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regarding honor and honesty in the workplace

Chapter Text

From the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

When you’re thinking private eye, you don’t think bright, sunny days, glitzy hotels, and palm trees lining the sidewalks. But my office in Los Angeles has been constantly full of clients, which I guess says a lot about—


“Would you stop that,” said Rupert somewhat long-sufferingly, “it’s annoying.

“You’re typing on a literal typewriter all the time, and you’re bothered by the sound of my computer?” Jenny countered with a laugh, and went back to her completely-fictionalized private files.


When you’re thinking private eye—


“What can you even be writing about?” Rupert pointed out. “We haven’t had a new case for weeks. There’s absolutely no reason for you to be writing anything.”

“You know what, if you want to spend office hours staring off into space and sulking, you do that,” Jenny informed him. “Just don’t bother me when I’m trying to actually make something out of being bored.”

Rupert made a hmph noise and then said, “Buffy and Willow are bringing lunch by.”

“Did you tell them to bring those nifty little finger sandwiches?” Jenny deleted most of what she’d written. She didn’t want to let Rupert know it, but he did have a point; writing fake case files when nothing was going on wasn’t exactly a constructive use of her time.

Rupert smiled a little bit. “I did, yes,” he said. “Buffy wanted to make sure there was something healthy for you, though, so she made a salad as well.”

Jenny made a face. "Your kid is trying to kill me," she informed Rupert.

“No, she just knows that a working woman cannot live on coffee and Starbucks pastries alone,” Rupert reminded her with an amused quirk of a smile.


From the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

When you’re thinking private eye, you don’t think two people in an office who are burning through the limited funds they have and spend most of their so-called work days bickering like five-year-olds just because they’re bored out of their minds. Lately Rupert's been saying that his decision to work with me was always a clear indicator of a midlife crisis and he should just go the whole nine yards and buy a sporty red convertible (he’s joking, but I think he does have a little bit of a point).

There just haven’t been as many people coming to us for help lately. Which is a good thing, I guess, but it's sort of a problem when your job hinges on there being crimes to solve. Raises a lot of interesting moral questions, actually. Should I quit being a private eye and go back to being a freelance programmer? Should I try and create crimes just so I can make money out of solving them? Follow-up question to that: Should I become a con artist?

I'm literally sitting here writing cheesy detective novels where there should be case files because there are no cases coming in. It's really weird, though, because usually there are tons of cases coming in this time of year. Every time of year, actually. Los Angeles isn't a very friendly place most of the time. Buffy almost got mugged a few days ago, but, well, she’s Buffy, so she broke the guy’s arm, made a damn good pun about it, and brought it up at one of Rupert’s dinner parties as a conversation piece.

Faith thought it was hysterical. I’m hoping that my kid doesn’t start breaking people’s arms too.

Maybe the fact that we're not getting clients has to do with something bigger, though. That new law firm down the street always seems to have people coming in and out, but when I googled "Wolfram and Hart," nothing actually came up. I told Rupert about it, but his response was to tell me that either something was wrong with my computer or that I was so bored that I was trying to make a conspiracy theory out of the concept that not everything needs online advertising to succeed, and then I threw my bag of potato chips at him and he called me childish.

Don't get me wrong, though! Rupert's a total sweetie and it's super important that these personal-files-about-nothing reflect that he's got a lot on his plate too. Not only is he also a single parent (sort of, it’s complicated) he ended up quitting his job as museum curator to join me as a partner in detective work. It's just that he can be a tiny bit draining to deal with on a daily basis when I'm also trying to figure out how to keep our business afloat.


Buffy and Willow showed up with lunch at around two in the afternoon. “Hey, Sherlock Calendar, solve a case for me,” Buffy said cheerfully, leaning over the desk and snagging a decorative pencil from Rupert's mug. “Who took my favorite green sweater?”

“That's not really a case without evidence," said Jenny, grinning back and taking the lunchbox Buffy handed her. “I might need a little more information.”

“Your sweater's in the wash, Dawn got tomato sauce on it,” Rupert answered, crossing the room to hug Buffy. “I had a chat with her about borrowing your things without asking.”

“Yeah, like that'll work,” Buffy muttered, making a face. "Any new clients?"

“Well, we solved your sweater mystery, so pay up,” said Jenny seriously.

“Ooh, is that shifty law firm still being shifty?” Willow asked with interest.

“Ah, yes, the ‘law firm,’” said Rupert sardonically. “Perhaps Bigfoot is involved in their nefarious dealings as well, then, Jenny?”

Jenny threw a pencil at him. “Don’t trash Bigfoot,” she said.

“Yeah, what did Bigfoot do to you, Giles?” Buffy teased. “And anyway, Jenny’s pretty good at being right about these kinds of things.”

“No she is not, she destroyed an underground crime ring on a hunch one time and now no one listens to me when I say she’s wrong,” said Rupert exasperatedly. “What about that time she was convinced that feral bats had flown into the victim’s apartment and torn him to shreds?”

“I thought that for five seconds because you said—”

“You’re both actually really good at being right,” Willow observed, then, with a small frown, “Usually not at the same time, though.”

“Kinda makes for a confusing team,” Buffy added. “But hey, whatever works.”

And that was when a gorgeous, well-dressed woman walked into the room.

Now, Jenny wasn’t exactly the typical quintessential brooding detective, and Lilah Morgan wasn't exactly the perfect model of a femme fatale. She was considerably more businesslike than seductive, but she had an air of self-confident mystery that, to Jenny, was more alluring and compelling than any woman she had ever met.

“Ms. Calendar of Calendar-Giles Investigations, I presume?” Lilah said, though the tone of her voice suggested that she knew she was right. “I'm Lilah Morgan. I'd like to request your help.”

Jenny was kind of busy wordlessly staring at Lilah. Not one of her finest moments.

Rupert, being a thoroughly helpful co-detective, stepped in to make an even worse first impression than Jenny, even if it wasn’t exactly on purpose. “I'm Giles,” he said. Then, “That is. Rupert,” then went through his usual stammery period where he tried to figure out how to introduce himself. Buffy and her friends called him “Giles,” Jenny called him “Rupert,” and most of their clients ended up calling him “Mr. Giles,” but Rupert still tried to make sure everyone got to choose what to call him for themselves.

Jenny usually watched this spectacle with rapt, amused attention, but she was currently still spellbound by Lilah Morgan. Willow lightly tapped her shoulder with a file folder to jerk her out of it (Jenny had to remember to thank that girl later) and Jenny managed a very intelligent “Calendar. Is me.”

Lilah's mouth quirked upward. “Good to know,” she said. “Listen, I work for Wolfram and Hart—”

Rupert looked expectantly over at Jenny, who would later realize that he was anticipating her to start on one of her Wolfram and Hart conspiracy theories. But those were born out of boredom, anyway, and Lilah was incredibly attractive; bickering with Rupert was way less important than talking to Lilah.

“Oh, that’s great,” Jenny said as enthusiastically as possible, hoping that Rupert wouldn’t start in with any teasing in front of Lilah.

“Actually, not really.” Lilah gave her a small, terse smile. “I’m beginning to think that something is up with that corporation, and I heard that you were the lady to go to when it comes to corruption. It was you who brought down the Three, right?”

Rupert started muttering something along the lines of “does every bloody client who comes in here bring up the Three” and “the one damn time I was wrong about something and no one lets me forget it.”

Buffy patted his shoulder with a badly-hidden smile. “Come on, Giles,” she said, “you’ve been wrong more times than that.”

“Yep, that was me,” Jenny said smoothly. She’d gotten pretty good at graceful recoveries over the years, and she was determined to be as charismatic as possible to make up for her awkward introduction. “Now, what kind of stuff do you want me to look into? I don’t generally work on baseless claims unless the wages are good.”

“Oh, I can assure you that you’ll be more than compensated for your efforts,” said Lilah easily, sitting gracefully down in the chair across from Jenny’s desk. “You see, I have reason to believe that Wolfram and Hart is silencing nearly all of your potential clients.”

“What?” said Jenny, startled.

“Good lord,” muttered Rupert.

“Well, it’s not really a you-specific thing,” Lilah explained, waving a hand (ooh, she was wearing nail polish, said Jenny’s brain with distractingly attracted interest), “it’s sort of more that a lot of innocent people are being hurt by people who are paying Wolfram and Hart to make sure that they don’t talk. As it happens, I was asked to be one of those people pretty recently, but that’s not the kind of thing I want to direct my interest towards—”

“So you came here to ask for my help in helping those people?” Jenny finished hesitantly.

“So I came here to ask you to help me take down Wolfram and Hart,” said Lilah smoothly. “It’s a pretty big job, but I figured the lady who took down the Three—and solved the Angelus case—is more than suited for that thing.”

At the word Angelus, Buffy flinched.

Jenny looked down. She didn’t at all like thinking about the Angelus case. “Yeah,” she said finally. “I’m definitely the one you’re looking for.”

Lilah nodded slowly. “Good,” she said, and slipped Jenny a card. “Tomorrow night, Caritas. Ask for Morgana at the front—that’s the name I go by when I’m there.” As an afterthought, she added, “Don’t call my work number. I don’t want anyone knowing I came here.”

“You work right across the street,” said Rupert, who sounded unusually terse. Jenny shot him a look, trying to get him to behave, but he shot her a look right back.

“You’d be surprised at how unobservant people can be,” said Lilah lightly. “Sometimes they miss things that are right under their noses.” Getting up from the chair, she added with a smirk, “And Ms. Calendar—do feel free to ask me to dinner at your leisure.”

“We don’t date clients,” said Rupert shortly.

“Who said anything about dating?” Lilah gave Jenny an appraising look. “Generally, I prefer a more…casual approach.” Without waiting for a response, she swiveled gracefully on her heel and left the office, the sound of her high heels echoing down the hallway.

Jenny had to take a breathless moment to collect herself before standing up and crossing the room to snap at Rupert, “What the hell was that?

“We really don’t date clients,” said Rupert stubbornly.

“Rupert,” said Jenny testily, “you have never acted like that about anyone who’s come in. Is this, like, some weird jealousy thing? Because you were fine with that other girl who asked me out—”

“I don’t trust her,” Rupert replied simply, as though this was the end of it, which it very clearly wasn’t. Just like Jenny had said to Lilah, she didn’t work on baseless claims unless the wages were good, and Rupert wasn’t paying her to listen to his weird gut feeling about a very attractive new client.

“You know, there is a whole lot of irony in you acting like there’s a reason for you to dislike some random client not minutes after you were accusing me of conspiracy theories,” Jenny said shortly. “I actually wish this was jealousy, because then you’d at least have a justified reason for being an idiot.”

“Ooh, sparks flying!” said Willow nervously, grabbing at Buffy’s hand. “Um, glad you guys have clients we have class in a few hours see you later Jenny!” Without waiting for a response, she all but dragged Buffy out of the office.

“I don’t get jealous,” Rupert huffed.

“Is that what you’re focusing on?” said Jenny exasperatedly. “I know you don’t get jealous. We’ve been working together for three years and you haven’t once kicked up a fuss about flirtatious clients. This is weird behavior even for you, England.”

Rupert rolled his eyes. “I just—she doesn’t seem completely honest,” he said finally.

“So what if she’s not?” Jenny persisted. “It’s not like investigating what she’s saying is going to do us any actual harm. And if it turns out she wasn’t telling the truth about Wolfram and Hart, well, I’ll just let her seduce me and call it a day.”

Rupert gave her a look, but it was his usual good-lord-please-stop look instead of whatever weird, petulant thing he’d been pulling earlier. “I really wish your approach to flirtation was different,” he said finally. “That was rather overt, you and Lilah.”

Jenny grinned. “She’s into me,” she said. “And I’m more than loving it.” Tucking her arm into Rupert’s, she added, “You know, I’m expecting you to take me somewhere truly spectacular for dinner after a day like this. I want at least a four-star rating on Yelp.”

“I do not,” said Rupert, “own a smart-phone, I have never understood online reviews, stop asking me to rank things, we are going to walk to that diner on the corner because my car’s still in the shop and your car is terrifyingly small.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Jenny cheerfully as they exited the office. “We make a great team.”

Chapter Text

From the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Research for the lovely Lilah Morgan’s case is incredibly difficult to conduct online, seeing as Wolfram and Hart has literally no online presence. I know I already mentioned this before, but it bears repeating now that I actually have to look into them: they’re completely and totally off the grid. Rupert’s getting all smug because now we have to go to the library and he gets to be in charge of research, which I think makes up for the fact that he doesn’t trust Lilah for whatever weird reason.

It’s not like Rupert has a problem with me dating women—that would be incredibly hypocritical, considering that his daughter is dating a girl and he’s gone out on quite a few dates with different guys—so his immediate dislike of Lilah is more than a little bit weird to me. I’m sure he doesn’t have feelings for me, either, or he’d have flipped out about the other five to ten people I’ve flirted with in the office in the last year alone. I honestly can’t figure out why Lilah’s the one he had that immediate knee-jerk reaction to.

Ironic. I’m a detective, and the only mystery I can’t solve is why my best friend is all of a sudden being more of a Grade A weirdo than usual. Can’t chalk this one up to him being ultra British, either, though that did solve the Mystery of Rupert Throwing Away My Iced Tea and Lying About It last year.


“Found something!” came Rupert’s voice from the other side of the library. “Oh—hang on, no, I think some moths ate the relevant bits. False alarm.”

“I hate this,” said Jenny. Then, louder, in case Rupert hadn’t heard her, “I hate this. And I think my allergies are acting up.”

“You don’t have allergies, Jenny,” Rupert informed her, carrying a large, dusty box over and setting it on the table in front of them. “You’re allergic to history, that’s all.” He gave her a winning smile that should, in Jenny’s opinion, have been reserved for an actually funny joke. “Here, this’ll cheer you up,” he added, holding a paper cup out to Jenny.

“No, it—ooh, coffee!” Jenny turned to snag the cup from Rupert, taking a long sip. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” said Rupert, smiling shyly before going back to poring over old, boring news articles from the 1980s.

“Hey,” said Jenny, “considering that Wolfram and Hart only showed up in LA a few weeks ago, it really makes more sense for us to just call Lilah and ask her for access to the company’s history.”

“I do not trust that woman and I don’t think you should be so ready to just because she’s attractive,” said Rupert a bit shortly, “and anyway, who brought you coffee? Lilah Morgan didn’t.”

“Lilah Morgan would,” said Jenny, just to be annoying, and took another sip of the coffee. It was strong, black, with nothing in it, and almost definitely from the one place in Los Angeles with coffee she actually liked, which was very much out of Rupert’s way. The fact that he’d gone to such lengths to get her a morning cup of coffee was…really sweet, actually, but it still didn’t make up for the fact that he refused to trust their client.

Rupert made a point of rolling his eyes, but he still smiled a bit as he went back to the newspapers. “I haven’t found anything on Lilah, but there’s a brief piece on Holland Manners back in the early nineties,” he informed Jenny. “Apparently, he’s owned the building across the street from us for a lot longer than we realized.”

“Holland Manners?” Jenny echoed.

“He’s listed on the card Lilah gave you as an associate,” Rupert explained, sliding the article in question across the table. “I still haven’t found all that much on the senior partners themselves.”

“How long has this firm even been around?” Jenny asked, frowning. “It seems really weird that neither of us have heard of it before, especially if it’s been this close to us the whole time.”

“That’s the thing.” Rupert looked up from the paper he was surveying. “I haven’t found anything but that one article so far. And you know how informational and useful this library is, particularly for covert research—it seems more than odd that there isn’t a single trace of Wolfram and Hart besides that article.”

“What do you mean?”

Rupert looked up. “If we end up deciding to take this case,” he said, “we shall have to rely completely on Lilah Morgan’s description of the firm as a whole. Regardless of the fact that she claims to be on our side, the fact that our information comes from only one source seems thoroughly suspicious to me.”

Jenny stared. “You’re being ridiculous,” she said finally.

“I am not being ridiculous,” said Rupert shortly. “We never trust only one source. We always search both your resources and mine for information, that’s the process, and we form a hypothesis about the legitimacy of every claim before deciding to take a case. You are jumping headlong into this case without following our regular process, Jenny. If anyone’s being ridiculous at this juncture, it’s you.”

Rupert kind of had a point, which irritated Jenny. “Fine,” she said. “I’m being ridiculous. But you’ve been weird about Lilah ever since she came in—”

“If I stop being weird about Lilah,” said Rupert, in a voice that suggested that not being weird about Lilah would be an enormous sacrifice on his part, “will you research with me for the rest of today, and, in the event that we find nothing, at least consider not taking this case?”

“Fine!” Jenny retorted. “God, you are such a piece of work!”

“You’re worse,” said Rupert, and grinned at her, and Jenny remembered why he was the first and only partner she’d ever had in detective work. “All right, Sherlock Calendar—”

“You know your kid is the only one I let call me that.”

“—help me solve this mystery, why don’t you?” Rupert went back to the newspapers. Jenny peered over his shoulder. “I still haven’t found anything but that small article, and that truly is concerning.”

Jenny flipped through the papers. She was starting to see Rupert’s point. None of these newspapers said a word about Wolfram and Hart. “Maybe that tells us something, then,” she said. “Not only are they off the grid—”

“Grid?”

Rupert looked very sweetly befuddled. Jenny neatly hid a laugh. “It’s the way we twenty-first century kids say they’re not online, England,” she explained. “They’re not on the grid, and they’re not in the news. Lilah says that they cover up crimes for high-paying clients; maybe the reason we don’t know about them is because they make sure they’re not in the spotlight.”

“That’s a fairly risky hypothesis to make without any evidence,” Rupert commented with a frown. “We need a source that isn’t Lilah before we try and go through with taking Wolfram and Hart down, which, by the way, we still have no idea how to do.”

“This is why it’s Calendar-Giles Investigations and not Giles-Calendar,” teased Jenny. At his look, she laughed. “Okay, look, I’ll stop, just—all we really need to do is catch Wolfram and Hart covering up something clearly illegal. Lilah seemed to insinuate that they were buying people off—”

“So we get some sort of proof of bribery?” Rupert finished tentatively. “Jenny, all of this seems based on theory and theory alone.”

“You say this before every case,” Jenny reminded him.

“And I generally have reason to say it,” said Rupert pointedly. “I don’t want you rushing in with no information. The last time you did something like that—”

“Rupert, I want to take this case,” said Jenny with conviction, partially just to cut him off, and realized only as she said it how true it was. “Not just because Lilah’s hot—which, yeah, she obviously is—but because this could be something really big. If what Lilah’s saying is true, then we could take down an entire corrupt law firm. If it’s not, well, maybe we find out why we haven’t been getting as many clients as usual, because either way she seems to know at least something about that.”

“Jenny—”

“This is the first real case we’ve had in weeks, okay? We need this.”

“You saying that you want to take this case is definitely not a promise to consider not taking it,” muttered Rupert.

“Please?” Jenny persisted, placing her hands on his shoulders. “For me.”

Rupert went very still at her touch, drawing a soft breath in. Without a word, he nodded, his hands moving to rest briefly over hers. “Just—don’t do anything rash,” he said. “The moment something goes wrong—”

“—we’re done with the case, I know,” Jenny finished with a gentle laugh in her voice. “You worry too much.” Stepping back, she sat down next to him and opened up her laptop again.

They searched in silence, after that, both of them completely focused on trying to find some solid information on Lilah’s employers or (in Jenny’s case) Lilah herself. But when Jenny tried to search up Lilah Morgan, all that came up was a brief mention in an article from about ten years ago about a promising young lawyer’s success in a difficult court case. Also an online dating profile, but that was beside the point.

Deciding to give up on her search for now, Jenny turned to Rupert. “Have you found anything in any of the newspapers?”

“Absolutely nothing,” said Rupert, who now looked more puzzled than frustrated. “It’s as though Wolfram and Hart just came into existence a few weeks ago.”

“Is it possible that they went by another name?” Jenny suggested.

“Possible, but not likely,” Rupert answered, “and if they did, we’d be back at square one anyway.” He sighed. “I’m loath to say this, but—I think you should take that meeting with Lilah tonight.”

“Me?” Jenny echoed. “Why not—why aren’t you coming along?”

“She seemed very specifically interested in you, and I don’t think she’d take all that well to me being there,” Rupert answered. “For safety’s sake, I’ll still go with you, but you should approach her on your own. And besides,” he gave her a teasing grin, “who would I be if I deprived my dearest friend of an opportunity to—ah—get some?”

Jenny laughed, hiding her face in one hand. “Okay. Never say that again.”

“I notice there isn’t a denial there, Ms. Calendar.”

“Shut up or I’m going to make you buy me another coffee, Mr. Giles.”


Faith was lying on the couch watching daytime TV in her pajamas when Jenny got back to the apartment. “Am I gonna be a buzzkill if I’m sick?” she inquired. “Seeing as you’ve got that hot date with the client lady tonight?”

“Now, how did you find out about that?” Jenny sat down on the couch, carding her fingers through Faith’s hair. “You okay?”

“I threw up in math class so I came home,” Faith answered, leaning into Jenny. “Also I threw up in the bathroom when I got home.”

“You should have called,” said Jenny a little reprovingly.

“You’re on the clock, Mom,” Faith reminded her. “You’ve got a case.”

You’re a case,” Jenny informed her, “a head case,” and ruffled Faith’s hair as she got off the couch to make tea. “It’s okay. Do you want me to stay home and look after you?”

Faith hesitated. “No,” she said unconvincingly. “If you have a thing going on—”

Faith’s biological mom, the one Faith had spent the first nine years of her life with before Jenny, had been more than a little bit neglectful, and the after-effects had lingered long after she had left for good. As much as Jenny would have liked to be wined and dined by the gorgeous Lilah Morgan, there were some things that were unequivocally more important. “I can reschedule,” she said. “I’m sure Lilah will understand, and if she doesn’t, well, it’s her loss.” She started up the tea. Rupert was really way better at making tea, but he always spent Monday nights watching rom-coms with Buffy and Dawn, and she didn’t want to interrupt that to make him drive over and make tea for her kid.

“I really feel okay,” Faith persisted.

“No guilt, honey,” said Jenny. “Speaking of—honey in your tea?”

“Just that, yeah,” said Faith, relaxing a little bit. “No milk. I know Giles likes that weird British shit, but—”

“But you’re an all-American girl, we get it,” Jenny agreed, filling the kettle. “Hey, I know this is kind of a long shot, but do you know anything about Wolfram and Hart?”

To Jenny’s surprise, Faith didn’t answer. Turning away from the stove, she saw that Faith had sat up straight on the couch, face very pale and arms hugging her chest. “I don’t—” Her voice came out jerky. “They can’t—I—”

Jenny drew in a sharp breath, crossing the room to Faith and sitting down on the floor in front of her. “Hey,” she whispered, “hey, it’s okay. It’s okay, Faith, I’m not—what’s wrong?”

Faith breathed out and half-tumbled off the couch into Jenny’s arms, burying her face in Jenny’s shoulder without a word. She was shaking, holding on tight like Jenny was some kind of a life raft.

Looks like I got my evidence, Jenny thought, holding Faith tight. Whatever it was, though, she wasn’t planning on asking Faith; Faith was very big on privacy and didn’t share easily about her life before Jenny. “It’s okay,” she said again. “C’mon. Let’s go get you to bed.”

“I think I’m gonna throw up,” said Faith into Jenny’s shoulder.

“Then let’s get you to the bathroom,” Jenny said with gentle determination. “You can throw up while I cancel my date with Lilah. You are way more important than any case, you know that?”

Faith didn’t, Jenny knew, because Faith had a tendency to downplay her own importance, which was why Jenny had to sometimes lay things out for her. Carefully, Jenny stood up, supporting Faith as they walked down the narrow hallway to the bathroom.

Faith leaned against the wall. “I feel a little better,” she said weakly, and then threw up in the sink.

Jenny, accustomed by now to taking care of sick teenagers (when your partner-in-stopping-crime has two daughters and they all have friends, flu bugs are bound to spread pretty quickly), moved in to expertly hold back Faith’s hair. “Yeah, you need to lie down,” she said, and waited until Faith was done throwing up to steer them into Faith’s bedroom. “I’m pretty sure the throwing up will stop when you’re not wandering around or stressing out.”

“Why did you bring them up?”

Jenny faltered. “What?”

Faith sat down on her bed, lying back against the pillows, and asked, “Why did you bring up Wolfram and Hart? I haven’t heard that name since I was, like, seven.”

Jenny hesitated, then decided that telling the truth would be better than avoiding it and having it come up later. “The case I’ve been hired for involves taking them down,” she said finally. “Lilah says they make a business out of helping people cover things up.”

“You could say that,” said Faith stiffly.

Jenny felt a catch in her chest. “Faith,” she began.

“I don’t,” said Faith, “want to talk about it.” For a moment, all that Jenny could see was a hard, angry, too-old look that didn’t belong on a seventeen-year-old girl. But then Faith reached out, took Jenny’s hand, and said, awkwardly plaintive, “Can you make me soup?”

And that was when Jenny knew that she was going to take Lilah’s case. She didn’t care if they had no evidence of any kind of wrongdoing, Wolfram and Hart had somehow hurt Faith. Jenny would burn the whole damn place to the ground if it’d make Faith feel safe. “Yes,” she said, “you hold tight while I call Lilah to cancel.”

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Faith is…a complicated story to tell.

Let’s start it this way. Around the same time that I was a bright-eyed, optimistic young detective in my early twenties, Faith had been placed in a foster home with way too many kids for the foster mom to realistically handle. I got called into the neighborhood on an unrelated case, and Faith took an interest in me because of my kickass detective skills and the fact that I’d been the only one to tell off her foster mother’s kid for stealing her belongings. She started following me around whenever I was in the neighborhood, to the point where I started making extra trips just because I wanted to see her.

The foster mother was a nice lady, sort of. I use the term “nice” to mean “simple,” here, because she had a very black-and-white view of the world and wasn’t able to see the nuances of Faith. Sure, Faith could be loud and angry, but Faith also picked me a bouquet of grass and weeds because she couldn’t find flowers and she wanted to give me something with at least one color. She was a very little kid who had had to deal with a lot in a small amount of time, and she wasn’t getting the kind of attention she needed at a home full of other children.

Honestly, I think Faith was the only person who was really surprised when I decided to go through the long and arduous process of adopting her. I kind of always knew that I wanted to have her in my life, from the moment she ran up to me and demanded to know if she could help me spy on her neighbors. It wasn’t an easy adjustment process for either of us, and there are still some rough patches today, but that girl means the world to me.

She wants to be a detective like me after high school. That or a martial arts champion; she takes classes on weekends and she’s still trying to decide. I pointed out that she could do both and make herself a great protagonist for a quirky detective sitcom, and she said “Mom, don’t patronize me,” in a very self-suffering tone of voice that I’m pretty sure she picked up from Buffy.

I try not to push her to share too much, because I know she really values her privacy (funny that she ended up getting adopted by a detective, of all things) and she tends to share things with me when she feels ready. So whatever this thing is about Wolfram and Hart, I think it’s definitely best for Faith that I wait a while on finding it out.

Definitely doesn’t stop me from worrying, though. I think I’m going to go make Faith some soup.


 

“Hey, Lilah, this is Jenny Calendar,” Jenny began, holding her phone to her ear with her shoulder as she stirred the soup on the stove.

“Private detective Jenny Calendar?”

God, Lilah’s voice sounded sexy even with Jenny’s shitty reception. You’ve got it bad, Calendar. “Yeah, um, my kid came home from school sick and I really have to stay home tonight and take care of her,” Jenny explained, acutely aware of how un-sexy that probably sounded to someone like Lilah. Maybe that was good, though, because Jenny wasn’t generally into people who weren’t okay with Faith. This could serve as some kind of a litmus test.

“Your kid,” Lilah echoed, as though storing away this new information. “All right. Is your kid going to be sick tomorrow too?”

“Hold up.” Jenny placed down the soup spoon, took the phone in one hand, and hurried to stick her head into Faith’s bedroom. “Honey, you want me to stay home tomorrow?” Faith hesitated. Jenny knew from experience that hesitation generally meant a secret yes. “Yeah, I’m staying with her tomorrow too,” she said, smiling encouragingly at Faith as she headed back to check on the soup.

“Well,” Lilah drew out the word, “after tomorrow, my schedule’s pretty much booked till Saturday, and I really want to get started on this case. I hate to impose, but would it be all right if I stopped by tonight to at least give you some research material?”

Jenny had to really consider this question. Faith’s immediate reaction to the phrase Wolfram and Hart made Jenny think that she wouldn’t react all that well to a Wolfram and Hart lawyer in the house. On the other hand, the money from the Whirlwind case wouldn’t last forever, and Jenny needed to make sure she had a way to buy things like soup and tea and healthy foods. She didn’t want Lilah to lose interest and go to another client, so—

“I’ll give you my address,” she said. “Text me when you’re in the lobby and I’ll meet you as I’m going out to buy groceries.”

“Didn’t realize you were into illicit encounters,” said Lilah, sounding amused. “Can’t say I’m not into it.” She hung up.

Jenny, somewhat flushed, let out a shaky, pleased breath, leaning against the kitchen counter and coming very close to catching her blouse on fire. She only sort of noticed. “Damn,” she whispered, grinning, and turned back to the soup.

Faith liked vegetable soup, specifically the made-from-scratch kind. She pretended she liked the stuff from a can just because she knew it took Jenny forever to make homemade vegetable soup, but Jenny had learned (through a trial-and-error process and, later, through a cooking class with Rupert) how to cook because she knew it made Faith feel cared for. Jenny stirred the mixture a few more times before ladling some of the soup into a bowl. Placing the bowl onto a tray with a glass of water, she picked the tray up and carefully carried it into Faith’s bedroom.

“I feel so important,” said Faith with a weak grin.

“You totally are.” Jenny kissed her on the cheek. “Rest up, okay? I’m going to go drive out and get some orange juice for tomorrow morning.” She tucked the blankets more securely around Faith before reluctantly exiting the room. “Call me if you need anything,” she added over her shoulder, “as soon as you need anything, don’t ever not call me if you’re not feeling okay.”

“Gotcha,” said Faith, sounding amused. “I’ll make sure my helicopter mom’s got a landing pad.”

Jenny was still smiling as she headed into her bedroom. Much as she loved wearing at-home clothes and getting to relax, she definitely wasn’t going down to meet Lilah Hot-As-Hell Morgan in sweats and a Sunnydale High t-shirt. After a good five minutes of careful deliberation, she selected a dark red blouse and slacks, combing out her hair so that it fell softly at her shoulders in a way Buffy and Willow liked to call “teacher chic.” She was halfway through applying lipstick when she got a text from Lilah.

in the lobby, u coming down? xx

Jenny gave herself a last, cursory glance in the mirror. Not exactly “alluring, polished detective,” but she was pressed for time and her kid was sick, so it was still pretty good given the circumstances. Donning a pair of low-heeled shoes, she hurried out of her apartment and over to the elevator.

When the elevator doors opened, the first thing Jenny saw was Lilah. She was waiting in the lobby, leaning against the wall and presumably texting someone. Her hair was swept into a stylish updo today, and when she looked up, her eyes were hidden by dark sunglasses.

Damn, thought Jenny again. Aloud, she said, “Glad you could make it.”

Lilah inclined her head in response. Without a word, she turned, exiting the lobby; Jenny had to hurry to follow and fall into step. “I’m sure you’ve discovered by now that Wolfram and Hart is impossible to research,” she said, pocketing her phone as they walked in the direction of a shiny black car. “A lot of work is putting into making sure that their credentials check out in court, but that any and all press about Wolfram and Hart never makes it to print.”

“Why would they want that?” Jenny inquired carefully.

“You’re a smart lady.” Lilah stopped in front of the car, clicking a button on her keys to unlock the door. “I’m pretty sure you already know the answer.”

“I’m pretty sure I do too, I just want to hear you say it first,” said Jenny smoothly, getting into the front seat of Lilah’s car.

Lilah smiled in a way that told Jenny that this was the right thing to say. “Wolfram and Hart doesn’t take on just anyone as clients,” she explained. “If they were known as some kind of prestigious law firm with a reputation of winning all their cases, they would be getting a lot more clients and attention than they wanted. They pick and choose the people who they help out, and those people are always on the wrong side of the law.”

“So Wolfram and Hart wants to protect the bad guys of Los Angeles,” Jenny said, almost a question. “Why?”

“Simply because it’s an incredibly profitable and useful business,” Lilah answered, surprisingly blasé for such a morally awful statement. “They don’t help just any pickpocket or cat burglar, Ms. Calendar; they make sure that their time and money is invested in people who will pay them back later. Maybe it’s in favors, maybe it’s in money, maybe it’s in some rare artifact that a high-up executive feels like bringing up as a conversation piece at dinner parties, but Wolfram and Hart works in the shadows to make sure that the crime in Los Angeles doesn’t go away.”

Something about that sentence struck Jenny as unpleasantly familiar. She mentally filed it away for later contemplation. “Do they use different names in court?” she asked. “Is that how—”

“Oh, no, they’re ridiculously up-front,” Lilah replied, reaching into her bag and handing Jenny a neatly typed list. “Here.”

“And this is?” Jenny scanned the list. Cordelia Chase, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Tara Maclay…

“These are people who Wolfram and Hart want out of the way,” said Lilah. “They know things that could be very dangerous to the firm’s future as a whole, and it’s very likely that Wolfram and Hart is going to try to swoop in and silence them before they can say anything incriminating.” It was impossible to see her eyes behind the sunglasses, but her voice was hesitant and earnest. “They’re good people, Ms. Calendar.”

“So my job is to what, protect these people?” said Jenny uncertainly. “I don’t know if that’s something I can do all that easily.”

“Your job is to locate them and get them to come to Los Angeles, because they sure as hell won’t trust someone like me,” Lilah’s smile faded, becoming something more nervous yet still strangely calculated. “Ms. Calendar—Jenny—I know this isn’t the easiest thing to believe, but I really do want to do good for these people. I have connections. I can at the very least protect them until Wolfram and Hart turns their attention elsewhere.”

“Lilah—” Jenny began.

“I want to get these people to testify against Wolfram and Hart,” Lilah persisted. “They’re the only ones who can take down the company, or at least start some kind of a process to expose it for what it is.”

“This isn’t the kind of thing that I—”

“Please,” said Lilah, and took Jenny’s hand, removing her sunglasses to look at Jenny with long-lashed eyes the color of sea glass.

Unconsciously, Jenny drew in a sharp breath. Lilah’s hand was soft, the fingers long and elegant. Touching her felt like a dizzying electric shock, and, and— “Yes,” Jenny said, only half-aware of what she was agreeing to. This case was a bad idea, probably, if she was already so smitten by this gorgeous mystery of a woman. “Yes. I—I’ll do my best, but I don’t know what I can promise.”

“That you’ll try.” Lilah smiled, beautiful and unreadable once more. “Honestly, Jenny, that’s enough of a promise.”


 

“Sexy hand-holding.” Rupert sounded very close to laughing.

“How about you shut up?”

“You called me, dear,” Rupert reminded her, “using the exact phrase ‘sexy hand-holding,’ I am allowed to make as much fun of you as I like.” He hesitated, then, “But Faith’s all right?”

“Doing better.” Jenny glanced affectionately over at Faith’s closed bedroom door. “She fell asleep right after she finished her orange juice.”

“Dawn wants to make her a get-well card,” Rupert said fondly. “You’re sure you don’t want me to come over? I can help make soup. You’ll recall—”

“Yeah, yeah, that one time I blew up the microwave trying to reheat a Hot Pocket, you’re literally never going to let me forget that, right?” Jenny leaned against the wall, smiling. “Look, mostly I just wanted to call you to check and see if we could work on the case at my place tomorrow. Faith’ll probably be okay, but—”

“Certainly.” Rupert sounded peaceful and happy, which meant that his kids were probably asleep too. “I can bring soup over.”

“No way, England, I am not having you busting your ass to make soup and drive here at ten PM—”

“Then don’t call me and tell me your daughter’s sick, Jenny,” said Rupert, as though this was blatantly obvious.

“I was calling you to tell you about the sexy hand-holding and the reason I didn’t go to Caritas!” Jenny objected with a laugh. “Look, just, just don’t worry about the soup, okay? I have stuff here, Faith’s going to be crashed on the couch watching movies, just bring over some old case files so we can go through and research the people on Lilah’s list. Or, you know, bring a laptop.”

“You know how I feel about laptops.”

“Yeah, yeah, technophobic Luddite, I know.” Jenny stared out the window of the hallway, looking out at the starlit sky. “Thanks for this.”

“Of course,” said Rupert softly. After a moment, he cleared his throat awkwardly and added, “Get some sleep, all right?”

“You too, Mr. Giles, don’t think that you can fuss over me so much that I forget to look out for you,” Jenny teased. “Let’s say you show up at noon with research snacks and whatever you need to search people up, and I make us a late breakfast?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Rupert agreed. “Goodnight, Calendar.”

“Goodnight, Giles,” Jenny said. She waited for a few more seconds before hanging up; Rupert never hung up before her, and she liked knowing that he was still there on the other end of the line. Then, after she’d hung up, she added, “Snob,” to make herself feel a little less like she was being cheesy and sentimental. Turning away from the window, Jenny pocketed her phone before quietly entering Faith’s room.

Faith was sound asleep, still; she’d fallen asleep halfway through an episode of one of her paranormal mystery documentaries and she hadn’t paused it. Carefully, Jenny turned off the laptop, tucking Faith in and smoothing down her hair. Faith stirred, but didn’t wake, making a sleepy, contented noise and moving towards Jenny’s touch.

“Night,” Jenny whispered, and placed Faith’s laptop safely on her desk, turning off the light as she left the bedroom.

She’d fallen into a holding pattern, these last few weeks, just waiting for someone to walk through the door with a case. She hadn’t been expecting someone as brazen and flirtatious as Lilah, someone who so easily left her breathless, and she certainly hadn’t been expecting Lilah to have a case this genuinely intriguing. Rupert, always cautious, still seemed somewhat unwilling to take Lilah’s words at face value, but Jenny wanted to believe that this kind of thing could be her big break as a detective. This could be the case that helped her make a difference in the world.

Suddenly, abruptly, Jenny was reminded of the last time she’d felt this kind of hope, and she realized just why Lilah’s earlier words had sounded so familiar.

Wolfram and Hart works in the shadows to make sure that the crime in Los Angeles doesn’t go away.

“Darla,” said Jenny, quietly, so as not to wake up her daughter. “Darla got that light sentence,” and she ran for her laptop. Sleep would have to wait.

Chapter Text

From the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Rupert and Buffy seem to have a mutual agreement that they don’t ever talk about Angel, which reflects the omission of him from my personal files. I’m of the mind that that’s a good idea, because Angel was a point of contention for all of us once upon a time and I like keeping that metaphorical door shut. But Darla, while just as taboo a subject, has suddenly become very relevant to this case, so it looks like I’m going to have to write about what happened to her here. Puzzle pieces are falling into place and I don’t like the picture they’re making.

After—let’s just say after all the shit with Angel went down, because the shit with Angel makes up a whole case file on its own—after that happened, Darla was arrested. Spike and Drusilla weren’t even teenagers, so they were sent to foster homes until their parents could be located, but Darla was arrested and Rupert and I went to the trial.

I had to hold Rupert’s hand for that whole thing, he was shaking so much. Buffy didn’t want to go, understandably, so I went and I held Rupert’s hand when we spoke against Darla. Darla’s lawyer had this smug smile, like he knew we were going to lose, and right before I spoke, he came up to me and said quietly, “You know, Jenny, there are people in this courtroom who work in the shadows to make sure that crime in LA doesn’t go away. I would recommend shutting down this little detective gig before you catch their attention again.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time, because Rupert was kind of a mess and I was trying to calm him down. I mostly just thought that Darla’s lawyer was making empty threats to try and freak us out, so I told him exactly where he should go shove said empty threats. But Darla got assigned a few hours of community service and that was it, even though the jury overwhelmingly believed she was guilty and there were multiple witnesses that had testified against her.

I complained about that for weeks. Not to Rupert, of course, he was still incredibly upset, and when I was with him I was very focused on being there for him. But to Faith (who was just as angry) and to Dawn (who was in middle school back then, but still knew enough to want Darla to go to jail for the rest of her life), I wouldn’t shut up about Darla’s guilt.

It took me a year to come to terms with what had happened. I don’t know if I’ve ever really gotten over it.


 

Jenny had a special folder on her laptop for stuff involving the Angelus case—throwing a good four years of your life into chasing a guy meant that you ended up with a veritable database of information about him—and a sub-folder for stuff involving Darla. She hadn’t recorded a lot about the trial at the time, but she had recorded that Darla’s defense lawyer was a Lindsey McDonald.

To Jenny’s shock, Lindsey’s LinkedIn profile literally said that he had been a lawyer at Wolfram and Hart until about two years ago. Lilah didn’t have a LinkedIn profile (or any profile, save for that online dating one with the tastefully attractive selfie), which made Jenny think that Wolfram and Hart lawyers didn’t generally advertise their connections—and what Lilah said had indicated that Wolfram and Hart chose their clients, not the other way around.

“Okay,” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. “Wolfram and Hart is making it impossible for anyone who’s looking for business to find them or their employees. Lindsey isn’t an employee anymore, which means he can advertise his connections to Wolfram and Hart. Wolfram and Hart doesn’t existto anyone that Wolfram and Hart doesn’t want to know, but Lindsey’s advertising his connection to them anyway, which means—”

Which means what, Jenny? God, she needed to be doing this on more than just a few hours of sleep and half a cup of coffee. And why hadn’t Lilah mentioned that a Wolfram and Hart lawyer had been involved in the Angelus case? Jenny wasn’t exactly famous or anything, but her name was basically synonymous with Angel’s thanks to all the press coverage that case had gotten.

Maybe she just forgot, said the part of Jenny that was still thinking about Lilah’s soft eyes and elegant hands. But that seemed unlikely, because Lilah had mentioned the Angelus case during their first meeting.

Maybe she doesn’t want you to know him.

Jenny considered. Lindsey was the kind of guy who kept a shameless criminal like Darla from getting the sentence she deserved, and his online profile advertised his connections to an evil law firm that only other shifty people would know by name. It seemed more than likely that he would also be the kind of guy who was interested in bigger things than a mostly-legal lawyer job.

“Seems weirdly effective,” said Jenny thoughtfully. “Advertise yourself as a former associate of a high-end evil law firm, become a lawyer for bad guys who are willing to pay more than normal wages.”

Looking into Lindsey a little bit more, she saw that he’d been involved in quite a few cases over the last two years, generally acting as a lawyer for—

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” said Jenny. She needed more coffee for this.


 

"Glorificus?” said Rupert very loudly.

“All right, first of all, be quiet,” said Jenny through her teeth, “Faith’s napping and I’m running on like three hours of sleep. I did all the research, and Lindsey’s been the defense lawyer for every single case anyone’s brought up against Glory. He’s Darla’s lawyer too, but there’s not as much we can do to track down Darla now that she’s in Europe again—”

“We spent six months trying to pin down Glorificus for robbery and attempted murder—

“I know, Rupert, I was there—”

“—six months on the road, I missed Dawn’s birthday and Glorificus robbed four museums and framed some horribly unfortunate medical intern—”

“I know, okay?” said Jenny irritably, sitting down on her bed and trying to run a comb through her mostly-tangled hair. It caught in a snarl. “Damn it—”

Sitting down next to her, Rupert tugged the comb from Jenny’s hair, starting in on the snarl with patient expertise. “So what you’re saying,” he said, “just to be clear, is that you think this Lindsey McDonald is possibly responsible for Darla not being in prison right now and for Glory’s current wealth?”

“Yeah, and I’m guessing Lindsey’s getting a pretty hefty sum for his troubles,” Jenny answered, frustrated.

“And Lilah didn’t tell us this…why?”

“You know why,” said Jenny quietly.

The comb stilled in Jenny’s hair. “Because she knows we’d want to take down Lindsey before we investigated Wolfram and Hart,” Rupert answered his question heavily. “Because she knows about—” He stopped, the tension in the room suddenly palpable, and then said, “The Angelus case.”

Jenny turned to face Rupert, accidentally twisting her hair a little bit more around the comb. Rupert didn’t seem to notice. “After this,” she said, “we start in on Lindsey. We get Lilah protection for her people and we start in on Lindsey and we make him pay.”

There was a dangerous look in Rupert’s eyes as he nodded, not a hint of doubt or uncertainty in his expression. “By any means necessary,” he said, and his free hand reached up to lightly touch Jenny’s face.

It frightened Jenny, moments like these; it reminded her that the connection between them wasn’t as playful and simple as they liked to believe. She liked the comforting familiarity of laughter and banter much better than whatever it was that they shared underneath all that. She pulled away quickly, turning her back to Rupert so that he could finish with her hair. “Um, thanks, by the way,” she added awkwardly. “I don’t have enough patience for hair-combing today.”

Rupert, clearly startled by Jenny’s withdrawal, didn’t initially answer, and his hands faltered as he began to comb her hair again. “Of course,” he agreed somewhat tentatively. “This is exactly the sort of thing I signed up for when I decided to work with you.”

“Down to the letter,” said Jenny, smiling weakly. In her pocket, her phone went off. “Shit, let me just—” Without jostling Rupert, she rummaged for her phone, carefully raising it to her ear. “Hello?”

“Hey.” Faith sounded sick, still, but there was a laugh in her voice. “You and Giles hooking up in there?”

“Ha ha,” said Jenny, feeling more than a little bit comforted by the reminder of her daughter. Faith had always had an uncanny tendency to bring levity to a situation exactly when it was needed. “You want some breakfast?”

“Can Giles make eggs?”

“Request for eggs from my kid,” said Jenny to Rupert. “I can help you make them, though, if you—”

“Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Mom, but your eggs suck,” Faith informed her, “and you know Giles always wants to help out, so just let him make eggs.”

“Did Faith tell you that my eggs are better than yours?” said Rupert, running the comb gently through her hair one last time before getting up to place it on Jenny’s dresser.

“Indirectly,” Jenny answered, grinning, “and yes, Faith, I’ll let him make eggs.”

Let me,” Rupert scoffed, “you love my eggs, you just won’t admit it.”

Jenny hung up, shooed Rupert out of her bedroom so he could go make eggs, and crossed the hall to check in on Faith, who was now listening to music on her phone. “Hey, how’re you feeling?” she inquired, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

Faith made a face, removing one of her earbuds. “Eh,” she said. “Not like throwing up, though, so that’s good. How’s that case thing going?”

“Okay,” said Jenny carefully. “Is it going to upset you if I’m talking about Wolfram and Hart with Rupert?”

Faith was quiet for a moment, very clearly considering the question. Then she said, “A little. Maybe. I just—” She looked up, her expression purposefully unreadable. “I don’t like thinking about that part of my life,” she said. “And the thought of you having to deal with that kind of shit, I like it even less.”

“Did one of them hurt you?” Jenny asked, and she heard the scary murder tone in her voice before she registered Faith’s surprised, comforted expression. “If that’s what this is about—”

No, Mom, jeez,” said Faith, her face relaxing into an actual smile. “You don’t have to go off and chainsaw anyone or some shit like that, they just—” She twisted at the blanket, still smiling a little awkwardly. “They tricked me,” she said. “I was a little kid, and I wanted to do good things, and they tricked me into doing things that hurt other people, indirectly, and it—I don’t want—”

“It’s okay,” said Jenny immediately, moving forward in a practiced motion to tuck Faith’s hair behind her ear. Faith leaned into her touch, looking at her with strange, desperate eyes, like she wanted to believe it was okay but wasn’t sure if it could be. “It really is okay,” said Jenny, “you don’t have to tell me anything yet. Or ever.”

“I want to,” said Faith. “I just—” She shook her head. “I was little,” she said. “I don’t think it should matter as much anymore—it happened so long ago.”

“Things that happened a long time ago can still hurt like hell,” said Jenny quietly. “And they’re still yours to tell me or to keep for yourself. It’s very important to me that you know that.”

Faith nodded. Then she said, “Would you be mad if you knew I’d—killed a guy, or something, when I was five?”

“This is, like, a massive exaggeration, right?” said Jenny, trying not to smile. Nine-year-old Faith had definitely been a piece of work, but she’d also been incredibly small, and a girl of that size definitely couldn’t have killed a guy at nine, let alone at five. “I don’t know if I’d be mad. Surprised, maybe—”

“It is, but—you know what I mean,” said Faith, a tentative note in her voice.

“Yeah,” said Jenny, stroking Faith’s cheek with her thumb. “I do. And you know how much I love you.”

Faith smiled, wobbly and tired. “Yeah,” she said. “I do.”

Chapter Text

From the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Most of the research Rupert and I have gotten done today tells us very little about why Wolfram and Hart might be interested in such a wide variety of people. Winifred Burkle is a prime example of someone who I definitely wouldn’t pinpoint as the target of a corrupt law firm. Straight-A student all the way through college, graduated summa cum laude, and now she’s a physics professor over at UCLA. She seems like an unusually intelligent young woman at most, but definitely not the type I’d expect to be tangled up in Wolfram and Hart business (whatever that business is).

Tara Maclay is a mystery to me as well, even more so than any of the rest. She’s just a little bit older than Faith, taking classes at the college over in Sunnydale, no extracurriculars and no after-school activities. She doesn’t have any online profiles, either, save for an old Facebook profile that hasn’t been updated since middle school. Rupert got really smug about Tara because it was his resources that found her and not mine. I pointed out that I found out most of the information about Winifred. That got him to be quiet for a little while, at least.

Rupert and I both made sad noises when we saw Kendra on the list. She was a friend of Buffy’s and Faith’s back when Buffy was in high school—Kendra was a foreign exchange student for a few years, and Buffy helped show her the ropes. The last I saw of her, she was off to Oxford to put in the hard hours of studying that would allow her to become a doctor, and it hurts to know that a girl who was so determined to help save people now needs saving herself.

I might ask Lilah if we could be in charge of protecting Kendra. I don’t like the idea of handing someone we know off to someone we don’t know as much of, even if that other someone is super beautiful and incredibly flirtatious and hopefully she’ll ask me out again? Maybe just for business? But even if I’m just seeing her for business, there’ll probably be flirting. I’m very much in favor of flirting and WHOA getting very much off track. Anyway. Lots of people, no clear links between them, no involvement in anything shady or suspicious.

Maybe I should call Lilah and ask for more details. Maybe I should set up some kind of meeting between us for those details. Maybe at Caritas.


 

“Or is that weird? If I just call her out of the blue like hey Lilah, you want to go out to a nightclub to talk business? God, it’s been so long since I dated someone sophisticated—”

“Jenny,” said Rupert patiently, “you know as well as I that I am nowhere near qualified enough to give advice on flirtation, just—just call her if you’re going to and don’t if you aren’t, all right?”

“That’s still good advice,” said Jenny, smiling exhaustedly and leaning on Rupert’s shoulder. “You give good advice.”

Rupert smiled back, relaxing into the couch. “Um—what exactly are we watching?”

“Animal Planet,” said Faith sleepily from where she was curled in the easy chair with a blanket and some orange juice. “That way I can go to sleep without missing anything, ‘cause, you know, they’re—they’re just all animals all the time.”

“Sounds pretty reasonable,” came a voice from the front door, and Jenny looked up to see Buffy shrugging off her jacket. Behind her, Dawn was tugging on Xena’s leash in a somewhat panicked fashion. “Hi, Jenny!” said Buffy cheerfully. “Sorry we didn’t knock.”

“It’s cool,” Jenny answered, smiling. “I did steal your Giles all day.”

Dawn removed Xena’s leash, wincing as Xena ran up and immediately started trying to climb onto Jenny’s lap. “She thinks she’s a lap dog,” she explained apologetically.

“Oh my god, Mom, the dog’s bigger than you,” said Faith with laughing interest, pulling herself up from her blanket cocoon and nearly spilling her orange juice.

“Everyone’s bigger than Jenny, she’s tiny,” said Rupert conversationally, gently pushing Xena out of Jenny’s lap. “We really need to teach her to stop doing that, Buffy.”

“Who, Jenny?” said Buffy curiously, moving forward to scratch Xena’s ears.

“No, Xena, dear,” said Rupert, going back to watching Animal Planet.

“So this is what you guys call ‘working on a case,’ huh?” Buffy teased, squeezing in next to Rupert on the couch. “What is this, the Case of the Sick Day?”

“This is break time,” replied Jenny, “and do you girls want snacks? I can make—no you don’t,” she added, pushing Rupert gently back into the couch as he attempted to get up, “you made my kid brunch, I make your kids dinner. That’s the way these things work.”

Rupert’s wide eyes darted to Jenny’s hand on his chest and then he nodded.

Jenny got up from the couch, tucking the blankets around Faith as she passed, and started looking through the fridge for something nutritious and still tasty. There was a very small overlap between the two, in her opinion, no matter what Rupert said about how good celery was. “How was school?” she added over her shoulder.

“Michael almost asked me out to a movie tomorrow,” said Dawn, in a tone that didn’t bode well for Michael. “I started talking really loudly about horror movies and he lost his opportunity to bring up dating without looking weird, so that’s good, I guess.”

“Professor Walsh is creepy as all get-out,” Buffy added. “Willow thinks she’s the kind of person who would do better as an FBI agent than a psychology professor.”

“Is Professor Walsh the one that said you were ‘lacking a father figure,’ or was that—” Dawn began.

Shh,” said Buffy sharply, “and if she was, she was wrong, because—because she was wrong,” she finished awkwardly, glancing furtively over at Rupert.

Rupert looked down, then shyly over at Buffy, then reached out and squeezed Buffy’s shoulder. Buffy smiled a little. “Do you still have Kendra’s number?” Rupert asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Buffy, frowning thoughtfully. “Why?”

“We—” began Rupert.

“—could use her input on a certain aspect of the case we’re working on,” finished Jenny, shutting the refrigerator. Rupert looked up, surprised, and Jenny gave him an easy smile that didn’t bely the nervousness she was feeling. She didn’t want Buffy and Faith worried about their friend, and she definitely didn’t want them deciding that they were going to get involved in the case. “Could you text me her number?”

“Totally.” Buffy dug in her jacket pocket, fishing out her phone.

“Do youstill have those animal crackers with the icing, Jenny?” Dawn asked hopefully.

“Healthy snacks only today,” Rupert answered, “Faith’s sick and chocolate isn’t good for dogs.”

“No chocolate?” said Jenny in a wounded tone of voice. At Rupert’s look, she said with minimal conviction, “Uh, I mean, no chocolate.

“Disastrous,” said Rupert, pulling himself up off the couch to help Jenny in the kitchenette. “I love it here,” he added, grinning at her, “it’s compact and efficient, like you.”

“Oh, god, is Giles flirting?” Buffy demanded.

“Hey, Giles, if you’re finally putting the moves on my mom, do it when I’m not here,” Faith added helpfully.

Rupert turned a little pink (he always did when someone insinuated he and Jenny were a couple; it was sweet) and managed an awkward, “No, I am not flirting, I really do love Jenny’s tiny kitchen.”

“Don’t move us to a tiny place, Giles,” said Dawn plaintively, “Xena’s too big for this house.”

“Xena is too big for every house,” Buffy pointed out. “It’s not a bad thing, it’s just how she is.”

“What breed is she again?” Faith asked curiously.

“No one knows,” Buffy answered.

Meanwhile, Jenny was trying her best to shoo Rupert out of the kitchen. “I can make dinner,” she persisted, “that chocolate thing was a joke.

“I more than trust your cooking abilities,” Rupert countered. “It’s merely that I feel you don’t get enough opportunity to enjoy food someone else made for you.”

“Same applies to you,” Jenny pointed out. “When have you had a nice, wholesome, home-cooked meal?”

“Jenny,” said Rupert, mouth twitching, “on a scale of one to ten, how likely is it that you were planning to just heat up some bagel bites for all of us?”

Jenny opened her mouth, then shut it, then said indignantly, “You come into my house, you trash bagel bites under my roof—

“Honestly, I’m glad Giles wasn’t flirting,” said Buffy, “then we’d all have to deal with this on a daily basis.”


 

Eventually, Jenny made bagel bites, and then Rupert made a casserole thing because he apparently really liked showing off. The casserole thing took about three hours (with time added for snack breaks and a cheesy romantic comedy that Buffy and Dawn wanted to watch) which meant that it got finished at around nine in the evening, and by that time, Faith had already fallen asleep and Buffy and Dawn were talking about how tomorrow was a school night and they really needed to get home.

“I’ll just leave it as leftovers for you and Faith,” Rupert offered sheepishly.

“This,” said Jenny, “is why you don’t trash bagel bites. Now I have a six-person casserole when there are only two people living under my roof.”

“Come over for dinner on Friday, then!” Buffy said excitedly. “Willow’s coming over, and Xander—”

“Should I…bring Rupert’s casserole?” said Jenny, frowning. “Or is this just a general invitation?”

“Either or,” said Dawn cheerfully, fastening Xena’s leash. “It’s always super cool to have you over, even if you and Giles always argue for seven hours about weird things.”

Rupert grinned. “I’ll be seeing a lot of you this week, I expect,” he said. “Should we, er, call Kendra tomorrow?”

Jenny exhaled. She didn’t like thinking about the fact that an evil law firm might be after someone like Kendra, and she hoped that Lilah was wrong. “Yeah,” she said, smiling as best she could. “We should. See you tomorrow at the office?”

