Disclaimers; Joss owns them(Grr, Arrgh!), I don't. I don't own the song, either. Natalie Merchant does. 
Rating; PG
Feedback; hey, do the math! Jim_D_Means@prodigy.net
Archives; Let me know first, I'm liable to say yes.
Author's note; It's a songfic, based on Natalie Merchant's "Life Is Sweet". This is the result of a challenge I made to myself, involving the following criteria;
1) Willow is with Tara.
2) Buffy confronts her love for Willow, and her fears about being a third wheel in Willow's life.
3) Buffy, Willow and Tara come together as friends at the end.
4) (this is the big one) Little or no angst.
Summary; Buffy becomes the go-between when Willow and Tara have a fight, forcing her to think about her own feelings for Willow. Told from Buffy's POV.

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LIFE IS SWEET
By Kirayoshi

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Ah, the Bronze. The closest thing Sunnydale has to a swinging night-life. I had just moved back home after finals, and was ready to unwind and generally get my Summer started. Which meant Bronzing. It was at the Bronze that night that I saw her. I had no idea how everything would change as a result of that night.

Willow was sitting on a lounge chair in the corner generally reserved by the Scoobs and myself. She was alone which surprised me. I hadn�t expected to see her, but I had figured that if she was there she would be in the advanced stages of liplock with Tara. No Tara, no liplock, no happies at all. Time for me to shift into best friend mode.

It's a pity, it's a crying shame
Who pulled you down again?
How painful it must be
To bruise so easily
Inside.

"Hey, Wills," I greeted her cheerily.

"Hey, Buff," she answered with all the animation of a vampire in daylight hours.

I looked at her as she toyed with a stray lock of red hair. Okay, I thought, we�ll do it the hard way. I put on my Slayer game face, which caught her attention, like the good little wiccan Scoob she is. "What is it, Buffy?"

"I dunno, Willow," I answered, "but my spider sense is flaring. I�m reading---" I turned my head toward her, and finished; "Bummed out best friend at twelve-o�clock."

Willow tried to hide her face from me, but she knew that her gesture was futile. I had slipped in the best friend department a few months ago, when I became distracted by Riley and the Initiative, but I was back on the case. And Willow Rosenberg wasn�t the only girl in Sunnydale with a �resolve face�. "Spill, Will," I said to her. "What�s the up?"

Willow slumped her shoulders in defeat and finally told me; "It�s Tara. She and I had a big fight. I think it�s over."

It's a pity, it's a downright crime
It happens all the time
You wanna stay little daddy's girl
You wanna hide from the vicious world
Outside.

I sat down beside Willow and put my arm around her shoulder. "Hey, Willow, just one fight? You two should be able to handle more than that, huh?"

"I dunno," Willow said miserably. "She wanted to meet my parents. That�s what started it."

"Your folks? Why would that be a problem?"

Willow looked at me as though I had grown a second head. "You kidding? My ultra-conservative parents meeting my girlfriend? They�d have conniption fits on the spot! You remember how they took Oz, and he�s a guy! Now I�m gonna walk in with Tara and announce, �Hi, Mom, Dad, this is my new smoochies partner,� and hope they don�t disown me? That�ll happen."

Don't cry, you know the tears will do no good
So dry your eyes
Oh, your daddy, he's the iron man
A battleship wrecked on dry land
Your mamma she's a bitter bride
She'll never be satisfied, you know
And that's not right

"Hey, at least she�s not a musician," I tried to console her, but she just sagged her shoulders in misery. "This is something that the two of you will have to face eventually. I mean, if you two are long-term, which I hope is true, �cause I like her. Tara�s been good for you, you know."

"Yeah, I know," Willow breathed out in despair. "But how good am I to her? Her folks live on the other side of the country, but I know from her talking about them that they�d accept me. But Mom and Dad accept Tara? Wrong, Buff. Not in this lifetime. That�s why Tara and I fought. She wants me to tell my folks about us. And I�m not ready." She picked up her mocha, and sipped at it absently. "Doesn�t look like that�ll be a problem now, cause she�s gone."

"Gone as in out of town, or gone as in not around you?" I asked.

