmth relaxed her tight shoulders.

"It's what is best for witchkind," Sarah conceded. She looked at all of the women that stood before her. Her eyes grazed over each of her coven members, soaking in their features. They were just as she remembered.

"I trusted so many of you with my life," she told them. "And I won't question the Goddess and her workings. If you ask it of me, I'll honor that."

Martha smiled warmly and approached to take Sarah's hands in hers. "Your sisters are here, your daughters are here. We are behind you." She looked to Raelle then. "Raelle, we must speak with you about our bond."

Raelle nodded and glanced over to Sarah and Tally.

"Thank you," Tally said to Martha. "And if you need to get my attention again to pass something on to Sarah, maybe send a less intense vision?"

Martha chuckled and nodded her agreement. Her eyes fell to Sarah. "Go and do what must be done. If you feel us call to you…do not push it away. Allow us in. I know the grief is heavy on you. Let your intended carry it with you."

Sarah had just processed what Martha had said when she felt herself being tugged backwards at a fast speed.

There was a burst of light and when she blinked they were back in the Necro lab.

"General?" Izadora asked worriedly.

"We're fine," Sarah answered. Her voice was a little shaky and she silently cursed herself for that. She couldn't let them see her rattled.

Tally stepped up then. "Raelle and Her are discussing their connection now," she told both Izadora and Abigail.

"Are you okay, Tal?" Abigail asked as she stepped forward.

"Yeah, I'm good," Tally replied with a smile. She grasped Abigail's arm and gave it a light squeeze. "I saw your ancestor Jem."

Abigail's eyes widened. "You have to tell me everything."

Tally nodded her agreement before turning to look at the General.

Sarah remained silent, but the biddies had stood and stared—locked in a silent conversation.

Raelle appeared a moment later, looking a little dizzy but fine otherwise.

"How did it go?" Tally asked.

"It went…good. Really good. She told me what I can do—"

At this, Alder turned around to look at Raelle.

"And you are really going to like it, General," Raelle told her with a smug smile.

Alder couldn't help but match it. "I can't wait to see what it is."

"But not right now because I think you need to rest," Tally told Sarah pointedly. Then she looked at Raelle. "You too. We've all had some craziness and I am pretty sure we could all use a break. At least for twenty-four hours."

Alder chuckled. "Well, I guess that solves who wears the pants in this relationship," she teased.

Tally was blushing at Alder mentioning them in a relationship; Raelle had laughed so hard she snorted; Abigail was snickering behind her hand; Izadora was looking rather speechless.

Alder nodded her head to the door. "I need to speak with Izadora briefly."

Abigail, Raelle, and Tally moved to the door as a unit.

"I can't believe Alder told a joke," Abigail murmured to Tally as they exited.

"She's actually really funny," Tally told her.

"Hard to believe, but less so after that," Raelle added.

When the door closed behind them, Sarah smirked and met Izadora's gaze.

"The Mycelium told me something interesting," Sarah said. Her hands were clasped behind her back as she stared at the wall.

"Which was?"

"She referred to Tally as my intended."

Izadora's eyes widened. "Intended?"

"Yes."

"What do you think of that?" Izadora questioned softly.

Sarah chewed on her lip. "We slept together and the connection is wide open now. It's effortless to feel her. I can feel her emotions as easily as my own now. For example she is happy and laughing at something amusing Collar said…and still blushing from my joke."

"You slept with a cadet?" Izadora asked, baffled. She just couldn't believe the General would actually do it.

"She knows what our bond is," Sarah continued on unperturbed. "She just won't say. Whatever it is, Izadora, it's strong." She turned and looked at her friend. "I couldn't resist it now if I tried…if I even wanted to."

Izadora hummed, but offered a small smile to her friend. "Powerful work is afoot then. Something very old…" Izadora trailed off. "I think I have a hunch where to look. It will take a little time."

Sarah nodded.

"Intended…" Izadora mused. "That sounds an awful lot like a destined union."

"I thought the same thing," Sarah replied. "You don't think it could be…"

Izadora remained silent.

"There's only been a dozen confirmed cases in the hundreds of years I've been alive. It's incredibly rare," Sarah spoke. She swallowed thickly, not wanting to get her hopes up, but also…hoping.

"It's not impossible," Izadora retorted. She already knew that was what she would be looking into next about the connection.

Alder turned from the wall and moved to the door, offering Izadora a nod in thanks. When she opened the door and stepped through, she could feel that her biddies were above ground with Tally, waiting for her.

She smiled and strode toward the top. When she broke the surface, sure enough, her little group was there waiting.

"I know you want me to rest," Sarah began, holding up a hand to cease Tally's impending retort. "I need to sing the trees back into the earth."

Tally blushed prettily and Sarah couldn't help the light laugh that escaped her.

"Would you like to come along?" she asked.

Tally nodded and fell in step with Sarah as they walked to the first tree. Tally watched with rapt attention as Sarah and the biddies surrounded the tree, their hands digging into the fresh earth as they began. The seed was beautiful and Tally could almost feel herself become grounded at the sound. Shortly after, the large tree was sturdy in the ground again, it's roots at rest deep below the soil.

They moved to the next, and then the next, and so forth. After nearly an hour, they approached the last tree. It also just so happened to be one of the oldest trees on the base—and with visitors at its uprooted trunk.

"Anacostia!" Tally called out.

The Sergeant turned at the call of her name, eyes lighting up when she saw Tally beelining for her.

She gave her a quick hug before Tally realized the Sergeant wasn't alone. There were ten little fosterlings, all under the age of 7, staring at Tally with big smiles.

"I see we are learning about our lands today," Sarah said as she approached, drawing Anacostia's line of sight.

"General," Anacostia greeted. She offered her a smile, but it was tight.

Sarah sighed internally at the response from Anacostia. It stung—the coldness Anacostia would show her.

Time, came the joint sentiment from the biddies.

She silently acknowledged their statement.

She knew Tally had felt it through the bond, as a hug-like warmth seeped into her bones. She sent her gratitude through the link before her eyes fell on the fosterlings. She really did love children.

"Sarie!" the little fosterlings squealed as they realized she had joined them. Their little legs carried them closer.

She knelt down to be at eye level with them. "What has Sergeant Quartermaine told you about this tree so far?"

One of the little girls, a redhead with bright blue eyes like Sarah's, looked at her and excitedly said, "That it's the oldest tree on base a-and its roots go super far!"

Sarah grinned warmly before she sat on the ground and gestured for the fosterlings to join her. The little girl clamored over and sat right in Sarah's lap, drawing a chuckle from the General.

"Why hello, Delia," Sarah greeted with a bright smile.

A surge of warmth went through Tally at the display.

Anacostia looked at Tally then as Sarah began telling the fosterlings about the tree.

"Sarie?" Tally asked Anacostia with a smile.

Anacostia chuckled. "All the fosterlings call her Sarie. She wants them to be comfortable with her and allowing them to call her a nickname is her way of helping that."

"It's adorable."

"What are you doing out here with the General, Craven?" she asked curiously.

"We had a witchbomb thing," Tally answered easily, her eyes trained on Sarah. "She's really good with kids…" Tally couldn't help but feel her heart clench at the sight. She'd always wanted kids, and she couldn't help but look at the redheaded, blue eyed girl—who looked like a blend of herself and Sarah. Her hair, and Sarah's eyes. Tally suddenly was hit with a vision of a little red haired witchling with bright blue eyes and Tally's dimples. She could've cried with how badly she wanted that to be a reality. Her eyes had even started watering. She wasn't sure why it was hitting her so hard.

"You okay?" Anacostia asked quietly at the expression on Tally's face.

Tally shook her head. "Yeah, I'm good, just emotional today I guess."

Anacostia nodded, accepting what she was told. But she hadn't missed the way Alder had tensed up as soon as Tally's eyes began to water, or that she had stumbled over her words as if caught off guard. It was curious.

"So the trees are even older than you?" Delia asked, her blue eyes wide.

Sarah arched an eyebrow, a smile on her lips. "Even older than I," she confirmed seriously, her eyes glinting with mischievousness.

The fosterlings all giggled.

"Now, the storm that caused these trees to be uprooted has provided me with an opportunity to show you all how to replace them in the earth. Someday, when you're older, you will be able to do it as well."

Delia looked over Sarah's shoulder at Tally. "Can she do it?"

Sarah knew exactly who she was addressing. "She can. Tally?"

Tally blushed and Anacostia arched a questioning eyebrow. Alder rarely referred to anyone by their first name around others to begin with…but addressing a cadet by first name…and the behavior…something was going on and Anacostia wasn't sure exactly what it was.

Tally had walked over to the tree and sat next to Sarah, a smile on her face as she waited.

"Now, Tally and I will sing the seed. Each of you make sure you listen to the song. Feel it stir your magic," Sarah instructed before she looked to Tally.

"What does it feel like?" the little redheaded girl asked, her blue eyes wide as she turned in Sarah's lap to look up at her.

Sarah smiled and hummed thoughtfully. "Magic feels differently depending on the work. But, for this seed, well…it feels like a warm hug."

She gave the girl a tight hug, making all the children laugh.

"Now, are we ready?" Sarah asked the children.

At the nod, they began to sing. Instantly Sarah felt a jolt travel through her body and she dialed back the energy that was exuding from her. She hadn't realized that her and Tally's magic would be so…powerful.

Tally had sensed it as well and did her best to dial her own energy back. They found a balance and watched as the old tree slowly righted itself back in the ground. When they finished, the fosterlings were all looking at them with wide eyes of amazement.

Unbeknownst to Tally and Sarah, Anacostia had seen something—something she never saw before. When they began their seed, there was a glowing aura that encompassed them both. The children were all focused on the tree, but Anacostia and the biddies were watching the two women.

Anacostia looked over at the biddies—each of them were wearing small smiles and seemed unperturbed by the aura…but Anacostia had never seen such a display of power. Something was going on between the General and Tally, and Anacostia felt herself flush with anger.

The Bellweather unit were like her baby sisters, and after knowing what Sarah was capable of—despite her love for her—she worried she would hurt Tally, or manipulate her.

"That was so cool!" one of the little boys spoke up.

"It's very cool. You'll learn so much," Tally told him seriously, but her eyes were bright and merry.

"I felt the magic!" Delia piped up excitedly.

"You did?" Alder asked proudly.

"Sarie?" one of the other little ones piped up, eyes wide as he looked nervously at Tally.

"Yes, Byron?" Sarah offered him a gentle smile as she held her hand out.

He was one of the younger ones, only four years old with chipmunk cheeks, dark hair, and the cutest smile. He wobbled over and shyly tucked himself against Sarah's side.

"She's pwetty," he whispered in Sarah's ear.

It wasn't much of a whisper, because Tally had heard him.

"She is very pretty, you are correct, Byron," Sarah told him with a bright smile.

"Hi, Byron," Tally greeted. "Aren't you a charmer."

"Sarie t-told me that before," he replied with a proud grin.

Sarah couldn't help the laugh that spilled from her as she looked to Tally.

Anacostia cleared her throat. "General, I was wondering if I could have a word? Craven, could you walk the fosterlings back to their caretakers? They're just over there." She pointed to a group of men and women sitting and talking near one of the buildings.

"Yes ma'am'," Tally replied with a grin, pulling one from Anacostia as well. "Let's go little ones!"

They followed after her like little ducklings and Sarah couldn't help the smile that blossomed as she watched her go. She scooted backwards, sitting with her back to the trunk and patted the patch of grass next to her.

"What did you need to discuss?" Sarah asked. Her head tilted back and she closed her eyes, enjoying the sun on her face.

"What's going on between you and Craven?" Anacostia asked. Her voice was stern, leaving no room for debate.

"Why is that any of your concern?" Sarah retorted, not even opening her eyes.

Anacostia bristled and Alder sighed.

"Why do you ask?" she asked softly, eyes opening to look up at Anacostia.

"I love the three of them and I don't—"

"Want them to get hurt and any association with me is dangerous," Sarah interrupted. "Not just because of the danger my proximity will put them in, but because you don't feel they are safe from me. You are not the only one that shares that sentiment."

Anacostia waited a moment. "You really shook my trust."

Sarah nodded. "I did." She looked at Anacostia. "I am sorry. For breaking your trust in me. Truly."

"You don't regret it though…puppetting the President."

"No," Sarah replied immediately. "Everything I have done and continue to do is for witchkind."

"You mean yourself."

"No," Sarah seethed, eyes blazing. She could hear a crackle of a storm in the distance and took a deep breath. "No," she repeated, softer this time. "My methods are not right. They don't agree with my personal feelings on it. But I have had to separate how I feel from what needs to be done. If I stopped to feel regret…three hundred years of regret…I would be crushed by the weight. A war is coming, Anacostia, make no mistake."

Anacostia mulled over it for a minute before she finally joined Sarah on the ground against the tree. "A war with who? The Spree?"

Alder shook her head. "No, the Camarilla."

Anacostia blinked. "I thought for sure…"

Alder suppressed the urge to chuckle. Anacostia was an excellent liar—she'd learned from her after all. Alder already knew, of course, about Anacostia and Scylla's activities to attempt and infiltrate anti-witch groups.

"How did you learn this?" Anacostia asked. She wasn't really expecting an answer, and the surprise showed on her face when she got one.

"The Mycelium. She is…comprised of all the souls of the witches who have died on American soil. When I lost my first coven to the Camarilla, I sang a seed. One that was so powerful that I have been blind to what I had created for centuries. Until now."

"Wait, you created the Mycelium?"

"Yes," Alder replied. "I could show you if you prefer?"

Anacostia's eyes widened. "Sarah…"

"Please…daughter," Sarah said softly, her hand opening to rest and wait for Anacostia to take it.

When she did, she was pulled in by Sarah—images flew by her as she showed her the meeting from earlier. When she finished, she released Sarah's hand and sat back against the tree, absorbing the information.

"I…" Anacostia trailed off.

"I know," Sarah said with a smile.

Anacostia returned it.

"I have a favor to ask of you," Sarah began. "As you saw, we will be attempting to make peace with the Spree…temporarily, until our enemy is defeated. I would like you to continue investigating with Scylla the ties to the Camarilla within these anti-witch circles, as well as any Spree informants that may help us find Nicte Batan. I'm unsure what her role is but she is still out there somewhere, and I feel it in my gut that she is with the Spree."

Anacostia's eyes widened comically. "You know about…"

Sarah chuckled. "Of course. Anacostia," she chided as she looked at her, "you forget, my little fosterling, that I have caught you sneaking off base in your youth. Your methods have not changed."

Anacostia had the decency to look embarrassed. "There is something else though…"

At this, Alder's eyes narrowed and she wordlessly nodded for her to say what it was.

"General Bellweather has been overseeing Scylla and I and our activities."

A pit of anger and betrayal swam in her gut.

Fucking Petra, she thought angrily.

"I'm sorry, for going behind your back I—"

Alder held up a hand, and then placed it over Anacostia's. "I am not surprised you did, and I thank you for telling me. I understand why you would. I broke your trust and that is my crux to bear. Going forward, I would like us to be as honest with each other as possible. This is not a time for secrets," she said seriously.

They grew silent, basking in the small rebuilding of trust that had begun.

"So…Craven," Anacostia began again. Her eyes were trained on the redhead across the way, continuously looking over at her and Sarah with a range of emotion.

Sarah sighed heavily. "This…this is more complicated."

Anacostia's eyebrows rose as she turned her attention back to Sarah.

"Tally and I are connected. I do not mean by the biddy link…that was severed without issue we found. I am unsure what the connection is, and Izadora is working on figuring it out."

"What kind of connection?"

"An intimate one," Sarah answered softly. Her eyes were trained on Tally as she spoke with the fosterlings more. "I mentioned to you she was having side effects from the severing, well at the time we weren't sure what caused the side effects but…she's been experiencing my memories in her sleep, which is why she was lacking sleep…I could feel it. One night it was too strong to ignore and since then we have been trying to find methods to manage it so that she can actually get some rest."

Anacostia remained silent, not wanting to interrupt the words Sarah shared.

"It seems that the only time she truly sleeps peacefully is when she is near me."

"Like when she was asleep in your office."

"Yes," Sarah replied softly, her gaze resting on Tally still.

"There's more to it though, isn't there…" Anacostia trailed off.

"Yes."

Sarah finally met her gaze and Anacostia saw a range of emotion in her eyes that she couldn't place.

Sarah sighed and began, "I told you this wasn't a time for secrets…so I will be completely honest, Anacostia. But, I must insist you do not share what I say with anyone. I am trusting you with this, daughter."

Anacostia nodded.

" 'Ayás imé wèlá," she said simply, her voice soft. "This connection…it blossomed in a way I didn't even believe was possible. In all my centuries I never…" She released a shaky breath, "I know her and she knows me. We can feel each other's emotions, even when physically apart. I don't know what the connection is specifically, but what I do know is how I feel for her…I am terrified, Anacostia, for her."

Anacostia's eyes widened.

"This connection is a gift from the Goddess. I feel it in my soul and it pains me that it is happening now when the Camarilla are rising again. They could…" she trailed off, unwilling to vocalize the fear.

Anacostia gripped her hand tighter. "I know."

Alder drew a breath. "If I can't be there to watch out for her…"

"I will. You know I will," Anacostia said firmly. Her eyes softened as she asked her next question, "Does Tally know you love her?"

Sarah shook her head. "No, she doesn't."

"Why haven't you told her?"

"I…" Sarah trailed off. "I don't want to pressure her. But…"

Anacostia nodded in understanding. She hummed thoughtfully. "You're afraid she won't return your feelings."

Sarah gave a terse nod, swallowing thickly. "It's still early." She looked at Anacostia then, her blue eyes soft. "I am courting her, though."

Anacostia grinned. "Is that what that braid is? I remember you mentioning them to me once."

"It is. The beads were my mother's," Sarah told her, voice soft and filled with adoration.

"Big deal," Anacostia commented with a tilt of her head. She approved of it.

They both looked over to Tally then, feeling a set of eyes on them that could've burned a hole. She was staring at them, clearly concerned.

"She can feel your emotions right now, can't she?"

Alder nodded. "I can't even hide them from her now," she said with a chuckle. "Some things I can, but it's very difficult."

"Why is that?" Anacostia asked.

Sarah laughed. "The storm this morning…"

Anacostia thought a moment, then realization encompassed her. "You and Tally…"

"Yes. And now the connection is…as open as I believe it can be. It's effortless to find her, feel her, speak with her…"

"You can communicate telepathically or via farspeech?"

"Telepathically."

"Proof?" Anacostia asked with a smirk.

Alder merely chuckled and tilted her head back against the tree.

Wordlessly through the connection she sent her request. Anacostia snorted at the speed with which Tally sprung up and darted toward them, realizing half way that she looked far too eager and needed to dial it back.

"Is everything…" she began to ask as she approached.

"She knows."

"Oh," Tally squeaked.

Anacostia couldn't help but laugh. "I honestly never thought I would see the day with you," she told Sarah before looking back at Tally, "but I can't say I'm too surprised. I know Tally's had a thing for you since she arrived."

Tally's face was as red as her hair and Alder laughed, hand extending for Tally to take.

Little does she know you've been pining just as long as Tally has, Corinne said pointedly through the link.

The others chuckled their agreement and Sarah sent them a quick glare.

This side of base had cleared out. With Tally's departure, the fosterlings and their caretakers had departed, leaving only the biddies and the trio at the tree.

When their hands met, Alder pulled her down between her legs and released a deep sigh against Tally's shoulder.

Anacostia watched them curiously, a soft expression on her face as she took in the way Alder visibly melted before Tally, and vice versa.

"Are you okay?" Tally asked through the bond, turning to meet her eyes.

"I am now. We had a difficult discussion but I believe we are better for it," Sarah replied, her head leaning forward to press against Tally's. Her hand rose to lightly touch the courting braid at the back, something of a habit she had begun doing as a small reminder that Tally had allowed her the honor.

Tally hummed in understanding.

"So," Anacostia began, drawing both witches' attention. "Once you figure out what the connection is exactly…then what?"

Sarah sighed. "I will have to speak to the powers that be and explain our relationship. I not only want to know what the connection is because I am curious, but because I need something tangible to show them if possible. Otherwise…"

Anacostia's eyes widened with realization. "They'll think you're puppetting her—"

"Yes, and Petra will have all she needs to try and dispose of me," Sarah finished.

Tally remained silent, simply enjoying being against Sarah, but tensing at Petra's scheme.

"Shit," Anacostia murmured.

"Indeed."

 


 

"Well today went better than expected," Tally mused from her spot on Sarah's bed.

They had finished speaking with Anacostia and Sarah had informed her of the request for Anacostia and Scylla regarding the Camarilla and the Spree.

Sarah joined her on the bed, laying on her back and opening her arms for Tally to curl into.

"It did."

"Do you want to talk about it more?" Tally asked softly, head tilting up to regard the older woman.

"No," she replied softly, eyes meeting Tally's. "I think I am alright at the moment. It was a heavy day."

"Okay. If you change your mind at all, I'm here for you," Tally told her. She placed a kiss on her jaw.

"May I ask you something?" Sarah inquired, stroking down Tally's cheek with a finger.

Tally offered a small smile, waiting for Sarah to speak.

"Earlier, when we were with the fosterlings…I caught some heartache from you," Sarah explained softly.

Tally could feel the blush creep up her neck.

Sarah chuckled and cupped her face sweetly. "Why the heartache, sweetheart? And why the blush?"

Tally nuzzled into Sarah's neck, tucking herself there as she sent the image of a little auburn-haired girl, with Sarah's bright blue eyes and Tally's prominent dimples. She could feel the breath catch in Sarah's throat—and then her head was gently pried from her spot so that she could meet Sarah's gaze.

"You saw this?" she murmured questioningly.

Tally shrugged. "I mean, yeah, when I saw that little fosterling crawl into your lap I just…saw a girl that looked like us. It's way too early for me to be thinking like that, I'm sorry, I just—"

Sarah cut her off with a kiss as she dipped into the bond, soothing Tally's anxiety and worries. She filled her with as much warmth as she could, letting her know it was okay and that she understood.

When they pulled back, Tally murmured, "It felt so real it just threw me."

Alder nodded against her forehead. She knew she couldn't have children, but she could also feel how much Tally wanted a daughter someday. She wanted to give that to her, but didn't see how that would be possible. So, she soothed Tally as best as she could—filling the bond with affection and gentle caresses against the walls of her mind.

Tally returned the affection instantly, curling around Sarah in both the bond and the physical.

Sarah hummed happily and dipped her head to catch Tally's lips in another kiss. She had kissed a lot of people in her hundreds of years, but none of them even came close to the way it felt to kiss Tally. It was as if her lips were made for her. Her head cradled perfectly in her hand as she threaded her fingers through red locks. Tally moaned as Sarah raked her nails down Tally's scalp. When her mouth opened, Sarah took the opportunity to slide her tongue in—drawing out another deep moan from Tally

She lightly bit her lip before soothing it with her tongue, and then sucking it between her own before her tongue was back in Tally's mouth. They went until breathing became much harder—and pulled back to take in some air. Sarah didn't waste much time though, sucking in a breath before she shifted downward so she could latch her mouth to Tally's neck. She kissed the spot twice and then bit down, hard enough to leave an imprint.

"Fuck," Tally groaned.

Her nipples had stiffened against her bra, and she could already feel her underwear sticking to her center. Sarah seemed to have an instantaneous effect on her body—her kisses alone were enough to drive Tally crazy.

When Sarah's tongue ran over the bite, Tally couldn't help but gasp at the sensation. Sarah moaned breathlessly as their emotions crashed against each other to become one, and Tally felt as if she couldn't breathe properly without Sarah's lips against hers.

She reached down, grasping part of Sarah's jaw and throat, and pulled her up to kiss her passionately. The surge of desire that poured over Tally caused chills all over her body. Sarah's desire for her. It was better than any drink or drug or food Tally had ever had in her life.

Tally needed to claim Sarah, properly. She wanted to ruin her for anyone else, if there would ever be anyone else. The thought sent an anger through her that she didn't know she possessed.

Sarah pulled back. "I want you to claim me," she said against Tally's lips, waiting for Tally's eyes to open and meet her own. "Again and again and again."

When Tally's eyes fluttered open, Sarah lightly licked up the center of Tally's lips—slowly. She could feel the rush that surged through them both.

"No one else," Sarah murmured against Tally's lips. Brown eyes—darker than Sarah ever remembered seeing before—shimmered with uncertainty. "Ever."

Tally's eyes widened slightly and Sarah couldn't help but chuckle softly.

"Sweetheart," Sarah murmured affectionately, licking Tally's lip again and delighting in the shiver it sent through her. "There could never be anyone else."

She was being incredibly vulnerable, placing that weighted statement at her feet. But it was the truth. Regardless of Sarah's deep feelings for Tally, their connection…the level of intimacy that comes with it—there's no way she could ever connect with anyone else. They would pale in comparison to Tally. Tally—who was looking at her with such intensity that Sarah shivered under her gaze.

Tally inhaled sharply before reaching up to cup Sarah's face, and kissed her with as much emotion she could put into it. She only broke the kiss to roll Sarah on her back, reach down and pull Sarah's shirt off—tossing it across the room and then reaching for her bra. That also went somewhere behind her. Tally looked down at Sarah's chest—rising rapidly as she braced herself on her forearms and looked up at Tally like she wanted to eat her alive.

"Goddess," Tally murmured. Her hand trailed from Sarah's jaw, down her neck, over her clavicle, down her sternum to detour and brush over a stiff pink nipple. She rolled it between her fingers, watching as Sarah moaned softly and arched into her hand. She brought her free hand up to tease the other nipple, smiling when Sarah arched up into her hands as she toyed with them.

She could feel how much Sarah wanted her. It was taking everything she had from interrupting her ministrations. Tally moved her hands to Sarah's belt, quickly undoing it and shimmying back so she could remove her pants and underwear in one go.

Tally soaked in the sight. She was making sure to get a proper view this round. She was completely breathtaking in the low light of the room. Her eyes stopped at Sarah's tight abs. The woman was cut, and Tally had the strongest urge to trace every inch with her tongue. Her eyes then fell to the dark patch of neatly trimmed curls, and then her glistening center.

Tally was pretty sure she had somehow salivated and then became parched all at once. Before she could lean forward though, Sarah sat up—a grin on her face.

She vocalized a seed, and Tally watched as the room became covered in a shimmering gold aura.

"So that I don't destroy any more of the trees, and so that no one can hear us so please, be as loud as you'd like," she requested.

"Well..." Tally began, a slow grin spreading across her face, "in that case..." she pushed Sarah back onto the bed and quickly took a nipple in her mouth, earning a gasp from Sarah.

She rolled it with her tongue, simply enjoying the feel of Sarah in her mouth and the taste of her skin. Tally was still fully clothed, and her belt pressed against Sarah's center suddenly, causing Sarah to release a surprised moan.

Tally hummed and pulled back slightly to glance at Sarah. "You can grind against it and get off if you'd like. I still want to touch you elsewhere first." Then her head dipped back down to capture the other nipple between her lips.

Sarah was soaked, and desperately needed to take the edge off—especially if Tally was planning on drawing out her delicious ministrations. She hadn't expected Tally to be the teasing type, but she certainly wasn't complaining. She ground against the buckle, gasping as she was able to have it brush against her clit. Tally moaned against her breast, and Sarah could feel the pleasure Tally felt.

Tally lightly bit down on the pink nipple before soothing it with her tongue. The noises Sarah was making below her as she ground against her buckle had Tally hazier with lust—if that were even possible.

Sarah could already feel her orgasm approaching and she increased her pace. Tally's moans against her breast, her hair tickling her stomach, and the friction against Tally had her flying over the edge and cumming hard around nothing.

Tally moaned appreciatively as she released her nipple and began kissing down to her abs. She ran her tongue across the line at the top, and traced the rest as Sarah caught her breath.

"You're so beautiful," Tally told her honestly, glancing up from her current spot.

Sarah was still trying to catch her breath as she looked down at her witch. Tally smirked at the thought and her eyes brightened.

"Your witch, huh?" Tally teased.

"I believe," Sarah began, a mischievous glint in her eyes, "that you told me to claim you, just this morning. And I absolutely did." She bucked her hips up, just enough to graze against Tally's chin.

Tally released a deep moan that sent a thrill through Sarah. Shortly after, Tally's head dipped between Sarah's legs to lick a trail up her center. Both women moaned in tandem at the first contact, and shortly after Sarah had moaned—loud.

Tally slid her arms underneath Sarah's legs to wrap up and help hold them open as her tongue dove between wet folds. She was determined to make the General fall apart beneath her. Despite her inexperience she was more than eager to taste every bit of the older witch. And, from the sounds coming from above her, she was doing well.

She tasted divine—which Tally was delighted by but not surprised. She had fantasized about this exact thing for so long…long before she had become a biddy.

Sarah gasped at the thoughts in Tally's head. She could feel herself grow wetter from it, and she released a guttural moan.

"Fuck, Tally," Sarah whimpered.

Tally couldn't suppress the pride at causing General Sarah Alder to whimper beneath her tongue.

"There's more noises than that, Cadet," Sarah half-moaned.

Tally's eyes darted up to meet blue, and as they maintained contact Tally licked up Sarah's clit before sucking it into her mouth.

"Fuck!" Sarah gasped.

Oh Tally was absolutely feeling prideful.

Sarah was soaked—her essence running down Tally's chin. It was a heady feeling to be like this with Sarah. She couldn't get enough and interchanged licking and sucking now and then—much to Sarah's frustration and delight.

Tally could feel how badly she wanted to cum, but also how much she was enjoying being touched and denied. That was when she realized Sarah Alder, who was always so in control and rarely denied anything, was willing to give up her control for her. That was what broke the last of Tally's restraint.

She effortlessly slipped two fingers into Sarah, curling them as she thrusted and sucked on Sarah's clit.

Tally knew how much Sarah enjoyed her boldness, and she wanted to test it further—hoping that it would have the desired effect on the General.

"You, my dear General, are going to cum for me," Tally told her through the link, never pausing her ministrations.

"Yes," Sarah breathed out as she began to climax.

"You're doing so good for me," Tally thought. She could feel Sarah right on the precipice of her orgasm. "Cum for your witch."

Sarah felt as if she was thrown into her orgasm by the force of what those words did. Tally hit the nail on the head. Being in control of the entire military for hundreds of years was…a lot. The job never got any easier. She couldn't recall how long it had been since she allowed anyone to have control over her.

Tally though…giving her control was the easiest thing Sarah had ever done, because she knew that Tally would be there to catch her, without a single doubt.

So when Sarah was thrown from her climax into her full bodied orgasm—her back arching in pleasure; legs clamping around Tally's head; her hand in her hair to hold her in place as she rode it out—she knew Tally would be there.

She wasn't even sure how long she had been cumming for. It felt like ages to her—then she realized Tally had milked her through one orgasm into another climax.

"Tally," Sarah half-moaned, half-whispered.

She came again, somehow impossibly harder than the first. Her cunt clenched hard around Tally's fingers, stilling them inside her as she rode it out.

Tally thought it was the most glorious thing she'd ever seen. She was pretty sure Sarah glowed when she came the second time. Tally couldn't resist herself with that one. She tasted and felt so good, she wasn't eager to part quite yet. Despite Sarah's firm hold on her fingers, Tally moved them as slow and as deep as Sarah's walls would allow. She licked her clit lightly, feeling how sensitive Sarah was through the link, but how good it felt too.

That was when Tally coaxed a final orgasm out of her.

When she finally came down from her high—soaked in sweat and breathing heavily—Tally slid up her body until their foreheads touched.

"I would have definitely destroyed the base," Sarah thought through the link. She was still trying to catch her breath.

Tally smiled against her lips and chuckled. "What will we do about Beltane then?"

"I'll have to have a barrier constructed around the fort," Sarah said, a little breathlessly, but with a bright smile on her face. "I can't afford to have the whole place destroyed. And I don't believe containing it to just us will suffice…not against Beltane magic."

"We would definitely destroy it," Tally agreed with a light laugh. She laid her body on Sarah's and nuzzled her neck. "You smell good."

Sarah chuckled. "I am covered in sweat and cum."

"Exactly," Tally replied easily, nuzzling her neck some more before planting a light kiss to her skin. "You're mine, Sarah Alder."

Sarah's breath hitched and she tightened her arms around Tally. "I've been yours, my darling."

She kissed Tally's head, enjoying the way the redhead hummed happily against her neck at the affection.

Sarah adjusted their position so she could tilt Tally's head upward with her fingers. Then, with as much authority as she could muster without smiling, said, "On my face, Cadet."

Tally's eyes widened, and Sarah internally laughed at the way Tally quickly scrambled up her body—desperate to follow the command.

When her center was over Sarah's mouth, she sucked in a breath at the sight. She was slick with her desire, and her lips and clit were swollen with need.

Her hands wrapped around Tally's legs and pulled her down, forcing her to place all her weight on Sarah's mouth. She cried out when Sarah's tongue slid inside her, drinking her up. She sucked her clit into her mouth, humming as she watched Tally throw her head back as she rocked against Sarah's mouth.

She slid her hands up over creamy skin, up to the pert, pink nipples to take them between her fingers and roll them.

Alder was determined to make Tally cum for most of the night. It didn't take long for her first orgasm to wash over her. When she went to move, Sarah held on firm, eyes conveying her order to stay where she was.

It wasn't until Tally was near sobbing from pleasure that Sarah finally allowed her to roll off and curl against her—after orgasm four.

Tally laid her head on Sarah's chest, kissing the spot above her heart before she slipped into a dreamless sleep.

 


 

'Ayás imé wèlá - "I love her"

*Thanks to the Talder Discord for the Mothertongue translations, y'all are amazing*

 


 

Chapter Text

General Alder had just seen Tally off for the morning when Raelle Collar showed up not even ten minutes later.

She could hear Collar's voice over that of her secretary. She smirked, Collar always did have a loud mouth on her.

"Send her in, Amber," Alder called out.

What do you think she wants? Margaret broached.

Mycelium, came one reply from Corinne.

Tally, came another suggestion from Michelle.

Alder shook her head, a soft smile on her face as her biddies mused.

"General," Raelle greeted at the door.

"Come in," Alder instructed. She glanced up from where she stood looking down on her papers. "What can I do for you?"

Raelle approached cautiously. She was wringing her hands together nervously and shifting back and forth slightly.

Alder quirked her eyebrow as she sat down into her chair. "This must be something." She gestured to the chair for Raelle to sit.

Raelle nodded and took a seat. She still looked rather uncertain.

"Are you here for General Alder, or Sarah?" Alder questioned.

Raelle finally met her gaze and released a deep breath. "Sort of both, actually."

Mycelium and Tally, came the joint sentiment from the biddies.

Alder shushed them in the link.

"What's on your mind?"

"Scylla, to start."

Damn, Corinne groused. Really thought it would be the other two.

Could still be, Erin suggested.

Bet? Analese asked.

Twenty on Tally and Mycelium, Tessa piped up.

Do you mind? Alder thought through the link, her eyes never leaving Raelle's.

"What about her?" Alder asked aloud.

"It's sort of complicated."

Alder nodded slowly, urging Raelle to continue.

"She's Spree…and I know about her and Anacostia working together to find leads on the Camarilla and I just…part of why I've had such an issue with you before you and Tally even happened, is because of Scylla. She was taken without explanation and no one could tell me why or what was going on. Everyone led me to believe she was dead. I'm just…I'm angry that everyone just wrote it off and told me I was just grieving when I knew she was still alive," Raelle explained quickly.

Alder definitely hadn't expected this. A part of her was angry at her insolence—as if she had room to question what she believed was the best course of action. Another, though, was trying to stay as civil as possible when they were away from prying eyes.

She sighed, a decision made. "I stand by my decision to have Scylla apprehended. She is Spree. You know as well as I how dangerous the Spree are. She was an enemy who had infiltrated this base and posed a great security risk."

Raelle went to protest but Alder held up a hand to silence her.

"I cannot afford to take chances here, Raelle. Not when this is meant to be a safe place for witches…"

Raelle was angry, Alder could see as much.

"I was going to have Miss Ramshorn shipped off to Saint Dominique to live out her days…until Anacostia freed her. She has become an ally. I didn't believe she was capable of changing." She allowed that to sink in before continuing, "Anacostia did. She was willing to have more faith in people than I…centuries of experience taught me that. However, I have been finding myself surprised more and more as of late." She paused a moment. "I will not have Scylla apprehended if that is what you're concerned with. I know that things are…complicated, between you right now. But I assure you, I have no intention of having her imprisoned."

"Partly," Raelle answered. She sighed and shook her head. "I didn't really think this through before I came…"

Alder stayed silent, sensing the turmoil in the young witch.

"Honestly, I need to air my grievances with you to be fully supportive of you and Tally," she finally settled on. "She's my sister and one of my best friends. I want her to be happy and I know how happy you make her…but I also know that she's seeing sides of you that we never have. That's great and I want to bury the hatchet once and for all for Tally's sake."

"Ah," Sarah said in understanding. "I see. Well then, Raelle, air them away."

Raelle actually seemed surprised that Alder had agreed so willingly. The General couldn't help but chuckle lightly.

"Raelle, where Tally is concerned…I'm willing to be as civil and open as I can be about any of my military decisions. However, understand that depending what you ask there are things I can't answer."

Raelle nodded, accepting and understanding her terms. She took a deep breath, nodded, and then said, "You puppetted the President."

"I did."

"Do you regret it?"

"No."

"Seriously?"

"Yes."

"Are you just going to answer yes or no?"

"Stop asking close-ended questions," Alder retorted as she raised her cup of coffee to her lips.

Raelle huffed. "Why?"

"You mean why did I puppet the President?"

Raelle nodded.

"She was going to replace me," Alder told her honestly. "She had learned of the infiltration from your unit when you told General Bellweather. I couldn't have Petra replacing me…not when there was so much at stake."

Raelle remained silent.

"I've led this army for hundreds of years…served forty-five presidents. I have more blood on my hands than any other. I know that. But all that I have done is to protect witchkind. I wanted to carve out a place in the world for our kind. I wanted us to be able to fight back instead of just allowing them to burn us. I didn't want any witch to experience life the way I had." Alder glanced over to her portrait about the mantle. "If I'm being entirely honest…I'm not sure what I would do if I didn't have my position anymore. I wouldn't know how best to continue to serve."

Raelle's brow furrowed. She mulled it over. It made sense, especially when Alder had been alive for so long—fighting for so long. She understood how unmooring it could feel to suddenly have everything she'd built to be threatened.

Raelle moved on, "You lied to the public about the hostages."

"What was the other option, Raelle? I had this same conversation with Tally months ago. Those trucks were heading for the nearest international airport. I didn't know if they were going to deploy their munitions in the airport, planes, or both. Thousands of people would have died…perhaps thousands in multiple states and countries. There was certainly enough in those trucks to do that sort of damage."

Alder took a swig of her coffee.

"Sacrificing the hostages was the only option. I didn't like it, but that was the call that needed to be made. Imagine the public outcry if the public knew that we knew of the hostages and proceeded. There's already a great enough faction. Those hostages were good as dead the moment they were taken by the Spree. Really think about that, Raelle," Alder urged. "Do you think they would've let them go?"

Raelle sighed and shook her head. "They wouldn't have."

"I know that the calls I make are not 'right,' but they need to be made. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to sacrifice a few to spare the many. I do not like it any more than you, I assure you. But war is war."

Raelle remained silent, but the look in her eyes—now filled with hesitant understanding, showed her that she had mended something.

Alder nodded, appeased that Raelle understood.

"So," the General began, "Scylla, my puppeteering, and the hostages. What else?"

"Keeping us from War College initially."

Alder arched an eyebrow. "I was under the impression you wanted to be cannon fodder."

"It wasn't fair to Abs or Tally," Raelle retorted.

Alder sighed. "You're correct. I was furious when I found out you three were the ones that told Petra about the hostages. Khalida did insist on your unit to accompany us. I admit, I was content to leave you three to fend for yourselves on the frontlines…but after our talk around the fire—I knew then that if you three survived on that mission I would place you in War College. Despite your insubordination, you three are formidable together. When I thought you and Abigail were dead, and Tally was inconsolable, I regretted it."

Raelle was surprised by that. "You did?"

Alder nodded tersely. "I did, immediately. You three are gifted. I wanted to teach you a lesson to not cross me. To know your place. I hadn't expected the Camarilla to return." She lightly traced the rim of her mug. "I didn't want to believe it," she added softly.

Raelle's brow furrowed.

"I am sorry for punishing you the way I did. I do regret that."

Raelle nodded, partially shocked that General Alder had not only been indulging this conversation—but that she apologized too.

"What else?" Alder questioned softly.

"Do you lie to Tally?" Raelle asked seriously.

"No," she said with finality, eyes darting up to meet Raelle's. "Never. I couldn't even if I wanted to…not now."

Raelle nodded, accepting that. "Okay."

Alder couldn't help but smirk.

At least one of us was right, Michelle gloated.

"What else?"

"The Mycelium…" Raelle began.

Checkmate, Corinne quipped.

"…there's so much power there. The things that She told me I could do when I tap in…" Raelle trailed off uncertainly.

"You're afraid of it," Alder said simply. "That is understandable. She possesses a great deal of power. She chose you though, Raelle. I would not second guess that. If you need help focusing it, I can help you."

Raelle's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

The General nodded. "Yes. We need you in this fight, and you need to be able to trust that power and Her…and yourself while wielding it."

"Wow," Raelle breathed, voice filled with disbelief. "Seriously?"

Alder merely arched an eyebrow.

"I just…wow."

Alder chuckled. "Take the upcoming break to gather your thoughts and feelings about it. When you return we can begin, if you're agreeable."

Raelle nodded her agreement and offered the General a smile.

We were right, Analese said with a laugh.

I'll collect my winnings once she leaves, Tessa quipped.

"Is there anything else?" Sarah asked.

Raelle shook her head as she stood. "No, ma'am. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I know you're busy."

"Thank you for stopping by," Alder said seriously. "I believe it was good to speak candidly."

"I appreciate it," Raelle told her sincerely. "Really." She shifted on her feet a moment. Then, she held her hand out.

Alder stood, clasping Raelle's forearm. "I know that this doesn't absolve me, Raelle. I do hope though that I've eased your mind."

"You did, General," Raelle replied seriously.

She nodded in response as Collar took her leave.

"That was unexpected," Alder said aloud to the other women in the room.

There was a unanimous hum of agreement.

When do you think Abigail will be coming for a talk? Erin asked coyly.

Alder could feel her smirk before she saw it. She shot her a look, which only served to make the biddies chuckle as one.

 


 

"Have you given any thought about the break?" Sarah asked curiously.

She was sitting behind her desk, going through some paperwork. Her biddies sat in their seats around the room, and Tally sat in front of the fireplace, another of Sarah's sketchbooks in her hands—Sarah remarked she looked like a pleased cat all curled up in the armchair.

It had been a week since the discussion with the Mycelium, and despite the original plan to be Tally sleeping in a room nearby to test…she'd been staying in Sarah's room. After lights out she'd quietly slip from their unit room and dash to the General's quarters. They'd spend the nights talking, telling each other stories from their childhoods', traversing a few heartwarming memories in their dreams, and having lots of sex…neither were complaining at all. She had also told Tally of her conversation with Raelle, which Tally was floored by. But she had assured her that she would have the same conversation with Abigail if she would want that at all. She didn't want there to be any conflict between them for Tally's sake.

"I'm torn," Tally answered, a small frown on her face. Raelle had invited her to join her in the Cession for the break, but Tally wasn't super keen on leaving Sarah. She didn't like that she would be gone so long, and she had a knot in her stomach that something bad would happen if she left.

"Tally, a break from base does everyone good," Sarah told her with a smile. "I can feel your worry, and I assure you I will be fine."

"I know you don't want me to go though," Tally replied easily. Her mouth quirked upward a little. "I can feel how much you want me to stay."

Sarah sighed. "You are correct. I don't want you to go." She stood from her desk and approached Tally, getting down on her knees so she could look up at her. "You'll be far away and we have no idea how this will be for us with the connection." She took her hand in her own. "But. You deserve a break from things. You all do. It is only for a week and then you'll be back. You aren't a possession, Tally."

Tally smiled and brought Sarah's hand up to kiss her knuckles. "You deserve a break too, Sarah."

Sarah smiled warmly. "I do not disagree. However, there is no rest for the wicked. I need to make sure that we are keeping up on our search for Batan, as well as any Camarilla activity. I'll throw myself into work to distract myself," she said.

Tally's brow furrowed. "What about the connection?"

Sarah released a heavy sigh. "If for some reason you feel unwell, at any point, call me immediately or call someone that can get to me. I'll have someone bring you back. However, this is assuming it works like the biddy connection and we both know that it isn't like it at all."

Tally nodded. "And if I dream?"

Sarah hummed and stood, still holding Tally's hands. "I will not sleep the whole week, and I will meditate so that I can join you and we can go somewhere else so that you can rest."

Tally went to protest but Sarah placed a finger to her lips.

"You know I do not require a lot of sleep. I can manage."

Tally's shoulders slumped as she admitted her defeat, and Sarah leaned down and placed a sweet kiss to Tally's lips.

"Besides, sweetheart, you don't leave for two more days. And Samhain is tomorrow, so you will have all the festivities before you go," Sarah murmured before kissing Tally again. Their lips moved against each other with practiced ease, slowly, and simply basking in the affection that swelled in the connection.

"Can I ask you something?" Tally asked softly when they pulled back.

Sarah nodded, taking a seat in the empty armchair across from Tally. "What's on your mind?"

"Samhain tomorrow. Do you participate in defending the hearth?"

Sarah chuckled. "Not anymore. I have too many other things to tend to, so I unfortunately do not get to participate in the festivities."

Tally cocked her head to the side. "Why don't you come and defend it with me?"

Alder's eyebrows rose, surprised. "You have your coven with you for that, my darling."

"Yeah, but you're my…" Tally trailed off, unsure what she was supposed to refer to as.

A soft smile played on Sarah's lips. "I'm yours. You can refer to me as whatever you'd like, Tally."

Tally stood then, crossing the short distance to Sarah and sitting down right in her lap so that she could be as close as possible. She felt the soft sigh that fell from Sarah's lips as their foreheads touched.

"Why do you ask about Samhain?" Alder asked gently. She placed a kiss to Tally's lips.

"Don't you want to talk to one of your family members?" Tally settled on. She cupped Sarah's cheek gently, watching as her General's eyes took on a sheen.

"It's been so long since I have," she answered quietly. "I want them to rest. They deserve to rest."

"You miss them so much though," Tally murmured. She stroked down Sarah's cheek. "I can feel how much."

Sarah sighed against Tally's lips. "I do."

"I…" Tally trailed off.

"What is it?"

"You never mentioned what happened to your parents," Tally said softly, as if the admission would make Sarah run.

Sarah's arms tightened around the younger woman. "They were executed. My father…he was taken for questioning. They racked him…and then pressed him to death."

"I'm so sorry," Tally soothed, her hand clasping the back of Sarah's neck and stroking it comfortingly as she sent waves of affection through the bond.

"My mother…" Sarah trailed off.

Tally quickly pressed Sarah's head against her neck. She could feel the pain boiling in Sarah, and she was desperate to soothe is as best as she could. She softly stroked Sarah's hair—loose from its normally tight braid.

