Jenny had had no destination in mind, but somehow, she is not surprised when she looks up to find herself outside this apartment block.
When she had heard the knock at her door, she had prepared herself for a confrontation with Rupert. She had not been expecting the man who stood there, though she thinks that perhaps she should have done. Her uncle Enyos came not as a family member concerned for her welfare, but as a representative of the Kalderash.
Jenny Calender works with computers, dates Rupert Giles, has a life filled with small, inconsequential everyday things. Janna of the Kalderash has a Duty. Had a Duty. Their vengeance has no target, no purpose now. There's a certain dreadful irony in the fact that the creature had saved her life, driven the demon from her into itself – perhaps that closes the circle, now. A girl of the tribe taken, a girl of the tribe saved.
She has a sudden vision of what will happen if she tells her uncle the true and full story of the last few weeks. The rituals she would be required to undergo before the tribe would consider her 'cleansed', the horror and condemnation...no, she will not subject herself to that. She will find her own way to peace and healing.
Her uncle seemed to think that the only logical course of action was for her to relinquish her job, her apartment, her life
... She had understood, then – the elders will be trying desperately to maintain a hold over the younger members of the clan, those like her, who have a foot in both worlds. They seek to draw them back in, afraid that their heritage will be lost. And the tighter they try to hold, to confine, the more the youth slip away from them. Like ashes through their fingers. If Enyos sees vengeance as a living thing, moving through the generations, then Jenny sees it as a poison, a strangling embrace. A static, loveless thing, based on hate and hurt, it serves no purpose but itself. That one long ago night of death had killed them all, even those yet unborn. They do not move forward, do not change, mired in memory, and the world passes them by more surely with every year, as they dwindle.
She cannot condemn Rupert for the mistakes of his past, for keeping secrets – how can she? Her tribe use old magic, blood magic, soul magic. Her modern skills work alongside ancient beliefs. And her entire life has been bound to this one secret, this one summoning and binding. (She had ventured once to ask why, if they could curse the vampire, why they had not struck him down then. It was the only time her father had ever raised a hand to her.)
Now, everything has changed. There is no clear path before her. She only knows that she cannot go back.
Giles contemplates the half-empty bottle of Scotch, then puts it back in the cupboard, shuts the door. Getting soused won't help. Makes himself tea instead, regards the mug with a bitter twist to his mouth. So very British of him.
He forces himself to face the thought of who, or what, may now be in Sunnydale. An unsettling combination of information and power, motives uncertain, but apparently benign. (The idea of Ethan as anyone's plaything is fairly horrible. The idea of him in thrall to a self-proclaimed goddess of chaos is terrifying.) He cannot regret the loss of Angel, cannot deny that this painful knowledge is necessary, that his eyes have been opened. Because he has made a discreet enquiry, and there is indeed an S.R. Zabuto stationed out in Jamaica, with cover as a lecturer in the University of the West Indies. That, and the slightly cagey attitude of his contact in London, tell him with a chilling certainty that there is indeed a reason why he has felt even more isolated these last few months. A second Slayer. Unprecedented.
That nobody has seen fit to inform him of this tell him so very much. He knows that he has never been invited to the Watcher's retreat, not privy to the higher levels of politicking in the Council. He had been truly surprised to be the one sent to the current Slayer. It had taken him less than five minutes to realise that it was not redemption, but a further refined humiliation. Just another sign of his continual failure to be what is expected of him.
He hesitates to use the word 'indoctrinated', even in his own mind, but it is certainly true that Buffy does not fit the pattern of a traditional Slayer. And, that he, even as a third generation Watcher, fails to measure up to whatever standard has been set by those who came before. Part of him still smarts about it, even whilst another part will forever strive for praise and approval that can never come. He understands every bit of Buffy's rage against her destiny, her desperate desire for normal life, for a choice. What more do they want from him? They have had his hopes, his dreams, moulded his past and determined his future, condemned and controlled, sent him to the front lines of a conflict already hamstrung. And he is more certain than ever that Travers is just sitting in his office, marking off the days on the calender until the world spins back onto its accustomed axis, and he can 'regret to inform'. There will be precious little regret there.
