Buffy had been the last one to leave the clinic, but she was the first to arrive home. Willow still hadn't made it to the house with Tara to get ready for the seminar. As soon as she stepped into the door, a small child with wild, bouncy blonde curls was attempting to bowl her over.
The Slayer dropped her bag on the floor and then dropped to her knees, enveloping the child in her embrace. She picked her up off the ground and spun her in a circle. Her daughter's legs were swinging back and forth like limp noodles.
"How's my baby girl?" she whispered and kissed the side of Brittany's head, hugging her close.
"Daddy let me drive!" Brittany exclaimed and lifted her head. Her bright green eyes grew into the size of quarters as she stared at her mommy's face, proudly giving away a secret she was supposed to have kept to herself.
"Did he?" Buffy asked in a curious tone, looking up at her child's father as he walked into the room.
Xander blushed and stood in a defensive posture, remembering the strength of the Slayer. "I swear she was safe, Buff. She was sitting on my lap with her hands on the tops of mine on the steering wheel. She just wanted to drive a little bit." The dark haired young man couldn't resist anything when it came to his daughter. He wanted to do anything to make her happy.
Squinting her eyes at him, Buffy smiled. "It's okay, Xander. I don't doubt her safety when she's with you. I know you have her best interest at heart."
Looking between her parents, Brittany didn't quite understand what was happening. She didn't know if she was in trouble for telling her and her Daddy's secret. She was just so excited. It wasn't often that her parents were in the same house together. She wished her Daddy could live there with her.
Sensing her child's sadness, Buffy hugged her close. "It's okay, sweetie."
Xander rubbed Brittany's back and caressed her hair. He didn't want to leave her like this, but he had to get home to Anya. He had a big night planned for the both of them. Tonight he was going to ask Anya to marry him. He hoped she would say yes.
"I better go, Buffy. Anya's waiting." Leaning down, he whispered in Brittany's ear. "You can drive tomorrow, honey. Maybe we can go get some ice cream, too."
"Yay!" the young girl yelled as she smiled at Xander. "Chocolate with cherry sprinkles!" Her smile was about as wide as her whole face.
"Okay, sweetie. Love you, Angel." The young man hugged his daughter. His left arm circled around Buffy's back and he embraced her as well.
"Love you, too, Daddy." She tried not to look sad because he was leaving. Her brain started thinking about the ice cream though and soon she was grinning with anticipation.
Kissing Buffy's right cheek, Xander said his goodbyes and left to go home to Anya.
"Who's my big girl?" the Slayer asked her daughter as Xander left.
"Mommy?" Brittany's face grew serious all of a sudden.
"Yes, sweetie?" Buffy took note of her child's tone of voice.
Looking in her Mommy's green eyes, the youngster sighed loudly and whispered. "Why can't Daddy live here?"
Frowning, Buffy just lifted Brittany higher in her arms and hugged her close. She felt her daughter's arms encircle her neck and she tried to find the right words to say to her. She wished the situation were easier. All she could do was hope her explanation would be enough to quiet her daughter's busy mind. Sometimes she wondered if Brittany didn't inherit some of Willowbrain.
A bad dream had awoken her just in time for her little ears to hear a door open and close. She stumbled out of bed, her eyes still fuzzy with sleep and ran as fast as her little legs would carry her. Brittany ran down the stairs, saw her target in the living room, and ran to her, hugging her green panted leg. "Mommy!" was the only word her tiny mouth could express.
Willow paused in her conversation with Tara, and knelt down to the young girl. She pulled her into her arms and picked her up. "Come on, sweetie. Let's take you back to bed."
"Mommy..." Brittany whispered as she laid her head on the redhead's shoulder.
Turning around with the young girl in her arms, Willow addressed her companion. "Tara, I'll be right back."
With a puzzled expression, Tara nodded, "Okay."
Climbing the stairs, Willow held Brittany tightly in her arms and carried her to her room. "Here, baby girl. Let's get you to bed." Bending down, she laid the youngster in her bed and sat down beside her.
Opening her eyes again, Brittany looked up and saw the face of Willow. "You're not my mommy. I want mommy. Bad dream." Her eyes started to tear up, her small bottom lip starting to tremble.
Caressing her face, the hospital director spoke calmly. "Hang on. I'll go get her, okay?"
Nodding, the young girl stuck her bottom lip out further, her tears rolling down her rosy cheeks.
Squeezing a tiny hand, Willow stood from the bed and left the room. She went back downstairs in search of Buffy. Going through the living room, she gave a small smile to Tara in passing and a look of apology before going into the kitchen to find her best friend.
Looking around the room, Tara's mind was working overtime. She had thought Willow had told her that Brittany was Buffy's child, but could she be Willow's as well? Did that mean that the two of them were together?
