"Get me the oxygen!" Tara demanded. Her heat stroke patient wasn't doing well. The IV fluids that they had started him on were helping, but he was having trouble breathing. His body wasn't cooling down fast enough.
"On second thought, help me get him into the sink. The water should help. Go ahead and roll the oxygen tank over here though. Just in case." She was calmly petting the side of Max's face. "It's okay, sweetie. We need to get you cooled down. Stay with me, okay?"
Max opened his eyes briefly and tried to lift his head to look at his doctor, but he had to put it back down. He didn't have the energy.
Willow, having rolled the metal canister over, was now awaiting Tara's instructions. Her left hand was smoothing over Max's right hip. She admired Tara for her gentle demeanor, even in a situation like the present. She truly was in the right profession.
"Thank you, Willow. If I lift him up, will you take the grate off?" her voice whispered, softly.
The sink was big enough to fit a Rottweiler comfortably and deep enough so that it came up to about the dog's stomach.
Carefully, graciously, the young doctor slipped her right arm between Max's front legs, under his chest. Her left arm was under his tail, above his back legs for support. She comfortingly lifted him up and pulled him close to her chest.
Dutifully, Willow quickly lifted off the metal grate from the sink and stood it up sideways against the opposite counter. Turning back to her patient, she slithered her arm under Tara's left arm and helped to lower the Sheltie-mix down.
Their hands brushed briefly together in the action and Tara shivered. Although the contact felt good, it was also unpleasant. She didn't have the luxury of enjoying it. After all, Willow wasn't available.
In all the commotion of the day's events, she hadn't even had the chance to talk to her friend. It had been one appointment after the other, with several walk-ins squeezed in between. Of course, there had to be a splinter thrown in the mix. The young Sheltie-mix had been brought in. His owners had stupidly, "forgotten," he was in the car while they were grocery shopping. The dog was left in the oven-like vehicle for nearly one hour. When they finished shopping, they found their beloved pet in a devastating condition.
Tara wasn't happy with the owners, to say the least and was contemplating the idea of reporting them to the local Humane Society. Now, as they struggled with Max, Buffy and Julie were dealing with the ruckus in the front half of the clinic. They had already had two appointments waiting in the exam rooms when their heat stroke patient was presented as an emergency. Of course, he became their top priority. As a result, the waiting room was full and the clients were not being reasonable or understanding whatsoever.
Cranky customers added to the appointments that were scheduled to start showing up on top of all the other problems that they were currently dealing with, was making for a cranky Buffy. She was about ready to scream and demand that everyone in the clinic go and slay themselves and rid the world of their evil badness.
Pulling the water sprayer out of its resting place, Willow started spraying down Max. She started with his head, needing to cool it down first and then moved down the rest of his body.
Tara continued to pet his face, cooing soft words in his ears. The water was helping a considerable amount. He was finally starting to cool down. Chancing a glance upwards, her eyes were met with emerald pools.
Willow had silently begun to observe Tara, whom hadn't even noticed. Even now, looking into each other's eyes, she felt as if the blonde still wasn't noticing. She felt as if there was a wall up between them.
To not take this opportunity as an opening would be incredibly ignorant. Gently, Tara approached her friend. Her brain had decided that just speaking her mind and saying the first words that came to her lips was the appropriate action to take. "Willow. Are you and Buffy... together?"
The scrunching together of her eyebrows was what came first and than a huge, "Huh?" Following close behind was a snort, which mounted into a full blown laughing fit.
Tara was confused. "Never mind. Forget I even asked."
"No! Tara, where in the world did you ever get the idea that Buffy and I were together?" Willow spoke around her giggles. Multi-tasking, the water from the sprayer bathed Max as it passed back down his body.
Keeping her eyes on the hospital director, the young doctor tried to compose herself enough to speak again. "Last night, Brittany called you mommy and I saw... I saw the photograph."