"You don't have to tell me, it's okay," Tally assured through the bond.

"No, I want to," Sarah told her. She could feel a tear slide down her cheek. "They hung her. My sister and I were forced to watch as they stoned her before placing the noose around her neck, stringing her up over the branch of a tree until she died."

"Sarah," Tally said mournfully. The grief cascading through their bond would have brought Tally to her knees were she standing. "I'm so sorry."

Sarah sobbed quietly against Tally's neck. She sent the memory through their connection, unable to speak more even through the bond.

Tally rubbed her back soothingly as she watched the memory.

Sarah, seventeen and shackled, stood next to her elder sister with tears in their eyes as they were held back by large men. Their mother was bloody, barely clinging to consciousness as the townsfolk threw more stones at her. One hit her in the head again, causing Sarah and Elizabeth to struggle against their restraints and the men holding them.

"Mother!" Sarah screamed out, panic coating her voice.

Another man stepped up and slapped her across the face, making her ears ring and her vision flicker.

Blood oozed from the open wound on her mother's temple. Her eyes were fluttering as they placed the noose around her neck.

"No," Elizabeth sobbed next to her. She struggled against the restraints again, earning a slap to her own face.

The girls watched helplessly as the townspeople laughed. The reverend waved his hand, signaling for her to be strung up.

"Mother!" Sarah screamed out again as they pulled the rope forcefully.

Her mother struggled, legs kicking and flailing as she attempted to gasp for air. Her eyes rolled back in her head as her body twitched. They tied off the rope to a stake, allowing her to hang there and struggle against the noose as she slowly suffocated.

A sob tore from the sisters' lips as they watched their mother's body twitch one last time before stilling. They screamed and cried as they were led away.

Sarah had continued to struggle, earning her another slap to the face. When the man grabbed her jaw, forcing her to look at him, she ducked her head slightly and clamped down on his hand hard enough to break the skin and tear a chunk of flesh from him.

He cried out in pain, falling backwards as Sarah spit the chunk onto the ground.

She was smacked again—darkness greeted her, and when she opened them again, her head was encased in a scold's bridle—just in time to watch them hang her sister.

The memory faded, and Tally held Sarah tightly against her as the older woman openly sobbed.

"I'm so sorry," Tally murmured against her hair. She cradled her, sending as much warmth and affection as she could muster down their link.

Eventually, Sarah's cries subsided, and she calmed some.

"I'm sorry you had to go through that, and I'm so sorry that this is where this conversation went. I—"

Sarah shook her head, red-rimmed, blue eyes staring into Tally's shimmering brown. "It is a large part of who I am." She sucked in a breath. "It's one of my darkest moments."

Tally traced her thumb over Sarah's lips. "Thank you for sharing it with me."

Sarah nodded, pressing her forehead to Tally's once more and following her lead in calming her heart rate and breathing.

"I haven't spoken to my parents on Samhain in nearly three hundred years. I haven't spoken to my sister in close to two hundred. I miss them every day. But…"

Tally patiently waited, not pressing her until she was ready to speak.

"I fear that if I would now…they would be disappointed in how everything has happened. Disappointed in me." Her voice cracked with emotion.

Absolutely not, came the resounding response from her biddies.

Tally nodded against her. She understood completely. She could feel Sarah's gratitude that she didn't try to wipe the doubt from her mind. She knew Tally understood the feeling and fear of disappointing loved ones, and she was grateful for the silent understanding.

"Every year I think about defending the hearth so that I can see one of them…just to know that they are still at peace with the Goddess."

"But you're also afraid to see them," Tally finished.

"Yes," Sarah whispered. She released a sigh. "I am sorry for this growing so heavy."

"No," Tally urged firmly. "Don't apologize. There's nothing to be sorry about. I told you I want all of you. That includes all the baggage and trauma."

Sarah swallowed thickly, nodding and tilting her head so that she could capture Tally's lips in a gentle kiss.

"You're too good to me, Tally Craven," she murmured between her kisses. Her hand rose to lightly touch the courting braid, fingers trailing over the inlaid beads.

"No." Tally shook her head. "I'm exactly what you deserve."

Sarah's breath caught in her throat, overcome with adoration for Tally—which she openly sent through their connection.

They basked in each other's presence for a while longer until Sarah had calmed completely. When she had, she tilted her head up and kissed her firmly—enjoying the caress of Sarah's lips against her own.

A knock resounded on the door—causing Tally and Sarah to pull apart—and all the women in the room looked at it curiously. Tally stood, followed by Sarah, as their eyes looked at the door with uncertainty.

Sarah had no meetings, nor was she expecting anyone. She went back behind her desk and took her seat while Tally made a motion to leave.

"Sit," Sarah told her seriously, and Tally did. Her eyes flickered to the door. "Come in."

The door opened to reveal Petra Bellweather. Her head was held high as she entered, a very pleased smile on her face.

"General Bellweather," Sarah greeted with a tight smile. "To what do I owe this surprise?"

Petra stepped closer to the desk, mouth opening to speak when she saw Tally near the fireplace.

"Oh." Petra stopped, eyebrows scrunching. "Cadet Craven…this is a…surprise."

"Tally has been experiencing some unfortunate side effects from the biddy connection being severed," Alder answered easily.

It wasn't really a lie.

"I see," Petra said, tone clipped. "Cadet Craven, if you could give the General and I the room?"

Tally went to stand but Alder's voice stopped her.

"I trust Craven," the General said simply. "If this is regarding the Camarilla or the Spree, the cadet is aware of what is going on, as well as the plan. Your daughter and Collar know as well." She had to add the other two to make it less suspicious.

Petra, though, was a bloodhound when it came to Alder's words. Whether they were truth or lies, she questioned each word.

"General—"

"General Bellweather," Sarah interrupted with a serious tone. "If you would like, I could summon your daughter and Collar and we can all be briefed as a group, or you can tell me why you are here and Craven can inform them. But make no mistake, that group doesn't keep secrets."

Tally couldn't help but smile softly at Sarah.

Petra sighed. "As you wish, General. Anacostia and Scylla have managed to infiltrate some of the Camarilla's forces. As you know, they've made contact with a couple who have Camarilla ties, Shane and Bonnie. They have been invited to attend an event, one amongst the Camarilla members." Petra didn't seem pleased that Alder had learned of her little project she was working on behind her back, even less so now that she had to brief the General.

Alder's eyes widened. "On Samhain?"

Petra nodded.

She had to admit, she was concerned about Anacostia being surrounded by Camarilla. The woman was smart and capable, but she certainly still worried about her little fosterling.

"Anacostia will be fine," Tally spoke up from her seat.

General Alder regarded her a moment before sighing and nodding her agreement—and missing the curious expression on Petra's face.

"Do they believe the Exarch will be in attendance?" she questioned.

"They do."

Alder nodded. "Very well. Keep me posted on how they do tomorrow night."

"Of course."

"Was there anything else?" Alder asked, picking up her glass of wine and taking a sip.

"No, General, that was all," Petra answered before turning and looking at Tally. "Watch out for each other tomorrow night."

Tally nodded, a soft 'yes ma'am' leaving her lips as Petra left the room.

When the door closed, the room felt lighter and Sarah released a breath.

"Why do I feel like we should be concerned?" Tally asked.

"Because we should," Sarah replied. "But not right now. Petra has her suspicions but she has no proof for any of them. It's merely speculation."

"I guess it's good I'll be away for a bit then."

 


 

Tally was a little nervous as she made the trip back to Sarah's office. She was sweaty and dirty, smelling of the woods and smoke from the fire they successfully defended through the night. She carried her candle reverently as she walked, hoping that Sarah would accept it.

She could feel Sarah's curiosity through the bond, wondering what she was so nervous about and sending soothing thoughts to help—something Tally appreciated immensely.

She made her way into the office, smiling softly as Sarah looked up from the papers on her desk.

"Were you successful?" Sarah asked with a bright smile.

"We were," Tally answered as she fully stepped into the room, her hands behind her back.

"Who are you going to speak to?" she inquired as Tally made her way over to her.

The redhead came around the desk, stopping just in front of her and leaning back—the nervous energy returning.

"Why are you so nervous, sweetheart?" She reached out and placed her hands on Tally's hips.

Tally didn't answer—merely brought her hands around to hold out her candle. She removed one of Sarah's hands from her hip and placed the candle in it.

The General looked up at her curiously.

"I want you to use it," Tally told her softly.

Her heart suddenly was in her throat. Her eyes widened with surprise before flickering back down to the candle in her hand.

"Tally—"

"If you don't use it then it will be a waste," she said gently. "I never knew my dad, or any of the other members of my family. It's always just been my mom and I. If you want to talk with one of them, I want you to have the option."

Sarah could feel the tears welling in her eyes as she looked down at Tally's candle.

"Tally," her voice cracked.

"I can stay with you, or I can go. This is entirely your decision." Tally tilted her head up and placed a soft kiss to her lips. "I just want you to have the option."

You should take it, Sarah, Corinne spoke up through the link. Her eyes were soft as they met the General's. We all feel how much you miss them.

It would be good for you, Erin urged carefully.

Another shaky breath left Sarah as she looked up into Tally's eyes. "I think I would like to start alone…if I need you—"

"I'll be there," Tally replied immediately. She cupped Sarah's face in her hands, pressing their foreheads together and hoping that it would help calm the internal storm she could feel happening in Sarah.

Sarah nodded against her, silently dismissing the biddies from the room before placing a parting kiss on Tally's lips.

Once she was alone, she stared at the candle in her hands for a few moments before standing and walking to the center of the office. She took her seat on the ground, placing the candle just in front of her before she lit it.

"Mary Alder."

She watched as a spider appeared from the candle, crawling down it with its long, hairy legs, and then skirting off to a dark corner of the room. She released a shaky breath and stood as a breeze flowed through the room, despite no windows being open.

"Who has requested me?"

The voice came from behind Sarah, and she slowly turned—tears springing to her eyes as soon as they landed on the ghostly form of her mother.

"Máà," she choked out.

"Sarah," Mary breathed out with a bright smile. She approached, taking her daughter into her arms. "Imé wèlá."

Sarah could feel her tears begin running down her face. It felt different to hug someone who was dead. Her mother's body wasn't warm, or totally solid. It felt like she was hugging pressurized air—cold air.

They pulled back and Mary looked her over. "It has been so long, my daughter."

"It has," Sarah breathed out. She was trying her best to keep her composure. "So long."

Her mother smiled, lightly touching her face. "How long?"

"Two hundred seventy," Sarah replied.

Mary sighed. "And you are still going."

Sarah gave a firm nod. "The Goddess hasn't called me home yet."

"Why have you decided to call on me after all this time, my daughter?"

"I…" she faltered. "There's so much to tell you."

Mary smiled and lightly tapped Sarah's nose. "The beginning then."

She dove in. Sarah told her of the Mycelium, the Camarilla returning, the Spree, her mistakes and involvement in it, everything that was currently plaguing her everyday life. Her mother listened throughout, remaining silent as her youngest spoke.

When Sarah finished, Mary offered a kind smile. "You have been through much. You have carved out a place for us—a witches' place. Despite the Camarilla's return, you have allowed us to live in the light as we are. I know you will continue to fight—my brave soldier. You have made me so proud, Sarah Alder."

Sarah couldn't suppress the choked sob that crawled up her throat. She had needed to hear those words desperately, and she recalled how Tally had told her the same not so long ago.

She wiped her eyes. "There's one more thing. Probably the biggest, actually."

"Do tell," Mary urged.

"I'm in love." A bright, watery smile stretched across her face at the admission. "I haven't told her yet though. It's still early."

Mary's eyes brightened. "What is her name?"

"Tally. She's a cadet, actually."

Mary nodded, encouraging her to continue.

"She's…I don't even have the words. She is selfless, kind, empathetic, genuine, beautiful…magical. We have a bond. One that only seems to grow stronger."

Mary hummed. "The Goddess has blessed you."

"I'm courting her. I gave her your courtship beads."

Mary beamed at that. "That is wonderful, Sarah. Do you think you will handfast?"

Sarah actually blushed. "That won't happen for a while…if she wants to be handfasted even."

"Use our handfasting cords," Mary told her seriously.

Sarah's face fell. "I'm afraid I don't have them."

A light laugh escaped Mary. "You do, daughter. They're merely buried."

Sarah looked at her curiously, her blue eyes searching the ghostly face of her mother. "Buried? Where?"

"That tree in the woods not far from our home where you and Elizabeth would climb. At the roots there, we buried the cords."

"Why?" Sarah asked.

"We buried quite a bit of our sentimental belongings there. We had hoped to tell you and Elizabeth but…"

"They came before you could," Sarah finished in realization.

Mary nodded. "Should you handfast, they are there waiting for you."

Tears were beginning to well in Sarah's eyes again, and she forced herself to blink them back. She chanced a glance to the window. It was still dark, but she knew dawn was approaching soon.

"Would you like to meet her?" Sarah asked then.

"Of course."

Sarah gently nudged the bond, silently requesting for Tally to come to her. She only had to wait a moment before the door to her office clicked open and then closed behind her.

"Sarah, are—" Tally's question died in her mouth as she saw Mary Alder standing just in front of Sarah. "Oh!"

"Tally," Sarah began, turning to look at her. "This is my mother—Mary Alder." She held out her hand for Tally to take, which she did a moment after she had extended it. "Mother, this is Tally Craven."

"It is wonderful to meet you, Tally," Mary told her honestly.

"It's an honor to meet you," Tally breathed. "I've seen you in Sarah's memories and I wish that I would have been around to meet you properly."

"Thank the Goddess you are in this time, Tally," Mary told her with a smile. "They are trying times from what Sarah has told me. I am grateful that you are by her side to weather it together."

"Me too," Tally replied with a bright smile.

Mary tilted her head slightly, and Tally couldn't believe how much she looked like Sarah when she did. Seeing them together—despite Mary's pale skin, she and Sarah could have been twins.

"May I see your braid?" Mary requested.

Tally beamed and turned, missing the way Sarah's face fell into her softest expression yet as her mother inspected the braid and beadwork.

"You did well, Sarah," Mary told her. "It is a beautiful braid for your intended."

Sarah's eyes widened. There it was again, that word. "Intended?"

Mary merely hummed as Tally turned around, sporting a pretty blush. Her eyes glanced at the windows. "I must go." She stepped close to Sarah, cupping her face and pressing her forehead against her.

"I will miss you," Sarah breathed, voice shaking with emotion.

"Do not wait so long to summon me next time," Mary told her seriously. She spoke again, this time in Mothertongue. "Love her fiercely and protect her with all you have, my daughter. Keep her close."

Sarah nodded against her, tears falling as her mother placed a lingering kiss to her forehead—and then she was gone.

She fell to her knees, feeling arms wrap around her and pull her close so that she could rest there and cry. She wasn't sure how long she cried in Tally's arms, only that when she finally stopped and looked up—the sun had risen.

"Let's go to bed," Tally murmured against Sarah's dark hair. "I know we only have a few hours before I have to leave, but I don't want to spend them out of your arms."

Sarah nodded, remaining silent but standing and helping Tally to her feet before leading the way to the room.

They stripped silently, down until they were bare before crawling into bed together.

Sarah didn't have a choice where to lay, because as soon as she laid down Tally had pulled her to lay on her chest—holding her tightly.

"Thank you for letting me meet her," Tally murmured.

"She would have loved you, Tally," Sarah replied quietly. Her voice felt scratchy from all the crying she'd been doing lately.

"I would have loved her too."

 


 

Máà - Mother

Imé wèlá - My love (but more literally, 'my song')

Chapter Text

Tally was currently on her way back to the Cession with Raelle, her nervous energy had Raelle reassuring her that everything would be fine, it's just a week.

Which it was…but it was the first time being truly away from Sarah since their connection had been fully opened. She could still feel her, but with every few miles she had to reach out a little more, and a little harder. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to maintain it.

"Okay seriously, Tal, if you don't reel it in…" Raelle started.

Tally conceded, nodding her head fervently and trying to chill out. When it was time for her to go, she had made sure that Sarah was feeling better—to which she assured Tally she was. They had talked some more, but mainly basked in the affection in their bond until she had to head out. Sarah had even given Tally her quilt so that she could sleep with something of hers…Tally hadn't told her that she swiped one of her standard issue t-shirts as well so she could have something else that smelled like the General. She was better once they reached Raelle's town. As soon as her feet hit the ground she searched for Sarah, finding her energy easily and sighing with immense relief.

"You can feel her?" Raelle inquired as they walked toward her father.

Edwin was waving excitedly at them, and Tally found herself smiling at his energy.

"Yes, thank Goddess," Tally answered, relief coating her words.

She reached out for Sarah, her mind felt like it was being wrapped up in a hug.

"We just arrived," Tally sent through the link.

She could feel Sarah's relief at the words, and it wasn't until then that it wasn't just her anxious energy she had been feeling—but Sarah's as well.

"And the connection is still strong. This is very good news," Sarah said. "By the way, thank you for your present."

Tally blushed lightly as she smiled to herself. She had left one of her journals of poetry with Sarah for her to read while she was gone.

"I plan to begin reading them tonight," Sarah told her through the link as a wave of adoration washed over Tally.

"I can't wait to hear your thoughts…quite literally I guess," Tally thought with a light laugh.

It didn't take long for them to reach Raelle's home, and they quickly settled in. Edwin regaled Tally with stories of Raelle as a child, and then through her very moody teen angst years—which had Tally nearly rolling with laughter. She didn't bother to tell Raelle that Sarah had been rather amused by it as well.

She had met Quinn, who had also recounted some embarrassing stories about Raelle, much to Tally's delight. She had enough ammunition to tease Raelle with mercilessly for when she would rib Tally.

They were heading back to Raelle's house on the third day after seeing Quinn again. It was dark, and they stumbled a little as they headed toward the lit house just a few hundred yards away.

That was when Tally noticed a vehicle off to the side of the road, in front of the house.

"Rae," Tally said, nodding at the vehicle. "I've seen that van all day…"

Raelle and Tally glanced at each other before they carefully approached—spacing out to circle the van unseen. When they sprung up, they startled the women inside…and they'd windsheared the side mirrors off.

"Why are you following us?" Raelle demanded.

Tally recognized them from base.

"They're from base, Rae," Tally told her quickly.

The one, who Tally assumed was their squad leader, had sighed with exasperation at Raelle's next line of questioning.

"General Alder sent us," the leader answered, raising her eyebrows and demanding them to challenge that.

Raelle bristled.

"Rae, you know why she's having them follow us," Tally interjected before Raelle could shoot from the mouth more.

Raelle's shoulder slumped. "Yeah, you're right. Okay." She looked at the women. "Listen, Tal and I were about to head in and make some hot chocolate, do you all want some?"

The squad nodded and Tally sheepishly handed them back one of their side mirrors before they retreated inside to do exactly that.

Raelle had just gone back out to distribute the hot chocolate, with Tally hanging back at the door a moment.

She and Sarah hadn't had much communication today, and she knew her General was busy. But, she certainly missed her active presence. She was just about to reach out through the link and check in when immense pain scorched up her throat.

She gasped out and Raelle turned her head to look back at her, and that was when the masked men appeared. They took out the squad easily with what seemed to be darts. They did the same to Raelle, and she slumped over on the ground.

Tally tried to scream, she really did, but her throat hurt so much. It felt like it was being lit on fire from the outside. Pure terror coursed through her veins, gripping her heart like an icy hand. Then there was a prick of something on her neck, and then everything became a blur.

The last thing she saw was Raelle being loaded into the red van.

Then it went dark.

 


 

Sarah could hear movement around her, but it was muffled—as if she had on earmuffs. Her eyes were heavy and her throat—Goddess it burned. Memories came back to her quickly then—her throat burning; the liquid lava sliding down her esophagus and scorching it raw; the immeasurable pain.

She could feel cooling on her throat now though and assumed the hands that were touching her were those of a fixer. Her eyes fluttered open, still heavy with exhaustion but she managed.

She could see Verger from the corner of her eye, and then she met Anacostia's gaze.

"Ana," she said hoarsely. Goddess it hurts to speak. "What happened while I was out?"

She watched Anacostia and Verger share a look, knowing immediately it wasn't good.

"Raelle Collar's security detail was attacked," Anacostia told her.

Sarah's eyes widened and she coughed as she attempted to sit up—only to have hands push her back down. She gagged as the biddies, all in cots circling her own, hoarsely hissed their displeasure.

"The attackers took her and they fled the scene. The MPs out of Fort Deacon are already running her down," Anacostia pressed on.

Fury swam in Alder's blue eyes. "Who took her?"

Anacostia released a shaky breath. "The Camarilla."

Alder was seething. She wanted nothing more than to get up and beat every last one with her scourge.

Her eyes held onto Anacostia's as she asked her next question, "Tally?" her voice shook as she asked.

"She's okay. The Camarilla thankfully didn't kill any of the witches, only rendering them unconscious with sleep darts. Tally is the one that called it in."

That calmed Alder considerably, a relieved gasp escaped her, and she laid back down on the cot. She could feel Tally through the connection but it was faint. It was almost like it was blocked…but by what she didn't know.

She allowed the fixer to return to her work, healing her cords enough that she could actually speak some.

Then she decided to stand.

"General," Anacostia began to protest.

Sarah stood up, leaning on her cot for support. She'd never felt so weak. She moved to take a step, but Anacostia stopped her.

"You're not going anywhere."

"I won't just lay here while the military's most valuable asset, one of my daughters, is in the hands of the enemy."

Anacostia held her ground. "And if you set foot outside of this room, we cannot guarantee you won't be hit with an immediate attack."

Sarah hung her head, sighing heavily, and sat back down. She gave Anacostia an exasperated look. Then the door opened, and Sarah's day got a whole lot fucking worse.

General Bellweather entered the room, and Sarah did her best to stand back up. She used the cot for support once more as she turned to face the woman.

"Any word on Collar?" she asked roughly.

"Not yet. Transport's on their way to pick Craven up."

Sarah could sense there was more. "What else?"

"The Vice President is here for you, General, for the joint statement about the testing centers."

She completely forgot about that. Goddess this wasn't her day.

"I suppose I've been preoccupied. Clearly, we need to delay it," Alder told her.

Petra cautiously nodded. "His office is holding firm. They don't want the nation stewing any longer than she needs to about what happens next."

"We can't hold it down here in the warding circle—"

"Not without revealing its existence to the entire world. Including the Spree that attacked you…"

Rage bubbled in Sarah's chest and she stood to her full height. "They should see that they failed!"

Anacostia reached out and held firm to her, keeping her steady.

"We can't risk exposing you, or the Biddies, to anyone until the situation has been resolved." Petra smirked.

Alder ground her teeth. Petra ought to thank the Goddess that she didn't have her full voice.

"And how do we, plan on resolving it?" Alder tensely asked. "I can't stay down here forever."

Anacostia interrupted, seeing that the situation was growing quickly. "We are working on it," she assured.

Alder fixed her gaze on Anacostia. "Work fast, then."

Anacostia took hold of her arm, helping to hold her up with as much support as she could. The tension in the room dissipated some, but only some.

"I've prepared a statement," she told Petra. "Join the Vice President in my place. Tell his office I'm occupied with a classified matter."

Petra nodded and looked at Anacostia a moment before she turned to exit the room. Once she had, Alder slumped down into the cot, guided by Anacostia's hands. Her throat hurt more than she was letting on. It felt raw and she could taste some blood every time she swallowed.

She couldn't help but feel as though she just handed Petra a bomb.

"Tally," Sarah murmured to Anacostia, her eyes pleading.

The Sergeant nodded and turned on her heel, quickly moving from the room and leaving Sarah alone with her biddies.

As soon as the door clicked shut, she screamed behind clenched teeth. All the frustration, anger, helplessness—pouring into her voice. The biddies hissed in time with Sarah's scream, and she backed off in an attempt to keep them from more harm.

Tears rolled down her face as she allowed herself to grieve.

 


 

Tally had never had a worse sore throat. What made matters even worse was that no one knew where Raelle had been taken, and she couldn't feel the connection to Sarah. Her nerves were shot, but thankfully additional witches had been dispatched to survey the scene, find a trail for Raelle, and get Tally back to base immediately.

The group that extracted her seemed highly confused by Tally's high priority status. She had overheard them talking on the way back. Apparently her extraction came directly from the General, but had been delivered by Anacostia.

That was all the confirmation Tally needed that something was very wrong. She couldn't feel Sarah, and she briefly mused that this must have been how Sarah felt when she couldn't feel her. It was the most hopeless feeling she'd ever felt, and coupled with Raelle's abduction, it was like she was treading water. She held her bag to her chest, eyes peering in and focusing on Sarah's quilt. She rested her head against it, inhaling the scent and trying to calm her anxiousness.

Arriving back at base was a blur, Tally had been greeted by a stoic Anacostia, who only dropped the facade when she and Tally were alone and descending numerous stairs.

"Is she alive?" Tally finally asked, her voice tight with emotion.

"Yes," Anacostia answered immediately.

That brought immense relief to Tally.

"You can't feel her?" Anacostia questioned with concern.

Tally shook her head, her eyes wide with worry. "No I can't and—"

"We are heading there now." She put an arm around Tally as they picked up their pace.

When they reached the bunker, she immediately noticed the warding circle. Sarah was laying down as a fixer worked on her throat. Each of the biddies had their own fixer working on them, and they were all conscious.

"Sarah," Tally choked out, stepping over the circle line and rushing to Sarah's side.

Alder had instantly sat up, swatted the fixer's hand away, and looked at Tally with visible, heart-wrenching relief.

The fixers regarded her with confusion, but said nothing as Alder didn't reprimand her for it. Sarah glanced over at Anacostia and gave a nod.

"Everyone out," Anacostia yelled out to everyone, urging the fixers and any other personnel from the room.

"Tally," Sarah breathed, voice still raspy despite the revolving door of healers that came through.

Tally reached out and touched Sarah's face and the connection soared back to life, making them both gasp.

Sarah pulled her into her arms and held tight. Her right hand tangled in Tally's hair, lightly touching the courtship braid and beads, as her left resided possessively around her lower back.

She went to speak, but before she could, Tally had shaken her head and kissed her firmly.

"Don't try to speak, you're still injured," Tally murmured against her chapped lips before kissing them again.

Sarah could feel the tears against her skin, but she could care less. Tally was here. She could feel their connection fully now, and she settled into the feeling of wholeness once more.

"I'm never leaving your side again," Tally told her seriously. Her hand cupped Sarah's cheek and stroked it. "What happened?"

"We were looking at a specimen of the witch plague. My throat suddenly felt on fire." She sent flashes of the memory through the link.

Tally's eyes widened in horror at the sight of Sarah spasming on the ground, scorched vocal cords roaring as fire burned them, as well as her biddies.

Tally leaned down, touching her forehead to Sarah's and then placing a soft kiss to her lips.

Tally caught the waves of guilt from Sarah and she looked at her questioningly. "Why are you feeling guilty? None of this is your fault."

Sarah's eyes…so much sadness in them as she spoke through the link, "I should have sent another detail for you both."

"Sarah, you couldn't have known," Tally told her seriously as she stroked her cheek.

They both were aware that the fixers would probably have suspicions from their informality before leaving, but Sarah was feeling too defeated to care.

She'd been attacked in her own fort by a faction of very irritating witches, and one of her daughters had been abducted by her ancient enemies. She was having a hell of a week and it was beginning to really piss her off.

She coughed, needing to clear her throat, and flinched when the pain ran through her.

Tally winced as well and Sarah immediately noticed.

"Did you feel this?" Sarah asked through the link, gesturing to her throat.

"Yes."

Electricity crackled in the room. Despite being deep underground, it seemed Sarah was more than capable of summoning a powerful working without her voice.

"I'm okay," Tally assured as she took Sarah's hand and kissed it.

"Yes and I thank the Goddess for that but, Tally, you were injured despite you not being the target. I put you at risk."

Tally's eyebrows rose as she felt all the feelings flying through Sarah.

"Do you regret this then?" she asked, wounded, as she felt Sarah's pain. She couldn't really decipher what Sarah was feeling, and the thought of her regretting their connection had Tally's stomach twisting in painful knots.

Blue eyes widened, then softened as she reached up and cupped Tally's face. "No. Never. I just am pained that you are at risk. It is one thing to put ourselves in the line of fire but it is another entirely to have loved ones affected as well."

Tally's heart sped up at that. She felt warmth bloom in her chest—but Sarah hadn't noticed her implication or Tally's loving gaze, as she was busy burning a hole in the ground suddenly with her eyes.

She was so angry for risking Tally. She was angry for Collar being taken by the Camarilla, and angry at herself for not handling Nicte and her work more carefully all those years ago. Had she not used the work against those rebels…perhaps none of this would be happening. Hindsight was a bitch.

"Sweetheart, could you give Anacostia and I a moment?" Sarah asked. "And have them bring another fixer."

Tally nodded at the requests and leaned in to place a kiss to Sarah's forehead. She held tight to the connection as she turned and left the room.

Anacostia watched her go, and then her gaze returned to Sarah.

"She—," Alder began hoarsely before needing to take a drink of water. It didn't help the pain, but she pressed on. "She needs protected."

Anacostia nodded quickly and moved to stand in front of Sarah before she dropped to her knees. She looked up at her foster mother and grasped her hands.

"You know I will." Anacostia gave her hands a squeeze.

"Collar," Sarah rasped out. It hurt too much to speak, and she hoped Anacostia would understand.

"We'll find her. No update yet. But, Bellweather doesn't know. It seems she skipped out on her matchmaking dinner with Adil."

Alder couldn't help but smile slightly at that.

"We have MPs looking for them as well."

Sarah nodded, relaxing more at the knowledge that she was able to rely on Anacostia to act in her stead. She raised their clasped hands and met Anacostia's gaze. She tried her damndest to show her how proud she was of the woman she had become. Tears welled in her eyes, and when the same happened in Anacostia's she knew she had succeeded. She leaned forward and they touched foreheads—something that made them both more emotional. Sarah couldn't remember the last time she openly showed Anacostia this much affection, but she was determined it not be the last.

There was a knock on the door before it opened and Tally, Verger, and a new fixer entered the room. Anacostia left the circle to join the others outside of it, setting to work on constructing more protective barriers, and checking those in place.

"Who do you think did this?" Tally asked as she sat down on the bed next to Sarah.

"A powerful witch," Sarah thought. "If I had to give a name though…"

"Nicte," came Tally's immediate answer.

Sarah nodded. "What is concerning is that she was able to get through the warding of the base. Which means that she has more allies inside Fort Salem than we thought."

The unease of the situation made Tally's stomach churn unpleasantly.

"Cadet Craven," Verger called from outside the circle. "Could you come here a moment?"

Tally stood and approached, carefully stepping outside of the warding circle.

Sarah could hear a little of the conversation, Verger was having Tally use her sight to check the room and the barriers. Tally looked well rested despite being separated for a few days. Sarah smiled as she reflected on it. She had meditated, as promised, each night to join Tally in her dreams. Each night she showed her something happy from her life—the good moments and glory that kept her going through all the bloodshed and warfare. Her fixer stepped back to take a break—the poor girl already looked so drained. She knew the damage to her cords was bad…but this was another thing entirely.

A cold despair sat in her stomach as she worried that she may never regain her voice. That thought filled her with dread.

Her throat burned a little again, and she couldn't help but glance in Tally's direction—seeing her staring back with worried brown eyes as she felt Sarah's fear. She should shield her from it; keep it buried deep beneath so that no one would know how terrified she was.

Sarah only had a moment before horrible pain began wracking her body.

"It's happening again," she rasped out.

She screamed—voice already raw from the earlier injury. She fell on her knees, only to be suddenly ripped backwards—back arching as her arm rose to hang spread apart above her head.

Pure terror encapsulated the room. The warding circle was intact and Sarah, and her biddies, were the only ones inside of it. There was no reason why an attack should be able to happen. Sarah floated in the air, nearly star fished as she cried out. The biddies were being affected as well, each of them crying in pain as Sarah was attacked.

Tally was terrified but she needed to focus. She looked to Anacostia and Verger—both of them had tried to sing a seed, only for it to not work.

"This shouldn't be possible, not within the warding circle," Verger told them.

Tally's eyes swept over the biddies—catching the wisps of magic that tied each of them to Sarah. It was whitish blue and it only took a moment for Tally to see a very red aura extending from one biddy. The magic was red with black tendrils licking along the connection and holding Sarah suspended in the air.

Tally released a seed, knocking the biddy backwards and out of the circle. The attack ceased at once, and Sarah fell limply to the ground. Tally held the biddy's gaze, unable to look away. She could've sworn she saw a face in those eyes. She looked harder, further. A cabin came into view and Tally got a rush of where it was before she reeled back and tore her eyes away.

"Sarah," Tally called as she quickly slid to the floor beside her and pulled her into her arms. Her eyes remained trained on the traitorous biddy. She could feel Sarah's anger and hurt at the betrayal, and if Tally was being honest—she was feeling betrayed as well.

"How dare you," Sarah seethed through her pain as she sat up. Her blue eyes were cold and hard as she glared Michelle down. "Get her out of here."

Anacostia called for additional soldiers, and they swiftly entered the room and took the biddy away.

"So much betrayal from everyone," Sarah breathed painfully. Goddess, have I really failed witchkind so much?

"No," Tally interrupted in her mind.

Sarah turned her head to look at Tally above her. "Haven't I?" she questioned out loud. Her voice was rough as she asked.

"No," Tally told her firmly. "Sarah, you've done so much. So much that none of us can understand the scope, the sacrifice…the pain…" Tally gently held her face. "We are here and living and breathing. We aren't in hiding because of you, our numbers aren't nearly nonexistent because of you, we have a place in the world because of you...this witch's place…" she paused, allowing the use of Sarah's own words on her conscription day. "Remember that every time you feel this way…and if you can't, I'll be there to remind you as much as you need."

Sarah felt the tears lick at her once more and she sucked in a breath through her teeth as Tally helped her stand. She was going to need at least half a bottle of whiskey to numb the aches.

Anacostia approached quickly. "General, Collar has been collected. Just got the call."

Tally's eyes swam with happy, relieved tears. She was okay.

"Who found her?" Sarah asked hoarsely.

"Abigail and Adil, actually. It seems they were tracking the Camarilla for a different reason and found her. They're on the way back right now," Anacostia told them happily.

Verger approached then, carefully stepping over the warding circle and minding her cane.

"Craven," Verger addressed. "What did it look like?"

Tally looked up. "It was red, with black attached to it. And I…I felt something—someone on the other end."

"It was sympathetic magic," Verger said. "The caster was working through another, one that was close to the General and able to harm her."

"It must be Nicte," Sarah groused. Batan was always a thorn in her side but now even more so.

"There's something else," Tally told them. "I saw someone through Michelle when I was looking. I think I know where she is."

Sarah watched her closely. "You want to go on the mission, don't you?" Her voice was pained as she asked.

Tally nodded.

And that was the first time anyone in the room had seen Sarah visibly crack with emotion. Her eyes were pleading—red from the pain and crying; her heart clenched painfully at the thought of Tally in harm's way, even though she knew rationally she couldn't just keep her on base with her where it was safe…well…

Tally had stepped into her space and held her face in her hands. Those warm brown eyes caressed her blue, and she just wanted to get lost in them. She didn't want Tally to go, but she knew—she felt—how important this was to Tally.

"As you wish," Sarah answered her finally as she turned her head to the side to kiss the palm of Tally's hand. "As soon as Collar and Bellweather return and are briefed, we will set the deployment time."

Tally poured her gratitude through the link. They both knew Alder wasn't fit to go into battle this soon after the attack, and she was down a biddy. She was sidelined for this fight. It would be up to her unit and whoever else they sent along.

Chapter Text

Abigail, Adil, and Raelle had arrived back on base just a few hours later. Adil was sent off to his quarters while the two girls were sent to Alder. They were all brought down to the warding circle as a precaution. General Alder had remained silent and stoic as Abigail and Raelle told them everything—at Tally's behest. It had made Alder smile at the way Tally was able to make everyone be as honest and open as she was. It was truly remarkable.

Rae was okay, but a bit shaken after the whole ordeal. She had told them all what happened, and how they killed her multiple times and each time the Mycelium brought her back. She told them about her mother showing up; how she'd been with the Spree all this time; how she had sacrificed herself to save her but had abandoned her.

At that, Alder had moved to Raelle and clasped her shoulder—giving it a squeeze and hoping that she was conveying her sentiment without words. And Raelle surprised everyone when her tears fell and she began to sob.

Sarah had pulled her in, wrapping her arms around her and rubbing her back soothingly. Raelle's head was pressed against Sarah's chest as she sobbed—earning a worried look from all the women in the room.

"I understand the pain of losing a mother, and I am sorry that you had to experience it twice, Raelle." Alder gently pushed Raelle away some so that she could look her in the eyes. "Your mother loved you, daughter. Allow that to bring you whatever comfort it can."

Raelle had released a shaky breath before Anacostia came over and wrapped Raelle up in her arms, followed by Abigail, and then Tally.

Abigail had told everyone what she and Adil were up to when they discovered Raelle. Alder wasn't pleased that Abigail and Adil had put themselves in danger. It was reckless, and Alder told her as much. However, she also expressed her gratitude for bringing Raelle back safe, and destroying the Camarilla hideout as well. A bonus in Alder's opinion.

She then debriefed them on the Batan situation. They would be departing at 0500 tomorrow with three more units, totaling their battalion to nine. They were to present an opportunity for peace and to temporarily join forces; if Nicte refused, which was highly likely, they were to capture her and bring her back to Fort Salem. Alder stressed the importance of being on their guard at all times, as well as how Nicte has a penchant for mind games. She urged them to be careful before dismissing them.

They had eaten dinner as a unit—supporting each other and talking about the day to come. When it was time to retire, Tally bid them night before heading to Alder's quarters. She was anxious to be in her arms.

When she entered the bedroom. Alder was sitting on the bed, shirtless, with her head in her hands.

"Sarah," Tally addressed softly as she took a seat next to the older woman. Tally guided her back gently to lay down before joining her and pulling Sarah close to lay on her chest.

Both of them released relieved sighs at their closeness—and then Sarah released a choked sob.

The events finally caught up with her and she allowed herself the comfort of Tally's arms while she cried all of her hurt and anger out. The betrayal of her biddy hit her hard—and she had felt so powerless being trapped in the warding circle with her cords burned.

They'd dozed off for a few hours, waking around 0330 and laying together in silence, wrapped around each other.

"How are you feeling?" Tally finally asked, breaking the silence that they've been in.

"Physically I feel better," Sarah replied before scooting up and laying her head next to Tally's. She brushed some hair from Tally's face. "Mentally and emotionally…"

Tally knew that, of course. She could feel how deep the turmoil and tiredness went. She leaned in and kissed Sarah softly, content to take her lips with her own and caress them for as long as she could—which Sarah was more than happy to oblige.

When they finally broke for air, Sarah pressed her forehead against Tally's. "I was worried about you when I heard Raelle had been abducted. I could feel you through the connection but it was…hard. It was like you were blocking me out."

Tally's eyes widened. "I couldn't feel you at all, I was so scared that maybe I wasn't able to feel you because of it."

Sarah hummed in understanding. "That's very possible." She gently stroked Tally's lower lip with her thumb. "There is one more thing to be concerned about though."

"What?"

"Nicte Batan knows who you are, and who you are to me specifically," Sarah said ruefully. "She had access to a biddy, of course she would receive all sorts of reports."

"I know the risks," Tally started.

"Batan will most likely use me in her mind game with you. Whatever you do, Tally, don't allow her to get to you." Sarah cupped her cheek. "Pay attention to every detail. If she gets in your head and has you see things, look at everything. Not everything can be in a proper place. It could even be words."

"So high alert," Tally replied.

Sarah nodded.

"Um," Tally began hesitantly, "would you hold me?"

Sarah couldn't help the soft smile that spread across her face. "Of course, darling."

Sarah moved onto her back as Tally wrapped herself around the side of her body. Her head rested comfortably on Sarah's chest, and she could feel how much Tally enjoyed listening to her heart beat in her chest. A sign she was alive and okay.

"How are you feeling?" Sarah murmured against Tally's head.

"Nervous for the mission. Scared to leave you. Still a little shaken from you being attacked," Tally told her as she snuggled her face into Sarah's chest more.

"You will have your unit mates with you and I know that you'll protect each other. I will be okay. The traitor was found, and they are already briefing the new biddy to be. As terrible as it was for me...I am so sorry that you had to see it. I can't imagine it looked any better than it felt." She kissed the top of Tally's head and held on a little tighter.

"I'm just glad I was there," Tally said softly. She could feel a tear fall from her eye to Sarah's chest, and the General's arms tightened around her.

"I as well."

The deployment time came quickly for them. They hadn't gotten any more sleep, and had quickly dressed before heading outside to meet the others near the helicopters.

Everyone was present and while Tally met up with Rae and Abigail, Alder moved to the two other units and checked in with them.

When she approached their group, the other two teams were already in their bats and waiting for the signal to depart.

"Look out for each other and stay close. Nicte is extremely dangerous with her mind games," Sarah called over the whirring of the blades. "Miss Ramshorn is meeting you all at the drop point. Sergeant Quartermaine sent word to her."

The unit nodded in tandem.

"All of you, come back safe," Alder said firmly. "That's an order."

"Yes, General," came the swift replies.

Before she signaled them to leave, she reached out and grasped Tally's hand. Her eyes silently pleaded for her to be careful, and they exchanged waves of comfort through their connection.

They parted and Alder gave the signal, watching as the bats all departed—leaving her and her biddies behind.

 


 

"Stay alert and follow our lead," the squad leader told everyone.

They began combing through the forest, all on high alert and moving slowly but surely. Scylla had appeared shortly after they had landed. To say things were a little tense between her and Rae was an understatement—Tally could feel the tension wafting off them, and briefly wondered if this was how they felt with her and Alder.

"There's something there," Tally told them. She pointed to a thicket of branches high up in a tree.

Once they drew nearer, the sound of flapping could be heard as a swarm of bats burst from the tree. They swooped low, screeching as they wrapped around each of the members before departing.

"I fucking hate bats," one of the witches growled.

"Keep moving!" the squad leader yelled.

"Something isn't right," Tally murmured. She felt...off.

It was like there was magic around her, but she couldn't see it. She turned to ask Raelle and Abigail, finding them nowhere near her.

When she turned back around, she was in General Alder's office.

She could have sworn she was out on a mission...wasn't she?

"Cadet Craven," Alder addressed as she stood from her desk.

Her hair was loose from the braid, cascading down her back in rich dark waves. Blue eyes held her brown for a moment before flickering down to her lips.

Tally went to speak, to ask Sarah what she was talking about...it was weird she was calling her Cadet Craven when they were completely alone in the office. She wanted to ask what was going on but decided to hold steady.

"I called you here to discuss your insubordination," Alder told her as she rounded the desk.

Insubordination? Tally thought. That was definitely weird.

Alder approached, coming to stop in front of her. Tally could feel her body heat from the closeness, and she wanted to just fall into her arms. But the look in Alder's eyes...it was...hollow—almost cold.

Since they'd been together, she hadn't looked at her with anything other than warmth—and seeing the cold look in her eyes sent a wave of anguish through her body. Had she really done something wrong to deserve that look?

She reached out through the connection, to feel whatever Sarah was feeling...and she felt nothing.

Panic set in. This wasn't Alder. It wasn't real.

"Nicte," Tally stated firmly. "This is Nicte's work."

"Well aren't you a smart little Knower. I can see why Sarah is so enamored with you," Nicte said through the fake Alder.

The vision dissipated quickly, and Tally suddenly came to. She was laying on the ground, barely able to breathe due to her scourge wrapped around her neck. She managed to rip it off and tossed it to the side for the moment as she caught her breath.

Pure fear was flowing into her and it took her a moment to realize it wasn't her own.

Sarah.

"Tally!"

"I'm here," Tally responded, still catching her breath.

Relief flooded her immediately.

"What happened?" Sarah demanded.

"Nicte's mind game. I'm okay"

"Find the others!"

Then she felt the connection close off.

Tally knew that Sarah was paying attention still, but hoping to remain just enough underneath the surface that Nicte wouldn't notice. She didn't waste any time as she jumped up and grabbed her weapon. She could hear noise to her right and ran for it. When she broke through a thicket, there was Abigail floating off the ground, controlling some weather working of tornadoes.

Raelle and Scylla were beneath her, yelling upward for her to stop.

Tally threw her scourge out to wrap around Abigail's ankle, and she tugged. Abigail flew downward, landing on the ground with a thud as the tornadoes disappeared. When her eyes blinked open to stare up at Raelle, Scylla, and Tally—who had rushed to her side—they were wide with recognition.

"Nicte?" Abigail asked, voice raspy as Raelle and Tally helped her to her feet.

"We need to find the rest of the squad," Tally told their group.

She could tell that they were all shaken from the experience. Abigail looked gaunt, Raelle had tears in her eyes still, and Tally—well, she was more shaken than she was letting on. The ease with which the hallucination began…seamless…that had her worried.

They set back through the woods, trying to find the others. Then they spotted them.

All six of the members were lying dead on the forest floor. Some bore knife wounds from where they slit their own throats, others had their scourges wrapped around their necks...Tally instinctively touched her own at the sight.

"They're all dead," Abigail murmured, crestfallen at the loss.

"We need to continue on," Raelle told them. "We have to at least try."

"The working is in the bats. We keep an eye out for those...we should be able to take them out," Scylla told them.

The other three nodded their agreement.

Tally could feel a surge of emotions go through her, but she stamped them down and put all of her focus on the task at hand.

It wasn't long until they spotted a few more bats and immediately set to destroying them. They spotted the cabin up ahead in the clearing and they all shared a glance before they slowly approached.

"Tally, do you see anything?" Abigail asked quietly.

Tally focused on the cabin. "The source is definitely in there...but I can't get a sense of it."

They approached cautiously, taking a moment before they all entered.

A man was slumped in a chair, his head tilted back with a solidified matter cascading down his front. Then they noticed the woman that was strung up, star fished, with her limbs extended unnaturally.

"This was where she tried to kill Sarah," Tally told them quietly.

"Oh no no no. I told him not to go," Scylla murmured mournfully as she approached the dead man in the chair. "I told him this wasn't his fight. He shouldn't have come here."

It didn't take long for the cabin to come alive. Before Tally could really process what was happening, Abigail had immediately jumped on Scylla's words.

"He was Spree. He got what was coming to him, and you will too," Abigail said seriously.

Raelle stepped closer. "We wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for her. She woke me from the mindfuck Nicte caused. Back off," she defended. She stood in front of Abigail.

"Yeah, well you wouldn't be alive if it weren't for Adil and I breaking into that Camarilla lab," Abigail shot back, coming to stand right in front of Raelle.

"Guys," Tally warned carefully between them.

"You weren't there for me! You swooped in right at the end and tried to take all the credit. Typical Bellweather."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Abigail growled.

"Guys, come on," Tally pleaded.

"Tally, quit whining," Raelle shot before looking back at Abigail. "What it means is you constantly putting yourself in the spotlight and trying to remind everyone how fancy your name is. But that's all it is, just a name."

"You want to talk about names? Yours was worthless even before your mother joined the Spree. It took a bunch of fungus to make you stand out from the crowd," Abigail retorted, stepping closer.

"I knew you were still mad about that."

