"I'm sorry, Faith, but there's nothing we can do."
Riley Finn, Captain of the Santa Monica Lifeguards, sat in front of his desk, going over the paperwork that had been unceremoniously dumped in front of him by the young woman pacing the room in front of him. Her eyes were still rimmed in red from the tears that she had shed earlier, and were glossed over as if she was fighting to keep fresh ones from falling. Riley also noted the fact that mixed with that glossy look was a fierce determination that slowly changed into anger at his response.
"What the fuck do you mean, 'there's nothing we can do?'" Faith replied, the shaking of her voice betraying her desperate battle to keep her anger and grief under control, lest she say or do something she would later regret. "Buffy got killed, Riley. We gotta find out how."
"It's not our place, Faith," Riley insisted, leafing through the papers, trying to keep himself from getting too emotional. Despite the fact that he appeared to be indifferent to the situation, learning of Buffy's death had greatly affected him. The blonde had been one of his top lifeguards and a close personal friend for years. They even went out on a couple of dates. But they had both decided to keep their relationship professional, neither Buffy nor himself making the move to take it any further than that.
Riley had seen Buffy work hard to get to where she had gotten in her life, and he was proud of the fact that she had accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. But as hard as she worked, Buffy knew how and when to have fun. And it was that mixture of serious professionalism and playful exuberance had made Buffy popular not only with her fellow lifeguards, but with the people that frequented the beach. Women wanted to be her, and men wanted to go out on a date with her. It broke Riley's heart to know that he would wake up tomorrow morning knowing she wasn't going to be reporting for work.
His thoughts were brought violently back to the present as Faith slammed her hands down on his desk. "You gotta be kidding me. Somebody dies out in the ocean and we can't do anything about it? 'It's not our place?' Come on, Riley. Do you really think that the cops can do anything about this?"
"No," Riley admitted with a sigh. "But they're the ones who have the resources and the ability to find out what happened, Faith. You have to let them do their job."
"Yeah," Faith scoffed. "Does that job happen to involve midnight doughnut runs and instant coffee packets?"
"You're out of line, Faith."
Turning away in a huff, Faith walked to the opposite side of the room, collapsing into one of the chairs near the door. "I know, Riley. It's just that...if it was anyone else, I would be able to put on my professional face and try not to let myself get too emotional about it, you know? But with Buffy, I..." She choked down a sob and looked away, trying to fight the urge to cry.
Getting up, Riley moved to sit beside Faith, moving to rest a hand on the brunette's shoulder. "I know how you feel Faith..."
Faith slapped Riley's hand away and got up, walking back towards the desk. "No, boss. I don't think you do. I've seen death before, Riley. When you live the kind of life that I have, going from one place to another, it's the sort of thing you just can't avoid. But I've never seen it...never had to live with it like this. Buffy died, Riley. She died in my arms. I felt her body grow cold. I saw the life drain from her eyes. And...it hurts to think about it. She is...she was the only person in the world I could say I loved like a sister, and I watched helplessly as she died right in front of me. Shit like that isn't supposed to happen, Riley. I feel..." Faith ran her fingers through her hair and looked at the floor, struggling to try and make sense of the conflicting emotions she felt at the moment. "I...I don't know how I feel. I'm...I'm not sure I want to feel..."
Riley got up and walked beside Faith, putting his hand on her shoulder once more. This time, the brunette accepted the comforting touch without argument, looking up into his face and giving a small smile. Moving to sit down, Riley watched as Faith moved back to the chair she had sat in before and stared vacantly at the wall, the clouded look in her eyes returning. He knew that the brunette was going through a great deal of emotional pain at the moment, and that it wouldn't do her any good to stay here and try to do her job if she was going to spend her time agonizing over what had happened.
So he made a decision. "Faith, I want you to take a couple of days off."
Faith brought her head around to look at Riley. "What?"
"I want you to take some time off, Faith. You're not going to feel better unless you can find a way to deal with what you're going through, and that's not going to happen if you try to do your job as if nothing has happened."
"No 'buts', Faith. You're...You're one of my best, and the last thing I need is for you to get...distracted. I can't afford that. And I'm sure you wouldn't like to be off your game. So consider yourself on vacation until you can deal with this."
Faith opened her mouth to protest, but it died before it passed her lips as she realized that Riley was right. It wouldn't do her any good to stay at work if she was going to continue to dwell on what had happened. If she did that, she wouldn't be paying attention to what was going on around her. And that meant she would make mistakes, which could lead to another innocent person getting hurt. That wouldn't do much to improve her mood.