What he would really like, right now, is to be sitting in a pub and moaning over a pint – how many nights had he spent doing that, nights that shaded into the grey of morning, London stirring around them. Staggering through Soho, looking for a fight or a shag, in whatever order, watching the sun come up over the river, cigarettes and black coffee, coming down from the high. Sometimes, he misses the changing skies of home, because grey, damp, stinking, horrible cesspool that it is, London will always be home.
Instead, he sits alone in a room that seems too small and quiet, drinking tea that never tastes quite right. He doesn't have anyone to talk to about any of this. All those he might count as friends are back in England, really, and most of them are connected to the Council. He spends his entire life surrounded by children, and now his one inept attempt at an adult relationship has been stalled by his resurgent past.
God, his past. That is another complicated thing, all edges and regrets. Twenty years have come and gone, and he has to wonder how much the man has changed – the face was older, but he'd known that crooked grin, those eyes. Wonders how much he has changed, to the other's eyes. Is it as much as he hopes, or as little as he fears? Because he cannot tell. Just now, he doesn't feel so far removed from that angry, confused young man he had been, and that scares him. His soul is marked far deeper than ink on skin, he can't be that heedless again. Not now. He has Buffy, he has all of the children, to guide and protect. He was never trained for this. One Watcher, one Slayer, the way it was supposed to be. Except – there is another Slayer, now. Everything is changing, and nothing is sure. His mind squirrels miserably back and forth. How has it come to this? He is contemplating turning his back on decades of hard-fought achievement, because the fragile edifice is crumbling.
He flings the mug against the wall, and instantly feels ridiculous.
Of course, there is promptly a knock at the door.
Jenny, pale and drawn, blinks at him.
“Is this a bad time?”
“No...no, do...” Stops himself, steps aside. “Um.”
She steps past him, stutters to a halt when confronted with the still boarded up window, turns abruptly.
“Jenny, I...” His hands hover, fall uselessly. He wants to touch her, comfort her, daren't, doesn't know how.
Her own hands clench, unclench, and then she looks up, a deep breath.
“My birth name is Janna Kalderash...”
It is just another body-blow. Giles can't believe that he has been so blind, so gullible...
“You were sent here?” His voice sounds dull to his own ears.
“And now my duty is done. They want me to leave.”
“Well, then...” He turns his back. “I...is there anything left to say?”
Exasperated, she looks at the stubborn set of his shoulders. Idiotic Englishman. Walks around to look up at him. He looks as tired as she feels. That slightly battered face has become very dear to her, and she hates to see it closed off.
“I said no.”
Relief and surprise, and a touch of anger.
They pick over the pieces. Fractured trust goes both ways, but Jenny will not be a hypocrite. Rupert's reasons for hiding his past are not noble, but they are human, understandable, hurt nobody but himself. And both of them have carried secrets which were not merely their own to tell.
“I don't know exactly what it was, but the Elders were very worried, felt that the curse was weakening. His suffering was...important.”
Giles shivers, a cold flicker at the edge of his mind.
“Curses can be broken. You should have warned me.”
“How could I tell you? What could I say? You seemed to accept the... relationship.”
His shoulders slump, and he takes off his glasses, rubs his eyes wearily.
“I've been thinking about that, I can't believe that I was so complacent. What he was, what he did...I should never have allowed him around the children.”
“He was always drawn to innocence.”
“I cannot ever say as much to Buffy, but I am very glad that he is gone.”
“So am I.” Bites her lip. “However much he may have tried to atone, I could still never forget what he was. And...when I opened my eyes...his face...” Her voice breaks, betrays her.
This time, there is no reason for him not to put his arms around her. He curses himself, because yes, to come out of the darkness, down off the high, and find yourself looking into the face of your childhood nightmare – he had thought her reticence on his account, but he has been blind.
Not a spy, but a guardian. He can live with that. Duty. Regret. Bonds of family. A Calling unasked for, resented. The complicated tangle of loyalty and pride, a heritage to live up to. Perhaps there is someone who can understand.