"Agent Rosenberg, good of you to join us."
"I'm sorry sir, I was running early and I thought I'd stop and get a coffee but then I spilled it on myself coming up the elevator and had to get my other jacket from my office and then the west elevator stopped working and I had to..."
"Please sit down, Agent," the man said, indicating an empty chair opposite his. Chastened, she did so quietly.
"You know why we've called you here today?"
She looked around at the group of high-ranking officials in the office and decided making a joke would probably not be a good opening. "Yes, sir."
"You've done excellent work over the last month, Agent. Without your computer and reconnaissance data, we'd never have located the suspect."
"Thank you, sir."
"That's why we've decided to let you make the arrest."
"Me? Sir, I'm not a field agent - my weapons certification is almost two years out of date, and I'm not prepared-"
"Not a concern, Agent. You won't be alone - an agent of Interpol will be with you."
"We're not going to make the arrest inside the country. As you discovered when you hacked the suspect's Blackberry, they've already got a flight to Australia booked. We think the suspect might be planning a job there, and we'd prefer to try and nab whoever the suspect's Australian contact is as well."
"I suggest you go and pack, Agent. You've got a long flight ahead."
"...Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
Awakened by the driving rain, Willow pulled her makeshift sleeping bag over her head and tried to organize her thoughts. This would be the start of their third full day on the island. There'd been no sign of ships or rescue planes to this point, which worried her intensely. The agency knew what flight she'd been on - surely they'd be looking for her when the plane didn't arrive. Before she could contemplate the matter any further, the actress - Anya, her name was - started shouting. "Look! Look!"
The castaways scrambled to get a look at what Anya was shouting about, and suddenly there it was - a boat. There was a brief moment of excitement as hopes of rescue were rekindled - until everyone realized that the boat was far too small. It appeared to be a sailboat, albeit a luxurious one. Excitement turned first to disappointment, then to curiosity as the boat got closer to shore. When it finally came to ground on the beach, Willow was one of the first to approach it. She found herself flanked by Tara and Spike as she climbed the ladder on the boat's side and pulled the hatch open to reveal...nothing. The boat was deserted. Music played quietly from a small cd player, and a small bulb powered by a generator provided some light, but there was no-one inside. Willow descended into the hatch.
"Be careful," Tara whispered as Willow searched the small cabin. She found at least a dozen liquor bottles, all empty, and turned her attention to the small end table beside the cabin's single chair. She pulled the drawer open and gasped when she saw the gun inside. Being careful to shield the object from the others watching from the top of the ladder, she popped the clip and found the gun was loaded. Ensuring the safety of the glock pistol was on, she tucked it into the waistband of her pants and pulled her bulky sweater down to cover the bulge. As she turned away from the table she put a hand down on the chair.
"This is still warm!" she cried to Spike and Tara. "Whoever was in this boat can't have been gone for longer than a few minutes."
Tara passed the word back to the others on the beach to keep an eye out for anyone in the water. Willow, having finished surveying the cabin, climbed the ladder back onto the deck. "So what do we do with this thing?" Spike asked.
"Haul it up on the beach - it could come in handy later. Once we've done that, I think we should have a meeting and tell everyone what we found out yesterday."
"You're the boss, blondie."
The castaways sat in stunned silence in the shadow of the boat. The sun had finally emerged from the clouds about halfway through Tara's revelation.
"This..." Cordelia began, but stopped.
"I've got to get out of here!" Andrew shouted, running his hands through his hair. "I've got...things...I can't stay here!"
Willow stared silently at Tara, hurt that such important information had been kept from everyone. But then she stared at the emerging chaos around her and realized why. A blonde in an outfit much too tight to be decent, whose name Willow couldn't recall, charged toward Tara and Spike, calling them liars...among other things. Seeing how quickly things were getting out of hand, she decided to follow her instincts and pulled the glock from its hiding place. She fumbled the safety and fired a round well over everyone's head. The group fell silent.
"E-Enough!" she strained her voice to ensure everyone heard her. She continued talking as she made her way to where Tara stood. "I'm as upset as everyone else about this, but killing the messenger isn't going to do any good. So everyone just calm down."
"Where the hell did you get that?" Tara hissed in her ear. Willow tipped her head toward the boat. The blonde, Glory, raised a tentative hand.
"I don't want to get shot or anything, but - why do you have a gun?"
"I found it on the boat. We'll keep it for hunting." Willow struggled to keep the tremor from her voice - it had been a long time since she'd fired a gun.
"You did the right thing, Willow."
"But I kill...killed him."
"He had hostages, Willow. If you hadn't taken the shot when you did, they might all be dead now."
Willow stared down into the empty eyes of the man whose life she'd taken. "There had to be another way," she whispered to herself. She knew, in her heart, that this would be the last field case she'd ever work. When she returned to the agency, she'd find a way to get herself assigned to something that bound her to a desk - electronic surveillance, maybe, or computers - she'd always been good at computers.
Willow snapped back to the present as she realized there was a furious argument raging over her possession of the gun. Finally Tara's patience ran out, and her voice rang out louder than the combined voices of those arguing.
