Chapter 1: giles comforts his daughters
Giles finally found his oldest daughter sitting next to the vending machines, curled up into a ball and looking incredibly tiny. He exhaled with shaky relief, then crossed the hall, sitting down next to her with a still-asleep Ed held awkwardly in his arms. “You gave us all quite a fright,” he said softly.
Without preamble, Janna said, “If Mom dies I’m going to kick stupid Faith in her stupid shins.”
Giles pressed his lips together, then said, “I sincerely hope that you did not tell Faith that.”
Janna sniffled. “She’s the Slayer,” she said, “and she told me, right before she left, she said I’m going to make sure nothing bad happens to your mom, Little J, don’t worry, and she didn’t, and she’s a liar, Dad.”
“You know it’s not that simple,” said Giles, shifting Ed a bit so as to reach out to Janna. Janna sniffled again and moved away from his touch in a way that wasn’t much unlike her mother’s general response to comfort, which, if the situation wasn’t so drastically awful, might have made Giles smile a bit. “All right,” he said. “This is a no-hug situation?”
“Indubitably,” said Janna.
“Reasonable,” said Giles. “Do you want to talk about something else?”
“No,” said Janna, “I want to kick someone in the shins.”
“You are unnervingly like your mother,” said Giles. “She’d be quite proud.”
“I’m going to kick you if you use the past tense talking about Mom,” said Janna sharply.
“Janna,” said Giles, “there is a line and you’re coming very close to crossing it.”
Janna nodded jerkily, then uncurled herself a little bit. “Can I hold Ed?” she asked.
Giles exhaled. “I don’t want to wake her,” he said. “She’s not handling this situation all that well.”
“I mean, I get that,” said Janna, and smiled a little dryly. “I’m not doing so hot either.”
Ed stirred, rubbing at her eyes with a small hand. Without raising her head from Giles’s shoulder, she said tiredly, “’s mom awake?”
“Nearly,” said Giles.
“…not true,” said Ed, and tucked her face into the crook of Giles’s neck. “Don’t patronize.”
Janna giggled wetly. “Big word, little kid,” she said by way of explanation.
“You’re not all that big yourself,” Giles teased gently.
“I am eleven,” said Janna, “and Ed is five, there is a distinct difference,” and scooted a bit closer to Giles, settling her head on his shoulder. Then, “I don’t really want to kick Faith.”
“I know,” said Giles.
“I just want Mom to be okay,” said Janna.
“Me too,” said Ed without raising her head.
Giles pressed a butterfly kiss to his littlest daughter’s forehead and reached his free arm out to Janna, pulling her into his side. “We can all stay here, if you like,” he suggested. “We’re relatively near the restrooms, and there’s food right next to us.”
“What happens if we run out of quarters?” Janna asked tiredly, playing with a loose thread on Giles’s sweater.
“We rob a doctor,” said Giles very seriously. Janna started giggling, which made him feel better, if only very slightly.
This was when Buffy came hurtling up to him, looking completely emotionally exhausted. “Giles,” she said, “we agreed that you would head back to the waiting room when you found Janna. Faith’s totally freaking.”
Giles exhaled. “You’re right,” he said. “I’m sorry. It’s been a difficult time for all of us.”
“It has,” said Buffy, and sniffled, managing a smile in Janna’s direction. “Hey, Janna, you want anything from the vending machine? I’ve got quarters.”
Janna glanced hopefully up at Giles.
“Anything you want,” said Giles, who felt that exceptions to normal rules could be made for a girl whose mother might very well be in critical condition, and stood up with Ed still in his arms. To Buffy, he added,“I’ll buy the food, can you take Janna back to the waiting room?”
“Sure thing,” said Buffy. She hesitated, then stepped up to Giles, giving both him and Ed an awkward hug.
Giles drew in a shaky breath, hugging her back. “All things considered,” he said, “one would think I might be accustomed to this sort of situation by now.”
Buffy managed a shaky smile. “Yeah, you’d think that, wouldn’t you,” she said, and hurried out of the hallway.
“I’d just—I want chips,” said Janna to Giles, and hurried after Buffy.
Giles turned to the vending machine with Ed still in his arms, awkwardly pulled out his wallet, and bought five packages of chips, mostly because he wanted to feel like he’d accomplished something. Then he realized that he couldn’t carry both Ed and the chips and started sort of kicking the chips in the general direction of the waiting room.
“That is so not a good way to handle those,” said Buffy as he entered.
Janna snort-giggled and clambered off the waiting room table, picking up one of the packages from the floor. “Thanks,” she said, looking genuinely amused. “That actually kinda makes me feel better. In, you know, a weird, sad way.”
“I can take Ed if you want, Giles,” Tara offered gently.
Giles didn’t particularly feel like letting go of his daughter at this juncture, so just said, stiffly, “Thank you, but no,” and sat down next to Faith, who was ashen and shaking. “Faith,” he began.
“Fuck off,” said Faith.
“Two dollars in the swear jar when we get home, Faith, Ed is right there,” said Janna pointedly through a mouthful of chips.
“No one is blaming you,” said Giles to Faith, and meant it.
“You fucking should,” said Faith.
“Four dollars, Faith,” said Janna, “watch your language around the baby—”
“Not a baby,” said Ed indignantly into Giles’s shoulder, “and I know better than to swear.” As an afterthought, she added, “If Mom ends up dead I’m going to swear, though.”
“Shut up, Edna,” said Janna tersely.
“Don’t tell your sister to shut up, Janna,” said Tara exhaustedly.
“It was my job to make sure she was okay!” Faith burst out. “She said she was fine and I believed her, and she hasn’t been out in the field in years, and I shouldn’t have trusted her to go in like that, it was way too dangerous, that’s why I brought her because I thought we needed the magic help but then there were too many vamps and I—”
“Shit,” said Janna, quiet and sympathetic.
“Seven dollars total for the swear jar,” said Giles to Janna, and placed a hand on Faith’s shoulder. She leaned into him, hiding her face in her hands. “Faith—there is no way you could have anticipated that the building was unstable. You accounted for every variable, you knew what you were getting into—really, it was faulty architecture that’s to blame.”
“If Jen is okay, I’ll listen to you,” said Faith flatly, scrubbing at her face. “If she’s not, it doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“I’m going to kick you,” said Janna without any real vehemence, and placed down the bag of chips, crossing the room to settle herself on the chair opposite Faith.
“I’ll kick you back,” said Faith, and both of them smiled a little.
This was when a nurse entered the waiting room, scanning the room until her eyes landed on the group. “Mr. Giles?” she said.
Giles looked up, heart in his throat. “Yes?”
Jenny was awake. Jenny was awake, and Giles was more than close to relieved tears at that news, but he’d come to the correct conclusion that crying needed to wait until the girls were absolutely certain that their mother was all right. The girls, of course, included Faith, who had known Jenny since before Janna was even a tentative concept, and who Giles thought needed the affirmation that Jenny was indeed doing well.
“One visitor at a time, please,” said the nurse when Giles asked if he could see Jenny.
“Ed’s tiny,” said Janna immediately. “She counts as half. And my dad always says that my mom’s his other half, so he counts as half, so Ed should be able to go in too.”
“I’m just a little baby,” said Ed helpfully, “I’m not much trouble,” and did her best to look like the average sleepy five-year-old and not a precocious little thing who correctly utilized words like extraneous and implausible.
The nurse frowned a bit. “Mr. Giles,” she said, “may I talk to you in private?”
Giles glanced worriedly over at the girls, who both looked visibly concerned at this. “She’s all right, isn’t she?” he asked, more for his daughters’ sake than his own.
The nurse, thank heavens, seemed to understand that. “Oh, of course,” she said, more to the girls than to Giles, “this is just an adult conversation, all right?” and carefully steered Giles into the hallway. Throwing a look over his shoulder, Giles caught Janna scowling at being labeled a non-adult and Ed looking quite visibly upset at not being able to see her mother just yet.
“What’s going on?” he asked hesitantly.
“Mr. Giles,” said the nurse carefully, “your wife—she’s experiencing some memory loss. She’ll need to stay here overnight.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” said Giles, feeling somewhat lightheaded with relief. At the nurse’s surprised look, he managed, “I—obviously it’s not fine, I just—I was expecting you to tell me she was, was dying or something, I—I can handle memory loss, I—”
“I get it,” said the nurse, smiling sympathetically. “Would you like to see her? I can tell your family that you’re visiting her, if you like.”
“Thank you, yes,” said Giles weakly, and followed the nurse down the hall, up a flight of stairs, and into a small room with a single bed.
Jenny was awake. After nearly two nights of panicked waiting, Jenny was awake, blinking up at him from the bed as the nurse stepped out of the room and closed the door. Giles was somewhat overcome. “You’re all right,” he finally managed.
“You’re older,” said Jenny with a strange expression. Then, “Rupert, why are you looking at me like that?”
“The,” said Giles, then, “It,” then, “Thank god,” and sort of stumbled to the bed, pulling Jenny into his arms and hugging her tightly. Jenny hugged him back a little awkwardly, at which point he suddenly realized— “Oh, lord,” he said, pulling back, “how much do you remember?”
“Apparently I’m missing a lot,” said Jenny, giving Giles a tense, nervous smile. “Which is pretty concerning. Um, can you stop looking at me like we’re married for a second?” Then, “Wait,” and Giles realized that her eyes were directed at a point over his shoulder.
Nervously, he turned, then groaned. Janna’s nose was pressed up against the small window on the door to Jenny’s room, and she was blinking with big eyes at both of them. “Janna Calendar-Giles,” he called without thinking, “kindly adhere to the rules and return to the waiting room,” and realized belatedly what Jenny had said. “Like we’re married?” he echoed, turning back to her with panicked eyes.
“Calendar-Giles?” said Jenny, sounding genuinely horrified. Then, “Janna?”
The door opened, and Ed tumbled through, looking extremely proud of herself. “Faith caused a diversion so we could get in,” she informed her parents, each of whom seemed to be having their own separate crises. Then, “Is everyone okay?”
“Ed, if you wouldn’t mind—” Giles was suddenly feeling about seven different levels of anxiety and had no idea how to get Ed out of the room without further agitating Jenny.
“That’s not fair!” Janna darted in through the half-open door, grabbing at Ed’s hand. “I was supposed to go first! I put in tons of hard work—” She stopped, looking from Giles to Jenny and back again, then swallowed hard. “We shouldn’t be in here,” she said to Ed, in a very different tone of voice.
Giles drew in a soft breath. “Janna—”
“Whatever’s going on, it isn’t good, right?” said Ed shakily.
“No,” said Giles, wishing, for once, that his daughters weren’t quite so adept at processing information. “Both of you, please go back to the waiting room.”
Janna hesitated, but Ed tugged her quietly outside.
“Calendar-Giles,” said Jenny again, sounding vaguely nauseated. Then, “We’re married. With children,” and finally, “Am I back in the nightmare world again?”
Giles honestly felt that having to carry his wife into the emergency room while she was bleeding out should have been enough emotional trauma for the week. “No,” he said heavily, and sat down. “Jenny, where are we at, for you?”
“Definitely not far enough into a relationship for me to be okay about this,” said Jenny, and grabbed one of the extra pillows, hugging it to her chest and glaring at Giles as though this was somehow his fault. “I mean, yeah, we did that demon-in-the-internet stuff—”
Giles stared. “Demon in the internet,” he echoed, then, “You mean Moloch.”
Jenny nodded. Thinly, she said, “You can understand why this might be slightly stressful for me.”
“Most certainly,” said Giles, and sat down. There wasn’t a chair handy, so he sort of leaned against a nearby wall and slid ungracefully down until he was sitting on the floor. Quietly, he said, “Is there anything I can do that will help?”
“Not even a little bit,” said Jenny. Then, “Rupert, I—if we’ve been married—for—long enough to have—two kids—”
“We haven’t actually been married as long as we’ve had children,” said Giles. “Officially speaking.”
Jenny’s face twisted. “So what,” she said, “was this just an accident that turned into a marriage because of your antiquated British standards or whatever?”
Giles remembered, with a strange, sad feeling in his chest, how much frustration and anger had colored his initial interactions with Jenny. It was easy to be patient with her, of course, but—he’d become so accustomed to the playful, easy happiness that characterized their relationship now. Returning to that animosity was giving him a strange sort of whiplash. “No,” he said simply; he didn’t have enough energy for anything else. “Would you like me to stay?”
“No,” said Jenny. “I need a minute.”
