"This is seriously fucked!" Faith shouted as she paced back and forth like a caged animal near the entrance of the Great room.
"We have to get out of here," Anya stated with flat certainty. "Find a phone, a radio... flag down a passing boat... or a plane... we could build a signal fire... or a really big raft."
How can she be so calm? Tara thought, looking curiously at the woman, who suddenly burst out giggling uncontrollably. Ah... hysteria. That's better. Hysteria I get.
"A raft?!" An incredulous Riley yelled, oblivious to the woman's mental state or the manic look in her eyes. "It took us two hours to get here by yacht, and now you want us to attempt some Gilligan stunt? On the open ocean?"
Anya's demented laughter only increased at the man's tirade, however. Tears flowed down her face and her entire body convulsed. Faith abruptly ceased her pacing, took several long strides to where the woman sat, and slapped her hard across the face. Anya's facial expression barely registered any acknowledgement of the blow, but her demeanor altered instantaneously. She slumped down in the chair, her eyes staring vacantly into space, rocking slowly as the room erupted around her.
"What the hell did you do that for?!" Willow charged angrily.
"You saw her! She's totally lost it!"
"That doesn't give you the right to hit her."
"The RIGHT?! News flash, Red. Nothing here is right, and I'm not really interested in your opinion."
"What, are you gonna slug me next?"
"Oh, just give me a reason."
"You need to back off right now," Riley threatened, marching up to loom over Faith, who roughly shoved him away from her.
"You are not in charge here you son of a bitch," she hissed through clenched teeth.
"W-we need to stick together," Tara stammered weakly, trying to diffuse the situation.
"The fuck we do, Blondie. I trust one person here - me. The rest of you can-"
"Can what?" Cordelia demanded. "Die a slow, painful death?"
"Better you than me."
"That's just great, psycho bitch... only it's not really a matter of either/or, is it?" Cordelia raved. "It's more of a who's next and when!"
"This isn't helping," Dawn's clipped, bitter voice spoke up from the corner of the room, where she sat huddled against the wall hugging her knees.
"We have got to get out of here," Tara quietly repeated Anya's sentiment as much to herself as to anyone else.
"HOW?!" Riley bellowed and threw up his hands.
"ENOUGH!" Oz shouted, shocking the others into silence with his raised voice. "We are NOT going to do this. It's late... we're all freaked... and there's nothing we can do tonight."
A collective sigh filled the room as an uneasy acceptance of their current situation seeped in.
"He's right," Riley finally agreed. "We should get some sleep. Tomorrow we can tear this place apart, try to figure out our options."
"Sleep. Sleep is good. Restful. Sleep." Anya jerked her head up, looking in surprise at the stares directed her way. "What?"
"Maybe we should all stay together? You know, safety in numbers?" Cordelia hesitantly asked, forcing a smile as she hopefully regarded the others.
"No chance, Princess," Faith forcefully stated. "No way in hell I'm locking myself up with you people."
"It'll be okay, Miss Chase," Riley quickly spoke before another argument could break out. "Just lock your door and push something heavy in front of it."
After recovering from the initial shock of finding Xander's body, Willow and Tara briefly searched for a path to reach the rocks below. Both were intensely relieved when they found no way down the cliff, and decided to instead head back to the house and inform the others of their gruesome discovery. It was not yet 2:00 when they burst through the front door, but the other two groups were already back, milling around the Great room with matching grim expressions.
"Xander's dead," Willow blurted out breathlessly. When no one responded, her gaze passed over each of the forlorn faces looking back at her. "Did you hear me?"
"Yeah, it's just," Oz frowned, "so's Buffy."
"What??" Willow whispered, her voice breaking and desperate as she again searched the faces, finding a mirror image of her own shock and confusion reflected back. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Tara sink down into a chair, and it was only through sheer force of will that she was able to remain standing.
"She was on the beach... Anya and I found her," Riley explained in an uncharacteristically shaky voice. "She was... I've never seen anything like it."
"What happened to Xander?" Cordelia quietly asked.
Willow glanced at Tara, who appeared dazed beyond speech. After several deep breaths, she told them what they had found. It was only at the end of Willow's address that Tara voiced the unpleasant realization that had been forming in her head.
"He didn't see the sign," she stated softly, looking at the others for evidence of understanding. "At first I thought it m-must have been an accident... cause he'd been drinking? But if Buffy..." she paused and closed her eyes. Willow stepped closer and placed a comforting hand on the blonde's shoulder, which Tara covered with her own before elaborating. "The p-poem."
Eight pairs of eyes turned in unison to the easel, reading over the lines that confirmed their worst fears.