She needed time to figure out how she was going to deal with this and how much her life was going to be affected by this. And that meant she had to have no distractions, even the one that normally would help her deal with this sort of pain. "OK, boss."
Riley smiled. "I'm glad that you've come to your senses, Faith. Go home and find a way to deal with your pain. And when you feel up to coming back, give me a call and let me know."
Getting to her feet, Faith moved to the door. As she reached for the handle, she turned and looked at Riley, who had gone back to his paperwork.
And with that, the brunette stepped through the door and started back to her tower, Riley looked up from his work as he heard the door close. And, with Faith gone and the need for him to keep a level head passed, he allowed himself to feel the emotions that he had kept under control during the entire conversation.
He closed his eyes to try and stop the tears from coming, but it did not help. The emotional dam he had kept together during his conversation with Faith had begun to show cracks while she was talking, and was crumbling even further under the weight of his growing need to express how he felt.
The wall finally collapsed. And the tears flowed freely.
Stepping inside the tower and closing the door behind her, Faith moved to gather her things from where she had put them earlier in the day. She started with her street clothes, taking the socks out of her shoes and slipping them back onto her feet, noting with some sadness how empty and hollow even that simple act felt. In fact, ever since leaving Riley's office, everything the brunette did was starting to take a great deal of exertion on her part to accomplish. It was as if cinder blocks had been strapped to her arms and legs, forcing her to have to put a great deal of effort into the simplest of tasks. Faith knew that her actions were affected by the main thing that was dominating her thoughts at the moment: the image of Buffy's lifeless body against her own. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get it out of her mind. Buffy had been her teacher. She had been her friend. She had been her inspiration. And the brunette felt empty knowing that her comforting presence was gone.
A dull ache throbbed in the center of Faith's chest, as if something had punched straight through her gut and was clenching its fist against her heart, her strength of will and need to carry on oozing out of the wound. She had lost things in her life, so this sort of pain wasn't new to her. She had felt heartache when she had to leave behind the friends she had made in one place as her wanderlust took her to another. She had been angry when she had lost money buying non essential things, crooked street gambling or due to outright theft by some punk kid who had decided to mug her while she was asleep. And of course, when she had lost her virginity in a one night stand, it had hurt like hell, at least for a moment anyway. But losing all of those things didn't hurt her as much as this did.
That pain eventually faded. Faith knew this wouldn't. And it made her wonder who could have been heartless enough to casually murder someone like Buffy in cold blood? She shivered as her brain registered the word "blood" and looked down at her body, seeing the dark red patches splayed across it. Contrasting heavily with the brighter red of her swimsuit, Faith recognized them as blood stains, which Buffy had unknowingly dripped on her when the blonde had collapsed into her arms. Their presence on Faith's body made the effort to put on her shirt and jeans all the more difficult. Faith couldn't help but think that, in doing so, she was wiping away the only part of the blonde that she had left.
Slipping on her shoes, she tied the laces and got up, moving to grab the key to her scooter from the table as she walked to the door. Pausing for a moment to look around the room one final time, Faith opened the door and walked out, heading for the parking lot. She was halfway there when Buffy's last words played through her mind.
"Faith...you have to...find them...Make sure that...Willow..."
"Find who?" the brunette wondered curiously. "Who was it that killed Buffy? Where are they? How can I find them? And what does Willow have to do with this?"
She recalled the events of the other day, noting how Willow did not appear to be comfortable with her at all. But that didn't necessarily mean that the redhead would be capable of committing murder. And from the way that Buffy had talked, Willow wasn't even the type to swat a fly. Besides, most people who first took a look at her and spent any time with her were rather uncomfortable. It was something Faith felt immensely sad about, knowing that people who acted like that did so because they only saw the predatory image she had somehow managed to cultivate around herself. But Faith soberly realized that there was no other explanation to justify the suspicions about the redhead that were weighing heavily on her mind. It didn't help that the reason she had to come in today and work a double shift was so Buffy could take the weekend off to spend time with Willow. It was that more than anything else which made the idea that the redhead could have had something to do with Buffy's death a schema that would not leave her mind, no matter how much she tried to convince herself otherwise.
Stepping onto the scooter, Faith put the key into the ignition and gunned the engine. As she made her way out of the parking lot and headed down the street, she realized that there was only one person who could help her figure this out: the person who may very well have been responsible for it all.
