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days in goodness spent

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"Giles's heart skipped a beat when Jenny glided into the courtyard...Here's the affectionate ghost, he thought as she beamed at him. A score of poems about beautiful phantoms by Englishmen long dead sprang to mind. She walks in beauty, like the night."

(How I Survived My Summer Vacation)


 

If Giles could write Jenny love poems, he would. But the things he wants to say to Jenny always seem less, because it’s him who’s saying them. He doesn’t feel entirely worthy of her laughter, her light, and so he showers her with borrowed words and quotations, tucks romance novels into her bag and tries to make her see—this is how you make me feel, darling. This is what you bring out in me.

He had never thought of himself as sentimental. Watchers are supposed to pride themselves in their impartiality, their cool and calculated judgment. He had rebelled, but even then, he had seen himself as still detached from the sort of flowery emotion that others seemed to feel. He didn’t know how to be gentle; the world had never been gentle to him.

Jenny touches him carefully, the way one would touch china or aged parchment. He was frustrated, initially, by how carelessly she handled his books; it is stunning for him to realize that to her, he is the most precious thing she has ever touched. Jenny values him over knowledge, over reason, over all the things Giles must place before love, and it takes his breath away.

Jenny is unencumbered by destiny, by burden. She is the most beautiful thing that has ever been a part of his life.

He writes love notes on post-its and can’t bring himself to affix them to her monitor. They feel clumsy. They feel too much like him. Literature has always been a language he can understand and speak fluently; he’s not sure he can say the same for love.

Jenny doesn’t seem to gather that these love poems and romance novels are Giles’s borrowed love letters to her. So romantic, she says, in that warm, melodious voice that is only ever for him. So evocative. As though she thinks he is sharing simply books, things he admires, rather than giving her his heart bit by bit.

Jenny jokes about spilling coffee on these books and Giles thinks—is that how little she wants me? It’s a stupid impulse—she is a literal woman, and he deals mostly in metaphors when it comes to romance—but the sting of it lingers nonetheless.

He isn’t worthy of her, he thinks. He isn’t worthy of this beautiful, intelligent, utterly flawless woman, with her gentle heart and her biting wit and the tenderly passionate kisses she gifts him.


 

(Jenny Calendar is gentle, but she forgives too easily. She is witty, but careless with her words, and has hurt more than a few people without apologizing for it. She is tender and passionate, but she doesn’t know how to love people with her whole heart, not without clumsily attempting to disguise what she sees as a vulnerability.

Jenny Calendar is beautiful, but she is not flawless.)


 

Quite a while later, after they have fallen apart and come back together in the span of about a month, Giles tells Jenny the full truth about Eyghon. She is lying on her side, tangled in the bedsheets, looking at him with quiet, listening, understanding eyes, and it makes him hungry for something he doesn’t quite know how to define.

She is so beautiful, he thinks. But he wants to know more of her than just that.

“I’m sorry,” he says, finally.

Jenny reaches out and touches his face. “Now that I actually know what went down, I feel like I made things worse,” she says quietly. “The way I reacted…I-I wish I hadn’t just shoved you away like that. I don’t know if that was the right move to make.” She hesitates. “I was scared,” she says. “Eyghon showed me a lot of parts of you that freaked me out big-time.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t that interested in showing you my better sides,” Giles tries to quip. It falls a bit flat.

Jenny gives him a tired smile. It’s been nearly a month, but she no longer looks quite as rested and carefree as he remembers. He feels that this is his fault. (It is his fault, but not for the reasons he thinks. For all her bravado and foolhardy recklessness, Jenny is very unused to being in love.) “No,” she says. “It really wasn’t.” She swallows, hard. “It showed me some stuff that really shouldn’t have ever been any of my business, I…” She trails off. “I felt like I was intruding.”

“You’re not—” Giles exhales, then takes her hands, kisses the knuckles very gently. “You are a part of my life,” he says softly. “I-I know it’s rather daunting, but it’s quite hard not to keep things from getting a bit serious when we live on an active Hellmouth, and…this was something I was hoping you, you might learn someday anyway.”

