Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? by Shyfox

Disclaimer: Joss owns everything...I own nothing.:-)
Enjoy.:-)

Comments, questions, criticisms are as always welcome at shyfox30@hotmail.com

 

Guess who's coming to dinner?


by

Buffy's sleep was disturbed by a sharp pain in her left thigh which spread down to her calf as another sharp pain erupted in her ribs. Buffy's smoky blue eyes flew open just in time to see an elbow heading straight for her nose. She wasn't quick enough to avoid it, still being dazed from waking up in pain, and the elbow caught her right on the bridge of her nose. Feeling white hot pain explode in her head, Buffy rolled out of bed, clutching her nose with one hand while she used her other hand to steady her balance by leaning on the side of the bed. She could feel blood trickling out of her bruised nostrils, so she pinched them shut to slow the flow, and looked wide eyed at the person who had disrupted her sleep in such a painful way.

Willow was thrashing around on the bed, her head shifting back and forth on her pillow, as she moaned in her sleep. "No...no..." She cried, piteously, the sound going straight to the Slayer's heart. Buffy sat back on the bed, grabbing a tissue to catch the blood that continued to dribble slowly from her bruised nostrils, and put one hand on Willow's waist trying to stop her movement. Much to Buffy's surprise the move intensified Willow's restless action, her sleeping lover getting increasingly agitated as Buffy tried to restrain her.

"Will." Buffy murmured in her lover's ear, almost getting head butted in the process.

"No...Not my baby...Don't take my baby." The words struck Buffy right in the throat, and she felt herself tearing up as she took Willow into her arms, using her Slayer strength to hold the still struggling woman.

"Shh...Will. Shh...everything is fine...The baby is fine...she's right there inside you." Buffy kept whispering reassurances into her lover's ear until Willow woke up, groaning.

"Buffy?" Willow whispered, groggily, trying to get her bearings and figure out where she was.

"It's okay. You had a nightmare...a doozy of a one by the sound of it." Buffy sounded like she had a cold, because of her injured nose, and Willow turned her head slightly to see if she could see why her lover was talking so strangely.

"Why do you sound like you have cotton in your mouth?" Willow asked, foggily.

"I bumbed by dose." Buffy answered, trying to shrug it off.

"In bed?" Willow asked, trying to figure out how that could possibly happen.

"Well...by dose kinda bumped into your elbow." Buffy answered rather quickly.

"Oh no! Your poor nose...I'm so sorry!" Buffy could see Willow's pained expression in the early morning light and tried to reassure her lover.

"It's okay, Will. You know my healing powers. I'll be good as new in no time. It doesn't even hurt anymore." Seeing the skeptical look on Willow's face, Buffy amended. "Much." She still felt the silent throbbing behind her eyebrows.

Willow took the tissue from Buffy's hand and daubed the dried blood away from her nostrils. "See...good as new." Buffy commented glibly.

"Hmph." Willow grunted, still not happy with herself for causing Buffy pain.

"So...you want to tell me why I became a punching bag in my sleep?" Buffy joked, lightly, regretting it when she saw the pained look return to her lover's eyes. "Come on." Buffy cajoled, as she settled them back on the bed, moving Willow so that she was resting comfortably with her head on the Slayer's shoulder.

Willow sighed as she called up the dream, remembering the feeling of helplessness that had hit her as her parents took her baby away from her. The supreme panic as she watched them hand her over to a couple of complete strangers. She shook her head as she tried to answer her worried lover, "I don't remember too much. My parents yelling at me...wanting me to give up my baby. They were in my hospital room...and I was holding her...and before I knew what was happening my mom took my baby and started to walk away with her." Wet tears trickled down the hacker's cheeks, dripping cool on the Slayer's shoulder.

Buffy sighed in regret for what Willow was going through. "Will...I knew your argument with your parents was bothering you...but, I didn't know it was bothering you this badly. You haven't talked to them since you told them. Maybe if you talked to them..."

