Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
Monday, May 20th, 2002
Angel had obviously been busy in the time since he had left Spike's apartment. He wore new shoes, belt and pants, all in his size. Connor looked better, too, or at least he looked clean for the first time in Spike's experience. Faith had had her hair dyed subtly darker than her natural shade, just enough to look different at first glance, not so much as to look out of place with her complexion. Some blue tinted contacts completed the change.
Fred and Gunn had decided not to come along. They had, in fact, headed back to LA in Gunn's truck, using the excuse that it wasn't fair to leave Lorne holding the fort on his own for so long. However, it had also been apparent to the rest of the AI group that there had been some friction between the couple after they had run into Wesley and Marie, with the man unable to understand exactly why Fred should be so affected by Wes's actions, if, as she had always maintained, they were no more than friends.
"We just needed the orbs back. You didn't need to bring your whole crew," Spike bristled on Giles' behalf, knowing that the watcher was going to find it tough enough to grant Angel a pardon for the things he had done without the presence of Angel's pep squad.
"It's not the whole crew and they chose to come. I didn't make them." Angel gave Dawn, Brandon, Tara and Rogue equally pointed looks. Dawn had refused to miss all the good stuff, and as Buffy was less than happy at the idea of leaving her sister with Brandon after Xander's comments about what the couple had been doing the last time they were home alone, she had felt compelled to let them come, and Rogue had tagged along.
Spike's lips moved, but it wasn't him who spoke. "Spike, Angel, Giles, back room, just you three, and stop posturing. We're working in a timeframe here."
No sooner had Jenny herded Giles and Angel into the privacy of the training room, out of earshot of all but Connor, than she turned to the former watcher. "Rupert, you have something to say..."
The grey-haired man cleared his throat a couple of times. "Jenny has asked me to put our differences behind us. For her sake, I find it impossible to refuse. If she bears you no ill will for her murder, then it would be selfish of me to bear a grudge for how that murder impinged on my life. Total forgiveness may, as yet, be beyond me, but I believe my willingness to set aside our differences and start afresh, for her sake and for Buffy's, is sufficient of a step in the right direction to appease both of them.
So, if you can agree that certain subjects, like Jenny, are off limits. I will do my best to treat you with the same courtesy that I would give a stranger."
Spike looked back and forward between the two, but it was Jenny who questioned them. "Deal? No looking back, no asking for forgiveness. You both pretend that you never met until tonight..."
Angel found himself unable to draw away from the deep brown gaze that held him. He nodded solemnly. "Deal."
Giles likewise gave an impatient nod, but then, unlike Angel, he had known what was to come.
Spike took over again. "Okay, Angel-arse, I would say vamoose but I guess since you can't go back outside without the orbs, then you better just head next door... an' since, like as not, I won't be seeing you again this trip, I'll say thanks for showing up. Havin' your pet slayer about made things easier on Buffy than it would have been without her, so thanks. Dinner's still on me next weekend. Hope your luck comes in lookin' for the cheerleader 'tween now an' then. Now, send in my girls."
Angel looked ready to protest at Spike ordering him around like a minion but realised it would get him precisely nowhere. He closed his mouth, summoned up what dignity he could and returned to where his son was waiting with Anya hovering protectively between Connor and her merchandise.
Spike turned to Giles. "You do realise how much I'm trusting you an' your lady friend, don't you?"
Giles nodded. "It is rather self-evident," the former watcher replied as he set up various crystals on a small table. When the women came in, Buffy and Dawn each carried a couple of chairs and they set them up so that three of them were on one side of the table facing the other. Tara carried various herbs and crystals instead and she busied herself setting up a sacred circle, while Spike took the central seat, facing Giles, Dawn and Buffy each holding a hand on either side of him. It took all Brandon's efforts to keep Rogue calm in a corner of the room.
Spike gave Dawn a reassuring smile. "I'll be back come the witchin' hour, sweet thing. Tinkerbell an' the Watcher'll do it right." He pressed a kiss against her forehead. "An' even if it doesn't all run to plan, you think anything could keep me away from you two?"
"It better not," Buffy tersely informed him before claiming a kiss of her own that had Giles polishing his glasses with fervour. "I'll be waiting."
"Okay, Mesmer, as your lady keeps sayin' you haven't got all day, so you better make with the hypnotism if you want some privacy."
"Quite." Giles replaced his glasses and began first to hypnotise Spike, and then later, when Spike "slept" within his own body, with a heavy heart, Giles worked on creating the safety-net that would allow Jenny to leave. At the first stroke of midnight on the university clock tower, Jenny would experience euphoria, bliss, perfect happiness. With her departure or with the twelfth stroke of midnight, Spike would return to wakefulness. It took almost three quarters of an hour before it was done and only Jenny looked out from behind Spike's metamorphosed eyes. Buffy could no longer communicate with him via their bond, but she knew that he wasn't gone. They were half way there.
