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Lola

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If asked, she'd say she was startled, but that wouldn't be the right word for it.

Say, rather, shocked. Amazed. Astounded, even.

Jenny Calendar stopped in her tracks in the doorway of the Espresso Pump and stared at the figure she saw on the tiny stage in the corner. He was the last, the absolute last person she would have ever expected to see performing at an open mic night in some trendy coffee shop, but there he was, in all his tweedy glory, holding a guitar and pouring his heart and soul into The Kinks' “Lola”.

And he wasn't wearing tweed.

Some combination of the forest-green henley, the extremely well-fitting, well-worn blue jeans (and didn't those display him as a man of hidden … talents?) and the song itself - seriously, Lola?! - brought her in off the street. She slid into an empty chair and ordered a coffee from the waitress, her eyes locked onto the figure of the man on the small stage, crooning into the microphone a thirty-year-old song about a transvestite.

Jenny Calendar was in love.

She'd encountered Rupert Giles before. As Watcher to the active Slayer, and person of interest in occasional contact with Angelus, she'd been keeping an eye on him. She'd thought he was cute before now, in his tweed and his glasses and with his adorable little shy stutter. Now that she'd seen what was hiding under the tweed, she wanted to know what was hiding under that.

As he finished singing and left the stage, she waited for him to notice her. When he did, he jerked in surprise, and she smiled, waving him over. He came as though tied to a string, picking up his guitar case on the way and sliding into the other chair at her table. “Good evening, Miss Calendar,” he greeted her, even as he turned his attention to securing his instrument in its soft travel case.

“Good evening, Rupert,” she replied, her smile widening as she gestured for the waitress. “Can I buy you a coffee?”

He paused, obviously torn about the idea of letting her buy for him, but in the end he capitulated. “A tea, actually, would be lovely,” he said, casting a glance up a the waitress.

“You bet,” the older woman replied. “Be right back.”

“You come here a lot,” Jenny observed. “She knew exactly what you'd want.”

He shrugged, tucking his guitar under the table. “I enjoy the occasional opportunity for an audience.”

“I can see why. You have a great voice.”

“Thank you.” The smile he gave her this time was genuine, and she reflexively smiled back. “So, what brings you out this evening?”

“Oh, you know,” she replied, sitting back in her chair with her hands wrapped around her coffee mug. “Nine o'clock on a school night. Tired of staring at the walls, nothing good on the television.”

“Yes, of course,” he said, turning his smile up to the waitress as she brought him his hot water and tea bag. He made a slight face at the bag, but dropped it into the water and poked at it with his spoon. “I do miss being able to get a proper tea in a shop,” he commented, offhand. “But I have a cousin who keeps me regularly supplied with care packages of loose tea that I can brew at home.”

“That's quite a stiff upper lip you have there,” Jenny commented.

“Why, thank you,” he replied. “I believe that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me in weeks.”

They shared a gentle laugh, and then she asked him about the music. He admitted he'd been in a band in his wild youth, and she managed to extract a promise from him that he would play for her sometime. He asked about her religion - specifically wondering how she'd got involved with being a technopagan - and she admitted that she came from a long line of Eastern European pagans who had made it practically a hobby to resist being Christianized. She asked him if he'd read any good books lately, and he told her about a new one from England about a boy wizard. He predicted great success for the series, and then asked if there were any sort of computerized counterpart to that question. She assured him that there eventually would be, and then it was ten-thirty and the Pump was closing, and suddenly they were standing outside on the street.

He shouldered his guitar and started to say something about a lovely evening when she interrupted him.

“I have some loose leaf Jade Oolong at home,” she said suddenly. “I picked it up the last time I was in L.A.”

He blinked, and a slow smile spread across his face. “Why, Miss Calendar,” he said, “I think I should very much enjoy a cup of that.”

---

The next afternoon, she stuck her head into the library before she went home. He was behind the counter in tweed, checking in books, and she smiled at him. “I'm heading home,” she said, “but if you'd like to come by later, we could have that cup of tea we never got to last night.”

He grinned back. “I'll be there by seven,” he promised.

---

She made them dinner. It was nothing fancy: rabbit stew, potato pancakes, the things she would eat at her great-grandmother's cook-fire. But the stew made her apartment smell delicious, and the potatoes were a comfort food. She might need comfort before the night was over.

When he arrived, she had just put the kettle on, and she waited until he had his cup of tea in his hands before she sat him down on the sofa. “Before we eat,” she said, “there's something I need to talk to you about.”

He cocked his head, taking a sip of his tea. “All right.”

“It's about my family,” she said, “and it's about a vampire called Angelus.”