"Not mad. I feel sorry for you. The Witchbomb is all you have, and it's not even yours. No wonder your mother abandoned you."

Tally pushed herself between the two. "Abigail, think about what you're saying."

Abigail rounded on her and pushed her back. "I'm so sick of your prattling peacemaker bullshit!"

"My mother loved me," Raelle interrupted, pushing her way past Tally. "She died for me. But you wouldn't know anything about that. Because the only value you have to your mother is your womb!"

"Stop it!" Tally yelled, pushing them apart. "We have to find Nicte."

"It's your fault we're even on this mission!" Abigail shot. "You're so self-absorbed, Tally."

At this, Scylla finally spoke up. "Says the most self-absorbed person on the planet."

Abigail moved then, engaging in hand to hand combat with Scylla. It didn't take long before Raelle joined in.

Tally watched them, defeated and pissed. She could hear a subtle sound...like a scratching noise...almost a screech.

Her eyes glanced around the cabin, and then she saw it. There was a black tendril of magic flickering around the room and leading outside.

"Screw this. You can tear each other apart. I'm going to find Nicte," Tally said to no one in particular as the three others fought amongst themselves.

She exited the cabin, releasing a heavy breath as she felt the influence of the cabin leave her body.

She looked around, catching the tendril working its way through the trees. She followed it carefully until she came to an open patch in the woods.

"Well well well, if it isn't Sarah's most coveted possession, Tally Craven," Nicte said. She appeared from behind a tree, and leaned against it.

"Nicte," Tally stated.

"I admit, I was surprised when Sarah sent you on this mission. I would've thought for sure that she wouldn't let you go. She has a way of keeping her playthings wrapped around her finger."

Tally bristled at that. She knew she wasn't a plaything to Sarah, but it still stung.

"How would you know that?" Tally asked, voice even.

"Because I was one, Tally," Nicte answered with a smirk. "I did everything for her. I didn't question a single order. I trusted her with my work. I trusted her with my life. How did she repay me? She murdered innocent witches."

Tally remained mute.

"Oh. Did she not tell you about them?" Nicte smiled eerily.

Of course Tally knew. Sarah had showed her, willingly...but Nicte seemed to be under the impression that Sarah never did.

"So, what, you're jaded because she didn't want you?" Tally pressed.

Nicte's eyes hardened. "I did everything for her. And once she had what she wanted she discarded me. She'll do the same to you, make no mistake."

Tally took a breath. "Nicte, we aren't here to kill you."

At this, Nicte seemed surprised. Then realization fell over her face. "Oh so you're here to capture me and take me back so I can be executed?" She laughed.

"Wrong again," Tally corrected. A smirk played on her lips now. "For someone who claims to know Alder so well, you don't seem to know her at all."

Nicte said nothing, merely waiting for what came next.

"She sent us on this mission to extend an olive branch. The Camarilla are gathering in numbers that...are very concerning. We need to work together against them. If we don't...it doesn't matter to them whether we are dodgers, Spree, or Army—they want us all eradicated."

Nicte hummed thoughtfully. "I know that. What ancient enemy did you think we were trying to warn you about? This sounds more like I might have the great General Sarah Alder on the ropes. Probably shook her up after trying to kill her. How is she by the way?"

Tally snorted and it elicited a questioning eyebrow from Nicte.

"She already decided we needed to have a temporary truce to take out the Camarilla before you tried to kill her…and her decision hasn't changed," Tally explained.

Nicte actually seemed conflicted about that information.

"You already killed the rest of our squad…all witches, Nicte. We're all on the same side when it comes to the Camarilla. You know they don't care what side we are on, because the only good witch is a dead witch to them," she pressed. "I know that working with the Army…and Alder, in particular, isn't ideal—but I know it's necessary if we want to survive."

Nicte tapped her lip as she mulled it over. "Or I could just hurt Sarah and kill you and the rest of your unit and worry about the Camarilla myself." An eerie grin fell across her face. "I think I like that option."

She threw a knife and Tally managed to dodge just in time. She wasn't even sure how her reflexes were that fast but she wasn't going to complain. She made a run for her, throwing her scourge out to land a blow—only for Nicte to roll out of the way at the last moment.

They met in hand to hand combat and Tally quickly realized she was out of her depth here. A flash of panic went through her as they continued to fight. She somehow managed to block Nicte's next swing, and flipped her over onto the ground. She needed to knock her out, but she wasn't sure how that would work out. So she grabbed a nearby rock and used it as a weapon when Nicte attacked next. She managed to hit her across the face with it and the witch dropped to the ground.

Tally breathed a sigh of relief. If Nicte was unconscious, the work in the cabin would stop and her unit could get themselves together. She could hear them call for her in the distance, and turned to call back to them.

Then everything went black.

 


 

This was by far the worst thing Tally could've imagined happening. She was beneath a scold's bridle, feeling very distraught—as Nicte sat next to her unit wearing her face.

She had only looked away for a moment after she knocked Nicte down, but the witch hadn't been knocked unconscious. When Tally turned, the Spree witch had jumped up and knocked her out, and clearly stole her face while she was out.

She looked down at hands that weren't her own, shaking and trying to not allow herself to cry. Sarah would know. She would be able to tell. Right?

Tally had tried to reach through the connection for her, but it bounced back. It seemed anytime she was distressed she couldn't get through her own block to feel Sarah. This only made her more upset. Not only had she gotten knocked out and had her face stolen, but now she couldn't even open the connection.

She was feeling like a massive failure.

She had tried to warn Rae and Abigail when they hauled her into the bat, but Nicte—appearing as Tally—had shushed her and made it clear that she wasn't to speak.

When they had arrived back on base, she could see that Sarah was there with her biddies, a few soldiers, and General Bellweather at her side.

She tried again—still blocked.

Tears clung to her eyes as she was hauled out of the bat.

Sarah's eyes quickly fell on Tally—who she thought was Tally. Relief was evident on her face, and then there was confusion written all over it.

Tally internally cried out in joy. Sarah knew it wasn't her.

"This is truly a joyous occasion," Alder said loudly. "Nicte Batan, leader of the Spree, is now in our custody. I want to thank our soldiers, both those here and gone, for their service and sacrifice."

Tally struggled against her restraints and cried out—the sound muffled by the bridle.

It drew Sarah's attention.

Tally watched the realization flash in Sarah's eyes—so quickly that she was sure she was the only one that noticed.

Thank Goddess, Tally thought to herself. Her heart was racing as she waited for what would come next.

Sarah's eyes moved to Tally's impersonator.

"Cadet Craven," Alder addressed as she carefully descended the stairs. Her hands were clasped behind her back as she moved to the real Nicte. "I want to thank you for your bravery in capturing Batan."

As soon as her impostor moved, Sarah had easily sidestepped the attack and grabbed her arm, flipping her down to the ground and pinning her, much like Tally had done earlier.

A laugh left Tally's mouth that wasn't her own as a lighter was held to her face—burning away the façade to reveal Nicte. A gasp went through the small crowd.

"Hello, Sarah, you're looking surprisingly well," Nicte said with a manic look in her eyes.

"Tally?" Abigail and Raelle cried out as they spun to quickly take off the bridle from her.

She felt a warm sensation all over her and looked down to see Nicte's appearance melt away from her.

"Restrain her," Alder barked to the nearest soldier, eyes never leaving Batan's.

"Miss me?" Nicte asked with a smug grin.

Alder snarled as she stood and allowed the soldiers to place a gag over Nicte's mouth. She wasn't sure where the scold's bridle came from…she abhorred those things. A gag sufficed well enough.

She moved to Tally immediately, who had tears running down her face and marks on her skin from where the bridle had sat. She also had a bloody wound on her head from where Nicte hit her to knock her out. The blood was dried but clumped amongst her hair. Sarah wanted to reach out and pull her against her, but there was an audience.

"Take Batan to a cell. Collar, Bellweather, Craven, with me for debriefing, now," Alder ordered before turning and walking back to her biddies.

The trio followed after her without saying another word. Her shoulders were tight with tension. She hadn't been able to feel Tally, and when she saw her emerge from the bat—relief had flooded her…until she looked in Tally's eyes. Gone was the warmth that she was used to. There was no fondness in those eyes, only cold hatred.

She knew then it wasn't Tally, but another one of Nicte's tricks.

Her biddies, all seven of them—she'd received her replacement not long after the unit had departed—followed diligently behind her as they all filed into her office. She turned and stood facing the door, waiting for everyone to enter.

As soon as the door clicked shut, Sarah moved to Tally and pulled her into her arms.

"Tally," Sarah breathed out.

Their connection thrummed to life and a sob escaped Tally at the feelings surging through their connection. Sarah had been so scared…and that had sent Tally reeling. The General never seemed afraid, ever…but she was completely terrified of something happening to Tally.

"Sarah," Tally sobbed out as she buried her head into the older woman's neck.

"Tell me everything," Sarah ordered the other two as she stroked Tally's back.

They didn't waste any time, explaining everything that had happened that they were aware of. When they trailed off after finding Tally and an unconscious Nicte, Tally spoke from her place against Sarah's neck.

Sarah listened as Tally told her the events, including the mind game Nicte chose for her…she also replayed the memories for her so she could see everything and hear every word Nicte told her.

"You've done well. Get some rest, cadets," Alder ordered the other two. "I'll take it from here."

Raelle and Abigail placed their hands on Tally's shoulders, told her they love her, and then left them alone in the office.

Sarah dismissed the biddies as she held Tally close.

"I was so scared," Tally admitted once they were alone. "I can't believe I let her get the jump on me. I'm so so sorry, General."

Sarah pulled back to regard Tally—confused at the formality. She smiled softly at her as she gently cupped her cheek.

"Darling, look at me," she requested, hoping the affectionate term would ease some of Tally's pain.

When brown eyes opened to meet hers—flooded with tears and insecurity, she felt her heart clench painfully.

"Tally, I am in no way disappointed in you. You did so well. If anything I should be apologizing to you. I should have sent more units with you."

Tally shook her head. "They all would have died too most likely."

"Regardless," Sarah began, "I am sorry I couldn't be there with you. But, Tally, you've made me so proud."

Tally's teary eyes widened. "I have?"

Sarah couldn't help but chuckle. "Yes, sweetheart. You managed to take on the leader of the Spree by yourself. It may not have gone the way it was planned, but you freed your unit mates from Nicte's work in that cabin, and you managed to disarm her. You three haven't even finished your first year of War College…and yet here I am sending you on missions that even experienced soldiers didn't come back from, because you three are so capable and formidable as a unit. You three are powerful. And, as your General, I am so proud of the soldiers you've become." She slid her hands down Tally's arms to grasp her hands. She raised them to her lips and kissed her knuckles.

"Thank you," Tally whispered, a small smile on her lips.

"And, as Sarah, I am proud to call you mine, simply because of who you are. All the other things are merely bonuses."

Tally released a choked sob and fell back into Sarah's arms.

"You're safe now," Sarah murmured against her hair. She placed another kiss to her head.

They stood there for—Tally had no idea how long. But eventually, her sobs calmed and left her feeling incredibly drained. It was then that Sarah tilted her head up.

"Do you feel up for a short walk?" the General asked.

Tally nodded her head, and Sarah wrapped her arm around her waist to help support her as they walked out of the office.

Tally briefly worried about people seeing them like this when they left the room, but Sarah had sent waves of reassurance and warmth through the bond. As if to say, 'let them look.'

And people did. They were clearly curious as they watched a bloodied, dirty, Tally Craven, be led by General Sarah Alder, with her arm wrapped around her waist.

They entered the greenhouse then and Sarah escorted her over to a chair.

"I need to clean your wound. I'm not much of a fixer, but I figured it might be better if I was the one that was touching you," she told her as she began gathering some fresh herbs and tools.

Tally didn't bother with a verbal response this time. Frankly, her entire mouth ached from that damned bridle. Instead, she sent her appreciation through the bond. She really didn't want anyone but Sarah tending to her wounds.

Tally remained silent as Sarah set to gently cleaning the blood from her hair and around the wound on her head.

"It doesn't look bad," Sarah told her as she inspected it. "The blood always makes it look worse. Scalp lacerations bleed more than people think." She gathered some of the paste she made in her hand. "This is going to sting initially, but then you should begin feeling some relief."

Tally winced as a hiss of pain left her lips. Sarah hadn't lied—it did sting. But, shortly after, a warmth spread through the wound leaving it numb, and Tally sighed in relief.

"Now, the bridle wounds," Sarah murmured as she knelt down in front of Tally. "I will be as gentle as possible."

Tally nodded.

Sarah carefully touched the wounds as she gently cleaned them. The skin was rubbed fairly raw and she could feel anger stir in her belly. But she pushed it down as she tended to Tally.

"Where did you acquire the bridle?" Sarah asked as she began applying the poultice to the wounds around Tally's mouth. She certainly hadn't sent any of them off with one.

"Petra gave it to Abigail before we left," Tally said through the link.

Alder's hand stilled just before it touched Tally's face.

Tally couldn't just see the anger in Sarah's eyes, but could feel it coursing through her veins as if it was her own.

"She had no right," Sarah growled. "I'll be having words with her about that."

Tally leaned into Sarah's touch. The raw spots around her mouth definitely hurt, but everywhere Sarah touched seemed to be instantly soothed.

"I've never allowed the use of scold's bridles on any witch. I'm vehemently against them," she told her as she applied more of the paste to the corner of Tally's mouth. "Not only is it painful to wear, for even a short amount of time, but it is dehumanizing. I refuse to use devices made by witch hunters on our own kind, no matter they be friend or foe. It is why I outlawed their use."

Tally couldn't help but smile slightly at that.

Sarah noticed, stilling her hand before applying more of the paste to the other side of her mouth. "What is it?"

"You're good, Sarah. Nicte couldn't be more wrong about your heart," Tally told her.

Now, Sarah's eyes shimmered with tears. Those words meant more to her than—well…she supposed that Tally did know how much that meant for her to say.

A little flash of insecurity went through Tally, and Sarah didn't miss it as it went through the connection.

"What is it, darling?" Sarah asked as she applied the rest of the paste. "This needs to stay on you for at least an hour."

"Nicte…she said that I was just one of your play things…that she was one of them…" Tally explained.

She expected Sarah to be angry but instead her eyes were soft.

"I don't have play things," Sarah told her honestly. "I never did. I meant what I said before, Tally, I do not take this lightly…our relationship. I wasn't even going to give into it initially…but fighting it did more harm than good." She took Tally's hands in her own.

"So," Tally tried to speak. She wet her mouth and tried again, "Nicte lied."

"Yes," Sarah replied. "Nicte had a rather intense fascination with me. We worked well together on the battlefield. We knew each other's methods and fighting styles as well as our own. We were quite the sight fighting side by side. I had considered her a friend even…once." Sarah smiled sadly. "I didn't return her affections and that made her angry. Often times my methods only made her angrier. When I used her Work against the rebels…that was the final straw."

"I remember seeing you fight together in the memories. You're right about it being a sight. You seemed so in sync." Tally frowned a little.

Sarah hummed—a soft, knowing smile on her lips as she caught the brief flash of jealousy. "I also fought very well with a cadet in the Tarim. Exceptionally talented Knower. In the midst of a dust storm brought on by our ancient enemies, she called out their positions so that I could take them out. That was before she did me an even greater service," Sarah told her passionately, as if Tally hadn't been there for every moment.

Sarah made sure Tally could feel what she had felt fighting alongside Tally—the exhilaration, trust, power that it gave her; the deep respect and gratitude she felt when Tally offered herself; and then how Sarah felt the moment Tally became a biddy.

Tally was sporting a faint blush at the appreciation that willingly poured from Sarah. It was a heady feeling, and it brought her immense joy to know Sarah had felt those things before they had even linked.

"Would you do anything differently?" Tally asked after a few moments, referring to what happened that caused the formation of the Spree.

"If anyone else would ask me that, I would tell them no. I can't afford to second guess my decisions or worry about what might have been if I had chosen differently," she explained. "But for you? Yes. I would not have used Nicte's work against those rebels. I would have accepted their surrender. I would have allowed them to escape and hide. The penalty for dodging is worse than death. But that was long ago and unfortunately, being alive for so long allows you to see the consequences of your decisions…your mistakes." Sarah kissed Tally's hands.

"I know you know how much that means to me, to hear you say that," Tally told her with shining eyes.

"I know," Sarah answered as she stood from her kneeling position. "Come, let's finish getting you cleaned up."

She helped Tally stand from the chair and wrapped her arm back around her waist to lead her from the room.

"People are definitely staring," Tally said through the bond as they traversed the halls.

"Does it bother you?"

"No. I'm just worried about you. Petra…she seems to have her own agenda."

Sarah hummed her agreement as she opened the door to her office for them. When the door closed, she locked it and led them to their bedroom.

Sarah actually stopped in her tracks at the thought. She wasn't completely sure if it was her or Tally that had created it, maybe they both did. When she looked back to meet Tally's eyes, there was so much emotion swimming in her brown orbs.

Sarah tightened her arm around her waist and ushered them through the bedroom to the bathroom.

"You can undress while I ready the bath," Sarah told her as she set to running the water and plugging the tub. She was grateful to have a clawfoot tub in her quarters now more than ever.

Tally slowly stripped, taking added care to mind the paste on her wounds.

"Will you join me?" Tally asked as she shimmied out of her dirtied pants.

"Of course." Sarah added in a decent amount of Epsom salts. She knew how much Tally ached and wanted to make sure she could do as much as possible for her. She then added some lavender and eucalyptus bubble bath until there was enough.

When she finished, she turned and held her hands out for Tally to take. She helped her step into the tub, waiting until Tally sank into the bath before moving away. She began stripping—taking care to fold her jacket and pants before setting them to the side. When she was bare, she stepped into the tub behind Tally and sank into the water.

Tally leaned back against Sarah, sighing loudly as all the tension left her body. Sarah wrapped her arms around Tally's front and allowed her head to rest against the back of the tub.

They soaked in silence—just enjoying the warm water and being with each other.

"What're you going to do about Nicte?" Tally asked finally. She felt stable enough to ask. Being in the water and against Sarah was making her feel like a freshly boiled noodle.

Sarah chuckled as she caught the thought, then she sighed. "I'll present terms to her. If she has the Spree fight with us then we can offer her a deal…what that will entail I have no idea. Other than seeing me dead, I'm not sure what Nicte wants." Sarah reached for a washcloth and deposited it in the water before putting some soap on it.

"And if she doesn't accept?" Tally questioned.

Sarah began washing Tally's shoulders, lathering them as she mulled over her answer. "There won't be a trial."

Tally stiffened.

"Tally," Sarah pleaded tiredly. "Nicte will have to be executed. If this were some civilian I don't doubt the President wouldn't allow an execution to happen without trial. But something of this magnitude…she's killed so many innocent people, Tally."

Tally could feel Sarah's sadness at the thought.

"She is one of my daughters. As are all of you. Seeing any of my daughters take the lives of innocents…"

"But you did too," Tally murmured.

Sarah's hand stilled a moment before she brushed Tally's hair aside to wash her back. "I have. You are right. We are both guilty of that. Our reasons are different but—I do not doubt that Nicte fully believes that what she is doing is right…as do I. If it were up to me, I would have Nicte stand trial for her crimes and have her locked up for the rest of her days. The problem is that it will not be."

"Can't you reason with the President?" Tally pressed. She turned in the tub to meet the General's eyes. "Sarah, there's been enough death. Hasn't there?"

Sarah's gaze softened considerably—and Tally could feel the cause through the link. Again, Tally was forgetting that Sarah was hundreds of years old. She has seen and caused so much death and again and again, she does want it to just stop. But it doesn't. There is always something else that stands in the way. They may have a decade or two of peace, but without fail there is always another group that rises…or an old one thought to be extinct. Tally was looking through the world with a tiny lens. Sarah, on the other hand, had too far a wide one.

She had seen the same things happen each time. It was exhausting. But she also was able to protect those that depended on them, and that was worth all the death and blood that was shed.

Tally's head dropped, a feeling of shame going through her.

"Tally," Sarah said. She reached up and cupped Tally's chin, forcing her to meet her gaze. "I will fight for Nicte to be imprisoned, not executed, no matter what she decides."

Tally's eyes widened. She went to speak but Sarah shook her head.

"You continually question my decisions, and as infuriating as it can be," she said with a tender smile, "it keeps me honest…it keeps me human."

Tally smiled and leaned in, asking for a small kiss. Sarah obliged immediately, kissing Tally's lips softly and minding her injuries.

"I hate that we can't make out," Tally told her with a grimace.

Sarah chuckled. "As do I."

"I think I earned it," Tally whined.

Sarah laughed loudly before she gently kissed all over Tally's face, minding each of the wounds before she captured Tally's lips in another soft kiss.

"You certainly did," Sarah replied, voice filled with amusement. "Now, let me finish washing you so we can retire. I can feel how tired you are."

Tally conceded, allowing Sarah to continue her ministrations—she even massaged some of the sore muscles Tally had from the fight. By the time Sarah finished, Tally was struggling to not just pass out in the tub right there.

When they finished, Sarah stepped out of the tub first and grabbed a nearby towel. She quickly dried herself off before grabbing another and helping Tally from the bath, then drying her off as well.

"Sit," Sarah requested, pointing to the closed toilet lid.

Once Tally did, she carefully cleaned the paste from her face and head—inspecting the wounds as they were revealed.

"Perhaps I'm not too bad of a fixer," Sarah mused lightly. "Do they hurt?"

Tally worked her mouth a little before she beamed. "Not at all."

"Excellent. The marks are still a little visible so there may be some discomfort in the morning, but I can apply more of the paste then."

"Thank you," Tally told her sincerely.

Sarah's hands moved to undo the braid and remove the beads—placing them on the sink. She massaged the back of Tally's scalp some to loosen the strands of hair. Then she offered her hand to Tally.

She took Sarah's hand in her own and kissed it before she stood.

Both had forgone any sleepwear, deciding to just slide under the covers in nothing so that they could touch each other fully.

Sarah laid on her back before Tally curled against her side, resting her head on Sarah's chest.

Tally was out before Sarah could blink, and she followed after her shortly after.

Chapter Text

It had been a few days since the Batan mission. Sarah had avoided visiting the Spree leader until she had convened with the other Generals. Once she had, she was able to confront her former friend…something she had secretly been dreading.

"Where's your latest toy, Sarah? I thought for sure she would be at your side," Nicte said with a wicked grin.

Sarah's face remained stoic as she stood outside of the cell. They had warded it with every magical force they could think of, not wanting to take any chances.

"What Cadet Craven told you about me seeking a truce is true," Sarah told her earnestly. "The Camarilla are rising once again…you of all people should know how dangerous they are."

Nicte grimaced.

"Nicte," Sarah addressed carefully, watching the Spree leader's eyes shoot up to her own in surprise. "We need to work together. You should know I never extend olive branches unless absolutely necessary."

Nicte hummed her agreement, unable to deny that. "What's changed though? Had this happened when I still served, you'd never."

Sarah smiled softly. "Things have changed. Why—doesn't matter."

"It matters to me, though," Nicte replied, a glint in her eye. "I'll answer any and all of your questions…but I'll only answer them to Tally."

Sarah flushed with anger.

"Oh I see, you don't want me talking to your new squeeze. Are you afraid I'm going to tell her all of your secrets? Say, what happened in Liberia for example?"

At this, Alder smirked—and Nicte's face fell.

"Tally already knows, Nicte. You don't have any leverage on me," Alder told her simply. "I don't want her speaking to you because you trapped her in your image and made sure she wore that bridle…you know I despise those contraptions." Alder grimaced.

Nicte remained silent.

"I'll return with the cadet," Alder agreed before she turned on her heel and exited the room.

Her biddies trailed after her as she walked toward Tally. She knew they were in the middle of their combat training, something Sarah hadn't been too keen for Tally to return to so soon after the mission—but at Tally's behest that she couldn't play favorites…

Sarah sighed and smiled to herself. She knew she'd give Tally anything she asked for.

When she entered the room, the cadets were all paired off with sparring partners from their coven.

"General," M greeted, standing at attention.

Everyone else ceased what they were doing to address the General.

"At ease, all of you," Alder said. "I need to borrow Cadet Craven…but I'm also curious to see how you're all faring. So, please continue."

Tally shot her a smile before she resumed her sparring with Gregorio.

She'd gotten better, that much Sarah could tell. Then when she managed to flip Gregorio in a very Alder-like way, she blinked with surprise.

"You want to tap in, General?" M asked with a wry grin.

Alder looked at them and smirked. She hadn't actively participated in classes in centuries. After so long being on the earth, it became too painful to immerse herself with the others…knowing that she would outlive all of them.

She was going to say no when she saw another young man approach Tally and Gregorio…judging by the irritation she caught in the connection, as well as Gregorio's 'uh excuse you' face, the young man appeared to be hitting on Tally.

"Why not," Alder responded before turning around and unbuttoning her jacket. She handed it off to one of her biddies.

"Everyone, special moment here! General Alder is going to spar with us," M told them all.

There was a mix of excitement and intimidation through the room, but the sound of stomping boots echoed off the walls, shaking the floor.

Sarah's eyes landed on the young man by Tally, who was eyeing her more than either of them seemed to care for.

"You." She pointed at the man. "What's your name?"

"Marcus," he replied, eyes a little wide.

She nodded her head to the mat and stepped on as everyone else gave them space. Abigail and Raelle had taken up residence beside Tally, clearly sensing why Alder had singled Marcus out—and trying not to snicker.

"Don't kick his ass too bad," Tally thought through the link.

Alder merely scoffed. "After you," she said to him.

He readied himself and then charged Alder. She sidestepped him and elbowed him in the back, sending him to the floor.

"Again," she said as she turned around to look at him on the ground.

He got up, ignoring the snickering from the rest of the coven.

He tried again. This time, Alder met his blow with a block. She stayed on the defensive, dodging and blocking each attempt for a minute before she dropped to the ground and swept his legs out from under him.

"You're relying on your opponent meeting you blow for blow. You cannot. It is true that sometimes the best defense is the best offense. It allows you more time to get a sense of your opponent," she told him as she extended her hand to help him up. "Anyone else feel up to it?"

"I'll have a go," Tally offered.

Everyone seemed to shift at that. Raelle and Abigail were wearing smirks as Gregorio seemed rather confused why.

"Are you sure, cadet?" Sarah asked with a wry grin.

"I think I'm more than capable of handling you," Tally shot back, arching her eyebrow in challenge.

Sarah felt a charge go through her at that. She did enjoy confident Tally immensely in the bedroom, and she supposed it wouldn't be any different now.

"I won't take it easy on you, Craven," Alder replied in fair warning. She of course wouldn't hurt Tally, but she wasn't going to back down either.

They readied themselves, and Alder waited until Tally moved first. She'd blocked the connection so that neither would have an unfair advantage in knowing what they'd do next—surprised when Tally faked her out.

But she managed to block it.

They met again and again, neither actually gaining the upper hand, and Sarah couldn't help the pride coursing through her.

Tally's hand to hand combat had gotten much better, even since the Batan mission which was only a few days ago. She briefly wondered why, allowing herself to become distracted enough that Tally managed to knock her back.

Sarah pulled herself from her thoughts, paying attention to Tally's movements instead of musing about them.

When she blocked another swing and gripped Tally's arm to flip her, Tally anticipated it and managed to lock Alder's arms in place. They stood nose to nose and Tally was trying her hardest to not capture Alder's lips in a kiss right there.

Sarah was similarly affected. She couldn't help but glance down at Tally's lips, carefully wetting her own—then she finally realized that they had been standing there locked together for longer than was appropriate.

Then, Alder grinned and easily broke from Tally's hold before she kicked her in the back of her legs, dropping the girl to the ground on her knees. Tally quickly rolled out of the way and got up—readying herself for another go.

Sarah seemed surprised and Tally couldn't help but goad the General on.

"You seem surprised, General. Do you need a break before another round?" Tally asked confidently.

Oh Sarah had loved that. Tally could see her gaze darken and quickly rake over her form.

"Not at all, Cadet, I'm more than capable," Sarah shot back with a grin.

Tally couldn't help but laugh as the coven 'ooo'd' them. Raelle had let out a whoop at Alder's comeback, and Tally shot her friend a look saying 'oh so you're on her side now?'

Sarah took the opportunity of Tally's distraction and charged her. Tally blocked the hit at the last moment. Again they remained at a stalemate. Sarah could literally feel the charge between them. It was as if their power was just vibrating in the space between them.

It was certainly thrilling and like nothing she had ever experienced in all her years.

Tally threw a punch, which Alder blocked—but then Tally's leg came up to roundhouse her. She pushed Tally's hand away with her forearm, and then quickly wrapped her other arm around Tally's leg.

She twisted it, sending Tally spinning. Tally had just enough time to land, semi on her knees.

Sarah stepped forward and locked her legs down with her own, her arm coming to encircle Tally's neck and lock her in place.

"Well done," Sarah told her, breathing slightly heavy.

Tally, despite having lost, tilted her head back to look up at Sarah, a wide smile on her face. "You should do this more often," she told her.

"Why is that?" Alder asked, still keeping Tally locked in place.

"Because it allows them to see that you're human, Sarah. You've been this amazing figure for so long that you've become untouchable…otherworldly almost. It would do everyone good to see you as you are, not as just the mother of all witches or the General…but as Sarah Alder," Tally explained silently.

"You do have a point, darling," Alder conceded. "I will think on it."

"Thank you," Tally said softly.

It was only then that Sarah released her from the hold and found that everyone was looking at them rather curiously. She supposed it did look odd to see the two of them just staring at each other in silence. Her eyes fell on Collar and Bellweather—who were looking quite amused by it all.

"That was awesome!" Gregorio whooped as Tally rose to her feet.

The room erupted with cheers and the stomping of feet.

"Want to go another round?" M asked the General.

"One more. Then I must really return to my other duties." Alder turned and looked right at Abigail. "How about it, Bellweather?"

Abigail nodded immediately and stepped up.

She managed to last longer than Marcus, but not longer than Tally. When she landed on the mat with a thud that knocked the wind from her, Alder had given her a few moments before she helped her to her feet.

"Well done. But, make sure you never allow your eyes to drift away from your opponent," Alder told her with a satisfied smile. She gave her a few additional tips about her stance and keeping every sense sharp.

She bid the coven farewell, noting that they all seemed to be abuzz with excitement at her appearance and demonstrations.

She took her jacket from the biddies and shrugged it on as she waited for Tally to grab her things, and then follow her from the room.

"You did incredibly well back there, Tally." Sarah fell in step with the younger witch. "In fact, many of your tactics are very familiar."

Tally cocked her head slightly at the amused expression on Sarah's face.

"What's so amusing about that?" Tally asked her.

Sarah stopped them in the hall and faced her. "I believe that we have been sharing quite a lot of ourselves with each other." She took her hands in her own. "More than either of us has realized."

"Ah, you think your combat skills are rubbing off on me," Tally said with a grin.

"Indeed," Sarah replied with a chuckle. "Would you like to know another reason?"

Tally could feel Sarah's amusement through the link. "What?"

Sarah leaned in close to Tally's ear, "We've had this entire conversation in mothertongue."

When Sarah pulled back, she tried—really tried to hold back a laugh at Tally's floored expression.

They'd been conversing in mothertongue and Tally hadn't realized that she had been speaking it or even understanding it until this moment. When Sarah had taught Tally through their bond, Tally could only read it fluently. Speaking it was another matter…but it seemed that their bond had been rather busy.

"Oh my Goddess," Tally murmured. A giddy smile overtook her face. "This is amazing! I was just happy when I was able to read and understand it."

"I thought you would be excited. It seems our bond has another advantage," Sarah told her before she released Tally's hands and they continued on their walk.

Tally chewed on her lip thoughtfully, and Sarah sent her questioning through the link.

"Are we like…turning into one person?" Tally asked with some confusion.

"No, I do not believe so. However, I will need to tell Izadora of this to help her narrow down what exactly it is. There are many types of bonds and they all are similar and different. Knowing more about it lets us rule out any other bonds that do not fit the criteria. I have a possible theory," Sarah explained.

Tally waited patiently for Sarah to gather her thoughts.

"I believe that our willingness to be so open with each other…truly open with each other—it is allowing us to share these experiences, memories, and skills. For example, I know that your favorite season is winter because you have a bit of a hot chocolate addiction when it's cold outside, and you enjoy sitting in front of a fire with…" she trailed off a moment, "…ah yes, your favorite mug from home that has a moose on it."

Tally blushed and it made Sarah smile wide.

"Well," Tally cleared her throat, still blushing. "Your favorite season is Autumn because you've always loved the colors of the leaves as they turned—you really like the color of my hair because of that." Tally grinned. "And your mother would always make cider from the apples you and your sister would go and pick at that orchard a few miles from the cottage."

A tender smile played on Sarah's lips as she looked at Tally. "See? You know me and I you…we just…"

"Understand each other," Tally answered with a smile.

"Yes," Sarah replied softly.

They shared a look of longing but continued on in silence.

"What did you need me for?" Tally asked finally as they walked.

"Nicte," Sarah said with a sigh. "She's refusing to answer any questions unless she speaks to you. No doubt she will tell you something about me that she feels confident I wouldn't have shared with anyone."

Tally's brow scrunched. "Why is it that she feels so confident about that? If she knows about us…"

"I have another theory for that, and before we speak to Nicte we need to take a detour to a different cell," Sarah told her as she led her toward their holding cells.

"Michelle?" Tally asked.

Sarah nodded as they finally reached her former biddy's cell.

When they stepped in front of the clear glass paneling, the former biddy looked up—now back to her youthful appearance after their severing.

"Cadet," Alder greeted, face stoic as ever.

Tally stood at her side, saying nothing and simply looking at the young woman. The betrayal flowing between herself and Sarah at Michelle's treachery was thick as it rolled over them.

"General," she addressed, then her eyes fell to Tally. "Tally."

"I have a question for you…" Alder began, waiting until she had Michelle's full attention. "Why does Nicte not seem to know much about our relationship?" She gestured to herself and Tally.

"I didn't tell her…I told her about you spending time with Tally and that there was something between you…but I didn't tell her everything," she said.

"Why?" Tally asked curiously.

"Honestly? Being connected to Sa—the General, allowed me to see a different side of her. I don't agree with her decisions much at all…but seeing that she actually could care for someone that much…it didn't feel right telling Nicte everything," their prisoner explained.

"So you lied to Nicte?" Alder questioned.

"I didn't lie," Michelle corrected. "I just didn't tell her. Despite my personal and conflicted feelings about you," she told Sarah, "I happen to like Tally, and you make each other happy. I got soft being connected to you…I didn't expect you to be so…"

"Human," Tally finished for her.

Michelle nodded. "Yeah."

"Why did you hate me so much?" Alder asked.

Tally knew that underneath Alder's put together, stoic demeanor, the woman was hurt that everyone dehumanized her so much.

"My mom died on the frontlines and my dad became a raging alcoholic. Then I found out that the reason she died—her whole battalion was nearly killed in the Middle East because of an order you gave."

Alder nodded. She didn't have anything to say to that. Defending her decisions would be no good…

She spoke carefully, "I am sure that after being linked with me you are aware of how much those things weigh on me?"

Michelle nodded. "Yeah, unfortunately. I learned that the great Sarah Alder is still just as human as the rest of us. By that point though I was too far immersed in being a Spree informant. I couldn't just defect…and honestly I started to believe that Nicte was far less human than you, General. I made a huge mistake and the least I could do for the betrayal was keeping how much Tally means to you, a secret."

"Thank you, daughter," Sarah told her sincerely. She could see the surprise in Michelle's eyes that she had addressed her as such, but she continued, "Tally's safety in this is my top priority, no matter what may befall me."

Tally turned to regard her, her eyes soft.

"That," Michelle said, pointing to Tally's eyes. "That's why I didn't tell Nicte. I've never seen anyone look at you the way she does. If she can accept all the shit you've done, all the decisions you've made…there's gotta be something in you worth that level of love."

Tally blushed at the implication but didn't try to deny it or correct her.

Frankly, if she was being completely honest with herself, she's known she's been in love with Sarah ever since she had been severed from the biddy link…but she suspected that the feeling had certainly turned into that in the Tarim when they had shared a moment and Alder had been honest with her.

Sarah nodded wordlessly and turned her back to Michelle, preparing to walk away and head to the other side of the room where Nicte's cell was.

She stopped after a few steps and said over her shoulder, "I will make sure that the court receives my recommendation for a more lenient sentence."

Then she walked away with Tally in tow.

"Hey," Tally said, reaching out to touch Sarah's arm and have her stop. "Are you okay?"

"Heavy is the head that wears the crown," Sarah murmured to her.

Tally merely nodded in understanding. "I'm here," she said softly as she took Sarah's hand in her own and gave it a squeeze.

They walked back through the door that led them from the room Michelle was in, and to a larger more secure room with a one way mirror.

"Are you sure about this?" Sarah asked Tally as she stood behind the glass with her biddies.

"Anything to help you in this fight," Tally replied sincerely. She kissed Sarah's cheek, and then was buzzed from the room so she could enter Nicte's holding cell.

She stopped just outside of the bars and waited for the woman to acknowledge her presence.

"I'm surprised she let you come and talk to me," Nicte said smugly, eyes rising to trail over Tally's face. "I can see why she's so into you. I mean, look at those dimples. I could summer in one and winter in the other."

It drew no reaction from Tally, but she could feel Sarah's anger at the implication. It sent a bit of a thrill through Tally. Not that she wanted Sarah to be jealous, or that she had any reason to be, but she found she really enjoyed the General's possessiveness—in a healthy way, of course.

"You said you'd only answer me. So, what do you want in exchange for helping us fight against the Camarilla?" Tally asked.

Nicte arched an eyebrow. "I guess Sarah really is serious about this truce. Honestly I thought this was a little mind game she was playing." Nicte sounded genuinely surprised.

"She's completely serious," Tally responded. "Obviously they can't give you freedom or something huge like that…you did kill a lot of civilians and fellow witches. The Spree is officially considered a terrorist organization after all."

Nicte hummed. "The more serious this grows, the more I seem to have underestimated Sarah. Seems she doesn't have that black of a heart after all."

"What do you want, Nicte?" Tally asked again.

Nicte leaned back in her seat with a sigh. "Any of the Spree members that help in this war…they're allowed to go free when it's done. No using this olive branch as a way to round them all up."

Tally waited until she felt Alder's begrudging agreement. "She'll accept that."

Nicte arched an eyebrow. "How would you know that?"

"I know her."

"Do you, really?"

"You keep sounding surprised by that," Tally said with a bit of irritation.

"Well, she's the General of the Army. It isn't like she allows people in to begin with. Here I thought I was special because she was kinder to me than the others in her private unit," Nicte scoffed. "Well, Red, seems that I was all wrong. Alder doesn't have you around her finger, you have her around yours."

"It's called trust, Nicte. She trusts me, and I trust her," she said with conviction.

"Yeah, and that's exactly why I'm so surprised. She doesn't trust anyone," Nicte said with a laugh. "And then here comes this hot young cadet and suddenly it seems like Sarah is giving a shit about how she's perceived." She snorted. "I mean, that would surprise the majority of witches."

Initially, Tally thought she'd be hurt by the statement. But instead she was flushed with pride. So what if she was so much younger than Alder, she made a difference being in her life and she in hers. Knowing Sarah so intimately made her realize that Sarah always cared about how she was perceived. She just kept it hidden deep below where she couldn't allow it to bother her. Tally knew that making the calls, whether it was the right or wrong one, would always be met with resistance, anger, and skepticism—everyone thought their decision was the right one, and that was Sarah's burden to bear for hundreds of years.

Then entered Tally, and she tried to help Sarah carry that burden as best as she could so that she could continue making the hard decisions.

"Nothing to say to that?" Nicte questioned after Tally's prolonged silence.

"No. Nothing at all." Tally turned and made to exit the room. "I'm sure the General will be back again once she clears the request with the President."

Then she exited. As soon as the door clicked shut she felt as though she could breathe easier.

"I need to go and speak with the President at once," Sarah told her as she stepped into her personal space and lightly touched her forehead to Tally's. "Would you do me a favor?"

Tally's eyes remained closed—forehead still pressing against Sarah's. "Anything."

"Would you speak to Izadora about the connection for me?" Sarah asked.

Tally felt a charge go through her body at such a simple request. But it had Tally bursting with excitement. Sarah was allowing her to help, and she asked…not ordered.

"Yes, sweetheart," Sarah said amusedly.

"Of course I will," Tally replied happily before kissing Sarah on the lips. "I'll let you know if she's made any progress."

"Thank you," Sarah said seriously before she led everyone from the room and back topside.

 


 

Tally had practically skipped to the Necro lab. She was just thrilled that Sarah was leaning on her instead of shouldering the burden herself. It was a substantial gesture in Tally's eyes, and she got the impression it was to Sarah as well.

Izadora had been in her office, clicking away on her laptop when Tally had entered.

"Excuse me, Izadora?" Tally greeted.

Izadora looked up from her screen and smiled. "Tally, what a nice surprise. Is everything okay?"

"Yes," Tally said with a smile. "I actually came to see you at Sarah's request."

Izadora's eyebrows rose and she waited expectantly.

Tally dove in, explaining how they not only had been learning things about each other through the connection subconsciously, but how Sarah's fighting skills and mothertongue mastery had been passing to her.

Izadora's mouth dropped open at the revelations—but only for a moment—because then a bright smile overtook her lips.

"That is fantastic news, Tally," Izadora said happily.

Tally tilted her head questioningly. "Did it help?" she asked.

"Immensely. When the General comes back, meet me in the warding circle. I believe I found what the connection is," she said proudly.

Tally's eyes lit up excitedly. Seeing Izadora's pleased expression had soothed any worry Tally had that the connection was something negative or some offshoot of the biddy connection. But, Izadora seemed far too happy for that to be the case.

She agreed to relay the message and told Sarah quickly through the link. She could feel her anticipation to return, but received no answer and assumed she was preoccupied with the President.

So Tally headed to dinner to meet up with Abigail and Raelle and update them.

"There she is," Gregorio called to her as she entered their dining area.

"Craven," M said approaching. They slapped Tally on the back, a large smile on their face as the coven quickly stomped their boots. "The only witch I've ever seen stand toe to toe with the General."

Tally could feel herself blushing.

"It was awesome," Gregorio said excitedly as Tally approached their table.

She took her seat next to Abigail, the four of them sitting together.

"When you and Alder were locked there for a while, I almost thought you were going to kiss," Gregorio said with a laugh.

Abigail and Raelle shared a quick look as Tally flushed a little. Gregorio caught it.

"Wait…" he began.

Tally could practically see the gears turning in his head.

Then he gasped loudly and Raelle punched him to get him to shut up.

"Sorry, sorry," he mumbled then looked at Tally, "so the woman you said you were seeing…"

Tally nodded.

Gregorio's mouth dropped. "Holy shit."

Tally smiled sheepishly.

"Oh my Goddess this makes so much sense," Gregorio groaned. "I thought something was odd when she practically threw people away from you with a look—back when you were having some sort of…episode? At the stupid matchmaking thing."

"Yes, but you can't say anything to anyone," Tally told him.

Gregorio placed his hand on her shoulder. "Tally, your secret is safe with me. But you owe me details."

Raelle couldn't help but snort as Abigail laughed.

"So like…does she ever sleep?" Gregorio asked.

At the question, all three of the girls laughed loudly for a minute before calming.

"Out of all the things you could ask, Gregorio," Tally said with a chuckle. "The biddies basically do everything so she doesn't have to. She does sleep though."

"Uh huh uh huh," Gregorio encouraged. "And eating?"

Tally was smiling so much her face was hurting. Gregorio was too sweet for his own good. "She doesn't eat."

"Food," Raelle corrected.

Gregorio laughed so hard he started coughing and Tally kicked Rae's shin underneath the table.

"Guys," Abigail interjected with a laugh of her own. "Calm down."

Gregorio collected himself and took a deep breath. "So you two have…"

Tally nodded, blushing.

Gregorio glanced around them and then leaned in closer to Tally to whisper, "Do you love her?"

Tally could feel her eyes water as she smiled. "So much."

"You tell her?"

"Not yet," Tally chuckled and wiped her eyes.

"Ah, why?" Gregorio asked honestly.

"We've been trying to understand the connection and I just…didn't want to put any pressure on her…" Tally trailed off hesitantly.

"You should, Tal," Raelle told her with a smile. "Abigail and I are protective of you, but Alder makes us look like baby pandas."

Abigail chuckled. "You should have seen the look she gave us that day after she came to the infirmary."

"Uh, excuse me, what now?" Gregorio interjected.

Tally gave him a quick rundown about seeing Alder's memories and her lack of sleep. She didn't tell him what they comprised of, but gave him the bullet points he needed to understand any more stories.

"Please continue, what was this look?" Gregorio asked Abigail and Raelle.

Tally was also looking at them curiously, they hadn't mentioned any of this to her.

"We barged into Alder's office and she was in her sleepwear," Raelle told him.

"Outfit?"

Tally smacked him.

"Ow, hey!" he yelped. "She's all yours I'm just curious."

"Tank tops and shorts," Abigail supplied.

"The biddies hissed at us for like a full thirty seconds before she dismissed them. Then she warded the room," Raelle said.

"I'm pretty sure the only reason she didn't throw us out immediately was because of Tally," Abigail told him.

"Oh without a doubt," Raelle agreed.

"You seem to have come around about her," Gregorio told Raelle.

She shrugged. "I have. She treats Tally well. Any doubt I had about her feelings for Tally was quashed the second she couldn't feel Tally through their link."

"That was the party, right?" Gregorio asked.

Tally nodded, and then looked at Raelle. "I know she said she couldn't feel me at all, it was like I was just gone."

"She looked terrified, honestly," Raelle said, her brow furrowing as she thought. "I didn't think she even felt fear anymore. That look though was all terror."

"She's human, Rae," Tally told her friend. "I get that being alive for so long would make anyone question their humanity…but Sarah's just as human as us…honestly maybe more so."

Abigail looked at her curiously.

"I'm not saying anything, I won't break her trust…just, I've seen her. Really seen her. She feels just like we do, I think it weighs heavier on her though because she's seen so much…" Tally finished.

"It's probably really hard outliving everyone you've ever known," Abigail admitted sadly.

Tally went to say something and stopped. Her face flushed instantly and her heart rate picked up.

"Tal, you good?" Gregorio asked, noticing the change immediately.

"Um," Tally began hesitantly. She could feel the anger in her chest. She really wanted to break something—so she opened the connection as much as possible and pushed her confusion and worry at Sarah.

The anger dissipated to a simmer and Sarah sent her apologies through the bond and then closed the connection off.

Tally breathed a sigh of relief. She understood why Sarah closed the connection off, not wanting her anger to affect Tally…but the emptiness she felt at it didn't sit right with her.

"Yeah, I'm sorry," Tally breathed out. "She was meeting with the President and I have a feeling it didn't go well."

Abigail looked concerned. "Why's that?"

"She was pissed," Tally told them. "Like, really pissed. I've never felt her so mad. She closed off the connection too so I wouldn't feel it anymore."

"Okay, sidebar, being connected like that is super cool," Gregorio told her. "What was she seeing the…" he trailed off at Tally's look, "right, can't say."

"I'll know more when she's back," Tally said with a sigh before finally eating her food.

They talked more about their classes, as well as a few random Alder questions that Gregorio had.