"They don't want to talk to me." The red head sniffed quietly. "And even if they did, they'd probably just ask me to give her up again. I won't listen to that." Willow said, stubbornly.

Buffy sighed, unsure how to comfort her. Willow noticed how tense she got and rushed to reassure her. "Hey...I'm okay...really...that dream just kind of shook me a little...that's all."

"Are you sure? Maybe...I don't know...maybe I could call them...talk to them..." Buffy hedged, unsure what she would say to Willow's parents if she managed to make the call and get them on the phone, but willing to try for Willow's sake.

"No. If they want to talk to me...well, they know where I am. They were in the wrong, not me. They can call me." Willow said, her arms crossed, her most resolved face firmly in place.

"Okay...okay." Buffy relented, rubbing Willow's chilled arms with her hands. "Whatever you want, Wills. I just want you to be happy."

Willow looked up and lost herself in the deep blue pools that were her Slayer's eyes. "I am happy...with you." She said, kissing her lightly.

Buffy responded, kissing her back just as lightly, while caressing her cheek with one hand.

Willow pulled back, peering into Buffy's face for a long time. "You know how you can really make me happy?" Willow asked coyly, straddling her lover.

"Yeah?" Buffy whispered, meeting the red head's lips in a long kiss that took her breath away.

"Yeah." Willow answered, decisively, determined to shake the lingering effects of the dream by making wild, passionate love to her fianc�e.

*****

Buffy was sitting on a stool by the kitchen counter, talking over her concerns about Willow with her mother when the phone rang. "Always when I'm in the middle of something." The Slayer muttered, shaking her head at the ringing telephone. She got up and ambled over to it, picking it up on the fourth ring. "Hello."

"Uh...Hi. Is this Bunny?" Sheila Rosenberg's voice sounded tinnily over the connection, and Buffy shot a startled look to her mother. 'Speak of the Devil.' She mouthed, before she answered the woman on the phone.

"Uh...It's Buffy, actually." She corrected, automatically, wondering why Willow's mother could never seem to remember her name.

"Oh, right. Sorry dear...Is Willow there?" Sheila asked, a rather vague tone to her voice.

"Uh...yeah...she's roaming around here some place." Joyce questioned her daughter with her eyes and Buffy shrugged slightly.

"Could I speak to her please?" Willow's mother asked, politely.

"Sure...let me see if I can round her up." Buffy replied, placing the phone on the kitchen table.

Walking from the kitchen to the living room, she called out for her lover, hearing a startled squawk as she saw Willow start to tumble off the ladder she had been standing on, out of her peripheral vision. Buffy would never be able to recall later how she had moved so fast. In one second, she had seen Willow starting to fall off the ladder, heading for a surely painful, if not costly, landing. In the next, she was holding her securely in her arms, her heart pounding to beat the band and her breath coming in short, shaken pants.

"God, Will. Give me a heart attack!" Buffy exclaimed, feeling her legs starting to tremble from the shock. She sat down in the nearest chair, clinging tenaciously to her lover, as she tried to get her stolen breath back. "What were you doing on that ladder?!"

"Taking down the Christmas decorations." Willow answered, feeling a little guilty. She knew Buffy didn't want her on the ladder, for the very reason both of their hearts were pounding so furiously now. "It's almost January...I figured it was time, and I wanted to save you from having to do it."

Buffy felt her breathing start to even out again, as her body started to recover from the near miss. "Well...thank you...I appreciate it. But next time, anything requiring you to climb up onto high things...like a tree...or a ladder...or the roof, for instance...forget about it. I want you a little closer to the ground, like right here." Buffy said, tightening her arms around her lover to indicate their current position.

"Mmm, I kinda like it right here myself." Willow murmured, feeling the safe hold of Buffy's arms. After a few minutes of this, Willow remembered that Buffy had been looking for her earlier. "By the way, was there a reason you were looking for me?"

It was kind of comical the way Buffy rolled her eyes and slapped herself on the head. "Oh, God. I can't believe I completely forgot."

