The Palace was silent as Willow and Xander entered the throne room, heads hung low. King Triton was at the far end of the room, his huge frame filling the throne upon which he sat. At first glance, the opposing figure was one to be feared; however, his features softened as his youngest daughter made her way before him.
"What am I going to do with you?" he said, a sad look in his eyes. "As a result of your careless behaviour, the entire celebration was..."
"Ruined!" cut in Giles, appearing from behind the King to rest on the throne arm. "You have a lot to answer for young lady. Do you know what you've done? I'm the laughing stock of the entire kingdom!"
Pulling out a hanky from his shell, Giles proceeded to clean his glasses in an attempt to calm himself. He could feel his temperature beginning to rise and getting angry in front of the King, well, he didn't want to think about what would happen.
Plucking up courage, Xander emerged from behind Willow. Willow had been his friend for as long as he could remember and he didn't want her to take the full brunt of the blame. Not if he could do something about it.
"It wasn't her fault," he said. "See. There was this shark, and, it chased us. You know, so we had to try and get away as fast as we could, but we couldn't. Do you know how fast a shark is? They may be big but boy can they move."
Looking around he noticed that each of his audience was wearing a similar look. The 'and the point is?' look. Taking note he sped up his story.
"I'm just saying if it's anyone's fault it should be that finless bird's. Personally I don't know why we keep seeing him it's not like he gives us anything usmpfh."
His speech was cut short by Willow's hand, which had placed itself firmly across his mouth. Judging by the look in her eye and the colour of King Triton's face, he could tell that he'd gone too far!
"Willow, I thought I'd told you. Never go up to the surface! You could have been seen by one of those... those... Humans." The last word was spat out as though it left a nasty aftertaste in his mouth. "Did you even think of the consequences?"
"Daddy, I'm not a child anymore," answered Willow. "If you would just listen to me, you'd know why I find them so fascinating. They have all these devices which..."
"ENOUGH!" shouted the King. "As long as you live under MY Ocean, you'll live by MY rules. I forbid you to go to the surface ever again and that is final."
Desperately trying to hold back the tears Willow stared hard at her father before turning around and swimming away from the throne room. The King slumped down in his seat, a defeated look on his face as he watched his youngest daughter swim away from him.
"Do you think I was too hard on her?" he asked Giles.
"Definitely not!" Giles replied, a look of almost shock on his face. "Children need to be told their place. You have to watch what you give them, because before you know it they'll be swimming all over you!"
"You're right Giles," said the King. "Willow needs constant supervision. Someone to keep her out of trouble." A smile formed over once sad lips.
"Keep her on a tight leash, that's what I say," Giles said, his back to the King.
"Excellent. You can start now."
"What?" Giles spluttered
"You are just the crab to do the job. I wouldn't trust anyone else"
Giles looked at King Triton. Pleading him with his eyes to change his mind. Instead, the King made a shooing motion with his hands and watched with a smile as Giles hung his head and left, muttering as he went on his way.
The corridors of the Palace were long and empty. Giles had been wandering them for nearly half an hour searching for Willow but to no avail. Suddenly he saw what he had been looking for. Willow and Xander were heading out of the Palace and towards a cave at the end of the sea gardens. Following as close as he could without being seen, Giles narrowly made it into the cave before the stone door shut behind him. As his eyes adjusted to the new light, he heard Xander and Willow talking.
"Are you alright?" asked Xander.
"Why won't he listen to me Xander?" replied Willow. "Why can't I make him understand that his way isn't the only way of seeing things, you know? All he sees are barbarians, but I don't understand, how a world that makes such wonderful things... could be bad."
"Look at his stuff,
Every wall of the circular cavern was filled with human treasures. A holder for the dinglehopper sat on one shelf, some beads on another. Object upon object, some were named and others... still a mystery. Giles gasped quietly. His brain not quite able to comprehend what he was seeing.
"Look at this trove
Willow swam over to Xander picking up items as she went.
"I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty
Slowly Willow made her way over to her collection of ornaments. There she had figurines of humans in various poses, always smiling.
"I wanna be where the people are
Xander willingly provided the answer, wriggling his tail for Willow to see, causing the redhead to smile.
"Oh - Feet
Holding onto each other and laughing, Willow and Xander made their way towards the top of the cavern. They acted as though they were walking and then danced the rest of the way to the top.
Up where they walk
The sunlight, shining through the roof of the cavern got brighter as Willow made her way towards its opening. Almost as soon as she reached it, she let herself fall back and float gradually back down to the sand below.
"What would I give
Giles was looking around the cavern, trying to be disinterested and failing. He turned around to find himself face to face with what appeared to be a giant version of... well... himself. Retreating a little too quickly, Giles soon found himself firmly encased in a human tankard. Willow and Xander carried on still oblivious to his presence and his plight.
"Ready to know, what the people know
Fingering a painting showing a glowing flame, Willow's expression turned sad.
"When's it my turn?
A dreamy expression passed over Willow's features as she thought about the world above. Xander came up beside her and was about to say something when they heard an almighty CRASH. Turning quickly the two friends saw Giles, seemingly flying through the air to land with a bang amongst Willow's collection.
"Great googly moogly Giles," cried Xander, his voice muffled by the helmet he had hidden inside.