Jenny stepped carefully into her designated spot within the sacred circle that Tara had created. The witch looked back and forth between Jenny and Giles. "You understand that this is simply a glamour? You'll look like Jenny, sound like Jenny and even feel like Jenny but it's still Spike's body that's there underneath the illusion..."
Spike's head nodded. "We know. We won't do anything with his body that he wouldn't do."
"Good." The blonde looked down at the text which rested on the floor in front of where she sat in the lotus position and began to intone the words in medieval French that were written there. It was the same spell that had gained renown in the fairy tale, Cinderella. Until the stroke of midnight, Jenny would once more look as she had when she was alive. She would appear to be dressed in those clothes that Tara chose for the brunette. Everything was much as it had been in the story, except Jenny already had her own Prince Charming.
Buffy stood, walking over to take Giles' hand as they watched from just outside the sacred circle while the gradual transformation came over his onetime enemy. Buffy stood on tiptoe to whisper in the man's ear. "Spike told me lately that the way he copes with the idea of me dying is that he tries to make sure that we make the most of every single minute that we do have. I think he'd want you to do the same with the time he's giving you." Giles managed to nod, any verbal reply proving far beyond his current capabilities as he watched Spike's hair first darken and then seem to flow over his shoulders in a dark silken wave, stopping when it hung to about four or five inches past a pale collar bone that was now too delicate to be Spike's. It seemed that Jenny had grown her hair in heaven.
Still, even as the lines of Jenny's figure changed and Spike's royal blue shirt stretched more tightly in some places and hung slightly more loosely in others, she wore the vampire's clothes and boots. Tara waited until the bodily transformation was complete before she took a moment to assess her work, unable to contain a small intake of breath as she appraised the woman, deciding what clothes would best suit her.
A brief hand gesture completed the spell. A deep red dress left Jenny's shoulders bare except for a shoestring halter strap before lightly draping her upper arms in diamonds of finely woven silk. The material outlined the curves of her breasts and waist before flaring into a feather light mass that swirled to her calves where, like on the sleeves, the hem rose and fell in a zigzag line. A small silver clip pinned back Jenny's hair on one side and a pair of flattish silver sandals with a matching purse completed the outfit, their thin straps delicate and feminine, but at the same time comfortable.
Tara moved around the circle to join the sisters as Buffy gave the entranced watcher a gentle push toward the woman who waited for him, her eyes gleaming with mischief and humour as she observed his thunderstruck expresson. "I'm guessing she did good with the clothes?" she teased.
Tara shook her head. "The clothes might account for about twenty percent of it. I think the rest is down to how he feels about the woman inside them."
"Have you got the car keys and the orbs?" Buffy asked, getting Jenny to check for the items that had previously been in Spike's pockets.
Jenny patted down the areas where Spike's pockets had been before opening up her purse and finding the things there, or at least apparently there. It seemed unwise to question the spell's mechanics too deeply. "All present and correct."
"Okay," Buffy nudged Giles forward another couple of inches. "Time you two went off and enjoyed yourselves."
Giles, finally, seemed to recover from his stupor and offered Jenny his arm. "I think if we want any peace and quiet we should make a move."
"Anything you say..." Jenny agreed, pausing as they opened the back door into the alley and witnessed the transformation that Tara had wrought on Spike's beloved DeSoto. It was the same car, in the same basic black, with a touch of white on the fins, but the leather interior was soft and supple instead of aged and cracked and its chrome and paintwork gleamed as if it had only just driven off the assembly line that morning. The brunette swayed her way to the driver's door in a way that Buffy just knew shouldn't have been possible in flat shoes. "...So long as I get to drive."
Buffy looked over to the other slayer as the remaining group moved back into the main part of the shop. "I could kinda use something to take my mind off the idea of my watcher being on a date with my fiancé. You up for patrol or are you all heading back to LA?"
"I'm guessing that Angel wants to head off as soon as it's dark, but it seems like if all the rest of watcherdom is about to hit town, then maybe I should stick around till this whole thing plays out, so, sure." Faith shrugged.
"Can we come?"
Buffy turned on her sister with her most withering glance. "What part of me trying to keep you safe don't you understand? Take Rogue for a walk, instead, and if I find out you weren't home before dark, you'll be grounded from now till Thursday."
"Or the grounding can start right now?"
Dawn opened her mouth as if to argue but then shut it before Buffy decided to live up to her threat, half-dragging Rogue behind her as she stomped off toward the shop's front door, leaving Brandon little option but to jog to catch up.