“Of course,” said Giles quietly, and pulled himself awkwardly up from the floor, heading out of the room. He didn’t dare look back.
Ed had apparently followed Giles’s instructions, because she and the nurse were both gone and the door to the stairwell was swinging shut. Janna, however, was standing flat against the wall, and as Giles shut the door, she said in a small, shaky voice, “What’s going on?”
Giles had never found it so easy to lie. “Your mum’s just a bit shaken up,” he said, “and you know I don’t handle these things well. We’re going to spend a bit of time together and then we’re going to send for you, all right, darling?”
Janna sniffled, scrubbing at her face with her sweater sleeve, and reached up wordlessly to Giles. A lump in his throat, Giles pulled her into his arms, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.
Chapter 2: jenny (justifiably) continues to freak
It wasn’t that Jenny hated kids or anything, it was just that—kids had never really come into the equation, with her, and definitely not with Rupert. Like, specifically definitely not with Rupert. Sure, she’d been noticing that he had a nice smile, and soft eyes, and he made really excellent coffee when he refilled the pot in the staff room, but three nice things did not a marriage make, and she wasn’t even sure if she liked him in a way that went beyond aesthetic attraction.
But apparently they had kids. Two, maybe more, and they were married, and Rupert looked at her with an expression on his face that looked so out of place on him. Jenny had never once seen him so unguarded, and there was something profoundly unnerving about that.
And Janna. The older kid was Janna, which meant that Rupert knew. Rupert knew everything about her, and she still didn’t know a single damn thing about him, and, and Jenny definitely did not want to be married all of a sudden. She wondered how likely it was that this was the nightmare world and Rupert just wasn’t telling her. This wouldn’t be outside of Sunnydale’s capabilities, right? Weird things happened in Sunnydale all the time.
Then one of the kids stuck their head in—Janna, Jenny realized, it was Janna, who didn’t look a thing like Rupert. Actually, she looked a whole lot like Jenny’s baby pictures, though there were a few small differences here and there. “Mom?” she said timidly.
Jenny decided to postpone the freak-out. It didn’t at all seem fair to inflict her own upset on a little kid, even if that kid’s existence definitely wasn’t something she was sure how to handle. “Hey,” she said exhaustedly. “I’m—not feeling that great.”
“No kidding,” said Janna, and gave Jenny a wobbly smile. “You don’t look all that great, all things considered.” She took a few steps forward and pulled herself up onto the bed, settling herself next to Jenny.
Jenny bit her lip, drawing a pained breath in. “Um, sorry,” she managed, “not really up for cuddling just right now.”
“Faith says the building caved in on you,” said Janna, staring straight ahead. Her mouth wobbled.
“Yeah, feels like it,” said Jenny, making a face and sneaking another, more in-depth look at Janna. Her own dark hair, only it was long and messy and looked like it hadn’t been combed in at least a few days. She had Rupert’s chin, which looked a little odd on a girl of about…ten? Eleven, maybe? Jenny had always looked smaller than she was at that age, and she figured her kid might be that way too.
“You’re looking at me weird,” Janna observed.
Jenny was about to struggle through some sort of response when Rupert rushed in, looking harried and semi-hysterical. “Where’s—” He cut himself off. “Janna,” he said, “I understand that you want to see your mother—”
“—but I need to check in with someone first, I know,” said Janna, and gave Rupert a determinedly breezy smile. “The door was open, that’s all, and you said only one visitor at a time—”
Rupert exhaled tiredly and crossed the room, gently moving Janna off the bed and smiling nervously at Jenny over their daughter’s head (oh my god, Jenny never thought that sentence would ever be applicable to reality). “Give me a minute alone with your mum, all right?” he murmured to Janna, smoothing down her hair.
Jenny was beginning to seriously wonder if this was some sort of magic-induced hallucination, because she had never seen Rupert act so easily, effortlessly gentle towards someone, especially someone directing a scowl at him with the terrifying irritation of Calendar and Giles combined. “I am entitled to maternal affection,” Janna was saying, “that parenting book you got from the library says so—”
“We never should have let you learn to read,” Rupert quipped, and nudged Janna gently in the direction of the door. “We’ll just be a minute, all right?”
“Mom, you are okay?” Janna turned nervously at the door. “You’ve been out for like two days, Ed kept on saying you were going to die and she’s a baby but it still really freaked me out—”
“I really am fine,” said Jenny, trying her best to make it sound at least semi-convincing. “Just exhausted.”
“Buffy’s going to drive you two home,” Rupert added. “You both need some sleep.”
“That is not going to happen,” said Janna indignantly.
Rupert blinked, then sighed, then said, “Janna, one crisis at a time, please—”
“How come you get to stay and I don’t?” Janna demanded. “That is so not fair! She’s my mom, I’m not going home and going to sleep when you guys are still at the hospital! This is tyranny—”
“Ow,” said Jenny, voice catching. Janna was reaching a very high volume, and it was kind of adding to what was shaping up to be a pretty impressive migraine.
“Janna, we are going to talk outside,” said Rupert in a low, quiet voice, and let go of Jenny’s shoulder (when had he reached out to her?) to shepherd Janna out of the hospital room, shutting the door behind him. Exhausted, Jenny fell back into the pillows.
“Janna,” Giles began.
“You always say we’re a family,” Janna said fiercely. “And—I get that you want time alone with Mom, that’s fine, but you are so not sending me back home, that’s not even a little bit fair and you know it—”
“Janna,” said Giles, feeling tired and very sad. “We need you both to go home—”
“I don’t want to go home without you!” said Janna in a high, thin voice. “When Mom left for patrol she said she was coming right back but she was unconscious for two days and we’ve been living off hospital food and what if you guys get into a car crash or there’s a vampire attack Dad it’s still dark outside and I don’t want—”
Giles reached out and took Janna’s hands. “Please,” he said quietly. “This—isn’t something I have the energy to fight you on, and it is very likely that if you persist, I will let you stay, but neither your mother nor myself are equipped to take care of you and your sister right now and we both need some time to rest. Please respect this.”
Janna sniffled. “I’m scared,” she said, “and I don’t like this.”
“I know,” said Giles, a lump in his throat. “But my hope is that your mother and I will come home as soon as possible, all right? And you can call us tomorrow as soon as you wake up.”
“If you even figure out how to unlock your new phone,” said Janna, and gave Giles a wobbly smile.
“Yes,” said Giles, too tired to tease back, and pulled Janna into a last hug. “Will you be good to Buffy?”
Janna nodded solemnly. “I’ll take care of Ed,” she added, “make sure she doesn’t get in trouble or anything,” and looped her arms around Giles’s neck, burying her face very briefly in his shoulder. “I’m gonna call you as soon as I get home,” she mumbled, but Giles was fairly certain that she would fall asleep on the drive back.
Letting go, Giles pressed a kiss to the top of Janna’s head and stood up, watching as she reluctantly turned and headed back in the direction of the waiting room. He took a moment, took a breath, then re-entered Jenny’s room. “My apologies,” he said tiredly.
Jenny, now lying in the midst of pillows and staring at the wall, didn’t look angry anymore, just tired. “This isn’t magical, is it?” she said.
“Presumably not,” said Giles, “though I wish for your sake it were,” and sat down on the bed next to her, more out of habit than anything. Jenny looked up at him with a blank expression that cut to the bone; though there wasn’t outright animosity in her eyes, there also wasn’t love. He suddenly, desperately, missed his wife. “Is there anything I can do to—”
“Don’t hover,” said Jenny dismally, and went back to staring at the wall. Then, “You should go with your kids, Rupert, they probably need you right now.”
“Our,” said Giles, reflexively.
Jenny shook her head. “I can’t lay claim to that little girl,” she said, almost to herself. “I don’t—I’ve never been the mothering type.”
Giles was reminded, painfully, of Jenny holding Janna for the first time, looking awkward and off-center and saying to him Rupert, I don’t know if I’m qualified for something like this. He’d laughed a little exhaustedly, sat down next to her on the bed, and said you and me both, darling, and she’d turned into his arms, letting him hold them both. He remembered how he’d thought with a dizzy panic that having a wife and child didn’t really mean one automatically knew what to do, and that had been when Janna’s hand had curled around the front of his sweater, holding tight.
“We married because you said it made the most sense, legally speaking,” he said quietly. “We’d been living together for nearly a decade, but neither of us had felt the need to marry, especially considering the lives we led. When Janna came into the picture, you said you didn’t want any confusion regarding who she would live with if something—happened—to one of us, and we got married.” He didn’t look at Jenny; he didn’t know what her reaction would be, and it was discomfiting to feel so uncomfortable and off-balance with the woman he loved.
A silence. Then: “Were we in love, or was it just—”
“We were,” said Giles. “Are.” He did look up at Jenny, then. “Does that—surprise you?”
“I don’t know,” said Jenny. “My head hurts, and I’m still not sure how I feel about the fact that it’s suddenly twenty years in the future and I’ve gone domestic.”
“You got seriously injured fighting vampires, Jenny,” said Giles skeptically, “I wouldn’t exactly say that you’ve gone domestic.”
Jenny frowned a little. “It’s a fake name, you know,” she said.
“Jenny,” said Jenny. “If we named our kid Janna, you’d know—” Her face twisted slightly. “Or did I just—never tell you?”
“No, you, you did,” said Giles, abruptly understanding, “you just—” He smiled slightly. “You were of the mind,” he said, “that one’s name reflects one’s priorities. You said that Jenny Calendar was the woman who loved—” he fumbled, “—Sunnydale, and you wanted the name you kept for yourself to reflect and represent that love.”
Jenny smiled a little bitterly like she knew what he was trying to cover up. “Sunnydale, huh?” she said. “Doesn’t seem like my type of thing to fall in love with,” and closed her eyes. Without opening them, she added, “I think I need some space in this bed, Rupert.”
“Of course,” said Giles, all of a sudden too tired to be hurt (or perhaps too hurt for anything to really sting anymore), and clambered awkwardly off the bed, settling himself into the chair next to Jenny. She didn’t open her eyes to see whether or not he had left the room, and he couldn’t decide whether or not that was a good thing.
Chapter 3: giles gives jenny an abridged briefing
Jenny was woken by a loud ringing sound, followed by what sounded like Rupert muttering curse words in three different languages as he fumbled to turn the ringer off. Rolling over onto her side, she saw that the bedside lamp was on and Rupert was holding something small and rectangular to his ear. “Hello?” he was saying. Then, “It is five in the morning, Janna, this is not an appropriate—” He exhaled. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I know, but your mum needs rest, all right? I promise we’ll call you as soon as we’re up.” A beat. “Yes, we’re both fine. Yes. I love you too, darling, now get some sleep.” Turning off the phone, he looked apologetically up at Jenny. “I am sorry,” he said. “She’s—a bit of a handful.”
Not particularly wanting to talk about the kids they both apparently had, Jenny said instead, “Is that a phone?”
Rupert blinked, then smiled a little sadly. “Yes,” he said.
“Are you okay?” Jenny asked awkwardly.
“I don’t like knowing more than you about technology as much as I thought I might,” said Rupert, which wasn’t a direct answer to her question but made things pretty clear nonetheless. Handing his phone over to her, he said, “Tech—has improved—over the last twenty years,” in a horribly sad voice, like he didn’t think he should be explaining this to her.
Jenny felt a strange, awkward twinge of sympathy for Rupert, followed by a rush of resentment. She didn’t want to feel sorry for him. “I have a phone too,” she said, more of a pointed statement than a question. In response, Rupert rummaged in his satchel and handed it over.
Jenny flipped it on. A picture of the two little girls flashed up at her, and her heart caught in her chest.
“Oh—hang on,” said Rupert suddenly, and tugged the phone from her hands. “You have to type in the passcode, and then—”
Jenny tugged the phone back. “What’s my passcode?” she asked shortly.
Rupert blinked, hesitated, then said, “I think it’s the day we broke up for the first time.”
“For the first time,” Jenny repeated, and almost laughed.
Rupert smiled a bit too, looking thoroughly amused. “You know enough about the both of us to know that a relationship between us wouldn’t exactly be something easy, Ms. Calendar,” he said, and Jenny realized with a surprised, warm feeling that he was trying to make her feel more comfortable. “It was—November, I believe. November 12th, though I might be mistaken.”
