Soon after they had finished their improvised dinner the doctor returned to let the group know that Mrs. Summers was in recovery and would soon be transferred to her own room. The doctor also arranged for a cot to be set up in the room for Buffy and Dawn. Xander had been called and updated, and he promised to return to the hospital in the morning with coffee and donuts for everyone.
Another hour later, the group said their goodbyes to the Summers sisters and made their way out to the hospital parking lot. Giles waved off and went to his own car at the other end of the lot. The remaining girls piled back into Willow's car, this time with Faith at the wheel, and Willow and Tara in the back, so that Tara could check the redhead's ankle.
After a short drive Faith pulled into the driveway of a small apartment complex near the local university to drop the roommates off, with the promise that Jo and Tara would stop by the hospital the following day.
As Jo locked the door of her cousin's apartment behind her, she watched her roommate drop down heavily onto the plush couch and close her eyes.
Tara could feel Jo watching her as she moved around the living room, divesting herself of her shoes and socks. Finally, Jo could take the silence no more.
"Talk to me Tare."
"There's nothing to talk about Jo." The blonde responded still not opening her eyes.
"Nothing? Tara, you never ask for anything, and today you asked me to leave in the middle of Sheryl Crow, SHERYL CROW, without telling me why. Did I argue, no?"
When the blonde said nothing, Jo continued.
"Tara, you left a concert, a very expensive concert, to help a total stranger. The same total stranger you gave your pencil box to."
"You've had that thing for years, Tare."
"SHERYL CROW TARA!"
Finally, the blonde burst into laughter. She knew she would be making amends to her friend for a very long time for demanding that she leave the concert without explanation.
"Okay, Jo, what? What do you want to know?"
"It's very simple Tara." The blonde waited expectantly as Jo paused for dramatic effect. "What are you going to do now?"
"What?" Tara was confused. She had expected an interrogation. She had expected Jo to grill her about what happened before the impromptu trip to the hospital. She had expected Jo to ask if she had gotten Willow's phone number or e-mail address or something. She had not expected such an open-ended question. "What?"
"She's here, you're here, you're going to see her tomorrow."
"It's not that simple." Tara sighed. "It's... she's... Faith."
"What Tara? What about Faith?" Jo prodded.
"Th-They're together, and I think F-Faith was cheating on her."
"So Red, that's your mystery girl huh?"
Willow's blush was all the answer Faith needed and for the rest of the ride back to Willow's parents house the girls remained quiet. Though they were both deeply concerned about Joyce's condition, the doctor's talk with them had reassured both girls. They were both processing the other events of the day.
Faith was still angry that Riley had dared to show at the hospital. She had spotted him in a corner of the Bronze, talking very closely with a pale woman with dark hair. When the woman turned to smile at something Riley said, Faith's suspicions were confirmed. That fucking frat-boy...
Faith and Willow had come back to Sunnydale a few weeks earlier, to visit their friends and family for the summer. It was the second night of their visit. The plan was for the two girls, plus Buffy, to meet Xander at the Bronze after having dinner at the Summers home. The three girls were driving by the university on their way to the club, and Buffy wanted to stop by and say hi to Riley. He had passed on the group outing to stay at the fraternity house and study for an exam.
He was studying something all right, that prick...
The door to his room had been slightly ajar and through the space the girls saw open books scattered on the floor.
"That's my guy, hard at work." Buffy had whispered, putting her finger to her lips to signal her friends to keep quiet. But the playful expression on her face soon turned confused then hurt.
Neither Faith nor Willow could hide the fact that they too had heard the moaning coming from inside the room. Faith's anger and Willow's confusion kept both girls from being fast enough to stop Buffy from pushing the door open.
He's still fucking that tramp...
A tap on her shoulder drew Faith's attention from the couple, and she smiled when she saw the club owner's son. The friends had been regulars at the Bronze since their high school days, and the owner's son had gone to school with them and was good friends with Xander.
"J!" Faith gave the boy a brief hug, surprising both herself and the young man with the affectionate gesture.
"Hey Faith, good to see you too." He led them over to a table in the corner, very close to the table occupied by the offending ex-boyfriend and his little playmate. "So what's up?"
"I'll give it to you straight Jesse, I need a favor..."
About twenty minutes later, just as Faith was finishing up, a small commotion nearby drew her attention. One of Riley's fraternity brothers, dressed in hospital scrubs, had rushed into the club and he and Riley were now standing and talking heatedly. The other guy pointed to Riley then the girl still seated. Faith heard Buffy's name mentioned several times before Riley grabbed his coat and left the club without so much as a goodbye to his "date."
Faith said a hurried goodbye to Jesse as he promised to talk to his father. She ran out after Riley, having a pretty good idea of where he was going and hoping she would get there in time to give the guy a piece of her mind, and maybe a little something else too...
Willow did not notice Faith's grip on the steering wheel tighten. She was similarly absorbed in her own thoughts.
She could still feel the weight of Tara's body on top of her own. Her wrist and hip still tingled from when the blonde had half-carried her. When she closed her eyes, her mind was filled with images.
Tara smiling down at her. What a smile...
Tara's body moving towards her as she reached for Willow's bag. What a body...
Tara holding her hand to help her up. God, her skin...
Tara kneeling beside her, unwrapping her ankle, her concern evident in her blue eyes. So gentle... and those eyes...
Tara talking quietly with Dawn. Perceptive, kind... And she got Dawn to promise to eat something green of the vegetable variety. I bet she'd make a great mom.
Tara giving her a small hug and whispering into her ear. "I'll see you tomorrow Willow."