Wes brought the Harley to a stop in front of Marie's building, hoping he hadn't taken her comment about nothing too formal overly literally, but then, it wasn't like they couldn't either walk or take her car from here if she didn't feel like riding pillion. They had time enough for being grown ups when they were taking Rosa with them.
His confidence wavered slightly as he thought once more about the responsibility he had taken on. As yet, there was nothing written in stone, no firm commitment on either side, but he knew that he already didn't want to let Marie go. Coping with the fact that she was a single mother was just something he would have to deal with one step at a time. It wasn't that he didn't like children, he just didn't have much in the way of experience, and he had a feeling that as children went, Rosa was likely to be quite the experience.
He was halfway up the stairs to Marie's apartment when he met a young couple coming down. The woman's skin glowed with a silvery almost ethereal luminescence that brightened the area around her for several inches. Her irises seemed huge, so that the whites of her eyes were almost hidden by their mercury shimmer. The tiny horns that were barely visible through her hair were the same colour as her always present lipstick, almost reminding Wes of Lorne's except they were straighter and further back on her head, but her bob with its mix of platinum and honey blonde streaks and the black kohl and vintage dress would have given away who she was, even if her escort hadn't obviously been the same species of demon as the doctor who had helped out with Spike the previous evening.
"You said you changed colour. You didn't say you lit up like a Christmas tree," he teased.
"You didn't think you were going to learn all my secrets in one day, did you, boss?"
"I doubt it's possible for any man to learn all of any woman's secrets in a lifetime," Wes responded drily. "See you in the morning, not too bright and early."
"Half past nine," Bee called back from where she was now a flight of stairs below him. "I'll bring the doughnuts. You have the coffee ready."
"Half nine," he confirmed. He knocked on Marie's door with a lighter heart. Sure, he was working in unknown territory, but then this whole move to Sunnydale had been like that. It hadn't taken him long to realise that when he had lived there before he had been skating on the surface of the town, seeing only the veneer that its human citizens liked to present. Even though he had been aware of the existence of demons, it had never occurred to him that they had their own culture, that they had dreams and dates and aspirations, just like humans. This time around, it was like the town had welcomed him in, both the human and demon side, and faster than he would have thought possible it seemed more like home than anywhere he had lived since his parents had first packed him off to boarding school. A large part of the reason for that were the two females who opened the door at his knock, and if one of them was a bit younger than the women he was used to dealing with, then he would just have to get used to her.
"Hey," he greeted them both, sweeping Rosa into his arms before leaning over to kiss Marie on the cheek. "Looks like someone got all ready for bed without me."
Marie shook her head. "She's had her bath and I got her into her P.J.'s but we've still got to go and say goodnight to grandma and then her story. You made it in plenty of time."
"I didn't know you were a walking on the beach at sunset type of girl..." Giles wrapped his leather jacket around Jenny's shoulders.
"Techno Pagan? There was a lot we didn't get a chance to find out about each other... and I didn't think you would cope well with salt marks on all that tweed." She ran an approving eye over Giles' shirt and faded blue jeans. "Not quite so fuddy duddy any more..."
Giles gave a lopsided smile. "I guess the California lifestyle won out in the end. I just couldn't find a haberdasher with a good tweed anywhere in Southern California, and you can only get away with so many elbow patches."
"It suits you." Jenny drew his face down to hers, her lips parting as they met his, his jacket sliding unnoticed from her shoulders.
Desire darkened Giles' eyes as he raised his head once more, but he knew that there were limits to where they could go from here. "So... what exactly was the arrangement that you came to with your not so esteemed host?"
Jenny shrugged. "Clothing stays on, and hands... or whatever else, stay on their original respective sides, which I guess isn't so bad. He could have gone for a lot worse... and it's not like you'd be thrilled to find yourself with your hands down Spike's jeans."
"No, I don't think I would be, but I can think of far worse things to do than to curl up on the warm sand and 'make out' ..." Giles' smirked at the blatant Americanism that crept into his speech. "...with someone I love, while we watch the sun set. I just wish..."
Jenny's lips claimed his before he could say any more. "No wishes. No cup half-empty. Just you, me, tonight, here and now. This night is a gift. Let's not waste it with might have beens." She picked up Giles' jacket and dusted away the loose sand before Giles took it from her, holding it so that she could put it on properly this time.
"I'm willing to bet that shoes don't count as clothing." She pulled loose the knots that held her sandals on her feet, stepping out of them and pushing one into each of the lower pockets of Giles' coat. "You California enough to paddle? Or is there still a layer or two of tweed hiding beneath those jeans?" she asked as she ran to where the incoming waves swirled around her ankles, the surf splashing the hem of her dress.
Giles didn't even bother to take off his shoes. That would have been a waste of precious moments that he could spend with her. He simply walked into the water until they drew level. His hand smoothed a stray hair from her cheek and he stared into her eyes as he answered. "For you, I could be California enough for a twenty-first century remake of 'From Here to Eternity'."