Jenny typed in 1112 and the phone opened, and—suddenly she felt like crying for a lot of strange, different reasons. She’d always wanted to see the evolution of tech, the way the Internet might grow into an incredibly useful, incredibly accessible source of knowledge. Knowing that she’d been right was a lot to take in, but knowing that she couldn’t remember getting to see technology change and improve hurt incredibly.
“Are you quite all right?” Rupert asked from next to her.
“Don’t ask stupid questions,” said Jenny stiffly, scrubbing at her face and letting the phone drop to the covers. “I’m missing like eighty percent of my memory and you’re looking at me like—like we’re married, and this entire situation is all wrong.”
Rupert nodded somewhat jerkily. Then he said, “Would it be better if I left you alone?”
Jenny wanted, very badly, to say yes, because the Rupert she knew wasn’t someone she wanted around when she was on the verge of a truly impressive emotional breakdown. But this Rupert had been nothing but quiet and patient and supportive, in a scarily gentle way, and she hesitated to say no to someone who very obviously cared about her.
Inadvertently, Rupert ended up making the decision for her. Picking up the phone she’d dropped, he said gently, “Ms. Calendar,” and Jenny noted for the first time his attempt to return to a name she’d recognize, “my primary desire is for you to feel comfortable. Please, tell me what you need from me with complete honesty.”
Jenny wasn’t at all the kind of person who reached out for comfort, not even a little bit, but she suddenly wanted Rupert just a little bit closer. “Stay,” she said quietly.
She saw a soft, half-relieved expression on Rupert’s face. “All right,” he said. “Is there anything—you want to know?”
Jenny exhaled shakily. “Anything,” she said. “Tell me anything.”
Rupert looked pained by the question, and had to look away as he answered. “You’re—a college professor,” he said haltingly. “After Sunnydale, you—we lived in England for a while, but we didn’t like being away from Buffy and the children—”
“We left our kids in America?” said Jenny, then, “Buffy Summers?”
Rupert blinked, looking up. “Right,” he said. “I’d—forgotten. You wouldn’t know about my—my calling, or—” He pressed his hands to his face, briefly, then raised his head. “It frightens me,” he said quietly, “seeing you like this, Jenny. Quite frankly, if I was the person I’d been twenty years ago and found myself in your shoes, I don’t know what I would be thinking.”
“I don’t know what I’m thinking either,” said Jenny, and laughed a little exhaustedly. “I trust myself, and I trust my judgment, and—you’ve been nothing but kind, but—Rupert, I barely know you, and the you I know put a significant amount of emotional distance between us. Seeing you like this, it’s, it’s just a lot to take in.”
Rupert gave her a wobbly, sad smile. “Understandably,” he said. “I-I expect I should start from the beginning, then, but I think it might help if we weren’t having this conversation at five in the morning. Is it possible we could postpone this for when we’re both a bit more well-rested?”
“Seems reasonable,” said Jenny. Then, uncertainly, “You know, that chair really doesn’t look comfortable.”
“Oh, I’m fine,” said Rupert immediately.
“No, I mean—” Jenny hesitated, then rolled over on the bed, leaving just enough space for one more person. “If you want,” she finished awkwardly.
Rupert looked at her. Carefully, he said, “As long as you’re all right with that.”
“Yeah, I think I am,” said Jenny quietly, and meant it.
Rupert pulled himself up out of the chair and sat down on the bed, settling himself in so that he was lying next to her. Without a word, he closed his eyes, and it only took a few seconds for his breathing to even out into sleep.
“That fast?” said Jenny, mostly to herself.
“Watcher training,” said Rupert without opening his eyes. “I’m something of a light sleeper.”
“Me too,” said Jenny, “but I guess you probably know that by now?”
Rupert smiled a bit and flipped off the bedside light. “You and Ed both run on your own nightmarish internal clocks,” he said.
“Edna,” said Rupert. “She’s our little one. She has a tendency to wake up at two in the morning and clatter around the house attempting to make breakfast. Janna’s sick of it.”
“How many kids do we have?” Jenny asked warily.
Rupert laughed at that, a warm, gentle sound that made Jenny feel comforted. “Just two,” he said. “Janna was a surprise, and Ed was one of those stars-aligned slightly-magical things that occasionally happens in my line of work.”
Jenny frowned. “And you’re planning to tell me about your line of work tomorrow?” she prompted.
“It’s something I’d like to tell you on a bit more sleep,” Rupert answered, “and—” He hesitated, then said, “You took the news well the first time, but there was no pressure on you to do so under those circumstances. I am not entirely sure whether our current situation will change the way you view me, and that—frightens me, somewhat. But you’re entitled to know the truth.”
Jenny considered this. Then she said, “You don’t murder people for funsies, right?”
Rupert uttered a small half-laugh. “No,” he said.
“I think I’m going to be okay,” said Jenny, which felt true. Then, “What are the kids like?”
Rupert was quiet for a moment, then said, “Edna is a curiously intelligent little thing. Incredibly precocious, always getting into things she shouldn’t, with a terrifying amount of confidence in her own ability to handle things. She’s incredibly calm, most of the time, but even as small as she is, she has a tendency to bottle things up and not talk about them. I worry that she gets it from me.”
“And Janna?” Jenny prompted.
“Janna takes after you,” said Rupert with fondness. “She’s on her school’s football team—soccer to you and her, you both are unceasing in your demands that I simply bend and call it soccer—and she sequesters herself in her room quite often with a sci-fi novel or some antiquated monster grimoire. She’s an incredible girl.”
“And you say she takes after me,” said Jenny, a little surprised.
“You’re the most incredible woman I have ever met,” said Rupert, as casually and unthinkingly as if it were fact. “It makes quite a lot of sense that your children would be similarly astonishing.”
Jenny felt herself smile, finding herself grateful that Rupert couldn’t see it. She was suddenly glad it was five in the morning, because if she was well rested right now, she’d probably be freaking out a little about the butterflies that had begun in her chest at that statement. Not entirely sure what to say in response, she rolled over onto her side again and accidentally collided with Rupert a little. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
“It’s all right,” said Rupert, who sounded half-asleep again. Jenny closed her eyes.
Chapter 4: janna watches early-morning television
Janna lived in furious denial of the dangers that surrounded them, which Giles very much understood. What often perturbed him was the calm, almost accepting way that Ed faced the concept of vampires and monsters and her parents’ potential untimely demise; she was such a small thing, with such a heartbreakingly perfect way of keeping her composure. Giles loved his girls very dearly, but he sometimes very much doubted that he and Jenny led the kind of lives that could incorporate raising children.
Jenny’s first pregnancy had been a surprise, one that had shown up during a lull in supernatural activity. They’d settled down by the beach, and around the time Jenny landed her first teaching job since going back to school, she’d told him, tentatively, that she was pregnant. Of course, this had sparked a very long conversation regarding supernatural responsibilities and dangers and such, but Giles had distanced himself somewhat from the vampire-fighting lifestyle and there didn’t seem to be all that many inherent risks in having a baby. Aside from the usual, of course, but when one’s general concerns involved apocalypses and portents of doom, the usual new-parent worries seemed thoroughly less threatening.
The second time hadn’t quite been as much of a surprise as the first (though it did help that, as Giles had mentioned to Jenny, the stars really were in the right position to successfully conceive a child), but it was only a year after Ed’s birth when foreboding omens started cropping up again and Giles found out about the new Hellmouth opening nearby. He didn’t feel right running, and neither did Jenny, which had led to a thoroughly explosive argument that ended with Jenny and the girls staying at Faith’s while Giles conducted research with Willow and Buffy for a few months. After that, the Scooby Gang was brought out of retirement on what was supposed to be an “indefinite basis,” and the Calendar-Giles family had bought a new place, one a bit closer to the Hellmouth, so that Jenny and Giles would be able to help out in a research capacity.
Ed had had vampires and demons and wards around the house in her life since she was too young to remember anything else. Janna hadn’t. Giles supposed that that made something of a difference, and he sometimes wished he was unselfish enough to send the girls somewhere they would be safe.
Jenny’s take had always been that there wasn’t really any safe place in this world, and that keeping their children close was the best option for all parties. Giles wasn’t always so sure if that was the case.
It was almost definitely lingering worry that woke Janna up before sunrise. After about fifteen fruitless minutes of attempting to get back to sleep, she went down to the kitchen, made herself some toast and jam, took it up to Mom and Dad’s room, turned on the small TV Mom had coerced Dad into getting, and sat down on their bed to watch early morning cartoons. Nothing actually good was on at five-thirty in the morning, but Janna couldn’t sleep and she didn’t want to try anymore. Lying there quietly in the darkness meant she had to think about Mom and Dad in the hospital, and how phenomenally weird Mom had been, and the exhausted, sad look in Dad’s eyes.
She was watching an infomercial about a special new vacuum cleaner when Faith came in and sat down next to her on the bed. Janna broke off a piece of the toast and handed it to her.
“You should probably get some actual breakfast,” said Faith, reclining back into the pillows. Then, “Didn’t know you were into vacuum cleaners.”
“Fulfils your everyday needs with just the press of a button!” said Janna, trying to mimic the perky, upbeat tone of the guy on the TV screen, who was currently vacuuming up a dusty living room with gusto. “You know Dad never lets Mom vacuum his office? One time she accidentally sucked up some important document he needed for research and he had to spend half an hour going through the vacuum bag.”
“Do you want to go out for breakfast?” Faith offered.
“No,” said Janna. “I have to be here when Ed wakes up."
“We could all go out—”
“I don’t want to not be here if Dad decides he and Mom are coming home,” said Janna.
Faith considered this. Then she said, “I’ll send B out for a breakfast run, then.”
“Okay,” said Janna, then tacked on, “I don’t care,” as an afterthought, mostly because she didn’t want Faith to feel obligated to pick up breakfast for them. Then she realized that it kind of sounded like she was brushing Faith off and winced a little.
Faith seemed to take it in stride, though, taking a bite of the toast Janna had handed her. “What kind of jam is this?”
“Something weird and homemade,” said Janna, and wanted to smile a little but didn’t really feel up to it. After two days in the hospital waiting room, she’d very much wanted things to go properly back to normal, and it didn’t make sense that Dad wouldn’t push the nurses into letting her and Ed stay with him and Mom, as a family, and what if Dad had been lying when he said Mom was all right—
“You know,” said Faith, “for all everyone says about you taking after your mom, I kinda think you got the crazy-worry gene from your dad.”
That made Janna laugh a little. “He freaked out on vacation,” she said, “because we missed our flight home, and Mom had to explain to him that she could just book another one and we wouldn’t be ‘stranded in the tropics.’ It was really funny.”
“I bet,” said Faith, and looked back over at the TV. The infomercial was over, and some cheesy horror movie had started up. Nothing really scared Janna about horror movies, anymore, now that she knew that vampires were real. It sort of felt like a cheap knockoff version of the real thing.
There was a knock on the door. Then Ed’s voice requested, “Can I come in?”
“No,” said Janna, because she didn’t really feel like having to be the older sister. She liked sitting with Faith and feeling taken care of.
“Play nice,” said Faith without much bite behind it. To Ed, she called, “Yeah, come on in, Eddy.”
Ed stuck her head around the door and blinked owlishly up at them. Her hair, usually in neat pigtails, was a tangled mess, and she was wearing those dumb footie pajamas one of the Scoobies had gotten her last Christmas. “Are we watching TV?” she asked with interest.
“No,” said Janna, and glared at the TV screen.
Ed cocked her head a little. Then she said, “Are you okay?”
“No,” said Janna, which was an accident; she’d gotten stuck in a loop and hadn’t thought to correct herself. Finding her answer too honest, she said a little sharply, “Mom’s still not home.”
“I’m aware,” said Ed, and stepped into the room, climbing up onto the bed and settling herself in Faith’s lap. Ed was still small enough to clamber onto people’s laps, and sweet enough that no one really objected to this. “What are we watching?”
“I don’t know,” said Janna snippily, and changed the channel to some reality TV show.
“Hand me that,” said Faith, “I feel like I should step in before you kids rot your brains,” and changed the channel to an animal documentary. “Used to watch these a bunch with your mom,” she said. “We’d play this game where we tried to spot animals that looked like the Scoobies.”
“That’s me,” said Ed proudly, pointing to a tree in the distance.
“Yeah, sure,” said Faith with a small smile.
“You ever hear the myth of Apollo and Daphne?” said Janna. “That thing had a tree lady in it.” She scooted a little closer to Faith and Ed.
