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Romance Languages

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But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights
-from Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott

She has spent years trying to dodge the past, forge on ahead to something new. Her people are all tied up in things that are long dead and gone, and they sent her here to bind her to their tradition. Her people, what an understatement. They are no less than her family, and no more than a weight she shamefully wishes she could shake off like rainwater on a humid day.

Buffy thinks she's pinned down by a destiny she was saddled with out of nowhere, and Jenny wishes there was something she could do about that. While no one ever asked Jenny to die for a calling she never wanted, Janna was saddled with a destiny at birth, and she grew up watching her choices disappear at every turn.

There's a reason she's stayed away from practicing magics, even as she clings to familiar systems of belief. She watches them change with the changing tides, sees patterns in unbelievable phenomena as much as in the tidy binary world of the digital age.

The truth is, she fell in love with the world as she sees it, with the forward thinkers and the modern maelstrom she found on the outside. Times move ahead and leave people like the Kalderash behind. They are as anachronistic as the Amish, the Mennonites, people who would shun them and their pagan ways. Because they have not adapted, they are beginning to die out. Her cousins have all gone far away, changed their names, left no forwarding addresses. Her aunts and uncles mourned and tore their clothes and prayed that their ancestors visit vengeance upon them.

Jenny loves the modern world, its slow seduction, the way everyone seems so free and the way choices crop up at every turn. Nothing is predestined, and you never know where a choice might lead you.

Still, she cannot entirely cut away the cords of the past, and she feels them constantly, tugging at her belly in shivery anticipation. She finds an erotic sort of wonder in exploring ancient ephemera, and so it follows that she is drawn to him.

If she were truly trying to break away, she would resent her attraction to Rupert Giles. But rather, she is straining for some kind of balance, and that, in a way, makes perfect sense.

His whole life is lived in the past. Not just in the physical realm, but in the metaphysical realm as well. Resisting the computer age valiantly, lingering among books coated with dust. Dust that may have once been the skin of a noblewoman, or the prized arrow of a hunter, or even the very essence of a vampire itself. He pores over Watchers' diaries, hoping against hope that they will keep his own Slayer alive just one more day. And therein lies Jenny's equilibrium: he must spend every moment in anticipation of the next, thinking of the future even while trying to unlock the lessons of the past.

She thinks she may love him for it, and she knows it could be a very, very bad thing.

The feeling that races down her spine whenever he casually touches her, that jolt of cold and heat and sharpness, it has a voice. It encourages her to forget the worst-case scenarios. Theirs is a surface world, broken only occasionally by inclusions from their darkest nightmares. It is all too easy to listen to the voice, to lose herself in his hundred tiny caresses.

And so she allows herself to tempt fate.

Rupert whispers obscenities in dead languages, breathes them into her ear and she arches her back to encourage him. There are wine glasses abandoned on her coffee table, dregs of cabernet drying at the bottoms. There is a soft cashmere afghan thrown across her lap, and his fingers slowly draw it back, stroke up her legs and under her skirt. His jacket disappeared sometime before dinner; his tie, sometime afterward. His hair is ruffled and he hardly looks like the man she thought she knew.

He explained it all to her; his past, the hazard, the mayhem. Laid it out as an apology and as a gift. He didn't stutter or hesitate when he spoke.

She cooked. It was nothing special; in fact, she hardly remembers the taste of the meal now. The undercurrent distracted her as it towed them out to sea. He pretended to be interested in his food all through dinner, when every time she turned her head she could feel his gaze on her skin. But she played along, acted through the bland conversation about work, about the district administration; pretended it was nothing out of the ordinary when talk turned to destiny and a long line of girls fated to die young.

He was honest with her. Sincere in his apology. Forthright in revealing his secrets. She wishes on some level she could do the same with him, but her secrets are not precisely hers to tell. She wishes she could explain how, exactly, she knew of vampires. Why she is here. Why she watched as intently as he did, even before she began to fall for him.

The thoughts disappeared when he set his wine glass on the coffee table with a sense of finality. When he turned and kissed her opulently, slipping his hot tongue into her mouth as she opened it to speak. When his broad palm settled on the curve of her hip.

Now, Rupert's eyes burn into hers. His passion follows a long thin cord through history, past the thick earthy dark ages and its attendant medieval legends, through the hearts of the pre-Raphaelites and the acolytes of Art Nouveau. Skates through the twentieth century on the slick planes of psychelia, free love, rediscovered mysticism. She sees that they are bound by philosophy as much as scope. She murmurs back to him in languages she thought she'd forgotten.

His body seizes against hers. It won't be long. They will stumble through the beaded curtain separating the living room from the hallway. They will fall into bed and make vivid, potent love. She will toss aside the warnings of the past in her quest for a rediscovered myth.

In the meantime, his fingers creep inexorably upward. Her body waits.