“Do call me if Faith isn’t feeling better, though, and we can research at your home again,” Rupert agreed, and pulled back, smiling shyly. “And do try and get some actual sleep tonight, Jenny, or at least let me know if you’re deciding to stay up late researching some mystery lawyer.”

“That an order?” Jenny asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“Call it a friendly request,” said Rupert gently. “It won’t do if you’re working yourself to death over this.”

That’s an exaggeration,” said Jenny with amusement.

“Still.” Rupert stepped back, turning to follow Buffy and Dawn out the door. Over his shoulder, he added, “Thank you very much for having us, Jenny.”

“Thanks, Jenny!” Dawn added eagerly, turning to wave goodbye and nearly tripping over Xena. Buffy laughed, steadying her, and the sound of happy chatter echoed down the hallway as Rupert and his kids left.

Carefully, Jenny crossed the room to wake Faith up. “Hey, you need to get to bed now, okay?” she murmured.

“Am I going to school tomorrow?” Faith inquired sleepily.

“Not if you don’t feel like it,” Jenny answered, moving Faith’s empty glass over onto the coffee table. “Get some rest, see how you feel in the morning, and we can talk over breakfast.” She wound an arm around her daughter’s waist, leading them both to Faith’s bedroom and gently lowering Faith down onto the bed. “You want me to tuck you in?”

“Little bit,” said Faith into the pillow. As Jenny covered her with the comforter, she added, “Also?”

“Yeah?” Jenny sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Just ask out that client already,” said Faith with drowsy amusement. “I’ve never heard you talk that much about anyone you’ve dated before, and Buffy hasn’t either.”

“Are you and Buffy talking about me?” Jenny asked, almost a laugh.

“We’re texting,” Faith answered vaguely. “She uses too many emojis.”

You use too many emojis,” Jenny reminded Faith, and kissed her on the cheek. “Night, honey.”

“Night, Mom,” said Faith, sounding thoroughly comfortable and most likely well enough to get back to school. Buoyed by this, Jenny quietly slipped out of Faith’s bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

She considered Faith’s words, and Rupert’s. Then she dialed Lilah’s number.

 

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Lilah and I are on for this Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, also Rupert and I got in touch with UC Sunnydale about our closest client. Probably should have opened with that, seeing as it’s the thing that’s actually relevant to the case, BUT I’m going out with an attractive woman for the first time in YEARS, even if it is technically just business. And I know I said I’ve dated before, but there’s a difference between brief hookups and actually going out to a high-end club in a good part of Los Angeles. As much as I do love office flirtations, it’s rare that I’ve felt so much genuine chemistry between me and another person.

Well. Obviously I feel that kind of chemistry with Rupert, too. But not—oh, wow, I just played that back in my head and it sounds like—I mean, you know, you basically have to have chemistry with your partner if you’re a detective—you don’t need romantic chemistry for detective work, though—I don’t know why I went off on that tangent. God, I’m glad I call these things “personal files” and not “case files.” I’d be mortified by Rupert reading this.

It’s just that a lot of the people that come to us for help, no matter how attractive to me they are, don’t ever seem to be as interested in me as they are in their case. Most of the time, the people who show up in my office are more concerned with their stolen art or their loan gone bad or something like that, but not only did Lilah show up with a hugely important case, she showed up with a hugely obvious interest in me. As a person. And potentially as a romantic partner, if I play my cards right.

Maybe that’s why Rupert was put off by her at first? Because she didn’t seem interested enough in the case she was giving us? Probably something like that. Almost definitely.

Shit, this is supposed to be about the case. I’ll just sum up the case by saying that we’re going to Skype with Kendra and try and collect some info before we set off in search of the mysterious Tara Maclay. I might bring Faith along for that second part, since she and Tara are kind of close in age; maybe they’ll hit it off.


 

Faith was feeling better, and had been sent off in the morning with an excuse note (courtesy of Jenny) and a healthy breakfast (courtesy of Rupert, who had come over early to drive Jenny to the office). Jenny was very much comforted by this; even though she knew Faith was a tough kid, there was always that little thread of worry every time her daughter got sick.

“Thanks for all your help these last few days,” she said, turning to look at Rupert as he drove.

“Oh, it was nothing,” said Rupert shyly. “You—you helped out, last year, when Buffy and Dawn had the flu, and then you got sick and didn’t tell me until you were better—”

“You worry, Rupert,” said Jenny affectionately. “I didn’t want you driving over at midnight to fuss.”

“That’s what partners do,” Rupert answered in a way that seemed almost reflexive, but Jenny saw his blush and the way his hands tightened nervously on the wheel. She was about to say something—she wasn’t entirely sure what—when Rupert added a bit too loudly, “Have you asked Lilah out yet?”

“What?” Jenny blinked, startled by the abrupt change of subject. “I didn’t realize you were in support of me going after Lilah. Mostly you’ve just been restraining yourself to advice about dating in general.”

“You did make me promise to not be weird about Lilah,” said Rupert, and the conversation felt solidly in normal terrain after that.

They pulled into the office a few minutes earlier than usual, and as Jenny was getting her bag out of the car, she happened to see Lilah walking up the steps of Wolfram and Hart. Lilah was dressed sensibly but fashionably, as always, and she looked noticeably different from when she was looking at Jenny. More guarded, maybe, and something about that made Jenny feel all shy and fluttery, and—

—and Lilah had seen her staring. And Lilah was turning with a quiet, deliberate smirk, crossing the street and saying, “Fancy meeting you here, Ms. Calendar.”

“Thought you said you didn’t want your coworkers knowing what you’re up to?” Jenny managed weakly.

Lilah shrugged. “They’re not going to think too much about me talking to a beautiful woman,” she said. “I’ve had a few girlfriends in the past.”

“Me too,” Jenny blurted out, because it suddenly felt very important for Lilah to definitively know she wasn’t straight. Lilah gave her an amused look, and Jenny added, “Um, you know, just—we were talking about girlfriends, so—”

“I should go inside,” said Rupert uncomfortably, hurrying past Jenny and Lilah and into the building.

Jenny tried to direct an apologetic smile in Rupert’s direction, but he didn’t look back. “He can be—a bit difficult in the mornings,” she said awkwardly, twisting her hands and trying to look like the attractively unflappable detective she was. Or was trying to be. Same difference. “We were actually just going to get started on some research for your case.”

“That’s good to hear.” Lilah smiled. “I really am looking forward to our date this Saturday.”

“Date?” Jenny echoed, surprised but not at all displeased.

Lilah looked down, then coquettishly up at Jenny through her lashes, then said, “Unless that whole me-being-your-client thing is too much of a hurdle for us to jump?”

“I don’t even know why that’s a rule in the first place,” Jenny answered without hesitation, grinning widely. “I think it’s more of Rupert’s personal ethics thing. Something about us getting too involved in the case, but, uh—” She stopped. She didn’t at all feel ready to tell Lilah about Faith’s history with Wolfram and Hart, even if Lilah wasn’t on their side anymore.

“But?” Lilah prompted.

Jenny was nothing if not quick on her feet. “But when someone as beautiful as you comes into my office,” she said, smiling with the easy grace of a compliment genuinely meant, “I kinda get invested pretty fast anyway.”

Lilah’s smile in return was thoughtful and appreciative. She reached up, lightly tucking Jenny’s hair behind her ear, and Jenny’s eyes fluttered momentarily shut at the touch. “Good to see you, Jenny,” she said, and let her hand drop slowly, grazing Jenny’s shoulder as it fell. “Saturday night can’t come soon enough,” she added over her shoulder as she headed towards Wolfram and Hart.

Jenny stood there on the sidewalk for a few moments, smiling at nothing in particular. It took her a good thirty seconds to remember Rupert upstairs, probably failing miserably at setting up a Skype call, and fifteen seconds more to tear her eyes away from Lilah’s retreating figure and head into the office building.

Rupert was on the phone with Kendra when Jenny entered the office. “No, I’m not jealous, why does everyone keep saying that—” he was saying indignantly.

“Hey,” said Jenny, still too elated from Lilah to really register what Rupert was talking about. “Sorry I’m late. You want me to set up the laptop?”

Please do,” said Rupert somewhat irritably. “Yes—she just walked in, we should be calling you in a minute. Yes. Yes, of course.” He hung up. “Jenny,” he said reprovingly.

“Look, she works right across the street!” Jenny objected. “I really will try to tone the staring down, but I can’t stop her if she wants to come over and talk to me.”

Rupert forced a smile. “I just—don’t know how to talk to her,” he said finally. “She only seems interested in you, and that—I’m glad for you, of course, and she, she has top-notch taste, but it still does sting a bit.”

“I can bring it up if you want,” Jenny offered tentatively.

God no, I don’t want her feeling as though she has to interact with me for your sake,” said Rupert immediately.

“Is there anything I can—”

Rupert looked up at Jenny. “She is very clearly important to you,” he said, “and I want to be able to understand why. If she and you are compatible in the long run—and I very much hope you both are, because you deserve someone who will make you happy—I am sure that this situation will resolve itself in due time.”

“How can you be sure?” Jenny asked tentatively.

Rupert smiled a bit, and this time it looked genuine. “Because you are one of the best people I know,” he said, “and you are an excellent judge of character. Whoever you end up in a long-term relationship with is bound to be a good person as well.”

Jenny, wordless for a reason she wasn’t sure how to define, drew in a soft breath. Taking two steps forward, she crossed the room, stood on tiptoe, and pulled Rupert into a hug. Rupert made a startled noise, then hugged her back, resting his chin on the top of her head.

Jenny’s phone went off.

Shit, I forgot about Kendra!” Jenny yelped, jumping away from Rupert and scrambling to open her laptop. “Damn it, that’s gotta be her texting me, okay, can you throw together some notes while we talk? She’s got a really busy schedule, lots of classes—”

Rupert was still standing in the middle of the room, looking a bit dazed. “Oh,” he managed weakly. “Um. Yes. Yes, of course, my—my apologies.” He pulled up a chair, sitting down next to Jenny at her desk and watching as she opened up Skype.

It took a few moments, but Kendra’s slightly pixelated face appeared on the computer screen. “Ms. Calendar, Mr. Giles,” she said in her usual grave yet sweetly polite fashion, “is there anything in particular you wished to talk to me about? Buffy indicated your call involved detective work.”

“We really only have a few questions,” said Jenny carefully. “Um—have you heard of Wolfram and Hart?”

Kendra frowned, and was quiet for such a long time that Jenny started to think the connection might have cut out. Finally, she said carefully, “In a sense.”

“In a sense?” Jenny echoed.

“They contacted me last week with a request that I leave my studies to come work for them,” Kendra explained. “When I replied that I would prefer to remain at Oxford, they grew…persistent.”

“Persistent,” Jenny repeated.

“Kendra, are you in any danger?” Rupert asked worriedly.

“No, not at all!” Kendra gave them both a confused smile. “Not that I know of, at least. They did mention that they do not appreciate their recruitment efforts being turned down, but I have not heard from them since then. I do feel some doubt at turning down such a prestigious opportunity, but—I wish to at least finish my studies before joining any law firm, and I told them as such.”

“All right,” said Rupert slowly. “Kendra, this may be a bit hard to believe, but Wolfram and Hart, they—”

“They hurt someone I care about,” said Jenny. She heard Rupert’s startled noise next to her and tried to focus on Kendra’s surprised expression instead. “I don’t know—how, exactly, or what, but it was some kind of manipulative courtroom politics and she doesn’t want to talk to me about it. We got called in by a Wolfram and Hart lawyer to help her take the establishment down from the inside out, and apparently you know some kind of information that Wolfram and Hart finds valuable.”

“You didn’t say anything about Wolfram and Hart hurting—” Rupert began.

“I’ll tell you later, Rupert, it’s just, it’s really personal,” said Jenny tensely, because it was and because she wasn’t getting into the situation with Faith while Kendra was there.

“I do not know any valuable information,” said Kendra, sounding genuinely bewildered. “Wolfram and Hart gave me a small pamphlet, but that is all.”

“Oh,” said Rupert, looking somewhat worried.

“What?” Jenny turned expectantly to him.

“Well,” said Rupert, “from the research you’ve been doing, didn’t you say that Wolfram and Hart wants to keep their existence as secret as possible? If Kendra knows that they’re recruiting people out of college and trying to convince them to abandon their studies, that’s not—strictly incriminating, exactly, but with carefully collected evidence, that could be very useful to a court case.”

Oh,” said Jenny, getting it. “So Kendra’s not in any danger right now—she’s just someone who could testify against Wolfram and Hart if there was some actually incriminating evidence of wrongdoing on their part.” She grinned. “Honestly, Kendra, you being a genius who caught Wolfram and Hart’s attention makes a lot more sense than you being involved in something shady.”

“I appreciate that, Ms. Calendar,” said Kendra, but she still looked a bit troubled. “Should I be concerned for my welfare?”

“Not unless you have any intention of bringing this information to people who intend to ask you to testify in court,” Rupert answered, “and since we’re still compiling a database of witnesses for this case, that seems as though the process should take a good amount of time.”

“Just stay out of the spotlight, avoid talking about evil law firms, and you should be totally fine until we need you in LA,” Jenny chimed in. Trying to lighten the mood, she added, “And good luck on finals! Willow tells me you two are trans-Atlantic study buddies.”

Kendra beamed, looking somewhat cheered by the shift in conversation. “We are! She’s very good with mathematics help.”

See,” said Rupert with a small smile, “someone else says mathematics instead of just math, Jenny, that five minutes of teasing you put me through two weeks ago was completely unwarranted.”

“Wow, trashing me in front of a client, Rupert?” Jenny teased. “Totally unprofessional. I’m cutting your pay.”

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

So the stuff with Kendra isn’t even half as bad as we were anticipating! Definitely makes a lot of sense, considering the kind of dedicated high-achiever that girl is; any evil law firm would be lucky to have her, and it’s a testament to Wolfram and Hart that they recognized her potential.

…is it weird that I’m a little proud of her? Whatever. I’m glad she’s being appreciated. Kendra had a rough time of it at Buffy and Faith’s high school; she transferred in late sophomore year and didn’t really click with most of the girls there. But despite this, she eventually found her way to the girls, and Rupert and I both absolutely loved talking politics and literature with her when she helped Buffy with homework after school. That girl’s mind is like a steel trap, and if she wanted to, she’d probably make an amazing Wolfram and Hart lawyer. But that’s the thing about Kendra that Rupert and I both really admire: she’s got one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever come across, even if she’s still a little shy about expressing affection.

I’m not sure if I’m okay with telling Rupert about Faith, mostly because it feels like it’s Faith’s story to tell when she’s ready. I wish I could, though, because talking to Rupert about things like this is always very easy and reassuring, and he’d probably say something that’d make me feel a little better about the whole situation. But it took me years to fully gain Faith’s trust, and it’s something that I can’t afford to throw away for the sake of my own comfort.

Weirder than that is the fact that Rupert hasn’t pressed me. Were the situations reversed, I don’t think I’d shut up about trying to figure out who in his life had been hurt by Wolfram and Hart. But Rupert seems okay with giving me space, which is…exactly what I need. He’s scarily good at gauging when’s the right time to press and when isn’t.


 

Faith was sitting outside the high school with Dawn (who had apparently walked over from the nearby middle school), both of them laughing about something or other. Jenny leaned across Rupert and honked the horn. “Don’t,” he said long-sufferingly.

“Sorry, that too unclear?” Jenny grinned at Rupert, then leaned out her window. “Hey, kids, wanna help us solve a case?” she called across the street.

Faith turned, smile widening. Over her shoulder, she shouted, “SUCK IT, HARMONY, MY MOM’S A PRIVATE EYE,” grabbing her backpack and sprinting over to the car.

“Everything good with you and Harmony?” an amused Jenny inquired as Faith clambered into the car.

“She beat me at volleyball in gym and started going on about how her mom plays professional volleyball or whatever,” said Faith, reaching into the front seat to grab a snack from the glove compartment. “C’mon, Giles, how come everything in here is always healthy?”

“You’re a growing girl, Faith—”

“Hi, Dad!” said Dawn brightly, clambering into the backseat next to Faith. “I got an A on my Latin test and my Latin teacher says he wants to meet with you again to talk about, um, my study plans?”

“I’m pretty sure that guy has a crush on you, Rupert,” said Jenny conversationally. “I think you should ask him out.”

“I am not dating my daughter’s Latin teacher, it is bad form,” said Rupert. As an afterthought, he added, “Even if he is rather startlingly good-looking.”

“Maybe I’ll date him,” said Jenny thoughtfully. “Faith’s not taking Latin.”

“Ick,” said Dawn. “If this is what you guys talk about all the time, I don’t think I want to help solve cases.”

“Where are we going?” Faith asked through a mouthful of one of Buffy’s protein bars.

“We’re off to look for a Miss Tara Maclay,” Jenny answered, taking a plastic bag of trail mix from the glove compartment for herself. “We tried to call her, but none of our calls went through, so we’re going to drop by her dorm and see if she’s okay.”

“Do you think the evil law firm did something to silence her?” Dawn asked with interest. “Like in the movies? Do you think someone tried to frame her for a crime, like what happened to Buffy? Do you think—”

Rupert flinched a bit at what happened to Buffy, but still answered gently, “We don’t know, Dawn. The finding out bit is part of our job.”

Faith had settled in with the protein bar and was now listening to music on her phone, humming absently along. She seemed to register Jenny’s eyes on her, because she looked up, grinned, made a face, and went back to her phone. Something about that made Jenny feel a little bit better and a little less worried; even if Wolfram and Hart had hurt Faith a very long time ago, Faith was okay now, and Jenny would always make sure of that. Turning back to Rupert, she said, “How far to UC Sunnydale?”

“About forty-five minutes in traffic,” Rupert answered, “though I’d put it at an hour and a half considering that we’re near rush hour.”

“I’ll text Buffy and let her know we might not make dinner,” said Dawn helpfully. “Or—ooh, can we all go out for dinner in Sunnydale? Are there any good places there?”

“Well, that’s what technology is for,” said Jenny, gently nudging Rupert.

Dawn busied herself with searching up Sunnydale restaurants (which mostly meant laughing at bad reviews and reading some of them to a half-listening Faith). Jenny took this opportunity to go back to bothering Rupert about his love life. “How long has it been since you’ve dated, anyway?” she persisted, and found herself genuinely curious.

Rupert hesitated before he answered. “Jenny,” he said, “things are—for me, at least—quite satisfactory the way they are. I’m not sure if I feel ready to change things when it took so long to work things out with Buffy and Dawn, a-and it would take a truly special person for me to feel the need to date again.”

Jenny felt a strange twist of guilt for pushing him, mixed in with a quiet sadness. She didn’t like the thought of Rupert being alone for the rest of his life just because he wasn’t sure how to change. “I’m glad you’re setting your standards high,” she said, and reached over, placing her hand over his on the steering wheel. “Anyone smart would jump at the chance to be with you.”

Rupert smiled a little sadly, eyes still on the road. Then he said, “I very much doubt that.”

“No, it’s—” Jenny felt lost, suddenly, and found herself wishing that she hadn’t brought up the subject, because suddenly she was acutely aware of how much she wanted Rupert to be happy in the same way she felt around Lilah. He was a total catch, and she wanted him to be able to see that and feel better and find the kind of happiness he deserved. “You’re—”

“Ooh, hey, traffic’s clearing up!” said Dawn excitedly from the backseat. “Looks like your estimation’s a little off, Dad. Google Maps says we might be at UC Sunnydale in like ten minutes if we luck out.”

“Lovely,” said Rupert, and turned his hand over on the steering wheel, lacing his fingers reassuringly with Jenny’s.


 

Tara Maclay’s dorm was a loud, rowdy place, and it was pretty much impossible to keep track of Faith and Dawn, keep an eye out for Wolfram and Hart lawyers, confer with Rupert, and find Tara at the same time. Jenny and Rupert ducked outside and agreed that just this once, splitting up might be a good idea, which led to Rupert and Dawn asking around for Tara while Jenny and Faith knocked on various dorm room doors.

“You really think she’d be hiding?” said Faith doubtfully. “If she was, my bet is that Wolfram and Hart would have found her already.”

“She dropped off the map a few weeks ago,” Jenny explained, “and if she’s on Lilah’s list, Wolfram and Hart haven’t gotten to her yet. Besides which, did you see how chaotic it is out there? This place would easily be one of the smartest places to hide in.”

“Okay,” said Faith slowly. “I’ll trust you on this one, but—Mom, these people are smart.”

“Then we just have to be smarter,” said Jenny, and squeezed Faith’s shoulder before knocking on the next door. A young woman with dyed blonde hair answered, frowning in bemusement at them both. “Hey,” said Jenny. “Do you know a Tara Maclay?”

“Who’s asking?” said the woman, chin jutting out.

“Calendar-Giles Investigations,” said Jenny smoothly. “I’m Calendar, this is Calendar Junior, I’m pretty sure Giles is struggling through the hallway right now. We really need to find Tara to help out a friend of ours.”

“Yeah, sure,” said the woman, glaring. “You people are persistent, I’ll give you that, but I haven’t seen Tara in weeks. Now, if you’ll excuse me—”

“We’re not with Wolfram and Hart,” said Faith quietly. “You can trust us.”

The woman’s determinedly closed-off expression flickered. “Right,” she said, but she didn’t sound quite as sure as before. “How am I supposed to know that?”

“Because we’re going to leave when you tell us,” said Faith, “and we’re not going to push past and search your room from top to bottom for Tara. I bet they did that, right? Didn’t even listen when you told them—”

From behind the woman, a girl peered nervously out, one with straw-colored hair and large blue eyes. Faith stopped talking, eyes wide, and turned an interesting shade of pink.

“No, shh,” said the woman, shoving her protectively out of sight. Without a word, she looked fearfully up at Jenny and Faith, all bravado gone. “Please don’t take Tara away!” she said, her voice suddenly high and shrill. “She says she doesn’t come from a good family and she’s my best friend and I don’t want her getting hurt just because she saw some stupid politician taking some stupid bribe!”

“A-Anya,” said the girl from behind her friend, “it’s okay.”

“How did you hide her if they searched your room last time?” Jenny asked curiously.

“U-under the bed,” said the girl—Tara—stepping neatly around Anya to smile shyly at Jenny. “Anya put boxes around me and made i-it look like th-there were just boxes there.”

“Clever,” said Jenny, smiling back.

Tara,” Anya hissed, “go hide.

Tara shook her head, looking hesitant but not at all afraid. “Sh-she’s right,” she said, nodding towards Faith. “That l-lawyer firm would have never l-let Anya keep them from s-searching the room.” She sighed, then smiled. “I-I can’t stay hidden in here forever,” she said. “I have to start tr-trusting someone, sometime.”

“That’s some pretty good logic there,” said Jenny encouragingly. “And it’s definitely not wasted on us.”

“It better not be,” said Anya sharply. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Jenny Calendar,” said Jenny, sticking her hand out. Tara shook it. “Private eye. This is my daughter Faith,” she glanced towards Faith, who was still staring at Tara with big eyes, “who is generally a little bit more articulate.”

Tara’s gaze flitted to Faith, and she blushed, smiling. “Hi,” she said.

“Uh, hey,” said Faith, pushing her hair awkwardly out of her face and bumping her elbow on the doorframe. “You, uh, look pretty good for someone who’s been hiding in a bedroom for a few weeks.”

“Thanks,” said Tara, her smile becoming slightly less hesitant. “I moisturize.”

“I get to come too, if you’re taking her anywhere,” said Anya loudly. “I’m not just letting you swoop in, no matter what kind of eye you say you are—”

“Pretty sure th-there’s only one kind of eye, Anya,” said Tara with affectionate amusement.

“Yeah, see, the thing is, Jenny, if Wolfram and Hart is looking for Tara, she might need an actual place to stay that isn’t a dorm room,” called Buffy across the hallway. Jenny turned, and grinned; Buffy was weaving neatly through the crowd, followed by a slightly disheveled Rupert and a giggling Dawn.

“College,” said Rupert, “is not an experience I care to repeat.”

“The Giles half of our establishment,” said Jenny to Tara, and walked forward to straighten Rupert’s jacket. “God, you look like you just got forced to go to a party.”

“Some guy tried to get him to play beer pong,” said Buffy, who sounded thoroughly amused by this. “Also, you guys should have told me you were in Sunnydale! Willow and I drive down here all the time, we could have met up with you and helped or something. I had to get briefed by Giles just now, and he is not the greatest at explaining things after he’s been through the college experience.”

“More accurately,” said Dawn, “the college hallway.”

Tara seemed to be shrinking into herself a bit at all the new people. Out of the corner of her eye, Jenny saw Faith step forward and say quietly, “Look, I, I know this is a lot, but we’re here to help.”

“I-I’m nothing special,” said Tara in a small voice. “Really. I sh-shouldn’t need help just because I-I saw something I w-wasn’t supposed to. I just w-wish it would all stop.”

“Yeah,” said Faith, and looked furtively over at Jenny, who pretended to be looking at Rupert. “This is gonna sound like a cheesy Hallmark card, T, but I’ve been where you were and things really do get better. They take a while, depending on how bad they are, but they get better. And my mom—she’s kickass. She won’t let you down, and neither will I.”

Tara didn’t smile.

“Remember what you were saying?” Faith persisted gently. “You know, before all these people showed up? You gotta start trusting someone. So trust me.”

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Tara’s staying with us. It took some work on my part to convince Anya that Faith and I were trustworthy people, but when she saw Faith telling Tara bad jokes as they walked to the car, she seemed to decide that she was at least mostly okay with us, and I got her to join us for dinner. It turns out that she owns a local antique shop in town, but she went back to college to get a degree in history “just because.” She and Rupert seemed to hit it off, though they did get into a few arguments about who was right about what obscure historical event happened when. Rupert says it was playful banter. I’m pretty sure Anya was ready to stab him with a fork, but I didn’t mention it because Rupert seems so happy about having made a new friend.

Essentially, Tara saw a city official (she still won’t tell us which one) taking a bribe from a Wolfram and Hart employee, and she thought it was an awful thing to see happen so she wrote down what they were saying for future reference. The next day, a Wolfram and Hart executive confronted her and scared her to bits, threatening her and trying to steal her notebook when she wouldn’t give in (which didn’t even have anything relevant in it), and she’s spent the last few weeks hiding in Anya’s dorm room.

I actually didn’t hear this story firsthand; Faith told it with a somewhat adoring smile. Rupert said later that I look exactly like that when I’m talking about Lilah and I told him to shut up. It’s really sweet, though, seeing Faith admire a girl who very much deserves it. Whatever happened with Wolfram and Hart, it’s clear Faith feels responsible for it, and I can see why she’d be inspired by Tara’s story; even though Tara thinks she just spent the last few weeks hiding, Faith sees someone who didn’t give Wolfram and Hart what they wanted.

I’m trying to give those two as much space as possible. Aside from Tara’s confiding in Faith being good for the case, I kinda think there’s some mutual romantic interest there. Like mother, like daughter, I guess; neither of us have ever been very good at keeping our business lives and our personal lives separate.


 

“Good to hear about Tara and Kendra.” Lilah sounded thoroughly pleased. “Looks like your reputation was just about right.”                  

“Actually,” said Jenny carefully, sitting down on the edge of her bed with the phone, “there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Oh?”

“It’s been pretty easy ever since you gave us that list,” said Jenny, not sure how she was supposed to phrase her half-formed suspicion without sounding ridiculous. “We haven’t faced any opposition from Wolfram and Hart. And considering that Tara and—” She stopped herself from saying and Faith; she didn’t want Faith involved in business discussions. “—and her friend seem pretty convinced Wolfram and Hart have a lot of power, it seems a little unusual that we wouldn’t have to try harder to keep them all out of the way.”

“Well, of course you don’t,” Lilah answered, as though it was obvious. “That’s my job.

“I’m sorry?”

“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes action I’ve been working to keep the Senior Partners from investigating the people on that list,” Lilah explained. “I know that’s not generally standard client behavior, but…” She trailed off. “You’re not exactly the type I was expecting to employ.”

“And that means?” said Jenny, not sure whether she should be offended or pleased.

“That I don’t like the thought of you getting caught in the crossfire,” said Lilah quietly. “You’re a mom. You’ve got that whole weird family thing going on with your business partner and his kids. People would miss you if you got hurt, Jenny, and I don’t generally deal with people like that.”

Jenny felt all fluttery and warm. “And—what about you?” she asked, lying on her stomach with the phone to her ear like some high-school girl with a crush.

“I’m a Wolfram and Hart lawyer,” said Lilah shortly. “You don’t get to where I am by making friends. I guess—” She paused. “Seeing you makes me wonder what it would be like if I’d made different choices.”

“But you’re making those choices right now,” Jenny reminded her. “By helping these people, by helping me…you’re a good person, Lilah. I’m happy to help you.”

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line. Then Lilah said, “Jenny Calendar, you are heartbreakingly optimistic.”

“We balance each other out, I think,” said Jenny, gently teasing. “I’m looking forward to our date tomorrow, by the way.”

“As am I.” Lilah sounded a little relieved at the change of subject. “And I’m very glad to hear you calling it a date.”

“Yeah, well, carpe the diem or whatever,” said Jenny easily. “You’re gorgeous, we’re both interested, and like I said, this is already way past unprofessional anyway, so why the hell not, right?”

Lilah laughed. “You know,” she said, “it’s rare that I meet someone who’s as likable as they are attractive.”

“I’m flattered,” said Jenny, grinning. “See you tomorrow at Caritas?”

“Looking forward to it,” Lilah agreed, and hung up.

Jenny hung up as well, then called Rupert. He picked up on the first ring. “Wow,” she said. “You just standing by the phone?”

“You’re still coming for dinner, aren’t you?” said Rupert without preamble.

Jenny laughed. “Yeah, I’m coming,” she answered. “I think Tara and Faith are watching a movie in Faith’s room right now, but I’ll tell them to get ready. Should I bring anything?”

“The whole point of you being invited for dinner is for you to not cook,” Rupert reminded her with some exasperation.

“Listen, if you’re allowed to make a casserole at my house when I invite you over to research, I’m sure as hell allowed to help you cook dinner for your kids,” Jenny persisted, “so I’m going to ask you again, should I bring anything?”

“No,” said Rupert stubbornly.

“Cool. I’ll make dessert.” Jenny hung up without waiting for a response, mostly to avoid another five minutes of determined bickering, and pocketed her phone before exiting her bedroom to knock on Faith’s door. “Hey, you two okay in there?”

“Yeah,” Faith called back. “We’re going to Giles’s for dinner tonight, right?”

“We’re heading out in fifteen minutes,” Jenny answered. “Tara, you’re welcome to anything from my closet if you feel like changing clothes. I’m really sorry that we can’t go to your dorm and pick up some of your things, but—”

“I-it’s okay,” came Tara’s soft voice. “You’ve d-done so much already, Ms. Calendar.”

“Yeah, Mom, you’re awesome,” Faith added helpfully.

Jenny smiled, pressing her hand briefly against the closed door for a moment before heading back to her room.

Dressing for dinner with Rupert and the kids was the polar opposite of dressing to meet Lilah. Instead of trying to look stylish and confident, Jenny found an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt from that one librarian conference Rupert had dragged her to a year ago, found a beat-up pair of sneakers, and tossed her favorite leather jacket over the whole thing. She generally looked better when she was dressing up for a date, probably, but this was the kind of stuff that was best to wear when trying to cook dessert and argue with Rupert at the same time.

There was a knock on her bedroom door. “Come in,” called Jenny.

Faith slipped into the room, shutting the door behind her and flattening herself against the wall. Through her teeth, she said, “Mom, help.

“With what?” said Jenny, bemused.

“I don’t—” Faith looked helplessly up at Jenny. “How do you do it?”

“How do I…?” Jenny prompted.

“Whenever you’re on the phone with Lilah, or, or talking to Giles, you never sound like you’ve got a crush,” said Faith, talking fast and quiet in what was clearly an attempt to make sure Tara didn’t hear any part of this conversation. “And every time I try to talk to Tara, I sound like a total dumbass. I kept on asking her about her family, like, who the hell does that?”

“I don’t have a crush on Rupert,” said Jenny, stumbling over her words a little mostly because she was surprised. “Why would you think—”

“Okay,” said Faith, giving Jenny a look, “for the purpose of this conversation, you don’t have a crush on Giles. Sure.”

“Faith,” Jenny said, deciding to change the subject as deftly as possible, “talking to cute girls isn’t exactly predictable. You can’t just follow someone else’s set instructions and assume you’re going to get the same results; there are some things you need to figure out on your own. But I’ll give you a starting point, and it’s that chances are, Tara thinks pretty highly of you after you looked out for her when she was scared.”

“Anyone could have done that,” said Faith awkwardly.

“But not everyone would,” Jenny reminded her. “And you were the only one who did. C’mere.” She crossed the room, giving Faith a quick hug before pulling back to add, “You want to wear one of my suits to dinner?”

Faith blinked, then grinned. “Aren’t those only for special occasions?”

“Impressing a cute girl,” said Jenny, “is always a special occasion.”


 

 

Rupert’s house was an actual house, not a cramped apartment like Jenny’s. Most of this had to do with the fact that he had come into a bit of an inheritance a few months after he’d formally adopted Buffy and Dawn, and he’d used that money to buy a house suitable for a librarian, two teenage girls, and a very large dog. Three teenage girls, actually, because it had a guest bedroom and an extra bathroom and an incredibly lovely front room, as well as a sunlit study where Rupert either read or played guitar. Jenny really liked that study. She liked the whole house, actually, but it would be a bit much to move in, so she settled for breakfasts and dinners and occasional sleepovers.

Buffy answered the door, looking disheveled and giggly. There was a soft pink lip gloss print on her neck. “Um, Giles isn’t home yet,” she said, “he’s picking up Dawn from Cassie’s.”

“Willow’s here, though, huh?” said Jenny significantly.

“Aww, don’t make fun of us, we’re college kids in love,” said Willow cheerfully, coming up behind Buffy and wrapping her arms around her girlfriend’s waist. “We’re entitled to canoodling. You should probably make dessert before Giles gets back and starts arguing with you, Jenny.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jenny agreed. “Faith, Tara, you two should be good in the living room, right?”

“We can look after them,” said Buffy unconvincingly. Willow grinned, her lip gloss still a bit smudged.

Jenny smirked. “No,” she said, “you two seem like you want to get back to…whatever it is you were doing. I’ll work on dessert until Rupert gets back.”

“I can spend some more time with Faith!” said Tara, sounding thoroughly cheered by that prospect. Faith gave Jenny a grateful smile, and Jenny returned it, slipping past Willow and Buffy, through the living room, and into the kitchen.

Rupert had already made strawberry chiffon shortcake and laid it out on the counter (under a glass case to keep Xena from getting to it), along with a note: Dearest Calendar, kindly do not overexert yourself trying to make another dessert just to prove a point; you deserve some time off and I should not have to fight this hard to let you take it. Much love, Giles.

Jenny couldn’t decide whether to roll her eyes or smile. This was simultaneously very sweet and the exact brand of passive-aggressive she’d expect from Rupert. He did kind of have a point, even if he was always making it incredibly difficult for her to do anything nice for him, so she decided to try and make soup instead. She’d gotten really good at making soup. It was actually the only thing she could consistently make from scratch.

The water was almost boiling when Rupert entered the kitchen, groaned, and said, “Should I specify in the note that I don’t want you cooking at all? Just—sit down, Jenny, you have a date tomorrow with a lovely woman and it will not kill you to let me take care of you for once.”

“You can’t use my date with Lilah as leverage to let you make me dinner, that’s not fair,” Jenny objected. “I can’t do that with you. You aren’t ever dating anyone.”

Rupert looked at Jenny, smiled a little, and said, “I suppose you could say I’m very much in love with my job. Is that enough leverage for you?”

“Ugh,” said Jenny, and smiled back, feeling a strangely familiar flutter in her chest.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Rupert has very kindly offered to keep an eye on Faith and Tara during my date with Lilah, which he explained to them as being “case-relevant” since we still don’t know if Wolfram and Hart is actively looking for Tara. Tara seemed grateful, but Faith looked a little put out by the concept of Rupert third-wheeling whatever it is she and Tara have going on as of late. She did cover it up pretty gracefully, though; I’m very proud of her.

Lilah and I agreed to meet at six PM at Caritas, which (upon further investigation) was revealed to be an impressively high-end establishment. My wardrobe isn’t really equipped for glamorous nightclubs, but I found a nice dress on sale during a thrift shop excursion with the very helpful Summers sisters. Buffy insisted I try on as many dresses as possible “so that we aren’t taking any chances on you not looking your absolute best.” I absolutely love that girl.


 

Caritas was in a particularly glitzy part of LA, one that made Jenny’s leather jacket and strapless dress look a little ridiculous in comparison to the people sipping cocktails on balconies and strolling with armfuls of shopping bags. She suddenly wished she’d splurged on a dress that looked a little less thrift-store and a little more high-end, but it was a little late for that, so she entered with her head held high and tried not to look as first-date nervous as she was beginning to feel.

Lilah was standing right by the door, wearing a shimmery black dress with elbow-length sleeves. Her hair fell in soft, loose curls at her shoulders, and she smiled, slow and pleased, as soon as she saw Jenny. “You look beautiful,” she said without preamble.

All Jenny could manage was a breathless laugh. “Okay,” she said, and then groaned. “Ugh. God. That was not smooth.”

Lilah laughed, a surprised sound, like Jenny had startled her into amusement. “No,” she said. “It really wasn’t.”

Jenny grinned, blushing. “Um, you look amazing,” she said, “as always, do you want me to buy you a drink?”

“Oh, absolutely not,” said Lilah, holding out her arm. Jenny took it, feeling a happy-flirty rush at the closeness. “This place is incredibly expensive, and you living off of client payments—this whole thing is completely my treat. Let me buy you a drink.”

“Thank god,” said Jenny, and both of them laughed. Feeling a little bolder, Jenny added, “So should we just skip the awkward first-date line of questioning, or is that still mandatory?”

“Well, you’re a private detective,” said Lilah, letting go of Jenny’s arm to pull out a barstool. Jenny hopped up, trying to make the motion as graceful as possible. “What can you detect about me?”

Jenny grinned, tapping her finger exaggeratedly against her chin for a few moments before saying, “Decidedly not straight.”

“Anyone can make that observation about me and call themselves a detective,” Lilah teased, moving smoothly up to sit next to Jenny and making a motion to the bartender. “Two of the usual, Lorne.”

“You sure?” The bartender turned, smiling warmly at Jenny. Surprised, she smiled back. “A pretty little thing like this, she deserves one of the daily specials.”

“Watch it,” said Lilah lightly, moving to rest her hand over Jenny’s on the top of the bar.

“I wasn’t flirting—

“You flirt with everything, sweetie, it’s kind of a quirk,” Lilah pointed out. “Jenny, you feel like a specialty cocktail? Lorne does have a knack for these kinds of things.”

“Um, sure,” said Jenny, who was still very focused on Lilah’s hand over hers.

Lilah leaned in, her hair tickling the side of Jenny’s face, and murmured, “Anything in particular?”

Jenny breathed out, hard. “Surprise me,” she managed.

Well,” said Lorne the bartender, sounding thoroughly amused. “There is some heat over here. Ladies, I’m sure you won’t mind me excusing myself to make your drinks,” and he swung away, turning to get two glasses from the back shelf.

Jenny turned, and found herself very close to Lilah, who still hadn’t moved away. “Hey,” she said, soft and low. “You still up for my investigations?”

Lilah’s fingers traced Jenny’s wrist. “Tell me what you can guess,” she said.

“Okay,” said Jenny, trying to think, “okay, you’re—stunning, and good at getting what you want. You’ve been with Wolfram and Hart for long enough to know what they are and what they’ve done, but you’ve chosen to come to me to take them down—I don’t know, Lilah. I don’t know. So many things about you are difficult for me to piece together, and it seems like that’s the way you like it.”

“And is that the way you like it?” There was a thoughtful curiosity in Lilah’s voice.

Jenny smiled self-deprecatingly. “I’m a detective,” she said. “You’re a mystery. I don’t think there could ever be a more perfect pair. But—you make me want to know you. You’re smart, and you’re thoughtful, and I don’t know if you realize the kind of good you’re doing by bringing Wolfram and Hart to justice. I like you—what I know of you—and I want to know more.”

Lilah’s eyes were very wide. “Wow,” she said finally, looking away as though embarrassed. After a beat, she said, “God, I think I really like you.”

“Is that a surprise?”

“A little,” said Lilah. “I don’t go out with a lot of women who make me like them this fast.”

“You really need to get out more,” said Jenny, and Lilah laughed. It didn’t escape Jenny’s notice that Lilah had yet to let go of her hand, keeping them touching. It seemed to have escaped Lilah’s. Something about that made Jenny feel happy, quietly so.

“Am I interrupting anything?” Lorne placed a glass of scotch on the rocks in front of Lilah and something vaguely purple in front of Jenny.

“A little,” said Lilah, eyes not leaving Jenny. “But thank you for the drinks, Lorne. How much—”

“On the house,” said Lorne cheerfully. “I’ve seen you here with ladies before, Morgana, but never one that makes you smile like that.”

For the first time since Jenny had met her, Lilah turned a soft pink. “I can pay,” she said. She still kept on looking at Jenny.

“I know,” said Lorne, “but I won’t take it. You two enjoy your date, all right? Maybe sing some karaoke for us—you look like you’re a good singer, cupcake,” he added in Jenny’s direction before turning to take someone else’s drink order.

“Another piece of the Lilah puzzle,” said Jenny playfully, and squeezed Lilah’s hand. “Here’s a first-date question: what’s your favorite song?”

Lilah frowned, thinking. “I listen to classical music,” she said.

“Oh my god, that’s such a cop-out!” Jenny laughed, taking a sip of her drink (it tasted too sugary, but she barely noticed) and letting her hand move up Lilah’s arm. “You can listen to any music. What’s your favorite song?”

“Is it bad form to say I don’t listen to music at all?” Lilah was laughing too. “I’m just busy all the time, Jenny, there’s no room in my schedule to find out what kind of music I like.”

“See, this is my job as a detective,” said Jenny. Somehow, her hand had found its way to Lilah’s shoulder. “I’ve gotta find that out.”


 

Two drinks and a lot of flirting into the date, Jenny had learned quite a few first-date-worthy facts about Lilah Elizabeth Morgan, who had grown up in a small suburban town with a single mom and a semi-absent dad. She liked going for an early morning run in the park near her apartment, didn’t like losing, and had a scar on her elbow from a scrape she’d gotten in a second-grade fight with another kid. “I was kind of awful,” she’d said unapologetically, “and I don’t know why I’m telling you this story on a first date, it’s not exactly flattering—”

“Oh, yeah, you totally blew this,” said Jenny, reaching out to play idly with a curl of Lilah’s hair. Lilah’s smile widened. “You know,” Jenny added, “when I was in fifth grade, I sabotaged a girl’s science project because she made fun of my shoes.”

“I’m sure Wolfram and Hart would hire you, with a history like that,” said Lilah. “I could pull a few strings for you, if you wanted.”

“Absolutely,” said Jenny very seriously, and then they both started laughing in a happy, tipsy kind of way.

Still laughing, Lilah reached out, placing a hand quietly and deliberately on Jenny’s knee. “Hey,” she said. “You want to go out back with me? Caritas has this wonderful outdoor garden. Very secluded.”

“Yeah?” said Jenny. Her hand slipped from Lilah’s hair to her shoulder. God, she couldn’t stop touching this woman.

“Yeah,” said Lilah, and for a moment, Jenny legitimately thought that they were both going to snap and just start kissing in the middle of the nightclub. But then Lilah slid gracefully from the barstool, extending a hand to Jenny.

A little dazed, Jenny took it, feeling a soft, warm flutter as their fingers interlaced. “Is it part of your job to be this smooth?” she quipped.

Something in Lilah’s face twisted, so quickly and imperceptibly that Jenny almost thought she’d imagined it. “Just born with it, I guess,” she answered, almost too lightly, and began leading Jenny towards the back exit of Caritas.

The garden was incredible, lush and floral and starlit, and by some unbelievable miracle, they were the only two outside.

“Jenny,” said Lilah. Jenny turned, and Lilah’s face was still so unreadable, so beautiful—

She’d read a lot about magnetic attraction in the cheesy romance novels she loved so much,heard about it from old friends. Rupert had once talked wistfully about his college romance with a man who had effortlessly drawn him in. Jenny didn’t think she’d ever fully understood that kind of unconscious draw until now, kissing Lilah in the dim light of the Caritas garden.

Lilah tasted like scotch, still, and kissed Jenny back with an ungraceful passion that didn’t easily mesh with the confident, calculated woman whose hand had rested on Jenny’s knee. She seemed desperate, almost hungry, to be as close to Jenny as physically possible.

Electric, Jenny thought, magnetic. Lilah Morgan was a force of nature. She stumbled, and Lilah caught her, breaking the kiss only to press shorter, biting kisses to Jenny’s face and neck as she led them both over to a nearby bench.

Lilah pushed Jenny’s jacket off her shoulders, and Jenny fell against the back of the bench, arms wound around Lilah’s neck as they kissed breathlessly. “God, you’re good at this,” Jenny managed, pulling away to kiss Lilah’s jaw.

“It’s a gift,” Lilah murmured, pulling Jenny’s face back up and into hers.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Just for the record (ha, and this literally is a record), I don’t generally make out with people in the back garden of a nightclub, mostly because public displays of affection are sort of inconsiderate in most cases. But Lilah told me that Lorne only lets certain people into the private garden at certain times, so it was totally fine.

(And probably for the better. It wasn’t like we had sex on that bench or anything, but that kissing was definitely edging towards R-rated.)


 

 

They kissed goodbye outside Caritas, Lilah’s hand resting almost possessively on the small of Jenny’s back. “You’d better call me,” she said. Somehow her hair, even when disheveled, still looked amazing. “And not just about the case.”

“Ditto,” said Jenny, flushed and breathless.

“Oh—” Lilah hesitated, tracing Jenny’s cheek with one hand. “You’re good to drive?” she said. “You’re pretty tiny, and Lorne makes a mean cocktail.”

“I’m okay,” said Jenny, and meant it. “Honestly, Lilah, you’re probably what’s got me buzzed, not the drinks.”

Lilah laughed, sounding strangely tired. “You’re a dangerous woman, Jenny Calendar,” she said, and kissed Jenny one last time before she could ask why. She let go slowly, turned reluctantly, and strode towards her nearby car, looking over her shoulder one last time. “I’m serious, though,” she added. “Call me.”

Jenny grinned, pressing a hand to her mouth in an awkward attempt to hide it. “Yeah,” she said, “yeah, I will,” and waited until Lilah had gotten into her car before turning and walking away herself.

She thought about Lilah for the entire drive home (her mouth, those hands, her hair falling messily into Jenny’s face, perfect curls tousled and ruined) and very nearly drove past her apartment. She only just managed to make the turn into the driveway, and realized with a small shock that it was almost midnight.

Jenny’s phone went off, and she realized that, in her hurry to meet Lilah, she’d left her phone in the car. Wincing, she hurried to answer it. “Hey,” she managed.

“Jenny.” Rupert sounded exhausted.

“Is—everything okay?”

“I-I didn’t mean to bother you on your date, I just—please come home.” Rupert paused, then said with strange deliberateness, “Back. To your home.”

“Okay, weirdo,” said Jenny, smiling a little, “I just pulled in. What’s up?”

“Someone just tried to break into your apartment.”

Jenny hung up. Getting out of the car, she locked her door, ran to unlock the door to the lobby, and raced up the stairs to the second floor. Stumbling to the landing, she saw Rupert stepping out of her apartment, pulling his jacket on. “I’m here,” she wheezed, “it’s good, I’m—I’m here—”

Rupert took two steps forward and pulled her roughly into his arms, burying his face in her hair. Jenny hugged him back, hard, heart pounding, because Tara was in that apartment and Faith could have gotten herself hurt trying to protect Tara and there were so, so many factors she hadn’t even considered—

“It’s all right,” Rupert said weakly, raising his head and pulling back to look at her. “It—come on. Let’s go in.”

“The girls are okay?” Jenny demanded, probably a bit louder than she needed to. She didn’t care.

“They’re fine,” said Rupert, smoothing down Jenny’s hair. “It’s—someone picked the lock while the girls were brushing their teeth, and when I stuck my head out into the hallway, they, um—” He pulled back, and Jenny noticed for the first time the large, angry bruise on the side of his forehead.

“Oh my god,” said Jenny, her voice catching. “Did they—are you—”

“Jenny, it’s fine—”

“It is not fine, I was off making out with some hot lawyer while you were getting concussed,” said Jenny semi-hysterically, hands framing Rupert’s face.

Rupert placed his hands over Jenny’s. “Listen,” he said. “They were not trying to actually hurt me.”

“That is clearly not the case!”

“Jenny dear, you are shrieking at a volume that I am sure is very upsetting to the neighbors,” said Rupert patiently, “can we take this inside?”

“Fine,” said Jenny, and hugged him very tightly, angry at herself and him and whoever the fuck had hit him hard enough to bruise. It took her a moment to let go, but she still kept a tight grip on his hand as they entered the apartment.

The front room lights were on, but Faith’s bedroom door was closed and the light was off, which made Jenny feel a little more reassured. If Faith could sleep through the situation, it might not be as bad as Jenny had initially thought. “Okay,” she said, shutting the apartment door behind her and sitting down on the couch, “what the hell happened?”

Rupert sat down next to her, looking a bit embarrassed. “I’m so sorry to worry you, especially after your date with Lilah—”

“Tell me.

“I was hit across the side of the face,” said Rupert, “with some sort of heavy, blunt object, and my assailant ran away while I was reeling. They left these,” he gestured towards Jenny’s coffee table, revealing a set of lock picks and a bright red file.

Jenny picked up the file, opening it, already fairly certain she knew what was inside. Sure enough, a neat, glossy photo of Tara was the only thing in the file, attached to it a Post-It note reading neutralize. “God,” she whispered. “What would they have done if you hadn’t been here?”

Rupert hesitated. Tentatively, he said, “I expect they were counting on it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I—you know how much I want this thing with Lilah to go well,” said Rupert carefully, “but you have to agree that it’s a bit suspicious that the attempt to neutralize Tara occurs on the same night of your first date with Lilah.”

“You’re not saying—”

Rupert shook his head. “I’m not making any judgments on Lilah’s character,” he said emphatically. “None. Claims at this juncture would be baseless and unfounded. All I am saying is that you need to have a serious talk with Lilah about the possibility of her being watched.”

“And if we can’t figure out a way to fix this,” said Jenny, feeling the last of the bubbly post-date happiness dissipate, “then there is definitely no way I can keep dating Lilah.”

Reaching out, Rupert took Jenny’s hand in his. “Nothing is definite yet,” he reminded her.

“No, it’s—it’s important that we’re aware of this stuff,” said Jenny, quiet and decisive. “Faith’s safety isn’t worth any hot date, and—” She laced her fingers more securely with his. “And neither is yours, Rupert.”

Rupert looked at their joined hands with a strangely nervous expression. Then, quietly, he said, “Jenny—”

“Hey, Mom!” Faith stuck her head out from the bedroom, smirking. A giggly Tara followed suit. “Swear we weren’t eavesdropping,” Faith continued, “but I wanted to stay up and ask you how the thing with hot client lady went and Tara said she wouldn’t mind hearing the dirty details, so—”

“I didn’t say it like that!” Tara gasped without a trace of her stutter, hiding her face behind her hands with a laugh.

Jenny suddenly felt a lot better. “Honey,” she began, “I’m sure you would love hearing about my new paramour—”

“Ick, you sound like Giles,” said Faith, making a face.

“—but it is late and I’m very tired,” Jenny finished, “so do you mind leaving me to talk with Rupert? We still have case stuff to deal with.”

“Okay,” said Faith, “but can I ask one question?”

Jenny had to smile. “Shoot.”

“Am I gonna have a new mommy?” Faith asked innocently. Tara, face still hidden behind her hands, uttered a slightly muffled giggle.

“Oh my god,” said Jenny, trying not to laugh. “Wow. Okay, you two are going to bed right now.” Tugging her hand free of Rupert’s, she stood up, gently pushing Faith and Tara back into the bedroom and shutting the door. “Go to sleep,” she called.

Fine!” Faith called back, still with a laugh in her voice.

Jenny turned back to Rupert. “What was it you were going to say?” she asked.

Rupert turned a soft shade of pink at the question. “What? Oh, it’s, it’s nothing,” he said, and then amended, “it can wait for a, a better time, I think. I just—” Clearing his throat awkwardly, he said a bit too loudly, “As I was saying, at the very least, you should discuss with Lilah how likely it is that her moves are being monitored by Wolfram and Hart. Whoever it was very clearly knew that Tara was here, or at least knew there was a chance she might be, and Lilah’s the only one we’ve made privy to that information outside of Anya and our family.”

Our family?” Jenny echoed, surprised.

Rupert was now blushing furiously. “That is—well—you did say—” he stammered.

Jenny bit her lip, smiling. “You are such a dork,” she said, and stepped forward to rest her chin on his shoulder in a lingering hug. Rupert stumbled, then hugged her back. “Of course we’re family, England, I just—I’ve never heard you say it before.”

“It’s been a rather emotionally charged night,” said Rupert exhaustedly.

Jenny considered this. Then she said, “Let’s watch some bad midnight TV together.”


 

 

Jenny woke up still on the couch, a blanket draped over her. The channel had been changed, and Faith, Tara, and Rupert were eating cereal and having a whispery conversation about Sunday morning cartoons.

“Mom, we’re out of Froot Loops and Giles says he’s not getting any more because they’re not healthy but he took the last bowl,” said Faith without looking away from the television.

Blearily, Jenny snuggled into the couch and debated going back to sleep. “What time is it?” she mumbled.

“Ten in the morning,” Rupert answered, dodging an attempt by Faith to snag a spoonful of his Froot Loops.

“Also, um, your phone went off a lot?” Tara added.

“Lots of kissy emojis from Lilah,” said Faith significantly, smirking. “Anything you want to tell us?”

“No,” said Jenny, then, “Lilah?” then sort of fell off the couch in an attempt to get to her phone, ignoring Faith and Rupert’s badly stifled laughter.

“It’s over on the coffee table, dear,” said Rupert patiently.

“Thanks.” Jenny grabbed the phone from the coffee table, rolling onto her back without getting up off the floor. Lilah had indeed sent Jenny five (five!!!!!!) texts early in the morning.

thinking of you, followed by a lipstick emoji and a winking face.

got a report from the firm abt them trying to break in & snag tara; dw about it

i’ll pull rank & switch the attention over to some other case

you ok?? gavin park’s talking abt how the hired help fucked up & someone was at home during the break-in

text me when you get this; i really am concerned

“Is that what she’s worried about?” said Jenny skeptically.

“Everything all right?” Rupert inquired with a worried frown.

“Yeah, fine,” said Jenny irritably, clambering up from the floor. “Let me just make a call.”

“Business or personal?” Faith inquired innocently. Tara snorted.

“You know, between Rupert and myself, who’s the one that’s more likely to buy you Froot Loops?” Jenny called over her shoulder, stepping into her bedroom and shutting the door. She dialed Lilah’s number, waiting.

Lilah picked up on the second ring. “Are you okay?” she demanded, voice harsh and half-breathless.

“Yeah, though I’m a little surprised you told me ‘not to worry’ about someone breaking into my apartment,” said Jenny shortly. “My kid was at home, Lilah.”

“I’m sorry,” said Lilah, sounding like a weight had been lifted from her chest, “that was a hasty text in the middle of the meeting—obviously I—god, I’m just glad you’re all right. Who got hit?”

“Rupert,” said Jenny, “he was babysitting—” She laughed nervously. “I shouldn’t say that, they’re teenagers. He was looking after Faith and Tara while I went out with you.”

Lilah exhaled. “I am so sorry,” she said. “I’ve been put in charge of this project, I don’t understand why they went ahead without—”

“Project?” Jenny echoed.

There was a strange pause, then Lilah explained awkwardly, “Wolfram and Hart put me in charge of neutralizing all threats to the firm. I’m choosing instead to utilize them.”

“Wow,” said Jenny, frowning. “That’s pretty convenient if you want to take them down.”

“Not really,” said Lilah. “I’ve worked from the ground up to find a way to destroy this firm, and—and I’m not letting someone like—I’m not letting anyone get hurt, Jenny. I’m going to talk to my team about who’s in charge and who’s not. I can’t believe—this is completely my fault for not—”

“You want to come over for lunch?” said Jenny suddenly.

“What?”

“You sound stressed, and Rupert’s the one who actually deserves a plethora of apologies,” said Jenny gently, “and besides which, you haven’t actually met my daughter. You should come over for lunch.”

“I have too much work today, Jenny, I’m—”

“Say you’re sorry one more time and I swear I’ll reach through this phone line and—”

“And what?” There was a low, pleased note to Lilah’s voice now.

“Kiss you,” said Jenny, grinning, “till you can’t say anything at all.”

“Tempted as I am to have hot phone sex at work,” said Lilah playfully, “I really have to get back to this meeting, and I’m sure you have case work to address, so—”

“So, later,” said Jenny.

“Later,” Lilah agreed, and hung up. Jenny leaned back against her bedroom door, smiling.