Jenny’s eyes are wide, vulnerable in a new way he hasn’t seen before. Strange, but Giles isn’t thinking of love sonnets in this moment—he’s only thinking that he wants to lean forward, bump his nose companionably against hers, and kiss her. So he does. And he doesn’t feel overcome with the wonder of Jenny Calendar, head full of a thousand and one romantic literary quotes. He just feels…warmed, somehow. It almost frightens him.

“You wanted me to know about that?” she says. “But that’s—” She sniffles. This surprises Giles, because he has never once seen Jenny even close to tears. “Rupert, I have so many things in my life that I—that I’m afraid to tell you about,” she says. “So much stuff that I feel like, like there are parts of me you can’t possibly ever lo—ever care about,” she edits, a fierce blush beginning. “I don’t think I’m even halfway ready to consider telling you some of this stuff, because I feel like it’ll make you look at me differently and I’m not, I’m not strong enough to handle that, and here you are telling me that you wanted me to know all this stuff you did, this stuff that really doesn’t paint you positively—”

“Was it a mistake?” Giles asks, heart pounding. “My telling you?”

Jenny gives him this wobbly, tearful smile. “No,” she says.

This feeling—whatever Giles is feeling—this is bone-deep. He’s never felt it before. He’s been in love before, he’s admired someone before, he’s respected someone before, but this feels like all of those three things held together by something else he can’t quite name. He searches, desperately, for the words that will tell Jenny this, but nothing that has been written can describe the way it feels to be held by her right now.

“Don’t tell me until you’re ready, then,” he says shakily. “My hand was forced by circumstance, my secrets laid bare before I was ready—I would never have the same done to you, Jenny.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely,” says Giles. He means it. He can’t stand the thought of Jenny telling him things she isn’t ready to, just because she feels like she should.

Jenny smiles again, cupping his face in one hand. Her eyes shine. “I will tell you,” she says. “When I’m ready. Okay?”

“Okay,” Giles whispers, and she kisses him, and singing her praise doesn’t seem quite as important as holding her.


 

When her truths come out—just as ugly and painful as his own—the image of his perfect, flawless Jenny is shattered to bits. Gone is the woman unencumbered by duty, uninterested in destiny, and in her place is someone who looks horribly familiar. She lied because she believed it was right. She was instructed to place the good of the world above what made Buffy Summers happy. She is tied to a life she didn’t choose, and sought to escape it by distracting herself with the only colleague she had one thing in common with.

(Not one thing. Many things.)

The way Giles has seen Jenny has always been a bit distorted, a bit like a funhouse mirror. It was intoxicating to look at her and see her as the one perfect thing in his life—but now he looks at her and he sees everything he hates about himself. It’s easy to be angry at her for tricking him, for not living up to his expectations; she wasn’t perfect, and somehow this feels like the greatest betrayal of all.

Inflicting Eyghon on someone as good as her had been torture for him. Now he is only angry that she thought she was somehow too good to forgive him for his secrets, carrying around her own so guilelessly, so carelessly. He is angry, and he recognizes it as childish, and it lasts right up until—

She carries herself with such hurt, he notices. Even in his quiet fury, he can see how deeply she’s been injured, and he aches for her, and he resents it. And neatly, precisely, one simple honesty cuts through his tangled emotions: “I didn’t know I was going to fall in love with you.”

Abruptly, Giles meets her eyes, and sees Jenny Calendar for the very first time.

“Is it too late to take that back?” she asks.

She looks so worn-down, so desolate and lonely. “Do you want to?” he says.

“I just want to be right with you,” she says, and there’s a note of tired resignation to her voice along with the tenderness—as though she fully expects she might never be right with him again. “I don’t expect more. I just…want so badly to make all this up to you.”

And it’s absurd—it is so ridiculous—but Giles finds himself so damn buoyed by the knowledge that Jenny is a human person. He wants to get to know her again, this time without the rose-colored glasses. He wants to know about her family, about her own checkered past, about everything that made her into the woman he loves—and now he understands why she looked at him with shining eyes after Eyghon. Underneath the idealized Jenny Calendar is someone that Giles understands.

