Theirs is a shared story, of memories, grief, and lovers lost. Giles and Willow.
Notes I couldn't help but see the parallels between Giles/Jenny and Willow/Tara, so I wrote this.
"You must stop her," they had told him. "This is too much for even the Slayer. Only you can bring this to an end."
He took no credit for what their magics had wrought. It was the love of humanity, the love of a friend, that brought Willow back from the edge. He was only the messenger.
(What he didn't tell her: "I understand.")
Once he had almost become lost in dark magic, tempted by the promise of power and recognition. He had thought those days were long gone, only to be remembered in dreams that left him shaking and exhausted upon waking. And then Ethan Rayne appeared in Sunnydale and he'd had to face that darker side of himself once again.
The women of the coven placed their hands upon him, and the magic which flowed through him was an entirely different kind of power. It touched the lonely places in his heart like a mother's kiss, a lover's hand.
(Her hands against his face, the smell of her hair, a smile like the glow of a candle).
It said: You are not to blame. Do not grieve for the lost.
The women pretended not to see his tears as he left them.
He arrived in Sunnydale just in time. The witch who faced him bore little resemblance to the Willow he had once known in Sunnydale High. The awkward girl with a love of computers, a terrible liar, the kindest heart he'd ever known.
But he looked into her black eyes and saw a reflection of himself, and he knew it was more than duty that brought him here. Her humanity had made her this way. She loved so much, and when her love was taken from her the rage and grief consumed her until it was all that drove her. Even her own life didn't matter.
(All he could think after finding her body, left like a broken present on his bed: I will make him pay.)
When it was all over, Xander brought her back in his arms, the foolish boy whose words had saved the world. Tears marked her face and she looked so fragile, a girl who had taken the world's sorrows as her own.
He knew, as he looked at her, that he would take her back with him. She needed time to heal, to learn and let go. To love again. They had both gone through the dark, and he would never leave her to be pulled back there again.
(In his dreams he imagined every way he could have stopped it, saved her, but always he woke with the image of her eyes like glass).
Willow had wanted a picnic after her lessons with Ms. Harkness, so they spread a blanket beneath a shady tree and ate listening to the birds and the soft wind. They had peanut butter and apples, turkey sandwiches on wheat bread. Lingering shadows of two lost loves.
"I still can't believe she's gone,” Willow said quietly. “Sometimes I wake up and think she’ll be there next to me.”
(Passing by the computer science room, he turned his head to look inside before he remembered that she was lying in a grave across town, cold and dead, never for him to touch again).
"Will it ever get easier, Giles?" she asked, and he was quiet for a long time as he thought about how to answer, if he could answer.
("It hurts less over time." "I dream, too." "Yes," but that would be a lie, and he could not lie to this girl when they had been through so much.)
He reached under the collar of his shirt and pulled out the piece of rose quartz that he wore against his heart. So many years ago it seemed, that she had understood what it would mean to him. The stone was warm in his hand.
"For healing," she whispered.
"Jenny was not the first one I loved and lost, but that does not mean her memory is any less valuable to me. Grief is a powerful and terrible thing, and you can't afford to be lost in it. Remember Tara. The greatest joys, the harshest sorrows. All the times you did something right, and every word you can never take back. But do not forget to live. That's the best thing you can do for her."
"I will, Giles." She smiled through her tears. "I just need a little help getting there, that's all."
He held her against him--the witch, the girl, the young woman he respected and cared for--and knew that she would be all right.
With time, and hope, and love, the worst ills could be healed.