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It's Too Late To Say Goodnight

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By the time they get to The Bronze, the dance is well under way. It’s noisy and packed with teenagers, but Buffy and Angel only have eyes for each other. She takes his hand, and with a soft smile and a "Come on," leads him to the dance floor. Engrossed in each other, they sway back and forth to the music.

Buffy appears to be holding up well, but Giles feels a twinge of worry as he watches her. Though that may be due less to Buffy’s current state and more down to the fact that Giles is still processing the events of that evening – the Hellmouth opened, they all nearly died, Buffy did die, he nearly failed as a Watcher…

Cordelia and Xander on the other hand, just roll their eyes at the couple. 

Cordelia plasters a forced smile on her face as she turns towards the remainder of the group. "Well, it's been horrifying, but, see ya!" she says, and peels off to find her friends. 

Willow and Xander nod disinterestedly after her as she goes. Then Willow cocks her head towards the dance floor and raises her eyebrows at Xander invitingly. He shrugs in concession, and the two of them go off to dance.

Which leaves Giles with his nemesis-turned-ally, Jenny Calendar.

She turns to him with a confounding, but charming glint in her eye. "If you're not going to dance with me, then the least you can do is let me buy you a drink."

"Fair enough," Giles concedes. His smile fades to a suspicious glare. "Unless this is part of a larger ploy to get me to dance eventually." 

Ms. Calendar grins. "What can I say? I like a challenge."


 

Giles has never liked dance clubs, and The Bronze isn’t doing much to change his opinion. Ms. Calendar’s presence, however, is making it bearable. It’s a relief to be in the company of another adult and not have to censor himself on the topic of the occult. Not to mention that they’ve shared a few drinks, which results in them trading stories about spells and rituals at a volume somewhat too high to be discrete. 

Ms. Calendar turns out to be an animated storyteller, and Giles listens attentively as she tells him about the first time she tried to petition a minor household god. 

"I was just sixteen, and I wasn't even expecting it to work. So when I felt this presence in the room I freaked out, and - oh, hi Craig!"

Giles turns in his seat to see a colleague – a math teacher, he thinks, straight out of teacher’s college too. Giles gives him a perturbed glare for interrupting, but all of Craig’s attention is focused on Ms. Calendar.

"Hey! I didn't know you'd be chaperoning tonight," Craig says amiably.

"Neither did I. The night's been full of surprises," Ms. Calendar replies with a sideways look to Giles, which he returns smugly, hoping that the other teacher will leave so they can return to their conversation.

If Craig is curious about the aside, he doesn’t show it. "Yeah? So what do you say to you and me tearing up the dance floor?" 

“Sure!” Ms. Calendar says brightly, and jumps off the barstool. She throws a “Catch you later!” to Giles over her shoulder, and disappears into the crowd.

Giles is left staring after them, agog. He finds himself suddenly questioning his resolution against dancing.


 

Jenny is a good dancer, and she knows it. Of course if she were picking the playlist, The Bronze would be playing trance and techno, maybe some trip-hop. But the pop-rock tune blaring from the speakers serves its purpose, and so long as Jenny is moving to the music she’s not thinking about being eaten alive by a Lovecraftian horror from a Hell dimension.

Jenny catches sight of Willow, Buffy and Xander dancing as a group, laughing and smiling as if the Spring Fling was the most exciting thing to happen that night. It occurs to her that if Buffy is with her friends, then Angel is alone.

It doesn’t take long for her to spot him, watching Buffy from the shadows; creepy, but not threatening, the slightest smile playing at his lips.

The next song starts and Jenny excuses herself with a smile. She’s grateful to Craig for giving her the chance to cut loose, but some things are more important than dancing. Like the entire reason why she’s in Sunnydale to begin with. This is the first chance Jenny has to interact with Angel, and she’s not going to pass it up. She walks over to him.

“It’s nice to see her having fun,” Jenny says, with a nod towards Buffy, “after all that happened tonight.”

“It is,” Angel replies, and smiles fractionally wider.

Jenny leans casually against a high-top table. “So, what’s your deal?”

“It’s a long story.”

“You’re a vampire,” Jenny says, and Angel looks at her sharply. “Giles told me,” she lies, and goes on, “But you’re friends with the Slayer. That’s… unusual.”

“It’s a long story,” Angel repeats, slightly more wary than before.

“I bet it is,” she says, working hard to keep any trace of subtext from her voice.

The moment becomes uncomfortable as it’s clear that Angel isn’t one to over-share. Jenny is contemplating how to make a graceful exit when Giles appears, whiskey in one hand and rum-and-coke in the other.

“Rupert! Come to whisk me off my feet?” Jenny asks challengingly, expecting him to laugh and make a quip about the music.

 “If-if you’d like,” he says instead, and Jenny can’t hide the surprise on her face.