According to the nurse, there wasn’t much that could be done regarding Jenny’s memory loss aside from waiting for the memories to return naturally. She did, however, recommend that Jenny be taken home and re-introduced to familiar surroundings, which was why Giles was currently attempting to awkwardly help his wife into the front seat of their car.
“I’m fine,” said Jenny, in the strained voice she always used when she wasn’t fine but she wanted him to go away. Giles rolled his eyes a little, and she scoffed indignantly. “I am!”
“Yes, you seem perfectly fine,” said Giles, “mint condition,” and decided that there was really no point in trying to help Jenny when she was hell-bent on getting herself settled all by herself. He let go of her arm, crossing to the other side of the car.
Jenny, after some struggling, clambered in herself. Her arm was in a cast, and there were a few bandages around her stomach that the nurse had said would need daily changing, but other than that and the memory loss, she was relatively unscathed. “We’re going home?” she said, sounding like she wasn’t all that sure if home was any better than the hospital.
“Yes,” said Giles a bit awkwardly as they began to drive. After a moment of hesitation, he added, “If you’re not up to seeing the girls—”
“I never said that,” said Jenny stiffly, but Giles detected a small note of relief in her voice.
“—I’ll just tell them that you need your rest,” Giles finished.
“That’d be great.”
“And I assume you’d prefer being left alone for a bit.”
There was then a very awkward silence, during which Giles wished that they’d chosen to buy a house a bit closer to the hospital. Jenny stared out the window, her expression completely blank, and Giles thought about the last time he’d seen her before this whole mess. She’d kissed his nose and stolen a bite of dinner off his plate and told him she’d be back as soon as possible. Giles wanted to tell the Jenny in the car about that promise and how he bloody well expected her to stick to it, and had to sort through the hurt and anger to find a deep, pervasive fear.
He’d prepared for Jenny’s death. Morbid, but true. She’d done the same with him, because they did, after all, live rather close to a Hellmouth, and one must always prepare for every eventuality. Jenny losing her memory, however, was not at all on the list of things Giles had anticipated, and this was currently blindsiding him with how deeply it hurt.
“It’s weird,” said Jenny distantly, not looking at him. “You’re so—so easy to read, all of a sudden.”
“Well,” said Giles. “Love and family does tend to change a man,” and focused on the road ahead.
Chapter 5: jenny has a lot of questions
Their house was small and suburban, with a lot of flowers blooming in the front, as well as a few chalk drawings on the sidewalk that looked very much like a young child’s attempt to badly copy protective sigils. A young woman with long blonde hair was sitting on the porch swing with a cup of tea, and she looked very visibly relieved upon seeing them both. “Everyone’s okay?” she asked, soft and anxious.
“We’re fine, Tara, thank you,” said Rupert, stepping forward to give the girl a hug.
Jenny hovered apprehensively at the porch steps, not sure whether she wanted to cross the threshold. She could handle being in a hospital she didn’t recognize, but entering a house that was supposedly hers and Rupert’s, some place probably full of cherished memories that weren’t hers and definitely housing those two kids…that was going to take a lot of guts, and she didn’t know if she was capable of that kind of bravery.
“I’ll go tell Faith and the girls you’re back,” Tara was saying to Rupert. “Buffy’s out getting breakfast—I think she’s picking up extra, so if you haven’t eaten—”
“Hospital food,” said Rupert, and made a face. Tara giggled. “Get the girls, will you? I need a pick-me-up.”
Tara grinned and stepped away from Rupert, entering the house. In the quick moment that the door was open, Jenny caught a glimpse of olive-green walls and a bookshelf overflowing with knickknacks and clutter. Strangely, that calmed her; her own apartment had always been a mess, and it was comforting to know that this Jenny didn’t keep a tidy house just because she lived with Rupert Giles. “Should I—” she began, not sure what she was asking.
“Hang on,” said Rupert. He hesitated, then, “Jenny, I know this is quite a lot to ask of you, but—will you give the girls just a few seconds to say hello? They’re very young, I, I don’t want them to have to deal with—”
“Pretty irresponsible of you,” said Jenny, a little sharply. “Bringing kids into the world if you’re going to try and shelter them from the after-effects of living dangerously.”
The moment she said it she knew she had made a mistake. Rupert looked like she had reached out and physically slapped him. He swallowed hard. “I’m questioning that decision myself,” he said, and opened the door again, shutting it behind him. As the door closed, Jenny very briefly saw her dark-haired daughter running helter-skelter down the stairs, and then she was standing alone in an unfamiliar front yard.
She felt guilty, and didn’t like it. It was Rupert’s fault, anyway, for asking something of her that he should know she wouldn’t be able to give, but—she couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d genuinely hurt him, which wasn’t something she’d ever expected she would have the power to do. There had always been a tangible distance between her and the Rupert she knew, a feeling that there was nothing she could do that would make him feel anything but superficial exasperation, and that had incensed her even more. But this was something else, and Jenny didn’t know how to handle the depth of his feelings for her, the genuine value he seemed to hold her opinion in.
The door opened again, and Rupert stepped out. “The girls are to remain in the kitchen until you’re situated,” he said, not once looking at her. Somehow, this hurt so much more than staff room brush-offs. “Your bedroom’s upstairs. I’ve told them not to bother you.”
“Rupert, I’m sorry,” said Jenny on impulse, a lump in her throat.
“I know,” said Rupert, and he smiled a little sadly. “I may have to remove myself from these situations, on occasion. You must excuse me, Jenny, but I love my wife, and I miss her quite terribly.” And with that, he stepped back into the house, leaving the door open behind him.
Jenny swallowed hard and followed him inside.
The house was cozy, well-lit, with lots of knitted throws and framed pictures of people Jenny didn’t recognize. A cursory glance at one of them revealed, to Jenny’s surprise, a photo of Rupert and what looked like Buffy Summers making silly faces at the camera. She paused by another, running a finger along the edge of the frame and looking, quietly, at her own face, framed by long, dark hair and smiling with an effortless happiness that Jenny couldn’t possibly understand.
Who was this Jenny Calendar? Unencumbered by duty, married with kids, surrounded by some sort of strangely loving community but still working her hardest to fight the forces of evil? And, for that matter, who was Rupert to cause such a change in them both?
Behind her, someone cleared their throat. Jenny jumped, then whirled, and found herself face-to-face with a woman she didn’t recognize.
“Jenny?” The woman’s voice was concerned, and she seemed strangely familiar, and oh my god that was Willow Rosenberg, all grown up. Though Willow did have a modicum of that familiar anxiety in her eyes, it was somewhat distilled, now, and there was a calm strength in the way she held herself.
“Willow,” said Jenny, feeling a strange sense of pride. She’d always known this kid would be something special, and it felt good to have at least been right about one thing. Without thinking too much about it, she stepped forward, pulling Willow into a hug. It was strange and a little jarring, but this she knew.
“So you’re okay,” said Willow into her hair, a little shaky. “You know, we—we were super worried.”
“Yeah, I’m good,” said Jenny, almost dizzy with the elation of actually knowing someone. “Better. Um, I should probably go lie down—”
“Oh, have you seen the girls?” said Willow suddenly, pulling back. “Janna’s been worried sick, and Ed—well, you know Ed, she’s our little zen baby and no one can ever really tell what she’s thinking but I think she was probably worried—”
Jenny felt a now-familiar bubble of panic rise in her chest. “I—” she began nervously.
“Ease up, Willow, she needs rest,” came Rupert’s voice, and Jenny felt herself gently tugged from Willow’s arms and into Rupert’s side. “I’m going to walk her upstairs, can you keep an eye on the girls for me?”
“Of course,” said Willow, looking a little sheepish. “Sorry, Jenny, I didn’t mean to ambush you—”
“It’s okay,” said Jenny a little perfunctorily. Rupert smelled familiar, like cologne and old books, and it was a little unnerving to be comforted by his closeness.
Rupert steered her gently up the stairs, at which point he let go of her shoulder to walk ahead of her and open the second door on the left side of the hallway. Jenny stepped into the bedroom and immediately felt a little better at the dark, rich colors and the high-tech-looking computer at the desk near the window.
“I’ll leave you be,” said Rupert quietly, and turned to go.
His words suddenly echoed in her head—I love my wife, and I miss her quite terribly—and Jenny made something of an impulse decision. “No,” she said, “stay,” and placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. At Rupert’s startled look, she elaborated, clumsily, “I-I’m scared, and you’re scared, and it seems counterintuitive for two scared people to isolate themselves, even if neither of us have ever really been in this kind of a situation before, so—stay, okay?”
Rupert was looking at her with such a tender expression that Jenny almost wanted to look away. “All right,” he said, and stepped into the room with her, shutting the door behind them.
Jenny had kicked off her shoes, carefully removed her jacket, and settled herself on the bed, sitting on top of the covers. Giles hovered apprehensively for a few seconds before Jenny opened her eyes and said somewhat clumsily, “You can come closer than that.”
Giles lay down on the bed next to her, facing her, not making any effort to touch her. He knew for a fact that the Jenny Calendar he had first met had very much been one for personal space. “I am sorry,” he said. “I know this must be hard on you.”
Jenny bit her lip and nodded. “I’m sorry too,” she said. “I-I can’t imagine what this must be like for you.”
There was another silence. It was strange, but Giles hadn’t realized before now how very few silences there had been between him and Jenny. Even when their relationship had been one of outright animosity, they’d always been hurling sarcastic comments and barbed insults at each other.
“Why do you love her?”
The question took Giles by surprise. “I’m sorry?”
Jenny was blushing a little, but she held his gaze. “Your wife,” she said. “Why do you love her?”
Giles understood what Jenny wanted to hear, and he knew what he wanted to tell her. “She keeps me in check,” he says, “and she doesn’t hesitate to tell me when I’m wrong.”
Jenny smiled at that, and it looked actually genuine. “Yeah?” she said, and scooted a little closer. They were only a few inches apart, now, their shoulders almost touching. “Why does she love you?”
“Far be it from me to speak for my wife,” said Giles carefully, “but she has mentioned loving my smile and my eyes.”
“Seems a little superficial,” said Jenny lightly.
“Oh, hardly,” said Giles, and felt himself smiling a bit. “I—my calling was something I was born into, something that weighed quite heavily on me throughout the entirety of my teenage years and that I didn’t have the strength to free myself from. I believed that my destiny was all I would ever be, and Jenny Calendar came into my life and made me smile and—and she knew how rare it was, for me to smile. She never took my happiness for granted, because she knew what it meant for me to smile.”
Jenny looked stunned, then a little shy, and seemed very much at a loss for words. After a long moment, she finally said, “You talk about her like she’s—”
“I talk about her like she’s my wife,” said Giles matter-of-factly, and gave Jenny a small, amused grin. “Rest assured, we have had many arguments about many inane, ridiculous things. Nothing’s changed there.”
“That’s—incredibly reassuring,” said Jenny, and leaned very slightly into him, in the sort of way that indicated she didn’t want him to notice. Giles pretended not to. “So that probably also means you know why I came to Sunnydale, right? Because our daughter’s name is Janna, and I like to think I’m the sort of lady who doesn’t keep secrets from her husband.”
“Neither of us keep secrets anymore,” said Giles, “though it’s a habit we’ve had some trouble breaking.” He hesitated, then said, “Would you like me to tell you about Buffy and my destiny?”
He was expecting Jenny to say yes, and was taken aback when she shook her head. “I think, right now, I’d just like you to stay,” she said, and smiled with an awkward, nervous honesty.
Giles felt a soft flutter in his chest. “I can manage that,” he said.
Chapter 6: janna continues to act out
Ed was playing Mario Kart in the living room with Faith and losing horribly, and Buffy and Willow and Tara were all talking outside, so Janna snuck into the kitchen and opened the bag of butterscotch chips that Dad had told her she wasn’t supposed to eat because he was going to use them in a batch of cookies. It was mostly because she wanted someone to yell at her and tell her she was being irresponsible, because someone yelling at her would mean that everyone would stop treating her like some little baby whose mother had just died or something, and Janna hated the special treatment thing that was going on. Mom was fine. Mom was home, and Mom was asleep, and everything needed to go back to normal, stat.
Janna was on her fifth handful of butterscotch chips when Ed came into the kitchen and said, “Dad said those aren’t for eating.”
“I know,” said Janna.
“I think you’re acting out,” Ed observed.
“I think you’re being annoying,” said Janna, and shoved the entire handful of butterscotch chips into her mouth.
