Title: Pack

Rating: PG-15, perhaps R later on

Author: faolan228, aka Starr

Disclaimer: Starr owns nothing! Nothing!

Summary: Sometimes, accidents happen. Sometimes, it's someone else's fault entirely. Sometimes, we have to go on living with those consequences. Tara, Willow, life, and love in the Sunnydale way of things.

Spoilers: None

Feedback: Yes please

Chapter 5: Presented to Alpha

Willow opened and closed her mouth. She had honestly not been expecting Buffy here at this hour, let alone having to speak with her about Tara's problem so soon. "Um, well, you see…"

The Slayer smirked. "It's alright if I call her your honey, right?" She turned to Tara. "Is that alright? It's just, Oz obviously went bye-bye last night, and here you two are. Together. In the morning…" she trailed off awkwardly.

Tara blushed and ducked her head. "If it's alright with Willow."

"Of course she's my honey!" Willow exclaimed a little too loudly. "My honey Tare-bear, my boo, my fuzzy-wuzzy pookie-" she stopped immediately, as if suddenly remembering exactly how 'fuzzy-wuzzy' her girl was going to be. The Slayer lifted her hand, laughing softly.

"Okay, you Sapphic Casanova you, we get it. Willow D. Rosenberg's a smitten kitten."

"And damn proud of it, too!"

Still smiling, Buffy turned to the other blonde at the table. "Wow, Wills got all chest-puffy twice in under five minutes. You, Miss Maclay, must be one inspiring chica."

"I try," she said, smiling shyly through her hair.

Seeing her best friend and her gal make small talk for the first real time, Willow's first instinct was to hover and fret. Still, she saw this as the opportunity it was, for the two women closest to her to get to speak. "Hey, Buff, want me to get you a coffee?"

The petite Slayer brightened. "That'd be great Wills!"

"Alright, alright," she said as she turned towards the counter. "What was it again? Strawberry, caramel…"

"Raspberry vanilla mochachino!" She turned to Tara with a wry smile, puffing her bangs out of her eyes. "I swear, we've been best friends for over 4 years and she still can never get it right."

Tara's small, shy smile widened and her heart swelled. What did it mean, then, that Willow had hers memorized by the second coffee date?

The two lulled in an easy silence, as Willow headed to the back of the line that had begun to form at the café register. Far enough to not seem overprotective, close enough to intervene should Buffy do something embarrassing. Buffy sighed. "This is ridiculous."

Tara jumped in her seat a bit. "S-sorry?"

"Oh, no! Not you! I meant," Buffy waved her arms, gesticulated some sort of abstract idea or paradigm that was all lost to Tara. "You're like, my best friend's gal. We should have more to talk about, yeah?"

Tara twiddled her thumbs. "I um, I like your shirt?"

Buffy laughed, once but true, and caused Willow and several other patrons look over in alarm. When she had calmed, she seemed more relaxed. "I heard about what you did. Yesterday, I mean. How you went to get help, even after Oz attacked you."

"I-It's not that big o-of a dea-"

"It was very kind. And very brave."

"I-I," she took a deep breath. "I just did what any decent human being would do."

"In Sunnydale," the Slayer said, the weight of the world seeping into her voice. "That's a true feat." Then, it was gone. "You were the one who figured out the whole Faith-and-me switcheroo too, right?"

Tara nodded.

"Thanks for that. I just realized I never thanked you for that." A goofy smile. "I'm not alwaysthis rude, I swear."

Willow returned with Buffy's coffee, the Slayer giving another enthusiastic thanks. The redhead slipped into her seat, sliding her chair until she and Tara sat thigh to thigh. "No swapping of embarrassing Willow-stories, I hope?"

"W-well, Idon't have any."

The redhead smiled adoringly. "You'll have loads soon enough, promise."

Buffy have happy little squeak. "Wills, I know we haven't had much best friend time in a long time, but I'm glad I ran into you guys this morning." She took another sip of her drink. "I wanna fix that. I wanna know you, Tara. And I wanna let you both know I'm happy for you."

Tara's heart swelled, and for the first time she saw Buffy not as the Slayer or as an abstract figure in Willow's life, but as an actual girl reaching out in friendship. "T-thank you."

Willow was equally delighted, bringing both her hands up and curling them into fists before splaying her fingers out. Unsure where to place them now, she reached down and gripped Tara's forearm.

The witch let out a pained hiss, and Willow jerked back apologetically.

Buffy's eyes narrowed. "Hey, you guys never answered my question! What happened?"

Willow blanched. "It's a long story."

Tara decided to be honest. "Oz bit me."

"Okay, maybe not so long."

The expression on Buffy's face was unreadable.