Having passed out in the aftermath of her lovemaking with Tara, Willow awoke to find the ceiling of the cave far above her head and her entire body immersed in water. She moved in a panic to get to her feet, fearing that she had somehow fallen in and was drowning. Then she took a breath out of reflex, and realized that she could breathe comfortably.
"But how...?" she thought with surprise, before remembering the events that had taken place prior to this moment, specifically recalling Tara enacting the spell that allowed her to breathe underwater. A smile formed on her face as she turned around, her fear evaporating into the water around her, and saw Tara's sleeping form curled up in a ball against the rocks nearby. Her blonde hair was floating around her head, which framed her perfectly sculpted face. And upon that face rested a pleased expression; one that made Willow's heart beat against her ribcage.
Moving to sit beside Tara, Willow brushed her fingers against the blonde's skin. The touch provoked an immediate response from Tara, who opened her eyes and turned to look up at Willow's smiling face.
"Have a nice nap?" she asked with a chuckle.
Tara smiled, getting to her knees and enveloping Willow in a hug in answer to her question. Willow returned the hug, her hands traveling down the blonde's back, the redhead's fingers playing across Tara's spine. She stopped briefly near Tara's tailbone and grinned as she moved her hands away from the blonde's body.
Tara whimpered at the loss of Willow's hands, and their comforting touch, against her body. That whimper quickly changed to a yelp as the redhead quickly brought her hands onto her ass and gently squeezed it. "Ooh," she moaned, squirming at the touch. "Someone's being naughty."
Willow smiled as she released her grip on Tara's backside and broke the hug. She then got to her feet and began to swim for the water's surface. Tara moved to follow behind her, slowing down in order to take the opportunity to gaze admiringly at the redhead's small but perfectly round hindquarters. An impish grin formed on Tara's face as she kicked a bit harder to catch up to Willow. As she got closer to the redhead, Tara reached out with one hand and delivered a playful swat on her exposed rear.
Letting out a small waterlogged yelp, Willow glanced down to find Tara looking back at her, a wide smile on her lips. The redhead's heart fluttered at the sight. "My, oh my. If Tara's smile was the sun, she could brighten the entire world for years. Say good bye to electricity, folks. Tara's smile is the power source for a new generation."
The pair broke through the surface of the water and headed for the rocks. Once they reached them, Tara moved off to the side and watched as Willow began to collect her gear, first taking the time to climb back into her clothing. The blonde watched with some dismay as Willow's naked body was covered up. But she realized that, clothed or naked, Willow's body was pleasant to look at.
The redhead turned to look at Tara, her upper body still uncovered. "Yes, Tara?"
Tara paused. Despite all that they had just done and how they had felt about it then, the feelings of regret and caution had returned in the aftermath of their actions, stronger than they had been before, the line the blonde had been straddling for so long having now been irrevocably crossed. Tara needed to know if Willow felt any concern or shame about what they had done. "Do you...regret...Do you regret what we've..."
Willow moved to take Tara in her arms, giving the blonde a quick and tender kiss. "No, Tara. I don't. What we've just done...is special. I don't know why, but I just know that it is. And that's why I don't feel guilty about it. And that's why I think that you shouldn't feel guilty, either."
Tara smiled faintly, grateful for the comforting touch of Willow's naked body against her own. It was reassuring to know that Willow held no regrets about what they had done, despite the danger that their actions could bring down upon them. The blonde was also comforted by the fact that Willow, much as she did, saw the potential good that could come from bringing together their two highly divergent worlds. In a way, that helped to make her feel more comfortable about the situation, even if her concerns never fully faded.
"Are you heading home?" she asked
Willow turned to look at Tara, her body now fully clothed, and saw the sadness that the blonde was trying to keep hidden from her. "Yes, Tara. But I will be back."
Moving over to Willow, Tara brought up her hands. The redhead grew curious at this. "Tara?"
Tara paused. "Willow...if you're going back to the surface, I have to...remove your ability to..."
Willow's eyes grew wary. What did she have to remove? Did she want to remove her ability to understand Tara's language? No, that couldn't be it. After all they had done, why would she want to take that away from her? It had to be her ability to breathe underwater. As much as being able to understand Tara was something strange, it was something that could easily be hidden. But being able to breathe underwater unassisted was something that would be impossible to explain if anyone noticed it. For that reason, Willow could understand why Tara would want to remove it.
And yet..."But doesn't it...you know...disappear on its own? Last time you didn't have to do anything once we had reached the surface."
