Thanks to Dianne & Amy for beta'ing, Perri for the Lowen & Navarro song that frames this, and the SunS for feedback, as always.
Neither of the characters belongs to me; Giles and Jenny belong to Joss Whedon, the WB, 20th Century Fox, Sandstar Productions, and Mutant Enterprises (not necessarily in that order). Not making any money, and putting them back where I found them. No spoilers, no violence, some angst. Yup.
Part 1: Chapter...
The day after the Slayer's birthday was remarkable only for its normality.
The morning papers had placed the story of a freak electrical fire at the Sunnydale Mall on page 3; no one had been hurt in the panicked exodus that had resulted, so it wasn't interesting enough for a lead story. The police were "following leads" on "pranksters" who were believed to have set off a smoke bomb in one of the elevators, the mall was closed for cleaning until 5 p.m., and there would be a water-damage sale on Saturday. //That should make Buffy happy,// Giles mused. //More merchandise for her to acquire on her birthday spree....// He put the paper down on the library counter, and sighed to himself.
Buffy wouldn't be truly happy again any time soon. The pain in her eyes when she spoke of Angel had made that very clear. Imagining something which would bring a real smile to her face was beyond Giles--- with the possible exception of success from his unrealistic plan to restore Angel's soul to him. It had seemed the most obvious, and the safest, course of action. But after only a morning's search through the archives, the Watcher feared that it was an impossibility. Angel had been one-of-a-kind; so was the spell which created his unique condition. And that had been lost generations ago.
Still, he had to keep searching. For all their sakes, not just Buffy's. Though he couldn't believe Angel would thank him if he succeeded....
A high-pitched "you have mail!" from the computer distracted him from his thoughts. Wondering if the query he'd asked Willow to initiate that morning had already born fruit, Giles approached the computer with distaste mixed with hope. It would be utterly ironic if the World Wide Web yielded answers he couldn't find in the Watcher records. He gingerly moved the mouse and clicked on the mailbox, then froze.
The newest letter was addressed to him, from Jenny. Subject Line: Explanations.
For one split second he considered deleting the e-mail unread. Did he really want to deal with this, on top of everything else? Which wasn't fair to either Jenny or his own yearning for answers, but Giles couldn't stop the sudden fierce wish to escape the necessity of reading her note. Perhaps it was only a request to meet with her, though. Maybe he could simply delay it until he felt capable of coping with the contradictory emotions Calendar inspired in him right now. In fact, if he didn't open it, merely put it in one of those folder things unread, he could avoid the whole subject until after he already had a solution to the problem... on the other hand, perhaps she had information about Angel, and his curse, that could lead to a plan---
Giles accidentally touched one of the computer's buttons and the message opened itself while he was still dithering. He cursed, searching the screen for some indication of how to make it go away, but then the first line of text caught his attention.
I know how much you hate these things, but if I just sent you a letter or left you a note in the library, there wouldn't be any way for me to know when you got around to reading it. This way, the computer will send me a receipt when you've opened this note, and I can assume you already know the basic facts the next time I see you.
"Damn." So much for delay. He could still close the letter, tell her he hadn't read it, that he didn't feel like coping yet; but that would be cowardly. And it would tell Jenny far too much about how his state of mind. Grimly, Giles resigned himself to reading the whole thing.
Where to start... the beginning, right?
Janna of the Kalderash, not Jenny Calendar, was sent to Sunnydale to keep tabs on the clan's curse victim, and report back that he was still suffering. They've always kept track of him, since long before I was born; I always thought it was out of a sense of self-preservation, of wanting to make sure he wouldn't come back and start wreaking death on the Clan again. Turns out my thinking was veering away from my family's again without me even knowing it. If I'd had any idea how far they were going to take this vengeance riff, I never would have signed up for it.
I should have known. I should have realized that it wouldn't be that simple. My people have never done anything for straightforward reasons; there's always some hidden agenda underneath. It made me crazy when I was growing up---funny how I've ended up just like them, isn't it. Or not. Maybe it's funny if you're not me.
