The next three months flew by as the girls got settled in their houses, Willow working constantly to get the slayers their powers back from Buffy. Tara would only let her do a small bit everyday, not willing to let her wear herself out on a daily basis and insisting that she exercise her leg to regain her strength.
Tara's eyebrows rose in surprise as she came into the bedroom she shared with Willow. It was still early and she was surprised to see that her wife was awake. Not only was she awake, she was rooting under the bed, her rear sticking up behind her. She had obviously been looking for something. Drawers were open in their dresser, the sheets were pulled off of the bed, and Tara could see the mess in their bathroom through the open door.
The blonde crossed her arms over her chest, head tilting to the side to get a better angled view at her unsuspecting wife, ignoring the wreck Willow was creating in their room. She must have made some sort of noise without realizing it though, because Willow jumped suddenly, hitting her head on the underside of the bed.
"Oh, baby, are you okay?" Tara asked, moving away from her spot just inside the door to help Willow to her feet, craning her neck around to check the back of her wife's head. "What were you doing under there anyway?" Willow blushed and Tara abruptly noticed the tracks of tears on her face. "Oh God, Willow, what happened? Are you okay?"
Tara's hands moved rapidly over her lover's face and neck, searching for wounds. Willow stopped her wife's anxious hands, holding them tight in her own. She pressed a kiss to the back of each hand, sniffling back tears. "Baby," she hiccupped. "I'm so sorry. I love you so much, and I'm so sorry. I don't know what…I can't find…"
Tara frowned, stopping her with a gentle kiss. "Willow, whatever it is, we'll take care of it. I promise you. Whatever it is will be okay. I'm right here with you, sweetheart. Everything will be alright."
Willow shook her head, eyes swimming with tears. "Tara, I didn't…I would never…I'm so sorry, baby."
Tara stopped her again, cocking her head to look Willow in the eye. "Just tell me what it is. You're scaring me."
Willow took a deep breath, her eyes sliding closed and she held up her left hand without speaking. Tara blinked, realization setting in after several moments. Willow's eyes opened slowly as she heard Tara's gasp. "I lost my ring, but I'll tear the whole place apart. I swear I'll find it, Tara. I'm so sorry. I don't know what could have happened to it. You know how much it means to me, you know I wouldn't take it off and leave it somewhere. I don't even take it off! I promise I'll find it." Her mouth was still open to babble when Tara's hand came up to stop her words.
Tara shook her head at her wife, giving her an unreadable look. "Willow, no. Oh God, Will, no. I'm sorry. I know you didn't lose it. You never would." She glanced down at her feet, one hand digging in the pocket of her pajamas. Willow was watching her curiously and her jaw dropped as Tara pulled a ring case out of her pocket. Tara finally looked back up at her as she opened the case. "I took your ring. I didn't expect you to already be up. I was going to put it back on your finger before you noticed it was gone."
Willow blinked in surprise. "So why did you take it if you were going to put it back?"
Tara smiled crookedly, her hair sliding in front of her face. "Let's see if you can find it," she challenged, extending the case to Willow. The redhead took the box, pulling her ring gently out and looking it over closely.
"Well, obviously you got it cleaned, but I doubt that's why you stole it while I was sleeping," she commented as she turned it in her fingers. She gasped when she got a look at the inside of the band. There was an inscription that hadn't been there before and tears filled her eyes again as she read it. Finally she looked up at Tara, stunned. "I get the date for our wedding, but Rosenberg-Maclay?" she asked, her voice quiet, already sure she knew what it meant, but wanting to hear Tara say it more than anything.
Tara bit her lip, nodding. "That's my name," she said simply, searching Willow's eyes for a reaction.
"Tara Rosenberg-Maclay?" Willow asked, tears slipping down her cheeks. Tara nodded, gently taking the ring from Willow's suddenly shaking fingers and sliding it back into its place, squeezing her wife's hand.
"Is that okay? I thought it sounded better than Maclay-Rosenberg," Tara said, still nervously chewing on her bottom lip.
Willow nodded rapidly. "It's better than okay. It's perfect, Tara."
The blonde smirked. "I personally like the sound of Mrs. Rosenberg-Maclay." She stepped closer and wrapped her arms around her wife's waist.
The redhead nodded again, tilting her head back to look up at Tara. "I like that too," she said with a smile. "We've been married now for almost three years and kept our own names for so long, why the change now?" she asked, curious.
Tara shrugged. "Our anniversary is coming up, and we've gone through almost every conceivable hell this past year. I just wanted to find another way to belong to you." She blushed. "That sounded hokey to say."
Willow shook her head, leaning in for a kiss. "It was sweet and perfect. I understand exactly what you mean. So, can I change my name too?" she asked, grinning excitedly.
Tara blinked. "That's up to you, sweetie. You don't have to do anything just because I did it."
Willow pouted. "Well I belong to you too. It's by no means a one sided belonging." Tara nodded, smiling happily. Willow pecked a kiss on the tip of Tara's nose.