“I understand,” he says, and the words tumble out, meaning a thousand things that she doesn’t know just yet. “But I’m not the one you need to make it up to.” Buffy is still angry. At seventeen, morality doesn’t come in shades of gray. “Thank you for the book.”

He walks out of her classroom with a quiet, solid certainty: however this resolves itself, he wants Jenny in his life for good.


 

For the second time in the last six months, Jenny is shaken and bruised, leaning heavily on Giles as they enter her apartment. But this time, after he shuts the door, she yanks him close, gripping his lapels and burrowing her face into the crook of his neck.

Giles takes her in his arms. His heart is still pounding. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees Jenny in Angelus’s grasp, those cold, white hands around her neck, fingers splayed—

“I love you,” he says roughly.

Jenny looks up, stunned, and Giles realizes that usually he says more to her than three simple words. Qualifiers, stammering explanations—but loving Jenny is somehow the simplest, least poetic thing he’s ever experienced in his life. It’s warm in his chest and it feels like a part of him.

He feels her shudder, and then she stands on tiptoe, resting her forehead against his. She’s still clutching his lapels, tightly enough that her knuckles have gone white, and he gently untangles her hands to kiss them.

“I love you,” he whispers again.

Jenny is shaking almost too hard to stand, so he guides them to her couch, sitting down and pulling her onto his lap. She looks up at him with wide, wet eyes; she seems almost unable to speak. “Even after—”

“Always,” says Giles, and knows that he means it.

Jenny starts to cry. “I’m so sorry,” she sobs. “I didn’t mean to—I wanted to tell you, and I know I should have, but I love you so much and I thought you couldn’t possibly love me if you knew what I was keeping from you—”

“Darling,” Giles murmurs, and takes her face in his hands, kissing her very gently. She’s crying too much to really kiss him back, so he pulls away, kissing her forehead, her nose, her cheeks, her chin, and he’s moved aside her mostly-sheer top to kiss her neck when he finally feels her breathing begin to steady.

“Rupert, I’ve never been in love before,” Jenny whispers. “I don’t think I’m going to be really great at it.”

Giles raises his head, bumping his nose against hers. “I’ve been in love,” he says quietly. “But I don’t think it’s ever been anything like this.”

“No?”

“I’m just as lost as you are,” says Giles, which makes Jenny laugh, a sweet, watery sound that makes the warmth in his chest burn hot. “Listen—I’ll make you some tea and then we’ll head up to bed, how does that sound?”

Jenny kisses him.

That tea never really does get made.


 

Jenny and Giles really aren’t that good at being in love, as it turns out. Terrified by her single moment of vulnerability, Jenny is now refusing to show Giles anything other than casual affection, and Giles, grappling with his newfound deeper feelings for a woman he no longer sees as flawless, is too smitten to even be bothered. It’s as though they’re back in their relationship’s early days, only now every interaction between them is weighted and charged and strange in a way Giles hasn’t experienced before.

Jenny has not once said she loved him, not since the night Angelus almost killed her and she gasped it out while they were—well.

Giles tells Jenny that he loves her…possibly too much. It comes out at inopportune times; she’ll tuck her hair behind her ear and a rush of love will well up inside of him and he’ll blurt it out in the middle of a Scooby meeting. She’ll smile, radiant and soft, and he’ll stumble over himself to whisper it to her in the hallways. She draws back every single time, eyes wide and injured, and he has to wonder—was it better when he believed her far more than he deserved? He knows her, now, and that seems to frighten her quite a lot.

It’s their second and final encounter with Angelus that breaks this holding pattern. Acathla needs to be awakened, the world ended, and Angelus knows the quickest way to Giles’s heart.

“Tell me,” says Angelus. Jenny, held against him, shakes her head. “You know what, no one asked you,” Angelus growls, and drops her roughly to the floor, treading deliberately on her hand to get to Giles. (There is a crunch of bone, and Jenny makes a gasping noise that is very clearly an attempt not to scream. Both of these sounds have become very familiar to Giles over the course of the last few hours.) “Listen, Rupert,” Angelus croons, “wouldn’t you rather end the world than live in one without her in it?”