"Gone as in �Sorry it didn�t work out, Willow.�, that gone."

"Did she say that to you?" I asked, suppressing a sudden urge to clobber Tara.

Willow rolled her eyes up at me, and said, "Not exactly. She said she had to be alone for a while, but I know a brush-off when I hear one."

"Maybe she wanted to be alone," I suggested. "Not permanently, just to sort out her thoughts."

"Yeah," she groaned. "But I�m not holding my breath. The way I shouted at her, I don�t think she�ll be breaking Mach One on her way back to me."

"Look, Wills," I said to her, "If you want her, sooner or later, you�re gonna have to confront little things like this. Remember how well we took it initially when you announced your relationship with Tara? Not exactly a red-letter day for Scoobydom. But we accepted the two of you. If your parents love you, and I know they do, even if they seem absentee at times, they�ll accept Tara. Maybe not now, but finally. And you�re gonna have the chance to test that theory once you and Tara work it out. Okay?"

Willow smiled weakly at me. "Okay," she agreed reluctantly.

But don't cry, you know the tears will do no good
So dry your eyes
Oh, they told you life is hard
Misery from the start
It's dull, it's slow, it's painful
But I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There's so much more, be grateful
Well, who do you believe?
Who will you listen to?
Who will it be?
Beause it's high time that you decide
In your own mind

"Now then," I announced, "how about we forget our woes and hit the dance floor?" She accepted warmly, and soon we had forgotten all save our pleasure as we showed them how it�s done. Fatboy Slim poured out of the PA system, and we danced close, gyrating against each other�s bodies. I felt a warm flush all over my skin, as I watched my little wiccan getting closer to me. I wasn�t letting this go past the dance floor; I�ve never stolen other girl�s guys, I wasn�t about to steal another girl�s girl.

Even if it was the girl I loved as much as Tara did.

However I felt about Willow, I�d blown my chance. Willow found Tara, and I respected that. I�m young, I have time to find the right one for me. And if Willow and I can still enjoy an evening on the dance floor, so much the better.

But she still had a long-term problem to deal with. Tara. Tara was the only one who could stop my Wills from hurting. And I had to tell her that.

I've tried to comfort you
I tried to tell you to be patient
That they are blind, and they can't see
Fortune gonna come one day
All gonna fade away
Your daddy the war machine
And your momma the long and suffering
Prisoner of what she cannot see

The next day, I followed a hunch and swung by Shepherds Meadow. A little-known area outside of Sunnydale, a fifteen-acre plot that started out as a proposed park, but city budgets ran out before it got far past the planning stages. I think that Mayor Wilkins(may he roast in Hell) made some noise about restarting the park project just after Mom and I moved to Sunnydale, but nothing happened, and the park idea just died off. Now the grasses grow wild and lush, except for a dry patch toward the center of the field.

Shepherds Meadow, unknown to most of the populace of Sunnydale, was a nexus of powerful benevolent magic forces. Giles explained it once; since the Hellmouth warped the magical energy fields around the area, wells and eddies of magic occured naturally within a thirty-mile-or-so radius around the Hellmouth. That's one of the reasons that Willow and Tara had become more powerful here in Sunnydale than they would be elsewhere. They had been tapping energy from Shepherds Meadow. It was such a powerful area that most of the witch covens in SoCal meet here on a regular basis.

It was here where I had hoped to run into Tara, and sure enough, I was right. She was sitting in lotus position, her feet tucked neatly under her legs, her hands in her lap, in a state of mild meditation. She was wearing faded blue jeans, Birkenstock sandels and a pink t-shirt with blue script reading, "Magic Happens". Her straight blond hair floated lightly in the breeze, and her eyes were closed.

I approached her as she sat motionless. "Hey, Tara."

She didn't move, but she did answer me; "Hey Buffy."

"So," I ventured, realizing that this was going to be tougher than I thought. "Nice location here. Calm, peaceful."

"I always liked it," Tara answered. "I tried to get Willow to come here last week for the solstice celebrations. Several of the regional covens."

"How did she like it?"

"She backed out at the last second." She then turned her face up to me, and a hint of a smile played at her lips. "M-maybe I should have told her in advance the meeting was s-skyclad."