"I know. When I cast the spell that time, I did so in a way that would cause it to fade after you returned to the surface. But this time, I cast it differently because...because I was unsure of how long we would...you know. And I didn't want you to drown while we..."
A smile appeared on Willow's face, realizing what it was Tara had done. The blonde's attention to her pleasure and safety was something that she was slowly beginning to like. But as Willow thought about it, she realized that the ability to breathe underwater wasn't something that she wanted to give up. After all, it had been a lifelong dream of hers to be able to swim unassisted by clumsy equipment that could fail at any moment. And now that she had gotten it, she wanted to try and keep it. There was the potential for danger, of course. Willow couldn't deny that. But if there was one she was good at, it was keeping secrets that she didn't want other people to know. Of course, the fact that the secrets she kept were usually the type that were difficult to conceal made Willow feel guilty about doing it, but this was different. This was something that could easily be kept hidden with no strings attached.
So she would ask Tara if she could keep the ability to breathe underwater. If she explained what it meant to her, and Tara still insisted on taking it away from her, at least the blonde would know. "Tara...I was wondering. Could I...."
Tara hesitated, unsure of what Willow was trying to say. "Yes?"
"Could you...maybe...not take that away from me? The ability to breathe underwater, I mean? I know it's a special thing, and that you have every right to ask for it back. But...I've always wanted to have this. I've spent my entire life wanting things I thought I could never get from anyone. And here I am getting everything that I've always wanted. And I know it must seem selfish of me to ask this, but I was kind of wondering if I could...you know, keep this one thing? As something to...remind me of you when I'm..."
Tara placed a finger delicately on Willow's lips, bringing the redhead's babblefest to a halt. She then made a choice, one that she could easily make without a second thought. If Willow wanted something special to remind her of her presence on the surface, then so be it. But she would have to take precautions in order to make sure that they would both be protected from any potential fallout of this decision.
"OK, Willow. I will let you keep the ability to breathe underwater. But you have to promise me. You can't misuse this ability. If anyone finds out that you can do this, they will try to find out how. And if it leads to humanity discovering our clan, then there could be...problems."
Willow, who normally would have inquired about what exactly those problems were, was too excited about the prospect of keeping this gift to pay any real attention to either Tara's concerns or the overly cautious manner in which she voiced them. Moving to replace her fins on her feet, she said, "I promise, Tara. No one will find out about this."
Tara was not fully convinced. "But what about Buffy, Willow? You said that it would be right to keep secrets from others. Does that mean you'll tell her about this?"
Willow's hands stilled as she was putting her mask back over her eyes. She felt conflicted about the question. She had indeed said that there was no need for secrets between friends. That was why the redhead had brought Buffy to see Tara in the first place, so that her blonde friend could see what it was that attracted her so much to her underwater adventures. Tara was, after all, the living embodiment of them. But Buffy would never understand what Tara had done to her, not only by giving her the ability to breathe underwater, but also in giving her the ability to understand Tara's language. Buffy would no doubt see those two things as a violation of Willow's being, and would try to harm Tara because of it, no matter how much Willow might try to explain things to her.
Willow couldn't allow that, even if it meant that she would have to once again keep a secret from her best friend. "This is different, though. Even though I always thought she could never understand my love of water, it was something Buffy could easily accept. Tara's gifts aren't. She'll never understand that they are given to me out of love. I've got to keep this from her. I'm going to do this to keep Tara safe. I'm going to do this to keep Buffy safe. I'm going to do this to keep me safe. I can do it. I know I can."
"Yes. I promise, Tara. I won't tell Buffy, either."
Tara brushed a hand across Willow's face, the touch sending a jolt through the redhead. Willow found it surprising how easily Tara's touch could affect her now, even when she wasn't using her magical talents. Of course, Willow was also beginning to realize that, when it came to Tara, every touch was magical.
As Willow moved to finish applying her gear to her body, she watched as Tara slunk back into the ocean, resurfacing a few moments later with what looked like an oyster pearl. Moving over to the redhead's side, Tara put the pearl into Willow's hand.
"Willow, this is important. After what we've done...I think it's necessary to keep in contact. This pearl has...magical qualities. It was given to me when I was younger by...by my caregiver. She told me that I could give it to whomever I wanted if I felt that person was someone special. I do think you're special, so...I want you to have this. It will allow you to feel as if I am nearby, comforting you with the essence of my being. It will also give you the ability to contact me through telepathy. Whenever you want to do so, hold it in your hand and think of me. I will be able to hear you and will understand what it is that you want to say."