There is so much, Giles thinks, that he has done wrong in these last few weeks, and it is unfolding in front of him crystal-clear now that he is going to lose Jenny. He is so used to loving her, to following her around like a lost puppy, that he fell immediately into it when he felt her withdraw. He should have been there for her. He should have been honest with her. He should have told her don’t be scared, darling, we can slow this all down if you aren’t ready for something serious—

“How do you wake Acathla?” says Angelus.

It’s been hours. Giles doesn’t give a damn about the world. “Untie me, and give me your word that you won’t hurt her anymore,” he says quietly. “Then I promise I’ll tell you.”

Jenny makes a small, desperate noise from the floor, attempting to pull herself to a sitting position. “Rupert,” she says, begging, almost sobbing. “Rupert, please, I’m not worth—”

“Everything,” says Giles.

Anything,” says Jenny.

Giles stills, eyes wide.

“What the hell do you see in me?” Jenny demands, eyes shining and wet. “That you’d end the world to let me live for half an hour more? You’ve seen me at my worst and you’re still looking at me like I can’t do a single thing wrong, and there’s no way you really know me if you look at me like that—”

Angelus grabs Jenny up and off the floor. “You know what,” he says loudly, “clearly this whole torture thing isn’t working out,” and he sinks his fangs into her neck. Jenny screams, the only time she’s screamed after hours of—

“BLOOD!” Giles shouts. All he can hear is that piercing, terrible scream. All he can think of is Jenny. “YOUR BLOOD, ANGELUS, YOU’RE THE KEY, PLEASE—”

Angelus stops. He pulls himself free of Jenny, dropping her to the ground. “Was that so hard?” he says, Jenny’s blood on his mouth, crossing the room to cup Giles’s face in a large, cold hand. “I think you deserve a reward.” Deftly, quickly, he unties Giles.

Giles doesn’t even think to attack Angelus. He can’t think past Jenny. She’s lying on the ground, he doesn’t know whether she’s alive or dead but she is most certainly dying, and as Angelus strides out of the room, Giles tumbles out of the chair and pulls Jenny into his arms. “Please,” he whispers. “Please, Jenny.” He really is crying.

Jenny turns her head into his chest. He can feel her breathing beginning to slow.

“I’m sorry,” Giles whispers. “I—” Now, he thinks, is the time to be honest. He has to be, before— “I think you’re impulsive,” he says softly. “Reckless. Rather foolish. You take on too many responsibilities, by yourself, and you get angry when they don’t work, and it’s the most ridiculous thing to watch. I think you’re unkind, or at least you can be sometimes, and most often it’s when you’re careless with the jokes you make. I think you’re just as set in your ways as I am, no matter how much you pontificate about computers, and I—I think I never really realized how much I loved you until I realized how many things about you frustrate me.” His eyes are wet. “And I want you to be alive,” he whispers. “You’re idiotic and self-sacrificing and darling and I do know you, Jenny, well enough to be thoroughly annoyed with you at times—”

He doesn’t know when he has started crying, but all of a sudden he can’t continue on. She hasn’t said a word, and she is heavy and unmoving in his arms, and the one chance he had at something terrifying and difficult and real has been ripped away from him by a bloodthirsty, power-mad vampire—

Jenny raises her head. Her eyes are bright and pained. “You are such a goddamn moron,” she says through gritted teeth. “Waiting until now to tell me this? What, am I going to be in my grave before you admit that there are some things about me you just straight-up don’t like?”

Giles moves forward and rests his head against hers, just for a moment. They breathe together, just for a moment. Then he says, “You have been avoiding absolutely every attempt I make to address our shared feelings for each other—”

“Because lately I feel terrible about myself and I don’t want you fawning over every goddamn thing I do!”

“So tell me that!”

They stare at each other. Then Jenny lets out this little sobbing laugh and says, “I love you!” and she pulls him into a tight hug, and it takes Giles a good few seconds to realize that, in the midst of the hug, she’s fallen unconscious.

The rest is a bit chaotic.