Giles sets the drinks on the table and offers her his hand. Jenny takes it without a backwards glance.


 

The moment Ms. Calendar takes his hand, Giles regrets his decision. He has no idea what to actually do once they set foot on the dance floor, and the way the students are dancing can only be described as ridiculous and undignified. Then the music slows down to something romantic, and the lights in the club are given a bluish tint.

Somehow, the change doesn’t help.

“Oh, um…” Giles tries to think of something to say that will let Jenny back out of slow-dancing with minimal awkwardness. But then she laces her fingers around his neck and falls into step with him.

“What’s the matter? I’d’ve thought that this is more your speed,” she says with the wry smile that Giles is becoming quite fond of.

Giles can’t help but smile back. “I suppose it is,” he says, and rests his hands on her hips.

They dance, and Giles thinks that he was foolish to have ever resisted.


 

When the music changes back to something up-tempo, Jenny takes pity on Giles and they retreat back to the bar. Other Sunnydale staff members notice them, and come by to make chit-chat. It’s odd to think that her colleagues don’t know how close the entire town came to destruction. But Jenny’s used to putting up a front.

When the last song is announced Jenny springs to her feet, and declares to Giles, “It’s the last dance, we have to.” She’s pleased when he follows her readily to the dance floor.

Dancing with Craig was escapism, allowing Jenny to focus on the purely physical. This – making a slow circle with Giles’ hands on her waist and hers around his neck – is escapism too, but of a different kind. She feels comfortable with Giles, and she lets herself think that this is all there is to their lives and the night they’ve had. Just two people dancing because they like each other.

Then it’s midnight and the house lights turn on, the music turns off, and there’s a collective groan from the crowd. The illusion is gone.


 

Buffy, Xander and Willow find Giles and Ms. Calendar to say goodnight.

“And you’re sure you’ll make it home alright?” Giles asks.

Buffy rolls her eyes fondly. “The time for over-protectiveness has passed, Giles. Anyways, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more vampires tonight.”

“Well, maybe one,” Willow adds as Angel joins them.

They reach the door together, then the kids and Angel go off on their own, with smiles and waves to the adults.

Giles turns to Ms. Calendar, and he finds himself reluctant to say goodnight. He puts it down to the mixture of adrenaline and alcohol in his system, and that persistent twinge of worry that he can’t seem to silence. So instead of goodnight he says, “It’s certainly been an unforgettable evening.”  

“A little bit of dancing, a little bit of heart-stopping terror…” Ms. Calendar smiles weakly, but it fades as she says seriously, “Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to fall asleep tonight. I’m not sure if I want to.”

“I know the feeling,” Giles says sincerely.

Their eyes meet, and Giles is struck with the sense the moment could turn into something very different from friendship and sympathy.

Then she smirks and cocks an eyebrow, “You know, the night doesn’t have to be over.”

Giles can feel his face growing hot. Ms. Calendar breaks into a wide, teasing grin.

“Wanna grab some coffee?” she asks.

Flustered, Giles blinks and stammers, “Alright.”


 

They find an all-night diner, and talk in conspirational tones as Jenny quizzes Giles about the events of the past year that she suspected were Hellmouth-y in origin. It’s the longest conversation they’ve had without Jenny trying to get under his skin, and she finds that she enjoys it.

“You gotta wonder why people still send their kids there,” Jenny muses, after Giles explains how he, Buffy and her friends ended up on-stage with a beheaded demon.

“I’ve found that people want to believe that their lives are safe, and normal, and that they’ll work hard to maintain that illusion,” Giles says. “What about you? You know what’s going on in this town, yet you stay,” he asks curiously.

For a moment she considers telling him the truth, but Jenny knows from experience that letting people know who she really is only gives them the chance to use it against her, even if she thinks they can be trusted. And she does think she can trust Giles.

“Like I said, the occult’s my turf,” she deflects. “I figure I’ll run into goblins wherever I am.” Before Giles can press her into a real answer, she continues, “So there’s a vampire in your gang. What’s up with that?”

“Angel?” He blinks, taken aback at the change of subject, then shrugs. “He’s cursed with a soul. And he’s in love with Buffy,” he answers plainly.

“And you trust him?” she asks, genuinely interested.

“Buffy certainly does. He’s been helpful thus far, including tonight.” Giles pauses thoughtfully. “I believe he wants to atone for the things he’s done. So I suppose the answer is, yes.”

Jenny nods, considering his answer. She supposes that this is good news, that Angel has moved on from simply suffering for his crimes to trying to make amends. It’ll definitely go in a letter to her uncle.

“Why?”

Jenny shrugs and picks up a packet of sugar, turning it over between her fingers. “It just seems strange, is all.”

“Stranger than a living ventriloquist dummy?”

She laughs. “True.”