“I read the same child development book you did, you know,” said Ed, “and I think I may have gotten more out of it than you if you’re acting out and not even realizing it.”
“Why can’t you just be a human about this?” Janna demanded fiercely.
“That isn’t very nice,” said Ed, pulling herself up to sit next to Janna on the counter. Her hair wasn’t a mess anymore, but she hadn’t changed out of the footie pajamas. “And you should know that I have different ways of processing feelings than you do.”
Janna sniffled, and felt humiliated. “You’re supposed to be the baby,” she said. “Not me.”
“See, Dad and I are both somewhat cerebral,” said Ed, as if Janna hadn’t said anything. “Which is a word he taught me, by the way. He says it means that we process things with our brains first and then our hearts. So I think about things and I weigh the possibilities and I only get upset if and when a bad thing happens. Dad says it’s a very functional way of doing things. Very efficient.”
“I wish I could do that,” said Janna quietly.
“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” said Ed, taking a handful of butterscotch chips from the bag. “You end up being really sad at the end of it all.”
Dad rounded the corner with his hair sticking up at weird angles, like he’d fallen asleep or something. He sort of blinked at them and then said a little sleepily, “Girls, those aren’t for eating,” which made Janna feel a lot better in general.
“Can I be grounded?” she asked hopefully.
“The purpose of a punishment,” said Dad, rubbing his eyes, “is to bring home the message that an action should not be repeated. Your request for being grounded defeats that purpose.”
“You’re overlooking the possibility that she’s thought of that argument and she’s only pretending to want to be grounded,” Ed pointed out.
“Janna doesn’t generally play mind games,” Dad pointed out, and took a handful of butterscotch chips too. “Also, your mum’s asleep, but I think she’ll be up to visitors in a bit.”
“I do want to be grounded,” said Janna. “Because I did something I wasn’t supposed to, and Mom’s okay, so you guys can all stop walking on eggshells around me and letting me eat butterscotch chips when I’m not supposed to.”
Dad looked at Janna for a long moment and then he picked her up off the counter and pulled her into a very gentle hug, one that had Janna a few feet off the ground. “I know this is very frightening for you,” he said gently, “but I promise that your mother’s recovering nicely, all right? There’s no longer any need to worry—”
Unexpectedly, Ed burst into tears.
“Oh, Ed,” said Dad, his voice breaking, and placed Janna back down on the counter. “Oh, sweetheart, it’s all right, she’s going to be fine.” He pulled himself a little awkwardly up to sit on the counter next to Ed, and then he tugged Ed into his lap so that she could sob messily into his shoulder.
Janna got it, kind of. Quietly, she jumped off the counter, placing the bag next to Dad and Ed and slipping out of the kitchen. It was probably a bad idea, what she was about to do, but she figured Dad wouldn’t notice for at least ten more minutes, and seeing Mom okay would definitely be worth it.
She made it up the stairs without any trouble, feeling incredibly grateful that everyone had stepped outside to have an Adult Conversation or whatever. The door to Mom and Dad’s bedroom was ajar, so she slipped in, turning on the light.
Mom opened her eyes and looked blearily up at Janna. “Oh,” she said. “Hey.” There was a strange, flat note to her voice that threw Janna off a little, but then Faith had said Mom had gotten pretty banged up, so maybe Mom was just still tired or something.
“I just wanted to check in,” said Janna, “and besides which, Ed’s kinda crying, so I figured Dad wouldn’t notice—” This was making her sound somewhat culpable. “Um,” she said. “Yeah. Also Ed’s crying but don’t worry about it. I think Dad’s got it under control.”
Mom didn’t say anything, just kept on looking at Janna with strange, appraising eyes.
“Mom?” Janna felt her voice wobble.
Mom exhaled, then said, “It’s okay. I’m, I’m just really out of it, don’t cry, okay?”
“Wasn’t gonna cry,” said Janna indignantly, but felt somewhat comforted by Mom’s reassurance. She stepped all the way into the bedroom, sitting down on the side of the bed, and lightly touched the angry purple bruise on Mom’s forehead. Mom winced a little. “Sorry,” said Janna, wincing too.
Mom smiled a little nervously. “It’s okay,” she said again.
“Can I stay here?” Janna asked hesitantly. “Dad’s gonna totally chew me out when he finds out I’m bothering you but—maybe he won’t. He didn’t ground me for eating the butterscotch chips—” Belatedly, she remembered who she was talking to. “Don’t ground me,” she added. “My mom nearly died.”
Mom laughed, an almost surprised sound, and she looked a little less distant and a little more like Mom. “You are my kid,” she said. “Every time a friend of mine so much as stubbed their toe in high school, I’d try to use it as leverage with my teachers. Oh, I know I didn’t do well on this test, but Emma had a really hard day and I wanted to make sure she was okay, so I skipped studying—”
“Did it work?” Janna asked, grinning.
“Once or twice I’d luck out,” Mom answered. “But generally? Not really.”
“Is mine gonna work on you?”
Mom laughed again. “Sure,” she said. “Your mom nearly died. That one’s a biggie.”
Janna clambered all the way onto the bed and settled herself next to Mom, closing her eyes and feeling, suddenly, incredibly light. She felt Mom’s arm go around her shoulders and thought to herself, Dad was right, she is recovering pretty nicely, and then just contented herself with the quiet room and the closeness of a definitely-not-dead mom.
Rupert stepped in with the smaller one—Edna— asleep in his arms, both of them looking thoroughly wrung-out. Upon seeing Janna, he winced a little. “I can take the girls out, if you like,” he began apologetically.
“No,” said Jenny simply. She didn’t know how to articulate anything other than that.
Rupert nodded. Then he said, “Mind if I sit down?”
Jenny shook her head and moved over a little on the bed, absently stroking Janna’s hair. Rupert sat down next to her, shifting Edna a little and murmuring something to her that Jenny didn’t catch. Looking up at Jenny, he said, “So you’ve met Janna.”
“She really is a lot like me,” said Jenny with a small, thoughtful smile. “I still don’t know how I feel about—all this—but I do know myself well enough.”
It wasn’t just that, though. Jenny still was afraid of the concept of commitment, of being married with children and tied to something she didn’t remember making the decision to embrace. But the actual person that was her daughter was a very different thing than the frighteningly half-formed idea of a child, and Jenny couldn’t find herself afraid of someone who reminded her so very much of herself at that age.
Tentatively, Jenny stole a look at Edna. Oddly enough, the little girl looked much more like her than Janna did, with the only hint of Rupert being her light brown hair. She looked like she’d been crying, and she was still sniffling a little in her sleep.
“Been through the wringer, this one,” said Rupert ruefully. “Though neither of them are all that good at accessing their emotions.”
“Yeah, well, they are our kids,” said Jenny, and managed a nervous smile in Rupert’s general direction.
Rupert laughed, sounding a little surprised. “Just so,” he said. After a hesitant pause, he added, “Would you like to hold her?”
Jenny considered the question. “Yes,” she said finally, and held out an arm so that Rupert could awkwardly hand her Edna.
The kid was seriously tiny, even for a five-year-old, and she didn’t wake up even when Rupert sort of half-dropped her in Jenny’s lap. In her sleep, she wound an arm around Jenny’s neck, cuddling her face into Jenny’s shoulder in an almost instinctive maneuver.
Jenny had read about maternal instincts before, and was pretty solidly certain that she had none of them when it came to kids she didn’t remember. But she couldn’t distance herself from two little girls who had clearly worried themselves sick over her, even if the idea of co-parenting with Rupert Giles wasn’t exactly something she had considered before. She didn’t actually have a free arm, as her good arm was currently tucked around Janna, so she settled for clumsily raising her cast to lightly touch the top of Edna’s head.
Janna stirred a little, then looked blearily up at Rupert and Jenny. “What time is it?” she mumbled.
Rupert glanced down at his watch. “Goodness,” he said. “Nearly one in the afternoon, Janna, have you had a proper breakfast?”
“Faith made me eggs,” said Janna, sitting up in bed to run her fingers through her slightly messy hair.
Rupert’s face twisted a little. “Faith,” he said, then, “I, I need to go brief the children, Jenny, I’ll be right back—”
“The children?” Jenny echoed, confused.
“That’s what you and Dad call Buffy and Faith and Willow and Xander and Tara and Anya and all them,” said Edna into Jenny’s shirt. “Because we’re the girls.”
Janna was giving Jenny an odd look. “Mom, are you okay?” she said. “Like, really okay?”
“She’s experiencing some after-effects of the concussion,” said Rupert before Jenny could say anything. “Mild dizziness, short-term memory loss—she may be a bit off for a while longer, but some bed rest and breakfast food will do the trick, all right?”
Jenny noticed the worry in Janna’s eyes, and—she wasn’t this kid’s mom, she kept on having to preface everything with that, she hadn’t seen this girl grow from baby to toddler to child, but that worry tugged at her chest because she remembered what it was like to feel scared and lost and know you had to hide it. “Come here,” she said, and Janna obliged. Jenny held out her free hand and smoothed down Janna’s hair. “I’m going to be okay,” she said, “and I don’t want you to worry just because I’m a little under the weather.”
Janna still looked a little doubtful, but leaned into Jenny’s touch. “I’m going to be super mad if you end up not being okay,” she said. “Okay?”
“Seems reasonable,” Jenny agreed.
“I’ll be right back,” said Rupert, and smiled over Janna’s head at Jenny in this soft, appreciative way that didn’t ask anything of her. Jenny felt her heartbeat pick up.
“Memory loss,” said Faith, expression unreadable.
“Oh, no,” said Willow, almost a sob.
“Do the girls know?” Xander asked nervously.
“They don’t, and I expect you to keep this information in complete confidence,” said Giles, quiet and deliberate.
“How much does she remember?” Faith asked, sounding as though she already knew the answer.
“I’d ballpark her memories at ending around mid-May of 1997, currently,” said Giles, “which isn’t exactly ideal per se—”
Faith’s face crumpled and she grabbed a dish towel, attempting to cover up her tears by burying her face in the dish towel and uttering a muffled scream. Willow looked at Giles, looked at Faith, and raced from the room. Tara reached out and pulled Faith into a fierce hug, Xander sort of slumped against the kitchen counter, and Buffy just looked at Giles with horribly sad eyes.
“Not ideal, per se,” said Giles exhaustedly, and wondered whether he should run after Willow.
Chapter 7: jenny and willow catch up
Janna was playing touch-activated video games on Jenny’s phone. Jenny, watching over her daughter’s shoulder, was really wishing all of a sudden that she could talk to the Rupert she remembered and rub technological advancements in his face. Then she felt a little guilty for still feeling that blend of resentment and attraction towards the Rupert she knew when the Rupert she was married to had been nothing but kind, and then she considered the concept that it was justified for her to feel that way seeing as this was all an incredibly abrupt development for her, and then she just gave up on thinking about Rupert and watched Janna play video games.
Janna had Rupert’s little scowl when she was concentrating on something. It was so weird and adorable.
“Mom?” Edna raised her head, looking up at Jenny with big, dark eyes. “Where’d Dad go?”
“He’s checking in with the kids,” said Jenny, feeling pretty proud of herself for making the sentence sound natural and not stilted. “How are you?”
“Not great,” said Edna, and sniffled a little. “My composure slipped.”
Before Jenny could ask what the hell that meant (though she was definitely planning on framing the question a little less bluntly), Willow burst into the room and gasped out, “Hey, girls, you mind clearing out of here for a sec? I gotta talk to Jenny.”
Janna gave Willow an indignant look, and Edna sort of clung to Jenny a little tighter. “On a scale of one to ten, emergency-wise?” said Janna.
“Six and a half,” said Willow, “but like a ten emotionally.”
“No one’s seen Mom yet but us,” Edna pointed out somewhat reluctantly to Janna.
“I guess,” said Janna, and gave Jenny a hard, awkward hug before jumping off the bed. She gently tugged Edna from Jenny’s arms, picking her up and placing her down on the floor. “C’mon, Ed, let’s watch cartoons,” she said, slipping her hand into Edna’s almost protectively as they left the bedroom.
“Willow,” Jenny began, confused.