Tally was grateful for his sense of humor. It helped distract from the emptiness.

"General," M stated, surprised.

Tally's head shot straight up and she turned in her seat.

"At ease," Alder said with a chuckle. "I need to see the Bellweather unit."

M gestured over their shoulder.

Tally's eyes locked on Sarah's and she felt the connection open back up. She sighed with relief—and noticed that Sarah's shoulders relaxed as well.

Alder approached their table and grabbed a chair, surprising everyone when she pulled it over and took a seat between Tally and Gregorio.

Alder peered over her shoulder at the handful of cadets that were watching them curiously. She looked at M, arched an eyebrow, and suppressed a laugh at the way M snapped to attention and cleared out the room.

When it was only them and the biddies, Alder sighed and looked at Gregorio. "You know."

His face went red and he looked at Tally. "I thought you said she closed the connection," he whispered, as if Alder wasn't right there.

Tally sighed. She looked at Sarah expectantly.

"You were looking at me like you knew some things," she told him with a chuckle, "and you confirmed it when you just spoke to Tally."

Gregorio pursed his lips. "Cool cool cool," he muttered as he sat back in his seat.

Tally reached over and threaded her fingers with Sarah's. "What's going on?"

Sarah released a breath and looked at Tally. She soaked her features in for a moment before she spoke through the link, "The President did not agree to Nicte's terms. She wants an execution."

"What?" Tally asked, rearing back. "We need the Spree in the fight!"

"I completely agree, which is why…" Sarah sighed. "Can we discuss this later tonight? It's something I'd like your advice on."

Tally couldn't breathe for a second. She felt incredibly privileged. Not only was Sarah allowing her to be with her, but she was allowing Tally to once again carry her burden. She was taking what the Mycelium said to heart.

"Of course. Whatever you need," Tally thought, a small smile on her face. "So was that what made you so angry?"

Sarah looked down at their joint hands. "General Bellweather has brought her concerns about my behavior to the President."

Tally was pretty sure she sent her eyebrows to the moon with that statement.

"What?" Abigail asked incredulously.

"Yes, Bellweather. Your mother has been after my position for some time now. Everything leading up to this has merely been her long game."

"What behavior?" Raelle asked.

Sarah looked pointedly at Tally.

"Us?" Tally asked, surprised. "Because of that night before break?"

Alder nodded. "Now, Petra doesn't know anything for certain, and thankfully the President chalked it up to 'witch business'."

Tally blinked disbelievingly. "Witch business?"

Sarah hummed. "Yes, since we witches have a different view on sexual relationships, she didn't feel the need to be bothered with it. However, she was less than thrilled about my attack and how I failed to report it to the proper chain of command," Alder scoffed. "As if I would inform civilians of that particular witch business."

Tally's brow furrowed. "Wow."

"General," Abigail began hesitantly, "I'm sorry about my mother, I had no idea she was planning any of this."

Alder's gaze fell on her and she sighed. "It is admirable that you would apologize on your mother's behalf, it is not needed though, Abigail. I assure you I bear you no animosity for the actions of your mother."

Abigail's shoulders slumped in relief and she nodded her thanks.

"We need to go and see Izadora," Tally reminded Sarah.

"Yes," Alder replied, glancing at Tally's half eaten plate. "As soon as you're finished."

"Oh I'm—" Tally trailed off at the arched eyebrow she got from Sarah. She chuckled and shook her head and returned to her food.

"She has a lead?" Raelle asked.

"It would seem so," Alder answered. "What it is, I'm not sure…not entirely." At Tally's silent questioning through the link, Alder elaborated, "Izadora had a theory that I have been reluctant to agree with. Not that I don't wish it were so…only because it is very very rare."

Tally nodded, still painfully curious but content on waiting a little longer until they would find out.

"So once you know, what happens then? If I may ask?" Gregorio asked. "Wait, never mind, ma'am, it's none of—"

Alder looked at him as she interjected. "Well, Tally has already permitted me to court her…so the next step would be to speak to those I must, inform them of the connection and my intentions, and most likely present whatever proof I have of the connection."

"What if they just…don't believe you?" Gregorio asked carefully. He was surprised the General had even answered him at all, but he wasn't sure if he was overstepping—and frankly the General scared the shit out of him, but he cared about Tally and wanted to see them work.

Alder chuckled throatily, a look in her eyes that Tally could read even without the connection—one that said 'fuck them'.

"I'll court her anyway," Alder said easily. "And openly."

Tally could feel herself blush. "But wouldn't that get you in trouble?"

Alder smirked and answered through the link, "One good came of that meeting. The President unintentionally gave me ammunition on herself today, I am not above blackmail…and certainly not on a matter that involves my personal life. The only person that is stricter with me than I am myself, is you, my darling."

Tally blushed impossibly darker.

"I've denied myself so much over the years. Connection or not, rank or not, I want you. I want…" Alder trailed off before she smiled. "I want you, Tally Craven. It is as simple, and honest as that. And if you'll have me the same then—"

The group at the table had been looking back and forth between them, aware of their silent conversation…and they figured the General had said something meaningful by the way Tally suddenly surged forward and kissed her.

Gregorio was surprised—Abigail and Raelle had become accustomed and merely smirked at each other.

"Of course I will," Tally breathed against Sarah's lips before she kissed them again.

Alder chuckled as they pulled back, a genuine smile on her face and a light pink tinge on her cheeks. Her eyes fell on Tally's, now empty, plate, and she silently asked if she was ready.

Tally had shot up from her seat, clearly excited and bouncing on her heels.

"Cadets," Alder addressed in parting as she stood with a smile. "Come, before you combust."

Tally told her friends bye and practically skipped from the room with Alder and her biddies following behind.

She hadn't met the newest biddy properly and suddenly realized. She stopped and turned, eyes falling on the woman.

"I'm Tally," she held her hand out.

"Aria," came the reply as she clasped Tally's forearm. "I have heard so much about you from the others. They have been catching me up to speed. Even if they hadn't, Sarah's affection for you thrums even in our link."

Tally smiled brightly at that, and for the next few minutes she asked Aria a series of basic questions about herself to catalogue away for later. Yule was approaching before long and she was filing things away that she could get the biddies for the holiday season.

Eventually she fell in step with Sarah, feeling the warmth hum in their connection at how genuine Tally is.

When they finally reached the warding circle, they both were surprised to find Anacostia and Verger in attendance with Izadora.

"Witnesses," Izadora answered before the General could even ask.

Anacostia offered them both a bright smile as they stopped in front of the Necro.

"Craven, General, please stand and face each other," Izadora instructed. "I assume you want to get right to this."

The two witches did as told.

"Now, I am going to perform a seed…however, there is a very good possibility it won't work because it may need to be one of you that sings it. Adil was a little hazy on the details."

"Adil?" Tally questioned for them both.

Izadora smiled. "Who better to ask about ancient Work than him?"

Tally couldn't argue with that. As she caught a flash of nervousness, she looked at Sarah. She could feel the various emotions swirling in her—anticipation, hope, nervousness…love?

Tally couldn't help the feeling that surged through her, and it drew Sarah's eyes to her own as they both felt their breaths hitch. It had been there in the connection, tucked away as they both weren't trying to pressure the other with the intensity of their feelings.

"Clasp hands," Izadora instructed, oblivious to the internal emotional tsunami happening between the two. She then raised her own hands above where Tally and Alder's had entwined.

Izadora began to vocalize another seed. Tally thought it sounded similar to the seed of reveal, but when the pattern changed suddenly, she was at a loss. It wasn't as pretty as other seeds. This seemed old.

Alder looked at Izadora—utterly confused.

"I know this," Alder thought through the connection.

Tally caught a faint sound floating through their connection, as if Alder could only recall a bit of it—sort of like something from a dream, where it's so faint you can't make it out but you just...know.

Izadora ceased. "I see I was right. It will have to be you."

"How do you know it?" Tally asked Alder softly.

When Alder's gaze met hers, Tally knew instantly that it was an ancient song that lived in her blood—even though she didn't know how to recreate it at first.

Then Alder sang, and Tally couldn't help but be in awe. Everything Sarah did just seemed…powerful.

Tally's eyes widened, as did all the women in the room.

As Alder sang, a brilliant red tendril began to appear—bright in the center as it began to grow—the tendrils were wisps of red and orange as they emerged from Tally's chest, and Alder's.

Then tendrils were connected, tightly, to each other. It resembled the Mycelium in a way, but instead of being solid mass, it was energy—much like the nebula Tally had seen that first night they kissed. Pure and true and inseparable.

"Well I'll be damned," Verger murmured as she approached for a closer look.

Izadora looked at Sarah, as did Verger. They all shared a look.

"What is it?" Tally asked, thoroughly confused by the women's disbelief on their faces—and Sarah's watery eyes.

The energy connection was strong, incredibly strong in fact—Tally could feel that much. Her eyes narrowed—focusing, and saw clear as day that it was bridging the gap between their life forces by a single, unbreakable, red thread.

Tally showed Sarah what she was seeing through the connection, and Sarah's gasp was the loudest sound in the room.

Sarah pulled Tally toward her, the connection still visible and pulsing brighter and thrumming with life the closer they drew.

"Tally Craven," Sarah began. Complete reverie and adoration coated Tally's name as it fell from Alder's lips. "You are my songmate."

Tally didn't understand, but the wave of emotion that poured out of Sarah nearly knocked the wind from her.

Years of grief, loss, pain, loneliness suddenly were being soothed as they flew between the two witches.

Alder drew her in and kissed her softly.

"A songmate is the only soulmate of a chosen witch. It's a very old legend that chosen witches blessed by the Goddess have one and only one soulmate who they have the purest connection with. One that is their match, their complement," Sarah thought through their connection as her lips continued to caress Tally's. "One that has been destined for them since the birth of their soul."

Tally gasped at the pleasure and happiness that radiated from Sarah at the news, and Tally could hardly believe it. She had someone destined for her? And General Sarah fucking Alder at that.

Sarah chuckled against Tally's lips. "Yes, and I have one of the most skilled Knowers I've ever witnessed; Tally fucking Craven."

Tally laughed softly against Sarah as well at the sentiment that poured through their connection.

Sarah's hands cupped her face, tenderly stroking her cheeks. Tears leaked from her eyes as their feelings crashed against each other fully.

"I told you I've been yours," Tally thought with a delighted laugh as she covered Sarah's hands with her own.

"Not to interrupt the love fest here," Verger began.

Sarah and Tally were both sporting blushes at the mention of the 'L' word—but Sarah, surprising everyone, didn't bother to stop her loving caresses against Tally's cheek or side as she wrapped her in her arms.

"But we will need to present this at once," she finished.

"Of course," Alder agreed immediately, not even looking at her. "Make the preparations, Magda."

"Yes, General," Magda replied with a satisfied smile.

Alder looked at Izadora and Anacostia then. "Could you give us a minute?"

They nodded and skirted out of the room, Alder's biddies following a moment after.

When they were finally alone, Alder pulled Tally as flush against her as possible.

Sarah smirked and leaned in close to Tally's lips, but didn't claim them. "Tally Craven, my mate," she whispered reverently before kissing Tally passionately.

Both women groaned into the kiss. It was like little fireworks were going off all over their bodies, and they both could visibly feel and taste their magic in the air.

When they broke for air, Sarah rested her forehead against Tally's.

"Tally, I was hoping you would do me the honor of going on a date with me," Sarah proposed. "I know it is incredibly overdue. I had intended to ask you once break was over but…" she trailed off at the memory. "But now that we have some time…"

Tally couldn't stop the giddy smile on her face if she wanted to. "Of course. Yes."

"Excellent. While Magda makes the preparations…I will make ours," Sarah told her as she stroked Tally's cheek. "I will also need to do a different braid for you…should you wish."

"What is the new braid for?" Tally asked before she quickly kissed Sarah's lips.

"One for an intended…" Sarah whispered, as if the confession would scare Tally away.

"Intended?" Tally questioned, and she could feel the heat from Sarah's cheeks radiate against her own.

"It's a braid one wears when they are not only spoken for…but…" Sarah trailed off, suddenly shy.

Tally could feel the significance behind it through the link and it took her breath away. "So an engagement braid without the actual engagement?"

Sarah nodded.

"Please," Tally told her.

She released a deep moan when Sarah claimed her lips hungrily. Her hand threaded in auburn locks, holding her firm against her.

Tally felt it go straight to her center and she had a fleeting thought of how much she'd love to be taken against the wall right now.

Before she even registered what was happening, Sarah had lifted her into her arms, silently requesting Tally wrap her legs around her waist, as she carried her to the nearest wall and pressed her against it. She sat her feet back on the ground and reached for Tally's belt, undoing it quickly before the button and then the zipper.

Tally moaned as Sarah's mouth latched onto her neck, nipping, licking, and sucking on all the spots she knew drove Tally insane. Her hands dragged up Tally's side, teasing her without dipping underneath the fabric. Sarah bit down on Tally's witch mark, soothing the bite with her tongue before she sucked on the sensitive spot—determined to leave a mark.

The General couldn't help the possessiveness roaring through her as she claimed every inch of Tally's neck before she bunched up her shirt and slid her hand underneath, then pushed the fabric away from small pert nipples so she could roll one between her fingers.

Tally mewled, and Sarah simply chuckled against Tally's neck before she slid her hand down Tally's stomach to the waistband of her pants, and then dipped below to slowly drag her fingers through wet folds.

Sarah moaned at the first touch. She loved how soaked Tally would get for her, even if she had barely touched her. It always sent a thrill down her spine.

Tally whimpered as Sarah continued to slowly stroke through her folds, never stopping to rub her clit or enter her the way Tally was begging her to without words. She could feel it through the bond, stronger than ever.

"Baby, please," Tally whined.

Sarah stopped, eyes filled with a storm meeting those of the earth.

Tally registered what she said, an apology just beginning to form on her lips when Sarah slid two fingers into her. A guttural moan left both of their lips as Sarah grabbed Tally's leg and lifted it to her waist, opening her witch more for her.

"Fu-fuck," Tally stuttered as Sarah began thrusting into her.

It was the roughest Sarah had been yet, and Tally was so glad she had made the silent request. She was hitting deep, and when she curled her fingers with each thrust Tally could have sworn she saw flashes around them.

"More, please," Tally moaned.

"More what?" Sarah murmured as she continued her pace.

"Fingers," Tally managed. She needed to be full something awful.

"Oh I know, darling," Sarah cooed. "I can feel how badly you want me to stretch you."

Tally whined. If Sarah knew then why…

Oh.

"More, baby, please," Tally corrected as she locked eyes with the General.

"Good girl."

A third finger slipped inside and Tally bore down on it as Sarah pumped in and out of her before she added a fourth.

"Fuck, yes!" Tally moaned loudly. She was stretched deliciously, soaked so thoroughly that the sounds of her wet pussy being taken by Sarah were obscenely loud to her ears.

Tally dug her nails into Sarah's back, holding tight as her General pounded into her. She was so close she could taste it.

Then Sarah flicked her thumb over Tally's clit as she thrust; once, twice…

Tally came hard, screaming Sarah's name as she clenched around Sarah's fingers. She nearly sobbed when Sarah curled her fingers, hitting her g-spot and she squirted onto Sarah's hand and part of her uniform. She was still cumming, and it felt like it wasn't going to end, which she was very okay with.

Sarah eased her down, placing tender, love filled kisses to the marks she had made, and then across Tally's jaw before she claimed her lips in a soft kiss.

Tally's eyes fluttered open as she caught her breath, instantly locking with Sarah's.

"You're so beautiful," Sarah murmured reverently.

Tally felt like she could sob with joy. It all almost felt surreal.

"I assure you, sweetheart, it's very real." She kissed Tally again as she eased out of her; Tally whimpered at the loss.

"Sorry about your pants," Tally mumbled hazily.

Sarah merely chuckled and glanced down between them. She hummed, "Don't be. It's incredibly sexy."

"I didn't even know I could do that," Tally breathed with a laugh.

Sarah hummed lowly. "I wonder what else you can do…lucky for us, we have all the time in the world to find out."

Then Sarah was raising her hand to her lips and cleaning off the evidence of their tryst.

With a burst of energy, Tally grabbed her wrist and put Sarah's fingers in her mouth, sucking her own mess off the long digits. She watched as Sarah's blue eyes darkened, her breath hitched, and the nails on her other hand bit into Tally's thigh.

As soon as Tally's leg was on the ground, she released Sarah's fingers with a wet pop, grabbed her shoulders, and spun them to switch their positions.

Tally kissed her fiercely, her hands immediately setting to undoing Sarah's belt, then the pants. She pulled back from the kiss to drop to her knees, taking Sarah's pants and underwear with her.

Before Sarah could say anything, Tally's face was between her thighs, her tongue lapping eagerly at her sensitive clit.

"Fuck," Sarah breathed, head falling back against the wall as her hands carefully tangled in Tally's hair. She was worried about messing the braid up, but then Tally's eyes flickered up to hers.

"You can mess it because you're going to give me my intended braid," Tally told her through the link as she drank up everything Sarah had to offer.

Sarah practically growled as she fisted her hands in Tally's hair and rocked against the cadets face, something that had them both moaning.

"That's it, baby, use my mouth," Tally thought wickedly as Sarah careened against her.

The General wasn't sure what it was about the term of endearment that Tally called her to make her so aggressive, but neither were complaining. It was sending heat through her, down to her swollen clit that Tally took in her mouth and sucked.

A high-pitched moan escaped Sarah's lips, followed by a harsh 'yes' as Tally plunged two fingers inside her. She continued sucking her clit, moaning at the way Sarah rocked against her. She could feel how close she was, and with a few more thrusts she came around Tally's fingers as all the lights in the bunker flickered dangerously, and a few of them burst.

Tally allowed her to recover as she carefully removed her fingers, cleaning them off quickly before returning between Sarah's legs to lick up some of the remaining cum. When she finished, she pulled Sarah's pants and underwear back up her legs, re-zipped and buttoned them, and then redid the belt.

When she finished she leaned in against Sarah, touching their foreheads together and smiling giddily.

"Wicked girl," Sarah chided affectionately as she opened her eyes to gaze at Tally.

"I certainly didn't hear you complain…" she kissed her softly, "baby."

Sarah groaned, a sappy smile on her face.

"You enjoy that," Tally told her. Her face was beginning to ache from smiling so much.

"Immensely," she replied. She pulled her in for another kiss, this one passionate and unhurried, until they needed to breathe.

"We should probably head back up," Tally murmured against her lips, not wanting to cease kissing.

"We should," Sarah concurred, making no move either.

After a few more minutes they reluctantly pulled apart to straighten their clothing. Sarah smirked at the small wet patch on her pants from where Tally had squirted, and she was grateful the uniform colors were so dark.

She laced her fingers with Tally's and led them topside where her biddies were waiting with Anacostia.

Anacostia gave them a once over and rolled her eyes. "Well at least you didn't destroy the base."

"There is plenty of warding down there," Sarah replied easily, not letting go of Tally's hand. After that confirmation, there was no way she was going to hide it.

Anacostia merely shook her head and smiled. "Well, Verger is making the preparations so I'd say two days' time seems most likely."

Her eyes glanced down to the wet spot near Sarah's fly, and when they drifted up—Alder wore a smug smile as Tally turned as red as her hair.

"Hornballs," Anacostia muttered with a smile before she headed off.

"Come," Alder told the group with a chuckle as she began leading them back to her office.

"Did that already," Tally couldn't help but think wryly.

Sarah released a musical laugh at Tally's joke, shaking her head and continuing on—she certainly couldn't dispute that.

When they arrived, the biddies took their seats in the room as Tally and Sarah headed to the bathroom to clean up and freshen their uniforms.

"Could Rae and Abigail come to that?" Tally asked curiously as she held the courtship beads in her hand as Sarah worked on her new braid.

Sarah knew what Tally was referring to—the meeting with the brass. She had figured Bellweather and Collar would be there anyway. She internally chuckled as she thought about Abigail getting to see her mother's face.

"If you so wish," Sarah replied easily.

Tally hummed happily as Sarah ran her fingers through her hair. This braid was slightly…more. It still wrapped behind her head and fell in a single braid atop the rest of her hair, but the sides that led back to the braid were also braided and inlaid with a few of the courtship beads.

When Sarah finished, she watched with a soft smile as Tally inspected it in front of the mirror.

"It's beautiful," Tally breathed as she turned and met Sarah's eyes. "So, after we tell them…what happens then?"

Sarah held out her hands for Tally to take in her own. "Well, whatever you'd like, Tally."

Tally looked at her curiously. "You know you have a say in this too."

Sarah smiled. "Of course. I merely mean, if you wish to…" she trailed off, suddenly nervous, "if you would like this to be our room, it can be, for the duration of War College for you. I know it isn't much. After that, we can worry about then."

Tally released Sarah's hands so she could wrap them around her neck. "I would really like that." Then she leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on Alder's lips. "We haven't exactly been spending the nights apart. I'd like to keep spending them with you."

Alder hummed her agreement to that statement. She'd grown completely accustomed to Tally's presence at night. And she'd been sleeping more in the past months with Tally than she had in centuries.

"There is one other thing," Sarah said with a sigh. "There is a very real possibility they will insist on a handfast. Which if that is the case I will petition that it wait until you've finished War College."

Tally thought for a moment that she would be nervous at the prospect of handfasting to Sarah…but she didn't at all. It felt right.

Sarah continued on, almost rambling, "More than likely it will be the traditional five year contract. So should you change your mind—"

"What if I wouldn't want to wait?" Tally asked her softly, interrupting Sarah's monologue.

Sarah's eyebrows rose. She hadn't expected that. "Tally Craven, you are full of surprises."

"Which is funny considering you're literally in my head," Tally replied with a laugh.

Sarah chuckled at that. "That is true. I just wanted to let you know so that there is no pressure from me at all. I will fight to make sure that we do that on our terms. Not theirs."

"With storm and fury?"

"With storm and fury."

Chapter Text

Tally had practically floated back to Sekhmet. She was grabbing most of her clothing and then going straight back to Sarah's, after filling Raelle and Abigail in.

"There you are!" Raelle greeted, relieved. "We've been waiting for you to get back and spill."

"Did Izadora figure it out?" Abigail asked.

Tally's smile lit up the room as she nodded. She took a seat next to Abigail on the bed.

"She talked to Adil, actually" she told Abigail. "He taught her this seed that Sarah or I would have to sing for the connection to be seen. Well, it worked and apparently we are songmates."

Raelle's eyebrows scrunched together. "What's that?"

Abigail, however, her eyes were wide. "Songmates?! Tal, do you have any idea how rare those are?"

"Um excuse you," Raelle interjected. "Explanation?"

Abigail looked at her. "Songmates are soulmates but for specifically chosen witches. It's a blessed witch's one true mate, their perfect match. There's only been like…14 cases ever recorded."

Raelle's mouth dropped. "So you were literally destined for each other."

Tally nodded, her giddy smile on display.

"This is…huge…Tal, I'm so happy for you," Abigail pulled her in for a tight hug.

"Yeah and way to land the witch of witches," Raelle congratulated. "And Alder landed the most talented Knower in over a generation."

Tally blushed. "Thanks guys. Anacostia thinks they'll be ready in two days. So I was hoping you both would come? The Imperatrix will have to be there so I figured you'd like the added bonus of her getting pissed off. Your mom will also be there, Abigail…and I have a bit of a bone to pick with her myself."

"Abso-fucking-lutely," Raelle readily agreed.

"My mom and the Imperatrix taken down a notch in one go? Count me in." Abigail nudged Tally's shoulder playfully. "Why the bone with my mom? Not that I'm complaining."

"The scold's bridle…Sarah's been very clear about anyone using them—that they are banned, actually. She thinks they're dehumanizing and I completely agree…I mean…I had marks from only wearing it for what? Two hours if that?" Tally grimaced. "It was…"

"I'm so sorry, Tal," Abigail told her sincerely before she pulled her in for a hug.

"Me too, we should have realized," Raelle agreed as she moved forward and joined in the hug.

"I don't blame you guys. Nicte was convincing," Tally said as they parted.

"Still," Abigail urged. She held one of Tally's hands.

"Also…" Tally chewed on her a lip a moment. "Sarah said that they might insist on a handfast but that she'll fight to make sure we don't have to until I graduate."

"Holy shit seriously?" Rae questioned. "I mean good for Alder but do you really think they'll insist?"

"With the Imperatrix? I can guarantee it," Abigail answered for her. "How do you feel about it?"

"I actually really would love it," Tally admitted with a shy smile. "If they refuse to allow us to wait I told Sarah I'm in."

"Our little girl is all grown up," Raelle mock cried.

"I fully expect a full day of looking for a dress," Abigail insisted. "But are you sure you're okay with this all? It seems fast."

"If the Imperatrix wants them handfasted, Bells, I don't know how much pull Alder will ultimately have."

"Yeah but handfasting is primarily done so that more witches can be born," Abigail retorted.

Tally's face fell. "I am a little disappointed about children. I always wanted a daughter."

"I mean…you could always get inseminated, right?" Raelle tried to reassure.

"I guess," Tally replied before she shook her head. "Okay the talk of kids is definitely too soon." She laughed. "The important thing is that if we do have to handfast I've already agreed to do it. I don't need time to think. I want it—all of it."

Abigail smiled and wrapped an arm around her. "Well, whatever they decide, Rae and I have your back."

"Absolutely," Raelle agreed.

Tally laughed jovially as some tears welled in her eyes. "Thank you guys. You're the best. But um, there's one more thing…well two."

Raelle and Abigail waited expectantly as Tally gestured to the new braid.

"Ohhh a new courtship braid. What's this stand for?" Rae asked.

"Sort of an engagement without an engagement. Wholly spoken for and promised," she answered with a light blush.

"I still can't believe Alder is such a romantic." Abigail shook her head in disbelief.

"What's the other thing?" Raelle asked.

"Sarah and I are going to have a date tomorrow night. Technically our first date. She's planning it as we speak. Well I think. We closed the connection some so I wouldn't ruin the surprise."

"Where's this date going to be?" Rae asked.

"No idea, all part of the surprise," Tally answered with a giddy smile. "I just…I can't believe this is happening."

"Honestly? I wouldn't be able to either if I haven't actively seen the two of you together," Raelle told her.

"Same. Honestly I'm surprised no one else has noticed it," Abigail chimed in. "I mean, Tally's always looked at Alder with heart eyes—but Alder isn't as subtle as she thinks either."

Tally's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

Raelle and Abigail shared a look before looking back at Tally.

"Uh, yeah," they said in tandem.

"And now that the cat is going to be out of the bag, I'm looking forward to seeing how Alder will be," Raelle said with a smug smile.

Tally suddenly blushed crimson.

"Ohhhh, details." Abigail poked her side.

"We had sex in the warding circle," Tally blurted.

Abigail and Raelle laughed before Abigail put her arm around Tally again and squeezed.

"You guys are incorrigible, and I am so proud," Abigail teased.

"Good for Alder. I hope I'd still be able to have sex at that age." Raelle cracked herself up.

"How is the sex?" Abigail asked curiously. "Obviously good enough that you almost destroyed the base but…"

"Sarah said Beltane is going to kill her, and she's going to have to have warding put up so that she doesn't destroy it then…so…really fucking good," Tally told them with a red face and giddy smile.

Raelle whistled. "Good for you."

"So," Abigail began, switching the subject back to the date. "What do you think she's going to do for your date? I mean…are you going to stay on base or go off base?"

Tally shrugged. "If I had to guess I would say we will be on base because of ease and it's not public knowledge yet." Her eyes bugged. "Shit I need to grab my things."

"Alder's room again?" Abigail asked.

Tally turned and said softly, "Actually it's our room now."

Rae and Abigail's eyebrows rose high.

"Don't worry I'm just sleeping there, I'll be with you guys for classes and we are still a unit—"

"Of course we are, Tal," Raelle interrupted with a smile. "Honestly it's not a huge change. You've been sleeping there anyway, and honestly I'm glad you're getting rest."

"Yeah, you were really rough there for a while."

"Wow thanks guys." Tally snorted.

"I mean, you did look bad," Raelle agreed with Abigail.

Tally threw a pillow at her head before she finished packing. After a few more hugs she finally darted from the room, heading straight for Sarah's.

That was when she nearly ran directly into Petra Bellweather just outside the office.

Fuck.

Tally panicked slightly. "General Bellweather," she greeted formally.

"Cadet Craven," Petra returned, eyes flickering down to look at Tally's items in her hand. "Going somewhere?"

Oh this can't get worse.

"Craven," Alder's voice barked.

Tally thanked the Goddess as Petra turned at the sound of the General's voice.

"General," Petra greeted with a nod of her head.

"Did you need something, Petra?" Alder asked as she called for Tally to come to her through the link while she handled Petra.

Tally did as told, slipping around Petra and moving to the General.

"I was hoping to speak to you about the Batan mission. You'd mentioned you wanted to speak to me privately and I've finally had some time free up in my schedule."

Tally scoffed internally. As if Petra had more on her plate than Sarah, unless her scheming was taking up all her time.

Sarah chuckled in the link at that—and Tally used the opportunity to quickly duck past Sarah into the office.

"Actually you've arrived at a perfect time then," Alder told Petra, a wicked glint in her eyes.

Tally wasn't about to head to their bedroom while Petra was here, so she moved toward two of the biddies.

They were playing chess but had ceased and were already standing to take Tally's things from her and hiding them away in their room before Petra entered the office.

"I see that Cadet Craven will be joining us again," Petra noted tersely.

The biddies hissed in unison before ceasing at a wave from Sarah. She had moved to her tumbler of whiskey and poured one for herself and for each of the women.

"She will because she is in part what I need to discuss with you regarding the Batan mission." Sarah walked to Tally first and handed her the glass of whiskey, brushing her fingers against Tally's in a silent hello.

"Ah," Petra commented knowingly. "Nicte's unfortunate impersonation." She looked to Tally. "I'm sorry that she put you through that."

"Nicte isn't wholly to blame," Sarah replied immediately as she moved to hand Petra her glass. Once she had, she stepped back around her desk and took a seat.

Tally could feel Sarah's anger stirring in her stomach as she sat down next to the two biddies playing chess, watching the standoff between Sarah and Petra.

Erin, the biddy to Tally's left, patted her leg knowingly and offered her a look of sympathy, which Tally appreciated immensely.

"In part, Petra, I blame you."

Petra's eyebrows nearly went to her hairline. "Me?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes. The use of scold's bridles are outlawed." Sarah's eyes were cold as she spoke.

"General—"

The energy shifted in the room. Tally could feel the hair on her arms stand up from the electricity swirling, and Petra seemed to realize the precarious position she was in. Alder looked cold, calculating—as if one false word from Petra's lips would be her end.

"Outlawed," Alder said coldly. "Have you ever had one of those on, Petra?"

Petra merely shook her head.

"Would you like to?" Sarah questioned.

Tally sent her a questioning gaze but Sarah remained undeterred.

"No, of course not."

"Then why would you think it would be okay to send your daughter along with one?"

Petra had seemed surprised by that information.

"Did you honestly think I wouldn't ask the Bellweather unit where they acquired a device that I have outlawed? That has been outlawed for hundreds of years?" Alder was furious as she spoke. "That I would ever allow the use of one of those devices on a fellow witch, no matter she be Spree?"

Petra remained silent.

"So explain to me, Petra, why you felt the need to not only go behind my back not once, but twice?" Alder stood, a snarl etched on her face.

Tally threw her whiskey back as she waited. Even the biddies seemed to be holding their breaths—unusual as they normally would be hissing by now. It seemed Sarah had ordered them to stay quiet.

At Petra's silence she pressed on, her voice softer, "I had to tend to the wounds of a cadet. Someone who has never known true persecution. Someone who is innocent of the real horrors of war and battle and the burning times." Her voice grew as she continued, "I send a unit of cadets, formidable and powerful—but cadets, nonetheless. One of which was your own daughter, and you have the fucking audacity to hand her a device that is so barbaric that even The Hague will not use unless absolutely necessary. I don't give a shit how many witches and civilians Nicte has killed, no witch deserves that device." Alder's upper lip quivered with her rage and the lights flickered dangerously.

Tally was starting to grow concerned now. What if Sarah lost control and fried Petra on the spot.

"I am aware you couldn't have known Nicte would impersonate one of our own. I know you meant for that bridle to go on her and her alone. But it didn't. You took that risk. What if it had been Abigail?"

At that, Petra actually seemed ashamed—truly ashamed.

"You intended it for Nicte but it didn't end up on her," Alder practically growled. "It ended up on Tally, after she saved your daughter from Nicte's mind games. That was the repayment she got? A fucking scold's bridle?" Her hands gripped the desk harder. "I suggest you have a long think about your insubordination and where you want to go from here."

The room was as tense as Tally had ever experienced. She knew if Sarah had ever reamed her out like that she would have sobbed on the spot long ago. Hell, she was sure even Raelle would have cried at the lashing.

"Get out of my office," Alder growled lowly, voice vibrating with a low vibrato that signaled the presence of an oncoming seed—as she leaned forward on her desk, knuckles turning white against the wood as if she was keeping herself from lunging across and throttling Petra.

The High Atlantic swallowed her whiskey in one gulp, sat the empty glass on the desk, and promptly turned and left the office without a word.

Tally was on her feet the second Petra left, moving straight for Sarah where she had slumped back down into her chair. She reached out and touched Sarah's cheek as she sat down in her lap.

"Look at me," Tally requested softly.

Sarah's eyes met hers, and where there was previously anger, there was now a tiredness that spanned centuries.

"Nothing but betrayal," Sarah murmured. "Three hundred years of service to this nation and I have to deal with my own…" she trailed off and shook her head.

"Petra is ambitious. These old lines…" Tally began as she stroked Sarah's cheek. "They've forgotten how they've come to be. They forget who they owe their family lineage to. They forget that you have been fighting since before this land was the United States. Despite all witches here knowing our history…they forget that you lived it. They hear stories…" she shook her head. "And that's all it is to them…stories. They can't understand."

Sarah couldn't help the love that swirled in her chest. She wanted nothing more than to say the words, but she wanted to wait just a little longer. She wanted it to be just the two of them, in their own bubble, not tainted with the remnants of her anger and heartache.

"The Goddess has truly blessed me with you, Tally Craven," she said affectionately. She reached up and grasped Tally's neck, pulling her in for a gentle kiss. "I am sorry you had to see me so angry."

Tally shook her head. "You don't need to apologize. Believe me I wish I was able to say half of that to her, and even if I could I probably would've started crying before I finished," she said with a light laugh.

Sarah chuckled. "Well I am glad I could do that for the both of us. I have been meaning to do that since you returned from the mission…"

"I know, things have been insane." Tally understood. It had been a very very busy week. "But, on a positive note," she began with a wry grin, "we get to sleep together in our bed tonight, and tomorrow night we get to have our date."

The weariness in Sarah's eyes had dissipated with those two mentions. "Indeed we do," she said softly with a smile. "I do enjoy the sound of that. Our bed."

Tally hummed and leaned in for another kiss. They kissed slowly, in no rush for it to end and content to bask in the moment with each other. Tally could hear the biddies carrying on with their projects in their seats throughout the room, and she suddenly remembered her belongings.

"Oh, Erin!" Tally yelped when she pulled back from Sarah—who was looking a little dazed at the sudden loss of lips on her own. "Where did you—" she began to ask.

Erin stood from her chair and vanished behind the door to the biddies' rooms, reappearing a moment later with Tally's belongings.

"Thank you so much," Tally told her as she brought them over and sat them on the General's desk. "I am really glad Petra didn't question my things."

"Well, in two days' time it won't matter," Sarah pointed out.

"True. What would you have said if she had asked?"

Sarah hummed thoughtfully. "I probably would have just told her it had something to do with the biddy link and you not sleeping again…it's not like she needed to know that it had been remedied."

Tally gave a light laugh. She then grew serious as she remembered her and Sarah's earlier conversation.

"You mentioned wanting my advice about what to do about Nicte," Tally broached.

Sarah nodded. She really did want Tally's advice. She knew that she would give her honest opinion on whatever she said.

"I do. I'd like to leave it for later, if you agree. This day…I'm tired," Sarah told her honestly.

Tally could feel it in their connection—not only tired physically, but emotionally and mentally. It was wearing her down to the bone and it pained Tally to know Sarah was feeling that way.

Tally smiled softly. "Of course. We can talk about it whenever you'd like," she told her.

She stood then and pulled Sarah's chair closer to the desk as she leaned against it. Wordlessly, she reached for Sarah's braid and removed the tie at the end. She silently requested for Sarah to lean forward so she could begin undoing it. Slowly, she worked her way from the bottom to the top, undoing the braid and massaging her scalp to loosen the strands.

Sarah moaned against Tally's stomach as she worked, and Sarah couldn't help the wave of exhaustion that crashed over her at Tally's ministrations. The head massage was doing wonders, and she could feel the tension leaving her shoulders.

Tally looked over her shoulder to a couple of the biddies, who were watching with soft, affectionate expressions. Tally could tell they were waiting for Sarah to dismiss them, so she nodded to their door and smiled to let them know that she had everything from here. It was getting late and she knew the biddies especially needed their rest.

When they were the only two left, Tally continued to massage Sarah's scalp for a few more moments before she reached down and pushed the uniform jacket from her shoulders. Sarah's head remained pressed against her stomach, unmoving as she allowed Tally to do what she liked. Once free of the jacket, Tally slid her hands to Sarah's neck to massage the tight muscles there.

"Take a deep breath in for me, and then slowly exhale," Tally requested softly.

When Sarah did as asked—Tally pressed down on a knot at the exhale. She had Sarah repeat the motion until her neck was looser beneath her fingertips, and then trailed to her shoulders. She massaged them and asked Sarah to do the same, breathe in and out, and Tally would work the knots until they dissipated.

By the time she finished, she wasn't totally sure if Sarah was asleep or not. She was practically dead weight against Tally's stomach. She ran her hands up her shoulders, then her neck, and then massaged her scalp again.

"I'm awake," Sarah mumbled against Tally. She was barely awake…barely. Tally's ministrations had her more relaxed than she had felt in years.

Tally hummed knowingly. "You're trying to fool a Knower."

Sarah chuckled. "I am barely awake, sweetheart," she corrected.

"Then we should definitely go to bed," Tally said.

With much difficulty, Sarah rolled away on her chair and then stood. Her eyes felt heavy and she glanced around the room with some confusion at the absence of her biddies.

"I sent them to bed," Tally told her as she gathered her belongings.

"Thank you," Sarah said as they moved to the bedroom. "I hadn't even realized they left."

"You might have dozed off at a point," Tally admitted.

They readied themselves for bed and crawled beneath the covers. Tally took up residence in her spot on Sarah's chest, their legs and hands tangling with practiced ease.

"Thank you," Sarah said softly. She placed a delicate kiss to Tally's head.

"What for?" Tally asked before she yawned loudly.

Sarah's chest rumbled as she laughed. "For being you. You never cease to amaze me with your compassion."

Tally was already drifting off. She was more tired than she realized and had barely caught what Sarah had said.

"It's easy because I love you," Tally murmured before promptly passing out, not realizing what she had said either.

Sarah's eyes were wide as she looked down on Tally's sleeping form. They softened and she eased away from the connection some, just in case her elation would wake Tally. She swallowed shakily, tears threatening to spill as she kissed Tally's head; then inhaling the smell of her shampoo.

The urge to whisper the words into the silence of the room consumed her, but she managed to restrain herself. She wanted to make sure Tally was wide awake when she told her—but the sleepy confession from the young witch had certainly been just what Sarah needed to hear after dealing with Petra. Tally had taken care of her, relaxed her with her touch and her words, and Sarah couldn't have been more grateful.

 


 

When Tally awoke, she was surprised to find Sarah still deep asleep—a rare occurrence. The General was usually always the first to rise, and Tally couldn't help but smile as she slowly propped herself up on her arm to take her in.

Goddess do I love you, she thought to herself as she watched Sarah's chest rise and fall slowly.

She laid back down and kissed Sarah's chest and looked over at the nightstand, noticing her journal of poetry sitting there. The page she left off on, near the end, was marked carefully.

Tally felt herself blush a little. Her poems…especially the ones she'd written since the Tarim…

Well they were mostly about Sarah. They progressively became more…emotionally charged as everything developed between them. Hopefully they weren't too much. She didn't want to overwhelm Sarah or accidentally do something that would be too much, or upset her.

"My darling," Sarah murmured as her head lolled to face Tally. Her eyes blinked the remnants of sleep away as she fixed Tally with a sleepy gaze of adoration. "What are you thinking about this early?"

Tally chuckled and nuzzled in close to Sarah, both women humming happily as they got closer.

"You," Tally answered as she pressed a kiss to Sarah's neck.

Sarah hummed. "There is more to that though."

Tally sighed and tucked her face between Sarah's neck and the pillow. "I saw my journal on the nightstand and how far you've read…it's going to get sappier. So…I'm just worried it might be too much or something."

"Tally," Sarah addressed as she reached down to tilt Tally's head out of her hiding spot. Once the young witch met her gaze she stroked her cheek with a single finger. "Sweetheart, I've already finished it."

Tally's eyes went wide and Sarah couldn't help but laugh at the comical display.

"Yo-you read it already?" Tally squeaked out.

Sarah couldn't stop chuckling. When she finally had, she stroked Tally's hair. "Yes, of course. I missed you quite desperately when you were gone for break. Reading poems that you wrote was an effective band-aid for the distance."

Tally blushed. "So you're re-reading them?"

Sarah nodded, a twinkle in her eyes.

"And…you've read them all?"

Another nod.

"Did you like them?"

"Immensely," Sarah replied immediately. "I am rather jealous though of this woman you write about…the one with 'eyes that carry a storm with the fury of Poseidon and the blue ferocity of Zeus' lightning'," she quoted. "If I remember that correctly."

Tally went bright red but she smiled at the affection rolling off Sarah through their connection.

"They're beautiful. I am certain that no one has ever…ever described me the way that you do. If I couldn't feel your sincerity through our bond, reading those poems would have sufficed for me to understand the depth of your feelings," Sarah told her honestly before she rolled them over to be on top of Tally. "And I want to assure you that I feel as you do."

She captured Tally's lips in a kiss, content to lazily make out and touch for some time. Lazy morning kisses were one of Tally's favorite things to do with Sarah. It was peaceful, without their duties calling for the day, just the two of them basking in their private bubble. Tally wasn't sure how much time had actually passed but when they parted, it was only because of the biddies calling Sarah.

"The biddies call?" Tally asked at Sarah's disappointed sigh.

Sarah nodded. "Yes, they're reminding me of the time. I have preparations to finish for our date tonight."

Tally's eyes brightened. "Is that so?"

"Uh uh," Sarah warned as she threw up a mental block. "No snooping, my darling Knower."

Tally pouted, and gave her best puppy dog eyes.

Sarah slowly reached up and simply covered Tally's eyes with her hand, making them both laugh until they calmed a minute later.

"Patience is a virtue," Sarah told her before she kissed her again.

"It isn't one of mine," came Tally's rebuttal.

Sarah kissed her again, chuckling against her lips before she glanced at the clock. "I really do need to get up and get started, it's already nearly 11:00."

Tally's eyes widened. "Seriously?"

"It would seem that yesterday was rather tiring for us both," Sarah commented. "How are you doing? I know that learning of the connection was rather intense…along with what happened with Petra…"

Tally cupped her cheek, stroking it softly with the pad of her thumb. "I'm good. I'm…honestly still a little in disbelief that you're…mine. I mean, even before we knew about the extent of our connection, it felt so surreal that you wanted me of all people. You could literally have any man or woman you want."

"But I wanted you," Sarah countered softly. "You are the woman I want. Not anyone else. Even before we knew we were connected I wanted you. I told you yesterday, sweetheart, I want you. Simple and honest as it is."

Tally smiled up at her, catching Sarah's own wonderment and thankfulness that Tally wanted her too.

"I do want you. Have wanted you," Tally breathed. "Simple and honest."

They kissed again for another moment before Sarah groaned.

"I do love my biddies, but they can be quite the pain in the ass," Sarah said. She placed a quick kiss to Tally's lips. "Feel free to tell Abigail and Raelle what I said to Petra."

Tally laughed. "I will do that."

They reluctantly rose and readied themselves for the day, exchanging a few more touches and kisses before they had to part.

Tally practically skipped back to her company. She managed to grab some breakfast before linking up with Raelle and Abigail, who were wearing very satisfied smirks and civilian clothing.

Tally took a bite of her muffin, eyeing them suspiciously. "What?"

"We are going out," Abigail told her. "So, get changed into your civvies and meet us out front."

Tally's eyebrows rose. "Okay," she drawled. "Why?"

Raelle rolled her eyes affectionately. "Just do it, Tal."

Then they left, leaving a confused Tally Craven in the room.

She shrugged it off and quickly put on some jeans and a sweater, and her favorite pair of brown boots before heading out the door to meet her unit. She still needed to grab the rest of her belongings and move them into Sarah's room—but she figured once they met with the brass she would grab everything to move then.

When she got outside, her eyebrows went to her hairline at seeing them standing next to Anacostia, Adil, and Gregorio.

"Okay what is happening?" Tally asked with a laugh.

Anacostia smiled knowingly. "We are under strict orders from General Alder to keep you busy until tonight."

Tally couldn't help but beam and sent a wave of giddiness through the link, pleased when Alder returned the sentiment.

"Is that so?" Tally questioned with a smirk. "She really doesn't want me to know what she's up to I see."

"Not even a little," Rae confirmed with a snort.

"So you all were told?" Tally asked. "When did she even have…oh my god she sent the biddies." She laughed at her own realization.

Anacostia nodded with a smirk. "She's had them very busy since she asked you."

Tally then realized Sarah had planned all of this carefully so that when she awoke everything would be in motion. It was incredibly sweet and made Tally swoon.

"I can't believe they roped you two in," Tally told Adil and Gregorio.

"Well," Gregorio began with a shrug, "I was certainly surprised when I got a visit from one of the biddies with General Alder's request."

"She also said that we all needed a break, especially with what will be coming with the Camarilla," Adil added.

"And there is one more thing," Raelle said as she brought her hands around to the front and held up a sketchbook.

It was clearly a modern one, and Tally immediately reached for it. She loved seeing Sarah's past drawings, and had been privileged to have gone through a few sketchbooks since. This one though, seemed to be the most recent and she was excited to see the dates and the people and places within.

"So," Abigail began as she opened the door to the SUV that was waiting for them. "In we go."

When they all filed in, they began chatting about aimlessly until something involving alcohol was brought up, and Anacostia started telling them some of her drunken stories.

She noted that one night when she got back to her dorm, Alder was there waiting with a disapproving look…but still took care of her after she threw up on her shoes.

Their group had erupted into a fit of laughter as they pulled up to their destination.

They had been brought to Salem, and all hopped out from the vehicle to explore the town.

Tally loved it there, especially in the fall with the leaves all changing as they fell to the ground.

"So what time am I supposed to be back for my date?" Tally asked as they were in line for some mulled cider.

"Sunset," Anacostia answered easily. "Can't tell you more than that so don't ask, Craven."

Tally rolled her eyes but agreed.

They spent the day strolling around the town, ducking into various shops and entertaining themselves until they had to leave.

It was a perfect day. Her friends all seemed to relax, something that made her smile after the craziness their lives had been. They all got to just…be. Not witches, not soldiers, just people.

