Make your own free website on Tripod.com
| Home | Favorite Web-Sites/Links | Stories | Unfinished | Awards
New Beginnings

Happy Little Minion's Playground

New Beginnings

Happy Little Minion

Points to be noted:  Takes place shortly after school go BOOM!!  Angel and Cordy have gone off to LA… Giles is the proud new owner of the Magic Box…

 

Pairing: Buffy/Tara 

 

Summary:  Buffy comes to the aid of a young woman during a brutal attack. 

  ~HLM~

 

Patrol had been rather boring for the past few weeks.  Ever since they’d taken out the Mayor and a majority of his underlings, things had been relatively quiet in Sunnydale.  The Slayer still went out each night, but was beginning to wonder if all the vamps and demons had left town.  She’d even stopped by Willy’s just to see if she couldn’t rustle up something to beat on, the place was almost deserted.  Willy wasn’t very happy to see her, as usual, apparently most of his customers disappeared the day the Mayor went down.  Buffy couldn’t help the smirk that came over her face when Willy had mentioned that fact. 

 

She chuckled as she thought about the stricken look on his face when he’d told her.  Shaking her head Buffy picked up a stick, twirling it around as she left the cemetery heading in to town. 

 

~HLM~

 

The blonde working at a family owned grocery store closed out the register for the night, taking the drawer to the office where the owner was sitting behind his desk.  The owner took the drawer and placed it on his desk as he stood, walking the young woman to the door to lock up behind her.  She bid him goodnight when he told her to be careful on the way home.  It had become their routine for the past month and a half, ever since she’d taken the job to help pay for expenses over the summer break from school. 

 

The blonde headed towards the small apartment she’d rented after the University’s dorms closed for the summer.  It was just a small studio but it did have a kitchen, which she missed while on campus, and it was hers until school started again. 

 

That’s what she was thinking about, and what she was going to make for dinner when the six (FIVE!!) guys stepped out of an alley to surround her.  Her head snapped up in surprise having been lost in thought.  She berated herself for not paying better attention as she tried to find an opening to escape. 

 

“Well look what we have here, Boys!”  A tall, darkly dressed guy of about twenty five smirked as he looked the blonde up and down, his buddies laughing softly as they herded her towards the alley. 

 

The blonde racked her brain trying to think of something that would help her out of the situation, but fear was at the forefront. 

 

“It’s been a while since I had me a blonde.”  He grinned and grabbed the blonde’s arm pulling her further into the alley. 

 

The blonde struggled against his grip to no avail, panic setting in as she realized the danger she was in.  ‘GODDESS, HELP ME!!’  She knew there were odd things that happened in this town.  There were people disappearing or being killed every day, though no one spoke of it and went on as if nothing were unusual.  She’d seen some odd things her self, not wanting to believe her own eyes.  But now… reality was here.  She watched in horror as his face changed before her eyes, her knees going weak. 

 

The ringleader laughed and pushed the blonde towards one of the other guys, who in turn pushed her towards another. 

 

Tossed back and forth and losing her balance the blonde hit the ground, scraping her hands and elbows.  She whimpered as she was jerked back to her feet and tossed around some more.  Somewhere along the way she lost her bag. 

 

One of the guys picked up her bag and looked through it, tossing it aside when he didn’t find any money or any thing else of value to him.  “No money!  That just means we have to take something else.”  He grinned evilly as the blonde was tossed his way, his hands going to her breasts and roughly squeezing. 

 

The blonde cried out in pain as she fought to get away from the… vampires, she finally allowed herself to put a name to the faces before her.  “GODDESS, HELP MEEEE!!”  She struggled to remove his hands from her breasts as the other vamps laughed and cheered their buddy on. 

 

“Oh, a fighter, Boys!!”  The vamp holding her laughed as he finally released her, only to push her towards another. 

 

“I like a woman with spunk!”  The one who grabbed her next also grabbed a breast, as his other hand went to her crotch while he pressed his groin into her backside. 

 

“HELP MEEEEE!!”  The blonde continued to struggle and scream. 

 

One of the others moved closer and backhanded her across the face.  “No one’s gonna help you, little girl!”  He backhanded her the other way. 

 

The blonde cried out in pain again as her lip was split open from the backhands to the face, she stumbled and fell to the ground again as she was pushed towards another of the group.  Screaming and clawing out at the one who jerked her back to her feet again, she left a few gouges with her short nails along his cheek. 

 

“Fuckin’ bitch!!”  He punched her in the ribs, the sound of bones breaking and the air leaving her lungs along with the thud of fist to flesh was heard in the alley. 

 

The blonde whimpered and doubled over, she would have fallen to her knees if not for the hands roughly grabbing her to toss her against the wall of one of the buildings.  She cried out again when she hit the wall, the sound of another bone breaking as her left arm gave way when she tried to stop herself from hitting, her head also bouncing off the wall.  The blonde collapsed to the ground with a groan, as lights flashed before her eyes and she repeated a mantra in her head.  ‘Don’t pass out, don’t pass out, don’t pass out!’  Knowing if she did, she’d never wake up again. 

 

Jerked back to her feet, pain coming from everywhere now, she bit out at the arm in front of her.  Her head jerking back as she received a punch in the face for her efforts, nose now bleeding profusely.  The blonde crumbled to the ground with a groan and a thud, barely remaining conscious. 

 

Roughly pulled up from the ground again, the blonde moaned as she was tossed into a vamp’s arms, slamming against his body.  Breathing was difficult at best, the pain in her head, face, arm, and ribs excruciating. 

 

The leader of the group stepped up in front of her as she sagged in the arms of the vamp.  Grabbing her blouse, he ripped it open, her bra the next material to be shredded. 

 

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!”  She screamed and tried to fight off the hands coming at her as someone tore the button and zipper off her pants. 

 

~HLM~

 

Buffy headed towards the Magic Box not having found anything happening in any of the usual haunts.  Giles would probably be there stocking shelves or reading through the books there.  She couldn’t believe he’d bought the place, but then again, he was out of a job since they’d blown up the school. 

 

As she got closer to the Magic Box she was drawn out of her thoughts by a cry for help.  Not knowing where it came from or being able to see anything, she picked up her pace and started looking down all the alleyways as she went.  Still not seeing anything Buffy looked in the front window of the Magic Box, Giles was stocking shelves as he sang along with the stereo.  Buffy shook her head, ‘no wonder he can’t hear anything’.  She was just about to head to the door to tell him there was trouble somewhere when she heard a loud scream of ‘No’.  Buffy spun around and headed into the alley beside the shop, running towards the back alley. 

 

With one hand around the blonde’s throat, the leader of the gang literally ripped her out of the arms of his buddy and slammed her against the wall of the building.  He reached down and roughly ripped off her panties, tossing them to one of his buddies.  “Now you’re mine, Bitch!”  He sneered at her as he started unbuttoning and unzipping his own pants. 

 

“NOOOO!”  The blonde tried kicking and hitting at him, only to incite him further. 

 

He slammed his body against hers, keeping her pinned to the wall. 

 

Buffy came around the corner of the building and immediately started beating on the vamp closest to her.  As she quickly took care of him she took in the situation.  Growling at the sight before her as she realized what was happening, the Slayer kicked it up into high gear.  Seeing red as she realized these vamps were after more than just blood, she tore through the other three vamps that were finally aware of her presence. 

 

The kick to the head of the first one knocked him out and dropped him where he stood.  The second took a quick stake to the heart.  The third was slightly more ready for her, landing a couple of punches and kicks before he was nothing more than dust. 

 

Buffy growled loudly and grabbed the back of the last vamps jacket, yanking him away from the blonde and tossing him across the alley.  Buffy quickly caught the falling blonde and laid her gently on the ground.  Quickly jumping back up as she heard the vamp coming at her, Buffy spun around and nailed him in the nuts with a vicious kick from her steel-toed work boot. 

 

The vamp grabbed his crotch and dropped to his knees. 

 

Buffy did a spin kick to the side of his head with enough force to lift him off the ground and send him flying a good twenty feet.  Lunging after him and giving him another kick to the balls, Buffy grabbed his dick, snarling in his wide eyes as she twisted and pulled.  “Here, fuck this, Asshole!”  Buffy growled out angrily, shoving the torn flesh into the vampire's screaming mouth.  She grabbed him by the hair as she literally ripped his head from his body. 

 

Quickly making sure the last one still not dust was still out cold, Buffy rushed back to the blonde.  She came to a sudden stop when the blonde whimpered and tried moving away from her.  “It’s okay.  I’m not going to hurt you.”  Buffy held up her hands.  “Don’t move.”  Buffy did a quick once over of the blonde, noting the blood trailing down her hair from a head injury, the bloody nose, split lip, the red hand print on her neck, the scratches and bruises forming on her breasts, the arm cradled against her body, along with a large bruise forming on her side, which would be the reason the blonde was having difficulty breathing.  There were other scrapes and cuts on the blonde’s hands, arms, legs, and body the Slayer could see, along with blood soaking the torn clothing. 

 

Buffy quickly pulled off her oversized sweatshirt, stopping once again as she took a step closer to the blonde. 

 

The blonde whimpered and tried moving away from the woman as she tried covering herself at the same time. 

 

“Easy, I won’t hurt you.  I just want to help.”  Buffy held out her sweatshirt.  “Here, let me just cover you up a bit, then I’ll get some help.  I’m not gonna hurt you.”  Buffy slowly dropped to her knees.  “Shh.”  She slowly reached forward, staying as far back from the woman as she could and still reach her.  “I’m just going to cover you up.  I won’t hurt you, I promise.”  She had tears in her own eyes as she carefully covered the blonde as best she could with what she had. 

 

The blonde whimpered and shied away from the woman, but allowed her to place the sweatshirt over her. 

 

“Just lie still.  I’ll get some help.”  Buffy slowly moved away from the skittish woman before she turned and headed towards the back door of the Magic Box.  Finding the door locked Buffy pounded on it, knowing he probably wouldn’t hear her anyway.  “GILES!”  She spun around when she heard a groan behind her.  Striding over to the vamp that was starting to come to, she picked him up by the back of his pants and the neck of his jacket.  Carrying him over to the door of the shop, she slammed his head against it a few times before she tossed him hard against it.  The door giving way and coming off its hinges as both it and the vampire went flying into the backroom of the shop.  “GILES!”  Buffy stood in the open doorway. 

 

Giles, Willow, and Xander came running into the backroom. 

 

“Giles, I need a blanket and some towels.  Willow, Xander, tie that asshole up.  Beat the hell out of him if he gives you any trouble but don’t dust him, I want some answers out of the son of a bitch.”  Buffy rushed out as she took a few steps forward and kicked the unconscious vamp in the nuts. 

 

The other three just stood there wide eyed watching the Slayer. 

 

Buffy looked back towards her friends and growled.  “NOW!”  Before she spun around and stepped back out the door.  Stopping just outside the shop, not wanting to frighten the woman any more than she already was, Buffy waited for the blanket and towels. 

 

Giles slammed his mouth shut and quickly nudged Willow and Xander into action, before he turned and went back into the shop. 

 

Xander and Willow looked at each other before they headed towards the back door. 

 

Buffy turned when she heard them coming and held up her hands, stepping back to block the doorway.  “Just take care of him and stay inside.” 

 

“What’s going on, Buffy?”  Willow kept walking towards the Slayer and the door. 

 

Buffy growled and stepped into the room blocking Willow’s progress, holding up her hands.  “Just stay in here and take care of him!” 

 

Willow stopped in her tracks and stared at the Slayer.  “What’s going on?”  She glared back at her. 

 

“Just do as I ask for once, and don’t argue about it!”  Buffy’s hands balled into fists as she growled back at Willow. 

 

Xander took a step backwards and quickly decided to do what the Slayer asked. 

 

Willow tilted her head and frowned.  “Buffy?” 

 

“JUST DO IT, WILLOW!”  Buffy shouted at the redhead. 

 

Willow flinched back away from the angry Slayer. 

 

Giles rushed back into the backroom with the requested items.  “Buffy?”  He looked worriedly at her. 

 

“Just…”  Buffy growled and grabbed the things from Giles.  Taking a deep breath, Buffy let it out slowly.  “Just stay inside, please.”  She looked pleadingly at Willow and Xander. 

 

Xander nodded and pulled Willow back towards the vamp.  “Come on, Wil.  We’ll find out soon enough.” 

 

Buffy nodded slightly.  “Thanks, Xan.”  She turned to look up at Giles.  “Do you have your car here?” 

 

“Yes.”  Giles nodded.  “It’s out front.” 

 

“Good.”  Buffy nodded.  “Put down the top and throw a blanket across the back seat, we’ve got to get her to the hospital.”  She started to turn and stopped.  “Now, Giles.  I’ll meet you out front.” 

 

Giles had heard what she’d said to the others, stopping as he was about to follow Buffy out the back door, he nodded his head.  “I’ll have it ready.” 

 

“Thanks.”  Buffy gave him a small smile grateful not to have another argument, turning she headed back out the door. 

 

Giles turned to do as asked and stopped Willow as she was heading towards the door.  “I wouldn’t, Willow.” 

 

Buffy turned and gave Willow a serious look.  “I’ll drop you where you stand if you step foot out the door, Willow.” 

 

Willow flinched as if she’d just been slapped. 

 

“I’m serious.”  She looked from Willow to Xander and back again.  “Don’t test me on this.”  She turned to Giles. 

 

Giles nodded and turned Willow back towards the room.  “Xander, there are ropes and chains over there in the corner.”  Giles pointed towards a box in the corner.  “Use the chain for the weight bag to hang him from.”  He turned to an infuriated Willow.  “I wouldn’t push her on this, Willow, she’s deadly serious.”  Giles squeezed her shoulder.  “We’ll find out soon enough, but right now we all have something to do.”  He gave her shoulder another squeeze before heading towards the front of the shop.  “Xander, if you would, see if you can do something with the door, please?”  Giles nodded to him. 

 

Xander nodded.  “I’ll see if I can’t get it back up when we’re done with him.” 

 

“Thank you.”  Giles smiled at him and rushed out of the backroom to do as asked. 

 

Xander started dragging the box over by the chain hanging from the ceiling.  “Don’t, Willow.”  He spoke quietly as he saw Willow take a step towards the back door. 

 

Willow turned to glare at him over her shoulder before she finally huffed and spun around to help him. 

 

~HLM~

 

Buffy stepped back into the alley, freezing when terrified blue eyes shot her way as the blonde struggled frantically to get her pants back up her legs.  Buffy could see the pain and terror in the blonde’s eyes and movements, and spoke softly to her as she edged closer. 

 

The young woman continued to struggle as panic set in when she saw someone step out of the building.  It took her frantic brain a few moments to recognize the other blonde as she came towards her speaking softly.  It was the calming, soft voice that broke through to her first before she blinked and brought the woman into focus.  Stopping her struggle with the pants, the blonde whimpered as she rearranged the sweatshirt that had slipped in her efforts. 

 

“That’s it, easy.  It’s just me, I won’t hurt you.”  Buffy still kept her approach slow as she continued to speak to the injured woman.  “I’m not going to hurt you, I promise.”  Buffy stopped a few feet from the battered woman and slowly unfolded the blanket.  “I’m just going to cover you up, okay?”  Buffy kept eye contact with the terrified eyes as she slowly stepped a bit closer, stopping when the woman whimpered and shied back as best she could.  “Easy, don’t move.  Don’t hurt your self, please.  I’m not going to hurt you.  I promise, I won’t hurt you, I just want to help.” 

 

The blonde stared into the eyes of the woman for a few long moments, neither moving.  Not seeing any aggression or threat, and surprisingly a bit of fear within the hazel eyes, she apprehensively nodded slightly. 

 

Giving the woman a small, grateful smile, Buffy slowly stepped a bit closer, still keeping eye contact with the blonde.  “Thank you.”  She gently eased the blanket over the woman, seeing her flinch at the first touch but not look away.  She held the towels up.  “Can you hold this against your nose and lip to try and stop the bleeding?”  She separated the towels, holding one out to the woman. 

 

The blonde's eyes dropped briefly from Buffy’s to look at the towel before they quickly looked back to her.  She nodded slightly, pulling her arm carefully from under the blanket, tucking it under her arm before she took the towel from Buffy’s hand. 

 

Buffy gave her a reassuring smile before holding up the other towel.  “Can I check the side of your head?  You’ve got blood in your hair.” 

 

Tara apprehensively nodded again, as she flinched while pressing the towel to her damaged face. 

 

“Just lie back and relax.  I know your ribs are hurting.”  Buffy could see the strain of trying to hold her head and shoulders up was causing the woman.  “Let me put part of this under your head.”  Buffy unfolded the towel and refolded it so that she could still use the end to clear away the blood on her head, but still leave enough of a cushion for her to rest on.  “Easy does it.”  Buffy held the towel to the back of the blonde’s head and guided her down. 

 

The blonde whimpered and flinched in pain as she laid back. 

 

“I’m sorry.”  Buffy saw the pain in the blonde’s eyes.  “I’m just going to move your hair and wipe away some of the blood so I can see, okay?”  She waited until the blonde nodded slightly.  “I’ll try to be careful.”  Buffy gave her a small understanding smile, keeping eye contact as she slowly brought her other hand up near the blonde’s head before looking away to move the hair.  Buffy slowly leaned closer to see before she tried wiping away the blood. 

 

The blonde whimpered and shied away from Buffy’s hands as she wiped at the blood. 

 

Buffy stopped and looked back into the woman’s eyes.  “I’m sorry.”  Her brows furrowed at having caused the woman more pain.  “You’ve got a good sized lump there, but I think it’s just a small cut.  Just one more wipe so I can get a better look?  I promise not to press so hard.” 

 

The blonde briefly closed her eyes before opening them and nodding slightly. 

 

Buffy nodded her self before turning back to look at the side of the woman’s head.  As gently as she could she wiped away more blood getting a better look, before gently holding the towel against her head.  “It shouldn’t need any stitches, though there are a few scrapes besides the cut.”  Buffy sat back a bit and made contact with the woman’s eyes again.  Buffy looked away for a moment when she heard a car door echo down the alley. 

 

Looking back at the blonde, Buffy took a deep breath and let it out before she spoke again.  “I know you’re favoring your arm, and your ribs.  Are your legs okay?” 

 

The blonde’s eyes dropped down to the mentioned appendages before looking back up at Buffy.  Her brows furrowed as she took stock of her legs, slowly moving each one a little bit.  Letting out a small sigh, the blonde nodded at Buffy. 

 

Buffy gave her a small smile and nodded.  “That’s good.”  Buffy took a deep breath again as she looked away from the blonde and looked around the alley.  She took notice for the first time of one of the blonde’s sneakers over by the wall, and her bag with books spilling out along with a wallet lying open near it in the middle of the alley.  Buffy exhaled heavily before running a hand through her hair and looking back to the blonde. 

 

The blonde’s brows furrowed as she watched the woman, worry creeping into her eyes before the woman turned back to look at her. 

 

Buffy saw the worry and smiled nervously before sighing.  “I don’t want to scare you.”  Buffy shook her head slightly and looked sadly at the blonde.  “I’m going to wrap you up in the blanket…”  She hesitated before finishing as she looked nervously at the woman.  “But… do you want help getting your pants back up first?”  Buffy looked away momentarily as she saw the fear and embarrassment in the woman’s eyes.  “We could take them off, or leave them as they are.  I…”  She shook her head.  “I don’t want to hurt you by trying to get them up.  You’ll be covered with the blanket, anyway.”  She looked down at her hand.  “The choice is yours.  But we really should be getting you to the hospital as soon as possible.”  She looked apologetically back up to the blonde. 

 

The woman’s eyes grew wide with fright at the suggestion, but she really did want the pants back on.  Even the fear was overcome by the embarrassment she felt about having her pants down around her knees.  Seeing the knowing look in the Slayer’s eyes as they stared at each other, the blonde finally nodded slightly and mumbled behind the towel.  “U-up.”  She blushed and looked away from the Slayer with a whimper.  “P-p-please.”  She felt the tears start to fill her eyes as the thoughts of what happened, or almost happened… what would have happened, if not for the woman beside her. 

 

Buffy held on to the towel but didn’t follow as the blonde turned away from her, but it did allow her to get a better look at the bump on the side of her head.  Buffy winced when she saw it, wondering how the blonde didn’t lose consciousness just from that alone, not to mention the other damage she’d endured.  She swallowed hard as a shiver ran up her spine when she thought of what could have happened. 

 

The blonde slowly turned back to look at her savior, seeing the shiver go through her.  She was somewhat shocked at the horror she saw in the hazel eyes before her, watching as the emotions played out, and tears formed within them.  She swallowed hard as she realized they were both thinking about the same thing.  A tear slowly trailed down the blonde’s temple as she choked in a whisper, leaning lightly into the hand still holding the towel in the air.  “Thank you.” 

 

Buffy blinked and swallowed over the lump in her throat as a tear trailed down her own cheek.  “I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner.”  She reached out but hesitated as the blonde automatically flinched away before she dropped her hand again.  “Let’s get you ready to go, okay?” 

 

The blonde dropped her eyes momentarily, knowing that the woman wouldn’t hurt her.  “I’m s-sorry.”  She looked back up and nodded.  “P-please.” 

 

Buffy shook off the apology, and nodded to the other.  Dropping the end of the towel, Buffy slowly brought her hand up to brush the hair off the woman’s forehead.  “Let me do the work, okay?  Once I get them up high enough, you can lift your hips slightly…”  Buffy’s brows furrowed and she frowned.  “Or do you think you can stand for a minute, if I lift you up onto your feet?  I don’t want you to hurt your ribs.” 

 

The blonde shook her head.  “I c-can help.”  She mumbled something and slowly rose off the ground about a foot. 

 

Buffy’s eyes opened wide as she watched the woman levitate.  “You’re a witch?”  She smiled at her.  “That definitely makes it easier.” 

 

The blonde had watched the woman closely, surprised by the smile that crossed her face after the initial shock.  “W-Wiccan, yes.” 

 

“Wiccan, sorry.”  Buffy brushed her forehead again, her hand still there having moved with the Wiccan.  “I should have just said Magic user.”  She smiled at her again before she tilted her head and frowned, turning towards the alley opening.  “Stay there, Giles.”  She quickly turned back when she felt the woman’s head snap up, seeing the fear in her eyes as she searched the alley.  “He’s a friend.  He won’t come back here, I promise.”  She tried to calm the woman down as she saw her starting to shake as she stared at the alley opening. 

 

The blonde turned frightened eyes back to the Slayer as she whimpered. 

 

“I promise he won’t hurt you.”  Buffy kept eye contact with the blonde as she raised her voice a bit louder for Giles to hear her.  “He won’t come back here or I’ll kick his ass.  Just stay where you are, Giles.  Give us a few more minutes and we’ll be ready to go.” 

 

“I wasn’t going to come back there.  I was just going to ask if you needed any help.”  Giles spoke softly as he stayed well within the alleyway knowing the Slayer would hear him. 

 

“I’ll let you know when we’re ready.  Then you can pick up her things for us.”  She shook her head slightly.  “Let’s get you situated, okay?”  She brushed her forehead again before pulling her hand away. 

 

The blonde still looked fearful, but nodded. 

 

“Any cuts or anything that I have to be extra careful about?”  Buffy asked trying to distract the woman who kept looking back and forth between her and the alley. 

 

The blonde focused in on the woman and blinked a couple times.  “Wh-what?” 

 

Buffy smiled softly at her.  “I don’t want to hurt you.  Are there any cuts or anything I should be extra careful to avoid?” 

 

“Umm…”  The blonde blinked again and looked down at her legs.  “J-just on m-my knees, I th-think.”  She looked back to the Slayer and shook her head slightly. 

 

Buffy nodded and smiled softly.  “I’ll be careful.  Are you ready?”  She didn’t move until the blonde nodded nervously.  “I’m going to stick my leg under you and hook my foot over your shoulder so you don’t end up floating away on me.  Okay?” 

 

The Wiccan looked confused for a moment then understood what the Slayer was saying and nodded.  She lowered herself slightly back towards the ground. 

 

“That should be good.”  Buffy smiled at her as she stuck her leg under the woman, hooking her foot over her right shoulder.  “Let me know if I start to cause you any pain.”  She reached under the blanket, turning her head to see where the pants were located by the lumps in the blanket as she reached under the woman with one hand.  Finding the waistband, Buffy turned to look in the woman’s eyes as she carefully worked the pants back up into place.  “You okay?”  She asked softly as she dipped a bit lower to try reaching up to close them as best she could over the front of the woman. 

 

The blonde nodded and closed her eyes, finally releasing the breath she’d been unconsciously holding. 

 

Buffy smiled softly as she straightened back up, having heard the sigh of relief.  “Can you hold your arm while I wrap the blanket around you?” 

 

The blonde nodded and slowly pulled the towel away from her face. 

 

Buffy shifted to get a better look at her nose and lip.  “They’re still bleeding some, but they’ve almost stopped.”  She took the towel from the blond and dropped it on the ground.  “We’ll swap towels in a minute.”  She softly caressed the woman’s cheek before she shifted back to wrap the blanket. 

 

The blonde held her wrist gently, holding her arm in place below the blanket. 

 

“Can you move your arm in a little?  Just so I don’t jostle it when I carry you out to the car.”  Buffy winced as she heard the woman whimper.  “I’m sorry.” 

 

Tara shook her head slightly, her eyes filled with pain. 

 

“Tell me if I hurt you.”  Buffy reached under the woman with the closest side of the blanket and frowned for a moment.  “I’m going to shift this around a bit, okay?” 

 

The blonde nodded, releasing her arm until the woman nodded before holding it again. 

 

Buffy quickly wrapped the blanket as tightly as she dared around the woman.  “Ready to go?”  She reached down for the other towel, placing it on the woman’s abdomen just below her hand. 

 

The woman nodded, whimpering slightly as the Slayer lifted her into her arms, shifting her into a slight sitting position. 

 

“You know, you’re awfully lightweight.”  Buffy winked at the Wiccan as she headed out of the alley. 

 

The Wiccan’s lip twitched slightly before she grabbed for the towel to place back on her face. 

 

Buffy spoke a bit louder for Giles to hear.  “Giles, will you come get her things, please?  We’ll meet you in the car.”  She kept eye contact with the blonde as she stopped and waited for Giles to make a wide circle of them. 

 

The blonde’s eyes widened but remained on the woman, trusting in her. 

 

Buffy got them to the car, climbing over the side and lowering them both to the back seat still cradling the Wiccan. 

 

~HLM~

 

Giles slowly approached the car carrying the backpack. 

 

Buffy looked up and nodded slightly as she saw Giles hesitate before looking back into the blue eyes of the woman.  “Giles is going to drive us to the hospital.  I’m Buffy, by the way.”  She gave the blonde a small smile as she moved her arm from below the Wiccan’s legs.  Bringing her hand up, Buffy carefully brought the blanket up higher over the blonde’s chest and shoulder. 

 

“T-tara.”  She looked gratefully at Buffy for covering her before she stiffened when Giles came into view. 

 

“Easy, Tara.  He’s a friend.”  Buffy slowly brought her hand up to brush the hair off Tara’s face.  “He won’t hurt you, I promise.”  Buffy held eye contact with the woman, dropping her hand to rub her upper arm in reassurance as Giles got in the car.  Buffy could feel Tara start to shake, her eyes opening wider as Giles got behind the wheel.  “Shh.  It’ll be okay, I promise.”  She continued to gently rub the Wiccan’s upper arm. 

 

Tara continued to stare into Buffy’s eyes, the fear in her own slowly easing away and she stopped shaking. 

 

Giles set the backpack on the passenger seat and started the car, whispering softly as he pulled away from the alley.  “According to her student ID, I believe she was in the shop earlier today.  I think she’s a witch, Buffy.”  He glanced up into the rearview mirror momentarily before looking back to the road. 

 

“It’s possible she was in the shop, Giles.  She prefers Wiccan to witch, and she is.  It would also help if you stopped whispering so she doesn’t think I’m nuts talking to my self.”  She smiled at Tara. 

 

Tara’s eyes opened wide and shifted back and forth between Buffy and Giles as Buffy spoke.  Her brows furrowed as she looked at Giles profile, slowly recognition registering as she turned back to Buffy. 

 

Buffy nodded.  “That’s Giles, he just bought the Magic Box.”  She smirked as mischief showed in her eyes.  “He’s a stuffy old British guy who likes drinking tea, but he’s okay in the long run if you can get over that fact.”  She winked at Tara before she looked up to meet eyes with Giles in the rearview mirror, grinning at him. 

 

Giles rolled his eyes after glaring at Buffy before he mumbled.  “Thank you so much for that glowing recommendation to my character.” 

 

Buffy chuckled softly, winking as she turned back to the blonde.  “Any time, Giles.  Always glad to help out.” 

 

Tara smiled at the camaraderie between the two, wincing as she pulled at her split lip. 

 

Buffy saw the flinch.  “Sorry.”  She smiled at the Wiccan as she felt her relax a bit more in her arms. 

 

Tara shook her head slightly to the apology.  “I l-like tea, t-too.”  She winced again, her soft chuckle turning into a moan at the Slayer’s reaction. 

 

Buffy groaned softly and rolled her eyes.  “Found you another tea lover, Giles.”  She whimpered slightly. 

 

Tara could still see the twinkle in the hazel eyes and winced again behind the towel. 

 

“No smiling.”  Buffy smiled softly at the Wiccan seeing her flinch again. 

 

Tara nodded slightly and closed her eyes as she laid her head against Buffy’s shoulder, whimpering and readjusting it slightly to not have pressure on the lump. 

 

“Careful.”  Buffy brought her hand up to gently run through the blonde’s hair as she rested against her.  “We’ll be at the hospital soon.”  She felt the blonde stiffen at the words, dropping her hand to rub her arm reassuringly again.  “Shh.”  Buffy carefully rested her head against Tara’s.  “I’ll stay with you as long as they let me.” 

 

“Thank you.”  Tara whispered softly as she released the towel, which stayed in place, as she put her hand on Buffy’s other shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze as she started shaking again at the thought of being in the hospital. 

 

Buffy looked up with sad eyes to meet Giles’ concerned eyes in the mirror.   

 

~HLM~

 

Giles pulled into the hospital lot, parked, and shut off the engine.  He stayed sitting behind the wheel as he pulled out Tara’s wallet, handing it back to Buffy.  “You may need this.” 

 

Buffy nodded slightly, her head still against Tara’s as she took the wallet from him.  Setting the wallet on Tara’s lap, she felt her jump slightly at the touch.  “I’m sorry.  It’s just your wallet.”  She brought her hand up to rub the Wiccan’s arm.  “We’re here, but you knew that.”  Buffy could feel the Wiccan’s shaking getting worse as Tara’s grip tightened on her shoulder.  “Let’s get you inside.”  She put her hand below the Wiccan’s legs, slowly pushed herself up using her legs and pressing into the back of the seat until she was up enough to put her foot onto the seat.  Sitting on the back of the seat, Buffy shifted over to the side of the car and climbed out with Tara still in her arms.  She stood looking at Giles, fire in her eyes as she growled out.  “Make sure that bastard doesn’t get loose, Giles.  I want some answers before I stuff his balls down his throat and end his miserable existence on this planet.” 