Chapter Text

 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Back to the grind, I guess, now with the added stress of the fact that my partner got clocked with some kind of blunt object and refuses to get his head checked out at the doctor’s because he’s a fucking idiot and absolutely never listens to me when I tell him to take care of himself. He says it’s fine, but, like, he could at least CHECK so I wasn’t WORRYING all the time and maybe I need to stop writing these things immediately after arguments with Rupert. Generally, they just turn into extended vents about either him not listening to me or him claiming that I’m not listening to him. Our arguments follow a pretty similar pattern at this point.

He does seem to be okay, though I’m more than a little bit worried about him. As much as I like Lilah, I sometimes get the sense that I’m not the thing about Calendar-Giles Investigations she cares about most—I’m the only thing about Calendar-Giles-Investigations she cares about at all. And that’s difficult, because that means that Lilah won’t be as focused on protecting Rupert as she is on protecting me, and—and I’m not good with the thought of Rupert getting hurt. It freaks me out. This world has fucked with him often enough, it doesn’t need to literally hit him with blunt objects to get the point across, and what happens when Wolfram and Hart decides he’s a liability that needs to be neutralized?

Okay. Spiraling. Definitely don’t need to go there. We’re going to solve this case and get Lilah her witnesses and take down Wolfram and Hart and that’s it. That’s all.


 

 

“Winifred Burkle,” Jenny read off the pamphlet, “the youngest physics professor in California history—whoa, she’s only a year older than you all. Food for thought, guys.”

“Oh, Professor Burkle?” Willow’s voice was suddenly high and excited. “She’s—I mean, I’m not in her class, but she’s a living legend! And super pretty, and once I sat in on one of her lectures, and—”

“Ease up, soldier, your girlfriend’s in the car,” Xander pointed out, gesturing over towards an amused Buffy.

“I’m not dating a teacher,” said Willow, sounding affronted, “that’s against my moral code.” Hastily, she added, “Also I have the prettiest, kindest, most kickass girlfriend in the world, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Buffy agreed.

“Hopefully you two will keep your romantic musings to yourselves during this lecture,” said Rupert pointedly, making a left turn. “I’d like for Professor Burkle to think at least semi-decently of us before we approach her to discuss Wolfram and Hart.”

“I promise I’ll behave, Giles!” said Willow immediately.

“That is a surprising amount of conviction from a girl who’s hot for her teacher,” Buffy teased, and immediately shrieked as Willow tackled her to cover her face with kisses. “Aaah, Will, this is anti-behaving! This is exactly what Giles said not to do! This—”

“Lord, give me strength,” said Rupert as Jenny started laughing. “And you,” he added to Jenny, “are supposed to be my partner. You’re just reading off pamphlets and encouraging romantic trysts in the backseat of my car.”

“Wow, you’re melodramatic,” Jenny observed, biting down a last giggle. “Buffy, Willow, cool it back there, okay? This is an academic lecture we’re all going to. I want this to be a learning experience.”

“Are there snacks?” Xander asked hopefully.

No,” said Rupert, sounding very much at the end of his rope. “This is case work.

“Rupert brings up a good point!” Jenny added, remembering belatedly that she had been in the middle of briefing the kids. “Okay, so Lilah said on the list that Professor Burkle isn’t even on Wolfram and Hart’s scope right now, but that she wants to be as thorough as possible in protecting anyone with useful information. This is actually the lowest-risk part of the case, but—”

“But it is still important to behave,” Rupert said pointedly. Belatedly, he tacked on, “Please.”

Tara and Faith were currently under the watch of a fiercely protective Anya, who Jenny was fairly certain would seriously hurt any Wolfram and Hart intruder trying to snag Tara. Technically, Faith could have come to the lecture as well, but Rupert’s car only had so many seats, and Faith had used that as an excuse to spend some more time with a not-at-all-displeased Tara. Anya kept on sending Jenny way too many texts about things that didn’t even slightly relate to Tara or Faith’s welfare, so Jenny had put her phone decisively on silent in preparation for the lecture.

As they pulled into the parking lot, Jenny caught sight of a familiar black car. “Oh,” she said, delighted, and unbuckled her seatbelt, opening the door and jumping out of the car before it was done moving. Ignoring Rupert’s alarmed “good lord, Jenny!” she crossed the parking lot at a brisk walk, beaming when she saw Lilah getting out of the car.

“Jenny,” said Lilah, sounding genuinely delighted.

“Hi,” said Jenny, distantly aware of the fact that she was smiling like an idiot.

“For the love of god,” called Rupert from behind both of them, “do not jump out of a moving car, I don’t care how pretty your girlfriend is.”

Shut up,” Jenny called over her shoulder. Stepping closer to Lilah, she said shyly, “It’s good to see you. You here for case work too?”

“Well, this is Professor Burkle’s first lecture in quite a while,” Lilah answered. The easy grace was still there, but at girlfriend, a slow blush had begun. “Call it idle curiosity.”

Jenny bit her lip, then took Lilah’s hand. Lilah gave her a surprised smile as Jenny led them both over to Rupert’s now-parked car, where Rupert was looking a mixture of exasperated and exhausted. “Jenny,” he said very reprovingly.

“I know, I know, blah blah don’t jump out of moving cars blah blah personal safety blah,” said Jenny helpfully. Next to her, Lilah laughed, the same almost-surprised sound; Jenny considered for the first time that Lilah wasn’t a person who was used to finding things genuinely funny. “Rupert, this is Lilah, you met her, we kissed a lot outside Caritas and I’m hoping she’ll let me take her out again.”

That’s Lilah?” said Buffy loudly from the backseat, leaning across Willow and Xander to stare out the window. “Oh my god, she’s super hot!”

“Wow, she really is!” Willow sounded quite impressed. “Way to go, Jenny.”

“My daughter Buffy,” said Rupert somewhat long-sufferingly. “And cohorts.”

“Wow,” said Lilah, sounding a mixture of impressed and strangely sad. “You two really do have a family business.”

“Well, like you said, this one’s a low-risk event,” Jenny explained, “and it makes a pretty good cover to have a bunch of college students with us attending a lecture, especially if one is Rupert’s kid.” Buffy had busied herself with whispering semi-audibly to Willow and Xander about Lilah. Jenny decided to leave the kids alone for now, turning to Lilah and saying, “Hey, you want to sit with us? Or is that too obvious for Wolfram and Hart, us being associated—”

“I did mention I’m seeing someone,” Lilah answered with a small smile, and kissed a startled Jenny on the cheek. “I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch.”


 

 

They’d intended to sit as a group and wait for the lecture to start, but what actually ended up happening was Rupert gently shepherding the children to the opposite side of the large lecture hall and telling Jenny over her shoulder to “have a good time, dear,” which was ridiculously sweet of him. Jenny would definitely have to remember to thank him for that later, because Lilah then took that opportunity to pull them surreptitiously out of the hall and into a nearby broom closet.

“Classy,” said Jenny.

“We have five minutes, if I’ve estimated correctly,” said Lilah.

“Is this all I’m good for?” Jenny teased, winding her arms around Lilah’s neck and feeling dizzyingly happy. “Secluded makeout sessions in various public places?”

“Well, I’m a busy lady,” Lilah replied, and she was smiling in the exact same delighted way as she pressed a fleeting kiss to the corner of Jenny’s mouth. “And I’m not all that great at propositioning people like you.”

“People like me,” Jenny echoed, frowning more out of curiosity than apprehension. “What does that mean?”

“People who are honest,” said Lilah, fingertips lightly tracing Jenny’s cheek. “I can’t—I don’t want to use subterfuge and trickery to get you into my bed.” She ducked her head, smiling almost bitterly. “You’re worth something to me, I think,” she said. “I’m not used to that.”

Jenny felt a nervous twist in her chest. She wasn’t used to that either. “Listen,” she said, trying to shift the conversation to lighter terrain. “Not that I don’t like the romance of that sentiment, but we’ve got four and a half minutes till we’ve gotta get back into that lecture hall. You going to make the most of that time?”

Lilah smiled slowly. “I’ll try not to leave any marks,” she said, and pushed Jenny’s leather jacket off and down to the floor, lifting Jenny up off her feet as they kissed. “Oh my god,” Lilah murmured, “you’re sexy as hell, but you’re so tiny.”

Jenny started laughing against Lilah’s mouth. “I don’t know how to take that,” she murmured, tangling her hands in Lilah’s hair and kissing her with sweet intensity. “Is that good?”

“It’s—yes.” Lilah was smiling. “It’s perfect.”

There wasn’t much talking in the closet, after that.


 

 

When Jenny and Lilah stepped gracefully and nonchalantly out four-and-a-half minutes later, both of them had taken great pains to hide the five-and-a-half lipstick marks on Jenny’s neck. “Why do you buy the expensive stuff,” Jenny was giggle-whispering as they entered the lecture hall, “this kind of thing takes forever to get off. I’ll be showering for hours.

“Doesn’t sound too bad to me,” said Lilah significantly, slipping her hand into Jenny’s.

“You’re the worst,” Jenny told her, finding them both seats in the back row.

Two rows ahead of them and one row to the right, Jenny saw Rupert turn his head very slightly to glance surreptitiously over at them. Lilah was now methodically reapplying her lipstick, and Jenny watched as Rupert’s eyes moved to her. Subtly, he motioned to his collar.

Jenny’s hands hastily flitted to adjust the neckline of her shirt, where one of Lilah’s lipstick smudges was visible. Thanks, she mouthed.

Rupert inclined his head in response, then made a kissy face.

“Oh, ha ha,” said Jenny a bit louder than she’d intended. More than a few people turned to stare.

“Very smooth,” Lilah teased, tucking the lipstick and compact back into her purse. “Is this partner-related?”

“He’s such a five-year-old,” said Jenny affectionately, watching Rupert turn back to the kids. It kind of looked like he was trying to dissuade Xander from eating Willow’s vending machine snacks—no, wait, he was confiscating the vending machine snacks. That made sense too. “But he’s a great dad.”

Lilah, frowning a little, looked like she was about to say something, but just then, the lights dimmed. Turning back into her seat, she placed her hand almost possessively on Jenny’s shoulder, glancing one more time at Rupert before a tall, slight young girl stumbled nervously onstage.

“Um, hello and welcome?” she said tentatively, stepping forward and up to the podium. “Uh, this is, it’s my first time doin’ the whole, the, the public speaking thing in a while, but—” She cleared her throat, smoothing down her hair with shaky hands. “Well, as y’all know, my name’s Professor Burkle—Winifred Burkle, actually, though my friends call me Fred—and I’m here to talk to you about quantum physics! The Pylea Theory, to be specific.”

“Poor thing,” said Lilah, already sounding a little bored. “It’s clear she’s not cut out for a crowd like this.”

“Play nice,” Jenny reminded Lilah, leaning in, and was distracted by the floral scent of Lilah’s perfume. Without really thinking, she pressed a furtive kiss to Lilah’s neck.

Jenny!” said Lilah, her voice a high whisper. Thankfully, it wasn’t too audible, but Jenny thought she saw Rupert’s head turn. “God, you’re insatiable.

“Says the woman who dragged me into a broom closet,” Jenny pointed out.

“This is a lecture, Jenny, there’s no place for making out here.

“You sound like Rupert,” Jenny quipped.

Lilah’s eyes widened. “Wait,” she said slowly. “Are you two—”

Jenny played back what she’d just said, realized what she’d implied, and felt herself blushing a positively shocking shade of red. “Oh my god,” she managed. “We’re not—what do you think—Rupert and I don’t make out in lectures, Lilah.”

“So you’re saying you and Rupert make out in other places?” Lilah said, sounding only half-joking.

“Rupert and I don’t make out at all,” said Jenny very loudly. Nearly the entire lecture hall turned to stare at them, including a bewildered-looking Rupert. Jenny debated whether or not she could just run to the car and drive off, remembered that Rupert was the one with the car keys, and decided to just settle for slowly dying of mortification in the lecture hall.

“We should go outside,” said Lilah. “Should we—um, sorry,” she called over her shoulder to a confused Professor Burkle, grabbing Jenny’s hand and pulling them both out of the lecture hall.

“Lilah,” Jenny began as soon as they were outside, feeling a strange bubble of panic in her chest. “Rupert and I have never—why would you—”

Lilah exhaled, hard, then said, “Look, this is—this is going to be extremely difficult on me, and I don’t like doing this at all, but I want to talk honestly to you about my feelings.”

Jenny almost started laughing (most likely a combination of the lingering embarrassment and the fact that there would be at least five lawyer jokes that right now seemed really appropriate) but managed to hold it together, at least enough to say, “Is this about—me and Rupert? I don’t—”

“You two have kids,” said Lilah, who seemed to be deliberately avoiding Jenny’s gaze.

“Adopted,” said Jenny, “on both counts, it’s not like we had an actual baby together—”

“I like you,” said Lilah, all but forcing the words out. All of a sudden, she seemed angry and nervous, not at all the easily-smiling, charismatic woman who had won Jenny over without even trying. “And—and it’s really fucking up a lot of the plans I’m supposed to be carrying out, plans I can’t even tell you about, and the way you talk about Rupert, the way you talk to Rupert, it makes me feel like my liking you is absolutely pointless. And I hate that. And I really, really hate that I’m telling you this.”

Jenny felt a warm flutter in her chest. Sure, she knew that Lilah liked her, but she hadn’t realized that Lilah actually cared. “Okay,” she said, and smiled, relieved. “That’s—that makes a lot of sense. Um, you have to understand that Rupert and I are very important to each other—”

“No shit, Sherlock,” said Lilah, who now looked like she was somewhat regretting saying anything at all.

“—but,” said Jenny, and took Lilah’s hands carefully in hers, “you have to also trust me when I say that you’re important to me too. Maybe it doesn’t seem as easy or as natural as my friendship with Rupert, but he and I have known each other for years, and we’ve been through a lot of shit together. I’m not that—” She exhaled. “Fuck,” she said, laughing uncomfortably, “now I get to talk about my feelings. Okay.”

Lilah smiled a little. “Go on.”

Jenny bit her lip, then said, “I’m not that great at balancing my work life with my personal life, particularly because they’re so closely intertwined. It, uh, makes a lot of sense that,” she hesitated, then said, “that the person I’ve felt the closest to, romantically, would end up being one of my clients.”

Lilah’s eyes widened.

“Is that too much pressure?”

Lilah shook her head. Then she said, “You want to get out of here?”

Chapter Text

 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I’ve never really put a lot of thought into my relationship with Rupert. I mean, obviously we’re closer than just friends, but saying that we’re family doesn’t exactly sound right. Saying that we have a family together seems pretty solidly accurate, but what does that say for me and Lilah? She’s kind of got a point that that kind of arrangement doesn’t exactly leave a lot of room for her, and I have a lot of trouble imagining her, me, and Faith as a family unit when Faith and I kind of already have our own family.

Ever since Lilah and I met, I’ve been very much thinking of her in the present tense. She’s beautiful, I like her, but I’ve never really thought ahead to how she—or anyone who isn’t Rupert—might fit into my future. And I don’t like that, because this thing with Rupert—whatever it is—it isn’t sustaining. It isn’t what I want.

I don’t know what I want.


 

 

Lilah’s apartment was spacious and gorgeous, full of minimalistic, monochromatic furniture that looked incredibly expensive. “I don’t spend a lot of time here,” she explained. “Wolfram and Hart’s usually got me jet-setting around the world on special cases, but I managed to convince them I was a much more useful asset in LA as of late.” She helped Jenny out of her jacket, hanging it up on the nearby coat tree, then shrugged off her own jacket. “Make yourself at home,” she said, heading in the direction of the kitchen.

Jenny sat awkwardly down on the couch, not at all sure what she was doing. She wasn’t at all sure how either of them were supposed to function without flirtation and subterfuge. Something about Lilah had always seemed, to her, very carefully crafted, almost unbelievably perfect and incredibly aware of that fact. The fact that Lilah was interested in her in a way that went beyond attraction wasn’t something Jenny had even thought to hope for.

Lilah came out with a bottle of wine in one hand and two glasses in the other. “Got this for my hard work blackmailing a client a few years back,” she said matter-of-factly. “Never really found it in myself to use it.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Jenny asked.

“Because I want to be as honest as I can with you about the things that I’ve done,” said Lilah, still in that carefully neutral tone, and placed the glasses down on the coffee table, beginning to pour the wine. “You look at me through rose-colored glasses, I think, and I don’t like the thought of you missing the more important parts of me.”

“The most important part of you,” said Jenny quietly, “is the one that decided to come into my office. I know you’ve done bad things in the past, Lilah, but I’m trusting that the future is going to be something different for you. You’ve made it clear enough that you want to destroy Wolfram and Hart—that’s more than enough for me.”

Lilah looked at Jenny, bit her lip, and set down the wine bottle, placing a hand on the side of Jenny’s face. Jenny closed her eyes, leaning forward, meeting Lilah neatly in the middle as they kissed—

Jenny’s phone went off.

“God fucking damn it,” said Jenny emphatically, pulling back to fumble in her purse. Lilah laughed, picking up one of the wine glasses and taking a sip.

Willow had texted Jenny. hey, giles wants to know where ur at!!

tell him i’m fine, i left with lilah, Jenny typed back, feeling a strange, frustrated resentment that wasn’t really about Willow at all.

“Everything okay?” Lilah asked, frowning.

Jenny shoved her phone back into her purse, putting it on silent. “Everything’s great,” she said with conviction, and took the wine glass from Lilah, placing it carefully back on the coffee table before kissing Lilah again.

“So, not a fan of my pricey blackmail wine?” Lilah quipped, sliding her hands up Jenny’s waist.

Jenny gasped, then laughed. “Shut up,” she giggled, pushing Lilah down into the expensive sofa cushions.

It wasn’t, Jenny thought, an entirely romantic setting, because Lilah’s couch wasn’t all that comfortable (high-priced furniture tended to look a lot better than it felt) and there really wasn’t any good angle for kissing or for any other activities, but they somehow managed to make it work for about twenty minutes before they finally stumbled in the general direction of the bedroom.


 

 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

a graceful fade-to-black would be apropos here, I think.


 

 

“You’re, um,” Jenny rolled over, resting a hand on Lilah’s hip over the silk (silk!) bedsheets, “really fucking good at that.”

Lilah raised an eyebrow, looking like she was biting back a laugh. There was an unguarded happiness in her smile that looked very out of place on her; Jenny felt more than a little bit delighted by the fact that she was able to bring that happiness out in Lilah. “Just that?”

“And other things, obviously,” Jenny answered, just as delighted, her hand skimming Lilah’s waist to rest on her shoulder. “I’m not just hanging around to get laid, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Oh, not in the slightest,” said Lilah, winding her arms around Jenny’s neck. “No, I’m sure you could get any girl you wanted.”

“Or guy,” Jenny added helpfully. “The whole bisexual thing coming into play, there.”

“Of course,” Lilah agreed, and kissed Jenny, a soft brush of a kiss that felt incredibly, wonderfully intimate. “Are you going to need to get back home? You can stay, if you want—”

Jenny sighed. “I can’t,” she said. “Much as I love the idea of staying over, I told Faith I’d be back for dinner, and I’d at least like to make it home before she goes to bed.”

Lilah smiled, looking a little disappointed. “I get it,” she said finally. “Maybe we schedule a real overnight date at some point, huh?”

“Definitely,” Jenny agreed with conviction. “Um, I think I should,” she laughed softly, “go collect my clothes, find my phone—”

Lilah kissed Jenny’s shoulder, then let go of her, falling gracefully back into the bedsheets without taking her eyes off Jenny. “Go on,” she said. “I’ll just be lying here.”

Fuck,” said Jenny, and pulled Lilah into a last, heartfelt kiss before reluctantly removing herself from the bed and picking her bra up from the floor. “Incidentally,” she added, “do you always wear lingerie that nice, or did you use lawyer instincts to know I’d be at that lecture?”

“Both,” said Lilah solemnly, grinning when Jenny turned to look at her.

Stumbling out of the bedroom to find her shirt (which had been discarded pretty early into the evening), Jenny suddenly remembered that she’d left her phone in her purse. Recalling what had happened last time she’d been out of the picture, she felt a spike of panic as she fumbled to find her phone.

There was a voicemail from Rupert. Wincing, Jenny listened.

“Hello, Jenny, I’m, I’m assuming you’re with Lilah.” Rupert’s voice sounded sad and unusually tired, and Jenny felt a delayed sense of guilt for leaving him at the lecture without warning. “I recognize that she is very important to you, and I respect that, but I would very much appreciate a word of warning before you—you do things like jumping out of cars or ducking out of lectures without at least discussing things with me first. We’re, we’re a team, and I—need you.” There was a sharp intake of breath, and then Rupert added, sounding somewhat nervous, “And, and just in general—I—please do call me back when you can, and I’ll drive you home if you like.”

Jenny sat down on Lilah’s couch, burying her face in her hands. Behind her, she heard Lilah saying, “Hey, what’s wrong?” and the gentle pressure of a hand on her shoulder.

“I’m kinda shitty at being a good partner,” said Jenny tiredly. “I used to be better at this kind of stuff.”

Lilah was quiet for a moment. Then, wrapping her arms around Jenny’s shoulders, she said, “You said yourself that I’m kind of an anomaly, right? And it seems to me like you and Rupert have worked out a system that doesn’t really account for you being in a relationship. I’m more than certain that you two will figure out a way to fit that variable in.” She kissed Jenny’s neck. “Solving puzzles is your job, right, Calendar?”

Jenny felt strangely comforted by that. “Yeah,” she said softly. “I guess it is. I’m going to call Rupert back.”

I,” said Lilah, “am going to go get dressed so I can drive you home. Let me know when you’re ready?”

“Sure thing,” said Jenny, smiling a little. Lilah kissed the corner of her mouth, then pulled away, strolling back down the hallway to her bedroom.

Jenny took a deep breath, then dialed Rupert’s number. He picked up on the first ring. “I’m sorry about that voicemail,” he began immediately, “I, I was just nervous, I wasn’t thinking—”

“No, it’s cool, don’t worry!” Jenny couldn’t for the life of her figure out what there was to worry about in the voicemail. “We’re friends, we’re important to each other, I definitely get that.” She laughed uncomfortably. “I’m really sorry,” she added. “Seriously. I definitely should have told you about the change of plans, and if Lilah and I run into each other again, I’ll make sure to talk to you before I go off and have sex with her at her apartment—”

“What?”

“What?”

“You—that was what you were doing?” Rupert sounded a little pissed off. “Jenny, I understand the need to spend time with Lilah, but this was in the middle of case work, you can’t just—”

“I already said I was sorry,” said Jenny reflexively, feeling suddenly embarrassed. God, why had she gotten into the habit of telling Rupert everything? “And I seriously won’t do it again, I know it was a mistake, I just—” She breathed out, thinking of Lilah’s easy, comforting words. “She’s genuine,” she said softly. “She’s honest with me, even though she acts like she’s this big mystery. I really like that about her.”

Rupert was very quiet.

“You still there?” Jenny asked tentatively.

“Yes,” said Rupert stiffly. “Should I come and pick you up?”

“No, Lilah’s driving me,” Jenny answered. Then, “You know, I—we’ll work this out, okay? We’ll figure out a way for me to have a girlfriend and not neglect the work we do. I guess I’ve just been really used to devoting a lot of my time to you and the kids, and—maybe I need a little space for the things I want, sometimes.”

“I-I understand that,” said Rupert. “I do. It’s just—it’s quite a lot to get used to, I suppose, but I’ll do my best to accommodate.”

“You’re the best partner a girl could ask for,” said Jenny sincerely, feeling an unusual, unhappy twinge in her chest that she didn’t quite get. This was what she wanted from the situation, wasn’t it? “I’ll see you when I get back?”

“Actually, I drove home,” said Rupert quietly. “Anya’s looking after Faith and Tara. I suppose I’ll see you in the office tomorrow.”

“Oh,” said Jenny.

“That’s all right, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?” Jenny laughed a little too loudly. “I mean, god, we see each other every day, it’s not going to kill me if you aren’t over for dinner. I’ll—I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“See you tomorrow,” Rupert echoed, and hung up, nearly cutting off the tomorrow.

Stunned, Jenny stayed on the line. Rupert always waited on the line until she had hung up. Always.

“Everything okay?” called Lilah from the bedroom.

“Fine,” said Jenny, barely audible, and fell back into Lilah’s expensive, uncomfortable couch.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

For once, I’m just going to talk about the case, because my work life and my personal life as of late seem very closely intertwined, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

Rupert talked to Professor Burkle at the lecture while I was off on a small personal excursion, and he scheduled a meeting for all three of us. Professor Burkle, according to him, seemed somewhat unnerved by Rupert’s mention of Wolfram and Hart, and only agreed to meet with him under the condition that it was in a crowded public place; Rupert’s hypothesis is that she knows something of value to us, and he’s concerned that she won’t be able to disclose any confidential information in a place where we might be overheard, but I pointed out that a meeting might build trust between us and Professor Burkle.

We’re bringing Buffy and Willow along again, mostly because, since they’re so close to Professor Burkle in age, we feel that they’ll make the situation seem safer for her. Hopefully that’s a good plan.


 

 

“Okay,” said Jenny, holding the phone to her ear with her shoulder as she pulled on her jeans, “I’m thinking that cheesy diner by my apartment, six pm? I know you’re big on high-end establishments, but I think it’s time I bring you to a place where I can actually pay for your dinner.”

“I’m not dating you for your money, sweetie,” Lilah quipped with a laugh. “But if you’re hell-bent on being the breadwinner—”

“C’mon, Lilah, this is the kind of thing love interests do for each other,” Jenny persisted, grinning. “Just let me treat you at least once. You’ll be able to make it?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Lilah answered. “You sure this won’t be a problem with Rupert?”

“Oh, the Professor Burkle thing should be over pretty quick,” Jenny replied. “And if it’s looking like it might take a little longer, I’ll do my best to let you know in a timely manner.” Stepping into her shoes, she added, “Have a good day at work, by the way.”

“Right back at you,” said Lilah with a smile in her voice, and hung up.

Jenny leaned against the wall, grinning, and might have stayed there longer had Rupert not called from the other side of the door, “Much as I endeavor to support your newfound romantic pursuits, Jenny, we are running late as it is, so—”

“I got it,” Jenny called back, pocketing her phone and hurrying out of her bedroom to join Rupert, who was giving her an unusually genuine long-suffering look. “Listen,” she said, feeling suddenly awkward, “if you’d just get yourself some cute girlfriend or guy-friend to date, you would understand why these phone calls are a necessity.”

“I thoroughly doubt that,” said Rupert, stepping forward to adjust Jenny’s jacket. She batted his hands away, then caught them in hers, grinning. “Stop,” he said indignantly, trying to tug his hands free, “your collar wasn’t straight, and don’t you dare say that you aren’t either because you’ve absolutely ruined that joke for me.”

Jenny, a little hurt by the brush-off, squeezed his hands, then let go. Rupert still looked somewhat troubled, but honestly, she had no idea what was going on in his head as of late, and she wasn’t sure how to press the subject. “So are Buffy and Willow meeting us at the Espresso Pump?” she inquired. “Or should we drive by your place and pick them up?”

“Neither!” called Buffy’s voice from the living room, followed by a giggle from Willow. “Incidentally, Jenny, you take forever to get ready.”

“This coming from the girl who took four hours to get dressed for senior prom?” Rupert called over his shoulder. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten that, Buffy, I have not.” He turned back to Jenny, grinning smugly as an indignant Buffy entered the hallway. “I assume you remember Buffy’s prom,” he said.

“Yeah,” said Jenny, biting back a laugh, “that night you got super wasted on spiked senior-prom punch and knocked over the buffet table, right?”

Buffy started laughing.

“That was what happened?” Willow said with breathless glee, tucking her arm into Buffy’s.

“Right,” said Rupert. “We’re all leaving. Jenny, you’re not to tell the girls any stories that are—”

“True?”

Incriminating,” said Rupert, but he was very clearly hiding a smile, which made Jenny feel a little better.


 

 

Professor Burkle was sitting in the Espresso Pump when they arrived, looking very small and shy—much more like a girl than a professor, in Jenny’s opinion. Her eyes flitted from Jenny to Rupert to Buffy, but when she saw Willow, her entire face lit up. “Willow Rosenberg!” she gasped. “Golly, the entire faculty is abuzz when it comes to your talent in programming!”

Willow ducked her head, grinning. “Aww, thanks!” she said brightly, and sat down in the chair next to Professor Burkle. “And wow, coming from you, that’s such a compliment! I mean, you’re the youngest professor in—”

“California history, yeah,” Professor Burkle answered with a self-deprecating laugh, “but it’s still a little bit nerve-wracking to be working with so many people who are more than twice my age. I always feel way behind the curve.” She smiled shyly up at Rupert and Jenny. “Y’all should’ve told me that Willow Rosenberg was your daughter!” she said, a laugh in her voice. “I’d never have been so nervous if I knew I’d be meeting Willow’s parents.”

“Oh, Willow isn’t—” Jenny began, heart jumping.

“We’re not—” Rupert added, blushing furiously.

“Giles is my dad,” Buffy said, and when Rupert gave her a wide-eyed look, she amended, “I mean, technically speaking, he adopted me and Dawn a few years ago, but he’s, like, the best dad I’ve ever had. So.” And she directed her nervous grin at a nearby piece of art.

Rupert blinked, then smiled softly, reaching out and pulling Buffy into a clumsy, one-armed hug.

“Rupert and I are business partners,” said Jenny weakly, still a little flustered by Professor Burkle’s initial assumption. Normally, this sort of thing didn’t rattle her as much, but her dynamic with Rupert didn’t feel quite as partners-in-crime anymore (more like partners in confusion, if anything). “We thought it might help a little to bring along Buffy and her girlfriend to make this feel a little less like a few shady old-timers asking you questions.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet,” said Professor Burkle, looking genuinely grateful. “Honestly, I kinda was a bit worried—there’ve been a lot of shady people poking their noses around my classroom, lately. I was starting to think you were one of them.”

Jenny and Rupert exchanged a look as they sat down next to Willow and Buffy. Tentatively, Rupert said, “So, um, Professor Burkle—about Wolfram and Hart—?”

Professor Burkle’s smile flickered. “Well,” she said. “That—isn’t exactly a fun story, and I’m not sure if I feel quite ready to share it just yet without knowing why I’m telling y’all in the first place.”

“Wait,” said Jenny, turning to Rupert. “You told her who we are, right?”

Rupert, looking sheepish, opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, Buffy answered cheerfully, “He just kinda went up and asked Professor Burkle if she’d be okay meeting up with all of us to discuss some important covert matters, and then Professor Burkle said no, and then I went up and told Professor Burkle that we’re not from Wolfram and Hart, and then everything turned out okay!”

“Oh, god,” Jenny said, exasperated. “Rupert, in terms of trying to get someone to meet with you and not look shifty and weird, that’s kind of a catastrophic disaster.”

“Well, it wouldn’t have been so much of a catastrophic disaster if you hadn’t been off with your girlfriend,” said Rupert somewhat defensively. “You—you can’t just throw me into—”

“You said you were fine about me and Lilah!”

“I didn’t say exactly that, Jenny, what I said was—”

“You implied you were fine, and it’s not fair to—”

Buffy cleared her throat very loudly. “Hey, guys,” she said, “if you’re done being weirdly combative, we do have some questions to ask Professor Burkle, right?”

Jenny opened her mouth, about to either apologize or ask a few questions about why the hell Rupert couldn’t just make up his mind on whether or not he was fine with Lilah. Before she could say anything at all, Rupert said roughly, “Excuse me,” and got up, hurrying away from the table and out of the café.

It took Jenny a moment to register what had just happened, and another moment to realize what she had to do. Hurriedly, she said, “Um, you girls get us some drinks, okay? We’ll pay you back after the meal,” and jumped up to follow Rupert outside.

Rupert was leaning against the side of the wall, hands in his pockets, looking thoroughly miserable. Jenny felt her heart twist in her chest as she stepped up next to him. “Come here often?” she said lightly.

“Jenny, please, I can’t—” Rupert’s voice shook, his eyes fixed on a point across the street.

Jenny exhaled. “I’m sorry,” she said. “My default approach to uncomfortable situations is to be inappropriately quippy.”

Rupert nodded, looking down. Then he said, “I’m sorry too.”

“For what?”

“Fuck if I know,” said Rupert tiredly. “I just—wish there weren’t so many new variables, lately.”

Jenny sighed. “I thought you were okay with Lilah,” she said.

“I want to be,” said Rupert, who still didn’t seem able to look at her. “Really, Jenny, she’s—she’s perfectly lovely, she’s quite charming, and I’m always happy when you’re happy, it’s just—” He exhaled. “I like the way things are,” he said. “With us. And I know that’s—that’s selfish, and that this sort of family thing isn’t the right thing for both of us when we aren’t even dating, and I—”

Jenny didn’t know what to say. Rupert was right. Their working relationship wasn’t really what either of them wanted, even if neither of them really wanted to admit what they did want. Jenny wanted to be with Lilah, and Rupert—didn’t seem able to consider dating anyone, but that was a different problem right now. “You’re important to me,” she said quietly. “How about we start with that and go from there?”

“Seems like a reasonable place to start,” Rupert agreed quietly, eyes fixed on the sidewalk. Subtly, his hand left his pocket, moving to brush against Jenny’s. “Should we, um, go back in?”

Jenny smiled tiredly, taking Rupert’s hand. “Yeah,” she said, and cleared her throat. “Yeah. Let’s go.”


 

 

Professor Burkle, Buffy, and Willow were all in an animated, giggly discussion regarding cute college girls (“though, don’t get me wrong, boys are excellent too,” Buffy was saying to Professor Burkle), but the conversation quieted as Jenny and Rupert sat back down.

“You guys okay?” Buffy asked lightly, but there was genuine concern in her eyes.

“We’re working things out,” Jenny answered, smiling hesitantly up at Rupert, who squeezed her hand. “Sorry about this,” she added to Professor Burkle. “Not exactly the most professional behavior.”

“Oh, it’s okay!” said Professor Burkle, who was looking significantly more at ease. “Gave me some time to chat with these lovely ladies, and let me tell you, Mr. Giles, your daughter is absolutely wonderful.

“I’m afraid I can’t take credit for any of that,” quipped Rupert lightly, sitting down in the chair next to Buffy’s. Jenny followed suit, taking a sip of the black coffee Buffy had gotten her. “Professor Burkle, Ms. Calendar and I have been hired by Lilah Morgan—”

Professor Burkle’s smile immediately faded. “Lilah Morgan?” she echoed.

“Look, I know this is probably going to sound a little surprising,” said Jenny carefully, “but Lilah’s had a change of heart. She’s sent us in because she wants us to build a case that’ll help take down Wolfram and Hart.”

Professor Burkle still wasn’t smiling. “Y’all seem nice,” she said finally, “but I don’t think you realize what you’ve gotten yourself tangled up in.” Rummaging in her satchel, she fished out a twenty and shoved it onto the table. “I’m sorry about this,” she said. “Keep the change.” Without another word, she got up, hurrying out of the café.

“Okay,” said Jenny uncertainly. “That’s not exactly a good sign.”

“Maybe it’s too soon to say this, Jenny,” said Buffy, “but I’m sorta of the mind that you should find someone to date who doesn’t freak people out.” As she gave a predictably-flustered Rupert a significant look, Jenny was already out of her seat and following Professor Burkle out the door.

Professor Burkle turned, looking first startled and then a little sad. “I can’t help you,” she said. “I really am sorry.”

“Is it a trust thing?” Jenny asked, polite but steely. “Professor Burkle, I’ve got over a decade of experience in this profession. I’ve got case files that document the fact that I don’t take cases I don’t personally believe in. If there’s anything I can do to make you believe me—”

“It’s not a trust thing,” said Professor Burkle, and the nervousness in her voice was gone. “Lilah Morgan made my friend disappear off the face of the earth. If you’re working with her to bring up a case against Wolfram and Hart, I have evidence, but I sure as hell hope that it’d put that woman in jail for a long time.”

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Maybe I was naïve to assume that Lilah didn’t do actually awful things, but…I don’t know, I kinda thought she mostly just did paperwork for people who did awful things. Which, okay, is still awful, but it isn’t as bad as the stuff Professor Burkle told us.

A few months ago, Professor Burkle and a student of hers, Alonna Gunn, were investigating Professor Seidel, a physics professor who’d harassed Professor Burkle and tried to make her life more difficult because he saw her as a threat to her job. Many of his female colleagues had lodged complaints against him, but none of the complaints had actually come to anything, and Professor Burkle wanted to try and figure out how Professor Seidel was managing to avoid being held accountable so that she could, you know, actually hold him accountable.

Alonna’s brother Charles did some digging of his own…or, more accurately, stole Professor Seidel’s phone and brought it to Professor Burkle, who hacked into it somehow and found emails between him and Wolfram and Hart discussing payments for handling the “maintenance” of Professor Seidel’s “image.”

And when I say Wolfram and Hart, what I mean is Lilah. I mean that Lilah had written very detailed emails to help Professor Seidel cover up the various ways he’d sabotaged the careers of countless other young girls just because he felt threatened by their potential. Professor Burkle was so incensed at the misuse of power that she and Charles marched right up to Professor Seidel’s office and confronted him.

This turned out to be an astronomically huge mistake.


 

“Wolfram and Hart,” said Professor Burkle quietly, “they don’t go after you, if you’re a real threat to them. Not directly. They go after the people you care about, and they tell you that they’ll make things worse for those people if you make yourself their enemy. And—” She stopped, briefly, before continuing. “And Charles and I haven’t seen Alonna in months. We’ve been turning LA upside down, looking for her, but we don’t know where they took her—” She uttered a single choked sob, hands tightening around Rupert’s Kiss the Librarian mug, and took another sip of tea. “I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice. “It’s just, it’s been really hard.”

“Have you continued your investigations regarding Alonna?” Rupert inquired softly.

Professor Burkle shook her head. “Lilah contacted me the day after Alonna disappeared,” she said. “She met me outside my classroom and told me that if I wanted Alonna to stay safe, I’d stop talking to Charles until she gave me further notice. I-I’ve been waiting for further notice for months, Mr. Giles, and I get a call from Lilah every two weeks telling me to wait just a little bit longer.”

Jenny thought about Lilah’s beautiful, grey-green, utterly guiltless eyes. She tried to imagine Lilah having dozens of crimes like this on her conscience, and couldn’t, because wouldn’t that guilt weigh on someone more than it did on Lilah? Shouldn’t it?

Next to her, she felt Rupert’s hand on her shoulder, reminding her that he was there. “I’m so sorry,” he was saying softly to Professor Burkle. “We truly are of the mind that Lilah has had a change of heart, a-and if you aren’t willing to believe in her, please do believe that we shall do everything in our power to make sure that Alonna is found.”

“I-I hope I can,” said Professor Burkle, sniffling. “I really, really want to. Charles has been worried sick these last few months, and all I’ve had is this.” She rummaged in her purse before holding up a small flash drive. “I keep it with me,” she explained. “Professor Seidel deleted all his emails from a separate computer, but not before I saved hard copies to the drive.”

“It’s so small,” said Rupert disbelievingly, and then gave Jenny a furtively encouraging look.

Jenny, feeling weirdly comforted, took the bait to tease him. “See,” she said in a small voice, placing her hand over Rupert’s on her shoulder, “this kinda thing is why I handle the tech part of case work.”

“I know,” Rupert agreed, squeezing her hand. To Professor Burkle, he added, “We understand if you don’t want to give us the evidence just yet—if you’d like us to, to prove our trustworthiness, or—”

“Yeah,” Professor Burkle agreed, giving them a wobbly, grateful smile. “I think I kinda need that. That drive is all I have as, as a bartering chip, if it comes to that, a-and I can’t give it up to Lilah until I know Alonna’s safe, so—”

Something about that—this soft, shy, kind professor near tears on their couch while Lilah bought drinks at Caritas and smiled an easy, beautiful smile—made Jenny very, very angry. “Well, fuck that, I’ll just call her,” she said sharply, jerking her hand away from Rupert’s, standing up, and pulling out her phone. “She’s damn well going to pick up for me.

“Jenny, remember when we had that talk about impulsive—” Rupert began worriedly.

Lilah picked up on the third ring. “God, I love hearing from you,” she began.

“You can go fuck yourself,” said Jenny, who had never been very good at diplomatic phrasing.

“Oh, good lord,” Rupert muttered from the couch.

“Everything okay?” Lilah sounded a mixture of amused and worried.

“How did you just not tell me that you were involved in kidnapping someone and that you’ve still got her friends and family hanging on your every word?” Jenny demanded. “How is that not something you tell me? Jesus, Lilah, I know you’re really big on being the enigmatic femme fucking fatale or whatever, but there’s a certain point where you have to start telling the private detective something about yourself.”

“Jenny,” said Lilah heavily, “I’ve told you that I’m not a good person.”

“Fine!” Jenny snapped. “That’s great! You can tell me that all you want, but at least start getting into some actual specifics! This isn’t our first date anymore, Lilah, I’m not flirting with you and you’re not supposed to be a mystery anymore, just—” Her voice caught. “Just be a person,” she said finally. “Be a person.”

It was uncomfortably quiet in the living room. Jenny didn’t dare look behind her to see Rupert’s expression; she was too tired to deal for the emotional gymnastics that interactions with him were beginning to become, and she missed the simplicity of their relationship pre-Lilah.

“I’m selfish,” said Lilah finally. “Okay? The moment I start telling you specifics, you’re not going to want anything to do with me.”

“I should not have to find out your life details from people you supposedly want to help but you won’t even call back,” said Jenny flatly.

“I told you, if Wolfram and Hart finds out—”

“I feel like you’re using that as an excuse to justify the fact that there is a woman crying on my couch because she doesn’t know where her friend’s gone, and that’s—that’s fucking awful.”

“Jenny—

Jenny hung up, pocketed the phone, and strode out of the living room, exiting Rupert’s house and shutting the door behind her. Exhausted and angry, she half-fell against the wall, staring out at Rupert’s neatly manicured front lawn and his crappy car in the driveway.

It wasn’t that Lilah had done horrible things. Jenny had known that from the get-go, kind of. It was that Lilah kept on not seeming to care about things that weren’t somehow linked to Jenny. It was that whenever Jenny and Lilah were together, it felt like the world condensed to both of them, and—and Jenny liked that, she did, but there were important things outside of the both of them that she felt like Lilah needed to pay a little more attention to.

It was that Lilah, who had told Jenny that she wanted to make amends and help take down Wolfram and Hart, hadn’t called Professor Burkle back, and nothing about that made sense. A lump in her throat, Jenny dialed another number, and this one picked up on the first ring.

“Thank god it’s you.” Faith sounded annoyed, but not at Jenny. “Anya’s a total nightmare. She brought the Game of Life and tried to sell her entire plastic family for more money in-game, and then she started trying to teach us how to gamble.”

Jenny sniffled, then smiled.

“Hey, you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Jenny answered, and it didn’t feel completely untrue. “I love you a lot, honey.”

“Nerd,” said Faith. Then, belatedly, “Love you too.”

Jenny was debating whether or not to launch into a playful conversation with Faith when Rupert opened the front door and stepped outside, leaning against the wall next to where she was standing. “Gotta go,” she said. “Be brave for me, okay? Soldier through time with Anya and I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

“You better be,” quipped Faith, and hung up, leaving Jenny to pocket the phone and turn to Rupert.

“I’m sorry,” she began, but Rupert held up a hand.

“Surprisingly,” he said, “I am not, as it happens, about to complain,” which made Jenny actually laugh. Rupert grinned too, sideways and shy, and stepped a little closer, placing his hand at her elbow. “I’m afraid I don’t really have any words of reassurance, either,” he added somewhat apologetically.

“That’s okay,” said Jenny, and rested her head on his shoulder. “Just—be here. Please.”

“Absolutely always,” Rupert answered quietly.


 

 

“I’d stay the night,” Jenny told Buffy, grinning apologetically, “but I really want to make sure Faith and Tara are doing okay. Especially after that break-in last week—”

“Oh, yeah, obviously,” Buffy agreed immediately, giving Jenny a reassuring smile. Rupert seemed to be wrapping up the conversation with Professor Burkle, and Willow had already managed to sneak up to Buffy’s bedroom for what they had described as a “best-friends-forever sleepover” with only minor giggling. “Tell her hi from me, okay? She stopped by my dorm yesterday and we hung out, but we didn’t get a lot of time together. She’s really into that Tara girl.”

Jenny laughed. “Don’t tease her, okay?”

“Little late for that,” Buffy quipped, adjusting Jenny’s jacket in a way much like Rupert had that morning. Jenny didn’t bring it up all that much, but she very much noticed the fact that the Summers girls were picking up on some of Rupert’s mannerisms, and something about that made her feel very happy. “Giles better drive you home safe.”

“If he doesn’t, kick his ass,” Jenny instructed Buffy, and hugged her. “We ready to roll, England?”

“Very nearly,” Rupert called back. “Professor Burkle—would you mind if you gave us your number?”

“Oh, gosh, y’all don’t have to keep calling me Professor Burkle,” laughed Professor Burkle. “It’s sweet, but I’d really like it if I could just be called Fred.” Taking a pen and paper from Rupert, she quickly scribbled down her number. “I can take the bus home,” she added.

“Nonsense,” said Rupert easily. “I’ll drive you home along with Jenny. The buses at these hours—”

In her pocket, Jenny’s phone buzzed.

“Do not answer that,” said Buffy, fixing Jenny with a firm, pointed look. “If that’s Lilah, she totally deserves to squirm for at least a night. Trust me on this.”

“You, uh, do have experiences with shifty beaus,” said Jenny lightly.

Buffy smiled wryly. “God, I’m glad we’re at a point we can joke about that,” she said, hugging Jenny again before calling, “HEY, GILES, ARE WE JUST GONNA HAVE TO STAND HERE ALL NIGHT?”

“My daughter, ladies and gentlemen,” said Rupert very dryly, crossing the living room to pick up an overcoat from the coat tree and kiss the top of a giggling Buffy’s head. “You girls hold down the fort, all right? I should be back before eleven.”

“Drive safe,” said Buffy seriously, pointing to Jenny. “That there is precious cargo, Giles.”

Rupert turned a little pink and grinned at Jenny, who laughed. “I’m well aware,” he said affectionately, taking another coat down and tucking it over Jenny’s shoulders.

“Oh, Rupert, no—

“You get cold,” Rupert reminded her. “You can just give it back to me tomorrow.”

Professor Burkle—Fred, Jenny reminded herself—was giggling. “For a business partnership,” she said, “you two are more married than my parents.”

Rupert was now very visibly blushing. Jenny, of course, wasn’t at all bothered, but she still felt warmed by the sentiment. “Onward, husband,” she said playfully, slipping her hand into his.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I know that things with Lilah are very obviously more complex than they seem, and I know that I should give her the benefit of the doubt, especially since she was the one who hired me. I guess it’s just difficult for me to handle the fact that Lilah’s guilt doesn’t seem to weigh her down as much as I think it should. It’s not fair for me to make those arbitrary decisions on how she should and shouldn’t behave. I know that. I’m going to call her in a little bit and apologize, and maybe we can talk this out, because we both want the same thing in the long run.

Right now, though? Right now I’m taking a much-needed, much-deserved day away from case work. It’s been a long and exhausting few weeks.


 

Yes, I am relaxing, but I can’t relax when I’m being fussed over,” said Jenny patiently, sticking her head into Faith’s room (Faith and Tara were doing a jigsaw puzzle on the air mattress and giggling at how difficult it was) and giving both girls a big grin. “And if you want, you can come over and relax with us. Isn’t Dawn off school early today?”

“You Americans have too many holidays,” said Rupert matter-of-factly. “And if I come over, we’ll just start working on the case again, and I want you to have a truly relaxing day.”

“So what, I can’t relax around you?” Jenny laughed incredulously. “Rupert, you’re the most relaxing thing in my entire life right now.” Behind her, Faith started making kissing sounds. “Stop that,” Jenny added over her shoulder.

“No,” said Faith.

“That’s—very sweet,” god, it was a mark of how well they knew each other that Jenny could hear Rupert cleaning his glasses, “but still—I don’t want to run the risk of distracting you from relaxation with case work.”

“Then I will just keep you on the line for six hours,” said Jenny promptly.

“Jenny, you are supposed to be taking a break from being a detective—”

“And what, just because our breaks coincide, we’re supposed to spend them apart?” Jenny immediately volleyed back.

There was an awkward pause. Then Rupert said, “Considering—how things are going with Lilah, Jenny, I rather want to become a bit more used to being by myself. You, ah, take up a significant part of my life without realizing it, and, and goodness knows I prefer it that way, but your life seems to be going in a different direction, and I want to make the transition easier on me.”

“Nothing with Lilah is even close to set in stone right now,” Jenny pointed out, not sure why she felt the need to clarify that to Rupert, who should know that fact better than anyone. “I mean, god, the woman on a so-called path of redemption still hasn’t called Professor Burkle back to tell her—”

“You should keep in mind that Lilah is still at great risk,” Rupert reminded her gently. “It seems more than likely that personally notifying all these people of her change of heart isn’t something that she can easily do while she still works for the company that hurt them.”

Jenny exhaled. “Yeah,” she said, “but why are you the one telling me this? Why not her?”

“Because I am significantly more in tune with the way your mind works,” said Rupert simply, “and because I know what you need to hear in order to understand. Lilah, unfortunately, doesn’t have the same luxury.”

Jenny felt a warm flutter in her chest. “Thank you,” she said softly, almost without thinking. “God, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I’m sure you’d manage,” said Rupert awkwardly. “I think you’ll do quite a fine job of managing with Lilah, once you two get over the new-relationship bumps in the road.”

Something about his answer made Jenny feel disappointed; she’d been waiting for some kind of reciprocation, or at least some warmth in return. “Yeah,” she said, laughing uncomfortably. “So, um, I should get back to actual relaxation, huh?”

“I expect so.” Rupert sounded a little sad too. “Take care of yourself?”

“You bet,” Jenny agreed, and heard the dial toneless than a second after she’d finished speaking. “Gonna be hard to relax now, though, now that he keeps on hanging up on me,” she muttered.

“Hey, Mom, does this puzzle have all the pieces?” called Faith from the bedroom.

Jenny, very grateful for the opportunity to be a mom and not a disaster detective, entered Faith’s room. Faith was lying on her stomach, staring with a frown at the half-finished jigsaw, while Tara hunted through the puzzle box. “You know,” said Jenny, “it might help if you guys didn’t do the puzzle on an air mattress. Just a little.”

“Takes all the fun out of it,” said Faith. “Besides which, we didn’t want to bother you if you were on the phone. Tara’s idea,” she added, nodding to Tara, who looked up with a small smile.

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound like you,” quipped Jenny, sitting down next to Faith and looking down at the puzzle. “Are you two already committed to this puzzle, or do you both want to go out somewhere?”

“Oh, I’d love to go out!” said Tara excitedly. At Jenny and Faith’s surprised looks, she blushed. “Um,” she said, “I really like your apartment and all, but hiding out in here is getting a little bit—and Faith keeps telling me about how nice LA is—”

“I gotcha,” said Faith, who was blushing too, though Jenny suspected that it mostly just had to do with Tara’s soft, reassuring smile. “That actually sounds pretty cool. Where’d you have in mind, Mom?”

“Honestly?” said Jenny with relish. “Absolutely no idea.”


 

 

Faith and Tara were in the backseat of Jenny’s Bug, watching cat videos on Faith’s phone and giggling. Tara was wearing her hair up and tucked under a large sun hat, as well as a pair of quite nice sunglasses that Jenny was pretty sure had once belonged to Buffy. Technically, it was something of a risky move, taking Tara out of the house, but Jenny was very much of the mind that the girls needed an outing, and there wasn’t anywhere safer than the Magic Box.

From behind the counter, Anya looked up, surprised, when they entered the shop, beamed at Tara, and then scowled at Jenny. “This isn’t safe,” she said, “you all should know better, and that disguise is absolutely pointless, I can already tell it’s you, Tara. You have a very distinctive mouth—somewhat pointy but still round.”

“More soft than pointy,” said Faith, realized what she’d said, and winced.

“I missed you,” said Tara affectionately to Anya, crossing the room and ducking behind the counter to give her friend a hug. Anya hugged Tara back, sending Jenny a death glare that most likely held the power to murder someone and then smirking at a now-visibly-blushing Faith, who busied herself with examining some of the novelty magic items.

Jenny decided to take this opportunity to step outside for a breath of fresh air, trusting that Anya would keep her eagle eyes trained on the girls and knowing that Tara could probably use a little bit of space to enjoy time with her friend. It was sunny out, and warm, and it felt incredibly wonderful to not be worrying about a case or a girl and just be Jenny. Rupert, frustratingly, had been right about her needing a day off.

Smiling a little to herself, Jenny gazed across the street. The Magic Box was in a surprisingly nice part of town, complete with hipster cafés and an expensive-looking clothing store right next door, out of which was exiting a well-dressed blonde who almost looked like—

Holy fuck.

Jenny should have backed off and away and gotten back into the store, because that would have drawn less attention. But she couldn’t handle the thought of just hiding in the Magic Box with her girls, and if she blocked the door, there’d be no way for anyone to get to her girls anyway, so she flattened herself against the front door and hoped like hell that she wouldn’t be noticed.

Over the tops of her expensive designer sunglasses, Darla looked up, smiling in that slow, predatory way that Jenny was pretty sure neither she nor Rupert had ever forgotten. “Goodness me,” she said. “You’re like a scared little bunny rabbit, Calendar. Calm down.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down,” snapped Jenny, crossing her arms tightly against her chest and glaring at Darla, “the last time we saw each other in a non-court scenario, you tried to shoot Rupert’s daughter.

“Purely personal,” said Darla, waving a hand. “Besides which, that little tiff didn’t involve you in the slightest.”

“Buffy was in therapy for almost two years after that stunt you pulled—”

“Are we really going to rehash all the stuff you already yelled at me in court over?” Darla asked with a long, irritable sigh. “Because I was hoping I’d be able to manage a few more shopping excursions before the day’s done.”

“Get out of LA,” said Jenny.

“Oh, sweetheart, you can’t keep me out of the city,” said Darla, sounding genuinely amused. “You more than anyone should know now that Wolfram and Hart’s protection can let me do absolutely anything I want.”

Jenny, very ready to come up with another angry retort, froze. Not at all willing to admit that Darla had caught her off guard, she said coolly, “So you know I’m working on a case involving Wolfram and Hart.”

Darla snorted. “Please,” she said. “You’re on Wolfram and Hart’s payroll, Calendar, and I don’t like that at all. That’s why I’m here.”

“Your intel fucking sucks,” said Jenny matter-of-factly, then remembered belatedly that no one but Lilah Morgan (and Calendar-Giles Investigations, plus kids) actually knew about the plan to take down Wolfram and Hart. It did seem possible that Lilah might have come up with some kind of cover story for all the time she was spending with Jenny.

Darla, surprisingly, didn’t look fazed. “She told you some sob story about how you’re not like the other girls, huh?” she said, smirking. “Told you that you’re the only detective she trusts to help her take down Wolfram and Hart?”

Jenny faltered. “I don’t—”

“Amazingly,” said Darla, “I’m here to help you. Hard as it is to believe, I don’t want you up in arms against Wolfram and Hart once this thing with Lilah inevitably breaks bad.” She waited, but when Jenny (still unable to find words) didn’t respond, she continued, “You’re a dedicated detective, and even though Wolfram and Hart is obviously going to rip you and your cute little family business to shreds, you’re definitely going to do some serious damage to them before they manage to take you down. Hell, the only reason I didn’t get jail time was because Wolfram and Hart bribed the judge, the jury, and some of the witnesses—I don’t want to see what you can do to that firm with some actual evidence from honest people.”

Jenny stared, then scoffed. “You’re trying to cover your own ass,” she said, half-relieved by the revelation. “You just want me to drop the case so that Lilah and I don’t destroy the only thing keeping you out of jail.”

Darla didn’t look troubled by Jenny’s statement. “Ask yourself this,” she said. “How much of herself has Lilah Morgan really let you see?” Without waiting for an answer, she swiveled, turning on her heel with the shopping bags and striding gracefully away.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I cannot tell Rupert I met with Darla. If I tell Rupert I met with Darla, he’ll flip, and I’m already in the process of flipping, and if we’re both a mess at the same time then this Wolfram and Hart investigation will be over before it began, and there’s no way I can handle something like that.

And—fuck, I can’t believe I’m letting Darla get into my head like this. A lot of what she’s saying rings true, but—but the last time Darla talked to me like this, she was trying to convince me to drop the case Rupert had hired me for. She can’t be telling the truth about Lilah; she has every reason to benefit from lying. Then again, though, she has just as many reasons to benefit from the truth, if what she told me has any truth to it.

Darla knows how to get to people. That’s what she does. She knows Lilah, and she definitely knows me, and she’s playing on my own insecurities and the fact that the woman I’m dating is about as easy to read as one of Rupert’s old Latin poetry books. That has to be what’s going on.

I need a drink.


 

 

“Wow,” said Lorne, looking sympathetically at Jenny as she sat down at the bar. “You’ve been through the wringer, huh, cupcake?”

“You’re a bartender,” said Jenny. “You listen to people’s sorrows, right?”

“Depends,” said Lorne, smiling a little. “You got any good ones?” At Jenny’s expression, he whistled softly. “Wow. Looks like it.”