 

Giles doesn’t leave Jenny’s side for two weeks. Most of these two weeks are spent arguing, largely because both of them are extremely upset at the lengths it took for them to be honest, and so they end up taking most of it out on each other. It isn’t exactly the best way to cope with trauma, but it is surprisingly effective at getting things out in the open—and by the time they’re nearing the end of the two weeks, they’re a lot better at being around each other.

It’s strange, Giles thinks. Looking into Jenny’s eyes and knowing that she’s seen him at his best and at his worst. He hasn’t ever known someone who’s seen both.

“Are you gonna go look for Buffy?” Jenny asks. Travers has been calling Giles daily to remind him of his responsibilities.

Giles hesitates. “I don’t think—” He reaches out. Jenny’s right hand is healing, but Angelus had broken quite a lot of bones, and recovery might take a while. The doctors are recommending some physical therapy. “I don’t want to leave you and the children alone on an active Hellmouth,” he says uncertainly. “Especially not while you’re so seriously injured.”

“Injured schminjured,” says Jenny.

Jenny,” says Giles. “I did mean it when I said that you take on too many responsibilities by yourself, and I don’t like the thought of leaving you alone.”

Jenny smiles crookedly. “I like it when you call me on my shit,” she says, and snuggles closer to him. “But someone has to look for Buffy, Rupert, and I don’t think we want it to be some Council guy she doesn’t know.”

This is a good point. Giles has to think for a very long time—the only friend left alive from his Eyghon days is Ethan, and he trusts Ethan to watch over Jenny about as much as he trusts his Watcher colleagues—before an idea comes to him. “Good lord,” he mutters. “I cannot believe this is my only option.”

“What?” says Jenny.


 

Giles’s aunts adore Jenny. He had been expecting this; his aunts and his girlfriend are strikingly similar in terms of intelligence and wit. However, since this is the first time that Giles has ever willingly introduced a romantic partner to any family member, the aunts are a bloody nightmare about it. Though they’re perfectly gentle with Jenny, as soon as they’re alone with Giles—

“When are you marrying her?” demands Aunt Sophie. “She’s a darling!”

“Really!” says Giles, going pink. “Jenny and I have only known each other a year!”

“When you know, you know,” says Aunt Lavinia.

“And we know,” adds Aunt Sophie.

“Right,” says Giles. “Lovely. Glad to see that my aunts have made this incredibly monumental life decision in my stead. Should I just forego the wedding planning and leave that up to you two as well?”

“She’s staying in your house,” says Aunt Sophie significantly.

“Because she’s recovering,” says Giles waspishly.

“Do you want to marry her?” says Aunt Lavinia.

Giles makes a few helpless stammering noises. (He can’t quite imagine Jenny as a blushing bride in white, but she might wear a darker color, perhaps red, or a soft, velvety purple like the dress she wore to chaperone the Sadie Hawkins dance. He thinks she would curl her hair, and he would wear a tie to match her dress, and she would hold a messy bouquet that wasn’t symmetrical or organized in the slightest, but was still bright with gorgeous color—)

“That,” says Aunt Sophie, “doesn’t seem like a man who is terrified of marriage. Does it, Lavvy?”

“It does not, Sophie,” agrees Aunt Lavinia.

Please stop,” says Giles, and feels very glad that he’s leaving to spend the summer looking for Buffy.


He doesn’t find Buffy; she comes back on her own, after the school year has started. She thoroughly enjoys Giles’s aunts (who have stuck around to make sure Jenny really is healing properly), and initially pretends she’s hanging around Giles’s apartment just to hear embarrassing childhood stories about her Watcher, but one day Giles catches her and Jenny sitting on the bed while Jenny helps Buffy with her precalculus homework, taking breaks in between to gently tease Buffy about her new maybe-boyfriend Scott Hope. Seeing this is new, and rather heartwarming, and it makes Giles rather like having Jenny living in the same place with him.

He is gearing up to tell her as much when Jenny says over dinner, “That new Slayer, Faith—living in a motel isn’t a good idea for her. I think she should come stay with us.”

“Us?” says Giles.

Jenny looks up, blushing. “Oh,” she says. “Also, I think we should move in together.”