"Uh, skyclad?" I sat next to her, hoping for an explanation.

She blushed a deep rose, and then blurted out, "Clothing optional!"

I could feel the involuntary laugh build inside my diaphragm. "You mean--NUDE?" I burst out with laughter, imagining Willow's being mortally embarrassed at the thought of public nudity. Tara snickered briefly, then laughed with me. We rolled around in the dry grass for a minute, giggling like preschoolers.

"Sorry about that," I apologized, but Tara stopped me. "No, don't apologize. I needed to laugh. To let it out."

"Willow talked to me last night."

Tara turned her face away from me, and sat quietly for a second. "She doesn't want to see me anymore, does she?"

"Dead wrong, Tara. She wants to see you desperately. She's afraid that you're gonna bolt on her."

"I could never do that," she lamented. "She's too important to me."

I smiled at her as she confirmed her feelings for Willow. "So tell her."

"I-I can't. I tried to push her too hard. To make her come out in front of her parents when she wasn't ready. I'm surprised that she doesn't hate me for that."

"Tara," I craned my neck so I could get a clear view of her eyes, "I don't think that Willow has it in her to hate anyone. And she sure as hell doesn't hate you. As for not being ready, hey, she just met you, and her parents have trouble with her dating guys. They still think that she's twelve, for crying out loud. Not the most perceptive people on the planet."

"I guess. But are you certain that she still wants me?"

"Damn straight, Tara."

Tara sat there, saying nothing for ten seconds. A small single-engine plane could be heard overhead. Then, she turned to me and asked, "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you're the one who can make Willow stop hurting."

"What about you?"

"Me? I'm not hurting, I'm fine."

"No, no, what about you and Willow?"

I glanced at her, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, if I'm out of the picture, there's your chance." I couldn't believe she was saying this. "Come on, Buffy, I've seen the way you stare at us, at her, when we're out dancing at the Bronze. You're worse than Xander, the way you ogle her."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing, what Tara was saying to me. No, I did believe it. I just didn't think that I was being that obvious. "You're in love with her, aren't you?" She leveled that question point blank at me.

I just stared ahead of me for the longest time. I had to think about what I was going to say, to make sure that I didn't say anything I couldn't take back. Finally, I breathed deeply, and started;

"Tara, you're a good person, and you've been a good friend, not only to Willow but to me. So I'm going to level with you. Do I think that Willow is attractive? Yes. You'd have to be an idiot not to.

"Am I attracted to her? Yes. I am.

"Do I love her? With all my heart. She's been there for me from the beginning, since I first came to Sunnydale. She's been my support, my strength, my heart, even when I was a bitch to her. I will always love her for that.

"And now for the big question. Am I in love with her?" I breathed again, summoned my courage, and finished what I was trying to say. "If I thought about it, I'd probably have to say yes. But she loves you. And you love her. And I'm not going to come between the two of you. Part of loving Willow means knowing what makes her happy. And that's you, Tara."

I could see the tears glisten in her eyes, as she asked me, "You really mean that, Buffy?"

"Hey, I don't fully understand it myself, last year I was Heterosexuality Girl 1999, now I'm falling for my best friend. I figure if I try to analyze my emotions I'll end up in the rubber rumpus room at the local psych ward. All I know is that Willow Rosenberg is the best thing that ever happened to me, and if you let her, she'll be the best thing that happened to you." I exhaled, amazed at how far I let myself go there, how deeply I confided in this woman I barely knew. "And you're in the running for 'best thing that ever happened to Willow'. Don't blow it. Please." I looked at my watch, and said, "Look, Tara, I gotta go, I'm meeting Xander for lunch. You think about what I said, will you?"

"I will, Buffy," she started, hesitantly. "A-and thanks."

I smiled at her before I departed. "Anytime."

