The click of heels on the tile of the library floor caused Giles to look up from the text he'd been skimming as he walked toward his office. Upon seeing who had entered, he stopped, frozen.
Jenny Calendar paused in front of the circulation desk, not quite daring to move any closer. "Hi," she said in a whisper as she awkwardly swung her arms in front of her and avoided his gaze.
"Um, hello." He took a tentative step forward, lowering the book and setting it aside as he faced her.
She could feel his eyes boring into her, and glanced up to meet them. As expected, the clear green gaze was fixed, unblinking, on her - a question in their depths. "I just wanted to, um, check on you. How's the, uh..." she made a vague gesture toward the back of him, and felt a pang of that old amusement when his expression turned toward puzzlement and he spun his head to look behind him before her meaning became clear.
"Oh! Oh, it's...healing. Still a little sore, of course, but...healing." They hadn't had a chance to talk since the hospital. He had been in too much pain, then knocked out on pain meds, and there hadn't been an opportunity to say much - not much he'd really remember, anyway. She'd come to check on him, that seemed to be worth something. The tension now eased a bit, his eyes softened and looked toward the floor as his hands found his pockets.
He was uncomfortable. That thought hit her right in the chest. They'd been reaching a certain level of familiar ease with each other (you were ready to sleep with him, her brain rudely reminded her, you were going to make your move - going to make him "squirm"), and she'd put distance between them. With good reason, she'd justified, but still. She'd caused this uncertainty, this tension. It hurt.
"Look, Rupert, I'm sorry," she began, confidently. Then deflated with a sigh. "This is all my fault."
"It's all right, really," he hastily assured her, but without much conviction. "Could've happened to anyone."
"Yeah, anyone stupid enough to shoot a deadly weapon they have no experience with at a moving target that happens to be attached to someone they DON'T want to shoot." That got a tiny smile from him, just the slightest quirk of his lips. "That's what you're thinking, you can admit it."
He smiled fully at that, turning his head to look at her with warmth and affection in his eyes. That hurt almost as much as the sad puppy dog eyes he'd been giving her for weeks. "A-actually," he began, looking away as his mouth continued to twitch with mirth, "I was thinking that I wasn't entirely sure that you'd, um, missed."
"Hey!" she replied with mock-indignation, unable to prevent a smile from forming at the banter that had always come so easily between them "If I'dwanted to hit you, England, I'd have aimed for the heart."
His smile turned pained at her words, and her face fell as she realized the symbolism of what she'd said. She fidgeted with her hands, suddenly finding the hangnail on her left pinkie to be fascinating. Weakly, she started again. "I didn't just mean the crossbow incident though." At his inquisitive glance, she continued. "This...distance between us. That's my fault. I pushed you away when all you wanted to do was explain and help me." She blew out her breath. "The worst part is, I wasn't even mad at you because of the whole demon possession trip. It was strange and horrible, but you couldn't have known that some stupid mistake you made twenty years ago would come back to haunt you and attack me in the process. And...I already knew your job - your life - could be dangerous. I could hardly be upset with you because I'd seen some of that danger first hand. I know I was out of it for a while before Eyghon completely took over, but I remember saying that these things happen when two people get involved, and I meant that. I know my being in your life means mine may be occasionally put in jeopardy, it already has been. That's the hellmouth, not you."
"Then, why...?" His face was confusion wrapped in hurt, and it killed her just a little bit.
"I'm ashamed to admit it, I really am, but I was mostly angry because I'd felt that you'd lied to me." His mouth opened to protest or apologize, she wasn't sure which, but she held up a hand to stop him. "Not about Eyghon. So you omitted facts about your rebellious youth, okay. I didn't disclose any of the dumb things I did as a kid either." Among other things you haven't disclosed, her brain again rudely interjected into her thoughts, but she knew she wasn't yet ready to reveal her own secrets. Hypocrite. She shushed her conscience, briefly considering scheduling an appointment for a lobotomy if this kept up.
