Summary: After Bad Eggs, Jenny Calendar makes a confession.
Disclaimer: Gee, they didn't belong to me before... and they STILL don't belong to me! (yeah, bummer, huh?) Of course, I'll argue my usual case that I'm _way_ nicer to them than their *cough* actual owner ;)
Author's Notes: This takes place after Bad Eggs. Everything up through that episode is the same... and I think you'll figure out where I digress...
Feedback: Thanks for reading! Feedback, as usual, is always appreciated :)
Giles had just finished shelving Lord Byron when he realized he wasn't alone in the library. It was just a feeling he had... but then, he'd learned to listen to those ambiguous feelings a long time ago. Setting down the remaining books of poetry on an empty shelf, he eased towards the front of the library through the stacks. Much time spent in this particular library had taught him that one of the floorboards behind the fourth shelf on the right squeaked... so he fastidiously avoided it. He didn't want to give the intruder any warning.
Despite his cool response to the threat, he realized he was sweating profusely in his heavy tweed suit. He remembered Buffy teasing him just this afternoon about how he was wearing a new tweed jacket - quite stylish. He had an inevitable feeling that she'd been mocking him. The grin on her face said as much. Shaking such thoughts out of his head, he moved carefully towards the stairs. The crossbow was in his office - probably out of reach, but he had a stake ready in his right hand. He had them hidden all over the library for occasions just such as this, and it had been the matter of a moment to pluck it from its hiding place. Of course, if what had invaded his inner sanctum was NOT a vampire... well then, a pointy sliver of wood buried in their chest would still give them pause.
He crept towards the back of the last free-standing bookshelf before the railing that surrounded the upper stacks. He was still hidden from the doors of the library... but whatever may be out there was still hidden from him, as well. Stealthily, he peeked around the corner, ready to withdraw at a moment's notice. The library was very dimly lit at this time of night - it was past eleven - so he figured he should be barely visible for a...
The whispered sound of a voice behind him caused him to jump and spin around, shoving the stake towards his attacker.
Angel caught his hand on the downswing... gently. Releasing his wrist almost immediately, the vampire backed up a few paces, holding his index finger to his lips.
Giles was about to demand - in less than genteel language - what the HELL Angel was thinking by sneaking up on him... but realized that the younger man was trying to keep him quiet. Instinctively obeying, he nodded wordlessly.
Angel almost smiled, then jerked his head towards the bookcase that Giles had just been going to peek around. His eyes dark, the vampire indicated with no words and a very few gestures that whatever was waiting for them in the main portion of the library was not nice.
Nodding again, Giles couldn't help but wonder what they were going to do. Angel motioned for him to stay where he was, and glided silently away, disappearing at once into the shadows. Where was he going? Was he getting help? Buffy, perhaps? What exactly was he, Giles, supposed to do in the meantime?
A loud snort, followed by a sharp yell and much scuffling answered all of his questions. There was a crash, the sound of splintering wood... then nothing. And nothing some more. Just when the silence was about to drive Giles to the point of peeking around the bookcase anyway...
"Giles!" Angel's voice sounded unbelievably loud to Giles, who jumped again, startled.
Shooting around the end of the bookcase in a righteous fury, the Watcher confronted Angel. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, scanning the room for an enemy.
By way of explanation, Angel kicked at a pile of ash on the tiled floor.
"Oh... vampire, eh?"
"Probably after one of your books," Angel speculated. "Sorry I surprised you back there... I just didn't want him to surprise you first."
"Well," Giles cleared his throat, ordering his pulse to calm down. "Very well then." Walking down the stairs to join Angel on the main level of the library, he frowned. "I suppose you're here to find Buffy, then?"
"Actually, no," Angel said with a sheepish half-grin. "I just left Buffy's house, and..."
"I trust she was well when you left her?" the Watcher in Giles questioned sharply.
"Of course!" Angel replied, obviously stung. "What do you..."
"I'm sorry," Giles said wearily, the adrenaline finally loosing it's hold on him. "I didn't mean anything by that, of course. I'm afraid I'm in a bit of a confrontational mood after that," he nodded at the dustpile on the floor "came into my library."
"No offense taken," Angel said carefully, walking over to the lone table, dragging his fingertips over the polished top.
