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Redemption [3/3]

Title: Redemption
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rating/Pairing: PG, Giles/Jenny, auxiliary Buffy/Angel
Summary: A rewrite of the latter half of "Passion": Jenny lives, but that doesn't automatically fix everything. (This started out as a quick fix-it fic. Ten years and 23k words later, the only part of that phrase that still applies is 'fic'.)

[ Part One | Part Two | Part Three ]




Giles stepped back, panting, holding one hand up to indicate he needed a break. Buffy, for all that she had put more energy into her training than he had, wasn't even winded. /I need to be in better shape,/ Giles thought, ruefully, though he knew full well that without Slayer abilities, he'd never be at her level.

"All right," he said, raising the sword again. "Ready?"

"More than," Buffy said. She raised her own sword in a salute, and then attacked. Giles, making no move that wasn't pure defense, maneuvered her into facing the sun; she responded by deftly disarming him, kicking his feet out from underneath so that he sprawled hard on the ground, and putting her sword against his throat, not hard enough to cut or even to leave a mark, but enough to make the point that she /could/ have.

"Good," Giles said, holding back a wince. He would be bruised, in the morning, but if it made her a better Slayer, it was a necessary sacrifice, and one that he had made many times before. "Good. You do realize, however, that other opponents won't be so easy."

"Because they want to kill me," she said, tonelessly, "and you don't."

"That, and the opponents you generally face have some sort of supernatural ability."

"Like vampire speed and strength." Buffy's face was entirely neutral, even though they both knew who she was talking about.

"Like that, yes." Giles got to his feet. "Buffy..." He hesitated, not sure how to ask. "Are you okay with this?" he finally said.

"With killing Angel?" Buffy shrugged with a casual dismissiveness he knew was faked. "It's something I should have done a long time ago."

"That doesn't answer the question."

She met his gaze, eyes bright with unshed tears. "I love him, Giles. I can't stop. I tried; I know I should, but I can't. And... I don't know. I just want this to be /over/."

"We'll find a way," Giles promised her.

Buffy nodded and sniffled slightly. "Can we get back to the swords now? I want to hurt something."

Giles almost smiled. "All right; you should be as comfortable as possible with them. No hurting though."

"Darn," Buffy said, not sounding entirely upset. She made a few experimental swishes with the sword, which hummed as it cut through the air. "Hey, Giles, that move we did yesterday? I wanna try it with a sword, just to see."

Giles frowned slightly. The move had been complex and acrobatic; using a sword at the same time seemed like a dangerous variable. "Are you sure?"

"I'm going to need everything I can do," she said, voice harsh with determination. "This is one more thing."

"The balance will be different."

"Sounds kinda like my life," Buffy said wryly. "Giles, I'd rather try this now, with you, than have to do it for the first time fighting..." She hesitated, and Giles mentally filled in the blank with Angel's name. "Fighting anyone," she finished lamely.

"All right." Giles glanced at his watch. It was just after sunset, and would be full dark in less than an hour. The vampires, Angel in particular, would be out soon, if they weren't already. But with luck, a few more minutes wouldn't hurt him. "I'll spot you on it until you feel comfortable."

"Thanks." She smiled at him, and then launched into action.

The first time through, she held the sword but didn't use it; the second time, she was able to use it to parry an attack from an invisible opponent. After several more times through, each time close to flawless, she stopped, breathing hard. "Cool."

"Good job," Giles said. "I think that's perhaps enough for today."

Buffy grimaced. "Yeah. I promised mom I'd be home for dinner... and then I need to patrol." She picked up her jacket from where she'd tossed it to the ground at the beginning of the training session, and together they started walking back to the school, a few blocks away. "This thing is ending soon, Giles. I don't know that it'll be tonight, but soon. One way or another, I have to stop it."

Quietly, Giles said, "I have faith in you."

"So do I." Buffy's expression was grim. "I have to."

Giles put his arm around her shoulder for a one-armed hug; she leaned against him for a moment, and then said, "I'm glad you're here."