"Forgot what?" Green eyes crinkled up inquisitively.

"You're mother's on the phone. She'd like to talk to you." Buffy said, gently, trying to read Willow's reaction.

"Oh." Willow said, quietly, picking at the top two buttons on the Slayer's shirt.

"You don't have to talk to her if you don't want to. I can always say I couldn't find you or something." Buffy said, after a few minutes of silence.

"No...I'll talk to her." Willow responded, quietly. "I'd kind of like you there, though."

"Just try and keep me away." Buffy growled, playfully, then turned more sober as she watched her lover's mood. "Come on." She said, holding out a hand. Willow took it and pulled her up, then retained her hold on it as they went headed for the kitchen together.

*****

"No...I'm not sure where they are...wait, here they come." Joyce was talking to Sheila on the phone as Buffy and Willow entered the kitchen, their hands still entwined. 'What took so long?" Joyce mouthed to Buffy as Willow took the phone from Joyce's outstretched hand. Buffy just shrugged at her mother, as she sat down on the stool beside Willow, who was saying hello to her mother.

Buffy could just barely make out the conversation Willow was having with her mother, hearing only Willow's replies was lending a weird slant to the conversation, and at times her lover looked pained, like when apparently her mother had mentioned that she hadn't come home for Hanukkah and that she had been missed. Buffy squeezed her hand in reassurance as Willow told her mother that she had observed Hanukkah with Buffy and Mrs. Summers. It seemed to appease the woman, because the conversation changed.

"Dinner?" Willow's voice squeaked, as she shot a startled look at her lover. She hadn't had dinner with her parents since the night she had told them she was pregnant, and just the thought of having dinner with them brought back the unpleasant memories. Willow gulped slightly before answering. "You want me to come over for dinner?" She repeated her mother's request out loud.

"Well...New Years' Eve is tomorrow...I thought it would be nice if we could celebrate it together...unless you already have plans?" Sheila asked, really hoping her daughter would come.

"Umm...mom, can you hold on for a second?" Willow asked, covering the mouth of the phone with one hand. "She wants me to come over tomorrow night for dinner." She whispered to her nearby partner. A pale eyebrow rose at the announcement. They had made plans to go to Mario's for dinner to celebrate the engagement, not to mention seeing in the New Year together...but getting Willow back on the right track with her parents was more important to her, so she nodded her head in agreement.

"Uh...hi...sorry. Yeah, I'll come...on one condition." Willow agreed, reluctantly. She hated to be breaking their plans like this, but Buffy looked like she really understood, and she smiled at her lover in gratitude.

Sheila Rosenberg was so relieved that she would have agreed to almost anything. "Sure, honey...you just name it."

"I get to bring Buffy with me." She might have to cancel their plans at Mario's, but there wasn't any way that she wasn't going to see the New Year in with her fianc�e by her side.

"Sure honey, whatever you want. So, I'll see you tomorrow night around six?" Sheila asked, neglecting to include Buffy in the invitation.

"We'll be there." Willow said, quietly.

Buffy watched as Willow finished up the conversation and said goodbye to her mother before she let loose a low whistle. "Boy, that's going to be more fun than taking on the Master and Acathla at the same time."

Willow looked instantly apologetic. "I'm sorry for volunteering you. I should have asked you first if you wanted to come...I know it's not going to be the romantic dinner we had planned at Mario's. In fact, it's probably going to be a lot more tense and less fun than that."

"Hey, it's okay. You need me there...I'm there. With bells on." Buffy reassured her, nuzzling her cheek and placing a light kiss on her cheek. "You okay?" She asked, pulling back and gazing into the troubled green depths. Willow nodded, and Buffy smiled and kissed her again, on the lips this time, before she stood and stretched. "Well...I'm going to go take down the rest of the decorations before you get any more ideas about ladders."

"What?!" Joyce asked, peering at the two girls, and noticing how Willow was blushing. Buffy turned Willow to face her mother, and rested her hands on her shoulders.