"Giles, what are you doing here?" asked Willow, her manner becoming more nervous as she watched Giles look fully around the cavern.
"Willow, are you mad?" he replied. "If your father knew about this place... well... he... I dare say he wouldn't be best pleased."
"You won't tell him will you?" begged the young mermaid. "Giles, he wouldn't understand."
Willow was about to break out her resolve face when the light disappeared from the cavern. Looking up she noticed a shape passing overhead. Being an inquisitive mermaid, Willow had soon exited the cave and was making her way to the surface.
The first thing she saw were coloured lights illuminating the sky, some accompanied by a loud BANG. The second thing was the large vessel anchored near by.
"Shpadoinkle," whispered Xander as he floated up next to his friend.
"Willow," said Giles, "I suggest we go back to the palace, before we're... Willow? WILLOW"
The mermaid was too far away to hear. The colourful lights, the sounds and the prospect of seeing real Humans called to her and she found herself unable to resist.
On board the ship a party was in progress. The sailors were dressed in their finest sea wear and dancing merrily to a hearty jig. Slowly Willow managed to climb her way up to a perch, which brought her level with the floor of the upper deck. Looking around, Willow was a little surprised to find that Humans, like Merpeople, came in different shapes and sizes. Her gaze wandered lazily across the deck until her vision became focused around blonde hair. Never could she remember seeing anyone or anything so striking.
"Hey Red, didn't think I'd see you here."
The voice pulled Willow out of her daze.
"Wha? Spike? What are you doing here? Keep your voice down or they'll hear you!"
"Ooh, I get it," said Spike, lowering his voice. "Doing a little exploring huh?"
"I've never seen a human so close before," answered Willow. "I never knew... She's so beautiful."
Following Willow's gaze, Spike saw where the mermaid's vision had landed. Standing on the far side of the ship thumb wrestling were two girls. "Well, one girl and one that's all woman," thought Spike.
"Blonde or Brunette?" he whispered
"There's a brunette?" was the reply.
So enraptured by the goddess in front of her Willow failed to hear the music stop and was a little startled when a young voice started shouting for everyone's attention.
"Listen up everyone. As it's Tara's birthday we have a very special gift for her, and I know she's going to complain about us making a fuss but we couldn't let it pass now could we?"
A resounding chorus of "NO" greeted the young girls speech as she walked over to a large object and proceeded to pull off some sheeting.
"Wow, Dawnie. Um. T-thank you, really it's, um. W-wow," stammered Tara as she tried to get over the shock of finding herself in front of an almost life size replica of herself. The statue had a cloak around its shoulders and in one arm she held a cat and in the other, what looked suspiciously like a broomstick.
Before she could say anything else she was interrupted by an enthusiastic Dawn.
"Do you like it? I designed it myself you know. Even got Miss Kitty to sit still for longer then two seconds. I was going to wait and give it to you as a wedding present, but with the whole 'you not liking men' thing I wasn't sure how much of a possibility that would be so..."
"Who s-said I didn't like men?" asked Tara. "It's not that I don't like m-men, it's just, I'm, I'm, waiting for the right person to come along."
"Hey, Tara, relax," soothed Dawn
"I know she's out there somewhere Dawn. I-I can feel it. You know? Inside."
"I know. And when you find her it'll be like a lightning bolt."
As soon as the words left her lips thunder clapped above them and lightning streaked across the sky.
"I didn't do it!" shouted Dawn running for cover.
Sailors ran in every direction to try and secure the rigging and keep the boat steady. Suddenly a lightening bolt hit the ship setting it on fire. Unable to see through the smoke the ship crashed into a rock sending everyone flying overboard and into the sea.
Willow watched the chaos from a distance and looked up just in time to see Tara being thrown off of the ship, hitting her head and falling under the water. Her head told her to leave, to get as far away as she possibly could but her heart wouldn't let her. With barely a second thought, Willow dived under the surface searching for her blonde goddess. It took nearly a full minute before Willow found Tara and using strength she didn't know she had pulled her to the surface.
The storm had already began to weaken and pass as Willow slowly dragged Tara up onto a deserted stretch of beach. Carefully Willow positioned the girl on her back and began to tenderly brush the hair and sand from her face.
"What would I give
As she sang, Willow could see Tara beginning to stir. Looking into her eyes just once, Willow began to back away into the ocean as she heard voices coming closer.
"Where would we walk?
On the beach a worried Dawn ran and threw herself at Tara who had been staring out at the ocean.
"She was here Dawnie. The one I've been looking for. She was singing and..."
"...And I think you may have hit your head a little hard. Tara, there's no one here. Come on. Lets get you home."
"She was here Dawn. I know it."
With one more look towards the ocean Tara reluctantly turned and let Dawn take her back to the Palace missing the green pair of eyes that where following her.
"I don't know when
As Willow watched Tara being led off of the beach she was unaware that she too was being watched.
"Now what do we have here?" asked the Dark Mermaid. "Triton's daughter in love with a human. I can't believe it'll be this easy"
"Not just any human," her companion replied. "Another woman. Ooh, Daddy's gonna love that. She'll make a nice addition to our little family don't you think?"
Laughing out loud both mermaids turned away from the viewer and swam back into the darkness to discuss their plan.