Tally sent her gratitude through the bond, smiling when Sarah answered in her mind.

"Everyone deserved a day. They've done much these past weeks," she told Tally.

"Well, it was perfect. Everyone seems to be in better spirits."

"I am glad that I was able to help," she paused, "I need to focus, darling, I'll see you soon."

Then the connection closed and Tally was left perplexed.

"Alder?" Raelle questioned at seeing Tally's confusion.

"Yeah. We were just talking and she said she needed to focus and would see me soon."

Anacostia shook her head. "Don't think about it," she chuckled. "I know exactly why she needs to focus." She laughed again.

Tally crossed her arms and sighed.

Chapter Text

After their outing finished—and with everyone in high spirits at some downtime away from base—they all piled into the SUV again, with Tally trying to trip Anacostia up. She did want to know but she was mainly just messing with her because she could, something that Raelle and Abigail also joined in on. It was like annoying a big sister. She also hadn't gotten a chance to look through Alder's sketchbook just yet, so she contented herself with waiting until the date so she could go through it with Sarah.

When they got back, Anacostia shooed the others off before she gestured for Tally to follow her.

The sun was just beginning to set when Anacostia stopped near a path.

"This is where I leave you," Anacostia told her with a smile. "Have fun, Tally." She gave her a wink.

Tally pulled her in for a hug before she left, and Tally set off down the path.

She knew this led to the lake that was on base. But this was a spot she'd never been to before. It was almost secluded, and something that only someone who knew every inch of the place would be able to find. Not only that, but Tally could see warding as she got closer—recognizing it instantly as Sarah's Work.

When she stepped through the last of the bushes, she gasped.

There was a large comfortable looking blanket on the ground with numerous pillows and a few extra blankets residing on it. There were candles nearby to illuminate the spot once the sun had completely set, as well as a few dishes that sat covered. It was also pleasantly warm within the warding, which Tally was grateful for.

At Tally's gasp, Sarah looked up from where she was retrieving some plates and cutlery.

"Perfect timing," Sarah told her.

Tally's throat went dry when she realized Sarah was also in civilian clothing. She didn't even know she had any.

She was wearing a pair of jeans and a sweater as well, her hair free of her braid and falling around her face in perfect waves.

Tally definitely short circuited.

Sarah chuckled and approached, taking Tally's hands in her own and raising them to her lips to kiss.

"Please tell me I didn't break you," Sarah teased.

Tally shook her head as a bright smile overtook her. "Only temporarily stalled my brain." She gave Sarah a once over. "I really like you in civilian clothing."

"Here I thought you enjoyed me without any at all," Sarah replied flirtatiously as she pulled Tally against her.

The redhead hummed approvingly. "Of course, it's my favorite. But this is wonderful too." She tugged on the sweater before leaning in and kissing Sarah. "Thank you again for today."

"Of course. I'm glad that you were able to unwind," she answered as she led her to the blanket.

Tally looked around, sighing in relief when she saw the biddies a bit away underneath a tree—and with what looked like their own cozy and warm set up.

"I was worried where they were when I didn't see them at first," Tally explained at Sarah's questioning gaze.

"I have them all set for the night," Sarah told Tally. "So now, it is wholly our time." Her heart soared and the biddies sent waves of warmth to Sarah through the link at Tally's concern for them.

Then Sarah's eyes caught the sketchbook in Tally's hands. She took it from her to set it on the blanket while Tally kicked off her boots.

They took a seat on the blanket as Sarah poured them each a glass of wine before they got comfortable against the pillows to watch the sunset.

Wordlessly, Sarah handed Tally the sketchbook. "Go ahead. I can feel your curiosity," she told her with a light laugh.

Tally dove in as they sat before the setting sun and flipping through the pages. There were drawings of some of the past biddies, and the recent ones, as well as a few of Anacostia as she was growing up. Tally knew she was going to tease Anacostia about her cute little self after this. There were sketches of the town in their modernization, as well as a few of the additions to the fort. She had drawn Verger and Izadora as well. Then Tally flipped the page and her breath caught in her throat.

It was a perfect drawing of her at Beltane.

"Beltane?" Tally questioned softly, her eyes flickering to meet Sarah's.

She was sporting a light blush. "I have felt drawn to you for quite a while."

Tally was beaming. "I'm glad that now we know why. This is beautiful, Sarah," Tally told her seriously.

"Keep going," Sarah requested. "There's one last drawing in this book."

Tally flipped to the next page, and there was a gorgeous portrait drawing of her that was dated during the period Tally was angry with her. Yet, she still had drawn her, eyes shining with hope and affection. She had really captured her perfectly.

At feeling the emotions roll through Tally, Sarah spoke, "I wanted to capture a moment where you still looked at me with admiration. I hadn't realized how important your approval meant to me…and when I lost it, I wanted to make sure I could recall how you used to look at me in case it never came back."

Tally could feel some tears well in her eyes, and she turned her head to lean over to capture Sarah's lips in a kiss. It was slow and passionate, with each of them pouring their feelings into the bond to share with each other—after a few moments though, they became breathless and needed to pull apart.

When they did, Sarah's eyes flickered to the sky. The sun was beginning to dip lower now.

"I'm sorry I hurt you," Tally told her.

Sarah smiled affectionately. "I know. And I am sorry that I hurt you."

Tally scooted closer to nuzzle against Sarah's neck before she placed a kiss there, making the older woman hum happily. Then they both turned their eyes to the setting sun.

"Are you hungry?" Sarah asked as the sky brightened with various colors.

Tally was pretty sure it was the most beautiful sunset she'd ever seen. She tore her eyes away, unable to deny how hungry she was…and her stomach answered for her.

Sarah laughed and nodded to herself as she began gathering a plate and silverware for Tally. She picked up the dish covers and Tally salivated at the mere sight.

"Okay this all looks amazing. Where did you get all this?"

There was a plate of bread, cheese, and fruit; a dish of what looked like a pot roast and smelled mouthwateringly divine; a casserole of sorts that Tally could see was loaded with vegetables; and something sweet that she couldn't quite pinpoint.

At Tally's question, Sarah grew rather red—and Tally could hardly believe that Sarah's face could get so flushed.

"I made it," she answered.

Tally's eyes widened. "You made all this?"

Sarah nodded. "With the biddies help of course. I cooked everything but I had them help with the prep work, and the taste testing."

"I didn't even realize you could cook," Tally retorted with a bright smile on her face.

Sarah chuckled throatily, pleased she was able to surprise her Knower. "I told you I am a woman of many talents."

"Clearly," Tally agreed as Sarah dished up her food for her.

Sarah grabbed the bottle of wine and refilled their glasses as Tally dug in.

The first bite Tally took had her moaning.

"Here I thought that I could only make you moan like that in bed," Sarah teased. She was ecstatic that Tally liked what she made.

"This is amazing," Tally told her honestly. "Where? How?"

Sarah chuckled. "My mother taught me. She taught me each of these dishes…of course I know more but these were some of the first she had showed me. The casserole was a creation of hers to include as many hearty vegetables as she could. Meat was a rare luxury. We ate a lot of duck and turkey here, but every now and then we would be able to get some meat and when we would, she would make that."

Tally tried the casserole while Sarah explained, and when she finished she gave Sarah a look that could only be read as 'fuck this is good'.

"This is literally the best meal I've ever had and I promise I'm not exaggerating," she told her as she sent her sincerity through the link.

Sarah beamed at the compliment. "I'm glad. I haven't cooked in ages. Not since Ana was younger."

"You cooked for her?" Tally asked.

Sarah hummed. "I did. Not always of course. My duties always took precedence. But during the holiday season I always made sure I was available to cook dinner for the biddies and Ana. The pot roast is a favorite of hers as well."

"I can see why." Tally took another bite. It melted in her mouth and whatever herbs Sarah had seasoned it with were top tier.

"I also made my mother's apple turnover recipe," Sarah said. "That would be the sweetness you could smell."

Tally's eyes brightened. "Are you trying to put me in a food coma?"

Sarah laughed jovially. "No, my darling. But if you need a nap after I'm happy to hold you."

Tally smiled softly before she sat her plate off to the side and reached up to cup Sarah's face.

"You're remarkable," Tally told her honestly before she leaned in and captured her lips in a kiss.

Sarah could feel Tally's heart rate pick up, and caught the nervous emotions flying through her. It made Sarah's heart clench with anticipation, and she knew what Tally was about to say.

So she pulled back and reached up to cup Tally's face with her hand, softly stroked her cheek and then over her adorable dimple until Tally's eyes met hers.

When they did, Sarah released a deep, affectionate sigh.

"Lóù imé wèlá, Tally Craven," Sarah said softly, her blue eyes holding Tally's rich brown.

Tally's breath caught in her throat. It was like fireworks exploded inside her and she gasped.

She loved her. She was in love with her. She was certain that her soul departed her body briefly to soar through the sky before returning.

She pulled Sarah back in, crashing their lips together and kissing her passionately. A moan rumbled in Sarah's chest as Tally's fingers tangled in her hair to keep her close. She pulled back to look at the older woman, delighting in the darkened gaze Sarah fixed her with after their kiss.

"I love you too, Sarah Alder," Tally breathed.

Sarah's eyes watered and Tally found hers doing the same. They met again in another kiss, softer this time and filled with unbridled affection.

The General could feel the love flowing through their connection, thrumming loudly as if happy that it was finally given voice. Pure rightness settled in both their chests, and when Tally opened her eyes she could see their magic swirling around them. She showed Sarah through the connection, delighting in the wonderment Sarah was gazing at her with.

"I love you," Sarah whispered against Tally's lips. "I love you, I love you, I love you."

Tears fell from Tally's eyes as Sarah's words and feelings washed over her. They touched their foreheads and Tally released a delighted laugh. Sarah returned it in kind, her own eyes beginning to water.

"We have the most beautiful magic I've ever seen," Tally told her seriously.

Sarah hummed her agreement. She hadn't seen a lot of pure magic in her long life, but any magic she had ever seen didn't even slightly compare to what their magic looked like.

"Goddess I love you so much," Tally breathed before she crawled into Sarah's lap, straddling her so that she could be as close as possible while they kissed.

They kissed for some time, simply touching each other with gentle caresses and affectionate kisses placed anywhere they could reach.

Eventually they pulled apart and Sarah's eyes flickered to Tally's abandoned plate. "You should finish eating before it gets cold."

Tally chuckled, eyes twinkling. "I mean, you're warm. I could just eat you."

Sarah released a loud laugh before she shook her head. "Cheeky witch. Only if you eat the rest of your dinner."

Tally grumbled playfully as she extricated herself from Sarah and returned to eating her food. Sarah had scooted closer so that they could sit side to side as Tally finished her meal.

"I have a confession to make," Sarah began with a mischievous smirk.

Tally froze. "What?"

Sarah chuckled. "Ah, you told me you loved me last night before you passed out."

Tally could feel her ears burn and Sarah laughed at the mortified expression on her face.

"Beloved." Sarah reached up and lightly touched the courtship beads. "You were falling asleep when I told you that your compassion never ceases to amaze me. And you responded that it's easy because you love me…" Sarah trailed off softly.

"I'm sorry! That was definitely not how I wanted to te—"

"Tally," Sarah interjected softly. "It was perfect. It was exactly what I needed to hear last night. So thank you. It also made me far less nervous to tell you."

"You were nervous?" Tally questioned with a grin.

Sarah hummed, eyes twinkling. "Of course. Who wouldn't be nervous about telling a gorgeous woman they're in love with her."

Tally beamed as she sat her now empty plate down and away from her. "General Alder, who has lived and fought in eighty-one wars, seen countless battles and enemies…yet is nervous to tell her much younger songmate that she's in love with her," Tally said playfully.

Sarah rolled her eyes and laughed. "Yes."

"I was nervous too," Tally admitted.

Sarah nodded knowingly. "I know, I felt it. I thought it would be unfair for you to say it first, twice."

Tally laughed and shook her head. "Fair enough."

By now, the sun had finished setting on the horizon and Sarah got up to light the candles around them. It wasn't enough to illuminate the entire space, but was just enough to provide some light in the otherwise dark landscape.

She offered Tally one of the turnovers, which Tally accepted immediately. The moans that fell from her mouth had Sarah actually envious of the dessert.

Tally laughed when she caught the sentiment. "Don't worry, you taste much better than anything I've eaten…but your cooking is definitely second. Seriously, you're quite the chef."

"Thank you, sweetheart."

"You're welcome, baby," Tally replied softly, enjoying the way Sarah looked at her with so much affection when she uttered that pet name.

When Tally finished, Sarah moved the plates of food off to the side more to make room for them to lay down without risking bumping into anything.

They laid down on their backs, side by side, hands entwining and looking up at the night sky.

"This is a perfect date," Tally murmured, eyes still on the night sky.

"I hoped you would enjoy it." Sarah glanced over at her. "You shared a spot you loved with me, and I wanted to share one with you. It's secluded and no one comes here, but it is one of the few spots that you can see the night sky. Not as well as on the compound, of course…but better than most areas."

"Do you miss it? Before all the technology?"

"I certainly am a fan of indoor plumbing," she quipped.

Tally laughed so hard she snorted, and in her embarrassment Sarah merely chuckled affectionately.

"I can't imagine going so long without indoor plumbing," Tally commented with a shake of her head.

Sarah sighed heavily, "It was awful."

They both laughed at that and Tally silently urged her to continue. She loved Sarah's stories of her own experiences through the centuries. Tally rolled onto her side, propping her head with her arm so she could gaze down at Sarah while she spoke.

"Winter was the worst," she said with a grimace. "No one has ever gone to the bathroom faster than when you are stuck outside. Just because the outhouses were sheltered did not mean they were warm."

Tally made a face. She definitely wasn't upset at the luxury of indoor plumbing.

"Electricity is nice too of course. It certainly has made things much easier. However, technology has been quite a hindrance—almost as much as it has been a help."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, it's allowed us to track our enemies further and from a safer distance. We can instantaneously share large quantities of information without having to send someone to deliver it for fear that they will be hunted on the road. There are many positives to it. The drawbacks are the impact on the environment." She grew sad at that. "I miss the stars, the clean air, the quiet."

Tally looked down at her, a soft expression on her face. "Can I propose something?"

Sarah turned her head to meet her gaze. She gave a single nod, waiting patiently for Tally to say what was on her mind.

"I think that whenever we are able to have time away from base again…you and I should take a vacation," Tally said seriously.

"I've never taken a vacation," Sarah replied.

Tally smiled. "Then we have to. Why don't we go somewhere remote? Out in the wilderness somewhere and camp?"

Sarah grinned. "I'd enjoy that."

"We can be somewhere with little light pollution and somewhere we can breathe easy," Tally suggested. "You can re-enact the old days."

Sarah released a full-bellied laugh at that. "That sounds perfect."

Tally cast a glance over Sarah, back toward the trees in the distance where the biddies resided. "Will they be okay camping?"

Sarah chuckled and nodded. "Yes. I actually sent the idea to them a moment ago and they're enthusiastically agreeing."

"Perfect," Tally replied as she raised Sarah's hand to her lips and kissed the back.

They returned their eyes to the sky.

"Will you humor me in one more thing?" Sarah asked softly.

Tally nodded instantly, and Sarah sat up then stood. She walked toward the large bag that rested just outside of their nest and pulled out a small speaker and an iPod. She quickly hooked it up then returned and held out her hand.

"Will you dance with me?" Sarah requested.

Tally felt warmth flood her and she quickly stood, stepping into Sarah's arms as the music began to play.

"First of all, I'm impressed you're good with technology," she teased.

Sarah rolled her eyes before grinning wryly. "Well if you must know, the biddies showed me how to set it up. I was struggling earlier."

Tally laughed and tucked her head against Sarah's neck as they swayed.

Then she recognized the song. It was 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' by Céline Dion.

Tally melted against Sarah as they swayed gently.

"The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love"

"I love this song," Tally told her.

"I know." Sarah smiled against Tally's head. "I as well."

"This is perfect, Sarah."

"I'm glad, my love," she replied softly, tightening her hold on Tally and continuing to sway to the music.

Her hand tangled in Tally's hair, carefully watching the braid, to pull her as close as she could.

"And the first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the Earth move through my hand
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love"

"I thought it was fitting," Sarah began. "I felt the earth rumble when we first kissed."

"Really?" Tally asked, lifting her head to regard Sarah with an adoring smile.

Sarah hummed. "Indeed." Then she surprised Tally even further by softly singing the next two lines,

"And the first time ever I lay with you

I felt your heart so close to mine"

Tally didn't know Sarah could sing, and her voice was beautiful to Tally's ears. She wasn't surprised though, everything Sarah did was magical to her.

She released a soft sigh before she tilted her head up and captured Sarah's lips in another sweet kiss.

They clung to each other as the music faded out, and Tally could feel all the emotion that had been swirling in her heart slowly creep lower. When Sarah's teeth took her bottom lip she released a breathy moan.

"Sarah," Tally murmured against her lips. "Make love to me."

Sarah immediately dropped to her knees and took Tally's hands to guide her down. She laid Tally on her back and kissed her tenderly. Their kisses were slow and purposeful—seeking to convey every joyous emotion that flowed through the bond, back and forth.

Sarah kissed Tally's witch mark before she scraped her teeth over it, delighting in the gasp it drew from Tally before she continued to lavish her neck with attention. It didn't take long for the heat to build, and soon after both women were laying bare before the night sky.

Sarah's hair surrounded their faces as they kissed, blocking out the outside world around them. Her hands stroked up Tally's sides, then to her breasts to tease her hardened nipples—earning needy whines from her. Sarah loved the noises she could pull from her young witch, delighted when she would moan for her.

She couldn't resist the moans and gasps that she released either as Tally kissed, licked, and bit her neck. After one particular bite that sent an electric charge through her body, she was certain she would have a mark come morning—something that thrilled her. She wanted to be marked by her—a visible reminder that she was loved and wanted by Tally.

She pressed her forehead to Tally's as her hand slid down over a taut stomach, to the apex of her thighs, through the trimmed auburn curls, and finally to the slick that waited for her.

Sarah moaned deeply when she connected with Tally's wetness. It gave her a rush of pleasure every time she felt how much Tally wanted her.

"Lóù imé wèlá, imé jìpón jè wèdís," Sarah murmured into their kiss as she slid two fingers home.

Tally moaned loudly and pressed down against Sarah's hand as her fingers curled inside. She slid her own hand between their bodies, running her fingers through Sarah's soaked folds and moaning when she circled Sarah's clit and the older witch whined.

Tally entered her with two fingers, curling them immediately and earning another delicious noise from Sarah.

They moved slowly against each other—giving just enough to draw it out as long as possible. Then Sarah rubbed her thumb over Tally's clit as she thrust deep, earning a guttural moan before she gasped breathlessly.

Sarah could feel her growing close and she requested Tally to thrust deeper—careening against her when she did as asked. They climbed the peak together, tipping over the edge at the same time and vocalizing their pleasure as the aftershocks ran through them.

Tally opened her eyes and brushed Sarah's hair from her face, kissing her lips sweetly and carefully removing her fingers.

"Look at what we did," Tally whispered before showing Sarah what she was seeing.

Not only had various mushrooms and flowers physically bloomed around them, but energetically Tally could see what they created.

Sarah's eyes widened in awe as she saw their magic—the vast nebula of colors decorating them and the area around them, as if providing oxygen to the flora and fungi. They'd made the earth sing with them, creating beauty from their unintentional joint work.

Sarah could feel the power in her veins, and she knew Tally was similarly affected. It seemed that their connection was strengthening Tally's power, and for that Sarah was incredibly grateful—she would be more protected.

"We have a lot of power, Tally," Sarah murmured as tears appeared in her eyes. "My beautiful, darling, songmate."

Tally blushed and kissed her again. Moaning when Sarah's fingers shifted in her.

She surprised her when she rolled them over, straddling Sarah as she sat back and ground down on the fingers inside her.

"I need you to fuck me," Tally told her, a light blush tinting her cheeks at her forwardness.

Sarah's eyes darkened. "Anything for you."

Then she curled her fingers and thrust up, pulling a gasp from Tally. The redhead rocked against her, riding her fingers as Sarah helped in thrusting up into her with her hips—deep and hard.

Tally reached behind her to rub Sarah's clit as she rode her fingers.

"Fuck," Tally moaned as Sarah hit right where she needed her.

Sarah moaned Tally's name as Tally rubbed her clit in tight circles.

The sound of their fucking was loud in the open space, but neither of them cared. In fact, Tally was already approaching her second orgasm from Sarah's touch, moans, and the sound of her soaking pussy being taken.

"Fuck, baby," Tally whined.

Sarah released a growl and surged up, immediately taking Tally's throat in her mouth and sucking the spot right over her cords—determined to leave a mark.

"Yes, yes, don't stop," Tally pleaded as she canted her hips faster. She was gushing onto Sarah's hand, and could feel Sarah nearing her own orgasm.

Tally didn't stop rubbing Sarah even as she came hard around her fingers, milking them as if they had something to give—until Sarah came with a loud cry against Tally's neck.

They fell back on the blanket and Sarah carefully extracted her fingers before cleaning them with her tongue. She pulled Tally up and held her as she laid directly on top of Sarah.

"I need a moment, but then I'm eating you out," Tally told her as she caught her breath against Sarah's chest.

The General chuckled. "Is that so?"

"You said I could eat you out if I ate all of my dinner. I did that and had dessert," Tally told her pointedly, her head tilting so she could meet her songmate's eyes.

"I suppose I did."

Tally hummed before she kissed Sarah's chest, then slowly kissing her way down until she reached her center.

She licked up her slit, delighted when Sarah hissed and pushed closer to Tally's waiting mouth. Her tongue slid between soaked folds, drinking up every drop she could get as Sarah writhed beneath her.

She pressed closer, pulling Sarah toward her with her arms wrapped around her thighs while her fingers opened Sarah more for her.

"Tally," Sarah moaned as Tally's tongue lavished her clit. "Fuck."

Tally moaned at the flood of wetness that coated her lips and chin. She loved that she had this effect on Sarah, as well as her taste. She was sweet yet tangy and Tally constantly felt like she couldn't get enough. She sucked her clit into her mouth, moaning approvingly as Sarah released a gasp of pleasure.

Sarah ground against her faster as Tally pushed her closer to the edge. When Tally entered her with two fingers, curling them immediately for Sarah to clamp around—she came with a loud cry of Tally's name on her lips.

She melted into the blanket as Tally cleaned her up before returning to her spot to nuzzle her neck.

"Goddess, Tally," Sarah moaned softly. She turned her head and kissed Tally's forehead.

"I'm surprised you didn't destroy anything," Tally commented, tilting her head up to gaze at Sarah.

"You saw the warding when you arrived, yes?"

"Presumptuous," Tally teased with a grin.

"Perhaps. But I was right," Sarah reminded her as they both laughed.

They ended up falling asleep on the blanket after Sarah had grabbed the extra blankets and thrown them over her and Tally. They clung to each other through the remainder of the night beneath the stars.

The glow of the mushrooms around them illuminated their spot in a soft light, until the hours of the morning when the birds began to sing.

Chapter Text

Waking up outside, naked as the day she was born, would have normally had Tally shoot straight up. But she was warm despite her lack of clothing, and felt a familiar warm body pressed against her own.

"Good morning," Sarah said softly against Tally's neck. She had felt the younger witch begin to stir.

"Mmm, morning, baby," Tally moaned as she stretched—eyes lazily opening to take in the woman next to her.

Then her eyes noticed something.

She let out a boisterous laugh, making Sarah give her a queer look about what she was laughing at.

"I marked you," Tally said, absolutely beaming.

Sarah arched an eyebrow. "Is that so?" She grinned. She knew as much last night, and she couldn't wait to see how bad it was. "Will my uniform collar cover it?"

Tally bit her lip. "It should…it's pretty big though. It looks like I beat your cords," she informed her shyly.

Sarah hummed and pulled Tally even closer, pressing their foreheads together. "Perfect."

They kissed lazily as the last bits of sleep left them.

Sarah suddenly stopped, her entire body tensing as she tilted her head to glance at the pathway.

"What's wrong?" Tally questioned through the bond.

"I hear someone coming," Sarah replied, confused.

Then she saw Anacostia appear. The warding that Sarah had put up didn't just consist of a protective barrier for her magic, but hid them from prying eyes and soundproofed their activities.

"It's Ana," Sarah said aloud before she adjusted the blankets around them both, and then sang a seed to dispel the warding.

Anacostia arched an eyebrow as they appeared before her. They were a tangled mess, clearly still wrapped up in each other with the blankets tucked around them haphazardly.

"Did I interrupt?" Anacostia asked with a smirk as she approached.

"We were just waking," Sarah said, not moving from her spot half on top of Tally. "Is there a reason you're here?"

Tally couldn't help but chuckle lightly before she tilted her head up to see Anacostia, even if she was partially upside down.

"She's cranky," Tally teased, earning a playful glare from Sarah.

"I have a very good reason, actually," Anacostia said pointedly. Then her eyes drifted to the working imbued bag that rested at the foot of their makeshift bed. "You have any turnovers left?"

Sarah gestured for her to help herself as she sat back and held the blanket up so that Tally could grab her clothing and dress.

"I had to come wake you both to let you know that the brass is convening in two hours."

"What?" Tally squeaked as she finished putting her sweater on.

Sarah seemed equally surprised by the news.

"What did Magda tell them that made them move it to this early?" Sarah asked.

Tally switched places with her, holding the blanket so Sarah could put her clothing back on while Anacostia spoke.

Her fosterling let out a groan. "You need to make these more often because these should be illegal," she said between mouthfuls of turnover.

"Ana," Sarah chided as she stood with Tally.

Anacostia turned around, a shit-eating grin on her face. "What?"

"I thought I raised you better than speaking with a full mouth."

"You don't complain when I do it," Tally retorted.

Anacostia laughed so hard she nearly choked on her turnover. She started coughing between the laughs, especially at the faint blush Alder was sporting.

Anacostia offered Tally a fist bump and Alder shook her head.

"What did I do to deserve you two," Sarah teased.

"So much, because we are blessings," Tally answered.

When Anacostia finished her turnover, she finally answered Sarah's original question as she helped the two women pack up their picnic.

The biddies joined them a moment after, carrying their own bedding for the evening and offering Tally tender smiles.

She could feel how much they cared about her and Sarah through just their gazes.

"Honestly I'm not entirely sure. What I do know though, is the Imperatrix isn't very pleased about being summoned because she is apparently 'too busy to be at Sarah's beck and call'," she quoted.

Sarah ground her teeth as they walked back to base. "Goddess do I despise that woman."

Tally pressed her shoulder against Sarah's as they walked, since both of their hands were full. "I know, but in two hours you're going to wipe that self-serving, egotistical woman's entitlement right off her face."

Anacostia's eyebrows rose approvingly. "Someone is getting more of an edge to her."

Sarah sighed and offered Tally a gentle smile. "I believe my own edge is bleeding into you through the bond, my love."

Tally shrugged and smiled. "Honestly, I'm okay with that. Makes me more assertive in what I believe in."

"Hard to believe. You've always been assertive. No matter how nervous you were about questioning my methods, motives…you believed in what you said. That hasn't changed and I do not believe it will. I think that the bond is merely allowing us to grow with the positive traits of ourselves that may need more coaxing out. I surmise that it is one of the reasons I have been more willing to be open with others and you."

Tally was sporting a blush at having a positive effect on Sarah.

"Well, whatever is causing it," Anacostia began, drawing their attention back to her, "it's awesome so keep it up."

Sarah chuckled. "I do not believe that will be an issue for Tally. She is rather persistent."

Tally offered her a soft smile as they entered the building to head to their room.

"They're holding it in the war room," Anacostia supplied. "I'm going to go inform Collar and Bellweather so they can meet us there."

Sarah nodded gratefully. "Thank you, Ana."

Anacostia nodded, ready to turn and leave when Sarah's hand reached out and touched her arm.

The biddies all entered their room as Tally disappeared into their own.

Anacostia looked at Alder questioningly, knowing that Sarah had requested a moment alone with her since Tally left.

"What is it?" Anacostia questioned softly.

Sarah took a deep breath. "Is the President in attendance of this as well?"

Anacostia shook her head. "Did you want her to be?"

"No," Sarah responded immediately. "Merely curious. My next…this is more of an inquiry that I would like your thoughts on."

Anacostia nodded her agreement.

"I would like to procure some property. Preferably on base, so that it is within the warding here."

Anacostia tilted her head to the side curiously. "What for?"

"For Tally and I," Sarah answered softly.

A sweet smile graced Anacostia's face. "Why not down by the lake there? No one really heads there anyway and with some additional warding we could hide it. You'd still be near enough to base and you're in your office throughout the day anyway."

Sarah nodded in contemplation. "That would be excellent. It would have to have enough space for the biddies as well, of course. It's certainly something to consider. Thank you, daughter." She stepped closer and pulled her in for a hug.

"You got it," Anacostia replied as Alder embraced her. "Mom."

Sarah chuckled near her ear before she pulled back and lightly touched Anacostia's face. "Now, off you go. I am in desperate need of a shower."

Anacostia laughed loudly and her eyes fell on the bruise over her cords. "Yeah you both smell like sex and outside."

With that she left and Sarah headed into their room, finding that Tally was already in the shower. She quickly stripped—tossing her soiled clothing into her hamper before joining Tally in the shower.

She would much rather be soaking in the tub with Tally, but the two hour time limit wouldn't leave them with much time for the other activities Sarah wouldn't be able to resist.

She stepped in behind the redhead, wrapping her arms around her middle and placing a kiss to her wet shoulder.

"You know," Sarah began, trailing kisses across Tally's shoulder and up to her neck—where the younger witch tilted her head to the side to give Sarah better access. "We haven't had sex in the shower."

Tally hummed. "You're right, we haven't," she replied, breathless from the teasing kisses Sarah was placing on her skin.

"Think we have enough time for a round?" Sarah asked. Her hands trailed over Tally's clavicles to cup her breasts. She gently teased her nipples to hardened peaks as she moaned for her.

Tally's head rolled back to rest on Sarah's shoulder as her hands travelled down her stomach and then to the apex of her thighs.

"Goddess yes," Tally whined.

Sarah turned her head to place open-mouthed kisses to Tally's neck, her fingers trailing down Tally's thigh and back up teasingly, while her other continued to play with her breast.

At a needy whine from Tally after she passed by her folds once more, she finally relented and slid her fingers between her thighs. Tally moaned against her as she circled her clit before dipping lower to gather Tally's wetness on her fingers.

"Always so ready for me," Sarah murmured against her neck. She dragged her teeth over Tally's witch's mark, enjoying the way her breath hitched before she ran her tongue over it before nipping lower.

Tally released a shaky breath, leaning back into Sarah more before her own hand came to rest over Sarah's. She pressed it into her more, silently requesting more pressure.

"What do you need, imé wèlá?" Sarah whispered in her ear.

She knew. She could feel it through the bond and in the flashes in her mind of what Tally wanted her to do. She just wanted her to say it.

"Sarah," Tally whined, grinding into their joint hands more. "I need you inside."

Sarah hummed approvingly before she pushed Tally closer to the tiled wall, silently telling her to brace herself on her hands. She kicked Tally's legs apart, bending her over slightly as her hand detoured to behind her body.

She slid her fingers through soaked folds, gathering Tally's slick once more before she entered her with two fingers from behind.

Tally let out a low moan, and then a gasp as Sarah's other hand wrapped itself in Tally's hair to pull her head back.

She heeded Tally's silent request for her to fuck her from behind, and wasted no time beginning to pound into the younger witch.

"Fuck," Tally gasped as Sarah's fingers hit deep. Her eyes rolled back in pleasure as Sarah took her. She briefly thought about how amazing this would be if Sarah would wear a strap and take her like this.

A resounding growl echoed in the shower as Sarah pressed against Tally and pulled her head back more.

"I think that can be arranged," Sarah told her. Her voice was rough with desire, and she became mesmerized by the sight of her fingers sliding in and out of Tally's heat.

"Harder, please," Tally begged.

A smirk graced Sarah's face as she slammed deeper into Tally, earning a wanton cry of pleasure as she hit right where she needed her.

"There, there, there," Tally panted as she thrust back into Sarah's fingers.

She canted her hips, meeting each of Sarah's deep thrusts as she chased her orgasm.

"Touch yourself," Sarah commanded, her voice rough and desperate. She could feel Tally fluttering around her digits and knew she was close.

Tally removed one of her hands from the tiled wall to reach between her legs and rub her clit as Sarah pounded into her.

"S-shit," Tally stuttered out as she climaxed. Her body tensed and she clenched down on Sarah's fingers, keeping them trapped inside her as she gushed over Sarah's hand and rode it out.

Sarah eased her through the aftershocks until Tally caught her breath. She carefully slid her fingers from her, rinsing them off in the spray of water before she grabbed Tally's hips and turned her around to place all of her weight against Sarah's body. She held her to her chest, allowing the warm spray to wash over them both.

Tally hummed happily from her spot at Sarah's neck. "That was good. I like you taking me from behind."

Sarah chuckled. "Anytime you'd like."

"Ugh," Tally groaned with a bright smile as her eyes met Sarah's. "Don't tempt me or we would never leave the room."

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Sarah retorted as she kissed Tally's nose.

Tally tilted her head up and captured Sarah's lips in a soft kiss before she pressed her back to the wall.

She kissed her neck, humming happily as Sarah tilted her head to the side to give her better access. She lightly kissed over Sarah's bruised skin, delighting in the shiver she felt run through Sarah.

She dipped her head, taking one of Sarah's nipples in her mouth and lavishing it with attention as her hand caressed the other.

Sarah moaned, her head falling backwards against the tile. Tally released her nipple before she moved to the other, giving it the same attention until Sarah's moans were breathless.

She slid her hands down Sarah's body, eyes holding contact as she touched between soaked folds.

Sarah hissed at the first touch, a soft moan escaping her lips as Tally leaned in and kissed her.

Tally poured her love and affection through the bond, smiling when she felt Sarah respond in kind—then she slammed two fingers into her.

Sarah cried out before moaning deeply at the pace Tally set from the start.

"Yes," Sarah encouraged as Tally lifted her leg to open her more.

The redhead pounded into her, deep and hard, and she was pretty sure she was seeing stars as Tally hit the right spot over and over.

She wasn't going to last long. She was incredibly turned on from fucking Tally, and now having her inside her felt too good to resist. She met her thrusts, moaning as she pulled Tally in to kiss her.

It was sloppy and filled with need, and Tally took the opportunity to slide her tongue into Sarah's mouth—swallowing her moans as she curled her fingers and sent Sarah into her orgasm.

She shook against Tally, moaning into her mouth as she rode out her pleasure.

When she finally came down, Tally removed her fingers—licking them off before rinsing them under the stream. She placed soft kisses over Sarah's neck, across her jaw, and then to her lips where she captured them again in a gentle kiss.

"Have I told you that I love you?" Tally murmured against them. She sighed softly when she felt Sarah smile against her.

"Today?" Sarah asked, a teasing glint in her eye. "I do not believe so."

Tally's eyes widened playfully. "Oh, well that won't do. I love you, Sarah Alder," she told her before she kissed her again.

When they broke for air, Sarah responded in kind, "I love you, Tally Craven."

They kissed again, slow and passionate until they needed to breathe.

"We should probably shower," Sarah commented with a chuckle as she set to grabbing the soap and a washcloth.

They managed to make it fairly quick, especially once one of the biddies told Sarah they had thirty minutes before the meeting—along with some light teasing about how if it was possible for Tally to get pregnant, she would be by now. The mention had made Sarah choke on her own air with surprise…as well as a deep longing for that to be possible.

The time check had surprised them. They didn't think they were in the shower that long, but it seemed time moved differently with them—not that Tally was complaining. She loved her time with Sarah, no matter how long or short it was.

When they finally dried off and dressed, Sarah brushed Tally's hair for her before she redid her braid.

"I'm kind of nervous," Tally admitted as Sarah worked on her own braid.

She was impressed at how quickly the woman was able to do her own hair—but being alive for hundreds of years and repeatedly doing it would have that result.

"What's on your mind?" Sarah asked as she finished and tied the braid off.

"I just…" Tally couldn't put it into words, so she sent the feelings through the bond. She watched Sarah's face carefully as she catalogued the emotions.

"Ah," Sarah began with a soft smile and approached to take Tally's hands in her own. "Tally, if they disapprove, I meant what I said the other day. I refuse to cease our courtship. I'm considering this merely a formality. I am not asking for permission I do not need. The only permission I need, is yours."

"You know you have it," Tally said seriously.

"I do," Sarah replied with a gentle smile. She leaned in and kissed Tally. "And since I have the only permission I need…informing them is merely protocol."

Tally sighed with relief. She knew all this of course…but anxiety was irrational many times and she needed to hear it out loud, and from Sarah.

"Anytime you need reassurance, I am here," Sarah urged. She kissed Tally again. "I love you, my darling songmate."

Tally sighed happily into the kiss. They were able to enjoy a few minutes before Sarah pulled back with a sigh.

"Biddies?"

"Indeed. We need to go," she answered as she straightened Tally's jacket.

Tally's eyes flickered down to Sarah's collar. Her bruise was only partially hidden, and it brought a blush to Tally's face.

Sarah merely arched an eyebrow.

"You can see it."

"Good," she replied, leaning in to kiss Tally once more before she threaded their fingers together and led them from the room.

They convened with the biddies and set off toward the war room. Once they stopped outside the door, Sarah was concerned Tally was going to pass out from nerves.

"Darling, are you okay?" Sarah asked before they entered.

"Really nervous," Tally answered honestly.

Sarah nodded in understanding, and she sent as much reassurance through the bond as she could—also sharing that she was a little nervous as well.

They entered the room, and Tally relaxed slightly when she saw Abigail and Raelle.

"Hey, Tal!" Rae called as she and Abigail quickly came over to them.

Sarah sighed with relief as Tally's anxiousness dissipated some, relieving her of her own.

"General," the women in the room all said in tandem.

"Thank you all for coming," Sarah began as her biddies stood off to the side while she took her seat.

The Imperatrix sat across from Sarah, Petra Bellweather on her right, Izadora on her left, then General Clary to Petra's right. Major Verger sat next to Izadora, and then Anacostia between Sarah and Verger—and then Tally to Sarah's left.

Abigail and Raelle stood behind Tally, offering support.

"What is this all about? I'm curious as to why my daughter and her sisters are here," Petra asked as her eyes swept over them.

"I know that this was short notice—" Sarah began.

The Imperatrix interrupted, "I am very busy, General—"

Sarah held up a hand to silence her as the biddies hissed in displeasure.

"As am I, Imperatrix," Alder retorted coldly. "I have no intention of this taking longer than it needs. So I will cut to the point."

She looked over at Tally and offered a reassuring nod as their hands threaded together atop the table—causing the three women who didn't know of their relationship, to raise their eyebrows questioningly.

"As you know, Tally temporarily served as a biddy and when we severed the connection she began having adverse effects from what we thought was the severing. After Izadora's careful research we have determined that the bond between us, one that was already present, unbeknownst to us, is the rarest of bonds…"

The Imperatrix's eyes widened. "You can't mean…"

Petra seemed to catch on and her mouth fell open. "A songmate?" she asked, voice filled with disbelief. Her eyes flashed to Abigail's then, questioning her silently about it.

"It's true," Abigail told her. "Tally was seeing some of the General's memories and she wasn't getting sleep. The only time she did was whenever the General was near her."

Izadora chimed in, "I examined the biddy bond myself after the severance. It was perfect, no remaining link between them…except there is and it's one that took me some time to uncover. They have been able to share emotions and thoughts through the bond. It's more intricate and powerful than I ever imagined."

"I can verify it, I saw the connection firsthand, as did Anacostia," Verger added.

The Imperatrix laughed. "You honestly expect me to believe that this walking corpse has a songmate after hundreds of years?"

Sarah was about to give her a piece of her mind—then Tally stood, her chair pushing backwards roughly, scraping the hardwood floors, as she leaned over the table.

"She isn't a walking corpse," Tally practically growled. "She's served this Army and Nation for hundreds of years…what have you done? Aside from essentially being a glorified witch breeder?"

The Imperatix's eyes flashed. "How dare you speak to me that way."

"How dare you speak to the General that way!" Tally fired back. She groaned with frustration. "You all seem to forget that nearly all of us owe our lines to her. Jem Bellweather, the entire reason the Bellweather line exists, is because of Sarah! Jem was a slave that Sarah helped free. Rae's ancestor—saved Sarah nearly a dozen separate times, and she for her. She's protected your lines from the beginning as best as one can in war. You, Imperatrix, your entire line stems from a slave Sarah freed as well. Oh, and better yet—she delivered that same woman's daughter…and you have the gall to call her a walking corpse?" Tally finished, crossing her arms and staring defiantly at the others.

Rae whistled lowly, the only sound that was heard in the otherwise completely silent room.

Anacostia shot her a dirty look, and then glanced back at Sarah and Tally.

Sarah felt warmth bloom in her chest at Tally's defense, incredibly appreciative of the gesture.

"Darling," Sarah called softly through the bond, drawing Tally's eyes to hers. "Thank you for your defense."

"You aren't mad?" Tally questioned as she realized what she said, suddenly thinking she overstepped.

Sarah smiled. "Goddess noThat was incredible. I've never had anyone defend me so fervently."

Tally blushed prettily, and Alder reached out to take her hand—pulling her to sit back down and as close to her as she could get.

The Imperatrix was seething, her eyes darting between the two witches locked in a silent conversation. Then she caught a glimpse of Tally's braid.

"You're already courting her," the Imperatrix stated flatly. She'd suspected as much when she saw the way the General arrived at the matchmaking social—the way that she picked the younger witch up and left as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "I thought I recognized the courting braid…"

Sarah's eyes went back to her. "I am."

Petra sucked in a breath and shook her head. "This is highly—"

"You do not get to tell me what you feel is inappropriate," Sarah interjected, her voice warning. "Not after the shit you've done."

Petra sat back, looking slightly ashamed.

"None of you, actually," Alder told them. "My personal relationship with Tally is our business, not any of yours. This meeting is merely a formality in enlightening you of our relationship, and the depth of it."

"I need proof," the Imperatrix said pointedly. "Especially if there is a fertile witch being taken off the list."

Sarah could feel the anger stir in Tally, and under any other circumstance she would have to berate her for the outburst she knew was coming…but not today, and not in a discussion that is as much Tally's say as it is hers.

"A fertile witch?" Tally asked incredulously. "I'm a person. Abigail is a person. Raelle is a person. All those other witches out there are their own person. All female witches are good for to you is producing more daughters and carrying on the family lines. You don't give a shit about them, their goals, their opinions, none of it. It's bullshit. Even if Sarah wasn't my songmate, I still wouldn't be getting handfasted to some guy that you think would be best because of his lineage. It's medieval. Not only that but it isn't mandatory for any of us to find matches and handfast. You just don't like that we might not do it when you want," Tally said passionately.

"Agreed," Abigail added, eyes scorching her mother and the Imperatrix.

"Agreed," Raelle concurred.

Sarah smiled, incredibly proud. "Agreed."

Tally looked over at her, offering a grateful smile before she offered one to Abigail and Raelle.

"I believe the Imperatrix requested proof," Verger reminded everyone, wanting to get back at the task at hand before Sarah fried everyone in the room…or before Tally did.

Alder simply stood and held out her hand for Tally to take. When she did, she turned to face her, and began the seed.

Slowly, the magic became visible within the room, clearly bridging the two women together.

The Imperatrix stood and approached, eyes looking over what she could see of the bond.

"If you need to see it properly, I can show you," Tally supplied.

The Imperatrix merely placed her hand on Sarah's shoulder. She gasped as Sarah pulled her into her mind, showing her what Tally was seeing through their connection. She released her hold on Alder's shoulder and took a step back, eyes wide.

"I never, ever thought I would see a songmate bond," she said, voice full of disbelief.

"You believe this?" Petra asked, genuinely. There was no malice behind the question, just seeking confirmation.

The Imperatrix grimaced. "I do."

General Clary offered Sarah a soft smile, and then nodded supportively.

The Matriarch continued, "It is exactly as described in the few recorded accounts that we have. It's an exquisitely beautiful piece of the Goddess's work." She walked back to her seat and sat down with a sigh. "There is no doubt in my mind that this is a songmate bond. In which case, there is nothing we can do and there is no severance."

Alder practically growled at the mere implication, and Tally tightened her grasp on Sarah's hand, her thumb rubbing soothing circles. They sat back down once more, looking at the other women expectantly.

"So," Petra began carefully, "now that you've informed us of this, what is next?" She looked at the Imperatrix. "Is there to be a handfast?"

"I would prefer that there be one," the Imperatrix said.

"Why?" Sarah asked curiously. "Handfasting is traditional for the procreation of witches, and tying bloodlines together."

"What's wrong, Sarah? You don't want to handfast to your songmate?" The Imperatrix asked incredulously.

The General's jaw clenched. "Tally is still in War College."

"And? The traditional five years will apply."

"You're already bound to each other for life," Petra said seriously. "What difference does it make if it is now or in two or five years?"

"It matters to me," Sarah snapped. At Tally's reassuring squeeze of her hand, she began again—softer, "I have given my life in service, hundreds of times over…I want to court Tally, properly. I want to plan a perfect proposal and ask her to be my wife. I want her to say yes because she is ready and she wants to marry me. Not be told by the Imperative when and how we are to be handfasted," she finished passionately before sitting back in her seat, a tired sigh leaving her body.

Tally brought Sarah's hand to her lips and kissed the back of it, like Sarah always did to hers.

"I love you so much," Tally thought through the bond as she placed Sarah's palm against her cheek. "You know I would handfast you today if you asked me."

Sarah's eyes widened slightly and Tally couldn't resist her chuckle.

"You're my songmate, Sarah. So you know…I want to be your wife. I also really appreciate you wanting us to do that on our terms, and thank you for saying that."

Sarah smiled and stroked Tally's cheek. "You're welcome," she said aloud before she looked at the women in the room.

"They're as good as married already in the Goddess' eyes. Let them have their romance," Verger advocated seriously. She scoffed at the Imperatrix. "You think you can control people by roping them into marriages. It's ridiculous."

Sarah smirked at Verger. She loved that old bat.

"Tally and I will continue our courtship until we decide when to handfast. Tally will also be moving into my quarters effective immediately. I will submit any and all appropriate paperwork to your office, Matriarch. We will openly be courting but I assure you all that Tally will not receive special treatment in regards to deployments or anything concerning her military service."

The Imperatrix went to speak and Alder held up a hand to stop her.

"You have no say in military matters. That is a promise to my Generals and I am willing to sign an agreement attesting to that," Alder told them.

"Were you two together when they went on the Batan mission?" Petra asked, realizing fully why Sarah was upset that it was Tally who had worn the bridle.

Alder merely nodded.

"I accept the General's terms," Petra told the room, earning a scoff from the Imperatrix. "There is no way General Alder would have wanted Cadet Craven to go on that mission…but she requested their unit specifically for the task…which they were the only ones to come back from. Cadet Craven is incredibly capable of carrying out her duties, as is the General despite their involvement."

Abigail offered her mom a grateful smile as she squeezed Tally's shoulder in congratulations.

"I accept the General's terms as well," General Clary agreed.

The Imperatrix grimaced but nodded her acceptance as well.