"This one thought it would be a great idea to get up on a ladder to take down the Christmas decorations." Buffy said, wryly, rolling her eyes.

"I would have gotten them all down if you hadn't come in and startled me." Willow defended herself.

"Falling off the ladder in the process, I might add. I'm telling you mom, I nearly had a heart attack. Luckily, I caught her...but it was a very scary moment that I don't want to repeat." She gave her properly chastised lover a rueful grin. "Now do your motherly duty and give her a good scolding while I go finish up in there." She told her mother before strutting into the living room.

Joyce and Willow followed her with amused eyes until the swinging kitchen door cut off their view, then they looked at each other and laughed a little.

"She's very protective of me." Willow noted, wryly, smiling a little bit at how safe Buffy made her feel.

"As well she should." Joyce commented, dryly, earning a blush from her soon to be daughter-in-law, if she could wrap her mind around that one. Then again, if she could wrap her mind around the fact that her daughter is a vampire slayer, she could wrap her mind around anything. And she really couldn't pick a better person for her daughter to love.

*****

The next afternoon, their room looked like a cyclone had hit it, as Willow tried on and discarded several outfits in her attempt to find something suitable to wear. The first outfit that had found it's place on the floor, Buffy had made the mistake of saying she looked ravishing in it, and Willow decided that it wouldn't do because she didn't want her lover to be thinking of seducing her at the dinner table.

She went through several more in this manner, each finding themselves thrown off after the red head asked Buffy's opinion of them.

Finally, Buffy threw her hands up in defeat and told her that whatever she decided to wear would be fine with her. Willow finally opted for one of her floor length skirts and a blouse. If Buffy didn't already know what lay hidden beneath the clothes, she would never have been able to guess through the fabric.

Buffy chose a simple pair of white tight fitting cotton pants and a button-down purple shirt. "Are you ready?" She inquired, coming into the bedroom, brushing her long blonde hair.

"As I'm going to be." Willow replied, nervously brushing the wisps of red hair into a somewhat neater order. Buffy caught sight of the engagement ring on Willow's left ring finger and raised an eyebrow inquisitively. "Are you going to leave it on?"

Willow looked at Buffy in question, then followed the blue eyes to where they were resting. She brushed the ring with her thumb, thinking about the impact that showing up wearing the ring would have, then nodded slowly. "If they notice, they notice...but...I never want to take it off or deny my love for you in any way."

Buffy sighed, feeling satisfied for some unfathomable reason, then hugged Willow from behind, nuzzling the back of her neck tenderly.

They stood quietly for a few moments, just basking in their warm fuzzy feelings. Willow sighed finally, getting ready to break the embrace, and Buffy kissed her again quickly, on the top of the head, then stepped back. She checked her appearance again in the mirror, then looked at Willow, a glint appearing in her eyes. "Let's go get 'em."

*****

The bravado lasted until they were both standing on the Rosenberg's doorstep. "Well...we're here." Buffy stated the obvious as she stared nervously at the front door.

"Yup, here we be." Willow replied, just as nervous. "You want to do the honors?"

Buffy gulped as she leaned forward to ring the bell, then rocked back on her heels and waited for someone to open the door. She could hear somebody approaching from the other side, and she took a breath to steady her nerves.

Sheila Rosenberg opened the door, a smile on her face for her daughter. "Hi, Mom." Willow said, giving her mother a hug. Sheila returned the hug, then led her into the house, letting Buffy follow behind them.

"Willow, come on into the living room. There are a couple of your father's friends that I'd like you to meet."

Willow followed beside her, feeling a bit surprised that her parents had invited other people to this dinner. She had assumed they would be getting together to talk about what had happened between them. That would be decidedly difficult to do with a couple of strangers in the mix.

A couple that appeared to be in their late thirties were sitting on the couch talking to her father. The male had a strong New York, Jewish accent, while the woman was harder to place, sounding more Anglo-Saxon or Wasp than anything else.

The male was handsome, in an older, conservative kind of way. The woman was fairly attractive, fresh looking, and Willow liked the spark that was in the woman's deep blue eyes.