 

Giles flinched at the look in Buffy’s eyes, his brows furrowing at the venom in her words.  Knowing better than question her at this point, Giles nodded.  “I’ll make sure he stays put, Buffy.” 

 

Buffy nodded and looked back down at Tara.  Taking a deep breath and releasing some of the tension in her body, she spoke softly to the woman.  “Is there anyone you want Giles to call so they know where you’re at?”  She frowned and her brows furrowed at the reaction from the blonde. 

 

Tara whimpered and held tighter to the Slayer, shaking her head.  “N-n-no!” 

 

Still frowning, Buffy looked back up at Giles.  “They’ll have to take a few x-rays and put some stitches in before they fix up her arm, ribs and nose.”  She frowned again as she looked down at the shaking woman in her arms.  “They’ll probably want to keep her overnight due to the concussion I think she has.”  She leaned her head against Tara’s as she lifted her eyes to Giles.  “I’ll call and let you know what’s happening when I can.” 

 

Tara whimpered and held tighter to the Slayer, groaning at the movement of her arm and ribs but refusing to lose the safety she felt with the woman. 

 

“Easy, don’t hurt yourself.”  Buffy whispered softly as her eyes filled with tears.  Lifting her eyes to look sadly at Giles one more time, Buffy turned and headed into the hospital. 

 

Giles sat and watched them walk away.  Wondering what had brought out the very protective stance the Slayer was taking with the young woman.  He ran what he did know of the woman’s injuries and what Buffy had said back through his head.  Shivering as his eyes opened wide at the possibility that came to mind, Giles growled softly him self as he turned to start the car.  “Bloody Hell!” 

 

~HLM~

 

Buffy walked through the automatic doors of the ER, eyes quickly scanning the area.  Growling loudly at anyone who came near them, Buffy’s eyes settled on a blonde leaning against the counter writing on a chart. 

 

“Miss!  Miss, can I help you?”  Another nurse tried getting Buffy’s attention as she ignored her and headed towards a familiar face.  She made the mistake of putting a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. 

 

Buffy turned her head and growled loudly at the nurse.  “Back off!” 

 

The frightened nurse pulled her hand back and stepped back from Buffy. 

 

The blonde at the admit desk looked up at the commotion, flinching slightly when the angry woman looked back her way.  Her brows furrowing for a moment before recognition finally came to her.  Nodding slightly to the small blonde, she turned and spoke to the other nurse, giving her a smile.  “I’ll take care of this one, Sally.”  She turned back to Buffy and nodded her head.  “This way.”  She grabbed a blank chart off the desk, turned and headed to one of the triage rooms. 

 

Buffy followed the blonde nurse, hesitating in the doorway as the nurse put the clipboard on the counter and grabbed a sheet to toss on the exam table.  She shook her head as the nurse turned and headed her way. 

 

Nurse White nodded and stepped back away from the couple.  Having seen first hand the small blonde lay out a large male orderly before, she wasn’t going to aggravate the woman.  “I’ll go get a doctor.”  She waited for Buffy to move out of the doorway before she quickly headed for the door. 

 

“Wait!”  Buffy looked over her shoulder at the nurse.  “Can you get a couple of icepacks first, please?  She’s got a good sized bump on the head, and possibly a broken nose…”  She frowned and looked down at Tara.  “Among other things.” 

 

Nodding, Nurse White stepped back over to the counter, opening a door.  She pulled out the requested icepacks, snapping them to activate before placing them on a tray stand by the bed.  “Can you fill out the paperwork?”  She watched as the small blonde whispered something to the woman in her arms. 

 

“You’re going to have to release the spell, Tara.”  Buffy whispered to Tara as she walked around the exam table to set her down.  Looking back up at the nurse, Buffy shook her head.  “I have her wallet, but that’s about all I know.” 

 

The nurse nodded in understanding.  “Ask about allergies or any medication she’s on.  I’ll be back in a minute.”  She watched as Buffy carefully placed Tara on the table, wincing her self at the whimper that came from the injured woman.  “X-rays?”  She asked softly as she took the wallet Buffy held out to her.  

 

“I’m sorry.”  Buffy frowned having cause the woman more pain again.  Nodding as she handed the wallet to the nurse.  “Left arm, ribs, and head to start with.”  She tried to get Tara to release her hold on her, before finally gently prying her hand off her shoulder.  “Easy, Tara, I’m not going anywhere.”  The last part she narrowed her eyes at the nurse, letting her know there would be no arguing about her staying. 

 

The nurse took a deep breath and blew it out slowly before nodding.  She could see the injured woman shaking, and her desperate attempt to keep the smaller blonde close.  “You’re a pain in the ass, you know that, right?”  The nurse smiled at Buffy. 

 

Buffy chuckled softly.  “You know what happens when I don’t get my way, don’t you?” 

 

The nurse chuckled softly and winked at Buffy.  “That I do.”  She gave Tara a quick once over of what she could see of her before looking back to Buffy.  “Put the ice on, I’ll be back in a minute.”  She headed out the door. 

 

Buffy nodded, releasing Tara’s hand she reached for the icepacks. 

 

Tara whimpered and grabbed Buffy’s tank top. 

 

“Shh.  I’m not going anywhere.”  Buffy ran her other hand through Tara’s hair. 

 

Tara slowly lowered her head to the table, blinking frightened eyes open to look at Buffy.  

 

Buffy gave her a smile, moving only as far as Tara’s hold would allow.  “Let’s see if we can’t get some of the swelling to go down.”  She gently removed the towel that was now partially covering Tara’s face, having fallen there as the Wiccan laid back.  Frowning at the bruising she could see below the smeared blood on the blonde’s face.  Buffy gently cleaned away what she could without causing the woman any more pain.  “I think you’re going to end up looking like a raccoon.”  Buffy mumbled softly as she gently placed the icepack on Tara’s face, laying it against the side of her nose, cheek and lip, having seen the bruise forming on her cheek from a fist. 

 

Tara groaned softly at the comment. 

 

Buffy gave her an embarrassed smile as she picked up the other icepack.  “You can set a new trend.” 

 

Tara rolled her eyes.  “Being a tr-trendsetter, j-just what I a-always wanted.” 

 

Buffy chuckled softly and gently caught the icepack that slipped from Tara’s face.  “Think you’re going to have to hold that on there.”  She gently replaced the pack.  “Or turn your head that way a bit.”  She realized Tara wasn’t letting go of her shirt. 

 

Tara turned her head slightly but kept her eyes on Buffy. 

 

Buffy smiled softly at the Wiccan.  “If you let go, I’ll move to the other side.”  She brushed Tara’s hair back before gently placing the other icepack against the side of her head.  She didn’t miss the eyes opening wide, the blush, or the reluctant release of her shirt. 

 

Tara closed her eyes and turned her head slightly further away from Buffy, knowing that she wouldn’t miss the heat she felt coloring her face. 

 

Buffy chuckled softly and guided Tara’s hand up to hold the icepack against her head for a moment.  “Hold onto that for a sec.”  Buffy moved to the other side of the exam table, moving the tray table up to the head of the table and grabbing the rolling stool from by the counter.  Buffy sat down by Tara’s shoulder, placing her arm around the top of her head she held the icepack in place, and took Tara’s hand in her other.  “How’s that?”  Buffy smiled at Tara when she opened her eyes. 

 

Tara blushed again when she opened her eyes, looking into Buffy’s not more than a foot away before she dropped her eyes away.  “Th-thank you.”   

 

Buffy shook off the thanks and gently squeezed Tara’s hand.  “That’s what I’m here for.”  She readjusted their hands so they were more comfortable, pulling the back of Tara’s against her chest.  “Just so I’m not slacking off, are you allergic to anything, or taking any medication?” 

 

“Shrimp, and no.”  Tara answered just as softly as Buffy had spoken as she brought her eyes back to Buffy’s. 

 

“That must suck when you go to a Chinese restaurant, they like putting shrimp in a lot of things.”  Buffy gave Tara a gentle smile. 

 

Tara shook her head slightly.  “I d-don’t g-go out m-much.”  She lightly blushed again as she dropped her eyes from Buffy’s. 

 

Buffy’s brows drew at the blush and stutter, not really having noticed it before.  “If it wasn’t for mom, I’d be eating take-out a lot.” 

 

“You d-don’t cook?”  Tara raised her brow as she looked back up to Buffy. 

 

Chuckling softly Buffy whispered conspiratorially as her eyes twinkled.  “That’s not quite what they call what I do in the kitchen.”  She winked at Tara.  “Usually they just call the Fire Department.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly and moaned when she smiled, pulling at her torn lip.  “I was g-going to m-make fettuccine Alfredo…”  Tara trailed off. 

 

Buffy groaned, closed her eyes and licked her lips.  “From a jar, or from scratch?”  She raised both brows as she opened her eyes.  “And is the Fire Department involved?” 

 

Tara chuckled, careful of her lip this time.  “Scratch, and no.” 

 

Buffy whimpered and squeezed Tara’s hand gently as she put on her best pleading puppy look.  “If I followed you home, would you feed me?” 

 

“Yes.”  Tara didn’t hesitate in her simple answer as she brushed her thumb on the back of Buffy’s hand. 

 

Buffy gave Tara a beautiful smile, not noticing the slight, quick inhale of the Wiccan.  “I’m holding you to that.”  Buffy’s smile dimmed a bit.  “Just as soon as you’re able to move around better, I’ll be following you home and scratching at your door.”  She tossed the last part on to keep the conversation light. 

 

Tara nodded slightly.  “You’re on.” 

 

Buffy grinned again.  “Better make a big pot of it.”  She chuckled softly.  “You don’t know what you just agreed to.” 

 

Tara raised a brow watching the grin on Buffy’s face before her eyes dropped to scan what she could see of the woman’s body.  “Are you trying to t-tell me you eat as much as the f-football team?”  Tara looked back to Buffy’s eyes with cynical ones of her own. 

 

Buffy grinned even wider as she nodded.  “And then some.” 

 

Tara whimpered softly as she closed her eyes and mumbled.  “I’m going to h-have to buy a b-bigger pot.” 

 

Buffy chuckled and squeezed Tara’s hand.  “I’ll steal one of mom’s for the occasion.” 

 

Tara opened her eyes and nodded.  “Then I’ll b-be able to afford more f-food to f-fill you up.” 

 

“As long as you’re feeding me, I’ll chip in so you don’t go broke.”  Buffy winked at Tara. 

 

Tara shook her head slightly.  “It’s the l-l-least I c-can d-do.  I o-owe you…”  She trailed off as her eyes filled with tears and Buffy shook her head. 

 

Buffy squeezed Tara’s hand and shook her head.  “You don’t owe me anything, Tara.  I’m glad I was around.”  Buffy dropped her eyes for a moment before looking guiltily back up at Tara.  “I’m just sorry I wasn’t there sooner.” 

 

Tara shook her head and squeezed Buffy’s hand.  “D-don’t.”  A tear left Tara’s eye to roll down her temple.  “I w-wouldn’t be h-here, if it w-weren’t f-for you.”  Tara whimpered and shivered as she closed her eyes.  “I-it c-c-could’ve b-been so m-much w-w-worse.”  She opened haunted, tear filled eyes to look at Buffy.  “S-so much w-worse.” 

 

Buffy shook her head.  “It wasn’t!”  Then her eyes opened wide in horror as she choked out breathlessly.  “Was it?” 

 

Tara shook her head vehemently dislodging the icepacks, and moaning at the added pain.  “No!”  She squeezed Buffy’s hand.  “Th-thank Goddess, no.” 

 

Buffy let out a whimper/sigh combination as she dropped her head to Tara’s shoulder.  “Thank God.” 

 

Tara squeezed the Slayer’s hand and gently kissed the top of her head.  “And you.”  Tara suddenly stiffened and whimpered as she caught movement at the door. 

 

Buffy quickly lifted her head to look at Tara before quickly looking towards the door.  Sighing and slowly releasing the tension in her body as she saw Nurse White looking like a deer caught in the headlights before she released her breath and headed towards the counter behind her.  “It’s okay.”  She squeezed Tara’s hand as she turned back to her.  “It’s okay.”  Buffy smiled softly at Tara.  “I think we scared her as much as she scared us.” 

 

Nurse White chuckled softly.  “I remember what happens to people who piss you off.”  She grinned over at Buffy as she picked up the chart and Tara’s wallet.  “I was there when you laid out the orderly.” 

 

Buffy blushed and mumbled.  “He shouldn’t have tried stopping me.” 

 

Nurse White laughed and stepped over by Buffy’s side.  “You shouldn’t have tried leaving with your ass hanging out and the IV dragging behind you.” 

 

Buffy chuckled softly.  “I don’t like hospitals.” 

 

“Or the employees.”  She squeezed Buffy’s shoulder as she smiled at Tara.  “How are you doing, Miss Maclay?” 

 

“B-been b-better.”  Tara nervously answered. 

 

“And hopefully will be again soon.”  She squeezed Buffy’s shoulder again.  “I’m going to have to take your blood pressure.”  She scanned Tara’s face quickly.  “Okay if I get a closer look at those, see what we’ll be needing?”  She nodded towards Tara’s head. 

 

Tara nodded slightly as she squeezed Buffy’s hand. 

 

Buffy brought her other hand up to gently rub up and down Tara’s arm as she gave her a reassuring smile.  “She has a surprisingly gently touch for a Pit Bull.” 

 

“Hey!”  Nurse White glared at Buffy as she walked around the table, noting the lost sneaker in the process.  “You’re the Pit Bull.  I’m just the cuddly little puppy.”  She winked at Tara as she set the chart and wallet on the head of the table. 

 

Buffy chuckled and smiled at Tara.  “She’s harmless until provoked.” 

 

Tara kept eye contact with Buffy as the nurse gently parted her hair to look at her head. 

 

“That’s true.  When provoked I clamp my little teeth in you and shake the hell out of you.”  She gently probed around the lump before lightly pressing on Tara’s cheek.  “I’m sorry, Honey.”  She spoke softly as Tara flinched and whimpered softly.  “I know it hurts, but I have to check.”  She moved down to check Tara’s lip. 

 

Buffy flinched every time Tara did.  Growling softly at the nurse she never let her eyes leave Tara’s. 

 

“I’ll leave your nose alone where it’s stopped bleeding.  I’ll let the doctor get bitten by the growling one over there for that.”  She gently placed the icepacks back in place.  “Pit Bull, hold this, please?”  She winked at Buffy. 

 

Buffy growled at her and snapped her teeth as she moved her hand to hold the icepack against Tara’s head. 

 

Nurse White chuckled and picked up the chart.  “Behave!” 

 

Tara whimpered as her eyes glued themselves to the doorway, squeezing the Slayer’s hand tightly. 

 

Buffy stopped growling at the nurse and looked down at Tara, seeing the fright in her eyes she looked towards the door and started growling loudly. 

 

“Down, Fido, that’s the doctor.”  Nurse White chuckled softly. 

 

Spinning her head to glare and growl at the nurse, Buffy actually snarled at her. 

 

Nurse White froze for a moment seeing the venom in the woman’s eyes, the smile dropping off her face.  “Or… maybe not.” 

 

“Get him out of here!”  Buffy growled out between clamped teeth before turning her head back to the doctor.  As the doctor stepped further into the room, Buffy released the icepack and turned to face the doctor.  Her growl getting louder, she took a step towards him. 

 

The doctor stopped and glared him self.  “You’re not allowed in here, you’ll have to leave.” 

 

Buffy took another step, her arm stretching out behind her as Tara still had a death grip on her hand. 

 

Nurse White hurried around to step between the two of them.  “Can I see you out in the hall for a moment, Dr. Richards?”  She put a hand on his arm to guide him out into the hall. 

 

Pulling his arm out of the nurse’s hand, Dr. Richards glared at her.  “You don’t tell me what to do in my Department, Nurse White.  Now get her out of here so I can examine the patient.” 

 

“I’m sure the Head of the Department will be happy to hear you’re in charge, Dr. Richards.  Now get your ass out in the hall before I turn the little terror loose on you.”  She glared right back at the seething doctor and took him by the arm again. 

 

Pulling his arm away again, his face turning red with fury, Dr. Richards leaned down into the nurse’s face.  “You don’t run this place, Nurse White, need I remind you of that fact.” 

 

“And neither do you, Doctor.  Now get your ass out in the hall before I tell Dr. Black that you were fucking with one of her patients!”  Nurse White stepped into his personal space as she growled at him her self, tossing the chart onto the counter. 

 

The doctor’s eyes opened a bit wider when he heard that fact, being somewhat fearful of Dr. Black, but still not wanting to be cowed.  “Dr. Black is not a part of this department.” 

 

“No, but she will be here shortly to tear you a new one if you go anywhere near a private patient of hers.  Now get out!”  Nurse White gave him a shove towards the door.  “Go find a sliver to pull, or a boil to lance.”  She kept advancing towards the off balance doctor. 

 

“I’ll be making a report of this incident!”  Red faced with fury, he growled loudly at the nurse.  “Your ass will be out of here faster then an enema, Bitch!”  He spun on his heels and stomped out of the room. 

 

“You’re a lowly Intern, you pompous ass!”  Nurse White loudly shut the door behind him, growling loudly.  “Fucking Interns with God complexes!!”  She angrily grabbed the phone off the wall and punched in a number before slamming it back onto the receiver. 

 

Buffy raised a brow and grinned at the fiery blonde nurse when she turned back around.  “Problem?” 

 

Nurse White growled at the woman before she took a deep breath and ran her hands through her hair.  “I hate the little bastards!  They think they’re God!!”  She took another deep breath and let it out slowly.  “They’re worse then hemorrhoids, at least you can have those removed!”  She softened her look as her eyes traveled to the frightened blonde on the exam table.  “Are you okay, Honey?” 

 

Buffy turned back to the shaking Wiccan, worriedly looking into her eyes as she stepped back closer to her.  “Tara?” 

 

Tara’s lip started to tremble as her eyes filled with tears. 

 

“Hey, none of that, now.  You’ll only hurt your self.”  Buffy caught the tear that ran down Tara’s temple before she ran her fingers through Tara’s hair.  “I promise once they fix you up to where your innards aren’t moving around on you, you can do all of that that you want.  I’ll even give you the shoulder to lean on.”  Buffy smiled at her and winked.  “Least I can do, seeing as how you’re going to feed me at some point in the future.” 

 

Tara closed her eyes and nodded, trying to get her emotions back under control, knowing the woman was right about the pain crying would cause at the moment.  “Alfredo from scratch.” 

 

Buffy licked her lips.  “Hell, I’d settle for Alfredo from a jar.”  She smiled as Tara shook her head slightly. 

 

“Not unless I’m in a rush.”  Tara opened her eyes to look into Buffy’s. 

 

Buffy grinned.  “I’ll make sure you aren’t.”  She chuckled softly.  “I’d offer to help, but I’d probably ruin it somehow.” 

 

Tara’s lip twitched slightly as she nodded.  “Kitchen deficient, I heard.” 

 

Buffy pouted as best she could.  “I can make microwave popcorn.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly.  “We can have that for dessert.” 

 

Buffy smiled.  “Most of the time I don’t even burn it anymore.” 

 

Tara groaned softly and rolled her eyes.  “I’ll have something on hand as a replacement, just in case.”  She gave the Slayer a small smile, so as not to pull on her split lip. 

 

“I can pick something up.  Not made by me, so it’ll be safe to eat.”  Buffy smiled at her. 

 

Tara jumped when the phone on the wall rang. 

 

“Sorry!”  Nurse White who had been watching the pair spun around and grabbed it.  “ER 6.”  There was moment of silence as she listened to whoever was on the other end.  “Get your mind out of the gutter and get your ass down here, Dr. Black!”  She hung up the phone and chuckled softly as she turned around, shrugging slightly at the raised brow from Buffy.  “Let me get in there and take her BP before the loony one shows up.”  She headed over to grab the BP cuff. 

 

“Great, what now?”  Buffy shook her head and turned back to Tara, seeing the fear in her eyes again.  “I won’t let anyone hurt you, I promise.”  She ran her fingers through Tara’s hair and squeezed her hand. 

 

Tara lowered her eyes and whispered barely audible.  “I’m sorry.” 

 

“Shh, nothing to be sorry for, Tara.”  Buffy squeezed her hand again before she released it as Nurse White stepped over beside her, Buffy stepped out of the way but remained close. 

 

Nurse White smiled and patted Tara’s arm before she put the cuff on.  “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”  She chuckled softly.  “She’s just a 6’ little kid, that I think should be medicated on occasion.”  She winked at Tara as she inflated the cuff and put the earpieces of her stethoscope in her ears. 

 

Buffy groaned.  “God, I hope it’s not who I think it is.”  She looked pleadingly at Nurse White. 

 

Nurse White just chuckled softly.  “Could be.”  She slowly let the air out of the cuff watching the gauge, and smiling at Tara as she took the cuff off. 

 

Buffy scrubbed her face and smiled at Tara.  “Either that, or she self medicates.”  She chuckled softly when Nurse White started laughing. 

 

“I promise she doesn’t, unfortunately for the rest of us, that’s her normal behavior.”  She winked at Buffy. 

 

Buffy groaned again as she rolled her eyes, but couldn’t keep her lips from twitching into a smile as she took up her place beside Tara again. 

 

Nurse White was writing on the chart when the door opened and 6’ foot of someone quickly backed into the room, she stepped closer and shook her head. 

 

Dr. Black quickly opened the door and backed into room 6, poking her head back out the door to look both ways before she hurriedly pulled it back in and quickly shut the door.  She jumped and smacked her forehead on the closed door when she was hit in the ass.  Quickly spinning and grabbing Nurse White in her arms.  “So, you wanna play the kinky nurse and play with the doctor, huh?”  She grinned and wiggled her eyebrows as her hands roamed. 

 

“I told you to get your mind out of the gutter.  Now get your hands off my ass and play doctor for real.”  Nurse White smacked Dr. Black on the shoulder and then grabbed her chin to turn her head in the direction of the exam table. 

 

Dr. Black jumped slightly and quickly pulled her hands off Nurse White’s ass when she saw Buffy glaring at her with a raised brow, and the scared blonde lying on the table.  She blushed and whispered out the side of her mouth.  “You could have warned me, ya’ know.” 

 

Nurse White shook her head again and smacked her lightly on the stomach.  “I told ya’ to get your mind outta the gutter.”  She shrugged and headed over to the cabinets to pull out supplies. 

 

Dr. Black shrugged and mumbled as she walked over to the sink to wash her hands.  “You’re always telling me that, how was I supposed to know.” 

 

Buffy turned back to roll her eyes at Tara.  “And so it begins.”  She gave her a soft smile. 

 

Tara nodded slightly as her eyes watched the doctor. 

 

“I wouldn’t have to keep telling you if it wasn’t always there.”  Nurse White grinned at Dr. Black. 

 

Dr. Black shrugged at Nurse White as she dried her hands.  “Can’t help it.”  She winked at her and grinned again before she turned to head to the exam table.  “So, what ya’ got for me?  A bowel resection, lobotomy, oh, a sex change operation?  I always wanted to do one of those.” 

 

Buffy started growling as she glared at the doctor as Tara squeezed her hand tightly. 

 

“JESS!”  Nurse White tossed a prepackaged kit at the doctor, none to gently. 

 

Dr. Black fumbled and finally caught the kit.  “HEY!  There are sharp pointy things in some of these.  I could get hurt, you know?”  She tried glaring at the nurse. 

 

Nurse White shook her head and nodded to the kit in the doctor’s hands. 

 

Dr. Black frowned and looked down at the kit.  Groaning softly, she sighed and looked at the fuming woman and frightened blonde on the exam table.  “Sorry, bad timing for bad jokes.”  She gave them an embarrassed smile as she set the kit on the tray by the head of the bed. 

 

Buffy growled at her again before she looked to see what the kit was.  Paling at the rape kit, Buffy shook her head.  “You won’t need that.”  She ran her fingers through Tara’s hair.  “Thank God, you won’t need it.”  She whispered softly as she looked sadly into Tara’s eyes. 

 

Tara raised a brow in question, closing her eyes as she figured it out when Buffy just shook her head and squeezed her hand, a shiver going through her.  “Thank the Goddess, no.”  She whispered softly. 

 

Both Dr. Black and Nurse White let out sighs of relief. 

 

Buffy looked up and growled softly at the doctor again.  “Hurt her, I hurt you, understand?” 

 

Dr. Black’s eyes opened wide as she looked at the fire in the woman’s eyes, believing what she said as the truth.  Then her brows furrowed and her eyes narrowed.  “Hey!  I know you!”  She pointed at the still growling Buffy, pulling her hand back quickly as Buffy snapped at her finger.  “Yep!  That’s what I remember.”  She growled back at her herself.  “Here for another distemper shot, are ya’?”  She snickered as the feisty woman growled louder.  “Make that two shots for her, Britt.  And maybe a tranquilizer, too.”  She mumbled the last part as she started to gently check out Tara’s injuries. 

 

Buffy snapped her teeth at her again.  “When did they let you out of the psych ward, anyway?”  She noticed what the doctor was doing, and looked down to see Tara’s eyes turning back to her, she winked. 

 

“Hey!  I’ll have you know I have my discharge papers right here!”  Dr. Black reached into her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper, waving it in Buffy’s face.  “So, there!”  She smirked at Buffy. 

 

Buffy grabbed her wrist as she went to pull her hand back, and snorted.  “It’s written in crayon!  What, they wouldn’t let you play with the sharper writing utensils up there?”  Buffy smirked back as she let the doctor pull her hand away. 

 

“Couldn’t find any.”  Jess pouted and mumbled.  She winked at Tara, putting the paper back in her pocket and pulling out a penlight.  She bent closer and gently lifted and held each eyelid, checking her pupils for their reactions.  Putting the penlight away, she carefully looked at Tara’s lip.  “You’re going to need a few stitches to keep that closed.” 

 

“Jess, please tell me you weren’t upstairs stealing candy from the kids, again?”  Nurse White sighed as she stepped over beside Buffy. 

 

Jess ducked her head, long black hair falling forward as she shook it.  “You said I couldn’t.”  She mumbled softly as she gently checked Tara’s nose. 

 

Britt groaned softly.  “Since when has that stopped you?” 

 

Tara whimpered softly and flinched back away from the probing hands. 

 

Buffy started growling softly. 

 

“Sorry, but I had to check.”  Dr. Black patted Tara shoulder lightly.  Looking back up, she growled softly at Buffy in response to her growling. 

 

“Play nice you two.”  Nurse White squeezed Buffy’s shoulder. 

 

“She started it.”  Jess pointed at Buffy, pulling her hand back quickly as Buffy snapped at her finger. 

 

“And I’m ending it.”  She handed the suture kit and a hypodermic needle over to Dr. Black.  “Stick out your tongue.” 

 

Jess grabbed the things from Britt and ducked her head again at the request.  “Uh-uh.”  She set the kit on the tray stand and took the cover off the needle. 

 

Buffy growled a bit louder. 

 

“Is this the distemper shot?”  Jess looked up and grinned at Buffy. 

 

Buffy started snarling and snapping her teeth. 

 

“Remember the story I told you about Big John?”  Nurse White smirked and looked from Jess to Buffy, winking at the woman. 

 

“What, that someone laid him out in the hallway?”  Jess asked as she injected Tara’s lip, flinching as the blonde whimpered and tried to pull away.  “Sorry, I know this hurts worse than the stitches will.”  She turned and growled at Buffy as the Slayer growled louder and glared at her. 

 

“Jess?”  Nurse White tried to break the stare down between the two. 

 

“Yes, Dear?”  Jess smiled at Britt. 

 

Britt rolled her eyes.  “Be nice, or I’ll introduce you to the little blonde that knocked him out with one punch.”  She squeezed Buffy’s shoulder again. 

 

Buffy turned and raised a brow at Nurse White. 

 

Nurse White grinned and nodded.  “The orderly.” 

 

Buffy chuckled and turned back to Jess. 

 

“I’m not afraid!”  Jess stuck her nose in the air and squared her shoulders as she put the cap back on the needle and tossed it into the hazardous waste bin. 

 

Nurse White chuckled softly.  “You should be.  Now stick out your tongue.”  She raised a brow at Jess. 

 

Jess shook her head and mumbled.  “Isn’t that what I’m supposed to say to the patient?”  She looked down at Tara and winked. 

 

“Jessica!”  Nurse White narrowed her eyes at the doctor. 

 

“Uh oh!”  Jess dropped her head, sticking just the tip of her tongue out between closed lips. 

 

“All the way out, Stretch.”  Nurse White glared at her. 

 

Jess sighed and stuck her tongue out.  “There, ya’ happy?”  She turned to pout at Tara, mumbling as she opened the suture kit to get ready.  “Damn little trolls, always getting me in trouble.  I was just walking by minding my own business, when all of a sudden I get attacked by the little ankle biters.  Think I’ve still got the teeth marks to prove it, too!” 

 

Nurse White sighed.  “What am I going to do with you?” 

 

Jess looked up and grinned, wiggling her brows.  “What ever you want to, as per usual, Honey.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly as she finally caught onto the couple. 

 

Britt groaned and covered her face with her hands.  “Oh, Hell, Jess!” 

 

“What?”  Jess looked confused at Britt before she looked down at the chuckling blonde. 

 

“I th-think you’ll b-be sleeping on the c-couch tonight, Doctor.”  Tara smirked as best she could. 

 

Jess’s eyes opened wide as she looked back up at the blushing nurse.  She blushed herself and shrugged.  “Oops!”  She raised a brow and looked back down at Tara.  “Family?” 

 

Tara nodded slightly before she suddenly stopped chuckling and her eyes opened wide.  She slowly turned her eyes back to a confused looking Buffy. 

 

Buffy’s brows furrowed as she looked at Tara.  “I thought you said you didn’t have any fam…?”  Then her eyes opened wide as the little light in her own head went on.  “Oh!” 

 

Tara nervously looked from Buffy to Jess and back again. 

 

Jess saw the fearful look in Tara’s eyes.  Leaning over she growled softly at Buffy.  “You got a problem with that, Shorty?” 

 

Nurse White dropped her hands enough to see the two staring at each other. 

 

“Or am I going to have to beat the hell outta ya’?”  Jess narrowed her eyes at the woman. 

 

Buffy leaned closer to Jess and growled herself.  “I’d like to see you try!” 

 

“Big John, Jess!”  Nurse White stepped a bit closer to the two of them. 

 

Jess whimpered and pulled back a bit pointing at Buffy.  “HER?”  She looked unbelievingly at the nurse before turning back to an evilly grinning Buffy.  “Oh, shit!”  She straightened up and took a step back. 

 

Buffy snickered and looked down at the still worried looking Tara.  Smiling softly, she squeezed Tara’s hand and shook her head.  “I don’t have a problem with that.”  She winked at her before she looked up at the sigh she heard come from the three of them.  Chuckling softly she looked back and forth between the doctor and nurse.  “How do you put up with her constantly?”  She asked the nurse as she nodded her head towards the doctor.  “She’d drive me nuts.” 

 

Nurse White rolled her eyes and chuckled softly.  “She has her moments.”  She winked over at a pouting Jess. 

 

“I’m loveable.”  Jess grumbled softly. 

 

“Yes you are.  You’re also entertaining to a point… then you drive me crazy.”  Nurse White smiled at her lover. 

 

“Usually good crazy, though.”  Jess winked at Tara.  “You numb enough, yet?”  She gently poked her in the lip. 