Tara blushed. "Sorry I freaked you out by stealing your ring. I really thought I was going to get back in time so that you wouldn't notice it was missing."
"How long have you been planning this anyway?" Willow asked, her hand taking Tara's left hand and lifting it to press a kiss to her wedding band.
Tara shrugged, thinking. "Maybe a few weeks. I talked to Xander about it. He actually did the inscription for me."
Willow blinked in surprise. "Xander did this? I might have to kiss him."
Tara's eyebrows raised and her hold on Willow's waist tightened. "I don't think so. This wasn't to get him smooches."
Willow raised an eyebrow of her own. "So it was to get you smooches?" she asked teasingly even as she leaned in for a kiss.
Tara shook her head in the second before their lips met, mouth curled up in a smile. The kiss was slow and deep and Willow's arms came up to wrap themselves around Tara's neck. They pulled back slowly, Tara coming back in for several short pecks.
She smiled peacefully and Willow hugged her neck. The redhead glanced guiltily around the room. "I guess I kind of trashed our bedroom for no reason. Sorry."
Tara laughed and Willow felt her heart flutter at the sound. "It's kind of my fault. I should have gotten back faster. I didn't want you to think you'd lost your ring. Sorry, baby."
Willow scoffed. "You did something wonderful for me, no apologizing," she said mock sternly. "You can help me clean if you feel bad about it," she suggested, smiling playfully. Tara smiled back at her. "What do you say, Mrs. Rosenberg-Maclay?"
Tara felt a shiver run down her spine at the sound of her new name and her smile widened. Willow could feel her tremble and leaned in to press a kiss against her wife's neck. "We could clean later," Willow breathed quietly.
"We might not clean ever if you say my name like that," Tara replied as her head turned to give Willow access to more skin. The redhead took it eagerly, scattering kisses everywhere she could reach.
"We have the same name," she groaned, sucking on the skin under Tara's jaw.
"Why is that so hot?" Tara asked, one hand holding Willow's head against her.
Willow shook her head, still working on kissing everything she could get to. "I don't know, but it is." She pressed in closer, hands sliding down Tara's back. "I love you, Tara Rosenberg-Maclay."
Tara smiled and tilted her head down, gently forcing Willow to pull back so their eyes could meet. "I love you too, Willow. So much." She glanced around at the mess in their room. "We really should clean though." A smirk appeared on her face. "You stripped our bed, love."
Willow pouted. "I've got other things I want to strip."
Tara grinned at that, winking. "But the mattress is all scratchy," she commented. "I don't want scratchy stuff on your soft Willow-skin," she said, one finger slipping under the bottom edge of Willow's shirt to trace her nails over her back, fingertips lingering over the scar tissue on her wife's back, a remnant of the burns Willow had received in their showdown with Twilight and Amy.
Willow twitched at the contact and Tara's fingers slipped out from under the shirt, smoothing over it. She knew Willow was still sensitive about the scars, even though Tara had repeatedly assured her that they did nothing to diminish the redhead's beauty. She could feel the marred skin through the shirt and was grateful that contact with the spot no longer pained Willow, at least physically.
For many weeks after their battle their injuries had had them all limping and had made sleeping difficult, but Willow's wounded, raw back, her broken leg, and dislocated shoulder on opposite sides had made it all but impossible for the redhead to sleep. Once her shoulder had healed it had gotten easier, but the perpetually bleeding injury on her back made it impossible for her to roll onto her back and she'd quickly become annoyed with having to sleep so stiffly.
Now that she was healed, she'd quietly overcompensated. Since they'd started sharing a bed she and Tara had never slept far from each other, but now Tara was just holding on throughout the night while Willow sprawled and contorted herself all over their bed. The blonde witch didn't mind the change. She was sure it was just a reaction to finally being able to move freely and once the novelty wore off Willow would calm back down in her sleep. Until then she'd resolved to just keep holding on as much as she could. The occasional kick was worth it to be able to hold Willow and be able to feel her life, even as she slept.
Tara's fingers moved away from the scars and her hands slipped up Willow's back to touch Willow's own fingers at her neck. She felt her wife grab her fingers and she smiled, leaning her head against Willow's.
Willow giggled. "I can't believe you spilled your surprise three weeks early."
Tara pulled back to look at her. "My surprise? Does that mean that you have a surprise too?" she asked, excited.
Willow scrunched up her nose, shaking her head. "I don't think so, missy. I'm not telling you a thing! It's not my fault you gave away your surprise," Willow said, smirking.
Tara pouted, giving her a quick peck. "Aww, baby, please?" She fluttered her eyes teasingly. "You know you're going to tell me eventually," she said quietly as she leaned in to take Willow's earlobe between her teeth, nipping gently.
Willow's eyes fluttered closed and she moaned. "This…doesn't…oh Tara," she groaned as her wife pulled on her ear gently with her mouth. Finally Tara pulled back, pressing light kisses under Willow's jaw. "This doesn't make me want to tell you," Willow said as she gasped for air.