"I don't plan on--" Across the darkening street, Giles was aware of a running figure; it took a moment to recognize Angel's figure. "...leaving," he finished absently. At least they had swords...

But surprisingly, Angel didn't slow or turn, nor did he glance their way. The vampire was running in the direction of the school as if he were being chased by something evil. Though from what Giles could see of his expression, he didn't look so much frightened as...angry?

"Gee," Buffy said sarcastically, staring after Angel, "he didn't even stop to say hi? I'm devastated."

"Buffy..."

"It's weird, though. He doesn't usually run away, not without a fight first, or at least a snide remark. Maybe it was the swords? I didn't know he was that much of a coward though."

"He wasn't running /from/," Giles said, slowly, "as much as running /to/..." He trailed off.

"Running to what?" Buffy asked.

/Running to the school,/ Giles thought, helpfully. What was at the school? No one was there...

/...unless someone is./

His mind was whirling, putting the pieces together. Jenny had promised to tell him before she did anything, but she had the Orb, and if she already had the spell planned and ready-- "Damn it," he said, breaking into a run in the same direction that Angel had gone. "Jenny."

"Huh?" Buffy followed, keeping pace even though her confusion was evident. "Giles, what's going on?"

"No time," Giles shot back. If he was wrong, he could explain his thought process; if he wasn't, Jenny was doing a dangerous spell, probably alone, and completely unaware that a very annoyed Angel was on his way to where she was.

And she wouldn't be likely to get away a second time.

**********

"Well," Angel drawled, "if it isn't Giles' pet gypsy."

The words startled her -- she hadn't noticed the vampire coming in, and had no idea how long he'd been there watching her -- but Jenny didn't stop the spell, stop the quiet chanting under her breath. She didn't dare stop, not now, not any more.

"Don't you ever /learn/?" Angelus shook his head at her. "I don't want your damned soul; I don't even really want your life. It doesn't mean that much to me. I never really knew you. And I suppose I should be grateful to you for being so lax in your duties... for allowing me the chance to break free of my chains."

"Te implor, Doamne," Jenny said, trying not to grit her teeth in frustration. He was trying to goad her into distraction. She had to finish... had to concentrate. Couldn't let him win, not this time. "Nu ignora aceasta rugaminte."

/I implore you, Lord, do not ignore this request./

"...but," Angelus continued, louder now, as if trying to drown her out, "you mean something to the dear Watcher. /And/, for some reason I haven't quite figured out, you insist on trying to redeem yourself." He reached over and pinched out one of the candles that formed a circle around Jenny and the orb. The change reverberated through the swell of magick energy that was building beneath the fabric of reality, but that energy was too strong to be stopped now.

Jenny just hoped she could control it.

"Nici mort." The curse was half imploring the gods, and half manipulating magickal energies. "Nici al fiientei." It was stronger stuff than she'd done in years, strong dark magicks that she usually didn't want to touch. Even the business with Moloch had shaken her, and she wasn't the one doing the casting that time.

/Best not to think of that,/ she told herself firmly. /Best not to think. Just do./

"Nici mort, nici de-al fiintei..." /Not dead, nor not of the living/

Angelus lunged forward suddenly, and she tried not to flinch. /Keep your eyes on the Orb, Jenny. Concentrate on what you're doing. Angelus does not exist. Reality does not exist. Just the magic. Just this./ Her voice was somehow steady as she continued: "Te invoc, spirit al trecerii." /I call on you, spirit of the passing./

She was vaguely aware of the library doors opening. It startled Angelus away from her; it also disrupted her concentration enough that her control slipped a little. Almost desperately she tried to retain what little control she still had. She had to focus on the spell, and on the intent behind it. "Lasa orbita sa fie vasul," she said, narrowing her eyes to slits in an effort to concentrate. /Let this Orb be the vessel.../

"Get away from her," Rupert was yelling as he tackled Angelus; they tumbled in a dark, roiling mass, just at the edges of the vision. Jenny suppressed the spike of worry and continued to stare intently at the Orb.