"Willow, this is Dr. Joel Fleishman and his wife Maggie." The couple rose from the couch to greet her, both of them shaking hands with the red headed Wiccan.

"Hi. It's good to meet you." Willow murmured, politely, shaking the outstretched hands.

"It's good to meet you too, Willow." Maggie said, smiling warmly. "Right Fleishman." The woman said, in an aside to her husband...the smile turning into a slight smirk as she looked at him.

"It certainly is. We have been looking forward to meeting you." Willow shifted nervously, under the Doctor's appraising stare.

Buffy watched from the doorway she had stopped in, and noticed a strange under current she wasn't sure she liked. She was having a hard time putting her finger on what it was, but it was in the way Willow had been introduced to these two strangers, and the way their eyes had lit up on the introduction, like they were looking at some prized cow at a cattle auction. A general uneasiness rested in her guts, but since she couldn't get a handle on what was causing it, she decided to let it slide for now. After all, it could be the resentment she was feeling from being ditched at the door, left behind to make up the rear. But for Willow's sake, she was willing to grin and bear it.

As Sheila announced that dinner was ready, Buffy stepped forward to claim possession of her lover. She laid a hand on the red head's back and led her to the dinner table. She quickly pulled out a chair for her lover to sit in, helping her adjust to the table after she had sat, then took a seat beside her. Everyone else seemed oblivious to the solicitous attention Buffy bestowed upon Willow as they took their seats, the Fleishman's took the seats directly across from Buffy and Willow while Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg took the chairs at the head and foot of the table.

While Ira blessed the food, Willow nervously played with her water glass, watching in distraction as the ring on her left hand made a dazzling display through the crystal.

"That's a beautiful ring you have there." Maggie noted, with a smile, after the blessing had been said.

"Thanks." Willow said, blushing slightly, while Buffy gulped nervously. The Slayer caught the startled looks on the faces of Willow's parents as they caught sight of the ring for the first time. Maggie asked if she could get a closer look at it, and Willow stretched her hand out across the table.

Maggie examined the ring, studying the flashing diamond from all sides. "You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think this was an engagement ring." The comment brought the room's attention onto Willow, and the engaged couple shared an 'Uh oh' look.

Sheila laughed nervously, causing Willow to wonder what she'd have to be nervous about, she was the engaged one after all. "No...of course it isn't. It's just a very nice ring...right Willow? I mean she's only eighteen, she isn't ready to get married yet."

"Uh...actually..." Willow hedged, sending another worried look Buffy's way. She wasn't sure right now was the right time to be revealing their engagement, but it seemed as if she didn't have a choice in the matter.

"Well, it is very beautiful." Maggie said, noticing Willow's apparent discomfort, she relinquished the red head's hand. Willow pulled her hand back and hid it under the table, proceeding to eat with her opposite hand. "Thank you." She murmured.

Ira watched her suspiciously for a moment, then decided to get the attention off of his red faced daughter. "So, Joel...how's the practice going?" Willow was glad of the respite he gave her, she felt Buffy take her hand under the table and squeeze it gently, communicating with the gesture what she couldn't say with words at the present moment.

"Not bad, although some of my patients still pay me with fish. I've developed quite a taste for smoked trout." Joel joked.

"Fish?" Buffy questioned, unable to believe anybody would pay for their physical exams with cold fish.

"I live in Alaska...Cecile to be exact, and some of the Indians there like to make their payments with the catch of the day." Joel explained.

"Oh." Buffy said, nonplussed. Seeing the confusion on her face, Joel went into more stories about the people that he knew. Ed the wannabe filmmaker sounded kind of neat, in a strange, bizarre way. Maurice, the retired astronaut sounded like an egotistical, loud mouthed idiot, although Buffy refrained from commenting on this out loud. Shelly sounded really cool, and she thought she could probably get along with her really good, they had the whole dating a guy who's way too old for me thing in common. All in all, the place sounded almost as strange as SunnyDale, and she wondered idly if there were any vampires roaming around up there.