Tara pulled back, smiling. "Would stopping?" she asked teasingly. Willow's eyes widened as she realized her mistake and her bottom lip shot out in a pout.
"That's mean," she complained.
Tara cocked her head, still smiling teasingly. "You know, it occurs to me that you haven't had much time to come up with anything. Maybe you're just pretending…faking to get kisses."
Willow arched an eyebrow playfully, endeavoring to look innocent. "Would I do that? Me?"
Tara just smirked, squeezing her lover's fingers. "I think you would, actually. You act all ingenuous around the others, but I know your inner vixen very well."
Willow grinned. "Well, you should. Any vixeny-ness I have is completely your responsibility."
"I'll take complete responsibility, baby. I'm glad to," Tara said happily, scratching her fingers lightly over Willow's shoulders.
"But you're wrong about me not having anything planned," Willow said, still grinning. "I've been thinking about it for a while now and I was going to wait until our anniversary…" she trailed off and kissed Tara quickly, stepping back and moving to scoop up the sheets and comforter from where she'd thrown them to the floor in her search for her ring.
Tara watched her, surprised by her wife's sudden departure from her arms, her own hands suddenly left swinging by her sides. "Will? What? Where are you going?"
Willow smiled at her over her shoulder. "You were the one who said we should clean the room."
Tara's mouth dropped open in disbelief. "Willow! You can't just tease me like that!"
The redhead just laughed, wiggling her butt as she bent down to retrieve their pillows from the floor. "I don't think we should put these sheets back on the bed. Do we have any clean ones, or do I need to do laundry?" she asked, ignoring Tara's shock and turning to toss the pillows onto the bare mattress. She looked supremely amused at the stunned look on Tara's face, the blonde speechless.
Willow walked back over to her, waving one hand in front of Tara's face. "Did I break you?" she asked, laughing.
Tara snatched her wife's hand quickly, squeezing it. "Willow! You can't do that!" Tara whined, shaking Willow's hand.
The redhead just laughed again. "I can't change the sheets?" she asked, arching an eyebrow as she played dumb.
Tara shook her head rapidly, pulling back on Willow's hand as her wife moved to go back to cleaning. "Willow Rosenberg-Maclay, you tell me your secret!" Tara demanded, laughing herself at the glazed look that immediately dropped over Willow's features. She leaned in to whisper in her wife's ear. "It sounds great doesn't it?"
Willow nodded dumbly and Tara moved her mouth in closer so her lips were brushing Willow's ear as she whispered. "Tell me?" she breathed, feeling the tremor that ran down the redhead's spine.
"Baby," Willow breathed in a rush, her eyes closed.
"What?" Tara asked, tilting her head down to kiss Willow's neck.
"The secret," Willow moaned as Tara sucked on the skin over her rapid pulse. "Oh God, baby."
Tara pulled back, frowning in confusion. "Are you calling me baby, or…" she trailed off in shock as she realized her wife's meaning and Willow's eyes blinked open to meet hers, searching her face.
"Tara, what are you thinking here?" Willow asked, suddenly nervous. "I mean, we talked about it, but that was almost six months ago, and I know we're not exactly living our normal life, but I think we're ready." She took a deep breath. "And I know it's not exactly a typical anniversary present, but I was going to see if you wanted to go to the doctor with me."
Tara's eyes were wide and she finally blinked. "Willow Rosenberg-Maclay! You had better not go to the doctor without me! How could you even think that I wouldn't go with you?" She pressed a kiss firmly to the redhead's forehead before kissing her on the mouth. "Are you sure about this?" she asked quietly as she pulled back.
Willow met her gaze without hesitation. "I want to have a baby with you, Tara. If you're not sure, or not ready, we can wait, but I'm ready…" She had more to say, but her words were interrupted by Tara's passionate kiss.
When the blonde finally broke the kiss she was grinning widely and Willow couldn't help but grin back at her. "So is that a yes to having a baby?" Willow asked, excitedly bouncing on her toes.
Tara nodded rapidly, throwing her arms around Willow and hugging her tightly. "I can't believe you were going to hide that from me until our anniversary. It's like three weeks away!"
Willow shrugged. "I was going to go to the doctor and do the check up thing before I brought it up with you."
Tara pulled back to look her in the face. "And there's that! How could you even think about going to the doctor alone?"
Willow shook her head, smiling. "I wasn't going to go alone. Buffy said she'd come with me."
Tara shook her head firmly. "No way! This is our baby and I'm going to be there for everything. Aunt Buffy and Uncle Xander can come if they want, but I'll be at your side every second."
Willow laughed, one hand touching Tara tenderly on her face. "Okay, calm down. That was the plan when I was still hoping to surprise you. I should have known that wasn't going to work."
Tara smirked, shaking her head. "Dawn always says that we're bad at hiding stuff from each other."
