I didn't bother saying 'please'. That wouldn't help.
"Let me go," I said. "I'm only asking for one day."
It glared at me. I couldn't see a face, of course, but I could feel its
gaze, cold and angry and malevolent. I tried not to shiver, not to be
"Look," I said, throwing some irritation into my voice for good measure,
"I fulfilled my part of the bargain, right? I did what you wanted with
Angel. Now, let me do what I want to do."
"You wish to make him...happy." There was such disgust in that word, like
happiness was the worst poison. Probably it was, to this thing. I
imagined the Grinch with his heart two sizes too small (or was it his
shoes?), glowering at the happy Whos, and tried not to smile. It wouldn't
like being compared to an animated character.
"Not happy," I lied smoothly. "He misses me. Seeing me will only renew
that pain, remind him of what he's lost. It will hurt him."
There was a moment's pause while it pondered. I held my breath, as much
as was possible for someone without a body, and waited. If it said no, I
had no choice but to obey, to go back.
"You speak the truth," it said at last. "You may go, but only for a day,
dawn to dawn."
It left me, and the air felt half as cold. I wanted to smile. I had
given a line of reasoning that wasn't the whole truth. I knew-- hoped--
that this would bring joy. I wanted to see him again, to touch him, to
see him smile again. Surely he wanted the same.
I wanted to be happy about this. But deep inside, I knew that it wouldn't
have let me go on a lie. Despite joy, despite second chances, it would
"You are a fool," I told myself, half-smiling.
He was asleep, curled up like a child. In sleep, he looked peaceful.
There was none of the pain, none of the anger, none of the bitterness I
had seen earlier. More lines than I remembered, though, creasing his
mouth and eyes and forehead, and his hair looked grey in the moonlight.
I reached out, wanting more than anything to touch him. I couldn't,
quite, not yet. It wasn't dawn. My fingers were insubstantial, drifting
through him as easily as through the air.
He stirred and awoke, rising without seeing me. I waited patiently as he
showered, shaved, and dressed. He did everything silently. Of course
there was no one to talk to, but for some reason I'd always imagined him
one to sing in the shower. Perhaps not.
I found myself counting down the minutes until dawn, and then wondered how
Drawn by something I couldn't hear, he moved to the window and peered
out. I didn't have eyes for anything but him, but the astonishment and
wonder which spread across his face made me wonder. One glance out the
window told me what he was reacting to: it was snowing. In Sunnydale.
And then it was dawn.
"Merry Christmas, England," I said quietly.
He froze at my voice, then turned slowly. For a moment there was silence;
he stared at me, hardly daring to believe, and I stared right back, trying
to smile. "Jenny?" he whispered, and walked towards me, hand
outstretched. His fingers were trembling just a little. "Is that you?"
"In the flesh," I said, and then shrugged. "Well, actually, it isn't
flesh, exactly. More of an illusion--"
He touched my face, and I closed my eyes, shivering. Dawn to dawn, just
for today, he could see me, could hear me; dawn to dawn, he could touch
me. It was something I'd needed for a long time.
"How?" One word, full of wonder and delight and an undercurrent of
"A bargain." I looked into his eyes. "Some thing wanted Angel tortured;
in return for helping it, it let me come here for a day."
He drew me into a hug. It was a little fuzzy; I guess the intersection of
spirit and flesh isn't that well defined. I didn't care. I don't think
he did either.
"I've missed you," he said, voice hoarse with emotion. I nuzzled against
his chest, taking comfort in the solid beating of his heart, and he gave a
little cry. "God, Jenny, I've missed you so much."
"I know," I whispered. I'd missed him too.
He knelt in front of me, looking up with eyes bright with tears. "I'm
sorry." He took one of my hands, kissed it lightly, and pressed it
against his cheek. "I'm sorry you died. I'm sorry I wasn't there."