"Shut up! Shut the fuck up, all of you!" a few voices still murmured, but most complied. "Now listen - we're STRANDED. Maybe FOREVER! We need to work together, and we need to survive. This isn't a playground where you can fight over who's got the better toys. Not only did Willow here find the fucking gun, she's proven she knows how to handle it. So unless one of you has a convincing reason that you need it and can handle it better than her, shut up and deal with it."
Willow smiled a hesitant thank you to Tara, who tipped her a subtle wink. Angel joined the small group. "There's only enough food left for another day," he said, addressing the whole of the group. "We need to find food and water. Water especially - we need a source of fresh water."
"You heard the man," Tara emphasized. Everybody form up - groups of two or three. Look for food, water, and firewood."
"You think I'm going in the forest with that thing still out there?" Andrew asked incredulously.
"If you want to eat tomorrow, yes."
Grumbling, Andrew clung to Warren and the two chose a path into the dense forest. Other predictable groups formed - Angel and Buffy, Connor and Dawn, Spike and Gunn - until the only people left on the beach were Tara, Willow, the still-sleeping drunk by the remnants of the fire, and a young man in a (by Willow's estimation) hideous-looking outfit of beige cargo pants and a loud short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt over a long-sleeved purple t-shirt. "Umm..." he said to Tara, "I don't have anybody to go with."
Tara leaned over to whisper in Willow's ear, and she felt a charge go through her at the sound of Tara's whispered voice. "Go with him. I still think whoever was on that boat must have snuck ashore, so I'm going to look around. If you need anything, just fire a shot in the air, ok?"
Willow nodded, and indicated to the young man - Xander, he introduced himself as - which way she wanted to search. They made their way into the jungle, and Tara let her gaze linger on Willow's retreating form for a moment before turning her attention to the task at hand.
Angel and Buffy walked hand-in-hand as they scoured the tall trees for any sign of fruit and the ground for any sign of water. Their companionable silence lasted for a few moments before Buffy spoke.
"Do you believe her?"
"Willow? What about her?"
"She gets a gun, and doesn't tell anyone? What other secrets is she keeping?"
"She just didn't want to start a fight over who should carry it."
"Yeah, but how is it her decision? Her and the blonde seem to think they own this island."
"They're just trying to keep order."
"We're not children - we don't need them as parents," her eyes blazed. "I don't need parents."
Angel fought down the urge to ask for the story he knew hid behind her words and instead looked up at the trees again, just in time to be caught square in the face with a banana falling from a good height up the tree. He grabbed his face and staggered backward, tripping and landing on his backside as blood streamed from his nose.
"Oh god!" Buffy cried. "Are you ok?"
"Fine," Angel laughed. "Not even broken. But I guess we found some food."
They shared a smile that only lasted a moment before a sudden sound startled them both. They looked around and finally saw the source - a tree falling into a hole that had opened up in the ground. Suddenly it happened again - and again, getting closer to them each time. Buffy turned and began to run as Angel scooped up the banana that had hit him. As he stood up he caught his foot on a root and fell heavily. From the ground he stared upward in terror at the source of the holes in the earth...
Andrew followed closely behind Warren, afraid of getting lost in the thick jungle. Just as Warren got ready to suggest they turn around, they stumbled into a clearing and were greeted with a welcome sight - a spring of fresh water. They both drank their fill of the cold, clear spring before they looked around more closely. The spring bordered a cave, one that looked big enough to hold the group.
"We saved everyone!" Andrew cried.
"The cave - we can stay here!"
"Why would we do that? We need to be on the beach, keeping the fires going and waiting for a boat."
"I know what they said - but there's still a good chance we can get rescued. We must have been on satellite photos or something. I'm not giving up - you can if you want to."
Torn, Andrew followed Warren as they headed back toward the shore. They were halfway back, still deep in the jungle, when the whispers began around them.
"Hello?" Andrew called. "Is someone there?" He and Warren looked frantically in every direction but failed to find the source of the sound.
Warren hushed him as the whispers grew louder. They couldn't make out distinct words, but the sound kept growing louder until Warren finally broke into a flat run. Andrew was only steps behind.
"This is Rosenberg."
"Agent Rosenberg? Do you have the suspect in sight?"
Willow checked the faded picture again. "Yes - boarding the expected flight."
"Proceed, Agent. Your Interpol backup couldn't make it - they'll have another agent waiting for you in Australia."
"Understood, sir." Willow turned off her phone and stowed it and the picture in her carryon, producing a ticket and her passport as she approached the gate.
The group had gathered around the fire again for the night with food and fresh water, but all of them were debating with each other and themselves. Moving to the caves felt like giving up hope - but the beach was too exposed to the elements and too far from water to stay indefinitely. All of them were going to need to come to a decision - some would stay, and some would move, but everyone had to decide that for themselves.
Willow stared into the flames, trying to come to terms with everything that had happened in only three days. She stared at the faded picture in her hand - and tossed it into the fire with a casual flick of her hand.
"It wasn't a very good picture of her, anyway," Willow whispered to herself as she looked over at Tara.
Coming soon, on Misplaced:
"Tell me what you saw!" Buffy screams at Angel.
Fade to Black