Willow tried to concentrate on the stories Doctor Fleishman were telling, most of them were pretty funny, especially the time this really weird couple, named Adam and Eve, had kidnapped him because Eve is a hypochondriac and she wanted her very own doctor; but, she kept having this feeling that she was being stared at. She would look surreptitiously around the table, but she never could make out who was staring at her.

Finally, dinner was over and as her mother started dishing up dessert, Willow noticed Maggie looking at her. She raised a perplexed eyebrow at her, which seemed to propel the woman to speak. "Willow, I just want to say that it's really nice to finally meet you. Your parents have told us a lot about you, and Fleishman and I have been looking forward to this day. I hope you've noticed how good an environment your baby will grow up in, and know that you don't have to worry, we're going to take very good care of it, and give all the love and support in our hearts."

Willow could feel herself growing faint during this impromptu speech, sure that she was going to pass out at any second. She could feel her eyes bugging out of her head, and was sure that she resembled a big green bullfrog at the moment. It was only the aching tightness in Buffy's increasingly strong grip that kept her in the chair as an almost unearthly silence settled over the table. "Wh...wh..." Willow stuttered, unable to get a word out, as all the breath from her chest had been stolen.

"What?!" An almost feral growl erupted beside her, saying the word she had been trying to get out, and she turned a grateful look to her lover, whose ears had grown red and the color seemed to be spreading across her face.

Maggie realized her mistake at the shocked and angered expressions on the two girls faces, while the Rosenberg's showed incredibly guilty ones. "I'm sorry. I thought you knew. When Sheila called and told me that her daughter was looking for someone to adopt her baby...well, we jumped at the chance. Fleishman and I really want to raise a baby, and since I can't have one myself...well..." She looked to her husband for help.

"We realize Alaska is a long way away, but it might be better this way. You wouldn't have to be constantly reminded that you gave up your child..." Whatever Doctor Fleishman was going to say was cut off by an infuriated Slayer, who had heard enough.

"How?" She growled, turning searing blue eyes on Willow's mother, and pinning her with her glare. "How could you do this to her? To them?" She jerked her head at the witless couple that had been left gaping at her as she had turned on Willow's parents.

"I...I don't know what you're talking about." Sheila tried to backpedal, to save face, but Buffy wasn't about to let her.

"Oh yes you do. You called up these nice people and told them that Willow wanted to give up her baby, when you know damn well that she doesn't. And you let them fly all the way down here, on a wild goose chase. Then you invited Willow over to meet them, letting her think that you wanted to see her. What I want to know is, why?" The Slayer was unrelenting as she stared the woman down.

Sheila knew the cat was out of the bag, there wasn't any way she could hide the truth. "Willow isn't ready to be a mother...and I would have made her realize that giving the baby to Joel and Maggie is the best solution for everybody."

Buffy couldn't believe the woman could sound so proud of what she had done. She shook her head in stunned disbelief. The woman really didn't know Willow at all, did she? "You think sending your grandchild 'North to Alaska' is the best thing for everybody?" Buffy asked, sarcastically.

Willow could see her lover was heading for an outburst and it was up to her to stop her. "Buffy..." She put a hand on the Slayer's back, feeling the coiled tension beneath the rock hard muscles.

"No, Will. I want to know how your parents, our baby's grandparents, could think that sending our baby to Alaska to live with a couple of strangers could possibly be the best thing for everyone." The words poured forth from the Slayers lips, without her thinking about what she was really saying. Only Willow picked up on what she had revealed, turning the wiccan's face whiter than it had been already.

"I really don't think this is any of your business." Ira said, jumping in to defend his wife.

"You wouldn't." Buffy snarled, then turned her eyes on the Fleishman's trying to calm down enough so that she could apologize to them. "Look. I'm sorry you came all the way down here for nothing. I'm sure it's very upsetting to know the child you were hoping for is staying right here. But there's no way in Hell that I'm letting my daughter grow up in Nome, Alaska where I wouldn't ever be able to see her."