 

Tara nodded.  “I’ll be d-drooling soon.” 

 

Jess smirked.  “You can drool all over the growling one, there.”  She nodded towards Buffy. 

 

Buffy growled at Jess as she nodded and smiled at Tara.  “If she hurts you again, I’ll start ripping body parts off her.”  She winked at Tara. 

 

Jess looked hopefully up at Britt.  “You won’t let her, will you, Honey?  You like all my body parts just where they are.”  She wiggled her brows at her and winked. 

 

“Keep it up, and I’ll let her.”  Nurse White smirked at the doctor. 

 

Jess pouted and turned back to Tara grumbling softly.  “Nobody loves me.” 

 

Buffy grinned.  “They wouldn’t be the first ones I’ve ripped off today, and they won’t be the last.”  She growled out the last part as she angrily thought about the last vampire that was tied up at the shop. 

 

Tara squeezed Buffy’s hand and looked wide eyed at her. 

 

Buffy sighed and let the anger slowly drain out of her.  “Sorry.” 

 

Tara shook her head slightly.  “I th-thought I was s-seeing things?” 

 

Buffy shook her head and ran a hand through her hair.  “No, you weren’t, sorry.”  She smiled sadly at Tara as she squeezed her hand. 

 

Jess looked around at everyone before she spoke softly looking at Buffy.  “I take it you didn’t notify the police?”  She sighed when Buffy shook her head. 

 

Britt looked up at Jess and nodded to the unspoken request.  “I’m on it.”  She headed over to the phone. 

 

Buffy raised a brow as the nurse picked up the phone and punched in numbers waiting for a moment before punching in more numbers.  Turning back to the doctor she raised her other brow.  “What’s that about?” 

 

Jess looked towards Buffy and sighed before she picked up the needle to stitch Tara’s lip.  “Don’t fly off the handle, but she’s calling an Officer to come down here.”  She glared at Buffy as she started to growl.  “Chill out, Fido!”  She turned back to Tara and started stitching her lip.  “I get in trouble for not reporting it, the hospital gets in trouble, she…”  She nodded towards Tara not knowing her name. 

 

“Tara.”  Buffy supplied the blonde’s name. 

 

“Sorry, didn’t look at the chart.  Tara doesn’t get the insurance coverage without reporting it.”  She tied off the stitch and cut the suture, before quickly stitching another.  “And you get to come up with a plausible story before the Officer gets here.”  She looked quickly over to a loudly growling Buffy.  “Good thing the Officer she’s calling knows about the stranger things that happen in this town.”  She narrowed her eyes at Buffy.  “And it seems the name of Buffy Summers is well known when the strange happens.” 

 

Tara squeezed Buffy’s hand as she watched the Slayer’s face get angrier with each word. 

 

Buffy snarled at the doctor before she turned to look at Tara.  Seeing the scared and pleading look in her eyes, as well as the thumb softly caressing over the back of her hand did more to calm the Slayer than anything.  Buffy sighed and ran her hand through her hair.  “I’ll think of something, don’t know what, but something.”  She sighed again. 

 

Nurse White stepped over beside Buffy and squeezed her shoulder.  “Chris will basically just report on Ms. Maclay’s injuries, just so that there is a record of it with the SPD, and the insurance company will get a copy if they should dig into the claim.” 

 

“Just trying to cover everyone’s asses.”  Dr. Black finished with Tara’s lip. 

 

“Jen will be bringing up the portable x-ray.”  Britt looked up at Jess, answering the unasked question in Jess’s raised brow.  “Arm and ribs… don’t know if you want a head shot, or…” 

 

“CAT scan would be better, but…”  She smirked at Buffy.  “I don’t think Fido there would be willing to leave her side for that long.” 

 

Buffy nodded and frowned.  “If you think she needs one, do it.” 

 

Jess raised a brow at the quickly acquiescing Slayer. 

 

“What?  Better safe, than sorry, right?”  Buffy shrugged slightly. 

 

Jess nodded.  “True.  But I think we can get away with just the x-ray.”  She smiled softly down at Tara.  “You do have a concussion, but I didn’t feel anything that would make me think it’s more than just a bump on the head.” 

 

Buffy turned to look over her shoulder at the door, having heard something being wheeled down the hall and slowing as it approached the door. 

 

Britt and Jess looked at each other and raised a brow. 

 

Jess shook her head, raising her other brow when there was a soft knock on the door right before it opened and a head with dark hair popped in. 

 

“Someone call for beauty pageant pictures?”  Jen smirked at Jess.  “They let you down here?” 

 

“It was either that, or I was going to rip Dr. Richards a new one.”  Britt walked over and opened the door the rest of the way.  “Right before I let Fido tear him apart.”  She winked over her shoulder at Buffy. 

 

“I would have enjoyed it.”  Buffy growled softly, watching closely as the newcomer pushed the portable x-ray machine in the room.  She looked closely at Jen before turning to look at Jess and back to Jen again.  “I take it you have the unfortunate displeasure of being related to the loony one, here?” 

 

Jess and Jen looked and pointed at each other, speaking in unison.  “She’s the ugly one.”  They sneered at each other before speaking together again.  “No, you are.” 

 

Britt rolled her eyes.  “Play nice, children, or I’ll send you both to your rooms.”  

 

They both looked at Britt and started to speak at the same time again as they pointed to each other.  “But…” 

 

Britt held up her hands.  “Enough, you two.  You’re both enough to drive me crazy!”  She mumbled as she pushed the x-ray machine over to the other side of the exam table. 

 

Jess and Jen stuck their tongues out at each other as the phone rang. 

 

“Jen, grab that.  It’s probably Chris.”  Britt lightly smacked the pouting Jess on the stomach.  “Be good.” 

 

Jen grinned and spun around to grab the phone, speaking in a sultry voice.  “Naughty Pictures ‘R’ Us, how may I expose you?”  She pouted after a moment.  “But, Honey, you like it when I’m a pervert.”  Then she grumbled and turned to Britt, narrowing her eyes.  “I thought you loved me, but all this time you just wanted my sister-in-law.” 

 

Britt chuckled and batted her lashes.  “What can I say, I’m loveable.”  She winked at Jen.  “Ask her if she can come down and write up a report, please?” 

 

Jen nodded and finally looked at the blonde on the exam table, wincing slightly at the damage to her face.  “Honey, can you come down here, your report services are requested?”  She listened for a moment and smiled.  “See you soon, love you.”  She smiled as she hung up the phone, turning to nod at Britt. 

 

Buffy quickly spun back to Tara when she felt her tightly squeeze her hand. 

 

Tara was looking wide eyed up at Jess. 

 

Buffy quickly grabbed Jess’s wrist, growling at her as she stopped her from uncovering Tara.  “She…”  Buffy looked towards Britt and Jen, frowning as she looked back towards Jess.  

 

“Do you want me to help her or not?”  Jess raised a brow. 

 

Buffy growled again and glared at Jess before dropping her eyes to Tara.  “Tara?” 

 

Tara whimpered and closed her eyes. 

 

Buffy looked back up at Jess, loosening her hold on her wrist but not letting go as she whispered softly.  “Does everyone have to be in here?  She… her… she’s rather exposed.”  Buffy finally breathed out softly as she looked sadly down at Tara. 

 

Jess sighed and pulled her arm back when Buffy released it, running her hands through her hair as she groaned softly.  She looked over towards Jen and nodded towards the door. 

 

Jen sighed and shook her head.  “You break my machine again and I’m going to kick your ass!  You hear me?  And wear the damn vest this time!”  She growled and glared at her sister before softening her look as she looked at the frightened blonde on the table and her feisty little friend.  “I’ll go wait for Chris and keep her occupied for a little while.”  She gave Britt a wink as she turned for the door.  “Don’t let numb nuts there hurt my baby, or you’ll be working on her next.” 

 

Britt chuckled softly.  “I won’t, Jen, she’ll be good.  Otherwise I’ll be kicking her ass before you get a chance to.”  She turned to narrow her eyes at a shrugging Jess. 

 

Jess tried to look innocent.  “What?  It was the machine’s fault, I just happened to be standing next to it at the time.”  She nodded her head like she was trying to convince herself of that fact. 

 

“Yeah, riiight!”  Jen snorted.  “Try another one, Bonehead.”  She shook her head and glared at Jess.  “I’ll kick your ass!”  She pulled the door open. 

 

“And I’ll tell mom!”  Jess stuck her tongue out at her retreating sister. 

 

Jen snorted again and stuck her tongue out at Jess as she stepped out of the room.  “Wuss!”  She let the door close behind her. 

 

“I don’t know how your mother put up with the two of you.”  Britt shook her head, smiling at Jess. 

 

“It was always her fault, not mine.”  Jess tried another innocent look, but the gleam in her eyes gave her away. 

 

“Uh huh.”  Britt smirked.  “Sure it was.”  She smiled softly at Buffy as she stepped back over beside her.  “This is the best we can do, Honey.” 

 

Buffy swallowed and nodded as she turned back to Tara.  “Tara?”  She pulled the stool closer and sat down near Tara’s head, pulling her hand back up against her chest and running her free hand through her hair.  “They really need to fix your arm and ribs.”  She whispered softly as she squeezed Tara’s shaking hand. 

 

Tara swallowed hard and nodded slightly as she kept her eyes closed, but turned her head towards Buffy. 

 

Buffy sadly looked towards Jess and nodded before turning back to Tara. 

 

Britt gently rubbed Buffy’s back as she looked at Jess. 

 

Jess nodded and spoke softly to Britt.  “Can you mark the plates and get them ready to go while I…”  She trailed off and nodded towards Tara. 

 

Britt nodded and gave Buffy’s shoulder a squeeze before she stepped around to the other side of the table to mark the x-ray plates. 

 

Jess carefully unwrapped the blanket from the front of Tara, holding her breath as she pulled Buffy’s sweatshirt away. 

 

Britt looked up when she heard the slight gasp from Jess, wincing when she saw the swollen arm and the bruises on Tara’s breasts. 

 

Jess placed a hand on Tara’s shoulder as she reached for the scissors from the suture kit.  “I’m going to cut the sleeve of your shirt, Tara.”  She let the shaking Wiccan know what she was going to do as Tara still had her eyes closed, she didn’t want to freak the poor woman out. 

 

Buffy continued to run her fingers through Tara’s hair.  She never took her eyes off of Tara’s face as Jess went to work on the scared and embarrassed blonde. 

 

Jess carefully cut away the sleeve, placing a portion of it over one of the blonde’s breasts to cover the self-conscious woman. 

 

Tara jumped when she felt the cloth cover her, not realizing what it was. 

 

Buffy quickly turned to look for the reason of the Wiccan’s flinch, quickly turning back to look at Tara.  “Shh.  It’s okay.” 

 

Jess looked to Britt.  “Any allergies?” 

 

“Shrimp.”  Buffy answered before Britt could open her mouth. 

 

Britt nodded and shrugged as she placed the x-ray plates back in the protective holder.  She then slide one into place on the extension arm of the machine, softly stating which plate it was.  “Arm.” 

 

Jess nodded and turned back to Buffy.  “Three (have to check with the resident nurse to see about the amount) of Demerol okay with you, Dr. Summers?”  She smirked as Buffy frowned and looked up at her. 

 

Buffy tried glaring at the doctor before she realized why she had called her that.  “Sorry.”  She started to turn back to Tara and stopped, turning back to Jess instead.  “Actually… that depends?” 

 

Jess raised a brow in question. 

 

“Umm…”  She looked quickly to Tara, who still had her eyes closed.  Biting her lip she turned back to Jess.  “Will that knock her out?”  Buffy’s brows furrowed. 

 

Jess shook her head.  “No, just take some of the pain away.”  She gently placed her hand on Tara’s shoulder as she looked down at her.  “I’m going to have to move her arm to take the x-ray, and for setting it, if necessary.”  She gently squeezed Tara’s shoulder.  “I know it’s going to hurt like a bitch when I do move it, I’m sorry.” 

 

Tara whimpered and squeezed Buffy’s hand, but nodded in acknowledgement to Jess’s words. 

 

“And the ribs, right?”  Buffy looked down to Tara when Jess nodded.  “Tara?” 

 

“Hmm?”  Tara opened one eye slightly to look at Buffy. 

 

Buffy frowned and looked closer at Tara’s face.  “We have to get the ice back on you.”  She looked up at Jess. 

 

Jess nodded.  “As soon as we get the x-rays taken, and get her settled again.” 

 

Buffy nodded and turned back to Tara.  “Do you think you can do that thing again?” 

 

“Huh?”  Tara’s brows furrowed trying to figure out what Buffy was talking about. 

 

“The thing you did when we wrapped you up in the blanket?”  Buffy tried again not wanting to just come right out and say it yet, not knowing if it was possible, and not wanting to stir up trouble without cause. 

 

“Oh!”  Tara’s eye nervously looked from Buffy to Jess and back.  Her brow furrowed again as she looked at Buffy, but nodded hesitantly. 

 

Buffy squeezed her hand and gave her an understanding smile.  Buffy nervously turned back to look at Jess and Britt.  “Umm… you said you know about some of the stranger things in Sunnydale?” 

 

Jess narrowed her eyes a bit, but nodded. 

 

“Do you believe in it?”  Buffy held Jess’s eyes. 

 

Jess’s brow rose a bit further as she tried to figure the woman out.  “Honey, see if Chris is here yet, if so, get her baton… and her camera.”  She tacked on the end as she covered Tara’s semi bare chest with the sweatshirt. 

 

Britt raised her own brow at her lover.  “So you want them both looking to kick your ass?”  She smirked at Jess. 

 

Jess chuckled softly.  “Wouldn’t be the first time, besides, I think I’d rather deal with them, than her.”  She nodded towards the frowning Buffy.  “You’ll see, and the PD and insurance company will want pictures.”  She held up a hand when Tara whimpered slightly and Buffy opened her mouth.  “Face, head, arm, the bruise on the side I can see from here, and the abrasions on her hands.  Then either we run out of film, or it gets exposed from the x-ray machine.”  Jess smirked at Buffy. 

 

Buffy chuckled softly and nodded. 

 

Britt groaned and headed for the door grumbling.  “She’s gonna kick your ass, Black.” 

 

“She can try.”  Jess grinned and winked at Buffy.  “I’ll just have Fido protect me.” 

 

Buffy nodded.  “You’re on, and I’d assume that’s who your sister is sucking face with out in the hall.  Thanks, Dr. Black.”  She gave her a grateful smile before she turned to run her fingers through Tara’s hair as she smiled softly at the Wiccan.  “How are you doing?  I know the adrenaline is wearing off.”  She squeezed Tara’s hand gently. 

 

Jess and Britt shared a ‘how the hell does she know that’ look before Britt opened the door, tossing the syringe in her hand to Jess as she stepped into the hall. 

 

Tara nodded and groaned.  “I feel l-like I was h-hit by a b-bus…”  She frowned.  “And the l-line of cars b-behind it, too.” 

 

“That good, huh?”  Buffy gave her a sympathetic smile.  “I know that feeling.”  Buffy turned to Jess and frowned before Tara could ask her anything, having seen the question in the partially open eye.  “You just going to play with that, or are you going to give her the shot?” 

 

Jess stopped twirling the syringe back and forth between her fingers.  “Umm…”  She looked down at Tara.  “Usually we prefer to give this in a fleshier spot… but I’ll use your arm if you’d prefer?”  She smiled softly at Tara, knowing the woman was still skittish and not wanting to send her over the edge still not knowing all of what had happened to her. 

 

Tara blushed and looked from Jess to Buffy, before she looked back and nodded to Jess.  “G-go ahead.”  She turned back to Buffy. 

 

Buffy turned to look at Jess.  “Something about your car, sheets, baby, and your better half about to go ballistic on those two out in the hall, you might want to go check on them.”  Buffy smirked at Jess when her eyes opened wide. 

 

“Oh, shit!”  Jess set the syringe down on top of the x-ray machine and hurried for the door.  “Be right back.” 

 

Buffy chuckled and turned back to Tara, tilting her head and raising a brow.  “You know, back in the alley I thought it was because of the one I tossed through the door.”  She frowned for a moment as she thought about the vamp, shaking her head before she let the anger build, she continued.  “Then when we were in the car, I thought it was because of the levitating light-weight act…”  She raised a brow as she looked into Tara’s open eye.  “But now, I’m thinking it’s more of a pain management thing you’ve been doing right along.  Am I right?” 

 

Tara’s brows rose and her eye opened just a bit wider in surprise.  “H-how…?” 

 

Buffy smiled and ran her hand through Tara’s hair.  “You set off my spidey sense when you cast.”  She shook her head and smiled again.  “Long story, I promise I’ll tell you later.” 

 

Tara nodded and closed her eye for a moment.  “Yes.”  She opened her eye to look at Buffy again.  “But you s-shouldn’t be able to f-feel me casting.”  Tara tilted her own head slightly, brows furrowing.  “Unless you’re a m-magic user yourself?” 

 

Buffy shook her head.  “I’m not.  I just have highly attuned senses.  It’s like a tingle, or the hair on the back of my neck standing up.”  She gave a little shiver and smiled.  “Kinda like a tingle running up my spine.” 

 

Tara shook her head slightly.  “I’m s-sorry.” 

 

Buffy felt the tingle stop and shook her own head.  “Don’t stop, Tara.”  She squeezed her hand gently.  “It’s not bothering me.  I was just curious if you were casting this whole time.”  Then she frowned herself seeing the pain starting to cross the Wiccan’s face.  “Do the pain management, Tara.  Please?” 

 

Tara closed her eye and nodded, mentally recasting the spell. 

 

Buffy sighed when she felt the tingle start up again.  “Thank you.” 

 

Tara opened her eye and looked questioningly at Buffy.  “W-why are you th-thanking me?” 

 

Buffy shrugged.  “I don’t like seeing you in pain if you don’t have to be.”  She smiled sadly at Tara, squeezing her hand lightly as she ran her fingers through her hair again. 

 

“Don’t like it m-much, my self.”  Tara squeezed the Slayer’s hand in gratitude as she felt the pain somewhat receding again. 

 

“Good, then we don’t have to argue about it.”  Buffy winked at her. 

 

Tara chuckled softly and shook her head slightly.  “No arguments f-from me.” 

 

Buffy tilted her head again as she looked intently at Tara, brows furrowing. 

 

“W-what?”  Tara asked after a moment, Buffy’s stare making her nervous. 

 

Buffy shook her head slightly, focusing back in on Tara’s eye.  “If you can do the pain thing, can you…”  She trailed off and looked towards the door.  “We’ll get back to that later.”  Buffy swapped hands to free up her right hand, taking a step towards the door. 

 

“W-what is it?”  Tara asked warily. 

 

“I don’t…”  Buffy trailed off and started laughing.  “Umm… apparently nothing, just the idiots at play.”  She sat back down and smiled at Tara.  “Nurse White is ready to rip Jen a new one.”  She nodded towards the door and turned to watch as it opened. 

 

“OWW!  Damn it, stop kicking!”  Jess growled as she stepped backwards into the room, Britt held off the ground in her arms. 

 

Britt growled and wiggled trying to get free as she waved the police baton at a grinning Jen.  “Let me go!  I’m gonna stuff this up her ass!” 

 

Jen stuck her tongue out at Britt and laughed.  “You and what army, Shorty?” 

 

“JEN!”  Jess growled loudly at her as she tightened her hold on the struggling blonde in her arms.  “ENOUGH!  Or I’m gonna let her do it!  OWW!  Damn it, Britt!”  She finally spun around, kicking the door closed in the process, and leaning back against it with the furious blonde still trying to get away. 

 

Jen stepped up to the door and called out loudly.  “She just wanted to cuddle with you!” 

 

Britt growled loudly and swung the baton at the door, narrowly missing Jess’s head.  “SHE’S A DAMN PYTHON, SHE DOESN’T CUDDLE SHE CRUSHES!!  YOU DAMN AMAZON!!”  She swung again, this time hitting Jess. 

 

“FUCK!!”  Jess released Britt and grabbed her head. 

 

Buffy stopped laughing and jumped up off the stool, catching an unbalanced Britt with one hand, and a sinking Jess with the other. 

 

Jess groaned and started sliding down the door. 

 

Britt caught her balance and turned to go after Jen, stopping and dropping the baton when she realized what had happened.  “Oh, shit!  Honey, are you okay?  I’m sorry.”  She knelt down on the floor beside Jess and put the Polaroid camera down.  “Let me see your head, Baby.” 

 

“Fuck that hurt!”  Jess groaned.  Her eyes still tightly shut. 

 

“I’m sorry, Baby.”  Britt placed her hands on Jess’s wrists.  “Let me see, Honey.” 

 

Buffy stepped away and went to the cabinet she’d seen Britt get the icepacks from, pulling one out she snapped the activation capsule and shook it as she headed back towards the couple on the floor.  “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” 

 

Jess growled at Buffy as she finally opened watery eyes. 

 

Buffy smirked.  “Shouldn’t have hurt you too bad, she got you in your thick head.” 

 

Jess growled again and half-heartedly kicked out at the Slayer with her leg. 

 

Buffy smiled and sidestepped the attempt. 

 

Jen couldn’t keep the laughter out of her voice as she knocked on the door.  “Everyone okay in there?”  She grinned at Chris and pressed her ear against the door.  “Should I call a doctor?” 

 

Buffy stepped closer to the door and pulled Jess’s head away from it, handing the icepack to Britt.  Standing back up, she slammed her palm against the door. 

 

“OWW!  SHIT!”  Jen snapped her head back and grabbed the side of her head. 

 

Britt looked up and grinned at Buffy.  “Thanks.” 

 

Buffy blushed as she stared at her handprint in the metal door.  “Umm… no problem.  Sorry about the door, though.”  She looked down at the couple as she pointed to the indentation. 

 

Jess craned her neck to look up and started to laugh.  “We may need another icepack for Jen.”  She held the icepack against her head as she held out a hand for Buffy.  “Help me up, Fido.” 

 

Buffy took her hand and gently pulled Jess to her feet.  “You okay?”  She grabbed her elbow as she swayed a bit. 

 

Jess caught her balance and nodded slightly.  “Yeah.  Head rush.”  She grinned at Buffy. 

 

Buffy nodded and released her arm and hand. 

 

Britt stood up and wrapped her arms around Jess.  “I’m so sorry, Baby.”  She leaned her head against Jess’s shoulder. 

 

Jess wrapped her free arm around Britt and kissed the top of her head.  “It’s okay, Honey.”  She winked at Buffy.  “Like Fido said, I’ve got a hard head.”  She dropped her hand with the icepack to wrap that arm around Britt, giving her a reassuring hug, kissing her head before leaning hers against it.  “You’ve hit me harder than that before.”  She smiled and breathed a sigh of relief when Britt chuckled and nodded. 

 

“Didn’t mean to hit you then, either.”  Britt mumbled and kissed Jess’s neck. 

 

“I know you didn’t.”  Jess gave her another hug and pulled her head back to softly kiss her on the lips. 

 

Buffy smiled at Tara as she sat back beside her.  “Kids, can’t do a damn thing with them.” 

 

Britt chuckled.  “Try living with the three of them.” 

 

Jess grinned.  “You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, Darlin’.”  Jess kissed Britt again and gave her another squeeze before she released her.  “Why don’t you grab the stuff off the floor, while I go give our patient the shot she’s been waiting for.” 

 

Britt nodded and went up on her toes to kiss Jess’s chin.  “True.  Love you.” 

 

“Love you, too.”  Jess winked and kissed Britt’s forehead.  Smirking she slapped Britt on the ass as she bent for the camera and baton. 

 

“HEY!”  Britt straightened up and glared at an innocent looking Jess.  “Save it for later, Black.”  She winked at her. 

 

Jess grinned again as she put the icepack back on her head.  “Yes, Dear.”  She stepped over and picked up the syringe.  “Show Fido the baton, Honey.” 

 

Buffy smirked at Jess.  “As long as I don’t have to have it surgically removed.” 

 

Jess winked at the smaller blonde.  “You’re safe.  You’re sitting on the part she usually threatens to stuff it.” 

 

Buffy chuckled and turned to a grinning Britt.  “Which is usually on a daily basis with those three.”  She set the camera on the exam table by Tara’s legs.  Grabbing the baton in both hands she gave it a twist, the bottom section sliding off like a sheath to show a nice long pointy stake. 

 

Buffy raised a brow as she looked at it.  “Can I get one of those?”  She grinned as she reached out for the baton/stake as Britt held it out to her. 

 

Jess chuckled and set her icepack on the x-ray machine.  “You’ll have to suck up to Jen, she made it for Chris.  Actually, she made one for all of us.”  She smiled at Buffy.  “So does that answer your question?”  She raised a brow. 

 

Buffy nodded and looked up at Jess.  “Yeah, it does.”  She handed the item back to Britt before turning to Tara.  “You want to make it easier for her to give you the shot?”  She winked at Tara. 

 

Tara nodded as she dragged her eye away from the baton.  Looking up at Buffy, her brows furrowed.  “I d-didn’t think it was r-real.” 

 

Buffy sighed and nodded as she took Tara’s hand again as she sat down.  “Unfortunately, that was no dream that you were having.”  She ran her fingers through Tara’s hair.  “Vampires and Demons are real, and Sunnydale is a magnet for them.”  She didn’t want to get into all the details just yet.  “Why don’t you do your thing, and let Dr. Black help you out on the pain management.” 

 

Tara nodded and closed her eye, taking a calming breath as deeply as she could. 

 

Jess and Britt’s eyes opened wide as Tara slowly floated up about a foot off the bed. 

 

“Damn!”  Jess shook her head and grinned.  “That must come in handy.” 

 

Buffy nodded and looked up at Jess.  “It did, and it does.  Magic is real, too.”  She smiled and turned back to Tara.  “You ready?”  She asked softly as she squeezed Tara’s hand lightly. 

 

Tara opened her eye as best she could and looked into Buffy’s.  She nodded as she unconsciously tightened her hold on Buffy’s hand. 

 

Buffy stood to make it easier for Tara to see her.  “Do your thing, Dr. Black.”  Buffy brought Tara’s hand up against her chest and ran her fingers through Tara’s hair.  “Say the word, and we stop.”  She kept her eyes on Tara’s one open one. 

 

Tara’s lip trembled as she squeezed Buffy’s hand and nodded. 

 

“She’s got cuts on her knees.  The jeans are probably stuck to them by now, so please be careful.”  She spoke softly, never turning away from Tara. 

 

Britt gently rubbed Buffy’s back.  “I’ll wet them down to loosen them up.  Right now we’ll just give her the shot and let it take affect first.”  She ran her hand up to squeeze Buffy’s shoulder before she picked up the camera and headed towards the counter and cabinets to put the camera and baton down, as she grabbed a bottle of saline. 

 

Jess moved the blanket further aside, finding that she didn’t have to undo the woman’s jeans as they’d been pulled apart.  She reminded herself that the young woman thankfully hadn’t been raped as she lowered the side of her pants to give her the shot.  She looked back up and met eyes with Britt as she came back to the table.  “We’re just going to uncover your lower legs so we can wet down your knees, Tara.”  She looked up at the woman, getting a slight nod that she’d heard her before she turned back to uncover up to just above her knees. 

 

Britt spoke as she opened the saline.  “This will be a little cold, Honey.”  She carefully poured the saline over the area of dried blood and rips on the woman’s jeans. 

 

Tara flinched slightly, squeezing Buffy’s hand as she held eye contact with her. 

 

Buffy continued to run her fingers through the Wiccan’s hair, flinching slightly her self when Tara did.  “You okay?”  It was getting harder to see the Wiccan’s eye as the swelling increased. 

 

Tara nodded slightly but remained silent. 

 

Britt set the bottle back down on the counter before stepping up behind Buffy, placing a hand on her shoulder as she looked over the other one.  “I’m going to take off your sneaker and socks, and then cut your pant legs so we can clean the cuts and scrapes on your knees.”  She frowned slightly when Tara turned her head to nod at her.  “Why don’t you turn your head a bit, Honey.  Let’s get the ice back on you so your eyes don’t swell completely closed.”  She winced slightly when she realized one eye was already completely closed.  “Or the one eye you can still see out of, anyway.”  She squeezed Buffy’s shoulder before she stepped around her towards the head of the bed. 

 

Jess had just come around from getting a couple more ice packs to place on Tara’s arm while they worked on her legs.  “I’m going to stick a couple on your arm to help with the swelling there, too.”  She snapped the capsules in both, giving them a shake before placing them on top of the sweatshirt on either side of Tara’s arm so they also covered the top.  “Just squeeze the hell out of Fido’s hand when they get to being too cold.”  She winked down at Tara before Britt got the ice pack settled on her face. 

 

“Or you could always just kick the hell out of her while she’s working on your knees.”  Buffy turned to smirk at Jess. 

 

“Behave you two, or I’m going to sedate both your asses.  Then Tara and I will take pictures after we pose your asses any way we please.”  She smiled sweetly as she looked back and forth between Buffy and Jesse, lightly squeezing Tara’s shoulder.  “Then we’re going to leave you two sprawled out on the floor while we go for drinks.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly as she nodded slightly.  “S-sounds g-good to m-me.” 

 

Buffy and Jess looked at each other sneering and growling softly. 

 

Britt lightly squeezed Tara’s shoulder again.  “I’m headed down to your feet, Honey.” 

 

Tara nodded slightly, grateful for the warning. 

 

“Play nice you two.”  Britt lightly smacked Jess on the ass on the way by. 

 

“It’s her fault.”  Jess mumbled before snickering as she got a growl from Buffy in response, she then headed towards the counter to grab some of the supplies Britt had laid out earlier. 

 

Buffy watched as the doctor and nurse worked like a well oiled machine, reassured by the care and treatment towards the injured woman.  She knew that if it wasn’t for her being there slowing them down so as not to scare the Wiccan, they’d be a lot further along in the treatment of her.  Frowning with the thought that it was her fault the Wiccan would be in pain longer than necessary.  She turned back to Tara to warn her.  “They’re going to start cleaning your knees now.  It’s going to sting and probably hurt as they clean the debris out of the cuts.” 

 

Jess raised a brow as she looked towards Buffy, shrugging slightly as she turned back towards Britt on the other side of the exam table before they both went to work on the Wiccan’s knee wounds. 

 

Buffy stood quietly as she looked down at the Wiccan’s hand, lightly brushing a finger near scrapes on her knuckles before looking at her palm. 

 

“Give me a hand, Fido.”  Jess grabbed a tweezers like instrument before looking at Buffy. 

 

“Huh?”  Buffy looked up at the doctor beside her. 

 

“I need two hands for this, hold her leg up for me.”  Both Jess and Britt had been holding Tara’s leg below the knee having found that the Wiccan’s legs moved when they tried working on her. 

 

“I c-can let myself d-down.”  Tara offered softly. 

 

“NO!”  Buffy looked up at Tara before snapping her head around to Jess as they’d both said the word at the same time. 

 

Jess raised a brow at the woman beside her. 

 

“She’s breathing easier this way.”  Buffy shook her head.  “She’s better off floating.” 

 

Jess smiled and nodded.  “Not as shallow, no undue pressure being placed on the ribs.” 

 

“Less pain.”  Buffy frowned as she looked back up towards the Wiccan’s face and spoke softly.  “Less pain is good.” 

 

“I w-won’t argue with t-that.”  Tara smiled slightly and squeezed Buffy’s hand. 

