The flurry of questions and comments made by the shocked crowd faded in Tara's mind ask the declaration of Chief Rosenberg's words sank in. Any. Other. Way. All the while, Tara realized that she was angry. Really angry. But before true fury could overtake her, fear settled in and she realized the slim chance of Willow returning to her.
"...planning to take any one but you and the Shark Hunter with you?" another reporter, probably from the mainland, asked. Before Chief Rosenberg could answer, Tara stepped off the back wall.
"Yes!" she called, making the same eye contact with Willow. The redhead began to shake her head, but Tara moved to the front of the room with her. She walked up to Willow and spoke with a low, firm voice.
"Willow Rosenberg, you think you're going to go out there in the middle of the Goddamn ocean with some half-ass shark hunter and kill the bitch, you have another thing coming. Look, I've done this sorta thing before; I have chemicals that can kill the damn thing instantly. And one last thing! If you think you can just kiss me one night then turn around and sign yourself up for a inevitable death sentence without telling me anything, you really have another thing coming!" she said, her voice cracking slightly. Chief Rosenberg looked at her in shock, and then she smiled warmly.
"You got the case of the Willow-babbles," she responded, smirking. Tara rolled her eyes and smirked too. The realization that there were more people in the room than themselves brought the two girls out of dreamland.
Chief Rosenberg turned to face the crowd. "Dr. Maclay has convinced me that her presence on board will increase the chances of killing the shark sooner and with less of a hassle."
A series of flashes caught Tara off guard, but not for long. Chief Rosenberg brought the attention of everyone back to her for a moment.
"Alright enough people. One more question then we all have jobs to do," she said as she pointed to a man in the back.
"When do you leave?" he questioned.
"Well, as soon as possible really. I know you need the beaches open. But the captain said she needed to pick up supplies. Sometime within the next 24 hours. Alright people, that's all. I need to speak to Mayor Finn."
The swarm of people exited the room, some quickly while others reluctantly. Chief Rosenberg turned to Tara for a second and winked at her; the blonde knew that her Willow was back. The redhead swiftly moved over to the table of Selectmen, Riley sitting in the middle.
"Willow, as much as I know you're right about this shark hunter thing, where the fuck do you think you're getting the money to charter that? I know how much she asked for!" the bulky man protested.
"Finn, let me put it to you this way. If we don't get rid of this problem now, not only will this summer go down the shit hole, but summers to come will also! Now you need to pry your bank account out of your head and your head out of your ass and see that you may be paying $10,000 for her services, but Dr. Maclay and I are paying with our necks. I sure as hell will not be intimidated by you anymore when I'm going over and beyond the call of duty to save your goddamned beaches!" Willow finished up and Tara had to bite her tongue to stop from laughing at the stunned look on Finn's face. Some of the Selectmen where doing the same, while the others were in shock as well.
After making various sounds of objections, Finn finally wrote a check for Willow to give to the mysterious Shark Hunter. Willow smiled cynically and grabbed the check from Finn.
The two women, soon joined by Xander, left Town Hall and headed for the station, Willow driving. Willow dropped Xander off and told him to tell Amy that he was in charge. Just as she was about to pull out, Xander stood in front of the car.
"Xander, what are you doing? I almost hit you!" Willow cried, jumping out of the car. She marched over to him, about to yell at him, when she wrapped her up in a great bear hug.
"If you think you're going to leave me here while you go be butch and not give me a hug, you might as well hit me," he said, leaning back so Willow could see the tears in his eyes. He noticed Willow had them too. She hugged him one more time.
"Sheesh, I have a lot of things coming apparently. I'll be back Xander, even if I have to swim all the way here," she said, wiping the stray tear drops off her cheek.
"Right, of course."
"Take care of things Harris. I don't want to see things in shambles when I get back," she said, backing up to the car door.
"They won't be Chief," he said, giving her a final wave.
Willow stepped back into the car and saw him walk off, but he didn't walk into the station, he walked over to Tara's side of the truck.
"That means you too, ya know? Come back safe and keep Willow alive," he said, giving her a half smile. She did the same and nodded.
