He was in the narrow kitchen, clattering mugs and the tea kettle, rolling his eyes as he knotted five teabags together. Brass knobs to you, Mrs. Gwendolyn Post, he countered internally and smiled broadly and dropped the bags into the warmed pot. He had left Willow in the front room, he couldn't hear her, but her silence filled the flat and he could feel her presence. The kettle was off the boil, he poured it quickly into the tea pot. As he set the lid back in place, he heard her come up from behind him.

He turned at the sound; she was standing very close to him.

"Yes? Willow?" he asked softly and moved slightly away from her, settling himself against the counter, crossing his ankles. He put both hands on the tile edge at his sides and leaned back on his arms.

"Thank you, Giles," she was looking at his shoes.

"I'm not certain that gratitude is in order just yet. Willow, you have," he looked down at his shoes now, too, "work that needs doing. You cannot let yourself be so pulled down by your thoughts, your experiences. I think great things are ahead of you, but you need to be prepared to see them, to understand them."

She looked up at him now, "I want to be prepared, I want to understand and see things. All things, not just things that are my things." She furrowed her brow and her gaze slid back down to his shoes, "Giles, I never thought before about how easy it might be to take a wrong step, do the wrong thing, let another person's destiny be erased. Or changed. Not let another person have their destiny."

He was nodding slowly. She looked back up at him, her eyes wide and shining. "Are we really in control or are we being guided by some thing or some body else?"

"Willow, that's a very big question." He smiled and took off his glasses, dangling them from the hand that he quickly put back on the counter, refusing to let himself reach out to her. "Do you feel that you're in control of your actions? That your actions guide your destiny?"

"That's just it. That's the thing of it. I don't know, I just don't. Not anymore," she was swallowing her words and he couldn't help but smile, the familiar diction swirling in his ears like warm water. "It's worse even than consequences."

"Perhaps it needn't feel so heavy? Perhaps thinking about it overly much might actually paralyze you?" She was looking at him again, "Sometimes, Willow, sometimes you just have to keep moving forward and trust that you're doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right person."

The air between them became charged and Giles observed it and filed it away for further observation later, when he would be alone with a bottle of scotch. He wondered, briefly, why he had said what he just had just said, the words no longer words but protons to her electrons.

"Like this?" she whispered and moved up against him. Her hands slid inside his jacket and she pulled herself closer. He pressed down harder on his hands and let her move in on him, up on tiptoe.

"Giles," she asked so softly that he wondered if she had spoken his name at all. But he answered.

He brought his mouth down on hers. Her arms slid tightly around him, and the length of her body pressed him back against the countertop, he raised his knee slightly and she ground against his thigh. He moaned her name through her teeth. She seemed emboldened, and lifted her arms around his neck, the soft insides of her elbows pressed against the sides of his head and then bringing her hands back down to the length of his neck, her fingers moving up to trace the line of his jaw as he deepened the kiss, and then she had him by both ears and his spine bucked with an electric shock that fed out of her fingertips and down every nerve in his body.

"Willow," he said, and her small tongue darted out to lick one corner of his mouth. And finally he brought his hands up, one on each side of her face; he tilted her head a bit more and kissed her harder. He brushed his mouth across her lips and pressed against her cheek. "Willow," he said and felt her nod beneath his hands. He pulled her forehead against his own and looked down into her eyes, her lids were fluttering and he watched as one, two, and a third tear broke free.

She brought her own hands up to her face and wiped away the tears, stepping back away from him. "Geez, I just can't seem to, I can't, well. Me and faithfulness, we don't seem to be a good match."

"Willow, it's not that…"

"I'm sorry," she mumbled, "Giles, I'm so sorry."

"Willow, listen to me, it's not about that, I think you are, actually, being faithful. To yourself." She raised her head, "And please don't tell me that you're sorry. Don't do that."

She nodded.

He spied his glasses on the counter and hooked them back on his ears. He stepped around her and indicated the two mugs with a shoulder shrug as he picked up the tea pot and the milk. He set the pot down on the coffee table and she perched herself on the edge of the sofa, leaning forward and splashing milk into the bottoms of both mugs before filling them with the steaming amber liquid. She offered him one and he took it smiling down at her, nodding thanks.

He stood and sipped at his tea.


After a long moment he hummed his recognition.

She set her cup down and stood. "Can I come back here?"

"You're always welcome here, Willow."

"No, not like that. I mean, well, can I come back here," she clasped her hands in front of her, "like this, like today, in five years? I don't know if you'll be here, in this room here, but we can say, that five years from today, we'll meet again. Like," she looked up at him, her face open, "that." She gestured at the kitchen.

He bent his head and studied her.

"I have to go now, though. I have to get going, just now." She skittered around the coffee table and towards the front door, turning around halfway and he was following her. She put one hand out for the front door handle and pulled it open.

"Willow." She stopped. He smiled at her, "I'll be expecting you."

She smiled crookedly and was gone, he cocked his head and listened to her skipping step across the landing. The door was swinging open. He reached over and pushed it shut. He pulled his glasses off and dropped them on the desktop as he walked past. He took the tea things to the kitchen and poured it all down the sink.

And went in search of the scotch.