Emerald green stared deep into ocean blue for what seemed to be an eternity, though it was only seconds. But for the two beings in the cave to which those eyes belonged, time seemed to come to a halt. The lives they had lived until this moment were forgotten, their problems and concerns evaporating into the air and passing through the cave walls.
Willow drew a breath, feeling her strength return as her chest expanded. She noted that the air had a strange tinge to it. Not quite stale, but not fresh either. It didn't feel dangerous, though, and she knew that she could breathe without harm. Of course, she was grateful to be breathing at all, given her near death experience. She continued to stare at the female face in front of her, taking note of her strange features.
"Are those...no. It couldn't be...scales? And wow. What are those? Gills? Must be. She's breathing with them. But what does that mean? Oh, wow. Wow. She must be...a mermaid!?"
A curious child, Willow had often read books about myths and fairy tales, always finding the stories about mermaids to be of particular interest. She also had watched "The Little Mermaid" a lot when she was younger.
Little did Willow know that one day all that reading would bring her face to face with an actual living, breathing, and exquisite creature, a real life mermaid. Though, she had to admit, the beauty in front of her could put Ariel and all her sisters to shame.
She had done a lot of research on her fetish, and she knew that most people found mermaids to be a turn on. Some people even took it to the extreme, and made tails so that they could swim around like one. She never really got that aspect of aquaphilia as much as some other parts. But she had to admit, as she stared into those wonderful blue orbs, that she could see the attraction.
But this wasn't possible. Mermaids didn't actually exist in real life. They were the stuff of fairy tales and children's bedtime stories. And yet...here, she was.
It made her want to rethink her belief that she hadn't died.
A sudden chill passed through her. She craned her head to one side and looked down at her body. Suddenly, she became aware of why she felt so cold. Biting down a squeak, she struggled to get out from under the weight holding her down. She didn't mind being naked, of course. She just didn't want to be naked in front of other people.
Suddenly, the pressure was gone, and she quickly crawled backward until she felt her back impact against the cave wall. Willow paused as she caught her breath, taking a moment to glance quickly around the cave. It didn't appear to be too dangerous, she noted. She spotted her equipment resting near the water, along with her wetsuit and the tank top she had worn underneath it.
Willow also saw the mermaid sitting near the edge of the water, noticing that the creature was as naked as she was. No, not nearly as naked she realized as her fingers brushed down across her abdomen to feel the cloth of her bikini bottom still in place. The mermaid's body was completely exposed, no clothing evident either on her chest or lower body. She also noted the scales that ringed her forehead also covered her fingers and thighs.
Willow took notice of the mermaid's other features. Her mysterious savior had long golden hair that flowed down to the small of her back. She ran her fingers through her own hair, realizing that, while hers was also long, the cut and style must have made it seem rather short to her. Instead of a tail, she had long legs that looked lean and powerful, obviously the result of her aquatic nature. The feet that were at the end of those legs were scaled as well. Her chest was ample, with two of the most perfect breasts she had ever seen.
Willow's gaze lifted to the mermaid's face once again. Her countenance was as beautiful as any she had ever seen; full lips and a cute nose, high cheekbones and prominent but feminine chin that appeared to be chiseled from the finest porcelain.
Their eyes locked again, and Willow was surprised to find that they had taken on a different expression. Where before she had seen hope and joy, now she saw anguish and pain, and what appeared to be...
"Hurt?" Willow thought. "Why would she be..."
She realized then what it was that must have made her rescuer so upset. This beautiful creature had risked her own life to save her own, doing so without any thought of reward or compensation. And what had she done to show her gratitude? Flinched away and given her every reason to make her believe that her help was unwanted.
Not only that, but that she was also somewhat startled by her. While that was true, at first, she found herself starting to warm up to this lovely creature before her. She couldn't explain it. It may have helped that the mermaid didn't appear in any way to be the type that would intentionally harm another person.
Regaining her composure, she raised her hand and waggled her fingers in greeting. "H...h...hi."
The mermaid waved back, though Willow noted that some of the pain in her eyes remained, tinged with a hint of concern and confusion. Willow knew she had to reassure her, but she wasn't entirely sure how she could without making her feel worse.
"Th...th...thank you," she said, cursing herself for stuttering. "For saving my life, I mean."
The mermaid nodded in reply, some of the pain leaving her eyes, though the concern and confusion remained.