Giles reflected on the thought that he and Angel had never had an easy relationship. As the Watcher, chosen Guardian of the Slayer, Giles had lived his whole life with the knowledge that vampires were real... and they were deadly. He happened to have had the extreme misfortune - in one way - of being chosen to Watch for a Slayer who'd managed to not only make friends with a vampire, but had fallen in love with that same vampire as well. It made for a very uneasy alliance. The first time he'd met Angel - despite the fact that Buffy had filled him in on the entire gypsy curse situation - Giles had found himself unable to turn his back on the vampire. It wasn't that he didn't trust Buffy - a Watcher and Slayer were to trust each other implicitly - but there was some deep, instinctive part of him that knew that soul or not, Angel was a predator at the core.
Realizing that Angel was still silently waiting, as if for permission to speak, Giles gave the vampire his full attention. Predator or not, Angel had come to be a valuable ally to their little group. If Giles was still profoundly unsettled by the idea of Buffy and Angel growing... closer, that was his own concern.
Angel was fiddling with his hands now, something that Giles had always thought must be a nervous habit. How deeply ingrained habit must become after over two hundred years...
"I'm worried something is going to happen," Angel finally said bluntly.
Giles took a deep breath, deciding that life was far too complex when any number of scenarios could be covered by Angel's statement. "How so?" he questioned.
His dark eyes skittering away from the Watcher to study a distant corner of the library, Angel shrugged. "I'm not sure," he replied... and Giles had the suspicion that the vampire was hedging. Not out of any maliciousness surely - as naturally leery as Giles was of vampires, Angel had never acted in anything but the best interests of the Slayer. Giles supposed that was part and parcel of him being in love with her.
"I wish I could help you," Giles said sincerely, "But I'm afraid I'm going to need a bit more information.
"I don't have much," Angel admitted, finally seating himself at the table. Giles wondered if it was simply so he'd have something to brace his hands against. The vampire seemed to be growing increasingly agitated... something that Giles viewed with trepidation. "It's just a feeling."
"Again, can you elaborate? Maybe if I had an idea of what circumstances you're experiencing this phenomenon during..."
"When I'm with Buffy," Angel blurted out suddenly.
Giles was suddenly quite certain he didn't want to be here, in the library, having this conversation. In fact, he would rather have been anywhere else at that moment - even at the monster truck rally. Inadvertent thoughts of Jenny steeled his nerves for a moment, allowing him to regain control over his rampaging desire to get the hell out of the situation. "Oh yes?" he finally managed. Oh yes, that's grand, Rupert... you don't sound at all like you're being strangled slowly, he chided himself.
"When I..." again Angel hesitated, and again Giles was seized with the sudden, irrational urge to run. He couldn't DO this. This was NOT happening. He was not standing here, in the dimly lit library, talking to a vampire - or rather, Buffy's vampire boyfriend - about what he suddenly had a sneaking suspicion they were going to be talking about.
He cleared his throat loudly, apparently surprising Angel, who jumped a bit. Good Lord the boy was nervous. No... this was no boy, Giles reminded himself. Despite his youthful appearance, this creature before him was almost two hundred fifty years old. Angel had seen and done more evil in his existence than Giles could comprehend... no, this was certainly no 'boy'. And he was far too old for Buffy, as well. Opening his mouth, he prepared to tell Angel that... then had a flash of insight into his own response. He was... he was acting like an angry father...
"It's not what you think," Angel interjected hastily, right before Giles could force the words out. "I'm not talking about..." the vampire seemed to desperately be searching for an appropriate word.
Relieved that he'd been so far off base, Giles supplied one eagerly . "Intimacy?"
"Yes. No. Well... intimacy of a sort... but not..." Angel bit his lip. "Never mind. I shouldn't have come here," he said suddenly, pushing himself to his feet and heading towards the stacks.
"No!" Giles protested, surprising himself. Angel was giving him just what he'd been praying for, right? A way out of this nightmarish conversation. And like a fool, he wasn't taking it. He found within himself a need to help Angel... a need to somehow ease the torment that was so visible in the young - no, ancient - man's eyes. "Please, don't go."
Uncertainty etched on his face, Angel turned back to face him.
Giles realized he needed to establish verbally the trust that he felt had been growing steadily - if slowly - between them. The suspicion, the wariness from earlier was disappearing. From the moment Angel had allayed his fears that the vampire had come for advice about... intimacy... with Buffy, Giles had found his thoughts in a much more orderly, rational configuration. It had been the knee-jerk 'not with MY daughter, you cad!' response, he decided - his paternal emotions towards Buffy surfacing in a protectively hostile way. But now... Angel needed help, and as many times as the vampire had offered his aid freely to the Slayer and her allies, Giles felt a deep desire to reciprocate.