 

“Good.”  Buffy nodded before releasing Tara’s hand with a gentle squeeze, placing her hand under the woman’s leg as she turned back to the doctor. 

 

“Hold it as still as you can.”  Jess used one hand to spread the wound open, using the other to dig out the small pieces of debris. 

 

Buffy winced as she watched Jess pull a small piece of glass and a couple little pebbles out of Tara’s knee. 

 

“You okay, Fido?”  Jess as softly as she glanced at the paling woman beside her. 

 

“Yeah.”  Buffy nodded as she continued to hold the Wiccan’s leg.  “Can I use those when you’re done?  She’s got a small pebble in her hand, too.” 

 

Jess smirked at her before she went after the last piece she could see.  “Trying to steal my job?” 

 

Buffy shook her head.  “No, it’s not deep.  I just wouldn’t be able to grab it with my fingers, and you can keep helping her.” 

 

Jess nodded as she grabbed the last piece, wiping down the instrument with alcohol before handing it, along with gauze, antiseptic salve and disinfectant wipes to Buffy.  “Mind if I take a look first?” 

 

Buffy shook her head and stepped out of the way. 

 

Jess carefully probed the heel of Tara’s hand before nodding and winking at Buffy.  “Have at it, Dr. Summers.”  Jess went back to working on cleaning Tara’s knee. 

 

Buffy frowned as she stood holding Tara’s hand against her chest with one hand, as the other held the tweezers ready to remove the debris from the woman’s palm. 

 

Jess briefly looked at Buffy before she stepped over to the cabinets for another suture kit and a shot to numb the knee, raising a brow and looking towards Britt when Buffy still hadn’t moved when she’d come back. 

 

Britt looked up at Jess, seeing the raised brow.  She looked towards Buffy, smiling as she looked back towards Jess, winking. 

 

Jess glanced at Buffy again before rolling her eyes, mouthing the word ‘toast’ to Britt.  At Britt’s nod and grin Jess rolled her eyes before a smile crossed her face.  She gently rubbed her hand on Tara’s shin before warning her.  “You need a few stitches in your knee, no kicking me when I give you the shot to numb it.”  She gently squeezed Tara’s leg. 

 

Tara nodded as she braced herself for the needle. 

 

Jess quickly injected by the cut when she got the nod of approval from Tara, also noting Buffy still hadn’t moved yet.  She headed over to Britt’s side while waiting for the shot to take affect. 

 

Britt held Tara’s leg while Jess cleaned the last of the debris from Tara’s other knee. 

 

“Butterfly’s will hold this one closed.”  She spoke to Britt before she looked over at Buffy again.  About to say something to the unmoving woman, she closed her mouth when she saw Tara’s fingers brush across Buffy’s chest. 

 

“Breathe, Sweetie.”  Tara brushed the back of her fingers against the skin above the Slayer’s tank top. 

 

“Huh?”  Buffy blinked before she slowly turned her head to look up at Tara. 

 

Tara smiled as she looked through the slit her swollen eye allowed her to open it.  “Breathe.  Now j-just do it.” 

 

Buffy sighed and nodded, frowning at not being able to see more of Tara’s eye, turning her head back to Tara’s hand when the woman closed her eye.  She bit her lip as she pressed on the heel of Tara’s hand with her thumb getting the pebble to come more into view.  She quickly glanced up at Tara again before taking a deep breath, and quickly and efficiently removing the stone. 

 

Tara lightly squeezed Buffy’s hand as the Slayer pressed a gauze pad against the now bleeding wound.  “Hardly f-felt a thing.” 

 

“Good.”  Buffy picked up an antiseptic wipe and started gently cleaning the scrapes on the Wiccan’s knuckles as she continued to hold the gauze to her palm. 

 

“Looked like you’d done that before, Fido?”  Jess raised a brow having watched the Slayer proficiently deal with the wound. 

 

“I’ve had a lot of practice… usually on my self.”  Buffy mumbled the last part getting looks she didn’t notice from all three women. 

 

Tara filed that information away as Jess came back around to stitch her knee, silently nodding to the doctor when Jess probed her knee for numbness before turning her eye back to watch the woman tend her hand. 

 

Jess and Britt shared a look and shrug before going back to work on the injured woman. 

 

“Let’s get pictures of her knees, hand, face, and head before we do the x-rays.”  She looked up briefly from stitching Tara’s knee, getting a nod from Britt. 

 

Britt picked up the used items, tossing them in the trash as she went for the camera.  She also dug out a small ruler they used when taking pictures to show the size of the wounds.  “Save me from going for a step ladder.”  She handed the camera to a smirking Jess, lightly smacking her on the stomach.  “Don’t say it, Stretch!”  She moved the rest of the used supplies to the garbage and tossed the used instruments onto a tray to be cleaned and sterilized.  She stepped back beside Jess to hold the ruler near the wound being photographed while she occasionally glanced up at the quiet woman still diligently cleaning the wounds on Tara’s hand. 

 

Tara tried to figure out why Buffy had suddenly become quiet and sullen a while ago as she pried her eye back open to watch the woman tend her hand. 

 

Glancing up when she felt eyes on her, or more specifically, an eye, Buffy found Tara watching her through the small slit her right eye would open. 

 

Searching Buffy’s eyes, Tara immediately picked up on the guilt pouring from the Slayer, shaking her head she softly whispered.  “Don’t.  It w-wasn’t your f-fault.”  Extending a finger, Tara lifted Buffy’s chin when the Slayer dropped her head.  “I-if anything, be g-grateful you w-were there at all.  I k-know I am.”  Tara trailed her finger across Buffy’s jaw. 

 

Buffy nodded, but the guilt still showed in her eyes. 

 

Tara sighed and allowed her eye to close again as she squeezed Buffy’s hand.  “We’ll w-work on that.” 

 

Jess and Britt shared a look before Jess nudged Buffy.  “Let me get in there, Fido.”  She held up the camera. 

 

Buffy nodded, looking back at Tara and squeezing her hand gently before she released it and backed out of the doctor’s way. 

 

Jess quickly took pictures of Tara’s injuries before she handed the camera to Britt, placing her hand on Tara’s shoulder.  “You ready for the painful part, Tara?” 

 

“N-no, but it h-has to b-be done.”  Tara nodded slightly as she paled with the thought of moving her arm. 

 

Jess looked towards Buffy, who had stepped back to Tara’s side as she’d moved around to take the picture of Tara’s head. 

 

Buffy nodded knowing she’d have to leave the room, though not happy about that fact.  She gave Tara’s hand a squeeze.  “Holler if you need me.  I’ll come beat the hell out of her for you.”  She looked up at Jess with the last part of her statement, her eyes relaying the truth of that fact. 

 

Jess raised a brow but nodded.  “I’ll be as gentle as I can.  I like my ass the way it is, thank you.”  She gave Buffy a wink. 

 

Buffy nodded before turning back to Tara.  “I’ll be right outside the door.” 

 

Tara squeezed Buffy’s hand, and gave her a tremulous smile as she opened her eye again.  “I-I’ll be f-fine.” 

 

Buffy nodded and gave Tara a small smile as she squeezed her hand before releasing it. 

 

Britt wrapped an arm around the Slayer’s shoulder, urging her towards the door as she narrowed her eyes at Jess.  “Wear the vest!” 

 

Jess rolled her eyes before she smiled at the love of her life.  “Yes, Dear!” 

 

Britt growled at her before she winked and opened the door leading Buffy from the room. 

 

Buffy hesitated in the doorway looking back worriedly at Tara before sighing and stepping out into the hallway. 

 

Britt and Jess shared another look before she let the door close softly behind them.  Britt knowing Jess would be as gentle as possible.  Jess knowing Britt would try keeping Buffy from storming the room. 

 

~HLM~

 

The door no sooner shut behind them when Buffy turned to push it open again. 

 

Britt was ready as she stopped the woman’s hand before she could reach the door.  “Buffy…” 

 

Buffy growled at being stopped. 

 

“Let Jess help her.”  Britt slowly lowered the woman’s hand, mentally breathing a sigh of relief at not being tossed down the hall by the protective woman.  “She has the gentlest touch I know of any doctor here.  She also knows Tara’s scared and embarrassed, Honey.  She’ll do everything in her power to set her at ease while she does her job.  I promise Tara’s in good hands.” 

 

Buffy growled as her shoulders slumped, chin falling to her chest. 

 

Britt ran her hand up Buffy’s arm, her own arm crossing the woman’s chest, squeezing her shoulder in reassurance.  “Come on, Honey.”  She turned the reluctant woman away from the door.  “Let’s go for a walk.”  Britt wrapped her arm around the Buffy’s shoulder again as she urged her down the hall. 

 

Buffy whimpered softly when she heard a whimper of pain from the Wiccan as they started to walk away, her step faltering as she turned her head back towards the door. 

 

Britt tightened her hold and pulled the woman tighter against herself, she’d heard the loud whimper from the injured blonde behind the door.  “Easy, Honey.  We knew there would be some pain involved when Jess worked on her arm.”  She ran her hand up and down Buffy’s back, guiding her forward the whole time, afraid the woman would bolt back towards the room.  “Can you tell me what happened?”  She flinched at the loud growl and stiffening of the body beside her as angry eyes snapped her way.  “Or not.” 

 

~HML~

 

“Sorry.”  Jess rubbed Tara’s upper arm lightly as her eyes watched the door, waiting for it to fly open and a little blonde terror coming to kick her ass.  Sighing softly as she released the breath she held after a moment when nothing happened, she relaxed and examined Tara’s hand and arm. 

 

Tara had forced her eye open to look towards the doctor, something she probably should have done to begin with so she could see which way her arm was being placed on the machine.  Though still in pain she chuckled softly at the doctor’s reaction.  “S-s-scared?” 

 

Jess nodded as she turned to look at the Wiccan.  “Don’t want my ass rearranged by Fido.”  She winked at the woman as she rearranged the sweatshirt covering her chest.  “Are you okay?  I can give you another shot for the pain.”  She narrowed her eyes as she bent to look closer at Tara’s one open eye.  “Damn, can you even see through that little slit?” 

 

“I’m f-fine, no s-shot.”  Tara shook her head slightly.  “J-just expecting to t-turn it the other w-way.”  Tara’s eye looked down towards her arm on the machine before she looked back to the doctor.  “And just b-barely.” 

 

Jess nodded.  “Sorry, I should have warned you.  I wanted to check your hand and clean it up while we had it away from your body.”  She lightly squeezed Tara’s shoulder.  “Why don’t you close your eye for a few and let me get the ice back on there while I take the x-ray and clean up your hand.” 

 

Tara nodded and started to turn her head before looking back up at Jess.  “P-put the v-vest on.”  Her lips twitched before she closed her eye and turned her head so the icepack would stay in place. 

 

Jess rolled her eyes but smiled at Tara.  “Don’t wear it one time, and they never let you forget.”  She carefully placed the icepack on the woman’s face, turning to grab the heavy vest before adjusting the machine and taking the x-ray.  “Let me get a picture of your arm then I’ll clean your palm.”  Jess took the vest off, hanging it back on the machine before she headed towards the camera and supplies. 

 

Tara tried to relax as best she could, everything was beginning to throb and ache more now that time had passed. 

 

“I’d say you’ve got yourself a bodyguard from the looks of things.”  Jess bit back a chuckle as she watched a smile come to Tara’s face, grinning she started to clean her palm. 

 

“S-she does seem on the p-protective side, d-doesn’t she?”  Tara started to grin until she felt the pull on her lip. 

 

Jess snorted softly.  “I thought she was going to come across the table and beat the hell out of me a few times.”  She chuckled softly.  “Possibility you may be receiving a toaster in the future.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly as she blushed.  “I d-don’t th-think so.”  She sighed softly as she thought about the look in Buffy’s eyes, whispering softly as she frowned.  “She f-feels guilty, w-which she s-shouldn’t.” 

 

Jess nodded though Tara couldn’t see her.  “We noticed that, too.  If I know Britt, she’ll do her best to talk to her.” 

 

“S-so will I.”  Tara sighed softly again thinking that would be a major feat to accomplish, but she was willing to try.  “She s-s-saved my l-life.” 

 

Jess looked up at the woman when she heard the tremble in her voice, reaching up to rub Tara’s shoulder.  “It’s my understanding she does that a lot around here.”  Jess shook her head slightly.  “I’d like to know the story behind the little terror, and why she’s constantly risking her life to save others, though I’m sure they appreciate that she does.” 

 

Tara frowned even more with that knowledge as she whispered her own heartfelt words.  “I know I do.” 

 

~HLM~

 

Buffy paced back and forth in a small circle, never straying too far from the door of the small lounge, stopping to stare out the door and down the hall every couple of circuits. 

 

Leaning against a counter Britt sipped her coffee as her eyes followed the woman’s movements, silently wondering about the small blonde as she watched her agitation increase as she paced the floor.  When the occasional growl turned into a constant one Britt set her cup down and pushed off the counter, hoping to keep the young woman from blowing a gasket.

 

Turning from the door to start her pacing again, Buffy reached out as she slammed into a body. 

 

Though prepared for the collision, Britt still stumbled backwards as she held onto the woman’s shoulders.  Regaining her footing with the smaller woman’s help, Britt growled her self as she glared at the woman. 

 

Buffy’s shoulders slumped as she realized she was growling her self. 

 

Britt’s expression softened, squeezing the Slayer’s shoulders lightly she stepped away to lean against the wall by the door, instinctively knowing that Buffy wouldn’t be able to sit for long, if at all.  “Now, what’s got you so riled up?  Other than the obvious, that is.”  She folded her arms across her chest as she watched Buffy clench her fists again. 

 

“It’s my fault she got hurt.”  Buffy growled softly as she started to pace again. 

 

Britt raised a brow as she watched the woman start to tense up again.  “How is it your fault?  I didn’t think you were there when the attack happened?” 

 

“I should have been!”  Buffy stopped to glare at the nurse.  “It should have never happened at all.  If I’d have done my job, she wouldn’t be lying in pain down the hall right now.”  Buffy whimpered softly as she stepped back to the door to stare down the hall, not noticing the raised brows of the nurse. 

 

‘Your job?’  Britt mouthed the words silently in disbelief as she looked at Buffy’s back.  Shaking her head and frowning after a moment, Britt reached out to place a hand on Buffy’s shoulder.  “What do mean your job, Honey?  You didn’t even know Tara before this.” 

 

Buffy growled as she turned back to look at the nurse.  “It’s my job.  I’m supposed to kill the evil demons and protect the innocent, and here she was almost…”  Buffy trailed off as she thinks about what almost happened to Tara before looking away and dropping her head as her shoulders slumped again. 

 

Britt watched the anger and guilt warring for dominance in the woman’s eyes before she turned away, guilt having the overwhelming edge in the end.  She reached out to rub the woman’s back.  “Honey, she doesn’t blame you.  She’s grateful you got there when you did.”  She pulled on Buffy’s arm, gently urging her closer before she slid down the wall, pulling the woman down to sit beside her. 

 

Buffy resisted for a moment before she realized she’d still be able to see the door to the room Tara was in, finally dropping down beside Britt. 

 

Britt smiled softly as she lightly squeezed Buffy’s knee, the woman having wrapped her arms around her legs as she looked out the door and down the hall.  “Now, what’s this about your job?”  Britt raised a brow as Buffy turned back to look at her. 

 

Buffy turned to look at Britt before sighing and closing her eyes as she leaned her head back against the wall.  “I’m The Slayer.  One girl…” 

 

~HLM~

 

Jess opened the door a crack, standing back for a moment waiting for it to be thrown open wide and a little blonde terror come flying in.  When nothing happened she put her eye to the crack to look out. 

 

Jen sat leaning against Chris as they both grinned at Jess.  “Chicken shit!”  Jen chuckled softly as she watched Jess’s eye quickly scan the area before she opened the door a little further and stuck her head out. 

 

Jess quickly looked around before she snarled her lip up at her grinning sister.  “Just… cautious.”  She winked at them.  “Where are the little terror and my better half, anyway?” 

 

Jen nodded down the hall.  “Lounge.  I think Britt knocked her ass out, I haven’t seen her head pop out the door every two seconds for a while now.” 

 

Jess looked towards the lounge, just able to see the two sitting on the floor.  She smiled as she turned back to Jen and Chris.  “She’s doing her thing.” 

 

Chris shook her head slightly.  “Why isn’t she a shrink?” 

 

Jen and Jess looked at each other and snorted before they turned back to Chris. 

 

“Do you really think she’d survive trying to analyze us?”  Jess grinned as Chris rolled her eyes.  “Exactly!”  She chuckled softly as she brought her arm out the door, x-rays in hand.  “Put a rush on these, will you.  I don’t know how long Britt can keep her occupied.”  She held them out to Jen as Jen got up and reached for them.  “And you may want to go the other way so she doesn’t see you with them.”  She winked at her sister. 

 

Jen nodded as she grabbed the x-ray plates, her eyes opening wide as she looked past Jess into the room.  “What the fuck?”  Her mouth fell open as she saw the injured woman hovering above the exam table. 

 

Jess quickly turned to see what was wrong before she realized what her sister was talking about.  Chuckling softly she turned back to Jen and winked.  “Later, and I’m sure you haven’t seen or heard the last of it yet.”  Her eyes glanced down the hall towards the lounge before coming back to her sister.  “Rush, Jen.”  She reached out and lifted her sister’s chin to close her mouth. 

 

Jen shook her head as she blinked and looked back at her sister, narrowing her eyes.  “I want the whole scoop.  And you’d better have worn the vest, Bonehead.”  She flicked a finger against her sister’s forehead before winking at her, turned and ran quietly down the hall in the opposite direction of the lounge. 

 

Chris, though curious about what had Jen surprised, stayed where she was, knowing she’d find out soon enough what was going on.  She raised a brow as Jess reached up to rub her forehead. 

 

Jess growled at her sister as she took off down the hall, rolling her eyes as she looked back at Chris.  “I wore the damn thing!” 

 

Chris smirked and chuckled softly as she nodded, watching as Jess looked down the hall once more before winking at her and pulling her head back in the door. 

 

~HLM~

 

Britt stared open mouthed at the small woman beside her.  “You’re shitting me?”  She blinked in disbelief as Buffy shook her head in the negative, her eyes then slowly took in the Slayer’s small stature, still unable to believe that this tiny slip of a woman was all that stood between them and the Hellmouth.  Not to mention the fact that there was a Hellmouth!  Shaking her head she mumbled as she looked back up to Buffy’s eyes.  “Unbelievable!” 

 

“But true.”  Buffy shrugged slightly, sighing softly as she looked out the door and down the hall.  She’d heard Jess and Jen talking quietly about ten minutes ago, having wanted to get up and go back to check on Tara but continued the story with Britt. 

 

Britt watched Buffy as she let everything she’d been told sink in.  Now some of the stranger things she’d seen and heard about making more sense to her, but still unbelievable.  Silently considering the Slayer, Britt thought about what she now knew, to be so young and have the weight of the world on your shoulders.  She shook her head at the unfairness of it all.  “She doesn’t hold you responsible, you know.”  Britt reached over and squeezed Buffy’s forearm as guilty eyes turned towards her. 

 

“Only because she doesn’t know yet.”  Buffy dropped her eyes to her tightly folded hands in her lap. 

 

“Know what?”  Britt had a feeling she knew what was coming next, shifting to face more towards Buffy. 

 

“That it was my job to protect her and keep this from happening to her.”  Buffy clenched her jaw as her brows drew together, wondering if the Wiccan would even want her to be around after she found out. 

 

“Oh, Honey.”  Britt shifted a bit more as she reached for the Slayer’s chin, raising Buffy’s face to look her in the eyes.  “As far as she is, or ever will be, concerned, you saved her from a horrible fate tonight.”  She watched as the emotions played out in the Slayer’s eyes, worry, sadness, anger, and pain. 

 

“They were going to…”  Buffy whispered in a voice that quavered as it trailed off, her eyes filling with tears.  

 

“I know, Honey.”  Britt pulled the Slayer into her arms.  “But you didn’t let them.  Remember that.  You didn’t let them.”  She held the trembling Slayer close, watching over Buffy’s head as Jen lightly knocked on the exam room door. 

 

~HLM~

 

Jess squeezed Tara’s shoulder gently when the blonde jumped at the soft knock at the door.  “Easy, Honey.  That should be Jen with the x-rays.”  She cleaned up the items she used to clean the wound on the side of Tara’s head before heading to the door, making sure the woman was covered by the sheet having cut her pants the rest of the way off. 

 

Opening the door just a crack, Jess stuck a blue eye to the opening, whispering.  “What’s the secret password?”  Her eye shifting around quickly, as if nervously scanning the area behind Jen, before coming back to narrow in on her again. 

 

“You’re wacked!  You know that, don’t you?”  Jen shook her head and rolled her eyes, lips twitching at her sister’s antics before she became serous.  “Clean break and three cracked.”  She slid the big envelope with the x-rays through the crack in the door.  “Want me to call casting, have them mix up a batch?” 

 

Jess sighed and opened the door further as she shook her head.  “Not yet.”  She held the door open with her shoulder as she ran a hand through her hair, her eyes traveling down the hall to the lounge.  “There’s too much swelling at the moment, I’m going to have to splint it for now until it goes down, otherwise we’ll have to replace the cast.”  She smiled sadly at Britt when they met eyes, glad to see her better half had worked her own special magic on the feisty little blonde, winking before she looked back to Jen. 

 

“Gods, she’s good at that.”  Jen smiled at Jess as she turned back, having turned to follow Jess’s eyes herself. 

 

“That she is.”  Jess nodded and grinned at Jen, they’d all been on the receiving end of Britt’s compassionate side.  The woman being able to draw just about anyone out and offer comfort where needed.  Shaking her head slightly Jess came back to the situation at hand, nodding for Jen to follow her into the room as she stepped back from the door.  “Let me look at these to see what we’ve got, but I’m thinking a setup like we used on you.”  She didn’t pay attention to the wide eyed look on Jen’s face as she came in the room, having turned to put the x-rays up on the light box. 

 

Jen stepped into the room and froze as she looked at the woman hovering above the exam table.  After a moment she narrowed her eyes, looking around the woman quickly in search of the reason she was floating. 

 

Jess put up the film of Tara’s head, quickly taking it back down when she didn’t see anything, not that she thought she would or Jen would have mentioned it.  Putting the others up, she looked closely at them before nodding silently.  Turning around she smacked Jen on the head with the envelopes and head x-ray.  “Quit trying to look at her ass!”  She smirked at her sister. 

 

Jen snapped upright, eyes wide as she sputtered.  “I wasn’t… I was just… she…”  Her eyes turned to look at Tara’s face as she pointed at her, eyes opening wider as a blush heated her face at seeing a portion of a blue eye looking back at her, the woman’s face also red. 

 

Jess snorted softly and hurried to grab the camera, it wasn’t often that Jen actually blushed, and she definitely wanted it on film. 

 

“HEY!”  Jen’s head snapped around to her sister when the flash went off. 

 

Jess grabbed the as yet undeveloped picture from the front of the camera, waving it at Jen as she grinned. 

 

Tara couldn’t help but chuckle watching the two sisters fight over the picture, Jen climbing on Jess’s back and putting her in a one armed headlock as she tried reaching the picture in Jess’s outstretched hand.  They ended up rolling around on the floor for possession of the picture, the stool and tray stand getting bumped out of the way as they bounced off cabinets and anything else in the room in their way.  She closed her eye again as she listened to the grunting and groaning coming from the two, grateful they weren’t on the side of the room that held the x-ray machine that her arm was still resting on. 

 

~HLM~

 

“What’s wrong, Honey?”  Britt asked when Buffy whimpered in her arms, she kept watch down the hall at her lover and sister at the door to the exam room. 

 

“Her arm’s broken and she’s got three cracked ribs.”  Buffy mumbled against Britt’s shoulder. 

 

Snapping her head back to look down at the Slayer in surprise, Britt raised a brow.  “How the hell do you know that?”  Then she shook her head.  “Never mind, the same way you knew Jen and Chris were kissing out in the hall.”  Then she frowned as she thought about having hearing that exceptional.  “Gods, that has to be a pain in the ass hearing everyone and everything.”  She shook her head, grateful she didn’t have to constantly listen to what had to be an extraordinary amount of talking and noise. 

 

Buffy nodded.  “It has it’s moments of coming in handy, but it drove me nuts when it first happened.”  Buffy frowned for a moment.  “But not as nuts as when I could hear everyone’s thoughts.  Now that was a pain in the ass.” 

 

Britt’s brows furrowed as she tried to figure out how that could happen. 

 

Buffy chuckled softly at the look on the nurse’s face as she pulled back from her.  “Demons that communicated through thought, got some of their blood on me and took on an aspect of the demon.”  Buffy shivered slightly.  “At least I didn’t grow a tail, or have my mouth disappear.”  She scrubbed her face missing the shocked look on Britt’s.  “I think we better go break up the fight before someone gets hurt.”  She got to her feet, holding a hand out to help Britt to hers. 

 

Britt groaned at Buffy’s last comment.  “What the hell are they up to now?”  She rolled her eyes and shook her head allowing the Slayer to help her up.  “It’s like romper room with those two.  I don’t think they’ll ever grow up.”  A smile came to her face as she thought about her lover and her childlike attitude.  “Goddess, I hope she never grows up.”  She chuckled softly as she followed Buffy out of the lounge and down the hall. 

 

~HLM~

 

“OWW!”  Jen looked up after getting smacked in the head with the door.  “That hurt!”  She glared at the two women standing at the door before yelping and smacking Jess on the shoulder for pinching her ass.  “Pervert!” 

 

Jess grinned up at Britt from between her sister’s arm and body where she had her in a headlock again.  “Hi, Honey!” 

 

Standing with her hands on her hips, a ‘you’re both in trouble’ look on her face, Britt narrowed her eyes at her lover.  “What the Hell is going on in here?” 

 

“She started it!”  She was answered in unison by the two innocent looking faces lying in a tangled mess on the floor.  “You did!  No, you did!”  They started bickering and fighting again. 

 

Buffy looked at Britt and grinned.  “Have fun!”  She snorted softly, stepped over the two and walked to Tara’s side.  Smiling softly as she took the blonde’s hand in her own as Tara smiled and looked up at her with a slightly more opened eye.  “How are you doing?”  She ignored the trio behind her as Britt separated the two. 

 

“O-okay.”  Tara squeezed Buffy’s hand.  “T-though, I th-think they’ll have just as m-many b-bruises.”  She chuckled softly as Buffy rolled her eyes. 

 

She smirked at Tara.  “Hard to believe the biggest child is actually a real doctor.”  Buffy spoke loud enough for those behind her to hear, getting a squeak of indignation from Jess. 

 

“HEY!  I heard that, Munchkin!”  Jess glared at Buffy’s back as she got to her feet, slapping at her sister’s hands still trying to get the picture from her.  Jess’s eyes turned to her sister, sticking out her tongue before she grinned at her as she handed the picture to Britt.  “Here’s one for the family album, Honey.”  She started laughing as Jen groaned and tried grabbing the picture from Britt. 

 

Britt slapped away Jen’s hands, turning her back to her to keep her away as she glanced at the picture in her hand.  “Oh, yeah!”  Britt chuckled softly as she turned around, twinkling green eyes and a smile met Jen as she put the picture in her pocket, batting away at Jen’s hands as she tried to take it from her pocket. 

 

Jen groaned and grumbled as her shoulders slumped.  “Bitches!” 

 

Britt pulled Jen’s head down and kissed her on the forehead.  “You’ll live, Honey.”  She winked at her before turning to Jess.  “What did she say or do?”  She chuckled softly as she went up on her toes to kiss Jess’s chin as Jess tried getting her messy hair back where it belonged after the fight. 

 

Jess wiggled her brows as she grinned at Britt.  “She tried looking at Tara’s ass.” 

 

“I did not!”  Jen shook her head vigorously, her head snapping around to look at the small blonde now growling and glaring at her.  She quickly sidestepped to hide behind Britt and Jess.  “Save me!”  She wrapped her arms around Britt keeping her between her and the angry looking blonde as Jess chuckled and stepped out of the line of fire.  “I was just trying to see what was holding her up!”  She pointed towards Tara above the exam table.  She frowned when she turned her eyes towards the floating woman.   “What the hell is holding her up?”  She stepped out from behind Britt, curiosity getting the better of her as she started to bend to look again. 

 

Buffy’s growl got louder as she took a step towards Jen. 

 

Jen snapped upright, jumping slightly as she was hit with an article of clothing.  Catching the cloth, Jen looked from her sister with a smirk and raised brow on her face to the jeans now held in her hands.  “Oh!”  She started blushing again as she realized the only thing covering the floating woman was a sheet.  “Umm…  Sorry.”  She smiled sheepishly at the injured blonde who was also blushing.  “I…”  She shook her head as she trailed of and shrugged. 

 

“Damn, it’s even better than the picture.”  Britt chuckled softly, it was a rare, a very rare occurrence when either Jen or Jess blushed.  “Both of you blushing… on the same day, no less!”  She lightly smacked Jen on the back as she winked at her shrugging lover. 

 

Jen narrowed her eyes at Jess.  “I hope there’s a picture?” 

 

Jess grinned and shook her head.  “Nope!  Just of you!”  She stuck her tongue out at her snarling sister.  “Na-na!” 

 

Britt stepped beside Buffy, gently squeezing the tense woman’s shoulder as she smiled down at Tara.  “Let’s see if we can’t get this poor woman fixed up and up into a regular room… some time today would be nice.”  She winked at Tara before she looked up and raised a brow at her lover across from her. 

 

Jess smiled sheepishly.  “I was going to have the troublemaker over there go get what we needed before she acted like a child and attacked me.”  She nodded towards her sister before she turned her eyes on her, finding a tongue sticking out at her.  “How mature.”  She chuckled softly when she heard four snorts sounding in the room. 

 

~HLM~

 

Buffy turned her head on her arms when she heard the footsteps stop outside the door, rolling her eyes as she saw it open a crack and one blue eye looking in through the crack.  “She’s sleeping, don’t wake her.”  Buffy softly told the tall woman before turning her head back to watch the blonde sleep. 

 

Jess pushed the door open, letting Britt walk in before her as they came to check on both blondes before heading home. 

 

Britt stepped up behind Buffy, placing her hands on her shoulders as Jess went to the far side of the bed.  “How’s she doing, Honey?”  Britt asked softly as she gently massaged Buffy’s shoulders. 

 

“I think she’s finally starting to feel all the aches and pains.  But the drugs helped, though she fought them.”  Buffy sighed softly as she continued to play with Tara’s fingers, turning her head, her chin on her arms as she watched Jess. 

 

Jess removed the icepacks from Tara’s arm, carefully checking the braces they’d used as splints before checking the woman’s swollen fingers. 

 

Tara woke with a start when she felt someone playing with her left hand. 

 

“It’s okay, Tara.  It’s just Dr. Numbnuts and her better half.”  Buffy quickly reassured the Wiccan having felt and seen her stiffen as well as her breathing change. 

 

Tara lightly squeezed Buffy’s finger.  “G-good to know.”  She sighed softly when she couldn’t open her eyes, the drugs dragging her back under. 

 

Jess looked at Buffy after she’d removed the icepack from Tara’s face. 

 

Buffy shrugged slightly.  “She said the cold was giving her a headache.” 