"--care-i va transporta sufletul la el." /...that will carry his soul to him./

Angelus was snarling in rage, and he backhanded the Watcher hard enough to send him flying across the lobby area of the library, hitting the wall with a sickening crunch.

"Reda trupului ce separa omul de animal," Jenny said tightly, trying not to think, trying to deliberately not notice that Rupert wasn't moving. /Return to the body that which distinguishes Man from beast./

Angelus turned his attention to her again, and Jenny could feel the magic ripple, building, impatient and wanting to be set free; her control now was directed as much towards holding it back as towards feeding it. /So close... just a few minutes more... please.../

"Get away from her," a new voice said, cold and almost unemotional.

Angelus turned, a smile growing on his face. "Buffy. Wonderful! I was wondering where you were."

Jenny risked a glance up; Buffy was staring at Angelus, unflinching, unhesitating, unsmiling. "It ends now, Angelus," she said grimly, and raised her weapons: a sword in one hand, a stake in the other.

"Fine." He shifted to his vampire features, grinning widely enough to show fangs. "This has got to be my lucky day. First I kill your Watcher..."

Both Buffy and Jenny glanced automatically to where Rupert lay, still unmoving. Jenny immediately turned her attention back to the Orb, which was beginning to hum softly. Worry about Rupert would get her nowhere. She had to finish this. Had to.

At the periphery of her awareness, she was conscious of Angelus continuing: "...then I kill you. And then I drink from the Gypsy. Quite a twist of fate, wouldn't you say?" Even without looking up, Jenny knew he was smirking.

/Like hell you will./ Jenny concentrated on the magic, on the substance of the ether that was bending to her call, and smiled grimly. In the background she could hear Buffy and Angelus sparring, both verbally and physically, but she shut it out. There was nothing but the magic. Nothing but his soul. "Asa sa fie," she said, her voice hoarse to her own ears. "Asa sa fie. Acum."

/So it shall be. Now./

The orb flickered somewhat in response, but the magic remained on the verge of action. Jenny felt a flare of panic. It wasn't working.

If it didn't work...

If it didn't work, Jenny knew, he would kill every last one of them, like he'd killed Uncle. Like he'd killed Rupert.

She felt anger and grief and hate swell through her, blinding in its strength. With the rush of emotion came the magic, cresting around and through her. The Orb glowed, a brief warm golden glow that vanished almost immediately. The magic burned like fire, sharp and prickling, like she'd stuck her finger in a live socket. Jenny fought to remain conscious, fought to turn her attention to the vampire, who had stiffened in sudden agony. /Twist of fate, huh?/ she managed to think, barely coherent. /See how you like this one, then./

The magic died, draining abruptly out like water down a drain, and Angelus dropped to his knees, looking shaken. Buffy didn't lower either of her weapons, but from her expression she clearly didn't understand why he stopped, nor why he then looked up at her, expression raw and baffled.

"Buffy?" His voice cracked on her name. It wasn't the mocking tones of Angelus; he sounded lost and confused and very human. "Buffy, what... what happened? Where am I?"

Jenny stood up, shakily; the magic had left her more exhausted than she could ever remember being. "You'll remember." After the ritual, which she'd spoken in the original Romanian, the English words felt strange in her mouth, but she continued. "I don't know how much or when, but... you'll remember."

Buffy was looking at her now, baffled. "What..." And slowly, comprehension dawned. "Angel?"

"All yours." Jenny's legs threatened to collapse under her; she forced herself to stay standing, gripping the table for support. "Soul's back. Might not hold forever, but it'll do for now."

Buffy looked down at Angel, who was still kneeling, head bowed, shoulders shaking as if he were crying. With a sob she dropped the sword and fell to her knees in front of him.

"Buffy," he whispered. "I don't understand... what's going on?" Shaking, uncertain, he raised one hand to her face, touching her forehead and mouth and cheeks, tracing the path of tears. Buffy just whimpered quietly and drew him into a hug.

