One: The Grocery Store
After he had suggested that Jenny move in with him after Faith torched her apartment, Giles thought that the hardest part about living together would be having a computer squatting on his desk like a vile plastic toad. And yes, that had been irritating. Rupert Giles prided himself on his ability to read in any place during any circumstance, but somehow, the endless tapping of fingers on keys was enough to make the words drift from the page to twirl in taunting circles about his head. It was maddening.
But shopping for groceries with her was even worse.
“Jenny!” he said, appalled. “Why on earth would you get that?” He jammed his hand into the cart, grabbed the box of Pop-Tarts, and brandished them accusingly in her face.
“Hey!” She snatched them back and glared at him. “I happen to like these. And besides, I don’t yell at you about buying five pounds of lamb.”
“But lamb is good for you,” Giles protested. “It’s got protein and zinc and-”
“And it’s sick and inhumane!” Jenny interrupted. “I’d much rather have my veggie smoothies.”
“You just go from one inedible thing to another!” he exploded. “Honestly, I simply cannot understand how you can switch from eating like a child to eating like your grandmother within a matter of minutes!”
Jenny gave him her most withering look. “Did you just call me old?” she demanded dangerously.
“NO. If you’d only listened, you’d…” He trailed off, realizing that most of the surrounding shoppers were staring at them. Feeling himself blushing a deep red, he glanced down at his shoes, and then back up at Jenny with apologetic entreaty.
Jenny maintained her scowl for approximately eleven seconds, and then finally gave up and linked her arm with his. “It’s not that bad, England, is it?” she asked softly, and then flashed him a playful grin as she firmly replaced her junk food in the cart. “After all, I don’t eat them at the same time…”
Behind them, a grocer who’d been stacking cereal boxes chuckled to himself as he went back to work. “Newlyweds,” he muttered, shaking his head.
Two: The Pound
“So, what do you think we should get? I mean, look at, for now, but maybe get?” Jenny was practically bouncing up and down with excitement. “I mean, I really wanted to look at the dogs, but if you want a cat, or some cats, that’s fine too.”
Giles looked at her curiously as he clambered out of the car and stepped onto the sidewalk. “You want a dog?”
“Well, yeah,” Jenny admitted. “I always have. Ever since I was a kid. But if you want a cat, that works.” Her expression, belying her words, pleaded “but-let’s-get-a-dog-instead” as clearly as if she’d had it stamped on her forehead.
Giles hesitated. “Are you sure? I mean, a dog is a lot of, erm, work.”
Jenny rolled her eyes. “And slaying demons isn’t? We can even take one on walks as we go hunting, to give it exercise.”
“But we wouldn’t even need to take a cat out at all,” Giles pointed out. “And a cat wouldn’t bark at the door or mess in the yard or…”
“Or chew up your precious books,” Jenny guessed grumpily, but quickly brightened. “Hey, I have an idea! We’ll go in, and if we find a cuter cat than a dog, you can have it. Otherwise, we get a puppy!”
Practically skipping, she flew into the animal shelter with a resigned Giles following.
The two of them stumbled back outside a scant handful of minutes later, coughing and wheezing pathetically.
“Do you think we’re allergic to cats, or…” A fit of sneezing overtook her, and Jenny trailed off.
“Both, I’d expect,” Giles replied in a rasping voice. His airways seemed to have closed off completely, and he rubbed his throat miserably as he wrenched the car door open.
“Really?” Jenny didn’t even sound doubtful, just resigned. “How can you tell?”
“I can’t,” he said matter-of-factly. “But with our luck, that’s bound to be the case.”
Jenny sighed. “Do you think we could get a bird? Or even a tortoise?” She asked without much hope. At his despairing look, she persisted weakly: “A goldfish?”
“A bird would relieve itself all over the place, a goldfish would hardly be a thrilling companion, and you know how Buffy feels about reptiles.”
Jenny slumped back against the seat, looking devastated. “This is so unfair. We spend every day risking our lives against fairy-tale monsters, work at a school where our students and colleagues are routinely murdered, have to put up with the snottiest boss ever, and we can’t even get a little kitten or puppy to dull the pain. Could our luck get any worse?”
Giles leaned over to give her a comforting kiss, and she smiled for the first time since she’d sneezed explosively in front of that cage of shocked Pomeranians. “I don’t imagine it could,” he breathed. Jenny grinned crookedly at him, and then sneezed once more.
Three: The Obstetrician
For a place that was meant to bring new life into the world, the doctor’s room was deathly quiet. After delivering the news in an apologetic murmur, he’d told them to take some time together and left them there alone while he fetched some paperwork.
Giles was staring at her, though he hadn’t said a word since the doctor had finished speaking. Jenny couldn’t shake the expression he’d had on his face from her mind. He’d looked wounded. Grieving. Like he was missing something he’d never – and would never – have.
Jenny couldn’t bring herself to break the silence. She almost felt that shattering it would send a million shards spinning in every direction to cut them all apart.
And he wouldn’t stop looking at her.
Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore. “Look, Rupert, I’m sorry. I guess it just… wasn’t meant to be.”
