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maybe it's a happy ending for us after all

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About two weeks after Tara moves in with Faith, she wakes up in the middle of the night to an empty bed and the smell of frying fish sticks and pot. It takes a full ten minutes for her to realise that the TV is also on, mostly because of the incredibly quiet and yet still somehow grating voice of the TV salesperson, advocating for some sort of a kitchen implement.

With a sigh, she slowly rises from bed, pulls her pajama bottoms up with one hand and rubbing her eyes with the other. Barefooted, she putters to the living room, freezing in the doorway when she sees Faith and a man who looks vaguely familiar lounging on the couch with a giant bowl full of fish fingers between them. The window is open wide so, while the pot smoke is gone, the smell still lingers in the air and she can see a couple of joints on the coffee table, right next to a full ashtray.

The man, who has short, electric blue hair, which Tara, for the love of her, can’t even begin to place, reaches into the fish fingers bowl, pulling out two and cramming them both into his mouth at once and she hears Faith giggle. Breath catches in her throat and she takes a few dazed steps towards the couch, eyes focused entirely on Faith. Her girlfriend Faith, who Tara has never heard giggle before. Her girlfriend Faith, who was comfortable and relaxed next to a strange man. And her heart drops, yes, but only for a moment, because she’s been working on this, she spent years working on this, and she trusted Faith and loved Faith and trusted Faith loved her.

So she straightens her back and strides semi-confidently to the ratty armchair next to the couch before turning to look at her girlfriend and the man sprawled on their couch.

And then it’s Oz, ad not just ‘the man’ and she feels just a little bit like dying because it’s Oz and, is there anything good in her life that that man doesn’t get to touch? Of course, a moment later she feels that sense of guilt that usually follows here everywhere, anyway. Isn’t anxiety just the best? So she plops down into the armchair and stares at them, waiting for someone to acknowledge her.

Half an hour later, they’re still sitting in silence and she’s getting antsy. Every once in a while, Oz snorts, Faith giggles, and one of them crams a whole fish stick in their mouth but then the scene freezes again and the whole thing is making her decidedly uncomfortable.

Eventually, the product they’re pushing on-screen changes from some sort of, apparently magic, blender to a kitschy brooch shaped like a wolf’s head howling at the moon and, in a move that makes her jump slightly, both Faith and Oz boo loudly, throwing fish sticks at the television screen.

For some reason, that ends up being the last straw. Staring intently at the greasy smudges on the TV, she finally lets herself speak out.

“Faith, what is going on?”

Her soft voice shatters the relative silence of the night and Faith whips her head around to face her, looking a bit more surprised than a Slayer really should. Even though this whole thing makes Tara confused and quite a bit anxious, a small part of her melts at the realisation that Faith is so comfortable in their shared home that she would let her guard down enough to be startled. Oz, however, only moves his face enough to look at her before nodding and looking back at the screen,

“We got high and now we’re watching the shopping channel and eating fish sticks. Dog boy here brought over some supernatural drugs from…” Faith turns to look at Oz, tapping his shoulder with her foot “Did you say Russia?” And after he nods, she turns back to Tara “…yeah, Russia. So we were trying them out.”

Oz speaks in a raspy voice, “You can try one if you want.”

With an eye roll, Faith adds “Don’t overdo it though, it’s stronger than human weed.”

So we are going to be pretending this is all normal? She thinks, but does not say, afraid of a conflict that might come up. Never one to start a confrontation, Tara just hums and reaches for a fish stick. If you can’t beat them, join them. Or… well, maybe wait until they’re sober, at least.

“Cool.” Cringing slightly at hearing her own voice crack, she settles into the armchair and turns to look at the TV, slowly drifting off.

***

She wakes up in the bed, Faith’s whole body wrapped around her, feeling warm, breathless, and hazy. Her movements seem to wake Faith up and they both roll to their backs, spreading their limbs. Faith stretches, groaning softly before relaxing with a content sigh.

With a quiet giggle, Tara turns to her side to look at Faith. “You are not going to believe what I dreamt.”

Faith smiles, turning to face her girlfriend, tentatively reaching to tuck a strand of hair behind Tara’s ear. “Wow me, princess.”

“I dreamt Oz was here. You know, the werewolf guy who dated Willow. I guess you guys met, right? You knew them all when they were in high school?”

Throwing her head back, Faith laughed brightly, before moving closer and kissing Tara passionately. “Yeah, I was gonna talk to you about that.” She leaned her forehead on Tara’s, her face a bit sheepish. “He’s gonna be crashing on our couch for a while. Do you mind? He’s really quiet and sometimes he cooks…” Leaning back, Faith tried to gouge Tara’s reaction.

On her side, Tara was baffled. “Are… Are you guys…?”

“Friends! We’re friends! I’m pretty sure. He sends me postcards and photos and stuff, from his travels, and I let him crash at my place when he comes back.”

“Oh… I just didn’t realise…”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s just that, only that. He used to visit me in prison and…”

“Ok then. But he better pull his weight around here.” Tara said in what she was hoping was a stern tone, unable to stop herself from smiling as she saw a grin spread over Faith’s face.

“Bet we could make him scrub the bathroom.” Faith said with a wink at Tara.

***

Pretty soon, they had a routine down.