"Good," Willow thought. "I've reassured her that I'm all right. Now to let her know about me."
She placed a hand to her chest, the touch sending a shiver through her body. "Willow. My name is Willow."
The mermaid gave a half smile and placed a hand on her own chest, the scales of her fingers glittering in the dim light of the cave. "Tara."
Willow's body shook as the mermaid's voice pierced her heart, sending wave after wave of delight through her nerve endings. The voice was soft and lyrical, yet carried behind it a power that radiated through Willow's skin, sending the cold she had felt away as if it had never been there.
Willow slowly moved back towards Tara, who made no attempt to either move away or resist her advance. In fact, it appeared to her as if she wanted her to approach. Willow was all too happy to comply, though she proceeded with caution, just in case she made a wrong move that would frighten Tara away.
Willow sat down facing Tara. She looked up and gave a small half smile. Being so close, Willow noticed that Tara's eyes had begun to shine with a sense of desire and longing that Willow couldn't place. With a revelation of sorts, it dawned on Willow why she felt so concerned about worrying the beauty that was now mere inches away.
Taking Tara's chin gently in her hand, she slowly brought her face up. "I...I want to thank you for saving my life."
Tara's brow creased slightly, the scales on her forehead rising with the action. "Willow?"
Willow's smile brightened and brought her face closer to Tara's. "I've always been taught to give thanks to those who do something nice to me. Do you really want me to be rude?"
Willow couldn't tell what possessed her to do what she was doing, but she knew that she was drawn to this exotic creature...no, not a creature. This person that was sitting in front of her. It's like what she had learned in high school science class: Two forces with opposite charges would naturally be drawn together.
She wondered, with some curiosity, what was it that drew her to Tara?
Willow's lips inched closer to Tara's, some shock mixing with the excitement she was feeling. On the one hand, Willow thought of how forward her actions must seem to Tara, especially given how they had just met. And especially given that they were, to be blunt, two completely different species. But on the other hand, she couldn't help but feel that it was somehow...right to be doing what she was doing. And a tiny part of her mind couldn't help but think that maybe she was dreaming, or in heaven - after all, did mermaids really exist? For whatever reason, she found that her usual inhibitions and shyness weren't holding her back.
The distance between the two finally closed, and Willow found herself kissing Tara. She noted, with some surprise, that Tara hadn't been caught unaware of her action. Nor had she moved away.
The richness of the kiss surprised her, as well. Willow had often overheard some of the more popular girls in high school talking about how whenever they kissed a boy for the first time, the kiss was usually awkward and passionless. This kiss, however, was different. It felt to her very much like a key being inserted into a lock, or two puzzle pieces being placed together.
After yet another eternity that encompassed seconds, the two parted lips, knowing that neither was the same as they had been before they had exchanged themselves in this fashion.
"So..." Willow began. "You're a mermaid?"
Tara gave a silent nod in acknowledgement.
Willow gave a shy half smile. "Well, you don't look a thing like Ariel." She noticed Tara's brow crease in confusion and quickly added, "I mean...Ariel's a well know mermaid where I come from. And she's got a tail and a beautiful singing voice. Not to say that you don't sing beautifully, too. Because, you know, never heard you sing and all...but I'm sure that you..."
She felt a hand on hers then, and looked down to find Tara's scaly fingers on her wrist. The touch was soft, yet sent a jolt through Willow's spine. She looked up again and heard the most beautiful voice she had ever heard.
Willow had never heard anything quite like it in her entire life. There were no words to the lyrical melody being sung, but the resonance carried in the tones spoke louder than written words could ever convey. It spoke of a friendship between two good friends, of a close relationship between two individuals and a joining together of two souls into one eternal embrace.
Willow sat in silence as Tara continued to sing for her, and found that she was becoming enthralled in what was going on. She found herself being carried away by the voice like a body in a cresting wave, riding along the water of the melody until she came to a rest on the sandbar.
She opened the eyes she didn't realize she had closed as Tara's singing came to an end and smiled. "That was...beautiful."
Tara smiled in return as Willow looked around the cave. "So...is this where you...live?"
Tara tilted her head slightly. "Sometimes. Not always."
Willow turned to face her. "Looks nice." She let out a small sigh.
Tara took notice of her apparent discomfort. "Okay?"