There was pain in his voice; raw, even after all these months. Or perhaps
seeing me had triggered something he'd forgotten. Maybe I shouldn't have
come...but it was too late now. "Shh." I knelt, too, and pressed my
forehead against his. "Shh. It's okay, Rupert. I understand. I don't
"I just wish..." He stood up abruptly and turned away, with a small noise
that might have been a sob, might have been laughter. "I wish a lot of
things, I suppose. If I'd known, if I'd had a chance to--"
"Rupert." I moved to stand behind him and wrapped my arms about his
waist. He tensed a little but didn't move. "I know that whatever I say,
you're still going to guilt, to have regrets. I can't change that. But
leave the past in the past. Let's just enjoy today for what it is, all
He turned then, and a smile tugged at the edges of his mouth. "And what
is today, hmm?"
"Last I checked, it was still Christmas." I smiled at him. "I can't
believe you of all people don't have a calendar..."
He ignored that and returned with a tease of his own. "I didn't know
pagans celebrated Christmas."
Especially dead pagans, I thought, but didn't say. I was dead enough to
make jokes about it, but not to him. Instead, I just smiled up at him.
"I think I can make an exception, just this once."
Dawn to dawn. It seemed like forever.
We took a walk, through the fine layer of snow that made all of Sunnydale
look like a transplant from somewhere in the Midwest. I wore a scarf,
more as a shield to hide my face if necessary than because I was cold.
The streets were pretty much deserted, but Rupert still fretted that
someone would see us, would recognize me, would start asking awkward
"And if they do?" I asked him. "They won't immediately think it's me.
Enough people saw that I was dead."
There was a flicker of something in his eyes, but it was gone before I
could identify it. "This is hardly a town where dead is permanent," he
"So, then, I'm my sister, come for a visit or something. If questions
come up, we can deal with them. You're good at making believable
He looked at me, expression on the stern side of unreadable. I smiled
sweetly at him and slipped my arm around his waist. He put his arm around
my shoulders, I leaned a little against him, and we walked like that
through the outskirts of Sunnydale, up to Lookout Point. It had a great
view of the town; right now, the town looked like a postcard. Everything
was a little too perfect, almost magical, and very still, like the
universe was holding its breath waiting for something.
Rupert sighed, and his breath turned the air white. Mine didn't, of
course, since I wasn't really breathing. It was just another little
reminder. I wished the day could go on forever.
"It's been a while since I've seen snow," he said, a little wistful.
He scooped up a handful and packed it into a ball while he talked. "I'm
not sure. It wasn't pleasant to deal with, and the cold gets tedious
after a time. But..." He smiled slightly, the ghost of a boy's shy
delighted grin. "As a child, I always loved it...especially the first
snowfall. It always seemed so...special."
He'd never spoken much about his childhood before. I smiled and leaned
against him, half-closing my eyes, watching the snow.
He fixed hot cider when we got back. I hadn't realized he'd known how;
but on the other hand, there really hadn't been all that much opportunity
to find out. It rarely got this cold in Sunnydale, and balmy nights
didn't exactly cry out for a hot glass of cider.
I told him this, and he smiled. "It certainly is unusual weather, right
now, isn't it?"
"Good Christmas weather, though."
"Do you know what caused it?"
"Not a clue."
"Well, whatever it is," I couldn't help saying, "it does have good
timing. Could you imagine snow in Sunnydale in July?"
He almost laughed at that, and was still smiling when someone knocked at
the door. I stayed seated while he answered it.
"Hey, Giles," Buffy said cheerfully. "I was just dropping by to see how
your Christmas was going."
"My Christmas is going just fine, thank you," Rupert replied evenly. I
tried not to laugh.
"I can tell. You're smiling. Having a big wild party, huh?"
"I do not have big wild parties," Rupert said, sounding faintly aggrieved.
"I'm glad you're happy, though," she said, dropping the teasing note.
"And, oh hey, I brought something for you." Back to perky. Her mood
swings were making me dizzy.
"Thank you," Rupert said quietly.
"Yeah. Merry Christmas, Giles."
She moved to hug him, and saw me for the first time. Her eyes widened.
"Giles, get behind me," she snapped, going into battle-ready stance.
I was amused-- what was she going to do, kill me?-- but tried not to show
it. Rupert was just perplexed; he didn't see the danger. I stood up, and
Buffy tensed further.
"It's okay, Buffy," I said, and looked at Rupert. "She's a little
worried..." I hesitated, not sure how to explain.
Buffy hadn't relaxed her guard. "Last I saw you, you were doing that
whole mojo with the evil thing."