After a few moments, the Slayer looked up at Jenny without letting go of Angel. "Thanks," she said, mouth quivering slightly, cheeks damp with tears. "I didn't... Giles didn't tell me what you were trying..."

Giles.

/Shit./

Jenny wasn't quite sure how she crossed the room; her legs still felt like rubber, and she hadn't thought she'd even be able to walk. But she was suddenly by his side, cradling his head in her lap. She fumbled at his collar, trying to loosen it so he could breathe, and then felt for a pulse. /Don't die on me, damn you, not now, not now-- not after what we've been through-- please, Rupert, don't do this, don't die--/ The thoughts tumbled in her head like skittish mice, chasing each other frantically, going nowhere.

And then her fingers found a heartbeat, and he moaned quietly and stirred. His eyes blinked open, gazed at her a little fuzzily. "Jenny?"

"I'm here." The rush of relief made her dizzy. "Shh, it's okay, I'm here. How do you feel?"

"Never better," he whispered dryly, smiling a little. "My head...hurts though." A frown flicked across his face. "Angelus...?"

"Angel," Buffy said from behind them, a quiet correction. "He's Angel again." She was still locked in a hug with the vampire, who had his face buried against her. He didn't look like he wanted to move, and she didn't look like she objected much.

"So you /were/ doing the curse," Rupert said. He smiled up at Jenny, then grabbed her arm tightly, face hardening. "I /told/ you not to do anything alone. Goddammit, Jenny. If you /ever/ take such a chance again, without telling me, I'll... I'll..."

"What," Jenny said, "you'll kill me?" Exhaustion, relief, the thrill of success, and the adrenaline backwash from the magic and the last confrontation with Angelus, were all combining to make her more than a little punchy. "Doesn't matter. Won't happen again. Promise. And if you," she said, waggling her finger at him, "ever give me such a scare again, I'll kill you first. Don't like thinking you're dead." She giggled at the look in his eyes. "You know what, Rupert?"

"Hmm?"

"I need... I need..." Jenny fought to think, and a laugh bubbled up again. /Hoo boy. This night is going to be interesting./ "Sugar," she finished. "I'm going to go on a hell of a crash sometime tonight. 'Swhy I'm so punchy. I've exhausted all my resources... running on adrenaline... sugar's good. Maybe chocolate. And a good night's sleep or two. And /you/." She grinned down at Giles. "You are going to have a, a, a thing-- headache thing-- when you wake up. Not going to be pretty."

"Mmm," Rupert agreed mildly, and sat up, his movements slow and careful.

"I'm going to take Angel home," Buffy said quietly. Jenny looked up at her, blinking, having almost forgotten that they were there.

"You... you are going to be careful?" Rupert asked her. He had an intent, anxious look on his face.

"Yeah." Buffy twined her hands with Angel's. "I've... learned a few lessons. I'll be safe. And..." She looked at Jenny, and almost smiled. "Thanks."

Jenny nodded acknowledgement, and watched them as they left, leaning on each other. When they were gone, she looked at Giles again. He had his hands over his face. Jenny covered them with her own hands, then slipped her fingers between his to massage his temples.

"We should go too," she murmured. "The library floor really isn't a great place to sleep."

"Mmm, right." Even muffled by his hands, Rupert's voice had a strong thread of amusement in it. "You drive, or me?"

"Good point." Jenny sat for a moment more; her fingers drifted to stroke through his hair behind her ears. "Rupert?"

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry."

He removed his hands, looking up at her, unsmiling. "Did you know Angelus would come for you?"

Now that it was over, Jenny could be honest. "I suspected, yeah. I was calling his soul. He'd probably feel that, and seek it out, try to stop it."

He was silent.

"I /am/ sorry for not telling you," Jenny said. She was shaking, partly exhaustion, partly worry that he'd shut her out again. "I just didn't know if it would work. If it would get your hopes... and /her/ hopes... up for nothing."

"And if you died?" he asked in a whisper.

Jenny bit her lip and said nothing.