Willow nodded, though the motion did not carry with it the truth that it should have. "I don't know. It's just that...I've always had a thing for water, you know." She turned to look at Tara again. "I guess you would. But at least with those gills you have, you never have to worry about drowning down here. I mean, I never would have come close to drowning if I hadn't lost my rope, but I'm usually more careful than that."
Tara was no longer listening, her thoughts turning inward to when she had pulled the cord from the cave entrance. At the time, she had been curious as to what it was, but she had let the thoughts drift aside in order to save Willow. She now realized that, in addition to saving her, she had nearly been responsible for causing her death in the first place.
The thought brought a wave of shame over her. She had always secretly thought that she could be better than those of her clan and respect all life that entered the sea, whether or not it belonged there. It pained her to know how wrong she had almost been.
Tara felt Willow move away, and looked up to see her approaching the equipment she had left near the water. Willow picked up one of the hoses that came from the backpack and examined it, and then she inspected the tank attached to the backpack.
"Tank's damaged," Willow said without preamble. "I won't be able to get back."
Tara started. "Get back?"
Willow turned to look at her. "What?"
Tara grew anxious and scared. She had finally found someone with whom she might be able to share everything, her one link to the surface world, and she was going to leave her? "What you mean 'get back?'"
Willow looked pained. "Tara...I...I can't...stay..."
Tara's gaze passed down to the rocks in front of her. She knew that it wouldn't last, but she hoped that it wouldn't come so quickly. She was already thinking of how to say goodbye when she felt Willow's hand on her chin. Her head was lifted until she was staring into Willow's eyes.
"I...can't stay," she repeated. "But...but...I'd like to...you know...come back. To visit?"
The pain at thinking she had lost Willow evaporated, and Tara's face brightened. "You...you mean..."
Willow sat down beside her and placed her arms around her waist, bending forward to kiss Tara on the lips again. It was a small, quick kiss, and yet it felt to Tara to be much more. It signified trust...understanding. A promise.
"I mean..." Willow said as their lips parted. "OK?"
Tara's face brightened as she began to cry. "Oh, yes."
Willow raised an arm and wiped away the tears. "I don't know why, Tara, but I feel...close to you...somehow. And...I would like to get to know you...and for you...to know me."
Tara could only sit in silence, not believing what was going on. She could only stare at Willow as she spoke. Knowing that she would see Willow again made her feel happy, as if she could float through the air as easily as she floated through the water.
"I can come back in a few days," Willow continued. "Would you like to meet then?"
Tara nodded enthusiastically. Perhaps a little too enthusiastically, but she didn't care. Something about Willow told her that she would like her regardless of what she did. That didn't mean she would ever tell her how she had been nearly responsible for killing her, however. That was a secret she would never tell.
Willow looked back at her equipment. "I don't know how I'm going to be able to get out of here, though. My air tank got damaged when I..." she paused. She didn't want to admit to Tara, at least not right now, what she was actually doing in the cave. "My tank got damaged. And I can't hold my breath long enough to get back to the surface, especially when I have to drag my equipment with me..."
She felt Tara's hand on her shoulder and turned to find her muttering something in a language she couldn't understand. Willow also noticed that Tara's right arm was extended, two fingers outstretched and close together, a small light emanating from them. She noted that it grew in intensity as Tara continued to speak.
Just as she was about to ask Tara what she was doing, her fingers touched her throat, the light shining brightly around her and enveloping her in what felt like a cocoon, warm tendrils of energy dissipated into her skin and into her trachea. She instinctively began to fight a gag reflex, only to realize that no gag reflex was forthcoming.
Just as quickly as the feeling started, it vanished, leaving her wondering what had happened. A whistle drew her attention to the water, where Tara awaited her, the buoyancy compensator and tank floating beside her. Willow looked down to find her wetsuit, tank top, mask and fins by her feet.
"Coming?" Tara asked, a glint in her eyes and a grin on her face.
Willow sat on the boat, waving goodbye to Tara as she dove under the surface of the water. She couldn't believe what had happened. Tara had somehow given Willow, temporarily at least, the ability to breathe underwater without assistance. For those few brief moments, she had felt what it would be like to be like Tara, gliding through the water without assistance from any complicated diving equipment.
She would have to talk to Tara about how she had done that, but it would have to wait till later. It was getting late, and she had to get back home.
She started up the boat's engine and steered it back towards the docks.