"Listen," he said quickly, "I don't know what this feeling is that you've been having... but you feel it may be a portent? Some sort of foreboding?"
Angel nodded hesitantly, a faint glimmer of hope lighting in his expressive eyes.
"Well then... we shall certainly have to investigate it," Giles stated firmly. "Perhaps you'd indulge a few pertinent questions?" The Watcher breathed a well-concealed sigh of relief when Angel moved back towards the library table. "Shall we get started?"
The tiniest hint of a relieved smile toyed with the corner of Angel's mouth before fleeing from unfamiliar territory once more. But the message had been conveyed... the Watcher and the vampire were on the job.
Angel looked up from the text he had been intently studying for the past twenty minutes, drawing Giles' attention. The vampire had a speculative look on his face that Giles was fairly certain had nothing to do with the book in front of him - nor the fifteen others haphazardly stacked next to it. He was proven correct in the next moment when Angel smiled. "You've got company," he said casually.
Giles twisted his head quickly to look at the library doors... no one was there. He turned back to Angel, questioning.
"I can hear a human heartbeat other than yours, it's outside, growing closer," Angel said by way of explanation. "It's not Buffy."
"How do you...?"
"I just know," the vampire stated simply.
The doors swung open with a drawn-out squeak before Giles could dwell too long on Angel's response. "Jenny!"
The technopagan who'd so captured his heart smiled at him warmly. "Rupert! I was driving by and I saw the light on through the window, and..." she stopped to stare at Angel. "What's he doing here?" she asked quickly, an edge of tension in her voice that Giles attributed to Angel's species.
If Angel was taken aback by her reaction to him, it didn't show. "Ms. Calendar," he said with a respectful nod, referring to her as Buffy and her friends did.
"Angel," she replied courteously, her eyes still questioning Giles.
Reminding himself that she hadn't spent as much time with the vampire as the rest of them had, Giles hastened to explain. "Angel came here looking for help, Jenny."
Ms. Calendar's eyes went wide, darting between the Watcher and Angel.
Tapping the stacks of books they'd been diligently going through, he continued after an affirmative nod from Angel. "Perhaps you could help, as well."
"I... I don't know..." Jenny protested.
Thinking she was simply uncertain as to how to contribute, Giles decided to elaborate. "Angel has been having profound feelings of foreboding - dread, if you will - when he spends time...er... romantically with Buffy lately. He came to me, hoping that we could find some sort of explanation. He feels that it is a portent of some future event."
Jenny's mouth opened and closed soundlessly for a moment... then clamped shut. She turned her head to look at Angel, who was gazing at her with earnest appeal. "You... you love... her?" Jenny finally asked the vampire, her voice thick with an emotion that Giles could not name... yet it terrified him.
"Completely," Angel confirmed, the thought of Buffy bringing a small, unusual smile to his lips.
Giles fought down another surge of righteous paternal fury while at the same time battling an inexplicable wave of panic. What was happening here? Why was Jenny reacting as she was? Giles had assumed that she'd help eagerly, as she had on so many nights when he'd needed help aiding his Slayer.
"I... Rupert... I..." Jenny was obviously distressed, her hands shaking, her eyes huge and dark in her pale face. Yet beautiful - so beautiful as he always found her. Giles was afraid. He suddenly knew what Angel had been trying to describe to him earlier 'a knot... low in your belly, it hurts and churns and makes you want to scream... or cry...' the vampire had told him, and Giles felt that same knot right now.
"I have to... I have to t-tell you something, Rupert," Jenny whispered, her voice raw.
Giles barely noticed Angel rising from his chair like a shadow and disappearing into the stacks. Where he was going, Giles didn't know... nor did he have the energy to wonder. His whole being was caught up with the woman in front of him, who suddenly looked like she had something horrible to tell him. "What? What is it Jenny? Surely it can't be that bad," he said with an empty smile he knew must be ghastly.
"My..." Jenny stopped, her spine slowly stiffening as though being drawn taut with a steel rod. "My name is Janna," she said softly, firmly... but her eyes were still terrified.
"Janna," Giles repeated as if by rote.