"You're right," Rupert said, after a long pause. His voice sounded overly calm. "We should go." He stood up, slowly and awkwardly, ignoring Jenny's clumsy attempts to help.

"Rupert."

He paused for a moment, but didn't look at her. Jenny winced. "I wasn't trying to get myself killed," she told him.

"No; you were just hiding things. Again."

Jenny stepped back, feeling tears threaten. "I've just been trying to do what's right. I didn't want to put you in danger." She started to turn away.

"Jenny." He touched her arm, stopping her. "I just... why didn't you tell me? Not about this, I mean: Why didn't you tell me -- us -- about Angel?

"I didn't know what to do." Jenny looked away. "I... I was brought up to hate vampires, to detest Angel for what he did... and then there was the reality of who Angel was, and I wasn't expecting that. I couldn't obey the dictates of my family without hurting Angel, which would ruin the friendships I'd formed here; but I couldn't tell you the truth without betraying my family."

Rupert nodded. "I still wish you'd said... something."

Jenny blinked back tears again. She didn't dare look up at him. "There wasn't any perfect solution," she whispered. "I wish there had been. But..." She took a deep breath and pulled herself together. "I should go home, get some sleep. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Jenny."

Something in his voice brought a lump to her throat. Heavy magic always left her vulnerable to emotion; Rupert always inspired a depth of emotion in her. It wasn't a good combination. "Please don't," she whispered.

Rupert, being Rupert, ignored that. "Will you be all right?"

Jenny shrugged. "Will you? You're the one that almost--" She stumbled to a halt, not wanting to finish the thought.

"Don't evade," Rupert said softly. He touched her face gently, and she held her breath. "Will you be all right?"

"Yes," she lied. Her emotions were under control enough, now, that she could look up at him, eyes dry, face calm.

He nodded, but she wasn't sure whether it was to the lie or whether he could see the truth behind it. "My place is close enough to walk to," he said quietly. "If you'd like..."

Jenny stared at him, not quite trusting her ears. It was one thing for him to take her to his place when she was injured and half-dead; it was quite another thing for him to offer his place when she was... /exhausted and half-dead,/ a small voice in her brain interjected wryly. But she could get home on her own, and so his offer meant more.

It meant that maybe things could be made right between them, eventually.

Rupert gave her a small smile, interpreting her silence as a no. "Do be careful, then," he said.

"I always am," she murmured dryly. That, at least, brought a true smile to his face; it was gone a moment later, but the memory lingered in her mind, warm and comforting.

"Until tomorrow, then," Rupert said. Jenny nodded, and Rupert made his way, a little unsteadily, to the library door. There he stopped for a long moment, enough that she almost wondered whether he needed more help; she opened her mouth several times to ask, but hesitated each time. Finally, Rupert turned. "Jenny."

"Rupert," she said evenly, waiting.

He watched her earnestly for a long moment, as though looking for something. "I love you," he said finally, and the ghost of a smile flickered across his face. "I just thought you should know." And then he turned and left, and the library door swung shut behind him, and Jenny stared wide-eyed and then, shaking a little, sat down.

**********

A couple of aspirin and plenty of sleep allowed Giles to feel almost human again come Monday. At any rate, that's what he /should/ be feeling, he told himself firmly, as though that would make a difference to a rather battered-feeling body. /I'm getting too old for this,/ he thought wryly, but he knew that as long as Buffy was the Slayer, he would always be her Watcher; there was no question of his simply choosing to stop what he did.

He had intended to seek Jenny out at some convenient point, but he found her sooner than expected, standing in one of the school hallways being accosted by Snyder, who was lecturing her in low angry tones about responsibility and about destruction of school property and on and on. Jenny, when she saw Giles, sent him a desperate save-me look.

Giles grinned, but immediately forced his face into a worried expression as he hurried up, pretending to be oblivious to Snyder's presence. "Ms. Calendar! There you are. I've been looking for you. There's a problem with the, ah, computers in the library."

Snyder gave him a sour look for interrupting his diatribe. "Can't that Rosenberg girl help you?"