His eyes glimmered with some emotion she couldn’t quite place. “Jenny, I… I know how you must feel, and I…”
He couldn’t go on, but she didn’t need him to. From the devastating stillness within her, she felt rage blossom like an ugly red inferno rising from the desert. “You know how I feel?” she snapped. “I don’t think you do. You think I’m upset? You think I blame myself? You’re wrong.” She was almost shouting, but she lowered her voice to a low, tense snarl. “This is not my fault. The kids I can or can’t have don’t determine how much I’m worth. And if you think they do, you can go to hell.”
She found herself practically standing on top of him, breathing hard and clenching her fists. Rupert just looked at her some more. Then, slowly, he reached out a hand and gently grasped her arm. It dawned on her that there was not accusation gleaming in his eyes, but tears. She felt all of her own fury drain from her as suddenly as if he had pulled the plug from her reserves of anger with his gentle touch.
“Jenny,” he whispered, “I am so, so sorry.” And she simply wrapped her arms around him and let him cry.
Though he sobbed long and hard, Jenny’s eyes were dry. She knew that when they came home to their apartment, Willow would be hovering anxiously by the door with Tara blinking shyly at her side. Buffy would be stalking restlessly from room to room, and would rush over to give the two of them relieved and heartfelt hugs as they entered. Anya would be sitting at the kitchen table and nattering on about something almost comforting in its inanity. And Xander would be leaning stoically against the wall, trying not to show how happy he was that they were home, safe and together.
Really, she thought, they already had more children than they knew what to do with.
Four: The Opera
“This,” said Jenny grumpily, “is the most boring thing I’ve ever listened to.”
“Dear!” Giles shushed her, putting a finger to his lips for emphasis. “This is a perfectly lovely performance. The lead singers are exquisite.”
“Singers? They sound like a pair of moose dying a slow, painful death.”
Jenny scowled. “Fine. They’re doing well, I’m sure, whatever they’re singing.” She tugged impatiently at the strap of her gorgeous mint-green dress with its swooping neckline that took Giles’ breath away. Seeing where his gaze went, she smirked at him and snapped her fingers in front of his face to get his attention. “I’m up here, England,” she teased him, and grinned wickedly as he blushed. “Now, would you mind telling me what exactly is going on?”
Sighing, Giles launched into an abridged explanation of Mimi and Rodolfo’s struggles and passions. By the time he had finished, Jenny was wearing an even deeper scowl than she had before. “This is stupid,” she declared. “Not only is this thing boring, it’s pretty much just a rip-off of Rent!”
“It’s a musical. About New York. And, uh...”
She was saved from having to elaborate further by the soft chime of the bell that announced the end of intermission. Jenny shot Giles a look of despair as the people around them began to herd them back into the theatre.
“Don’t worry, dear. There’s only an hour left,” Giles consoled her. When he saw the look that left on her face, he couldn’t help but wilt a little. “Oh, Jenny. Isn’t there anything about this you’ve liked at all?”
“We-ell,” Jenny said slowly as they funneled through the doors with the rest of the audience, “I liked that one song. The one that the lead guy sang to the seamstress. It was really pretty.”
“O soave fanciulla!” Giles supplied enthusiastically. “Yes, that’s one of my favorites as well. You know, I have a lovely copy of the 1990 version at the apartment. I should play it for you.” When he saw the slightly pained expression cross her face, he hastily backtracked. “Of course, was there anything else you enjoyed?”
Jenny tapped her chin thoughtfully. “In the opera? No. But I am definitely looking forward to whatever happens after,” she informed him with a grin even more suggestive than the one before.
And, despite the fact that he had been looking forward to coming to La Bohème for months, Giles found himself wishing it would end quickly.
Five: Their Apartment
Jenny supposed that the apartment had technically gone from being “his” to being “theirs” the day she moved in, but the actual transition was much more gradual and subtle.
Slowly, his shelves of thick old books became interspersed with her trashy pulp novels and computer manuals and coding indexes. Slowly, the complex equation of his dish, glass, food, and silverware cupboards became one she could decipher without a moment of hesitation. Slowly, her coffeepot and computer began to seem less glaringly out of place. Slowly, the apartment began to smell less like him and more like home.
Slowly, those two things became one and the same.
Her moving in didn’t really stop the kids from barging in whenever some new monster reared its ugly head, and a few awkward situations involving less-than-fully-clad teachers and teenagers that claimed to be scarred for life occurred as a result. Even so, they never stopped calling on them when they needed to.
Jenny would always be grateful for that. She loved cooking for Xander after his fighting parents had forced him to spend the night, and she loved putting bandages on Buffy’s training scrapes and letting her vent about the professors that were overworking her(of course, she wasn’t really glad that these things happened, but she was glad that she was there to make them better). When Willow was dating Oz, she gave her boy advice. (“Be yourself. Don’t let him change you. Enjoy it.”) When they broke up, she comforted her. When Willow started dating Tara, she gave her girl advice. (“Be yourself. Don’t let her change you. Enjoy it.”)
The years spun by, and the children came and went from their home. Buffy left for good, and then came back. When Tara departed, that door stayed shut forever. Willow’s cracked and warped afterward, but in the end stayed open to let them in.
They breathed and slept and loved and lived together in that apartment, and one day it was simply gone.
As she stared into the crater that had once been her town, Jenny could feel a mix of emotions flooding through her. So many memories had been reduced to rubble and dust down there. So much of her life.
But as Giles came up beside her and wordlessly wrapped his arm around her, she knew she had no regrets.
She had a lot of life left to live, a lot of memories left to make, and a lot of places to go that she had never been. They would be fine.