It Doesn't Matter
TITLE: It Doesn't Matter
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, anytime...just let me know.
CLASSIFICATION: Buffy and Giles, of course!
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of these characters; those lovely people at Warner Brothers do. I'm just borrowing them for a day or two--I'll give them back in mint condition, I promise.
SPOILERS: Prophecy Girl
NOTES: I always wondered what happened when Giles woke up after Buffy knocked him out. I've read a few fanfics concerning the moment (you out there know who you are) so I thought I'd come up with my own idea. I usually always write in first-person POV, and this time it's Jenny's turn. If you don't like my interpretation of the character, I must apologise, but this is the way I always saw Jenny.
I don't know why it surprised me. It shouldn't have surprised me. As long as I've known Rupert, he's always made it abundantly clear to me that his first priority will always be his Slayer. I knew that practically from day one. I knew I'd have to tolerate not seeing him much, dates being cut short, half-garbled explanations of vampires and demons. I knew he would always place her above me, every time. I understood it. It didn't bother me, because I knew who had his heart. Buffy was a duty, a responsibility. I was the woman he loved. God, I couldn't have been more wrong. It makes me laugh now, to see how much I was deceiving myself. I wonder now how I could have possibly missed it.
Oh, I'm sure in some small diminished way he does love me. I'm sure he probably even thinks he's in love with me. Poor Rupert. I don't know who he's trying to kid, but it doesn't fool me. Not anymore. There's no room in his heart for me, not as anything other than a friend. A close friend, maybe, but nothing more. His heart belongs to her. Buffy. It's so simple now. I only have to look at him, look at the way he watches her when she's laughing with Willow and Xander, look at the expression on his face when he talks about her. He looks like a man in love. He is a man in love.
I should feel disgusted, I tell myself. She's only sixteen years old, for God's sake! She's a child. It's practically paedophilia. Only it's not, and I know it's not. If it were purely physical, if he were infatuated with her body and beauty, if he only wanted her for sex...but it's not that. Rupert doesn't care what she looks like. He doesn't care how slim or pretty she is. I'm sure he notices, but only as a result of the love he already feels for her. He loves her because she's Buffy, and for no other reason. Those two...they were meant for each other. I never used to believe in such fanciful things as fate and destiny, but living in Sunnydale I have no choice but to believe. Buffy is the Chosen One, and so to a certain extent is Rupert. They were chosen for each other. How can I stand in the way of that?
She's not a child. She may be sixteen, but her eyes...they don't belong to just any sixteen year old. There's a maturity and a wisdom in Buffy that I'm in awe of. I don't know how to fight that. Among my people girls her age are married already, and they have power, such power, but Buffy puts all of them in the shade. She fights, not for herself or her family or friends, but for people who don't know and don't care. She fights for a world that rarely deserves saving. If she died, the world would go on, oblivious to the sacrifices she would have made. I couldn't have handled that at sixteen, but Buffy just takes it all in her stride. I once asked Rupert if that was a typical Slayer trait, but he shook his head. No, he said. The Slayer might have mystical powers--phenomenal strength, a certain amount of psychic energy--but at the core her heart and soul is as fragile and fallible as anybody's. Buffy is like any high school girl, he said, just one hell of a lot stronger. He was smiling when he said that. He always smiles when he talks about Buffy. I wonder if she knows that.
I've never met anyone like Rupert before, and I don't think I ever will again. If his heart hadn't already been taken I think we would both have been very happy together. He's gentle and loyal and so...so British. I'm just making the most of the time we have together, before he realises I'm not the one who he wants. I could tell him, but I'm not that selfless. I guess I want him all to myself. I don't like sharing, and I don't like being second best. That's all I am to him, he just doesn't see it. I feel sorry for him in a way. He's in love with someone he can't have, someone he can't touch. Buffy doesn't feel the same way, or at least I don't think she does. She can't see past her pet vampire.
When did I start seeing the truth, instead of what I wanted to see? The night the Master rose, the night Buffy died. That was the first time I was confronted with what Rupert's world was really like. I knew about magic and demons, curses and vampires, but I'd never really experienced them. I don't live with them on a day-to-day basis like Buffy and Rupert do. That was the night I realised for the first time that I'm never going to belong. They didn't even notice I was in the room. I could have cried. Buffy and Rupert were standing there in front of me, and all they could see was each other. He would have died for her. I know that much. If she hadn't hit him, if she hadn't knocked him out, he would have gone. He would have got himself killed. And all for her.