"Not without missing class; and, well, you know Willow," Giles said with an easy grin. "Can't drag her away from class for any reason."

"So what's the problem?" Jenny asked quickly.

"There's, uh, this... thing that comes up when I access the datawhatsits..." He floundered for words; he was worse at making up excuses about computers than he was about actually using them. Jenny smiled.

"Perhaps I should look at it," she offered. "It might be easier."

"Perhaps you should at that."

Snyder gave them both an annoyed look. "We're not finished," he snapped at Jenny, and stalked off. Jenny rubbed her face, looking tired.

"He can be an annoyance, sometimes," Giles murmured. Jenny gave a brief, startled laugh.

"Understatement of the century." She smiled wryly up at him. "Thanks for saving me."

"Any time." It was easy to fall into old patterns with her-- easy and painful, like a healing wound. Giles felt like he was poking at new skin, pink and still-tender. "Are you, uh, all right?"

She shrugged. "As much as I'd expect, yeah."

Giles glanced sidelong at her, not quite sure whether that meant yes or no. She gave a wry smile and changed the subject quickly: "There isn't actually a problem with the library computers, is there?"

"No." Giles smiled a little. "But you're welcome to come to the library anyway."

There was a moment's tense silence. Her expression said, /Are you sure?/, but then she gave a small nod and fell into step beside him as he walked.

There were more students in the hallways now, preparing for first period. Jenny murmured to Giles, as they walked, "It's all so...surreal."

Giles raised an eyebrow. "What is?"

Jenny shrugged and gestured around them, at the students milling about. "Everything's normal. School's going on. People are happy. It just seems weird, after this weekend. After everything that happened."

Giles couldn't stop a smile. She sounded so much like the children, there. /'The dead rose. You'd think there'd at least be an assembly or something.'/

"Well," he said, shrugging, "life, as you said once, goes on."

"Yeah, it does." She gave a small laugh, and said, "Whether we want it to or not."

None of the children were in the library when they arrived, but Willow stopped by in the middle of the morning, looking worried. "Buffy wasn't in class," she said, fidgeting a little.

Giles and Jenny exchanged sharp glances, but then Giles shook his head slightly. "It's been a long weekend," he murmured. /And I trust Buffy./ "She'll be all right.

"Yeah," Jenny said, but she didn't look convinced.

Willow looked curiously at Giles. "There wasn't any more, uh, stuff with Angel, was there?"

Jenny collapsed into a brief bout of silent, semi-hysterical laughter. Giles tried to give Willow a reassuring smile, but it felt a little wobbly. "Yes, actually-- nothing bad," he clarified, as her expression turned alarmed. "In fact, Jenny managed to find a, uh, spell to restore Angel's soul."

"Oh," Willow said, and then brightened as the implication hit. "Oh! Did you-- was it--"

"We completed the ritual yesterday," Giles said softly. He was aware of Jenny glancing wide-eyed at him; he wasn't quite sure whether she was annoyed at the 'we', since it implied that he had part of the credit, or whether she was relieved at it, since it meant he accepted her again-- her and what she had done. Giles didn't look at her. "It appeared to be successful."

Willow grinned. "Does Buffy know? Is that why she's not-- oh."

"I would imagine so, yes," Giles said.

Willow nodded, and frowned, processing it all. "Is that what you needed the thing for, whatever it is that Giles had me bring over?" she asked Jenny, who nodded in answer. "I thought you were going to let me help." Willow sounded a little hurt.

/You aren't the only one,/ Giles thought wryly.

"I considered it," Jenny said, "but I didn't want to involve you until I knew whether or not it would work. It's rather powerful magick, and could cause... problems, if it didn't work." She was answering Willow, and looking at her, but Giles had the feeling that she meant the words as much for him, if not more so, than for her. "I didn't want to involve /anyone/ else until I knew. Except that once I knew it was working, the ritual was half over anyway, and there wasn't time for anything else."

Willow nodded, and then gave a shy smile. "I'm glad it worked, though."