"But it was going so well until you pulled the ripcord on your surprise three weeks before our anniversary," Willow said. "So I blame you. We both had secrets and we were both keeping them and you spoiled it." She paused, thinking. "Actually, nothing could spoil this, but you are responsible for them being early."
Tara shrugged unrepentantly. "Hey, it gives me the chance to be there when my wife goes to the doctor to talk about having our baby."
Willow grinned. "I wasn't going to do anything without you. This visit is just a check up to make sure I can still do everything mothers need to be able to do." She glanced down at herself. "This year hasn't been kind to us physically," she commented reasonably, one hand unconsciously moving to touch the scar tissue on her back.
Tara's hand caught hers and pulled it up to press a kiss to the back of it. "You're perfect, Willow," she said firmly, recognizing the rising doubts that the redhead had been struggling with since her recovery. She'd been on crutches for weeks while her leg healed and the burns on her back had taken longer. Willow had been without her magic and by the time she got enough power back to do anything about her injuries it was too late for her to do anything to prevent the scarring.
Tara had told her many times that nothing could affect the way she felt, but Willow was frequently insecure. The scars were still fairly fresh and rimmed by pink new skin which did nothing to help Tara's assurances that someday they wouldn't even be noticeable. She also teased that she had better be the only one in a position to find them as they were very low on Willow's back.
Tara kept hold of Willow's hand. "You're going to be fine, sweetie." She pressed another kiss to her knuckles. "And I'll be right there with you. You don't have to do anything alone." She rolled her eyes. "Even if it is just a check up."
Willow nodded, giggling. "I get it. Next time I'll know not to even go get a check up without you."
Tara raised an eyebrow, a hesitant smile on her face. "Next time? There's already going to be a next time?"
Willow nodded easily. "There's going to be as many as you want, Tara."
The blonde smiled. "We can start with one and go from there, how about that?"
"That sounds perfect to me," Willow replied. "I want at least two though."
Tara's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really? I didn't know you had a preference."
"I was an only child and it was really lonely. That's how me and Xander got so close. We were both all alone. Not that I could have wished for a better person to grow up with than Xander. I just don't want that to happen to our kid. If we have two they'll always have someone to play with." She smiled. "And they'll have Xander too so it'll be the best possible way to grow up."
Tara smiled tenderly. "And they'll have you for a mother so they'll be the luckiest kids ever born." She pulled Willow into a hug. "Almost as lucky as me," she said quietly.
"They'll have us for parents," Willow corrected her gently. "And we're both the lucky ones." Her voice grew thick as tears burned behind her eyes suddenly. "I can't imagine what would have happened to me if you hadn't come back to me. And not even just me, think how everything else would be different for everybody." She choked up and felt Tara's arms tighten around her soothingly, pulling her in so that there was no space between them.
Tara nodded. "It's amazing how one little change can affect so many things. Like when you throw a little rock into a pond, the ripples go out so much farther than you could predict."
Willow sighed, squeezing Tara tight. "I would never call you coming back from the dead something small love. It's everything. You're the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Who could have imagined that our lives would turn out like this?" she asked, her forehead dropping to lean against Tara's shoulder.
Tara rested a soothing hand on the back of her wife's neck. "I can't imagine it turning out any differently actually," she said, smiling to herself. "As long as we're together, it's perfect."
The following months were tricky as the girls had decided not to tell the others about their plans to have a baby until they were sure that Willow was pregnant and that everything was okay. It was made more difficult by the fact that Buffy already knew about Willow's plans and she asked everyday 'if Tara had knocked her up yet.'
Even after they had a positive answer for her, they continued the façade that it still hadn't happened, deciding to reveal the truth at Buffy's birthday party. Willow was sick the morning of the party and was careful to stay in her room so that Buffy wouldn't notice that she was pale and throwing up.
Tara made excuses for her at breakfast, claiming that Willow was sleeping late and changing the subject to Buffy's party that night. The Slayer had tried to convince them not to throw her a party, citing her previous disastrous birthdays as evidence, but they wouldn't be dissuaded.
Faith and Giles were coming over early, but the rest of the slayers were arriving that evening. Xander and Dawn were in charge of cleaning the house and Tara was cooking for everyone. Willow had the job of decorating, but Tara was going to cover for her if she wasn't feeling better by the afternoon.
Willow washed her face in the sink as she stood up from her latest round of throwing up. Tara was downstairs in the kitchen and the redhead smiled as she immediately heard her concerned wife's voice in her head. "How are you feeling, baby?"
"I'm fine. I don't think I've got anything else to throw up so I'll get dressed and come downstairs." Willow assured her.
"Can I do anything for you? Do you need anything?"
"I think I'm okay. Can I have some juice maybe, Tara? My mouth tastes yucky and I'm having a day where I don't like the toothpaste flavor."
"Oh, honey, I got you a new kind. It's in the drawer to the right of the sink. You said you didn't like the vanilla kind anymore, so I got you a new tube. Is that going to be okay?"