What would they have said to each other, had I not been there? Would he have held her in his arms, kissed her, told her that he loved her? Would she have cried? Would she have admitted how scared she was? That meeting could very well have been the last time either saw each other alive--and I got in the way. I saw that he loved her, and that there was no hope for me, for us. I saw it clear as day, and now I can't forget. I might be the one he holds; I might be the one he kisses; but I'm not the one he loves. I don't have the hold on his heart that she has. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Would he die for me? I don't know, I honestly don't know.
I was so cold to Buffy. Even as I was speaking to her, inside I was cursing myself. She's just a child, I was thinking. She's going off to face her death for you, and people like you, and all you can do is hurt her. But she just picked up that crossbow and left. I couldn't have done that. I couldn't have just walked calmly to my death, and certainly not at sixteen. She makes me feel ashamed of myself, of who and what I am. If only she knew...
"Think of something cool," she said. "Tell him I said it." I didn't. What could I possibly say to him that would make him feel any better? I thought about it whilst he was lying there, unconscious, and I came up with nothing. I wouldn't lie to him. I decided I would tell him about the determination in Buffy's voice, the strength in her eyes, the brief flicker of sadness I saw in her face when Rupert crashed to the ground. She hid it well, I had to give her that. Had I not been looking I would have assumed she didn't care. But she cared. Oh God, did she care. She cared enough to stop him dying for her. She cared enough to save him from himself. The look in her face during that brief moment told me all I needed to know. She wasn't going to face the Master for me or Willow or her mother, and she wasn't going for the world. She was going for him.
I cried. I have to admit it, even if I don't like to. I don't...I don't like Buffy. I admire her, yes. I respect her. I honour her. I'm in awe of her. But I don't like her. Is it because I see her as a threat, as someone standing between me and happiness? Quite possibly. But the truth of the matter was that she was going out into the night to die, and I knew in my heart that I wasn't worthy. Of her. Of Rupert. I'm not prepared to die to save the world. I can't do that. Maybe I was crying more for myself than for her, for the realisation that I wasn't the person I wanted to be. I never thought I'd be a person who hid things from the ones they loved. I never dreamed I would be surrounded by danger and death and such enormous bravery.
Rupert's eyes were open a long time before he moved. He was just staring up at the ceiling, still and silent. I think he was in shock. Whatever it was, it unnerved me. It was like he was dead already. Whatever made him Rupert, whoever he was deep inside, he wasn't there anymore. His...spirit, for lack of a better word, simply wasn't there. I didn't need to three guesses to figure out where he was. With her. In his mind, in his heart, in his every thought, Rupert was with Buffy. And I hated her for taking him away from me. I wanted to be with someone who cared when I cried, who would hold me and comfort and wipe away my tears. Rupert didn't even flinch when my tears fell on his face.
And then he groaned, and it was the sound of a drowning man. In that split second, when the sound still hung in the air, I was more afraid of Rupert than I was of the Hellmouth, of the Master, of the death and destruction that threatened to break over our heads. I wanted to get away from him, as far away as possible. I lifted his head and slid out from beneath him. He rose to his feet, slowly and steadily, as though he had somehow forgotten how to use his legs. His gaze swept the library slowly and methodically, and when he found it entirely lacking Buffy he looked at me. His face was slack and open, like a child's.
"She's gone," I said. I wanted to say something more but I didn't know the words. "She...Buffy...she went. To him." His eyes slipped close for a brief moment, and he mouthed something that could have been a prayer. I suppose to him it was, but to anyone else ‘Buffy' is no prayer. "I'm sorry, Rupert."
"Then she'll die. She's probably dead already," he said, and there was no life in his voice, no tone, no inflection. Some might have thought it was a sign of how little he cared, but I knew better. I could tell from Rupert's voice that his problem was that he cared too much. It was the voice of a man speaking from beyond the grave, and I knew then that I may as well lay Rupert beside Buffy's corpse and put a headstone over him as well. "Excuse me," he said to me, his gaze already moving over me as if I didn't exist me. "I must...excuse me." He stumbled past me into his office and shut the door.
The whole scene had an aura of surrealism to it. I couldn't believe that this was me, standing alone in a library that contained more than books, discussing the death of a girl the man I loved was in love with. I stared at the closed door of the office, debating whether or not to follow him in, when I heard him cry out. It was the wail of a lost soul, and it seemed to echo in the air for hours. I started forward, meaning to...what? Comfort him? There could be no comforting him, I knew that. There were no words that could possibly ease the pain he must have been feeling.