 

Jess nodded and set the icepack stuffed in the sleeve of Buffy’s sweatshirt aside.  “Have you been taking them off every now and then?” 

 

“About every twenty minutes or so.”  Buffy nodded as she watched the doctor carefully prod around Tara’s nose, frowning when the Wiccan whimpered softly in her sleep. 

 

“Easy, Fido.  I’m just doing a more thorough check now that she’s out of it.”  Jess pulled her hands away from Tara’s face a few moments later. 

 

Buffy nodded to the doctor’s explanation, though she still didn’t like seeing the Wiccan in pain.  “Is it broken?” 

 

“No, though you would think so with all the swelling.”  She winked at Buffy.  “Better safe, than sorry.” 

 

Buffy nodded.  “True.” 

 

Britt squeezed Buffy’s shoulders.  “Honey, she’s probably going to sleep through the night, you want us to give you a ride home?”  She smiled and looked over towards a smirking Jess as Buffy shook her head.  They’d already discussed a plan of action to get the Slayer out of there, for a little while, anyway. 

 

“I wanna be here in case she wakes up.  I don’t want her to be scared, not knowing where she is, or who’s around.  She still can’t open her eyes.”  Buffy frowned as she watched the Wiccan sleep, still gently playing with Tara’s fingers. 

 

“I thought there was somewhere you had to go?”  Britt raised a brow as she looked down at Buffy when she looked up.  “And preferably before sunrise, or you won’t get the information you want.” 

 

Buffy growled softly.  “But…”  She frowned and turned her eyes back towards Tara. 

 

“I’ll stay with her, while you and Jess go cause the asshole some pain.”  Britt rubbed Buffy’s shoulders. 

 

“But…”  Buffy looked back and forth between Britt and Jess, turning towards Tara when she wrapped a finger around hers. 

 

“Go, Sweetie.  I’ll be fine.”  Tara mumbled softly, the drugs keeping her from the nervous stutter she usually had. 

 

“But…”  Buffy tried again. 

 

Tara shook her head.  “Go.  And don’t forget to feed that beast that keeps grumbling.”  Tara’s lips twitched up into a partial smile.  “Liable to keep me awake when you get back if you don’t appease it.”  Tara chuckled softly as Buffy’s stomach rumbled again. 

 

“Traitor!”  Buffy grumbled as she looked down at her stomach. 

 

Tara squeezed Buffy’s finger.  “Go, Sweetie.”  She started to nod off again, mumbling as she did.  “Bring me some clothes… maybe we can escape while they aren’t looking.”  She fell back to sleep with a smile on her lips. 

 

Buffy sighed as her shoulders slumped. 

 

Jess made a motion as if cracking a whip. 

 

“Shut up, Dr. Numbnuts.”  Buffy grumbled as she stood, looking down at the sleeping Wiccan for a few moments before she softly kissed her on the forehead and whispered.  “I’ll be back soon.”  She gave Tara’s hand a squeeze before releasing it as she turned to Britt.  “Thanks, I’ll be back as soon as possible.”  She nodded at the nurse before hurrying towards the door.  “Let’s go, Numbnuts, or you can stay here!”  She pulled the door open and walked out, whether the doctor was coming or not, she didn’t care. 

 

Britt looked at Jess and smirked.  “I’d say she’s on a mission, get your ass in gear, Amazon.”  She quickly met Jess at the end of the bed, giving her a kiss before she hurried towards the closing door.  “Be careful, Jess.” 

 

Jess winked at her lover as she stepped out the door.  “I know, you’ll kick my ass, if not.”  She grinned and took off running down the hall after the quickly departing Slayer. 

 

Britt sighed and ran her hands through her hair.  “Why do I get the feeling you two can get into trouble without even trying?” 

 

Tara chuckled softly.  “Because they can.” 

 

Britt smiled and turned to Tara.  “True.”  She stepped up to the bed and squeezed Tara’s hand.  “And why aren’t you sleeping?” 

 

“Just wanted to make sure she left.”  Tara mumbled softly as the drugs tried dragging her under once again.  “Damn drugs.”  She squeezed Britt’s hand.  “Thank you.” 

 

Britt smiled knowing the Wiccan was out once more, and probably for a long time at that.  “You’re welcome, Honey.”  She shrugged her bag off her shoulder, reaching in with one hand to pull out a book to read while she waited for the troublemakers to get back.  Sitting in Buffy’s vacated chair, she left her other hand within Tara’s so the Wiccan would know someone was there watching over her. 

 

~HLM~ As of 9/1/06!!

Kelly boogered to here, though Dee hasn’t made the changes yet!!  Wicca/Wiccan has been changed!!

 

Buffy pointed to where she wanted Jess to park.  It had been a silent ride to the Magic Box from the hospital, Buffy having only pointed in the direction she wanted Jess to go. 

 

Jess looked at the building she’d just parked in front of, half expecting to see little old ladies with hunched backs, black clothing and pointy hats before she chastised herself for stereotyping.  Though, she would try not to laugh if she saw brooms for sale, she chuckled silently with that thought as she sat back in her seat.  Removing the keys from the ignition she looked over at Buffy who seemed to just be staring through the window of the magic shop.  “Are you okay?” 

 

Buffy sighed as she shook her head slightly.  “Not really.  This should have never happened.”  She stared at the shop for another long moment before turning angry eyes to Jess.  “They don’t usually try to rape their victims before they either drain them, or turn them.”  She clenched her jaw and fists. 

 

Jess could see the fury within the small woman’s eyes.  She also saw the underlying guilt and self-recrimination.  “Tara doesn’t blame you, Buffy.  She’s just glad to be alive.  She does hold you responsible for her being alive, and that’s all she holds you responsible for.”  Jess reached out and ran her hand gently up and down Buffy’s tense arm a few times, feeling the play of muscle beneath her hand.  “Don’t blame yourself for what happened to her, she doesn’t want or need that from you.” 

 

The guilt ridden eyes looked away, turning back to the shop.  Nobody understood the guilt she felt on a constant basis for those she didn’t save.  Right now she felt as if she hadn’t saved Tara either and that weighed just as heavily on her heart as the rest of them.  “What does she need or want from me?” 

 

Jess almost didn’t hear the quietly whispered words.  Smiling as she lightly squeezed Buffy’s forearm.  “A friend.  She’s going to need a friend when all this hits her.  Right now she’s mostly in shock and the realization of what happened hasn’t really had a chance to sink in.  You know more about what happened than I do, but from what I do know… Tara’s going to need someone who knows what happened, or almost happened.  She’ll need a strong shoulder to lean and cry on, and someone to talk to when it gets to be too much for her, before all is said and done.  She’s going to be scared of her own shadow in the days to come, jumping at every sound she hears, and afraid of those she doesn’t know.  She trusts you, Buffy.  Just be there for her, just be a friend.”  Jess didn’t know if Buffy had heard a word she’d said, the silence in the car lingered for long minutes before Buffy finally made any type of movement. 

 

Her head nodded slightly before she spoke barely above a whisper.  “I can be that.”  She nodded again before bringing sad eyes around to look into Jess’s.  “She’ll be sick of seeing me and have to send me away if I have anything to say about it.” 

 

Jess smiled at her, her eyes beginning to twinkle.  “Somehow I doubt that’ll happen.”  She chuckled softly as she thought about a bright shiny toaster.  “What do you say we get this over with so you can go resume your job as watchdog and friend?” 

 

Buffy growled at Jess before letting her lips turn up in a smile, looking back at the Magic Box one more time before turning back to Jess, a somber look on her face once again.  “You sure you want to witness this?”  She raised a brow as she let the anger come to the fore again.  “It’s not going to be pretty by any means.”  The last was growled out in a voice that sent shivers down Jess’s spine. 

 

Jess thought about the shy woman she’d treated and just left at the hospital.  “Oh yeah!”  A grin started to spread across her face as a dangerous look of her own took over her eyes.  “Should I bring my scalpels?” 

 

Buffy’s brows rose with the question before she chuckled softly and shook her head.  “Won’t be needing them, Doc.”  She reached over and patted the disappointed and pouting doctor on the shoulder.  “Plenty of other toys inside to work with, but I’m thinking of just ripping him apart with my bare hands.”  All amusement left her face, a growl starting deep in her chest.  “Let’s go!”  She reached for the door handle and quickly left the car. 

 

Jess was just as quick to follow as she exited the car, hurrying to follow the angry, young woman as she hit the alarm and pocketed her keys. 

 

“By the way…”  Buffy pushed open the door to the Magic Box as she looked over her shoulder at Jess.  “Does your better half know about your logical, serious, understanding, and comforting side?”  Buffy nodded towards the car to let Jess know that she was talking about the little speech she’d given her moments ago. 

 

Jess had a shocked look on her face for a moment before her lips twitched.  “It’s a very rare occurrence, and shocks the hell out of her when it does happen, but yes.”  She smirked at Buffy and pushed her into the shop. 

 

Buffy chuckled softly as she stepped inside the shop.  “I bet she marks it on the calendar when it does, for posterity.”  She grinned at the tall, dark haired woman before letting her smile lessen as she became serious.  “Thank you, Jess.” 

 

Jess knew Buffy was serious when she called her by name.  “You’re welcome, Buffy.”  Then she winked at her.  “But unlike the wife, I’ll be sending you a bill for my fees.”  She patted Buffy on the shoulder as she grinned and stepped by her heading further into the shop, chuckling as she heard the growl behind her.  

 

Buffy growled as she closed the door and followed Jess, shaking her head as she smiled at the woman’s back, somehow knowing that both she and Tara had made new friends today, whether they wanted them or not. 

 

~HLM~

 

Giles looked up when he heard the bell over the door as it opened.  About to ask Buffy how the young woman was, he closed his mouth as he saw a tall woman behind the Slayer. 

 

Jess smiled at the man behind the counter before her eyes quickly traveled the shop, taking in different jars filled with odd looking items, crystals, books, trinkets, candles, as well as whatever else her eyes scanned across.  She turned back to find the man still looking at her when she heard Buffy start to speak. 

 

“Giles.”  Buffy nodded in his direction before she looked around for signs of anyone else in the shop.  “Xander and Wil?”  Her eyes swung back to the Watcher. 

 

Giles dragged his eyes away from the attractive woman to land on Buffy.  “Ah, Xander and I went out to…”  He trailed off with a look back at the woman standing slightly behind Buffy. 

 

“She’s in the know, Giles.”  Buffy sighed as she stepped closer to the counter and leaned against it.  “So, you and Xander patrolled.  Any problems?” 

 

Giles sighed and removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose.  Sometimes he wished his Slayer weren’t so hell-bent on breaking the rules. 

 

“Get over it, Giles.  She bought a clue on her own.”  She rolled her eyes as she watched the man sigh and rub his forehead.  “Giles, this is Dr. Numbnuts, who happens to fix the less fortunate, should they survive the things that go bump in the night around here.  Numbnuts, Giles, the owner of this joint, who also happens to be my Watcher.”  Buffy smirked at Jess over her shoulder. 

 

“Buffy!”  Giles was somewhat appalled at the introduction. 

 

Jess just chuckled softly and held out her hand to the man.  “Jess Black, nice to meet you.” 

 

Giles glared at Buffy before smiling and taking the woman’s hand, not surprised at the firm handshake from the woman.  “Rupert Giles, the pleasure’s mine, Dr. Black.” 

 

Buffy snorted softly.  “Somehow I really doubt that.”  She grinned when Giles eyes snapped back at her with a reproachful look.  “I’ve met her better half, somehow I don’t think pleasure is anywhere in the equation for you.”  Buffy smirked and shrugged at the man. 

 

Jess chuckled softly as she turned amused eyes on the Slayer. 

 

Giles, not knowing what to think of the Slayer’s comment, shook his head.  “That’s still no reason to be rude, Buffy.” 

 

Buffy rolled her eyes.  “Yeah, whatever.  Black, White, Numbnuts.”  She grinned again.  “It suits her best.” 

 

“I’ll make sure I rush out first thing tomorrow to apply for a name change.”  Jess winked at Buffy. 

 

“You do that.”  Buffy chuckled before she tilted her head in thought.  “Maybe you two should think about changing your names to Gray.  You know, black, white, mix them together you get gray.”  Buffy grinned at Jess again. 

 

Jess smirked.  “Maybe we should just change it to Colors.  Make it easier to put our names on the mailbox.” 

 

Buffy raised a brow as she tried to figure that one out. 

 

Jess chuckled seeing the confusion on Buffy’s face.  “Chris’ last name is Green.”  Jess grinned as Buffy snorted softly and shook her head before laughing. 

 

“Leave it to you two to find women with colors for names.”  She shook her head again.  “But I still think Numbnuts suits you.”  She winked before turning back to an embarrassed looking Giles.

 

“Whatever you say, Fido.”  Jess smiled at the growl she got in response.  “And the names were a prerequisite, otherwise the deal was off and we would have had to keep looking.”  Jess grinned at the Slayer. 

 

Buffy smirked at the blush coloring Giles face, but decided to let him off the hook.  “So… patrol, Scoobies?” 

 

Giles coughed as he pulled his glasses off as the handkerchief came out of his pocket.  “Yes, we ah… we didn’t run into anything on patrol, and I finally convinced Willow and Xander to go home just a short time ago.”  Giles took a deep breath, releasing it slowly as he finally looked up, placing the glasses back on his face. 

 

“Good.”  Buffy nodded.  “I really didn’t want to have to deal with them tonight.  I’m sure I’ll get an earful tomorrow as it is.”  She sighed wearily as she leaned against the counter, scrubbing her face before setting her arms on the top.  “Any problems with him?”  Buffy growled as she turned her head to the door of the backroom. 

 

“None to speak of.”  Giles shook his head, his eyes traveled to the doctor as she stepped up beside Buffy, squeezing her shoulder. 

 

“How is the young woman?”  He showed genuine concern as he kept his eyes on the doctor, hoping for more of an answer than he’d get from Buffy. 

 

“Easy, Fido.”  Jess dropped her hand from Buffy’s shoulder down to rub her back.  “It will take a while, but Tara will be fine.  She’s got a broken arm, three cracked ribs, a concussion, and multiple cuts and abrasions.  Not to mention she’s going to feel like she went twelve rounds with Mike Tyson.  But all in all, she’s happy to be alive and that it wasn’t worse.”  She pulled Buffy against her side when she spoke the last part. 

 

Giles nodded.  “She’s a nice young woman from what I’ve seen of her.  Shy and quiet.”  He shifted his eyes to Buffy.  “I put her things in the office, and checked the alley again to make sure I found everything that might have belonged to her.” 

 

Buffy nodded.  “Thanks, Giles.  I’ll take her things when we leave.”  She sighed again as she looked towards the backroom.  “They were going to rape her, Giles.  They would have, if I hadn’t interrupted.”  Buffy growled deep in her chest as her fists clenched.  “I need to find out if this is something new going around, or if it was just this group of them out for a bit of fun.” 

 

Giles flinched slightly as the Slayer brought angry eyes back to him.  He’d seen her angry before, but he didn’t quite know how to describe what he saw in her eyes now.  He just knew that he was glad to be on her side at the moment, and didn’t envy the vampire out back that awaited his fate at her hands.  He looked up to see swirling emotions in the dark haired woman’s eyes as well.  “Let us pray that this was indeed an isolated incident.”  He nodded at the women as Buffy straightened up. 

 

Jess squeezed Buffy’s shoulder before the Slayer stepped away from the counter.  She silently followed her to the closed door. 

 

Giles warily watched as they walked away, thinking it best to stay here in the shop rather than follow them to the backroom, though he did worry about the doctor going with the Slayer.  Nodding to himself as he came to that conclusion, Giles headed to lock the front door and make him self busy before the screams to come began. 

 

~HLM~

 

Shortly after hearing the first scream Giles turned on the stereo, the volume being turned up at intervals as the screams got longer and louder.  He was grateful when he could turn the stereo off about an hour later, though he was worried about the doctor. 

 

Buffy guided Jess out of the backroom, settling her in a chair at the table.  “You okay, Numbnuts?” 

 

“Just peachy, Fido.”  Jess ran shaky hands through her long dark hair.  “Apparently there’s a bit of a difference between cutting into people with scalpels and watching their body parts ripped from their body.”  She swallowed as her stomach roiled.  “Definitely a different sound as flesh and bone is torn from body.”  She gave the best smirk she could muster as she looked up at Buffy.  “I never understood when guys would say they popped a nut.  Now I know what they’d meant.” 

 

They both turned to see Giles flinch as the color drained from his face. 

 

“Guess I shouldn’t tell you what she did with that portion of his anatomy after that, huh?”  A slow grin crossed Jess’s face as she fought back the chuckle. 

 

Buffy had no such qualms, she started laughing softly. 

 

“Bloody hell.”  Giles pulled his glasses off as he turned and headed for his office.  “I don’t think I’d care to hear any more, thank you.” 

 

“Sorry, Giles.”  Buffy grinned as she watched him walk away.  All kidding aside as she turned back to Jess, carefully scrutinized the woman.  She was glad to see some color coming back into the woman’s face.  “Sorry if it got a bit gory in there.”  Buffy went to reach out to the doctor, dropping her hand when she saw the blood covering it.  “Let me go wash some of this off.  I’ll bring you some water.” 

 

Jess nodded.  “I’ll be fine, Buffy.”  She gave her a slight grin.  “I wanted to be there, and I’m not sorry I was.”  She gave Buffy a gentle pat on the hip, avoiding the blood on the Slayer’s arm where she’d originally intended to touch before the smaller woman walked away.  “And thanks for letting me get in a bit of practice.  Jen will be pissed she didn’t get to go full force on something that could fight back.”  She chuckled softly as she pictured her sister brooding over that fact.  They were both into kickboxing, though they only went full out on weight bags.  They’d taken up the sport as children, now they just used it as a way of keeping in shape.  Though they never went full out on each other, they had managed to inflict injuries on each other at one time or another.  She looked down at her hands, noticing the slight swelling that was starting.  “Should have grabbed my gloves out of the trunk, Britt’s not gonna be happy.”  She smiled as she thought of the love of her life.  Britt would give her the silent treatment as she tended to her hands, but Jess knew in the end she’d wind up with the smaller woman wrapped around her holding her close once the original burst of annoyance and worry passed. 

 

Buffy set the bottle of water on the table in front of Jess.  She’d cleaned up the mess in the backroom before she’d cleaned up herself.  “What are you smiling about?”  Buffy leaned a hip against the side of the table as she placed a bag with Tara’s belongings on the table.  She was relieved to see the woman looking more herself. 

 

“Britt.”  Jess looked up at Buffy still smiling. 

 

Buffy saw the love shining in Jess’s eyes as she thought about her wife, giving her a smile of her own.  “Ready to get out of here, so she can kick your ass and put some ice on your hands?” 

 

Jess chuckled and nodded.  “That’s what I was just thinking about.”  She grabbed the bottle of water, twisting off the cap and drinking half of it down as she stood. 

 

“Is she going to make you sleep on the couch tonight when she finds out?”  Buffy smirked as she pushed off the table, grabbing Tara’s things again as they headed for the door.  “’Bye, Giles!  We’re heading out!”  She didn’t wait for an answer, she’d already told him what she’d found out while she was in the office with him. 

 

“No, she never has.”  Jess grinned widely at the Slayer as they stepped out into the night.  “And I pray she never does.  I’d be lost without her by my side.”  She sighed dramatically as she dug her keys out, hitting off the alarm as they reached the car. 

 

Buffy chuckled softly before she ducked into the car.  “You’re a big mush ball, Numbnuts.”  She heard the soft chuckle and whispered agreement from the woman before she closed her door. 

 

“Yeah, for her, I am.”  Jess smiled at the thought, shaking her head slightly as she realized she was still standing beside the car. 

 

Buffy grinned at the blushing woman as she finally climbed behind the wheel.  “Can we stop by my house before we head back to the hospital?  I should probably change before they think I’m bleeding to death.”  She looked down at her blood soaked clothes, wrinkling her nose at the sight. 

 

“I was going to suggest that.  You need to grab a shower and food, not just clean clothes, Fido.”  Jess looked at Buffy and shook her head when the Slayer was going to argue.  “We’ve got plenty of time for you to do that, Buffy.  Tara’s knocked out with the drugs I gave her, and Britt’s there to make sure she’s okay.”  Jess gave her a no arguments look, smiling when the Slayer sighed and nodded.  “Point the way.”  She started the car, grinning as she thought, ‘Toast!’, before she pulled away from the curb and followed Buffy’s directions. 

 

~HLM~

 

Joyce looked out the window when headlights shined across the wall, seeing an unknown car pulled in the driveway she stood from the couch and went to the door.  This being Sunnydale, she watched out the window beside the door.  She didn’t open the door until she saw Buffy get out of the passenger side, along with a tall dark haired woman from the driver’s side. 

 

Buffy gave her mother a smile when she saw her eyes scanning for injuries.  “I’m fine, it’s not mine.”  She gave her mom an understanding look when the woman looked relieved. 

 

Joyce nodded and stepped back from the door to allow them entry.  “Do I want to know?”  She eyed the woman with Buffy, sighing silently when the woman stepped into the house without having to be invited. 

 

“Probably not, but I will give you the short version.”  Buffy turned to Jess after Jess shut the door behind them.  “Mom, this is Numbnuts, but I think she also goes by Dr. Black.”  She smiled at Jess before turning back to her mother.  “Numbnuts, my mother, Joyce Summers.” 

 

“Buffy!”  Joyce looked aghast at her daughter, before looking apologetically at the tall woman when Buffy rolled her eyes. 

 

Jess chuckled and held out her hand to Joyce.  “Jess Black.  Its fine, Mrs. Summers, I consider it a term of endearment from Fido.”  Jess winked at Joyce when she heard Buffy growl at her. 

 

Joyce sighed and shook her hand.  “Joyce, please.  And I really did teach her better manners than that.”  She gave Buffy a stern look as she released the woman’s hand.  “Please, come in.  Can I get you get anything?” 

 

Jess shook her head and held up her half bottle of water.  “No, thank you.  But you could get Fido something to eat while she goes to get cleaned up.” 

 

Buffy growled at her just before her stomach growled.  Sighing, she nodded to her mom.  “If you don’t mind, or I can grab something when I get done?” 

 

Joyce pointed up the stairs.  “Go, I’ll fix it.”  She turned back to Jess.  “Care to join me in the kitchen?  You can tell me why my daughter was driven home by a doctor.” 

 

“Mom…”  Buffy shut her mouth when Joyce turned and pointed up the stairs. 

 

Jess just smirked at Buffy as she started to follow Joyce. 

 

Buffy growled, her lip sneering up at Jess. 

 

Jess winked and chuckled softly.  She stopped next to Buffy and patted her on the shoulder.  “Just the basics, Fido.  I’ll let you go into details if you so choose.”  She gave Buffy an understanding look. 

 

“Thanks, Numbnuts.  I don’t think everyone has to know all the details.  That’s Tara’s choice if she wants anyone else to know more.” 

 

Jess nodded.  “It is.  Go on.”  Jess nodded towards the stairs. 

 

Buffy nodded and headed up as Jess headed in the direction Joyce had gone. 

 

~HLM~

 

Jess sat at the island in the kitchen filling Joyce in as she watched her making sandwiches for Buffy, having refused anything for herself.  “She’s really going to eat all that?”  Jess raised a skeptical brow as she looked at the three huge sandwiches Joyce placed on a plate and set on the island. 

 

“And then some.”  She chuckled as Jess’s eyes grew wide.  She grabbed down a bag of chips and a glass placing both on the island before she got the gallon of milk from the fridge.  “This is just a snack compared to what she can eat.”  She headed towards the stove to shut off the burner below the teakettle.  “Does Tara have any family?”  Jess had told her that Buffy would be spending the night at the hospital. 

 

“I’m sure she does somewhere, but it’s my understanding that she doesn’t have any here in town.  She didn’t want anyone notified as far as I know.”  Jess turned her head to the doorway, smiling as Buffy came in drying her hair. 

 

“She said no when I asked her.”  Buffy frowned as she thought about the woman being all alone.  “I’m not even sure where she lives.  But she did have an ID card for UCS in her wallet.” 

 

“She has to have an apartment or some place to stay now that classes are out for the summer.”  Joyce added a touch of milk to her tea.  “Sit down and eat, Honey.”  She leaned back against the counter as she watched Buffy tear into her first sandwich. 

 

Jess looked on in amazement as the first sandwich disappeared in no time.  “Did you even taste that?”  She smirked as she got a growl in answer as Buffy picked up her second sandwich. 

 

“Will Tara be able to get around by herself when you release her?”  Joyce smiled behind her cup as she watched her daughter frown.  She could see the wheels turning in her head, the doctor having told her about Buffy’s being protective and the care she showed for the injured woman.  Also of Tara’s own not wanting to let go of the safety she found in Buffy presence.  She’d already thought of offering her home to the young woman but waited to see if Buffy would ask.  She had a feeling it was either that, or her daughter would be camping out on Tara’s couch if she had one. 

 

“She can’t even open her eyes right now, they’re swollen shut.”  Buffy set her sandwich down as she picked up her milk. 

 

“She should be able to open them by morning, maybe only slits to see out of, but she will be able to see.”  Jess gave Buffy’s back a gentle pat.  “As for the rest of it, she’s going to be hurting.  The cracked ribs will limit her mobility.  I still have to cast her arm in the morning when some of the swelling has gone down.”  Jess had caught the hidden smile on Joyce’s face, happy the woman seemed to be as caring for the unknown younger woman as her daughter was.  She turned her eyes back to Buffy, covering her mouth as she leaned an elbow on the island, a grin forming behind her hand as she once again thought.  ‘Toast!’ 

 

Buffy played with the chips on her plate as she bit her lip in thought.  She finally brought her eyes up to her mother’s after a few minutes of silence.  “Can she stay here until she can get around enough to go home on her own?” 

 

Joyce sipped her tea to cover the smile, lowering her cup as she schooled her features.  “How do you know she’d want to come here, Honey?  She doesn’t know us from Adam.” 

 

Buffy frowned.  “She knows me.” 

 

Joyce raised a brow as she continued to look at her daughter. 

 

Buffy sighed and looked down at her plate again.  “Well, she kinda knows me.”  She poked at her sandwich before looking back up at her mother.  “We can ask her, can’t we?”  Buffy looked hopefully at her mom. 

 

Joyce chuckled softly and nodded.  “You can ask her, Buffy.”  She nodded towards her plate.  “Eat.” 

 

Jess grinned as Buffy grabbed her sandwich, quickly polishing it off before she grabbed the last one. 

 

“Can I steal a pair of your sweats?”  Buffy stopped eating long enough to ask her mother.  “She’s going to need clothes, and I don’t know where she lives or if she’d want me going through her things.  Yours should fit her.” 

 

Joyce nodded.  “There are new ones in the dryer, along with new boxers that I washed earlier on top.  Anything else?” 

 

Buffy shook her head as she swallowed.  “I grabbed socks, and I’ve got her other sneaker.” 

 

“You’ll just need the pants.  Britt grabbed one of my shirts out of the car earlier for her.  Buttons will be easier to get in and out of with her ribs and arm.”  Jess shrugged when Buffy raised a brow at her.  “I’d gone to a seminar for a couple days and still haven’t made it home yet.” 

 

Buffy nodded as she grabbed her last sandwich.  “Makes sense now, Numbnuts.  I thought maybe she’d made you sleep in the car rather than on the couch.”  She smirked before tucking into her food. 

 

Jess growled at Buffy before she smiled up at Joyce.  The smile slipped from her lips as she watched Joyce, she saw the look of confusion, followed by the wheels turning.  She didn’t really care what Buffy’s mother thought of her, she’d dealt with people who didn’t like the fact that she loved a woman for longer than she cared to think.  She just hoped for Tara’s sake, and possibly Buffy’s, that the woman didn’t have a problem with gays. 

 

Buffy was oblivious to the silence that had taken over the kitchen as she finished up the chips and milk.  Looking at Jess she noticed the tensing of the doctor’s body that hadn’t been there before.  Her eyes followed Jess’s to her mom, frowning as she watched her stare off into space. 

 

Joyce smiled at the teasing between the two before a look of confusion crossed her features.  She then reran the conversation back over in her mind.  ‘Britt… she’d made you sleep… OH!’  Her eyes opened wide as the pieces clicked into place.  On the heels of understanding, a blush worked its way up her neck to color her cheeks as thoughts of her own college days flashed through her mind.  Had it not been for meeting Hank…  She looked up to find two pair of eyes watching her.  She squirmed a bit under the scrutiny as her cheeks flushed another shade of red. 

 

Buffy tilted her head as she looked at her mom, wondering what that was all about.  Her eyes narrow as she sees another blush when she noticed them watching her.  Eyes opening wide suddenly as Buffy recalls the previous conversation, the little light bulb flashing brightly in her head.  “NO WAY!  YOU?”  She chokes out in disbelief as her mom blushes profusely and lowers her eyes.  “And I thought you and Giles going at it on the police cruiser was bad enough!” 

 

“BUFFY!”  Joyce blushes darkly as her eyes shift to the doctor. 

 

Jess let a slow smirk cross her face as her brow rises while looking at the flustered woman. 

 

Buffy covered her face with her hands and whimpered as pictures of her mother with a woman flash in her mind.  “Things children should never know about their parents.”  She whimpered again as she rubbed at her eyes. 

 

Jess laughed and turned to Buffy.  “That won’t help get rid of the mental images, Fido.” 

 

Buffy growled softly as she dropped her head to the island as she pushed away her plate.  “I’m going to require professional help if I learn any more about my mother’s sex life.”  She lightly banged her head on the counter.  “What ever happened to the birds and the bees?  No where did it mention details of your parents having sex anywhere in there.”  She banged her head again with a whimper. 

 

Jess snorted as she rubbed Buffy’s back.  “And just where do you think you came from?” 

 

“The stork!  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!”  Buffy grumbled loudly as her head remained down. 

 

Jess started laughing, Joyce and Buffy finally joining in turn. 

 

~HLM~

 

Continuing to chuckle on occasion, Jess pulled into the parking lot.  Laughing as Buffy jumped out of the car before she had a chance to put it in park, only to receive a glare as she walked towards the hospital.  Jess snorted softly as she shut the car off and got out to follow the quickly retreating Slayer.  “Oh, come on, Fido!  It was funny!”  She started chuckling at the loud growl that reached her ears as she jogged after the smaller woman.  Joyce had continued to blush every time one of them had looked her way, and Buffy occasionally mumbled to herself about being scarred for life now that she knew too much about her mother’s sex life. 

 

She chuckled as she thought about the smaller woman rushing around to gather what Tara would need before hurrying out of the house without a backwards glance.  Jess had stayed behind long enough to speak with Joyce, making arrangements with the woman about Tara’s room number and the time she’d probably be ready to be released tomorrow.  Joyce had shaken her head and nodded for Jess to look out the door as they watched the Slayer stomp off as she’d left the yard and headed down the road towards the hospital.  Jess had looked back at Joyce, debating whether or not to say anything before finally deciding to give the woman a heads up and feel her out about the subject.  “How would you feel about having a daughter-in-law instead of a son-in-law?” 

 

Joyce’s brows rose as her eyes widened slightly.  “But she’s only shown interest in guys in the past, the latest not turning out so well.”  Joyce tacked on the end as she frowned. 