“No, no, wait,” said Willow breathlessly. “Okay? Just—when I was twenty-four and thinking about having kids and having this whole panicked freak-out regarding kids because I thought I’d screw everything up and it’d be awful and horrible and I’d ruin some poor baby’s life, you told me that you had had that same freak-out like three months into your relationship with Giles because he seemed traditional and what if he wanted kids and you didn’t want kids and, and, and Jenny I know you’re probably crazy scared right now because Giles said you lost your memories and that means from your perspective you’re not even one month into your relationship with him and this whole thing is just crazy but I know we were close when I was a sophomore and I thought, I don’t know, maybe I could make you feel better, at least a little, or, or—”
“Oh,” said Jenny, and felt suddenly, incredibly touched. “Willow, come here.”
Willow sat down on the bed next to Jenny and buried her face in her hands, just for a moment, taking a small, shaky breath. “This is so weird,” she said. “I feel like I should start calling you Ms. Calendar again or something.” Then, “Wait, does that mean you don’t know about Giles and Buffy?”
“Everyone keeps saying that,” said Jenny. “Why does everyone keep saying that?”
Willow bit her lip. “Oh,” she said. “Well. That’s probably Giles’s thing to tell you, so I’ll hold off on that.”
Jenny turned a little to look at Willow, noting the wedding band on her ring finger. “You’re married,” she observed.
Willow blushed. “Yeah!” she said. Then, a little nervously, “To a lady!”
Jenny blinked, startled, then smiled a little. “So you really did have a crush on Buffy in high school?” she teased gently.
Now it was Willow’s turn to look startled. “You knew? I mean, I didn’t even—it took me forever to—even back then, you knew?”
“I kind of have a sixth sense when it comes to these things,” said Jenny. At Willow’s look, “Plus, you were always checking her out whenever she left a room.”
Willow giggled. “You said something like that a few years back,” she said.
“We were all having dinner, and you said you always kinda knew I had it bad for the ladies because of the way I was around Buffy in high school.” Willow moved closer on the bed, resting her shoulder against Jenny’s. Jenny snuck another look at her. It was so odd, seeing her star pupil suddenly her age and comfortable in her own skin. But odd in a good way, not in a married-with-kids way. “And then Buffy started laughing really hard and knocked over the gravy boat.”
Jenny smiled a little. “So we’ve all got our own little family?” she said, half-wonderingly. She wasn’t used to feeling at home, perhaps because of her own confusing family ties.
“Yeah,” said Willow, and smiled too. “Took me by surprise, at first, but we’ve all been making it work pretty well.”
Jenny hesitated. “Can you—tell me about it?”
Willow considered this. “What do you want to hear?”
“I don’t know,” said Jenny. “Anything.”
When Giles finally managed to calm everyone down (“everyone,” in this case, mostly meaning Faith and Buffy) and work his way back up to Jenny’s bedroom, he found Willow had beat him to the punch. Jenny was resting her head on Willow’s shoulder, and Willow was in the middle of telling Jenny about the very disastrous time they’d all tried to have a picnic on the beach and gotten attacked by some demon or another.
“—and you’d brought Janna, and she was barely five months old,” Willow was saying, “and I think Anya was yelling things about ostriches and burying heads in the sand, and you were kinda just like screw this and cast a ward around you and Janna and you were the only one of us that didn’t get all scraped up.”
“Hmm,” said Jenny, looking amused. “Smart of me.”
“Xander was all huffy on the ride back,” said Willow. “He said he wished he had a baby so he would get to sit out fights. Then you made him hold Janna for ten minutes and you were like imagine this, but while being worried that some demon thing is going to eat her and you’ll be responsible, and then Xander shut up. It was pretty funny.”
Giles knocked tentatively on the doorframe. Willow jumped a little, but Jenny didn’t move her head from Willow’s shoulder. “Mind if I come in?” he asked.
“Knock yourself out,” said Jenny, and smiled at him.
Giles smiled shyly back and stepped inside, sitting down on Jenny’s other side. “You forgot the good part, Willow,” he said. “Didn’t you tell her about the other picnic we tried to have under the stars?”
“Oh, that might’ve been just you and her, I think,” said Willow with interest. “Can you tell that one?”
Giles thought back, trying to remember the evening. “It was—lord, it must’ve been nearly twenty years ago, now,” he said softly. “I believe it was Buffy’s senior year, and we snuck up to the roof of the high school to drink wine and stargaze, and then five vampires attacked us and you had to stake them with your high heels. Quite artful, really.”
“I staked vampires with my high heels,” said Jenny, sounding disbelieving and a little impressed. “I sound pretty badass in most of these stories.”
“Well, you are,” said Giles, and reached out to take Jenny’s hand without thinking. Halfway through the motion he remembered the limits of her memories, and was about to pull back when Jenny met him in the middle, interlacing her fingers with his. His heart leapt.
Willow looked very significantly between the two of them, then said, “I’m gonna go check on my wife. And, you know, probably apologize for bolting. That kind of thing.”
“I’m really proud of you, you know that?” said Jenny suddenly.
Willow blinked, then blushed. “Really?”
“Really,” said Jenny, and squeezed Willow’s shoulder, sitting up to lean slightly on Giles instead. “Say hi to Buffy for me.”
Willow hovered, then pressed a kiss to Jenny’s cheek before getting up and heading towards the bedroom door. She glanced over her shoulder, once, looking worriedly at Giles, who gave her a small smile that he hoped was at least somewhat reassuring. Apparently, it was reassuring enough, because Willow’s face relaxed and she turned, stepping outside to carefully shut the door behind her.
“So,” said Jenny. “Now seems a pretty good time to tell me about you and Buffy, I think.”
Giles nodded, somewhat hesitant, and turned to look at her, trying to figure out where on earth to start. “In every generation,” he began, trying out words he hadn’t spoken in years, “there is a Chosen One. Or—was, now, we changed that bit, but at the time there was only Buffy and myself. And the children, of course.”
Jenny was looking at him, taking this in. He couldn’t quite tell what she was thinking.
“Buffy is a Vampire Slayer,” said Giles, and didn’t let himself get caught up in the strange, awful feeling that came hand-in-hand with telling Jenny things she’d known for years. “Possessing the preternatural strength and skill needed to fight and destroy vampires and demons that threatened the safety of Sunnydale. And—I am—was her Watcher, for a time. Back when that meant something to me.”
“Her Watcher?” Jenny prompted him.
“Her—mentor, of sorts,” said Giles, “though in the end I daresay she ended up teaching me much more than I ever could teach her.”
Jenny nodded. “Okay,” she said. “So Buffy’s a Vampire Slayer, and you—what? Signed up to be her supernatural teacher?”
“Not quite,” said Giles quietly. “Most Watchers are born into the calling, or, or their parents shepherd them into it. It’s much more a responsibility, a destiny, than it is a job.”
Jenny looked at him for a very long time, and then she said thoughtfully, “I think I get it now.”
“Why we got married,” said Jenny, and smiled, a little sad. “That feeling of destiny and responsibility tying you down, it’s—it hasn’t let up since I came to Sunnydale. Hadn’t, I guess, because that was something like twenty years ago now, but it still feels real to me.” She shifted to face Giles on the bed, raising her good hand to straighten his glasses almost reflexively. She was looking at him with a new kind of compassion. “And I think—I get the distance you kept putting between us back then.”
Giles swallowed hard. “I was intensely lonely before I met you,” he said. “After Moloch, I didn’t quite know how to deal with the absence of that feeling.”
Jenny nodded slowly. Then she said, “This seems like a story with a lot of complications.”
“It was,” said Giles, and noticed that Jenny’s hand was lightly cupping his cheek. He reached up, placing his hand carefully over hers. “I can tell you the rest, if you like. A less abridged version, though it doesn’t always paint me in a very positive light.”
Jenny smiled a little. “But you turned out okay,” she said.
“I attribute that almost entirely to the people I let myself love,” said Giles, quiet and tender.
Jenny exhaled softly, still smiling almost unconsciously, and moved forward into his arms, resting her chin on his shoulder. Startled and touched, Giles pulled her close, comforted by the familiarity of the gesture.
Chapter 8: faith has jenny's number
Jenny woke up the next morning and found herself tangled in Rupert’s arms. There was something comfortingly familiar about being here with him, in this bedroom, with the morning light shining through, and the vague sense of having been here before was enough to make her feel a little better about the possibility of her memories coming back. She checked to see if Rupert was asleep, and then, on impulse, rested her cheek briefly on his shoulder before pulling herself up and away. Their bedroom was somewhat cluttered, but she managed to find a very nice floral blouse, don a pair of jeans, and head downstairs.
A dark-haired girl Jenny didn’t know was lying sprawled across the couch, with Janna asleep in a chair nearby. Both of them were audibly snoring. Jenny tiptoed past them and found herself in front of a bookshelf that looked packed with photo albums, yearbooks, and various rare volumes of different magical encyclopedias. She felt a little strange about snooping before she remembered that, technically speaking, this was her home, and picked a photo album at random, fumbling a little with only one good arm to open it.
The photo she saw first made her breath catch in her chest. It wasn’t anything dramatic like a cutting-the-cake photo, just her leaning over the Magic Box counter to straighten Rupert’s tie, both of them smiling like idiots. Above them, a banner read Calendar And Giles Finally Tied The Knot!!!!!!! in large pink letters.
Jenny couldn’t get over her own face in that picture. It wasn’t just that she was looking at Rupert with big, moony eyes, it was that she looked genuinely happy with where she was at. The Jenny Calendar standing in this living room did have a lot of memories, but most of them pertained to duty and responsibility and vengeance, not smiling like someone free of any kind of responsibilities. That woman didn’t at all look afraid to be married.
“Huh,” said Jenny, smiling a little thoughtfully, and turned the page.
A picture of her and the dark-haired girl was on the next page, presumably taken on the same day. They were both sitting at the Magic Box table, and the dark-haired girl was leaning on Jenny’s shoulder, smiling contentedly up at the camera. Jenny touched the picture, frowned—
“Faith,” she said aloud.
There was a thud from behind her, and Jenny whirled. The dark-haired girl had sort of fallen off the couch and was now stumbling to her feet. “You called?” she asked, and smiled a little nervously.
Jenny blinked. “Faith?” she said again, surprised.
“That’s my name,” said Faith hopefully. “Don’t wear it out.”
Jenny smiled apologetically. “That’s all I have,” she said.
“We can work with that,” said Faith, looking genuinely relieved. “Honestly, I was steeling myself for you to be all yeah, never heard of you, lady, what are you doing in my house, so honestly, you knowing my name is definitely better than nothing.”
Jenny felt a soft, warm curl of affection in her chest looking at Faith, one that reminded her a little of the way she felt looking at Willow. “You’re someone very important to me,” she said, certain of that fact.
“Good to know,” said Faith, in a way that hinted at her already knowing that fact well enough but being glad that Jenny did too. “You want me to make you some breakfast?”
Faith made eggs. “You taught me,” she said, “or, to be fair, Giles did, but you’re the one who opened your doors to me when I was a fucking mess of a sixteen-year-old, so I figure you deserve the credit for most of it,” and then she told Jenny about the Slayer line. Rupert had given her the full version of what had happened in Sunnydale, but Jenny had honestly missed most of it because she’d gotten wrapped up in just watching Rupert talk. His accent really was easy on the ears, and he’d aged incredibly. Like, he looked really good. And—
“So,” said Faith significantly. “Betting you’ve got an adorable baby crush on Giles now, huh?”
Jenny blinked, then blushed. “I don’t know about that,” she said evasively.
Faith snorted. “You’re pretty easy to read,” she said. “Especially since you think you don’t know me and I’m not gonna pick up on you zoning out thinking about Giles. News flash, Jen—” she plopped herself down in the seat next to Jenny, grinning playfully, “—I’ve got your number.”
“Good to know,” said Jenny, surprised and a little touched.
This was when Janna stuck her head into the kitchen, visibly sleepy and disheveled. Without a word to anyone, she rounded the table and climbed up onto Jenny’s lap, settling herself there in an easy, drowsy motion before immediately falling asleep again.
“Yeah,” said Faith. “She does that. You kinda just have to stay there till she leaves.”
“I used to do that,” said Jenny wonderingly. “My family wasn’t a big fan of it—always telling me to stop being so clingy.” She ran a hand through Janna’s hair, and Janna cuddled into her stomach with an incoherent mumble.
“You fell asleep on my shoulder while we were watching Shark Week one time,” said Faith, grinning. “I was stuck on the couch for seven hours. It was honestly pretty impressive.”
Jenny looked down at Janna, who was now deep asleep in her lap, and said, “She takes after me, huh?”