“Has Lilah ever come here with other girls?” Jenny asked quietly. “Like, detectives?”

Lorne’s smile faded. “Look,” he said. “There’s a pretty good chance that you’re not going to like hearing this, but if you’ve got relationship troubles, the person you should be talking to is Lilah.”

“Lilah isn’t honest with me,” said Jenny. After a moment’s hesitation, “I guess a better way to say it would be that Lilah never tells me the truth. She doesn’t lie to me, exactly, but I don’t know if she’s ever really told me more than just a sliver of the truth.”

“Hate to break it to you,” said Lorne, “but that doesn’t sound like the kind of relationship that’s good to be in.”

Jenny exhaled. “She’s thrown my life upside down,” she said softly. “Isn’t that the sort of thing that means something?”

“On occasion, yes,” Lorne answered, sliding a fruity-looking drink across the bar. “On the house,” he added, “and non-alcoholic, because I don’t think drinking your sorrows away is a good way to go today.”

“How the hell do you make any money,” said Jenny, not really a question, smiling a little as she took a sip.

“I don’t give out free drinks to just everyone,” Lorne replied with an encouraging grin. “Just down-on-their-luck detectives and charmingly talkative professors.” He paused, then, “And—yeah, sometimes someone comes in and turns your life upside down and makes you feel that tingly feeling, but if you start chasing the feeling without thinking about the person, you might end up somewhere that you don’t want to go.”

“I don’t know where I’m going,” said Jenny almost bitterly.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t try and get there,” Lorne pointed out.

“Delightfully cryptic,” said Jenny, taking another long sip of the fruity-looking drink. “Why does everything in this bar taste like the way karaoke feels?”

“Thank you,” said Lorne, sounding genuinely delighted.

This was when Jenny heard a familiar clicking of high-heeled shoes behind her. Turning to look, she saw an exhausted-looking Lilah pull herself up to the other free seat at the bar, burying her head in her hands. “Oh, God, Lorne, I need a strong drink,” she mumbled, “I’ve been trying to call Jenny all night and she hasn’t picked up once.

Jenny realized that Lilah hadn’t yet noticed her. Torn between making a run for it and staying to try and talk to (or yell at) Lilah, she couldn’t quite bring herself to move. Lorne seemed to have realized this too, and winked at Jenny before saying casually to Lilah, “That doesn’t sound like the girl I saw out with you.”

“I think I really could fall in love with someone like her,” said Lilah miserably. “Do you realize how fucked that is? Everything in my entire life is falling to bits because of this woman. I had plans, Lorne—”

Jenny dropped her fruity-looking drink, which managed to spill a few drops on her skirt as it fell to the floor with a crash.Lilah pulled her head up from her hands slowly at first, but upon seeing Jenny, she jerked herself up into a sitting position. “Shit,” she said. “Jenny—”

Impulsively, breathlessly, Jenny kissed her.

God, what am I going to say when I pull back? Jenny was thinking as she rested her hands on Lilah’s shoulders. I really like that you care about me, but I’m a little afraid that I’m all you care about? My life is falling apart too and it’s really comforting to know that I’m not the only one?

Lilah pulled away. “Jenny,” she said again, voice shaking. “I’m not—I’m not in love with you.”

“No, I know,” said Jenny, and wasn’t sure whether or not she was supposed to smile. “It’s—the possibility that gets to me.”

“I wanted to tell you—” There was a raw honesty in Lilah’s eyes, a level of unguardedness that was leaps and bounds beyond their conversation outside Professor Burkle’s lecture hall. “I don’t know how to be a better person than I am,” she said. “Maybe not even for you. I don’t know how to come to terms with the things that I’ve done—you work long enough in a place like Wolfram and Hart and you get used to doing things like what I did to Professor Burkle and her friend. I’ve done worse things—”

“Just tell me them,” said Jenny, giving Lilah a wobbly smile. “Okay? All I want is for you to be honest with me. That’s all I want.”

Lilah looked at Jenny, her expression that strange sad-tired mixture Jenny could never decipher. “I can try,” she said.

“We’ll start slow,” said Jenny, and kissed Lilah again. This one was longer, more tender than passionate, and it made Jenny feel warm down to her toes. “C’mon. Let’s get out of here.”


 

 

Jenny’s phone was ringing.

“You have work today?” Lilah mumbled, rolling over in bed and somehow managing to steal most of the sheets. Jenny sighed, pulling herself up and crossing the room to pick up her phone.

“Everything all right?” Rupert asked. “How’s your day off been?”

“I think Lilah and I are going to be okay,” said Jenny, feeling a small rush of butterflies at the words. “We, uh, we talked things out—”

“Ah, yes, you ‘talked things out.’”

“The sarcasm? Incredibly unattractive.” Jenny grinned, leaning against the wall and looking over at Lilah. “We really did talk some stuff out, and we’re going to order dinner in and have an actual conversation about some of the stuff that’s gone down.”

“Oh, I’m sure you are.” Rupert sounded amused too. There was a pause, then, “I’m glad you two are doing all right.”

“Yeah?”

“I don’t like seeing you unhappy,” said Rupert softly. “A-and you certainly did give Lilah quite a telling-off, if I recall.”

“Yeah, well, this case has been kind of a hard one,” Jenny replied wryly. “Honestly, I know this is one of the riskiest things we’ve done, but—I’m really looking forward to this all being over, you know?”

In the bed, Lilah opened her eyes. “Come back to bed, baby,” she said.

“I am too.” Rupert had that gentle-sweet note in his voice, the one that made Jenny feel like she’d just been wrapped in five blankets. “I rather miss going out to dinner with you under stress-free, business-formal circumstances.”

Jenny laughed. “Only you would pair stress-free and business-formal—

“Jenny,” said Lilah, sitting up, “I’m going to get dressed if you don’t get off the phone.”

“Gotta go,” said Jenny, making a face at Lilah. “Lilah’s being demanding.”

“Ha ha,” said Lilah, grinning.

“What? Oh! I won’t keep you, then,” said Rupert, and hung up.

Jenny sighed, placing the phone back down on Lilah’s dresser. “He keeps on hanging up on me,” she said, feeling a little childish for bringing it up. “He never used to.”

“Things change,” Lilah commented, getting up with the sheet tangled gracefully around her and winding her arms around Jenny’s neck. “I know I’m changing. I think you should too.” She leaned in, brushing her lips quietly against Jenny’s. “Do you want to talk?” she murmured.

Jenny shuddered softly. “You’re not playing fair,” she said.

“I’m a lawyer, sweetie,” said Lilah, pulling back and giving Jenny a slow smile. “But I’m serious. Do you want to talk?”

“Let me get something on,” said Jenny, “it makes me feel a little more dignified,” and gently disentangled herself from Lilah, turning to take one of Lilah’s oversized nightshirts from the dresser. Slipping it over her head, she turned back to Lilah, who was still lounging across the bed with the sheet draped gracefully across her like some kind of Greek goddess, and asked, “Did you ever kill anyone?”

Lilah’s smile flickered. “Five people,” she said. “Not—directly, it’s never direct. It’s always an accident, or a mistake in the paperwork, or something like that. But yes. Five people.”

Jenny swallowed hard. “But you’re never going to do it again,” she said, a reassurance to herself and to Lilah and a reminder that Darla was (had to be) wrong about the kind of person Lilah was. Then, tentatively, “Do you know why they had to die?”

“They were ordinary people who got in the way,” said Lilah quietly. “Good people.” She smiled a little bitterly. “I don’t remember their names,” she said. “All of it was just—paperwork, and filling out a certain form, and then they would be tragically missing the next day. It’s a lot of power, working at a place like Wolfram and Hart. They don’t hire just anyone.”

“And you’re not just anyone,” Jenny prompted, suddenly unsure whether or not she was in over her head. Darla was malicious and self-serving, obviously, but there had been a certain confident, knowing look in her eyes when she spoke of Lilah that had an unpleasant honesty to it. “Lilah—how did you get into Wolfram and Hart?”

Lilah was silent for a moment, a contemplative expression on her face. Then she said, “I was recruited out of college and they told me I would be able to accomplish things no ordinary person ever could.”

“And that was enough?”

“I was ambitious,” said Lilah, and smiled a little, in that enigmatic way that Jenny found frustrating and a little frightening.

Jenny placed those fears aside for the time being. “So you stuck with them,” she continued carefully, not sure how much to poke Lilah into telling her.

“I think I wanted to prove something to myself, at the beginning,” said Lilah, sitting up in bed without bothering to keep the sheet tucked around her. Jenny sat back down on the bed, brushing a lock of hair off Lilah’s shoulder. “Then I think I just liked the money.”

“Darla said—”

Lilah’s eyes widened. Too late, Jenny realized what she’d accidentally let slip. “You’ve been talking to Darla?” said Lilah, sounding a mixture of worried and injured. “Without telling me?”

“Without telling anyone,” Jenny corrected, “and—I didn’t exactly arrange a meeting. We ran into each other.”

“That’s not the way Darla operates,” said Lilah sharply. “You of all people should know that.”

“Me of all people?” Jenny echoed indignantly. “I only met the lady face-to-face once outside of court, and it wasn’t exactly under the most ideal circumstances—”

“You should have told me, Jenny, don’t skirt the subject—”

“I didn’t tell anyone because I knew they’d react exactly like you’re reacting right now!”

“And here I am telling you things I haven’t told anyone else just because you asked for them—”

“Do you have any idea what Darla did to Rupert?” said Jenny. Her voice shook. “He was one of the most respected academic figures in England, and she took his reputation and ripped it to shreds in the span of five seconds.” Her hands were clenched around the bedsheets. “Rupert wasn’t even her primary target,” she said. “He just happened to be involved enough for her to want to hurt him. I am not bringing any more people into this.”

“Not even your partner?” Lilah didn’t look angry anymore, just wary. “Or me?”

“She’s dangerous,” said Jenny. “If she knows we’re working against her—”

“You’re being a little paranoid.”

“Lilah,” said Jenny. “You know exactly what Darla’s capable of.”

Lilah nodded, slowly, looking like she didn’t exactly think Jenny’s approach was the best idea but couldn’t really think of a better option. Finally, she said, “We need to talk about this, though, because if Darla’s involving herself in our investigation—”

“She said,” said Jenny carefully, “that this kind of thing—that you’ve been with other women, other detectives, made them feel special.”

Lilah blinked, and for a moment, her expression was unreadable. Then she said, “Jenny, you’re most certainly not the first person I’ve approached attempting to take down Wolfram and Hart, but a lot of those cases haven’t ended the way I wanted them to and I’ve had to try again. You are most definitely the only woman I’ve started a romantic relationship with,” here her hand reached up to lightly cup Jenny’s face, “and if it helps, it wasn’t at all on the agenda when I met you. I can promise you that.”

Jenny felt somewhat lighter. “So I guess what you’re saying is I really am special,” she quipped, quirking a smile at Lilah.

Lilah’s face softened ever so slightly. “Just so,” she said, and kissed Jenny gently.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Relationship stuff is going pretty well, but the case files are going even better! Tara’s safe and sound in the apartment, Professor Burkle’s been coming over for weekly dinners as a trust-building exercise, and we’ve gotten in contact with nearly everyone on the list, right down to two people. The only problem is that those two people are Cordelia Chase and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, and whoever they are, someone did a damn good job of erasing every trace of them from the Internet and the library alike.

Lilah says that Cordelia and Wesley are absolutely integral to the investigation, and that without them, it’s completely impossible to make a case against Wolfram and Hart. She hasn’t told me a lot about them, but her intel hasn’t been wrong before, so I’m going to trust that she knows what she’s talking about.


 

 

“Phone book search turned up nothing,” Rupert announced, bursting into the office and slamming a copy of the 2006 Yellow Pages down onto his desk, “and don’t start in on me about how this one is out of date, Jenny, I know, because I’ve just looked through thirty phone books for even the slightest trace of a Cordelia or a Wesley.”

“Wait, Cordelia?” said Buffy, and giggled, exchanging a look with Willow.

“What now,” said Rupert, collapsing somewhat dramatically into the chair next to Jenny. She patted his shoulder sympathetically.

“Buffy and I went to school with a Cordelia,” Willow explained. “She wouldn’t stop talking about how she was Insta-famous. Never knew a Wesley, though.”

“Insta-famous?” Rupert echoed, looking befuddled.

Jenny hid a smile. “She means Cordelia was famous on Instagram,” she explained, and then stopped. “Wait,” she said. “Buffy, by any chance do you remember Cordelia’s last name? Or her Instagram handle?”

“Ugh,” said Buffy, and hid her face in Willow’s shoulder mumbling about how she’d been through too much this morning to have to relive putting up with Cordelia. Willow, tucking her arm around her girlfriend, said helpfully, “Her last name’s Chase, but I don’t know her Instagram.”

“Was she, perhaps, involved with any evil law firms?” Rupert asked hopefully.

“Seems like a bit of a stretch for Cordy,” said Buffy doubtfully.

“To be fair,” said Willow, “she did test pretty well.” She blinked, then clapped her hands together, jostling a startled Buffy. “Oh, I remember now! It’s, it’s something corny, uh—something about, you know, chasing your dreams? Maybe chasing the stars?”

“Chasing-Every-Ocean!”

“There is no way that’s it—”

“ChaseingEveryRainbow,” said Dawn from Rupert’s desk chair, without looking up from her phone. “No spaces, each word is capitalized, and she spells ‘chasing’ with an extra e so it looks like her name.” Off Rupert and Jenny’s looks, she added, “You guys need to get better at your web searches. All it took was ‘Cordelia Chase Instagram’ and I had her.”

Rupert, who had been working with the phone books for an entire day, slumped defeatedly against the chair. “Chin up, honey,” said Jenny playfully, and patted his shoulder, getting up to cross the room and lean over Dawn’s shoulder. “Mind if I borrow that?”

“Just be careful,” said Dawn, hands tightening briefly and protectively around the phone before she handed it over.

Jenny gave Cordelia’s description a cursory glance (a cheesy, inspirational quote, a brief description of Cordelia as a “future Hollywood starlet,” and a very large number of emojis), then started scrolling through her many, many pictures. Most of them were of Cordelia herself, or of her impeccably styled room, though a few were pictures of Cordelia and friends out on the town. “I don’t see what—” she began.

“Hold on,” said Rupert, who had crossed the room himself to watch her look through Cordelia’s Instagram feed. “Stop.”

Jenny paused on a picture of Cordelia with a bespectacled young man who looked barely out of college. Quick pic with the old boo, read the caption. Can’t believe he was my first Spin the Bottle kiss once upon a time!! How time flies. Luv ya @wxtchxrwes!!!! “What is it?” she asked, looking down at the picture to try and gauge what might have caught Rupert’s eye. It was then that she noticed something sort of unusual: there was a large, incredibly blurry spot right above Cordelia’s left shoulder, one that looked like the picture itself had been smudged. “Why is that part of the photo blurred out?”

Rupert frowned, giving the picture a closer look along with Jenny. Cordelia and Wesley appeared to be at a park in downtown LA, with a playground and a few benches in the background. Aside from the one blurry spot, the photo was of incredibly high quality. “That is odd,” he said, frowning. “This picture was clearly taken with an expensive camera.”

“That kinda looks like it’s been doctored,” said Willow from behind Jenny. “Can I see it?” Jenny handed Dawn’s phone to Willow, who squinted at it for a few seconds before saying decisively, “Yeah, that photo’s been deliberately blurred. Thing is, though, whoever did it either doesn’t know how to use Photoshop or was in a major hurry to make sure no one could see whatever’s under that blurry little blob there.”

“When was the last post Cordelia made?” Jenny asked.

“Um,” Willow exited out of the picture and scrolled back up, “like five months ago.”

“And when was that picture taken?” Rupert asked.

Willow winced. “Yikes!” she said. “Cordy was posting like seventeen pictures every day! Three days after she took that weird picture with that guy, all her Instagram activity just—totally cuts off. Radio silence. There are even people commenting on her posts who want to know where she is.”

Jenny and Rupert exchanged a look. “There’s something about that photo,” said Jenny. “Whatever it is—”

“Watcher Wes,” said Rupert suddenly. “Jenny, that’s why I wanted to get a better look at that photo. Watcher Wes—you told me a few years back, you said people switch out vowels for consonants on occasion just to look stylish—”

“Oh my god,” said Buffy. “Giles, that’s Wesley. That’s that jerk of a guy the museum hired to private-investigate us back when they thought I stole those paintings!”

“And he kept on calling himself a Watcher at the time,” Rupert said somewhat disbelievingly, taking the phone from Willow to look again at the photo.

“Cordelia’s first kiss was with Wesley?” said Willow to herself, then started giggling.

“Back up,” said Jenny. “Wesley investigated you guys back during the whole Angelus debacle? This must have been before Rupert came to me, right?”

Buffy made a face. “It was,” she said. “He was the one who got everyone thinking that Giles had somehow helped me steal paintings. He kinda totally sucked.”

“He really was just doing his job, Buffy,” said Rupert reprovingly, but his mouth twitched.

“So Wesley’s some kind of an investigator,” said Jenny slowly, “and Cordelia ran into him in this park, and they took a photo together—that still doesn’t explain why the photo’s blurred out.”

“Oh, I think it does,” said Rupert quietly. “Wesley was an insufferable fellow, but he rarely went anywhere for fun. It was all business, all the time with him, and he depended on the happy intersection of business and pleasure to keep him functioning. If he ran into Cordelia in this park, it’s likely that he was there scouting someone out.”

“And Cordelia blew his cover?” said Jenny. “That’s kinda far-fetched.”

“Willow, is there a way to un-blur a photo?” Buffy was saying to Willow, who was reluctantly shaking her head.

“Far-fetched it may be, but it’s all we’ve got,” Rupert pointed out. “Aside from this photo, we still don’t know a damn thing about where Cordelia and Wesley might be, let alone how to contact them.”

Jenny considered this. Then she said, “You said Wesley doesn’t go anywhere unless it’s business, right? Well, if he’s this important to Wolfram and Hart, wouldn’t he stay close to whoever he was following? At the very least, we know he’s probably still in LA, and my guess is he’ll know where Cordelia is too.”

“We could at least try and take a look at that park?” Rupert suggested. “Perhaps we might run into whatever’s blurred out of this photograph.”

“Or whoever,” Jenny added. “Willow, I hate to use you like this—”

“No, you don’t,” said Willow, grinning.

“No, I don’t,” Jenny agreed, smiling, “you’re incredibly bright and I appreciate any help you can give the agency. Would you try and figure out where this park is in LA?”

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Willow agreed cheerfully, taking Dawn’s phone back (Dawn, who had been watching it longingly, scowled a bit) and heading back over to sit down at Jenny’s computer. Buffy followed, draping her arms around Willow’s shoulders and pressing playful kisses to the top of her girlfriend’s head.

“Stay focused,” Jenny reminded them, exactly as her phone rang.

“You say as you get a call from your girl-friend,” Dawn teased.

Jenny glanced furtively up at Rupert, who gave her a small, encouraging smile. His tentative, tacit approval of Lilah was starting to wear on her a bit, and it frustrated her that she couldn’t place why. “Yeah, I should take this,” she said, hastily looking away from Rupert before he registered her staring. Lifting the phone to her ear, she said as lightly and brightly as she could, “Hey, babe, what’s up?”

“Have we progressed to pet names now?” Lilah’s voice was teasing and flirtatious in a way that made warmth begin in Jenny’s chest.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Jenny, grinning. “I’d think we’re reaching that stage. Still on the clock, though, so—”

“Of course,” Lilah agreed. “Much as I’d love to call you for pleasure, this is unfortunately more in the realm of business. How’s it going with Cordelia and Wesley?”

“Nothing but an old photo from Cordelia’s Instagram to go on,” Jenny answered, “and I don’t think that that’s—”

“Need any help?”

“Isn’t this my job?”

“I never said it wasn’t,” Lilah reminded Jenny patiently. “I do, however, have access to the records of the Hyperion Hotel, where two rooms are registered under the names Scholar and Starlet, respectively.”

“And that’s important because?”

“Security footage caught Mr. Wyndam-Pryce leaving his hotel room last night,” Lilah answered. “He’s been trying to lay low, room service and all that, but I guess duty called.”

Jenny hesitated. “Lilah,” she said, “how much of this intel you’re giving me is stuff you came by legally?”

“I’m a lawyer,” said Lilah lightly.

“At a law firm you hired me to investigate and take down,” Jenny countered.

“Listen, Jenny, information is information when it comes to Wolfram and Hart,” said Lilah, sounding a little impatient. “We can start talking about the inherent morality of my actions when I have wiggle room to choose between what’s all the way right and what’s a few shades of gray towards wrong. Okay?”

“Don’t get short with me,” said Jenny, meaning to sound terse but just coming off hurt. “This kind of investigation isn’t my usual forte.”

Lilah was quiet for a moment. Then she said, “I’m sorry. The detectives I’ve worked with before—they didn’t have the same kind of integrity you do. You questioning my methods makes me a little nervous that you’ll think twice about what we’re doing.”

“I won’t,” said Jenny firmly. “I just—need you to be honest with me about where you’re getting your intel. I need that.”

“I understand,” said Lilah. After a moment, she said, “Wolfram and Hart keeps mostly-illegal tabs on any hotel housing a client, mostly for security purposes. As it happens, there’s a very influential Wolfram and Hart client staying in the Hyperion for a few weeks, which is how I was able to get my hands on that security footage.”

“Okay,” said Jenny. “Okay. That’s good. Honesty is incredibly important to me, that’s all.”

There was another long silence, one that seemed to last longer than a normal one should. Then Lilah said, “I should get back to work.”

“Of course,” said Jenny, smiling a little nervously before she remembered that Lilah couldn’t see her. “Yeah. Thanks for checking in.” She waited for the dial tone, then hung up the phone.

“Is everything all right?” Rupert asked anxiously as Jenny pocketed her phone. “That seemed like a rather heated conversation.”

“It wasn’t—” Jenny sighed. “Lilah worries me sometimes,” she said finally. “She’s not as honest as I’d like her to be.”

“Maybe you should date someone you’ve known for longer than Lilah,” said Buffy unusually loudly. Rupert, blushing furiously, shot her a death glare.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

As this investigation comes together, I find myself feeling more and more discombobulated with regards to Lilah, and it frustrates me that I can’t place why. Our relationship is going perfectly, and Rupert and I have done an excellent job of finding all the people she might need to construct a case against Wolfram and Hart—so why do I still feel like there’s a piece of the puzzle I’m missing?

Maybe it’s just that Lilah hasn’t really discussed the potential case she might build against Wolfram and Hart, or how exactly she’s planning on taking down a powerful law firm with a handful of witnesses who are at best liabilities and at worst minor threats. I’ve seen a lot of cases fall to pieces in the court that were better structured than the one we’re putting together right now, and without a good lawyer, our two to three pieces of vague evidence might not hold up.

I hope my girlfriend’s a good enough lawyer to make this whole thing work.


 

The Hyperion Hotel was a surprisingly high-end establishment for two people who seemed to be making every effort to go off the grid, and Jenny found herself feeling more than slightly underdressed in her leather jacket and jeans. Even Rupert, who always looked polished and professorial in his suits and vests, seemed a bit dilapidated in comparison to the designer clothing everyone around them seemed to be sporting.

Jenny stepped up to the front desk. “Uh, hey,” she said. “We’re looking for—Scholar and Starlet?”

The concierge gave them both a scrutinizing look, then said, “Who’s asking?”

“Well—”

“Two people who need their help,” said Rupert, “and who are—” here he winced before continuing, “—desperate for the specific expertise that only Scholar can provide.”

Still looking somewhat wary, the concierge picked up a phone and pressed a few buttons. Jenny turned to Rupert, amused. “What was all that about expertise?” she asked.

“Wesley’s a blowhard who responds bloody well to flattery,” said Rupert quietly. “Appealing to his vanity might mean at least a chance at an audience with him.”

From the desk, the concierge cleared his throat. “So hey,” he said, “is this kinda thing a problem no one else can solve? Like, you know, helping the helpless?” He said the last phrase with deliberate significance, as though it should mean something to them both.

“Exactly as such, my good man,” said Rupert without missing a beat. “My colleague and myself need all the help we can get.”

“Weird you came asking for Scholar,” said the concierge with an amused grin. “It’s definitely gonna go to his head. The name’s Charles Gunn.” He stuck out his hand, only narrowly missing the stunned look Jenny and Rupert exchanged before Jenny took it. Shaking her hand, he added, “Room 428. Knock three times and say Caritas.

“You know Lorne?” said Jenny, startled.

“Who doesn’t in this line of work?” Charles let her hand drop, inclining his head. “I’d recommend you guys get going. Crime doesn’t sleep around here, and the crew’s usually pretty tied up as it is.”

“Gotcha,” said Jenny, grinning. “And, uh—” She hesitated, then said, “This is a long shot, but do you know a Professor Burkle?”

Charles’s face softened and he turned a little pink. “Yeah,” he said. “Fred. She’s a pretty good friend of mine. Why do you ask?”

Jenny felt a small twinge in her chest. This, then, was the Charles Gunn who was still looking for his sister. She knew she shouldn’t have pried, but some slightly masochistic part of her had wanted to put a face to the name, and—it felt worse, somehow, knowing that this kid only a few years older than Buffy and Willow was dealing with stuff not even she would be able to handle.

“My daughter’s one of her students,” said Rupert with careful lightness, who seemed to be getting the reason behind Jenny’s inquiry and was attempting to cover it up. “Professor Burkle mentioned your name in conversation.”

“Anything good?” Charles asked the question casually, but there was a note of shy hope in his eyes.

“Very complimentary,” Rupert reassured him.

Charles’s grin widened. “Well, thanks for passing that along,” he said, and went back to the phones with a much larger smile on his face.

Jenny watched him as they walked towards the elevators. “He seems like a nice guy,” she said a little sadly. “I—honestly can’t imagine how he’s coping, not knowing whether someone he loves is alive or—”

“Alive,” said Rupert, quiet and somewhat shaky. To Jenny’s surprise, he tucked his arm around her waist, tugging her almost protectively closer. “Let’s leave it at that.”

Jenny leaned into his side on the elevator ride up, her thoughts on what they might find upstairs. The way Charles had said helping the helpless seemed unusually purposeful, almost businesslike—as though he’d said that sort of thing before. And the way Lilah had talked about Cordelia and Wesley being the most integral part of any case—was it possible that they might be running some kind of operation of their own?

Rupert let go of her when the elevator bumped to a stop. Jenny felt a strange sense of loss as she watched him walk ahead, and had to take a moment before following him to where he’d stopped in front of room 428. “You should do the honors, Ms. Calendar,” he said, and gave her a small, sideways smile. “This really is your operation, after all.”

“Yeah,” said Jenny, eyes on the door, and knocked three times. “Caritas,” she said.

From inside the hotel room, there was a bit of a laughing scuffle and the sound of cheerful voices. A few seconds passed, and then a slightly disheveled Cordelia Chase opened the door, beaming up at them. “Welcome to Angel Investigations!” she said brightly. “We help the hopeless—oh, shit, it’s helpless, isn’t it.”

“I did tell you, Cordelia, you should have let me handle it,” came an affronted voice with a British accent. “They asked for me down at the desk, didn’t they?”

“Scholar and Starlet both start with an S,” came a very familiar voice. “It’s possible they could have made a mistake.”

“Yeah, Wesley, they made a mistake—” Cordelia, laughing, threw the door open all the way, and her smile faded as she suddenly registered the expressions on the faces of her companions. It was true that Wesley was looking at Rupert with the beginnings of bemused recognition, but that wasn’t what had Jenny and Rupert rattled.

Sitting on the bed, wearing a grey sweater and dark slacks, was a wide-eyed Angel.


 

 

THE ANGELUS FILE (stored in a lockbox in Jenny Calendar’s office three years ago; hasn’t been opened since)

About two years ago, a young woman who is as of yet only known to the authorities as Darla set up shop in Los Angeles. She’d been working a pretty efficient smuggling-and-thieving ring in Europe, and a profitable one too—enough to start looking into expanding her operation to the West Coast. Her boyfriend Liam O’Connor came with her, as well as two foster kids they’d picked up for the jobs that needed small hands—William Pratt and Drusilla Keeble, though they went by Spike and Dru on jobs.

Six months after that, Liam began to lose his appetite for the work that they were doing. Apparently, in Europe, he’d been farther away from the process, enjoying the spoils and not having to bother himself with what went into obtaining the money. He saw that they were hurting people and told Darla he was quitting, and she didn’t take it all that well. He described it to us later as her becoming possessive of him—as though he was one of her treasures—but I’m of the mind that she did love him, albeit in a twisted, painful way. Liam doesn’t seem ready to admit to that, though; it’d make him culpable in what happened next.

Liam, using the alias “Angelus” and going by “Angel” for short, took a job as a docent at a local museum, and entered into a relationship with high school junior Buffy Summers, whose adoptive father Rupert Giles happened to be the museum curator. Rupert looked fondly on his colleague, though he was largely unaware of the romance beginning to blossom between Buffy and Angel.

This period of grace lasted for a good four months, during which Buffy and Angel grew closer, Rupert and Angel formed a solid friendship, and Darla continued to search for Liam, putting all other business on hold in an attempt to find him and bring him back to her. Darla discovered Buffy’s relationship with Angel fourteen months ago, when she spotted them kissing outside the museum, and spent the next five months planning an elaborate heist that would not only benefit her financially, but had the potential to ruin Buffy’s life.

I read about the aftermath of the heist in the newspaper a few days later: a number of expensive paintings had been stolen the night a Mr. Rupert Giles was working late, and the security footage in the exhibit had cut out right when he left his office. The police had no tangible proof that he did it, but Los Angeles was in an uproar—every newspaper was reporting on Mr. Giles’s clear guilt and demanding that his adopted daughters be placed with a more capable parent.

That’s where I came in.

Rupert Giles showed up in my office two days later, desperate for any kind of help to clear his name. I was initially a little skeptical, as the evidence was stacked significantly against him, but the way he talked about his adopted daughters (“they lost their mother two years ago, and I’ve been doing my best to give them a stable home—I would never risk their welfare just to steal some bloody paintings”) was fiercely loving and something I completely understood. I told him I’d work the case free of charge, and his response was to offer up his services in assisting me.

That part was a little awkward. It was pretty clear neither of us really knew how to work with someone else—Rupert being an antisocial museum curator and me being, well, a one-person department—but after about two weeks of screaming arguments and baseless accusations (okay, that last part was mostly me), we managed to find an awkward common ground, as well as track down the security tapes that revealed exactly who had stolen those paintings.

Buffy, meanwhile, was devastated. Angel, recognizing that Darla was trying to ruin Buffy’s life in order to get at him, had left Buffy without letting her know what was going on. With her adoptive dad under investigation and her boyfriend pulling a disappearing act, she actually ended up hanging at my apartment a lot—not with me, but with Faith, who had gone through some tough stuff herself and who was pretty good at providing a listening ear. I think those two are going to be friends for a long time after this. Unfortunately, Buffy’s friendship with Faith had unforeseen consequences: while Faith was watching TV, Buffy happened upon my notes for the Angelus case and pieced together what exactly was going on with her boyfriend, as well as why Rupert was under investigation for a crime he definitely didn’t commit.

Buffy, using my notes, went after Darla on her own. Rupert and I were already en route to her last known location, which was incredibly lucky; I’m fairly certain that, if we hadn’t reached the scene in time, Buffy would have been dead. But Rupert knocked the gun out of Darla’s hands, and I called the cops, and Buffy sort of just sat down and started crying until Rupert could come over and hold her. I bought them ice cream and drove them home. Felt like it was the least I could do.

The thing is, though, there was still a permanent black mark on Rupert’s reputation. It was true that he hadn’t stolen any paintings, but it was also true that his adopted daughter had been dating the ex-boyfriend of a high-profile criminal that had caused the museum a world of bad press. Rupert was unceremoniously fired from the job he’d held for nearly ten years.

This is a difficult file for me to write, because Rupert Giles believed in the work he did at a level few people have ever reached. He didn’t work with me solely to clear his name—it’s obvious he’s got a penchant and a passion for putting pieces of a puzzle together, and it’s clear he devotes his time only to things he’s genuinely interested in. This loss hit him painfully hard. I haven’t seen or heard from him in days, and Buffy says he’s just been staying at home.

I don’t know what I can do to make things up to Rupert. What could I possibly offer him that would make any of this even slightly better?

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Apparently, that Instagram photo of Cordelia was doctored not by Wolfram and Hart, or even by Wesley, but by Cordelia herself. Wesley caught up to her later and explained the sensitive material she’d caught on camera, and she agreed to obscure the other person’s identity in exchange for an opportunity to work with them both. That person wasn’t the Wolfram and Hart lawyer Wesley had been following that day—it was Angel. He, Wesley, and Cordelia are some kind of behind-the-scenes team working to help people who have been hurt by Wolfram and Hart, and they’re doing their best to keep Wolfram and Hart from figuring that fact out.

It's difficult for me to figure out how I feel about seeing Angel again.


 

 

Jenny honestly didn’t know what to say. Angel—Liam—whoever he was, he’d been the catalyst for a world of pain inflicted on people she loved very dearly. It had taken Rupert four months to acclimate to the loss of a job he’d been so good at and so comfortable in, and all because Angel had decided that Buffy was the only girl for him. Technically speaking, he hadn’t committed any crimes or hurt anyone, but he’d also deserted Buffy at the first sign of trouble.

“Mr. Giles,” said Angel in a stilted tone of voice. “And Ms. Calendar?”

Rupert looked steadily at Angel, then at Jenny, with that blankly placid expression he always used to disguise how shaken he was. Jenny slipped her hand quietly into his and said to Angel, “Calendar-Giles Investigations. Our client believes you have evidence that might be pertinent to a case she’s building against Wolfram and Hart.”

“Wolfram and Hart?” Cordelia sounded positively outraged. “Those jerkfaces? Yeah, you bet we have evidence—we’ve got a whole bunch of evidence!”

“We’ve been attempting to build a case of our own, actually,” said Wesley, sounding somewhat bemused. “It’s why we went into hiding—Wolfram and Hart has shut down seven private detective agencies in the last month.”

“Shut down?” Jenny echoed.

Cordelia drew a line across her throat and made a gagging noise. Wesley gave her a reproving look and said, “Cordelia’s description is a bit, ah, crass, but it is apt. Most of the detectives who haven’t been bought off have disappeared entirely, and we have reason to believe Wolfram and Hart is disposing of them.”

Jenny was beginning to see why Lilah had described Cordelia and Wesley as the most important pieces of the puzzle. “So you guys have some actual evidence against them?” she asked. “Because my client’s got me mostly grasping at straws.” Not the kindest thing she’d said about Lilah, but it was true—the evidence they had was spotty at best.

“We do,” said Wesley doubtfully, “but we’re not in the habit of just handing it out to any strangers.”

“They’re not strangers,” said Angel quietly, standing up from the bed. He didn’t seem able to look Giles in the eye. “They’re good people, Wes, and you in particular should know that.”

Wesley gave Rupert a very uncomfortable smile. “Yes,” he said finally. “I, um, suppose so. I still don’t know this, this Calendar woman—”

“I’m the one that cleared Rupert’s name after the hell you and the museum put him through,” said Jenny, giving Wesley a thin smile in return as she squeezed Rupert’s hand. He squeezed it back. “I have a pretty good instinct when it comes to good people.”

“Fair enough,” said Wesley awkwardly. “And Mr. Giles—”

“We’re not talking about what happened three years ago,” said Jenny. “Okay? We’re talking about what’s going on now.

“No,” said Rupert quietly, “no, there are actually some things I’d like to say to Angel.” His hand tightened around Jenny’s as he looked directly into Angel’s eyes. “You broke my daughter’s heart,” he said, voice level, “and your relationship with her placed the people I love in jeopardy. I know that you’re a good person, Angel, but your actions were thoughtless and selfish—”

Hey!” said Cordelia sharply. “He was in love. You’re telling me you’ve never acted like an idiot trying to protect Ms. Calendar?”

Rupert went white.

“Oh, we’re not—” Jenny began with a nervous laugh, then stopped, taking a closer look at Rupert. “Rupert?”

All of a sudden, Rupert didn’t seem able to meet her eyes. “I should—you seem—I need to go,” he stammered, and before Jenny could fully register the turn their meeting had taken, he had jerked his hand away from Jenny’s, turned on his heel, and all but fled the room, rushing down the hallway towards the elevator.

Jenny stared after him for a moment before immediately moving to follow, but Angel caught her arm. “Give him a minute,” he said quietly.

“A minute for what?” said Jenny indignantly. “And for that matter, who are you to think you can boss me around when it’s my associate you just—”

Cordelia was frowning. “Aren’t you guys in love?” she asked matter-of-factly.

To her surprise, Jenny found herself unable to give a completely straight answer to that question. “I’m seeing someone,” she said. “And Rupert—well, he doesn’t date anyone, usually, but that’s just because—” She cut herself off, very aware of the fact that her heart was pounding like she’d been caught in some kind of a lie. “We’re not a couple,” she finally managed, because that was the question she was usually so good at answering.

“Cordelia,” said Angel quietly, “remember what we talked about regarding the way we talk to other people?”

“I never listen to you when you give me people-skills advice,” said Cordelia, and crossed the room to kiss Angel lightly on the cheek. Angel blushed. “That’s like the pot telling the kettle to be less black.” She turned back to Jenny. “Sorry,” she said, “but you know at some point you’re gonna have to start thinking about—”

“We’re here to talk business,” said Jenny, trying desperately to reach familiar terrain. “Is it possible that I can look over copies of some of your evidence?”

Cordelia gave Jenny a long, assessing look, smiling almost knowingly, and then nodded.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

It’s ridiculous. Obviously.

Why would anyone think

The real question is

I’m dating Lilah, so even if I was (which I’m not)

Cordelia Chase doesn’t know what she’s talking about.


 

Rupert was still in the elevator when Jenny stepped inside, holding an overstuffed folder to her chest, a Post-It with Cordelia’s email stuck neatly to its cover. He looked up and gave her a small, nervous smile. “I’m sorry,” he said awkwardly. “I think I sort of panicked.”

After Cordelia’s question, Jenny didn’t feel like pressing him for specifics, and didn’t want to think about why. “Yeah, it’s okay,” she said. “I got a whole bunch of evidence and some contact info for if we want to get in touch with them again. Should we tell Buffy that her ex is back in town?”

“No,” said Rupert very sharply as the elevator doors closed. Off Jenny’s look, he amended, “I-I don’t want to hurt her, Jenny. She came to terms with Angel’s leaving, she’s happy with Willow—it’s clear she doesn’t have those same feelings for him anymore. Bringing him up would only end up hurting them both, and I think we’ve seen enough hurt in that arena to last a lifetime.”

“But don’t you think she has a right to know that—”

“Jenny,” said Rupert quietly, “there are some things that people are better off not knowing.”

There was a strange, charged silence between them, then, and the way Rupert was looking at her made a part of Jenny want to never look away. Frightened by the intensity of the moment, she drew in a breath, letting her gaze drop to the folder. She was certain that she was blushing. “You’re right,” she said finally, not daring to look at him. “On some accounts. But I still think—”

“He’s not here for her,” said Rupert, “and we don’t even know if he’s staying. Telling her might cause her needless pain.”

The thought of being with Rupert in a romantic sense wasn’t something that had occurred to Jenny before. Strange, since they’d spent three years being mistaken as a couple—but it had just never crossed her mind in the way it had right then, and—she blamed Cordelia. People had mistaken them for a couple before, but no one had ever assumed they were in love.

It was significant, probably, that she wasn’t able to label Cordelia’s judgment as a mistake, but Jenny honestly couldn’t think about Rupert and her without feeling like she was going to panic. “Did you press the button?” she asked.

“No,” said Rupert.

“Can you?”

Rupert jabbed at the button for the lobby and the elevator began to move. He glanced furtively over at Jenny, then said, “You’re with Lilah, anyway.”

Jenny felt a nervous rush. “Yeah,” she said, and that was the end of it.


 

“We’re not going over to Giles’s for dinner tonight?” Faith sounded genuinely bewildered. “Have we ever not gone over to Giles’s for dinner?”

“Sometimes he comes over to ours for dinner,” Jenny pointed out, only belatedly realizing that this proved Faith’s point. “And—I’m dating Lilah now. I need to start focusing in on stabilizing our family unit instead of—”

“Mom,” said Faith quietly. “Giles is family. Why would you act like he’s not?”

Jenny suddenly remembered the night of her first date with Lilah, and the way she’d felt coming back to find out that Rupert had been concussed, and the effortless closeness between them—how easy it had been to say he was family then. All of a sudden, that memory felt like too much of an admission. “You and Tara can go over for dinner,” she said. “I might stay home.”

Faith was looking at Jenny with a small, worried frown. Then she said, “If you’re sure,” and headed back into her bedroom to tell Tara the news.

Jenny watched her daughter go, then slumped into the couch, staring into space. She stayed like that for a moment before dialing Lilah’s number.

Lilah picked up after five rings. “Sorry about that, I was in a meeting,” she said cheerfully. “What’s up?”

There was something comforting about hearing the casual, easy cadence of Lilah’s voice. Jenny smiled. “Nothing much,” she said, “just that we got a whole boatload of evidence from Wesley and Cordelia. Like, a whole folder’s worth, and that’s just a few of the copies they were willing to let me bring back to you so you could see them. So it’s looking like that case of yours might be coming to a close pretty damn soon.”

There was a strange silence at the end of the line. Then, in an almost pained tone of voice, Lilah said, “Jenny, can you come over tonight?”

“What?”

“Just—can you come over? I need to see you.”

“Is everything okay?”

Another silence. Then, “Not really. I just—” Lilah paused in an oddly deliberative sort of way before saying, “I worry about you.”

“I’m a big girl, Lilah,” said Jenny, frowning. “I can take care of myself.”

“Well—I worry about you, that’s all,” said Lilah again, awkwardly. “Call it a habit. Wolfram and Hart doesn’t take kindly to people snooping around, and the closer you get—”

“I’m gonna be okay,” said Jenny gently.

“I know that,” said Lilah stiffly, but there was a strange resignation to her voice. “I just—I want to see you tonight. Okay?”

“Then you can come over here,” said Jenny. “How’s that? It’s a lot comfier than your bachelorette pad. We can make dinner, have some wine, cuddle on the couch and watch bad movies…” She trailed off, waiting, then said, “Lilah, are you sure something’s not wrong?”

“Are Rupert and the kids going to be there?”

“They’re all having dinner at his place,” Jenny answered. “If time with just me is what you want, it’s what you’re gonna get.” Guiltily, she felt a sense of relief that Lilah needed her attention; it provided an incredibly useful distraction from whatever the hell seemed to be going on between herself and Rupert. “Seriously, just—just come over here. It’ll be just us. I think we both need a break from all this case work for a little while.”

Lilah was quiet for a second. Then, wryly, she said, “God, I knew it was a mistake to get involved.”

“I’m sorry?” Jenny felt her stomach drop.

“Not—not that I regret—it’s just that, that I’m not used to—” Lilah blew out a breath, then said, “Worrying,” as though she was pronouncing Jenny’s death sentence. After another moment, she said, “I’m coming over.”

“Good,” said Jenny. “Great. And don’t scare me like that, okay?” She added a laughing note to her last sentence, trying to lighten the mood.

“I’m coming over,” said Lilah again, and hung up. Frowning, Jenny did the same.

“Everything good, Mom?” Faith asked as she exited her bedroom, overnight bag slung over her shoulder and Tara at her heels. “You sounded kinda stressed.”

Jenny’s eyes went to the bag. “You’re staying at Rupert’s?”

Faith smiled a little awkwardly. “Whatever you and Giles are going through,” she said, “me ‘n Tara figured you might need some space.”

“We’re not going through anything,” said Jenny a little too sharply. “And you’re definitely not just staying over at Rupert’s without asking permission.”

Faith’s smile faded and she looked genuinely surprised. “Seriously, Mom, what’s up?” she said. “You’ve never been like this before. I used to go and sleep over at Buffy’s all the time last year and you never once pitched a fit.”

“I’m not pitching—” At Faith’s doubtful look, Jenny sighed. “Fine,” she said. “You’re right. I-I think I probably do need a little space tonight.”

Faith nodded, and her smile returned, but there was a clear sadness in her eyes. “Yeah,” she said, “say hi to Lilah for me,” and she was out the door with Tara before Jenny could process that her daughter had overheard her making plans with Lilah and had decided to clear out.

“Oh, shit,” she said, groaning, and fell sideways onto the couch.


 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar (DRAFT, DELETED):

why does it feel like everything’s falling apart?


 

Things didn’t really feel all that much better when Lilah showed up. This might have had to do with the fact that Lilah was carrying a half-empty bottle of champagne and had an odd, slippery smile that looked very suspiciously like she was inebriated. “Lilah,” said Jenny thinly, “what’s going on?”

“God only fucking knows,” said Lilah, placing the champagne bottle down on the end table by the front door and giving Jenny an ungraceful kiss. “You know, I, I had this whole damn thing down to a science before you? And then you show up with those big eyes and a whole damn family and you tell me I’m a good person like you know what I’ve done.”

“We’ve been through this before,” said Jenny, who had had too long a day to have the one consistent thing in her life flake out on her. But—Lilah was never really there, was she? Lilah always seemed perpetually hidden behind half-truths and sweet kisses. All things considered, Jenny really shouldn’t have been surprised. “A bad person wouldn’t hire a private eye to take down a firm like Wolfram and Hart.”

“Oh, you don’t know me,” said Lilah darkly. “And the thing—” She hiccupped almost morosely, staggering over to the couch and sitting down. “The thing is, Jenny, I’m going to be fucking destroyed after this case ends. I’m just—I’m going to be nothing. A shell of what I was. They tell you don’t let yourself care, and I thought—I thought I was above that. Thought I could play you.”

Jenny pressed her lips together, exasperated. “You’re talking drunk talk,” she said, “lie down,” and pushed on Lilah’s shoulder until Lilah was indeed lying on the couch.

“Jenny,” said Lilah, a strange, wavering note in her voice. “Jenny, c’mere, let me see you.”

Jenny sighed and knelt down next to Lilah, resting a hand on Lilah’s shoulder. Lilah looked up at her with a kind of devastated misery, like she was looking at a car wreck waiting to happen, and—and it more than stung, after a day like today. Jenny already had her own reasons to doubt the strength of her connection with Lilah—she didn’t need that same doubt from Lilah herself. “We’re gonna last,” she said, more for herself than for Lilah. “I’m not in the habit of ruining relationships.”

“No,” said Lilah, still looking at her, “but I am,” and closed her eyes as though that was the end of it.

Jenny looked at Lilah on the couch, then swallowed hard and pulled herself back up. She picked up her phone, her keys, and her laptop bag, exited the apartment, shut the door behind her, and dialed Rupert’s number.

Rupert picked up on the fourth ring. “Jenny?” he said, soft and uncertain. “Faith said something about you having a date with Lilah—is that why you won’t be at dinner tonight?

Jenny smiled a little, comforted by the familiarity of his tone, and didn’t say anything.

“Jenny, are—are you there?”

“Yeah,” said Jenny. “Just—wanted to hear your voice.”

There was a strange silence, then Rupert said, “I can’t do this. I really can’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“Whatever’s been going on with Lilah, it’s—you’ve been erratic, inconsistent, and overall quite impossible to work with. Just when I think we’ve reached some sort of understanding—”

“Rupert—”

“—you skip out on some event or some gathering in favor of being with her. And then you turn to me as though—” Rupert’s voice caught, almost as though he were near tears. “—as though I’m someone to fall back on, and I can’t—”

“Rupert, just—”

“—can’t work with someone who doesn’t respect the, the work we do at all times. You must understand—”

Jenny felt her ashamed guilt dissipate. “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” she said fiercely. “You’re trying to tell me that I don’t respect the work we do? I’m the one who hired you!”

“That’s not why—Jenny, I can’t work with a person who doesn’t value my contributions or my time,” said Rupert. He still sounded shaky, but he also sounded frighteningly sure of himself. “I don’t know if we can be partners anymore.”

“What?” Jenny felt like the floor had just opened up under her.

“Believe me when I say it’s the best for both of us,” said Rupert quietly. “Certain—realizations—I came to today, regarding—the depth of my feelings for this job, for the work we do—it’s unhealthy and all-consuming, and I’m putting in more than I’m receiving. Please respect my decision.”

“Are you going to tell the kids?”

“I am and I have.”

“You told them without me there?”

“You were the one who chose not to be there.”

“What the fuck kind of move is that?” Jenny was all but shouting. “You told my daughter you were quitting without me there? She’s—that’s not your news to tell!”

“You’ve said before that we were family—”

“Faith’s my family,” said Jenny furiously, aiming to hurt Rupert as much as he'd just hurt her. “You’re my associate. Not even that, now, according to you,” and then she realized what she’d just said, and who she’d just said it to. Horrified, she began, “Rupert—”

Rupert hung up.

Jenny listened to the dial tone until her eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the apartment hallway. Nodding to herself, she pocketed her phone, scrubbed roughly at her eyes, and headed out into the night.

Chapter Text

from the personal journal of Faith Calendar:

Mom’s missing.

Some lady showed up looking like she’d fallen asleep in a trash can while me and Buffy and Dawn and Tara and Giles were all eating breakfast. I wasn’t sure who she was at first, but the way Giles looked at her made it pretty damn clear it was Lilah. He stood up all ready to tell her to get out, but then she went all pale and asked him where Mom was, and then Giles looked pale too and said that he had thought Mom was with her, and then Dawn started looking like she was gonna throw up so Buffy took her out of the room.

I stuck around and listened in because—it’s Mom, and I needed to record all this just like Mom does. If Mom’s missing, you can bet I’m going to make a case file about it.

Apparently, Lilah showed up drunk to her date with Mom for reasons she wouldn’t tell Giles because it was “none of his business.” Which is stupid, because she’s his client—or, uh, not anymore, I guess, if we’re going by that dumbass bombshell he dropped at dinner. Like we all don’t know he and Mom are gonna make up eventually. Anyway. Lilah showed up drunk to her date with Mom, passed out on the couch, and woke up to find Mom gone. She came here because she thought maybe Mom might have gone to Giles, and then maybe Lilah could apologize properly and in person.

And then Giles got even paler and said that Mom had tried to call him, but that they’d had a big fight and he’d hung up on her. And now Giles and Lilah are running some weird-ass covert operations thing from Mom’s old laptop in the living room to try and track Mom down. I’d be worried about Mom killing them when she finds out they’re acting like super-spies, but right now I’m kinda just busy worrying about Mom.

I called Tara and she says she thinks Mom’ll be okay. I think she’s just saying it because she knows it’s what I need to hear right now. Still makes me feel better, though.


 

“So is this because you’re in love with Giles, or is it something else?” Cordelia asked, sounding more curious than anything.

Jenny drew in a shuddering breath and buried her face in her hands.

“Let the woman calm down before you start antagonizing her, Cordelia,” said Wesley shortly, “it looks to me as though she walked here, and someone who didn’t even bother to call a taxi isn’t in any position to answer questions regarding—”

He abruptly stopped talking, which made Jenny look up to see that Angel was giving Wesley and Cordelia both very pointed looks. “Neither of you are helping by talking,” he said. “I think right now what she needs is to talk to us.”

Jenny gave Angel a small, tired smile. “I didn’t know where else to go,” she said finally. “And—I know we’ve had our differences, but—you guys said you help the hopeless, right?”

“Helpless,” said Angel, and rolled his eyes a little at Cordelia, who rolled her eyes back. “My only question, Jenny, is what do you need from us?”

Jenny considered the question, then said, “Is there any evidence against Wolfram and Hart you’ve collected that we can try and follow through on?”

Cordelia grinned. “Well, why do you think we’re at the Hyperion?” she asked. “There’s a gala being held tomorrow night, and our intel says there’s a chance that Glorificus might be making a very brief appearance.”

“Glorificus?” Jenny echoed, stunned.

“She’s been lying low since that incident a few years back,” said Wesley, “and justifiably so. She’s wanted for questioning that could have her behind bars even with Wolfram and Hart’s protection, but—”

“But she can’t resist a good party,” Angel finished, “and the Hyperion happens to be hosting one of the best. Lots of high society types showing up to mingle and make connections, and we’re thinking Glory might be showing up to make a few herself—though probably not with the better kinds of people.”

“You’re trying to catch her admitting to a crime,” Jenny realized aloud.

“Not quite as neatly structured as your client, I expect, but we get the job done,” said Angel. “Thing is, though, we’ve been saving up a lot of money for the stuff we’re going to be wearing to this gala. There any chance you’ve got a high-society looking dress hidden away in a corner of your house?”

“I can’t go back there yet,” said Jenny immediately.

Cordelia frowned. “Ms. Calendar,” she said, “like it or not, there are going to be a lot of people worried about you if you’re not planning on checking in. More than you realize, probably, considering that you and Mr. Giles both have kids and you’ve got that girlfriend of yours—”

“If I catch someone, then that’ll help the case I’m working, and I can prove to Rupert that I care about this job as much as he does,” said Jenny, and her voice caught. “I’ve been prioritizing the wrong things. I need to make it up to him.”

Angel swallowed hard, and Jenny was reminded of her years-old case file—four months he’d spent with Buffy, and he’d left town at the drop of a hat because he thought it might protect her. Buffy had been too hurt and desolate for Jenny to stop and think about why it could possibly have been so easy for Angel to leave. She thought she might understand, now, at least a little.

“I’ll buy you a dress,” he said. “I haven’t bought myself a tux yet—my finances can take the hit.”

“Angel—” There was a warning note in Wesley’s voice.

“A rented tux can pass for designer a hell of a lot easier than a dress, Wes,” said Angel. “And Jenny wants to help, so we’re going to let her help. Cordelia, can you call Lorne and tell him we’re gonna need another dress?”

“Wait,” said Jenny. “Lorne?”


Lorne, who happened to be a very close personal friend of Charles’s girlfriend Professor Burkle (of fucking course he was somehow tangled up in this complex network too—why was Jenny at all surprised at this point), showed up with a boatload of expensive-looking dresses and held each one up to Jenny in succession. “I’ll return the others,” he said, “I had to make this quick. They’re a little surprised I didn’t bring measurements, but I’ve got a pretty good talent for guessing.” He took Jenny’s hand, spinning her around before holding a periwinkle dress up. “Definitely not. You, my dear, are much more of a deep pink, or maybe a dark red, but I had to get something brighter to get the lady off my back. Myself, I look pretty good in pastels.”

Jenny tried to smile. Normally, she’d be absolutely over the moon at the opportunity to do some super-spy-esque investigation at a gala with fancy outfits, but—normally, Rupert was with her, and his absence was much more significant than she’d realized it would be. She was resisting a very determined impulse to call and beg ungracefully for his forgiveness, but the way he’d talked to her, the way she’d talked to him—it was clear she was going to have to do a lot more than just grovel.

“Hey, cupcake, you okay?” Lorne asked a little more softly, lightly touching Jenny’s face. “That doesn’t look like a happy face to me.”

“I think I really hurt someone I care about,” said Jenny, “and—it’s weighing on me a lot more than I realized it would.”

Lorne smiled a little sadly. “Love hurts, kiddo,” he said, which was somehow one of the most comforting things that Jenny had heard in a while. Holding up a deep red halter dress, he asked, “How about this one?”

Jenny reached out, lightly touching it. The dress had small, round gems attached in a neat row to the high neckline and around the waist, and its long skirt fell loosely down to the floor in elegant folds. Despite the potential trip factor of a longer skirt, she kind of liked it; it wasn’t too ostentatious, and she always did look nice in red. “Yeah, okay,” she said. “I’ll try it on.” Carefully taking the dress from Lorne, she headed into the bathroom, shut the door, and began to unbutton her blouse.

Her phone went off. Checking Caller ID, she saw it was Faith, considered her options, and picked up, waiting.

“Mom?” Yep, that was Faith. “Listen, I’m not gonna tell Giles or Lilah where you are—I just—” There was a sniffle, then, “I thought you might pick up if it was me.”

Jenny felt a twist of painful guilt in her stomach. Maybe she was right to disappear on Rupert and Lilah, but she definitely wasn’t right to do that to Faith. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It was really irresponsible of me to jet off like that without warning.”

“No, I, I get it,” said Faith. “I do. I listened in on Giles and Lilah and—those two things happen in one night, I’d kinda wanna split too. Almost did when Giles started talking about leaving the agency.”

Jenny smiled, small and wobbly. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m doing some secret work to try and convince him to maybe come back.”

“You think it’ll work?”

“I don’t know,” said Jenny. “But it’s sure as hell worth a shot. Can you—not tell them that that’s what I’m doing?”

“After the way they both treated you, I’m not telling ‘em shit,” said Faith fiercely.

Jenny hesitated. “Faith—”

“Giles knows he messed up,” said Faith. “He keeps on just wandering around the house looking like he either wants to throw up or start crying. He wouldn’t be acting like that if he hadn’t done something wrong.”

“He only thinks he’s done something wrong,” said Jenny. “Faith, please, don’t—don’t be mad at him. We had a disagreement, that’s true, but I said some pretty awful stuff myself. This is my way of trying to make things up to him.”

“By what, doing a disappearing act?” Jenny drew in a pained breath.“Sorry,” said Faith.“Sorry. It’s just—I was—really worried, Mom. You should have called.”