"I was a puppet-- a conduit of sorts."
"For the First Evil."
"I swear to you, I'm clean now. Just me, no First Evil."
"For what it's worth," Rupert said, "I believe her."
"No offense here, guys, but..." Buffy held up one finger to Rupert.
"Giles, remember the ghost last spring, that you swore up and down
Rupert said nothing. Buffy turned to me, raising a second finger.
"Without being rude, how do I know I can trust you?"
I shrugged. I had no proof. Rupert was willing to trust me on my word;
Buffy, apparently, wasn't. "I'm not going to hurt him."
"You tried to kill Angel."
"The First Evil did."
"Buffy, if I'd said no, it would have used a different soul as conduit. I
was chosen because I was his latest kill, but there were others, many
others, eager to help."
"So why did you?"
"Because it wouldn't have made a difference, and because I could bargain."
I glanced at Rupert. "Buffy, I can't say anything that will make you
believe me. But, if it helps-- the First Evil wanted you dead, or at
least incapacitated. If I were still it, I'd have made my move. I could
have killed you already."
Buffy still didn't look quite convinced, but she nodded and relaxed. "All
right. If you believe her," she said to Giles, "I suppose it's only fair
that I believe you." She started to leave, then hesitated and glanced at
me. "I'm sorry that I couldn't-- didn't-- kill him, before..."
I smiled a little, understanding. "Merry Christmas, Buffy," I said
After she left, I started to laugh. "So I come back for a day, and all
anyone wants to do is apologise to me?"
"Sorry," Rupert said, half-automatically. I considered hitting him with a
pillow, but I kissed him instead.
"So." I lay with my head in his lap, looking up at him. "What did Buffy
mean when she said 'that ghost that you swore was' ?"
"It was after you...died..." He shook his head. "It's quite odd, saying
that with you there. Saying it directly to you."
"Go on," I prodded, "or I'll think you're stalling." I did anyway, of
course, and he knew that.
"There was a ghost haunting the school, and I thought..." He looked
embarrassed. "I thought it was you. I was determined to prove it, and to
I reached up and ran my fingers along his cheekbone. "It wasn't me."
He smiled. "I figured that out when the spirit tried to kill us."
"Yeh. The sort of excitement that makes you wish for dull."
"So what other excitements have I missed?"
He told me, though I strongly suspected he was leaving bits out. "This
year has been...fairly normal, actually, for a Hellmouth. Zombies, killer
demons, the usual. Ethan came back, wreaked havoc--"
"An old friend of sorts. He was involved with Eyghon."
I remembered, vaguely; I couldn't think of a face, but I remembered
not-liking someone. "Him."
"Yes. Last two times he came by here, he also wreaked havoc. He's really
quite good at it." He smiled a little. "Then there's the vampires, of
course. A new guy; and Spike-- one of our friends from last year, fair
amount of trouble-- came back for a short visit. I missed that one
entirely, but Buffy filled me in."
"And before this year...?"
He hesitated. "Killer demons. Vampires. A couple of ghosts."
"The usual," I murmured. I could tell he was leaving a lot out, but I
didn't push him.
"It wasn't as tedious as it sounds." He looked away.
"I guess I missed a lot, huh?"
Rupert nodded, and when he looked back at me, his eyes shone with tears
again. "I wish you could've..."
He didn't finish. I twined his fingers with mine. "I know."
I made him sleep, later. He didn't want to; he wanted to wait until dawn,
to spend every possible moment with me. But he was exhausted-- I didn't
think he'd been sleeping well, lately-- and I made him lie down.
"Sleep," I said, "and I will watch over you."
"You'll be gone in the morning."
He looked like he was about to say more, but decided against it. "Sleep,"
I said softly, and he did.
I watched over him until dawn. He slept well, peacefully, not waking
once. And when dawn was near, I kissed his forehead, smoothed his hair
back, and stepped away from the bed.
I'd considered saying something: goodbye, or good night, or Merry
Christmas, or that I loved him. But in the end, I left without a word.
"Did it go well?" it asked me, as grumpy as ever.
I shrugged. Its definition of going well was probably different than
mine. I had to choose my words carefully. "He cried a lot," I said at
last. It was mostly true.
"Good," it said.