A/N thanks for the reviews, I hope that you all like the ending.
Willow and Faith finished their ice-cream in virtual silence, which was fine with the slayer. She was never much for being a conversationalist and had more then her share of them in the last couple of days. She knew that what Tara had to do was going to be hard however, and she wanted to help the woman. She had always had a deep attraction for Buffy but was resigned to the notion that that was never going to come to pass. There was another person that she found intriguing however, and that was Willow. Being the opportunist that she was, she knew that if she played her cards right, the possibility of her getting a shot with Willow might work.
"Red, I know that you are having some major problems with this Tara situation and it really has to suck." Faith decided to put something on the table to see where Willow went with it before proceeding.
"She is the love of my life Faith." Willow said simply, as she wondered if Buffy had sent the slayer to poke around and see what she could dig up.
"I can see that Red," Faith said with a smug look on her face. "I can also see something else though." The slayer noticed a hint of interest in Willow's eyes so continued. "She brings out the possessive side of you. The side of you that doesn't care what it does to get what it wants. That's what busted the two of you up to begin with and it's not healthy. She saw it too Red and there is a big chance that she cannot get over those things. If the two of you hook back up, that wondering as to what you will do next is gonna be there for a long time to come. Plus, you have come so far in your healing Red. Do you really want to go backwards because that is where you are headed because of your obsession with Tara."
Willow's eyes flashed with anger and she slammed her fist on the table hard. "I'm not obsessed with her Faith! I love her with everything inside of me!"
"Look how angry you're getting Red. If you can't have your way with Tara, that's what you do and you damn well know it!" Faith bit back with a firmness in her voice that showed Willow that she was not afraid of her.
Willow's eyes suddenly flickered as if she had hit a big realization. Had she wanted to frighten the slayer into seeing things her way by her quick outburst? Had she wanted Faith to think she was going to pull some sort of magic tricks if she did not back off and see it her way? Is this what she was doing to Tara? "Oh Goddess," Willow said softly as the tears began to flood down her cheeks. "You're right Faith. I love Tara so much that I am willing to do whatever it takes to get her back in my life. I know that it's wrong and I don't want to do it but I can't help myself.
"She knows that you love her Red and she does love you. I just don't think she is willing to go back to where you are still living, the past." Faith stood up from the table and took hold of Willow's hands. "You and she both need to go to the future and if it brings you back together someday, that's great. If it doesn't, you had a very special love and didn't further taint it by selfish actions.
"I can't go back to Kennedy Faith. She is not the one who can help me get through truly losing Tara. If she were, I wouldn't be in this place doing what I'm doing right now." Willow said, as the tears continued to fall down her face. "I have to talk to Tara." She jumped up from the table and ran out, as Faith sat sipping her drink in wonderment of what was to come.
- - - - -
Buffy sat nervously and awaited Tara's response to her enquiry. She hoped that it didn't come across as though she were asking too much. She understood that Tara loved Willow dearly and always would. Though she wanted badly to give a relationship a try with Tara, she needed to know that her heart had a real chance of not being broken again. She had gone through so much since her calling that she didn't want to be fooled into thinking she could have a fair chance if she did not. She knew that relationships were a gamble to begin with, but it would not be very smart to walk into something that you knew there was no chance in winning.
Tara looked at the slayer warmly, "Buffy, this is very hard for me but I had feelings for you before I ran into Willow again. I would never attempt to get into a relationship with anyone if I didn't feel that I could find a place in my heart for them. This is why you are the first person, since Willow, that I have even entertained the thought of moving on with." Tara hugged the slayer and then moved away. "I can't get involved in anything until I've talked with her though."
"Of course not Tara," Buffy stated with a horrified look on her face. No matter what, she too cared for Willow and would not venture to that place before this was entirely resolved. "I just want you to make sure of what it is that you want Tara. For your own sanity, as well as mine. I understand that your feelings for Willow run deep and always will. I just need to know if I need to move on or if we do have a shot." Buffy's face displayed understanding and compassion as she spoke.
"I understand how you feel Buffy. You have every right to be hesitant and it's going to be my job to assure you that we can make it." Tara said and turned to leave. "I will be back very soon."
- - - -
A short time later, Tara walked up to Willow who was sitting in the back yard of the complex. She ached for what she was about to do and it showed clearly in her eyes. She never thought this day would have to come again and prayed that it would not push Willow over the edge. She was surprised when Willow stood up and took her by the hands. "Tara don't do this. You are the most precious thing that has ever walked into my life and I can't watch you go through this agony again. I have put you through so much over the years and it's time that I stood up and shouldered the blame. I would do absolutely anything in this world to have you back at my side and that is why I am going to walk away. It's killing me on the inside but I understand now that I have to do this rather than make you do it. I've done too much damage to your heart already and am so sorry that I could not put it back together. I will give you my blessing to allow someone else to put it back together without a fight." With tears streaming down her face, Willow placed a kiss on Tara's cheek and walked away from the complex for the last time.
As Tara stood there with a shocked look on her face, Faith walked up to her. "You're free Tara," the slayer said softly.
Tara looked up at Faith and understood the meaning behind her words. "Thanks for whatever you did. You have helped me so much and Willow too, I hope." The concern for Willow was evident on Tara's face.
"I'll look after her for ya Tara." Faith said with a shrug and left the complex.
- - - -
Two months later, Buffy and Tara sat relaxing in the home that they now shared. Buffy was coming along nicely with no slayer powers and Tara had resumed her work with herbs and the like. The two had started up their relationship one week after the Willow ordeal was over; both wanting tome time to lapse before they jumped into things. They had gone out several times and had many long talks. The thing that they had not done however, was be fully intimate with each other. Buffy had wanted Tara to have plenty of time to heal from the most recent drama-fest before she took such a big step.
As they relaxed on the sofa after dinner, Tara leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her lover's lips. "Buffy, I want to thank you for being so understanding and helping me through all of that crap."
"You've repaid the favor and then some Tara." Buffy said with a big smile on her face. "You have been there every step of the way with this slayer thing and that means a lot to me. I'd say that we're almost even." Buffy said and blinked her eyes mischievously at the blonde.
"Almost?" Tara laughed and hugged the former slayer. "Buffy, I'm very happy that I was able to find the strength within me to make the decision that I made. I can honestly tell you that you have a big place in my heart and that I care for you very deeply."
Buffy's smile widened upon hearing the words That Tara spoke. She had hoped to hear the someday but a small part of her feared that she never would. "I care very much for you also Tara." Buffy said and pulled Tara into a firm embrace. She then placed gentle kisses on her lips and smiled inwardly for the first time since they ran into Willow.
"I think that I'm ready to take our relationship to the next step Buffy." Tara said with a small blush on her face. "That is, if you are ready."
"Oh I'm more then ready Tara." Buffy said as she stood up, took Tara's hand and lead her into their bedroom so that they could consummate their relationship. Buffy, for the first time in ages, felt as though she finally had came home.