What Buffy had been saying finally registered on Willow's parents. "Your daughter?!" They echoed together, both looking at her with stunned disbelief.

Buffy suddenly felt like a heel as she finally realized what she had just blurted out in her anger. She sent an apologetic look to her lover, seeing her wince in understanding. They communicated silently with their eyes, as they recognized now was as good a time as any to come clean. Steeling up her courage, Buffy turned her attention back on the group. "Yes. Willow is carrying my daughter."

"That's not physically possible." Doctor Fleishman blurted out, getting a swift kick from his wife under the table for his trouble.

"Honey...I think it's time we should be going, don't you?" Maggie said, rising from the table. Joel rubbed his sore leg, then stood not wanting to make his wife any more mad at him. "Thanks for inviting us. Dinner was wonderful." Maggie said, as she made her way to the closet door, to get their coats. They hurriedly put their coats on, then slipped out the door. "We'll be in touch." This was said, just before the door closed, then they were gone, and the four remaining people were left staring at each other.

"Well...you certainly know how to ruin a dinner party." Sheila commented, caustically.

Buffy let the comment wash over her, too irate to respond to the snide remark. The truth, if she wanted to state it, was that Willow's parents had brought the embarrassment down on themselves.

"What you said before. How could that possibly be true?" Ira said, glaring at the young woman sitting beside his daughter.

"It's hard to explain...but it is true." Buffy briefly went on to explain how the miracle had happened, seeing the looks of skepticism increase on the older couple's faces.

"How come Willow didn't tell us this sooner?" Sheila asked, not quite ready to believe everything the Slayer was saying.

"Well...we didn't really think you'd believe her...and we wanted to avoid...this...from happening." Buffy said, referring to the disaster the dinner had become.

"You're right about one thing. I don't believe a word you're saying." Ira Rosenberg said, standing up from his seat. "My daughter knows better than to play around with witchcraft. It is against our religion. I don't know how you've managed to corrupt her thinking, but I don't want you anywhere near her. She'll move back in with us until she has her baby, and then we'll find someone to adopt the baby without your interference."

It took all of Buffy's self control not to jump up and strangle the man, but she couldn't just choke Willow's father to death, so she tried to remain calm as she spoke. "You have two choices and only two, because there is no way in Hell I'm going to let you come between me and Willow. You can either accept us, accept our baby, and have a place in our life...or you can leave us alone. Either way is fine with me, but I'm marrying your daughter. You're welcome to attend, of course." Buffy let a light smirk cover her face as she stared him down.

"Get out. Get out of my house." Ira commanded, pointing the way out.

Buffy smiled at him as if he hadn't just yelled in her face. "Have it your way. Come on, Wills." She helped her shaken fianc�e to her feet, then led her in the direction of the door. While Buffy was getting their coats, Willow looked back toward her parents. She couldn't get over the way they had reacted. She opened her mouth to say something, then thought better of it and closed it, shaking her head in sorrow.

They walked out the door in silence, and remained that way for the first five minutes of their walk home. Buffy felt bad for losing it the way she had, and kicked herself for being the cause of Willow's split from her parents. She knew she could have handled that a lot better. "I'm sorry I lost my temper in there, Wills."

"I don't blame you for that, Buffy. You said what I couldn't. I feel sick that they would do that to me. How could they think that I'd just go along with it?" Willow looked so perplexed and so lost, that Buffy couldn't resist stopping and taking her in her arms.

"They don't know you like I do, Wills. They remember the little girl you used to be. They don't know the grown woman who's taken her place."

"I guess they don't. What are we going to do?" Willow sighed, starting to walk again.

"We're going to get married." Buffy said, decisively, receiving a grateful hug from her partner. "Is next month too soon?" She asked, smiling into the lovely face.

"Sounds perfect to me." Willow replied, walking beside Buffy, feeling safe inside the Slayer's arms.

