Word Count: ~1,800
Spoilers: Set during that too-brief happy time between "Ted" and "Surprise"
Summary: Giles, Jenny, and date night (of a sort) in the library.
Author's Note: OH MY GOD IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO WRITE THIS. Hours and hours and hours! Which is ... just strange. Clearly I am out of practice with this whole writing lark. But here we are at last!
For mollivanders's prompt 'Giles/Jenny, Groundhog Day,' which is why there is rather more talk about groundhogs than one might tend to expect in your everyday run-of-the-mill fanfiction.
“You know,” Jenny says by way of greeting, breezing into the Sunnydale High Library (again), “most guys might see Friday night as an opportunity to take a girl somewhere other than their workplace library.”
“Yes, well.” Rupert steps out from between the shelves, arms full of books that look at least as old as California, and almost as old as hanging out in this library. “Aren’t you lucky to have gotten me instead.”
“The luckiest.” She opts out of her usual route straight to the computer, taking a detour to kiss him hello.
“I can’t tell whether that was meant to be sarcastic,” he says once they’ve pulled apart.
“Me either,” she teases. This earns her that look from him, the one where he can’t decide whether to smile or roll his eyes and so she gets a smile/eyeroll hybrid that’s way cuter than it has any right to be. “So,” she says, taking a seat at the table, “what’s the big bad of the evening?”
“I told you earlier,” he says, sitting opposite her. “On the telephone.”
“No,” Jenny says, “you said groundhogs.”
Rupert just stares at her. Like she’s the strange one in this conversation.
“… Groundhogs?” It’s less surprising than it should be at this point, but she still feels obliged to bust out a little skepticism. “Seriously? I thought that was some of that weird English humor coming out to play.”
“Trust me, when it’s weird English humor, you’ll …” Jenny arches an eyebrow. “… in all likelihood not have the slightest idea. Er. Fair enough.”
“Are they evil groundhogs?”
“Oh, obviously,” she mimics.
“Groundhog Day is hardly the happy-go-lucky celebration it’s hailed as in this country. Little do most people know, it happens to have some very sinister pagan roots which manifest every few hundred years.”
“How sinister are we talking?”
“If the groundhog finds cloudy weather on the morning of February 2, it will leave its burrow—”
“—to suck the souls from every living entity who crosses its path. Via said entity’s eyes. Which it first removes. And eats.”
“Adorable,” she grimaces. “How ‘bout if the groundhog sees sunshine?”
“Oh, it’s not unlike the legend,” he says, too-casually. “Winter will reign on for … longer.”
“To be more precise, the world will descend into an arctic wasteland. Where the groundhogs suck the souls from every living entity. This volume has a very helpful illustration.”
Jenny winces and pushes the book back across the table. “All right, I’m sold. There’s no way my wardrobe’s cut out for that.”
“And your eyes are quite nice,” he adds. “It would be a shame to lose them.”
“Charmer,” she says, knocking her foot against his affectionately under the table. “You do realize that Groundhog Day’s like three weeks away, right?”
“One must always plan ahead, with evil groundhogs,” he responds, all straight-of-face and extra British.
“Now you’re just messing with me.”
She does that eyebrow thing again.
“Maybe a little,” he relents, making her laugh.
She does a little web-surfing while Rupert flips through pages and makes vague, disapproving muttery noises that rarely bother to become words. She thinks he might play up the everlasting feud between him and the computer for her benefit. She tries not to let him catch her smiling. And then, after fifteen minutes and three big dusty no-fun-looking tomes—
“Sorry to break it to you, England,” she announces, “but I think your book’s a little out of date.”
“Pardon me?” he says, like she’s just challenged him to a duel.
“The PaganMagickRodentsAndYou.com message boards are all over it,” she reports, “and the worst thing that we’re looking at is an outbreak of mystical fleas hitching a ride on the possessed groundhogs. They would’ve been a big threat about five hundred years ago, but their power source is so drained by this point that the worst Sunnydale’s looking at is a couple of bug bites of mysterious origin.”
Now he’s looking at the computer like it’s the one who’s throwing around duel invites. “Surely it couldn’t have just told you all that. Surely.”
“Embrace the future, Rupert,” she sing-songs.
He ignores that advice entirely. Big surprise. “Still, it’s probably best that Buffy sees to the problem. It could be—”
“Exactly.” He stares thoughtfully down at his big old stack of books. “I suppose the next logical step is mystical fleas.”
She likes to think she’s as patient as the next girlfriend-of-a-highly-English-Watcher-s
“You’re punishing me,” Jenny proclaims, “for monster trucks. I get it. You hate me for attempting to broaden your cultural horizons, but you’re so Merchant and Ivory that the only way you can get all this pent-up resentment across is by forcing me to research diabolical rodents and their insect pals with you on Friday night.”
“I wouldn’t say the rodents are diabolical,” he frowns, “so much as harbingers of deviltry. I doubt the poor little beasts have much say in the matter. They are possessed by ancient forces, after all. And: it most certainly is not about the monster trucks.”
“Then it’s the crossbow thing.”
“Oh, now, that’s just ridiculous. I’ve forever dreamt of finding the woman who will inflict severe wounds upon me, courtesy of medieval weaponry.”