I told you the truth yesterday---the magic's been going away from the Rom for a long time. I was told stories when I was a kid, over and over, of what we used to be able to do, and I'd feel... cheated. I wanted it back. Can you understand that? I grew up with people who were restless and fluid even when they weren't with the travelling part of the family; people who looked at names in the gadje world as just --- masks. Losing something special meant nothing to them, because nothing lasted, nothing stayed... I hated it. I wanted to have something real that wouldn't change, and I wanted magic...
I left my family when I was nineteen, I got my degree in computers, I went looking for a life on my own... but I couldn't really forget them. They'd show up, start trying to tell me how to live my life, or just hang out playing their games and make living as a gadje more difficult... I finally cut a deal with them. I'd keep an eye on Angel if they stayed out of my way. Since none of them wanted to come to the Hellmouth, that part was easy. I also hoped there'd be a chance of finding some of the old ways, or >something new; maybe that's why the technopagan stuff spoke to me, as a way of combining both....
I didn't know Buffy was the Slayer when I arrived. She wasn't here yet, Rupert. Neither were you. The first clue I had that either of you were connected to him in any way was when the prophecies about the Anointed One started coming across my terminal, and you told me what was going on. And the first time I saw Angel up close, not just from a distance, was after the Master died.
Giles remembered the night of the Spring Fling quite well; amazing, really, that she never betrayed a hint of anxiety or confusion about Angel then. She'd accepted him as a friend of Buffy's and Xander's, and hadn't wondered about his presence during their battle at the library. He hadn't told her about Angel being a vampire until much later, at some point after they began dating in the fall... probably before the incident during Parent-Teacher night. Yes. He'd been nervous, waiting for her to react emotionally, but Jenny had simply opened her eyes very wide and asked for the details. She hadn't questioned it. But then, she rarely questioned any of the things he'd told her---some of that matter-of-fact calmness was better explained, now....
//So would I.// Giles rubbed at his eyes, feeling weary and bitter. Eyghon should have taken him, instead of taking Jenny; if he had been the one knocked out, if he hadn't been panicking for twenty-four hours straight prior to his reappearance... if. They both owed infinitely more to Willow's quick thinking and Angel's actions than to anything he'd tried to do. Which didn't exactly mitigate his feelings of hurt and confusion right now, but Giles was painfully aware that he wasn't the person who could pass judgement on her actions.
//No, of course not. Having other choices isn't an option....// Giles rubbed at a crick in his neck, and closed his eyes for a moment. //No, none of this is anything like being brought up to be a Watcher, is it? Nothing at all like rebelling at Oxford, or ending up right back where you started....//
I never dreamed he meant it literally. I swear, he didn't tell me what would happen....
So I tried to break them up. I chickened out, I buckled under family pressure, and I did what my family wanted. The Judge was the perfect excuse. I still feel bad about that, I did the right thing for the wrong reasons. If the plan had worked, Angel would be half-way to Nepal by now, but at least he'd have his soul.
//That's why she volunteered to drive them to the docks...// Giles rubbed at his eyes, remembering his puzzlement at Buffy's birthday party. If her spur-of-the-moment plan had worked, Buffy's heart still would have been broken. //Although perhaps not into as many pieces....//
My uncle thought that maybe Angel losing his soul was part of the curse, and was 'meant to be'; I hope that makes him happy, wherever he ended up.
I wish I believed his death was the last ugly act Angelus was going to commit.
More than anything I want you to believe that I never would have hurt Buffy like this. I'm not as close to her as you are, but I still like and respect her so much for what she has to do as Slayer. I know what Angel meant to her, and I know what kind of danger she's in now because of Angelus's return. I never would have agreed to it. Even if it meant all my ancestors going unavenged. It isn't worth it.
What I did I did out of a sense of obligation. Not malice, or vengeance. That has to count for something. And you have to know---Goddess, Rupert, you know how I feel about you. Do you really think I'd hurt Buffy, or even take a chance about something that would affect her, when she's so important to you? I thought I was doing what was best for everyone. I was wrong. I'm sorry. Please, please let me make up for this. Tell me how to make up for this, and I'll do it.
I'll be by the library after school, if you've read this by then. I'll wait until the kids leave. If you don't want to see me, just send me a reply saying so... I'll understand. But I'm hoping we can talk. I need to see you.