Willow was surprised to feel tears burning behind her eyes, her hormones wreaking havoc on her moods. "Tara, you didn't have to do that. Thank you so much, sweetheart." A smile spread over her face as she saw that there wasn't just one new tube of toothpaste, but three, all in different flavors.
"Are you crying, Willow? Are you okay? I'll be right there," Tara said, immediately worried and already moving towards the stairs.
Willow shook her head even though Tara couldn't see her and hiccupped back a sob. "No, I'm okay. It's just the hormones, I promise. You don't need to come."
"Are you sure? I can be there in a second."
"It's okay. You need to keep cooking. I know you're busy."
"Honey, I'll never be so busy that I won't come check on my girl. Are you sure you're okay? I just put the cake in the oven, and Dawn can keep an eye on everything if you need me for absolutely anything. You just have to tell me."
Willow smiled to herself, wiping tears off her face. "I promise that I'll tell you the second I need anything." Willow had been finding it adorable how protective and paranoid Tara had become since the doctor had told them that Willow was pregnant.
She wiped her face with a wet washcloth and selected a new flavor from the toothpaste Tara had gotten for her, love for her wife washing over her as she brushed her teeth, grateful that her taste buds weren't revolting against the new flavor.
She got dressed in a hurry, feeling better once she was moving around. She walked downstairs quickly, meeting Tara's eyes as the blonde turned to look at her as soon as she entered. Her wife smiled, relieved to see her up and moving despite Willow's assurances that she was fine.
Tara stepped over to her from the stove, one hand cupping the back of her neck as she looked her over carefully. "You're okay?" she asked, cautiously keeping her voice down.
Willow smirked, nodding. "I'm fine, baby. I told you that."
Tara sighed. "Just let me worry about you, okay, love? I'm still going to do it even if I don't ask you about it. It will only get worse as you get farther along." The redhead grinned, leaning in for a kiss which Tara happily gave her, fingers sliding into Willow's hair. They pulled back slowly and Tara grinned. "Cinnamon-y," she commented, smacking her lips.
Willow nodded. "My amazing wife got me new toothpaste because I'm pregnant with our baby and the little one doesn't like vanilla toothpaste."
Tara wrapped her arms around Willow's waist, cocking her head to one side. "Oh yeah? Your wife sounds pretty thoughtful."
Willow nodded again, grinning widely. "She is. She's perfect and amazing in every way and I'm head over heels in love with her."
Tara kissed her again briefly. "She's crazy about you too."
Willow winked. "I'm hoping she won't be disappointed when I get huge in a few months."
Tara rolled her eyes. "You're not going to be huge," she chided, pinching Willow's butt teasingly. "You're going to be pregnant, not huge." Willow gave her a doubtful look and Tara gave her a serious look in return. "You're pregnant with our baby, Willow. You're gorgeous. You've always been gorgeous. You will always be gorgeous. Being pregnant could only make you look better." She squeezed her wife gently. "You know I'll always love you, always want you." The tone of her voice gave no question. She knew Willow wouldn't doubt her, so the statement was merely a reminder.
Willow nodded, smiling. "I know. Thanks for making me feel better, baby."
Tara kissed her cheek. "Of course, Willow. You're my wife and I'll always take care of you."
They separated as Xander came into the kitchen, Tara moving to swat him away from her food preparations. "Shoo," she said, waving. "You go help Willow hang the decorations," she suggested, pointing at Willow as her wife snagged a piece of bread off a plate. "Both of you get out of my kitchen," she ordered, pointing out the door toward the living room.
Willow shoved her bread into her mouth, speaking with her mouth full. "I haven't eaten today! I'm hungry!" she objected.
Tara's eyes widened and she quickly moved to the fridge, looking through the contents. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. Let me make you something. You can't just eat bread for breakfast. What do you want to eat? I can make you some eggs, pancakes, waffles, an omelet, french toast, anything you want, anything at all. I can go to the store really quick if none of that sounds good."
Xander glanced between the two of them, surprised by Tara's enthusiasm. "Can't she just munch on whatever you're already cooking?"
Tara shook her head immediately. "She needs a good breakfast," she insisted, realizing her mistake when Willow shot her a look from behind Xander's back that clearly told her to cool it. She smiled reassuringly at them, pulling a carton of eggs from the fridge. "I'll make you an omelet," she said. "Ham and cheese okay?"
Willow grinned and nodded. "Thank you, baby. Can I have some jalapenos in there too?" Tara's eyes widened, surprised by the request, but she nodded. Xander was confused, knowing Willow didn't normally like spicy food. "We'll be in here," Willow said, pulling Xander out of the kitchen with her. She immediately started unrolling streamers, ignoring his incredulous stare.
"Okay Willow, what was that? I know you and Tara are really close and protective and all of that, but didn't that seem a little overboard to freak out over what you're eating for breakfast? Don't you normally just drink coffee?"
Willow shrugged without turning to look at him. "Oh, yeah, normally I just have the caffeine, but we're trying to be more healthy, that's all." She shot him a grin over her shoulder. "Well, I'm trying to be more healthy. Tara's just being supportive."