"How did Buffy..." Willow swallowed and shifted uncomfortably, unable to complete her question.
"She... we couldn't even tell it was human at first," Riley shuddered and ground out the words. "She looked like she'd been... burned... her skin... it was..."
"Like she 'slept the day away' under the sun," Anya concluded. "But she couldn't have been out there that long."
"There's no way that was an accident," Riley stated. "And what Faith and Oz found confirms it as far as I'm concerned."
Tara and Willow exchanged worried looks, both afraid to ask what else had happened since they'd left that morning. Finally unable to stand on her trembling legs, Willow perched on the arm of Tara's chair. Tara pulled the hand off of her shoulder and into her lap, where she nervously kneaded the redhead's fingers.
"What did you f-find?"
"Beyond the garden behind the house, there's a hedge," Oz relayed. "On the other side someone dug what look like graves... ten of them."
"Someone's doing this... and I think we all know who that someone is." As the others looked at the cop quizzically, he stood up and exclaimed "Giles! He's our mysterious host... he has to be. Otherwise, why haven't we been able to find him?"
"He could be dead," Anya offered.
"Yeah, for all we know you're the killer," Faith directed at Riley.
"There were ten of us brought here - ten graves - 'ten little murderers,'" Riley argued, maintaining an admirably cool exterior in light of Faith's charge. "Giles is the only other person we've seen, and I don't remember seeing his face in here."
As he spoke, Riley had moved to the easel, where he turned the canvas around to reveal the painting. A collective gasp made him turn back to it, and he froze. Xander's and Buffy's faces were each obscured by a giant X in blood red paint.
"We're all going to die here," Anya stated with finality, her voice strangely emotionless.
Unconvincingly assured of their safety for the night, the eight remaining guests drifted upstairs. Despite their overwhelming loss of appetite, the group had briefly congregated in the kitchen to pick through the refrigerator. On the way back through the main hall, several detoured to the bar to grab bottles. Oz and Riley turned left at the top of the stairs, looking back to offer weak smiles of encouragement to the women as they went their separate ways. Six doors closed, followed by the sound of six locks clicking, as Willow and Tara stood mutely by Tara's room, close enough to feel each other's presence but avoiding eye contact. The blonde half twisted away from Willow and laid her hand on the doorknob, but did not turn it. She was unaware of her shoulders shaking until she felt Willow's hands grip them, stilling the motion.
"Tara? Will you be okay?"
Tara closed her eyes as she leaned back into the redhead's body and felt Willow's forehead rest against the back of her head. She abruptly opened the door, spinning around as a startled Willow fell slightly forward into her waiting arms. Tara pulled the redhead into the room, maintaining her hold on Willow's hip with one hand while the other closed and locked the door. Willow stood perfectly still just inside the door, her gaze locked on Tara, who brought her freed hand to the back of the redhead's neck.
"I don't want to be alone," the blonde explained as she drew Willow to her and their lips met in a rough, urgent kiss.
Willow's initial shock at being dragged into the room dissipated the moment Tara kissed her, and she brought her own hands up the blonde's back to her shoulder blades, pulling her in closer. The moment she parted her lips Tara's tongue entered, hungrily exploring her mouth. Tara slid her hands down Willow's hips to her ass, firmly squeezing the taut muscles. Willow let out a stifled gasp and dropped her head back, allowing Tara access to her neck, which the blonde enthusiastically latched onto to, sucking hard on Willow's pulse point. When Tara suddenly pulled back, the redhead raised her head and wildly sought out Tara's eyes, which stared back at her intensely as the blonde raised her hands to grip Willow's shirt collar.
"Do you want-"
"God, yes," Willow managed to sputter, and with a satisfying rip Tara had the redhead's shirt open, leaving it to Willow to untangle the torn material from her arms as she moved on to the button fly on Willow's pants. The redhead frantically used her toes to pry off her shoes as Tara dragged jeans and panties down slim hips, tossing them aside before rising to reach around for the clasp of Willow's bra. Pushing the redhead down onto the bed, Tara dropped to her knees and without preamble captured one nipple in her lips as she pinched the other one to attention. Willow threaded her hands through long blonde hair and arched into Tara's mouth. When lips were replaced by teeth lightly nipping and pulling at the engorged bud, Willow felt a shockwave shoot straight to her clit, and her hips jerked needily. Spreading her legs further, she ground herself against Tara's belly, whimpering at the inadequacy of the friction. Recognizing the sound of the redhead's desire, Tara descended Willow's body, covering it with wet kisses as her hands moved to caress trembling thighs. Licking once up the length of Willow's slit, Tara attacked the redhead's clit without hesitation, flicking her tongue rapidly and clamping down on Willow's thighs as she bucked wildly. Tara easily inserting two fingers into the redhead's dripping pussy and pumped a steady rhythm. Willow's moans soon degenerated into an increasingly high-pitched keening, and Tara added a third finger, pistoning hard and fast as Willow's entire body shuddered through her orgasm.