“Living on the Hellmouth, one must adjust one’s definition of ‘strange’.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”


 

After the diner, Giles and Jenny – as she insisted on being called – start walking, ostensibly towards the school to pick up their cars. However, frequent declarations of, “This way is prettier,” and “I don’t believe I’ve been down this street before,” take them off course. The streets are peaceful, and for once the darkness feels safe and comforting rather than threatening. Giles is certain that Buffy’s prediction about not seeing any more vampires that night will hold true.

The alcohol wore off ages ago, but Giles feels a giddy sort of tiredness starting to overtake him, with similar effects. He watches Jenny and thinks that she must be feeling the same way. She walks with a leisurely sway, swinging her arms freely and tipping her face back when a cool breeze stirs the air. He likes watching her.

Somehow Jenny gets on the topic of online pagan culture, talking about message boards, mailing lists and webrings with much enthusiasm, and Giles does his best to follow along.

It’s a good few minutes before she stops and asks, with a sideways glance, “Are you even following this?”

“Yes, it’s quite… quite interesting.” Giles says, utterly lost.

“Really?” Jenny asks skeptically.

“Or I think it would be… if I understood what you were talking about.” He realizes that he actually would like to understand.

Unfortunately, Jenny takes that as her cue to change the subject. “Well, now it’s your turn to talk about something outside of my range of experience.”

 “Is there anything in that category?” he says teasingly.

Jenny smiles and prompts, “How do you get to be a Watcher anyways?”

Giles smiles, flattered that she’s interested. “In my case it’s a family calling. And then there’s several years of training at the Watcher’s Academy –“

“You guys have your own school?”

“Such as it is.”

His scathing tone catches Jenny’s attention. “Ooh. That sounds loaded.”

“Let’s just say that it’s of limited value,” Giles explains, comfortable with letting Jenny know that much, but not wanting to get into all the messy details of his training. “It didn’t prepare me to deal with Buffy. And it certainly didn’t help prepare me for tonight.”

“But you were still star-student, head of the class, right?”

“Ah… not exactly,” Giles evades, hoping that Jenny will let him leave it at that.

What he doesn’t expect is for her to say, “Hm… I like it.”

He looks at her questioningly.

Jenny steps out in front of him and walks backwards so she can look him up and down. “It means you’ve got something else going on under all those layers of tweed.”

Giles would have been brought up short by the idea that Jenny thinks about what’s under his clothes, if not for the effect being ruined when her heel catches on a curb, and she stumbles backwards.

He grabs her by the shoulder and pulls her upright. She rests a hand on his chest to steady herself. They’re standing very close together. Their eyes meet.

“I am way too tired to be driving,” Jenny says.

“I think we both are,” Giles agrees.

They look at each other, and don’t move. Giles thinks he’d like to kiss her.

It occurs to him that, logically, it’s a terrible idea. Just because Ms. Calendar’s flirtatious, it doesn’t mean she’s seriously interested. They hardly know each other. He has trouble thinking of her as “Jenny” rather than “Ms. Calendar.”

Giles lowers his hand and steps away.

“It’ll be sunrise soon,” he says, glancing at the sky.

There’s a familiar glint in Jenny’s eye. “I have an idea,” she says, and begins to walk in the opposite direction.

Giles watches her skeptically. “Should I be nervous?”

“No! Now come on.”

Jenny holds out her hand. He takes it.


 

Jenny leads him to a park, and then up a steep hill that crests overlooking the town to the East, where the sky is just beginning to lighten.

“Front row seats,” she says. “The sun could have risen on a very different world today; I figure we should appreciate it.”

“Right you are,” Giles says with a smile.

He takes off his jacket and lays it on the grass, and the two of them sit down.

Giles intends to watch the sun come up in that philosophical frame of mind, but his thoughts soon drift towards how nice it would be to hold Jenny’s hand again. He’s contemplating actually doing it when Jenny yawns, and rests her head on his shoulder.

It is a beautiful sunrise.


 

Giles insists on walking Jenny home. They’re both silent with exhaustion, but comfortable with the other at their side. Jenny’s thoughts are a pleasant haze, and she’s genuinely looking forward to falling asleep.

They reach the door of her building and stand outside, Giles shuffling his feet awkwardly. Jenny smiles at him, and at the crush he seems to have developed on her. A crush that she won’t entirely admit is mutual. She can’t resist taking one last chance to tease him.

“I meant to ask, what was it that changed your mind?” she says. “About dancing?”

Giles hems and stutters for a few seconds before answering simply, “You.”

“Well I’m glad you did.”

Giles’ gaze drifts up to meet hers, and not for the first time, Jenny is pretty sure he’s thinking about kissing her. It’s a nice idea, but one that she decides to save for later.

She opens her door, and before she disappears inside she turns to Giles and says, “Good morning.”

He smiles back at her. “Good morning.”