//Not Janna,// he noted. //Jenny. Is that how she thinks of herself, all the time? Or is she trying to disown what she did?//
Giles closed the letter and the mailbox wearily, knowing she would come to the library after school, after Buffy was finished with practice and Willow had completed her database searches, and Xander had escorted Cordelia somewhere else. And that he would be waiting for her. He wouldn't leave early; he wouldn't try to avoid her. He wouldn't delay this. There wasn't any reason to. Sooner or later, they would have the upcoming conversation, and putting it off wouldn't solve anything.
He did believe every word she'd written was the truth. But he wasn't sure that any of it mattered any more.
Part 2: ...and Verse
He froze, his back to the door, his fingers tensing on the pages of his book for a moment; then he methodically closed it and put it behind the counter before turning around. "Jenny." His voice sounded even and detached, but he wasn't meeting her eyes.
Calendar took a deep breath. "I saw the kids leave earlier. We need to talk. And I know you read the e-mail...." She tried to get him to meet her eyes, but he kept looking away, finally taking off his glasses and fiddling with them. "I thought I'd give you a chance to say all the things you've been thinking."
"Really?" Giles's voice threatened to crack, but he cleared his throat and put his glasses back on, his expression guarded and weary, before speaking again. "How magnanimous of you."
"Damnit, Rupert, don't be like this." Jenny struggled with the hurt for a second, then whispered, "You're just going to walk away? Blow me off? Even knowing the facts?"
He paused, caught off guard by the anger as much as the plea in her voice. "Not... just walk away, no." Rupert shook his head, finally meeting her eyes, his gaze hurt and defensive. "Were you ever going to tell me?" he asked quietly. "Any of it? If this hadn't happened, would you have told me the truth?"
Guilt flashed through her at his expression, and her jaw tightened. "Yes." She looked away, her fingers skimming one of the books on the table as she leaned against it. "I don't know when, but I would have told you eventually."
"I didn't know! I told you before, I didn't know what would happen--- dealing with my family's curse isn't simple, not even for me. All right?"
"I understand that. I know how... I sympathize with the difficulties you've had with your divided loyalties." He crossed his arms over his chest, looking as though he were holding pain inside, and Jenny swallowed convulsively. "However, I... I don't understand why you kept the truth from me for so long."
"I didn't think of it that way, Rupert. It just... didn't seem to matter."
"At first, maybe. No. No, it didn't matter then. But later---" Giles shook his head, and she could see the confusion and bitterness clouding his eyes.
"Goddess, how can I make you understand..." Calendar hunched in on herself, staring at him, desperately wanting to touch him, to smooth away the newest lines on his face. "How easy was it for you to tell me about vampires, that first time? I've lived with this stuff all my life, Giles. It never occurred to me to tell you. Not really. You're not Rom. Telling you the truth, all the clan secrets... it just never crossed my mind." She heard how that sounded a second after it was out of her mouth and silently cursed herself.
Rupert looked as if she'd slapped him, and his voice was breathless. "I see. You didn't trust me."
"No! I did! But if I'd told you---things would have gotten... complicated. And they were already complicated enough. I just wanted to keep things simple, Rupert. That life and this life---the only place they crossed was Angel."
"Which was why you should have told me what was going on as soon as your uncle arrived here. Anything that would affect Buffy as that would, had to be something you knew I would want to know." The bitterness in his voice seemed to sink in all the way to her bones; she wanted to shiver at it, to deny its presence, but couldn't deceive herself that much.
"Yes. I know. I was wrong. I screwed up." Jenny met his eyes unflinchingly, watched some of his anger drain away, leaving only the pain, the pain that it hurt her to see in him, knowing she'd caused part of it. "What I want to know is: can you forgive me? Or are you still going to blame me for something neither of us could have stopped?"
