"You look happy."
"I am. I can't tell you how great it feels."
"Well, if you'd listened to me months ago you'd be used to it by now."
Buffy waved Willow off and took a sip of her tea. She was getting used to drinking tea and other things about living in London. "Yes, I know, you were right, I was wrong. Is that better?"
"A little. So, what did that couple say when Giles called?"
"I don't know. He didn't really say. What could they say? I think Giles was kind of proud of himself, and that was okay. That's why I pretended to be his fiancée to begin with."
"I still can't picture Giles being anything but confident."
"I guess we all do it. I mean, aren't there people from school that if you saw now you'd want to show up? Unlike me. I can't walk up to people and tell them I'm training an army of girls to fight evil."
"I see what you mean. I'm just glad it worked. Because it could have backfired."
"Well, it worked out. If he hadn't kissed me back on the dance floor I would have just said it was part of the act," she shrugged. "I'm glad he kissed me back, though. And might I just say that anyone who claims you can't spend three days in a hotel room without getting claustrophobic is dead wrong."
"My ears. They're burning."
"Yeah yeah. So, what's going on with you?"
"Mm, nothing. The usual. Working with the coven, helping Dawn with the research stuff."
"I was a little worried how she'd react."
"I knew she'd take it just fine. Anyone who saw the two of you knew something was up. I think Xander might be the one you have to worry about."
It was Willow's turn to shrug. "I don't know that he ever completely got over his crush on you. It's one thing to lose you to Angel, Spike, or even Riley. But Giles is human."
"I'm not saying he's head over heels or anything, but I just think he'll be a little hurt. Just be easy on him. Anya's gone, we just found out Cordelia's gone. He's a little raw."
"Is that why you sent him off with Andrew on another possible goose chase?"
"Yes. I figured this would happen and you and Giles would come back all post-coital, new relationship glowy."
"Yes, glowy. As in, positively one hundred percent gone."
"It looks good on you."
"It feels good. I can't tell you how good it feels. But you know. You had it."
Buffy reached across the table for her best friend's hand and squeezed. "And you will again. Not the same, but you will again."
"I know. Being alone right now is good for me. I need to be focused. I still have a ways to go before I feel like I would be good being cut off from the coven completely."
"I'm glad they're here for you."
"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them, Buffy."
"Don't say that."
They were both quiet for a while after that. They had both been to dark places. It wasn't fun. Buffy couldn't help but wonder if her state of mind after Willow brought her back was part of the reason Willow had gone off the deep end. If Buffy had handled things differently would Willow have been able to handle Tara's death better? It was something she'd never know for sure. She'd stopped feeling guilty about it a while ago. She had to put that time behind her and move past it or she'd never be functional.
"So, what happens now?"
"I don't know. Giles wants me to move in with him."
"Are you going to?"
"I guess that's up to you, roomie."
"I could find another flatmate."
"I realize that. I don't know. There's a part of me that wants to slow it down a little. I mean, I've known him for seven years so it's not like we rushed into anything."
"I know what you mean."
"Good. I think I'm just going to do that for a while, make sure we fit."
"Do you think you won't?"
"No, it's not me I'm worried about. There are times, Wil, I feel like he's way out of my league."
"What? It's true. I wouldn't know my way around his library of books if you did one of your illumination spells to make me see the path to the book I needed."
"Well, that may be true, but."
"No, buts Wil, one of these days I'm not going to be able to slay. And then what?"
"You can still advise and train. There are drill sergeants in the Army that are older."
"What? It's true."
"I know." She ran her fingertip over the rim of her teacup. "It's just I wish I knew what he saw in me."
"Besides the bravest, most selfless woman he's ever met you mean?"
"Buffy, you are. Even if you don't have a choice."
"I tried to have choices."
"Yes, you did, and you always came back to it. You've sacrificed yourself, Angel, and goddess only knows what else. Again and again you've done it with only a handful of us to say thank you."
"That's not why I do it."
"Which is what makes you special, Buffy. That's my point. And we'll find something for you to do. Then again, maybe you and Giles will get married and you'll be a housewife with kids."
"You saying you haven't thought about it?"
"No, I have. He's the first guy I've thought about it with. I mean, with Angel sure, I thought about the forever stuff, but never anything concrete or real. It was all fairy tale stuff."
"Realer than real. One of the things that made me hesitate with Riley was that I didn't know what I had to offer him. Dying on him before I was thirty? So we got married and had a kid or two and then I leave them without a mother. I was twenty when Mom died and that was too young. So, I never gave much thought to all of it."
"Now you do."
"There's nothing wrong with that, Buffy."
"I just think it's too fast."
"But you're just thinking right now, Buffy, you're not doing anything about it."
"There's nothing wrong with planning or thinking about your future. Especially with the person you love."
"I do love him."
"I know you do. You've always loved him, it's just changed the last year or so. So, just enjoy it. You get to have a future, Buffy. You didn't die at eighteen and Giles knows the risks. You could lose him, too."
"Don't say that."
"It's true. He's been a target before and you know he could be again."
"So, are you going to not see it through because you might lose him?"
"Stop with your Willow logic."
"At least you see that it's logic."
"I want as much time as I can have with him. He's older than I am, so even if we live normal lives chances are he'd be gone before me. I want whatever time I get with him and I don't want to regret a day of it."
"I think that's the kind of thing you need to tell him."
"I think he knows."
"It's still nice to hear it, Buffy."
"I'm not good at that stuff."
"It sounded just fine to me."
"You and Giles would say it better."
"We can't speak for you and your heart, Buffy."
"I know. Oh, I almost forgot."
"I have a present for you."
"You're just now remembering?"
"I would, but I don't think you'd even notice. Head in the clouds much."
Buffy set her teacup down and went to her room. She returned a few minutes later with the bag. "I'm sorry it's not wrapped or anything. Unless you count tissue paper."
"It's fine, really."
"I'd say Merry Christmas, but that doesn't really apply. Neither does Happy Hanukkah, especially considering the gift."
Buffy laughed and took a seat, watching as Willow opened the bag. It wasn't anything real special.
"Giles and I went to Salem one day. It was only like four hours away and the weather was somewhat decent, so we figured why not."
"Buffy, it's great," Willow said holding up the T-shirt. It was a smiley face wearing a witch's hat. "Thank you."
"Oh come on, I wouldn't have gone on that trip if it wasn't for you and your idea."
Willow dug in the bag and found the small box at the bottom. She took the cauldron charm out and held it up.
"I couldn't resist. They've got so much stuff there. I didn't know what you might need as far as like incense or anything, so I just went with the silly things."
"It's great, Buffy, thank you." Willow hugged her and Buffy teared up.
"You're going to go over there now, aren't you?"
"Actually I was. Is that okay?"
"Yes. I was thinking we could see a movie sometime this week, though, if you think you could pencil me in."
"I'll even use permanent marker."
"Nothing but the best for you."
"Thanks for the shirt and the charm, Buffy, they're great."
"I'm glad. I could have gone broke buying stuff for you there, so Giles limited me to two things. And once I'd bought them we had to avoid going in any more stores."
"I'm glad you had fun."
"It was so great. Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building. It's funny, isn't it? I went from California to London, traveled abroad, only to go back to New York to have the time of my life."
"That's the way it works sometimes."
"Yeah, I guess so. I'll see you in the morning."
"Bright and early."
Buffy put her coat on, grabbed her keys and walked to the door.
"Do you have like clothes and stuff?"
"Oh yeah, that would help. Geez, where's my head tonight?"
"I could take a guess, but I'd probably get in trouble."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com