“You know, you guys say that,” said Faith, “but I think she takes after Giles more than anyone. She takes on way too much responsibility and decides that she’s the only one that can hold things together, and she won’t listen to anyone who tells her she’s wrong.” She grinned a little playfully. “Plus she’s totally crazy about you, and—you know. Giles is too.”
Without thinking, Jenny grinned. “Really?”
Faith raised an eyebrow. “Adorable baby cru-ush,” she said in a singsong voice, and handed Jenny a plate of eggs. “Over hard, the way you like them.”
Jenny felt a strange flutter of unfamiliar happiness, then, looking around the kitchen. It had been so desolately lonely in Sunnydale, waking up and dragging herself to work and watching a vampire who very clearly wasn’t even close to being happy. Whatever this was, however unfamiliar it might be—she felt loved, here, and she couldn’t quite feel frightened of that concept anymore.
She was getting accustomed to that realization when Rupert rounded the corner, looking sweetly rumpled and still a bit drained. Upon seeing her with Janna, he gave her a warm, appreciative smile and said to Faith, “Mind making me eggs as well?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” said Faith, and handed him the spatula. “Special treatment extends to concussion victims only. Make your own damn eggs, Giles.”
Rupert rolled his eyes good-naturedly and headed to make eggs. Jenny watched him crack one on the side of a mixing bowl—god, he really did look something incredible. Not that he hadn’t looked bad before, obviously he hadn’t; if he hadn’t been so damn pretentious, she would have asked him out the day she met him. But she’d thought maybe he’d end up looking old and decrepit twenty years down the line, what with his persistent desire to stay as out of touch as possible and his antiquated tweed suits. He looked—
“Hey, Giles, your wife thinks you look pretty good,” said Faith loudly, grinning with the delight of one who very much enjoyed creating good-natured chaos. Rupert turned from the stove, looking at Jenny with flattered surprise, and Jenny hastily pretended to be stroking Janna’s hair. When she looked up again, though, Rupert was smiling a bit at his eggs, very visibly blushing.
Jenny bit her lip and smiled too, then went back to her eggs, only sneaking a few looks at Rupert. Really, she showed an impressive amount of restraint.
Chapter 9: giles unbuttons jenny
While Jenny was carrying Janna up to bed, Giles busied himself with finishing his eggs and writing up an itinerary for the day. Jenny’s bandages needed to be changed, and he was thinking he might drive her around the neighborhood, perhaps re-introduce her to some familiar surroundings—
“Hey,” said Faith, looking over his shoulder. “If you wanna reintroduce her to some familiar surroundings, you guys should totally bone.”
“Out of the question,” said Giles without looking up. “She trusts me implicitly, and I am not going to coerce her when—”
“Oh, I wouldn’t be suggesting it if I didn’t think she was down,” said Faith, nudging him gently. “She’s, like, legit into you, Giles. She just doesn’t want to make a move when she can’t tell whether you’d be down for it.”
“I’m her husband,” said Giles, trying (and failing) to focus on the itinerary. “There are some implications—that is—why she would assume—”
“Look, I’m just saying,” said Faith. “Not super into this new Jen who doesn’t know me, and I figure you two getting it on would speed up her memories coming back. Especially considering that most of her memories probably involve you two getting it on.”
“Please leave,” said Giles in a strangled tone of voice.
“Think about it,” said Faith cheerfully, patting him on the shoulder, and left the kitchen, shutting the door behind her.
Giles wrote intercourse? on the itinerary, erased the question mark, stared at the itinerary, and then erased everything, letting his head fall down onto the tabletop.
“You good?” came Jenny’s voice.
Giles pulled himself up, and noticed for the first time that she was wearing the blouse she’d bought on her honeymoon. Something about that made him feel at least slightly better about the whole situation. “Better,” he said. “Though we may have to change your bandages in a minute or two.”
“Oh,” said Jenny, and turned a little pink. “Okay. They’re—mostly on my stomach, I’m going to have to take off my blouse to get to them.”
“What?” said Giles, then remembered again that this Jenny didn’t remember them being anything close to intimate. “Um. If you feel more comfortable—”
“No, I mean, I have a broken arm, I do need the help—”
“AGAIN,” called Faith from the living room, “JUST FUCKING BONE ALREADY.”
“Two dollars in the swear jar, Faith, and fifty cents for volume,” Giles called, a mixture of nervous and exasperated.
Mercifully, Jenny ignored Faith’s comment, sitting down at the table across from him and peering at the erased itinerary. “What’s your plan for today?”
“I was thinking we could perhaps engage in—some familiar activities, see if that might help some of your memories return,” Giles answered. “Class isn’t in session, but we might be able to walk around the campus of the college you teach at if I make a few calls. Or call in a few favors.”
Jenny smiled a little. “I forgot,” she said a little wonderingly. “I always wanted to be a college professor, but—there just wasn’t enough time or money for me to stay in school long enough to get all the necessary credentials.”
“We left Sunnydale and found both,” said Giles wistfully. Truthfully, the process had been thoroughly exhausting and time-consuming, and there had been quite a few fierce arguments sparked by sleep deprivation and worries regarding money, but—they’d made it, eventually, and nothing had felt quite like seeing Jenny scribble DR. CALENDAR on everything they owned in dramatically swooping cursive.
“It probably wasn’t as romantic as you’re making it sound, though,” said Jenny playfully.
“Oh, no, not at all,” said Giles, and reached out, tucking a strand of hair behind Jenny’s ear. Her eyes widened a little at the touch, but she didn’t stop smiling. “I happen to be a bit of a romantic, as it happens.”
“I like that about you,” said Jenny, in the blunt, awkward way she had in the early years of their relationship, back when she still wasn’t quite comfortable with being honest. Giles hadn’t been expecting this, and felt a dizzying rush of butterflies at the shy affection in her eyes.
There was a knock on the kitchen door. Giles and Jenny jerked away from each other, both of them a bit flustered, and Giles called awkwardly, “Come in.”
Buffy stepped inside, giving them both a little wave. “I’m taking the girls to the park with Faith and Tara,” she said. “Figured you two could use some time alone, and they definitely need some time that isn’t in a hospital waiting room or lazing around watching cartoons. Plus Janna says she wants to play soccer, and Faith’s an awesome goalie, so—”
“Yes, thank you, Buffy,” said Giles, who hoped he didn’t look too conspicuously smitten.
Buffy rolled her eyes a little and leaned down to give Giles a quick hug. As she pulled away, she whispered, “You got this, okay?”
Giles, feeling somewhat warmed by Buffy’s faith in him, said, “Thank you,” and reached out to squeeze Buffy’s elbow as she left. Buffy tossed a last smile over her shoulder, shutting the door behind her, and Giles turned back to look at Jenny.
“So,” said Jenny. “Bandages?”
Rupert fussed with the first-aid kit while Jenny sat on the bed, feeling more than just a little nervous. It wasn’t that she was uncomfortable with the thought of Rupert helping her with bandages that would absolutely require shirt-unbuttoning—it was that she was completely comfortable with the concept, which was throwing her for a complete loop. She liked the thought of being close to him. Maybe it was just the time spent being lonely and tired, but it had been so very long since someone had looked at her the way Rupert was looking at her right now, and she just—she really, really liked him. She liked the way he talked, the way he smiled, the way he listened to her. She liked the person he’d become, and she liked that she could see bits and pieces of the man she’d been beginning to get to know, and she wanted to remember the bumps in the road that had made him into who he was.
She missed remembering.
Rupert placed the open first-aid kit down next to Jenny and sat down on the bed in front of her, reaching up to the first button of her shirt. It took Jenny a moment to realize that he was waiting for her permission. “Oh,” she said, and smiled a little nervously. “Yeah, go ahead.”
The way Rupert unbuttoned her shirt was careful, but still relatively clinical, which disappointed Jenny a little. Maybe she’d been reading too many romance novels, but usually scenes like this inspired butterflies and passionate kissing and oh my god his hands were skimming her bare stomach. Oh my god. That. Definitely should not have been inspiring the level of attraction Jenny was feeling right now. She bit her lip and tried to think of definitively not sexy things Rupert had done in the past (calling computers “idiot boxes,” sulking in the corner of the staff room because the history teacher had gotten the last cup of tea and hadn’t made anyone for anyone else, somehow managing to not only avoid chaperone duty at the prom but also getting Jenny signed up for it), but one of Rupert’s hands had moved to her waist, gentle and steady, and he was working carefully to remove the bandage. Jenny bit her lip harder.
“All right?” Rupert asked, looking up at her. For a moment, he just looked confused, but then he smiled somewhat knowingly and finished removing the bandage.
It was occurring to Jenny that this was the closest she’d been to someone in a very long time. Watching Angelus didn’t exactly leave a lot of room for a functioning sleep schedule, let alone a functional love life, and definitely not a love life involving someone as effortlessly good-looking as Rupert, and oh okay he was bandaging her stomach again. Lot of hand-to-skin content going on here.
Rupert pressed the end of the bandage down and took out some medical tape, attaching the bandage completely. “There,” he said, and gave her a small, almost amused smile, at which point Jenny realized that, as her husband, he probably knew pretty well what it looked like when she was turned on. “Shall I help you re-button?”
“Well,” said Jenny, who was at the moment more interested in the concept of Rupert getting unbuttoned himself, “if—if you want, I mean, I could, I guess, but—”
“All right?” Rupert asked again, this time soft and reassuring. Then, “I’m here for you, Jenny, you know that.”
Startled and comforted, Jenny leaned forward and pulled Rupert into another clumsy hug. “Thanks,” she said softly. “I know this must be crazy hard for you, and—I want to be here for you too. If I can.”
“I’m not the one who nearly got killed under falling debris,” said Rupert into her hair.
“No,” said Jenny, feeling somewhat awkward, “but you are the one who lost someone you loved.”
Rupert pulled back, startled. “I love you,” he said. “All iterations of you, Jenny, regardless of what memories you do or don’t have. Why would you think—”
All things considered, Jenny actually wasn’t a very impulsive person. People usually assumed that her confidence meant she went charging head-on into things without really thinking about the consequences, but the fact was that Jenny generally spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of various decisions before she acted. She was impulsive about the small things, perhaps, things that were part of bigger concepts that she’d already made up her mind about, and as such, it wasn’t at all like her to, say, kiss Rupert Giles for the first time without warning or debate or really considering what the fallout might be. But god, when he said he loved her, she just—knew. She knew she wanted to kiss him. She knew she had to kiss him.
Rupert’s mouth was slack against hers at first (from surprise, she supposed; he definitely knew her well enough to know how unlike her this was), but then he pulled her against her and kissed him back with a dizzying intensity, holding her steady against him as they fell back onto the bed.
“God, darling—”Rupert mumbled between kisses, gently pushing Jenny down and onto her back. Then he was above her, making sure to keep his weight off her, kissing her jaw, her neck.
“Rupert,” Jenny whispered, a shaky breath, and gripped his shoulder.
Rupert pulled back. “Do you want this?” he said, quiet and deliberate.
It wasn’t that he loved her. It was that he loved her and he gave her choices, gave her space, wanted her to be happy, made her feel seen, made her feel like kissing him breathless—
“Yes,”said Jenny, “come here,” and pulled her down to him, working at the buttons of his shirt.
Chapter 10: complications can wait
There were times when Ed found herself frustrated with being the baby, but now was absolutely not one of those times. Mom had almost died, and Ed had been trying to get used to the possibility of being that kid with a dead mom, and she’d read lots of stories about kids who couldn’t remember their dead parents, and Ed had been scared of losing Mom and scared of forgetting Mom if she died, and it was taking a lot to calm herself down even though Mom had technically been okay for two days now. Ed wished she was like Janna, who had gotten all her worry out early and was running around in the grass playing soccer.
“You’re a brave little toaster,” said Tara after Ed stumbled through her explanation of this. “You know that?”
“No,” said Ed. “I’m not brave. I’m just cerebral. Dad says—”
“You can be logical and still be brave,” said Tara, pulling Ed onto her lap and beginning to pick twigs out of her hair. Ed loved Tara bunches. “And I’m of the mind that you’re both, Ed.”
“But bravery isn’t the absence of fear,” Ed pointed out. “It’s more the pressing on despite the fear. I read that somewhere and I think it applies here.”
“What do you think being scared feels like?” Tara asked.
“Is that a rhetorical question?”