There was a endless silence in which I could have died a thousand times over, and then I heard him sobbing. Horrible, anguished, jarring sobs, seemingly wrenched from the bottom of his being. I had never heard anyone cry like that before. I had never known such grief could exist, let alone be borne. There were words amongst the sobs, but the only one I could make out with any certainty was her name: ‘Buffy', he was calling, over and over. It broke my heart to hear him. I desperately wanted to march after her, drag her back to the library by her blonde hair, and show her what she had caused. "Look at him!" I wanted to say to her. "Look at what you've brought him to. He loves you, Buffy. He loves you, and you leave him without a word?"
My chest hurt. I wanted to cry again, listening to his lonely grief, but the tears wouldn't come. I stood there, dry-eyed, hurting more than I could ever have imagined and then turned away from the door. I couldn't bear the sound any longer. I looked for something I could do...anything would have been welcome, anything that would help me tune out the awful sound of Rupert's heart breaking. There was nothing. Both of us knew that if Buffy had died our fate was set in stone. We would die. All of us. The Master would take over, the Hellmouth would open, and the world would end. For the first time I realised just how crucial to the survival of the world Buffy was.
As I looked around the room that contained the instrument of destruction that would end my world, I saw a brightly coloured scrap of material on the floor, half-hidden underneath the table. I bent to pick it up, staring at it laying in my palm. It was a bracelet, presumably Buffy's--a bright, cheerful friendship band. She must have lost it during training one day. I felt tears pricking behind my eyelids and I fought them back fiercely. I wouldn't cry, not again. There was no time, and no point. If she was dead, she was dead. Crying wouldn't bring her back. I laid the band gently on the table, my fingers lingering briefly on it before turning away.
As if on cue Rupert's tears stopped. There was a moment's pause, and then I heard him heave a great juddering sigh. The door to the office opened and he walked out, a weak smile on his face. The only trace that he had been crying was the red swollenness of his eyes. He hid it well. If I hadn't known him, if I hadn't known where to look, I would have thought there was no problem at all. My heart swelled again, sorrowful at the thought that he felt he had to hide his grief from me. Did he think I would reproach him for mourning her? That anyone would? The problem is he doesn't feel he has the right. I've thought long and hard about this, and I think Rupert fears he has no hold on her. He's not her father; he's not her friend; he's not her lover. What is he, then? He's her Watcher, and I admit I don't really know what that means, but it seems to me that to Buffy Rupert is all those things and more.
He took my hand gently in his, his eyes on mine all the time, and said, "Jenny, if Buffy is...if she has...died, the Hellmouth will open. The Master will rise. You'll need to fight. All of us will. Do you think you can do that?"
I nodded numbly. I don't think even now I am capable of envisaging the end of the world. It seems like too grandiose a concept, too far-fetched an idea. The world can't end, I told myself, it's the world! But I nodded anyway, and pulled my hand away from his. If he noticed he didn't show it. His attention was fixed over my shoulder, at the table. The bracelet. He walked past me slowly, as though on the path to the guillotine, and picked it up with a trembling hand. "This is Buffy's," he said, his voice thick and pained. "Willow made it for her. Where did you find it?"
"On the floor," I told him softly, pointing to the spot. "It must have fallen off-" He nodded absently and slipped the band into his pocket. All throughout that night he would touch that pocket, as though drawing strength from that small part of her. I learned later that he never returned it to her. I'm sure he still has it. I suppose it's the only thing he has of hers that he can touch. He can't touch her. I wonder if he ever will. I hope so. That may sound strange, coming from someone who loves Rupert and wants him all for herself, but I do genuinely want him to be happy. I know he can't be happy with me. He doesn't love me.
"Rupert," I said hesitantly, and then stopped. I didn't know who he was here. I didn't recognise him. He was looking at me with the strangest expression on his face, a look that I couldn't decipher. There was sadness in his eyes, but not for himself or even for Buffy. It was for me. I didn't like that one bit. There was no need to feel sorry for me. So I fell in love with the wrong guy. It happens all the time. Big deal. It doesn't matter anyway. "What do we need to do?" I said briskly, and his face closed off like a shutter. He stood taller, and for the first time that evening he looked like a Watcher, like he knew exactly what needed to be done and how. Rupert's never really elaborated on the job of the Watchers, other than training the Slayer, but I imagine saving the world is a fairly regular occurrence. Do they train for this kind of thing? Do they have practice scenarios back in England?
"I'm not sure there's anything we can do," he told me, and the cold brutality of his words stunned me. There's always something to be done. There's always hope, even if it is personified in the small, slim figure of a sixteen-year-old. Maybe Buffy would win through, I thought. It wasn't impossible. Odds were there to be beaten, and if anyone could cheat death it was Buffy.