*****

Ira Rosenberg stared pensively at the black phone that sat ominously on his desk. He had sworn to himself and his god that he'd never again do what he was thinking. Some connections were better left in the past, but sometimes desperate times led to desperate measures. With a trembling hand, he reached out and picked up the phone...dialing a number he thought he had long forgotten.

*****

Buffy entered their room carrying two bowls of ice cream, a peace offering for the mess their New Year's Eve had become, and found her lover laying on their bed looking at a calendar.

"Rocky Road?"

"Is that a question or a statement?" Willow asked, looking up, a small smile playing around the corners of her mouth.

"Both...actually." Buffy said, with a rueful smile, as she sat down next to her on the bed. Willow put down the calendar she had been looking at to take her bowl. "I'm sorry tonight was such a disaster."

"I've had better New Year's Eve celebrations...but the night isn't over...It's not even midnight yet. Dick Clark's rocking eve celebration is just starting, I have Rocky Road ice cream, and the person I love most in the world is sitting beside me. What more could I ask for, I tell you." Willow said, determined to get the guilty look off of Buffy's face. "Mmm, I love Rocky road..." Willow hummed as she sucked the choclatey goodness off of her spoon. "...but I thought you didn't want me having chocolate."

Buffy raised an eyebrow in thought, then smiled a little at her partner. "Well...I figure a little bit on special occasions can't hurt...and I thought it might help you feel better." She admitted, leaning back against her pillows and the head board as she watched the latest rock band rocking it up on the stage. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Willow had turned her attention back to the calendar, studying it in apt concentration as she ate her ice cream.

"So, what are you looking at?" Buffy asked, finally, her curiosity getting the better of her.

"Do you want to know what I've always thought was the most romantic day to get married?" Willow asked, noticing the way Buffy brightened at the question.

"No. What?" The Slayer couldn't help but grin as she thought about marrying Willow...actually marrying the woman she loved more than life itself. Yesterday was not soon enough as far as she was concerned, but she didn't want to rush her beautiful lover either. She wanted their day to be perfect.

"Valentine's Day." Willow beamed, her smile lighting up the room, brighter than any light in the darkness. "And it just so happens that Valentine's Day occurs in February...which is next month." Buffy nodded, noticing how cute Willow looked when she was really excited about something.

"Let me guess...you want to get married on Valentine's Day." Buffy stated, trying not to smile, though Willow could hear the teasing in her voice.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do." Willow said, raising an eyebrow coyly. "What do you think?" She asked, suddenly wondering if Buffy didn't like the idea.

"Well, I'd never forget our anniversary...Oomph." Buffy grunted after being hit by her perturbed lover, grinning ruefully as she rubbed her stomach. "Just kidding...down girl." The Slayer said, catching the red head's arm and pulling her into her embrace, careful not to clang the bowls of ice cream together as she did so. "You want Valentine's Day then Valentine's Day it is. It sounds perfect to me actually." Buffy admitted, and kissed Willow's neck as she snuggled into the embrace, almost forgetting about the ice cream she held in one hand.

"Better eat that before it melts." Willow reminded her, already shoveling the melting concoction into her mouth.

They spent the next few minutes eating the ice cream, then Buffy put the empty bowls aside, and they laid back against the pillows to watch the New Year come in with Dick Clark.

At the stroke of midnight, Buffy and Willow started kissing, expressing their great love for each other as they rang the new year in. Joyce came barreling in through the door wishing them a Happy New Year, and they stopped grinning cheerfully as they wished her a happy one back. And it was then, in that moment as time slowed and Willow took stock of the sparkling, warm, cheerful faces that surrounded her, that she decided that this was all the family she really needed.

The end(for now)

Minor Disclaimer: As you can probably tell, I stole (No bad word) borrowed the characters from Northern Exposure, a show that first appeared on CBS, and is now being run on A and E. I unfortunately do not know who the creator of this bizarre, but strangely intriguing show is, but if anybody knows, I'd be delighted if you'd tell me. thanks.:-) Shy

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