“I know, baby,” said Jenny softly. “I won’t disappear on you again. I’ll be back home as soon as I possibly can, okay?”

“I love you,” said Faith, her voice wobbling.

“Love you too.” Jenny stayed on the line, waiting until she’d heard Faith hang up, then placed her phone on the counter, unbuttoning her blouse. She undressed quickly, not really wanting to look at herself in the mirror—she was pretty sure that, in her rumpled clothes, she looked like she hadn’t slept all night, and she didn’t need that blow to her ego—and carefully pulled on the dress, running a hand haphazardly through her hair before finally daring to look at the mirror. Her hair was an absolute wreck, but—other than that, the dress actually didn’t look half bad.

Cordelia wolf-whistled when Jenny came out of the bathroom, then started giggling when Wesley elbowed her. Angel gave Jenny a small, vaguely confused smile that made it pretty clear he knew nothing about fashion, and Lorne grinned widely. “That’s definitely the one,” he said. “Understated but still classy—very you, in my opinion.”

Jenny managed a tired smile, then said, “I’m going to take this off and, um, sleep until tomorrow, if that’s cool.”

“Ooh, I’ll wake you before the gala and do your makeup!” Cordelia sounded positively delighted by this. “I used to do a bunch of makeup videos on Instagram—” Behind Cordelia, Wesley made a face. “No one asked you,” said Cordelia without turning around. “Anyway, I used to help match people to their makeup, and I so miss it.”

“That sounds nice,” said Jenny, who really just wanted to fall asleep. “Can I—sleep here?”

“This is kinda the guys’ room,” said Cordelia, “I’ll take you into mine instead—there’s an extra bed,” and before Jenny was fully aware of what was going on, she, her clothes, and Cordelia were through the small door linking both rooms and in a room full of what looked like seven closetfuls of clothing strewn all over the place. “I tried to pack light,” said Cordelia nonchalantly.

“This is light,” said Jenny dubiously.

“Not so tired now that you’ve got someone to make fun of, huh?” Cordelia teased, grinning. “I’m gonna go freshen up—you change and then get some rest. You’re going to need it for tomorrow, and you definitely need it after the kind of high-stress night you probably had.”

Jenny suddenly felt very grateful that it was Cordelia’s room she’d be staying in. “Thanks,” she said.

Cordelia’s smile softened. “No problem,” she said, and headed into the bathroom as Jenny began to take the dress off.

It was a little more difficult taking it off than putting it on, but she wasn’t going to need it for too long, so she wouldn’t worry about the specifics. A half-formed daydream was forming in her head, one where she swept into Rupert’s house wearing a red dress and heels. I’m so sorry, she’d say, looking spectacularly beautiful, and Rupert would say I’m sorry too, and Jenny would say no, you were right, I prioritized Lilah instead of the job—but I won’t be doing that again, and then she’d turn on the TV and they’d be broadcasting about how Glorificus had finally been caught, and—and something would happen, then, something that would make things with her and Rupert and Lilah crystallize and make sense.

And everything would go according to plan.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

…nvoi;awhfdon;vb lkasf;owahraobvj c mn,asdlfhl2? hsldk;fhslvnabdk sbioa;iew vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv (continues for 17 pages)


 

“Did you fall asleep on your keyboard?” Cordelia sounded wildly amused by this. Gently, she tugged a barely-awake Jenny away from the computer, carefully shutting the laptop lid. “C’mon, sleepy. Gala’s in three hours and we’ve got a whole lot of prep to do.”

“Ugh,” said Jenny, who didn’t really want to be awake.

“Ugh all you want,” said Cordelia unsympathetically, “doesn’t change the fact that your makeup needs a lot of touching up when you fall asleep on your computer, not to mention your hair—” She sat Jenny down in front of an antique vanity by the window and undid the sloppy twist holding Jenny’s hair away from her face. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I have plenty of practice untangling Fred’s hair. Sometimes I gel Angel’s, too, when he’s not being a big baby about it.” She took out a fine-toothed comb and began to work carefully at the tangles.

All of a sudden, Jenny was thinking about Rupert, and the gentle, deliberate way he combed out her hair, and how horrible she’d been to him when she called him that night. Maybe it wasn’t just her prioritization of the job that had had him so upset. Maybe whatever it was that was wrong between them was something that couldn’t be fixed by catching Glorificus. Maybe—

“You’re brooding,” said Cordelia. “Why?”

Jenny sighed. “I made an impulse decision last night,” she said, “and—and maybe a detective with a new girlfriend can afford to do that, but someone with a family can’t just pack up and run away when the going gets tough.”

Cordelia considered this, then said, “You know, Angel ran off last year and slept with Darla. There was a bunch of, um, stuff going on in his life,” here she blushed in a strange way that seemed to signify she might have been involved in some of that stuff, “and Wolfram and Hart had brought her back into the country just to screw around with his head, and he just ditched us and slept with her and spent the next month or so hiding from us because he felt so bad about it. But he came back.”

“Okay,” said Jenny, not sure how this was supposed to help.

“My point,” said Cordelia, tapping Jenny’s shoulder so that she could get to the tangled mess of hair at the base of her neck, “is that—there really isn’t any family in it with people who don’t make dumb mistakes, you know? Family is about people who choose to stick together even through the messy parts. And honestly, it seems like right now, you’ve hit a messy part in a family you’ve made yourself. Which is scary, ‘cause you don’t have blood to fall back on as a reason for being together—”

“Great pep talk,” said Jenny somewhat sourly.

“I’m not done,” said Cordelia, her voice softening. “Look, I saw the way Giles looks at you when he thinks you aren’t looking. Maybe you’re not ready to figure out what’s going on between the two of you, but I think you know that whatever you guys have isn’t something that’s gonna be thrown away over one argument.”

“It was a really awful argument,” said Jenny.

Cordelia ran the comb through Jenny’s hair one last time, then stood up, crossing the room to pick up the dress from where Jenny had carefully set it down on the dresser. “Angel went off and slept with Darla,” she said, “and this was almost right after he and I kissed for the first time. So I’m kinda freaking as is, and then he disappears for a month, and when he comes back he opens with ‘guess what? I slept with Darla!’ Like, he said it in an Angel way, but still. Got the message across.” She smiled a little, then, handing the dress very carefully to Jenny. “We’ve been dating since March of last year,” she said. “He got me a bunch of flowers last week and I made him a really bad dinner. I’m kinda crazy about him. And I think what I’m trying to tell you is that even the worst set of circumstances ever isn’t gonna shake up a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.”

Jenny smiled a little. “Okay,” she said. “That’s not too bad of a pep talk.”

“Yeah, I was building it up.” Cordelia leaned down to amicably ruffle Jenny’s hair. “I’m gonna go change in the bathroom, okay? Let me know when you’re changed and I’ll come out and do your makeup—maybe curl your hair a little around the edges so it can be all fancy.” She turned, picking up a slightly crumpled dark green dress from the floor, and headed into the bathroom.

Jenny stood up and took a look at herself in the mirror. Her hair was soft and very nicely combed (thanks, Cordelia), she didn’t look quite as miserable or sleep-deprived as she’d felt the day before, and—Cordelia was right. Three years of love and trust didn’t vanish with one huge argument, and Jenny knew Rupert well enough to know that he was probably just as hurt as she was by the way that conversation had gone. She was good at being happy around him—she was just going to have to learn how to become just as good at making amends.

She pulled the dress carefully over her head, then twirled in the mirror, watching the long skirt flare out. Compulsively, she smoothed down her hair, trying to look like someone part of a covert investigation. Detectives usually looked perfectly polished, didn’t they? Unreadable. Poised. Like Lilah.

Belatedly, she realized that this was the first time since waking up that Lilah had crossed her mind.

“Hey, you ready yet?” Cordelia called from the bathroom.

Jenny swallowed, smiled, then said, “Yeah.”


 

The gala was abuzz with activity when they entered, couples waltzing to the music and eating at tables set up in the Hyperion’s lavish ballroom. They slipped in largely unnoticed with a group of high-society fashion designers, at which point Wesley set up a hidden camera by the buffet table, Angel started a very awkward conversation with one of the waiters to gather intel, and Cordelia made a beeline for a nervous-looking Fred.

Jenny had had no idea that Fred’s investigative work had landed her with Angel and his crew, and definitely hadn’t expected to see her here of all places. She debated following, realized that that meant she would have to answer questions about why Rupert wasn’t working with her, decided she didn’t want to have that conversation, and settled for standing with Angel as he continued to struggle through the basics of social interaction. Why anyone would date this man, let alone frame Rupert as a revenge act to get him back, she was having trouble figuring out.

“Yeah, ‘cause—you work here,” Angel was saying, in a way that somehow managed to be both grave and uncomfortable. “Here in this place. Where you might have seen—”

“What my friend is trying to say,” said Jenny, attempting to mimic the cool, confident tone Lilah had used when entering her office, “is that he and I are both looking for a friend of ours who might be attending this gala. Does the name Glorificus ring any bells to you?”

“What she said,” said Angel somewhat helplessly.

The waiter gave them both a somewhat bemused look, then answered, “I don’t know about Glorificus, but a lady named Glory did slip one of my friends twenty bucks to save her a seat at one of those fancy tables. She’s not due down for another ten minutes, though.”

“Thank you so much,” said Jenny brightly, taking Angel’s arm and steering him towards the buffet table. “What was that?” she asked, trying her hardest not to laugh.

Angel shot her an injured look. “Cordelia was supposed to do the sweet-talking,” he said. “That’s why she’s over there checking in with Fred. I just wanted to—you know. Help out a little extra.”

He really was sweet, even if it was in a hapless-puppy sort of way. Jenny patted Angel’s arm and let go. “Well, you tried,” she said, and badly swallowed a giggle as Angel rolled his eyes. “So what do we do for the next ten minutes?”

“Mingle, I guess,” said Angel, sounding like he’d rather do anything but.

“Sounds fun,” said Jenny, and snagged a glass of champagne from another passing waiter, taking a long sip. To Angel, she added, “Do I look sophisticated?”

“Very,” said Rupert quietly.

Jenny, shocked, jerked her arm up, splashing the contents of her glass in Angel’s face. Angel stumbled backwards into the wall, mopping at his face with the sleeve of his rental tux and muttering about how people with unresolved issues shouldn’t always go to him all the time and why couldn’t he just stay dry at parties.

“Um,” said Rupert, and took Jenny’s hand in his, tugging gently until she was all the way in his arms. Jenny’s heart was hammering in her chest as he smoothly spun her onto the dance floor, leading her perfectly in time with the music. It was odd, juxtaposed with the nervous way he was looking at her.

“How did you—” she began.

“Wolfram and Hart knows that Angel Investigations is going after Glorificus,” said Rupert quietly. “Lilah didn’t exactly specify how they know, but from that I rather suspected you might be helping them.”

“Wolfram and Hart—”

“Lilah and I are here to warn them,” Rupert explained awkwardly, “and—and to apologize to you, after. Lilah said she’d handle the first bit if I could handle the second—something about me, um, knowing you—for longer.”

Jenny sniffled, then swallowed, only distantly noticing the way she’d wound an arm around Rupert’s neck. “I’m so sorry,” she said.

Rupert looked utterly bemused. “What on earth do you have to be sorry for?” he asked. “I was the one who—”

Jenny shook her head. “No, I—you were right,” she said. “I’ve been unreliable and flighty and I started saying ridiculous stuff about you being my associate just so I could feel better about the way I treated you. You’re not—you’re more than family to—you’re everything to me, Rupert,” and all of a sudden she wanted to snatch her words out of the air and take them back.

Rupert very abruptly stopped leading them in a waltz. “Everything?” he said shakily. His hand, which had been resting innocuously on Jenny’s waist, skimmed her shoulder and her neck to brush its thumb almost unconsciously against her cheek.

Jenny couldn’t say anything. Something was beginning to finally piece itself together in her brain, something that she should have figured out long ago. Why she hated it when Rupert hung up first, why she didn’t like that things were changing, why she’d ever so secretly looked for signs that Rupert was reacting badly to the first person Jenny had actively pursued—

Rupert’s hand tucked a strand of hair very quietly behind her ear.

Jenny’s eyes flitted to his mouth, lips parted.

It was a flurry of movement behind Rupert that shattered the moment, bringing Jenny back into herself. Angel was being toweled off by a wildly amused Cordelia, who was gesticulating playfully as she teased him.

“Jenny,” said Rupert. “Jenny?”

Jenny pulled back, staring up at him, and ran.


 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar (hypothetical draft for when she’s typing one tonight, probably):

fuck fuck motherfucking fuck how did i not figure out all these years that i’ve been in love with him the whole fucking time?


 

Jenny didn’t really think the whole running thing through. She knew Rupert was going to come after her, and she knew at some point she was going to have to figure out what exactly being in love with Rupert would do to their personal relationship, to their agency, to Lilah, to the kids, to every single person involved in their life. Everything she’d built around her had hinged on the stable constancy of her not knowing that she was in love with Rupert, and now that she knew—god, the way she felt about him was too deep and too painful to just sweep under the rug for both of their sakes.

And maybe he was in love with her too, but—what would that do? How would they even work as a couple? Jenny hadn’t felt this way about anyone before, hadn’t willingly let herself fall in love. She’d been a programmer thinking only about learning as much as she could, and then she’d been a private detective focused on helping other people, and then she’d been a single mom. There had never been any time for thinking about sharing her life with someone in the sweepingly romantic sense—she didn’t even really think she was built for those types of feelings.

She only became aware of her surroundings when she became short of breath, at which point she took the nearest exit out of the maze of hallways and found herself in a back alley. Somehow, she’d ended up right where food deliveries were made to the hotel—blessedly empty, now, with the party in full swing. Gasping, Jenny slumped against the wall, then buried her face in her hands.

The sound of high heels echoed in the alley. Slowly, Jenny looked up. Lilah was standing there, expression almost purposefully blank. Strangely, she wasn’t making any sort of effort to come any closer, leaving a distance of about six feet between them. “Lilah,” said Jenny, trying to look like someone who wasn’t a total fucking disaster. “Listen—I’m—I’m sorry. That I’m such a damn mess.”

Lilah just looked at her. There was a strange detachment to the way Lilah was looking at her, one that had all of Jenny’s detective senses on full alert—but Jenny Calendar, the person underneath the years of experience, was too sad and confused to really think about things critically. “Are you okay?” Jenny asked, and sniffled, wiping at her eyes. God, Cordelia really did pick quality makeup—none of her eyeliner had smudged even slightly. “You seemed—pretty drunk, last I saw you.”

Lilah smiled thinly. Then, in a slow, practiced motion, she took a delicate revolver out of her pocket and pointed it at Jenny.

Something shattered and broke in Jenny, in that moment, looking at someone she had let herself trust so completely. She felt as though she was missing something crucial, some puzzle-piece precious bit of information that might explain why Lilah was holding the gun with such steady sureness. “Lilah,” she said. Not pleading, exactly, but—something close to it.

Lilah’s smile quivered, ever so slightly. “I’m so sorry,” she said.

And—

 


 

 

There was a flurry of motion in that one horrifying moment, one that took Jenny and Lilah both aback. Lilah hadn’t known that Jenny was being followed, and Jenny—Jenny hadn’t once guessed that Rupert had been right on her heels, close enough to slip through the alley doors, take stock of the situation, and shove himself in front of Jenny exactly as Lilah pulled the trigger.

Chapter Text

“No,” said Jenny. Her voice caught as Rupert fell back against her, and she fell back too, holding him very tightly against her. “No no no no—” Her hands fumbled for the spreading dark spot on his chest, pressing desperately at it in some futile attempt to stop the blood. She felt Rupert’s hands flutter weakly up to grasp at hers, saw the dizzy, distant look in his eyes. “No please no,” she whispered, too terrified to think past anything but the fact that she might lose him.

Abruptly, she remembered that Lilah must still be there, and looked up. Lilah’s carefully cultivated expression was no longer so dispassionate and distant; there was a wide-eyed horror in her eyes as she looked at the both of them.

“Help me,” said Jenny, and it was almost a sob. She’d forgotten that Lilah had shot Rupert, that Lilah had almost shot her—all she knew was that Rupert could die if someone didn’t do something, and that she herself wasn’t in any place to do anything about it.

Lilah dropped the gun and ran, almost tripping over herself in her hurry to get out of the alley.

Jenny watched Lilah go, horrified and stunned, until she felt Rupert weakly squeeze her hands. “Jenny,” he said, his voice small and croaky.

“Shh,” said Jenny, near tears.

“Jenny, I—”

The alley door creaked open and Jenny heard a strangled gasp. Looking up and into the lit interior of the hotel hallway, she saw Buffy and Faith, Faith wearing her favorite dark blue suit, Buffy in a light pink dress with a crown of lavender and daisies woven into her hair. Rupert was the one who knew how to braid flowers like that.

“Mom,” said Faith.

Dad,” choked out Buffy.

“I’m gonna call 911,” said Faith matter-of-factly, still with that look of wide-eyed horror, and turned on her heel to head into the hotel. Jenny could hear her voice as if from a distance. “Hey? Yeah. This is—there’s been a shooting at the Hyperion Hotel. Yeah—my dad.” Her voice cracked a little. “Yeah. Please hurry. We’re in—”

“The back alley where they deliver the food,” said Jenny, cupping Rupert’s face in one hand. His eyes were shut tight and he was biting his lip very hard. “Rupert, Rupert—”

Buffy pushed past Faith and sort of stumble-fell down next to Jenny, unceremoniously ripping off part of the skirt of her delicate pink dress and pressing it to Rupert’s bloodied white shirt. Jenny looked down at her hands and realized with a sense of nausea that they were covered in Rupert’s blood. “Oh god dad daddy dad please dad please,” Buffy was sobbing, “I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you I love you so much I didn’t tell you enough please please—”

“Yeah. Yes.” Faith hurried back out, pocketing her phone, and swallowed hard as she looked at them. “Hey,” she said, kneeling down next to Jenny. “What—what the fuck happened here?”

“Lilah,” said Jenny numbly.

Faith’s face twisted and she nodded. “That’s what they do, then, I guess,” she said. “Did she—”

“She was aiming for me,” said Jenny. “Rupert got in the way.”

“Actually,” said Rupert weakly, “I jumped. Take all the dignity out of my heroic gesture, why don’t you, Jenny,” and then his head fell back against Jenny’s shoulder and he didn’t say anything else.

The only sound in the alley, then, was Buffy’s uncontrollable sobbing as she pressed the scrap of pink dress as hard as she could against Rupert’s chest. Honestly, it was taking all Jenny had in her to not either faint or completely lose it and start crying herself.

“Giles wanted to take us all along,” said Faith. “Buffy and Dawn and me. For the party. Said he thought it’d be fun for us to hang out in formalwear while he ate crow.” Her voice was level, but also very small.

“Where’s Dawn?” Jenny asked shakily, feeling a spike of panic. “Did she—follow you?”

Faith went ashen. “I’ll go find her,” she said. “I don’t think she should see this,” but she made no move to leave. It took her a moment to move at all, and when she did, she leaned down and hugged Jenny very hard before running back through the hotel doors.

Buffy was curled in on herself, her hands and dress covered in Rupert’s blood. Jenny thought she might throw up.


 

The last time Jenny had been in a hospital had been when Buffy had broken her leg on the Calendar-Giles Joint Skiing Vacation. They’d all crowded around Buffy’s bed and fussed while she complained about how she was fine and they should all just chill the hell out for like half a second, thanks, and then Jenny had called in for pizza and they’d fallen asleep in the hospital room.

That was all Jenny was thinking about as they sat in the hospital waiting room, Buffy and Faith and Dawn all curled around her, each of them the same amount of desperate to stay close to her. Buffy, half-asleep, was still crying; she hadn’t stopped for a second, even though all that was left now were dry, almost involuntary hiccup-sobs. Faith was still and shaking, head tucked into Jenny’s shoulder, and Dawn, the smallest, sitting on Jenny’s lap, was staring blankly ahead with her eyes wide open.

“We all had to sit around in the morgue when Buffy found our mom,” she said, her voice very small. “I was nine. I forgot about it till now. Our bio-dad was way out of the picture by then, and Buffy called Dad—I mean, he was Mr. Giles back then, Buffy always calls him Giles still ‘cause she remembers Dad better than me, but she called Dad ‘cause he was the only person she could think to call, and we just all sat there and he told us he’d take care of us and, and I thought, you know, Dad wasn’t the kind to drop dead from a brain tumor, right? He’s got the best brain around.”

“Fucking stupid,” Buffy said. Her voice was still shaking. “Five years—almost five years and I never called him Dad. I always—I just—you know, the dad who I spent the first decade or so of my life with kinda sucked, all things considered. Just dropped everything and left when I was nine, and, and I didn’t want Giles to think—that I thought of him like that. That he was on the same playing field as that guy, but—I called him Dad all the time in my head, and he’s—he’s never heard me say—” She dissolved into silent tears again, burying her face in Jenny’s shoulder.

Jenny closed her eyes and thought about the time when, last Christmas, Rupert had caught her hand under the mistletoe and pressed a kiss to her palm, pulling away with an easy grin. Jenny had found herself inexplicably lighter, more breathless, the rest of that night, and hadn’t thought much of it until right now.

“I’ve been in love with him for years,” she said, almost without thinking, and felt Dawn freeze up in her arms. Opening her eyes, she saw that all three of the girls (her daughters, she amended, because they really, really were) had lifted their heads and were staring at her with very similarly amazed smiles.

“Holy shit,” said Faith.

“Jenny, you got it!” said Buffy in a cry-laughing sort of way.

Dawn just sort of gave Jenny this wobbly smile, and then, painfully, unexpectedly, she burst into tears. “That’s not fair!” she wailed. “It’s not! You were supposed to—to figure it out over the summer or on a picnic or something, and then you guys were gonna kiss like the end of a movie and we’d all get to be a family—

Buffy’s and Faith’s smiles were fading. Jenny wished she could say something comforting about how Rupert was going to be fine, or how they already all were a family, but all of a sudden she was thinking about how they could have been a family. She could have moved into Rupert’s sunlit house with Faith, set up shop in his study, bickered with him every day about who would get to cook breakfast, kissed him in the kitchen—

The thought of kissing Rupert filled Jenny with a horrible, painful longing that she had never felt before. She was beginning to realize why she had never let herself become aware of her feelings for him. Feeling them now, pent-up for so long and suddenly unrestrained, was incredibly frightening; they wouldn’t have been so unexpectedly deep if she’d let herself feel them properly, but of course she could never do anything properly by Rupert. Not ever.

“Mom,” said Faith suddenly. “Mom, breathe, okay?”

Jenny realized she hadn’t been breathing and took a large gasp of air in. “Shit,” she whispered. “God. I’m supposed to be holding the fort right now, right?”

“Little bit,” said Buffy, but smiled a little sadly. “It’s okay. We all aren’t that great at this.”

“That’s what family’s for,” said Dawn softly. “Being not great at things together.”

“Yeah,” said Jenny. “Yeah.”


 

They kept on getting little scraps of news via texts from Jenny’s phone. A text from Anya, who had been with Tara in Jenny’s apartment, relating how she had had to barricade them both in the bathroom to keep themselves hidden from Wolfram and Hart operatives with guns—the operatives had eventually left, but Anya and Tara had been hiding in the bathtub for the last hour. A series of panicked texts from Cordelia, who hadn’t seen Angel or Wesley and was demanding to know whether Jenny had seen them recently. Another set of texts from Fred’s phone; Charles had found it and Fred’s purse abandoned in the parking lot and he had to know if anyone knew anything.

“They won,” said Jenny hollowly. “Wolfram and Hart got what they wanted.”

“But Tara’s okay, right?” said Faith, a catch in her voice.

Jenny knew that I don’t know wasn’t going to cut it, so she just held Faith very close.


 

It had been late night when the gala began, and it was early morning when a worn-out looking nurse came and asked, “Ms. Calendar?”

Jenny, not wanting to jostle the girls (all of them had fallen asleep around her and—in Faith’s case—on top of her), carefully raised her hand. The nurse gave her a small, exhausted smile in return and crossed the room. “Mr. Giles is stable,” she said. “He’s still unconscious, but that’s to be expected after the night he’s had.”

“Oh,” said Jenny, almost a sob. Faith stirred, and Buffy mumbled something before opening her eyes halfway. “Oh, so—he’s gonna be okay?”

This did a more than sufficient job of waking up all three of the girls. Buffy very nearly fell out of her seat, and Dawn, who had somehow migrated to the floor, jerked up to stare with wide eyes at the nurse. “It’ll take him some time to fully recover,” said the nurse, “but he’s going to be all right.”

Faith startled all of them by bursting into tears. Buffy and Dawn exchanged a look, then all but tackled Faith in a hug. Jenny just stared at the nurse for a long few seconds before saying, in a small, exhausted voice, “Can we see him?”

“You can move your family to his room, if you like,” the nurse offered, not unkindly. “We have a private room set up for him, and we can bring a few cots in if you’re all planning to stay the night.”

“Yeah, we are,” said Jenny, and stood up somewhat unsteadily, gently tugging at her girls huddled on the floor. They were all still in their formal wear, Buffy’s dress torn and her flowers hopelessly tangled, and they looked messy and sad as they stood up. Dawn moved immediately to Jenny, holding her hand very tightly, and Faith and Buffy leaned on each other as they all followed the nurse down the hallway.

Rupert was lying under the covers of a neatly-made hospital bed, eyes closed, face very pale. Jenny didn’t move towards him until she was absolutely certain she could see him breathing, at which point she took a few stumbling steps forward and all but collapsed onto the bed next to him. She heard a noise of objection from the nurse, and then heard Buffy say in a strangely level tone of voice, “Just—let her have this, okay? She’s his fiancée,” which wasn’t at all true but seemed enough to get the nurse off Jenny’s case.

Jenny lay on her side on the bed, still wearing that stupid red dress and her equally stupid red heels, and swallowed hard, looking at her unconscious associate. She couldn’t think of anything coherent past how much she loved him, and in her right mind, it might have frightened her.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

There is nothing I can write that will make this any less my fault.

I should have thought more thoroughly about the case I had been handed—why was it so easy to solve? Why were all the people and all the answers given to me on a silver platter? All the answers come back to Lilah, my one trustworthy source, who told us her end goal was to take down Wolfram and Hart. All those people Lilah had me find were people who had evaded Wolfram and Hart but who wouldn’t shy away from someone offering up a helping hand. Tara, Fred, Wesley, even Angel—they all figured out pretty fast that Wolfram and Hart was bad news, but they wouldn’t be suspicious of someone with genuinely good intentions. Someone like me.

It would have been so easy, under those circumstances, to tie up all the loose ends that might come back and hurt Wolfram and Hart. Bringing any threats to the firm out of hiding under the guise of crafting a case to take down Wolfram and Hart—that would mean the ability to neutralize those threats quickly and quietly. I guess Lilah wanted to make sure Rupert and I wouldn’t be able to figure out what she’d done, but—

She could have talked to me. She could have. We could have figured something out together.


 

Jenny woke up in the late afternoon with Buffy and Dawn asleep in the two chairs by Rupert’s bed, Faith having spread out a few jackets and fallen asleep on the floor, and her own hands still incredibly bloody, but now in that crusty, unpleasant dried-blood way that seemed less gruesome and more inconvenient. She rolled over onto her side and looked at Rupert, a lump in her throat; he didn’t look any better. If he’d looked a little less frail and breakable, she might have gotten up and washed her hands, because—maybe that might have made her feel a little better, or something, but she couldn’t just leave him here—

“Hey,” came Willow’s voice, sounding soft and a little nervous. Peering over her shoulder was a worried-looking Tara. “We, um, Tara told me about—well. Can we come in?”

Jenny recognized that now was the point where she was supposed to be the put-together adult and greet the kids who had obviously showed up to provide some much-needed support for her daughters, but the events of the previous night had left her so emotionally drained that she found it difficult to even roll over and look at them. “Yeah,” she said finally. “Is someone watching Xena?”

“A-after Anya and I—” Tara swallowed, stepping around Willow and into the room. It took her a moment to continue. “After we were sure that—that they were gone, we went over to Mr. Giles’s and picked some stuff up for all of you. Clothes, and, and stuff. Anya wanted to keep an eye on Xena.”

“Tara texted me,” said Willow, smiling weakly. “Buffy’d left her phone at home, and I’d, uh, kinda been freaking a little, so—Tara called me on the landline, and, you know, that’s the story of how I’m here.” She followed Tara into the room, shutting the door behind her and setting a large bag of clothes down next to Faith. “Is everyone—okay?”

“Mostly,” said Jenny, then, “Not really.”

“You have—” Tara’s mouth twisted, her hands shaking as she wrung them nervously in front of her. “B-blood on your hands, Ms. Calendar.”

It was an innocuous statement, and one rooted in a very literal reading of the situation, but the figurative meaning of Tara’s words made Jenny feel sick to her stomach. Rupert had almost died because she’d been stupid and impulsive enough to throw herself into trusting Lilah, who had shown her more interest in five minutes than Rupert ever had in three years, and since when was that the criteria for a healthy relationship, anyway? Not to mention whatever the hell Wolfram and Hart had done to Angel Investigations, and what they might have tried to do to Tara and Anya, and, and—

“Hey, sweetie,” Jenny heard Willow say, and turned a little to look, trying to distract herself from whatever the hell was going on in her head at the moment. Willow was leaning over a now half-awake Buffy, smoothing down her hair, and the sleepy-adoring look on Buffy’s face made Jenny feel a warm, peaceful relief. Worse by far than the fact that Rupert had been shot was the fact that Jenny knew what losing him would do to two girls who had already lost their mother, and Buffy and Dawn deserved all the safety and happiness that Jenny—or anyone—could give them. “Hey,” Willow whispered.

Buffy smiled a little and rested her forehead against Willow’s, mumbling something that Jenny couldn’t hear. Tactfully, Jenny looked away and accidentally caught Tara’s eye. “I just—can’t get up, right now,” she said awkwardly, not entirely ready to explain why.

Tara didn’t seem to need an explanation. “I brought some baby wipes,” she said, and rummaged in the bag of clothes, fishing out a package. Opening it, she crossed the room to hand it carefully to Jenny. “Here, I’ll—”

“Motherfucker,” said Faith loudly, and jolted awake, “this floor is a fucking bitch to sleep on—” She then noticed Tara and went an impressive shade of scarlet. “Shit,” she said. “Hey.”

“Hi,” said Tara, and smiled, looking a mixture of worried and just generally glad to see Faith. She sat down on the floor and wiped a lingering lipstick smudge off Faith’s mouth. “Lipstick?”

“I was strong-armed into getting all dolled up for the fancy party by someone who doesn’t know when to fuckin’ quit,” said Faith, looking significantly over at Buffy. Buffy, who was very busy kissing Willow, didn’t catch this. “God, B, this is a public place,” said Faith loudly.

“Ugh,” said a now reluctantly awake Dawn, rubbing at her eyes. “Whzno?”

Jenny took out two baby wipes and started scrubbing clumsily at the blood on her hands. It only took a few minutes for it to begin coming off, and the absence of it didn’t make her feel much better. She’d sort of hoped that things would fall more neatly into place once there was less blood in general, but the memory of Rupert bleeding out wasn’t something that could just be shaken off. Especially not when he still hadn’t woken up.

“No, babe, you really have to go shower,” Willow was saying to Buffy.

“I can’t just leave him—

“Jenny’s with him,” Willow persisted. “And that dress really has seen better days. Don’t you want to, to wear something a little less, um, ripped?” She shot a furtive, strangely plaintive look at Jenny, and it took Jenny a moment to realize that Willow was turning to her to encourage Buffy along. Something about that made her chest hurt in a happy-sad mix. “Jenny can—”

“Willow’s right,” said Jenny, and finally finished with the baby wipes. She didn’t (couldn’t) move from Rupert’s side, but she did reach out to Buffy, half-expecting Buffy to ignore her hand. To her complete shock, Buffy took two clumsy steps towards the bed, reeled, and all but fell into Jenny’s arms, hugging her like a small child. “Oh,” said Jenny, a lump in her throat, and hugged Buffy back very hard. “Sweetie. Buffy. It’s okay.”

Buffy half-sobbed, then raised her head, shaking a little. “You better not get shot too,” she said weakly.

Jenny felt like something solidified between them, then. “Okay,” she whispered. “No getting shot,” and kissed Buffy’s forehead. “Go shower,” she said.

“I don’t wanna get the flowers wet,” said Buffy, her hands fluttering up to the flowers Rupert had very obviously braided into her hair. “He—he always did my hair, remember? Even when I was probably way too old to get my hair done. He looked so happy whenever I was happy and I should have told him—”

“Go shower,” said Jenny. “Hot water relaxes. It’s scientifically proven.”

Buffy gave Jenny a wobbly smile, then said, “Do I have to get the flowers wet?”

“Do you want your dad to wake up and see you looking like your hair’s been through a blender?” Jenny answered, gently teasing. “He’d never forgive himself.”

That made Buffy laugh, unsteady and uncertain but still a laugh, and she looked a little less wrung-out as she took a change of clothing from Tara, kissed Willow again, and headed into the bathroom. Willow watched Buffy go, then said, “I’m gonna go get some extra towels for her from that nice nurse we passed on our way in—Buffy uses so many towels,” and gave the room a small, tired smile before exiting.

Tara considered this, then said, “I, um, I might get all of you breakfast? If that’s okay?”

“Yeah, just throw some muffins in a bag and don’t worry too much about flavors,” said Faith earnestly. “Or—you know what? Take Dawn with you. She knows what’s up when it comes to muffins.”

“Hmnomph!” said Dawn, whose face was still buried in the armrest.

“I-if Dawn wants to sleep—” Tara began uncertainly.

“Nah, she needs some air,” said Faith pointedly.

Dawn raised her head to glower at Faith, accidentally looked directly at a still-unconscious Rupert, and bit her lip very hard in what was clearly an attempt to keep her face from crumpling. Tara clocked this, leaning down to say something soft and reassuring to Dawn, and then gently tugged the younger girl out of her seat. Dawn was still wearing her lilac party dress, which caught on the chair as Tara led her out, but neither of them really seemed to notice the dress tear.

Faith watched the both of them go, then pulled herself up from the floor, stretching languidly before crossing the room to sit down next to Jenny on the side of the bed. Jenny reached up with a now-clean hand and very quietly tucked a flyaway strand of hair behind her daughter’s ear, letting her fingers linger on Faith’s cheek.

Faith leaned into Jenny’s hand. Then she said, “You know, when I was five—I lived in this really fucking terrible neighborhood with my bio-mom. Daddy—he left, or he died, I don’t remember which one it was. Mama wasn’t exactly big on sharing shit like that with me.”

The one and only constant of Faith and Jenny’s relationship was that Faith had never once talked about her life before Jenny, and the fact that Faith was entrusting Jenny with this knowledge right now was something unexpected enough to dull the hurt and fear of almost losing Rupert. “Oh?” said Jenny quietly. She didn’t drop her hand.

“I don’t even—” Faith’s face twisted like she’d tasted something bitter. “It’s like what Buffy said last night,” she said. “I don’t like calling her Mama or Mommy or whatever the fuck I used to call her, ‘cause, uh, you’re my mom. Calling that bitch what I call you—”

“Faith.”

“She was a bitch,” said Faith fiercely.

“I’m sure she was,” said Jenny, surprised at how level her voice was, “but that isn’t a word I want you using, okay?”

Faith smiled a little awkwardly. “Yeah,” she said. “Anyway. There was—some guy got shot up one Monday. I remember it was a Monday, ‘cause I was walking home from school and I was real fuckin’ pissed about it—it was kindergarten and all the other kids got picked up in nice cars, and I had to walk home from the bus stop. So I was walking by the convenience store and I heard shots fire in the parking lot—” Jenny inhaled, sharply, at this. “Chill, Mom,” said Faith a little uneasily.

“I don’t like guns,” said Jenny flatly. It was a stance she’d had before Rupert had gotten shot, but it was one that had been further set in stone by the experience.

“I’m here now,” said Faith, and her voice softened in a way that reminded Jenny of the way she herself sometimes talked to Rupert when he was nervous or Willow when she was fussing over grades. Jenny had always known that Faith was her daughter, but now was the first time she was becoming aware of the fact that she really was Faith’s mother. “I’m just—this is something I think you need to hear. I heard shots fire, and I booked it the hell out of there, but I guess someone saw me, ‘cause the next day these guys in suits were knocking on my door asking if I could be a witness in some murder trial. That bit—uh, my bio-mom got a big chunk of money to dress me up nice and testify—”

Suddenly, Jenny knew why Faith was telling this story. “For Wolfram and Hart,” she said, shakily. “Wolfram and Hart was who you were testifying for.”

Faith gave Jenny a thin smile. “Yeah,” she said. “They told me what to say beforehand, and they promised my mom a shit-ton of money at the end of the trial if I’d say it all like a good kid, and—” She swallowed, hard. “My bio-mom was pretty damn focused on making sure I said everything I was supposed to,” she said. “Made a lot of threats I knew she’d follow up on if I didn’t behave.”

Jenny felt a lump in her throat and placed her hand solidly on Faith’s shoulder. Faith looked like she might cry. “I found out,” she said, “a year or so later, the guy they had me say was a stone cold killer—he owned the convenience store, had a wife and three kids, drove those kids to school every day. The oldest was a year younger than me and she just—she wouldn’t look me in the eye, ‘cause she knew I was a liar. Everyone else thought I was so damn cool, helping put a killer behind bars, but—I saw that guy in the convenience store window. He was behind the register when the shots fired. No way he could have done it.”

“My baby,” said Jenny. Her voice shook. “My kid.”

“He’s in jail for life,” said Faith, “because I wasn’t—because I didn’t tell the truth—everyone said I was such a good girl for being honest and helping the jury—” She sniffled, then gave Jenny a small, sad smile. “But—you know, I think I figured it out, Mom,” she said. “Sometimes people twist your arm and bend the truth and it isn’t really your fault at all.”

Jenny wanted to say something about how maybe the intent shouldn’t matter as much as the outcome, realized that that would hurt Faith and her trust, decided that she couldn’t argue with Faith’s logic, and abruptly noticed the smug glint in Faith’s eye indicating that her daughter had planned for exactly that. Blindsided, she let her hand drop, then raised it again to Faith’s face, shaking a little. “God, how did I end up with such a smart kid?” she whispered.

“I’ve got a kickass detective mom,” said Faith seriously. “And—you trusted her. You shouldn’t let one fucked-up person change the fact that you wanted to do good, not hurt people.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I love you.”

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I lucked out, I think. I have three amazing daughters and a partner who, according to the nurse, is due to all-the-way wake up any day now. Maybe a dramatic noir romance isn’t something I really want in my life if it can go so drastically fucking south, but I wish I had figured that out in a way that hadn’t hurt Rupert so many times.


 

It was two days later, when Buffy and Faith were at the vending machine and Dawn had gone to use the bathroom, that Lilah came in, wearing all black and looking subdued but still composed. Jenny stood up immediately, positioning herself in front of Rupert and trying her hardest to stare Lilah down in a tough, fearless way.

“I’m not here to shoot you,” said Lilah calmly.

“You know,” said Jenny shakily, “you’d have a lot more credibility if you didn’t have to specify that before talking to me.”

“Jenny—”

“Leave,” said Jenny.

“Please,” said Lilah. “Please just listen to me. I want to help—”

“By actually shooting me this time?” Jenny gave Lilah a thin, sardonic smile. “By lying to me? I’ve had an influx of panicked texts and calls over the last few days from all the different people you told me to track down. I told them I was giving their information to someone who would be able to keep them safe. You never hired me to take down Wolfram and Hart, did you? You’ve been working for them from the beginning. You hired me because you needed a trustworthy face to lure all these people out.”

“Fuck it,” said Lilah, throwing up her hands. “You know what? Fine. I used you. I did. But I didn’t lie when I said you meant something to me—”

“Yeah, I really got that impression when you shot Rupert,” said Jenny sharply, and a little too loudly. She pressed her lips together, glanced over at a still-unconscious Rupert, and lowered her voice to say, “You know what I always thought was so fucking attractive about you? I liked that you were honest with me. I like people who don’t lie to me. That’s one of the drawbacks of being a detective, I guess—you find out all the stuff about people that you never wanted to know.”

Lilah flinched and looked down, running a shaking hand through her hair. “Jenny,” she said. “Please. I-I know you have every right to be mad at me, but you have to understand—”

“This is what you meant,” said Jenny. “About your ruining relationships. You’ve done this to other detectives before, haven’t you? Gotten them to bring out the people you need and made them disappear?”

“I’ve killed other detectives,” said Lilah, looking up at her with that same quiet sadness. “I’ve walked up to them and shot them and made them disappear without even having to think about it. That’s the kind of stuff I do, Jenny. That’s why I’ve always said you wouldn’t look at me the same way if you knew the kind of things I’ve done.”

“Damn right I wouldn’t,” said Jenny. “Play the victim with me again and I’ll kill you right here in this hospital room.”

Lilah smiled a little sadly. “You’re not a killer,” she said, almost affectionately. “Jenny, I came here because—because I want to cut you a deal.”

“Oh, yeah, like I’m going to trust anything you’re about to say,” Jenny scoffed.

“You don’t really have a choice,” said Lilah matter-of-factly, “because, see, I know everything I need to about you and Rupert and those three little girls you two are taking care of. I have a law firm at the ready that’ll do anything to protect the sensitive information both you and he know about, and I have no qualms about getting them to kill your daughters. It’d hurt a little, knowing—” She smiled, and it quivered in a terrifyingly human way, “—knowing how much that would hurt you, but when it comes to Wolfram and Hart, there really is no getting out alive unless you’re willing to get your hands dirty.”

Jenny stared at her. “My daughters,” she said. “You would bring my daughters into this.”

“I really am sorry,” said Lilah, and it was clear that she was, but she said it so sweetly and so earnestly that it was almost nauseating. She was talking about the lives of Jenny’s daughters like they were as disposable and replaceable as a set of paper plates. As inconsequential as a cup of coffee. “It’s just business.”

“It’s my daughters,” said Jenny, almost sobbing, and noticed vaguely that she was clutching at the bedspread near Rupert. And it wasn’t the threat that hurt so much—it was that it was Lilah threatening her. Lilah, with her bright eyes and her biting kisses and her soft, capable hands. Lilah, threatening her as effortlessly as though it was something she did every day, and still with that amiable warmth that made it clear Jenny really was important to her. This was how Lilah treated the people she cared about. “I trusted you,” Jenny said.

Lilah’s smile wavered. “Trust is an illusion,” she said, “and there’s no real honesty in this line of work. I’d think you of all people should know that by this point.”

They looked at each other for a long moment, and Jenny knew with a sudden clarity that this would be the last time she saw Lilah in this context. The next time she saw Lilah, there would be clearer lines drawn, and Lilah would no longer be quite so ambiguously labeled. No longer a maybe-girlfriend or a possibly-love—Lilah was, first and foremost, a threat, and both of them knew it. “What kind of deal do you want to cut?” said Jenny finally, flatly.

Lilah nodded. Then she said, “I was going to offer that you run away with me, but—that seems unlikely, now,” and here her gaze moved almost knowingly to Rupert, then back up to Jenny. Jenny felt a sense of shame at that, and resented it, staring Lilah down. “What I’m offering you instead is simple: you promise me that you will never again seek out a case that falls under the jurisdiction of Wolfram and Hart, and I won’t hurt you, your family, or that sweet little Tara girl your daughter Faith seems to have taken a liking to—none of the witnesses, actually.”

“What about Angel Investigations?” Jenny asked.

“Angel Investigations has been a consistent thorn in our side,” said Lilah matter-of-factly. “There’s nothing I can do to protect them. Besides which, it’s headed by that good-for-nothing Liam, and hasn’t he caused you enough trouble already? I’d say this is a fairly good deal coming from someone who could kill your entire family with a snap of her fingers.”

Jenny looked at Lilah for a long time.

“Or,” said Lilah, and took out that same revolver she’d used to shoot Rupert, shifting it idly from one hand to the other. Jenny tensed. “Don’t look so nervous,” said Lilah, giving Jenny a light, breezy smile. “If you’re not going to cut a deal with me, I don’t really have any choice. I’ll kill him, and I’ll send a few people in to kill your daughters while they’re—vending machine and bathroom, isn’t that where they are right now?”

“Lilah,” said Jenny shakily. “Why didn’t you just kill me in that alley?”

For the first time since she’d entered the room, Lilah’s composure faltered. She didn’t seem able to meet Jenny’s eyes. “I’d never seen you look at me like that before,” she said. “Like I wasn’t the person you thought I was. I-I couldn’t kill you while you were looking at me like—”

“Like you just shot the guy I love more than most things in this world,” said Jenny, and knew on instinct how to twist the knife. “More than you, definitely.”

Something dark and furious flashed in Lilah’s eyes as she looked first at Jenny, then again at Rupert. “You’re kidding,” she said. “You have got to be fucking kidding me. You told me—you said he was just a friend, and now you’re telling me that—”

“I’ll take your deal, Lilah,” said Jenny, talking over her with an easy smile. God, but it felt good to hurt Lilah back. “We won’t touch Wolfram and Hart cases as long as Rupert and my girls stay safe.”

Lilah raised the gun and took two steps forward, pointing it at Jenny. Her hands were shaking.

“You’re weak,” said Jenny. “You’re a weak lawyer, and a weak asset, and I know that now, and maybe Wolfram and Hart has me over a barrel right now, but someday I’m going to get you and I’m going to rip you to shreds for what you did to the man I love. We got that?”

There was a moment where Jenny wasn’t sure whether or not Lilah would shoot her—and there was a moment where Lilah herself didn’t seem sure either. But then Lilah let the gun drop, pocketing it without finesse, and strode out of the hospital room with uneven, furious steps. Halfway down the hall, she buried her face in her hands and slumped against the wall.

Jenny watched Lilah for one last painful moment, and then she shut the door and turned back to the bed, which was when she saw that Rupert’s eyes were open. Very barely, but he was looking at her with a sort of quiet concern that made her feel like she might shatter into a thousand pieces.

“Jenny,” he said, very quietly, and as though it cost him a lot of effort and energy just to say her name.

Jenny took two clumsy steps forward and collapsed onto the bed next to him, burying her face in his shoulder. Rupert rolled over onto his side and tugged at her waist, as though she couldn’t possibly be close enough to him in that moment, even though she was all but pressing herself against him.

All Jenny was letting herself think about was how comfortingly wonderful it was to be this close to him and know he was alive. She wasn’t thinking about him being shot, or how scary it was to suddenly have so many romantic feelings for him, or the absolute mess that was the situation with Wolfram and Hart, or anything else that might destroy what felt like a terrifyingly breakable moment.

“Oh, darling,” said Rupert into her hair, his voice muffled and shaking. Jenny squeezed her eyes shut and smiled.


 

The girls arrived again and had similarly explosive reactions to seeing that Rupert was awake. Faith started crying again, Dawn let out a shriek at a decibel only a thirteen-year-old could reach, and Buffy sort of just ran forward and settled herself into Rupert’s other side, half-sobbing “dad dad dad” like a mantra. Rupert looked somewhat overwhelmed.

“It’s family,” said Jenny, who had no intention of ever moving from Rupert’s arms, ever. “You get used to it.”

Rupert smiled a little and rested his chin on the top of her head. Jenny felt a rush of butterflies that threatened to lift her to the ceiling.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I don’t know how to think about Lilah without feeling a mess of tangled, sad emotions. Whatever motives she had for trying to kill me, it’s clear that the honesty I found so attractive in her was the one quality she never had to begin with. It hurts to know the person you could have loved was a fiction, but—I guess I wasn’t ever really gonna fall in love with her, not when I was so deeply in love with someone else. So maybe us being together was just doomed from the beginning.

Our relationship was a mutual escape, I think, but the thing is that at the end of the day Cordelia Chase is right. It’s the relationships built on trust and stability that last.


 

While the kids were fussing over Rupert, Jenny took a shower. Willow’s bag of clothing had contained a change of clothes for her as well, but Jenny hadn’t felt at all ready or willing to leave Rupert for longer than a few seconds if there was a chance he might wake up without her there. Now, though, after a few minutes of psyching herself up, she felt okay enough to kiss Rupert’s temple and duck into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.

She never had felt connected to that red dress, and taking it off made her feel a little bit better. Her hands still had remnants of Rupert’s blood on them—something neither of them had really noticed in the dizzy relief of him being okay, but something that made her feel a little sick now. She washed her hands and ran them through her hair, smiling tremulously and uncertainly at the mirror.

“He’s okay,” she said to herself, and then she finished undressing and got in the shower.

The water was a touch too cold for her liking, but it woke her up and made her feel a little less lethargic. She hadn’t left the hospital for two days, sleeping on Rupert’s bed and in chairs ill-equipped for dozing, and two nights of bad sleep were finally catching up to her now that she was sure Rupert was okay. Jenny washed her hair, taking her time, and thought some more about Rupert—guiltily, and clumsily, but it was like some kind of invisible switch had been flipped when they’d been dancing at that gala.

“God, I’m an idiot,” she said softly, and smiled a little. As messy as this situation was, she took a little comfort in the fact that at least she was being honest with herself about Rupert.

There was a knock on the shower door. “Mom, we’re getting food from the hospital cafeteria,” Faith called. “You want anything?”

“Coffee’s fine,” said Jenny, at the same time Rupert called, “Get her something substantial or she’ll just have coffee all day,” which made Jenny bite her lip to keep herself from—smiling, first, and then almost crying. She’d been so afraid of losing him.

Stepping out of the shower, Jenny toweled off and wrapped herself in a bathrobe that was probably meant for Rupert, then poked her head out. The kids were gone, and Rupert turned a soft shade of pink upon seeing her. Jenny felt her heartbeat pick up. “Um, I was just—” she began, fumbling, then, “Did Willow leave that bag of clothing out here?”

“I believe it’s on the nightstand,” Rupert answered without looking away from her. “Jenny—”

“Yeah?” Jenny was halfway to the bag.

“Is everything all right?”

Jenny picked up the bag and managed a weak smile. “Not really,” she said. “You got shot.”

Rupert reached out and took her hand, interlacing his fingers with hers in a way he’d done a thousand times before. Jenny had never really realized the intimacy of the way they interacted with each other, and it made her a strange blend of resentful and nervous; there’d be no clear way to tell whether he had feelings for her when they already acted like they’d been in love for years. “Well,” he said, and squeezed her hand. “You’re not dead.”

“It was a really fucking stupid move,” said Jenny, taking her hand away from his and hugging the bag to her chest. “You have kids, Rupert.”

Rupert’s smile trembled as he looked at her and he didn’t say anything. The way he was looking at her—

“I have to get changed,” said Jenny jerkily, and hurried back into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. She buried her face in her hands, made a noise somewhere between a groan and a sob, and raised her head, shrugging off the robe. Willow had packed an abundance of clothing, all separated into different plastic bags in a sweetly thorough Willow-esque way, and it was surprisingly easy to find a presentable outfit. Sweatpants and an old T-shirt might not have cut it with Lilah, but everything worked with Rupert.

Everything worked with Rupert.

Jenny groaned again and quickly combed her hair, too exhausted to really care about the fact that her hair was still mostly wet. Willow had packed Jenny’s favorite pair of sneakers, and she donned them, feeling slightly better now that she wasn’t wearing that hellish red dress. She looked at herself in the mirror, hesitated, then headed back out.

“You just seem—” Rupert started.

“You got shot,” said Jenny. “I’m not—gonna just bounce back from that.” She walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge, then gave in and just clambered on next to Rupert. He was propped up with a bunch of pillows, and she felt his hand rest on her shoulder. “Should we—I should tell you what happened, right?”

“Not necessarily,” said Rupert softly. “I’m smart enough to figure out that Lilah might not have been, um, completely honest regarding her motives for hiring us.”

“Yeah,” said Jenny.

“I am sorry about her.”

“What?” Belatedly, Jenny remembered that last they’d talked, she and Lilah had been dating. “Oh,” she said distantly. “Yeah. No, it’s okay. I’m dealing.”

“If there’s anything—”

“I cut a deal with her,” said Jenny, because she’d rather argue ethics with Rupert than come dangerously close to talking about her romantic inclinations. “Lilah. She said she’d keep us and the witnesses safe if we didn’t play on Wolfram and Hart’s turf.”

Rupert looked at her for a long time, and then said, “Jenny,” very reprovingly. “That’s compromising all of your morals as a detective—”

“Yeah,” said Jenny, and her smile wobbled. “I know. It’s the stupidest decision I’ve made, but—it keeps you safe.”

“And what about all those other people Wolfram and Hart is going to hurt?” Rupert persisted, now sounding more worried than disapproving. “Jenny, this sort of decision is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and I don’t even know if I can call it that when Lilah is only protecting the people under your jurisdiction—”

“It keeps you safe,” said Jenny again. That was all she could really say.

Rupert stopped, then looked at her, then said in a strange tone of voice, “I-I suppose—if the situation was reversed—I would do—exactly the same thing. Down to the letter.”

“Yeah,” said Jenny helplessly. “So you get it.”

“Yes,” said Rupert, almost wonderingly, and took her hands. “Jenny—you didn’t tell me—why did you run, back at the gala?”

Jenny opened her mouth, not quite sure what she was going to say, and was saved by the door banging open, then making an unpleasant screeching noise. “Shoot!” came Buffy’s laughing voice. “Dad always says I don’t know my own strength—”

“Oh my god, B, you killed the door!” Faith was laughing too. “Like, I’m pretty sure you at least fucked up a hinge—”

The girls stopped talking. Then Dawn said, very significantly, “Are we interrupting anything, Dad?”

“Oh—no,” said Rupert, and his blush mirrored Jenny’s as he dropped her hands very hastily. “We were just—”

“Mom, coffee!” Faith crossed the room to hand Jenny the coffee. “Plus a muffin, but we figured you’d want the coffee first.”

“No, give her the muffin or she won’t eat,” said Rupert, “I know how she works,” and gave Jenny a lopsided smile that made Jenny bite her lip and smile back.


 

Tara showed up with flowers, a card, and Xena, who immediately started jumping all over everyone. “I-I know you told us to keep her safe and inside and all that,” she was saying earnestly to Rupert, “but—I thought she’d make Faith really happy.” Faith, who had been scratching Xena’s back, heard this, and started grinning so widely that Dawn started teasing her as soon as Tara was out of earshot.

Jenny was on her phone, looking through her texts. Cordelia’s last three texts were blunt in their message: heard about your little deal with lilah. thought you were better than selling us out. guess i was wrong. She glanced up at Rupert to see if he had any kind of reaction to the message, but he just slipped his hand into hers and asked her if she wanted to watch a movie on the hospital TV, which made her feel better and worse at the same time.

“I’m really glad you’re not dead,” she told him.

“Yes, well,” said Rupert, “I feel similarly,” and kissed the top of her head like she was something very precious to him. Maybe Jenny was extrapolating a little about that last part, but hey, after the last few days, she felt entitled to any bit of happiness she could grab hold of. “I think the nurse mentioned—it might be a few more days before they’ll be ready to let me leave.”

“You can’t leave now?”

“No—I don’t have—” Rupert looked a little embarrassed, then said, “I, um, told them I’d prefer to be able to take care of myself on my own when I leave the hospital, and they said that’ll take at least a few more days and it might be—not the most cost-efficient, but—no do not get that look on your face, Jenny, you deserve some time to recover without—”

“How long would it be if I’d be staying with you?” said Jenny, and traced Rupert’s cheek with a fingertip.

Rupert started at the touch and looked at her with that same deer-in-the-headlights expression that—she was beginning to realize this now—he always had on his face when she touched him. “I don’t want—you’ve been through just as much as I have,” he stammered, “I feel as though you deserve some rest without—”

“I’m not gonna get any rest in a hospital,” said Jenny firmly, “and I definitely won’t get any rest if I’m worrying about you. I’m taking care of you right now anyway, so—why not move it somewhere more comfortable, with, you know, actual beds for everyone?”

“Jenny—”

“You’re not dissuading me from this, England,” Jenny continued, “so why not just let me take care of you?”

“You’ll have to—to change the dressings, help me with—nearly everything—” Rupert looked up at her, then said awkwardly, “I don’t like the thought of—you—seeing me so undignified. Helpless.”

“And I don’t like the thought of leaving you helpless,” said Jenny, who was suddenly acutely aware of how close they had become. She reached up, placing a hand on Rupert’s cheek, and kept it there; she couldn’t think of a time she’d done that. “Look—you took an actual bullet for me, how badass is that? Maybe I’m not exactly in a position where you need me to do the same, but you do need someone to take care of you after something like that happens. You can’t just do the whole idiotic healing-by-yourself thing when you’re a parent, and—” Here she smiled a little nervously, not sure how Rupert would react to what she’d said next. “And they’re my girls too,” she said. “Just as much as yours.”

Behind Rupert, she caught sight of the small, shy grins Buffy and Dawn were now sporting. Faith was smiling, too, only it was more in the way someone smiled when they had just been proven right.

Rupert bit his lip, then nodded. “All right,” he said quietly. “I just—”

“Rupert, you’re precious to me,” said Jenny softly. “And if you end up hurting yourself more in some determination to stay dignified and strong or whatever, I know I’d never forgive myself.”