His eyes softened, and Giles's voice was rough with weariness, not accusation, when he spoke. "It's not a matter of blame, Jenny. I can hardly hold you responsible for the actions of your clan... and especially not after what I put you through in November, when you were generous enough to forgive my criminal carelessness..." He let his voice trail off, then gathered himself together, focusing on her intently. "But I can't forget, you see. Not when Buffy is hurting so much; not when we're all in such danger now. You were part of what caused this. Not intentionally, or knowingly, but a part. I don't blame you. But I..." He studied her, his expression questioning, warmth for her still present, still there, but nearly drowning in the disorientation. "The two of us. Was all of it a lie?" he whispered. "Or only a part?"
His return hits were killers. //I can't believe you have to ask... // It hurt more than if he just hadn't been able to forgive. That, she could have gotten angry about. This... "Nothing between us was ever a lie, Rupert."
Giles relaxed, and she wanted to cry, partly from relief that he believed her, the same relief that she saw in his eyes; partly because he'd had doubts at all. His mouth twisted in a bittersweet smile, his gaze sad. "Nothing between us, perhaps..." He looked away, seeming a decade older than he had the day before. Or only a moment before. "I feel as if I don't know you," he said simply, looking back at her, studying at her as if she were a stranger.
"God, Rupert. I'm still me. Okay, I wasn't born Jenny Calender, but that's who I am, that's who I plan on being. Not Janna of the Kalderash. Nothing of that life ever stayed with me for long...." She shook her head, feeling tears threatening to gather. The futility of what she was saying welled up in her, trying to smother the hope that he would understand.
"She's still a part of you," he said gently. "Just as the Ripper is a part of me. Not one I'm very fond of, but...." Giles sighed slowly, then said, "There's nothing to forgive. Truly. I read the letter, I understand why you did what you did... and I'm sure that eventually, when the shock of recent events wears off, it won't seem so important, and I'll be able to accept events as they fell out."
"But. There's a but coming, I can hear it," Jenny said, folding her arms across her chest, preparing for the blow.
He smiled, grey eyes very sad. "You're quite right, of course." Giles took his glasses off again, licked his lips, and cleared his throat. "Buffy still blames you. In part, of course, because she doesn't know all the facts, but also, I'm afraid, because... she needs to blame someone right now."
"Oh. Right." She wanted to yell accusations at him; wanted to demand that he choose her over his duty and love for Buffy, but she couldn't. There didn't seem to be any air left for her to try to breathe.
"When she's calmer, in a week or two, when... when she's ready to listen to reason---" Rupert straightened, and put his glasses back on, the set of his face determined. "I'll make sure she understands that you were not responsible, and you did your best. And that we need your help and that you still want to assist us. But I daren't push her too soon, at this moment she's very... fragile."
Jenny bit her tongue on some of the things she could have said, then faked an ironic grin. "Hey. It's fine. She's the Slayer. You're the Watcher. She needs you." She shrugged. "When she's coping better---maybe later---"
"Yes." Giles straightened, eagerness lighting up his face. "Just a little time. That's all we need. Some distance."
"Space," Calendar said with a straight face.
"Space... yes, I suppose...." Uncertainty rose in Giles, she could see it as his smile faltered. "I'm sorry, Jenny. I'm sorry I was so abrupt with you yesterday, but I didn't know what to say, I was afraid to say anything, for fear of saying too much... and I'm very sorry about your uncle." He looked down, shoving his hands in his pockets, his expression troubled. "I wish I could make it all better....that I could just..." There was a plea in his eyes when he lifted them to her; a plea for understanding, for her to wait until he had time to come to terms with everything.
"So do I." Her own bitterness seemed to have eased a bit. She'd always known he'd pick Buffy over her, if it came down to it; Buffy was a teenager, she needed him more, and the Slayer was all tied up in his life's work, his view of himself... she was just someone he loved. But the disappointment was very hard to take. She'd been hoping so intensely that he'd be able to just accept the truth, and let her mistakes go; but it seemed that had been too much to ask for. Jenny pushed away from the table, and swallowed hard, turning toward the door. "I'll see you around, Rupert."
She stopped, holding herself very still, fighting back tears.
"I love you. You do... still know that, don't you?"
Jenny closed her eyes, nodded hard, and said, "Yeah. I know." She smiled over her shoulder at him, at the worry on his face. "Same here, Rupert. Same here." Then she hurried out the library door, letting it bang behind her in the rush to leave before he saw her cry.
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