Tara Maclay held tightly onto her paintings as she walked down the streets of San Francisco. On her way to an art gallery, she knew that she couldn't mess this up. She'd been living on the fringes for the past few months; her job as an advertising designer paying less and less each month. Tara needed the money her art made at these galleries just to keep her head above water. But that wasn't the only thing on her mind that cold February night. Earlier that morning, she'd gotten a call from the FBI.
An agent named Buffy Summers telephoned to tell her that she had to meet her tomorrow at a local coffee shop, the Latte Bunch, for a brief. She'd said that she would put a latte in front of an empty seat across from her at a two-person table so that Tara would know who she was. This confused Tara a little, seeing as she had always thought the FBI would be better at conceiving methods of secret communication. As to the contents of the meeting, she speculated that the brief had something to do with her father, but Buffy hadn't said anything regarding specifics.
Throwing herself through the doors of the downtown warehouse, Tara made her way over to her spot- number fourteen. It was one of the best spots in the place; Tara and the owner of the gallery had met three years ago at another art show in the community center. Joyce often did nice things for Tara because she had been in her position as a young woman.
"Hello, Tara," Joyce greeted. "Did you bring that pretty oil pastel one of the farm?"
"Oh, hi, Joyce," Tara replied distractedly. "I do have that one, ah, somewhere." She shuffled through the hodge-podge on the card table provided by the gallery.
"Are you alright?" Joyce asked, concern floating in her tone. "You seem like you're all over the place."
Tara smiled lightly. "I'm just... it's..." She leaned in and kept her voice down in hopes of not alerting the other artists to her words. "An FBI agent called me up this morning, someone named Buffy Summers-"
"Buffy Summers?" Joyce exclaimed in shock. "That's my daughter."
Tara could've slapped her head from her cluelessness. Joyce often mentioned her two daughters, Buffy and Dawn, and even went to Buffy's house in DC every Christmas. She' hadn't made the connection that morning between Joyce and Buffy, but felt a little less apprehensive knowing that Buffy was Joyce's daughter, and, in fact, a real FBI agent.
"We're supposed to be meeting at the Latte Bunch tomorrow morning, but she didn't leave an information," Tara said, biting her lip.
Joyce put a motherly hand on her shoulder. "Well, I think we both know what this is about, but I can assure you that you will be in good hands with my Buffy. She graduated at the top of her class at West Point, you know. She's an amazing woman; she'll protect you like no one else."
"Thanks." Tara began unfolding easels and setting things up.
"Here, let me help you," Joyce offered. She handed Tara some of the paintings from the pile. As she was doing so, she noticed that Tara had gravitated away from her usual landscape work and into more abstract, darker paintings. Joyce knew how hard it could be when money got tight, but it pained her to see Tara, who had already been through so much, to have to deal with more. Something inside her hoped that Buffy would be able to give Tara good news, but somehow she doubted it. Joyce had known about her daughter's work for a long time, and she had gathered that Buffy was not the person they called to dish out the good news.
"Willow Rosenberg, I'm gonna kick your ass if you don't get off that couch this second and come party with me!" Buffy screamed through her small apartment.
The aforementioned Willow sat in rumpled sheets on her bed, eating a tub of Ben and Jerry's ice cream for the fifth straight day. She'd just gotten out of a two year relationship with her girlfriend, Kennedy, and had done nothing but sulk. She would groggily get up each morning, drive with Buffy to the FBI headquarters where she worked as a cryptographer, and come home to mope.
"I'm not going anywhere," Willow mumbled, turning her attention back to the Star Wars marathon on TV. "Episode six is on, and this is the one with Leia in that bikini!"
Buffy laughed at her friend. "Will, I'm not letting you stay in on another Friday night watching old sci-fi trash to get over Kennedy. You need to meet someone else."
Willow's bottom lip started to quiver at the mention of her ex-girlfriend's name. "I don't want to. I wanna watch Princess Leia."