For they told you life is hard
Misery from the start,
It's dull, it's slow, it's painful
But I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There's so much more, be grateful
So, who will you believe?
Who will you listen to?
Who will it be?
'Cause it's high time that you decide
It's time to make up your own
Your own sweet little mind

Later that night, I finished a brief patrol around one of the local cemetaries, dusted a few newbie vamps, and then headed for the Bronze. I noticed some commotion on the dance floor. I got near the crowd, looked over somebody's shoulder and saw what the attraction was. Willow and Tara, dancing up a storm in the middle of the dance floor. Their bodies were close, their eyes staring intently into each others, and for all they were aware they might as well have been alone on the roof of the Empire State Building.

When the song faded out, they slowed down, and simply fell into each other's arms. It was beautiful to see them so happy together. I had to applaud. "Bravo, Bravo," I announced. "Someone call Michael Flatley!"

Tara turned to me, and asked, "Hey, Buffy, how was patrol?"

"Boring," I answered smiling. "But that's how I like my patrols."

"Like you like your men," Willow quipped.

"Hey," I shouted, "was that a Riley dig?"

Willow and Tara looked at each other, and then looked at me, saying in unison, "Yeah."

I laughed out loud. "You may have a point there. Of course he and I are pretty much past tense, so I'll forgive you. This time. So," I regarded the closeness, the hand-holding, the general yeah-we're-together aura they generated. "You two work it out?"

"Something like that," Willow said, giving Tara's hand a squeeze.

"One day at a time, that's the way," Tara added.

"Hey, that's great," I smiled at them. "You two deserve the best."

"Thanks, Buffy," Willow approached me, and wrapped her arms around my shoulders, hugging me thoroughly. "Thanks for everything."

I could imagine myself remaining forever in her arms, but I knew better. I slowly let her release the hug, answering, "Hey, I was just getting tired of your whining. Every time I spoke to her, it was Tara-this and Tara-that--" she pretended to swat her hands at me, giggling further.

"That's okay, Buffy," Tara then took her hands in mine, and drew me closer for her own hug. "Thanks again for Willow." she whispered in my ear, before backing away. "Whatever happens, we'll work it out."

"That's great," I said. "Well, my work here is done. I'd better be heading out now--"

"C'mon, Buffy," Willow took my hand to stop me. "Hang with us."

"Oh, I dunno," I demurred, not wanting to interrupt their night together. But Tara stood beside her girlfriend, saying, "Buffy, you're our friend. We want to be with you."

"Please?" Willow pleaded with me. I glanced at Tara, and noticed the same puppy-dog eyes on her.

"Oh my god," I muttered. "Dueling resolve faces!"

Tara draped her arm around Willow's shoulder. "She taught me everything I know."

I gave up. "Okay, I'll stay for a while. But if you guys get tired of me, let me know. Deal?"

"Deal," they chorused.

Oh they told you life is long
Be thankful when it's done
Don't ask for more, be grateful
But I tell you life is short
Be thankful because
Before you know it
It will be over

I am a Slayer. That means I've got a significantly shorter life expectancy than most other people. If I make it to twenty-five, I'll probably get a gold watch. So I appreciate how short life can be. So when two women I care about deeply offer me their friendship and company, I don't stop to figure it out. Like I said to Willow when we first met, my philosophy is 'Life is short'. So I stayed with Tara and Willow, and between the three of us, we partied down.

We spent the rest of the night talking, telling each other our dreams, our hopes. We bonded over mochas, we discovered so much about ourselves, and Tara and I tore down the walls we had built between us. We even hit the dance floor. Willow danced with Tara, while I danced beside them. Then Willow took my hand, and invited me into their circle. We moved together, revelling in the sweet closeness. Willow pressed her body against mine, then Tara slid up from behind me. We danced together all night, a perfect triangle.

After closing down the Bronze, I escorted them back to their respective homes, making sure that they got home safe. As I went back to my place, I had to smile again, remembering their closeness, their happiness, and their willingness to share that closeness, that happiness, with me.

When Willow first told me that she was involved with Tara, I was afraid that I would lose her. That I would become a third wheel while she grew closer to Tara. Tonight banished those fears forever. Instead of losing my best friend, I found out that I had two best friends. And I knew now that I would never lose Willow.

Even on the edge of the Hellmouth, life is sweet.

'Cause life is sweet, life is also very short
Life is sweet and life is also very short
Life is sweet

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