He eyed her thoughtfully. "You've never worried about being healthy, Will. I've known you your whole life and you've always just eaten what you wanted to eat. With the exception of hot things like jalapenos." He paused, thinking. "And you've been drinking coffee religiously since we were in high school. What's the deal? I know something has to be going on for you to give up coffee."
"I'm not giving up coffee. I just didn't have any today," she objected, yawning uncontrollably at the reminder.
"You never skip your coffee," he stated, still watching her. His eye widened as her hand came up unconsciously to rub her stomach as she stepped onto the couch to stretch up and tape one end of the streamer to the ceiling. "Willow, are you pregnant?" he asked loudly.
She jumped quickly down off the couch and put her hand over his mouth. "Not so loud! Nobody knows."
His eye was still wide. "Tara doesn't know? How could Tara not know?" he hissed, keeping his voice down.
She shook her head, swatting him on the arm. "Of course Tara knows! She's been with me for every step of this."
He lifted his hands in defense. "Of course I wasn't insinuating that you did anything wrong. I know you would never do anything like that." He grinned. "Except that one time with me."
She slugged him on the arm this time, rolling her eyes at him. "We were going to tell everyone today. I'm nine weeks along." He smiled happily at her and she opened her arms. "Can I get a hug from Uncle Xander?" she asked.
He grinned, throwing his arms around her, but he hesitated. "I'm not going to hurt you or the baby, am I?"
She laughed, shaking her head. "Of course you're not." He grinned, his hug lifting her off her feet in his enthusiasm.
They both jumped in surprise when they separated to find Dawn standing to the side, staring at them with a huge smile on her face.
"Dawnie, where did you come from?" Willow asked, glancing at Xander. The girl just grinned, running her eyes over Willow. "How long have you been there?" she asked, suspicious.
"Long enough," Dawn replied cryptically.
Willow swatted Xander on the shoulder. "How come you let me talk about this while she was standing right there?"
"I only have one eye! She must have been in my gigantic blind spot!" he objected, gesturing to his left side. "You didn't see her either!"
Dawn was still just grinning and Willow sighed. "Fine, everything you heard is true, but you can't tell anyone. We were going to surprise you all at the party." She rolled her eyes. "This time it's not even my fault the secret got spilled." She glared at Xander. "How come me being pregnant was your first guess anyway? I'm not even showing yet!"
He shrugged. "You not drinking coffee was suspicious…I figured you'd only give it up for something huge." He grinned. "If it makes you feel better, my next guess was going to be a caffeine related disorder of some kind."
She rolled her eyes again and Dawn laughed. "Trust me Willow, no one would guess you're pregnant unless they're Xander. You look great," she complimented.
"Tara's got me eating healthy and stuff," Willow said, smiling as Tara came in at that moment with her breakfast. "Thank you, sweetie," she said, kissing her on the cheek as she took the plate.
Tara eyed the other two cautiously as they both grinned at her, Dawn's hands coming up to clap over her mouth. "Is something going on? Why are they both giving me crazy grins?" she asked Willow as the redhead took her food to the coffee table and started eating hungrily.
"They know," Willow said sheepishly around a mouthful. "Xander is some kind of freak guesser! And Dawn snuck up on us while we were hugging!" she defended herself. "This is in no way my fault!"
Tara sighed, looking at them both. "Can you guys keep it quiet, please? We want to surprise everyone else."
They both nodded, still grinning and she pressed a kiss to the top of Willow's head as she went back into the kitchen. Xander and Dawn helped by decorating while Willow was eating and they got everything set up and prepared by dinner time when the girls showed up. They had surrendered to Buffy's desire that the party not be overly large, so the only people coming were the slayers from Buffy's squad and the Scoobies.
Xander and Giles helped Tara set the table while Willow was finishing hanging balloons in the living room. Dawn answered the door as the other girls started arriving.
"Buffy! Satsu and Kennedy are here!" Dawn yelled as she opened the door, grinning at the other girls as they came in. The slayers joined the others in the dining room, greeting Willow as the redhead finished her decorating in the other room and came in. Tara smiled at them all, waving as she went back into the kitchen in response to a chiming timer.
Satsu hugged Willow with a wide smile, holding up a present. "Is there somewhere I should put this?"
Willow grinned, pointing into the living room. "The coffee table should be fine. Thanks, Satsu," she said as the other girl stepped back and went back into the living room.
Kennedy hugged the redhead, smiling. "It's good to see you, Willow. It's been a few weeks."
Willow nodded over the dark-haired girl's shoulder. "It's good to see you too. How's the new place working out? Have you two got everything unpacked?" she asked.
Kennedy hesitated, frowning over Willow's shoulder and pulling back to look at her more closely. "Yeah, it's great. You know, I'm kind of surprised you and Tara didn't get your own place," she said distractedly, her eyes running over Willow's frame. "There's something different about you," she commented, still staring at Willow. Her jaw dropped suddenly. "Oh my God, are you pregnant?"