Buffy shook her head vehemently. "No way. Now is the time for partying!" Willow didn't change her expression. "You're only young once?" Still nothing. "Ooh! I'm going to protect that girl tomorrow, and I could be killed by rabid assassins?" Willow gave her a guilty flash before scrunching up her face.
"Fine. But only 'cause you might be on your deathbed."
Buffy dragged a pouting Willow into the Bronze, their favorite hang-out. Nearly all the young FBI agents hung out there, along with some of the college students and interns who had nowhere else to go. Buffy pulled Willow over to the bar. "Here. Have some fun with Mr. Harris here, while I go out and-"
"... meet Faith?" Willow suggested. Buffy blushed.
"I'm sorry, Will, but I've been looking after you for days, and I haven't seen Faith for awhile, so I just wanted a little break..." Buffy begged, hanging on to Willow's arm with a little sad face.
"Fine," Willow said jokingly. "Go see your super-hot girlfriend while I'm here with this lunkhead product of the male half of this species."
"Hey!" Xander called from behind the bar. He came over with a glass of Willow's favorite fruity drink and a goofy smirk. "I'm no lunkhead. Stunning and attractive, even goofily gorgeous, sure, but lunkhead? I don' think that's an accurate description of my appearance."
"Sorry, buddy," Willow muttered. "No offense intended."
"Well, you two have fun now!" Buffy dashed off, scanning the packed dance floor for her girlfriend.
Willow turned back to face Xander, who was busy cleaning out the inside of a glass with his Snoopy washcloth. "So how's Anya?"
Xander looked up, but didn't stop polishing every last inch of his cup. "She's, you know, Anya. All with the orgasms and the... what if I want something more than orgasms out of relationship?"
Willow feigned shock. "A man? Wanting more than sex from a relationship? Someone alert the authorities!"
Xander gave her a look. "Very fun, Will. But I mean, you know girls. So how do I get Anya to see me as more than just a boy toy?"
She thought on it for a moment. Xander often asked her for dating advice when he and Anya had fights, and even though her repeated advice was "dump her," he refused to listen. "You know what I wanna say, but since it's not what you wanna hear, I'll give you the good best friend's advice: refuse sex for a bit. Just take her on dates or something. Without the nakedness. It's a step in the right direction."
This thought threw poor Xander off completely. "What?! That's like what Anya lives for! She'll dump me!"
"Then maybe she's not the one for you," Willow said with a wistful sigh. Truthfully, though she told Xander to dump Anya all the time, she knew that, if they just worked at it, they could have something wonderful. Buffy and Faith already had that something, and most of the other FBI agents were starting to settle down. She just wished that one day she could be that lucky.
Tara hurried to the Latte Bunch early that morning to meet up with Buffy. Joyce had given her a quick synopsis of her daughter's life, including Buffy's relationship with Faith. The news that Buffy also "batted for the other team" surprised Tara, but nonetheless made Buffy feel more relatable and less like a government robot sent by her father- if he would even bother.
She spotted someone who matched Joyce's description fairly well: a slightly muscular, but petite, blonde girl with big eyes and a bit of a faraway look. Tara shyly walked over to the table, where Buffy sat with two lattes. The first was in her hand; the other in front of the empty chair across from her. This arrangement confirmed Tara's suspicions and she sat down, her face determinedly aimed at the floor.
"You must be Tara," Buffy began conversationally. "My mom called and told me about you. Wild, isn't it? We both know my mom. It's such a coincidence, but I guess since you know a family member, that might make you more comfy around me."
"Wh-what's this about?" Tara stuttered, finally lifting her gaze to Buffy's concerned face.
"It's just..." Buffy looked like she didn't know exactly how to say it. "What do you know about your father?"
Tara frowned at the odd question; everybody knew about her father, though they'd never heard of her. "He's a g-g-great politician, but we ha-haven't spoken since I was s-s-s-seventeen, around eight years ago, since I c-came o-out to him. The only t-t-times I've ever seen him are-are at press conferences."
Buffy smiled sympathetically. "It must be weird. I mean, I get that it's weird to have an estranged father, but you have an estranged father who's more commonly known as President Maclay."