Willow finally untangled her hands from Tara's hair and scooted back up the bed, closely followed by Tara, who crept sensually over the redhead, trailing her lips over flushed, sweat-slicked skin. Draping her body over Willow's, Tara rested her weight on her forearms, placed on either side of Willow's head, and buried her hands in rumpled red hair. Leaning forward to capture the redhead's parted lips, Tara was surprised when the smaller woman easily flipped her over and reversed their positions. Willow sat back on her heels, straddling Tara's waist, breathing heavily as her green eyes searched blue. Willow began slowly unbuttoning Tara's shirt as the blonde writhed underneath her, kneading the bare thighs on either side of her.
"Sit up a sec," Willow commanded, removing the blonde's shirt and bra. Tara shut off her mind to everything that had happened over the last several days as Willow stripped her. She reveled in the feel of the redhead's hands moving over her in long firm strokes. Willow kissed her hard before raising herself to kneel, straddling one of Tara's thighs.
"What do you want?"
"Fuck me, Willow," Tara urged, and Willow quickly found her entrance, spreading her lips and burying two fingers in deep.
Tara wasn't sure when or how it happened, but at some point the redhead moved to lie next alongside her, snaking one arm under Tara's neck and cradling the blonde's head in her shoulder. Willow's soft warmth pinned her in place as the redhead's fingers slowly stroked her inner walls, and Tara became aware that it had ceased to be fucking and had become something more. She wasn't sure if the tears streaming silently down her cheeks had started before or after her realization, only that for the first time since she'd arrived, she felt safe.
Some time later Tara extricated her limbs from Willow's and swung her legs over the side of the bed, gripping the edge of the mattress with both hands. Willow inched closer, running a hand soothingly over Tara's back.
"Are you alright?"
"Fine, I'm..." Tara suddenly stood and walked over to the suitcase lying open on a small table near the door. She pulled out a tank top and pair of pajama bottoms and dressed slowly, her back to Willow. "I just... I hope you don't think... I don't usually..."
"Hey... it's okay," Willow whispered in her ear.
Tara jumped slightly as she felt the redhead's arms encircle her waist, not having heard the woman's approach. Tara hesitantly turned, fear and doubt evident in her eyes. Willow cupped the blonde's cheeks in her hands and kissed her softly before resting their foreheads together.
"Do you want me to go?"
"Um... no? I'm just feeling a little... I don't know..."
"Yesss," Tara exhaled, drawing out the word. "But, I would like it if you um, stayed."
"You sure?" Willow asked, tilting her head back to look into Tara's eyes, seeing a hint of relief amidst the uncertainty. The blonde bit her lip and nodded. "If it would make you feel any safer, you could tie me to the bed," Willow quipped, then cringed at the expression she received. "Oops... too early in the relationship for bondage humor, I guess?"
Tara crinkled her nose and grinned at the redhead, who furrowed her brow in confusion.
"You, um, said 'relationship.'" The blonde explained.
"Um, err, various sounds of hesitation," Willow backpedaled, blushing furiously. "I know we just met... and we live in different time zones..."
"And we may not get off of this island alive," Tara added ironically. Willow immediately grabbed her hands and squeezed tightly, their eyes locked together.
"We WILL. We're going to figure this out, Tara," Willow insisted. "I just found you, and I'm not going to let some crazy person stop me from taking you out for mochas and getting to know you better. Deal?"
In a darkened room two stories below, a figure leaned back in a large leather chair, feet propped up on a Lucite desk, eyes fixed on a bank of security monitors, each labeled underneath with a piece of masking tape. Most of the screens showed sleeping forms lying in their beds, while two of the monitors had been turned to other parts of the house. The one marked 'Finn' revealed the officer sitting at his desk, cleaning his service revolver. The one labeled 'Johnson' showed Faith pacing her floor, smoking a cigarette from the pack she'd taken out of Willow's room earlier that day. But the figure's interest was currently focused on the monitor marked 'Maclay,' where the two women there had just propped a chair under the door handle before climbing into bed and each other's arms. The figure smirked before swiveling the chair toward a heavy marble chess table next to the desk. On the board were ten carefully arranged chess pieces, the queen and nine pawns, two of the latter lying on their sides. Stroking a hand over the remaining upright pawns, the figure carefully picked out two and swapped their positions.