"I felt like I'd been lied to about who you really are. That your entire personality was a lie. I was surprised to see how you acted around that Ethan guy. He called you 'Ripper.' You grabbed him and...you just seemed so..." She trailed off, unable to think of the right adjective. "I've seen you fight before, but...don't take this the wrong way, but you never seemed particularly...great at it? Good, yes, and you held your own against the creature from the hellmouth lagoon, and against the vampires I've seen you fight, but I couldn't imagine you capable of the...fierceness I saw in you that day. I had no idea that was in you. And to learn about that side of you, I...I guess I had trouble meshing that image with the fuddy-duddy librarian who I thought I knew. I felt like I didn't know who you were, and I was afraid because I was afraid of you. I didn't know how to cope with that."
Giles gave an almost imperceptible nod and looked at the floor in front of his feet. "Ethan said much the same thing when I encountered him on Halloween." Raising his eyes to hers, he continued. "I'll tell you the same thing I told him: It's not an act. This is who I am." A small sigh escaped as he glanced away from her eyes. "And who I used to be is also still a part of me. It's not a part that I'm proud of, and it's not something that emerges often, but it's still there."
"It's just very different. Unexpected." She smiled weakly. "I also have to admit that part of me was upset because you let me play this whole thing between us my way, and I thought maybe you'd just been humoring me. I thought I understood the game, and then you went and changed the rules."
"The...game?" he blinked.
"Shy, awkward librarian type can't manage to ask a girl out without stammering over every word - girl pursues and makes the moves instead. You know. That thing we were doing?"
He looked entirely perplexed.
"C'mon, Snobby! We bickered, then we flirted, then you stumbled over your words and your feet trying to get up the guts to so much as say my first name! You're telling me a guy who used to go by 'Ripper,' played in a rock band, and messed around with dark magic on the side doesn't know how to get a girl?"
She shook her head, amazed and amused. "It's really not an act though, is it? You really are just as adorably befuddled as you seem."
His confusion turned to embarrassed affection as his face flushed and met her eyes. "You make me this way, Jenny. You befuddle me. Yes, there was a time when I confidently believed I knew how to act around women. That was twenty years ago. I...haven't exactly had a lot of practice in that area since then. Too much responsibility, too many books, too much time spent researching demons." He raised his eyebrows and looked at the ceiling. 'And, I suppose, it's a little more difficult when one no longer has the ability to start a conversation with 'I'm in a band.' That always seemed to help immensely."
Jenny smirked. "We women are so easily impressed."
"Easily? Ha! I was bloody good, I'll have you know!"
Her eyebrows rose and that teasing smirk that he'd missed so much appeared on her face. "Were you now?" She put every ounce of sultry innuendo into her voice as she could. "You'll have to show me sometime."
And just like that, she had him again. Calendar -1, Giles -0.
"W-well, I, I, um...don't, uh..." he stammered, and she took pity on him.
"You know, I think we need to agree to a compromise."
"How so?" he asked, intrigued.
"I continue to tease you mercilessly and befuddle you whenever possible. And you..." She stepped closer to him.
"Yes?" He asked as he stood up straighter and removed his hands from his pockets.
"You promise to keep surprising me. Don't let me keep the upper hand all the time. It's okay to unleash a little of that 'Ripper' fire every now and then, especially," she grinned, eyes twinkling at him, "especially if you find interesting ways to channel it into...other areas."
"Other, uh, areas?"
"Oh," she teased, "I'm sure you'll think of something. With that brain of yours, you're bound to come up with all sorts of id - "
But she never had a chance to finish the sentence, because suddenly his hands were framing her face and he was kissing her. And oh was he kissing her! Lips caressed hers with more passion than she'd ever seen from him in the gentle tentative kisses they'd shared in the past. Her hands moved of their own accord, slid up his back to hold him closer. One of his hands slipped into her hair and cupped the back of her head, guiding her gently as he deepened the kiss.
When they finally pulled apart, Jenny felt dizzy. She opened her eyes to find his clear green gaze full of passion, but with just a hint of teasing delight.
"Like that?" he asked as his thumb delicately brushed her cheek.
And Jenny had to admit, as she struggled to regain her breath, that maybe - just maybe - he'd won this round after all.