They would get up to a ready breakfast (read- eggs made 101 ways), and eat it together before Tara got ready for her job as a kindergarten teacher and Faith whined about planning to quit her cashier job at the nearby 7-11 while pulling on her uniform. Oz would usually go to bed right after breakfast, tired from a night of playing bass at a nearby bar.

By the late afternoon, they would all be together again, spending a few hours unwinding before they ordered takeout. If one of them had an especially productive day and therefore managed to get groceries, they would try to cobble together a home cooked meal, but that did not happen often.

After dinner, Faith would walk Oz and Tara to the bar Oz worked at while she went patrolling. Eventually, she would join Tara at their now usual table to listen to a song or two before the two of them went home and to bed.

***

Tara blinked one day and suddenly it was eight months later and her and Oz had private jokes. Life felt comfortable and easy. It was almost like she was a settled, safe, and well adjusted adult. It was almost like all three of them were.

Leaning on the counter and looking at Faith trying to cheat at battleship, she let out a soft sigh, wondering how they even got to this point. Sometimes, it felt unsettling, like she was waiting for the shoe to drop. Still, she was getting better at dismissing her anxieties. Slowly, she slid onto the couch, next to Faith, pressing close and wrapping one arm around her girlfriend’s waist. Behind Faith’s shoulder, she mouthed 'G-6’ to Oz.

With a smirk, Oz said “G 6” and Tara buried her face in Faith’s shoulder, giggling softly, as Faith groaned and moaned about cheating and evil girlfriends.

“You’re lucky I love you and that your name is on the lease, otherwise you’d be out of here for this one.” Faith said, her face a faux grimace of anger while Tara kept giggling. With a wide smile, Tara drew closer, peppering Faith’s face with soft little kisses.

“You gonna dump me?” She said between kisses. “Who’s gonna listen to you snore then? Who’s gonna supply you with an army of 5 year olds then? You haven’t thought this through. You’d be lost without me.”

Slowly, Faith’s face softened into a gentle smile, unlike any Tara had seen before. “Yeah. Probably.”

Suddenly, the world was just the two of them and Tara was flying and sparkling and the air around them felt like it was sizzling. With a small cough, Oz pulled her out of it. “I don’t know if you were going for it or not but, I felt you should know the curtains are on fire.”

With a squeal, Tara and Faith jumped up, staring at the curtains and hovering in front of them, unable to think of what to do. Still a bit dazed and confused, Tara jumped back, almost falling on her butt before Faith caught her, as Oz walked by with a fire extinguisher, spraying the curtains with a bored look on his face.

“Dammit, we’re gonna have to buy new ones, aren’t we?” Faith said with a resigned groan.

***

Two years later, they’re still at that same tiny apartment with smoke stains on the windowsill and only one bedroom so she thinks, maybe it’s the right time to look for a new place. Maybe it should have a garden. Maybe they should get a dog. Maybe… Maybe they could use a third bedroom.

“How do you feel about golden retrievers?” She asked absentmindedly while scrolling through apartment listings one day. Bookmarking one, she lifts her head to look at Oz with a raised eyebrow. “I saw this really sweet one at the shelter and I was thinking you might want to meet her first? You know, to see if you’re compatible.”

With a frown, Faith looked at Tara, confused. “You know Oz isn’t an actual dog, right? I’m pretty sure we can’t breed him.”

Oz barks out a laugh and Tara snorts “No, I was thinking we should get a dog. I found this pretty great place. It’s not a house so it doesn’t have a garden, but it’s right across from a park so I figured it could work.”

Leaning closer, Faith gives her a questioning look. “I didn’t realise we were moving.”

“Well, Oz can’t sleep on a couch forever. It’s been two years, you know. And it’s a pretty great place. Three bedrooms, bigger bathroom, the building even has a gym. We can afford it, I checked.”

“What brought this on? And why would we need three bedrooms anyway? Do I suddenly need a slaying office?”

Tara makes a face that looks more like a grimace of pain than the smile she was going for, shifting in her seat. “I actually wanted to talk to you about that, too.”

Turning away form both Faith and Oz, she lifted a hand to tug slightly at a strand of her hair. “This isn’t- I-I was thinking. Maybe. If you guys were open to the idea. Maybe. I was thinking we could. If you wanted to. Maybe consider fostering a kid or two? Maybe those older ones, you know, teenagers stuck in the system. Or it could be a guest room. I’m not pushing for anything. It was just a thought.”

Glancing at Faith from the corner of her eye, she took a deep breath.

“Oh. I didn’t realise we were…” Faith’s voice was a baffled whisper, her eyes wide as she stared at her hands. “I never thought I would…”

With wide eyes, Faith lifted her head to look at Tara “I never thought I would live this long. Never thought I would get to this life stage.” The corners of her mouth twitched upwards “When did that happen? When did we become grown-ups?”

A giddy laughter bubbled from her chest and then she was leaning back against Oz, laughing brightly, holding Tara’s hands in hers.

Taking the laptop from Tara’s lap, she put it on the coffee table before pulling Tara into her arms, holding her close, burying her own face in Tara’s hair. She could feel Oz’s arm wrapped around them, it felt like she was suddenly surrounded by love, it was a feeling unlike any other. Letting out the last few soft giggles into Tara’s hair, she whispered “Guess we’re gonna have to get married then.”