"Excellent," Alder commented as she stood. "Imperatrix, if you would excuse us…we have business to attend to."

The woman stood, looking defeated and angry about it as she was guided out by the biddies.

When she departed, Alder gestured for Abigail to take the vacant seat, as well as had another chair added for Raelle to sit at.

"Now, is there anything that any of you need to ask about this?" Alder questioned, glancing around the room.

"General, I was hoping that after this meeting I could speak with you in private about a separate matter?" Petra asked calmly.

Alder nodded.

"Um, I have a question about the fight against the Camarilla," Raelle spoke up, unsure if she would get an answer.

General Clary seemed surprised by the question.

Sarah nodded for Raelle to ask whatever it was. Tally idly played with Sarah's hand, running her fingers up and down Sarah's—just enjoying the feeling of touching her as she sank back into her chair.

"What're we doing about Nicte and the Spree as potential allies?" Raelle asked.

Alder sighed. "The President has refused my request for Nicte to receive a temporary pardon so that the Spree may join in fighting the Camarilla."

Petra frowned. "We need Nicte and the Spree in this fight. I don't want to work with them anymore than you, General, but we can't beat the Camarilla without those additional numbers. Especially with this witch plague."

Alder nodded. "I agree."

Tally looked at Sarah then. "This is what you wanted to ask my opinion on isn't it?"

She met her gaze. "Yes. Tally, we need the Spree and Nicte in the fight and since the President wants an execution…my only idea that I see working is committing treason."

Tally's eyes widened. "What do you want to do?"

"Fake Nicte's death. It would be easy enough to do in front of the President. We could make her see what we want her to see. Then Nicte would be free to operate in tandem with us against the Camarilla, and we'd have access to her informants."

"What happens when the President finds out Nicte isn't dead?"

"I am hoping Nicte will be in Saint Dominique Prison before that happens, if it does. I don't intend to allow Nicte to disappear."

Tally's brow furrowed as she thought it over. She didn't really see a way out of this if they didn't get help from the Spree. But if the President found out then Sarah would be at risk, not to mention her position as head of the army.

"Don't you think it's too risky? Sarah, this could destroy everything you've fought for."

Sarah smiled and pulled Tally close so they could touch their foreheads, paying no mind to the other women in the room.

"There won't be anything left to be destroyed if the Camarilla win. We will suffer greatly. All of witchkind…that would destroy me worse than losing my position," she told Tally. "Because everything I fought for and built would be gone."

Tally nodded against her forehead. "Okay. I don't see another way around it and I know how important this is to you and how seriously you're considering it. I'm with you."

Sarah poured her gratitude through the connection before they pulled apart and finally addressed the other women in the room.

"I have a plan but I don't think you'll like it," Alder told them.

Tally cleared her throat. "The President wants Nicte to be executed without a trial, and she didn't agree to Nicte's terms of not using the list of Spree cells as a way to round them up after the war. We need Nicte and her connections and it doesn't seem like the President cares much for witches except as tools in war anyway," Tally spoke.

Petra was smirking at Tally. "You're correct in your assessment."

"Hard to fool a Knower," General Clary added. She smiled warmly at the cadets in the room. "You trust Cadet Craven fully?"

"Absolutely," Raelle and Abigail said in tandem.

General Clary looked at Tally. "And you trust General Alder—not Sarah—but General Alder?"

At that, Sarah's stomach dropped. The age old separation question. As a General, she's made some fantastic calls, but she'd also made some very bad calls. One such consequence was currently housed in their holding cells. She wouldn't blame Tally for not trusting her fully. She still needed to earn that back.

"Absolutely," Tally told her, voice strong.

Alder's head turned to regard her softly, unexpecting that declaration of trust.

"I trust my daughter's opinion. That means I trust Tally's as well," Petra agreed.

"What's your plan?" Anacostia asked, speaking after remaining silent through the whole exchange thus far.

"We fake Nicte's death," Alder supplied. "Allow the President to believe she's been executed, she hasn't seen what Nicte actually looks like so she could easily use a face she's already stolen, during the execution."

"That way she doesn't have to worry about hiding behind someone else's face at all times," Anacostia finished.

Sarah nodded. "Precisely. Once the execution is over we can reconvene with Nicte to discuss her Spree cells and any intel on the Camarilla. Petra, I would like you to work with Nicte in the meantime. We could use the information," Alder told her.

"Of course, General," Petra replied, clearly surprised she was being trusted with anything after the other night.

"Can I trust you?" Alder asked her seriously.

Tally would've been able to hear a pin drop with how quiet the room became at that question.

"Yes, General Alder," Petra replied firmly as she held eye contact with the General.

Alder nodded in acceptance.

"Then what?" General Clary inquired.

"We will need to begin destroying as many Camarilla bases as possible. We need to let them think the Spree and Army are not working together so that we maintain an element of surprise," Alder explained. "General Clary, I want you to begin selecting our best agents for these missions. Gather as many as you can."

"Yes, General Alder."

"What do you need from us, General?" Abigail asked, sitting up straighter in her seat.

Alder couldn't help but smile softly at her. She loved seeing the Bellweather unit become confident in their abilities.

"Bellweather, you're going to be working with me. I have some tricks in Weather Work I can show you."

Abigail's eyes lit up like Christmas lights at that, and Tally couldn't help but chuckle lightly at her friend.

"Collar, you're going to be with me as well working on your abilities with the Mycelium. Don't be afraid to reach out to Her to seek advice." Alder's eyes fell on Tally last of all. "I want you and Verger to work together. Magda has more advanced scenarios she can give you for training exercises. You're too talented to not be given ample opportunity," she said honestly. "I also am going to run your combat classes. Your company is composed of fine soldiers and we need them to be up to the task."

"So our fighting ability is shit," Abigail grumbled.

Alder laughed, having heard. "Are you really upset at receiving personal training from me?"

Abigail shook her head. "No, ma'am. It's great and we need to be at our best."

"You will each still have a few classes together, such as Mothertongue and your combat training. Outside of that though, you'll be focusing on your individual abilities to strengthen them."

Tally's eyes widened in realization. "Oh my god you want us to be your private unit."

Sarah whipped her head to look at Tally. She hadn't had her own unit in decades. After Nicte's desertion, she lost four of her unit members and ceased having the same soldiers serve with her. Attachment was hard. But Sekhmet had three of the most powerful witches Alder had seen in years, and she didn't doubt that two other members of the company had great potential.

"Yes," Sarah answered easily.

"Doesn't that fall under favoritism?" Tally asked with a smirk.

"No, because it isn't showing you favoritism. I am choosing your unit as a whole to accompany me on dangerous missionsDoes that sound like favoritism?"

"Yes," came Tally's immediate reply with a smirk.

"Well it won't look that way on paper. Technically I am showing your entire unit favoritism. Abigail has powerful Weather Work in her—a Working I unleashed. Raelle is connected to the Mycelium and can channel its power—which I created, and you, Tally, are so gifted and strong, and are connected to me as my songmate. I think it's the Goddess who is showing the real favoritism."

Tally couldn't help but chuckle as Alder flashed a self-satisfied smirk.

"Sharing is caring," Anacostia interjected into the silent conversation—a smirk on her face.

Tally arched an eyebrow for Sarah to explain.

"I want Collar, Bellweather, and Craven as part of my private unit," she told them. "And preferably two more members of Sekhmet. I'd like Gregorio and M to serve as well. Gregorio will need some additional training but I can't see that being much of an issue with me bringing him up to snuff."

Petra nodded, approvingly, as did General Clary.

"I'd rather they be off somewhere dangerous with you, General, than be with other cadets," Petra admitted. She looked over at her daughter. "I don't want anything to happen to you. And what an honor for a Bellweather."

Abigail smiled at her mother, a tear leaking from her eye before being wiped away by Petra.

"I'm more than happy to be in your private unit. We both want every Camarilla member dead," Abigail said very matter of fact.

"Me too. I didn't appreciate being kidnapped and used as a science experiment," Raelle chimed in, a scowl on her face at the memory.

Alder leaned across Tally and took Raelle's in her own, squeezing it and drawing her attention. "They'll get nothing less than they deserve."

Raelle nodded in agreement as Alder sat back in her seat.

"Any other questions?" Alder asked the room.

Silence met her.

"Then the last thing," Alder said, eyes falling on her foster daughter. "Captain Quartermaine, I'm putting you in charge of Sekhmet Company. Congratulations."

Petra and Clary smiled warmly at Anacostia's shocked expression.

"General…" she trailed off, not knowing what to say.

"You've earned it," Alder told her seriously. "This promotion has been in the works for quite a few weeks."

"It has," Petra confirmed.

"Thank you," Anacostia said gratefully.

Tally, Raelle, and Abigail all offered their congratulations excitedly.

The women in the room chuckled at the others' excitement for Anacostia. Seeing Tally and her unit mates be so carefree brought great joy to her heart, as well as a sadness that she had lost so much over the hundreds of years. Then Tally's eyes met hers and that sadness dissipated—knowing that every decision, every mistake, every loss and gain, had brought her to Tally. She was suddenly very grateful for everything she had gone through, and the weight of it all seemed to lessen.

She waited for the excitement to die down before continuing on, "We will do the pomp and circumstance before the execution, as everyone will be gathered. Any other preparations can be done during the ceremony should we need extra time," Alder said.

Everyone in the room nodded.

"This goes without saying but this is highly classified. M and Gregorio are on a need to know only, which is only when I say." She fixed the Bellweather unit with a serious look. "Not a word."

They all nodded, and even Tally swallowed thickly at the seriousness in Sarah's gaze.

"Petra, you wanted to speak with me privately—come to my office at 20:00. We can speak then," Alder told her.

They stood and left the room then—Alder, her biddies, Tally, Raelle, Abigail, and Anacostia—all in a group.

"So, drinks tonight?" Raelle asked.

"I could definitely use one," Abigail agreed as she slung her arm over Raelle's shoulder.

"We need to celebrate Anacostia's promotion anyway," Raelle added as they bumped into the new Captain playfully.

"Fine fine, I'll do it," Anacostia conceded.

"General? Tally? You in?" Raelle encouraged. "Come on, please?"

"Collar," Alder began with a chuckle, "I'm your CO."

"So is Anacostia," Raelle retorted. "And you're bonded to one of my best friends."

"I'll rephrase for her," Abigail said, "we are asking Sarah to join us."

Tally leaned into Sarah, nudging her and hoping she would agree.

"Very well," Alder conceded with a sigh.

"I haven't drank with you in ages," Anacostia said wistfully as she walked up to Alder's free side and threw an arm over her shoulder.

Tally placed a quick kiss to Sarah's cheek before she fell behind and in step with the biddies. She asked them how they like Sarah's cooking, and what they did while they were having their date.

Sarah had glanced back, wondering where Tally had fallen behind to when she saw her with the biddies. She could feel the delight they all felt at her asking about them and checking in on them all of the time.

"They really like her," Anacostia commented to Sarah. She had seen Tally fall back to the biddies and surmised as much by the look on Sarah's face.

"They do," she replied easily. "How're you feeling about everything?"

"You mean with you and Tally, or the Camarilla, or the Spree, or…"

Sarah chuckled. "All of it, Ana."

Anacostia sighed as they linked arms. "The Spree, nervous but willing to trust them temporarily. There are some good ones that have just been…led astray. I'm not saying we are the good guys because I know we always aren't…but we're grey and the Spree can be grey too."

Alder nodded her agreement with that sentiment.

"The Camarilla," Anacostia breathed, "I'm terrified. Terrified for all of us, for my girls…"

Sarah smiled softly at the reference, knowing she meant the Bellweather unit. She knew Anacostia thought of them as her younger sisters.

"Terrified for you too," she said. "They've been after your cords for hundreds of years. I'm just terrified of the death that could befall so many witches."

"A reasonable fear, and one to be expected," Sarah agreed. "There will be death on both sides, such is war…but I seek to make it so their side suffers the most."

"Oh I know you do." Anacostia smiled. "As for you and Tally…I'm just happy for you both. I love Tally, and she is the most painfully honest person I have ever met," she whispered to Sarah.

They both laughed, glancing back at where Tally was still engrossed in her conversation with the biddies.

"She challenges you, pushes you to see things through her eyes, and she doesn't give up. She never did give up on you."

"She didn't," Sarah concurred.

"And I've never seen you more relaxed. Since you'd admitted having feelings for her, you've been more honest and open with all of us. Verger has told me, Izadora had mentioned the change…hell even Collar told me you two buried the hatchet." Anacostia shook her head.

"We did, for Tally's sake. I believe there is more of a respect between us now than there ever was," she acknowledged.

"You both have had a positive impact on each other and the people around you, and that was before you knew you were songmates. It's special," Anacostia told her. "I'm thrilled for you both."

"Thank you, daughter," Sarah replied gently.

"Hey not to interrupt," Raelle began, "but what time are we drinking, and where?"

Anacostia couldn't help but laugh at that.

Alder hummed thoughtfully. "Perhaps the field we reserve for Weather Work. There is a firepit there that we can utilize, and it is a full moon tonight so we will have more light."

They'd finished with their plans and Sarah and Tally parted from the group until later—heading back to what was now their room.

Chapter Text

"I need a nap," Tally stated with a yawn as she kicked her boots off, tossed her pants on a chair along with her jacket, and then face planted on the bed.

Sarah chuckled and undressed as well before she crawled underneath the covers. She opened her arms as Tally snuggled in.

"That went so much better than I thought it would," she told Sarah.

The General hummed her agreement. "It was also much more entertaining than I thought it would be. You certainly didn't hold back with the Imperatrix."

Tally winced. "Sorry."

"No," Sarah stated simply, reaching down to tilt Tally's chin up to meet her gaze. "There is no need to apologize. You defended me, and your freedom as a person. I'm proud that you stood up for yourself and told her how you felt. You were right to call her a 'glorified witch breeder.'"

Tally chuckled. "That was pretty good, wasn't it?"

"Exceptional," Sarah urged.

They laughed together and Sarah set to rubbing Tally's back soothingly.

"So you really want us as your private unit?" Tally asked next.

Alder nodded firmly. "Truth be told, I was considering your positions as such when we were in the Tarim. Your abilities, especially, were essential. I didn't doubt your sight for a moment. You stood out as a soldier. I want you to know that your merits to be in my private unit are strictly those of your capabilities. It is merely a bonus that I will be by your side."

Tally's eyes watered as she snuggled into Sarah's neck. She sent her gratitude through the bond, sighing as she felt Sarah send a wave of affection back to her.

"Raelle and Abigail now, I also knew if I were to have a private unit again—they would be a part of the deal. Their quick reflexes were impressive. Then after they returned, and with Raelle's awakening of the Mycelium inside her…there wasn't much debate in my mind."

"You've really been considering us as a private unit for that long?" Tally asked, wide eyed.

Sarah nodded and stroked Tally's cheek. "Raelle's abilities…that power she has…of course I would want her by my side. Abigail, powerful Work in her, she just needs a little more guidance to give her the boost she requires. Your unit is easily the most naturally talented unit I have seen in decades."

Tally beamed.

"I knew that for whatever was to come next with the Camarilla, I would need to surround myself with the witches I would trust the most with my life."

"And that's us," Tally finished for her.

"Yes," Sarah confirmed. She kissed Tally softly.

"What an honor on all fronts," Tally told her, smiling against her lips. "Private unit member, songmate, a place in your bed…"

Sarah chuckled against her and kissed her again. "An honor indeed."

Tally slapped her chest playfully before capturing her lips in a slow kiss. There was no urgency in it, just the two of them basking in the feeling of being against each other.

When they broke for air, Sarah murmured, "I don't think I will ever tire of that."

Tally smiled. "I certainly hope not since we are together for life."

Sarah chuckled and kissed her again.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to Tally and she pulled back from the kiss.

Sarah looked at her with concern, unsure why she had ceased their kissing.

"I'm going to die," Tally said, voice full of realization. "You have the biddies and I—"

Sarah gazed at her softly. "My love, no."

Tally remained silent, confused.

"Darling," Sarah began, cupping Tally's cheek. "You'll have biddies of your own. I refuse to go on in this life without you by my side. And should you not want biddies of your own…then I will go when you do."

Tally's eyes widened. "But you can't they…they need you."

"Tally," Sarah urged. "Sweetheart, I don't think you understand the magnitude of this bond."

Tally waited, her head leaning into Sarah's touch against her cheek as they lay together.

"If something would happen to you…or something would happen to me…there isn't much of a choice for either of us I'm afraid."

"So…" Tally mulled it over. "If you die, I'll die no matter my health or age or…"

Sarah sighed sadly. "A songmate bond transcends…everything. It's the most powerful, intricate, unknown piece of work. The previous confirmed cases…if something happened to one, it happened to the other—whether the passing of the mate was because of a broken heart or because of what befell the other…I do not know. Again, it's very unknown. Before we knew of what this connection was…I was quite shaken from you feeling my pain during Nicte's attack. I didn't want to think it was a songmate bond in part because of that. You shouldn't have to suffer at all for my actions."

Tally pressed her lips against Sarah's, pulling her into a reassuring kiss. "I love you. I'm sorry that it scared you so much."

Sarah chuckled and stroked Tally's face. "You're so…good, Tally Craven."

"So, we really are mated for life," Tally confirmed with a smirk. "Hopefully it is a very long life."

"I will do whatever I can to make it so," Sarah replied.

They kissed again, and soon the softness of the kisses turned heated and desperate. Sarah's hands wandered underneath Tally's shirt, stroking her sides before sliding down to grab her ass.

Tally moaned into the kiss as Sarah continued to knead it. A groan rumbled in Sarah's chest as Tally's breath hitched with each touch. She hummed appreciatively as her nails bit into the soft flesh, earning a deep moan from her younger witch.

"Mmm you enjoy that," Sarah commented as she gave Tally's ass another squeeze.

Tally's teeth bit into her lower lip, and she nodded quickly.

A slap echoed in the room as Tally gasped against Sarah's mouth. She wiggled her ass back into Sarah's hand more, enjoying the way her palm glided over the tender flesh.

"Would you like me to touch you properly, sweetheart?" Sarah asked in between kisses against Tally's witch mark.

Tally nodded her head, unable to trust her own words. Her nipples were stiff against the fabric of her shirt, and she could feel her wetness against her panties that had grown uncomfortably wet.

Sarah's hand landed another smack to Tally's ass, earning a sharp gasp followed by a deep moan. She grabbed Tally's leg and threw it over her hip, opening her. She pushed the panties to the side and slid her fingers through Tally's soaked folds.

"So wet for me," Sarah murmured against Tally's lips. She slowly licked up the center of them, earning a whimper from the redhead.

"Please, baby," Tally pleaded, enjoying the way Sarah's eyes flashed.

Her head went back as Sarah entered her with two fingers. She met no resistance, and Tally could hear just how wet she was.

"More," she requested as she ground into Sarah's hand.

Another finger slipped inside and she moaned into Sarah's mouth. The older witch thrust into her as she trailed her lips everywhere she could reach. Her free hand slid behind Tally and roughly grabbed her ass, encouraging her hips to rock into her harder.

"F-fuck," Tally whined as Sarah hit the right spot. "There, there, don't stop,"

Her hips canted against Sarah's thrusts, which had grown harder but continued to curl into her g-spot. She was pretty sure she was going to see stars when she came.

"You do so good for me," Sarah cooed. She knew the younger witch was close. Her wetness was spilling over her hand and onto her own thighs, but she couldn't care less.

"I'm go-gonna," Tally stuttered out as she approached her peak.

"Cum for me," Sarah commanded as she thrusted.

Tally did as she was told. She came with a cry, squirting onto Sarah as she rode out her orgasm with uneven jerks.

Sarah growled as she felt the flood against her hand. She wanted her to do that again and again. She wasn't sure what it was about it that sent her into such a frenzy…but she wasn't complaining, and it seemed Tally wasn't either.

She rolled over so Tally was underneath her, adjusted her legs so that she was spread wider, and continued pounding into her.

"Fuck, Sarah!" Tally cried out as her fingers delved deeper.

She didn't even feel like she was in her body anymore. She arched her back, moaning loudly as Sarah's head dipped to take a nipple in her mouth.

"Don't fucking stop," Tally urged.

She could hear the sound of Sarah's fingers pounding into her wet pussy, and it was driving her closer.

Sarah was enjoying Tally's commanding tone. She could feel her own slick between her legs, as well as the needy throbbing of her clit. She ignored it for now though. She made a mental note to definitely acquire a strap on for them so she could have use of both of her hands. She mentally sent a few images through the bond of how she'd like to fuck Tally with one.

"Yes, yes, please," Tally begged at seeing the images. "Deeper, baby."

Sarah immediately complied, diving as deep as her fingers would allow. She could tell Tally was close again. Her walls were fluttering around her fingers, and she added her thumb to rub against Tally's clit.

"Sarah!" Tally cried out, cumming hard again around Sarah's fingers. Her nails dragged down Sarah's back as she came. She knew she had to have squirted again, and she knew once the haze left she would probably be embarrassed.

But it seemed Sarah had no intention of stopping yet.

Once Tally came down from her orgasm, Sarah shimmied down her body to lick up the mess Tally had made, moaning at every taste she got.

"You are so incredibly sexy," Sarah told her before she held her eyes with her own, and licked up Tally's center.

Tally shivered under the intensity of Sarah's stare. Her blue eyes were much darker, her pupils blown wide with a hunger Tally hoped she could satiate.

"So are you," Tally replied, a little breathless still.

"Are you too sensitive?" Sarah asked softly before she licked up Tally's cum from her thighs.

"Inside a little," Tally answered. Sarah had certainly fucked her thoroughly.

Sarah hummed. She carefully pulled her fingers from Tally, cleaning them before she slid her arms beneath Tally's thighs. She dipped her head, licking up Tally's center again before she swirled her tongue around her clit.

A breathless moan escaped the younger witch, followed by a half-moan, half-cry when Sarah sucked her clit into her mouth.

Tally's hands grasped the back of Sarah's head, holding her in place as she ground against her face.

She wasn't sure how she continued to be so needy after Sarah made her cum so hard she squirted twice…but here she was, grinding against the General's face as Sarah ate her out like she was her last meal on earth. Sarah's short nails bit into her flesh, keeping her pressed against her face as she dove into her cunt.

Her third orgasm was quick and hard, cumming against Sarah's face and feeling proud when Sarah finished cleaning her up and pulled back—Tally's cum glistening on her lips and chin.

"You're a messy eater," Tally teased as she held out her hand for Sarah to take.

The General crawled back up Tally's body, laying flush on top of her and pulling her into a deep kiss so Tally could taste herself on Sarah's lips.

"Only because you're so delicious," Sarah retorted seriously. "I could live between your legs."

"Goddess, we would never leave the bed," Tally murmured as they kissed here and there, sharing soft, love filled smiles. "We also definitely need to get a strap."

Sarah hummed with approval. "I can't wait." She lightly bit Tally's lip.

Tally pulled her in, kissing her properly before she pulled Sarah's head to the side by her hair to expose her neck. She kissed and bit the flesh softly before sinking her teeth in on a spot that always drove Sarah crazy.

She released a deep moan, hips pressing down and into Tally.

"Stay there," Tally told her as her hand slid down Sarah's chest, down her stomach and over her taut abs, and then to the apex of her thighs. Her first contact with her heated flesh made both of their breaths hitch. "I'm so glad you get as wet for me as I do you."

"Always," Sarah told her seriously. She rolled her hips against Tally's hand, silently requesting her to touch her.

Tally captured her lips in a kiss, swallowing the moan she pulled from her when two of her fingers sank home. She curled them, thrusting into Sarah and enjoying the feeling of her wet heat surrounding her.

Sarah was soaked, and her essence was running down Tally's hand. The way they were positioned allowed Tally to feel it against her own thighs, and an idea suddenly came to her.

She pulled her fingers free of Sarah, waiting until the General's curious, heated gaze met her own. Then, while holding eye contact, she slowly rubbed those same fingers against her own pussy before sliding them inside.

Tally was pretty sure that she just made the best decision of her life with the way Sarah's breath hitched, and her eyes darkened impossibly further.

A loud clap of thunder boomed outside, shaking the room. She quickly sang a seed before she reached down and pulled Tally's hand out.

"I wanted you inside me," Tally admitted.

A growl left Sarah as she captured Tally's lips in a bruising kiss. The redhead moaned as Sarah slid Tally's fingers back into her heat, riding them hard as soon as they were where she needed.

Tally slipped a third finger into Sarah, moaning as Sarah laid flush on top of her, rocking her hips to meet Tally's thrusts.

She curled her fingers and picked up her pace as Sarah did the same. It didn't take much longer for her to teeter over the edge. She came with Tally's name on her lips, her forehead pressing against Tally's as she clung to her and rode out her orgasm.

Tally eased her down and smoothed the sweaty strands of hair away from Sarah's forehead.

"I love you," Tally told her as she placed a gentle kiss to Sarah's nose.

"I love you too," she replied, lifting her hips so Tally could remove her fingers before she collapsed on top of her, laying just to the side so she wouldn't have all her weight on her.

Tally licked her fingers clean, moaning at Sarah's taste.

"So," Sarah began with a coy smile and dancing eyes, "you enjoyed having my cum inside you."

Tally blushed but smiled and nodded. "You seemed to like it as well."

Sarah groaned pleasantly. "I really did. I wasn't aware that was a thing for me but Goddess it is."

They both chuckled.

"If there's ever a seed for you to actually cum in me, I'm pretty sure I'll die," Tally told her honestly. She couldn't help the mental image of Sarah pounding into her and being able to fill her up. She thought she'd be embarrassed by it, but instead found how turned on it made her.

"So, a seed for my seed," Sarah said, completely straight faced.

Then they both fell into a wave of laughter at Sarah's joke.

Tally cupped her face, kissing her sweetly between their giggles.

"Yes," Tally answered with a smirk. "Now. Do you think you're rested enough for me to eat you out? I'm famished."

Sarah chuckled and rolled onto her back and spread her legs in invitation.

Tally didn't waste any time. She devoured her enthusiastically until she exploded in her mouth twice. When Sarah had finally come down from her orgasms, in a bit of a haze, Tally set an alarm and snuggled into Sarah's side.

Both women yawned before they fell asleep, tangled up in each other and satiated.

 


 

When they awoke from their naps, they both hopped in the shower—managing to behave despite some teasing touches here and there.

Tally was starving and was heading off to meet up with her unit mates for dinner while Sarah went to her office to finish up some work before Petra would be coming for their meeting—and then to the Weather Work field to drink with the others.

She would definitely be taking her own bottle of whiskey.

Her time passed quickly enough, and before she knew it the clock nearly sat at 20:00.

What do you think she wants to discuss? Corinne asked.

Sarah poured two glasses of whiskey as she sighed. I assume it has something to do with the way I reamed her out the other night.

She deserved it, Erin said seriously.

No argument from anyone in this room, Analese agreed.

I know that I am new, but I knew instantly that each of you would have encouraged Sarah to fight Petra on the spot after what happened to Tally, Aria commented with an amused chuckle.

You have no idea, Tessa replied dramatically before sipping her wine.

Personally, the fact that Sarah hasn't fought her shows her incredible restraint. Corinne's eyes flashed with amusement.

Sarah rolled her eyes as she carried the glasses to the fire, setting them down on the small table that sat between the two armchairs.

Do you really think you'll be able to trust Petra with Nicte? Liza asked softly through the link.

Everyone's eyes fell on Sarah.

She'd been wondering that herself. Honestly, Sarah began, I'm not sure. I will probably try and put a fetch on Nicte that will fly below her detection.

Would you place one on Petra? Margaret asked.

No, Sarah answered immediately as she took her preferred seat in the chair, I want Petra to trust me.

A knock resounded on the door, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.

"Enter," Sarah called out.

The door clicked open and Petra entered, walking around the chairs to stand behind the empty seat. Sarah gestured to the vacant chair.

Once Petra sat down and had her glass of whiskey in her hand, Alder spoke.

"What did you want to see me about?" she asked, eyes trained on the fire before her.

"I wanted to apologize," Petra said, drawing Sarah's full attention. "Going behind your back…sending Abigail off with that bridle…attempting to undermine your authority…all of it. I am truly sorry."

Alder couldn't help the surprise she felt. She was sure Petra was going to try and justify her actions, reason that she only did what she did because she doesn't feel like Sarah could be trusted to lead…a million other things…but not an apology.

"There are not many things that surprise me anymore; yet here you are, apologizing for your insubordination," Alder murmured, eyes going back to the fire. She hummed and took a sip of her whiskey. "I accept your apology. However, you also owe Tally a genuine apology."

Petra nodded her agreement. "I do, and I will."

Sarah nodded, content with that. "Was there anything else?"

Petra hesitated a moment before she said, "Did you have any idea what you were doing, when you swept Nicte under the rug?"

Sarah's gaze remained trained on the flames flickering in the fireplace—deeply inhaling the scent of burning wood before replying.

"Not at first," she answered. She paused then. "I underestimated the situation. And soon enough, it became advantageous for the world to have a common enemy so we didn't destroy each other…and the Spree were easy to hate."

A long pause encompassed them as Sarah mulled over what she wanted to say next.

"You think you would have done a better job?" She finally settled on, her eyes leaving the flames to look at Petra with a piercing gaze.

Petra remained silent, unsure if the question was genuine or rhetorical. Sometimes it was difficult to tell with Sarah, so she went with the latter. She merely waited for Sarah to continue.

"How many Heads of Intelligence do you think I've appointed?"

"Must be at least a dozen."

"Twenty-eight." Sarah's gaze remained trained on the other woman. "How many conflicts do you think I've fought? On the ground."

Petra glanced down, finding the gaze to be too much. "Fifty…" she trailed off uncertainly before her gaze returned to Sarah.

"Eighty-one wars," Alder breathed, her eyes beginning to glisten in the light of the fire. "Each more brutal than the last." She shook her head. "You can't even imagine what I've seen…The Bay of Bengal…running red with British blood as far as the eye could see…the whole of the Anatolian plateau swarming with just woken dead so thick, you could not see the ground."

Her jaw clenched, fighting her muscles that desperately were trying to quiver with the heartache, rage, and anguish she felt as the memories welled to the surface. Her tears were visible, clinging to blue irises and brightening them but refusing to fall.

"A glacier cutting through downtown Vienna in the height of summer—" her voice trembled. "One hundred thirty thousand died in an afternoon." Her voice cracked and she finally glanced to the ground. "All the horror…all the glory…"

Petra's eyes had begun to water at the visible emotion pouring from Alder.

"You're ambitious, Petra. And foolish."

Petra willed her emotions to heel. "I'm human. Somewhere along the way, I think you forgot you are too."

Alder's chin quivered as she tried—desperately tried to keep a sob from tearing through her.

"I am human, Petra. I think that it is you, who forgot that," she replied, voice thick. Her eyes returned to the fire, the tears finally spilling over her lashes and blazing a trail down her cheeks.

"Perhaps I did," Petra said softly. "You carry a burden that…no one should want to carry."

Silence encased them, and Petra said nothing more as Sarah quietly grieved. The biddies were trying to soothe her pain, but it was Tally who broke through.

"What's going on?"

Her voice was warm and strong, wrapping around Sarah like the warmth of the sun. She suppressed a sob, allowing the feelings to flow through their connection.

Goddess bless Tally Craven, because she pulled that grief into herself—lifting it from Sarah in the bond so that she could actually breathe. She gasped quietly as it lifted, and she wasn't sure how Tally was doing it

"Let me help, yu'ánk'è mé azwà," Tally said firmly as a wave of love poured down the link.

Sarah shuddered under it, and she knew Petra was aware something was going on—though she thankfully remained silent.

"Tally," Sarah called—no, pleaded. Another wave of warmth filled her up, forcing her chest to expand in a deep breath as calm washed over her.

Her tears had ceased and she released a relieved sigh. "Lóù imé wèlá."

"I love you too," Tally replied.

Sarah could feel her reassuring smile before she pulled back from the link—only a little so Sarah could focus.

"Are you alright?" Petra broached softly.

"Tally," Sarah answered, her eyes shifting back to Petra's. "Concerned."

Petra gave a stiff nod, waiting for whatever was going to leave the General's lips next.

"I'll ask you again, Petra, can I trust you?" Sarah asked, voice strong as steel. "I need to know that you won't be running to Wade, and that you have my back because I will surely have yours. I truly do not want to have to have you make a vow, but if it's the only way I can be assured…"

"I'll do it," Petra said, holding her hand out.

Sarah's eyebrows rose. She could see the determination in Petra's gaze, as well as the seriousness. She would truly make a vow of trust if she demanded it of her right now.

"No need." Sarah took a swig of her whiskey as Petra pulled her hand back. "Then let's begin…with total honesty. Raelle's connection to the Mycelium…"

She explained everything that had transpired to lead up to their visit to Her, then her interaction with Jem and exactly what the others had to say. She had told her Generals about needing an alliance with the Spree…she just didn't tell them everything, and for good reason.

"What I've told you is highly classified. Understood?"

Petra nodded before she finished her whiskey. "Understood. I just…I can't believe that they're all there…"

"All of them."

Petra's eyes widened suddenly. "Charvel?"

Sarah nodded. "I didn't see her but she died on American soil…she's with Her, and with Raelle. Just as the others are. All of your lineage, as well as so many others."

Petra wiped at her eyes. Sarah could see the immense relief that washed over her at the news. She was glad she could provide some comfort to her regarding Charvel, and the Bellweather line.

They fell into a comfortable silence as Petra refilled their whiskeys.

"I do love Tally," Petra told Sarah, drawing the woman's attention. "Her and Raelle have become like daughters to me because of Abigail. I truly wanted no harm to come to her, and I certainly never intended that bridle to go on her. I didn't anticipate losing two other squads and theirs being the only one that returned." She met Sarah's gaze. "I wasn't thinking. I was too focused on what I could gain, instead of the safety of the soldiers and the mission."

Sarah nodded her agreement.

"Basically I feel like shit about it all," Petra finished with a scowl.

"As you should," Alder commented, "but you should know that I forgive your insubordination against me…Tally is another matter. Only she can forgive you."

Petra nodded her agreement.

A soft smile crossed Sarah's face and Petra hadn't missed it.

"What?"

Sarah chuckled. "Tally was just checking in through our bond again. She wanted to make sure I hadn't fried you."

Petra chuckled. "She seems to be keeping you in check."

"She does," she replied with a genuine laugh.

Petra remained silent for another moment before speaking, "What's it like?"

Alder's gaze returned to Petra's. "You mean the songmate bond?"

Petra nodded.

"It is…" she trailed off, a smile crossing her face. "It's unlike anything I have ever experienced. I've never felt so seen or heard. Every dark crevice of my life is brightened with a blinding light filled with warmth and love. It's incredible…and incredibly vulnerable."

"But worth it."

"Worth everything," Sarah corrected. She smiled softly. "I honestly expected some more resistance from you at the news."

Petra scoffed. "Believe me I'm surprised at myself as well. But, the way that you two look at each other. It's undeniable, even before seeing the bond. You're in love. And…even though I have been wanting to dethrone you…you certainly have earned some happiness."

Sarah nodded her agreement and raised her glass in a toast before taking a swig.

"What're the girls up to tonight?"

"Well, they are currently at the Weather Work field with Anacostia. They're about to settle in there and drink. I'm heading there after this."

"You're going to go drink with cadets?" Petra asked with a laugh. "That's a new one."

Sarah returned the amusement and shook her head. "They all want to celebrate Anacostia's promotion, as well as our courtship." Her eyes searched Petra's face for a moment. "Would you like to join us? I'm sure Abigail would love to see her mother piss drunk in a field."

Petra let out a loud laugh, the memory surfacing in her mind. "It was once, Sarah."

"Your mother was so mad," Sarah reminded her with a loud laugh. "I'll never forget the way she dragged your ass across base."

"Yes, and right in front of you to prove a point to me," Petra recalled with a sigh.

"Well, I am sure Abigail would love to hear that story, as well as a few others. Goddess knows I have enough information on the Bellweather family."

"I will join you," Petra agreed.

"Excellent," Sarah replied. Then, she reached out to Tally, smiling softly when she felt the redhead's presence coiling around her. "Darling, Petra is going to be joining us. I just wanted to give you notice to tell Abigail."

"Everything go okay?" Tally asked through their link.

Sarah could feel the curiosity, as well as the protectiveness for her surge through the bond. "Yes, better than I expected."

She knew Tally was pleased with that, and she stood to collect the empty glasses. She moved to one of her cabinets and pulled out three full bottles of whiskey to take with her.

"Are you planning on getting sloppy?" Petra asked. Her eyebrow rose in curiosity as she eyed the bottles.

"Of course not," Alder retorted as she led them from the room. "I know that whatever they are drinking is guaranteed to give them a horrid hangover. I simply want to offer a better alternative."

"Plus you won't drink whatever it is they're drinking because it's below your palate."

"Exactly," she replied easily, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

 


 

yu'ánk'è mé azwà - moon of my life

Chapter Text

They headed to the field in relative silence, until they could see the glow from the fire just in the distance. As they neared, they could hear them laughing loudly at whatever story Anacostia was sharing.

"Finally!" Tally called happily as they arrived. She hopped up and beelined for Sarah. She took the bottles from her and leaned in to kiss her sweetly.

"Hello, darling," Sarah murmured against her lips. She pulled her in with one hand and kissed her properly.

Tally hummed against her. It had only been a little while, but each time Sarah returned to her it felt like the first time all over again.

"I missed you," Tally said softly.

"And I you," Sarah replied, kissing Tally once more.

"Come and drink," Anacostia called over to them as Petra took her seat next to Abigail. "You can make out later."

The pair rolled their eyes before claiming their spots.

There were four large tree trunks on their sides, creating seats around the fire.

Anacostia was seated with Raelle, Abigail, and Petra on the one to their left, four of the biddies on the log next to them, the other three on the next, and Sarah and Tally on the log to Anacostia's right.

"I brought some of my own whiskey," Sarah told them as she grabbed a cup for her and Petra. She looked at Tally. "Care to try something that doesn't taste like gasoline?"

Tally rolled her eyes but held out her cup.

Alder filled everyone's cup with her whiskey, earning approving nods from Anacostia and Abigail. Tally wasn't a huge fan of whiskey, but Sarah had carefully selected bottles that she felt Tally would be more inclined to enjoy. She was proven correct as Tally sent her approval through the bond. She filled cups for the biddies as well, blocking out much of their conversation in her head so she could focus.

Erin was disappointed Sarah hadn't fried Petra, Tessa was mad because she was out $20 for betting that they would have words, Corinne was teasing Margaret about their last round of chess, Analese and Aria were arguing over some TV show that Sarah didn't understand, and Liza was trying to cheer both Erin and Tessa up by thinking about adorable puppies and kittens.

I'm starting to think I need to send you all to a gamblers anonymous meeting, Sarah thought to them. She smiled as their amusement echoed through the link. But, Margaret, you owe me $20 for my correct estimation that the Imperatrix would manage to piss Tally off enough to call her out.

Witch, Margaret thought back with a grumble.

"Okay this is really good," Tally told her as she sipped on it.

"I thought you might like this one," Sarah replied. "Would you like to know a secret?" Her blue eyes sparkled.

Tally nodded fervently as Sarah leaned in close to her ear, lightly tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear.

"This bottle in particular…I made it," she admitted.

Tally's eyes widened as she met Sarah's gaze. "You made this?"

Sarah nodded slowly. "A hobby I began centuries back. I've made various types and experimented over the years. The biddies have always served as taste testers for me."

"This is seriously delicious," Tally insisted. "I mean, I know you think whiskey is one of the things civilians got right. I just hadn't expected you to take up making it. Where do you do it at?"

"I have a workroom on base in one of the lower levels. I haven't had time lately to create anything new. What I currently have down in the casks have been aging for quite some time."

"I thought you bought all of your whiskey?"

"Oh I do as well. I enjoy sampling everything I can," she replied, eyes flickering down to Tally's lips.

The redhead leaned in, capturing Sarah's with her own in a chaste kiss. She stroked a finger over a sharp cheekbone, enjoying just looking into her eyes for a moment.

"How did it go?" Tally asked finally. Her curiosity had gotten the better of her.

Sarah wrapped her arm around Tally, pulling her closer to rest against her side. Tally turned her head to nuzzle into Sarah's neck, a contented sigh escaping her lips.

"It went well after you reached out. Thank you for doing that," Sarah replied, allowing Tally to explore the feelings and thoughts of what transpired.

She nodded against Sarah's neck, content that everything was okay in the end and grateful that she had been able to provide her with some comfort and shoulder the burden.

Then she caught a thought and looked over at Petra. "What's this about you getting piss drunk in a field?"

Petra spluttered as everyone's eyes shifted to her to explain. Her eyes narrowed in on Sarah, who held up her hands in mock surrender.

"I can't hide things from her," Sarah defended, a pleased grin on her face.

"Mom?" Abigail urged with a grin before she downed her whiskey.

Petra sighed. "It was my first year of War College and a few units were all drinking…right here actually," she told them. "I had way too much to drink and ended up falling asleep in the field with my unit and was woken up by my mother and a rather vicious rainstorm. We had missed the first half of our training for the day."

Abigail snorted in amusement at the mere thought. She knew her grandmother must not have been happy.

"She dragged Petra all the way back to base by her ear, sopping wet, being sure to pass me on the way," Sarah explained with a laugh. "I've never seen her look so mortified. Minerva was furious." Sarah's eyes lit up as she recalled it.

Everyone laughed at that.

"She gave her quite the talking to." Sarah raised her cup in salute.

"I made sure to never get so drunk I would pass out in a field again," Petra supplied seriously, her eyes on Sarah. She noticed the coy look in her eyes and suddenly things clicked. "You."

Sarah merely chuckled, throatily and melodically into her cup. "I have no idea what you mean."

"You summoned the rainstorm!" Petra accused.

"I knew you passed out in the field, I was trying to warn you and get you out of there before Minerva got to you. It's not my fault you didn't wake up in time," Sarah retorted cheekily.

They all shared a laugh, especially Abigail at her mother's plight.

Abigail's eyes fell on Sarah then. "I'm sure you have plenty of drunk stories."

Sarah laughed, eyes twinkling with amusement in the light of the fire. "I once arm wrestled George Washington…and won."

"No shit!" Raelle exclaimed, filled with disbelief and excitement.

"How'd that go?" Abigail asked.

"He bought the next round," Alder answered with a smug grin. "Anacostia has quite a few as well."

"We heard about her puking on your shoes," Raelle supplied with a snicker, earning a shoulder bump from the Captain.

Sarah scoffed. "I see she chose to not tell you about her first drunk heartbreak."

"Sarah," Anacostia groaned. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she recalled the incident.

"Oh you have to tell us now," Abigail urged.

Sarah's eyes glinted with mischievousness. "She got her heartbroken by a boy that was quite undeserving of her, and proceeded to drown her sorrows in one of my very expensive bottles of whiskey."

Tally's mouth dropped and a large grin split across her face as she looked at Anacostia. "You went for her whiskey?" she asked, totally scandalized.

"The balls on you," Raelle teased.

"What happened?" Petra urged, now thoroughly curious.

Sarah chuckled. "She was laying on my office floor, empty bottle next to her, and drunkenly whining about the wretch." Sarah rolled her eyes. "I helped her up, begging the Goddess to keep her from puking everywhere before I got her to the bathroom. The Goddess clearly thought I deserved Ana vomiting all over my rug. I didn't even know that much could come from a person."

Anacostia hid her face in her hands. "It was mortifying when I woke up in Sarah's bed. She had left water and ibuprofen on the nightstand and had been up the rest of the night having the rug removed, the floor cleaned, and a new rug brought in."

"I miss that rug," Sarah sighed heavily. "It was an antique."

"I said I was sorry!" Anacostia defended with a laugh.

The group joined in, laughing boisterously at Anacostia's situation.

"It was a gift from Alfred von Waldersee, the German Field Marshal during the Boxer Rebellion—a thank you for being an ally…irreplaceable." Sarah couldn't help but laugh harder at the mortified look on Anacostia's face.

"Every time you bring it up, it somehow gets worse," Anacostia groaned before downing her whiskey.

"And I will continue to do so, my little fosterling," Sarah retorted. "Allow it to serve as a reminder to never go for my whiskey."

"I remember seeing Anacostia at her first Beltane," Petra supplied, offering a sly smile.

Sarah let loose a loud laugh. "That poor boy."

"What did you do?" Abigail asked, scandalized and proud.

Anacostia shook her head, unable to stop her own grin. "I ripped that boy's pants clean off."

"From the back," Sarah added.

"WHAT?" came the resounding cry from the three cadets.

"Damn, woman," Abigail praised. "That's impressive. And I thought I was demanding."

"How did you get them off like that?" Raelle asked.

"Windshear," Sarah answered for her. "I saw her from my dais. He never stood a chance. He went home the next morning with his suit jacket tied around his lower half. "

"Oh my god," Tally gasped out before she laughed loudly. "Anacostia! And you called Sarah and I hornballs."

"You did?" Abigail and Raelle asked together.

"They fucked in the warding circle after they found out about the connection," Anacostia defended pointedly, trying to get the attention off of herself.

"Hey!" Tally squealed, a pretty blush on her cheeks from the alcohol and her usual flush.

"Oh we know," Raelle and Abigail said in tandem, giving Tally proud smiles.

Sarah chuckled throatily as she wrapped her arm around Tally's waist and pulled her closer. She placed a kiss to her temple.

"Tally is the one that asked," Sarah supplied.

"Tal!" Abigail and Raelle whooped in delight.

Tally downed her whiskey and gestured at Sarah. "Can you blame me? We just found out about the bond. We were happy."

"And horny apparently," Anacostia muttered behind her cup. "Isn't that right, Sarie?"

"Sarie?!" All but Anacostia and Tally echoed.

"I allow the fosterlings to call me Sarie so they feel more comfortable," she replied with a smirk. "But nice try, Ana. As for Tally and I, we were both things."

Tally choked on her drink, earning soothing pats to her back from Sarah.

The biddies all chuckled in tandem with Sarah.

"Good for you," Petra said seriously. "Goddess knows she's needed to get laid outside of Beltane."

Sarah arched an eyebrow, but the smirk gracing her lips conveyed her amusement.

"Beltane is once a year and I am expected to remain celibate the remainder," Sarah noted. "As the Imperatrix continuously reminds me, I know my duty." She hummed then. "Well this Beltane will be different, of course."

Tally looked at her, clearly surprised. "You are?"

Sarah nodded, still smiling with amusement.

"Darling, I told you that I didn't take this lightly. You know I hadn't taken a partner outside of the festival in hundreds of years," Sarah told her through the bond.

"I know. I didn't know you were expected to remain celibate though," Tally responded.

She basked in the affection Sarah was sending through the bond—as well as just how serious it was for her to pursue a romantic relationship with Tally. She felt incredibly lucky that even though they hadn't known the magnitude of their connection, Sarah had still thrown caution to the wind and asked to court her.

She leaned over, kissing Sarah softly and pouring as much gratitude through to her as she could.

When they broke for air, Tally whispered, "I love you."

"And I you," Sarah murmured in reply before she stole another kiss.

"You two are so adorable it's disgusting," Abigail told them with a grin.

"I concur," Petra agreed as she raised her freshly filled glass. "I believe a toast is in order."

Sarah passed the bottle so everyone could refill their drinks.