"So am I," Jenny said.

Still smiling, Willow leaned over to hug Jenny, and whispered something in her ear that made Jenny give a slightly embarrassed look in Giles' direction. The girl grinned shamelessly at Giles, and then said, "I've got to get to class-- see you later."

After she left, Giles cleared his throat. "What, uh, did she say?"

"Nothing." Jenny flushed, but she looked almost more pleased than uncomfortable. "Just that we--" She stopped, looked down, and repeated, "Nothing."

Giles grinned.

**********

The library door clacked open; both Jenny and Rupert looked up to see Buffy entering. "Angel's gone," she announced grimly. Jenny looked from Rupert, who looked alarmed, to Buffy, who had the same closed-off expression that she'd worn a lot lately.

"What?" Rupert said.

"He went to... I think he was going to LA, at least at first. I don't know. He didn't want to tell me. He said it was too risky staying around me... and too painful." She looked pointedly at Jenny as she sat down. Her eyes were more sad than angry, but there was a lot of reproach in the gaze, and her face was pale. "He remembered everything... what he had said, as Angelus, what he had done... he sent me away after a while, but I think he... cried the whole night."

"I'm sorry," Jenny said softly. "If I knew any way of bringing him back without making him remember...I would have."

"Really. I thought your clan was into the whole revenge thing. And he did kill your uncle." Buffy's expression and voice were both flat.

"Angelus did, yes. Angel didn't." Jenny hesitated, trying to find the right words. "I don't know that my... that the Clan sees that. But I do. And I understand. If I could kill the demon without killing Angel... I would. Without hesitation. I don't need to see him suffer."

Buffy met her gaze calmly. "Maybe not. But he's suffering anyway."

Jenny was the first to look away. "I know."

Rupert cleared his throat. Jenny stood up abruptly, without looking at him. "I'd better go prepare for class... I'll see you later."

She glanced back at them once, at the door to the library. Buffy was in Rupert's arms, clinging to him. Jenny could hear Rupert murmur, "I'm sorry."

/So am I,/ Jenny thought, meaning it, and she slipped out the door.

Rupert stopped by the computer lab, later, after school was out. He stood hesitantly in the doorway as if afraid to come in. She cocked her head at him, silent invitation.

"I'm sorry about Buffy," he said softly. "I didn't really expect her to be so... angry, still."

"I did." Jenny busied herself with the papers on her desk, re-straightening them in their piles. A part of her wanted to wail, childishly, /I thought everything would be all right again now--/, but most of her knew, and had always known, that things could not be fixed, not this easily, not this quickly.

"She, uh..." He took a couple of steps in; when she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, he was clutching his satchel to his chest, almost like some sort of shield. "You just have to give her time."

"She's hurting. And I haven't really made things better."

"You brought Angel back." It was almost a question.

"And he left, again... because I didn't do enough, or know enough, to bind his soul or banish the demon or allow him to forget."

"You did what you could."

Jenny said nothing. She stared at the papers on the desk, vision blurry with tears, afraid to look up at him.

"Jenny?" He took a few more uncertain steps, until he was standing near her.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"I know." There was a moment's silence; then his hand was on her shoulder, drawing her against him, and his other hand stroked her hair. She closed her eyes, resting her face against his chest. The smell of tweed and old books was vaguely comforting.

"Everything's going to be okay," he murmured, and when she pulled back a little he lifted her chin with one finger, so that she was looking up at him.

"That's what you said last time," she said, fighting the tears that threatened to spill over. A day of classes had been more exhausting than she'd expected. "But it never is. Not while we're on the Hellmouth."

He considered that for a moment, then shook his head. "You're alive," he said, with the barest quirk of a smile, "and you're here, and I'm here. I think that constitutes 'okay'."

/Maybe things /can/ be all right again,/ she thought.

He bent his head a little, then paused, asking permission with his wonderfully expressive eyes; and when she didn't resist, he smiled a little and gave her a long, slow, tender kiss.

**********

[end]

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