He nodded and shut the door. He turned and walked into the station house. Willow sped out of the parking lot and onto the main road; she drove in the opposite direction of the apartment.
"Where are we going?" the blonde asked curiously.
"You need to meet this captain, make sure you really want to do this," Willow responded, keeping her eyes on the road. Before Tara could ask why she would need to 'make sure', they pulled into a gravel driveway.
The house was a wreck, with boards hanging from windows and one window completely knocked out. It looked like something out of a horror film. Willow and Tara stepped out of the truck. Tara shut her door and just stood still.
"Why does she live here if she gets paid so much money?" Tara asked to know one.
"I like the quiet."
Tara turned around completely startled. The low voice had scared her.
A small petite woman with dark blonde hair stood before Tara. She wore tan cargo pants, an army shirt and her hair in a small ponytail. Her boots were heavy and thick. Her eyes darted up and down Tara like a snake did its prey. The blonde biologist noticed a scar on the woman's upper lip.
"You must be the Shark Hunter," Tara said bluntly.
"Must be." The woman turned to Willow with penetrating eyes. "My check?"
"You don't get the check unless we bring home the shark, but I got it. Don't worry," Willow responded coldly. For the first time, Tara saw the new blonde smile. Well, smile would be stretching it. Evil smirk came to mind really.
"This is Tara Maclay. She's a marine biologist. We're taking her on the trip with us," Willow sated flatly, leaving no room for argument. The blonde gave Willow a look, but it faded. It turned into another smirk quickly.
"What's the matter Red? Can't keep your woman off ya for a couple of days?" she asked, keeping eye contact with Tara. Tara glared, but Willow walked right behind her and wrapped her arms around Tara's waist. With Willow's chin resting on her shoulder, she relaxed almost immediately.
"Look, she can help us. I'm paying-I say she goes," Willow said clearly.
"Whatever Red. She can come," stated the blonde, as if Willow wanted her permission.
"What's your name?" came Tara's meek question, bringing the two women out of their conversation.
With a sly smirk, the blonde leaned closer to Tara. "Depending on which club you go to on which night, the names range from 'slut' to 'Magical Fingers' to 'God'. You? You can call me Buffy," answered the blonde, brushing past the two women.
Tara's mouth hung open for a while until she realized that Willow was kissing her neck.
"Well, she was pleasant," deadpanned Tara, melting into Willow's body. Willow giggled against Tara's soft skin, finally extracting herself from her blonde beauty.
"She's also the only one with the guts willing to catch this bitch," commented Willow. Tara nodded ruefully.
"If you two carpet munchers are done swooning, we can get down to the particulars," shouted Buffy from the doorway of the broken down home. Willow spun around quickly and glared at the blonde.
Buffy chortled a bit. "Easy Red, I'm only kidding."
Tara eased her hand into Willow's to comfort the outraged woman, and Willow cooled down. Tara cupped Willow's face and pulled her into a chaste kiss. Then the two walked hand in hand to the house.
After Tara stepped inside the home, she noticed it was abandoned. The walls were falling apart, the floor was cracked in multiple places and the light fixture was blown.
"I thought you said you lived here," commented Tara in an accusing tone.
"No, I said I liked the quiet," replied the blonde.
"I asked why would you live here and you said because you liked the quiet, therefore, you said that you lived here," explained Tara, a little annoyed now.
"No, I never said I was answering your question. Could it possibly be that I was just trying to make an innocent introduction with you by telling you a little bit about me?" asked Buffy, smirking at how easily she could frustrate the only blonde.
"In your case, no, it's not possible," Tara mumbled, giving up the debate. Buffy smiled to herself and led the two women to the back of the house.
"Then why are we here?" asked Tara, still annoyed by the new blonde.
"Because I live here, that's why," Buffy responded, opening the back door for the two women.
Tara threw her hands up in defeat. She looked out in the back and saw that the dock leading out into the ocean housed a rather large boat. It was like a house boat, only it wasn't as clean as Tara would have liked it to be.
Willow looked at her sympathetically. She hugged the blonde and kissed her head, knowing how maddening Buffy's mind games were.