That’s his Jenny, Giles thinks. Always beating him to the punch.


It’s a bit different, living with Jenny in a context that doesn’t involve taking care of her. In her convalescence, she had a habit of not doing the dishes, and now forgets to do them no matter how many times Giles reminds her/glares/leaves passive-aggressive notes on the refrigerator. The matter worsens when Faith decides not to do the dishes either and it really is one of the most frustrating things that Giles has had to experience.

He draws up a chore wheel. Jenny thinks this is demeaning and that he’s trying to imply that she can’t do chores without being treated like a five-year-old. Giles says that maybe that is what he’s implying, given that it seems to be true, and then this starts an argument about household chores that ends with Faith shouting “JESUS, YOU TWO, JUST FUCKING BANG IT OUT OR SOMETHING!” and storming out to go aggressively patrol with Buffy.

Giles and Jenny look somewhat sheepishly at each other, and Giles realizes something rather nice: this is their first pointless argument in a very long time. He sits down on the couch next to her. “You really should do the dishes,” he says.

“My hand—”

“Your hand has been fine for months, Jenny,” Giles says. “I am not going to coddle you and end up doing the work in this house for the rest of our lives.”

Jenny blinks, then turns scarlet. “Is that why you’re upset?” she says. “Because you—you think we’re—you want—”

Giles blinks too, replays his sentence, and cringes. “Might I—take that back?” he says.

Jenny’s blush hasn’t subsided, but a slow smile spreads across her face. Tilting her head, she scoots forward, knees bumping against his. “Do you want to?” she says.

Heart pounding, Giles kisses her. When he pulls back, he doesn’t quite know what to say.

“I think I will do the dishes,” says Jenny. She gives him a lopsided little grin. Jenny doesn’t quite know how to smile when she’s being honest, and it’s one of the things Giles loves the most about her. She’s still quite scared that he knows her, but she keeps on letting him in; it’s one of the bravest things he’s ever seen. “I mean, if we’re gonna be spending the rest of our lives together, it’s only fair that I pull my weight around here, right?”

At this juncture Giles now has a lot of things he want to say, but they only seem able to come out in a strangled, “And the laundry, Jenny.”

Jenny moves forward and kisses him again. “I love it when you get assertive,” she purrs, which makes him laugh against her mouth.

This somewhat sets the precedent for domestic arguments going forward: fighting, then kissing. It works quite well. Giles feels fairly certain that it would have worked quite as well in those early days when they were at each other’s throats, but it feels better now that they’ve earned it.


 

They talk, now, more often and more openly than they ever did the year before. Giles tells her about his childhood, about his years at the Watchers’ Academy, about how it felt to face down his father and realize that he might never get to be loved (Jenny’s arms tighten around him, and she kisses his hair). Jenny tells him about her childhood, her inability to harness the magics that her family so effortlessly channeled, her lifetime of being told by her family that a non-magical girl could only be useful as a chess piece in their game of vengeance, and never as anything else (Giles holds her close, and he rubs his nose against hers).

Giles is fired from his position because he does not enact the Cruciamentum. His reticence and worry is visible to Jenny; she questions him, and he is all too eager to cave. He is expecting her to be angry at him, but she stares, tight-lipped, and then she says, “And this is something that you want to do?”

No,” says Giles, horrified at the very concept.

Jenny smiles. She still looks upset, but it very clearly isn’t at Giles. “So then let’s not do it,” she says.

The entire affair is an absolute disaster, but all Buffy hears when Travers comes down to fire Giles is your Watcher refused, point-blank, and then she launches herself at Giles and hugs him and cries and cries and cries. Giles doesn’t want to imagine a world where Jenny wasn’t there to talk him out of this—he might have done it halfway, or even all the way, before realizing it was the wrong thing to do. Buffy might have died. Buffy might have lived, and never forgiven him.

He is no longer Buffy’s Watcher, but he drives her home. Jenny has stayed at the school to scream at Travers, who very clearly wasn’t expecting to be accosted by Giles’s extremely angry girlfriend. Giles would have watched the spectacle with great enjoyment if Buffy wasn’t still quite badly shaken by what the Council had wanted to do to her.