There was a very stunned silence in the room, and Jenny realized belatedly that maybe she should have saved the most in-love thing she’d ever said to Rupert for when all their kids weren’t present. Then Rupert reached up and rested his hand over Jenny’s on his cheek. He just kept looking at her. “I’d do it again, you know,” he said.

“What?”

“Taking an actual bullet,” said Rupert. “For you. I’d do it again.”

“Don’t,” said Jenny, and moved closer, settling into his side.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I’m in love with Rupert.

I like putting that down in my files. Better than “the Wolfram and Hart case was a total fucking failure,” or “no one’s seen Angel, Wesley or Fred in weeks,” or “Cordelia keeps texting me with desperate pleas for help and answers, and I have to keep texting her back that I’m taking care of Rupert,” because the detective I was before this mess of a case wouldn’t hesitate to charge recklessly in to save the people in need of saving, and she’d be really fucking disappointed in my inability to do the same.

If it were only my life on the line, I’d be willing to be reckless. Faith’s always been aware of the line of work I’m in, and of the risks I take, and she knows that I do dumb things but I do it all to make sure people stay safe. If it was only me in danger, I’d throw myself back into working on this case, but

I can’t watch him take a bullet for me again

I won’t ever

It almost hurts, how much I

there are things I can’t ever risk losing.


Rupert was discharged from the hospital with an actual multiple-page pamphlet regarding taking care of the dressings and what would and wouldn’t be safe for him to try and do over the next few weeks (“I wouldn’t recommend getting frisky in the bedroom,” the nurse had said with a significant look at Jenny, which had made Jenny blush and Rupert utterly unable to look her in the eye for fifteen minutes after the fact), and Jenny went over what she’d read in the pamphlet like fifteen times in the car with the girls, who all wanted to help out in any way possible. Jenny, who had seen Buffy spill chicken soup on Dawn, Rupert, and Faith all at once while trying to play nurse, wasn’t exactly sure if this was a good idea, but didn’t want the girls to feel left out or nervous about Rupert’s getting better.

“I’ll be changing the dressings—” she began.

“Yeah, I bet you will,” said Faith significantly. Buffy elbowed her.

“Girls,” said Rupert, gentle but still reproving.

“That was Faith!” said Dawn indignantly. “Don’t girls us, that was Faith and if you start saying girls every time Faith does something dumb then you’re going to be girlsing us for the next month or so while she’s staying with us—”

“Excuse me, shortstop,” Faith huffed, “you’re expecting me to let a perfectly good innuendo just lie there?”

Yes,” said Buffy, “please, that’s my dad you’re talking about—”

“And that’s my mom I’m talking about, you think I really wanna think about them having sex? I would make the same dumb joke about you—”

“Is that really supposed to justify your point?”

“Mo-om,” Faith whined, “B and Dawn are on my ass about one dumb joke I made—”

“You take this one, Jenny,” said Rupert, “I’m injured,” and did his best to look sufficiently wounded, slumping somewhat dramatically against the passenger-side door while smiling tremulously (and very theatrically) up at her. He looked like he was acting in a badly staged high school play.

I love this man, Jenny thought, with no small amount of exasperation, and used the rearview mirror to peer at the girls in the back of the car. “Listen,” she said. “I know all of you are kinda keyed up after the last few days—”

“You think?” said Buffy. Faith elbowed her. Buffy elbowed Faith back.

“—but I am going to murder each and every one of you if you don’t stop acting ten years younger than you are,” said Jenny, “and Rupert won’t be able to stop me, because he’s a soft guy and he’s still very injured. Cool?”

“Jenny, that isn’t disciplinary,” said Rupert reprovingly, but went back to looking wounded when she glared at him.

“No, Dad’s right,” said Buffy. “You need to discipline us, Jenny, not just make empty threats.”

“Fine,” said Jenny. “If you all make this needlessly difficult for me, I will cut off the wifi to the house and hack all your phones so you can’t use your mobile data. Deal?”

Faith, Buffy, and Dawn all exchanged small, exhausted smiles. Then Dawn said, “I like it when we’re all arguing about dumb things. It’s kinda better than—other things to be upset about,” and her eyes darted not-that-surreptitiously to the small bump on Rupert’s chest where the padding and bandages covered up his injury.

Jenny reached her hand backwards and felt someone take it—from the index-finger ring and the neatly manicured nails, she was pretty sure it was Buffy. “Yeah,” she said. “Thing is, though, we’ve all gotta give ourselves some space to be upset about what happened, okay? Don’t just start arguments because you want to argue about something that isn’t—” She inhaled, then said, “Um, Rupert’s—injury.”

Buffy swallowed hard and Jenny felt her grip tighten. “It really sucked,” she said. “And I really liked that pink dress.”

“I’ll get you five pink dresses,” said Rupert, and there was a note in his voice that made it very clear that he meant it. “If that’s what’ll make you feel better—”

“No,” said Buffy, then, “Maybe,” then, “Can we go to the same mall and then go to that fro-yo place?”

“Absolutely,” said Rupert, and gave Jenny a small, tired smile when she looked over at him. Jenny kept on holding Buffy’s hand.


 

Anya and Tara had brought over a boatload of things from Jenny and Faith’s place in a large moving truck. Anya was heading back down to Sunnydale—the Magic Box needed her, and she missed a less “trigger-happy” city—but Tara had decided to forgo returning to Sunnydale in favor of transferring to UCLA and staying at Jenny and Faith’s apartment while Jenny and Faith were at Rupert’s. “I-I wouldn’t want to impose on your time to heal,” she was saying to Faith, soft and sincere, “b-but this way I get to be in the city near. Um. Near you,” and then she stood on tiptoe, kissed Faith on the cheek, and headed back to the car with Anya.

Oooh,” Buffy and Dawn began as soon as Tara was out of earshot. Faith punched Buffy’s shoulder, ruffled Dawn’s hair, and hurried inside, grinning broadly.

Jenny was more preoccupied with the intense amount of stuff Anya and Tara had brought over, all boxed up and ready to go. If she didn’t know better—she took another look inside the truck, and saw that pretty much the entirety of what had once furnished her apartment was stuffed into boxes, wrapped in newspaper, and cushioned by bubble wrap. “What, does she think I’m moving in with him?” she muttered, then started blushing.

“Do you need any—”

“Go lie down,” said Jenny without turning around.

“I can help—”

“Did you even read the pamphlet?”

“Yes,” said Rupert matter-of-factly, “because I knew you’d fuss regardless of what it said, and I know I’m allowed to lift at least a few of the smaller things. This isn’t a job you can do alone.”

“You and the kids need to rest,” said Jenny, who was already pre-exhausted from the argument she was sure they were about to have. Rupert looked at Jenny with a small frown. “What?”

“You’ve seemed—different,” said Rupert. “Since the gala. Like there’s something bothering you.”

“You got shot,” said Jenny thinly. “It’s not exactly going to be an easy transition from holding you while you bleed out to moving in with you and your kids.”

“That isn’t what I mean and you know it,” said Rupert, quiet and deliberate. “I-I don’t know exactly what it is, but—Jenny, we’re partners. I want to help you in any way I can.”

Jenny managed a smile. “I’m just tired,” she said finally.

Rupert looked extremely satisfied with this. She didn’t realize exactly why until he asked, nonchalantly but very smugly, “Tired enough to warrant some help, I’d wager?”

I love this man, a frustrated Jenny thought, and wanted to start kicking all her belongings until they fell apart and no one could take anything out of the moving truck but her. “Fine!” she said very loudly, slumping against the side of the truck. “Fine, I’ll—I’ll find a ramp or something so we can—”

“Buffy and Faith can get one from the garage,” said Rupert, walking carefully and deliberately up to her. He leaned in, then kissed her forehead; Jenny heard herself exhale in a way that sounded uncomfortably close to a sob. “I love you,” he said, “and I’m going to be fine. All right?”

It took Jenny a moment to reply. There were a lot of ways a person could mean I love you, and she didn’t feel emotionally ready to press him or process things or any of the stuff that she probably should do. “Yeah, I love you too,” she said, and reached up to curl her hands around the lapels of his comfortably scratchy tweed jacket. Then, quietly, “I’ll kick your ass if you’re not fine.”

“Oh, I’m quite sure,” said Rupert, smiling at her a little exhaustedly.

They stayed like that for a few seconds longer, Rupert resting his forehead against Jenny’s, Jenny holding tightly to Rupert’s jacket. The image of Rupert bleeding out in the alley was faded in that moment, but it still felt etched onto the inside of Jenny’s eyelids—startling her every time she blinked. She liked the physicality of him being safe and close enough to touch even when she closed her eyes.

“I’ll go lie down,” said Rupert finally, but he didn’t move, and Jenny realized that he was waiting for her to pull away. Letting her call the shots, just like it had been—before Lilah.

Jenny stepped back and smiled at him, feeling strangely hollow and sad for someone who had been so close to the guy she was in love with. After she was certain that Rupert had entered the house and was heading towards some quality bed rest, she turned back to the truck and clambered awkwardly inside, lifting a box that read Faith’s Clothes and shifting it to her hip as she jumped back down onto the street.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Part of me isn’t entirely sure why I’m still continuing to write personal files when there’s no active case. I’ve shut down Calendar-Giles Investigations for the time being, and we won’t be needing to work any odd jobs; Lilah wired us a very large sum of money in what I guess is another of her attempts to apologize for shooting me. Only—she isn’t really sorry for trying, I don’t think, she’s sorry that she wasn’t strong enough to kill us both. I think there’s a lot of resentment involved in her having to actually pay us the money we’re owed for helping her, which makes me feel better about taking it.

I guess I just need some kind of an outlet, and recording what’s going on always comforts me a little. It’s good to have some kind of a reference regarding what kind of progress I’ve made, whether it’s professional or personal, and right now all my efforts seem Sisyphean at best. My feelings for Rupert aren’t really going anywhere, our kids are still having trouble handling the aftermath of his being shot, and no one knows where the bulk of Angel Investigations has disappeared to. It feels like the end goal is to reach the level of easy normalcy we had before Lilah entered our lives, but—selfishly, I don’t think that kind of undefined, nebulous happiness is what I want anymore. Particularly not with Rupert. I think I want to know what I have in my life.


 

Staying with Rupert and his kids was probably going to take some getting used to, but not really in a negative way—more like all of Jenny’s family was under the same roof for the first time ever, and she had to deal with a mixture of nervous happiness and a sense of impermanence. She wished that this could be every day, and was beginning to think it might not be too unrealistic to expect she’d always have Buffy, Dawn, and Rupert in her life. At the same time, though, being in love with Rupert felt like a major stumbling block in what could be a perfectly platonic co-parenting situation, and she wasn’t sure how to deal with that on a day-to-day basis.

Jenny made the kids dinner and served it upstairs, because no one really wanted to leave Rupert’s bedroom. Dawn and Faith had created a pillow nest on the floor with Xena and were watching some high school drama on Netflix, and a giggling Buffy was settled right next to Rupert as he complained about the copy of People she’d picked up for him from the hospital“Really, Buffy,” he was saying, “there are plenty of other things you Americans could be occupying your time with—must you be concerned with Who Wore It Best?”

Buffy almost fell off the bed, she was laughing so hard.

Jenny coughed pointedly, shifting the dinner tray to balance it against her hip. “Anyone up for personal pizzas?” she inquired. “I can make you guys popcorn, too, if you wanna keep watching stuff.”

Pizzas,” said Rupert reprovingly, “are not suitable for three growing girls and an invalid.”

“I’m turning nineteen in January, Dad,” said Buffy, and she and Giles both smiled a little shyly at Dad. “And you got shot, but you’re gonna be fine—that so doesn’t qualify you as an invalid.”

“See? She gets it,” said Jenny, setting the tray down on the bed in front of Buffy and Rupert. “And I made these myself, so shut up.”

“Dough and all?”

“Oh my god, am I getting the Spanish Inquisition over personal pizzas?” Jenny shoved one of the greener ones in Rupert’s direction. “I put green stuff on this one, invalid, that should suit you,” she added playfully.

“Thank you,” Rupert murmured, his hand brushing hers as he took the plate.

Jenny bit her lip and smiled, feeling fluttery and nervous as she sat down next to a very knowing Buffy. “I might pass on the pizza,” she said, and off Rupert’s reproving look, hastily added, “I’m tired! I really just want to lie here for a little and then camp out on the couch.”

“Be that as it may,” said Rupert, “it’s quite important to me that I know you’re taking care of yourself. You’ve been through a traumatic incident—”

“Yeah,” said Jenny, “you getting shot. Don’t try and take care of me when you’re supposed to be resting—”

“You guys are seriously so annoying,” said Buffy, and took one of the plates from the tray, handing it to Jenny. “Just eat, Jenny, Dad’s right. You can’t mom all of us and live off coffee.”

Clearly you don’t know me,” said Jenny, but took a bite of pizza. “Mmm!”

Rupert, who was warily observing his own pizza, sort of poked at it, then said, “It looks very good, Jenny,” in a tone that sounded dramatically pessimistic.

“You’re such a food snob,” said Jenny, grinning.

“I’m ill,” said Rupert plaintively, “I would like soup and some soft bread, not something with grease and—and green,” but he was smiling playfully up at her as he took a bite of pizza. “This really is quite good,” he added, in the sweetly accommodating way that Jenny knew meant he didn’t like the food but he did like her.

Jenny blushed. “Yeah?”

“Is Mom blushing?” Faith was whispering loudly and very audibly to Dawn. “Turn off the episode—is Mom blushing?”

“Goodness, I believe she is,” said Rupert playfully, and reached out to lightly tap Jenny’s cheek. “That is most certainly a fetching shade of pink, my dear. Had I any idea I was capable of drawing it out, I would have complimented your cooking much sooner.”

“You are the actual worst,” Jenny informed him, smiling slightly, and relaxed back into the pillows with the pizza. “Faith, can you turn the laptop so we can all see?”

“I’ll just bring it up onto the bed,” said Faith helpfully, and did so without much warning, not even bothering to pause what they were watching. Dawn, who had been observing the screen with rapt attention, let out an indignant yelp and scrambled to follow Faith onto the bed, settling in next to Rupert as Faith set down the laptop and squeezed in by Jenny. Xena hopped up onto Jenny’s lap and made an attempt to get at the pizza; Jenny tapped her gently on the nose until she’d settled down a little.

“See, Dad?” said Buffy. “Told you a king-size was a good investment.”

“Don’t spill grease on the sheets,” said Rupert.

“Who’s the blonde?” asked Jenny.

“She’s Sarah, obviously,” said Dawn, as though Jenny should already be aware of every single Netflix high school drama ever.

“Yeah, Dawn unironically watches this,” said Faith.

“Shut up,” said Dawn, and snuggled into Rupert’s side.


 

Jenny set Faith up in the guest room, made sure Buffy and Dawn were doing okay in their bedrooms, did one last check-in with Rupert to see that he’d taken his painkillers, and found herself downstairs in the living room, closing the curtains and drawing up a makeshift bed on the couch. She had chosen to sleep on the couch if only to keep her own emotions in check; not telling Rupert she was in love with him was more difficult than one would expect. She didn’t want to give in and tell him about her feelings when what he really needed right now was Jenny Calendar, best friend and shoulder to lean on. It sucked for her, sure, but it was better than hurting him just because she wanted to feel better herself. She’d done that enough already.

She had turned off the lights and settled into the couch when she started becoming aware of how still and quiet it was in the living room. It was the first time she’d been alone since arriving at Rupert’s, and the first time she’d been far enough away from him that, if something happened to him, she might not get there in time. Jenny told herself she was being ridiculous, because she’d been there when Rupert had been shot and it wasn’t like she’d really been any good then.

But then that backfired, because it led to Jenny thinking about Rupert getting shot, and that pervasive, horrible image of him bleeding out was in her head again in the worst way. She knew, rationally, that he was fine, why wouldn’t he be fine, he was upstairs, alone, in the dark, recovering from being shot in the chest by someone who very clearly didn’t like being Jenny’s second priority—

“God!” she whispered, shakily, and pulled the blankets tighter around her. It took her nearly half an hour to finally fall asleep.


blood all over Buffy’s pink dress, and blood on Jenny’s hands, and the steely glint of Lilah’s smile, and the weight of Rupert’s body in her arms, and his eyes half-open and Buffy crying and then a terrible, terrible silence—


Disoriented, Jenny jerked awake. She was too drowsy to sort through the tangled mess of fear and panic and figure out the rational thing to do, and it was way too dark to go back to sleep in the deadly-silent living room when Rupert could be dead somewhere, and—she needed to see him. That was what she knew. She needed to see him and know he was okay. Stumbling a little in the darkness, Jenny made her way out of the living room and up the stairs.

The upstairs hallway was dark, but there was a dim light coming from under Rupert’s bedroom door. Jenny didn’t have enough presence of mind to knock, so she just opened it, leaning heavily on the doorframe.

Rupert looked up from his book. “Jenny,” he said, his voice softening into concern halfway through her name. “Jenny, come here, what’s wrong?”

Jenny felt like some kind of weight had been lifted, but she was still exhausted enough not to think too much about crossing the room to all but fall onto the bed next to Rupert. Awkwardly, he moved his arm to wind it around her shoulders, and she buried her face in his chest with a relieved, shaky breath.

“Here,” said Rupert, and she felt him adjust her a bit so he could pull the blanket up and over her, tucking it securely around them both.

It took Jenny five minutes to reach a place that allowed for coherent thought. She was awake, now, enough to recognize the problems that might accompany sleeping with Rupert even in the tamest sense of the word, but when he was this close, she wasn’t thinking about him bleeding out—she was just thinking about how she was an idiot for letting them be this close, which she definitely preferred. “Sorry,” she said, and curled into his side. “I just—I had a nightmare. Kinda stupid, I guess—”

“Would you like me to read to you?” Rupert shifted again, securing his arm around Jenny’s shoulders so that she was lying on one side, her cheek on his chest. If she wasn’t wrung-out and frightened, she’d probably be swooning a little about how effortlessly close they were. Really, Jenny thought, there were worse people to be madly in love with than Rupert, who was gentle and sweet and was right now offering to read her short stories. “Aesop’s,” he was saying. “I like simple fables for when I’m feeling a bit under the weather.”

Under the—you just got shot,” Jenny scoffed tiredly, feeling a comfortable rush of fluttery infatuation—and god, now that she knew what it was, she knew that she’d felt this so many times before without knowing enough to name it. “I’d say that’s a little more than under the weather. Just don’t read me the Tortoise and the Hare and we’re good, okay?”

“Now what do you have against that one?”

“Overdone,” said Jenny. “Mainstream.”

“Oh, and you’re too cool for it, I suppose?”

“I just want something new,” said Jenny simply.

Rupert looked at her with that thoughtful expression, then squeezed her shoulder. “I can understand that,” he said finally, then began to read. Jenny wasn’t paying attention to the words, really, because resting her head on his chest like this, she could hear the steady, reassuring flutter of his heart. The way it was in tune with the cadence of his voice was comforting, like a warm blanket, and her eyes began to droop.

“Five seconds in,” she heard Rupert say, “and you’re already drifting off. I hope that’s not a comment on my storytelling abilities,” but he continued to read some story about a fox or a deer or something with complete contentment. Jenny let her eyes close all the way.

Chapter Text

Her cell phone was buzzing. Waking up, Jenny’s first thought was this doesn’t feel like the couch, her second thought was oh my fucking god, Jenny, do you have no impulse control, and her third thought was Rupert smells really nice, which didn’t really help with the whole impulse-control thing. She kept her eyes closed for a few seconds longer, enjoying the way it felt to be tangled in cozy blankets with Rupert’s arms around her waist—

Wait. Okay. Arms. Waist. Snuggling. Definitely not platonic, especially if Rupert woke up and panicked in that way he did whenever anything got too near romance between them. Jenny didn’t have the emotional energy to deal with that, and her cell phone was still buzzing (had she seriously left it upstairs last night?), so she pulled herself out of Rupert’s arms as quickly as she could.

This proved to be a mistake. Rupert started waking up with Jenny half-out of his arms, Jenny froze, and Rupert, to her horror, closed his eyes again and tugged her even closer, mumbling something indistinct in a soft tone she had never heard him use before. She caught the word “darling,” she thought, and felt herself smiling a little before she could help it.

Jenny’s cell phone stopped buzzing and she winced, hoping that the call hadn’t been too important. Somehow, this was what woke Rupert up all the way. She was expecting him to immediately pull back, but he just looked at her with this nervous smile and said, “Any nightmares?”

“None,” said Jenny.

“Good,” said Rupert, still looking a bit apprehensive. He let go of her. For all of Jenny’s worry about him waking up, she suddenly very much missed being close to him. “You—were in quite a state, last night. I was worried.”

“It was just—” Jenny tried to smile. “I guess I’m not entirely okay,” she said finally. “You know? I was hoping that I would be, but maybe that’s a little unrealistic.”

“It’s barely been a week,” said Rupert, smoothing down Jenny’s hair. “No one’s expecting you to bounce back immediately.”

“No, I know, I-I just wanted—I wanted you all to have someone stable right now,” said Jenny, feeling a little ridiculous. On the nightstand, her phone buzzed again. “I should get that,” she said, but Rupert tugged at the hem of her sleeve, pulling her back to face him. “What?”

“You know having someone stable isn’t what we need, though,” said Rupert, and smiled a little. “You’re more than enough just on your own, Jenny, whether or not you feel you’re at functioning capacity. It means so much to myself and to the girls that you and Faith are staying to help out.”

“You’re saying a lot of very nice things,” said Jenny, giving him a tired smile back, “but the fact of the matter is that you got shot and we have three kids who need at least one parent to turn to.” She gently removed his hand from her sleeve, reaching to pick up her phone from the nightstand, and felt her smile slide off her face.

Lilah had texted her. Jenny couldn’t see the entirety of the message without unlocking her phone, but it began: if you get a call from…

“Is everything all right?” Rupert asked from next to her.

Jenny knew that the healthy thing to do would be to ignore a text from the woman who shot her, but the fact remained that, despite her bravado facing Lilah in the hospital, Jenny wasn’t the one with the power in this situation. If avoiding Lilah led to Rupert or the girls getting hurt, or worse—she swallowed, then unlocked her phone.

if you get a call from someone requesting your help today, don’t answer it; they’re looking for protection from wolfram and hart and you won’t be giving it to them. understood?

Jenny stared down at the message, feeling vaguely sick. The entire reason she’d become a detective was to help people who needed it, and now Lilah was taking that ability away from her.

“Jenny?”

Jenny swallowed hard. “Fine,” she said stiffly, and texted back understood. “It’s just, um, Lilah—Lilah wants me to turn down a client who might be calling me today. Says that they’re looking to hide from Wolfram and Hart.”

She almost didn’t want to look at Rupert, she was so ashamed. He was the one who had always praised her integrity and her compassion in her line of work, and now she was just—throwing all that under the bus. But it was the adult thing to take responsibility for her actions, so she looked up at him, and—all she saw was worry and sadness. “Jenny,” he said, “this can’t possibly be easy on you.”

“It isn’t,” said Jenny. “It sucks. But I would rather deal with the guilt my own shitty decisions created than put you or the kids in danger again.”

“You know it isn’t your fault, though,” said Rupert, sitting up and wincing. Jenny put down her phone and moved towards him, placing a hand on his chest to steady him against the headboard. “Thank you,” he said through gritted teeth. “I just, I worry that you see this sorry state of affairs as your own doing.”

“I was the one who took this case,” Jenny reminded him, trying to smile. “You were the one who was pointing out—correctly, I might add—that taking a case based on only one lead from only one person wasn’t a wise thing to do.”

“I was saying that because I was jealous,” said Rupert almost indignantly. “You can’t at all argue that my judgment wasn’t impaired.”

Jenny blinked. “Jealous?” she said, genuinely surprised. “Of what?”

Rupert went a bit pink. “I, I suppose, um,” he stammered, then swallowed, then said, “well, really, it was just—I’d never seen you pay so much attention to—anyone, before. At least, not in a romantic sense, and—it bothered me, a bit. I thought your having a crush might—affect our relationship, and it was selfish of me.”

“No, you were right,” said Jenny a little dismally. “You can’t take the blame if you were right. You and I had a pretty good thing going until Lilah came into our office, and if you had called the shots on that one, you—you wouldn’t have gotten shot.”

“You’re telling me it wasn’t at all worth it?” said Rupert quietly. “I’d think that having a few moments of happiness with someone you care for, however fleeting—”

“You can’t seriously still be advocating for Lilah!” Jenny scoffed.

“She made you so happy,” said Rupert, smiling a little awkwardly. “I-it made me happy, seeing you like that. Perhaps she wasn’t deserving of a woman like yourself, but if Lilah is what makes you happy, perhaps—we could work towards some sort of a reconciliation with her—”

“She shot you,” said Jenny.

“She made you smile,” said Rupert.

“You make me smile,” said Jenny, furious, “even when you’re being a fucking idiot and trying to tell me I should get together with my ex—god, where do you get off, Rupert? Do you seriously think I’d be selfish enough to place my own happiness over your welfare?”

She was irrationally angry, she knew, and she had a feeling she was trying to cover up the deep, pervasive hurt that had begun when Rupert had started looking at her with soft, shining eyes. It had finally hit her: there was no way she could ever risk their relationship, whatever it was, by telling him about her feelings for him. It could throw yet another wrench into their mutually supportive arrangement, and she just could not do that to him. Not ever.

“Jenny, I’m sorry,” said Rupert, and he really did look genuinely remorseful. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“Let me change your dressings,” said Jenny stiffly, pulling herself up and out of the bed. “Or—fuck, hold on, I’m not dressed. I’m gonna go downstairs and get changed, and then we’re going to change your dressings, okay?”

Rupert looked at her for a long second, and then a strange expression crossed his face. Not quite an emotion, per se; more like he had just begun to formulate some sort of an idea.

“What?” snapped Jenny.

“Nothing, just—” Rupert stretched out a hand to her. “Come here, all right?” he said. “Just for a moment. I’m sorry.”

“No, Rupert, it’s fine,” said Jenny, hastily trying to tamp down her anger. She didn’t want to be close to him right now. “I really just have to freshen up and get dressed, please, just—I’ll be right back,” and she was out of the bedroom before he could respond, half-tumbling down the stairs and into the living room, where the girls were standing excitedly by her unmade couch-bed.

“Did you sleep with Dad?” Dawn demanded, very loudly, as soon as she entered the room.

“No,” said Jenny shortly, then, “I need to change. Go upstairs.”

Dawn and Buffy exchanged worried looks, but obliged. Faith, however, hesitated, then crossed the room to stand on tiptoe and hug Jenny awkwardly around the neck. “Hang in there, Mom,” she said, and followed Buffy out of the room.

Jenny sunk down into the couch and buried her face in her hands. “Fuck,” she whispered. She couldn’t stop thinking about what Rupert had just offered to do. He would find a place for Lilah in their lives if it was what made her happy—what wouldn’t that man do for her? A guy like that didn’t deserve the messy-confusing love Jenny had to offer, or getting shot in an alley, or getting stood up and left behind all the damn time over the last few months. He deserved so, so much better than her.


 

Rupert was sitting up in bed, still, when Jenny entered, placing her phone back on the nightstand. “Would you mind giving me your phone’s passcode?” he asked. “I think there are still some photos on your phone I’d like to send to myself, and—and you have all those games on your phone that I don’t know how to download.”

Despite herself, Jenny smiled. “It’s 4472,” she said.

“Why?”

“There isn’t always a reason for everything.” Jenny clambered onto the bed next to him, settling her head on his shoulder. “Sorry I snapped,” she said. “I think I’m just under a lot of pressure.”

“Oh, really,” said Rupert, “it’s not like someone wise and British was just telling you that you needed some proper rest—” He turned a bit to pull her closer, then swore, drawing a pained breath in.

Jenny pressed her hand against his chest, fingers splayed. “Stay still,” she said softly, moving over him to straddle his lap. It was easy, suddenly, to be close to him when she’d decided she wasn’t planning on acting on it. It was comforting to know he couldn’t have feelings for her.

“Jenny, this is awfully close—”

“Yeah, well, I need to get at your shirt and I’m not climbing over you to do it. I’m not a professional. Stay still and I’ll unbutton you.” Jenny wasn’t really looking at Rupert’s face (so she wasn’t as good at being close to him as she thought. Sue her), focusing instead on the buttons. “Let me just finish with this and then I’ll get the dressings from the—”

“Jenny—”

“—from the bathroom. Stay still.” Jenny’s hands were shaking. Were her hands shaking?

Rupert reached up and took Jenny’s hands in hers, very steadily, a motion that drew Jenny’s eyes first to his hands and then to his face. He was looking at her with a quiet compassion that made her feel near tears. “Kindly take a breath, dear, and stop trying to bulldoze your way through whatever it is that’s bothering you,” he said patiently.

“Oh, if you only knew,” said Jenny, half-laughing.

“Perhaps I’ve been going about this the wrong way,” said Rupert, giving her a small, nervous smile. “You don’t need to tell me anything if that’s what you feel makes you most comfortable. Just—take a breath, please, before you continue with my dressings. I really don’t want to get further injured in your agitation.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” said Jenny, her voice strangled in an attempt not to cry. “I don’t ever want to see you hurt again.”

“I know,” said Rupert.

“Not ever. I was so scared.”

Rupert let go of her hands and pulled her into his arms. Jenny hid her face in the crook of his neck and breathed him in.

Chapter Text

from  the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

It’s strange, trying to adjust to not having work to do. I hang out around the house, make the girls three meals a day, play with Xena, binge an intense amount of TV with Rupert…in a weird way, it feels like I’m finally recalibrating. Maybe it isn’t exactly what I want from the situation, but it’s comforting to know that it’s what’ll make myself and the people I love the happiest.

It’s like I said to Rupert: I don’t ever want to see him hurt again. And worse than seeing Rupert hurt is the concept of being the cause of that hurt. I know it’s so many levels of messed up to be dishonest with him about the way I’m feeling, but I thought I was being completely transparent with him and then it turned out I’ve been in love with him for…god, how long? I honestly don’t know. I always just thought love was magnetic and dizzying, like the way I felt around Lilah. Discovering that there are different flavors of attraction and affection is confusing and a little disorienting.

Being around Rupert makes me feel warm and connected to the best parts of myself. He makes me feel so happy. It’s the simplest, scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.


“We’re out of milk,” Dawn announced, slamming the empty carton down in the middle of the kitchen table and splattering a few milk droplets onto Faith’s homework. Faith yelped, then glowered up at Dawn. “Stop making that face,” said Dawn, “we’re out of milk is all, and if Jenny doesn’t take us to get milk we won’t have any milk for tomorrow’s breakfast.”

“We don’t have to get milk right now, Dawn,” said Jenny without looking up from the paper. “Can you break down the carton? I still have to take up some food to your dad in a minute—”

“Buffy’s with him,” said Faith. “Says he had something he wanted to talk to her about. I think she’s just being clingy.”

“Be nice,” said Jenny, eyes scanning the paper. There was a small piece written regarding Cordelia Chase and what the paper was describing as a “desperate, pathetic grab for the attention of the masses,” but, when read between the lines, spoke of one of many attempts to find her friends—particularly Angel. We at the Los Angeles Times find it hard to believe that a vapid, delusional Instagram starlet such as Chase would attract the attention of a high-profile criminal like Liam O’Connor, even if we were to believe her far-fetched story regarding O’Connor’s latest attempts at “doing good,” read the paper. The article itself was written by a Gavin Park—almost definitely the Wolfram and Hart-affiliated Gavin Park that Lilah had name-dropped more than once. “God,” said Jenny quietly.

“Mom,” said Faith reprovingly, “don’t read the news if it’s gonna make you get all sad.”

“News is news,” said Jenny, shutting the paper a little harder than she needed to. “Avoiding something for the sake of my own personal happiness isn’t a good strategy.”

“Sure,” said Dawn, then added pointedly, “Hey, by the way, you talked to my dad about that thing you told us at the hospital?”

Jenny folded the paper, stood up, said, “Break down the carton, Dawn, I’m serious,” and headed over to start putting together a breakfast platter for Rupert.

“Don’t push her on that one,” said Faith quietly to Dawn. “She’s had, like, two weeks to figure her feelings out, plus he got shot in the same time frame. Now’s not the time to make jokes.”

“Thank you, Faith,” said Jenny quietly, buttering a slice of toast and slicing it neatly down the diagonal. “Dawn, is there any orange juice left over from breakfast?”

“Some,” said Dawn, sounding somewhat ashamed. “Jenny, I’m sorry if I—”

“It’s okay,” said Jenny, placing the toast down on the plate and heading over to the fridge. “Just—don’t talk to him about it, okay?”

“But you’re going to tell him, right?” Dawn persisted, then, “Ow!” in a way that indicated Faith might have elbowed her. “Fine,” she said begrudgingly. “I just—I think you guys would be really cute together, that’s all.”

“You and me both,” said Jenny lightly, letting herself smile a little.

This was when Buffy came in, hurrying into the kitchen and plopping herself down next to Dawn. Jenny opened the fridge, only half-listening as Buffy said, strangely loudly, “Hey, guys, I think you should go up and talk to Dad real quick for completely normal reasons! Just go really quickly up there and talk to Dad because of normal stuff that’s normal. Seriously.”

Jenny took out the carton of eggs, placing it down on the counter, and shut the fridge, turning to face Buffy. She wasn’t the only one giving Buffy a bemused look; Dawn and Faith looked extremely nonplussed. “Buffy,” said Jenny, “are you okay?”

“Totally yes one hundred percent!” said Buffy brightly. “And so is Dad! I just—had a very enlightening conversation with him that I think Faith and Dawn should share in real quick while I help you with breakfast! You’re out of milk? I’ll get milk! Let’s get milk.” Without waiting for anyone to respond, she jumped back up and strode over to the kitchenette, opening the egg carton and picking out an egg from the front.

Under normal circumstances, Jenny might have pressed further. But everything about her arrangement with Rupert seemed tenuous and breakable as it was, and it didn’t seem fair that she should object to him possibly keeping secrets when she was keeping her feelings a secret from him. “You girls go upstairs and talk to Rupert,” she said, and took a bowl out of one of the cupboards, throwing a small smile over her shoulder at a still-bewildered Faith and Dawn. “Buffy can go and get some milk after she helps me with the eggs.”

Thank you,” said Buffy with great satisfaction.

“And make sure he doesn’t get up!” Jenny added as Faith and Dawn left, both of them still frowning slightly.

Buffy looked furtively over at Jenny, then all the way, then said, “You’re not even gonna try and ask why I was acting all weird?” sounding genuinely surprised.

“Were you?” said Jenny. “I didn’t notice.” She took the egg from Buffy and cracked it on the side of the bowl.


 

Rupert was on his laptop when Jenny entered the bedroom, Dawn peering over his shoulder and Faith leaning disapprovingly against the wall nearby. Upon seeing her, he shut his laptop so hastily that he jarred his shoulder and winced.

“I don’t care what you were looking at,” said Jenny, exasperated. “Just stop moving too fast and hurting yourself.” Carefully, she placed the tray down in front of him, then pressed a gentle hand to his good shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Stay still, you idiot,” she said.

“What?” said Rupert, who had been looking at her with the sort of expression one saved only for high art—an almost nervous reverence. “Oh. Yes, of course, Jenny.”

Ugh,” said Dawn, glaring first at Jenny, then at Rupert. “You guys need to get your act together.” Without further elaboration, she exited the bedroom, all but stomping indignantly out.

“Dawn kinda has a point,” said Faith.

Faith,” said Jenny, a warning in her voice.

“I’m not talking about you, Mom,” said Faith, eyes on Rupert. She looked at him steadily, then turned as well, leaving quietly and without as much livid fanfare as Dawn.

“Jenny,” Rupert began uneasily.

Maybe the Jenny Calendar of a few months ago might have furiously pursued any possibility that Rupert wasn’t being completely honest with her, but Jenny didn’t feel like dissecting a possible dishonesty when she was keeping secrets too. The fact of the matter was that Rupert was an overall honest guy, much more so than Jenny herself, and he wasn’t one for subterfuge. “It’s fine,” said Jenny. “It’s fine. Whatever it is she’s mad about, I trust you, and that’s what counts.” She sat down next to him. “Are you hungry?”

“Not particularly,” said Rupert, looking a bit confused at Jenny’s largely blasé attitude.

“Eat anyway,” said Jenny. “It’s lunchtime, I made you toast, and you really do need to start getting your eating schedule down to a more precise science.” On the nightstand, her phone buzzed, and she noticed for the first time that it was now on Rupert’s side of the bed. “Oh, were you getting those photos off my phone?” she asked, leaning over him to pick it up.

Rupert paused, then said, “Yes.”

Jenny had gotten a new text from Anya regarding her safe arrival in Sunnydale. Unlocking her phone to respond, she noticed, oddly, that Cordelia’s number was listed in the recently-called. A subtle, unpleasant suspicion began in the back of her head, and she took another look at Rupert. “Hey,” she said. “Did you call anyone on my phone?”

Rupert hesitated again. “I did,” he said. “I tried to call Cordelia. I wanted to check in and apologize, and my phone didn’t—”

“Don’t do that again,” said Jenny sharply.

Rupert looked somewhat taken aback by Jenny’s ferocity. “Don’t—check in with her again?” he said, sounding a mixture of skeptical and annoyed. “I think that that’s a bit unreasonable, Jenny—”

“Look, if Lilah catches wind of either of us getting in touch with Angel Investigations, she might think that we’re dumb enough to try and take down Wolfram and Hart without her help,” said Jenny, who was attempting to keep her voice level but was somewhat aware of the fact that that wasn’t really happening. “And you know I don’t want you shot again.”

“I really am doing fine,” said Rupert, which would have been more convincing if he wasn’t still pale from accidentally shutting his laptop too hard. “All the sites say only a few more days of bed rest.”

I,” said Jenny, “am not doing fine with the concept of you getting shot again. How many times do we have to have this conversation?”

“None,” said Rupert, “because you seem to forget that my choices were the ones that put me in front of that bullet. Not yours.”

“Then make some better choices,” said Jenny fiercely, “and don’t call Cordelia again.”

“Cordelia needs someone’s help,” said Rupert quietly. “We help the people who need it.”

“I don’t wanna have this conversation.”

“Did Lilah expressly forbid you from talking to her?”

“I am not playing fucking guessing games about what Lilah wants when your life is at stake,” said Jenny, and shoved her phone into the drawer of the nightstand next to her.

“I hope you know I don’t at all agree with this decision,” said Rupert stiffly, “and I don’t at all like the level of power she holds over you.”

Jenny was almost angry enough to tell him she was in love with him right then and there—wouldn’t that just take the wind out of his sails? He would understand why she was so scared if she told him she was crazy about him, and sure, it would spark a different kind of argument regarding her priorities, but the fact that Jenny was so afraid of Lilah would never again be brought into question. But she hadn’t quite reached that level of unrestrained, uninhibited emotion, so she bit her tongue in reminder and then said, “Please just trust that I have reason to give her that power.”

She said it quietly, and in a way that somehow removed the fury and tension from the conversation. Rupert moved his laptop carefully to the side and rested a hand on Jenny’s shoulder. “I worry about you, that’s all,” he said. “I want you to be happy.”

“Yeah,” said Jenny, and lay back in the pillows. “I’m gonna have to go get milk in an hour or so. Are you going to be okay if I leave Buffy with you?”

“More than,” said Rupert, smiling slightly.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Rupert’s getting better! Slowly, but steadily, and it makes me feel like we’re working towards something that’ll be—different, but still good. It’s still going to be a while before he’ll be able to get back to work, but he has been making it down the stairs to eat breakfast with us and help the girls with their homework. He’s of the mind that they should be getting back to school, but I put my foot down and made it clear that they needed just as much space to recover as he did. Then he started in on me about how if that was the case, I should get off my feet too, and we got into what was kind of an argument but honestly felt more like it does when we argue about who’s going to cook dinner. It was nice.

He has been a little weird and evasive lately when it comes to telling me what he uses his alone time for—there are periods of the day when he disappears into his study and won’t let anyone in—but I figure he deserves a break from any questions. I’ve said this so many times before in these files, but I feel weird asking him anything when I know I’m keeping this huge secret from him.

It feels strange, keeping things from Rupert. Technically, I guess I’ve been keeping this secret for years, but it was different when I was keeping it secret from me as well as him. Now that I know for certain that I’m in love with him, it makes it all the more difficult not to just tell him.

I wish I knew for certain that I would be able to continually keep this up.


 

Half-asleep on Rupert’s bed, Jenny heard him fussing about in the bathroom in what seemed to be an attempt to change the dressings by himself. “God, you’re the worst patient ever,” she mumbled into the pillow, too tired to get up and push him back to bed. “What the fuck time is it?”

“Six-thirty,” Rupert answered, “but I’ve been lying in bed for the last week. I’m making up for some lost time.”

“Rupert,” said Jenny, rolling over onto her side to squint at the closed bathroom door, “just because you’re well enough to stand up doesn’t mean you get to immediately throw yourself into administering medical care. I don’t think any doctor would recommend what you’re doing right now.”

“Come in here and help me, then,” said Rupert, sounding quite pleased with himself.

He thought he was so smart, getting up at six-thirty in the goddamn morning because he was sure Jenny would rather sleep than take care of him—what a fucking idiot. Annoyed, Jenny sat up, rubbing her eyes, and then pulled herself reluctantly out of the nest of blankets, padding over to the bathroom and opening the door. “God,” she said. “Okay,” and sat down in front of a genuinely stunned Rupert.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you awake before eight in the morning if you could help it,” he said.

“Yeah, well, my partner’s an idiot,” said Jenny.

“I was joking about you helping me.” Rupert’s voice was much softer, now. “Please just go back to bed. You’ve been running yourself into the ground taking care of myself and the girls—I wanted to give you a break.”

“Shut up,” said Jenny. “Just let me get this,” and finished unbuttoning Rupert’s pajama shirt, sliding it down his shoulders. She reached up for the gauze and tape, beginning to remove it, and placed her other hand on his shoulder when he winced again. “Shh,” she mumbled.

Rupert stilled at her touch. Then, quietly, he reached up, placing his hand over hers, and kissed her.

All in all, it was a startlingly simple moment for something that had been giving Jenny no small amount of grief over the last week or two. Perhaps it was just because she was so damn tired, enough that she couldn’t think clearly about the incredible importance of kissing someone she was in love with. Maybe it was that she’d been in love with him for years, and their relationship had always been one of closeness and intimacy, and kissing him felt, oddly, like an extension of something that had just always been there. Whatever it was, she just—kissed him back. It wasn’t dizzying or romantic or magical; like everything with Rupert, it was better than that.

Rupert was the one to pull away, brushing his nose against hers. Jenny considered kissing him again, then did it. She liked kissing him.

Rupert moved back to look at her. “Jenny,” he said, in a tone of voice that was completely impossible to interpret, “you should get some sleep.”

A sudden nervousness flared up in Jenny’s chest as she finally realized what had just happened. She wanted to say something stupid like but I don’t want to sleep, I want to make out with you, or you know, you were the one who kissed me, so don’t act like this one’s on me,but this was the very first time that she and Rupert were in completely uncharted territory. Wordless, she got up, leaving Rupert and the gauze behind, and half-stumbled back to bed, falling onto her back and staring up at the ceiling.

There was a long silence before she heard Rupert begin to work at changing the dressings again, now much more subdued.

Jenny tried to sort through the very complex mix of emotions buried under a fog of exhaustion, gave up, and tried to remember the subtleties of what, all things considered, was probably the one and only time she would ever kiss Rupert. But the memory was fading—she hadn’t spent enough time savoring it, probably—and she was already drifting back off to sleep.


 

It was bright out when Jenny woke up again, and it took her a moment to remember exactly why Rupert might not be lying next to her. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, and tried to remember anything that would prove that Rupert had actually kissed her in the bathroom. In the bathroom, of all places. Jenny had kissed Lilah in a gorgeous floral paradise, secluded and romantic, and she’d kissed Rupert in the bathroom, while he was sitting on the edge of the tub with his shirt only sort of off. God, she was a mess.

She wasn’t quite as tired, at least not physically, but the thought of asking Rupert about the kiss meant possibly bringing up the fact that she was in love with him—and a kiss, if questioned, could be explained away. Being in love definitely couldn’t.

This was, of course, assuming that Jenny hadn’t just had a very confusing dream. Rupert had been getting up earlier now that he could walk downstairs, and it didn’t seem unlike him to sneak downstairs and make breakfast or something dumb like that. She sat up in bed again, stretching, and tried not to think about the quiet, twisting certainty in her stomach that she and Rupert had definitively kissed a few hours previously. Things would be a hell of a lot easier if they hadn’t.

There was a knock on the door, and then Rupert stepped in, balancing a tray a little nervously. “Oh my god,” said Jenny, irritated, “you are injured, did you seriously bring that all the way up the stairs?”

Rupert gave her a small, amused smile. “Buffy helped,” he said. “Don’t fuss. I merely thought you deserved something nice for all the help you’ve been giving me.”

Jenny blinked, startled. What with Rupert’s complete inability to act normal about anything regarding romance, she’d have expected him to be a complete mess had they actually kissed. The calm way he was holding himself didn’t suggest that they had kissed—that he had kissed her—in the bathroom a few hours earlier, but that didn’t change the strange conviction she held that they really had.

“Rupert,” she said carefully, “by any chance did I wake up at six-thirty this morning?”

Rupert’s expression flickered ever so slightly and he didn’t answer. With almost purposeful brightness, he said, “I didn’t really make most of this food, unfortunately. Not quite feeling up to cooking just yet. I do, however, have some freshly squeezed orange juice—” which answered Jenny’s unasked question in the worst of ways.

“Oh,” said Jenny. “Yeah, um, I’m—not that hungry.”

“Oh?”

“I might just sleep a little longer.”

Rupert looked worried. “Jenny,” he began, in a way that suggested that now he was going to talk about the kiss that he’d very clearly been trying to pretend never happened.

Jenny gave him a thin smile, then pulled the blankets back up and around her, lying back into the pillows and accidentally knocking over most of the breakfast tray. She honestly couldn’t find it in herself to feel guilty about making extra work for Rupert; he had kissed her and then tried to brush it under the rug. “You’re well enough to clean that up, right?” she said. “I’m taking you up on that offer to let me rest, ‘cause I could use bed rest after a morning like the one I had,” and then buried her face in the pillow. She was almost angry enough to cover up the hurt.

There was a silence, and then she heard Rupert begin to tidy the room. The quiet, almost pained way he did so, trying not to hurt himself further, was enough to make the anger fade into an ashamed, unpleasantly sad feeling, but it felt too late to admit she knew she was wrong.


 

It was a few hours later when Buffy slipped into the bedroom and lay down on top of the comforter next to Jenny. “Hey,” she said.

“Hi,” said Jenny.

“So Dad is, like, aggressively doing laundry downstairs and I think he screwed up his shoulder trying to lift the hamper,” said Buffy. “Which Faith thinks means you guys had an argument, so she’s giving him a pep talk, but I figured I should come up here because I know what first-kiss crisis face looks like.”

Jenny continued to stare at the ceiling, then said, “You’re a smart kid.”

“Did he kiss you?” Buffy asked.

“Yeah.”

“Was it a good kiss?”

“Really good.”

“You know Dad’s just generally really bad at emotions, right?”

“Right.”

Buffy rolled over onto her side and tucked her head into the crook of Jenny’s neck. “You’d be a really cool stepmom,” she said.

Jenny smiled a little. “Thanks,” she said.

“Are you gonna talk to him about it?”

“He tried to pretend it didn’t happen.”

Buffy blinked. Her mouth twitched. Then, unexpectedly, she burst out laughing, pressing her hands to her face at first and then just giving up. “I’m sorry,” she managed off Jenny’s look, “it’s just, oh my god, he’s just so bad at handling things! He was the one who kissed you and then he tried to just play it off like it never happened? That’s the dumbest thing he’s ever done, and one time he came to a parent-teacher conference at Dawn’s middle school wearing a shirt with lots of creepy red stains from the tomato sauce he’d been making—oh my god he seriously tried to—oh, god, he’s so dumb,” and then she cuddled into Jenny, still giggling. “You guys are gonna be fine,” she said. “Seriously.”

Jenny gave the matter some more thought, trying to look at it as objectively as Buffy obviously was, and felt a giggle rise up in her chest. “Wait, you’re right,” she managed, and started laughing too. “He just—he kissed me and refused to admit it!”

So dumb!”

“And I’m like totally crazy in love with him!”

“Which he would know if he’d admitted to the kiss!”

“God, he’s dumb,” said Jenny adoringly.

“This is the guy you love,” said Buffy, grinning. “First a trigger-happy lawyer, then my hot mess of a dad—Jenny, you really have horrible taste.”

From anyone else, the joke might have come off as abrasive and hurtful. From a bright-eyed Buffy who was all-the-way smiling for the first time since seeing Rupert in that alley, it made Jenny laugh again. “You are completely right,” she said. “I gotta put some work into that.”

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I feel like I’m supposed to be angrier than I am at Rupert for kissing me and then trying to sweep it under the rug, but the anger is dissipating faster than I’d expected. Honestly, I just feel kind of tired, and I understand where he’s coming from; this is completely new for both of us. Personally, I don’t know how either of us can possibly broach the subject of him kissing me without—I don’t know. Having some sort of terrifying, uncomfortable conversation where he finds out I’m crazy about him and I find out he was maybe only just starting to have feelings for me.

And on the subject of Rupert possibly having feelings for me? That might be the only genuinely good thing that came out of this whole Lilah mess. I seriously cannot believe that he wanted to kiss me—and maybe that’s helping take the bitter edge off my anger. He kissed me. I didn’t kiss him—he kissed me. I like that.

Still, I do wish I wasn’t going to be sleeping on the couch tonight. Neither of us really discussed it, but I think it might be the best move for both of us.


 

Jenny hadn’t been having nightmares since she’d unofficially started sleeping in Rupert’s bed, and as such, when she moved back to the couch, the first night where she dreamed about Rupert getting shot came as a terrifying surprise. She hadn’t realized how careful she’d been to always keep herself close to him, always making sure she could at least hear him moving around, and her moving back to the couch after their unexpected kiss brought her unresolved issues to the forefront. Sitting up on the couch, she buried her face in her hands, trying to regulate her breathing. It felt like the darkness was swallowing her up—she needed to see for herself that Rupert was okay.

“Fuck,” she muttered, then pulled herself back up off the couch, stumbling out of the living room and up the stairs.

Rupert’s light wasn’t on, this time, but when she opened the door, he was sitting up in bed. Jenny hesitated, then flipped on the light, and he looked at her with a half-guilty expression that felt like someone had physically clenched a fist around her heart. It was oppressive, the distance between them.

Neither of them said anything, but Jenny couldn’t bring herself to turn around and go back down to the couch. She couldn’t sleep right if she wasn’t near him.

“What is it?” said Rupert finally, tentatively.

“I had another nightmare,” said Jenny, who felt that he deserved at least some honesty. “About Lilah shooting you.”

“Oh,” said Rupert, and his face relaxed. “Well—I’m here, and I’m alive, so—”

“Yeah,” said Jenny, and didn’t move.

“Jenny?”

An image, vivid and visceral, flashed in front of her eyes: blood spreading across Rupert’s best dress shirt. “I don’t know where we’re supposed to go from here,” said Jenny helplessly. “There are too many things changing, and I just—I just want things to go back to the way they were.

Rupert looked like Jenny had punched him very hard in the chest without warning. “Oh,” he said.

“I don’t—”

“I’m sorry,” said Rupert. “Kissing you—if it affected you this drastically, it was—very clearly a mistake.”

This was exactly the last thing Jenny needed to hear. “A mistake,” she echoed, and for the first time in a long while, felt pinpricks of tears in her eyes. “Yeah, okay. I can—um, I understand that completely.”

“I just want you to be happy—” There was a strange desperation to the way Rupert said it, this time.

“Stop fucking saying that,” said Jenny a little more loudly than she’d intended. A few doors down, Buffy’s bedroom light turned on. Composing herself, Jenny tried to smile. “Prioritize yourself over me for a hot second, Rupert,” she said. “Maybe then we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.” Without waiting for a response, she shut off the light, stepping out of the room and shutting Rupert’s door behind her. Heading downstairs, she was at first considering curling up and crying on the couch, and then came up with a better alternative, walking down the hallway to the guest bedroom and opening the door.

Faith was asleep on the double bed and cuddled under a quilt that Jenny was pretty sure one of Rupert’s first clients had made for him. Tentatively, Jenny wavered at the doorway.

“Mom?” Faith’s voice was bleary.

“Yeah,” said Jenny.

“You sleepin’ in here?”

“Yeah,” said Jenny again. Jenny Calendar had nightmares, but Faith’s mom definitely didn’t. She stepped around the end table to squeeze in next to Faith, pulling the covers up and around them both. Faith rolled over and snuggled comfortably into Jenny’s side. “Sorry to wake you.”

“S’okay,” mumbled Faith, who was already falling asleep again. Jenny carded her fingers through Faith’s hair, focusing on the soft fluttery sound of her daughter’s breathing and thinking about the first time Faith had let her this close. It had been after a nightmare, five months after the adoption had been officially finalized, and Faith had clambered into Jenny’s bed and hidden under the blankets like a child much smaller than she was. Faith had always needed more attention than most in those early years.

Thinking about Faith felt comfortable and comforting in its simplicity: here was someone Jenny could love without reservations or complexities, and someone who loved Jenny without hesitation. Here was Jenny’s daughter. Here was Jenny’s darling. Jenny tried to keep those thoughts in her head as she fell asleep.


 

She slept dreamlessly, if poorly, and woke up to find that Faith had already left. Jenny lay in bed for a few more minutes, came to the conclusion that she couldn’t spend the entire day in bed when she’d spent most of the day before doing much the same thing, and pulled herself ungracefully up and out of bed, heading down the stairs to make the girls a late breakfast.

The kitchen smelled like pancakes. Frowning, Jenny rounded the corner, stopping and peering through the crack in the half-open door to observe Rupert carefully flipping and plating a heart-shaped pancake before handing it off to Buffy. Faith was pouring orange juice into a champagne glass, Dawn was assembling fruit while trying to keep it away from an excitable Xena, and Buffy—was placing the pancake plate down on the dinner tray, then taking the champagne glass from Faith.

“This is kinda dramatic,” Faith was saying a little doubtfully. “You sure Mom’s gonna go for something like this?”

“Your mother,” said Rupert, “deserves something special. She’s been through a lot as of late, and I’m sure I haven’t made it easier on her—”

“Because you kissed her?” asked Dawn innocently.

Rupert turned pink and tried to smile. “Some of the worst timing I’ve managed, I’m afraid,” he said lightly.

“Did she look good?” Buffy teased, though her grin was slightly worried.

Rupert’s smile softened. “She always looks good,” he said. “Help me with the next pancake, will you, Buffy? We need to get this done before Jenny wakes up.”

Stunned, and almost smiling, Jenny hurriedly backed away from the kitchen door, tiptoeing back upstairs and into the guest room to sit carefully down on the bed. It was less than a minute later when she heard a knock on the door, and it took her another ten seconds to nervously compose herself enough to open it.

“Hey,” said Buffy, who was holding the tray. “You kinda slept through breakfast, so we all pitched in and made you—uh, pancakes, mostly, but Dawn helped with the fruit salad.”

Jenny looked first at the tray, then at Rupert, who looked first surprised and then a little nervous. She swallowed hard, then smiled at him, and it felt like something had snapped back into place. Being his friend, taking care of their girls—that she knew how to do. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” she said, smiling easily, “you’re the sweetest family any private eye could ask for.”

“Oh, absolutely,” said Dawn, beaming.

“We’re practically angelic,” Faith agreed.

“Now that’s pushing it,” said Jenny, and stepped aside, moving to sit down on the bed. Buffy placed the tray neatly down in front of her, and then the girls clustered comfortably around her on the bed in the way they’d become quite accustomed to doing with Rupert.

Rupert wavered, then sat down opposite Jenny, the tray in between them. “I wanted to say—” he began.

“Yeah?”

“I love you,” said Rupert, and smiled a bit self-deprecatingly. “And you’re right. It isn’t fair to both of us if I’m prioritizing you over me, but it also isn’t fair if you’re prioritizing my own health and happiness over yours. I suppose what I’m saying is that I’ll stop if you will.”

Jenny smiled too, somewhat wryly, and reached across the tray to place a hand on Rupert’s good shoulder. Rupert’s eyes darted almost nervously down to it, and she remembered belatedly that this was the same gesture she’d made before he’d kissed her. Keeping her smile even and unfazed, she said, “I’ll—do my best.”

“Fair enough,” said Rupert, whose eyes were still on Jenny’s hand.

“SO HEY,” said Buffy very loudly, making Rupert and Jenny all but jump away from each other, “IS JENNY GOING TO EAT OR ARE YOU TWO GOING TO STARE AT EACH OTHER?”

Rupert managed a nervous grin in Jenny’s direction and moved back a little, giving her some space to start in on the pancakes. Jenny looked down at the perfectly-shaped heart-shaped pancake on her plate, drizzled with syrup and dotted artfully with blueberries, and had to hesitate a moment before cutting it carefully down the middle.

“Dad,” said Dawn suddenly, in a strangely furtive tone of voice, “isn’t there that thing you should start working on while Jenny eats?”