"First, to Sarah and Tally for being songmates—an exceedingly rare blessing for two rare witches. Congratulations," Petra said seriously before they all took a swig.

"And the other celebratory reason," Sarah began as she stood from the log, eyes falling on Anacostia. "To Captain Quartermaine for her years of exemplary service. Your work has not gone unnoticed, nor has your dedication to your sisters. As your General, I am proud of your loyalty, tenacity, and commitment to this nation. As your foster mother, I am proud of you, my daughter. You've exceeded every expectation I ever had," she concluded, eyes watering.

Anacostia was in a similar state as Alder and everyone toasted. When they finished, the Captain stood and crossed the distance, pulling Sarah into a tight hug.

"You've made me so proud, Ana, and I know your parents would be proud of you as well," Sarah told her softly.

Anacostia pulled back, tears falling silently down her face. She laughed and wiped them away. Nodding at Sarah to acknowledge what she said without words—she knew that the General understood immediately.

"Now, less weeping and more partying," Raelle jeered. "Also, ah, we invited Gregorio, M, and Adil so they should be showing up too."

"You know, technically you aren't supposed to be this far from base at this hour," Alder commented.

Raelle grinned. "But we're with General Alder."

Sarah chuckled as Tally leaned forward and peered down the path.

"They're on their way," she told the group.

"Come drink!" Abigail called out to them.

They appeared from the darkness a few moments later. Adil was looking amusedly at Abigail, and then nervously at Petra.

"General Bellweather," Adil greeted cordially.

"None of that, Adil. You're seeing my daughter, you can call me Petra," she said sincerely, filling a cup of whiskey and handing it to him.

"I heard about the songmate bond," Gregorio announced as he took a seat between Raelle and Tally, but on the ground. "Congratulations."

"I figured something must have been up," M supplied, sliding down onto the ground near Sarah. "You two stared at each other with too much familiarity."

Alder chuckled and nodded her agreement. "We weren't the most subtle."

"I can't think of a witch in history who deserves it more than you, General," M said seriously. "Three hundred some years of dedication…" they whistled.

"Can't agree more," Tally agreed, a smile on her face as she turned to look at Sarah.

"Well, since I have you all here, I have news for the two of you." Alder gestured to M and Gregorio. "I will be overseeing the combat training for Sekhmet, effective immediately. I also want the two of you to join me as part of my private unit, along with the Bellweather unit, should you accept."

M blanched, mouth falling open as they looked at Gregorio—who was looking right back with an equally stunned expression.

"G-general that's…"

"Wow," Gregorio filled in.

M nodded. "Yeah, wow. That's—what an honor."

"So you accept?" Alder questioned, voice filled with amusement.

"Absolutely!" They both exclaimed together.

"Excellent," Alder quipped as she tapped her cup against theirs.

The night divulged into more stories, as well as war stories from both Petra and Alder. Adil and Alder discussed his stay at Fort Salem, and his help with the seed to reveal their connection. Tally had stood and joined the biddies, asking them question after question about various things. Gregorio had been asking Sarah questions about life three hundred years ago—which she discussed animatedly the more she drank. M and Raelle were trying to arm wrestle to see who was strongest; Adil and Abigail were whispering to each other; Petra and Anacostia were swapping stories of their own.

"Okay, but cars…had to blow your mind," Gregorio said as if it was obvious.

"I was petrified to drive one," Alder shared. Her eyes were bright and dancing in the firelight as she spoke. "I only, begrudgingly, agreed to traveling in one when it became necessary."

"So what did you do, just keep riding horses?" Gregorio pressed, fully invested.

"I think Gregorio may want to start an Alder fan club," Corinne told Tally from where she sat next to them.

Tally chuckled as she watched the display.

Alder nodded in response to Gregorio's question. "Of course. Horses I trust."

Gregorio snorted with laughter. He tapped his glass against Alder's. "Indoor plumbing though…how about that."

"I would have traded anything to have never lived without that," Alder retorted seriously. "There is nothing worse than having to shit outside in the freezing cold."

Gregorio snorted so hard he choked on his drink, earning some back slaps from the General.

"Fair, fair," he replied as he regained his composure. "Okay, what was it like sailing across the Atlantic?"

Sarah grimaced. "Cold." She shook her head. "Even in the barracks, it was freezing and damp. Everything was covered in a sheen of saltwater, everything smelled like fish…not to mention the level of unsanitary conditions. My immune system was clearly superior to many others for surviving months in such conditions."

Gregorio's brow furrowed. "That sounds awful."

"It was," Sarah replied seriously. "Scurvy, plague, consumption…all normal for the time and especially on ships. It was brutal. My sister contracted the plague near the end of the trip. My mother, thankfully, was a good fixer and managed to take care of her. Had she not, she never would have made the journey."

"Shit," Gregorio murmured. "I'm sorry, General."

"None of that," Alder urged. "It's Sarah. This is completely informal and there is no need for such formality. Tonight I am simply Sarah, songmate to Tally Craven." She smiled softly.

Gregorio beamed. "I really am happy for you two."

"As am I," Sarah replied, eyes twinkling.

"I have one, General," M broached with a grin.

Alder arched an eyebrow. "M, what did I just say about formalities?"

M blushed and shook their head. "Sarah," they corrected, "I know you don't have a lot of free time, but do you and the biddies do anything besides work?"

Alder glanced over to her biddies, who had ceased their conversation to look over at the small group. She waited for one of them to answer.

Erin smiled. "Board games."

"No shit," Gregorio gasped. "What ones?"

Tessa's eyes twinkled as she fixed Sarah with a stare. "She's horrible to play Monopoly with."

Tally's mouth dropped, eyes landing on her songmate. "That good? Or that bad?"

Alder scoffed affectionately. "Darling, do you honestly think I would be bad?"

"She bankrupts us every time," Corinne groused. "You'd think she'd go easy on us. I mean, we only carry her years and wounds but whatever."

Anacostia interjected. "Please, that woman is fucking brutal in any board game. She seeks to make enemies."

"You're only sore because you always come in last," Alder retorted.

"She never lets you retake a turn if she's teaching you a game," Anacostia continued on, undeterred. "Once she kicked my ass in chess in three moves. Wouldn't let me redo a move at all."

"How else would you learn to guard your King?" Alder arched an eyebrow.

"I was eight," Anacostia defended.

"Old enough to know the importance of being careful."

"You name a game, she'll kick your ass. She takes no prisoners," Anacostia pressed. "Trivial Pursuit is another one."

"She has an unfair advantage," Liza added with a grumble. "You shouldn't be allowed to play if you're older than the invention of the game and lived through the majority of events in the questions."

The entire group laughed loudly at that, and Sarah shook her head—an amused smile on her lips.

"Just be glad I take it easy on you all by not suggesting Twister," she quipped.

Tally cackled and snorted—laughing hard at the image. "That would just be cruel."

"See, Ana, I can be nice," Alder teased.

Anacostia merely rolled her eyes at her foster mother.

"Okay last question and I promise that it's a light one," Gregorio began. "Because I'm dying to know…"

Sarah nodded for him to proceed.

"Syphilis. As big of a deal as it seemed?"

Sarah's laugh was loud enough to echo in the small space around the fire. Her shoulders shook with it, and she looked at Gregorio with wet eyes. "It really was. I cannot tell you how many fixers had to tend to it on a regular basis. It was exhausting work. When penicillin was found to be effective, I remember one of my Generals, a scientist and fixer, threw a party to celebrate because—and I quote, 'I'm exhausted of looking at syphilitic dicks.'"

Gregorio laughed so hard that he sent himself into a coughing fit. He finally called and glanced over at Tally with the biddies.

"Tally," Gregorio called across the small space. "Your girlfriend is so cool."

Tally couldn't help the boisterous laugh that bubbled up at seeing Sarah's blush.

"Still your CO, Shellbark," Alder remarked seriously, but the amusement in her eyes was unmistakable.

"Ah, I thought you were just Sarah, songmate to Tally Craven, tonight?" he retorted smugly.

Alder rolled her eyes at her own words being thrown back at her.

"General," Abigail broached then, looking a bit uncertain.

Alder's eyes turned on her. "Yes?"

"Those Weather Work lessons…when can we start?"

A grin split Alder's face as she stood. She was definitely a bit tipsy—as was their whole group, so it wasn't terribly noticeable.

"Now?" Sarah suggested as she began walking a few more paces to the field.

The whole group walked too, with the exception of the biddies staying behind near the fire where they could rest.

"Don't you need the biddies?" Abigail questioned as she stopped a few feet from the General.

Alder smirked. "I have enough power of my own."

Her eyes turned up to the sky before she closed them and took a deep breath. Her hands opened at her sides as did her mouth, vocalizing a powerful seed that made the sky rumble with thunder.

She motioned her hands, circling them around each other to create a cyclone.

Tally thought it looked so effortless. Alder swiftly brought down the tip of the twister—the ground kicking up dust and grass as Sarah began to move it—then a second twister descended, moving in tandem with the first. Tally could feel the power through the connection, as well as the energy of the magic around them. It nearly knocked the wind from her with the amount of power Alder truly wielded.

Then, as quickly as it began, she slowly released them—dissipating back up into the clouds.

She turned to Abigail. "Begin."

Abigail wet her lips and took a deep breath. She began the seed, slowly rotating her hands like Alder had done. The sky filled with clouds as the tip of the tornado slowly descended to the ground.

"Good," Sarah said. "Hold it there in one spot."

Abigail did as instructed.

"Now bring down the second."

A second twister touched down next to the first.

"Breathe. Feel the Work…allow it to fill you as you tune in to the power of it. Draw them close to each other."

Abigail did as she was told, faltering slightly as holding two so near in proximity to each other in place became more strenuous.

"Breathe, Abigail. You control it, do not allow it to control you. Respect it, but do not bow to it."

Abigail had beads of sweat clinging to her forehead. She slowed her breathing, relaxing into it as she held the twisters in place.

"Good," Sarah praised, "Now, move them further away from you."

Abigail began. With each yard that passed…it was more difficult.

"Stay there. Feel how it grows distant, as if you're about to lose it at any moment. You will, if you let yourself. Push your power into the song, as if it must cross this distance to be reached."

Abigail's song grew louder, and Tally couldn't help but look excitedly at Raelle. Raelle nodded to her, letting Tally know that she could feel the power too.

"The better you become at controlling it so far away, the easier it will be to drop them on the enemy from a safer distance, and with a companion for added devastation," Sarah told her. "Release it."

Abigail tried to allow it to slowly leave—but it was exhausting, and the two were wretched back into the sky as Abigail fell on her knees.

Alder was kneeling next to her, rubbing her back soothingly. "If you must throw up, I recommend you do it."

That was all the permission Abigail needed to let go.

Alder couldn't help but chuckle as Abigail wiped her mouth and grimaced at her amusement.

"Relax, you aren't the first Bellweather to vomit in front of me."

"Abs, that was awesome!" Tally called as she joined them.

"I just barfed," Abigail pointed out as Alder helped her to her feet. Her mother slung an arm over her shoulder a moment later, pressing a kiss to her temple.

"Doing tough Weather Work while inebriated is quite nauseating. You did exceptionally," Alder told her seriously. "You're powerful, Abigail."

"She's right," Petra agreed, "About seeing Bellweathers puke, and your power."

Abigail snickered as she reached for her cup to rinse her mouth.

"Uh uh," Alder chided disapprovingly. They all headed back to the logs, where Alder picked up the cheaper bottle of whiskey that Anacostia brought. "You can rinse with this. I'll not have my expensive taste be spit out on the ground."

Tally chuckled as they all sat down—her taking up residence in Alder's lap on the ground.

"So you've seen my mother puke?" Abigail asked as she snuggled up with Adil.

Sarah's eyes twinkled with amusement. "Your mother, your grandmother…Jem, even."

"Really?" Abigail and Petra asked together.

"Tell me about my mother first," Petra requested with a chuckle. This was clearly her first time hearing about any of this.

Sarah took a swig of her whiskey. "It was during Yule. Festivities were in full swing across the base. She was in her final year of War College, and was drinking with other cadets as per usual for the festivity. Unfortunately, she had accepted a drinking challenge from Arlene Swythe."

Abigail and Petra howled, as did the rest of the group—all intimately familiar with the Swythe-Bellweather rivalry.

"First one to pass out lost. They passed out at the same time, but your mother managed to win on a technicality—because she woke up shortly after to stumble back to her room. She was puking into a potted plant when I rounded the corner. I escorted her back to her room. She was mortified that I saw her in such a state."

The group had divulged into a fit of laughter at the image.

"Now, Jem," Sarah began, shaking her head and laughing fondly. "Jem challenged me to a drinking competition. Because, as with all you Bellweathers, everything is a competition."

"Naturally," Petra concurred.

"I'm unsure how much of Jem's history you Bellweathers know as fact…but for the non-Bellweathers here…I first met Jem in 1878 in South Carolina. Of course slavery had been abolished by this point, but the southern states and their white supremacy beliefs were still very much engrained. I'd heard whispers of some slaves who were still kept by a plantation owner not much further from where we were camped. This operation…was not sanctioned by the President. In fact, the Compromise of 1877 essentially abandoned southern former slaves. All federal troops were pulled. Though I agreed to the President's face…I launched my own mission."

Petra's eyebrows went to her hairline. "Treason?"

Sarah smiled and nodded. "It was the right thing to do. I was vehemently against the decision. For years, I had been advocating the end to slavery for all slaves, not just witches. Black witches though…it was a delicate matter. Many hid their gifts out of fear, many had been found out and killed on the spot…so I acted in secret with a small unit, following intelligence of where reported witches resided. The plantation Jem was born and raised on…there were five reported witches there. We went in under the cover of night. It was a summer night, the air was thick with the summer humidity—nearly stifling."

Everyone around the fire was entranced with Sarah's story as she painted the vivid picture for them all. Tally was particularly engrossed as she watched flashes of the memory in the connection as Sarah recounted it.

"The goal was extraction. No sign that we came and went, only the notice of missing slaves. We managed to rouse the slaves kept on the plantation, pointing the way to the underground railroad for them as we took the witches with us." Sarah smiled as she remembered Jem, and she laughed. "She was grateful, and ambitious from the start. She had powerful Work in her," Sarah said passionately.

Petra and Abigail were wearing soft smiles as Sarah spoke about their ancestor.

"She had a fury in her that matched my own. We were similar in many ways, and we shared the goal of locating as many witches in the southern states as possible. Freeing the enslaved so they may escape, and gathering the witches for our own forces. Jem joined my private unit after I saw her powerful Weather Work. We successfully managed to gather nearly two hundred witches in the following years. All done in secret."

Sarah looked at the group and offered a light laugh. "I have said many times that I have made countless decisions, each of them for the benefit of our kind. Even though it was treason…it was the right thing to do."

Tally turned her head to place a kiss to Sarah's neck, offering her support.

"It was on one of these missions that Jem decided to challenge me. We were camped just outside of Massachusetts—arriving back in Salem the next day. We had located as many witches as our intelligence had informed us of, and were coming home. We were celebrating our success. By this time, Jem was adamant she could take me on in a drinking competition. We were matching each other shot for shot of rum," Sarah said with a loud laugh. The memory danced in her mind as she recalled it. "Jem had raided one of the plantations of nearly ten bottles."

The group all snickered then at Sarah's description of the bottles poking out of the saddlebags on the horses.

"We had drank through the night, neither of us willing to back down from the challenge. That woman could hold her alcohol," Sarah praised. "It was nearly dawn when we finally conceded there was no winner. We needed to be on the road within the hour. So, Jem and I decided that we would cease our drinking but the first to lose their stomach would be the one that lost." She grinned softly. "We both ended up running for the tree line at the same time, losing our stomachs in tandem and sharing a pitifully, sick look—before we laughed at our stupidity and continued to relieve ourselves."

Petra had laughed so loudly that it made Abigail snort with laughter. Anacostia nearly had tears in her eyes at the mental image, as did the others. Gregorio was holding his stomach, and M was shaking their head at the ridiculousness of it all. Tally was laughing so hard she had to hide her face in Sarah's neck—the visual in their connection was too much.

"How sick were you the whole day?" Tally asked her through her gasps of breath.

Sarah grimaced. "Very. The rest of the day. Horseback riding while sick with alcohol poisoning was not ideal by any means. The fixers offered to help us, but Jem and I agreed that we should grin and bear it. In hindsight, we really should have allowed the fixers to tend to us…but Jem was as stubborn as I, and it wasn't an option," she concluded before downing the rest of her cup of whiskey.

"I never knew any of that," Abigail commented fondly. She looked to her mother, who nodded her agreement—she had no idea either.

"Jem was quite the woman," Sarah told them sincerely. Her expression grew dark a moment. "She was a hell of a soldier. I was devastated at her death." Her eyes focused on the fire in front of her. "It was a comfort though, to see her line flourish the way it did." Her eyes flickered to Abigail and Petra. "And even though you Bellweathers can be huge pains in the ass…my fondness for Jem has allowed many of you to get away with things other soldiers could never."

Petra nodded her thanks, raising her glass in salute to Alder. Abigail joined in, as did the others.

"Also…Abigail has puked on me before," Alder commented offhandedly.

Abigail spit her drink out, earning a 'tsk' from Alder at the waste of her expensive whiskey. Everyone else began laughing and asking questions, clearly needing an explanation.

"She was a baby," Petra supplied with a chuckle.

"I forget you've known Abigail so long," Tally told her, nose crinkling.

Alder merely smiled and stroked a finger over Tally's nose. "She was only a year old. I was visiting Petra for military matters. Abigail had been fussing the entire time, having Petra nearly at her wits end."

Petra looked at her daughter. "As beautiful as you were, you were very fussy."

"That hasn't changed," Raelle quipped.

Abigail leaned over and punched her shoulder. "Can it, shitbird."

"So then what?" Gregorio asked, wanting to know more as he glanced over at his childhood friend.

"I took her from Petra, humming to her and bouncing her so she would calm—"

"Which she did," Petra interjected. "Praise the Goddess."

"She was asleep for the next thirty minutes, and once she woke she decided to thank me by spitting up all over my uniform."

"Show me," Tally said at once, much to Abigail's horror.

"Oh no, no no!" Abigail pleaded as Adil held her back.

Sarah merely chuckled and sent the memory through to Tally. After a moment of silence Tally burst into a fit of laughter, merely holding her hand out to Raelle so she could link and see. And so it went, each of them linking with the next as they passed the image around.

"That is embarrassing," Abigail grumbled, a small smile on her lips.

"Look on the bright side, Bells, at least you didn't shit on her," Raelle teased.

Alder let out her loudest laugh of the night then.

"Sarah," Petra warned, failing to suppress her own laughter.

"No!" Abigail screeched—eyes wide and begging Alder to tell her it wasn't true.

"You also needed a diaper change," Sarah informed her. She sent the memory through to Tally once more.

Her songmate had tears in her eyes from laughing so hard at the image of Alder holding Abigail—who was smiling as if she was fully aware of what she had done—away from her in outstretched arms, nose crinkled at the smell.

"Oh, Abs." Tally's stomach was hurting from how hard she was laughing.

"This is so fucking embarrassing," she grumbled, smiling nonetheless. "Can we please embarrass someone else?"

"I guess this is the moment we should tell Alder of one of Tally's drunken rants?" Raelle suggested as she glanced at Abigail.

"No!" Tally practically shouted. Her face was pure mortification.

Sarah's eyes sparkled as she tightened her hold on her. "Oh do tell."

"Rae," Tally practically begged before she hid behind her hands.

Raelle cleared her throat. "So this was the night we found out that we were placed in Sekhmet."

Anacostia was snickering behind her hand, eyes glancing at Sarah. "She had it so bad for you."

Tally's face was red as Sarah pressed a kiss to her cheek.

"My love," Sarah said affectionately through the bond, sending as much love and affection as she could through the link.

It eased Tally's mortification for the most part, and she nodded for them to continue.

"We were talking a little more about her time as biddy, and she could not stop talking about you," Raelle told Sarah. "Everything was, 'Alder and I' this—"

"'Alder and I' that," Abigail supplied. "We were teasing her quite a lot."

"But Tal, who by this point was fairly tipsy," Raelle explained, "Goes, 'okay I have a huge crush on her'."

Anacostia chuckled. "Which of course we gave a resounding 'duh' to."

"She would not stop going on about you. 'I swear when she pressed her forehead to mine I thought I was going to pass out'," Abigail recounted.

"Then as we got drunker," Raelle said, taking over, "she goes, 'what am I supposed to do with my feelings? I can't stop thinking about her and she came to check on me which was so sweet but I just don't understand'—"

"'And her jawline you guys, it's so hard to focus when all I want to do is mark it!'" Abigail said, impersonating Tally as best as she could.

Anacostia snickered. "'I've had a few sex dreams about her, this is going to be an issue!' 'I mean have you seen her in her uniform?'"

"We get it," Tally interrupted with a laugh. She looked at Sarah. "I was totally enamored with you."

Sarah's eyes sparkled in the light of the fire.

Should we tell her? Corinne asked through the link.

Sarah's head quickly whipped to her biddies, eyes widening.

Tally, as well as Anacostia, noticed the look.

"Oh, tell!" Anacostia shouted as she pointed at the biddies.

Sarah's gaze was warning, but Corinne didn't back down.

She cleared her throat. "The night after you were de-biddied, and Sarah came to check on you…that night we all felt your absence."

"We missed you," Analese chimed in, a soft smile on her face.

"Sarah, though," Corinne began, "was feeling the loss much worse than we were. She had quite a few glasses of whiskey and went on about what she was supposed to do about her feelings for you."

Tally's grin was pure satisfaction as she looked at Sarah, who was glaring at her biddies.

"None of that," Tally told her through the bond, drawing Sarah's gaze.

"'Why can't I get her out of my head?' 'Why is this bothering me so much?' 'This has never happened in a severing before.'" Corinne grinned as she did her best Alder impersonation, which was spot on by Tally's standards.

"She refused to accept what we were telling her," Erin said.

Tessa took over, "We told her 'you like her, so do something about it.'"

"'But rules are rules'," Margaret quoted.

"We listened to her the whole night go back and forth and back and forth. She didn't want to hear what we had to say, but she wouldn't stop," Corinne said, chuckling. "She was content to drive herself insane the rest of the evening. I thought for sure she'd wear a hole in the rug with her pacing."

"Then you started War College," Liza chimed in.

"And we were on our way without a moment's hesitation," Tessa explained, snapping her fingers.

Tally looked at Sarah. "So that was why you came and visited that first day?"

Sarah nodded and sighed. "They're correct. I had worked myself up over it and couldn't resist. I was adamant that it was just to boost morale…I don't visit covens."

"Yeah it was super weird," M chimed in their agreement. "I never heard of the General visiting any coven like that."

"And then she only spoke to you three," Gregorio added. "Which was super odd."

"Yeah, we noticed that immediately," M concurred. "And then she was looking at Tally like…well, now we know why you were looking at her like that."

Sarah groaned, and then released a laugh against Tally's hair. She breathed in her smell and sighed against her.

"You liked me," Tally teased, much to everyone's delight.

"I did," Sarah agreed with a sigh. She chuckled. "I wanted to see you, to be in close proximity again. I knew I shouldn't indulge myself like I did…but when our eyes met…" she trailed off, sending the feeling through the bond.

Tally nodded in understanding and kissed her sweetly. "Believe me, I understand."

"You two are so cute it's going to make me barf…again," Abigail said with a genuine smile.

"So what about you and Ramshorn, Collar?" Sarah changed the subject, eyes landing on Raelle.

Just as Raelle was about to answer, a voice called out from the path.

"All of you stay where you are!" the voice barked.

The group turned and looked, spotting one of the senior officers approaching—clearly on guard duty for the evening and finally spotting their gathering.

"The General will be hearing about this," she said as she stepped into the light of the fire. Her eyes landed on General Bellweather first. "Gen-General Bellweather." She snapped to attention.

"At ease," Alder said, drawing her line of sight.

"General Alder." Her eyes were comically wide, clearly realizing her mistake.

"As you can see, everyone is in good hands," Alder said.

"My apologies, ma'am." Her eyes flickered curiously to Tally, sitting in Alder's lap wrapped around her.

"What's your name?" Alder asked as she retrieved an unused cup and poured some of her whiskey in.

"Reese, ma'am," Reese said.

Alder held the cup up for her to take. "For your trouble."

"Th-thank you, ma'am," Reese said, accepting the cup before turning and heading back into the darkness.

"I think she almost fainted," Petra commented, voice filled with amusement.

Sarah chuckled her agreement.

"We should probably be heading to bed," Anacostia said before a yawn left her.

Tally hummed her agreement, tilting her head back to rest against Sarah's shoulder.

"Indeed. Tomorrow will be a busy day," Alder stated with a sigh. "I am sure the base will be abuzz with our courtship." She glanced at Petra then. "We need to begin preparations," she said directly to her..

Petra nodded as she stood, helping Abigail and Adil up from the ground.

They cleared the space, gathering the—now empty—bottles of whiskey and extinguishing the fire.

They bid their farewells, Tally giving them all a hug.

"Tally, before you go, a moment?" Petra requested.

Sarah nodded to Tally, silently telling her that she would wait at the end of the path for her.

When it was only the two of them, Petra began, "I owe you an apology. I shouldn't have sent Abigail with that bridle, and I am so sorry that my actions caused you to be the one wearing it. I wasn't thinking about the consequences, too caught up in knocking Sarah from her pedestal."

Tally offered her a soft smile. "I accept your apology. Thank you, General Bellweather."

"Petra," she corrected. "Outside of military matters, you can call me Petra."

"Thank you, Petra," Tally said with a nod.

It was only a few moments before they met up with Sarah and the biddies. Petra said her goodbyes, heading in a different direction as Sarah led them back to their room.

It was quick, and a little blurry for Tally. The alcohol was really hitting her now, and she was grateful they'd be in bed soon.

She passed out as soon as her head hit the pillow, an arm draped protectively over Sarah as she too fell into the embrace of sleep.

Chapter Text

Sarah, admittedly, was rather nervous.

It had been nearly a week since their gathering around the fire, and while managing their hangovers the next day—the base was in fact abuzz about the courtship.

Word had spread quickly. Many thought it was just a rumor, until they saw Alder approach Tally, exchange silent words, and part with a tender kiss.

Alder had begun overseeing their combat training, but she had been busy most of her days preparing things for Nicte's inevitable 'execution.' She was trying to buy as much time as possible so that they could organize a plan to draw out the Camarilla.

In the meantime though, Sarah had undertaken a personal mission that she had kept Tally in the dark about. She felt guilty keeping such a thing from her, but she owed this to her.

She shifted side to side on her feet, glancing back at her biddies who all offered her reassuring smiles.

Then she knocked on the door, stepped back, and squared her shoulders in preparation.

The door opened, and a surprised gasp left the woman's lips.

"May Craven," Sarah greeted. "May I have a moment of your time?"

"Is Tally okay?" May asked, tears already welling in her eyes.

"Tally is perfectly fine," Sarah assured quickly.

May nodded, accepting that, and then fixed her with a cold but curious gaze. She stepped back, extending her arm to usher Sarah inside.

The biddies remained on the porch as she and May made their way to the living room. Sarah stopped, taking in the photos of Tally on the walls. There were obviously more now than in the memory—and she couldn't help the fond smile that bloomed on her face. Tally growing through the years was easily one of the most adorable things Sarah could see. Especially the ones with her beaming; smile wide; baby teeth missing; dimples prominent. She chuckled fondly at that photo.

"To what do I owe this visit?" May asked.

Sarah could hear the edge in her voice.

"I came to speak to you about Tally," Sarah replied, eyes shifting from the photos to May. "I know that you disapprove of Tally's decision to join the army."

May scoffed.

"What is done is done. You were granted a dispensation for her, and she said the words anyway. She is bound by law and magic," Sarah said seriously, allowing that to sink in a moment. "I also know that you especially disapprove of me…"

May was confused. "What does this have to do with Tally?"

"Everything," Sarah said softly. "Are you aware of what a songmate is?"

May's eyes widened—confusion fell over her, before slow realization appeared in her gaze.

"No."

Sarah sighed, but nodded.

"Tally has a songmate…and her songmate is you?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes."

May took a seat on the couch, clearly floored by the news.

"I know that you and Tally haven't spoken since before she accompanied me to the Tarim," she explained. "Much has happened in that time, and I can feel how much it pains Tally that you aren't supportive of her choice to serve…as well as the dread she has been feeling at the thought of telling you about us."

"How long?" May asked, voice tight.

"A few months now. I can show you, if you would like."

"Link with you?" she asked with a cold laugh.

"I'm not here as General Alder," Sarah told her sincerely. She quickly undid her jacket, removing it, and neatly folding it before setting it off to the side. She hoped the gesture would show her sincerity. "I'm here as Sarah. I love your daughter. I would do absolutely anything to keep her safe, including sacrificing my life for her."

May didn't believe her—she could see that much. But there was a bit of something in her eyes that Sarah couldn't place that gave her hope.

She simply held out her hand.

After a few moments of tense silence, May extended a shaky hand to rest in Sarah's.

She wasted no time and pulled her in. She showed her everything that happened in the Tarim, including her conversations with Tally. She made a point to allow May to feel all the complex emotions that had been going through Sarah every step of the way. They watched Tally's sacrifice to become a biddy, the loss of Collar and Bellweather, Sarah's offer to give Tally her life back, the reunion of the unit, the severing, the ache the severance left in her, seeking Tally out, fighting her feelings…everything. The only things she kept to herself were the most intimate moments between herself and Tally. Sarah's request to court Tally was shown, as well as the braid and beads, then the discovery of their bond, the elation they both felt, the love that poured through them every waking moment, the beginning of their date, the announcement to the Imperatrix, Sarah's defense of Tally and hers of Sarah…their happiness with each other.

When the link ended, May was looking at Sarah with tear-filed eyes.

"You…you really do love her," May whispered.

Sarah offered her a watery smile. "More than anything else in this world. Tally is…everything. I don't have the words to describe it."

May shook her head. "No need, I could feel it. As well as hers for you."

Sarah smiled softly and wiped her eyes.

"Does Tally know you came here?" May asked, sounding hurt that her daughter hadn't come.

Sarah shook her head. "No. When Tally first told me about your disapproval and the anguish she felt by it, I had made the decision to reach out to you. I know your issues with the Army and myself are well founded. You were right to worry for your daughter's safety. I cannot blame you for wanting her to take the dispensation like you did…especially as Tally is the last of the Craven line."

May nodded.

"But again, what is done is done. Tally is easily one of the finest soldiers I have ever served with. She is exceptionally talented and damn near ruthless in her pursuit of truth and what she feels is right." A fond smile played on Sarah's lips. "This is where things are, and where they will stay. Your choice is whether you want to be a part of it…and I know that Tally desperately wants you to be a part of it."

May remained silent a few moments before she wiped at the tears that began to fall down her face.

Alder pressed on, "The holiday will be approaching soon. Yule is only a few weeks away, and we always have an open house policy for the families of the soldiers. I know that Tally would be thrilled if you attended," she explained. "I'll personally have you flown out."

May took a deep breath. "You really mean all of this, don't you?"

Sarah nodded. "I love her with all that I am. Her happiness is incredibly important."

They held each other's gaze for a few moments before May nodded slowly.

"I'll be there."

Sarah smiled warmly and chuckled delightedly. "I'll make the preparations. More than likely I will tell Tally when I return. I feel guilty not telling her I was coming in the first place and I doubt I could keep it a secret. So if you get a phone call tonight…"

May chuckled softly and nodded in understanding.

"I know that there will still be things to work through with all of this," Sarah said thoughtfully. "But please, keep an open mind for any of it. She misses you terribly."

May once again nodded her agreement before Sarah took her leave. When she stepped out onto the porch and the door shut behind her, she released a breath.

She led the biddies back to the plane, hoping that the return trip wouldn't take too long.

 


 

Sarah had been missing for the whole day. Tally hadn't seen her since she sent her off this morning, and she was starting to get worried. Especially since it was now well past dinner. She had reached out for her, confused when Sarah continued to give her short answers that carried, well—a weight with them.

It was making her nervous and her stomach was twisting up in knots.

"What's wrong?" Raelle asked as Tally brooded from her old bed.

She had already moved all of her belongings into Sarah's room, and was currently hanging with her unit, studying, to distract herself.

"Yeah, you're brooding and that's odd," Abigail said pointedly.

Tally sighed. "I haven't seen Sarah all day, and every time I've reached out she's given me some bullshit excuse."

Abigail smiled softly. "Tal, you're dating the General of the Armed Forces."

"I know," Tally groaned. "I know…this is different. There's always an explanation, a valid one. These…they feel…guilty…like she's lying to me."

Raelle arched an eyebrow. "I doubt that. Alder doesn't lie to you, and I actually believe that. You guys are nauseatingly open with each other."

"Seriously," Abigail concurred.

Tally ground her teeth before snapping finally. "Then why does it feel like she's lying to me?"

Raelle and Abigail shared a look. They hadn't seen Tally this upset since before her and Alder started dancing around each other. Something was definitely up.

"Any idea where she is?" Raelle asked carefully.

Tally shook her head. "She said she was busy off base all day. She's been gone since before breakfast. She kissed me goodbye and headed out for her day. No one has seen her or even has an idea where she is."

"No one?" Abigail pressed.

"I even hounded Amber," Tally groused.

"Maybe she has a surprise for you?" Raelle suggested. "She seems like she'd do something like that."

Tally shrugged. "Maybe."

"It's really eating at you, huh," Abs said softly as she sat down next to Tally, putting an arm around her.

Tally nodded, a tear sliding down her cheek.

She felt Sarah reach out then, and in her irritation slapped it away—closing the link.

"She just reached out," Tally muttered.

"And?" Rae questioned.

"I closed the connection off."

"Tal."

"I'm mad!" Tally exclaimed. "We don't lie to each other. Period. She's keeping something from me…something she feels guilty about."

"Tal," Abigail broached cautiously, "you don't think she's cheating on you or something do you?" She didn't believe that for a second…but Tally was pretty worked up.

"No. I don't know," Tally breathed. Her heart broke at the thought. She was working herself up even more. She pulled her knees to her chest and buried her head there. Sniffling quietly. "Maybe I'm just being hormonal."

"I'll kick her ass," Rae told Tally as she joined them on the bed, on the other side of Tally.

"Thanks," Tally said.

Then the door slammed open, drawing all three pairs of eyes to the intruder. Sarah's blue eyes were filled with panic as she met Tally's red-rimmed ones.

"I was with your mother," Sarah breathed in a rush as she stepped in and shut the door behind her.

When she felt Tally's pain through the bond, they had just arrived back on base. She had expected to find her in their room, but when Tally closed the connection and she wasn't where she thought…Sarah had all but run to the dorms—her biddies bitching the whole time that she was running too fast.

"What?" Tally asked, clearly floored. She wiped at her eyes as Sarah closed the distance between them.

Sarah dropped to her knees, taking Tally's hands in hers. The moment the connection opened, Sarah sent the memory straight through.

Tally's mouth dropped, eyes searching Sarah's as the memory ended.

"That's where I was all day. I felt guilty for not telling you I was going…but I needed to do that for you and us. I wanted it to be a surprise but I knew I wouldn't be able to hold it in if you suspected anything…which isn't shocking that you did. I am sorry," Sarah explained in a rush.

She brought Tally's hands to her lips and kissed them softly, pouring as much love and reassurance through the bond as she could. She caught the underlying worry that Sarah was cheating—which rocked Sarah to the core. She hadn't realized how long Tally had been worrying all day.

"Never, ever," she urged through the bond.

Tally finally felt like she could breathe, and then had tears in her eyes for an entirely different reason. Her mom knew now, and she was accepting it…and coming to the base for Yule. She was grateful that Sarah did that, since Tally had been unable to get through to her mother every time she tried.

"I'm sorry," Tally breathed out, shaking her head and suddenly ashamed she allowed her own fears to cloud her judgement.

"No, sweetheart," Sarah soothed, standing and pulling Tally up with her so she could wrap her in her arms. "You have nothing to apologize for."

Tally tucked her head against Sarah's neck, in her favorite spot—breathing her earthy scent in and feeling her body relax.

"I offered to fight you," Raelle told Alder with a sheepish smile.

Sarah chuckled, her hands running up and down Tally's back soothingly. "I appreciate that, Collar."

"Welcome, ma'am," Rae replied with a smirk.

"Go have make up sex," Abigail told them both.

Tally whipped her head to look at Abigail, blushing furiously as Sarah merely chuckled. Her arm wrapped around Tally's waist and she turned to lead her from the room. She glanced back at the two cadets and nodded her thanks before they departed.

They walked in silence the rest of the way—with Tally leaning into Sarah's embrace and basking in her presence.

When they finally made it to their room and laid down on the bed—Tally having requested to cuddle for a bit—Alder finally spoke.

"I'm sorry for keeping it from you," Sarah apologized softly. Her forehead pressed against Tally's, their breathing syncing.

"I'm thrilled that you talked to her. I shouldn't have doubted you. Just because you disappeared for the day and felt guilty…I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions. I'm sorry."

"It's alright, my love," Sarah urged seriously. "Tally, look at me."

When Tally's brown met her blue, she stroked her cheek lovingly.

"Darling, it's understandable. We haven't spent so long not communicating through the bond…even when I've been incredibly busy. I didn't trust myself to keep the connection open without you knowing what I was up to. It was sort of going to be a surprise Yule present."

Tally chuckled softly and kissed her. "I love you. Thank you…I just…I can't believe she agreed."

"Well, showing her everything was rather helpful. Otherwise, I don't believe she would have believed it at all."

Tally nodded her agreement. "I love you." She kissed Sarah again. "I love you." Another kiss.

Sarah's hands tangled in auburn locks, keeping her close and capturing her lips in a passionate kiss. They were content to caress each other for the time being, slowly building the heat between them until they were breathless and aching. Sarah quickly shrugged Tally's jacket from her, tossing it on the floor before doing the same with her shirt—as Tally intermittently worked on Sarah's belt and undid her pants.

Finally, they were both bare and Sarah rolled them over so Tally was pinned to the mattress.

"I have one other surprise," Sarah murmured into their kiss.

Tally hummed with curiosity as Sarah pulled back and left the bed. She walked to one of their drawers, rummaging through it until she pulled out a strapless dildo.

Tally's eyes darkened impossibly further as Sarah approached with the item. She made no move to put it on, waiting for Tally to finish taking stock of it—licking her lips and giving Sarah a frantic nod.

She wasted no time, moaning slightly as it slipped inside easily before she crawled back onto the bed, kissing Tally's neck and nipping her witch mark.

Tally moaned breathlessly, arching up into Sarah's ministrations. She groaned when she felt Sarah settle between her legs, the length of the toy brushing her just a little.

Sarah kissed down her neck, licking, biting, and sucking marks onto the skin as she descended down Tally's chest. She teased her nipples until Tally was bucking up into her—descending further until her mouth was at her center. She licked up her slit, moaning at the taste of her as she slid her arms underneath Tally's thighs—holding her against her mouth as she ate her out.

Tally was panting and moaning, bucking into Sarah's face as she felt her wetness against the General's chin. She was thinking that she would only be eating her out to get her ready, but it seemed she was determined to make Tally cum first.

Tally's breath hitched as Sarah sucked her clit, then alternated with precise strokes. She could feel her orgasm coiling in her belly, and Sarah's eyes flickered up to Tally's.

"Cum for me, darling," Sarah instructed, maintaining the intense eye contact.

That, and the words sent through the bond were more than enough—and Tally came with a cry; the hand tangled in Sarah's hair was holding her in place as she rode out her orgasm.

Sarah eased her down before she placed soft kisses on the insides of Tally's thighs—content.

"I swear it's more intense each time," Tally said, a little out of breath as she gazed down at Sarah.

Sarah looked up, offering a smug grin that quickly morphed into one of deep affection. "I think that our connection and magic just continues to heighten it. Our sex is quite the power boost."

Tally chuckled, opening her arms for Sarah to collapse into. "You have that right."

Sarah kissed Tally's shoulder, nipping it playfully before placing open mouthed kisses along the smooth collarbone until she met her neck. It was a spot she hadn't marked yet, and she sucked the skin with a moan as Tally bucked up into her—her clit brushing part of the toy.

"Sarah, please," Tally groaned. She was ready to go again already, and she was eager to have both of Sarah's hands free while she fucked her.

"Ask nicely, sweetheart," came the murmured reply against skin.

Tally moaned as the General rolled the pink bud between her fingers before dragging her hand down Tally's side.

"Baby, please fuck me," Tally begged.

Sarah smirked against her skin. She braced herself on her forearm by Tally's head as her other hand reached down to collect Tally's wetness—smearing it over the toy.

"You tell me when to move. I'll go slowly," Sarah said against her lips before she kissed her, and lined the tip up with her songmate's entrance.

A guttural moan echoed in the kiss as Sarah slid the first bit in. She stopped, pulled back to regard Tally as she waited. Tally's eyes met hers and she nodded, which Sarah rewarded with another inch before allowing Tally to adjust. She sucked her bottom lip and lightly bit it before she soothed it with her tongue.

When they broke, Tally moaned out, "More."

She had picked a moderate girth for Tally, and length, knowing that with as wet and easily as Tally took her fingers she would be able to adjust to a little more.

"All of it," Tally whined, her hips canting up with Sarah's so that she slid home. "Fuuuck." It came out as a high pitched whine.

Sarah was buried to the hilt, enough so that she could brush her clit against Tally's when she thrust in.

"Goddess," Sarah moaned shakily as her clit brushed Tally's. She could feel how wet she was as she clenched around the bulb inside her.

She removed her hand from the toy to brace herself fully on top of Tally. She could feel Tally's wetness coating the toy and against her clit, making it very hard for her to keep from moving.

"Please," came Tally's breathy request. She was just as turned on as Sarah was, and she needed her to take her right there.

Sarah's eyes blazed in the low light of the room as she pulled her hips back before thrusting slow and deep into Tally.

"Fuck, Sarah," she cried out as her head pressed harder into the pillow.

Sarah leaned down, sucking Tally's earlobe and biting it before teasing the area around it.

"Now I'll have really claimed you," she murmured in Tally's ear. Her breathing was coming out in short shallow breaths from the dual sensations.

She felt the jolt through the bond, as well as the reflexive thrust up into the toy by Tally, pushing Sarah deeper.

"Yours," Tally moaned out.

Sarah picked up her pace, fucking into Tally so well that she was already close. She could feel Tally holding back her own orgasm, wanting Sarah to fuck her longer.

"Darling, I'm happy to fuck you through the night if that's what you wish," she thought.

Tally's eyes widened as she tangled her hands in Sarah's hair. She pressed their foreheads together and nodded quickly.

So Sarah continued her pace, feeling Tally climbing through the link until she came with a cry so powerful that she had practically created a seed.

She allowed her to ride it out, but as soon as she had Sarah grabbed her wrists—pinning her arms above her head and using them as leverage to fuck her deeper and harder.

Tally was pretty sure she had died with how amazing it felt. The only sounds in the room were their heavy breathing and the sound of the toy sliding in and out of her at a relentless pace—her own mouth open in silent cries.

Tally knew she would be limp after this next orgasm from the way her legs were locked around Sarah's hips, keeping her tight against her.

"Tally," Sarah breathed. Each thrust against Tally rubbed her clit just how she needed, and she was approaching her orgasm quickly.

Tally whimpered, allowing the sensations to wash over her.

With a last thrust, Tally came again—jerking her hips upwards as Sarah followed after her. She released her wrists, sliding her arms beneath Tally's shoulders so their bodies were flush against each other as Sarah rode out her orgasm with short thrusts.

"Fuck. Fuck," Sarah panted, trying to catch her breath.

"Uh huh," Tally agreed, somewhat mindlessly. Her head was elsewhere, trying to come back from wherever that orgasm sent her. She briefly wondered if she'd ascended for a moment.

Sarah chuckled against her neck, kissing it sweetly. "I don't believe so, my love."

"Fuck that was…fuck," Tally mumbled. Her hands rubbed up and down Sarah's back, enjoying the feel of her skin to skin.

"Mhmm," Alder murmured as she captured Tally's lips in a loving kiss.

When they broke for air, Tally licked her lips and grinned. "That was seriously amazing. We need to try so many positions."

Sarah laughed as she regarded her songmate. "I am more than happy to do that."

"Thank the Goddess." Tally chuckled and kissed Sarah sweetly. "I love you. So so much."

Sarah's eyes softened drastically as she caressed Tally's face. "I love you too, Tally."

They kissed languidly, content to bask in their post-orgasmic bliss together.

Sarah finally broke the kiss so that she could pull out and remove the strap from herself. It was going to need a very thorough cleaning. When she finally had, she felt her arousal stir again at the sight of the toy sliding from Tally—strings of wetness following.

She practically growled at the sight, and Tally grinned—closing her legs and hopping off the bed before Sarah could grab her and have her way with her again.

They cleaned up, readied themselves for bed, and crawled back in to cuddle up with each other.

 


 

"Three days' time, Sarah," President Wade firmly stated over the phone.

The General's nose crinkled in a snarl at the directive. She steeled herself, answering calmly, "Madam President, if you could afford me a few more days I feel confident that Nicte will give us something on the Spree."

Nicte already had. She'd met with Petra a few times now, sharing information for Petra to verify as accurate before accepting the intel. Nicte was committed to the plan—fake her execution—including announcing to the world that one of the top Spree leaders was now dead.

Well, who they thought would be the Spree leader. Her face would be different, signaling to the Spree that it wasn't true. She'd already spoken with Scylla, giving her and Anacostia information to have delivered to the Spree cells that they would be working in tandem with the army to wipe the Camarilla from the earth once and for all.

Sarah had told Nicte that once the Camarilla were handled, she and Nicte might be able to bury the hatchet. She was growing tired of all the fighting. Especially fighting her own kind. She had looked into a way to undo the accords…a hundred or so years ago. Each time she thought they were achieving peace, they were only moving on to another threat—again and again and again.

She never succeeded in finding a way to break the accords. Of course they could be repealed by the President. But that only took care of the legality. They were also bound magically, which was the reason they couldn't just undo them…there was no known way. She stood by her decision, but after seeing so much death follow so many witches…she didn't just want Fort Salem to be a safe place for witches, but everywhere else too. Where witches would enlist if they so choose…not because they were forced to. And if she couldn't repeal the accords, perhaps a possible peace with the Spree could at least do some good.

"Three days, Sarah. That is all," Wade reiterated dismissively.

Then the line went dead and Sarah's jaw hardened. She could hear the clap of thunder overhead as she led her biddies from her office. She needed to speak to her generals immediately.

"Amber, get word to General Bellweather, General Clary, Izadora, Captain Quartermaine, and Major Verger to meet me in the War Room immediately," General Alder ordered as she walked by her secretary, leading her biddies toward the training room.

She was supposed to lead the combat class today, but had received a last minute call from Wade. Which had led to a discussion about where and when Nicte's execution would take place, and how she would be disposed of.

They reached the training room quickly, and Alder entered.

"CO on deck!" M yelled out.

"At ease," Alder said with a shake of her head. "M, Shellbark, Craven, Collar, Bellweather, with me—now. The rest of you, dismissed."

They quickly grabbed their belongings, following Alder and her biddies from the room.

"What's going on?" Tally asked, falling in step next to Sarah.