So we waited. For what I wasn't too sure. For Buffy to come back smiling and happy, alive, and holding Rupert's life in her hands. For the Hellmouth to open and our own deaths to arrive. For a miraculous intervention from some higher power. Or perhaps we were waiting because there was nothing else we could do. Rupert was quieter than I've ever known him to be, which is something considering how silent he is at the best of times. I've had the wits scared out of me countless times by him walking up behind me, silent as a mouse. Every now and then he pulled that bracelet out of his pocket and looked at it.
Xander blamed Rupert for letting Buffy go. I wish I'd had the words to explain it to him, but he was gone before anyone of us could stop him. If only he'd been there, if only he'd heard Rupert cry, he wouldn't have said the things he did. He would have understood, like I did. I don't think Xander will ever know just how deeply he hurt Rupert when he blamed him for Buffy's death. I know he's never really forgiven him. Xander was only echoing what Rupert already knew, but it's not true. It wasn't his fault. But he's brave, Xander is. Braver than I think any of us would have given him credit for. Certainly braver than me. Willow was rightly justified in her indignation at my inclusion in ‘the club'. I don't deserve to be. I don't share one of the admirable qualities that those children possess in abundance.
That night frightened me more than I ever imagined possible, and not because of the vampires and the Hellmouth. Those are mortal terrors, soon forgotten. Our minds aren't equipped to hold onto to such things as those. I was scared because I realised that all my preconceived notions of myself. I had always thought that I was a good person, not particularly brave but a good person nonetheless. I thought I was honest and decent and someone worth knowing. And I was wrong. I don't like who I am. I'm not the person I dreamed of being. But these kids...these kids are. And damn, but I hate them for it.
And I hate myself even more for the jealousy I felt when Rupert looked at Buffy. Because I'm jealous of a shadow. So he loves her. He can't have her. He couldn't even touch her when she walked through the door, in that lovely dress, looking battered and bruised and yet still beautiful. He didn't have the right to touch her, so he touched me instead. He put his arm around me in her place, and when we danced later that night I know he was watching Buffy over my shoulder. Like he'll always do. I wish I had the strength and the self-respect to just tell him what he needs to hear, what in all honesty we both need to hear, but I can't. I don't want to let go of what little of him I possess. I don't want to lose all of him to Buffy. She already owns him, heart and soul. She doesn't need the rest. She doesn't even want what she does have. God, that girl is so blind!
I'm only delaying the inevitable here. When he finds out who I really am, what my real mission here is, Rupert will hate me. He'll hate me for not trusting him enough to tell him the truth. And he'll hate me for Buffy's sake. She loves Angel, and here I am ensuring that he suffers for all eternity for an act that was committed by a demon, not even him, a demon inhabiting his corpse. It's not fair. But there's no arguing with the Kalderash. I have a job to do, and I have to do it.
Perhaps I should go back to my people, and tell them that I'm too involved now, that I can't fulfil the task they sent me to do. They might send someone else...Yasha perhaps, or maybe Lukasz. Either of them would do a fine job, better than I could do. I'm too soft, Grainne always told me that. I'm too modern, she said, too new-fangled and bleeding-hearted. I care. But the thing is, I don't want to leave. I don't want to leave Sunnydale and Rupert. I want to help. I want to fight with them, with all of them: Buffy and Rupert, the kids and...and God, even Angel! I want to be one of them. I don't know why--I was trained better than this--but that's what I feel. I don't want to be an outsider anymore, only accepted because I'm useful and Rupert cares for me.
Who am I trying to kid? I want them to accept me because then maybe Rupert will accept me, and stop feeling guilty every second he spends with me. Because he does, you know. He tries not to show it, but he does. Whenever he's with me, I just know he's thinking about Buffy, wondering if he's shirking his duty, worrying about her. She's his whole goddamn life, and I don't know how to make him see me.
And who is ‘me'? Do I really want him to know who I am? Janna of the Kalderash? He can't love her, whoever she is. I'm not sixteen anymore, and I'm not blonde and beautiful. I'm not brave and selfless, like she is. I wouldn't give my life for the world, because the world wouldn't care if I was gone. God, Rupert probably wouldn't even care! He's got Buffy to hold on to. He wouldn't miss me. I'm not sure I would miss me...her...Janna. I wish Janna had never existed. I wish I could just be Jenny Calendar, high-school computer teacher and technopagan. That would a simple life. Because then I wouldn't know about Buffy, about who and what she is, or Rupert for that matter. Maybe then I would just think what the rest of the faculty think: that there's something ‘not quite right' about their relationship, but I wouldn't know what. I would be content in my ignorance. Perhaps I'd even be happy.