Willow looked at the pearl for a moment, rubbing it between her thumb and forefinger. It felt smooth to the touch, almost as if it had been cast from Tara's own skin. She smiled as she recognized what this was: yet another gift from Tara, given in the hope that it would bring them closer together. Moving to place it in one of the pouches of her buoyancy compensator, she turned around and took Tara's hand in hers, her other hand reaching out to take hold of her remaining gear. The pair then moved into the ocean together, dove beneath the water, and headed for the surface.
As Willow and Tara made their way back to the boat, the redhead couldn't help but feel that something had gone incredibly wrong in her absence. There was no way she could try to put her feelings into words. She just knew that something didn't feel right, and it bothered her a great deal. That feeling had only gotten worse as she and Tara continued their swim to the surface where, upon breaking through the water, they discovered the boat without any hint of Buffy's presence.
Tara noted the concern on Willow's face. "What's wrong?"
"Buffy's not here, Tara. She promised that she would wait on the boat for me."
Tara bit her lower lip, trying to keep her concern and fears from becoming apparent on her face. The feelings she had while making love to Willow, and now discovering that her friend was missing? Tara realized that the two events were too coincidental to have been the result of random occurrence. She realized now what must have happened, and it pained her to know that she would need to tell Willow, potentially break the bond that she had worked so hard to forge.
Watching as Willow hefted herself onto the boat and bent over to drag her gear onboard, Tara said, "Willow, I need to tell you something. When we...made love, I felt...something change in the ocean."
Willow looked into Tara's eyes, noting that the blonde's tone was cautious, as if she feared to say whatever it was that she had to say. This immediately put her on edge, as she had hoped that what she had said before would have soothed the blonde. But now that the fear was back in Tara's voice, Willow began to grow concerned again. Why couldn't Tara feel happy about what they had done?
Tara tilted her head slightly. "I think so. Maybe. I don't know. I didn't want to say anything because...I didn't want to upset you."
Gripping the side of the boat, Willow looked into Tara's eyes, seeing them once again clouded in fear and doubt. After her attempts to comfort the blonde about what they had just done, it was not a pleasant sight to behold.
"Tara...please, tell me."
"I think...that Buffy may be dead."
The thought struck Willow as quickly as if she had been caught in a tidal wave. How could Tara think that? How could she say it? And more importantly, why did she find herself fluctuating between reluctantly believing it herself and vehemently denying it at the same time?
"I don't know, but I felt as if two forces came together and struggled for dominance. Then, rather suddenly, one smothered the other. And that other...slowly began to fade until it simply...disappeared."
Willow couldn't believe what Tara was saying. Buffy couldn't be dead. She just couldn't be dead. But, at the same time, it scared her to realize how much she found herself believing the blonde's words. "Tara, I don't believe that. Buffy isn't the sort of person who would just die without putting up a fight. If something had happened, she would have tried to save herself."
Tara cast her gaze down into the water. "I hope you're right, Willow. I have a bad feeling about this. We've come so far. We've...I've done so much. I don't want anything to happen that could destroy what we have."
Willow moved her hands to Tara's shoulders, gently squeezing them to reassure the blonde. "I feel the same way, Tara. Hopefully we're both wrong." Moving to the boat's engine, she started it up.
"There's something else."
Willow turned to look at Tara once more. "Tara?"
Tara glanced down into the murky depths below her. As much as she had been afraid to say what she had said before, she was even more afraid to say this. But it was important. The thought of having to make sure Willow knew everything about what may have happened to Buffy overrode her natural caution and her desire to make sure the redhead didn't suffer any more pain than necessary.
"I wasn't sure before, but when we traveled here, I realized that...you and Buffy...That the two of you have..."
"Tara?" Willow prompted the feeling that something was very wrong growing once more in the pit of her stomach.
"We've crossed the border of my clan some time ago. You and Buffy have violated our territory."
Willow's eyes shot open in a panic, realizing that her earlier concern for Buffy's safety was now clearly justified. "Tara, I'm sorry. I didn't know..."
"I know," Tara replied. "And somehow, that makes what may have happened here worse. If...If Buffy was killed by others of my kind...You have to believe me, Willow. I couldn't live with myself if I thought that I had unintentionally led someone to their death. You know that now. So...if Buffy...if she..."
Willow tried to find something to say that would comfort her blonde aquatic lover, but nothing came to mind. This was mostly because she couldn't find anything to say that would comfort her own tortured feelings about the situation. The thought that Buffy could be floating dead out in the middle of the ocean somewhere was an image that just wouldn't leave her mind.