Sarah reached down, taking Tally's hand with her own and threading their fingers together. "She's giving me three days, and then Nicte must be executed."

"That's so little time!" Tally replied through the bond, shocked at such a short timeline.

Sarah nodded, a grimace on her face. She nodded for one of her biddies to fall back and bring M and Gregorio up to speed.

They reached the War Room not long after, all of them taking seats around the table as everyone arrived.

"General," Petra greeted. Her brow was furrowed with concern as she took in the clearly irritated expression on Sarah's face.

"Present Wade has ordered Nicte's execution in three days' time."

The room fell eerily silent.

"Are we prepared to do this in three days?" Collar spoke up uncertainly.

General Alder sighed, eyes glancing at her and Tally's entwined hands on top of the table. "We don't have much of a choice, I'm afraid. I tried to ask for more time but…" she trailed off.

"One of the bays will work as the place for the execution," General Clary noted.

"Nicte's given us good intelligence, moving her execution up frees her sooner…which means she can be of assistance physically," Petra added. "We can make this work."

"We don't have a choice," Alder murmured irritably. "We've discussed announcing Captain Quartermaine's promotion for this moment. I believe there have also been three other notable promotions?"

At General Clary and Bellweather's nods, Alder tapped her fingers on the table.

"President Wade will want to acknowledge these promotions as if they were part of her doing, no doubt. That will buy us time as well," Alder mused aloud.

"How are we going to fake the execution though?" Tally asked. "Everyone there will see we didn't actually kill Nicte."

"Nicte has a solution," Petra chimed in. "We give her access to seed boxes so that she can imbue them with the proper work."

"Making everyone see the same thing," Tally finished with realization. "That could work."

"Indeed," Alder concurred, pleased. "A crowd that large will require multiple people opening these boxes though."

"We need to also protect our ears, there won't be a way to avoid the sound otherwise," General Clary noted.

Alder nodded her agreement. "Magda, see to it that Nicte is supplied with as many boxes as she feels she needs."

"Are we sure we can trust her?" Abigail questioned seriously.

Alder nodded tersely. "We will have a test box for her to make sure that the seed is effective and does what it is supposed to do. Then she can fill the others." Her eyes turned to the members of Sekhmet. "I'll need each of you to open the boxes from different points in the bay so it covers everyone."

"Of course, General," M answered immediately.

"Once we've faked her death…then what?" Tally asked.

Sarah sighed heavily. "We free her. She remains on base and has to wear a collar. We have smaller ones that are more inconspicuous. I'll ward it myself so that I'm the only one that can remove it. With her free on the base she can assist Petra better, as well as aid in making contact with any other Spree leaders and their cells."

Tally nodded. She was nervous about Nicte being free, but at Sarah's hand squeezing her own reassuringly, she felt a little better.

"General Clary," Alder began, "what's the status on locating Camarilla bases?"

"We've managed to locate two so far. Both within the state," General Clary responded. She stood and walked to the map on the far wall, circling both points.

"They aren't far," Alder growled. "Are they active?"

Clary pointed to the farthest one. "We've noticed ample coming and going from this location, the other though has been quiet."

"Have you assembled your strike teams?"

"I have, General," Clary responded, nodding and glancing to Petra.

Alder looked to Petra then. "What news?"

"Building has been under ownership of an exarch, the same one that Quartermaine and Ramshorn bested. No one has entered or left this one in a few weeks," Petra answered. She pulled out some images and slid them across the table for Sarah to see.

Alder looked them over. It was quiet…likely a warehouse of sorts for them now. She nodded to herself. "Any possibility we can get a strike team to check it out?"

"I can have them readied within two hours," Clary answered.

"Get them ready. This is recon only to start. We need to make sure that it is in fact empty of Camarilla members…and if it is a warehouse, then we need to destroy it immediately," Alder ordered. "What of the other location?"

"Frequent coming and goings—under the same ownership as the other. This one we believe to be an active base."

"Can we have another strike team ready to check out this location?"

"We can," Petra spoke up.

"See to it then."

"Understood." Clary took a few steps away to give the order through farspeech.

"In the meantime, Petra, I want you to let Nicte know what is happening. Bring her up to speed and take a seed box with you. I'll not be behind long. Nicte and I can discuss what the hallucination should be."

"Do you want me to come with you?" Tally asked through the bond. She lifted Sarah's hand to her lips, kissing it softly and relishing in the affectionate sigh it pulled from Alder's lips.

Sarah met her gaze and nodded. She looked back at Clary. "Make the preparations and we reconvene at 1500 to monitor," Alder finished as she stood from her seat. "Tally is going to accompany Petra and I to see Nicte, the rest of you go about your day until the reconvening time. I want you all here to watch this as well."

"Yes, General," came the resounding reply from Sekhmet.

"Dismissed." Sarah turned, leading her group from the room with Petra in tow behind the biddies.

"You're nervous," Tally thought pointedly.

Sarah sighed, nodding slightly. "The Camarilla having two locations so near to us…and I didn't even know…I was so focused on the Spree that I failed to see their encroachment. I feel like I failed."

The admission caught Tally by surprise. "Hey," she called softly, halting their steps in the middle of the hallway so she could cup Sarah's face in her hands. She didn't give a rats ass that others in the hall had become interested, catching a glance of the now infamous couple.

Sarah turned her head into one of Tally's palms, kissing it. "How can I not have failed, Tally? They're so near…right under my nose. Goddess knows how long those bases have been there. I've been so blinded."

"Maybe so," Tally replied. She stroked Sarah's cheeks. "But you haven't failed. Even the Spree weren't aware it was the Camarilla until recently. Everyone missed it because everyone thought them eradicated."

"But I shouldn't have," Sarah said aloud, voice stern.

"You need to be gentler with yourself," Tally told her seriously. "You're human, Sarah. You're not above it. It happens. The importance is that now, you're taking action." Tally stepped in closer so their foreheads could touch. "You're willing to commit treason to spare a Spree founder's life so that you can join forces to take down the Camarilla. If that doesn't say growth and change…" she trailed off.

Sarah released a shaky breath against Tally's lips. "What would I do without you, my darling?"

"Lucky for you, you won't have to find out," Tally replied before she captured Sarah's lips.

It was slow and careful, simply basking in the feeling and contentment of it.

"I really love that I can kiss you whenever and wherever I want," Tally thought as she pulled back and smirked against Sarah.

Alder released a laugh and sighed, her hands rising to stroke Tally's cheek lovingly—her thumb trailing over her dimple.

"I as well, my love." Sarah placed one more kiss to her lips before taking her hand and leading them the rest of the way to the holding cells.

She noticed that Petra was no longer with them, and assumed she had continued on ahead to prep Nicte while they shared their moment.

"I can't believe you're willing to commit treason to bust my ass out," Nicte said as soon as Sarah and Tally stepped through the door to the holding cells. "Took you long enough to come and see me about it."

Alder smirked as they approached. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend, Nicte."

Nicte returned the smirk. "It's going to be fun fighting alongside you again. I'll admit to that."

"As long as your scourge is wrapped around our enemies throat, you'll hear no complaints from me," Alder replied smoothly.

"Howdy, Red," Nicte greeted Tally.

"Nicte." Tally gave her a nod.

"Has Petra brought you up to speed?" Sarah asked.

"She's told me about the seed boxes. I can manage that. It'll take a little time and I'll need some specifics from you of what you want them to see."

"Very well," Alder replied as she traced a sigil over the lock, allowing the cell door to swing open. She stepped inside and held out her hand.

Nicte's eyebrows shot high. "You want me to link with you?"

Alder chuckled. "Don't worry Nicte, I'll not drive you insane."

Tally shot Petra a look, who met her gaze with a tilt of her head—as if saying, 'it's happened to other people.'

"I thought you'd be more worried about me driving you insane," Nicte retorted. "You of all people know how easy it is for me to burn you from the inside out."

Alder's face remained stoic. "Our fight is not against each other right now. Our fight is with the Camarilla, and as remiss as I am to admit it—we need you and the Spree."

When Nicte accepted the hand offered, Alder pulled her in and showed her exactly how she wanted the events to go—what she wanted everyone in attendance, aside from the select few, to see.

When it ended, Alder released her hand and stepped back and out of the cell as Petra approached with a seed box. She handed it to Nicte and moved to unlock the collar around her neck.

The Spree leader cracked her neck, rolling it around and sighing with relief.

"Okay, I have just the thing," she told them before she began.

The seeds were crude and rough, setting Tally's teeth on edge as Nicte worked. When she finished, she shut the lid and passed the box back to Petra.

"Give that a try on a tester."

Alder plucked the box from Petra and turned away, heading back toward the exit door with a silent request that they remain where they were.

She exited the room, then made her way through another door that led her to Michelle's cell.

"Michelle," Sarah addressed, drawing the young woman's gaze. "I'd like you to open this box, and when it is finished and I close it I need you to allow me to link with you so I can see exactly what you saw. This is Nicte's work. It is merely a hallucination, nothing dangerous." She held the box up.

Michelle remained silent, soaking in the information before giving a nod. Despite her knowing there was a very real possibility that Sarah would just end her…she accepted as she realized her odds weren't great no matter what.

Alder traced a sigil on the lock, allowing the door to swing open. She handed Michelle the box before she hummed a low seed to block herself from hearing any of the sound. When she was ready, she gave a nod.

The box opened—Michelle's eyes becoming glazed over, clearly elsewhere. Sarah had no idea how long this would last for…so she waited patiently, her hands clasped behind her back.

When Michelle's eyes seemed to begin to clear a little, Alder stepped back in the cell and closed the seed box. She hummed again, her hearing returning.

"Let me in," she ordered, placing her hand on Michelle's shoulder.

She watched as she saw herself deliver three blows to a woman she didn't recognize—one for the head, one for the heart, one for the soul.

The vision faded out and she dropped her hand to end the link.

"Well done," she said to Michelle. She turned on her heel and exited, reworking the sigil and locking the cell.

Michelle watched her go, knowing better than to ask why Alder had asked that of her.

When Sarah returned to the other cell, Tally turned immediately to meet her eyes—silently asking if she was okay.

She gave a short nod. "It worked well, Batan, good work."

Nicte grinned triumphantly. "You didn't think I would half-ass my own execution did you?"

Alder couldn't help but chuckle. "I would expect nothing less."

"How many boxes do you think you'll need to make sure everyone sees this?" Petra asked.

Nicte thought a moment. "At least seven. Since you want to convince the President the most, there should be one opened near her. Then three on each side of the bay should be enough to make sure the sound reaches everyone."

Alder nodded. "I'll have Major Verger bring more then."

"All I need before I fill them is the face I'll be wearing for it. After that, all yours." Nicte leaned back in her chair. "So. Once I'm 'dead' what's the plan?"

"We let you out of your cell. You'll still be collared, but with one more discreet. I want you and Petra to work closely on gathering whatever information you can about the Camarilla and their locations."

"If the Spree and Army start attacking the bases, it won't take long for them to realize that we're working together," Nicte supplied, her brow furrowing.

Sarah nodded. "Which is why I am insisting that the Army take care of the active bases. Any warehouses that they have. I want whatever supplies, munitions…cords…destroyed. I also want them armed…"

A cruel smirk graced Nicte's face. "You want the Spree to booby trap the warehouses."

Alder nodded. "Any members that enter will trip the wires…I want multiple traps in the warehouses so that any Camarilla members that enter will be pushed and end themselves. Your cells shouldn't have too much trouble there."

"That'll still alert them," Nicte pointed out.

"Yes, but it will be enough to buy us more time." Alder grimaced. "The war with them…hundreds of years…it's taken so long and I know that this war with them will not be so easily won. Eventually they will realize our joined forces, but I am hoping that we will have killed enough exarchs before that."

"Playing the long game as usual, Sarah," Nicte commented with a chuckle.

"Once you're dead, I'll have Petra set you up in your own quarters. You'll have a security detail as well."

"Don't trust me to be on my best behavior?" Nicte questioned with a scoff.

"Not yet," Alder replied. "Perhaps one day."

Nicte watched her curiously before humming and nodding in acknowledgment.

Sarah nodded to Petra before she turned and guided Tally from the room to reconvene with her biddies.

"You okay?" Tally asked once the door locked behind them.

Alder exhaled. "I have no idea. Trusting Nicte even a small amount doesn't sit right with me. But I don't see much of a choice."

Tally wrapped her arms around her—brown eyes searching brilliant blue. "No, we don't. But since this is what we have to work with, making the most of it is what we have to do." She cupped Sarah's cheek, smiling as the older woman pressed into her hand. "I'm with you every step."

Sarah sighed—one of deep affection and gratitude. She pressed her forehead to Tally's. "I love you."

"I love you too," Tally replied with a bright smile. "I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing that."

"Good," Sarah quipped. "Because there won't be a day that passes where I won't utter it."

Tally blushed as she leaned in to kiss Sarah sweetly. When they parted, Tally stroked her cheek. "Perfect, because there won't be a day that passes where I won't want to hear it…and say it back to you."

Sarah chuckled as she reached down to thread their fingers together before leading the women from the room.

"I believe you have a one on one session with Magda, correct?" Sarah asked as they walked.

Tally nodded, giving Sarah's hand a squeeze. "And you have a one on one with Raelle."

Sarah chuckled. "I don't believe she is going to like what I have in store."

Tally nodded her agreement, a smile gracing her face and pushing her dimples to prominence.

"I will see you in the War Room at 1500," Sarah told her, turning on her feet to place both of her hands on Tally's waist. "If you need anything—"

"I know," Tally interrupted softly. She leaned in, kissing Sarah's lips sweetly. "I'll see you in a few hours."

They kissed once more before Tally skirted off, leaving Sarah staring after her with a gentle gaze.

She headed the opposite direction, leading her biddies outside and toward the oldest tree on the base. The tree that marked the place where her entire coven had been slaughtered by the Camarilla, and the one that she and Tally had managed to uproot with their storm.

Collar was already there, looking up at the tree with a thoughtful expression on her face.

"It feels different seeing this tree now, doesn't it?" Alder asked as she approached.

Raelle nodded. "It's just…I…"

"I know," Sarah answered quietly. "Sit, we have much to do."

"What are we doing exactly?" she asked as they both sat down against the tree.

"Meditating," Sarah replied easily.

Raelle groaned.

"I know, not what you were expecting. But you allow your feelings to overrule your power, instead of allowing them to enhance them. Why do you think I am so capable in my Work?"

"I just figured it's because you're old," Collar retorted with a smirk.

Alder chuckled. "Fair. However, it's because I use my emotions to boost my power. Think of it as two streams of energy, coiling around each other to expand. That is what you need to master—instead of allowing Her or your emotions to be the one controlling the other. You want harmony."

"How is meditating going to help?"

"You need to address your emotions," she told her simply. "You need to know and understand how you truly feel, first. Once you have understood that, you can master them instead of allowing them to take over and consume you, which is what happens when She takes over. She has to compensate for you."

Raelle nodded.

Sarah crossed her legs, and tilted her head back to rest against the trunk of the tree. "Follow my lead."

Raelle followed suit, closing her eyes and resting her head against the tree.

"Now," Sarah began, her voice soft. "Focus on your breathing until everything else fades away but that. You'll still have thoughts fly through your head but that is okay. Acknowledge them and let them pass."

After a few minutes of silence, she could feel Raelle relax considerably next to her, and she spoke once more with a gentle tone.

"Now, think of Her. How does the power make you feel? Allow those feelings to surface, but not overwhelm you. You must address each of them, and understand why it affects you so. Acknowledge them, understand them, and allow them to merge with your power. Let them light a fire in your belly."

She felt Raelle tense slightly before relaxing once more.

Then Sarah could feel it beneath them. There was an unmistakable spark of power below.

"Do you feel Her?" Sarah inquired, her own eyes still closed as she dug her fingers into the dirt.

Raelle nodded.

"Touch the ground, let it center you. Then, follow it down until you find Her. Let Her in. You need to accept Her."

She could feel Her as well. Just below the surface. She could feel the power moving toward them until it brushed against her own hand. The power was unmistakable, but the feeling was one of warmth and comfort.

"There She is," Alder whispered.

Raelle released a shaky breath, and Alder could feel the shift around them. The power exuding from Raelle was intense, and she felt the girl stiffen beside her.

"No," she urged quickly. "Relax, Collar. She isn't going to hurt you."

Raelle did her best, calming slightly.

"There's just so much," Raelle murmured.

"Yes, and She is offering it to you. Reach out your hand to Her, pull Her into you like you would a lover."

When Raelle did as asked, she gasped sharply and Sarah shivered with the intensity of the power around them. She opened her eyes, glancing at Raelle and smiling proudly when she saw the Mycelium spores floating around her.

"Good, Raelle," she praised. "Now, I want you to sing." She pulled a tuning fork from her jacket pocket. "Match it." She struck the fork, the sound reverberating around them.

When Raelle did, the spores responded in kind. Working with Raelle instead of separating from her.

"Good, sustain it," Alder encouraged.

She had Raelle hold it for as long as she was able, before telling her to relax and release Her.

"Gently pull yourself away. Feel the separation of the joining, knowing that you are yourself again, but that She is always there for you to gather."

With a last slow breath, the spores faded around them, and Sarah could feel Her recede back into the ground.

Raelle's eyes blinked open, focusing on her after a few moments.

"How did that feel?"

Raelle shook her head. "Incredibly powerful…but calm. Nothing like the past times."

"Good." Alder smiled. "Well done."

Chapter Text

Tally's individual training was going equally as well. Verger had placed her in the dollhouse again, but with deeper hallucinations and better hidden seeds. It was more difficult than Tally anticipated, but she had managed to figure it out and find the seeds based on their colors.

Verger was impressed, and it certainly made Tally beam with pride. The downside was that she was soaked with sweat. One of the seeds made the temperature climb rather high, and it was the one that pushed her to find that particular seed as fast as possible. It was stifling in the small room.

She managed to have just enough time to grab a quick shower before dashing to the War Room to watch the strike team.

She was the last to arrive, but made it with a minute to spare as she stood next to Sarah. She reached down, threading their fingers together as the large scry lit up.

"They're in position, General," Clary said.

Alder's eyes swept over the scry, giving a single nod for them to advance.

The base was well guarded, they could see as much.

"Wait!" Tally exclaimed suddenly.

"Halt them," Alder ordered immediately. Her eyes turned to Tally. "What do you see?"

"There's…" she trailed off as she looked closer. "There's some sort of Working around the base. I can't tell what it is exactly, but it's…crude."

Alder hummed, understanding what Tally was trying to explain through their bond. "I want the strike team to move closer, but remain out of sight."

She waited until they were nearer, and then she had them stop.

"It's running along the perimeter," Tally said. "I'd guess an alarm system of sorts."

"Can you see where the source is?" Clary asked.

Tally looked closer. "Have them head East, just until they can see the corner of the building."

The strike team moved carefully, doing as ordered from General Clary. When they stopped, Tally pointed.

"Right there," she said, pointing at an electrical box just a bit away from the building. "It's coming from that."

"Take it out," Alder ordered via farspeech to the strike team. "Quietly."

A soft seed of disruption echoed through the scry and Tally gave a nod when the Working was disabled.

"Can you see any additional guards?" Sarah asked, eyes trained on the screen.

"There's a handful on the outside, and looks like there's around ten inside the building," she responded.

"Strike team," Alder began, "Take out the guards around the building, quietly. We can go in blazing once they're dealt with."

The strike team fanned out, pressing closer until they could take the members out with their scourges or seeds. It was quick and clean, and Sarah gave the order to push ahead.

"Do you seen any other Workings?" Alder asked Tally.

The redhead shook her head. "They just had the perimeter imbued. They're clear."

"Strike team, eliminate all targets," she ordered.

They watched as the team entered the building, engaging the Camarilla members. They attacked their throats first, disabling each of their vocal boxes before killing each and every one of them—the element of surprise on their side.

"Targets neutralized, General," one of the strike team members reported.

"Place the charges and get out," Alder ordered.

"We're blowing it?" Abigail asked, eyes shifting over to Alder.

The General nodded slowly. "I want that thing blown to bits. Wipe it off the map."

"Yes, General," one of the strike members replied.

They all watched as the charges were placed throughout the building. They left the building then, waiting until they were clear of the blast radius.

"Clear, ma'am."

Alder gave a single nod.

"Detonate," General Clary ordered.

There was a moment of silence before the building went up in smoke and flames—debris falling through the air and crashing into the ground billow, kicking up grass and dirt.

"Destroyed, ma'am."

"Bring them home immediately," Alder ordered. She turned her back on the scry, eyes falling onto the table and the map that rested there.

A hand rested on her shoulder, and she turned to meet the eyes of her songmate.

Tally placed her hand over top of Sarah's. "Are you okay?"

Alder nodded stiffly. "I only wish I could be with them."

"You're bloodthirsty," Tally pointed out. It wasn't judgmental or cruel. It was a statement. She could practically taste it through their bond, and Tally didn't blame Sarah one bit for wanting to be in the mud with them.

"I want to wipe them all out, Tally. Every last one," Alder thought darkly.

Tally's hand threaded with hers. "I know you do, imé wèlá."

Sarah's eyes softened, no longer swimming with bloodlust. Tally's soft tone and the warmth in the bond soothed her aching soul, and she released a sigh of relief. She stood, straightened her jacket, and brought Tally's hand up to her lips to kiss it.

She turned and walked over to her bar cart to pour herself a glass of whiskey. She took a sip, relishing in the slight burn of the liquid as it made its way to her belly. "What's the status on our strike team for the recon at the warehouse?"

"In position, General."

Alder leaned against the table, watching the scry. "Do you see anything?" she asked Tally.

"No."

"Advance, slowly," Alder ordered through farspeech.

The team moved carefully, eyes sweeping their surroundings as they approached the warehouse.

"Wait," Tally interrupted.

"Halt your positions," Alder ordered as all eyes fell on Tally.

"There's nothing there," Tally said.

Clary looked over at Petra and then Alder, not understanding.

"Nothing," Tally repeated firmly.

Sarah then realized the implication. "There's no sign of Work. Which means they either have a technological alarm system or it's rigged."

The redhead nodded. "Exactly."

Alder glared a burning hole in the scry, considering the next move carefully. "Something simple then. Throw something at it."

"General?" Clary questioned curiously.

"A rock, something small, I don't care what it is but hurl it at the door. Let's see what happens."

Clary gave the order, and everyone in the War Room waited and watched. A rock hurled to the door, causing a chain reaction of sounds being released.

"The same frequency that blocks our work," Clary murmured.

Alder snarled. "They trip wired their own warehouses in case we discovered them. I don't doubt that they've been alerted."

"Orders?" Petra asked worriedly.

"General," one of the strike members called through the connection. "Something is coming from the building."

Tally's eyes widened, spotting it first. "It's the witch plague."

"Get them out, now!" Alder barked.

The strike team quickly slapped salva on their necks, lifting into the air and toward the nearest bat to them. They could see a tendril of the plague reach up for the last member just before they moved out of distance, narrowly avoiding it.

"They're rigged," Alder growled. Her fury was overwhelming, and she knew it was seeping into her and Tally's link.

"Sarah," Tally spoke softly, reaching out to take her face in her hands. "With me, imé wèlá." Tally breathed deep and slow, forcing Sarah to match her.

"They're out of range," Anacostia said, her eyes worriedly trailing over her foster mother.

Sarah's forehead was wrinkled with the tensing of her muscles in her attempt to relax. She felt herself soften as Tally guided her back with whispered assurances through their bond.

Sarah.

Sarah's eyes shot open—and Tally's widened, startled by the sudden reaction Sarah just had.

"Did you hear that?" Alder asked her.

Tally shook her head.

Eébùcháí, Sarah, the voice instructed.

She inhaled sharply, calming and relaxing as she listened.

"Gener—" Petra began, only to have Alder hold up a hand in silence.

'Uyèghà ùrì mé péník'òyè—péchér jìrùvónàz úrràyà ènò, the voice whispered in her mind.

Sarah released a shaky breath and nodded in acknowledgement—seemingly to herself.

"I hear Her too," Raelle said, drawing Alder's line of sight.

The others all shared a look of confusion.

"Yèó," Alder said aloud.

The presence coiled around her mind softly. Pé luzòvú, jè lóù pézòvú, Sarah.

Alder gave a firm nod. Silently thanking The Mother for speaking to her, and her gratefulness at her own mind for allowing Her to be heard.

"What was it?" Tally asked softly, as if she would startle Sarah.

"The Mother," Sarah replied, looking at Raelle. "Did you hear all of it?"

Raelle nodded. "I think She's telling us to not hold back."

"Then I think we should heed Her," Alder responded. She stood up, straightening her jacket. "I want that warehouse completely levelled."

"Yes, General," Clary answered before giving the order.

A few moments later, fire rained down on the warehouse—exploding it and setting flame to anything inside.

They could hear the screech of the witch plague burning inside, and Alder didn't release the breath she was currently holding until the screams died out.

"Squad is secure and target eliminated," Clary informed them.

Alder gave a stiff nod. "Everyone is dismissed. Collar, stay a moment."

Tally placed a gentle kiss to Sarah's cheek before she led the rest of her coven from the room.

The General's eyes fell on Raelle. "Walk with me."

They set off from the war room, quickly descending down a set of stairs before she led them in silence to their earlier spot. Once they reached the tree, Alder took a seat—with Raelle following her silent request.

"She's never reached out like that to you either then," Raelle said, breaking the silence.

Alder shook her head. "No. But just as always Her presence brought immense comfort."

"Do you think we are the only ones that can hear Her, or the only ones She's allowing?"

Sarah thought for a moment. "Probably allowing. She did get Tally's attention if you recall."

Raelle nodded in understanding.

"How are you feeling after today? I know it's been a lot," Sarah asked. Her eyes turned to look at Raelle, genuine concern shining in them.

"It's a lot but…I feel…better," she replied honestly. "I'm not as afraid now. I think meditating helped, as well as Her reaching out like that…it's more grounding, than unsettling."

Sarah hummed in understanding. "Good. I'm glad that you are feeling more at ease, Raelle. This witch plague…"

"Do you think some of the bases are rigged too?" Raelle questioned.

Alder tipped her head back against the tree and closed her eyes—her heart ached with grief at the memory of her coven's demise, but the feel of bark at her back helped chase it away.

"I have no doubt," Sarah replied, eyes still shut. "They would be foolish not to. I will need to let Nicte know that the Spree cannot engaged the warehouses to rig them."

"How do we get in then? The first base wasn't booby trapped…" Raelle mused.

"A stroke of luck," Sarah sighed. She opened her eyes and looked at the cadet. "I am hoping that you are how we get in."

Raelle's gaze locked on the General's.

"We can't take on the witch plague without you. She's the only one that can contain and dispel it, and you're Her chosen," Sarah continued. "I believe that is what She was trying to convey earlier."

"'We are in you, and you in us,'" Raelle quoted.

"Yes."

"When do I go?"

Sarah searched her face a moment. "Not yet."

"What?" Raelle asked, completely surprised. She thought for sure she would be getting sent out as soon as possible.

"I am desperate to end each of them," Sarah told her seriously. "But you aren't ready just yet. Some more work is necessary still—I need you to trust Her. It's the only way it can work. Once you achieve that, we can begin taking out the Camarilla."

Raelle nodded.

"Also, Tally would never let me hear the end of it if I sent you off," she quipped.

Raelle's mouth hung open in surprise. She took note of the teasing smirk that spread across the General's face, and Raelle let out a loud laugh.

"She definitely wouldn't."

Sarah joined in—vibrant and bright. "Not at all." She grew serious once more. "As part of my private unit, I need to make sure that you all are protected, and I still need to get Shellbark up to speed a little more. We need time for that. Once Yule passes, we can begin. Until then, I will rely on Spree information for any more bases and warehouses that are found, strictly recon."

Raelle nodded in understanding. "Thank you for this, really."

Alder offered her a soft smile. "You're welcome."

 


 

Alder had returned to her office, finished up more work, and then promptly proceeded to her bathroom to sink into the tub. She knew Tally had roped the rest of her unit into scourge training before they went to dinner.

She stripped down as she filled the bath with water. She added in the salts and bubble baths, sighing as the scents floated by.

She stepped in, sinking down beneath the water with a slight moan.

"Don't start without me," Tally teased as she entered the bathroom, hurriedly stripping her dirty clothes from her body.

Sarah chuckled. "I just sank in." Her eyes brightened as Tally stepped into the tub, sinking down and resting her back to Sarah's front.

"How was practice, my love?" Sarah asked as her arms wrapped around Tally.

The redhead leaned her head back, sighing with contentment and glancing up at Sarah. "It was good. You're definitely rubbing off on me."

Sarah quirked an eyebrow. "I've certainly been trying," she voiced, the sound husky as her hands ran over Tally's body.

Tally hummed with approval. "I certainly won't tell you to stop."

Sarah chuckled, placing a kiss to Tally's head and tightening her hold.

"What did you want to talk to Rae about?"

Sarah's eyebrows rose in surprise. "She didn't tell you?"

"No," Tally answered. "She was a bit in her head at practice. Not in a bad way, just…engaged elsewhere? Abs and I were wondering if maybe the Mycelium was reaching out to her again."

Sarah hummed. "I hope that is the case. We spoke about the bases and the possibility of them being trip wired as well. I told Raelle that we need her for those missions but I am not sending us out until she and the Mycelium are closer. I need Raelle to trust Her."

Tally nodded. It made sense of course. She certainly didn't want any of them getting attacked by the witch plague.

"So when do you think we will go?"

"After Yule. Raelle and I will continue our meditations, I'll get Shellbark up to speed—his vocal work is good, his scourge combat needs some more work though. I'll put him and M through some exercises and then allow M to take over from there," Sarah explained. "I also need to help advance Abigail's Weather Work. As I told Raelle, we need time for that."

Tally nodded and snuggled into Sarah more.

"I am glad you were there today," Sarah told her seriously. "You are immeasurably valuable, Tally."

She turned slightly to place a kiss to Sarah's jaw, peppering it until she captured her lips in a kiss.

"Thank you," she murmured against her.

They pressed their foreheads together a moment before Tally bit her lip.

"What is it?" Sarah asked, a soft smile on her face.

"We haven't had sex in the bathtub," Tally commented, as if it was just normal conversation.

Sarah chuckled. "Are you propositioning me, cadet?"

Tally turned around completely, straddling Sarah and cupping her face. "And if I am, General?"

A low moan rumbled in Sarah's chest as she surged up and captured Tally's lips in a hungry kiss. Her hands gripped her waist harder, earning a slight gasp from the younger woman as she moved to kiss her neck. She nipped over her collarbones, moving back up to run her tongue along the shell of Tally's ear before tracing the witch mark behind it.

Tally gasped, already able to feel the slick between her legs. Sarah's hands came up to tease her nipples, all the while still continuing to pay attention to her neck—pulling breathless moans and gasps from her lips.

"How do you want me?" she asked, her own voice breathless but still carrying the air of authority of the General.

"Inside," Tally panted as Sarah bit down on the muscle where her shoulder and neck meet. She groaned as Sarah sucked on it and then soothed it with her tongue.

Sarah trailed her hand down Tally's stomach, through the wet auburn curls, and finally until she reached her center. Sarah groaned at the first contact as Tally hissed.

"So swollen already. What a needy girl you are," Sarah murmured as she softly stroked Tally. Not enough pressure to be enough, purposely making the younger woman squirm.

"Yes," Tally panted. She tried to grind down, but Sarah pulled her hand away—earning a frustrated groan.

"Patience," Sarah ordered.

Tally stilled, her teeth biting harshly on her lip to stay still and wait patiently.

Sarah hummed with approval as she nipped along Tally's jaw. She passed her fingers through soaked folds, and without warning—thrust two fingers into Tally's wet heat.

Her head went back, a loud moan clawing up her throat.

"Ride me," Alder commanded as she curled her fingers.

Tally wasted no time doing as she was told. She rocked back and forth on Sarah's fingers, panting and moaning.

Sarah hummed. "You don't seem full enough."

Tally shook her head, not trusting her voice. It felt so good, and she was getting hazy but she forced herself to meet Sarah's gaze.

"Fill me, baby," Tally panted.

Sarah's eyes flashed, and she quickly added a third finger—earning a loud moan from Tally. She curled them in time with Tally's movements.

"Is that better, sweetheart?" she asked, voice husky and low.

"So much," Tally moaned. She forced her eyes open as she rested her forehead against Sarah's, never ceasing her movements. "You stretch me so good."

A possessive growl left Alder—something she wasn't used to, but thrust up into Tally. She earned high pitched moans as Tally began nearing her peak.

"What a good girl you are for me," Sarah told her before she captured her lips again.

Tally's movements became uneven and jerky, chasing after her orgasm with abandon before she released a loud yell—coming with Sarah's name on her lips like a prayer.

The General eased her down, stroking her softly and allowing her to ride out her pleasure before she removed her fingers and Tally slumped forward.

She rubbed her hands up and down Tally's back.

"I love you," Sarah told her softly as she pressed gentle kisses everywhere she could reach.

"I love you too," Tally replied. Her eyes fluttered open to regard Sarah. "I just want you to know that if we had all the time in the world at our disposal every day…most of our day would be that."

Sarah chuckled against her and grinned. "You certainly wouldn't hear any complaints from me."

Tally hummed happily as she captured Sarah's lips in a kiss. "I have another proposition for you."

"Oh?" Alder asked, a smirk forming on her face. "And what would that be?"

"We finish washing," Tally began, leaning forward to place teasing kisses on Sarah's neck. "And when we finish, you put the strap in and fuck me from behind." She bit down on Sarah's earlobe, earning a sharp hiss followed by a deep moan.

Sarah's eyes lit up and she pulled the plug in the tub, earning a surprised and questioning look from her songmate. She hopped out of the tub, saying nothing as she helped Tally out and hastily dried them off.

"Sarah," Tally said with a laugh as the woman swooped her up in her arms.

"Yes, my love?" Sarah asked as she deposited Tally on the bed. She moved to her dresser, grabbing the toy and coming back to the bed.

"I thought we were washing?" Tally arched an eyebrow.

"We are." Sarah slid the toy inside, needing no stimulation after Tally rode her in the tub. "But only after we're both covered in cum."

She advanced on her, crawling up the bed and capturing her lips in a hungry kiss. They both moaned when Tally opened her mouth to receive Sarah's tongue. They kissed with want and need before Sarah broke away to sit back on her heels.

"On your stomach, ass up," Sarah told her, smirking when Tally obeyed quickly. "Good girl."

She loved seeing the shiver that went up Tally's spine. She knew her songmate certainly loved being praised.

She helped guide Tally's ass up to the right height before she slid her fingers through Tally's slick. She rubbed it on the toy before sliding just the tip in.

Tally mewled at the first bit of pressure—then whined when Sarah didn't push in more.

"You're so beautiful," Sarah said reverently.

Then she smacked Tally's ass, earning a surprised cry that quickly turned into a moan.

Sarah was mesmerized by the way Tally's cheeks jiggled. She really did enjoy every inch of Tally's body. She couldn't resist backing away—earning a disapproving groan from the redhead—so that she could sink her teeth into her plump rear.

"Fuck," Tally gasped, wiggling her ass backwards as Sarah continued to bite and kiss the flesh.

Sarah hummed, moving to the other cheek to continue her ministrations—her other hand rising to land another smack to Tally's ass.

"Sarah," Tally breathed. She could feel her wetness sliding between her thighs. "I need you in me, please." She wasn't above begging right now at all.

"As you wish," Sarah replied, gathering more wetness and applying it to the toy before she slid all the way in.

"Goddess," Tally moaned—deep and husky—her fingers digging into the pillows in front of her.

Sarah thrust slow and deep. She made sure to drag the toy out even slower, pausing right at the entrance before slamming her hips into her to bottom out. She released a breathless moan. She was certainly incredibly glad that she had bought the strapless. It was probably her favorite modern invention at this point. Her own slick was sliding out from around the toy and down her inner thighs.

"Sarah, fuck me, baby, please," Tally whined, her ass pressing higher and closer.

Sarah grabbed onto Tally's hips, holding her steady as she pulled her back in time with her thrusts—earning loud, delicious cries from the younger witch.

"Yes, yes, yes, there," Tally chanted as Sarah pounded into her. Her eyes were rolling back.

"Fuck, Tally," Sarah moaned. The bulb inside her was rubbing against her g-spot deliciously, coupled with the image in front of her she wasn't going to be able to last much longer.

"Don't stop," Tally moaned.

Sarah reached forward, grabbing Tally's hair at the base of her skull and pulling her head back to fuck her in earnest. Her own clit was hitting the curve in the toy and part of Tally's cunt, and Sarah couldn't get enough of it.

She could feel Tally nearing her orgasm through the link, and she increased how deep she was hitting—earning her a loud moan followed by a guttural groan of pleasure.

Tally was almost there—so close that she could practically taste it. And, judging by the breathless moans and precise but desperate fucking by Sarah, her songmate was nearly there as well.

"I want you to cum in me," Tally moaned out.

She felt Sarah's thrusts stutter briefly before a possessive growl left her lips.

Sarah pulled Tally's head back as she leaned over her, rutting into her with abandon as she chased both of their orgasms. She sent them both over the edge, cumming in tandem and with a force that broke the lights in the room—encasing them in nothing but the light from the moon outside.

Sarah collapsed on top of Tally, minding her weight some as they both caught their breaths.

"If it was possible for you to knock me up, I would definitely be pregnant now," Tally mumbled into the pillow.

Sarah chuckled against her neck, placing a gentle kiss to her face. "I do not doubt it for a second. As if I would be able to resist," she said sweetly.

"We broke the lights," Tally commented with a pleased smirk.

Sarah silently asked if she could pull out—removing the toy from them both and setting it on the nightstand to be cleaned in a bit. They readjusted their positions, curling up with each other and basking in their post-coital glow.

"Nothing to be done about that I'm afraid," Sarah replied, kissing Tally's head. "I've already warded the room as best as I can to contain our power. The lights will have to be sacrificed."

Tally chuckled and nuzzled into Sarah's neck. "Maybe we should go back to candles."

Sarah looked at her, an eyebrow arching. "So you'd rather I catch the room on fire?"

Tally's eyes widened. "You think that would happen?"

"I certainly wouldn't be surprised. I don't know about you, imé jìpón jè wèdís, but I wouldn't care to have the room catch fire while I'm in the middle of an orgasm."

Tally laughed, kissing Sarah fully and stroking her face. "I love you."

"And I you," she murmured. "I think we should shower and then rest. Tomorrow is going to be even busier." Her brow furrowed.

Tally reached up, smoothing the line away with gentle caresses. "You're worried."

Sarah nodded. "I just hope that it works."

"It will," Tally replied, voice unwavering. "Everyone is on the same page and we all know what is at stake. We need this…and that's why it will work."

Sarah stroked her fingers down the side of Tally's face, overcome with love for her songmate. She always knew what to say it seemed. For that she was eternally grateful.

 


 

Eébùcháí - Breathe

'Uyèghà ùrì mé péník'òyè—péchér jìrùvónàz úrràyà ènò - They will not stop until we end them one cell at a time—using all the weapons at our disposal

Yèó - yes

Pé luzòvú, jè lóù pézòvú - we are in you, and you in us

Chapter Text

The day of Nicte's execution had finally arrived, and to say that tensions were high was an understatement.

Despite everything being in place with their plan, Tally was still an anxious ball of energy—though she tried to get it under control.

When that failed, Sarah had threaded their fingers together as they walked to the hangar bay. She gave her hand a lingering squeeze before they branched off.

Alder's eyes flickered over to M and Gregorio—they had each positioned themselves on opposites of the bay. She could see Raelle, Abigail, and Tally each take their places on one side of the bay, spaced out for the seed boxes to be effective.

She released a breath, her biddies whispering reassurances through the link to help. Her eyes moved then to the pole that Nicte would be tied to. She had requested that Nicte have a sack placed over her head so that her new face could be hidden until the reveal, once the boxes were opened.

She nodded to Petra as she stepped up onto the stage, taking her position next to President Wade.

"Madam President," Alder greeted, dipping her head.

"General Alder, are we ready to make history?" Wade asked, a self-satisfied smirk on her face. "I do hope you got what information you could out of her."

"Of course, Madam President, we retrieved some helpful data. I have no doubt it will help us in our fight against the Spree," she replied easily.

Wade grinned, no doubt readying herself to take credit for much of what was to occur.

Before long, the entire bay was filled with all of the cadets, officers, and brass from Fort Salem.

"Would you like the honors, Madam President?" Alder asked graciously.

Wade's eyes brightened, and she stepped up to the microphone. She gave a grateful nod to Alder as she checked the sound—then nodded to the camera man.

"My fellow Americans, this is a great day. Under my direction, General Sarah Alder, has captured the leader of the Spree, Nicte Batan. We are gathered here today to witness this momentous occasion—one where we are awarded a decisive victory over the Spree. I know that many of you, have been angry and upset with the Army's lack of progress in subduing the Spree…"

Alder's jaw clenched.

"…but today that has changed. With the capture, and eminent execution of Batan, we will send a message to those that oppose this great nation that we are not to be trifled with; that we are mighty and united; that we are together in our desire for peace here at home, and abroad. Though many might think this is drastic, this execution…it is to send a clear message to the Spree that we will win this war, that we are the greatest force on this continent, and that we will always prevail."

Boots began to stomp at a rapid pace, cheering the speech on as President Wade finished. She turned and looked at Sarah then, nodding her head for her to speak and address her troops.

When Alder took to the microphone, the sound of stomping grew into a great crescendo before she held up a single hand. She clasped her hands behind her back, straightening her posture and glancing over the crowd—notably checking that each of the holders of the seed boxes were in position.

"I am honored to stand before you all—and at the side of our President to mark this momentous occasion. I know that there has been a diminishing of faith in our Armed Forces to protect our interests at home with the recent, bold attacks by the Spree. Today that changes. I am grateful to all of the witches that have made this moment possible—for their sacrifice in the service of this great nation is nothing short of heroic. I ask that we take a moment of silence for our fallen," she stated. Her eyes fluttered shut and she took in a deep breath before releasing it. When her eyes opened, she gave a single nod to the soldier holding tight to Nicte.

They brought her to the pole, chaining her to it.

"Let this be a message to those that oppose us," she began, eyes looking straight into the camera before her. "We will not be silenced. We will not back down nor waver in our pursuit of justice. With storm and fury we will defeat you."

Boots echoed throughout the hangar as Alder unclasped her scourge from her belt and stalked toward the pole.

It was the moment of truth, and she sent a silent prayer to the Goddess that this would work.

The moment she nodded for the covering to be taken from Nicte's head, the boxes were to be opened to play out the scene for everyone. All Nicte needed to do was hang her head and keep her eyes closed.

When she was sure the cameras were focused on her and Nicte, she gave the nod and twirled her scourge as if she was readying herself to strike. The hood was pulled free from Nicte, and Alder hoped the sound would be loud enough to effect those viewing at home as well. They'd never had to broadcast their Work like this, and she was taking a gamble.

She hummed lowly, blocking any sound from her ears. She glanced to the side, watching as Major Verger opened her box and gave her a nod that it was being done.

Sarah held her breath and waited. She stood at the ready—posing to strike.

What does it look like? she asked her biddies.

Their eyes are all glazed, Analese commented.

Sarah released a breath she was holding. It was working.

Let me know the moment the boxes close, she told them.

Her eyes rested on Nicte's "unconscious" form. She had chosen the face of someone from their shared past—an undoubtedly safe choice.

It is done, Corinne said quickly.

Alder twirled her scourge through the air and back to her as if she had just completed a strike.

Nicte's collar was still on, but unbound so that she could perform another glamour on herself—one that was beaten and bloody.

Alder turned on her heel, eyes landing on Petra and Wade as she subtly hummed under her breath to dispel her deafening seed.

Petra gave a tense nod, believing that it had been successful.

Alder walked the distance back toward President Wade, stopping just before the stage to look up at her.

She gave Sarah a bright, pleased smile—and Sarah felt a wave of relief crash through her and Tally in the link.

"Goddess be praised," Tally said.

"Indeed, my love, indeed."

She stepped back up onto the stage, resuming her place at the microphone. She waited until Wade gave the command to turn the cameras off, and when that was done—Sarah addressed the bay once more.

"My fellow witches, I know that Nicte Batan was the leader of the Spree…but she was still of the blood—and for that I ask you all to join me in a blessing for her journey." She looked upon the glamour of Nicte. "Mother of all things, watch over her tonight, hold her in your arms, until the morning light. Blessed be the mother goddess, by all her many names. May she bless our sister, here this witches' place."

Sarah stepped back from the microphone. "My word is done, as the rising moon and setting sun."

She turned and faced Wade, extending her hand to take the other woman's and shake it.

She could see from the corner of her eye that Izadora was taking the body down from the pole to take it back to her lab—where Nicte would be able to drop her glamour.

Their pleasantries were quick, and Sarah saw the President off as all the attendees left the hangar bay.

She was still tense as she led her biddies to the Necro facility. Her steps were quick and sure, and she ignored the complaints from her biddies about her speed. She needed to get out of public view so that she could finally breathe. If anyone found out about what they had done—it wouldn't just be Nicte's head on a pike.

The door closed behind them as she descended the stairs. When she saw Nicte—free of her glamour—and Izadora's pleased smile, she finally breathed.

"Did it work?"

"Perfectly," Izadora assured. She had volunteered to watch the broadcast to make sure that she was affected by the seed.

Sarah's shoulders finally sagged with relief as she slunk down into a chair.

"What, were you worried I wouldn't do my part?" Nicte questioned with a smug smile.

Sarah looked at her tiredly. "Not at all. It was your life on the line after all."

She could hear the door to the facility open above—and the sound of multiple pairs of feet approaching.

"Did it work?" Tally asked, eyes wide as she stopped next to Sarah. She rested her hand on her back.

"It went as planned," Sarah assured. She took Tally's hand in her own—sighing as she felt Tally's relief. Her presence wrapped around her like a warm blanket, and all she wanted to do was crawl into bed with her.

"As soon as we are done here," Tally told her.

"So now what?" Nicte asked, eyes flickering to Petra.

"Now, we get you a discreet collar and get you settled in. Welcome back to Fort Salem, Batan," Petra told her with a smirk. She approached, taking the collar from Izadora and placing it around Nicte's neck.

"Petra, will you make sure Batan is all set?" Alder asked as she stood from her seat and threaded her fingers with Tally's.

"Of course, General."

"We can take it from here," Major Verger assured, glancing down at their entwined hands and smirking.

Tally blushed and turned to her unit mates, giving them quick hugs before she, Sarah, and the biddies all headed topside.

They remained silent all the way back to their room—the biddies filing off to their room as well.

When the door clicked shut behind Sarah she let out a shaky breath—and Tally wrapped her arms around her.

"We did it," she whispered into Tally's hair. She placed a kiss to her head—breathing in the smell of her shampoo.

"We did," Tally replied, tilting her head up to beam at Sarah. "Sarah, you managed to work with the leader of the Spree, save a witch's life, and fool everyone with a fake execution."

"That is a very positive way to say I committed treason," she quipped.

"We all committed treason," Tally urged. "And it was the right thing to do. The Camarilla are our priority, you know that."

"You are right, my love," she breathed, leaning her forehead against Tally's. "As always you are my compass in the storm."

Tally smiled against her and kissed her lips—brushing them lightly against Sarah's. "Always."