Willow's eyes widened and she clapped a hand over Kennedy's mouth. "How on earth could you know that? No one else knows." She grimaced. "Well, Tara does, of course. And Xander and Dawn."
Kennedy raised an eyebrow. "So…everyone but Buffy?"
Willow glanced toward the kitchen nervously. "And Giles, but we're telling her today. And Xander finding out was a fluke." She frowned down at herself, running a hand down her still flat stomach. "Am I somehow projecting pregnancy in some way I'm not noticing?" she demanded, twisting around to try and get a look at her butt.
Kennedy laughed, shaking her head. "No, Willow. I don't know what it is exactly." She eyed her speculatively. "Maybe your boobs are bigger?" she suggested, gesturing.
Willow shook her head, waving a hand. "That's what Tara said, but it's too early…" her voice trailed off as she realized what she was saying, blushing bright red as Tara came back through the door carrying several plates of food.
Kennedy laughed loudly as Tara put the plates down and gave Willow a confused look. "Sweetheart, are you okay? Your face is all red."
Willow nodded quickly. "I'm fine. I promise. We're both fine. Kennedy figured out our little secret, but I'm okay."
Tara looked at Kennedy in surprise. "How does everyone keep figuring it out?" she asked in exasperation. "She's only nine weeks pregnant! I mean, look at her! She's still tiny!" Tara said, pointing at Willow.
The redhead blushed again, blinking as both women eyed her. "Okay, stop that. It freaks me out to have both of you looking at me like that," Willow said, wrapping her arms protectively around herself and stepping backwards into the living room. She backed into Giles and smiled up at him. "Sorry about that, Giles. I wasn't really looking where I was going," she apologized.
"No trouble, Willow. Is everything alright? You look distracted. Everything is in order for tonight, right?"
She nodded. "Oh, yeah. Kennedy and Xander are patrolling after dinner while we stall and we'll have Buffy open presents once they get back."
He frowned in thought. "I know they're both experienced, but shouldn't you or Tara go with them? Just to be safe. I mean, Kennedy is still not at full power yet."
Willow shook her head. "I'd go, but Tara will never let me patrol like this. She's gotten really cautious since I got preg…" she realized what she was saying and stopped, slapping a hand to her forehead. He was just staring at her, realization dawning on his face and she sighed, nodding. "Fine. I'm pregnant and now everyone knows but Buffy. We're telling her at the party so don't tell her."
He was still staring at her as she turned and rushed into the kitchen. Tara looked up at her from the oven, surprised to see the frustration on her face. "What's wrong, baby?"
"I slipped up and now Giles knows," Willow said, dropping into a chair at the kitchen table.
Tara grimaced. "So now everyone knows but Buffy. On her birthday, she's the last one the find out."
Willow nodded, taking a deep breath. "We're going to have to make her godmother for this," she said seriously, smirking a moment later as she met Tara's eyes.
"We were already going to ask her to be godmother," Tara said, rolling her eyes. She leaned over to press a kiss to Willow's hair. "You goof." There was another chime and Tara turned reluctantly to pull their dinner out of the oven. She put it on the table and Willow called the others into the dining room to eat.
The meal was wonderful and they enjoyed being able to relax and spend time together. After dinner Xander and Kennedy did a quick sweep through town. It was mellow, but it was just what Buffy wanted, determined that she was going to have a peaceful birthday for once in her life. As soon as the others got back they all went into the living room to give Buffy her presents. They had all agreed to give her non-Slayer related gifts to celebrate her retirement, which they were revealing to her as a birthday surprise.
Giles brought up the topic, standing up and drawing everyone's attention. He cleared his throat, his feelings for his charge rushing to the front of his mind as he watched her, happy and relaxed for the first time in years.
The Scoobies gave each other affectionate looks as they watched the older man struggle to find words. Finally he managed to gather himself and started to speak. "Buffy, you've done more as the Slayer than any other girl in history. You've averted more apocalypses, killed more demons and vampires, than any Slayer the Watcher's Council had ever recorded. They were loath to tell you," he confessed with a smile. "They knew how good you were and feared you'd realize how little you actually needed them. The first few years I was your Watcher, they, and I myself, couldn't believe how talented you were, even as you bucked against their limitations and constrictions."
Buffy grinned at him, laughing as he recited her record and he smiled affectionately at her. "I'm the best, Giles; we all know that!" she said and the others laughed along with her.
"Yes, you are," Giles agreed seriously. "That's why we think you deserve to retire."
Buffy was still laughing and stopped suddenly as she realized what he had said and what it would mean if it were true. "What?" she asked stupidly. "You can't be serious. I can't retire. I'm the Slayer."
Faith stood up at that. "So am I," she said, her arms crossed over her chest and a smirk on her face.
"So are we," Satsu and Kennedy chimed in from their seats on the couch while the other girls nodded from their places around the room.
"We'll take over for you," Faith said, laughing at Buffy's stunned expression.