 

“Just a warning, Joyce, Tara is a lesbian and Buffy’s aware of that fact.  I don’t know if anything will come of it, but just watching the two of them together…”  Jess shrugged and shook her head slightly.  “It could all just be the circumstances of the moment, but both my wife and I feel this could lead somewhere given time and patience.  You’ll be able to see for yourself when you see the two of them together.”  Jess gave Joyce a smile as she placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently.  “I just wanted to give you a heads up, something to think about perhaps before you get blindsided with it.” 

 

Joyce nodded.  “Thank you.  It’s not something I’ve given thought to in the past.”  She felt her face heating again.  “Nor have I given thought to my own past until tonight.”  She chuckled in embarrassment.  “I do appreciate the warning, and I’m sure I’ll give it some thought tonight to get used to the possibility.”  She gave Jess’s forearm a light squeeze.  “I really don’t think it will bother me, but it will take a little getting used to.”  She then nodded out the door.  “You’d better go before she ends up walking all the way back to the hospital.”  She chuckled softly when Jess rolled her eyes.  “It was nice meeting you, Jess.  And thank you for caring about my daughter and her new friend.  I know it’s not something that doctors usually do.” 

 

Jess shook her head.  “You’re welcome, and you’re right.  It’s not often that I, or rather we, Britt and I, get personally involved with the people that we see professionally.  But given the two we were given to work with…”  Jess shrugged and chuckled.  “It was hard not to.”  She stepped out the open door.  “Just wait until you meet Tara.  There’s something about the young woman that screams out at you to get to know her.  I have a feeling she wears her heart on her sleeve, and there’s no hidden motives behind anything she does.  Just an honest to Gods good person, inside and out.”  Jess shrugged again.  “I’ve only ever felt that kind of vibe from one other person in my life, and I vowed long ago never to let her out of my life.  Best decision I ever made, and in the end, I married her.”  Jess smiled softly with a look of absolute love shining from her eyes. 

 

“I’m glad you found that special someone, not everyone is lucky enough to get the brass ring.”  Joyce smiled as she reached out and squeezed Jess’s arm again.  “I’ll see you tomorrow, Jess.  Get going.  I know my daughter wants to get back to Tara, and from the looks of you, you want to get back to Britt just as much if not more.” 

 

Jess grinned and nodded before she turned and jumped off the porch.  “You got that right!  See you tomorrow, Joyce.” 

 

Joyce smiled as she watched Jess run for her car to hurry off after her daughter before closing the door and locking up for the night.  She had a lot to think about tonight. 

 

Jess chuckled softly as she thought about catching up with Buffy, the smaller woman having made it about a quarter of the way to the hospital before she finally found her.  She was drawn out of her musings when she heard a frustrated growl. 

 

Buffy stood pressing the call button for the elevator repeatedly as she stared up at the nonmoving numbers above the door. 

 

“You know that doesn’t make it move any quicker, don’t you?”  Jess grinned as she got an even louder growl. 

 

Buffy turned a glare on the taller woman before spinning on her heel and heading for the door to the stairs, mumbling as she went.  “Too damn slow!” 

 

Jess laughed and looked up at the numbers that finally started moving as the elevator descended.  She decided it best not to inform the rapidly retreating Slayer of that fact, hoping that the little terror didn’t cause any major damage when she got up to Tara’s floor.  It was after visiting hours and close to shift change, there would be plenty of personnel to try stopping her.  She stepped into the elevator as the doors opened, hoping she didn’t find said personnel lying in the corridor when she got to Tara’s floor.  Pressing the button for the fourth floor she sighed as she thought about who was working the floor earlier.  She chastised herself for grinning when she thought about finding one particular homophobic nurse laid out on the floor.  “Be good, Jess.”  She mumbled to herself as she started to pout, knowing that she shouldn’t really hope for that scenario as she leaned against the back wall as the doors closed. 

 

~HLM~

 

When the elevator doors opened Jess felt as if her luck for the day was coming to an end.  She’d gone the whole shift without running into the ‘Nightmare’, as Nurse Wilson was called by most of the staff, only to run into her when the woman should be gone for the day. 

 

Buffy stood toe to toe, growling at the woman in a white nurse’s uniform that was trying to keep her from Tara’s room.  “If you don’t move, I’ll move you my self!”  Buffy edged up onto the balls of her feet as she resumed growling and glaring at the nurse. 

 

Nurse Wilson, a nursing veteran of over forty years, stood with her hands on her hips in front of the Slayer.  “Visiting hours are over for the evening, you’ll have to come back tomorrow during regular visiting hours.  There are no exceptions!”  She crossed her arms over her ample chest as she gave the Slayer a look that said ‘I will brook no arguments from you’. 

 

Jess hurried to the steaming couple before all hell broke loose.  Placing a hand on the Slayer’s shoulder as she stepped up beside Buffy, she gently squeezed the tense shoulder as she spoke.  “Is there a problem here, Nurse Wilson?”  She stood up straight, shoulders back, using her height as an intimidation factor, though she knew it would be lost on the crabby old bat she did it anyway. 

 

“Visiting hours are over and have been for quite some time, as you well know, Doctor.”  The nurse wasn’t happy to run into the tall doctor, they’d had their share of run-ins before, and she really didn’t care for the doctor’s blasť attitude about hospital regulations and policies.  Not to mention the fact of her lifestyle.  “This girl is refusing to leave as ordered.  I was just about to have Security called to have her removed.” 

 

Jess’s lips twitched as that got a louder growl from the Slayer.  Looking down at a nonexistent watch on her wrist, Jess looked back up to the nurse.  “Aren’t you now off duty, Nurse Wilson?  And as such, you now have no authority on what does or doesn’t go on here?  Or am I mistaken?”  Jess raised a quizzical brow as she looked at the nurse, not giving her a chance to respond as the nurse opened her mouth she quickly continued.  “Have a good evening, Nurse Wilson.  Oh, and say hello to your husband for me, will you.”  She guided Buffy around the fuming woman and down the hall. 

 

Buffy snarled at the woman, giving her a force ten glare as she was led away. 

 

A smirk broke across her face and she winked at the two nurses standing at the nurse’s desk.  “Evening, Ladies.  Ms. Summer’s will be spending the night in Ms. Maclay’s room.  Please make sure she has everything she requires, would you.” 

 

To their credit, the two nurses at the desk held back their laughter, one nurse covering her mouth as they’d watched the exchange.  The younger of the two wearing blue scrubs spoke for the both of them.  “Good evening, Dr. Black, Ms. Summers.”  She nodded as she grinned at the pair.  “We’ll make sure you’re undisturbed for the night.  Is there anything we can get you at present?” 

 

Buffy smiled sweetly as an evil look crossed her features before turning her head to look over her shoulder at the older nurse.  “I suppose a noose would be out of the question?”  She turned back with a hopeful, questioning look on her face. 

 

That caused the four of them to start laughing, with Jess mumbling something about tying the knot herself. 

 

“This will go on report, Dr. Black!”  Nurse Wilson huffed loudly, a pinched look on her face as she gave each woman a disgruntled look before spinning on her heel and heading towards the floor’s locker room to retrieve her possessions. 

 

“I’m sure it will be, Nurse Wilson, just like always.”  Jess called to the retreating woman’s back, turning back to the nurses with a wide grin on her face.  “Ladies.”  She nodded to the women and headed down the hall with Buffy as the laughter continued to follow them. 

 

~HLM~

 

Buffy quickly outpaced Jess as they got closer to Tara’s room, she had the door open, slipping into the room while Jess was still two rooms away.  Jess just grinned.  “Toast, definitely toast!”  With knowledge that Joyce had at least experimented in a relationship with another woman before, probably back in her college days, making Jess feel better about the odds that if something did develop between Buffy and Tara, they would have at least one parent that wouldn’t be judgmental in their corner.  She still wondered about Tara’s situation though, but shook that thought off for later as she stepped into the room softly closing the door behind her. 

 

Britt had heard the laughter in the hall, knowing that her other half had to have had something to do with it when the door opened and Buffy stepped into the room.  She smiled at the younger woman, though it was lost on Buffy as her eyes took in everything about the woman in the bed.  She closed her book and tucked it into her bag, pulling out the shirt she’d grabbed out of the car earlier as she did. 

 

“How is she?”  Buffy finally brought her eyes to Britt as the woman sat back up. 

 

She smiled at the sadness and concern she saw in the Slayer’s eyes, holding out the shirt for Buffy to put with whatever else she brought for the Wiccan.  “She’s fine, Honey.  Drugs are a wonderful thing on occasion.”  Britt wrapped an arm around Buffy’s shoulders as she stood.  “She’s been out since you two left.”  She smiled as Jess walked in the door.  “Get everything taken care of?”  Her eyes noted the patches of blood on Jess but didn’t see any visible signs of injury.  Though she did note the swelling in her hands before Jess hid them behind her back with a sheepish look when she realized she was being checked out. 

 

Buffy felt Britt tense, looking up to see her looking at the doctor with a frown on her face.  “Nothing a little ice won’t cure, she didn’t take any hits herself.”  Buffy bit her lip, her own body tensing as she thought about getting the doctor in trouble before she spoke again.  “It’s my fault for not giving her a pair of gloves first.” 

 

Britt sighed and squeezed Buffy’s shoulders.  “Numbnuts should have thought of that on her own BEFORE she jumped into the fray!”  She gave her lover a stern look, winking at Buffy when Jess nodded and dropped a guilty head. 

 

Buffy’s lips twitched realizing that Britt wasn’t really mad, and had probably somewhat expected that Jess wasn’t going to just sit back and watch, but she was going to make the doctor pay for her actions. 

 

They both watched as Jess guiltily shuffled into the bathroom to quickly wash her hands before moving over to the other side of Tara’s bed, quietly checking out the woman’s injuries. 

 

“Good news is, is that it was an isolated incident.  Just some thing that this group decided would be fun!”  Buffy growled out the last part as she stepped away from Britt to put the clothes for Tara down.  “So I don’t have to worry about the evil bastards around here taking up the sport, anyway.” 

 

Britt released Tara’s hand to allow Buffy to take it when the Slayer stepped back beside her.  She moved behind Buffy, wrapping her arms around her upper chest and pulled her back against her self.  “That’s good to know, Honey.”  She rubbed her upper arm. 

 

Buffy nodded but still tensed with the picture of Tara being attacked.  “Yeah, it is.  But it still pisses me off that they even thought about and acted on it.”  Buffy finally relaxed back into the body behind her when Britt just held her a little tighter and kept up the soothing support.  Her eyes shifted from what Jess was doing up to Tara’s face when she felt Tara’s fingers tighten around a couple of her own.  She could tell by Tara’s relaxed state and breathing that the Wiccan was still sleeping, or more precisely, knocked out.  But she felt as if Tara knew she was there and offering her own support, which served to calm the Slayer even more. 

 

“She’ll be okay, Honey.  In time, she’ll be okay.”  Britt gave Buffy a tight hug in reassurance as they waited for Jess to finish her exam. 

 

“The swelling has gone down a bit, but we’ll keep up the icing off and on throughout the night.  I’ll be back in the morning to put a cast on for her.”  She looked up at Buffy and gave her a smile.  “Get some sleep tonight, Fido.  She’s probably going to sleep through until morning herself.” 

 

Buffy nodded, though they all knew she probably wouldn’t, she’d be the one making sure the icepacks were taken care of during the night. 

 

“And speaking of swelling…”  Britt trailed off with a ‘you’re in trouble’ look at Jess. 

 

Jess dropped her head guiltily again. 

 

Buffy chuckled softly as she watched the tall doctor fidget. 

 

Britt gave Buffy a final squeezed before releasing her.  “We’ll see you in the morning, Honey.” 

 

Buffy nodded and smiled over her shoulder at Britt.  “Thank you both for everything.  I know you broke a few rules in helping Tara and letting me stay.” 

 

“Don’t worry it, Honey.”  Britt chuckled and squeezed Buffy’s shoulder. 

 

Jess grinned at the Slayer, her eyes twinkling.  “If anyone says anything, I’ll pull out my secret weapon.”  She nodded towards Britt to let Buffy know what her secret weapon was.  “She’ll just bat her lashes and look innocent, and the Department Head will roll his eyes and walk away.  That will be the end of it.”  She chuckled softly as she winked at Britt. 

 

“It’s nice having relatives in high places around here.”  Britt chuckled softly.  “You’d think the people that keep complaining about us would catch a clue when nothing ever happens on their claims.”  She gave Buffy a smile and another hug after picking up her bag off the floor.  “Get some sleep, Honey, we’ll see you tomorrow.” 

 

Buffy smiled at the couple as they headed out.  “Goodnight.” 

 

Jess winked over her shoulder as she wrapped her arm around Britt.  “’Night, Fido.”  She closed the door on the soft growl coming from the Slayer.

 

Buffy sighed softly as she turned back to Tara, watching the woman sleep before finally settling into the chair for the long night ahead. 

 

~HLM~

 

The night had been somewhat uneventful, Buffy having spent it placing and removing icepacks every twenty minutes.  The swelling having gone down considerably with the constant attention, though Tara would still have trouble with opening her eyes, at least the arm had gone down enough for putting on the cast. 

 

She’d slept relatively well, but there were moments of agitation.  Buffy had whispered soothingly to calm Tara down when she’d start to mumble and thrash about in the bed.  The drugs keeping her under and sleeping when the nightmares began, but Buffy worried about when there would be no more drugs.  That’s where her thoughts were at in the early morning hours when she’d laid her head on her arm on the bed, one hand holding Tara’s, the other gently rubbing up and down her forearm, her eyelids losing the battle to stay open. 

 

Mind muddled and confused, Tara slowly dragged herself into wakefulness.  Frowning when her eyelids felt heavy and refused to open, then the aches and pains registered keeping her still to take stock of her body.  ‘Okay, movement not a good idea, Tara.  Though, something to get the cotton out of your mouth and a trip to the bathroom would be good.’ 

 

Slowly prying her eyes open to slits, Tara looked around as best she could without moving.  Her arm was resting on a couple of pillows in a splint, throbbing with her heartbeat as were her head and the rest of her body.  She felt warmth in her right hand, and on her arm and hip.  Turning her head to the other side, she found a blonde head pressed against her hip where the Slayer had fallen asleep. 

 

Tara studied the woman’s face, wondering what caused the slight frown and furrowed brows as Buffy slept.  Slowly getting her finger loose, she lightly traced it along the Slayer’s chin and jaw.  Smiling as the frown and drawn brows eased with her touch, Tara continued the gentle caress as the Slayer slept on.  She wouldn’t let her mind go to the reason she was here… not yet.  She’d wait until she was back in her apartment, behind a locked door before she let her mind travel to what had happened… she didn’t want to think about that now. 

 

She turned her head towards the door when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. 

 

Patti, one of the nurses from the night shift poked her head in the door, smiling when she saw the small blonde finally sleeping.  Her eyes moved to the woman in the bed, smiling a bit wider when she saw the woman looking back at her.  Quietly entering the room so as not to wake the sleeping woman, Patti whispered as she stopped beside the bed.  “How are feeling this morning?  Anything I can get you?”  She checked the icepacks on the tray stand, making a mental note to bring new ones in a few minutes. 

 

Tara licked her lips and swallowed after she’d tried to speak and nothing came out. 

 

Patti smiled and poured some water for Tara, placing a straw in the cup before she brought it to Tara’s lips.  “I’ll bring you some ice and fresh water in a minute, but I’m sure this will be welcomed at the moment. 

 

Tara nodded slightly in agreement as she wrapped her lips around the straw, drinking greedily to wet her dry mouth and throat.  “Th-thank you.  I d-didn’t want to w-wake her.” 

 

“I was wondering when she was finally going to drop, she’s been up and taking care of you every time I popped my head in all night long.”  She’d been stopping by every half hour to check on both women throughout the night.  “Can I get you anything besides more water and new icepacks?  Maybe something to eat?  Dr. Black said you hadn’t eaten last night.” 

 

Tara started to shake her head when her stomach growled softly making her blush. 

 

“How about I make you a couple of toast to tide you over until they bring breakfast around?  We usually have milk, orange juice, some horrid coffee, or tea in the lounge I can bring you?”  Patti smiled as she waited for the woman to look at her after she’d blushed and dropped her eyes. 

 

Tara nodded and gave the nurse a small appreciative smile.  “A p-piece of t-toast a-and tea, i-if you d-don’t m-mind, p-please?” 

 

Patti nodded and patted Tara’s shoulder lightly as she winked.  “Coming right up.  I’ll bring you your pain meds when I come back.”  She smiled again as she looked over at the sleeping blonde on the other side of the bed before she quickly and quietly left the room. 

 

Tara turned her head back to watch Buffy sleeping, resuming her gentle caress while she waited. 

 

~HLM~

 

Trying to remove her hand from Buffy’s without waking her, Tara sighed when the Slayer stirred. 

 

“Hmm?”  Buffy tensed before her eyes fluttered open.  Slowly lifting her head, eyes still half closed she looked up at Tara.  “Need something?”  She got out before a yawn. 

 

“Y-you to g-get some r-real s-sleep.”  Tara gave her a soft smile as she ran her fingers through Buffy’s hair. 

 

“I’m fine.”  Buffy sat up and rubbed her eyes before yawning again and stretching, her back cracking as her spine slipped back in place.  “Ahh.”  Standing, Buffy twisted her upper body a couple times, causing a few more pops.  “Much better.”  She opened her eyes again, smiling at Tara before she noticed Patti smiling from across the bed, narrowing her tired eyes at the nurse.  “Why didn’t you wake me?” 

 

Patti chuckled softly as she looked down at her watch for a moment before bringing her eyes back to Buffy.  “That was the first time I’d found you sleeping all night, figured I could do my job at least once before I went off shift.”  She smirked at Buffy before winking at Tara.  “Now that your personal caregiver is back on the job, I guess it’s time for me to take my leave.  Take the pills when you eat, Dr. Black is going to be coming in soon, the pills will be a big help.  Need anything else?” 

 

Tara shook her head, the nurse having brought back everything she’d said she would.  “Th-thank you.”  She gave her a small smile. 

 

Patti smiled at Tara.  “You’re welcome.”  She turned to Buffy before she left the room.  “The cafeteria should be open now if you want something to eat, Tara’s breakfast should be here shortly.” 

 

“Thanks, but my mom will probably be here soon.  More than likely she’ll bring me food.”  She looked towards the door as it opened behind the nurse, rolling her eyes as a dark head came into view and looked around.  “’Morning, Numbnuts.” 

 

Jess grinned at the greeting.  “Good morning, Fido.  Bite anyone last night?”  She grinned again and stepped into the room as Buffy growled at her. 

 

Patti laughed at the two and answered for the small blonde.  “No, she didn’t.  She was well behaved and took care of her patient.”  Patti winked back at Buffy.  “Now that my services are no longer needed, have a good day everyone.”  She passed a smile around the room and stepped around Jess to the door, stepping back as another woman stopped in the doorway.  “Good thing I’m leaving, starting to get crowded in here.”  She smiled at the woman who stepped into the room to let her pass. 

 

“’Bye, Patti, thanks.”  Jess gave Patti a wink as she left before turning her eyes to Joyce.  “‘Morning, Joyce.”  Her eyes dropped to the bag in Joyce’s hand, she could smell the food within.  “Brought a doggie bag for Fido, I see.”  She chuckled softly as she got bumped aside as Buffy grabbed the bag from her mother. 

 

“Buffy!”  She chastised softly.  “Good morning, Jess.”  Joyce shook her head at her daughter’s manners, rolling her eyes as she smiled at the doctor. 

 

Tara watched the newcomer warily as she slowly raised the head of the bed, gritting her teeth and biting back a groan at the pain the movement caused.  Uncomfortable and wishing she was anywhere but in this room at the moment, she tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. 

 

Buffy just grunted at the rebuke from her mom, growled at Jess again and headed back to her seat beside Tara as she opened the bag to see what her mom had brought for them. 

 

They all turned as the door opened again, Britt pushing a wheelchair into the room as Jess and Joyce stepped out of the way.  “I didn’t know there was a party?”  Britt wheeled the chair off to the side out of the way for the moment. 

 

Tara lowered her eyes, dropping her head as far as she could. 

 

“No party, just mom bringing breakfast.”  Buffy looked down at the bag in her hands. 

 

Britt nodded with a smile towards the woman.  “Hi.” 

 

“Hello.”  Joyce smiled back.  “I should probably be going.  It looks like you’re about ready to take her somewhere.”  Joyce turned to smile at Tara.  “I just wanted to stop in and see how you were doing, Tara, and to bring something other than hospital food for both of you.” 

 

“I’m f-f-f-fine.”  Tara had briefly raised her eyes but not her head, quickly lowering them again.  If anything, she wasn’t fine, she just wanted to disappear.  She wasn’t good at meeting new people, and lying in a hospital bed didn’t help.  She wished she could just get up and hide in the bathroom, if not run out the door as she really wanted to do. 

 

“Umm… sorry.  Tara, this is my mom, Joyce.  Mom, Tara and Numbnuts’ better half, Nurse White.”  Buffy smiled back at Tara, frowning when Tara had only nodded her head and looked up briefly. 

 

“Britt, nice to meet you, Joyce.”  Britt gave the woman another smile as she took a sling off the seat of the wheelchair and headed towards the bed. 

 

“Britt.”  Joyce smiled at the small nurse before turning to Tara.  “It’s nice to meet you, Tara.” 

 

“H-hi.”  Tara reached out in nervousness to play with her paper cup of tea. 

 

Joyce smiled at the woman in the bed, taking in her bruises and injuries that she could see.  She didn’t miss the shyness or nervousness of the young woman.  “Let me get out of the way so they can get you ready to go.”  She took a step towards the door as she looked at her daughter.  “Call me when you’re ready to leave and I’ll come get you and bring you back to the house.” 

 

Buffy smiled at her mother.  “Thanks, Mom.” 

 

Tara’s head snapped up in surprise.  “W-w-w-what?”  She quickly lowered it again as everyone looked at her. 

 

Buffy looked from Tara to her mother, eyes wide.  “Umm…” 

 

Joyce raised a brow and frowned at her daughter. 

 

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Tara about that yet.”  Buffy bit her lip as she looked back at Tara.  “Sorry.”  She rolled the top of the bag closed to have something to do.  Tara didn’t look up at her, and Buffy turned furrowed brows and worried eyes to look at everyone in the room, ending on her mom.  “I’ll call you later.” 

 

Joyce nodded with a sigh as she looked back to the woman in the bed who still refused to look at anyone.  “I’ll see you later.”  She nodded to everyone in the room, giving her daughter a pointed look before leaving. 

 

Tara toyed with the plate with the toast on it no longer hungry, knowing everyone was looking at her.  She felt as if she’d just stepped into a bad movie, wanting to find the nearest exit as she tried to make herself as small as possible. 

 

Britt placed a hand on Tara’s shoulder, feeling the woman flinch slightly and the tenseness in her body.  “Sorry, Honey.”  Britt gave her shoulder a squeeze.  “Let’s get you in the sling so we can get you somewhat mobile.” 

 

Tara just nodded and didn’t look up. 

 

Britt knew about the plans to take Tara to Buffy’s house, Jess having told her last night.  She looked over to the uncertain Slayer before turning her eyes on Jess.  “Why don’t you show Buffy where she can get something to drink while I get Tara situated.” 

Added shit from the next paragraph on, so delete, copy and paste to replace would be of the good!!  ; )?  This a bit better???  Still not happy with Buffy’s part?!   

Jess nodded and put an arm around the Slayer.  “Come on, Fido, let’s go for a walk.”  Slightly disappointed when she didn’t get a growl at the ‘taking Fido for a walk’ joke, but she understood.  The Gods knew she hated when Britt wouldn’t acknowledge her when she did something stupid.  Glad to have something to do, she really was grateful that Britt would be trying to solve the latest dilemma.  She liked these two, though she knew it would be a long haul she hoped that things would work out between them as she had a feeling they’d be good for each other... kinda like Britt and myself.  Maybe that’s why we got involved with them, they remind us of ourselves when we were younger.  Mentally shaking herself from her thoughts, she led the Slayer from the room. 

 

“Tara?”  Buffy looked worriedly at the blonde, feeling as if someone punched her in the chest, her shoulders slumping when Tara only shook her head and wouldn’t even look at her.  “I’ll be back in bit.”  She whimpered softly and bit her lip when Tara still didn’t respond, letting Jess lead her out of the room as she continued to look back at Tara. 

 

~HLM~

 

Britt waited for the door to close before she spoke.  “You okay, Honey?” 

 

“N-n-no.”  Tara shook her head and barely whispered. 

 

“Didn’t think so, but we’ll get to that.”  Britt squeezed Tara’s shoulder before she set the sling down on the bed beside the woman.  She picked up the pill cup and looked to see what was in there for meds, placing it back on the tray table.  “Don’t take those yet, I’ll go get you a shot that will work faster than the pain pill.”  Not wanting to push the woman, she figured she’d give her a few minutes to get her emotions back under control before she approached the problem.  “I know you’re not hungry at the moment, but try choking down that piece of toast while I’m gone, the other pills should be taken with food.”  She gave her an understanding smile, though it went lost on the woman, as she gently patted her thigh before heading out the door. 

 

Tara nodded but still didn’t look up as Britt left the room, she’d sneak out if she thought she could get away without being caught.  Sighing as she knew that wasn’t an option she toyed with the toast before finally picking it up, nibbling on a small piece.  Mindlessly eating the toast as her thoughts swirled, one thought at the forefront, she just wanted to go home to her apartment.  She’d become accustomed to being on her own for the past year.  She knew Buffy meant well, but it hit too close to home where others made her choices for her, controlled her life.  She’d finally broken away from that, it having hit her the wrong way when she’d heard that people she didn’t know had made plans for her. 

 

Britt had stopped to check Tara’s chart for which meds Jess had prescribed before heading down the hall. 

 

Buffy looked up hopefully when Britt popped her head in the door to the lounge, her head dropping in disappointment when Britt shook her head. 

 

Jess had turned to look over her shoulder when Buffy had looked towards the door, smiling at her wife. 

 

“I’m going to give her a shot since she still hasn’t taken the pills yet.”  She stepped into the room, walking up beside Jess. 

 

“That’s fine.”  Jess nodded as she stood.  “Let me go get that for you.” 

 

Britt smiled knowingly at her.  Jess wasn’t one to jump into emotional situations if she could sneak out of them.  She smacked her ass as Jess quickly headed out of the lounge before leaning a hip against the table.  “I haven’t talked to her yet, but I will when I get back.  I thought it best to let her pull herself together before I start probing.” 

 

Buffy nodded as she looked sadly up at Britt.  “I honestly meant to speak to her about it, but she was sleeping when we got back last night.  Then I fell asleep, and Patti was there when I woke up.”  Buffy looked down as she played with the container of orange juice Jess had given her, the bag of food beside her still untouched.  “Then you and Numbnuts showed up, and mom.”  Buffy sighed as she brought a hand up to rub the back of her neck.  “There wasn’t time to talk to her.” 

 

“I’ll explain that to her as I try to feel her out.”  Britt had to strain to hear the Slayer’s next words. 

 

“I just want to help her.”  Buffy whispered softly as she wrapped both hands around her juice. 

 

“I know you do, Honey.”  She reached out and squeezed Buffy’s shoulder as she turned her head when Jess walked back in the room.  “I’ll see what I can do.”  She turned back to smile at Buffy, giving her shoulder another squeeze before she took the offered syringe from Jess. 

 

Jess bent her head and gave Britt a kiss before she watched her head back to Tara’s room.  Then she took up her seat of commiseration at the table with the Slayer as they waited. 

 

~HLM~

 

Stepping back into the room Britt smiled at Tara.  “Still here, huh?” 

 

Tara set the last couple bites of toast back on the plate.  “I c-couldn’t figure out h-how to g-g-get out w-without m-my ass f-flapping in the b-breeze, or my arm f-falling off.”  She frowned in disappointment as the thought of escaping while no one was here had gone through her head. 

 

Britt chuckled softly as she stepped up beside the woman’s bed, receiving a swollen looking glare from the blonde.  “Don’t bite my head off, Honey.”  She gave Tara an understanding smile as she took the cap off the needle, giving Tara the shot as gently as she could. 

 

“I-isn’t t-that w-why you g-got r-r-rid of h-her?  S-so y-you c-could p-plead h-her c-case?”  She stuttered horribly, only making her angrier as she looked away from the nurse. 

 

“And what case would that be?”  Britt tossed the used syringe in the bio hazard can before settling her self on the edge of Tara’s bed by her right thigh.  “The part where she really meant to talk to you about the arrangements… or the fact that she didn’t have the opportunity to do so before we all piled into the room?” 

 

Tara gave the smiling nurse another glare before dropping her eyes.  The second part of that she knew to be true, but that still didn’t temper her anger. 

 

Britt moved the rolling tray table out of the way, taking the cup of pills off as she did.  Pulling out the pain pill, she handed the cup to Tara.  “You need to take these, they’re antibiotics.”  She picked up Tara’s tea, raising a brow as if to ask if she wanted that or something else to take them. 

 

Tara nodded as she put the cup to her lips, placing the pills in her mouth before swapping the pill cup for her tea. 

 

Britt got back off the bed and went to where Buffy had put the clothes for Tara.  “I’d imagine the bathroom would be good right about now, so let’s see if we can’t get you partially dressed while that shot takes affect.”  She pulled the socks out of the bag.  “You going to growl at me for helping you out, or are you going to let me?”  Britt turned a raised brow back towards Tara as she turned with the socks in her hand, her lips twitched as she watched the woman. 

 

Tara glared as best she could, her upper lip snarling up before she finally sighed and nodded.  “P-please, the s-sooner t-the better.”  She squirmed slightly as she placed the cup of tea back on the tray table that was still within reach. 

 

Britt smiled as she went to the foot of the bed, flipping the blanket and sheet up over the woman’s feet.  “You know…”  She started putting the socks on as she tossed a couple thoughts out there for the Wiccan to ponder.  “Would it really be so bad to have someone there to cook for you?  Someone who would wait on you hand and foot?  Someone to make sure you didn’t have to do anything to hurt yourself while you’re healing?”  Britt looked up at the woman as she glared at her once again.  “Even if it were to only be for a few days until you could get around on your own a bit better.”  Britt wanted to chuckle at the look the woman was giving her, but bit it back as she put the socks on Tara’s feet.  Giving them a gentle pat when she was done, she looked up and shrugged. 

 

Tara shook her head as she frowned and turned her eyes away.  She still couldn’t get beyond the ‘controlling’ factor of it. 

 

Britt sighed internally as she went back to the bag to grab the boxers and sweatpants.  Looking at them for a moment she set them over the foot of the bed.  “Maybe we’ll wait on those until you’ve made a visit to the bathroom.”  She stepped up beside the bed on Tara’s left side, picking up the sling and preparing it to put on the woman.  “What’s the real reason you’re upset by this, Tara?” 

 

Tara snapped her head around, a surprised look on her face as she looked up at the nurse. 

 

Britt raised a brow as she watched the woman.  “I’d be happy to have someone serve me in your situation.”  She shrugged.  “So there must be another reason.”  She carefully started putting the sling on Tara’s injured arm, trying to move it as little as possible.  “You know if you don’t come to terms with this, and don’t go to the house…”  She stopped what she was doing and looked up at Tara.  “Buffy will be camped outside your door, don’t you?”  She smirked.  “First moan or groan she hears she’ll be breaking down your door to find out what’s wrong.”  She chuckled when she finally got a small smile out of the woman as her eyes rolled. 

