Willow stood, hands on her hips, inspecting what Connor and Neville Longbottom had done to her garden. She was probably supposed to be angry with them, knew Connor expected her to be, but she respected the sentiment behind the gesture and savored the trust that he’d implied by placing Fred’s tribute in her garden. And, on an unspoken level, she was just glad that he hadn’t put Darla’s there. She knew herself well enough to know that she’d never forgive her for what she’d done to Jesse and she was pretty sure that wouldn’t help her tribute thrive.
She looked over at him and noted the defensively crossed arms, the unhappy twist to his mouth, and she bit back a sigh. She stepped in front of him and it always surprised her a little that he was both so very pretty and a few inches taller than she was. She tugged on his arms and knew that he let her pull them apart; she stepped into him and wrapped her arms around him, her cheek pressed to his.
He was still standing stiff against her when she whispered, “Thank you. I’ll take good care of her.” His arms came up around her, locking like steel bands, and she’d been friends with Buffy long enough to find comfort in that. She ran her hand across his silky hair as he dipped his face into her neck. “And I’ll put up wards around Darla’s so that nothing can bother it.”
He nodded and accepted her coddling for a few more minutes before his arms slackened around her. She didn’t have to be asked to step away. Connor wasn’t huge on casual touching. He awkwardly patted her shoulder then hurriedly walked away.
Willow turned and raised an eyebrow at Neville. “Mr. Longbottom, I believe there’s a garden that needs to be put to rights.”
He slumped, his nervous energy sliding away as he looked at the slightly trampled garden. “Of course, Ms. Rosenberg.”
She left it to him, going to figure out how to ward Darla’s rose. The Lunar Roses were beautiful, magical, a wonder, but it was the trust that was the most precious treasure here. She would work at making sure both survived.