And try as she might to feel otherwise, Willow was beginning to be concerned about what role Tara could have played in it. The blonde had said that she had felt something change, though she had been vague about it. Whether by design or because she honestly didn't know, Willow couldn't tell. And if Tara had been aware of what was going on, why had she not told her when she first felt it? Why wait until they had returned to the surface? As much as Willow wanted to believe that Tara had nothing to do with what was going on, it was not much of a stretch to think that the blonde had been lying to her about everything ever since they had first met.
"No! Don't think like that! Tara wouldn't lie to me. She's too much of a kind soul to do something like that. And if something had happened to Buffy, she would put up a fight! She's not the type to just roll over and die! She would try to get to shore. I'll bet she's there right now waiting for me. I'll go see her right now and reassure her that everything's OK. But...if she did come across others of Tara's kind....how can I explain it to her? I'll have to tell her that...But I can't! I promised Tara I wouldn't! Oh, God! What am I gonna do?!"
Looking into Tara's eyes, she could see the worry in them that began to match the worry that she herself was feeling. "First off, gotta make Tara feel better. I don't feel better, but making her feel better would go a long way towards making me feel better."
"Tara, don't worry. I'm sure that Buffy's waiting for me at the docks. I'll go there now and try to sort things out. And when I do, I'll come back."
Tara nodded in reply, and without another word, dove under the water. Willow sat watching the spot where Tara had been for several more moments before moving to the engine and began to guide the boat back to the docks.
No matter how much she tried to convince herself that everything was all right, the bad feelings had only gotten worse after Willow had brought the boat back. Not seeing Buffy anywhere on the docks, she took the bag containing her clothes and, leaving her gear on the boat, walked to the nearby washroom. Thankful that there was no one else there, she walked into one of the stalls, stripped out of her wetsuit and got dressed. Her thoughts during this entire time were a jumbled attempt to try and figure out what situation, besides the possibility of being attacked by others of Tara's kind, could justify Buffy abandoning the boat. Willow tried to think of possible scenarios, but realized that there was no other reason that could make Buffy choose to leave the boat. She was a lifeguard, trained to remain calm in any sort of difficult situation, and nothing short of an unavoidable disaster which she could not prevent could shatter it.
After returning to the boat to collect her gear, Willow made her way to her car, storing the gear in the trunk and getting inside. She started the engine and headed off, the idea that Tara's kind could have been responsible for Buffy's disappearance making what she was doing feel wrong. The idea that she was putting a great deal of distance between herself and Buffy hung over her head, blinding her to her surroundings to the point where she had nearly driven off the road.
"Why?" she thought as she attempted to focus on the road. "Why is it that I feel so divided and conflicted when I should be happier than I have ever been in my life? I should never have brought Buffy and Tara together. I knew it was a mistake. I knew something bad was going to happen. I just knew it. But hey, maybe I'm overreacting about this. Maybe Buffy got tired of waiting for me on the boat and decided to swim back to the docks. She could have easily taken the bus or gotten a cab from there and went home. I'll bet she's waiting for me there right now...Unless she got attacked by a shark...or an octopus...or..."
"We're in my clan's territory."
"I think...that Buffy may be dead."
Tara's words found their way back into Willow's brain, shattering the redhead's latest attempt to feel better as if it had been a gingerbread house being under attack by the overeager mouth and hands of a five year old. Everything that kept invading her mind was beginning to be amplified by the fact that all of this could have been avoided had she taken the boat back to the same place as had two days ago. It hadn't occurred to Willow at the time that she was doing anything wrong by bringing the boat to a different location this time. Indeed, that was the whole reason why she had brought it somewhere different in the first place. As the most remote area that Willow could think of, she knew that there was no chance that they would be discovered by anyone else. It occurred to her now that Tara's clan had chosen to live in such a remote spot for a very good reason. And the fact that she and Buffy had unknowingly violated it, combined with the knowledge that all of this could have been avoided if she had thought things through, was making her feel even more depressed and agitated than she had before. After all, it was one thing to put her life in danger, but to risk someone else's life as well?
As she brought the car into the underground parking lot near the apartment and found a place to park, Willow thought that there was no way that the situation could get any worse.
And then she looked up and saw Faith standing nearby, her eyes flaring with a burning hatred as she looked straight into the redhead's own. Turning the key and shutting down the car, Willow immediately grew uneasy at seeing the brunette, a feeling that didn't fade when Faith spoke to her as she got out.
"What's going on here, Red?"