**Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction using characters from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, which was created by Joss Whedon and is trademarked by Fox. I do not claim ownership over these characters nor the world therein. The plot I write through here is my own invention and is for entertainment purposes only. I am not profiting financially from the creation and publication of this story. Any resemblance between the characters herein and any contemporary or historical figure in reality is purely coincidental. This story is not a part of the official Buffy the Vampire Slayer story canon. I am grateful for the intriguing plot lines in the original series, without which this story would not be possible.***

Buffy glides her fingers along the dainty bracelet on her wrist. It's a simple, thin, rose gold chain with a small cross dangling from it. Willow had given it to her just a few minutes prior. "To wear when you sleep," she said.

Buffy barely notices the shuffle of heels and tennis shoes in the hallway, nor their absence as the halls clear and all the classroom doors close. Her focus remains locked on the soundlessness of the protective chain.

"Buffy, might I have a word?"

Giles stands before her, clad in his characteristic tweed jacket and glasses. Buffy nods and follows him into the library. Giles wouldn't call upon her if it wasn't important. She assumes a new vampire must be on the verge of terrorizing Sunnydale and she's being sent to halt their advances. Or, she reconsiders, Giles discovered yet another prophecy where she's destined to die at the hands of some jerk with half a brain cell who is so not worth her time.

A sigh escapes Buffy's lips.

Being the Slayer meant playing chess with death. Buffy felt resolved in that truth when she was actively maneuvering in the moment, clinging onto her stake and thrusting it at the immediate danger. She faced death readily when it actively stood on the table, shouting her name through the fangs of her opponent. But forethought…thinking ahead…that was Giles's territory. Not Buffy's. Nothing unnerved her more than being told of an advancing opponent that her kinesthetic know-how "somehow" wouldn't measure up against. Buffy's resistance flared at any mention of her sensorial incapability, because that's what the promise of her death meant to her: she hadn't fought hard enough, moved fast enough, or been brave enough to defeat her opponent. A death date stamped on the calendar told Buffy she was supposedly lacking in some way. She tried her best to repress any such cryptic message that claimed her bodily skill wasn't enough in the end. At the core of her being, she knew her severe doubt in intuitive prediction had a firm root: her kinesthetic aptitude was all she had and if that wasn't enough, she wasn't enough.

That couldn't be right. She wouldn't allow it to be right.

Buffy often eased her inner dissonance between herself and the unknown with firm mental blocks. These blocks kept out all knowledge apart from the present. Her view of the truth distilled down to the immediacy of the moment. Only that which was in the vicinity and presently smellable, touchable, and killable truly existed. Buffy didn't trust visions or dusty books with crinkled pages and translated verse. Prophecies, in her mind, were illusionary outcomes not to be trusted. She couldn't engage them as she could engage the environment. If Buffy trusted anything, it was her ability to act in the moment with her sheer force of will. No prophecy could stand a chance against her. Not when her drive to one day live life as a "normal adolescent"—as her mother would say—kept the blood rushing in her veins and her body agile. To achieve her ideal, that meant killing evil, not allowing evil to kill her.

Buffy delicately embraces the cross on her bracelet with her thumb and forefinger.

"It's about you and Willow," Giles says, breaking Buffy's growing fog of intuitive disdain.

Though relieved, Buffy crosses her arms. Something in her guardian's voice seems off.

"What about us."

"I'm afraid your..." Giles gulps, then continues, "feelings are rather evident and yet neither of you are confronting the other about it."

"Feelings?"

Buffy wonders whether she hurt Willow in some unknown way. The bracelet on her wrist said otherwise. Willow seemed fine when they chatted in the computer lab. More than fine, in fact. After giving Buffy her surprise gift, Willow's anxious, bubbly voice rambled on about a vampire fanfiction she was reading online—as if anyone near the Hellmouth needed more vampires in their awareness—and Buffy found it rather…endearing. Willow's face tended to blush when overexcited and Buffy admired its hue.

Giles places his hand gently on Buffy's shoulder. "I know Watchers don't typically give out dating advice but—"

"Whoa, Giles," Buffy backs away. "Dating? Me and Willow?"

"Why, yes...that seems to be where things are headed. I'm merely saying to be careful. We both know what happened with Angel…Angelus…Angel."

Buffy didn't need a reminder about Angel. A caring boyfriend turned soulless demon after one intimate night together wasn't high on her list of conversation topics.

"Yes, Angel was a vampire," Buffy winces at Giles's was, knowing she's responsible for the past tense, "and that certainly changes things given that Willow isn't one, but you took what happened with Angel quite hard...the breaking up when he lost his soul and the…well, we won't go there."

Guilt wells up in Buffy's throat. It's an old, fiery pain. Something she fights off as a daily practice. She'd had to convince herself that the real Angel was the soulless one and that he had to die. The nights she allowed herself to think about other possibilities where she could have retrieved the kind man out of the demon were the nights she didn't sleep. That, like much else, had to be blocked away.

Giles concern shows plainly in the dip of his head.

"I recognize Willow is another being entirely and she's certainly had her own heartaches. That Oz fellow of hers, he rather 'ran away with the moon,' as they say. And though Willow has warmed me quite frequently, I find myself rather bound to you in an irrevocable way that she cannot reach. Which is why I'm advising you, Buffy, to take things slow this time around. Fools rush in. All of that."

Buffy bites her lip. She never knew how to handle these quick moments of intensity. How Giles could be unabashedly loyal and yet severely in line with social protocol all at once. Buffy had never felt that an adult had genuinely respected and considered her before Giles. Her parents were lost causes in that department, pinning her down as a foolhardy partier without a single clue between them as to who she really was. And being pinned down in any sense didn't sit well with Buffy, especially more so if that categorization was wrong.

"I'll be careful," Buffy promised.

"Good," Giles nods, "I rather dislike seeing you hurt."

Buffy touches the pretty chain on her wrist, knowing she will handle it consciously.