Rupert cast a worried look at Jenny, and then, oddly, at Faith, who was glaring at him. “I—suppose so,” he said uneasily. “Jenny, you don’t mind if I go downstairs for a bit, do you?”

“Go ahead,” said Jenny, spearing a large piece of syrup-soaked pancake. Rupert always made pancakes that were a perfect mixture of fluffy and filling—Rupert made everything perfect, actually, and the ridiculous romanticism of the statement made her almost want to laugh.

“You’re sure?” Rupert sounded almost as though he wanted her to argue.

“Do you want me to not be sure?” Jenny looked up at him, smiling tiredly. “Go ahead.”

Rupert looked at Jenny, and his gaze moved very visibly to her mouth, lingering on the curve of her lips. Jenny felt her smile flicker and wobble under his scrutiny, more from nerves than from a lack of happiness; she wanted him to kiss her, very badly, and she wanted him to tell her that kissing her hadn’t been a mistake. But with an obvious effort, he looked away, then said as though nothing had happened, “Thank you, then,” and got up off the bed, walking with careful deliberation out of the guest room. Dawn cast a tentative look over her shoulder as she followed.

“He’s such a goddamn idiot,” said Faith, her voice sharp.

“Faith,” said Buffy quietly, but she didn’t dispute the statement, which took Jenny by surprise; Buffy was always the first to jump to Rupert’s defense.

“He is.

“I would like,” said Jenny, her eyes on the pancakes, “to eat, quietly, and to not have to think about whatever the hell Rupert is doing downstairs. Okay?”

There was a grudging silence, and then Jenny felt Faith snuggle into her side in the rebelliously-angry-teenage-daughter way Faith had somehow perfected. Buffy looked at them both with a half-sad sympathy, then said, “He’s figuring it out, you know. Just like you.”

Buffy, it seemed, had significantly more optimism than Jenny regarding her relationship with Rupert. Jenny focused back in on the pancakes.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I feel…lost. I feel like I keep coming to a conclusion that satisfies me, and then something upends me and sends me flying. I thought I could just go without telling Rupert how I feel, and then he kisses me. I thought maybe Rupert and I might be able to have at least some kind of a romantic connection, and then he goes and says our kissing was a mistake. I honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, and I hate that this absolute mess means that I can’t talk to the one person I’ve always trusted I would have by my side.

I wish I had been honest with myself about my feelings for him. If I hadn’t known him for so long, telling him I love him might not have been so terrifying. But this is the kind of love that you have for someone you want in your life for the rest of your life, and telling him something like that would genuinely freak him out—especially if kissing me was a mistake.

I want to end this entry on a decisive note, but everything feels so hopelessly up in the air that I don’t know if I can even manage that.


 

The girls had spent nearly a week and a half haranguing Jenny about the dwindling supply of food in the fridge, but it was only when they ran out of produce that she decided something had to be done. Making sure Rupert had his cell readily available, she got dressed, applied some makeup in the hopes of making herself look less like a mess, and shepherded the girls into the car, Rupert hanging apprehensively on the front porch. He had a bit more color in his cheeks as of late, though he still moved slowly and relied on a walking stick that the hospital had recommended, and he was watching them all with a mixture of nervousness and a strange kind of guilt.

Jenny buckled Dawn in (“jeez, Jenny, I’m thirteen, not four,” Dawn complained), then headed over to Rupert, taking the keys from him and giving him a small smile. “Call me if anything goes wrong,” she said. “Before 911, you call me, you got that?”

“You’re worrying overmuch,” said Rupert, and smiled back, still with that unusual guilt. “I’ll be fine. If anything, I’d honestly prefer that you take your time; there are a lot of things on that list, and you haven’t been out of the house in—”

Jenny reached up and placed her hand right over his heart, watching as Rupert’s smile fluttered and his face went slightly pink. His eyes didn’t leave her own. “Call me,” she said again, “if anything goes wrong.”

“All right,” said Rupert softly.

“Okay.” Jenny drummed her fingers lightly, affectionately, against his chest, then let her hand drop. They stayed looking at each other for a few seconds longer, and then she turned, walking back to the car and doing her very best to not look over her shoulder.

“You guys are such a mess,” Buffy said as soon as Jenny had shut the car door. “You seriously need to just talk it out.”

“He doesn’t seem all that interested in talking it out,” said Jenny, which was definitely a lie. Rupert had attempted to start at least five conversations about the kiss, and had been immediately shut down by some truly impressive subject-changing on Jenny’s part. “And I know I definitely don’t feel ready to.” This was the truth, though it was slightly tempered by Jenny’s lie. She started up the car, still doing her best not to look at Rupert (he was still on the front porch, watching them go), and pulled out of the driveway.

“You know,” said Dawn, “when not one, not two, but all of your kids combined are telling you that you guys need to talk things out, maybe you should consider talking things out.”

“I’m handling it,” said Jenny evenly. “And as much as I love you all, I think you missed the memo with regard to what you can and can’t bother your dad’s associate about, all right?”

“Stepmom,” said Buffy. “Our mom.”

There was a surprised silence, and an involuntary smile spread across Jenny’s face before she could really think about it. “I’m not married to your dad,” she said, the smile still lingering even while she was trying to tell it not to; part of it, of course, regarding the concept of being married to Rupert, but part of it very much because Buffy and Dawn seemed to enjoy that concept just as much as her.

“Yet,” said Buffy.

“You have a lot more optimism about that possibility than I do,” said Jenny as lightly as she could.

“Yeah, well, we live with him,” said Dawn. “We have to put up with him talking about you all the freaking time. Oh, Jenny said this at work today! Jenny took down this guy without even blinking! Jenny has the most astounding sense of humor!”

Jenny bit her lip, furious at herself for continuing to grin like a little kid. “I’m his associate,” she said, “and he makes a lot of friends—”

“Funny, that’s what he always says when I tell him you’re crazy about him,” said Faith matter-of-factly.

Jenny very nearly ran a red light. “What?”

“Okay, when you say it like that,” Buffy was saying to Faith, “you make it sound like you directly told him she’s in love with him.”

“Fair enough,” Faith agreed. “Gotta work on my delivery a little. Uh, Mom, I’ve been telling Giles how much you mean to him for years. He gets this sad-puppy face sometimes when you’re out of the room and it’s the most annoying thing in the world.”

“It really is,” Buffy agreed. “Seriously, Jenny, you have no idea how much he cares about you.”

“He got shot for me,” said Jenny. “I’d say I have at least some idea.”

The car went uncomfortably quiet. In the rearview mirror, Jenny saw Dawn’s smile slip and slide off her face, her eyes flickering down to her hands as she began to twist the hem of her tank top. Buffy seemed to be going for the opposite approach; her smile became bright to the point that it looked plastic.

“I’m sorry,” said Jenny awkwardly. “I didn’t—”

“No, you’re—you’re right,” said Buffy finally. “He did. And you do.” She laughed, a strange, wobbly sound. “I’m starting to get why this whole thing is such a mess, huh?” she said.

Jenny smiled exhaustedly. “Yeah,” she said. Then, “I think Rupert was right. Going for groceries sounds like a really nice break.”

The rest of the drive passed in a more comfortable silence, the girls leaning on each other in the backseat as Jenny focused on getting to the grocery store. She hadn’t realized it until now, but being cooped up in that house—and only that house—had felt stifling and miserable, especially after that fiasco of a kiss with Rupert. Maybe he’d been misguided when it came to kissing her, but he hadn’t been wrong about her needing that break. She’d have to tell him that when she got home.

As she parked the car, her phone began to ring. Fumbling to look at it, she saw that it was from Lilah, and her heart jumped into her throat. “Hold up, I gotta take this,” she said to the girls, doing her best to keep her tone breezy, and hastily raised it to her ear. “Hello?”

“You should keep a better eye on your partner.” Lilah sounded honestly exhausted. “Jenny, the stuff he wants to get himself into isn’t something I can save him from.”

“What?” said Jenny stiffly, holding back a line of furious, panicked questions that she knew would frighten the hell out of the girls.

“I’m at your house—”

Without hesitation, Jenny hung up, half-threw her phone into the glove compartment, and pulled out of the parking space, tearing out of the lot at an almost frightening speed.

“Jenny, what—”

“We need milk!”

“Mom, there had better be a good reason—”

“I forgot something at home,” said Jenny in a high, thin voice, and all she could think about was holding Rupert as he bled out for real this time. Or maybe she’d get there and she’d be too late, and he’d die, and she’d never have told him because she hadn’t learned anything from almost losing him that first time—oh, god, if he was alive, she was going to kiss his face off, she really was. Please.

“You ran a red,” said Faith, who seemed to be picking up on the nuances of the situation faster than Buffy and Dawn. “What’s going on?”

“I can pay for the ticket,” said Jenny. They were about eight minutes from home. God, she should have picked the grocery store a few blocks down, but no, she had to listen to Rupert when he had said he wanted her to have a real day away from the mess that was the house, a day away from him, what was she thinking? Of course he was going to do something stupid, of course he wanted her out of the house, take your time, there are a lot of things on that list—

JENNY!”

Jenny swerved, narrowly avoiding the curb. In the backseat, Dawn had started to cry, and Buffy and Faith both looked genuinely frightened. “It’s Dad,” Buffy said, in a high, shrill voice. “That’s why you’ve got crazy eyes and you’re speeding and you won’t tell us—Jenny, tell us it’s not Dad. Tell us it’s not Dad.”

They were seven minutes from home.

“Jenny please just stop just stop and tell us what’s going on please,” Buffy was begging. “Please. Please.”

Jenny was pretty sure she’d lost all ability for coherent thought past Rupert. She kept on thinking about that blood on his dress shirt and on her hands and his soft smile and his sweet eyes and the way he’d kissed her, so gentle, so soft, and how she would do anything for him. Anything.

“Mom,” said Faith quietly.

Jenny stopped the car, then looked back at the girls, and remembered: she had them with her. She could keep them safe. “It’s your dad,” she said.

Something in Buffy’s expression hardened, and she nodded, pulling Dawn into her side. “Then floor it,” she said, and Jenny did.


 

The front door was ajar when Jenny arrived, and she felt a rush of nausea when she saw Lilah’s car in the driveway. Part of her almost didn’t want to enter the house—leaving herself in a perpetual state of not knowing—but she saw the girls behind her, waiting, and knew she had to go in. “Stay here,” she said quietly, and walked unsteadily up the porch steps, then entered through the still-open door.

She could hear voices from the kitchen. Stepping through the foyer and the hallway, Jenny stopped in the doorway of the kitchen, staring at Rupert and Lilah, both of them sitting at the kitchen table.

“Jenny,” Rupert began.

Lilah held up a hand and gave him a reproachful look. “I’m the one who called her,” she said. “I should explain.”

I’m the one who called you,” said Rupert shortly. “I should explain, and you don’t have any right to make things worse than they are—”

“What,” said Jenny unsteadily, and couldn’t really think of a question succinct enough to get her all the answers she wanted.

“Your idiot of a partner here,” said Lilah helpfully, gesturing to Rupert with a thin, annoyed smile, “called me in to ask me if there was any way I would consider trying to reconcile with you, and then said that if there wasn’t, he was going to take down Wolfram and Hart on his lonesome.”

Horrified, Jenny looked first at Lilah, then at Rupert. “Jenny,” he said apprehensively, “I-I just—wanted—”

“He said I’m incredibly important to you,” said Lilah, and her smile became so tight and hurt it looked almost painful. “I told him he’d better drop his solo investigation or I’d shoot him for real next time, and then—” Abruptly, her smile faded, and Rupert’s eyes became very wide. “Jenny,” Lilah said in a very different tone of voice.

Jenny raised a hand to her cheek, and it came back wet, just on the fingertips. “So this is a professional courtesy, then?” she said. “You not shooting my associate is a gesture of goodwill?”

“Jenny,” said Rupert, and tried to stand up, but Lilah pushed him back down so roughly that Jenny visibly saw him wince. And for some reason, this was what made Jenny finally lose her grasp on whatever was left of her emotional control. “Jenny,” said Rupert, still in that horribly pained tone of voice, “Jenny, you’re crying.”

Chapter Text

from the personal diary of Faith Calendar:

Tara’s take on love is that it’s a complicated, messy thing. She says her dad loved her a bunch, but he just didn’t show it, and she always gets this almost frightened look on her face whenever someone brings up brothers—whatever’s up with her family, it’s pretty clear that they didn’t treat her the way she deserved.

My take on love has always been pretty simple: you don’t hurt someone you love. End of story. Thing is, though, the way I see Mom and Giles freaking out around each other all the time? Pretty clear neither of them figured that part out just yet.


 

Jenny looked at them, and then she ran. She was certain she was crying very hard by now, and that someone would follow her, and that her running out of the house in tears would frighten the girls beyond belief, but the first two facts flitted through her mind as innocuously as the list of items she had been intending to purchase at the grocery store. The last one, however, stuck, and upon reaching the foyer she took a sharp right turn into Rupert’s study, which was a catastrophic mistake.

Rupert’s study, during the various times Jenny had read or researched or just settled in for a good nap in his very comfortable desk chair, had always been impeccably, perfectly organized, with files in multicolored folders and those folders in neatly labeled boxes. Entering his study, Jenny was met with a study that looked like it had been hit by a hurricane, complete with a corkboard in the middle of the room and various documents pinned haphazardly around it. In the very center of the corkboard was Lilah’s face from her LinkedIn profile, smiling confidently at the camera.

Jenny looked at this corkboard, and at Lilah’s face, and just sort of sunk down to the floor of the office, hearing her own sobbing with a strange sense of disconnection. The panicked car ride had left her a complete wreck— and, exacerbated by the fact that she hadn’t once let herself cry since Rupert had been shot, all she could really do now was cry. It was like a whole bunch of emotions were being let loose.

She felt Rupert’s hands on her face. “Jenny,” he was saying, sounding terrified. “Jenny, what is it, what’s wrong?”

“You are so fucking stupid,” Jenny sobbed, only it came out garbled and mostly incomprehensible, and then she moved forward and buried her face in his shoulder. Rupert held her tightly, stroking her hair, and she tried to get herself to stop crying, but—it really wasn’t working, this close to him. Crying into his shoulder was really nice, comfortably comforting, and his arms around her were familiar and warm. “Absolute idiocy,” she managed, almost a term of endearment, and raised her head.

Sitting next to her, still with one arm holding her awkwardly close, Rupert reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, dabbing at Jenny’s face. Jenny leaned into his touch. “I’m sorry,” he said helplessly. “I am. I just—couldn’t bear seeing you so distraught, and so constantly.”

“So your solution was to try and blackmail my ex into making up with me?”

“Just—listen, please,” said Rupert, his hand shaking as he pocketed his handkerchief again. Jenny pulled back all the way to look at him, fury beginning to overwhelm the panic he’d just put her through, and he swallowed hard as he looked at her. “Every time you got a call, or, or a text, from Cordelia, from a potential client, from someone you wanted to help, you looked like you had just been slapped in the face. Detective work is something that means the world to you, and—and Lilah took that from you. I couldn’t sit by and watch your integrity continue to be compromised when you were clearly so miserable about it.”

“That doesn’t explain why you’d do something as fucking ridiculous as what you just tried to do,” said Jenny flatly. “Telling Lilah you’d do something that might get you shot again, all for the sake of trying to get her to talk to me?”

Rupert reached up, removing his glasses to polish them with the still-damp handkerchief. His eyes were on the lenses as he said quietly, “I did it because it’s quite clear you’re in love with her.”

The statement took Jenny completely by surprise. “What?”

Rupert looked up very slowly, as if it was causing him actual, physical pain to say what he did next. “You’ve been a complete wreck since she shot me,” he said quietly. “I’ve honestly never seen you like this. It’s as though you’ve been made uncomfortably aware of intense romantic feelings you cannot possibly act upon—”

“For you,” said Jenny.

The glasses all but slipped out of Rupert’s hands.

“For you,” said Jenny again, clumsily, and because she couldn’t think of anything else she could possibly say.

Rupert looked at her as though he thought he’d misheard—almost as though he was terrified he might have misheard.

“I don’t expect you to love me back or anything,” said Jenny. “It just—happened, okay? I’m sorry. I figured it out at the gala and I haven’t been dealing with it well. But I can’t have you getting yourself killed because you think I’m in love with someone who isn’t you, so—so I think I have to tell you that I’m in love with you, even if it means that—”

Rupert kissed her.

This. Was shockingly intense, and a kind of unrestrained passion that Jenny had had no idea Rupert was capable of. Tucking his glasses into his jacket pocket, he pulled Jenny fully into his arms, kissing her like he never, never wanted to stop kissing her. It was as though the only thing that mattered to him was her—and suddenly pieces were falling into place, just as they had at the gala. Rupert moving in front of the bullet without a moment’s hesitation. Rupert saying that he liked the way things were between just them, that it’d take a truly special person for him to date again, that he was in love with the job, that he valued the job, that he couldn’t lose the job—

Jenny pulled back, intending to ask—something, she wasn’t sure what, but Rupert leaned back in and kissed her again, a series of short, soft, lingering kisses that made it difficult for her to think. She kissed him solidly back, then rested her forehead pointedly against his to break the kiss, and that’s when she realized that she could feel him shaking. “Rupert?” she managed, breathless.

“I have been in love with you,” said Rupert, in a small, dizzy voice, “for nearly three years.” Then, “I may need a moment.”

“I’m sorry,” said Jenny, and managed a weak smile. “This whole mess really is my fault.”

“Yes, all right,” said Rupert, and looked up at her with a dazed, unrestrained grin the likes of which Jenny had really never seen on his face before. She laughed, a little exhausted, and rested her head against his shoulder. “I do, um, have a few clarifying questions?”

“Yes, you’re an idiot, no, I don’t love Lilah, yes, I am absolutely in love with you,” said Jenny, who was stunned at how much she was smiling. “You know, I feel like neither of us are really processing this right now, so maybe we should have a follow-up chat a little later?”

“Oh, completely,” agreed Rupert, and wound an arm around Jenny’s waist, gently pulling them both up. Finding herself facing him, Jenny tilted her head up expectantly, and felt a butterfly-dizzy rush when Rupert kissed her again. “We should, um, get some rest.”

“Is Lilah still here?”

“She left before I went after you,” said Rupert, his smile wavering. “She doesn’t seem too pleased—”

“I’m dealing with that later,” said Jenny with an ambiguous wave of her hand, nearly clocking Rupert in the side of the head. She laughed, halfway to an apology, and he took her hand in his and kissed the knuckles. “I love you!” she said instead, breathless.

“I love you too,” said Rupert. “Do you want to go take a nap upstairs?”

Yes,” said Jenny.


 

Jenny woke up because someone was banging very hard on the door. Exhausted, she curled into Rupert, and found herself thoroughly annoyed when he pulled away. “Just—stay there,” he said, running a hand through her hair, and pulled himself up and out of bed. Jenny, irritated, sat up to see what the hell all the ruckus was about, and found herself looking at Buffy and Faith, both of them standing outside the door with nervous, half-hopeful expressions.

“We heard crying,” said Faith, “and then we saw you guys go upstairs?”

“We’re napping,” said Rupert with an amusing amount of dignity. “If you like, you can nap with us, but your mother and I need our sleep. Thank you.” He tried to shut the door, but Buffy wedged her foot in the doorway. “For the love of—”

“Is Jenny okay?” Buffy asked. “She was so not okay when we were driving back to see what happened.”

“Jenny’s fine,” said Jenny. “Jenny needs more sleep, it’s been a long day, come back to bed.” This part was mostly directed at Rupert, who cast a thoroughly amused look over his shoulder before turning back to the girls. Really, Jenny thought, she’d honestly never seen him this happy. “Hold on,” she said aloud. “Three years of just—keeping your feelings on the down-low?”

“Very nearly,” said Rupert, and his smile widened.

“I barely made it three weeks,” said Jenny incredulously.

“Yes, well, you’re a bit better at solving mysteries than keeping your own life mysterious,” said Rupert, turning from the door to look at Jenny—well, exactly how he always looked at Jenny, minus the shyness. “Honest to a fault, at least about the most important things. It’s rather why I love you.”

Jenny bit her lip and smiled.

“Hold on,” said Buffy loudly, a slow, amazed grin spreading across her face. “Are you two—”

“Undefined,” said Rupert.

“Nebulous,” said Jenny.

“Really, truly none of your business,” Rupert added on.

Buffy and Faith exchanged truly giddy looks. “Oh, obviously,” said Buffy, eyes darting delightedly between Rupert and Jenny. “We wouldn’t want to intrude—”

“We really are just napping,” said Rupert matter-of-factly.

“For now,” said Jenny. Rupert shot her a That Really Doesn’t Help look, and she made a face at him in return.

“Holy shit, Mom, this is nauseating,” said Faith, who was grinning too much to be really convincing. “Are you guys gonna be flirting all over the place now?”

“No,” said Rupert.

“Yes,” said Jenny.

“You’re being very unhelpful,” said Rupert, and crossed the room to sit down next to Jenny on the bed. She turned her head to smile at him, and he caught her face in his hands and gave her a quick, light kiss.

There was a very loud shriek from the doorway, and Jenny and Rupert pulled apart to see that Dawn, who had just showed up, looked positively over the moon. “I knew it!” she shouted. “I knew it! I mean, Dad wasn’t subtle at all but Jenny! You guys—you’re finally—”

“Can you girls perhaps celebrate our love downstairs?” said Rupert, who looked tired but still quite happy. “Jenny and I have both been through quite a lot recently.”

“I wanna nap here too, as it happens,” said Buffy, and pushed past Dawn and Faith to settle herself in next to Jenny. “You two look super cozy and this is basically the best day ever—so,” and she snuggled into Jenny’s side, humming contentedly when Jenny raised an arm to pull Buffy a little closer in.

“Napping does sound good,” Faith agreed, tugging Dawn along with her to lie down next to Buffy. Dawn tugged herself free of Faith’s hand, clambering over pretty much everyone until she was lying next to Rupert.

“This bed is too small,” said Buffy.

Shh,” said Rupert, and closed his eyes.

Were she a little more awake and a little less wrung-out, Jenny would be dizzily, hungrily taking in the absolute and total happiness she was feeling in that moment. But a lot had happened in a very short amount of time, and all she really wanted to do was rest and recalibrate, so she moved closer to Rupert and settled into his arms. Being this close to him, without nerves or reservation—it was new and familiar all at once.

I just want things to go back to the way they were, she’d said, and they had. Rupert and Jenny had always had a family together, and they had always been in love.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

It is 12:51 in the morning, and Rupert and I are once again working on a case.


 

“The part I don’t get,” said Jenny through a mouthful of Cheetos, swallowing when Rupert looked a bit confused by her muffled words, “the part I don’t get is why Cordelia hasn’t vanished off the face of the earth along with Wesley and Angel. Like, Lilah’s really goddamn good at covering her tracks—she was already planning to shoot me in an alley. It isn’t Wolfram and Hart’s MO to leave loose ends unless they’re planning on following up later.”

“Cordelia did something rather clever,” said Rupert, smiling slightly and placing a piece of paper down on the kitchen table. Jenny picked it up, taking a good look at it, and saw that it was a printout of an Instagram post—the picture showing Cordelia, all decked out and smiling beatifically at the camera. She was wearing the dark green dress she’d worn the night of the gala. “She returned to Instagram with a post about how she’d taken some unexpected offline time to begin preparing a—um—vlog?”

“Video blog,” said Jenny. “Or video log, depending.”

“Thank you for a very needed translation, dear,” said Rupert, squeezing Jenny’s shoulder as, leaning on his walking stick, he crossed the kitchen to reach above the sink and awkwardly take the kettle from a cabinet. “At any rate, Cordelia made her presence known online again with promises of a daily vlog, which meant that her disappearance might legitimately spark a buzz of online gossip. As our daughters noted, her online following is quite sizable.”

“God, that girl really is smart,” said Jenny, impressed.

“It was a failsafe in the event of a Wolfram and Hart emergency,” Rupert explained, his smile flickering, “but she knows it’s something of a double-edged sword. As long as she’s posting, Wolfram and Hart can keep consistent tabs on what she’s doing and the people she’s visiting.”

“Okay,” said Jenny. “I see the problem. How are we supposed to get to Cordelia and start making plans?”

“This is the part I don’t think you’ll like,” said Rupert.

“What?”

“You haven’t asked me yet why Buffy was acting so oddly a few days ago,” said Rupert somewhat uncomfortably, turning on the sink to fill the kettle. “I feel as though that should be a question you should begin considering.”

Jenny blinked, and then took another look at Rupert. “No,” she said. “Rupert, you didn’t.

“Jenny—”

“You had our daughter go and meet Cordelia?”

“In my defense—”

“There is literally nothing you can say that will make putting our daughter in actual mortal danger sound like a good choice!”

“All right, now that’s a blanket statement,” said Rupert, irritation added to the guilt in his tone. He placed the now-full kettle down on the stovetop, turning the burner on. “Might I get a sentence out, or do you have more that you would like to add?”

“Only that I don’t think it’s something Buffy should be involved in under any circumstances,” said Jenny archly.

“Have you possibly entertained the notion that I completely agree?” Rupert pointed out.

“Would Buffy have gone to meet Cordelia if you completely agreed?”

Yes, she would have,” said Rupert shortly, “because Buffy went without my permission.”

Jenny felt her anger dissipate and she winced a little. “Oh,” she said. “I’m sorry. I just—” She waved a hand, then said, “I-I worry about you and the kids.”

Rupert’s face softened as the kettle went off. Turning off the burner, he reached for his walking stick, awkwardly crossing the kitchen to lean down and give Jenny a very soft kiss. They were both smiling a little nervously when he pulled away. “I’m well aware,” he said, “though it surprises me that you’re still willing to work this rather dangerous case with me.”

“Yeah, well,” said Jenny. “Hate to admit it, but you make a few damn good points about my not wanting to live my life with Lilah looking over my shoulder.” She reached up, tracing his jawline with a fingertip. “Not to mention that you’d probably just do this case anyway no matter how hard I try to talk you out of it.”

“Oh, absolutely,” Rupert agreed, and kissed her forehead before pulling back all the way, moving across the kitchen to begin setting up the tea.

“So tell me about what happened with Buffy.”

“Well,” said Rupert, “as you know, our daughters all have a knack for figuring us out both aptly and quickly.”

“Yeah, I’m still mad at them for not telling me outright that you’ve been in love with me since the Jurassic era,” said Jenny, mouth twitching.

“Proterozoic, actually,” said Rupert with dignity, which made Jenny bite her lip and smile at the kitchen table. “And the point that I am trying to make is that the girls quite easily figured out what I was doing. Faith wasn’t at all fond of the idea of keeping things from you, but did accept that it was my decision to make in the long run—”

“So that’s why she was mad at you,” said Jenny. “You know you can’t get the girls to keep things from me again, right?”

“Extenuating circumstances—”

“Swear to god, Rupert, I will break up with you right now if you say you’ll ever get the girls to keep things from me that might put this family in danger,” said Jenny mildly, wishing she had a mug of tea to raise to her lips in a dramatic yet powerful gesture.

Rupert smiled wryly and nodded. “Goes both ways,” he said.

“Obviously,” Jenny agreed.

“At any rate,” said Rupert, “Buffy was quite determined to help out in any way she could. She pieced together quite quickly that Cordelia would be a useful asset, left the house under the guise of getting milk, and met Cordelia at a coffee shop to ‘catch up on old times.’ She’s having lunch with Willow and Cordelia at Cordelia’s apartment in a few days, and she says they’ll be using that time to discuss possible strategies for locating Angel and his team.”

“Wait,” said Jenny. “Buffy knows about Angel?”

Rupert’s hand shook as he poured out the tea. “It was a rather emotional conversation,” he said, “but yes. She knows Angel’s back in town, and she says she’s dealing with it as best she can.”

Jenny smiled. “I’m glad she’s got some healthy coping mechanisms up her sleeve,” she said. Then, “She’s going to be in so much trouble for not telling me about seeing Cordelia.”

“I told her as much,” said Rupert. “She said getting lectured by you would be worth it if she knew she’d be able to help take down the people who got me shot.”

Jenny felt her smile flutter a bit. “Oh,” she said. “You know what? Maybe—we should talk to the girls, see if they can help.”

“Jenny,” said Rupert, reproving and a bit horrified.

“Hey,” said Jenny. “You had the good fortune of not having to be the one there while the girls watched a parent bleed out. I know for a fact that taking Wolfram and Hart down would make me feel a hell of a lot better about all the shit they put us through. I’m pretty sure Buffy’s got the same outlook, and I think she deserves to be a part of whatever justice we serve. Faith and Dawn too, as a matter of fact.”

“This is our job,” said Rupert. “Not theirs.”

“You know they’re just gonna go ahead and do it with or without us,” Jenny countered. “Just like you did when I told you I didn’t want you working this case. Why not make sure they’re helping in a way that isn’t going to end up with them getting killed?”

Rupert placed a mug of tea down in front of her, studying her with a grudging adoration. “You are intolerably, frustratingly right,” he said.

“Aww. I love you too.” Jenny took the mug, taking a long sip, then said, “Needs more sugar.”

“I am injured,” said Rupert, “and suffering, get your own bloody sugar,” and sat down next to her at the kitchen table with his own mug.

“Okay,” Jenny whispered, and kissed him.


 

Jenny and Rupert ended up falling asleep on the couch watching early-morning sitcoms, and woke up when the sun started shining through the curtains. Groaning, Jenny buried her face in Rupert’s pajama shirt, mumbling vaguely and wondering if she could manage a few more minutes of sleep at least.

“I’ll make breakfast,” said Rupert wearily.

“Ugh,” said Jenny, “no, you’re—you still need rest, I can make breakfast—”

“As it happens,” said Buffy, “us kids can very happily solve this problem for the both of you.”

Jenny looked up, surprised and still a little sleepy, and saw that the girls were all standing with a sizable breakfast tray, complete with slightly sloppy pancakes, two champagne glasses of orange juice, and a fruit salad. “We tried to make the pancakes heart-shaped,” said Buffy a little apologetically, “you know, to celebrate you guys being in love and stuff? But turns out Dad’s the only one who can really pull it off.”

“Do I have to start calling Giles my dad now?” Faith asked, smirking.

“I’m calling Jenny my evil stepmother,” said Dawn with satisfaction. “I always wanted an evil stepmother when I was little.”

Gently disentangling herself from Rupert, Jenny pulled herself up to cross the living room and carefully hug each of the girls, making sure not to jostle the tray in the process. She lingered on Buffy, because she knew for a fact that 1) making a lavish congratulations-breakfast wasn’t Dawn’s style, and 2) Faith tended to express her appreciation by just flat-out telling people she was happy for them. “Thanks,” she said softly. After a moment of deliberation, she added, “You know, your dad told me about your meeting with Cordelia.”

Buffy visibly steeled herself. “Yeah?”

“I definitely don’t like the idea of my kid being involved in this line of work,” said Jenny carefully, “but I also think that forbidding you from it is just going to make you more determined to do it. If you want to meet Cordelia, we’re okay with it, but we have to go over the finer points of collecting information.”

“Oh,” said Buffy, looking surprised.

“What?”

“I was honestly kinda expecting you to chew me out,” said Buffy a little sheepishly. “Dad was furious.

“Rightfully so,” said Rupert blearily, and pulled the knitted throw around himself, snuggling further into the couch.

“Well, what you did definitely wasn’t wise,” Jenny agreed, “but you’re legally an adult now, and I feel as though trying to protect you by keeping you uninformed about case work is only going to lead to you being placed in progressively more dangerous situations if this is a path you decide you want to pursue.”

“What about us?” Dawn piped up.

“Yeah, I’m pretty close to being a legal adult,” Faith added hopefully.

Jenny considered this, then glanced over at Rupert, who was now sitting up and looking at the girls with a slightly more alert expression. “Penny for your thoughts, sweetheart?” she asked.

Rupert smiled a little at the endearment. “Only that I very much agree with you inasmuch as keeping the girls up to date,” he said, “but also that Dawn isn’t yet in high school and I definitely don’t want her involved in this at the same capacity as Buffy.”

Dawn scowled.

“Hold that frown, Dawn, that doesn’t mean we’re not taking you seriously,” said Jenny patiently. “Buffy’s also been taking weekly self-defense classes for the last two years. She can hold her own better than your dad can, in my humble opinion—”

“Thanks ever so much, Jenny—”

“Shut up, I’m making a point.” Jenny skirted the coffee table to sit down next to Rupert, kissing him on the cheek and letting him lie back down with his head in her lap. The girls looked positively thrilled with this development. “Dawn, would you be okay with helping your dad compile and organize hard copies of our information? Not to mention we need someone who actually knows how to use a computer—”

“I know how to use your laptop,” said Rupert, his voice softening and slowing as Jenny idly ran a hand through his hair, “you’re so—hmm—dramatic—”

“What about me?” Faith persisted. “I’m not down for sitting still.”

Jenny considered this, then said, “You and I are going to start coming up with a game plan as to how we’re going to use the info we get from Cordelia. It’s behind-the-scenes work—”

“—but if your mother’s in charge of it, we know it’s the most important work there is,” Rupert mumbled, and smiled slightly when Jenny brushed her fingers against his cheek.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I honestly don’t know if either Rupert or myself have ever been this happy. Crazy, and definitely irresponsible of us, especially since we’ve got an evil law firm gunning for us and our kids, but I just keep on waking up in the morning and rolling over and he’s there and—it feels like something’s just finally snapped into place. I love him so much.

It still is a little stressful to think about case work while also in the new-relationship bubble, but it’s also easier to be in the new-relationship bubble when I’m not worrying about being distracted from my working relationship with Rupert. Life hack: if you’re worried about abandoning your job in favor of your love life, date your coworker!

No one should actually follow this advice. I’m just in love and I think I’m funnier than I am.


 

The house had become Calendar-Giles HQ, though most of it was contained to the study in case a lawyer dropped by and their research needed to be hidden as quickly as possible. Faith had been delegated to researching legal proceedings that could be taken to potentially locate Angel and the crew (with only mild complaining after she’d been told that lives hung in the balance; Jenny did know how to make things sound appealing to her daughter), Dawn was very happily organizing and digitizing Rupert’s information, and Buffy was at the door, patiently letting Jenny adjust her scarf for the twelfth time.

“I’m going to be there, you know,” Willow was saying earnestly to Jenny and Rupert. “I’ll take care of her. And it really isn’t all that suspicious for us to be visiting Cordelia—she and I weren’t on the best of terms, but Buffy was on the cheer squad for a year or so before, uh—”

“Before my mom died,” said Buffy, smiling uncomfortably in that way she did whenever Mrs. Summers was brought up. Jenny straightened Buffy’s scarf again, letting her hands rest comfortingly on Buffy’s shoulders, and Buffy’s smile softened ever so slightly. “Jenny,” she said, “don’t worry too much.”

“It’s just that people are getting shot,” said Jenny, trying her best to smile. “And I definitely don’t want to get a call telling me—”

“We’ve worked through this, remember?” said Rupert gently. “As soon as Buffy’s left, you’re to call Lilah telling her that Buffy is headed to Cordelia’s for a social call. It’ll sound to Lilah as though you’re distressed about Buffy’s visit looking like an attempt to gather intelligence, and she definitely wouldn’t peg us for people who would put our children in danger—”

“Because we aren’t,” said Jenny, holding onto Buffy’s scarf. The first time she’d seen Buffy had been during the Angelus case, looking small and forlorn as she followed Rupert guiltily into the office. Jenny had never quite forgotten the sadness in Buffy’s eyes during that first meeting, and she had never really been able to shake her desire to protect that tiny, brave girl. Buffy was older now, and happier, but—some part of Jenny always saw her as smaller than she was. She supposed that was the unfortunate drawback to being a parent.

“Jenny,” said Buffy again, and reached up, squeezing Jenny’s hands. “You said it yourself, right? I’m an adult, and this is something I wanna help you both do.” She smiled, a little crooked. “Guess detective work runs in the family,” she said, and kissed Jenny on the cheek before gently extricating herself.

Jenny looked at Buffy for another, longer second, then took out her phone and dialed Lilah’s number.

Lilah picked up before the first ring had even finished. “This had better be good,” she said.

“Lilah, I—” Jenny felt a terrifying rush of nerves. Unexpectedly, she realized that she couldn’t speak, and that made the anxiety worse. How was she supposed to pull something like this off without immediately tipping off Lilah, who had spent their entire relationship manipulating her for the gain of Wolfram and Hart?

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder, and saw that Buffy was standing next to her, looking at her with a quiet, certain smile. “It’s okay, Jenny,” she said. “We know you got this.”

Jenny looked over at Rupert, and saw that he was smiling too—tremulous and worried, but that seemed more about her than about what she was trying to do. “Lilah,” she said, her voice wavering, “I, I called you to tell you that Buffy’s visiting Cordelia. They reconnected at the gala and they’ve become friends, and—I wanted to tell you so you don’t—hurt her. She’s not—she’s just a kid. She doesn’t know about Cordelia and Angel.”

“We haven’t been keeping extensive tabs on you anymore,” said Lilah lightly. “Unless you’re working from home, which I assume you’re not, we haven’t seen any incredibly suspicious activity. You’re pretty low priority for the senior partners, Jenny, and as such, Buffy’s not really much of our concern at all. Who she makes friends with isn’t important to notify me about.”

Lilah didn’t sound pleased at the fear in Jenny’s voice—if anything, she seemed hurt by it. “Lilah,” Jenny began.

“Jenny,” said Lilah, “please don’t contact me just to ask if some kid can talk to some other kid,” and hung up.

Jenny pocketed the phone, placing her hand over Buffy’s on her shoulder, and said, “You’re good to go.”

“Okay,” said Buffy. There was a nervous quiver to her smile, but her eyes glinted with an almost frightening determination as she let her hand drop. “Okay. Willow, let’s go figure out where my dumb ex-boyfriend is by having dinner with my nemesis.”

Willow giggled a little apprehensively and stepped forward, slipping her hand into Buffy’s with a shy intimacy. They stopped at the door, studied each other, and then Willow reached up to grasp Buffy’s collar and pull her into a soft, tender kiss.

Jenny took this opportunity to step closer to Rupert, who was now leaning very heavily on his walking stick, and gently straighten his glasses. “You okay?” she asked.

“Managing,” said Rupert, who didn’t really sound okay at all. “Buffy—do please be careful.”

“You know it, Dad,” said Buffy, who was smiling at Willow as she opened the door. “We’ll text you when we’re there and when we’re heading home, okay?” Her smile went a little soft and wobbly as she looked back at the both of them, and then she stepped out of the house, walking arm in arm with Willow as they headed down the drive.

Jenny shut the door, then looked up at Rupert and saw that his face was ashen. “Rupert?” she said, testing the waters.

“I keep thinking,” said Rupert, eyes unfocused, “about what it felt like to watch Lilah raise that gun. Everything happened rather fast, for you, and I know I certainly wouldn’t have traded places and held you as you—” He swallowed, hard, then continued, “as you bled out, but I keep thinking—how it felt to see someone I love quite terribly put in a position where I thought I might lose them. And I-I don’t want to have that happen again.”

“Rupert,” said Jenny, and stepped forward, taking his hands in hers. He was shaking.

“I know it’s the right call to make, but I can’t stop thinking about the fact that we are willfully endangering my daughter—”

“It’s low-risk,” said Jenny plaintively. “It is. I just talked to Lilah and she made it pretty damn clear that Wolfram and Hart doesn’t want anything to do with us.”

“Ah, yes, and Lilah is so bloody trustworthy—”

“Please,” said Jenny. Her voice broke. “Please don’t make me start thinking about how fucking stupid this decision is. I know the risks, Rupert, I have nightmares about waking up with your blood on my hands and just knowing—the only reason I’m letting Buffy do this is because if we don’t let Buffy do this, she’ll go charging in and get herself killed.

There was a horrible, terrible silence, and then they were kissing. It felt as though there was a one-second gap in Jenny’s memory; she couldn’t, for the life of her, figure out who had grabbed who, but all of a sudden they were holding each other incredibly close as Rupert stumbled backwards and into the living room, the walking stick falling with a clatter.

Mom!” Faith yelped. “Jesus!”

Jenny and Rupert pulled back, still not letting go of each other, just looking at each other.

“Your lipstick is all over my face, isn’t it,” said Rupert, more of a statement than a question.

“I love you,” said Jenny in a small voice.

“Oh, god,” said Faith, “I was eating in here,” and picked up her bag of chips to hurry into the kitchen.

“You shouldn’t eat in the living room, we’ll get ants,” Rupert called after her, then looked back over at Jenny in his arms. She reached up, twining her arms around his neck. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Both of us are in a bloody terrifying position, and it won’t help if we keep setting each other off.”

“We have reason to, though,” said Jenny.

“Completely,” Rupert agreed.

“YEAH, THEY’RE SUCKING FACE IN THE LIVING ROOM AND TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS,” Faith was saying very loudly from the kitchen. “IT’S THE WORST. SOMEONE SHOULD TELL THEM TO GO UPSTAIRS.”

“Hold on,” said Jenny, stepping back from Rupert and taking a few steps to hand him his walking stick. In the direction of the kitchen, she called, “Girls, come here for a second?”

Dawn came in first, followed by Faith, who was dramatically covering her eyes and staggering into things. “Interesting theatrics from someone who once suggested I get my shit together and make out with Jenny already,” said Rupert, and grinned when Faith raised her hand from her face to glare.

Jenny dug in her wallet, fishing out a twenty, and said, “Can you two go get some ice cream from the grocery store? I was thinking we could have something special for dessert tonight.”

“Okay,” said Dawn, drawing the word out as she grinned at the both of them.

“We’ll leave you crazy kids to it,” Faith added helpfully, taking the twenty from Jenny. “How much ice cream are we getting, exactly?”

“As much as you want,” said Jenny.

“As much as they want?” said Rupert, sounding scandalized.

Very pointedly, Jenny slipped her hand into his, rubbing her thumb against his index finger. “You two stay out a bit,” she said lightly. “Get some fresh air.”

Dawn and Faith exchanged a positively gleeful look, and then Dawn said, “Just for the record, you have my total endorsement as a couple if it means a bunch of ice cream,” and all but skipped out of the room, an amused Faith following.

“As much as they want,” said Rupert again, positively affronted. “Jenny, that is not good parenting.”

Jenny felt a rush of nervous butterflies, looking up at him. “You’re right,” she said. “It isn’t. I kinda, um,” here she took his other hand in hers, tugging him gently to face her, “I wanted us to have a little privacy.”

Rupert blinked, then blushed. Bless the man for always been so, so good at reading between the lines. “Oh,” he said softly.

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure?”

Jenny smiled a little. “Yeah,” she said. “Yes. Very sure.”


 

In the bedroom, Rupert touched her with an always-present reverence, as though he couldn’t quite believe he was lucky enough to be this close to her. It might have floored Jenny had she been paying enough attention to really absorb the way he was looking at her; she was too busy reeling at how wonderful it felt to hold him. God, she was in love, really, really in love, in a way that couldn’t be constrained or placed in a neat compartment marked relationships or separated from the rest of her life—that was what she was learning, now, that when you really loved someone, it always impacted the way you looked at the world. She hadn’t considered that, with Lilah; she’d taken pride in keeping her work life and her personal life separate. Loving Rupert made it impossible not to realize that her love for him colored so many of the decisions she had made since knowing him.

In their bed, Rupert whispered that he loved her against her neck, kissing her there as though trying to press the words into her very being, and Jenny tugged at his hair until he was kissing her properly again.

Chapter Text

“You’re good?” Jenny asked him, after, lightly touching the very edge of the bandages and gauze.

Rupert gave her a wry smile and held her hand there. “You didn’t exactly toss me around, Jenny,” he said.

“But you’re good?

“I’m fine.” Rupert lifted Jenny’s hand to his face and kissed first the palm, then the knuckles. “Please don’t worry.”

“I feel like being worried about you is part of the job description, at this point,” said Jenny, and moved up the pillows to settle herself in his arms. She’d been half-expecting sex with Rupert to be more oh my god I slept with my partner and less…strangely, comfortably familiar, after. For the first time since Lilah, she felt delightfully glad to have been wrong about something. “Did we ever have that follow-up conversation about our feelings?”

“Sort of?”

Jenny raised an eyebrow.

“We kissed a lot and then we fell asleep on the bed,” said Rupert, “and then we threw ourselves into the case again.”

“How is that sort of?”

“I don’t precisely know,” said Rupert sheepishly. “I’m following your lead on this one, Jenny—it’s not as though I’ve been dating around, these last few years.”

Jenny smiled a little sadly. “All this time?” she said. “That must have been terrible.”

“A bit,” said Rupert. “And then—sometimes it wasn’t. I suppose I really just wanted to see you happy, even if it wasn’t necessarily with me.”

“Oh, god, that’s such a lie,” said Jenny with an incredulous laugh. “If I had really fallen for someone else, it’d have destroyed you.”

“And you know this how?”

Jenny felt her smile become something warmer and a little more tired. “Because I know how cut-up I’ve been feeling about you these last few months,” she said. “Adding some new lover of yours to the mix? I’d have been miserable.”

Rupert smiled too, breathlessly shy. “You really do love me,” he said, almost wonderingly. “I keep on—expecting you to—I don’t know, think better of it.”

“Never,” said Jenny simply, wishing she could come up with something more sweetly verbose. She moved closer, though, pressing a contented kiss into the crook of his neck. “Tell me,” she said softly. “When did you know?”

“Honestly?” Rupert was tracing quiet circles on her upper arm. “When you offered me the job as your associate.”

Jenny looked up at him, stunned.

“It was—a selfless thing to do,” said Rupert, then, “You look—what’s wrong?”

“Oh no,” said Jenny, half-laughing at her realization. “Oh, god, Rupert, I gave you that job because I was crazy about you.”


 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar (three years ago)

I offered Rupert a job as my associate. Not assistant—associate. I know it’s an unusual move to make, especially since he’s a museum curator with little experience in detective work, but—I get a good feeling from him, and I get a good feeling when I’m around him. Creating a power imbalance between us feels weird; I want him to know I respect him, even if the rest of the world doesn’t right now.


 

Rupert looked at Jenny, then at the laptop screen, then at Jenny again, and then they both started laughing, Jenny falling sideways to lean on Rupert’s shoulder. “Good god, Jenny,” Rupert choked.

“I’m so fucking obtuse,” Jenny managed, pressing her hands to her mouth in an attempt to muffle her laughter. Rupert tugged her hands away, and she grinned at him, then kissed him, squeezing his hands before pulling away. “Wait, wait, there’s more. Read the rest of it.”

More,” said Rupert, looking a little floored.

“I mean, a case could be made for most of these files being pretty swoony,” Jenny quipped. “I could make a whole damn database about the dumb in-love things I’ve written about you in here.”

“By all means, please do,” said Rupert, and gave her this shy, somewhat uncertain smile, as though he still wasn’t completely sold on the concept of Jenny being in love with him.

“Hold on,” said Jenny, and brought up the case file she’d written in Cordelia’s hotel room—the one that had a good seventeen pages of keysmashing from where she’d fallen asleep on her keyboard after writing it.

“Interesting choice,” said Rupert, amused.

Jenny shoved him lightly and scrolled up to the top, angling the laptop so that he couldn’t see it. “I’m, um, going to read it to you,” she said, suddenly shy, “because—I think, after three years, you should hear some nice things from me.”

“You don’t have to—”

“I want to,” said Jenny softly. “I love you.”

Rupert reached up, touching her cheek with that nervous reverence. “All right, darling,” he said. “Go on, then.”


 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

I haven’t gotten enough sleep to coherently write an account of what’s happened between my last entry and now, but some part of me feels like I’m a little more honest with myself while I’m half-asleep. Maybe something will come of me writing, right now, because god knows I don’t seem able to talk to Rupert about whatever’s been going on between us.

I just can’t believe I told him that Faith was my only family. I can’t believe I would be enough of a vindictive idiot to try and hurt him like that without even thinking about it. He cares about me and Faith so much more than he’s ever had to. He’s fiercely loving, fiercely loyal, and I feel so at home with him.


Jenny stopped, here, looking up to see Rupert’s face. His smile was shaking and he was very clearly holding back tears. “Oh,” he said. “I didn’t—um, know. That you,” and raised a hand awkwardly to his face, still smiling a little dizzily. She reached up, tugging his hand away so she could see his eyes, and continued to read.


 

I want to make this up to him in any way I can. Bringing down Glory, taking down Wolfram and Hart—he has to know that I would do anything to make him happy.


 

“Okay?” said Jenny, softly, and shut the laptop, almost hesitant to look at Rupert. She hadn’t ever been that honest with anyone about her feelings, not even herself, and it was terrifying and freeing at the same time. “I just—needed you to know, I think,” she said, eyes on the bedsheets. “How much you mean to me. I don’t know if I’m that good at—expressing myself as poetically, and I know you thought you were feeling this way all by yourself—”

“Jenny,” said Rupert, breathless and almost disbelieving, “you’ve not asked for any poetry from me. Not once.”

Jenny looked up. “Do you want me to ask?”

“No, I just—it floors me.” Rupert moved forward, taking her into his arms, and Jenny rubbed her nose against his. “You love me so visibly, now that I’m looking for it, and you don’t ask me for anything in return. I cannot possibly understand what I did to deserve—such a courageously loving partner.”

“In every sense of the word, huh?”

“You’re deflecting,” said Rupert, and grinned at her almost unconsciously. “You don’t want me to tell you how much I love you?”

“I take you at your word,” said Jenny, stumbling.

Rupert looked amused by this. “Since when have you simply accepted a statement I make as fact?”

“I don’t know, I—” Jenny wavered. “Lilah said so many wonderful, flowery things to me,” she said, “but she never followed through on any of the stuff I needed a partner to be there for. I don’t think flattery means as much to me as someone who’s—there. For me. I don’t need poetry, Rupert, I know you love me because you’ve showed me so many times over.”

Rupert smiled a little at that and she kissed him, a cozy kiss wrapped in blankets that made her feel so blissfully at home. “Then I’ll say, love, that I’m yours,” he said very softly, “and I shall leave it at that. All right?”

Jenny nodded, tucking her head into his shoulder. “You make me feel so—”

“Good?”

“Mmm. That.”

“The statement is most definitely mutual.”


 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Without too much regret, I think I’m closing the chapter of my life in which I use my personal files to record my personal feelings. There’s no need for me to hide anything from myself anymore, and no need for me to justify in writing why I make the decisions I make. I’m happy with where I am, in every sense of the word.


 

Jenny got dressed. She found one of Buffy’s hair ties in Rupert’s dresser drawer, pulled on a sweater she’d been eyeing ever since Rupert had worn it a year or so ago to a client’s thank-you barbecue, found a pair of jeans in the bag of clothing Willow had brought over, and headed downstairs to find Rupert making dinner and fielding a lot of uncomfortable questions from Dawn and Faith.

“So you guys are getting married, right?” Dawn asked with the intense seriousness of a very romantic thirteen-year-old. “Cause you’ve been in love forever—

“They’re just consenting adults banging it out,” said Faith, grinning when Rupert flushed. “No shame in that.”

“Please stop putting my associate through the wringer and let him make dinner,” said Jenny, who was highly amused at the way Dawn hastily attempted to look innocent.

Faith made no such effort. “Your associate?” she said, drawing out the word.

“It’s a term of endearment,” said Rupert, smiling at the frying pan. “Jenny, would you help me with the soup?”

Jenny blinked, then smiled. “You’re letting me help you cook?”

“Well, I’m not attempting to express my love for you through cuisine anymore,” said Rupert, looking at her askance and then outright. God, he had the sweetest smile. “I think some help in the kitchen is all but required at this point.”

“Maybe I don’t wanna cook now that you’re okay with it,” said Jenny, but crossed the kitchen to join Rupert at the stove. “Oh, wow, this broth is all wrong. Were you trying to make my vegetable soup?”

“No,” said Rupert, affronted, “I’m making tomato. Don’t just come in and throw soup suggestions around when you’re five minutes late to the—that’s my sweater.”

“So?”

“I told you last year not to wear my sweater.”

“We’re in love now, doesn’t that change—”

“We were in love when I said I didn’t want you wearing that sweater, Jenny, you have this horrible habit of pulling at sweaters till they unravel—”

Jenny tugged at Rupert’s shirt, and when he turned to face her, wooden spoon in hand, she stood on tiptoe and kissed him. Pulling away, she grinned at the look on his face and said, “I’m wearing the sweater.”

“Yes, of course, dear,” said Rupert immediately.

“That’s only gonna work for a few more days, you know,” Faith commented.

“Which is why I’m making use of it,” Jenny agreed, and took the spoon from Rupert to stir. “Looks like it needs a pinch more seasoning—”

From the other side of the house, Jenny heard the front door unlock and then open, and then Buffy’s laughing, nervous voice: “Yeah, I bet they’re freaked, hold on—hey, Dad, Jenny, we’re home and no one got shot!”

Jenny dropped the spoon in the pot with a clatter, and she and Rupert both raced for the front door. Buffy was carefully hanging up her scarf, still looking a little shaky, and Willow was holding a small, thin file folder, watching Buffy with nervous affection.

“Oh,” said Rupert, and Jenny could see the tension drain from him. “Oh, you’re home. That’s good.”

“Very British of you,” said Buffy, smiling exhaustedly, and crossed to Rupert, snuggling into his arms. Rupert rested his chin on the top of her head, closing his eyes. “Thanks, Dad,” Buffy mumbled.

“What on earth for?”

“I don’t know,” said Buffy. “For making sure I have a place to come home to after something like this.”

“Well,” said Rupert, and grinned shyly, stepping back to clap Buffy gently on the shoulder. “Dinner’s almost ready,” he said. “Willow, if you’d like—”

“Yeah, I kinda would,” said Willow, looking between Jenny and Rupert with a small smile. “So you two are in love?”

Jenny opened her mouth, but Buffy said, “Oh, god, Will, I love you so much, but you can’t ask them that, they take any opportunity to just not shut up about each other. It’s terrible.”

“They always did that, though,” said Willow, and giggled at the looks on Jenny’s and Rupert’s faces.

Buffy skirted around Rupert, then hugged Jenny, who definitely felt about seventy to eighty percent less stressed upon knowing that her kid was safe. “What’s for dinner?”

“Hmm?” Jenny pulled back a little to look at Buffy. “Oh—um, tomato soup and a salad, probably.”

“Who’s cooking?”

Jenny exchanged a small smile with Rupert. “Both of us.”

Buffy grinned, slow at first and then startlingly bright. “That’s great,” she said. “That’s awesome. You guys are gonna tag-team on dinner from now on?”

“We are partners,” said Rupert, and his smile widened. “It’s only fair.”

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

The evidence Cordelia managed to salvage from the hotel room is spotty at best, and she’s of the mind that the evidence Angel Investigations has against Wolfram and Hart has been either hidden with the rest of Angel Investigations or destroyed entirely. Her take is that either we’re going to have to collect some newer and more damning evidence in order to even begin a case against Wolfram and Hart, or we’re going to have to find the evidence her team collected.

My take is simple: we need to figure out how to do both. And I know exactly where to start.


 

“Absolutely not,” said Rupert.

“Walk me through your plan, then,” said Jenny, “because I don’t think we’ve got a bunch of options.”

“Jenny, these people—”

“Are incredibly overconfident, all things considered.”

“They have reason to be,” said Rupert, and tugged open the first three buttons of his shirt, gesturing to the wound still covered by a thin layer of gauze. “Breaking into Wolfram and Hart—we don’t know what their security is like, or who protects the information they’re hiding away—”

“Um, the way I see it,” said Tara, who was sitting on the couch with a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels, “i-is that Wolfram and Hart relies a lot on the fact that they’re already pretty invisible. They don’t have an online footprint or anything, like Ms. Calendar said, and I think that they use that as a reason to be lax with security.”

“Yeah, Tara has a point,” said Faith immediately. Upon Buffy’s smirk, she blushed and hastened to elaborate. “We work across the street from Wolfram and Hart, right? If they were really gung-ho about security, we’d be seeing armored guards and shit like that. Wolfram and Hart wants to stay in the shadows, and security attracts attention.”

“There still has to be clearance to get into that building—” Rupert persisted.

“She’ll take a meeting with me,” said Jenny, beginning to rebutton his shirt.

“What are you going to talk to her about?”

“I’ll figure it out when I get there, okay? I just know she’ll take a meeting with me.”

“That meeting won’t last very long if she knows it’s under false pretenses,” said Rupert quietly, “and Lilah isn’t exactly unintelligent.”

Jenny’s hands wavered on the last button and she looked up at Rupert, who was studying her with a worried intensity. “Look, it’s our best bet,” she said. “You know it is. It’s not exactly the safest of options, but we can—enlist Anya, maybe try and involve Cordelia—”

“And we already had that talk about me being an adult who’s ready to help, right?” Buffy piped up.

Jenny looked to Rupert; she felt as though this time, he deserved to make the call on Buffy’s involvement. To her surprise, Rupert frowned, then said, “Jenny, if we’re going through with this, the children need to be in a safe location where Wolfram and Hart won’t be able to use them as leverage. I think the best decision, tactically speaking, would be to take them all with you to the meeting.”

“What?” said Faith.

“What?” said Buffy.

“I wanna kick Lilah Morgan in the shins,” said Dawn with sudden enthusiasm, and immediately ignored Buffy and Faith’s comments about that “not being meeting etiquette.”