Tara smiled a little in that half-puzzled way a lot of people sometimes did when they talked to Ed, like they’d forgotten, for a moment, that Ed wasn’t exactly the average little kid. This was one of those times where Ed wished she was a little older and everyone looked at her like they did Janna, like she was an almost-teenager and not just barely past being a toddler. For a moment, Ed thought Tara wasn’t going to answer, but then Tara said, “For me, being scared feels like I’m going to fall a thousand feet down into a pit that just opened up right under me, and everything’s frozen in that second.”
Ed considered this. Then she said, “When I found out Mom was okay, I felt like that pit closed up and I found out I could have fallen in.”
Tara nodded. Then she said, “Bravery isn’t always the absence of fear. Sometimes bravery is telling yourself you aren’t afraid for long enough that you forget how to be afraid.”
Ed thought of all the different hospital visits over the years, though none had been quite as long or as scary as Mom’s. She thought about Buffy coming home with scrapes down her face that looked like claw marks and Faith leaning on Tara’s shoulder because a demony thing had grabbed her ankle and all but dislocated it. She thought about the cross necklace Mom wouldn’t let her take off because “you never know what might happen,” even though Mom and Dad never let her go out at night.
“I think I’m afraid all the time,” said Ed.
“I know,” said Tara. “I think everyone is, a little.”
Perhaps it was that Giles hadn’t truly let himself feel the dizzying fear of permanently losing Jenny, or that he was only now realizing that a part of him had believed their marriage was completely lost without her love and her memories. Whatever it was, he couldn’t bring himself to let go of her, not when he had felt, for the last few days, that he really had lost—not Jenny, not really, but the possibility of being this close to her. The feeling of knowing she wanted him this close.
Jenny fell back against the pillows, shaky and breathless—god but she was beautiful, the best woman he knew—and Giles kissed her very softly before moving to lie next to her. She was smiling slightly, raising a hand to her head.
“Are you all right?” Giles asked, keeping his voice quiet and steady. He placed a hand over hers above the bedsheets, and she held it to her chest.
“Yes,” said Jenny, looking almost dazed in her happiness. “Yeah. I—” She rolled onto her side and kissed him again, hard and very sweet. “Do you remember,” she said, “when we kissed for the first time? After those vampires strung us up and you were walking me to my door? And I was scared, and I didn’t want to admit it, and then you just stepped up and kissed me, and it was like—it was the first time I’d been that close to someone in such a long time. And it was so damn perfect.”
Giles stared at Jenny. “How much,” he said weakly, “do you remember.” In a strange way, it wasn’t really a question.
“Bits and pieces,” said Jenny, and now she was outright grinning. “Nothing super coherent, so that’s not, you know, great, but it’s still better than nothing, right?”
“Indubitably,” said Giles, and grinned dizzily, pulling Jenny in for another kiss. “Oh, love—” And then he pulled back, because he didn’t know how much she knew about Eyghon, Angelus, all the disasters and arguments and stumbling confusion of two people in a long-term relationship. “Jenny,” he said, “there are a few more things I need to tell you. Complications, and, and—”
“Oh my god,” said Jenny, “we just had sex, can complications wait for like two minutes?”
“Come here,” said Jenny, in that playful, persistent tone of voice she’d always used at the very beginning of their relationship. She was smiling at him with a familiar affection, one less confused and hesitant, and she tugged him a bit closer. “Come here. Let yourself breathe for two seconds, Rupert. I’m getting better.”
Giles felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest at the way she was looking at him. “I won’t let you take care of me while you still have a broken arm, Jenny,” he reminded her.
“Suuure,” said Jenny, dragging out the word, “like I’ve ever cared what you thought about what I do,” and kissed him very deeply. Then she said, “You stay here, I’m going to go get some food from the kitchen,” and pulled herself up and out of bed before Giles had time to object.
“Jenny, you’re still—” he began helplessly, sitting up.
“Rupert,” said Jenny, who was donning his discarded shirt and attempting to haphazardly button it with only one good arm, “if I am doing well enough to have some absolutely fantastic sex with you, I am one hundred percent doing well enough to go down and get some food. Okay?”
Giles considered this, found some problems with this line of thinking, realized that he was thoroughly emotionally exhausted, and sort of just fell back onto the bed. “Do hurry back,” he said finally.
“You know I will,” said Jenny, and paused at the door, then crossed the room again to lean down and kiss Giles’s forehead. “Get some rest,” she said. “And—I love you.”
Giles pulled himself up, leaning back on his elbows to look incredulously at Jenny. “You can’t—” he stumbled. “That is—you don’t remember nearly enough to—”
Jenny shook her head. “I don’t need to remember,” she said decisively. “Some things I know.” She cupped his face in her hands, kissing him again. “I’ll be right back,” she said, and pulled somewhat reluctantly away, hurrying out of the room.
Giles watched her leave, smiling a little dazedly, and ran a hand through his hair before sitting up to fumble for his glasses.
Things were coming back to Jenny, unsteady and a little disjointed but back nonetheless. They weren’t in any clear chronological order; she had a memory of reading a book out loud to Janna and Ed while Rupert made dinner that she was trying her hardest to make solid and real, and there was an all-the-way present memory of Angel (Angelus?) with his hands around her neck that she wasn’t quite sure she was ready to think about just yet. But she hadn’t been stretching the truth when she said she loved Rupert, because all of a sudden those feelings were back too and they were dizzying in their intensity. And—whatever memories she was rediscovering, they had led to something happy in the truest sense of the word, with love in her life and the job she’d always wanted and an actual, concrete family.
Jenny was searching around in the fridge when she heard a laughing gasp. Turning, she saw Faith standing in the doorway with a hand pressed to her mouth.
“Oh,” said Jenny, and realized belatedly that A) she was wearing Rupert’s shirt and B) she almost definitely still had sex hair. “Hi. Just—you know, um—getting some—”
“Definitely looks like you got some,” said Faith, sounding thoroughly amused. “You’re lucky Tara and the girls are still a few blocks away.”
“—food,” Jenny finished with as much dignity as she could. “Getting some food, Faith.”
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” said Faith brightly. “Never woulda guessed.” Without waiting for a response from Jenny, she added, “I think there’s ice cream in the freezer, and there’s some chocolate syrup in one of the cabinets somewhere.”
“Thanks,” said Jenny, and something else came back to her: hugging Faith in a dusty parking lot, both of them talking over each other with excitement and relief. “I’m feeling a lot better, as it happens.”
“Any memories back?” said Faith.
“A few,” said Jenny. “Here and there.”
“I was right,” said Faith triumphantly, “Buffy owes me fifty bucks. Not,” she added hastily, “that we were betting on you and Giles having sex, or, uh, anything, and, uh, I think I’m going to go check on the girls.”
“You do that,” said Jenny, amused, and opened the freezer, taking out a carton of vanilla ice cream. Rupert liked vanilla, she remembered, and she knew she liked weird experimental flavors like Strawberry-Peach Sunrise or whatever the hell that other thing was, so she scooped out a bowl of each and headed upstairs.
“That is not nutritious,” said Rupert as soon as she came in.
“I love you,” said Jenny, delighted by the realization, even more delighted by the way Rupert’s face became soft and unguarded when she told him. “I love you—” She placed the bowls down at the foot of the bed and knelt on the mattress, moving up until she was straddling Rupert’s waist. He bit his lip, smiling, and touched her cheek very lightly.
There was an insistent hammering on the door. “Mom you left the ice cream out in the kitchen and you tell us not to do that or it’ll melt!” came Janna’s indignant voice.
“I am of the mind,” said Rupert, “that they calculate exactly when we would least like to be interrupted and work from there.”
Reluctantly, Jenny clambered off of Rupert, squeezing his shoulder as she pulled away, and crossed the room to open the door to an annoyed-looking Janna. “Muffin,” she said, “I love you, but you have to remember that I did have a building fall on me pretty recently, so normal house rules are a little in flux right now.”
Janna considered this. “I’ll put it away,” she said finally.
“Thank you,” said Jenny, and ruffled Janna’s hair. “Dad and I are going to be busy for a little bit, so go hang with Faith and Buffy, okay?”
“I’m going to eat ice cream is what I’m going to do,” Janna informed her very seriously, and headed in the direction of the stairs. Jenny shut the door behind her and turned to look at Rupert, who was watching her with a soft, startled expression.
“You called her muffin,” he said. “You started calling her that—”
“—when she was six months old and I said she was just as cute as a muffin,” said Jenny, and the way Rupert smiled was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
A very specific memory came back to Jenny that night, after Rupert and the kids had fallen asleep (the kids, in this case, was all-inclusive, as Faith and Buffy and Willow and Tara and Xander were all stubbornly refusing to leave until they were positive Jenny was completely all right). It was an older one, but not too old; one right after Rupert had swept in like a knight of yore to save her from Angelus and then panicked like the man she loved as soon as they were both okay.
“This is my fault,” he’d been saying, pressing a wet cloth to the blood that had dried on the side of her face. “I-I was foolish to believe—”
Jenny had said, “Rupert, shut up,” which hadn’t exactly been tactful of her, but by that time she’d been absolutely sick of him blaming himself for things that weren’t at all his fault.
“—in a happy ending,” Rupert had finished, his words overlapping with hers.
Jenny had still been feeling kind of fragile and definitively resentful about that fact, but Rupert’s unusually romantic choice of words had caught her attention. They’d avoided talk of romance during that first year, lived determinedly in the now like they weren’t falling head over heels in love. “Come again?” Jenny had said.
Rupert had looked a little hopelessly up at her and said, “You make me happy, and I love you, and that makes me forget about the kind of risks our being together creates. Not just—for the world, but—I cannot even think of losing you. Can’t even imagine what that would do to me.”
Jenny had sort of gotten that. She’d smiled a little awkwardly at Rupert’s haphazard declaration of love,because she could count on one hand the people who had said that to her, and settled for, “I love you too, England.”
“You’re sort of missing the point,” Rupert had said.
Jenny had then started laughing a little exhaustedly, and Rupert had too, and then the conversation had been lost in the feeling of being together, but—now Jenny was thinking about it again. Was this really a happy ending if there were still risks woven in and buildings that could fall and vampires that rose again? Wasn’t a happy ending supposed to be something a little more calm and quiet and a little less violent?
She looked over at Rupert, then untangled herself from the blankets and stepped outside the bedroom. None of the lights were on, but moonlight shone through the windows and gave the hallway an eerie glow.
Jenny turned and saw Janna, sitting at the head of the staircase and looking very small in the moonlight. “Muffin,” she said. “It’s late.”
Janna nodded. “Yeah,” she said. Then, “I think I want to talk to you about something.”
“Okay,” said Jenny uncertainly, and took the tentative steps needed to sit down next to Janna. “What do you need?”
Janna closed her eyes, then opened them again, then said, quiet and very uncertain, “Ed can’t handle everyone we love being in danger all the time. She’s a smart kid, but she’s also still just a kid, and I think people forget that just because she can carry on a really good conversation.”
Jenny got the distinct sense that Janna wasn’t only talking about Ed. “Yeah,” she said. “I can understand why Ed would be afraid,” and placed a hand on Janna’s shoulder. “Listen, I—I wish I could do something about all the vampires in the world, make it safe for all of us to just move to the city and live a super boring life without any of your dad’s super boring books—”
“I’m not asking you to do that,” said Janna, looking up at her with an almost pained kind of frustration. “I don’t need that. I know vampires are here and I know we need to be careful, but you and Dad need to start being really careful, because—” She swallowed hard. “Because you have us,” she said. “And that should count for something.”
Jenny suddenly remembered something she hadn’t forgotten after the building fell in, something that seemed like a lifetime ago. Her small, lifeless Sunnydale apartment, empty of everything but duty and destiny and a tired, lonely technopagan. Her house was full to bursting now.
“It does,” she said. “It counts for everything.”
Jenny went back to bed, and found the light on and Rupert skimming a book in that way he did when he didn’t want to admit he was nervous. She sat down next to him and brushed a kiss against his temple, and he smiled a little exhaustedly.
“I love you, you know,” said Jenny.
“I love you too,” said Rupert, “and I’m very glad you’re here with me.”
And, okay, maybe that wasn’t always going to be enough in and of itself, but it was still a hell of a good starting point. Jenny settled into the covers, closing her eyes, and Rupert turned out the light.
i attribute the lateness of this update to the fact that i was at a hayley kiyoko concert last night and completely forgot about scheduled updates when i got home. whoops.
anyway! this fic! was fun to write and even more fun to update on the regular! thanks so much for all the wonderful reviews; i had so much fun with this concept, even if it was angsty as hell at the beginning.