Notes: For the G/W ficathon for trkkr47 who wanted season 7, within canon, emotional hurt/physical comfort.
The Shape of Your Heart
At four in the morning, tomorrow's spell circling through her head on a merry-go-round, Willow gives up on sleep. She remembers the night before her SATs, when she thought she'd never sleep again - she lay terrified in the dark, covers clutched to her chin as she stared up at the ceiling and repeated the vocab words to herself over. And over. And over again.
This is worse. She can't say the spell, not even very quietly to herself, because while it shouldn't do anything without the scythe and the Hellmouth and the ritual, 'shouldn't' in magic's not exactly the same as 'won't'. And there's Kennedy, and the thing between them that's too new to be able to think oh, she sleeps through anything or if I whisper, I'll wake her up.
She can't think of this room as theirs, yet, because she can't think of it as hers. The shapes and the shadows are all wrong, and when she slips out of bed without turning on the light she almost knocks over the dresser.
The light she conjures with a few whispered words is bright enough to dress by. Kennedy squirms in her sleep, shoving her fists into the pillow before she settles down again. Unwilling to wake her, Willow leaves the room without leaning over for a kiss.
Someone's lit a lantern on the back porch. The light pools around Giles, and Willow thinks that he must be uncomfortable; too tall, really, to be sitting on the steps without feeling cramped. This was Spike's place, the summer when Buffy was gone, a nightly presence of hunched-over silhouette and red cigarette glow. She wonders if Giles might have come out here to smoke, but his hands are empty.
"You're not playing with Xander and Andrew?" she asks, for want of something to say.
"I opted out when they switched to Risk," he says. Angled so she can't see his expression, but in her mind it's an exasperated, amused smile that's more about the eyes than the mouth. "Andrew as supreme conqueror of the world is too disturbing a thought."
"Least he's never tried to destroy it," she says, but Giles turns to look at her and the try at a joke crashes and burns. "Okay, so that wasn't funny."
"No, it wasn't," he says, and there's so much compassion there that she almost bites though her lip trying to stop tears from welling up.
Tomorrow it all rests on her, and they all think she can do it. And she just wants to crawl into somebody's arms and hide, but Xander's pretending everything's going to be okay and Buffy's probably with Spike and Kennedy's asleep and too new and Oz is gone and Tara's never, ever coming back and the realization that she's crying into Giles's shirt comes before she knows she's crying at all.
"There, Willow," he murmurs, arms solid and secure around her, and she tries to forget that she almost killed him last year and concentrates on this feeling of safety. No questions with Giles, no uncertainty of how he'll react, what he'll think of her; he forgave what she did when Tara died. He'll still love her when she's exhausted and soaking his shirt.
Her heart feels battered and sharp, lump of jagged tin that's slicing her to pieces. Ice would be better, but nothing frozen could last long around Kennedy's inferno. She suddenly wants to be sixteen again, loving Xander and crushing on Giles and never appreciating how lucky she was to have her construction-paper heart, simple and childish and easily repaired.
He holds her, she holds him, until she's cried all she can, and it's just like last year - the hurt's so deep that it feels like it'll never stop. But it does.
Together on the steps, Giles's arm around her back and her head resting on his shoulder, they don't talk. For the first time since she worked out the spell, Willow's not thinking about it. She's thinking about her hands, how they look all wrong in the flickering light; too pale, too unmarked. White skin where there should be black sigils, or worn-away velveteen.
"I'm doing the spell right over the Hellmouth," she finally says. "If it was still the old school, that'd mean I'd probably be destroying the library."
"You wouldn't be the first."
"Do you miss it?" she asks, because she doesn't think she ever has before and it's still how she thinks of Giles. In control and surrounded by books and quiet.
"Most of the books were saved," he says. "The building itself wasn't so important, considering how often I somehow became concussed there."
"But there are days when I miss it." Gentle hand across her hair. "I met several remarkable young women there."
Her eyes prickle, but she's cried too much to start again. Wordless, she laces her fingers through his, and they watch as the rising sun turns the shapes at the end of the garden into trees.