Bewildered, Willow tried her best to understand what was going on. "Tara, Bre was half asleep last night. I think she would have mistaken even the boogeyman for her mommy." Turning her attention back to Max, she soaked his head again with the cool spray.
"And the picture?" Tara steeled her body, ready for the truth. She could handle it. She was strong.
Having to think for a moment, she could only think of one possibility. "The picture on the fireplace?" Seeing the flinch from the mention was enough to know that she had struck gold. "Tara, Buffy and I are friends, best friends. We've known each other since high school, which I know I have mentioned to you before. I love Brittany as if she were my own flesh and blood, but sadly, she's not. She's Buffy's daughter. Is that why you left last night?"
Finding her breath again, the doctor was relieved. How foolish had she been? It was in this moment that she just wanted to flee and hide, to hide from the world. Especially Willow. She was never able to respond to the news though.
"Dr. Maclay, how much longer do you think it will be?" Reaching out, Buffy petted Max's back. At least his skin was cool to the touch now and not on fire. Of course, as she usually was, the Slayer was clueless about interrupting the conversation.
Releasing a sigh filled breath, her mouth leapt for the interruption. "I think we're almost done. Max is a trooper. Give me about 10 minutes," Tara instructed to her nurse.
"Thanks, Doc. I'll go tell them." Smiling at Willow, Buffy left the room.
"Willow, I think Max is going to be okay now. Why don't you go help up front and I'll be up there soon. I'll finish up back here." A smile, whether from relief or general warmth, sprung to Tara's lips.
Nodding her head, the redhead was dismayed somewhat that their conversation was interrupted, but maybe it was for the best. Handing the sprayer over to Tara, Willow stepped around to the other side of the sink. Whatever it was that possessed her to do what she did next, she didn't know. She acted on impulse.
Leaning over, she kissed Tara on the cheek, her lips lingering there for a little bit too long before she pulled away. "Anything for a friend," she whispered and then left the room.
Closing her eyes, her skin tingling from the kiss, the doctor breathed in deeply. She turned to Max and after taking his temperature, which registered at 100 degrees; she determined that he was out of danger. She unhooked his IV, leaving the port in his leg just in case, dried him off thoroughly and secured him in one of the large cages for observation.
Tara believed Willow. Somewhere deep inside, she had known that what she suspected wasn't true. She knew she hadn't been lied to. Then there was that kiss. It had been on the cheek, but it still meant something. It had lasted too long not to have.
She was confused again. Not from unanswered questions this time, but about her feelings for Willow. What was their status? Were they just friends? Friends didn't kiss you like that. She didn't have an answer, but soon enough she would.
Here they were. Closing time. They had survived the day. Max improved enough to go home with after care instructions. He was to be monitored and kept inside. It just so happened, that Max's owners were neighbors of Tara's. All it would take was a quick trip down the road to check on her patient to see if her instructions were being followed.
She was going to monitor the situation before taking any drastic measures, but if need be, she wouldn't hesitate to call the Humane Society.
Buffy had already left to go home, needing to get home to be with Brittany. She had helped them close down as much as she could. She was usually in charge of counting down their cash drawer and sealing the deposit for the day and completing the end of day paperwork. Buffy didn't care for this part of her job too much, but she didn't trust anyone else with the task.
With Buffy gone, Willow and Tara were left by themselves. They were both sitting in the back area of the clinic. Tara was finishing up her patient notes for the night and Willow, being the Hospital Coordinator, was finalizing the clinic order for the next day and taking basic inventory.
Having finished her notes, the young doctor had been sitting silently in her chair opposite her friend, gathering her thoughts. She was waiting for just the right opportunity.
"I'm confused, Willow," Tara confessed, slowly getting up from her chair. She remained in place once standing.
"About what?" Willow was in the middle of turning around to walk toward the door to go to the front of the clinic, having finished her work, when the blonde's words made her halt mid turn.
"Us." The young doctor still stood rooted in place.
"Us?" Whispering, the redhead wouldn't look at her companion, instead she found the wall of cages on the other side of the room very interesting.