He drives her home, but they stop for ice cream on the way. Buffy gets a vanilla cone, finishes half of it, hands the rest of it to Giles, and says in a small, earnest voice, “I love you.”

A year ago, this would have made Giles’s chest twist. But this is a Rupert Giles whose deepest secrets have already been laid bare, and who no longer fears what he might lose by being honest with himself. “I love you too,” he says, and hands her back the ice cream. “But I am not your garbage disposal, Buffy. Hold that till we get home.”

Buffy lets out this wet little giggle and leans across the car to give Giles a hug. She pulls back, sniffles, and says, “Did you—think about doing it?”

Giles considers his answer. “The Council frames the Cruciamentum rather differently when they explain it to Watchers,” he says. “They say it is a necessity, a tradition, and that if we don’t do it, it means continuing to let an unprepared Slayer battle for the cause of good based on brute strength alone. They say that you are lacking if you are unable to fulfil your portion of the tradition, and that you will be deemed unfit to be a Watcher if you don’t comply.”

Buffy listens.

“The last thing I want is to not be qualified enough to keep you safe,” says Giles quietly. “I rather believe I would do—unreasonable things, if I believed it would make my chances of protecting you greater. But keeping the Slayer safe isn’t a Watcher’s job.” He smiles a little. “Travers,” he says, “is of the mind that I see you as more of a daughter than a Slayer. I wouldn’t say he is too off base.”

Buffy puts down her ice cream in one of the cup holders. She is blinking very fast, doing her best to keep herself from crying. “Can you take me to the Ice Capades?” she said. “Because my other dad didn’t want to.”

Giles exhales in that soft way that is almost a laugh. “I think that would be nice,” he says. “But Buffy—do please listen to the new Watcher that arrives. I may have failed in my duty, but I hope very strongly that the next one will not.”

“Um, I kinda hope they do,” says Buffy flatly. “Sounds to me like Watchers just want a good little Slayer to kill the vampires until she dies and another one gets called, and you know what? I want to live my life. And as it happens, Faith does too.”

Giles has very wisely refrained from commenting on how close Buffy and Faith have become over the last few months. He remembers the urgency and fear of falling in love with Ethan; he isn’t going to rush Buffy. She’ll tell him when she’s ready. “For your sake—” he says.

“I’m an adult,” says Buffy, eyes bright. “I’m telling you, Giles. This is for my sake.” She reaches out and takes his hands in hers, and lord, she does look older. Giles feels a blazing pride, looking at her. “I love you,” she says, “and I love my friends, and your snarky girlfriend, and my snarky girlfr—uh.” She blushes. “Anyway. My point is that I have a life, and having something to protect is always going to make you better at what you do.”

Giles thinks about Jenny, and the way she’ll light up like a Christmas tree when he brings her a cup of morning coffee. “I think you might be right,” he says.


 

They dance together at senior prom to all the slow songs. And this is something that Giles hasn’t quite gotten used to: they don’t have to fill every second with conversation. It used to feel like every moment with her was stolen, and one day the world would cave in and this happiness would be gone, and so he had to tell her everything important the exact moment it crossed his mind. But he has tomorrow with Jenny, and the day after, and right now, dancing cheek to cheek with her really is enough for him.

That’s the moment he changes. That’s the moment love changes him.


 

It takes him years to understand. Years, and hard-won battles, and irritating Psychology professors who turn out to be secret government operatives. But one day Giles is opening the Magic Box (as he often does), and he looks over at his wife (as he often does), and with her hair cut short, in that years-old leather jacket from their high school days—

A memory comes back to him, one of the first poems he’d thought of when looking at her oh so long ago: and all that’s best of dark and bright/meet in her aspect and her eyes.

He smiles, just a bit. If he had known what it was like to be in love, back then, he might not have been brave enough to fall in love with Jenny. Without a word, he crosses the room, sweeping her up into his arms, pressing her up against the bookshelf.

Rupert!” she giggles, breathless, hands against his chest.

There are no words for something like this, Giles realizes. Sometimes you really don’t need any.