Their kiss, however, was almost chaste. It spoke of love and of wonder and of gratitude for this final chance to be together. As they drew apart for air, Jenny's arm wrapped around Giles' waist and she drew him into a slow wander along the waves' edge. The sun's rays skimmed the ocean as they walked, pausing often to kiss or embrace, the sky fading from blue to pink to orange, purple and finally indigo. As the air grew chill, they made their way up the shore to the dry sand, Giles finally removing his socks and shoes and leaving them by a rock he hoped he would be able to recognise later. They combed the high-tide mark, until they had gathered together enough dry driftwood for a small fire.
Giles tried not to think of the hours trickling away, before, if all went according to plan, she would be taken away from him again, and yet he couldn't help it. The night seemed wonderful and cruel, and Jenny saw the pain there in his eyes as they sat side by side, Giles' arm around her shoulder and her arm circling his waist.
"It will come again, if you let it, Rupert. Not exactly the same and not with me, or not this side of heaven, but if you let it, maybe not tomorrow or next month or even next year, but there will be someone else."
"And if I can't help wishing it was you?"
"When the right one comes along, you'll be able to let go. Until then, you need to remember what you're capable of, what it can be like. It's going to be hard. It's going to open old wounds, but you can't keep hiding your head in the sand any more. All our lives, we all of us stumble round in the dark looking for happiness. We grasp at things like newborns and sometimes we get burned. Sometimes, like Willow, we hold onto the wrong thing and lose what's important. Sometimes we get second chances, like Xander or Buffy. The big problem is, in the dark it can be hard to tell whether you've got the real thing or not, but it's better to be stumbling around looking for happiness than to just curl up and go to sleep in the dark. It's better to go into every relationship thinking that maybe this might be the one and be disappointed a dozen times over than to miss your chance. We all make a few mistakes on the road, but what matters is getting there in the end, or in your case getting back there. Somewhere in that darkness, she's waiting for you. Someone who'll make your heart beat faster, who'll make you happy just to make her happy, sad if she's sad. Someone you'll want to share every day with."
Giles appreciated every one of her words. He knew that when she was gone they would give him the hope to carry on as she wished, but for now he didn't care for any talk of the future or any woman other than the one who was here with him right now. "And if, tonight, I simply want to make you happy?" he asked as he leaned in towards her, his hand resting briefly on the curve of her waist before sliding up to cup a soft breast. The tissue-thin silk did nothing to disguise the way her body responded to his lightest touch as she stretched to press against him, drawing him down on top of her.
"If you want to make me happy? Promise me... promise me you won't give up again..." Jenny's hands reached out, gently removing Giles' glasses from his face and dropping them into the sand above their heads.
Giles trailed his lips down the line of her neck, making her gasp with desire. "I promise..." His head continued to move downwards, his lips warm against the curves of her breast through the ethereal softness of the silk. Soon she felt like her bones had melted. The warmth in her blood more than matched the heat from the fire.
"Tell me you love me."
Giles raised his head, the orange flames of their fire reflected in the indigo depths of his eyes. "I will always love you, and I will always thank God for this day with you."
Jenny's hands on either side of his face guided his lips back to hers as she whispered, "I love you, too."
She tried to tell him without words how much he meant to her... how happy it made her to know that he was willing to make a new start... how wonderful it felt to be in his arms again... She tried to bring every tender and joyous thought she had into their embrace and then seconds later she gave up trying and just let herself drift in the sea of emotion that they seemed to share.
Giles gradually became aware of a roughness against his chin, the tongue his brushed against seemed to hesitate before stilling completely, his bare feet brushed against damp denim instead of smooth skin and he pulled away, still dazed and disorientated by Spike's return.
For his part, Spike half-pushed, half-rolled the heavier man from his position on top of him, his hands searching frantically for his cigarettes and lighter as if the taste of tobacco could purge the memory of the watcher's tongue in his mouth. He paused as he checked his shirt pockets, looking down with disgust at the large damp patch on his shirt, situated over his left nipple. It seemed as if he was about to launch into one of his tirades, but then he heard something. The bells of a distant mission echoed in the wave-washed quiet, not the last stroke of midnight, but every melodious note and then the eleven monotones that told him Jenny had left just over an hour early.
Spike sighed, his sympathy overcoming any pretence of anger or machismo. "Well, watcher, I guess since you broke the curse the old-fashioned way, without any of that hypnotism crap, I should just count myself lucky there's only spit on my clothes." The sympathy lasted right up until his questing hands pulled a sandal from each side of Giles' jacket rather than the cigarettes he had been searching for. His eyes narrowed and his lips pursed. "Tell me that this is not what's left of a perfectly good pair of Doc Martens..."
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