Her head shook slowly. "I can't just turn it off, guys," she objected.
"You don't have to," Xander chimed in. "We just want to take some of the burden from you. You'll still be the Slayer, you just won't be on call for the small stuff."
"No more patrols? Vampire gangs? Staying up all night waiting for some demon to rise? None of that?" Buffy asked, starting to look cautiously excited with each word.
Faith nodded, still smirking. "That's the idea, B."
Buffy grinned happily. "Really?" The slayers nodded, amused by Buffy's disbelief. "You'll still let me know what's going on though, right? How I can I just sit around the house at night and not know if the world might be ending?" she questioned.
"Sure we will," Satsu assured her kindly. "We'll call you for the big stuff," she promised, and Willow laughed, elbowing Buffy teasingly.
"So don't get fat," Faith advised, still smirking and Buffy sighed mock-regretfully, pouting.
"So what, are you going to take my powers away?" she asked, looking at the redheaded witch.
Willow shook her head. "No, of course not. We'll need to keep going with giving the other girls their powers back, and it might be a while before you can give up slaying fully," Willow warned, glancing at Tara as her wife put a hand on her knee. "I'm going to have to slow down with magic soon anyway," she said and Buffy gave her a confused look, glancing between the two witches.
Willow handed over her present instead of explaining, giving Tara a smile as the Slayer ripped into the box eagerly.
She blinked in surprise as she pulled a t-shirt out of the box. "There's some more stuff under there, but that one is…fairly important," Willow commented as Buffy raised an eyebrow at her.
"You got me a t-shirt that says 'World's best Aunt' on it? What…?" Her voice trailed off and her eyes widened as she figured it out. "You're pregnant?" she asked in disbelief, looking between the pair.
Willow nodded and Buffy shot to her feet, pulling the witches into tight hugs. "Oh my God!" she squealed, swinging Willow around excitedly. The redhead coughed under the tight grip and Buffy put her down quickly, patting her on the back. "Sorry, sorry. I just got excited," she apologized. "You okay?"
Willow nodded reassuringly, smiling at Tara, seeing her wife's anxiety. "I'm fine." She cleared her throat as Buffy hugged her again.
"Sorry, still excited," she apologized, excitedly grabbing her new shirt and pulling it over her head. She grinned down at her shirt and clapped happily. "I'm so happy for you guys! And how could you not tell me right away? How far along are you? How long have you been hiding this from us?" she asked, giving the witch a questioning glance.
"Nine weeks," Willow answered. "We just wanted to wait until we knew everything was okay. I hope you don't mind us telling everyone on your birthday, we just wanted to tell everyone together and this seemed like a good time."
Buffy shrugged. "It's alright! I'm just glad you finally told us!" She pointed firmly at the two of them. "Next time, you two have to tell us right away!" She looked down at her shirt. "And I want another shirt for the next kid!" she said, grinning.
Tara nodded, smiling back at her. "Sure, Buffy. And we'll make sure you're the first to know next time too," she promised. Willow looked at her quickly, rapidly shaking her head with her eyes wide. "Um…" she said slowly. "Sorry?" she offered, giving the Slayer an apologetic look.
Buffy blinked, the smile dropping off her face as she looked around at the others who all endeavored to look surprised. "Are you kidding me? Everyone knew before I did?" She stomped her foot. "But it's my birthday! And I'm the last one to know?" She pointed between the two witches. "You guys owe me so big for this!"
Willow smiled cautiously, glancing at Tara. "Well Buffy, we wanted to ask you if you would be the baby's godmother."
Anything else she was going to say was cut off as Buffy grabbed her again, swinging her around excitedly again. "Of course I will! Thank you so much!"
Tara stopped the spinning quickly with a hand on Buffy's shoulder. "I know you're excited Buffy, but Willow had morning sickness this morning and you might want to put her down before she gets sick again," she cautioned.
Buffy put her down hastily and put a steadying hand on her best friend's shoulder. "Sorry, Will. Are you okay?" The redhead nodded, looking a little green and Buffy snapped her fingers. "That's why you missed breakfast! I should have known something was up when you didn't even come get some coffee!"
Willow threw her hands up in exasperation. "I do not drink that much coffee! Is that seriously such a big deal?"
The others all looked at each other, shrugging.
"You just look happy I guess," Xander stated. His eye found Tara and he grinned. "I mean, you've looked happy for a while now, pretty much since the day Tara got back." The blonde witch's arms slid around her wife's waist and Willow settled comfortably against her.
"I am happy," Willow agreed. "That doesn't make me look pregnant though."
"You look peaceful," Kennedy stated from her seat on the couch, arm comfortably around Satsu.
Buffy nodded, smiling. "You look complete," she said finally.
And at that moment, with Tara's arms around her and her family surrounding her - Buffy, whole and healthy, Dawn, so grown up and confident, Xander, lacking an eye but with as much heart as he'd ever had, and Tara, her soul mate beside her, she knew that it was true.