 

Tara sighed and nodded.  “I k-know.”  She looked away from the questioning eyes of the nurse, playing with the blanket with her other hand. 

 

Britt went back to putting the sling on, giving Tara time to decide if she wanted to tell her what was wrong or not. 

 

Tara turned back to watch as Britt gently lifted her arm putting the sling beneath it before gently setting it back down on the pillow.  “I c-c-came h-here to g-get a-away f-f-from p-people w-w-w-who w-would c-c-control m-m-me.”  Tara closed her eyes and turned her head away after softly whispering the statement. 

 

Britt raised her eyes to look at the woman, brows furrowing at the pain she’d heard in the softly whispered words.  She wondered what had happened in the woman’s past to bring her here, and marveled at the thought that she could have escaped it, too.  There were a lot of people in the world that once under someone’s controlling influence, never got away.  For one so young to have had the guts to run, Britt wanted to cheer her on.  Though she didn’t know what the situation had been like for Tara, she’d seen the results of controlling relationships in her work in the ER.  What broke her heart, and in turn pissed her off too, was the fact that the one’s being controlled didn’t think they had any choice in the matter, thought it was their lot in life to suffer at the controller’s hands.  She shook off the thoughts of others, bringing her back to the present and the young woman that had found herself to be better than that and got out while she could.  “Time to bend your arm, Honey.”  Britt got the sling situated around the braces and was ready to move Tara’s arm into place across the woman’s body. 

 

Tara nodded as she turned watery eyes back towards her arm, not wanting to move in the opposite direction as the nurse when it was moved. 

 

“Slow and easy.  Let me take care of moving your arm, you just bend your elbow as we go.”  Britt gently guided Tara’s arm over to rest against her stomach as Tara bent her elbow.  When it was in place, she placed the strap around the woman’s neck.  “Thank you.” 

 

Tara blinked as she brought her eyes up to Britt’s.  “W-what?”  She blinked back her tears, confusion etched across her features. 

 

Britt winked at her as she pulled Tara’s hair out from under the strap.  “For not crying out and causing Fido to come charging in to chew on my ass.”  She smiled as Tara chuckled softly. 

 

“The s-shot h-helped.”  Tara sighed as she laid her head back on the pillow behind her. 

 

“You don’t really think that’s what Buffy and her mother were trying to do, do you?”  Britt perched herself on the side of Tara’s bed as she watched the emotions cross the woman’s face. 

 

Tara frowned before finally whispering as she closed her eyes.  “N-no.”

 

“You know she just wants to help, to make things easier for you?”  Britt saw Tara nod before she continued.  “Give her a chance to explain, Tara.  She’s got that whole guilt thing going on with her and with what happened earlier…”  Britt trailed off as Tara nodded again. 

 

“I k-know.”  Tara sighed as she frowned.  “It’s n-not h-her f-fault.” 

 

Britt patted Tara on the hip as she stood.  “You know that, and I know that, but she still blames herself.”  Britt shook her head when Tara opened questioning eyes to her.  “That’s for her to tell you, Honey.”  She walked around to the other side of the bed, pushing the tray table out of the way before getting Tara up out of bed. 

 

~HLM~

 

Tara had managed in the bathroom okay.  She even survived Britt’s help in dressing her when she was done.  Britt had helped her into the boxers and sweatpants while kneeling in front of her, reaching up under the hospital gown so as not to have to have the woman strip.  Tara was eternally grateful for that, though she knew she’d still have to have help getting into the shirt once the cast was put on her arm, but she was glad that her ass wouldn’t be hanging out anymore. 

 

Once Britt put Tara’s sneakers on, after getting her settled in the wheelchair, she moved behind the wheelchair and they headed out to get the cast taken care of. 

 

Buffy looked up when Britt stopped out in the hall with Tara, quickly lowering her eyes again. 

 

Tara had seen the hurt look in Buffy’s eyes and sighed softly, Britt gently squeezing her shoulder. 

 

Jess looked over her shoulder when she’d seen Buffy look up, smiling she winked at Tara.  “Ready to get that cast so you can beat Fido upside the head with it?” 

 

“Jess!”  Britt rolled her eyes at her not so helping other half. 

 

“Gee, thanks!”  Buffy mumbled as she slumped further down in her chair. 

 

Tara’s eyes opened a bit wider at the comment, slowly smiling and shaking her head at Jess.  “N-no h-hitting.”  Her eyes traveled to Buffy, the smile slipping into a frown.  “I th-think she’s a-already b-b-beat h-herself up enough.” 

 

Buffy unconsciously nodded slightly, she was good at that. 

 

Tara didn’t miss the slight agreement coming from the Slayer, she sighed again knowing she’d have to be the one to make amends here.  Tara knew she’d had a gut reaction and that it had been unfair to Buffy, now she had to figure out how to make it right again… without having to explain, if possible. 

 

“Come on, Stud.  Give me a lift before Nurse Ratchet comes back on shift and kicks us heathens off her floor.”  Britt squeezed Tara’s shoulder, hoping that the two women would have a chance to talk on the way down to casting. 

 

Jess puffed her chest out as she stood, flexing her muscles before she headed towards her better half, causing Britt to snort softly and Tara to chuckle.  “Unless you want to go searching the halls to find the room, you might wanna get off your ass and push the damn wheelchair, Fido.  Otherwise, she’ll just keep going in circles here in the hall.”  Jess winked at Tara as she picked up Britt for a kiss before she set her back down and letting her climb onto her back. 

 

Buffy looked up uncertainly at Tara as Jess took off down the hall with Britt. 

 

Tara nodded.  “Please.”  She gave Buffy a nervous smile as the Slayer got up.  Tara pointed back towards the table.  “D-don’t forget that.” 

 

Buffy turned, stepping back to the table to grab the bag of food her mom had brought before she pushed Tara down the hall after Numbnuts and Britt. 

 

Tara chuckled softly when she saw Jess’ knees start to buckle as she stood waiting for the elevator, she had a feeling it wasn’t because of the weight of the small nurse attached to her back. 

 

Britt smiled innocently at Tara and Buffy when they approached, having just released Jess’ ear with a soft evil chuckle and a lick. 

 

Jess stepped into the empty elevator and pressed the button for the first floor, if it wasn’t for Buffy pushing Tara into the small cubicle she’d have dropped Britt off her back and attacked her between floors.  It wouldn’t be the first time the elevator got stuck with the pair in it as Jess looked longingly at the emergency stop button.  She settled for leaning back into Britt as she pressed her against the back wall. 

 

As the doors closed and the elevator started moving Britt began whispering in Jess’ ear.  There was a whimper from the tall woman and a blush rising up Buffy’s cheeks as she teased Jess. 

 

Buffy closed her eyes as she dropped the bag, quickly stuck her fingers in her ears and started humming, her face a bright red with what she’d heard the small nurse describing to the doctor. 

 

Tara looked up at Buffy with a raised brow, before her eyes turned to a groaning Jess as she quickly moved to hit the button for the next floor. 

 

“We’ll be taking the stairs!  We’ll meet you down on the first floor.”  Jess growled softly as she stepped through the barely open doors of the elevator, Britt laughing as she clung to the swiftly moving doctor. 

 

Tara laughed softly as she watched them go, turning to grin up at Buffy.  “It’s s-safe now.”  She reached up and tugged on the Slayer’s sleeve, wincing slightly at the movement that caused her ribs to protest the action. 

 

Buffy opened her eyes to see that they were alone in the elevator and the doors were starting to close again, she’d felt the elevator stop but had been afraid to look.  She scrubbed her red face as she tried to erase the images that Britt’s whispered words had caused to form in her mind, blushing a little more as she felt her own body reacting.  “I really didn’t need to hear what the munchkin had planned for Numbnuts for the rest of the day.” 

 

Tara started laughing softly, her good hand going to her ribs.  “I th-think she f-forgot about your h-hearing.” 

 

“Just my luck.”  Buffy growled softly.  “Did they say were we were supposed to go?” 

 

“They’ll m-meet us on the f-first floor.”  Tara smirked as she turned to face the front of the elevator.  “Th-though, I th-think we’ll h-have a w-wait ahead of us.” 

 

Buffy whimpered softly and leaned against the back wall as Tara chuckled softly. 

 

~HLM~

 

The Slayer had moved Tara’s wheelchair over by a row of seats lining the hall, not too far from and between the elevator and the door to the stairs.  She took a seat near the Wiccan, looking down at the bag she played with in her lap.  “I’m sorry.” 

 

Tara turned towards the woman at the softly whispered words. 

 

“I meant to talk to you about coming to the house with me and mom.”  Buffy lifted worried eyes to Tara.  “You were sleeping when we got back last night, and I was sleeping this morning.”  She nervously tightened her hands on the bag as she tried to think of how to explain her need to help her, she really didn’t understand it herself. 

 

Tara shook her head slightly.  “I’m s-s-sorry, too.”  She dropped her head for a moment.  “I’m j-just u-used to b-being on m-my o-own.” 

 

“I don’t want you to be alone when you’re hurt.”  Buffy licked her dry lips nervously as Tara looked up at her, caught by the blue eyes looking into her own. 

 

Tara saw nothing but sincerity in Buffy’s eyes, just before the look of guilt crept in and Buffy looked away.  “Y-you’re n-not to b-blame.”  Tara reached out, placing a hand on Buffy’s knee.  “P-please s-stop b-blaming yourself, th-this w-wasn’t your f-fault, Buffy.” 

 

“You don’t know.”  Buffy whispered softly as her eyes stayed on the hand on her knee, silently wondering how long it would stay there if Tara knew she was responsible for her getting hurt. 

 

Tara sighed and looked away from Buffy for a moment, trying to think of how she could get the woman to release the guilt.  “N-no, b-but I’m h-hoping you’ll t-tell me.”  She caught Buffy’s nod out of the corner of her eye as she also saw the door to the stairwell crack open, one blue eye looking out and searching around before it met hers.  Tara shook her head slightly, smiling faintly as Jess winked and the door softly closed again.  She turned back to Buffy, her head tilting as she thought for a long moment as the Slayer refused to look at her still.  She thought about all the small woman had done for her, staying with her, keeping her safe… even wanting to continue to help her.  That thought leading to another, giving her a plan as to how to get what she wanted, which was the Slayer to look at her.  Her lips twitched slightly as a twinkle came back to her eye.  “Don’t m-make me h-have to r-reach up to l-lift you’re head.” 

 

Buffy looked up quickly, catching the smile at the corner of the Wiccan’s mouth and the twinkle in her eyes.  “That’s not fair.”  She growled softly, her own lips forming a smile.  The Wiccan had her number now and she knew it, Buffy chuckled softly. 

 

Tara let her lips curl into as much of a smile as allowed by the stitches.  Mentally sighing, Tara decided to grab the bull by the horns as she became serious again, giving Buffy’s knee a squeeze.  “D-did you know th-them?” 

 

Buffy brows furrowed in confusion, the smile slipping into a frown.  “Who?  The vamps?” 

 

Tara nodded. 

 

“No.”  Buffy shook her head slightly, still frowning. 

 

“D-did you even kn-know they existed?”  Tara continued to hold Buffy’s eyes. 

 

“Personally, no.”  Buffy’s brows furrowed further wondering what Tara was getting at. 

 

Tara’s own mind didn’t want to think about it, but she continued down the path she’d started.  “D-did you know what th-they had pl-planned?” 

 

“No!”  Buffy shook her head emphatically. 

 

“D-d-did y-you kn-know th-that th-th-they w-were c-c-coming a-after m-m-me?”  Tara started to shake as the terror bled back into her from that time, her stutter coming out with a vengeance. 

 

“God, no!”  Buffy shook her head as she set aside the bag, covering Tara’s hand on her knee before taking it in both hands as she dropped to her knees beside the shaken woman.  “Tara?”  Buffy brought Tara’s hand to her chest by the armrest of the wheelchair, reaching up to cup the woman’s cheek.  What she really wanted to do was wrap the woman in a tight embrace. 

 

Tara took as deep of calming breaths she could as she forced the terror back, holding tightly to Buffy’s hand as she pressed into her other, holding the Slayer’s worried eyes for much needed reassurance.  When she felt safe again, she blinked back the tears, one falling off her lashes only to be caught by the Slayer before it could touch her cheek.  With a small smile and a force of conviction in her voice, Tara calmly spoke without stutter.  “Then you’re not to blame, are you.”  It wasn’t a question. 

 

Buffy opened her mouth to refute the statement, but nothing came out.  She frowned as she closed her mouth, the tension leaving her body making her shoulders slump as she sat back on her heels. 

 

Tara raised a brow as she squeezed Buffy’s hand.  “You’re no more to blame than I, Buffy.”  Tara tilted her head slightly, her own brows furrowing.  “M-maybe I could h-have been m-more careful… m-more a-aware of my s-surroundings…”  She trailed off as Buffy shook her head and moved closer once again. 

 

“There’s nothing you could have done, Tara.”  Buffy shook her head again as she squeezed Tara’s hand gently.  “They outnumbered you, and were looking to cause problems.  That’s what they do.” 

 

Tara nodded as she held the Slayer’s eyes.  “Then neither one of us is to blame.”  Tara watched the warring emotions swirling within the hazel eyes. 

 

Buffy finally sighed and nodded.  She knew what the Wiccan said was true, but the thought still haunted her as she leaned her forehead against the woman’s shoulder. 

 

Tara knew that the battle wasn’t over, but she felt that they’d at least made it over the first hurdle.  She kissed the top of the Slayer’s head softly before whispering her own acquiescence.  “So, what can I expect if I go h-home with you?” 

 

Buffy smiled and chuckled softly.  “To be pampered and waited on hand and foot.”  She lifted her head and smiled at Tara.  “Thank you.” 

 

Tara gave her a crooked smile, not caring about the pull on her lip as her eyes twinkled with mischief.  “Don’t thank me yet, you m-may be s-sorry for the offer.” 

 

Buffy narrowed her eyes at the Wiccan, but couldn’t keep the smile off her face.  “We’ll see.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly and nodded before she looked towards the stairwell again, this time there were two grinning faces looking out at them. 

 

Buffy followed Tara’s eyes and groaned as she leaned her head back against Tara’s shoulder.  “Can we get this over with and get out of here now?”  She whimpered softly. 

 

Tara chuckled and kissed her head again, blushing as the two headed for them with knowing looks, Jess with a big smirk on her face. 

 

“Ah, I see you’ve got her trained and on her knees already.”  She grinned widely and winked at the blushing Wiccan as the Slayer growled at her.  ‘Yep, everything is just fine!’  She thought to herself as Britt smacked on the ass, though she did chuckle softly at her comment. 

 

~HLM~

 

Tara looked a bit apprehensive, as after they’d gotten her settled on a rolling stool, her arm lying on a tray table.  Her brows furrowed as she looked past the dark haired sisters into the warming tray on another lowered tray table.  She didn’t know what was in there, or what they planned on doing with it. 

 

Jess had told them that they wouldn’t be using a traditional cast on her, that they’d be using something that Jen had cooked up. 

 

As Tara looked at whatever was in the warmer, she realized Jess had actually meant ‘cooked’. 

 

Buffy who was also looking at it frowned, as it didn’t look like any casting material to her.  “What the hell is that?”  She stepped a little closer to it and narrowed her eyes trying to figure it out. 

 

“Secret recipe, can’t tell ya’.”  Jen grinned as she placed a couple other items beside the warmer. 

 

Jess chuckled softly as she started removing the temporary braces on Tara’s arm.  “It’s safe.  We did a trial run with it when Jen broke her arm skiing… or falling, I should say.” 

 

“It was your fault, Bonehead!”  Jen glared at Jess as she stepped up beside her, mumbling.  “Wouldn’t have crashed if you hadn’t run over the tails of my skis!”  She smacked Jess in the back of the head. 

 

“It wasn’t my fault you got in my way trying to cut me off and wipe me out.”  Jess laughed softly. 

 

“Don’t start, you two.”  Britt warned them softly.  “You’re both idiots and shouldn’t be allowed on the slopes together.”  She winked at Tara and Buffy as she jumped up to sit on the counter out of the way. 

 

Buffy snorted softly.  “Why does that not surprise me?”  She smirked, shaking her head when both Jess and Jen looked at her and shrugged with smiles on their faces. 

 

They all looked at Tara’s arm as the last of the braces and wraps were removed. 

 

“Still have some swelling.  We’ll have to replace this in a few days when the swelling goes down completely.”  Jen gave Tara an understanding smile.  “It won’t take as long to put the second one on.  We’ll only have to cut away the core of it to replace, and then seal it back up.” 

 

Tara nodded.  Broken bones were nothing new to her, this being the same arm that had been broken before.  She shuddered unconsciously with the thought of how it had been broken. 

 

Buffy noticed the paling of Tara’s face as she shivered.  “Are you okay?”  She placed her hand on Tara’s that was resting on her thigh. 

 

Tara was brought out of her memories, noticing everyone watching her she started to blush.  “F-fine.”  She nodded as she turned her hand over below Buffy’s, her eyes flicking over towards Britt before looking away as she dropped her eyes. 

 

Britt gripped the edge of the counter under her hands as another little piece of the puzzle slipped into place. 

 

Buffy turned her head towards the nurse having noticed Tara’s brief glance that way. 

 

Britt shrugged when Buffy looked at her, thinking that the two young women would have a lot of talking to do. 

 

Buffy sighed knowing Britt wouldn’t tell her even if she did know.  The hardened eyes of the nurse didn’t go unnoticed, making the Slayer feel that it wasn’t something of the good.  Unconsciously stepping closer to the Wiccan as her protective nature of the woman took over, she gently squeezed Tara’s hand as she slid her other below the blonde’s to hold within both of hers. 

 

Jess had watched the scene before meeting eyes with Britt, holding eye contact for a long moment before she turned back to get started on the cast.  Britt had told her what Tara had said back in the room as they’d sat on the steps in the stairwell to give the younger women time to hopefully straighten things out. 

 

In the silence Jen also studied everyone in the room, knowing she was missing some unspoken tableau she remained silent as she also looked towards her sister-in-law.  Seeing the slight shake of the head that Britt gave her she growled silently as she reached for the thin cloth to get started, this was one case with many little twists to figure out.  “What we’re going to do first is cover your arm with this.”  She showed Tara and Buffy the piece of cloth that would go under the cast.  “It’ll help with the feeling of your arm sweating under the cast.  This acts as a wicking material to keep the moisture away from your skin.” 

 

“It’s the same stuff they make socks and long johns out of as a first layer for cold climate sports or whatever.  We wear them under our layers for skiing and hiking to keep us nice and dry.”  Jess smirked.  “Otherwise Jen’s feet and body really stink when she takes her boots and clothes off.”  She quickly moved her foot so Jen couldn’t stomp on it as she was already busy slipping Tara’s arm into the sleeve. 

 

Jen growled softly at her sister, pissed she’d missed her foot.  “You’re the one that can clear a room, make us have to ride with the damn windows in the car open.” 

 

“Enough, you two.”  Britt just shook her head and rolled her eyes. 

 

Tara smiled up at Britt.  “You’re the r-referee.” 

 

Britt chuckled softly as she nodded.  “More like a nursery school teacher, they act like two year olds constantly.” 

 

“We do not!”  She was answered in stereo as Jen and Jess looked at each other grinning, shrugging as everyone else snorted softly before laughing. 

 

Tara was grateful for the banter, it not only taking the attention away from her but also relaxing the Slayer again. 

 

Jess stepped over by the warming tray, bending over to give it a sniff.  “Smells better than…”  That was all she got out before Jen quickly pushed her face into the mixture. 

 

Jen jumped back and stepped over behind Tara, laughing as Jess lifted her covered face from the goop, she started counting.  “One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three…” 

 

“JEN!”  Britt quickly jumped off the counter and hurried to the sink, wetting a paper towel before she went to assist Jess. 

 

Buffy and Tara were wide eyed with mouths hanging open.  Tara hoping that Jess didn’t retaliate and hit the tray stand her arm was on. 

 

Jess growled as she blew air out her nose causing the rubber-like material to bubble out from her nostrils.  She’d learned in the past when Jen had done this to her before that the material would adhere to the hairs and rip them out when removed. 

 

Britt gave Jen a shake of her head but there was amusement on her face as she turned Jess to face her.  “Easy, Honey.  Kneel down so I can get it off your eyelashes.”  She carefully wiped at Jess’ eyes when her wife complied.  “I should let her kick your ass, Jen.”  She made sure she had all of the quick setting rubberized material off the eyelashes and the small amount that reached up to her eyebrows.  “I would, if I didn’t have to be the one to fix you up when she finished with you.” 

 

Jen just grinned as she continued to count.  “One thousand twenty…” 

 

Britt tossed the paper towel at Jen’s head, biting her lip to keep from laughing herself.  ‘You’d think you would learn not to do that when Jen was around, Honey.’  She thought silently to her self as she slowly started to peel the mask off Jess’ face. 

 

Jess growled from behind the mask.  “I’m gonna break every bone in your body and stuff you into this shit!  You won’t need the bigger batch to fit in when I’m done with you!”  She turned furious eyes on her sister when Britt peeled the mask off her eyelids and beyond her eyes. 

 

Nobody noticed Tara paling again as Jess’ words morphed into the words of an angry man directed at her, her eyes losing focus at the memory now replaying in her mind. 

 

Jen winked at her sister as she continued to count.  “One thousand twenty-eight…” 

 

Buffy watched in fascination as Jess spoke and breathed, the mask stretching and reforming at the movement of her mouth.  The bubble she had blown out by her nose before had tightened back up to lie snuggly against her nostrils, but there was barely any movement to it as she breathed.  “You can breathe with that on?” 

 

Jess smiled behind the mask as Britt slowly pulled it lower and off her nose as her eyes turned to Buffy.  “That was the point she was trying to make by stuffing my face in there.”  She stopped talking as Britt pulled the mask beyond her lips, starting down her chin.  “It’s a breathable material that moves and stretches but will remain snug to whatever it adheres to.” 

 

Both Jess and Britt sighed with relief when the mask was completely off. 

 

“One thousand forty-nine!”  Jen chuckled softly.  “You’re getting better at that.” 

 

Jess looked up at her sister and stuck her tongue out.  “You’re damn lucky!” 

 

Britt chuckled and kissed Jess’ forehead.  “You’ll learn not to stick your face near that shit when Jen’s in the area.” 

 

“At least I still have eyebrows and eyelashes this time.”  She growled at her sister who just shrugged. 

 

“We’re still in the tweaking and learning stage.”  Jen walked over by Jess as she got up off the floor, taking the mask from Britt as she handed it to her. 

 

Britt handed the mask to Jen as she stepped over by Tara.  Unobtrusively placing a gentle hand on the blonde’s shoulder to bring her back from whatever troubling thoughts were going through her mind at the moment, without drawing attention to the Wiccan. 

 

Tara started slightly at the touch, turning to blink blankly up at the nurse before she became aware of her surroundings again. 

 

Buffy released Tara’s hand as she took the offered mask from Jen, as the three of them got into a discussion about the material. 

 

Tara took a relieved breath, not just at being drawn from her memories but also because Britt was the only one that seemed to notice her distress.  She brought her hand to her face when Buffy released it, wiping the sweat that had began to form on her upper lip and brow as she got her wits about her. 

 

Britt gently squeezed Tara’s shoulder before she started a comforting rub along her upper back.  Knowing Buffy’s outstanding hearing, she leaned to make eye contact with Tara, mouthing.  “Are you okay?” 

 

Tara nodded and gave her a tremulous smile after having looked to make sure the others were still occupied.  “Thank you.”  She mouthed back silently as she looked up into understanding eyes. 

 

~HLM~  Don’t know if this is an actual breakpoint or not, but I’m sending it anyway!

 

Buffy grinned and turned to show Tara as she pulled her hand out of the warmer.  “This stuff is cool!”  She chuckled softly, wiggling her fingers before she started peeling the glove off her hand as Jen counted again. 

 

Tara had given her a smile, though still somewhat unnerved. 

 

Buffy didn’t miss the paleness of Tara’s features.  Once the glove was off she tossed it to Jess and took Tara’s hand.  “Are you okay?” 

 

Tara nodded and squeezed Buffy’s hand but didn’t meet her eyes. 

 

Buffy looked worriedly towards Britt. 

 

Still standing behind the Wiccan gentle rubbing her shoulders, Britt gave Buffy a nod of her own.  “I think she’s just worried about using that stuff as a cast.  So far she’s only seen how flexible it is, not what you’d consider cast material.” 

 

Tara nodded, thankful for the quick thinking nurse behind her. 

 

Buffy frowned as she turned back to Jess and Jen.  “She has a point.  How’s this stuff going to immobilize her arm?” 

 

Tara released a silent sigh, Buffy’s attention drawn back away from her self. 

 

Britt smiled as she felt the Wiccan relax under her hands.  ‘Another dilemma diverted for the moment.’  She winked and gently squeezed Tara’s shoulders as the woman gave her a grateful smile over her shoulder. 

 

Jen grinned.  “That’s where the other secret ingredient comes in.”  She turned to the counter behind her, picking up a sealed clear plastic bag in the shape of a tube.  “Once we get a couple of layers on, we’ll cover her arm with a plastic sleeve with a breakaway near the hand.  Then we add a few more layers and pull out the sleeve which separates the two, adding this foam to form to her arm.  Once it starts to harden we use this to poke holes in it.”  She grinned and pulled a wrapped straw from the Double Meat Palace from her back pocket.  “This stuff sets up like cement, only much lighter.” 

 

Jess picked up from there.  “The holes will allow air to get at her arm so it’s not as uncomfortable as a regular cast.”  She held up the glove that came off Buffy’s hand.  “And this is a breathable material.  So all in all, what you have is a lightweight cast that doesn’t irritate the hell out of you until it comes off.”  She grinned.  “No need for metal coat hangers to try scratching the constant itch of a regular plaster cast, and it’s waterproof!” 

 

Jen grinned.  “No need for garbage bags and tape just to take a shower.  And when the rest of the swelling goes down, we just peel back the top cover, cut the core off, replace it and one more dip to seal it all back up.” 

 

“Another good thing about it is that it doesn’t hurt as much when you smack yourself in the head with it.”  Jess winked at Tara.  “Though, it’s still sturdy enough to smack Fido upside the head, with the rubbery shit it won’t leave a mark.”  She grinned at the growl she got from Buffy. 

 

Tara shook her head to hitting Buffy as she squeezed her hand, but she did smile knowing Jess was only razzing the Slayer.  “H-how can I h-hit h-her when s-she’ll be p-pampering me?” 

 

Jess snorted and made a whipping motion with sound effects.  “You are so whipped, Fido.  She’s got you wrapped around her little finger.”  She started laughing until she got a raised brow and smirk from her better half. 

 

Britt looked at Jess knowingly, her wife was just as whipped as Buffy and Jess knew it. 

 

Jen started laughing and smacked Jess on the shoulder.  “That’s the pot calling the kettle black.” 

 

Jess felt her face heating up as she growled at her sister, stepping around her to move over near Tara as everyone laughed.  “Let’s get the cast on, shall we.” 

 

Britt pulled Jess down, softly kissing her forehead as she whispered.  “You know I love you, Stretch.” 

 

“Love you, too.”  Jess smiled and snagged a kiss on the lips.  “And I’m only whipped when it comes to you.  And someone has some promises to keep, so let’s get this show on the road!”  She wiggled her brows and winked at her before getting down to business. 

 

Britt blushed and smacked Jess on the ass as she moved back over to jump up on the counter to watch, a smile on her face as she thought about just what she was going to be doing to Jess when they left the hospital. 

 

~HLM~

 

“Children!”  Britt tried to keep the smile off her face as Jess and Jen looked up at her guiltily but trying to look innocent, sometimes she could swear they shared a brain. 

 

They’d been working together to get Tara’s cast on, poking the holes in the hardening foam they both lifted their straws at the same time and shot the plug that came out at each other like spitballs.  “We’re sorry.”  They looked contrite as they looked at Britt before turning back to each other and making faces before they went back to work. 

 

Tara looked up at Britt and smiled, she could only imagine what the little nurse had to put up with on a constant basis with the sisters acting like little kids.  Her smile faltered as she thought about her own childhood, she’d never had the camaraderie that these two displayed.  She shook off the melancholy thoughts and found the nurse watching her with a raised brow.  Tara gave her a wistful smile and Britt nodding in understanding with a sad smile of her own. 

 

Buffy missed the silent exchange between Tara and Britt as she played with one of the plugs, finally pulverizing it between her fingers.  “Oops!”  She brushed the tiny specks off her shirt and hand. 

 

Tara smiled as she turned her eyes to the Slayer, squeezing the hand that Buffy still held.  “N-not childpr-proof, huh?”  She chuckled softly and squeezed her hand again as Buffy pouted and shook her head. 

 

“Not Buffy-proof, anyway.”  Buffy made another swipe at her shirt and shrugged. 

 

Jess grinned when Jen looked up at her in surprise when Buffy had destroyed the plug.  “You really don’t wanna mess with her.”  She chuckled softly as Jen nodded and flinched as she looked back towards and evilly smiling Slayer. 

 

Jen had thought that some of the things Jess had told her about what happened last night had been blown out of proportion, now she wondered if the things she’d said about Buffy weren’t true.  Shaking her head as a shiver crawled up her spine she went back to helping Jess with the cast. 

 

Jess picked up the scalpel again as Jen moved the outer layers back up over the now hardened cast.  “Ready for another dip?”  She smiled at Tara as she twirled the scalpel between her fingers. 

 

Tara looked from the twirling scalpel to Jess’ grinning face, chuckling softly and nodding.  She’d been scared when they’d first started and Jess picked up the scalpel to cut away the portion of the glove that covered her fingers and part of her hand.  She’d sighed with a burst of held breath when Jess had quickly and skillfully sliced through the rubbery material without any blood being shed.  Jess had chuckled.  “I have many skills.”  She’d then given her wife a cocky wink as she set the scalpel down and peeled the glove off her fingers.  Tara had chuckled softly when she looked up to see a blush spreading up Britt’s neck to her face. 

 

Now she looked down at the finished cast on her arm before smiling up at Jess and Jen.  “Th-thank you.”  She chuckled at the rainbow cover they’d put on before the last coat dried, it would be easier on the eyes than the drab color of the rubber itself.  It also made it look more like a regular cast. 

 

Jess smiled and nodded.  “You’re welcome.”  She started picking up the loose pieces and tossing them back into the mixture.  “It won’t take as long when we redo it in a couple days when the swelling goes down.” 

 

Britt jumped off the counter and came around to Tara.  “Let’s get you back up to your room and finish getting you changed while these two clean up down here, then you can get out of here.”  She gently squeezed Tara’s shoulder before helping her back into the wheelchair.  She saw the blush that started up Tara’s neck when she glanced quickly and nervously at Buffy.  She decided that maybe leaving the Slayer with the troublemakers would be best, quickly grabbing a broom she handed it to Buffy with a smirk. 

 

Buffy frowned at the broom she found in her hand.  “I guess I’ll stay here and help clean up my mess.”  She looked down at the remnants of the pulverized plug on the floor at her feet. 