"I'm not who I seem... I was sent here..." she drew in a deep breath, "I was sent here by my family."
Giles' mind floundered over all the possibilities... and couldn't find a single one that seemed to have the power to leave both of them shaking with dread. "Your family...?"
"The Romani," she whispered, her eyes haunted.
"The Ro... gypsies," Giles interpreted. "Gypsies. They sent you here..."
"... to guard the curse," Jenny finished for him, as if it were something she'd been forced to say many times before.
"Curse? The... Angel's curse...?" the library grew hazy and indistinct with reality around Giles for a long moment before snapping in to focus. "Angel? You were sent here to spy on Angel? On us?!" Betrayal replaced fear... and with it, the sinking feeling that all this... her feelings for him... had been nothing but a sham to get close enough to monitor Angel.
Her voice was frantic now, desperate. "No! It's not like that! Rupert, you have to listen to me, I..."
"You... all this time you were here for one thing," Giles said tonelessly. "To watch Angel. Why?"
Eager to explain, recklessly plunging ahead, trying to make him understand, Jenny let a tumble of words escape her. "To watch him... the curse was supposed to make him suffer and I was supposed to make sure he WAS suffering... but then I got here and I met Buffy and Angel and Willow and Xander and I realized they were real, and Angel was REAL - not just some fairytale I'd been told all my life, and he was in love with Buffy and I knew they were good for each other... but I met you, Rupert, and you were everything..." she paused, gasping for breath, tears hanging precariously from her lashes. Gulping quickly, she continued, "... and you were everything that I never thought I'd ever be lucky enough to have..."
Giles felt as though he were drowning in the words, thrashing about helplessly as they dragged him beneath the surface - where hurt and betrayal lurked like hungry sharks. "I need to think..." he finally managed to force past lips that felt stony.
Pale, shaking, she nodded. "I know... I wasn't ever going to tell you. Not because I was betraying you!" she emphasized suddenly, "but because I knew what I was doing was wrong... that what my people... Angel shouldn't have to suffer," she finished quietly.
Somehow detaching himself from the emotions churning in his stomach, Giles pulled his glasses off, polishing them obsessively. "Sometimes I don't think he truly does anymore," he said reflectively. "He has friends... he has a purpose... he even has love. Buffy, despite all my advice to the contrary, loves him desperately."
"That's... it's wrong," Jenny said reflexively.
Giles felt anger rising in him again and tried to separate himself from it once more. Before he could muster the resolve to tell her to just get out of the library and leave him be, she spoke again, quietly. "All my life, I've been taught that no matter what 'Angel must suffer'. Why? Angelus was the demon... why should the soul that was vanquished during his horrific reign be punished forever?"
"I'm sure I don't know..."
Jenny made a sharp movement with her hand, cutting off Giles' words. "The curse..." she whispered. "The curse... have you ever seen it?"
"Seen the curse? What do you mean?" Giles asked, his instincts as a seeker of knowledge taking precedence in the moment... a moment at which he felt they were teetering on the edge of some great realization...
"The text. Have you seen the text? Does Angel have it?"
"I... I don't know. I've never asked him. What do you...?"
The voice, small and frightened, came from the shadows of the stacks. Giles abruptly realized that Angel hadn't left the library after all, but had merely retreated to give them some privacy. He stepped from the blackness now, his face lined with anguish. "No... I don't have the text."
"Angel," Jenny breathed, stepping towards him.
He backed away from her. She stopped, uncertain. "Angel, you heard our conversation?" At the vampire's nod, she continued. "You have to believe me... I don't want you to suffer. I don't want you to be unhappy. Everything I was taught, everything I believed in shattered irrevocably when I came here. I want to help you."
"How can he believe you?" Giles whispered, his voice aching.
Her sad eyes turned on him. "He doesn't. He won't. Not for a long time. But I'll do everything in my power to help him... and you." She looked back at Angel. "We have to find the text for your curse, Angel. There must be SOME reason you were supposed to suffer forever... some reason.. maybe these premonitions you're having are involved... I have some books..."
Giles watched her as she soothed the vampire, promising him that they - all of them - would help him. He wanted to believe her. Wanted to believe so badly that everything would be all right... like she said it would. And then... like a balm on his soul, a cool rain after a lightening storm... he just had a feeling... a calming feeling that somehow, some way, the three of them tonight had made it so everything WOULD be all right.
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