She got up from the sofa and walked over to the fireplace where she saw a couple of pictures. One was of Brittany, when she was a baby. Tara smiled. The little girl was definitely cute. Another picture was of Willow, Buffy, and a young man who looked to be about their same age. He had brown hair. His arms were around the shoulders of her co-workers. The last photograph was of Willow, Buffy and Brittany. Buffy was holding the youngster and Willow was standing beside her, holding Brittany's hand. They were all three smiling.
Perplexed, Tara just stared at the photograph and wondered what was taking Willow so long. She didn't know what to make of it, but it was becoming obvious that what she had previously thought about the relationship between her two co-workers was obviously not true. They weren't just friends.
It was all there in the picture. They were a family. They were together.
It was in that moment of revelation that Tara's cell phone decided to ring and Willow re-joined her in the living room. Smiling anxiously at the redhead, the young doctor reached for her phone. "This is Dr. Maclay," she answered.
"Hi, Dr. Maclay. This is Olivia from the answering service? Mr. Miller just called about Cotton? He said that his dog was outside. He heard him cry out so he went out to check on him. The dog was bitten by a snake." Olivia's voice sounded somewhat annoyed, as if she would rather be doing something else with her time then passing messages and taking phone calls.
"Did he say what condition he was in?" Tara frowned, a worried look on her face.
"He just said that his dog's foot was swollen. He didn't give me any other information." Olivia's voice was starting to sound impatient.
"Did you ask him if he had contacted one of the 24 hour emergency clinics?" She wasn't too impressed with this answering service. None of the operators seemed to care at all about the clients calling in or their pets.
"Look, I called you, didn't I? What else do you expect me to do?"
Tara's own impatience was starting to show through. The operator on the phone was not performing her job the way she should be. That wasn't going to hold with the young doctor. "What I expect from your service is quality. If someone calls in, you get me every detail possible. I want to know the condition of the pet, down to his last bowel movement. I want to know if the pet is eating, drinking. You know what, can you even tell me if Cotton is still alive or if his condition has worsened? No. You can't. You know why? You don't care and I can guarantee you by this time tomorrow, I will have spoken to your supervisor about this!"
"Excuse me? Is that a threat?" Olivia's voice was in attack mode now. Who did this person, this doctor, think she was?
"You better believe it is. Now give me Mr. Miller's phone number!"
Willow, a look of complete awe on her face, was impressed with this side of Tara. She liked the take charge, butchy side of her crush. She just kept continuing to find things that she liked about Tara, more everyday. Even as she watched her write down Mr. Miller's phone number on a napkin she had found in her pocket, she was enthralled. She was stricken with one Dr. Tara Maclay and it was time she did something about it.
Flipping her phone closed, the blonde sighed heavily and let a frustrated growl flow from her lips. "Willow, I'm greatly sorry, but I have to cancel tonight. Mr. Miller has an emergency. I need to go." Her features held a look of sorrow, but somewhere down deep, she was also relieved. She needed time to digest the revelations she had come to that evening, away from Willow.
The hospital director had a look of defeat on her face from this news, but she knew the life of a pet was more important. There would be other seminars. At least she hadn't paid for this one. "OH! Please. Yes, go ahead. I completely understand. I'll just talk to you tomorrow at work. Let me know what happened."
Smiling a grateful smile, Tara whispered a thank you and left as fast as she could. What she would do first thing in the morning is contact the manager of the clinic's answering service and talk to them about their employees, especially Olivia. It was time she did something about this.
She wasn't looking forward to one event though. She wasn't looking forward to telling Willow she knew the truth.
The sound of soft footsteps coming down the stairs stole away Willow's attention from Tara's departure. She walked towards the noise and saw Buffy coming down the stairs. "Did Bre fall back asleep?"
With a sigh of relief, the Slayer nodded her head. "Finally. She was pretty shaken by that dream. Evil dream monsters." Buffy had a look of determination on her face. She was going to slay those dream monsters one of these days. "They need to meet Mr. Pointy," she finished with a smile.
Willow couldn't really concentrate on what her friend was telling her. She was worried about Tara.
Sensing this, Buffy stepped closer to the other girl. "You okay? Did something happen with Tara?"
Meeting the blonde's eyes, her own were somewhat grief stricken. "She had an emergency phone call and had to leave. There was something else, too. She was acting strange about something."
Putting her arm around Willow's shoulders, she led her into the living room again. "I'm sure it will be okay, Will. Besides, you two need to get with it. I need my vicarious smoochies!"
Bumping her hip into the Slayer's, the redhead laughed. "Why don't you go out and get your own smoochies? I'm sure there's some guy out there waiting for the Buffster to come along?"
Flopping down on the couch, she turned on the TV. "Point him out to me. My lips need some lip action."
Laughing, Willow plopped down beside Buffy on the couch and they watched TV for a while. She hoped Tara was okay. She was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.