Finally, taking a small step forward, the young doctor found herself moving closer to Willow. "Yes, us." Seeing that the other woman wasn't going to say anything, she continued.
"I'm confused because, I think we work really well together and I enjoy it. I also think we are friends. We're not as close as you and Buffy obviously are, but I think we have a friendship, right?" Tara's voice was gentle.
She took another step closer to the hospital director. Another three steps and she would be at her side.
Willow finally looked up and eventually met Tara's eyes with her own. "We are friends," she started, slowly nodding her head. "And..." her voice trailed off, leaving that one word hanging in the air between them.
"And?" The blonde's voice held a curious tone, nudging Willow to continue.
"And... I think, I... should go and shut down the computers." Chickening out from completing her thoughts, her eyes pulled away from the other woman's and she started to walk towards the door again.
Tara intercepted her quickly, practically running in front of her and blocking the door. "The computers are fine. What were you going to say?"
Stunned by the doctor's actions, Willow's brow furrowed in confusion. "We're friends."
"Just friends?" When the redhead didn't move to go around her, Tara took a step towards her.
Willow now stood between the sink on her left and the washing machine on her right. "Yes," her voice committed, wondering what was happening.
"Are you sure?" Tara's feet walked a couple of inches closer.
"I..." the coordinator started to back up, her body moving to the right.
Following her direction, the blonde moved closer. As she did so, she watched her friend bump into the washing machine, her hands coming up to rest on the top to brace herself.
"Tara?" Her voice almost squeaking, Willow's heart started to pound in her chest as she watched the other woman moving closer still.
When she stepped right in front of the hospital director, the doctor stopped. "I'm not sure that's all we are."
"What are you..." Gulping audibly, Willow's fingers gripped the edge of the cool metal more tightly as the other woman took another step towards her.
"Am I right?" Tara stopped when she was in her companion's personal space. Noticing the way the redhead was breathing, she smiled.
"You... right," Willow inhaled deeply at the end of her incoherent agreement.
The blonde felt her feet moving yet again and a second later, her body was just inches from Willow's. "You agree?"
"Uh huh," she searched the doctor's eyes, her pupils widening when Tara took one more step towards her and their bodies met.
Biting her tongue to keep herself from moaning at the unexpected touch, the redhead felt her hands being pulled away from their perch as the other woman took them into her own.
Lifting the right one to her full lips, the blonde kissed the soft knuckles a couple of times before lowering her hand and leaning her head forward, stopping a mere millimeter away from the hacker's lips.
Willow could feel the warm breath on her mouth, her heart thumping in her chest. She softly moaned when she felt the ginger touch of lips upon her own. She felt like swooning, the touch was so light, yet powerful in its own right.
Tara smiled when the other woman made no indication of moving away from her. Her lips traced the smile that was now forming on the hacker's mouth and she grinned.
Gripping the blonde's hands a little more tightly, Willow kissed the other woman.
Tara's lips lingered for a brief second, not moving, just resting in place and soaking up the contact, before she tilted her head to the right and kissed Willow again. Their mouths never broke contact.
Lifting their entwined hands and resting the blonde's around her waist as her own found the doctor's, the director lost herself in the sensation of Tara's kiss. She sighed into it.
Squeezing the redhead's waist, she softly hugged her lips to her companions one more time before pulling away. Her face stayed in its close proximity.
"I don't want to be just friends, Willow... and I don't think you do either if that kiss was any indication." She leaned in one last time and kissed her.
Pulling away completely, she whispered, "Goodnight." As her hands slipped away from the redhead's, Tara turned to her right and walked away towards the office to collect her stuff and leave out the back door.
The redhead was dumbfounded and couldn't move. Her lips were still buzzing from the doctor's embrace. She was speechless.
Willow wasn't aware how long she had stood there. When she finally did break out of her kiss-induced trance, Tara was gone.
The only thing she knew was that she couldn't wait to come to work in the morning.