“Kinky,” she declares, after some pretend deliberation, “but I can work with it.”
That’s enough to get the glasses off. He’s a little blushy around the Merchant and Ivory edges as he polishes the lenses; she takes it as a compliment. She likes that he’s so flusterable. Sometimes she wonders where it comes from. Ethan Rayne and Eyghon were enough to convince her that Rupert wasn’t exactly blushing and stammering his way through his earlier years. Still, she can’t quite buy it as an affectation. Maybe it’s more like reinvention. He wanted to be someone new so badly that he made it happen. Made a whole new life come true. It’s a feeling she understands, and one of the few things they’ve got in common. It’s too bad he can’t know that.
(Not yet, chimes something stupidly optimistic in the more delusional depths of her brain.)
“So, no kids tonight?” Jenny asks somewhat pointlessly (to drown it out). It’s very definitely just the two of them right now. There’s something about the dim light and the books and the silence that makes the whole scene kinda romantic. Ah, love on the Hellmouth.
“Buffy mentioned plans to patrol with Angel, and I shudder to imagine what Xander would do if I asked him to aid in a quest against evil groundhogs.”
“Mocky song and dance number?”
“Almost inevitably. Willow would rise to the challenge, no doubt, but if any of them deserve a night off, it’s her. I thought this might be just us.”
‘Angel’ sets off a little mental ding ding ding! Throw ‘Buffy’ into the equation, and it should upgrade to brain sirens. But she likes 'just us' better. And— it’s one night. It’s one night, and she’s tired of this weighing her down, this loyalty she’s not even sure is hers anymore. And where’ll be the good in keeping vampires cursed if the world is devoured by possessed groundhogs and their mystical flea minions, anyway?
It’s smart prioritizing. That’s all.
She watches Rupert as he peruses another book.
Very smart prioritizing, she thinks, with a little happy-sad ache in her heart. She can’t quite decide whether it’s the happiness or the sadness that doesn’t belong in this picture.
“So this is date night,” she surmises, leaning forward on one elbow, “all passion and groundhogs.”
He shuts the book, and copies the motion. “More the looming specter of groundhogs, really.”
“Before you threaten to use it against me for years to come, may I just point out that you did shoot me with a crossbow.”
One part of that sentence immediately becomes her favorite. “For years to come?”
“F—figure of speech, of course,” he says. With his mouth, that is. His eyes are all Neruda sonnets.
“Of course,” she agrees. Her foot finds his under the table again.
The fact that there’s a table between them? Unjustifiable, suddenly. Rupert seems to be thinking along the same lines. He starts to stand, and so does she, and her thoughts are a giddy anticipating flash: a few seconds from now she’ll be kissing him, he’ll be right here in her space, God does she like the sound of that, ‘cause she tried the whole staying-away-from-him thing and wouldn’t you know, it really didn’t agree with her, so why not fill this library with some good memories—
The door swings open before they even get around the table.
“Of course,” he mutters, so low that Jenny knows Buffy can’t catch it. Then he’s all model Watcher, standing at attention. “Yes, what—what is it?”
“Hey, Ms. Calendar! Sorry to be all dateus interruptus.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jenny assures her. “Can you really call research night at the library a date?”
Rupert gives her one of those You are insufferable/lovely looks. She answers it with an And you know you love it look that in all likelihood doesn’t belong in the presence of minors.
“Right!” Buffy says, brightly and obliviously. “Okay, so Angel and I were out patrolling, and everything was all normal, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t normal, in a way with wings – big, winged beasties, I mean; not just wings – and then the wingy things started eating the vampires, and don’t get me wrong, how handy is that?, but I thought I probably shouldn’t leave them there. Angel went to get a blowtorch. Just in case.”
“That could either be a very good call or a very bad one,” Rupert says, shrugging with absentminded purpose into his coat. “Was it a wyvern or a hippogriff, do you think? Both are common at this time of year.”
“Hippohuh?” Buffy says blankly.
“Never mind,” he says, sighing slightly. “I’ll need a visual to know just how to proceed. To the graveyard, then.” He turns back. “Jenny, if you’d like to join us—”
“And abandon researching the mystical fleas?” she says with faux-horror. “Are you kidding?”
“Mystical fleas?” Buffy wrinkles her nose. “Giles, a tip? Maybe next time, go for some candlelight.”
“Angel did beat me to the blowtorch, mind.”
“You two go ahead,” Jenny says. “I’ll be here if you need backup, research, whatever.”
“Wonderful, thank you.” Rupert leans in to kiss her, remembers Buffy’s presence, and recovers with a kiss on the cheek. Buffy stares at the ceiling and sings hum dee dum! to herself. Sometimes Jenny gets the totally irrational feeling that Buffy knows Jenny was sent here to keep her and Angel apart, and has decided that two can play at that game.
Technically, Jenny knows these things.
“A Watcher’s work is never done,” Rupert murmurs into her ear.
“Don’t worry,” she murmurs back, tugging at his tie, “I’ll get you alone one of these days.”
“I look forward to it,” he sighs, “believe me.”
She does. So she smiles, and watches him go.