“If you’re acting as a distraction,” said Rupert, his eyes glinting in that annoyingly attractive way they did when he was piecing together a plan, “I should be the one to go in and get the information.”

“Oh my god, Rupert, absolutely not—

“This is a risky plan, Jenny, you should be prepared for the risks I’m going to take—”

“Putting you in danger is not on the table!” said Jenny very loudly. “You just got shot!

“Which is why they aren’t going to be asking themselves where I am at the meeting,” Rupert pointed out. “Besides which, I’ve gotten quite a lot better at walking around without a walking stick, and we’re going to need to spend at least two weeks planning out this break-in. If there’s anyone best suited to covertly gather information, it’s the person who Wolfram and Hart cares the least about, and that person has always been me.”

“Rupert—”

“Jenny,” said Rupert, smiling slightly, “the only reason she knew my name was because it was next to yours.”

“This could go dramatically south,” said Jenny fiercely. “I don’t want that to happen. This family has been through enough in the last month—”

Rupert took Jenny’s hands in his, looking down at them contemplatively, and then looked back up at her. “You must understand my desire to protect this family,” he said, “but I think you also must understand my desire to take down the bastards who shot me and devastated my partner and my daughters. I have just as much stake in this battle as you, Jenny, and I think I would very much like to be the one to get this information from Wolfram and Hart.”

Jenny felt a lump in her throat as she looked at him. Tugging her hand free of his, she reached up to touch his face, kissing his forehead. “Okay,” she finally said.

Rupert blinked. “That worked?”

“Yeah,” said Jenny, and gave him a wobbly smile. “I get it. I know how much you love us, and I think you deserve to take Lilah down.”

“Whoa,” said Buffy. “Usually you guys just yell at each other for fifteen minutes and no one wins.”

“Conflict resolution, motherfuckers,” said Faith happily. “Can we start watching a movie now?”


 

“So just to be clear,” said Buffy, following Jenny into the kitchen, “we’re all breaking into Wolfram and Hart.”

“Yep.”

“Like this is our equivalent of family bowling night, only it’s for the good of Los Angeles and someone could get shot.”

“Mm hm.”

“And you’re not freaking out about this?”

“Do I make a habit of freaking out?” Jenny asked lightly.

Buffy bit her lip, leaning against the counter. “Maybe I’m the one freaking out, a little,” she said finally. “I guess it didn’t really hit me how high the stakes are.”

Jenny placed the dirty dishes down in the sink and turned to Buffy, smoothing down her hair. Buffy smiled a little. “You should know,” said Jenny, “that I would die many, many times before I let anything happen to you kids.”

“That isn’t what I wanna hear,” said Buffy, still smiling, but there was a wobble to it now. “I wanna hear that you’re going to be okay at the end of all this, and you’re going to marry my dad, and we’re going to unpack your stuff and clutter up this house with a bunch of family junk. Also I’d be okay with a baby Calendar-Giles at some point, for the record.”

Jenny thought her smile might be shaky as well. “Honestly?” she said. “I haven’t thought very far past us getting Angel Investigations out of hot water. I just know that I can’t get started on the fun stuff when there are people like Professor Burkle who are still in some very serious danger.”

Buffy leaned into Jenny’s hand, then said, “I wish we were a more selfish family, sometimes.”

“Me too.”

Rupert entered the kitchen. “Dawn and Tara would like to know if they can choose a movie,” he began, then, “Is everything all right?”

Jenny turned, letting her hand drop, and took two steps into Rupert’s arms, resting her cheek on his shoulder. “We’re all breaking into Wolfram and Hart,” she said. “It’s a little daunting.”

“Well—”

“Don’t say it.”

“—it was your idea.”

“I know,” said Jenny. “And I know that it’s probably one of the least safe ideas I’ve had. I just—I can’t live with the idea of having that law firm looming over us for the rest of our kids’ lives.”

She raised her head to look at Rupert, and saw that he was smiling a little tiredly. “You know I agree with that sentiment,” he said. “You also know that if we’re really going through with this, we’re going to have to do an intense amount of in-depth planning.”

“Planning is my middle name,” Jenny quipped.

“It really isn’t, though.”

“Shut up.”


 

Jenny stayed up a little later than she’d meant to, that night, going through one of the half-open boxes full of stuff from her and Faith’s apartment. It had been easier to imagine unpacking when she’d been certain that she and Rupert were never going to be together in the romantic sense, but now that they were, she felt nervous about taking up space in his house. What if he saw that as too much, too fast? What if he was expecting her to move out again once he was officially doing better? What—

“What,” said Rupert sleepily, “are you doing?”

Jenny’s hands slipped and she dropped the book she’d been holding back into the box, turning around and trying to smile. “Just, uh, going through some stuff,” she said. “You’re not asleep yet?”

“I was waiting for you.” Rupert padded across the living room to Jenny, and she stood on tiptoe to kiss him. “Hello.”

“Hi.” Jenny glanced at the boxes, then said hesitantly, “I was—um, thinking about unpacking.”

“Not tonight, surely?” Rupert sounded exhausted by the very concept. “It’s a bit late for that, and there are quite a lot of things in this box alone that’ll need to be properly put away.”

Jenny smiled. “You’re okay with that?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Rupert was now all the way awake, frowning at her with genuine confusion that transitioned very quickly into nervous apprehension. “Um, that is—if we’re, we’re moving too fast, you certainly don’t have to—move in with me or anything, I just thought—I mean, I love you, a-and I’m quite seriously committed to—”

“Oh, c’mere,” Jenny whispered, and kissed him again, sliding her hands up his chest to grasp at his shoulders. Rupert was smiling shyly when she pulled back. “You’re right,” she said. “I should wait to unpack till—”

“—it’s light out, perhaps,” Rupert finished, winding his arms securely around her waist. “And perhaps, um, after this business with Wolfram and Hart is all over—” He looked down, then back up at her, “—we might discuss—what the future holds, for both of us.”

The word marriage had come up a whole bunch of times in the last few weeks, and it was a concept that hadn’t entirely left Jenny’s brain. Things between Rupert felt so discombobulating in their solidity—being hit with a committed, long-term relationship all at once was a little startling for the both of them, to say the least—and she was only now starting to entertain the possibility that he might be having the same hopes for their future as her. “Like getting married, maybe?” said Jenny lightly.

“I, um, wouldn’t be averse to that,” said Rupert, and went a bit pink.

“Yeah, me neither,” said Jenny, and almost wanted to kiss him again to disguise how smitten she was sure she looked. “Listen, we really should get upstairs and get some sleep. Tomorrow’s a planning day.”

“All right,” said Rupert, who seemed to still be pretty stuck on the getting married part of the conversation. “Planning. Yes.” His eyes darted to the boxes.

“…you wanna get started on unpacking, don’t you?”

“Maybe a bit, um,” Rupert’s blush deepened, “if only because I like the idea of you being a—permanent fixture in this house.”

“Like a lamp?”

“Good lord, Jenny, you make me sound so horribly unromantic.” Rupert stepped back, opening the box all the way, and took out one of the books, placing it off to the side. He frowned abruptly, then rummaged further in the box, pulling something else out.

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure,” said Rupert. “I don’t recognize it.”

“Is that—that can’t be right,” said Jenny, stepping forward to take the cheap rainbow notebook from Rupert. “That isn’t any of the girls’, and it’s definitely not mine.” Opening it, she flipped through to find a mishmash of equations, doodles, and—notes, written in a softly looping handwriting that reminded Jenny of—

“Tara,” said Rupert.

“What?”

“Look,” said Rupert, and took the notebook, opening it to a small heart drawn on one of the pages, with TM + FC written in the center. “Tara Maclay and Faith Calendar, and—and there’s a label on the back of the notebook itself that says it belongs to Tara.This is—”

“Aww,” said Jenny, grinning at the heart. “This is really cute!”

“No, Jenny,” said Rupert, who was full-out beaming, and flipped two pages in. “Look!”

Slipped in between the pages was a note in a different handwriting.


 

Hey, Calendar-Giles.

I realize that this has been a truly traumatic state of events, so Tara and I talked it over and we decided she should give you her notebook for evidence in your case thing. Well, she decided. I tried to talk her out of it. This is incredibly kind of her, so you’d better not take advantage of it and/or show that page with the little hearts to your daughter Faith.

Part of our compromise was that I would pack it in with all the rest of your junk, because I figure you’ll only start unpacking once Jenny inevitably realizes she has fuzzy-bunny feelings for Rupert (the nice feelings, not the horrible floppy animal feelings) and you’ll both be less of a mess and therefore able to properly handle evidence. I hope that this is the case.

Don’t screw this up or I will personally make you pay.

Anya


 

“This is—”

“Evidence,” said Rupert. “Not only regarding Wolfram and Hart, but their search for Tara. She’s written entries detailing our initial case and the work you did with Lilah.”

Jenny paged furiously through the notebook. Sure enough, in between the doodles and equations, there were entries about Faith, about Lilah, about Jenny—even the glossy photo of Tara with the neutralize Post-It still attached. “Oh my god,” she whispered. “Holy shit. We have an edge.”

“Not only that,” said Rupert, “but we have a bargaining chip.”

“What do you mean?”

“You show this to Lilah and I have a very good feeling that she’ll be in some trouble with the higher-ups,” said Rupert, who was smiling just as hugely as Jenny. “This’ll be more than enough distraction to buy us time for a break-in.”

“Oh, wow, this is really great,” said Jenny, and laughed a little dizzily, leaning against Rupert. “Okay. Maybe unpacking can wait.”

“Jenny, please don’t tell me—”

“Late-night planning session!” Jenny sang out, grabbing Rupert’s hand and towing him into the study.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Officially speaking, Cordelia Chase is coming over because Buffy invited her for dinner at our place and Rupert and I don’t want to involve Buffy in the case by telling her about who Cordelia really is—at least, that’s what I told Lilah when I called to schedule a meeting regarding the evidence I found. Unofficially speaking, Cordelia’s bringing over some more of the evidence and we’re going to keep on planning things out.

By some miracle, one of the few things Wolfram and Hart missed while stealing all the evidence from Cordelia and Wesley’s hotel room was the building plans for their building across the street from Rupert’s and my office. Apparently, Cordelia and Wesley obtained copies of those plans semi-illegally, and Wolfram and Hart didn’t want to draw attention by returning them or pressing charges—couldn’t exactly bring charges up against people they’ve been trying to sweep under the rug, right?


 

“Are these…notes?” Jenny asked, pointing to the arrows and scrawled words all but covering the plans laid across the kitchen table.

“Yep,” said Cordelia over her shoulder. “Transcribed by me, so I can read it if you don’t understand it.”

“No, it’s, it’s mostly legible,” said Rupert, squinting at a section of the building labeled SECRET FILE ROOM #4. “My question is mostly how you managed to get all these notes.”

“Well, Wesley and Lilah had—uh—” Cordelia looked a little nervously over at Jenny, then said, “They kinda had a very brief thing.”

“Isn’t he just out of college?” said Dawn, scrunching up her face like she’d eaten a lemon.

“He looks like ten years younger than he is,” said Cordelia matter-of-factly. “And it turned out to benefit us, anyway, ‘cause he got a pretty good sense of—you okay, Jenny?”

“Yes,” said Jenny, who was only barely resisting the urge to set something on fire. “Yeah. It’s really just that Lilah didn’t tell me the truth about anything.

Cordelia frowned. “Not necessarily,” she said. “I get the sense she wasn’t lying about having feelings for you.”

Jenny felt Rupert’s hand resting on the small of her back, fingers tracing a comforting circle there, and it calmed her a little. “Doesn’t matter, though,” she said. “Because—I don’t have feelings for someone like her.”

“You have some, still,” said Cordelia bluntly, “and that’s okay. Feelings are some tricky bullshit.”

From next to Cordelia, Buffy let out an incredulous laugh. “God, it’s crazy to see you being all wise and insightful!” she said. “Crazy, but—nice. It’s growth.”

“Buffy, I was always wise and insightful,” said Cordelia, giving Buffy a thin, unamused smile. “It’s just that sometimes people didn’t like hearing the truth as bare-bones as I said it.”

Buffy looked first abashed by this, and then somewhat ashamed. “Probably, yeah,” she said finally. “I guess it’s just weird to actually enjoy your company.”

“If it helps, I feel the exact same way,” said Cordelia, and her smile softened a little as she turned her attention back to the plans. “Okay,” she said. “These are the rooms you wanna hit up—all of them on the first floor. Lilah’s office is on the second, and security is lax enough that all you need to do is flash a badge, so I think your best bet is to snag someone’s credentials on the way in and act like you belong there. Wolfram and Hart’s fatal flaw is how overconfident they are about being able to hide in plain sight, and we’re gonna utilize that.”

“What if someone asks a question that Dad can’t answer?” Buffy asked uneasily.

“No one will,” said Cordelia, who was already adding extra notes to the plans. “Wolfram and Hart is all about secrecy—sometimes employees just show up out of nowhere. Best thing someone working there can do is to not ask too many questions.”

“And we’re expecting Rupert to just steal someone’s badge?” Jenny asked with some doubt, brushing her hand affectionately against Rupert’s shoulder. “He’s not exactly the kind of guy who—”

“Have a little faith in me, my love,” said Rupert, and gave her an unusually confident grin. “You forget I went through a startlingly rebellious phase in college.”

Jenny tilted her head back, giving him an open-mouthed smile, and was about to say something in response when Buffy said loudly, “We get it, you’re in love. Can we focus on the actual break-in we’re planning right now?”

“I was just going to—”

“Enough,” said Buffy, but she was smiling slightly as she turned back to Cordelia. “So all of us are just gonna be along for the ride?”

“Yeah, I actually wanted to talk to you about that,” said Cordelia, turning to Rupert and Jenny. “Your point about Wolfram and Hart using the kids as leverage is valid, but it’s misguided. Lilah’s the kind of lady who keeps her eyes on the prize—and the prize, in this case, is you.”

“Meaning?”`

“Meaning that Lilah won’t be interested in the kids of a guy she saw as less important and less involved in the investigation,” Cordelia pointed out. “Sure, we know they’re important to you, but she sees them as important to you only because they’re important to Mr. Giles. It’s the same reason why she apologized for shooting him—you’re what she cares about. The people around you are just obstacles and bargaining tools.”

Jenny felt a quiet nausea at the truth of the words, and at the memories of how soft and ultimately deceptive Lilah’s smile had always been. “If that’s the case,” she said, “shouldn’t we still be working on protecting those obstacles from Lilah? Regardless of how important they are, she might still go after them.”

“No, I think I see what Cordelia’s getting at,” said Rupert suddenly. “Someone like that is going to assume that everyone else thinks like them, and as such, she’ll go for what she thinks you care about the most. Before any of our girls, she’ll go directly for Faith.”

At the counter, Faith, who had been pouring herself some lemonade, dropped the pitcher, shattering it. She didn’t seem quite aware that it had broken. “Would that—I would have to be with you and Lilah alone in that place,” she said finally, and somewhat shakily. “They said—but what if they know me?”

“Faith,” said Jenny, and hurried across the kitchen to take Faith’s still-shaking hands. “My baby. You know I’d kill that entire fucking company before I let them touch you again. You know that.”

Faith gave Jenny a small, exhausted smile, stepping into her arms and burying her face in Jenny’s shoulder. Jenny carefully tugged her away from the glass. “I just,” said Faith, somewhat muffled, “I just—I wish I wasn’t so scared of them, Mom.”

“I’ll take care of you,” said Jenny, and kissed the top of Faith’s head. “That’s a mom’s job.”


 

“I wanna come along,” Dawn whined. “I don’t wanna stay with Tara!”

“You planning on telling Tara that, Dawnie?” said Jenny affectionately, tucking an arm around Dawn’s shoulder. “Her feelings might be hurt.”

My feelings wouldn’t be hurt if I heard that a super cool, super smart almost-high-schooler wanted to help break into an evil law firm,” Dawn persisted, giving Jenny and Rupert an impressive rendition of Rupert’s own puppy-dog eyes, “and I can’t just sit around wondering what’s going on! What if you guys all die and I have to live with Tara forever?”

“I’m not gonna be dead,” said Faith helpfully, “and I’m turning eighteen soon. I can just adopt you.”

“As incredibly useful as this worst-case scenario planning is,” said Rupert, in the quiet, deliberate tone that meant he meant business, “we do all need to have a very real conversation regarding the fact that you all need to take your roles in this very seriously. Each one of you has an important responsibility—” Jenny raised her hand. “Yes, you too,” said Rupert long-sufferingly.

“Don’t speak to me in that tone, Mr. Giles, I might just move out,” Jenny quipped. Off Rupert’s look, she smiled reluctantly and added, for the benefit of the girls, “Your dad does have a point.”

“So if I don’t stay with Tara, the whole thing falls apart?” said Dawn, still scowling.

“Yes,” said Rupert, “because you’re the youngest and we worry about you and we won’t be able to do our jobs if we don’t know you’re in a safe location.”

Dawn still didn’t look entirely pleased with the concept of sitting still, but she did look somewhat placated by this answer. “I want a souvenir,” she finally said, draping an arm over Jenny’s stomach and snuggling closer.

“What about Buffy?” Faith asked pointedly. “What’s she doing?”

“That’s on a need-to-know basis,” said Buffy, who sounded pretty happy about that fact.

“And?”

“And you don’t need to know.

“I am barely a year younger than you, you fucking jerk, don’t act all high-and-mighty just ‘cause you’re in college now—”

“Buffy!” said Rupert reprovingly. “There are much nicer ways to phrase the fact that you can’t tell Faith what you’re going to be doing. Faith, flying off the handle isn’t exactly going to help this situation. Please calm down at least slightly.”

“Didn’t say I have to calm down all the way, though, didja?” said Faith, who was getting a determinedly stubborn tilt to her chin.

“No, because lord knows that would be wholly unreasonable to expect of you,” said Rupert, who sounded a bit exhausted by the whole situation. “To go over the tentative plan again: Jenny and Faith are to go in and meet with Lilah under the guise of leveraging Tara’s journal to get us out from under the thumb of Wolfram and Hart. If we can cut a deal with Lilah, that’s lovely, but it’s really not what we’re aiming for—the goal is to make the meeting stretch as long as it can so that I can get in, get information, and get out.”

“This seems like a pretty risky plan,” Dawn began casually, pulling away from Jenny to turn and look innocently at . “A risky plan that could use some extra help—”

“Yes and no,” said Jenny.

“Yes and no?”

“Yes, it is risky, and no, you’re not going to be going to Wolfram and Hart with us.” Ignoring Dawn’s indignant huff, Jenny turned back to Rupert. “And you’ve gone over the plans with Cordelia?”

“The building is startlingly sparse when it comes to security,” Rupert answered, still with that confident glint in his eye. “They rely entirely on intimidationoutside the office—they certainly don’t expect anyone who knows enough about Wolfram and Hart to be foolish enough to attempt to break in.”

“That doesn’t clock,” said Faith. “How come Angel and his crew didn’t try anything? Angel’s definitely dumb enough.” Buffy giggled, and Rupert very clearly bit back a laugh as well.

“Because Angel and his crew were on Wolfram and Hart’s list from day one,” Jenny answered, “and Cordelia isn’t a good enough actress to sneak in there for a fake meeting. Wesley managed some recon while he was—” She had to stop before continuing. “—seeing Lilah, but he wasn’t working with Angel back then, so he didn’t actually do anything.”

“Wishy-washy little prick,” Rupert muttered. Jenny elbowed him.

“What are we gonna be getting on them?” Faith asked with enthusiasm. “Any special dirt?”

“Well, an important focus is going to be trying to collect any information regarding Angel Investigations,” Jenny answered, “but it’ll also help if we can grab any evidence of corruption while we’re at it.”

“They won’t exactly be leaving evidence of corruption lying around, Jenny,” said Rupert doubtfully.

“Rupert,” said Jenny, “they showed up at my apartment with a big red file marked neutralize. Their whole brand is based on being evil.I think it’s safe to say that these guys aren’t the kings of subtlety if you know where to look.”

“Fair point,” Rupert agreed tentatively. “I’m sure there’s at least something we can find that might help our case against them.”


Upon entering their bedroom (and wasn’t that nice to say), Jenny took two steps towards the bed and then turned, falling on her back so that she was staring up at the ceiling.

“Is everything all right?” she heard Rupert ask from the doorway, and then she felt the mattress shift as he sat down next to her.

Rolling onto her side to look at him, Jenny smiled a little as he stroked her hair. “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s just—really, really terrifying to me that we’re involving our children in this at all. Generally, they sit cases out.”

“Yes, well, generally we’re not going up against people who might actually succeed if they went after our children,” Rupert pointed out.

“Weren’t you all apprehensive about this dumbass idea of mine?”

“You calmed me down,” Rupert answered, sliding a bit awkwardly down to lie facing her. Wincing, he first adjusted his glasses, then placed a hand at Jenny’s waist, tugging her a bit closer to rub his nose against hers. “It really will be all right,” he said softly.

Jenny closed her eyes. “Promise?”

“I promise,” said Rupert, barely a whisper.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

What we’re doing is phenomenally stupid, but we don’t have any other options. I’ve worked the problem from every angle, and the witnesses Lilah led me to still aren’t enough to create a solid case—not to mention that the evidence Angel Investigations gave us was missing from my apartment when I asked Tara to look for it. Wolfram and Hart knows how to cover their tracks, and hunting them down isn’t something Rupert and I can do when they know our faces and our kids.

It’d be different if we didn’t have Buffy, Dawn, and Faith to think about; we could go underground without having to worry about how that’ll affect the girls’ schoolwork and their futures. But the only way I feel confident in protecting them is through the direct approach—even if that means involving them in case work. Sometimes phenomenal stupidity can pay off if your opponents aren’t expecting it.


 

“Hold still,” said Jenny, gently looping Rupert’s tie around his neck. “Gotta lawyer you up.”

“This suit is uncomfortably pressed,” Rupert muttered, “I don’t like it, and do all lawyers wear suits this atrociously bland shade of gray?”

“Not everyone dresses like a bisexual professor edging into his fifties,” Jenny quipped, neatly tying Rupert’s tie. Off his look, she laughed. “What? I never said I didn’t find that kind of look incredibly sexy.”

Rupert’s eyes got all soft and moony, and he reached up to cup Jenny’s face in his hands. “I love you so incredibly much,” he said.

Jenny considered kissing him, came to the correct conclusion that kissing him would detract from getting ready for a serious covert operation, and reluctantly pulled back, brushing a kiss against his palm as he did so (hey, she never said she was the queenof appropriate restraint). “Yeah, me too,” she agreed, picking up his suit jacket from where it was lying on the bed.

“I miss waistcoats,” Rupert muttered, letting Jenny help him into the suit jacket. “You can add—just a pop of color to an ultimately bland ensemble, why don’t lawyers wear waistcoats—

“Okay, Mr. Darcy,” said Jenny, and really did kiss him. To her surprise, it was Rupert who pulled immediately back. “What,” she began, indignant.

“My darling Ms. Calendar,” said Rupert, “private eye, dearest love, you are going to distract us thoroughly from this mission if you kiss me right now.”

“Add two more endearments and I’m going to do a lot more than kiss you,” said Jenny significantly.

“The flirting isn’t helping, Jenny,” said Rupert, but he dropped a kiss to her temple before pulling away. Turning to the mirror, he frowned at himself, adjusting the gray suit as though trying to make it look a bit less polished. “I don’t like it,” he said. “I look—”

“Dapper?”

“A bit too much so,” said Rupert. “I prefer my suits to have a bit more substance than just polished, monochromatic fabrics.”

Jenny stepped up next to him, looking at them both in the mirror: Rupert in his gray suit, her in slacks and a salmon blouse. They weren’t exactly wearing their usual attire, but they looked like they always had—comfortable, and next to each other. “This really is just another case,” she said softly. “The stakes are high, but we’ve always made an incredible team.”

“And our children?”

“Faith is with me,” said Jenny, “and Buffy’s—Buffy’s growing up. I think she can handle what I need her to do.”

“Oh, believe me, I would not have agreed to anything that put even one of my daughters in danger,” said Rupert quietly, holding out his arm. Jenny took it. “You’re ready?”

“We’re taking separate cars, remember?” Jenny teased lightly.

“I know,” said Rupert, and gave her a sweet, adoring smile. “I just like walking you downstairs.”


Buffy was waiting outside the house with a polished leather briefcase for Rupert and Tara's rainbow notebook for Jenny, now dotted with Post-Its in various colors. "I marked off the sections that might need to come up in a meeting," she said, smiling a little nervously at the both of them. "So that no one has to go through all the Tara-and-Faith doodles if they're looking for evidence."

"Tara-and-what?" shouted Faith from Jenny's car. Buffy smirked.

"Thank you, Buffy," said Rupert, and took Buffy's hands in his, then said something more quietly that Jenny didn't catch and didn't try to. Buffy looked comforted by it, whatever it was; her smile softened and she stood on tiptoe to give Rupert a hug goodbye.

Jenny wavered by Rupert, considered saying goodbye herself, and settled for giving him a kiss on the cheek as he hugged Buffy. Over Buffy's head, Rupert smiled at her, looking perfectly happy for someone who was going off on a particularly dangerous mission. It comforted Jenny, and she suspected that that was what he had intended. "Go on, then," he said.

"Okay," said Jenny. "Okay," and turned away, a nervous buzz in her chest as she headed to her car. What they were doing—it wasn't the first time they'd done something like this, but it was the first time she and Rupert had been a couple and not a partnership while doing something like this. It made her feel like she had so much more to lose than an unspoken, uncertain connection.

It was perhaps that last thought that made her turn back. Rupert was letting go of Buffy, adjusting his suit, but he looked up right as she called, "I love you, England, so—play it safe," and then tacked on another "I love you," just for good measure.

Rupert gave her a sideways grin. "I love you too," he said, and got into his car.

Jenny swallowed, turned, and hopped into her Bug. Faith, who had been sitting pensively in the passenger's seat, looked comforted by her presence, and Jenny made sure to reach out and squeeze her daughter's hand before starting the car. "Welcome to the business, kid," she said.

"I think I'm going to be something less dangerous," Faith mumbled. "Like a bungee jumper."

Jenny smiled ruefully and pulled out of the driveway.

Faith stared out the passenger-side window for most of the drive, not saying anything. She had dressed up for the meeting, wearing one of Buffy's light pink button-down cardigans over a floral dress that Jenny was pretty sure belonged to Dawn, and it was a little off-putting for Jenny to see her daughter wearing something on the more pastel side of the spectrum.

"It's my disguise," Faith said, still staring out the window. "I don't want those slimeball lawyers looking at me twice, and Buffy says pastels make me look younger than I am."

"Trying to look less intimidating?" The thought of her small, tough-as-nails daughter being anything but lovable was somewhat alien to Jenny, but she was aware in a more general sense that some people might be a little scared of Faith. Some people were a little scared of Jenny, after all—it made sense that it would run in the family.

"Yeah, a bit." Faith did crack a smile at that. A moment passed, and then she said, "I, I know I'm safest with you, Mom, but it's still kinda terrifying to imagine going in there. The kind of things these people are capable of—I mean, I was a kid, but I still remember how much money they shelled out just to keep me quiet."

Jenny had to keep her eyes on the road, or she would have reached out and over to her daughter. "I'm sorry that I put you in this position," she said quietly, and meant it. This whole mess wouldn't have happened if Jenny had turned Lilah away from the beginning—but then again, it was always possible that Wolfram and Hart might have come up in the future. A firm with the power to throw up roadblocks in front of Jenny before she even knew they existed—it seemed unlikely that she would never have come up against them, even if she hadn't taken Lilah's case.

Well. Living in the land of ifs, buts, and maybes had never done anyone any good. Jenny pulled up in front of Wolfram and Hart, throwing a half-longing glance towards her and Rupert's office across the street. She missed the quiet, happy intimacy of working on cases with him. If anything could be gained from this break-in, she wanted it to be the ability to get back to doing what Calendar-Giles Investigations did best.

"Mom?"

"Yeah," said Jenny. "Yeah. Let's get going.”


 

Lilah was waiting for them in the lobby, her mouth drawn in a thin line, wearing a skirt and blouse and looking terrifyingly, purposefully disconnected. The way she was looking at Jenny was a far cry from her exhausted sadness in Rupert's hospital room; this was all business. "Ms. Calendar," she said crisply.

"Let's not play games, Lilah," said Jenny shortly. Rupert was due in five minutes, and it wouldn't do to have Lilah in the lobby when he came in himself. "Can we talk in your office?"

"Wolfram and Hart isn't in the habit of letting just anyone up—”

"Lilah," said Jenny quietly. "It's me.”

"Jenny," said Lilah, smiling thinly, "I haven't exactly forgotten the threats you made last time we talked. You're not someone I would trust enough to bring up to my office."

"You're forgetting who has the leverage in this situation, aren't you?" said Jenny, and held up Tara's rainbow notebook. "I wasn't joking about this notebook containing evidence, and I'm joking even less when I say I won't hesitate to use it against you unless we talk terms and conditions. Bring me up to your office."

Lilah stared at Jenny for a long, furious few seconds, and then finally seemed to notice Faith. "What's she doing here?" she asked coolly.

"She is under my protection," said Jenny sharply, "because I'm not having you send a team to Rupert's place and nab my daughter for extra leverage."

Lilah's expression faltered, becoming something almost hurt, and Jenny felt a smug satisfaction at landing a solid blow. "You're—living with Rupert," she said.

"You shot him," Jenny pointed out, too angry at Lilah to keep herself smiling. "It's not exactly like he can live by himself right now."

Lilah looked at them both, then looked down, as though it had suddenly become much more difficult to hold Jenny's gaze. Finally, she said, "I'll take you up to my office."

"That's what I thought," said Jenny, and extended her arm to Faith. Faith, grinning, took it.

“And I’ll take that evidence,” Lilah added, holding a hand out.

“Absolutely not,” said Jenny. “You think I’m gonna hand over the only thing that’s keeping you from shooting me right now?”

“Jenny.” Lilah’s mouth trembled. “I wouldn’t—”

“Yeah, but you almost did,” said Faith, in a measured, saccharine tone of voice. “You almost shot my mom. I mean, instead you shot my dad, so kudos to you for that—definitely putting my sisters through a bunch of goddamn therapy, the way things are going—”

“If this is such a family affair, why isn’t Rupert here?” Lilah inquired, eyebrow raised.

“Because you shot him, Lilah, get with the program!” Jenny snapped. A few lawyers turned, surprised, and Jenny tried to compose herself, but she could still feel the angry sting of tears in her eyes. “You abused my trust, you lied to me, and you shot my partner,” she said, the words running together and her voice catching. “You have no fucking idea how much that hurt me, and that’s somehow the worst part of all the stuff that went down between us.”

Lilah turned directly on her heel and headed for the elevators, her steps only slightly unsteady, her heels loud on the tiled floor. Jenny kept Faith’s arm in hers as she followed Lilah, notebook clutched in her other hand, an unexpected anger boiling in her. She hadn’t anticipated to be this upset at Lilah; she supposed that, in the confusing, conflicting rush of realizing her feelings for Rupert, she’d been able to cover up how much it had hurt to be played by someone she trusted.

Well. Jenny supposed she could use that hurt to her advantage if it meant drawing out the meeting a little longer. Stepping into the elevator, Faith at her side, she took a cooling, calming breath and leaned back against the wall.

“Third floor,” Lilah mumbled, half to herself, and punched it in.

Chapter Text

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Somehow, I always imagined that the final showdown with Wolfram and Hart would be with Lilah at my side—and with Lilah on my side. It hurts to know that’s not the case.


 

Lilah’s office was decorated much like her apartment—minimalistic, expensive furniture without a trace of personality. Her desk was free of clutter and photos alike, though Jenny suspected that the Lilah she was learning more about grouped the two together without much consideration. “Please,” she said, gesturing to the chairs in front of her desk. “Sit.”

Jenny sat. Faith remained standing for a moment, eyes narrowed, before she reluctantly sat as well; she was Jenny’s daughter, and at that age, Jenny never had been all that great at following orders from people she didn’t like.

“Let’s hash this out,” said Lilah. “That notebook isn’t worth all that much to the Senior Partners under normal circumstances; they can sweep a little thing like Tara under the rug pretty easily. In your hands, though, it’s pretty clear it poses a pretty serious threat—you and I both know that you’re an incredible private eye.”

“Lay off the compliments, Lilah, I’m not dumb enough to want to sleep with you anymore,” said Jenny coolly, examining her nails. Faith snickered.

“I’m not—” Lilah flushed. “I mean it.”

Jenny looked up, slowly. “You hurt me,” she said, “you hurt someone I love, you broke my trust, and you think I’ll ever take your word seriously again? That’s honestly laughable. I thought you were at least a little smarter than that.”

“How many times,” said Lilah, “how many times do I have to tell you I wasn’t lying about you and me? Or does it just not matter to you now that you’re with the person you really love? Maybe I was lying to you about my motives, Jenny, but at least I wasn’t lying to you about my feelings.”

“You’re not serious,” Jenny scoffed. “You expect me to feel as strongly about you in a handful of weeks as I do about Rupert over the course of three years? I was never once lying to you when I said I cared about you, Lilah, and the concept that I might have been is a weak-sauce argument to bring up against me. Morally, ethically, legally, you are in the wrong here.”

“I’ve made my peace with that,” said Lilah stiffly.

“I don’t think you have,” said Jenny.

Faith coughed. Then she said, “Hey, uh, still here. Can we maybe talk about the evidence for two seconds?”

“Sure,” said Lilah. “What do you want in exchange for it?”

Jenny stared. “You’re kidding,” she said. “You’ll just…bargain for Tara’s notebook?”

“It’s a threat to the company and a threat to my lifestyle,” said Lilah indifferently.

“And yet you aren’t gonna neutralize me?” If Rupert were here, Jenny was sure he’d be telling her to be a bit more rational, but there was too much hurt and anger welling up in her to play it safe. “You could kill me, you could kill Faith right now, and I’m sure the company would cover it up, so why the hell don’t you?” She thought she saw a flicker of movement where Faith was sitting, but disregarded it.

“Don’t test me, Calendar,” said Lilah, her voice steely. “You have no idea—

“No, I don’t,” said Jenny. “I don’t. Because the only version of yourself you ever let me know was the version of yourself I think I could have loved, if you weren’t the kind of person to prioritize yourself and your desires over everything else.”

“Jenny—”

“I need someone who can love other people, not just me,” said Jenny, her voice catching, “and I never let myself admit that you weren’t that person. You’re the kind of person who kills people in alleyways, and it’s honestly surprising that you’re willing to bargain with me when you could just kill me.

“I can’t,” said Lilah. Her voice broke. “I can’t kill you, Jenny.”

“Sure,” said Jenny, scoffing. “But you can kill Rupert, and you can, I’m sure, kill my kids, because you did make that threat to me in the hospital without batting an eyelash. If I was younger and—I’ll say this bluntly—more of an idiot than I am at the moment, I’m sure I would have gone for a whirlwind romance right about now, but—there’s no love in that kind of thing, Lilah. You should know that.”

“I told you I could fall in love with you,” said Lilah.

“If you have the capacity to love me, you should have the capacity to care about other people,” said Jenny, feeling suddenly exhausted. It felt as though she and Lilah had been having strange, veiled iterations of this very argument since they’d first met, and that realization was beginning to make this particular argument feel like she was repeatedly hitting a brick wall. “It shouldn’t be such an alien concept to you.”

“Jenny,” Lilah began, sounding completely, utterly lost. And that was the problem, wasn’t it? That the thought of caring about people even after they’d outlived their usefulness was so confusing to Lilah. It never seemed to stop hurting, how wrong Jenny had been about this woman.

Jenny’s phone went off. Holding up a finger to Lilah, she dug in her purse and fished it out, then saw that she’d gotten a single text from Rupert.

some unexpected developments; we need a diversion to get out with the evidence

The message made Jenny suddenly very nervous. Pocketing her phone, she pressed her lips together, tried to look angry beyond belief, and said shortly to Lilah, “Rupert just texted me that he thinks his injury just reopened. I hope you’re happy with that,” and stood up to go.

“Jenny,” said Lilah, her voice sharper. “You’re not going to finish this meeting?”

“We’re not negotiating,” said Jenny flatly. “I brought this here because I thought I should let you know I have evidence—”

“Jenny, you have to give that to me.” There was an edge of panic in Lilah’s voice. “I can’t let you walk out of here with evidence that could bring down Wolfram and Hart. The Senior Partners would—”

“For someone who takes so much pride in her own autonomy,” said Jenny, “you sure seem to be under Wolfram and Hart’s thumb. There’s no evidence in this notebook that poses a threat to you, Lilah.” This was a complete lie, banking on the fact that Lilah hadn’t yet seen the notebook and made stronger by Jenny’s determination to make sure Rupert was okay.

Lilah took in the intensity in Jenny’s eyes, swallowed hard, and nodded. “Yeah,” she said softly. “Makes sense. I’m sorry that I’ve been avoiding this conversation. You’ve got a lot of reasons to yell at me, and I guess I just…didn’t want to hear them all.”

“So we can go?”

“I’m going to have to walk you down,” said Lilah, “security reasons, but—yes.” And then she stopped, and frowned, taking a second look around the room. “Jenny,” she said, “where’s Faith?”


 

from the personal diary of Faith Calendar:

I couldn’t just sit there while Mom and her ex argued, especially not in the evil law firm from hell, and I remembered the building plans well enough to know where Giles would be. I knew Mom was going to be really, really mad at me when she figured out what I was doing, but hey—dumbass, impulsive behavior is kind of a thing in this family. She’ll get over it.


 

“This was your plan, then, wasn’t it?” Lilah’s voice was sharp and furious as she picked up her desk phone. Punching in a few numbers, she snapped into the receiver, “Put the building on lockdown, we’ve got some kind of a security breach! Yeah—teenage girl, brunette, goes by Faith Calendar. Yep. Yes. Apprehend and detain.” She slammed down the receiver, laughing a little bitterly as she looked at Jenny. “You and your kid aren’t quite as good at covert ops as you seem to think you are,” she said.

“You’re not serious,” said Jenny, disbelieving. “You can’t seriously believe that my plan all along has been to use my daughter to break into Wolfram and Hart?”

“It’s what I would do in your shoes.”

“I think we have established that you and I are very different people!” Jenny shouted. “Lilah, I’ve got no clue where Faith is, I don’t know what she’s doing—”

“It’s cute that you think your innocent-mom act is going to work on me,” said Lilah flatly. “The building’s on lockdown and we’re going to find her, wherever you sent her.”

“My innocent-mom act?” Jenny couldn’t figure out whether to be angry at Lilah or terrified for Faith. “I would never use my daughter for something like this.”

“I hurt you, I lied to you, I told you I was someone I’m not,” said Lilah, giving Jenny this twisted, almost livid smile, “and you’re telling me it never once crossed your mind to try and pull the same thing on me?”

“Not once,” said Jenny. Her voice wobbled. She kept on thinking about her daughter, floral dress and white heels, apprehended and detained. “And if you cared about me as much as you seem to think you do, you would know that.”

Her words seemed to strike a chord with Lilah, if only for a moment. Finally, she said, “If you’re telling the truth about this just being a meeting set up to yell at me, then you shouldn’t have any problem with us making sure your daughter isn’t getting her hands on any information we don’t generally give out to the public,” and turned, leaving the room. Before Jenny could follow, Lilah was shutting the door behind her, the click of the lock the last sound before her footsteps began to retreat.

This was not part of the plan. Knowing Faith, she would have gone straight for the room where Wolfram and Hart kept their files—and with the building on lockdown, there wouldn’t be any way for her or Rupert to get out. Frightened and exhausted, Jenny took two shaky steps back towards the chair she’d been sitting in, leaning on it and closing her eyes.

Something on Lilah’s desk buzzed. Frowning, Jenny turned to the desk, and noticed for the first time that, in her hurry to leave and find Faith, Lilah had left her half-open purse atop her desk. The purse vibrated again, this time making a missed-call tone quite similar to that of an expensive phone.

A very tentative idea began piecing itself together in Jenny’s mind. Stepping forward, she rummaged in the overstuffed front compartment of the purse for the source of the vibrating, fishing out a few crumpled receipts, a tube of lipstick, and—Lilah’s phone. Lilah’s phone, with—and here Jenny had to check, even though she already knew her theory would be right—no passcode, no fingerprint ID, and nothing that could protect it from someone seeking information to bring down Wolfram and Hart. That had always been Lilah’s fatal flaw, hadn’t it? She had never thought of herself as the kind of person who let people close enough to hurt her, and she didn’t keep her guard up as carefully as she should have with Jenny. She wasn’t the kind of person to leave her phone unattended, or the kind of person to start up a romantic relationship with the detective she’d been assigned to kill.

Jenny was Lilah’s inexplicable weak spot, and she intended to utilize that—

Something stopped her, then, looking at the phone in her hand. By all accounts, this should have been the easiest decision Jenny had ever made. This phone had emails, call records, probably even some way to access Wolfram and Hart documents—this phone could bring down Lilah, and Wolfram and Hart with her. But all of a sudden, Jenny kept on thinking about what Lilah had said: I hurt you, I lied to you, I told you I was someone I’m not—and that helplessly exhausted look she’d had in the hospital.

It was true that Lilah’s feelings for Jenny, and their refusal to extend beyond Jenny, infuriated Jenny beyond the telling of it, but it was also true that Jenny’s feelings for Lilah weren’t trivial enough to merit ruining Lilah’s life. Quietly, she pocketed the phone, then waited by the door.

Exactly thirty seconds later, Lilah came rushing back in, first snatching up her purse and then staring at Jenny with wide, horrified eyes.

“Lilah, I wanted to talk to you,” said Jenny quietly.

“I forgot,” said Lilah numbly, “my phone.” Her face was bloodless. “I was going to go—look for Faith—was this your plan, then, Jenny?”

“Honestly, you’ve always had a tendency to overestimate me,” Jenny quipped, and tried to smile.

“Jenny—” Lilah swallowed, hard. “This office is full of cameras that would catch me if I tried to grab that phone from you,” she said. “And if the Senior Partners knew I was careless enough to let my guard down, they’d—they’d have my head.”

“I have a counterproposal,” said Jenny, and as she said the words, she found herself strangely calm.

“A counterproposal,” Lilah echoed, a bitter laugh in her voice. “Don’t tell me—you want me to join you and help you take Wolfram and Hart down, don’t you? Jenny, do you know how many of my current clients would be out to get me after a stunt like that?”

“We’re just going to keep coming, Lilah,” said Jenny, measured and gentle. “You know you can’t take your phone from me without revealing to Wolfram and Hart that you’ve been sloppy, and you know that if I leave the building with your thoroughly unprotected phone—”

“I can delete emails,” said Lilah sharply. “That phone will be useless—”

“It still has your call history,” said Jenny, “your contacts, and I’m guessing various legal documents, and you’ve never really struck me as the tech-savvy kind of gal. You can’t exactly ask Wolfram and Hart for help in turning this phone into a useless brick—” here she took out the phone and waved it, punctuating her statement, “—and you can’t turn to any of your clients, I assume, but me.”

“Jenny.” Lilah’s voice was resigned.

“I’m giving you an out,” said Jenny. “I’m giving you a chance. More than you deserve, I think, considering the kind of hell you’ve brought down on my family, but—” Rupert, pale and bleeding in the alley, flashed again across her vision, and it strengthened her resolve. “I want to be someone my partner is proud of,” she said, her voice softening. “I want to make decisions that are right, not decisions because I’m vindictive and angry and hurt. I know you care about me, and I think you can use that care to do something good.”

Lilah looked at Jenny. Then, quiet and deliberate, she took the silver gun out of her purse. “I think,” she said, “this time, I’ll aim correctly.”

Chapter Text

“Lilah,” said Jenny, not quite pleading, not quite yet.

“You’re pushing my buttons, Jenny,” said Lilah. “And Wolfram and Hart was halfway expecting this meeting to end in murder anyway. They’re pretty good at getting bloodstains out of the carpet.”

“You won’t kill me.”

“I might only be aiming to incapacitate.” Lilah’s eyes were on the gun. “I haven’t decided yet. Jenny, I have much too much to lose to let you do something like this.”

“I just wanted—”

“You are so fucking naïve,” Lilah spat, raising the gun with a shaking hand. “You think I’m going to join your little crusade just because you ask nicely? Giving me a chance—there are some parts of my job that I don’t like, sure, but it got me where I am and I’m damn happy with my nice apartment. Give me that phone before I change my mind and just shoot you.”

“You’ll shoot me, then?” Jenny’s voice was scarily level for someone who couldn’t decide whether she was furiously angry or completely terrified. She had one last-ditch idea, though, and ran with it. “Like you shot all those other detectives? You say I’m special, but I’m starting to think you say that to all the girls.”

Lilah wavered, at that, taking a small, almost pained breath in. “I never lied to you,” she said. “How I feel about you—I never lied about that. But there are some things that are more important—”

Prove it,” said Jenny fiercely. “Show me what’s more important.”

“The phone,” said Lilah.

“I care about you,” said Jenny. “Maybe I don’t love you, but I care about you. Present tense, not past. And I know you care about me.”

“The phone, Jenny, hand it the fuck over—”

There was a loud hammering on the door. Lilah startled, dropping the gun with a clatter, and whirled in front of Jenny, who took this opportunity to dive forward and snatch the gun before Lilah could pick it up again. She was fairly certain she got a few rug burns for her efforts, but it was more than worth it as she looked up to see a thoroughly bewildered Rupert.

“Miss Morgan,” he said, looking first at a completely stunned Lilah and second at Jenny on the floor. “Um, I’m here to collect Jenny?”

Disbelieving, Jenny stood up, the gun in her hand, and that was when she realized that it wasn’t loaded. Slowly, incredulously, she turned to look at Lilah, who was looking exhaustedly back at her.

“Wolfram and Hart’s going down, isn’t it?” Lilah asked quietly.

“Think so,” said Jenny.

“Nothing I can do about it?”

“Wouldn’t recommend trying.”

“You really are the best in the business,” said Lilah, and managed a tired smile. Stepping forward, she took Jenny’s hands, then kissed her one last time, very softly. “I think we’ll see each other again,” she said.

“Yeah, probably,” said Jenny, a lump in her throat. “Especially considering where we both seem to end up picking our battles.”

Lilah dropped Jenny’s hands, nodded a little awkwardly to Rupert, and left.

Rupert looked first at Jenny, then at the gun. “Jenny,” he said, sounding absolutely horrified. “Don’t you dare tell me she tried to shoot you while I was gone.”

“It wasn’t loaded,” said Jenny, and smiled a little sadly. “She never was able to shoot me, and I think this time she knew it.” Stepping forward, she handed the gun to Rupert to prove her point; it was only after feeling the weight of the gun that his face relaxed. “What are you doing here?” she added. “Where’s Faith?”

“Um—with Angel Investigations,” said Rupert, grinning a bit.

“What?”


 

The Wolfram and Hart Break-In (as related by Rupert Giles to Jenny Calendar):

Arriving at Wolfram and Hart and slipping back into their records room was surprisingly easy; all that was required was a badge I could use to unlock the door, and I managed to pick an unfortunate fellow’s pocket on the way in, so that wasn’t a problem. What did prove to be somewhat challenging was discovering that Wolfram and Hart’s records were exclusively computerized, and password-protected at that. Apparently, they take security a bit more seriously than Cordelia mentioned when it comes to keeping records, which makes quite a lot of sense.

I was debating sending a message to you (I didn’t want to interrupt your meeting, after all) when someone else entered the records room. Certain that my cover was blown, I turned, and was met with the exact last person I expected to see at that moment: an utterly bewildered Winifred Burkle, wearing a pinstripe suit and holding a flash drive.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered.

“I’m sorry?” I managed, completely confused.

“What are you doing here?” Fred repeated, hurrying up to me and leaving the door ajar (keep that in mind, Jenny—that’ll be important later). “You’re not supposed to be in here!”

“I could certainly say the same thing about you,” I said, affronted. “I am here on a covert operation to take down Wolfram and Hart—”

“Oh,” said Fred, and giggled a little nervously. “Gosh, what are the odds?”

This was when I found out where exactly Angel Investigations has been these last few weeks. Angel figured out fairly quickly that things were about to go south with you when he saw Lilah following her out of the gala, and assumed that the client you had been referring to was there to take down his operation. Deciding that alerting you to Lilah’s true motives wasn’t something he could risk without jeopardizing his investigation, he grabbed as much evidence as he could from upstairs, found Wesley and Fred, and made a break for it. I can’t say I’m exactly pleased about Angel’s priorities—quite the opposite, in fact—but I do understand. He had no idea you were in mortal danger, and his motivation was to protect the operation.

“What about Cordelia?” I asked.

Fred bit her lip, smiling a bit nervously. “Hate to break it to you, Mr. Giles,” she said, “but I think Cordelia played you just a tiny bit. She knew that if you and Faith showed up on the same day we were planning a break-in, Lilah’s attention would be on you guys and not us.” As I was visibly perturbed by this knowledge, she hastened to elaborate: “No, no, she wasn’t using you guys! We’ve been talking about this break-in since long before we went underground, and she honestly had no idea where any of us were—Angel didn’t have time to tell her where all of us were hiding out and making plans, he’s been worried sick about her. If I know Cordelia—and I like to think I do—a lot of it was just her hoping you guys would be able to continue the work that Angel Investigations started.”

It wasn’t the most ideal time to discover that you and I were caught up in something a bit more tangled than a poorly-planned break-in on our part, but it also didn’t feel like a time to argue over what Cordelia did or didn’t know. “Is there anything I can do to help?” I asked somewhat awkwardly—as you know, darling, I am not exactly skilled when it comes to computers.

“We’re probably going to need some kind of a diversion to get out of here,” Fred answered. “Even with Lilah distracted, it’s not as easy to get out of this building as it is to get in; they always have security guards check your bags at the door unless the building’s on lockdown.”

“And if the building’s on lockdown?”

“Well, if the building’s on lockdown, it’s actually pretty easy to sneak out the back window in the women’s bathroom,” said Fred easily. “We’ve planned this one out pretty well, but Charles was in charge of diversions—Wesley’s going for some of the written records on the second floor, and Angel’s off collecting information off of Lindsey McDonald’s computer.”

The name rang a bell with me. “Darla’s lawyer,” I said softly.

“Yeah,” said Fred, and smiled a little. “As it happens, you’re not the only ones with a personal vendetta against Wolfram and Hart.”

As I was processing this new information, Faith slipped through the still half-open door and announced to the room, “Hey, guys, Mom’s having a big blowout fight with lawyer lady—can I help you out here?”

I then proceeded to have an argument with Faith regarding what was and wasn’t appropriate to do when breaking into a law firm (i.e. always stay with an adult, always stick to the plan, never follow me into the more dangerous part of the mission without supervision or direct permission from you) and while we were having this argument, Fred very quietly hacked into Wolfram and Hart’s records and downloaded all of them to the small flash drive she had been holding. About three minutes later, when Faith and I had finally come to an exhausted conclusion (she very correctly pointed out that you and Lilah were in the midst of an argument that she did not want to be in the room for, and I could understand that), Fred cleared her throat and said brightly, “Hey, guys, I’ve got all I need here! Now, about that diversion—”

This was when all the lights went out.

“Huh,” said Fred. “Looks like the building’s on lockdown.”

“Cool!” said Faith, who could really do with some awareness in dangerous situations, much like someone else I know—stop looking at me like that, Jenny, you know it’s true.

“Fred, would you mind getting Faith out of here?” I asked as politely as I could, considering how concerned I was for your safety (to put it quite mildly).

“Yeah, she can come with me!” Fred agreed. “I’m heading out to meet the crew in the van—we’ve all got our own exit strategies. Pretty sure Angel’s gonna try and bungee jump off the roof or something.”

“Ooh, bungee jumping!” said Faith with interest.

“Just—make sure Faith doesn’t bungee jump,” I said, “and please do get her out safely, all right?”

“You can count on me,” said Fred more seriously, and took Faith’s hand, gently tugging her out of the room. I shut the door, left the badge on the floor, and headed upstairs to go find you.


“So that,” Rupert finished, “is why this operation can be classified as an incredible success. I’d surmise that Angel has more than enough information to properly destroy Wolfram and Hart—”

“And I think I can add to his little stockpile of evidence,” Jenny finished, and held out Lilah’s phone. “Lilah wasn’t as careful as she should have been when she left the room to see what was going on, and she can’t take this phone back without revealing to Wolfram and Hart that she isn’t as meticulous with protecting their info as a respectable lawyer should be.”

Rupert stared at her.

“What?”

“I’m not sure whether to be very mad at you for taking so many risks,” said Rupert finally, “or rather startlingly smitten by your ability to get the job done.”

“Don’t you miss the days when you could just keep your feelings for me under wraps?” Jenny teased.

“Not even for a moment,” said Rupert, quiet and steady, and took her hands in his.


 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

Case closed.

Chapter Text

“There’s only one thing I don’t understand,” said Rupert as they exited the building, Jenny’s hand snug in his. “You asked Buffy to pick something up for you while this break-in was going on, and you told me it had nothing to do with the break-in itself—what was she doing, if she wasn’t involved in this at all?”

“Wait a few minutes and I think you’ll get the answer,” said Jenny, grinning, and checked her phone for any texts.

Faith was waiting by Jenny’s car, Buffy’s cardigan tied around her waist and one of her high heels broken, beaming widely. “Pretty sure Cordelia’s gonna kill me for breaking her shoe,” she said without much remorse. “Also Angel says he’s sorry he didn’t stop you guys from getting shot at, but he’s got enough evidence now to put the Senior Partners in jail for a long time—and that’s to say nothing of all the people working under them. Wolfram and Hart is totally toast, and none of their high-up connections are gonna be able to save them this time around.”

“You’re still in a world of trouble for running off like that, Faith,” Jenny said pointedly.

“Yeah, sure,” said Faith, sounding largely unbothered by this. “We’re going to run Wolfram and Hart into the ground, right?”

“Oh, absolutely,” said Jenny. “Right after the wedding.”

“The—what?” Rupert’s eyes darted to Jenny, looking like he didn’t dare to be hopeful.

In response, Jenny held up a finger, looking again at her phone. 30secs away!!!!!! read the text from Buffy, and as Jenny looked up to survey the road, Anya’s car pulled up and Buffy, Willow, Dawn, and Tara all tumbled out of the backseat, breathless.

“Tara, hey!” Faith was bright pink. “What are you—uh, I mean, great to see—hey, can we talk about the Faith-and-Tara thing?”

Very covertly, Buffy passed the ring box to Jenny, walking up to stand next to Rupert. “You two owe me big time for putting up with all your shenanigans,” she informed them. “Three years of being nuts about each other and refusing to admit it? It’s been exhausting for the whole family.”

Jenny smiled slightly. “Yeah, well, I’m hoping this is gonna make up for all that waiting,” she said, and held the ring box out in front of her, popping it open.

Rupert stared at her, eyes wide, a slow, dizzy smile spreading across his face. “Oh, Jenny,” he said very softly.

“Okay,” said Jenny, and exhaled. “Wow. Um, now if ever is the time for me to be swoony and romantic, right?”

“No one’s holding you to that,” Rupert managed. “This—in itself—is quite breathtakingly romantic a gesture as is.”

“Yes, Jenny, this is shockingly competent of you,” Anya added from the car. “Considering how long it took you to get to this point.”

“Thanks, I could do without the commentary,” said Jenny, laughing. “All right.” She sniffled, smiled, then continued. “You know, there are so many apologies I want to make to you. About how long it took me to figure myself out, about how it took me dating someone else and you getting shot for us to finally reach this point, about how we’d probably be married already if I had been able to figure out how much I love you—it’s crazy, England, I love you so much—but that is so not the way I want this marriage proposal to go. See, I’ve always been of the mind that a partnership should start not from a place of apology, but from a place of trust, respect, and love. It’s what you’ve always, always given me, even before I was ready to figure it out—and it’s something I hope I can give you in return. I’m crazy about you.”

Rupert’s eyes were very misty behind his glasses. Jenny, smiling, popped the question. “Rupert Giles,” she said, “will you marry me?”

“Yes, I—yes!” Rupert reached up to straighten his glasses, grinning, but Jenny caught his left hand, took the ring out of the box, and slid the engagement ring onto his finger. “It’s very, um, silver,” he said, and sniffle-laughed. “Very tasteful.”

“I got it from Target,” said Buffy helpfully. “We’re still kind of on a budget.”

Shh,” said Jenny, and dropped the ring box to kiss Rupert. Rupert kissed her back for a moment, then took her awkwardly in his arms, keeping his hand on the small of her back as he leaned down to pick up the ring box. Her head against his shoulder, Jenny laughed.

“This is so cute,” said Anya seriously. “You two better invite me to the wedding.”


 

from the personal files of Jenny Calendar:

When you’re thinking private eye, you don’t think some idiot who’s been working right next to the love of her life for three years running, who falls way too easy for femme fatales, who’s got three kids and a nice house and a predisposition for stupidly reckless acts. Well, okay, maybe that last part isn’t too out of line with the private-eye genre, but overall—I don’t think I’m the first person who comes to mind, and I definitely don’t think my nerdy-sweet fiancé fits the bill either.

That’s okay, though. Rupert and I get the job done.