 

Tara squeezed Buffy’s hand before she released it.  “Only f-fair, Sweetie.” 

 

Buffy nodded and watched as Britt pushed Tara from the room.  “I’ll see you in a bit.” 

 

Tara smiled and winked back at the Slayer when they reached the hall before she was pushed out of sight.  Sighing, she tilted her head back to look up at the nurse.  “Th-thank you.” 

 

Britt smiled down at her.  “You’re welcome, Honey.”  She gently squeezed Tara’s shoulder as she pushed her towards the elevators, silently wondering how she was going to handle the Slayer’s help once they left the hospital. 

 

The same thoughts were nervously flitting through Tara’s head as they entered the elevator. 

 

~HLM~

 

Britt gave Tara the option of showering there at the hospital or waiting until she got to Buffy’s.  She convinced her to let her help her and took her up to Jess’s office that had a private bathroom and shower. 

 

Though the thought of either woman’s help embarrassed her greatly, she thought Britt was the lesser of the two evils, knowing Buffy would be as nervous as she.  If she could put off some of the more embarrassing moments with Buffy for a day or two, she was more than willing to let the kindhearted nurse help her today. 

 

With as little fuss as possible, and giving the younger woman as much privacy as she could by keeping the woman’s back to her, Britt helped her wash up the areas that Tara wouldn’t be able to reach without causing her self pain and possibly injury.  She left her alone to finish washing up and went out into the office to page Jess, letting her know where they’d disappeared to and to keep the Slayer from ripping apart the hospital looking for Tara. 

 

Allowing Tara to keep the large bath towel brought from home wrapped around her, Britt got her boxers and sweatpants back on.  Then keeping Tara’s back to her she rewrapped her ribs and got Jess’s shirt on her before stepping around to button it for the woman.  She gave Tara a smile when she heard the soft sigh coming from the Wiccan.  “That wasn’t that bad, was it?” 

 

Tara blushed as she shook her head.  “N-no.”  She gave her a grateful smile as she ran her hand through her wet hair.  “I d-do f-feel b-better now, th-thank you.”  

 

Britt nodded as she led her back to the wheelchair.  “You’re welcome, Honey.”  She quickly put Tara’s socks and sneakers on before she helped her brush out the tangles in her hair, leaving a smaller towel over the woman’s shoulders to keep the shirt from getting wet and becoming transparent.  “Let’s get you back downstairs and hopefully out of here, Jess should have the paperwork done by now.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly and tilted her head back to smile up at Britt.  “She h-has in-incentive.”  She laughed when Britt blushed slightly. 

 

“That she does.”  Britt had felt her face heat up, laughing along with the Wiccan as they headed down the hall towards the elevators.  When they were in the elevator, Britt pulled a piece of paper from her pocket and squatted down in front of her, showing the numbers written on it to Tara before she folded it and handed it to the woman.  “Anything you need, please call.”  She kept eye contact with Tara letting her see the honesty and understanding in her words.  “Even if it’s just to get Fido out of your hair for a little while.”  She chuckled softly when Tara rolled her eyes at that comment, squeezing her arm gently as she stood up and stepped behind her as the elevator stopped and the doors opened. 

 

Tara’s felt her eyes welling with tears as Britt stood back up, swallowing the lump forming in her throat.  “Th-thank you… f-for everything.”  She whispered as a single tear trailed down her cheek. 

 

“Any time, Honey.  We’re only a phone call away.”  She gently squeezed Tara’s shoulder before she pushed her from the elevator towards her room.  She’d heard the hitch in the woman’s voice, and didn’t miss the swipe at the tear as she slowly pushed her down the hall giving her time to get her emotions back under control. 

 

~HLM~

 

Jess stepped out of the way when she was hit in the back with the door, turning she held it open for Britt and Tara. 

 

Buffy jumped off the edge of the bed when Jess moved.  She’d been pouting as Jess stood guard at the door so she couldn’t go looking for the missing blondes.  “Are you okay?”  She was beside the wheelchair before it even made it all the way in the room, taking the blonde’s hand in her own. 

 

Britt chuckled and looked up at Jess.  “Didn’t have to sedate her?” 

 

“Threatened to.”  Jess grinned and pulled a syringe out of her pocket, twirling it between her fingers like she had the scalpel.  “I think that’s the only reason she behaved.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly as Buffy growled and snapped her teeth at Jess, only stopping when Jess pulled the cap off the needle.  “I’m f-fine.”  She squeezed Buffy’s hand. 

 

“Works every time.”  Jess put the cap back on the needle and held the syringe out to Tara with a smirk on her face as she looked at Buffy.  “Could come in handy.” 

 

Tara felt Buffy’s hand tighten on her own, when Jess offered her the syringe.  She smiled up at Jess and shook her head as she rubbed her thumb on the back of Buffy’s hand, turning to Buffy before she spoke.  “I th-think we’ll tr-try s-seeing how it g-goes w-without that, th-thank you.” 

 

Buffy stuck her tongue out at Jess as she gave Tara’s hand a gentle squeeze and lightened her hold on it. 

 

Britt wrapped her arm around Jess and took the syringe from her.  “Be good.”  She smiled as Jess wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close.  “Are they all set to go home?” 

 

“Yep, she’s all ready to get sprung.  We were just waiting for you.”  Jess kissed the top of Britt’s head that was resting on her shoulder. 

 

“Mom should be here soon to pick us up, and I’ve got your prescriptions.”  Buffy released Tara’s hand and put the brush that rested on the blonde’s lap in her backpack before stuffing it in the bag with Giles’ blanket in it.  “I told her we’d meet her down front.” 

 

Tara nodded as she began to nervously play with the edge of her cast. 

 

Britt gave Jess a squeeze before she stepped out from under her arm.  Gently squeezing Tara’s shoulder she took the handles of the wheelchair and led the way out of the room. 

 

~HLM~

 

Jess stood with her arms crossed as she leaned back against a light pole, snickering every now and then when the pacing Slayer looked at her and growled. 

 

Buffy paced the sidewalk in front of Tara as she watched the hospital entrance for her mother’s Jeep. 

 

Tara felt her own nerves ratcheting up a notch with every turn that Buffy made.  She looked up at Britt when she stepped up beside her, a small grin forming on her face. 

 

Britt noticed the tenseness of the blonde in the wheelchair, watching her start to nervously finger the cast as her head followed the Slayer’s path.  She pulled the syringe from her back pocket, stepped beside Tara and pulled the cap off the needle, raising a brow in question when the blonde looked up at her. 

 

Tara chuckled softly, relaxing slightly under the mischievous green eyes of the nurse, she shook her head.  “Th-though I’m b-beginning to c-consider it.” 

 

Britt laughed and put the cap back on the needle. 

 

Buffy stopped her pacing, spinning around at the soft chuckle from Tara.  She frowned when she saw the syringe in the nurse’s hand as both blondes turned to look at her.  Her shoulders slumping as she ran a hand through her hair as she took a deep breath, realizing she wasn’t helping matters any. 

 

Tara gave Buffy a soft smile and held out her hand, almost immediately having it filled as Buffy quickly stepped to her side.  “You’re m-making me d-dizzy.” 

 

“Sorry.”  Buffy sighed and dropped to her knees beside Tara.  “She should have been here by now.  She was just going to stop by the Gallery to drop off a couple of items on the way.”  She frowned and looked back towards the entrance, hoping to finally see the Jeep pulling in the driveway. 

 

“It’s f-fine, Buffy.  No rush.”  Tara squeezed Buffy’s hand lightly, her thumb unconsciously beginning to rub small circles on the back of Buffy’s hand. 

 

Buffy sighed again, nodding slightly.  “I know, it’s just…” 

 

“R-relax.”  Tara smiled and squeezed her hand again. 

 

Buffy got lost in the calm blue eyes looking back at her.  She didn’t even notice the bruising and swelling that remained on the Wiccan’s face. 

 

Britt tucked the syringe away, slowly fading back away from the couple as she walked towards Jess, smiling as she felt arms wrap around her and pull her close into a warm body.  She wrapped her arms around Jess, tilting her head up for the lips she knew were waiting. 

 

“Hey, none of that!”  Jen grinned as she stepped out of the hospital doors. 

 

Jess growled and kissed Britt again before glaring at her sister.  “Go play in traffic!” 

 

That elicited a soft chuckle from Britt as she hugged Jess tight and kissed her chin before stepping back a step and turning towards the curb as a car pulled up. 

 

Buffy blinked, the moment being broken by Jen, turning to see the Jeep pull up.  “She’s here.”  She squeezed Tara’s hand, turning back to see the Wiccan bite her lip, the calm eyes taking on a nervous look as they turned to the Jeep.  She waited until Tara’s eyes found hers again, smiling softly.  “You ready?” 

 

Tara took a deep breath, or as deep as she could without wincing, and nodded, her eyes going back to the woman getting out of the driver’s seat as she released it slowly trying to calm her nerves. 

 

Buffy squeezed her hand again and stood. 

 

~HLM~

 

“Do the floating thing and I’ll move you into the Jeep, save you from having to straighten out and bend again.”  Buffy had already leaned over and put one arm under the Wiccan’s legs preparing to move her. 

 

“I c-can w-walk.”  Tara sighed and did as requested when Buffy frowned at her. 

 

“I know you can, but it’ll be less painful this way.”  Buffy eased the Wiccan out of the wheelchair and gently placed her in the passenger seat of Jeep. 

 

“Guess there was no reason to put her sneakers on.  Fido isn’t going to let her do any walking.”  Jess smirked when Britt smacked her lightly in the stomach for the comment. 

 

Britt stepped over to the open door of the Jeep, smiling and trying not to laugh at the wide eyed look – well, as wide as her swollen features would allow, on Tara’s face as she realized that what Jess had said was probably true. 

 

Having been waved off when she went to get out of the vehicle to help in any way she could, Joyce chuckled softly from the driver’s seat.  She had a feeling that both Tara and her self had their work cut out for them where the Slayer was concerned.  Buffy had good intentions, but she could be a little too helpful at times, and Joyce feared this would be one of them.  “Just go with it for now, Dear, I’m sure we’ll both want to strangle her before this is over with.” 

 

“Hey!”  Buffy grumbled as she fastened Tara’s seatbelt, making sure that it was loose enough to not cause the Wiccan any pain across her ribs or cast arm. 

 

Tara blushed as she looked up to see a grinning Britt, Jess, and Jen, who’d just come back from returning the wheelchair to the hospital entrance, standing outside the Jeep, before turning to see the amusement in Buffy’s mother’s eyes.  Whimpering softly, Tara nodded once in defeat. 

 

Buffy froze from what she was doing and looked up having thought she’d caused the Wiccan pain.  “Did I hurt you?” 

 

Tara shook her head.  “N-no.”  A slow smile coming to her lips at the look of concern in Buffy’s eyes, she had a feeling that this was going to be a long few days.  She chuckled softly as she saw Britt waving the syringe behind Buffy’s back. 

 

Buffy turned her head to see what the troublemakers behind her were doing when Tara laughed while looking that way, growling when she saw the syringe.  “Bitches!”  That caused everyone to laugh, breaking some of the tension in the air.  She turned back to make sure Tara was all set before stepping back and softly closing the door before taking the bag of Tara’s items that Jen held out for her. 

 

Britt stepped up to the open window beside Tara as Buffy quickly climbed in the back seat, handing the syringe across the vehicle to Joyce with a wink.  “Might come in handy, and it’s always good as a threat.” 

 

“We may need more than one.”  Joyce laughed softly as she looked into the rearview mirror to see her daughter’s eyes open wide as she accepted the syringe, placing it the breast pocket of her shirt. 

 

“That is so not fair!”  Buffy grumbled as she scooted forward from the middle of the backseat to lean against the front seat to get closer to the Wiccan. 

 

Tara felt the pull of the stitches in her lip as she tried to keep from smiling too widely at the childlike tone Buffy had used as she looked at the group standing outside the vehicle. 

 

Britt placed her hand on the one the Wiccan had on the doorframe.  “Call if you need reinforcements.”  She gave the hand a gentle squeeze as she winked at her. 

 

Tara nodded and held eye contact with the small blonde knowing the offer was for more than just more shots to use on the overzealous Slayer.  “Th-thank you.”  She pulled her hand out to cover Britt’s, returning the squeeze in appreciation before her eyes traveled to the sisters standing behind the nurse.  “All of you.”  Her eyes staying on Jess as she tried to convey the gratitude she felt for the time and care the woman had shown her.  She knew that if it wasn’t for Buffy’s standing guard and Jess and Britt’s compassion and kidglove handling of her, the reality of her visit to the hospital could have been much more of a nightmare than it had been. 

 

Jess smiled softly at the woman as she stepped closer to Britt and wrapped her arms around her.  “I’m glad we were here to help.  Just take it easy for a few days, and we’ll see you soon.”  She shifted her eyes to Buffy, a slow evil smile crossing her features.  “And get yourself a newspaper to roll up and use on Fido to keep her in line.” 

 

Buffy growled at the Doctor for her comment. 

 

Tara chuckled softly as she turned her head to smile at the growling Slayer as Buffy dropped her chin to the top of the front seat.  “We’ll see.” 

 

Buffy pouted before she smiled at Tara as everyone else laughed and Joyce started the Jeep.  Buffy looked back out to smile at the three women standing beyond Tara.  “Thanks, Numbnuts.  Have fun on your day off.”  She winked at Britt and wiggled her brows, laughing as the blonde blushed realizing she’d heard what was said in the elevator, and Jess grinned widely at the thought of what they’d be doing soon. 

 

Jen pushed Jess and Britt away from the Jeep.  “Let’s go, perverts.”  Then she winked at Buffy.  “I hear a pair of handcuffs calling my name.”  She started laughing and took off at a run for the parking lot and Jess’s car. 

 

“Oh my!”  Joyce put the Jeep in gear as she felt her face heating up with some of the thoughts going through her head.

 

Buffy whimpered when she saw the blush on her mother’s face, not really wanting to know anything else about her mother’s sex life. 

 

Joyce chuckled softly as she looked at her daughter before pulling away from the curb. 

 

Tara looked between the two and smiled before dropping her head as she started playing with her cast when they pulled out of the hospital parking lot, nervous about what was to come and wishing she could just go back to her apartment. 

 

~HLM~

 

Buffy frowned when her mother pulled out of the parking lot onto the street.  “Where are you going?”  They weren’t headed home. 

 

Joyce looked into the rearview mirror to see the frown on her daughter’s face and smiled.  “I’m just taking a different route.”  She cryptically explained a little further before she could ask when Buffy’s brows furrowed.  “Willow and Xander stopped by this morning.” 

 

Buffy sighed knowing her friends wanted answers, not to mention that she’d threatened to deck Willow.  “What did you tell them?” 

 

“Nothing.”  Joyce laughed softly at the look of surprise on her daughter’s face.  “I just told them that you weren’t home, and I didn’t know when you’d be back.”  Joyce shrugged. 

 

Buffy smiled at her mom.  “Wil didn’t try to grill you?” 

 

Joyce shook her head.  “She mentioned something about you being at the hospital as she dragged Xander down the steps.”  She brought her eyes up to meet Buffy’s again.  “I passed them on the way here.” 

 

“That’s why the long way home.”  Buffy nodded and then sighed again as she laid her head on her hands on the back of the seat.  “She doesn’t like not knowing what’s going on, and she wants answers.” 

 

Joyce raised a brow as she quickly glanced at her daughter.  “I thought they knew… where as she knew where you were at?” 

 

Buffy shook her head.  “Not really, they just knew something happened behind the shop.  I don’t think she liked it when I threatened to drop her where she stood if she stepped foot out the backdoor.” 

 

Joyce was grateful she’d just pulled to a stop at a stoplight as her head swung around to look at Buffy, Tara’s doing the same. 

 

Buffy shrugged as her eyes went from her mother to Tara.  “I didn’t want them coming out and scaring you any more than you already were.” 

 

“Th-thank you.”  Tara dropped her head again, her hair falling to cover her features as she nervously played with the rubber on her cast. 

 

Buffy reached out to move Tara’s hair out of the way so she could see the Wiccan’s face.  

 

Tara shied away from the movement, hissing in pain as her ribs protested the move. 

 

Buffy apologizing and dropping her hand when the Wiccan flinched.  “Sorry.” 

 

Tara shook her head as she looked at the frowning Slayer.  “I w-wasn’t ex-expecting it.” 

 

Buffy nodded but continued to frown at having caused the woman pain. 

 

Tara reached as far as she could for Buffy’s hand without causing more pain as she settled back into the seat. 

 

Buffy noticed the movement and reached out for the Wiccan’s hand. 

 

Tara gave the hand a gentle squeeze as she closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the headrest. 

 

Joyce smiled at the gentleness her daughter showed towards the woman as she started the Jeep moving when the light changed.  “I need to stop at the drugstore on the way home, do you have any prescriptions that need to be filled, Tara?” 

 

Head still resting back, Tara turned her head before opening her eyes to look at Buffy. 

 

Buffy answered for her.  “Yeah, Numbnuts gave them to me.” 

 

“Th-there w-was m-money in m-my p-pocket.”  Tara shivered slightly. 

 

Buffy gently squeezed her hand.  “Numbnuts put everything from your pockets into an envelope.  I didn’t think you’d want the jeans back.” 

 

“N-n-no.”  Tara nodded as she whispered, closing her eyes, her thumb beginning to gently play along the ends of the Slayer’s fingers she held. 

 

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll pay for them for now and we can sort it out later.”  Joyce glanced in Tara’s direction before looking back to the road as she took another turn heading into town.  She didn’t really have to go to the drugstore but didn’t want the woman to think she was going out of her way, having a feeling that she’d go without before asking for anything. 

 

“We should stop by your place, too.  I’m sure you’d feel more comfortable in your own underwear.”  Buffy grinned as Tara’s eyes snapped open. 

 

“Buffy!”  Joyce laughed softly as she admonished her daughter, turning to smile quickly at Tara.  “They were new boxers that I’d just washed after taking them out of the package, as were the sweatpants.  So it’s not as if you’re wearing my clothing, Dear.” 

 

“I’ll p-pay f-for the re-replacements.  Th-thank you.”  Tara smiled at the still grinning Slayer before she dropped her eyes to the shirt that didn’t belong to her either.  “Cl-clothes w-would be good.” 

 

~HLM~

 

While Joyce was in the pharmacy getting the prescriptions filled, Buffy found out where Tara lived.  Silently deciding that there was no way that they were going to Tara’s apartment today, at least not while Tara was with them.  Come to find out, the Wiccan lived above one of the stores adjacent to the Magic Box.  Buffy had seen the Wiccan tense up and pale when she’d asked her where she lived, the woman stuttering terribly as she’d told her. 

 

Buffy shifted in the backseat, gently wrapping her arms around the Wiccan’s shoulders as best she could with the headrest in the way.  “I’ll go get your things, if you tell me what you want and where to find it.  That is, as long as you don’t mind me going through your things.” 

 

Her breath hitching as she leaned her head against Buffy’s, Tara nodded.  “Cl-closet and d-dr-dresser in the b-bedroom.” 

 

“Is there anything special that you want?  Maybe a favorite shirt, or stuffed animal, or something like that?”  Buffy could feel the Wiccan trembling as she held her, wishing that they weren’t in the Jeep right now. 

 

Tara shook her head.  “S-something e-easy to g-g-get on and o-off.” 

 

“Okay, I’ll see what I can find.”  Buffy kissed Tara’s temple as she looked towards the pharmacy entrance, her mother just pushing the door open to exit. 

 

Joyce hesitated after meeting her daughter’s troubled eyes when she looked towards the Jeep as she stepped out of the store.  Eyes taking in the closed eyes and tears on Tara’s cheeks as her shoulders shook, she looked back to Buffy and pointed over her shoulder before she turned and went back in the store. 

 

Buffy nodded slightly as her mother looked back just before the door closed behind her. 

 

Joyce gave Buffy an understanding smile before she made herself scarce within the store.  Knowing the injured woman would be uncomfortable if she were to see her crying, Joyce thought it best to let Buffy handle the situation where she was more comfortable with her daughter than herself, a stranger. 

 

“I’m s-sorry.”  Tara sniffled as she wiped her cheeks and eyes with her good hand when she’d calmed down again. 

 

“Shh.  There’s nothing to be sorry for.”  Buffy kissed her temple as she gave Tara a gentle squeeze, not releasing her.  “Are you okay?” 

 

Tara nodded and squeezed Buffy’s arm.  “For the m-moment.” 

 

“Hopefully next time I won’t be in the backseat, and you’ll be able to use that shoulder I promised you.”  Buffy mentally smacked herself as she felt and heard Tara’s breath hitch again.  “Sorry, that was stupid and we’re saving that for later.” 

 

Tara shook off the apology and squeezed Buffy’s arm again.  “I-I-I’m h-h-holding y-you to th-that.”  She took as deep of a breath as she could as she tried to calm her emotions, releasing it slowly as her mind shifted gears.  “I sh-should c-call my b-boss.”  She opened her eyes to blink back her tears. 

 

“Where do you work?”  Buffy watched as Tara swiped at a lone tear that fell as the woman looked further up the street. 

 

“It’s j-just around the c-corner, I pr-probably should have w-walked there wh-while your mom w-was in th-there.”  Tara pointed towards the right beyond the block the pharmacy was on. 

 

Buffy growled softly and shook her head to that idea. 

 

Tara turned her head to find Buffy looking at her legs. 

 

“I c-can walk, you know.”  Tara gave her an amused smile as Buffy brought her eyes up to hers. 

 

Buffy frowned and shook her head again as she looked up at Tara, sighing and rolling her eyes when she finally met blue and Tara’s comment sunk in.  “I know you can.  But I also know what it’s like to have stitches in your knees, it isn’t fun.”  She smiled when Tara’s smile slipped, a look of concern entering the blue eyes before her.  “Make you a deal?”  Buffy spoke before Tara could question her.  “I’ll let you take a few steps of your own while in the bathroom, but the rest of the time I’m carrying you where you want or need to go.”  She laughed softly as Tara rolled her eyes.  “Only for today, we’ll renegotiate the terms tomorrow.  Deal?” 

 

There was no way she was going to let Buffy carry her around all day.  Tara started to shake her head, being stopped by Buffy before she could speak. 

 

“Please?  Just for today?”  Buffy gave her a pleading look.  “The less you pull on the stitches, the less pain you’ll be in and the faster they’ll heal.  Please?” 

 

Tara sighed and closed her eyes.  “We’ll s-see.” 

 

Buffy smiled and kissed Tara’s forehead.  “Thank you.” 

 

Tara shook her head as she opened her eyes.  “I d-didn’t say yes.” 

 

Buffy grinned and winked at her as she finally removed her arms from around the Wiccan.  “But you didn’t say no, either.” 

 

Tara chuckled softly and shook her head as she took Buffy’s hand, wondering what she’d gotten herself into yet again. 

 

Buffy gave Tara’s hand a squeeze as she smiled and nodded slightly as her mom came to the door of the pharmacy again. 

 

Still smiling Tara followed Buffy’s eyes, watching as Joyce came from the store and got in the Jeep. 

 

~HLM~

 

While Tara spoke to her employer, Buffy having gone in to ask the man to step outside because she wouldn’t let Tara get out of the Jeep to go inside, Buffy quickly ran to Tara’s apartment after finding out exactly where she lived. 

 

She now stood in the middle of the apartment, looking around with a frown as there really wasn’t much to the place.  Shaking her head she realized that it had all the necessities and wasn’t really all that bad, considering that Tara was only there until the dorms opened at the University again.  She didn’t realize that this was actually better than a dorm room, though not very big at least it had a private bath and a kitchen. 

 

She grabbed the duffle bag that Tara had told her was in the closet first.  Then felt a bit nervous about going through the Wiccan’s things as she hesitated before pulling open a drawer on the bureau.  “Just do it, Buffy!”  She took a breath and pulled open the top drawer, frowning as there really wasn’t a whole lot in there compared to her own drawers at home.  She emptied the drawer of bras, underwear, and socks before moving on to the next drawer. 

 

Where there wasn’t much in any of the drawers, Buffy decided to just take everything, including a well used but also well cared for book that was beneath the items in the bottom drawer.  With the bureau empty, the duffle bag still had plenty of room, so she grabbed everything from the closet, too.  Then she checked the bathroom, taking the personal items the woman would need or want, hesitating again as she stared at the box of tampons before she shrugged and grabbed those, too.  “Never know.” 

 

Looking around she saw folded empty bags on the counter, grabbing one she put the items from the bathroom in it before placing them in the duffle bag.  She decided to check the refrigerator for anything that would go bad while Tara was at the house.  Finding a box in the closet, she basically emptied the fridge. 

 

Looking around one last time, Buffy grabbed the framed picture that was on the table beside the bed.  Turning she froze when she looked out the window.  “Jesus!”  She shivered as she realized that Tara’s room overlooked the alley behind the Magic Box, and she could see where Tara had been attacked and had lain on the ground.  “This isn’t good.”  She whispered as her brows creased and a frown appeared.  Closing her eyes as images of the Wiccan’s attack started to play out in her head, Buffy turned away from the window.  “There’s no way you’re coming back here to stay.”  She shook her head and opened her eyes, shivering again as she walked back around the bed, carefully tucking the picture into the duffle bag.  “You don’t need the daily reminder of what happened to you.”  Now determined that the Wiccan wouldn’t be coming back to stay, she grabbed whatever else she saw lying around in the apartment. 

 

Nodding, satisfied that she’d taken just about all the woman’s belonging, Buffy shouldered the duffle bag and backpack she’d found, picked up the box, and locked the door on the way out. 

 

~MOT & SINK~

 

Tara was silent as she played with the corner of the envelope Mr. Giuseppe had given her, head bowed, hair fallen in a curtain to shield her worries from the woman sitting beside her.  He’d gone back in the store after calling up through the window for his wife to come down, their Tara having been hurt.  She was now wondering how she was going to make the rent payment on her apartment without an income for the time being.  The Giuseppe’s had promised her that her job would still be there when she was ready to come back to work, but the time off to heal would leave her short. 

 

Joyce watched Tara for a long moment before she finally spoke.  She hadn’t missed the young woman paling in the mirror after she’d made a comment teasing her boss.  “Would it help if I said that I’ve been there, done that, climbed back over the fence for Buffy’s father?” 

 

It took a moment for Tara’s head to snap up as the woman’s words slowly sunk in.  “Wh-what?” 

 

Joyce had the grace to blush.  “I thought you were worried about having mentioned your preference of partners.” 

 

Tara’s mouth dropped open slightly. 

 

Joyce hurried on.  “I just wanted to let you know that I don’t have a problem with that.”  She squirmed in her seat as the younger woman remained motionless, eyes as wide as her swollen features would allow them to open.  She spoke as she brought her hands up to cover her face that was turning a darker shade of red to match that of the woman beside her.  “Perhaps not one of my finest moments at an attempt at reassurance, I…”  Joyce groaned grateful Buffy wasn’t there to witness her latest dumb mom moment, nor mention the fact that she was now traumatized for life having heard once again about her mother’s sex life. 

 

“I… that…”  Tara was at a loss for words, she just stared at the woman for a few moments before a quiet giggle escaped her, bringing a hand up to cover her mouth.  She started laughing outright as Joyce peeked through her fingers at her, now she knew where Buffy got her glare from.  She tried curbing her laughter as she felt a pull at the stitches in her lip, and pain from her injured ribs, her hand dropping to hold her ribs as a soft moan intermingled with the laugh. 

 

Joyce was embarrassed beyond belief.  When she heard the woman start laughing she spread her fingers enough to see the amusement in the young woman’s nearly swollen closed eyes.  Narrowing her eyes at the woman only made her laugh harder.  Joyce finally conceded the point and started laughing as well.  “Don’t hurt yourself on my account.” 

 

Every time they looked at each other they’d break out in laughter again, Tara was beginning to feel the discomfort in her sore ribs more with each passing outburst.  She finally decided it best not to look at the woman.  Gazing out the passenger window she thought she could safely speak without laughing.  “Th-thank you.”  She felt the smile tugging at lips, but refused to let the giggle that wanted out to come out.  “I… I’m re-relieved you d-don’t h-have a pr-problem with m-my life-lifestyle.”  She took a chance and glanced at Joyce. 

 

Joyce smacked herself in the head.  “Maybe I should have put it that way instead, huh?”  She rolled her eyes at Tara as she gave her a wry smile. 

 

Tara turned away as she nodded, but couldn’t control the laughter this time.  “I th-think th-that w-would be b-best.”  She was sorry her arm was in a sling, at the moment she needed two good hands, one to hold her ribs, and the other to hold her lip that she could feel the stitches pulling.  She chanced another look at the laughing woman beside her. 

 

Joyce continued to chuckle as she reached over to the glove box and pulled out a couple of tissues.  Folding them she held them out to Tara.  “You’re lip is starting to bleed, honey.” 

 

Tara groaned softly, her laughter dying off as she ran her tongue over her lip, tasting the copper taste of the blood as she pulled her tongue back in and used the tissues.  “I d-don’t think I p-pulled th-them out.” 

 

Joyce used a hand to turn Tara’s head for a better look after the young woman blotted at her lip.  “No, there are just a couple of leaks around the stitches.”  She gently patted the woman’s thigh as she dropped her hand from her chin.  “I think that’s enough about my love life for now.” 

 

Tara chuckled as she placed the tissues back against her lip.  “P-please.  It h-hurts to l-laugh.”  She smiled behind the tissues. 

 

“I can only imagine.”  Joyce nodded as she smiled at the young woman.  “Not to mention my daughter handing me my ass for causing you pain or further injury.”  She rolled her eyes as she sat back in her seat. 

 

Tara groaned softly as she closed her eyes and laid her head back against the headrest, turning to look at Joyce after a moment.  “W-will she r-really be th-that b-bad?” 

 

Joyce tilted her head as she looked at the young woman beside her as she thought about it.  “Honey, from what I’ve seen so far…”  She reached up and patted her shirt pocket that still held the syringe.  “One of us will be in need of this before the day’s done, and I’m not so sure that it won’t be one of us.”  She winked at Tara. 

 

Tara groaned and closed her eyes, nodding as she turned her head.  She already knew that Buffy would be hovering, she just didn’t realize how bad.  ‘What have I gotten myself into?’  She thought to herself before mumbling behind the tissue.  “I’ll c-call for re-replacements.” 

 

Joyce chuckled softly, having heard the woman.  She glanced out the windshield and saw her daughter coming down the street loaded down with Tara’s belongings.  “And speaking of Buffy…” 

 

Tara turned her head to look at Joyce, but woman was looking elsewhere though.  Tara turned her head to see what the woman was looking at.  Her eyes opening a bit wider, the hand with the tissues dropping to her lap as Buffy headed their way with what looked to be everything she owned.  “Goddess, she grabbed everything.” 

 

Joyce frowned as she glanced at the stunned woman beside her, her brows furrowing as she looked back out the windshield at her daughter.  Buffy didn’t look like she was carrying all that much, that couldn’t be all that the young woman owned? 

 

~HLM~

 

“What?”  Buffy frowned as she stopped even with Tara’s window. 

 

Tara looked at the duffle bag, backpack and box that Buffy was carrying.  Judging by what she could see of the closed duffle bag, it was full.  “D-did you l-leave anything?”