"Buffy lives on her boat. This house was abandoned by an '84 robbery pair. Since no one wants the house, Buffy used the dock to tie up her boat," explained the redhead. Tara nodded and shot a glare at Buffy for not explaining her situation further.
Buffy gave Tara a faux smile and extended her hand to the blonde when they reached the boat. The hand was intended to help Tara aboard the boat, but Tara almost didn't take it. Unfortunately for Tara, she had a knack for seeing the good in people. And Buffy reeked of someone lost, trying to be helped. So even though her body told her no, the heart of her said yes, and she took the offered hand. Willow simply hopped in the boat after her, a little peeved that Buffy was acting all gentleman - er, woman-like to her girlfriend. But knowing the severity of the current situation, she let the extra courtesy go.
The back of the boat was uncovered, with a chair placed in the middle. Random supplies were scattered throughout the deck, in particular, a couple of gas tanks poles.
Buffy turned to them and spread her arms wide, almost inviting, "Welcome to my back yard. If you follow me in the kitchenette, you'll see steps leading down into the passenger's compartment. I only have two rooms, so you two will have to share. Unless you wanna share with me Blondie," the blonde said, winking at Tara.
"Pass please," Tara said tersely. Willow smirked at Buffy, who rolled her eyes at the two.
"Anyway, the ship is pretty much self explanatory from there. We leave at ten A.M. tomorrow morning. I want the Coast Guard off my back when I get back. I'm not doing anything illegal and these fuckers raid my boat just because I get my money cutting up fishes, a'ight?" Buffy bargained. Willow nodded but tacked on that she better not be doing anything illegal.
"What kind of electronic equipment do you use?" questioned Tara, searching the boat around to see what was aboard the boat. Buffy looked at her with a bewildered look.
"Electric equipment? You think I'm gonna pay money to buy some half-ass fish finder when I can chum the damn thing out from the depths? For a rich woman like you Doc, you ain't playing with a full deck," commented Buffy, acting nonchalant.
"Hey! Summers, shut your mouth or I'll buy my own damn boat and hunt this thing on my own without paying you, got it?" shouted Willow, infuriated that the blonde hunter would insult Tara that way. Tara jutted out her chin happily when Willow defended her.
"I meant more along the lines of low sound frequencies, sonar, water cameras. Those things do help," commented the blonde biologist, trying to make amends with the reckless blonde.
"Whatever Doc. Just know, I ain't paying for that shit until my methods wear out," Buffy responded, fixing something on the steering wheel.
"And when will that be Ms. Summers? When you or your pride is swallowed?" asked Tara, she hands on her hips.
Buffy stopped the task she was doing and slowly turned to face Tara. A stern glare melted into what Tara imagined was Buffy's attempt at a smile.
"A'ight Doc, what exactly do you want to bring aboard?" questioned Buffy, trying to be discrete about giving into Tara.
"I have portable sonar and cameras that I wish to connect to the ship. I can plant them tonight and I promise they'll go unnoticed."
"You pay for it now. I won't piss away my hard earned cash," agreed Buffy.
The majestic blonde nodded and turned to Willow, signaling that they better go. Willow told Buffy that they would meet back here at 9:30 a.m. in the morning. Tara stepped off the boat and headed to the truck.
Before Willow stepped off as well, Buffy moved and grabbed her arm, causing Willow to turn around.
"Hey Chief, it's gonna be dangerous out there. You sure you can handle it?" asked Buffy, tying a knot around the tanks to keep them secure.
"It's a shark, I know, but I can handle the near death experience," commented Willow with a sneer.
"No Chief..." trailed the blonde, looking at Willow seriously, "Can you handle losing her?" she clarified, stopping her work to eye Willow curiously, almost reading her emerald gems.
Willow looked at Buffy, back at an exiting Tara, and then back at the captain again. Stern emerald green eyes softened at the thought of losing the blonde forever. Downcast, Willow looked back at Buffy,
"Tomorrow morning," she ended, stepping off the boat and onto the dock. Buffy nodded, but to no one, as the retreating redhead caught up with Tara and drove the truck off the property.
Buffy started mindless tasks as she sang softly.
He put the bottle to his head